Quaker Heritage Press >Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Churches Gathered Against Christ
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of England: The humble petition of divers Congregated Churches in the Northern Counties
SHOWETH that our consciences bear us witness in the sight of God, how often we have poured out our souls on the behalf of this present Parliament, and how we stand still waiting at the throne of grace, to harken what the Lord will say unto us (for truly our hearts tremble for the ark of God). And seeing Divine Providence hath called together so <245> many of his precious servants, who have so oft made mention of his great name (we had almost said, more deeply than ever any other Parliament hath done), we are carried out with the greater hopes that God will at last work out some eminent thing for his glorious name and gospel, and that our eyes shall never see the contrary: for this end, most Honorable, we had been your petitioners long 'ere now had not too much fear of presuming given a check; but now, lest our continued silence should be interpreted as a consent to the manifold clamors of too many, not well affected to the godly ministry and their subsistence, we dare no longer hold our peace, but are pressed in our spirits to take humble boldness to acquaint your honors what it is that makes your petitioners lament before the Lord and you.
1. The swarms of horrid errors arising out of the bottomless pit, that infect and even darken this our horizon, flying in the face of Christ himself, his person, his offices, his merits, his scriptures, his ordinances, his sabbaths, his saints, and whatever is dearest unto him; and all this without control, carried with a high hand and a daring brow, affronting the godly ministers and faithful servants of Christ in their holy worship: the least of which errors in time past would have made our hearts to tremble, but now the commonness of them hath almost bereaved us of all sense.
2. The heaven-provoking profaneness, the hideous atheism abounding in the land, and in some of these dark parts running apace to flat heathenism; one main ground of all which being (as we humbly conceive) the want of able and painful ministers, the continuance of the old ignorant profane ones, and the bold intrusion of scandalous one,d ejected by the late commissioners for propagating the gospel in these northern counties (for whose godly endeavors we have cause to bless the Lord) but their commission expiring they are boldly now re-entered (as the unclean spirit in the gospel after his ejection) more wicked than before.
3. The subtle undermining that soul-saving ordinance of the ministry, and crafty designs against the most able and faithful messengers of Christ, who are now made signs and wonders in Israel; and this not only by the baser sort of men (which doth not trouble us) but by some of eminent place, whom God and all good men expect should rather be their protectors; and that (which is yet more observable) the more zealous and eminent such ministers are, they are by men of corrupt minds the more opposed and shot at, when the generation of idle drones and scandalous ones round about them are never molested: and how long the jealousy of our God will bear this contempt (for what is done to his faithful ambassadors, <246> is done to himself), we humbly leave to your wise considerations.
4. And that the ephah of these servants of Christ's sufferings might be filled up, their daily bread is also grudged at, threatened to be taken from them; though these are the men (your honors well know) who break unto us the bread of life: and if it were only their personal livelihoods which is endangered, it were more tolerable; but we could say, it's their wives, it's their poor children that must in this case suffer, not only whilst the minister himself lives, but be exposed to extremities when he is dead. Do not all men see, ye rulers in Israel, that the widows and fatherless of ministers are commonly left poor enough after their decease, even now when they enjoy all their present means, how much more when it is diverted or shortened? And yet this is the time when all other men's properties with an height of tenderness, as things inviolable, are pleaded for; and must only the ministers' propriety be struck at? which not only the law of man, but the Lord Jesus himself hath appointed as a just reward of their work.
Thus your petitioners, having, as your children, opened the burden of their hearts into their fathers' bosoms, do humbly crave leave briefly to tender these few suits following.
1. That abominable errors may not go up and down with an whore's forehead and thus affront the Lord Jesus and his truth, but that some speedy and effectual restraint be made of that bold vending, printing and preaching whatever the prince of darkness shall blow into corrupt minds; shall the father of lies have as much liberty to dandle his brats as the Father of light to promote his God-born truth? Remember (ye honorable servants of the Lord) what terms of detestation the blessed Holy Ghost himself gives to suchlike errors, calling them gangrenes, cankers, delusions, damnable heresies, pernicious errors, doctrines of devils. O let your holy zeal be kindled against such deadly things as destroy the faith of some, smite Christ on the face and give him the lie; God can make you wise to divide between errors that destroy faith and holiness, and some smaller differences among the saints.
