Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > Weakness above Wickedness
Well knew the apostle what he said when he desired the saints' prayers that he might be delivered from men without faith, for he well knew them above all others to be the most unreasonable. And the same is seen in thee, Jeremy Ives, who having denied the faith of God, which is the gift of God in his saints, and set up a faith of thine own, which is not the gift of God, and therein hath set [p.2] up in thy vain philosophy and deceitful craft wherewithal thou art become so unreasonable as not only to use thy crafty reason in broaching deceitful, blasphemous doctrines, denying the faith of God once received of the saints, & contending against it, not to be the gift of God, as thou didst at Gerrard Roberts' before many witnesses; but also using thy craft to reason against the truth of God manifest in his saints, the light of the world manifest in the world, in which all the world may be a witness against thee, yea against the plain express words of the Scripture, as will appear in this thy book, yea against Christ himself, who is that Spirit, whereby to set up another for judgment, as by thy reasoning at Gerrard Roberts' before many people, where thou said that a man may understand the Scriptures without the Spirit of God, and so try the spirits, and went about to prove it with thy cursed art; which thing to affirm, in plainness and truth, is to deny the Spirit of Christ for to be the teacher, judger and trier of all spirits, and to set up the spirit of the devil in its stead; for he that trieth and judgeth <450> without the Spirit of God doth it with the spirit of Satan; and with that spirit did the scribes and Pharisees (who denied the gift of God as thou dost) understand the Scriptures and try the Spirit of Jesus, and judged him to be a devil and a deceiver, as thou dost such in whom he is manifest, for which end thou hast mustered up this heap of filth and lies, in thy book, to cast upon the truth, and make it odious; and the greatest strength thou hast in this thy work is thy vain philosophy and craft, with which thou reasons against the truth, both in the saints now manifest, and against the plain Scriptures.
Which things may so plainly be seen to be but a heap of subtlety, where the least honesty may judge thereof; so that there is little danger of its doing any hurt, where the least measure of innocency is minded: so I shall not much trouble myself in the answering every particular of thy vain stories, slanders and lies, only some few I shall speak to as may serve to discover the rest what root they are of.
Thou commends thy work to thy brethren, whom thou calls the churches of Christ called to be faithful, &c. And [p.3] thou says thou knows none to whom thy work will be more welcome. I say, if they be brethren of thy faith, who with thee have denied the faith of Christ and set up a faith of their own; then it is like that thy work should be most welcome unto such, whose faith is to believe lies, for the devil's faith is most fit to receive and welcome the devil's work. And thou tells of raising the siege laid by the adversaries to your faith and order. I say, fitly are these two put together, being neither the faith nor order of the saints, nor that which the Scripture will own, neither your faith, nor practice. And he that is a friend of God must be an enemy of that which is not the gift of God, and that which is not the gift of God being gotten by the devil, that we deny.
First, thou begins about our quaking, whether we may be so called or no, about which I shall not contend, what name we receive from the world, whether they call us that which is true, or that which is not true, the thing to me I pass by; only I mind thee of a lie thou tellest (because thou seems to promise repentance being better informed), that is, that we foam at the mouth in our tremblings, in our meetings; but to them that are blind thou <451> seems to prove it before thou leave it; and that is because it was cast upon us in the Westmorland priests' petition, and we did not deny it, though we denied some other things in that petition: which proof is but thus much that if I leave any of thy lies undenied which thou hast heaped up in this thy book, the next of thy brethren that comes after thee to accuse us may make it a proof that we are guilty thereof, and so the liar proves to the liar, whilst the innocent are silent. And with such proofs as this hast thou proved many of thy slanders in thy book, which might as clearly be showed was it worth the while to follow thee into all thy deceits, but a few may serve to lead the wise to see the rest.
The next thing thou accusest is our doctrine, and thou confessest we preach somewhat that is true, yet sayest thou, in this they are but the greater deceivers. And finding nothing of the truth we preach thou darest accuse, thou makes a lie of thine own to accuse us with, that is, that we will allow of [p.4] nothing to be called God's word but Christ, and having cast this upon us, thou goes about to disprove it, and so disproves thy own lie, and not our doctrine; so it being thine own work I shall leave it to thee.
The next thing thou charges upon us is that we say the Scripture may not be called the word of God, which is false also (as in thy sense), for we own the Scripture where it is given to any by the inspiration of God to be the word to such, but to others who have it not of God, they may read the letter and not hear the word, and have a Bible and be without the word, and in this respect and no other do we deny many who would make the letter the word, which thou wouldst do, did not know better than to believe thee; and not only so, but would stop the mouth of God from speaking any more in his people, or us for confessing to his word in us, at which thou wrangles with words not worth heeding.
Thy third error thou charges us with is that we say we are immediately sent of God, and that thou canst not receive, and yet art not ashamed to count me a liar for saying that I coming in the name of God thou couldst not receive me, but if I had come in my own name thou couldst.
But what spirit thou art of, and of whose message thou goest, is plainly seen, who sets it down as an error to say they are sent of God; doth not thou herein justify the false prophets who run <452> unsent? and would not thou have condemned the true prophets and apostles, as thou dost us, had thou lived in their days? who said they were sent of God, and did not work miracles in the sight of all they preach to, which thou requirest or else thou wilt not believe; but the devil's faith could never believe God's messengers with miracles nor without miracles; it's not like thou shouldst believe any that is sent of God who denies that faith which is the gift of God, and so calls that error which all the ministers of Christ doth own, and that which thou calls error we own, and make proof thereof in our measures, as they did in patience, in afflictions, in necessities and distresses, in stripes and imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings and fastings, &c., and in [p.5] turning people from their iniquities, which thou falsely says is not a sign of a minister of Christ.
