On the extremest margins of radical thought, our author argues that even antinomians subject themselves to the worldly rule of “faith alone.”

Editor’s Note

Anthony Comegna, PhD

Assistant Editor for Intellectual History

For our next selection, we “consider to what end all laws, lawyers, offices and officers, were made and ordained…to repair the decayed estate of mankind, which was caused by Adam’s fall.” Earthly governments were the result of humans’ own sinfulness, but because all things–even sin–are ultimately creations of God, even governments had their purpose. For one thing, their errors and follies served to demonstrate to the spiritually pure that they must strive for personal virtue if they would avoid the tyrant. Without real and genuine love of Christ in their hearts, individuals would allow their own “black devils” to run wild. Suffering under the wickedness of lost souls, the people then call out to secretive “white devils”–the world’s Tyranipocrits. The “white devils” offered their followers a lofty moral code, a romantic purpose for their lives, someone and something to serve in this life greater than the lone individual. “White devils” purported to be beyond moral reproach, even worthy of spiritual leadership, but betrayed every decent ethic with tyrannical action. “O hypocrite,” our anonymous author taunts the evil ones, “hang thy poor neighbour freely, if he do steal thy idols from thee, yet say, and confess the truth, which is that thou lovest, thy stolen goods more, than thou lovest God in Christ, or Christ in thy poor brother, which is all one?” Then as today, the powerful and lordly are bursting with arguments about why we should not take away their property (or level their privileges), but sorely lacking in any robust sense of moral obligation to the less well off. Rather than take it upon themselves to lessen the poor’s sufferings or champion the marginalized and exploited person, the Hypocrite uses moral reasoning to justify that pain. The Hypocrite then calls in the Tyrant to pacify the supposedly wicked dispossessed, to chastise the apparently sinful. Together, these spirits of control served to separate individuals from understanding God and experiencing his benevolent creation.

Even the antinomians and their radical interpretation of “salvation by faith alone” was insufficient for our author. Antinomians and the devil both “hate love, because love is contrary to their nature, and therefore they would overthrow love, by preferring of faith before her.” While this idea may have come as a shock to someone like Anne Hutchinson, the upshot is a challenging one: all those who professed a particular path to salvation–even the humble antinomian creed of faith alone–were in fact preaching a “Gospel of Works.” In the antinomians’ case, their “good works” were the supposed possession of faith; their hypocrisy rested in the thought that they had things right while others were irrevocably lost. Such a philosophy ignored the myriad paths God might open to save his billions of sinners and in some sense denied God’s perfect powers over creation. Even the devil was of God, sent to confound our notions of right and wrong, positively challenging us to strive for godliness and virtue. Much as he might hate it, Tyranipocrit was also one of God’s lowly subjects, a mere pretentious worm. He might as well humble himself and learn to live with the world rather than above and beyond it.

Now let us consider to what end all laws, lawyers, offices and officers, were made and ordained, and given unto men, and we shall find that they were given to repair the decayed estate of mankind, which was caused by Adam’s fall: for although that the mercy and love of God in Christ, took away the everlasting curse, if there were any caused by Adam’s fall, yet the temporal misery that was caused by Adam’s fall, is not taken away, till man by death be taken out of this life. Now when any laws, lawyers, offices, or officers become prejudicial to the Commonwealth, then they must be taken away, because then they are perverted from their right end, for which they were ordained; but of this more shall be said hereafter. Now let us consider how the rich artificial thieves do rob the poor, and that under a feigned show of justice, and a seeming holiness, and when they have done it, most impiously they say and affirm, that God’s providence hath made them rich, and those which they have robbed, poor: for they say that God’s providence maketh rich and poor, for so the sophistical hypocritical devil hath taught them. Now to free God’s providence from our wickedness, let us consider how God maketh rich and poor, for indeed God doth all things; but God doth not will all things alike in man: God through his permissive will and power, crucified Christ, but that was no excuse for them, which through hatred to his doctrine, crucified him. God’s permissive will, is no rule for us; for the devil and all impious persons must do that, and so, and in that manner God doth all things, but we are to do God’s revealed will, and we must understand of God’s making rich and poor, as when Christ said, Offences should come, but woe be unto them by whom they came: now doubt but there hath been, be, and shall be rich and poor, but therefore we must not through our covetousness and partiality, make and maintain them, and delight to have one too rich, and another too poor: God hath forbidden in us those things whereby we make men too rich and too poor, ergo the fault is ours: and to make it appear, consider this one practise, and by that one we may judge of all other of that nature. Suppose a King should entertain soldiers, as the manner is to defend himself, or offend others, and he should, as they use to do, give unto one of those soldiers ten shillings a day, and unto another five pence a day, shall we say that God’s providence hath made one of those soldiers too rich, and the other too poor? I trow no: it was his partiality that gave unto one of them too much, and the other too little. And what is said concerning those soldiers, may be said concerning all other practises where partiality ruleth, and giveth unto one man too much, and unto another too little. As for some to have so many hundred pounds a year for doing of nothing, or for executing of some needless office, or to oversee and command others, &c. and a poor labouring man must work for three or four pence a day, and we uncharitable partial wretches, can behold all this and be silent, and we pass it over as a matter not worthy of our considerations; but consider if a man may have, and hold more than a necessary or a competent portion of worldly goods, and in so doing not offend God, nor hinder himself in his way to Heaven, which is his Christian profession.

