Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Index > To the Life of God in All
The love of that precious life of Christ Jesus in me constrains me (as the light thereof arises) to declare to all people and to generations to come, how that innocent, just and holy life came to suffer in me and be betrayed, and I to lose the light thereof, so far as to be taken captive again under the power of darkness, sin and death, from which that life had once set me free and borne me in itself for some years above all the craft, subtlety, and power of Satan that old deceiver and tempter of mankind, who ceases not to take every occasion that pure life to devour & so to take the creature captive again who with that precious life hath once been ransomed, as once I had been by the living virtue thereof. For out of kindreds and estate and all visible relations had he once called me and set me free, and had broken all my bonds, as to all earthly things which was strong & many, and redeemed me from all my sins past, and with his precious blood had he sprinkled my conscience (before God) as though I had never sinned in his sight, anointing me with the oil of deliverance and peace towards God and man, and sent me forth in the same bowels to call lost and strayed souls to the same everlasting light, therein to wait for the appearance of the same purifying life and power in themselves, therewith to be gathered to the pure God, to whom the children of darkness and wicked workers cannot come, till with the word of life they be cleansed and made new after himself, in whom is no iniquity.
And in this his work, by him I was preserved against all enmity, borne in all affliction, and fed above all wants within and without, though sent into a strange country without money, bag or scrip, and among a strange people that knew not God, in the north parts of this English nation, and I may truly say, as a sheep among wolves I was wherever I came, yet had none power to touch me further than what should make for his glory in whom I lived, and the advantage of that work I was about, which he daily turned to my exceeding joy and great reward; and his living presence did <261> ever furnish me with renewed strength against all contrary spirits and the power thereof, and in him I had judgment and power over them wherever they withstood his pure work.
And in this same life and dominion did he bring me up into this great city London, into which I entered with the greatest fear that ever into any place I came, in spirit foreseeing somewhat to befall me therein, but not knowing what it might be, yet had I the same presence and power as before, into what place or services soever I was led of the Spirit; in that life I never returned without victory in Christ Jesus the Lord thereof.
But not minding in all things to stand single and low to the motions of that endless life, by it to be led in all things within and without, but giving way to the reasoning part as to some things which in themselves had no seeming evil, by little and little drew out my mind after trifles, vanities, and persons which took the affectionate part, by which my mind was drawn out from the constant watch and pure fear, into which I was once begotten, and spiritual adultery was committed against that precious pure life which had purchased me unto himself alone and is grieved with the least departure from him in body, spirit or mind; even that eternal pure and zealous Spirit from above had drawn me near into himself, and that pure word was become my life, who said, "He that doth but look upon a woman to lust, commits adultery," and in whose sight the least coveting or letting any visible object into the affections is idolatry: into that life I was comprehended, and the apple of that pure eye was opened in me which admits not of an evil thought but is wounded and bruised with the least appearance of evil; even this birth was born which reigns through righteousness and suffers till all righteousness be fulfilled in every particular, and this is the Son of God forever; and into this life and kingdom I was translated, and I was in him that is true, in whom there is no sin, and he alone lived and ruled in this his temple, which to himself he had purchased with his precious blood, and his delight was in me, and his presence was glorious, and not the least evil could appear but I could feel him in Spirit lifting up his witness against it. But when I reasoned against his tender reproof and consulted with another, and so let the creatures into my affections, then his temple was defiled through lust, and his pure Spirit was grieved, and he ceased to reprove, and he <262> gave me up, and his light he withdrew, and his judgment took away; and so the body of death and sin revived again, and I possessed afresh the iniquities of my youth, and that which had of old been buried arose and stood against me, and so the temple was filled with darkness and the power of death, and my heart with sorrow, and Satan daily at my right hand to tempt me further to provoke the Lord, and to take away my life.
