A Seasonable DISSWASIVE FROM PERSECUTION, HUMBLY And Modestly, yet with Christian Freedom and Plainness of Speech, offered to the Consideration of all concern'd therein; on behalf generally, of all that suffer for Conscience sake, particularly of the People called QUAKERS.

By (one of them) THOMAS ELLWOOD.

I will punish all that oppress them, Jer. 30. 20.
I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy Children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own Flesh, and they shall be drunken with their own Blood, as with sweet Wine: And all Flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Re­deemer, the mighty one of Jacob, Isa. 49. 25, 26.
And now I say unto you, refrain from these Men, and let them alone—least haply ye be found even to fight against God, Acts 5. 38, 39.

LONDON, Printed, for William Skeate, and are to be Sold in George-yard in Lombard-street, 1683.

King Charles I. IN HIS [...].

THOU seest, O God, how much Cruelty among Christians is acted under the colour of Religion; as if we could not be Christians, unless we crucifie one another. Sect. 12. 'Tis thought by many wise men, that the preposterous Rigour, and unreasonable Severity, which some men carried before them in England, was not the least incentive that kindled, and blew up into those horrid Flames the Sparks of Discontent, which wanted not predisposed fuel of Rebellion in Ireland;—They saw them­selves apparently threatened by the covetous Zeal, and unchari­table Fury of some men, who think it a great argument of the truth of their Religion, to endure no other but their own. Ibid.

They confess their known weakness, as to Truth and Iustice, who chuse rather to contend by Arms than by Argument. Sect. 9.

It argues rather those men to be conscious of their defects of Reason, and convincing Arguments, who call in assistance of meer force to carry on the weakness of their Counsels and Proposals. Sect. 6.

A DISSWASIVE FROM Persecution, &c,

PERSECUTION is a Word of so harsh a sound, and so generally distasteful to English Ears, that scarce any of those who are most forward and active in that Work, are willing to have their actions called by that Name. That none there­fore, who have set an hand to that Work, or whose minds are any whit inclining thereunto, may, from the dislike they have to the Word [Per­secution] reject this Diswasive as a thing wherein they are not concern­ed: I think it needful here to declare what it is I mean by Persecution. By Persecution, then I intend a forcing or compelling any by pains or pe­nalties, Bodily or Pecuniary, to relinquish or forsake that Exercise of Re­ligion, or way of Worship, which they believe to be the right Way of Worship, and the true and acceptable Exercise of Religion, which God hath required of them: And to receive, embrace, conform to and perform some other ex­ercise of Religion, and way of Worship, which they, who are so compelled, are either firmly perswaded is not the Right, or at least have no belief that it is the Right. This (in short) is that which I call Persecution: And this is that I diswade from, whatever other Name the Actors of it may please themselves in calling it by.

I.

To begin now with the first of these, viz. the forcing or compelling any to forsake and leave that exercise of Religion, or way of Worship, which they believe to be the right way of Worship, and the true exercise of Religion, which God requireth of them: The Reasons by which I shall endeavour to diswade all men from such an undertaking, are these.

1. You may, for ought you know, be found Fighters against God: You are not, you cannot be, upon your own principles, infallibly sure, that that way of Worship, which you thus endeavour to force us from, is not the true Worship of God. We know it is so? you do not know it is not so. If in the end it prove to be so, how sad will your condition be, who have thus bent your force to hinder the true Worship of God, and set your selves to restrain us from performing that, which God hath required of us! I pray consider, Saul was as confident, as you can be; and had as good ground for his confidence, as you can have: and thereupon he went smartly on for a while (as some of you have done) making Havock of the Church, entring into e­very House, and haling Men and Women, committed them to Prison, Acts 8. 3. I Persecuted, saies he this way unto the Death, binding and delive­ring into Prisons, both Men and Women, Chap. 22. 4. Many of the Saints did he shut up in Prison, and when they were put to Death, he gave his voice against them, Chap. 26. 10. He punisht them oft in e­very Synagogue, and compelled them to Blaspheme: And being exceeding­ly mad against them, he Persecuted them even unto strange Cities, vers. 11. And this he verily thought with himself that he ought to do, vers. 9. Yet all this while he was out of his Thoughts; for in all this he was wrong, and they were right whom he thus Persecuted. And may it not be so with you? why then will you run so great an hazard.

