Images de page

mention, that near the end of the meeting, feeling, (as I thought, under a good degree of religious weight,) the spirit of supplication, I kneeled, and presented my petition and intercessions to the Lord; but had very little true peace in so doing. For the meeting having sat long, and I being unwilling to detain it unseasonably, kneeled too soon; and it may be that I stept into the service of some other exercised instrument. For I am convinced that there is such a thing, as to have so much feeling sense of, and sympathy with, another's exercise, as to make great caution necessary, lest we move in each other's commission, without a real commission of our own.

I am willing to leave it as a caution, though to my own condemnation, (and may self ever be condemned,) that thou, O favoured instrument, whoever thou art, mayst be continually on thy watch, especially when thou hast been highly favoured, lest thou move again, either in an additional testimony or in supplication, merely in that fulness of divine aboundings, and in the overflowings of that cup of heavenly blessing, given thee in order to abiliate thee for the service already performed, or, afterward, as a reward for thy faithfulness therein. For this thou mayst be in danger of doing, even without a real commission, unless thou art very careful. Or, thou mayst feel thy spirit dipped into a near sympathy with the exercise of another who is under the qualifying hand, and just ready to move in the strength and clearness of a right commission. And if thou art not strictly careful to wait for a clear opening, thou mayst move in a feeling of another's exercise, to thy own hurt, the hurt of that other instrument who was receiving the commission, and even to the great hurt of the whole meeting. And in thy missing thy way, and running before thy guide, in any of those ways, either in prayer or public testimony, thou wilt retard thy own progress in the right way, and bring darkness over thy mind. But if thou art always careful to wait for a right commission, and never to move without it, thou wilt never thus err from the right way, but wilt surely be preserved.

After meeting, had a precious opportunity with our dear friends Thomas Lightfoot and wife. Thomas was formerly the husband of that excellent bandmaid of the Lord, Susanna as any member assumes another place than is allotted it;' or being gone from the life and unity of the body, and losing the sense of it, lets in the murmurer, the eye that watches for evil, and not in holy care over its fellow members ; and then instead of coming down to judgment in itself, will stand up and judge its fellow members, yea, the whole body, or those whom God has set in a more honourable and eminent place in the body, than itself. Such suffer not the word of exhortation, and term the reproofs of instruction, (which is the way of life,) imposition and oppression, and are not aware how far they are in the things they condemn others for; while they spare not to reprove and revile all their fellow members ; yet, if they be but admonished themselves, they cry out, as if their great charter of gospel liberty were broken. Now though such, and the spirit by which they are acted, be sufficiently seen and felt by thousands, whose hearts God has so established, as they are out of danger of being entangled in that snare; and who have power and strength in themselves to judge that spirit, even in its most subtle appearances ; yet there are, who cannot so well withstand the subtilty, and seeming sincerity, some such pretend to, though in measure they have a sight of them; and others that cannot so rightly distinguish between the precious and the vile; and some there are that through weakness, and want of true discerning, may be deceived, and the simplicity in them betrayed for a season; and it is written, with fair speeches and smooth words, they deceive the hearts of the simple. Therefore having, according to my measure, received an opening in my understanding as to these things, from the light of the Lord, and having been for some time under the weighty sense of them, I find at this instant a freedom to commit them to writing, for the more universal benefit and edification of the church of Christ.” Page 11, speaking of what the Lord had done for Friends in that day, he says, “ He hath not gathered us to be as sheep scattered without a shepherd, that every one may run his own way, and every one follow his own will, and so to be as a confused mass or chaos, without any order; but he, even the Lord hath also gathered, and is gathering us into the good order, discipline, and government of his own son; the Lord Jesus Christ :

