Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Letters (in vol. 4)
As I was passing down the borough of Southwark not many days ago, I saw the greatest abominations acted that ever mine eyes beheld, in several places in the open streets men upon scaffolds, by two, three, four or five on a scaffold, transformed into several shapes, lifting wickedness up on high and acting such abominable folly in words and actions in the sight of the sun as might make any tender heart, fearing God, to tremble at the sight of. And this was in many places of the streets openly, besides what was within the houses, where several trumpets were sounding to gather vain minded people thereto: which wounded my heart to see, that ever such things should be tolerated under your government, for whom God hath so wrought that you might reform these evils; and though I was moved to declare against them in the name and power of the Lord openly, yet am I not clear thereof till I have laid it before you. And this I am to say unto you, that as you look to stand before God, so do you speedily and effectually remove these abominations out of God's sight, throughout your government and dominions, that his righteous soul be no more grieved therewith; for he will not give you rest unless you quiet his Spirit herein by rooting out both secret and open appearance of all such ungodly sights of vanity and folly out of the land, with all other ungodly sports and pageants, which if you set yourselves to do with a perfect heart, God will answer you therein and be for you, if you will be for his Spirit, that it be not grieved nor oppressed through your neglect; and also thereby you will give a sure testimony to all the good people of these nations, by publishing your effectual law against it, that your hearts are set against all open wickedness and are resolved to drive it out of the land, root, and branch and remembrance; which if you do, all that love the Spirit of God will love you and join to you, and the wicked shall hear and fear the Lord and you: so shall you be a means to cleanse the people's minds from vanity that they may receive better things. And this is to bear the sword for God, and work reformation in truth and <385> righteousness, and scatter wickedness; the neglect whereof causes the nation to stagger and wrath to increase. And without this reforming the God of peace will not dwell with you nor establish you, for his pure eye cannot behold iniquity nor dwell with folly.
From one who seeks your peace with God, and one with another,
I have seen thy dwelling place; even in the love that is lasting, & is not *** in trial but abides with its own to strength & comfort, & for this my soul loves thee unfeignedly. And I have faith & hope in that eternal power that I shall never consent to anything against that life, blessed be its appearance evermore. And truly nothing have I that is able to leave all things that come upon me daily, but that love which was & is; & the increase of it to God's truth & people answer all things. Glory forever to this rock, which is my defense against all powers set against me. And in this hath he to whom I am known comforted me in the deeps, & his bowels I feel which I believe the enmity of Satan shall never be able to shut against me. In which I am at present with thee & all the children of light with thee, & the peace of God cover you. Amen.
In our letter thou mentions some words written by Ge FF which thou said I should see fulfilled, but the words I have not. If thou find an opportunity to send them if thou have them. Thou mayest in truth mention my love to those of God in thy house, & others as thou sees freedom. I beseech thee cease not to share with me in my tears before God, until the end.
My heart is broken this day for the offence that I have occasioned to God's truth and people, and especially to you who in dear love followed me, seeking me in faithfulness to God; which I rejected, being bound wherein I could not come forth till God's hand brought me, to whose love I now confess; and I beseech you, forgive wherein <386> I evilly requited your love in that day; God knows my sorrow for it, since I see it, that ever I should offend that of God in any or reject his counsel; and now that paper you have seen lies much upon me, and I greatly fear further to offend or do amiss, whereby the innocent truth or people of God should suffer, or that I should disobey therein.
Unless the Lord himself keep you from me, I beseech you let nothing else hinder your coming to me, that I might have your help in the Lord; in the mercies of Christ Jesus, this I beg of you, as if it was your own case, let me not be forgotten of you.
And I entreat you, speak to Henry Clarke, or whoever else I have most offended; and by the power of God, and in the Spirit of Christ Jesus I am willing to confess the offence, that God's love may arise in all hearts, as before, if it be his will who only can remove what stands in the way; and nothing thereof do I intend to cover: God is witness herein.
I would not grieve thee nor any way offend the people of the Lord, who is my witness of the daily sorrow and travail of my soul for the offences that have been already, and that the peace of any should be broken through me, who are dear to me; and nothing have I in this world near in my heart but his innocent people whom he hath called out of the world; and I cannot trouble you but I oppress my own life: the Lord God of peace rebuke him who daily seeks to turn the simplicity out of its way, who hath long withstood me and doth withstand me: truly my heart dreads for fear of more divisions; gladly would I see thy face, if it be the will of God; my bowels yearns in unfeigned love towards thee, God knows I lie not, and in the spirit of meekness I know thou wilt feel me in truth. And whatever the Lord, in any of you, shall lay upon me, I am willing to suffer or do, that all breaches may be removed from the just.
Dear is my love to thee, my sister, & in that power that is in thee I am one, in that resurrection of life of love & pure peace which arising covers all contrary things & condemns them into everlasting perdition, glory thereto forever. I feel thee therein & <387> inherit of thy inheritance & have part with thee in thy secret love, secret prayers, & tears for the seed's sake which suffers & hath suffered. Thou hast been faithful, a mother not willing to cast off compassion nor part from pity; God Almighty double thy springs, & bless thy outgoings and increase thy children & make that everlasting beauty a cover to thousands, that may speak his praise who is Lord thereof, glory forevermore.
My love is dear to all Friends with thee, thou mayest mind whom of it as thou seest in the Lord. And to thy husband with the rest of thy household.
And to G.F. if thou hast opportunity, who is dear to me in the love of God, which all the subtle workings of the enemy I know shall never break, though he have long stood in the way, whom the Lord of love & innocency remove in his own way & time, for which I wait suffering & am not without hope in the end to attain an everlasting unity amongst them that are sanctified & sanctifying.
Let me hear from thee as often as thou findest the least movings, in that which is one. I am refreshed by thee sometimes in the deep where is great wrestlings, pray that I may be kept against this great power.
