Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Index > Some Considerations Needful to be Taken into Mind by such as are in Place to Ease the Oppressed
1. If any be moved of God to come into your places of worships, to speak the word of the Lord to the people, or to show your teachers their error from the truth of Christ's worship, and prove it so before the people by Scripture and plain words of truth, do you serve Christ Jesus in counting these offenders and making or executing laws against them as disturbers? And would not this way you take have withstood that way by which the ministers of Christ were sent out to gather his own out of all false worships, and by which the churches were gathered by the apostles? whose manner was to dispute daily in their synagogues, schools and marketplaces, as you may read in the Scriptures. And now you that call this misbehavior and peace-breaking and seek to stop it, do not you withstand the good old way of Christ, by which the churches were gathered? And though you profess the apostles' words, yet deny their lives and practice, and the way of their ministry; and is not this to fight against the liberty of Christ, and testimony of Scripture, and Christian freedom?
2. Is he worthy the name of a minister of Christ, who when any come to him in this way of Christ, hath neither power nor patience in spirit to abide the trial of truth before his hearers, but forthwith stirs up his hearers into a tumult against that one person, calling to carnal strength against him (who only comes with spiritual weapons), showing plainly that he hath not the Spirit and power of Christ Jesus to resist gainsayers and defend himself and his doctrine in the way of Christ and his ministry, whose weapons are not carnal but mighty through God to bring into <237> subjection whatever exalts against Christ Jesus? And have not such magistrates as have made and executed laws upon this account withstood the breaking forth of light and truth in former ages, which manifests itself most clearly in open place, that all may hear and judge thereof? Search the Scriptures and other histories, and see if this hath not been the way that the light hath broken forth from under all sorts of false worships, though it was ever condemned with false worshipers under evil names and reproach, as it is at this day.
3. Did ever Christ Jesus require it at the hand of any magistrate to interpose with his carnal weapon betwixt his ministers, in anything about his spiritual kingdom? Or did ever any of his ministers seek such a thing from them? Is not this to deny the judgment and power of Christ in themselves, who is the only judge and lawgiver to all his own servants in whom he is known; who need not go out for judgment or for defense; and to betake themselves to such a way as he hath not appointed. And is not this a shame to their calling, that they who should be your teachers and have power with God for you, should come to you to be regulated in spiritual matters, or defended one from another? Have not these lost the government of Christ Jesus in themselves, and his salvation? Let truth judge thereof, after the practice of Christ's ministers recorded in Scripture.
4. Would you not count that an idle and bad husbandman, who hath ground enough to till freely, and doth so manage it as it will not find him bread? Would you think it your duty to make him a law to take by force his neighbors' increase, who hath no more advantage of the earth than himself? If this seems unequal in carnals, take heed how you force it in spirituals, as touching your ministry; but as they sow let them reap, and as his hope is that thresheth, so let him partake of his hope; and if his gospel will not keep him, it's time to give over; his dead work doth more harm than good. What fruits is the Lord of the harvest like to receive, where the whole increase will not maintain him that tills the ground? Read, and deal by Christ the Lord as you would be dealt with, and deny him not the liberty of ordering and keeping his own servants, if you look for freedom in him.<238>
5. In truth and plainness, as you will answer before the Lord for what you do, have you any order from Christ Jesus in spirit, or from the Scripture (were you the chiefest of his disciples) to go any further in appointing Christ a ministry, than to pray to the Lord of the vineyard to send forth faithful and painful laborers into his harvest? And is it any less than taking upon you the royal prerogative of Christ Jesus, for man to say, this shall have liberty to preach, and the other shall not; the latter being more conformable to Christ than the former? Take heed what you do herein, and seeing you say Jesus is Lord, let it be so, and seek not to stop him of his right, lest he be angry; he is able to send out and maintain his own servants, and he that comes to man for want, shames his master.
6. Seeing that which is called the gospel is become so chargeable in this nation, in respect of great sums of money, &c., that yearly are paid to uphold it, lest it should fall; which charge is to the undoing of whole families, and loss of the lives of some who are imprisoned till death for want of payment thereof. May not the oppressed people therein look upon it as a special mercy from Christ Jesus, who is taking off this heavy burden, by calling and sending out his message of good tidings, by the mouths of such as will go freely without hire or reward, as in the beginning, whom he fits with power to turn people from their sins, which those that teach for hire have not. And now let truth judge in all in whom it is, if such as withstand his free gift and tender, do not deny the gospel as it was in its freedom in the beginning, and stand up for that which doth so much burden the nation and hath brought forth such bad fruits. And do not such withstand the manifestation of the power of Christ in his managing his own work freely and taking clear away the ground of that cruelty and heavy burden from his oppressed people, without which power the nation cannot be eased of that yoke, nor set free.
