Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Dispute with the Parish Teachers of Chesterfield
BEING moved of the Lord to go to Chesterfield about the 20th day of the 10th month, and coming to the house of John Firth, as I was in the house I heard a confused noise in the town, hooting, yelling, and swearing about a bull-baiting; whereat being much troubled in spirit I waited to know the will of God, what he would have me to do; whether I should go and declare against that their ungodly practice. But after I had waited a while I was moved to write to him that is called their teacher and was showed that I must lay the thing upon him, being the cause why the people knew no better but perish under him for want of knowledge; whereupon I writ as followeth:
To thee who calls thyself a minister of Jesus Christ and pretends to be called to this town of Chesterfield this people to teach, but this day is the fruits of thy ministry manifest, in the open streets, a multitude gathered to sport themselves in setting one of the creatures of God against another to torment. And thy people thou teaches, hooting, yelling, swearing and cursing and blaspheming the dreadful name of God—is this thy ministry, and these thy brethren with whom thou joins to worship the living God? Oh how dare you take his name into your mouths? Did ever any minister of Christ lead a people thus or own such a people to maintain them? Oh shame that ever you should own the name of Christians, those that never heard of the name of Christ shall rise up in judgment against you. Is this the voice that this day is heard in your streets? or are these the people God accepts when you pray? Nay, your prayers is abomination to God, and you never knew him, that lives in these things or joins with them. Didst thou love God thou could not suffer these things and be silent; O thou man-pleaser! I declare to thee this day in the presence of the Lord that God hath <2> a controversy with thee and the rest of thy generation, who hath suffered these wickedness to lie upon his people so that he cannot be reconciled to them, nor they know him, because of their sins; and you daub them and call them Christians; and thus they perish under you for want of knowledge of God, and yet you cry peace and tells them they cannot be free from sin, nor know God as the children of God have ever done; and thus you strengthen the hands of the wicked so that none turns from his wickedness, but God is risen to cut you off and to deliver his people out of your mouths upon whom you have made a prey; and woe unto you. It had been good for you that you had never been born; and in that day thou shalt witness that this is the word of God.
Written by one that seeks the good
of souls, called James Nayler
For this writing, complaint was made at a meeting of justices, and much means was used to raise persecution, and the man of the house where I writ it was sent for and examined about it, and John Billingsly, the priest of Chesterfield, said oftentimes and before many hundreds of people, that I "deserved to be hanged for these words writing"; but not prevailing at that time, another plot was laid under pretense of a dispute, to get me within compass of their law, and a letter was sent after me, challenging a meeting in the steeplehouse at Chesterfield the 3rd day of the month called January, with the questions they would dispute on, which were in these words following:
For James Nayler, wandering Quaker, and his fellow seducers, persecutors of the faithful ministers of the gospel of Christ:
I perceive by the papers sent by thee and other thy fellows to myself and other my brethren in the ministry of the gospel, that thou spreadest wicked errors and forgest abominable lies against the servants of Christ. Therefore if thou hast a mind to meet in a way of Christian conference, and be willing, First, that only one shall speak at once; Secondly, that what is spoken on both sides shall presently be committed to writing to be published to the congregation at the end of every argument and question at the furthest; then I shall give thee a meeting (God willing) to confer with thee upon these questions, and upon any other afterward as shall be agreed upon:
Quest. 1. Whether the Spirit of God speaking in the Scriptures be the chief judge of controversies of faith? I affirm it, prove the <3> contrary if you can.
Qu. 2. Whether the private spirit in the pope, or in any Quakers, be the chief judge of any controversies of faith? I deny it, prove the contrary if you can.
Qu. 3. Whether Christ or his apostles did preach in the synagogues or public meeting places, or upon any text of Scripture? I affirm it, prove the contrary if you can.
Qu. 4. Whether every man be bound to look to the light within him for his direction to attain salvation? I deny it, prove the contrary if you can.
Qu. 5. Whether you Quakers have any lawful call from God to leave your particular callings or families to wander up and down the nation publishing doctrines contrary to the doctrine of Christ? I deny it, prove it if you can.
Qu. 6. Whether it be lawful for your Quakers publicly before our congregations, by word and writing, or otherwise, to revile and slander the ministers of Christ, calling them thieves, murderers, hypocrites, antichrists, seducers, and suchlike? I deny it, prove the contrary if you can.
Qu. 7. Whether it be lawful to call any man master or father upon earth? I affirm it.
