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Historical texts  >  Burrough's Epistle To The Reader (3)

The Epistle To The Reader


Edward Burrough

London the 9. Mo. 1658

(Part 3 of 5)

"To all manner of sufferings and reproaches, and hard trials ..."

And this we did with no small opposition nor danger, yea, often times we were in danger of our lives, through beating, abusing, punishing, haling, casting over walls, striking with staves and cudgels, and knocking down to the ground; besides reproaching, scornings, revilings and hootings at, scoffings and slanderings, and all abuses that could be thought or acted by evil hands and tongues. And often were we carried before magistrates, with grievous threats, and sometimes put in the stocks, and whipped, and often imprisoned, and many hard dealings against us, the worst that tongues or hands could execute, sparing life. Of this all the north countries may witness; and all these things are sustained and suffered from people and rulers, because of our faithfulness to the Lord, and for declaring against the deceivers. For nothing, save only the hand of the Lord, and his power, could have preserved us, and carried us through all this. Neither for any outward reward, or advantage to ourselves whatsoever, would we have exposed ourselves to that violence, and those sufferings, and dangers, which befel us daily. But the Lord was our exceeding great reward through all these things, and kept us in the hollow of his hand, and under the shadow of his wings, and gave us dominion in spirit over all our enemies, and subdued them before us. And though rulers and people were combined against us, and executed their injustice and violence upon us, yet the Lord made us to prosper, and grow exceedingly in strength, wisdom, and number, and the hearts of the people inclined unto us, and the witness of God in many stirred for us, for to that in all consciences in our words and sufferings, and ways, we did commend ourselves to be known and approved.

And in the beginning, we were but few in number, only a few that thus were carried on and dealt with, and that had received the power from on high in such a measure, and for such a work. And no sooner did the Lord appear to us, and with us, but the devil and his power rose up against us to destroy us; and it wrought in rulers, priests, and People, and all the ways and means invented by the devil that could he executed by his servants, were brought forth to quench the work of the Lord, and to stop our passage in what we were called to. Did ye but perfectly know, as we perfectly found, the craftiness, and policy, and wickedness of the devil, how to overcome this new born babe, and how to root out for ever this plant that was newly sprung forth, it would make you admire and wonder! All the priests and rulers were in an uproar. The priests petitioned to the magistrates, and run up and down from one session and judiciatory to another, and took wicked oaths, and slandered the just with lies and reproaches, on purpose to incense all people against us. And the magistrates gave forth warrants for the apprehending of some, and gave orders to break our meetings, and that we should not meet in the night season, and such men might not pass abroad; and such stir and opposition were made against us, as can hardly be expressed or declared. There were uproars in steeplehouses, and uproars in markets, and often haling before magistrates, and we were abused, and threatened, and slandered, and all manner of evil done and spoken against us; and great injustice, cruelty and oppression were acted towards us, wherever we came, and all by means of the priests, who spared not to enact and conceive mischief against us, and sought daily to the magistrates for persecution, preaching in their pulpits, and praying against us, and setting days apart to seek their God against us, crying without ceasing, in public and private, heresy, error and blasphemy, and that we were deceivers, witches, and seducers, and such like, the worst they could say and imagine, to stir up the hearts of people against us, running often to the assize and sessions, and courts, to complain, and inform upon false oaths against us; and through them were the whole countries in a rage and madness, rulers and people often imprisoning, and abusing, and resisting us with violence, banishing us out of towns, and putting of us out of our inns, and often threatening to burn the houses over our heads; the whole company of rude people in a town, often gathering and besetting a house or inn about where we were entered to lodge, in our travels. We were often exposed to difficult and hard travels and journeys, giving ourselves to the cross, to take it up against all that was earthly; often drinking water and lying in straw in barns, after a hard day's journey; and yet for all these things, the power and presence of the Lord were with us, and we were carried on in much boldness and faithfulness in courage, and without fear or doubtings, through the often hazard of our lives many ways, in uproars, by evil men, and in markets, and steeple-houses, and also in travels by robbers, and in every way were we exposed to dangers and perils, but through all and all over all were we carried, and are preserved to this day.

