The Ancient Banner or; Brief Sketches of Persons and Scenes in the Early History of Friends (1864)
"THOU HAST GIVEN A BANNER TO THEM THAT FEARED THEE,
THAT IT MAY BE DISPLAYED BECAUSE OF THE TRUTH." - Psalm 60,--4.
In boundless mercy, the Redeemer left,
The bosom of his Father, and assumed
A servant's form, though he had reigned a king,
In realms of glory, ere the worlds were made,
Or the creating words, "Let there be light"
In heaven were uttered. But though veiled in flesh,
His Deity and his Omnipotence,
Were manifest in miracles. Disease
Fled at his bidding, and the buried dead
Rose from the sepulchre, reanimate,
At his command, or, on the passing bier
Sat upright, when he touched it. But he came,
Not for this only, but to introduce
A glorious dispensation, in the place
Of types and shadows of the Jewish code.
Upon the mount, and round Jerusalem,
He taught a purer, and a holier law,--
His everlasting Gospel, which is yet
To fill the earth with gladness; for all climes
Shall feel its influence, and shall own its power.
He came to suffer, as a sacrifice
Acceptable to God. The sins of all
Were laid upon Him, when in agony
He bowed upon the cross. The temple's veil
Was rent asunder, and the mighty rocks,
Trembled, as the incarnate Deity,
By his atoning blood, opened that door,
Through which the soul, can have communion with
Its great Creator; and when purified,
From all defilements, find acceptance too,
Where it can finally partake of all
The joys of His salvation.
But the pure Church he planted,--the pure Church
Which his apostles watered,--and for which,
The blood of countless martyrs freely flowed,
In Roman Amphitheatres,--on racks,--
And in the dungeon's gloom,--this blessed Church,
Which grew in suffering, when it overspread
Surrounding nations, lost its purity.
Its truth was hidden, and its light obscured
By gross corruption, and idolatry.
As things of worship, it had images,
And even painted canvas was adored.
It had a head and bishop, but this head
Was not the Saviour, but the Pope of Rome.
Religion was a traffic. Men defiled,
Professed to pardon sin, and even sell,
The joys of heaven for money,--and to raise
Souls out of darkness to eternal light,
For paltry silver lavished upon them.
And thus thick darkness, overspread the Church
As with a mantle.
At length the midnight of apostacy
Passed by, and in the horizon appeared,
Day dawning upon Christendom. The light,
Grew stronger, as the Reformation spread.
For Luther, and Melancthon, could not be
Silenced by papal bulls, nor by decrees
Of excommunication thundered forth
Out of the Vatican. And yet the light,
Of Luther's reformation, never reached
Beyond the morning's dawn. The noontide blaze
Of Truth's unclouded day, he never saw.
Yet after him, its rising sun displayed
More and more light upon the horizon.
Though thus enlightened, the professing Church,
Was far from many of the precious truths
Of the Redeemer's gospel; and as yet,
Owned not his Spirit's government therein.
But now the time approached, when he would pour
A larger measure of his light below;
And as he chose unlearned fishermen
To spread his gospel when first introduced,
So now he passed mere human learning by,
And chose an instrument, comparable
To the small stone the youthful David used,
To smite the champion who defied the Lord.
Apart from human dwellings, in a green
Rich pasturage of England, sat a youth,
Who seemed a shepherd, for around him there
A flock was feeding, and the sportive lambs
Gambolled amid the herbage. But his face
Bore evidence of sadness. On his knee
The sacred book lay open, upon which
The youth looked long and earnestly, and then,
Closing the book, gazed upward, in deep thought
This was the instrument by whom the Lord
Designed to spread a clearer light below
And fuller reformation. He appeared,
Like ancient Samuel, to be set apart
For the Lord's service from his very birth.
Even in early childhood, he refrained
From youthful follies, and his mind was turned
To things of highest moment. He was filled
With awful feelings, by the wickedness
He saw around him. As he grew in years,
Horror of sin grew stronger; and his mind
Became so clothed with sadness, and so full
Of soul-felt longings, for the healing streams
Of heavenly consolation, that he left
His earthly kindred, seeking quietude
In solitary places, where he read
The book of inspiration, and in prayer,
Sought heavenly counsel.
