Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > How the Ground of Temptation is in the Heart


How the Ground of Temptation
is in the Heart of the Creaturea

     Were there not a ground and part in the creature, the devil hath power in, and over, no creature could be tempted to sin and offense to God's Spirit of truth in the heart; for no thing or creature (without thy sense adulterate with it) can tempt thee; the proneness and addiction to sin and offense to the Spirit of God, being in a mind subject to vanity, and addicted to such temptation, the Spirit of God doth manifest (to and in the creature), which state all creatures are made subject to, "not willingly but by reason of him who hath subjected the same, in hope (which causeth the groaning and travailing together of the creation in pain) to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body," &c. as Rom. 8:20-23, &c., which state the temptation works on, and that the tempter hath a part in (in the creature's weakness).

     But if the mind of such creatures be strongly bent and set in and upon that the tempter leads to, and works in (in a part he hath power over), that the Spirit of God manifesteth his judgment against, in a sense awakened in the creature [of the same] the hope of God (in that thus subjected) is departed from, that is given for an anchor to the soul, in the time of trial [that is sure and steadfast] and so the man runs on headlong against the Rock (that through presumption or despair he splitteth himself against), and never comes to the faith that gives evidence of things not seen [in a state of hope only] and that is the substance of things hoped for; and when the day of tribulation overtaketh (which shall come on every soul that sinneth), it worketh not patience, neither comes he to the experience, that works and preserves in the hope that makes not ashamed ("Christ in us the hope of glory," that brings to endure the cross, and despise the shame of the world), but faith in God for deliverance [in and from such state] is weak, and <377> the love of God it works by, grows cold, and the mercy and forgiveness of God not kept in, but dies from that state of the creature, and so he grows sensual in judgment, and devilish, watchfulness over the work of the enemy being gone from, and a departure out of the counsel of God for advice, and a self security got up and over the soul, and a hardiness over the man, where is the fierceness, and heady high-mindedness, and a despising them that are good, and wilfulness in every evil work [in such his soul's condition], and then there is one past feeling, and given up to a reprobate sense, and to believe lies and to be damned. But such that live in a sense of their own weakness, and of the enemy's work and besettings, are always kept and preserved in a fear and watchfulness over self (in this particular), and have a strong faith and confidence in God (under all the trials they may meet with in the world) of deliverance in all & every strait they have been and are brought into, in the same mind they are made sensible of their weakness (and have been ready to prefer everyone in that work before themselves), and there is a watchfulness over the work and power of the enemy, until deliverance spring up in the soul from God, through a life that hath been hid with Christ in God, & a secret work begun in the soul by the spirit of God, in which they have been kept retired to God, and out of the world's sight, that hath a judgment according to appearance; but as Christ their life doth appear and break forth, so they come with him, and appear in the glory of the work, that hath been done in secret, and spoke in the ear, but now comes to be made manifest openly, and preached on the housetop, in what is come forth through the tribulation & fiery trials, pure and refined, and hath the patience of saints, and experience of the man of God, from which they can declare of the glory of this work, in a hope they cannot be made ashamed in, or afraid of evil tidings from men of corrupt minds concerning the things of God's kingdom (that are eternal and everlasting).

     And as to this ground and part in the creature, it is flesh, and hath the fleshly motions and actions (arising in and proceeding from it) through a tickling delight of fancy, that works therein, for that delight was first fancied in the flesh (when Adam began to look out at the glory of the state he was first placed in, & was thereby struck into a deep sleep, in the dream of which was fancied the delight of the flesh, and she took from him that which promoted that work in secret, and loves the secrecy of pleasure she takes therein); and were there real satisfaction in what answers that part (in which the creature hath a sense and knowledge of good and evil) he should never more hunger therein; but the contrary being experienced, I need not go far for a <378> testimony hereof, in that many do know, that the tempter overpowering the desire of him that wants opportunity (always to put in practice what the mind lusteth into and longeth after) being ready to attend with evil, as opportunity serves him therein, doth as enviously accuse, as subtly tempt; and wherein he cannot persuade the creature to go on (in any sin and offense to the Spirit of God), and to embolden himself against the testimony thereof (after led aside thereby, and overcome thereinto), he is there ready to object the folly of such fancy the creature was led by, that he may come to despair of any sure guide to his mind; but if he be once prevented in this work, and find himself discerned in the house of God, presenting himself before the Lord, he (when the day of the sons of men comes to be considered of by him [that judgeth righteously] that he is a perfect man, and one that feareth God & escheweth evil [that he thus hath wrought on], and he himself brought into the same consideration) to avoid his own torment, begins to accuse for worldly respects; and then, do such serve God for naught? Hast thou not made a hedge about him and all that he hath? put forth now thy hand & touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face; and then having given into his hands all that he hath power over, be sure whatever is near to such a man, be it wife, or children, or goods (oxen, sheep, or camels), that which is most dear in affections (out of the perfect life) is under his power, and that which his power stands in, is left to tempt, that he may curse God and die.

