The Diary of Thomas Burton: 8 December 1656

Pages 53-80

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

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In this section

Monday, December 8, 1656.

A Report for a Naturalizing Bill, read, and resolved to be engrossed.

The House resumed the debate upon the Report in the business of James Nayler, and sat both forenoon and afternoon, and came to the resolutions infra.

Sir Thomas Wroth. Seeing Nayler must die, I desire to know what manner of death it must be.

Sir William Strickland. Do not go to the punishment, but go to the matter of fact. First examine that.

The Master of the Rolls. The matter of fact should be stated, whether blasphemy or no.

Major-General Whalley. For my part, I am of opinion that this person is guilty of horrid blasphemy; and we ought to be tender in this, lest we draw this sin upon us.

Major Audley. I think there is no man so possessed with the devil as this person is. I am of opinion, with that noble gentleman that spoke last, that he is guilty of blasphemy; but would not condemn any man upon general terms. I am glad to see such a Christian spirit and sound principle, as in that person that spoke last. God has forsaken him: yet, in matters capital, I would have us go from part to part, and so vote it blasphemy all along as you go. This is the most proper way, in my opinion.

Mr. Nathaniel Bacon. I think it is not so much the possession of the devil. He does arrogate to himself the person, attributes, and what not, of Christ. No man here, I believe, will open his mouth against any part of this charge, but agree that it is horrid blasphemy. I am not for taking it in parts. The Committee is agreed with, who have determined it to be blasphemy. As Major-General Whalley said, take this man's practice and opinion together, and it is apparent horrid blasphemy.

I desire that you would not call into question the particulars again; but put the question, whether you will agree with the Committee, that the matter of fact in the whole is horrid blasphemy, for it is not for your honour abroad to proceed otherwise.

Major-General Disbrowe. We must not proceed without rules; though the offence be heinous enough. We must either take the law of God, or of man, to regulate our judgment herein.

Upon the common sense of scripture, there are few but do commit blasphemy, as our Saviour puts it in Mark, (fn. 1) "Sins, blasphemies; if so, then none without blasphemy." It was charged upon David, and Eli's son, thou hast blasphemed, or caused others to blaspheme.

But the law of God is more particularly set forth in Leviticus. (fn. 2) "He cursed and blasphemed," and was brought before Moses, who instituted the law, that "he should be stoned." The Jews, when they come to charge Christ, say " He is a blasphemer, makes himself equal with God, (fn. 3) and will destroy this temple:" (fn. 4) the like charge against Stephen. (fn. 5)

I speak not to extenuate Nayler's offence, but, if we judge by Christian rule, the other persons are more guilty of blasphemy in that sense, than he. They gave him the honour. Yet I will not say but, in the other sense, he is guilty of blasphemy. He is a greater sinner, a vile sinful man; but, to call him a horrid blasphemer, I shall not give my vote. The wretched Jews came to particulars before they went to judgment. It is either by the rule of the scripture, or the law of the land; else how can you judge what is blasphemy. I know no such words as "horrid blasphemy" in scripture.

Mr. Drake. So you will agree it blasphemy, I stand not much upon the word horrid; but do rather insist upon it, in regard the noble person said there was difference of blasphemies. We have gone to particulars already. Did he not suffer himself to be honoured as our Saviour, in his riding through all the towns. What would you do if one should ride triumphantly through the country, as a ruler of the nations ? Were not he to be proceeded against as a traitor ? I think Mm worse than all the papists in the world, worse than possessed with the devil. God is jealous of his own name. He has been jealous of your honour, and we shall neither have Turk, nor Atheist, nor Pagan, converted here; and it is now brought to you, either to bring blood upon this nation or to acquit it.

My motion is to vote this offence horrid blasphemy. What does he less than set himself up as God and man both, by his distinction of visible and invisible ? All people would kick and despise him, if he should say in plain terms he were God or Christ, but he does as much in effect as say so. I have heard of Herod, but this is worse than he; for he makes himself to be the Christ, and to dethrone our Lord and Saviour. Does not he assume the honour and names, titles and attributes of Christ. If he should say it in plain terms, none would believe him; but he insinuates as much to the full, both in gesture, &c.

Lord Strickland. This fellow is one made up of contradictions. The Quakers teach humility, but he exalts himself I doubt he is but too bad, yet I do not believe (by what I have heard,) that he did say he was Jesus or Christ, though I think the women do believe him to be Christ.

I never heard of any man given up to so high a delusion, to so much pride and arrogancy, as this person instanced in his pleasant answer to his being the fairest of ten thousand. I believe he is under the saddest temptation of Satan that ever was; but I believe he does not believe that he is the only Christ, that died at Jerusalem, or that the essence of Christ is in him; but I fear he cannot distinguish of Christ's being in him. I think his opinion is little else than as that of John Baptist, a forerunner of Christ.

In all these respects, I look upon him as a man exceeding scandalous, proud, and sinful; but to say he is a blasphemer I cannot agree. He does not blaspheme God. He says he honours God wherever he finds him. He nor curses nor reviles at God. I believe he is one of those that would sit on the right or left hand of God. He has no evil spirit or malice in him against God; but he is under a sad delusion of the devil. By that means, perhaps, he might have been excommunicated. He believes that more of Christ is in him than in any other creature; but he showed no malice to Christ, or envy.

If you have any rule, I would have you proceed against him as a seducer, and to let none be allowed to come to him: to shut him up as one that has the plague upon him. Haply you have some persons here, that will find you out a law to secure him from doing any further hurt; to act rather as a magistrate than by another power, whereby you have not a rule to proceed.

But for us to judge of blasphemy, unless we were so learned -in the original as to define what is blasphemy, lest we be judged abroad whether we be adequate judges in this case of blasphemy, send him to Biddle in the Isle of Scilly. (fn. 6)

Lord Whitlock. I cannot but dissent from the gentlemen that have opened it to be blasphemy. I think it is an offence of a higher nature. I know blasphemy in scripture is defined to be sin. But to assume these titles and attributes of Christ is more than blasphemy. He calls the saints his brethren, so did Christ himself say. The Committee did well to add the word 'horrid,' but this is a particular offence, which cannot be said what it is, but by expressing the offence itself.

