Quaker Heritage Press >Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > A Lamentation over the Ruins of this Oppressed Nation
Oh England! how is thy expectation failed now after all thy travails? The people to whom oppression and unrighteousness hath been a burden have long waited for deliverance, from one year to another, but none comes, from one sort of men to another.
Hast thou looked for reformation but all in vain! for as power hath come into the hands of men it hath been turned into violence, and the will of men is brought forth instead of equity, and this they seek to establish by a law to which all must bow that are under them, or they must be judged as offenders, so that which <197> should be for deliverance of the simple from the hand of the oppressor is turned into a snare to entrap the righteous, and he that turns from iniquity is made a prey to the wicked, and none lays it to heart through the nation, for all hearts are full of oppression, and all hands are full of violence, their houses are filled with oppression, their streets and markets abound with it, their courts, which should afford remedy against it, are wholly made up of iniquity and injustice, and the law of God is made altogether void, and truth is trodden under foot, and plainness is become odious to the proud, and deceit set on high, and the proud are counted happy, and the rich are exalted above the poor and look to be worshipped as God, which if anyb refuse a snare is laid, and bonds and imprisonment is appointed for them as not worthy to breathe in the air, and no law, equity, nor justice can be heard for their freedoms, and this is not done by an open enemy, for then it had not been so strange unto thee, but it is done by those who pretend to be against oppression; and for whom under that pretense thou hast adventured all that is dear unto thee to put power into their hands; and now thou criest to them for help but findest none that can deliver thee. Oh foolish people, when will ye learn wisdom? When will ye cease from man, who is vanity, and the sons of men who are become a lie?
Are not these the choicest of thy worthies who are now in power? Hath it not been the top of thy desires and labors to see it in their hands? And are not they now become weak as other men, and the land still in travail, but nothing brought forth but wind? How is the wisdom of the wise turned into folly, and the understanding of the prudent hid! How is he who seemed valiant for general freedom fallen into a particular earthly interest, and hath no power to help himself! Would any have believed that these should have fallen in the pit and stuck in the mire, as they who were before them, whose names are made a reproach in the nation! How have these cried out for the kingdom of Christ, to bear rule in his church and consciences of his own, above the wills of proud oppressing tyrants, yea and have been instruments to execute God's decree upon such as have withstood the freedom <198> of the righteous seed; but now what is brought forth by them more than words? Do not the members of Christ lie still under the power of the oppressor? cast into holes and prisons for the truth's sake, and are denied that liberty they allow to thieves and murderers, though the breach of no just law can be laid to their charge, neither will they let them come to trial lest by their own law they should be forced to free them; and how long some have lain upon this account you are not ignorant.
Woe is me for you rulers, how are you fallen from what you have professed when you yourselves were sufferers under such bondage? And now is it nothing to you that your brethren who have been one with you against oppression now perish under the hand of the same men from whom you are set free! And do not the same men judge us now for offenders, and doth it not concern you to see what is the cause why they thus vent their envy against the innocent, and their lives and liberties are taken away in close holes and dungeons, when it is your duty and in your power to see them have justice according to the law of God which you profess, and not after men's wills; and if you know the offenses for which they thus suffer, how is it that that which Christ doth command and the saints did practice is now become so heinous offenses that nothing will serve but perpetual imprisonment in close holes without hearing or trial! and that you may see for what these despised ones do suffer under you, consider their crimes, whereof the greatest of them is that some of them are moved to go into the idols' temples to dispute and reason with them who uphold the idols' worship, and to call the people out of it unto the worship in Spirit; and though this seem a heinous crime to you, yet it was the practice of the apostles and saints as is plain inc Scripture.
Others suffer because they cannot break the express commands of God, to give that worship to proud men which God Almighty hath forbidden to give to any creature in heaven or in earth, but only to himself; and here may all the heathen rulers condemn you, who never imprisoned nor fined Christ nor his saints for this, though the Scripture saith they "respected no man's person," nor did they bow down nor give worship to the creature, though the <199> devil the father of pride tempted them to it then as well as now.
Others suffer for confessing the name of Christ and witnessing him in them in their measure, as they find him manifest in them to overcome sin, the world, and the devil, and reconcile them to God; and this is called blasphemy and so proceeded against, though the saints have always witnessed the same, and it stands in Scripture for a witness against you; and saith Christ, "He that denies me before men, him will I deny before my Father"; and thus the practice of the saints was and is counted blasphemy by the professors of the world.
Others suffer for denying to swear at the commands of men, after the customs of the world, when Christ saith, "Swear not at all, for what is more than yea and nay cometh of evil"; and the apostles warneth the saints above all things "not to swear" by any oath whatsoever, which all that have entered into Christ have denied, for he is the oath and covenant of God forever.
