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Elizabeth Fry
by [?]

Martyr and persecutor are usually cut off the same piece. They are the same type of man; and looking down the centuries they seem to have shifted places easily. As to which is persecutor and which is martyr is only a question of transient power. They are constantly teaching the trick to each other, just as scolding parents have saucy children. They are both good people; their sincerity can not be doubted. Marcus Aurelius, the best emperor Rome ever had, persecuted the Christians; while Caligula, Rome’s worst emperor, didn’t know there were any Christians in his dominions, and if he had known would not have cared.

The persecutor and the martyr both belong to the cultus known as “Muscular Christianity,” the distinguishing feature of which is a final appeal to force. We should, however, respect it for the frankness of the name in which it delights–Muscular Christianity being a totally different thing from Christianity, which smitten turns the other cheek.

But the Quaker, best type of the non-resistant quasi-ascetic, is the exception that proves the rule; he may be persecuted, but he persecutes not again. He is the best authenticated type living of primitive Christian. That the religion of Jesus was a purely reactionary movement, suggested by the smug complacency and voluptuous condition of the times, most thinking men agree. Where rich Pharisees adopt a standard of life that can only be maintained by devouring widows’ houses and oppressing the orphan, the needs of the hour bring to the front a man who will swing the pendulum to the other side. When society plays tennis with truth, and pitch-and-toss with all the expressions of love and friendship, certain ones will confine their speech to yea, yea, and nay, nay. When men utter loud prayers on street corners, some one will suggest that the better way to pray is to retire to your closet and shut the door. When self-appointed rulers wear purple and scarlet and make broad their phylacteries, some one will suggest that honest men had better adopt a simplicity of attire. When a whole nation grows mad in its hot endeavor to become rich, and the Temple of the Most High is cumbered by the seats of money-changers, already in some Galilean village sits a youth, conscious of his Divine kinship, plaiting a scourge of cords.

The gray garb of the Quaker is only a revulsion from a flutter of ribbons and a towering headgear of hues that shame the lily and rival the rainbow. Beau Brummel, lifting his hat with great flourish to nobility and standing hatless in the presence of illustrious nobodies, finds his counterpart in William Penn, who was born with his hat on and uncovers to no one. The height of Brummel’s hat finds place in the width of Penn’s.

Quakerism is a protest against an idle, vain, voluptuous and selfish life. It is the natural recoil from insincerity, vanity and gormandism which, growing glaringly offensive, causes these certain men and women to “come out” and stand firm for plain living and high thinking. And were it not for this divine principle in humanity that prompts individuals to separate from the mass when sensuality threatens to hold supreme sway, the race would be snuffed out in hopeless night. These men who come out effect their mission, not by making all men Come-Outers, but by imperceptibly changing the complexion of the mass. They are the true and literal saviors of mankind.

* * * * *

Norwich has several things to recommend it to the tourist, chief of which is the cathedral. Great, massive, sullen structure–begun in the Eleventh Century–it adheres more closely to its Norman type than does any other building in England.

Within sound of the tolling bells of this great cathedral, aye, almost within the shadow of its turrets, was born, in Seventeen Hundred Eighty, Elizabeth Gurney. Her line of ancestry traced directly back to the De Gournays who came with William the Conqueror, and laid the foundations of this church and of England’s civilization. To the sensitive, imaginative girl this sacred temple, replete with history, fading off into storied song and curious legend, meant much. She haunted its solemn transepts, and followed with eager eyes the carved bosses on the ceiling, to see if the cherubs pictured there were really alive. She took children from the street and conducted them thither, explaining that it was her grandfather who laid the mortar between the stones and reared the walls and placed the splendid colored windows, on which reflections of real angels were to be seen, and where Madonnas winked when the wind was east. And the children listened with open mouths and marveled much, and this encouraged the pale little girl with the wondering eyes, and she led them to the tomb of Sir William Boleyn, whose granddaughter, Anne Boleyn, used often to come here and garland with flowers the grave above which our toddlers talked in whispers, and where, yesterday, I, too, stood.