A Key

From St. Martin, patron of conscientious objectors, pray for us!

A Key by William Penn

Perversion 16: The Quakers deny all civil honor and respect, but what is relative or equal between men.

Principle: We honor all men in the Lord, but not in the spirit and fashion of the world which passes away. And though we do not pull off our hats or give flattering titles, or use compliments, because we believe there is no true honor in using them, yet we treat all men with seriousness and gentleness, though it be with plainness, and our superiors with a modest distance, and are ready to do them any reasonable benefit or service, in which we think real honor consists. And as for expressing our respect to our superiors, we think it best done by obeying all just laws, according to the saying of the centurion unto Christ, and which Christ so much approved: reasonable commands and reasonable obedience. This is honoring government and governors, and not empty titles and servile gestures.

Perversion 17: The Quakers are enemies of all government; first, in that each one acts according to his own conceit; secondly, because they will not support civil government and so are useless if not dangerous to it; thirdly, because they refuse to give evidence upon oath.

Principle: This is a calumny, their lives and conversations sufficiently show. They believe magistracy to be an ordinance of God, and that he that rules well deserves to be valued and esteemed; and further, they are a people that love good order and good government among themselves.

It is true indeed that they cannot kill their own kind, and so are not fit for warriors with carnal weapons, because they believe their blessed Lord forbade the use of them to His followers, when He said “They that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.” The use of the sword in war God suffered for the hardness of men’s hearts: in fine, it came in with the Fall and must go out with it also. And as Christ, the repairer and restorer, comes to rule in the heart, love will take place of wrath, and forgiveness overcomes injury and revenge. For which cause, the weapons of this people’s warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin. They take their beginnings in Christ. the beginning and the end of all true Christians. Let not this people be thought useless, or inconsistent with government, for introducing this harmless way to the distracted world— for somebody must begin it—but rather embrace the principle and follow the example, believing with them that Christ, the blessed Shepherd of His flock, will preserve the faithful followers of His peaceable and forgiving doctrine.

It is their desire to be able to give evidence. But they cannot swear at all, Christ having commanded His followers that their yea and nay should serve instead, because what is more comes of evil. So that it is for Christ’s sake that they cannot swear Who is the Truth and has taught them to speak truth without an oath.

Hear, and be entreated for your soul’s sake! O that ye knew God your Creator to be also your Redeemer. Who does as certainly visit you by the Spirit of the second Adam as ever He created you in the nature of the first: that as in one you fell, in the other you may arise, and become a chosen people to God. “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him,” said God the Father. And what says Christ the Son? “Learn of me. for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” For out of Christ we cannot have peace. You must take up your cross daily and follow Him, or ye cannot be His disciples, His followers, His people, His friends: those in whom He is well pleased. Whose doctrine is the living teaching of His Spirit in your own hearts, and whose religion is not opinion, but experience, life from death; in short, holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Be strict and true in the search. If your mind be set on heavenly things, well will it be with you forever: to live then will be Christ, and to die eternal gain. For blessed is that people whose God is the Lord.

The complete text of A Key on Wikisource


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