Vol. II.-31

therefore, he hath laid care upon some beyond others, who watch for the souls of their brethren, as they that must give account." Page 13, speaking of the several sorts of persons which bave proved troublesome in the church, he mentions some, who, says he, “if they be reproved for their unruliness, according to the good order of the church of Christ, then they cry out, Breach of liberty, oppression, persecution ! We will have none of your order and government: we are taught to follow the light in our consciences, and not the orders of men.” Then, after proving by plain scripture, that “ Christ did appoint and ordain that there should be order and government in the church," and that any one “refusing to hear the judgment of the church, or whole assembly, he doth thereby exclude himself, and shut out bimself from being a member, and is justly judged by his brethren as a heathen and a publican :" he affirms, page 17, that " the church, gathering, or assembly of God's people, has power to examine and call to account such, as appearing to be among them, or owning the same faith with them, do transgress; and' in case of their refusing to hear or repent, to exclude them from their fellowship; and that God hath a special regard to the judgment and sense of his people thus orderly proceeding, so as to hold such bound in heaven, whom they bind on earth, and such loosed in heaven, whom they loose on earth: and if there should be any so unreasonable as to deny it, I could prove it by inevitable consequences; which at present, as taking it for granted, I forbear to do. If it be reckoned so great a crime to offend one of the lillle ones, that it were better for him, than so do, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depths of the sea; without question, to offend and gainsay the whole lock, must be more criminal, and must draw after it a far deeper judgment.” Pages 20 and 21, proving authority and submission, from the case of circumcision, he says, “ It is said expressly, Acts xv. 6. . And the apostles and elders came together to consider of this matter, and after there had been much disputing about it,' (no doubt then, there were here diversities of opinions and judgments,) the apostles and elders told their judyinents, and came also to a positive conclusion. Sure some behoved to submit, else they should never have agreed. So those that were the elders gave a positive judgment, and they were bold to say, that it pleased not only them, but the holy ghost."

Then he proceeds to show that these things were not only singular practices, but that they held it doctrinally, that is to say, it was doctrine which they preached, that there ought to be order and government in the church. And to prove it, quotes 1 Cor. iv, 15, 16, 17, at length, upon which he says, “ Here the apostle Paul is very absolute:” and soon upon it, page 22, says, “ No doubt there were apostates and dissenting spirits in the church of Corinth, that gave Paul occasion thus to write; as he testifies in the beginning of the chapter, how he was judged by some of them; he shows how they were grown high, verse 8th. • Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us,' &c. Might not these dissenters of the church of Corinth have reasoned thus against Paul ? Did not this Paul teach us, at first, to mind the measure of grace in ourselves, and follow that? (for no doubt that was Paul's doctrine,) but now he begins to lord it over us, and tell us we must be followers of him." He says, pages 24, 25," And seeing in case of difference the Lord hath, and doth, and will reveal his will to his people, and hath and doth raise up members of his body, to whom he gives a discerning, and power, and authority, to instruct, reprove, yea, and command in some cases ; those that are faithful and low in their minds, keeping their own places, and minding the Lord, and the interest and good of his truth in the general over all, shut out the murmurer; and the spirit of God leads them to have unity, and concur with their brethren. But such as are heady and high-minded, are inwardly vexed that any should lead or rules but themselves : and so it is the high thing in themselves that makes them quarrel with others for taking so much upon them; pretending a liberty, not sioking down in the seed, to be willing to be of no reputation for its sake. Such, rather than give up their own wills, will study to make rents and divisions, not sparing the flock.” Then after divers scripture quotations and remarks, he brings, pages 27, 28, 2 Thess. iii. 4. “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do, and will do, the things which we command you.” Verse 6 : “ Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tra. dition which he received of us." What more positive than this ? and yet the apostle was not here an imposer. And yet further, verse 14:“ And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Thus Hebrews xiii. 7: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." Verse 17: “ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you.” Jude 8: “ Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” “I might at length enlarge,” continues Barclay, “ if needful, upon these passages, any of which is sufficient to prove the matter in hand, but that what is said may satisfy such as are not wilfully blind and obstinate. For there can be nothing more plain from these testimonies, than that the ancient apostles and primitive christians practised order and government in the church; that some did appoint and order certain things, condemn and approve certain practices, as well as doctrines, by the spirit of God; that there lay an obligation, in point of duty, upon others, to obey and submit; that this was no encroachment nor imposition upon their christian liberty, nor any ways contradictory to their being inwardly and immediately led by the spirit of God in their hearts; and lastly, that such as are in the true feeling and sense, will find it their places to obey and be one with the church of Christ in such like cases; and that it is such as have lost their sense and feeling of the life of the body, that dissent and are disobedient, under the false pretence of liberty.”

Now for brevity's sake I pass (though almost unwillingly) over much, well said to the purpose, till page 63, where querying if such and such ought not to be admonished, reproved, and condemned, he adds: “It seems the apostle judged it very needful they should be so dealt with, Titus i. 10, when he says,

« PrécédentContinuer »