This is worthy of our consideration, because it is generally maintained by many worldly wise men, that riches, if men do not set their hearts on them, cannot hinder godliness; but let us examine this matter, by the example of Christ, because we are Christians, and let us consider what worship we owe unto God, and then we shall find that those rich godly men are much deceived, for God should have the whole heart, and therefore he that will give some part of his heart to God, and some to riches, he would make Christ a liar, which said, We cannot serve God and Mammon, but above all consider that the life and manners of Christ, are the right rule for all men to order their lives by, and if superfluous riches had been pleasing unto God, then Christ would have laboured to have been rich, and he would have taught us by his example, that to be rich in worldly goods, was the most acceptable thing, that God would have men to labour for: now the example of Christ, is the perfect rule, for he was sent from God to men, to be a director of them by his example, to walk uprightly with God in their hearts and consciences; but he was poor in worldly wealth, because that is best pleasing unto God, but in those days the devil hath many advocates, which do cry out contrary to Christ. Abraham, David, Solomon and many of the Patriarchs were rich: True, but they were not rich Christians, and I hope that we will not turn Jews: but sophistical divines, and hypocritical tyrants, and rich uncharitable persons, through the instigation of the devil, in those days have found out a doctrine which Christ never taught, nor never will teach, and that it is to be rich and pious, which is impossible, no doubt if Christ had preached such a world‐​pleasing doctrine, and pressed it to the purpose, the Jews would not have used him so cruelly as they did; but he taught the contrary, and therefore they hated him, and said, that he was not Caesar’s friend, because they were his enemies.

For this hypocritical doctrine to be rich and godly, is meat and drink alone for the world, and therefore he that hath not this doctrine, let him not presume to mount the Pulpit, nor to preach to Kings, Princes, and other superfluous rich, and uncharitable persons, for without this doctrine, he shall be esteemed in those days, by such men, as an old Almanac, and he shall have so good entertainment of them, as Christ had by the Gargasites: for if they do not use him worser, yet they will entreat him to depart out of their countries, because he is not for their profit. But suppose that riches do not wholly separate a man from God, yet superfluous riches maketh his way to Heaven the more difficult and harder: for Christ said, It was hard for a rich man to enter into Heaven, but he never said, it was hard for a poor man to enter into Heaven, and therefore extraordinary riches are stumbling‐​blocks, which should be removed out of the way. But consider, if rich men do not set their hearts on their riches, for therein consisteth the art of hypocrisy: for to carry fire in a man’s bosom, and not to burn himself, to touch pitch and not to be defiled therewith, and to have superfluous riches, and not to set a man’s heart on them, is all on difficulty, if it be not an impossibility: but do not rich men set their hearts on their goods, when they have made a combination, that if any poor artless thieves do steal the goods from them, which they have stolen from the poor before, that the poor thieves shall hang by their necks till they be dead: What, will they hang men for that which they do not care for, for a trifle which they do not regard? I hope they will not say so for shame, that Christians will hang their Christian brethren for nothing. O preposterous dissembling white devil, thou art like unto none, but the devil thy father, or wilful sin his mother. O hypocrite, hang thy poor neighbour freely, if he do steal thy idols from thee, yet say, and confess the truth, which is that thou lovest, thy stolen goods more, than thou lovest God in Christ, or Christ in thy poor brother, which is all one? and in so doing, although thou do continue an uncharitable wretch, yet thou shalt quit thyself from hypocrisy, which is no small sin. But to conclude this point, too much pelf is a dispersing of the mind, and a dividing of the affections, and so it is a separating of the heart from God; for God should have the whole desire of the heart, for a divided heart is not upright with God.