2. That a speedy course be taken that idle, profane ignorant men may no longer abide in the ministry and lead souls along to hell with themselves, but be cast out as unsavory salt, fit for the dunghill; the spade and the flail being fitter for such men than pulpits; and that godly and able ministers be invested in their places, and bold intruders already ejected (there being too many of such in these parts) may with some frown of authority be deposed: and for these ends may it please your honors that some godly and approved commissioners, with the assistance of some able gospel ministers, may be appointed for propagating <247> the gospel in these dark northern counties; for the late Parliament's commission in like case proved the greatest blessing that ever the north had, the happy effect whereof we taste more and more daily, and had not their commission so soon expired all places might have been well provided for ere now.
3. That the ministry and the truly zealous and faithful ministers may be owned by you, as the Lord owns them, that all the world may see your cordial and resolved adherence to Christ's case in them, for he holds the stars in his right hand. Consider, we beseech you (most Christian Assembly) their work is unpleasing to flesh and blood, the ministry having ever been known to be the bulwark against the inundation of error and profaneness, and this sets the ungodly world with so much spite and venom against them, the more need have they of your tenderest encouragements as their nursing protecting fathers. It is well known to your honors that these faithful witnesses prophesied in sackcloth all the time of the late prelate's cruel persecution; it is but a very little time since their yokes were taken off, and now again to be so soon forced to their old mourning attire will seem harsh in the eyes of all them that love the gospel. Remember who it is that saith, He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and how God hath thrown to the ground here in England before your eyes that proud and lofty generation the prelates, who so ill entreated his faithful ambassadors.
Lastly, seeing the Lord himself of old made such certain and plentiful provision for the priests under the law, and Christ himself affirms the laborer is worthy his hire under the gospel, and the great apostle so largely and professedly disputes for it (1 Cor. 9). And seeing ministers must be men given to hospitality and therefore must (besides their necessary maintenance) have wherewithal to do it: and also lest the want of sufficient maintenance should lay them open to the contempt of their persons and doctrine and put them upon temptation to hang upon the favor of their carnal people in a man-pleasing way, or be forced off their gospel employment to attend on food and raiment: and lastly, lest their poor widows and fatherless be driven to extremities when they are dead, they being able to lay up nothing for them while they lived: it is therefore our humble suit that special and sure care be taken for their certain and comfortable maintenance, and not so much to attend to the loudness of the cry of such as call for removing the present way of maintenance as to try the strength of their reasons and the scope and end that many drive at; for when men are once disaffected to the ordinance itself it were too gross to cry down the ministry and ministers in plain terms; and therefore such a taking and plausible way as this must <248> be presented for the unsettling their maintenance, which in time will destroy maintenance and ministry both at once; but God can make you wise as angels of God, to discern of persons and things.
So your petitioners shall humbly pray.
A few words to you who call yourselves churches, that you may see in this petition how far unlike unto the churches of Christ in the gospel you are; and that you may see the foundation whereon your church standeth who are crying out to the earthly powers to uphold you, your church and ark from falling, which the churches of Christ never did, but stood in the power of the Almighty alone, who had gathered them and called them out of all the world's love and protection to himself, and had their foundation on the rock against which the gates of hell could not prevail; wherein you make it plainly appear that you are not on their faith nor foundation, who looks for safety from the hills and mountains, lest you and your ministers should perish: and also that you may see how unlike the churches of Christ you act in the things you petition for—such things as the churches of Christ did never petition to any earthly powers for, as in the Scriptures they shall witness against this your practice.
And you say the thing that makes you dare no longer hold your peace is the manifold clamors of some against the godly ministry (as you call them) and their subsistence.
Now where did ever any church of Christ petition to the magistrates to prevent the clamors of the world, but have looked on such sufferings as their portion from the world and therein have committed the keeping of themselves to God in all things; and if these you call ministers were of the same spirit they would be of the same mind; but all are not ministers of Christ who are so called, but those who are of the same Spirit and mind with him in his ways and sufferings.
And therefore he seeing that many false teachers should arise, clothed like sheep, and come in his name, and should deceive many; and lest any of his own should be deceived by them, he gives them a sure way to try them, and that is, by their fruits, saith he, you shall know them.
