Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6.: A BRIEF EXAMINATION AND STATE of Liberty Spiritual, both With Respect to Persons in their Private Capacity, and in their Church Society and Communion (1681) - The Political Writings of William Penn
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6.: A BRIEF EXAMINATION AND STATE of Liberty Spiritual, both With Respect to Persons in their Private Capacity, and in their Church Society and Communion (1681) - William Penn, The Political Writings of William Penn 
The Political Writings of William Penn, introduction and annotations by Andrew R. Murphy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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A BRIEF EXAMINATION AND STATE of Liberty Spiritual, both With Respect to Persons in their Private Capacity, and in their Church Society and Communion (1681)
Written for the Establishment of the Faithful, Information of the Simple-Hearted, and Reproof of the Arrogant and High-minded, by a Lover of True Liberty, as it is in Jesus.
To go amongst the People of the Lord, called Quakers.
If the Son shall make you Free, ye shall be Free indeed. John 8. 36.
If we walk in the Light as he is in the Light, we have Fellowship one with another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all Sin, 1 John 1. 7.
To the People of the Lord, called QUAKERS.
Dear Friends and Brethren,
IT HATH of long Time rested with some pressure upon my Spirit, for Zion’s Sake, and the Peace of Jerusalem, to write something of the Nature of True Spiritual Liberty; Liberty,one of the most Glorious Words and Things in the World, but little understood, and frequently abused by many. I beseech Almighty God to preserve you, his People, in the right Knowledge and Use of that Liberty, which Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Salvation, hath purchased for us, and is redeeming us into, who hath led Captivity captive, and is giving Gifts to them that truly believe in his Name.1Christ’s Liberty is obtain’d through Christ’s Cross; they that would be his Free-men, must be his Bonds-men, and wear his blessed Yoke.2His Liberty is from Sin, not to Sin; to do his Will, and not our own; no, not to speak an Idle Word. ’Tis not I that live (saith the Apostle) but Christ that liveth in me, who had set him Free from the Power of Sin, and brought Immortality to Light in him; whence he learned thus to triumph, O Death, where is thy Sting! O Grave, where is thy Victory!3This is the Personal Freedom that comes by Jesus Christ, to as many as receive him in the Way, and for the End for which God hath given him, to wit, to be a Saviour and a Leader, to save us from our Corruptions, and guide us in the Narrow Way of his Holy Cross, and through the strait Gate of Self-denyal, which leads to Eternal Life. And as many as have enter’d at this Door, are come to have Unity with God, and one with another; To love him above all, and their Neighbours as themselves;4yea, to prefer each other before themselves.Such will not violate the great Law of their Lord and Master; Love one another;5the New, and yet the Old Commandment: These dwell in Love, and so they dwell in God; for God is Love. ’Twas the beloved Disciple’s Testimony, and it comes up to what another Man of God hath said, namely, The Church that dwells in God, if she dwells in God, then in Love; consequently her Members are in Union, of one Mind in Church Matters, since she has but one Head to Rule her.6
Peruse this brief Discourse in this Love, and it may be to Edification. My Aim is to assert the Truth, detect Error, and point in true Brotherly Kindness at those Shoals and Sands some by Mistake, or Overboldness, have and may run upon. O Friends! I greatly desire, that the Spirit of Love, Wisdom, and a sound Understanding, of Meekness, Judgment and Mercy, may ever rest upon you, that blamelesly you may be kept, an Holy Family, at Unity with it self, to the Lord God your Redeemer, that he over all may in you, through you, and by you, be Exalted, Honoured and Praised, who is worthy and blessed for ever.
A Brief EXAMINATION, &c.
Quest. WHAT is Spiritual Liberty?
Answ. It is twofold; there is a true and a false Liberty, as a true and false Spirit, the right discerning of which concerns every one’s Eternal Well-being.
Qu.What is true Spiritual Liberty?
