CELT document E670001-001

The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience once more briefly debated [...]

TO THE Supream Authority OF ENGLAND.

TOLLERATION (for these ten years past) has not been more the Cry of some, then PERSECUTION hath been the practice of others, though not on Grounds equally rational.

The present cause of this Address, is to solicite a Conversion of that Power to our Relief, which hitherto has been imployd to our Depression; that after this large experience of our innocency, and long since expir'd Apprentiship of Cruel Sufferings, you will(?) be pleased to cancel all our Bonds, and give {} of those Freedoms, to which we are {} English Birthright.


This has been often promised to us, and we as earnestly have expected the performance; but to this time we labour under the unspeakable pressure of Nasty Prisons, and daily Confiscation of our Goods, to the apparent ruin of intire Families.

We would not attribute the whole of this severity to Malice, since not a little share, may justly be ascrib'd to Mis-intelligence:

For 'tis the infelicity of Governors to see and hear by the Eyes and Ears of other men; which is equally unhappy for the People.

And we are bold to say, that Suppositions and meer Conjectures, have been the best Measures, that most have taken of Us, and of our Principles; for whilst there have been none more inoffensive, we have been mark't for Capital Offenders.

'Tis hard that we should alwayes lie under this undeserved imputation; and which is worse, be Persecuted as such, without the Liberty of a just Defence.

In short, if you are apprehensive, that our Principles are inconsistant with the Civil Government, grant us a free Conference about the Points in Question, and let us know, what are those Laws, essential to preservation, that our Opinions carry an opposition to? And if upon a due enquiry we  p. are found so Hetrodox, as represented, it will be then but time enough to inflict these heavy penalties upon us.

And as this Medium seems the fairest, and most reasonable; so can you never do your selves greater Justice, either in the vindication of your proceedings against us, be we Criminal, or if Innocent, in dis-ingaging your service of such, as have been Authours of so much Mis-information.

But could we once obtain the favour of such debate, we doubt not to evince a clear consistency of our Life and Doctrine with the English Government; and that an indulging of Dissenters in the Sence defended, is not only most Christian and Rational, but Prudent also. And the contrary (how plausibly soever insinuated) the most injurious to the Peace and destructive of that discreet Ballance, which the Best and Wisest States, have ever carefully Observ'd.

But if this fair and equal Offer, find not a place with you, on which to rest its Foot; much less  p. that it should bring us back the Olive Branch of TOLLERATION; we heartily embrace and bless the Providence of God; and in his Strength resolve, by Patience, to outweary PERSECUTION, and by ourconstant Sufferings,seek to obtain a Victory, more glorious, than any our Adversaries can atchive by all their Cruelties.

Vincit qui patitur.

Newgate, the 7th of the 12th Moneth, call'd February, 1670.

From a Prisoner for Conscience Sake,

W. P.



Were some as Christian, as they boast themselves to be, 'twould save us all the Labour we bestow in rendring Persecution so unchristian, as it most truly is: Nay were they those men of Reason they Character themselves, and what the Civil Law stiles good Citizens, it had been needless for us to tell them, that neither can any external Coercive Power convince the understanding of the poorest Idiot, nor Fines and Prisons be judg'd fit, and adequate Penalties for Faults purely intellectual; as well as that they are destructive of all civil Government.

But we need not run so far as beyond the Seas, to fetch the sense of the Codes, Institutes, and Digests, out of the Corpus Civile to adjudge such practices, incongruous with the good of civil society, since our own good, old, admirable Laws of England, have made such excellent provision for its Inhabitants, that if they were but thought as fit to be executed by this present Age, as they were lightly judg'd necessary to be made by our careful Ancestors: We know how great a Stroak they would give such, as venture to lead away our Property in Triumph (as our just Forfeiture) for only Worshipping our God in a differing Way, from that which is more generally Profest and Establisht.

And indeed it is most truly lamentable, That above others (who have been found in so Un-natural and Anti-christian an Imployment) those, that by their own frequent Practices and voluminous Appologies, have defended a Separation from the Papacy) should now become such earnest Persecuters for it, not considering, that the Enaction of such Laws, as restrain Persons from the free Exercise of their Consciences, in matters of Religion, is but a knotting Whip cord to lash their own Posterity; whom  p.4 they can never promise to be conformed to a national Religion. Nay, since Mankind is subject to such Mutability, they can't ensure themselves, from being taken by some Perswasions, that are esteem'd Hetrodox, and consequently ketch themselves in Snares of their own providing. And that men thus lyable to change, and no wayes certain of their own Belief to be the most infallible,) as by their multiply'd Concessions, may appear) to enact any Religion, or prohibit Persons from the free Exercise of theirs, sounds harsh in the Ears of all modest and unbya'st men. We are bold to say our Protestant Ancestors thought of nothing less, then to be succeeded by Persons Vain-glorious of their Reformation, and yet Adversaries to Liberty of Conscience; for to People in their Wits, it seems a Paradox.

Not that we are so ignorant, as to think is within the reach of humane Power to fetter Conscience, or to restrain its Liberty strictly taken: But that plain English, of Liberty of Conscience, we would be understood to mean, is this; namely, The Free and Uninterrupted Exercise of our Consciences, in that Way of Worship, we are most clearly parswaded, God requires us to serve him in (without endangering our undoubted Birthright of English Freedoms) which being matter, of FAITH, we Sin if we omit, and they can't do less, that shall endeavour it.

To tell us, we are Obstinate and Enemies to Government, are but those Groundless Phrases, the first Reformers were not a little pestered with; but as they said, so say we, The being call'd this, or that, does not conclude us so; and hitherto we have not been detected of that Fact, which only justifies, such Criminations.

But however free we can approve our selves of Actions prejudicial of the Civil Government; 'tis most certain we have not suffered a little, as Criminals, and therefore have been far  p.5 from being free from Sufferings; indeed, in some respect, Horrid Plunders: Widdows have lost their Cows, Orphans their Beds, and Labourers their Tools. A Tragedy so said, that methinks it should obliege them to do in England, as they did at Athens; when they had sacrificed their Divine Socrates to the sottish fury of their lewd and commical Multitude, they so regreeted their hasty Murder, that not only the Memorial of Socrates was most venerable with them, but his Enemies they esteemed so much theirs, that none would Trade or hold the least Commerce with them; for which some turned their own Executioners, and without any other Warrant then their own Guilt, Hang'd themselves. How neer a kin the wretched Mercenary Informers of our Age are to those, the great resemblance that is betwixt their Actions manifestly shews.

And we are bold to say, the grand Fomenters of Persecution, are no better Friends to the English State, then were Anytus and Aristophanes of old to that of Athens, the Case being so nearly the same, as that they did not more bitterly envy the Reputation of Socrates amongst the Athenians for his grave and religious Lectures (thereby giving the Youth a diversion from frequenting their Plays) then some now emulate the true Dissenter, for his Pious Life, and great Industry.

And as that famous Commonwealth was noted to decline, and the most observing Persons of it, dated its decay from that illegal and ingrateful Carriage towards Socrates (witness their dreadful Plagues, with other multiply'd Disasters) So is it not less worthy Observation, that Heaven hath not been wholly wanting to scourge this Land, for, as well as their Cruelty to the Conscientious, as their other multiply'd Provocations.

And when we seriously consider the dreadful Judgments that  p.6 now impend the Nation (by reason of the Robbery, Violence, and unwonted Oppression; that almost everywhere, have not only been committed, upon the Poor, the Widdow, and the Fatherless; but most tenaciously justified, and the Actors manifestly encourag'd) in meer pitty, and concern, for the everlasting welfare of such as have not quite sinn'd away their Visitation (for some have) we once more bring to publique view, our Reasons against Persecution, backt with the plainest Instances, both of Scripture and Antiquity. If but one may be perswaded, to desist from making any farther progress in such an Anti-protestant, and truly Anti-christian Path, as that of persecuting honest and vertuous English men, for only worshipping the God that made them, in the Way they judge most acceptable with him.

But if those, who ought to think themselves oblieg'd to weigh these affairs with the greatest deliberation, will obstinately close their Eyes, to these last Remonstrances; and slightly over-look the pinching Case of so many thousand Families, that are by these Severities expos'd for Prey, to the unsatiable appetites of a Villanous Crew of broken Informers (daubing themselves with that deluding Apprehension of pleasing God, or at least of profiting the Country; (whilst they greatly displease the one, and evidently ruin the other) as certain as ever the Lord God Almighty destroy'd Sodom, and lay'd waste Gomorah, by the consuming Flames of his just Indignation; will he hasten to make desolate this wanton Land, and not leave an Hiding-place for the Oppressor.

Let no man therefore think himself too bigg to be admonish'd, nor put too slight a value upon the Lives, Liberties, and Properties of so many thousand free-born English Families, Embarqu't in that one concern of Liberty of Conscience. It will become him better to reflect upon his own Mortality, and not forget his Breath is in his Nostrils, and that every Action of his Life the everlasting God will bring to Judgment, and him for them.

 p.7 p.8

William Penn

The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience once more briefly debated [...]


1. That Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution for Conscience sake, highly Invade divine Prerogative, and Divest the Almighty of a Right, due to none beside himself, and that in five eminent Particulars.

The great Case of Liberty of Conscience so often Debated and Defended (however dissatisfactorily to such as have so little Conscience as to Persecute for it) is once more brought to publique view, by a late Act against Dissenters, and Bill of an additional one, that we all hop'd the wisdom of our Rulers had long since laid aside, as what was fitter to be pass'd into an Act of perpetual Oblivion. The Kingdoms are allarum'd at this Proceedure, and Thousands greatly at a stand, wondring what should be the meaning of such hasty Resolutions, that seem as fatal as they were unexpected: Some ask what Wrong they have done; others, what Peace they have broken; and all, what Plots they have form'd, to prejudice the present Government, or occasions given, to hatch new Jealousies of them and their Proceedings, being not conscious to themselves of guilt in any such respect.

For mine own part, I publickly confess my self to be a very hearty Dissenter from the establish'd Worship of these Nations,  p.10 as believing Protestants to have much degenerated from their first Principles, and as owning the poor despised Quakers in Life and Doctrine, to have espous'd the Cause of God, and to be undoubted Followers of Jesus Christ, in his most Holy, Straight and Narrow Way that leads to the eternal Rest. In all which I know no Treason, nor any Principle that would urge me to a Thought injurious to the Civil Peace. If any be defective in this particular, 'tis equal, both Individuals and whole Societies should answer for their own Defaults, but we are clear.