And after this manner it came to pass concerning us; and much more might be said, but this is in short declared how we were entreated and dealt with by priests, rulers, and people, through all the northern counties of England, in our first going forth; through which counties we first journied out of Westmoreland, through Cumberland, Northumberland, and into some parts of Scotland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, &c. And in all these counties much opposition we had, and exceeding sufferings, and cruel dealings from men of all sorts. Every jail may witness, in every county, how any of them seldom were without some of us, or our friends, imprisoned in them these six years; and scarce one steeple-house or market in all these counties, but may witness what beating, what bruisings, strikings, and haling, and abusings, and perils we have suffered and sustained. And not one priest in all those counties can clear himself from hatred and malice, and from envying us, and doing mischief in words and works, or thoughts, or desires against us; nor scarce one justice, nor any officer of the peace, can be excused in all those counties from plotting and acting injustice upon us, and threatening and enacting cruelty against us. And I call heaven and earth to record, and the light in every man's conscience, and do appeal to that in all sorts of people, that by all sorts we suffered evil, and unjust words and actions from them. And let the witness of God in all men's consciences in all the north, give testimony what dealings and cruelty we suffered, and how we have been dealt with, and also of our patience and innocency under all that they have done to us.

But notwithstanding all that was acted against us, and spoken, many hundreds of the honest and sober people owned us, and also many rude and ungodly persons were converted to the truth; I say, many hundreds in all these counties, in two years time, were brought to the knowledge of the Lord and to own us. All which time we laboured, and travelled in patience, giving up ourselves to live or to die, and to all manner of sufferings and reproaches, and hard trials, that we might fulfil faithfully what we were called unto. Sufferings without, from open enemies and from our own kindred and relations, and sufferings within, for the seed's sake -- all these made us well acquainted with griefs; yet in our trials and afflictions, the Lord never forsook us, but his wisdom, love, and life, and presence increased in us and with us.

Then in the year 1654, as moved of the Lord, we spread ourselves southward, and entered into these south parts, and came the first of us into this city of London, in the Fifth-month that year, and laboured in the work of the gospel, in continual sufferings and oppressions divers ways, and were oppressed and gainsayed by the wise men, and by the learned, and had in reproach and contempt by all the high and lofty and proud professors, and we were set at nought and rejected by the fat beasts of the south. And it is well known to thousands in this city and south country, what opposition we have had from all sorts of people; opposed in our own meetings, and scorned, and slandered by envious and reproachful tongues; publicly and privately encountered with by all the wisest of the city and country, challenged, invited, and engaged to disputes by the high priests and church members, (so called,) and written against, and printed against, by the chiefest of men accounted wise and religious. Which of any sect, and of all the wisest in profession, and the most zealous in practices of religion, (so called,) have no at some time or other beset us, and encountered with us in high dispute; and controversy, opposing us to our faces, and gainsaying our doctrine and practices, and denying us and resisting us wholly, and crying against us to be deceivers, deluders, heretics, and blasphemers and such like, and that our doctrines were deceivable, and error, and factious and what not; and that our practices were destructive to men, laws; and government? These things in the worst nature have been spoken against us without ceasing, by the wisest, and men of greatest parts and most religious, (falsely so accounted,) for these certain years, in the south, as well as in the north.

Besides, what loss have we sustained other ways in the south, by beatings, and strikings, and abuses, and slanders, and false reproaches, and haling before magistrates, and imprisoning, and all the like dealing from priests, rulers, and people, yea, the same hard dealing and cruelty from all sorts of people we have suffered, and do daily, as we did in the north. Insomuch that we are now accustomed to the yoke, and well acquainted with sorrows and griefs from all sorts of people. And were not the Lord on our side, our enemies would swallow us up quick, and we had been long since devoured by the teeth of the ungodly. So that I may now call to witness all the jails and prisons in the south, as in the north, and all the Magistrates, and judges, and rulers, and all officers of the law, what sufferings we have sustained, and what cruel and hard dealing we have undergone, and what injustice, and unequal and false judgment have been executed upon us in these five years time. Which of the jails may appear free, where some of us have not suffered the loss of our liberties unjustly? And who of any justice of the peace, or any other officer, from the judge to the constable, can clear themselves from guilt in this matter, and have not had a hand in our unjust sufferings.

