Letters of Stephen Crisp
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Being a faithful exhortation and warning to all Friends who profess the Truth, to beware of the manifold wiles of the enemy, and to stand armed in the light of the Lord God of heaven and earth, against his assaults, so that they may be ready to answer the call and requirements of the Lord. Also, an indication of the misery of the succeeding times that all may be prepared, and that the evil day may not overtake any unawares, but those who turn away their ear from counsel.
By one who is a traveler in the way of peace, and has good will towards all men, and more especially to the household of faith, Stephen Crisp.
Dear Friends, -You whom the Lord has reached unto in this the day of his love, and has made known the way of truth and righteousness to you, through the raising up of that holy living witness of himself, that long lay hidden and buried in you, and has brought you to a secret feeling of something in you, that is worth the minding and regarding. The Lord causing this to appear in the day of your seeking, as a light discovering darkness and its power, by which you were formerly held captive, and [having] given you by his spirit a sense and secret hope, that in this light, the way of deliverance was to be attained; this hope made you not ashamed of the light which before you hated, but you came to know and embrace it, even while others still hated it and you for its sake. Yet your hearts being affected with the hope that appeared in this, could not but join unto it, as to make public profession of it for its own sake; and for no other end or design, or interest at all, but with resolution in that light, to wait for the salvation of God.
Dear Friends, it is for you before mentioned, that both now, and for some days and weeks, my heart has been deeply exercised concerning, even night and day; and the aboundings of the Father's love, often overcome me, and draw me forth now to say and write these things to you for your admonition and establishment. Indeed it is you who rightly owned the way of Truth, and knew your believing to be the gift and mercy of God to your souls, at which I do aim. For those who have taken up the profession of the precious Truth by respects and sinister ends, and only for reasons propounded in their carnal minds, though I do pity them, yet I have not much at this time to say to them but this: the day shall declare them, and their garments shall not hide them.
But you, oh, my Friends! who had fellowship with us in the deep travails of our beginnings, and came to Truth the same way, and have known the power and virtue of it, many times overcoming you in your inward man, which has made you cry out, Lord, give us this bread always! and has made you as a watered garden. Oh, Friends! how shall I express or signify to you those longings, those ardent desires, and earnest breathings of my soul, that you, even you, might abide to the end of all trials, tribulations, and adversities, and might inherit that crown of immortality [life] that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, and might not by any means be sorrowfully lacking. This is singly my travail in body and spirit, that you might be kept and preserved out of all the subtle snares of the wicked one, who hunts for the souls, even of those who have believed. Therefore, in dear and tender love, I have a few things to write to you, for the clearing of my conscience, and discharging my duty in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord give you all a tender and an understanding heart, that both you and I may yet have cause daily to praise the Lord in the glorious light of his salvation, which he has manifested among us, by revealing his Son Jesus Christ; to whom belongs dominion, honor, and glory, forever, amen.
First, dear Friends, it is in my heart, to put you in remembrance of that by which we were called and convinced, which as a foundation principle was laid in and among us; and it being unchangeable and unalterable in itself, does therefore admit to no alteration or change in those who are rightly kept to it.
It was a light which arose in our hearts, and shined forth from God, the Father of lights, carrying in its appearance the nature and property of God, both in its condemning evil, which the enemy had sown or planted in us; and owning, allowing, and justifying every thing that was good and honest, just and equal; even those thoughts in our hearts, which were to turning towards the Lord, and, seeking his righteousness. These thoughts were justified and encouraged by the light, and all of a contrary nature discovered and judged; as they were brought to it to be tried. Our souls rejoiced in this light, as they had good cause, though it took away our former rejoicings. Our pleasures in vanities and iniquity died, our glory in this world withered, our friendship with the sons of men decayed, and we stood in the light and saw all these things, and were not sorry at it, but waited daily to see these things more and more brought to pass. Neither was there a permitting our thoughts to go out, how we might prevent those damages, or repair these losses, but the cross of Christ was indeed our glorying or rejoicing.
The hope that was before us, did make us despise the pleasures, treasures and honors, friendships and delights of this world. In those days, you grew into a feeling of the heavenly joy, where the hundred fold was witnessed in your bosoms, and the zeal of the Lord was kindled by his own spirit in you, against whatever this light of Jesus in the conscience did witness against. The Lord beheld your integrity and blessed you, and multiplied you, and added to your strength and stature; and then did the fruits of this glorious work abound among you, in three more general and special effects; by which effects, or by their continuance among you, let all now come to search and try themselves, so that, dear Friends, those who have continued faithful in them all, may persevere in like manner to the end. May those who upon true search find that they have failed and fallen short in all of any of them, make haste to repent and to turn to what was the root of them all, that they may not be found as fruitless and withered branches in the day that comes, for fear that they are cut off and utterly consumed and blotted out from among the living branches of the vine. For a day comes that Truth will look into the fig-tree for fruit, and leaves will not defend it from the curse and blasting.
The three special fruits that did spring forth from this blessed root, and were and are to continue and increase in us and among us, to the end, are these.
Against all these, the wicked one appears, to see if he can make you barren concerning them, and that with many wiles and subtleties, that he may prevail on you; and not be known to be the enemy, but might so overcome you, as that you might both submit to him and then plead for him and his snares and wiles, as being just, right, lawful, prudent, convenient, etc. But oh! dear Friends, let all be watchful and diligent, to wait in the sense and true feeling of that seed that never fell nor was beguiled; and you will, (even the least of you), see and comprehend his workings and transformations, and be delivered from them.
1. Purity and holiness was a fruit in you, which still flourishes in many, (blessed be the Lord), who are as watchful and careful to approve themselves in obedience to the light of Truth in their inward parts, as ever, and find as great a necessity both of trying and judging with its judgment as ever. These having thus waited, have renewed their strength unto this very day, and do mount up as upon the wings of an eagle; these are neither weary in running, nor do they faint in their walking. But alas! Friends, even these know how great and manifold were the assaults with which they were assaulted, and know and see with sorrow of heart how the assault has prevailed upon some, by working into the mind a secret liberty and supposed enlargement, whereby a carelessness has entered some; and they having no keeper but the measure of light revealed in their hearts and consciences, as soon as they came to be persuaded to slight the reproofs of that light, they soon erred. The error being a supposed liberty entered, that now, after so many years of strictness and circumspection, they would no longer need now to stand so strait to try things and words as at first, because now was a day of more liberty that had come. This liberty secretly prevailed against that pure fear that once was placed in their hearts, and against the very obedience of Truth; inwardly in the subjection of the mind, and then it showed outwardly in their conduct. Conduct in actions sometimes blameworthy, the words and speech again corrupted, and ran into the old channel of the world, like them again; and the single pure language, learned in the light, in the time of their poverty and simplicity, almost lost and forgotten. So the work of God was in a manner laid waste. When this liberty is entered and made use of, as before mentioned, oftentimes a secret subtlety arises against the judgment of Truth, either from within by their Light, or from others outwardly, who are grieved with this loose and careless kind of speaking or acting. For subtlety leads to contend for this new supposed liberty, against the judgment, excusing these things as but small things, and little things, and what! we must not strain at a gnat, and such like. Oh my Friends! Beware of these evil suggestions of the wicked one. How did they come to be small and little things, seeing they were great things with us in the beginning? How does an offence in this nature come to be lightweight now, seeing it was heavy in the beginning? Oh let not the greatest mercies of our God so fill us, as to make us slight or forget the least obedience; but rather let the continuance of his mercy, the more quicken you up unto a zeal for his name and Truth in all things, to be found doing and speaking according to the rule of righteousness, which you learned in the light, in the day of your being low and little. Then nothing will rise up and be exalted in the multitude of God's mercies, except that holy birth which lives in purity, when it is at the highest. So that life of righteousness will shine forth more and more, which glorifies God, and seeks his honor. Dear Friends, that you might be kept so unto the end, is the breathing and travail of my soul; and that where this neglect has entered, and this before mentioned corruption either in speech or action is to be found, that you would receive the word of exhortation in meekness and fear, in which it was written unto you. And may redeem the time for the days are and shall be evil, and none will hold the mystery of the faith, (that saves from falling in the evil day), but those who keep the pure and undefiled conscience, which none can do except by persisting and continuing in the daily sanctification of the spirit, and belief and obedience of the Truth.
2. A second fruit that was brought forth from this good root, was unity and love one towards another; which blessed be the Lord, is preciously preserved in and among many to this very day; who are so sensible of the many operations of Truth in them, to be all by one spirit, that they are still kept of one heart and mind, given up freely to serve the Lord in singleness of heart in their generation; they are in this good work as strengtheners and encouragers of one another. Despite this, the enemy has been exceedingly busy, to lay waste and destroy this blessed effect also; the enemy using many pretences, which the Lord still discovered by his own Light and Spirit in his people, who have singly waited upon him. However his wiles have been many; sometimes fitting and preparing vessels to rise up in their fleshly and sensual wisdom, to lie and bring in corrupt and evil doctrines, and to try who were not sound in the faith, that they might draw them aside into a passion and zeal for something which did not have its root in the Truth, and which those who abode in the Truth could not agree with, but judged and condemned it in the name of the Lord. When the propagators of error saw that they were judged to be in error, they continued striving to propagate and promote what they believed. Having lost subjection to the spirit of Truth in themselves, which would have kept them in unity in the body, and having also lost and put aside being subject to those who were were over them in the Lord, they then grew stubborn and willful, and proceeded in more zeal for what stood in opposition to the Truth, than they ever did for the Truth itself. People in error have sometimes subverted whole households and have turned several from the faith and simplicity that is in the gospel. Those turned, as well as those who subverted them, have lost the fellowship of the saints and the savor of life, both in themselves and with others. Then the enemy persuades those that everyone else is dead to the life except themselves; and so they grow to have a tickling joy in what they do and say, in obedience to that perverse and singular private spirit. So they grow up to speak evil of dignities, and are unruly, and dare to speak against heaven, and those who dwell and inhabit in it,* whom God makes to shine as stars in the firmament of his power. But alas! for them. My soul pities them, when I see how they diminish themselves with their own deceits; but the day of the Lord is among his people, which has and does make them and their spirit manifest, and their fruits have also made them manifest.
Another way that the enemy seeks to break the unity, and dissolve the bond of friendship, is by sowing a seed of jealousy and prejudice in the hearts of those in whom he can get an entrance. This brings them to cease from the true and unfeigned love, and that by a pretended reason, because of this or what is supposed or imagined, in the evil parts in themselves against others; giving heed to evil thoughts or imaginations, which often shows as whisperings and tale-bearing. Even if a supposedly evil thing was truly evil, whisperings and tale-bearing are not allowed or to be yielded to, but we are to be open one to another, and in single-heartedness; and to also shut out the evil one in this subtle appearance of his. Oh! dear Friends, remember how the Lord has dealt with you, and so deal the same with one another. He has not sought to find occasions against you, but has long borne and suffered, and exercised much patience and tenderness towards you; yet plainly reproving the evil in you, and not treasuring it up against you. Oh! Friends, be like-minded one towards another, that the enemy of your peace and concord may be defeated, and you preserved entire to one head, even to Christ Jesus; that you may be one, and the name of the Lord may be one among you; and what tends to the making cold your love, may be judged in all; and so brotherly love will continue with you to the end.
