Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > How Sin is Strengthened

     This coming to my hand, and reading it over, savoring it to come from a pure fountain, eternal life springing forth itself, in and by that Spirit which sets free the prisoner of hope, and bringeth to reign over all dominions and spirits, and though the earthen vessel be under bonds, yet doth the Spirit of life show forth in its own in all; and having its witness in me, finding the same Spirit sealing to it, necessity was laid upon me to put it in print, that so it might do it service, and have unity with its own.

S. B.a       

How Sin is Strengthened,
and How it is Overcomeb

     That sin is in the world, and that all are thereby become children of wrath, is generally believed and confessed by all; but how sin is strengthened in men and women against God and their own souls, or how it is overcome, few there be that have learned or mind to know; yet for their sakes that doth, I do here declare somewhat of that which I have received from him who is faithful and true in all his testimony.

     And this I find, that as sin got rooting at first through lust, so till this day it hath its strength by the desires going forth to affect or lust after something whether spiritual or carnal, above, before or besides what that eternal Spirit by which man was created doth communicate to him, or beget in him; for the eye of the lilyc being blinded by the god of this world, which eye should look unto God for all, there is an eye of unbelief open, which looks into the visibles and gives occasion for the lust to conceive in the mind, affections and desires after something which the Spirit of God leads not to, for the obtaining whereof all the power and wisdom that is in man is set on work, and this becomes sin both in the desires and actions; and the more it is followed, the stronger it is; for whatever is hereby obtained becomes a treasure of wickedness, laid up in the habitation of the wicked one, whereby the lust <22> is increased, and the seed of God burdened and buried, whereby the creature becomes daily more unsensible of the will of God, and the movings of that pure Spirit which should keep the creature alive to the Creator, and draw the mind wholly up to the Father, on him alone to wait for a supply in all things, both for soul and body. And every desire that springs from this root being suffered to go forth, defiles the man, and brings in that which oppresseth the just, until by continuance man grow into the nature of the enmity, and the imaginations of the heart bed wholly evil, and that which should give the knowledge of God whollye buried, and in many that which should give the knowledge of sin also, whereby man becomes past feeling, utterly dead in sins and trespasses heaped upon the just against the day of judgment, which becomes by custom as natural to commit as to the ox to drink water; yea with greediness doth man in this condition hunt after his own destruction, having dammed up the way of life in himself by often transgressing it, and is become degenerate from the nature of God, having received in, and willingly joined to that nature of Satan, which as a leaven hath and doth work into its own nature all that receive it, or yield unto it, whom as they grow therein, there springs up fruits of the same root and nature, which they bring forth in his time and opportunity with liking and delight, being furnished with all subtlety to color them over and plead for them, being in covenant and agreement with sin, some in one thing and some in another, everyone pleading the allowance of that sin with God which most suits theirf lusts, pride, profit or pleasure, credit or esteem in the world, or some self-end, and at these they take counsel, and not at the spirit of the Lord,g whichh is sin, and whichh is no sin, but none will believe that they can be set free from all sin by him who testifies against all sin in spirit, and in all thisi the man of sin hath his kingdom by consent, for they being willing to keep covenant with him in one evil, are guilty of all.

     Now the way to overcome all this, and him that hath his power therein, is by faith in Christ Jesus the light, and life, and way to the Father; for without believing there can be no victory; <23> but in the faithful following of him, and patient bearing his cross, and enduring his sufferings, comes the enmity to be slain, captivity led captive, and man set at liberty in the holy seed to serve the Father in spirit and life again.