Dear sister, beloved of God, I am often with thee, & I have seen thee as thou art to me-wards & have heard thy voice as if present with thee. And sometimes have been refreshed therewith in the time of heavy burdens. And the bowels of mercy I feel in many, praised be the springs thereof with which my soul is strengthened against the adversary. But truly for the hardness and unreconcilableness which is in some I am astonished & shaken, lest the Spirit of Christ Jesus should be grieved & depart. For if I know anything of it, or ever have done, that is it which naturally inclines to mercy and forgiveness, & not to bind one another under a trespass till the uttermost farthing, though this may be just and I do not condemn it. Yet I have felt a spirit which delights more in forgiving debts and seeks all occasion thereto, even where it is not sought to, but seeks; and by this spirit I have been able to bear all things while it is with me, else had I not been at this day. So that I complain not <388> as to myself in what I here write, God knows, but my fear is of provoking the justice of God without mercy, through not showing mercy one to another. And verily this is much upon me with great fear, when I hear of strife.
Dear friend thou mayest feel my heart by what I have written to thee, which I fear to do to others, for I have found the adversary watching what might come from me, to quote it for evil, which hath kept me much from writing what is before me; yet to thee I am bold having known thee near me in all things, even ever since I see thy face, & have been strengthened in thee often in the work of God, before this present condition, so to the wisdom & power of Christ Jesus I commit thee therein, whose spirit is simple & harmless toward fools & babes.
And if God open thy heart & mouth let me hear from thee or from Anne Cleaton, with whose spirit I had unity when she was with me. And how it is with all friends with you, whom I love,
Dear friends, be tenderly affected towards one another as brethren in the Lord, and often remember whose spirit it is you profess to have upon you and whose image you are to bear before all men; but especially towards all that love Christ Jesus, and bear his testimony this day, and his reproach; and that you seek to support the weak and recover such as are tempted, shaken or fallen: seeking all occasions to restore and forgive one another, and to blot the remembrances of offenses out of your hearts, and remember the bonds with which the Lord Jesus hath bound us all to this, who laid down his precious life for his enemies, whom we were and are if we receive not this Spirit in the life of it, therein to walk towards one another; he cannot live in us else but suffers in us as in the world. And remember how the Father accepted his Son's atonement for us, and forgave us much at the beginning which we had done against him when his life we knew not, but oppressed it in us. And this should bind us to do the like for all souls; for they are his, as we were his when we knew him not; but especially to every brother or sister, for this is pleasant in his sight, and in his house it is his honor and anointing, wherewith his children are anointed into tenderness, from <389> the highest to the lowest. And that Spirit where he lives seeks not self but seeks the lost, and to bring again to God.
So prove your own selves, if Christ be in you, and the anointing makes soft and gentle, and melting the hardness makes peace and oneness. And this is his glory and work above every spirit, and his name above every name; that as he is just and pure, and separate from sinners, yet is he tender to seek and to save, and ready to forgive above all other, thereby turning away wrath. And for this he is loved of God and men who are reconciled thereby; and pleasing it is to God that he walk in you, and you in him, in whom wrath is quenched, and forgiveness received.
And dear friends, this is our peace, and his glory is upon us if with this Spirit we be covered and armed against the adversary who waits for evil, and to divide and keep in division, and to keep the evil in mind, that it should not be blotted out; and there wrath abides as a spark in secret, and the fire is ready to kindle, more than to forgive. And where this is so, it cannot be long till it will break out, where peace is denied, and there Satan gets his daily advantage; and, saith Christ, "it is impossible but that offenses will come"; wherefore he saith, "Take heed to yourselves, and if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him, and if he repent forgive him; and if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him. And if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses." So look at God in what you do to men herein, for to him you owe it, and much more: if you know God and yourselves you know this, and for want of this Satan hath got advantage at this day, and the enmity eats as a canker, and pride gets up, and wrath is heavy and devours, though many see it not; yet it is seen and felt by some, and lamented and feared, who see it spread over the tenderness in many, where love did abound at first; and how little a thing will now give occasion of wrath to work high; yea, many times when no just occasion is given.
And this is the advantage that Satan hath got in this time of trial, which hath tried many and shaken many. Oh! that it might once be truly said that we had all taken warning, and gotten strength by it in the best things and most pleasing to God, and which might most honor him before all men, and double the bonds of pure truth, and live in all his called people who bear his name openly; and that we might all be found in his nature, and no appearance else seen, <390> that so the adversary might be wholly without his hope within and without. And some breathe after this more than any outward glory, and many lament the want of it, which if we all seek it, our rest will then be truly glorious, yet again, in one heart and mind, as at the beginning. And this is longed and believed for, with desire of heart, that none may come short of seeking and obtaining the same.
And you that have the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, take heed how you use it, and be not rash in your words, nor unadvised; but take counsel at that which leads to do to another as you would be done to, that you may use your power for edification rather than for destruction; you may bind or loose here on earth who have the word. This power is given from above; abuse it not, to bite or devour withal, lest you be devoured thereof, and wrath kindle against you, who reject mercy, and choose it not rather than judging one another, in things where mercy might take place amongst brethren. And you may bind a brother or sister under a trespass, who hath trespassed against you, and cause them to suffer much, and give Satan advantage against them above their strength; but this I am sure God delights not in, on your behalf, though you may say it is just, and an eye for an eye; yet surely if God had so dealt with you, your debt had remained upon you; and the time will come that he that hath showed no mercy must have judgment without mercy. And for that end hath God showed us mercy and forgiveness, that we should walk in it towards the brethren, and be like him. And some are tried that all may fear, and know by what you stand; and if God doth but leave you to your own spirits you will appear but as other men, and high-mindedness and hard-heartedness against your brethren is the way to provoke him to do it, that as you have done, so you receive.
And this will certainly come upon all who in the forgiveness of God abide not, though some men's sins go before to judgment, and some follow after; and happy is that man whose iniquity is covered, and puts on that spirit towards the brethren and fellow-servants which hath power to keep it so.
I speak not this to hide the transgressor or keep the evil one from judgment, wherever he is seen; for that will defile you: but to preserve the brotherhood from him that now seeks occasion, that no place be given to him, but that all may be done in that Spirit that hath the power and effectual working together, and heal and save through judgment, making an end of sin and the remembrance of it, and in peace sowing the fruit of righteousness in him alone that <391> makes peace, not kindling the fire; but with fear to be defiled pulling out of the fire, putting a difference in this case, which none can do but who have received the power of forgiveness from above and walk in it. And such indeed have put on the Lord, who would have none defiled, nor any lost for want of compassion; and in whom sin is covered wrath is put away, and mercy hath taken its place, and such love mercy and salvation; but they in whom wrath and strife is above, take heed and glory not over another, which will bring yourselves under greater condemnation.
