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XIII. Of God and Christ's being in Man.
Because we say, as do the holy scriptures, that God is light, and that Christ is light, and that God is in Christ, and that Christ, by his light, lighteth every man that cometh into the world, and dwelleth in them, and with them, that obey him in his inward and spiritual manifestation; people have been told by our adversaries, that we believe every man has whole God, and whole Christ, in him, and consequently so many Gods, and Christs, as men whereas we assert nothing herein, but in the language of the Holy Ghost in the scriptures of truth; and mean no more by it, than that as God is in Christ, so Christ by his Spirit and light, dwelleth in the hearts of his people, to comfort and consolate them; as he doth in wicked men to reprove and condemn them, as well as to call, enlighten, and instruct them, that out of that state of condemnation they may come, and, by believing in him, may experience their hearts cured of the maladies sin hath brought upon them, in order to complete salvation from sin here, and from wrath to come hereafter, 2 Cor. v. 9. 1 John i. 5.
XIV. Of Christ's coming both in Flesh and Spirit.
Because the tendency (generally speaking) of our ministry, is to press people to the inward and spiritual appearance of Christ, by his spirit and grace in their hearts, to give them a true sight and sense of, and sorrow for, sin, to amendment of life, and practice of holiness; and because we have often opposed that doctrine of being actually justified by the merits of Christ, whilst actual sinners against God, by living in the pollutions of this wicked world; we are by our adversaries rendered such, as either deny, or undervalue, the coming of Christ without us, and the force and efficacy of his death and sufferings, as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Whereas we do, and hope we ever shall (as we always did) confess, to the glory of God the Father, and the honour of his dear and beloved Son, that he, to wit, Jesus Christ, took our nature upon him, was like us in all things, sin excepted that he was born of the virgin Mary, went about among men doing good, and working many miracles: that he was betrayed by Judas into the hands of the chief priests, &c. that he suffered death under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, being crucified between two thieves, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea: rose again the third day from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sits at God's right hand, in the power and majesty of his
Father; and that by him, God the Father will one day judge the whole world, both of quick and dead, according to their works.
XV. Concerning the Resurrection.
Because from the authority of holy scripture, as well as right reason, we deny the resurrection of the same gross and corruptible body, and are neither over-inquisitive nor critical about what bodies we shall have at the resurrection, leaving it to the Lord, to give us such bodies as he pleases, (and with that we are well pleased and satisfied, and wish all others were so too); from hence we are made not only deniers of the resurrection of any body at all, however spiritual, or glorified, but eternal rewards too.
Whereas, if it were true, as it is notoriously false, we were, indeed, of all men, most miserable: but, blessed be God, it is so far from being true, that we most stedfastly believe, that as our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, by the power of the Father, and was the first-fruits of the resurrection, so every man, in his own order, shall arise; they that have done well, to the resurrection of eternal life but they that have done evil, to everlasting condemnation.
And because we are a people whose education hath not afforded us an accuracy of language, some passages may perhaps have been mis-expressed, or improperly worded (as for instance, one of us hath denied, in his book, the soul to be finite by which he plainly meant mortal, or final, to die, or have an end, which finis signifies, from whence finite comes); our uncharitable opposers have concluded, we hold the soul to be infinite, and consequently God: whereas the words before and after, as well as the nature of the things, shows plainly, he only meant that it is eternal, and so not finite; that is, not terminable, or that which shall come to an end.
And also, because we have not declared ourselves, about matters of faith, in the many and critical words "that man's wisdom teacheth," but in the words which the "Holy Ghost teacheth," we have been esteemed either ignorant, or equivocal, and unsound: whereas it is really matter of conscience to us, to deliver our belief in such words as the Holy Spirit in scripture, teacheth; and if we add more for illustration, it is from an experience of the work of the same Spirit in ourselves; which seems to us the truest way of expounding scripture, in what concerns saving knowledge.
XVI. Concerning Separation.
Because we are separated from the public communion and worship, it is too generally concluded, that we deny the doc
trines received by the church, and consequently introduce a new religion : whereas we differ least, where we are thought to differ most for, setting aside some school terms, we hold the substance of those doctrines believed by the church of England, as to God, Christ, Spirit, scripture, repentance, sanctification, remission of sin, holy living, and the resurrection of the just and unjust to eternal rewards and punishments. But that wherein we differ most, is about worship and conversation, and the inward qualificaion of the soul by the work of God's Spirit thereon, in pursuance of these good and generally received doctrines. For it is the Spirit of God only convinces and converts the soul, and makes those that were dead in trespasses and sins, and in the lusts, pleasures, and fashions of this world, alive to God; that is, sensible of his mind and will, and of their duty to do them; and brings to know God, and his attributes, by the power of them upon their own souls; and leads to worship God rightly, which is in his spirit, and in truth, with hearts sanctified by the truth; which is a living and acceptable worship, and stands in power, not formality, nor in the traditions and prescriptions of men, in synods and convocations, but in the holy spirit. First, in showing us our real wants, and then in helping our infirmities with sighs and groans, and sometimes words, to pray for a suitable supply, for which we in our meetings wait upon God, to quicken and prepare us, that we may worship him acceptably and profitably, for they go together. Now, because we are satisfied that all worship to God, and exhortations to men, as praying, praising, and preaching, and every other religious duty, ought to be spiritually performed; and finding so little of it among professors of Christianity, the spirit of God having not that rule and guidance of them, in their lives and worship, as it ought to have; and seeing them too generally satisfied with a ministry and worship of man's making, being not qualified, nor led by God's spirit thereunto; we cannot find that comfort and edification our souls crave and want under so cold a ministry and worship. And for this cause, and no presumptuous contempt, or selfish separation, or worldly interests, are we, and stand we at this day, a separate people from the public communion; and in this we can comfortably appeal and recommend ourselves to God, the great and last judge of the acts and deeds of the sons of men.