Answ. Deliverance from Sin by the Perfect Law in the Heart, The Perfect Law of Liberty James 2. otherwise called, The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, that makes free from the Law of Sin and Death; else-where stiled, The Law of Truth writ in the Heart, which makes Free indeed, as saith Christ, If the Son shall make you Free, ye shall be Free indeed.7 So that the Liberty of Gods People stands in the Truth, and their Communion in it, and in the Perfect Spiritual Law of Christ Jesus, which delivers and preserves them from every Evil Thing that doth or would embondage. In this blessed Liberty, it is not the Will nor Wisdom of Man, neither the vain Affections and Lusts that rule, or give Law to the Soul; for the Minds of all such as are made Free by the Truth, are by the Truth conducted in doing and suffering through their Earthly Pilgrimage.
Qu.What is False Liberty?
Answ.A Departing from this blessed Spirit of Truth, and a Rebelling against this Perfect Law of Liberty in the Heart,8 and being at Liberty to do our own Wills; upon which cometh Reproof and Judgment.
Qu.But are there not some Things wherein we ought to be left to our own Freedom?
Answ.We are not our own, for we are bought with a Price; and in all Things ought we to glorify God with our Bodies, Souls and Spirits, which are the Lord’s.9
Qu.But must we have a Motion or Command from the Spirit of Truth for all Things that we do?10
Answ. That may be according to the Truth, which may not be by the immediate Motion or Command of the Truth; for that is according to the Truth, that is not against the Mind of the Truth, either particularly or generally exprest. The Truth commands me to do all to the Praise and Glory of God;11 but not that I should wait for a Motion to do every particular Thing. For Example: The variety of Actions in Trading, Commerce and Husbandry, the Variety of Flesh, Fish and Fowl for Food, with more of the same Nature, in all which there is a Choice and Liberty, but still according to the Truth, and within the Holy Bounds and Limits of it.
Qu.Then it seems there are some Things left to our Freedom.
Answ. Yes; but it must still be according to the Mind of God’s Truth: There are Things enjoyned, such as relate to our Duty to God, to our Superiors, to the Houshold of Faith and to all Men and Creatures, these are Indispensible. There are also Things that may be done or left undone, which may be called Indifferent;12 as what sort of Meat I will eat to day, whether I will eat Flesh, Fish or Herbs, or what Hours I will eat my Meals at, with many such outward Things of Life and Converse; yet even in such Cases I ought to act according to the Truth, in the Temperance and Wisdom of it.
Qu.But doth not Freedom extend farther than this; for since God hath given me a Manifestation of his Spirit to profit withal, and that I have the Gift of God in my self, should I not be lest to act according as I am free and perswaded in my own Mind, in the Things that relate to God, left looking upon my self as obliged by what is revealed unto another, though it be not revealed unto me, I should be led out of my own Measure, and act upon another’s Motion, and so offer a blind Sacrifice to God?
Answ. This is true in a Sense, that is, if thou art such an one that canst do nothing against the Truth, but for the Truth, then mayst thou safely be left to thy Freedom in the Things of God, and the Reason is plain; because thy Freedom stands in the Perfect Law of Liberty, in the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, and in the Truth, which is Christ Jesus, which makes thee Free indeed, that is, perfectly Free from all that is Bad, and perfectly Free to all that is Holy, Just, Lovely, Honest, Comely, and of good Report;13 but if thou pleadest thy Freedom against such Things, yea, obstructest and slightest such Good, Wholesome and Requisit Things, thy Freedom is Naught, Dark, Perverse, out of the Truth, and against the perfect Law of Love and Liberty.
Qu.But must I conform to Things whether I can receive them or no? Ought I not to be left to the Grace and Spirit of God in my own Heart?
