The Epistle to the Reader
Using the 1828 Webster's Dictionary for assistance in translating obsolete meanings of words, this writing has minor changes to reflect current language and word usage, but in all cases great care was taken to preserve the original meaning.)
To all the world to whom this may come to be read, that they read with a good understanding, and hereby they may come to the perfect knowledge of the ground of difference between the priests, and professors, and all sects in these nations, and us who are in scorn called Quakers; showing that the controversy on our part is just and equal against them all, and that we have sufficient cause to cry against them, and to deny their ministry, their church, their worship, and their whole religion, as being not in the power, and not by the spirit of the living God, as commanded of him, or ever practiced by his saints; but this declares their ground and foundation to be another thing, than that on which the true church, and ministry, and practice, and worship, and true religion were built in the days of the apostles. This also is an invitation to all sects and professions of people to come forth and try if what they hold and profess is according to the scriptures of truth; and to do this in trying all, by evident and sound arguments, and by the best spiritual weapons they have, and to lay aside all this persecution and unrighteous dealing, and stocking, and whipping, and imprisoning of us for speaking against their religion; and that they come forth in fair dispute, to contend in the spirit of meekness, for what they profess and practice, and to prove, according to the scriptures, their ministry, church, and whole religion, that it is in and by the spirit and power of God, or otherwise to renounce and deny all their religion, and the profession and practices thereof, that every man may be satisfied who they are that are in the true and right way, and of the true worship, and true religion, and who are not; and this is desired by us who are called Quakers. Here also is a true account of our first beginning and coming forth in the world; and of the great sufferings we have sustained, and how we have been carried on and preserved to this day.
The Lord God everlasting, who is true and faithful, has fulfilled his promise in us, and to us, and we are gathered from the mouths of all dumb shepherds, and out of the mouths of all hirelings, who have made a prey upon us, and fed themselves with the fat, and devoured souls for dishonest gain. We have come to the fold of eternal rest, where Christ Jesus is the chief Shepherd, and he is the shepherd and bishop of our souls, that feeds his flock with living bread that nourishes us to life eternal. He has called us by his name, and put us forth, and he feeds us in green pastures, and we are fed with hidden manna, and lie down at noon with his gathered flock. Out of nations, kindreds, multitudes, and peoples are we redeemed to God, and have come out of the world, and out of great Babylon, and out of spiritual Sodom and Egypt, where the Lord Christ was and is crucified, and lies slain to this day. Atop of the world has the Lord set us, on the mountain of his own house and dwelling; where we behold and feel the life, and glory, and crown of the world that has no end; and the world that has an end is seen over, and its crown and glory are his footstool that reigns among us. As for all what this perishing world brings forth, which men seek after, it is reckoned as our temptation, though all the sons of Adam are seeking its glory, its riches, its crowns, its contents. But we are of that birth that has no crown, no glory, nor rest under the sun; a birth is brought forth among us that is heir of another Kingdom and possessor of another crown, whose glorying is in the Lord all the day long; and he is our refuge, our rock, and our fortress against all our enemies with whatever the wicked arm themselves, and the ungodly bend their bow. -- What though all sorts of people, from the prince upon his throne to the beggar upon the dung-hill, exalt themselves against the despised people of the Lord's inheritance, who, for his name's sake, are killed all the day long! -- What though the wise men bring forth their arguments, and the rulers bring forth unrighteous judgments against the seed that God has blessed? -- What though the revelers and scorners open their mouths, and reporters and revelers cast out their bitter words as a flood against the remnant of the woman's seed, that has long been fled into the wilderness. What then if the teachers, the prophets, and the elders, and the heads, and wise men of the world set themselves to pray, and preach, and print against the chosen seed of Jacob? -- Notwithstanding all this, though this has come to pass, and hell has opened her mouth, and her floods break forth to overflow, and be much more increased; yet shall the King of righteousness rule among his people, and his presence will not forsake his chosen ones. The Lord is with us, a mighty, and a terrible one, and the shout of a king is among us, and the dread of the Almighty covers us, and it goes before us, and compasses us about; and the Lord is working a work in the earth, mighty and wonderful! He is gathering the scattered, and binding up the broken hearted, and his people shall dwell in safety, and none shall make them afraid, and no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper, nor any hand that is lifted up shall prevail. For Zion shall arise out of the dust, her beautiful garments shall be put on! And mourning and sorrow shall flee away; and her light is risen, that is everlasting, and the sun shall never go down, but his day shall remain for ever, and the night shall not again cover her brightness, nor the sun set upon her habitations. The city that has long laid waste, shall again be built, and the dwelling that has long been without inhabitant, shall be replenished; for the numberless seed of Jacob is coming out of Egypt, that will replenish the whole earth, and the seed of Esau shall become bondmen. And where are you gathered together? And to what purpose have the wicked spent their strength to oppose what the Lord is bringing to pass! Shall not all our enemies be broken to pieces, and will not the Lord grind them to powder! Will he not mar their beauty, and stain their pride? Will he not bring down their crowns, and corrupt their glory, and stain it with his fire of wrath, and make them ashamed of their ways and doctrines! Hear this you priests, and howl, and lament for the misery that is coming upon you! The Lord has laid you naked, and made you bare, and you are seen as you are, and the elect is risen among us which you cannot deceive. But, alas! Woe is me! How have you caused the people to err, and how have you led the blind out of the way, and how is truth fallen in your streets! You have daubed falsely with untempered mortar, and have cried peace to the wicked, and condemned the righteous, and all this has vexed the righteous soul, and the Lord will now arise, and is risen, and you shall not resist, and escape the stroke of his hand, which will come upon you, and bruise you as a millstone; for you have caused the wicked to rejoice, and the righteous to mourn, and you have made sad his heart whom God has not made sad.