Children of God, seek a kingdom in you that flesh and blood strive not for, nor cannot enter therein, a kingdom undefiled and that fadeth not away, hid from that which feeds on earthly things, a heavenly kingdom bearing heavenly fruits and where heavenly things abound; wherein the heavenly Spirit rules, guides, and brings forth fruits of itself, heavenly fruits, the fruits of grace and meekness and of a lowly mind, the fruits of peace and gentleness and forbearance amongst yourselves. These are heavenly fruits, and the virtues of the tree of life, and that which the loftiness of flesh and blood looks not for nor doth esteem, which loves the praise of men, and to be known in that which this world can see into with the outward understanding: but wait with patience to feel that quickened which is sown in tearsand springs up with joy, out of the sight of the natural understanding, that that alone may bear you, and therein all your fruit may be found, and so come to the knowledge of the tree by its fruits; and let the life open the understanding (and not the notion or a sight) that is the heavenly learning of Christ Jesus the righteous, full of grace and truth; but striving to get up to the knowledge of heavenly things in notion and form, before the thing itself be born and brought forth, this is the wrong way to learn Christ, and the way of the world that veils the life; for this knowledge stands in the sensual part, to exalt and puff up the mind above the meekness and lowliness that is in the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and beguiles the soul of the simplicity in which it should feed; and so a tree may grow high and hard and strong, yet fruitless and out of the power, got above the poor, above the innocent, out of the feeling of the sufferer and man of sorrows where he is; and the end of <392> this growth is not in the pure rest, for the higher anyone grows here, the more doth that wither and die in them which is soft and tender and melting, which makes one, and is the true fold for lambs, where the lions must lie down in the end if they come to rest, and that eye put out which looks to be great among men, that comes not into the rest but hath strife in the mind, strife in words and secret smitings which defile the rest and lead into the division and separation; but the little child leads into the rest, and that which is lowly gives the entrance.
So feel that which is lowly and meek to arise above self, that which stills all strife at home in your minds and gives peace in temptation and tribulation; that's a soft and tender thing in you, that is the peace-maker, that's blest of God. And this is first felt under the world, under the strife, suffering by the strife in patience, to bring to the end of the strife and the world, and in the end of it, and all exaltation, he comes to arise over the world and the enmity, who is not of a striving nature, but lives by hope and believes to see to the end of all things under which he suffers, and to outlive every temptation by suffering. And so by an everlasting life comes over the world, and to reign over all things that are not of that eternal nature; but not to join with the evil.
And he that in the particular is born of this hath overcome the world in himself, and knows how to walk towards his brother in that which hath power over the world and outlives all, whereby he can suffer therein, and brings forth its own undefiled into one to rest, ever aiming in all ministrations at the kingdom of truth, peace and holiness, which is the end of all gifts and callings amongst the brethren, and is only obtained as that arises in all which suffers by the world but is not of the world, which he that is Christ's minister comes to turn men unto.
And this seed all should know, which is beloved of the Father and heir of the everlasting kingdom, who strives not by violence but entreats; who seeks not revenge, but endures all contradictions from all against himself, to the end he may obtain mercy for all from the Father. And this is the seed of eternal peace, and the eternal peace maker, which was foreordained of the Father and hath power to endure all things and subdue all things by overcoming.
So this seek in yourselves and all men, and in it seek one another as brethren. This is that which is perfect and is never to be done away, neither can it be overcome of the world; wrath cannot enter it, pride cannot enter it; it strives for nothing but to live its <393> own life, which the world strives not for; nor can any that are of it strive with it; the worldly spirit seeks not that crown, whose life is to suffer all things, to be meek and low and poor and rejected; reviled, contemned of all the world, bearing the reproach of all that's above that of God in all. And little striving in the will of man is there for this kingdom, or the cross that belongs thereto, which no exalted mind can bear nor glory in.
And this is the righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees and professors, and that wherein they cannot enter; nor can any reign in this kingdom but who can bear the cross which leads to the crown and hath a habitation in that which cannot be moved with change nor kindled with wrath.
This is the heritage of the meek, and the kingdom which only belongs to the poor in spirit and pure in heart, where the hardness of heart is broken and melted, and self dead; many spirits desire to look into it, but few to live the life of it; it's only for the heirs who are born through sorrow and slain with ease, to whom flesh and blood is an enemy, and with the eye that looks out lightly esteemed amongst men.
Dear friends, mind whereon you feed and in what you grow, and keep all low in your minds, that the virtue of meekness you may feel, and know the strength of it with God; take heed of the knowledge above the life, and of getting words of wisdom and therewith set yourselves above the meek and despise the weak, and so become strong trees without fruit, which God will overturn by the roots; but everyone feed in a clean spirit, and therein know the power of the word of life in yourselves, which as it passeth breaks the rocks and melts the hardness in every heart, and melts you all into one heart, as one man, all into one mind in Christ Jesus, that you may be knit in one body and one spirit, and one head, the lamb over all, glorified over all, having come through the world and through the law, now know the power of love in yourselves, as it is in Christ, and the mercy seat and forgiveness of God, even as you have received of the Lord freely, so do one to another freely, that you may be sealed therein, that there be no evil in any heart unblotted out before God, <394> that he may walk in you all in pure peace and mercy, and that all may know into whom you are begotten; and with the saving health of God you may be all covered, and the weak strengthened and comforted, that none be driven away for want of compassion, but that such be visited with the same you have received or would receive from God for yourselves: and this is brotherly kindness, as God is kind; and all know the virtue of a healing tongue and how to use it; and often remember, ye were enemies to God, and ignorantly did that which you should not; and in that state God sought you with much patience and longsuffering towards you, and with great forgiveness were you gathered into his love and mercy, that he might lead you an example towards your brethren, for all souls are his: how much more should you be tender to such as are already called, and serve them as brethren who have but received the truth in belief thereof and are turned towards God, bearing their testimony in that faith against the world, though in much weakness? Yet of such be tender, and feed them with milk as the Lord hath fed you; so do with much fear and gentleness, lest the same be driven out of the way, and give no advantage to the enemy; and set not yourselves above them with that which you have received from God, but seek the life of God in all, to set up over all; and let that be the chief thing you aim at in all, for the Lord's sake, leading them the way of meekness and fear which is in God, and in the pure wisdom, putting a difference betwixt weakness and willfulness and betwixt the brethren and the world; and as your hearts are found perfect to the seed (the word of God) herein, God will make you wise to salvation, nurses and fathers shall you be called, and a blessing will be in your hand on whomever you lay it; and you will grow in grace and mercy as you come to feel this rise in you, and in the knowledge of salvation and the power of God's arm you will feel you have to gather withal unto God, and he will write his name of peace upon your assemblies, and build you as a city without breaches.
