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A TESTIMONY TO THE TRUTH OF GOD
AS HELD BY THE PEOPLE CALLED QUAKERS
BEING A SHORT VINDICATION
OF THEM FROM THE ABUSES
AND MISREPRESENTATIONS OFTEN PUT UPON THEM
BY ENVIOUS APOSTATES AND
BY WILLIAM PENN
TO THE READER
Occasion having been given us, which we never sought, we continue to improve it to the farther explanation and defence of our so much abused profession; that, if possible, people may see, at least the more sober and candid, that we are not at that distance from truth, nor so heterodox in our principles, as we have been, by too many, either rashly or interestedly represented: but that we hold the great truths of Christianity, according to the holy scriptures, and that the realities of religion are the mark we press after, abuse and awaken people from their false hopes and carnal securities, under which they are too apt to indulge themselves, to their irreparable loss; that by our setting Christian doctrine in a true light, and reviving and pressing the necessity of a better practice, they may see the obligation they are under to redeem their precious time they have lost, by a more careful employment of that which remains, to a better purpose. In this short vindication of our mistaken principles, the ingenious reader may easily discern how ill we have been treated, and what hardships we have laboured under, through the prejudice of some , and the unreasonable credulity of others, and that we are a people in earnest for heaven; and in that way our blessed Lord hath trod for us to glory.
A TESTIMONY TO THE TRUTH OF GOD
By the observation we are led to make from Francis Bugg's late book, upon the bishop of Norwich's giving him his recommendatory letter to the clergy, &c. in his diocese, to relieve, by a collection, the necessities of that beggarly apostate; a copy of which letter the said F.B. hath published in his said book.
And also by the observation we have made on the malicious attempts of the “Snake in the Grass” in the first, second, and third editions, which is a disingenuous and unjust collection from F. Bugg,and some other deserters, of things, for the most part, a long answered; as also lately, by the book entitled, “An Antidote,” &c. (though because his second and third edition have some additions to his first, and that being new vamped, for a better market, he may expect a melius inquirendum after a while; yet should we follow the example of this rattle snake, against the church of which he pretends to be a member, but at present a suspended one, we might in retaliation, not only exceed the “Cobbler of Gloucester,” but the “Scotch Eloquence,” and that master piece, “The Ground of Contempt of the Clergy:”)
And, lastly, by the observation we have made on the relation subscribed by some of the Norfolk clergy, dated October 12th, 1698, we cannot forbear thinking, that as their confederacy is deep, so it aims at nothing less than the ruin of us, and our posterity, by rendering us blasphemers, and enemies to the government, and to be treated as such.
The Norfolk relation from the clergy aforesaid, charges the said people with blasphemy: first, Against God. Secondly, Against Jesus Christ. Thirdly against the holy scriptures, with contempt of civil magistracy, and the ordinances which Jesus Christ instituted, viz. baptism, by water, and the Lord's supper by bread and wine. And Lastly, That the light within, as taught by us, leaves us without any certain rule, and exposes us to the blasphemies aforesaid, with many others.
Now, because this charge refers to doctrine, rather than fact, or particular persons, we think ourselves concerned to say something in vindication of our profession, and wipe of the dirt thereby intended to be cast upon us, in giving our reader a plain account as our principles, free from the perversions of our enemies.
But to manifest how uncharitably and unjustly the said clergymen have reflected upon the people called Quakers, with respect to the said charge, we are contented the reader goes no farther than their own printed relation, dated Nov. 12, 1698, not doubting but by that very relation, and the letters therewith printed, he will meet with entire satisfaction, with respect to the reasonableness and justice of the Quakers' proceedings in that affair, and how ready they were to come to the test, and to bring the pretended charge upon the stage, and to purge themselves from the guilt of the same, provided they might be accommodated with what the common law allows malefactors, viz. a copy of their indictment; but this could not be obtained. And though the said clergy have thought fit to print the charge in general, without any proof, we think ourselves obliged to vindicate our profession, by freely declaring, ( as now we do, without any mental reservation) our sincere belief of the very things they most unjustly charge us with denying.