7. Can ever the people of this nation be made free as Christians (as you have promised) so long as they are forced to maintain a sort of teachers with their estates and labors, which they are persuaded upon good ground, both by demonstration of the Spirit and testimony of Scripture, that they are out of the doctrine of Christ and way of his pure worship, and in the steps of <239> the false prophets and false apostles, whose ways both Christ and the Scriptures witness against, and are ready to make proof of it before you, if they can be admitted upon equal terms face to face with them; which if they be denied, are they not denied Christian freedom and sought to be kept in bondage to that which is against their faith and conscience, which ought not to be bound but set free?
8. Have the tender consciences of this nation that liberty promised to them upon engagement? Or is the reformation intended by the honest hearted brought forth, whilst people are forced against their faith to repair the idols' temples, with their crosses and images and false worships, paintings and picturings, and other vanities of bells, fonts and glasses, to pay clerk-wages and Easter reckonings, and tithes of eggs, pigs and geese, and all other things never used in the true church of Christ Jesus, but brought in through popery, and cannot be bowed to by any who truly make conscience to follow either the power of Christ or true form of scripture in his way of worship. And what freedom hath the people of God obtained by your removing kings and bishops, who are sought to be kept in bondage to these same things under great suffering?
9. Seeing there is no confidence to be put in flesh and blood, but as it comes to be ruled and ordered in all things, national and religious, by the Spirit of truth in the inward parts, wherein the kingdom of God is in men on earth; and seeing no other spirit can beget brotherly affection and everlasting peace, and lead and give power rightly to reform what is amiss, then ought not all who desire the peace and freedom of the nation to seek it first from thence, by giving the Spirit liberty to be Lord in every conscience? Or can you lay any foundation of freedom that will stand, till the spirit of Christ be set free, and owned as head and lawgiver in yourselves first, and then lay no bonds upon it in others? And thus all confessing and bowing to the king in his kingdom, he will not have occasion to dash you into pieces, as he hath done so often, for going about to set bounds to his authority in tender consciences who will not be bound.
And if the nation be found worthy thus to receive him into your house, who is king of truth and peace, then will he for you <240> cast out the evil one, who is the author of all strife and envy, wars and divisions, which are up in the hearts and minds of such wherein Christ rules not, who are daily waiting for evil one towards another, and want but opportunity to put it into action; which you cannot but be sensible of, which hath been and will be until the powers of the earth are willing that the heavens should rule; and those who pretend to rule for Christ be willing to be ruled by him in themselves, and suffer him to reign in others.
And further, consider your present work, who are professing the coming of Christ and his kingdom, but where will you have him to reign? And who must be his subjects, while the earthly powers would not suffer him to have the ordering of such in whom he lives, neither in matters religious nor civil, not so much as to the hat on their heads, or words of their mouths, or manner of their worship? So that the name of a king he is allowed, but his place and authority is withstood by the spirit of the world, which would suffer none to conform to Christ Jesus, but to the world's customs, laying the penalty of carnal commands upon such as follow on to obey his spiritual movings, as in not swearing, and many other things which might be instanced.
10. Consider your promises to God and the honest people of this nation, in the day of your fears and weakness; was it not then in your hearts that if ever the Lord gave you power, you would set free the oppressed people, especially such as made conscience of their ways towards God, and that cruel, proud and covetous men should not be in any place of power, to lord it over any tender conscience, so that many sober people believed you herein, that you would not have suffered a corrupt self-ended man to have borne an office through the nation; but such as would have acted freely for God and his people for conscience thereto, and not for gifts and rewards; and that all popish unrighteous laws and false worships should have been utterly rooted out; and to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus alone, and after the Scriptures of truth, you would have come to have laid the foundation of all, as in the beginning before the apostasy, both as to law and gospel, which you not doing when you had power, the simple-hearted, who were drawn in by these fair pretenses, and had no other ends in all their actings and suffering with you, but <241> righteous freedom towards God and man; such begun to leave you and return home, as men disappointed of their expectation, and were brought to see what was in men, and their error in looking at flesh and blood. Others cried out to the army, who then seemed much to condemn you for your neglect: and one of them took upon him the title of protector; and you were cast by; and he had power to have done good, to whom many cries of oppression came, which awhile he answered with good words and sometimes with tears: but instead of taking away the ground thereof he sought to make his own house strong; and for that end were such thrust out from their places, as would not betray their conscience and trust. And such were put in places as would become anything he would have them. And as he grew high, so the cries of the oppressed were shut out at his doors; and then many were sent from the Lord to warn him against oppression, and to speak to him the word that now God hath fulfilled, who waited many days at his gates but were shut out and often abused by his evil servants; and when they could come to speak to him, as he went to take his pleasure abroad, they were thrust from him in his sight, and he suffered it many times. And when he did hear them he would not believe, but said "How shall I know it is the word of the Lord?—though the light in his own conscience did witness thereto. And thus he rejected the counsel of God against himself till his day was over. In which time the innocent deeply suffered, and some of yourselves tasted a little thereof; and some of you seemed sensible of your neglect and promised that if you ever came in power again, what you would then do; but many could not believe that ever you should, so strong had he made himself; but an arm hath wrought which none can let, and you are in place again, who have been ready to renew your promises to set the people free, both as men and as Christians, which the Lord hath heard, and stirred up many of his oppressed people to lay their oppressions before you to try you: for a short work will the Lord make, for his name's sake and his oppressed seed.