I would fain be quit of this tyrannical, hypocritical, impious white devil, but he is so full of deceit, and he hath so many evasions, and so much sophistry to maintain his impious practises, that I do not know how to deal with him, for neither the law of nature, nor grace, nor God’s commandments, nor the rule of Christ, nor God within nor without him, nor Heaven, nor hell, nor love to good, nor hate to evil, nor anything else that can move impious persons to yield to reason: for God through nature hath formed all men alike, and generally he hath given alike bodies and limbs unto every one, and yet partiality, contrary to God and nature, doth cross God’s intent concerning the maintenance of the creature, which nature, according to the will of God, hath impartially produced in the world, and yet in despite of God, nature and reason, which are contrary to partiality, the impious world will make some men too rich, and others too poor, and yet the worldlings cannot show any reason why they do so abuse both God and nature, and yet they will continue in their unnatural, unreasonable, impious partiality, against the knowledge of their own consciences; for there is no man, if he would enter into a serious consideration with God in his heart and conscience, but he must needs know, that to give unto every man with discretion so near as may be, an equal share of earthly goods, is consonant to the law of God and nature, and agreeable to the rule of Christ. And for the truth of this, I appeal to the consciences of all charitable and reasonable men, and let God, the impartial Judge of all the world, judge this cause, and decide this matter, and to enforce the truth for what I say, concerning this matter, consider how God commanded the children of Israel to divide their land, and how he was offended with them which did dispossess their neighbours, and in the primitive Church, the Christians had their goods in common, and we should take notice of Lycurgus with the Lacedemonians, and of the Gramanthians, and the Masegates, and other people which have had an equality, or a common and equal share of worldly goods, so near as they could, and so they have lived and laboured together in peace and concord, as brethren should do. Now I believe that in those days, most men will grant that a reformation is needful, but the question is, who, or what shall be reformed: Tyrants and Hypocrites, and all impious persons, would have a reformation: in the Church the hypocrite would have a conformity in ceremonies, and in the Senate‐​house, the tyrants will have the rich artificial thieves, to reform or deform the poor artless thieves. O such a reformation would please both tyrants and hypocrites, and all impious persons, such a reformation would content tyrannical Princes, and hypocritical Prelates. A reformation that will subject reason to tyranny, that all the world will embrace, but a reformation that would subject tyranny to reason, that is so odious to the world, as a repenting sinner is to the devil. A reformation that will establish tyranny and slavery, and make the rich richer, and the poor poorer, that is the reformation that the devil would have, but a reformation sine partiality, that would give unto every man alike means to live on, and that would cause all able persons to labour according to God’s commandment, and agreeable to reason, and that would maintain and cherish all old, weak, and impotent persons, so well the poor as the rich, &c.

Such a reformation the seeming sanctified world hateth, and he that should propound such a reformation in our impious Christian world, he should be esteemed of, as the Jews esteemed of Christ, and they said, that he had a devil: and the world is now so impious, as it was then: as for example, now at this present time are assembled at Munster, the Agents of most of our supreme Christian Rulers, and what to do? or to what end? not to destroy tyranny, but to order it for the profit of some persons in this world, and for the damnation of all mankind in the world to come, for they will maintain the causes of evil, and yet they will seem to take away the evil effects, for they do not intend to root out tyranny, but to divide it, and to part the slaves, that every tyrant may abuse his slaves at his own pleasure, therein they are very circumspect, not for the universal freedom and profit of all mankind, but for the private profit of some: and how hypocritical tyrants shall share the world between them: They do not seek to make the rich poorer, that so the poor might be made richer. They do not care to cause an equality of goods and lands, that so young, strong and able persons might labour, and old, weak, and impotent persons might rest: they take no care to educate all men’s children alike, and to give them alike means to live on, that in so doing they might break the gall of murmuration, that so all mankind might live in concord, and labour for their livings one so well as another, according as God, nature, and reason would have them: they do not labour to subject tyranny to reason, but they would subject reason to tyranny, and so do our Senators at London, and all the world over; but I shall have occasion to say more of this matter hereafter, and here will I end the first part of my triple intelligence. God the glory, and mankind the profit, Amen.