<249> Now you that call yourselves churches, and these you petition for godly ministers, to you I shall according to the rule of Christ and his apostles lay down some few of their fruits, whom Christ and his apostles did deny; that if you find the same fruits in these you call godly ministers you may no longer call them godly, whom Christ and his apostles denies as ungodly; and for shame never call yourselves churches of Christ if you will not give up yourselves and ministers to be tried by the rules of Christ and his apostles, not in words wrested, but in life and practice.
Christ in his timee bears witness against such as brought forth these fruits, that were hirelings,f them that were called of men ministers, them who said and did not, that laid heavy burdens on the people, that had the highest place in the assemblies, the chief names at feasts, greetings in the markets, clothed like sheep, but raven and devour like wolves. Peter bears witness against such as had hearts exercised with covetous practices, that could not cease from sin, that with feigned words made merchandise of the people, who had forsaken the right way and run greedily after the way of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, who promise liberty to others, but they themselves are servants to corruption. Paul bears witness against such as were lovers of themselves, covetous, proud, boasters, blasphemers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce despisers of them that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; and they led captive such as were laden with sin and divers lusts, ever learning of them, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, for they resist the truth and are men of corrupt minds. Jude bears witness against such as speak evil of the things they know not, but what they know they know naturally, as brute beasts, who are like Cain for cruel and Balaam for covetous, feeding themselves without fear, murmurers, complainers, living in lusts, and their mouths speaking great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage, as these do who flatter great men for self-ends.
Now if you find these fruits brought forth, by these whom <250> you petition for with so much zeal, then judge whether you be guided by the same Spirit by which Christ and his apostles did see these and give warning of them, or by that spirit that did uphold these, whom Christ cries woe unto; and though you and they may think light of these things through a light mind, yet these are marks by which Christ and his apostles did know deceivers then;g and them who see by the same light know them by the same fruits now; for the devil can profess righteousness, but live the life of it he cannot; and if you will believe Christ you must know such by their works, and not by their words; and if you uphold such you fight against Christ, and it will avail you but little to call yourselves gathered churches when you are not gathered into his will, but strive to uphold what he comes to cast down; for they that gather not with him, scatter abroad.
Another thing why you petition, is the swarms of horrid errors which, you say, have darkened your horizon.
But now take heed you that are so soon darkened and are so far mistaken in calling them godly ministers who upon trial are so far unlike God in their practice; I say take heed lest you be as far mistaken in that you call errors; for truth hath always suffered under the name of error, by such professors as have run to the earthly powers to fulfil their envy, as it is at this day and will plainly appear upon trial: but suppose they be errors indeed, yet see how far you err from the practice of all the churches of Christ, who never cried to the earthly power to excommunicate errors, but in the spirit and power of the Lord did they proceed against them and did separate from them; and Christ did never leave it to the magistrates to judge of errors and blasphemies but hath reserved it to himself, and them in whom he is, even the judgment of all spiritual things that concern his kingdom; and he bindeth and looseth at his pleasure and will, and not at the will of men nor earthly powers; for he alone is king in his, and will cast out whatever offends. And whereas you say your godly ministers are affronted in their holy worship; I answer, where the ministers are godly and the worship holy, there the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; and if anything be revealed <251> to one that sits by, the first must hold his peace and not forbid him to speak, and such count it no affront; for who speaks by the Spirit of God, it will abide the judgment; but who speaks lies in the name of the Lord would have a law made that none should discover them; and none but popishh priests did ever go about to stop the mouths of any that God had opened. And though you call it an error to dispute and reason in the synagogues against the false worship, yet the apostles used it as a means to bring out of error, and so it is at this day, as many can witness, and none but such as live in and teach errors will cry out against it; for truth will abide the light and defend itself in the face of all the errors of the world, without a shelter from earthly powers.
Another thing that moves you to petition is profaneness and atheism abounding in the land, and you conceive the ground is want of able and painful ministers, and the bold intrusion of scandalous ones. I answer; if you will own none for able ministers but such as turn the hearers from profaneness and are not scandalous, that is, walk not contrary to Christ and his apostles (for such as do are scandalous), then must you deny all the parish teachers in England, as doth plainly appear both by priest and people to all who are not blind; and that the magistrate needs to restrain profaneness in the church of Christ was never known in the gospel. And how the teachers in this nation have deserved what they have devoured let any wise man judge; who have their hearer yet in profaneness and stand need to be restrained by an outward law, whom they say they have baptized into Christ and his church and calls them Christians and believers. And you that talk of propagating the gospel by commissions from men are enemies to Christ's authority, who hath and will propagate his gospel himself by his own power and whom he will give commission to, and not leave it in the power of men; neither did ever any of his seek to the magistrate for any such thing. And here let all the practices of the churches of Christ witness against you who, Uzzah-like, dare not trust God to uphold the ark of his covenant with his church without the arm of flesh. And for the great good which you say the north received by the last commission <252> for propagating the gospel, and what reformation it hath brought forth, the north can witness (though some love to praise themselves) and though you call it their godly endeavors, yet I am sure none of God's ever endeavored the like.
