ed. by Brian Drayton
1. To the Reader
2. Biographical Sketch of James Nayler
3. Selections from Nayler’s writings
4. For further reading
To the Reader
o what extent do you have confidence in the Spirit’s guidance? Are you able to stay close to the truth of your condition, and not relax into complacency? Do you tend to think that if you can imagine yourself faithful, then you actually are? Have you sought to understand what spirit really animates your life, and that of your meeting, and is it more in harmony with the Spirit of the Times and Conventional Wisdom, than the Spirit of Christ and the Wisdom of God? Where are your treasures laid up?
These questions have always been urgent, from the time that Friends were first raised up even to today, for me as I write now, and for you as you read. In the encounter with other faithful lives, we hear the questions put compellingly, and find advice about how to sense our condition, and where next to move in faithfulness. I believe that James Nayler is a good Friend to encounter. Later in this document, you will find a sketch of James Nayler’s life, and then meet him through a selection of his writings. I wish to take this chance to tell you why I made this selection, and why I hope you will read it.
As the people called Quakers began to gather, several remarkable persons joined George Fox in affirming God’s presence and activity among us, and in inviting people everywhere to live lives that truly acknowledge the inward Teacher, and to explore the consequences of such an acknowledgement. We remind ourselves these days that George’s preeminence was not so complete among the first Children of the Light as it became later, and that George had several brothers and sisters from the beginning.
It is important that we converse with these other fathers and mothers in the Truth, because each bore a powerful testimony about the work God had done in them and through them, and each spoke in a different voice, though they felt themselves in harmony. We turn again and again to George Fox, but that is not enough. More and more Friends feel a need to get to know Margaret Fell, and we remember some other names, but Margaret and the others share the common fate that since the last century, their writings have not been republished, so it is hard to do more than read (aging) secondary sources. Where are the Letters of Early Friends? Where are the excerpts and interpretations of Elizabeth Hooten, Margaret Fell, William Dewsbury, Francis Howgill, Richard Hubberthorne, and many another of this early team of witnesses?
Before 1656, James Nayler was considered to be a chief Quaker, at least Fox’s equal in influence, and in the power of his testimony. His person was appealing, less rough than George’s, his preaching had more eloquence and fluidity, and though at times (like other Friends) his tongue could be brutal, and his vision uncompromising, he exerted a more accessible, perhaps because more vulnerable, charm than did Fox. In this he resembled Dewsbury; and once again we see that the variety of persons collected as Friends by Fox’s efforts is both an explanation for the rapid spread of the Quaker message, and a testimony to the truth it holds.
I have chosen materials that introduce Nayler’s thought on the life guided by the Spirit of Christ. His writings range over a large number of subjects, not all of which are found herein. For example, his writings to the magistrates on liberty of conscience, and the right exercise of power are not represented here; yet these writings do lay the ground for his “ethical” writings. The life engaged in the Lamb’s War is tendered and opened to injustice and violence outwardly as well as inwardly. The human soul, your soul, can be seen as a nexus, a confluence or focus, of forces tending both to your good and ill. Some of the evils can be seen as external — sources of fear, oppression, or distraction. Others are apparently inward — anger, self-indulgence, and so on. Yet we are so constructed that we and our environment interpenetrate. Inward and outward forces activate or counteract each other. Because it is this kind of meeting place, the human soul is an appropriate battlefield upon which to begin the war against “outward” evils in the world. More than this — if the battle remains unfought in any soul, then in our unredeemed regions, seeds of sin and death lie as in an incubator, from which they can spread abroad anew. The Lamb’s War against the Man of Sin, in which we use the weapons of Jesus, acting at first upon our little, inward stage, is as well a social and indeed revolutionary act. The soul has its life cycle, just as the body does. We must claim holiness as our proper goal, but we can adopt for ourselves no outward attribute of it before by grace we come to it in truth, nor can we attempt what we are not prepared for, by the Spirit’s working. Whatever we may have seen, thought, or accomplished, we must seek always to participate in the birth of the poor Child.
If we seek for the light, dwelling in meekness, we see ourselves as we are, in both our weakness and our beauty, as God’s growing children. The encounter with the Light of Christ is judgment, but also consolation: by accepting the former, we gain the latter. In both we are brought closer to our brothers and sisters, empathizing in their judgement, and reinforcing their consolation.
Salvation lies in God’s hand, not in our will. We so want to know the end before the beginning, to keep control of outcomes, to make good bargains and careful investments of ourselves. God’s life will work transformation that is also fulfillment, through choices, opportunities, and sorrows that we cannot arrange or predict ahead of time. We risk nothing by offering all.
One topic that is not touched on in these selections is the general topic which Fox and Penington addressed as Gospel Order, the coherent life of the gathered people arising from its faithful listening to the Spirit’s leading. Nayler did not give this careful treatment in the way that others did, later. Some narratives of Quaker history in fact attribute Fox’s focus on Gospel Order to the turmoil and scandal occasioned by Nayler’s “fall” (described below), and subsequent troubles such as the Perrot controversy (for a fine treatment of the dialectical development, the “call and response,” of Quaker polity, see now Rosemary Moore’s Light in their Consciences and other references at the end of this pamphlet).
As I have dwelt more with James, however, I believe that this absence should be given a somewhat different cast. Nayler’s life was based on the recognition of the Spirit as Christ, come again to work regeneration in the world: “… a more glorious discovery and manifestation of Christ, to see him appearing in them the second time in the spirit, without sin unto salvation…” (Sundry Books 151). Christ living and working within seems to James to be absolutely reliable, to bring each of us to full reconciliation with the Father, and freedom from bondage to sin. Herein, then, is the covenant grounded which Jesus offers. Nayler’s faith in the reliability of God’s promises of radically reforming power never wavered.
Further, this view provided a way to discern among the spirits. The Christ that works within must be in harmony, must appear substantially the same, as the Christ testified to in the Gospels, and at work all through the history of God’s seeking to reveal and reconcile. If you do not experience his stripes, his enmity with the world, his lowly reputation among the world’s great, his long-suffering and sorrows, you are not yet in his life, or his life is not yet in you enough. It may be that this sense of a need for an ever-closer identity between the life in Christ, and the life of Christ, led to the sign of Nayler’s entry into Bristol.
A close reading of his works reveals someone with a rich appreciation of the slow and careful progress of the soul, and the absolute requirement to follow the Guide’s promptings in all humility as well as all confidence. Many passages recall Penington in the tenderness and concreteness with which they describe the process of renewal in the Spirit. Nayler has a powerful sense of the manifold shapes that sin can take, and the persistence, patience, and meekness that are our primary aids towards inward freedom. In a few passages, he makes clear his own experience of growth and limitation, and also his confidence of victory, as long as he remains simple and faithful.
In this confidence, and his insistence that the spirit of judgment and truth is also the spirit of love, James’s exhortations to the community are to keep low and in the spirit of love, and trust that Christ will lead, teach, and heal as we need. Right authority, mutual aid and admonition, and coherence in the Body, are the necessary results of this abiding in the Spirit. James held that the Spirit was the atmosphere in which our wills and wishes could be led into complete conformity with God’s will, and that nothing less was His intent and longing for us. Thus, as one considers the path and the work of the Spirit, the simple Quaker admonition to “mind the light” seems to have extraordinary flexibility as a spiritual method.
Nayler’s spirit was both tender and terrifying, for he had travelled far inwardly, and he was both a deep student of the soul’s processes, and of the social processes of his time. He had the prophetic gift of powerful metaphor, and thereby he enabled people to feel the Light and Life so poignantly that they could feel both the judgment and the comfort of God’s presence: “I felt more terror before the preaching of James Nayler than I had before the battle of Dunbar,” said one great captain of Cromwell’s army.
I do not long for terror, but I do long for truth. I wish to live as a child of the light, to live through and beyond the angers, frustrations, and preoccupations that chain me, and keep me from seeing, hearing, and loving as I should. I believe that a person who yearns beyond all else to have the Mind of Christ can come to do so, and that as I continue in apprenticeship under the Spirit, I will display– in my measure– some of the beauty that is our birthright (so often unclaimed) as animals who are also spirit beings.
Longing to live in this state of friendship with God, I long for you to enjoy it as well, and I believe that we should listen to those who have known such things in their life, because we get from their story both instruction and nourishment. Therefore, please read these selections from James Nayler’s letters to his friends, and know that they were written to you as well. May we learn to listen, to act, and to speak with directness and divinity, gaining and sharing grace and peace of an imperishable kind.
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A Sketch of James Nayler’s Life
James Nayler was born in Yorkshire, in 1618 (he was thus six years older than George Fox). His family were husbandmen (one account gives his father’s occupation as “hog gelder”), and James followed husbandry as well. In his twenties he joined Cromwell’s New Model Army, a breeding ground for radical thinking and radical religion. James served with some distinction, because he was given the responsible post of quartermaster.
He certainly was part of the atmosphere of earnest and enthusiastic religious experimentation that was a feature of the army, and served as a lay preacher; one account by an officer gives a vivid picture of Nayler’s force as a minister even in those days.
Though he left the army and went back to his farm, his inward life remained vigorous, and he had an intimation that he might be called out to search and to testify to the work of Christ. In 1652, he met with George Fox, and this encounter must have been an encouragement to his sense of urgent calling. George tells the story as though he had a great part in motivating James to join the movement, but James’s account (given in part later) does not mention George at all. It is quite clear that James had come to a place of substantial harmony with Fox’s position, and was ready to find and join with a movement of others called in the same direction. The disparity between the two men’s accounts of the event of James’s call is perhaps significant, in the light of the intense, almost sibling-like, relationship that developed between them.
James quickly became recognized as among the leaders of the movement, and had very wide service in the North of England. At this time, he often collaborated with George Fox, both in publishing truth and in writing. He gradually became a prolific and effective pamphleteer, ably disputing the opponents of Quakerism, and often taking part in public debates. He was seen by some as the most important leader among Friends, and his personal appeal was quite powerful.
In the mid-1650s Friends began their “campaign” on London and the other southerly cities, and James was among several prominent Friends that came to bring their message to the capital. During much of 1655-6, James was a focal point for the London work, preaching, counseling, and writing at a ferocious pace, often with little help and little break. Letters from the time give intimations of the strain that was building in James, noticeable to his colleagues, of concern to many (including George Fox and Margaret Fell, whose epistolary contacts with James were frequent, and who kept a close eye on him, it seems). The sense of pressure and perhaps poverty that arose during this time of great labor were exacerbated in James’s case by the fact that he was ascetic in many of his practices, and (like others of the time) used fasts as both penance and spiritual nourishment.
Extended fasting, overwork, and a kind of exaltation in the success of the great London mission can perhaps explain in some measure James’s susceptibility to the adulation given him by a small group of enthusiasts, predominantly women. It was common at the time for grateful souls to address their spiritual heroes in rather extravagant language, but James at the time had not the presence of mind or discernment to see that the praise and ecstasy aimed at him as a vicar or even a kind of avatar of the living Christ was reaching dangerous levels, and having spiritually deluding effects on his followers, and even himself.
Events continued in a downward spiral during the spring and fall of 1656; James was increasingly passive and silent among his friends, and his abstraction was a cause of concern to his colleagues. He was prevailed upon to come to a gathering of leading Friends in Bristol. During this meeting, though Friends were distressed by his state, they still held him in great confidence, and clearly were praying and hoping for him to recover his equilibrium. At their urging, he set out from Bristol to visit Fox, who was lying in jail in Launceston. Nayler was apprehended on the way, and thrown into prison at Exeter. During this period, he undertook an extended and severe fast. During his incarceration, and after his release, his followers (led by Martha Simmonds) carried on a campaign of dissent and disruption within the Quaker movement; though none blamed James for instigating this, his continued association with Simmons, and their constant trumpeting of his virtues, certainly increased concern that he was running out into imaginings of the worst kind. Several sorry interchanges, by letter and in person, between him and the hard-pressed Fox, increased the sense of distance that had grown between James and his closest brethren and sisters in the movement. The distress and concern was very great, and fear also grew for the young movement itself, as Nayler’s prominence as preacher and apologist made his possible fall a very grave matter indeed.
In the fall of 1656, James was led in a sorry reenactment of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem through the gates of Bristol, with his little band of followers calling “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts” and all the rest. James was arrested, and in an irregular process eventually tried and convicted as a blasphemer by Parliament itself. Recent historians (see “For further reading” below) make clear the forces at work to produce such a bizarre turn of events. James was publicly humiliated and severely tortured, and incarcerated for the rest of the decade.
The Quaker movement was scandalized, in every sense of the word. Critics could point to Nayler as the proof that Friends and Ranters were kindred extravagant spirits at bottom, and that they were a danger to the souls and the peace of the kingdom. Leaders among Friends were brought to see how their spirituality could be deceived and derailed by too great a trust that inward movements were all Christ’s doing, and much of the system of corporate discernment and Quaker caution dates from Friends’ attempts to absorb the lessons of “Nayler’s Fall.” We are still living with the aftereffects.
George Fox saw in this episode the seeds of ruin for all that he had labored to build, and it was very long before he was brought to a formal reconciliation with James Nayler. It can be plausibly argued that he never really forgave James, and it is certain that he never forgot the incident and its implications, so that it affected his response to later controversies and extravagancies. God only knows what his inward state was, in the end. He claimed on his deathbed that he was fully clear, and one can only hope that this included the wounds from his relationship with Nayler, the betraying brother. Much has been said about their relationship and its consequences, and much still remains unknown. James was released from prison in 1659. He had, some years before, been reconciled to many Friends, had published apologies and recantations for his behavior and its effects on Friends and their enemies, and had regained his sense of balance and commitment to the Truth he had published so effectively before. When he left prison, he slowly took up his ministry again, though he left off controversy, and wrote and spoke more consistently about the life of the spirit. Friends say his testimony was as powerful as ever, but perhaps it had especial effect and depth because of his great trials. He was on his way to visit his family in Yorkshire, in 1660–he had seen his wife sporadically from time to time in the past decade, but she had remained at work on the farm, with hired help, apparently encouraging his ministry– when he was waylaid on the highway, beaten and robbed. He died not long after, his testimony in all its patchwork beauty completed at last.
O Friends, I see your minds drawn out from your conditions within, to look out at words; and there is presumption got up amongst you, and boasting; but in the meantime, the pure seed lies under…Mind that which is pure in you, which keeps together, that there be not a rent amongst you.
2. from The Power and Glory of the Lord Shining out of the North.
This simple statement asserts that despite our tendency to rely on outer helps, Christ inwardly shows us where evil resides in us, and leads us out of it, even to the clarity of the “the perfect day.”
Now all people, cease from your strange guides, and out-side lights, and return to the light of Christ in you, that which shows you sin and evil, and the deeds of darkness: for whatever makes manifest is light; and this is that light which shines into the conscience… and checks you for sin, and would have you do to all men, as you would be done to.
And this light is not a chapter without you, in a book, but it is that light that revealed the Scriptures to the saints, in their several measures, which they spoke forth, and which thou readest in the chapter. And this light being minded, will lead to the perfect day, which declares all things as they are.
3. To Margaret Fell (Written from prison, 1658)
The following touching note was written at a time when Nayler was actively hoping for reconciliation with Fox and others who were alienated from him owing to his Bristol demonstration. It is one of several passages that adumbrate the well-known “dying words.” When we “try the spirits,” how can we feel if we are in harmony with the Inward Christ?
