« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
And though some among the Quakers, in the beginning of their rise, for fear of transgressing Christ's command, "Be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ," speaking to persons in authority, called them by the name of Friend; yet others of the same persuasion have not therefore thought themselves bound to refuse to magistrates their distinguishing titles of magistracy. Nay, if any, for some special reason, may not have given a full or direct answer to a query, yet others of the same society have not looked upon this as a pattern to imitate. For the most eminent valiants among this people in the beginning, were not men of note or learning, though of great courage: insomuch that their immovable steadfastness sometimes so exasperated their enemies, that their fear of doing or omitting any thing which they judged would displease God, often hath been stamped with the odious denomination of stubbornness and stiffneckedness; but they have borne this patiently, believing that it was their duty to persevere immoveably in minding their Christian profession, and in frequenting their religious assemblies. And that such a steadfastness was the duty of a Christian, seems also to have been the judgment of the authors of the confession of faith of the reformed churches in the Netherlands, Art. xxviii. where it is said, that it is the office or duty of all believers, to separate themselves according to the word of God, from those that are not of the church; and to join to this congregation, in what place soever God hath placed them, though the magistrates and edicts of princes were against it; and that death or any coporeal punishment was annexed to it.
It is true, there have been such among the Quakers, who were exceeding bold in representing to their enemies their evil behaviour and deportment; but this hath been apeculiar talent of pious men, of whom examples are extant in the book of martyrs, viz. that some of them in very plain terms told their persecutors of their wickedness. Very remarkable in that respect is the speech of John Molleus, who about the year 1653, being prisoner at Rome, without any dissimulation exposed to public view the wicked lives of the cardinals and bishops, who were ordered
by the pope to examine him. The like boldness appears also in the letter of Hans van Ovendam, to the magistrates of Ghent in Flanders, as may be seen in the Mirror of Martyrs of the Baptists; from whence it appears, that the Quakers have not been the only people who have told their persecutors very boldly of their wicked deportment and cruelty.
It cannot be denied that there have been at times among this society some people of an odd behaviour, who in process of time embraced strange opinions and perverse notions; but that is no new thing, since this hath happened also among those of other persuasions, though none of these would allow that this was the consequence or effect of their doctrine. We find in Sacred Writ, that even in the primitive Christian church there were apostates; either such as maintained strange doctrine, as the Nicolaitanes; or such who finding the strait way too narrow for them, left it, and like Demas, falling in love again with the world, entered into the broad way. And therefore it can now, no more than then, be argued from thence, that the exorbitancies to which some launched out, were the effects of the doctrine they forsook.
Since in this history some predictions are also mentioned, and that some biassed by prejudice will perhaps look upon them as frivolous, imagining that the Quakers pretend to have the spirit of prophecy; I will answer to this, that though among thousands of them there may have been oue that prophetically foretold a thing, which afterwards truly happened; yet others of that society presumed to have that gift no more than to have that of being a preacher; and all are not called to that work. There must be antecessors and leaders in the religious economy, as well as in the politic state: for if every one not qualified should assume the office of governing, things would soon run into confusion. Now though some have had this false conceit, that to be able to predict future things was a quality the Quakers attributed to themselves; as proceeding from their doctrine, that Christians ought to be led by the Spirit of God; yet this is a very sinister and preposterous conceit; for what they say concerning the leading and guiding
of the Spirit of God, is agreeable with the doctrine of the apostle, who saith, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." And this was also the doctrine of the first reformers. What must we think then of those who will not be led by this spirit, but call this doctrine by the odious denomination of enthusiasm? The same apostle tells us also, "If any have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." And he saith also, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." But from thence it doth in no wise follow that the spirit of prophecy is given to every one; neither that although it might please God to reveal to one a thing which yet was to come, such an one therefore was endued with such a prophetical spirit, that he was able at any time to predict future things.