     And first, Christ as he is the light of the world must be believed, for so he comes to manifest and reprove the deeds of darkness,j and to make a separation between the works of God & the works of the devil, in the mind & spirit of the creature, & to let them see what spirit doth exercise their minds & affections, and the fruits of each spirit, and the moving & working of each spirit severally, without which none can rightly know what is to be destroyed, and what saved; what to join to, and what to war against: for by this light alone comes man to the knowledge of sin in himself, in the ground and root of it, and every motion thereof: for though the letter or something without may show what is sin by its fruits when it is brought forth, yet it's the work of the Spiritk to discover spiritual wickedness in its first motion, which is the only place to kill it ere it become sinl; and this light must be believed and diligently minded all along, for such is the subtlety of the enemy, having got power over the will and senses of man, that he will set them to war against the creature, and destroy the creation rather than that of his which defiles the creature, and this cannot be avoided any other way but by minding the light of Christ, to separate that which is but to be cleansed, from that which is to be destroyed; & this man cannot do without the Spirit,m being a spiritual work, though he never so much seeks after it. And here is the cause why many are kept at hard labor all their time, and never come clear out of sin and uncleanness, even not believing in that which hath the power to separate and lead out of the evil, but without the single eye are at work in the dark, and sees not a clear separation in the body. And hence it is that some destroy themselves in seeking to destroy sin, not minding the light of the Savior, is led by the destroyer, fighting against that which Christ comes to save, whilst he that comes to destroy lies hid in the dark. But he that believes in that which manifests all things, reproves all things, and judges all things, with that eye shall be <24> led what to war against, and what to join with all along in the work, for he alone is the covenant of light, and given for a leader, which whosoever believes and follows shall not err in judgment or practice, but unbelief therein is the cause why there are so many blind guides, and many people die in their sins.n

     And thus he is the way of God, and is to be believed in, (to wit) as he manifests the works of the devil apart from the works of God, condemning the one in the flesh and justifying the other in the Spirit; and as he manifests every spirit with its workings, motions and ends, their ground and offspring, whence they come and whither they return, that thereby the creature may know who it is that exercises his mind and members, and to what spirit he yields himself in his obedience and service, and so may come to know the use and end of all his works, what to choose, and what to refuse; what to justify, and what to condemn in its first motion, before it be brought forth or formed in the womb, that judgment may be kept on the head of transgression, and liberty proclaimed to the Just. And for want of faith and feeling of this way of Christ it is that so many perish in sin, and yet seem to strive against sin, even because they cannot believe that to be sufficient to save from sin which manifests sin in the ground, and condemns it in its first motion, which if they did but in faitho join with him to condemn sin in the ground, temptation, and motion, it would die, and wither, and not be able long to live or prevail; and if it for a time should prevailp in the members, yet not to condemnation; for I have found a great difference between sin condemned in the creature (though not yet wholly dead) and sin lived in and pleaded for; for if thy life and judgment be in that alone which condemns sin then art thou dead to sin and alive to Christ, and it is no more thou that sins but sin that yet remains in thee, to which thou art dead, to which thou dost not consent, like, nor approve of, nor any way add any strength thereto; but thy faith and love, delight and strength is in him which condemns it; he that truly is in this faith and love, by the working thereof shall all his enemies perish, and by that faith and love shall the <25> just live in that creature, and he in him condemning and killing sin till it all be done away, and the creature of God found alive in him alone, who without spot will present him to the Father; for this I have found, that that which manifests sin in its first motion, judges it there and condemns it there, hath the only power to kill sin ere it be committed, and so hath only power to save from condemnation; for this you shall find, that as Christ doth not live to justification where he is not believed and justified, loved, followed, and confessed,q so sin doth not live to condemnation where it is hated, condemned and denied. For where that spirit of wickedness is seen in the light and separated from, and judged apart from the creature, the creature joining in judgment with the just, there sin will wither and Satan flee, for there he hath no kingdom, nor a hiding habitation; for the light being minded, and judgment having free passage and consent, it searcheth out his hidden things, and judgment passeth upon all his deceit, root and ground, with his fruits; so is the strong man spoiled, and his stuff, by faith in Christ, and not by strength of the creature,r by believing the just and denying the unjust.

