Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Index > An Account from the Children of Light
There is no kingdom nor people can truly be said4 to be the <275> Lord's and his Christ's, but as they5 come to be guided and governed by the law of his6 Spirit in their consciences, which Spirit and anointinga all must wait for, even from the king that sits on high7 to the least place of government in any people,8 that with it all may know judgmentb and to do justice, which is of God and not of men,9 that he may be known to be the anointing10 of kings, and to judge among the judges, whose right it is of old; and God hath given it to him11 by an everlasting generation,12 even after the power and order of an endless life, that in him and in his seed13 many14 nations and kingdoms15 be blessed with peace,16 even through and in17 his righteous government;c for God the Father accepts neither persons,18 laws, nor governments, how prudently soever they be made,19 if they be not in20 him, and21 from him, and for him;22 because for him was made all souls23 that move, not only in earth but in heaven also. All signs and seasons, types and shadows, worship and sabbath was made for him the son of man.d24 And no flesh breathing, nor spirits neither, men or angels hath any true power or right,25 but as they receive it in him, and so use it to him, and for him,e over any of these things visible or invisible, to rule, force, or order, no not over his own body, but by usurpation; and for the time that he or they shall hold that power, and not in him, as aforesaid, they shall be under the curse <276> of God, not established in peace and righteousness but in tyranny and oppression; with force or with flattery must such rule in their day, until their measure of time and sin be fulfilled, in which the vengeance of26 the Almighty shall remove them far away, only27 their names shall remain as a curse to those that come after. Thus28 God will plead the cause of his own seed, and overturn and shake nations and kingdoms, "until the29 earth know that the heavens must reign,"f30 and the stout of heart confess that "the head of every man is Christ," and that God hath made this "same Jesus" (which men hath rejected) "both Lord & Christ,"g which in his time he shall show to be "the31 only potentate, king of kings, and lord of lords, who only hath immortality dwelling in the light,"h where he sits at the right hand of power till God shall make all his foes his footstool.
Now this is that we wait for in every appearance and face of authority that comes up, to wit, the face of Jesus our righteous king and savior, in whom is no violence nor oppression, who when he comes to rule we know will be tender of the tender in conscience, and meek towards the poor in spirit, and "with righteousness will he judge"i and rule on the earth, to deliver the helpless from him that is too hard for him, who will drive wickedness from his throne, and the workers thereof into a corner, but will gently deal towards all that travails with righteousness and put the lambs of truth in his bosom,j for he "loves righteousness and hates iniquity";k therefore hath God called him "his anointed" <277> and will give him "the heathen for his possession,"32 and a priest to God he is to all generations; in his days shall the upright rejoice,l for he shall walk safely in his uprightness; no net shall then be spread on the mountains, neither shall he that turns from iniquity be made a prey, for under him shall everyone serve his God "without fear, in holiness of life,"m and godliness of conversation.
Now this is he we wait for, even the beloved of our souls, and we know his birth is come to the nationsn and his morning towards the people, yea to the wise in heart, who are yet afar off, hath his star appeared. And we know his breaking forth to these islands as the bright suno after the stormy rain, even so shall he be after the shakings; he shall be "a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,"p even so shall he be, who "shall reign in righteousness," and by whom "princes shall rule in judgment"; this is the royal seed, and he that is of him is the son of nobles; his princes eat in due season, for strength and not for drunkenness;q34 thus shall the land be blessed, who is found worthy to receive the anointed of God to rule in its borders.
And this is he whom we have preached to all the several governments that hath risen ever since God revealed him in us, and the glory and peace of his kingdom; and we have patiently waited, and in great sufferings hath our souls travailed, to see if by any means we might see any worthy35 to receive his anointing and to be born of his Spirit, to govern by his power, and with his counsel to order and be ordered, that through him they might be established of God; and we have looked through the veil of flesh in all sorts of people, and could not bow thereto, and by many contrary spirits have we been evil entreated because we could not own them for him36 whose kingdom we seek,37 in rulers, teachers and people.<278>
And thus have we gone seeking the righteous one, through parliaments and protectors (so-called), priests and rulers of all sorts; but his government we have not found, nor with his righteous judgments have we been judged among them, but we have been shamefully entreated for his sake and have borne his reproach,r because of his Spirit in us and his kingdom in our consciences; and many times have been tried38 to the loss of estates and39 lives, to see if they could provoke or drive us from his faith in our consciences, or tempt us any way to deny him and own them in their40 wills. And though we have daily41 suffered thus42 under every several power and people, yet have we not ceased to warn them in love, with much fear and plainness, that if by any means they might have received his testimony and not have perished in their gainsaying; for our God in whom we trusted showed it to us, that they should not prosper, nor be established without him, his Spirit and anointing, to whom he hath given the government of all people that shall be blessed by him, yea, "all the nations of them that are saved must walk in his light"s and receive his counsel for their stability, and his resurrection for their glory,43 and his anointing for the strength of their kingdoms.
And this is the cause why we have choosed rather to suffer under every power that yet hath risen44 than to join in with them, because we have not heard the voice of the holy one in the midst of them, neither hath his Spirit in them been the strength of their counsels,t but they have sought to make flesh their armu and to strengthen their kingdom with flattery and deceit and not with truth; and they have sought to make themselves dreadful by violence and to rule with cruelty, and not with the sword of God, which is judgment and justice; and have sought honor from men, and not from the Lord,v and their covering hath been vainglory, and not the Spirit of God.w So with the light of Christ we saw <279> their foundation and their building, and that they could not stand long in God's sight, and that all that joined to them must fall with them, and that the woes that are written of such must certainly overtake them.
And this is the cause, and no other thing, why we have hitherto borne our testimony against them all, even because they would not join to the Lord, nor hear his voice in their day, but the more he called after them by the mouth of his servants, the more they were hardened and the more provoked him to their own confusion; so it hath not been prejudice to any man's person that hath kept us at a distance from them or their commands, for we can truly say we have waited without prejudice, if by any means we could but45 have seen any of them seeking the kingdom of God, that therein they might have been established; yea we have the witness of truth in us to this day, how glad our souls have been before the Lord, when we have but felt the least tenderness in any of them, arising from the Spirit of Jesus, or the least confession from his light in them.
And sometimes we have felt some tenderness in some of them when they have been low, little, and in fear, in which we have had some hope and gladness to hear the voice of simplicity and truth (though but brokenly), so that we could then have said they was "not far from the kingdom of God." But turning away the ear from the Spirit of truth in them, and consulting with fleshly wisdom and carnal reason likely to make wise, and to accomplish their self-ends, how soon hath truth fallen in them, and blindness and hardness of heart come over them again worse than before, which being showed us of God, we could not but deny them also to be of God.
Thus in general, an account is given to you that asks a reason why we have not yet owned any power that yet hath risen, so as to join to them in all things. Now to you who desire to know in what particulars we have differed from these governments that yet hath risen since we was a people; we might say our lives, practices, and sufferings hath openly declared it, through the most parts of these nations, and in most and greatest of our differences. Yet for the better satisfying of some that <280> knows not so much as others, and to take away all occasion of offense from all that would not oppose the way of truth if they knew it, and to leave without excuse the willfully ignorant, and persecutors of the good old46 way of Christ, I shall instance in some things, and also show our warrant for so doing, both by Scripture and the practice of the holy men of God in their generation; it being that so many are yet ignorant and unbelieving concerning the present leadings of the Spirit of truth in them, which is chief leader and cornerstone in us, by which we walk towards God and towards men in all these things.x
And as to that first: though God hath laid it upon us as a matter of conscience to be subject to what outward government or governors soever he shall set up over us, in outward things; and also that with all willingness of mind a ready subjection be rendered at every just command, not for fear only, but even for conscience' sake; and that in all things we should seek the safety and honor and well-being of such governors, to the utmost of our power, even as we look to account to God for it, of whom the powers that be are ordained; yet hath he begotten us unto himself alone, and to the leadings of his own Spirit in all things concerning faith and worship, as to matter, manner, time and place. This is to be done and performed singly as to him, in the leadings of Jesus,y and in the power of his Spirit alone, else will he have no regard thereto. And for this purpose hath he given the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, to be our light and understanding47 and leader in all these things; to which leadings and movings the Father requires obedience in all things,z upon eternal condemnation in matters48 pertaining to our consciences; that must be the throne of Christ alone, and there will he sway the scepter of eternal life and answer his people in all things, and be their savior, guide, and lawgiver, in all things that are just and holy.
