Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > An Answer to Some Queries Put out by one John Pendarves
Query 1. Whether are you willing that the depth of your persuasion or opinion touching Jesus Christ his being now contained in the heavens, the raising of our dead bodies after natural death, the trial of our spirits and doctrines according to the Scriptures should be clearly and openly known and published?
Ans. What we have revealed in us concerning Jesus Christ, the death and resurrection, trials of spirits and doctrines, we are willing should be clearly and openly known. Therefore do we publish the same, as we are commanded, to all nations; and this is according to Scripture, for which we are opposed by you that are in opinions, imaginations and persuasions, by your carnal wisdom from the letter, to which the spiritual knowledge of Christ, his doctrine and resurrection according to the Scriptures, is a mystery, neither can your depths of fallen wisdom, persuasions, or opinions, find it out, nor try that spirit which revealeth it to the babes, but hideth it from the prudent.
Qu. 2. Whether do you not by many of your sayings, which admit of a double construction, craftily hide your persuasions, in many things, from the sight of some honest people, who take you to hold the same truth with believers in general, concerning Christ, the Scriptures, and the resurrection of the dead? Do you not endeavor to make them believe you hold otherwise in some things than you do; and is not this dissimulation at the best, or lying, after the manner of Ananias and Sapphira?
Ans. From honest people we would hide nothing; therefore to the principle of honesty (which is the light of Christ in them) we direct them, that with the Spirit of truth they may be led to know what to believe, and be guided out of all your craftiness, who under pretense of believers, draw people from the Spirit to <2> things acted in the flesh, as thou who in thy book calleth them saints, who may be like the most vain men in their foolish fashions, and found too light in the true balance, so much knowst thou of a saint, what is his weight and likeness to, and such is dissimulation at the best, and knowest not a believer's truth, nor their Christ, nor resurrection, according to the Scriptures, who reckon yourselves under the name of saints and believers, but never came so far as Ananias and Sapphira, who owned that doctrine preached by them that left all and wandered up and down, to and fro, and left their carnal relations in obedience to the voice of Christ, as is declared in the Scripture, which thou couldst reproach and slander, to be contrary to Scripture, as in thy fifteenth query; and this is worse than the manner of Ananias and Sapphira.
Qu. 3. Whether yourselves, even all of you, be not men and women of sinful failings and imperfections, as are those godly people you cry down? Doth not the light within you show you this? If not, tell us who are the persons amongst you without their failings or imperfections, and how came they so to be?
Ans. The light within us shows thy slanderous spirit full of confusion, in saying that we cry down godly people, as also thy signifying them to be God-like who are of sinful failings and imperfections; so thou showest what thou knowest of his likeness, and thyself a child of darkness; and by him who is no respecter of persons come we to be set free from sinful failings; as by the light we behold him who is our perfection, so are we changed from imperfection into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit, by which Spirit we bear witness against sin and imperfection, for which we are accused to cry down godly people, by such as love their sin yet would have the name of godliness.
Qu. 4. Do you in passing your judgments of the congregations of believers, as well look after those things which are commendable, as those things which are condemnable in their practices? Do you not overlook the example of Christ in this, who in his message to the church of Ephesus writes in praise of the godly things in them (Rev. 2:2), and particularly, that they hated the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, though withal he reproveth them for leaving their first love; and Sardis church being reproved, some few names are accepted: do not you on the contrary cry them down in the general without any mercy?
<3> Ans. The judgment which we pass is not ours, but his that sent us, which is not passed upon churches of believers, but upon the synagogues of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, neither do we thereby judge that which is commendable, but that which covereth the serpent under a pretense of religion. And this is not contrary to the example of Christ. And whereas thou tellest of churches, and hating the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, when we see you leave that doctrine and go out to declare against it where it is practiced, as the ministers of Christ ever did, then is there some plea for your names to be excepted. In the meantime be not angry that we cry them down in general, who are found in that doctrine and Babylonish worship (though not without mercy to them that come out of it), nor think you to hide yourselves by crying out of the priests, and yourselves not come out of the rest of the relics; a measure, though of a first love there was amongst you, which you have lost above all forms in the nation, and are run into the abominations, and have bowed and conformed to uphold and maintain the relics of the papal priesthood. And think not pulling off your ribbons and laces will excuse you, so long as you withdraw the shoulder from things of greater weight, which must all down at Babylon's fall, though we rejoice to hear so much from you of reformation, was it done in the power and obedience of the Spirit of truth and not of envy, thereby to reproach others whom the Lord hath led out to bear witness against the rest of the world's vanities, pride, and false worships; but seeing you pretend your reformation in this point from the Scriptures, search them over again, and let the light of Christ in your consciences judge if they be not as large both in precept and example under the gospel, for the form of sound words without partiality to deny respect of persons, to bear witness against the idol worship openly where it is performed, as the manner of the saints was and is, to the suffering the spoiling of the goods, yea the loss of life, rather than to uphold the image by bowing to it in the least measure, of honoring the pride in another, which you know to be of the devil in yourselves; and much more you shall find in the Scriptures left as an example, wherein the cross is too heavy for the carnal mind. And for shame cease to call yourselves churches of Christ, further than you can rejoice in their cross.
