The Diary of Thomas Burton: 13 December 1656

Pages 126-136

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

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Saturday, December 13, 1656.

A Bill for the better ordering and governing the makers and workers of broad mixed woollen cloths, within the Westriding of the County of York, and for making them a body politic and corporate, was this day read the first time.

Mr. Robinson. If this Bill pass it will be very prejudicial to the City of York, and others of the Riding, and the adjoining wool countries.

This is a mere monopoly, which will not only destroy the wool grower, but the poor clothier; for it seems that none shall buy or sell any wool but such as are free of this corporation. It will make less manufacture.

Sir Henry Vane brought in a Bill to this purpose, in the Long Parliament, for Kent, but could not get it to pass. One law through the whole nation may serve for the regulation of one manufacture. We have laws strict enough already in these cases, as strict as any, save in the laws of tanners.

Mr. Ashe, the elder. I do very much approve of this Bill, and desire it may have a second reading. I gave you the reason before why our manufactures are almost lost, and snatched into Holland only for want of regulation.

He has got 3000l. per annum, and is worth about 60,000l. per clothing.

Sir William Strickland. I have something to say to this Bill, but I will not hinder your greater business. I desire it may be laid aside and seriously weighed.

Lord Lambert, who brought in the Bill. I desire it may be read again, and the inconveniences considered. If it be not for general good, I shall not desire it. The most part of my poor fortune their depends upon the rate of wool.

Resolved, That this Bill be read the second time on Wednesday.

Lord Whitlock. I have a privilege to offer to you, which will take but a little time. A new member is elected for Ryegate, in Surrey, and the sheriff refuseth to make a return. I desire it may be ordered by this House to make a return.

Lord Lambert. I believe the fault is not in the sheriff. The election was but on Monday, and he must have some time.

Mr. Goodwin. That second elections differ from the first, for in the first, the sheriff has twenty days for the return; in the second, he must return without delay.

It seems there is a difference between Sir Thomas Pryde, and the party that is duly chosen, and some call it Sir Thomas Pryde's modesty, that will not return himself; but Mr. Highland said, Sir Thomas Pryde would fain be returned, but he ought not.

Resolved, That the sheriff do return the Indentures before Monday next.

Resolved, That Irish business be upon Tuesday next, upon motion of Major Ashton.

The Order of the day read.

Mr. Speaker. Read the question for the smaller punishment.

Mr. Church. The Quakers are not only numerous but dangerous, and the sooner we put a stop, the more glory we shall do to God, and safety to this Commonwealth.

When I sat in the last Parliament, there was scarce the name of these; but their increase since is incredible.

Whatever they pretend, they cannot be a people of God. Christ's spirit is a meek spirit, but they are full of bitterness in reviling the ministers and magistrates.

The people are amazed very much (as I am informed) at our slow motion in this business. They know not the reason. For my part, I incline rather to the corporal punishment.

"Because thou hast spared a man," &c. 1 Kings, 20, "that should have died," &c. "therefore," &c. I must say as Jehosaphat said, 2 Chron.

Take heed what you do, for you judge not for men, but for God. We must one day answer to God for all things we do; even for this business; so that I cannot marvel at our care herein. The love of Christ constrains us. If we have love to Christ, we cannot suffer him to be dishonoured. We must not do our own will, but his will. I pray God reveal it to us what is his will. If he have said, the offender ought to die, we ought not to spare him. I pray God direct us.

Lord Whitlock. (fn. 1) I agree with the gentleman that spoke last, that if it be the will of God that this person should die, we ought not to spare him; but the question is, whether it is the will of God or no; whether there be a law of God. For my part, I think there is no such law. I have read the text in the original in Leviticus. It signifies as much as a cursing or denying Jehovah. Moses was a wise man, yet he would do nothing in it without the advice and counsel of God. (fn. 2)

I conceive this was no standing law, but. only binding to the Jews. The morality may extend to us, but in the modus puniendi, that is not moral. (fn. 3)

I do not understand any thing that James Nayler said to be the denying or cursing of Jehovah, God, or Christ, so not within that text. 24 Leviticus, 16. He acknowledgeth Christ that died in Jerusalem, to be his mediator. He has committed a very heinous and execrable sin in suffering adoration to be done to him. He says Christ dwells in him. (fn. 4) This is an opinion held forth in many places. The Lutherans held the ubiquity of Christ; (fn. 5) we are not filii, but filius Dei.

