Page images
[ocr errors]

Brethren agree in; in this Cafe what is my Duty and


Anfw. It is thy Duty to wait upon God in Silence and Patience, out of all flefhly Confultations; and as thou abidest in the Simplicity of the Truth, thou wilt receive an Understanding with the rest of thy Brethren about the Thing doubted: And it is their Duty, whilft thou behaveft thyself in Meekness and Humility, to bear with thee, and carry themfelves tenderly and lovingly towards thee; but if on the contrary, thou disturbeft their godly Care and Prac tice, and groweft contentious, and exalts thy Judgment against them, they have Power from God to exhort, admonifh, and reprove thee; and, if thou perfeverest therein, in his Name to refufe any further Fellowship with thee, till thou repenteft of thy Evil.

Queft. But left I should mistake, when thou Speakest of true Liberty, that it stands in being made Free by the Truth, from all Unrighteousness, doft thou mean, That no other Perfons ought to bave the Liberty of exercifing their diffenting Confciences, but that Force may be lawful to reduce fuch as are reputed erroneously confcientious?

Anfw. By no means: It were a great Wickedness against God, who is Lord of the Souls and Spirits of Men, and ought to prefide in all Confciences, who, as the Apostle faith, is the only Potentate, and bath Immortality. For though I give the true Liberty of Soul and Confcience to thofe only that are fet free by the Power of Christ, from the Bondage of Sin, and Captivity of Death, yet do I not intend, that any Perfon or Perfons fhould be in the leaft harm'd for the external Exercife of their diffenting Consciences in Worship to God, though erroneous; for though their Confciences be blind, yet they are not to be forced; fuch Compulfion giveth no Sight, neither do Corporeal Punishments produce Conviction: This we, above all People in


our Day, have withftood, in Speaking, Writing, and Suffering, and, bleffed be God, continue fo to do with Faithfulness. For Faith is the Gift of God, and forced Sacrifices are not pleafing to the Lord.


Queft. But according to thy Argument, it may be my Fault, that I have not the Gift of Faith; and upon this Prefumption, it may be, thou wilt inflict fome temporal Penalties upon me.

Anfw. No fuch Matter; for fuch kind of Faults are not to be punished with temporal or worldly Penalties; for whether the Errors be through Weaknefs or Wilfulness, not relating to moral Practice, all external Coertion and corporeal Punishment is excluded. For the Weapons of our Warfare are not carnal, but fpiritual.


Queft. But what then is the Extent of the Power of the Church of Christ, in Cafe of Schifm or Herefy?


Anfw. The Power that Chrift gave to his Church was this, That Offenders, after the first and fecond Admonition, not repenting, fhould be rejected: Not imprisoned, plundered, banished, or put to Death; this belongs to the Whore and false Prophet: Oh! all these Things have come to pafs for Want of Humility, for Want of the ancient Fear, and keeping in the quiet Habitation of the Juft: The Truth in you all fhall anfwer me. And this I affirm, from the Understanding I have received of God, not only that the Enemy is at Work to scatter the Minds of Friends, by that loofe Plea, What haft thou to do with me? Leave me to my Freedom, and to the Grace of God in myself, and the like; but this Propofition and Expreffion, as now understood and alledged, is a Deviation from, and a Perversion of the ancient Principle of Truth; for this is the plain Confequence of this Plea, if any one, efpecially if they are but lately convinced, fhall fay, I fee no Evil in paying Tythes to hireling Priefts, in that,



