Letters by James Parnell  
Born in 1636, died a martyr's death at the age of 19
Click here to read a short Biography of James Parnell)

Dear Friends and brethren, 

     In the eternal, unchangeable love and life of the new covenant I am with you, and there I do salute you, where we are one in our measures, though ten thousand. All children of one Father, brothers and sisters of one family, and heirs of the promise, ever one in the measure and gift of grace given to us, of which to be good stewards. And here our joy abounds and is made full in one another, in the Light of the new covenant you read me, where I am present with you and do embrace and salute you, though absent in body. For since we have all been born by the Immortal Word, and born again, we come to bear the one image of our Father; so that by this we come to know one another to be the children of one Father; and do see, and read, and enjoy one another in this same unchangeable covenant of love and light; and here is the blessed union and communion, and fellowship, and the glorious liberty, of the children of the new covenant, who are sealed in this everlasting covenant of life; and this is the great riches of the love of God bestowed upon us, that should be found worthy of this high calling.

     Dear brethren, the letter which you sent from Cambridge I received, with the same [love] that sent it; and did own it, as [an evidence] of your care and wisdom. And I shortly [after] went into the Isle of Ely; and I had meetings at Ely town, and was move to go to the steeple-house. The rude people would not allow me to speak; but mightily was I preserved by the power of God; and had a great meeting in the town that day, and in much power was I carried forth, to the binding and chaining the heathen, and the raising of the Witness, so that many were convinced; but the town is much hardened against the Truth; but yet I see a further work to be done in it. 

     There is a pleasing  people arising out of Littleport, in the Isle. I remained there a sufficient time among them. There are about  sixty people who meet together in that town alone. On the first day I had a meeting at Sohmn, within three miles of Colonel Russell's; and there I was moved to go to the steeple-house, and there was a London priest who had gotten up into the seat of the Pharisee; and he a right Pharisee, for he was much painted, [he was dressed very godly for show]. And I was allowed to stay until he was done; and then I was carried out in a mighty power, to speak to him and to the people, which bound them all under. And they were a great people and rude, but the power of God was wonderfully seen in delivering me, so that I can't remember if they hit me. And the crowd was so large that I went into the yard, and there they made way for me, and I was moved to speak in much power, and they stood like lambs around me.

     After some time Robert Hammond came up to me; he was a justice, who had been at the  steeple-house, and he said there was a proclamation, that anyone who disturbed the ministers in their public exercise, should be apprehended as disturbers of the peace, so if I would not pass away, he said, I should be apprehended. So I was free to pass from that place; but I told him and the people, that I would declare the Truth in the town that day. And so upon these conditions, I was set free. 

     I had a great meeting in the town that day: and several of the people were present who belonged to those people at Chippenham; but I heard of none that had come from the town; but those that were there received the Truth willingly, and there were many people convinced that day. This went to Hammond's ears, and stirred up his spirit against the Truth; so the priests and he consulted together against me, and the next morning. he sent a warrant for me, and committed me to Cambridge jail for speaking to the priest, even though he had before set me free from that in the presence of  a hundred people. So this was on the last second day, that I was sent to Cambridge, and there I was put into the low jail among the thieves. The next day Justice Blackeley sent his warrant, and set me free from tyrant's hands: but I was made very willing to remain if it had been the Lord's will; but in His great wisdom he ordered it, according to His good will and pleasure, for I did not request the warrant from Blackeley, and he did it of his own accord. 

     The next day I went to a meeting six miles from Cambridge, where I met with my dear sisters, Ann Blakely and Dorothy Waugh. They remain in this region for awhile. My sudden release and going into the country proved to be very appropriate because the heathen were very happy and rejoiced at my imprisonment. If the Lord wills it, I will likely quickly return to this area, where I was arrested, for there is a people there to be brought into the Truth. But the heathen, I perceive, are plotting together to put me in prison again, because the jailer has been meeting with Blackeley about it, and is disturbed that he released me from jail without bail; so he threatens to get another warrant for me, but according to the good will of God, so be it. 