If you will meet upon the 3d day of the 11th month, commonly called the 3d of January next being Wednesday come sevennight, in the public meeting place at Chesterfield, you shall (God willing) find those who will be ready to defend the truth and oppose your errors.
Chesterfield, Decemb. 23, 1654.
If you agree to give us a meeting upon the terms before-mentioned, let me have certain notice within these four days under your hand.
This challenge I received when I was about twenty miles from Chesterfield, and writ an answer to it as followeth:
Those who trembled and quaked at the word of the Lord was ever hated and scorned by those who talked of the letter but knew not the word, but cast out such as heard the word and trembled at it; and for a pretense said, let God be glorified;1 and such being cast out was ever strangers and wanderers, who had no certain dwelling place;2 and in such the Son of man is manifest, who hath not whereon to lay his head; and to such thou appears to be an <4> enemy which ever was the faithful ministers of the gospel, who never persecuted any but was beat in the synagogues and haled to prison, as now they are by the false prophets, &c., hirelings, against whom they was sent to bear witness, who therefore stirred up the powers of the earth against them3 (for there their strength ever lay) as now the prisons are filled by thy generation, a witness against you, and yet thou art not ashamed to call me persecutor, who hath often suffered by you but never persecuted any; and in the presence of the Lord I charge thee to be a liar, till thou prove whom I have persecuted. And for my paper I sent to thee or any of thy brethren, I charge thee to prove what wicked errors or forged lies there be in it. And were thou a servant of Christ thou would be ashamed of such practice whereof I wrote to thee in my paper, and not have envied me for it. And for thy questions, wherein thou hast showed thy ignorance of the Spirit of God and his call to the ministry, I shall return the answer thus.
Qu. 1. answ. The Spirit of God speaking in the holy men of God, by which the scriptures were given forth as they are moved, was and is the chief judge of all controversies, and by that Spirit was all controversies judged before the letter was, which judgment the letter declares of as is plain (Exod. 18:16; 1 Kings 3; 1 Cor. 2:15-16; 1 John 2:20,27; 1 Cor. 10:15 & 14:26), and this Spirit speaks not in the dead but in the living.
Qu. 2. That Spirit which in all ages bare witness against such which sought for their gain from their quarters, bare rule by their means, were called of men masters, had the chief place in assemblies, stood praying in the synagogues, laid heavy burdens upon the people, &c., was not a private spirit, though it was but in one against hundreds, which Spirit testifies against all the world and its invented worships, pride and covetousness, and it's the same at this day, and that's the private spirit, and the spirit of the pope that lives in the contrary, holding up the popish worship in popish houses by popish laws; beating and imprisoning such as bear witness against these popish ways and worships; and by that spirit do the Quakers now suffer, which witness the spirit of judgment where there is no controversy, which thou denies who art in opinions and controversies.
<5> Qu. 3. Christ went into the synagogues and temple, who preached the end of temple and temple worship and held forth the worship in Spirit,4 which being fulfilled the apostles went to call out of the synagogues and idols' temples and said God did not dwell in temples made with hands; and who believed in Christ came out and met no more in the synagogues but in private houses or in the fields, and witnessed their bodies the temples of the living God, and his worship there in Spirit; which temples was holy,5 nor did they take a text and from that study an hour's talk, but said God had made them able ministers, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; though Christ under the law did read a scripture to witness it fulfilled in himself; but this will not prove your practice who preach other men's conditions and not your own, no more than the apostles going into the synagogues to call people out will prove the practice to keep them in, which is quite contrary (Acts 17:1-4).
Qu. 4. The light of Christ which hath enlightened everyone that comes into the world is our light, and to that light is everyone bound to look for direction to attain salvation, according to his own words (John 8:12), and this light is spiritual and within, as is plain (2 Cor. 4:6-7; Luke 11:34-36), and the law of the Spirit of life is within written in the heart, which is the new covenant of light, and thou that denies this light art manifest to be one of those builders that refuse the cornerstone, which is Christ the light, and knows not the mystery of godliness, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory, and way to attain salvation, nor that Spirit of truth in thee that leads into all truths, but art manifest in thy words and practices a child of darkness speaking and acting contrary to the spiritual law and testimony, because thou hast denied the light in thee (Isa. 8:20), and the least child of light shall thee judge and comprehend a blind guide, that hast not the light in thee, contrary to the apostles, who preached the word that was in them, and Christ who is the light in them; but thy light and word is without thee, and not within thee (Rom. 10:6-8).
