Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Behold you Rulers
You have gained riches, and you seek worldly glory, an evil covetousness to yourselves; and these idols being set up in your hearts to be worshipped, you rage and wonder why the children of light will not worship your gods you have set up, and fall down before the glory of this world in you, so you are angry. But why are you so blind to think that such who have denied to bow to the same spirit and pride in themselves, and have (through the cross) obtained power from above to cast out the same idols out of their own hearts, and can they bow to them in another? Nay, the day is come, and the children of light have found the living God to worship, and there is none besides him to us. And <44> now in vain is the idols preached; we cannot worship with you, however you be tormented; it is of God to famish the world's idols; and he alone will be worshipped who is mighty to save. What have we to do any more with idol-vanity?b Pride cannot save us, nor can the world's glory preserve in the hour of temptation, though we should bow thereto; we cannot trust in uncertain riches, nor may we take counsel at silver or gold, flocks or herds. We have proved your idols, and know what is in them, and we have found them destroyers and not saviors. Whatever your glory promises you (who most seek it), we know in its right hand is a lie, flattery, and falsehood; and all who loves it comes short of the glory of God. Humility is our glory, and he is our savior who saith, "Learn of me, for I am lowly, and ye shall find rest to your souls." And this we have proved, and we find his words truth, and all loftiness a lie. So having found the truth, the truth hath made us free: free from pride, free from vainglory, free from that spirit that puts it on and would have it worshipped, free from the manners of the Gentiles, who exercise lordship in that nature which is out of the light and doctrine of Christ.
So the truth having made us free, in that liberty we stand fast, and may not be entangled again with your yoke of bondage, nor the manners of the Gentiles; and then you say it's our pride and stubbornness, and many such accusations you cast on us. Alas! what darkness is this! And how have you lost your judgment! What, is Mordecai become prouder than Haman with you? Is he proud who denies to worship pride, and he that would be worshipped free? Is not this to put light for darkness, and darkness for light, to condemn the innocent, to hide the offender? Come down to that of God in your consciences, and let that judge; and let pride be seen and ashamed where it is. And then you plead Scripture and say, "Let every soul be subject to the higher power," and "be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," &c. Now this we say also and owns the Scriptures; but man's pride is not the higher power; in humility we find a power above pride, higher than oppression, higher than <45> men's wills, higher than the lusts of the eye, yea higher than all that in man would exalt against it; so we deny the lower, that we may subject ourselves to that which excelleth, which is ordained of God. And to every ordinance of man are we subject for the Lord's sake; but should we bow to the spirit of pride, we should betray the Lord, and give his honor to another, and that is not for the Lord's sake; so what we see for the Lord, and of him in every ordinance of man, we subject to for the Lord's sake,c and what is against him for his sake we deny, and with him suffer under it, as witnesses for him against it; so we give Caesar his due, and customd to whom it belongs, but all glory and worship to God alone, to whom it is due.
But say you, "that worship we plead for is civil, not religious." But where do you read in Scripture of civil worship? We find, "Honor all men in the Lord," and that which is in the Lord is religious, and that which is not in the Lord is idolatrous. Is there anything honorable in man but the image of God, which is spiritual? he that worships where that is not, worships the beast, or that which is worse, the devil; and if any bow to that of God in man, how comes it not to be religious?e And yet you say for conscience sake, and not religious, so your distinctions will not gain worship from them who knows God and his image, and the beast and his image, in their several appearances; and by this are they known forever; he that's from above seeks not honor from man, but that honor which is of God alone; God's presence in him makes him honorable in the hearts of all that loves God, so God gives him grace, and glory, and honor. But the other must have none from God, who abides not in that which is honorable, and so becomes as the beast seeking honor by force from such as he hath power over, and rages if he cannot have it; and this nature hath no right to it, though the false prophet join with him to <46> plead for it, who mustf into the lake together; and all that worship the beast and his image must drink of the wine of the wrath of God, poured out without mixture, as saith the Scripture.
So you that are in place to rule, and seek for honor, seek first that which is honorable, and none can hold you from honor, and know it is the gift of God only to such as honor him, and not themselves; seek that glory and honor that hath immortality and eternal life, which is obtained of God by continuance in well doing. Seek humility that goes before honor, exalt justice, set up righteousness and truth in judgment, hold forth God's sword to all people under you, and not your own wills;g then you honor God, and he will honor you. Seek first the kingdom of God, that he may rule in your own hearts, over your pride, over your passion, over lust, over covetousness, over respect of persons, and over all unrighteousness, so shall you set up the higher power in you, for every soul to be subject to, which that of God in every conscience shall answer to; then are you ministers of God, and he shall add to you that honor which is of God, which is spiritual, which is immortal, binding every conscience and soul in subjection to your authority, which all that resist receive damnation to themselves. And this is religious and an ordinance of God, and receives not its honor from man, but from God alone, who hath ever honored holy men and women that ruled for God, with God,h as you may read in the Scriptures, who never needed to seek it from men while they retained God. But Saul, when God was departed from him, through covetousness and disobedience, cried, "Honor me before the people," who had lost the kingdom of God,i had lost his honor, had lost that which binds the conscience and to which the soul is to be subject, who cried, "Honor me before the people," from whom God was departed, who had departed from God, who sought honor to himself without God; the kingdom of Godi being rent from him, his honor departed.
