Quaker Heritage Press >Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > The Stumbling Block Removed from Weak Minds
Oh ye raging priests, who have set yourselves against the mighty power of the Lord in his own, whereby he is manifesting his works, his strange works; his acts, his strange acts; making his servants signs and wonders amongst the heathen and them that know not God nor his power, whereby he is choosing that which seems foolishness to confound the wisdom of the wise; <205> which you who stand in your own wills and wisdom know nothing of; but in this, as in other things, out of your envy against the truth, take occasion to lay stumbling blocks in the way of others, wherein you plainly appear to be in that generation who will neither enter into the kingdom yourselves nor would suffer others. You who take occasion to preach and print against the truth because the Lord hath caused some of his servants to go nakedb along your streets in Kendal and Kirkby Stephen, as signs of his wrath to come upon that pride and fullness that priests and people live in; and this, you who never knew what it was to obey God contrary to your own reason and wills (for who act such things act contrary to their own wills) cry out onc a delusion and madness, thinking thereby to make the truth odious to others; but it is that the Scriptures may be fulfilled upon you as it hath been on your generation before you, who counted always what the prophets, Christ and the apostles did madness, and called them mad fellows. But now all you who fear the Lord and believe his word, take heed of the deceit of these men, and mind not what they say who have set themselves to speak evil of the things they know not; but search the Scriptures, and there you shall find that the mighty God (who hath power over all flesh, and what he commandeth none must dispute by their reason—though it seem never so foolish, and against their wills—but must obey) hath always before his great judgments, which he hasd about to bring on a people or nation, made some of his dearest servants to pass and act as signs to such nations of what was to follow, and was so usual among the prophets and them who knew the word of the Lord, that the prophet Isaiah speaking in the name of the Lord Jesus Christe saith,f "I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts that dwelleth ing Zion" (Isa. 8:18). And if ye search the Scriptures of the prophets, you shall see in what strange and foolish things to the wisdom of the world they were acted in; as in Isa. 20 the prophet was to go three years naked for a sign what the Lord would bring upon Ethiopia and <206> Egypt. Now had these men lived in his days they would have cried that up as a delusion and madness, and not as the word of the Lord, as they do at this day; for they neither know the Lord nor his word who stand in their own wills. Also read the 4th of Ezekiel and see what a sign he was to both the houses of Israel and Judah; a strange thing to the wisdomh as ever was. Also read the 5th of Ezekiel and see what a sign he was to be, and what folly he was to act as to their wisdom, and that in the midst of the city. Also Ezekiel 12:18-19 & 24:16 to the end of the chap., likewise Ezek. 12 to 17th v.i and many other of the dear servants of God who were not only to declare the word of the Lord from his mouth but also to be signs to them to whom he was to prophesy, that so he might leave them all without excuse. Now those who then were priests and should have been teachers and leaders of the people to fear God, and hear his word, and observe his signs, and repent, that the judgments might be prevented, they were the only men that hated, reproached, persecuted and called the prophets, Christ and his apostles, madmen, deceivers, because of these things, which into their wisdoms could not enter, and stirred up the rulers and ignorant people against them that they might put them to death, as it is at this day. But these in our days are more inexcusable than all that ever went before them; inasmuch as they had no Scripture to show them that the Lord had commanded such signs formerly; but these have the Scriptures that witness to the same thing; which Scriptures they make a trade on and cry up in words but are ignorant of that Spirit by which they were acted that gave them forth; and envy and persecute that obedience that was acted in them, in whom it is now acted; and they might as well cry out against Isaiah for a madman because he went naked at the word of the Lord, and the rest of the prophets and servants of God for acting such weak and foolish things to their wisdom, as they did, as against these for obeying the Lord in the same or the like things whatsoever, for God is not tied to any rule to walk by but his own will, and <207> where he commands woe to him that doth not obey, and where he commands not,j woe to him that acts in his own will and saith it is the word of the Lord. Wherefore all ye that fear the Lord, take heed of being stirred up by these men to speak evil of that you know not, but consider that the priests have been always the movers and persuaders of the people against Christ and his kingdom and power in his saints; and instead of being forward to speak evil of the things you know not, turn in your minds into the fear of God, and mind the light in your conscience that will let you see what sins you are guilty of, which these signs are threatenings to, that you may repent of them and escape the judgment and find mercy, as they did in the time of the prophets, who feared the Lord, and escaped the judgment; but the envious, scorners and fools passed on and were punished. And know this, that a wise man's eye is in his head, and such an one hath his guide within himself and will not be hasty to follow others though they be multitudes to do evil; and such know it is better to be silent than to speak evil of the things they know not; and when was there ever any truth of God brought forth, but it always suffered the violence of the proud and haughty, where the seed of the serpent reigns and shows his enmity? and it is the same now, for that which hath been is at this day; but it is that the power of the Lord may be seen, in carrying on his simple truth against all the wisdom and power of the world and plotting of the serpent; yea, and he will carry it on to his praise, and to the confounding all his enemies, who must stumble at the stumbling stone, and be offended at the rock that must break them to pieces. Wherefore be silent all flesh before the Lord, whose foolishness is more than thy wisdom and whose weakness is more than the strength of all the world, who is a defense to his poor despised ones in the midst of all their enemies. Eternal praises to thee who art our wisdom forever.
a. This is the middle section of a 3-part tract titled A Woe Against the Magistrates, Priests, and People of Kendal... Also the Stumbling-block removed from weak Minds, who are offended at the strange Signs and wonders acted by the Servants of the Lord..., dated 1654 by the printer and 4th January 1653/54 by Thomason. The first and last sections are signed by Francis Howgill; the middle section is signed with Nayler's initials, though some copies lack these initials. Whitehead includes Nayler's part in his collection and entitles it, "The Stumbling Block Removed from Weak Minds."
b. Whitehead omits "naked."
c. W. inserts "us."
d. W. inserts "been."
e. W. omits "Jesus Christ."
f. W. inserts "behold."
g. W. inserts "Mount."
h. W. inserts "of man."
i. W. changes "Also Ezekiel 12:18-19 & 24:16 to the end of the chap., likewise Ezek. 12 to 17th v." to "Likewise Ezekiel 12 to 17,18, and 19 verses; and 24:16 to the end of the chapter."
j. W. changes "where he commands woe to him that doth not obey, and where he commands not," to "where he commands, no," (sic).