The Diary of Thomas Burton: 11 December 1656

Pages 107-117

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Thursday, December 11,1656.

A Private Bill was read this morning, but I, not being in the House, know not what it was.

Whitehall, December 10, as see Diurnal. (fn. 1)

Colonel William Lockhart, his Highnesses Resident in the Court of France, (fn. 2) had the honour of knighthood conferred on him by his Highness.

The same honour was conferred upon James Calthorp, High Sheriff of Suffolk.

Mr. Disbrowe and Mr. West told me we had lost one member. Mr. Wakering, of Essex, (fn. 3) died of a consumption, the last week. He was well in the House but a little before.

Upon James Nayler's business.

The Speaker read the Question for the moderate punishment, and it was cried for, till stood up

Mr. Drake. If you had not passed so great a vote, I should not have said any thing in it. I should willingly have saved his life, if the height of the offence had not called for a greater punishment.

If we pass this, it will have an influence upon all inferior courts. Let us consider the danger of the precedent, as well on. the one side as the other. It is said that some would wash their hands of Nayler's blood. I shall desire to wash my hands of the guilt of giving less than death. Let us consider the honour of God, and the obligation upon us to vindicate it See what the nation expects from us in this thing. I cannot go less than to desire that the vote may pass for his death. He has prophecicd of his death, and let him be convinced.

Colonel Hewitson. If you have a law, I desire you will put it in execution. If you have no law, the Scripture tells you, then there is no transgression. I cannot take that text of the Ishmaelite's child, as any way coming to our case. If his parents should thrust him through, this, by our laws, would be murder. If you take this man's life, by the same rule you might have taken away the life of a Paul, for he confessed himself to be a blasphemer. (fn. 4) We may do the like with all the Jews, Turks, and Infidels, for they deny Christ, which were an absurdity to hold forth. I cannot give my consent to the greater punishment; but if you put the Question for the lesser, you shall have my yea.

Major-General Goffe. This is a very great and weighty business, and I am much troubled to speak any thing in this business. I am sorry to see this division amongst us, but I hope it will end in amity, love, and charity. For my part, I cannot be satisfied in myself to give my consent to less than the death of this man.

Is it not written upon every man's heart that a blasphemer should die. No nation in the world, that have any laws, but they have a law to put a blasphemer to death. But it is said, we have no law to punish blasphemy, because the Bishops are taken away. It was just to deliver us from them and their tyrannical proceedings, but I hope the law remains still. That ecclesiastical power is devolved upon you, and you have justly assumed it, and passed your vote upon it.

I have already told you my thoughts, that I cannot but, from the whole matter, judge this person deserving of death, and that from the Report itself.

He hath assumed die names, titles, attributes, and worship due to Christ, and these are my grounds. It is the law of this nation, of all nations, and written upon every man's heart, that a blasphemer should die. But it is said, he is such a person, and such a person. What has he been, a man professing religion, and a member of a Church. Was he not cast out by a Church of Christ for this very offence ? Those who are the proper judges of blasphemy; they have delivered him to Satan, to the end he might be humbled; but what has he done instead of humbling himself before God, or to the Church ? He resists that authority. I remember not the text in the Hebrews, "he that hath tasted of life," &c. He puts our Saviour Christ to open shame, and sets himself above that Church, nay, above all mankind, sets himself up as a Saviour, &c.

Let us consider, (1. John's Ep. ii. 19;) "They went out from us, but they were not of us." He is gone out, so we need not stand so much upon tenderness. He has left to be a sheep, and has discovered himself to be a wolf, and so is all the generation of them. They go about and revile the ordinances and ministers of Christ, and would tear the flesh off the bones of all that profess Christ. These are the dry dead sticks which men gather and cast into the fire: the husbandman will not elude you for taking away dead dry sticks, for they cumber the grass; and these are such.

They are like Jannes and Jambres, men of no judgment concerning the faith, only resist the truth. Their folly is manifest to all men.

They are natural brute beasts, and under all these considerations they justly fall under the hand of the civil magistrate.

I find this business to be a matter of great concernment to the peace of the nation, and this is sent to us to try what we will do in it. Christ is the King of this nation, and of all nations, and we ought to vindicate the honour of our King.

Wherever such things rise, they are to me sad presages of the ruin and destruction of a nation.

Revelations ii. 20. deserves your consideration. It is laid severely to the Church of Thyatira's charge, about the woman that blasphemed. He that reads that description of Christ will find it to be otherwise than that which Publius Lentulus sent to the senate of Rome.

The text says, they shall surely be put to death. That magistrate is not worthy to bear the sword that will not bear his highest testimony against those that dishonour Christ in this blasphemous manner.