So you that would have honor, seek God and retain him, exalt his kingdom in your hearts, and he will add honor thereto. But if you be disobedient, and your own souls be not subject to <47> the higher power, then another power rules, to which the righteous soul cannot subject for conscience sake; then gets up he that's out of God's kingdom and cries "honor me before the people." And this is he that sought David's life and seeks the life of his seed, who is disobedient, who is covetous, who is greedy of honor, who is a murderer, who keeps not the word of God nor abode in the truth, to keep down pride and vainglory. Then the false prophet cries "worship this"; so such as be out of the faith of Christ, disobedient to the law of God, and in respect of persons; such as be flatterers, liars, scorners, fighters, suers,j drunkards, swearers, and such as be out of the kingdom of God, whose souls are not subject to the higher power for conscience sake, such bow and worship with putting off hats, and bowing of the knee to the person, but the soul of such is not subject to the power that is of God for conscience sake; yet such is the darkness of many rulers as to account this subjection to authority, while such whose souls do truly bow to the power of righteousness, justice and equity, wherever it is, without flattering where it is not, are condemned for unmannerliness, disorder, and suffer as disobedient to authority. But to that of God in every conscience do we appear, whether such souls exalt the power which is of God, and seek his honor, or their own; and so as you honor God, with God shall you be honored;k but seek it as eagerly as you will, without him it will fly from you, though flattery you may obtain, which will corrupt your judgment and let in upon you everlasting dishonor. Wherefore turn to the Lord with your whole hearts, and seek his glory alone, that he may put upon you his spirit of humility and righteous judgment, that you may be covered therewith as with a garment, so shall you freely have our souls' subjection, which now in secret mourns for you with prayers and tears before God, and openly suffers under you for a testimony against you. And now you that are not in place to rule, and seeks to be worshipped of us, what is it you would have us bow to in you, or upon you? Gladly would we see humility appear in you, and behold you covered with the Spirit of <48> God, that in our souls we might subject thereto, and so in the Lord honor you; but should we bow to your gold and silver lace, your costly apparel, or earthly riches? To that of God in you all we appear,l if we should not worship idols, and break the law of God, for which doing how we should be excused before God at the day of account, let such as fear God more than man, judge.
O you rulers and teachers of these nations, to which Christ Jesus hath showed so much favor as to honor these nations with his first appearance now after so long a night; and that from hence the sunrise of righteousness should shine forth in clearness to the world over the head of all idolatry, false worships, corrupt laws, violence and oppression, and all the numberless number of vain customs, pride and excess, in which the whole world lies in wickedness, and with which the holy pure One is burdened, and hath been grieved these many years, against which he is now arisen in many of his servants openly to declare, not only here, but in most parts of the world, and should you be the men now to set yourselves against this work by evil entreating such as are called thereto, and are found therein, nor doth your teachers go about it themselves; what will you answer the Lord to these things? Is there no need of this work at home or abroad? Is your streets and markets clear, and your worships pure? Where can the pure eye of God look out, and not behold iniquity and provocation? Do you look for his coming, and evil entreat his servants whom he sends to prepare his way before him? Would you have him to find you as Sodom at his coming? If you see these evils abound in the world, why do you set yourselves against such as call to repentance where these things most abound? Is your streets and temples prepared for the pure God to walk and be worshipped in with delight, when a mortal man who hath but modesty in his face cannot behold but be grieved with the excess of vanity and deceit shiningn openly <49> therein? Is the way prepared in your streets and temples for the Lamb, when a lion cannot pass for briars & thorns, and other fruitless trees tearing, and haling, and bruising? Did you love him in truth you would also hate that which would grieve his holy Spirit at his coming in yourselves, and in others; and you would hinder none that come in his name who seek to make an end of sin, seeing nothing else hinders his appearance, nor hath caused his departure from the children of men; and you that call yourselves ministers of Christ, had not the spirit of slumber possessed you this would be your work; did the holy Spirit dwell in your houses, and look out at your windows, you could not be silent till you had driven iniquity into a corner, and made pride to blush, and lying, swearing, and all cursed speaking afraid to utter its voice in the streets, that the pure eye might bless you, and the holy one delight to walk in the open streets of your greatest meetings. Should not this be the work of the ministers of righteousness, and messengers of Christ Jesus, rather than to petition the rulers of the world against such as are found in this work, to the utmost of your power, hindering it both at home and abroad, neither going about it yourselves, nor suffering them that would; were you seen to be diligent in this work you should appear to be such servants as truly wait for your Lord's coming in peace, and not in wrath, and that you had received the earnest of the Spirit which travails for the delivering of the creation from the bondage of corruption, and the glorious liberty of the sons of God, and the joy and peace of the King of Righteousness at his coming over the whole world.
a. London, Printed for Thomas Simmonds, 1658. The 1658 printing includes only the first four and a half pages (ending on p. 48 below); the rest of the pamphlet first appears in a 1660 edition.
b. 1660 changes "idol-vanity" to "idolatry."
c. 1660 and Whitehead omit "so what we see for the Lord, and of him in every ordinance of man, we subject to for the Lord's sake."
d. 1660 and Whitehead change "custom" to "honor."
e. Whitehead changes "he that worships where that is not, worships the beast, or that which is worse, the devil; and if any bow to that of God in man, how comes it not to be religious?" to "And if any honor that of God in man, is it not on a religious account?"
f. W. inserts "be cast."
g. 1660 & W. insert "without respect of persons."
h. W. omits "with God."
i. W. omits "of God."
j. Whitehead omits "suers."
k. W. changes "with God shall you be honored" to "he will honor you."
l. Whitehead changes "appear" to "appeal."
m. In 1660 and Whitehead "The End" is replaced by "J.N.," and the pamphlet then continues with the following material.
n. Whitehead changes "shining" to "shown."