Another thing that moves you to petition is the undermining of that soul-saving ordinance (as you call it) of the ministry. But what a ministry you petition to uphold is plainly showed before. And for those you call ordinances, there is not one of them that is practiced by you as they were practiced by Christ and his apostles, and therefore are no ordinances of Christ, nor is the soul saved by them where priest and people live in sin. And whereas you say, the more eminent the ministers are, the more they are oppressed: I answer, the more zealous and eminent any are in a way contrary to Christ, the more they are to be declared against by the servants of God.
Another thing you fear is that the daily bread of these you call ministers should be taken from them, and you say these are they who break unto you the bread of life. Now blush for shame to call yourselves churches, or to say that these break unto you the bread of life, who are afraid to want food for their bellies: for they whom Christ sent to break the bread of life are commanded to take no thought what to eat or drink or what to put on, but have the Father's care for them, which whoever knows doth not fear want; but these make it appear they neither know him nor live on his care. And all may see what a God these men serve, who dare not trust him for daily bread. And whereas you say that all may see that their wives and children are left poor enough after their death when they enjoy all their present means: here be witness against yourselves how unlike to the ministers of Christ these be, who had no certain dwelling place, but these can spend one or two hundred pounds a year upon pride and fullness and leave their wives and children poor when they die, when many of them who are forced to maintain them have nothing but what they labor hard for their wives and children; but he is blind who cannot see the curse of God upon what is forced by violence from the poor to feed their lust. And whereas you say it is their propriety which Christ Jesus himself hath appointed them. I answer, that is false; prove wherever Christ appointed tithes or any <253> set or forced maintenance, or anything from the world, as by help of earthly magistrates; but they who reaped their spirituals freely did give them carnals freely, and not by constraint. And here it appears to all what seed these have sown who have nothing to reap but must famish for bread amongst their churches unless the magistrate help to compel them. Now whether these be the churches and ministers of Christ or of the world, let all who read the Scriptures judge and bear witness against you and your ministers and churches.
And now your fruits are these: first, that printing and preaching and venting of that which you call error may be stopped. A way by which your forefathers the bishopsi did long uphold their beastly kingdom, and the papist before them; for if none might print or speak against it, then all your deceit might go for truth undiscovered as it hath done many years: but the day is come, and you cannot be hid any longer, blessed be our God forever: and here be witness against yourselves that you have not that truth that is able to defend itself against all errors printed and preached whatsoever, which did never seek to the powers of men to protect it. And whereas you say, shall the father of lies have as much liberty to dandle his brats as the Father of lights to promote his God-born truth; I answer, all is not lies that you call lies, but he that is of the truth will do as he would be done by; then let others have the like liberty with you to preach and print, and so the lies will come to light and be discovered by the light; for God is able to defend his truth and discover the devil's brats. And for damnable heresies and doctrines of devils, gangrenes, cankers and suchlike words as you use and would cast them upon others: let those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ and practice of the saints in Scripture without wresting bear these names (for to them they belong), and it will be found among yourselves.
Your second suit is that the gospel may be propagated by commission from men. And now let all the Scriptures and the practice of the saints witness against you who are about to take the propagating of the gospel out of the hand of Christ, and would give the power to men. Oh blush for shame to call yourselves churches, <254> and would thrust Christ out of his kingdom and give it to men, when it only belongs to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers and to propagate his own gospel. Here you are they who smite Christ on the face and give him the lie, who saith, he alone will be king in his own and will be with them to the end of the world. O blind people, where would you have him to have his kingdom, when you would have the magistrate to limit him whom he shall send to declare his will? and so would have ministers made by the will of man, which all the holy men of God did ever deny; for no prophecy of old ever came by the will of man; and the apostles said they were not made ministers by the will of man but by the will of God. Here you are against Christ, the prophets and apostles, and have not any ground in Scripture for what you desire, but the whole Scriptures witness against you and your petition.
