John Roberts, by John Greenleaf Whittier

Old Portraits and Modern Sketches

Thomas Carlyle, in his history of the stout and sagacious Monk of St. Edmunds, has given us a fine picture of the actual life of Englishmen in the middle centuries. The dim cell-lamp of the somewhat apocryphal Jocelin of Brakelond becomes in his hands a huge Drummond-light, shining over the Dark Ages like the naphtha-fed cressets over Pandemonium, proving, as he says in his own quaint way, that "England in the year 1200 was no dreamland, but a green, solid place, which grew corn and several other things; the sun shone on it; the vicissitudes of seasons and human fortunes were there; cloth was woven, ditches dug, fallow fields ploughed, and houses built." And if, as the writer just quoted insists, it is a matter of no small importance to make it credible to the present generation that the Past is not a confused dream of thrones and battle- fields, creeds and constitutions, but a reality, substantial as hearth and home, harvest-field and smith-shop, merry-making and death, could make it, we shall not wholly waste our time and that of our readers in inviting them to look with us at the rural life of England two centuries ago, through the eyes of John Roberts and his worthy son, Daniel, yeomen, of Siddington, near Cirencester.

The Memoirs of John Roberts, alias Haywood, by his son, Daniel Roberts, (the second edition, printed verbatim from the original one, with its picturesque array of italics and capital letters,) is to be found only in a few of our old Quaker libraries. It opens with some account of the family. The father of the elder Roberts "lived reputably, on a little estate of his own," and it is mentioned as noteworthy that he married a sister of a gentleman in the Commission of the Peace. Coming of age about the beginning of the civil wars, John and one of his young neighbors enlisted in the service of Parliament. Hearing that Cirencester had been taken by the King's forces, they obtained leave of absence to visit their friends, for whose safety they naturally felt solicitous. The following account of the reception they met with from the drunken and ferocious troopers of Charles I., the "bravos of Alsatia and the pages of Whitehall," throws a ghastly light upon the horrors of civil war:—

"As they were passing by Cirencester, they were discovered, and pursued by two soldiers of the King's party, then in possession of the town. Seeing themselves pursued, they quitted their horses, and took to their heels; but, by reason of their accoutrements, could make little speed. They came up with my father first; and, though he begged for quarter, none they would give him, but laid on him with their swords, cutting and slashing his hands and arms, which he held up to save his head; as the marks upon them did long after testify. At length it pleased the Almighty to put it into his mind to fall down on his face; which he did. Hereupon the soldiers, being on horseback, cried to each other, Alight, and cut his throat! but neither of them did; yet continued to strike and prick him about the jaws, till they thought him dead. Then they left him, and pursued his neighbor, whom they presently overtook and killed. Soon after they had left my father, it was said in his heart, Rise, and flee for thy life! which call he obeyed; and, starting upon his feet, his enemies espied him in motion, and pursued him again. He ran down a steep hill, and through a river which ran at the bottom of it; though with exceeding difficulty, his boots filling with water, and his wounds bleeding very much. They followed him to the top of the hill; but, seeing he had got over, pursued him no farther."

The surgeon who attended him was a Royalist, and bluntly told his bleeding patient that if he had met him in the street he would have killed him himself, but now he was willing to cure him. On his recovery, young Roberts again entered the army, and continued in it until the overthrow, of the Monarchy. On his return, he married "Lydia Tindall, of the denomination of Puritans." A majestic figure rises before us, on reading the statement that Sir Matthew Hale, afterwards Lord Chief Justice of England, the irreproachable jurist and judicial saint, was "his wife's kinsman, and drew her marriage settlement."