Have not you fed yourselves with the fat, and clothed with the wool, and have not the people's souls been starved, and leanness been upon them all! Your plants are dry, barren trees that bring forth no good fruit; and your people are like a wilderness that is untilled, and unploughed, and undressed; and your flocks are like wild asses upon the mountains that are untamed, as rude as the horse and mule, that know no bridle. And now it is seen what the end of your ministry is, and what fruit it has brought forth. The Lord has taken notice, and beheld how you have loitered and lain idle, and the nations lie yet like fallow ground that bears no fruit; and men's hearts are untouched with absence of God's word, and there is no sound, true, and perfect sense among your people of the dealings of the Lord, nor of the operation of his spirit, but they remain in great blindness and ignorance, void of the knowledge of God. For you have not caused them to hear his word, but you have told your dreams, and your false visions, and you have spoken imaginations of your hearts, and not from the mouth of the Lord; neither have you stood in his counsel, nor hearkened to his voice, and therefore people remain without profit. What they and you know, it is natural, and not by the spirit of the Father; but as dry trees you are, not taught of the Father, and as rough goats, in the nature of swine that are polluted in the filth of the world, and in the nature of dogs, and lions, devouring one another, and biting one another, and killing one another; which things were not in the churches of Christ. We have a great controversy with you, and that from the Lord. We have tried you, searched you, and discovered your foundation, and it is not sound, nor will stand in the trial. We have fetched your line from the first original, and we have found out your beginning, and we find yours of that race, which Christ prophesied of that should come, who should deceive many, having the sheep's clothing, but inwardly ravening; and who John saw were come, and went out from the apostles and true churches, went from the truth, and went into the world, and had the form of godliness without the power. Here began the race in the apostasy of the churches. And when they apostatized from the true faith, then came up your original false church, and the world went after them, and all that dwelt upon the earth worshipped the beast, that has reigned through all this time of apostasy, which has been since the days of the apostles.
We find your original goes no further than to the false brethren, and false apostles, who went out from the true apostles, and ran for gifts and rewards, and preached, for filthy lucre, and through covetousness made merchandise of souls, seeking money and gain to themselves. I say, we find your original false church begins there, and your line goes no further, and your first rise never came as far as the true apostles. You were not, in your beginning, of their life nor birth, nor can be reckoned from their original, neither do you succeed them; but you truly succeed the false apostles, and false brethren, which Christ prophesied should come after his days, and John saw were come and coming in his days. We find you of this stock and generation, and now you are discovered to be contrary to the true apostles, and agreeing with the false apostles, in call, in practice, in maintenance, and in all things; and the line of true judgment is laid upon you all, and you are measured, and found too short, and weighed, and found too light. We will deal truly with you in Judgment:
Secondly. Again you are not according, but contrary to the true ministry and ministers of Christ in practice; for they were led by the spirit of the Father which dwelt in them, and they preached the gospel by the spirit, and spoke as the spirit gave them utterance, and went up and down the world through nations, converting people to the knowledge of the truth. What they had handled, tasted, seen, and felt of the word of life in then, that they declared to others, and preached the gospel which they had not received from man, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ in them. But your practice is not such, but contrary, for the spirit of this world leads you, and you follow it in all your works, in your preaching, praying, and in your whole worship, in form and tradition; what you have studied out of books and old authors, you preach to people, and what you have noted in a book, that you preach by an hour glass, and not as the spirit of God gives you utterance.
