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This pamphlet deserves to be far better known that it is. It was written in 1649 shortly after the climax of the English Revolution. The Parliamentary armies in the Civil War had militarily defeated the Royalist ‘old regime’. King Charles 1 was executed in January and the country declared a republic or Commonwealth. As the reader of this pamphlet will quickly realise, the New Model Army that had made the Parliament victorious was no mere body of soldiers like any other. Here we see an Army prepared to impose its will and turn out Parliament rather than accept a Parliamentary compromise with monarchy; an Army wherein elected representatives of the rank and file parleyed with their Generals about pay and politics. The rich were seriously unsettled. The world had been ‘turned upside down’.
The Commonwealth, true to the historical limitations of a bourgeois revolution, had to fight not only the restorationist forces of Charles II but, from ‘below’, the democratic, plebeian, Leveller aspirations stirred by the Civil War -- a political force in the New Model itself which the Generals now determined to reckon with. The Army (and with it the hopes of the Leveller party) was to be sent abroad for the brutal re-conquest and subjugation of Ireland. Leveller leaders were arrested and imprisoned. In May, at a rendezvous at Burford in Oxfordshire, some twelve troops of the New Model, maybe a thousand strong, who had ‘dismissed their Officers’ and were in dispute over arrears of pay and the proposed service in Ireland, were surprised by a strong force under Fairfax and Cromwell which had ridden through the night. Three troopers bravely faced their execution shot to death in the Churchyard -- for mutiny. When they heard the news in Parliament, a national holiday of thanksgiving was voted. After the execution of the King, this was a decisive moment: the defeat of the Leveller party. Cromwell was both the Robespierre and the Bonaparte. By cutting down the ‘left’ wing of the revolution, he prepared the way for the Restored form of monarchy. The Civil War was the heroic period of modern English history: other revolutions, yet more potent, followed in the world: Leveller and Digger would rise again.
The pamphlet which follows was written by Major Francis White who served as an emissary from Fairfax and Cromwell to the Burford mutineers with a letter and instructions to effect an ‘understanding’ between them and the Generals. White published partly to answer accusations that he had betrayed the soldiers at Burford with whom he shared every sympathy; but, more than that, White’s pamphlet, for all its deeply religious fervour, is a political vindication of the parliamentary Army and the greater Cause it served. Professional historians who dispute the English Revolution ever happened like to deny the very existence of the ‘old Cause’. Here the last word goes to Francis White.
Rob Styles <Robert.R.Styles@si.shell.com>
A T R U E
O F T H E
I N T H E
By Francis White, Major to the Lord
General’s Regiment of Foot.
Printed by Robert Austin, on Adlin-hill.
1 6 4 9 .
Having upon former occasions appeared in print, once to seek the preservation of my life, and another time to keep the peace of my mind, by bearing my public testimony, I thought I had sufficiently discovered my weakness to the world, that I should have kept silence for a time, at least from public view: But I am put upon it a third time, for the defence of my integrity, and reputation among good men, and the vindicating my innocency towards God and the world.
I being in May last commanded by my Lord General, with some others, to go to the revolted Horse of Commissary General Ireton’s and Colonel Scroop’s Regiment, for whom I received a Letter, and Instructions from my Lord, that I should communicate that Letter, and use what means I thought expedient, according to my judgement and conscience, to produce a right understanding, and procure a union, to which Lieutenant-General Cromwell added, that I should let them know, that although they sent Messengers to them, they would not follow with force at the heels; which words my Lord-General confirmed, and I accordingly went to them with the rest, and communicated my Papers and Instructions with as little prejudice to either, as I bear to my self; but did pass through the prosecution of that trust with faithfulness to my Lord, and honest plain-dealing towards the party: yet since their dissolution it hath been often charged upon me, that I betrayed them; in answer to all private reports, I thought my private information sufficient, but since there have been some things appeared in print, which do reflect upon myself, (and were I not in public employment I could freely submit in silence; but to defend innocency, and to satisfy friends, which have pressed it upon me as my duty,) I have here published the truth of proceedings, without fear or flattery on the one hand, or prejudice on the other.
