Previous Next

Table of Contents

Chapter IV


bunyan’s release from prison, and publication of ‘the pilgrim’s progress.’

The reigns of the debauched Charles II. and the besotted James, those fag-ends of an unhappy race, were the most humiliating that these realms ever witnessed. Deep dissimulation,‌36‌ oft-repeated falsehoods, wilful and deliberate perjuries, were employed by the first of these royal profligates to obtain the throne. Solemn pledges to pardon political offenders were ruthlessly violated, as well as the oaths and declarations ‘that liberty should be extended to tender consciences on religious subjects, so that none should be disturbed or called in question for any differences of opinion in matters of religion.’‌37‌ The fanatic Church of England soon obtained laws in direct violation of all the King’s oaths and declarations, such as the Act of Uniformity, the Test and Corporation Acts, the Five-mile and Conventicle Acts, and a revival of the old statutes for compelling all persons to attend the Church service; and thus forcing the weak-minded to become hypocritical members of the Church which was then, and continues to this day, to be preferred by the state as best suiting its purposes. Among the rest was an Act ordering all the subjects of the realm, for ever, to meet in their respective churches on the 29th of May in each year, and thanking God that these kingdoms were on that day new born and raised from the dead:38‌ an Act which has not been repealed, but remains a disgrace to our statute-book. A hurricane of persecution followed, and all the jails in the kingdom soon became filled with those of our countrymen who, by their virtue and piety, were the brightest ornaments of Christianity. While these barbarities were perpetrating, desolations followed in rapid succession. A fearful pestilence swept away the inhabitants of the metropolis, followed in the next year by a conflagration which destroyed the cathedral, and nearly all its churches, magazines, houses, and enormous wealth. Again, in the succeeding year, came a Dutch fleet, which took Sheerness, destroyed our shipping, and caused a degree of consternation thus described by an eye-witness, who was attached to the court:‌39‌ ‘I was at London in the plague and fire years, yet in neither did I observe such consternation and confusion in the looks of all men, as at this time, and with great cause: for if the Dutch had then come up to London, they had found all open to them, not one gun mounted at Tilbury Fort, nor one frigate ready in the river; so as they might have forced all the ships in the river up to the bridge, and there have burnt them, which would certainly have fired the Tower and all the suburbs west to Blackwall, as well as Southwark below bridge.’ Still the persecution of the Christians was continued in all its rigour.

Bunyan was one among the first persons punished under the sanction of these wicked laws. He was taken, sent to prison, and threatened with transportation, or the halter, unless he would conform, or pretend to conform, to whatever religion happened to be by law established. This at all hazards he steadily refused; although, at that time, he fully anticipated being hung. Under such an awful impression, he felt exceedingly anxious that, suffering for the cause of Christ, he should meet death with fortitude, and be enabled to address the multitude that would come to see him die. ‘And, thought I, if it must be so, if God will but convert one soul by my very last words, I shall not count my life thrown away, nor lost.’‌40

About this time twelve Baptists were sentenced to be hung for nonconformity. One of these was a widow, Mary Jackman, who had six children; their reprieve was almost miraculous.‌41

Bunyan’s sufferings in prison were aggravated by his affectionate feelings for his blind daughter, and with tender apprehension he speaks of her in language of impassioned solicitude. ‘Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind shall blow upon thee! Oh, the hardships I thought my blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces!’ Then he casts himself upon the boundless power of his God, repents his doubts, and is filled with consolation. Such were the severe trials by which he was qualified to write the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’

His wife was a partaker of his own spirit—a heroine of no ordinary stamp in so trying a situation. She came to London with a petition for the release of her husband, which was presented to the House of Lords; but in vain. Time after time she appeared in person before the judges; and, although a delicate young woman of retiring habits, pleaded the cause of her husband and his children in language worthy of the most talented counsel; but all her supplications were fruitless, although Judge Hale was evidently affected by her powerful appeal, and felt much for her. ‘This courageous, this fine, high-minded English woman, and Lord Chief-Justice Hale, and Bunyan, have long since met in heaven; but how little could they recognize each other’s character on earth! How little could the distressed insulted wife have imagined, that beneath the judge’s ermine there was beating the heart of a child of God, a man of humility, integrity, and prayer! How little could the great, the learned, the illustrious, and truly pious judge have dreamed that the man, the obscure tinker, whom he was suffering to languish in prison for want of a writ of error, would one day be the subject of greater admiration and praise than all the judges in the kingdom of Great Britain! How little could he dream, that from that narrow cell where the prisoner was left incarcerated, and cut off apparently from all usefulness, a glory would shine out, illustrating the government and grace of God, and doing more good to man, than all the prelates and judges of the kingdom put together had accomplished.’‌42

How many thousands will in heaven search out Bunyan, to hear his own accounts of his sufferings, and how he conceived his wondrous dream! Nor will they forget the wife whose ‘Plain Man’s Pathway’‌43‌ led him to his first inquiries after the Wicket-gate; nor his Elizabeth, who so nobly pleaded for him before the judges.

The number of nonconformists who were imprisoned in these trying times, will never be fully known until the great day when all secrets will be revealed, to the honour of the persecuted and the infamy of the persecutors. They were of both sexes and of all ages, from the child of nine or ten years to the hoary-headed saint of eighty, who, bending and trembling over the grave with bodily infirmities, was driven to prison and incarcerated in a filthy dungeon. In Picart’s Religious Ceremonies, it is stated that the number of dissenters, of all sects, who perished in prison under Charles II. was eight thousand.‌44

As a sect, the Quakers were the most severely handled. Not only were they the ardent friends of religious liberty, but their principles led them to testify against oaths, a hireling ministry, tithes, and other ecclesiastical demands, whether by forcible or voluntary contributions; and they taught that the work of the ministry was one of the purest benevolence, and not to be fulfilled for the love of pelf, or idleness, or worldly distinction. The law required them to attend the Church, and when there, roused by the foolish and wicked observations of the priest, it was common for them to take out their Bibles, and denounce, in awful terms, the conduct of such blind teachers, who were leading their equally blind hearers to everlasting perdition. And for this they were imprisoned and cruelly treated.

If some of the nonconformists occasionally interrupted the clergyman while preaching, the Church party frequently did the same to both Baptists and Quakers. Thus it happened when Bunyan was preaching in a barn, a Church scholar, wounded by his observations, cried out, ‘You are a deceiver, a person of no charity, nor fit to preach; for you condemn the greater portion of your hearers.’ Bunyan replied, ‘Did not Jesus Christ preach to the same effect, when he described four sorts of hearers—the highway, stony, thorny, and good ground? whereof the good ground were the only persons to be saved? Do you mean to say that Jesus was unfit to preach? Away with such logic!’ The scholar rode away much better punished than by imprisonment, for disturbing a congregation which he was not compelled to attend.

