Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > The Naked Truth Laid Open
FORASMUCH as there hath appeared some secrecy in me, in that work which first I appeared in to the world, entitled, The Foot Out of the Snare, by which the true end and scope of my purpose, in the greatest part of what I have discovered, is much clouded in obscurity from the general sight of men; and also, for that I have stood up in the defense of this my vanity, in that of The Snare Broken, by which much prejudice may attend that work which the prince of righteousness is now in this our day bringing to pass, that his name might be known in the earth, a deliverer from the bonds of iniquity, a leader captivity captive, a redeemer of his chosen which hath long lain in death by the disobedience of a rebellious people; I say, having not been found faithful to that witness of God in my own conscience which condemneth all deceit, and being much rebuked and condemned for what I have done, I am <350> constrained in this further discovery, that the simple might be undeceived, and the envious might be reproved.
When first I was persuaded to write I had principally 4 things in my eye: First, my design was to discover the emptiness and the vanity of all that ministry, and of all those ways and forms of worship, which generally is upheld amongst us by the dark mind of those who are blind in their understandings; by which the people who are in darkness are nourished in that condition, and the seed of the righteous, which creates a new heart and redeems out of sin, is kept in bondage. And for this purpose, I began with a discovery of what I was and how I was led, before I came amongst those people who go under the name of Quakers, where, I say, "I was for divers years full of zeal, led forth in love to seek after the knowledge of God and Christ; for which cause I sought, if that I could find, those ways and those means which were most useful for the clearing of my conscience, that I might walk in unity with God, by a holy and innocent life: to which end," I said (in my persuasion) "I was led forth with much fervency of spirit after those teachers which were esteemed of amongst the primest professors, as men enlightened with the Spirit of God, in which way I labored, had there been a possibility to apprehend the true knowledge and mind of God"; but not finding a possibility in that way to apprehend the thing sought for, but instead thereof "unstability, and diversity of opinions, confusion in societies," things which are at perfect enmity with God, who is one Spirit and cannot be divided; I said I left them as they were, and all that ever I received from them, and sought further, if that I might find the way of redemption from under that heavy burden which lay upon me: in which seeking, (as I have spoken) "I found such who declared against all sin, whose order and manner of teaching and duties were united, complete in one," they being the fruits of one mind by which they were joined in one Spirit, and so judges and witnesses for God against all those false Christs and false prophets who were going forth into the world, whose doctrine was of man, who (having slain the witness) knew not the word of life; therefore uncapable of edifying the people, and so ministers of the letter and not of the Spirit.
Here my purpose was to extinguish them, who are ever learning the people and themselves, and yet never able to know the truth; and withal, to confirm those who appeared in such a witness against all sin, whom I "concluded were the people of God"; whose doctrine and life I have not denied (by words) in any particular, of all what I then discovered, except in those things of civil expressions and carriages, which otherwise I called ceremonies.
A second thing which my mind was directed in was to invite or persuade such who were strangers to those people and their ways, who <351> are called (of men) Quakers, that they should inquire after that truth which is professed by them; for which end, I discovered them as such who were united in one mind, and so acted on in their duties, whose ministry was one, being guided therein by one Spirit, &c., and then I relate a discourse ministered by one of those people, with the effects which that discourse wrought upon my spirit; together with what I had received before from those people; as the discourse holds forth; also of my orderly forbearance, until I had received a more clear understanding, before I complied with them; in which time, I received a further witness. And so I go on, discovering of their judgment, without which knowledge there is none can ever come to see the redemption of their souls. These things being considered, I was persuaded that something of that end might be effected, for which purpose they were discovered.
Having thus laid open my understanding, I began in the third place to give warning unto all who may be persuaded to receive the word of truth, that when convinced in their understandings where that word of life which redeems out of sin is to be found: that they consider and examine in themselves wherewithal they are led, that they run not before they are sent, but to abide in the watch, that so they lose not their guide and bring in darkness upon their spirit. And for this cause I discovered what evil attended me through the hastiness of my mind, in that I gave not heed to that obedience whereunto I was called; which evil I wholly took upon myself, as being the work of myself, with purpose therein to unveil that darkness which was upheld, in many, by their misunderstanding of the cause of those things which generally had passed abroad concerning me.