For the ground and rise of that revolt, it is as well known to others as my self; I shall therefore speak to that which no others can so well relate: After I went from my Lord General with Captain Scoten, Captain Peverell, and Captain Baylee, we rid in the night from Andover to Marlborough, & finding the Regiment gone from thence, we rid after them to Wantage, May 13. where they quartered, and getting those Officers they had, and Trustees whom they had chosen together, I related my Instructions, and let them know the Letter sent from my Lord General, was directed to the Officers and Soldiers, and therefore I desired it might be communicated to them together at a Rendezvous; they then told me, their Rendezvous was appointed the next day, at ten of the clock at Stanford-plain near Farrendon: they then demanded, whether I would give them assurance, that my Lord-General should not fall upon them in their Quarters? to which I answered them, that they were ignorant men, if they would take any such assurance from me, for they knew it was not in my power to give: what I had spoken of the Generals not following with force at our heels, was by direction, and not from my self; upon which they consulted and agreed to move their Quarters that night, and did so accordingly: the next day we went all to a Rendezvous near Abingdon, but by the way I met with Colonel Scroop, who was sent to them with a Letter from my Lord General in answer to a Letter they sent him from Marlborough; the copies of both Letters are as followeth:
I received a Letter from you of the 12. of this instant, amongst other false suggestions, whereby I believed you have been abused, it is a mistaken and untrue surmise which you mention of an intendment to disband some of the Soldiery of the Army without competent pay in hand of their Arrears, it being never so thought, but otherwise taken care for, and put into as hopeful and settled a way as could be desired; I had rather pretermit then strictly take notice of your grounding this unusual course you have taken upon the marching of Forces towards you, to subdue you, when as some, if not all of you by your disorderly precipitance into such an irregularity, was the first and sole occasion of marching with forces: however since you now desire to be heard, and taken under my protection, I have given way to Col. Scroop to receive you under protection, and am ready to hear you in any thing you have to say concerning the engagement by you mentioned; I rest,
Your assured Friend,
The copy of a Letter presented to his Excellency from Colonel Ireton’s and Colonel Scroop’s Regiments.
May it please your Excellency,
A Proposition was made unto us for the service of Ireland, with a Declaration of your Excellency’s pleasure, that it was lawful for us to consent or deny, for no man was to be forced: although many of us were very willing to put our lives in our hands for that service, yet were we constrained to answer in the negative, in regard we did conceive it a breach of former engagements, to suffer many of our fellow Soldiers, who could not go, to be disbanded without a competent pay in hand of their Arrears to carry them home, and enable them to follow their occupations: We perceive such a representation of the business hath been laid before your Excellency, rendering us so vile in your eyes, that the next news we heard was of Forces marching towards us which hath put us upon an unusual, yet a necessary way for our own preservation lest we shall be destroyed before we could be heard to speak, to relinquish our Officers and fly for our present safety. And now we do earnestly beseech your Excellency patiently to hear us, and to take us under your protection; all that we require is the performance of our engagement at Triploe Heath, and we shall promise never to depart from your Excellency’s command, in any thing which shall not be contrary to the said engagement, professing ourselves very sorry, that we should have no better esteem in your Excellency’s judgement.
May 13. 1649.
Subscribed by the Agents of Commissary-
vera copia. General Ireton’s, and Colonel Scroop’s
They then refused Colonel Scroop, and marched towards Colonel Harrison’s Regiment’s Quarters, which was prepared for a conjunction: but we coming to a Rendezvous, where I had liberty to speak to them, and to read my Lord-General’s Letter, and being very sensible what evils that division might produce, I did endeavour to procure a right understanding, and invite them to a submission to my Lord-General, and presented to their consideration the strength of the enemy in Ireland, and the enmity of foreign Councils and Powers against this Nation, and the discontented temper of Scotland, which would take the advantage of our divisions to invade us: I likewise offered to their view the discontented and divided condition of this Nation, and how that it had no other visible security under God, but this Army, the Government being lately altered and nothing settled, by reason of divisions, and the multitude of contracted grievances by the late wars, so that if this power break, all things would be in a immediate confusion, propriety would be confounded, and the whole Nation would be in flames and blood, and that we should become the scorn of Nations, and a by-word and hissing to our enemies, who would cry this to be our just doom: And for us that have been together so many years engaged in one body, now to sheath our swords in one another’s bowels, it would be the lamentation and destruction of all our Christian friends, and of all honest men of our party. I likewise pitied their condition, to hear the relation of so many provocations, to put them in distemper, and disobedience, and did heartily desire they might have satisfaction concerning their engagement at New-market-Heath. I likewise informed them of my Lord-General’s affection towards them, and that there was the discovery of an humble mind in him, and of loving desires to reclaim them, and entreated them that they would not heighten their spirits against the General; but that they would meet him with such affections and humility, as might prevent the shedding of blood: to this they answered, that it was their sorrow there should be these differences, and that they desired nothing more to be avoided, then actions of hostility, and referred me to an answer, to what I had spoken, and to my Lord-General’s Letter, from their Trustees whom they had chosen; the copy of the letter sent from my Lord-General was read to them, which is as followeth.
