To all that truly wish Jerusalem's prosperity and Babylon's destruction, wisdom and understanding be multiplied upon you.
In these days if ever, that is true which the wise man said Ecclesiastes 12:12 "there is none end in the making many books, and much reading is a weariness to the flesh". Yet considering how heinous it is in the sight of the Lord to force men and women by cruel persecutions to bring their bodies to a worship wherewith they cannot bring their spirits, we thought it our duty for God's glory and the reformation thereof in this our own nation to publish this little writing following. Wherein is manifestly proved by the law of God, the law of our land, and his Majesty's own diverse testimonies that no man ought to be persecuted for his religion, be it true or false, so they testify their faithful allegiance to the king. What shall men do striving about religion till this be ended? For if this be truth that the kings of the earth have power from God to compel by persecution all their subjects to believe as they believe, then wicked is it to resist, and the persecutions of such is justly upon them, and the magistrates that execute the same are clear from their blood and it is upon their own heads. But if the kings of the earth have not power from God to compel by persecution any of their subjects to believe as they believe (seeing faith is the work of God) then no less wicked is it in the sight of God to disobey, and the persecutions of such are upon the magistrate, and the blood of the persecuted crieth unto the Lord and will be required at the magistrate's hands.
Wherefore in all humility, reverence and loyalty we do humbly desire of our sovereign lord the King and all God's ministers under him - as Judges, Justices of the Peace, etc. by whom this persecution is executed - themselves to consider not whether herein they please Lord Bishops but whether they please the Lord Jesus Christ, who after a little while shall judge all Judges according to their works without respect of persons, and therefore are commanded "to kiss the son lest he be angry if they perish in the way" (Psalms 2). Our humble desire is that they would consider what is testified in the Scriptures - that "The kings of the earth shall give their power unto the Beast, till the words of God shall be fulfilled, then shall they take power from her". If it be granted (as it is) that the kings of this nation formerly have given their power unto that Romish Beast, it shall evidently appear that our lord the King and all magistrates under him do give their power to the same Beast, though the Beast be in another shape. For as that spiritual power or Beast of Rome sets up a worship (as they pretend) for God and force all thereto by cruel persecutions, the kings of the earth giving their power thereunto, so this spiritual power or beast of England sets up a worship (as they pretend) for God and force all thereto by cruel persecutions, the King's Majesty giving his power hereunto. Oh! that all that are in authority would but consider the word of God which shall judge them at the Last Day for what they do.
Yet our most humble desire of our Lord the King is that he would not give his power to force his faithful subjects to dissemble to believe as he believes in the least measure of persecution. Though it is no small persecution to lie many years in filthy prisons, in hunger, cold, idleness; divided from wife, family, calling; left in continual miseries and temptations so as death would be to many less persecution. Seeing his Majesty confesseth that "to change the mind must be the work of God". And of the Lord Bishops, we desire that they would a little leave off persecuting those that cannot believe as them till they have proved that God is well-pleased therewith,and the souls of such as submit in safety from condemnation. Let them prove this and we protest we will forever submit unto them, and so will thousands: and therefore if there be any spark of grace in them, let them set themselves to give satisfaction either by word or writing or both. But if they will not, but continue their cruel courses as they have done, let them yet remember that they must come to judgment and have their abominations set in order before them and be torn in pieces when none shall deliver them.
And if it be a law for all Christians that in indifferent things one must not offend another, but the strong but forbear rather than offend his weak brother, otherwise he "wounds the weak conscience and sins against Christ" (I Corinthians 8). Then how much less hath any man power to be lord over the weak conscience, forcing it to practice that it hath not faith in bringing it thereby unto sin and unto condemnation (Romans 14). We do unfeignedly acknowledge the authority of earthly magistrates, God's blessed ordinance, and that all earthly authority and command appertains unto them. Let them command what they will, we must obey either to do or suffer upon pain of God's displeasure besides their punishment. But all men must let God alone with his right which is to be lord and law-giver to the soul, and not command obedience for God where he commandeth none.
By Christ's unworthy
witnesses, his Majesty's faithful subjects.
Commonly but most falsely called Anabaptists.