2. By endeavouring to force us from that way of worship, which we believe the Lord hath led us into and requireth of us, you endea­vour to force us to make Shipwrack of Faith. We have solemnly and sincerly declared unto you, that we firmly believe, and are fully perswa­ded and satisfied in our Consciences, that God hath led us into this way of Worship wherein we serve him, and that he requireth our perseverance therein. This is our Faith in this particular. Now so far as you endea­vour by Threats, by Terrors, by Penalties and Cruelties to force any of us from this way of Worship: so far you endeavour to force us to make Shipwrack of Faith, and of good Conscience too: which if through your means any should do, the Guilt thereof will lie heavy upon you.

[Page 3] 3. In endeavouring by force and cruelty to restrain us from worship­ing God, according as (we are fully perswaded) he hath taught us and doth require us, you go out of the Path of the Righteous, and tread in the steps of the Wicked and Ungodly. It was the Egyptians that dealt thus with the Israelites; not the Israelites that dealt so with the Egyptians; as you may read from the 7th. Chap. of Exodus to the 15. It was the Heathen (who knew not God) that dealt thus with Daniel; not Daniel that dealt so with them, Dan. 6. It was the hard hearted, unbelieving Jews and un­converted Gentiles, that dealt thus with the Apostles and Primitive Christians; not the Christians that dealt so with them, Acts. 4. 17, 18. & 5. 28. & 14. 2. & 17. 5. It was the Blood-thirsty Papists that dealt thus with the Protestants in Queen Maries Daies. And can you bring a grea­ter Odium upon your selves, than, by imitating these, to make Folks think you approve what they have done?

4. That Exercise of Religion which you would force us from, is not simply and of it self condemned or disallowed by that Law, by the se­verity of which you would force us from it. It is not simply and posi­tively, every Assembly or Meeting for the exercise of Religion in other manner than according to the Liturgy, &c. that is forbidden and made punishable, by that Act of the 22th. of Charles the second against Con­venticles; but such only as hath at it above four persons besides the Fa­mily. Any Family then, (how numerous soever) and four persons o­ver and above, may meet, under the favour of that Act, for the exer­cise of Religion, though in other manner than according to the Liturgy, &c. which plainly shews that the Law-makers did not look upon such exercise of Religion to be evil simply in it self; (for then they would have utterly condemned and forbidden it to all, even the least numbers) but that they presupposed a danger from the numbers resorting to such As­semblies; and therefore did not absolutely forbid the exercise, but laid a limitation upon the number of persons that might resort thereunto. Now the permitting this Exercise to any, is an admitting of it to be good: and the offence lies not in the Exercise it self, but in the numbers resorting to it; and that only so far as they may be thought dangerous to the publick Peace. Since therefore the Exercise of Religion which ye would drive us from, is so far from being in it self evil or unlawful, that it receives some kind of Countenance even from that very Law by which ye pretend to act. Since also the experience ye have had of our peaceable deportment in our Meetings, and of our quiet, and chearful subjection to the Go­vernment we have lived under, hath sufficiently secured you from all danger from our Meetings, how numerous soever: Why will you af­flict, [Page 4] molest, trouble, imprison, impoverish and ruin your Countrey­men, your Neighbours, your Acquaintance, your Fellow-citizens and Townsmen, your Correspondents, your Relations, your Friends and Fellow-Protestants, for that which is not Evil nor unlawful in it self, nor hurtful to you nor to any!

5. In thus eagerly pursuing us, and disturbing our peaceable Meet­ings, you give your selves, as well as us, a great deal of needless trouble. For, as that learned Doctor in the Jewish Law did well ob­serve, in the Apostles Case, If this Counsel or this work be of Men, it will come to nought. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, Acts 5. 38, 39. So say I to you in our Case (And I wish some one of your own, that were had, like him, in reputation among all the People, would have done this for me) If this People and their Meetings be not of God, you need not thus bestir you, you may spare your pains; they'll come to nought; But if they be of God, ye cannot overthrow them. So that whether we be of God, or be not of God, your labour against us is in vain. Either we shall fall without it, or stand for all it. Be entreated therefore, for your own sakes, as well as for ours, to take Gamaliel's Counsel, Refrain from these men and let them alone.