     For according to every man's faith, so shall he receive from God; now he that believes salvation, and that cleaves to, and lives in some sin, and pleads for it, and believes he must do so, his faith stands in an unclean thing, and an unclean thing will live by that faith, and be justified by that creature, and in his justifying anything that is unclean, therein is the just condemned;s and the just being condemned which should give dominion over the unclean, the wild plant hath its liberty to grow until it overspread the plant of God, and cover the man, wholly stop the ear, and blind the eye, and hardens the heart against every motion to good, or check for evil; and let not this man look for good fruit, but after his faith who so believes.

     Also, on the contrary: He that feels a strife in himself between the clean and the unclean, & sees the one reprove for sin, and the other plead for sin, and believes in that which is pure, clean and just, which condemns the unjust and unclean, that faith <26> stands in that which is pure, and the mysteryt of it is held in a pure conscience; and that pure faith being followed, will purify the heart and cleanse the hands from unjust actions; and by that faith the just lives, and grows, and springs, and brings forth, and the pure plant spreads and covers the earth with the knowledge of God, his holinessu and purity, and all grace in the heart, which becomes as a working leaven, till it hath wrought out the unclean nature, and conformed the whole man to himself. And this is a work of the holy faith, which none can receive but who believes in holiness; for none can bring clean fruit out of an unclean faith.

     And this further, for the encouragement of such as honestly indeed would be rid of their sin, & set free to serve God in holiness without deceit, thou feeling in thee the moving of that which is holy, bearing witness against that which is contrary to holiness, & condemning it and thee for joining with it in all thy conversation: I say, in that believe; for that is all thou knows of Christ in thee; and believing and following it, thou wilt feel it making a separation in thy inward man betwixt that which Christ comes to save and that which he comes to destroy; for this is he that comes from above to set before thee life and death divided, that thou joining to the life and believing may be saved from death; and as thou art faithful to this Spirit which condemns sin in the flesh, so thou wilt feel warring against and working out sin daily, to which if thou clearly join, denying that which it condemns, then art thou one spirit with him in his work, and art no longer in the flesh nor to be condemned with that sin remaining in the flesh, but art one in him that condemns sin and self in sinning till sin become exceeding sinful in thy eyes, as it is in the eyes of God; and as thou grows in love and liking with that pure Spirit, its law and leadings, so thou wilt become dead to the law of sin; and it will lose its power in thee, not being minded, loved and served; thy mind, love and fear being exercised in that which condemns it. And here that faith that works by love takes the victory, and not thy striving in thy own strength only from a sight of sin by the law; for by the works of the law thou canst not be justified, but by the working of faith in Christ Jesus that Spirit; and as thou feel his working in thee, and thou one with <27> him therein, in his work thou art justified; and by beholding of him in this faith thou wilt be changed into his likeness and powerv by his mightyw working in thee, even by that Spirit to which thou art turned; and as he grows in thee, and thou in him, thou wilt feel that power arising which will make thee able to answer a good conscience and give lasting peace, and so by his resurrection shall be saved from condemnation, from which thy own works will not save thee; and this work will go on with joy if thy heart be honest; for seeing him that is holy set before thee, condemning sin, and his holiness and beauty in all his motions doth so delight the honest heart, to see such a glory and beauty near thee, that it makes the way easy after him for the joy that is set before thee; for in all thy tribulations, trials, and temptations, this faith will present him before thee; and this made the saints of old endure the cross and despise the shame, and bear the reproach after him joyfully, following the Lamb in all his leadings.

