Christian Liberty As it was SOBERLY DESIRED IN A LETTER TO CERTAIN FORREIGN STATES, Upon Occasion of their late Severity to several of their Inhahitants, meerly for thei [...] Different Perswasion and Practice in Point of Faith and Wor­ship towards God.

Made publick on the behalf of the present suffering Diffenters within this Kingdom.

Printed in the Year 1674.

TO THE Supream Council OF THE STATES, &c. The King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, who is God of all the Families of the Earth, incline your Hearts to Justice, Mercy and Truth.

THe Noise of your severe Treatment of several Persons that are Inhabitants of your State, reproachfully term'd QUAKERS, hath reached these Parts, and fill'd several with Compassion and Surprize: Compassion, to hear of the Our Account sayes, Some were cruelly beaten by Order; others Bani­shed; some put in a Dun­geon, and fed with Bread and Water only; several Fin'd greater sums of Mo­ney, it is thought, then they had to pay. Miseries of Men Innocent & upright, against whom you have nothing to object, but the pure Exercise of their Con­science to God: Surprize, That you, a Pro­testant-State, should employ your Civil Pow­er to Deter, Punish and grievously Afflict Men for Answering the Convictions of their Consciences, and Acting according to the best of their Understandings. Methinks you should not be oblivious of your own Condition in the Loyns of your Ancestors, who, you think, with great Reason & Justice strenuously advocated [Page 4] the Cause of Liberty of Conscience against the Popes Bulls and the Spanish Inquisition; how did they Antichristian all Force on Con­science, or Punishment for Non-Conformity? Their own many and large Apologies, and particularly, their Demands at the Diets of Norimberg and Spira, are pregnant Proofs in the Case: and your Practice doth not lessen the Weight of their Reasons; on the contrary, it aggravates your Unkindness, let me say, Injustice.

Protestants (and such you glory to be thought) got their Name by protesting against Imposition; and will you turn Imposers? They condemned it; and will you practise it? They thought it a Mark peculiar to the Beast; and can you repute it the Care of a Christian Magistracy? I mean, that Persons must not live under your Government, unless they receive your Mark in their Fore­head or Right-hand? which in plainer Terms is, to submit their Consciences to your Edicts, and to ask your Leave, What Religion they should be of. Remember, that Faith is the Gift of God; and, that What is not of Faith is Sin: Nothing can be more Unreasona­ble, then to compel Men to believe against their Belief, or to trouble them for practising what they believe, when it thwarts not the Moral Law of God.

You doubtless take your selves to be Christians, and would esteem it no little Injury to be otherwise represented; yet what more Un­christian, then to use External Force, to sway the Consciences of Men about the Exercise of Religious Worship?

CHRIST Jesus, the Lord and Author of the Christian Religion, censur'd his own Disciples, that would have had Fire from Heaven to destroy those that conform'd not to what their blessed Master taught: Are you surer of your Religion? Are you better Christians? Or, have you more Christian-Authority, then they that were the chosen Witnesses of Jesus? However remember, they call'd but for Fire from Heaven; and can you kindle Fire on Earth to devour them? Them, I say, that are of your own People, meerly for their Religious Dissent from you? Doubtless, if that was then thought [Page 5] no fit Argument to induce Men to Conformity by him that was wiser then Solomon, it reflects greatly upon your Modesty and Pru­dence, that you should find out new Wayes, or rather old exploded ones to effect so ill a Design. Besides, you do not say, you know all you ought to know, or that there is nothing further to be revealed; have a Care therefore, that you persecute not Angels, by being harsh to that which you call Strange: Think not ill, much less speak, and least of all act that which is so against what you do not perfectly understand. I am well perswaded, that those you inflict such severe Penalties upon, mean well in what they believe (to be sure much better then you think they do, or else you are extremely to blame) and that the Reason of their present Distance from you, is not to introduce or insinuate Dangerous or Exotick Opinions; but to live a Life of more Holiness, Purity and Self-Denial, then be­fore: They do not think that you walk up to your own Principles; and have Reason to believe that the Power of Godliness is much lost among you; and having long lain under a Decay and Languish­ing of Soul for Want of true spiritual Nourishment, they have now betaken themselves to that Heavenly Gift & Grace of God in them­selves for Divine Satisfaction, even that Holy Anointing that is able to teach them all things necessary for them to know, as the Bles­sed Apostle speaks; and they find the Joys of the Holy Ghost in so doing: And I am perswaded, they are not less Peaceable, Sober, Just and Neighbourly then formerly, and altogether as consistent with the Prosperity of Civil Society; and I am sure, it is both found and confest among us here by some Men of Quality, Learning and Virtue. Further, be pleased to consider with your selves, that you justifie the ancient Persecutions of the Christians and first Re­formers, whose Superiors thought as ill of them, as you do of these Men; nay, you show the Papists what to do in their Dominions to your own Brethren. Do as you would be done by: if you would have Liberty, give it; you know that God's Witness in your Hearts dictates this to you as an Immutable Law.