Lastly, Because at the time of our friends first appearing in this age, there were a sect of people newly sprung up, and truly called Ranters, that were the reverse to the Quakers, (for they feared and quaked at nothing, but made a mock at fearing of God, and at sin, and at hell) who pretended that
love made fear needless, and that nothing was sin, but to them that thought it so; and that none should be damned at last; whose extravagant practices exactly correspond with their evil principles; from hence, some ignorantly, and too many maliciously, involved us and ours with them; and many of their exorbitances were thereby placed to our account, though without the least reason, truth, or justice.
And because some that were convinced of God's truth, afterwards dishonoured their profession, through their unfaithfulness to it; and that some, out of weakness, perhaps, may have improperly worded what they intended to say, the whole body of our friends have been made criminal, and the religion or principles we profess, have been condemned, and represented to the world as heresy and blas phemy; an usage so unjust, that doubtless, according to Lex Talionis, our adversaries would think it intolerable to be so treated by us.
But as we desire not to render evil for evil, our Great Bishop having taught us another lesson, and better practices, so we desire God Almighty to forgive our causeless enemies, for his Son's sake, as we most freely and heartily forgive them believing some may be zealously affected for their educational form of religion, and as zealous against us for our separation; and we are the more inclined to judge so, because many of us were once in the same way, and had such thoughts of those that were gone before us. But it hath pleased the Father of mercies to do by many of us as he did by Saul, that zealous, though mistaken, persecutor of the sincere followers of Jesus Christ, Acts ix. 3, 4, 5, 6. For as we heard an unusual inward, but powerful voice, so we also had a more inward, clear, and distinguishing sight, by the illumination of that light which was more than natural, and shined into our dark and sinful hearts, 2 Cor. iv. 6, 7. letting us see them, as they really were in God's sight: which naturally affected us with deep sorrow, and true humiliation, making us willing to be any thing he would have us be, provided we might have some sense of his love and favour towards us. And blessed be his holy and excellent name, we can, without vanity, say, (generally speaking) we were not disobedient to that heavenly vision, (Acts xxvi. 19.) we had of him, ourselves, the world, and that profession of religion, where we had our education. And since by that sight God gave us, we saw he was pure and holy, and that without holiness none ever could, or can see him, to their joy, and that we were unfit to approach his holy altar; yea, that the whole world lay in wickedness; and that profession of religion, where we had our education, was so far from hav
ing the power of godliness, that, for the most part, it wanted the right form; from such, therefore, we had a divine authority to "turn away," 2 Tim. iii. 5. which we did, not in a vaunting mind, but with great sorrow; wanting to know where the Great Shepherd of the sheep fed his flock, Cant. i. 7. For we desired to be not of those that "turned aside from the footsteps of the flocks of the companions." Nor was it affectation to popularity, singularity, or novelty, that induced us to a separation; but a fervent desire to know the Lord, and the work of his translating power upon our souls, being in earnest for heaven, though for it we lost all our earthly enjoyments, Heb. xi. 14, 15, 16.
In this solitary and seeking state, it pleased the Lord to meet with us, and gather us into families, or religious societies, according to Psalm lviii. 6. And though it hath been a dear separation to us, considering it cost us the loss, at least, of all things, and the great sufferings and afflictions that have attended us in this despised way, which men have called heresy; yet the Lord hath blessed us in it, with the enjoyment of his blessed presence, to our unspeakable joy and comfort.
To conclude; as it hath pleased the Lord to bless us, in the way we have hitherto been helped to walk in, with that great blessing which ushered in the birth of our blessed Lord into the world, viz. "Glory to God, peace on earth, and good-will to men;" so we earnestly desire the same upon all our neighbours for though we may not be all of one mind in some doctrinal parts of religion, we must, of necessity, be all of one sentiment in the great and general duty of holiness, or else we never can see God. And if that is our principal aim and endeavour, we shall less fall out by the way, about words, forms, and the outside of things: but universal charity, (which is the most excellent way, and without which the best of creeds is but as a sounding brass, &c.) will silence controversy, and blot out all ignominious characters; remembering that the great Judge, at the last day, will determine us, not according to our names, but natures; not our profession, but our lives; not our bare belief, (though of unquestionable truths) but works; for "God will bring every work to judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil," Eccles. xii. 14.