Answ. To the first Part of the Question, Nay; to the last, Yea. But now let us consider what is the Reason thou canst not receive them: Is the Fault in the Things themselves? Are they inconsistent with Truth, or will not the Truth own or assent unto them, or is the Fault in thee? that is to say, Is it thy Weakness, or thy Carelesness; If thy Weakness, it is to be born with, and to be informed; if thy Carelesness, thou ought’st to be admonished; for it is a dangerous Principle, and pernicious to true Religion, and which is worse, it is the Root of Ranterism to assert, That nothing is a Duty incumbent upon thee, but what thou art perswaded is thy Duty;14 for the Seared Conscience pleads his Liberty against all Duty, the Dark Conscience is here unconcerned, the Dead Conscience is here uncondemned, unless this Distinction be allowed of, that there may be an Ignorance or an Insensibility from Inability or Incapacity, or a Dark Education; and an Ignorance and Insensibility, from Carelesness, Disobedience, Prejudice, &c. So that though thou art not to conform to a Thing ignorantly, yet thou art seriously to consider, why thou art ignorant, and what the Cause of such Ignorance may be; certainly it can’t be in God, nor in his Gift to thee; it must then needs be in thy self, who hast not yet received a Sense for or against the Matter, about which thou art in doubt. To the second Part of the Question; Ought I not to be left to the Grace of God in my own Heart? Ans. That is of all Things most desirable, since they are well left that are there left; for there is no Fear of want of Unity, where all are left with the one Spirit of Truth; they must be of one Mind, they can’t be otherwise. So that to plead this against Unity, is to abuse the very Plea, and to commit the greatest Contradiction to that very Doctrine of Scripture, viz. That all should be guided by the Grace and Spirit of God in themselves;15 for the End of that Doctrine is certainty. They shall all know me, saith the Lord, from the least to the greatest. And I will give them one Heart, and one Way, that they may fear me for ever, for the Good of them, and of their Children after them, Jer. 32. 39. And I will give them one Heart, and I will put a new Spirit within you; and I will take the Stony Heart out of their Flesh, and will give them an Heart of Flesh, Ezekiel 11. 19. And the Multitude of them that believed were of one Heart, and of one Soul, Acts 4. 32. Is not this Unity too? I will restore unto you a pure Language; they shall be of one Heart and of one Mind, and great shall be their Peace.16 Therefore I must say to thee, Friend, What if thou wilt not be left with the Grace and Spirit of God in thy self, nor wait for it’s Mind, nor be watchful to it’s Revelations, nor humble and quiet till thou hast received such necessary Manifestations, but pleadest against the Counsel of the Spirit of the Lord in other faithful Persons, under the Pretence of being left to his Spirit in thy self; by which Means thou opposest the Spirit to the Spirit, and pleadest for Dis-unity, under the Name of Liberty; I ask thee, May not I exhort thee to the Practice of that I am moved to press thee to the Practice of? If not, thou art the Imposer, by restraining me from my Christian Liberty; and not only so, but away goeth Preaching, and with it the Scriptures, that are both appointed of God for Exhortation, Reproof and Instruction.17
Quest.But are there not various Measures, diversities of Gifts, and several Offices in the Body?18
Answ. True; but therefore are not the Members of one Mind, one Will, and one Judgment in common and universal Matters, especially relating to the Family and Church of God; And indeed there can’t be a falser Reasoning than to conclude Discord from Diversity, Contrariety from Variety. Is there Contrariety of Bloods, Lifes, Feelings, Seeings, Hearings, Tastings, Smellings, in one and the same Body, at one and the same Time? No such Matter: Experience is a Demonstration against all such Insinuations. So that though it be granted, that there is Diversity of Gifts, yet there is no Disagreement in Sense; and though Variety of Offices, yet no Contrariety in Judgment concerning those Offices. Well, say the Holy Scriptures of Truth, there is but one God; the Lord our God is but one Lord; there is but one God and Father of all Things; (that are good) and there is but one Lord, one Faith, and One Baptism;19 and his Light, Life and Spirit is at Unity with it self in all; what comes from the Light, Life or Spirit in one, it is the same in Truth and Unity to the rest, as if it did rise in themselves: This is seen in our Assemblies every Day, and will be throughout all Generations in the Church of God, among those that live in the lowly Truth, in which the pure Sense and sound Judgment stands; God is not the God of Confusion, but Order:20 Every one in his Order is satisfied, hath Unity and true Fellowship with whatever comes from the Life of God in another; for this precious Life reacheth throughout the Heritage of God, and is the common Life that giveth the common Feeling and Sense to the Heritage of God. Degree or Measure in the same Life can never contradict or obstruct that which is from the same Life