For the Officers and Soldiers of Commissary-General Ireton’s and Colonel Scroop’s Regiment: These,
I Hear much of your late disorderly carriage, which doth not a little trouble me, that you who have so much opposed the common enemy, should now condemn the Lawful Authority set over you, give the Malignants new hopes, it may be new footing, to occasion another war, and deprive your selves of all your honour, and one another of your Arrears, and present provision of pay, putting the Country upon Free-quarter, which the Parliament had provided against, hinder the Parliament from settling the Kingdom upon those just foundations of Liberty you have so long and often desired, and what other mischiefs may follow is very hard to determine; if there were nothing else but dividing the Army, and engaging one part of it against another, this were to be lamented with tears of blood. I have thought fit to send these persons to you, to let you know, that if you shall return to your obedience, these mischiefs are not yet gone so far, but that they may be healed by your submission and acknowledgement: if you pretend to have done this unlawful act for just ends, when did I ever refuse you, in referring any just desire of the Armies to the Parliament? if you refuse this tender to you, I must and I shall through God’s assistance, endeavour to reduce you by force to a just obedience, and when you have tried to gather up all discontented spirits to you, you will find you had better have followed this counsel of mine, then your own, whereby you hazard all that is dear to you, for that which you might obtain without any hazard or trouble at all. These Gentlemen will acquaint you more fully with what may be for your good; I rest,
May 12. 1649.
Then came Captain Modee and Lieutenant Prichard, with a Declaration from my Lord General, directed to me to communicate to them; but the Regiment being marched to join with some troops of Colonel Harrison’s, it could not at present be communicated to the whole, but I read it to their Trustees and Officers, and delivered it to them to communicate; at which time they offered to dismiss us, unless we would grant, that persons should go from them to my Lord General’s forces with him, and that they might have liberty to speak to, and publish Papers among them: this motion was like the former, of desiring assurance my Lord should not fall upon them; things without our power, and exalting their party to stand in competition with my Lord; this much incensed Captain Scoten, and made him impatient to be gone, which I must needs say, I was unwilling so to do, before I had gotten the bottom of their desires and intentions, but Captain Scoten going away, I desired him to present things to my Lord General, with an impartial account, and how I had behaved my self among them, and to let my Lord General know, I should prove my self as faithful to him in that business, as any Officer in the Army, and that at what time he should send for me, I would come to him, and however I would stay but a very little time with them, but did entreat him to beseech my Lord General, to call me away before any hostility was exercised. After these passages, some of the party came to me, and desired me to be faithful to them in my proceedings, and told me, no man could deceive them but my self, for I was a person whom they did put confidence and trust in, and they entreated me to draw up a Paper that might speak their sense, and take in their interest, and produce a union with my Lord General: To this I answered, it would not be fit for me to act their business as themselves, but they pressing it upon me, I considered my Liberty by instructions; and my disengagement in the differences, as well in judgement as condition, being very sensible of failings on both parts, but I undertook what they desired, and betook my self to a little privacy, and drew up this Paper, which begins thus:
May it please your Excellency,
We your Excellency’s soldiers, who have engaged our lives under your Excellency’s Conduct, etc. See the rest of it at large, pag.5, 6, of the printed book entitled, The Levellers (falsely so called) vindicated, etc.