Qu. 5 & 6. Whether your declaring against instrumental <4> teaching, yet going about divers of you, informing and instructing yourselves and others, who are free to hear you, doth not discover a gross contradiction between your professed principles and practice, and plainly show that you would have them hear none but you? And whether this be right to set them against instrumental teaching, to bring them to hear your declaring; as some of you call your speaking, altering only the name? whether instrumental teaching be unsuitable to the new covenant? If so, why did Christ, being ascended, appoint pastors and teachers in the church, to continue till we all come into the unity of the faith, &c. Thus ordaining ministers for the work, while work remaineth for the ministry, did Christ burden his saints with needless appointments?
Ans. 5 & 6. Those that went about from place to place, preaching the gospel from house to house, informing others & instructing them to believe in the light & to wait for the teachings of Christ, &c., such we do not declare against, yet did these declare against such who was false apostles, who sat at home, and crept into houses, and led them from the Spirit into carnal ordinances, thereby keeping them ever learning and laden with sin. And such (our practice plainly shows) we would not have people to hear, nor do we hereby deny instrumental, but traditional teaching. And you that sit at home and reproach them that go about have little cause to boast, as though you were out of Babylon, who cannot own the form of the ministry of Christ, much less do you know the power. And for those thou tellest of, who received gifts for the perfecting of the saints, till they all came to the unity of the faith: thou knowest them not, nor their gifts, nor their work, who sits at home reproaching them and incensing the world against them, pleading for sin and imperfection, which none of them ever did, and seeking occasion against them who have received gifts for the perfecting of the saints and for the work of the ministry, which thou canst not endure to hear tell of, showing how little thou knowest of the end of that ministry.
Qu. 7. Whether the Scriptures you bring to oppose gospel ordinances do not serve only to make void circumcision, with other ordinances of Moses' law, and to witness against walking after the tradition of men, with the carnal formal practice, or idolizing of true gospel ordinances? all you say making not at all against a spiritual practice of church ordinances, as breaking bread and <5> exhorting one another, &c., wherein the saints have the footsteps of the flock in the primitive times going before them, and the appointment of Christ for the continuance of these till his coming, which must be understood of his personal coming the second time, he being come in the Spirit with great glory, when he gave those commands (1 Cor. 11:25-26; Rev. 2:25; Heb. 10:25).
Ans. In this query thou hast sufficiently showed thy folly and confusion: first, in charging us falsely to oppose gospel ordinances, and then confessing that all we say maketh not at all against the spiritual practice of church ordinances. Art not thou ashamed to charge us with the opposing that which, thou confessest, we say not a word against? Or dost thou accuse us for speaking against carnal performances? Thy bottle must be emptied of this darkness before thou knowest Christ's appearance, personal or spiritual, though with the rest of the dark world thou art putting the day far off thee, and his appearance whom the saints waited for and received, which thou with their words wouldst put afar off.
Qu. 8. Whether it is not better to wait on God in his good old ways, recorded in his word, expecting his work to be gradually carried on, as the growth of a building, or of a plant, or child, so running with patience the spiritual race set before us? Or, as the manner of some is, to forsake the principles of faith (whereof the saints have had so great experience) in hope to start up suddenly from a low stature, into perfection, by embracing a new doctrine?
Ans. The good old way thou knowest not, by which he carried on his work, neither dost thou know his word, who would wrest the letter to oppose it, who art set in the seat of darkness, condemning them who leave all to follow Christ, to be contrary to the Scriptures; so much knowest thou of the spiritual race, or the principle of faith, or the experience the saints have of it, who showeth thy experience and knowledge of a saint's life, who calleth them saints who are found light, and the most vain men in their foolish fashions; and thy faith serveth thee to plead against a low estate to be brought into perfection, reproaching that as new doctrine for which end the ministry of Christ was given, as thyself hath instanced in thy sixth query, and now calleth it a start-up, showing thy confusion and envy to perfection.