Then thou goes on a deceitful story, glorying in lies, adding words that was never spoken, and diminishing truth to make thyself a cover with a lie, concerning our disputes, but doth not speak the truth, as to thine own blasphemous heresies which thou affirmed and went about to maintain at Gerrard Roberts' our first meeting, and at other places which thy deceit hides, such as these following (to wit) thou affirmed, before many witnesses. That faith by which men are saved is not the gift of God. That a man may understand the Scriptures without the Spirit of God, and so try spirits. That all good is not of God. That the obedience of believers is not the gift of God. That the law was not given forth by Christ. That Christ was not the minister of circumcision. That none was baptized with the Holy Ghost but who wrought miracles. That John Baptist went not out of Jerusalem to baptize. That the wilderness in which John baptized was in Jerusalem. That Jordan in which John did baptize was in Jerusalem. That whosoever speaks that which they to whom he speaks do not understand, he is a fool and a barbarian. Thou said also that thou could foretell things to come, and yet was not baptized with the Spirit.
Of which errors I writ to thee in a letter presently after, but could never receive an answer thereof. Also thy other deceits holden forth at the Bull and Mouth, which were such as these:
That Christ lighteth every man that cometh into the world, <453> but this light was not within.
That the heathen had a light that convinced them of sin, but this light was not within them.
That Christ took away the sin of every man that cometh into the world.
Hadst thou intended honesty, thou shouldst have published the whole truth, but it is the way of the author of thy faith to cover himself with lies; but it is but that he may be laid open where he is, and that truth may discover other of thy lies and old stories, of Austin the Monk, Gregory the Pope, and the [p.6] King of Kent, which are things more fit to rot than to be raked in, I pass them by as most suitable to return them back into the bottle from whence they came.
And lest thou shouldst deny that I sent thee such a letter, which thou never answered, I shall here publish a copy thereof, that thou may answer it in thy next, and others may see I have not wronged thee, which letter is as followeth:
Thy blasphemous deceitful doctrines wherewith thou leads simple people into confusion and destruction, I am moved to put thee in mind of, that if thou be not wilfully blind thou mayest see thyself out of the power of God, yea and out of the form of the sound words in the letter also, as appeared in thy discourse when I was with thee, some of the particulars whereof I shall mention, as thou didst affirm them before many witnesses.
First, thou saidst that a man may understand the Scriptures without the Spirit of God, and so try the spirits.
But the Scripture saith, without Christ you can do nothing;1 and saith that Christ could do nothing of himself;2 and that the natural man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned;3 and that no man knows the things of God but the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit searcheth, judges, and reveals all the things of God, &c. And thy trial of spirits by the letter without the Spirit is the same by which Christ <454> was tried by the Pharisees, who read the Scripture of the prophets every sabbath, but not understanding their voices, by the letter put him to death;4 and thou art not wiser without the Spirit of God than they was, and so art found an enemy to him as they was, and in the same spirit.
Thou said also that the faith by which we are saved is not the gift of God.
But the Scripture saith, by grace you are saved through faith, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;5 and that [p.7] Christ is the author and finisher of the saints' faith;6 and every good gift comes from above from the father of light,7 and that a man can receive nothing except it be given him from above,8 and that the saints had the Spirit of faith,9 and that the faith to salvation was delivered to the saints,10 and that faith is the substance of things hoped.11
And thou sayest it is not the gift of God; so thy faith which is not the gift of God is the faith of the devil, and from him thou hast received it, who hast not received it from God, whereof thou mayst read James 2.
Thou saidst also that the obedience of believers is not the gift of God.
But the Scripture saith that the saints' obedience was through the sanctification of the Spirit12 and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, and that it was God who wrought all their works in them,13 to will and to do of his good pleasure,14 and without Christ they could nothing; and the saints' obedience was through the Spirit,15 and the works of the children of light are wrought in God.16 But thy works and thy obedience which thou hast not received from God are none of Christ's and therefore thine own, and so self-righteousness.
Thou saidst that whosoever speaks what those do not understand to whom he speaks is a fool and a barbarian.
Whereas the Scripture saith that Christ spoke many things in parables, which were not understood by them that heard him; nay, his disciples understood none of these things, for his sayings were <455> hid from them in many things, neither understood they the things which were spoken.17 So thou mayest read thy blasphemy and what spirit thou art of who by thy deceitful vain philosophy would prove Christ a fool and blaspheme that Spirit which spoke the parables in Scripture to such as thee, and your carnal understanding.
Thou saidst, none were baptized with the Holy Ghost, but who wrought miracles. A thing far beyond thy proof, for miracles were to cease, but so was not the baptism of the Spirit, though at first they were given because of unbelievers. What miracles wrought Timothy or Titus? and what miracles did they of Samaria spoken on Acts 8, or these [p.8] believers of Rome? and many other that might be mentioned, showing thy untruth and ignorance as to the gift of the Holy Ghost. But how shouldst thou now know the effects of the Holy Ghost who hast not received him? as thou didst confess before the people that thou wast not baptized of the Holy Ghost, and so thou madest it appear by thy fruits; who saidst, that all good is not of God, that Christ was not a minister of the circumcision, that the law was not given forth by Christ, that John went not out of Jerusalem to baptize, and when I told thee he baptized in Jordan and in the wilderness, thou saidst that wilderness was in Jerusalem and Jordan also.
Thou saidst also, thou couldst foretell things to come, and yet denied the baptism of the Spirit; to which I told thee then, and tell thee again, that to foretell things to come without the Spirit of God is witchery.
And much more suchlike stuff thou utteredst which thou hast gathered in by thine imaginations, which are lies and deceits, whereby thou leadest blind people into error, keeping them from the teachings of the Spirit in thy traditions, which is neither according to Spirit nor letter, as is plain in these things in thy water baptism, wherein thou art erred from that in the letter, both in thy call, in the manner, and in the end thereof, as it was practiced by the apostles.