Multitudes of Quakers and Baptists were confined for the non-payment of ruinous fines, imposed after the officers of injustice had swept away all the worldly goods that they possessed. In most cases they were treated with extreme cruelty; some, even in the midst of the plague then raging, were dragged from their homes and families, and shut up in a jail little better than a pest-house, in which seventy-nine members of the Society of friends,‌45‌ and a great number of other nonconformists died, and obtained a happy release from the fangs of tyranny. Upwards of eight thousand Quakers alone suffered imprisonment;‌46‌ and the record of those who died in prison, as preserved at Devonshire House, Bishopsgate, gives the fearful number of three hundred and ninety-nine persons of that persuasion only. At Carlisle, Dorothy Waugh and Ann Robinson, for preaching, were dragged through the streets, with each an iron instrument of torture, called a bridle, upon their heads, and were treated with gross indecency.‌47‌ A youth named James Parnell, aged nineteen, was treated with a degree of cruelty which, had it not been well authenticated, would have been beyond our credibility. ‘He was thrust into a hole in Colchester Castle not so wide as a baker’s oven, and at a considerable height from the pavement; in climbing down to get his food, his hands being benumbed, he lost his hold, and fell upon the stones, wounding his head severely, and bruising his body. In this state he was beaten by the jailer, and thrust into a similar hole nearer the pavement. He was shortly released from further torments by death.’‌48‌ A memorial was presented to the King and his council at Whitehall, ‘Being a brief relation of some of the cruel and inhuman usage, and great persecution and imprisonment of above four thousand two hundred and thirty of the people of God, in scorn called Quakers, for worshipping of God, and meeting together in the fear of the Lord.’‌49‌ The summary of this frightful broadside, which gives an account of the number of Quakers in every prison throughout the kingdom, and is of undoubted authority, shows that such was the thronged state of the prisons, that in some cases they were crowded into so small a space that some had to stand while the others laid down. Many were taken out dead. To add to their trials, in Somersetshire the vilest felons were ironed to the poor Quakers; all the prisons were filled with men, women, and children; the aged and young, healthy and sick, were indiscriminately shut up with the vilest of ruffians, their clothes torn off; women taken from their beds in the night, and driven along the dirty roads in winter to prison; sixty-eight thrust into a small room, without bread or water, some of the women being in the most trying and delicate state; many in chains and fetters, wallowing in indescribable filth. Sixty of these Quakers were at one time confined, with John Bunyan and his friends, in the prison on Bedford Bridge. In ‘Some Account of the Life and Death of Mr. John Bunyan,’ prefixed to his works, 2 vols. folio, 1737, p. xii., we find that ‘sixty Dissenters were at one time put in Bedford jail for attending a religious meeting at Kaistoe, in addition to Bunyan and the usual prisoners, among whom were two eminent dissenting ministers, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Dun. Amidst all this hurry, Bunyan preached and prayed among them in a mighty spirit of faith and overflowing of Divine assistance, which made me stand and wonder.’‌50‌ In one place of confinement in that county, ‘fifty are in a close and strait place, where many are sick and weak, and likely to perish.’ A very affecting appeal was made at this time to the House of Commons. One hundred and sixty-four nonconformists, called Quakers, assembled in Westminster Hall, and sent in a petition, stating that many of their brethren lay in irons, cruelly beaten by cruel jailers; many have died in their sufferings, and many lie sick and weak upon straw; and then praying that they might suffer in their stead, and that their bodies might be put into the holes and prisons, and an equal number of their suffering dying friends be released. Well might the editor of the Christian Examiner call this ‘the feelings of majestic benevolence expressed in tender and beautiful simplicity.’‌51‌ In the jail for the city of Bedford, in which Bunyan was confined, the prisoners were treated with an extraordinary degree of humanity, for which the jailer was severely threatened by some of the inhuman justices. So was Bunyan’s valuable life preserved, and he favoured with an opportunity of writing the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ and so fulfilling his great and appointed work. During this time he was permitted, by favour of the jailer, to visit his family, and even to go to London. This soon was rumoured; and one night he felt so uneasy, when at home, that at a very late hour he went back to the prison. The news of his being with his family at Elstow, was that very day taken to a neighbouring priest, who at midnight sent a messenger to the jail, that he might be a witness against the merciful keeper. On his arrival he demanded, ‘Are all the prisoners safe?’—‘Yes.’ ‘Is John Bunyan safe?’—‘Yes.’ ‘Let me see him.’ He was called, and appeared; and all was well. His kind-hearted jailer said to him, ‘You may go out when you will, for you know much better when to return than I can tell you.’ While he was suffering this imprisonment, his friends in Bedford were severely visited by the ruthless hand of persecution.

Mr. Ruffhead‌52‌ was one of Bunyan’s principal friends and supporters, and had the honour of being the first that had his house plundered in the general persecution, when those who refused to attend the Church service were so severely visited.

The effect of persecution upon this excellent and pious man was, that he, within two years, opened his house for the reception of the despised Christians, and it was the first place of worship that was licensed in Bedford for the use of the nonconformists, if not the first in the United Kingdom. The account of the ruffianly transactions which took place at this time, is contained in a rare tract, called, ‘A True and Impartial Narrative of some Illegal and Arbitrary Proceedings against Innocent Nonconformists in the Town of Bedford, 4to, 1670.’‌53‌ ‘On Monday, the 30th of May, Feckman, the chief apparitor, with the churchwarden, constable, and overseer, began to distrain. The person’s name is J. Ruffhead, at whose house they first began. He had been fined three pounds, and they took away two timber trees, value seven pounds.’‌54

He must have been a man of some consequence is the town, to have been dealt with so leniently; for in most cases they swept away all the stock in trade, tools, and household furniture, and left the bare walls to shelter the widow and her lamenting orphans. Mr. Foster, a justice, went with the band, and in some cases doubled the fine, because it was not immediately paid. The misery was such, that the porters said they would be hanged, drawn, and quartered before they would assist in that work. Two of them, for so refusing, were caught and sent to Bedford jail, where, doubtless, they gave an account to Bunyan of the cruel trials to which his pious friends were subjected. The trained bands were called to assist, but ‘the tradesmen, journeymen, labourers, and servants having either left the town or hid themselves, to avoid his [Feckman’s] call, the town was so thin of people, that it looked more like a country village than a corporation; and the shops being generally shut down, it seemed like a place visited with a pest, where usually is written upon the door. Lord, have mercy on us!’ Similar desolations fell upon many cities in the kingdom, which must have been utterly ruined, had the absurd attempt to enforce uniformity been continued.

In reading the narrative of these distressing and cruel proceedings, the mind is strangely relieved by the humours of the mob who accompanied these legalized plunderers. ‘Whilst Battison and the other officers were attempting to break into a malt-house, a great number of all sorts of persons were gathered about them, expressing their indignation against him, for attempting this against Bardolf, the maltster, whom the whole town knew to be a just and harmless man. And the common sort of people covertly fixing a calf’s tail to Battison’s back, and deriding him with shouts and hollows, he departed without taking any distress there.’‌55

Our pious teacher had his time so fully occupied in prison, that his hours must have passed more sweetly and swiftly than those of a debauched monarch, surrounded with luxuries, in his magnificent palaces. To tag laces, the profit of which supported a beloved wife, and his family of helpless children, must have employed many of his hours to procure the scantiest food, and most homely clothing. But he found time also to study his Bible, teach his fellow-prisoners, and compose books which have inscribed his name on the page of history more indelibly and brilliantly than it could have been if set with diamonds on the most splendid earthly crown. He who could write, and loved to write, such volumes, wanted not occupation or solace; he might have said, I have found a nest of honey in the carcass of the lion that roared upon me. The world has from that time been refreshed with its sweetness, while, as a spiritual medicine, it counteracts the guilt and wretchedness of man. From such adversity God has extracted manna for the nourishment of his church in the wilderness.

Stone walls do not a prison make

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for a hermitage.