Qu. 5. Our call from God we witness, to leave all and follow him as wanderers, who had not whereon to lay his head, and in love to soul to deny ourselves and worldly interest, to publish the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our <6> God upon the head of all deceit & deceivers, & those that hold them up, who are found in the steps of the Pharisees. And this is not contrary to the doctrine of Christ but the same which he practiced, and those that he called out of the world his calling to follow that that might please him that had called them. And thou that deniest this to be a lawful call, stop thy mouth forever professing thyself a minister of Christ, who knows not a call out of the world nor his doctrine who said, He that will not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple; but your calling is where you may have all, and not where you must forsake all; you are no such disciples, nor so taught.
Qu. 6. Those who denies the light of Christ, who is the door, and climbs up another way, are thieves, and who beats in prisons, and envies his brother, is a murderer, and who professes Christ but lives contrary, are hypocrites; and who draws from the spiritual teaching, and denies the light of Christ, are seducers and antichrists, and no ministers of Christ's; and publicly to bear witness against such in word and writing is no railing nor slandering, and in the temple and synagogues have such been denied by Christ and his ministers; and those who will follow Christ can do no other at this day, though now you rage as they did.
Qu. 7. Saith Christ, call no man master upon earth, neither be ye called master, but thou affirms the contrary against his plain commands, and art not ashamed to manifest antichrist before all men, and no wonder that thou should oppose his family, when thou sets thyself against the Master to set thyself in his stead, that thou mayest be worshipped; and here thy spirit speaks contrary to the Scriptures and that Spirit that spoke forth the Scriptures, and that's the spirit of antichrist that opposeth the words of Christ.
If the Lord will, I shall be at Chesterfield the day thou hast appointed, not to serve thy pride but to bear witness to the truth which thou opposest; and for disorder as speaking more than one at once, look thou to it on thy part, for with me there is not much danger, not knowing any shall be with me but him alone in whom I stand a witness to the truth, God blessed forever.
Written from Elton near Belvoir Castle,
These answers I would have read before the people, but the priests was not willing to suffer it, but interrupted me.
After I had written this, I returned him back his own questions in these words as followeth.
<7> Having answered thy questions I have returned thee them again, wherein thou may see thy folly and in plainness return an answer.
Quest. 1. Whether everyone that hath the letter have the chief judge of all controversies? and whether the chief judge be divided in himself, seeing you who trade in the letter, and have the judgment from thence, are so full of opinions, contentions, and vain jangling, which by the Spirit is judged?
Qu. 2. Whether that proud spirit in the chief priests & Pharisees, hirelings & false prophets, or that which bare witness against it in wandering despised persons, was the private spirit? and whether these spirits bring not forth the same fruits now? and whether of these spirits is in the pope and popish priests at this day?
Qu. 3. Whether ever any of the ministers of Christ, after the true temple was destroyed, did ever lead people into the synagogues of idols' temples, there to worship, taking a text of another man's words which God never spoke to them, and from that divine an hour's talk by a glass, raising points, reasons, objections and answers, stand praying before and after, and have such a sum of tithes or money for so doing; prove thy practice by plain Scripture and clear it from popery where it had its rise, or stop thy mouth forever.
Qu. 4. Whether that Christ who is the light of the world be in every believer, and where he leaves his light when he comes to appear in them, seeing thou denies any light within to be looked to for direction to attain salvation.
Qu. 5. Whether that call wherewith Christ ever called his ministers out of the world to preach to all nations according to the Scriptures be the same now, or when was it changed into tithes, parsonages, and great houses to dwell in, seeing thou denies the first of these to be lawful and hast taken up the latter.
Qu. 6. How comes those words formerly spoken by Christ and his ministers now to be unlawful, being spoken to the same generation who are found in the same practices? and had not the chief priests and Pharisees (who were antichrists and seducers) as good reason to call that reviling & slandering the ministers, seeing they could prove their call to the ministry (by the letter) which you cannot.
Qu. 7. After Christ had given a command to his ministers not to be called masters, when did he command the contrary? and is not he antichrist that teaches not to obey the commands of <8> Christ but affirms & practices the contrary? and whether the crying yourselves up in words to be servants of Christ, but being masters and lords in every town bearing rule by your means, taking men's goods against their wills, do not resemble the pope, who calls himself (in words) the servant of servants, but rules over kings where he can get power? and how far you have attempted the like in these nations hath been manifest, and whether these be the fruits of the ministers of Christ?
These answers and questions I left with the mayor of the town to give to the priest, who did so.
