“Anonymous”–perhaps Leveller William Walwyn–presents a sort of class theory, wherein “white devil” rulers exploit average “black devil” sinners.

Editor’s Note

Anthony Comegna, PhD

Assistant Editor for Intellectual History

Our author begins the present number with a sobering declaration of social and political conflict: “This world is a warfare for some, and a plague for others.” The evils we might face are all creations of a benevolent, loving God, though, and those individuals who lay out their hearts to the Lord will find deliverance. What’s more, “God permitteth the devil to open a man’s conscience” by allowing us to experience the full range of human choice. We can choose to do good and draw ourselves closer to God, or we can choose to do evil and see what it’s like to live in Hells of our own creation. The tortures we call history and institutions, too, are creations of God and serve to push us toward building a more just, equitable, humane society by free choice. Even humanity’s wickedness can prompt us to return once more to the path toward godliness. It’s all a matter of individual conviction, individual embrace of God, and the individual’s freely chosen rejection of sin, “black” and “white.”

Everyone is a “black” sinner–we all engage in some sort of self‐​indulgence or petty wrongdoing in our time–but the “white” sinners hiding behind pretensions to moral supremacy forced misery on the great bulk of humanity. Their sins are greater because their charge is so important and their impact on people so large. While calling themselves “defender of the faith,” monarchs slew people with abandon and squeezed them of their substance like spiders eating flies. The “white devil” hypocrites and tyrants “have faith enough, but they have not much love,” and “do employ most of all their wealth and power, not to build up, but to pull down the Commonwealth.” The wealthy, powerful, and influential tend not to use their largesse to benefit broader humanity in genuine acts of benevolence and godly love; rather, they unleash war and terror to compel further obedience. They usurp the place of God in the individual’s conscience, subsuming the people’s free will to the aggrandizement of Tyranipocrit’s own desires. Nonetheless, our author cautions that “we may believe that pride, hypocrisy, tyranny &c. are wilful sins, which God cannot pardon till we forsake them,” but such thoughts are rules invented by men. “And we may well believe that God cannot save a white devil [a hypocrite], except he become black [a standard, but repentant sinner], because that is contrary to his nature,” but who is Man to place limits on God? Even the white devils and Tyranipocrit would shake in submission to the goodness of God in the end. Their evil was merely part of His own plan for humanity, and “God is no respecter of persons.”

Tyranipocrites envied God’s power because they feared his judgment–and in the context of Civil War England, our author reminds the great and the lordly that “one day all uncharitable writings shall be burnt, and it is to be feared that such artificial thieves, shall then burn with all their uncharitable writings.” Should the “white devils” continue on their course, it was only a matter of time before the poor and the desperate “black devils” explored the sins open to them and their free will a little more. A decade of bloody civil war between aristocratic Cavaliers and aristocratic Roundheads had produced great misery for the English people, but on 30 January 1649 Parliament took King Charles’ head. After much suffering and horror, at least one Tyranipocrit was discovered and thoroughly dealt with. Our author hoped the rest might learn from his example.

This world is a warfare for some, and a plague for others: God is most wonderful with them that love him, for some of them he causeth to fall accidentally, and that so heinously, that they through desperation, are ready to fly in the face of God, for in that sad condition, God permitteth the devil to open a man’s conscience, and he, to affright such a poor despairing worm, bringeth along with him the quint‐​essence of Hell, I mean despair: God deliver us from such phisicians, for when a man hath not the feeling of the favour of God in his apprehension, then desperation ceaseth on the conscience, and when the devil, despair, and a man’s own conscience, are all against one poor worm, let any one judge, if he can, the miserable state, and poor condition of that man, when all those three at one time shall make war within him, presenting to his consideration Heaven lost, Hell won, the endless length of eternity, and above all, the separation from God, and that for ever, as our doctors do affirm, and stoutly maintain. Now if any one can tell of a greater Hell, let him speak, for I know none: now being it is so, let no man presume of his own strength, nor any special predestination, for they are both alike, deceitful: And therefore consider this all you proud tyrants, which have your dinners served in with trumpets, and will have men kneel to you, and will be drawn in costly coaches, with six or eight horses, as though you triumphed over the poor people, which you have robbed of their necessary maintenance, to maintain yourselves in pride and gluttony, &c. but consider from these sayings of Christ, how a man may be deceived in his faith.