for the common Benefit of the Family of God. The Lord is the Unmeasurable and Incomprehensible Glorious Being of Life, yet have we Unity with him in all his Works, who are come to his Divine Measure of Light and Truth in our own Hearts, and live therein; and shall we not have Unity with that which proceeds from a Fellow Creature? In short, the Saints Way is in the Light, wherein there is neither Doubt nor Discord; yea, they are Children of the Light, and called Light, and The Lights of the World;21 and can it be supposed that such should disagree and contradict each other in their exterior Order and Practice in the Church before the World; O the blessed seamless Garment of Jesus! where that is known, these Things can never rise. But yet again, The Just Man’s Path is not only a Light, but a shining Light, Brightness it self: Certainly there can be no Stumbling. It is also said, That Light is sown for the Righteous;22 then the Righteous shall never want Light upon any Occasion: And saith that beloved Evangelist and Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, They that walk in the Light, have Fellowship one with another, 1 John 1. Whence it is easy to conclude, they that go out of the Fellowship, go out of the Light; but if they that walk in the Light, have Fellowship one with another, what shall we say of those that plead being left to the Light to justify their not having Fellowship one with another? and, which is yet worse, who suppose People may conscientiously and Justifiably Dissent within themselves, and that by Reason of the Variety of the Degrees of the Spirit and Grace that are given of God unto them; as if the lesser Degree may dissent from the greater, because of it’s not being able to comprehend it. And to make this Principle more Authentick, such tell us, This is the Ancient Principle of Truth; and object, How will you else be able to maintain the Quakers Principles? The Fallacy of all which, lieth (as I said before) in not rightly distinguishing between Diversity and Disagreement, Variety and Contrariety; for this Diversity hath Concord, and this Variety hath Unity? And it is a Blindness that hath too much of late happened to some, by going from the one Life and Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, first to fall into Disagreements, and then plead for it, under the Notion of Diversity of Measures. I would ask all such Persons, who arrogate to themselves such a peculiar Knowledge of the Ancient Principles of Truth, or the Quakers first Principles; 1st, Whether they believe there be a Christian Body? 2dly, Whether this Body hath an Head? 3dly, Whether Christ be not this Head? 4thly, Whether this Head be without Eyes, Ears, Smell and Taste, and this Body without Sense and Feeling? If not, Whether this Head Seeth, Heareth, Smelleth, Tasteth DIFFERINGLY and CONTRARILY to it self? And whether this Body hath a contrary Feeling at the same Time about the same Thing? And if it be true, that the Church of Christ, redeemed by his most precious Blood to live to him, see with the same Eye, hear with the same Ear, speak with the same Mouth, live by the same Breath, and are led by the same Spirit, where is this Disagreement, Contrariety or Dissent about the Things of his Church?
Quest.But the Members of Christ’s Church in the Primitive Times had different Apprehensions; as the Apostles, and the People gathered by them.
Answ. Pray let me know who they were, and in what Cases?
Quest.The Persons were PAUL and PETER, and those Christians that differed about Meats; and the Scripture is plain in the Case.23
Answ. The Difference between Peter and Paul (in the Acts) testifies the Weakness of Peter, and the Place justifies Paul’s Reproof of his too great Compliance with the Jews in some of their Rites; which makes against Liberty of various Practices, in the Church of Christ, and not for indulging them. That Instance about the Difference of Christians as to Meats, &c. has nothing in it to the End for which it is alledged; for this related not to Church-Order or Communion, but Private and Personal Freedoms, what each might do with Respect to themselves; that is, they might make Laws to themselves, in Things that only concern’d private Persons, and it centred there; Here, What I will eat, When I will eat, Things to my self, and for my self, as a Man having Power over my own Appetite: The Liberty in Things Private, Personal, and Indifferent, makes nothing for Dissenting about Church Matters in Things of Communion and Society, and that also are not indifferent, as to eat Fish, or eat Flesh, or eat Herbs, plainly is: But necessary; As to be careful and orderly about the External Business of the Church: These are no Jewish Rites, nor Shadowy Ceremonies, no Meats nor Drinks that are Private and Personal, where Weakness is apt to mistake (That were an Unnecessary and an Unchristian Yoke to bear) but Things comely, orderly, and of good Report, that tend to Purity, Peace and Diligence in Things acceptable to God, and requisite among his People in their Temporal Christian Capacity. And herein the Apostle Paul exercised his Godly Authority; and we find that not only those that opposed themselves to it, as thinking, he took too much upon