“To God alone we cry and weep”
Quakers Katharine Evans (d. 1692) and Sarah Cheevers (d. 1694) were held by the Maltese Inquisition from 1558–1663. These excerpts are from A True Account of the Great Trials and Cruel Sufferings Undergone by Those Two Faithful Servants of God (1663), a collection of their papers and letters from prison compiled by Daniel Baker.
From their account of their imprisonment:
NOW IN SHORT TIME after we were taken Prisoners, we were stung with Flies called Muskatoes [mosquitos], in our faces and our heads, as we lay in our Beds, that were swollen as if we had the small-Pox, so that all people were afraid of us, save the English Consul; they thought we had been unclean persons, so that a Friar told Sarah he saw an evil Spirit in her face, which was a great trial … we were told, that they had seen them that did pray and preach every day, were burnt for Witches in a short time. … And glory be to our God, they cannot lay guilt to our charge, but are made to confess the Truth.
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From a letter to some friends:
Though we be the least of God’s Flock, yet we are of the true Fold, whereof Christ Jesus is shepherd; and he hath had as tender a care over us, as he hath had of any of his Lambs which he hath called forth in this the day of his Power; and hath carried us through, and over as great afflictions as most of our Brethren and sufferers for his Name, both in mockings, scoffings, scornings, reproaches, stripes, contradictions, perils at Land, and perils at Sea, fiery trials, cruel threatenings, grief of heart, sorrow of soul, heats and colds, fastings and watchings, fears within, and frightings without, terrible temptations and persecutions, and dreadful imprisonments and buffetings of Satan; yet in all these our trials the Lord was very gracious unto us, and not absent himself from us, neither suffered his faithfulness to fail us, but did bear us up … we sat one in one room, and the other in the another, near a year; as Owls in deserts, and as People forsaken in solitary places. …
And from another letter:
And we do believe, that neither principalities, nor powers, nor sufferings, nor imprisonment, nor persecution, nor life nor death, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour, Amen: Dearly beloved Friends, though our bodies are bolted up in the Rocks and Caves of the Earth, yet our spirits (you know) none can limit nor confine to any place.
This poem was written by Katharine:
My love to Truth doth me constrain
In Prison ever to remain;
If it in truth be so that I
Cannot be set at liberty.
My dear Redeemer’s face so bright,
Doth shine upon me day and night;
His Countenance doth exceed all
Captivity and Bondage thrall.
And this poem is by both:
In Prisons strong, and Dungeons deep,
To God alone we cry and weep:
Our sorrows none can learn nor read,
But those that in our path do tread.
But He whose Beauty shineth bright,
Who turneth darkness into Light,
Makes Cedars bow, and Oaks to bend
To him, that’s sent to the same end.
He is a Fountain pure and clear,
His Crystal Streams run far and near,
To cleanse all those that come to him,
For to be healed of their sin.
All them that patiently abide,
And never swerve nor go aside;
The Lord will free them out of all
Captivity, Bondage and Thrall.
—A True Account (1663); spelling modernized
This article is from Christian History magazine #123 Captive Faith. Read it in context here!
By Katharine Evans and Sarah Cheevers
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #123 in 2017]Katharine Evans and Sarah Cheevers were Quakers held in a Maltese prison.
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Captive faith: Recommended resources
Here are some recommendations from CH editorial staff and this issue’s authors to help you navigate the history of Christians in prison and Christians ministering to prisoners.the editors
“God is here, deliverance has come, and there is hope”
Reflections of two prisonersEric Dickerson and Matthew Harper
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