     And the temptation is, and in every man works, according to the place they are in, or gift they have received from God (be it inward or outward), wherein the greatest and best gifts a man or creature may receive from God, are accompanied with the chiefest and worst temptations; for whatever state the creature is in, or gift he have received, was, and is that which took being in and from a life that desired it and led thereto; the thing and creature's life (desiring or desired) being not absolutely good or evil (in itself), though both good and evil was and is concerned therein, and is accordingly so made to the creature (by the frame and temper of what the desiring part works in, and is acted by); for that which tempts the desire, and feedeth the desirable part (in the creature) knows both, though it properly enjoys but one, and can serve but one master at a time; wherein the gift of God deferreth the desire of the creature, in a blessing or curse its condition is capable of, in that whatever hath been desired out of a capacity of God's blessing is pursued with trouble and care (of the life it is received in); therefore the thrifty, rich and honorable (in and of this world) and also the unthrifty, poor and ignoble (therein) have purchased a condition (in a desire of <379> their life's motion, of ease and satisfaction to the flesh) that they are tried in the exercise of and under, that the knowledge of a good and evil in, becomes thereby a temptation to them (to presume or despair of God's blessing therein); and thus the desire of no creature is, or hath been answered beyond what both a good and evil doth attend them in, and the temptation to evil is answerable to any good the life of the world may desire, wherein no men are tempted by the gift of God, but from his own desire & heart's lust, which being conceived brings forth sin, and sin finished brings forth death (that which is out of a capacity of good and blessing to any condition, being the evil of the desire and strength of the temptation, aggravating hurt to such creature's state, that God suffereth not the temptation to work towards beyond his ability therein to persevere (in what he is thus tried by). And as no temptation of affliction occasioned by the sin and offense to God's Spirit is for the present joyous, but grievous, &c., so there is no temptation to sin, but is joyous and delightsome to a part, in the present acting of, & committing the same: wherein is the creature's trial (after the acting and committing of sin) which he will join to, whether that which overpowereth the joyous and delightful part (of and in the mind) to vanity, or that which manifesteth the vanity and folly of such addictions of the mind's delight.

     Therefore how requisite is it (in this day) that a spirit of distinction (in God) go along with men in their several judgments of the work of God, that are ready to make themselves judges of and over all that doth cross their opinions and persuasions (in that way or form the mind is addicted to and set on), and a hardness against all that cannot presently conform to what man is so ready to set up; but let the spirit of sound judgment and of a sound mind weigh the matter (in this particular), and let men be quiet until God arise to be judge of the controversy, and the fierce and high will then be bowed down (to the foot of God), and the bitter assuaged and allayed, and all will be cool, and in good order; for I am sensible the tempter hath got ground (in this day) over the conditions of many, in whom God hath begun a good work; & had I not first read at home, I could never have seen abroad.

     And thus much I know, and am made sensible of, that to terrify people with words and exclamations and outcries against any sin and offense to God's Spirit, that doth not reach God's witness (wherein the way to escape the evil and danger, as well as the danger itself is shown) doth become a vain bableb in this day of God, and at best can but make <380> subject for wrath; for though the creature of God may and doth suffer in that part which hath been tempted to folly and vanity of this world (in sin and offense to God's Spirit), yet is not he the sinner and offender against God's Spirit, that with his mind doth serve the law of God (though he may have that part wherein dwells and rules [in the members] that which hath overpowered the whole man in the acting & committing of sin, and with his flesh hath served the law thereof); but in the misplacing of the mind, the tempter hath entered, and the temptation prevailed, to the bringing that in him, and him (in that) into and under the sufferance of the enemy's work, that hath his delight chiefly and alone in God, and never have bent the mind's delight after satisfaction to and in the flesh, and sought opportunities to answer the same (though therein he hath been tempted by a law in the members warring, &c.).

