MARGARET FELL'S LETTER TO THE KING ON PERSECUTION, 1660
We who are the people of God called Quakers, who are hated and despised, and every where spoken against, as people not fit to live, as they were that went before us, who were of the same spirit, power, and life, and were as we are, in that they were accounted as the off-scouring of all things, by that spirit and nature that is of the world; and so the scripture is fulfilled, "He that is born of the flesh persecutes him that is born of the spirit." We have been a suffering people, under every power and change, and under every profession of religion that has been, and borne the outward power in the nation these twelve years, since we were a people, and being that, through the old enemy which has continually appeared against us, not only in the profane people of the nation, but also in the highest profession of sorts and sects of religion, we have suffered under, and been persecuted by them all. Some even persecuted and imprisoned till death; others their bodies bruised till death, stigmatized, bored through the tongue, gagged in the mouth, stocked, and whipped through towns and cities; our goods spoiled, our bodies two or three years imprisoned; with much more that might be said, which is well known to the actors thereof. This was done not for the wronging of any man, nor for the breach of any just law of the nation, nor for evil doing, nor desiring any evil, or wishing any hurt to any man, but for conscience sake towards God, because we could not bow to their worship, and because we could not maintain a ministry, which ministry we could not join with nor own. So we look upon it to be unjust to maintain them we receive nothing from, nor cannot trust our souls under their teaching, who "teach for hire, and divine for money," which the prophets of the Lord cried woe against. Christ said, a hireling was a thief and a robber, and would flee because he was a hireling. They are maintained by tithes, contrary to Christ and the apostles' doctrine, who said the priesthood was changed that took tithes, and the law also that gave them, and who witnessed Christ Jesus to be the everlasting offering once for all, Who said, "Such a high-priest has come to us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death and was heard in that he feared: though he was a son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made perfect became the author of eternal salvation to all of those who obey him." And for obedience to him and his commands do we suffer, who has said, "Swear not at all." He said, "Call no man master upon earth, for you have one master in heaven." Who has said, "How can you believe who seek honor one of another, and not the honor that comes from God only." Who has said "Let your yes be; yes and your no, no, for whatsoever is more than this, comes from evil." Because we cannot respect persons, which is contrary to the apostle's doctrine and practice, who has said, "Of a truth God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that fears God, and works righteousness, is accepted of him." The apostle James exhorted his brethren not to have "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons, for if you respect persons you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors." Contrary to this faith and doctrine we are made transgressors by the powers of the earth, because we cannot respect persons, and commit sin, and be made transgressors of the law of God. This has been the only ground and cause of our sufferings, because we obeyed the command of Christ, the author of our eternal salvation, and observed the apostles' doctrine and practice; and not for any other cause or end have our sufferings been, but for conscience sake, because we cannot bow to men's wills and worships contrary to the command of Christ Jesus our everlasting priest, king, and prophet, whom we serve with our spirits, and worship in that which the world calls heresy.
Now several of you, who are most concerned in this government, are not acquainted with our principles and practices, neither have you known our innocence and sufferings. The old enemy, by whom we have suffered, at this time is ready to incense and instigate, and infuse secretly into the minds of those who are strangers to us, against whom we have not transgressed, neither do we desire to give any just occasion of offense to these present governors who as of yet have not done us much wrong, in making any law against us, that we know of. We do believe the present governors would not make laws against us if they has a correct understanding our innocence and integrity, nakedness and singleness in our carriage towards all men upon the face of the earth; if you would examine and search out our carriage and behavior towards all men's persons, souls, and estates; if these things were searched and examined through the nations; and if no prejudice were let into your minds from others' words, which proceed from secret envy, malice, and hatred, and not from any just ground they have against us, but, as it is, from a contrary spirit and mind. As it was when the Jews were against Christ, and when all others were against the apostles, so it is the same now against us; but this we commit to the Lord, who will plead our cause, and clear our innocence, who has said "Vengeance is mine, and I will repay it." They know we cannot swear, nor take an oath, for conscience sake. We have suffered because we could not take them. But now the magistrates of several counties of the nation, through the suggestion, of the priests' envy, which is deeply rooted against us, require us to take an oath, which they call the oath of allegiance; with several other obligations, whatever their own wills can invent, on purpose to ensnare us. Upon the denial of taking the oaths,they may cast us into prison, and have already cast several of us into prison at their own pleasure.