That account of excommunication is much mistaken. He is not delivered over to Satan, (fn. 6) to be understood of the devil.

I am not satisfied by any thing in the law of God, that we ought to proceed against this man to death. Nor am I satisfied the magistrate, in all cases, ought to be judge of offences against the law of nature. (fn. 7)

But by the common law, lex terræ, this person is punishable. I have seen indictments in the Upper Bench for lesser matters, for broaching opinions to raise sedition amongst the people, and I wish we had not meddled with this business, but sent him over to the Upper Bench.

But for us to pass sentence of death upon this person, I know neither law nor precedent for it.

It will be of a dangerous consequence for you to make a law for punishing of an offence by death, which was not so punishable before. One parliament may count one thing horrid blasphemy, another parliament another thing. The word blasphemy is very comprehensive. There may a time come, when the word blasphemy may be as far extended as was heresy, in the case, as in Hen. VII., where a man was condemned for a heretic, because he said he did not know whether by the law of God tithes were payable or no. (fn. 8) We ought to look for our posterity, and the danger to leave such a precedent upon your records. I am very well satisfied that the lesser punishment will be adequate enough, and save the honour of your vote and your time too; or, to satisfy those gentlemen that are for his death, you may add to your quesx tion, that the person shall stand committed till he recant, or till the Parliament take further course for his more exemplary punishment, and this may happily give more satisfaction, as well within doors as without.

Mr. Bisse. If you put the question for the smaller punishment, you exclude all their votes that are for the higher, for they will give their negatives; and if they carry it, then the person shall have no punishment at all. I desire you would either put the first and proper question, or put the question whether this question shall be put or no.

Sir William Strickland. We ought to have a special reflection upon what we have done in our vote for our directions in the punishment. I know nothing in the Report, but what the party confessed himself at the bar; from his very reum confitentem, was sufficient convincement to me in voting the offence to be horrid blasphemy.

For my part, I am clearly satisfied in the offence, that it is as heinous as can be; but I am not so clear in the manner of punishment. For if we take our rules from those texts that have been urged, I doubt we must also observe the rules in other cases, as to make Sabbath breaking and disobedience to parents, death. I am not clear how to execute these laws in the one, and not in the other.

If salus populi were concerned, then suprema lex ought to be resumed; but in this case the precedent may be dangerous I hope we shall provide a way, for the future, to nip these cockatrices in the egg.

I cannot, without doubting, agree to those that would have him punished with, death. Quod dubitas ne feceris. I shall honour those persons too, while I live. I shall submit to the smaller punishment, though I am not satisfied of the adequateness of the punishment. I would have this man so restrained, as that he may never do more harm. I would have him perpetually imprisoned, and that is a kind of a civil death: but for the other punishment, I do very much doubt in myself.

Mr. Nathaniel Bacon. I cannot be satisfied but that this man's offence deserves the highest punishment.

The light of nature teaches a Deity, and a punishment for the dishonour of that God; as well as the honour.

How did the heathens put to death so many martyrs ?

1. For disobeying their idol gods, but by the law of nature.

2. Nebuchadnezzar, by the same law, put the three children in the fiery furnace.

3. The case of Gideon and his men, in Judges (vi. 25—31.,) for pulling down the altars. They durst not do it by day. But they soon knew who had done it, and said, "Bring them forth that we may kill them."

But not only the law of nature, but of God, teaches us to vindicate the honour of God, and God in three persons, and no other God.

I cannot understand the majus and minus from those that say the cursing of God, as to say he is cruel, unjust, or the like, is a greater offence than this blasphemy before you. This destroys the second person of the Trinity, and sets it up in a creature, so that it is not only a dishonouring of God, but a supplanting and taking him wholly away.

This is an offence not only against the law of nature (fn. 9) but against the light of the law of God, revealed in the Scripture, which is the highest light in the world.

Does not he say that God-man dwells personally in James Nayler, and ought to be worshipped. Is not this utterly against the light manifested in the Three Persons of the Trinity and God. If this be not the highest blasphemy that is, I know not what it is. He does (as much as in him is) destroy the very foundation of our faith and religion. This seducing of his, comes clearly up to that of Deuteronomy xiii., and in Zechariah too. I say this case comes even to those texts in Deuteronomy and Zechariah, (fn. 10) for any thing I have heard to the contrary.

