Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Index > A Few Words in Answer to the Resolves of some who are called Independent-Teachers
First,a we judge a parliament the best expedient for the preservation of these nations.
Answ. The best expedient for the preserving of the nation is for all people in the nation to turn to God, that with his light you may be led to repentance and newness of life, that that may be done away in every heart, for which the wrath of God comes upon nations and people; and whilst people are out from the light of Christ in their own hearts, such are looking to the hills and mountains for safety and peace; some for kings, and some for parliaments,b while wrath and lust increases in your own hearts, and it is that within youc will destroy you, while your eyes are abroad for safety.
2. And withal we desire all due care be taken that the parliament be such as may preserve the interest of Christ and his people in these nations.
Ans. The chief interest of Christ in these nations and elsewhere upon earth, is his spiritual dominion in the consciences of people. And that there he be confessed to be absolute king and lawgiver, to whom alone every heart is to bow and every tongue <253> confess, and that the wills and laws of men usurp not authority therein, but that he by his Spirit exercise the conscience in all things to God and men, and this is his interest which he is now demanding as his birthright in his people, both from kings, parliaments and such as was called protectors, and whoever rules amongst men, which being denied him, his wrath hath been kindled in their kingdom; and it greatly concerns all that come into authority, as they look to stand before him, that this his interest be preserved, and this interest of his people also, which is to have free liberty to obey him in their conscience in all his spiritual motions, though never so much contrary to flesh and blood, and if the parliament be such, it must not be made up of old persecutors nor new, but bed men of feeling, fearing God and tender in conscience; and above all they must take heed of lending an ear to the wicked counsel of such teachers as serve not the Lord Jesus Christ but their own bellies, which have been the cause of all the blood and persecution that hath been shed in this our generation, who never cease to provoke the magistrates to establish mischief by a law, chiefly against this interest of Christ and his people, of which number you appear to be in your following desires.
3. As to magistrates' power in matters of faith and worship, we have declared our judgments in our late confession, and we heartily prize our Christian liberty, yet we profess our utter dislike and abhorrence of a universal toleration, as being contrary to the mind of God in his word.
A. What your judgment in your late confession was I know not, but you might do well to show your judgment in plainness, what this universal toleration is which you dislike & abhor; whether it be that you abhor that any should be tolerated but your own sect, or such as are too near you to testify against your errors; if this be it (as like it is) then it is too selfish to be sound judgment or safe counsel to be followed, being against the rule of Christ, "do to all men as you would be done unto," or would you have toleration to none but such as are in the true power of Spirit and true form of sound words written in scripture? this were to wipe out yourselves and bring in those against whom <254> you profess your enmity (in your last particular), to wit, the Quakers, who at this day have both power of Spirit and letter against you, as to both your call, your whole form of worship, and the manner of your hire, being such as no true ministers of Christ ever practiced, wherein the Quakers and you differ, or do you only intend against toleration of open profaneness, which none that loves Christ or his interest will plead for; in this I am one with you, but if by universal toleration you intend that the magistrate should limit the Spirit of Christ in any of his creatures, because his way is not your way, but against false ways and false worships as he moves them to bear his testimony, as in former times he hath done in the true prophets and ministers against the false, then is your spirit seen to be the same that theirs was, who ever sought to stop the mouth of truth, lest their deceit should be laid open; and that is that which ever was against the interest of Christ and the mind of God in his word; and it will not be an easy thing for men to limit the Holy Spirit in its movings, or to measure a way to him whose way you know not, flesh and blood must be silent, which would fill a cup to another, which you would not drink yourselves, and the Spirit must speak ere you can know either mind or word that is in God.
4. We judge that the taking away tithes for the maintenance of ministers until as full a maintenance equally secured and as legally settled, tend much to the destruction of the ministry and preaching of the gospel in these nations.