So that if at any time their teachers have left the way of life, <281> and would lead people after them, yet hath he through faith and a tender conscience preserved a seed out of error to himself in such a day, by which he hath reproved and made manifest the folly of such teachers. And to this the Scriptures do fully testify, as in the days of the prophets, when they erred in visionaa and had not the word in them, and so caused the people to err through their lies and through their lightness;bb then had he men of enlightened consciences to send to reprove their brutishness, though otherwise they themselves was neither prophets nor sons of prophets, but may be a herdsman or a gatherer of sycamore fruit,cc a plowman or a shepherd or some such, which England's pride would call mechanic fellows, yet in these was the49 seed preserved, else the land might have become as Sodomdd and not one have known the Lord nor his word. And as it was in the days of the false prophets, so hath it been since the days of the false ministry, for50 which many have suffered since the days of the apostles for testifying against such as have erred in spirit, form, and doctrine, from Christ Jesus and his apostles. And this hath been from the indwelling power of Christ in them, and his precious light shining in their hearts and consciences, that they have thus been preserved, and enabled to bear the testimony of Christ against false worships and worshippers; and so it is at this day in all who keep a pure conscience towards God in all his word and worship, that his true and spiritual worship might not be wholly lost out of the world.
Also if at any time their kings or rulers forgot God, or kings arose who knew not God and then would lay upon them laws and commands which was not just and lawful for them to do, then by the light of Christ in a pure conscience they was enabled to withstand it51 even unto death: as that of Mordecai and the Jews, who would rather all be destroyed than bow to Haman's pride at the king's command,ee though England's people would have said <282> this is but a civil thing, and duty, and good manners, and the like; yet God's law in their conscience they preferred above all that the king commanded contrary thereto; yea life and all would they lose rather than defile their conscience towards God, or deny his law there, though no law without had forbidden such a thing. Yet in other cases did they appear true and subject to the king, for Mordecai's truth saved the king's life not long before, though from man he had little reward for it.
Likewise might be instanced, that of Daniel's praying contrary to the decrees of the king, his council of presidents and princes,ff and that of the three children against the fierce command of Nebuchadnezzar, in denying to worship at his will and pleasure;gg likewise that of the apostles, when their rulers and priests also charged them straitly not to preach any more, their answer before authority was, "we ought to obey God rather than men";hh yea it would be too long to tell how many godly men and women, upon the account of a pure conscience, not only hazarded their lives, but lost life and all, for the testimony of a tender conscience, as might be instanced. But this may be said for all: that if they would but have denied the law of God in their conscience, and conformed to the wills of men and their laws, not one of all the prophets, apostles, or all the holy men of God need to have suffered death or spoil.
So now in that any of us by the same Spirit of Christ, and from his light and law in our consciences, are moved to go testify against false prophets, false worships, and declare the way of truth to all people against them to their face. And if rulers have been so opposite to this as to make laws against it and to command us to bow and worship at their wills, which for conscience sake towards God we could not, for which we have suffered the spoiling of goods, long and heavy imprisonments, shameful usings, and loss of lives also; I say, in this we have a "cloud of witnesses," even the Lord Jesus our captain and the whole body of martyrs, who have all gone before us in the self-same obedience of faith and Spirit, and have suffered the same or suchlike <283> things from rulers that knew not God, and teachers that knew not God, in their days, and all of them in their days was counted offenders, heretics, or despisers of authority, or some such reproach was cast upon them by their accusers and persecutors for obeying the law of their God in their consciences, whom the rulers of the darkness of this world have not known,ii nor can know, till they believe his light in their own consciences.
So it is not for new things nor strange opinions which was never in the world before, for which we suffer (though to the world they seem new and strange), but for the very same works of the same Spirit of light and truth, which hath often appeared in a poor contemptible people, and hath as often received the same measure from them who profess him in words but in works deny him; by such have we suffered, who read and52 preach the same in words which this eternal Spirit in us now worketh. And with such who with words "garnish the sepulchres" of those whom their fathers slew, are we counted great offenders for being found in the same way and practice, and in obedience to the same Spirit, in that measure as we have received it. So we have this added to the testimony of a good conscience towards God and towards men, that we suffer not for evildoing, though as evildoers (to wit) the practice of holy men and the Scriptures of truth which will own us herein and stand on our parts against all our adversaries and accusers. And this will be proved so when we come to particulars, wherein we differ from the ways and worships of these present times, and for which we are so much hated and persecuted.
And we know that it will not be found harmful to the bodies, estates, or well-being of any Christian neighborhood, nor of any other people in the nations, to practice those things wherein we differ, in civil and temporal things, nor hurtful to the souls of any, in the things wherein we differ in religious or spiritual matters from the several opinions and forms of worships that are or have been set up in these nations, as we shall make it plainly appear if either Spirit of truth, or Scripture of truth, or things <284> equal may but53 be received on our part. Now we shall mention some particulars in which we differ for conscience sake from some of the forms, traditions and commands of the men of this present age, and the powers that have ruled therein, under whom we have therefore suffered as evildoers.
And indeed it may be wondered at, by any moderate people, that in a nation called Christians any man should suffer, so much as to be called an offender, for some of the things which I must mention upon this account, especially they being laid upon us by the Spirit of Christ as matter of conscience, and by a people so highly pretending for liberty of conscience.
As it hath been laid upon us by the Spirit of Christ to use the same single language to all sorts of people, which the Scriptures uses, and all the holy men of God therein have ever used, that is to say "thou" to any one person, and "you" to more than one: a language sound and true to God and man, which the Spirit of God first spoke, and gave to man, and of man received it again without offense, and never since gave to man any other form of speech, as we may read in the Scriptures of truth. And in this we differ from some sorts of people, and for it have suffered as great offenders, and have undergone very grievous censures and long imprisonments,54 divers of us, though it hath been laid on our consciences from the Lord—yea, the Scriptures also commands the "form of sound words,"jj to be holden fast; now why those who profess the Scriptures for their rule should persecute us for using the language of it, may be thought strange to the hearers thereof; yet for this we suffer for a testimony against them.
Also it hath been laid upon us by the Lord to call men and women by their own names, which their fathers have given to them to be known by amongst men; and though in this we differ from some sorts of people, who can give flattering titles to some people instead of their names, and reproachfully miscall others <285> instead of their names, yet herein we are owned by the Scriptures of truth and the practice of all the holy men therein, who never refused their own names to take a proud title, but owned their names that God had given them. And saith the Scriptures, "let me not give flattering titles to man, for in so doing my maker would soon take me away."kk "And if you respect persons, you commit sin and are convinced of the law as evildoers;"ll yet for this we have suffered also by this generation as evildoers and contemners of authority, though we know that to call a man by his name contemns not his authority, nor do we it for that end, but in obedience to truth, and for conscience towards God.
Also that about our hats putting off, which hath been so great an offense to many: this also hath been laid upon our consciences by the Lord, and we dare not disobey him therein to please men, though sometimes it hath been said to us55 that if we would but put off our hats, we should not go to prison; others have said, when we came before them for judgment and justice, "you shall have no justice unless you put off your hats"; yea some have hazarded their lives hereon, yet durst not disobey God herein, though they have suffered long therefor and lost their rights for want of justice; yet we have not dared to disobey our God herein but have valued our peace with him and a pure conscience above all sufferings and profits herein. Now this is beyond all the persecutors of old, that men should suffer for their hats; yea, even Nebuchadnezzar in his greatest heat of persecution, he made not that an offense, to keep on their hats, more than their other garments, but with their hats on as well as hose and shoes,56 they was bound and cast into the fire;mm nor do we find in all the Scriptures precept or practice of that thing, yet for this we have deeply suffered in divers parts of this nation. Thus would people and powers drive us from the obedience of our God, in a pure conscience, and instead thereof cause us to worship57 a vain custom, for which we have no warrant, neither in Scripture, nor <286> good example; but saith the Lord, "Ye shall keep mine ordinances, but the customs of the people are vain and abominable; you shall not defile yourselves therewith."nn So we obey God rather than men, and by men who professes God, suffer for so doing.
This also hath been commanded us of the Lord, and laid upon our consciences, not to "swear at all,"oo upon any occasion whatsoever, and because of this we have forborne to swear, when men have called us thereto, whether to swear at any change of government or whatever it hath been; we may not swear at all. And for this we have deeply suffered also as contemners of the law, though we have not despised government but have consented to what just thing was required of us, in truth of heart, without swearing; and for this we have the express command of Christ Jesus who hath said, "Swear not at all."pp And his apostles58 said, "Above all things, my brethren, swear not, lest you fall into condemnation."qq And we have also the practice of all the followers of Christ, who was never known to use an oath since;59 for to such as receive Christ there is the end of swearing; and divers other things which before Christ came to end them was ordinances of God, but Christ the covenant everlasting hath ended all swearings of men whatsoever, and forbidden they are in his name upon pain of condemnation. Further, in the time of Moses, when swearing was in the Jews'60 church, it was not to be forced upon them by any penalty,61 but they might swear or not swear,62 without any carnal punishment,63 nor was it required of witnesses to swear at all,64 betwixt a man and his neighbor. Two witnesses was to establish the matter before the judge; but I never read of those two required to swear; that was as to a man's own particular, only in this case,65 when a man had taken a pledge and it was stolen from him, then an oath was to be taken of that man in his own behalf, <287> that he put not his hand to the stealing of it, and then he was not to repay it again, but if he would repay it he needed not swear, so he was not forced. And except in this case only,66 I find not an oath required by any judge in Moses' law. So these who make us offenders for denying to swear are out of all the way of God in Moses' time; and in Christ's time swearing is expressly forbidden at all, even this in Moses' time.67 For saith Christ, "It hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thy oaths." So here was Moses' time, and swearing to the Lord, commanded in truth; and this said Moses.68 But (saith Christ) "I say,69 Swear not at all,"rr and this70 is greater than Moses, whose time is without end.
