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Robert Rich and James Nayler

     Robert Rich was one of Nayler's staunchest supporters, and he never changed his view that Nayler was innocent, undeserving not only of the criminal penalties imposed by Parliament but of the rejection by Fox and other leading Friends. Many years later, in Hidden Things Brought to Light, Rich published some documents relevant to the perspectives of these two men—one of them being Nayler's general epistle (see pp. 33-36 above), "To all the Dearly Beloved People of God". Immediately following this epistle, Rich records a letter he sent to Nayler (probably stimulated by Nayler's epistle) along with Nayler's reply and a further reply by Rich to Nayler:

Rich to Naylera

Dear Lamb,

     About seven weeks since, I passed into the country, in the spirit of love, to visit the brethren, where, in most places, I found they could not receive me; as at John Crook's, and at Banbury, &c., the whore that sits on many waters (that sets up man instead of the anointing) hath so bewitched them: but I see, many there are amongst them that will come to hate her flesh, and to burn it: for their sakes I freely lay under all, and suffered much, wherein I had peace.

     At Bristol I found many dear tender lambs that were able to discern between things that differ. I believe many of them will abide at Jerusalem (the measure of God) till power they receive from on high. Here I met G.F. and went to see him where he lodged; with great moderation he spake to me, of many things I found him wise as an angel of light, and as one that had all knowledge and understood all mysteries. After this he sent for me privately alone, where (abiding in my simplicity and integrity) I saw that God had chosen the foolish things to confound the wise. And then it was given me that G.F. is the star fallen from heaven, to whom was given the key of the bottomless pit, and was king of the locusts that came out of the smoke thereof (which bramble <38> the trees have chosen for their king), whose name and nature is to destroy. The consideration of which moves me to acquaint thee of a dream I had in the year 1655. Whilst I was a prisoner in Banbury, I thought I was hunting the fox with hounds (a sport I much affected in my youth) and that the fox ran into a great city, where we were at a loss. Myself searching diligently espied him almost hid in a private corner; at which I so rejoiced that I fell a whooping and hollowing in my sleep, and a dog (blood red I thought) run following the fox out of the town; at which I awoke and told this dream to my fellow prisoners, then little thinking it to have any relation to G.F. and might concern some of the town with whom I had then a contest; but since, considering matters and things, and how subtle G.F. hath been to hide himself under the good smooth words, as a citizen of the new Jerusalem, and as having a love to all; when as in truth he can love none but those that call him master, receive his mark, and the number of his name. And thou may call to mind (what thou told me in our journey to Bristol) how he came to thee when imprisoned in the west, tempting thee with fair words, and what he would give thee if thou would bow down to him; and supposing he had prevailed held out his hand for thee to kiss; which thou refusing did not he then lift up his foot, saying, he was mistaken, it should have been his foot and not his hand? Was this (thinkest thou) the spirit of the Lamb or the dragon that thus acted G.F.? And since my return to London, sitting in their meetings, and hearing his and their words full of knowledge and understanding of truth without life and power, and seeing the enmity they bear towards the innocent, confirms me that the vision I had of G.F. is true. These things I find freedom to lay before thee, that if thou have anything from the Lord concerning me, I may hear from thee: so in the love of God, which changeth not, and giveth power to follow the Lord perfectly (but no man's will) do I in it with thee rest.