But to the manner of your proceedings. I have not found that the Parliament hath given judgment in any matter where there was not a law before. They have not proceeded in that case, but by Act of Parliament.

To give a judgment in point of life, no law being in force to that purpose, my humble opinion is to go by way of bill. To order a bill to be brought in with a blank for the punishment, where the grand Committee, if you please, may appoint the punishment, and by this means you have others to join with you in your legislative power. The like case was the Bishop of Rochester's cook, who, by Act of Parliament, had new punishment appointed him, (i. e.) to be boiled in a hot lead. (fn. 7) Hackett's case was otherwise, for he set himself up as a king. (fn. 8)

By a bill of attainder, this bill may be brought in, and the party heard; which will certainly be your best and readiest way, and most agreeable to the sense of a great many of this house.

Major Beake. I conceive you ought first to determine the offence, what it is; and then prepare a proportionable punishment, which you may do then by a bill.

I conceive the judgment of Parliament is so sovereign, that it may declare that to be an offence, which never was an offence before. The Roman senate did the like in cases of parricide. (fn. 8)

I have read some counsels for ordinances and acts of Parliament that have positively defined what is blasphemy. I wonder it should be so questioned here as to hedge out every man's knowledge in this matter. The word of God is express and plain in it. I can produce you very good authors confining it to these limits. It is a crime that deposes the majesty of God himself, crimen læsæ maiestatis, the ungodding of God. And if we cannot reduce it to this, I desire that he should not be punished. He assumes Jesus instead of James.

Holy, holy. These are attributes properly belonging to Christ; doing miracles, raising the dead.

I would have the Report read over, that it may be fresh in every man's memory. If it be so that he has assumed these attributes, why should it stick in your hands to determine of it ?

You agree lesser sins to be blasphemy, and why do you stick to call it horrid blasphemy. I know not yet what will be an adequate judgment, or punishment, nor is it proper to determine it yet.

Captain Baynes. If you proceed by laws now in being, it is one thing; but, otherwise, you must make a law for it, else how can you do execution in this matter. Then you must go upon the legislative, wherein my Lord Protector must have a negative. We may bring him into a snare unless he heard the matter. His opinion may stick and demur as to the offence; for the Instrument of Government says, all shall be protected that profess faith in Jesus Christ, (fn. 10) which, I suppose, this man does. If you declare it to be such an high offence, and have no punishment in the case, what better are you. If you have laws in being, then send him to some of your Courts of Justice.

Colonel White cited the proviso in the Article of Liberty, holding these principles out to civil injury.

I propound it to you to proceed against him as an actual disturber of the public peace, by abusing his liberty. Haply, you may find a lesser punishment than death, which may discourage him, and the generation of them. (fn. 11) I question whether the power of the Parliament can put a negative upon any part of the Government. (fn. 12)

Mr. Downing. You have voted the Report, in the gross, to be fully proved; so that if there be any thing of blasphemy in the Report, it is blasphemy in the gross. If you go to particulars, you will never come to an end; for then, whether will you proceed upon his confession at the bar, or upon the Report ? His being possessed with the devil is no extenuation of the offence, but as introductory to the offence, as in a case of an indictment. (fn. 13)

I am not against a bill, but something must be voted first, as to the matter-of-fact, else what shall your bill be called, or how will you proceed ?

Blasphemy so taken, in general gives the more reason to pass this vote, for the greater comprehends the lesser. Cursing of God is treason, but the making ones-self equal with God or Christ is treason, blasphemy, with a witness ! assumes the incommunicable attributes of God and Christ, and suffers adoration as God and Christ. This you have voted already.

No offence can be higher than treason, none higher than blasphemy. Let us not lose this word, lest we have none.

Observe how careful they are not to give honour to any authority. You saw how he behaved himself at the bar. Not a cap to you, though you be gods in one sense; yet he will take cap, knee, kisses, and all reverence. His distinction of visible and invisible makes his blasphemy plain.

God manifested and come down in the flesh, at Exeter, in James Nayler! Did not he say, that where God appoints Christ his honour, there he must be honoured. If thus come down, we ought all to go and worship James Nayler. How did the Jews and Rabbins interpret blasphemy? Not the cursing of God, but the making himself equal with God. Christ never denied it to be blasphemy to make ones-self equal with God, but he stood upon it that he was. If this be the case of this man, shall you not vote it blasphemy ?

It is brought to you, sitting the Parliament. If it had been brought to his Highness, I am confident he would have been zealous in it, and extended the laws.

We have made a law against treason, upon earth, to be tried without Juries. (fn. 14) I gave my vote for it. It was just. If there be such a thing as treason against Heaven, if I be not most zealous in this matter, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.

There was no law against blasphemy in the Scripture, till one committed a fault. He did not escape that offended, and he was the occasion of a good law. You have made laws in lesser matters than this.

As to the Instrument of Government, I hope it shall never be made use of as an argument to let this wretch escape. I am as much for tender consciences as any man; but I deny that this has any share in such liberty. Does this man profess faith in Jesus Christ? Nothing! He destroys and disannulls the power of Christ, and sets up himself only with a distinction of the invisibles. God could have made him a pillar of salt immediately, if he had pleased; have struck him dead, but he has left it to you to vindicate his honour and glory. Now see what you will do. This is the day of temptation, and trial of your zeal. I can call this offence no less than blasphemy. I desire you would vote it so, and then to speak of a bill for his punishment.

Lord President.—This gentleman has spoken very zealously, yet they were honest men, too, that called for fire from heaven, and we know how they were reproved. (fn. 15)

I have lived some time in the world, and seen what is abroad, and how careful wise men have been in proceeding in this kind.