For they that were called to baptize were first called out of their habitations, and made proof of to be disciples of Christ by <456> denying all and following him, and they were none of them living in their worldly estates as thou dost, and they were either prophets or apostles immediately called from the Lord to that work, and did not take it up by imitation as thou dost, and so thou art neither in their call, place, nor power, who hast not left all to follow Christ, nor hast received the Holy Ghost.
And as to the manner, they did not baptize those over again with water that were baptized before, but baptized such with the Holy Ghost, which thou hast not thyself by thine own confession.
And as to the end, they did not go amongst believers and [p.9] by their water divide them into separations as you have done by your water, who have set up so many forms of baptisms, till you have divided those who had some simplicity in them into sects and opinions concerning your water, till you have left the Spirit, and are left in conformity to the world in weightier things.
Neither did they limit the Spirit of God to the water, as you do who deny any to prophesy in that you call your churches, till you have dipped them or sprinkled them over again after your fashion. Neither did they lay it as a thing of absolute necessity upon all. But they went among such that did not believe that Christ was come, and made them disciples before baptizing them out of unbelief, out of sects and opinions and divisions, gathering them out of all forms, ceremonies and worships into one faith, one body, one light, one way, one baptism; which yours ends in the quite contrary, setting up forms and divisions and opinions and rents and contentions about your carnal water, scattering abroad in your imaginations. But theirs was gathering in the Spirit; so that is plain that which you have set up is but imaginations, for it is not according to the letter, being erred from it, both in the call, manner, and the end; for what is taken up from the letter must in all things follow the pattern, he being cursed that adds or diminishes. And from the Spirit thou canst not have it, who art not baptized with the Holy Ghost thyself, nor having any immediate call from the person of Christ.
So with the light of Christ in thy conscience take notice what thou art doing, and repent. Cease to keep people in blindness, and from going right on their way, by thy traditions; and if Paul said they were bewitched who had begun in the Spirit and was <457> led back by such into circumcision (though a true command of God), then read thy work, who art drawing people into thy tradition, which (as thou performest it) was never commanded of God, nor ever so practiced by any who had the Spirit of God.
So if you who are called Anabaptists consider your unfaithfulness to your principles as to that which should have led [p.10] you out of conformity to the world and their worships and fashions, and seriously weigh in the light of Christ; you may see more cause to repent of your sticking in that of water (both out of the form and power) than of accusing others for neglect, who are going on in obedience to the Spirit bearing witness against all the world's wickedness, vain worships and customs, and yours among the rest.
From a lover of your souls, but not of your deceit,
The fourth error thou chargest us with is because we bear testimony to the light of Christ which lighteth everyone that cometh into the world, and that this spiritual light of Christ is sufficient to teach in all the ways of God, and lead to God, and this is counted an error, and yet in thy 36th page doth confess the sufficiency thereof; and this is it that is our teaching, which is witnessed in plainness by Christ, the prophets & apostles, as John 1:9, John 8:12, John 5:33; and herein thou canst not slander us but Christ and the holy men of God must suffer with us. But sayest thou, it is true that Christ is the true light, and lighteth every man that cometh into the world, but not within, so that our error must be that we say the light of Christ is spiritual and within, and herein we have the witness of all those who had the faith of Christ and thereby knew what this light was, which was in darkness, though the darkness comprehended it not, as John 1:5, which shined out of darkness in their hearts, which treasure they had in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:6-7, Eph. 5:13), with many other places, and much it matters not what the infidel who hath denied the faith of Christ saith against it.
Some queries thou asks, which I shall answer so far as there is anything worth the answering in them.
1. First then, what need is there of Scripture to declare the mind of God? I answer, they testify hereof against such as thee.
<458> [p.11] 2. Whether that light will show that the virgin had a son?
3. Can it show that Christ died and rose again in three days?
4. What savor it was to the people of Israel to have the written law? &c.
5. Whether men by the light within could have known Christ should have been born at Jerusalem, &c.
To all which I answer, all these things and much more was made known by the light before they was written in the letter, but being believed generally, there is no such necessity that he should make a declaration of those things again, in this nation, but that he should minister the substance (to wit), Christ in Spirit, which none can know without this light, though they have the letter, no more than they could know Christ when he came, who read in the letter that he was to be born at Bethlehem, who might as well have asked him (who bade them believe in the light of the world, that they might be the children of light), but would this light have told us that there was an ark builded by Moses, and a temple builded by Solomon, and how many years it was a-building, and many other visible things, which they too much doted on already, and here (was thou not blind) might thou read thyself, and more of thy generation, and see that the end of thy queries is but to discover thyself where thou art.
Thou asks further whether the name of Christ may be known to all the world by the light within them, without Scripture or tradition? I say, yea, and by nothing else without it, for the name of Christ consists not of letters and syllables, but in righteousness, mercy and judgment, &c., which name none can know but by the light of the world, though many of you read your Bibles who are the greatest enemies to his name, such is your knowledge as appears by your practice.
Other questions thou asks the substance whereof is, What then needs our books or our preaching? is not that superfluous? I say, our preaching serves to direct people to the light, which such as thou who are reprobate to the faith of Christ, [p.12] and knows not the mystery thereof which is held in a pure conscience, have led them out from; and some of our book serve to manifest your folly and wickedness before all the world; but hadst thou not been partially blind thou might ask thyself this <459> question, and thy brethren, who would make the letter the light, and would hold it forth only for sufficiency, what need your divining from it, if it be sufficient of itself, but thy faith teacheth not that doctrine to do as they would be done by.
