Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > To Thee Oliver Cromwell


To Theea Oliver Cromwell, into whose handsGod hath committed the sword of justice, that

under thee all may be godly and quietly governed. A terror to the evildoers, and for the encouragement of them that do well, and to the rest of theb army, whom the Lord hath set above all your enemies.c And to all that are in authority, that you may more set up God in your hearts and consciences, and give liberty to that of God in all consciences, that his people may serve him without force or fear freely in Spirit and truth, that the Lord may bless you and establish you, and you may be so far honored as to perform what, in the times of your troubles, you did then promise in the presence of God, that his people should have liberty of conscience. To you all I am moved of the Lord to write, as followeth:

     It being a matter of the greatest concernment to every man's conscience that loves Christ, not to uphold any ministry, under any pretense whatsoever, which is not sent by Christ, therefore take heed, as you tender a pure conscience, to give liberty herein, that there be no forcing to uphold any one soul that say they are ministers, but that everyone herein make proof of his ministry, and so shall every man's reward be as his work. And you magistrates shall not need to meddle in this thing, seeing God never required it at your hands, to force a maintenance, neither underd law nor gospel.

     But if any say this will open a gap to all sin and make men heathens, I answer: it will be the only way to cut down sin, as will appear to any reasonable understanding. First, a law being made to punish sin without exception, this takes hold of the heathen, and the hypocrite shall not escape, under what form soever; and liberty of conscience being given, you will presently see into whose hands to commit the execution of that firste law; for who hath not a principle of God to guide his worship without constraint can never execute any just law for God, but for self-ends. <259> And so you should choose men fearing Godf to bear the sword of God. And till then, make what laws you will to preserve innocency, yet by them the innocent is sure to suffer; for how can he whose conscience is forced as to the worship of God use a good conscience towards men, or own a pure conscience in another, to preserve it, who hath made shipwreck of it himself.

     And for making heathens, I say it will but discover heathens that are hid; for he that hath not a principle of God in himself to carry him on in his worship, without forcing, is a heathen, and knows not God; and his worship and prayers is abominate to God, and he that forces him is guilty with him, for such was never forced, but admonished, till they came to be won by the word, or without the word by a godly conversation, and till then to be ordered byg the law of the magistrates, which ish made for such,i till the promised seed be owned to guide in the works of the Spirit, for without that law thej parish preaching will not order such, as is manifest in the nation, and hath been for many years; and such being declared to be heathen would be ashamed, and being convinced in their own consciences might come to be saved, which now pass under the name of a profession.

     But if it be said this is the only way to root out the ministers of Christ, I answer, It's the only way to manifest the ministers of Christ from the ministers of antichrist; and it will root out none but such whose care is first for their bellies, who mind earthly things, whose ministry stands and falls by carnal things, who would be sure of wages before they do their work; yea many of them have taken wages these forty or fifty years, but yet no work done, nor any brought out of sin; and these cry the workman is worthy of his wages, and call for wages from such as for whom they do no work. But these are none of Christ's workmen, who seek for their wages from the world, for his he sends freely into the world,k who never asked anything of the world; but first planted a vineyard, then eat the fruit of it; first sowed in hope, and then were partakers of their hope; and where they had sown <260> spirituals, and the seed came up, there they reaped carnals, and so lived of the gospel and not of the world. And I demand of anyone who owns the Scriptures to prove a forced maintenance either under the law or gospel, but they were freely to bring it. But who art thou that says the times are not so now? Thee I deny, and thy ministry, which follows the times and not Christ, nor the saints' practice in Scripture; stop thy mouth forever being counted a minister of Christ, who art not content with his allowance, as his have always been, for God is not changed, nor his worship, nor worshippers. But if you say this will soon bring the ministers to be poor, I say you know not God nor his care for his, who so argues; for never was the righteous, nor that seed, begging bread; against that despitefull mind do I bear witness, who was sent out without bag, or scrip, or money, into the most brutish parts of the nation, where none knew me, yet wantm I nothing. In prisons, in wanderings,n in beatings, in stonings, in mocking, my joy I would not change for all the parsonages in the world, nor shall any hireling partake of it. And you that would have others forced to maintain thy teachers, but would not be forced to maintain others who differ in judgment, though nearer the Scripture than thine, how dost thou fulfill the law of Christ, in doing as you would be done by? What is this but to lord it over the conscience of thy brother?