I wonder why any man should be so amazed at this. Is not God in every horse, in every stone, in every creature. Your Familists (fn. 16) affirm that they are Christed in Christ, and Godded in God.

This business lies heavy upon my heart. Imprudent persons run away with these notions, and not being able to distinguish, sad consequences arise. But this is but from the abuse of good, sound, and high notions, and thence they argue liberty of sinning. Some look upon this as a bridge to bring them to this perfection.

If you hang every man that says, Christ is in you the hope of glory, (fn. 17) you will hang a good many. You shall hear this in every man's mouth of that sect, and others too, that challenge a great interest in Christ.

I do not believe that James Nayler thinks himself to be the only Christ; but that Christ is in him in the highest measure. This, I confess, is sad. But if, from hence, you go about to adjudge it, or call it blasphemy, I am not satisfied in it. It is hard to define what is blasphemy. I believe you think Arianism is blasphemy; and so it is, to deny the divinity of Christ; but this is to themselves, about the notion of God. This is not to us.

It is the happiness of this nation that every mother's son should know Christ. But I doubt there are many in this nation that pass for Christians, that know not the mystery of Christ manifest in the flesh. I have discoursed with some of that sect, and have read some of their books, that every man had a light within him to bring him to Christ; and that the first creature that God made was light, (i. e.) Christ; which is a fallacy, for Christ was not created. Their bottom is much tending to Arminianism, and I would have the venting such principles restrained. I shall say nothing to the punishment now; but have you read the Report over, and let every man give his reasons why such a part is blasphemy?

Major-General Skippon. —By the rule that this honourable person offers, none shall meddle at all in matters of religion. I cannot agree with him, in that Providence has brought this offence to your doors. We ought to be carefulshow we draw down national judgments by passing it by. There may be errors in our zeal on both sides. The question will come, whether you honour more the things of God or your own things. I would not willingly weaken one stone of the Government, but rather be a means to establish; but the 37th article (fn. 18) was never intended to bolster up blasphemies in this nature. I have heard it otherwise. This may admit of your future explanation. I hope I offend not. I may haply offend man.

I beseech you, consider how this comes before you, consider what it is when it comes, consider the chair you sit in. I am still of the same opinion I was; nay, I am more established, being convinced of my own conscience, and your duty, that you ought to agree with the Committee, in the gross, that it is blasphemy, horrid blasphemy. If it be more, as some gentleman has said, let that be further considered. God's glory has been trampled upon sufficiently in these things. Voting it to be horrid blasphemy is my humble opinion.

Sir Gilbert Pickering. I did not hear the lord that spoke last but one, say any thing to take off your hands in this matter. He reserved his judgment as to the punishment. It was a jealousy of Major-general Skippon, without a foundation. His speech was all along otherwise. It seems, as it is laid before you, it is now with you to consider whether you will mind more the honour of God or your own honour in this business.

If this gentleman thinks it is blasphemy, and thinks it ought to be punished with death, he must give others leave to dissent, if their judgments will not agree to it. Some haply have the same zeal for God, yet haply they may not have the same appetite to give sentence in these things, without special tenderness respecting the sad consequence. If I were of that opinion, that this offence amounts to blasphemy, I should not stick to say so; but give me leave a little to understand whether this be that blasphemy which was first committed. Which of the sorts of blasphemy that was, I am truly ignorant, not affecting ignorance herein, whether it was cursing God, or, I doubt, a higher offence rather. If you lay an interpretation upon the Rabbin's definition of blasphemy, you will wholly frustrate the word of God. (Instanced their interpretation of the word Corban) (fn. 19).

I am at a stand what to call this offence. It does highly return upon God to his disgrace, &c.; but to determine it blasphemy, I confess I am ignorant in it.

It is a gross, thick, dark idolatry in the persons that followed him on horseback: they are not only equally but more guilty in this business than himself. But the proper proceeding is, as to what is done by the person himself; wherein you ought to take as well what he said for himself, as against himself, as that question which he answered upon his second calling in. I thank you for it; I was much satisfied in it. He did admonish the people to take heed what they did, and to do nothing but what God commanded them; and repeated his answer to the last question. I would have this to be used as an extenuation. Mr. Seldon (fn. 20) said upon Best's (fn. 21) answer, at your bar, that he was a better man than he understood himself to be. That may be this man's case. He gives himself not out, plainly, to be the son of God, but that he is a prophet, a type, a sign, to warn men of the second coming of Christ, and thus he argues: "If any man see more in me than in another, what have I to do to resist what is the Father's will."

My present apprehension, in short, is this, that the person is both a flat idolater, and idolatry itself. I am ready to give my sense in it, as to the punishment of this, but to give my vote for blood I shall be very tender in it. Haply, some will say I am fallen from the faith. I speak my conscience, the will of God be done in it.

Mr. Rouse. If it be agreed to be idolatry, I think it is enough. You have spent a forenoon to consider what to call it. I think this will be sufficient to bring him to what punishment you shall think fit.

It was the idolatry in that person, that was in the same person punished. Those that worshipped him were not the offenders; but the idol was pulled down, the person that suf fered such worship to be done unto him. For my part, I think, call it what you will, it is an high offence and encroachment upon the honours of God, and ought to be punished, as blasphemy, or idolatry. Either way will meet with the offender, in the same end as is propounded to you.

Sir William Strickland. This debate is likely to hold some time. I desire you would adjourn for an hour or two, and take it up again, that it may bear its weight with it.

Resolved, That this House do adjourn till three o'clock upon this debate.

We met in the Army Chamber, and adjourned the Committee for the courts at York, till Wednesday, at two.

In the afternoon, near four.

The order for adjournment was read.

Mr. Speaker said, you have heard the order.

Silence a pretty long while, and the question called for.

Mr. Speaker said, he could put no question unless to adjourn again.

Mr. Nathaniel Bacon. The question in the morning, which was firsted and seconded, was to agree with the Committee, that Nayler's offence was horrid blasphemy.