Truly for the hardness and unreconcileableness which is in some I am astonished and shaken, lest the spirit of Christ Jesus should be grieved and depart. For, if I know anything of it, or ever have done, that is it which naturally inclines to mercy and forgiveness, and not to bind one another under a trespass till the uttermost farthing; though this may be just and I do not condemn it. Yet I have felt a spirit which delights more in forgiving debts, and seeks all occasion thereto, even when it is not sought to, but seeks; and by this spirit I have been able to bear all things while it is with me, else had I not been at this day.
4. from The Power and Glory of the Lord Shining out of the North
Nayler here reaches to those of his readers who know their hunger for God, advising that outward remedies are not able to satisfy, and can distract the seeker. The Lord will direct and empower those who long for him, as long as they heed his voice above all.
And now to you poor scattered sheep, you have been running from mountain to hill to find the Lord, but have not found him, who is to give rest to your souls: and many of you are wandering you know not where. Others have seated themselves under green trees, and are worshipping you know not what… who know as little of the true and living God as yourselves. Others are weary with seeking where nothing can be found, and are fallen asleep in the world of ease and carelessness. Others have their ears opened to all voices, which cry lo, here, lo there, but know not who to trust. Now all awake to meet the Lord, who is arisen to seek and save, and gather into one fold all his scattered ones, and to bring them up to Zion the holy city, where he will feed them himself alone, without fear, in good pasture.
Now come off from all your blind guides, that are not in the way themselves; return to the Lord in spirit, he is within you, and there if you wait in spirit you shall hear him speak to your spirits, to the directing of your minds out of all the works of darkness and sin, up to God where no sin is, nor any unclean thing can come. If you mind to obey his voice, he will teach you to lay aside all your dissembling.. and you will find power given in from the Lord, to become what you profess in reality and truth, and to profess no more but what you are, that God may have glory by you, and take delight to dwell in you… He is not to be found in the world, nor formal worships, nor in humane wisdom and learning; but he is only to be found as he reveals himself freely to those who patiently wait for him. Dear people, to you that love the Lord above all earthly things, and yet have not had your minds directed where to wait for him, to you I speak: he is near you, who is the way to the father, look not out, he is within you. That which I know I declare unto you, and the way I know, where I have found my beloved, my savior, my redeemer, my husband, my maker, who hath set me above all the world, my sins, my fears, my sorrows, my tears, into his love, to live with him in spirit forever. The night is far spent, the day is at hand, come out of the darkness all that love the Lord, into his marvellous light, where you shall see what you have been, and what you are redeemed from, that you may live and praise the Lord; for it is the living that praise the Lord, and not the dead. Arise, come out of death, come away, and let us rejoice together in his love, in the life of our king, even so. Amen.
5. An Epistle to Several Friends about Wakefield 1653, while a prisoner in Appleby, in Westmoreland
Nayler, like Penington, often felt it necessary to warn Friends not to declare victory too soon, in their spiritual warfare. It is tempting when the Light convinces us that we can be transformed completely, to feel that the goal is largely achieved. When tested, we too easily reach back to practices and supports that do not partake of the divine life now beginning to infuse us. Thus, even while the Light gives a sense of hope, healing, and power, it must also always be sought for its illumination, just as at first: showing us our present condition.
James Nayler, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, unto all that love the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ every where, grace and peace be multiplied from God the father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
My dear hearts, you whom the Lord hath manifested so much love unto, as to call you out of sin and death, and the world, all the delights and pleasures of the world which fade away, up to himself; where is joy unspeakable, pleasures and riches that endure for evermore.
Dear friends, watch and be sober, that you may hear the voice of your beloved when he calleth, and let not the precious proffers of the love of God be tendered in vain. While you have an ear open to the world, you cannot hear the voice of God; so that you have been made to groan under it. How long have you been deceived by it? All your time promising peace, fulness, and satisfaction; but have been brought to cry out of oppression and deceit. And your cries are come before the Lord of Sabbaths, who is your rest; and he is now appeared to deliver you, and set you free from bondage, that you may serve him alone.
And now take heed of consulting with your old master: hath the Lord been so merciful unto you, as that he hath set your face out of Sodom and Egypt, towards the promised land? Oh! take heed of looking back lest you be taken captive, and led back again; and so you come short of redemption, and your faith fail you, and so you come short of the promise; for unbelief cannot enter into the rest. But you, dear friends, put on resolution, put on strength, be valiant for your freedom, cast off every weight, follow your captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and so entered into rest and glory.
Take heed of halting between God and the world: what agreement can there be, or what peace, while you are married to the world? Your thoughts turn in thither, and you are adulterated from God, who gives you all good things, as so many tokens of his love. Hereby is the broken language brought forth, and you cannot speak the pure language of the land of rest. And while you give way to that in you, which leads you to look back to what is behind you, you keep yourselves in the wilderness and darkness, and lose your way, and know not where you are; grieving the holy spirit of the Lord, which hath appeared unto you to guide you.
But [O friends!] mind your guide and follow him; arise, shine, your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you; the night is far spent, the day is at hand, even the day of Sion’s deliverance: arise, come away, all you that love her, come off from the world and worldly things, come into the life, lie no longer in death and dead things. Awake, thou that sleepest, and stand up from the dead, that Christ may give thee light: come forth, come forth of all created things, witness your redemption from the world that you are redeemed from the earth up to God, out of all kindreds, tongues, people and nations, to reign as kings and priests for ever, above the world, sin and death, triumphing and treading upon all that would take you captive. This is the day of your deliverance, own it with the loss of all fading pleasures, make it appear to all the world, this is the day you waited for: even the day of your joy, but the world’s sorrow: a day of blackness and gloominess; a day of fear and trouble to them that oppress you; a day wherein the kingdom of Jesus Christ shall be exalted, and all the kingdoms and powers of the earth shall be shaken; a day wherein the Lord will avenge the power of him that is too strong for you….
Now shew yourselves wise men, choose that which is eternal: here is light and life tendered to you in Jesus Christ, freely out of the father’s love: freely receive life and love, and shew forth life and love to God again, by giving up to him all you have, and all you are for Christ’s sake…And as Christ appears, who is our life and love; so shall life and love appear, spring, blossom, and bring forth fruit towards God and man: that so, being raised by him from death and dead works, you may henceforth live unto God: and being brought into oneness with him, and purity, and holiness, you may be one amongst yourselves, of one heart and one mind, speaking one and the self-same thing; and having the same care one for another, as for yourselves….
And I beseech you, brethren, that you mark them that once set their faces towards Sion, but not being willing to deny the world, and take up the cross, have consulted with flesh and blood, and turned back into Egypt again: of such take heed, knowing, that the same spirit that hath wrought in them deceitfully, will not cease to work by them to deceive others… But you, standing fast in the pure light of Christ, shall see whither those return, and the cause of their returnings… be ye so far from following such, that their falling away may cause you to watch, and search by what power you stand; and so a pure fear may be preserved in you… Wherefore faint not, nor think anything hard the Lord calls you unto; nothing must suffer, but that which is to die, that your souls may live. Oh! your light affliction worketh for you far more exceeding weight of glory, while you keep your eye to that which is invisible.
Stand in the will of God in your present condition. Take heed of propounding ends to yourselves in any thing, for that leads out of the way of God, and gives way to your own wisdom; and so you seek to preserve that alive which is appointed for death, and so you maintain war against God, and know it not. And in this condition you can have no peace, while the enemies are in arms against your peace. Cease not to pray for us.. We are often brought to a stand, and wonder how we are kept in the midst of the fire, and not consumed; and the more the enemy rages, the more we are kept in peace within. God is our strength, rejoice with us, all dear friends, and praise his name for evermore, for he is worthy, for his mercy endures forever.
6. To All Dear Brethren and Friends in Holderness and the East Parts of Yorkshire (1653)
This letter seems to me to provide guidance for us when we are influenced enough by the Lord’s work that we long for greater faithfulness, and feel burdened by our shortcoming, yet we do not know where to turn next. The simplicity of the Quaker experience of the Gospel lies in always pausing to look towards the Guide, and being patient until guidance is given. Sometimes we have to wait until in the quiet some inner reservation, fear, or other barrier falls — or we see suddenly how to step free of it.
Dear Friends– I rejoice in you as you are entered into the love of the truth, and have owned the voice that calls out of the darkness that is over all the earth, to set you faces towards Sion… Now mind your way, and the light that is given to you to guide you in the way, to keep your eye to the light, that it may lead you through all the visible things of the world…
And this light and redemption is in his son, whom he is about to exalt, in which exaltation a strange and mighty work is to be brought to pass, whereat all that stand not in his counsel and fear… shall be offended… the Gods of the heathen shall be famished with looking for worship, but shall get none; for the Lord will bring down all heights and mountains into the valleys…
And now, dear Friends, here is your peace and blessedness, that you silence all flesh, and cease from your own wisdom, and give over your imaginations about the things of God; come out of the love of the world, and arise out of all visible things, and prepare to meet the Lord: cast off all your idols that have had your hearts, and put off the stumbling blocks of your iniquities from before your faces, and give up all that will not that he should reign over them… And now stand in the light, that a separation may be made in you, the precious from the vile, that a new Saviour may arise, that you may know your calling and election, what is called , and what you are to come out of, lest you stay in any of that to which the plagues are; for this is the cause of your suffering, not discerning in the pure wisdom, what that antichrist or exalted spirit is, that is got into the seat of God, and shews himself to be as God, whose kingdom stands in the wisdom, glory, and riches of the world, whereat all that know not the true God in spirit ask counsel.
Therefore, dear friends, look not out into the visible things, for there he is ready to present to you false voices and visions, lying wonders, to lead out the vain mind into the liberty and boasting of high things, in words without power: but while such speak of liberty, they are in bondage, in mind, to corrupt and fading things. And while these are head in the creature, there is not redemption: for the bonds of iniquity are unloosened, and the pure seed is oppressed, and the plagues must pass upon that nature. Therefore sink down into the sufferings and death, that you may find the door whereat to enter; for there is a vale of tears to pass through. You shall find your wellsprings in him, where you shall drink of the water of life, and find refreshment, and grow from strength to strength, till you come up to Sion. Stand fast, take heed of words without life, spoken from the comprehensions, for that feeds not the pure seed, but feeds the wisdom which is below, and the itching ears, and so the pure is covered with earth, and the fowls of the air are fed, and no fruit is brought forth to perfection. And take heed of that nature that would know more than God is willing to reveal: for you shall find that unwilling to obey what it knows: and take heed of that which desires to appear before men to be commended, for that seldom deserves praise of God. And let a Godly conversation declare what is within; and know one another in spirit, and not in word, and meet often together, and wait upon God, (for his teaching alone) in a cross to your own wills, for therein is the secrets of God revealed. Let love abound in you one towards another, without being partial.
7. from A discovery of the wisdom from beneath, and the wisdom from above (1653)
We are to mind the Light, and be faithful as far as we can see. Further Light will be given, in God’s own time, to those who take this elementary step. Here is the foundation of the Quaker doctrine of “perfection,” as formulated most famously by Barclay — but the First Publishers had come to this position early on, as they felt the Light at work, and saw how it cannot effect holiness all at once. But the Teacher can be relied upon to pull us more and more into spiritual maturity, to the stage where we can bear the fruits of righteousness.
Dear friends, all mind your guide within you, even the pure light of God, which bears witness against all our ungodly ways, ungodly words, thoughts, works, and worships, which are after the world, and leads you without from the Lord your guide, for what stands in outward things, devised in the will and brain, which is the serpent’s seat, is accursed from God, kept out of the kingdom… If you abide in the pure light within, you shall see, that whatever the light of Christ makes to appear to be evil, and to be cast off; then the other, which stands in man’s wisdom, makes a covering for it, that it may abide still….And here you are shut out of the kingdom, which consists in righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy ghost, but were that eye plucked out, and you turned within, to see with that eye that is single, then the whole body would be full of light: and abiding in that light, it will shew you a path which leads to purity and holiness… and it will let you see a law written in your hearts, even the righteous law of the new covenant. And so you will come to the unity with all saints in measure, and so come to Christ the first-born.. and to God the judge of all…And here is your true teacher, whereby all shall be taught of God, as faith in the scripture: and minding this light, it will shew you a cross to be daily taken up.
And dear friends, be faithful in what you know, take heed of making a profession of what you are not…take heed of searching into the hidden things of God by your own wisdom, which is carnal, for that hath God shut out of the kingdom…and abiding in the pure light of Christ within, you shall see that same [carnal] wisdom in yourselves, will be consulting and leading you any way, rather than to wait on the pure light…And the flaming sword is to this wisdom: therefore turn your minds within, and wait for a wisdom from above, which begins with the fear of the Lord, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated. And if you keep your eye to this, you shall see, as this grows, which is pure, there will be a death to that which is sensual and carnal; and as you grow in this pure, you will grow in the knowledge of Christ within you.
And this is not to be attained by seeking without, lo here, lo there, but only by keeping your eye within to the invisible, and giving diligent ear to that voice that speaks to the soul and spirit, for the ministry of Christ is to the spirits in prison, not to the outward, but to the inward man… which once coming to hear the voice of Christ, it is raised from death to life.
8. from To all the Churches of Christ in the North (1655-6)
The key to this passage, I think, is the sentence “in that which hath called you abide.” Stay close to your understanding, received in your moments of inward stillness and presence of mind. In the confidence of God’s active work within, as the prophet who can speak His own mind, you can safely wait, acting when commanded to by the Spirit, but not agitated and needing action for its own sake. Such need for doing can lead to lifeless, arid, rote action, not informed by the fresh movement of the Spirit, but providing only the satisfaction of self-assertion. In a simple dependency on the dynamic Spirit, you shall “flourish with obedience.”
Dear Friends and brethren, whose hearts are touched with the love of God and have been awakened out of the carelessness of the flesh: in that which hath called you abide, with your minds single thereto, that the plant of God you may see springing above the earth, wherein you may receive, as from a lively oracle, counsel, wisdom, and strength, every particular; and the springs of life open, whereat to drink as you pass out of the world; and the clear water of washing you may know, that so an entrance may be ministered abundantly to your souls, that to the dominion you may come, and know what it is to rule well, every one in his own house; that none of you seek to know as the world doth, that to your knowledge may be added what ariseth from the life; so you shall never wither, but shall flourish through obedience: take heed to your spirits, that the earth get not above, and the mind be defiled, for then you lose your authority, and darkness and death will prevail in you above the pure; and so having left the life, that mind hath not whereon to feed but what is behind; as a pasture over eaten, so doth leanness overtake the soul, and poverty as an armed man; and this from the Lord shall be the portion of such as mind earthly things. So in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, I warn you all to take heed to yourselves, and that you stir up that which is pure, which you have received from God, that you may keep out of the cursed thing that is contemptible, that no ill savour be sent out to trouble the minds of God’s flock, whom he hath called to purity and peace; that as the Lord hath been pleased to call you, as a first fruit, and hath set up his standard amongst you, and your sound is gone out throughout the nations, and from thence hath he sent out his messengers to them that are afar off; so that your growth may appear, and the glory of the Lord may be your reward, and none may step in before you and take your crown. So keep your garments unspotted in the presence of God, and before all his saints; live in peace, and love to bear one another’s burthen, and let none please himself; and the mighty God of power preserve you spotless in your measures, to his everlasting praise, Amen.
