AND AN ANSWER TO ALL DOUBTS AND OBJECTIONS ARISING IN THEM, AGAINST THE INWARD APPEARANCES OF,
WHICH HAVE KEPT MANY FROM OBEDIENCE,
Friends and People,
My spirit has been deeply exercised concerning many, who have come to feel something which is good stirring and moving in their hearts, to bring them into a serious consideration of their course of life, and of the true inward state of their immortal souls. For when they have sometimes begun to turn their minds to this good thing that stirred in them, many doubts and objections have arisen in them, lest they should be misled, deceived, or deluded; then they have been tempted to slight, and even to think evil of that which works in their own hearts, in order to lead them out of sin and iniquity; and to imagine it to be, what some have dared to denominate it, only a natural light; a common gift of the Spirit, but not a saving gift; conviction of a natural conscience; or a work of the evil one to deprive the soul of its peace, etc.
Thus, Oh! reader, when you are brought to slight that good principle which strives with you under some such name, [erroneously to be natural light or the evil one], you get ease again for a little while, take liberty to act against it, and to do and say what this principle does in secret condemn; then it rises again, breaks your peace, and brings trouble and anguish upon your soul; now arise doubts on the one hand, and doubts on the other, so that your poor soul is beset and encompassed with doubts, fears, and jealousies; sometimes you fear you withstand the truth to your own destruction, and again sometimes fear it [the truth] is a delusion, and that you are deceived; besides, you find many learned and worldly-wise men who tell you there is nothing good in you. Here you are in a very great strait, laboring under many sorrowful thoughts with many doubtful disputes arising in your mind. The flesh now strongly wars against what comes to disturb it, and the Spirit wars against what resists and rebels against it; these two are contrary. These contrary things are both in you; and you, poor creature, must feel the struggling of them both, scarcely knowing, (or at least with certainty), which is right, owing to your darkness, doubts, and fears. Now, in this state and condition, how acceptable would a messenger be, one of a thousand, to show unto such a one what might deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and save his life from the destroyer! Job 33:23-24.
For the sake of such I am drawn into a deep exercise many times, by day and by night, and my cry to God is, that his glorious power may more and more arise to open these doors, which are shut and folded upon many, to bring forth the imprisoned spirits out of the prison-house, and out of the bondage of this spiritual Egypt, where our Lord was and is crucified spiritually; that he may expel the clouds of darkness, in which the fears, doubts, and questionings arise; and that he may make a clear way in all such for his Light to break forth out of obscurity, in which Light the answer to those doubts and questions arises.
By that same Spirit that labors with you, I am moved to send this forth unto you all, as a word of exhortation and counsel in the name and fear of the Lord God, by which as many as do rightly receive it, and make a true use and proof of it, shall find help and benefit, know the mouth of the questioner stopped, and the answer of peace witnessed to their immortal souls — in the Lord's due time.
Consider this: That every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights and Spirits, who would prefer not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn and live; therefore He has, out of his infinite love and tender mercies to the sons of men, prepared a way to draw near unto them, even while they are in their sins; which He does not but through Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant, whom He has freely given to be a Light unto the dark world; and that He does Enlighten every one that comes into the world, John 1:1-4,7,9, of which number you are one. Whoever you are, you are enlightened by Christ, though you are yet darkness in yourself, as the Ephesians once were; yet the Light shines in your darkness, or else there would not be two contrary natures and seeds found working in you as there are; and this Light by which you are enlightened is the life of Jesus, John 1:4, which [life] He has given a ransom for man.
You who are inquiring know this: That in you which makes manifest to you things that are reprovable, is the Light by which Christ has enlightened you withal, as the Apostle Paul said in his Epistle to the Ephesians, 5:13-14; and that principle which leads you to do or say such things as you are secretly reproved for in your own conscience, that is the darkness, and the enemy of your soul's peace, in which [darkness] those who walk do not know where they go; for this [darkness and enemy] ministers a peace and pleasure to you, and ministers a delight to your carnal mind for a season; yet the other, (namely) the Light, the reprover, has power to take it away from you again, to judge you, and to make that which was sweet to you to become bitter; and neither the darkness nor vanity of your mind can deliver you from this stroke.