Dear friends, my soul salutes you all, in the breathings of eternal love, which we have in the bowels of Jesus Christ, who is the holy one and full of the Father's love, truth and mercy, and in him we drink into the same eternal Spirit, and of his fullness we all receive enlargedness of bowels towards every living soul whom God hath quickened in the life towards himself. And truly, friends, it's <395> in that life that the remembrance of you arises in my heart, amongst the rest of the living of my Father, whose faces I have not seen for many days, though often I have felt desires thereunto; yet your remembrance is sweet to me for the truth's sake, whose testimony you bear before all men, and are not ashamed; and some of you have stood in it from the beginning, in which I see you present and feel you in Spirit and life, which I have in God.
Dear hearts, it's by the arising of the Almighty we have unity and strength; the morning of our light he is in us, and his rising is our glory and crown, and he is the father of all our righteousness, in the harmlessness of our hearts. How often doth he revive us with new life, and refresh us with the streams of his pure virtue, and is more in our hearts many times than tongue can utter; and then he brings to a sight one of another; and then in what glory stands his beloved lambs in the eye one of another; and how doth his tender Spirit make our bowels yearn towards one another? Thus doth the Lord often for us, and lays us in his bosom together, and removes all evil far from us, and then shows us the spiritual relation that we are in, in him.
Friends, in this you are near to me in God; I can speak it, to whom be glory forever; and here I had a sense of divers of you when I was under the mountains and when my adversary had dominion: verily I cannot forget you in those parts, and your tender hearts which I felt in that day, yea, well could my soul feel the hard and the tender; and he that delivered my soul hath written you in my heart, never to be forgotten. And God will bring his people all into a clean and peaceable land, and feed them with life everlasting; and thereto I commit you all, dear children of God, that therewith you may be armed against whatever evils may assault you in this evil time and generation that knows not God.
And when I was in the north it was in my heart to have seen you, that I might have rejoiced with you in God's holy fear; but on a sudden was I brought back to this city, and here I wait the will of our father, to do or suffer, to whom be all fear and obedience forevermore.
Your dear brother,
Blessed forever be the Father of light, who hath called you out of the world and hath given to you a testimony to finish in behalf of <396> Christ Jesus, that through you he may manifestly declare him to the world, in the true savor of God, wherein you are the first fruits to his glory, as you die and arise in him: and so the Son is the light of the world. So I beseech you, let your shining be in the right nature, and your rising be as you are born of God, and covered with the same Spirit and life by which you have been begotten towards him, that none of you may be found false witnesses of his coming, when you are proved with fire, when nothing will abide with you but what you are in his nature; that's all you have of the treasure of God, even what you are in him, who worketh in you against the flesh and the world; as many as abide in the feeling of his measure and therein receive him as head over all. But if you receive anything above him in your minds, which is not of this nature, then you oppress him who is meek and tender, which hinders his arising to walk and dwell in you.
Wherefore dear friends, watch against all fleshly, selfish, hasty motions; take heed what you receive into his temple, lest you defile it and he leave you desolate and in darkness.
Because of evil thoughts, covetousness, and pride of heart, is his Spirit grieved; every self-end, in whatever you do or suffer, is an enemy to his life; he suffers by whatever is done deceitfully towards God or man; and if you give way to wrath you deny his kingdom; yea, you that have tasted of him, you know in measure how pure his way is in all things; and I pray God you may all grow therein, being so much the more diligent as you see your adversary seeking by all means to darken that glory of your holiness in Christ Jesus, that Spirit, to whom I commit you all, that in the holy bowels of his tender love you may know one another, in whatsoever any of you shall meet with from the world, in this way of your pilgrimage, that your unity in him nothing may be able to break.
Dear friends, in tenderness of heart which I receive of God daily, I am with you; and I pray God our Father, in the Lord Jesus Christ, that your minds may be kept pure and single to himself, so as at the fountain of eternal life you may ever feed and receive counsel and grow in strength against that spirit which hath many subtle wiles to draw your minds from the bread of life; even the Lord God of truth discover them all to every one of you, and preserve you <397> daily against them, that to the root which bears you you may all be kept, thence to receive renewed strength, that to God you may be fruitful forever and not as trees whose root withers and must needs fall in the end, though never so high in knowledge or conceit; even the Lord keep you all from this, which is that which is much in me to write to you of at this present, who to me are dearer than I can express; that to the foundation of God you may all be kept, and all the people of God on the rock to drink, who are his portion in this his day, with him to stand against the powers of darkness that are arising against the Lamb, to whom be glory.
And blessed are they who with him are found faithful, even such as continually feed with him, where eternal life is ministered; and none can feed there but as they come to have their minds redeemed out of worldly things. So dear friends, all take heed of many thoughts and many works, and walk humbly with God, with single minds always; and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen.
Friends of New England, called Independents, you have taken the name to depend upon the Spirit of Christ Jesus alone for your defense, as though your way did not depend on the arm of flesh; and thus like sheep you had clothed yourselves and got a name of life above the beast and his mark, more than many other sects in the world. But now the Lamb (who will not give his glory to another) hath weighed and proved you, and your work hath made it apparent you know him not, nor his Spirit and power that bears all things and overcomes all things, you not having on the armor of light nor the sword of the Spirit that is able to judge and divide aright, to cut down heresies (as you call them), confound errors, in the way of salvation: but are found a people filled with rage, wrath and bitterness, cruelly entreating his servants whom he hath sent amongst you in his name and nature; whereby you have shamed your profession and stained your color; you have blotted your name out of the Lamb's life, and writ it in blood, that all the world may read it: the Lamb <398> you have denied in works, his Spirit, his power and his mark; and you have made it fully appear whence you are, and that you are not from above, nor your power spiritual; but from below, and your arm flesh, your weapons carnal and devilish, as those which formerly you have condemned, even the worst of them you exceed; and out of the power you are gone which is able to bear all things, try all things, and hold fast that which is good; who have no way to stop the power of heresies but with killing those whom Christ came to save: so your birth is brought forth; here is wisdom, let him that understands read, how little a thing God hath chosen to confound so great a name and to write it amongst the number of the man of blood.