You seek out and inquire after great incomes, and much money by the year, and where there are much tithes and parish property, and such like; there and to such a place, you go, and seek to be ministers there, and there you remain twenty or forty years, more or fewer as you can agree with the people, and while they will give you so much as will content you, and maintain you, your wives and families, as you say, and regard not whether any be converted to God by your preaching, but people remain always in blindness and ignorance generally, and without the knowledge of God. For you preach other men's words, [repeating words from the Bible] and what you imagine their the saints' words to mean, in a fixed time allotted, leaning upon a soft cushion, and for money and hire preaching to the people, and this is your manner of practice, and ministry in these nations.
But the apostles or Christ's ministers did not do the same; but the contrary. By your fruits and works it appears that you are not followers of that spirit that Christ and his ministers were guided by, neither are you lawful successors of the apostles; but by your fruits and practice you manifest that the Lord never sent you, and Christ never called you into his service to be his ministers. For in all your practices and in your whole performances of worship you differ, and do not agree with, but are contrary to what the practice and worship of Christ's ministers and churches were in the days of the apostles. This I charge upon you, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord God, and am able to prove it against you, face to face, or otherwise to show that you are not of the same spirit, but contrary to the saints and apostles of old, and so not true successors of them, nor lawful ministers of Christ; as to all people it is, and shall be made manifest.
Thirdly. You disagree with and are contrary altogether to the true ministry, and to the apostles, in respect of your maintenance and wages; for the wages which Christ allowed his ministers, was, into whatsoever house they entered, that was worthy, they might eat such things as were set before them, for the workman (said he) is worthy of his hire. And the apostles eat only of the fruit of the vineyard that they had planted, and of the milk of the flock which they kept, by a free gift of the people, whom they had begotten to the faith. To whom they had sowed spiritual things, it was but as a small matter if they reaped their carnal things; and though they would accept an unasked-for, free gift, yet the apostle said he would not make the gospel of Christ chargeable. In this manner were Christ's ministers and ministry in wages and gifts, upheld and maintained outwardly in the world.
But your practice and maintenance are not like Christ said, but contrary, as is fully made manifest; for you will have so much by the year promised to you in tithes, money, or parish lands, or stipends; and of drunkards, and swearers, and profane worldly people, who are not sheep of Christ's flock, nor plants of his vineyard. You require a percentage from each of them, and of every man in your parish; and if any, either out of covetousness, or good conscience, cannot pay you, you sue them at the courts and cast them into prison for wages; you seize the property, taking triple value, no sometimes five double damage,* and through violence, injustice, and cruelty you are maintained in such a manner, and not as the true ministers and apostles of Christ were, but in a way and manner quite contrary, as it is shown; and so herein is proved, that you are not lawful successors of the apostles and ministers of Christ.
Fourthly. Again, you do not follow the apostles and true ministers of Christ, but are contrary to them in doctrine, as this following volume will clearly manifest, which for this very end is collected from your own mouths and pens, that all men may see what you are, and what you hold and profess; and being truly laid down and answered, let yourselves, and all sober men, compare your doctrines and sayings with the doctrines of the apostles, and they may see you are not in agreement with them, but are contrary to them. Now, friends, to all you that profess yourselves to be ministers of the gospel, I do hereby declare to you, in the name and authority of the Lord, that we have controversy with you, and a great charge against you in all these things, in your call, in your practice, in your maintenance, and in your doctrines; and our mouths has the Lord opened, and they cannot be shut from declaring and crying against you, as such whom the Lord never sent, but are contrary to Christ, his prophets, and apostles, in all your ways and practices; and the hand of the Lord is certainly against you, and his power and dread will come over you, and lie upon your consciences.
Now, reader, whoever reads this following volume, if your mind is sober, and your heart right towards God, you may come to a good understanding of the ground and cause of this great controversy, between the priests and the professors of this nation, and us who are in scorn called Quakers, for it is not unknown to nations. Of this great debate and battle, now for some years of continuance in this nation, no man can be ignorant. What putting in prisons, and what persecuting, and what preaching and printing against us, and what reports and defamation have been through this nation for some years past! The Quakers, so called, have written, and spoken, and printed against the priests, and their worships, and ways, and doctrines, and declared against them, as deceivers and false prophets, and such as never were sent of God. On the other hand, thus have the priests, and more abundantly, cried out against, and printed against the Quakers, as heretics, and deceivers, and witches, and all that they could say that was evil. These things being not unknown, but publicly brought to pass, it will be good to discover to every man, the first ground and cause of this great strife, and the matter of it, and its beginning, so that all may know the certainty of these things, and know they are not without good ground and sufficient reason on our part, namely, that we have just cause to do, and strive against that generation of priests and teachers, and that we do nothing rashly, and without sufficient reason.