Now, that you might be resolved in such a state what to do, consider, you that have these struggles in you, about the Light in your conscience, whether it is true or not, or whether you shall own it or not, and are thinking in yourself what is best for you to do; whether to go on stoutly against it, or to submit to it; I say, consider, if you rebel against it, you can never know wheather it would lead you; as it was said of old, Job 24:13, They that rebel against the Light they know not the ways thereof; so that if you do take the course to rebel, that will but increase your ignorance of the way which the Light leads in, and make it more terrible to you every time it does appear in you, till you come to that state spoken of, Job 24:17, That the dawning of the day will be as the shadow of death; for the more you rebel against it, the more dark you will daily grow, and so the less able to resolve yourself in those doubtful things that fill your mind; but as darkness increases in you, so the power of it will bind you down as a chain, and smother every good desire in you. Thus by rebellion against the Light, do some men lose the very sense and knowledge of it, grow past feeling, and strangers to it, though it be in them; for the custom of sin takes away the sense and the feeling of the burden of it.
But to you I write that have not yet come to this state of hardness of heart, but are brought daily into a sense of the burden of sin;* and are ready to say if you were only sure that the mere the truth and way of God is what shows you your sin, you would follow it, and love it, and own it, but are kept off by doubts and questionings. Verily I say unto you, before these doubts are resolved, you must try this, as, to your sorrow, you have tried the other, before you can be effectually informed; for arguments will not do sufficiently in this case; therefore try and prove what this principle can do for you, when you obey it, which you know has power to condemn you, and break your peace, when you disobey it.
Why should you always be shut up in unbelief and in doubts, and so kept from trying and proving the Light, as well as you have proved the darkness, that so you might reap the fruit of it to salvation, as well as you have done the fruit of the other onto condemnation?
Oh, dear people! consider, you can only obey this Light of Christ Jesus in your consciences by taking up a daily cross to your own wills and affections; because it [the Light] is contrary thereunto [to your own wills and affections]; and what leads to obey these [your own will and affections], leads to disobey the Light; what leads to obey the Light, crosses the lusts and vile affections, which are at enmity with the Light and must by it be judged and condemned; and that which leads you to slight it, is also an enemy to it, and must be judged by it. So as the Light comes to rule over these things in you, which are enemies to it, you will know that it will lead you contrary to your corrupt nature; for that which is natural leads according to nature, but that which is spiritual, leads according to the Spirit, which the Apostle said, is to contrary to the flesh, and wars against it.
Thus that objection will, by your obeying the Light, come to be answered, far better than words and arguments could have answered it; you will come to feel the sufficiency of the Light, if you do not oppose it, but give up to be guided by it; and you will know that it is able to deliver you when you are tempted, as well as to judge you when you have yielded to the tempter: for you know already, that it is able to condemn you when you sin against it; but you can not certainly know it sufficient to give peace, and to justify, till you obey it.
So then, the plain pathway to the answering your doubts about the inward principle of truth is: by obeying it and yielding to it; for they that do evil grow into hatred against it, and it judges them; as they refuse to obey the Light, so the Light will refuse to justify them; thus coming justly under the condemnation of it, by reason of transgression, they grow afraid of it. But alas! this does but prove that it is sent of God, for it does God's work which is righteous; For to justify the wicked, and to condemn the righteous, both these are an abomination to the Lord; and so is it with his witness in your own conscience, which God has placed there to bear witness for him, concerning all your actions, whether they be good or evil; and you yourself, whoever you are, whether high or low, rich or poor, professor or profane, shall confess unto this: That this has never condemned you for that which was good, nor born witness against you for that you were not guilty of.
All you, therefore, that have been hurried and tossed with doubts and questionings about the truth, come, hearken to the counsel of God at this time once more sounded forth unto you from his Spirit by a servant of his without you, and answered by the measure of his good Spirit within you, which has the same voice and cry in you, for obedience to what is made manifest of God in you; obey the Light, and you shall see daily more of it, till it breaks forth as a morning unto you, and till it shines unto a perfect day; yes, a day of gladness and rejoicing to your poor distressed souls.