6. And lastly, Be pleased to consider what sort of Agents and Instru­ments you are fain to make use of (and not seldom are your selves made use of by) to carry on this work. Are not the vilest wretches, the most profligate of mankind, for the most part, the first movers in it? Where is there an Informer upon this Statute, who has not first been either some notorious Criminal (whom a little Rote-reading, and a favourable Ordinary, have saved from the Gallows) or some riotous Spendthrift, whose Debaucheries have brought him to a condition worse than that of Beggery, viz. A rapacious desire of repairing his own Self-ruined Fortunes, by the unrighteous ruining of others? And, to say nothing, in this place, of the Generosity of a true English nature, which hates to be rid and commanded by such base and infamous Fel­lows (as not only Constables, and other inferior Officers, but even Iu­stices, Aldermen, yea, and Mayors too, have sometimes been) can you think it consistent with Christianity, with Humanity, with the Ho­nour and Interest of the Nation, and of your Selves, that so many thou­sand Families of your sober, honest, consciencious, industrious, and peace­able Neighbours (against whom, even Envy her self can find no occasion, except as against Daniel of old, Dan. 6. 5. concerning the Law of their God) should be sacrificed to the bruitish and insatiable Lust of such a dissolute and shameless Crew, and that by you? Can you think it will [Page 5] embalm your Memories, and sweeten your Names to after Ages, to have it recorded to Posterity, that you were the men that rifled your Neigh­bours Houses; that made spoil and havock of their Goods, that stript them of their Estates, that imprisoned their Persons, that ruined their Fami­lies; and all this for no other cause, but only and alone for worship­ping and serving God, in a quiet and peaceable manner, accord­ing as they believed he required them to do? O never give cause for this Epitaph to be written upon your Tomb, Here lies a Persecutor of the People of God.

II.

Now for the other Branch, which I mentioned, of Persecution, viz. The Forcing or compelling of any by Pains or Penalties, bodily or pecuni­ary, to receive, embrace, conform to and perform some Exercise of Reli­gion, and way of worship, which they, who are so compelled, are either firmly perswaded is not the right, or at least have no belief that it is the right. The Reasons by which I shall endeavour to diswade all men from such an undertaking, are these.

1. In thus imposing your way of Worship upon others, you act quite contrary to Christ and his Apostles. The Author of the Chri­stian Religion, though he had all power in Heaven and in Earth, given unto him, yet did not make use of that power, as you do of your Power, by outward severities and rigour to force People to receive, and profess the Religion which he taught. But his usual saving was, He that hath Ears to hear let him hear. And when two of his Disciples, in their young state, and in an overwarm zeal against some that did not re­ceive him, did once ask him leave to command Fire to come down from Heaven and consume them; he sharply rebuk'd them with a [Ye know not that manner of spirit ye are of:] and instructing them better, told them, The Son of Man is not come to destroy mens lives, but to save them. and instead of thrusting himself upon those Samaritans, that were not willing to receive him, he passed them by, and went to another Village, Luke 9. 53. to 57. The Apostles, when the Iews rejected their Mes­sage, did not attempt to impose it on them; but said, seeing you put from you,—lo, we turn to the Gentiles, Asts 13. 46. You read that Christ whipt some out of the Temple, Iohn 2. 15. but ye never read that he whipt any in. Why then will you steer a Course so di­rectly contrary to Christ and his Apostles?

[Page 6] 2. In this imposing your way of Worship upon others, you follow the worst of Patterns. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, a Blasphe­mous, Cruel and Heathenish Prince, whom God in an extraordinary manner did punish; whose Heart was chang'd from Mans, and a Beasts Heart given unto him, Dan. 4. The Beast which Iohn saw coming up out of the Earth, that spake as a Dragon, Rev. 13. 11. Both these imposed their Worship upon others, and that under the seve­rest Penalties. But can you think it either honourable or safe for you to imitate such Bruitish Examples!