This being written, but before I could get it to him, comes another letter full of rage, challengings, and darings about that letter I writ against the uncivil carriage of his people at their bull-baiting, saying that I should first have convinced them that it is a sin to bait a bull before I had exclaimed against them for it; and that our speaking in the markets disturbing the peace is worse than either bull- or bear-baiting, and said he wondered at the patience of God that when I took the pen into my wretched hand he did not cause it to wither up: nay, my heart to tremble and my knees to smite one against another and make me a spectacle of his avenged power before his saints and before the world; but if I repented not of that wickedness the Lord would shortly come in flames of fire with the angel of his power to take vengeance on me. And he desired the Lord of heaven and earth to give me a true sight of my wickedness manifest (in that I writ to him against the bull-baiting) and that God would cause my soul to bleed and mourn under the burden of it; and said I had drawn away many well-meaning souls from the profession and practice of truth, which was according to truth, strongly pleading for the owning the people in this practice, pleading that Christ eat with publicans and sinners, and that the Hebrews church was such a mixed multitude as was accustomed to meet in the Jewish synagogues, and that the meaning of that scripture, Heb. 10:25, was so, and that none could be free from the very being of corruption in them whilst they are on this side heaven; and this truth he would undertake largely to prove from Scripture, if I should say to the contrary; and having owned them and pleaded to them in their practice and his own, and railed against me (with these and many more bitter words) for writing against their practice, then he demands of me why it is not as much the fruits of my ministry as of his? And now all may see if this man matter what he says, who owns these people for his flock, takes their tithes for teaching them; <9> and when any is moved to declare against these vanities in markets or high places he says it is worse than either bull- or bear-baiting, and calls it breaking the peace, and threatens me with plagues God will pour on me except I repent of what I had writ in my letter to him against it and all such practice, and hath spoken to the magistrates that none may be suffered to exhort the people in the high place against any such practices but calls a disturbance of their worship, and yet says our ministry is as guilty of the sin of the people as his is, when he will not suffer the truth by us to be ministered to them: but if any do they must suffer for it. And thus the Lord (out of their own mouths) is laying open the deceits of their hearts; for the day of revealing the man of sin is come, and the Lord is at work throughout the nations. And now all people that fears the Lord, loves your souls, take heed how you oppose yourselves to uphold what he is casting down or to cover what he is revealing, lest his wrath break out upon you also, and he that helpeth and he that is holpen fall together. It is for your sakes that they are so plainly laid open that all may see but who is willing to be blind. And when he had ended his letter filled with such stuff as before mentioned he says it's the Lord's advice to me; but that Lord I deny and his advice who pleads for sin and sects, bull-baiting and bear-baiting above the servants of God who reproves sin in the gate.
The day the priests had appointed drawing nigh I came over Trent to go to Chesterfield, to be there at the time appointed, to bear witness to the truth; and being showed the many plots laid to have me cast in prison and to prosecute their bloody intents against me, the enemy presented strong temptations to draw me back and not to go on. But my mind being kept with my Father in his will to stand, the power of the Lord arise; oh the standard was lifted up which is my strength in all my bonds and sufferings; and the love of God was shed abroad towards his tender plants which he had planted in those parts, and for their sakes I was willing to lay down life and all that God might be honored in them and they preserved in the faith of Christ which they had received. And so with joy I came to the town early in the morning, and hearing that they had a plot first to begin their service (as they call it), and then if I spoke I was within their law; I went up to the high place before they began about an hour, and walked in their high place, where I <10> was showed that if I would stand in the counsel of my Father the snare should be discovered, and I should escape; after a while I sent two men to the priests to bid them come up according to their challenge; answer came that they stayed for some more of their brethren, they would come by and by. Then I inquired which door he came in at, and the people said at the lower door, then I walked to that door and there stayed, that I might speak to them before they began, but not long after the people told me he was going towards the other door: whereupon I hasted out and up the yard and got the porch before them, and perceiving which was the priest of that town, I said, Friend thou hast accused me behind my back to be a blasphemer, a seducer and persecutor, & antichrist; now prove it to my face before the people; but he would not stay, but as he went looked back, saying thou hast been a soldier, but I am not so hardy; we