It is now about seven years since the Lord raised us up in the north of England, and opened our mouths in this his spirit; and what we were before in our religion, profession, and practices is well known to that part of the country; that generally we were men of the strictest sect, and of the greatest zeal in the performance of outward righteousness, and went through and tried all sorts of teachers, and have run from mountain to mountain, and from man to man, and from one form to another; as do many to this very day, who yet remain not gathered to the Lord. Such we were, (to say no more of us), that sought the Lord, and desired the knowledge of his ways more than any other thing. I speak as one, who from a child of even a few years old, set my face to seek and find the saviour, and, more than life and treasure or any mortal crown, sought with all my heart the one thing that is needful, namely, the knowledge of God.
After our long seeking, the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us; by which we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world, had enlightened every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works.
This light gave us to discern between truth and error, between every false and right way, and it perfectly discovered to us the true state of all things; and we thereby came to know man, what he was in his creation before transgression, and how he was deceived and overcome by the devil, and his estate in transgression, and in disobedience, and how he is driven and banished from the presence of the Lord, and the sorrow and anguish which he is in and to undergo. Also by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration, and the means by which to be restored, and the state of man when come out of transgression and restored. These things to us were revealed by the light within us, which Christ had given us, and lighted us withal; what man was before transgression, and what he is in transgression, and what he is being redeemed out of transgression. Also as our minds became turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know; her estate before the apostles' days, and in the apostles' days, and since the days of the apostles; and her present estate we found to be as a woman who had once been clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, who brought forth him that was to rule the nations; but she was fled into the wilderness, and there sitting desolate, in her place that was prepared of God for such a season, in the very end of which season, when the time of her sojourning was towards a full end, then were we brought forth.
If any have an ear, they may hear. So that all these things concerning man, and concerning the times and seasons, and the changing and renewing of times, and all things that pertain to salvation, and redemption, and eternal life, needful for man to know, all these were revealed, discovered, and made known to us, by the light which was in us, which Christ had lighted us withal.
We found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from where this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness [experience] him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation.
In all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ), to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ has enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing.
So we ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships, and their temples, and all their baptisms and churches; and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion, in times before zealously performed by us, through several forms, and we became fools for Christ's sake, that we might become truly wise. By this light of Christ in us we were led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men's words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord's pure spirit, and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways; and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way between us and the Lord; and we chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. While waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and the gift of God's holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spoke with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. To us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then we began to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb forever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. Much more might be declared hereof, what could not be believed if it were spoken, of the several and particular operations and manifestations of the everlasting spirit that was given us, and revealed in us.
But this is the sum: life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared to us, and the joyful sun of righteousness did arise and shine forth to us and in us; and the holy anointing, the everlasting comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the promise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, by which we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and covenant with the Lord God, whose mercies are sure and infinite, and his promise never fails. We were raised from death to life, and changed from Satan's power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest, and mighty and wonderful things has the Lord wrought for us, and by us, by his own outstretched arm.
Thus we became followers of the Lamb wherever he goes; and he has called us to make war in righteousness for his name's sake against hell and death, and all the powers of darkness, and against the beast and false prophet, which have deceived the nations. We are of the royal seed elect, chosen and faithful, and we war in truth and just judgment; not with weapons that are carnal, but by the sword that goes out of his mouth, which shall slay the wicked, and cut them to pieces. After this manner was our birth or bringing forth, and thus has the Lord chosen us and made us an army dreadful and terrible, before whom the wicked do fear and tremble; and our standard is truth, justice, righteousness, and equity; and all that come to us, must cleave thereunto, and fight under that banner without fear, and without doubting, and they shall never be ashamed nor put to flight, neither shall they ever be conquered by hell or death, or by the powers of darkness; but the Lord shall be their armor, weapon, and defense for evermore. They that follow the Lamb shall overcome, and get the victory over the beast, and over the dragon, and over the gates of hell; for the Lord is with us, and who shall be able to make us afraid.