him, (demanded a Mark of Christ’s speaking in him) are in Scripture branded with Contention. But the true Believers, that had in themselves a Mark of Christ’s speaking in him, were of One Mind, and avoided such as were given to Contention; for it was not the Custom of the Churches of Christ. Thus were Christ’s People of One Heart, in Things relating to their Communion. Yet a little farther; They that have the Mind of Christ, are of one Mind; for Christ is not divided:24 They that have Christ for their Head, have One Counsellor and Prophet, One Seer and Bishop, they disagree not in their Judgments in Things relating to him, and the Good of his Church; they have one and the same Guide; For the one Spirit, into which they have all drank, and by it are baptized into one Body, leads them all.25 Now to every Member is a Measure of the same Spirit given to profit with; and though every Member is not an Eye, nor an Ear, nor a Mouth, yet every Member hath Unity with the Eye, with the Ear, with the Mouth, in their proper and respective Acts, and they one with the other: The Eye sees for the Mouth, the Mouth speaks for the Eye, and the Ear hears for both; this Variety hath no Discord, but in this Diversity of Gifts and Offices, each Member is sensible of the other, and moves and Acts by one and the same Life, Spirit and Guidance, which is Omnipresent, proportionable to every Member in it’s distinct Office. It must be granted, that there are Helps in the Church, as well as that there is a Church at all; and the Holy Ghost has compared those Helps (as is before-mentioned) to several Members and Senses of Man’s Body, as an Eye, an Hand, a Foot, Hearing, Smelling, &c. All then cannot be the Eye, neither can all be the Hand, for then they would confound their Office, and act disagreeably to the Ordination of the great Orderer of his Church. And if I will not comply with him that God hath made an Eye, because I am not that Eye, or an Hand, because I am not that Member my self, nor a Party to the Action, or Performance of that Member, I resist the Lord, though under Pretence of resisting Man for the Lord’s Sake. And truly, this is the Rock that some of our own Time, as well as Persons of former Ages, have split upon, they have not been contented with their own Station in the Body, they have not kept to their own Gift, nor been taken up with the Duty of their own Place in the Church. If he that is a Foot would be an Hand, and the Hand covets to be an Eye, envying others their allotted Station, through Height of Mind, and walking loose from the Holy Cross, there can be no such Thing as Concord and Fellowship in the Church of Christ.
Farthermore, since the Spirit of the Lord is one in all, it ought to be obey’d through another, as well as in one’s self; and this I affirm to you, That the same lowly Frame of Mind that receives and answers the Mind of the Spirit of the Lord in a Man’s self, will receive and have Unity with the Mind of the same Spirit through another, and the Reason is plain; Because the same Self-evidencing Power and Virtue that ariseth from the Measure of the Spirit of Truth in one’s self, and that convinceth a Man in his own Heart, doth also attend the Discovery of the Mind of the same Spirit, when delivered by another; for the Words of the Second Adam, the quickning Spirit,26 through another, are Spirit and Life, as well as in thy own Particular; this is discern’d by the Spiritual Man that judgeth all Things, although the Carnal Man pleadeth, Being left to his Freedom; and it may be talks of being left to the Spirit in himself too; the better to escape the Sense and Judgment of the Spiritual Man:27 It is my earnest Desire, that all that have any Knowledge of the Lord, would have a tender Care how they use that Plea against their faithful Brethren, that God put into their Mouths against the persecuting Priests and Hirelings of the World, namely, I must mind the Spirit of God in my self; for though it be a great Truth that all are to be left thereunto, yet it is as true, that he whose Soul is left with the Spirit of Truth in himself, differs not from his Brethren that are in the same Spirit; and as true it is, that those who err from the Spirit of Truth, may plead, being left to the Spirit in themselves, against the Motion and Command of the Spirit through another, when it pleaseth not his or her High Mind and perverse Will; for a Saying may be true or false, according to the subject Matter it is spoken upon, or applied to; We own the Assertion, we deny the Application: There lies the Snare. ’Tis true, the People of God ought to be left to the Guidings of the Spirit of God in themselves; but for this to be so applied, as to disregard the Preachings or Writings of Christ’s enlightned Servants, because by them applied properly to the Preaching or Writing of false Prophets and Seducers, will by no Means follow. I say the Doctrine is true, but not exclusively of all external Counsel or Direction; therefore false in Application, where Men are allowed to have had the Fear of God, and the Mind of his Spirit, and are not prov’d to have acted in their own Wills and Wisdom, or without the Guidance of the Spirit of God, about the Things of his Church and Kingdom.