Sir William Roberts. If you would put the question, you should not say, as the Committee called it, "horrid blasphemy;" but, if you will put it horrid blasphemy, put it.

Sir Gilbert Pickering. I brought in a petition, which was the order of the day. I desire that might be read.

Colonel Rouse and Sir Thomas Wroth. The proper question is what you should call this offence. Would have you put the question, if it be horrid blasphemy.

Mr. Speaker. There were several questions before, about the way and manner of your proceedings, whether by the legislative or judicatory, besides this question.

The Master of the Rolls. I have heard this debate, and, in my opinion, it was very learnedly debated. I never heard of such a horrid sin, as this, in all my life. Some would have it idolatry; some, blasphemy of one sort; some, of another sort. It is not the matter what he said here; but his carriage before this judicature is most remarkable with me. He does not disown this honour here to Christ in him.

That of setting himself up above ten thousand (fn. 22) was blasphemy, insinuated as highly as could be.

Consider how you stand in the opinion of the world; what an ill construction is upon us from the malignant party. They will say you have had one before you for calling himself Christ, and done nothing in it. Consider Paul's case, how he denied any honour to be done to him by the barbarians, (fn. 23) Is there more of the Spirit in him than in Paul. Yet he sets up himself, as one to be worshipped. It is flat idolatry, both in him and in those that follow him. Call it little or great blasphemy, it is blasphemy if it be but a grain.

I would have the question put, whether James Nayler be guilty of abominable idolatry and damnable blasphemy.

Mr. Highland. We have a saying in our country, 'Give the devil his due.' The poor man is bad enough, we had not need to add. Does he deny either God, or Christ, or the Spirit ? Lay no more stress upon it than it deserves. It differs from Paul's case. He is much filled with spiritual pride, that he has more of Christ in him than another. The women said they did not honour James Nayler, but the Lord.

I hope you are not of opinion that he should suffer death for this, though it be a heinous offence. Labour, if it be possible, in a peaceable way, to reclaim those that are misled by his delusions; for, I suppose, we all agree it to be a great and horrid crime. Yet, from the whole, to judge it blasphemy, I conceive it is not proper, nor can I give my yea to it.

Mr. Bedford. You have lately had the offender before you, and you are now debating what the offence should be. I would not have it made more than it is. It appears bad enough to me, so that I think it comes under whatsoever has been offered to you, (i. e.) both idolatry and horrid blasphemy.

He has owned the names, attributes, titles, power, and ho nour of Christ: he has assumed them all. He will not tell you where Christ is, or that he is on the right hand of God. Yet he came down fully in the flesh, at Exeter, upon him: he takes that.

The Long Parliament tried Hacket, because he said he was the King of Saints; and the crown ought to be set upon his head, and this by your legislative power.

He has robbed God and Christ of his honour. I can call him no less than a traitor in that. I desire that the question might be, that James Nayler is a horrid blasphemer.

Mr. Bacon. This fellow is not the fairest of ten thousand, as his disciples would have him, but the foulest of ten thousand rather. It is much controverted here, whether a law may be made for a matter, ex post facto. Nothing more ordinary in a Parliament. Was it not the case of the Bishop of Rochester's cook. He made broth which poisoned all the family, and the beggars at the gates. Here was a law made, both for the offence, and the punishment. (fn. 24)

The like in Hacket's case.

The like in the Holy Maid of Kent's case, Hen. VIII. (fn. 25) who said she had immediate intercourse and letters from the Virgin Mary. Her offence was adjudged high treason.

Resolved, That candles be called for, (fn. 26) two Noes.

Colonel Sydenham. Here are several things before you, of several natures and kinds; some against God immediately, some against the civil peace, some against manners and honesty.

I look upon it, in the whole, as a laying a ground to overthrow the Gospel. If so, our labour is in vain.

It is a confounding of Christ and his attributes.

It is against the civil peace; for, by this rule, we must lay aside all civil submission to any supreme power, and throw down the sceptre at Christ's feet, wherever we find him reigning, though in this impostor. Another against common honesty, as his lying with the woman, the curtains drawn, &c. Will you confound all these crimes under such an improper title as, in the gross, to call it blasphemy. This offence is not homogenial. It differs from that offence of the Holy Maid of Kent. The Parliament did justly declare that to be treason.

If this should be taken as a blasphemy upon the whole, it would be left as a record to posterity.

I cannot be in the world but I hear some of their opinions, both in print or otherwise. These Quakers, or Familists, affirm that Christ dwells personally in every believer. That which I fear, is, to draw this down into precedent, for, by the same ground, you may proceed against all of that sect. Again, that which sticks most with me, is the nearness of this opinion to that which is a most glorious truth, that the spirit is personally in us. The precedent in this case will be dangerous to posterity. I submit it to you whether you should not go upon the whole matter of fact, which is the most natural way of proceeding.

If some of those Parliaments were sitting in our places, I believe they would condemn most of us for hereticks. The most safe way is to go upon the whole. Who can tell what may be the spirit or temper of other Parliaments? We should be in this more unanimous, and come sooner to the question. It is for your honour. I fear this long debate will make them without say, one half of the House are Quakers, the other half, anti-Quakers.

Sir Richard Onslow. I am glad to hear of any thing that will shorten your time. I shall not undertake to define what blasphemy is, but I can describe what this is. My opinion is, as it was, that it is blasphemy. There is officium altior officio. It is our duty, with a witness, to do something in this business, and that with all possible zeal. I cannot tell what to call horrid blasphemy, if this be not it. Have not Parliaments, in all matters of this extraordinary nature, had recourse to their legislative power, and have given titles to offences, and new punishments adequate. Why should you boggle at this ? My motion is, That it may be voted horrid blasphemy.