Your third suit is that the ministry and the truly zealous and faithful ministers may be owned by the Parliament, as the Lord owns them, and to show their adherence to Christ's case in them, for he holds the stars in his right hand. I answer; the truly faithful ministers are owned of the Lord and disowned of the world; nor did they ever petition the powers of the world to own them, for they are not of the world, nor can the world own them. And here is Christ's case clearly seen in them whom the world could never own, and such stars he holds in his right hand, and they fear not that any should pluck them out of his hand; but for such as you call faithful ministers who dare not trust the Lord for bread, and who walk contrary to the commands of Christ and practice of all that ever he sent (as hath been showed concerning these), such the Lord owns not, but denies; and such run to the hills for safety and are upholden by earthly powers, and the case of Christ is not seen in them who seek to the world to own them; nor doth he hold such stars in his right hand, for they wander from him, his commands and protection, to whom is referredj the blackness of darkness forever; and not being able to see the power of Christ in keeping his, they dare not trust him. And whereas you say that these ministers have always been a bulwark against errors and profaneness, I answer: let the open profaneness <255> that abounds in the places where they live witness against them; and if they be the bulwarks against these things, then why do you cry out to the Parliament to stop error and profaneness? And whereas you say that these faithful witnesses prophesied in sackcloth all the time of the late prelates, I answer: let all the nation witness, which of them have not prophesied in as great livings as they could get, and in pride few exceed them. And for the late bishops you spake of, these are in the same nature with them, inveighing the poor servants of God that witness against their deceits, stirring up the powers of the earth to persecute as they did. And as these are found in their steps, so shall they fall as they did; for God hath seen the pride and oppression these have used to his people, and he is come to visit them and to free them out of their hands, and you shall not escape.
Your last suit is that special care be taken for a certain and comfortable maintenance for these you call ministers; and your reasons are these: 1) from the provision for the tribe of Levi; 2) from the words of Christ, the laborer is worthy of his hire; 3) From the words of Paul; 4) because they must be given to hospitality; 5) lest want of means should lay them open to contempt of person and doctrine; 6) lest they should be put to hang on the favor of carnal people; 7) lest they should be forced off their gospel employment to attend on food and raiment; and lastly, lest their wives and children should want when they are dead.
To yourk first I answer: Levi was one of the twelve tribes and had no other possession among his brethren; for the eleven tribes had the possession divided amongst them and therefore must needs provide for their brother, or he must perish, and God commanded that he should have it for the service he was to serve; but there is no such command concerning these, who have their possessions and liberty to improve them as others have. To your 2: Christ did not speak this to any hireling but to those who was to teach freely, and was to take no thought what to eat or drink, or wherewith to be clothed; and to such he said, the workman is worthy of his meat: but they who can take carel not only for their own lives, but also for their wives and the generation after them, <256> have shut themselves out from these words and from the care of God for them and have betaken themselves to their own care. To your 3: For shame take not Paul to plead for your forced maintenance, who coveted no man's silver nor gold, nor did eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with his hands lest he should make the gospel chargeable: nor had he any certain dwelling place; and none are more unlike Paul than those you call ministers, who would have their maintenance from the world by a law, which Paul never did, nor any other that ever Christ sent. To your fourth, because they must be given to hospitality, I answer, God hates robbery for burnt offerings; you that would have a law to take by force from the poor that which is their own labors, under pretense to put itm into the hands of your ministers to give to the poor; who when they have it spend it on their pride and lust, till they leave nothing for wives and children. The Lord judge between the poor and you, and deliver the poor out of your hands. And for these you call ministers, they love the poor like Judas, who would first have all in their own bag; and how they would relieve the poor out of it may appear by the poor that are sued by them for their tithes and set maintenance, who suffer the spoiling of their goods and are in wants, but the priests live in all fullness. To your 5. Let all people judge if these be not they who bear rule by their means, when their riches must keep them from contempt in their persons and doctrine; and let all judge if their doctrine be that of the prophets, Christ's and the apostles, who were poor men and did never maintain the authority of their doctrine from contempt by their means, but by the power and Spirit of God. And here let all the Scriptures witness against you and your doctrine that stands in outward means. To your 6. All may see what spirits these men are of, who would rather be maintained by force than favor; and see what ministers these are, who preach up their people for saints and believers but dare not trust them for a livelihood, but then call them carnal. And all see if these walk as ministers of Christ, who never asked any maintenance from the world nor carnal people; but did first sow spirituals before they reaped <257> carnals. To your 7. The apostle wrought with his hands to supply his wants and yet did not leave the gospel employment; nor did ever any whom Christ sent leave it for want of food; but covetous men and belly-gods dare not trust God, though none ever