However, all conclude that Union very Ominous, and Unhappy, which makes the first discovery of it self, by a John Baptists Head in a Charger, They mean that Feast some are design'd to make upon the Liberties and Properties of Free-born English-men, since to have the I{}ail of those undoubted hereditary Rights cut off for matters purely relative of another World) is a severe beheading in the Law; which must be obvious to all, but such as measure the justice of things only by that proportion they bear with their own interest.

A sort of men that seek themselves, though at the apparent loss of whole Societies, like to that barbarous Fancy of old, which had rather that Rome should burn, then it be without the satisfaction of a Bone-fire. And sad it is, when men have so far stupified their Understandings with the strong doses of their private interest, as to become insensible of the Publicks. Certainly such an Over-fondness for self, or that strong inclination, to raise themselves in the ruine of what does not so much oppose them, as that they will believe so, because they would be persecuting, is a malignant Enemy to that Tranquility, which all Dissenting Parties seem to believe, would be the consequence of a Toleration.


In short we say, there can be but two ends in Persecution, the one to satisfie (which none can ever do) the insatiable appetites of a decimating Clergy (whose best Arguments are Fines and Imprisonments) and the other, as thinking therein they do God good Service; but 'tis so hateful a thing upon any account, that we shall make it appear by this ensuing Discourse, to be a declar'd Enemy to God, Religion, and the Good of humane Society.

The whole will be small, since it is but an Epitomy of no larger a tract then fourteen sheets; yet divides it self into the same particulars, every of which we shall defend against Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution, though not with that scope of Reason (nor consequently Pleasure to the Readers) being by other contingent disappointments, limitted to a narrow stint.

The Tearms explained, and the Question stated.

First, By Liberty of Conscience, we understand not only a meer Liberty of the Mind, in believing or disbelieving this or that Principle or Doctrine, but the Exercise of our selves in a visible Way of Worship, upon our believing it to be indispensibly required at our hands, that if we neglect it for Fear or Favour of any Mortal Man, we Sin, and incur divine Wrath: Yet we would be so understood to extend and justifie the lawfulness of our so meeting to Worship God, as not to contrive, or abet any Contrivance distructive of the Government and Laws of the Land, tending to matters of an external nature, directly, or indirectly; but so far only, as it may refer to religious Matters, and a Life to come, and consequently wholly independent of the secular affairs of this, wherein we are suppos'd to Transgress.


Secondly, By Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution, we don't only mean, the strict requiring of us to believe this to be true, or that to be false; and upon refusal, to incur the Penalties enacted in such Cases; but by those tearms we mean thus much, any coersive let or hindrance to us, from meeting together to perform those Religious Exercises which are according to our Faith and Perswasion.

The Question stated.

For Proof of the aforesaid Tearms thus given, we singly state the Question thus.

Whether Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution, upon persons for Exercising such a Liberty of Conscience, as is before expressed, and so circumstantiated, be not to impeach the Honour of God, the Meekness of the Christian Religion, the Authority of Scripture, the Priviledge of Nature, the Principles of common Reason, the Well-being of Government, and Apprehensions of the greatest Personages of former and latter Ages.

First, Then we say that Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution, for matters relating to Conscience, directly Invade divine Prerogative, and Divest the Almighty of a Due, proper to none besides himself. And this we prove by these five Particulars.

1. First, If we do allow the honour of our Creation, due to God only, and that no other besides himself has endow'd us with those excellent Gifts of Understanding, Reason, Judgment, and Faith, and consequently that he only is the Object as well as Author, both of our Faith, Worship, and Service, then whoever shall interpose their Authority to enact Fa ith and Worship, in a way that seems not to us congruous with what he has discover'd  p.13 to us, to be Faith, and Worship (whose alone property it is to do it) or to restrain us from what we are perswaded; is our indispensible duty, they evidently usurp this Authority and invade his incommunicable right of Government over Conscience: For the Inspiration of the Almighty gives understanding: And Faith is the Gift of God, says the divine Writ.

2. Secondly, such Magisterial determinations carry an evident claim to that infallibility, which Protestants have been hitherto so jealous of owning, that to avoid the Papists, they have denied it to all, but God himself.

Either they have forsook their old Plea, or if not, we desire to know when, and where they were invested with that divine excellency, and that Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution, were deem'd by God ever the Fruits of his Spirit: However, that it self were not sufficient; for unless it appear as well to us, that they have it, as to them who have it, we cannot believe it upon any convincing Evidence, but by Tradition only; an Anti-Protestant way of believing.

3. Thirdly, It enthrones man as King over Conscience, the alone just claim and Priviledge of his Creator, whose Thoughts are not as mens Thoughts, but has reserv'd to himself, that Empire from all the Caesars on Earth; for if men in reference to Souls, and Bodies, things appertaining to this and to'ther World, shall be subject to their Fellow-Creatures, what follows? but that Caesar (however he got it) has all, Gods share, and his own too; and being lord of both, both are Caesars, and nothing Gods.

4. Fourthly, It defeats the Work of his Grace, and the invisible Opperation of his eternal Spirit, which can alone beget Faith, and is only to be obey'd, in and about Religion and Worship, and attributes mens conformity to outward force & corporal punishments. A Faith subject to as many revolutions as the powers that enact it.

5. Fiftly and lastly, Such persons assume the Judgment of the great Tribunal unto themselves; for to whomsoever men are  p.14 imposedly or restrictively subject and accountable in matters of Faith, Worship and Conscience; in them alone must the power of judgement reside; but it is equally true that God shall judge all by Jesus Christ, and that no man is so accountable to his fellow Creatures, as to be impos'd upon, restrain'd, or persecuted for any matter of Conscience whatever.

Thus and in many more particulars are men accustom'd to entrench upon divine Property, to gratifie particular Interests in the world (and at best) through a misguided apprehension, to imagine they do God good service, that where they cannot give Faith, they will use force, which kind of Sacrifice is nothing less unreasonable, then the other is abominable: God will not give his honor to another, and to him only that searches the heart and tries the reins, it is our duty to ascribe the gifts of Understanding and S{} without which none can please God.


The next great evil which attends externall force in matters of faith and worship, is no less then the overthrow of the whole Christian Religion, and this we will briefly evidence in these four particulars. 1. First, that there can be nothing more remote from the nature 2. Secondly, the practice. 3. Thirdly, the promotion. 4 Fourthly, the Rewards of it.

1. First, it is the priviledge of the Christian Faith above the dark suggestions of ancient and modern superstious Traditions, to carry with it a most self evidencing verity, which ever was sufficient to proselite believers, without the weak Auxilaries of external power; The son of God, and great Example of the world, was so far from calling his Father's omnipotency  p.15 in legions of Angels to his defence, that he at once repeal'd all Acts of force, and defin'd unto us the nature of his Religion in this one great saying of his, MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD. It was spiritual, not carnall, accompanied with weapons, as heavenly as its own nature, and design'd for the good and salvation of the soul, and not the injury and destruction of the body: no Goals, Fines, Exiles &c. but sound reason, clear truth, and a strict life. In short, the Christian Religion intreats all, but compells none.

2. Secondly, that Restraint and Persecution overturn the practise of it; I need go no further then the allow'd Martyrologies of several ages, of which the Scriptures claim a share; begin with Abel go down to Moses, so to the Prophets, and then to the meek example of Jesus Christ himself; How patiently devoted was he, to undergo the contradictions of men? and so far from persecuting any, that he would not so much as revile his Persecutors, but pray'd for them; thus liv'd his Apostles and the true Christians, of the first three hundred years: Nor are the famous Stories of our first Reformers silent in the matter; witness the Christian practises of the Waldenses, Lollards, Hussites, Lutherans, and our noble Martyrs, who as became the true followers of Jesus Christ, enacted and confirm'd their Religion, with their own blood, and not with the blood of their Opposers.

3. Thirdly, Restraint and Persecution obstructs the promotion of the Christian Religion, for if such as restraint, confess themselves miserable sinners, and altogether imperfect, it either followes, that they never desire to be better, or that they should incourage such as may be capable of further informing and reforming them; they condemn the Papists for encoffening the Scriptures and their Worship in an  p.16 unknown tongue, and yet are guilty themselves of the same kind of fact.

4. Fourthly, they prevent many of eternal Rewards, for where any are Religious for fear, and that of men, 'tis slavish; and the recompence, of such Religion is condemnation, not peace: besides, 'tis man that is serv'd, who having no power but what is temporary, his reward must needs be so too; he that imposes a duty, or restrains from one, must reward; but because no man can reward for such Duties, no man can or ought to impose them, or restrain from them. So that we conclude imposition, restraint, and persecution, are destructive, of the Christian Religion, in the nature, practice, promotion and rewards of it, which are Eternall.


We further say, that imposition, restraint, and persecution are repugnant to the plain Testimonies and precepts of the Scriptures.

The inspiration of the Almighty gives understanding, 1. Job 32. 8.

If no man can believe before he understands, and no man can understand before he is inspir'd of God, then are the impositions of men excluded as unreasonable, and their persecutions for non-obedience as inhumane.

Wo unto them that take counsell, but not of me, 2. Isa: 30. 1.

Wo unto them that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproves in the gate, and turns aside the Just for a thing of naught, 3. Isa. 29. 15, 21.

Let the Wheat and the Tares grow together until the time of the harvest, or end of the World. 4. Mat. 13. 27, 28, 29.


And Jesus call'd them unto him, and said ye know that the Princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are greatest exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so amongst you. 5 Matt: 20. 25, 26.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Cesars, and unto God the things that are Gods, 6 Luke 20. 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.

When his Disciples saw this (that there were Non-conformists then as well as now) they said, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, as Elisha did; But he turned, and rebuk'd them, and said, Ye know not what spirit ye are of; for the Son of Man is not come to destroy mens lives but to save them, 7. Luke 9. 54. 55. 56

Howbeit, when the spirite of truth is come, he shall lead you into all Truth. {}. John 16. 8, 13.

But now the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you (much less impose upon any, or restrain them from what any are perswaded it leads to) but as the same anointing teaches you of all things and is truth, and is not lye. 9. John. 1, 9, 27.

Dearly beloved, avenge not your selves but rather give place unto Wrath (much less should any be Wrath that are call'd Christians where no occasion is given) therefore if thine Enemy Hunger Feed him, and if he Thirst, give him Drink; Recompence no man Evil for Evil. 10 Rom. 12. 19, 20, 21.

For though we walk in the flesh (that is in the body or visible world) we do not war after the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. 11 2. Cor. 3. 4, 5. (but Fines and Imprisonments are, and such use not the Apostles Weapons that employ those) for a Bishop, 1 Tim. 3. 23 (saith Paul) must be of a good behaviour, apt to teach, no striker, but be gentle  p.18 unto all men, Patient in Meekness, Instructing (not Persecuting) those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them, Repentance to the acknowledgment of the Truth, 2 Tim. 2. 24, 25.