Besides all their petitioning the magistrates against us, and preaching and praying against us, and all the evil and wickedness, in work, word, and desire brought forth against us from time to time; here sober reader you have a catalogue and whole number of books printed and written against us, and abundance of their doctrines uttered against us, and in opposition to us, gathered up in this volume in a sum, with our answers to them; and if your heart and mind are single, you may hereby understand, in measure, the difference in doctrine between them and us, and compare each of them with the scriptures, and see whether their doctrines and principles laid down as the subject of their books, or our doctrines and principles laid down in answer to theirs, agree with the scriptures. If you are impartial in this business, and single in this search and judgment, I doubt not, but you will in a great measure satisfy yourself, and be resolved concerning the priests and professors of England, and us who are called Quakers. When you have done this, own and deny them or us, as the Lord shall persuade you; for you may fully perceive we differ in doctrines and principles, and the one you must justify, and the other you must condemn, as being one contrary to the other in principles. I wish also you would measure us, and compare us in life and conversation, and truly judge, whether they or we do follow Christ and his apostles in practice and conversation. In all things lay us and them to the line of true judgment, and with an upright heart judge accordingly; for know this, there is not any principle we hold, nor any work which we practice in our religion and worship, but we are willing, and fully desire may be brought to the bar of true justice, and in every particular of principle and practice, examined and tried to the full. Each of us judged in truth and equity, whether it be they or we that are of the true religion, and true faith and true worship of God that the apostles were in; and which of us it is that is in a wrong way, and in a false religion, and false faith and worship. In this we will join issue with them, in the sight of the whole nation, if they will come forth to trial, (if what is already brought forth by them against us, and by us against them, for these seven years, in disputes, and in printing, and otherwise, is not sufficient for all people to try us, and judge us by, whether they or we are in the right.)
Now I do appeal to that of God in the consciences of all people in the nation, to judge between the priests and professors, and all the sects, and us. You have heard their doctrines, and you have heard something of ours; you have seen their conversation, and you have seen something of ours; you have heard them long, and something of us you have heard for a little season, and now give your evidence, is it not with them as we have said? Are not your priests in the steps of the false prophets and of the deceivers, and do not they seek for their gain from their quarter, as they did that Isaiah cried against. Do not they preach for hire and divine for money, as they did which Micah cried against? Are not they such by whom you have not been profited, as Jeremiah cried against? Let that of God in you answer to these things. Are they not proud men, and covetous men, and envious men, and heady high-minded men, and given to filthy lucre? Are they not such as through covetousness make merchandise of souls, and that by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, such as Paul and Peter declare against? Are they not such as the true prophets, Christ, and his apostles cried against? Do they not bring forth the same fruits as did the false prophets, and false apostles? I leave it to your consciences to be the judge; compare them, and lay them to the line of true judgment. If you do not shut your eyes, you may see it is so.
Have we charged them falsely, or have we not spoken the truth concerning them? We have said they are false ministers and deceivers, and not true ministers of Christ; and is it not so? Let the light in your consciences answer. We have said they have run, and never were sent, and that they have not profited the people at all; and is it not so? To the witness of God in you I do appeal, and let that testify that we have spoken nothing but the truth. Examine and try in all things that we have charged them with, and are they not guilty in all things that we have charged upon them? Let the witness of God in you testify to this.
What do you judge of them, are they not of that stock which Christ said should come, and should be wolves in sheep's clothing, and should deceive many, and which John saw were come in his days, and which the whole world went after? Are not they in the nature of wolves, devouring and tearing the lambs of Christ? Do they not tear people by causing their bodies to be imprisoned and their goods to be spoiled, (property seized by the courts for failure to swear)? Do they not deceive many? Yet they have the sheep's clothing, the saints' words and their practices, but inwardly are they not ravening? Does not the world go after them, and has not the world run after them for many ages; and is it not thus with them? Have they received the gift of the holy ghost, or are they not made ministers by the will of man, and not by the will of God! Do they not differ in call, in practice, in maintenance, and in fruits and effects from the true ministers and true apostles? Do they not agree with the false prophets, false ministers, and deceivers, in their call, practice, maintenance, fruits, and effects? Search the scriptures, and lay them to that line, and then let the witness in your consciences judge and answer. Do they not prepare war against such as put not into their mouths? Do not they feed with the fat, and clothe with the wool? Do they not oppress the nation and the creation? And are not they such whose call, and practices, and maintenance, and whole ministry, have a dependence on [being evolved from] Popery? Does it not all savor of [resemble] Popery, and are not the main and principal parts thereof, ordained by the pope? This may be fully made manifest. Are not all professors, and sects of people, such as have the form but are without the power of godliness? Are not people still covetous and earthly minded, and given to the world, and proud and vain, even those who profess religion, and to be a separated people? Are not professors as covetous and proud as those who do not profess? Are not they given to the world, and does it not show that they are not changed nor translated, but death reigns among them? Is it not manifest that they have taken up the form of the apostles' and Christ's words and practices, and are without the life, and not guided by the spirit of Christ at the apostles in their praying and preaching? Are not your souls lean and starved? To the witness of God in you all I speak; which may testify that many people have a show of religion without life, and therefore have not we spoken the truth of them, in what we have said? In the day of judgment you shall answer it.
