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EXAMINATION AND STATE
BOTH WITH RESPECT TO
PERSONS IN THEIR PRIVATE CAPACITY,
AND IN THEIR
CHURCH SOCIETY AND COMMUNION. Wrillen for the Establishment of the Faithful, Information of the Simple-hearted, and Reproof of the Arrogant and High-minded.
By a Lover of True Liberty, as it is in Jesus,
To go amongst the People of the Lord called Quakers.
"If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”—JOHN viii. 36. "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 JOHN i. 7.
PEOPLE OF THE LORD, CALLED QUAKERS.
Dear Friends and Brethren,
IT hath of long time rested with some pressure upon my spirit, for Zion's sake, and the peace of Jerusalem, to write something of the nature of true spiritual liberty; liberty, one of the most glorious words and things in the world, but little understood, and frequently abused by many. Í beI seech Almighty God to preserve you, his people, in the right knowledge and use of that liberty, which Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation, hath purchased for us, and is redeeming us into, who hath "led captivity captive, and is giving gifts to them that truly believe in his name." Christ's liberty is obtained through Christ's cross; they that would
208 TO THE PEOPLE OF THE LORD CALLED QUAKERS.
be his free-men, must be his bonds-men, and wear his blessed yoke. His liberty is from sin, not to sin; to do his will, and not our own; no, not to speak an idle word. "It is not I that live," saith the apostle, "but Christ that liveth in me," who had set him free from the power of sin, and brought immortality to light in him; whence he learned thus to triumph, "O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory!" this is the personal freedom that comes by Jesus Christ, to as many as receive him in the way, and for the end for which God hath given him; to wit, to be a Saviour and a leader, to save us from our corruptions, and guide us in the narrow way of his holy cross, and through the strait gate of self-denial, which leads to eternal life. And as many as have entered at this door, are come to have unity with God, and one with another; to love him above all, and their neighbours as themselves; yea, to prefer each other before themselves. Such will not violate the great law of their Lord and master; "Love one another :" the new, and yet the old commandment: these dwell in love, and so they dwell in God; for "God is love." It was the beloved disciple's testimony, and it comes up to what another man of God hath said, namely, "The church that dwells in God:" if she dwells in God, then in love; consequently her members are in union, of one mind in church matters, since she has but one head to rule her.
Peruse this brief discourse in this love, and it may be to edification. My aim is to assert the truth, detect error, and point in true brotherly kindness at those shoals and sands which some by mistake, or over boldness, have and may run upon. O friends! I greatly desire, that the spirit of love, wisdom, and a sound understanding, of meekness, judgment, and mercy, may ever rest upon you; that blamelessly you may be kept an holy family, at unity with itself, to the Lord God your Redeemer, that he over all may in you, through you, and by you, be exalted, honoured and praised, who is worthy and blessed for ever.
A BRIEF EXAMINATION
Published in the Year 1681.
Quest. WHAT is spiritual liberty?
Answ. It is two-fold; there is a true and a false liberty, as a true and false spirit, the right discerning of which concerns every one's eternal well-being.
Quest. What is true spiritual liberty?
Answ. Deliverance from sin by the perfect law in the heart, "The perfect law of liberty," James ii. otherwise called, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, that makes free from the law of sin and death; elsewhere styled, "The law of truth writ in the heart," which makes free indeed, as saith Christ, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." So that the liberty of God's people stands in the truth, and their communion in it, and in the perfect spiritual law of Christ Jesus, which delivers and preserves them from every evil thing that doth or would embondage. In this blessed liberty, it is not the will nor wisdom of man, neither the vain affections and lusts, that rule or give law to the soul; for the minds of all such as are made free by the truth, are by the truth conducted in doing and suffering through their earthly pilgrimage.
Quest. What is false liberty?
Answ. A departing from this blessed Spirit of truth, and a rebelling against this perfect law of liberty in the heart, and being at liberty to do our own wills; upon which cometh reproof and judgment.
Quest. But are there not some things wherein we ought to be left to our own freedom?
Answ. "We are not our own, for we are bought with a price;" and in all things ought we to glorify God with our bodies, souls, and spirits, which are the Lord's.
Quest. But must we have a motion or command from the Spirit of Truth for all things that we do?