Lastly, We shall subjoyn one Passage more, and then no more of this Particular; Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them. 12. Matt. 7. 12. Luke 6. 31.

Now upon the whole we seriously ask, Whether any should be Impos'd upon, or Restrain'd, in matters of Faith and Worship? Whether such Practices become the Gospel, or are sutable to Christs Meek Precepts and Suffering Doctrine? And lastly, Whether those, who are herein guilty, do to us, as they would be done unto by others?

What if any were once severe to you; many are unconcern'd in that, who are yet lyable to the Lash, as if they were not. But if you once thought, the Imposition of a Directory Unreasonable, and a Restraint from your way of Worship Unchristian, can you believe that Liberty of Conscience is changed, because the Parties in points of Power are? or that the same Reasons do not yet remain in vindication of an Indulgeance for others, that were once Employ'd by you for your selves? Surely such Conjectures would argue gross Weakness.

To conclude, Whether Persecutors at any time, read the Scriptures we know not; but certain we are, such practise as little of them as may be, who with so much Delight reject them, and think it no small Accession to the discovery of their Loyalty, to lead us and our Properties in Triumph after them.



We further say, That Imposition, Restraint, and Persecution are also destructive of the great Priviledge of Nature and Principle of Reason. Of Nature in three Instances:

1. First, If God Almighty has made of one Blood all Nations, as himself has declar'd, and that he has given them both Sences Corporal and Intellectual, to discern things and their differences, so as to assert or deny from Evidences and Reasons proper to each; then where any Enacts the Belief or Disbelief of any thing upon the rest, or Restrains any from the Exercise of their Faith to them indispensible, such Exalts himself beyond his Bounds, Enslaves his Fellow-Creatures, Invades their Right of Liberty, and so perverts the whole order of Nature.

2. Secondly, Mankind is hereby rob'd of the use and benefit of that instinct of a Diety, which is so natural to him, that he can be no more without it, and be, then he can be without the most essential Part of himself; For to what serves that divine Principle in the universallity of Mankind, if men be restricted by the Prescriptions of some Individuals? But if the excellent Nature of it, inclines men to God, not Man; if the Power of Accusing and Excusing be committed to it; if the troubled Thoughts and sad reflections of Forlorn and Dying men, make their tendency that a way only, (as being hopeless of all other Relief and Succour from any external Power or Command) What shall we say? but that such as invallid the Authority of this Heavenly Instinct, (as Imposition and Restraint evidently do) destroy Nature, or that Priviledge which men are born with, and to  p.20 3. All natural Affection is destroy'd; for those who have so little tenderness, as to persecute men that cannot for Conscience sake yield them compliance, manifestly act injuriously to their Fellow-Creatures, and consequently are Enemies to Nature; for Nature being one in all, such as ruin those who are equally intitled with themselves to Nature, ruin it in them, as in Liberty, Property, &c. and so bring the state of Nature to the state of War, the great Leviathan of the times, as ignorantly as boldly does assert.

2. But secondly, We also prove them destructive of the noble Principle of Reason, and that in these eight Particulars.

1. First, In that those who Impose or Restrain are uncertain of the truth and justifiableness of their actions in either of this, their own Discourses and Confessions are pregnant Instances, where they tell us, that They do not pretend to be infallible, only they humbly conceive 'tis thus, or it is not. Since then they are uncertain and fallible, how can they impose upon, or restrain others whom they are so far from assuring, as they are not able to do so much for themselves? What is this, but to impose an uncertain Faith upon Certain Penalties?

3. As he that Acts Doubtfully is Damn'd, so Faith in all Acts of Religion is necessary: now in order to believe, we must first Will; to Will, we must first Judge; to Judge any thing, we must first Understand; if then we cannot be said to Understand any thing against our Understanding: no more can we Judge, Will, and Believe against our Understanding: and if the Doubter be Damn'd, what must he be that conforms directly against his Judgment and Belief, and they likewise that require it from him? In short, that Man cannot be said to have any Religion, that takes it by another mans choice, not his own.


4. Where men are limitted in Matters of Religion, there the Rewards which are entail'd on the free acts of men, are quite overthrown; and such as superceed that Grand Charter of Liberty of Conscience, frustrate all hopes of Recompence, by rendring the Actions of men unavoidable: But those think perhaps, They do not destroy all Freedom, because they use so much of their own.

5. Fifthly, They subvert all true Religion; for where men believe not because it is True, but because they are required to do so, there they will unbelieve, not because 'tis False, but so commanded by their Superiors, whose Authority their Interest and Security obliege them rather to obey, then dispute.

6. Sixthly, They Delude, or rather Compel people out of their eternal Rewards; for where men are commanded to act in reference to Religion, and can neither be secur'd of their Rewards, nor yet sav'd harmless from punishments; their so acting and believing dispriviledges them forever of that Recompence, which is provided for the Faithful.

7. Seventhly, Men have their Liberty and Choice in external matters; they are not compelled to Marry this Person, to Converse with that, to Buy here, to Eat there, nor to Sleep yonder; yet if men had Power to Impose or Restrain in any thing, one would think it should be in such exteriour Matters; but that this Liberty should be unquestion'd, and that of the Mind Destroy'd issues here, that it does not Unbruit us, but Unman us; for take away Understanding, Reason, Judgment, and Faith, and like Nebuchadnezar, let us go Graze with the Beasts of the Field.

8. Eightly and lastly, That which most of all blackens the Business is PERSECUTION; for though it is very unreasonable to require Faith, where men cannot chuse but doubt,  p.22 yet after all, to punish them for Disobedience, 'tis Cruelty in the abstract; for we demand, Shall men Suffer for not doing what they cannot do? Must they be Persecuted here if they do not go against their Consciences, and punished hereafter if they do? But neither is this all; for that part that is yet most unreasonable, and that gives the clearest sight of Persecution, is still behind, namely, The monstrous Arguments they have to Convince an Heretick with: Not those of old, as Spiritual as the Christian Religion, which were to Admonish, Warn, and finally to Reject; but such as were imploy'd by the Persecuting Jews and Heathens against the great Example of the World, and such as follow'd him, and by the inhuman Papists against our first Reformers, as Clubbs, Staves, Stocks, Pillories, Prisons, Dungeons, Exiles, &c. in a word, Ruin to whole Families, as if it were not so much their Design to Convince the Soul, as to Destroy the Body.

To conclude, There ought to be an Adequation and Resemblance betwixt all Ends, and the means to them, but in this case there can be none imaginable; the End is the conformity of our Judgments and Understandings to the acts of such as require it, the Means are Fines and Imprisonments (and bloody Knocks to boot.)

Now what Proportion or Assimulation these bear, let the Sober judge: The Understanding can never be convinc'd, nor properly submit, but by such Arguments, as are Rational, Perswasive, and Sutable to its own Nature; something that can Resolve its Doubts, Answer its Objections, Enervate its Propositions, but to imagine those Barbarous Newgate Instruments of Clubbs, Fines, Prisons, &c. with that whole Troop of external and dumb Materials of force should be fit Arguments to convince the Understanding, scatter its scruples, & finally, convert it to their Religion is altogether irrational, cruel, and impossible. Force may make an Hipocrite; 'tis Faith grounded upon knowledge, & consent that  p.23 makes a Christian. And to conclude, as we can never betray the honour of our Conformity (only due to Truth) by a base and timorous Hypocrisie to any external Violence under Heaven, so must we needs say, unreasonable are those Imposers, who secure not the Imposed or Restrained from what may occur to them, upon their account; and most inhuman are those Persecutors that punish men for not obeying them though to their utter ruin.


We next urge, that Force in matters relating to Conscience, carry a plain Contradiction to Government in the Nature, Execution, and End of it.

By Government we understand, an external Order of Justice or the right and prudent Disciplining of any Society, by just Laws, either in the Relaxation, or Execution of them.

1. First it carries a Contradiction to Government in the Nature of it, which is Justice, and that in three Respects.

1. It is the first Lesson that great Synterisis, so much renowned by Phylosophers and Civilians, learns Mankind, to do as he would be done to, since he that gives, what he would not take, or takes what he would not give, only shews care for himself, but neither Kindness nor Justice for another.

2. Secondly, The just Nature of Government lies in a fair and equal Retribution; but what can be more unequal, then that men should be rated more then their Proportion, to answer the Necessities of Government, and yet that they should not only receive no Protection from it, but by it be disseiz'd of their dear Liberty and Properties; we say to be compell'd to pay that Power, that exerts it self to ruin  p.24 those that pay it, or that any should be requir'd to enrich those, that ruin them, is hard, and unequal, and therefore contrary to the just Nature of Government. If we must be Contributaries, to the maintenance of it, we are entituled to a protection from it.

3. Thirdly, It is the Justice of Government to proportion Penalties to the Crime committed. Now granting our Dissent to be a Fault, yet the infliction of a Corporal or External Punishment, for a meer mental Error (and that not voluntarily too) is Unreasonable and Inadequate, as well as against particular directions of the Scriptures, Tit 3. 9, 10, 11. For as Corporal Penalties cannot convince the Understanding; so neither can they be commensurate Punishments, for Faults purely Intellectual: And for the Goverment of this World to intermediate with what belongs to the Government of Another, and which can have no ill Aspect or Influence upon it, shews more of Invasion then Right and Justice.

2. Secondly, It carries a Contradition to Government in the Execution of it, which is Prudence, and that in these Instances.

The state of the Case is this, That there is no Republick so great, no Empire so vast, but the Laws of them are Resolvable into these two Series or Heads, Of Laws Fundamental, which are Indispensible and Immutable: And Laws Superficial, which are Temporary and Alterable: And as it is Justice and Prudence to be punctual in the Execution of the former, so by Circumstances it may be neither, to Execute the latter, they being suited to the present Conveniency and Emergency of State; as the Prohibiting of Cattle out of Ireland, was judg'd of advantage to the Farmers of England, yet a Murrin would make it the good of the whole, that the Law should be broke, or at least the Execution of it suspended. That the Law  p.25 of Restraint in point of Conscience is of this number; we may further manifest, and the imprudence of thinking otherwise: For, first, if the saying were as true as 'tis false; No Bishop, no King, (which admits of various readings; As no decimating Clergy, or no Persecution, no King, we should be as silent, as some would have us: but the confidence of their Assertion, and the impollicy of such as believe it, makes us to say, that a greater injury cannot be done to the present Government. For if such Laws and Establishments are fundamental; they are as immutable as mankind it self; but that they are as alterable as the Conjectures and Opinions of Governors have been, is evident; since the same fundamental indispensable Laws and Pollicy of these Kingdoms have still remain'd, through all variety of opposite Ruling Opinions and Judgments, and disjoynt from them all. Therefore to admit such a fixation to temporary Laws, must needs be highly imprudent, and destructive of the essential parts of the Government of these Countries.