9. Epistle for Friends in the City of York (1655-6)
How easy it is to be drawn into factions, to feel alienation, to make division? What inward posture can help us look past the many temptations to divide?
Friends and brethren, in the fear of the Lord, stand armed against all deceit and division, and come down and feel after the spirit of the Lamb, to be united in that which changeth not after the visibles, where the knowledge is outward, for there is the ground of sects, and seat of exaltation, which respecteth the person who is known in the outward sound, and the same puffs up for one, and against another, and there is the simple despised, and the Lamb trodden upon, and innocency suffers, and that which should cover you being despised and slighted, the schism enters, the judgment of the Lamb being lost, and the still waters refused: wherefore every one mind to keep low in the innocent principle, that in the humble spirit you may all worship, and bow before him who is despised and forgotten, when you are above in the extremes: so with meekness receive the voice of the spirit, as being ingrafted thereby; and that which doth not, is seen in the Lamb’s light to be above, and not in the rest where righteousness and peace kisseth each other. So dear friends, feel that spirit which is quick in hearing, peaceable in receiving, and willing in obeying, for that is the spirit of the beloved of God, and all being joined thereto, the chords of God’s love so unite as not to be broken; and there shall no disobedient spirit hide its head in a formed power: so all mind that which suffers, and doth not resist nor seek itself, for that shall forever reign; when the sanctuary is cleansed obedience shall be your life, meekness and innocency your rest; the dew shall fall for your growth, butter and honey shall you eat at the table of the Lamb, that you may grow wise in knowledge, and your savour may be sweet among the flock of the valleys, amongst whom you are beloved for the father’s sake. So everyone look to that which is low, and exalt that which is easily trodden on; so shall you make up the breaches, and find even paths to walk in, the spirit of peace shall rest upon you, your walls shall be salvation, and your gates praise.
10. Epistle concerning love and judgment
Judgment and love are not irreconcilable, if love has prepared the ground for the Vinedresser’s judgment. In the Spirit, freedom includes the freedom to see and live with Truth not in enmity, but as part of the rebirth we are invited to. True love and pure judgment are inseparable.
…Who is it now cries, away with judgment, and who hath turned it into wormwood? Such as have their life in the world, whose delight is in that which will be burned…who deny the light of the world, [which was] sent to convince the world of all sin, and lead into all truth. Such cannot stand in judgment…and these cry out for love, who cannot stand in judgment, who stand in enmity. [You] who love the things of the world…what have you to do with love? You must first deny the enmity, and give up that life that stands therein, through obedience to the light, which is God’s love to the world, that through the cross of Christ, and by the spirit of judgment and the baptism of fire, all the bonds of iniquity, which keep you in the world, maybe broken, and you brought out free…And so, through death of that life which holds you in the world, you may come to enjoy God, who is love, whom without holiness none can see to their comfort.
Ah! Silly people, how are you deceived! Doth he that sees you fast in the world and in the curse, where you have not power to do well…and [that] comes and cries peace to you there, and sits down with you in that form or fellowship, doth he bring you love, or hath he the love that is of God in him, who flatters you there? And doth he who hath the sword of judgment, and faithfully uses it to part you and the world, to bring you out into son’s freedom, doth he hate you, or is he your enemy?….
And you say you are come to the son and freedom, and you are all in love, as you say; but when judgment from God is sent amongst you, and falls upon that which is of the world where it finds you, then a fire kindles amongst you, and you have torment, and your love leaves you, which shows your love is not of God, which loves judgment, where mercy rejoiceth, whose love hath not torment or fear.
Now that day tries your sonship, your freedom, and your love…Is your love that which bears all things, [you] who are tormented in judgment, and driven into heaps of confusion and fear? Is this the voice of sons? Is this the son’s freedom, or his nature? Nay, this is to kick against that which pricks you, wherein you plainly show that you have not learned your sonship of the father, after Christ Jesus, nor known him formed in you, who bears the chastisement of peace…
Now honestly search your house with the candle which God hath lighted, and when you find the truth in your inward parts, then shall you say [that] there is no love but it, and that the world’s love stands in that which God hates….And for this [reason] we may not join in your “love,” though we love you, in that which is beloved of the father, wherein alone we can have boldness in the day of judgment, and in that life alone, in which love is made perfect, which none can inherit further than they become as he is in this world, walking as he walked, dwelling in God who is love without end.
11. Not to strive, but to overcome by suffering (9th epistle)
The foundation of community is truthfulness and love. Seeking for the Seed in each other is as crucial as seeking it in the world, and laboring by long-suffering and resoluteness to liberate it wherever it is oppressed.
Children of God, seek a kingdom in you, that flesh and blood strive not for, nor cannot enter therein, a kingdom undefiled, and that fadeth not away, hid from that which feeds on earthly things, a heavenly kingdom bearing heavenly fruits; wherein the heavenly spirit rules, guides, and brings forth fruits of itself: the fruits of grace and meekness, and of a lowly mind, the fruits of peace and gentleness, and forbearance among yourselves.
Wait with patience to feel that quickened, which is sown in tears, and springs up with joy, out of the sight of the natural understanding, that that alone may bear you, and therein all your fruit may be found, and so come to the knowledge of the tree by its fruits. And let the life open the understanding (not the notion, or a sight) that is the heavenly learning of Christ Jesus the righteous, full of grace and truth…
A tree may grow high, and hard, and strong, yet fruitless and out of the power, got above the poor, above the innocent, and out of the feeling of the sufferer and man of sorrows where he is. The end of this growth is not in the pure rest, for the higher any one grows here, the more doth that wither and die in them, which is soft and tender, and melting, which makes one [a true lamb] and is the true fold for lambs, where the lions must lie down in the end if they come to rest. That eye…which looks to be great among men comes not into the rest, but hath strife in the mind, strife in words and secret smitings, which defile the rest, and lead into the division and separation — but the little child leads into the rest, and that which is lowly gives the entrance.
So feel that which is lowly and meek to arise above self, that which stills all strife at home in your minds, and gives peace in temptation and tribulation. That’s a soft and tender thing in you, that is the peace-maker, that’s blest of God. And this is first felt under the world, under the strife, suffering by the strife in patience, to bring to the end of the strife and the world, and in the end of it, and of [all] exaltation he comes to arise over the world, who is not of a striving nature, but lives by hope, and believes to see to the end of all things under which he suffers, and to outlive every temptation by suffering. And so by an everlasting life [he] comes over the world, and to reign over all things that are not of that eternal nature — but not to join with the evil.
And he that in the particular is born of this, hath overcome the world in himself, and knows how to walk towards his brother in that which hath power over the world and outlives all…[One living with this life] brings forth its own undefiled, ever aiming in all its ministrations at the kingdom of truth, peace, and holiness, which is the end of all gifts and callings.
And this seed all should know…who strives not by violence, but entreats; who seeks not revenge, but endures all contradictions from all against himself, to the end that he may obtain mercy for all from the father. And this is the seed of eternal peace, and the eternal peace-maker…
So this seek in yourselves, and all men, and in it seek one another as brethren; nor can any reign in this kingdom but [those] who can bear the cross which leads to the crown, and hath a habitation in that which cannot be moved with change, nor kindled with wrath.
This is the heritage of the meek, and the kingdom which only belongs to the poor in spirit and pure in heart, where the hardness of heart is broken. Many spirits desire to look into it, but few to live the life of it..
12. The Lamb’s War Against the Man of Sin (1658)
One of Naylor’s major tracts on the life we are called to, what our striving is to be, and how it is to be carried forward. The war against the Man of Sin is the root of outward justice and peace as well. The experience of the War inwardly is taken up and amplified in Selection 11.
The Lord God Almighty, to whom belongs all the kingdoms in heaven and earth, doth nothing therein but by his Son, the Lamb. By him he creates and governs, by him he saves and condemns, judges and justifies; makes peace, and makes war; and whatsoever he doth he is at his right hand in all places, who in him hath long suffered the burden of iniquity, and oppression of wickedness that hath abounded for many generations, till it be come to the full measure, as in the days of old.
And now his appearance in the Lamb (as ever it was when iniquity was full) is to make war with the god of this world, and to plead with his subjects concerning their revolt from him their creator, who ordered their beginning and gave them a being; and their breaking the order that was in the beginning, and giving up their obedience to the worldly spirit, and the invention thereof, till they become so far one with it, as that it had defiled their souls and bodies, blinded their eyes, stopped their ears, and so made the creature utterly unprofitable to God, and unfit for a temple for him to be worshipped in, or to hear the voice, or understand the mind of the eternal spirit… They are also become open enemies to every check and reproof of that Spirit which should lead them to God, and doth testify against their evil deeds, and are not afraid to speak against it as a thing not worth minding, nor able to lead them in the way of truth. Thus hath God lost the creature out of his call and service, and he is become one with the god of this world, to serve and obey him in ways that defy the Spirit of grace; and now use the creation against the creator. Now against this evil seed, and its whole work brought forth in that nature, doth the Lamb make war to take vengeance of his enemies.
The End of His War is: to judge this deceiver openly before all the creation showing that his ways, fashions, and customs are not what God ordered for man to live in, in the beginning; to bind him and to redeem…out of his captivity all who will believe in the Lamb and are weary of this service and bondage to his enemy, and who will but come forth and give their names and hearts to join with him and bear his image and testimony openly before all men;…and all that follow him to redeem them to God; and the rest who will not believe and follow him and bear his image, them to condemn with the destroyer into everlasting destruction; and to restore all things, and make all things new as they were in the beginning, that God alone may rule his own work.
The Manner of His War is: first, that he may be just who is to judge all men and spirits, he gives his light unto their hearts even of man and woman, whereby he lets all see (who will mind it) what he is displeased with, what is with him and what is against him, what he owns and what he disowns, that so all may know what is for destruction, to come out of it, lest they be destroyed with it; that so he may save and receive all that are not wilfully disobedient and hardened in the pleasures of this world against him, all who are willing to be set free, all that are in darkness and are willing to come to light. In a word, all that love righteousness more than the pleasures of sin, that he may not destroy them (nor fight against him and know it not) but that he may receive them to be one with him against that which hath misled and deceived them. And as many as turn at his reproof he doth receive and give them power in spirit and life to be as he is in their measure, (but all in watching), and wars against that which hath had them and now hath the rest of the creation in bondage, that he may restore all things to their former liberty.
What They Are to War Against: and that is, whatever is not of God, whatever the eye (which loves the world) lusts after, whatever the flesh takes delight in, and whatever stands in respect of persons…the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, these are not of God; and whatever the god of the world hath begotten in men’s hearts to practise or to plead for, which God did not place there. All this the Lamb and his followers war against, which is at enmity with it both in themselves and wherever they see it. For in the work of God alone is his kingdom and all other works will he destroy. So their wars are not against creatures, they wrestle not with flesh and blood which God hath made, but with spiritual wickedness exalted in the hearts of men and women, where God alone should be,…by which they become enemies to God and their souls are destroyed. Indeed, their war is against the whole work and device of the god of this world, his laws, his customs, his fashions, his inventions, and all which are to add to or take from the work of God which was from the beginning. (This is all enmity against the Lamb and his followers, who are entered into the covenant which was in the beginning.) And therefore no wonder why they are hated by the god of this world, and his subjects, who come to spoil him of all…and to destroy the whole body of sin, the foundation and strength of his kingdom, and to take the government to himself that God may wholly rule in the heart of man, and man wholly live in the work of God.
What Their Weapons Are: as they war not against men’s persons, so their weapons are not carnal nor hurtful to any of the creation; for the Lamb comes not to destroy men’s lives nor the work of God, and therefore at his appearance in his subjects he puts spiritual weapons into their hearts and hands; their armour is the light, their sword the Spirit of the Father and the Son, their shield is faith and patience, their paths are prepared with the gospel of peace and good-will towards all the creation of God; their breastplate is righteousness and holiness to God, their minds are girded with godliness, and they are covered with salvation, and they are taught with truth.
And thus the lamb in them, and they in him, go out in judgement and righteousness to make war with his enemies, conquering and to conquer. Not as the prince of this world in his subjects, with whips and prisons, tortures and torments on the bodies of creatures, to kill and destroy men’s lives, who are deceived, and so become his enemies; but he goes forth in the power of the Spirit with the Word of Truth to pass judgement upon the head of the Serpent which doth deceive and bewitch the world…For with the spirit of judgement and with the spirit of burning will he plead with his enemies. And having kindled the fire and awakened the creature, and broken their peace and rest in sin, he waits in patience to prevail to recover the creature and stay the enmity by suffering all the rage and envy, and evil entreatings that the evil spirit that rules in the creature can cast upon him, and he receives it with meekness and pity to the creature, returning love for hatred, wrestling with God against the enmity with prayers and tears night and day, with fasting, mourning, and lamentation, in patience, in faithfulness, in truth, in love unfeigned, in long suffering, and in all the fruits of the spirit, that if by any means he may overcome evil with good, and by this his light in the eye of the creature that the eye may come to be opened, …that so the creature might see what it is he hates and what fruits he himself brings forth, that the creature may be convinced he is no deceiver, but hath with him the life and power of innocency and holiness, in whom he rules. And this preaching hath a power in it to open the eye of all that are not wilfully blind…
And thus he in his members many times wrestles and preaches to the spirits in prison, with much long suffering towards the world, a nation, or a particular person before he gives them up and numbers them for destruction; yea, sometimes until they rage against him and cruelty exercised upon his members be so great that there can be no remedy…
And These Fruits Are His Colours He Holds Forth To All the World, In Such as He Reigns In: as they come to obey him, he covers them with love, gentleness, faith, patience and purity, grace and virtue, temperance and self-denial, meekness and innocency all in white, that follow him, in whom he is, who walk themselves as he walked in all things conforming to God, with boldness and zeal owning the Lamb to be their leader, with him testifying against the world that the deeds thereof are evil; themselves the mean-while covered with his righteousness, against all the storms and tempests that they must be sure to meet withal; who bear that testimony which the Lamb hath ever borne, in whom he appeared to the convincing of the world: that he is the same that ever he was from the beginning; that all that will believe and love holiness may see where it is to be found, and come forth to him, and be saved; that the whole world become not as Sodom in the day of wrath, which ever comes upon a people or a nation after Christ hath appeared and been rejected thereof.
What His Kingdom Is: The power, the glory and compass of it is not comprehended with mortal understanding, which was before all beginnings and endures forever, who orders and limits all spirits in heaven and earth, who rules in the rulers of the earth and in all heavenly places, though many spirits know him not, till they have felt his reproof for their rebellion against him. His sufferings are free for love’s sake which is naturally in him to[wards] the creation, being his offspring. For which cause he becomes meek and lowly, that he may bear the infirmities of the creation, which doth in no way take from his power, who is equal with the father, but doth manifest his power tobe unlimited, in that he bears all things.
His dominion he hath among the heathen, and his hands are in the counsels of the kings of the earth, and there is no place where he is not, who descends below all depths and ascends far above all heavens that he may fill all things. But his kingdom in this world, in which he chiefly delights to walk and make himself known, is in the hearts of such as have believed in him, and owned his call out of the world, whose hearts he hath purified, and whose bodies he hath washed in obedience and made them fit for the Father to be worshipped in.
And such he rejoices and takes delight; and his kingdom in such is righteousness and peace, in love, in power and purity. He leads them by the gently movings of his Spirit out of all their own ways and wills…and guides them into the will of the father, by which they become more clean and holy.