Answ. That may be according to the truth, which may not be by the immediate motion or command of the truth; for that is according to the truth, that is not against the mind VOL. III.
of the truth, either particularly or generally expressed. The truth commands me to " do all to the praise and glory of God;" but not that I should wait for a motion to do every particular thing. For example: the variety of actions in trading, commerce, and husbandry, the variety of flesh, fish, and fowl for food, with more of the same nature, in all which there is a choice and liberty, but still according to the truth, and within the holy bounds and limits of it.
Quest. Then it seems there are some things left to our freedom.
Answ. Yes; but it must be according to the mind of God's truth: there are things enjoined, such as relate to our duty to God, to our superiors, to the household of faith, and to all men and creatures, these are indispensable. There are also things that may be done or left undone, which may be called indifferent; as, what sort of meat I will eat to-day, whether I will eat flesh, fish, or herbs, or what hours I will eat my meals at, with many such outward things of life and converse; yet even in such cases I ought to act according to the truth, in the temperance and wisdom of it.
Quest. But doth not freedom extend farther than this? For since God hath given me a manifestation of his Spirit to profit withal, and that I have the gift of God in myself, should 1 not be left to act according as I am free and persuaded in my own mind, in the things that relate to God; lest, looking upon myself as obliged by what is revealed unto another, though it be not revealed unto me, I should be led out of my own measure, and act upon another's motion, and so offer a blind sacrifice to God?
Answ. This is true in a sense; that is, if thou art such an one that canst do nothing against the truth, but for the truth, then mayest thou safely be left to thy freedom in the things of God: and the reason is plain, because thy freedom stands in the perfect law of liberty, in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and in the truth, which is Christ Jesus, which makes thee free indeed; that is, perfectly free from all that is bad, and perfectly free to all that is holy, just, lovely, honest, comely, and of good report; but if thou pleadest thy freedom against such things, yea, obstructest and slightest such good, wholesome and requisite things, thy freedom is naught, dark, perverse, out of the truth, and against the perfect law of love and liberty.
Quest. But must I conform to things whether I can receive them or no? Ought I not to be left to the grace and Spirit of God in my own heart?
Answ. To the first part of the question, nay; to the last,
yea. But now let us consider what is the reason thou canst not receive them is the fault in the things themselves? Are they inconsistent with truth, or wil! not the truth own or assent unto them, or is the fault in thee? That is to say, is it thy weakness, or thy carelessness? If thy weakness, it is to be borne with, and to be informed; if thy carelessness, thou oughtest to be admonished; for it is a dangerous principle, and pernicious to true religion, and, which is worse, it is the root of ranterism to assert, 'That nothing is a duty incumbent upon thee, but what thou art persuaded is thy duty;' for the seared conscience pleads his liberty against all duty, the dark conscience is here unconcerned, the dead conscience is here uncondemned; unless this distinction be allowed of, that there may be an ignorance or an insensibility from inability or incapacity, or a dark education; and an ignorance and insensibility, from carelessness, disobedience, prejudice, &c. So that though thou art not to conform to any thing ignorantly, yet thou art seriously to consider why thou art ignorant, and what the cause of such ignorance may be certainly it cannot be in God, nor in his gift to thee; it must then needs be in thyself, who hast not yet received a sense for or against the matter, about which thou art in doubt. To the second part of the question; 'Ought I not to be left to the grace of God in my own heart? Answ. That it is of all things most desirable, since they are well left that are there left; for there is no fear of want of unity, where all are left with the One Spirit of Truth; they must be of one mind, they cannot be otherwise. So that to plead this against unity, is to abuse the very plea, and to commit the greatest contradiction to that very doctrine of scripture, viz. That all should be guided by the grace and spirit of God in themselves; for the end of that doctrine is certainty. "They shall all know me, saith the Lord, from the least to the greatest. And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them," Jer. xxxii. 39. "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh," Ezekiel xi. 19. "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul," Acts iv. 32. Is not this unity too? "I will restore unto you a pure language; they shall be of one heart, and of one mind, and great shall be their peace." Therefore I must say to thee, Friend, what if thou wilt not be left with the grace and Spirit of God in thyself, nor wait for its mind, nor be watchful to its revelations, nor humble and quiet till