Thus having in a great measure lost my own guide, and darkness being come upon me, I sought a place where I might have been alone to weep and cry before the Lord, that his face I might find and my condition recover, but then my adversary who had long waited his opportunity had got it, and bestirred himself every way, so that I could not be hid, and divers messages came to me in that case, some true, some false (as I have seen since), so I knowing some to be true, to wit, how I had lost my condition, with this I let in the false message also, and so letting go that little of the true light which I had yet remaining in myself, I gave up myself wholly to be led by others, whose work was then wholly to divide me from the children of light, which was done, though much was done by divers of them to have prevented it, and in bowels of tender love many labored to have stayed me with them, and after I was led out from them the Lord God of my life sent divers of his servants with his word after me for my return, all which was rejected; yea the provocations of that time of temptation was exceeding great against the pure love of God, yet he left me not. For after I had given myself under that power, and darkness was above, my adversary so prevailed that all things was turned and perverted against my right seeing, hearing or understanding: only a secret hope and faith I had in my God which I had served, that he would bring me through it and to the end of it, and that I should again see the day of my redemption from under it all; and this quieted my soul in my greatest tribulation.
Thus was I led out from amongst the children of light, and into the world to be a sign, where I was chased as a wandering bird gone from her nest; so was my soul daily, and my body from one prison to another, till at length I was brought in their own way before a backsliding power to be judged, who had lost their first love as I had done, so they sentenced me but could not see their sign, & a sign to the nation, & a sign to the world of <263> the dreadful day of the just God who is come and coming to avenge for that pure life where it is transgressed, and to plead the cause of that precious seed wherever it is oppressed and suffers under the fleshly lusts of this present world; and the cup is deep and very dreadful that is seen and filling, and it hath begun at God's house, but many must drink it except there be speedy repentance.
And in this time of my darkness and night of great temptation, which darkness I had let up over my head, and my judgment being much lost, there got up many wild spirits, ranters and suchlike, acting many evil things against the life of truth and name of Christ, his light and people that walk therein, on purpose to bring reproach thereon, and set themselves to break and disquiet the meetings of the people of God, and made use of my name therein; and others rejoiced thereat and cried, "Thus would we have it, they are divided among themselves, this is that we looked for," &c. Others came to me in that time in true pity, and in sorrow of heart suffered with me for all that was befallen me and that precious truth I had walked in.
Thus became I an occasion to make sad the innocent and harmless people, whose hearts was tender, and to make glad the man that delights in mischief and such as rejoice in iniquity, and to gratify many unclean spirits, which things the pure God hates, and my soul hates; and all that name that God had formerly given me in his house, and that power, the wicked one made use on against the Lord and his lambs, and his truth, wherein I had received that name and power, thus I abused my power and knew not, by coming under him who seeks to pervert the right ways of God, and his truth to turn into a lie wherever he gets above, whom the Lord had once trodden under my feet, and all his instruments; and over the head of all this was I kept by his power while singly I stood in his pure counsel and humbly walked in his daily fear, the loss whereof was of myself, and this to his eternal glory I confess forever.
So to that precious life of Christ Jesus I confess openly, which I have openly sinned against, which life is the light of the world; and all the good that is in man is from the virtue thereof, which whosoever goes from to feed elsewhere forsakes their own mercies, and to this must return and confess again if ever they <264> come to true peace in God, for this is the peacemaker and the Christ of God, and the Lamb that takes away sin and reconciles to the Father of spirits, and that Spirit that quickens the dead, of whom I testify forever, and him I confess in the night and in the day, before God and before men, who under all hath been my help and savior, immortal praises forever.
And he that hath this precious life hath the Son of the eternal God, and eternal life, and with all that receive him as king and leader, with such the Father is well pleased, because he alone it is that leads in all holy ways, and out of all show of lust and uncleanness, and teaches to avoid every appearance of evil within and without, therefore the pure God loves him above all in heaven and earth, and hath placed his fullness in him from whom the living of all ages are to be fed, and whatever good gift any creature receives from God the Father, it is in this pure life and for the sake of this unspotted seed, and that he alone (that Spirit) may be exalted in all and above all, not flesh which is grass whose glory turns into dust ifb this life withdraw its virtue, andc all his wisdom intod shame and folly, who goes out from this light and counsel; for this life is he which being disobeyed is man's fall, and his Spirit being grieved is God's wrath upon every creature, but in his favor is length of days and eternal glory, and both these I have learned in the day and in the night, so I give all glory to the life forevermore, and to him it is due, and all the evil hath been from self.