Mr. Briscoe. You have voted the Report, which is the ground and substance of the crime, so that I think you need not long contend what shall be the title. If the Report were not full enough, my judgment is from his own acknowledgment, that he assumed, or connived at the receiving, the honour and attributes of Christ; consentiens and agens in law, are pari gradu. He confesseth it to be evil to give adoration to him, but, God commanding it, he durst not refuse it. By this means he lays the sin and evil upon God, if it be a sin. If not, then it is a real truth that he ought to be worshipped as a God.

"Hope of Israel stands." This must be a peculiar person, more than ordinary, in whom this hope stands; for by Israel certainly must be meant all believers, and by Hope must certainly be meant Christ. It can stand in no other person.

Acceptance of the woman's salutation. "Arise, &c. My love, &c." To me this seems a plain owning the honour due to Christ. He never reproved them for giving it, but said they might obey what the Lord commanded them.

We have no law against blasphemy under the Gospel; yet the jus naturale is of force. It is an offence against the moral law. By the light of nature, as divines say, we may know the Deity.

If against the judicial law, the equity remains. It is a sin against a greater light, a more transcendent light. If ignorance doth extenuate, so doth knowledge aggravate; and the greater his knowledge the greater his offence. He owns it knowingly.

The circumstance of time works much with me. It is our duty. If we neglect it, let us consider Eli's judgment. Qui non vetat, jubet. That it should come to our doors in this juncture of time!

The spreading of it in England and Ireland, and other plantations, appears to me to proceed from some encouragement it hath. I would have us, however, bear witness against it.

This is a spiritual judgment and wickedness amongst us. We draw guilt upon us. We know what Phineas did (fn. 27) in such a case, and what was the consequence:—the plague was stopped. Let us obviate these evils, meet them in the threshold. My motion is, That you would vote James Nayler to be guilty, upon the whole matter, of horrid blasphemy.

Major-General Disbrowe. The great business before us, this day, is to consider which way we may proceed according to knowledge. Our zeal is hot enough, as it was in former times with the Israelites. All the difference is about the manner of expressing it. I would have us as unanimous as may be. We are now waiting upon God for the issue. I shall not need to aggravate it. It has been sufficiently done. We are left to our rules in this case, and herein we differ. Sharp punishments are denounced against blasphemers; but this way is not revealed to us. We all agree it to be a most horrid crime.

Blasphemy is taken in divers senses in scripture. I do really believe that this man is guilty of blasphemy in one sense; but I have not heard one scripture urged this day, that this offence is comprehended under this or that rule or text touching blasphemy.

It is such a leprosy that ought to be shut out from all others. So far I can agree.

You heard in the gospel, of false Christs to arise; but no judgment is passed upon them, but only to bid us take heed of them, beware, and the like.

The work of a magistrate is distinct from every private person. He ought to take heed that such persons do not infect others. This offence is horrible enough as to God; but as to the civil magistrate, how shall he be guided in this case?

But I do not see how it answers, either the rule, or the law, or the gospel, to call this offence, as is offered to you, horrid blasphemy.

Where the law of God and law of man is silent, I never heard it in a Christian commonwealth, to condemn any man in that high nature as is offered. You may witness against them as far as you can by a rule. I would have you vote that James Nayler is guilty of horrid crimes, and to take it in gross as was offered to you by Colonel Sydenham. You will effect the end we all aim at. Enumerate, if you please, blasphemy, heresy, idolatry, and that he is a seducer and an impostor. I believe he is all this; but to vote it horrid blasphemy, I cannot consent to it.

Mr. Bodurda. A man had need premise something of himself, before he say any thing in this business. I cannot agree, from the whole, to call it horrid blasphemy. I would have any man lay his finger upon any part of the charge, and say this particular is horrid blasphemy. If this vote pass, and any without ask me, what have you called this offence? how can I convince them, from any part of it, that it is such an offence as you have voted it.

When have you passed any such vote as this in the gross ? I would fain know how I shall answer this objection. I cannot pretend to any skill in the original tongue. Thus much I remember of Greek BλασΦημlα, defamatio, a pertinacious holding of heresy. You have not any such part of Nayler's offence before you, which he hath pertinaciously persisted in. The proceeding of the church in this case ought to be followed, who heard a heretic three or four times before they passed sentence. Either you must proceed upon what was proved against him, or what he confessed. His riding into Exeter was a horrid piece of pageantry and impostery, but how to call that blasphemy in him I know not.

Upon the account of the Millenaries, (fn. 28) I look upon this of Nayler's crimes, I am very much troubled. I would have the growth of them suppressed, for they are a dangerous generation, and certainly much influenced upon by this sort of Quakers.

In 2d Eliz. John Moore said he was Christ, and William Jeffrey did so worship him. They did not evade, but were plain and express in their opinions. Divines had him under consideration, and could not convince, but he stood in it that he was Christ. They sentenced him to be whipped from the prison to Bedlam, where, remaining some time, he confessed his imposture and cheat. (fn. 29) Before you vote it any thing, I desire you would take it in pieces. Otherwise go to the punishment first, lest you debar a great many votes that would concur in the crime, but for the consequence of the punishment.

Colonel Gorges. I would demand this question of these gentlemen:—Is there such a thing as blasphemy ? Consider what he said at the bar. He said the voice, the spirit, that spoke in him, were the words of Christ. If he be infallible, then let us worship him. If fallible, what is that less than blasphemy to own such a spirit in him. His practice is idolatry. His excuse is, Christ is within him. He makes an idol of himself; and ought not an idol to be dashed in pieces? He never reproved his disciples, nay, rather encouraged them, to obey the command of God, &c. My motion is, that it may be called horrid blasphemy.

Sir John Reynolds. If you agree not what shall be the crime, how will you agree in the punishment. I would have you defer it for a time, and take the advice of some able divines about you. The long Parliament did so in these cases. Your time, in appearance, is short, (fn. 30) and many weighty businesses before you, &c.

Dr. Clarges. I thought you had been so near a question that I should not have needed to have troubled you. You have here before you the greatest matter that ever came before a Parliament. This impostor hath not only poisoned himself, but too many others. I have made some collections, and I have a bad memory; I crave your pardon if I read my notes.