Deeply he lets them know his covenant, and how far they may go and be false, he gives them his laws and his statutes, contrary in all things to the god of this world, that they may be known to be his before all his enemies. If they keep his counsel they are safe, but if they refuse he lets them know the correction of the Father, his presence is great joy to them of a willing mind, but with the froward he appears in frowardness; the kisses of his lips are life eternal, but who may abide his wrath? The secrets of the Father are with him, and he makes all his subjects wise. He makes them all of one heart, and with himself of the same mind. His government is wholly pure and no unclean thing can abide his judgments. As any come into his kingdom they are known, and their change is to be seen of all men. He keeps them low in mind, and a meek spirit doth he generate in them; and with his power he leads them forth against all the enmity of the evil one, and makes all conditions comfortable to them who abide in his kingdom.
Now these are the last times, and many false Christs there must appear and be made manifest by the true Christ, with their false prophets, false ways, and false worships, and false worshippers, which though they be at wars one with another, yet not the Lamb’s War. Now seeing he hath appeared whi is from everlasting and changes not, here is an everlasting trial for you all, all sorts of professors, whether you profess him in the letter or the light: come try whether Christ is in you. Measure your life and weigh your profession with that which cannot deceive you, which hath stood and will stand forever, for he is sealed of the father.
Now in truth to God and your own souls, prove your work in time lest you and it perish together. First, see if your Christ be the same that was from everlasting to everlasting, or is he changed according to the times: in life, in death, in peace and wars, in reigning, in suffering, in casting out and receiving in. And if you find the true Christ then prove your faithfulness to him in all things. Doth he whom you obey as your leader lead you out to war against the world and all the pride and glory, fashions and customs, love and pleasures, and whatever is not of God therein; and to give up your lives unto death rather than knowingly to yield your obedience thereto? Doth he justify any life now but what he justified in the prophets and apostles and saints of old? Doth he give his subjects liberty now to bow to the god of this world and his ways, in things that he hath denied in the saints of old, and for denying whereof many, both then and now, have suffered? Is he at peace in you while you are in the fleshly pleasures, or while you have fellowship with the unclean spirits that are in the world? Doth he not lead out of the world, and to strive against it in watchings, fastings, prayers, and strong cries to the Father, that you may be kept, and others delivered, from the bondage and pollutions of it? Is his kingdom the same in you? And doth he give out the same spiritual laws against all the laws and customs of the man of sin in you, as he hath done to his subjects in all ages? Doth he beget in your hearts a new nature contrary to the world’s nature in all things, motions, and delights like himself, whereby he works out the old nature that inclines to the world and can be at peace therein?
And now your peace is wholly in him, and that which crucifies the world to you, and you to it, is your joy and delight. Hath he called you out of this world to bear his name before the powers thereof, and put his testimony into your hearts, and the same weapons into your hands as were used by the saints of old against the powers of darkness, whereby you have power given to overcome evil with good? And many other fruits you may find which he ever brought forth in his chosen, whereby they were known to be in him and he in them, for which the world hates them. By all which you may clearly know, if he be the same in you today as he was yesterday in his people, and forever. For he changes not, nor conforms to the world, nor the will of any creature, but changes all his followers till they become in all things like himself; for they must bear his name and image before all men and spirits.
Now if you profess the same as was, and is, and is to come, the same for evermore, the same Christ, the same calling in you that was in all the people of God, then prove your faithfulness in answering and obeying. Who is it that sees what wars are begun? And to whom hath not the sound gone forth? The children of light have published the gospel of light throughout the world, and the Prince of Darkness hath shown his enmity against it. The Lamb hath appeared with his weapons as before mentioned, in much long suffering. The god of this world hath appeared to withstand him with his weapons, and hath prevailed unto blood with much eagerness, and the Lamb hath prevailed unto suffering with much meekness and patience, each of them in their subjects, in whom these contrary spirits act one against another; and now see what party you take, who hath hired you, and whose work you are in. Or are you idle, looking on? Or are you gone out with the beast of the field and regard nothing but your bellies and your pleasures? Doth it not greatly concern you to try your spiritual states, see all must come speedily to an account for their lives and service? Are you such as spend your time and strength in watching and praying to the Father of Spirits, for yourselves and the people of God, that they may be kept in the time of temptation and assaults of the Evil One, who seeks his advantage on the weak brethren; and for your enemies, that they may be delivered from under his power, who are captivated by him at his will to fulfill his lusts and envy, and satisfy his wrath upon the innocent?
And do you deny yourselves of your pleasures, profits, ease, and liberty, that you may hold forth a chaste conversation and conduct in the power and life of gentleness, meekness, faithfulness, and truth, exercising a conscience void of offense towards God, and all men, that thereby you may shine forth in righteousness, so as to convince your enemies whom you pray for; thus following him who laid down his life for his enemies? Is this your war and these your weapons? Is this your calling and are you faithful to him that hath called you hereto, so as you can by no means bow to the god of this world, nor his ways, though it were to save your lives or credit in the world, or estates, and yet can serve the meanest creature in God’s way, though to the loss of all?
I beseech you, be faithful to your own souls herein. Do you find nothing in you that calls or moves this way or reproves the contrary? If there be, are you not such as quench the spirit, and put out your own eye, and deny the Lamb’s call against your own lives? And if there be not, then are you not dead members cut off from Christ, and all your profession is but a lie, and without Christ you are in the world? O that you would prove your own selves, for there be many deceitful workers at this day of his appearance who do the work of the Lord negligently and deceitfully. Many do their own work instead of his, and many are called and for a while abide, but in the time of hardship prove deceitful, and return to serve in the world again and take pleasure therein. Others are called and convinced, but come half out of the world, even as far as they can do it without loss or shame, but keep their covenant therewith still, in what makes most for their gain, or earthly advantage or credit. Others have answered their call and been faithful in the covenant of the Lamb against the Prince of this world, so far as they have seen; but not minding the watch against the enemy, and not keeping low in the fear, and zealous in the light, have suffered the simplicity to be deceived, and are led back to the old beggarly rudiments of the world again, and take that for perfection and growth which once they vomited up. These expect great things in their work, but they are blinder than the rest and more to be pitied because of the simplicity that is deceived.
Many other grounds there be that bring not fruit to perfection, who are not faithful to him that hath called them therein; so that now the truth is, that many are called but few chosen faithful. Many are ashamed at the Lamb’s appearance, it is so low, and weak, and poor, and contemptible, and many are afraid seeing so great a power against him. Many be at work in their imaginations, to compass a kingdom, to get power over sin, and peace of conscience, but few will deny all, to be led by the Lamb in a way they know not, to bear his testimony and mark against the world, and suffer for it with him. Now deceit hath taught you to say, and maybe you think it also, God forbid but you should suffer with Christ till death; but come to the trial in deed and truth. Doth he not suffer under all the pride and pleasures of the flesh, by all manner of excess, by all manner of customs and fashions, not of God but of the world? Is not all against him that is not of him and the father? Is not the lust of the eye, and of the flesh, and pride of life, his oppressors? And do you that live in these things, and fashions, and plead for them, suffer with him by them, or war with him against them? Then would you be weary of them, and not practice nor plead for them against him; this you will find true in the end, you cannot suffer with him, and serve his enemies.
Can you live at ease, and in your pleasures and profits, and cover yourselves with worldly glory, while Christ Jesus is crucified in his temples with mockings, stockings, stonings, whipping, and all manner of evil intreatings; cast into holes, pits and dungeons, having none on earth to take his part, nor plead his righteous cause, nor once to take notice of his innocent sufferings? But who as will, may tread down his precious life in the open streets, without resisting; and this for no other thing, but for testifying against the deeds of the world, that they are evil. The pride and oppression, false ways and false worships, never set up by him but in the will of man, and so maintained against him, which he must judge with a contrary appearance, ere he come to his kingdom. Do you suffer with him herein, who have a heart consenting to these things, if not a hand deeply in them; secret or open, either in this cruelty acting or contriving, or in cursed and scornful speeches condemning them that bear witness, as a foolish ignorant people, and that they bring their sufferings upon themselves, by their own wills. So shoot your poisoned arrows one way or other against that Spirit which leads, and hath ever led such as do not resist and disobey him, into the same testimony, and so in secret you become worse than open persecutors. Or it may be some few become as far as Pilate, who washed his own hands, while others shed the innocent blood; and these are few indeed, who thus far will openly confess the just and innocent Lord before his accusers, in whatsoever vessel he is thus honored.
But will the best of these stand in judgment as sufferers with him? Or will he know you at his appearance, by this mark? Are these his steps you follow? Or is this his image, or power, or war, or weapons? Will this suffering bring you to reign with him, or he to you in your peace? Or will this cross crucify you to the world, and the world to you? Do you walk as he walked, or hath he left you such example to follow? Search the Scriptures, and read the life of them, and your own lives, with the light of Christ Jesus. Cease to blaspheme any longer in saying you are Christians, while in Christ you are not, but in a contrary spirit, and contrary life, and your fellowship is not with him in suffering, but with them in whom he suffers.
Were ever Christians at their ease and worldly delights while Christ hath not where to rest his head; thrust out of your meeting places, towns, and markets, and every assembly, if he doth but testify against the evil thereof? Are you asleep in the world, and doth it not awaken you to see or hear how sudden a return that bloody spirit hath made, lately in part cast out? And with what power he is now entering, like to exceed sevenfold what he hath this many generations, making daily havoc of the lambs? Is it a time for you to riot in, to satisfy your lusts, to eat and drink, and rise up to play?…How long shall it be ere the life of what you profess be seen in the face of your conversation, teachers and people? When will you teachers approve yourselves as the ministers of God and sufferers with Christ?… [Here Nayler quotes from 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, 1 Cor. 9:18, Jude 11.]
Now why will you not measure yourselves with this measure, seeing this only is sealed to all generations of God’s ministers…Nay, why are you so exceedingly blind, and wicked above measure, that if you be found in the contrary nature, life, and practice, and God send some to warn you thereof, and hold forth the lamb’s testimony against you, you presently suffer the evil one to get up in you and…not minding this to be obedience to God in them, and his love and faithfulness to your souls, seek to cast some of these [harsh treatments] upon them; and so your revenge turns to their double honour, and doubles a witness against yourselves, to your own condemnation….
Surely he that hath a living conscience may much admire how you get over these scriptures in your teaching of others, and not to wound yourselves, or pierce your hearts with fear, and your faces with blushing, who are found so absolute in contradiction thereto, in conversation, and unlike in your lives, in the sight of every open eye. Or how can you muzzle your consciences while you pass your prayers, that your own mouth doth not condemn you? It’s no wonder why you are such enemies to the Light within; everyone that doth evil hates the light.
And you hearers of all sorts, how long will it be before you hearken to what the Lord says to your soul, who is no respecter of persons; but everyone that bears not the image of his son in well-doing he hates…; that with the Light of Christ in your own hearts you may see how the world’s lusts have spoiled your souls of that heavenly image, and hath captivated your minds into itself and likeness, and how you lie dead in sin covered with earth and daubed over with the words of men. Oh! That you would awake before wrath awaken you, and put on the armour of God, not relying any longer on men that beat the air, to fight your battles, against him who is got into your hearts; but that yourselves, as soldiers of Christ, may all come to use the spiritual weapons against the spiritual wickedness exalted in the temple of God, so that you can neither see nor serve God therein, being filled with wicked and worldly cumbrances.
That’s the spiritual weapon which captivates every thought to the obedience to Christ, and this is the true warfare, and is mighty through God, to cast down the strong holds of the man of sin in you; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience; knowing that he that will not be led by the spirit of God is for condemnation. And only these weapons are effectual to cleanse the heart of all that exalts itself against the life and knowledge of God, and to make way for his appearance; which no man’s words who is in the same evils hath power to do; for this power is only in Christ his light and life. And only blessed are they who feel and find this treasure working in the earthen vessel; such shall approve their own work to God and have praise thereof, not of man. So should you come to see what others have said in scripture, concerning the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, and savingly feel the power of his cross, of his death, and resurrection, and the everlasting purity of his life, and that eternal love the father bears thereto, an everlasting inheritance to all who learn him, and attain his appearance, whose beauty is blessed forever….
Now you that cry, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ; see that it be truth in you, and that you lie not within yourselves. The lamb’s war you must know, before you can witness his kingdom, and how you have been called into his war, and whether you have been faithful and chosen there or no. He that preaches the kingdom of Christ in words, without victory, is the thief that goes before Christ. So take heed that your own words condemn you not, but mind your calling, and how you have answered, and whether you have been faithful in that whereunto you have been called, THE WAR; Christ hath a war with his enemies, to which he calls his subjects to serve him therein, against all the powers of darkness of this world, and all things of this old world…he will overturn, and all things will he make new, which the god of this world hath polluted, and wherewith his children hath corrupted themselves…this the lamb wars against, in whomsoever he appears, and calls them to join with him herein in heart and mind, and with all their whole might.
And for that end he lights his candle in their hearts, that they might find out every secret evil that the man of sin hath there treasured up, even to every thought and intent of the heart, to cast out the enemy with all his stuff, and to subject the creature wholly to himself, that he may form a new man, a new heart, new thoughts, and a new obedience, in a new way, in all things therein to reign, and there is his kingdom.
Now many are called to this war, but few are chosen and faithful. They that are faithful in their calling, them he chooses, and in them he reigns, and with them he makes war upon his enemies upon every side, under what colour soever they appear…the sword of his spirit he hath put into their hands, his word into their mouths, whereby they are at wars with all the world…
So you that are much in words, prove your own selves: if you be in his kingdom, or of his subjects, then are you at work with him in this his day, wherein he is coming in thousands of his saints to take vengeance into his hands, and inflict it upon his enemies.
Now you who are asleep and at ease in the flesh, are not of his kingdom; for by suffering in the flesh doth he make war, and slays the man of sin.
You that are at peace in the world’s ways and fashions, invented and maintained by the man of sin, you are not in his kingdom, for he hath given an alarm against all those things, which hath caused the dragon to whet his teeth, and all the devouring spirits are stirred up, their Lord’s kingdom to defend, every one with such weapons as he hath, against the lamb in his kingdom, in what vessel soever he reigns…
Now you that are making peace where these things are upholden, you are false-hearted, and betray the lamb; as that of God in you shall witness, you are at peace-making with his enemies.
But, say you, God is love, and we are commanded to love all, and seek peace with all, &c. I say, is God’s love in you otherwise than it hath ever been in Christ, and all his saints, whom the world ever hated, whom God loved, and in whom he testified against the world unto death, and unto bonds, and persecution, were not they in God’s love? Did they not keep his commandments? Will you take their words in your mouths, and condemn their lives by your practices?
The lamb’s war is not against the creation, for then should his weapons be carnal, as the weapons of the worldly spirits are, for we war not with flesh and blood, nor against the creation of God, that we love, but we fight against the spiritual powers of wickedness, which wars against God in the creation, and captivates the creation into the lust which wars against the soul, and that the creature may be delivered into its liberty, prepared for the sons of God. And this is not against love, nor everlasting peace, but that without which there can be no true love, nor lasting peace.
Love to God and man constrains us to be faithful in this war. Nor is God’s love to that seed of bondage, nor did he ever command you to seek the peace of it. For the love of the world is enmity with God, as saith the scripture….