No stronger testimony to the high-toned morality and austere virtue of the Puritan yeomanry of England can be adduced than the fact that, of the fifty thousand soldiers who were discharged on the accession of Charles II., and left to shift for themselves, comparatively few, if any, became chargeable to their parishes, although at that very time one out of six of the English population were unable to support themselves. They carried into their farm-fields and workshops the strict habits of Cromwell's discipline; and, in toiling to repair their wasted fortunes, they manifested the same heroic fortitude and self-denial which in war had made them such formidable and efficient "Soldiers of the Lord." With few exceptions, they remained steadfast in their uncompromising non- conformity, abhorring Prelacy and Popery, and entertaining no very orthodox notions with respect to the divine right of Kings. From them the Quakers drew their most zealous champions; men who, in renouncing the "carnal weapons" of their old service, found employment for habitual combativeness in hot and wordy sectarian warfare. To this day the vocabulary of Quakerism abounds in the military phrases and figures which were in use in the Commonwealth's time. Their old force and significance are now in a great measure lost; but one can well imagine that, in the assemblies of the primitive Quakers, such stirring battle-cries and warlike tropes, even when employed in enforcing or illustrating the doctrines of peace, must have made many a stout heart' to beat quicker, tinder its drab coloring, with recollections of Naseby and Preston; transporting many a listener from the benches of his place of worship to the ranks of Ireton and Lambert, and causing him to hear, in the place of the solemn and nasal tones of the preacher, the blast of Rupert's bugles, and the answering shout of Cromwell's pikemen: "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered!"

Of this class was John Roberts. He threw off his knapsack, and went back to his small homestead, contented with the privilege of supporting himself and family by daily toil, and grumbling in concert with his old campaign brothers at the new order of things in Church and State. To his apprehension, the Golden Days of England ended with the parade on Blackheath to receive the restored King. He manifested no reverence for Bishops and Lords, for he felt none. For the Presbyterians he had no good will; they had brought in the King, and they denied the liberty of prophesying. John Milton has expressed the feeling of the Independents and Anabaptists towards this latter class, in that famous line in which he defines Presbyter as "old priest writ large." Roberts was by no means a gloomy fanatic; he had a great deal of shrewdness and humor, loved a quiet joke; and every gambling priest and swearing magistrate in the neighborhood stood in fear of his sharp wit. It was quite in course for such a man to fall in with the Quakers, and he appears to have done so at the first opportunity.

In the year 1665, "it pleased the Lord to send two women Friends out of the North to Cirencester," who, inquiring after such as feared God, were directed to the house of John Roberts. He received them kindly, and, inviting in some of his neighbors, sat down with them, whereupon "the Friends spake a few words, which had a good effect." After the meeting was over, he was induced to visit a "Friend" then confined in Banbury jail, whom he found preaching through the grates of his cell to the people in the street. On seeing Roberts he called to mind the story of Zaccheus, and declared that the word was now to all who were seeking Christ by climbing the tree of knowledge, "Come down, come down; for that which is to be known of God is manifested within." Returning home, he went soon after to the parish meeting-house, and, entering with his hat on, the priest noticed him, and, stopping short in his discourse, declared that he could not go on while one of the congregation wore his hat. He was thereupon led out of the house, and a rude fellow, stealing up behind, struck him on the back with a heavy stone. "Take that for God's sake," said the ruffian. "So I do," answered Roberts, without looking back to see his assailant, who the next day came and asked his forgiveness for the injury, as he could not sleep in consequence of it.

We next find him attending the Quarter Sessions, where three "Friends" were arraigned for entering Cirencester Church with their hats on. Venturing to utter a word of remonstrance against the summary proceedings of the Court, Justice Stephens demanded his name, and, on being told, exclaimed, in the very tone and temper of Jeffreys:

I 've heard of you. I'm glad I have you here. You deserve a stone doublet. There's many an honester man than you hanged."

"It may be so," said Roberts, "but what becomes of such as hang honest men?"