For though men keep my outward man

Within their locks and bars,

Yet by the faith of Christ I can

Mount higher than the stars.

These be the men that God doth count

Of high and noble mind;

These be the men that do surmount

What you in nature find.

First they do conquer their own hearts,

All worldly fears, and then

Also the devil’s fiery darts,

And persecuting men.

How refreshing for such scriptures as these ‘to thrill through the soul’ of a prisoner for Christ— ‘Let not your heart be troubled,’ &c.; ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ Thus Bunyan says, ‘I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of sin in this place. O the Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels, and God the Judge of all; Jesus the Mediator, and the spirits of just men made perfect! I have seen here what I never can express. I have felt the truth of that scripture, “Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” ’

Many years after he had obtained his liberty, notwithstanding all his sufferings, he, with the majesty of truth, hurled defiance at all persecutors, and exhorted those who had put on Christ to be steadfast unto the end. When preaching upon the unsearchable riches of Christ, he thus applied his subject, ‘We are environed with many enemies, and faith in the love of God and of Christ is our only succour and shelter. Wherefore, our duty, and wisdom, and privilege is, to improve this love to our own advantage—improve it against daily infirmities—improve it against the wiles of the Devil—improve it against the threats, rage, death, and destruction that the men of this world continually, with their terror, set before you.’‌56

It may be asked, Why dwell so much upon the sufferings of our pilgrim forefathers? My reply is, To those trials in the person of John Bunyan, we are indebted for his invaluable book. To the groans, and tears, and blood of these saints we owe the great privileges we now enjoy. And my object also is to warn my readers not to touch the unclean thing. Antichrist is governed by the same principles and powers now as she was then; the Acts of uniformity and coercion, to use the Book of Common Prayer, remain unaltered; but a more humane state of society protects our persons from her despotism. So long as the wealth of the state is the bribe to conformity, and the power of taxing and imprisoning the nonconformist is continued, so long must she lie under the strong suspicion of hypocrisy and tyranny. She was formerly defiled with the sufferings unto death of many of the saints of God. And while the system is the same, it becomes us to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.’ 2 Co. 6:14, 17.

It would not be proper to pass by the contemptible sophistry with which Mr. Southey justifies an intolerant bigoted hierarchy in sending our Pilgrim to prison, ‘where his understanding had leisure to ripen and to cool … favourable for his moral and religious nature.’‌57‌ Can this be the language of the author of Wat Tyler? Yes; the smile of royalty had elevated and corrupted him. He might now regret that he was not born in Bonner’s days, to have assisted in improving the morals and religion of the martyrs, by flogging them in the coal-house!

The same language which Southey uses to justify the Church of England in sending our Pilgrim to prison, would equally justify the horrid cruelties practised upon those pious and amiable martyrs, Tyndale, Latimer, or Ridley. The alleged offence was refusing to transfer the obedience of a free immortal spirit from God, who justly claims it, to erring, debauched, or ungodly man, who, instigated by Satan, assumes the prerogatives of Deity to exercise dominion over the mode and form of worship; to impose trammels upon that which must be free if it exists at all; for God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must do it in spirit and in truth.

When the English Established Church considered herself unsafe, unless Bunyan and many hundred kindred minds were shut up in prison, it proved itself to be a disgrace to the gospel, and an injury to a free people.‌58‌ All national hierarchies have estimated the minds of others by their own standard; but no real minister of the gospel can be like the Vicar of Bray, who was determined to retain his vicarage, whatever doctrine he might be ordered to preach.

How strangely different were the feelings of the poor, pious, unlettered teacher, to those of archbishops, bishops, and clergy, thousands of whom swore under Henry Vlll. and Edward VI. to abjure the Pope; perjured themselves under Mary, by swearing to maintain him; and under Elizabeth, again perjured themselves by taking a new oath to un-oath Queen Mary’s oath; and all within the space of a few years! The state, by enforcing conformity to an Established church, naturally puts the people upon desperate courses, either to play the hypocrite, and have no conscience at all, or to be tortured for having a conscience not fashionable or pleasing to the court party. They must either deny their faith and reason, or if virtuous, be destroyed for acting according to them.‌59‌ Those who have no religion have always persecuted those who have religious principles; and to enable them to do this, they must obey the state, be it Christian or be it Mahometan. Force makes hypocrites: persuasion alone makes converts.

Such wholesale persecutions bid fair to destroy the trade and commerce of the kingdom, and involve it in one universal desolation. Sir W. Petty, the founder of the Shelbourne family, then a man of considerable note, demonstated this in his Political Arithmetic; and the illustrious founder of Pennsylvania gave a just picture of the miseries inflicted by the Church of England, in her endeavours to force pious and honest men into her communion. ‘Persons have been flung into jails, gates and trunks broken open, goods distrained, till a stool hath not been left to sit down on. Flocks of cattle driven, whole barns full of corn seized. Parents left without their children, children without their parents, both without subsistence. But that which aggravates the cruelty is, the widow’s mite hath not escaped their hands; they have made her cow the forfeit of her conscience, not leaving her a bed to lie on, nor a blanket to cover her; and which is yet more barbarous, and helps to make up this tragedy, the poor helpless orphan’s milk boiling over the fire, was flung away, and the skillet made part of their prize; that, had not nature in neighbours been stronger than cruelty in such informers and officers, to open her bowels for their relief and subsistence, they must have utterly perished;’ and what has such cruelty procured? ‘the judgments of God, the hatred of men. To the sufferers, misery; to their country, decay of people and trade; and to their own consciences, an infinite guilt.’‌60‌ ‘Men must either have no conscience at all, or be hanged for having a conscience not fashionable.’‌61‌ He winds up a manly, learned, and excellent treatise, by saying (inter alia), that ‘the interests of Britain will stand longer upon the legs of the English people than of the English Church,’‌62‌ and signs himself ‘An English Christian Man, William Penn.’ Persecution, for his pure religious feelings, drove him and thousands of the best English citizens across the Atlantic, to seek among savages the repose denied to them by the Church of England, and to found a state and an empire where the perfect equality and happiness of every sect, the non-interference of the state with the spiritual things of conscience and of God, will render it eventually the most mighty of empires, and an unbounded blessing to the whole universe.

At length the King was aroused; probably the grim head of his father flitted before his alarmed imagination; and, to restore tranquillity to his kingdom, he issued a declaration for liberty of conscience; whether induced by the groans of an afflicted people, many thousands of whom had suffered the loss of all things, or by the weakening of his kingdom by the multitudes who emigrated to America, to escape the tyranny of ecclesiastical persecution, or whether to relax the laws against the Papists, has been a subject of controversy, and, however we may be sceptical as to royal declarations, yet, judging cautiously, I am inclined to hope that the motives set forth in that declaration were true; at all events, it is an indelible record, that the dreadful experiment tried for twelve cruel years, to compel uniformity in Divine worship by fines, imprisonment, and even death, most signally failed, while it involved the kingdom in a state of desolation, from which it required the glorious revolution of 1688 to restore it to comparative prosperity.

Favoured by the prompt and kind permission of Sir George Grey, one of her Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State, and the very courteous and hearty assistance of Mr. Lechmere, Keeper of the Archives in the State Paper Office, every possible search was made to find any papers or records relative to the imprisonment and discharge of Bunyan. Having thus an opportunity of transcribing all that could be found at the fountain head of intelligence, it may prove interesting to our readers to possess a correct copy of these important documents. The first is the King’s declaration, under his own autograph signature.

