Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > A Discovery of the Beast
Thou art going about to prove the Quakers to be false prophets; but all that know the true Prophet, or the Scriptures by his Spirit given forth, may clearly see thou hast proved thyself an atheist, and one that knows not that which is before nature was, to guide thee out of thy natural condition; and so in thy natural faculties (as thou calls them) art judging of the things of the Spirit of God; for the manifesting whereof I shall take a few of thy own opinions and lay them open to be judged with the Spirit of God that was in the saints declared in Scripture. As to that betwixt Edward Burrough and thee (as to the queries) I shall say little to, seeing they are published; let the truly wise judge thereof, who may see thy vain scornful spirit from which thou speaks, not as becoming one professing godliness nor sobriety.
In thy Epistle to the Reader, thou tells how long thou hast been led with thy imaginations, whereupon making a thorough search, thou returned with thy adventure, the which amounted to no less than being deceived; however, thy love and desires are still as strong, and thy spirit as free to serve God, whensoever he shall be free to set thy feet upon a sure ground, &c. However, thou would be loath to change thy condition with those that assume an infallible spirit, or something in them above nature, the which they cannot demonstrate to a natural capacity because if they were disabled, and nothing left but what they had of this, it might prove a tedious work to find in the world a better thing than they.
I say, the sure ground is the infallible Spirit which is above nature and before nature was, which the natural man is not capable of; and thou that art off from this ground and hast not this Spirit: what hast thou that's worth changing, or what did thou make thy thorough search withal? seeing no other spirit hath power to judge the imaginations but this infallible Spirit which is above nature, and it only searches and judges the natural imaginations;1 and thou that hast searched and judged without this art led in thy imaginations still; and so one imagination searcheth and judgeth another in thee; and thou and thy imaginations are judged and searched by that Spirit of Christ which searcheth all <273> things, even the deep things of God.2 And thou that knows not something in thee above nature, thou knowest not Christ in thee, & from thy own mouth the Spirit of Christ declares thee a reprobate (2 Cor. 13:5); and "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9); but who hath the Spirit of Christ hath the infallible Spirit: and here thy condition is judged, which thou would be loath to change for something above nature: so all thou hast proved in this is but thyself a reprobate, and that natural man that receives not the things of the Spirit of God, which are above nature; because this would disable thee in thy imaginations and make thee little in the world, had thou nothing left but this: for self is nothing where this is received, which never came by the will of man;3 and in that will thou stands who will not change thy condition. And this is thy firstborn thou hast put forth, which is natural and blind, and (as thou says) thou fears there be many faults thou sees not, yet that blind eye that sees not faults in thyself will be judging others and judging that Spirit that is above nature; and this is thy adventure of imaginations thou art returned withal, and with it thou now adventures to judge that thou knows not,4 nor any who are not on the sure ground and above nature. Yet with this blind eye thou sets on work to show the light of Christ what it is, but to do this thou changes thy method; and in this thy method thou pleases thy imaginations, to shape questions as thou thinkest thou may best answer them; yet being blind, thou asks thyself what thou confesses thou knows not.
And first, thou asks whether Christ lighteneth every man that cometh into the world inwardly or outwardly; and thy answer is, both. Secondly, thou asks, How can that be made appear? Thy answer is, The same ground that proves he lighteneth man in any part, the same proves he lighteneth man in every part where light appears.
I say, that which thou art to show is the appearance of inward light as well as outward light, and that in every man that comes into the world; the ground of which appearance thou says is, That which proves he lightens man in any part, proves that he <274> enlightens man in every part; so the same ground that makes appear to every man that he is not bodily blind, the same ground makes appear the light of Christ in Spirit that he is not spiritually blind, and this in every man; else hast thou said nothing to the purpose: so by this, he that hath but bodily eyes hath the ground of all spiritual light, and in thy epistle thou thyself art but waiting to have thy feet set on the sure ground, so thou that art not on that ground by thy doctrine art bodily blind; and this confusion thou calls plainness to the understanding, but understands not what thou says thyself; but in all this, how hast thou made the inward spiritual light appear to every man that comes into the world? here both blind and light may judge thee that thou hast left them as dark as they was, only manifested thy own confusion.
Thy next question is, What is that which Christ lightens man with? And thy answer is, None can really tell what it is in its real essence and being.