Further, as to the administration of the laws of these nations in these late years, there we have seen many things which in our71 conscience we cannot join to, being shown to us to be out of truth and equity, and not helps but burdens to the nations. Now as to ourselves, so many as walk in Christ Jesus, we have one judge and lawgiver appointed to us for that end by the Father. And we may not go to law one with another, as men being come to Christ Jesus, the end of lust, pride, and strife, which we have found to be the cause of fightings and suits at law, and if anything of that nature would arise in any of us, by our judge and lawgiver it is judged, and we are saved. And it is laid upon us by the same Spirit of Christ72 not to sue any man at the law,ss nor73 to seek to avenge ourselves of such as seek to wrong us, but to love our enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use us and hate74 us; and so from all men75 to suffer for peace sake, for to peace we are <288> called, towards all men, and under the prince of peace is our government, so that we need not men to end controversies amongst us,76 who are all in unity of spirit and life, in Christ Jesus.
But when men hale us before judgment seats, or cause us to appear at their courts of law, then we meet with many things among them there which for conscience sake we cannot bow to nor uphold, finding them not only against the rule of Christians, but out of the way of common honesty as men, yea many things against truth itself; and this we cannot serve, as77 law, which is against truth.
As when they send a writ to appear at their courts in a man's own proper person, and in obedience thereto we have come (may be) two hundred miles or above, and tendered our appearance accordingly, at the very day appointed, then they have with violence and reproach thrust us out of their courts, because we did appear in our own persons, and not in another man's person, whom we have not known, and for this have we suffered much damage & long imprisonment, as contemners of authority and law. Now this we cannot join to in our hearts, nor78 own as honesty and truth and plain dealing as men, to let go all talk of Christians; the heathen would not do this to us.
Also, when our adversary puts up a bill of charge against us, drawn up in a form without truth, fill'd with false accusations, as though our offense amounted to hundreds or thousands of pounds wrong, or damage, when with the truth of Christ in our conscience we know that we have never wronged that man one penny in our lives, but that it is the enemy of truth and peace, even that old accuser of the brethren, which now works in that creature to spoil our goods or take our lives or liberties from us. Then we are not suffered to return an answer in the fear of our God, and in plainness and truth of expressions, as the Spirit of truth shall move in the simplicity of our hearts, and so with the Spirit of truth to deny the lies and false accusations of the adversary. But we must be forced to give unreasonable sums of money to another man, whom we know not, nor knows he our state and case in this matter,79 to <289> answer in our stead, who for aught we know may instead of sharply80 reproving those abominable lies, justify81 them, at least as a legal thing, or82 form at law, fit to be used.tt83 And thus our testimony against falsehood is taken from us,84 which the Spirit of truth requires of us, and we85 pay money to have it justified as a form at law, when we know it to be a form of lies.uu And we cannot leave the truth to serve this deceit;vv beside, were the truth no dearer to us but that we could thus86 give it up to be betrayed knowingly,87 yet it seems to us unreasonable, as men, to give our cause into the hands of him that knows it not, further than we must88 inform him, nor when we have informed him,89 have no assurance whether he will speak our words or his own, or our adversaries',90 and so bring us under the guilt of the whole body of91 falsehood. This appears to us very unreasonable, and dangerous, and below the privilege of a man, as a man, much more as a Christian,ww so we rather choose to suffer innocently under falsehood,92 keeping our consciences clear, than consent thereto, and so establish mischief under pretense of a law (Ps. 94:20) and deny our testimony for the truth, to which we are called, and for which we suffer in all these things.
Also, if any of us be sued at the exchequer or chancery, and appear and take a copy of the bill, and go to the judges with a true answer thereto, they will refuse it, because we cannot swear, though they will show us no written law for so doing, but tell us it's a custom, and this custom is preferred above his law who saith, "swear not at all"; and for this have many been imprisoned, it being put upon us either to deny their custom, or <290> Christ's command, so we choose to suffer by men, for a season, rather than defile our consciences.
If we be summon'd to do service for the country on a jury and be willing to do the service faithfully as to God and man, yet because we cannot swear, many are fined, imprisoned, and their goods spoiled, and reputed unserviceable in the nation, when we would freely serve the country, so as we might not therein deny Christ, our savior.
If one of us be summon'd to appear at a court for a witness, that would testify the truth before God from a good conscience and in the fear of God, and according to his law, viz., in all things, that if we should wrong any man whatsoever through our false testimony, that it's just the same should be done to us,xx yet because we cannot swear (be the action never so great), our true testimony is refused, and we thrust away without judgment & threaten'd to cause us to pay what they say the party is damnified for our not swearing, and all this we must suffer for obeying Christ's commands.
If one of us should buy a piece of land, or have some fallen to him by inheritance, and come to the court baron to take it up, they will not let him take it except he swear and so break Christ's sayings; or if a man purchase or have an inheritance within a customary court, it's the same, and they will turn us93 without it if we will not swear contrary to Christ's commands. And thus is the evil custom of a court preferred before Christ's commands, a good conscience, and a family's whole estate and livelihood.
If a man bind an apprentice in this city of London, and give a great sum of money with him, and the prentice serves his time honestly and truly and have his master's testimony thereto, yet is he denied his freedom if he cannot swear for conscience sake, and so must lose money and service if he be faithful to Christ.
If one of us should die intestate, they will not suffer our own wife or children to administer on our own goods, unless they will swear against their conscience and the law of Christ; or if <291> we make a will, and make wife or children executor, they are denied to prove the will, whereby they are to enjoy their estates, but by breaking that command of Christ in swearing.
Likewise, when some of us have been arrested to appear at such a court such a day, and have simply given bond to appear; and when the appearance hath been made at the day expressed by the party so bound, neither the appearance would be taken, nor the bond delivered, but a further snare, because another man appears not for us whom we never knew, nor had aught to do withal.
Also about marriage, which we know to be an ordinance of God from the beginning, and being ordered in the counsel of God and the bed not defiled is honorable, "but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." So as any are moved of the Lord into that state, we say the counsel of the Lord is first and chiefly to be minded, and the thing weighed in his fear, that it be done only in the Lord,yy that it be not taken on lightly, rashly, nor by any fleshly motion,94 nor95 for any earthly ends, but in the moving & ordering of the Almighty Creator of man and woman, who only knows their spirits, so to join them as they may be one in flesh and spirit, that he may seek a godly seed to himself,zz96 and they97 may lead a godly and peaceable life; & only thus is it98 God's ordinance as God puts together; and99 saith Christ, let not man put such asunder;aaa and this we say is the chief thing to be observed, viz., that God join them. And next100 that notice be given to the parents or such as have the oversight of each party, that (as much as may be) all may be done in love and unity in the will of God openly. And this we have101 from God in Spirit, and this we find in Scripture to be the ordinance of God to his saints of old, and their liberty in the Lord, which God never altered, which we keep for conscience <292> sake, and may not break. And lest any licentious persons should abuse this liberty to satisfy their lusts, and then not live as man and wife during their lives, and the magistrates not know of them, and so they escape the sword of justice, we have freedom in our spirits to acquaint some of the next magistrates with our intents, and hereby confess ourselves liable to the just censure of the magistrate, with others, in case of misdemeanor; and all this we have done ere coming together as man and wife, which is as much as the ordinance of God, or any reason can justly require, yet have some of us suffered in this case by the changeable laws of men, who some of them have sought to impose one sort of priests on us as an ordinance, others justices as an ordinance, and others another sort of priests again; so for denying these uncertain rules of men, and keeping the ordinance of God that was in the beginning,bbb we suffer by all of them as evildoers, yet have they not one charge against any of us who have been joined according102 to this ordinance of God, as to breach of marriage, or misdemeanor therein: for we hate putting away, and come to that which was in the beginning.ccc
These with many other things there be, as touching the outward laws, whereby both our lives, liberties and estates become a daily prey to merciless men, from which hath been manifest such imprisoning till death, such persecution and spoil of goods, as many generations to come may admire to read of, though in this generation it's little regarded or minded, unless it be by some few whose hearts God hath tendered, that have not been so cruel in their places as others.