A fourth end was to discover those things practiced by those people who are in that way, in which I conceived there was no evil in the not performance thereof. And in respect of which things only I myself did separate from them, which things were none other but a denial of those things which generally is called civil carriage to civil persons.
These four grounds being the chiefest ends of my purpose in writing, I was well satisfied in what work I had done, though yet I appeared a transgressor (in respect to myself), for which cause having received knowledge, that my ends are generally frustrated, I am constrained (as I have said) in this further appearance to the world.
Now that transgression (in respect to myself) was thus, in the consideration of what condition I had brought myself unto, since first I became affected with those people who are called of men Quakers: my mind was directed (as I have said) for the answering of those ends which I have related, in which work I was glad, in that I was of any sufficiency to appear therein; but yet I would scarcely have appeared to the world as one who should discover himself in such a work, that I <352> might not be looked upon as one myself with those people amongst whom I was, lest the same reproach and loss of friendship from men, &c., which once was my reward for the obedience of that faith, which the world knoweth not, I say, lest self should thus have been destroyed, I sought secretly to discover my mind something in obscurity; but yet I made provision that such who were not engaged, but would read and understand my witness with a single eye, that such might see the end of my mind, according as before is discovered, which thing was unto me for the present, a satisfaction in what I had done.
But yet further considering the strangeness of that relation which declares of those delusions which the evil spirit in me guided me in subjection unto; and also considering what prejudice had befallen me by those many reproaches which hath passed abroad concerning me since my departure from those people, together with what loss of kindred and acquaintance had befallen me since I came amongst them; considering these things I was much provoked, time after time, to seek for some help, now in this my appearance to the world; but seeing this provocation was from the tempter, I was fully persuaded for some time after I had writ that none should have the least sight of what I had done until it was discovered to the world; but upon a further consideration, that I might not appear ridiculous to men of serious minds because of the strangeness of what I had related, I was persuaded to desire a credible witness of what I had so spoken, from some persons of sober minds whose moderation was something known to me (though some there are whose names were made use of against my good will), but that the people for their sakes might not understand otherwise than I intended, I was led forth to discover more plainly the cause of those distractions which I then declared as the effect of the evil one in me. Before which discovery I spake again of the darkness and the emptiness of that ministry which is of the outward law of the letter, under which ministry I could never enjoy a true peace, &c., for which cause I said I departed from that way and ministry, having received knowledge where the truth indeed was to be found, which knowledge I received from those people before named; and so having related the effects which this knowledge should have wrought upon me, I came to discover how I erred from that work of faith wherein I was called, which first began with the creature's joy and covenant and forward zeal, which ran before the fear and so led forth before the true light, by which darkness was brought in, in which darkness the disputer was raised to life and exalted above the light of the sun, formed in the shape of a true light; and so delight got the power by which the true obedience was lost, and so the simple was deceived; and having thus done, I concluded in the praise of that way in which those people are led forth in, which leads to <353> the perfect truth, which way and truth is but one, which the world knoweth not; neither can they know, until they come to walk in it.
These things being laid open, my judgment was that although those names were used in my book, yet the people would have considered the thing, as it was discovered from me, and not in a general sense, as a thing proceeding from their judgments, whose names were unto it, and so another thing than it speaks.
But now I am mistaken in my judgment; and on the contrary, a division amongst men concerning the thing, such who are affected in the way of those whose names appear in what I have done, they and these who have appeared receive to themselves a satisfaction of that which the thing speaks not of, but condemns; as also it condemns them and their way.
A second sort there are; in whom there is no prejudice unto the one or unto the other, but receives the thing as it is singly; and they give witness, that surely a thing could not have appeared more (in such a case as this was) on the behalf of those people who go under the name of Quakers, than that did. And a third sort have been unsatisfied, not knowing whether it speaks for the one or for the other.
These things I received knowledge of, time after time, from divers whose minds were thus different in the thing; but in the consideration that there were such who saw my mind and meaning as it was, and so received my witness, I abode hitherto silent, judging that if such who were engaged would leave their vanity, they might see and understand as others did; and that such who say they could not understand the true meaning thereof, might leave the thing as it was.