     As it stands to his glory, I am content, whether in bonds or free. But I have thought to be in this area until my next return, in case you have thought to write anything [to me here]. Salute me dearly to my dear brother, G. F. [George Fox] and all the rest of my brethren, sisters, and fellow laborers in the vineyard of the Lord. Salute me dearly to all my dear and tender hearts, who the Lord has chosen out of that great city, Sodom, so to be renewed into his image and to glorify his name, and to be as signs and wonders in that adulterous generation. The Lord God prosper and increase his glorious work in them and among them, with a strong arm, and power to beat down their enemies before them.

James Parnell

This is from Cambridge, 
18th of 5th Month.
(It is believed this letter was written in 1653)

     I shall be glad to hear from George or any of you. It is thus directed: - For my dear and faithful brethren, Edward Burrough, or Francis Howgill, these are.


James Parnell Writes to those Still in their Fleshly Nature - those still carnal.

     The following letter give us an idea of his ministry and the closeness of his dealing with [those believers still in their flesh] carnal professors, [a professor was someone who stated their belief that Jesus was the son of God and the scriptures were true], he spoke of them as follows:


     But, praised be the Almighty, who has so weakened their hands, and shattered their foundation, and caused his light to shine out of darkness, that they are so exposed, that all you people, who love light better than darkness, may now see how ignorantly and blindly you have been led, as strangers from the Father of light, after the vain traditions, customs, forms, ordinances, and imaginations of men, with a vain profession and feigned faith, which you have gotten into the imagination of, but still live in your sins and iniquities. Still alive in the first nature, under death's dominion, still strangers from the God of life, and from Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of his people from their sins.  

     Therefore you lie under the power of darkness, and delusion of antichrist, both priests and people; for like people, like priest, and so said the prophet; and your leaders cause you to error by their lies and their superficial understandings. And though have many teachers, yet you are lost for the lack of true knowledge, and are still led in your sins and iniquities, after those, who have gotten the form of godliness, but deny the life and power, "ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the Truth" in yourselves. Only differing from the heathen in name or stated beliefs, judgment or opinion, but still alive in the same nature, in the fall, under the curse, and children of disobedience, in whom the prince of darkness rules. 

     You must have a law without you to keep you in awe and fear, as they have, whom you account heathen; but the righteous need no law, for because of transgression the law was added. You are fighting, and killing, and devouring one another, as they do whom you call heathen; and you are drunkards, and swearers, and liars, as they are; and scorners, and scoffers, and revilers, and backbiters, and proud, and covetous, idolaters, and high minded oppressors, as they are, both priest and people. You are idolaters, as they are, eating and drinking, and rising up to play. You are envious and malicious, suing, and rending, and tearing one another at the law, both priest and people, pulling down others to set up yourselves; and you are dissembling, and cheating and defrauding one another of the earth, which is none of your own; and you are persecutors and strikers and stoners of the innocent children and servants and messengers of God. 

     What sin is there among those, whom you account heathen, that is not among you, and abounds! Yes, those whom you call heathen, may condemn you in much of your practice. Oh! Be ashamed and blush, you teachers of England, to see your ministry, so openly exposed in front of your eyes. And thus you are shown to be those, who come near to the Lord with their lips and mouths, but their hearts are far off from Him in the world, or else you would walk more uprightly. But, the Lord said, "in vain do you worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men." 

     But I know that some of you modern Pharisees and priests are ready to say: - We are not drunkards, nor swearers, or such as those. But I say to you, you are hypocrites, and your hearts are full of deceit, envy, wrath and bitterness, covetousness, pride and earthly-mindedness, and self-love, and self-wisdom; and you are persecutors, and the greatest oppressors of Truth; and publicans and harlots will enter the kingdom before you. 

