Naylor, James

Naylor, James an English religious enthusiast, noted for his fanatical excesses, was born at Ardsley, near Wakefield, in Yorkshire, about the year 1616. James. of humble but honorable parentage, with a limited education, started out in life, and married and settled in Wakefield parish about 1638. In 1641 he became a private soldier in the Parliamentary army, in which he was afterwards made a quartermaster, but quitted it on account of sickness in 1649. After his return home he was converted under the preaching of the Quaker George Fox (1651), and became so enthusiastic a religionist that the next year he believed himself divinely required to quit his relations and go abroad to preach Quakerism. Though poor, he started out unhesitatingly, relying on that divine aid which he believed himself sure to receive. He was a man of excellent natural parts, and acquitted himself so well, both in word and writing, that many joined his society through his ministry. lie came to London towards the beginning of 1655, in which city a meeting of Quakers had been established by the ministry of Edward Burrough and Francis Howgill, two eminent Quakers from Westmoreland. Here Naylor preached with so much applause that the distinction which he acquired occasioned his fall; for some inconsiderate women, setting him up in their esteem above Howgill and Burrough,went so far as to disturb them in their preaching. These men, besides giving to the women a deserved reproof, complained of it to Naylor. But he, instead of passing censure, suffered himself to be wrought upon by the reiterated and passionate complaints of the inconsiderate women, especially one Martha Simmons (the chief engine of the mischief), and became estranged from the leading Quakers, who would not suffer him to give ear to the flatteries of such misadvised adherents. In the year 1656 he suffered imprisonment in Exeter; and about this time several deluded persons addressed him by letter in terms of great extravagance. He was called "the everlasting Son of Righteousness," "Prince of Peace," "the only-begotten Son of God," "the fairest of ten thousand;" and during his confinement in Exeter jail some women knelt before him and kissed his feet. About this time George Fox, returning from the West, where he had himself suffered a rigorous imprisonment, called on James Navlor in the Exeter prison and reproached him for his defection and excesses. On his release from imprisonment Naylor repaired to Bristol, where his followers formed a procession, and led him into that city in a manner which they intended to resemble the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem. His Quaker friends turned away from him disheartened, and the British authorities, displeased with such exhibitions of religious extravagance, brought him soon to trial, and he was declared guilty of blasphemy by Parliament, and sentenced to a double whipping at different times, branding, boring of the tongue with a hot iron, and imprisonment and hard labor during pleasure. This sentence, though illegal and barbarous, and as wide from the mark of good-sense as Naylor's own excesses, was fully inflicted upon the unhappy man, who, when the delirium of fanaticism was over, humbly acknowledged and lamented the delusion under which he had labored. He wrote while in prison at Bridewell to his friends, regretting his past conduct. After his confinement, which lasted for two years, he again held fellowship with the Quakers, and enjoyed their confidence and esteem. He died in 1660. The severe measures of Parliament against Naylor have been frequently condemned. It is urged by Nonconformists that the punishment was inflicted in order to prove a terror to all Quakers, who were greatly hated at that time in England. The probability is that Naylor was not in his right mind when he perpetrated those wild, fanatical excesses; at least so judges Southey, who says in The (Lond.) Quarterly Review (volume 10, page 107), "He (i.e., Naylor) recovered both from his madness and his sufferings, and his after- life was a reproach to those who, in the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their understandings, had treated insanity like guilt." Naylor's writings were collected into an octavo volume, and printed in 1716. Of his theological treatises, which bear dates from 1653 to 1656, some were in answer to others by Ellis Bradshaw, Enoch Hewitt, Richard Baxter, Thomas Moore, Jeremy Ives, Thomas Collier, etc. A relation of his Life, Conversion, Examination, Confession, and Sentence was published in 1657 (4to). A Memoir of his Life, Ministry, Trial, and Sufferings was brought out in 1719 (8vo); and more recently his Life has been published by the eminent Quaker apologist, Joseph Gurney Bevan. See Biog. Brit. s.v.; Sewel, Hist. of the Quakers; Watts, Biblioth. Brit. s.v.; Genesis Biog. Dict. s.v.; Neal, Hist. of the Puritans, volume 3 (Supplem.); Burton, Parliam. Diary, 1:46-173; Baxter, Ch. Hist. of England, page 611; and Whittier, in the Democratic Review, March 1846,

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