- [Concerning God] Because we declare that God is God “nigh at hand” and that he is, according to his promise, become the “Teacher of his people by his spirit in these later days;” and that “True believers are the temples for him to walk and dwell in,” as the apostle teacheth; and experiencing something of the accomplishment of this great and glorious truth among us, and having therefore pressed people earnestly to the knowledge and enjoyment thereof, as the blessing and glory of the latter days; we have been ignorantly, or maliciously, represented and treated as heretics and blasphemers as if we owned no God in heaven above the stars, and confined the Holy One of Israel to our beings: whereas we believe him to be the Eternal, Incomprehensible, Almighty, All-wise and Omnipresent God, creator and upholder of all things, and that he fills heaven and earth, and that the “Heaven of heavens cannot contain him:” yet he saith, by the prophet Isaiah, “To that man will I have regard, that is poor, and of contrite spirit, and which trembles at my word.” So that for professing that which is the very marrow of the Christian religion, viz. “Emanuel, God with us,'” we are represented blasphemers against that God, with whom we leave our innocent and suffering cause. Isa. Vii. Xiv. Xl xxviii. Xlviii. Xvii. Lxvi. 1, 2, 2 Cor. vi. 16. Rev. xxi. 3
- [Concerning Jesus Christ] Because we believe that the word which was made flesh, and dwelt amongst men, and was and is the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; in whom he is well pleased, and whom we ought to hear all things; who tasted death for every man, and died for sin, that we might die to sin; is the great light of the world, and full of grace and truth, and he lighteth every man that comes into the world, and giveth them grace for grace, and light for light, and that no man can know God and Christ, (whom to know is life eternal) and themselves, in order to true convection and conversion, without receiving and obeying this holy light, and being taught by the Divine grace; and that without it, no remission, no justification, no salvation (as the scripture plentifully testifies) can be obtained: and because we therefore press the necessity of people's receiving the inward and spiritual appearance of his Divine word, in order to a right and beneficial application of whatsoever he did for man, with respect to his life, miracles, death, sufferings, resurrection, ascension, and mediation; our adversaries would have us deny any Christ without us. First, As to his divinity, because they make us to confine him too within us. Secondly, As to his humanity, or manhood, because he was the Son of Abraham, David and Mary, according to the flesh, he cannot be in us, and therefore we are heretics and blasphemers: whereas we believe him, according to the Scripture to be the son of Abraham , David, and Mary after the flesh, and also God over all, blessed forever. So that he that is within us, is also without us, even the same that laid down his precious life for us , rose again from the dead, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, being the blessed and alone mediator betwixt God and man, and him by whom God will finally judge the worlds, both quick and dead,: all which we sincerely and steadfastly believe, as any other society of people, whatever may be ignorantly, or maliciously, insinuated to the contrary, either by our declared enemies, or mistaken neighbours. Deut. xv. 18. Mic. v.2. John I. 1.2.3. Rev. xxii.16
- [Concerning the Holy Scriptures] Because we assert the holy spirit to be the first great and general rule and guide of true Christians, as that by which God is worshiped, sin detected, conscience convicted, duty manifested, scripture unfolded and explained, and consequently the rule for understanding the scriptures themselves (since by it they were at first given forth) from hence our adversaries are pleased to make us blasphemers of the holy scriptures, undervaluing their authority, preferring our own books before them, with more to that purpose: whereas, we, in truth and sincerity, believe them to be of divine authority, given by the inspiration of God, through holy men; they speaking or writing them as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; that they are a declaration of those things most surely believed by the primitive Christians, and that as they contain the mind and will of God, and are his commands to us so they, in that respect, are his declaratory word; and therefore are obligatory on us , and are “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, and thoroughly furnished to every good work.” Nay after all, so unjust is the charge, and so remote from our belief concerning the holy scriptures, that we both love, honour, and prefer them, before all books in the world; ever choosing to express our belief of the Christian faith and doctrine in the terms thereof, and rejecting all principles or doctrines whatsoever, that are repugnant thereunto. Nevertheless, we are well persuaded, that not withstanding there is such an excellency in the holy scriptures, as we have above declared, yet the unstable and unlearned in Christ's school to often wrest them to their own destruction. And upon our reflection or their carnal constructions of them, we are made undervalues of scripture itself. But certain it is, that as the Lord has been pleased to give us the experience of the fulfilling of them in measure, so it is altogether contrary to our faith and practice, to put any manner of slight or contempt upon them, much more of being guilty of what maliciously is suggested against us; since no society of professed Christians in the world can have a more reverent and honourable for them than we have. John iv. 24. and xvi 8. Rom. I. 19. Luke I. 1, 2. Tim. Iii. 16, 17. 2 Pet. Iii. 16.