We have been long looking for peace. This Parliament and all Parliaments, the people's great query has been, shall we have peace ? What will Christ answer us ? No peace to the wicked. This hinders our peace and settlement, that we are. not zealous to vindicate him and his honour, when it is thus affronted. I take this person at the bar to be far from being the Prince of Peace, but he rather proceeds from the power of another prince.

I shall not entertain an irreverent thought of The Instrument of Government. I shall spend my blood for it. Yet if it hold out any thing to protect such persons I would have it burnt in the fire. This were a paling sheep and the wolves together. Do not these go in the way of Cain and Balaam to corrupt and poison, by the Jesuitical (fn. 5) principles amongst them. Instead of protecting God's people and tender consciences, you take away the fence of God's people. I should desire that he might be a brand snatched out of the fire, if it were possible; but as the matter stands before you, I cannot give my vote for less than death, and I would have you keep us to that question.

Mr. Secretary. [Thurloe]. Seeing others have taken the liberty to repeat the matter of fact, I shall take a little privilege to speak too. I look upon this person, and all the generation of them, as such as have gone in the way of Cain. He is vile in his principles and in his practices too.

You may certainly, in heinous and enormous crimes, which are clear to the House, make a law ex post facto, either to heighten the punishment, as in the case of the Bishop of Rochester's cook (21 Henry VIII. (fn. 6) ) It was murder before, and by that Act made treason. This was not only malum prohibitum, but malum in se, and this is the case before you.

You must now proceed upon lex Terræ, the legislative power. I shall not take upon me to determine the power of the civil magistrate in matter of religion, nor as to his being custos utriusquæ tabulæ; but I think this is "an iniquity to be punished by the judges." Though I am not of my neighbour's mind (Major-General Goffe) that the magistrates' slackness in matters of religion is the reason of all calamities falling upon a nation.

I do think it is not the consequence of your former vote, that nothing less than death should be the punishment of the offender. It is not set forth how blasphemy. If that was meant, you might have made it one vote, both the offence and the punishment. Otherwise, many are surprised in it, and upon this account you may alter your vote.

I desire, however, rather to run into the absurdity of punishing him as a rogue. My ground is upon the Report, wherein the gentlemen have taken great pains, and the Report is foul enough; and what he said at the bar I could not comprehend. They were all cantings, such as could not cant with my thoughts. I am of opinion that he is a gross idolater, and an impostor and deceiver, and you ought to bear your testimony against it. But I cannot agree that his punishment should he death. Let it he of a lower sort, and go as high in the punishment as you please.

I should he sorry to see those old laws against heretics put in execution now. I know no law in force at this day against blasphemy; unless it be that of the Old Parliament.

Objection. 1. It is against the law of God, Levit. xxiv. 16. and this law is moral and perpetual, and ought to be obeyed, and this man ought to suffer by it.

Answer. We have no such blasphemy before us (admit it to be a blasphemy) as was to be punished by that law. Nor should we put men to death, by consequences and inferences. It was a penal law, a cursing, a speaking evil of God.

That person that was executed in the Queen's time was for treason. (fn. 7) He said he was Christ, and come with his fan in his hand, and that he was to govern the nation. He desired a miracle upon the gallows to witness his innocency and truth in this appearance, but none came.

The Jews put Christ to death for that which was not blasphemy by any law they had, but by their false glosses and interpretations in which we are too apt to proceed. I would fain hear any man give me another precedent in Scripture, declaring what is blasphemy.

2. This law is moral—" As well the stranger, &c. shall be put to death;" so that this is not positive only to the Jews, but moral and perpetual to all nations.

That is to be understood of the proselytes of the outer gate and the inner gate. It is certain, to blaspheme or take the name of God in vain is against the law of God; but we find hone put to death upon that law. Moses knew the law of nature better than any that sit here; but what did he do with the blasphemer ? He "put him in ward," (fn. 8) but never went to judgment till he had the mind and pleasure of God in it.

So that this is not so clear an offence against the law of nature as some would have it.

Objection. The judicial law is in force.

Answer. If that be of force, all the circumstances of that law must be observed. You must lay hands upon him, and cast him out, and stone him, and that city must be pulled down, never to be built again.

Objection. That of the false prophets belonging to Gospel times, and ought to follow that prophecy.

Answer. If meant of all the Gentiles, then, certainly, a great many must be put to death.

English divines' exposition saith upon that text. That this prophecy related only to the zeal of entertaining the. Gospel truths. But it is clear it belonged only to the Jews, and is fulfilled already; or a prophecy of the restoration of the Jews. There shall be such a zeal amongst them, that there shall be no idols, no heresy, nor error amongst them. There is another way under the Gospel, to bear witness against such, than by punishment by death. I think there is no consequence at all, from any of the objections, that the legal punishment should now be made Christian; that being plainly a prophecy of the Jewish restoration.

