by William Penn, 1677

(On behalf of the Friends of Dantzic.)

Source: William Penn's Journal of his Travels in Holland and Germany in 1677, in the Service of the Gospel. Volume One of A Select Series, Biographical, Narrative, Epistolary, and Miscellaneous: Chiefly for the Productions of Early Members of the Society of Friends: Intended to Illustrate the Spiritual Character of the Gospel of Christ. Edited by John Barclay.London: Darton and Harvey, 1835.

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To the King of Poland.

Great Prince!

Actions of justice, mercy, and truth are worthy of all men; but in a mostexcellent manner, of the serious consideration of kings and princes. We,certain inhabitants of the city of Dantzic, have been long great sufferers,

not for any wickedness committed against the royal law of God, or any breach of those civil laws of this city, that relate to the well-government of it in all natural and civil things; but purely and only for the cause of our tender consciences towards God.

This severity being by us represented to the magistrates of this city, we could not as yet received from them any relief; some expressing, as if easing the burden of our oppressions should give thee, O King, an occasion of dissatisfaction against them; who art our acknowledged protector.

Being thus necessitated, and in a manner driven to make this address unto thee, take it not amiss, that we, with that humility and patience, that becometh the servants and followers of Jesus, and with all manner of Christian respect and sincerity of mind, briefly related to thee, the most fundamental principles most surely believed by us: which we hope thou wilt believe deserve not those punishments, that are inflicted upon us as evil doers.

1. We do reverently believe, that there is one God and Father, on Lord Jesus Christ, and one Holy Spirit, and these three are one. Eph.iv.6.

2. We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to have been given forth by Divine inspiration; and that they are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; "able to make the man of God wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus." 2 Tim.iii.15,16.

3. That these Holy Scriptures are not to be understood, but by the discoveries, teachings, and operations of the Eternal Spirit, from whence they came.

4. We believe that all mankind, through disobedience to the Spirit of God, are fallen short of the glory of God and in that state are under condemnation: but that God, out of his infinite goodness and kindness, hath sent his Son a light into the world, that whosoever believeth and obeyeth this light, shall not abide in darkness, but have the light of eternal life.

5. We believe this gift of light and grace through Jesus Christ to be universal; and that there is not a man or woman upon earth, that hath not a sufficient measure of this light, and to whom this grace hath not appeared to reprove their ungodly works of darkness, and to lead them that obey it to eternal salvation. And this is the great condemnation of the world at this day, under all their great professions of God, Christ, Spirit, and Scriptures; that though Christ hath enlightened them, yet they will not bring their deeds to the light, but hate the light, and love their dark customs and practices rather than the light; "because their deeds are evil."

6. We do believe in the birth, life, doctrine, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord; and that he laid down his life for the ungodly, not to continue so, but that they should deny their wickedness and ungodliness; and live soberly, righteously, and godlikely in this present evil world: as the saints of old did, that were redeemed from the earth, and sat in heavenly places.

7. We do believe, that as the devil through man's disobedience brought sin into man's heart, so Christ Jesus, through man's belief in, and obedience to his Holy Spirit, and grace, cleanseth the heart of sin; destroyeth the works of the devil; finisheth transgression, and bringeth in everlasting righteousness. That as the devil hath had his kingdom in the darkness of man, so Christ may have his kingdom of light, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost in the heart of man: and not that Christ Jesus saveth men from wrath and not from sin; "for the wages of sin is death" in whose heart soever it liveth; "but the gift of God is eternal life," to al that believ and obey, through Jesus Christ.

8. We do believe, that all true ministry and worship only stand in the experimental sense, operations, and leadings of this holy light, spirit, or grace, that is shed abroad in the hearts of men and women, to conduct them in the holy way of regeneration unto life eternal. This was the ancient apostolical doctrine; they spoke what they had seen, tasted, and handled of the Word of God. And this is our faith, doctrine, and practice in this day.

And be not displeased with us, O King, we entreat thee, if we give thisfor the reason of our absenting ourselves from the public and common worship; namely, that we have no taste or relish, no sense or evidence that their ministry and worship are authorized and performed by the apostolical power and spirit of Jesus; but rather that they are the inventions, studies, and powers of man's nature: all which are but strange fire; and therefore cannot kindle a true and acceptable sacrifice to God.

For it is not man's spirit and degenerate nature, speaking and professing the words of God's Spirit, that giveth acceptance with the Lord, or administereth heavenly edification to men. Nor can we believe, that where pride, passion, wrath, malice, envy, and strife, lusts, vanity, wantonness, and worldly-mindedness have such sway and power, that the true Christian spirit, life, and doctrine, can be heartily received and followed.

And for this reason in the sight and presence of that God, that made heaven and earth, and will judge the quick and dead, wherefore we cannot join in the common and public worship of these parts; so doth the same light and Spirit of God lay an holy necessity upon us, with a meek and quiet spirit, to come together after the manner of the ancient Christians, that were the true followers of Jesus; and with godly fear and a retired mind to wait upon God, and meditate in his holy law of life, that he hath written in our hearts, according to his new covenant promise: that he may feed us, teach us, strengthen us, and comfort us in our inward man. And as by this Holy Spirit, according to the practice of the churches of old, any are inclined ormoved to reprove, exhort, admonish, praise, or pray, we are found exercised in these holy practices.