And can you love this spirit, bow and conform to it, or suffer it to reign in yourselves, or your brethren, and you be silent, under a pretence of seeking love and peace, and obeying God’s command; and boast in high words about Christ’s kingdom, counting it a low and foolish thing in such as faithfully and zealously bear testimony for God, and against these evils? And will not God find you out, and your deceit and unfaithfulness in your generation; shall not God break your peace, and disannul your covenant, which you are making with the world, to settle yourselves in ease and pleasure, and bring you out with true judgment, where it shall be seen what nature your love is of, whose kingdom you are in , and whom you love and serve.
The day is dawned, and the sun is risen to many that shall not set, nor shall he cease his course, until he have rightly divided between the precious seed, and the children of whoredoms and deceit. And now the holy seed is called forth, to appear in its colours against the man of sin; and with the sword of his mouth doth he make war, and with the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning doth he consume the filthy and unclean spirits.
And all that are faithful have their armour on ready, day and night to follow the lamb, as he moves, counting nothing hard to undergo, so as they may but have hopes of reconciliation betwixt God and the creature that is fallen to the prince of the world, and led captive at his will. And this is love indeed, to lay down all for such as are yet enemies.
Go and prosper in the name of the Lord, and in righteousness make war; and all that are zealous for truth and purity shall say amen; but the slothful, the lukewarm, and all unclean persons, shut themselves out, as not for this work, nor worthy to be counted faithful or chosen.
13. from What the possession of the living Faith is, and the Fruits thereof (1659)
Perfection in His will is His will; but we can see it before we possess it. We must beware of thinking ourselves further than we are, and rest easy in the knowledge that if we long for the fullness of God’s life, and we keep as close as we can to the Guide day by day, however imperfect our perception, we can come fully into our inheritance as Children of the Light.
[I] could not inherit liberty to my soul any other way, but as it came to be purified in obedience through the Spirit… And this work was not wrought in me by the knowledge of Christ after the flesh, but as I came to learn Him in Spirit, for spiritual wickedness had taken my soul captive, and by the Spirit it must be sanctified and set free. And I came to see that if I had been in His company here on earth as long as His disciples were in the flesh, and seen as much as they did, and heard from His own mouth, I should have been short of this work as they were, in whom the Child was unborn when He went away in the flesh, and they knew not what spirits they were of, until He came again to them in Spirit and was revealed in them; then could they preach the resurrection of the dead and the soul’s redemption, and desired to know Him no more after the flesh, when once they had received Him in Spirit…
Nor do I say, that all my sins, which formerly I had committed, of which I had been convinced by the light of the world, when I was in the world, before I believed it to be sufficient, that they were wholly taken away, as my sins of ignorance were; for this I found, that God in this was just and merciful: merciful, in that He did not lay them all at once before me, lest they should have pressed me down, that I could not have followed the light, nor gotten any strength; but must needs have perished under them, had He not spared. And just I have found Him also; for as they were not committed all at once, against the light of His Spirit; so He has at one time or another visited for them, and laid them before me; yet not all at once, nor no way so heavy as those committed after I believed, and gave up myself to follow the light, and yet to an account He has brought me for them. And coming to feel the terrors of God, I have learned to fear and love, and have found the ground and the rise, and deceits of that faith that believes Christ to have taken away the sins of believers, past, present and to come, with which many at this day make merry over the Witness of God, and the Just is slain in them, and that Scripture I have learned without a meaning, …
And in this journey I have seen the slothful servant overtaken in a fault, which he had once cast behind him, and never intended to join to again, of which the diligent servant is kept free; and I have seen the wages of each servant according to his diligence, in that which he has of God entrusted in him, and not by his own strivings, in the thoughts of himself, his worth or wisdom. And in diligent hearkening and obeying of the Spirit, have I found the right faithfulness towards God, though getting knowledge be highly esteemed with men, and I have found that, as I have the Spirit manifest in me to profit withal: So the time of my profiting are only in His hand, and my waitings upon Him when He moves not, is my reasonable service, and a profiting time to me as if He moved, though I see it not. And this I found a great cross to my hasty will, which is indeed the true worship in Spirit, which, when I knew not this Spirit to hearken and bow to, and obey and observe in all things as His will leads, I worshipped I knew not what, and my fear towards God then was taught by the precepts of men, and I was not taught of the Lord, not being born of that Spirit: And so all the children of the Lord are taught of the Lord, and as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
14. from How Sin is strengthened, and how it is overcome (1657)
The Spirit is know in small things at first, but if by practice we stay close to it, we find ourselves drawn into collaboration with its healing and strengthening power. Nayler here addresses how to recognize this Spirit and its growth in you, in most tender terms.
And this further, for the encouragement of such as honestly indeed would be rid of their sin, and set free to serve God in holiness without deceit, you feeling in yourself the moving of that which is holy, bearing witness against that which is contrary to holiness, and condemning it, and you for joining with it in all your conversation: I say, in that believe, for that is all you know of Christ in you; and believing and following it, you will feel it making a separation in your inward man, between that which Christ comes to save, and that which He comes to destroy; for this is He that comes from above, to set before you life and death divided, that you joining to the life, and believing, may be saved from death:
And as you are faithful to this Spirit which condemns sin in the flesh, so you will feel warring against, and working out sin daily, to which if you clearly join, denying that which it condemns, then are you one spirit with Him in His work, and are no longer in the flesh, nor to be condemned with the sin remaining in the flesh, but are one in Him that condemns sin, and self in sinning, till sin become exceeding sinful in your eyes, as it is in the eyes of God; and as you grow in love and liking with that pure Spirit, its law and leadings, so you will become dead to the law of sin, and it will lose its power in you, not being minded, loved and served, your mind, love and fear being exercised in that which condemns it; and here that faith that works by love takes the victory, and not your striving in your own strength only from a sight of sin by the law, for by the works of the law you cannot be justified, but by the working of faith in Christ Jesus, that Spirit; and as you feel His working in you, and you one with Him therein, in His work you are justified, and by beholding of Him in this faith, you will be changed into His likeness by His mighty power working in you, even by that Spirit to which you are turned:
And as He grows in you, and you in Him, you will feel that power arising which will make you able to answer a good conscience, and give lasting peace, and so by His resurrection shall be saved from condemnation, from which your own works will not save you, and this work will go on with joy, if your heart be honest; for seeing Him that is holy set before you condemning sin, and His holiness and beauty in all His motions does so delight the honest heart, to see such a glory and beauty near you, that it makes the way easy after Him for the joy that is set before you; for in all your tribulations, trials, and temptations, this faith will present Him before you; and this made the Saints of old endure the cross, and despise the shame, and bear the reproach after Him joyfully, following the Lamb in all His leadings….
So you that love holiness, it is near you; power over sin and satan is near you: salvation is at hand; go not forth to seek that abroad which you have lost in your own house; He is your salvation that condemns sin in your bosom: He that reproves the wicked is with you: He that is pure is your peace: He that never consented to sin, but stands a Witness against it: if you have such a Spirit in you, you have the Spirit of Christ the Savior. So take heed to Him, to believe in Him, and to mind His leading, and to follow Him; if you part not from Him, He will be your everlasting peace, and over-ruling power to subdue your sins; and by Him shall you tread down strength with ease and delight……
…as you become faithful thereto, you will feel the fruit of that Holy One springing in you, moving to be brought forth in you towards God and man, your faith will grow, and prayers with strong cries to the Father; as the Spirit sees your wants, your love will spring and move in you, and bring forth towards God and man upon all occasions; which if you willingly serve in its smallest motion, it will increase, but if you quench it in its movings, and refuse to bring it forth, it will wither and dry in you, not being exercised.
And it is the like of gentleness, meekness, patience, and all other virtues which are of a springing and spreading nature, where they are not quenched, but suffered to come forth to His praise in His will and time, who is the Begetter thereof, and to the comfort of His own Seed, and cross to the world: And if you be faithful daily to offer up your body as a sacrifice, to bring forth His image, name, and power before His enemies, then what He moves you to bring forth shall be your inheritance, and will daily increase with using; but if you will not give up for His names sake, but would hold the treasure, and escape the reproach, then will it be taken from you, and given to him who will yield the Lord of the vineyard His fruit in due season; for that which the Father freely begets, He will have freely brought forth, that the shining thereof in the dark world may praise Him.
What a glory is it to see peace shine in the midst of war, love in the midst of hatred, meekness in the midst of strife, righteous judgment in the midst of wickedness, innocency in the midst of violence and oppression; as a lily among thorns, so is that of God among the men of the world; and therein does His nature and beauty appear in His temple, to which all must confess, and praise Him therein.
15. Milk for Babes, and Meat for Strong Men (1661)
This is another of Nayler’s major tracts, from the very productive time of the late 1650s. The noteworthy thing here, aside from the comprehensiveness of his vision of life in the Spirit, and the growth that it requires, is that the advice is the same to the “babes” and to the “strong men.”
O come young men and maidens, old men and babes, and drink abundantly of the streams that run from the Fountain, that you may feel a well-spring of living water in yourselves, springing up to eternal life; that as He lives (even Jesus Christ) from whence all the springs do come, so you may live also, and partake of His glory that is ascended at the right hand of the Father, far above principalities and powers.
To you tender hearted ones, who have felt the call of the Father’s love, who now see more desirableness and beauty in the innocency and meekness, than in the mountains of prey, or self- conceited exaltations arising from the airy knowledge: My soul is with you herein; and in that which has given you a sight of this excellency, wait low, and diligently hearken thereto, until the thing itself spring up, which naturally has this riches in it, which comes from above, and yet is felt far below all fleshly affections, high thoughts, and hasty desires, and by these is vailed and hid from you; so that you cannot come to the life and spring of it, but as you deny these, and put them off, by sinking down through them, all these earthly foundations and ends, to rise up: For under all these your Beloved suffers, while these are above in your minds, and through the fall of all these must He arise, and over all these take the Kingdom, e’re you come to have a quiet dwelling place in Him, and He in you. So under all these must you pass, and into the likeness of His death you must come, and be planted therein, that the fellowship of His sufferings you may feel, and partake of His meekness and patience therein, who bears all things; and your faithfulness with Him therein must be thoroughly proved: In which faith and patience you shall learn Him whom you love, His reproach without, His temptations within, even such trials as cannot be declared to another, shall you learn in Him, with His love, obedience, patience, meekness and long-suffering under all: and how through all these He rises, in which resurrection He chains His enemies, and takes them captive whose captives you were: and thus shall you have fellowship in His resurrection, wherein you shall attain to the resurrection of the dead, and the inheritance of eternal life.
…. And when this you come into, then faint not, nor look back, but lift up your head through all, and know, that now He deals with you as sons and daughters of His love: Take heed you murmur not, nor measure Him with yourselves, nor repine at the rod; cast not your evil eye upon the instruments, who, or what they may be; for that will beget wrath in your minds, and then you will lose the life you aim at, and suffer in vain; but in the greatest floods keep your eye to your Beloved, retain patience and meekness in longsuffering, with faith: Let these be ever in your heart as the end of all; and still believe, that all that befalls you is but to waste that which would hinder you from being joined unto Him you so highly prize. So in all things keep with Him, let His joy be strength unto you in all, and the appearance of His beauty will refresh you in the new, as the old does waste; and with Him make war against the enmity, and let His love quench all wrath that would arise, let Him be your shield of faith; and whatever you are led into while you retain Him single in your minds, it shall be profitable to the end expected; but without Him you can do nothing: So if you pray to the Father, let it be by Him: in all your wrestlings, His meekness, patience and long-suffering, with faith, prevails much with God. If you resist the tempter, let it be in Him, it’s His good that only has power to overcome the evil; and here is your strength in all, if you hold Him steadfast in your minds; in the fire and in the floods He will be with you, and be your power and peace, and make your way through all.
….For whatever you own for your Redeemer out of trouble, that must be your lord and master, and you’re its servant: Wherefore take heed you own none for a helper, but Him whom you look to inherit; so that he that makes flesh his arm, inherits the curse; and the earth comes over him, and he must serve it: But stay you in the meekness of Christ, His peace and patience, and receive the earnest of your inheritance in the day of your trouble; and when you come out, none shall be able to take it from you, nor any contrary nature shall be lord in you, and He shall become your Life and Leader forever.
…But that which only minds to be obedient to God in suffering and acting with faith and diligence, hearkening with all long-suffering, meekness and patience, what He says, thinking it a greater thing to obtain Counsel from Him, than ease from another, believing that no other can give an expected end but Him, to wit, an inheritance in that you wait for; and therefore count nothing dear that you may win Him, thinking no time long, nor any thing hard to endure, for the joy and beauty that is set before you: This will never deceive you of the redemption of truth; your Beloved and Redeemer, and Lord, is One, and you shall not be put to your slight shifts as they that go out from the Spirit are; for you shall feel and see your Redeemer in the midst of you, and with His body shall you rise and live, and you shall not be ransomed with silver or gold from the hand of the oppressor, but by the precious blood of Christ, as a Lamb without spot; not with any corruptible thing, but His long-suffering, faith and patience, His love and meek Spirit shall set you out of darkness, and above all fears; and your freedom will be perfect, and inheritance large, when all that would not stay upon Him alone, are consumed in the fiery trials, which haste, ease and distrust, will never bring to an end; till which you are not fit to be joined to Him you love, in everlasting obedience and everlasting praises, the portion of all who have waited on Him, and have found Him faithful to the end.
And having learned this mystery of godliness, and found the worth of it, you having found His way perfect and pure, and Him faithful to such as walk therein, you may be able to direct the simple and unlearned in the desirable way to rest, and your words have in them a manifestation of life, and quickening power is with you, and this shall be your everlasting strength, that you are redeemed with that you so dearly loved.
…So with all diligence sink down to feel the election, not minding that which boasts in high words before it be tried, but when it comes into the fore will not stand patient in the trial, but through that being given up to death, seek for that which lies under the suffering, which calls you down from every high thought: To Him come down into the low valley, who bears all things without complaining, that with Him you may suffer, and with Him you may obey, and in all things He may be with you, and you with Him. This is the election, make Him sure to yourselves in life and death; so shall you be changed by Him: And though you go down into a low estate with Him, He shall raise you spiritual; though you are sown weak, yet shall you be raised in power; if you rise not but with Him, as He raises you; if you cast not off the yoke, nor flee the cross, nor heal your own wound; though your wound be mortal, yet the cure is immortal; though you go down in shame and reproach, yet raised in glory, and covered with immortal honor and eternal life, with power and strength to fulfill the will of God, and the answer of a good conscience; through this baptism and resurrection you shall attain, and so become one in spirit with Him that dwells in the light, in death, in suffering, in patience, in faith and in obedience, which otherwise no mortal man can approach to, there being that to be fulfilled which the light requires, which the first man has not in power, so by that law (his life he must lose) which has power over the transgressor as long as he lives, and cannot be joined to Christ till to that law he be dead; So the first which is earthly the law kills because of sin and want of obedience; but he that is born again of the Spirit, lives because of righteousness and obedience. So the boaster is excluded, being clouded under sin, that the mercy may arise in the meek principle over all, to fulfill all.