Christ told the Jews, That many should come from the East and West, and should sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the children of the Bride‐​chamber should be cast out. Now in whose esteem were those out‐​cast children? not in God’s esteem, for then they had not been cast out; but they were children in their own esteem, and therefore they were cast out. And he said, Many will say unto me on that day, Lord, have not we prophesied, and cast out devils in thy Name? behold much faith to little purpose: yea, a faith to remove mountains cannot profit a man, but to augment his misery. But consider who are the greatest believers: are they not our Princes and Prelates, that do make war and kill the poor innocent people? The Emperor, if all were stated as the devil would have it, he should be the head of the tyrannical Christian world, and the Pope of Rome, he should be the head of the hypocritical Christian world, but now the Catholic, and the most Christian Kings, and the Defender of the Faith, and many more which are like them, will share with those two hypocritical tyrants. Behold, those have faith enough, but they have not much love, except the fruits of love be tyranny, pride, hypocrisy, partiality, voluptuousness, &c. for in maintaining and practising of such like impieties, they and their richest subjects, do employ most of all their wealth and power, not to build up, but to pull down the Commonwealth: and for our merchants, they travel by Sea and Land, to make Christian proselytes, chiefly our Indian merchants; but consider their practises, and the profit that we have by their double dealing, first in robbing of the poor Indians of that which God and nature hath given them, and then in bringing of it home to us, that we thereby may the better set forth and show the pride of our hearts, in decking of our proud carcases, and feeding of our greedy guts with superfluous, unnecessary curiosities, and although their dealing concerning the Indians goods, be bad, yet they deal worser with their persons; for they either kill them, which is bad, or make them their slaves, which is worse: I know not what to say concerning such impious proceedings, with them poor innocent people; but concerning such merchants and their merchandise, I would that those which are permitted to speak, and to preach some part of the truth, would say what they know concerning this matter, which is, That when Rome and Greece were well ordered, although they were Heathens, yet they would not have permitted so many needless curiosities, to be brought into their countries, to have spoiled their people and Commonwealth withal. Now such things as the poor Indians do not know how to employ for the devil’s profit, our merchants bring them home to us, and we proud gluttons employ them for his greatest glory, for we clothe ourselves with their silk and gold, to show that we are glad that the devil will use us to maintain his proud kingdom withal, and some will have their meat painted, so well as their clothes laced, with gold and silver, that so they may please the devil within and without, and it may be that such persons have a golden faith, because they eat gold, and wear gold: And it seemeth that all rich uncharitable persons, which have, and hold an extraordinary portion of worldly goods, more than their poor neighbours have, that they expostulate with the poor according to that which followeth. Come on, you poor villains, what will you do, for you see that we rich hypocritical tyrants, have gotten by fraud and force, the most part of the goods of this world into our impious power, and we have made a law, as we call it, that if any poor persons do steal any of our goods, which we have taken from them, that they shall hang by their necks till they be dead: but now you poor miserable wretches, if you will serve the devil and us, then we will employ you in his, and our service, but we will not use you in any virtuous actions, for they are contrary to our natures, but as the devil doth use us, so we will use, and abuse you: some of you shall serve by sea, and some by land, but most of you shall serve to maintain pride and tyranny: some of you shall rob the poor Indians for us, and some shall bring us new fashions out of France, and some shall flatter us, and kneel unto us, and blow trumpets when we eat and drink, and some shall vex and trouble honest men, because they will not be our slaves, and serve the devil freely as we do, and some of you shall kill our neighbour Tyrant’s slaves, for if we suppose that he hath done us any injury, then we will send some of our slaves to kill some of their slaves, and then one innocent shall kill another, for that is sport alike for the devil and us, and some of the vilest of you, shall do that for us, that God hath commanded us to do ourselves, which is, to till our land; but although God had no more wit than to command us to do such base and vile labour, yet we are wiser than to do that which he commanded us: no, our poor slaves shall do that for us, and we will proudly command them to do it, and we will pay them poorly for doing of it, and when they have done it, we will esteem of them, almost so much as we do of our hounds and horses, and yet we will be faithful Christians, and we will rule all Christendom, not according to the rule of Christ, but according to our partial, tyrannical, hypocritical, impious rule, which we have invented, and which we do intend to maintain so long as we can.