Charles R His Maties Declaration to all his loveing Subjects

Our care and Endeavours for the preservation of the Rights and Interests of the Church, have been sufficiently manifested to the World by the whole course of Our Government since Our happy Restauracôn, and by the many and frequent wayes of Coercion that Wee have used for reduceing all erring or dissenting persons, and for composeing the unhappy differences in matters of Religion, which Wee found among Our Subjects upon Our Returne: But it being evident by the sad experience of twelve years that there is very Little fruite of all those forceable Courses Wee thinke Our Selfe oblidged to make use of that Supreame Power in Ecclesiasticall Matters which is not onely inherent in Us, but hath been declared and Recognized to be soe by severall Statutes and Acts of Parliament; And therefore Wee doe now accordingly issue this Our Declaration, as well for the quieting the Mindes of Our Good Subjects in these Points, for lnviteing Strangers in this Conjuncture to come and Live under Us, and for the better Encouragement of all to a cheareful following of their Trade and Callings, from whence Wee hope by the Blessing of God to have many good and happy Advantages to our Government; As also for preventing for the future the danger that might otherwise arise from Private Meetings, and Seditious Conventicles;

And in the first place, Wee declare Our expresse Resolution Meaneing and Intention to be, that the Church of England bee preserved and remaine entire in its Doctrine, Discipline, and Government, as now it stands established by Law;

And that this bee taken to bee, as it is, the Basis, Rule, and Standard of the Generall and Publicke Worshipp of God, And that the Orthodox Conformable Clergy doe receive and enjoy the Revenues belonging thereunto; And that no Person, though of a different opinion and Perswasion shall bee exempt from paying his Tythes, or other Dues whatsoever. And further Wee declare, That no Person shall bee capable of holding any benefice, Liveing, or Ecclesiasticall Dignity or Preferment of any kinde in this Our Kingdome of England, who is not exactly Conformable. Wee doe in the next Place declare Our Will and Pleasure to bee, That the Execution of all and all manner of Penall Lawes in matters Ecclesiasticall, against whatsoever sort of Non Conformists, or Recusants, bee immediately suspended, and they are hereby suspended. And all Judges, Judges of Assise and Gaole Delivery, Sheriffes, Justices of the Peace, Mayors, Bayliffs, and other Officers, whatsoever, whether Ecclesiasticall, or Civill, are to take notice of it, and pay due Obedience thereunto.

And that there may be no pretence for any of Our Subjects to continue their illegall meetings and Conventicles Wee doe Declare, That wee shall from time to time allow a sufficient Number of Places, as they shall bee desired, in all parts of this Our Kingdome, for the use of such as doe not conforme to the Church of England, to meete and assemble in, in Order to their Publick Worship and Devotion; which Places shall bee open and free to all Persons.

But to prevent such disorders and inconveniencies as may happen by this Our Indulgence, if not duely regulated, and that they may be the better protected by the Civill Magistrate Our expresse Will and Pleasure is, That none of our Subjects doe presume to meete in any Place, untill such Place bee allowed, and the Teacher of that congregation be approved by Us.

And Lest any should apprehend that this Restriction should make Our said Allowance and approbation difficult to bee obtained, Wee doe further Declare, That this Our Indulgence, as to the Allowance of the Publick Places of Worship, and approbation of the teachers, shall extend to all sorts of Non-Conformists and Recusants, except the Recusants of the Roman Catholick Religion, to whom We shall in no wise allow Publick Places of Worship, but only indulge them their share in the common Exemption from the execution of the Penall Lawes, and the Exercise of their Worship in their private Houses onely.

And if after this Our Clemency and Indulgence, any of Our Subjects shall presume to abuse this Liberty, and shall preach seditiously, or to the Derogation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Government of the Established Church, or shall meet in Places not allowed by Us, Wee doe hereby give them warneing, and Declare, We will proceed against them with all imaginable severity: And Wee will Lett them see We can be as Severe to punish such offenders, when soe justly provoked, as We are Indulgent to truely tender consciences. In Wittnesse whereof Wee have caused Our Greate Seale of England to be putt and affixed to these presents. Given att Our Court att Whitehall this fifteenth day of March in the 24th year of Our Reigne 167½.

At this time, George Whitehead, one of the most zealous and prominent Quakers, became deeply affected with the cruel punishments that his brethren and sisters were suffering for Christ’s sake. He was a man who, with equal composure and zeal, could plead before royalty and nobles in a state apartment, or impart consolation to a suffering Christian in a dungeon or a pest-house. He thus mentions it in his Journal, ‘Soon after the before-mentioned declaration of indulgence was published in print, as I was solitary upon the road, returning toward London, a very weighty and tender concern fell upon my spirit, with respect to our dear friends then in prisons, being above four hundred, many of whom had been long straitly confined for not conforming, some having endured ten or eleven years’ imprisonment, whereupon I wrote to the King, and requested Thomas Moor, who had an interest with the King and some of his council, to present my letter, which he did; and a few days after we had access to the King’s presence, and renewed our request, whereupon he granted us liberty to be heard on the next council-day, in the same week. And then I, with Thomas Moor and Thomas Green, attended at the council-chamber at Whitehall, and were all admitted in before the King, and a full council. Being called to the upper end of the council-board, I opened and fully pleaded the case of our suffering friends. The King gave this answer, “I’ll pardon them.” ’ They were permitted to address the council at some length, and it being near the time of a general fast, they concluded with these words, ‘This is the fast the Lord requires, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free.’

Favoured with an order from the Secretary of State, and by the kind assistanee of J. B. Lennard, Esq., of the Privy Council Office, I obtained access to the minutes of that council; in which is recorded, that a circular letter be sent to the sheriffs of the counties in England and Wales—

After our hearty commendations—Whereas request hath been made unto His Majesty in behalf of the Quakers who remain at present in several gaols and prisons of this Kingdom, That His Majesty would be pleased to extend his mercy towards them, and give order for their Release; Which His Majesty taking into consideration, hath thought fit, in order to his clearer information, before he resolve any-thing therein, to command us to write these Our Letters unto you: And, accordingly, wee do hereby will and require you to procure a perfect Lyste or Calendar of the names, time, and causes of comitment of all such Persons called Quakers, as are remayning in any Goale or Prison within that County, and to return ye same forthwith to this Board. And so nothing doubting of your ready performance of this His Majesty’s command, we bid you heartily farewell.

From the Court at Whitehall, ye 29th of March, 1672.

Signed

Earle of Ossory

Earle of Carlisle

Lord Holles

Earle of Bathe

Ea of Lauderdail

Mr. Secy Trevor

Earle of Craven

Lord Newport

Mr. of ye, Ordnance.

Like tres dated and signed at supra were sent to ye Warden of ye Fleet and Mareshall of ye King’s Bench Prisons, And to ye Mayors or Justices of ye seuerall places hereunder written viz.

Citty and County of ye Citty of Chester.

Citty and County of ye Citty of Exon.

Towne and County of Poole.

Citty and County of Glocester.

Citty and County of Lincolne.

Citty and County of Brestoll.

Towne and County of Southton.

Citty and County of ye Citty of York.‌63

The indefatigable manner in which the Quakers proceeded to get the requisite official signatures to release their suffering and dying friends, is beyond all praise. They wrote to all their meetings throughout the country to obtain assistance, to enable them to meet the demands for fees, and even sent their talented female friends to the officials, to press on this glorious jail delivery. This appears from the following letters:—

George Whitehead to Stephen Crisp.