Arise, Oh! you that sit in sorrow, and you that are crying out in secret because of the bonds and fetters that are yet upon you! Arise, arise, I say, in the name of the Lord God of Zion, who draws near to you by his quickening Spirit, and hearken to his voice, who says to the prisoner, Come forth; and to the bowed down, arise; and to the feeble ones: put on strength and follow me; I will confound your foes, and break the strength of your enemies, as I have done for my people, who have forsaken all to follow me and obey me, so will I do for you. — and if you in uprightness walk before me, and keep my covenant, as they have done, no power or strength of the enemy, within or without, shall be too hard for you.
When the Lord does thus arise in your souls, and stir up his own pure witness, and his arm awakens in you, and his pure Light breaks forth; oh! what consolation is it to you, and how have many of you seen your vain doubts dispelled, and a clear conviction has prevailed in your spirits concerning the way of God! At such a time you have begun to resolve to follow the Lord in his pure way of holiness, thus opened unto you in the Light, though to the loss of all, and to the bearing your part of the great reproach that lies upon them that love him more than their lives. At such a time there was felt a secret joy in your souls, and the seed of the kingdom that has been long buried, began to spring up in you, in which seed your souls felt some touches of that heavenly life and joy, which exceed all things that this world could afford.*
Whenever, therefore, you come to feel this refreshing dew upon your souls, then take heed and wait singly in the sense of it, keep your eye to the joy that is now set before you in Christ Jesus, the Seed; for if you let your minds wander, there are objects on every hand to lead you from your soul's beloved, to defile your hearts, and make you an unfit place of residence for Him who is holy and pure, and will not dwell, or take delight, in a polluted temple; but will withdraw himself, as he did from Israel of old, and their temple, when it was polluted and profaned.
For when your minds are taken hold of by any of the corruptible things in this changeable world, there will presently kindle a desiring, longing, and lusting after the enjoyment of these things, though contrary to the will of God; then the reasoner and consulter gets up in you and starts a question: May not I enjoy the Lord and this? May not I keep-in the way of truth, and yet do this or that thing which my heart desires? And though it is not perfectly according to the truth made manifest in me, yet I will have my will, my desire satisfied, but this one time; and that is not much, says the consulter; and this is but a small matter; there are others that do greater things than this.
These, and such like reasonings entering the mind, grieve and vex that good and righteous tender Spirit that moved in you, and bring a weight and oppression upon the pure seed in you, and that withdraws itself again from you, in which your light did arise, and so a night comes upon you; for where the serpent can bring any to make a question of obeying the truth, he is as ready to frame such answer, as to create a question; but his answer always comes with a liberty and persuasion to disobey, as it did to Eve in the beginning; and when transgression is finished, then death enters upon you, with its dark power, and manifold sorrows pierce your poor soul; though the fruit was desirable to be eaten, yet now that it is eaten, you cannot partake of life too, though you desire it; but are driven, and kept out, with a flaming sword, that turns every way against you.
Here now is a ground laid for doubts and questionings of a higher nature than before; for before you doubted of the truth itself, whether it was the truth, but now, having tasted of it, and received a convincing of it, (and yet let forth your mind from it after other lovers, and your ears after the voice of the adulteress, have caused the pure Light to withdraw from you through your rebellion. Now you desire you might but see again what you have seen, and feel again what you have felt, but doubting and fearing that you shall never see, feel, or enjoy the like again, you wish, “O that I had stood in the cross to my own will, and that I had denied myself, that I might not thus have lost the sight and sense of my soul's beloved!”