Blasphemy defined in three things.

Question. Whether blasphemy and cursing be not two distinct things ? "They came to Christ, they mocked him," 22 Luke, one blasphemy.

"A knowing and an ignorant blasphemy," (1 Tim. i. 2.)

"I was a blasphemer," said Paul. "I did it incuriously."

"Whoever shall set up a sign," (27 Deut.) he is an idolater, and has not Nayler set himself up so.

If any of these people had a mind to adore the invisible God, they need not flock about James Nayler. He owned the letter wherein he was called Jesus. His relation of the manner of his going into Exeter very much confirms me that he assumed the honour done to Christ, when he was upon the earth. He rebuked none of them for it. "My father," not mentioned in any part of Scripture but in Christ's person, yet this impostor assumes it.

In my opinion James Nayler is guilty of horrid blasphemy; what greater expressions of it than to assume honour as to a Deity, though invisible.

In murder, a man destroys, as much as in him is, the seed of mankind: blasphemy much more. Perjury destroys a man in the same sense by consequence in his life, and it perisheth society.

I shall speak no more; but let us all stop our ears, and stone him—for he is guilty of horrid blasphemy: nothing so apparent.

Major-General Disbrowe. You should put the word blasphemy distinctly. If it be simple blasphemy, I can freely give my yea to it; but if blasphemy in the restrained sense, I shall be against it: both in respect I understand not how the offence will amount to it, nor what the punishment may be. I would not have any here be surprised in this vote.

Mr. Margets. It is surely obvious to you, that there is a different sense in the House, what kind of blasphemy this shall be called. I would have you put the question whether it shall be put or no, and so determine it.

Sir William Strickland. I hope the more you hear of this, the more your ears tingle at it. Here is no ignorant person before you., Did he not own the honour due to Christ? Did he reprove those that gave him that honour ? Did he not rather excuse them by laying the sin to God's charge? for, said they and he both, "God commanded it."

He that puts himself in the place of Jesus Christ, and sets himself up above Christ, all other things are but mint and cummin (fn. 31) in respect to this. Let us not betray God Almighty. The report was made very justly and faithfully. I am of opinion that it is blasphemy, nay horrid blasphemy, and I desire you will put the question.

Colonel Jones. You should instance in some part of the Report that makes it blasphemy: as his assuming the attributes of Christ, lest after-ages take another thing for blasphemy in the Report, than you judge him upon.

Colonel Clarke. I take this person to be under a very high delusion, strong and devilish delusion, that has tossed him up and down in the world. I take it not to be under any designed malice or wickedness, and if so, you cannot call it blasphemy. I shall be as ready as any man to bear my testimony against him; for I take him to be the greatest impostor that has been in our days.

I would have the question put, that he is a notorious impostor and seducer of the people.

Mr. (fn. 32). If you consider the number of them abroad, you would apply some speedy remedy; for that they are seduced is apparent enough. I have heard of one that was strangely deluded by this person, and he came off from them. The like of Sedgwick (fn. 33) in Hertfordshire. If it were not to reach his life, I believe a great many would be free in this vote.

I know not whether it is knowledge or what it is, that puffs him up. This opinion of his does border upon a very glorious truth. I would have us very tender as to what name you give it; lest, by the words "horrid blasphemy," many be drawn in, to vote what their mind is not; that may be of ill consequence.

Major Audley. I was not for passing this matter in the lump, but in censu diviso. It was well offered to you, to send some divines to undelude this man, if it be possible; to try this delusion. I cannot agree with voting this, horrid blasphemy. There is something else which will follow, wherein haply I shall not agree. His matter of opinion sticks not so much with me as his matter of practice. I doubt others have deceived him, as well as he hath deluded others.

If you make blasphemy a generical sin, it must consist of particulars.

You christen this offence like Diapente, five ingredients, and that the least of them; yet you will give it denomination from that drug, and out of the whole extract a name for the offence. (fn. 34) I submit it to you whether this will look well in after ages, or no; to condemn one upon such an accumulative and general account, without distinguishing the parts and particulars, to make it up.

Colonel Mathews. In my opinion James Nayler is guilty of horrid blasphemy. I would have added to the question: that he is a great impostor and a seducer, which will answer all senses.

Mr. Robinson. I am against the word horrid in your question. I wish it could have been tried out of doors. Spare that word, and I shall not be against the question. I wish any could assign to me, from what part of the Report you ground your judgment upon, that this is horrid blasphemy. I do not find the scripture so clear in it what it is; instanced in that of Job's wife. *

This word spared, I can the better tell how to give my opinion as to the punishment; that he may no longer pester the nation with these poisonous principles.

Colonel Shapeot. Put the question whether the word horrid should be part of the question, and this will determine the debate and save your labour.

Mr. Speaker. Agreed.

Lord Claypole. A word or two before your question. It is a great many more's concernment than James Nayler's case. In other debates you make the title last. I would you observed this rule in this also. Admit you leave out the word horrid. If he be only guilty of blasphemy;—if you extend not a proportionable punishment, how strangely will this look upon your records. I would have the parts read over, and debate it along, what is blasphemy and what not.

Mr. Ashe, the elder. If any man speak to this business now, it is against the orders of the House, not to keep to the Question, which is, whether the word horrid shall be in the Question. Keep close to that which is your proper work, else you will go contrary to your orders.

He might have taken Lord Claypole down, and at first, if he durst.

Major-General Howard. I thought not to have troubled you in this business; but you are launching into a matter of great consequence. Whatever you do in this, it may be of ill consequence to posterity.

I could freely give my vote, that he is a grand impostor and seducer, and that his opinions are heretical and blasphemous. His confession will justify me thus far; but then, to vote it horrid blasphemy, I cannot consent.

This vote of yours will be very conclusive; so that I desire to declare my conscience in it, that I am not satisfied from what I heard at the bar, that Nayler is guilty of blasphemy. Were it not that such a punishment is to ensue, I could be freer in it; but I know this is but in order to a greater vote, &c.