will go in. So I went in with them, and when we were within I said, now prove thy accusations, calling earnestly to him; but to their usual place they got, and there they lifted up their eyes and hands towards heaven (but blood in their hearts) and began to make a praying; then was I moved to go out from amongst them and went down to a meeting of friends that was in the town, but seeing that I was gone they ceased their service & began to ask for me, and a professor in the town came and told me; then went I up to the high place again but was not to go in, but as I was going I met with the town's mayor & spoke some words to him, who was very moderate and said he would keep peace and would have had me in, but I told him they had begun their work, and in their time I should not go in. Further, I said, let it be manifest this day to thee and all magistrates in the nation, that we have no mind to break the law unless the Lord move us, though that law is contrary to Scripture; therefore let them come forth into the yard, the weather is calm; so he went in, but they would not come forth; so he came again and wished me to come in, and some others wished the same, saying there was no plot; upon which I was moved to charge some there in the presence of God to speak what they knew as to the plot, and they said they did believe such a thing; then said the mayor, none can imprison here but I, and thou shalt not be imprisoned for it. I answered, I believe thou intendest not to imprison me for it, but thou canst not secure me; here are priests out of all quarters, and if complaint be made twenty miles from this place that I broke the law, a justice in the country will say he must execute it upon me, and thou canst not keep me free; then was I <11> moved to speak these words: if thou wilt go in and bring them forth to confess they have done the work they have begun, then I shall go in; so he returned, & after a while they came forth and confessed they had done. So in I went, where there was many hundreds of people, and as some who knew them have said since above twenty priests, though divers had changed their colors from black to gray. The things they would dispute upon were what they themselves had chosen, so that there was no place for any other thing that I would have had them to have proved as their own practice, &c. Yet they would often take liberty to ask many tempting questions to ensnare, as whether the Scripture were the word, and the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the gospel, which they went about to prove but could not, and when I said the gospel was before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote that, the high priest said he would prove the contrary, and brought that of Mark the first, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ," &c. Then I asked him if the gospel was not before those words were written, but his mouth was stopped as to that thing, and the snare laid to no purpose (through the love of my Father) in these two things, viz., that if any say the Scriptures are not the word, and the four books the gospel, they say they have a law against such, & by that law some of the servants of God now are in bonds: though the Scripture say that God is the word, and Christ is the glad tidings. And thus we suffer for speaking what the Scriptures speaks, being moved thereto of the Lord: but herein is manifest the saints' obedience and patience and the serpent's subtlety. Then the snare being broke they ceased their fair speeches & began to show their hearts, saying I deserved to be hanged, calling me desperate knave, bidding fie upon me, wishing me out of the world, and all my followers, gnashing upon me (some of them) with their teeth, and when I spoke the words of the Scripture, the high priest said, that's a Bull, and such corrupt speeches; and when I had reproved the high priest twice for swearing, another said that if I would swear that he swore he should be punished: I answered, must I commit one sin to have another punished; they said it was lawful, if a magistrate commanded it, which I challenged them to prove, but they could not by any command or practice of saints in Scripture, but brought that in the Hebrews where Paul uses a comparison of men's practice, "that men swear by the greater"; and to this they added a lie and said "all men," which the saints never used but said "swear <12> not at all," as Christ our Savior said before them. And said Paul, "an oath amongst men," but doth not say, "an oath among them, is the end of all strife"; for to the saints all strife is ended by the everlasting covenant, without swearing, who saith, "swear not at all by any oath whatsoever, for you cannot make one hair white or black," which these priests set themselves with all their strength, adding many lies to prove swearing lawful and to justify his swearing contrary to these plain commands of Christ; in this they spent much time, and in pleading for lying also, for when I heard them tell many lies, I told them of it; they cursed me and said I was unmannerly to give them the lie, which is Scripture language used by Christ and the holy men of God, who always called a lie by the name of a lie, and never would hide the devil's work under a fine name, but was sent to lay him open and his works, who is the father of the lie in the liar (and one of them threatened me that if he could meet me he would teach me to call liar), though the murderer now say it deserves a stab or a stroke. And