Now you see by woeful experience where doubts and fears and sorrows do arise, even by joining with the enemy, who brings forth reasons against obedience to the Light. Now, therefore, hearken to that which remains in you, though darkness and sorrow encompass you, yet there is something remains which gives you a sense of your state and condition, and makes you to know your loss and want; hear the voice of this, and it will humble you, and bring you into true brokenness of heart, and contriteness of spirit; and as you come to know that state, then you have something to offer to the Lord of his own preparing, which will be far more acceptable to him than a multitude of words and performances and duties (so called); and as you, in true lowliness of mind, do come before the Lord, and offer up this offering, God will hear in heaven and will answer the cry of your poor and needy soul, which cannot be satisfied without his presence; and for his seed's sake, which is not yet brought forth in you, he will remember his mercies of old, which never fail. And because of the transgression you have gone into, when God does again shine forth unto you, and make his power known, you must expect it will be in judgment, that He may consume that in you which led you into sin, from his pure law, which is Light; for Zion is redeemed by judgment.
Take heed therefore lest you are offended at his appearance; take heed that you limit not the Holy One; for if his appearance is with more sharpness and bitterness to the carnal part than before, it is but just it should be so; it is the Lord, let him do what seems him good. He sees more cause now than before, by how much more you have sinned against his goodness. Bow, therefore, to his judgments, bear his indignation, because you have sinned against him. Micah 7:9. As you yield to his righteous judgments, you will know a coming to the midst of them, in which the mercy is remembered and made manifest. For the hasty and impatient, who flee the judgment as soon as it begins a little to appear in them, never find true deliverance, but get ease another way, which lasts but for a moment; but those who experience the work completely effected in their earthly minds, and the floor of their hearts thoroughly purged, come to know true and lasting peace to their immortal souls.
Although this is not obtained by ease and liberty to the carnal mind, which must die, yet the end crowns all who hold out to it; these are the saved ones, as Christ said, Mark 13:13. These experience the truth of the words of the Psalmist, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goes forth and weeps bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." And witness the fulfillment of the promise of Christ, "There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time—and in the world to come, eternal life."— Forsaking and self-denial, has always been the way to life, and to true blessedness, and continues to be the way unto this day.
All you, therefore, who have wandered in your own ways, and have not yet learned to deny yourselves of what is contrary to the witness of God in your consciences, but have desires, still to keep and hold what the Light in you reproves, and yet desire life and peace; and thus are in many doubts and straits about these things; to you all, this is the counsel of the Lord, and the cry of his pure Spirit: Come out of the Babylonian confusion of your own thoughts, and touch not that which is unclean, and the Lord will receive you. And what God by his pure Spirit has called unclean, let no man presume to call clean, and join to it, lest he be found fighting against God, and nourishing and keeping alive what God has appointed to die and to be destroyed.
You cannot serve two masters, or partake of the table of the Lord, and the table of devils. Oh ! feed not that birth that hungers after evil things, and delights in them; but what is for famine, let it be famished; and what is for the sword, let the two-edged sword, that goes out of the mouth of the faithful and true Witness, cut it down. Rev 1:16, 3:14. So you may see the giants in the land slain before you, by one that is mighty to deliver, and to bring you out of this spiritual Egypt with a high hand; but this you cannot come to witness except by diligently following Him; and if you willingly yield to his gentle drawings, when you feel them in your heart, you will find them to be effectual and profitable to your soul; and the more you follow Him, the more you will feel his goodness break in upon you for your encouragement, and the less you wait in doubt of his love and mercy in leading you still farther, even unto the end, and unto that rest which will satisfy your soul.
Lay aside, therefore, all consultations that are against your obedience to the gift of God in your heart, which reproves sin in you; and give not way to vain and needless doubts about it, but as you find that you have been condemned and judged in disobeying it, now try and prove whether by taking up your daily cross, and obeying it in your words and actions, and in all things, you do not find the answer of sweet peace and joy; and when you shall find it so, then will there be no more room for doubts and questionings against your obeying it: but as any questions or doubts do arise in you, you will feel the answer thereto in yourself to your refreshing, and so you will come to witness the effectual operation of it daily in your soul, to work your change and translation out of yourself into its own nature, and so you will come not only to know the Light in you, (for [knowing only] that, one may do and perish, for this is the condemnation that Light is come, and not loved), but you will know that you are in the Light, and walk there with God, and in the holy fellowship, where you feel the Lord near you in his Light, and his reward is with Him. Thus coming to walk and dwell in the Light, your conversation will be in heaven, as that of the saints of old was, and like them, you will witness your unity to be with the Father and the Son, agreeably to the declaration of John, "Truly our fellowship it with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, (which all sinners do, for sin is the work of it), we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the Light, as he is in the Light, me have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin."