[The speakers in the dialogue are Antichristian, Christian and I]
you must go to church, otherwise your are disobedient to the law and
will fall under punishment.
Christian: But still remember that you would have me worship God as you pretend; therefore let us agree what worship God requireth. Christ saith John 4:24 "God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth". Here we see what worship God requireth, viz. That we worship him with our souls and spirits and also that we worship him according to the truth of his word. And therefore for your book worship, if it were according to truth (from the which it is as far as light is from darkness) yet if I cannot offer it up with my spirit it is not acceptable to God but most abominable.
perceive what you aim at; you would have none brought to church but
such as come willingly of themselves, so should every worship God man
as himself pleaseth.
Christian: Your conclusion I aim not at, for I acknowledge that as there is but one God, so there is but one way of worshipping him, out of the which way whosoever is and repenteth not thereof shall pay a dear price. And therefore it standeth all men upon not to please themselves in worshipping him. But you perceive aright that I aim at this, that none should be compelled to worship God but such as come willingly. For I will (by God's assistance) prove most evidently by the Scriptures that none ought nor can be compelled to worship God to acceptance by any worldly means whatsoever.
Antichristian: Then I
perceive if a man can plead that he hath not faith in anything which
the king commands he need not be obedient.
Christian: Would God all men could see your dealing herein. This is your usual course when your mouth is stopped by the power of God's word that you know not what to answer, then you run to the king's command and so make your matters good. Like unto your predecessors the wicked Scribes and Pharisees who, when our Lord and Master had stopped their mouths that they had no word of answer, then they sought to make him a trespasser against Cesar. But I have learned in some weak measure that as there is a Cesar unto whom of conscience I must be obedient , so there is another king, one Jesus, that is king of kings, unto whom if you will not be obedient in "giving unto God that which is God's" he will rend you into pieces, when there shall be none that can deliver you , and cast you into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone for evermore, where there shall be no rest day nor night,
Christian: I would not you only but all men did see that the sword of the magistrate and all afflictions proceeding therefrom are only upon the outward man, and cannot convert a soul from going astray, nor beget faith - it comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17) - and therefore is no instrument in this work.
just laws made in that behalf be but duly executed , which is, that
all his subjects should protest their faith allegiance to His
Majesty's person, crown and dignity. all that will not be obedient,
let them be disposed of at His Majesty's pleasure, and you shall see
no treacheries and treason practiced as hath been. First, for all
those that seek and practice in themselves reformation in religion,
Satan himself cannot tar them with the least jot of treachery. And for
the Papists, may it not justly be suspected that one chief cause of
all their treasons hath been because of all the compulsions that hath
been used against their consciences, in compelling them to the worship
practiced in public according to the law of the land. Which being
taken away, there is no doubt but they would be much more peaceable,
as we see it verified in diverse other nations where no such
compulsion is used. For if they might have freedom in their religion
unto their faithful allegiance unto the King, the fear of the
king's laws, and their own prosperity and peace would make them live
more inoffensively in that respect.
I. Only the Papists are dangerous in that some of them hold that kings and princes that be excommunicated by the Pope may be deposed and murdered by their subjects or any other.
Christian: For that damnable and accursed doctrine, as we abhor it with our souls so we desire all other may. And therefore all laws that can be made for the prevention of such execrable practices are most necessary. But now I desire all men to see that the Bishops and we justly cry out against this accursed doctrine and practice in the Pope and his associates: that princes should be murdered by their subjects for contrary mindedness in religion. Yet they teach the king to murder his subjects for the selfsame thing, viz. for being contrary minded to them in their religion. So likewise, as that accursed doctrine is to be abhorred in the papists who teach subjects not to be obedient to their princes that are excommunicate by the Pope, even so is that accursed doctrine of the Bishops to be abhorred, who teach princes not to protect their subjects that are excommunicate by them, in not affording them either law or justice nor to bear testimony in any court. Do not the Bishops herein justify this accursed doctrine and practice in the papists?
wicked malefactors should be let alone to the end of the world, then
where is the magistrate's sword? it is of no force if evil men may not
be cut off.