R. R.   

     This day E. B. in the meeting spake many truths and opened great mysteries (so did Balaam that erred from the Spirit, who was in the enmity and not in the love): one was, that the beast's government is known by this, that he leaves not to freedom (mark) but compels both small and great to worship him and receive his (mark G.F.). Another was, that those that were under the Lamb's <39> government did not speak their own words, nor let their own understanding lead them; both which I own for truths. This also I may add: that he that truly witnesses the Lamb doth not speak but what he first hears the Father speak. Such a one must first lay down his own crown, become a fool, deny self, though never so righteous; yea, offer up (the Son of the promise) even all those graces and operations of the Spirit received, to God the Father, that he may be all in all. Hallelujah. This is a hard saying to him that is rich in the comprehension of truth, and few there be can bear it. Also know this, that the beast (or his image) hath yet a head of gold standing (discerned but by few) that hath two horns like a lamb, but acts like the dragon, tearing and rending all that will not receive his traditions or impositions; blessed are those that refuse, and who cease from man to follow the Lord fully: over such the oppressor shall have no power, the whore, the beast, the false prophet, the dragon shall have no power over such. Hallelujah. In truth, I see this people is a-weary of the manna that comes from heaven (God's Spirit of light and life in man) and cannot wait for its descending, accounting it a light food, not sufficiently able to lead through the wilderness into the good land that floweth with all good; and they longing after the fleshpots of Egypt (that they might be like other masters of assemblies) God hath (in the whirlwind of his wrath) sent them quails, till the flesh stick in their teeth, and comes out at their nostrils: even long declarations of truth without power and life, which may serve to feed the comprehension and lead into a sect, but shall never quicken the soul, nor raise it out of death, nor lead into life eternal.

     For my own part, I had rather speak few words in the moving of the Spirit of grace, than ten thousand words from my own understanding, though my words be never so true.

R. R.   

Nayler to Richb

Alas Dear Heart,

     I know there is that amongst them which must be purged, and I have learned it, yet are they the people of God and bear his <40> testimony against the beast and his mark, and it's their zeal for his name and the weight of his cross that the world is not able to bear; and better it is to suffer with them for a little time than to be tormentors of them: and when everyone comes to drink as they have filled their vessels, then shall strife inherit wrath, and the tormentor be tormented; and he who now rejoices to see those scattered with wind who have been gathered with blood and great suffering, shall receive his reward according to his work and bear his own sin whoever it be; for now the tares and the wheat is seen. Truly my table is spread, and my cup overruns with love and peace and joy in Spirit, wherein I am covered from the delights of the flesh and not seen to the world; but truly my peace flows as a river, as my Father did me promise when I was in the fire, glory forever beyond expression, and I know nothing can take it away, only that all the scattered of my Father's might come feed within, is all that lies upon me; and truly, my soul hath fullness, indeed, of the best since I was stripped of all; and exceeding great is my drawings towards you all, who were with me in the hour and power of darkness, that ye all might drink abundantly of my joy, that we might be filled with unity. I know and feel the Lord hath not forgotten thy labor of love in that day added to all thy former testimony, wherein thou hast borne reproach with me and with the despised flock, nor can he forget it so long as there is a breathing of that seed to himward; but truly it is a little one that gives the entrance into the reward, which from that is hid, which is high and looks for great things. Dear heart, do not hearken to that which would persuade thee that I would lay any evil upon thee, or burden the innocent in thee: God knows I had rather suffer myself; it's love, a love that moves in me daily to thee; let its own answer, and we are one, and the Lord God of peace rebuke him that seeks occasion.