Now those who feel this work wrought in them, are brought into such a knowledge of the blood of Christ, that they need not doubt about it, nor have they occasion to raise a question, where it is, or what it is, nor what the efficacy of it is; for having the work and witness of his blood in them, this resolves all doubts that would arise; and thus those also that come to know the Light in all things to be their guide, to lead out of darkness, sin, and imperfections, and to bring into the innocent and blameless conversation which become saints, and thus come to know their footsteps directed before the Lord, these no longer doubt and question about perfection; for such see that which is perfect to have come, and from the belief which they have of attaining it, are laboring to conform themselves unto that rule, and, endeavoring after it, so run that they may attain, and have the true hope in them, which they that have, are purifying themselves as He is pure, who is their hope; as John said, he that has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as He is pure, that so, even as He was in this present world, so they may be also. Here then the substance will come, cause the shadow to flee, and answer all your doubts and questions far beyond what arguments can do.
As you come to be faithful in the daily cross, which does slay and crucify that nature in you which has resisted the truth, and held the Seed in bondage; as that comes to die, and to be buried by baptism into Christ's death, you will feel the pure Seed to spring up in you, and you will be made a partaker of the new life, and the true resurrection which is Christ; and all that are in Him are in the resurrection, and in the life; for He said, I am the resurrection and the life, he that believes on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and this living to God, in the spirit of his Son, is the first resurrection, and every one of them who witness it, the second death has no power.
As you feel your part in this resurrection, all the doubts and fears of your own condition will be answered effectually, which cannot otherwise be answered except by that good Spirit of God that strives with you; which, when it prevails with you, and you are come subject to it, then it witnesses for you. For that there is a state in which there is a danger of falling away, your daily experience teaches you to your sorrow; and besides Christ said, every branch in me that does not bear fruit must be cut off; and the many examples in Scripture of them that departed from the faith and made shipwreck of it, and turned with the dog to the vomit, and the sow to the mire, sufficiently prove it; and if you do stand, it is by faith, and you must take heed, so that you may come to the crown, and seal, and assurance, and an establishment in the kingdom, where you shall no more go out, but you shall have your soul's desire answered.
When you come to know this state, and to receive this white stone that has the name within, you will then be, without doubt or fear, given up in the will of God, to do and to suffer all things according to his blessed will. Here is the true and perfect rest to your soul, whoever you are, that are now laboring in the iron furnace of your own thoughts and doubts, and the more you give yourself up to them, the darker you are, and the fuller of doubts; for they will beget and multiply one another; and the more you reason against obeying God's witness in your heart, the less able you are to obey it; but the little strength which God gives you, you consult it away [with your doubt and thoughts]. Then when you would be strong, you have become feeble; and when you would in some measure obey, your own consultation stands in the way and hinders you; the more you increase in knowledge in this state, the more you increase your sorrow and condemnation; so that sometimes you are ready to wish, you had never known so much of truth, and sometimes wish, you knew more concerning such a point, or such a doctrine, or such a scripture, or such a mystery, and are apt to think, because you are yet ignorant in some things relating to truth, therefore you are the more excusable if you are disobedient.
But alas! poor soul, consider, the way to know more is to be obedient to the little which you have received, and then that mist and fog of your own unfaithfulness will vanish away before the eye of your mind; for it is that which hinders good things from you, makes you go daily with a burden upon your shoulders, and a guilt upon your conscience, and you cannot, in any case of your necessities, come before the Lord with an open face, but are covered still with your own iniquities; in this state you know neither sabbath, new moon, or holy day to the Lord; but all is labor, toil, travail, and wearisomeness of spirit, till many even come to wish an end of their days, and yet fear that the end will be worse.