This life is the root and offspring of all heavenly fruit upon earth, and in whom this is planted and as it grows it will bring forth truth and righteousness towards God and man, and the virtue that rises with it will fill the creature with springs of eternal life and heavenly power. It will cover thee with health of salvation and stay thee with immortal strength. He will guide thee with counsel of life and open thy mouth in that wisdom which none shall confound; yea, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in him, and the richest excellency that ever appeared in flesh, in him is sealed, for all generations that receive him in their faith and obedience; and as he rises in his temples he gives <265> forth of his riches, gifts to adorn his habitation and to cover it with his light and glory. But this is the evil in his sight and that which provokes his pure Spirit, that vain man in whom he thus delights should be exalted in himself because of the gifts, and glory in his strength and wisdom, and so grow wanton against the life from whence he hath it, and so through feeding on the gifts ceases to walk humbly with the giver in his own vessel; here man forgets his God and so withers at the root, and be the tree never so great it will fall in the end, and great will be the fall thereof.
And this is that God against whom I have sinned, and my offense I confess to the root that bore me, who raiseth up the meek and lowly and casteth down him that boasteth above the root, who doth what he will in the heavens and ruleth in the kingdoms of men: the Lord of Hosts is his name, and he is worthy yea and will be feared, even so be it forevermore. And whatever of that worship or honor hath any way by any creature been given or received to my person which belongs to that eternal Spirit, forever by me it is denied and condemned as idolatry. And whatever creature I have at any time gone out to from this pure Spirit and let into my affections, or whatever I have taken counsel of without this life and against it, is forever condemned as adultery in my heart, and so I have found it in his pure sight, to whom I confess for my God and savior in all my troubles.
And in whomsoever this pure eternal Spirit of life throughout the world hath been troubled or offended in man or woman through my fall, or the advantage which the adversary got against my soul, God's truth, and his people, to that in all I acknowledge mine offense. Against thee have I sinned who was with me in the deep, and in so many tender hearts for my recovery and salvation, which is one in all forever confessed to, and the occasion of the grief thereof forever condemned in the presence of God, his host and people.
But against him that sought my life in that day and rejoiced at that occasion have I requited no evil in my heart, neither have I opened my mouth before the Lord that the evil day should haste, who rejoiced at my fall and was glad at that advantage to pursue my soul into the pit, that I might never have seen light <266> more, nor have appeared in the assemblies of them which God hath sanctified on the earth. But in the bowels of him that hath borne me through all adversity I have been kept towards them, and I know it is the Spirit of Christ Jesus which thinks not evil for evil, and when all visible help was removed afar off, and I in the depth of the pit, then this was with me and in me before God, which often appeared when all else was gone, and many a time stayed my soul in secret that it sunk not under the accuser and the weight of his temptations when I was alone from any creature; and now seeing that the loving kindness of the Lord hath outlived all this enmity, and the longsuffering of Christ Jesus hath borne to the end thereof, and that endless life hath ministered freedom for me, thereto be glory and praise forevermore. And to God the Father of all be thanks forever, who is begetting his creatures into that one pure life, and with the cords thereof hath bound up as in one bundle so many at this day who in his living Spirit and power are made at the needful time to stand before him with cries & prayers one for another, which he hath heard and doth hear, even as he hath begotten thereto in every creature, the answer whereof makes many glad at this day, praises to God everlasting.
And to the glory of this precious life is this sent forth, that all that have sinned against him may have hope in him and return, whose judgments are right and his mercy endures forever, and that all who have made their graves deep through disobedience and their darkness thick through lust might awake and confess to the Lord of life and come forth, who quickeneth the dead; at his word the blind he makes to see, and hath called to the great deeps that his praises may live forever.
And that all you in whom any measure of this precious life hath been betrayed, either through this or any other thing, that to the light thereof you may return in yourselves, and there wait till the life arise which is your return, and which must give you rest with the flock of God, for it's the life that's the door and the fold, and without it you will be but wanderers and lost in all your thoughts and motions, and God will cross you and curse you for its sake and plead against you till you return, if he cast you not off for often rebellion, from which the Lord keep you. <267> And take heed of evil thoughts to which you will be tempted, you that are gone out from the true light, or an evil eye going out of your own hearts against the truth you once was called into, or them that walk in it, to spy faults in others and feed thereon. This food will but strengthen the enmity in you against you and your return, and with this you may make bonds which you cannot break when you would. And your evil thoughts are as witchcraft to the pure life, and as a canker will eat till it have devoured all that remains in you to lead you to repentance, that not so much as the place thereof you will find in the end. And this I am moved to warn you of having been often tempted therewith, that the life of peace and truth may only live and guide in you all, without which there can be no true unity with God or his people, which is that the devil chiefly hates and withstands in all in whom he can prevail.