No sooner had I dispatched this in Characters, and overtaken them upon their March towards New-Bridge, but reports came that the Bridge was made good against them by Colonel Reynolds, with 200.Horse, and a party of Dragoons, and that my Lord General was coming to fall upon them in the Rear: this news was strange to me, and begat some heats among them, and put some upon resolution to force the Bridge, and they tied up their cloaks and rode a Career with resolutions to charge them, as far as I could perceive by their words and practice. I then made what haste I could to get before them, and to interpose between them to prevent hostility; but by the way I met with Major Abbot who asked my opinion, whether it were best for them to keep the Bridge, or let them pass? I asked him whether he had command from my Lord so to do, he answered he had; then I said, you are bound so to do, or else you may be hanged if you do not: then coming to Colonel Reynolds at the Bridge foot, I there read the Paper which I had written, the which I thought so reasonable, as by that means to put a stop to any furious resolutions, the parties were persuaded to decline force, and marched a mile up the river, and forded over, at which place I read the Paper again in the head of them, which was generally approved of, they desired me to transcribe it, that their Trustees might consider of it , and mend what they thought fit, I immediately did so, and marched with them, and desired that they would not neglect the use of their intended means of safety for my being with them, and did likewise express a great deal of confidence, that my Lord General would not fall upon them, and not without ground for it, but we marched to Burford, where we came to Quarters about nine of the clock: then this Paper which I drew, was ordered to be drawn up, with answers to my Lord’s Letters jointly, and we with some messengers of their own, to have carried it to my Lord General in the morning, but about midnight, when the Papers were a drawing up by Cornet Den at my Quarters news came in, that my Lord General and the Lieutenant General were at the Town’s end with.2000 horse and dragoons, I then presently went forth in my slippers, and made what haste I could towards my Lord, to beg of his Excellency to prevent bloodshed, but hearing the pistols firing very thick, I ran as fast as I could till I was stayed by a troop of horse, who threatened to pistol me, but after information I passed them, and went forward, till I met with a single Trooper of the Northamptonshire horse, which would be satisfied with no account, but vowed if I stirred further he would pistol me: I was forced to return back, and persuaded him to go with me to his Lieutenant, to be dismissed from being his prisoner, and then betook my self to my Quarters till the fury was over; after which I went to my Lord General, to give him account of my proceedings, I likewise delivered him the Papers which were a writing by Cornet Den: his Lordship asked me how their affections were towards him, & what they said of him, & whether I thought the business might have been composed? to which I answered, that they generally spoke well of his Excellency, & that I thought the business might have been taken up without that breach; to these expressions the Lieutenant General discovered much dissatisfaction, and wondered I was not ashamed to inform my Lord things so ridiculous, as to talk of a composure: I told him I would not spare to speak my judgement and conscience; in the presence of any man alive, after which I was silent.
The next proceeding was the bringing Cornet Den and others to a Council of War, wherein I heard from the prisoners such Christian expressions, such humility and submission, and begging for mercy, that with the remembrance of our Saviour’s words, Mat. 10.1. where he saith, The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, my heart was overwhelmed with sorrow and ready to break, that Scripture being so fulfilled among us before my eyes: after which I departed to my charge before the execution. Thus have I given a true and perfect relation of my demeanour; let all impartial men judge, and I believe they will conclude, another might have erred in such a business as much as my self, but that any should so ignorantly affirm that I betrayed them, I suppose they have little ground to think I should expose my self to the practicing of such deceit. I desire no longer to live, then whilest I keep faithfulness, without shame to look any man alive in the face. I must needs say, the party had a very good opinion of me, and I did bear as much affection to them, and did own those just things which they desired, and do still own that righteousness which they pretended to, but I shall only endeavour to procure them by lawful means, and avoid irregularity, unless the weight of our cause, and being of our party come in competition: yet I do not think myself engaged to own every furious party that pretend to Justice and honesty upon their weak and improbable Foundations.
But seeing our divisions are still fomented in our own bowels, which may probably prove more destructive and dangerous to the whole, then anything the enemy can do from abroad; Therefore that our own party (who make professions of honesty and Religion) may be taken into union, I shall a little discourse our differences, and offer my judgement to public view, and hope that it may not prove fruitless.