Another way which the enemy works, to scatter and to bring from this unity, is by leading some who have believed, into some sin and iniquity, which the body, (that are in the Truth), are constrained to appear in judgment against for the Truth's sake. Yet despite that, the party that sinned, (being above the witness in themselves, which would bring them to own the judgment of the Spirit of Christ in his church), they exalt themselves above the judgment, and seek to persuade those whom they can by their words and complaints, to attack their judges and judgment. Such were those whose words did eat, (the apostle said), as a canker, of whom the believers in those days were to be aware; for commonly such as have gone from the power that should have kept them clean and upright, they will also turn against the power in those who abide in it, especially if they are drawn forth to reprove and rebuke them. But let all such know that is not the way to be renewed; and let all that take part with any that work iniquity, know, that they only defile their own souls and tear themselves from that body, out of which they cannot prosper. Therefore, dear Friends, beware of joining with that in yourselves or in others, which the power goes against, whatever the pretences are; for what does evil, will always be apt to sow evil complaints against others; and those who are in the unsatisfied murmuring against judgment passed upon them, are to be feared greatly; for by resisting judgment, they render themselves to be even more guilty, and further yet from repentance. But, dear Friends, watch in what gives you a living feeling of the living body, which is the church, that in all things you may behave yourselves as true members of it, serving one another in love, and submitting yourselves one unto another for the Lord's sake; that in all openness and singleness, as becomes the Truth, you may seek to preserve the unity which the enemy of Truth and peace envies. In this way you will continue to strengthen one another's hand in every good work; and this shall contribute to weakening the hands of our enemies, who seek to divide you, so that they might rule over you. The wicked one tries many other schemes, daily to break and divide, more than are named, or here included; but they are all out of the light, and if you are in it, you will see them, and that will preserve you; for the light is one, and made us one, and will keep us to be of one heart and mind to the end, if we abide in it.
3. The third good effect which Truth worked in the beginning in them who did truly receive it, was zeal and faithfulness to God, in the bearing testimony to what was revealed, though through great sufferings, in which as Friends abide in the root, they do daily increase in power, to fulfill the same testimony; for the mercy of the Lord does engage them, and his answer of peace in the midst of their trials, arms and encourage them, and they persist to the end. For such, the Lord has always made a way, better than they could have made for themselves. Yet the enemy has in this matter also been very busy, and has prevailed with some under many considerations, or rather consultations, which he has proposed to them. But, O Friends, all be watchful, and take heed for fear that any of the testimonies of Truth are laid waste; for what leads one to be weary of bearing witness to the Truth, and to lay it waste, the same will lay you waste, and bring you into such a state, that you will lack the Truth to bear witness for you; and though it is hard for flesh and blood, (which has no kingdom but here), to fall into the hands of unreasonable men, yet it is a more fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Therefore let all lukewarm ones, who are neither hot nor cold be awakened, and all that have gone backwards, be warned to return to their first love; else the Lord will come against them, and the day hastens that will divide such their portion among hypocrites, unless they repent.
But to touch at some of the reasons or arguments, which he that abode not in the Truth himself, uses to draw others into this kind of treacherous backsliding.
First, He appears to some to persuade them, that their former testimony was borne more from an imitation of others, than from a work of the power of God in themselves; and that now, they not finding the thing required of them, they may leave off their testimonies, or may do such things as they have denied formerly. The enemy makes use of this snare in these days. But mark, who it is that he has caught with it: none except those who sometimes were lowly in their minds, and dared not grieve the Spirit of God in themselves, nor others, but for the Truth's sake, could give up all things rather than their testimony; but in time growing careless and loose in waiting, lost that subject state, and grew high and exalted in their minds, above the cross that should have crucified the betraying (earthly) wisdom. So having lost the true exercise of the power, and the feeling of the excellence and worth of the Truth, they did not know the requirements of the Lord; and the earthly mind got up, that placed a greater esteem upon earthly things, than upon things that are eternal. So things that once you offered up to God are claimed again into your own hand; thus you rob the Lord of your previously given gift, and your cares turn to outward things of the world, as other Gentiles do. To cover your shame of this, the enemy then tempts you to deny the power that once wrought in your heart, and which made you afraid to act against the light, or to deny the testimony for God in such things as were shown to you, and then say, you did it by imitation; but you shall know your covering is too narrow, in the day that hastens upon you.
Another temptation that the enemy presents is: that though you are convinced what to do, or what you should deny, yet the trials are so hard and so many, and persecutors grow worse and worse, so that you shall not hold out to the end; and where he can get entrance with this bait, he presently causes an evil heart of unbelief and doubting to arise, which takes away even the strength which the Lord gave you; and so feebleness enters the mind, and a spirit of bondage leads you to fear again. Then a dispute arises in your heart, whether you shall stand with the power of God in the obedience, or whether you shall fall under that power that arises against God, and his truth and people? In this combat you have a subtle enemy, using many devices to betray you, and a part in yourself, not yet mortified, that is ready to say: take pity yourself, pity your wife, pity your children, and pity your relations; which it may be sometimes, are all as so many instruments of satan to seduce you, and lead you into darkness, that you may not see so great necessity in your bearing up your testimony, nor so great a danger in the contrary as indeed there is.
Oh! Friends, at such a time as this, where is there any help but in the Lord? Where can you find a savior, but in that light which gives to distinguish of the several voices? Now it is good for you to remember, that if you walk after the flesh, you must and shall surely wither and die. In such a time flee, flee to the Lord, wait in his dread to feel your strength renewed at the present, and take no care for strength next month, next year, or the next trial; for God is God, and changes not, and will be the same to you in seven trials as in six, if you believe and wait on him in uprightness. Therefore fear not man, but trust in the Lord, all you that have known and felt his power, and do not allow entrance by the enemy of your souls, through the door of carnal reasoning, but keep that shut; and rather consider, how the enemy makes you as a rejoicing among his own children, and strengthens that hope in them, of their overcoming all others, as well as you; which hope is cursed, and shall be confounded. Consider, that if you let your testimony fall, which you have once borne for the Lord, you make the heart of the righteous sad, and make their travail through that testimony the harder for them, by reason of your encouraging their adversaries by the hope before mentioned. Whatever you do, all must go through to the end [death of the carnal mind and evil heart], who will inherit the crown of immortality.
Again consider, it may be that your backsliding, or cowardly drawing away the shoulder, may prove a discouragement to others, and they may stumble in your stumbling, and fall with you, and never be able to rise, and so you bring their blood also upon you . Oh! remember also that servant of the Lord, who could say, Psalm 119:157, “Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies.” That was a noble spirit becoming the soldiers of Christ; yes, though persecuted by princes, as he said in verse 161.
Dear Friends, let your minds be stirred up to be zealous for the Lord, in this the great day of controversy with darkness and its power. Who does God have to bear witness to his name if you fail? Among whom has he made it known as he has among you? Who have given up themselves to the Lord as you have done? Well, blessed are those who keep covenant with the Lord, for they shall see his glory.
One more subtle snare of the enemy in this matter is in my heart to mention, that is to persuade you to do just once what the light has made manifest you should not do, with a purpose afterwards to be more faithful. Oh! Friends, in the name and fear of the Lord, I exhort and warn you all to take heed of this, for this will only prove to be a false confidence; you will find this kind of going out of the guidance of Truth, to be a costly outgoing to you; for if you ever do return, it will be very difficult, and with bitter anguish of soul. Oh! do not tempt the Lord in this manner, for fear that it proves impossible upon your wilfully sinning, to renew or restore you again by repentance; you will have your pottage, but will lose the blessing, though you may seek it with your tears; for while you went out, behold your way became hedged up, and the thorny nature got up in you, and so you are debarred and fenced out from enjoying your former state; sin being entered, death soon follows. Oh! remember Samson, who when he had disclosed a token of a Nazarene, in which state he stood in covenant with God, yet thought to have shaken himself, and to have gone forth in his strength, as at other times, but was mistaken, Judges 16:20. For the Lord had departed from him, though he knew it not. And so, though you have known the Lord's presence and power in your vessel, yet take heed of letting in that treacherous spirit, to lead you to unfaithfulness, and to betray the least of his trusts and testimonies committed to you, though it is only once; for by this you will render yourself unworthy to be found a witness of his power another time; for the Lord will leave that vessel, and often does, and chooses other vessels to manifest himself in, that will be more true and faithful.
So, dear Friends, in true and tender love I have laid these things before you, that you might all be stirred up and provoked to love and to good works, that you might abound in the grace committed to you, and none of you who have known the Truth, might be entangled with the wiles of your subtle enemy; and that you that have begun well, might not lose the things that you have wrought, but might persevere in well doing, till you have finished your course in peace. Friends, this is the joy and delight of those who labor among you in the Lord; and hereby are our hands strengthened, and our hearts refreshed, when we find you as we desire you should be, even steadfast in the Truth. Then you will also find us conducting ourselves toward you as you wish us to, even a refreshing in the fellowship of life to you; and our God then comforts us together, in the mutual joy and comfort of his Holy Spirit, working in us and you.
Friends, I am the more drawn forth at this time to visit you with an epistle, because the Lord has given me some sight of his great and dreadful day, and the workings of his invisible arm, by which he will yet save us and deliver us, and get himself a name, by preserving of us. We shall yet live to praise him, who is worthy of glory, of honor, and renown, from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same, now and forever, amen, amen, says my soul.
Dear Friends and Brethren,
I HAVE something further in my heart to communicate unto you, in dear and tender love, and in desire of your preservation out of the snare of your adversary: and that is, to exhort you all to dwell in the pure judgment of the Truth, which is a defense upon your glory. Let none deprive you of this, under any pretence whatever. But as you come to a true feeling of the life in yourselves, to which alone the certain judgment pertains, so let this life have freedom, and do not stop it from judging all that is at enmity with the life, and tends to harm the true plant of God. For I have seen a harm that has come to many who have parted with their judgment, and so have become unarmed, and the enemy has prevailed upon them, (under a pretended tenderness), to permit or allow those things that were hurtful to themselves and others; and though the Lord has given them judgment and discerning in the matter, yet were deprived of that gift, and so by little and little became deceived.
Oh! dear Friends! consider these days are perilous times, and it is needful for everyone to watch in that same eternal light to which you were first turned, that by its righteous judgment you may be preserved from everything in yourselves that appears contrary to that precious life of which you have tasted. When you have done so, then take heed that the enemy does not do that by an instrument, which, (through your watchfulness in the light), he could not do without. All beware of that affected tenderness that cries out: be tender to all, and pray for all, and mind the good in all, and love all, and judge none, but leave judgment to God, etc. I say, do not heed the plausible words of that spirit, which being guilty, to save its own head from a stroke, would deprive you of your judgment which God has given you; and is indeed truly his judgment, and is to be administered in his wisdom and power, for the cleansing and keeping clean his sanctuary; for those who have no judgment in their goings, are those who know not the true way of peace, but make them crooked paths, He that goes in them, shall not know peace, Isa. 59:8.
But some may say: was not Christ meek and lowly? and ought not all to be like to him?
It is true, my Friends; but there is a difference between the seed's suffering and its reigning, and there are times for them both; and when it pleases God to permit the hour and power of darkness in the open persecutors, to exalt itself against his seed and people by persecution, or such like; they are led by his spirit to appear in meekness and quietness, as a sheep before the shearer. But what is this to allowing bad and perverse spirits, [within our ranks] that appear under pretence of the Truth, and yet are out of the Truth, and enemies to its prosperity, striving to exalt and set up another thing instead of the Truth? Such as these the Lord does not require you to use only patience and meekness towards; but if that will not reclaim them, they must know the judgment of the Truth, and you in it must stand over them; for in this case the day of the exaltation of Christ has come, and God is crowning Truth with dominion over every false spirit, and corrupt practice thereof.
