« PreviousContinue »
according to the blessed sight and prophecy of Isaiah, that evangelical prophet. Here Jerusalem is known a quiet habitation, the inhabitants thereof being established in peace and righteousness, far from oppressing, the cause of war and oppression being taken away, which is evil thinking, evil speaking, and evil doing. And this every one must know and experience before they can be established in peace, before they can know the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, to keep their hearts and minds, and to rule in their hearts, and to know the aboundings of it, and to delight therein; as it is written,* " The meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace;" the earth, nor earthly things shall not inherit them; they tread upon the high places of it, and reign like kings and princes over all the glory thereof. Oh! this is a blessed state indeed; wait all to possess and enjoy it more and more.f This is the blessed end of the gospel of peace, and of the Christian religion. My breathing is, that all that possess it, may come to inherit peace, righteousness, and joy in the inward man; even to lie down in that peace where none can make afraid, and to dwell on that holy mountain, where no destroyer is, and to inhabit that city whose builder and maker is God: to whom be praise and glory for evermore.
A few words added to the sensible reader.
Thou who art awakened out of the sleep of death, and risen out of the grave of sin, and sea of corruption, and art come to the exercise of thy spiritual senses, so that thou canst hear, see, taste, and handle the things of God, thou well knowest that the blessed end of all holy men's words and writings, testimonies and declarations, proceeding from the love of God, is, that others that are yet unholy, wandering about in and after the vanity of their minds, thoughts, and imaginations upon the barren mountains, even as sheep without a shepherd, may come to be gathered and brought home to the fold of rest, where safety, peace, and satisfaction are to be found for their weary souls, who have long wandered in desolate places, seeking rest, but finding none; spending their time, labour, and money for that which doth not profit, feed, and nourish up to eternal life. I say, to direct these strangers, wanderers, labourers, and unsatisfied travellers into the way of rest and peace, is the blessed
The enjoyment of those things men do, and may witness, on this side the grave. † Read the twenty-fifth and thirty-fifth chapter of Isaiah's prophecy, and wait in the precious faith thou hast received, till thou enjoy the fulfilling thereof.
end of all words and holy writings, even that such may come to possess, enjoy, and inherit the things spoken and written of; without which, all hearing, reading, seeking, inquiring, toiling, labouring, spending time and money is to no purpose.
Now it is the mind, the soul, the spirit of man that wants rest, that is gone from its centre, that hath lost its stay, habitation, and dwelling place in God; and innumerable are the thoughts, imaginations, devices and inventions, willings and runnings that poor mankind in this estate are exercised in, and carried away with, both Jew and Gentile, professor and profane, upon the face of the whole earth. For in all sects and sorts of religions, those who are sincere and devout therein, propose this end to themselves in the exercise thereof, viz. to attain a state of happiness and felicity at last. Many are the ways, means, and precepts, prescriptions, directions, and observations, that men give and receive from one the other, enjoin and persuade one the other, and sometimes compel one another by violence, to walk in, and make use of, in order to arrive thereto, as they think and imagine. But it is in this age, as of old, the guides and teachers of the people cause them to err, cause them to go astray, and wander from the right way of the Lord; they err in vision, judgment, and understanding themselves, and cause all that follow and obey them to do the same; being unskilful guides, and blind watchmen, they are but the blind leading the blind, and so both fall into the ditch together.
Now the way to everlasting happiness is but one, both to Jew and Gentile; which way is Christ, who is wisdom and power of God, the truth, and the life; and the appearance of this Christ of God, is within men, in their hearts. Its first appearance is as a light shining in darkness, and as a pure spotless spirit, that consenteth to no evil, but reproveth and convinceth all that are found in it; and to this light or spirit, all who write or speak for God, and the good of mankind, do turn and direct the minds of men, and endeavour to persuade them to give regard unto its reproofs of instruction, as being the way to life, and to obey its counsel and teaching, as the only means of salvation, and way of returning to the rock from whence they were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence they were digged, to their habitation and dwelling place in God again. And many thousands in this island, and other places, can give testimony that this is the only way and means God hath ordained for the recovery, return, and restoration of lost man; and that all other ways and means which they had been wearying themselves in, availed nothing; but walking in this heavenly way, the light, the spirit and grace of God within, and learning of the anointing within, they come to witness salvation come to their house, and to surround them as walls and bulwarks, and to witness the fulfilling of that divine prophecy, “My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and
in quiet resting places. The eye of them that see shall not be dim, the ear of them that hear shall hearken, the heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerer shall be ready to speak plainly."* These are the blessed effects of walking in the way and paths of righteousness, which a remnant are living witnesses of, and can praise and magnify the name of the Lord in the sense thereof.
But none come to enjoy this blessed estate, nor inhabit this heavenly dwelling-place, but as their minds come truly to be exercised by and in the light of the Lord, and that by walking and abiding therein, come to have their minds established, settled, and stayed upon him, who is indeed the alone stay of his people, and rock of his inheritance.
And nothing can be found in the heavens above, nor in the earth beneath, that is able to satisfy or stay the mind of man, but the Lord; the mind or soul of man is more noble, more excellent than all visible things, so they are not all capable to fill of satisfy his soul, or stay his mind; though he might possess or have the whole world to himself, yet in the end will be made to cry out and confess, with the preacher of old, “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity and vexation of spirit,” &c. Eccles. i. But to have the mind stayed upon the Lord, there is pleasure, peace, and content truly found and enjoyed, according to the testimony of that divine prophet Isaiah, who said, speaking in the name of the Lord, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon thee.” This is such a truth, that none knoweth but he that hath it: it may be soon writ, read, or spoken, but to enjoy that estate is more than words, it is the end, sum and substance of all that can be said or done and is the reward of the righteous from the immediate hand of God, viz. to be kept in perfect peace. It is the end of all holy breathings and desires, it is the end of the preaching the gospel of peace and salvation, even to know and feel, and experience the peace of God, to keep the heart, and to keep the mind, and to rule there.