It is not out of memory what oppression, injustice and persecution was exercised upon this Nation, and the godly people among us under the government of the late King; and when he could no longer hold the government in peace, he called a Parliament, who were chosen by the people, and had of right the greatest share in the Law-giving power; the King after giving them an Act of continuance during pleasure, did absolutely divest himself of Sovereignty, and all the Laws and former Government were cast under their feet; they then having a sense of what power was in their hands, and what advantage to free this Nation from bondage: they then began to exercise the Sovereignty, and did by their Authority settle the command of the Militia, without the King’s consent, the Nation willingly yielding obedience thereunto; this was an Act of the highest Sovereignty that could pass from them: For where the Lawful command of the power of a Nation is, there it will necessarily follow that inferior things are subordinate: The King seeing the power and command of his Kingdom thus departed from him, and himself subjugated to his people, his spirit riseth with a King-like resolution, to make use of his interest to recover his Dominion by force of Arms, and appeals to God and the people to judge of his cause, putting the issue thereof upon the success of the sword: God having given testimony of the Parliament’s cause as far forth as the sword can determine, it now remaineth, that men may receive satisfaction for the conviction of their judgements, and in this point it is not to be expected, that profane people that are swayed by interest, and make little conscience of their undertakings, should receive conviction: but for such as profess Religion, and have formerly preached the doctrine of prayers, and tears, let them look back to their former principles, which teach subjection to the highest power, which is the command of the most highest visible force, and although that power be unlawful, yet in all lawful things they are to yield obedience, and where the commands are unlawful, then rather obey God then men, and submit to suffering, until God raise up a more righteous power for their deliverance; and if it be asked why we did not so, I answer we did, and suffered much under the unlawful exercise of power by the King, until God in a way of order, raised up a higher visible and more lawful power, the Parliament. And whether it were so or no was the question, and hath been sufficiently disputed and determined, and whether our cause was right, I leave it further to be judged, by God, the success, and men’s consciences.
But to this it may be objected, that if the Parliament were the most lawful visible power, why did not the Army yield obedience and disband at their command, and give way to them to exercise their authority agreeable to their own judgement.
I must confess that this is a strong objection, which if it be well answered, will much justify the Army, and be a great means to unite the former parties that have joined in our common cause, and do not now willingly submit to the ruling power.
Now to this it must be observed, that in the first place we do determine the Parliament to be the most lawful visible power, when we took up Arms to be directed by their commands, and the Army to take a lawful rise to power, as they could give, to act with them for the vindicating of the people’s Sovereignty, which they were invested with. The Parliament declaring by their Votes before the war begun, that the King seduced by evil counsel, did intend to make war upon the Parliament, that it was a Breach of his oath, and the trust reposed in him, and tended to the dissolution of the government of Church and State, and that whosoever should assist him in the war, were Rebels and Traitors: we go on by their direction and fight the King’s Army, till a total dissolution of all force he could procure, in the meantime the King corrupteth a party in the Parliament by flattery, & courteth them by his own creatures into a secret compliance to his designs, they then declare for the continuance of the Government, by King, Lords and Commons, which speaks contradiction to their former Votes, nay they first speak right of the Militia in themselves, and put it in practice, and upon that account we yielded obedience to them, then after the conquest, they propose to the King to give them the exercise of the same for twenty years, which was a clear denial of their former principles and cause, for if the right were in the King to give, then was in no ways lawful for them to use it but by his consent: upon this point lay the weight of our whole proceeding, for once determine where the lawful right of the command of force is, and all other things of common concernment will be subordinate; but in order to the carrying on his designs in our counsels, as was evident in the confederacy of Hollis and Stapleton with him, who swayed the House, they Vote the disbanding of the Army, and endeavour to make a corrupt composure, which would have subjected us to the mercy of his will, and insensibly have destroyed us by policy, we of the Army being sensible of this Apostasy. From the first declared principles so evident, we do contract our force, and capitulate with the Parliament, which thing I must confess to be somewhat irregular, and nothing can answer but necessity, of which God will judge: the power of the Army being now revolted from the Parliament, the Dominion was taken into the Martial Jurisdiction of the sword, the people Petition us to stand for their Liberties, having most confidence of our faithfulness, the Army solemnly engage to live and die together, rather then disband before their own satisfaction and security, and the people freed from their former oppressions: in the height of the proceedings, difficulties surround us on every side, and before any way of settlement can be brought in practice, we are encountered with another war by many potent enemies, but yet still there remaineth a seed among us which own the righteous cause, to whom God giveth a wonderful success, not withstanding our many enemies in our own Counsels, which carried on designs to make us more war, or to destroy us. Now the sword having made it self the highest visible judge, & wrested it self from subjection to the Parliament, save in things only agreeable to its judgement and reason, the secluding of the disaffected Members who carried on the King’s designs in Counsel, was no more but a fruit or exercise of that power, which the sword long before had taken, to make way for the restoring of our primitive principles, upon which the Quarrel was at first grounded: and since so many of our honest Parliament Patrons stand fast to the introducing our public Liberty, the sword doth willingly desire to become subject, and promiseth submission to future changeable Representatives, which this Parliament hath declared the Nation shall be governed by: and seeing what is passed cannot be recalled, it will be most for safety, to act moderately for the highest visible good before us.