Quest.But though this be True, which hath been alledged for Heavenly Concord, yet what if I do not presently see that Service in a Thing, that the Rest of my Brethren agree in; In this Case, what is my Duty and theirs?
Answ. It is thy Duty to wait upon God in Silence and Patience, out of all Fleshly Consultations; and as thou abidest in the Simplicity of the TRUTH, thou wilt receive an Understanding with the Rest of thy Brethren, about the Thing doubted. And it is their Duty, whilst thou behavest thy self in Meekness and Humility, to bear with thee, and carry themselves tenderly and loving towards thee; but if on the contrary, thou disturbest their Godly Care and Practice, and growest Contentious, and exaltest thy Judgment against them, they have Power from God to Exhort, Admonish, and Reprove thee; and (if thou perseverest therein) in His Name to refuse any farther Fellowship with thee, till thou repentest of thy Evil.28
Quest.But lest I should mistake, when thou speakest of True Liberty, that it stands in being made Free by the Truth, from all Unrighteousness, dost thou mean, That no other Persons ought to have the Liberty of Exercising their Dissenting Consciences, but that Force may be Lawful to reduce such as are reputed Erroneously Conscientious?29
Answ. By no Means: It were a great Wickedness against God, who is Lord of the Souls and Spirits of Men, and ought to preside in all Consciences, who, as the Apostle saith, Is the Only Potentate, and hath Immortality.30 For though I give the True Liberty of Soul and Conscience to those only that are set Free by the Power of Christ, from the Bondage of Sin, and Captivity of Death, yet do I not intend, that any Person or Persons should be in the least harm’d for the External Exercise of their Dissenting Consciences in Worship to God, though Erroneous; for though their Consciences be blind, yet they are not to be forced; such Compulsion giveth no Sight, neither do Corporal Punishments produce Conviction: This we above all People, in our Day, have withstood, in Speaking, Writing and Suffering, and, blessed be God, continue so to do with Faithfulness. For Faith is the Gift of God,31 and forced Sacrifices are not pleasing to the Lord.
Quest.But according to thy Argument, it may be my Fault, that I have not the Gift of Faith; and upon this Presumption, it may be, thou wilt inflict some Temporal Penalties upon me.
Answ. No such Matter; for such Kind of Faults are not to be punished with Temporal or Worldly Penalties; for whether the Errors be through Weakness or Wilfulness, not relating to Moral Practice, all External Coercion and Corporal Punishment is excluded. For the Weapons of our Warfare are not Carnal, but Spiritual.32
Quest.But what then is the Extent of the Power of the Church of Christ, in Case of Schism or Heresy?