Now, O Prince! give us poor Christians leave to expostulate with thee. Did Christ Jesus, or his holy followers endeavour by precept or example to set up their religion with a carnal sword? Called he any troops of men or angels to defend him? Did he encourage Peter to dispute his escape with the sword? But did he not say, Put it up? Or did he countenance his over-zealous disciples, when they would have had fire from heaven, to destroy those that were no of their mind? No: but did not Christ rebuke them, saying, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of?" And if it was neither Christ's spirit, nor their own spirit that would have fire from heaven, oh! what is that spirit, that would kindle fire on earth, to destroy such as peaceably dissent upon the account of conscience? If we may not wish that God would smite men of other judgments. because they differ from us, (in which there is no use of carnal weapons,) can we so far deceive ourselves, as to esteem ourselves Christians and followers of Christ, whilst we encourage men with worldly weapons to persecute such as dissent from us?

O King! when did the true religion persecute? When did the true church offer violence for religion? Were not her weapons prayers, tears, and patience? Did not Jesus conquer by those weapons, and vanquish cruelty by suffering? Can clubs and staves swords, and prison, and banishment reach the soul, convert the heart, or convince the understanding of man? When did violence ever make a true convert, or bodily punishments a sincere Christian? This maketh void the end of Christ's coming, which is to save men's lives, and not to destroy them; yea, it robbeth God's Spirit of its office, which is to convince the world: that is the sword by which the ancient Christians overcame. It was the apostle's testimony, that their weapons were not carnal, but spiritual; but the practice of their pretended successors proveth, that their weapons are not spiritual, but carnal.

Suppose we are tares, as the true wheat hath always been called; yet pluck us not up for Christ's sake, who saith, "Let the tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest," that is, till the end of the world. Let God have his due as well as Caesar; the judgment of conscience belongeth to him; and mistakes about religion are best know to him.

And here give us leave to mind thee of a noble saying of one of thy ancestors, Steven, king of Poland: "I am king of men, but not consciences: kings of bodies, not of souls." And therehave been found, and still are among the emperors, kings and states of the world, some that have that noble spirit of indulging their conscientious dissenting subjects: and not only with Gamaliel and Gallio not to persecute, but also eminently to protect and defend them form the hatred and violence of their enemies. Be not thou less noble than they: consider how quietly and comfortably our Friends live under other governments.And indeed, we conceive it to be the prudence of the kings and states of the world. for, if the wise may say true, "The glory of a prince is in the multitude of his people:" but this practice saith, No, the glory of a prince is ni the conformity of the people to the canons of the clergy; which seemeth to strike at all civil society, which consisteth in men of virtue, parts, arts, and

industry. But let man have every such excellent abilities; be ever so honest, peaceable, and industrious; all which render them good and profitable subject to their prince: yet they must not live within their native country, unless the will sacrifice the peace of their consciences by a hypocritical submission to the canons and fashions of the church. Is not this, O Prince, to set the church above the state? the bishop above the king? to waste and give away the strength and glory of a kingdom?

O that thou mayest be wise even in thy generation! and use the power that God hath given thee, for God, and truth, and righteousness; that therein thou mayst be like unto God, who, Peter telleth us, "Accepteth of all that fear him and work righteousness," throughout the world: - whose sun shineth upon all; whose rain cometh upon all.

And lest any should be so injurious to us, as to render us enemies to civil government; be it known unto thee, O King, that we honour all men in the Lord, not with the vain, invented honours of this world, but with the true and solid honour that cometh from above: but much more kings, and those whom God hath placed in authority over us. For we believe magistracy to be both lawful and useful, for the terrifying of evil doers, and the praise and encouragement of those that do well.

The premises duly considered, we entreat thee, O Prince, to take our suffering case into they serious regard; and by that power and influence thou hast with the magistrates of this city, to recommend our suffering condition to their serious consideration: that we may no longer lie under these not only unchristian, but unnatural severities, but receive that speedy and effectual relief, which becometh Christian magistrates to give to their own sober and Christian people.

The editor's footnote:

"Our author had greeted these sufferers with a consolatory letter as early as the year 1673, after his first journey to the Continent; which tender effusion is given in the Appendix to this volume.

"It appears by Besse's account of these Friends that they had no sooner joined the Society, and began to distinguish themselves as belonging to it, by publicly assembling after their usual manner for the purpose of divine worship, than three of them were apprehended by the magistrates. After being detained some time in prison, they were actually banished beyond the seas by order of the senate. The little company continuing to meet together, came to be more and more molested both by magistrates and people; till, in one instance, the rude mob, to the umber of a hundred persons, thronged into their meeting-room, pillaging their property, and using almost all manner of shameful insolence; on which, the town offices making their appearance, carried off these unoffending sufferers into confinement. Nor did such cogent appeals as that of William Penn prevail on their behalf. For during the space of some years the storm of persecution continued, in so much that most of them by frequent imprisonment, oppression, and banishment, were reduced to poverty, and unable for a considerable time to support themselves and their families. In 1684, two letter from them were read at the yearly meeting in London, describing their strait bondage in the house of correction, under extreme hard usage and cruelty, being chained together two and two by the hands, fed only with bread and water, and forced to lie upon straw through the severe winter."