I say, if thou had said, No atheist who hath naught in them above nature can tell, then had thou said true; but that none can really tell, is a lie; for who knows Christ in them knows his light that led them to him and revealed him in them; but this is seen and known by faith and not to thy natural senses thou tells on; which presents things to thy judgment; and the gospel ministers who preached the light, preached what they knew, and not what they knew not, but such lived by faith and not by sense. And thou mayest preach thy own ignorance, but thou canst not preach his light, who hath Christ in him. That the beast knows not.
Another question thou asks: What are the effects of light? And thy answer is, It discovers unto man visible forms.
I say, here thou manifests what light thou knows, and what it discovers to thee who art but in visible things; but knows not that light that shows him that is invisible and without form, and such as thou must needs worship thou know not what, or else naught at all but your own lusts, whose eye sees no farther but visible forms. So they who desire to be led blind may come to thee and receive thy discovery of visible forms instead of the invisible God; but the children of light have found a better teacher.5 And thou <275> goes on to make people believe that it is not properly light, but is figuratively called light. Thou child of darkness, is not the light of Christ proper?6 and what is it that the light of Christ doth figure out?b Is it not that which is before all figures was, and by which all figures was made, which thou art passing thy blind sentence upon, who before said none could tell what it is, and now thou judges it a figure, not proper: art thou not here judging thou knows not what by thy own confession? And thou that knows not what it is in its being goes about to tell where it is seated and where it is not seated; and thou says there is no knowing, no believing, no affecting, no liking nor disliking, but it arises and proceeds from the determination of the understanding.
I say, the Lord saith, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to naught the understanding of the prudent";7 and this is either liked or disliked: but doth this proceed from the determination of the understanding, that brings the understanding to naught? or from the determination of him that gives the right understanding in Spirit and hides it as he pleases from the wise and prudent?8 but him thou knows not (no more than thou dost the light), who hath brought to naught thy determinations (touching him) and thy understanding also, so thou utterest thy confusion, and darkens counsel by words without knowledge.
Again, thou asks a question: "Doth every man bring into the world this light that Christ lightened every man withal, in full perfection?" Thy answer is, "For the outward eyes they are perfect at their coming or never perfect; but for the light of the understanding, they bring in that as they bring in their full strength, that is, a capacity to grow to it."
I say, the light of Christ is not of the creature's bringing in, but by the power of it is the creature brought into the world, nor doth everyone grow in the light of Christ as he grows in natural strength, for then every perfect man in natural strength should have the perfect knowledge. For where the light is perfectly received, there God is perfectly known; but where the light is but <276> in part, there knowledge is in part, and the growth of this light is not by natural course, but as it is received, believed, and followed; and some who believe not in it are still in darkness with thee, who says, none can tell what the light is, nor its being, and yet says the creatures brings it in as they bring in their full strength: so they bring in none can tell what, nor where its being is; and this blind mingled stuff is thy firstborn, who art born blind and come to the strength of a man naturally, and yet knows not the light of Christ nor its being, and yet says, it comes in as they grow to their full strength. When wilt thou come to thy perfect strength, to know what thou talks on? who art teaching others what the light of Christ is in plainness (as thou says) and then plainly says, none can tell what it is. So in plainness thou art teaching thou knows not what, and would make all believe none know more than thou, that thou mightest at once shut the kingdom against all that will believe thee. And all thou knows of the light of Christ and its growth is but as the old wolf grows more subtle than the young, but knows not the Child that is to lead them.9 Thou says further that there are five faculties in man, which are the grounds of all his actions, which is his senses, his understanding, his will, his imaginations, and his lust.
I say, thou art that man, and speaks thy own condition, thy guide and ground, who art not on the everlasting true ground, and so art guided by thy own senses, understanding, will, imaginations, and lust; and so, as I said, thou hast proved thyself an atheist and knows not that to guide, the which was before these was and leads to the end of all these and above all these, contrary to all these, whose ways are not man's ways, nor his thoughts like man's thoughts,10 which none of the princes of this world, who had all these, could receive,11 nor can receive, which is born contrary to the will of all men living, their imaginations and lusts, which lives by faith and not by sight,12 which is believed on before it is borne up in the understanding,13 by which the sensual is judged and seen to be earthly, devilish and carnal. And they who had these five faculties, and were guided by them, crucified the Lord of life, and so doth all now who have no better ground <277> for all their actions than natural faculties, and this is not the light of Christ that leads to crucify Christ, but this is thy firstborn, who slew Abel and all the righteous blood since, and here thy false ground is seen, who art not on the safe ground.