In this deep-proving season he was told,
Of priests, whose reputation had spread wide
For sanctity and wisdom; and from these
He sought for consolation,--but in vain.
One of these ministers became enraged,
Because the youth had inadvertently
Misstepped within his garden; and a priest
Of greater reputation, counselled him
To use tobacco, and sing holy psalms!
And the inquirer found a third to be
But as an empty, hollow cask at best.
Finding no help in man, the youthful Fox,
Turned to a higher and a holier source,
For light and knowledge. In his Saviour's school,
He sat a scholar, and was clearly shown
The deep corruption, that had overspread
Professing Christendom. And one by one,
The doctrines of the Gospel, were unveiled,
To the attentive student,--doctrines, which,
Though clearly written on the sacred page,
Had long been hidden, by the rubbish man's
Perversions and inventions heaped thereon.
He saw that colleges, could not confer,
A saving knowledge of the way of Truth,
Nor qualify a minister to preach
The everlasting Gospel; but that Christ,
Is the true Teacher, and that he alone
Has power to call, anoint, and qualify,
And send a Gospel minister to preach
Glad tidings of salvation. He was shown,
No outward building, made of wood and stone
Could be a holy place,--and that the Church--
The only true and living Church--must be
A holy people gathered to the Lord,
And to his teaching. He was clearly taught,
The nature of baptism, by which souls
Are purified and fitted for this Church;
That this was not, by being dipped into,
Or sprinkled with clear water, but it was
The one baptism of the Holy Ghost.
He saw the Supper was no outward food,
Made and administered by human hands,--
But the Lord's Table was within the heart;
Where in communion with him, holy bread
Was blessed and broken, and the heavenly wine,
Which cheers the fainting spirit, handed forth.
The Saviour showed him that all outward wars,
Are now forbidden,--that the warfare here,
Is to be waged within. Its weapons too,
Though mighty, even to the pulling down,
Of the strong holds of Satan, are yet all
The Spirit's weapons. He was shown, that oaths
Judicial or profane, are banished from
The Christian dispensation, which commands,
"Swear not at all." He saw the compliments,--
Hat honour, and lip service of the world,
Sprang from pride's evil root, and were opposed
To the pure spirit of Christ's holy law.
And by His inward Light, was clearly seen
The perfect purity of heart and life
For which that Saviour calls, who never asked,
These truths and others, being thus revealed,
Fox was prepared and qualified to preach,
The unveiled Gospel, to the sons of men.
Clothed with divine authority, he went
Abroad through Britain, and proclaimed that Light,
Which Christ's illuminating Spirit sheds,
In the dark heart of man. Some heard of this,
Who seemed prepared and waiting, to receive
His Gospel message, and were turned to Him,
Whose Holy Spirit sealed it on their hearts.
And not a few of these, were called upon,
To take the message, and themselves declare
The way of Truth to others. But the Priests,
Carnal professors, and some magistrates,
Heard of the inward light, and purity,
With indignation, and they seized upon,
And thrust the Preacher within prison walls.
Not once alone, but often was he found,
Amid the very dregs of wickedness--
With robbers, and with blood-stained criminals,
Locked up in loathsome jails. And when abroad
Upon his Master's service, he was still
Reviled and buffeted, and spit upon.
But none of these things moved him, for within
He felt that soul-sustaining evidence,
Which bore his spirit high above the waves,
Of bitter persecution.
But now the time approached, for his release
From suffering and from labour. He had spent,
Long years in travel for the cause of Truth,--
Not all in Britain,--for he preached its light,
And power in Holland,--the West Indian isles,
And North America. Far through the wild,
And trackless wilderness, this faithful man,
Carried his Master's message; he lived,
To see Truth's banner fearlessly displayed
Upon both continents. He lived to see,
Pure hearted men and women gathered to
The inward teaching of the Saviour's will,--
Banded together in the covenant,
Of light and life. But his allotted work,
Was now accomplished, and his soul prepared,
For an inheritance with saints in light,
And with his loins all girded, he put off
His earthly shackles, triumphing in death,
That the Seed reigned, and Truth was over all!