Qu. 9. Whether Jesus Christ hath not prayed for those who believe through the word of the apostles, according to John <6> 17:20. And if so, whether they are not in a good and safe way who believe accordingly? And whether it be not better to credit their testimony so fully confirmed by the Lord and acknowledged by the saints for many generations, than to forgo that to embrace and follow the sayings of some of your company?
Ans. Yea, Christ hath prayed for those that believe through the word, and such are in a safe way; but what is this to those that have not the word in them, whose belief standeth only in the letter? If such be in a safe way, then who is it that is not? Many believes, both John and James, Peter and Paul, and the rest, that what they said was true, which never knew the prayers of Christ, the Word, nor that testimony by the Lord confirmed, neither do we desire any who have it to forgo it, but such as never had it are in little danger to forgo it, and these are seen to be them whom thou art encouraging.
Qu. 10. What is that faith which the Spirit speaks expressly some shall depart from in the later days, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1).
Qu. 11. Whether that doctrine, which in some is no more but look to the light within, with a curse upon disobedience and a blessing upon obedience thereunto, be that glorious gospel preached by Christ and his apostles, holding forth good news to all people? Or whether it be not a reviving of the old doctrine of justification by works, wherein the mystery of iniquity worketh to darken the grace of God, in justifying the ungodly without works freely, and to make void the sufferings of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 4:5; Gal. 3:1).
Ans. That faith was spiritual, and the gift of God, which when they had forsaken and made shipwreck of, their consciences became seared, yet could they profess the letter of the Scriptures with great zeal, as hath appeared ever since that departure there spoken of; and the seducing spirits are such as are gone out from within into the world, whither thou art leading, who art reproaching the light within as though it was not the gospel preached by Christ and his apostles, when Christ saith, "I am the light of the world," and the kingdom of God is within you; and the apostle saith, by the light that shined in their hearts, did they come to the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus; and "Christ in you the hope of glory." And this alone is the good news to all people, which the seducing spirits that are gone into carnal things <7> would lead from; and therefore Christ saith to his, "go not forth"; and who hath Christ the light in them, with his works, and they in him, here is justification by Christ alone, which they that do works and not from Christ within and his light within, are in the deeds of darkness and self-righteousness, wherein the mystery of iniquity worketh to darken the grace of God and to make void the sufferings of Christ, and the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof, within; the obedience thereof makes free from sin and so obtains the blessing; and this of faith and not of works, though the blind seeth it not, who are in their own works and literal performances. Such know little of the power of faith or the work of righteousness, whereby man is created new in the good works to walk, which are foreordained, and to such the everlasting righteousness is brought in, by which the transgression is finished.
Qu. 12. Whether the light that is in every man doth reveal Jesus Christ as crucified for sin and risen again? If so, how came it to pass that so many strict men amongst the philosophers, and Paul himself walking according to his conscience before conversion, were ignorant of him?
Ans. Though the light of Christ that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, yet it revealeth Christ only in such as believe and follow it out of the world, in which Christ is not revealed, neither can be, for the world by wisdom knows him not. And the reason why Christ crucified for sin and risen again was not revealed to the philosophers, and to Saul, is the same in yourselves in this age, who some of you run from a blind zeal in the letter, others in wild notions, all from your imaginations without the light of Christ, so none in that state knoweth Christ as you ought to do, who have him not revealed within, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, and it is the spirit of truth that guideth into all truth, and that which testifieth of Jesus as the truth is in him, which all that have not that knowledge from the Spirit are ignorant of him, and so taketh that for the light of the conscience, which is but your own thoughts and imaginations, and so far unlike to reveal Jesus. And Saul was as learned in the letter, and as zealous for that which he imagined to be the meaning of it, as you are, and yet blind as to the light in the conscience, his mad zeal leading him against the pricks, as many of you now are, and might see a taste thereof, did you mind the light you are opposing.
<8> Qu. Whether you have not amongst you many who presume to be masters, or masterly teachers, contrary to that word of Christ (Matt. 23:10) in the true intent of it? Do they not usurp authority over the judgment and conscience of their followers, requiring them to believe and obey what they say, without asking their meaning, and examining their sayings by the Scriptures? Whereas Christ expounded his sayings, as occasion were offered and need required, to his disciples, and the Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures daily, whether the things spoke by the apostles were so (Matt. 13:18-19, 36-37, &c.).
Ans. This query is utterly made up of a lie; therefore I return it back into the slanderous bottle from whence it came; for against the whole query we are witnesses, and the practice of Christ is owned (who is the Lord of the conscience), the one Teacher, whereby masterly teachers are denied.