Thy fifth error thou chargest us with is touching John Lawson, being accused for saying the day of judgment was past, and this is an accusation like the rest, & thou says he goes about to prove it in Saul's Errand, so he having answered for himself it may be seen whether he own it or no by them that read that book—for those words wherewith he is accused I own not.
The sixth error, thou sayest that George Fox said he was the eternal judge of the world, and thy proof is the priests' petition, and that George denies it not as thou says, but saith the saints shall judge the world, to which I say to what George saith herein we own, but the priests' accusation and thy proof we deny.
Thy seventh error was that George Fox said, "I am the way, the truth and the life," and this thou proves like the rest, as thou proved foaming at our meetings, because he denies it not but saith the old man cannot endure to hear the new man speak; and so do I say so also, for where Christ speaks in male or female he is what he testifies himself to be; if thou canst receive it thou may.
Thy eighth error is that Fox said, that he which took a text of Scripture and made a sermon of it was a conjuror, and this thou would disprove by Philip's speaking to the eunuch, to which I say, those are not George's words as thou speaks them, but the words of the accuser, neither did George speak of what Philip did, who was immediately sent of God, nor of what was done in that generation by them who owned the spiritual light of Christ, but of what is done now by such diviners as deny the faith of Christ, and his call and Spirit in [p.13] them, and what such raiseth must needs be conjuration, who denies the faith and Spirit of God.
Thy ninth error is that he saith the Scriptures are carnal, and this is a lie like the rest; for he saith the letter of the Scriptures are carnal, for a Scripture is known before the letter was (though the blind see it not), and that Scripture we do not say is carnal, but own it to be the word of God, and our rule, who do not walk after a carnal rule, though not contrary to the letter.
<460> Thy tenth error is against one Leonard Hill, a name I neither know nor own, and so I pass it by as not necessary for me to contend about.
The eleventh error is John Lawson again, that he said he had been in hell and is now in heaven, to which I say, though it seem an error to thee yet this is plain, that the saints have witnessed being in hell, and in heaven also, as is plain in Scripture, which thou that calls it an error art ignorant of, as is plain in these scriptures with divers others (Jonah 2:2, Ps. 16:10, Eph. 2:6; 2 Cor. 12:2,4). And they was not in an error who witnessed this, nor he if it was true in him.
Thy twelfth error is that we say we are perfect, and sin not, and this thou repeats over again in thy eighteenth error and calls it a lie, but the lie being thine own twice told over I leave it with thee till thou prove it; yet do we own perfection and believe in it, which is not that we never had as thou falsely sayest, but as we have received Christ so we have received perfection in whom all self-boasting is excluded.
Thy thirteenth error is that James Nayler said that none can come unto God or Christ, but who come to perfection, whereby it seems thou denies God or Christ to be perfection, for be they granted to be perfection, then none can come to them, but they come to perfection.
But how blind thou art who calls this an error is easily seen: thy faith and thy doctrine who preaches against perfection, but the ministers of Christ preached to present every man perfect, which thou preaches against (Eph. 4:11-13; Col. 1:28). So we rather choose the apostle's doctrine, which standing in the faith of God which believes perfection, [p.14] though by the infidels it be called error, than embrace a doctrine of devils that doth not believe perfection, neither was there ever any of the children of God in thy work pleading against perfection, and for sin dwelling in them.
Thy fourteenth error is, that I say that at all seasons whensoever the saints either eat or drink they were to have communion with the body and blood of Christ in their eating and drinking; I say, this must needs be counted an error with the belly-gods of the world, who deny the faith of Christ, and so know no word in <461> them to sanctify the creature, such is not like to have communion with Christ, but with the lust, who serve their own bellies; who are at the table of devils are not like to have communion with the Lord, but are observers of times and carnal things, and therefore to such it must needs be counted an error so often as they eat and drink thereof to do it in remembrance of him till he come; if this be received for a truth the devil knows there is no place for the lust, and so would hold it for an error, that he might feed without fear.
Thy fifteenth error is that James Parnell denied all baptisms but that of the Holy Ghost, so that to own the baptism of Christ and to deny all else with thee is counted an error, but did not the apostle err also, who said we are all baptized into one body by one Spirit, and witnessed one faith and one baptism, and said he was not sent to baptize; and this he witnessed who had the faith of Christ, which thy faith counts an error.
And thou goes about to prove your water by questions and crooked consequences, as from circumcision and the like, but cannot find one scripture that doth command it with water, after Christ's sufferings or otherwise than John's ministry, wherein all may see your foundation, who say the Scripture is your rule, but cannot find one plain scripture for that which you so highly worship and would impose upon all as a matter of salvation, but must fly to your consequences to hold up that which you would make people believe is an everlasting ordinance, for which you can show no command neither from letter, nor Spirit; Moses in all his house left his [p.15] ordinances upon better grounds than consequence and meanings, and that he which is much more faithful should come short is not believed by those that know him, but suppose that any do yet own that form of baptism used by the disciples in John's ministration, with that they must deny your tradition which misseth theirs both in call, manners and end, as I have often proved; for he that saith the letter is his rule must not miss it in anything, for if they break it in one he is guilty of all, much more you that miss in the main.
Thy sixteenth error is that we preach that every man in the world hath light within him, and yet one of us, thou sayest, asked a minister of the nation whether he had that light which <462> doth enlighten everyone that comes into the world. So that to ask a question which is a known truth to prove the party asked with thee must be an error; and this thou hoisteth up with great swelling words, as though it were the greatest error that ever was in the world, and says therein we are the sad spectacle of God's spiritual judgments that ever any age hath heard of, and many such loud exclamations against us for this great error.
But what thinks thou of Christ? who asked the disciples whom they said he was, and yet knew they had this light in them which revealed him to be the Son of God; hadst thou then lived and heard it, he should not have escaped thy censure, besides many other questions that he asked well known to him before the asking of them.