Where the dark waters of the Delaware,
Roll onward to the ocean, sweeping by,
Primeval forests, where the red man still,
Built his rude wigwam, and the timid deer
Fled for concealment from the Indian's eye,
And the unerring arrow of his bow;
There, in the shadow of these ancient woods,
A sea-worn ship has anchored. On her deck,
Men of grave mien are gathered. One of whom,
Of noble figure, and quick searching eyes,
Surveys the scene, wrapt in the deepest thought.
And this is William Penn. He stands among,
Fellow believers, who have sought a home,
And place of refuge, in this wilderness.
Born of an ancient family, his sire
An English Admiral, the youthful Penn,
Might, with his talents, have soon ranked among
The proudest subjects of the British throne.
He chose the better part--to serve that King
Who is immortal and invisible.
While yet a student within college halls,
He heard Truth's message, and his heart was reached,
And fully owned it, though it came through one
Of that despised and persecuted class,
Called in derision Quakers. Thus convinced,
He left the college worship, to commune
In spirit with his Maker. And for this,
He was expelled from Oxford; and was soon
Maltreated by his father, who, enraged,
Because his only son, had turned away
From brilliant prospects, to pursue the path
Of self-denial, drove him harshly forth
From the paternal roof. But William Penn,
Had still a Father, who supported him,
With strength and courage to perform his will;
And he was called and qualified to preach,
And to bear witness of that blessed Light
Which shines within. He suffered in the cause,
His share of trial. He was dragged before
Judges and juries, and was shut within
The walls of prisons.
Looking abroad through England, he was filled
With deep commiseration, for the jails--
The loathsome, filthy jails--were crowded with
His brethren in the Truth. For their relief,
He sought the ear of royalty, and plead
Their cruel sufferings; and their innocence;
And thus became the instrument through which
Some prison doors were opened. But he sought
A place of refuge from oppression's power,
That Friends might worship the Creator there,
Free from imprisonment and penalties.
And such a place soon opened to his view,
Far in the Western Wilderness, beyond
The Atlantic's wave.
And here is William Penn, and here a band
Of weary emigrants, who now behold
The promised land before them; but it is
The Indian's country, and the Indian's home.
Penn had indeed, received a royal grant,
To occupy it; but a grant from one
Who had no rightful ownership therein;
He therefore buys it honestly from those
Whose claims are aboriginal, and just.
With these inhabitants, behold, he stands
Beneath an ancient elm, whose spreading limbs
O'erhang the Delaware. The forest chiefs
Sit in grave silence, while the pipe of peace
Goes round the circle. They have made a league
With faithful Onas--a perpetual league,
And treaty of true friendship, to endure
While the sun shines, and while the waters run.
And here was founded in the wilderness,
A refuge from oppression, where all creeds
Found toleration, and where truth and right
Were the foundation of its government,
And its protection. In that early day,
The infant colony sought no defence
But that of justice and of righteousness;
The only guarantees of peace on earth,
Because they ever breathe, good will to men.
His colony thus planted, William Penn
Sought his old field of labour, and again,
Both through the press and vocally, he plead
The right of conscience, and the rights of man;
And frequently, and forcibly he preached
Christ's universal and inshining Light.
His labour was incessant; and the cares,
And the perplexities connected with
His distant province, which he visited
A second time, bore heavily upon
His burdened spirit, which demanded rest;--
That rest was granted. In the midst of all
His labour and his trials, there was drawn
A veil, in mercy, round his active mind,
Which dimmed all outward things; but he still saw
The beauty and the loveliness of Truth,
And found sweet access to the Source of good.
And thus, shut out from the perplexities
And sorrows of the world, he was prepared
To hear the final summons, to put off
His tattered garments, and be clothed upon
With heavenly raiment.
Scotland, thou hadst a noble citizen,
In him of Ury! Born amid thy hills,
Though educated where enticing scenes,
Crowd giddy Paris, he rejected all
The world's allurements, and unlike the youth
Who talked with Jesus, Barclay turned away
From great possessions, and embraced the Truth.