Now let none say that because we cannot bow to such unrighteous dealings of corrupt men, or their corrupt customs or corrupt laws, that therefore we are a people that would have no law nor magistracy at all, as some have falsely accused us: for of this we are clear before the Lord our God, whatever men may accuse us herein, for the law of God we own in our conscience, even "the law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus" our Lord and lawgiver, by which we are taught to keep our consciences void of <293> offense towards God and towards men, by which we are freed from under the power of the "law of sin and death."ddd And by this law of God in our consciences are we also taught to be subject to every power our103 God shall set up over us, by which teaching we know that the powers that be are ordained of God. And by the same law of God in our hearts and consciences by which we are made to suffer, rather than to obey that which is unjust, by the same law and upon the same penalty are we made to be subject and obey every just and wholesome law of man, for conscience sake. Therefore, as the ordinance of God, we obey and own authority in the nation; and the ruler of the people as the minister of God for good to such as do well, but a terror to every evildoereee without respect of persons; so we being guided by the pure law of God in our consciences are subject "not for wrath, but for conscience sake"; for he is not a terror to them that do well and obey God in their consciences. But if any do evil, let such fear, "for he is the minister of God, and bears not the sword in vain." And for this cause we pay tribute to whom it belongs, and fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor; and from this we exempt not ourselves more than other people in the same nation, but desire rather to be examples to others with all diligence, not speaking evil of governments as many do which will flatter to their faces, but seeking to our God for what authority he shall ordain, that under them we may be godly and quietly governed, without respect of persons.
Therefore we might say, as to all the several rulers that hath arisen in these years since we were a people in God's light, which of them have we reviled or sought to supplant? or what just law, old or new (which hath been just, and104 according to Scriptures or a good conscience) have we denied or transgressed? though from the evil and abuse of all, God hath by his eternal light, and the power of his Spirit, preserved us to this day, glory to our God forevermore. So our consciences are clear towards them that are fallen as to that thing, by whom we so much suffered in their day.<294>
And now in God's dread and fear we are, and in his pure counsel alone we desire to be found towards you that are now come up into the seat of government, that if by any means we might not be any occasion of offense, or hardening of your hearts, by our disobedience or denying any of your laws which are just, wholesome and good, and according to God's truth in Scriptures; nor that on the contrary we might provoke our pure-eyed and zealous God and Father to displeasure against us, by yielding to anything whatsoever, or obeying what is any way against his Spirit in our hearts or the light of Christ in our consciences. And this at present is our strait way, set before us to walk in towards God and towards man, and therefore the desire and travail of our souls is great at this day, that you might be one with God in your laws and commands, that so under you we might be godly and quietly governed, within and without. But if yet it must be so, that your distance be so great that with one heart we cannot obey you both, then whether it is better to obey God or men, (with the light of God in your own consciences) judge you;fff therefore if we can but keep peace with the one of you,105 we choose to keep our everlasting peace with God, and that saving faith that's held in a pure conscience.ggg And our prayers to the father of lights is for our106 whole body of Christ's church, and every member thereof, that our hearts may be kept single to him alone, whatever we suffer from men for so doing.
Though in ourselves we make no such distinction,107 in being that our consciences are to be exercised in the light and Spirit of Christ in all we do towards God and towards man, and every particular action towards men, God requires that it be done as to him and to his glory, and not in our own wills nor in men's wills, nor after their wills, manners, and customs, and commands, but in <295> the will of God alone, revealed in Christ Jesus in Spirit and in his motion and leadings, which if we miss in, and serve either men or ourselves therein, and not God, we are accountable to him as though we had erred in that which the world calls religion; therefore, whatever we do to God in Christ, to us is his service and pure religion, and undefiled before God, if we keep but our conscience unspotted from the world; though it be but in visiting a fatherless child or a widow in their affliction,hhh or any other thing which the Spirit of truth, justice and mercy leads us to and requires of us.
But as the worship of God itself hath relation to him alone, who is a Spirit and will be worshipped in Spirit and in truth,iii betwixt him and every particular creature only known, in matter, measure and manner, time and place. And knowing that the only wise God, who gives the kingdoms of the earth to whom he will;jjj yea, and may set over them the basest of men as well as the most virtuous, without control, if he please so108 to deal in judgment towards any nation, yet this hath he reserved as an eternal scepter in the hand of Jesus our Lord, and by an everlasting covenant hath he sworn once for all, concerning him, "Thou art a king forever, over the holy people,"kkk109 and his throne is established in their consciences by a perpetual decree, to all generations; therefore was it never known that ever he trusted or titled any earthly prince with Lord over the faith and consciences of his own people. This was ever the Son's prerogative above the kings of the earth, and he alone is to be judge and lawgiver,lll and corrector and leader, in that invisible spiritual work of worship towards God, for he only knows the way, and "none comes to the Father but by him."
It's true, the pope hath taken upon himself such authority <296> under pretense of the apostles, even over the faith and consciences of people, and with it hath shed much innocent blood, which lies upon his seat and his line till God come to enquire for it, and for that end hath set up inquisitions, &c. And others after and from that have erected courts and synods with their fines, and prisons, and tortures, to force the faith and consciences of people, and they pretend the apostles also, for this work. But this we know, that the apostles was no such men, nor used any such weapons, but deny them therein both the pope and they that are risen since. And expressly deny to be lords over God's heritage or over their faith, neither did they preach themselves lords and masters, but Christ Jesus alone the Lord and themselves servants for Jesus' sake,mmm as both their own words & practice doth testify; for saith Paul, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith."nnn And saith Peter, "Not for filthy lucre, neither as being lords over God's heritage, but as examples to the flock."ooo
So we know that from Peter they had it not, nor from Paul, nor from any of the true ministers of Christ, for their weapons was not carnal but spiritual, nor did they wrestle with flesh,110 but with spirit;ppp so all they can get from the apostles, either in word or practice, is this: that if they be troubled with errors or profaneness in their churches, then if they have the Spirit and power of the Lord Jesus, then to deliver such a one up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the soul may be saved and body also111 in the day of the Lord.qqq And this is not to jails, or gallows, or inquisitions, or tortures, or fires; now, had they this Spirit and power, they would know that which would convert in deed and truth, and not make hypocrites or else kill them, but the false church having not these weapons, nor this Spirit and power, is builded with oppression and upholden with blood.rrr And in her are found the blood of all the holy martyrs of Jesus, as saith the Scriptures; yea, even now is she drunk with blood (Rev. 18:24; 17:6).
So now, this is the thing we say as to the worship of our <297> God, and to the order of it: in all things it belongs to Christ Jesus our Lord,sss and to him as sole king & Lord thereof we commit ourselves, even the whole man, soul and body, as to all things of that nature. And though there may arise power after power, and seek to stop us of this liberty and freedom, by acting force and violence upon our outward man, yet are we free by birth in Christ Jesus, and our inward man they cannot bind; nor can we ever, while we abide in that seed, give up the right of Christ unto any of them; but this we testify in all we do or suffer, that the right is Christ's over our consciences, and over our worships, and to him alone we confess before men;ttt and he hath the name in us. And though for a time or times we yet suffer, yet we know the end must come, and the Lamb must take the kingdom,uuu and we know him that is true and faithful, whom the Father hath sealedvvv and anointed to be "head of the church which is his body,"www and to him must the nations account. And therefore we say to all the several powers that comes upon us, we may not deny the Lord in our consciences, to bow to or worship in what men shall set up or command; but he that saves us daily112 from our sins,xxx he shall lead us in our worship, and to him we must give the obedience of faith, who gives us faith and power by his Spirit to obey, and who hath wrought all our works in us and for us,yyy and by whose virtue it is we live and bring forth to the praise of God, and we are not our own, nor servants of men, but we are bought with a price,zzz that we may serve him forever, by whom we are redeemed and by whom all men without respect of persons must eternally be judged, or justified.
Therefore we say, this is a privilege that no man should be hindered of, to wit, the liberty of his conscience towards his God, but that a universal liberty for all sorts of people to worship God, according as Christ shall open men's eyes to see the truth, and as he shall persuade their hearts by his Spirit; seeing no man without Christ can do anything in this case, acceptable to <298> God; neither can one man worship in the measure of another, but in his own measure, as he receives of God in Christ Jesus, faith and strength and Spirit; for it must be in Spirit, and of faith, else it is sin in God's sight,aaaa whatever men think thereof.
And this is just and equal in the sight of God and all reasonable men, and that which I know no understanding man or woman would be limited in, seeing all have immortal souls from God and to him alone must account for them and not to men; that so every soul may stand and fall to his own master in this case,bbbb seeing none can save his brother when he hath misled him, nor account to God for him; therefore he is no wise man (in our eyes)113 who will leave the light of Christ that once knows it, to follow another man's opinion. And seeing every man would have this liberty for himself, why should he go about to deny it to his brother? how is that just or equal amongst men? And how doth it answer the law of Christ as Christians, who hath commanded that "all things whatsoever you would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets."cccc Now if you be not come so far in equity as to answer the law and the prophets, how will you answer Christ, you that profess him in words?
And were it not that nations and men were drunk and bewitched with the fornication of that scarlet-colored whore, they would foresee the danger of taking that upon them which belongs to Christ alone, it being so many have been broken on the same rock, and reason itself might show them how safe it is not to be too forward in things of that nature, which God hath not called them to. And also it being so much contrary to that just principle in man which would lead every man to do to another as he would be done unto, and would teach every man that he ought to give up himself to his God in all spiritual matters; and that so he should suffer every other creature also; and seeing that there is no infallibility amongst men without the immediate manifestation of Christ Jesus his light and Spirit in them,dddd but that since men <299> took that upon them, even to sit as lords and judges over faith and conscience, the Lord hath scattered them in this thing and confounded them into so many minds and judgments that he that is subject to follow every change in these latter days shall scarcely abide in one opinion a year to an end; which things duly weighed might stay the haste of every reasonable man from forcing that upon the conscience of another, which himself is not infallible in, and for which he must account to God for all souls that err through him, and so perish, in gainsaying God's witness.