Therefore, dear Friends, eye the Lord in his goings forth, and as you feel his life in you to witness against any evil and corrupt thing or practice; use plainness, and keep sincerity, and turn not judgment backwards; for what is unwilling to be judged, and cries out, "judge none, leave all to God, etc.," the same will take upon it both to judge and rule, but not in the wisdom of God. Those who cry out so much for tenderness, and against Truth's judgment, the same are in most danger to be drawn out from the patient suffering in the spirit of Christ Jesus, when they ought to appear in the most meekness, and to appear rough and wrathful in the striving and fighting nature, and are most apt to be tempted into a spirit of revenge, as has been seen by sad experience; for those who lose the exercise of that by which all should keep dominion over deceit, they lose that strength by which they should be enabled to suffer all things for the sake of Christ Jesus.
So, dear Friends, in what keeps out the defiler and the betrayer, all wait upon the Lord, that you may have your armor on, and be fortified with the strength, with the might, and with the judgment of God; and keep that under in every place, which under pretence of tenderness and forbearance, would make void the testimony of Truth, or make the offence of the cross to cease in anything wherein you have been instructed from the beginning; that the Lord may behold and see judgment established, and be pleased, Isa 59:15. The Lord looked, and there was no judgment, and it displeased him; for thereby deceit got up, which with it is to be kept down. So the Lord God of power and wisdom preserve you faithful, and fitted for every good word and work; the strong to watch over the weak in singleness, and the weak to be subject to the strong in the Lord, so that the pure plant of righteousness and Truth may grow in and among you all, to his praise that has called you; to whom be glory and honor for ever, amen.
MANY are the devices of Satan, and great is the subtlety which he furnishes his children and servants withal, by which he seeks to uphold his kingdom, pleading now a right to what he obtained by subtlety; and has taught his whole family, that it is impossible for any to be freed from under his service; even as if all men that are created of God, were created for the service of the devil; and although the devil can create no man, yet that he is able, after they are made, to keep them in his service; yes, although their maker calls them to serve him. So by this supposed necessity of sin, (which serves the devil and which is a doctrine well-pleasing to the flesh), he keeps nations, kindreds, tongues and people, in bondage to his will. Not only that, but he has also bewitched and besotted his whole synagogue, and every sort in it, that they cannot endure to hear that they might be freed from sin; and all that come to declare liberty to these captives, and an opening of the door of this prison-house, (the darkness), unto those who are shut up within it, they cry out against such, away with them from the earth, let them be crucified, stoned, hanged, burned, imprisoned and banished, or at least, derided, and mocked at, and all manner of evil be spoken of them; and what have they done? They have preached against sin, that it must come to an end, and have preached that what is perfect, is to be found in this life, by which men might come to the acceptable year of the Lord, unto whom there is nothing acceptable which is imperfect.
Certainly, there is no manner of slaves so well contented with their bondage, as are the devil's; and therefore it is worth the considering, what right he has to reign over mankind, and what work it is, he gives his servants to do, that is so well-pleasing unto them, that they cannot endure to hear of being set at liberty, as long as they have a day to live. As for my part, I have considered what right the devil can claim to the government which he has among the children of men, reigning over kings and princes, priests and people, from one sect to another, setting them all to work in blind zeal one against another; yet all agreeing in this one question, (that is), is there any man or woman upon the earth, that is free from under the reign of the devil, that he can live without sin? or is it possible for any to be so? The general answer is, no; we are all, and must all be, his servants all the days of our lives. But some might say, seeing you are all fellow servants, and that both you and your work do belong to one master; why then are you disagreeing with one another about the work? But oh! my soul longs that some might be awakened, once to consider and to rethink themselves, how they came to this state and condition, and by what right and authority their master keeps them in this bondage, and whether it is not both lawful and possible to come from under it?
In the first place it is to be considered, that this spirit, which is called the devil and Satan, had no dominion over man in the beginning; for God gave man power over all beasts, fishes, fowls, and over every creeping thing, that he should rule over them; and in that time the devil, that old creeping serpent, was kept under, and could not speak nor command as with authority; and he being but a subject himself, he sought to have dominion; having lost the glory of the everlasting kingdom; and so he came to the woman, who was made, and brought forth in a time of sleep, and persuaded her, (mark, not commanded), and his persuasion was, that she should break the command of God, under pretence that she should be profited thereby. So here was but a sneaking, lowly spirit, coming to the woman in a deceitful, feigned manner, with a lie in his mouth, to see if he could deceive her, and lead her to be disobedient to her God and Maker. Who could then have thought, that this spirit that was subject to all sorts of misery, should have reigned and ruled over so many millions of thousands of men both high and low, young and old? Well, the woman hearkened to a lie, and broke the command of God, and went to try whether this serpent had found out a way to make her better or not; and not only so, but went to the man, and gave him also, and he did eat. Mark, this devil, the old serpent, he did not go to the man, that was a work too high for him; but there comes his companion, (who was given of God), who was of his flesh and bones, to tempt him; he did not hearken to the devil, but to his deceived wife, and he did eat, and their eyes were opened, and they were ashamed, and hid themselves. Here were the two first subjects which the devil had in his kingdom, he having before this time no dominion among the creatures which God had made.
Now it is to be observed, that there are but four ways to come into dominion, that is, by descent, by election, by conquest, and by treason.
Now which of these it is, by which the devil got his entrance, is easy to be concluded; all that are wise will say, that it was by treason and falsehood, and that man thereby came to be deprived of that dominion and rule which he had before, and his boldness was taken from him, and he was ashamed. So now see for whom you are pleading, all you that are so zealously pleading for the devil's kingdom, (namely) for an old traitor, that came into his government by a lie, and spoiled our predecessors of their dominion, glory and power at once by sin, for which you are now pleading. Oh! blush and be ashamed every one of you, and let your mouths be stopped forever.
But now, seeing that it fell out so, what was the determination of the Lord in this matter? Hearken to his sentence: and to the serpent he said, because you have done so, you shall creep upon your belly, and are cursed above all cattle; and above all the beasts of the field. See, he must creep upon his belly, and not stand upon his tip-toes, lifting up his head above the nations; he must eat dust, and the other beasts must eat the grass of the field; but he, dust all the days of his life, and not the fat of the land, and to have the tenth part of the fruits of the earth bestowed on his poorest servants, having also the other nine parts of it bestowed and ordered to his will; and so shall it be with you as long as you live; that is not to say, that he shall live forever, and to have dust to eat, and a belly to creep upon. But at last God has determined that his head should be bruised, there is his end. Oh! all you pleaders for sin, behold your prince, and hear his sentence, and be ashamed, and stop your mouths forever.
Now, when he [the devil] had gotten a little dominion, let us examine a little, how this traitor used his rule in the beginning. His first lesson was, to teach his new subjects to hide themselves from the presence of God. What before was their greatest joy and crown, was now their greatest fear and dread; and so they run under the trees, hiding themselves, as their posterity now do at this day; but the Lord found them out, and spoke to them, and caused them to hear that dreadful sentence; and not only so, but drove them out from where life was to be found, into the earth, where there was nothing to be gotten without pain and labor. Considering they were before in dominion, and had nothing to do, but to dress the garden in which the life was, they must now till the ground, which brought forth unto them briars and thorns; and in that state man's misery was great, and his sorrow unspeakable, and his darkness not to be expressed; and he had lost his discerning of things that differ. Having an expectation of a seed which should destroy the serpent, and bruise his head, he was apt to think that birth [of the flesh] to be that seed, (as his children in the fall do at this day), so that when Cain was born, his mother said, she had gotten a man from the Lord; but poor woman, she knew not the seed, and how that the seed which is born of the flesh is a persecutor, and that the enmity is great in the first birth. So that although he grew up to make offerings, yet he did not grow up in dominion over the serpent, nor over the quality of the destroyer in himself; and that sort of offering was more acceptable to the devil than to God. Now mark, that man was a sinner, and yet religious, his sin and religion were consistent, and could have place together at one and the same time in one man, as it is now with the professors of this age; who say, they are sinners, and that their best works are polluted and defiled with sin, and that they must remain so while they live; and yet they will seek acceptance with God in these polluted offerings, notwithstanding they do profess him to be pure to whom they offer. Thus was this first sacrificer blind and darkened, and so are many thousands after him, and the dominion of the devil was over him.
First. Deceiving him, by leading him to expect an acceptance, because he offered, though with an evil heart.
Secondly. To lead him into the evil which had kept him from acceptance.
Thirdly. By making him so wroth and angry, (because he was not accepted), against his brother that did well, and was partaker of the one sure faith of the elect seed of God; and the serpent having thus darkened his mind, then he dared come before him with a lie, (though he was a man, of whom Eve thought, that she had gotten him from the Lord), persuading him, that if faithful Abel was removed by death, that then it would be better with him; so he hearkened to the counsel of this evil spirit, and shed innocent blood about religion. Here persecution got its entrance into the world, by one that made offerings and was a worker of evil also; a fit instrument for such a work. But behold, what became of this man? The blood which he had shed, and the earth that had drunk it up, cried for vengeance against this bloody offeror, and he feared exceedingly, and said: He could not bear his punishment; and said: Every one that finds me, will slay me. To prevent that, he went and built a city in the land of Nod; here was the beginning of fortifications, which was to defend the transgressor; for the righteous have a tower, namely, the name of God, and there they are safe, without such gates or walls.
Now let every one consider how little right this spirit had in all these things; but he entered by a lie, and reigned by a lie, and darkness and deceit was his defense for his government; and how little reason there is to plead for such a spirit, let the wise in heart judge.
It would go beyond my present aim and purpose, to trace this spirit, who is called the devil and Satan, the dragon, and old serpent, through all ages, since the beginning, to see with how little truth, right or equity, he came to reign among men. The understanding reader of the scriptures of Truth can see it clear enough; and it is a great wonder, (and one of the greatest), that is in that part of the world called Christendom, that there are so many men, (being men of knowledge in other matters, and such as set up the scriptures, so much as they seem to do, calling it the word of God, the rule of Christians, the light of the world, the guide of life, etc.); that they should go with such a book in their hands, pleading for the devil's kingdom, and for a necessity that it must continue as long as there is a man upon earth. Whereas the scripture in substance is nothing else but as a declaration against him and his government, and shows how he ought to be forsaken, opposed, resisted, and cast out; and withal, how that primitive, pure and holy, and righteous law of that Spirit, which is called God, and is holy, pure, and blessed forever, how that ought to be embraced, received and exalted in the whole creation. I say, this is a very great wonder, of which, and of the consequences thereof, the so called Christians, have cause to be ashamed; yes, are a reproach to the whole world; and it is high time that some do arise for God; and the call is gone forth: Who is on the Lord's side? Exo 32:26. The devil has an innumerable host to plead for sin, some with arguments, and some with cruel weapons; but who is on the Lord's side that can say: The Lord reigns in righteousness, and in truth he judges the earth? Oh! all you carnal professors of God and Christ in words, but in works deny him, and say, that sin must stand, and remain as long as you live. Be it known unto you, in the name of the God of heaven, that where sin remains, there the devil is prince and ruler.