2. Secondly, That since there has been a time of connivance, and that with no ill success to publick Affairs, it cannot be prudence to discontinue it, unless it was imprudence before to give it, and such little deserve it that think so.

3. Thirdly, Dissenters not being conscious to themselves of any just Forfeiture of that Favour, are as well griev'd in their Resentments of this Alteration, as the contrary did oblige them to very gratefull Acknowledgments.

4. Fourthly, this must be done to gratifie all, or the greatest Part, or but some few only; it is a demonstration all are not pleased with it; that the greatest Number is not, the empty publick Auditories will speak: In short, how should either be, when six Parties are sacrificed to the  p.26 seventh; that this cannot be Prudence, common Maxims and Observations prove.

5. Fifthly, It strikes fatally at Protestant-sincerity; for will the Papists say, Did Protestants exclaim against us, for Persecutors, and are they now the Men themselves? Was it an Instance of Weakness in our Religion, and is't become a Demonstration in theirs? Have they transmuted it from Antichristian in us, to Christian in themselves? Let Persecutors answer.

6. Sixthly, It is not only an Example, but an Incentive to the Romanists, to Persecute the Reformed Religion abroad; for when they see their Actions (once void of all Excuse) now defended by the Example of Protestants, that once accus'd them (but now themselves) doubtless they will revive their Cruelty.

7. Seventhly, It overturns the very Ground of the Protestants Retreat from Rome; for if men must be Restrain'd upon pretended Prudential Considerations, from the Exercise of their Conscience in England; why not the same in France, Holland, Germany, Constantinople, &c. where matters of State may equally be pleaded? This makes Religion, State-pollicy; and Faith and Worship, subservient to the Humors and Interests of Superiors: Such Doctrine would have prevented our Ancestors Retreat; and We wish it be not the beginning of a Back-march; for Some think it shrewdly to be suspected, where Religion is suited to the Government, and Conscience to it's Conveniency.

8. Eighthly, Vice is incourag'd; for if Licentious Persons see Men of Vertue molested for Assembling with a Religious Purpose to Reverence and Worship God, and That are otherwise most serviceable to the Common-Wealth, they may and will inferr, it is better for them to be as they are since not to be demure, as they call it, is half way to that kind of Accomplishment, which procures Preferment.


9. Ninthly, For such persons as are so poor spirited as to truckle under such Restraints; What Conquest is there over them? that before were Conscientious men, and now Hypocrites; who so forward to be aveng'd of them, that brought this Guilt upon them, as they themselves? And how can the Imposers be secure of their Friendship, whom they have taught to change with the Times?

10. Tenthly, Such Laws are so far from benefiting the Country, that the Execution of them will be the assured ruin of it, in the Revenues, and consequently in the Power of it; For where there is a decay of Families, there will be of Trade; so of Wealth, and in the end of Strength and Power; and if both kinds of Relief fail; Men, the Prop of Republiques; Money, the Stay of Monarchies; this as requiring Mercenaries, that as needing Freemen (farewell the Interest of England; 'tis true, the Priests get (though that's but for a time) but the King and People lose; as the event will shew.

11. Eleventhly, It ever was the prudence of wise Magistrates of Obliege their people; but what comes shorter of of it then Persecution? What's dearer to them then the Liberty of their Conscience? What cannot they better spare then it? Their Peace consists in the enjoyment of it: And he that by Compliance has lost it, carries his Penalty with him, and is his own Prison. Surely such Practices must render the Government Uneasie, and beget a great Disrespect to the Governours, in the Hearts of the people.

12. Twelfthly, But that which concludes our prudential part, shall be this, That after all their Pains and Good-will to stretch men to their Measure, they never will be able to accomplish their End: And if he be an unwise Man, that provides Means where he designs no End, how neer is he  p.28 kin to him that proposes an end inobtainable. Experience has told us. 1. How Invective it has made the Impos'd. 2. What Distractions have insued such Attempts. 3. What Reproach has follow'd to the Christian Religion, when the Professors of it have us'd a coercive Power upon Conscience. And lastly, That Force never yet made, either a Good Christian or a Good Subject.

3. Thirdly and Lastly, Since the proceedings we argue against, are prov'd so destructive to the Justice and Prudence of Government, we ought the less to wonder that they should hold the same malignity against the End of it, which is Felicity, since the Wonder would be to find it otherwise; and this is evident from these three brief Considerations.

1. First, Peace (the End of War and Government, and its great Happiness too) has been, is, and yet will be broken by the frequent Tumultuary Disturbances, that ensue the Disquieting our Meetings, and the Estreeting Fines upon our Goods and Estates. And what these things may issue in, concerneth the Civil Magistrate to consider.

2. Secondly, Plenty (another great End of Government) will be converted into Poverty by the Destruction of so many thousand Families as refuse Compliance and Conformity, and that not only to the Sufferers, but influentially to all, the rest; a Demonstration of which we have in all those Places where the late Act has been any thing considerably put in Execution. Besides, how great Provocation such Incharity and Cruel Usage, as stripping Widdows, Fatherless, and Poor of their very Necessaries for human Life, meerly upon an account of Faith or Worship, must needs be to the Just and Righteous Lord of Heaven and Earth; Scriptures, and plenty of other Stories plainly shew us.


3. Thirdly, Unity (not the least but greatest End of Government is lost) for by seeking an Unity of Opinion (by the wayes intended) the Unity requisit to uphold us, as a Civil Society, will be quite destroy'd. And such as relinquish that, to get the other (besides that they are Unwise) will infallibly lose both in the end.

In short, We say, that 'tis unreasonable we should not be entertain'd as men, because some think we are not as Good Christians as they pretend to wish us; or that we should be depriv'd of our Liberties and Properties, who never broke the Laws that gave them to us: What can be harder, then to take that from us by a Law, which the great indulgence and solicitude of our Ancestors took so much pains to intail upon us by Law; An. 18 Ed. 3. stat 3. also stat. 20. Ed. 3. cap. 1. again Petition of Right, An. 3. Car. and more fully in Magna Charta; further peruse 37 Ed. 5. cap. 8. 28. 42 Ed. 3. cap. 3. 28 Hen. cap. 7.

And we are perswaded, that no Temporary Subsequential Law whatever, to our Fundamental Rights (as this of Force on Conscience is) can invalid so essential a part of the Government, as an English Liberty and Property: Nor that it's in the power of any on Earth, to deprive us of them, till we have first done it our selves, by such Enormious Facts, as those very Laws prohibit, and make our Forfeiture of that benefit we should otherwise receive by them; for these being such Cardinal and Fundamental Points of English Law-Doctrine, individually, and by the collective body of the People agreed to; and on which as the most solid Basis, our Secondary Legislative Power, as well as Executive is built; it seems most rational that the Superstructure cannot quarrel or invalid its own Foundation, without manifestly endangering its own security, the Effect is ever less noble then the Cause, the Gift then the Giver, and the Superstructure then the Foundation.


The single Question to be resolved in the case, briefly will be this, Whether any visible Authority (being founded in its primitive Institution upon those Fundamental Laws, that inviolably preserve the People in all their just Rights and Priviledges) may invalidate all, or any of the said Laws, without an implicit shaking of its own Foundation, and a clear overthrow of its own Constitution of Government, and so reduce them to their Statu quo prius, or first Principles: The Resolution is every mans, at his own pleasure. Read Hen. 3. 9. 14. 29. 25 Ed 3. Cook Justit. 2. 19. 50, 51.

Those who intend us no Share or Interest in the Laws of England, as they relate to civil Matters, unless we correspond with them in Points of Faith and Worship, must do two things: First, It will lie heavy on their parts to prove, That the Ancient Compact and Original of our Laws, carries that Proviso with it; else we are manifestly diseized of our Free-Customs.

Secondly, They are to prove the Reasonableness of such Proceedings to our Understandings, that we may not be concluded by a Law, we know not how to understand; for if I take the matter rightly (as I think I do) we must not Buy or Sell unless of this or that Perswasion in Religion; not considering civil Society was in the World before the Protestant Profession; Men, as such, and in Affairs peculiarly relative of them, in an external and civil capacity, have subsisted many Ages, under great variety of Religious Apprehensions, and therefore not so dependent on them as to receive any Variation or Revolution with them. What shall we say then? but that some will not that we should Live, Breath, and Commerce as men, because we are not such model'd Christians as they coercively would have us; they might with as much Justice and Reputation to themselves forbid us to look or see unless our Eyes were Grey, Black, Brown, Blew,  p.31 or some one colour best suiting theirs: For not to be able to give us Faith, or save our Consciences harmless, and yet to persecute us for refusing conformity, is intollerable hard measure.

In short, That coercive way of bringing all men to their height of Perswasion, must either arise from Exorbitant Zeal and Superstition; or from a consciousness of Error and Defect, which is unwilling any thing more sincere, and reformed should take place; being of that Cardinals mind, who therefore would not hearken to a Reformation, at the sitting of the Counsel of Trent; because he would not so far approve the Reformers Judgment (for having once condescended to their Apprehensions, he thought 'twould forever inslave them to their Sence) though otherwise he saw as much as any man, the grand necessity of a Reformation, both of the Roman Doctrine and Conversation.

Some grand Objections in the way must be Considered.

Objection 1. But you are a People that meet with Designs to Disaffect the People, and to ruin the Government.

Answer, A Surmise is no Certainty, neither is A may be, or Conjecture, any Proof; That from the first we have behaved our selves inoffensively is a Demonstration; that our Meetings are open, where all may hear our Matter, and have liberty to object or discuse any Point, is notorious. Ignorant Calumnies are Sandy Foundations to build so high a Charge upon: Let us fairly be heard in a publique Conference, how far we can justifie our Principles from being deservedly suspected of  p.32 Sedition or Disloyalty, and not over-run us with meer Suppositions. We declare our readiness to obey the Ordinance of man, which is only relative of Human or Civil Matters, and not Points of Faith, or Practise in Worship: But if Accusations must stand for Proofs, we shall take it for granted, that we must stand for Criminals; but our Satisfaction will be, that we shall not deserve it otherwise then as prejudice seeks to traduce us.

Object. 2. But you strike at the Doctrine, at least the Discipline of the Church, and consequently are Hereticks.