And to strengthen your arm and cover that shameful thing you have in hand, you have sent your letters into England, filled with bitter words and untruths; the foulness that abounds in your own hearts have you cast abroad for a covering; which is so much too narrow to cover innocent blood that it further lays open your rage and rashness and folly to every moderate spirit that reads you.
You undertake to inform (with many grievous and false accusations) against a people who are better known here in England than you know them, and which have a witness of truth in most hearts in this nation (if suffered to speak) which may return your accusations back upon you as false; and the ground to be but malice arising in yourselves: and this is your folly with sober men of sound judgment and wisdom.
What have these people acted (saith truth) against the present government, these years wherein they have been proved sundry ways? What is the rebellion, written or spoken, against authority, seeing you say it's all their religion? Who is that magistrate which they have sought the destruction of? And what is that all manner of disobedience and malignity which they encourage against lawful authority, seeing you accuse them with these things? What discontents have they had a hand in, as to strengthen; and what are the words they have spoken against the present government; and what are those combinations and insurrections they encourage, seeing you charge all these things upon them? And what plots have any one of them been found in since this present government, against which many have been, and opportunity hath not been wanting, seeing you say they have all plots. O men, be ashamed of your words: are not they known in England to have been men who generally did adventure lives and estates with those who are in present government, purchasing their <399> freedom as men with great loss; and now seeing they cannot seek it that way, do not they sit down and suffer, in the way of Christ, all that man hath power to inflict upon them, holding forth the name of Christ in a pure conscience for a witness against them, for repentance to salvation, and not for destruction; and a witness there is in every conscience of the truth hereof, though all men should be silent or set themselves against it. And for the blasphemies you tell on, heresies and sedition, what are they? Bring them forth into open view and let the Scriptures of truth judge thereof: and if therewith (without wresting) you can convince us thereof, then you show a spirit suitable to Scripture, and one with Scripture, and yourselves as men of God; and deny that spirit of murder that calls Christ a devil and his servants blasphemers and heretics; but was never able to convince them thereof before the face of truth: yet with swelling words of accusation stir up men to take away their lives, saying, if they were not so, we would not have delivered them to death or persecution: and if like sober-minded men of spirit you had done this, to have proved before you had pronounced, the heat of this fiery matter had been quenched in your own bosoms ere it had been kindled, or come thus far witness against you to your hurt; and when it comes to return again into the vessel from whence it came, you will know it had been good it had rotted ere it had risen; though now the innocent bear it till its time be fulfilled.
You accuse them for killing the witnesses; what with crying against sin, which hath slain the witnesses, and with preaching to you amendment of life, calling you to the witness of God in you; and this is known to be our chief work in old England, and new, and through the world; and this is that end they aim at, which you call their mischievous end. But friends, it's your pride and fullness and the lusts of your fleshly wills that slays the witness of God in yourselves, and your exalted wisdom above and against the Spirit of truth and meekness; where Sodom and Egypt is, there lies the witnesses slain, which they who are come out of come not to kill.
And you say, "If the Lord have given them commission to kill the witnesses." Doubtless the Lord hath given them commission (but not to kill his witnesses), for had not they commission from him, and power also, little hope could be to go about this work against that bloody spirit which is now in the world, which hath slain the Lord of life, murdered the prophets and apostles, and martyred his messengers under the name of heretics, in all ages, and from <400> which no other can be expected now, had they not commission from him who hath also put on them the same suffering spirit, who love not their lives unto death, to which you are made to confess, saying "They regard not their lives"; though you call this the spirit of the devil, as persecutors ever have done, who are too mad in zeal without knowledge to mind what they do, or against whom, as at present you are seen to be, though the witness of God sometimes forces you to confess to the truth; and this is borne witness to by them, and not slain. And now see what a work you are found in against the Lord, who are slaying his witnesses, for which you are accusing others, and as if the Lord had given them commission to kill his witnesses; is not this horrid blasphemy? Then see what you are doing, who are about to kill the bodies of such whose commission is from the Lord: surely had you the spirit of children (were the message as bad in truth as you would make it by false accusations) should your work be to contrive their death who come with his commission to preach amongst you: hath such a thing as this been known, that a child should arise against the rod in the hand of his father, and say, if I can but destroy it I shall have peace? This is your work, and this you send in counsel into old England, saying, "persecute them with the severest censures, so the wrath of God would be appeased towards England." May not all that ever heard what you once fled from, out of England, stand amazed at this return? Alas for your loss and darkness; did ever any of your foregoers in this way appease the wrath of God, by following this counsel?
What became of that persecuting power which your eyes once saw and from which you fled, their rulers and their teachers, who taught them this very same way, and they took it as you do? They that stayed behind, bearing the cross from which you fled, can tell you: though when you left that authority they esteemed themselves as safe in that way as you can, and was as confident to settle their peace with persecuting the Puritans (then so called) as you with killing the Quakers (now so called).
O men, fear the Lord God of power, and take heed what you do in the height of your pride and heat of your cruelty; the hearts of such as love your souls are wounded with your counsels and actings; and read the Scriptures and see if that way did ever lead but to desolation and ruin; and you are grown to a great height in a little time, and your encouraging others to go on with confidence in that way, and your gladness at it where you hear of it practiced, shows your <401> hearts are hardened; and the heart never hardens in cruelty but where it's filled with a corrupt treasure: it were better that you should condemn it in yourselves than wrath should rip it up and reward it.