But Tyrants may say, that it is Crimen laese (“Lèse‐​majesté”) to speak of such matters, and therefore I will be silent. And now concerning faith and love, I say and affirm, considering the presumptuous sinners of this age, and the evil constructions that uncharitable persons make concerning justification by faith alone, that it is better to preach and teach that doctrine, which is best to keep presumptuous sinners from sinning through security, than it is to preach and teach an uncertain doctrine, of an absolute predestination in God of man, without man, which is contrary to God’s nature, for God cannot be partial, neither can God do the works of a tyrant, as that doctrine would have him to do, and above all, it may cause men to neglect the walking with God in their hearts and consciences, which is the sum of all pious Religion; but those doctors may, and I think they will say, that they do not mean, that men should be saved, or think to be saved by faith without charity.

To which I answer: If a man’s intention be good, God will, and doth accept his good will; but if a man have taught a truth, if it be not the most necessary truth for his auditors, when he shall come to know it, he must then change his theme, and preach and teach that part of the truth, which is most needful for his auditors. Now the cause being so, let all doctors seriously consider without partiality, or respect of persons, what doctrine in those days is most needful to be taught, wherein so many presumptuous sins are not alone committed, but maintained; but if men should let predestination alone, and seriously preach to such persons that doctrine of repentance, and of working out of their salvation in fear and trembling, that might chance to take off the proud spirits of some of our gallant persons, which have their dinners served in with trumpets, &c. Now if such doctrine were well preached, and that they were well put in mind, that God will cast down the proud, and that he will give grace to the humble, it may be they would come to a serious consideration of the way of God with man, and so turn unto him, that he might heal them. There is now, and a long time hath been, a great cavilling in the Christian world, concerning faith and good works, and by which of them two a man may be saved; for we mercenary Christians, God help us, desire salvation more than sanctification, for we cry out with Paul’s jailor, and Peter’s auditors, What shall we do to be saved? but we should rather say, Lord, what is thy blessed will, that we may delight in it. But for faith and good works, neither of them are ours, nor are they absolutely necessary to salvation, for Christ said one is necessary, and that is not faith nor good works, but that unum necessarium,(“the one necessary thing”) is to participate of God’s nature. It may be that faith, or good works, or predestination, or some other thing may bring a man to Heaven, but if the love of God in Christ, be not shed abroad in his heart, he will be cast out as the devil was.