Mr. Reynell. I would have you wholly lay, aside the Report, and go upon what Nayler confessed at the bar; which, in my opinion, was full enough and pregnant, that he did own and assume the honour and attributes due to Christ only, with a distinction. My humble motion is, that you would vote it horrid blasphemy; for I cannot conceive how it should be less, both from his own confession here and at the Committee, besides the other proofs.

Mr. Waller. I would not have the offence made greater than it is, lest the punishment prove also greater. These two rubs must be removed before I can give my consent:—

1. What blasphemy is.

2. What shall be the punishment.

I am for the moderater title, that he is a great impostor, and a seducer. This will fully bear your witness against it. I incline to the moderate way, lest you open such a vein of blood as you will scarcely close.

Colonel Holland. I hope he may speak now that has spoken nothing in this business. Consider the state of this nation, what the price of our blood is. Liberty of conscience, the Instrument gives it us. We remember how many Christians were formerly martyred under this notion of blasphemy; and who can define what it is. I am wholly against the question. I may transgress your orders, it being the first day I sate here.

A greater punishment do they deserve that are thus deluded, than he that suffers such things.

Resolved, That the word 'horrid' be added to the question.

Resolved, That the main question shall be put.

Resolved, That James Nayler, upon the whole matter, in fact, is guilty of horrid blasphemy.

Major-General Goffe and Captain Hatsel. That you would also add this to the question, that James Nayler is a grand impostor, and a great seducer of the people.

The Master of the Rolls. Add the word, likewise.

Resolved, That the said James Nayler is also a grand impostor, and a great seducer of the people.

Mr. Bampfield and Major-General Skippon. Adjourn this debate till to-morrow, and nothing to intervene.

Colonel White. A little time will end this business. You may now soon come to a determination as to the manner of your proceeding, whether by attainder or not.

Dr. Clarges. In hopes of the party's repentance, upon the converse of some godly divines, adjourn this debate till Monday next.

Mr. Robinson. Put off this debate till Monday, and go on with your more serious affairs.

Mr. Berkeley. Let another day be appointed for petitions.

Captain Hatsel. I am for adjourning till to-morrow; but I would have two or four gentlemen appointed, to bring in a bill of attainder against him.

Sir William Strickland. I am very inclinable to mercy; and to that purpose do second that motion, that some godly divines might talk with Nayler, and in the interim suspend the debate. I desire his conversion.

Sir John Reynolds. I would have some ministers to speak with him, as Dr. Owen, Mr. Caryl, and Mr. Nye. (fn. 36) Possi bly some good may be wrought upon him, and in the mean time, adjourn the debate.

Major-General Goffe. I shall second that motion of mercy, for that worthy person. It was Christian; I desire it may not die. Let us use all possible means to convert him.

Sir Christopher Pack. I do freely agree to that Christian motion, to send to him some divines, and go on with your debate at the same time. I would have Dr. Reynolds. (fn. 37)

Major-General Whalley. First consider his punishment, and then send divines to him. When he is made apprehensive of his danger, you may have the better hope of his reclaimer.

Sir Gilbert Pickering. I am against sending any divines to him, till you have proceeded further in the business, and then let him have all the benefit of conversion that may be. He will say, you only court him to forsake his opinions, with the arguments of death. First, let him apprehend the danger he is in.

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

It was offered to have Thursdays for hearing petitions; but no resolutions therein. Some desired that petitions might be heard in fifth and sixth and seventh places.

Judge-Advocate Whalley brought in a book, which contained witchcraft and blasphemy and free-will, (fn. 38) &c.; desired the House would take it into consideration, and do something in it.

Mr. Speaker. In such cases, the gentlemen ought to extract such heads out of the book as are blasphemous or heretical, &c. or the like, and upon those heads charge the author; for it is not likely that every member has read that book, so as to pass his judgment upon it.

This gentleman may bring it in some other day.

The House sat till past six, half an hour.

Colonel Holland came this day into the House.