The light says, Love your neighbor as yourself: This the first birth cannot do, so the boaster is excluded, and the law lays hold on that life, which wants this love, and the creature must give up that to death that he may come to the meek Spirit, for the power of that life and obedience that has righteousness in it; and the creature drawing his mind and affections, and faith from the first, who has words without power, and giving these to the second, the first falls, withers, and dies in that vessel, and as the mind is diligent in the second, he rises in the faith, and Christ raises the power of obedience in that vessel, and so as he rises through the law, he brings forth fruits above the law, against which there is no law. So he in whom the covenant is, has the power of obedience to righteousness, puts an end to the law: So he being denied, dead and buried, whose life arose through disobedience, who is the transgressor, and because of whom the law was added, that law becomes dead also. He that fulfills the law is He that gave it forth, and is the end thereof, in whom by faith you live, and inherit this righteousness, as you put Him on through death who is this life. So being faithful to the light, shall you learn Him that kills and makes alive, that casts down and raises up, that condemns and justifies, and so shall know the way of death and the way of life; and who that is that is hardened by the law, and who fulfills it, and the life and end of both; and you will see the cause and end of all tribulations, earthquakes and thunders, and several voices, clouds, smoke and darkness, and great temptations, and the trial of your faith herein will be as that of gold, and will bring to inherit the knowledge of God and eternal life, and power to judge the prince of the air, and over the mystery of iniquity, and to deny the god of this world, with all his snares and traps, wherein the unlearned professors are caught, and held captive at his will, though some of them have a knowledge and form of the truth taught from what others have thus learned, all which you shall judge and have power over, and all ministration under the Son shall with this be comprehended, whether angels or spirits; even he that is faithful and diligent unto the end of this great tribulation, shall be made white, and have judgment committed to him, and the key of David’s house, to bind and loose, and shall sit in the Lamb’s throne of judgment and righteousness in heaven, and the grave nor hell shall have no more power, nor shall his old iniquities have any more power over him, the strength of sin being dead.
Wherefore, brethren, in the light be faithful when you come into this condition; take heed of unbelief, and haste not out of it, lest you tempt the Lord of your life, and grieve His meek Spirit, and provoke Him to leave chastening, so your spot remain, and you prove but bastards, and not free-born children of His kingdom, power and glory; and so in time your old iniquities overtake you again.
For whatever of the old man comes out of the fire unconsumed, dead and buried in this baptism, will be a continual canker, seeking to eat, and an enemy, daily waiting his opportunity upon all occasions to get up, and overspread the pure Plant of innocency, and so spoil you of your Beloved, and so make void all your sufferings past, and bring in the old evils like a flood upon you, as it has befallen many at this day; but be faithful to the end of all iniquity, the root as well as the branch: So shall your righteousness arise clear and unspotted, and your old sins shall therewith be buried, and never rise again, neither to accuse nor reign. And this is your victory over death.
… your work is to war against whatever would keep you from coming to this Foundation and Cornerstone. And it is not beating the air that will fight your battle; for it is against all deceits you are to fight, and airy notions, and all spirits that would possess you with words and forms, without the power of righteousness, and whatever lies under the power of sin; the true light gives you to see the cursed deceit that lies in all this, and that these are the subtle paths of the destroyer; and nothing less than victory over sin and subtlety will satisfy your souls. So that it’s only life and power that can give you peace; and therefore yours is work, and not vain words; and that which strikes at the root of sin is your best weapon. So it is not flesh that profits you, it’s the Spirit that must quicken through hardship, that which ease has slain, ere you come to perfect peace.
…with all diligence press into that which calls the wandering mind, and give heed with watching and wrestling to get abiding therein, which as you are faithful therein, it will be enlarged, till it become a habitation for your pure minds to dwell in, and take up its rest, which has been tossed to and fro as in a wilderness, and by killing in the watch all that would draw you out, and sinking down into this meekness and steadfast lowliness, you will come to feel the Plant of God that brings forth this meekness and holiness, and springs of living virtue; and there will you meet the Lord in His kingdom on earth, where He delights to walk, as in a garden;…
And this I say to you, which is a learned truth in this journey, that if you either retain your old lovers, or suffer any thing now to enter your affections, or draw out your mind from this pure plant of righteousness and truth, you shall in no wise in that state enter into the kingdom of heaven; for this is the Way, and you must make your entrance: Therefore fight against whatever would draw you from it, and with violence break through it, and take the kingdom; for only he that has been faithful in the baptism of John, in order to fulfill all righteousness, shall receive power to press into the kingdom. And when you come here, you will find violent powers to keep you out, which with the Lamb in war must be overcome violently; for the strong man having got a possession within, is not easily bound and cast out, for it is a spiritual wickedness, and in high places, with which you are to wrestle: Therefore a heavenly virtue contrary thereto, and of greater power must give you the victory.
So press into the heavenly Spirit with its power, to overcome the earthly spirit with its powers; strive earnestly in the meek spirit, to obtain a measure of faith and patience, larger than the temptation, and that will endure to the end of it, a meekness and love to cover all strife and wrath, a long-suffering to famish all haste, and that which seeks its own ease; and so in all things with desire, drinking in of the heavenly virtue from above, whereby you may become strengthened with all might to stand all assaults of the enemy, within or without; and so in the cross come to put on Christ Jesus, the great power of God unto salvation, and Well-spring of eternal life and glory; which is done by sinking down into the heavenly feeling, contrary to the will of the exalted life, whereby you will be overshadowed from above, from whence the Savior is looked for, to overcome things below.
And as you come into the feeling of these virtues, hold them fast, till He come who is the fullness, and with that you have, wrestle against whatever would draw out your minds from it; for with that of Him must you make war against whatever is contrary thereto. And as you are faithful to abide therein, you will feel every high thing fall before you; for that which cleanses the vessel of all corrupt things, is your weapon, and that which springs up in a contrary nature to the corrupt, is your life; the beholding whereof, as it arises, and keeping your eye constant in the faith and hope of attaining His fullness, will make your work the work of love, your obedience delightful, and all your sufferings easy, and your loss of your former glory will, in that eye, appear great gain. And this is your acceptable service, and that faith which works by love, which avails much with God, and being followed, overcomes the world, and sets free from it in all things.
So with the light mind to be led down into that life that is not of this world; come to Him that seeks not Himself, who has not His rest in things on earth, who is rejected of men, denied of His own kindred, and forsaken of all; and as you come to Him, you will come to be proved, whether you can forgo all these for Him alone, and that He may make His appearance in you, and cover you with Himself, His contempt and reproach, and His patient power to bear all; for it’s He that can bear all things, that shall never be moved; And he that thus overcomes, shall know the White Stone, and that Rock which breaks the nations, but builds the house of God….
Wherefore think it not strange (so long as any of the old leaven is within, unpurged out) that the nearer you draw to God in the lowly suffering meekness, the deeper you sink into tribulation, and your sufferings increase upon the fleshly part, for that is the Son’s way to perfection; and the wondrous works of the Father are learned in the deep; for by the hand of God upon you (being faithful in suffering to the end) shall you see the old foundation of the world, the root and off-spring of all wickedness, how it came to be laid, and how the Lamb was slain, and what He is, and the Foundation of God shall you see and feel, upon which the Saints were raised up, and built in the Spirit; and how all the chaff, hay and stubble comes to be cleansed off, for His fan is in His hand, and the words of His mouth are a consuming fire to that nature, which refines the gold and quickens the soul, and divides the clean from the unclean. And the nearer you draw to God, the nearer will He draw to you in righteousness, and judgment, and truth, to make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness, and to establish you in His inheritance, who appear in His temple through the refiners fire and fullers soap, the end of all sufferings, and entrance into everlasting joy, purity and peace, and weight of eternal glory, to which there is no other way but through affliction.
…And as with the foundation of life and power you come to be edified, you will be led out of the dominions of death, where you shall learn wherein it has its power; and so come to see what binds and what looses, kills and makes alive; the life of the law, the life of the Prophets, and the life of the Apostles, as they passed before you, will you come to know, their inheritance therein to possess, and with them in spirit have fellowship, as they passed the time of their pilgrimage here, that to the life of Christ you may come, for the fulfilling of the word of God, which endures from generation to generation; This being the end of all the travels of the souls of righteous men and women here below, which that they might attain the fulfilling thereof, and so return in peace to Him that made them, clothed on with their heavenly house, for which prize they counted all things loss hear below, casting off earthly pleasures, and killing every affection thereto, estranged therefrom in all their walking while they are here, knowing that the love to earthly things is the enemy of their spiritual ascending, and that the earthly adulterous spirit daily hunts to devour the precious life, and to keep the soul in things below, presenting daily its carnal delights, and opening the paths of the destroyer, with pleasures to the carnal eye, which whosoever joins to, cannot ascend into the heavenly inheritance, but with the dark world daily go downward, who are degenerated from the life of God, and estranged from it even from the womb: So that they in that state are never able to attain the knowledge of God, nor in truth and righteousness to call Him Father, nor to say they came out from Him, nor even to Him can return; this they being willingly ignorant of, that as no man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, so no more shall any man so ascend, but he who is born not of the corruptible seed, nor begotten by the word of God, which lives and abides forever.
But with you it is not so, who feel the heavenly motion, drawing your minds out of all earthly delights, the taste of the heavenly life overcoming the earthly in your affections; so that to the world you die daily; you feel something quickened in you, that cannot feed on earthly pleasures, but hungers after righteousness, and sees a beauty in holiness, and thirsts daily after the heavenly virtue. So to that sink down into its likeness, which is yet in suffering, and suffer and hunger with it, and join to it in all its counsel; so that in it you may be raised; for that is it which is on the Foundation of God, and coming to Him as a Living Stone, you will be built on the same Foundation, the same Spirit being your Head, by whose arising all vails will be done away, the vail of death, the vail of the law and prophets, and the whole mystery of godliness will be unsealed, and the way to heaven opened by Him, even the slain Lamb, who has His power from the midst of the throne of God, even for you, if you join with Him in His sufferings and ascendings, who makes the way between heaven and earth, and keeps it open in all them who mind Him, therewith to possess the vessel in holiness and fear towards God; so that nothing shall hinder your prayers from coming to the throne of God, nor the dew and blessing of heaven from falling upon the seed. And here is heaven opened, and the way of grace and salvation, for the wayfaring man here on earth to walk in; in which if you wholly exercise your minds, you shall not err, nor shall anything be able to hinder you from receiving gifts from the Father, so long as nothing of a contrary nature stops His Own from arising to Him in praises, and you with it.
… So when you feel your way darkened, or affections grow cold towards heaven, then take heed with all diligence in the pure light to search, for your enemy has got some entrance, which by faithful and patient waiting in the light you will come to see… Wherefore that which you have received of the Holy One, His Unction, hold fast till He come, and with it stand armed against whatever would enter, to lead out to any outward observations; but with all diligence observe that which you have of His in spirit, which the adversary seeks so much to draw you forth from, lest you should increase your Lord’s money, and herein you maintain your daily watch, and war with that you have of life and power, and not with that you have not: So are you faithful stewards, and are accepted in what you have, and not in what you have not; for the world is in darkness, and so wait for they know not what, and have no ground for their faith, nor power to prepare His way to His coming, further than words of others, or their own conceivings, but are not in Him that is true; but you are in Him that is true, who have His light received, and are in it to observe His appearance in all things; and the messenger of His covenant you know, who goes before His face to prepare His way, turning your heart from every evil way, and out of the paths of the destroyer, that you may be fruitful upon earth, that so He may receive you into Himself, when He comes to smite the earth with a curse, which that which brings forth briers and thorns is nigh unto, whose seed is not of himself, his root and off-spring, but is begot in the adulterous mind….
Wherefore let your food be in the life of what you know, and in the power of obedience rejoice, and not in what you know, but cannot live, for the life is the bread for your souls, which crucifies the flesh, and confounds that which runs before the cross. So let your labor and diligence be in that which presses into the heavenly Being, and seeks a conformity to Christ in obedience of what you believe, and hearken in love to that, not in that mind which would save your own lives, nor feed you where you are; but in love to that which separates you from self-life, and changes you into His life whom you wait for from above; so in receiving His commands in that which loves to be like Him in life, your faith works by love: That faith works obedience, quickness and willingness, it works out the old, and works into the new; and so through the hope of that which you love, and obedience of faith, the entrance is made with the life, into the holy kingdom, and the immortal glory is put on, which in the light is seen, and in the life is obtained, as with the word of faith the separation is made, and the first birth put off, whose life is without the vail, and is for death, with that life which makes the entrance through His blood, and through His flesh, a living way, a way of life, a new way to all who are seeking the door in old ordinances and traditions, and outward observations, feeding their minds with thinking or talking of what others did long since, or what may be done in times to come, and so are in times, but out of that life which endures forever, and only has the promise of the Father, and power to make the entrance to Him, from whom all the world are driven, who are in the lust, and in that nature which loves itself, and works iniquity; yet wearying themselves to find the door, without the light of that life which is not of this world.
And as you mind only to feed on the Plant of life, you will come to know the work of the Father in His vineyard, and who the faithful laborer is, and what must be his work; and the slothful servant, and what his work brings forth; and the cause why the field of the sluggard is over-grown with evil fruits, and why his vineyard brings not fruit to perfection. For you will find many plants besides the tree of life, all which seek to be fed and strengthened in the mind and affections, and many grown trees tall and strong, who have got fast rooting, spread and bring forth abundantly after their several kinds; and all these present themselves to the eye of the mind, to be fed from thence, which is as the feet fetching food from far, without which they cannot live long, but must pine away and fall, as they die in the affections, and as the mind is withdrawn from such objects as they are fed withal. So the work of him that is faithful is to number these to the ax, and to the fire, and not to suffer these any place in the mind, how strongly soever they tempt, and try every way to spread root to keep life; that so through the death of these, the vine may grow alone in the clean affections, and holy mind, and honest chaste heart, which is the good ground, and where the pure Plant will bring forth of itself in all, where it is not cumbered with that which is contrary to it; which contrary fruits all that mind the light may see: But the sluggard not being diligent to dig up the root, as well as to condemn the fruit, therefore they are daily growing, and the good ground is cumbered with them; and such know what they should do, but are not able to abide therein, their life being lost in the midst of this wilderness, and over-grown with wild plants.
…And in this work mind what you follow; follow nothing rashly, but prove all things with fire; and that which will not endure the temptation, and bear the cross, is the adulteress who will look out every way for ease; and the serpent will present many likely ways to her under fair pretences, which she that would live at ease, will hastily hearken to; and if you hearken to her, you will betray the work of life, which is bringing forth in hard travail and labor, which is slain in the birth, where ease and sloth is consented to; and with living at ease and pleasure, has the life been slain from the beginning of the world, and has been kept under by her sorceries, who fares deliciously upon earth; and by consenting to her pleasures has the election been lost, and covered with the seed of wickedness, which God hates, which wars after the flesh, and lusts after the flesh, to strengthen itself above the holy spiritual Seed; but minding to make that sure to you which calls in your mind, and being obedient thereto, it will lead down by the power of the cross, through that which is above, to the feeling of the election; and a separation being made between that which God chooses in His working-power, and what He condemns, you will come thereby to know to what to join, and from what to withdraw, that you may be workers together with Him, and not against Him, which the subtle one will lead you to do, till with the light the separation be made; and so joining to it in faith and obedience, the election will arise, and by diligence thereto it will be made sure….