Qu. 14. Whether it be not high presumption and spiritual pride for some amongst you to break Christ's commands, and teach men so, and to judge (as many do) the secrets of men's hearts, and rashly without knowledge of men's conversations, to affirm that they have not the Spirit? If the Spirit of God witness with their spirits (as I doubt not but it doth with divers of them you so judge) that they have the Spirit of God, and the work of regeneration witnessing thereunto, may they not by your bold judgment to the contrary know how to judge of you?
Ans. The Spirit of Christ where it is knoweth its own, neither doth it judge by outward appearance, nor yet without knowledge, by which the saints have judged the hearts of others which they knew not themselves, and that Spirit is witnessed; but what spirit is that in thee which accuseth some amongst us to break Christ's commands and teach men so, not making it appear who they are, and under that pretense would limit the Spirit of the Lord not to judge where it is. This showeth little of the work of regeneration, or the Spirit's witness, but as one afraid that deceit should be discovered, and so would exclude all judging; where shall Christ judge, if not in his saints? which judgment the blind generation could never own, and yet would be judging others of that whereof thyself art guilty, as thy book doth manifest, by which all may know how to judge of thee.
Qu. 15. Whether do you not esteem the sayings of some <9> amongst you of equal authority with the sayings of God in Scripture; and as readily or more to be believed and obeyed, without any inquiry whether they agree with Scripture or no; even although they plainly contradict the written word? Is it not an usual things with many of you to travel up and down, to and fro, far and near, to the wearying of your flesh and neglecting your relations, in obedience to such voices or sayings not warranted by Scripture, but contrary thereunto, yet in many things of this kind wherein some of you seem to glory, the papists themselves outstrip you, only they are more modest than to go naked; and who hath required these things of any of you?
Query 16. Whether Satan, that old deceiver (who often changes his shapes being discovered in many of his old devices), may not now be expected to come in his best dress, as an angel of light, and being discovered in his old antichristian forms and in rude ranting, now to come with power and seeming purity, showing signs and wonders, to seduce from the plain simplicity of the gospel of Christ, according to those descriptions of his coming and working (2 Thess. 2:8-9; Mark 13:22; 2 Cor. 11:3,14); and if so, ought not all men to take heed how they believe every spirit or powerful motion to be of God? as also how they hear and follow every prophet that comes in sheep's clothing and pretends to come with light? And are not those in the way to be easily seduced who are so taken with the fair covering and outside carriage of persons as to embrace their principles without a serious, spiritual Scripture trial of them? Whereas we are commanded, "if any man bring not this doctrine receive him not" (2 John 10). And Solomon saith, "The simple believeth every word, but the prudent man looketh well to his goings" (Proverbs 14:15).
Ans. The word of God in whomever it is spoken is of equal authority to the end for which it goeth forth, and he is the same that ever he was, in whom he is according to their measures; but that we esteem any of our sayings with equal authority with the sayings of God is false, and it is thyself whose saying agreeth not with Scripture, who are telling of a written word; and dost not thou show thy envy against the authority of Christ and those that obey him, who would slander travelling up and down, far and near, to the wearying of the flesh, at the obedience of the voice of the Lord; and this thou slanders with neglecting relations, and to <10> be contrary to the Scriptures; hast thou not here sufficiently shown thy blindness, as touching both Spirit and letter? Is it contrary to the Scripture to leave all and follow Christ? Or was there ever a disciple of his that did not? Or can such be his disciples who doth not? How hath thy imaginations blinded thee? Stop thy mouth for shame; art thou talking of following the Lamb, who wilt neither do it thyself, nor suffer others? Did not the ministers of Christ make proof of themselves, in wandering in necessities, in distresses, afflictions, watchings, fastings, tumults and imprisonments? Did they not wander to and fro in hunger and nakedness, having no certain dwelling place? Is this now become contrary to the Scriptures with thee? And have not the prophets of the Lord been caused to strip themselves naked, as signs to the wicked generations? And dost thou now prefer the papists before this? And dost thou charge the servants of the Lord to glory in this? Couldst thou glory in it thyself, to leave all and suffer these things for the name of Christ? It is much easier with the flesh to sit still in thy habitation and accuse them that do; the papists and thee suit well in this, in your will-worship, but little knoweth either of you what it is to be guided contrary to your wills by the Spirit of God. You are none of those children who are for signs and wonders; is this the end of your pulling off your pride of apparel, thereby to take advantage to strike at the whole obedience to Christ in greater things and say they are contrary to the Scriptures? which the Scriptures do witness against you. Is not this the old deceiver thou art telling of, who is changing your shape, and now dressing you without ribbons, who formerly was dressing you up with them in your rude ranting, and is now coming in a seeming purity, but with more mischief against the simplicity of the gospel, & all those are in the way to be easily seduced who are so soon taken with your fair covering and outside carriage; but they that have the light in them, and that Spirit that trieth all things, will not own you the sooner for your feigned humility with all this poison at the bottom; but if you will be owned with the children of light, who judgeth not according to the outward appearance, then must you own that which washeth the inside, that the old leaven and venom of the serpent may be purged out, that old accuser of the brethren, who yet sits in the temple of God, pleading for his kingdom of sin and imperfection and against the obedience to <11> Christ in them that follow him—yea, against the living obedience of those from whom he hath taken up the imitation, by which he makes a fair show in the flesh, glorying in appearance but not in the heart, and therefore striketh at the light within and the Spirit of truth there, that if by any means he may keep the heart though he lose the ribbons, and so make a boast of an outside.