Ans. This is your judgment, and you may be believed herein, being now upon the mark you aim at, and the price of your calling and preaching in these nations, and you do but here declare in words what all the seeing people in these nations did foreknow was in your hearts; but the word gospel you cannot bring in with this carnal stuff; that's taken from you and must no longer cover you; what, will the gospel be destroyed for lack of tithes, or a maintenance secured from a forcible law? blush for shame; it was never known that forced hire or agreement beforehand had ever the least place in the free gospel ministry. This cannot stand with a spiritual call nor free gift; nay it exceeds the legal priesthood and false prophets, and goes beyond Balaam in error; what, either tithes or as full as tithes so secured, and by <255> the same law; must papists' laws up still, or else the gospel falls? This is none of Christ's gospel that thus depends, nor is this the hire of his servants, whose reward it is to make the gospel without charge: was it ever known that any of his seed came to the earthly powers to beg their bread or to take it by force? doth he thus maintain his family? Doth not such a servant shame the master's house? yea friends, all who knows the power of his free grace and the riches of the everlasting gospel denies your gospel that will not fill your bellies but must be kept from destruction with perishing food, by a forcing carnal law; that is not the gospel which is the power of God, nor was the ministers of the everlasting gospel so maintained; search the Scriptures and be ashamed, and stop your mouth from ever pretending yourselves to be ministers of the Spirit or of the letter, who are gone out from both, and neither will own your words and practice herein, nor indeed no part of your worship as it now stands (as will be easily made apparent by plain Scripture upon a fair occasion) but are gone after times and rewards, as your fathers have done for many ages, who to the letter are not yet come and yet would be maintained by a law contrary to Scripture or saints' practice.
And therefore the parliament, if they be such as would preserve Christ's interest (as you say), they must not force the lambs of Christ to maintain wolves in sheep's clothing, who are now known by their fruits, which is Christ's rule and command to know them by; and this is against his interest and the interest of his people, to be thus forced against Scripture and a pure conscience; for the Scripture tells of a ministry which minded earthly things, whose God was their belly, who were murmurers and complainers, running greedily after the way of Cain and error of Balaam; (mark) Cain and Balaam are put together, and these are against Christ's interest and his people; and if they who had the form of godliness without the power were to be turned away from, then by what law must those who are out of both be maintained as Christ's ministers under pretense of the gospel destruction? I know that without forced maintenance, and fullness of it, and good security, the national ministry would fall, which hangs thereon, it being their function as they call it. And so if any see their work worth it, let such hire them, and setting them on work <256> upon that account, it's fit they should pay them that they labor for; but that such as have received the ministration of the free Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus should be forced against his law in their consciences to maintain such as are out of the doctrine of Christ, and can do no work for them but against them, or that at all this is to secure Christ's interest, or that the destruction of the gospel of truth depends thereon, that is utterly denied as a false judgment, and absolutely against the kingdom of Jesus in his temples, his law in their hearts, and his divine power and Spirit by which he upholds all things pertaining to life and godliness; and this were the only way for the next parliament or power to run themselves against that Rock against which so many before their eyes hath been broken, and few there be in this nation, except such as have hardened their own hearts and blinded the eye of a pure mind, but they have seen it; wherefore take heed you rulers (if it be not too late) how you meddle with Christ's kingdom, but kiss the Son and yield him his kingdom in tender consciences; touch not the apple of the eye which sees that to be sin and evil which yet you do not, of which you have often been warned; but if you will make laws let the Scriptures be your rule without, and a pure conscience enlightened with the Spirit of Christ within,e that so you may become tender-hearted in the fear of God, that the edge of your sword may be turned against open wickedness, being touched with a true sense of what grieves the Spirit of Christ in yourselves, being joined to the Lord in one Spirit and life, and this will be your wisdom, the interest of Christ and his people; and from thence you will receive better counsel and truer judgment than that which would stir you up to persecute and force tender consciences against their faith and knowledge received of the Lord Jesus in matters of his worship, for serving men of corrupt minds, having hearts exercised with covetous practices; who cannot cease from sin and stirring up nations to devour one another to accomplish their own ends. And had not the powers of this nation said a confederacy to such teachers, and taken off their counsel again which once <257> God had discovered to be against them, and set them free from, then had they been established in peace in their right authority, and Christ in his; and far from oppression had they been, had they abode in God's teachings; their hearts had been kept tender, and that eye open which would have given them a sight towards the helpless who have been wasted through the oppressor, from whom they should have been set free, whose blood now lies upon the nations, for which is now inquiry making.
5. It is our desire that countenance be not given unto, nor trust reposed in the hand of Quakers, being persons of such principles that are destructive to the gospel, and inconsistent with peace and civil society.