Others suffer because they are moved of the Lord to go into the streets and markets to declare against all manner of sin which abounds there, and to call all to repentance, and to declare the great day of the Lord at hand, and his wrath to be revealed upon such abominable practices; and a snare is laid for him that reproveth in the gate; and they suffer as disturbers of the peace. But what peace is this which is disturbed by the crying out against sin? but drunkards, swearers, liars, ballad-sellers are suffered in the streets and markets and are not counted disturbers of the peace. Is this the saints' peace which stands in righteousness, or the world's peace upholden byd man of sin?
Others whom the Lord hath called to leave houses and land, wives and children, fathers and mothers, and hath in love to poor souls sent them out to declare his love to the world, and the glad tidings of the gospel freely. These are taken under the name of wanderers and strangers, because they have no earthly possessions amongst you; some of them by your law you imprison, some you whip out of your towns, some are beaten, stoned, and shamefully entreated, though they aske you nothing, neither are free to receive anything from the world if they would give them, but do wait <200> on their Father for food who sends them their journey; and thus you entertain strangers, contrary to the practice of all the saints in all ages and the commands of God and the apostles, who warned not to forget to entertain strangers, for some thereby "have entertained angels unawares," but as the men of Sodom did compass Lot's house, who had entertained strangers, so do these compass the houses where these are, threatening to pull down the houses and dash their brains against the stones in the wall; and this is done when such are with them who go under the name of magistrates and ministers, and the innocent are haled out and sent to prison, though nothing can be charged against them but as strangers, who have no habitation among them. And for such offenses as these do the poor despised little ones of Christ suffer the worst sort of imprisonment that can be invented, in dark holes, under tyrants, who will not suffer their brethren to visit them; and all this while all manner of sin at liberty, and drunkards, swearers, liars and whoremongers, and suchlike men of Belial are become the fittest men to be set up to witness against the innocent, and many of those who sit to judge them are guilty of divers of the forementioned crimes themselves; and thus the wicked are set up to make the righteous offenders for a word, who are none in deed, nor can they be convincedf of the breach of any just law; and this is not done in secret that you know not of. Oh you that bear rule in theg nation, and ought to relieve such,h for then might you have an excuse, but it is done in the cities, county, towns, and courts, where justice ought to relieve such; and you know this and are silent; but it is that you may be left without excuse at the great day of account, which is near at hand, even the day of Zion's recompense, which hath long been trodden under foot by the earthly powers! And now will you profess yourselves to be Christians, the Scripture your rule, or so much as talk of the practices of the saints, when such works as these are found amongst you, which were acted by the heathens and formal professors against the saints, but never practiced by the saints against any; neither have you any ground for them in Scripture: Oh how will you appear before the Almighty? whose professions and practices are so unsuitable, <201> and justice and mercy is talked of but not brought forth.
Woe, woe, woe unto you, who have not used your power to relieve the oppressed, do you thus requite the Lord, who hath set you free from your enemies, and hath set you to rule for him over his people! Is this according to your promises made to him in the day of your fears, when you were little in your own eyes, and now that he hath set you free, and you are exalted, shall his poor simple little ones suffer in bondage under you, as under the tyrants and bishops before you, and you not once say they are our brethren, nor your hearts pity them!? Are you building your houses and setting your nests on high? and Zion lies waste, trodden upon!
Woe is me for you, you high ones, how are you fallen from thati tenderness I have seen in some of you when you were sufferers with the people of God! but now the sufferings of the saints are made a talk at your feasts to fill your mouths with laughter; and you can eat and drink and rise up to play, and stretch yourselves upon your beds of ease, but the afflictions of your brethren are not laid to heart. Woe to you that are at ease while the simple are ensnared by their enemies; God is highly displeased with you, and he will not establish you who have neglected mercy and justice. Hearken O ye priests, and give ear O house of the king: for judgment is towards you, who have been a snare upon Mizpah and a net spread upon Mount Tabor to catch the innocent; you have not been careful to relieve others when you had power, neither shall you deliver your own selves at that day. You are seeking to be high, but you shall find one above you who is angry with the proud and will bring down the mighty from their seats that he may relieve the oppressed and let the prisoners go free, and the Lamb shall take the kingdom. How are you deceived who have sometimes been the wisdom of the nations, in that you have pulled down others, and set yourselves in the same height! How isj your judgment failed you, to think that all this shaking and overturning hath no further end but to set up flesh and to exalt one man to rule over the conscience of another by his own will, where Christ should reign as king forever! Do you here as you would be done <202> by? Do you not act contrary to the Scriptures and practice of all the holy men of God, who durst never sit in the throne of Christ, persecute or imprison any for conscience. Oh that you had taken counsel at the fear of