Wherefore run not with that which is in haste, but lie down in that which is meek, lowly and patient, that which is willing to wait the Father’s time, and seeks to obtain by the obedience of faith, and not in the will that would have its own hand: For a nature there is which runs for help, and ravens abroad to be satisfied, which God will famish; and this will seek to lead the mind, if it be followed, and will hunt about and murmur if it be not satisfied: This goes about the city, but enters not; and this must suffer hunger, and feel the Lamb’s wrath, and plagues upon the head thereof, what way soever it turns, till it bow and come under, which it will not till it be pined with famine, and wearied upon the mountains of prey; then shall the lion lie down with the lamb, and a little Child lead to rest, and no ravenous beast shall take his feeding from him. But in this work take heed that you be not betrayed with that spirit, for it is very subtle, to run to the one hand or the other, either into eagerness and haste, which is its first way after convincement; Or else, when it gets not its ends there, then into sloth and idle carelessness, and both these keep it alive in strength above the Seed; but a straight way there is between these, in which the Seed arises; which is a diligent, watchful, patient, meekness, feeling the godly principle moving and following it in faith and obedience in all things without haste or ends, further than what is opened in the life of obedience, constantly diligent lest anything slip out of the mind, which is freely given for practice or teaching; for only the diligent mind holds the true living treasure; but the slothful and disobedient are leaking vessels.
So as wise in the light, prove your freedom, from that nature which is high, and fierce, and hasty, or any way above the meekness, for therein stands your perfect redemption, to know that you are not servants to that nature; for it’s the same that hastens into the greediness after worldly things, and fears, and distrusts, if it has not in its sight and possession what it lusts after; which being convinced of an inheritance in heaven, would have that also in all haste by sight; but not through faith, patience and obedience; which if it may not obtain into its own sight, and in its own way and time, it will be ready to faint and distrust, and this will never strip himself of all, in hopes of an inheritance it has not seen; so this is in bondage, and not to be heir: But the just live by faith, whose birth is free from this world, and your redemption for the other into the leadings of this, which will bring to the inheritance of the purchased possession.
Wherefore prove your freedom in all things, that you may not glory in vain, but in the liberty of Sons: Do not say, All things are lawful, all things are pure, &c. And so sit down and say, You are redeemed, and have right to all; but first pass through all things, one after another, as the light leads you; and with a true measure see, if you be from under the power of any; when you have proved this throughout all things, and found your freedom, then may you say, All things are lawful, and know what is expedient, and what edifies yourselves and others, and the rest to reign over, without bondage thereto: And this is the liberty of the Sons of the new creation, born again, not in bondage; whose liberty is glorious above all visible things; and these are the pure, to whom all things are pure, and hold fast only that which is good, and the rest are free from.
And this ever mind, that whatever freedom you obtain through the suffering and patience of Christ in spirit, you part not with it to please the flesh, but hold it as your everlasting possession purchased for you, not with corruptible things; so that which is dearly purchased, let not lightly go… Wherefore stand single in your minds to follow nothing new or old, but what the Holy Spirit leads into; for the work is a work you know not, nor the way do you know, but as it is learned in the obedience by which the soul is purified and cleared by purging out the old earthly leaven, which has darkened the temple of God, and God’s work is not seen in that nature.
Wherefore give all diligence to the Spirit’s motion and leadings, what it moves against, and what it leads to; for now will God make all things new: A new creation, new heavens, and new earth, and new heart and mind, and a new law, a new man to walk therein with his Maker with cheerfulness, and the old bonds are broken by the Spirit’s leading, and to serve in newness of spirit. And as you mind the pure leadings of the Spirit, and willingly follow and obey, you will come to know your Creator in the days of your youth, and how He made the worlds by His holiness; and how He is your Father, and in what: and how He begets you again into the heavenly delights, who was gone out from Him, and drove into the earth with your hearts and affections, and so those will lead out still further from God, if you look into them, but can never come into God again, but must die, and be changed by the Spirit; and the New Creature is accepted of God, the new heart and mind, and spirit, which is renewed after God, by following of His Spirit who creates Him.
And this work will be darkened to your understanding, if your minds come not clear out of the old, into the new: For wrath will arise, and confusion will be to that mind which is double, where the eye is not single, kept forward in the belief of the Spirit only, but looks back into the loss, and to that which is dying and condemned; there is the smoke, and darkness, and torment, and temptations, being enticed back into the old: But if the eye be single, the whole body is full of light, and the faith arises to endure to the end of the world, and to look to the beginning and finishing of the new work of regeneration. And standing single to God herein, though the world pass away with thundering, earthquakes, and a mighty noise, yet shall you not fear nor faint, abiding in the meek, patient, and suffering Spirit, and the leadings of that which endure all things to win Christ: And coming out of Babel, you shall not fall with her, nor be darkened with the smoke of her torments, as all that abide in her must, and of her plagues must partake: but the pure mind rejoices over her in the midst of all.
“Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”
16. To The Life of God in All (Sometimes called “James Nayler’s Confession”) 1659
By the end of this powerful piece, one is left with a feeling that we do not yet understand what Nayler was feeling, and thought he was doing, on that infamous day in Bristol in 1656. Yet the piece provides powerful insight into his understanding of his motivations, in retropect. It is also a powerful utterance of an unshaken faith in the power and reliability of the Light of Christ as teacher, guide, and healer; and it breathes a spirit that is reminiscent of Woolman’s, a sense of universal fellowship, and of the special tenderness that God has for those who suffer and mourn.
The love of that precious life of Christ Jesus in me, constrains me (as the light thereof arises) to declare to all people, and to generations to come, how the innocent, just, and holy life came to suffer in me, and be betrayed, and I to lose the light thereof, so far as to be taken captive again under the power of darkness, sin and death, from which that life had once set me free, and born me in itself for some years, above all the craft, subtlety and power of satan, that old deceiver and tempter of mankind, who ceases not to take every occasion that pure life to devour, and so take the creature captive again, who with that precious Life has once been ransomed, as once I had been by the living virtue thereof; for out of kindreds and estate, and all visible relations had He once called me, and set me free; and had broken all my bonds as to all earthly things, which were strong and many, and redeemed me from all my sins past, and with His precious blood had He sprinkled my conscience (before God) as though I had never sinned in His sight, anointing me with the oil of deliverance and peace towards God and man; and sent me forth in the same bowels to call lost and strayed souls to the same everlasting light, therein to wait for the appearance of the same purifying life and power in themselves, therewith to be gathered to the pure God, to whom the children of darkness and wicked workers cannot come, till with the word of life they be cleansed and made new after Himself, in whom is no iniquity.
And in this His work, by Him was I preserved against all enmity, born in all afflictions, and fed above all wants within and without, though sent into a strange country without money, bag or scrip, and among a strange people that knew not God, in the North Parts of this English Nation; and I may truly say, as a sheep among wolves I was wherever I came; yet had none power to touch me further than what should make for His glory in whom I lived, and the advantage of that work I was about, which He daily turned to my exceeding joy and great reward; and His living Presence did ever furnish me with renewed strength against all contrary spirits, and the power thereof, and in Him I had judgment and power over them, wherever they withstood His pure work.
And in this same life and dominion did He bring me up into this great City London, into which I entered with the greatest fear that ever into any place came, in Spirit foreseeing somewhat to befall me therein, but not knowing what it might be; yet had I the same Presence and power as before; into whatsoever place or service I was led of the Spirit, in that life I never returned without victory in Christ Jesus, the Lord thereof.
But not minding in all things to stand single and low to the motions of that endless Life, by it to be led in all things, within and without; but giving way to the reasoning part, as to some things which in themselves had no seeming evil, by little and little drew out my mind after trifles, vanities, and persons which took the affectionate part, by which my mind was drawn from the constant watch, and pure fear, into which I was once begotten, and spiritual adultery was committed against the precious pure Life which had purchased me unto Himself alone, and is grieved with the least departure from Him in body, spirit or mind, even that eternal, pure and zealous Spirit from above, had drawn me near into Himself, and that pure Word was become my life, who said; He that does but look upon a woman to lust, commits adultery; and in whose sight the least coveting, or letting any visible object into the affections is idolatry: Into that life I was comprehended, and the apple of that pure eye was opened in me, which admits not of an evil thought; but is wounded and bruised with the least appearance of evil, even this birth was born which reigns through righteousness, and suffers till all righteousness be fulfilled in every particular. And this is the Son of God forever, and into this life and kingdom I was translated; and I was in Him that is true, in whom there is no sin; and He alone lived and ruled in this His temple, which to Himself He had purchased with His precious blood, and His delight was in me, and His presence was glorious, and not the least evil could appear, but I could feel Him in Spirit lifting up His Witness against it.
But when I reasoned against His tender reproof, and consulted with another, and so let the creatures into my affections, then His temple was defiled through lust, and His pure Spirit was grieved, and he ceased to reprove, and He gave me up, and His light He withdrew and His judgment took away; and so the body of sin and death revived again, and I possessed afresh the iniquities of my youth, and that which had of old been buried, arose and stood against me, and so the temple was filled with darkness and the power of death, and my heart with sorrow, and satan daily at my right hand to tempt me further to provoke the Lord, and to take away my life.
Thus having in a great measure lost my own Guide, and darkness being come upon me, I sought a place where I might have been alone, to weep and cry before the Lord, that His face I might find, and my condition recover: But then my adversary who had long waited his opportunity, had got in, and bestirred himself every way, so that I could not be hid, and diverse messages came to me in that case, some true, some false (as I have seen since). So I knowing some to be true, to wit, how I had lost my condition, with this I let in the false message also; and so letting go that little of the true light which I had yet remaining in myself, I gave up myself wholly to be led by others, whose work was then wholly to divide me from the children of light; which was done, though much was done by diverse of them to prevent it, and in bowels of tender love many labored to have stayed mewith them. And after I was led out from them, the Lord God of my life sent diverse of His servants with His word after me, for my return: all which was rejected; yea, the provocations of that time of temptation was exceeding great against the pure love of God, yet He left me not; for after I had given myself under that power, and darkness was above, my adversary so prevailed, that all things were turned and perverted against my right seeing, hearing or understanding, only a secret hope and faith I had in my God, whom I had served, that He would bring me through it, and to the end ofit; and that I should see again the day of my redemption from under it all: And this quieted my soul in my greatest tribulation.
Thus was I led out from among the children of light and into the world, to be a sign, where I was chased as a wandering bird gone from her nest, so was my soul daily and my body from one prison to another, till at length I was brought in their own way before a backsliding power to be judged, who had lost their first love, as I had done; So they sentenced me, but could not see their sign, and a sign to the nation, and a sign to the world of the dreadful day of the just God, who is come and coming to avenge for that pure Life, where it is transgressed, and to plead the cause of that precious Seed wherever it is oppressed and suffers under the fleshly lusts of this present world, and the cup is deep and very dreadful that is seen and filling, and it has begun at God’s house, but many must drink it, except there be speedy repentance.
And in this time of my darkness and night of great temptation (which darkness I had let up over my head, and my judgment being much lost) there got up many wild spirits, Ranters, and such like, acting many evil things against the life of truth and name of Christ, His light and people that walk therein, on purpose to bring reproach thereon, and set themselves to break and disquiet the meetings of the people of God, and made use of my name therein, and others rejoiced thereat, and cried, Thus would we have it, they are divided among themselves; this is that we looked for &c. Others came to me in that time in true pity, and in sorrow of heart suffered with me for all that was befallen me, and that precious truth I had walked in.
Thus became I an occasion to make sad the innocent and harmless people, whose hearts were tender, and to make glad the man that delights in mischief, and such as rejoice in iniquity, and to gratify many unclean spirits: which things the pure God hates, and my soul hates, and all that name that God had formerly given me in His house, and that power, the wicked one made use on against the Lord, and His Lambs, and His truth, wherein I had received that name and power. Thus I abused my power and knew not, by coming under him who seeks to pervert the right ways of God, and His truth to turn into a lie, wherever he gets above, whom the Lord had once trodden under my feet and all his instruments. And over the head of all this was I kept by His power, while singly I stood in His pure counsel, and humbly walked in His daily fear: the loss whereof was of myself. And this to His eternal glory I confess forever.
So that precious life of Christ Jesus I confess openly, which I had openly sinned against, which life is the light of the world, and all the good that is in man is from the virtue thereof; which whosoever goes from to feed elsewhere, forsakes their own mercies, and to this must return, and confess again, if ever they come to true peace in God: For this is the Peacemaker and the Christ of God, and the Lamb that takes away sin, and reconciles to the Father of spirits, and that Spirit that quickens the dead, of whom I testify forever, and Him I confess in the night and in the day before Godand before men, who under all has been my help and Savior, immortal praises forever.
And he that has this precious Life has the Son of the eternal God and eternal life; and with all that receive Him as King and Leader, with such the Father is well-pleased, because He alone it is that leads in all holy ways, and out of all show of lust and uncleanness, and teaches to avoid every appearance of evil within and without; Therefore the pure God loves Him above all in heaven and earth, and had placed His fullness in Him, from whom the living of all ages are to be fed, and whatever good gift any creature receives from God the Father, it is in this pure Life and for the sake of this unspotted Seed; and that He alone (that Spirit) may be exalted in all and above all, not flesh which is grass, whose glory turns into dust. If this life withdraw its virtue, then all his wisdom is shame and folly, who goes out from this light and counsel: For this life is He, which being disobeyed in man’s fall; and His Spirit being grieved, is God’s wrath upon every creature, but in His favor is length of days and eternal glory; and both these I have learned in the day and in the night: So I give all glory to the life forevermore, and to Him it is due, and all the evil has been from self.
This life is the root and offspring of all heavenly fruit upon earth, and in whom this is planted, as it grows it will bring forth truth and righteousness towards God and man, and the virtue that rises with it will fill the creature with springs of heavenly life and heavenly power, it will cover you with health of
salvation, and stay you with immortal strength; He will guide you with counsel of life, and open your mouth in that wisdom which none shall confound; yea, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him, and the richest excellency that ever appeared in the flesh in Him is sealed; For all generations that receive Him in their faith and obedience, and as He arises in is temples, He gives forth of His riches, gifts to adorn His habitation, and to cover it with His light and glory.
But this is the evil in His sight, and that which provokes His pure Spirit, that vain man, in whom He thus delights, should be exalted in himself, because of the gifts, and glory in his strength and wisdom, and so grow wanton against the Life, from whence he has it; And so through feeding on the gifts, ceases to walk humbly with the Giver in his own vessel. Here man forgets his God, and so withers at the root, and be the tree never so great it will fall in the end, and great will be the fall thereof.
And this is that God against whom I have sinned, and my offence I confess to the Root that bore me, who raises up the meek and lowly, and casts down him that boasts above the Root, who does what He will in the heavens, and rules in the kingdoms of men, the Lord of Hosts is His name, and He is worthy; yea, and will be feared: Even so be it forevermore.
And whatever of that worship or honor has any way by any creature been give nor received to my person, which belongs to that eternal Spirit, forever by me it is denied and condemned as idolatry; and whatever creature I have at any time gone out to, from this pure Spirit, and let into my affections, or whatever I have taken counsel of without this Life and against it, it is forever condemned as adultery in my heart, and so I have found it in His pure Spirit, to whom I confess for my God and Savior in all my troubles.
In whomsoever this pure eternal Spirit of Life throughout the world has been troubled or offended, in man or woman, through my fall, or the advantage which the adversary got against my soul, God’s truth and His people, to that in all I acknowledge my offence. Against Thee have I sinned who was with me in the deep, and in so many tender hearts for my recovery and salvation, which is one in all, forever confessed too, and the occasion of the grief thereof forever condemned in the Presence of God, His host and people.