wanted that did. To your last; Let all judge how these walk in the commands of Christ, who saith, take no thought for tomorrow, sufficient for the day is the evil thereof; but these hold it not sufficient to care for their whole lives, but for the generation to come. And here you are rasedn out of the care of God, the command of Christ, and practice of all that ever he sent forth; and these are they who never knew God in Spirit, who dare not trust him for their bellies. And in your conclusion you say that unsettling their maintenance will destroy maintenance and ministry both at once; and you say God can make them to whom you petition wise to discern on persons and things. I answer, there is but little wisdom of God in them who cannot discern by what spirits this petition is carried on, though it go under the name of gathered churches; and also what ministers these are who are resolved to stand no longer than settled maintenance. But blessed be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is discovering you and your foundation, and hath raised and is raising him up such as will declare his will to all to whom he sends them freely, whom he hath set free from earthly pleasures and hath showed them a better inheritance that never fades away; praises to his name forever! and all you who are delivered from the covetous practices of these men and their deceits, and are come into the teachings of Christ, praise the Lord forever!
AND now a word to you rulers, to whom the petition is preferred, that you may not (through the flattering of men of corrupt minds, who have men's persons in admiration because of advantage) do anything against Christ or his kingdom, in the conscience <258> of his saints. And forasmuch as you are resolved to make a declaration to give fitting liberty to all that fear God, and for preventing speaking evil against magistrates and magistracy, and for preserving peace among such as fear God, among themselves, without imposing one upon another: and to discountenance blasphemies, damnable heresies, and licentious practices: first for them that fear God, they have a liberty purchased for them by Jesus Christ, which the world knows not, and they use not this liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but in the service of Christ; and take heed how you judge of this liberty or the fitness of it by your wisdom, for they have it given of God and not of man; and woe to them who go about to restrain it: and for the speaking evil of magistracy, he that bears the sword of God, none that fear God dare speak evil of such dignity, but are subject for conscience sake; for he that rules in that power that is of God is one with that in the conscience; and that in the conscience owns him and bears witness to him that it is the power of God, and for conscience sake he is subject; and they who fear God need no law to forbid them to speak evil of such a magistracy. But if you continue in place for magistrates such as rule not by this power that is of God, but by their own wills and contrary to the mind and law of God, punish them that do well and let the guilty go free; and you think to make a declaration to limit the spirit of God that it shall not declare against such, and declare his wrath against such oppression and injustice; then take heed what you do, that you be not found fighters against God to your hurt.
And consider, did ever any prevent the judgment of God by going about to stop the mouths or persecute them whom the Lord sent to declare it? but have hastened on the wrath till there was no remedy. And can the true prophet of the Lord speak any good concerning Ahab, but evil, though 400 false prophets flattered him to his own destruction? Nor could any wicked rulers believe till the judgment came and it was too late; and such as love their sins, which is the cause of wrath, hate them whom the Lord sends to forewarn of it and so hasten on their own ruin. And for your preserving peace among them that fear God: let it never be said that such fear God who are not at peace among themselves without an outward law to compel them; for such are in the flesh and carnal, <259> and the law is for such; but who live in the Spirit and fear of God, against such there is no law, for they are guided by the pure law of God written in the heart, which keeps them at peace, out of the lust from whence all strife and war ariseth. And whereas you say, without imposing one upon another: I answer, those who fear God will not impose one upon another; but take heed that under this pretence you go not about to stop the mouth of any whom God shall send to call out of the idols' worship, for now is Christ arisen in his saints to discover the man of sin, who sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God, whom Christ must discover by the brightness of his coming in his saints; and woe to them who go about to oppose him in his work. For though Gog and Magog may gather together, yet the power of the Lord shall break them to pieces. And for your discountenancing of blasphemies and heresies, be not too forward herein, since you know but in part: but consider it is not long since what you now own for truth went generally under the name of blasphemy and heresy, even by those who are now petitioning against others, and by many of them it is holden so yet; and know that God doth noto reveal his secrets to wise and great men first, but to babes and fools.p And you know not how soon some of you may own and suffer for that truth which you now think to be blasphemy and heresy, and then it will not seem evil to you that you have forborne to persecute it: but when you see itq break out into licentious practices then you have a sure ground to go on to suppress it.r
This I am moved to write unto you, not that you or all the powers of the earth shall be able to stop what God is bringing to pass, but that you may be warned not to do that against the truth, under the name of blasphemy, which you may repent afterward when it is too late: he that is wise let him be warned, and happy is he; but some will not, but are for confusion. So in love to your souls I have cleared my conscience, and the will of God be done who is blessed forevermore. Amen.