He early dedicated all the powers
Of a well cultivated intellect
To the Redeemer and His holy cause.
He was a herald, to proclaim aloud,
Glad tidings of salvation; and his life
Preached a loud sermon by its purity.
Not only were his lips made eloquent,
By the live coal that touched them, but his pen,
Moved by a force from the same altar, poured
Light, truth, and wisdom. From it issued forth
The great Apology, which yet remains
One of the best expositors of Truth
That man has published, since that sacred book
Anciently written. Seekers are still led
By its direction, to that blessed Light,
And inward Teacher, who is Jesus Christ.
But now, this noble servant of the Lord,
Rests from his faithful labour, while his works
Yet follow him.
Early believers in the light of Truth,
Dwelt not at ease in Zion. They endured
Conflicts and trials, and imprisonments.
Even the humble Penington, whose mind
Seemed purged and purified from all the dross
Of human nature--who appeared as meek
And harmless as an infant--was compelled
To dwell in loathsome prisons. But he had,
Though in the midst of wickedness, sublime
And holy visions of the purity,
And the true nature of Christ's living Church.
While Edmundson, the faithful pioneer
Of Truth in Ireland, was compelled to drink
Deeply of suffering for the blessed cause.
Dragged from his home, half naked, by a mob
Who laid that home in ashes, he endured
Heart-rending cruelties. But all of these,
Stars of the morning, felt oppression's hand,
And some endured it to the closing scene.
Burroughs, a noble servant of the Lord,
Whose lips and pen were eloquent for Truth,
Drew his last breath in prison. Parnel, too,
A young and valiant soldier of the Lamb,
Died, a true martyr in a dungeon's gloom.
Howgill and Hubberthorn, both ministers
Of Christ's ordaining, were released from all
Their earthly trials within prison walls.
And beside these, there was a multitude
Of faithful men, and noble women too,
Who past from scenes of conflict, to the joys
Of the Redeemer's kingdom, within jails,
And some in dungeons. But amid it all,
Light spread in Britain, and a living Church
Was greatly multiplied. The tender minds,
Even of children, felt the power of Truth,
And showed the fruit and firmness it affords.
When persecution, rioted within
The town of Bristol, and all older Friends
Were locked in prison, little children met,
Within their place of worship, by themselves,
To offer praises, in the very place
From which their parents had been dragged to jail.
But let us turn from Britain, and look down,
Upon an inland sea whose swelling waves
Encircle Malta. There a cloudless sun,
In Eastern beauty, pours its light upon
The Inquisition. All without its walls
Seems calm and peaceful, let us look within.
There, stretched upon the floor, within a close,
Dark, narrow cell, inhaling from a crack
A breath of purer air, two women lie.
But who are these, and wherefore are they here?
These are two ministers of Christ, who left
Their homes in England, faithfully to bear,
The Saviour's message into eastern lands.
And here at Malta they were seized upon
By bigotted intolerance, and shut
Within this fearful engine of the Pope.
Priests and Inquisitor assail them here,
And urge the claims of popery. The rack,
And cruel deaths are threatened; and again
Sweet liberty is offered, as the price
Of their apostacy. All, all in vain!
For years these tender women have been thus,
Victims of cruelty. At times apart,
Confined in gloomy, solitary cells.
But all these efforts to convert them failed:
The Inquisition had not power enough
To shake their faith and confidence in Him,
Whose holy presence was seen anciently
To save his children from devouring flames;
He, from this furnace of affliction, brought
These persecuted women, who came forth
Out of the burning, with no smell of fire
Upon their garments, and again they trod,
Their native land rejoicing.
In Hungary, two ministers of Christ,
Were stretched upon the rack. Their tortured limbs
Were almost torn asunder, but no force
Could tear them from their Master, and they came
Out of the furnace, well refined gold.
Nor were these all who suffered for the cause
Of truth and righteousness, in foreign lands.