I to the witness of God in all people of all sorts, through this whole nation and some others, do I appeal concerning this matter, how we have been dealt withal, and what we have sustained in our persons and in our names, and how many acts and words of cruelty and injustice we have borne and suffered. And these priests have been as the fountain and cause of all this, and the foremost in all this iniquity and injustice by all that they could do to incense the rulers and people against us, by preaching, and praying, and writing, and printing for the space of these seven years. Notwithstanding all this the mighty power and presence of the Lord have been with us, and preserved us from dangers great and many, and carried us through trials, and perplexities, and sufferings; and not only so, but he hath increased us in number, so that thousands and ten thousands have and may own us, and the truth which we give witness of, and live therein? For the eyes of all people are beginning to be opened, and the deaf ear is unstopped, and the way of life eternal is made manifest, and the Lord is gathering his flock, which hath been scattered in the cloudy and dark day, whilst these false idle shepherds, (these priests and teachers I mean,) have fed themselves with the fat, and clothed themselves with the wool, and laid down in slumber, and not gathered the flock, nor fed them, but scattered them and driven them away; and with force and with cruelty have they ruled over the heritage of the Lord. Wo, wo, unto these shepherds, saith the Lord God, they shall be confounded and put to shame perpetually, and they shall be broken down and never builded any more, and the Lord will pluck them up by the roots, and they shall never again be planted.

And besides all their petitioning the magistrates against us, and preaching and praying against us, and all the evil and wickedness, in work, word, and desire brought forth against us from time to time; here sober reader thou hast a catalogue and whole number of books printed and written against us, and abundance of their doctrines uttered against us, and in opposition to us, gathered up in this volume in a sum, with our answers to them; and if thy heart and mind be single, thou mayst hereby understand, in measure, the difference in doctrine between them and us, and compare each of them with the scriptures, and see whether their doctrines and principles laid down as the subject of their books, or our doctrines and principles laid down in answer to theirs, agree with the scriptures. And if thou be impartial in this business, and single in this search and judgment, I doubt not, but thou wilt in a great measure satisfy thyself, and be resolved concerning the priests and professors of England, and us who are called Quakers. And when thou hast thus done, own and deny them or us, as the Lord shall persuade thee; for thou mayst fully perceive we differ in doctrines and principles, and the one thou must justify, and the other thou must condemn, as being one clean contrary to the other in principles. And I wish also thou wouldst measure us, and compare us in life and conversation, and truly judge, whether they or we do the more follow Christ and his apostles in practice and conversation. And in all things lay us and them to the line of true judgment, and with an upright heart judge accordingly; for know this, there is not any principle we hold, nor any work which we practice in our religion and worship, but we are willing, and fully desire may be brought to the bar of true justice, and in every particular of principle and practice, examined and tried to the full, and each of us judged in truth and equity, whether it be they or we that are of the true religion, and true faith and true worship of God that the apostles were in ; and which of us it is that is in a wrong way, and in a false religion, and false faith and worship. And in this we will join issue with them, in the sight of the whole nation, if they will come forth to trial; if what already is brought forth by them against us, and by us against them, for these seven years, in disputes, and in printing, and otherwise, be not sufficient for all people to try us, and judge us by, whether they or we be in the right.

And now I do appeal to that of God in the consciences of all people in the nation, to judge between the priests and professors, and all the sects, and us. Ye have heard their doctrines, and ye have heard something of ours; ye have seen their conversation, and ye have seen something of ours; ye have heard them long, and something of us ye have heard for a little season, and now give your evidence, is it not with them as we have said? Are not your priests in the steps of the false prophets and of the deceivers, and do not they seek for their gain from their quarter, as they did that Isaiah cried against. Do not they preach for hire and divine for money, as they did which Micah cried against? Are not they such by whom you have not been profited, as Jeremiah cried against? Let that of God in you answer to these things. And are they not proud men, and covetous men, and envious men, and heady high-minded men, and given to filthy lucre? And are they not such as through covetousness make merchandise of souls, and that by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, such as Paul and Peter declare against? And are they not such as the true prophets, Christ, and his apostles cried against? And do they not bring forth the same fruits as did the false prophets, and false apostles? I leave it to your consciences to be the judge: compare them, and lay them to the line of true judgment; if you shut not your eyes, you may see it is thus.