And thou says it's the office of the senses to inform the understanding; the office of the understanding is to judge and determine, and the office of the will is to put the body upon action.
I say, thy atheism thou art not ashamed to profess openly, who hath thy understanding informed by thy sensual wisdom, and with thy understanding so informed thou judges, and in thy own will so acts: and before thou said Christ enlightened the understanding. What? is thy senses become Christ? but thou that judges by thy sensual information art at liberty to say what thou will and deny when thou will; so thou hast proved thy words true: in this thou hast no infallible Spirit, nor aught in thee above nature to judge withal, but what thou knows naturally as brute beasts, therein thou corrupts thyself;14 but all the children of the light knows that all judgment is committed to the Son,15 both in heaven and earth; but thy corrupt understanding is not the Son, and such as know this dare not judge before the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and manifest the counsels of the hearts, and acts his creatures above their sensual understandings, their wills and imaginations; but this the firstborn knows not, who hath naught in them above nature.16
And says thou, "The office of the will or affections is to put the body upon action, according to determination good or bad."
Here again thou shows thy beastly guide, who art setting up the will and affections to be guide, but knows not that which crucifies the will and affections17 and leads contrary to them, whereby they come to be mortified; him thou knows not, who in us worketh both the will and the deed of his good pleasure.18 Thou blind guide! was not Christ to do his own will,19 which was not sinful; and art thou setting up the will of the fallen man for a guide to put the body in action? Thou needs not preach this doctrine: who is it that acts not after the determination of his own <278> will? Only those who knows the cross of Christ and the power of it; and something in them above nature; no Scripture came by the will of man,20 nor is anything born of God but is contrary to the will of man, yet hath man these faculties before the new birth; and the will of the new, and his judgment and understanding and affections is all contrary to the old. Thus would thou make the light of Christ and the will and affections of fallen man to be one guide, but how all is made new thou knows not; how should thou who makes a scoff at anything in man above nature, know him that is spiritual, who guides out of the world and fallen nature? The natural man knows not the things of the Spirit of God, nor can do his will, but the spiritual doth, and judgeth all things.21
Further thou says, "While a man acts from the three first, distinct from the two latter, his actions are pure without the least injustice or deceit, or provocation thereunto, neither can he; for first, the senses they deliver up to the understanding what they partake of without the least self-end, and the understanding judges as purely," etc.
I say, what is that the senses partake on in such as thee, who knows naught in thee above nature to guide the senses? Doth it not then partake from below, which the apostle calls earthly, sensual and devilish?22 will this being delivered to the understanding keep from deceit and injustice? Nay, they who have this understanding, therewith think they do God service and justly, when they imprison and put to death the body for the name of Christ in the body, and this sense is in thee who scoffs at aught in man above nature, and would do more hadst thou power; and with this understanding all the world becomes enemies of God: but dost thou not as much scoff at the name of God (if thou would speak thy heart) as thou dost at something in man above nature, and the infallible Spirit? for thou that knows naught in thee above nature knows no more God than the devil doth. For saith Paul (Rom. 1), that which may be known of God is manifest in them, which thou owns not above nature, so thou that knows not God above <279> nature in thee serves them which by nature are no gods23 (thy five faculties), and with them thou art guided.
Another question thou asks, "What is the effects of conscience?" Thy answer is, "First it must be known upon what it works." And thou saith, "it hath not any ground but in one single opinion; that is when the understanding shall fully determine that there is a place of everlasting plagues, wherein the sons of men or some degree of them shall be tormented forever"; and thou says, "Whosoever doth determine thus also determines his own ease; now," says thou, "when a person comes to be possessed with this confidence that he shall be damned, if now he be inclined to fear, conscience now blows a flame about him, and like an executioner presents unto his present view all those plagues as if they were in present being, to the wounding of his spirit, that no man can bear, but seek all means to destroy themselves." Again, "he that stands doubtful, conscience hath not that power over him; yet if he be inclined to fear, conscience will even be snarling at him and keeping him from extravagancies; and this is all the good that conscience doth, to make a man that is viciously inclined, be artificially honest."