The Justice snatched a ball of wax and hurled it at the quiet questioner. "I 'll send you to prison," said he; "and if any insurrection or tumult occurs, I 'll come and cut your throat with my own sword." A warrant was made out, and he was forthwith sent to the jail. In the evening, Justice Sollis, his uncle, released him, on condition of his promise to appear at the next Sessions. He returned to his home, but in the night following be was impressed with a belief that it was his duty to visit Justice Stephens. Early in the morning, with a heavy heart, without eating or drinking, he mounted his horse and rode towards the residence of his enemy. When he came in sight of the house, he felt strong misgivings that his uncle, Justice Sollis, who had so kindly released him, and his neighbors generally, would condemn him for voluntarily running into danger, and drawing down trouble upon himself and family. He alighted from his horse, and sat on the ground in great doubt and sorrow, when a voice seemed to speak within him, "Go, and I will go with thee." The Justice met him at the door. "I am come," said Roberts, "in the fear and dread of Heaven, to warn thee to repent of thy wickedness with speed, lest the Lord send thee to the pit that is bottomless!" This terrible summons awed the Justice; he made Roberts sit down on his couch beside him, declaring that he received the message from God, and asked forgiveness for the wrong he had done him.

The parish vicar of Siddington at this time was George Bull, afterwards Bishop of St. David's, whom Macaulay speaks of as the only rural parish priest who, during the latter part of the seventeenth century, was noted as a theologian, or Who possessed a respectable library. Roberts refused to pay the vicar his tithes, and the vicar sent him to prison. It was the priest's "Short Method with Dissenters." While the sturdy Non- conformist lay in prison, he was visited by the great woman of the neighborhood, Lady Dunch, of Down Amney. "What do you lie in jail for?" inquired the lady. Roberts replied that it was because he could not put bread into the mouth of a hireling priest. The lady suggested that he might let somebody else satisfy the demands of the priest; and that she had a mind to do this herself, as she wished to talk with him on religious subjects. To this Roberts objected; there were poor people who needed her charities, which would be wasted on such devourers as the priests, who, like Pharaoh's lean kine, were eating up the fat and the goodly, without looking a whit the better. But the lady, who seems to have been pleased and amused by the obstinate prisoner, paid the tithe and the jail fees, and set him at liberty, making him fix a day when he would visit her. At the time appointed he went to Down Amney, and was overtaken on the way by the priest of Cirencester, who had been sent for to meet the Quaker. They found the lady ill in bed; but she had them brought to her chamber, being determined not to lose the amusement of hearing a theological discussion, to which she at once urged them, declaring that it would divert her and do her good. The parson began by accusing the Quakers of holding Popish doctrines. The Quaker retorted by telling him that if he would prove the Quakers like the Papists in one thing, by the help of God, he would prove him like them in ten. After a brief and sharp dispute, the priest, finding his adversary's wit too keen for his comfort, hastily took his leave.

The next we hear of Roberts he is in Gloucester Castle, subjected to the brutal usage of a jailer, who took a malicious satisfaction in thrusting decent and respectable Dissenters, imprisoned for matters of conscience, among felons and thieves. A poor vagabond tinker was hired to play at night on his hautboy, and prevent their sleeping; but Roberts spoke to him in such a manner that the instrument fell from his hand; and he told the jailer that he would play no more, though he should hang him up at the door for it.

How he was released from jail does not appear; but the narrative tells us that some time after an apparitor came to cite him to the Bishop's Court at Gloucester. When he was brought before the Court, Bishop Nicholson, a kind-hearted and easy-natured prelate, asked him the number of his children, and how many of them had been bishoped?

"None, that I know of," said Roberts.

"What reason," asked the Bishop, "do you give for this?"

"A very good one," said the Quaker: "most of my children were born in
Oliver's days, when Bishops were out of fashion."

The Bishop and the Court laughed at this sally, and proceeded to question him touching his views of baptism. Roberts admitted that John had a Divine commission to baptize with water, but that he never heard of anybody else that had. The Bishop reminded him that Christ's disciples baptized. "What 's that to me?" responded Roberts. "Paul says he was not sent to baptize, but to preach the Gospel. And if he was not sent, who required it at his hands? Perhaps he had as little thanks for his labor as thou hast for thine; and I would willingly know who sent thee to baptize?"

The Bishop evaded this home question, and told him he was there to answer for not coming to church. Roberts denied the charge; sometimes he went to church, and sometimes it came to him. "I don't call that a church which you do, which is made of wood and stone."

"What do you call it?" asked the Bishop.

"It might be properly called a mass-house," was the reply; "for it was built for that purpose." The Bishop here told him he might go for the present; he would take another opportunity to convince him of his errors.