And now take heed to your spirits, and consider you are called and set before the living God, and his eye runs through you, who is most pure and just, and will own naught in you but that which is truth in your inward parts. And as you intend to <242> approve yourselves in his sight, or receive power to quit yourselves of your engagements to him and his people, so to that be faithful, for there only will he give you of his counsel in secret, and in the hidden parts will he teach you his wisdom if you will hearken thereto; and in Spirit must you receive his strength, and not in flesh and blood: and he that searcheth your hearts and declares to man his thoughts, his name is the Lord of hosts. And take heed of making any other thing your arm or counselor, so shall truth teach you. And take heed of corrupt men, and their subtle counsel; you have seen the end of that which is established therewith: and take heed of shutting out the word of the Lord, or despising the counsel of his people; or oppressing or suffering to be oppressed by others, such as are tender in conscience, for such are nearer the Lord than you are aware of. And as their hearts are open to his movings, so is his ear open to their cries; and in all their afflictions he is afflicted; for the living God is in them, and it is he that bears them up under oppression, though oppressors cannot believe it, and if they be oppressed he is grieved and will plead with you.
And now seeing you pretend to do the work now indeed, and to bring forth perfect freedom for all men, as for yourselves; and to that end seem to draw the people of God near you again, and have called some of them, that they would present their burdens and oppressions, which grieve the Spirit of Christ in them; and you appear as though you would accept of sound counsel from such in whom truth speaks, and have been preserved in the nation, by suffering with it, this time wherein so many have betrayed it; so that God hath not wholly left the nation. And these you now seem to give ear to, who indeed know best what oppression is, and the way of God in removing it, with whom God hath been in it, and is with them, glory forevermore!
And now if you will hear what truth saith to you in these considerations, concerning you and your laws, you are out of course, and gone out of the right way of God's law and his gospel; and those who should ease the people of all heavy burdens, are become themselves a burden too heavy to be borne, and are become devourers, and not relievers of the helpless, as you will hear, if you will indeed hearken to the oppressed; for in <243> the place of judgment is wickedness, and in the place of righteousness there is iniquity, and the horrible thing is committed in the land, which God hates; the judges thereof judge for rewards, the priests thereof preach for hire, and the people who know not God love to have it so; and through this doth the just suffer oppression, and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved. But if you will undo the heavy burden, this is the way, if you can receive it.
As to your laws, come to the law of God, and what is written by him; that observe for a rule without; and let the same Spirit of truth in you, and such as fear God and hate rewards and gifts, have the executing of it freely; for a gift blinds the eyes of the wise, and that which is freely of God alone hath his blessing and power to cut down the man of sin and make the wicked afraid. So may the land be cleansed of open wickedness, and sin made ashamed to appear in your streets and markets, which is now become bold, and the proud are counted happy. And this God requires, to punish all known sin by his law, which respects no man's person, neither oppressing the poor nor sparing the proud.
And for the gospel, such as have it are not made ministers by the will of man, nor by the law of a carnal commandment, but by Christ and his power, being sent out by him who is the Lord of the harvest, who is with and in them, whom the world cannot receive, neither knoweth. And as many as have this treasure in their earthen vessels have the word of the Lord and are freeborn thereof, and will never trouble you, nor burden the nation with hire, glebe-lands, tithes and augmentations, nor great houses to dwell in, nor burden themselves with such things; but he that is in them will lead them, and feed them as pilgrims and strangers upon earth, as his ministers ever were. If you can believe the Scriptures then receive such, and deny them who dare not trust him as to a maintenance: so shall his servants be known, the true worshippers of Christ restored as in the beginning, and the land eased of its burden; and that will fall of itself, which hath been set up and holden up without Christ and against him. And this freedom the children of light wait patiently for; which if you deny them, it will come another way. Reject not truth, lest you be rejected thereof.
a. Included in Whitehead's collection of Nayler's works (1716), among "Epistles and Papers never before printed." No date is given for this paper, and there seems to be no further information available about it.