thus they are one in the work of their father the liar and murderer; and all that pleads for his works. And when I said no liar must enter into the kingdom, another said, none then must enter, for all were liars. And thus they set to their shoulders one after another to uphold their father's kingdom that it should not be beat down before the people, as many hundreds can witness. And when they could not prove lying lawful, another priest said that every untruth is not a lie, and when I bid him prove that he said he would do it another time; they also pleaded the letter to be the word and the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the gospel, and would have proved it if they could, plainly showing that they know not the word nor gospel which is invisible and spiritual; they also denied that anything could be seen that is invisible, & when I asked how Christ was seen of Paul, they said visibly, & brought to prove it, Acts 1:11: "Ye men of Galilee, the same Jesus shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven." Then I asked them if he was so come again, and one of them said yea, and another nay: another denied that the grace of God could appear to all men, because it is invisible, denying that Scripture, Titus 2:11, and that also affirmed that the Scriptures were the way to know God and not by revelation, denying the words of Christ, who saith, "No man can know the Father but he to whom the Son reveals him"; they said also there is not a word of God which is not of <13> him, nor one with him; that the law of God is not eternal, and that the law of God wrote with his own finger was not one with him; that men are not to look to any light within them for direction to salvation, that the light is not in every man because all are not enlightened by it—contrary to that Scripture, John 1:9; 2 Cor. 4:6; that they that turned from darkness to light, turned not to any light within them; that the kingdom of God is not to be looked for within unbelievers; and when I proved it (Luke 17:21) they said the Pharisees were believers; that the law of God written in the heart is so far obliterated that it cannot discover Christ. When God saith by that law, "all shall know him from the least to the greatest" (Heb. 8:10-11). That all must live in the flesh and the world while they are on earth, contrary to these Scriptures: Rom. 8:8-9; John 15:19. That the Scriptures are the word, and brought this to prove it: "Let the word of God dwell in you," &c., as though the Bible must be in them: but such know not God in them who is the word; and the high priest said that I said they had not the light in them, which was a lie, and when I told him so and bid him speak the truth he said he spoke the word of God, which was proved a lie to his face; he said also that I owned another Christ besides that which died at Jerusalem because I owned a Christ within me, contrary to the apostles' doctrine, who preached Christ within (Col. 1:27) and did not preach another Christ; they said also that Christ did not convince the world because the world cannot receive him, contrary to the words of Christ (John 16:8-9). That it is lawful for them to be called masters and brought to prove that of John 3rd Epist., 9th verse, where Diotrephes, who loved to have preeminence, and said Christ's words were not, "Be not ye called Master" but "love not to be called Master" (Matt. 23:8). And that they did not love it, that were the Pharisees that loved it. But all the Pharisees you read on never pleaded so much for it in all their lives as these priests did that day, but could find no proof in Scripture that they could wrest towards it but cried, "Master Mayor commands you to depart," and that was their best weapon when Scripture served not: but in all this I could not get them to prove their own practice nor to prove me a persecutor, blasphemer, seducer and antichrist, which I proffered to prove them before all the people, but that they would not meddle in but said it was not in the questions intended; then I was moved with a loud voice for the people's sake, who they lead blind in a blind way and worship, to <14> utter these words: "People, it may be you never heard as much before; here I challenge all here to prove any one thing they perform in these high places or idols' temples to be according to Scripture, any one thing they call worship to be as the ministers of Christ performed in Scriptures, declared without wresting." But to this none that I heard would give any answer at all, so presently after was I carried out by the mayor of the town, who carried himself civilly towards me, and so did the people also. Many other passages there was which might have been serviceable to have laid them further open, but the writers being on their appointing they are kept secret and were not read to the people, though they so promised before they began.
And now the poor deluded people, see your blindness and how you betray your own souls, to believe and follow such as are out of the saints' practice, both in worship, doctrine, and manners, which I dare undertake to prove against all the high-place worshippers in this nation, that not anything they perform there they call worship, that is according to plain Scripture, without wresting, and how shall these lead them to God in anything, who are out of the saints' practice in all things they call worship? And with the life of the Scripture they are judged not to have the form of godliness, much more not the power.