God, then had you stood in your places and should have known his secrets, and that his intent is only to exalt his Son in Spirit, in the fall of proud flesh, so should you have used all your power to make way for his kingdom, and you also to have cast down your crowns at his feet, so shou'd you have been established in his power, a terror to the wicked, removers of oppression, and makers up of the breach, and your names a blessing to generations. But now that oppression is found with you, inasmuch as the poor despised little flock of Christ hath suffered under you as under those whom the Lord removed before,k when it hath been in your hands to relieve them, and you have not done it; and you that have so much cried up the kingdom of Christ in words and yet have been bold to limit him in his kingdom (the consciences of his saints), therefore above all the rest you shall not escape unpunished, for the Lord looked that you who have seen his love and pity to you, in setting you above your enemies and fears, should now have had pity on your brethren and walked humbly before him; and for that end he put power into your hands and removed those that were before you, and left none to oppose you, that you might freely act in mercy and judgment and righteousness. But seeing you have forgottenl the Lord and his work which to you-ward was good, and are become exceeding high and cruel as others, and the poor are not delivered by you from the hand of the oppressor and him that is too strong for him, neither have you cheerfully gone on in unity in the work of the Lord and his will, but stand up in your own wills, opposing the deliverance of the righteous seed. Therefore now will I arise, saith the Lord, who have long holden my peace, for I am full of jealousy for Zion who is trodden upon, and I will appear for her in the midst of her enemies, and I will gather the outcasts thereof, who have not been regarded, but have been scattered by you as the off-scouring of the world, and as you have scattered and not pitied, so shall you be scattered, and none shall pity you; for the world's outcasts are my jewels, and I will bring them to <203> possess the gates of their enemies: even by the word of the Almighty shall this be accomplished; the day is near at hand.
Wherefore awake all you to whom oppression is a burden, whom the proud have trodden upon, and you have been as people without hope, neither have known any way to look for help, for every man hath become vain. Now arise up out of all your earthly expectations, and stand up to meet the Lord our righteousness, who is risen to deliver his people, the promised seed, who is in covenant with him, and to gather them from among the heathen and them that have made prey upon them, because they have not known him who will save them. And now look no more to the arm of flesh for freedom, for therein hath been your woe; but wait for the deliverer out of Zion, the Ancient of Days, and God of Israel's seed, who hath letten you see the emptiness of all created helps to which your eyes have been looking, that you might return, and complain to him only, who is the fountain from whom all his find pity.
And now a word to the wise amongst you, forasmuch as the Lord hath showed me that there is a seed amongst you whose hearts are not wholly hardened, nor have wilfully stopped your ears against the cry of the oppressed, nor have been consenting to the cruelty that hath been acted and is intended against the innocent: to you I say arise and deliver yourselves from the guilt of oppression and cruelty of these men, and humble yourselves before the Lord that you may receive wisdom from him and boldness to declare against all violence and injustice, and set yourselves to deliver the oppressed to the utmost, that you may be hid and have a sure house and be established. Take heed that you walk not by example of others, but in the light of Christ which guides the conscience, and that will keep you tender-hearted in bowels of mercy to all, and let it not seem strange to you to see others wholly set on mischief, but consider, could ever any of your cruel oppressors believe, though God hath always sent to warn them before the judgment come, that thereby he might leave them without excuse and be clear when he comes to take vengeance; but they have hardened themselves against all reproof. And marvel not to see it so at this day, for the seed of the proud is but one in all ages. Wherefore mind the fear of God <204> and his law,m and consent not to anything because of a multitude, but for righteousness and equity's sake; and having righteousness before you fear not the face of any, nor the reproach of men, but be valiant for the truth, the glory of God, and freedom of every oppressed one, and victory is before you if you be faithful. And the Lord God Almighty bless, prosper, and guide all the faithful among you to keep clear out of all the consultations of the wicked, that you may never consent to anything but what is of God, warranted inn Scriptures, and practiced by the saints, that you may no longer rest in a profession of what the saints were, and act to the contrary, but that you may come to be guided in all things by the same Spirit, kept out of all the wisdom of the world, and the fear of God be amongst you.
Written byo the movings of the Lord in one that pities the ruins of the nation, for want of righteousness, justice, and mercy, whom the world callsp
Westmorland, the 9th Month, 1653
a. George Fox's part of the pamphlet is not included here.
b. Whitehead changes "any" to "they."
c. Whitehead changes "is plain in" to "in plain."
d. Whitehead inserts "the."
e. Whitehead inserts "of."
f. Whitehead changes "convinced" to "convicted."
g. Whitehead changes "the" to "this."
h. Whitehead omits "such."
i. Whitehead changes "that" to "the."
j. Whitehead changes "is" to "has."
k. Whitehead inserts "you."
l. Whitehead changes "forgotten" to "forsaken."
m. Whitehead changes "law" to "laws."
n. Whitehead inserts "the."
o. Whitehead changes "by" to "from."
p. W. omits "whom the world calls."