Answ. As for your desire that we should not have the countenance of men, we say the light of God's countenance is much better, and we cannot look for both while men take your counsel; and our trust is in God, in whose hand we are and not in our own, and from men we may not seek repose; better it is (for the present) to suffer with Christ than to reign in your kingdom, or be honored with your glory; so in patience stands our peace with God, even whilst our names are cast out as evil with men; but for your accusation of our persons and principles to be destructive to the gospel and civil society, take that back again to yourselves; our persons we boast not in, but our principles are truth grounded upon the light of Jesus and leadings of his holy Spirit, and whatever is contrary we condemn, and this we certainly know will never be destructive to Christ's gospel, only your gospel it will destroy whose foundation stands not upon the power of the Spirit of Jesus, but upon tithes or some settled maintenance carnal, as full, as secure, by a carnal law, else it is liable to destruction as yourselves confess. And this know, that your gospel that must needs be destroyed if tithes fall is not that gospel which the apostles preached, for that gospel begun most of all to flourish when tithes went down, the priesthood that received them, and the law that gave them, which you may read of in the apostle's Epistle to the Hebrews (which law never took tithes by force as the papists' law did). And now you have often said, that whosoever preaches another gospel let him be accursed; so take heed that your own words condemn you not, and your own weapon pierce not your own bowels, for the <258> Lord hath heard your words; and this we know, that the gospel of Christ which the apostles preached was upheld by the power of an endless life, by which they was also made able ministers and did not fall when tithes fell, but then so much the more flourished, into such bounty that the publishers thereof who had nothing did in it enjoy all things, which gospel both your words and your actions declare daily you live not on, but like men who have lost the counsel of God you act both contrary to law and gospel. Was not this the counsel of God in the time of the law when the priests had only tithes to live on, that then they should have no magistrate to force them, but freely they was to bring their offerings that so he might engage the priest to himself who was his portion, and then they never wanted while they kept the word and their lips preserved knowledge in the people, but when the priests forgot God, then like people, and then they justly wanted as God had said; and would you now have the magistrate to make a law to take people's goods and give to such as do not first beget people to God? is this to live on the gospel, or to eat of your own fruits as Christ's ministers do and ever did? Thus may the magistrate do for a while, and oppress the innocent against the Lord,f to feed the fat and idle, but the account is at hand in which it will be said, "Did I require it at your hands? Am not I of power to maintain my own servants who have the hearts of all in my hands? Or what laws will you make for me who never made use of any in this case but the law of love to be fulfilled in a free Spirit? for in the household of Christ is no strife about carnal things." And that principle is destructive to the gospel of peace which admits of strife about their bellies, or framing mischief against another by a law to fill themselves. And whereas you say our principles are inconsistent with peace and civil society, to you it is said, Whom have we made war with (after the manner of men)? though after Christ and his servants we war against spiritual wickedness daily, both in teachers and people, not to destroy their bodies and goods as weg have been destroyed daily, and are appointed to death upon all hands, yet we have peace with God in this, That our hearts are <259> with him for mercy and salvation to such as yet seek our destruction and hate us without cause, except testifying against sin and false worships be cause. And our society is in that which is truly civil, and civil we are when we are amongst our own, and towards the creation of God; and if at any time wild beasts we be amongst, and such as are in the wanton and uncivil nature, we have little society with them further than to reclaim them or to testify against them as we are moved of the Lord; and if this you call uncivil, or because we cannot observe your customs of pride and fashions of vanity, then we account it better for us to endure your reviling and reproach than the eternal judgment of the Lord who hath called us out of these things.
And now you pretended teachers, you are found out of Christ's doctrine, and you have not yet received his teaching who saith, "Take no thought for tomorrow what you shall eat, or for clothing what to put on," nor are you taught of him who saith, "Seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof, and all these things shall be added unto you." Now out of this faith you are found, and so out of the faith of Christ, and untaught you are of this teacher, and how should you teach others; and your foundation is not the foundation of God, who say first tithes or something as full made sure, and then you will build and your gospel will stand, or else it will be destroyed; so your foundation is sandy and dirty, and not the foundation of God which stands sure, on which the prophets and apostles was built, who never took tithes or set maintenance to bottomh on buti said the priesthood was changed, and of necessity there must be also a change of the law. So these called not for a law from man, nor made flesh their arm nor carnal things their support as you do; so of this error you must repent and come to their Spirit to be taught, which dependsj upon God alone, and not on the world, else cease calling yourselves Independent, or saying you are sent out by Christ Jesus, who hang upon the earthly power for food and safety.
a. Whitehead inserts "(say you)."
b. Whitehead omits "some for kings, and some for parliaments."
c. Whitehead changes "that within you" to "to be feared that."
d. Whitehead changes "be" to "by."
e. W. changes "a pure conscience enlightened with the Spirit of Christ within" to "the Spirit of Christ within, enlightening the pure conscience."
f. Whitehead changes "and oppress the innocent against the Lord" to "against the Lord, and oppress the innocent."
g. Whitehead changes "we" to "ours."
h. Whitehead changes "bottom" to "live."
i. W. inserts "the apostle."
j. Whitehead changes "their Spirit to be taught, which depends" to "the Spirit they were taught by, and depend."