But against him that sought my life in that day, and rejoiced at that occasion, have I requited no evil in my heart, neither have I opened my mouth before the Lord, that the evil day should haste, who rejoiced at my fall, and was glad at that advantage, to pursue my soul into the pit, that I might never be seen in the light more, nor have appeared in the assemblies of them which God has sanctified on the earth: But in the bowels of Him that has born me through all adversity, I have been kept towards them, and I know it is the Spirit of Christ Jesus which thinks not evil for evil. And when all visible help was removed afar off, and I in the depth of the pit, then this was with me and in me before God, which often appeared when all else was gone, and many a time stayed my soul in secret, that it sunk not under the accuser; and the weight of his temptations when I was alone from any creature. And now seeing that the loving-kindness of the Lord has outlived all this enmity, and the long-suffering of Christ Jesus has born to the end thereof, and that endless life has ministered freedom for me, thereto be glory and praise forevermore.
And to God the Father of all be thanks forever, who is begetting His creatures into that one pure Life, and with the cords thereof as bound up as in one bundle so many at this day, who in His living Spirit and power are made at the needful time to stand before Him, with cries and prayers one for another, which He has heard and does hear, even as he has begotten thereto in every creature, the answer whereof makes me glad at this day, praises to God everlasting.
And to the glory of this precious Life is this sent forth, that all that have sinned against Him may have hope in Him and return, whose judgments are right and His mercy endures forever, and that all who have made their graves deep through disobedience, and their darkness through lust, might awake and confess to the Lord of life, and come forth, who quickens the dead, at His Word the blind He makes to see, and has called to the great deeps, that His praises may live forever.
And that all you in whom any measure of this precious Life has been betrayed, either through this or any other thing, that to the light thereof you may return in yourselves, and there wait till the Life arise, which is your return, and which must give you rest with the flock of God; for it’s the Life that’s the door and the fold, and without it you will be but wanderers, and lost in all your thoughts and motions, and God will cross you and curse you for its sake, and plead against you till you return, if He cast you not off for often rebellion, from which the Lord keep you. And take heed of evil thoughts to which you will be tempted, you that are gone out from the true light, or an evil eye going out of your own hearts against the truth you were once called into, or them that walk in it, to spy faults in others and feed thereon; this food will but strengthen the enmity in you against you and your return, and with this you may make bonds which you cannot break when you would, and your evil thoughts are as witchcraft to the pure Life, and as a canker, will eat till it have devoured all that remains in you, to lead you to repentance, that not so much as the place thereof you will find in the end. And this I am moved to warn you of, having been often tempted therewith, that the Life of peace and truth may only live and guide in you in all, without which there can be no true unity with God or His people, which is that the devil chiefly hates and withstands in all in whom he can prevail.
Thus having drunken a measure of that depth which cannot be measured, I cannot but confess thereto, and declare thereof to His praise, who above all excels in judgment and mercy, to every particular creature in their several states and conditions, that all might hear and take heed to abide in Him, whose offspring they are, who has His way in the deeps, and makes darkness as light before Him: He turns man to destruction for his disobedience, and the light of His Word is salvation, and His Life the resurrection out of the greatest depth; who has saved my soul from death thus far, and lifted my feet out of the pit, even to Him be immortal glory forever; and let every troubled soul trust in Him, for His mercy endureth forever.
AND IN THE DAY WHEN MY GOD LIFTED MY FEET OUT OF THE PIT WAS THIS GIVEN FORTH
It is in my heart to praise thee, O my God., let me never forget thee, what thou hast been to me in the night, by thy presence in the day of trial, when I was beset in darkness, when I was cast out as a wandering bird, when I was assaulted with strong temptations, then thy presence in secret did preserve me; and in a low estate I felt thee near me, when the floods sought to sweep me away, though set a compass for them, how far they should pass over, when my way was through the sea, and when I passed under the mountains, there wast thou present with me, when the weight of the hills was upon me, thou upheld’st me, else I had sunk under the earth, when I was as one altogether helpless, whentribulation and anguish was upon me day and night, and the earth without foundation; when I wenton the way of wrath, and passed by the gates of hell; when all comforts stood a far off, and he that is mine enemy had dominion; when I was cast into the pit, and was as one appointed to death; when I was between the millstones, and as one crushed with the weight of his adversary, as a father thou wast with me, and the rock of thy presence, when the mouths of ions roared against me, and fear took hold on my soul in the pit: then I called upon thee in the night, and my criers were strong before thee daily, who answered’st me from thy habitation, and delivered’st me from thy dwelling place, saying, “I will set thee above all thy fears, and lift up thy feet above the head of oppression:” I believed and was strengthened, and thy word was salvation. Thou didst fight on my part when I wrestled with death; and when darkness would have shut me up, then thy light shone about me, and they banner was over my head. When my work was in the furnace, and as I passed through the fire, by thee I was not consumed, though the flames ascended above my head: when I beheld the dreadful visions and was among the fiery spirits, thy faith stayed me, else through fear I had fallen: I saw thee and believed, so the enemy could not prevail.
When I look back into thy works I am astonished, and see no end of thy praises: glory, glory to thee, saith my soul, and let my heart be ever filled with thanksgiving; whilst thy works remain, they shall shew forth thy power; then didst thou lay the foundation of the earth, and led’st me under the waters, and in the deep did’st thou shew me wonders, and the forming of the world. By thy hand thou led’st me in safety till thou shewed’st me the pillars of the earth: then did the heavens shower down, they were covered with darkness and the powers thereof were shaken, and thy glory descended, thou filled’st the lower parts of the earth with gladness, and the springs of the valleys were opened; thy showers descended abundantly, so the earth was filled with virtue. Thou madest thy plant to spring, and the thirst soul became as a watered garden; then did’st thou lift me out of the pit, and set me forth in the sight of my enemies: thou proclaimed’st liberty to the captive, and called’st mine acquaintance near me, they to whom I had been a wonder, looked upon me, and in they love I obtained favour in those who had forsook me, then did gladness swallow up sorrow, and I forsook all my troubles; and I said, how good is it that man be proved in the night, that he may know his folly, that every mouth may become silent in thy hand, until thou makest man known to himself, and hast slain the boaster, and shewed him the vanity that vexeth thy spirit.
17. from A message from the Spirit of Truth (Works vol iv., pp. 55-57)
In this tract, from 1658, Nayler speaks as strongly as in his first years among Friends as a finder: ‘That which is set before me in the Spirit of truth…I am moved to impart unto you, thereby to stir you up to press on…” Unlike Fox, Nayler does not speak much about Gospel order, but in this passage he asserts how important it is that we watch for the life of God as it appears in each other, and speak to that, forgiving weakness, and encouraging each other where God’s strength is discernibly at work. This is Gospel charity, and it is also spiritual strategy. We are called right now, to respond in our measure, without delay, and the community’s life in God will grow as we mind that calling, and welcome it in each other, trusting that with truth and courage the contrary motions will be overcome. It might be that Nayler’s tenderness here is informed by his own experience of disgrace and reconciliation with his Friends and with God, though his writings on love and forbearance in prior years show a similar spirit, for example in writing to Friends in the City of York: “So, dear Friends, feel that Spirit which is quick in hearing, peaceable in receiving, and willing in obeying…and all being joined thereto, the chords of God’s love so unite as not to be broken…So every one look to that which is low, and exalt that which is easily trodden on; so shall you make up the breaches, and find even paths to walk in…”
…above all things, I beseech you put him on as he is the Son of God’s love, and so hold him forth towards all men but especially towards the brethren, so much the more as this being that which the enemy hath cast long upon the children of light (to wit) want of love, taking his advantage while the way hath been preparing thereto, and the Spirit of judgment and burning hath passed on the old building; a time of sorrow and pulling down, dressing the house where love should dwell. So that though the root of the matter was in it, yet could not in that time spring forth towards others, nor indeed be fully shed abroad in the heart, while that is there which God hates, which love many have now received, and it is full time to bring forth him so begotten in you, lest any selfishness appear in his stead, and so prevent you of that which is most excellent.
But that you all may put him on, as he is manifest from the Father’s bosom, and that you be clothed therewith, from heaven, so plentifully that you may have to cast over a brother’s nakedness a garment of the same love, who came from above to lay down his life for his enemies, and of the same power, who can forgive sins and offenses above seven times a day, beholding each others with that good eye which waits for the soul and not for the sin, which covers and overcomes the evil with the good, that with him you may be perfect in love, judging and receiving one another in the increase of God, and not in that which is for destruction, giving more abundant honor to him that lacketh, that in the body be no schism, nor defile one another, nor keep alive a brother’s iniquity, nor blot out the name and appearing of the holy seed in the least; but keep the Lord in your eye, and the evils shall die and vanish away from amongst you, and the appearance shall be the Lord’s, and to him shall the gathering of the nations be; hungry souls shall see and be satisfied with his likeness, and all that behold his beauty shall confess unto him, and in him shall the upright heart delight, for at his coming shall he establish the throne of righteousness, and measure every appearance, and correct every false judgment, and that which ensnares the simple will he cast out, for by the power of his appearance shall everything be tried, and peace proclaimed in the name of righteousness alone, for that which is not like him will not be able to stand before his appearance. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him; he that hath this hope purifies himself even as he is pure, that he may be seen in him at his coming….
So dearly beloved ones, my soul breathes towards you herein, that in all your several gifts and administrations, this Son of God be your eye and end, the beauty and glory of the Father, that the hope thereof to attain may stay you in all trials and temptations, knowing that in him alone is your lasting peace, and that which doth now befall you in all your afflictions is to shake all other appearances, that way may be made for him alone, whose image and life none can judge nor condemn. And the day is come, that happy is that man who hath nothing else to glory in, & this know that the appearance of God in his own begotten is your glory; and if any man boast himself and not herein, when he is weighed therewith he will be found wanting; the sound thereof will not save him.
Art thou in the Darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost it will fill thee more, but stand still and act not, and wait in patience till Light arises out of Darkness to lead thee. Art thou wounded in conscience? Feed not there, but abide in the Light which leads to Grace and Truth, which teaches to deny, and puts off the weight, and removes the cause, and brings saving health to Light. (Works, lv.-lvi.)
19. His Last Testimony
said to be delivered by him about two Hours before his Departure out of this Life; several Friends being present.
There is a spirit which I feel, that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations: as it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other. If it be betrayed it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned, and takes its kingdom with entreaty, and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It’s conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it; nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth, but through sufferings, for with the world’s joy it is murthered. I found it alone, being forsaken; I have fellowship therein, with them who lived in dens, and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.
20. To George Fox and others (Appleby, Feb. 1653)
Dear Hearts, you make your own troubles, by being unwilling and disobedient to that which would lead you. I see there is no way but to go hand in hand with him in all things, running after him without fear or considering, leaving the whole work only to him. If he seem to smile, follow him in fear and love; and if he seem to frown, follow him, and fall into his will, and you shall see he is yours still.
Except for selections 4, 16, and 17, texts are drawn from the collection of Nayler’s works edited by George Whitehead, first printed in 1716, and reprinted by B.C.Stanton, of Cincinnati, OH, in 1829: Sundry books, epistles and papers written by James Nayler, with an impartial relation of the remarkable transactions relating to his life. Usually referred to as “Sundry books.”
Dates for letters are taken from Nuttall 1992. Thanks to William P. Taber, Jan Hoffman, and Hugh Barbour for comments and advice on earlier editions.
Blame me for faults or mistakes; and please let me know about them. If this booklet is helpful, I’d like to hear that, too!
For Further Reading
(asterisk * marks highly recommended items)
A. Major collections of Nayler’s works
* The Works os James Nayler. The Quaker Heritage Press, Glenside, PA., has published a complete edition of Nayler’s works in four volumes, edited by Licia Kuenning. This remarkable work includes material not published before, as well as pieces not published since Nayler’s lifetime. The text is also available on the Web at http://www.qhpress.org.
For those without access to the major collections, selections from Nayler’s writings can be found in Barbour and Roberts (2004) and Hawkins (2004) noted below. A brief introduction to Nayler can be found at Drayton (2011) below.
- Bittle, William. 1991. James Nayler, the Quaker indicted by Parliament. York, England: William Sessions Ltd.
- Damrosch, Leo. 1996. The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus: James Nayler and the Puritan crackdown on the Free Spirit. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- *Neelon, David. 2009. James Nayler: revolutionary to prophet. Becket, MA: Leadings Press, Publishers. [I would recommend this as the first stop for someone interested in finding out more about Nayler’s life and times.]
D. Background and further reading
- * Barbour, Hugh. 1985 . The Quakers in Puritan England. Richmond, IN: Friends United Press.
- Barbour, Hugh. 2006. Limits to the leadings of the Light. Boston: Beacon Hill Friends House. BHFH-93
- Barbour, Hugh, and Arthur O. Roberts. 2004. Early Quaker writings. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Moorehouse Publishing.
- Drayton, Brian. 2011. James Nayler speaking. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Pamphlet #413.
- Feola-Castelucci, M.1992. “Warring with ye world”: Fox’s relationship with Nayler. Quaker History 81:2(63-72)
- Garman, M., J. Applegate, M.Benefiel, D.Meredith, eds. 1996. Hidden in plain sight: Quaker women’s writings 1650-1700. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications.
- Gwyn, Douglas. 2009. Revolutionary Quaker witness: Learning from the Lamb’s War of the 1650s. Boston: Beacon Hill Friends House BHFH-1012.
- Gwyn, Douglas. 2000. Seekers Found: Atonement in early Quaker experience, Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications.
- Hawkins, Evamaria (ed) . 2004. Milk for Babes: and Meat for Strong Men…modernized from the 1661 edition. Mitchellville, MD: by the author.
- Moore, Rosemary. 2000. The Light in their consciences: The early Quakers in Britain 1646-1666. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.
- Norlind, Emilia Fogelklou. 1969. The Atonement of George Fox. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 166. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications.
- 1931. The Rebel Saint. London: Ernest Benn, Ltd.
- *Nuttall, Geoffrey. 1954. James Nayler: A Fresh Approach. London: Friends Historical Society, Journal Supplement 26.1948.
- Studies in Christian Enthusiasm. Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA.
- *1992. The Letters of James Nayler. In The Lamb’s War: Quaker Essays to Honour Hugh Barbour, ed. M. Birkle and J.W. Newman. Earlham, IN: Earlham College Press. Smith, Bernadette. 2009.
- Martha Simmon[d]s 1624-1665: Her life and Quaker writings, and ‘the fall’ of James Nayler. York: Sessions of York.
- Spencer, Carole. 2001. James Nayler: Antinomian or perfectionist? Quaker Studies 6(1):106-117.
- “For Friends in the City of York,” Works iii:748.
This short anthology was originally published by New England Yearly Meeting’s Mosher Book and Tract Fund as a pamphlet and later published as an e-book by Pendle Hill Publications.
The first two editions of this pamphlet were published before Quaker Heritage Press undertook publishing of The Works of James Nayler which now is the standard edition of Nayler’s texts. The texts drawn from the 1716 Sundry Books, as described in the Acknowledgements, have been left as-is, but new selections are from the QHP text (#4, 16, 17)
A Spanish edition of the 2nd, translated by Benigno Sanchez-Eppler and Susan Furry, and augmented with notes and additional selections, is published by Beacon Hill Friends House and New England Yearly Meeting: Fragmentos de los escritos de James Nayler (2008).