This is a blessed state indeed, worthy to be waited for, and pressed after, by all that have a sight and sense thereof, and are in the way that leadeth thereto, though not yet arrived thereat. Go forward in the name of the Lord, even in that name, light, by which he hath made himself known unto us in this age; by which light thou sawest the wandering, and unstableness of thy mind, and the multitude of thy thoughts, imaginations, and inventions; persevere in the same and thou wilt become not only a child of it, but also grow from a child's estate, to the state of a young man, elder, and father; keeping the faith, and firmly believing, that which showeth thee the wandering and unstableness of thy mind, will be as a shepherd's crook unto thee, and in due time will bring thee back into the fold of rest. And that holy light that dis
* Isa. xxx. 3, 4. xxxii. 18.
covers, and showeth unto thee thy thoughts, and inward enemies, will also, by the brightness of its arising, disperse and destroy them for thee and bring thee into that estate thy soul desireth, panteth, and looketh after, even into the presence of the Lord, where the fulness of joy is, and where the rivers of pleasure run; where the reaping and returning with joy is, where the singing for joy of heart is, and the joy of God's salvation felt: the blessed light of God, or son of righteousness, in whom thou hast believed, is the only way to possess and inherit those things. And thy walking, abiding, and persevering in it, is the means, and there is not any other way or means appointed of God, to bring man back into that paradisical state of felicity he lost by transgression, and to the establishing him in it.
But all that walk not, nor abide and persevere therein after they are come into it, never attain to that blessed end of its appearance and shining to them; for a bare knowledge of the truth, and a profession of the light and spirit of God within, if they walk not in it, and are not guided and lead by it, avails nothing, but rather draws down fierce wrath and vengeance upon the head of such, who know their master's will and do it not, who talk and profess well, but are found doing evil, and thereby lay a stumbling block in the way of the blind, and cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of, and the name of the Lord (by which he hath made himself known in this age) to be blasphemed, by reason of their ungodly deeds under a profession of godliness, and cloak of righteousness; such their damnation slumbereth not.
And this I testify and Jeclare to all people to whom this may come, (which may serve also as a caution and warning to them,) that if they meet with any under the name, form, and profession of, a Christian, (in contempt called a Quaker,) who in his converse, trade, and dealing, commerce, and affairs, does not let his
and his nay, nay, but breaketh his word and promises, there is need to have a special care of that man, and look upon him as one false and deceitful to the holy principle of truth, and as a hypocrite under the profession of it. He that is false to God, cannot be true to men: thou hadst better trust and give credit to a heathen or infidel, than to such a one. No wickedness beyond that which is acted under a peculiar cloak of religion. Such who gain credit and repute by wearing this cloak, and get widows' and orphans' monies into their hands, to create great trades by sea and land, and then break, are some of the worser sort of robbers and cheats, and the cry of the poor fatherless and widows, cries loud against them. This is a short testimony arising in my heart against this sort of wickedness, wherein I have a little eased my mind, and in the truth remain a friend to all men.
END OF SHEWEN.
Perhaps we cannot fill a few vacant pages more profitably, than with the
following address to the king and parliament of England, written at a very early period of the Society of Friends. It exhibits in a striking point of view, the inflexible integrity, intrepidity, and Christian firmness which characterized those worthy testimony bearers to the truth, and against the impositions of a hireling priesthood. It was personally delivered to the king by M. Fell, in the year 1660.
We who are the people of God called Quakers, who are hated and despised, and every where spoken against, as people not fit to live, as they were that went before us, who were of the same spirit, power, and life, and were as we are, in that they were accounted as the off-scouring of all things, by that spirit and nature that is of the world; and so the scripture is fulfilled, “ He that is born of the flesh persecuteth him that is born of the spirit.” We have been a suffering people, under every power and change, and under every profession of religion that hath been, and borne the outward power in the nation these twelve years, since we were a people, and being that, through the old enemy which hath continually appeared against us, not only in the profane people of the nation, but also in the highest profession of sorts and sects of religion, we have suffered under, and been persecuted by them all: some even persecuted and imprisoned till death; others their bodies bruised till death, stigmatized, bored through the tongue, gagged in the mouth, stocked, and whipped through towns and cities; our goods spoiled, our bodies two or three years imprisoned; with much more that might be said, which is well known to the actors thereof. And this done not for the wronging of any man, nor for the breach of any just law of the nation, nor for evil doing, nor desiring any evil, or wishing any hurt to any man, but for conscience sake towards God, because we could not bow to their worship, and because we could not maintain a ministry, which ministry we could not join with nor own. So we look upon it to be unjust to maintain them we receive nothing from, nor cannot trust our souls under their teaching, who “teach for hire, and divine for money,” which the prophets of the Lord cried wo against. And Christ said, a hireling was a thief and a robber, and would fly because he was a hireling. And they are maintained by tithes, contrary to Christ and the apostles' doctrine, who said the priesthood was changed that took tithes, and the law also that gave them, and who witnessed Christ Jesus to be the everlasting offering once for all, who saith, “Such an high-priest hath become us, which is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared: though he was a son yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made perfect became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” And for obedience to him and his commands do we suffer, who hath said, “ Swear not at all.” And he said, “ Call no man master upon earth, for ye have one master in heaven.” And who hath said, “How can you believe that seek honour one of another, and not the honour that comes from God only.” And who hath said " Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than this, cometh of evil.” And because we cannot respect persons, which is contrary to the apostle's doctrine and practice, who hath said, “Of a truth God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him.” And the apostle James exhorted his brethren not to have * the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