Answ. This Story is as old as the Reformation; If we must be objected against out of pure Reputation, let it be in some other matter then what the Papists objected against the first Protestants; otherwise you do but hit your selves in aiming at us? To say you were in the Right, but we are in the Wrong, is but a meer begging of the Question; for doubtless the Papists said the same to you, and all that you can say to us: Your best Plea was, Conscience upon Principles, the most evident and rational to you: Do not we the like? What if you think our Reasons thick, and our ground of Separation mistaken? Did not the Papists harbour the same Thoughts of you? You perswaded as few of them, as we of you: Were you therefore in the Wrong? No more are we: It was not what they thought of you, or enacted against you, that concluded you: And why should your Apprehensions conclude us? If you have the way of giving Faith beyond what they had, and have the faculty of Perswasion, evidence as much; but if you are as destitute of both, as they were to you; why should Fines and Prisons, once us'd by them against you, and by you exclaimed against, as Unchristian Wayes of reclaiming Hereticks (supposing your selves to be such) be  p.33 employ'd by you as rational, Christian, and Convincing upon us? To say we deserve them more, is to suppose your selves in the Right, and we in the Wrong, which proves nothing. Besides, the Question is not barely this, whether Hereticks or no Hereticks; but whether an Heretick should be Persecuted into a disclaiming of his Error; your old Arguments run thus, as I well remember.

1. Error is a Mistake in the Understanding.

2. This is for want of a better Illumination.

3. This Error can never be dislodged, but by Reason and Perswasion, as what are most suitable to the Intellect of man.

4. Fines, Goals, Exiles, Gibbets, &c. are no Convincing Arguments to the most erring Understanding in the World, being slavish and bruitish.

5. This way of Force makes, instead of an honest Dissenter, but an Hypocritical Conformist; then whom nothing is more detestable to God and man.

This being the Protestants Plea, we are not to be disliked by Protestants, for following their own avow'd Maxims and Axioms of Conscience in defence of its own Liberty.

In short, either allow separation upon the single Principle of, My Conscience owns this, or disowns that; or never dwell in that Building, which knew no better Foundation (indeed good enough) but accusing your Fore-fathers of Schism, and Heresie, return to the Romish Church. What short of this can any say to an Anti-liberty-of-Conscience-Protestant.

Object. 3. But at this rate ye may pretend to Cut our Throats, and do all manner of savage Acts.


Answ. Though the Objection be frequent, yet it is as fouly ridiculous. We are pleading only for such a Liberty of Conscience, as preserves the Nation in Peace, Trade, and Commerce; and would not exempt any man, or Party of men, from not keeping those excellent Laws, that tend to Sober, Just, and Industrious Living. It is a Jesuitical Morral, To Kill a man before he is Born: First, to suspect him of an Evil Design, and then kill him to prevent it.

Object. 4. But do not you see what has been the end of this Separation? Wars, and Revolutions, and Danger to Government; witness our late Troubles.

Ans. We see none of all this, but are able to make it appear, that the true cause of all that perplext Disturbance, which was amongst the Homousians & Arrians of old, & among us of later years (as well as what has modernly attended our Neighbouring Countries) took its first rise from a narrowness of spirit, in not Tollerating others to live the Freemen God made them, in External Matters upon the Earth, meerly upon some difference in Religion.

And were there once but an Hearty Tolleration establisht, 'twould be a Demonstration of the truth of this Assertion. On this Ground, Empire stands safe; on the other, it seems more uncertain.

But these are only the popular Devices of some to traduce honest Men, and their Principles; whose lazy Life, and intollerable Avarice become question'd, by a Tolleration of people better inclin'd.

Object 5. But what need you take this Pains to prove Liberty of Conscience Reasonable and Necessary, when none questions it;  p.35 all that is required is, That you meet but four more then your own Families; and can you not be contented with that? Your Disobedience to a Law, so favourable, brings suffering upon you.

Answ. Here is no need of answering the former part of the Objection; 'Tis too apparent throughout the Land, that Liberty of Conscience, as we have stated it, has been severely prosecuted, and therefore not so franckly injoyed: The latter part, I answer thus, If the words Lawful or Unlawful, may bear their signification from the nature of the things they stand for, then we conceive that a Meeting of Four Thousand is no more Unlawful, then a Meeting of Four; for Number singly consider'd criminates no Assembly: but the reason of their Assembling; the Posture in which; and the Matter transacted, with the Consequences thereof.

Now if those things are taken for granted, to be things dispensible (as appears by the allowance of Four besides every Family) certainly the Number can never render it Unlawful; so that the Question will be this, Whether if Four met to worship God, be an Allowable Meeting, Four Thousand met with the same Design be not an Allowable Meeting?

It is so plain a Case, that the Matter in the Question resolves it.

Object. 6. But the Law forbids it.

Answ. If the enacting any-thing can make it lawful, we have done; but if an Act so made by the Papists against Protestants, was never esteem'd so by a true Protestant; and if the nature of the matter will not bear it; and lastly, that we are as much commanded by God to meet Four thousand as Four; we must desire to be excused, if we forbear not the assembling of our selves together, as the manner of some is.


Object 7. But the reason of the prohibition of the number is. (for you see they allow all that can be said to Four Thousand to be to said the Family and Four) that Tumults may arise, and Plots may be made, and the like Inconveniences happen to the Goverment.

Answ. Great Assemblies are so far from being injurious, that they are the most inoffensive; for, First, They are open, exposed to the view of all, which of all things Plotters are the shyest of; but how fair an opportunity 'twere, for men so principled, to do it in those allowed Meetings of but four besides the Family, is easie to guess, when we consider, that few make the best and closest Council; and next, that such an Assembly is the most private and clandestine, and so fitted for Mischief and Surprize.

Secondly, Such Assemblies, are not only publique and large, but they are frequented, as well by those that are not of their Way, as of their own; from whence it follows, that we have the greatest reason to be cautious and wise in our Behaviour, since the more there be at our Meetings, the more Witnesses are against us, if we should say or act any thing that may be prejudicial to the Government.

Lastly, For these several years none could ever observe such an ill use made of that Freedom, or such wicked Designs to follow such Assemblies; and therefore it is high Incharity to proceed so severely upon meer Suppositions.

To this we shall add several Authorities and Testimonies for further confirmation of our sense of the matter, and to let Imposers see, that we are not the only Persons, who have impleaded Persecution, and justified Liberty of Conscience, as Christian and Rational.



A Brief Collection of the Sence and Practice of the Greattest, Wisest, and Learnedst Common-Wealths, Kingdoms, and particular Persons of their Times, concerning Force upon Conscience.

1. First, Though the Jews above all people had the most to say for Imposition and Restraint within their own Dominions, having their Religion instituted by so many signal Proofs of Divine Original, it being deliver'd to them by the Hand of God himself, yet such was their indulgence to Dissenters, that if they held the common receiv'd Noachical Principles tending to the acknowledgment of one God, and a just Life, they had the Free Exercise of their distinct Modes or Wayes of Worship, which were numerous. Of this their own Rabbies are Witnesses, and Grotius out of them.

Secondly, The Romans themselves, as strict as they were, not only had Thirty Thousand Godds (if Varro may be credited) but almost every Family of any note, had its distinct Sacra, or peculiar Way of Worship.

3. Thirdly, It was the sence of that grave, exemplary Common-wealths man, Cato, in Salust, that among other things which ruin any Government want of Freedom of Speech, or mens being oblieged to humor Times is a great one; which we find made good by the Flowrentine Republick, as Guicceardine relates.

4. Fourthly, Livy tells us, It was a Wonder that Hannibals Army, consisting of divers Nations, divers Humors,  p.38 differing Habits, contrary Religions, various Languages, should live 13 years from their own Country under his Command without so much as once mutining, either against their General, or among themselves. But what Livy relates for a Wonder that ingenious Marquess, Virgilio Malvetzy gives the Reason of, namely, that the difference of their Opinion, Tongues, and Customs, was the reason of their Preservation and Conquest; For said he, 'Twas impossible so many contrary Spirits should Combine, and if any should have done it, 'twas in the Generals power to make the greater Party by his equal hand; they owing him more of Reverence, then they did of Affection to one an another: This, says he, some impute to Hannibal, but how great soever he was, I give it to the variety of Humors in the Army. For (adds he) Romes Army was ever less given to Mutining when joyned with the Provincial Auxilaries, then when intirely Roman; thus much and more, in his publique Discourses upon Cornelius Tacitus.

5. Fifthly, The same, best Statist of his Time, C. Tacitus, tells us in the Case of Cremtius, That it had been the interest of Tiberius not to have punished him, in as much as Curiosity is begotten by Restriction of Liberty to Write or Speak, which never mist of Proselites.

6. Sixthly, Just. Martin. I will forbear to quote, in less then this, two whole Apollogies, dedicated to Adrian and Antonius Pius, as I take it.

Seventhly, Tertullian ad scapulum, that learned and juditious Appollogist, plainly tells us. That 'tis not the Property of Religion to Compel or Persecute for Religion, she should be accepted for her Self, not for Force; that being a poor and beggarly one, that has no better Arguments to Convince; and a manifest Evidence of her Superstition and Falshood.


8. Eightly, Of this we take the nine Moneths Reign of the Emperor Jovianus to be an excellent Demonstration, whose great Wisdom, and admirable Prudence ingranting Tolleration (expresly saying, He would have none molested for the Exercise of their Religious Worship) Calm'd the impetuous Storms of Dissention betwixt Homousians and Arrians; and reduc'd the whole Empire, before agitated with all kind of Commotions during the reign of Constantine, Constantius, and Julian, to a wonderful Serenity and Peace, as Socrates Scholasticus affirms.

9. Ninthly, That little Kingdom of Aegypt had no less then Forty Thousand Persons retir'd to their private and seperate Wayes of Worship, as Eusebius out of Philo Judeus, and Josephus relates.

10. Tenthly; And here let me bring in honest Chaucer, whose Matter (and not his Poetry) heartely affects me: 'twas in a time when Priests were as rich, and lofty, as they are now, and Causes of Evil alike.


  1. The time was once, and may return again,
    (for oft may happen that hath been beforn)
    when Shepherds had none Inheritance,
    ne of Land, nor Fee insufferance,
    But what might arise of the bare Sheep,
    (were it more or less) which they did keep,
    Well ywis was it with Shepherds tho:
    nought having, nought fear'd they to forgo,
    For PAN (God) himself was their Inheritance,
    and little them serv'd for their Maintenance,
    The Shepherds God so well them guided,
    that of nought were they unprovided; p. 40
    2Butter enough, Honey, Milk, and Whay,
    and their Flock Fleeces them to array.
    But Tract of Time and long Prosperity,
    (that Nurse of Vice, this of Insolency)
    Lulled the Shepheards in such security,
    that not content with Loyal obeysance,
    Some gan to gap for greedy governance,
    and match themselves with mighty Potentates.
    3Lovers of lordships and troublers of states;
    then gan Shepheards Swains to look aloft,
    And leave to live hard, and learn to lig soft,
    though under colour of Shepheards some while
    There crept in, Wolves full of fraud and guile,
    that often devour'd their own Sheep,
    And often the Shepheard that did them keep,
    4This was the first source of the Shepherds sorrow.
    that nor will be quit, with hale, nor borrow.