3. Inforcing People to your way of Worship, who have no beleif that it is the Right you cause them to sin: for whatsoever is not of Faith is Sin, Rom. 14 23. And therefore as the Apostles there argues, He that doubteth, is damned, (that is condemned) if he eat. And is not the Argument as forcible in this Case, as in that of Eating? May it not with like reason be said, he that doubteth that your way of Wor­ship is not right, is damned if he conform to it, because his Confor­mity is not of Faith; for whatsoever is not of Faith is sin. And the Wages of Sin ye know is Death, Rom. 6. 23. Now if they that conform in such a doubting mind do therein sin, and thereby bring Damnati­on (that is Condemnation) upon themselves; what may you expect, who by Threatnings, by Imprisonments, by Fines, or other outward Penalties, do drive them thereunto!

4. Enforcing People to your way of Worship, who have a firm per­swasion and belief that it is not the right; you make Men Hypocrites and Timeservers: For such as have not fortitude enough to bear the storm of Persecution, and to undergo with patience the various Cru­elties inflicted on them; such, through fear, may fall into temptati­on, and perhaps, for Self-security, may comply with that, which they certainly believe is not right. And herein they sin against their knowledg, and you are the Cause of this Sin of theirs, by dr­ving them unto it; and at your hands will it be required.

5. By obtruding and forcing your Religion upon others, you great­ly disparage and undervalue it, and give Men the more ground to su­spect and dislike it: for Men are naturally apt to question the goodnes of that Commodity, which is put upon them whether they will or not. Those Wares that are true and good need no such waies to put them off. The Christian Religion, in its purest and best Estate, was never thrust upon any; nor need it. To be without it is punishment sufi­cient; and greater than any you can inflict: They who in the Par­ble were invited to the great Supper, Luke, 14. and made their Exc­ses [Page 7] and did not come, were not fetcht in with a Capias, nor Fined and Imprisoned till they would come; but were utterly shut out and debarred from coming: [I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my, Supper ver. 24.] That was their punishment, and a grievous one too. The Apostles of our Lord (as one of them declares, 2 Cor. 4. 2.) having received the Mi­nestry of the Gospel, and renounced the hidden things of Dishonesty, did not walk in Craftiness (and I am sure I may safely add, They did not walk in Cruelty) nor handled the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the Truth commended themselves to every Man's Conscience in the sight of God. Now I pray consider; if you are preswaded, that that Exercise of Religion which you per­form is the right, That that way of Worship which you pro­fess is the true, were it not fairer and more becoming those pretences, for you, as many of you as are Preachers, by Preach­ing, as many as are Hearers by a pious Life and Godly Con­versation, to commend your selves (as did the Apostles) by manifestation of the Truth to every Man's Conscience in the sight of God; than to manifest your Indignation and Envy towards those that are not of your Perswasion, by committing them to Goal, rifling their Houses, tearing away their Goods, ruining their Estates, and beggering their Children?

6. You break that great Command, which Christ saies is the Law and the Prophets, viz. All things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even so to them, Mat. 7. 12. This Command ye transgress, in endeavouring to force others to your way of Worship: for ye would not be so dealt with your selves. Consider this well I entreat you. If you were to be com­pelled by Imprisonment, Banishment, Fines, Confiscations, or any other extream and rigorous Proceedings, to conform your selves to that way of Worship, and Exercise of Religion which we profess, or any others whom ye now present: Would you not think it extream hard, and very unjust? no doubt ye would, and so ye justly might. But then withal consider, that your imposing thus on others, is no less hard to them, no less unjust in you.

Ye have known us long, ye have had large experience of us; ye have tried us many waies, and proved us after divers manners. And what evil can ye convict us of to this Day? Have [Page 8] we not alwaies been a quiet, peaceable, harmless People? when being reviled did we revile? or when being persecuted did we not patiently suffer it? Ah what do you propose to your selves? Do ye think to root us out and destroy God's Heritage? It is impossible: The Root of Iesse bears us, and upon the immo­veable Rock are we immoveably built. O dash not your selves against it! But if ye could destroy or ruine Persons, yet is it possible that there can lodg in English Breasts such more-than Barbarous Inhumanity, to destroy so many thousand Families! The Rome-Rid French and Irish have gone far that way; but English Hands were never so defiled: God grant they never may. Do ye think by rigorous and cruel usage to fright us out of our Religion, and force us to desert our Principles? How can ye hope to accomplish such a thing, who have seen our un­moved Constancy, and stedfast Perseverance therein, under all the Sufferings that have hitherto been inflicted on us? Have not many of us been already stript of all their outward Sub­stance? not a Bed being left them to lie on, not a Stool to sit on, not a Dish to eat in. Is there a Prison in the Nation, or a Dungeon in a Prison, which has not been a Witness of our Groanings? Have we not been tried by Banishment, and proved by Death it self? Death in New-England, by the Hand of the Hang­man. Death in Old England, by the rough hands of rude and boisterous Officers and Soldiers, who have given divers of our Friends those Blows, which in few Daies have brought them to their Graves. I might add to these, burning in the Forehead, cutting off Ears, unmerciful Beatings, Whippings, and cruel Scourgings. But did any, or all, of these deter us from the Worship of our God? Nay, hath not our chearful undergoing all these Hardships, sufficiently evidenced to the World, that our Religion and Consciences are dearer to us; than our Estates, our Liberties, our Limbs or our Lives? Why then will you repeat severities upon us, which have so often been tried be­fore in vain? Can you take pleasure in putting others to pain, and delight your selves in afflicting others? O suffer not your Natures so far too degenerate from the Gentleness and Tender­ness of true and generous English-Men!