J. N.   

Rich to Naylerc

Alas dear heart,

     How is it that I hear in thee a voice of weeping? Rachel mourning for her children; wottest thou not that I must go about <41> my Father's business? and that for this end I came into the world to bear witness of the truth: and were we not one in our testimony when thou madest a good confession before Pontius Pilate, where thou witnessed to Christ in the saints, and saidst, "Who am I that I should condemn that which may be of God." And had we not rest and peace in this our work, though persecuted by the world and evilly entreated by our brethren, our names cast out as dung, and oft scourged in their synagogues? And myself (and many more innocent ones) cast out from amongst them, and sold into Egypt; many dark things laid to our charge we never said nor did; this the Lord knoweth, though thou be ignorant of us. And if I (or any other) have been moved of the Lord to plead the cause of the innocent, and for to lay any man's sin before him, that he may repent and amend. (O let not this be counted a scattering with wind who have been gathered with blood), for why should they die for whom the blood of Christ hath been shed (his light, his life, his love shed in their heart). And this thou hast once owned to be love, for everyone to be faithful to the Lord, and to the souls of their brethren that are seen to lie in death; though now thy eyes be dim in this matter, yet the Lord will not acquit the guilty, nor would I have thee one with them in their work, fighting their battles, either to justify the wicked or condemn the innocent, lest they partake with them in their judgment (as Jehoshaphat did, siding and making a confederacy with Ahab), who daily impose upon their brethren and will not let them go free to act what the Lord requireth of them. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft have I sought to find love in thee towards thy brethren; and when it fled, how oft have I pursued after it, bearing all sin and evil on my own body (when innocent) that I might gain the love of my brethren. I believe I might have been received again into fellowship amongst them, but then I must first have turned the truth of God into a lie, and speak evil of those things I knew to be good, denying the testimony which I knew the Lord gave me to finish, and so have betrayed Jesus; which thing I shall never do, so long as the breath of the Almighty is in me; nor call any man master of my light and spirit, save God alone. And if now at length the Lord hath seen the oppression of his people, and is coming to plead <42> their cause, or hath raised up any to be a rod or a scourge to whip (out of his temple) those that have bought or sold the innocent for a thing of naught: what am I that I should resist, or judge evil of them that do his will; or if any be commanded of the Lord to feast Haman, why should Mordecai be offended thereat; for my part, I have a long time seen wherein the freedom or liberty of the Son consisteth, and that this is he that loves his enemy, speaks evil of no man, that rewards evil with good and doth not salute a brother only. This is he that is heir of all things, and must reign (though at present his face be more marred than any man's), and blessed is he that is not offended in him, but is made conformable in all things to him; he must reign also. Hallelujah.

     But he that judgeth his brother in meats or drinks, or any outward thing, that contends more for his own traditions than the commands of God; that will not let his brother go free to worship God where and how he requireth: I say, this is the son of the bondwoman (though called of men master, and having the uppermost seat at feasts) which must be cast out, and shall not inherit.

     I am not troubled to see the Lord coming to plead the cause of the innocent, and to make a separation between the two seeds who served the Lord and who served their own ends; and blessed are they who with joy can stand the trial.

     Dear heart, take heed of the outward ear, of whisperers and backbiters, for I have seen many mighty men have fallen, where the way to peace and rest is hid from their eyes. Abide thou in that which thinks none ill, so wilt thou be safe when others their hearts shall fail them for fear, that have imagined mischief in their hearts against the innocent, and have climbed up into their Father's bed and begotten children in adultery, usurping authority over the measure of God in their brethren; and (with Herod) have slain the manchild begot in many, and would not hear his testimony, nor suffer his voice to be uttered though it were but in a sigh, in a groan, in a hymn, or in a song. So though their subtlety have betrayed many simple ones, even to death, whose blood lies hid under their skirts, who have plucked up the wheat with the tares, so that there is little bread to be found in many <43> families to keep alive in this time of famine.

     O my dear heart, enter not thou into their secrets, nor say a confederacy with the bloodthirsty man. For as the Lord lives their nakedness shall be no longer hid, and what hath long lain secret must now be preached upon the housetop. And herein the innocent can and will rejoice. Hallelujah.

     My dear lamb, that I might once more see thee under the fig-tree, not opposing God's leadings in thy brethren, nor lending an ear to reports, neither letting thy own understanding lead thee in the things of God; so shall we be in one love, and the Lord God of peace rebuke him that seeks occasion. Amen, saith

R. R.   


Editor's Notes

a. Rich describes this as "A Letter from Robert Rich to J.N. written in 1657." Hidden Things Brought to Light (1678), pp. 41-43.

b. Rich calls this "The last letter from James Nayler to R.R. writ about the latter end of Anno 1657 in the beginning of '58."

c. Rich calls this "The last letter writ by R.R. to J.N. in the beginning of 1658." Hidden Things Brought to Light (1678), pp. 43-44.