     So thou that loves holiness, it is near thee, power over sin and Satan is near thee, salvation is at hand; go not forth to seek that abroad which thou hast lost in thy own house: he is thy salvation that condemns sin in thy bosom; he that reproves the wicked is with thee; he that is pure is thy peace; he that never consented to sin but stands a witness against it, if thou have such a spirit in thee thou hast the Spirit of Christ the savior. So take heed unto him, to believex him, and to mind his leading, and to follow him. If thou part not from him he will be thy everlasting peace and overruling power to subdue thy sins, and by him shalt thou tread down strength with ease and delight, and shalt be able to say with such as was come to the same spirit, "Greater is he that is in thee than he that is in the world"; and only that faith that sees him hath power to overcome the world, for he that beholds his glory treads the world's glory under his feet. For whatsoever is seen in him doth so far exceed all other things that it takes the mind out of all other delights and leaves them empty; so that things in heaven, nor things in earth, principalities nor powers are able to separate from the love of him; how much more wilt thou leave thy delight in sin <28> when thou comes to delight in him! His love will constrain thee, who loves purelyy and hath found it, for this is joy indeed, and love unspeakable, when the soul finds that treasure in his own house freely given, which he hath long been seeking abroad and could never purchase neither with life nor estate. And the more thou beholdest him, the more will his glory and love appear, for as thou in the light beholdest the pure motion of thisz Holy One, thou wilt come to see what thou art without him, and what thy wants is, without which thou canst not be happy, and that thou canst not have a lasting peace till with his virtue thou be filled, and with his glory covered, and with his power armed against every temptation, all which he will make thee heir of with him, as thou minds to be faithful and hearken to his movings to obey them in all things, who thereby will lead thee his way by which he obtained all this glory & power, & this inheritance from the Father; in which way thou wilt find a cross to all thy own ways, and to the world's spirit in all things, which will be easy if thou keep thy eye single to him who is set before thee therein, his glory, and the gaining thereof; but if thou look back into the world, thou lookest into temptation without him, and there the spirit of the world presents thee with loss and not with gain, setting before thee what thou must forgo, with all the hardships and impossibilities that may be, but no power to bear it; but keeping thy eye to him thou hast always power and peace before thee in thy way, the hope thereof will be as an anchor, and the faith a shield, and the love will give thee life to undergo all the trials for his sake, bearing his cross daily, which must part thee and thy sins, and crucify the worldly spirit with the lust thereof, and kill all thataa wars against thy soul, and keeps thee from thy inheritance, wherefore it is called "the great power of God unto salvation."

     And as thou becomes faithful thereto, thou wilt feel the fruit of that Holy One springing in thee, moving to be brought forth in thee towards God and man, thy faith will grow, and prayers with strong cries to the Father; as the Spirit sees thy wants, thy love will spring and move in thee, and bring forth towards God and man upon all occasions, which if thou willingly serve in its <29> smallest motion, it will increase; but if thou quench it in its movings, and refuse to bring it forth, it will wither and dry in thebb not being exercised.

     And it is the like of gentleness, meekness, patience, and all other virtues which are of a springing and spreading nature, where they are not quenched, but suffered to come forth to his praise in his will and time, who is the begetter thereof, and to the comfort of his own seed, and cross to the world. And if thou be faithful daily to offer up the body as a sacrifice, to bring forth his image, name, and power before his enemies, then what he moves thee to bring forth shall be thy inheritance, and will daily increase with using; but if thou wilt not give up for his name's sake, but would hold the treasure and escape the reproach, then will it be taken from thee and given to him who will yield the Lord of the vineyard his fruit in due season. For that which the Father freely begets he will have freely brought forth, that the shining thereof in the dark world may praise him. What a glory it is to see peace shine in the midst of war, love in the midst of hatred, meekness in the midst of strife, righteous judgment in the midst of wickedness, innocency in the midst of violence and oppression, as a lily amongst thorns, so is that of God amongst the men of the world; and therein doth his nature and beauty appear in his temple, to which all must confess, and praise him therein. This is the gloriouscc day which many have talked on, and those only are the children of it in whom the brightness shines forth; that which God begets in thee is his Son: confess him in the midst of his enemies and thereby is the Father glorified and his Son crowned: but if thou deniest him thy body to testify against the world, he will deny thee his life to redeem thee from the evil of it: the breaking forth of the Sundd is the beginning of the good day, when that which so long hath condemned thee for sin comes to shine forth freely in acts of righteousness; then shall thy darkness be turned into light, thy condemnation into peace, thy sorrow for sin, to rejoice in holiness: and this will be a good day to thee, even the day of the Lord's righteousness and redemption to thy soul, and a witness to all men of the appearance of the just <30> one, which testimony whosoever refuseth to bear, all his religion will prove in vain, and consist in words without power.

