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Historical texts  >  Burrough's Epistle To The Reader (4)

The Epistle To The Reader


Edward Burrough

London the 9. Mo. 1658

(Part 4 of 5)

"We should agree to have the liberty, freely and soberly to object against the priests ..."

And so gladly would we be made manifest to all the world, that if after the reading of this book, any be unsatisfied still in this matter; and if any, especially of the heads and rulers, have doubts or jealousies raised in them concerning us and the priests, and would be further be satisfied and resolved; for that end let any wise men propound, for full satisfaction of all sorts of people, that we (with the consent of the chief in authority that have power in this nation, who may preserve peace and safety among people, and thereby to stop all jealousies) may freely and cheerfully, four, ten, twenty, thirty, more or fewer of us, give as many of the wisest and ablest of the priests and professors a meeting for dispute, at any place in England, at what time, and for what continuance they shall consent unto and fix, to dispute and controvert betwixt us and them any such thing, and every such particular as shall or may be objected by any of the heads and rulers, or other grave understanding men, wherein they are doubtful betwixt us, and would thereof be satisfied; that by such dispute and opening of such causes objected, full, and real, and total satisfaction may be given to the whole nation, and every particular man and member therein.

Otherwise, let the priests, or professors, or any of them, object what they can against us, in our principles, profession, faith, and practice, and our whole religion. And if they shall affirm and allege any one or more things against us, that any principle we hold, or practice we are found in throughout all our religion, are false principles and false practices, and not according to truth nor the scriptures, but shall affirm that our religion is not the true religion, nor we of the true church of Christ, they shall have free liberty, to give their best proof and reason for what they affirm and allege. Yet by the strength of Christ, and in the power and authority of God, and according to the scriptures, we shall confute all their proofs and strongest reasons; and on the contrary we shall join our principles, doctrines, and practices, and all our religion, and every part and particular thereof, to be the very truth, and agreeing with the scriptures, and, according to that, shall maintain by lawful arguments and plea, that our religion and worship, and all that we profess and practice, are according to the mind of the Lord, and justified of him, and that whatsoever is and may be spoken against us upon that account is utterly false, and to be condemned.

And upon this we will engage with them, and with any of our enemies, of what sect or profession soever, to the intent only that truth may be manifest and embraced, and deceit and error discovered and denied.

And also, upon such an engagement, we should agree to have the liberty, freely and soberly to object against the priests, concerning their ministry, their call, their practice, their maintenance, and their fruits and effects; and concerning their church, and principles, and worship, and whole religion; and shall hear patiently all that can be said in defence thereof by any or all of them, and shall prove by the spirit of the Lord, and according to the scriptures, that their ministry is not the true ministry of Christ, nor they true and lawful ministers of the gospel; but shall manifest by evident arguments, that their call, practice, maintenance, fruits and effects, are not according, but contrary to what the true ministry was, and its call, practice, maintenance, fruits and effects were in the true apostles, and among the true churches. And furthermore, by the grace of God, we shall prove their church, their worship, and their whole religion, in all parts thereof, to be degenerated from what the true church was, and the true worship, and true religion were, in the days of the apostles and true churches of old. And these things shall we make manifest by faithful and sound arguments according to the scriptures, that all the earth may know, and all people perceive who is in the truth, and of the true worship and religion, and who are in the contrary, and whether the priests, and that which they profess and practice for religion, or the Quakers, and that which they profess and practice for religion, be of God, and according to him, and which are contrary; that the end of this long travel, and war and controversy may be decided and justly ended between us, and all people may be resolved and satisfied concerning us, and them that do oppose us.

And let all the priests and professors lay aside and give over their houses of correction, and imprisoning people, and whipping them, and stocking us, and dealing in this manner of violence and cruelty, as for years past they have done in defence of their religion, and resisting of ours. And let them lay aside their carnal weapons, and fighting against our persons, and imprisoning us about our religion, and let them come forth in sound arguments, the best they have, and let us see what spiritual weapons they have to resist us, and defend themselves; and let us try whether their spiritual weapons or ours be the strongest, and. the most powerful and mighty; and let theirs that are so prevail against the other, be it ours or theirs. And this is the way to try the truth, and to make all things manifest, and to decide and end the whole controversy between us and them, which hath been great these many years.