3rd of 1st Month [April] 1672.

Before thy letter had come to hand, I had drawn up a paper containing the substance of thine, which Thos. Moore had given to the King, together with a list of the præmunired Friends and of those sentenced to banishment, &c.; which hitherto has been effectual, in order to a further enquiry about Friends, &c. How far the King and Council have proceeded, in answer to the request, I leave it to Wm. Cronch to inform thee. Thy paper is kept for a further occasion if need be, if our end be not answered by them. But we are encouraged to hope well for divers reasons. I could not well send to write to thee before, being much exercised for the sufferers. The Council yesterday signed the letters to the Sheriffs for a return of Friends Commitments, &c. to the Board; so that they are like to be had with expedition into the several Counties.

My very dear love to thee, thy wife, R. Crouch, and Friends

In haste, thy dear brother

[From the original.]

G. W.

John Rouse to Margaret Fox.

London, 4th of 2nd Month [May], 1672.

Dear Mother,

Last 6th day the two women took the grant out of the Attorney-general’s office, and he gave them his fee, which should have been £5; his clerk took but 20s., whereas his fee was 40s. Yesterday they went with it to the King, who signed it in the Council; and Arlington also signed it, but would take no fees, whereas his fees would have been £12 or £20; neither would Williamson’s man take any thing, saying, that if any religion were true, it was ours. To-morrow it is to pass the signet, and on sixth day the privy seal, and afterwards the broad seal, which may be done on any day. The power of the Lord hath wrought mightily in the accomplishment of it; and the Lord hath bowed their hearts wonderfully in it blessed be his name for ever!

Thy dear son in the Lord,

John Rouse.

Upon the King’s declaration being published, an outcry was raised by the church, that it was only intended to favour the Papists, although in it they are expressly prohibited from the public exercise of their religion. So angry was the King at his motives being, as he said, misrepresented, that he went to the Council Office, called for the deed, and with his own hand broke off the great seal; the ribbon remains to this day to which the seal had been attached. Still the declaration, having passed the patent offices, was fully acted upon, and a return was ordered from the sheriffs throughout the kingdom, of the names of all prisoners, called Quakers, for disobedience to the laws in ecclesiastical matters within their respective divisions, with the causes of their commitment. The following are the minutes of the Privy Council to which their returns were submitted:—

At the Court at Whitehall the 8th of May 1672

The Kings most excellent Matie

Lord Arch Bp of Canterbury

Earle of Bathe

Lord Keeper

Earle of Carlisle

Duke of Lauderdail

Earle of Craven

Lord Chamberlain

Earle of Shaffsbury

Viscot Ffauconberge

Lord Hollis

Visct Halifax

Mr Vice Chamberlain

Lord Bp of London

Mr. Secretary Trevor

Lord Newport

Sr John Duncombe

Earle of Bridgwater

Mr Chancellor of the Dutchy

Earle of Essex

Master of the Ordinance

Earle of Anglesey

Sr Thomas Osborne

Whereas his Matie of his Princely Clemency was graciously pleased to direct that Letters should be written from this Board to the Sherriffs of the respective Countyes and Citties and Countyes, and Townes and Countyes within his Manties Kingdome of England and Dominion of Wales, requireing them to returne perfect lists or Callenders of the Names time and Causes of Comittment of all such Prisoners called Quakers as remaine in their severall Gaoles, or prisons, which they accordingly did, and the same were by order of his Matie in Councell of the third of this instant delivered into the hands of the right Honoble the Lord Keeper of the great Seale of England, [Sir Orlando Bridgman,] who haveing considered thereof did this day returne them againe together with his opinion therevpon as followeth vizt

The Returnes that are made touching the prisoners in the severall Goales are of severll Kindes.

1 All such of them as are returned to be convicted to be Transported or to be Convicted of a Premunire (vpon which Convictions I suppose Judgment was given) are not legally to be discharged but by his Maties pardon vnder the great seale.

2 All those that are returned to be in prison vpon writts of Excomunicato Capiendo not mentioning the cause ought not to be discharged till the cause appeares—ffor if it be for Tythes, Legacyes, Defamations or other private Interest, they ought not to bee discharged till the partie be satisfied.

3 All those that are returned in prison for debt or vpon Exchequer processe or of any of the other Courts at Westminster, are not to be discharged till it be Knowne for what cause those processes Issued and those debts be discharged.

4 Those that are in prison for not paying their ffynes ought not to be discharged, without paying their ffynes or a Pardon.

All the rest I conceive may be discharged. Which being this day taken into consideration his Matie was gratiously pleased to declare, that he will Pardon all those persons called Quakers, now in prison for any offence Committed, relateing only to his Matie and not to the prejudice of any other person. And it was therevpon ordered by his Matie in Councill That a List of the Names of the Quakers in the Severall Prisons together with the causes of their Comittment be and is herewith sent to his Maties Attorney Generall who is required, and Authorized to prepare a Bill for his Maties Royall Signature conteyning a Pardon to passe the great Seale of England, for all such to whom his Matie may legally grant the same & in Case of any difficultie that he attend the Lord Keeper, and receive his directions therein.

Ex.

J. W. Walker.

Order of Councill for the Quakers generalle Pardon.

Endorsed.

This is a true List of the Names of such persons commonly called Quakers and others which are by Vertue of an Order of Council of the 8th of May last past to be inserted in a generall Pardon.

Ex.

J. W. Walker.

Then follow the names of four hundred and seventy-one prisoners, ordered to be inserted in the pardon. One sentence in this opinion of the Lord Chancellor, Sir Orlando Bridgman, is worthy of especial regard. Having noticed the cases of all those who had been legally convicted, either by summary process before a magistrate, or by petty session, or by a jury, he winds up with a sweeping expression, ‘All the rest may be discharged.’ That multitudes were imprisoned without conviction, upon the mere verbal orders of a justice, there can be no doubt. These would be set at liberty without any formal pardon; even in Bunyan’s case no evidence was taken, but a conviction was recorded. In a conversation between him and the justice, and also with the clerk privately, he denied having offended any law whatever; but his honest declaration, that he had met with others for Divine worship, was distorted into a plea of guilty, and he was sent to prison without redress. ‘They took me for a convicted person,’ and ‘would not let me out of prison, as they let out thousands’ at the time the King was crowned.:‌64

It is impossible to calculate the amount of misery inflicted upon the Christian Church at that period, by the Episcopalian establishment supported by the state. Among the multitude of prisoners who were liberated from our over-crowded prisons at the coronation of Charles II., vast numbers had been confined for their love to the Redeemer, which prevented their conformity to the forms of worship ordered by the state. In addition to these, a countless host was discharged under the just decision of the Lord Chancellor, ‘All the rest, I conceive, may be discharged;’ while nearly five hundred more were included in the royal pardon, and great numbers were still left to perish in prison, for the non-payment of ecclesiastical dues, generally of a trifling amount. The loss to the nonconformists in their goods, during this severe and cruel persecution, has been estimated at half a million sterling, seized by rapacious officers to pay fines for not attending the liturgy and service—an enormous sum, considering the value of money at that time; yet from records which the Editor has seen, it was not over-stated. But a small portion of this found its way into the royal exchequer. Our great Allegorist was trained up in the fiercest spiritual warfare; and, with his fellow-pilgrims, passed through the severest temporal sufferings.

