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harmless. Immediately old Battison, with a file of soldiers, in the middle of market-time, advanced again to the Malt. House, and breaks open the doors : but not without long time and trouble; all the people refusing to lend either bars or hammers. Fourteen quarters of Malt were distrained : but it was night before he could carry them away; for although the market-place was thronged with Porters, vet none of them would assist. They left their fares ; some of them saying,
they would be hung, drawn, and quartered, before they would assist in that work.' For which cause the Justices committed two of them (all they could catch) to the jail.” So ended the second crusade of the spiritual Court! · 6 Next day, being Lord's Day, the fines were doubled upon the Meeters, by another warrant from Foster,” and the Meeters were forced into the Swan Inn, where they were kept from 6 ten of the clock in the morning, till four of the clock in the afternoon.” Then their names were taken by the Justices, and themselves set at liberty. " Next morning Mr. Foster, the Justice (he was also the Commissary's deputy), appears early in the streets, with old Battison and the two Apparitors, a file of soldiers, and some constables, to see the fines levied upon the Meeter's goods.” He sent also for many of the Tradesmen to assist him in his holy war : but, Lo, most of the tradesmen, journeymen, labourers and servants” had either left the town or hid themselves, to avoid his call. The worthy Deputy found the Town “ 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 the Pest, where usually is written upon the door, Lord have mercy upon us.'”—P. 6. It was, remember, BUNYAN's flock which had this mighty influence upon their neighbours. Bedford thought, and rightly, that it was discredit enough for the town, to have Bunyan himself in prison.
Foster's first attempt was at a Cutler's : but the house being “visited with small-pox, the officers declined entering.” From hence he went to a Shoemaker's; and, besides levying for five shillings, imposed another fine of one shilling, because Crispin would not say whether or not he “ had been at Church the day before.” Then a Heel-maker was deprived of three carts' load of heel and last wood; of more value than any of his household goods. This was taken, to pay a fine of two pounds. Next a Tanner had his “best wearing coat distrained by the immediate order of Mr. Foster," for a fine of five shillings incurred, not by himself, but by his “ better half.” Then the Blacksmith lost all his anvils, as well as many locks and shovels, and would have had his “ forge-bellows pulled down, if Battison's itch for better prices in other places had not called him off.
The Thermopylæ of this grand field day, to Foster, was at the Pipe-maker's. . There they “ hastened ;" for Thomas Arthur had six pounds to pay. Incorrigible Bunyanite,-the Pipe-maker locked all his doors in the face of the function. aries of the spiritual Court! What Deputy of a Commissary could brook such contempt? Not Justice Foster. He broke in the door, and distrained “ all the goods within doors and without.” “ The said Arthur desired to know how much money he had distrained for? To whom the said Mr. Foster replied, for Eleven Pounds. Whereupon Thomas Arthur desired (Bunyan-like again) to see the warrant : which being produced, he seeing himself therein but for six pounds, told Mr. Foster so: to which Mr. Foster answered, that there was five pound more for keeping his door locked. When Thomas perceived that Mr. Foster would distrain all his goods, he said, " Sir, what shall my children do? Shall they starve ?" This would have been both a startling and a touching ques. tion to the functionary of any other court but the Ecclesias. tical. It did not, however, disconcert the Deputy in the least, “ Mr. Foster replied, that so long as he (the Father) was a rebel, the children must starve.” This answer was worthy of the spiritual Court itself. The fact is, that conclave knew well from their own temperament, of what stuff to make Com. missaries, Deputies, and Apparitors. Accordingly, “ Batti. son and the two Apparitors, with a file of Musqueteers, and a cart, carried away whatever household goods they thought fit, and all the wood for the burning of a kiln of pipes ready set.” -P.7.
“ Mr. Foster having done his work at the Pipe-maker's, &c. passed in haste to the house of Mrs. Tilney ; a widow, a gentlewoman well descended, and of a good estate, who was fined Twenty pounds : and to make her exemplary in suffering, Mr. Foster himself, being attended by his public Notary, would see the fine effectually levied upon her goods. And in. deed the same was effectually done; insomuch that the Widow was forced to borrow sheets of her neighbours to lie in. She was forced to spread these sheets she borrowed, on a bed and bolster of another's left in her house; they did not leave ono feather-bed of her own. As for the value of the goods taken away, it is supposed to be betwixt forty and fifty pounds. Yet the said Mrs. Tilney was more troubled at the crying and sigbing of her poor neighbours, who were much affected with her sufferings, she being very charitable, than for the loss of her goods, which she took very cheerfully. And so the offi. cers left her, having finished that day's work.”—P. 9.
Mrs. Tilney removed soon after this to London, where her son-in-law, a Mr. Blakely, was a Minister. She is “ the dearly beloved sister,” of whom Dr. Southey says, “the very Baptists of Bunyan's congregation, and at a time too when Bunyan was their pastor, interdicted from communicating with a Church of which her son-in-law was a minister, be. cause he was not a Baptist.” She was interdicted, but not for this reason. The interdict, and its explanation, will be found in the Chapter, “ Bunyan's Pastoral Letters.”
