Roberts Liardon tells us that the magistrates were outraged and called for Nayler’s immediate arrest. Although they couldn’t make some of the charges stick, they did succeed in making him serve a short sentence. But the news of his flamboyance had reached Parliament, and they vowed to make a lesson of it to the public.
Nayler avoided the death penalty, but he was ordered to walk through the city being whipped as he walked for a total of two hundred and ten lashes. His tongue was to be bored through and he was to be branded on the forehead. If he survived the first set of tortures, it was to be repeated in the next city he came to. If he survived the treatment in both cities, he was to be placed into solitary confi nement where he would be subjected to hard labor until released by Parliament.
He survived. In spite of various petitions asking for his release, nothing turned the heads of Parliament until Nayler’s wife wrote a wrenching appeal. But then, they would only allow her to bring candles, fire, and food to the suffering Nayler.
The punishment not only attracted attention because of who the victim was, but also because it was brutally illegal. Quakers throughout the country were in a state of shock, and all eyes turned to Fox.
But Fox was unrelenting, making it clear that he disapproved of Nayler’s extravagance. Many Quakers blamed Fox, saying he was too hard on Nayler and that his intervention might have released the suffering comrade. However, Fox seemed to feel that Nayler had cast a dreadful shadow upon the entire Quaker movement, possibly placing its future growth in jeopardy, having slapped the face of God by his outrageous behavior.
Roberts Liardon tells us that Nayler remained alive in prison until the next Parliament came into session, when they granted his release. Still, it was another three months after his release before he and Fox finally reconciled.
Despite his humiliating injuries and the damage to his reputation, Nayler found the courage and strength to begin once again as a Quaker leader. This time he was marked for his renewed spiritual reverence and devotion, working throughout the countryside with a marked personal humility.
In the autumn of 1660, while walking home, Nayler was apparently mugged. He died from his wounds in the home of a nearby Quaker.
Although the torture of Nayler had been found illegal, Fox’s imprisonment continued, one year after another. Margaret Fell had also been jailed several times, along with her daughters. The stories of imprisonment seem endless, but instead of wearing down the growing Quakers, it only strengthened them more. Whenever a local crackdown occured, the Quakers immediately gathered together, whether it be in a house, a barn, a workshop, an orchard, or any open space. Fox continually called for the Quakers to meet persecution in the peaceful confidence that if they were faithful and persistent, the power of the Holy Spirit would break it.