Answ. The Power that Christ gave to his Church was this, That Offenders, after the first and second Admonition, (not Repenting) should be Rejected:33 Not Imprisoned, Plundered, Banished, or put to Death; this belongs to the Whore and false Prophet: O! all these Things have come to pass for Want of Humility, for Want of the ancient Fear, and keeping in the quiet Habitation of the Just:34 The Truth in you all shall answer me. And this I affirm, from the Understanding I have received of God, not only that the Enemy is at work to scatter the Minds of Friends, by that loose Plea, What hast thou to do with me? Leave me to my Freedom and to the Grace of God in my self, and the like; but this Proposition and Expression, as now understood and alledged, is a Deviation from, and a Perversion of the Ancient Principle of Truth; for this is the plain Consequence of this Plea, if any one (especially if they are but lately convinced) shall say, I see no Evil in paying Tythes to Hireling Priests, in that they are not claimed by Divine Right, but by the Civil Laws of the Land. I see no Evil in Marrying by the Priest, for he is but a Witness. Furthermore, I see no Evil in Declining a Publick Testimony in Suffering Times, or hiding in Times of Persecution, for I have Christ’s and Paul’s Examples.35I see no Evil in Worshipping and Respecting the Persons of Men; for whatever others do, I intend a sincere Notice that I take of those I know, and have a good Esteem for. Lastly, I see no Evil in keeping my Shop shut upon the World’s Holidays and Massdays, (as they call them) though they are rather Lewdly and Superstitiously than Religiously kept; for I would not willingly give any Offence to my Neighbours.36 And since your Testimony is against Imposition, and for leaving every one to the Measure of the Grace which God hath given him, not only, No Man hath Power to reprove or judge me, but I may be as good a Friend as any of you, according to my Measure. And now, here is Measure set up against Measure, which is Confusion it self—Babel indeed: This is that very Rock both Professors and Prophane would long since have run us upon, namely, That a Way is hereby opened to all the World’s Libertines, to plead the Light within for their Excesses; Which indeed grieves the Spirit of God, and was severely judged by our Friends in the Beginning, and is still reproved by them that keep their Habitation, though some are become as wandring Stars through their own Pride,37 and the Prevalency of the Hour of Temptation that hath overtaken them; whereas had they kept in the Channel of Love and Life, in the Orb and Order of the Celestial Power, they had shined as fixed Stars in the Firmament of God for ever. And from the deep Sense that I have of the Working of the Enemy of Zion’s Peace, to rend and divide the Heritage of God, who under the Pretence of crying down Man, Forms and Prescriptions, is crying down the Heavenly Man Christ Jesus, his blessed Order and Government, which he hath brought forth by his own Revelation and Power through his faithful Witnesses. This I farther testify, First, That the Enemy, by these fair Pretences, strikes at the Godly Care and Travail that dwells upon the Spirits of many faithful Brethren, that all Things might be preserved Sweet, Comely, Virtuous, and of good Report in the Church of God.38Secondly, That there never was greater Necessity of this Godly Care than at this Day, since we were a People, wherein the Cross, by too many, is not so closely kept to as in Days past, and in which there is not only a great Convincement, but a young Generation descended of Friends, who though they retain the Form their Education hath led them into, yet many of them adorn not the Gospel with that sensible, weighty, and heavenly Conversation as becomes the Children of the Undefiled Religion, and the Seed of that precious Faith which works by the Love that overcomes the World.39 And the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, that hath sent his Son Christ Jesus a Light into our Hearts and Consciences, to whose Search and Judgment all ought to (and must) bring their Deeds, and render up their Account, beareth Holy Record, that for this End hath he moved upon the Spirits of his Servants, and for this good End only have his Servants given forth, recommended, and put in Practice, those Things that are now in Godly Use among his People, whether in this or other Nations, relating to Men’s and Women’s Meetings, and their divers and weighty Services. And farther; in the Fear of the Almighty God, I shall add, That Heavenly Peace and Prosperity dwell with those who are found in an holy and zealous Practice of them; wherefore I warn all, that they take Heed of a slighting and obstinate Mind, and that they have a Care how they give Way to the Outcry of some, falsly, entituled, Liberty of Conscience against Imposition, &c. for the End thereof is to lead back again, and give Ease to the Carnal Mind, which, at last, will bring Death again upon the Soul to God, and the living Society of his Children. And indeed, it is a great Shame that any who have ever known the Truth of God in the inward Parts,40 and the sweet Society of Brethren, especially those who were early in the Work of this blessed Day and heavenly Dispensation, should so far depart from the Fear and Awe of the Lord, as to use such Unsavoury, as well as Untrue Expressions; this is very far from that meek Spirit of Jesus, and the first Love, which they pretend to have so singularly kept in, which beareth all Things, suffereth all Things, and endureth all Things, and teacheth to keep the Word of Patience in the Hour of Tribulation;41 Nay, but this is judging of Spiritual Things with a Carnal and Prejudiced Mind, stumbling at the Matter, for the Sake of the Persons through whom it comes, not eying nor weighing the Spirit the Thing arises from, but the Person by whom it is spoken, which darkens the Eye of the Understanding, and blinds, by Prejudice, the Mind that should discern, taste and judge; from whence many Mischiefs have sprung to the Church of Christ in divers Ages: Nor is it the least Evil this Spirit of Strife is guilty of, even at this Day, that it useth the Words, Liberty of Conscience and Imposition, against the Brethren, in the same Manner as our suffering Friends have been always accustomed to intend them against the persecuting Priests and Powers of the Earth, as if it were the same Thing to admonish and reprove Conceited, High-minded, Loose or Contentious Persons in the Church, as to compel Conformity in Matters of Faith and Worship, by Worldly Violence, upon the Persons and Estates of Conscientious Dissenters: O such Iniquity God will not leave unreproved!