     Jesus Christ, the Light, marked out your forefathers and found them to be such as were more strict and zealous than this generation; and by the same Light you are found to be in their steps. And these things, both Christ and his Apostles judged to be without, and condemned them, as being out of the new covenant; for there no unrighteous person can dwell; and there, all wars are ended, and 'the swords beat into ploughshares, and the spears into pruning-hooks;' and there, is oppression, or self-exalting, but he that would be greatest, must be least; and in righteousness are they established, and are far from oppression, and the Lord alone is their Teacher; and there, is no need of an outward, law, for to them there is 'no condemnation, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;' and there is no respect of persons but all are members of one body, of which Christ is the Head; and they serve one another in love. 

     And here is the new covenant, and the children of the new covenant who are washed and made clean by the Blood of the new covenant; but you are aliens and strangers from this covenant, who are living in mere imaginations and professions. In the same work he thus describes the true Church: - "And concerning the Church, which is now being gathered and redeemed, not by the will of man, or by the wisdom of man, but by the will and power and Spirit of God, which, according to His promise, He has poured upon His sons and daughters now in these latter days. By which we are carried abroad in the power of the Almighty, declare His powerful Truth, which the Lord has decreed, shall prevail upon the hearts of the people, which is glad tidings of great joy to them that receive it; but to the stubborn and stiff-necked, and rebellious, tidings of woe and misery. 

     And though the messengers of the Gospel are by some rejected, reviled, reproached, scoffed and scorned, stocked, stoned and imprisoned, despitefully slandered and abused; yet, nevertheless, blessed be the name of the Lord, there are some found worthy, and receive with much joy the messengers of the Gospel, so that they know, how beautiful are the feet of those that bring glad tidings, to the reviving the just witness for God, and raising up the dead to life. And so the living come to know the Lord; and so the Just comes to reign, and the wicked comes to be judged; and the mind comes to be turned from darkness to light, to which we preach in every creature, and to the same are made manifest. 

     And both from where we originate and the testimony we declare, it is made known to them, who like to retain it in their minds. But to them who do not receive it, we are not known; and therefore we are esteemed by them as deceivers and deluders, vagabonds, wanderers, and the like; yet at all this we are not surprised; for we read, 'the servant is not greater than his Lord; for if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household?'- and, 'if they had known Him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.' Yet we have a witness in every conscience, both in them that believe, and in them that perish, to which we do clear our conscience, and leave all without excuse by the same, which will answer for us in the mighty day, (though to the condemnation of those that hate it), wherein we have our great joy above all our sufferings. 

     But, as many as receive this {divine light} to them He, gives power to become the sons of God; and those are they, who are led and guided by the one Spirit of Truth, which the world cannot receive, even the Comforter, of whom you have been told in scripture that He would come, by which they are separated out of the world, and redeemed out of the rudiments and pollutions thereof, its fashions, its customs, its words, its ways, its manners, its breeding, its fellowship, love and friendship, its honor, its glory and worship. So they have become as strangers to the world, and are hated by the world because they are not a part of it. 

     And the enmity stands between the two seeds; for while they were of this world, and testify against it, both in words and actions, therefore the enmity is raised in the world against the righteous Seed; and those are they, upon whom the ends of the world have come, to who it is given to know the mysteries for the kingdom, but to the world in parables. And those are they, who have come with a mighty arm and power, to turn the world upside down, whom the Lord has gathered and is gathering out of the world, by His own Spirit of truth and love, to walk in the way of truth, even the way of holiness, where the ransomed of the Lord walk, and serve and 'worship Him in Spirit and in truth.' Such worshipers in Spirit and truth, such the Father is seeking to worship Him, in whom He is doing His own work, even to destroy the old creation, and to 'create new heavens and a new earth,' where dwells righteousness. 

     And these are the new creatures, in whom the new work is witnessed, in whom the Father hath manifested His Son, that He might condemn sin, and bind the strong man, cast him out of his house, and spoil his goods, and so 'destroy the works of the devil,' and cut down that man of sin; even that son of perdition who is exalted above all that is called God, sitting in the temple of God, and saying he is God. This is he by whom the world is deceived, who is the god of this world, even the prince of darkness, who rules in all the children of disobedience. So says John in the Light: 'the whole world lies in wickedness;' and unto this does Christ come with a sword to make war with him, and to cast him into outer darkness, and so take his kingdom from him, and rule Himself in righteousness.