- [Concerning Magistracy] Because we have not actively complied with divers statutes, which have been made to force an uniformity to what we have no faith in, but the testimony of our conscience is against; and because, for conscience sake, we could not give those marks of honour and respect, which were and are the usual practice of those that “seek honour one of another, and not that honour which comes from God only,” ( but measure and weigh honour and respect in a false balance and deceitful measure, on which neither magistrate, ruler or people, can depend,) we say, because we could not, for conscience sake, give flattering titles, &c. we have been rendered as despisers and condemners of magistracy: whereas are principles, often repeated upon the many revolutions that have happened, do evidently manifest the contrary;as well as our peaceable behaviour from the beginning, under all the various forms of government, hath been an undeniable plea in our favour, when those that also have professed the same principles of non-resistance and passive obedience, have quitted their principles, and yet quarrel with us, upon a supposition that we will, in time, write after their copy; which, as nothing more contrary to our principles, faith, and doctrine, so nothing can be more contrary to our constant practice. For we not only really believe magistracy to be an ordinance of God, but esteem it an extraordinary blessing, where it is “a praise to them that do well, and a terror to evil-doers:” which that it may be so in this our native land, is the fervent desire of our souls, that the blessing and peace of God may be continued thereupon, Job xxxii. 21. John v. 44. Acts v. 29. 1 Peter ii. 13. 14.
- [Concerning Baptism] Because we do not find in any place in the four evangelists, that Jesus Christ instituted baptism by water to come in the room of circumcision, or to be baptism proper to his kingdom, which stands “in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” we are therefore rendered as contemners of Christ's baptism: whereas the baptism of Jesus Christ, of which he was Lord and administrator according to the nature of his office and kingdom, is, even by John the Baptist, declared to be that of fire (not water) and of the Holy Ghost, of which water-baptism was but the forerunner, and is, by them that now practice it, called but the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace; and therefore not the grace itself; which grace hath the apostle saith, is sufficient for us, and which we believe, profess, and experience to be come by Jesus Christ, who is the substance of all signs and shadows to true believers; he being no more a Jew or a Christian that is one outwardly, by the cutting or washing of the flesh; but he is a Jew or Christian who is one inwardly, and circumcision and baptism is of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is therefore not of men, but of God: and this baptism Christ preferred and recommended at his farewell to his disciples: in reverence and duty to whom, to say nothing of the abuse of water-baptism, we decline the use thereof, Mark I 8. Luke iii. 16. John I. 17. Acts I 5. Romans ii. 28,29. 1 Cor I. 17. 2 Cor. Xii. 9.
- [Concerning Breaking Bread, &c.] Because we also disuse the outward ceremony of breaking bread and drinking wine, which is commonly called the Lords supper, we are therefore rendered deniers and contemners of the Lord's supper: whereas the inward and spiritual grace, thereby signified, viz. That bread which came down from heaven, which Christ prefers to the bread the fathers eat in the wilderness (which did not keep them from death) and that cup which he promised to drink anew with his disciples in his fathers kingdom, we not only believe, but reverently partake of, to our unspeakable comfort, which is rightly and truly the communion of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” Johnvi. 53, 63. “for it is the spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing:” It was also his promise to all those who would open to his knocks, viz. That he would come in, and sup with them;” which inward and spiritual coming, we have both known, and testified to; feeling the blessed effects thereof in our souls, and knowing the outward breaking of the bread and drinking of wine, in the way commonly practised, is no more than it is declared to be, viz. And outward and visible sign: why, then should any contend about it, and render us unchristian, for misusing what themselves allow to be but an outward and visible sign? And that none can reasonably believe to be an essential part of religion, as is the bread from heaven; of which the outward is, at best, but a signification: but the wine that Christ promised to drink with his disciples anew, is such an essential, that without it none have, nor can have eternal life,. Matthew xxvi. 29. Mark xiv. 25. John vi. 41, 50, 51, 58, 63, Rev iii. 20.
- [Concerning the Light of Christ] Because we assert the sufficiency of the light within, it being the light of Christ, viz. That if men live up to the teaching thereof, in all manner of faithfulness and obedience, “they shall not abide in darkness, but have the light of life and salvation, and the blood of Christ shall cleanse them from all sin;” our adversaries from thence conceive, that we undervalue the rule of holy scriptures, and all outward means, as having no need thereof, since we have such a means and rule within us, and that this leaves us without any certain rule, and exposes us to many blasphemies, &c. whereas the light within (or Christ by his light inwardly teaching) was never taught by us in opposition to, or contempt of, any outward means, that God, in his wisdom and providence, affords us for our edification and comfort, no more than did that blessed apostle, who said “You need not that any man should teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you all things, and is truth and is no lie,” John xii. 46. 1 John I. 6, 7. 1 John I 2, 27.
- [Concerning the Father, the Word and the Spirit] Because we have been very cautious in expressing our faith concerning that great mystery, especially in such school terms and philosophical distinctions as are unscriptural, if not unsound, (the tendency whereof hath been to raise frivolous controversies and animosities amongst men) we have, by those that desire to lesson our Christian reputation, been represented as deniers of the Trinity at large: whereas we ever believed, and as constantly maintained, the truth of the blessed (holy scripture) “three that bare record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and that these three are one;” the which we both sincerely and reverently believe, according to 1 John v. 7. And this is sufficient for us to believe and know, and hath a tendency to edification and holiness; when the contrary centers only in imaginations and strife, and persecution, where it runs high, and to parties, as may be read in bloody characters in the Ecclesiastical Histories.