I know not how that example of Ananias and Saphira came in as argument in this business. That was an extraordinary testimony that Christ himself was pleased to bear against them.

The administration of the Gospel is quite otherwise. Shall a minister of the Gospel put a man to death for adultery, because Fhineas did it under the law. My opinion is clear that the question should be put for the lesser punishment.

Major-General Boteler. I hope there is no man here but has sought God what to say, before he spoke in this business.

If it cannot be made out clearly by Scripture, that by the law of God this man is guilty of blasphemy, to be punished with death, I shall be of their opinion. I think that law made against blasphemy in Leviticus, is as binding to us at this day, as surely as that against murder, which follows in the next verse. Either it must be ceremonial or political; I hear none say it is ceremonial. We are not obliged, strictly, to observe all the ceremonies used in the punishment. The text says this, "He shall surely die."

We go not about in this thing, to confound the legal and Gospel administrations. We ought to be meek and lowly, it is true. But what says the same text, "Bring my enemies and slay them before me." Our zeal for God's glory is as well commanded under the Gospel as is meekness and lowliness. Can any body tell what Paul's blasphemy was. It may be, it was but a blasphemous thought. If he had not confessed it, who could have witnessed against him. Surely they would not witness against him, that had run to the same excess. He did not confess it till after his conversion.

Job was under a temptation, and he might justly say, Ego non sum ego. This case differs.

But it is said, it will be an ill precedent. The next Parliament may come, by this rule, and put to death all that profess the true faith. There may be such a Parliament; and there have been such as were accounted the truest assertors of religion, that have died for heretics. Must we be afraid of doing our duty for that reason. If I were sure to lose my life in the next Parliament, for the principles I hold now, I should not stick to give my vote, that this man deserves death.

It is said, he denies not Christ, but confesseth him. This makes his offence the greater, to know Christ, and, in plain practices, to affront him.

Is this an offence like that of gathering sticks upon the Sabbath-day ?

This man has gone all the steps that can be, to this height he is come to now, as his excommunication. Because we are under an administration of the Gospel, "shall we sin, because grace abounds," or countenance, or not bear our full testimony against it ?

Shall we suffer Christ thus to be reproached. What will be said to us another day ? "Did you not hear my name blasphemed and dishonoured, and did you not extenuate and labour, to lessen it."

As we ought to be tender, on the one hand, of taking blood, so we ought to be as careful in sparing it. The greatest care in the world we ought to have of God's glory. He hath said he will not give it to another.

I humbly beseech you, that we own God in this thing, and not be afraid of the person of any man, but declare our judgments freely in the business, with all Christian charity to one another, not censuring one for legal and strict, and another for loose and remiss. My judgment is very clear in this thing, that this person, upon the whole matter of fact, is worthy of death, and I desire a Bill of Attainder may be brought in to that purpose; and that is my humble motion.

Mr. Bodurda and Lord Strickland. Many would speak to it that have not spoken yet. Again, you will spoil Committees if you adjourn till the afternoon.

Sir John Reynolds and Colonel Mathews. We are all tender of your health, yet we must be all so tender in this matter of such consequence.

Colonel Clarke. For your health sake, let us adjourn till to-morrow.

Sir Charles Wolseley. I doubt we shall not dispatch it in an afternoon. I desire we may consider your health, and our own, and take to-morrow for it.

The question arose about adjourning till two o'clock, or till to-morrow.

The House divided upon adjourning for two hours.

No. We that went out were 83. Sir Richard Piggot and Mr. Barrington [Tellers.]

Yea. They that stayed in were 86. Sir John Hobart and Major-General Howard [Tellers.]

Resolved, That this debate be adjourned till to-morrow.

This afternoon sat the Committee of Trade in the Duchy Chamber, where was appointed to be heard a great case between the Company of Merchants and the Cloth-workers. Mr. Rich of counsel for the Cloth-workers; but the other party, per Sir Christopher Pack, pretended they had not notice, so it was put off till Thursday next, where both parties are to be fully heard by Counsel, if they please, and the Company of Merchants are to have a copy of the Cloth-workers' Replication, and they are to bring in their Charter, whereby they claim to export white cloths undressed, contrary to the statute of 8th Elizabeth. (fn. 9)

I am clearly satisfied, upon the whole matter, that the Clothworkers are injured highly, and eaten up in their trade; but the merchants, by their influence and power at court, have always mastered them; and by an injunction always stopped their proceedings: insomuch, that the statute was altogether useless to the poor Cloth-workers. Mr. Hindmore engaged me to be there.