The next person called was a Baptist minister, who, seeing that Roberts refused to put off his hat, kept on his also. The Bishop sternly reminded him that he stood before the King's Court, and the representative of the majesty of England; and that, while some regard might be had to the scruples of men who made a conscience of putting off the hat, such contempt could not be tolerated on the part of one who could put it off to every mechanic be met. The Baptist pulled off his hat, and apologized, on the ground of illness.

We find Roberts next following George Fox on a visit to Bristol. On his return, reaching his house late in the evening, he saw a man standing in the moonlight at his door, and knew him to be a bailiff.

"Hast thou anything against me?" asked Roberts.

"No," said the bailiff, "I've wronged you enough, God forgive me! Those who lie in wait for you are my Lord Bishop's bailiffs; they are merciless rogues. Ever, my master, while you live, please a knave, for an honest man won't hurt you."

The next morning, having, as he thought, been warned by a dream to do so, he went to the Bishop's house at Cleave, near Gloucester. Confronting the Bishop in his own hall, he told him that he had come to know why he was hunting after him with his bailiffs, and why he was his adversary. "The King is your adversary," said the Bishop; "you have broken the King's law." Roberts ventured to deny the justice of the law. "What!" cried the Bishop, "do such men as you find fault with the laws?" "Yes," replied the other, stoutly; "and I tell thee plainly to thy face, it is high time wiser men were chosen, to make better laws."

The discourse turning upon the Book of Common Prayer, Roberts asked the Bishop if the sin of idolatry did not consist in worshipping the work of men's hands. The Bishop admitted it, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar's image.

"Then," said Roberts, "whose hands made your Prayer Book? It could not make itself."

"Do you compare our Prayer Book to Nebuchadnezzar's image?" cried the
Bishop.

"Yes," returned Roberts, "that was his image; this is thine. I no more dare bow to thy Common-Prayer Book than the Three Children to Nebuchadnezzar's image."

"Yours is a strange upstart religion," said the Bishop.

Roberts told him it was older than his by several hundred years. At this claim of antiquity the prelate was greatly amused, and told Roberts that if he would make out his case, he should speed the better for it.

"Let me ask thee," said Roberts, "where thy religion was in Oliver's days, when thy Common-Prayer Book was as little regarded as an old almanac, and your priests, with a few honest exceptions, turned with the tide, and if Oliver had put mass in their mouths would have conformed to it for the sake of their bellies."

"What would you have us do?" asked the Bishop. "Would you have had
Oliver cut our throats?"

"No," said Roberts; "but what sort of religion was that which you were afraid to venture your throats for?"

The Bishop interrupted him to say, that in Oliver's days he had never owned any other religion than his own, although he did not dare to openly maintain it as he then did.

"Well," continued Roberts, "if thou didst not think thy religion worth venturing thy throat for then, I desire thee to consider that it is not worth the cutting of other men's throats now for not conforming to it."

"You are right," responded the frank Bishop. "I hope we shall have a care how we cut men's throats."

The following colloquy throws some light on the condition and character of the rural clergy at this period, and goes far to confirm the statements of Macaulay, which many have supposed exaggerated. Baxter's early religious teachers were more exceptionable than even the maudlin mummer whom Roberts speaks of, one of them being "the excellentest stage- player in all the country, and a good gamester and goodfellow, who, having received Holy Orders, forged the like for a neighbor's son, who on the strength of that title officiated at the desk and altar; and after him came an attorney's clerk, who had tippled himself into so great poverty that he had no other way to live than to preach."

J. ROBERTS. I was bred up under a Common-Prayer Priest; and a poor drunken old Man he was. Sometimes he was so drunk he could not say his Prayers, and at best he could but say them; though I think he was by far a better Man than he that is Priest there now.

BISHOP. Who is your Minister now?

J. ROBERTS. My Minister is Christ Jesus, the Minister of the everlasting
Covenant; but the present Priest of the Parish is George Bull.

BISHOP. Do you say that drunken old Man was better than Mr. Bull? I tell you, I account Mr. Bull as sound, able, and orthodox a Divine as any we have among us.