And this would be wisdom, with God,114 first to search in themselves whether they have that call from God himself to force any, or they do it to answer the desires of others or to hold up a tradition, and so might they come to see what they serves, and whether it will bear persecution or bloodshedding at the day of judgment. And prove whether you have that which is infallible to force them to, or it be but thought and opinion of yourselves or others, seeing it's so common a thing for rulers and teachers to join in forcing people that are under them to err, and for which so many have been confounded and cast out, and so that all might come to prove their work and bring it to the light, to see whether it be wrought in Godeeee and if he will own it with his light which is pure in their conscience, which is an equal rule, and try what power and Spirit it is that God hath made Lord & king, and lawgiver and leader in all his worship; and if they have not this, then it is the old persecutor and murderer which uses to set people on fire that know not God in Spirit. And if you have that Spirit which God hath given the power to in his church, then it's gentle, drawing and powerful, without forcible imposing or killing, nor doth he ever compel against faith and conscience.
Now115 there be many particular things as to God's worship and things thereto pertaining,116 which the men of this age would impose upon us, yea, and force them upon great penalties, which <300> the Spirit of Christ doth not lay upon us as matters of faith or practice, nor ever did ordain them in any age, nor command them to be observed in his church, as men now impose them, but the contrary we find from the Spirit of Christ, both in the oldness of117 letter, and in newness of life.ffff118 So these things we cannot bow to nor worship in, for conscience sake: conscience towards God, conscience towards the holy men of God in the holy life, and conscience towards the Scripture of truth; for of all these we make conscience, in their time and place, in which God the Father of all hath brought them forth to serve him.
As men would impose upon our consciences to come once a week to such a great house in their parish, which they call a parish church, and there we must observe what one man shall read, preach or pray, for two or three hours that day, by a usual form, and this man will have a clerk, and he shall say "Amen" at the end of such a sentence, or part of his prayer or speech, and to this church and to this worship119 must we be bound while we dwell in that parish. And either the tithes of all we have, or so much a year set maintenance must be paid to the man calling himself a minister of Christ; and so much a year to his clerk for saying "Amen" after him, in money and eggs, and the like;120 and if this we do constantly we may live peaceably by them, and go under the name of a good Christian and a religious man, but if we fail in any of this, but especially in that of tithes or wages, then they call us heretics and complain of us to the magistrate, or sue us at law, till they have cast our bodies into prisons and taken the spoil of our goods. Now God having revealed his true worship to us in the light of Christ, which is in Spirit and truth, and called us out of such carnal things for which there is no Scripture, we cannot for conscience sake worship any more therein.
Now, neither by the Spirit of Christ in us, nor by letter of121 <301> Scriptures without us, nor by the example of all the holy men of God that have walked before us, can we for conscience sake own nor uphold that for the true and spiritual worship of God in Spirit and truth, neither to repair their122 house, maintain their priest, nor his123 clerk, as they would impose upon us.
Now some have said, "What? would you have no church, minister, preaching, praying, nor none of this worship, nor maintenance, &c. What would you have?"
We say yes, we own a church, ministering, preaching, praying, and the maintenance that thereto belongs, but we would have them to be of God and after his will in Christ Jesus, and not after the will and traditions of men, contrary both to God, good men and the Scriptures of truth. For we read of a church of Christ in Scriptures, but it was "in God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ."gggg And we read of a ministry of Christ in Scripture, "made not of man, neither by man, but by the revelation of the Son of God in them." And the gospel or ministry that they preached was not "after man, nor received of man, neither was they taught it but by revelation of Jesus Christ."hhhh And we read of a maintenance they had, which was to live of the gospel;iiii and the spirituals which they sowed freely without money or money-worth brought them forth fruits freely, both in spiritual things and worship towards God, and in carnal things towards their outward wants, and as they planted, so they eat. And where the plant grew and the soul prospered till it could bring forth fruit freely, there they need not to sue them and to take it by spoil, but of the world they looked for naught but persecution, nor ever coveted or compelled any such thing from any creature, no not where they had sown and planted, unless it grew in Spirit and life to God; they looked not to reap anything but loss if that which they had sown withered in the way; therefore did they watch for the soul and not for tithes, pigs, and eggs and geese and sheaves, &c., but that the soul prospered towards God, that was their <302> prize. And to make the gospel without charge, that was their reward, if they did it freely and willingly, but if not willingly then124 a necessity was laid upon them, and woe was their portion.jjjj125
And these went on and prospered, gathering churches out of the world into God, from place to place, even where they was not sent for;126 they went freely as they was moved of the holy Spirit. And if any where they came was found worthy to receive them, with them they might eat freely what was set before them, where the Spirit was free, but they did not seat themselves in a town, or say this is my parish, and this is my hire, so much a year, but wandered to and fro having no certain dwelling place, nor was their bellies any part of the bargain, as to coming, preaching, staying or going, as to any place.
And when they had gathered a church into the Spirit and life of Christ Jesus which brought them to meet together, then they did not lord it over them in faith or conscience, neither was they called their masters, but still "servants for Christ's sake;"kkkk nor did they get a glass and set up, and if any spoke in their time while they was speaking,127 say they broke their peace and send them to prison, but said "all might prophesy, that all might be edified"; and it was joy to them to hear any to speak by the Spirit, either son or daughter, and some might speak and some might judge of what was spoken. And if anything was revealed to him that stood by, the first was to hold his peace; and "the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets."llll Now this church and its order we own wherever we find it to be after God and in him; but when we meet with a company of people that denies all this, and if any be moved in the Spirit either to speak while they are speaking or judge what they have spoken, then the teacher cries away to prison with him, and the people runs upon us all a-heaps, <303> ready to pull us to pieces; this we own not, nor doth Christ nor the Scriptures own it to be his church. This is not the spirit of the prophets, nor subject to the prophets, but the rude spirit which tumulted upon the apostles and prophets of old.
So here is somewhat declared of the ministry we own and his maintenance,128 but of such a thing as a clerk129 we read not in Scriptures, neither name nor office. And now let none think it strange or an error in us, to compare & weigh and try and prove things, for we are Christians & have received the Spirit that is of God, that we may know the things that are given to us of Godmmmm from things that are of the world. And we may not receive everyone for a minister of Christ who tells us he is, nor that for a church that everyone calls a church, nor that for worship which everyone would impose upon us; for things had need of trying, and spirits also,nnnn and we "hold fast that which is good."oooo It's true in the world there be many churches and many heads, gods many, and lords many, many faiths and many opinions; but in Christ Jesus we are called to unity in all these things, so that we say with the churches of Christ in Scripture, to us there is "one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in us all."pppp And this one God in us is a Spirit and will be worshipped in Spirit & in truth, so of us he requires truth, and that we worship no other things nor bow to them; though all men have not this faith but can follow anything in their worship which is the fashion of the nation where they live; but this we are called out of and into that one worship we are come which is in Spirit and truth, for in that is the Father worshipped, and God hath sought us out of the many worships that are in the world, in Spirit to worship him; and Christ saith, these are the true worshippers that so worship, and into this hath Christ led us, and in it he owns us in his Spirit, and the Father owns us, and testifies to us in every enlightened conscience, and in this we are come to the spirits of just men, and they own us. And the letter of130 Scriptures it131 <304> owns us also, and in this we have peace, though persecuted.
But in all these, we read not in all the gospel worship of any temple made with hands to bind men to, nor parish churches, nor preaching by the hour, nor for so much a year, nor that ever minister of Christ took tithes, nor their hearers gave them, but confessed Christ come, and a free gospel, and said both the priesthood that took tithes132 and the law133 by which they received them was disannulled by the sufferings of Christ;qqqq nor do we read of sprinkling infants and calling that baptizing them into the church, nor do we read of their singing David's words in a meter, nor praying in a form, nor a clerk to lead the psalm and say "Amen." And much more we might mention which was never used so in the true church but is come to a form since popery came up, & the Scripture bears no testimony thereto, as now these things are used, and all that can be truly said for them is long custom, but from plain Scriptures they cannot prove them.
Indeed we read in the Scriptures of truth of the gospel preaching, but it was not limited to one house, nor by a glass, but from house to house and city to city, and that by the Spirit, and their worship was in Spirit, they prayed with the Spirit, and they sung with the Spirit, and he that had a psalm sung it with the Spirit and with understanding also. And they worshipped and preached in fields and mountains and streets, & schools and markets, and they prayed by seashores, or in any place where God moved and led them by the Spirit of Jesus. And all this we own which the Scriptures testifies to, in our measure;134 and this is that we would have all brought to trial, and that worship owned which Christ and the Scriptures owns, and none forced against it by any means whatsoever, which is come up since the Scriptures was written and the apostles' times.
