[William Walwyn], A Demurre to the Bill (7 October 1646).


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Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.76 [1646.10.07] [William Walwyn], A Demurre to the Bill for Preventing the Growth and Spreading of Heresie (7 October 1646).

Full title

[William Walwyn], A Demurre to the Bill for Preventing the Growth and Spreading of Heresie. Humbly presented to the Honourable House of Commons.

Estimated date of publication

7 October 1646.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

TT1, p. 468; E. 356. (5.)

Editor’s Introduction

(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)

Text of Pamphlet

Wee beseech you for the great love you have from the people, that you will be cautious in determining any thing in this businesse of blasphemy & heresie; and that you will resolve to doe nothing therein, but what shall evidently appeare to be just and agreeable to the word of God.

Our feares are great; that those who urge you so much to suppresse heresies and blasphemies, have their own unjust ends therein, and the enslaving of the people to their wils: To estrange their affections from you; and to make them out of love with Parliaments.

For what is it you are urged unto; but in effect to establish a very inquisition, to be as a curb to all those that oppose the doctrines and oppinions of the ministers, or will not without reasonings or disputings submit their faith, practise and purses to their wils.

It is not to be supposed but that these desires and motions, have their rise and birth from them, whose purpose it is to make you Instruments of their cruelty; certainly they have digged deep, and are grown confident you are fully underminded; they judge you believe you are; and that you are so fully captivated by their policies and stratagems, that you dare not but doe what they desire? though never so unjust or distructive to your selves.

It cannot be; they should think you so ignorant as to believe they make these desires out of zeale to God, to Christ or his word; they are assured, you not only doubt, but know they doe it only to make you instruments, to subject the people to their no lesse then popall tyrany, they know you know it to be so, and think they have you upon such a lock as you dare not deny them.

But will you now feare the power of a Clergy, so lately raised out of the dust by your selves; when neither the power of the Court; and a long setled Clergy united, hath been able to stand before you; there is nothing for this Parliament now to feare but God.

The Clergy doe but presume, and like the Prelates doe things hastily, that will speedily make them odious, and be their ruine.

The people already generally see through them, they have waighed them in the ballance and find them light, a delusive, covetous, violent, bloody, imperious sort of men, no more like the Apostles or Disciples of Christ, then Simon Magus was; there is nothing so much in discourse as their pride and coveteousnesse: That it is they who set Nation against Nation, and neighbour against neighbour, and to have their will, set even all the People together by the eares; their craft and pollicies are worne threed bare, and their credits and reputations is grown low in the Peoples esteem, and therefore doe they make hast unto you for some reall power.

And because they would prevaile, they seem to be advocates for God, for Christ, for his word, for the precious soules of men, transforming themselves into this shape of angels of light, in hope to deceive the very Parliament it selfe.

Wee beseech you to looke upon them without dread, without superstition; with open eyes, see through them to their ends, and you will see they mind only themselves, to set themselves above you, to trample upon the People, who yet trust you will preserve them from so great a bondage.

1. First for their desire concerning heresie: for I presume I may safely call them theirs first: for it is not probable they know any person that doe deny and maintaine there is no God, if any such were they would no doubt ere this time have been brought to light, by these searching inquisitive Church-men: their purpose in this particular seems to be no other then to keep men in awe & feare of affrunting them in their arguments, to have advantages against any that hold any set discourses, and to beget in men a superstitious beliefe of any thing they say, without any examination of their grounds and reasons

2. In case any being ignorant, maintaine the contrary, can it be judged in wisdome or justice, an equall thing that they should therefore be discharged? Would it not farre better become us to endevour the enlightening of their understanding, or to waite Gods leasure till he doe it in his due time, rather then by their death to make sure that it shall never be done.

3. Men are not borne with the knowledge of this more then of any other thing; it must therefore either be infused by God, or begoten in us by discourse and examination as other things are; if it be infused, we must waite Gods time; his season is not the same for all, though happily one mans understanding may be opened at the first or second houre, another may not till the eleventh or last houre.

If by discourse and examination; then every man must have liberty to discourse thereupon; to propose doubts, to give and take satisfaction, to scruple, argue, or doe any thing that may firmely establish our minds in this prime and fundamentall truth.

4. Wee beseech you let not God and the truth of this being, be so excessively disparaged as not to be judged sufficient to maintaine it against all gainsayers, without the help of earthly power to maintain it; Let Turkes and those that believe in strange gods, which are indeed no gods: make use of such poore and infirme supporters of their supposed deities; but let the truth of our God, the only God, the omnipotent God, be judged aboundantly; able to support it selfe; tis a tacite imputation of infirmnesse, to imagine it hath need of our weak and impotent assistance.