Oh! how my soul pities you whose state this is; I have a great sympathy with your sorrows, and in bowels of tender love I am drawn forth to reach out a hand to help you, as one that has obtained mercy to know deliverance, to witness the way of it, and have the testimony of God in my heart, to testify of the coming of the Saviour, to the poor and needy souls, to relieve and comfort them. My soul's desire is that your bonds might be broken, and your souls might escape; but this I say in the name of the Lord to you all: there is no way for your deliverance, but your giving up in single obedience to that faithful and true witness of God, which stirs and moves in you against your sins; and therefore, wait to feel your mind and will subjected thereunto, that you may feel yourself to be one of those willing people in the day of God's power. Cease from your reasonings against obeying the truth, and from saying, you cannot [because] you lack power, and when God gives you grace, then you will obey; for these sayings are in vain.
For though it is true, none can obey the Lord except by his grace and power given unto them, yet He has made his grace, even that which brings salvation to appear unto ALL; men, as in Titus 2:11; and it has appeared in you, to whom I write, and is a reprover in you. You must turn to that which smites you; then you turn to the grace of God; for it is his grace that strives with you, to lead you out of the evil that it reproves in you, and thus out of the world that lies in the evil, up to God from where the grace comes. For whosoever give up to the drawings of the good Spirit of God, that moves in them, and in obedience thereto, deny themselves of their own wills, evil desires and pleasures; such do not lack power, but feel Him near them, who works the willingness [to repent] first, then the deed [actual repentance] according to his pleasure; thus the glory comes alone to be his.
Now you know the mystery of the cross, and how it is the power of God, for lack of which all that reject the cross complain. So long therefore as you live in the cross, you live in the power, your obedience is easy, and all things are possible to you, through it; and as long as you are daily dying to that which is corruptible, you feel the more life, joy, and pleasure in that which is everlasting; your desires grow more and more fervent after a full and perfect enjoyment of it, in the pure unity of the Spirit. Those good desires growing stronger in you, it becomes a lighter thing to you to part with that which hinders, though it be your heart's sins, your Delilahs and darlings; all must go for the love you have of truth. Only those who have this love, and continue in it, are counted worthy to be heirs of the kingdom of God.
And therefore think it not strange to be brought through manifold trials, that thereby you may be purged and prepared as a bride for the true husband, Christ Jesus; for there are many that desire acquaintance with Him, but are not fitted for Him; they must be washed, and put off the vile raiment first, and come to know the white linen put on; while this work is doing, what need there is of patience and quietness of spirit! what need of subjection to the workings of that Holy Spirit in all things! that you may not be setting bounds to that which must limit you in all things; nor say in your heart, if my trials were but so, or my exercises so or so, I could then bear them; but rather submit in all things, willingly to do and suffer, to be tried and exercised, even as it pleases the Lord to order, or suffer you to be tried. In all his dealings say, It is the Lord, let Him do what seems to Him good. Whosoever thus gives up to Him, though He wound them, yet He will heal them again; though He slay them, yet shall they live.
Learn, therefore, patience and stillness of mind for by taking thought you can add nothing in this work. Remember Israel of old, who were commanded to Stand still to see the salvation of God in their greatest straits; and they were a figure unto you. Now in the Light, read your figure, and wait for the substance, the true Seed, that it may bring forth peace and rest to your immortal soul, and set up righteousness in your heart, which is what I travail after, on the behalf of all distressed and afflicted souls, every where, to whom I am a friend and well-wisher, as one knowing their trials, straits, doubts, and afflictions.
Through the rich love of God in Christ Jesus, I testify of the delivering, answering, and satisfying life, made manifest and revealed in its own eternal Light, which lights every man, and in true desire that you may all know the same, in discharge of my duty towards God and my generation, have I sent forth this word of counsel and exhortation, and remain in my rest with the Lord, being thus far clear of the blood of all men, whether they bear or forbear; and though in bonds for the gospel's sake, yet [I am] the Lord's freeman, waiting in patience and full assurance for Zion's full redemption.
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