If sin must remain as long as you live, the devil needs it to last no longer; for he who will be his servant in this life, must be his companion in the world to come. But hear you the word of the Lord, oh great host, and mighty army of the devil, beast, serpent, and the old deceiver, who plead, that his government shall stand, as long as there is a man to live upon the earth. The controversy of the Lord God Almighty is proclaimed, and begun against you all, and your prince; yes, the arm of the everlasting God is stretched out against you, and henceforth you shall not be prosperous; but the dominion of your prince shall be lessened, and both his and your power shall be weakened, and your weapons, both of deceit and cruelty shall be broken, and come to nothing. The inheritance of the wicked shall be laid waste, and the design which has been carried on so long, shall be frustrated; deceit and falsehood shall fall before the Truth, and darkness shall flee before the Light; and your fortified city shall fail you, and the land of Nod will not be a hiding place for you; for the arm of the mighty God of Jacob shall scatter you as a reproach, and make you ashamed of your work and of your prince.
Now, to touch a little at your arguments, of which the servants of this evil spirit make use to hold up his kingdom, of which they say it is impossible that it can be brought down; even as if God had given up all mankind, (which is the best of his creation), unto the devil; and that he should keep none of them for himself to serve him, till they have fulfilled the devil's work to the full, and can serve him no longer. Certainly the heathens, Moors, and Indians, have a better doctrine than these in the basics; though darkness is over their understandings, as concerning God and heaven, and such things, yet many of them do not judge that there is such a necessity to do evil, as long as they live; but abstain from what they know to be evil, and those who do so, are esteemed to have their pleasure and delight in the Elysian fields, after they are dead. Lucillius said, "Know you not what grievous punishments and torments the wicked and evil men are to suffer after this life; or in what great happiness the good men shall live?" The heathen Epicharmus said, "If you are godly in your mind, you shall, (being dead), not suffer evil;" and many other such sayings are among them. But these fallen Christians, who plead a necessity to serve this spirit, whom they call the devil, whose place they will confess is in hell, and in the everlasting fire; yet they notwithstanding, without doing good, expect to enjoy their Elysium, that is, a heaven where God and the holy angels dwell forever.
Now let us examine a little what reason there is for this great mistake.
First, they say, that sin is rooted and planted in the nature of man; yes, so that a man must cease to be a man [die], before he can come to cease from being a sinner.
Answer. That man in his natural state is so united with sin, as that he thereby is separated from God, I do not deny; and also that there is a natural inclination in man to commit sin, is also true; that is, as long as they remain in their natural state and condition. And if these champions for the devil's kingdom, had blotted out, (out of what they call their rule), all those precious sayings, that make mention of a state of grace, of being under grace, of being changed or translated, of being redeemed and made free, of being washed, cleansed, and sanctified perfectly in soul, body and spirit; and many more such places; then they had had a plea for their prince. But seeing there is such a large testimony of the mercy and goodness of God, and of his power and all-sufficiency to redeem and save; therefore it is worthy to be pleaded before we allow the devil such an unlimited power in and among you, yes, over all the sons and daughters of men. Therefore, as concerning the first part of this objection, that is, that sin is rooted in the nature of man, how came it to be rooted there? Whose work was it to make it so? Was it the work of God? Or has he ordered it, that it should be so? If so, why is any man or woman punished or condemned for its being so, seeing it could not be otherwise? But no one but those who are wholly blind from a true sense of God, will dare to say so; for then the manifold calling of sinners unto repentance, to wash them, to cleanse them, to put away the evil from them, to cease to do evil, etc., must all be against his will and ordering, and so consequently but a mockery; but God forbid that any man should say or think so. Well, if it was not by the ordering or appointment of God, but that God has made man righteous in his nature, will and affections. Yes, in the image of God he created him. Then it must be another who has wrought this great work, to plant sin in his nature; and when it is examined, it will appear that it is the work of a cursed outcast, an unclean, lying, treacherous spirit, who was rejected of God, and had no place in the whole creation, but by framing a lie, he brought a poor woman from her integrity and obedience. So from that, came a great alteration to be in her, and a ground or foundation was laid for the devil to build upon. From that time he has always had a rule in the hearts of the children of disobedience. But now that this rule and government should not only be universal, but also irresistible and unalterable. Yes, though God Almighty stretch forth his power, to redeem any out of this kingdom, to bring them into the kingdom of his dear Son; yet they say, it is impossible for him, till he dies. It is as much as to say, if God will have any man to serve him perfectly, he must first kill him, and then he shall have him to his service in another world. Oh horrible ignorance of the power of God, and of the end for which Christ came into the world! namely, to destroy the devil and his works. Now, when his work is destroyed, which has a tendency to corrupt man's nature, then the nature of men and women come to be again holy, clean and pure, and man comes to be restored to his first image, and the glory of the first body is again known, of which all the bond-slaves of the devil are ignorant. This power to restore the nature of man again is the Lord's alone. It was the devil that corrupted it, and it is God that sanctifies it again, and delivers it by the spirit of judgment and of burning, which the hypocrites cannot bear.
Now, the manner how the nature of man came to be corrupted, you have heard, that it was by man's joining with that spirit that was fallen and cast out from God, and had only a power in the darkness, and could not reign over anything, but over what he could draw from the glory of God into the darkness. God, who dwells in the light, being moved with infinite compassion, sent his eternal Son, that was with him before the world, that he should be made partaker of the same nature in which man was created, that by the virtue of the eternal power, he might restore him unto God, and might minister unto the spirits of all such, to whom this darkness and corrupted state, was a prison-house. This Jesus received not the nature of angels, that was not his work, but he received the seed of Abraham, which was in captivity, that he might redeem man's seed from captivity through death, suffering under the weight of what oppressed the creature, and caused it to groan after redemption; so that although it could not deliver itself, yet it might come to be delivered through faith in him, who is mighty to save. This Jesus, who was of the seed of Abraham after the flesh, purifies the nature of all those who join with him; for the work of the devil, is to bring in corruption, and the work of Christ is to destroy it, and instead thereof, to bring in everlasting righteousness. Now, where sin is remaining in the nature, there the covenant with hell and death is not broken, neither are such in covenant with God, but are yet under the power of the prince of the air, whatever they may profess. The death of Christ is still of no value unto them because they remain in their sin and corrupted nature, unchanged, and untranslated. So that those who hold this plea for the devil, that because he once got a place in the nature of man, and has corrupted it, that therefore sin must remain, so long as the life or nature remains. Such are strangers to the work of God, and to his power, by which he works, and also to Christ Jesus, through whom he works; and they have more faith in the power of the devil, than in the power of Christ, believing that the devil is more able to keep the creature, and to hold fast that, which by deceit and treachery he has gotten in it; than God, (who made the creature good in his nature), is able to restore it to his first purity, that the creature might come to serve him in righteousness and holiness. Those who believe that are not true Christians, nor true believers; but are standing in the corrupt nature, that has unity with the devil, and pleads his cause, who is willing that his corrupt birth should live in man, as long as he lives in the world. For he knows, so that long no acceptable sacrifice can be offered up to God; for you cannot bring forth a clean sacrifice, out of an unclean vessel; and as long as nature is defiled, the works will be unclean that are wrought in that nature.
Second. The second pleading is, that there never was any man freed from sin, ever since sin first entered into the world; and that therefore it is presumption to expect such a thing in this life.
Answer. If this position were true, that there was never any man freed from sin, yet it would be presumption to say, that God should not be able to do what he never did; and it is also presumption to conclude, that never any man was freed. But if this position is false, then not only the consequence is false, that is, that none can be freed, but also the argument itself is proved to be a lie, and so is swept away, and a door is opened unto all, that have more love to righteousness than to sin, both to hope and to expect, that the same work should again be wrought in and for them, without presumption. Now, that all men are sinners by nature, is evident; and that some were changed out of that natural state, is as evident; so that the question is only, whether those who are translated out of that sinful nature, remain sinful, yes or no? Which if it is so, what advantage do they have beyond others, if after translation they must remain without freedom? But I answer with the words of the apostle, 1 Pet. 4:1. He that has suffered in the flesh, has ceased from sin. Here he spoke of such that were still in the body, but had suffered with, and were made partakers of the sufferings and death of Christ, by a dying to sin; through which every one must pass, before they can come to the resurrection that is in Christ, by which, (said Peter), they obtained the answer of a good conscience in the sight of God, which he calls the baptism that saves. Now some having been partakers of that death, baptism, and resurrection of Christ, by which they came to cease from sin, and to have an answer of a good conscience, without offence both to God and man, (which none that sin can have), then may some lawfully expect to come to the enjoyment of the same state of freedom and clearness, as well now as formerly without presumption.
Secondly. I answer with the words of the apostle John, 1 John 3:9: He that is born of God sins not, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, for he is born of God. Now, whereas there have been some that were born of God, and have been his children, and those who were so, had overcome the wicked one, so that he could not touch them, but they had kept their garments white and unspotted, and that some have been freed from the law of sin and death, and that some have walked without blame and without spot, and had put off the old man with his deeds, and had known the new birth, and could by the Holy Spirit call God Father, which things are all manifest in the scriptures of Truth, which none can deny, but those who will deny the scripture. Why then should any man question, that the same works of redemption, should not now again be brought to pass? Therefore it is lawful to expect it without presumption. The argument against [freedom from sin] being refuted by the experience of the saints.
Thirdly. The faith of God's elect is but one in all ages; and that faith has purified the hearts of many in former ages, and has taught them to walk with God. For instance, Enoch walked with God several hundreds of years, Gen 5:21, and it would be a horrible thing to say, that he walked with God, when he walked in sin; as if God walked in a sinful way; for the prophet said, "the bloody man, nor the worker of iniquity, dwells nor walks not with the Lord." But Enoch dwelled and walked with the Lord, and did not iniquity; for if he had, he should not have obtained a testimony, that he pleased the Lord; for sinners and evil doers do not please him.
By faith Noah walked with God, and was a preacher of righteousness in the old world; 2 Pet 2:5. Also Lot in Sodom; which they could not have been, if they had been sinners, except they had been such preachers as the preachers at this day; but they were owned of God, though they were mocked of men; and it is said of them, that they did inherit the righteousness which they preached. And of Lot it is said, that his soul as well as his doctrine was righteous. And by the same faith, Job was kept in the fear of God in the land of Uzz; Job 1:1, for that taught him to eschew evil, by which he obtained a testimony of God, that he was perfect and upright, which no sinner is; and if he had not been free from sin, it would have been false to say of him, that he eschewed the evil, and was perfect; and though his trials were many, yet he sinned not with his lips, neither did he charge God foolishly. In the end of all his trials, God cleared him of having sinned, witnessing that he had found him faithful, and received a sacrifice from his hand, for those zealous professors that had charged him with sin, whom God had cleared. The same faith caused Abraham and Sarah to be partakers of the promise. Abraham was a friend of God, which Christ said, that none could be, except by fulfilling his will; and those who do so are not sinners. By this faith, Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, Heb 11:25. So, mark, he left sin and the pleasures, and then he must be without sin, by which he obtained a testimony that he was a servant of God, which sinners are not. By faith, David's heart was made after the mind of God, and that is not sinful, but free from it, for in him is no darkness at all. By the same faith the prophets were chosen vessels of God, and were upheld in their testimony for God, till they came to obtain that testimony, that they were the men and servants of God, which they could not have been, and withal servants unto sin. The scripture bears record of Zachariah and Elizabeth his wife, Luke 1:5-6, that they were both righteous before God, not by an imagined righteousness, but in regard to their conduct, walking in all the commands and statutes of the Lord without blame. But if they had been under the power of sin, and not freed from it, they had been neither without blame nor righteous; but must at least have transgressed some of the commands of the Lord, or else they could not be sinners. Also Nathaniel, in whom there was no guile, John 1:47, which could not have been, if he had been under the power of sin. Much more might I write upon this subject, to show, how that many by this one faith in all ages, have been delivered from sin, and become the children and servants of God; and therefore, those who are partakers of this faith in this age, may hope and expect, that the same work may be wrought in them; and this is no presumption. If these sin-pleaders should say, that there is none partaker of this faith now at this day, and therefore cannot be made free from sin, they will exclude themselves, which they will hardly do, because they would willingly have a name of being believers, though they deny the works of the true faith in themselves.