Not long after, I received a letter from the high priest, who subscribes his name Immanual Bourne, wherein he desired me to send him the answers to their seven questions which they would not suffer me to read before the people, which answers I left with the mayor of the town to be given them. And in the conclusion of his letter he confesseth he hath received them. He sent also a cover for the two oaths he swore in his dispute, adding lying to cover swearing; when he swore them he pleaded they were not oaths because by went not before Mary; but having had the use of his study and library now he hath found that out that will cover it learnedly, and that is that it was not Mary but marry which he swore—a phrase taken from agreement in marriage; and that that is a true sense of the expression and no more. And that he did it to declare his agreement or approbation to what was said or done. As much as to say, I agree to what is spoken (whenas hundreds may witness that both his oaths were to oppose what I had said). And saith he, this I use sometimes, but to swear by Mary openly or wittingly, that's a sin. But he did never swear an oath since he was born except before <15> some who had commission, &c. Or that upon some special occasion he called God himself to witness. Thus the serpent hath showed his crooked way to get a hole to hide himself, but it is but from him that's blind, for who is in the light of Christ see thee in thy hole and thy covering too narrow, and to judgment thou must come with the light to be judged, which thou hidest thy deeds from and hatest. But had he had this ready when he was reproved before the people it might perhaps have spared a great deal of time that was spent to cover it otherwise, but he could not; but sometimes the serpent hath his wit to seek when he stands in most need of it, that the word of the Lord may be fulfilled, "I will confound the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid." Blessed is he who is fulfilling his word at this day. And upon this wicked generation, who thus make it their work to teach people to sin (by their practice) and also to cover it by their policy, and now having found out this cover and by subtlety strengtheneth the wicked hand. Then he sees me to be in the fault for reproving him for swearing and says he cannot so hate me as to suffer such a sin to be upon me if he can remove it, and therefore he admonisheth me to repent of it. And thus having put out his own eyes he sure thinks all are blind about him. And it's no wonder that such should affirm that none ought to look to any light within for direction to salvation. And let every child of light judge if these be not blind guides, though they would not be known so to be but call it railing. Further, he desired that I would send him any other questions, and they should be answered in writing. He says further, the confusion was so great because of me and others that he could not know my certain answers to the questions, though in the close of his letter he saith he hath received them in writing, whereupon I writ to him as followeth:
I have received a paper wherein is desired an answer to the questions which afterward thou hast received. Thou also desirest me to send thee any other questions and sayest they shall be answered in writing, which I have done accordingly and have sent a few here enclosed, which if thou and the rest of you return an answer in plainness you may therein manifest the ground of your ministry, which may be serviceable to the whole body. Let me have an answer before I go out of the country, that there be no backbiting or secret slandering.
For the confusion thou tells on, it was manifest where it was, <16> and casting it upon others will not clear thee and the rest of thy brethren, nor will the cloak thou has put upon thy swearing hide it, nor cover thee. The light is risen, thy mist can blind none, the refuge of lies is sweeping away, neither shalt thou lead any but who is willing to be blind, for the mighty day is coming on apace, and till then I leave you to the witness of God in your conscience, which lets you see your envious bloody minds and whence it arises, and your reward that shall be answerable: At that day it shall appear you have been warned while you had time to repent, from a lover of your souls.
Qu. 1. What was the fruits of man before the fall, and from what ground did they arise? And whether anyone redeemed out of the fall shall bring forth the same fruits, or from the same ground, or fruits not so good, or fruits better? And from what different ground shall they arise, and whether they shall be visible to the world, a witness against all that abide in the fall?
Qu. 2. What the tree of knowledge is which is forbidden, where it is, and how it may be known with its fruits?
Qu. 3. What that death is which hath passed over all men? And what it is that dieth that day the forbidden is eaten, seeing the old Adam may live many years after?
Qu. 4. What was the condition before Moses: how came you to Moses, through Moses and the prophets to John, and through his ministry, and how came into the kingdom, and what were the several measures of God you knew in passing through these several administrations; or which of these administrations are you in now? and how may others know to come through these, and when they are in them: it being that one jot must not pass till all be fulfilled? And how the least in the kingdom greater than John, seeing John saw Christ face to face?
Qu. 5. What that kingdom of God is which Christ said was within the Pharisees, and whether anyone be to look for that kingdom within them?
Qu. 6. What and where that new Jerusalem is which came down from heaven, in which there is no night nor needs the light of sun, moon, or candle, for the Lord God and the Lamb is the light of it, which though the gates be never shut, yet nothing that defiles or makes a lie can enter?
<17> Qu. 7. What and where that Zion is to which all nations shall flow, where the Lord shall teach them of his ways and from whence his law and word shall go forth, and they shall say, come let us walk in the light of the Lord?
Qu. 8. What and where that unction and anointing is by which the saints know all things and needed not that any should teach them, but as the anointing taught them of all things that were true, and in it was no lie, and may any come to that teaching in these days?
Qu. 9. What that Spirit of truth is which is promised to lead into all truths, showing things to come, even the things of Christ, and shall glorify him, and whether it be within those that have it, yea or nay?
Qu. 10. What that word of faith is that saith none needs to send up to heaven to bring Christ &c. but is nigh in the heart and in the mouth, which the apostles preached to them that had it in their hearts, and whether it be the same now in these days?
Qu. 11. What that grace of God is that brings salvation and hath appeared to all men, which teacheth the saints to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and whether it would not teach all the same now if they did not turn it into lasciviousness; and how the gospel was preached to every creature which is under heaven?
Qu. 12. What the tree of life is, and what the flaming sword and cherubims is; and how man may come to the tree of life? What is to be cut down and burnt up in man before he come to the tree of life, and where that paradise is that man was driven out of, with its ground, and what ground he was drove into: and how the flaming sword parts these two grounds?