And this motion is not unreasonable, hurtful or dangerous to any, especially (we may say) in this nation: how can it be denied, wherein all other forms in words profess the Scriptures to be a rule for all to walk by? And to you all this is our motion, <305> that the Scriptures may be heard what it saith without wresting, and what sort of worship it testifies of, let that have the name to be of God, and then let none be forced from it; and if you deny to be tried in your faith and profession by that you have so long called your rule and touchstone, and then reproach and persecute them that walk in it, will not your own words judge you before men? and shall not you walk under condemnation from God in your own consciences? And thus in short have we showed our desires, and what we would have in this thing, which might free every tender conscience from oppression, and the magistrates of the nations from the guilt thereof before God.
Will you call yourselves Christian magistrates and Christian ministers, and set yourselves against what Christ hath wrought by the power of his Spirit and is now working? and think you are doing him service when you are grieving his Spirit and persecuting him in his members for doing that to which he immediately leads them now, as in the days of old? Is not this in effect to say, depart from our nations, we will have none of thy ways, nor shall any under our government, or that will follow our teachings, obey thy spirit if we can stop them by our power? Is not this to withstand his appearance and resist the power that you profess to rule for?
Do you not read in the Acts of the Apostles135 what labor and suffering they underwent to bring people out of carnal rudiments and ordinances of men, and to bring them to the worship in Spirit and truth alone, both as to time, place, and order? how did they run in hazard of their lives into temples, synagogues, and set places of worship, to bring them out of temples made with hands, to worship where the Spirit should lead them without respect of places; that so the words of the Lord Jesus might be fulfilled, who had said, "Not in the temple, nor in the mountain, but in Spirit and in truth should the Father be worshipped";rrrr and did not Stephen lose his life for telling them that "God that made the world dwelt not in temples made with hands"?ssss and Paul suffered <306> for the same testimony, and they told them the most high God could not be worshipped with men's hands, nor carnal things, but "in Spirit and in truth." And how often was they tumulted and beaten, and their blood shed for this testimony against the beggarly rudiments & carnal ordinances of men, both of Jews, who had their ordinances from the letter, and also the Gentiles who followed their customs, that out of all carnal things they might bring them, to follow God in Spirit, and therein alone to serve him.
And while you profess all this in words, will you be the men that will deny the very same in works, and shall you be guiltless? Shall not both Jews and Gentiles rise in judgment against you and condemn you, who acts against knowledge, Scriptures, and your own profession? And is it not so with you136 rulers and teachers of this generation? what force and cruelty hath been used to bring people back to your idol temples made with hands, there to worship and nowhere else, and to repair them, and to bow to the customs of men there set up, for which there is neither Scriptures nor example; even too many to mention: what imprisoning and tormenting of the spiritual worshippers of the living God hath there been in these last days for these things? What sufferings have some gone through but for testifying against these traditions carnal, & saying the church must be in God, and that everyone must come to be led by the Spirit alone in all their whole worships, and so give the kingdom & leading of his people to the leading of Christ that137 Spirit again, in all things pertaining to worship, life and godliness; hath not this been a dangerous thing in this age to bear this record of God in Christ, or so to become his witness? How many have lost their liberties, their estates, and some their lives for this testimony in word and practice, which reconciles to God in all his whole worship? and yet the same is read and preached every first day among them that do this to such as live the life thereof for Jesus sake; these are not the works of Christians indeed, in the apostles' sense, but of such as know not God, nor the word of reconciliation have not.138
How many have suffered in this age, but for reproving sin in the gate,139 cursing, pride, lying, and swearing;140 how have some <307> been beaten, pulled and haled, and dragg'd through streets and channels141 and before judgment seats, and to prisons, for no other things; how many have woefully suffered but for preaching repentance through streets, towns and markets, in the name of the Lord and by the call of his Holy Spirit? How many hundreds have been imprisoned for preaching the everlasting gospel of Jesus freely, in towns, temples, streets and markets, and from house to house, which was the manner of God's messengers in the name of his Son ever to do, and for which they suffered? How many have had their clothes rent off their backs and been shamefully beaten till they have been left for dead, and afterward carried to prison for but asking a question or speaking a word in a steeplehouse, while142 a man hath been speaking things doubtful or not true, though this was the way of old in which the servants of Christ walked and by which he gathered the churches into God in Spirit, and out of false worships. And it was the manner of the apostles to enter into synagogues and places of worships both of Jews and Gentiles on their sabbath days, and openly dispute there with them before their hearers, and then whose hearts God touched left their carnal worships and clave to Christ in Spirit, which is now become a greater offense to this generation than ever it was either to Jews or Gentiles; for I never read that simply for so disputing they either beat them or haled them to prison, though they went sometimes three sabbath days together into one synagogue; yea, the fiery Jews, who was set on mischief against that way, yet this they could suffer in their synagogue, as is testified (Acts 17:2), and saith the Scriptures, "this was his manner." And in Acts 18:4 it is said, "he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath day at Corinth, where he continued a year and six months teaching the word of God among them" (v. 11).
Now hath not this been the great offense of these days, yea, I may say the chiefest crime which the servants of Jesus Christ hath suffered for in this age, and none scarce either ruler or teacher is able to bear it once, which they could bear a year and above among Jews and heathens; so that this way of Christ by which the churches was gathered & called in the apostles' time <308> is become more abominable in the sight of those that calls themselves Christians, than it was either to Jews or heathens; and when neither laws of Jews, Gentiles, nor heathens, that143 was made in times of popery, would answer their wills against this, then have144 they made new laws of their own against this practice, which themselves read, believe and preach; and this we cannot own, that men should withstand that in works which they profess in words and seek to impose it upon others who serve God therein by the Spirit of Jesus, and then call themselves Christians and say the Scriptures is their rule, who cannot bear it in them that practice it in obedience to Christ Jesus.
And this is that we contend for in all our sufferings and actings, in the simplicity of our hearts, that our Lord and master Jesus Christ may have his prerogative royal restored to him, over his body the church, and every particular member thereof, his lordship and mastership, given to him alone of all his children, from least to the greatest, and that none else force it or require it from him, but that his headship alone over his church, his leadings, and the seat of his judgments in every redeemed soul and conscience may be restored to him, and that he may have both name and authority therein, and that none may presume to take his authority to themselves, while they give him fair words & call him "Lord, Lord," but neither do his will in their own consciences nor suffer them that would: this, I say, is that we seek now at the hands of men that are called Christians, which by his own blood and by the precious sufferings in many of his obedient servants of old145 he once purchased out of the hands of the old persecutors and gave it as inheritance to his seed after him to all generations, to call him "head and Lord in them and over them," in all things pertaining to worship and conscience, as the Scripture of truth is evident.
And this we say in his behalf and in the power of his name, wherever he sends us, that though his adversary of old hath taken146 this his purchased possession from him, and now sits where he ought not, commanding in147 conscience over his subjects and <309> creatures,148 compelling and forcing to obey his traditions and law from a carnal precept or tradition of men,tttt yet we say the right is Christ's alone, and the whole kingdom of God in every conscience he hath purchased with his blood and great sufferings of old; therefore we say to all sorts of people, look to him and walk in his light, all that look to be saved; for we say he is a great and mighty one, who though he have been as one gone a far journey for a time, yet he is returned and hath seen how his dear servants have been entreated, and his little children spoiled of their birthright and cast out of their purchased possession and heavenly kingdom,149 and now strangers150 rule over their tender consciences and seek to defile them with adultery and151 idolatry, which is against their spiritual birth and breathing, and himself robbed152 of his authority and scepter of his everlasting dominion, for which he will tread nations in his wrath and people in his hot displeasure, even for Zion's sake, the city of his glory; and he will spoil the spoiler and lead captivity captive, and so will he make way for his inheritance to come into their habitation of rest.
And this we say to all people: GIVE UP, fear God, and give glory to his name, for the hour of his judgments is come, and he will have dominion as of old and his purchased possession as in ancient days. But especially to you who are called Christians and mention his name, and call him Lord, and profess the Scriptures in words, which testifies of him, his sufferings, and his purchase through153 blood, and the eternal anointing of the Father sworn unto him by an everlasting covenant, that he alone shall sit on the spiritual throne over the house of David forever, that he may with his spiritual leadings gather the outcasts of Israel and present to God all the precious among the people; have you not <310> read, you professing priests and rulers, that it is he alone that is "the light of the world," and that God hath given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander;uuuu that it's he that's appointed for "a light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide their feet in the way of peace";vvvv did God ever set any at the right hand of power but he alone? that he might make his foes his footstool; of whom he saith when he brings him into the world, "Let all the angels of God worship him";wwww have you not read that it's he alone that purgeth the conscience from dead works? And will you not suffer him to reign and govern therein? hath not he quickened every living soul, and created anew every free spirit, and would you take and keep the kingdom therein, out of his hand, and rule there for another, or yourselves, with force and cruelty? Is not this he for whom the sabbath was made, and all the ordinances under heaven speaks his dominion? And will you now read this and profess, and withstand him in the consciences of his tender people, and deny him to rule in his church alone? Have you not read what God hath said of him and his enemies in the second psalm; nay, are not all the Scriptures his and testify to him alone as "head over all" and ruler in all his saints? And as you have heard, read, and professed his dominion more than heathens, and yet go on to keep it from him; so to you is his first154 appearance, to seek his own of you. And if you persist to deny him, it's you must drink the cup first, that the heathens may hear and fear his name from far, and his rising appear to all the ends of the world, that it's he alone who is from everlasting, at whose name every knee must bow and tongue confess, to the right of his inheritance.