Now James Nayler, that person from whom there was discovered in answer unto the thing, by what I now am given to understand, was otherwise minded, in respect of some things, than what I at first understood of him, which was thus. When having read his book, and seeing much of the spirit of judgment upon me, and all those who appeared with me, and that we were by him united in one, as such who were joined in enmity against the light of Christ; and that he looked upon them as one with me and I with them, in the whole of what was discovered, and so secret smiters against the truth, the thing being something in obscurity. Seeing these things, I was moved and sought to find what should be the cause why he appeared in such a spirit; for I saw that either he was much mistaken, or else I was greatly deceived in what I had done; but when having searched again and again I could not see that his judgment was true upon me, except in that of my receiving other witness to what I had discovered than my own—the extent of which deed, I saw, as to me, little evil in; for that I had discovered my witness, according as I have before related; in which, if well considered, there was <354> no advantage for them, or any that might affect them. Neither could I see his judgment to be true, in some things, concerning those who appeared with me, in that he concluded them as one with me in what I had done & as privy to what was contained in the title or the epistle. Now these things being so, by what I knew concerning their knowledge of the title, or the epistle, or could apprehend concerning the other, I was much troubled concerning him and that work he appeared in, upon which I considered with myself what I were best to do, if to return an answer or if to let it rest silent; in which consideration (my spirit being moved) I was persuaded to return an answer; for as yet I was displeased, in that I saw my designs were wholly broken in many things, which in obscurity I had discovered with purpose to advance the truth (though I would scarcely have been seen in so doing), and so I was presented as a person unworthy, and my work as confusion, though other things, spoken in more plainness, appeared for me as a true witness.
Now, having some advantage for the effecting of this work, and the more, by some clouded expressions; which yet being discovered as my mind, that the Just might not be condemned, I was therein satisfied, and so directed in a little anger against the person James Nayler, though (at the present) I thought I was guided therein by obedience to the Just in me, in that I made some provision to secure the people and their way, though I judged his person and condemned his deed. But when after what I had thus done was published to the world, my mind being settled; in reading one of them seriously I was smitten in my judgment and much reproved, for that I saw an envious spirit had appeared in me. Then was there given me clearly to see the right mind in which James Nayler was led, in the answering what I had discovered, by which I saw truly much of what he spake to be another thing than what I formerly apprehended, and his judgments, in a great measure, to be established in truth; for in that I spake in obscurity, I saw I laid a stumbling block before the truth; and in that I engaged others, this my obscurity became a snare to those by whom they were affected; and so I receiving their testimony, though not one with them in the thing nor they one with me, yet in respect of the end which is effected by their means I was overcome and so became one with them in that end which the thing itself doth condemn. And thus (through my vanity) we all became secret smiters against the truth; which things being made known I could do no less but discover that the burden of my spirit might be removed, and that the Just might not suffer by my means, knowing there is a time in which all secrets shall be laid open, and every deed shall receive its own reward. Therefore have I rather chosen to own the condemnation, that the truth might have its free course without interruption, and to pass by what reproach might be cast upon <355> me, for that I have appeared herein, knowing that unto the truth I am made manifest, by whom I am witnessed, that if by any means I could have put by this work I should have been much glad (with respect to myself) therein. But where the blame is my due, I must receive it (from all) as my due, and therein rest silent. And for that deed of engaging the ministers, I am sorry (as I have said) that I should be so foolishly led forth as I was therein both in respect to them and also to the thing in hand, by which my whole purpose (having appeared something in obscurity) generally became void, and so deceived myself and them also.