And have we charged them falsely, or have we not spoken the truth concerning them? We have said they are false ministers and deceivers, and not true ministers of Christ; and is it not so? Let the light in your consciences answer. We have said they have run, and never were sent, and that they have not profited the people at all; and is it not so? To the witness of God in you I do appeal, and let that testify that we have spoken nothing but the truth. Examine and try in all things that we have charged them with, and are they not guilty in all things that we have charged upon them? Let the witness of God in you testify to this.

And what do you judge of them, are they not of that stock which Christ said should come, and should be wolves in sheep's clothing, and should deceive many, and which John saw were come in his days, and which the whole world went after? Are not they in the nature of wolves, devouring and tearing the lambs of Christ? And do not they tear people by causing their bodies to be imprisoned and their goods to be spoiled? And do they not deceive many? And yet they have the sheep's clothing, the saints' words and their practices, but inwardly are they not ravening? And doth not the world go after them, and hath not the world run after them for many ages; and is it not thus with them? And have they received the gift of the holy ghost, or are they not made ministers by the will of man, and not by the will of God! Do they not differ in call, in practice, in maintenance, and in fruits and effects from the true ministers and true apostles? And do they not agree with the false prophets, false ministers, and deceivers, in their call, practice, maintenance, fruits, and effects? Search the scriptures, and lay them to that line, and then let the witness in your consciences judge and answer. And do not they prepare war against such as put not into their mouths? And do not they feed with the fat, and clothe with the wool? Do not they oppress the nation and the creation? And are not they such whose call, and practices, and maintenance, and whole ministry, have a dependence on Popery? doth it not all savour of Popery, and in the main and principal parts thereof, ordained by the pope? This may be fully made manifest. And are not all professors, and sects of people, such as have the form but are without the power of godliness? Are not people still covetous and earthly minded, and given to the world, and proud and vain, even such as profess religion, and to be a separated people? Are not professors as covetous and proud as such as do not profess? And are not they given to the world, and doth it not show that they are not changed nor translated, but death reigns among them? And is it not manifest that they have taken up the form of the apostles' and Christ's words and practices, and are without the life, and not guided by the spirit of Christ at the apostles in their praying and preaching? And are not your souls lean and starved? To the witness of God in you all I speak; which may testify that many people have a show of religion without life, and therefore have not we spoken the truth of them, in what we have said? In the day of judgment you shall answer it.

And as concerning the Quakers, what do you say of them? You have seen their conversation; few towns but some of them have been and are amongst you. Do not they fear God? And do not they walk justly and truly among their neighbours, and speak the truth, and do truth in all things, doing to all no otherwise than they would be done unto? And are they not meek, and humble, and sober? And do not they take much wrong, rather than give wrong to any? And are they not such as delight in the ways of the Lord? And do not they deny the world and its pleasures, and forsake all iniquity more than yourselves? And do not they take up the daily cross of Christ to all its ways and earthly glories? And do not they preach in the power of God, reach to your consciences, when you hear them? And doth not the light in you answer that they speak the truth? And are not their and practice, and maintenance the same as was the apostles' and faithful ministers'? Compare them with the scripture, and then judge in your consciences. And do not they suffer many hard and cruel things even all manner of evil spoken and done against them falsely for the name of Christ? Are you ignorant of their great sufferings through this nation? And what do you think? Is their suffering for evil doing, or is it not for righteousness' sake? What harm do they to any, by work or word? Why are they reproached, and mocked, and scorned? And why are they put in prisons, and whipped, and thus sorely abused? Is it for any evil doing, or is it not because they are the servants of the Lord? Compare their fruits with the priests' fruits, their conversation with the priests' conversation, and see which be most like the apostles. These things I leave with you, that you may come to consider and judge justly of all things; for the Lord God is risen, and his light in people's consciences is shining forth, and it shall answer to what I say, in this world or in the day of judgment, when we, and all mankind, shall appear and come forth to trial, and every man's work shall be tried, and all shall receive according to their deeds.

[Continued in Part 4]

Notes and Links

Third part of five
Part 1 - Come forth in fair dispute, to contend in the spirit of meekness ...
Part 2 - And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes ...
Part 3 - To all manner of sufferings and reproaches, and hard trials ...
Part 4 - We should agree to have the liberty, freely and soberly to object against the priests ...
Part 5 - Them that have had the words but were out of the life, which life now is risen ...