We do therefore declare, to remove all jealousies, fears, and suspicions of our truth and fidelity to the king, and these present governors, that our intentions and endeavors are and shall be good, true, honest, and peaceable towards them, and that we do love, own, and honor. So far as they do rule for God and his truth, the king and these present governors, have not yet imposed and do not impose anything upon people's consciences, but let the gospel have its free passage through the consciences of men; and if they grant liberty of conscience towards God and towards man, then we know that God will bless them. For such lack has been the overthrow of all that went before them. We do not desire any liberty that may justly offend any one's conscience, but the liberty we do desire is, that we may keep our consciences clear and void of offense towards God and towards men, and that we may enjoy our civil rights and liberties of subjects, as freeborn Englishmen. This we do in the presence of the Lord declare, not in flattering titles, but in reality and truth of our hearts, and shall manifest the same. Now, that we may be clear in the presence of the living God, and of all just and moderate men, that they may not have their hands in blood and persecution, as those have had that are gone before, and that they may not be ignorant of us, and of our principles and practice, and so receive information against us that are designs from other's envy, which may be contrary to our very principle, and the truth as it is in Jesus; and that we may be free from the blood of all men, and that they may not have a hand in persecuting and oppressing the innocent, whose cause God has pleaded and will plead; we do therefore inform the governors of this nation, high and low, that we are a people that desire the good of all people, and their peace, and desire that all may be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, the way, and the life, which is Christ Jesus, the everlasting covenant, which is given for a light to the Gentiles, and to be the salvation to the ends of the earth. All the nations that are saved must walk in this light of the glorious gospels which has shined in our hearts, and given us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. To this light we direct people's minds, that everyone in particular may have a teacher and testimony according to the righteousness of faith, which speaks to this wisdom: "The word is very near, in the heart and in the mouth." And if everyone would come to this, there would be a feeling of God's justice and righteousness, and our intents to be just, innocent, and righteous, who has said, "I will come near to judgment, and be a swift witness against the sorcerer, and adulterer, and false swearer."
Now, if every one would turn to this witness in their own consciences, this would keep them from oppressing and persecuting of others without cause, for God is coming to teach his people himself, by his own light and spirit, who has said, "It is written in your law, you shall be all taught of God;" which many of us now do witness, for which cause are we persecuted. The children of the Lord are taught of the Lord, are established in righteousness, and are far from oppression.
The testimony that we have borne has been chiefly against priests, teachers, and professors of these nations, who are out of the life and power; for when it pleased the Lord to reveal his Son in us, we saw them to be absolute deceivers of the people, and betrayers of their souls; for they lead them wholly from that of God in themselves to the letter of the scripture without them, and to their own inventions, and imaginations, and meanings, which are spoken by those who were not taught by God themselves. For, for all their high profession, there is scarce one of them that dares say they have the infallible spirit of God, the same as the apostles had, that gave forth the scripture. The apostle said, "that which may be known of God is manifested in them, for God shows it unto them." No people can retain God in their knowledge and worship him as God, unless they first come to that of God in themselves. But these teachers deny this doctrine, and have manifested themselves several ways to all sober-minded people, to be men not fearing God, and are not true to their principles; [for this must appear to all] who have minded them, and seen their carriage and behavior in all these changes that have been these eight years, which have been many, as may be further manifest, for there have been changes of governments, of parliaments, and protectors, several in these eight years, and all these have been warned not to uphold these priests contrary to people's consciences, but that every one might have their liberty, - that those who would have them might maintain them and those who could not receive their doctrines, might not be forced to maintain them. But this would not satisfy their covetous practice, but they went on in the way of cruelty, persecuting and oppressing the innocent, and casting into prison, and took triple damages, and spoiled their goods, and made havoc of poor people's increase, and fruits of their labors. Neither would the magistrates hear, but allowed them to go on in their persecution, and upheld them by a law to the oppressing of the innocent, until the Lord, by his mighty power, overturned them, and broke them one after another. Those priests turned to every power, and every government, as it turned; and made petitions, and addresses, and acknowledgments to every change of government, and conformed to every power, and showed much love and zeal to every present power for their own ends. Though many of them were instruments to throw others out, yet through their deceit and subtleties, they have kept themselves in, in all these times and changes.