If this position be true, then those of other persuasions might also lay claim to that prerogative; because among them sometimes there have been pious men who predicted remarkable things, which afterwards really happened; as among the rest, James Usher, archbishop of Armagh, and primate of Ireland, who foretold the rebellion in Ireland forty years before it came to pass; besides the intestine war and miseries that befel England, and other things that were fulfilled: which leads us not to reject as frivolous his prediction of the dreadful persecution that would fall upon all the Protestant churches by the Papists; for though one of his friends once objected to him, that since Great Britain and Ireland had already suffered so deeply, there was reason to hope that the judgments of God in respect of these kingdoms might have been past; yet he replied to it, Fool not yourselves with such hopes, for I tell you all you have yet seen hath been but the beginning of sorrows,
what is yet to come upon the Protestant churches of Christ, who will ere long fall under a sharper persecution thanever yet hath been upon them. And therefore look you be not found in the outward court, but a worshipper in the emple before the altar: for Christ will measure all those that profess his name, and call themselves his people; and the outward worshippers he will leave out, to be trodden down by the Gentiles. The outward court is the
formal Christian, whose religion lies in performing the outside duties of Christianity, without having an inward life and power of faith and love, uniting them to Christ and these God will leave to be trodden down and swept away by the Gentiles. But the worshippers within the temple and before the altar, are those who indeed worship God in spirit and in truth: whose souls are made his temples, and he is honoured and adored in the most inward thoughts of their hearts; and they sacrifice their lusts and vile affections, yea, and their own wills to him; and these God will hide in the hollow of his hand, and under the shadow of his wings. And this shall be the great difference between this last, and all the other preceding persecutions; for in the former the most eminent and spiritual ministers and Christians did generally suffer most, and were most violently fallen upon; but in this last persecution these shall be preserved by God as a seed to partake of that glory which shall immediately follow and come upon the church, as soon as ever this storm shall be over; for as it shall be the sharpest, so it shall be the shortest persecution of them all, and shall only take away the gross hypocrites and formal professors; but the true spiritual believers shall be preserved till the calamity be over past.'
If any now-a-days should speak at this rate, it is credible that many who think themselves to be good Christians, would decry this as mere enthusiasm. But the said bishop is still in such great repute with the learned, and hath obtained such an high esteem by his writings, that his words are likely to be of more weight with many, than those of other pious men. And therefore I was willing to renew them, and revive his memory, if perhaps this might make some impression upon the minds of any: for this is a certain truth, that no outward performances will avail any, if they do not worship God in spirit and in truth; for such worshippers God seeks, according to what our Saviour himself said; besides, that "not every one that saith to him, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven:" nay, when many in that day will say to him, "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" He
will say to them, "I never knew you; depart from me "ye that work iniquity."
As the many singular cases related in this history will afford no unpleasing entertainment to curious readers, so they will be found also instructive; for we shall not only meet with instances of true piety and love to one's neighbour, and of saints triumphing on their death beds, and also with remarkable examples of sinners truly penitent at the hour of death; but we may also find here abundance of proofs of a peaceable behaviour: for the Quakers, so called, have not plotted against the government, nor meddled with treasonable practices or rebellions; and how much soever they were oppressed, yet they always were quiet, and never made any resistance; but with an harmless patience they have borne their most heavy oppressions and injuries, and so at length overcame: for to be subject to magistracy hath always been one of their principles; and that they were really dutiful subjects, they have showed at all times, by paying obedience to the higher power, in all they could do with a good conscience. And when any thing was required of them, which from a reverential respect to God they durst not do, or omit; they have showed their obedience by suffering, without making any resistance, or joining with others who were inclined
Now though many have made it their business to represent them in odious colours, and to write great untruths concerning them; nay, to fasten doctrines upon them which they never approved, and that not a few of the learned have contended against them with their pens; yet among these there have also been such, who though they never joined with, yet gave a good account and avourable testimony concerning them, as may be seen in Richard Claridge's answer to a book of Edward Cockson, page 266, and seq. And at Amsterdam in Holland, many years ago, a learned man published a book called, Lucerna super Candelabrum, wherein he very eminently defended the doctrine of the inward light; and this book was published in Dutch, and afterwards also into English, with