If the Jews ought to put to death a blasphemer, I know no reason but we Christians ought to be as tender of the honour of God as they. I know no difference. Ubi lex non distinguit, non est distinguendum. We find not the law repealed, so it must needs be of force, being perpetual. As to that objection of the Sabbath-breakers to be punished with death under the law, I grant they might have brought other texts to that purpose.

I have read authors, that that law was only to continue while the children of Israel were in the wilderness. (fn. 11) Or, admit a man should now, in a presumptuous and wilful manner break the Sabbath, if the magistrate should punish him, it may not seem cruel in the eyes of God. If a man should sin against God, who shall plead for him.

It has been said that the Turks and Jews are amongst us, that blaspheme and deny our God and Christ. Must we put them to death, (fn. 12) I know no reason but the magistrate should punish them with death, if Turk or Jew come and blaspheme our God: I hope they would not be tolerated. But it is said there is no law now against blasphemy. I grant; but, de facto, there was such a law. I hope none will deny it. I hope the abuse of it, and turning it upon the Lollards, does not take away the law.

Who shall be able to plead, where God has made a law, that this law is repealed. If God should ask me this question, how shall I answer it ? If I tell him of that meekness, &c. spoken of in the Gospel, will God say where bad you a rule to spare his life. I desire that the question may be put for death.

Colonel Kiffen. I am very much satisfied by the whole matter, that this wicked, vile wretch is guilty of whatever you have voted him to be; a horrid blasphemer: but I am not convinced by any thing I have heard that he ought to be punished with death. We ought all to be zealous for God; but our zeal must go by a rule.

The honourable person gave the grounds of his opinion under these three heads. The light of nature, law of God, and law of the land. I shall answer them briefly.

1. If the light of nature cannot lead a man out to the knowledge of Christ, are we, by the light of nature, to put such an ignorant person to death, for not knowing what he ought to know.

2. The law of God. Answer: these laws were immediately from the mouth of God, stamped upon, and peculiar to that nation, Deuteronomy xii. If the Jews, by the light of nature, might have charged Christ with blasphemy, surely they would have rather cited that general law, than to say, "We have a law," &c.

That prophecy of Zechariah sticks more with me; but those dark prophecies may be mistaken by not distinguishing of the times. Great mistakes arise from this.

I grant, that by the father and mother thrusting the child through, the magistrate is understood; but I hope none will say that the parents are excluded: and if all those circumstances of that law, must be pursued, the parents must thrust him through.

I grant the Scriptures are a great light, as that worthy person said, but not the only light, for there must another light concur, else we shall fall short of the knowledge we aim at.

Answer to text, Leviticus xxiv. Their conclusion differs from their premises; for they say, by that law Nayler ought to die; yet, upon his repentance, he shall be pardoned. I am not of their opinion. If the law be positive, I submit it to their consciences whether they can dispense with that law. If I were so convinced, I ought not to spare, nay, I should not spare! my child, or the wife of my bosom.

The Jews could not find any thing in their law, whereby they could condemn Christ of blasphemy. He bid them look into their law.

Was not Gamaliel a man learned in their law ? It is not to be doubted that he wanted zeal to do it; yet he bade them beware what they did.

Answer to that of John v., about cutting off the branches. This was the great text made use of in Queen Mary's time. It was those that would suck your blood, greater enemies to you than James Nayler, that put any such interpretation upon it. I hope that gentleman that cited that text, will not say that every man that is cut off by excommunication, should be thrown into the fire.

Answer to that text in Revelations, a charge against the Church of Thyatira suffering Jezabel and Balaam. It is true, God does highly reprehend them for these things; but does God say, "I have given them time to repent," &c.

It is true, "God forbid that we should sin because grace doth abound." As for that text of our Saviour's pardoning the woman taken in adultery: it is said, that he was Lord of all, and might dispense with that or any sin, as God did with the Israelites in Egypt. I dare not be of that opinion, that Christ forgave that sin, for this excludes his full satisfaction, &c.

I desire the Question may be put for the smaller punishment.

Mr. Bond. Adjourn this debate till Monday morning.

Mr. Godfrey stood up to speak to the matter; but, being cried down by a noise of adjourning, so turned it to speak to the orders of the House. Desired them to rise.

The Question put for adjourning the debate till Monday.

The House divided upon this Question.

The Yeas that sat were 108. Lord Eure and Colonel Sydenham, [Tellers.]

We, the Noes that went out, were 175. Sir John Reynolds and Colonel Fitz-James, [Tellers.]