But it is strongly suggested, that this ruling power are not faithful to the primitive principles of freedom, upon which this engagement began, and that they do not intend what they pretend, but only give good promises to keep the people quiet, and rather endeavour to fasten and perpetuate their own power, then to seek the public peace and tranquillity of the Nation.
I would to God there were not too much of this spirit among some of our chief Rulers, but yet we have some ground to believe this is not intended by the ruling power, for they having declared the people the original fountain of all just power under God, it will necessarily follow, that the appointment of the people may put a period to their power, and to bring them to account, and to be subject as well as rule, that the Chief Officers and Magistrates may be taken an account of, if they walk contrary to the Laws and Rules given them to effect this. For continuance there is no way visible among men, but by a changeable Law-giving Representative: now it were good if this were procured by an Agreement of the People, if it could be so procured; but for a few men to hold forth things for Agreement, which the Nation doth not receive nor accept, this cannot be called an Agreement of the People, therefore there is a necessity of ruling by power, till the people can agree of foundations for future Government, or this present ruling power distribute Elections equal for a future Representative by equal choice, which cannot probably be expected before their wars be at a period, and they possessed of some grounds for their future security, before they put the power into the hands of new Governors. And if men seriously consider how great a work they have gone through, and how many enemies at home and abroad, the Government lately altered the Nation in heats and distempers, it cannot with prudence be expected they should give up their power before the peace of the Nation be settled, and the laws and people’s interest a little secure: but if any furious spirits shall stir up the people to insurrections to break this power into confusion, which is the thing sought after by the common enemy, let it be at their perils if they perish, let their blood be upon their own heads, and if another sword should conquer this, that must needs uphold it self for some time arbitrary, till it can fasten it self by Laws and Government, and what benefit or ease the people will find, they will have little cause to glory of; but I am very jealous, and not without ground, that many of our forward pretenders to Justice and Righteousness have more zeal than knowledge, and others more policy then honesty, and that the chief thing aimed at, is the thrusting those persons out of power that are in, that new ones may get into the saddle, that thereby they may have some profit and honour: but I shall desire all those that own Justice and righteousness unfainedly, and have a conscientious respect to the Nation’s happiness, peace, and freedom, to consider that their safety and being is made up in the preservation of the present power, and for their liberties and freedom, it will be impossible for them to keep it from the Nation, for having in terms laid the power upon a new Foundation, there can be no lasting safety to themselves, but by giving the power into the hands of a future Representative: for they declaring the people under God the Fountain of all just power, it will necessarily follow, that no Law can be justly given, but by the people’s consent, and there can be no consent of the people concluded, but by a general subscription, or by the voice of the persons whom the people choose, which will in time put them upon the choice of a new Parliament.
But here some may say, if the present powers do not justly give Law according to their own principles, why do you support them to give Laws illegally?
To this I answer, that the people are never without a means of safety, and necessity is the highest Law, and the power which is uppermost, will be judge of that necessity, and upon the alteration of the Dominion Law must be given by strength and force, till a legal just prudential Law-giving Authority may be soberly established.
But now the great burden of the people is taxes, and it were good they could be eased, but it is an easier matter to desire good than to procure, and I wish they may not by passionate violence, seeking ease, find more woe and sorrow.
Another great ground of contention among the soldiers, is our solemn engagement of Newmarket, upon their heads let it rest that are the violators thereof, but being done by force, the Authors of the force must give an account to God and their consciences, but so that we may have peace and righteousness, which were the ends intended, I wish the engagement and Scots Covenant may sleep together.
As for the great complaint of the exercise of Martial Law, it is over none but the Members of the Army, and for those they are not forced to continue under it, and whats done by consent is no wrong, therefore let that cry cease.
