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.
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
To the King of Poland.
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
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
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."