Resolved, That this debate be adjourned till Monday morning.

In the painted chamber sat the Committee upon Rodney's Appeal against Cole.

And, upon the Question whether there was any personal miscarriage in the Commissioners of the Seal in that business,

There was great clashing between my Lord Lisle and Lord Whitlock, contending where the blame should lie. Lord Lisle charged Lord Whitlock highly, by several circumstances, that he was consenting to it; but Lord Whitlock justified himself, and so did Rodney's petition clear him: for it said, one of the Commissioners did dissent, and named Lord Whitlock particularly; and the Committee were much satisfied with it. But high words passed between them, especially on Lord Lisle's part; the other was more modest.

Lord Lisle retired, and the Committee came to further debate in the business. The Master of the Rolls laboured to smooth it over, and would have had the petitioners relieved, and the Lords Commissioners clear, for he said the miscarriage happened only by misinformation.

There was one Mr. Thorne, of the Temple, Cole's Solicitor, examined to the seal of the statute, whether the seal wanted not all the wax, and whether he did not tell a member of the House that one Perin, an Attorney (that is now dead) did put the new wax upon the label of the statute. He denied that he said any such thing, but Captain Mason affirmed it to his face, and the Master of the Rolls directed that a member of Parliament ought in evidence to be preferred, for he is under an oath to speak the truth, &c. (Query, what oath a member takes.) Mr. Cole was there, and moved that he might be heard by his counsel, but I could not stay the issue.

This week, one of the seniors of Gray's Inn, viz. Wingate, (fn. 13) that abridged the statutes, died, and also one Mr. Miller of the same house.


  • 1. This appears to be a short report of an extended argument by Lord Whitlock, probably preserved among his papers, and from which a few quotations will follow. It is annexed to the "Proceedings in the House of Commons," as having occurred "in the debate upon the question, whether James Nayler should be punished with death." See State Tryals, (1776) ii. 273–276.
  • 2. "If by the law of nature, a blasphemer is to die, how comes it to pass that Moses was so doubtful in the case of the Egyptian, in the 24th chapter of Leviticus ? He put him in ward, and asked counsel of God, what should be done with him. " Moses was a man of great knowledge and wisdom, and as able to understand the law of nature as any of us are; and if the case of the Egyptian had been against the law of nature, he was surely capable to have found it out, and not to have made so much difficulty as he did of it, so as to know the immediate pleasure of God in it."—State Trials, ii. 273.
  • 3. "Very learned Divines are of opinion, and I think it not to be confuted, that no part of the law of the Jews doth bind any other nation, but that part of it only which is moral. And none hath ever yet affirmed that this or that punishment of any offence is moral, though the offence itself be so."—Ibid.
  • 4. See Ibid.
  • 5. "The Lutherans do hold the ubiquity of Christ in such sort, that the news of James Nayler's being put to death for these offences would not be pleasing to them."—Ibid. 275. Ross mentions, as one of the "Sects sprung out of Lutheranism," the Ubiquitaries, who "hold that Christ's humanity, as well as his divinity, is every where, even in hell."— View of Religions, (1696) p. 164. See also, on the controversy concerning "the omnipresence of Christ's body,' Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. (1768) iv. 469.
  • 6. See 1 cor. v.—1 Tim. i. 20
  • 7. "If the parliament shall adjudge that it is necessary, for the being and preservation of the people and commonwealth of England, that James Nayler he put to death, then he ought to die, by the law of nature. But I suppose that no gentleman is of opinion, that it is necessary for the being and preservation of the people and commonwealth of England, that James Nayler should he put to death; and therefore, on that head or principle of the law of nature, he is not to die."—State Trials, ii.273.
  • 8. " But now, I believe, some are inclinable to think, that to say, tythes are due to the parson, is a kind of heresy."—ibid, p. 275.
  • 9. Whitlock argues, that "the crimes of James Nayler cannot be against the law of nature, because they are against the second person of the Trinity, the knowledge of whom is not by the law of nature." State Trials, ii. 273.
  • 10. See supra, p. 121.
  • 11. See Heylyn's. "History of the Sabbath," (1636,) Part i. passim; Paley's Mor. Phil. B. v. ch. 7.
  • 12. See supra, p. 108.
  • 13. One of the Members for the County of Bedford, in the Protector's former Parliament. He was a mathematical writer, and had been appointed English teacher to the Queen of Charles I.