J. ROBERT. I am sorry for that; for if he be one of the best of you, I believe the Lord will not suffer you long; for he is a proud, ambitious, ungodly Man: he hath often sued me at Law, and brought his Servants to swear against me wrongfully. His Servants themselves have confessed to my Servants, that I might have their Ears; for their Master made them drunk, and then told them they were set down in the List as Witnesses against me, and they must swear to it: And so they did, and brought treble Damages. They likewise owned they took Tithes from my Servants, threshed them out, and sold them for their Master. They have also several Times took my Cattle out of my Grounds, drove them to Fairs and Markets, and sold them, without giving me any Account.

BISHOP. I do assure you I will inform Mr. Bull of what you say.

J. ROBERTS. Very well. And if thou pleasest to send for me to face him,
I shall make much more appear to his Face than I'll say behind his Back.

After much more discourse, Roberts told the Bishop that if it would do him any good to have him in jail, he would voluntarily go and deliver himself up to the keeper of Gloucester Castle. The good-natured prelate relented at this, and said he should not be molested or injured, and further manifested his good will by ordering refreshments. One of the Bishop's friends who was present was highly offended by the freedom of Roberts with his Lordship, and undertook to rebuke him, but was so readily answered that he flew into a rage. "If all the Quakers in England," said he, "are not hanged in a month's time, I 'll be hanged for them." "Prithee, friend," quoth Roberts, "remember and be as good as thy word!"

Good old Bishop Nicholson, it would seem, really liked his incorrigible Quaker neighbor, and could enjoy heartily his wit and humor, even when exercised at the expense of his own ecclesiastical dignity. He admired his blunt honesty and courage. Surrounded by flatterers and self- seekers, he found satisfaction in the company and conversation of one who, setting aside all conventionalisms, saw only in my Lord Bishop a poor fellow-probationer, and addressed him on terms of conscious equality. The indulgence which he extended to him naturally enough provoked many of the inferior clergy, who had been sorely annoyed by the sturdy Dissenter's irreverent witticisms and unsparing ridicule. Vicar Bull, of Siddington, and Priest Careless, of Cirencester, in particular, urged the Bishop to deal sharply with him. The former accused him of dealing in the Black Art, and filled the Bishop's ear with certain marvellous stories of his preternatural sagacity and discernment in discovering cattle which were lost. The Bishop took occasion to inquire into these stories; and was told by Roberts that, except in a single instance, the discoveries were the result of his acquaintance with the habits of animals and his knowledge of the localities where they were lost. The circumstance alluded to, as an exception, will be best related in his own words.

"I had a poor Neighbor, who had a Wife and six Children, and whom the chief men about us permitted to keep six or seven Cows upon the Waste, which were the principal Support of the Family, and preserved them from becoming chargeable to the Parish. One very stormy night the Cattle were left in the Yard as usual, but could not be found in the morning. The Man and his Sons had sought them to no purpose; and, after they had been lost four days, his Wife came to me, and, in a great deal of grief, cried, 'O Lord! Master Hayward, we are undone! My Husband and I must go a begging in our old age! We have lost all our Cows. My Husband and the Boys have been round the country, and can hear nothing of them. I'll down on my bare knees, if you'll stand our Friend!' I desired she would not be in such an agony, and told her she should not down on her knees to me; but I would gladly help them in what I could. 'I know,' said she, 'you are a good Man, and God will hear your Prayers.' I desire thee, said I, to be still and quiet in thy mind; perhaps thy Husband or Sons may hear of them to-day; if not, let thy Husband get a horse, and come to me to-morrow morning as soon as he will; and I think, if it please God, to go with him to seek then. The Woman seemed transported with joy, crying, 'Then we shall have our Cows again.' Her Faith being so strong, brought the greater Exercise on me, with strong cries to the Lord, that he would be pleased to make me instrumental in his Hand, for the help of the poor Family. In the Morning early comes the old Man. In the Name of God, says he, which way shall we go to seek them? I, being deeply concerned in my Mind, did not answer him till he had thrice repeated it; and then I answered, In the Name of God, I would go to seek them; and said (before I was well aware) we will go to Malmsbury, and at the Horse- Fair we shall find them. When I had spoken the Words, I was much troubled lest they should not prove true. It was very early, and the first Man we saw, I asked him if he had seen any stray Milch Cows thereabouts. What manner of Cattle are they? said he. And the old Man describing their Mark and Number, he told us there were some stood chewing their Cuds in the Horse-Fair; but thinking they belonged to some in the Neighborhood, he did not take particular Notice of them. When we came to the Place, the old Man found them to be his; but suffered his Transports of Joy to rise so high, that I was ashamed of his behavior; for he fell a hallooing, and threw up his Montier Cap in the Air several times, till he raised the Neighbors out of their Beds to see what was the Matter. 'O!' said he, 'I had lost my Cows four or five days ago, and thought I should never see them again; and this honest Neighbor of mine told me this Morning, by his own Fire's Side, nine Miles off, that here I should find them, and here I have them!' Then up goes his Cap again. I begged of the poor Man to be quiet, and take his Cows home, and be thankful; as indeed I was, being reverently bowed in my Spirit before the Lord, in that he was pleased to put the words of Truth into my mouth. And the Man drove his Cattle home, to the great Joy of his Family."