And this further I lay before you people of this nation, who have long been crying for peace and settlement in the nations and in your religion, and you cry out of so many divisions and so many religions; I say to you all, how should you be otherwise when you will not come to the one religion that is of God and155 <311> was in the beginning with God, and brought forth in time156 by Jesus Christ, for the bringing all into God again and reconciling all sorts of scattered people, who are scattered in the imaginations and customs of carnal-spirited men, from God157 the one good thing into many things, rudiments, and traditions, wherein you can neither be reconciled to God nor one to another; for how is it like that ever that religion can reconcile to God, which sets you a-killing one another to uphold it? Are you like to obtain peace in that spirit which in your hearts is the cause of enmity and war, or obtain unity from that root which hath thus scattered you in its fruits and offspring? This is like the false prophets of old, who would "bite with their teeth and cry peace."xxxx
Nay, this is not the way of settlement or lasting peace: that, you must have in returning and making peace with the Spirit of Jesus; you must kiss the Son and so make peace, for this hath been seen concerning you of these nations, that if you own not the light of Christ in Spirit and truth, that he may lead you out of these many things which are not of God, and reconcile you to God in Spirit and truth, there to worship him alone who is a Spirit, you will ere long be in blood, either amongst yourselves, one against another, or else in the blood of the innocent lambs of Christ, which will not be for your peace with God; for he that hath letted your peace and settlement is not yet taken away, nor his power, who is that old bloodsucker158 and divider of nations, people, and tongues, about faith and religions, and with which a fire hath often been kindled; nor can his power be stopped but by the Spirit of the Lamb of God, which takes away sin and breaks down the wall of separation which is made about ordinances, literal, ceremonial, and traditional, which can never cease but as men turn to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus—that with the light of peace and truth you may be led into peace, truth, and unity, that wrath may be done away and the ground thereof, and you and your religion may be settled <312> on the foundation of truth, "Christ Jesus the chief cornerstone," and not upon days, times, meats, drinks and apparel, and other things which will perish with the using, and so will they that worship and not in the leadings of Christ alone, and God will shake the idols of people's minds and all the glory of flesh, that he alone may be exalted in the earth, as he is in heaven.yyyy
So if you will have peace you must come to the Son of peace, and if you will have establishment you must come to the foundation of the prophets and apostles of God; for I say, many have been about to build a house for God to dwell in, with carnal things and rudiments, and this they would bind159 him to (& his people), who is a Spirit, and his house must be built of spiritual men and women who like living stones must grow up in his own light and virtue into a holy temple in the Lord, in which you must be builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:20-22). And this is God's house built by Christ alone, with that160 which is elect and precious, not with gold and garments, or observations of perishing things, but with redeemed souls by the blood of Jesus out of their vain conversation, and gathered into the Spirit of truth and life and power, to worship God who is a Spirit, in Spirit & truth; and this is God's house at this day, which161 was his house in the apostles' days, "who dwells not in temples made with hands," as saith the apostles, nor with men's hands is worshipped, but with him that's poor in spirit and of a "broken and contrite heart,"zzzz to him will I look, saith the Lord, and there will I dwell. And the bodies of his holy people are the temples of the living God, as he hath said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (2 Cor. 6:16). And until you come to this building of God in yourselves, God will not dwell with you in peace, but all your buildings will he confound, and not accept your sacrifice, and then the devil will enrage you against God's house and spiritual building, even his poor despised people them to destroy; <313> like Cain when his sacrifice was not accepted in his own will.
But if you turn to the Lord who is that Spirit, then will he cause his light to shine in your hearts to give you an heavenly understanding, and he will put his Spirit in your inward parts and fill you with heavenly power, and will let you see the lively image of truth and peace; and he will take away the veil of the covering that is spread over all nations,aaaaa from which arises all their carnal comprehensions and carnal worships of the invisible spiritual162 God, and he will also swallow up death in victory, which now worketh in the nations, to kill one another about religion and worship, without Spirit and life, so will you come to be taught his true worship, who is a Spirit, and become true worshippers in Spirit, and so grow up in his knowledge, and he will own your worship, whom as yet you have "neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape."bbbbb And Christ saith of such worshippers, "You worship you know not what"; but the true worshippers worship in faith and know what they worship, "and such the Father is now seeking to worship him," saith Christ Jesus (John 4:22-24).
And this is the thing, O England, that concerns thy peaceccccc with thy God in this thy day, who art cumbered with many things about Christ and163 worship, but neglects the one thing needfulddddd for thy everlasting peace and establishment, and to bring thee into that worship of164 Spirit, without which God cannot accept thee, and that religion which is pure and undefiled in the sight of God, which will keep thee unspotted in165 the world,eeeee which till thou turn to thou wilt be working against the Spirit of God, through the darkness of enmity that is in thee, and he will certainly work against thee except thou repent.
a. 1 John 2:27.
b. Isa. 5:7; 2 Chron. 19:6.
c. Isa. 9:6.
d. Matt. 12:8.
e. Heb. 2:10.
f. Dan. 4:25.
g. Acts 2:36.
h. 1 Tim. 6:15-16.
i. Isa. 11:4.
j. Isa. 40:11.
k. Ps. 45:7.
l. Jer. 23:5-6.
m. Luke 1:74-75.
n. Isa. 6:3.33
o. 2 Sam. 23:4.
q. Eccl. 10:16-17.
r. Ps. 69:7; Lam. 3:14.
s. Rev. 21:24.
t. Isa. 5:21.
u. Jer. 17:5.
v. John 5:44.
w. Isa. 30:1.
x. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18.
y. Matt. 17:5.
z. 2 Cor. 10:6.
aa. Isa. 28:7.
bb. Jer. 23; Amos 2:4.
cc. Amos 7:14.
dd. Jer. 23:14; Isa. 1:9.
ee. Esth. 3.
ff. Dan. 6.
gg. Dan. 3.
hh. Acts 5:28-29.
ii. John 16:2-3.
jj. 2 Tim. 1:13.
kk. Job 32:21-22.
ll. James 2:9.
mm. Dan. 3:21.
nn. Lev. 18:30.
oo. Jer. 23:10.
pp. Matt. 5:34.
qq. Jas. 5:12.
rr. Lev. 19:12; Matt. 5:33-34.
ss. Matt. 5.
tt. Isa. 59:4; Isa. 28:15.
uu. Jer. 9:3-5.
vv. Prov. 12:19,22; 29:12.
ww. Ps. 40:4.
xx. Deut. 19:16-20.
yy. 1 Cor. 7:39.
zz. Mal. 2:15.
aaa. Matt. 19:6.
bbb. Matt. 19:8.
ccc. Matt. 19:4-5.
ddd. Rom. 8:2.
eee. Rom. 13.
fff. Acts 4:19.
ggg. 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Tim. 3:9.
hhh. James 1:27.
iii. John 4:23-24.
jjj. Dan. 4:17.
kkk. Heb. 1:8-9.
lll. Isa. 11:1-2.
mmm. 2 Cor. 4:5.
nnn. 2 Cor. 1:24.
ooo. 1 Pet. 5:3.
ppp. 2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:12.
qqq. 1 Cor. 4:5.
rrr. Mic. 3:10.
sss. Col. 1:18.
ttt. Phil. 2:10.
uuu. Rev. 17:14.
vvv. John 6:27.
www. Col. 1:18.
xxx. Matt. 1:21.
yyy. Phil. 2:13.
zzz. 1 Cor. 6:20.
aaaa. Rom. 14:23.
bbbb. Rom. 14:4.
cccc. Matt. 7:12.
dddd. 1 Cor. 2:10-11.
eeee. John 3:20-21.
ffff. Rom. 7:6.
gggg. 1 Thess. 1:1.
hhhh. Gal. 1:16; 1:11-12.
iiii. 1 Cor. 9:14.
jjjj. 1 Cor. 9:17-18.
kkkk. 2 Cor. 4:5.
llll. 1 Cor. 14:29-32.
mmmm. 1 Cor. 2:12.
nnnn. 1 John 4:1.
oooo. 1 Thess. 5:21.
pppp. 1 Cor. 8:5-6; Eph. 4:4-6.
qqqq. Heb. 7.
rrrr. John 4:21,24.
ssss. Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24.
tttt. Jer. 10:2-3.
uuuu. Isa. 55:4.
vvvv. Luke 1:79.
wwww. Heb. 1:6.
xxxx. Mic. 3:5.
yyyy. Col. 2:14-17,20-22; Heb. 10:11.
zzzz. Isa. 66:2.
aaaaa. Isa. 25:7-8; 2 Cor. 3:16-18.
bbbbb. John 5:37.
ccccc. Luke 19:42.
ddddd. Luke 10:41-42.
eeeee. Jas. 1:27.