- [Concerning Works] Because we make evangelical obedience a condition to salvation, and works wrought in us by the Spirit to be an evidence of faith, and holiness of life to be both necessary and rewardable it hath been insinuated against us, as if we hoped to be saved by our own works, and so make them the meritorious cause of our salvation, and consequently Popish. Whereas we know, that it is not by works of righteousness that we can do, but b7 his own free grace he is pleased to accept of us, through faith in, and obedience to, his blessed Son the Lord Jesus Christ, Hebrews v. 9. and xii. 14
- [Of Christ being our Example] Because, in some cases, we have said, the Lord Jesus was our great example, and that his obedience to his Father doth not excuse ours; but as by keeping his commandments, he abode in his Fathers love; some have been so ignorant, ( or that which is worse) as to venture to say for us, or in our name, that we believe our Lord Jesus Christ was, in all things, but an example. Whereas we confess him to be so much more than a example, that we believe him to be most acceptable sacrifice to God his Father; who, for his sake, will look upon fallen men, that hath justly merited the wrath of God, upon his return by repentance, faith, and obedience, as if he had never sinned at all, 1 John. ii. 12. Romans iii. 26. and x. 9, 10. Hebrews. v. 9.
- [Concerning Freedom from Sin] Because we have urged the necessity of a perfect freedom from sin,and a thorough sanctification in body, soul, and spirit, whilst on this side of the grave, by the operation of the holy and perfect Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the testimony of holy scripture, we are made so presumptuous, as to assert the fullness of all perfection and happiness to be attainable in this life: whereas we are not only sensible of those human infirmities that attend us, whilst clothed with flesh and blood; but know that here we can only “know in part and see in part:” the perfection of wisdom, glory, and happiness, being reserved for another and better world. John viii.24, 25, Hebrews. Xiii20, 21, and vi.
- [Concerning Worship to God] Because we say, with the apostle, that men ought to pray, preach, sing, &c. with the spirit, and that without the preparation and assistance of it, no man can rightly worship God, (all worship without it being formal and carnal) from hence ignorance, or envy, suggests against us, that if God will not compel us by his Spirit, he must go without his worship whereas nothing can be more absurd, since without it “no man can truly call Jesus Lord:” besides it is our duty to wait upon him, who hath promised, not to compel, but to fill them with renewing of strength, that so wait upon him, by which they are made capable to worship him acceptably, be it in praying, preaching or praising of God: and how warrantable our practice herein is from holy scripture, see Psalm xxv. 5. xxxvii 7 xxvii.14 cxxx. 5, 6, Hosea xii 6.
- [Of God and Christ being in Man] Because we say, as do the holy scriptures, that God is light, and that Christ is light, and that God 9is 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 spiritual manifestations; 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 Christ, 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 God is in Christ, so Christ by his Spirit and light, dwelleth in the hearts of his people, to comfort and to consulate them; as he does 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.
- [Of Christ 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, that he was born of the virgin Mary, went about amongst 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.
- [Concerning the Resurrection] Because from the authority of the 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 steadfastly 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 people whose education hath not afforded us an accuracy of language, some passages may perhaps have been miss-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 opposer 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 a 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.
- [Concerning Separation] Because we are separated from the public communion and worship, it is too generally concluded that we deny the doctrines received by the church, and consequently introduce a new religion: where as 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 qualification 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 heats 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 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 to 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 exorbitancies 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 pout 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 blasphemy; an usage so unjust, that doubtless according to Lex Talionis , our adversaries would think it intolerable to be 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 as 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 we heard an unusual inward, but powerful voice, so we also had a more inward, clear, and distinguishing sight, by illumination of that light which was more than natural, and shined into the 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 a true humiliation, making us willing to be anything he would have us be, providing 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 having the power of godliness, that, for the most part, it wanted the right form; from such, therefore, we had divine authority to “turn away” 2 Timothy 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 foot-steps 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, Hebrews xi. 14, 15, 16, In this solitary and seeking state, it pleased the Lord to meet with us, and to gather us into families, or religious societies, according to Psalm lviii 6 And though it as 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 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 can never see God. And if that is our principle aim and endeavour , we shall less fall out by the way, about words, forms, and outside of things: but universal charity, (which is the most excellent way, and without which the best of creeds is but 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 unquestionable truths) but works; for “God will bring every work to judgement, with every secret thing whether it be good or evil,” Eccles xii 14.