But now I would freely speak my mind and utter words in knowledge, that the Just might receive its own due; yet not in the least envy with respect to one or the other; but in plainness, as I have received. Therefore my desire is that none would receive to themselves any offense in this work; but if in any (as I have before said) in what formerly I have done; for verily (as I have spoken) oftentimes I was diligent in seeking in those ways which the primest professors of these times, who were led by the letter, were guided in; I ran from one to another, from mountain to hill; I sought to find but could not; only I increased in wisdom (the work of my own labor), and this wisdom, being of the flesh, was pleasant and delightful, and so I thought it was the mystery of the Spirit. But yet still this wisdom was unto me but little satisfaction, though I labored very strictly in obedience to what I had learned from the law of the letter, which was the end of that ministry by which I was guided; for there was something yet in me that was unsatisfied, which lay under a great burden, which all the wisdom and knowledge in myself, and in those my learners, was not in the least able to satisfy. Yet in that time I could not see the cause of these things; but when after I came to hear those people who are called (of men) Quakers, in a short time I was clearly convinced and given to see the end of all my former labors and the cause of my troubled spirit; for they being redeemed out of the wisdom, out of the imaginations of the brain, which is sensual, and of the flesh, &c., they spake by and from that Spirit of life in them by which they were redeemed; and so their words, being from the life, reached to the life the seed of the righteous, which lay under the dark mind burdened and groaning for a deliverance. And here was that mystery that is of God, which "ministers to the spirits in prison"—which being made known, I was not in the least able to gainsay. And then I saw, indeed, that "word of faith" which reveals the everlasting gospel to be "near in the mouth and in the heart"; and that circumcision which is of God was "of the heart, in the Spirit," and not in the letter; "whose praise was not of man but of God." But now for any to judge, that all, or any of those distractions and works of deceit which are declared by me as the effects of my <356> disobedience to the light; I say, for any to judge of them otherwise than they are, and to cast them as a reproach upon the light, it is vain and evil, and a thing contrary to my whole mind; for that (as I have spoken) I dare not, neither can I say but that the whole cause of all those evils was of myself. But though my sufferings was great when after I came in this way, yet I saw much good was the end of all, peace and rest in spirit, according to the measure of grace received, which I never could see or attain unto by all those means, and in all those ways which formerly I was led forth in. But to speak in truth (that the Just might receive its own) wherein I have at any time withdrawn from that grace I then lived in, therein I have refused the good and chose the evil, which works I must acknowledge as the works of myself in the hour of judgment.
And now I hope that none will judge of me as an offense to the law of righteousness, but as one that establisheth the law in righteousness (though much against my own self-will), and have I chosen to acknowledge that thing which is rejected of amongst men, because my conscience beareth me witness, and seals to the truth thereof. I hope men will not be so vain to deny, but that I have most reason in thus doing. I honor and respect all men, as they are men; but should I honor and respect that in man, either in their ministry or practice, which I know assuredly in my own conscience is not of God but of themselves; I say, verily, should I do so, I should be condemned of myself. And for that deed of mine, in engaging other persons than myself in what I formerly did, I looked otherwise upon the thing than it did effect: my mind was principally to receive a civil favor from them (with respects to myself, as I have before spoken) and not for the dishonor of the ways of truth. And for that I appeared in enmity to those things discovered by James Nayler, against that end, which their appearance with me hath accomplished, for that I so appeared, I was mistaken. For now I see his mind was one and the same with what first was in me; wherefore I can no less but deny that my mistake, and receive the judgment which I did for so doing cast upon him, as due unto myself; and did I in displeasure call him a false prophet, corruption, and a body of deceit, &c., I must unspeak what I so spake and deny myself therein. Yet however, my mind was what I so called him, to extend no further than the thing in hand; for I knew another life in him, whose name is true, by whom the whole body of darkness in all the ways of self-worship amongst men is seen, judged and condemned; and for those things of which I spake in my first book though in obscurity (with purpose that I might be excused in the sight of men), which were discovered in judgment upon me, by one of those people amongst whom I was, by which I was denied as one of them when first I departed from them, that the light of truth might be <357> left inexcusable, I must confess the judgment (in a great measure) therein was true: I was fallen from that by which I was convinced, which was the life of righteousness in Spirit & in power, which being seen by those who abode in the faith, I was refused in so doing (though yet unto that eye with which the professors of the world are led, I should not have appeared a transgressor), and when it was seen of me that light in my conscience, unto which was discovered, was made manifest, was one with the greatest part of the thing discovered, so that I had not a word for myself, when the witness was made known unto me.