For at Mequinez and Algiers, some toiled,
And died in slavery. But nothing could
Discourage faithful messengers of Christ
From his required service. They were found
Preaching repentance where the Israelites
Once toiled in Egypt, and the ancient Nile
Still rolls its waters. And the holy light
Of the eternal Gospel was proclaimed,
Where its great Author had first published it--
Where the rich temple of King Solomon,
Stood in its ancient glory. Even there,
The haughty Musselmen, were told of Him,
The one great Prophet, who now speaks within.
For their refusing to participate
In carnal warfare, many early Friends,
Were made to suffer. On a ship of war
Equipped for battle, Richard Sellers bore,
With a meek, Christian spirit, cruelties
The most atrocious, for obeying Him
Who was his heavenly Captain, and by whom,
War is forbidden. Sellers would not touch,
The instruments of carnage, nor could all
The cruelties inflicted, move his soul
From a reliance on that holy Arm,
Which had sustained him in the midst of all
His complicated trials; and he gained
A peaceful, but a greater victory
Than that of battle, for he wearied out
Oppression, by his constancy, and left
A holy savor, with that vessel's crew.
But let us turn from persecuting scenes,
That stain the annals of the older world,
To young America, whose virgin shores
Offer a refuge from oppression's power.
Here lies a harbour in the noble bay
Of Massachusetts. Many little isles
Dot its expanding waters, and Nahant
Spreads its long beach and eminence beyond,
A barrier to the ocean. The whole scene,
Looks beautiful, in the clear northern air,
And loveliness of morning. On the heights
That overlook the harbour, there is seen
An infant settlement. Let us approach,
And anchor where the Puritans have sought,
For liberty of conscience. But there seems,
Disquietude in Boston. Men appear
Urged on by stormy passions, and some wear
A look of unrelenting bitterness.
But what is that now rising into view,
Where crowds are gathered on an eminence?
These are the Puritans. They now surround
A common gallows. On its platform, stands
A lovely woman in the simple garb
Worn by the early Quakers. Of the throng,
She only seems unmoved, although her blood
They madly thirst for.
The first professors of Christ's inward Light,
Who brought this message into Boston bay,
Were inoffensive women. They were searched
For signs of witchcraft, and their books were burned.
The captain who had brought them, was compelled
To carry them away. But others came,
Both men and women, zealous for the Truth.
These were received with varied cruelties--
By frequent whippings and imprisonments.
Law after law was made excluding them;
But all in vain, for still these faithful ones
Carried their Master's message undismayed
Among the Puritans, and still they found
Those who received it, and embraced the Truth,
And steadily maintained it, in the midst
Of whipping posts, and pillories, and jails!
A law was then enacted, by which all
The banished Quakers, who were found again
Within the province, were to suffer death.
But these, though ever ready to obey
All just enactments, when laws trespassed on
The rights of conscience, and on God's command,
Could never for a moment hesitate,
Which to obey.--And soon there stood upon
A scaffold of New England, faithful friends,
Who, in obeying Christ, offended man!
Of these was Mary Dyer, who exclaimed,
While passing to this instrument of death,
"No eye can witness, and no ear can hear,
No tongue can utter, nor heart understand
The incomes and refreshings from the Lord
Which now I feel." And in the spirit which
These words a little pictured, Robinson,
Past to the presence of that Holy One
For whom he laboured, and in whom he died.
Then Stevenson, another faithful steward
And servant of the Lamb, was ushered from
Deep scenes of suffering into scenes of joy.
But Mary Dyer, who was all prepared,
To join these martyrs in their heavenward flight,
Was left a little longer upon earth.
But a few fleeting months had rolled away,
Ere this devoted woman felt constrained,
Again to go among the Puritans,
In Massachusetts, and in Boston too.
And here she stands! the second time, upon
A gallows of New England. No reprieve
Arrests her sentence now. But still she feels
The same sweet incomes, and refreshing streams
From the Lord's Holy Spirit. In the midst
Of that excited multitude, she seems
The most resigned and peaceful.--But the deed
Is now accomplished, and the scene is closed!
Among the faithful martyrs of the Lamb,
Gathered forever round His Holy Throne,
She doubtless wears a pure and spotless robe,
And bears the palm of victory.