And thou askest another question in thy book, whether this people (meaning the Quakers witnessing against pride) standing up to plead for the Spirit, and also for reforming in habit, and some other good things at this time, may not have in it a design of Satan, to bring up an evil report upon those good things, and the persons that practice and seek to promote them; may we not (sayest thou) look at this as a stumbling block cast in the way to hinder this good work, by the enemy of man, who leaves no way unattempted to stir up the minds of men to prejudice against truth. I say, if pleading for the Spirit, reforming in habit, and other good things, be good things, as thou sayest they are (which the Quakers plead for, and practice at this time) then out of thine own mouth be thou judged, that thou art he that is in that design of Satan, to bring up an evil report upon those good things, and the persons that practice and seek to promote them, and this is the way thou art attempting to stir up the minds of men to prejudice against the truth; may not all see that some of you who are called Anabaptists, who of late have been provoked to cast off some of your pride (outwardly) by those you call Quakers, being you could not maintain it with Scripture, now are you preaching down pride of envy, against their persons who have testified against it in you, as well as in the rest of the world (yet however we rejoice, that pride is preached down), which though you had the Scriptures before, yet could not be provoked by them thereto, but have been the ringleaders of pride, of all seeming religious people in the nation. And this I say to thee, and the rest of you, who are making a fair show in the flesh and would glory in appearance, thereby to despise the Quakers, you have a great deal more to deny besides putting off your outward pride in apparel if you will either imitate the Quakers or answer the Scriptures, and the practice of the saints therein recorded. Is there not the same ground in Scripture to deny respect of persons, and cease worshipping one another, and to hold fast the form of sound words, without respect of persons, <12> not to give flattering titles to men, whereby the proud is exalted and the poor despised? Doth not this arise from the same ground with pride in apparel, and bring forth the same effects, which they that have observed the commands of Christ and his apostles have ever avoided? Is not the same that commanded his ministers to go teach all nations, whereupon they went into the synagogues and idol-temple to cry down their false worship and to call out of them? And did not they preach the gospel in streets and markets? Was not they beat in the synagogues and haled before rulers? Was they not wanderers to and fro, having no certain dwelling place? Is there not the same command to sue no man at the law, but if any man take away thy cloak let him have thy coat also? Take no thought for the morrow; give to him that asketh, and lend, asking nothing again; and much more suchlike plain commands in Scripture, which might be mentioned, were not the cross too great for you to imitate, which you ought to do and teach to others to observe; till then cease your boasting and glorying in outward appearance. And could you do all this and much more by imitation, and not in obedience to the light and by the power of the Spirit; in the day of account it will but be found self-righteousness, when inquiry shall be made: who hath required these things at your hands? So to the light of Christ turn your minds, which will let you see the seat of presumption upon a feigned humility and will-worship, which finds no acceptance with God, neither will it carry through the whole obedience, but puffs up the mind for one thing, in a self-exaltation and despising of others; and as to the light of Christ you keep your minds, you will come to see that that which condemns one sin condemns all; and that which leadeth into one truth leads into all truth, and gives power to walk therein. So the ministration of the Spirit giveth life, which keeps down the boaster, but the literal knowledge puffs up and so killeth; so the law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, makes free from the law of sin and death to those that walk in the Spirit. If you can receive this you may, and let the light in all your consciences answer thereto, which shall witness me when the book is opened, a lover of your souls.
a. Giles Calvert, London, 1655/56. Thomason date: Jan. 25, 1655/56.