I say, thou that talks of false prophets must thyself be proved by the true Prophet and his apostles, they held the mystery of faith in a pure conscience,24 and their rejoicing was the testimony of their conscience,25 not with fleshly wisdom. But the ground of thy conscience is in opinion, and thy honesty artificial. Christ saith, those that do not minister to the hungry, strangers, naked, or prisoners, shall go into everlasting punishment;26 but this with thee is a thing determined by the understanding. The saints was saved by the answer of a good conscience towards God,27 and by the blood of Christ through the eternal Spirit had their consciences purged from dead works to serve the living God,28 and they were subject for conscience sake.29 And this rule thou would make people believe was but as the person stood inclined to fear or doubt, or without fear; so (with thee) without fear, without condemnation; least fear of God, most peace. I know the peace <280> of the beast is to be out of the yoke, and the colt to be out of the bridle, so thou without fear: but thou wilt know that the wicked, yea and they that forget God, must be turned into hell; then shalt thou see his words true that said, "Happy is that man that feareth always; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief";30 though now a seared conscience be thy most peace, and conscience cannot be of much worth in thy account, who hast not in thee above nature to exercise it; thy ground being but opinion, thy judgment is no more but imagination.
Thou says, "The glorious actions of the sons of men is from a natural inclination of delight to do justly, and this," thou says, "is a dye in grain will never change; let him change his opinion or change his religion, yet his actions will be the same."
|I say, the glorious actions of the sons of God is from an inclination to that spirit of justice which is before nature was,c the ground of all justice that God accepts, and that religion that never changes, which condemns all changeable opinions. And thou whose religion is but a changeable opinion, and hast thy honesty by art, thy justice is not everlasting; they that knows no better may believe thee and trust thee: for I know that which exercises the conscience void of offence in righteousness towards God and towards mand is one: and if the first be but a changeable opinion, I am sure the second is no everlasting truth; and thy conscience whose ground is but an opinion, thou may well say the ground of thy actions is natural; but all who knows the eternal ground denies thee and them both, and knows that he that is changeable as to God cannot be just as to men but for self-ends.||The Lord is the habitation of justice, Jer. 50:7.|
In thy last, thou says, "The Quakers speak of a light in the conscience, and of the senses acting in disobedience, and of a true light, but if they would lay down these things in a methodical way, so the people might out of their own understanding feel them working in them, it were something."
I say, silence deceit and learn to speak truth: the Quakers speaks of no light in the conscience but the true light, which the natural man with his sensual wisdom and imagined light which is <281> not above nature, acts in disobedience to the true light of Christ which shines in the dark heart, where the darkness of wisdom and prudence and all imaginations is, from which the things of Christ are hid; and thou that wouldst hear these things revealed to the world's wisdom and sensual understanding, which God hath hid from all but babes,31 canst not teach God a way; thou must first learn to believe before thou feel its working. The power of God is received by faith above nature, and not in the sensual understanding.
Thou says, "Man's chiefest certainty lieth within the reach of his senses."
I say, That's thy chiefest certainty who knows naught above nature in thee, but our chiefest certainty is by faith in Christ, which the natural senses could never comprehend; and what certainty canst thou judge of, who denies the infallible Spirit? Is thy certainty aught but carnal, which must perish with thee like the beast?
Thou says we tell people "that the senses and faculties are carnal, and contrary to the true light, the which is to believe our infallibility; and having brought people to believe this, they are not only made uncapable of trying the truth of their doctrines, but fitted to fall down before the greatest idols in the world," &c.
I say, Is not those senses and faculties carnal which have naught to guide them above nature? all that knows what spiritual is may judge thee who denies these to be carnal,32 and so contrary to the true light; but is it become a scoff with thee to teach people to believe the infallible Spirit? Thou blasphemer, is there any other object of faith to be believed but that which is infallible?33 and doth faith in that Spirit disable them for trying the doctrines? Is there any other thing can try doctrines, but that which is infallible? or is there any spirit that's not infallible that can keep from falling down to worship idols? nay, doth not all worship idols who believes not in this Spirit? Is this thy teaching and testimony, to deny the infallible Spirit and set up thy sensual natural faculties in his stead? Thou enemy of God, what must people believe in, if not in that which is infallible? Thou rightly calls <282> this thy firstborn; and a shameful birth it is, which is not born of God, but of thy fallible faculties. Thou never read in Scripture of such teachers; thou art worse than Balaam, who durst not act according to his own faculties: dost thou not here strike at the foundation of truth? Can a fallible foundation keep the creatures from falling? Is this thy way to keep from idols, by denying faith in the infallible Spirit? Herein Jupiter and thou art both one; this is thy will thou wouldst have accepted for the deed thou toldst one in thy epistle, & thy first fault thou wouldst have pardoned beforehand; the least child of light sees thee and thy doctrine of devils and damnable heresies, who denies the Lord God and Christ Jesus the Son to be in the saints, and makes a scoff at anything in man above nature.