Not long after the interview with the Bishop at his own palace, which has been related, that dignitary, with the Lord Chancellor, in their coaches, and about twenty clergymen on horseback, made a call at the humble dwelling of Roberts, on their way to Tedbury, where the Bishop was to hold a Visitation. "I could not go out of the country without seeing you," said the prelate, as the farmer came to his coach door and pressed him to alight.

"John," asked Priest Evans, the Bishop's kinsman, "is your house free to entertain such men as we are?"

"Yes, George," said Roberts; "I entertain honest men, and sometimes others."

"My Lord," said Evans, turning to the Bishop, "John's friends are the honest men, and we are the others."

The Bishop told Roberts that they could not then alight, but would gladly drink with him; whereupon the good wife brought out her best beer. "I commend you, John," quoth the Bishop, as he paused from his hearty draught; "you keep a cup of good beer in your house. I have not drank any that has pleased me better since I left home." The cup passed next to the Chancellor, and finally came to Priest Bull, who thrust it aside, declaring that it was full of hops and heresy. As to hops, Roberts replied, he could not say, but as for heresy, he bade the priest take note that the Lord Bishop had drank of it, and had found no heresy in the cup.

The Bishop leaned over his coach door and whispered: "John, I advise you to take care you don't offend against the higher Powers. I have heard great complaints against you, that you are the Ringleader of the Quakers in this Country; and that, if you are not suppressed, all will signify nothing. Therefore, pray, John, take care, for the future, you don't offend any more."

"I like thy Counsel very well," answered Roberts, "and intend to take it. But thou knowest God is the higher Power; and you mortal Men, however advanced in this World, are but the lower Power; and it is only because I endeavor to be obedient to the will of the higher Powers, that the lower Powers are angry with me. But I hope, with the assistance of God, to take thy Counsel, and be subject to the higher Powers, let the lower Powers do with me as it may please God to suffer them."

The Bishop then said he would like to talk with him further, and requested him to meet him at Tedbury the next day. At the time appointed, Roberts went to the inn where the Bishop lodged, and was invited to dine with him. After dinner was over, the prelate told him that he must go to church, and leave off holding conventicles at his house, of which great complaint was made. This he flatly refused to do; and the Bishop, losing patience, ordered the constable to be sent for. Roberts told him that if, after coming to his house under the guise of friendship, he should betray him and send him to prison, he, who had hitherto commended him for his moderation, would put his name in print, and cause it to stink before all sober people. It was the priests, he told him, who set him on; but, instead of hearkening to them, he should commend them to some honest vocation, and not suffer them to rob their honest neighbors, and feed on the fruits of other men's toil, like caterpillars.

"Whom do you call caterpillars?" cried Priest Rich, of North Surrey.

"We farmers," said Roberts, "call those so who live on other men's fields, and by the sweat of other men's brows; and if thou dost so, thou mayst be one of them."