As concerning the Quakers, what do you say of them? You have seen their conversation; there are few towns but where some of them have been and are among you. Do not they fear God? Do not they walk justly and truly among their neighbors, and speak the truth, and do truth in all things, doing to all no other than they would be done to? Are they not meek, and humble, and sober? Do not they take much wrong, rather than give wrong to any? Are they not such as delight in the ways of the Lord? Do they not deny the world and its pleasures and forsake all iniquity more than yourselves? Do they not take up the daily cross of Christ to all its ways and earthly glories? Do they not preach in the power of God, reach to your consciences, when you hear them? Does not the light in you answer that they speak the truth? Are not their doctrine, and practice, and maintenance the same as was the apostles' and faithful ministers'? Compare them with the scripture, and then judge in your consciences. Do they not suffer many hard and cruel things even all manner of evil spoken and done against them falsely for the name of Christ? Are you ignorant of their great sufferings through this nation? And what do you think? Is their suffering for evil doing, or is it not for righteousness' sake? What harm do they to any, by work or word? Why are they reproached, and mocked, and scorned? Why are they put in prisons, and whipped, and thus sorely abused? Is it for any evil doing, or is it not because they are the servants of the Lord? Compare their fruits with the priests' fruits, their conversation with the priests' conversation, and see which is most like the apostles. These things I leave with you, that you may come to consider and judge justly of all things; for the Lord God is risen, and his light in people's consciences is shining forth, and it shall answer to what I say, in this world or in the day of judgment, when we, and all mankind, shall appear and come forth to trial, and every man's work shall be tried, and all shall receive according to their deeds.
Let such, whether they or we, that cannot prove ourselves to be the true church of Christ, nor of the true worship, and true religion, nor in the truth, but are found to be in the error, and out of the truth, — let such deny their worship and church, and renounce all their religion, and confess to all the world, under their hands, that they are and have been deceived, and for ever hereafter stop their mouths, and never profess nor practice any more what they have done in such religion. Freely upon these issues and conditions we will join trial with them. Let them appoint time, place, and proffer terms at their own pleasure, and then to all the world it shall be manifest, and to all people discovered, whether we have not good ground and sufficient reason, to war against these priests. It may perfectly appear that what we have said and written against them, these several years, has been upon a good foundation, and we have had sufficient cause to speak and write against them as we have done. None thenceforth shall have cause to say, or doubt, that what we have spoken and written against them has been out of malice or envy, and without cause or good reason; but on the contrary, all shall know the ground of quarrel is sufficient, and full of equity on our part.
Upon these or any equal terms and conditions, would we, and are we willing to engage with these priests, and all or any one of these sects in a lawful trial, in disputes or writings, for the trial and searching out of the truth, and the true religion. And was it not equal and reasonable, that we had the same liberty among all these priests, and in their churches or assemblies freely to declare our minds, and to let forth ourselves in what we hold and profess, without being violently haled, and beat, and whipped, and sent to prison as we have been these many years? Which liberty we do freely grant and allow among us to all, to query, or declare what is upon them, without such violent dealing, or whipping, or sending them to prisons and houses of correction. The same freedom and no other do we desire of others, in this particular, to declare the truth and what we hold, than what we do and would allow to others; and that no weapon be used by them against us, nor dealing towards us, but the weapons of the spirit, the best they have or can bring forth against us. Let them let creatures alone, and not hurt nor do violence to them, and no other weapons shall we use against them, nor deal with them by any other thing, but the weapons of the spirit of God, which is powerful, and will bring down strong holds; and as for creatures, we shall not hurt, nor do violence, nor imprison them. Whose weapons are the strongest, let such overcome.