5. If there be any feare that for want of such a terrour and penalty as is desired, men will take greater liberty to be vicious; Let the strictnesse and severity of law be multiplied tenfold against all manner of vice and enormity: Let some course be taken and charge given to the publique speakers, that they spend lesse time about controversies and entrigate disputes; and divert the streame of their discourses against the uglinesse of vice, and let forth the lovelinesse and excellency of vertue and true piety; that so all men may be inamoured therewith, and hate whatsoever is vicious with a perfect hatred. Concerning those that deny the unity of God: His eternity, presence or omnipotency; the divinity of Christ the purity of his manhood: the distruction of the two natures: the sufficiency of his death, and suffering for the satisfaction for our sins: the Trinity: resurrection, or judgement to come: or any other position mentioned in the former part of the desired Ordinance.

Those Miserable men I say, that through ignorance maintain any of these particulers: must they therefore be put to death? Is there no way to cure the blindnesse of their understandings, but by taking away that and life together? Is it not misery sufficient to these unhappy men that they are deprived of that knowledge, which is the principle comfort of this life: a support to us in afliction, the joy and solace of our soules?

But must they for this their infirm filicity loose their lives also? What precept I pray have wee for so doing? What command or Authority from Scripture? Was there ever any injunction given by Christ or his Apostles for the extirpation of the Romans or any others that denyed our God; and multiplyed other feighned gods to themselves? Can we think the name of God was lesse precious to Christ or his Disciples then it is to us? The Apostles way was to make the unknowne God, to be known to ignorant men; to remove errour by the sword of the Spirit and soundnesse of argument; not by punishment or death: If worldly strength had been judged the best and meetest way for the implanting the Gospell, God would with a word have furnished his servants there with: He could have chose to him out of the greatest and most potent upon the earth, or have made the Apostles: which seeing he did not, it evidently sheweth that his truthes are not to be propagated by strength and the sword: Nay we see rather it was his way to give all errours the advantage of worldly power, and trust the establishment and support of truth to its own effecacy, upon assurance whereof, he sent it abroad by messengers of meane condition, of no power in the world, as proposing it as his end to convince, not to compell, to conquour the under standing by the glorious and shining brightnesse of truth: and not subdue it by force of armes, by fire and faggot, by the hatchet or halter: Christ and his Disciples were frequently with the Sadduces, that denyed the resurrection, and by consequence the Judgement to come: yet wee find not that they ever Instigated the Magistrate against them: and though there were heresies in their times, as many and as grosse as there are said now to be; yet our blessed Saviour shewes no zeale against them; the most that ever he exprest was against hypocrisie: the oppression of the Pharises, the cruelty of Herod, the pride and imperious mastery of the Scribes and Doctors of the Law: for Matters of opinion there was a toleration no man was molested: and it is exceedingly to the honour of Christianity: Yet of it selfe notwithstanding its low beginnings and despicable appearance at first, through the inherent and essentiall excellency and power that inseperably accompanies it, it was able to erect it selfe, and spread its branches about a great part of the world: let us not therefore make use of other meanes then Christ used; nor flee to those poore, refuges of civill power, which he purposely avoided, let us not now cast a blemish upon our profession: Let us not now undervalue it, by thinking it cannot stand without crutches, or that errour unlesse the Magistrate assist, will be to hard for it.

For blasphemy, if thereby be ment, a reviling or speaking evill of God, his Christ or his word; It is but meet that some fit punishment (as the word clearely imparts 1. Tim. 1. chap. & 20 ver. compared with 2. Pet. 2.10. Judg. 8.10.) should be appointed for restraining thereof, as also for any other evill and reproachfull language, against either men or opinions: though reason, and argument is allowable and necessary for the finding out of truth, yet reviling railing, bitter taunts, and reproches, tends to the disturbance of civill peace, and proceeds from a maligne and a distempered mind, and are therefore justly restrainable; But surely the punishment mentioned of burning in the cheeke with a hot Iron, is to rigorous and severe, I shall not prescribe, but leave it to your discretion.

For the supposed errours summed up in the latter part of the desired Ordinance, though many of them are disallowed by all, yet some of them are esteemed truths by the Anabaptists, some by the Brownists; some by the Independents, some by the Antinomians, and some by all of them: And such truths as they doe as really esteem themselves bound to maintaine, as the Presbyterians doe any of their tenets, this Ordinance therefore is like a insurrection of one sort of men against another, the purport and desires thereof in effect being that all the Independents, the Brownists, the Antinomians, the Anabaptists that have so much courage left, as to hold fast that which they account good, should be imprisoned till they can find two subsity men that will be sureties for them, that they shall never professe nor practice what they esteem truth any more.