     And this is the King of Saints, who comes to redeem unto Himself a pure people and to wash and cleanse them from their sin by His blood, and so wash away all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit; and this is the baptism by which they are received into His church and faith; and here is the effect of his blood wrought in man; and thus he does and will manifest His mighty power to purify, and cleanse, and make man a fit temple for himself to dwell in. And thus is 'God with us,' manifest; and thus are the saints' bodies made the temples of the Holy Ghost; and thus the word of life and reconciliation is witnessed to the raising up the soul to life, and reconciling it to God. 

     And those are they that are begotten and born again of the immortal Word, which lives and abides forever. And here is the household of God, the household of faith, and the household of love, who speak the things which they have heard, seen, and tasted of the good Word of life, who was in the beginning. And those are the children of light, who are gathered out of the dark forms, judgments, and opinions, into the life and power of godliness, to walk in the light of life in which they are gathered and united by the one Spirit of God love and life into one body, of which Christ the head. And here is the true Church, in which the Lord is gathering, and washing, cleansing, and purifying by his Spirit. So that He may redeem unto Himself a pure Church not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, whose insides are washed and made pure through the Word, by which they are reconciled into the love and union, which comes from the life of God. And here is the vine and branches; and here is the communion of the Church, all feeding upon one Bread and drinking of one Cup. 

     This is Christ, the life of the saints; and as many as are baptized into this Church, partake of this communion and these are they who have denied selves, and have borne the cross of Christ with which they are crucified unto the world and the world unto them. Who are gathered into one covenant of life, where all are servants under one master, who serve one another in love and meekness, and have the true humility wrought in the heart. And here is the true washing of the feet without hypocrisy, which some are imitating without the life, but they fall short; for the Lord requires the heart.

     "And thus is the church of Christ gathered by one Spirit, and by the same circumcised, and baptized into one life, light, and power, where all dwell as members of one body, of which Christ is the head. And here is the blessed union and communion in one. And here is God worshipped 'in spirit and in truth;' and as Christ is spiritual, so is [His church, which is] His body, and so are His ordinances. And here are the true Christians, not those who have the imagination of these things, but they that can witness [testify to the reality], and possess them in life. They that believe, have passed from death into life; and the life they now live is by faith in the Son of God; they are new creatures, who are 'in Christ Jesus,' to whom there is no condemnation, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; against such there is no law, for they are translated out of that nature, for which the law was added; and are set free by the law of the Spirit of life, and are made partakers of the divine nature of Christ, by which they are made Christians. 

     And such now witness the effect of the blood of Christ wrought within them, and the end of His coming, and the benefit of His death, who are dead with him, and risen through the death of the cross; and these are those who have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Son of God within them; "Christ within, the hope of glory," or else no hope of glory; for they who cannot witness Him so are in the reprobation, as the Apostle said. And here is the Son in the saints, and the Father in the Son, and thus all are made perfect in one. And here is the true Church where there is one Teacher, one Lord, one faith , one baptism, one light, one life, and one way, one shepherd and one sheepfold, and one priest over the household of God, and one hope, and one language, one family, one God and Father of all. {To be translated, is to be in the Kingdom.}

James Parnell


"A Shield of the Truth"

     And now something to all you tender-hearted ones, who are convinced by the Light of God in your consciences, which tenders your consciences; for whose sake I have laid open myself freely; and so I desire that you may mind that Light of God, to which I speak, which is my witness, which has convinced you, that it may be your guide, which will lead you into conversion into the life, and witness with me against the world, that my labor may not be in vain.

     And look not out at scandals, false accusations, and reports, for this is the reward, which the righteous have always received of the world; and Christ, our Lord and Captain, showed the example, it is written, "they who will live godly in Christ must suffer persecution;' and 'they that depart from iniquity, make themselves a prey.' But that which cannot bear these things is not of God. But turn your minds inward to that measure of Light in you, which is without guile, which is gentle, which can bear all, as it did both in the prophets and apostles, and all the holy men of God; this led them through good report and evil report, through persecutions and through death. And this is the way to life, and he who enters must enter this way.