And in your papers you pretend great danger to be overcome, and say, "there is more danger of these than the king of Scots, or all the popish princes in Germany," &c. What! overcome with a people that bears no weapon against you but the sword of a suffering Spirit: what fear is this that besets you, and what do you fear will be overcome without hands? Do you see where this fear arises, and is not that within you that causes it? Is it not the spirit of this world within you exalted where it ought not, which is now afraid the witness of God should arise in you and your people, which hath long suffered under false pretenses and feigned worships, pride and covetousness, and the whole body of wickedness: and ye being awakened to the light of Christ Jesus, it would arise and testify against you to the overturning of the throne of iniquity, which is framing mischief by a law, and lay your honor in the dust, that he alone may be exalted in you who hath no fellowship therewith. This is seen to be the cause of your fears, and the danger you are in to be overcome, and the cause of confederacy, and calling to such as fear your fears, for more help to strengthen you against the burdensome stone; and a bad cause you have undertaken against the Lord God of power, to withstand the day of your visitation; and as badly do you manage it, to set briars and thorns against him in battle, which he will make his way through with fire: it was better counsel to kiss the Son, ere his wrath wax hot against you, lest the smoke thereof wholly blind you; for he is near you who will overcome you or condemn you, who hath begun to work a strange work among you, and in a strange way to your wisdom is he turning your inside outward to be seen of all men, so that a wolf must no longer be called a lamb, nor the bramble the vine, with any who are not willfully blind but can judge of the tree by its fruits, and with base and foolish things in your eyes this is coming to pass; and that which you count the work of the devil must discover the devil in whom he is, and the lamb in whom he is, and each must have his name after his kind and nature, that truth may pass an even judgment.
Your words are, "That the Spirit of God should rule in his people"; and, say you, "he that is in them is stronger than the spirit that is in the world," and here you pretend to set spirit against spirit in trial for victory; but in works you deny this, betaking yourselves to <402> the arm of flesh, making whips, prisons, banishment, cutting off ears and framing laws to shed blood, your chiefest strength; these are not spirit, nor spiritual, but carnal and devilish, never used by the Spirit of Christ to overcome evil or heresies: will you say you are God's people and his Spirit rules in you and is the stronger; and will you murder and shed blood under this pretense? Is the Spirit of God and his strength to martyr and mangle his own workmanship? Hath he no other way to overcome the devil? What a God would you make of him in your dark minds? Doth he give some of his servants commission to come amongst you, and doth his Spirit rule in you to kill them for obeying his commission? Shall the judge of all the earth do this thing to his creatures? Is not this the highest kind of blasphemy, and shall his holy Spirit be guilty of innocent blood? Nay, God is not divided against his creation, no more than Satan against his own kingdom. He that kills the body because of the spirit of error that he says is in it shows his power can go no farther: but he that hath power to confound the error and save the life, he is the savior to whom the creature belongs, who comes to save his own and slay his enemy that is therein; and here is read the mark of the Lamb and the mark of the beast: but the Lamb must have the victory, and those that war with him, over the bloody colored beast and that spirit that rides thereon; and had you followed the Lamb and stood with him in suffering when you fled before this spirit, then had you overcome it and not taken it with you, which now hath overcome you above measure, with more eagerness devouring in you, than ever in those from whom you then fled, as both your works and words manifest; such outraging, false and bitter words in your letters as the gates of hell cannot exceed: and you tell of the actings of Münster being remembered by you; but sure it is for imitation, for your cruelty to those few who have come amongst you have not come short thereof, and yet you are not satisfied with blood, and when in rage you do this, are not ashamed to say that they who bear all your wrath are they that make the magistrate a man of blood and contemptible: and thus every way you load the oppressed with your evil deeds and evil words, who must bear all from you to hasten a testimony against you. But O men consider, you are fallen upon a poor helpless, despised people, who have few among men to plead their cause, but everywhere hated of men: yet in time you will find that you are stumbled on the rejected stone; take heed lest he fall upon you, who must first finish his testimony, and you fill up your measure, that he may be clear of your <403> blood; wherefore deal not proudly, for verily yet a little while and judgment must arise to the meek, and power to the weak, and wisdom to fools (as to the wisdom of the world) to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, &c., and to search out the hidden things of Esau; and the days are coming upon all flesh which you will not believe who are settled in your own wills and self-confidence.
Wherefore, men, be sober, and in the fear of the Lord God of power take heed what you act in his name; for he is zealous for it; and pretend not his spirit to shed innocent blood with, for it is holy and pure, and the virtue and power of it stands not in carnal weapons, nor is it known in hard and cruel hearts; there his honor comes not, but where the heart is broken into tenderness, and the will of man sifted out and seen to be vanity, there he dwells and makes his power known, and the weapons of such are mighty through him, but not to shed blood, but to judge and discern of spirits and powers of the darkness of this world, and to cut down that which is exalted in the dark hearts of proud men, and to open the eyes of the blind therewith. And now how weak is your shield become already in his sight? And how narrow is your covers you have sent over to England, to hide your shameful thing you have in hand.
You say, the juncture is great betwixt those you call heretics and the Jesuits; when it's open to the view of men that their head at Rome and your head is all in one counsel and in one spirit against them; however, like Herod and Pilate, your horns may seem to divide amongst yourselves; do not they there toss them and torment them without cause (as you do) from prisons to inquisitions, and so to Bedlam? And though they know not what to judge of them, yet they will have their blood; and will not sober-minded men soon judge betwixt whom the juncture is in this case, and your cover will shame you.
You say, one of them pressed much for a conference with one of your teachers, but say you, the Quaker was quickly weary. And presently you say that unless your court do make a law to banish them, and not to return upon pain of death, you cannot be rid of them. What a pit of darkness is this you are fallen into! (may wise men judge). Can one of your teachers so quickly weary out one, and might not then all your teachers rid you of six (for that is all the number you tell on from England) in a more noble way, and more suitable to the authority of the Spirit and power of Christ Jesus than to cut their ears, and banish and kill them? How shameful is your <404> glorying here! Or how doth this covering hang together, to be believed for a truth with men of understanding?
In your letters you would have people to believe that the spirit in those you thus torture is but the spirit of the devil, and much weaker than that spirit in you; for you are the people of God, and that is the Spirit of God which rules in you, &c. And yet a senseless fear possesses you, that unless a carnal law be made to kill the body you cannot overcome the spirit.