The blood of Leddra was soon after shed,
Which closed the scene of martyrdom among
The early Quakers in this colony,
But not the scene of suffering. Women were
Dragged through its towns half-naked, tied to carts,
While the lash fell upon their unclothed backs,
And bloody streets, showed where they past along.
And such inhuman treatment was bestowed
On the first female minister of Christ,
Who preached the doctrine of his inward Light.
But in New England, there was really found
A refuge from oppression, justice reigned
Upon Rhode Island. In that early day,
The rights of conscience were held sacred there,
And persecution was a thing unknown.
A bright example, as a governor,
Was William Coddington. He loved the law--
The perfect law of righteousness--and strove
To govern by it; and all faithful Friends
Felt him a brother in the blessed Truth.
In North America, the Puritans
Stood not alone in efforts to prevent
The introduction and the spread of light.
The Dutch plantation of New Amsterdam,
Sustained a measure of the evil work.
The savage cruelties inflicted on
The faithful Hodgson, have few parallels
In any age or country; but the Lord
Was with His servant in the midst of all,
And healed his tortured and his mangled frame.
The early Friends were bright and shining stars,
For they reflected the clear holy light
The Sun of Righteousness bestowed on them.
They followed no deceiving, transient glare--
No ignis fatuus of bewildered minds;
They followed Jesus in the holiness
Of His unchanging Gospel. They endured
Stripes and imprisonment and pillories,
Torture and slavery and banishment,
And even death; but they would not forsake
Their Holy Leader, or His blessed cause.
Their patient suffering, and firm steadfastness,
Secured a rich inheritance for those
Who have succeeded them. Do these now feel
That firm devotion to the cause of Truth--That
singleheartedness their fathers felt?
Do they appreciate the price and worth
Of the great legacy and precious trust
Held for their children? The great cruelties
Borne by the fathers, have not been entailed
On their descendants, who now dwell at ease.
The world does not revile them. Do not some
Love it the more for this? and do they not
Make more alliance with it, and partake
More and more freely of its tempting baits,
Its fashions and its spirit? but are these
More pure and holy than they were of old,
When in the light of Truth, their fathers saw
That deep corruption overspread the world?
Other professors latterly have learned
To speak of Quakers with less bitterness
Than when the name reproachfully was cast
In ridicule upon them. Has not this
Drawn watchmen from the citadel of Truth?
Has it not opened doors that had been closed,
And should have been forever? And by these,
Has not an enemy been stealing in,
To spoil the goods of many; to assail,
And strive in secrecy to gather strength,
To overcome the citadel at last?
Is it not thought illiberal to refuse
Alliances with those who now profess
Respect and friendship? Must the Quaker then
Bow in the house of Rimmon, saying, Lord
Pardon in this thy servant? Do not some
Fail to resist encroachments, when they come
Clothed in enticing words, and wear the guise
Of charity and kindness, and are veiled,
Or sweetened to the taste, by courtesy?
But is a snare less certain, when concealed
By some enticing bait? or is a ball
Less sure and fatal, when it flies unheard,
Or, when the hand that sends it is unseen,
Or offers friendship? Did not Joab say,
"Art thou in health my brother?" and appeared
To kiss Amasa, while he thrust his sword
Into his life-blood? And when Jonas fled
From the Lord's service, and the stormy waves
Threatened the ship that bore him, was the cause
Not found within it? Was there not a calm
When he, whose disobedience to the Lord
Had raised the tempest, was no longer there?
Truth has a standard openly displayed,
Untorn--unsullied. Man indeed may change,
And may forsake it; but the Standard still
Remains immutable. May all who love
This Holy Banner, rally to it now!
May all whose dwellings are upon the sand,
Seek for a building on that living Rock,
Which stands forever;--for a storm has come--
A storm that tries foundations! Even now,
The flooding rains are falling, and the winds
Rapidly rising to a tempest, beat
Upon all dwellings. They alone can stand
Which have the Rock beneath them, and above
The Omnipresent and Omnipotent
Creator and Defender of His Church!