Further, let us consider what these strong pleaders for sin have to fortify themselves withal; they say, they have the scripture to plead withal for sin, which certainly was never the intention of the Holy Spirit, by which it was given forth. But, (say they), it is written in Ecc 7:20: There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. Answer. This is very true, neither do I plead, that any man is free from sin all the days of his life, (except Christ), but have confessed they are all sinners by nature, until they are changed; and besides, there it is but spoken of a people that were under the law, of which the apostle says, that it made nothing perfect; but, said he, the bringing in of a better hope did. But the law did not purify the ones who came to it, according to the conscience; but when the offerers had offered, there still remained an evidence of sin in the conscience. But what is that to the Christians, who are come to know a better hope, and the blood that purifies the conscience? For that same apostle that said, the law made no man perfect, (under which law Solomon was, as also that people concerning whom it was said, there is none that lives and sins not), notwithstanding the same apostle said, that it was the bringing in of a better hope that did it. And what, are these fighters for sin, and sin-pleaders become so zealous, that they will rather deny the better hope, than to cease from sin? If not, then there is a possibility to be made perfect by the blood of Christ, which the blood of bulls and goats could not do: because by one offering he has forever totally cleansed and perfected those who are sanctified and made holy [note: holiness is not to be assumed as automatically to have occurred on belief]. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Cor 7:1.
Another objection is brought forth, that is, that the apostle Paul said, that sin lived in him, and that the good that he would do, he did not; and the evil that he would not do, that he did.
Answer. That Paul knew the passing through such a state, is without question, and is not denied; but this does not prove at all that he never knew a better state; or that he never came to perfection, for in that place he makes mention of three states. First, how it was with him, when he lived without the law of God in his liberty to fight against the truth, and he thought he might do many things against the name of Jesus. Secondly, he declares of his convincement, and how it was with him then, when he knew he should not do any more against the Truth; and yet, not being wholly changed, he did things which he knew he ought not, by reason of sin living and dwelling in him; and that state he did not call happy or blessed, (as these blind professors do at this day, that take up a rest in this state, and say, they can never be redeemed out of it), for he, speaking of such a condition, cries out for deliverance, calling it a miserable condition; which plainly shows, that his eye was upon a further and better state, unto which he also bears witness; saying, he was made free by the law of the spirit of life, from the law of sin and of death, in which time he was yet in the body.
Now what reason have these pleaders for sin to believe that Paul was in all these three states at once? And if not, why not in the last? Seeing the other two are but foregoing states, leading to the third; especially considering the many other testimonies which he gives of his being perfect, and of those who by his ministry were brought to perfection, saying, concerning himself, Timothy and Sylvanus, we can do nothing against the Truth. In another place he testifies, that he has fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished his course. Now, if it was finished, then there was no more to run; and if the fight were fought, then the enemies were no more alive, as they were, when sin lived and dwelt in him. Again, he says in another place, we preach wisdom among those who are perfect; that is, according to explanation and sense of these sin-pleaders, distorted to mean: we preach wisdom among none, except among those who are already departed out of this world, and gone to heaven. Again, as many of you as are perfect be so minded; that is to say, according to their beliefs, is distorted to mean: let none be thus minded, before they be dead. Again at last, dear brethren be perfect, and of one mind, etc.; but this, they say, cannot be in this life. And again he says to the Hebrews, you are come to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to God the righteous judge of all, etc. But where were these Hebrews? Were they yet alive, or were they dead? If dead, how could his epistle be written to them? But a willful blindness has come over many of these servants and ministers of darkness, and they have rebellious hearts against the light, which discovers their sin, and would lead them out of it.
But because they have more love to sin than to the light; therefore they seek to cover themselves so much. But the day is come that has discovered them, and their deceitful coverings will no longer cover them.
Another pleading is of what is spoken by the apostle 1 John 1:8. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us.
Out of which words, every miserable and pitiful soldier of this great prince of darkness, thinks he may arm himself sufficiently to fight against what would deliver them, and make them free; but if this scripture were seen and read with that spirit by which, and in which, it was written; then it would appear, that this John was not such a great friend to sin and the devil, (who is a father of lies), as they would have him to be; for in the same chapter he had showed before, into what state they must come, before they can come to have fellowship with God, namely to walk in the light, as Christ was in the light; and those who said they had fellowship with God and Christ, (as the priests and professors do at this day), and did not come to attain unto that state, to walk in the light, but instead thereof, walked in darkness; such, said he, were liars, and did not the Truth.
Now he said, his fellowship was with the Father, and with the Son; which could not be, if he had walked in darkness, or was a sinner, or that he had not walked in the light, as Christ was in the light, for then he would have made himself a liar, if he had been a sinner, when he said, that he had fellowship with God and Christ.
And therefore it ought to be well observed, that John speaks there of a sort of men, that were not yet brought to confess their sins; and if such came to that conceit and pride, as to say they had no sins to confess, and so exalted themselves above the witness of God that reproved them, then such deceived themselves. But if these that are so sinful, come to own what brings them to a confession of their sins, then God is faithful to forgive such their sins, and to cleanse them from all iniquity. Now, when this is done, that is, when the creature has confessed his sin, and God has forgiven it, and cleansed him, what must then that man say? Must he then say, that he has his sin still, when he has it not? Must he say, that he is filthy and defiled, when he is cleansed from all that? This would be a lie; and if he should be cleansed from all sin he must certainly be cleansed from lies; and if it was his duty to confess the work of the devil, when it was standing in him, which were his sins, may not he now being cleansed, confess God's work that has cleansed him, he being cleansed by him freely? Must he therefore be cried out for a deceiver and heretic? Who is so blind that cannot see, that it is as serviceable, as needful, and as lawful for a man that has known the power of God to cleanse him, to confess that, and to bear a testimony to that work, as it is needful and lawful, when the devil's work is manifested in him, to confess that, and to bear a testimony against that.
Yet says John to those who were thus washed, "If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar." It is as much as if he would say, "That even those who are saved, must confess to the power of God, by which they have been judged for sin; and not to exalt themselves above it, as if they had never sinned, seeing that the witness of God testifies in all, that they have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." So that now the understanding reader may see, that John has not written here of an impossibility of being delivered from sin, but absolutely the contrary; namely, that those who cannot say that they are without sin, may come, by confessing their sins, to be cleansed and made free from it; yes, from all what is unrighteous. Yet some will say, that the apostle in that place uses the word we, as if he included himself; as if he would say at that time, "If I should say, that I had no sin, etc."
Answer. This is no proof at all, because the contrary is proved before, that is, that he had fellowship with God and Christ; which no man could have, who did not walk in the light, as he is in the light; and such may as well, by the same manner of speaking, prove James to be a curser, when he said, "With the tongue we bless God, and with it we curse men that are made after the image of God." Many more such instances might be brought forth of the lamentations and complaints of the prophets, concerning the house of Israel, which is translated so, in that manner of speaking; which does not prove at all, that the prophets were guilty of such sin and rebellion, of which they complained, Neh 9:37, etc. But how zealous are these pleaders for sin, to find out words which they think serve for the upholding of the kingdom of their master, when there is not one word that properly belongs, or was written to their purpose, except that part of it which the devil and his servants, their predecessors, have spoken or written, and that indeed may serve them? As I once heard a priest, that was exhorting the people to employ their time and ability to gather knowledge, confirming his exhortation with the scripture, namely Gen 3:4-5, You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And another, a Menist preacher in North Holland, while he was warning the people to take heed of being deceived, he exhorted them to imitate the deaf adders, Psalm 58:4-5. And so to stop their ears against the voice of the charmers, that charm never so wisely. So the one has his proof from the adders, and the other from the devil. Such scripture places as these, I do confess, that these pleaders for sin may find to strengthen their arguments; but what was written by the motion of the holy spirit of God, is a perfect testimony against them all; against their work, and against their prince.
So having answered their chief objections, which they draw out of the scripture; by which they endeavor to prove, That none can be free from sin in this life, contrary to Rom 6:22. I make haste to the third great argument of these captives, which they lay down against their own freedom.
Thirdly, That it is the will of God to let some sins remain in the best of his people in order to keep them humble.
Answer. If it is the will of God, that his best servants should sin, then his will is done when they sin. What reason have any men to be humbled and cast down because they have done the will of God? But rather to rejoice and be glad that the will of God is done, and that their will is conformable to the will of God, that the will of both can be done together. This is a very easy way to the joy of the Lord, if this brings to that sentence, "Well done good and faithful servant;" but woe unto those who are given up to believe this lie.
Again, let the understanding reader, (I mean those who are weary with their sins, and are willing to be freed), consider, (for as concerning the other, they are my opposers), how can God properly be called Almighty? How can the work of the conversion of souls properly be called his, if he is required to borrow something from the devil to keep his children humble withal?
Certainly we must conclude, that if God had a better way to do it, that he would do it in the best, and not in the worst way, namely by sin; which is so very contrary to his nature.
But let these sin-pleaders suppose, that if God should stretch forth his power so far in man, that it should destroy all the works of the devil, and cast out sin; and cause his soul to take as great delight and joy in well-doing, as ever it had in sin; and should plant humility as naturally in the soul, as the devil has planted pride in it. Now the question is, whether this power that works this change, is not as able to keep the creature in this condition, as to bring him to it, without any help of the devil, or his work? But they will say, "To suppose a thing that is impossible, is either against reason or presumption."
I answer, all things are possible with God, except to lie; and as concerning this, it is not only possible, but the contrary is impossible, because God has so often promised it, to make a perfect work, and to finish his work in all those who trust in him. For this end is Christ Jesus come, that he might destroy the devil and his works. In the parable he says, "When he comes that is stronger, he shall bind the strong man, and spoil his goods, and cast him out." This seems as if Christ who is the stronger, had no need of the devil, or his goods either, to keep his people humble thereby; but the apostle said, " That they were kept by the faith, through the power of God unto salvation." Except you will say, as the priests in Scotland say, "Cursed is he that says, Faith is without sin; and let all the people say, amen." Then the words of the apostle must be [twisted wrongly] to read thus; "You are kept by a faith," which is mixed with sin, "in the power of God unto salvation." But if you will have it so, speak it out, as they have done: but seeing you profess, that faith is the gift of God, we may well say, it is able to cleanse the heart, and to give victory over the world, and also over the devil and sin, and then there is no need of sin to keep us humble. For if humility were a fruit of sin, it would not be so acceptable to God as it is; for the prophet says, He gives his grace to the humble, and dwells with such as are of a contrite [sorrow and penitence for sin] and broken heart.