Yet as to those things which I called the fruits of civility, and indifferent things, in which I declared there was no sin, I saw not at that time, neither do I yet see (if used in moderation) that evil is the cause in the practice of them; yet, however, seeing my weakness, I will not be much confident concerning them, though my conscience at the present may not condemn them, neither would I that any should follow my example therein, except they see a freedom in themselves; for a time was when all the world could not have persuaded me in the practices of any of them, my conscience being my witness in defense against all the persuasions of man; & now whether I have erred or no, I know not. When first I laid them down, it was in the observation of others, and not by any command I saw in myself; but when after some time of my continuance in the way and work whereunto I was called, I was verily persuaded that all those things I laid down in the imitation was not then performed in the imitation; but by a command from the witness raised in me in my own conscience; but when I was guided to take them up again (as I have spoken) I considered the first cause by which I was led in the laying of them down; and finding the deed was wrought in my will (being in the imitation), I was a little provoked to take them up again, and the rather, because I saw no place of Scripture which directly condemned them, though I could not see any practice of them by any who appeared in Scripture: which persuasion for the present, for what I can say, was out of knowledge, though at first I laid them down in the imitation; but when I had taken them up for a little time, my spirit was free in the using of them, as though I never had denied them; and now if I have done well I know not, but if evil, I must once again know the judgment.
These things was I moved to write, not out of evil, with respect to one or unto other person or thing, yea truly I have not in the least been partial towards myself, but my whole mind were directed that I might remove the burden of my spirit; and freely out of good will towards men, and that for the sake of truth, whose light is made known; that men might see and understand the things that belong unto their peace: now in this day of everlasting love. And now what shall I say of myself? have I <358> appeared an evil example, one tossed to and fro, led aside by vanity, a burden to the Lord, and his ways of truth and righteousness, a stumbling block to the simple, an offense to all, have I thus done? I am disquieted with myself, and good had it been that these things had not been so; but now in that I have thus done, as I deny myself therein, so also I should desire that none would therein receive me; but in that I have here spoken the words of truth, as they are in the truth (though much against my will) suffer me a little, that I may prevail in that I have thus done.
The Scriptures they declare of the mind of God and of the practice of the saints, in which there is made known the whole law, by which, so far as men are subjected unto it, they are found in the moderation, in temperance, in chastity, in a degree of faithfulness to God and to man; and this is good; but yet man (being fallen from God) is not redeemed by this obedience of the outward law into that state from whence he is fallen, as it is written; "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God it is evident, for the just shall live by faith, and the law is not of faith, but the man that doth them shall live in them";1 but the Scriptures they declare of him who is the redeemer and where he is to be found, but they are not him, which is "in the mouth, and in the heart, the word of faith." Moses was a figure, but he was not the Christ. Christ Jesus appeared in the visible and was true in himself, yet the Spirit was not given until he was glorified. Now that law that is of faith in the Spirit, that judges and condemns the serpent in the root whence he sprang, which faith, whomsoever receives, will see that promised seed which breaketh the head of the serpent, to be near "in the mouth, and in the heart"; and so the ministration of death being passed upon the unjust, the spirit is renewed until the election be raised to life unto which the promise is to, and so that state witnessed of which Paul spake to the Colossians the third and the third: "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God," by which obedience the spirit is renewed, they being the fruits of faith. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit";2 "for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. But before faith came we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith, which should afterwards be revealed: wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith";3 but now they that are not yet come to the hearing of faith are strangers to these things. Paul was very strict in this profession, as touching his conversation amongst men blameless, "he profited in the <359> Jewish religion above many his equals, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers";4 yet all this while he was a stranger to the true faith, "until it pleased God to reveal his Son in him";5 and thus it is with all who are led by the letter, until they come to see Christ Jesus brought to light in them; yet should I say, there is no other way under heaven by which men can come to know their redeemer, but by that light with which all are enlightened, Christ Jesus the light of the world, should I so say as I do, vanity and darkness unto which what I so speak is unknown, would deny me in so speaking; but my words are true, by which I may not be deceived, knowing they come forth from the word of truth, I have a little tasted of both ways, of the good and of the evil; but really I found the "foolishness of preaching" to be another thing than the "wisdom of flesh," and base things, and things of mean degree to be another thing than what is in the exaltation, though never so lovely; but here is the misery, darkness is passed over, and so good is called evil and evil good; let not people believe general reports, but call to mind a despised people, those were they in all generations; but if anything heard and seen in particular may appear truly to be evil, then may it be refused; but if good, why then are men so vain that they will not see, that so they may understand?