May God, in his infinite mercy, forgive the living representatives of a system which is so naturally full of cruelty, and not, in the severity of his justice, visit the sins of the fathers upon their children; some of whom appear, even now, to have an inkling for similar antichristian conduct. It cannot be forgotten that, within a few year, an estimable man, John Childs of Bungay, was sent to jail for refusing to pay a church rate.

But to return to our distinguished nonconformist prisoner. On the day following the meeting of the Privy Council, when the report of the Lord Chancellor was received, and the King had ordered his royal pardon for the Quakers; Bunyan, being still a prisoner, was, in pursuance of the declaration for liberty of conscience, licensed to be a teacher, being one of the first persons that were so registered. These were the first permissions to preach given, to the dissenters from the established sect, in this country.

The volume from which these extracts are made is called Indulgences, 1672, under the head ‘Congregationall.’

Bedford Licence for John Bunyon to be a teacher in the house of Josias Roughed 9 May 72.

CHARLES &c. To all Mayors, Bailiffs, Constables and other Our Officers and Ministers Civil and Military whom it may concerne, Greeting. In Pursuance of our Declaration of the 15th of March 167½ Wee doe hereby permitt and licence John Bunyon to bee a Teacher of the Congregation allowd by Us in the Howse of Josias Roughed Bedford for the use of such as doe not conforme to the Church of England, who are of the Perswasion commonly called Congregationall. With further licence and permission to him the said John Bunyon to teach in any other place licensed by Us according to our said Declaracion. Given at Our Court at Whitehall the 9th day of May in the 24th yeare of our Reigne, 1672.

By his Maties Command

Arlington.

At the same time the house of Josias Roughed was registered in the following form:—‌65

A place for a Teacher in Bedford.

CHARLES &c. To all Mayors, Bailiff’s, Constables and other Our Officers and Ministers Civill and Military, whom it may concerne, Greeting. In pursuance of Our Declaracôn of the 15 of March 1671/2 Wee have allowed and Wee doe hereby allow of the Howse of Josias Roughed in Bedford to be a place for the use of such as doe not conforme to the Church of England who are of the Perswasion commonly called Congregationall to meet and assemble in, in order to their Publick Worship & devotion. And all and Singular Our Officers and Ministers Ecclesiastical Civill and Military, whom it way concerne are to take due notice hereof, And they and every of them are hereby strictly charged and required to hinder any Tumult or Disturbance, & to protect them in their said Meetings & Assemblies. Given at &c the 9th day of May in the 24th yeare of Our Reigne 1672

By his Maties Command

Arlington.

The church of Christ at Bedford is here called Congregational. In ten months, about three thousand five hundred of these licenses were granted, only one being at Bedford; many were for persons and places called Anabapt, all others were under the term Congregational. Philip Henry was indulged ‘in his house, Malpas Parish, in Flintshire.’ Thomas Senior and Henry Ashurst, in their respective houses at Clapton, in Hackney. Bunyan’s church could not fairly be called Anabapt, because it consisted of members some of whom, probably, had not been baptized in or with water, some christened in infancy, and others immersed on a profession of their faith.

Mr. Roughed, whose house was licensed for Bunyan to preach in, was plundered a few months previously for refusing to go to church. To attend such a place was one month a violation of the law, visited with ruinous fines and imprisonments, and the next month, places are licensed according to law, for any person to attend, instead of going to church. Law-makers must ever be the scorn and derision of the world, when they interfere with Divine and spiritual worship.

The Quakers had much greater influence with the King and his council than all the other denominations of Christians; and it was soon rumoured abroad that they had been with the King in council, and had obtained for their suffering friends a royal promise of a free pardon. Controversy between them and other Christians had been carried on with much bitterness of speech, and in this Bunyan had borne a prominent part, when combating against what he conceived to be serious errors. But as Christians involved in one common calamity, the Quakers admitted their brethren in affliction to partake of the bounty bestowed expressly upon themselves. Whitehead thus narrates this delightful fact in his journal:—‘When the instrument for discharge of the prisoners was granted to our friends, there being other dissenters, besides Quakers, in some prisons, as Baptists, Presbyterians, and Independents; some of their solicitors, especially one William Carter, seeing what way we had made with the King for our friends’ release, they desired their friends in prison might be discharged with ours, and have their names in the same instrument, and earnestly requested my advice or assistance, which I was very willing to give in compassion to them; and, accordingly, I advised them to petition the King, with the names of the prisoners in it, for his warrant to have them inserted in the same patent with the Quakers, which accordingly they did petition for, and obtain.’ ‘Our being of different judgments and societies, did not abate my compassion or charity, even towards them who had been my opposers in some cases. Blessed be the Lord my God, who is the Father and fountain of mercies, whose love and mercies in Christ Jesus to us should oblige us to be merciful and kind one to another; we being required to love mercy, yea, to be merciful, as well as to do justly, and to walk humbly with the Lord our God.’‌66

Such was the Christian conduct of men, who, of all the members of the church militant upon earth, have been the most grossly slandered.

In pursuance of the Quaker’s kind advice, Bunyan and his fellow-prisoners petitioned the King for their liberty; and at the meeting of the Privy Council, held on the 8th of May 1672, in presence of His Majesty, and a numerous assembly of his nobles, before the grant of pardon to relieve the Quakers was engrossed, it is recorded—

At the Court at Whitehall, 8th May, 1672.

Reference Peticôn severall Non-Conformists Prisoners in Cambridge Castle and Bedford Goale.

Upon reading this day at the board the humble petition of John Fenn, John Bunyon, John Dunn, Thomas Haynes, Simon Haynes, and George Farr prisoners in the Goal of Bedford and James Rogers prisoner in the Castle of Cambridge for being at Conventicles and Non-conformity. It was ordered to be referred to the Sheriffs of the Counties of Bedford and Cambridge to examine the said Petitions and forthwith certify this Board whether the said parties are detained in prison for the offences therein mentioned or for what other crimes.

At the Court at Whitehall, ye 17th of May, 1672.

The King’s most excellent Matie.

Lord Arch Bp of Canterbury

Earle of Shaffsbury

Lord Keeper

Viscot Fauconberg

Duke of Lauderdale

Viscot Halifax

Duke of Ormonde

Lord Newport

Marquis of Worcester

Lord Hollis

Earle of Bridgewater

Lord Clifford

Earle of Essex

Mr. Vice Chamberlain

Earle of Anglesey

Mr. Secretary Trevor

Earle of Bathe

Mr. Montague

Earle of Carlisle

Mr. Chancellor of ye Dutchy

Earle of Craven

Master of ye Ordnance

Earle of Arlington

Sr Thomas Osborne.

Whereas by order of the Board of the 8th Instant the humble Petition of John Fenn John Bunyon John Dunn Thomas Haynes Simon Haynes and George Farr Prisoners in the Goale of Bedford Convicted upon severall Statutes for not conforming to the Rights and Ceremonyes of the Church of England and for being at unlawful Meetings, was Referred to the Sheriffe of the County of Bedford who was required to Certify this Board whether the said persons were comitted for the Crimes in the said Petition mentioned and for no other which he haveing accordingly done by his certificate dated the 11th Instant It was thereupon this day ordered by his Matie in Councill, That the said petition and Certificate be (and are herewith) sent to his Matie Attorney Generall, who is authorised and required to insert them into the Generall Pardon to be passed for the Quakers. If he finds that they are within the compass of his Maties pardon according to the Rule Prescribed by the order of the 8th of May about pardon for the Quakers.