II. Who knows not that our first Reformers were great Champions for Liberty of Conscience, as Wicklif in his Remonstration to the Parliament. The Albigences to Leuis the 11th and 12th of France. Luther to the several Dyets under Fredrick and Charles the fifth; Calvin to Francis the first, and many of our English Martyrs, as the poor Plowman's Famous Complaint, in Foxes Martyralogy, &c.


12. The present affairs of Germany, Plainly tell us that tolleration is the preservation of their states; the contrary having formerly, almost quite wasted them.

13. The same in France: who can be so ignorant of their Story, as not to know that the timely Indulgence of Henry the fourth, and the discreet Tolleration of Richlieu and Mazarin saved that Kingdom from being ruin'd both by the Spaniards; and one another.

14. Holland, then which, what place is there so improved in Wealth, Trade and Power, chiefly owes it to her Indulgence in matters of Faith and Worship.

15. Among the very Mahumetans of Turky, and Persia, what variety of opinions, yet what Unity and Concord is there? we mean in matters of a Civil Importance.

16. It was the opinion of that great Master of the sentences, Dominious a Soto, that every man had A natural right to instruct others in things that are good: and he may teach the Gospell truths also; but cannot compell any to believe them, he may explain them, and to this (says he) every man has a right, as in his 4 Sent: Dist. Art. 510. Pag. 115. 7.

17. Strifes about Religions said Judicious and learned Grotius, are the most pernicious and destructive; where provision is not made for Dissenters: the contrary most happy; As in Muscovy; he further says upon the occasion of Campanella, that not a rigid but easy Government suits best with the Northren people; he often pleads the relaxation of temporary Laws to be resonable and necessary. As in the case of the Curatij and Heratij, and Fabius Vitulanus; and others stincted to time and place, as the Jewish Laws &c. Polit. Maxims P. 12 18. 78, 98.

18. The Famous Raleigh tells us, that the way for Magistrates to govern well and gain the esteem of their People  p.42 is to Govern by Piety, Justice, Wisdom, and a Gentle and Moderate Carriage towards them: And that Disturbance attends those States where men are ruin'd or depress'd by Parties. See his Observations and Maxims of State.

19. If I mistake not, the French and Duch Protestants enjoy their Separated Wayes of Worship in London, if not in other parts of these Lands, without Molestation; we do the like in remote Countries, but not in our own.

20. This must needs be the meaning of the learned Doctor to his inquisitive Student, in their Juditious Diologue about the Fundamental Laws of the Kingdoms, when he says, That such Laws as have not their Foundation in Nature, Justice, and Reason are void ipso Facto. And whether Persecution or Restraint upon Conscience be congruous with either, let the Impartial judge. lib. 1. chap. 6.

21. Doctor Hammond himself, and the Grand Patron of the English Church, was so far from urging the Legallity of Restriction in Matters relating to Conscience, that he Writ, Argu'd, and left upon his Dying Bed his sense to the Contrary: As the Author of his Life might have been pleas'd to observe, but that interest stood in the way; the Doctor exhorting his Party, not to seek to Displace those then in the University; or to Persecute them for any matter of Religious difference.

22. That a Person of no less ability In the Irish Protestant Church did the same, I mean D. Jer. Taylor, his whole discourse of Liberty of Prophesy, is a most pregnant demonstration.

23. It was the saying of a Person once, too great to be Nam'd Now. That liberty of Conscience is every mans Natural Right, and be who is depriv'd of it, is a Slave in the midst of the greatest Liberty: And since every man should do as he would be done to, such only don't deserve to have it, that won't give it.


24. Lactantius reflects upon Persecutors thus, If you will with Blood, with Evil, and with Torments defend your Worship, it shall not thereby be Defended but Polluted, lib. 5. cap. 20.

25. Hillary against Auxentius, saith, The Christian Church does not persecute, but is persecuted.

26. Jerom, thus, Heresie must be cut off with the Sword of the Spirit, Proam lib. 4.

27. Chrysostum saith, That it is not the manner of the Children of God to persecute about their Religion, but an evident Token of Antichrist —— Relig. Uris. pag. 192.

28. Stephen King of Poland declared his mind in the point controverted thus, I am King of Men, not of Conscience; a Commander of Bodies, not of Souls.

29. the King of Bohemia was of Opinion, That mens Consciences ought in no sort to be Violated, Urged, or Constrained.

30. And lastly, let me add (as what is, or should be now of more force) the sense of King James, and Charles the first, Men fam'd for their great natural abilities, and acquir'd Learning; that no man ought to be punished for his Religion nor disturb'd for his Conscience; In that it is the duty of every man to give what he would Receive. It is a sure Rule in Divinity, said King James, that God never loves to plants his Church by Violence and Bloodshed. And in his Exposition on Revel. 20. he saith, That PERSECUTION is the note of a false Church. And in the last Kings advice to the Present King, he sayes, Take heed of abetting any factions; your Partiall adhearing to ANY ONE SIDE gains you not so great advantages in some mens hearts (who are prone to be of their Kings Religion) as it loseth you in others, who think themselves, and their profession, first dispis'd, then persecuted by you.

Again, Beware of exasperating any Factions by the Crosness,  p.44 and Asperity of some mens Passions, Humours, or private opinions imployed by you, grounded only upon their difference in lesser matters, which are but the Skirts and Suburbs of Religion. Wherein a Charitable Connivence, and Christian Toleration often dissipates their strength, whom rougher opposition fortifies; and puts the despised and oppressed Party, into such combinations as may most enable them to get a full revenge on those they count their Persecutors, who are commonly assisted by that vulgar Commiseration, which attends all that are said suffer under the notion of Religion.

Always keep up SOLLID PIETY and those fundamentall Truths (which mend both hearts and lives of men) with Impartial favour and Justice. Your Prerogative is best shown and exercis'd in remitting, rather then exacting the rigour of Laws; there being nothing worse than Legall Tyranny. ——

Now upon the whole, we ask, What can be more Equal, what more reasonable then Liberty of Conscience; so correspondent with the Reverence due to God, and Respect to the Nature, Practice, Promotion, and Rewards of the Christian Religion; the Sense of Divine Writ; the Great Priviledge of Nature, and Noble Principle of Reason; the Justice, Prudence, and Felicity of Government; And Lastly, to the Judgment and Authority of a whole Cloud of Famous Witnesses, whose Harmony in Opinion, as much detects the Unreasonableness, and Incharity  p.45 of Persecutors, as their Savage Cruelties imply an highcontempt of so sollid determinations; of which number I can not forbear the mention of two, whose Actions are so near of kin to one another, and both to inhumanity, as the same thing can be to it self.

The first is a great Lord of Buckingham-shire; but so hearty a Persecutor of the poor Quakers, that rather then they should peaceably enjoy the Liberty of Worshipping God, (and to supply the County-defect of Informers) he has encourag'd a pair of such Wretches, that it had bin a Disgrace for the meanest Farmer to coverse with; once having been Prisoner in Alsbury for Theft, & said to have bin burnt in the Hand; and the other of a Complexion not much less Scandalous and Immortal.

To give an undeniable testimony of their Merit once for all, I shall briefly relate a most notorious piece of Perjury. They suspecting a Religious Assembly to be at a certain place in the same County came, and finding one in reallity, repaired to one they call Sr. Tho Clayton, and a Justice, where they depos'd, That not only a meeting was at such an House, but one Tho. Zachery and his Wife were there, who at the same time (as at the Tryal upon Indictment for Perjury at Alsbury was proved by snfficient Witnesses from London) were then in that City, yet fined not only for being there, but for the Speaker also, though none spoke that day.

Upon the prosecution of these Men, as perjur'd men, and by the Law dispriviledged of all Imply, and never to be credited more in evidence, several delays were made, much time spent, and not a little pains bestow'd, all in hopes of an Exemplary Success; which proved so, but the wrong way; for the very last Sessions, when the matter should have receiv'd an absolute Decission, and the Attendants have been dismist (especially on the score of the Witnesses, that came from London the second time, upon no other account) a Letter was reported to have bin writ  p.46 from the aforesaid Lord, in favour of these Informers, to this purpose, That since Sr. Tho Clayton was not present, the business could not well be determin:d, but if the Court would undertake the ending of it, he beseecht them to be favourable to those HONEST MEN. If this be as true as said, 'tis a most aggravated shame to Nobility: what! to protect them from the Lash of Law, who went about to destroy Truth the Life of it: 'Tis a Dishonour to the Government, a Scandal to the County, and a manifest Injury to an inoffensive and useful Inhabitant.

'Tother is as well known by his Cruelty, as by his Name, and he scarce deserves another; However, he is understood by that of the Reading Knight, Arrant, and alwayes in Armour for the Devil; a man, whose Life seems to be whole BONNER reviev'd: Hogestraut, the Popish Inquisiter, could not hate Martin Luther more, then he does a poor Dissenter; and wants but as much Power, as he has Will, to hang more then he has Imprisoned. The Laws made against Papists, he inflicts upon the Quakers; And makes it Crime enough for a Primunire to have an Estate to lose.

The single Question is not, Were you at such a Meeting? which the Act intends: But will you Swear, which it intends not; and Women escape him as little for this, as those of his own Tribe do for SOME THING ELSE: but what of all things most aggrivates the mans Impiety, is the making a devillish snare of a Christian Duty; since such as have come to visit the imprison'd, have been imprisoned themselves for their Charity; so that with him it seems a current Maxime, that those must not come to see Prisoners, and not be such themselves, who will not take the Oath of Allegiance to do it.

To relate the whole Tragedy would render him as Bad, as the Discourse Big; and the latter not less Voluminous, then the former Odious. But three things I shall observe.


First, That he has clouded 72 Persons (of those call'd Quakers) Men and Women, immodestly into Goal, not suffering them to enjoy common Conveniencies. And for his Divertion, and the Punishment of little Children, he pours Cold Water down their Necks.

2d His Imprisonments are almost perpetual. First he premunires them, without any just cause of Suspition; then Imprisens them; and lastly, Plunders them, and that by a Law enacted against Romanists; which, if all be true, that is said, is more his concern then theirs, If without offence, it may be suppos'd he has Religion at all.