A true copy of part of a letter from a good hand in Cambridge, to a Christian friend in London, Dated 29 of Decemb. 1653
I make bold to acquaint you how that last week there came two women into Cambridge, and at Sydney College gate fell into discourse with some scholars, who asked them how many Gods there were? They answered, they had but one dear Lord Jesus Christ, and told the scholars they had many idols which they made their gods, and they were antichrists, and the colleges were the synagogues of Satan and the cages of unclean birds. So it was told Master Mayor, two women were preaching by Sydney College, who immediately sent for them and asked them who sent them to Cambridge? They answered, Jesus Christ. And he asked them their names: they said their names were written in the book of life. And he asked them their husbands' names: they answered their husband was Jesus Christ. And he fell into a rage and called them whores and sent them to be whipped at the market cross; and then the women fell down on their knees and desired the Lord to forgive him, for he knew not what he did. And all the way to the whipping place they cried out to the Lord to strengthen their faith, and when the crier was whipping them they cried out, "Blessed be God, praised be God, who hath enabled us to suffer for his name's sake," and rejoiced all the while they were thus used, for all they were so cruelly whipped, four <261> times more than any rogues or whores; and for all that their countenances never changed, as if they had not felt their punishment. Their bodies were slashed and torn exceedingly; and when all was done they desired God to forgive them for they knew not what they had done. So they sang and rejoiced and exhorted all people to fear God, and not to care for men; and so they were thrust out of the town without eating or any refreshment in this dead time of winter.
Matt. 10:20. "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit
of your Father which speaketh in you."
Matt. 24:8-9. "All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."
Luke 21:12-15,17-18. "But before all this they shall lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake, and it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but there shall not an hair of your head perish."
John 16:2-3. "They shall put you out of the synagogues, yea the time cometh that whosoever killeth you shall think that he doth God's service. And these things will they do unto you because they have not known the Father nor me."
Sleep on, Dear Fox!t thou and thy martyrs are
Now all together in a land of rest;
But hast thou no surviving friend that dare
Take up thy pen and write, The Saints Oppressed?
England hath matter for three volumes more,
Is this the LIBERTY of SAINTS? Oh poor!
a. Whitehead changes "the" to "Christ's."
b. Whitehead changes "the hand of Christ" to "his hands."
c. Thomason date: Jan. 28, 1653/54.
d. Whitehead changes "one" to "ones."
e. Whitehead omits "in his time."
f. Whitehead inserts "and."
g. W. changes "by which Christ and his apostles did know deceivers then" to "which Christ and his apostles did discover deceivers by."
h. Whitehead changes "popish" to "persecuting."
i. Whitehead omits "the bishops."
j. W. changes "referred" to "reserved."
k. Whitehead changes "your" to "the."
l. Whitehead omits "care."
m. Whitehead omits "it."
n. rased = erased.
o. Whitehead inserts "always."
p. Whitehead omits "and fools."
q. Whitehead changes "it" to "men."
r. W. changes "it" to "them."
s. This section, which was printed as part of Nayler's "Churches Gathered against Christ," is omitted by Whitehead. We do not know who wrote the letter, or whether the same person added the Bible verses or the rhyme at the end. The use of the title "Master Mayor," and the reference to a Fox (see p. 261 below) who is not George Fox suggest that the author may not have been a Quaker. The incident narrated is also recounted by Joseph Besse (A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers [London, 1753], Vol. 1, pp. 84-45), who identifies the women as Elizabeth Williams and Mary Fisher, and the mayor as William Pickering.
t. John Foxe (1516-87), author of a book (Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church) that was often referred to as the "Book of Martyrs."