But it may be said, the patrons and promoters of public Liberty, are imprisoned and suffer much: I would to God some were not more forward than they need to be in the procuring their suffering, by their busy acting and passionate proceedings, where they have no warrantable call: there are many other grievances to be complained of, as the disposal of public treasure to private persons, where little deserved, and giving great revenues to them which have enough already, and in the meantime the poor starve. I pray God forgive and amend this evil, but let wise men consider, whether these and all other our many grievances are grounds to intrude another war, or whether they may not be remedied more easy, and avoid the bloodshed and misery which no eye of man can discern. This I have written to do my duty towards the keeping of peace, but if God for our many sins, and the pride and hardness of our hearts shall again scourge this Nation, with the judgement of war, which is much to be feared, yet I shall rejoice in my inward peace, and freely engage my life to defend our friends, in our original righteous cause, against the common enemy, and all other licentious, passionate, furious men that assist them, till I die or am in bonds.
But having argued according to my weak judgement and natural reason, which all men of natural principles are capable of, judging of the equity or reason here offered, I shall likewise make bold to offer my judgement of religious and divine things, and of the proceeding of God in the world, of which things Christian people are the best Judges. Now first this must be acknowledged, that the most high invisible God, the Creator and Maker of heaven and earth and all things therein, he is that most glorious power that rules the whole world, he is that living Spirit which is the wheel in the wheel, which moves the living creatures, and hath the ordering of all principalities and powers; he buildeth and planteth, plucketh up, or pulleth down, and giveth power and dominion to whomsoever he will, and did before the beginning of things fore-know and determine what things should be in time.
Now that God which is thus shaking the heavens and the earth which he hath made, and throwing down the Thrones and Dominions of the wicked powers of the world, to make way for the Kingdom and Dominion which shall have no end; for now are those last and great commotions begun which our Saviour Christ fore-told, wherein should be wars and rumours of wars before the time of his coming to reign as King upon his holy hill of Zion, but here is the comfort of Christian people, that when these things begin to come to pass, their redemption draweth nigh, which redemption there spoken of is the deliverance of Zion, of the holy people, from the bondage of persecuting powers of the world, to make Jerusalem the praise of the whole earth, that the Lamb may lie down with the Lion, and no beast of prey in the holy mountain of the Lord; in the accomplishing this work the Lord will bring down the pride of all flesh, and all humane glory, that himself alone may be exalted, so that no man will have any thing left to glory of, but he that will glory let him glory in the Lord, glory in humility, in love patience and meekness, peace with God and conscience, for outward peace will not yet be certain to any place of the earth, for God is now a turning the powers of the world, and removing the old earth, to make way for the foundations of the new heaven and new earth, wherein shall dwell righteousness.
And in the progress of this work it must be expected, that the mighty men will be raised from their seats, and that there will be a gathering together of the Nations to prepare for war, that the seat and throne of the Beast may be removed, and Mistress Babylon the great, the mother of fornications, and the abominations of the earth, may come down and sit in the dust, that the daughter of Zion may be exalted, that she that led into captivity, may be led into captivity, and she that killed with the sword, may be killed by the sword.
But although God do throw down the wicked powers by the sword, which were set up by the sword, and dasheth them to pieces one against another, and turns out the strong man armed by a stronger, yet the fabrics that he will raise, shall not be established by might, or by power, but by his Spirit, the man whose name is called the branch shall build him an house, it will appear that fury is not in God, but he will come in the still soft voice, the use of humane force is only ordained of God to be a terror to the evil, violent spirits of wicked men; for when the power and divine presence of God appears in his holy people, the face of wicked men will be against them, and when Christ hath taken the power, and rules, the Nations will be angry, and the Heathen will rage and imagine vain things, but he that sitteth in the heavens, will laugh them to scorn, and go forward in the exercise of his righteous judgements upon the earth, so that it is clear the work of God is unquestionable, and the power of men and devils shall not make it void, it remains only that we as his people be found doing his work, for the life of all Religion is practical obedience: The matter doth not consist so much in this or that form of Worship or Discipline, so that the aim and intent be to exalt God and Christ, pure holiness and righteousness, and to fight against the wicked principalities and powers of darkness, and evil works, to the increase of love, meekness, patience, and all other graces of the Spirit; and in order to the accomplishment of this, a form is necessary both in divine and civil things; for God is the God of order, and rules the world by order, for if every man’s spirit should be his rule, few would be ruled: These things I have thought fit to publish in discharge of duty, as well as to effect good, I desire my weakness and boldness to be excused by those that are friends to truth and peace, in which I am a servant to all.
September 17. 1649.
A True Relation is transcribed above with the original wording and punctuation retained while spelling has been modernised, to combine authenticity with greater accessibility. However, I have introduced the apostrophe in the possessive case so as to avoid confusion with the plural. RS.
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