And thou goes on heaping up a deal of confusion, and accuses somebody (but names not who) for saying that they might as well have burnt the Scripture, as his writing being given forth by the same Spirit the Scriptures were, and by this thou sayest all that thou hast said is justified, to which I say, the works of the Spirit are known to be the same in their several measures as ever they was, neither is it to be more undervalued than formerly, but how that man saying so (if any such there was) doth justify all thy lies and false accusations cast upon us, is a slender proof, yet if we will believe thee it justifies all.
[p.16] Thy seventeenth error is thy lie, where thou says we study and devise deceitful terms, that look with two faces like the oracles of the heathen gods. And the substance of this slander is because that Farnworth when he was charged to say that Paul was not converted when he spoke those words in the 7th of the Romans, he denies that he doth affirm any such thing; and this is counted a great error, for says thou it was a negative, as though it was not an affirmative to affirm there is not such a thing as well as to affirm there is such a thing, and this thou aggravates as a great offense, whereby thou shows in plainness to all that are honest, that thou canst find nothing of matter against us, therefore thy mischievous mind having a mind to slander hath the thing to make out of thine own bosom wherewithal to do it.
Thy eighteenth error is that which thou call our lying.
First, in that we say we are perfect, and this is a lie of thy <463> own and shall rest upon thy head till thou prove we have so said.
The second is that we say we are immediately sent of God, which is a truth in them who are so sent so to say, and the lie is thine own till thou prove the contrary.
The third lie is that one Fox said, the world did not know his name, and yet after saith, known by the name of George Fox. I say, the saints who have overcome have a new name, which none knows but he that hath it, yet all the knowledge the men have of them is by a carnal name, and this is true and witnessed only the lie is in thy own ignorance.
The fourth lie is that Edward Burrough said his book was sealed with the Spirit, and this is called a lie, but not proved one, and time will prove it otherwise.
The fifth lie is that James Nayler in a written paper calls thee shameless man for tempting him to deny the Lord.
The sixth lie is that James Nayler in the same paper said, if he had come in his own name thou wouldst have received him, as was confessed by thee.
To both which I answer, as many can witness with me at [p.17] the dispute which occasioned the letter, when I denied thy faith to be the faith of God or any of his saints, and proffered to prove it so before all the people, if thou would put it upon trial, thou denied my request, unless I would deny my call from God and say I was called some other way, or else there work a miracle, and then thou wouldst put thy faith on trial, according to my request; which if this was not to tempt me to deny the Lord and his call to obtain a dispute, wherein I could not be received while I confessed to come in the name of God, which another way in my own name and will thou proffered to receive me. And this being done before many witnesses was the occasion of these words in my letter, as followeth:
O shameless man! was ever such a thing demanded by any child of God, to tempt one to deny the Lord, yea the heathen would blush at such a thing, to send for one to dispute and then to deny to come to try all with that they call the rule and touchstone, unless they whom they did dispute with would deny their <464> God first. Hast not thou proved thyself worse than any that ever disputed with the apostles or any of the servants of God that ever he sent forth? Dost thou profess the Scriptures, and is it become such an odious thing to thee to come in the name of God, that for that very thing thou durst not put thy faith upon trial by Scripture? nor could [p.18] receive me, but if I would come in my own name thou would, as thou plainly confessed that if I would say I was not sent of God thou would put thy faith upon trial, &c. Now the things being true before related, as many can witness, where the lie is in these words let honesty judge, and let any mind the wicked one how he hath perverted my words to slander me with, saying that I said, if I had come in my own name he would have received me, as saith he, I said, he did plainly confess and leaves out the rest, which words as I writ them runs thus: as thou plainly confessed, that if I would say I was not sent of God, then thou would put thy faith on trial. The truth of which words will be witnessed by many that heard that thou pretended that very thing to hinder the trial of thy faith, because of my coming in the name of God.
And further thou added that if I was one sent of God it was to no purpose to put thy faith on trial with me, for I would overturn all thy proofs, or words to that purpose, as may be testified by many witnesses. So the lies be to thyself, and on thy head, till thou repent thereof, but peace and truth to him that loves it.
Thy seventh lie is that while one ran from Bull & Mouth to thy house for the paper, I slipped away, which is a most abominable falsehood, as hundreds can witness, that I went not away till the meeting broke up, neither knew I of any such thing as the letter fetching, neither have I yet run from your filthy lies & envy, much less shall I run from the truths written with my own hand, which I here have owned and clearly proved to [p.19] be truth, & thee to be the liar, and shall further do it if to the truth it may be serviceable.
And when thou hast done, thou sayest, these are but a few of those legions of lies that are in our writings and preachings, when the lies are thy own, raised by that spirit of infidelity, who <465> having denied the faith of Christ would turn his truth into a lie, and was thou not impudent in thy wickedness, thou might be ashamed of thy birth thou hast brought forth, who hath been hunting for accusations against the truth but canst find none, and so runs to a sort of hurling priests, and their false accusations thou preachest for truths, being of the same nature with them, their reports agree most with thy spirit, and thy foundation being deceit, thy work falls upon thy own head! Then thou makes a boast of something that thou wouldst prove, & the first thing is the writings of the Scripture to be the word of God, & this thou wouldst prove from Mark 7:10, where Christ saith, they that do not honor their father and mother maketh the word of God of none effect, & saying, that he saith their making this written law of none effect, which is false, for his words are "making the word of God of none effect through your traditions," but thou that wouldst make the letter of that command the word which was written in stone, if thou readest 2 Cor. 3 thou mightst find the apostle denies that, or to be any minister of it, and saith that ministration is done away, and owns the ministration of the Spirit, and not of the letter, so thou hast lost thy word if the apostle saith true, and a new proof thou must seek to prove the letter the word. Another proof thou brings is from Jer. 36 where thou wouldst prove that the letter of that roll is the word of God which Baruch read, so by thy proof the word of God may be burnt if that roll be it, and so thy word of God is lost, that which was written in that roll not so much as being in the Bible, and with such confused stuff as this thou makest thy proofs which the least of wisdom would be ashamed of. If that engraven in stone be the word, and that in Baruch's roll the word, and both wanting, the letter of the one and the matter of the other, then there is two of the words lost, and how thou wilt prove that which is lost to be the word now, wisdom may judge, who knows the word of the Lord that endures forever, whatever becomes of the letter; [p.20] but a literal ministration suits best with thy made faith, how should that faith which comes not from God believe the living word, but like thy forefathers the Jews, who were deaf and blind as thou art, who could read the Scriptures, but the word of God had no place in them, who could hear Christ speak <466> literally with their carnal ears, but could not hear his word.