This, Dear Friends, I send amongst you, as a Token of my true Love, in the Revelation of the free Spirit of our God and Father, who have ever been a Friend to true Liberty, as in the State according to Law, so in the Church according to Scripture, and as it standeth in the Truth of Jesus, that makes them who love it free indeed.42 Let us all keep low, and remember the Rock from whence we were hewn,43 and dwell in a tender and reverent Sense of the daily Mercies and Providences of the Lord, looking well to our own Growth and Prosperity in his heavenly Way and Work, then shall the Desire of our Hearts be more and more after him, and the Remembrance of his Name; and with our Love to God, will our Love increase one towards another, helping and aiding one another: And I no ways doubt, but God that has brought us out of the Land of AEgypt, and out of the House of Bondage, and delivered us from the Mouth of the Lyon and the Paw of the Bear,44 will preserve his People from this Uncircumcised Spirit that is not in Covenant with God, nor under the Yoke of his Holy Royal Law of True Spiritual Liberty; for they that keep and walk in the Light of Jesus, are fenced from the Power of this Crooked Serpent,45 that seeks whom he may betray; nor are any stung by him but the Unwatchful, the Listeners and Harkners after his jealous Whispers, and detracting Insinuations: They are such as make their Dwelling in the Earth, where his Region is, and where he creeps and twists, who is Earthly, Sensual and Devilish, and so is all the Wisdom that comes from him.46
My Dear Friends: Keep, I pray you, in the Simplicity of the Truth, and Cross of JESUS, and wait for your Daily Bread, and to be Daily Renewed from the Lord; look to your Increase about Eternal Riches, and be sure to lay up Treasure in Heaven that fadeth not away,47 that your Faith and Hope may have Eternal Foundations, which the cross Occurrences of Time, and Fears of Mortality cannot move: And beware of that Loose and Irreverent Spirit, which has not those in high Esteem among you, that are Faithful in the Lord’s Work, and that labour in His Blessed Word and Doctrine. I plainly see a Coldness and Shortness on this Hand; and be the Pretence as it will, it is not pleasing to the Lord. They that love Christ, his Servants are dear to them, and they bear a tender Regard to their Trials, Travails, Spendings and Sufferings, who seek not yours, but you, that you may all be Presented Blameless at the Coming of the Great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ;48 that so the Gospel-Ministry and Testimony may be held up with Holy Fervent Love, and Godly Esteem, to the keeping under every raw and exalted Mind, and whatever may slight and turn against it, lest God that has Richly Visited us with His Fatherly Visitations, and Day springing from on High,49 should remove His Blessing from amongst us, and place His Candlestick among other People.50 Be Wise therefore, O Friends! For behold He is at the Door that must have an Account of your Stewardship: Be watchful, keep to your First Love and Works, that so you may endure to the End, and be Saved. And having Overcome, you may have Right to Eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Midst of the Paradise of God.51
The God of Peace, who hath brought Our Dear Lord Jesus from the Dead, and us with Him, more abundantly enrich you all with Wisdom and Knowledge, in the Revelation of Himself, through Faith in His Son, by whom in these Last Days He hath spoken to us, who is the Blessed and Only Potentate, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, who only hath Immortality;52to whom be Honour and Power Everlasting. Amen.
Your Friend and Brother, in the Tribulation and Salvation of