     For which cause I may be hearkened to by the weak, and the poor may have an eye and ear well inclined (in this particular), and a mind bended to my complaint, and ready to receive me in that which thinks and means well to all, and no ill to any: In that I have tried many things, and have had a mind exercised in divers conditions (as well in the outward as inward), and in all conditions had learned content; but no condition I have found like to that which is low, and poor, and mean (in self's eye); for in this I have been comforted under the power and pangs of death (when like a flood my soul was compassed about therewith), and the life of submission to the will of God is that whereby I have known many fiery darts of Satan quenched. And if any are tempted (in the particular before mentioned), let them not conclude they are so tempted of God, but from their own hearts' lust, for God tempteth no man.

     But to the ground of life (in which the root stands, and from whence the tree springs) let all have an eye of respect, that hath brought forth what gives knowledge of good as well as evil, and evil as well as good; and while the fruit (that hath been tasted) is fed on by the mind made wise therein (as a god), the temptation needs must remain (with and in the man) and a necessity provoked in him that hath abused a state of liberty and freedom of spirit (he at first was placed in); for the tree that God created (when he saw all that was made, to be good) may and doth tempt, in the sufferance of what was ordained for his creatures' trial and standing (in that state), though God's will is the creature's preservation under the same. And let none be too confident in self's work and approbation (in the first man's will, and that man's part), but let such that think they stand take heed lest they fall; and then the same measure hath been meted to others, such must expect <381> from God, that come under the condemnation of the wicked, for such need no other accuser than Moses, in whom they seem to trust.

     Think not therefore I will accuse thee to God (in these things), for one is judge that is near thee (that do such things). For concerning the fiery trials, they are manifest to the flesh, in which we have great trouble on every hand (both within and without), though no temptation happeneth, but what was common to the saints of old, and these things are suffered for the trial of our faith in God, that on every side being spoken evil of, we might have great boldness and confidence towards him, knowing our reward to be with him; wherefore arm yourselves with the same mind (as did him that suffered in the flesh, that ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his days in the lust of his flesh, but in the will of God, 1 Pet. 4:2). For the time is come, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. And when there was a suffering for evildoing, we had our reward with men, and though we took their buffetings patiently, yet what glory had we therein; but hereunto are we now called of Christ, that for well-doing we also suffer patiently, knowing that this is good and acceptable with God, as he that was reviled, reviled not again, and when he suffered threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. Therefore let the woman no longer lay the blame on the serpent, nor the man on the woman, seeing everyone must suffer for his own evil, and the earth doth labor and groan under her sore travails, but if man doth suffer loss in his works, it is that he may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

     "What therefore shall I say to these things? If God be for us who can be against us? And if he spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all, shall he not with him freely give us all things?" Seeing it is thankworthy, that for conscience sake we endure grief, and suffer wrongfully, that we may know how to behave ourselves among the froward, as well as the gentle; and who is he that can harm us while we are followers of that which is good?

     Therefore will I lay no greater burden on any, than what is already borne, and of which the upright in heart is made judge, and to them that are under the temptation of the enemy I write these things, that they arm themselves with patience in God, and be like-minded in the truth, to him that is gone before. And the God of truth and peace preserve the simple-hearted to the end of this work, and in the end crown them with immortality in God.


Editor's Notes

a. This pamphlet was printed without any indication of author, publisher, place or date, and I find some doubt in my mind as to whether Nayler wrote it. The linking of the origins of temptation to the creation of woman ( p. 377 below), and the portrayal of Eve (in the allusion to Genesis 2) as "loving the secrecy of pleasure" in fleshly lust, do not correspond to anything I have found in other writings of Nayler's, or in fact in any early Quaker writings—and it seems uncharacteristic of Nayler to broach a new doctrine in one isolated pamphlet. Whitehead did not include it in his 1716 Nayler collection. But Whiting's and Smith's catalogues both list it as by Nayler, as does the Wing catalogue (Smith and Wing may of course be following Whiting).

b. According to OED this spelling could represent either "babble" or "bauble."