Abraham was taken from his "first habitation and from his kindred" and sent "by revelation into a strange land,"6 in which obedience he received the promises: now "the promises are made unto the seed, not as of many, but as of one, which seed is Christ."7 "I will bless them that bless thee, & curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed, not as of Ishmael, but of Isaac,"8 neither yet "not of the Law but of promise"; but "the law was added because of transgression until the seed should come unto whom the promise was made,"9 against which inheritance there is no law, as it is written, "but the word of the oath which was since the law10 maketh the Son which is consecrated forevermore, and here is it now not of works, but of grace.11
Man being run out from God into the transgression, he hath broken the law, the fruit was pleasant and delightful, he feels 'tis pleasant, ("the daughters of men were fair") and now he knows good and evil, he is under the curse, he hides himself, he is ashamed, and thus (having denied the obedience required, "death is passed over that seed created by God in him a living soul," and so that breath of life which came forth from God and breaths after himself is hid in darkness, and now <360> being lost in this fallen estate, the same nature in him which at first joined with the serpent, feeding upon the tree of knowledge, seeks for a justification (having transformed itself into the outward forms of worship and appearances of things) and thus the eye with which men should see being put out, the evil day is put afar off and the good day rejected.
But now the "grace of God hath appeared," by which is made known the everlasting gospel of peace,12 but yet who "hath believed our report"?13 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," which "word is near in the mouth, and in the heart," and here is the end of the covenant, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved."14 Now to confess with the mouth, and believe with the heart, is not only a belief in the mind, what the Scriptures declare of him, that he is risen, and so a confession from that belief; but to confess & believe to the resurrection of him in us to increase with the increase of God, to the death and resurrection of Christ, above "the rudiments of the world," and the ordinances, "which things have a shadow of the wisdom,"15 and so to witness what David spake, "I know my redeemer liveth," and what Paul spake, "I live, yet not I but Jesus Christ that liveth in me." And now what redeems but the precious "blood of Christ, as of a Lamb"16 (in all) "from the foundation of the world"; and this redemption is perfect into the state in which man was first created, unto which "there is no death,"17 by which regeneration such who receive the power for the obedience of the faith in Christ Jesus, "being born again of him,"18 are become "the seed of Abraham," and so "inheritors of the promises,"19 by generation, and here is the second Adam Christ Jesus brought forth into the world;20 but this is a mystery to such whose minds are without, who are yet seeking for a Christ without, whose faith is without, whose obedience is without, who are estranged from the discovery of Christ Jesus within, who is given "of the Father, to work all our works in us, and through us, that the praise might be alone of him that calleth"; but now "it is of grace," and not "by any works of righteousness, which we have done, but through the obedience of faith in him," which is not of the will; but by which the least motion to will is subdued in its motion, which is wrought in Spirit, by obedience to the Spirit, for the resurrection of the seed, which things the adulterous eye cannot see; but unto those that have received the light, they are made manifest.
1. Gal. 3:11-12.
2. Rom. 8:1-2.
3. Gal. 3:23-24.
4. Gal. 1:14.
5. Gal. 1:15-16.
6. Gen. 12:5.
7. Gal. 3:16.
8. Gen. 12:3; 21:10.
9. Gal. 3:18-19.
10. Heb. 7:28.
11. Rom. 5:10.
12. Rom. 10:18,15.
13. Rom. 10:16-17.
14. Rom. 10:8-9.
15. Col. 3:1; 2:19,12,23.
16. Rom. 5:9.
17. Rom. 5:10
18. Heb. 7:25.
19. Gal. 3:29.
20. Heb. 13:8.
a. Thomason date: 21 Feb. 1655/56.