And this way you mistake for victory, notwithstanding their commission be from him whose Spirit you pretend rules in you. What stuff is all this, when judgment comes to pass upon windy words? What a boast of the people of God, having the Spirit of God in you, and the strength and greatness of that Spirit in you, and the ruling of that Spirit in you; and yet no power to overcome and vanquish your adversary, but what you have from the murderer? May not the least child of true light see your shame through all this glorying, and that you are men yet under the power of the spirit of this world and never yet came to know a victory over that spirit in yourselves? and how are you like to judge the spirit of the devil in another, but like all the bloody-spirited persecuting men, call evil good and good evil, darkness light, and light darkness? And it can be no other while the murderer is exalted, for there the devil is his God and father, who doth his works by lying and murdering, &c. And you that are there are seen to be out of the power of Christ Jesus, which binds the strong man, and are in that nature which is fierce and cruel and devouring; which nature issues out of the evil treasure, corrupt and perverse words, calling rogues and emissaries of Satan, and diabolical, and suchlike reproachful language, ill becoming the mouth of any Christian, and with all that know the fruits of the Spirit this is savored to come from a root of pride and disdain; and as it's from a bad father so it begets the like in such as are under you and have not power to judge it in you. And friends, you have a great fight to go through in yourselves to overcome all this and the father of it, which you must do ere you glory in a spiritual victory in yourselves or others.
Also your unlimited boundless slanders, that all may judge that hear them that they cannot be true, show that you have not power to bridle your tongues to moderation, which is set on fire of hell, as to say, they cause all discontents, all bold speech against the present government, encourage all combinations, all insurrections, all their religion to speak and write rebellion, and they have all plots, &c. <405> As though they had all of these things, when in truth you can prove none of all these things.
O men without shame or measure, what words are these you utter! How deep is truth buried in you that you should not hear its voice to stop your mouths and stifle this shameful thing ere it came out! You say, "Was there ever state so void of reason to suffer such things?" Which things they suffer not, as that of God in them can witness; and they are void of reason indeed if they go from that which in themselves they know to be true, to believe what envy speaks to the contrary; and so leaving their own light to be led blind to kill the innocent to appease God's wrath, as you seem to teach them.
Friends, this is bad counsel, and it's not unlike but you will find some ready to take it, who as yourselves are too rash to mind either way or leader. And all your wrath must be borne, as it comes upon the helpless, simple and despised for its time, who often lament for your souls more than for what you have power to inflict upon their bodies, and in heart could wish that you were so wise as to take into your bosoms again this shameful thing: and if you can come to a little coolness in yourselves alone, and sink down therein, and more seriously inquire at the Spirit, which in secret calls you to do as you would receive, if peradventure God may give you a feeling within yourselves from what root this hath risen, that there you might condemn it ere it go any further, and own the day of your visitation and salvation.
And this is the worst they wish you, whom you so fear, and their lives seek, who are seeking your souls in the sight of God.
Dearly beloved sister, in whom the everlasting love of truth is found, & the mercies of the pure God is with thee, for which thou art often in my remembrance & my heart is to see thee when God wills, in whose counsel & life I desire to walk to his praise alone who hath thus far redeemed me out of deep adversity, & doth still work with me and for me, as I abide in his patience & obedience, making my way through many oppositions & trials, & in his will <406> alone I desire to rest & be still forever, who in the needful time hath still appeared, praises to him forever.
I suppose thou may have heard of my going to see our beloved G.F. at Reading which in tenderness of love I did as soon as I was set out of prison hearing he was not well, but I was not permitted to come where he was, which my adversary rejoiced at that thereby he might add sorrow to affliction, but the portion of his despised ones quieted my spirit in that simplicity in which I went, in that to return, & gave me his peace therein, as though I had had my desire, blessed be the Lord God of my mercy for this thing, who still becomes my peace, & his presence is with me in what he moves me to, which is my comforter & refreshment. And so his will is my peace.
This letter I herewith send thee I received, not fully knowing who it is from, but I suppose it may be from a German with whom E.B. & I was, & had some conference, whose message (as he says) is to the rulers of the world: he is very zealous against the world's teachers of all sorts. He did inquire of thee, & how he might get a letter to thee, for he had seen a book of thine in Germany, which I suppose is the ground of this writing.
My dear love to thee & to thy family, & all faithful friends with thee. I am refreshed when I feel thee near me or hear from thee. In that in which we cannot be separated,
This German owns the light to be the teacher & judge in all people.
God hath in these nations a people gathered by himself into his light, who are known to himself better than to men, and therefore have we suffered by men under all the powers that have risen in this nation, ever since God called us towards himself by his eternal light and Spirit; and though we receive not our laws from man, yet are we not without law as to our God, but have one law-giver, even Christ Jesus our Lord, our life, and our head, blessed over all, and from his laws we may not depart, and by his law in our conscience, and the power of his Spirit in our hearts are we ordered and guided <407> to walk holily towards our God, and harmlessly towards men, as the saints of old witnessed in Scripture, however they be minded towards us, and by the virtue of the Lamb, and not of flesh and blood, are we made to give our goods to the spoil, and our bodies to the tortures of cruel men, rather than defile our consciences, or sin against any one of the least of the commands of our Lord and lawgiver, Christ Jesus, who by the light of his eternal Spirit doth daily lead us out of the evils and vanity of this present world, and having begotten us into his own guiding he doth not suffer us to subject ourselves to anything whatsoever is not set up by himself, nor to worship the god of this world, nor obey him in commands or customs, but the exercise of our consciences he hath redeemed wholly to himself, and by his precious blood hath sprinkled them and made them tender and pure, so that we may not worship false gods nor the true God in a false manner, nor may we worship men, nor follow the customs of nations, kindreds, or people, or languages, but the Spirit of truth itself we must follow, nor may we break Christ's commands in swearing, when men commands us, but must obey him who saith "Swear not at all," nor may we join to or uphold any worship whatsoever but what the Spirit of truth itself leads us into, though many have sought to force us thereto, nor may we leave the ministry of Christ and that maintenance which the gospel allows of, to maintain a priesthood with tithes, and so go back from Christ to the law that the apostle saith is disannulled (Heb. 7).