1. By James Nayler and Richard Hubberthorne.
2. W. inserts "(many of us)."
3. Whitehead inserts "holy."
4. Whitehead changes "There is no kingdom nor people can truly be said" to "All kingdoms and people ought."
5. Whitehead changes "but as they" to "and."
6. W. changes "his" to "the."
7. Whitehead changes "that sits on high" to "on the throne."
8. Whitehead omits "in any people."
9. Whitehead omits "and not of men."
10. W. changes "anointing" to "anointer."
11. W. changes "him" to "his Son."
12. W. changes "generation" to "covenant" and omits the next 10 words ("even after the power and order of an endless life").
13. W. omits "and in his seed."
14. W. changes "many" to "all."
15. Whitehead inserts "of the earth shall."
16. Whitehead omits "with peace."
17. Whitehead changes "in" to "under."
18. Whitehead omits "persons."
19. Whitehead omits "how prudently soever they be made."
20. Whitehead changes "not in" to "contrary to his own, and not of."
21. Whitehead changes "and" to "or."
22. Whitehead omits "and for him."
23. Whitehead changes "souls" to "creatures."
24. W. omits this sentence.
25. Whitehead omits "or right."
26. W. changes "over any of these things visible or invisible, to rule, force, or order, no not over his own body, but by usurpation; and for the time that he or they shall hold that power, and not in him, as aforesaid, they shall be under the curse of God, not established in peace and righteousness but in tyranny and oppression; with force or with flattery must such rule in their day, until their measure of time and sin be fulfilled, in which the vengeance of" to "But if they rule by injustice and oppression, for the time the Lord shall suffer them, and not for him, they shall not be established in peace; and when their measure shall be fulfilled."
27. W. changes "far away, only" to "and."
28. W. changes "thus" to "for."
29. W. inserts "inhabitants of the."
30. W. changes "must reign" to "do rule."
31. Whitehead inserts "blessed and" (to agree with 1 Tim. 6:15).
32. Whitehead changes "possession" to "inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession" and adds a note to Ps.2:8.
33. W. changes "Isa. 6:3" to "Isa. 9:6."
34. Whitehead changes "drunkenness" to "wantonness."
35. W. changes "worthy" to "willing."
36. W. changes "him" to "his sake."
37. Whitehead inserts "to be set up."
38. W. inserts "some."
39. W. inserts "others of."
40. W. inserts "corrupt."
41. Whitehead omits "daily."
42. Whitehead omits "thus."
43. W. omits "and his resurrection for their glory."
44. W. inserts "against us."
45. Whitehead omits "but."
46. Whitehead omits "good old."
47. Whitehead omits "and understanding."
48. Whitehead omits "upon eternal condemnation in matters."
49. Whitehead changes "the" to "a."
50. Whitehead changes "for" to "by."
51. Whitehead changes "it" to "them."
52. Whitehead inserts "partly."
53. Whitehead omits "but."
54. Whitehead omits "and long imprisonments."
55. Whitehead omits "to us."
56. W. changes "shoes" to "other garments."
57. Whitehead changes "worship" to "submit to."
58. W. changes "apostles" to "apostle."
59. Whitehead changes "was never known to use an oath since" to "refused to take an oath."
60. Whitehead changes "Jews'" to "Jewish."
61. W. omits "by any penalty."
62. W. inserts "as the case required."
63. W. inserts "to force them to swear."
64. Whitehead omits "at all."
65. W. changes "only in this case" to "as."
66. Whitehead changes "only" to "and in the trial of jealousy, Num. 5:19."
67. Whitehead changes "are out of all the way of God in Moses' time; and in Christ's time, swearing is expressly forbidden at all, even this in Moses' time" to "exceed the law of Moses and contradict the law of Christ, by whom swearing at all is expressly forbidden."
68. Whitehead omits "and this said Moses."
69. Whitehead inserts "unto you."
70. Whitehead changes "this" to "he."
71. Whitehead omits "our."
72. Whitehead changes "same Spirit of Christ" to "Spirit of truth."
73. Whitehead omits "to sue any man at the law, nor."
74. Whitehead changes "hate" to "persecute."
75. W. omits "from all men."
76. W. omits "so that we need not men to end controversies amongst us."
77. Whitehead changes "as" to "for."
78. W. omits "join to in our hearts, nor."
79. Whitehead omits "whom we know not, nor knows he our state and case in this matter."
80. Whitehead omits "sharply."
81. Whitehead changes "justify" to "excuse."
82. Whitehead omits "legal thing, or."
83. Whitehead omits "fit to be used."
84. Whitehead changes "taken from us" to "obstructed."
85. W. inserts "must."
86. Whitehead changes "beside, were the truth no dearer to us but that we could thus" to "and if the truth was no dearer to us than to."
87. Whitehead omits "knowingly."
88. Whitehead omits "must."
89. Whitehead changes "nor when we have informed him" to "and then."
90. Whitehead omits "or our adversaries'."
91. Whitehead changes "the whole body of" to "that."
92. Whitehead changes "falsehood" to "it."
93. Whitehead inserts "off."
94. Whitehead omits "nor by any fleshly motion."
95. W. inserts "chiefly."
96. W. omits "that he may seek a godly seed to himself."
97. W. omits "they."
98. Whitehead changes "only thus is it" to "And this is."
99. Whitehead changes "as God puts together; and" to "and those whom God joins together."
100. Whitehead omits "next."
101. Whitehead inserts "found."
102. Whitehead changes "according" to "together."
103. Whitehead omits "our."
104. Whitehead omits "just, and."
105. Whitehead changes "can but keep peace with the one of you" to "cannot keep peace with you."
106. W. changes "our" to "the."
107. W. changes "distinction" to "difference."
108. Whitehead changes "gives the kingdoms of the earth to whom he will, yea, and may set over them the basest of men as well as the most virtuous, without control, if he please so" to "ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and (many times) setteth up over it the basest of men, without control, if he please to."
109. Whitehead inserts "(or saints)."
110. Whitehead inserts "and blood."
111. Whitehead omits "and body also."
112. Whitehead omits "daily."
113. Whitehead omits "(in our eyes)."
114. Whitehead changes "wisdom, with God," to "true wisdom."
115. Whitehead inserts "as to the worship of God."
116. Whitehead omits "as to God's worship and things thereto pertaining."
117. W. omits "oldness of."
118. W. changes "newness of life" to "Spirit."
119. Whitehead inserts "so called."
120. Whitehead changes "eggs, and the like" to "other things."
121. Whitehead changes "letter of" to "the holy."
122. Whitehead inserts "worship."
123. Whitehead omits "his."
124. Whitehead changes "but if not willingly then" to "for."
125. Whitehead changes "their portion" to "unto them if they preached not the gospel."
126. Whitehead changes "even where they was not sent for" to "where."
127. Whitehead inserts "(or after)."
128. Whitehead inserts "(and also of the false)."
129. W. inserts "to say Amen."
130. Whitehead omits "letter of."
131. Whitehead omits "it."
132. W.inserts "was changed."
133. W. changes "law" to "commandment."
134. Whitehead omits "in our measure."
135. Whitehead inserts "and Paul's epistles."
136. Whitehead changes "you" to "your."
137. W. changes "that" to "his."
138. Whitehead omits "have not."
139. W. inserts "as."
140. W. inserts "&c."
141. W. changes "channels" to "kennels" (probably in the sense "gutters").
142. Whitehead inserts "(or after)."
143. Whitehead changes "that" to "nor such as."
144. W. omits "have."
145. W. changes "by his own blood and by the precious sufferings in many of his obedient servants of old" to "by his own precious blood and sufferings."
146. Whitehead changes "taken" to "striven to take."
147. W. omits "in."
148. Whitehead omits "and creatures."
149. Whitehead changes "and cast out of their purchased possession and heavenly kingdom" to "being deprived of their liberties."
150. Whitehead inserts "would."
151. Whitehead omits "adultery and."
152. Whitehead changes "himself robbed" to "so would rob him."
153. Whitehead inserts "his precious."
154. Whitehead omits "first."
155. Whitehead changes "and" to "as it."
156. 1Whitehead changes "with God, and brought forth in time" to "and is clearly manifested."
157. Whitehead inserts "and."
158. W. changes "bloodsucker" to "murderer."
159. Whitehead changes "bind" to "limit."
160. Whitehead omits "with that."
161. Whitehead changes "which" to "and such."
162. Whitehead omits "spiritual."
163. Whitehead omits "Christ and."
164. Whitehead changes "of" to "in."
165. Whitehead changes "in" to "of."