This reply so enraged the Bishop's attendants that they could only be appeased by an order for the constable to take him to jail. In fact, there was some ground for complaint of a lack of courtesy on the part of the blunt farmer; and the Christian virtue of forbearance, even in Bishops, has its limits.

The constable, obeying the summons, came to the inn, at the door of which the landlady met him. "What do you here!" cried the good woman, "when honest John is going to be sent to prison? Here, come along with me." The constable, nothing loath, followed her into a private room, where she concealed him. Word was sent to the Bishop, that the constable was not to be found; and the prelate, telling Roberts he could send him to jail in the afternoon, dismissed him until evening. At the hour appointed, the latter waited upon the Bishop, and found with him only one priest and a lay gentleman. The priest begged the Bishop to be allowed to discourse with the prisoner; and, leave being granted, he began by telling Roberts that the knowledge of the Scriptures had made him mad, and that it was a great pity he had ever seen them.

"Thou art an unworthy man," said the Quaker, "and I 'll not dispute with thee. If the knowledge of the Scriptures has made me mad, the knowledge of the sack-pot hath almost made thee mad; and if we two madmen should dispute about religion, we should make mad work of it."

"An 't please you, my Lord," said the scandalized priest, "he says I 'm drunk."

The Bishop asked Roberts to repeat his words; and, instead of reprimanding him, as the priest expected, was so much amused that he held up his hands and laughed; whereupon the offended inferior took a hasty leave. The Bishop, who was evidently glad to be rid of him, now turned to Roberts, and complained that he had dealt hardly with him, in telling him, before so many gentlemen, that he had sought to betray him by professions of friendship, in order to send him to prison; and that, if he had not done as he did, people would have reported him as an encourager of the Quakers. "But now, John," said the good prelate, "I'll burn the warrant against you before your face." "You know, Mr. Burnet," he continued, addressing his attendant, "that a Ring of Bells may be made of excellent metal, but they may be out of tune; so we may say of John: he is a man of as good metal as I ever met with, but quite out of tune."

"Thou mayst well say so," quoth Roberts, "for I can't tune after thy pipe."

The inferior clergy were by no means so lenient as the Bishop. They regarded Roberts as the ringleader of Dissent, an impracticable, obstinate, contumacious heretic, not only refusing to pay them tithes himself, but encouraging others to the same course. Hence, they thought it necessary to visit upon him the full rigor of the law. His crops were taken from his field, and his cattle from his yard. He was often committed to the jail, where, on one occasion, he was kept, with many others, for a long time, through the malice of the jailer, who refused to put the names of his prisoners in the Calendar, that they might have a hearing. But the spirit of the old Commonwealth's man remained steadfast. When Justice George, at the Ram in Cirencester, told him he must conform, and go to church, or suffer the penalty of the law, he replied that he had heard indeed that some were formerly whipped out of the Temple, but he had never heard of any being whipped in. The Justice, pointing, through the open window of the inn, at the church tower, asked him what that was. "Thou mayst call it a daw-house," answered the incorrigible Quaker. "Dost thou not see how the jackdaws flock about it?"

Sometimes it happened that the clergyman was also a magistrate, and united in his own person the authority of the State and the zeal of the Church. Justice Parsons, of Gloucester, was a functionary of this sort. He wielded the sword of the Spirit on the Sabbath against Dissenters, and on week days belabored them with the arm of flesh and the constable's staff. At one time he had between forty and fifty of them locked up in Gloucester Castle, among them Roberts and his sons, on the charge of attending conventicles. But the troublesome prisoners baffled his vigilance, and turned their prison into a meeting-house, and held their conventicles in defiance of him. The Reverend Justice pounced upon them on one occasion, with his attendants. An old, gray-haired man, formerly a strolling fencing-master, was preaching when he came in. The Justice laid hold of him by his white locks, and strove to pull him down, but the tall fencing-raster stood firm and spoke on; he then tried to gag him, but failed in that also. He demanded the names of the prisoners, but no one answered him. A voice (we fancy it was that of our old friend Roberts) called out: "The Devil must be hard put to it to have his drudgery done, when the Priests must leave their pulpits to turn informers against poor prisoners." The Justice obtained a list of the names of the prisoners, made out on their commitment, and, taking it for granted that all were still present, issued warrants for the collection of fines by levies upon their estates. Among the names was that of a poor widow, who had been discharged, and was living, at the time the clerical magistrate swore she was at the meeting, twenty miles distant from the prison.