Have these sorts of men been invited (though indeed they needed no invitation) to venture their lives and estates for their Country; and is this the reward? What could these good mens persons have been worse, had they been conquered by the Enemy? Since if this Ordinance takes effect, they must lead the remainder of their lives in a prison; and after they have got the victory be cast into bonds: I cannot perswade my selfe but that the Presbyters themselves, the ingenious I meane and meekly disposed amongst them, must utterly dislike this motion, as savouring not only of ingratitude and inhumanity, but of injustice; neither can I think but that the Honourable House of Commons will shew tendernesse to those sorts of men, from whom they have had reall affection, assistance protection, besides many excellent services and performances: and expresse no other then a detestation of such imperious and unequall desires, evidently tending to enslave them.

Though wee will not contend who has done best service for their Country, in the time of its straites and necessities, yet the presbyters sure themselves will acknowledge with us, that these sorts of men have not been backward in emptying themselves here at home, and powring out their blood abroad, thinking nothing to deare for their Country, and all in hope that the worke being done, they should perticipate of its peace and freedome, but the enemy being subdued, and freedome being now expected of serving God according to conscience, as a recompence for all the miseries and calamities Independents and Separation have indured for their Country, and amongst others, for the Presbyters: And instead thereof, motions are made that they maybe put out of all Offices and imployment in the common wealth (and not only so, but it is further intended) by this desired Ordinance that they may be put in prison.

1. If this dealing be just or any waies pleasing to Almighty God, let the Presbyters themselves judge? Let it be considered first, that in matters of Religion, no sort of men have no just power to determine for another: neither are the Presbyters computent judges of the Independents or Anabaptists &c. no more then they are of the Presbyters.

2. That those tenets which are now accounted heresies, may be in the countenanced truthes of the next age; as what formerly was accounted errour, is now esteemed truth; every man is to satisfie his own conscience, the best he can, and doing so, walking, likewise according to his light (which is now principally wanting) it is as much as in equity can be desired; consider that though the bondage of the Presbyters seems not to be included within this Ordinance; yet being and setled, the Ministers having such a foundation to work upon, they will extend it to all, and the Presbyters themselves not complying in all things to their desires, shall by questioning, catechizing, or some other way, be look within in the verge of its power.

4. Our bretheren the Presbyterians, having no assurance that they shall not change their minds, and therefore it may so fall out, that the rod they provide for their discenting brethren to day, may whip them to morrow, and Mordecaies gallowes, may serve for Hamans execution.

5. We may very well dread the tendensie of the government wch in its first desires is so rigid and bloody minded, what will it in time grow up to? what will its corruptions arise to? We see how frequent it hath been to pervert the end of Lawes, and extend them beyond the intentions of the Law-makers: The Law against meetings in private, was intended for the security of the Nation against conspiracies and traitorous plottings against the State: But is wasted by the malicious men, and made to serve their turne against the godly people, and men best affected to the State, meeting together to worship and to serve God: The Statute against Recusancy, was intended against Papists, but they frequently put it in execution against the Separation: So that it is very necessary to be provident and causious in making Lawes of this nature: since crafty men have devices in their braine that good men never dreames of; and though the glory of God be the pretence at present; yet upon very good grounds it is to be feared that the principle thing intended in these desires, is to lay ginnes and snares to intrap men with all, to terrifie men from a free and necessary search into the grounds and originall of things, and to dispose all men to an easie and apt beliefe of whatsoever the Synod and learned Church-men shall hold forth. It cannot be. Oh yee lovers of the People, but that you desire the People should be a judicious, knowing & understanding people; a people established and grounded upon solid principles, begotten by serious meditation, and deliberate examination: You cannot but abhor that most superstitious maxime to believe as the Church believes; O doe but consider; what the Clergy men desire; and see whether it amounts to lesse, then to barre all search, enquire, or examination, and in time to believe as the Assembly believes: at least to professe as they professe, or not the contrary upon paine of death, imprisonment, or other punishments.

Certainly if there be need of any ordinance concerning the Assembly it is for their dissolution, and that the Parliament would be pleased to take a survey of their manifould attempts upon them, and that like subtill and bloody Simon & Levy, in the greatest exigents and difficulties of their waightiest affaires, as trusting rather to what necessity might enforce, then what justice would allow. They have been goads in your sides, & thornes in your feet, hindering by frequent & politique stratagems, your progression towards the peoples good and wealfare; be pleased therefore instead of complying with them in these vast and unreasonable desires; admonishing them to labour for humble and contented spirits: and to yeild ready obedience to the commands of Parliament, by whom they are ordained, and whose direction they are to observe without dispute; and that they would not spend their time, and stuffe their sermons with State affaires to beget parties, and factions to carry on their own ambitious designes.

If the Parliament would be pleased to answer their desires thus, and to forbeare to make either Ordinances or Lawes of that nature, which their crueltie hath prompted them to desire, it would manyfest so great a care of the quietnesse of the people as would cause them to blesse their remembrance for ever, and would be their honour to future generations: and is the most zealous desire of all those that would gladly see the quietnesse and happinesse of Parliaments and People.