The True Gospel

John Traske

Originally Printed In 1636

Posted On February 9, 2020

THE TRUE GOSPEL Vindicated, from the Reproach of a New Gospel. In which many things are opened that tend to the comfort of sad souls, and for their understanding of the Scriptures, and their assurance of faith. Whereunto is annexed, with submission to the Churches of Christ, and the true servants of Jesus Christ, a small taste of the Rule of Faith. 1636.

John Traske, 1585-1636, a rather complex and radical theologian of early seventeenth century England, was born in Somersetshire, where we also first hear mention made of the fact that he became a schoolmaster in the area, just prior to his ministerial ordination around 1611. He preached at Axminster, Devon, before leaving for London around 1615, where he, according to one witness, allegedly, “marched like Jehu most furiously, making divisions in the churches.” Once in London, he oddly embraced a form of Jewish Legalism, which, amongst other practices, insisted on the necessity of fulfilling the entire Mosaic Law, demanding strict observance of the Jewish Sabbath, whilst also observing many of the Old Testament dietary laws. Traske, now known for his forceful manner of declaring his own misguided principles, soon became quite influential in that particular circle of those who might accurately be termed Gospel legalists, {attempting to mix Law & Gospel in one toxic manner after another,} winning gullible converts over to his position, whom eventually became known as Traskites, distinguished by their more radical adherence to Jewish laws & regulations, whilst also retaining certain elements of what might be termed ‘Calvinistic’ theology, prompting one contemporary to describe Traske as “a puritan minister lately grown half a Jew,” and another to denounce him as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a seducing imposter, and cunning deceiver.” By 1617 these views led to his imprisonment by the High Commission, and upon refusing to recant further punishment was threatened, which led to his being brought before the infamous Star Chamber in June of 1618, presided over by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, {who in 1611 oversaw the translation of the Authorized Version of the Bible,} where he was stripped of his ministerial title, sentenced to be whipped, have his ears nailed to the pillory, branded with a “J” for Jew, fined a huge sum of money, and essentially imprisoned for the rest of his life, if he did not recant. Andrewes in a heated sermon preached against Traske, accused him of Judaizing, in seeking to make “Christian men, the people of God, his majesty’s subjects, little better than Jews, both in the matter of abstaining from eating meats which the Jews were forbidden in Leviticus, and that they were bound to observe the Jewish Sabbath.” Ephraim Paggitt, {“Heresiography, or, A Description of the Heretics and Sectaries of these Latter Times,” 1645,} says that he was “sentenced, on account of his being a Sabbatarian, to be set upon the pillory at Westminster, and from thence to be whipped to the Fleet Prison.” After spending three years in Prison, he finally renounced his views, and it would seem that the Lord actually granted him repentance unto the acknowledgement of the Truth of the Gospel, for he soon published his “Treatise of Liberty from Judaism,” although his wife, {also imprisoned by now,} would retain her convictions, and eventually die in prison for her beliefs around 1645. Traske on the other hand, was re-instated and became a minster at Tillingham, a small village in Essex County by 1623. Around 1630, Traske, now in London, appears to have joined himself to a Society of Independents, under the pastoral care of Mr. John Lothrop, and afterwards of Henry Jessey, who was then a prominent spokesperson on the behalf of those who dissented from all organized forms of institutional or state religion. This assembly was to become the first Independent Church in London, a congregation of around sixty members which met at Southwark. {Historians sometimes call this assembly the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church, named for its first three pastors, Henry Jacob, John Lothropp and Henry Jessey.} It’s here where it seems that the way of Christ was unfolded unto him, and where no doubt those who were brought under the umbrella of the true Gospel had expounded unto them “the way of God more perfectly.” It’s reputed that his inner circle of friends included John Eaton, {“Honeycombe of Free Justification in Christ,” 1642,} and Robert Towne, {“Assertion of Grace” 1644,} both faithful dispensers of the mystery of Christ, which seems evident, as the harmonious nature of these writings compared, echo forth a precious unity of thought, amongst these brethren in attempting to set forth the glory of Christ, in such simple, yet sublime a manner! As to his death, it would seem that he was still alive when his book, “The True Gospel Vindicated, from the reproach of a new Gospel,” was printed in 1636, but must of died shortly thereafter, as his chief antagonist Edward Norrice, wrote of his “late dangerous errors” in that same year, putting his death sometime in 1636.