Soon after this event, our old friend fell sick. He had been discharged from prison, but his sons were still confined. The eldest had leave, however, to attend him in his illness, and he bears his testimony that the Lord was pleased to favor his father with His living presence in his last moments. In keeping with the sturdy Non-conformist's life, he was interred at the foot of his own orchard, in Siddington, a spot he had selected for a burial-ground long before, where neither the foot of a priest nor the shadow of a steeple-house could rest upon his grave.

In closing our notice of this pleasant old narrative, we may remark that the light it sheds upon the antagonistic religious parties of the time is calculated to dissipate prejudices and correct misapprehensions, common alike to Churchmen and Dissenters. The genial humor, sound sense, and sterling virtues of the Quaker farmer should teach the one class that poor James Nayler, in his craziness and folly, was not a fair representative of his sect; while the kind nature, the hearty appreciation of goodness, and the generosity and candor of Bishop Nicholson should convince the other class that a prelate is not necessarily, and by virtue of his mitre, a Laud or a Bonner. The Dissenters of the seventeenth century may well be forgiven for the asperity of their language; men whose ears had been cropped because they would not recognize Charles I. as a blessed martyr, and his scandalous son as the head of the Church, could scarcely be expected to make discriminations, or suggest palliating circumstances, favorable to any class of their adversaries. To use the homely but apt simile of McFingal,

         "The will's confirmed by treatment horrid,
          As hides grow harder when they're curried."

They were wronged, and they told the world of it. Unlike Shakespeare's cardinal, they did not die without a sign. They branded, by their fierce epithets, the foreheads of their persecutors more deeply than the sheriff's hot iron did their own. If they lost their ears, they enjoyed the satisfaction of making those of their oppressors tingle. Knowing their persecutors to be in the wrong, they did not always inquire whether they themselves had been entirely right, and had done no unrequired works of supererogation by the way of "testimony" against their neighbors' mode cf worship. And so from pillory and whipping-post, from prison and scaffold, they sent forth their wail and execration, their miserere and anathema, and the sound thereof has reached down to our day. May it never wholly die away until, the world over, the forcing of conscience is regarded as a crime against humanity and a usurpation of God's prerogative. But abhorring, as we must, persecution under whatever pretext it is employed, we are not, therefore, to conclude that all persecutors were bad and unfeeling men. Many of their severities, upon which we now look back with horror, were, beyond a question, the result of an intense anxiety for the well-being of immortal souls, endangered by the poison which, in their view, heresy was casting into the waters of life. Coleridge, in one of the moods of a mind which traversed in imagination the vast circle of human experience, reaches this point in his Table-Talk. "It would require," says he, "stronger arguments than any I have seen to convince me that men in authority have not a right, involved in an imperative duty, to deter those under their control from teaching or countenancing doctrines which they believe to be damnable, and even to punish with death those who violate such prohibition." It would not be very difficult for us to imagine a tender-hearted Inquisitor of this stamp, stifling his weak compassion for the shrieking wretch under bodily torment by his strong pity for souls in danger of perdition from the sufferer's heresy. We all know with what satisfaction the gentle-spirited Melanethon heard of the burning of Servetus, and with what zeal he defended it. The truth is, the notion that an intellectual recognition of certain dogmas is the essential condition of salvation lies at the bottom of all intolerance in matters of religion. Under this impression, men are too apt to forget that the great end of Christianity is love, and that charity is its crowning virtue; they overlook the beautiful significance of the parable of the heretic Samaritan and the orthodox Pharisee: and thus, by suffering their speculative opinions of the next world to make them uncharitable and cruel in this, they are really the worse for them, even admitting them to be true.