Page images
PDF
EPUB

serpent, that would reason truth for themselves, saying, I must stay until I be convinced of this, and that, and the other thing; I see not yet this to be wrong, or the other thing to be my duty ? How did they knock down this manner of reasoning by the Spirit of God, which wrought mightily in them, shewing and holding forth, that this is the day of the Lord that is dawned; that all are invited to come; that none ought to tarry behind: that that which so pleadeth is the same spirit which of old time said in those that were invited, I cannot come yet, I must first marry a wife; I must go prove my yoke of oxen; I must go visit my possessions; let me first bury my dead father. Did not the Lord through them testify and declare against these things ? and is there not a cloud of witnesses, who felt the enemy thus reasoning to keep us in the forms, fellowships, false worships, and foolish fashions of this world? But we felt, as we were obedient, all these things to be for condemnation; and that, as we obeyed the pure manifestation of the light of Jesus in our hearts, there was no hesitation. We might and should have parted with all those things at the first; and what occasioned such scruples, was but that which drew back, through being unwilling to give pure obedience to the cross of Christ; for as many as gave obedience and believed in the light, found no occasion of stumbling; but such as believed not were condemned already, because they believed not in him tħat appeared. Now the boldness, and courage, and efficacy of these messengers testimony, wrought such astonishment, fear, and amazement in the hearts of such as were ingenuous, that many began to be inwardly pricked, as in the days of old, and the foundations of many began to be shaken ; and some that were asleep were awakened, and many that were dead and buried in the graves of sin, and formality and superstition, and idolatry of all sorts, were alarmed; and many were brought in from the hedges and the high-ways, and the Truth was received by thousands with great cheerfulness, and a readiness of mind : and the feet of those were beheld to be beautiful upon the mountains, that brought the glad tidings of these good things. And great lowliness and simplicity of heart was upon such that were newly convinced of the truth, and deep humiliation of spirit and subjection to the power, both in themselves, and in those who were over them in the Lord, and had gathered them into the truth.

But as it was in the gatherings of old, so it also fell out in this day; all kept not their first love: as among those thousands, which Moses led out of Egypt, and carried through the Red sea, who had sung praises to God upon the banks of salvation, many carcases fell in the wilderness; some who murmured and longed to return again to the flesh-pots of Egypt; and some for opposing and contradicting the servant and servants of the Lord, whom the Lord had made use of to lead them out of bondage, in saying, ye take too much upon you ; hath the Lord indeed only spoken by Moses ? hath he not spoken also by us? And as among these multitudes which were gathered by the apostles, there were many who continued not faithful to the end; some returned back again with the sow to the puddle after they were wash. ed; some embraced the present world; some again separated themselves, being sensual, and without the spirit, despising dominions, and speaking evil of dignities; their mouths speaking great swelling words, being puffed up, and not abiding in these things, which they were taught of the apostles; so it is to be lamented, that among these many thousands, whom the apostles and evangelists whom God raised up in this day (for the gathering of his seed and people out of spiritual Egypt and Babylon into his pure light and life) did bring forth and gather, there are that have fallen upon the right hand and the left. Some are turned back again into Egypt, running into the same excess of lust and riot, from whence they were once purified and redeemed: some could not bear the reproach of the cross of Christ; and were by and anon offended in him: some could not bear the tribulations, sufferings and persecutions, which came for the truth's sake; and the seed in them was soon scorched with the heat of the day. And some not abiding in subjection to the truth in themselves, were not contented with that place and station in the body, which God had placed them in; but became vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds, intruding into those things which they had not seen: and would needs be innova. tors, given to change, and introducing new doc. trines and practices, not only differing, but contrary to what was already delivered in the begin. ning; making parties, causing divisions and rents, stumbling the weak, and denying, despising and reviling the apostles and messengers of Christ, the elders of the church, who loved not their lives unto death, but through much care, and travel, and watchings, and whippings, and bonds, and beatings, in daily jeopardy, gathered us by the mighty power of God into the most precious truth. Yet in all this there hath nothing befallen us, but that which hath been the ancient lot of the Church of Christ in the primitive times.

Now he, that was careful for his church and people in old times, hath not been wanting to us in our day; but as he has again restored the truth unto its primitive integrity and simplicity, and as he has delivered our understandings from these false doctrines and principles, which prevailed in the apostacy; so he hath not gathered us to be " as sheep scattered without a shepherd,” that every one may run his own way, and every one follow his own will, and so to be as a confused mass or Chaos, without any order; but he, even the Lord, hath also gathered, and is gathering us into the good order, discipline, and government of his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ: therefore he hath laid care upon some beyond others, who watch for the souls of their brethren, as they that must give account.

There are then fathers that have begotten us unto Christ Jesus through the gospel, of whom we ought to be followers, and to remember their ways, which be in Christ. There are then fa. thers and children, instructors and instructed, elders and young men, yea, and babes; there are that cannot cease, but must exhort, instruct, reprove, condemn, judge; or else for what end gave Christ the gifts mentioned, Ephes. 4. 11. 12? And how are the saints perfected, and the

too narrow.

body of Christ edified of those, who came under the cognizance, and, as it were, the test of this order and government? I may chiefly sum them up in three sorts (though there be divers other little subdivided species of them.)

The first is, Those that turn openly back to the world again, through finding the way of truth

These have not been capable to do us any considerable hurt; for being a salt, that has lost its savour, they mostly prove a stink among those to whom they go. And I never knew any of them, that proved any way steady among those to whom they go. I find other professors make but small boast of any proselytes they got out from among us; I hear little of their proving champions for the principles of others against us. And, indeed, for the most part they lose all reli. gion with the truth: for I have heard some of them say; That if ever they took on them to be religious, they would come back again to the Quakers, &c.

Secondly, Those, who through unwatchfulness, the secret corruption of their own hearts, and the mysterious or hidden temptations of the enemy, have fallen into his snares; and so have come under the power of some temptation or other, either of Aeshly lusts, or of spiritual wickedness: who being seasonably warned by those that keep their habitation, and faithful overseers in the church, have been again restored by unfeigned repentance; not kicking against the pricks; but have rejoiced, that others watched over them for their good, and are become monu, ments of God's mercy unto this day.

« PreviousContinue »