« PreviousContinue »
Therefore having, according to my measure, received an opening in my understanding as to these things, from the light of the Lord, and having been for some time under the weighty sense of them, I find at this instant a freedom to com mit them to writing, for the more universal benefit and edification of the Church of Christ.
Now for the more plain and clear opening and understanding of these things, it is fit to sum up this treatise in these following general heads, to be considered of:
First, From whence the ground and cause of this controversy is, the rise and root of it?
Secondly, Whether there be now any order and government in the Church of Christ?
Thirdly, What is the order and government which we plead for? In what cases, and how far it may extend? In whom the power decisive is, and how it differeth? And is wholly another, than the oppressing and persecuting principality of the church of Rome, and other anti-christian assemblies.
Concerning the ground and cause of this Contro
WHEN as the Lord God by his mighty power, began to visit the nations with the dawning of his heavenly day, (for thus I write unto those that have received and believed the truth) and that he sent forth his instruments, whom he had
fitted and prepared for his work, having fashioned them not according to the wisdom and will of man, but to his own heavenly wisdom and coun. sel, they went forth and preached the gospel in the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit: not in the enticing words of man's wisdom; but in appearance as fools and mad, to those that judged according to man. But their words and testimony pierced through into the inner man in the heart, and reached to that of God in the conscience; whereby as many as were simple-hearted, and waited for the redemption of their souls, received them as the messengers of the most high God; and their words were unto them, not as the words of men, but as the words of God; for in the receiving and embracing the testimony of truth through them, they felt their souls eased, and the acceptable day began to dawn in and upon them.
Now what evidence brought these men to make their testimony to be received? did they entice? did they flatter? did they daub up? did they preach liberty to the flesh or will of man? nay verily, they used no such method: their words were as thunder-bolts, knocking down all that stood in their way, and pouring down the judgment of God upon the head of the transgressor every where. Did they spare the zealous professor more than the open prophane? nay verily, they condemned equally the hypocrisy of the one, as well as the profanity of the other; yet wanted they not regard to the tender seed and plant of God in either. Did they give way? did they yield to the wisdom of man? to the deceitfulness of the
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 reason-" ing 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 belleved not in him that 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 in
genuous, 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 innovators, given to change, and introducing new doctrines and practices, not only differing, but contrary to what was already delivered in the beginning; 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