Thy next proof is as confused as the rest; thou sayest thou would prove the Scriptures to be the word of God out of our own mouths, and yet thy accusation against us is that we deny the Scriptures to be the word. What conjuration is this that thou art about, who canst prove an affirmative out of a negative; if our mouths do prove the Scripture to be the word, then stop thy mouth, who charges us for to deny it.
But thou goest on with thy divination, because we say the Scriptures are a declaration of the mind of God, from that thou divinest thus,
That which declares God's will is God's word.
But the Scriptures declares God's will.
Ergo, it is God's word.
As much as if thou hadst said,
Balaam's ass declared God's will
Ergo, Balaam's ass is God's word.
Which I think few will affirm, yet such is thy divination and thy proof in this like the rest of thy book.
And when thou hast thus done, thou beliest us again, saying that we say the Scriptures are not God's word, which is false, for where the Scriptures are given by inspiration of God it is God's word, but when the devil or the infidel steals them out of a book he gets but the letter, which he wresteth to his own destruction, in denying the Spirit therewith, and opposing Christ the light of the world, which is the next thing thou settest upon.
And though thou be made to confess that Christ is the true light that lighteth every man that comes into the world, yet would thou make people believe it is not sufficient, and calls it an error for us to say that this light is able to teach a [p.21] man to worship God rightly, and yet here confounds thyself and confesseth that its nature and property hath such a tendency, that is, sayest thou, as if God had said, I have done that which is sufficient for thy purgation, and thus thou applyest to the light of Christ to prove that it is not sufficient, and in plain words afterwards confesseth that Christ had done that which is able to enlighten and inform the world; and this light thou confessest he hath enlightened everyone withal, and yet calls it an error for us <467> to say that his light is sufficient. Hath not thy imaginations blinded thee herein? doth this true light enlighten every man that cometh into the world? and is able to enlighten and inform the world into the knowledge of it? and hath it such a nature, property and tendency? and yet must be an error to say that it is sufficient to guide in the ways of God? It seemeth thou mayest say a thing and confess it for truth who denies it in the life, but if we say it that live in it, it is counted an error.
The next piece of thy divination is, that if every man have received this light, then every man hath received Christ, for he is that light; and in this here is a double deceit.
First, in seeming to deny what before thou confessed, that Christ enlightens every man that comes into the world.
Secondly, because Christ is that light, thou wouldst make that light Christ, which many have the light of Christ, which lets them see their evil deeds, but not believing and following never come to the new birth or Christ formed in them, but walk in darkness though they see the light that doth reprove them; thou bringest that scripture (John 11:10), "But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." And with this thou wouldst deny that the light is in every man, whenas the words hath relation to his way; which is true, in the way of the wicked there is no light, yet in the heart of the wicked there is a light which condemns his wicked ways, who is gone out of the light into the darkness, and so being in the night stumbles, because the light is not in that way, but in that which reproves that way; so that he that is in self is in darkness, yet doth the light shine in the darkness, which manifests the deeds of darkness and reproves [p.22] them, and this shall all men witness to, whereby thy deceit shall be daily more laid open.
Thy next thing thou wouldst prove that the day of judgment is not past, I say, my desire is that thou wouldst mind it and prepare for it, by leaving thy lying and deceit and wicked envy, for a woeful day will that be to thee if thou be found in thy sin & pleading for it, unrepented of all this heap of confusion in thy book which thou hast raked together to cast upon the truth, will then lie heavy upon thy head.
For thy water, bread and wine, &c., I have spoken to formerly, <468> which may stand till it be disproved.
Thy next work is to prove respect of persons, a thing which God never commanded but hath often forbidden; neither canst thou find one scripture that commands it; yet thy impudency is such that thou perverts that scripture (Lev. 19:32) into a lie, and saith it is, Thou shalt honor the person. What a standing rule is this word of yours, that the deceit can thus turn quite into another thing than it speaks, the devil likes such a word as he can turn every way to plead for his kingdom.
With it he can plead for his pride, though it condemns pride. For respect of persons, though it forbid respect of persons.
For swearing, though it say, "Swear not at all."
Nay, is there anything so vile, which his subtlety in his servants cannot plead for therewith; no wonder though in all his he thus contends for that to be the word which he can thus wrest, for if the creature once believeth that to be the word which God hath written in their hearts, which the devil cannot change, then is the devil undone and his kingdom broken, and his many ways of deceit hedged up, when that one way and one word comes to be known, which word didst thou mind would judge the liar in thee, who saith, we make it a note of our infallible ministry that we do not reverence men, and charges us with denying honor and respect due to parents, masters, husbands, and wives, &c., a thing which never entered into our hearts, but what our words and lives doth witness against.
