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Gentiles, and upbraided with being a Jew, and teaching their Customs; the fame Paul is baled and ready to be killed by the Jews, for breaking the Law, and defiling the Temple with the Gentiles. The like bath alfo befallen these faithful Witnesses and Meffengers, whom God has raifed up in this Day to witness for bis Truth, which bath long been in a great Meafure bid; but now is again revealed, and many brought to be Witnees of it, who thereby are come to walk in the Light of the Lord.
This People thus gathered, have not wanted thofe Trials, that ufually accompany the Church of Chrift, both on the right Hand and on the left; each Characterizing them in fuch Terms, as they have judged would prove moft to their Difadvantage. From whence, as the Teftimony of the falfe Witnesses against their Lord did not agree, neither do thefe against us, fome will have us to be foolish, mad Creatures; others to be deep, fubtile Politicians; fome to be illiterate, ignorant Fellows; others to be learned, cunning Fefuits, under a meer Vizzard: Divers Profeffors will have us to be only Penfioners of the Pope, undoubtedly Papifts; but the Papifts abbor us as Hereticks: Sometimes we are a diforderly, confufed Rabble, leaving every one to do as they lift, against all good Order and Government; at other Times we are so much for Order, as we admit not Men to exercife the Liberty of their own Judgments. Thus are our Reputations toffed by the Envy of our Adverfaries; which yet cannot but have this Effect upon fober-minded People, as to fee what Malice works against us; and how thefe Men, by their contradictory Affertions concerning us, fave us the Pains, while they refute one another.
John Owen charges us with fo much Ignorance, that tho he writes againft us in Latin, he fears we will not understand it. And Thomas Danfon, about the fame Time, accufes us of teing Jefuits, fent from Abroad under this Vizzard.
True it is, we have laboured to walk amidst thefe Extremities; and upon our appearing for the Truth, we have found Things good in themjelves abused on both Hands: For fuch hath always been the Work of an Apoftacy, to keep up the Shadow of certain Truths; that there-through they might shelter other Evils. Thus, the Jews made Ufe of the Law and the Prophets to vindicate their Abuses; yea, and to crucify Christ : And bow much many Chriftians abufe the Scriptures, and the Traditions of the Apostles, to uphold Things quite contrary to it, will in the general be readily acknowledged by most.
But to defcend more particularly; there be two Things efpecially, both of which in their Primitive Use were appointed, and did very much contribute towards the Edification of the Church: The one is,
The Power and Authority, which the Apostles I. had given them of Chrift, for the gathering, building up, and governing of his Church; by Virtue of which Power and Authority they alfo wrote the Holy Scriptures.
The other is, That Privilege given to every Christian under the Gofpel, to be led and guided by the Spirit of Chrift, and to be taught thereof in all Things.
Now, both thefe in the Primitive Church wrought effectually towards the fame End of Edification; and did, as in their Nature they may, and in their Ufe they ought to do, in a good Harmony very well confift toge ther: But by the Workings of Satan, and Perverfnefs of Men, they are made to fight against and destroy one another. For on the one Hand the Authority and Power, that refided in the Apostles, while it is annexed and entailed to an outward Ordination and Succeffion of Teachers, is made Ufe of to cloak and cover all Manner of Abufes, even the Height of Idolatry and Superftition. For by Virtue of this Succeffion, these Men claiming the like Infallibility, that was in the Apostles, though they be Strangers to any inward Work,
or Manifeftation of the Spirit in their Hearts, will needs oblige all others to acquiefce and agree to their Conclufions, however different from, or contrary to the Truths of the Gospel; and yet for any to call fuck Conclufions in Queftion, or examine them, is no less than a bainous Herefy, deferving Death, &c. Or while the Revelation of God's Mind is wholly bound up to thefe Things already delivered in the Scriptures, as if God bad fpoke his last Words there to his People we are put with our own natural Understandings to debate about the Meanings of it, and forced to interpret them not as they plainly speak, but according to the Analogy of a certain Faith made by Men, not fo much contrived to answer the Scriptures, as the Scriptures are trained to vindicate it: Which to doubt of is also counted Herely, deferving no less than Ejection out of our Native Country, and to be robbed of the common Aid our Nativity entitles us to. And on this Hand, we may boldly fay, both Papifts and Proteftants have greatly gone afide.
On the other Hand, fome are fo great Pretenders to Inward Motions and Revelations of the Spirit, that there are no Extravagances fo wild, which they will not cloak with it; and fo much are they for every one's following their own Mind, as can admit of no Chriftian Fellowship and Community, nor of that good. Order and Difcipline, which the Church of Chrift never was, nor never can be, without. This gives an open Door to all Libertinim, and brings great Reproach to the Chriftian Faith. And on this Hand have foully fallen the German Anabaptifts, fo called, John of Leyden Knipperdolling, &c. in cafe thefe monfrous Things committed by them be fuch as they are related, and fome more moderate of that Kind have been found among the People in England, called Ranters;
So faith James Durham, a noted Man among the Prefbyterians, in his Expofition upon the Revelations,
as it is true, the People called Quakers have been branded with both of thefe Extreams: It is as true, it hath been, and is their Work to avoid them; and to be found in that even and good Path of the Primitive Church, where all were, no doubt, led and acted by the Holy Spirit; and might all have prophesied one by one ; and yet there was a Subjection" Subjection of the Prophets, to the Spirits of the Prophets. There was an Authority fome bad in the Church, and yet it was for Edification, and not for Destruction: There was an Obedience in The Lord to fuch as were fet over; and a being taught by fuch, and yet a knowing of the Inward Anointing, by which each Individual was to be led into all Truib. The Work and Teftimony the Lord hath given us is, to reftore this again, and to fet both these in their right Place, without causing them to deftroy one another. To manifest bow this is accomplished, and accomplishing among us, is the Bufinefs of this Treatife; which, I bope, will give fome Satisfaction to Men of fober Judg ments, and impartial and unprejudicate Spirits, and may be made useful in the good Hand of the Lord, to confirm and establifh Friends against their prefent Oppofers; which is mainly intended and earnestly prayed for by
The 17th of the 8th
Section II. Concerning the Ground and Cause of this
Section III. Whether there be any Order or Government in the Church of Chrift.
Section IV. Of the Order and Government we plead for.
Section V. In what Cafes, and how far, this Government extends.
Section VI. How far this Government extends in
Section VII. Concerning the Power of Decifion.
Section VIII. How this Government altogether differeth from the oppreffing and perfecuting Principality of the Church of Rome, and other Antichriftian Affemblies.