Such as are overcome, are not the true church; for the true church of Christ, which is built upon the rock, the gates of hell cannot prevail against. Who do overcome, let it be manifest that God of a truth is with them. Let them all cease to defend their church, and ministry, and religion, with prisons, and whips, and houses of correction; for the true church, ministry, and religion was never defended by such things, but only the power and authority of God preserved them, and resisted all their enemies; and so it is at this day. Let all cease to cry deceivers, and being afraid they will be deceived; for if they are the true church, all, or any one of these sects and professions of religion, then if we are deceivers, and come among them, they cannot be deceived, if they are in the election; for neither deceivers, nor the gates of hell can prevail against the true church of Christ, nor against those who are elect, which the devil has nothing in. If we are the true church of Christ, and in the election, then if all the deceivers upon earth come among us, they cannot prevail against us, nor deceive us; for the elect cannot be deceived. Upon these terms we may engage with any people and sect upon earth. Therefore come to this, and join with us; take you the liberty to declare in soberness what you own and profess, and you shall not be persecuted, nor your bodies nor persons harmed by violence; and let us have that liberty to declare in meekness and soberness, and in God's authority, among you what we hold and profess, and let us not be persecuted, and dealt violently withal; and then let it appear whether we or our enemies have a greater testimony, and more powerful in the hearts of people. Is this not a way full of equity for the trial of all things! But doing contrary, as you have done these many years against us, by violence, and whipping, and persecuting, it shows you have not the spiritual weapons, nor the authority of God with you, nor among you. That is the cause of running to magistrates, and putting in jails, and whippings, and all violence, because the authority of God's spirit is lacking among you, which all the false sects and false churches, since the days of the apostles, have lacked, to defend themselves and resist their enemies. So all sects have been fighting one with another, and killing persons, and have defended themselves by prisons, and inquisitions, and destroying of lives. These have been out of the power of God, and in the power of the dragon, and of the beast, who has caused all to worship, and them that would not, he has had power to kill, and has killed them, by fires, and tortures, and cruel deaths. All these have lost the spiritual weapons, and been without the power and spirit of God. What a church is this of yours, which has need to be defended by jails, and prisons, and whips, and stocks, and violent dealing! This church is not the church of Christ, for the power and spirit of God defends her always, and not inquisitions, and prisons, and whips. These are Cain's weapons, and not the weapons of the spirit of God, by which his true church was ever defended. For because Cain's sacrifice was not accepted, therefore he slew his brother, and persecuted him; and thus you that are of Cain's seed do the same upon the same ground because your works are rejected, and theirs accepted with whom you deal thus in this violent way of persecution and wickedness.
This is the Protestant church, so called, and her ministers, with whom I am now dealing, which seems to be the true church, and more than the church of Rome. For you Protestant ministers do deny and cry against the church of Rome as a false church, and her ministers to be deceivers, which in itself is very true, yet your hypocrisy in this does appear, and your double mindedness; for let me tell you, while you cry against the church of Rome as a false idolater, and a persecutor of the true church, and against her ministers as deceivers, and contrary to the apostles, your spirits are the same, and your works the same in nature, though not in measure, and in particular, this work of yours to imprison people, and whip them, and put them in the stocks, and beat them, and abuse their persons, who only speak against you and your religion; is not this work of the very same nature as the work of the Roman church? She to defend herself has inquisitions, and banishment, and many cruel tortures, and with these things she defends herself, killing and afflicting the bodies of people that oppose her, and deny her religion; and you have stocks, and whips, and houses of correction, and put great fines and tasks upon people, and banish them out of towns, and spoil their goods, and cast them into prison [where many die] who oppose your church and deny your religion. Is not this equal and justly according in nature to the persecution that is in the Roman church?
What is the difference between the defense of the church of Rome and your church of Protestants? They have their inquisitions, and you have your houses of correction; they have their slavery in the galleys, and you have whips and stocks; they have their several torments, and cruel dealings towards persons that oppose them, in one manner, and you have your torments and cruel dealings towards us in another manner; though not in the same measure, yet in the same nature. What difference between you and them? Herein does the hypocrisy of the Protestant church and their ministers appear, in that they cry against and deny the church of Rome and their persecution and cruelty acted against others, and yet in nature and manner practice the very same upon us, as in England this day is witnessed.