they are not claimed by divine Right, but by the Civil Laws of the Land. I fee no Evil in marrying by the Prieft, for he is but a Witness. Furthermore, I fee no Evil in declining a publick Teftimony in fuffering Times, or hiding in Times of Perfecution, for I have Chrift's and Paul's Examples, I fee no Evil in worshipping and refpecting the Perfons of Men; for whatever others do, I intend a fincere Notice that I take of thofe I know, and have a good Esteem for. Lastly, I fee no Evil in keeping my Shop fhut upon the World's Holydays, and Mafs-days, as they call them, though they are rather lewdly and fuperftitiously than religioufly kept; for I would not willingly give any Offence to my Neighbours. And fince your Teftimony is against Impofition, and for leaving every › one to the Measure of the Grace which God hath given him, not only, No Man hath Power to reprove or judge me, but I may be as good a Friend as any of you, according to my Measure. And now, here is Measure set up against Measure, which is Confufion itself-Babel indeed! This is that very Rock both Profeffors and Prophane would long fince have run us upon, namely, that a Way is hereby opened to all the World's Libertines, to plead the Light within for their Exceffes: Which i indeed grieves the Spirit of God, and was feverely judged by our Friends in the Beginning, and is ftill reproved by them that keep their Habitation, though fome are become as wandering Stars through their own Pride, and the Prevalency of the Hour of Temptation that hath overtaken them; whereas had they kept in the Channel of Love and Life, in the Orb and Order of the Celestial Power, they had fhined as fixed Stars in the Firmament of God for ever. And from the deep Sense that I have of the working of the Enemy of Zion's Peace, to rend and divide the Heritage of God, who under the Pretence of crying down Man, Forms and Prefcriptions,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

fcriptions, is crying down the heavenly Man Chrift Jefus, his bleffed Order and Government, which he hath brought forth by his own Revelation and Power, through his faithful Witneffes. This I farther teftify, first, That the Enemy by thefe fair Pretences ftrikes at the godly Care and Travail that dwells upon the Spirits of many faithful Brethren, that all Things might be preferved fweet, comely, virtuous, and of good Report in the Church of God. Secondly, That there never was greater Neceffity of this godly Care than at this Day, fince we were a People, wherein the Crofs by too many is not fo closely kept to, as in Days paft, and in which there is not only a great Convincement, but a young Generation defcended of Friends, who though they retain the Form their Education hath led them into, yet many of them adorn not the Gofpel with that fenfible, weighty, and heavenly Conversation, as becomes the Children of the undefiled Religion, and the Seed of that precious Faith which works by the Love that overcomes the World. And the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, that hath fent his Son Chrift Jefus a Light into our Hearts and Confciences, to whofe Search and Judgment all ought to, and muft, bring their Deeds, and render up their Account, beareth holy Record, that for this End hath he moved upon the Spirits of his Servants, and for this good End only have his Servants given forth, recommended, and put in Practice thofe Things that are now in godly Ufe among his People, whether in this or other Nations, relating to Men and Women's Meetings, and their divers and weighty Services. And further; in the Fear of the Almighty God, I fhall add, that heavenly Peace and Profperity dwell with those who are found in a holy and zealous Practice of them; wherefore I warn all, that they take Heed of a flight and obftinate Mind, and that they have a Care how they give Way to the Outcry of fome,


falfly entituled, Liberty of Confcience against Ímpofition, &c. for the End thereof is to lead back again, and give Eafe to the carnal Mind, which, at laft, will bring Death again upon the Soul to God, and the living Society of his Children. And indeed, it is a great Shame that any who have ever known the Truth of God in the inward Parts, and the sweet Society of Brethren, especially those who were early in the Work of this bleffed Day and heavenly Dispensation, fhould fo far depart from the Fear and Awe of the Lord, as to ufe fuch unfavory, as well as untrue Expreffions; this is very far from that meek Spirit of Jefus, and the first Love, which they pretend to have fo fingularly kept in, which beareth all Things, fuffereth all Things, and endureth all Things, and teacheth to keep the Word of Patience in the Hour of Tribulation : Nay, but this is judging of spiritual Things with a carnal and prejudiced Mind, ftumbling at the Matter, for the Sake of the Perfons through whom it comes, not eying nor weighing the Spirit the Thing arifes from, but the Perfon by whom it is fpoken, which darkens the Eye of the Underftanding, and blinds by Prejudice the Mind that should difcern, tafte, and judge; from whence many Mischiefs have sprung to the Church of Chrift in divers Ages: Nor is it the leaft Evil this Spirit of Strife is guilty of, even at this Day, that it useth the Words, Liberty of Confcience and Impofition against the Brethren, in the fame Manner as our fuffering Friends have been always accustomed to intend them against the perfecuting Priefts and Powers of the Earth, as if it were the fame Thing to admonish and reprove conceited, high-minded, loofe or contentious Perfons in the Church, as to compel Conformity in Matters of Faith and Worship, by worldly Violence upon the Perfons and Eftates of confcientious Diffenters: O fuch Iniquity God will not leave unreproved!


« PreviousContinue »