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apostle very well argues in the place above-mentioned.
Indeed, if there be any such, who have been, or appear to be of us, as suppose, There is not a wise man among us all, nor an honest man, that is able to judge betwixt his brethren ; we shall not covet to meddle in their matter, being persuaded, that either they, or their cause is nought. Though (praises to God) among all those that have gone from us, either upon one account or other, I never heard that any were so minded towards us ; but the most part of them having let in the offence of some things, or persons, have had this unanimous testimony concerning us, that generally we are an honest and upright-hearted people.
But whatever sense our enemies, or apostates have of us, who look asquint on the face of truth, and can see nothing aright in those they love not, or are prejudicate against: this we can say, in the last place (besides the reasons and Scripture above declared) that the good fruits, and effects which daily abound to the liousehold of faith, in this, as well as the other parts of the government the Lord is establishing among us, doth more and more commend it unto us; and confirmeth our hearts in the certain belief of that, which we can confidently testify in good conscience, that God hath led us hereunto by his Spirit; and we see the hand of the Lord herein, which in due time will yet more appear; that, as through our faithful testimony in the hand of the Lord, that antichristian and apostatised generation, the national ministry, hath received a deadly blow by our discovering and witnessing against their forced maintainance, and tythes, against which we have testified by many cruel sufferings of all kinds (as our chronicles shall make known to generations to come) so that their kingdom, in the hearts of thousands, begins to totter and lose its strength, and shall assuredly fall to the ground, through truth's prevailing in the earth; so on the other hand do we, by coming to righteousness and innocency, weaken the strength of their kingdom, who judge for rewards (as well as such as preach for hire) and by not ministering occasion to those, who have heaped up riches, and lived in excess, lust and riot, by feeding and preying upon the iniqui. ties and contentions of the people. For as truth and righteousness prevails in the earth, by our faithful witnessing and keeping to it, the nations shall come to be eased and disburdened of that deceitful tribe of lawyers (as well as priests) who, by their many tricks and endless intricacies, have rendered justice, in their method, burdensome to honest men, and seek not so much to put an end, as to foment controversies and contentions, that they themselves may be still fed and upheld, and their trade kept up.
Whereas by truth's propagation, as many of these controversies will die by mens' coming to be less contentious; so when any difference ariseth, the saints giving judgment without gift or reward, or running into the tricks and endless labyrinths of the lawyers, will soon compose them. And this is that we are persuaded the Lord is bringingabout in ourday, though many do not, and many will not see it; because it is in. deed in a way different and contrary to men's wis
dom, who are now despising Christ in his inward appearance, because of the meanness of it, as the Jews of old did him in his outward : yet notwithstanding there were some then that did witness, and could not be silent, but must testify that He was come; even so now are there thousands that can set to their seal, that he hath now again the second time appeared, and is appearing in ten thousands of his saints; in and among whom (as a first fruits of many more that shall be gathered) he is restoring the golden age, and bringing them into the holy order and government of his own son, who is ruling, and to rule in the midst of them, setting forth the counsellors as at the be. ginning, and judges as at first ; and establishing truth, mercy, righteousness and judgment again in the earth ; Amen, hallelujah!
Thirdly, These meetings take care in the case of marriages, that all things be clear; and that there may be nothing done in that procedure, which afterwards may prove to the prejudice of truth, or of the parties concerned; which being an outward thing (that is acknowledged in itself to be lawfui) of the greatest importance a man or woman can perform in this world; and from the sudden, unwary, or disorderly procedure whereof, very great snares and reproaches may be cast both upon the parties, and the profession owned by them; therefore, it doth very fitly, among other things, when it occurs, come to be considered of by the people of God, when met, to take care to preserve all things right and savoury in the household of Faith. We do believe, our adversaries, that watch for evil against us, would be glad how promiscuously or disorderly we proceeded in this weighty matter, that so they might the more boldly accuse us, as overturners of all human and christian order : but God hath not left us without his counsel and wisdom in this thing; nor will he, that any should receive just occasion against us his people: and therefore in this weighty concern, we, who can do nothing against the truth, but all for, and with regard to the truth, have divers testimonies for the Lord. And,
First, That we cannot marry with those that walk not in, and obey not the truth, as being of another judgment or fellowship; or pretending to it, walk not suitably and answerable thereto.
Secondly, Nor can we go to the hireling priests, to uphold their false and usurped authority; who take upon them to marry people without any command or precedent for it from the law of God.
Lastly, Nor can we suffer any such kind of marriages to pass among us, which, either as to the degrees of consanguinity, or otherwise, in itself is unlawful, or from which there may be any just reflection cast upon our way.
As to the first two, they being matter of principle received and believed, it is not my work here to debate them; only since they are received and owned as such (for which we can, and have given our sufficient reasons elsewhere, as for our other principles) we ought to care how any by walking otherwise, bring reproach upon us; yet not to pass them wholly by, as to the first. Besides the testimony of the Spirit of God in our hearts (which is the original ground of our faith in all
things) we have the testimony of the apostle Paul; 2 Cor. 6. 14. Be ye not unequally yoked together, &c. Now if any should think it were much from this Scripture to plead it absolutely unlaw. ful, in any case, to join in marriage with any (however otherwise sober) because of their not being one with us in all things, I shall speak my judgment. To me it appears so; and to many more who have obtained mercy; and we think we have the Spirit of God. But whether it be lawful or not, I can say positively, It is not expedient, neither doth it edify, and (as that which is of dangerous consequence) doth give justly offence to the Church of Christ : and therefore no true tender heart will prefer his private love to the good and interest of the whole body.
As for the second, In that we deny the priests their assumed authority and power to marry, it is that which in no wise we can recede from, nor can we own any in the doing of it; it being a part of our testimony against the usurpations of that generation, who never yet, that I ever heard of, could produce any Scripture proof or example for it. And seeing none can pretend conscience in the matter (for they themselves confess that it is no part of the essence of marriage) if any, pretending to be among us, should through fear, interest, or prejudice to the truth, come under, and bow to, that image, have we not reason to deny such slavish and ignoble spirits, as mind not truth and its testimony?
Lastly, Seeing if any walking with us, or going under the same name, should hastily or disorder. ly go together, either being within the degrees of