James Parnell's Biography 

     James Parnell was born in 1636 at Retford, Nottinghamshire, in England. Parnell reports that at age 14, he was "as perfect in sin" as any in the town where he lived, and that he exceeded many in the wickedness of his life. Despite being a principal worker of evil in his community, when alone he would be reproved by a light; and this light drew him more and more away from sin and the world, until finally his heart was so changed that he was rejected by family and community. The priests hated him, for his fruits exposed their lack of the same. And his former friends and associates were so angry at his good behavior that they threatened to kill him. When James Parnell found that the priests were carnal, and, with the people who followed them, had only a form, while they denied the life and power of true religion, he separated from them, and sought a people with whom he might have unity.
     It seem probable, that it was in the year 1651, when he was about fourteen years of age, that he separated from the carnal professors, and sought a people with whom he might become united in religious fellowship; and he says, "there were people with whom I found union a few miles from the town where I lived; whom the Lord was gathering out of the dark world, to sit down together and wait upon his name." With these he bore "the reproach of Christ," and was willing for His sake, to be numbered among those, who were regarded as the off-scouring of the earth; but in their afflictions and persecutions for the Savior's sake, they rejoiced in remembering that it was written, that they who would live godly in Him, should suffer persecution; and considered it greater riches to be His people, and to suffer the hatred and contempt of all, than to enjoy "the pleasures of sin for a season; " and knowing that they were suffering for His sake, they felt their confidence fixed on Him alone, and in His strength were raised above all their trials. "About this time," says James Parnell, "I was about fifteen years of age; and afterwards I was called forth to visit some Friends in the north part of England, with whom I had union in spirit before I saw their faces." 

     Parnell heard about George Fox, the founder of the Children of the Light, (later derisively named Quakers). Fox was in jail at Carlisle. So James walked 150 miles to visit Fox in his cell. Although Parnell has been raised by God to a converted state of heart and mind, when Parnell met with Fox, he was helped by the godly elder Fox who had been preaching for seven years. The Lord soon made Parnell also a minister of Truth, the Word of Life, and he began traveling around his home area in the service of the Lord. He was very successful, turning hundreds, if not thousands, to Christ within. 

     Traveling south, he challenged the established sects in their meetings and this resulted in difficulty with the authorities. In the summer of 1655 he visited several towns in Essex, in one of which he was imprisoned for disturbing the peace among other charges. He was imprisoned at Colchester. 

     Although he was acquitted by a jury trial, he refused to pay a fine of 40L for contempt of court and contempt of the "ministry" imposed by the judge in anger at the jury's not guilty verdict. On the principle that he had done nothing wrong, and it would be a stain on the Truth to pay the fine, he was imprisoned.

     Here is George Fox's account of James Parnell's death from his Journal:

     While I was in prison at Carlisle, James Parnell, a little lad about sixteen years of age, came to see me, and he was convinced of the truth. The Lord quickly made him a powerful minister of the word of life, and many were turned to Christ by him, though he did not live long. For traveling into Essex in the work of the ministry, in the year 1655, he was committed to Colchester castle, where he endured very great hardships and sufferings; being put by the cruel jailer into a hole in the castle wall, called the oven. The wall was so high from the ground that he went up to it by a ladder, which being six feet too short, he was obliged to climb from the ladder to the hole by a rope that was fastened above. And when Friends would have given him a cord and a basket in which to have drawn up his food, the inhuman jailer would not allow it. The jailer forced him to go up and down by that short ladder and rope to get his food, (which for a long time he did), or else he might have famished in the hole. After some time his limbs were very numb from lying in that place. He was still required to go down to obtain food, and as he came up the ladder again with his food in one hand, and reached for the rope with the other, he missed the rope and fell down from a very great height on the stones. The fall so wounded in his head, arms, and body that he died in a short time after. When he was dead, the wicked professors (Baptist, Anglican, Calvinist Puritans [Congregationalists], and Presbyterian believers ),  to cover their cruelty, wrote a book  of him, and said, 'he fasted himself to death!' which was an abominable falsehood, and was shown to be so by another book, written in answer to that called, 'The Lamb's Defense against Lies.'

     He was buried in an unmarked grave on the Colchester Castle grounds. His wonderful words, with deep understanding of the Truth, live forever, and are an inspiration to us today - an inspiration to have Christ teach us, as he taught fourteen year old James Parnell.

Writings by James Parnell

A Trial Of Faith

CHRIST Exalted Into His THRONE and the SCRIPTURE Owned in its Place

Letters by James Parnell

Final Letters to the Faithful Written From Prison