It is said, ubi fide, ibid amor, (“where there is faithfulness, there is love”) let that be as it is; this is certain, where God is, there is love, & Amor vincit omnia, (“Love conquers all”) and he hath all that hath God, for he is in all, and over all, and will turn all to the best for them that do love him, and keep his loving commandment. I intend to write a little concerning faith and love, because I have observed the evil constructions, that presumptuous sinners do seem to make of that doctrine, which in the point of justification, doth prefer faith before love: I would not dispraise faith, but I would praise love, and prefer love above, and before all, because God is love, for when we have done all that we can to find God in his attributes, which are infinite, yet we must reduce God to one, for he is one simple uncompounded substance, and then what shall we call him, Mercy, Justice, Power, &c. All those are in God, but God is one: the Apostle said, that God is love, and when Christ would express the wonderful incomprehensible nature of God, he said, Behold, so God loved the world, that through love, he gave his only begotten Son to save the world, if the world would be saved by him. As I take it in all the Bible, there is but one place that seemeth to approve of that doctrine, which teacheth justification by faith alone, and it seemeth at that time the Apostle did not so much desire to advance faith, as he did to condemn them which would save their selves by their good works, for neither faith nor good works, can save any man: no man can be saved, if the love of God be not spread abroad in his heart, and that alone is sufficient to salvation, and if faith alone can accomplish salvation, the devil can say that Christ is the Son of God, a greater faith than some men have; but whether faith alone can justify, I will not curiously dispute, for God never commanded man to search for any such needless knowledge.

But consider the effects and operations of faith and love: for the mere knowledge of virtues cannot please God, nor profit men. It is the practical more than the theorical part of virtues, that we are to labour to attain, and therefore let us consider the operations of faith and love, and compare them together, and then we shall see how much love doth exceed faith; for love respecteth both God and man, but faith doth not so respect his brother, and therefore faith is not so perfect as love is. Faith will love and honour God, if hope tell him that God will save him, and bring him to Heaven, but Love will love God although despair tell him, that God will cast him into Hell. True love knoweth neither Heaven nor Hell; but faith is all for Heaven. Faith is a mercenary, but love is a voluntary soldier, that knoweth no why nor wherefore, but saith with Christ, Behold, here I am, ready to do thy will, O God. But consider the operations of faith and love concerning our neighbours, for man may profit man, but no man can profit God, and therefore if we will do good, we must do it to mankind, and not to God without man. Now for faith, that cannot help our neighbours, for what can it help me that another man hath faith? Faith no doubt is a comfortable thing for him that hath it, but another’s faith cannot help me; but if I be poor, and want food and raiment, if my rich neighbour do love me, although he do not believe as I do, yet love will cause him to help me; but if he have faith to remove mountains, and goods to build Churches, yet if he do not love me, he would not help me, except he played the hypocrite, and then in helping of me, he would hurt himself, but charity, although it be poor and cannot help, yet she is willing to help, and love and charity are all one. I know that a man may have a false love, as he may have a false faith; but a man may better prove his love, than he can his faith, for love is an inherent quality, which God gave to man in his first creation, but faith is a second gift of God, and the accomplishing of it is in God alone, for God can save a man although he want faith to believe it: love is natural, and when it is fixed aright, then it is divine, which is, when we give unto God our good wills, and our neighbours our good works. Through love all things were created, and through love all mankind are redeemed, and through love all things are, and shall be preserved, and God is love, and when a man goeth to God with a loving heart, then Promise, Law, Prophets, Gospel, Christ, and all Doctors, have done all that, for which they were ordained, for in all such willing hearts, God is all in all, for all things are from God, through God, and to God, and God is love. But the devil and all impious men, hate love, because love is contrary to their nature, and therefore they would overthrow love, by preferring of faith before her: if they had opposed hate without hypocrisy against love, that could not have wronged love so much, but the devil striveth to set those two principal virtues at odds, thereby to despite God the more, because God is the author and giver of them both.

But some say, that this justifying by faith alone, is Pauls doctrine, but if Paul were now alive, he would find out another doctrine for presumptuous sinners, which should teach them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and for them that stand, to take heed least they fall; for that which is accidental to one man, is incidental to every man: For let occasion be offered, and God withhold his preventing grace, or if God prepare the temptation, and then leave a man to himself, tell me then, O thou proud earth‐​worm, what would become of all thy supposed strength? But it may be, that thou art the eldest son, and hast always been at home with thy father, having not disobeyed him at any time, and therefore thou presumest that God is bound to keep thee from falling, and it may be he will; but consider how thou repinest at thy younger brother, whose fall was predestined, to be for the glorious mercy of God in Jesus Christ, and yet thou wouldst not rejoice with his father, because he had received him safe and sound. But tell me how this lost son could be so welcome to God, when he had sinned so boldly. O this, or that son, so lost, and so found, was all predestined sinners, and all such as God had prepared the temptations for them, through which they fell, and all repenting sinners, and all such as are accidentally overtaken by sin, and all such as hate themselves, because they have been made the instruments of sin and Satan, &c. but all those which continually do delight to walk in their wilful sins of knowledge, and are so willing as the devil is, to be made his instruments to sin, all such are none of that lost, and found son.