Christian: I acknowledge unfeignedly that God hath given to magistrates a sword to cut off wicked men and to reward the well-doers. (Romans 13th chapter). But this ministry is a worldly ministry, their sword is a worldly sword, their punishments can extend no further than the outward man, they can kill but the body (Luke 12:4). And therefore this ministry and sword is appointed only the punish the breach of worldly ordinances which is all that God hath given to any mortal man to punish. The king may make laws for the safety and good of his person, state and subjects; against the which whosoever is disloyal or disobedient he may dispose of at his pleasure. The Lord hath given him this sword and authority foreseeing in his eternal wisdom that if this his ordinance of magistracy were not, there would no living for men in this world - especially for the godly. And therefore the godly have particular cause to glorify God for this his ordinance of magistracy and to regard it with all reverence.
The ordinances of the Old Testament were to be
performed by the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh that
thereby they might be taught Christ; but the ordinances of the New
Testament are to be performed only by the posterity of Abraham
according to that faith, that have learned Christ and have put on
Christ, and so having him all things else appertaineth to them.
For the kingdom and ordinances of Israel under the Law were of this world, but the kingdom and ordinances of Israel under the Gospel are not of this world, as Christ the king thereof himself testifieth (John 28). And therefore you setting up a worldly king over this heavenly kingdom and ordinances, you and all your profession declare yourself to be of that worldly kingdom, and so look for that heavenly and spiritual king yet to come in the flesh, being of the number of those that deny him to be come in the flesh and so are deceivers and Antichrists whatsoever you say to the contrary.
freedom of religion should be granted, there would be such divisions
as would breed sedition and innovation in the state.
Christian: Thus when your shows out of the Scripture are answered, then you run to conceits and imaginations of sedition, innovation and the like, thinking thereby to dissuade princes and all that are in authority therefrom, knowing else your kingdom of iniquity would fall. But that it may appear to all that you deal deceitfully herein, let us consider first the Scripture, secondly behold the success of suffering of religion free in other countries. And first, Christ our Saviour (who is that prince of peace Isaiah 9.6 not of sedition) hath taught (Matthew 10 and Luke 12) that "he came not to send peace on the Earth but debate, to divide five in one house, two against three and three against two, the father against the son, &c. And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household". And his desire is that the "fire of such sedition should be kindled" where we see this Prince of Peace putteth difference in religion by preaching his Gospel which some receive as the savour of life unto them; others refuse it and so become enemies to the truth and witnesses thereof as they did to Christ Jesus himself and his disciples, and as you do to me and others. Secondly behold the nations where freedom of religion is permitted, and you may see there are not more flourishing an prosperous nations under the heavens than they are.
Christian: Besides the baptism now practiced in the Church of England is no better, no otherwise than that of Rome. For the Church of Rome baptizeth all the infants of the most wicked that are in her dominions and so the Church of England baptizeth all the infants of the most wicked that are in the king's majesty's dominions. And of this timber are both these churches built, and therefore we may truly say, as is the mother so is the daughter. And as they are in their first building, so are they in the most of their laws, lords, law-makers, courts and thousands of their abominations, in so much as it is plain enough the latter is the very image of the first. Unto which whosoever submitteth or obeyeth or maintaineth their baptism or any other of their human trash, he shall be tormented in fire and brimstone for evermore, and shall never have rest day nor night (Revelation 14). And therefore in God's fear cast away that cursed action of washing where was neither Christ's disciple administering nor his disciple upon whom it was administered, nor Christ's body or church baptized into
[Spelling and punctuation modernized]
This tract has been ascribed to Thomas Helwys (1550?- 1616?) or John Murton
Ecclesiastes 12:12 = "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh".
Psalms 2 = Psalms 2:12 "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little".
The kings ... = Revelation 17:17 "For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled".
that Romish Beast = the Pope
I Corinthians 8:12 = "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ".
Romans 14:23 = "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin".
Matthew 10 = Matthew 10: 34-36
Luke 12 = Luke 12: 49-53
nations where freedom of religion is permitted = Both Thomas Helwys and John Murton had spent time in the Netherlands which were both tolerant and prosperous.
Revelation 14:10-11 = "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name".