Excerpts: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HATH DONE ALL THINGS ALREADY THAT ARE TO BE DONE FOR ALL TRUE BELIEVERS TO GOD. This Rule being adhered to in all disputations, conferences, preachings or writings; that God is already pacified, his justice fully satisfied; all man’s merit, satisfactions of God’s justice, all man’s performances in turning away God’s wrath and indignation, fall to the ground; all heresies, and errors of that kind are fully discerned, and may be by this part of the Rule opposed, and the conscience pacified, Matt.11:28-29, and the soul find true rest; though man’s repentance, humiliation, sorrow for sin be defective, and are liable to question; yet Christ’s humiliation, sorrow for sin; that sin which he took upon him, II Cor.5:21, gives full rest unto every soul that is enlightened in the Infinite Power of his Blood; and the Absolute and Everlasting Perfection of the glorious, rich, royal and unspotted robe of that Righteousness of Jesus Christ, yielding full, strong, and abounding joy and delight, when it is known to be the blood of God. Acts 20:28.

CHRIST DOTH ALL GOOD IN US, TO OURSELVES. That is, by informing us of our Reconciliation, Adoption, Election, Calling, Justification and Glorification, with all the concomitants whatsoever; for so it is written, “we shall all be taught of God.” Isa.54:13, John 6:45-46, Matt.11:25-26. Now who is the Teacher, but the Lord Jesus Christ, for he it is that reveals the Father unto us. John 1:18, Matt.11:27-28. God speaketh only now by His Son, Heb.1:1-3, to the dead, John 5:25, I Pet.4:6, or to the living; for their awakening, and raising unto their new relation, and growth to all manner of perfections that the Word reveals. This part of the Rule silences all other teachers, that bring us their own traditions, whatsoever; and not simply, purely, and only, II Cor.1:11-13, and at all times the doctrine of Jesus Christ. I John 4:2-5, II John 9-11, II Cor.2:17 & 4:1-2, II Pet.2:2. When we hear not the Voice of our Shepherd, the Voice of the Bridegroom only, John 10:3-5,27;3:29, and this stops their mouths forever that are contrary minded. In sum, this Rule discovers not only our election, adoption, vocation and justification to be free, all of grace, but also our sanctification, renovation, translation and conformity to Christ to be His own free and only work, Eph.1:3-5, Rom.3:24, II Tim.1:9, Col.1:29, and we always but as agents, acted by Him, and as instruments used in his hand alone; and subjects which he hath created for his own Glory, and doth only and always use to the same end. Col.1:18.

Whereas that joyless sorrow, which it seems, is maintained by this derision of holy joy, and that desperate mourning, which is forced by ignorant and blind guides, is the cause of so many self-murders that abound in this a day, and amongst whom, if not such as this slanderer is, and his likes, who daily hang, drown, poison and stab, and take away themselves, as being first poisoned by such corrupt legal teaching, by which pretended Christian assemblies are turned Jewish, and worse than Jewish Synagogues, by the neglect of holding forth the ensign of the Lord Jesus Christ, Isa.11:10-12, and magnifying his infinitely powerful blood and righteousness; for in those Jewish assemblies, there were daily sacrifices, but in these meetings, is not Christ once named, except in their prayers in many sermons, but sin only cried down, and duties enforced upon the poor creature, as if the creature had power of his own to do them; by which it comes to pass that those zealous men, through ignorance, in seeming to be the greatest enemies of sin are the greatest advancers of iniquity in the world; and that it may not be said, but also proved, and made manifest to all, the greatest sin, and the root of all others, now under the Gospel, is unbelief. Now those men in their thronged assemblies do nourish nothing more than unbelief.