Thus having drunken a measure of that depth which cannot be measured, I cannot but confess thereto and declare thereof to his praise, who above all excelleth in judgment and mercy to every particular creature, in their several states and conditions, that all might hear and take heed to abide in him whose offspring they are, who hath his way in the deeps, and makes darkness as light before him; he turns man to destruction for his disobedience, and the light of his word is salvation, and his life the resurrection out of the greatest depth, who hath saved my soul from death thus far and lift my feet up out of the pit, even to him be immortal glory forever, and let every troubled soul trust in him, for his mercy endureth forever.
It is in my heart to praise thee O my God, let me never forget thee, what thou hast been to me in the night, by thy presence in the day of trial, when I was beset in darkness, when I was cast out as a wandering bird, when I was assaulted with strong temptations, then thy presence in secret did preserve me, and in a low estate I felt thee near me. When the floods sought to sweep me away, thou set a compass for them how far they <268> should pass over when my way was through the sea, and when I passed under the mountains there was thou present with me; when the weight of the hills was upon me thou upheld me, else had I sunk under the earth, when I was as one altogether helpless, when tribulation and anguish was upon me day and night, and the earth without foundation, when I went on the way of wrath and passed by the gates of hell, when all comforts stood afar off and he that is mine enemy had dominion, when I was cast into the pit and was as one appointed to death, when I was between the millstones, and as one crushed with the weight of his adversary, as a father thou was with me, and the rock of thy presence. When the mouths of lions roared against me, and fear took hold on my soul in the pit, then I called upon thee in the night, and my cries was strong before thee daily, who answered me from thy habitation and delivered me from thy dwelling place, saying, I will set thee above all thy fears, and lift up thy feet above the head of oppression. I believed and was strengthened, and thy word was salvation. Thou didst fight on my part when I wrestled with death, and when darkness would have shut me up, then thy light shone about me, and thy banner was over my head. When my work was in the furnace, and as I passed through the fire, by thee I was not consumed, though the flames ascended above my head. When I beheld the dreadful visions and was amongst the fiery spirits thy faith stayed me, else through fear I had fallen; I saw thee and believed, so the enemy could not prevail.
When I look back into thy works I am astonished, and sees no end of thy praises: glory, glory to thee saith my soul, and let my heart be ever filled with thanksgiving. Whilst thy works remain they shall show forth thy power.
Then didst thou lay the foundation of the earth and ledst me under the waters, and in the deep didst thou show me wonders and thye forming of the world. By thy hand thou led me in safety till thou showed me the pillars of the earth, then did the heavens shower down: they was covered with darkness and the powers thereof was shaken, and thy glory descended; thou filled <269> the lower parts of the earth with gladness, and the springs of the valleys were opened; thy showers descended abundantly so the earth was filled with virtue; thou made thy plant to spring, and the thirsty soul became as a watered garden; then didst thou lift me out of the pit and set me forth in the sight of my enemies. Thou proclaimed liberty to the captive and called mine acquaintance near me; they to whom I had been a wonder looked upon me, and in thy love I obtained favor in those who had forsook me. Then did gladness swallow up sorrow, and I forsook all my troubles, and I said, how good is it that man be proved in the night, that he may know his folly, that every mouth may become silent in thy hand until thou make man known to himself and have slain the boaster and showed him the vanity that vexeth thy Spirit.
London, Printed for Thomas Simmonds at the sign of the Bull and
Mouth near Aldersgate, 1659
a. Publication data appears at the end of this pamphlet, and Nayler's name after the first part of it, rather than on a title page. It is included in Whitehead's 1716 collection with little editing.
b. W. changes "dust if" to "dust. If."
c. W. changes "and" to "then."
d. Whitehead changes "into" to "is."
e. Whitehead changes "thy" to "the."