[p.23] Another lie thou tellest, That thou dare say not one of ten of us shall give the same answer to a question. To which I say, there is little that may be a reproach to the truth, but thou dare say it. But upon what ground dost thou say this? having never proved ten of us therein, and denying the Spirit of prophecy in thee, must it not be by the divination of witchcraft, by which thou can foretell such things as never was seen nor heard? and indeed the more to be suspected because it is a lie.
Thy next thing thou would prove, that Christ hath two bodies. This I know: that Christ is the head of one body, and that Christ I own; but how he hath two bodies, and but one head, or how thou wilt sever Christ from that body which ascended, which is the head, or make that into a head and a body, I shall <469> not here dispute with thee; it serveth me to know that that body is my head, and of the church which is his body, which cannot be said to be Christ distinct from that body, and so cannot properly be said to have two bodies, the one of them being the Christ. Neither do we herein deny that Christ our head to take flesh wholly, as thou falsely accuseth us; but we own him that came from heaven and is ascended into heaven, that word that became flesh and dwelt among us, which thou knowest not, who hath denied that faith which is the gift of God, with Hymenaeus & Philetus, with whom thou wouldst charge us, adding a lie thereto, as though we say the resurrection is past.
And another lie thou tellest, that one of us being asked the question answers that Christ was but a figure; and to prove that lie thou sayest, See Saul's Errand to Damascus, page 54, when that book hath but 37 pages in it, a suitable proof for such a lie. Neither is there such an answer by any of us in all that book, as thus thou proves thy work with thy own shame.
And thou goes on to tell whom we have affinity with, as Gnostics and Manichersb, &c., but is not thy affinity with them who art so well skilled in their opinions, which we meddle not with; and is it not by their spirit which thou boasts to know what ten of us will say beforehand. Their spirits we [p.24] deny, and thine also, with the papists and the rest, which thy filthy mind would compare us to, to make us odious, that with the rest of thy bundle of light, vain, frothy talk, and stories which thou hast set in thy book, which airy spirit stinks, and its words, in the nostrils of all sober men, as thy long story of a monk set in a chair, or carrying a bushel of coals to Newcastle, of hares and hounds, of apes, and coultingc language, and such filthy stuff as thou fillest thy book with, might suit a stage play more like than a sober Christian; all which we turn thee back, with the heap of thy confusion which in thy book is not worth answering.
Then thou comest to the conclusion, as thou sayest, and thou exhortest that everyone would compare what thou hast writ with the holy Scripture, and then judge. So say I also, that they may <470> see thee a perverter of Scripture, and a liar as I have proved thee.
Another lie thou tellest also, that all that thou hast writ against us is either from our own mouths or our own writings, when the greatest part of the accusations thou hast gathered out of a bloody persecuting petition of the priests of Westmorland, which are their lies cast upon us, not our words nor writings. And the rest are such as with thy divination thou hast raised out of the bottomless pit, which with the truth are turned upon thine own head, but us they touch not. Something more thou makest, as though thou couldst say of the evil manners of some of our teachers, but thou forbearest. To which I say, they that are blind may believe it is thy moderation; but who hath an eye to see, how into the depth of Satan thou art gone to drag up all this filth in thy book to cast upon us, who are clear of it. I say, he who well notes this will find cause to be of another mind.
Thou addest a Postscript to thy book, no less full of wickedness than the rest, and that is, wherein thou hast perverted my words into a lie, who was speaking of the two seeds, the old man and the new, one born after the flesh, the other after the Spirit; and because I said that Christ is not born after the flesh but after the Spirit, this thou wouldst pervert, as though I denied Christ come in the flesh at Jerusalem, which [p.25] some seeing thy murderous mind at that time did write down the words then spoken, and have set to their hands, which may show thy wickedness and clear the truth, as followeth:
James Nayler declaring of the two seeds, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the light being in the one, and the darkness in the other; in reference to what Jeremy Ives alleged from that Scripture, "He that walketh not according to this rule, it is because there is no light in him," said that Christ was not born after the flesh, but after the Spirit; that that which was born after the flesh was flesh, and that which was born after the Spirit was Spirit, and except a man was born of water and <471> the Spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jeremy Ives hearing what was spoken said, "I have now what I looked for," and afterwards demanded of James Nayler the same thing again. James Nayler said, that Christ was not born after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and immediately adjoined, "For that which is born after the flesh is flesh, and that which is born after the Spirit is Spirit." And also said that Christ was begotten of the Father and born of the Virgin, that he was true flesh and true blood, and that he appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, but was not sinful [p.26] flesh. And these words he spake together, whereof we are witnesses.
George Bishop Richard Davies
Richard Greneway Humfrey Wollrich
Robert Rich Robert Dring
William Wilson John Clarke
And whereas thou sayest, the Scripture makes no such distinction as born after the flesh, and after the Spirit, read Gal. 4:29 and thou mayest see that lie contradicted. And that he that is born after the flesh is a persecutor of him that is born after the Spirit. So it was before Christ suffered at Jerusalem, and so it is now. Neither was Christ as he was born of Mary, born after the flesh, but by promise begotten and brought forth, though he was true and holy flesh in the likeness of sinful flesh, but not sinful flesh being begotten not of sinful flesh, but of the Holy Ghost, by the word of the promise, which word became flesh, but is not after the flesh, but how shouldst thou know what he is that came down from heaven, or how he is born, who hast denied the faith which is the gift of God. Thy earthly faith knows not the heavenly body (whose flesh is the life of all creatures), how it is begotten, neither how it is born.
