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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

IV. The Early Quakers

§ 8. James Nayler

There is no more pathetic figure, in the history of early quakerism, than that of the unhappy James Nayler, whose grievous lapse into sheer extravagance led him, as a sign of the coming of the living Christ, to allow a crowd of silly women to hail him as the Messiah; and who, after his case had been debated at length in the House of Commons, bore with deep contrition and exemplary patience the ferocious punishment which was meted out to him. His writings after this baptism of fire breathe the purest spirit of inward penitence and forgiving love. The following are the words of his “last Testimony,” taken down about two hours before his death:

  • There is a spirit which I feel, that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations; as it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other; if it be betrayed it bears it; for its ground and spring is in the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its Kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind.
  • Another beautiful testimony to the spirit that animated those early quakers is given by William Dewsbury who, shortly before his death, said, after a long and terrible imprisonment in Warwick castle:

  • This I can say, I never played the coward, but joyfully entered Prisons as Palaces, telling mine enemies to hold me there as long as they could, and in the Prison House I sung praises to my God, and esteemed the Bolts and Locks put upon me as Jewels, and in the name of the Eternal God I alway got the Victory.