And let the truth be set up and exalted, wherever it is, and all deceit thrown down to the ground; and let us war with the weapons of the spirit, against error and false religion one in the other, but let us not hurt nor imprison persons, nor stock and whip, and make them to suffer. But let us thresh deceit, and whip and beat that, and all false opinions, let us throw them down where they are found, whether in them or in us, and let us fight with the weapons of the spirit, that are spiritual, and let them fight no longer with such cruel carnal weapons. And then let such as get the victory, and overcome, appear to be in the truth of the church, and such as fall and are overcome, be manifest to be in the error, and of the false church and religion. And let us love one another's persons, and let them act no otherwise towards our persons, than we do upon theirs, and towards them; and let them take the liberty to deal with us and our persons, as we deal with them and their persons, and no otherwise.

And let such, whether they or we, that cannot prove ourselves to be the true church of Christ, nor of the true worship, and true religion, nor in the truth, but are found to be in the error, and out of the truth,- let such deny their worship and church, and renounce all their religion, and confess to all the world, under their hands, that they are and have been deceived, and for ever hereafter stop their mouths, and never profess nor practice any more what they have done in such religion. Freely upon these issues and conditions we will join trial with them. Let them appoint time, place, and proffer terms at their own pleasure, and then to all the world it shall be manifest, and to all people discovered, whether we have not good ground and sufficient reason, to war against these priests; and it may perfectly appear that what we have said and written against them, these divers years, has been upon a good foundation, and we have had sufficient cause to speak and write against them as we have done; and none thenceforth shall have cause to say, or doubt, that what we have spoken and written against them hath been out of malice or envy, and without cause or good reason; but on the contrary, all shall know the ground of quarrel is sufficient, and full of equity on our part.

And upon these or any equal terms and conditions, would we, and are we willing to engage with these priests, and all or any one of these sects in a lawful trial, in disputes or writings, for the trial and searching out of the truth, and the true religion. And were it not equal and reasonable, that we had the same liberty among all these priests, and in their churches or assemblies freely to declare our minds, and to let forth ourselves in what we hold and profess, without being violently haled, and beat, and whipped, and sent to prison as we have been these many years ? Which liberty we do freely grant and allow among us to all, to query, or declare what is upon them, without such violent dealing, or whipping, -or sending them to prisons and houses of correction; and the same freedom and no other do we desire of others, in this particular, to declare the truth and what we hold, than what we do and would allow to others; and that no weapon be used by them against us, nor dealing towards us, but the weapons of the spirit, the best they have or can bring forth against us. And let them let creatures alone, and not hurt nor do violence to them, and no other weapons shall we use against them, nor deal with them by any other thing, but the weapons of the spirit of God, which is powerful, and will bring down strong holds; and as for creatures, we shall not hurt, nor do violence, nor imprison them. And whose weapons are the strongest, let such overcome.

And such as are overcome, are not the true church; for the true church of Christ, which is builded upon the rock, the gates of hell cannot prevail against. And who do overcome, let it be manifest that God of a truth is with them. And let them all cease to defend their church, and ministry, and religion, with prisons, and whips, and houses of correction; for by such things was never the true church, ministry, and religion defended, but only the power and authority of God preserved them, and resisted all their enemies; and so it is at this day. And let all cease to cry deceivers, and being afraid they will be deceived; for if they be the true church, all, or any one of these sects and professions of religion, then if we be deceivers, and come among them, they cannot be deceived, if they be in the election; for neither deceivers, nor the gates of hell can prevail against the true church of Christ, nor against them that are elect, which the devil hath nothing in. And if we be the true church of Christ, and in the election, then if all the deceivers upon earth come among us, they cannot prevail against us, nor deceive us; for the elect cannot be deceived. And upon these terms we may engage with any people and sect upon earth: therefore come to this, and join with us; take you the liberty to declare in soberness what you own and profess, and you shall not be persecuted, nor your bodies nor persons harmed by violence; and let us have that liberty to declare in meekness and soberness, and in God's authority, amongst you what we hold and profess, and let us not be persecuted, and dealt violently withal; and then let it appear whether we or our enemies have a greater testimony, and more powerful in the hearts of people- And were not this a way full of equity for the trial of all things! But doing contrary, as you have done these many years against us, by violence, and whipping, and persecuting, it shows you have not the spiritual weapons, nor the authority of God with you, nor among you; and that is the cause of running to magistrates, and putting in jails, and whippings, and all violence, because the authority of God's spirit is wanting amongst you, which all the false sects and false churches, since the days of the apostles, have wanted, to defend themselves and resist their enemies. And so all sects have been fighting one with another, and killing persons, and have defended themselves by prisons, and inquisitions, and destroying of lives; and all these have been out of the power of God, and in the power of the dragon, and of the beast, who hath caused all to worship, and them that would not, he hath had power to kill, and hath killed them, by fires, and tortures, and cruel deaths. And all these have lost the spiritual weapons, and been without the power and spirit of God. And what a church is this of yours, which hath need to be defended by jails, and prisons, and whips, and stocks, and violent dealing! This church is not the church of Christ, for the power and spirit of God defends her always, and not inquisitions, and prisons, and whips. These are Cain's weapons, and not the weapons of the spirit of God, whereby his true church was ever defended. For because Cain's sacrifice was not accepted, therefore he slew his brother, and persecuted him; and thus you that are of Cain's seed do the same upon the same ground because your works are rejected, and theirs accepted with whom you deal thus in this violent way of persecution and wickedness.