     That there be no forcing any to uphold the high places of the nation, seeing that many that truly fear God cannot worship in them without sin; but that liberty be given herein, and that every people may repair their own meeting places. I know many out of a blind zeal to those places will be offended; but what is that whicho would not do to others the same that you would have them to do to you; is that reason, equity, or conscience? Would thou be content to be forced against thy conscience to repair the houses of others, which they meet in who differ from thee in judgment? and that upon good ground from Scripture, who meet in private or hired houses for conscience sake, refusing those places which have been consecrated to idols? And if you look upon such as brethren <261> of freeborn subjects, is there not the same reason in it? But if thou say, must the house of God go down? I answer, houses of God they are not; conveniency is the best you can plead for them; and of all men, you who stay in those houses have least cause to find fault with such as go out, seeing they leave you the houses you so much esteem of, wholly to yourselves, with all that belongs to them, and you have them for repairing, and they that go out, betake themselves either into the fields, private houses, or some convenient place, not chargeable to any.p

     That there be no forcing any to swear, who makes conscience of an oath, seeing the plain commands of Christ and his apostles doth so often forbid it; which some dare not break for all the world, who are come unto the everlasting oath and covenant of God, and into the practice of the saints, which never used any such things. But if any say, how should true evidence be had in matters of controversy between man and man, that true judgment may be given? I answer, God appointed witnesses in such cases, but never forced them to swear in the old covenant, when swearing was an ordinance; how much more now, when Christ hath said swear not at all? But if any say men will not matter what they say, if they be not forced to swear, I answer, such will not matter what they swear neither, were it not for fear of an outward law; but if you make an equal punishment of false witness, as unto imprisonment, punishment, and taking away life or estate, or whatever should by the law befall the person accused (which is but just), you shall soon have them more afraid to lie than ever they were to forswear, and hereby come to cleanse the land of all false accusers and accusations.q

He that is faithful to God must bear rule; he that is not faithful must not bear rule for God.r

     He that is unjust must not bear rule for God. He that respects men's persons must not bear rule for God, for he is a transgressor of the law of God; and he that is light and vain and wild must not bear rule for God. And he that is proud and covetous must not bear <262> rule for God; and he that is in the lust of the world and in the lust of the flesh and of the eye must not bear rule for God. And he that hath self-ends must not bear rule for God, for all these things are contrary to the light and with the light are to be condemned; the light of God in every man's conscience will witness for God against all such actions and practices, which are condemned with the light. And no scoffer nor scorner nor persecutor must be a ruler for God, and who are in envy and wrath must not bear rule for God, for they are in Cain's way; and men that follow pleasures, sporting themselves in the daytime, must not bear rule for God, for such as live wantonly upon the earth killeth the just and are dead whilst they live, and such are not to bear rule for God. And such as receive gifts and rewards blind the eyes and are not to bear rule for God, whose eye is blinded and the light put out; and such as are proud boasters in contention, fierce, despisers, and liars, and truce breakers are not to bear rule for God. The Spirit of God where it rules judges all these things and teacheth to show mercy and to do good, and walk humbly with God; and all they that respect the rich and despise the poor, you are not fit to bear rule for God.

George Fox

     Thus in faithfulness to God, and in love to you, with whom I have served for the good of these nations betwixt eight and nine years, counting nothing too dear to bring the government into your hands in whom it is,s as many can witness with me herein. And now my prayer to God for you is that you may lay down all your crowns at his feet, who hath given you the victory, that so the Lord being set up as king in every conscience, all may be subject to your governmentt for conscience sake. And so God may establishu you, and the hearts of his people praise him in your behalf. And so to you I have unburdened my conscience herein, and let none be rash in judging, but search the Scriptures and see if I have not laid before you the saints' practice, by the same Spirit by which they were guided.

James Nayler

Printed for Giles Calvert, and are to be sold at his shop, at the
sign of the Black-Spread-Eagle, at the west end of Paul's. 1655

Editor's Notes

a. Whitehead omits "thee."

b. Whitehead omits "rest of the."

c. Whitehead omits "whom the Lord hath set above all your enemies."

d. Whitehead inserts "a."

e. Whitehead omits "first."

f. Whitehead inserts "and."

g. Whitehead changes "by" to "or forced to."

h. Whitehead omits "which is."

i. Whitehead inserts "is in vain."

j. Whitehead changes "without that law, the" to "without that, the law or."

k. Whitehead omits "for his he sends freely into the world."

l. W. changes "despiteful" to "desponding."

m. W. changes "want" to "wanted."

n. W. omits "in wanderings."

o. Whitehead changes "which" to "by which you."

p. Whitehead changes "any" to "you."

q. W. adds "swearing and forswearing."

r. Whitehead omits this section, apparently the only part of the pamphlet not by Nayler.

s. Whitehead changes "in whom it is" to "for the liberty of free-born men."

t. W. omits "to your government."

u. W. changes "establish" to "be honored by."