  • 1. Chap. iii. 28.
  • 2. Chap. xxiv. 11.
  • 3. John x. 33.
  • 4. Mat. xxvi. 61.
  • 5. Acts vi. 13.
  • 6. John Biddle has an interesting article by Wood in Athenæ Oxonionses. He was born in 1615, and entered a student of Magdalen Hall, where he proceeded M.A. in. 1641. The same year he was chosen master of the Free Grammar School at Gloucester, "upon ample recommendations of the University." There, notwithstanding his acknowledged learning and exemplary moral and religious character, he was persecuted by those inconsistent asserters of liberty the Long Parliament, at the instance of the Assembly of Divines, for bis anti-trinitarian writings. " The Magistrate and Parliament Committee," says Wood, "committed the author, then labouring under a fever, to the common gaol." He was soon released, but cited the next year to London, where he was imprisoned for five years, till 1651. It appears by the Journals that Biddle was brought, in 1654, before the Protector's first Parliament, for writing against the established doctrine of the Trinity. After various sufferings, especially in Newgate prison, he was banished in October 1655 to the Isle of Scilly, "there to remain in St. Mary's Castle, in dose custody, during life." It appears that "the Protector allowed him a hundred crowns per annum for his subsistence." In 1658 Oliver suffered Biddle to return, at liberty, and he appears to have been befriended by the Protector Richard. He was, however, after the Restoration, again committed to Newgate, in June 1662, and died in September, in his 47th year, "by the filth of a prison in hot weather," says Wood, "contracting a disease." The Oxford biographer bears the following testimony to the merits of this injured scholar, who was an intimate friend of that eminent philanthropist Thomas Firmin. "He had in him a sharp and quick judgment, and a prodigious memory; and, being very industrious withal, was in a capacity of devouring all he read. He was wonderfully well versed in the scriptures, and could not only repeat all St. Paul's Epistles in English, but also, in the Greek tongue, which made him a ready disputant. He was accounted by those of his persuasion a sober man in his discourse, and to have nothing of impiety, folly, or scurrility to proceed from him; also so devout, that he seldom er never prayed without being prostrate on the ground."— Athen. Oxon. art. Biddle. See also Brit. Biog. vi 79. Biog. Brit. ii. 302.
  • 7. Poisoners were boiled to death, till 1547, when they were adjudged to suffer as other murderers. See Parl. Hist. iii. 230.
  • 8. See Camden's Elizabeth, Anno 1591.
  • 9. According to historians, the first instance of parricide occurred in the year of Rome 652, B. C. 102, when Publicius Malleolus killed his mother. "The criminal was sewn up in a leathern sack, with a dog, a cock, a viper, and an ape, and sò thrown into the Tiber. A new kind of expiation was also practised, which consisted in loading a goat with the public execration, and then driving him out of Rome through the gate called Nevia; a ceremony which seems to have been borrowed from the Jewish religion." Roman Annals, (1760), p. 335.
  • 10. See Supra, p. 50.—Note.
  • 11. The Quakers.
  • 12. The Instrument of Government.
  • 13. Where the crime is attributed to "the instigation of the devil."
  • 14. March 26th, 1650. An Act passed, establishing "An High Court of Justice within the Cities of London and Westminster, and the late lines of communication."—Parl. Hist. xix. 253, 254.
  • 15. Luke ix. 55.
  • 16. They appeared in Holland, about 1555, and in England in 1580. Their founder was Henry Nicholas. They "named themselves," says Camden, "of the Family of Love, or House of Charity. They dispersed books, translated out of the Dutch tongue, which they intituled, 'The Gospel of the Kingdom: Documental Sentences: The Prophecy of the Spirit of Love: The Publishing of Peace upon Earth; the Author H. N.' The Queen," (employing one of the clumsy expedients of that age, for suppressing opinion,) "commanded by proclamation, that the said books should be publicly burned."—See Camden's Elizabeth, (1675) p. 248.
  • 17. Col. i. 27.
  • 18. See supra, p. 50, note.
  • 19. Mark vii. 11.
  • 20. Unanimously chosen one of the representatives for the University of Oxford, in the Long Parliament. He died in 1654.
  • 21. Paul Best, in whose case the Long Parliament designed the injustice of an ex post facto law; which, however, does not appear to have passed. Whitlock, among other notices on this subject, has the following: "1646, January 28. The House ordered Best to be kept close prisoner, and an ordinance to be brought in, to punish him with death. July 24th. Order to burn a pamphlet of Paul Best's, and the printers to be punished." That virulent foe of Toleration, the Presbyterian Thomas Edwards, the shallow Edwards in Milton's sonnet, speaks of "Paul Best's damnable doctrines against the Trinity," and denounces two "Independent Ministers" in the City. Of these lights shining in a dark age, one bad declared that Paul Best's "imprisonment would do no good," that he should be made "to sweat with arguments," but that the magistrate had "no authoritative power under the Gospel to remedy it." The other said, "that the magistrate might not punish such," and "had nothing to do in matters of religion, but in civil things only."—See Gangræna; ed. III. (1646.) p. 46.
  • 22. See supra, p. 46.
  • 23. Acts. xiv. 14–18.
  • 24. See supra, p. 58.
  • 25. Anno 1534.
  • 26. See supra, p. 36, note.
  • 27. See Numbers, xxv. 7, 8.
  • 28. These were, probably, some who followed, in England, the opinion which Ross, in his "View of all Religions," attributes to the Church of Arnheim in Holland, "that within five years Christ was to come in the flesh, and reign on earth with his saints a thousand years."
  • 29. "1561—The 10th of Aprill was one William Geffreie whipped from the Marshalsea in Southworke, to Bedlem, without Bishopsgate, of London, for that he professed one John Moore to be Christ our Saviour. On his head was set a paper, wherein was written as followeth: 'William Geffreie, a most blasphemous heretick, denieng Christ our Saviour in heaven. The said Geffreie being staied at Bedlem gate, John Moore was brought foorth, before whome William Geffreie was whipped, till he confessed Christ to be in Heaven. "Then the said John Moore being examined, and answering overthwartlie, was commanded to put off his cote, doublet, and shirt, which he seemed to doo verie willinglie, and after being tied to the cart, was whipped an arrowe's shot from Bedlem, where, at the last, he also confessed Christ to be in Heaven, and himselfe to be a sinfull man. Then was John Moore sent againe into Bedlem, and Geffreie to the Marshalsea, where they had laine prisoners nigh a yere and a halfe; the one for professing himselfe to be Christ, the other a disciple of the same Christ."— Hollingshed, iii. 1194. This passage may serve to contrast the wise and humane treatment of the insane, now peculiarly encouraged, with the ignorance and cruelty formerly displayed towards that afflicted portion of our race. Bedlam, long a receptacle for lunatics, was then on the spot since called Old Bethlem, and, very lately, Liverpool-street.
  • 30. See supra, p. 42, note.
  • 31. See Mat. xxiii. 23.
  • 32. Blank in MS.
  • 33. Probably William Sedgwick, named by Wood among the Oxford writers; and, for having ventured to foretel the day of judgment, which he survived, called Doomsday Sedgwick. He was ejected in 1662, from Ely. Calamy describes him as a "pious man, with a disordered head."
  • 34. This speaker; in his allusion to a well-known drug, named from two Greek words, has, if correctly reported, not employed very clear language.
  • 35. See Job ii. 9.
  • 36. Dr. Owen was Dean of Christ Church, and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, of which he had been the representative in the Protector's former Parliament. Caryl is now chiefly known by a voluminous commentary on Job. Phillip Nye had been one of the Commissioners at the Isle of Wight in 1647.
  • 37. After the Restoration, he became Bishop of Norwich.
  • 38. Designing, no doubt, the doctrine of the Arminians or Remonstrants.