Not only in this particular may the church and ministers of the Protestants be condemned for hypocrisy, but also in many other things, even most of their practices in their worship are of the same nature, and by the same spirit, which the practices of the church of Rome are acted by and in. Not only so, but it may be truly proved and made manifest, that many of your church practices have proceeded from the church and pope of Rome who did ordain and institute many of your practices, and a great part of your worship, which is performed in the church and by the ministry of the Protestants, so called. This in its time and season I may make fully appear, and discover to the nations; and I may show in the particulars, what particulars of the worship and practice in the Protestant church had their rise and original in the church of Rome. Though they are minced with diminishings and addings, according as their imaginations have guided them, they still retain the strongest taste and savor of the church of Rome, and had their beginning and original there. Although in the performing thereof, they may be altered and changed in appearance and form, they are perfectly the same in ground and nature, as springing from the church of Rome, and she is the mother of the Protestant church, and of the most of her practices and performances in worship. This may be proved, as, God willing, upon occasion, as the Lord moves, I may show that though the church of the Protestants have deserted the church of Rome, yet their ministry, its call, and ordination, and its practice and maintenance have a dependency upon the church of Rome, as being the original of what is by them therein practiced, though in some things deviated from the exact form and practice thereof.
Also the whole worship, all the particulars in relation to the Protestant church, and ministry, and worship, have a dependence upon the church of Rome, as being the first original thereof. Though they cry against her and her ministers, and have denied her, yet is she the mother from whom proceeded the Protestant church, ministry, worship, and practices; and this may be manifest at full that the Protestant's church, ministry, and worship, chiefly taste and savor of the church and worship of Rome, and had their original out of her. Also further may be showed, that the Protestant church, and worship, and ministry, are not another in nature and being, than the Roman church, ministry, and worship, but have sprung there from as branches out of the same root, the ground being one and the same though differing in appearance. For in her beginning and first dissenting from the Roman church, she did not deny her in ground and being, as not being at all the church of Christ, but only in some particulars dissented, always, then and to this day, retaining several of their practices in worship and church government; which shows that the Protestant church is not perfectly another, nor her ministry, government, and worship another; but the same in ground and being, only digressed and deviated in particulars.
This may be fully manifest in season, that the Protestant church, and worship, and ministry, are sprung of the Roman church, as a branch out of her, not contrary to her, nor against her. All these things is the Lord discovering and laying open, that nations and peoples may come to behold the mother of harlots, that mystery of iniquity, and all her children, and may see the state and turning of times and things, ever since the days of the apostles and true churches. That all these several sects, and all these churches, falsely so called, are risen up one out of another, from one seed and womb, and though diverse in appearances, and many in practices and professions, yet are they all one in the ground and nature, sprung from the mother of harlots all of them, and are her children. She has corrupted the earth with her fornications and whoredoms, and made nations and kingdoms drunk with her cup of idolatry; but the Lord God is risen and will plead with her, and give her double, and the holy prophets and apostles shall rejoice over her; and this is coming to pass, and this I have seen from the Lord, and received it from him, and thus it came upon me to write.
Now the beast, false prophet, and mother of harlots, devil, and antichrist, that have drunk the blood of the saints, that have the sheep's clothing, these are the killers with the sword, the slayers with the sword, the imprisoners and persecutors; which was not the work of the true apostles, true ministers, that kept the faith and patience of Jesus. The martyrs, the saints, and the prophets suffered. Now these were in the spirit that gave forth the scriptures, but the others got the scriptures: antichrists, false prophets, mother of harlots, the devil, the beast, and all his names, which killed and slew with the sword. These are inwardly ravening from the spirit of God, the spirit of the lamb, the spirit of the apostle, who killed and slew with the sword, which are the words of his mouth. So all these names, in the whole Christendom among all that are called christians, have gotten up among them since the days of the apostles, which are gone out of the life, and faith, and spirit they were in, which they had unity in, which was the bond of peace. These have had the words, but ravened from the life, and so are all on heaps about the words, and giving one another names. So look in the whole of Christendom and see what abundance of names there are, which should be one family. All these names, horns, and crowns, and building up and throwing down, are all a mark among them that have had the words but were out of the life, which life now is risen, which the Apostles lived in, which they since the days of the apostles have been out of, in many names and heaps, in the apostasy. Now with the life is all this fathomed and comprehended, in which is the unity, which life brings people to know God, and unity with him, and with scriptures, and one with another; and all are one here, if there be ten thousand times ten thousand. You who read over this book may read and see things which you never read nor saw printed. Did ever the lambs worry the wolves? Did not the wolves get the sheep's clothing, and raven after the sheep and lambs, that they might get among them! Pride, and wildness, and pleasure have swallowed up people, teachers, and ministers, that if any are sober and still, presently he is a Quaker! Thus modesty is eaten up.
This is the preface Volume 3 of 8. Click here to proceed to the beginning of the Fox's rebuttals to the unscriptural claims of the Protestant sects in England.
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