3d Some have been there about Eight Years, and should be Eighteen more, were he as sure to live (being more then 70.) and enjoy his Power, as doubtless he hopes to die before those good Laws over-take him, that would make an Example of such an Oppressor; in short, Wives, Widdows, Poor and Father less, are all Fish for his Net; & whether over or under Age he casts none away, but seems to make it his priviledge to correct Law by out-doing it. When we have said all we can (and we can never say too much, (if enough) he is still his own best Character.

Such are the Passion, Follies, and Prejudices, Men devoted to a spirit of Imposition, and Persecution, are attended with,
Non enim possumus quae vidimus, et audivimus non loqui.

In short, What Religious, what Wise, what Prudent, what Good-natured Person would be a Persecuter? Certainly it's an Office only fit for those who being wide of all reason, to evidence the verity of their own Religion, fancy it to be true, from that strong Propensity and greedy Inclination they find in themselves to Persecute the Contrary; A Weakness of so ill a consequence to all  p.48 civil Societies, that the admission of it ever was, and ever will prove their utter Ruin, as well as their great Infelicity who pursue it.

And though we could not more effectually express our Revenge, then by leaving such Persons to the scope of their own Humors; Yet being taught to Love and Pray for our very Persecutors, we heartily wish their better information, that (if it be possible) they may Act more suitably to the good pleasure of the Eternal just God, and beneficialy to these Nations.

To conclude, Liberty of Conscience (as, thus Stated & Defended) we ask as our undoubted Right by the Law of God, of Nature, and of our own Country: It has been often promised, we have long waited for it; we have Writ much, and Suffered more in its Defence, and have made many true Complaints, but found little or no Redress.

However, we take the Righteous Holy God to Record against all Objections that are ignorantly, or designedly rais'd against us. That.

1st We hold no Principle destructive of the English Government.

2d That we plead for no such Dissenter (if such an one there be.)

3d That we desire the Temporal and Eternal Happiness of all Persons (in submission to the Divine Will of God) heartily forgiving our Cruel Persecutors.

4thly, And Lastly, We shall engage, by Gods assistance, to lead peaceable, just, and industrious lives amongst men, to the good and example of all. But if after all we have said, this short Discourse should not be credited, nor answer'd in any of its sober Reasons, and Requests; but Sufferings should be the present Lot of our Inheritance from this Generation,  p.49 be it known to them all, THAT MEET WE MUST, & MEET, we cannot but encourage all to do (whatever Hardship we sustain in Gods Name, & Authority, who is Lord of Hosts and King of Kings; at the revelation of whose Righteous Judgments and Glorious Tribunal, Mortal Men shall render an Account of the Deeds done in the Body; and whatever the Apprehensions of such may be, concerning this Discourse, 'twas writ in Love, and from a true sense of the present State of things: and TIME, and the EVENT will vindicate it from Untruth. In the mean while, 'tis matter of great Satisfaction to the Author, that he has so plainly cleared his Conscience, in pleading for the Liberty of other Mens, and publickly born his honest Testimony for God, not out of Season to his POOR COUNTRY.

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Title (uniform): The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience once more briefly debated [...]

Author: William Penn

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Electronic edition transcribed by: Ruth Canning

Edited at CELT and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History and Irish Research Council, New Foundations Scheme

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2. Second draft.

Extent: 17465 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

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Date: 2016

Date: 2017

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  • See below.

Selection of further reading

  1. My Irish Diary, 1669–1670 by William Penn. Edited by Isabel Grubb with an Introduction by Henry J. Cadbury (London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1952).
  2. William Penn, A letter of love to the young convinced (Cork: William Smith 1670).
  3. Thomas Holme and Abraham Fuller, A brief relation of some part of the sufferings of the true Christians, the people of God (in scorn called Quakers) in Ireland (1672).
  4. Samuel Fuller and Thomas Holme, A compendious view of some extraordinary sufferings of the people call'd Quakers, both in person and substance, in the kingdom of Ireland (Dublin, 1731).
  5. John Rutty, History of the Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland from the Year 1653 to 1700 (1751).
  6. A. C. Meyers, Immigration of Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682–1750, with their early history in Ireland (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 1902).
  7. Robert Murray, Ireland, 1603–1714 (London 1920).
  8. Isabel Grubb, Quakers in Ireland, 1654–1900 (London 1927).
  9. R. B. McDowell, 'The problem of religious dissent in Ireland, 1660–1740,' Bulletin, Irish Committee of Historical Sciences 40 (1945).
  10. Henry J. Cadbury, 'Intercepted correspondence of William Penn, 1670', The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 70 (1946) 349–72.
  11. Mary Penington and Henry J. Cadbury, 'More Penn Correspondence, Ireland, 1669–1670', The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 73 (1949) 9–15.
  12. Thomas E. Drake, (Review) 'My Irish Journal, 1669–1670 by William Penn; Isabel Grubb', The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 77 (1953) 112–114.
  13. Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn, The papers of William Penn (5 vols, Philadelphia 1981–87).
  14. Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn, The world of William Penn (Philadelphia 1986).
  15. J. G. Simms, War and politics in Ireland: 1649–1730; edited by D.W. Hayton and Gerard O'Brien (London 1986).
  16. Helen Hatton, The largest amount of good, Quaker relief in Ireland, 1654–1921 (Montreal 1993).
  17. Phil Kilroy, Protestant dissent and controversy in Ireland, 1660–1714 (Cork 1994).
  18. W. K. Sessions, 'William Penn's tract printing in Cork in 1670' in idem, Further Irish studies in early printing history (York: Ebor Press 1994).
  19. Robert L. Greaves, God's other children: Protestant nonconformists and the emergence of denominational churches in Ireland, 1660–1700 (Stanford CA, 1997).
  20. Robert L. Greaves, Merchant-Quaker: Anthony Sharp and the community of Friends, 1643–1707 (Stanford CA, 1998).
  21. Andrew Murphy (ed.), The political writings of William Penn (Indianapolis 2002).

Concise Penn Bibliography, compiled by Ruth Canning [There is some overlap with the above list]

  1. "List of Penn Manuscripts," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 28, No. 2 (1904), pp. 155-168.
  2. Penn, William. A Memoir of William Penn (Philadelphia, 1870).
  3. Bernet, Claus. "Marc Swanner (1639-1713): The Man Behind Fox and Penn," Quaker History, Vol. 99, No. 2 (2010), pp. 20-36.
  4. Brailsford, Mabel. The Making of William Penn (New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1930).
  5. Braithwaite, William C. The Beginnings of Quakerism (London: Macmillan, 1912).
  6. Braithwaite, William C. The Second Period of Quakerism (London, 1919).
  7. Broghill, Mary Pennington and Henry J. Cadbury (eds.). "More Penn Correspondence, Ireland, 1669-1670," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 73, No. 1 (1949), pp. 9-15.
  8. Buckley, Eila. "William Penn in Dublin," Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 6, No. 3 (1944), pp. 81-90.
  9. Buranelli, Vincent. The King and the Quaker (Philadelphia, 1962).
  10. Cadbury, Henry J. "Intercepted Correspondence of William Penn, 1670," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 70, No. 4 (1946), pp. 349-372.
  11. Calvert, Jane E. Quaker Constitutionalism and the Political Thought of John Dickinson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  12. Davies, Adrian. The Quakers in English Society, 1655-1725 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  13. De Krey. "Rethinking the restoration: Dissenting Cases of Conscience, 1667-1672," Historical Journal, 38 (1995), pp. 53-83.
  14. Dunn, Richard S. and Dunn, Mary Maples (eds.). The World of William Penn (Pennsylvania, 1986).
  15. Dunn, Richard S. and Dunn, Mary Maples (eds.). The Papers of William Penn (Philadelphia, 1981-).
  16. Dunn, Mary Maples. William Penn: Politics and Conscience (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967).
  17. Dunn, Mary Maples. "The Personality of William Penn," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 127, No. 5 (1983), pp. 316-321.
  18. Endy, Melvin B. Jr. William Penn and Early Quakerism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).
  19. Fisher, Sydney George. The True William Penn (Philadelphia, 1899).
  20. Ford, Linda. "William Penn's Views on Women: Subjects of Friendship," Quaker History, Vol. 72, No. 2 (1983), pp. 75-102.
  21. Geiter, Mary. "William Penn and Jacobitism: A Smoking Gun?" Historical Research, Vol. 73:181 (2000), pp. 213-218.
  22. Greaves, Richard L. Enemies Under His Feet: Radicals and Nonconformists in Britain, 1664-1667 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990).
  23. Hodges, George. William Penn (Cambridge, 1901).
  24. Holland, Rupert. William Penn (New York, 1915).
  25. Hughs, Mary. The life of William Penn (Philadelphia, 1828).
  26. Horle, Craig. The Quakers and the English Legal System 1660-1688 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988).
  27. Ingle, H. Larry. First Among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
  28. Janney, Samuel Mcpherson. The Life of William Penn: with selections from his correspondence and autobiography (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1853).
  29. Leach, M Atherton. "Gulielma Maria Springett, First Wife of William Penn," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 57, No. 2 (1933), pp. 97-116.
  30. Lockhart, Audrey. "The Quakers and Emigration From Ireland to the North American Colonies," Quaker History, Vol. 77, No. 2 (1988), pp. 67-92.
  31. Maloyed, Christie N. "A liberal Civil Religion: William Penn's Holy Experiment," Journal of Church and State, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2013), pp. 669-711.
  32. Morgan, Edmund S. "The World of William Penn," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 127, No. 5 (1983), pp. 291-315.
  33. Moore, Rosemary. The Light of their Consciences: The Early Quakers in Britain, 1646-1666 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).
  34. Murphy, Andrew R. "The Emergence of William Penn, 1668-1671," Journal of Church and State, Vol. 57, No. 2 (2014), pp. 333-359.
  35. Murphy, Andrew R. "Trial Transcripts as Political Theory: Principles and Performance in the Penn-Mead Case," Political Theory, Vol. 41 (2013), pp. 775-808.
  36. Murphy, Andrew R. "The Limits and Promise of Political Theorizing: William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania,"History of Political Thought, Vol. 34 (2013), pp. 639-668.
  37. Nash, Gary B. Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726, (Princeton, 1968).
  38. Neill, Desmond. "The Quakers in Ireland," North Irish Roots, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1995), pp. 9-11.
  39. Newman, Paul Douglas. "'Good Will to all men ... from the King on the throne to the beggar on the dunghill': William Penn, the Roman Catholics, and Religious Toleration," Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol. 61, No. 4 (1994), pp. 457-479.
  40. Peare, Catherine O. William Penn (Philadelphia, 1957).
  41. Penn, Granville. Memorials of the professional life and times of Sir William Penn, 2 Vols., From 1644-1670 (London: 1833).
  42. Penn, William. A Collection of the Works of William Penn. 2 Vols. (London: 1726) The book can be found on www.archive.org and contains a list of further publications by Penn: https://archive.org/stream/collectionofwork01penn#page/n18/mode/1up.
  43. Pincus, Steve. 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009).
  44. Robbins, Caroline. "The Papers of William Penn," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 93, No. 1 (1969), pp. 3-12.
  45. Schwartz, Sally. "William Penn and Toleration: Foundations of Colonial Pennsylvania," Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol. 50, No. 4 (1983), pp. 284-312.
  46. Sutto, Antoinette. The borders of Absolutism: William Penn, Chalres Calvert, and the Limits of Royal Authority, 1680-1685," Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol. 76, No. 3 (2009), pp. 276-300.
  47. Vann, Richard. The Social Development of English Quakerism 1655-1755 (Cambridge, Mass., 1969).
  48. Wainwright, Nicholas B. "The Penn Collection," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 87, No. 4 (1963), pp. 393-419.
  49. Wight, Thomas. A History of the Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland (1811).
  50. Young Kunze, Bonnelyn. "Religious Authority and Social Status in Seventeenth-Century England: The Friendship of Margaret Fell, George Fox, and William Penn," Church History, Vol. 57, No. 2 (1988), pp. 170-186.