     There is a way in which the barren becomes fruitful, and a little is more serviceable to God than he that hath great riches for himself; you that sees your wants are nigh it, and the lowly mind will soonest follow it; and for the honest hearted it is prepared, who seeks to serve God, and not yourselves. If you take heed to your own ways and make nothing in your minds, you must not create that which must stand before God, for he will be served with his own begettings in you. Take heed therefore you make nothing to yourselves, nor murder that which he freely begets; but let your minds be always heavenly, waiting with patience in that which lets you see your wants, therewith that your hearts may be open always upward towards God the father of every good gift; and you being hid in the heavenly mind from the nature which compasseth the earth in its comprehensions, and would compass heaven also, and waiting in a cross to that mind, as you come into the patient stillness, you mustee feel the begettings of the Father moving in you to be brought forth, to which you must become servants, setting aside all subtlety, and that which is hasty, & whatever is your own or hath an end to yourselves, and in the pure mind behold what way this moves its appearance against the worldly spirit, that with your whole hearts and might you may bring it forth in its own image, without reasoning or consulting with anything of your own, or anything of this world; for this arises in a contrary nature to that which is one with the world, bears another image and fruit, and hath another glory in its appearance, in which the Father alone is glorified, even in this his Son of his own free begetting; and herein is the Father glorified, that he be brought forth with his fruits into the world, who thereby is known how far he is above and contrary to the worldly spirit, both in the ground, root, and offspring.

     And whosoever will give up themselves to serve him herein by his increase shall become rich towards God, and increase in strength daily against the world; and by bringing forth, and by his <31> beauty in holiness shall become glorious and beloved in the sight of the Father, whose image and begetting they bear, wherein they shall become heirs of the eternal glory.

     But if you look into the earthly mind, there the worldly spirit meets you with his counsel, and consulting and reasoning therewith, you take counsel in the night, from which the counsel of God is hid, his work, the end & glory thereof, and instead of that you will be presented with the pleasure and glory of this world, which stands in visible things, and is pleasing to the visible eye and senses, which glory the god of this world sees into, and leads into, in which his wisdom and knowledge stands, which cannot enter into the invisible glory and treasure. And in this spirit that knows not God, nor his works, nor seeks his glory,ff will you meet with the thief and murderer, sons of darkness, who will persuade you strongly to murder the pure motion, and not to bring it forth, or else so to bring it forth as that the image thereof may be sogg marred as not to bear its clear and perfect testimony against the world's kingdom, power and glory; and this you cannot avoid if you look back into his counsel, and counselhh with your own reasonings, wherein arises thoughts, cares and pleasures out of the world, which cumbers the mind, chokes the seed, and kills the holy child,ii and covers the pearl with earthly affections and lusts, which continually hardens the heart, and strengthens the will against the innocent, and so puts the just to death in the womb,jj for want of bringing forth in its time, and according to its motion, which when you have rejected, you cannot beget again of yourselves, nor in your own wills, though you may procure the likekk from another spirit in that nature which resists the truth and corrupts the mind, and brings forth in its own will,ll as some have done, who having disobeyed the still motion of the meek spirit, and looking for high things, God hath given them up to a lofty spirit, and strong workings in <32> a contrary nature, who now have a power wherewith to resist that which first begot you out of the world, and a moving spirit which draws towards the world again, which being got into the place of God (as God) makes them believe that their return is of the same Spirit that called them out, to which they yielding the same obedience, thenceforth without fear becomes the same they was, if not sevenfold worse, without allmm hope of recovery: and this disobedience becomes as witchcraft.

     Wherefore in the fear of God, watch with all diligence, hearken in the simplicity of your hearts, and take heed that you slip not any time of hearings, nor prove false in your conception or bringing forth, but that both calling and election may be made sure to you, not only by being in the knowledge of it, but also by bringing it forth, that it may be your own forever: for that which you bring forth is your inheritance, and none can take it from you, but you have power therein against all contrary spirits, which whilst it is but in the motion, will strongly tempt and seek the life thereof to stifle: but being brought forth, it is before you, and only so it is put on as a breastplate, and becomes a defense,nn which being begot, and not brought forth, it withers, and becomes as dry bones in the womb.