The like order for Francis Holcroft and James Rogers for frequenting unlawful meetings as by certificate from the Sheriffe of Cambridge of the 10th and 11th Instant.

[The sheriff’s return cannot be found.]

At a Court at Whitehall, ye 22d May 1672,

A similar order was made for Walter Peun and twelve others, prisoners in Wilts.

At a Court ye 7th of June 1672,

On a Certificate of the Mayor, Sheriff and Aldermen of Worcester, Robert Smith, a Baker, was ordered to be inserted in the pardon.

On the 12th of June, the petition of twenty-two prisoners was read and referred to the Sheriffs, and on the 26th their names were ordered to be inserted in the pardon.

On the 14th of June Thomas More the Quaker obtained a similar order, and on the 26th of June Thomas Gower Durham and eight prisoners in Devou and Exeter were ordered to be inserted in the pardon.

Through all these minutes the intended patent is referred to as the general pardon to the Quakers.

Thus we find undoubted proof upon the records of the Privy Council of England, presided over by the King in person, that John Bunyan’s only crime, as certified by the sheriff, and for which he was counted worthy of so cruel an imprisonment, was being present with others to worship his Maker in simplicity and in truth. This was all his crime; ‘the very head and front of his offence.’ O that all her Majesty’s subjects would constantly follow his example! then might our prisons be converted into colleges and schools, and our land become an earthly paradise.

In pursuance of this great and benevolent object, these indefatigable Quakers obtained a warrant to the Attorney-General, for a free pardon, of which the following is a copy:—

Our will and pleasure is, that you prepare a bill for the royal signature, and to pass our Great Seal of England, containing our gracious pardon unto [here follow the prisoners’ names]. Of all offences, contempts and misdemeanours by them, or any of them committed before the 21st day of July 1672, against the several statutes made in the first, twenty-third, and thirty-fifth years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth: in the third year of the reign of our late royal grandfather, King James; and in the 16th year of our reign—in not coming to church and hearing divine service; in refusing to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, and frequenting or being present at seditious conventicles; and of all premunires, judgments, convictions, sentences of excommunication, and transportation thereupon; and of all fines, amercements, pains, penalties, and forfeitures whatsoever, thereby incurred, with restitution of lands and goods, and such other clauses, and non obstantes, as may render this our pardon most effectual; for which this shall be your warrant

Given at our Court at Whitehall the — day of June, in the twenty-fourth year of our reign.

But now a new and very serious difficulty presented itself in the shape of enormous fees, in the different offices through which the pardon had to pass; these amounted to between twenty and thirty pounds for each person whose name was inserted in it. Whitehead again applied to the King, and at length all difficulties were removed by the following order:—

His Majesty is pleased to command, that it be signified as his pleasure to the respective officers and sealers, where the pardon to the Quakers is to pass, that the pardon, though comprehending great numbers of persons, do yet pass as one pardon, and pay but as one.

Arlington.

At the Court at Whitehall, the 13th of Sep. 1672.

Whitehead adds, ‘Though we had this warrant front the King, yet we had trouble from some of the covetous clerks, who did strive hard to exact upon us.’

A very considerable sum for those days, and for such poor persons to raise, was needful to carry this pardon into full effect. The dissenters had been enormously plundered. Hundreds, if not thousands, had been stripped of all that they possessed, so that the prison, intended and used as a place of rigorous punishment, was in fact their only shelter from the inclemency of the weather. The expenses of a royal pardon for such a number of prisoners was very great, not merely in the drawing, engrossing, and passing through the various offices and departments of the state, but in employing efficient persons to go through the kingdom to plead this pardon before the various sessions and assizes. Every impediment that cruelty could invent was thrown in the way of the release of these Christian prisoners for nonconformity, by the squirarchy and clergy. To raise the requisite funds, a strong appeal was made by the following circular sent to the Quakers in the country:—

Friends and Brethren.

We suppose you may not be insensible how that upon sundry applications made to the King and Council in time past and more especially now of late for the release of our dear suffering Friends, the Clerk and others, and others attending him and them, have upon that account been put to a great deal of trouble and pains in writing of orders and letters to the Sheriffs of the respective Counties in England and Wales, and otherwise in order to Friends’ discharge, and although for some years together their labour therein (as well as those of us who travelled in that affair on Friends’ behalf) was from time to time rendered ineffectual, yet at this present, there appears a very great probability of accomplishing our friends liberty, which hath and doth renew an additional trouble upon them, and thereby a further obligation laid upon us to requite them for their pains, and not only them but also the Clerks of the Keeper, Attorney General, and other inferior officers, who in drawing up the Kings grant and orders, and Friends general discharge (now in agitation towards an accomplishment will be at no small trouble in writing and other services in order thereunto that we apprehend Friends cannot be clear if they do not in some measure answer the reasonable part in them by gratifying them for their pains. Wherefore we saw meet to recommend it to such Friends in the Counties as are or have been lately prisoners for the truth’s sake and who are to share in the benefit that may accrue by the King’s intended general discharge that they will be pleased to contribute their proportion toward defraying of this great charge which they are desired forthwith to take into their consideration accordingly and to send it up to London with all convement expedition unto Gerard Roberts, John Osgood, and William Welch or any or either of them for the purpose aforementioned. We remain Your dear friends and brethren.

London, 5th of 4th mo. 1672.

Part of the money is already disbursed on this behalf by Friends in London.

Extracted from the Minute Book of the Society of Friends, 1672, Devonshire House, Bishopsgate.

All difficulties having been overcome, this Magna Charta, or grant of liberty, was issued.

The original patent, with the Great Seal attached to it, is carefully preserved by the Society of Friends, in their archives at Devonshire House, and it contains the names of twenty prisoners not included in the order of Privy Council. But Bunyan’s name is in both. It is in Latin in the usual form, prepared by Mr. Nicolls, the principal clerk to the Attorney-General, to the following effect:—

Charles the Second by the Grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King, Defender, &c. To all to whom the present letters shall come greeting—Know ye that we moved with piety‌67‌ of our special grace, and of our certain knowledge and mere motion, Have pardoned, remitted and released and by these presents for us our heirs and successors Do pardon, remit and release to Edward Pattison, John Ellis, Arthur Cooke and Richard Cannon prisoners in our Gaol of Newgate within our City of London.

And in the same form the prisoners are named in the other jails throughout the kingdom. The following were fellow-sufferers at that time in Bedford jail:—

John Fenn, John Bunnion, John Dunn, Thomas Haynes, George Farr, James Rogers, John Rush, Tabitha Rush, and John Curfe, Prisoners in the Common Gaol for our County of Bedford. [The names and places of imprisonment having been given of the four hundred and ninety-one prisoners, the grant goes on with great care to secure the benefit intended]— to each of them— or by whatsoever other names or name—surname—addition of name— Art—Office—Mystery or Place they—are known deemed called or named or lately was known &c. All and all manner crimes transgressions offences of premunire—unlawful conventicles contempts and ill behaviour whatsoever—by himself alone or with any other person howsoever whensoever or in what manner soever or wheresoever advised commanded attempted done perpetrated or committed before the thirtieth day of July last past before the date of these presents, against the form of the Statute &c. In witness of which thing we have caused these our letters to be made patent. Witness myself at Westminster the 13th of September in the twenty-fourth year of our reign [1672.] By writ of Privy Seal. Pigott.