Again, if a few sins, [as the false prophets say], even though they are only a remnant, can keep men humble, then a great number of sins must make a man more humble; so then let us plentifully sin, that we may be plentifully humble. But God forbid, that such doctrine or such teachers should go unreproved; for they have exalted the work of the devil beyond the work of God. It is because such teachers have been believed that the people have been led into so much blindness, ignorance, and hardness of heart, and that people have wholly lost the hope and expectation of a day of deliverance, and have taken up a rest in a sinful and slavish state.
Now, if any come to preach the gospel, which brings deliverance [from sin] and freedom [from sin] to the soul, thinking their souls already being in a rest, (though a false polluted rest), such are looked upon as disturbers of their rest, and breakers of their peace, and such like; even as it was with the prophet Micah, when he cried out, (Mic 2:10.) Arise you, and depart, for this is not your rest, because it is polluted; it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.
But blessed be the Lord God of heaven and earth forever, for he has brought forth his day of salvation, which many have longed after, and are longing, and are in travail that they might come to know it, to whom a sinful state is no resting-place, but is unto them as a strange land, in which they cannot sing the songs of Zion, but still have Jerusalem in their remembrance, which is free-born from above, longing after the day of gathering, that the Lamb, (and not the changeable priests and teachers), may be their light and leader. Unto such I say and testify in the name of the Lord God of heaven, "Lift up your heads, for the day of your redemption draws near, and deliverance shall come out of Zion, the city of our solemnity," Isa 33:20. A mighty voice shall be sounded forth from the holy mountain, from the Lord of hosts, and those who hear it shall live, and the dead bones in the valleys shall be enlivened, and the joy of that day shall be greater than the joy of the harvest.
Now how, and in what manner these things will be brought to pass, is a great dispute among many, that are yet seeking in the carnal wisdom to conceive and comprehend spiritual things, and so they come to be scattered and divided in their imaginations. Therefore, in the meantime, those who have become willing to sit down in quietness, in the light of Christ Jesus, that shows every running-out of the mind, they come to feel the pure fear of God to be planted in their hearts; so that they dare not think their own thoughts, nor speak their own words. Here is the beginning of the true wisdom, by which wisdom it is given unto them, to understand those things which they could not find out in all the time of their travail and pains in the fallen wisdom.
While they were hearkening after the different voices of men, they never could have a certainty; but now hearing him by whom God speaks, who is manifest within them, whom their ears are inclined unto within. They come to know certainly what they know, through the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to reveal unto those who fear him, the mysteries of God's kingdom; and he shuts them up from the wise and prudent of this world.
Therefore, you that desire to have an understanding of these things, come down from your high-built towers of knowledge and comprehension, and sit down in that pure light, that brings a death upon the earthly wisdom, and become as fools, that you may be wise. That wisdom that is so received, shall lead to know the number of the beast, which the whole world, with all their academic wisdom, and all the sects, with their inventions, are strangers to at this day, and are carrying about with them his name, and the number of it, or his mark, by which they are accepted among men, and yet do not know what it is. When they come to be wise enough to know it, and honest enough to forsake it, then they will see, that the friendship of this world comes to be broken, and the enmity to work against the Holy Seed. The seed comes to arise and bruise the head of the enmity, and to nail it fast to a cross till it dies. Then comes freedom, then there is war no more, then there is peace on earth, and nothing but good-will towards all men, yes, to enemies. Then anguish and sorrow flee away, and the perfect love of God casts out fear, and there is death no more; but what is overcome by immortality. Blessed and happy are all those who come to know that state, and blessed are those who believe and wait to enjoy it; and blessed is that hope which leads thereunto.
Now, as concerning the chief matter of this treatise, that is, concerning the reign of the devil among men, there is yet one thing worthy to be considered, of which there is made mention in the scriptures of Truth, in which it appears, that in the beginning and setting up of the reign of Christ, the everlasting gospel was preached, and that many thousands had believed and obeyed it, so that they came to be witnesses of the kingdom of Christ. The devil was cast out, dethroned, and put under their feet; and some were made priests and kings to God. I say, after all these things before mentioned, there came an apostasy from the faith, by which all these things before mentioned were brought forth. Of that apostasy Paul prophesied to the Thessalonians, and John by the Spirit saw, how that the devil should get a great dominion over men, by many changeable means and ways executing his power, as a dragon. Then as a strange beast with seven heads, and ten horns; at another time, as a little beast with two horns; then with an image; and then with a whore, etc. And that the Almighty God has set and appointed a time, a certain time, to this dreadful, dark, changeable government, and gave John to know, that it should last and continue but one thousand two hundred and threescore days or years. And this is a set time, and has its beginning, and its ending; but the kingdom of Christ, and also his priesthood, are both after the power of an endless life.
Now, seeing that this last power which the devil has gotten, is but to continue his appointed time, why should any be his friend so far, as to say, that it must continue always, and that it must never come to an end; and that people no way can get freedom from under his tyrannical power? Certainly these men that plead so strongly for his continual reign and power, have more reason and understanding than they use. As for instance, suppose that one had hired a house or farm of another for several years, and the years being come to an end, that man to whom that house or farm belongs, has a desire to live in it himself; and the in-dweller not being willing, and they both should come to one of these sin-pleaders, to hear his judgment and determination. I believe they would soon say to the in-dweller, you must depart, the other is the landlord, and you have had your full time, and he now desiring to have his house, he must have it; and especially if the in-dweller was come into the house as a thief in a dark night, and had kept it by violence, and had brought no profit to the landlord at all. This is properly the cause between God and this prince of darkness, for he has possessed the inheritance of God, and ruled over it, not to the advantage of the Lord, but to his disadvantage and dishonor; and yet these men will not do so much right to God as they will do to their neighbor; but on the contrary, they say, that this usurper or thief, that has stolen away the hearts of men from their Creator, must set there as long as there is a man upon the earth, and not any man redeemed. Oh! Blush for shame, you hypocrites, can you make a difference between good and evil among men, and will you not judge for God? Come, take your books into your hands, and read the number of the years, it is called 1260 days; reckon after the reckoning of the ancients, 30 days to a month, and see whether that does not make out 42 months; and see whether 42 months does not make a time, times, and half a time; and see what things are ordered to be in those different times; and see whether you can find out the beginning of those times so that you may find the end of them. For all those who had their confidence in the number of the year 1666,* are now confounded, ashamed, and their hope is frustrated. Now it is high time to wait upon the Lord, to get an understanding and knowledge which makes not ashamed.
Now, the first thing to be considered, to the opening of this thing is that the first appearance of this man-child, that was born in heaven by a woman, that was clothed with the sun, and had her feet upon the moon, and was crowned with the stars. The first, I say, that appeared against this child, was a great red dragon. Mark, this was no substitute under the devil, but was the devil himself. Though he appeared in heaven, as you may see Rev 12:13, and he it is that has given power to all those who have persecuted this woman, or her seed; but as long as he was in heaven, he was no perfect persecutor. There he had no power, but only to be an accuser of the brethren, and with that he busied himself night and day. But by this it is evident, that there was a power over him, to which he accused them, and so long they could not sing; but when he was cast out with his angels, then they sang, now is salvation come, and power, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren that accused them day and night before our God, is cast down, etc.
But then woe unto them who dwell on earth, where the devil got his power, that is, in the earthly ground; there he rules with great wrath, anger and fury, and indignation, persecuting the woman, and the least appearance of her seed. Because he cannot do harm enough of himself, he goes and makes himself a substitute, that is, a beast with seven heads, and ten horns. Mark, just the number of his own heads and horns, only he came out of the pit, and this out of the sea or waters, of which waters you may read in Rev 13:1, that they are peoples, tongues, languages, and nations. Out of them came this strange beast, which the devil counted worthy to have his perfect power, because he knew that he would do his work for him to purpose; and he received his power for the space of forty-two months. His first work was to persecute the saints. Secondly, to set up the worship of the devil. Thirdly, to bring the dread of this seven-headed beast over the whole earth. Fourthly, to blaspheme the name of God and his tabernacle, and those who dwell therein. Fifthly, to make people believe, that there is no overcoming of his power. These works are spread, and carried on by three unclean spirits, which came forth out of the mouth of the dragon, beast, and false prophet, over all kindreds, nations, tongues, and people, and there were none able to resist them, except those whose names were written in the book of the life of the Lamb. As concerning them, because they would not receive the mark of the beast in their forehead, or right hand, they must be banished, and must not have liberty to buy or sell. Those who would worship nothing but a living substance, and not an image, though it was alive, those must be killed; and when that sort were all killed and banished, and the whole world being brought, sometimes to worship the dragon, sometimes to worship the beast that had as many heads and horns as the dragon himself; and then to worship a little beast with two horns, that came out of the earth; and then to worship the image of the old seven-headed beast. When, I say, that all things upon the whole earth were thus disposed, then was it as the devil would have it; for now had every one subjected himself unto his power, and received that name or mark, or the number of the substitute, and admired his great power; and set him up as the chief among men, whom none could overcome, except some few, that had the word of God itself, (for the other had the scripture), and dared seal their testimony against the dragon and false prophet with their blood. Because these were but a few, and were soon killed, they being dead, there was a joyful and merry world. The devil was well pleased, and they did send their gifts to one another abundantly; and those who had been most busy, and serviceable to kill the witnesses,* (that dared to speak of another kingdom or dominion, besides that of the dragon and beast), they had the greatest gifts. In those days there was no prophesying, but in sackcloth, and that did not continue long either, but the prophets were killed, and being dead, their dead bodies were kept above the earth, and were more esteemed than their living testimony, for that plagued all the worshippers of the beast.
So in such a time have the nations been so long, that they are so used to the power and reign of the devil, that they plead for it, as if he had an undoubted right to it. If the devil might speak himself, he would not desire of the world to rule any longer than the world allows him. They have forgotten that it is only to continue forty-two months, while the man-child was caught up unto God, and while his mother was in the wilderness; and also, that it was to be expected that both should appear again in their appointed time.
But while it was thus with the world, namely that the true church was not to be found upon earth, but had fled away, as upon eagles' wings; and that he that ought to rule over all, was caught up into heaven; and that the devil was in his place, the old serpent ruling and giving his power to whom he pleased, to a great beast, or little beast, or to a whore, or to anything like him. While great and small, high and low, bond and free, did wonder at his power, and were ready to worship any one that had his power; let those whose eyes are open, just consider in what a lamentable state the miserable world then was, and whether that abomination that made the world desolate of God and all good order, was not then set up in the holy place, where it ought not. Was the world without a religion, or without a profession of God and Christ in those days? No, they bore a profession of Christ who is unchangeable, in all their changeable ways; and this was a time of gladness to many. They had many sorts of religions, and when they came to be weary with one, the devil furnished them with another. When they had been exercised a long time in the before said worships of the dragon, the seven-headed beast, the little beast, and of the living image, then there came forth yet a deeper mystery of iniquity than before, the mother of all these abominations. She showed herself, not as a despised whore, but as a queen decked with scarlet, purple and precious stones; and that very beast, which none could overcome, but the whole world had wondered after it, he himself must be under her command, and must carry her up and down upon the waters, which are peoples, lands, tongues, and languages. This whore has another design upon the poor blind world, (mark), she comes with a preparation to make all drunk, that they might not make use of their senses, to bethink themselves where they were; and that they might not have any suspicion against anything. She furnishes herself with a golden cup, which there was none that had anything against it, but every one could well receive it; and this was but to deceive them, for any potsherd of the dunghill had been good enough, (yes, a hog's trough had been too good), to drink that out of which she had to give them. But she must give her drink to kings and princes, and nobles, and captains, and merchants, and to all sorts of men; so she proffered them her cup, and they have all drunk. But what have they drank? Her whoredoms, fornications, and all abominations of the earth. How much? Till they were drunk. What did they do then? They committed fornication with her; they were drunk of abominations, and the whore was drunk with the blood of the saints and witnesses of Jesus; and yet the name of Jesus was still professed upon earth; that was not persecuted; but those were persecuted, who witnessed Jesus himself who takes away sin. Such were persecuted; for she being the mother of whores, and having nothing to proffer to her customers but abominations, she could not endure to hear that sin, which is an abomination to the Lord, should be taken away, and that men should live without sin, and be perfect. For if so, then she must be childless, and as a widow, and must lose her high place on the top of the beast, and then they would not be so drunk of her cup, and that would not tend to her advantage; therefore, if any came to be witnesses of Jesus himself, she drank the blood of such; but if they would be content to drink her cup, and so would please themselves with good and precious words, and in the meantime drink in her abominations, then they might live and flourish as long as she flourished.