I grant that we ought to labour to have a faith, to believe that God is not partial, and that God in himself hath predestined all men alike, concerning their everlasting salvation, and we may believe that God will save no man with his sins, nor damn him without them, and we may believe that pride, hypocrisy, tyranny &c. are wilful sins, which God cannot pardon till we forsake them, and we may well believe that God cannot save a white devil, except he become black, because that is contrary to his nature, and we should have so much faith as Elias and Nathan had, to tell our Princes, as they did theirs, that our Princes trouble the Christians, more than the Princes of the Jews, did their people: and that they kill many Uriahs, and cause their wives to be whores, because they want means to live on, and we may believe that such practises are contrary to God and nature, to reason, and the rule of Christ; and yet all this is done, because the devil and uncharitable, superfluous rich men will have it so. And we should have so much faith, to know that all men are liars, and therefore concerning our walking with God in our hearts and consciences, we should wholly and alone depend and wait on God, for the direction of his Holy Spirit within us, for if any man can speak or preach well, that he that taught him, the same must teach all men, for Christ sent his auditors to God in their consciences, there to be taught of the only teacher, which is the Holy Ghost: and we should have a faith to tell all superfluous, rich persons, that they do serve the devil of free‐​will, and they cause the poor to serve him by compulsion. Such a faith would please God, because it would profit men, and therefore let no man presume to speak of faith, if he have not so much faith, as to strive to do and say such things, for those are the practical part of faith, which is the sum of all; but to labour to have a theorical, mystical, forbidden faith, to know what God is in himself, or what he doth in himself without us, or his other creatures, such a faith is not alone unprofitable, but sinful: but a faith to keep God’s commandments according to the rule of Christ, such a faith we ought to have, and practise.

Now to attain to that Unum necessarium, that one which is only needful to salvation. A man must go unto God with a willing mind, and in his desire he must give himself wholly unto God, with a resolution to walk with God, and in all things to be ruled by him, then all is done, for then God hath his desire in that man, for to that end God made the world, and all that is therein: now when man giveth himself so unto God, then it is that unum necessarium attained, and consider that God doth not at all times work that good in man, which man desireth, for then we should have no strivings, but God accepteth any man that desireth to be good, for the willing is ours, but the working is God’s, and therefore it is the delighting in good or evil, that maketh a man good or evil in God’s esteem. And now to conclude the second part of this intelligence, God grant all mankind such a faith, as may be pleasing unto himself, and give us that love, which is himself. O God for Jesus Christ his sake: God the glory, and mankind the profit, Amen.

Mundus vult decipi, the world will be deceived, as the Monk said when he went into his Cloister, and therefore, said he, I came here. Zelum Dei, & nomen Christi Antichristus habet: (“The Antichrist has zeal for God, and the name of Christ”) To be zealous for God, and to have the name of Christ, that hath been, is, and will be, the manner of the tyrannical, hypocritical Christian world. O simulated sanctity, which art double iniquity, how impious art thou! thou art the mother and nurse of all impiety, thou art the root of hypocrisy, which is the destroyer of all virtues. O seeming sanctified holiness, thou art too bad to be named: I have observed some of thy wicked practises, concerning mankind on thy working‐​days, and now through God’s grace, I will enter into thy Sanctum Sanctorum,(“Holy of holies”) to see how thou dealest with God on thy Sunday, I do not say rest‐​day, for on that day thou doest the devil double service, but first I would show how most of our doctors, both writers and preachers, do abuse themselves and others, through partiality, concerning tyrants and tyrannies, for they all do seem to hate tyranny, and yet they flatter the Tyrants in their tyrannies, wherein they deal preposterously, because they prefer the bodies of tyrants before their souls, and the private, before the public profit, for men should love the Tyrants, and hate their tyrannies, and therefore our doctors should sharply reprove the Tyrants, and not flatter them in their tyrannies, as they do, and they should venture their lives, to draw tyrants from their tyrannies, counselling and persuading them, will they, nill they, to leave their tyrannies, and to become honest men, not fearing nor caring for their frowns nor favours; for through the converting of tyrants, the whole Commonwealth should be bettered: and I would desire all men seriously to consider, if a man may be silent at such sins of other men, as are committed to the dishonour of God, and the prejudice of the Commonwealth. I know what I should say concerning this matter, and all reasonable men know, that to be silent, is a consenting to a thing. O then consider how men do fail concerning this matter: I know that the world doth choose some men, and permit them to reprove some sins in some men, but if a man should pry into the well‐​ordered impieties of Tyranipocrit, then he shall be punished for want of a calling, and if they have called him, they will tell him that it was not to reprove them, but to pray for them, and to reprove other men, and the reprovers do know their minds, although they were silent, and so they do silence truth, and conceal iniquity in great persons, the one will not hear the truth, and therefore the other will not speak it: And if another do, speak of their partiality in that kind, they will punish him for interrupting of them in their simulated sanctity. Thus it hath been, is, and will be, the proceeding of the impious world. Usque ad finem,(“until the very end”) and therefore if a man have no sins of his own to cast out, then let him weep for, and fight against the sins of other men, but the world is, and will be deceived in the estimation of things, for those which practise tyranny in those days, they will be called gracious Lords, and hypocrites will be called Holy Fathers. I am so beset with hypocritical partiality, that I know not which way to turn me, for I would have all visards taken away, so that all such as do practise tyranny and hypocrisy, should be called Tyrants and Hypocrites, as reason would that they should, but partiality saith no, not so, for he saith, that Kings, Princes, Prelates, and other impious persons, may do the works of Tyrants and Hypocrites, and yet they must not be called hypocritical tyrants. Now if those be not hypocritical tyrants, that have gotten so much pelf, that they are grown so proud, that they will have their dinners served in with trumpets, and ride in Coaches drawn by six or eight horses, as though they triumphed over the poor which they have robbed, and will have men to kneel unto them, and force men to go to war, and kill one another: if those that oppress the poor as tyrants, live idle like tyrants, build and fare like tyrants, and spend their goods and time, like tyrants, doing all the works of tyrants and hypocrites, and yet be gracious Lords and Holy Fathers, certainly then there is neither truth nor falsehood, but all is fantasies, imaginations, dreams, and illusions, &c. for if such will not, and therefore must not be called Tyrants and Hypocrites, then there are no such things on earth, and therefore we should not use the names of Tyrants and Hypocrites any more; but one day we shall know how partiality and hypocrisy have deceived us in this matter.