And this is the Protestant church, so called, and her ministers, with whom I am now dealing, which seems to be the true church, and more than the church of Rome. For you Protestant ministers do deny and cry against the church of Rome as a false church, and her ministers to be deceivers, which in itself is very true, yet your hypocrisy in this doth appear, and your double mindedness; for let me tell you, while you cry against the church of Rome as a false idolater, and a persecutor of the true church, and against her ministers as deceivers, and contrary to the apostles, your spirits are the same, and your works the same in nature, and in particular, though not in measure. This work of yours to imprison people, and whip them, and put them in the stocks, and beat them, and abuse their persons, who do but speak against you and your religion; is not this work of the very same nature as the work of the Romish church? She to defend herself hath inquisitions, and banishment, and many cruel tortures, and with these things she defends herself, killing and afflicting the bodies of people that oppose her, and deny her religion; and you have stocks, and whips, and houses of correction, and put great fines and tasks upon people, and banish them out of towns, and spoil their goods, and cast them into prison who oppose your church and deny your religion. And is not this equal and justly according in nature to the persecution that is in the Romish church?

And what difference between the defence of the church of Rome and your church of Protestants? They have their inquisitions, and you have your houses of correction; they have their slavery in the gallies, and you have whips and stocks; they have their divers torments, and cruel dealings towards persons that oppose them, in one manner, and you have your torments and cruel dealings towards us in another manner; though not in the same measure, yet in the same nature: what difference between you and them? And herein doth the hypocrisy of the Protestant church and their ministers appear, in that they cry against and deny the church of Rome and their persecution and cruelty acted against others, and yet in nature and manner practice the very same upon us, as in England this day is witnessed.

And not only in this particular may the church and ministers of the Protestants be condemned for hypocrisy, but also in many other things, even the most of their practices in their worship are of the same nature, and by the same spirit, which the practices of the church of Rome are acted by and in. And not only so, but it may be truly proved and made manifest, that many of your church practices have proceeded from the church and pope of Rome who did ordain and institute many of your practices, and a great part of your worship, which is performed in the church and by the ministry of the Protestants, so called; and this in its time and season I may make fully appear, and discover to the nations; and I may show in the particulars, what particulars of the worship and practice in the Protestant church had their rise and original in the church of Rome. Though they are minced with diminishings and addings, according as their imaginations have guided them, they still retain the strongest taste and savour of the church of Rome, and had their beginning and original there. And though in the performing thereof, they may be altered and changed in appearance and form, they are perfectly the same in ground and nature, as springing from the church of Rome, and she is the mother of the Protestant church, and of the most of her practices and performances in worship. And this may be proved, as, God willing, upon occasion, as the Lord moves, I may show that though the church of the Protestants have deserted the church of Rome, yet their ministry, its call, and ordination, and its practice and maintenance have a dependency upon the church of Rome, as being the original of that which is by them therein practised, though in some things deviated from the perfect form and practice thereof.

And also the whole worship, all the particulars in relation to the Protestant church, and ministry, and worship, have a dependence upon the church of Rome, as being the first original thereof. And though they cry against her and her ministers, and have denied her, yet is she the mother from whom proceeded the Protestant church, ministry, worship, and practices; and this may be manifest at full that the Protestant's church, ministry, and worship, chiefly taste and savour of the church and worship of Rome, and had their original out of her. And also further may be showed, that the Protestant church, and worship, and ministry, are not another in nature and being, than the Romish church, ministry, and worship, but are sprung therefrom as branches out of the same root, the ground being one and the same though differing in appearance. For in her beginning and first dissenting from the Romish church, she did not deny her in ground and being, as not being at all the church of Christ, but only in some particulars dissented, always, then and to this day, retaining divers of their practices in worship and church government; which shows that the Protestant church is not perfectly another, nor her ministry, government, and worship another; but the same in ground and being, only digressed and deviated in particulars.

[Continued in Part 5]

Notes and Links

Fourth 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 ...
this book
Burrough's essay is written as an introduction to The Great Mystery of the Great Whore of Babylon Unfolded, by George Fox.