This instrument is extended by the forms of law, so that every name is repeated eleven times, and in which our great sufferer’s name is spelt in four different ways. Bunnion twice, Bunyan five times, Bunnyon once, and Bunnyan three times. It is singular that he spelt his own name in different ways in the early part of his life, and on the drawing of his portrait by White it is spelt John Bunion, while on the engraving done by the same artist it is John Bunnyon.‌68‌ The names inserted in this pardon are four hundred and ninety-one.

Bunyan having had a very sharp controversy with the Quakers, it is a strong manifestation of their Christian spirit that he certainly obtained his release through their instrumentality; for they paid all the expenses of getting the royal grant, and also of having it served throughout the kingdom; and to do this with speed, many of the prisoners being in a dying state with the severity of their sufferings, duplicates of the pardon were made and authenticated, and messengers were dispatched throughout the country to set the prisoners at liberty. At first, Whitehead and his friends took the patent with them, and produced it at the assizes and quarter-sessions. With some reluctance on the part of the persecuting justices, they consented to discharge the prisoners named in the patent, not daring to disobey the royal mandate. They then discovered that some of the pious sufferers had still been omitted, notwithstanding the return made by the sheriffs, and the additions which had been made at Whitehead’s request, before the Great Seal was attached. On behalf of these they pleaded effectually, and they also were discharged from confinement.

The great anxiety of the Quakers to effect their object is shown by many letters which passed at the time between their leading ministers. This will be seen by the following extracts:—

Ellis Hookes to Margaret Fox.

13th of 6th month (Sept.) 1672.

G. W. and myself have been much employed this summer in the business of the prisoners liberty, &c.—(He describes the process of getting the pardon through the various offices.)

Ellis Hookes to Margaret Fox.

1st of 8th mo (Nov.) 1672.

The deed of pardon prepared on 11 skins stout 500 names; hoped that a letter from the Principal Secretary of State ‘may be effectual to discharge them.’

Same to same.

10th of 10th month (Jan.) 167 2/3;.

All the prisoners were Discharged except those in Durham, Cumberland, Lancashire, and Monmouth in Wales.

It is said that Bishop Barlow interceded for Bunyan; but if he did, there is no record or petition to that effect preserved either in the State Paper or Privy Council Offices. He was not then a bishop, but possessed great influence, and had written, The case of a Toleration in Matters of Religion, which he extended further than any divine of that age. This, and his friendship with Dr. Owen, might have given rise to the report. Barlow became afterwards a trimmer, and sided with the court party—a very natural effect of his elevation into bad company.

My conviction is, that Bunyan owed his release to the desolating effects produced by a wholesale persecution visiting tens of thousands who dared not, as they valued the honour of Christ or the salvation of their souls, attend the national, and, in their opinion, anti-scriptural service; and that the Privy Council, finding that the country must be plunged into revolution or ruin if the wretched system of compulsive uniformity was continued, determined to relax its severity, grant liberty of worship, and discharge the prisoners. As this could not be done by proclamation, and the prisoners were too poor to sue out a patent individually, much difficulty and delay might have arisen to prevent their discharge. This was removed by the active benevolence of George Whitehead. The appeal which he and his friends made was allowed; and he appears to have obtained the insertion of twenty names which were not in the Privy Council list to be added to the pardon. Whitehead’s concern appears to have followed immediately after the declaration for liberty of conscience was published. Whether it arose from some intimation given him by Mr. Moor, or from a secret influence of the Holy Spirit, can only be known in a future state. For the payment of the fees, and for sending his release to the prison, and for obtaining his liberty, Bunyan was indebted to the Quakers. By this patent, all fines were remitted, and that without finding security for future conduct.

Bunyan’s gratitude for the preservation of his life, and his deliverance from prison, shone through all his conduct. It appeared strikingly in his admirable treatise of ‘Antichrist.’ In the chapter on the instruments that God will use to bring Antichrist to his ruin: ‘Let the King have verily a place in your hearts. Pray for kings; I am for blessing of them that curse me; and for doing good to them that hate me, and despitefully use me, and persecute me.’‌69

From this time there appears no more discord between Bunyan and the Quakers. The Ranters had separated from them, and soon disappeared; while the Quakers became united into a most useful church of Christ, under the name of ‘The Society of Friends.’ When they understood each other’s peaceful and pious principles, all hostility came to an end.

Charles Doe states that, on the 21st of December 1671, while Bunyan was yet a prisoner, he was, by the church at Bedford, called to the pastoral office. This was in or about the last of his twelve years’ imprisonment; and when set at liberty, he preached the gospel publicly at Bedford, and about the countries, and at London, with very great success, being mightily followed everywhere.‌70

From this time to his peaceful removal to the celestial city, he was divinely protected, and his liberty preserved, in the midst of the severe persecutions under which many of his nonconforming brethren suffered. No man in the kingdom was more fearless and uncompromising in the publication of Divine truth, both through the medium of the press and of the pulpit. With him, the fear of man was swallowed up in the fear of God; so that he boldly persevered in the path of duty, at the imminent risk of losing all his temporal blessings, and even life itself; and yet he was unmolested! After producing such a work as the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ the fruit of his prison meditations; after coming forth from his thirteen years’ incarceration in a narrow, damp, wretched dungeon, which, by Divine power, had been transformed into the house of God and gate of heaven; he appeared like a Christian giant, refreshed by wholesome discipline and diet. The emissaries of Satan dared not again to risk the sending him to a jail, where he might produce some other and more potent instrument for the destruction of their kingdom. Protected by his God, he devoted himself, body, soul, and spirit, to the building up of that spiritual kingdom which disarms tyrants and despots, both civil and ecclesiastical, sets the captive free, and fills the souls of those that receive it with blessing, and praise.

He possessed a devoted wife, to whom he was married about the year 1658, he being then a widower with four children. His marriage to his first wife, one of his biographers says, ‘proves, too, I readily grant, that she had little prudence.’ If by prudence he means worldly pelf, Bunyan valued it not; they were happy in their union, and she was highly honoured. Had she been unhappy, he would have been charged as the cause of her unhappiness. She was the chosen vessel to assist him in obtaining the treasures of the gospel, and must be honoured as one of the means by which he was prepared to publish his universal guide to Christian pilgrims. It was his second wife, who pleaded his cause with such modest intrepidity before the judges, and she must have assisted him greatly in arranging his affairs. One of his oldest biographers tells us, that ‘when he came abroad again, he found his temporal affairs were gone to wreck; and he had, as to them, to begin again, as if he had newly come into the world; but yet he was not destitute of friends, who had all along supported him with necessaries, and had been very good to his family; so that, by their assistance, getting things a little about him again, he resolved, as much as possible, to decline worldly business, and give himself wholly up to the service of God.’‌71‌ A circumstance which took place on the 6th of November 1673, must have greatly comforted him. His sufferings and ministry were a blessing to his son, Thomas, who not only became a member of his church, but was set apart as an occasional preacher, and exercised his ministerial gifts in the villages round Bedford. In six years after his liberation, he had published nine valuable treatises, among which were his controversial books with his Baptist brethren; and then he, having overcome all his scruples, published, although against the wish of some of his friends, the First Part of this greatest of all his labours, his vade-mecum of the heaven-ward pilgrim, by which his memory is embalmed and his name diffused throughout all the Christian churches of every sect and denomination.

Image