Now, let any honest hearted people judge whether or not these are sound principled men, who can turn, conform, and transform to every change according to the times? Whether these [changeable priests] are fit men to teach people? But their fruits are manifest, and God discovers them more and more, that they cannot proceed much longer. Their folly is so much made manifest, they have used their utmost endeavors to cause persecution to continue upon us; but the Lord has seen it, and we commit to him, and can freely say, the Lord forgive them for what they have done to us only because we testified against them for the deceiving and betraying of poor innocent people who are blind, and led by those who are blind into the ditch. We cannot but in pity and love to peoples' souls, bear our testimony against them [the false prophets]; therefore our sufferings have been because we desire the good of all people, and the salvation of their souls; and this is all we desire, and suffer for, that all might come to the knowledge of the Lord, who said, they should all know him, from the least to the greatest.
We are a people who follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others' feet may walk in the same. We do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, and wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, that war against the soul, which we wait for and watch for in all people, and love and desire the good of all. Our sufferings have been for no other cause but love to the souls of all people, and therefore we have been "numbered among the transgressors," and been "accounted as sheep for the slaughter," as our Lord and Master was, who is the captain of our salvation who has gone before us, who, "though he was a son, yet learned he obedience, by the things that the suffered." It was he who said , "My kingdom is not of this world, if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, but my kingdom is not from here." This is he who has come to save men's lives, and not to destroy them, and this is he who is our Lord and Master, whose testimony we must seal with our blood, if it is required of us. Our weapons are not carnal but spiritual, who have given our backs, our cheeks, and our hair to all professions, out of the life and power, to be smitten; who have done it to purpose, which the Lord has overturned, who were often warned by us, under whom we have undergone cruel sufferings. Since you have now come into the throne to be tried, we must warn you in your day to do justly, and to love mercy, by which the violence of the wicked might be stopped; which is for your own good and prosperity. So we desire and also expect to have the liberty of our consciences and just rights, and outward liberties, as other people of the nation, of which we have promise from the word of a king that we may not be made a prey upon by the profane, envious people and priests, against whose corruptions we have borne our testimony, who thirst not only after our estates and liberties, but our blood also; who have already begun to search our houses, and to apprehend our members, and cast them into prison, there to be kept without bail or secured guarantee, under pretense as if we were thieves, murderers, or traitors, who are enemies to no man's person upon the earth that they cannot lay to our charge, whereby they endeavor to take away our lives. Treason, treachery, and false dealing we do utterly deny; so too we deny false dealing, imagining, or plotting against any creature upon the face of the earth, and we speak the truth in plainness and singleness of heart. All our desire is for your good, and peace, and love, and unity; and this may thousands will seal with their blood, who are ready not only to believe, but to suffer; but [hopefully] only that the blood of the innocent may not come upon yourselves through false information.
Given forth the 5th of the 4th month, 1660
We in the unity of the spirit, and members of Christ, do subscribe, and witness to the truth of this, and in the behalf of those in the same unity,
And now I make here, to answer what can be objected against on, on the behalf of many thousands, who are baptized with one spirit into one body, to bear my testimony, and be offered up for the service of the faith, and to give an account of the hope, this is in me, to every one that asks according to the scriptures; who was moved of the Lord to leave my house and family, and to come two hundred miles to lay these things before you; who to the will of the Lord is committed.
[Source: The True Christian's Faith and Experience, by William Shewen, Philadelphia: M.T.C. Gould, 1830.]