[Page 6] Could you give Faith, it were more excusable for you to punish such as should resist; but since that is impossible, the other is unrea­sonable; for 'tis to afflict Men for not being what they can't be, unless they turn Hypocrites: That is the highest pitch your coercive Power can arrive at; for never did it convert or preserve one Soul to God; instead thereof, it offers Violence upon Conscience, and puts a Man either upon the Denyal of his Faith and Reason, or be­ing destroyed for acting according to them: But what greater Dis­proportion can there be, then what lyeth between the Intellect of Man, and Prisons, Fines and Banishments? They inform no Man's Judgment, resolve no Doubts, convince no Understanding: The Power of Perswasion is not to be found in any such Barbarous Acti­ons, no more then the Doctrine of Christianity. This Course de­stroyes the Bodies and And Property, which they repute themselves Guar­dians of, is hereby lost. Estates of Men, instead of saving their Souls: Were they in the Wrong, it would become you to use God's Weapon, his Sword of the Spirit, that saveth the Creature, and slayeth the Evil in him; This Course tends to Heart-Burnings and Destruction; I am sure it is no Gospel Argu­ment.

I beseech you for the sake of that Lord Jesus Christ, that suffer'd so patiently for his own Religion, and so sharply prohibited making other men to Suffer for theirs, that you would have a Care, now you exercise Power over mens Consciences. My Friends, Conscience is God's Throne in Man, and the Power of it, his Prerogative: 'Tis to usurp his Authority, and boldly ascend his Throne to sit Lords over it. Were their Conversation Scandalous, and Destructive to the Good of your State, you were to be held excusable; But verely, no man of Mercy and Conscience, can defend your Practice upon poor Men so peaceable and Inoffensive. Gamaliel will rise up in Judgment against you, if you persevere in this course. Do not you help to fill the Catalogue of Persecutors, in much Love I in­treat you; but as becomes Christian men & true Protestants, leave [Page 7] men to their particular Perswasions of Affairs relative of the other World, which have no ill Aspect on the Affairs of this; but Vice hath an evil Consequence as to both: Therefore punish Vice, and affect Truth and Righteousness, and bend not your Civil Power to Torment Religious Dissenters; but to retrive good Life, lamen­tably lost amidst the great Pretences that are made to Religion. Doubtless, Magistracy was both ordained of God, and elected by Men, to be a Terror to Evil-doers, and not to them that do well, though of different Judgments. You oppugn the Roman Church for assu­ming Infallibility to herself, and yet your own Practice maketh you guilty of the same Presumption, or worse: For, either you do exer­cise that Severity upon an Infallible Knowledge, or you do not; if you do, you take that to your selves, your Principles deny to any Church whatever, which is a Contradiction; if you do not, you punish People for not conforming to what you your selves deny any Certainty about: And how do you know but you compel them to that which is false, as well as that which is true? Verely, this Dilemma is not easily avoided, as well as that this inhuman Pra­ctice will stain your Profession, infame your Government, and bring a Blot upon your Posterity.

Remember that they are Men as well as your selves, born free, and have equal Plea to Natural and Civil common Priviledges with your selves: The different Perswasion of their Consciences about Things relating to another Life, can no wayes render them unfit for this; it neither Unmans nor Uncivilizes them. They have the same Right to their Liberty and Property as ever, having by no Practice of theirs in the least forfeited any of those human Ad­vantages, the Great Charters of Nature and Scripture have con­ferr'd upon them: And the Opulency of your Neighbours, and Pros­perity of their Affairs, prove to you that Indulgence is not inconsi­stent with Policy; howbeit, you have now tryed the Sincerity of their Procedure by what you have already inflicted, and they su­stained; Let the Time past suffice, and make them not Sacrifices [Page 8] for their conscientious Constancy. If they are in the Wrong, 'tis more then they know: Will you persecute Men for being what they must be, if they will be true to themselves? this were great Violence; rather Commiserate, then thus violently Compel them. I beseech you, seek some cheaper Way to accommodate your selves, then by their Destruction, who are so very remote from seeking yours. Oh! the Day will come, wherein one Act of Tenderness about Matters of Conscience, shall find a better Reward, then all the Seve­rity by which Men use to propagate their Perswasions in the World; and there is great Reason for it, since the one flows from the Saviour, the other, from the Destroyer of Men. In fine, Let your Moderation be known unto all Men, for the Lord is at hnad, whose Reward it with him; and he will recompence every Man, Family, State, Kingdom and Empire, according to the Nature of their Works, committed in this mor­tal Body; at whose Bar it shall never be laid to your Charge, that out of Fear of taking God's Office out of his Hands, and being un­merciful to tender Consciences, you admitted Men of differing Judgments to dwell quietly among you; truly, you cannot be too tender in this Point.

Imitate the God of Nature and Grace, by being propitious to all; his Sun shineth on all, his Rain falls on all, he gives Life and Being to all; his Grace visits all, and in Times of Ignorance he winketh: And though such you may repute ours, I hope you cannot think you wink at it, who make such broad Tokens of your Displeasure. Oh! how forbearing and merciful is he towards you? Have you so lately escaped the Wrath of Enemies, and can you already thus sharply treat your Friends? Had he enter'd into Judgment with you, what had become of you? Let his Goodness to you prevail with you, to express Clemency to others, that so the Great God of the whole Earth, even the God of the Spirits of all Flesh, who re­spects not the Persons of the Rich, Poor, or Powerful in Judgment, may show you Mercy in the day of his Righteous Judgments, Ame [...].

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