The Beginnings of Quakerism

By William C. Braithwaite | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
RELATIONS WITH THE STATE

The military rule which Cromwell was never able to shake off endangered the permanence of his system, and must have endangered it even if, as his unreasoning worshippers fondly urge, his span of life had been prolonged for twenty years. It is the condition on which all strong intellectual and spiritual movements rest that they shall be spontaneous. They win their way by force of inward conviction, not by the authority of the State. How earnestly Cromwell desired to set conviction before force is known to all. He had broken the Presbyterian and Calvinistic chains, and had declared his readiness to see Mohammedanism professed in England rather than that the least of the saints of God should suffer wrong. Yet he dared not give equal liberty to all. To the Royalists his person was hateful, alike as the murderer of the King, as the General whose army had despoiled them of their property, and as the violator of I "the known laws" of the land. How, then, could he tolerate the religion of the Book of Common Prayer, which had become the badge of Royalism? It is true that the tide of persecution rose and fell, and that it was never very violent even at its worst; but it is also true that it could never be disowned. There was to be complete freedom for those who were Puritans, little or none for those who were not. Liberty of religion was to be coextensive with the safety of the State. It was a useful formula, but hardly more, when the safety of the State meant the predominance of an army, and the head of the State dared not throw himself on a free Parliament to give him a new basis of authority.-- S. R. GARDINER, Cromwell's Place in History, p. 111.

THE relations of the Commonwealth to the Quaker movement have been already frequently referred to. Fox at the beginning of his mission addressed himself specially to county magistrates and others in authority, in full confidence that his message was what was needed for the government of the State. He was against the hireling ministers, but had no quarrel with the constituted authorities. It was the disturbance of ministers by earnest Friends which first moved Cromwell to active interference. In the spring of 1654 he had explained to Camm and Howgill that religious liberty, as he under

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