     Therefore as you must give your minds wholly to hearken, so must you give your strength wholly to obey: and when you feel the pure to move in you, with your whole strength serve it, and bring it forth, give up your bodies a sacrifice for his sake whom you have not seen, that his life may be made manifest in your mortal flesh, and through you inoo the world, that he may be seen in his brightness to youpp that love him, and before his enemies: then is the body for the Lord, and not for fornication. But if you rest in the knowledge of this mystery, and bring not forth to life, with that knowledge you commit fornication and teach others to commit fornication also; this knowledge in the disobedient mind becomes the mother of harlots and fornications of the earth, with which the kings of the earth are deceived, but <33> noneqq ever joined to God.

     For it is not the hearing of the truth that purifies the soul, but the obedience of truth which makes the vessel fit for the master's use, who in his using and its obedience makes it a vessel of honor, and glorifies his Son therein, in a body preparedrr to do the Father's will in the world, whereby the Father is glorified in the Son, in whom he shines forth in the clear imagess as the Father begets him again in you, and you in him, which was in himtt before the world was, of his own nature and good will, which as you receiveuu again by faith and obedience, you will be changed into the same image and nature, and to delight only therein, being born of the same Spirit, as he that is born of the flesh delights in the things of the flesh.vv


Editor's Notes

a. Sarah Blackborow. This introduction is not included in later editions.

b. London, printed for Thomas Simmonds, at the Bull and Mouth near Aldersgate, 1657. This tract went through several editions. Notes in the present volume include changes found in the 1660 edition.

c. Whitehead changes "the lily" to "mankind."

d. 1660 changes "be" to "becomes."

e. Whitehead omits "wholly."

f. 1660 inserts "present."

g. Whitehead inserts "to know."

h. 1660 & W. change "which" to "what."

i. 1660 changes "this" to "these."

j. 1660 inserts "and to open judgment and to give a discerning."

k. 1660 inserts "within."

l. 1660 inserts "to the creature."

m. W. inserts "it."

n. 1660 inserts "for want of this faith and spiritual diligence."

o. 1660 inserts "and diligence."

p. 1660 changes "prevail" to "live."

q. 1660 inserts "though in such he move."

r. Whitehead inserts "but."

s. 1660 inserts "(and that faith cannot be counted to that creature for righteousness)."

t. 1660 inserts "and power."

u. 1660 inserts ", power."

v. 1660 omits "power."

w. Whitehead changes "and power by his mighty" to "by his mighty power"

x. Whitehead inserts "in."

y. 1660 and Whitehead change "purely" to "purity."

z. W. changes "motion of this" to "motions of the."

aa. W. inserts "yet."

bb. 1660 and Whitehead change "the" to "thee."

cc. 1660 changes "glorious" to "righteous."

dd. W. changes "Sun" to "Son."

ee. 1660 and Whitehead change "must" to "will."

ff. W. changes "nor seeks his glory" to "but seeks his own glory."

gg. 1660 omits "so."

hh. 1660 and W. change "counsel" to "consult."

ii. Whitehead omits "and kills the holy child."

jj. Whitehead changes "puts the just to death in the womb" to "slay the just spiritually."

kk. 1660 changes "like" to "likeness of it." W. changes "like" to "likeness."

ll. 1660 inserts "to gainsay."

mm. 1660 omits "all."

nn. 1660 inserts "and sets you over the head of the evil one."

oo. 1660 & W. change "in" to "to."

pp. 1660 changes "you" to "all."

qq. W. inserts "thereby."

rr. W. changes "a body prepared" to "your bodies."

ss. Whitehead omits "in the clear image."

tt. Whitehead changes "which was in him" to "who was with the Father."

uu. 1660 changes "receive" to "conceive."

vv. 1660 adds the signature, "J.N."