But alas! What do you think, you who read with understanding, was the state of the world in those days? Was it not high time that plagues, indignation, and vengeance should be poured out upon this bloody whore, and upon the seat of the beast upon which she did ride, and upon the whole earth, which had committed fornication with her? Is it not high time that the carpenters should come, Zach 1:21, to cut off these horns? For at that time the power of darkness was spread over all, and the will of the devil was done, and his one thousand two hundred and sixty years, were prosperous to his kingdom, and he did what he pleased. If any spoke against him, and against his kingdom, he would have them killed, and then his whore would drink the blood of such; and there was none left, neither great nor small, neither bond nor free, high or low, neither young nor old, but they had submitted themselves all of them, and said, who is like him? None are able to overcome him. It is impossible to be made free from under his power. He must reign as long as we live. It is possible for us, (cry they), to overcome princes, kingdoms, and armies; and therefore we go out and fight valiantly, and many times we get victory, and become conquerors; but to overcome sin, which the devil has set up in us, that is impossible, and therefore it is in vain to trouble ourselves about it, and we will not do anything concerning it, seeing we have drunk in a faith, that it is impossible to perform or accomplish it.
Thus has the whole world been bewitched, in the time when the devil reigned. Will he and his servants make us believe, that it must continue so always? Though never any other time was given him, but such as was limited; and in the end of that time we understand there is a great alteration to come to pass. That is, that the church, the true woman, must come out of the wilderness again; the man-child must come down again, and appear upon earth, and rule the nations with a rod of iron, and the whore must be judged; that sorrow, death and famine must come upon her in one day; and that ten kings should agree together, to burn her flesh with fire; and that the smoke of her torments should ascend to heaven; and then the dragon, the beast, and false prophet, that had still preached peace, though it was so, as said above, they must all be taken, while they are yet alive in this work and in their power, and be cast into the lake of the wrath of God, which burns forever. These princes, and captains, and merchants, and inhabitants of the earth, must howl and lament because of this great alteration.
Therefore seeing that such a time is lawfully to be expected, in which the devil, the old serpent, may be thrust out of his dominion; and that then the time of joy and rejoicing will be for the upright, it is worth the spending of our labor and time, to find out that time, so that it may not come over us, and we see it not, nor know it, and so let it pass by, as the Jews did, doting and waiting for it, as a thing which is yet to come, as they do at this day; when almost two thousand years are past, since the thing has come to pass.
Now, you know the Jews had a prophet, who told them the time when the Messiah should come, beforehand, that is, Daniel, as you may see, Dan 9:24, etc. where he told them, that it was seventy weeks that were determined upon the people, and upon the city, and that the Holy One should be anointed. Now, this was not such a great mystery to them; they knew it was common to reckon a day for a year among the prophets; so that that time was but four hundred fourscore and ten (490) years that the vision should be sealed, and the daily sacrifice taken away, the city be made desolate, and the anointing of the Holy One, and the Messiah be slain for the sins of the people. Since the time that the command had gone forth to build Jerusalem again, in which time the seventy weeks had their beginning, it is above two thousand years ago; the city is since built again, and also made again desolate, and the daily sacrifice taken away, and the prince of the people that then came, namely Titus [son of Emperor] Vespasian the Roman, has destroyed the sanctuary, and the destruction of it was with an overflowing to the end of the war; and yet all these things cannot convince them, nor make them believe that the Messiah has come, or that it was He whom their forefathers have killed as a blasphemer.
Now, so that we, after such clear prophecies of the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, and dethroning of the devil, sin and Antichrist, should not come to be surprised with the same blindness and hardness of heart; let us have a strict observation of the times, that we may not fight against the appearance of Truth, and put it far away from us, and say, the days have not come yet, in which the pouring out of the Spirit can be witnessed; and that the knowledge of God must cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; and that the gospel must be preached again unto those who dwell upon the earth, and that the Lamb and his saints must have the victory over the dragon and his angels. For, such as put the day so far from them, are in the same error with the Jews, and do not understand the times better than they do; and so are persecuting the true appearance of what they seem to expect, and to pray for, (as the Jews did), because it does not appear in their way to answer their carnal expectations, that despise the day of small things. But from such are the mysteries of the kingdom shut up, and are revealed unto those who fear the Lord.
Now to understand these things, let every one come to read the prophecies in a measure of that spirit, by which they were given forth, and that same opens the prophecies, and without it everyone understands only according to his own fancy or private judgment. The apostle said, there would come an apostasy from the faith; that is, from the true Christian faith. Now, when was that? Who are those who are so apostatized, or have fallen away? Ask the pope, and the whole Roman Catholic church, and they will tell you, that the prophecy points at Martin Luther, Zuinglius, Oecolampadius, Calvinus, Menno Simonis, and other heretics, that have rent many nations from the true apostolic faith, and the ancient Christian church, the infallible foundation and pillar of Truth, etc.
Ask the bishops of England, and the presbyters in Scotland, the pastors in Denmark or Sweden, and preachers in the Low Countries, and they will tell you, that this prophecy signifies the general apostasy from the apostolic faith and order in the church of Christ, to the pope and popish exercises, and institutions over all Christendom. Again, ask them, who among themselves continue as yet in the true apostolic faith and religion? Then the Lutheran pastors will say, we do; and therefore they cry to join with us. No, say the bishops in England, we will prove that the apostolic church had bishops, and that the apostle said, he that desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work; and therefore we are those who are the true church, according to the first institution. Then say the presbyterians and Dutch preachers, the bishops in the primitive churches were not such as you are, but such as we are, whose care was over the flock, and did teach and rule in ecclesiastic matters, but not in councils and parliaments, as you do. Therefore you are fallen from the primitive state. Now, at last, what does Truth say of these, and all others who deny that faith which purifies the heart, and can cleanse the conscience from sin, and can give victory over the world? This was the faith which Paul preached, that was near in the heart. Therefore all those who say, that the heart of a true believer cannot be made clean, nor that he can come to live without sin, nor to have a purified conscience; and all those who deny the word of faith in the heart, and Christ to be the rule, and set up another rule, and another faith, and another foundation for it, than the apostle set up; all such are fallen from the faith, and are not apostolic, but Antichristian. When the man of sin comes to be revealed, they will come to be revealed with him, and fall with him, and with Babylon the mother of them all; great will be their fall in that day.
There is yet another prophecy of Christ, when he said, "When you see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, where it ought not, then let not him who is in Judea flee unto the mountain; nor he that is in the field, go back to fetch his clothes; nor he that is on the house-top, come down to take anything out of his house, .." Mat 24:15. He further said in verse 23, 24, "Then if any man shall say unto you, 'Lo, here is Christ' or 'there,' believe him not," etc. signifying plainly, that when the abomination of desolation should be set up, that the people would still want many sorts of teachers of the name of Christ. What were they made desolate of, by the setting up of this abomination, seeing they were not desolate of a profession of Christ in many manners? They were desolate of the power and presence of God in all their holy places, (as they called them), where this abomination was set up; even as Christ said to the Jews, when they had made the house of prayer to be a den of thieves. Then said he, "Your house is left unto you desolate." Mark, it was not then desolate of people, of congregations, of religions and worship; but it was desolate of the presence of God; for that was not to be found there. So that abomination makes people desolate of the power of God, by which they should have power over their sin and lusts, and which makes the ministers and teachers desolate of the spirit of God, by which they should have been led to preach the gospel. This abomination has been set up a long time, and has made the people and nations as a wilderness; and this has been since that time, that the Christian religion has been carried on and maintained by the traditions of men. Then came the poison to be poured out into the church, and thereby it has come to be so swelled and big, that it can comprehend in it the tyrannical and persecuting princes, proud and rebellious bishops, wicked men-slayers and murderers, unclean, wanton and drunken people; they have all room enough in it. Since that time it is considered heresy for any to make a profession of being purified and cleansed; and from that time it may be reckoned, that the abomination of desolation has been set up. Therefore, let us consider how long it is yet to stand, before the devil comes to be cast out, and the temple of God is cleansed, and the filth of abomination is burned up, that the God of heaven may again delight in his sanctuary, and that the earth may not forever be empty of his presence, but that he may be found of those who seek him, and be heard of those who that are mourning after him.
Now John says, that this time of desolation was to continue a time, times, and half a time, that is, three years and a half, or three times twelve months and six months, that is, forty-two months, or one thousand two hundred and sixty days; which times are agreeing together in one, and do perfectly fulfill the time of the restoration of the church, and of the coming down of the righteous Judge, whose right it is to rule over men. For to him are the Gentiles given for an inheritance, and the ends of the earth for a possession. That time also perfectly fulfills the time of the power of the beast; for these times do all agree together, and as they had their beginning about one and the same time, they must also have their end shortly after one another, because they are like one another.
Now to find out the end of those times, the beginning must be first known; now the daily sacrifice was taken away long before the abomination that made the earth desolate was set up; but from that time that both should be fulfilled, said the angel to Daniel, there should be one thousand two hundred and ninety days, that is thirty more than John writes of. Now the abomination of desolation was not set up in the time of Christ; for, said he, when you shall see it set up,... speaking as of a thing that was not yet come to pass; and the apostle said, "There shall come an apostasy from the faith;" that shows, that it had not yet come, neither did it come till several hundreds of years after; for the true Christians suffered many cruel and grievous deaths for the Christian faith. So that they did not fall away, but endured to the end, and were saved, and the earth was not desolate for a long time. But when that faith was lost, which did support in sufferings, and that the Christian religion, (which was the holy place), came to be corrupted by pride, covetousness, persecution and worldly pleasures, ease, and the delights and honors of this world; then the abomination was set up, that made the earth desolate. Reckon from that time, one thousand two hundred and sixty years, and add to it these thirty years, of which the angel spoke to Daniel, Dan 12:11, and see whether we are not within the forty-five years, of which there is made mention in the twelfth verse, where the angel having spoken of the one thousand two hundred and ninety years, adds, "Blessed is he that waits, and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days;" signifying plainly, that there must be a time of patience, and waiting for the blessed restoration, which was promised; and that that time of waiting should continue from the one thousand two hundred and ninety, till one thousand three hundred and thirty five, which are forty-five days or years. Then they are blessed that come to it. So he that has wisdom, let him reckon; but this reckoning is not comprehended in arithmetic, or the art of reckoning. Neither can it be conceived by the wisdom of this world, but such as have the wisdom which comes from God, they shall understand. It is to such I write; for I have learned to cover the pearls before the swine, and that withhold the children's bread from the dogs.