In the Speaker's chamber sat the Committee for Recusants, Mr. Bedford, Mr. Jonn Goodwin, Colonel Wilton, Sir Richard Onslow, and others, and myself. I pressed much to reduce the manner of conformity, and seisure, and process, &c., to be in the old way, but was over-ruled by the Committee. Mr. Croke and Mr. Pedley were engaged to be there, but they came not. I hope they will never carry it in the House. Mr. Attorney-General, and the Speaker, and a great many, more will be utterly against it. Mr. Bedford and Mr. Butler are both receivers, (fn. 10) and help to drive on the business for the benefit of the auditors.


  • 1. See supra, p. 38, note.
  • 2. To this office he was appointed December 30, 1655. He was M. P. for Lanerk, and "one of his Highness's Council for Scotland." Sir W. Lockhart had married, in 1654, one of the Protector's nieces; and having timely made his peace with Charles II. "he was appointed in 1672, again ambassador to France," where he died, in 1676, aged fifty-five, "when a patent was making out to create him a peer."—See Noble's "Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell," ii. 235—261.
  • 3. Dionysius Wakering was one of the thirteen members for that county.—Parl. Hist. xxi. 7.
  • 4. 1 Tim. i. 13.
  • 5. It was no uncommon opinion at this time, that Papists, especially Jesuits and Franciscans "assembled themselves among the Quakers, and preached in their meeting-houses." See Prynne's Quakers Unmasked in Foxes and Firebrands (1682), part ii. p. 141. part iii. (1689), p. 195; "Sufferings of the People called Quakers," (1733) i. 14. note †.
  • 6. See supra, p.58, 87. This story was then fresh in recollection by the publication in 1655, of Dr. Bailey's "Life and Death of the renowned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester." In Ed. 2 (1739), p. 109, the circumstances are thus related:—" One R. Rose came into the Bishop's kitchen (being acquainted with the cook), at his house in Lambeth-marsh, and having provided a quantity of deadly poison, while the cook went into the buttery to fetch him some drink, he took that opportunity to throw that poison into a mess of gruel which was prepared for the Bishop's dinner; and after he had staid there a-while, went his way; but so it happened that when the Bishop was called into his dinner, he had no appetite to any meat, but wished his servants to fall to, and be of good cheer, and that he would not eat till towards night. The servants being set to dinner, they that did eat of that poisoned dish were miserably infected, whereof one gentleman and an old widow died suddenly, and the rest never recovered their healths till their dying day. The person that did this wicked deed was afterwards, for the same offence, boiled alive in Smithneld, in the 22d year of King Henry's reign."
  • 7. See supra, p. 58.
  • 8. Levit. xxiv. 12.
  • 9. In 1566. It was entitled an "An Act for the Corporation of Merchant Adventurers, for the discovery of New Trade." The following passages, from a collection of State Secrets, first published in 1651, will serve to show the merits of this dispute between the two companies, (See also supra, p. 89) and the situation and conduct of the clothing trade two centuries ago. " Now this year, (1612.) the Cloth-workers, being covetous of large employments, petition the king and council that there might go no more white cloths out of this kingdom, but that they might be all dressed and dyed here, before they went over, and the reasons of the petition were three. First, that the Hollanders making use of dressing and dying our cloth, sold us our own again, almost double, and we impoverished. A second reason, that whereas there are a multitude of poor in this kingdom, that wanted employment, if they might have the dying and dressing of those cloths, it would find them work, whereby they might be relieved; and there was no reason why any other should make benefit of that which we might make good use of ourselves. Lastly, whereas the trade of dressing of doth began to decay, if now they might but have this, in process of time it may be restored, and they might have as good skill to dress cloth as the Dutchman. My Lord of Rochester, my Lord of Northampton, and my Lord the then Treasurer, were great agents in this business, and were thought to have been promised great sums of money to accomplish it. " 1614. The Cloth-workers still persisting in their suit, and having such friends to stand for them, and Alderman Cocking, a rich merchant, to back them, at length they obtained what they desired, and Proclamation goes forth, that no more white cloths shall be carried over undyed, or undrest, and for this purpose the old charter of the Merchant Adventurers is seized into the king's hands, so that that company falls to decay. Now the Dutchmen begin to murmur against the English, and make Proclamation there, that no man shall buy any such cloths as come over so dressed and dyed. Whereupon the English make a new proclamation, that no man shall transport wools out of this kingdom. These things fed some with hope of some farther troubles, yet, nevertheless, it is so ordered by the council, that all things are pacified, and some quantity, amounting to a certain number of white cloths, are suffered to be transported, as well to give content to the Hollander, as satisfaction and employment to some young merchants, that had entered into this trade, by which means those clamours are a little stayed, yet, nevertheless, great impression of envy is between these two companies." See " Truth brought to Light by Time, or the most remarkable Transactions of the first fourteen Years of King James's Reigne." (1692) p. 36,78.
  • 10. "Receivers of the Public Revenues," at a salary of 300l. per annum each. See Parl. Hist. xxi. 3, 6.