     So fear not, but be willing to give up and to part with all, though never so near and dear, yes, though it be your bosom friend and darling. 'For he that loves anything more than me is not worthy of me,' said the Precious Pearl; and he that will not leave all and follow me, is not worthy of me.' Moses thought it greater riches to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of this world. The afflictions of this world endure but a time and pass away, but the joy of the righteous endures forever. If our hopes are only in this life, we are of all men most miserable. But he that endures to the end shall have a crown of glory, as Paul witnessed.

     So, 'fear not little flock;' be faithful, valiant, and bold, 'for it is you Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' A hundred-fold shall you receive of what you loose, whether lands or livings, wife or children, or whatsoever it is. The promise is to the faithful, and your joy and advancement shall be in the destruction of your enemies [within], when the Lord shall make your enemies your footstool.  But this is witnessed through the war; and he who endures to the end of the war shall witness this.

     And this in my measure I witness; and out of tender love from my soul to your souls do I declare it, and desire that you may all endure to witness with me. For love is charity, and the Light leads through all. So I rest in my habitations, known to all that can read men in spirit.


James Parnell


     The following letter was written to a man named Stephen Crisp who had long searched for the truth and had sought God for it.  He had asked,   "Where is the faith which purifies the heart and gives victory?"   He had heard talk of Christ and a savior, but was still in the anguish of spiritual ignorance so that he exclaimed, "But, Oh! That I knew Him!" 

     James Parnell had been "used as an instrument of God, by which the man's long wandering and weary soul had been turned into the Way, which led into an establishment in the Truth".  He said of him,  "He was young, diminutive natured, and of a poor appearance; yet the wisdom of man was made to bow before that Spirit by which he spoke, and of which he was the instrument "



     In that stand, and to it keep your mind, which lets you see your enemies to be of your own house; your imagination is an enemy; your wisdom is an enemy; that which has been precious to you is now your greatest enemy. Therefore now sacrifice your precious, and yield up to the death, [of self] that the Just may be raised to life and the righteous Seed be brought forth to reign and to be your head; and so will the head of the serpent be bruised.

     And this in your measure you will come to understand, as you dwell low in the Light, which shows you your condition; for whatever exposes your condition is the Light. And that eye must be kept open, which the god of this world has blinded, but by which the children of light see the god of the world; and the tempter is known, resisted and denied.

     So with this eye make your watch constant, an let not the fool's eye wander abroad, which draws out the wandering mind after visible objects; but stand in the warfare, not giving ground up to the enemy, nor to his delusions; but be content to become a fool, that all selfish thoughts may be judged. You will receive wisdom from Him, who gives liberally and does not criticize so that you can discern and know the enemy's tricks; but in the cross to your own will and hasty mind, the gift of God is received. Therefore, it is said, "He that believes is not in a hurry."

     Therefore, do not become weary of the yoke; for in faith it is made easy, and the impatient nature is crucified, and patience has its perfect work: therefore, be still in the measure of Light, which exercises your mind towards God; and purpose nothing, but let your thoughts be judged, and let the power of God work, so that He may be seen to all. By this principle alone you may be led and placed on the cross to the carnal part of yourself, by denying self, both in specifics and in general. And give no thought to pleasing man, when God is pleased; for by doing so, you prevent offending Him, for the love of the world is enmity with God.  As that leads you to walk towards God in faithfulness, so it also leads you to walk with faithfulness towards man "with a conscience void of offence."

     And so to that keep your mind and do not be hasty to know anything beyond what you have been shown, for by such desire Eve lost her paradise. But lie down in the will of God, and wait on His teaching so that He may be your head. By such you will find the way to peace and dwell in unity with all the faithful; and though you are hated by the world, yet in God is peace and well-being.

James Parnell


More Articles by James Parnell

A Trial Of Faith

CHRIST Exalted Into His THRONE and the SCRIPTURE Owned in its Place

Final Letters to the Faithful Written From Prison