By what is here said, it sufficiently appears; first, that this intruder or usurper, called the devil, Satan, dragon, or Antichrist, has no right to rule and to reign over mankind, all the days of their life. Secondly, that his kingdom is a limited kingdom, and was not to continue forever. Thirdly, that the limits of it have been revealed to several of the servants of God. Fourthly, that the appointed time of his governments has nearly come to an end. Fifthly, that there is a blessed day and time to be expected after the end of his reign. Sixthly, that none can come to enjoy that blessed time and blessedness, nor sing the song of joy and deliverance, but those who patiently wait upon the Lord in the days of tribulation; and have that hope to see the salvation which comes out of Zion.
Therefore for conclusion, I shall say this, that all those who feel themselves in bondage under this prince of darkness, in whatever manner it is, and are not willing to remain so always; just believe in him who shows you your bondage, and wait in his pure light in your own consciences, which discovers darkness and the prince of it. Then you will feel a hope to spring up in you, that you may be delivered, as I myself have felt: 1 John 3:3. This hope will lead to a daily washing and purifying, and to a daily crucifying and mortifying of the earthly members. As this hope comes to work in you, it will bring you to an experience of being delivered in some particular things, and that will strengthen your hope of being delivered from more; and so, at last a faith will arise in you, perfectly and thoroughly to be made free from sin. When you are made partaker of this faith, then the greatest and strongest bond of the devil is broken; for, through the unbelief of it, he keeps his kingdom in man and woman. When this evil root of unbelief is taken away, then his kingdom comes soon to an end, and the government of Truth comes to be set up in you; and so there comes a change to be wrought in you, both inwardly and outwardly; and so comes his kingdom, who is the intruder or usurper, to be lessened, first in yourself, and then you come to see that change in another; and so it goes forward, from one to ten, and from ten to a thousand, and so forth, more and more, until the inheritance of the wicked comes to be wholly laid waste, till truth and righteousness, and the reign and government of Christ Jesus our Lord comes to be set up in the earth, which my soul longs and travails for; and so, I know it is with many more, for whose sake this is written; and as a testimony against that proud and presumptuous generation of hypocrites, of what sort or name, or in whatever nation or kingdom they may be, who not only have subjected themselves unto this prince of darkness, and unto the power of him who is called the devil and Satan, but also pretend, that all mankind must do so, and continue so all their days, and that there is no remedy nor help against it; and so deny the power of God, and lead the people to trust in a lie. But the day of the power of God has come, and the refuge of lies is swept away; and the deliverance and victory of the Lamb is known unto many; to whom, and to the everlasting God, by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the redeemed, is sung everlasting praises, thanksgiving, renown, honor and glory, and dominion forever.
There comes something further up in my heart concerning this matter, which I think good to communicate unto you.
There are hardly any ignorant of how commonly it is said, "That we cannot live without sin; and that we cannot be made free from it, as long as we live in this world; even, as if our sin and our life were so knit together, that they cannot be separated from one another; but that they must end together, and not the one before the other." Now all those who believe there is a God, they also believe that he is the Fountain of Life, and gives life unto all that live. All that believe that there is a devil, they also believe, that he is the author and original of sin; as Christ said, "When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own; for he is a liar, and a father of lies," John 8:44, and so he is of all other wickedness. Now he gives life to no man, for life only comes from God; and he having made them live, then comes the devil, and betrays them into sin. Now men and women have become such fools, that they seek to bind together inseparably what is of God, with what is of the devil; and that is great foolishness; for what fellowship has Christ with Belial, or light with darkness? So also the life of men, (simply considered in itself), has no fellowship with sin; for they come forth of two different origins; and he, who is the origin of life, is stronger than he, who is the origin of sin. Although he has brought in sin, and has corrupted nature, (which first was pure), by sin; and men in that corrupt nature, do abuse their life, which they have from God, to his dishonor and to their own perdition; yet that life is not so joined unto sin, so that they are inseparable. For, though it is true, that men cannot sin, if they live not; yet it is not true to say, "That if men sin not, then they cannot live;" for the life that some lived, they lived by the faith of the Son of God, Gal 2:20, and that is in dominion over sin, and over the devil, the author of it.
There is another common position, that we must live in sin, so long as we do carry about with us this body of sin and death; meaning this substantial and corporal body; alleging the words of Paul, Rom 7:24.
Now this is also a blind and foolish position, as if the fault of all sins which they commit, were in the body, or the members of it; whereas, on the contrary, the body, (simply in itself), is not guilty of what through the body has done, it being altogether passive, having no will in the members; but they are as instruments that are ordered or disposed of according to the laws of God, or of the devil; the one or the other being set up to rule in the will and mind of the creature; and the members have no power to do, or leave undone, anything, but as they receive it by the will or understanding.
Also, there is no member of the body, but is made to serve the Lord, and is also made fit for it; and they are as ready and willing to do, and to fulfill the will of God, as to fulfill the will of the devil; yes, and they are more properly in their right place and service, and have more joy and freedom in it, than in the service of the devil; for the service of the devil is only bondage, to which the creature is led captive by a lie, as was before said. Those who call the corporal bodies, the bodies of sin and death, they please the devil well enough for he well knows, that as long as they so believe, his birth and seed will remain in them without hindrance, when the eyes of men are led out to suspect their own bodies, as being the cause of all sin and evil which they commit. But men's bodies are more fit to serve God; but are capable to be given up by the will and affection, to serve either God or the devil; as is manifest by the words of Paul, Rom 7:19, As you have yielded yourselves servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity, unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Now here every one may see, that the same members, that before were given up to serve unrighteousness, must now be given up to serve righteousness. [Mark,] they still had their bodies; they did not say, we would we have been delivered from these members and bodies, (that were used to commit sin), so that we might come to be made free; but the apostle said plainly, that they were free from sin, and were become servants unto righteousness, and that therefore they should give up their members to the service of him who had made them free, as formerly they used to do to him who had brought them into bondage. These people who so complain against their own bodies, calling them the old man, the body of sin and death, and of corruption; how will they understand the apostle, where he says, mortify your members which are upon the earth? What, will they mortify their hands and feet, and pull out their eyes, and cut out their tongues? I suppose not. But how will they fulfill the words of the apostle, except they find out another body of sin, and the members of it, which ought to be crucified with the daily cross? But the apostle has named the members of that body, which must be mortified, Col 3:5, that is, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which is idolatry, verse. 8, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth, and lying one to another, etc., these are the members that make up that body which is called the body of the sins of the flesh, Col 2:11, and this is a sort of flesh which God has not made; for what he has made, that is good, and it is for himself and not for sin, 1 Cor 6:13. Though the devil has his seat in the heart, commanding the members of the body to do his will, yet the same members could serve to do the will of God, if the devil were cast out, and truth and righteousness were set up in the heart; and then these sin-pleaders would come to see, that the fault was not in their bodies, but in their corrupt hearts, and that there is another body to be put off, before they can come to do the will of God, and not the corporal body, which God has created to serve him.
Besides that, these people show themselves to have but little love to God; that all his kindness and manifold mercies cannot draw them to serve him; but on the contrary, they will serve his greatest enemy, as long as they have members to serve him withal, using those members which God has given them, against him and his ordering; and if he will not permit it so to be, he must take away those members again; even as if there was no other remedy to put an end to sin; that is as much as to say, if the Lord will not have them to swear, to lie, or to speak evil, he must make them dumb; and if he will not have them to do bad works, he must make them lame; and if he will take away their life from them, then they will leave off sinning, but not sooner. Yes, they cannot endure to hear of putting off sin sooner; that, (say they), is the grand error of the Quakers, to speak of ceasing to sin, before we cease to live.
Oh! Where is the sense of the love of God, that this people should feel in their hearts shed abroad to God, to constrain them unto obedience? Alas! They are strangers to obedient love, and their covenant with hell and death is so strong, and the unbelief is so rooted in them, that they think this covenant cannot be broken. But blessed be the Lord, that faith is now manifested, that gives victory, and breaks this covenant.
Another great plea, which these sin-pleaders bring, is this: if people can come to perfection in this life, then they have no need of Christ to be their savior; as if the salvation by Christ, and a perfect and pure life were inconsistent with one another. You fools and blind, do you not know that all good and perfect gifts come from the Lord, and that none can come to perfection, unless it is by his gift? If God is the giver, is perfection then not a gift by grace? Where are works then? But these pleaders for sin are as great strangers to the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, as they are to perfection, otherwise they would see their ignorance. When Christ said to his disciples, "Be perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect;" that is as much as to say, (according to explanation of these people), there is your command, when that is done, you have no need of me. The apostle spoke wisdom among those who are perfect, but not such wisdom, (or rather foolishness), as this, to persuade them, that they had no need of Christ to be their savior because they had come to perfection; but, on the contrary, he said, that he could do all things, (then he could be perfect), but not as of himself, but through Christ that enabled him; and those who come to a perfect state, they know that their salvation is not of their works, however good and pure they may be, but merely by grace through Jesus Christ, and that in respect of these three following observations.
1. First, That it was the appearance of Christ Jesus, who is the power of God, that has brought them off from their sin and imperfection; and that they have not left them off of themselves, but do acknowledge, that it is the grace of God, as the apostle did, Titus 2:11-12, For the grace of God that brings salvation, has appeared unto all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. So here you may see, that it is the appearance of the grace of God that leads to perfection; and this perfection is not yet a perfect salvation; for those who have it, may fall from it again, and so not be saved; but those who endure to the end shall be saved.
2. But Secondly, It is Christ who is the preserver and keeper unto the end, those who trust in him; and the apostles testify, that those who were delivered from the corruption of this world, must know him to be their keeper, that had gathered them out of the world; and therefore said Jude in his epistle, Jude 1:24, Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, etc. And Peter testifies, 1 Peter 1:5, You are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. And Paul testifies, that the keeping is by Jesus Christ, Phil 4:7. So here you may see, that the bringing to the state of perfection, and the keeping from falling from it again, is both the work of Christ; and yet, this is not a perfect salvation; for this does not put away the former sins.
3. But Thirdly, Whoever comes to perfect salvation, he comes to know Christ to be an offering for sin, and to obtain reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of his former sins. For all the holy conduct and perfection of life, can be counted no more but his duty; and therefore he cannot obtain remission of one of his former sins. But those who confess their sins, and forsake them, such come to forgiveness by Jesus Christ, and come to know his blood cleansing them from all their sins; and so they come to perfect salvation by grace, not by works, but by faith, that works in the love of God unto obedience; without which, faith is but dead, and makes no man saved, but those who have this true faith and hope in them, They purify themselves, as he is pure, 1 John 3:3. And he that has not this hope, does not purify himself, neither does he believe that he can do it; and by this we know the true believers from the false; and by this sinners are made manifest, that cannot stand in the congregation of the righteous, Psa 1:5.
So now let all the pleaders for sin, stop their mouths forever, and let the devil stand for himself, and plead his own cause; and henceforth do not despise and revile the innocent, (who are travailing and striving after perfection, with a faith to obtain it), that they think they will be saved by their own works; for we hope for no other salvation, but what is in and by Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God, who is the first-born of every creature, who brings many sons and daughters unto glory, but not by leaving them in their sins; but his name is Jesus, and he saves people from their sins.
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