O cursed partiality, how many friends hast thou, that with thee, do make war against poor unregarded, simple truth? and therefore all you Preachers and Teachers, labour to do one impartial thing for Truth’s sake, make that which is sin in one man, to be sin in every man, if it be done with alike will and knowledge: make pride, tyranny, and such like evils to be sin, or no sin, if it be no sin, then teach poor men to be rich and proud, but if it be sin, then tell Kings, Princes, and Prelates, and such like persons, that pride, tyranny, hypocrisy, &c. are sins in them, and that in them such sins are more displeasing to God, than they are in meaner persons. O plough no more with an ox and an ass, do not wear garments of linsey‐​woolsey, be wholly for God, or nothing at all for God. Set the sins of great ones before their eyes, because you know that they are great sins, so well as you do set the sins of the poor people, for God is no respecter of persons: and you know that Potentes potenter punienter, Mighty men shall be mightily punished, for the sins of Rulers, are double and intolerable sins: For wilt thou steal, that commandest another that he shall not steal? Wilt thou be idle, which commandest another to labour? Wilt thou be proud, that teachest another to be humble? &c. But those rich artificial thieves, which do not stand by the way side, and take men’s purses, nor creep into windows, but have gotten a more impious artificial way of stealing, than the poor artless thieves have, such think themselves secure, and because the law and the hang‐​man are their slaves, that dare not hang them, therefore they make themselves thieves by act of Parliament, and yet they will be called gracious Lords, and such are no thieves, for all that they rob and steal, is their own, by so good right as the Lion had to the whole Hart, and if need be, they can produce sheep‐​skins, wherein it is written, that such a country, city, town, or village, lands, houses, goods, &c. are all theirs: but let such artificial thieves consider, that one day all uncharitable writings shall be burnt, and it is to be feared that such artificial thieves, shall then burn with all their uncharitable writings, except their hearts here in this life do so burn with love to their poor neighbours, that they do restore again that which by fraud or force, they have taken from them, and that is all the worldly goods that the rich Tyrants have, more than their poor slaves, neighbours, and brethren have.