The edition used in the digital edition

Penn, William (1670). The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience once more briefly debated and defended, by the authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity: which may serve the place of a general reply to such late discourses; as have oppos’d a tolleration‍. 1st ed. 55 pages. London: unknown.

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  title 	 = {The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience once more briefly debated and defended, by the authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity: which may serve the place of a general reply to such late discourses; as have oppos'd a tolleration},
  author 	 = {William Penn},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {55 pages},
  publisher 	 = {unknown},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1670}


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Creation: By William Penn (1644–1718)

Date: 1670

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  • The text is in seventeenth-century English. (en)
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Keywords: prose; tract; liberty of conscience; religious toleration; 17c; Quakers

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  3. 2017-01-11: Concise Penn Bibliography supplied. (ed. Ruth Canning)
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A few brief Observations upon the late Act, and the usual Tearms of Acts of this Nature.

That which we have to say, relates, either to the Tearms of the Act, or the Application of them to us.

As to the Tearms of the Act, they are these, Seditious Conventicles, Seditious Sectaries, and Meetings under Colour or Pretence of Religion, P. 1.

1. Seditious, from Sedition, imports as much as Turbulent, Contentious, Factious, which sowes Strife, and Debate, and hazards the Civil Peace of the Government.

2. Conventicle, is a diminutive private Assembly, designning and contriving Evil to particular Persons, or the Government in generall, see Lamb. p. 173. In Tertullians sense it is an Assembly of immodest and unclean Persons, at least it was so taken in those dayes, and objected against the Christians as their practise, whom he defends. Ter. Apol.


3. Sectaries, must be such as disjoyn or dis-member themselves from the body of Truth, and confess to a strange and untrue opinion. If any Subject of this Realm being 16 years of age or upwards, shall be present at any assembly, Conventicle or pretence of Religion &c. which can signifie no more then thus much, that true it is some may meet and assemble to Worship God, and upon a religious account, that are dissenters, such we censure not, but those who under colour or pretence of any exercise of Religion conspire &c. they are to be suspected and Prosecuted. This being the true explanation of the tearms of the Act; we proceed to show how unreasonably they are applyed to us.

1. Words are but so many intelligible Marks, and Characters set and employ'd, to inform us of each others conceptions, and therein of the nature of those things they stand for; Now because we take the Act to mean what it speaks, and that the Law concludes no man guilty upon conjectures, but from the detection of some fault; we affirm our selves altogether unconcern'd in that word Seditious, because 'twas never our practise in words, or actions to disturb the Government; or suggest Principles that might hatch Conspiracies, or feed the vulgar with disaffection to their Rulers; but before the Kings coming in, at his coming in, and ever since, notwithstanding our frequent suffering, we have made it our business to heal Animosities, Preach forgiveness and Charity amongst men, and that they would by an hearty repentance turn to God, rather then hunt after revenge upon one another: therefore we assert we have not done one thing that may be prov'd Seditious in the sense above mention'd.

2. That we are Strangers to Conventicles is most evident, for where the parts that render it such, are wanting, there  p.52 can be no Conventicle; but that they are in our Assemblies, appears.

First, Because our Meetings are not Small. 2. Neither are they private or Clandestine; but in the view of all People. 3. Nor are they riotous, liscentious, or otherwise immodest, or immorall; but on purpose to diswade persons from such impieties; so that we are clear in the Interpretation of the Law. 13 H. 5. cap. 8. 19. and 19. H. 7. cap. 13. and in the sense of the famous Father Tertullian.

3. Sectaries, is a word, that whosoever has but confidence enough to conceit himself in the Right, by consequence wants none to suppose the contrary in the wrong, and so to call him a Sectary; but this is but a meer begging of the Question; For to say those are Sectaries, do's not conclude them such, nor does the Act speak so plainly of Dissenters: but granting it did, yet they must be Seditious Ones, or else all will be in vain; where we may observe, that purely to be a Sectary, is not what the Act strikes at, but to be a Seditious One: for a man may differ in judgement about matters of Faith, from the national Religion, and yet correspond with the Government in matters civil: so that ACT upon the whole, aims not at Sectaries simply, but they must be such as are Enemies to the civil constitution to be rendred Seditious Ones, from which we have sufficiently clear'd our selves.

4. That we meet under Colour and Pretence, and not really to Worship God; we deny, and none can prove. 'Twere high Incharity to affirm positively, This, or that People meet only under a Colour of Religion; yet unless the Act had so expres'd it self, we conceive their Authority lame and imperfect that Persecute us by it. It will help but little to say, The King,  p.53 Lords and Commons, by the following words, in other manner then according to the Liturgy of the Church of England, meant, that such meet under a Pretence that did not conform to that Worship; since the precedent words say, under Colour or Pretence of any Exercise of Religion in other manner, &c. So that they are only struck ar, who are not sincere Dissenters, but that are such, with Design to carry on another End.

Obj But may some say, 'Tis granted, you have very evidently evaded the Force of the Act, so far as relates to these recited Expressions; but what if a Bill be ready, for an Explanatory and Supplementory Act to the former, wherein this Scope for Argument will not be found, because your Meetings will be absolutely adjudged Seditious, Riotous, and Unlawful.

To which we Answer, That as the granting of the first, which none reasonably can deny, is a manifest Impeachment of such as have violently prosecuted people for being present at Religious Assemblies (almost to their utter Undoing) so shall we as easily answer the second, which amounts to the force of an Objection, and briefly thus.

First, It is not more impossible for Mankind to preserve, their Society without Speech, then it is absolutely requisit that the Speech be regular and certain. For, if what we call a Man, a Lion, a Whale to day, we should call a Woman, a Dog, a Sprat to morrow; there would be such Uncertainty and Confusion, as it would be altogether impossible to preserve Speech or Language intelligible.

Secondly, it is not in the power of all the men in the World to reconcile an absolute Contradiction, to convert the nature of Light into that of Darkness, nor to enact a thing to be that which it is not; but that Those endeavour to do, who think of making  p.54 our Religious Meetings Routs and Riots; for first they offer Violence to our common Propriety of Language, it being the first time that ever a Religious and Peaceable Assembly would be enacted a Rout or Riot: Nature, Reason, the Law of the Land, and common Practice, and Observation, give a clear contrary definition of a Rout and Riot.

Secondly, They endeavour to reconcile Contradictions; for they would have a thing that which by nature it cannot be; for that which is Peaceable cannot be Riotous, and what is Religious can never be Seditious. For any to say our Meetings are not Religious, is not only a poor Evasion, but great Incharity; for that is properly a Religious Assembly where Persons are congregated with a real purpose of Worshipping God, by Prayer, or otherwise, let the Persons met be esteem'd Doctrinally Orthodox, or not. Can any be so Ignorant, or so Malitious, as to believe we do not Assemble to Worship God, to the best of our Understanding? If they think otherwise, they must, and do assume unto themselves a Power beyond the Arrogancy of the POPE himself, that never yet adventur'd to tell man his Thoughts, nor the Purposes and Intents of his Heart, which he, or they must do, that definitively judge our Assemblies, void of Sword or Staff, Drum or Musket, Tumult or Violence, and circumstantiated with all the Tokens of Christian Devotion, a Rout or a Riot. And truly, If Protestants deny the Legallity of those Acts or Edicts, which were contriv'd and executed in order to their suppression, by the respective Kings and Parliaments that own'd the Romish Faith and Authority, where they either did or do live, let them not think it strange, if we on the same Tearms (namely, Scruple of Conscience) refuse compliance with their Laws of Restraint. And as the first Reformers were no whit daunted at the Black Characters the Romanists fastened on them, neither thought their Assemblies in  p.55 a way of profest seperation, the more unlawful, for their representing them such; no more are we surpriz'd or scar'd at the ugly Phroses, daily cast upon us by a sort of men, that either do not know us, or would not that others should: For we are not so easily to be Brav'd, Menac'd, or Persecuted out of our Sense, Reason, and Priviledge.

They say, LOSERS have leave to Speak, at least, we take it; none being greater Losers, then such as for Dissenting from national institutions in point of Faith or Worship, are depriv'd of their Common Rights and Freedoms, and hindred as much as may be, from reverencing the God that made them, in that Way which to them seems most acceptable to him.

To Conclude, we say, and by it let our Intentions in our whole discourse be measur'd, that we have not defended any Dissenters, whose quarrell or dissent is rather Civill and Politticall, then Religious and Concientious; for both we really think such unworthy of Protection from the English government, who seek the ruin of it; and that such as are Contributries to the pres preservation of it, (though Dissenters in point of Faith or Worship) are unquestionably Intituled to a Protection from IT.


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  1. The primative State of things observed by a Poet, more then 300. year old; by which the Clergy may read their own Apostacy and Character. 🢀

  2. Time and Prosperity corrupted them, & then they grew States-men. 🢀

  3. 'Twas now they began to Persecute; they hated any that were more devout then themselves: Devotion was counted Disaffection; Religious Assemblies, Conventicles; primitive Spirited Christians, Upstart Hereticks; thus the Tragedy began, Cain slaying Abel about Religion. 🢀

  4. He truly maketh their Avarice the cause of their Degeneration; for 'tis the Root of all Evil. 🢀


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