A promise thou makest in the latter end of thy book, which here I mind thee of, which if thou perform may be profitable to thy soul, therefore I am the more willing to put thee on it. The promise is this, that if by the words of truth it shall be made manifest that thou hast spoken any untruth, thou shalt with readiness of mind make a public acknowledgment of it unto the <472> world, which if thou perform, now that thy lies are clearly laid open, there is not much of thy book that must stand undenied. But that Spirit which made the promise so far before hand, whose repentance stands in thy own will, will never perform this promise. Thou must wait for another to perform, to which thou art an enemy in thy book; for that which leads to tell a lie doth not lead to [p.27] repent of it. That is he wherewith thou a long time hast been a sayer and not a doer. And if to the light of Christ in thy conscience thou do not turn, which shows thee this thy wickedness, by it to be led to repentance, to the pit thou wilt go in this thy wickedness, notwithstanding thy feigned promise.
So the many lies and false accusations which doth not so much strike at the truth, I pass by, as not willing to multiply words to clear that which our practice proves innocent in all places through the nation where the light is followed, and either that must clear us, or words will not, so let the Lord who is our life plead for us. Only some few queries I shall propound to lay open truth and error, to which if thou be as ready to answer in simplicity as thou hast been to slander in subtlety, that which lies hid may sooner be brought to light.
The queries are as followeth:
1. Whose spirit is that which men understands the Scriptures with, and tries spirits with, who are without the Spirit of God, seeing thou affirms that a man may understand scriptures, and try spirits without the Spirit of God, and whether that trial be not it which condemns the just, or hath God set up such a trier to judge, yea or no?
2. Seeing thou confesseth Christ to be the true light, and that he lighteth every man that cometh into the world, but denies that light to be within, show in plainness where he doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world, and not within, and how they come by it; and seeing thou sayest every man hath it, how have they it, and not within?
3. Seeing thou confesseth that the heathen hath a light that reproves them of sin, but not within, show where it is, what it is, whether the light of Christ or no, and how they came by it?
4. Whether that which reproves the heathen when they sin be the same that reproves thee when thou sins, and the rest who call <473> [p.28] yourselves believers, and whether it be in the same place and of the same nature, or wherein doth it differ as to place, nature, and operation?
5. Whether your light, who call yourselves believers, be within you or no, and if within, how you came by it when you were in darkness, as the moving cause, and if without, how doth it enlighten you and not within, and where doth it abide for you that is not in you?
6. Whether that light which is not within can enlighten the heart and understanding, whether the gospel be not hid to all who have their hearts and minds blinded, and whether it be not the work of the god of this world to blind hearts; whether such as deny the light within, and preach against it, lest people should believe in it, be not in his work and ministry, yea or no?
7. What kind of faith thine is, who hast denied that faith that is the gift of God, and how thou came by it, which God did not give thee, and whether that faith which is not of God be not of the devil, yea or no?
8. Did ever any of the saints profess a faith which they received not of God, and whether thy contention be for the faith once delivered to the saints, and if so, from whom hadst thou it, seeing thou denies it to be the gift of God?
9. What faith is that which pleads for sin, and preaches against perfection, that believes that they can never be free from sin, nor come to perfection while they are in this world, show the saint that so believed and so preached?
10. Was not the end of Christ's ministry for perfecting the saints, and is not that antichrist whose ministry is against it, or is Christ's ministry now changed against what it was?
11. Whether that faith that is not of God can receive the things of [p.29] God, or can be imputed for righteousness to him that hath it, and is not his righteousness of himself, whose faith is of himself, or can it be otherwise if it be the righteousness of faith?
12. Whether he that hath not received the faith of God be not an infidel, or is he to be believed in matters of God and Christ, and being of a false faith, is it safe to believe what he saith against the children of light?
13. Whether it be not plain nonsense to say that Christ doth <474> enlighten everyone that comes into the world (as thou dost confess in thy book) and then to deny that light to be in, that enlightens?
14. Whether Paul was rightly called and endued to the ministry, who was not sent to baptize, and whether it was not a sign that John was decreasing and Christ increasing, that being left out in Paul's command, who was called after Christ was offered up, or cannot a man now be a minister of Christ and not sent to baptize?
15. Seeing the last of Matthew is your strength for water baptism, I ask whether one may not be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, without being dipped in carnal water; also whether all you dip in the water, you do baptize them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If the first of these be yea and the latter no, then I conclude carnal dipping is not the thing.
16. Doth everyone that reads the Bible hear the word of God, or hath everyone the word that hath a Bible; and what difference is there betwixt the ministration of the letter now and that in the Jews' time, both denying the light and the faith which is the gift of God, and will this save now, without the ministration of the Spirit, more than in their days?
17. Whether that righteousness that a man reads of in the letter, sets himself to do the like without that faith which is the gift of God, or the leading of the light of Christ, the ministration of the Spirit, be the righteousness of faith, or self-righteousness?
[p.30] Now I appear to every honest heart, that I have not proposed these queries out of curiosity, or to dive into things above the measure of a Christian, but that which everyone ought to know who professes not so high as thou dost. So that if it be not thy subtlety, lest thou shouldst be discovered, thou needest not be letted from answering in plainness, that thy faith may be known, what it is thou contends for, that so simple ones may not be beguiled with feigned subtlety instead of faith, for if the faith be false, that profession stinks, and the professor thereof is not to be believed in whatever he saith touching religion.
1. John 15:5.
2. John 5:30.
3. 1 Cor. 2.
4. Acts 13:27.
5. Eph. 2:8.
6. Heb. 12:2.
7. Jas. 1:17.
8. John 3:27.
9. 2 Cor. 4:13.
10. Jude 3.
11. Heb. 11:1.
12. 1 Pet. 1:2.
13. Isa. 26:12.
14. Phil. 2:13.
15. 1 Pet. 1:22.
16. John 3:21.
17. Luke 18:34; 2:50; 9:45; John 10:6; 12:16.
a. Thomason date: 18 July 1656.
b. probably intending "Manichaeans."
c. Someone has crossed out the first part of this word and written in "can" (i.e., to make the word "canting").