And for such things as these, concerning a tender conscience and the law of our God, have we suffered grievous persecution, and not for any unrighteousness done by us against any man's person or estate, nor have we suffered by any just law of the nation, but by the wills of cruel men, and as a prey to every man's lust hath been our liberties, lives and estates, and the rulers that have been to this day have not sought our deliverance, but have dealt treacherously with us, and the Lord whom we serve hath seen it and reproved it, and yet we are not set free, but at this day we live in the account of the rude and envious people, as a people appointed to death and desolation, and the whole body of ungodliness and rage of wickedness is upon us daily, & with cruelty falls upon us in our persons & estates, and our peaceable meetings to worship the living God; and as to all these things we are laid as the mire in the street for every rude boy to run over, and we have not found help from man as to all the powers that have been till this day since we were a people, <408> nor do we speak this because we look for help from man, nor indeed can we expect that from men until men own the same principle of God to rule in them to which we are subject, which is the Son of Righteousness and leads all into righteousness, truth and peace that his light doth follow, who is known to us to be king of kings and judge of the judges, though flesh and blood sees not his kingdom.
And now, O king, as we have been moved of the Lord in bowels of love and with much plainness of speech (after the Spirit of truth, and not with vain compliments) to lay these things before all the several powers that have risen hitherto, with several other evils which our God hath sent us to testify against (both in rulers, teachers, and people) so we have done, and for that we have suffered also for a witness against them as it is at this day; so the same God hath now after a while put into our hearts to lay these things before thee (O king) that thou mayest not be ignorant to what we are called and for what we suffer, & in this we rejoice that we feel love to thy soul even while we are thus doing, and if many should be moved hereto of God, take heed of being wearied therewith, nor count it clamor or trouble, as they that was before thee did, and so let up prejudice and evil thoughts in their own hearts against the innocent; for this we say unto thee, and affirm in the name of our God, that the more any are (truly) moved by the eternal Spirit to warn thee of these things (or any other evils that may any way grieve his holy Spirit), so much doth the Lord (of thy life, and true and everlasting peace) double his love unto thee, and show his willingness to stay thee from that which hath removed kings and broken kingdoms; and this we know to be in God, and by him in us towards thy soul and eternal welfare. And though we cannot swear and unswear, covenant and uncovenant with every change that comes, as men do that know not the everlasting covenant and decree of God, yet this hath God sealed in our hearts, to seek the good of all men, plot against none, but study to live quietly and exercise our conscience faithfully towards whatever government our God shall set up, desiring that all men in their day may so use their power as they may give account to God with joy, and not leave their names for a curse and reproach among men; for this we know, that God is now at hand to give a speedy reward to every man as shall be the work of his day.
Wherefore O king seek the fear of the Lord, and not pleasure, do justice and judgment in this thy day, relieve the helpless <409> oppressed and break the yoke of bondage that lies upon the poor, and bring judgment into the gates, and let not justice be sold, lest the meek of the earth cry to God against thee; verily God is nearer this nation to avenge than many can believe, though he have done wonders in this generation that many generations have not seen, and he is trying all sorts of people with the testimony of his appearance; blessed are they whose eye is open to discern the signs of the times, for a work is God working in the earth, and he will cut it short in righteousness for his elect sake which daily hath waited upon him that's blessed forever.
O king, spend not thy time in fleshly pleasures, neither strive after that glory which will fade away, but apply thy heart to God, and wait to feel his Spirit in thee, giving thee light and understanding to guide thy ways before him, for only blessed is he who rules by his power, and who is taught of God shall be established in righteousness and be far from oppression, and only such shall be called the blessed of God to all generations; read, and remember the righteous and the wicked.
From one of those whom the world calls Quakers
Written the 3d day
of the 4th month, 1660
Dear brother, the intents of malicious men towards thee I have long time felt in my soul & I can truly say have been oppressed with it. And when I heard that thou was in prison, it smote at my life, & went through my soul as a wounding weapon. And being that day going to a general meeting at Pontefract, it was laid on me to haste to London, so I went on from thence to Balby & was at the departing & burying of Tho. Aldam, my dear brother, & thence to London, where I now am, & in the will of God I desire to be found. And somewhat of his mind in my coming I have seen, & have peace in it, blessed be God forevermore. And my heart is with thee to the strength I have in the Lord & in his power; I am somewhat refreshed against all that man intends against thee. Even God Almighty & his eternal power is over all blessed forever. Amen.
a. Accidentally omitted from Vol. 2. From its content this letter seems likely to have been written in 1655, after Nayler first came to London. It is found only in Whitehead, who gives it this title.
b. Crosfield Mss, 9. GN date: Bridewell, early 1657. Transcribed by Diana Morrison-Smith.
c. First published by Whitehead. GN date: 1657.
d. First published by Whitehead. GN date: 1657.
e. Sw.Mss. 3.83. GN date: Spring 1658. Transcr. by Diana Morrison-Smith and Larry Kuenning.
f. Sw.Mss. 3.84. GN date: Spring 1658. Transcribed by Licia and Larry Kuenning.
g. First published by Whitehead, who gives it the title, "For Friends to be tender and compassionate one to another." GN date: 1658.
h. First published by Whitehead, who gives it the title, "Not to strive, but overcome by suffering." GN date: 1658.
i. First published by Whitehead, who gives it the title, "Exhorting to mercy and forgiveness." GN date: 1658.
j. First published by Whitehead. GN date: 1658.
k. First published by Whitehead, who gives it the title, "Exhorting to watchfulness." GN date: 1658.
l. First published by Whitehead, who gives it the title, "To watch against the enemy's wiles, and be faithful to the end." GN date: 1658.
m. First published by Whitehead.
n. Presumably written in September 1659, just after Nayler's release from Bridewell. Transcribed from MS. Port. 41.22 by Diana Morrison-Smith.
o. From Copies of Several Letters which were delivered to the King (London: Thomas Simmonds, 1660), pp. 13-17. Also included in Whitehead's collection.
p. In H.J. Cadbury, ed., The Swarthmore Documents in America, 1940, Supplement No, 20 to the Journal of the Friends' Historical Society, p. 40 (taken from Etting Early Quaker Papers, 44). GN date: June 1660.