And think not the worse of us for our Faithfulness to our God! He that is true to God, will be true to Men also; But he [Page 9] that is false and treacherous to God, how is it likely he should be true to Men? Endeavour not therefore to draw us into Un­faithfulness to our God: for that, to be sure, would be hurt­ful to us, and no way advantageous to you. Neither be ye exasperated against us, from the difficulty you find in breaking our Meetings, or because that when you have dragg'd us out of our Meetings, and Fined or Imprisoned us for being there, you find us there again: But rather take it for an Argument, that we sincerely love and believe our Religion; and that we find our Meetings worth suffering for. For indeed, in our Meettings we do meet with the Lord our God, in whose Pre­sence is fulness of Ioy, Psal. 16. 11: The Law of whose Mouth is better unto us than thousands of Gold and of Silver, Psal. 119. 72. Yea, his Loving Kindness is better than Life, Psal. 63. 3. The God of Israel, is He that giveth Strength and Power to his Peo­ple; Blessed be God, Psal. 68. 35. Therefore harden not your selves against us, I beseech you, by miscalling our Constancy, Obstinacy; our Stedfastness, Stubbornness; our Zeal, Self-will; our Faithfulness to God, Contempt of Authority: But look back up­on the Apostles of our Lord, and see if they did not just as we do. They were taken at a Meeting in Solomon's Porch, Acts. 3. 11. and sent to Prison for Preaching, Chap. 4. 2. 3. Next Day they were brought forth and Examined before the Coun­cil, ver. 5, 7. And having made their Defence, they were streightly, threatned, and commanded not to speak at all, nor teach in the Name Iesus, ver 17. 18. what Answer did they make? Whether it be right (said they) in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judg ye, ver. 19. and pre­sently after we read, They spake the Word of God with Bold­ness, ver. 31. Well, they were quickly clapt up again, Chap. 5. 17. 18. But when the Council came together, and sent for them to be brought before them, and they were not to be found in the Prison, ver. 21. 22. (God having by his Angel delivered them in the Night, ver. 19.) one came and told the Council, Behold, The Men whom ye put in Prison, are standing in the Temple and Teaching the People, ver 25. And when they had sent Officers, and fetcht them again before the Council, and asked them, saying, Did we not straitly command you, that you should not teach in this Name? And behold ye [Page 10] have filled Ierusalem with your Doctrine, &c. ver. 28. Their Answer was, We ought to obey God rather than Men, ver. 29. Do you think the Council did not take this for a disrespect­ful and provoking Answer? Do ye think the Jews did not count the Apostles a stubborn, obstinate, self-willed People, that did this in despight of Authority? yet you, in words, condemn the Jews and their Council, and justifie the Apostles in their thus acting; and therein you do well. O let not your Actions condemn what your Words justifie, nor justifie what your Words condemn! For if you persecute us for the same things. which the Apostles both did, and were persecuted for doing; ye there­in at once both condemn the Apostles, and justifie those that persecuted them. And as they brought the Guilt of Innocent Bloud, and thereby the Wrath of God, upon themselves: even so will ye also upon your selves, if ye persist in the same Course. Which that ye may not do, is (for your own sakes as well as for ours) my earnest Desire, and the End of this Diswasive.

THE END.

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