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dom, who are now despising Christ in his inward appearance, because of the meanness of it, as the Jews of old did him in his outward : yet notwithstanding there were some then that did witness, and could not be silent, but must testify that He was come; even so now are there thousands that can set to their seal, that he hath now again the second time appeared, and is appearing in ten thousands of his saints; in and among whom (as a first fruits of many more that shall be gathered) he is restoring the golden age, and bringing them into the holy order and government of his own son, who is ruling, and to rule in the midst of them, setting forth the counsellors as at the be. ginning, and judges as at first ; and establishing truth, mercy, righteousness and judgment again in the earth : Amen, hallelujah!
Thirdly, These meetings take care in the case of marriages, that all things be clear; and that there may be nothing done in that procedure, which afterwards may prove to the prejudice of truth, or of the parties concerned; which being an outward thing (that is acknowledged in itself to be lawful) of the greatest importance a man or woman can perform in this world; and from the sudden, unwary, or disorderly procedure whereof, very great snares and reproaches may be cast both upon the parties, and the profession owned by them; therefore it doth very fitly, among other things, when it occurs, come to be considered of by the people of God, when met, to take care to preserve all things right and savoury in the household of Faith. We do believe, our adversaries, that watch
for evil against us, would be glad how promiscuously or disorderly we proceeded in this weighty matter, that so they might the more boldly accuse us, as overturners of all human and christian order : but God hath not left us without his counsel and wisdom in this thing; nor will he, that any should receive just occasion against us his people: and therefore in this weighty concern, we, who can do nothing against the truth, but all for, and with regard to the truth, have divers testimonies for the Lord. And,
First, That we cannot marry with those that walk not in, and obey not the truth, as being of another judgment or fellowship; or pretending to it, walk not suitably and answerable thereto.
Secondly, Nor can we go to the hireling priests, to uphold their false and usurped authority; who take upon them to marry people without any command or precedent for it from the law of God.
Lastly, Nor can we suffer any such kind of marriages to pass among us, which, either as to the degrees of consanguinity, or otherwise, in itself is unlawful, or from which there may be any just reflection cast upon our way.
As to the first two, they being matter of prin. ciple received and believed, it is not my work here to debate them; only since they are received and owned as such (for which we can, and have given our sufficient reasons elsewhere, as for our other principles) we ought to care howany by walking otherwise, bring reproach upon us; yet not to pass them wholly by, as to the first, Besides the testimony of the Spirit of God in our hearts (which is the original ground of our faith in all things) we have the testimony of the apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 6. 14. Be ye not unequally yoked together, &c. Now if any should think it were much from this Scripture to plead it absolutely unlawful, in any case, to join in marriage with any (however otherwise sober) because of their not being one with us in all things, I shall speak my judgment. To me it appears so; and to many more who have obtained mercy; and we think we have the Spirit of God. But whether it be lawful or not, I can say positively, It is not expedient, neither doth it edify, and (as that which is of dangerous consequence) doth give justly offence to the Church of Christ : and therefore no true tender heart will prefer his private love to the good and interest of the whole body.
As for the second, In that we deny the priests their assumed authority and power to marry, it is that which in no wise we can recede from, nor can we own any in the doing of it; it being a part of our testimony against the usurpations of that generation, who never yet, that I ever heard of, could produce any Scripture proof or example for it. And seeing none can pretend conscience in the matter (for they themselves confess that it is no part of the essence of marriage) if any, pretending to be among us, should through fear, interest, or prejudice to the truth, come under, and bow to, that image, have we not reason to deny such slavish and ignoble spirits, as mind not truth and its testimony?
Lastly, Seeing if any walking with us, or going under the same name, should hastily or disorderly go together, either being within the degrees of
consanguinity, which the law of God forbids, or that either party should have been formerly under any tie or obligation to others, or any other vast disproportion, which might bring a just reflection upon us from our opposers; can any blame us for taking care to prevent these evils, by appointing that such, as so design, make known their intentions to these churches or assemblies, where they are most known, that if any know just cause of hindrance, it may be mentioned, and a timous let put to the hurt, either by stopping it, if they can be brought to condescend; or by refusing to be witnesses and concurrers with them in it, if they will not? For we take not upon us to hinder any to marry, otherwise than by advice, or disconcerning ourselves; neither do we judge, that such as do marry contrary to our mind, that therefore their marriage is null and void in itself, or may be dissolved afterwards; nay, all our med. dling is in a holy care for the truth. For if the thing be right, all that we do is to be witnes. ses; and if otherwise, that we may say for our vindication to such as may upbraid us therewith, that we advised othrrwise, and did no ways concur in the matter; that so they may bear their own burden, and the truth and people of God be cleared.
Now I am confident that our way herein is so answerable to reason and christianity, that none will blame us therefor; except either such, whose irregular and impatient lusts cannot suffer a se. rious and christian examination, and an advised and moderate procedure; or such, who watching for evil against us, are sorry we should proceed so orderly, and would rather we should suffer all manner of irregularities and abominations, that they might have the more to say against us. But the solid and real reasons we have for our way herein, will sufficiently plead for us in the hearts of all sober men; and moreover, the testimony of God's Spirit in our hearts doth abundantly confirm us both against the folly of the one, and the envy of the other..
Fourthly, There being nothing more needful, than to preserve men and women in righteousness, after they are brought into it; and also nothing more certain, than that the great enemy of man's soul seeks daily how he may draw back again, and catch those who have in some measure escaped his snares, and known deliverance from them; therefore do we also meet together, that we may receive an opportunity to understand, if any have fallen under his temptations, that we may restore them again, if possible ; or otherwise separate them from us. Surely, if we did not so, we might be justly blamed as such, among whom it were lawful to commit any evil unreproved ; indeed this were to be guilty of that libertinism which some have falsely accused us of, and which hath been our care all along, as became the people of God, to avoid ; therefore, we have sought always to keep the house clean, by faithfully reproving and removing, according to the nature of the offence, and the scandal following thereupon ; private things privately, and public things publicly. We desire not to propagate hurt, and defile peoples minds, with telling them such things as tend not to edify; yet do we