Qu. 13. What that worship in Spirit is, God alone seeks to be worshipped in; and who may worship in Spirit but he that is born of the Spirit; and is not that Spirit of which he is born sufficient to teach in that spiritual worship, without the help of man?
Qu. 14. What is that you minister from, and what is that (in man) you minister to; and whether that which you minister to be pure or no? And whether you would have had that ministry which you have, had you never seen better or had pay for it?
Qu. 15. What and where that tongue of Egyptian sea and that river Euphrates is, which must be dried up that way may be made for the kings of the East; and what are the seven streams thereof?
Qu. 16. Do you know God, or did you ever hear his <18> immediate voice as the saints have done, or do you own revelations and prophecies, as the saints have ever done, which the world that knows not God could never own nor believe?
Qu. 17. What that beast is who hath the names of blasphemy upon his head; and what the number of his names is; and whether liars and swearers be within his number?
Qu. 18. Did ever any of the ministers of Christ cause any to be imprisoned or suffer any to be beaten in their meeting places and haled before rulers for speaking to them, in or after the time of their worship, or counted it a disturbance, or received tithes or any other thing contrary to the will of the owner, under any pretense whatsoever, or were called of men master, or did bear rule by their means, or sought for their gain from their quarter; or were not these the fruits of the false prophets & hirelings, seeing Christ saith, By their fruits ye shall know them?
Qu. 19. What the seed of the serpent is, and what is the seed of the woman, and whether they be within people or no: and how each may be known by their fruits, and what that enmity is that is put between them, and from what ground doth it arise, and are not cursers, swearers, liars, quarrellers, persecutors that beat in the synagogues and hale to prison for the truth's sake of the serpent's brood, and are not they that all ages hath patiently suffered these things of the seed of the woman which thereby must bruise the serpent's head?
Qu. 20. Is not lie and liar, spiritual language used by Christ and the holy men of God, to those that were found in that practice, speaking lies to oppose the truth, though they were chief priests and Pharisees as the Scriptures doth witness: or did ever any who were guided by the Spirit of truth cover a lie with a finer name lest they should displease the father of it? or what Scripture have you for cursing, bidding fie upon me, wishing that I had never been born and that I were out of the world, calling me desperate knave, and when I spake the words of Scripture to say that's a Bull; and that I deserved to be hanged; and divers suchlike words you parish teachers uttered forth against me in the holy high place in the dispute? Search the Scriptures and see if these be not from the spirit of the devil.
But none of these queries could I get answered by them, though they began the first, and begged the last.
And now let every honest heart judge by what spirit these <19> men are guided, which for their own wicked ends can make challenges and gather together many hundreds of people of their own sect, yea, into their high places, and this they count no disturbance to states' government. But if the despised ones of the world do but meet to wait upon God in that ordinance in which they find him appearing to them, either in house or field (who are not thought worthy to meet in their towns but stoned and haled out), and this they persuade their magistrates is not fit to be suffered, but inform and petition against it under pretense of plotting against the present government; when it's known that most of us have adventured life and estate for the present power but never plotted against it, as most of them have done, witness their plots, prayers and false prophecies against the army, though now they fly to it for shelter against us who use no weapon but the word of God. And thus we are become enemies without cause, but God whom we serve shall judge for us and clear our innocency, for him (alone) we have to take our part.
And also I appeal to the light of Christ in all consciences if this were not as great offense, both against their high-place, worship, and persons, and against the Lord too (which they pretend), for me to be four or five hours disputing with them in their high place before the people, openly denying their false worship, doctrine, and manners, as it is for any one that is moved of the Lord to speak some few words in the same place: but only that this was in their own wills and the other in the will of God. And thus the Lord is revealing how unwilling men of corrupt principles are that the will of God should be done in the earth, when it's contrary to their earthly pleasures, and what pretenses they have to stop it; but when their own ends put them on it then it's no offense accounted.
And let everyone that hungers after God consider how these should lead you to him who is pure, and to whom no unclean thing can come, who some of them, though they have been professed teachers of others fifty or sixty years (and accounted eminent), but yet they themselves are open swearers and liars and cannot forbear it, even before such a multitude; yea, when they are about to seek the most praise of men. But where God is denied to be guide, there he will be judge, and their folly he will manifest who have chosen their own ways.
1. Isa. 66:5.
2. 1 Cor. 4:10-13.
3. Heb. 11:37.
4. John 4:21-24.
5. 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Cor. 3:16-17.