Foster, however, had not all these church-militant laurels to himself. Sir George Blundell also signalized himself in the holy war, by issuing a warrant on the report of the talk of 6 a little girl," who said to the wife of a vile Informer, “ that there had been a meeting at the house of Thomas Thorow. good in Cotton-End.” The Meetingers were, accordingly, brought before the Justices at the Swan Inn, who promised to acquit them, if “ they would confess who was preacher.”
This they refused to do, and were severally fined. It is high. ly probable ihat Bunyan himself was the preacher : for by this time the tyranny of the Justices startled the Mayor of Bedford. Bunyan was, therefore, not unlikely to slip out of the Jail at this crisis, especially as he had the opportunity : for as the Mayor was on the side of lenity, the kind Jailor would not be very strict.
Only two of the victims sued for a mitigation of the fine; and one of them, the Honourable Baronet 6 beat well for his pains," and the other he left to the tender mercies of the In. former.
One of the Informers, apparently a thorough miscreant (judging from the account of him in the Narrative), was seized with a violent hæmorrhage, whilst officiating as an Appurtenant at a visitation at Ampthill. On his death-bed, he alternately “ threatened the Fanatics,” and cursed Foster “for setting him in office.” His death was so awful, that no one would even let a carriage to convey his body to Turvey : but it had to be sent in a cart.”—P. 13.
Such was the weight of Bunyan's influence in Bedford, and such the estimation in which his Church was held in the Town. It is, to me, equally pleasing to find, that none of the Clergy in Bedford were parties to this shameful outrage. It ought also to be remembered here, that in the space of two years afterwards, Bunyan bought the ground on which his Chapel was built.
The Narrative from which these facts are gleaned, is con. ciliatory in its tone, as well as faithful in its rebukes. It is even complimentary to the higher ranks. The writer says, “ all unquiet storms, thunderings and lightnings, are in and from the lower regions: but among the higher spheres and more celestial bodies, all things are always peaceable and serene; and by their influence the other raging and noxious disturbances are quelled and scattered. And such an end of our present disquietments do we hope and pray for.”
This starry compliment does not, however, prevent the Author from calling either men or things by their right names. He boldly avows that one object of his writing is, 6 to demand of our Legislators, whether” such doings 6 be the garment of their offspring ?” He declares in his preface that “it is plain, that in despite of Magna Charta, and in defiance of all Laws and Rules of righteousness, neighbourhood, and humanity” certain persons " resolve to ruin the Nonconform. ists, though in no wise able to compensate for the King and Kingdom's damage thereby.” Without ceremony and cir. cumlocution he proclaims the fact, that “the immediate per. secutors are the scum of the people, and chiefly the Appur. tenants of the Commissaries' Court.” Who he means by s the most forward instrument of this sort,” of whom he says, “he is one who hath openly avowed his esteem for POPERY above other religions," I do not pretend to guess. I only know, that the cap fitted the King's brother. The Author was, however, as loyal as any honest man ought to be. “ Councils for public good,” he says, “ are the province of our superiors. Ready obedience, or peaceable sufferings, are the lot of private men. This people (Bunyan's) have by their peaceable deportment for many years, given all the satisfac. tion that any men, in like circumstances, are able to give of their harmless and quiet inclinations. And they intend, by the Grace of God, not to gratify their adversaries by transgressing the obligation of their own consciences, which imposes a necessity upon them to practise those things in their Chris. tian profession for which they are made obnoxious to so great sufferings, and gives them a supportment under them.”
In harmony with this principle, he adds, “ The end of pub. lishing this Account, is to prepare others, of the same way and practice in the things of religion with the persons so roughly treated at Bedford, not to think strange of the like trials when they befal them; and to bear them patiently, quietly, and peaceably, notwithstanding all provocations to the contrary.” - P. 14.
It deserves to be mentioned, that this pamphlet has neither the name nor the place of the Printer. Its Title-page runs thus, “ A true and impartial Narrative of some Illegal and Arbitrary proceedings, by certain Justices of the Peace, and others, against several innocent and peaceable Nonconformists in and near the town of Bedford, upon pretence of putting in execution the late Act against Conventicles : together with a brief account of the sudden and strange death of the Grand Informer, and one of the most violent malicious Persecutors against these poor people. Published for general Information. Printed in the year 1670.".
Such were the first fruits of the revival of the Conventicle Act. That Act was, however, merely a new form of the old spirit of the dominant party. They began in a similar style, the moment they got into power. No Venner had appeared in either town or country, when the Baptists were singled out as victims of intolerance. The King was but just seated, in 1660, when the Lincolnshire Baptists had to tell him, “ We have been, O King, much abused when we pass in the streets, and sit in our houses ; being threatened to be hanged, if but heard praying in our families; and disturbed in our waiting upon God by uncivil beating at our doors, and sounding of horns. Yea, we have been stoned when going to our meet. ings; the windows have been struck down with stones. We have been taken and imprisoned. The rage of our adver. saries has been augmented, O King, by hearing us abused in open Court by some who sat on the bench of Justice. And now they have indicted many of us at the Sessions, and intend, as we are informed, to impose on us a penalty of Twenty pounds per month, for not coming to hear such men as they provide for us : of whose principles and practices we could give a most sad and doleful account;—and yet, O King, a most true relation.” This early appeal was drawn up, and most likely presented, by the celebrated Thomas Grantham ;