And seeing thou talks of God and Christ and Scriptures, make proof that thou ownest them, and prove what thou hast holden out in thy paper by plain Scripture, which thou hast subtly holden out; such as these, That he that preaches faith in the infallible Spirit juggles people out of their understanding, and fits them to fall down to worship idols; or that he that hath not his feet upon a sure ground can judge the things of God, or teach others what the light of Christ is. That there is any sure ground of faith but the infallible. That the ground and appearance of the light of Christ is not above nature. That none can tell what the light of Christ is, its essence and being. That the light of Christ is not properly light but figurative. That there is no inward light but what is seated in the understanding. That there is no believing nor knowing but what proceeds from the determination of the understanding. That the creatures bring into the world the light of Christ, as they bring in their natural strength. That the five faculties is the ground of all action in the saints. That the office of the natural understanding is to judge of the things of God. That believers are to follow their own will according to the determination of their natural understanding. That the natural man's actions are pure, judges purely without self-ends. That conscience hath no ground but one single opinion. That hell or the place of everlasting plagues stands in the determination of man's understanding, or that the flames thereof shall fall most upon them that are most tender and in fear. And that he that doubts shall not have so much torment. That all <283> that conscience is good for is to make some men artificially honest. That the glorious actions of the sons of men proceeds from natural inclination that will never change. That man's chiefest certainty lieth within the reach of the senses. That the five faculties thou speaks on are not carnal and fleshly. That infallibility is not the surest ground of faith, and surest trier of doctrines, and strength against idols.
These things and many more suchlike I find in thy paper, which stand need of better proof than thy words, who knows naught in thee above nature, or that is infallible; but these I have sent thee, look upon them. If thou say this be not thy meaning and intent in any one of them, give thy own meaning of thy own words; or if thou have said what thou now sees amiss, take it again, this I hold reasonable; but those thou affirms of them, prove them by plain Scripture; for else there is little wisdom for any who loves their souls, to believe what one says without the Spirit of God in him, or Scripture given out from that Spirit, to prove what is said. I am sure he that will be led with such may soon be led to worship those idols thou speaks on; his best guide being but imaginations, who hath naught in him above nature; but we have not our witness from men; so him that comes in his own name we deny. And if the Scriptures will not own thy spirit, nor aught in thee above nature, thou art to all that know the eternal Spirit reprobate, and thy opinions.
And for thy telling of demonstrating the Spirit to a natural capacity, I say, to them that can believe we can; for such only are capable, and to them only it is possible.34 But if Christ himself could not demonstrate himself to be the light of the world, to such as thee, who would not believe aught in them above nature; though he told them the kingdom of God was within them: and this unbelief was and is the condemnation: that light is come into the world, but the darkness loved and the light opposed.35 And here thou may read thyself, who under a pretense of teaching the light of Christ would wholly put it out, and set thy natural faculties in its stead; not above nature, naught but imaginations.
1. 1 Cor. 2:14-15.
2. 1 Cor. 2:10.
3. John 1:13.
4. Jude 10.
5. Heb. 11:27.
6. John 8:12.
7. 1 Cor. 1:19.
8. Matt. 11:25.
9. Isa. 11:6.
10. Isa. 55:8-9.
11. 1 Cor. 2:6-8.
12. 2 Cor. 5:7.
13. Ps. 116:10.
14. Jude 10.
15. John 5:22.
16. John 3:5-6.
17. Gal. 5:24.
18. Phil. 2:13.
19. John 6:38.
20. 2 Pet. 1:21.
21. 1 Cor. 2:14-15.
22. Jas. 3:15.
23. Gal. 4:6,8.
24. 1 Tim. 3:9.
25. 2 Cor. 1:12.
26. Matt. 25:44,46.
27. 1 Pet. 3:21.
28. Heb. 9:14.
29. Rom. 13:5.
30. Prov. 28:14.
31. Matt. 11:25.
32. 1 Cor. 3:1,3; Rom. 8:6-7.
33. Acts 1:3.
34. Mark 9:22-23.
35. John 3:16,18-20.
a. Thomason date: Aug. 24, 1655.
b. figure out = prefigure, symbolize.
c. Hos. 14:9; Ps. 89:14.
d. Acts 14:16.