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Jesus Christ is the Head. But, before any can come to be true members of that body, they must witness the fiery baptism of the Holy Ghost, to initiate them into this true Church.”
In the book of Christian advices, published by the Yearly Meeting held in Philadelphia, they say:
“ The more we experience a preparation of heart for the exercise of our respective gifts, the more amply shall we evince the expression of the tongue to be seasoned with that living virtue and divine power, which proceeds from our Holy Head, and thus, in conducting the important concerns of society, we shall be enabled to example the beloved youth in a manner which will evidence to them that neither tradition nor mere outward education can fitly prepare them for successors in the Church. Upon this subject we are the more solicitous, as we believe many who were evidently under the forming hand, have been suddenly laid hold of, and introduced into service, before that preparation of heart hath been sufficiently experienced, which leads to a reliance upon
divine direction, and redeems from a confidence in the natural understanding : on the other hand, we believe, there has in many places been a want of care in those who are acceptably active in the discipline, rightly to distinguish, and seasonably to bring into action, the talents bestowed upon some in the early stage of life; it being truly desirable, that by a just discrimination of times and seasons, and of the qualifications bestowed, every gift may be rightly exercised, and a succession of useful members preserved in every rank in the Church.”
“Let an enquiry be raised in the minds of all the members of the Church, who have had any part of the Lord's work upon them, how they have acquitted themselves in his sight, forasmuch as a day comes on apace, in which an account of our stewardship will be required at our hands.
“ If this awful sense of rendering an account of our trust, and the importance of being clear from the blood of each other, were enough impressed upon all minds, the right exercise of our Christian discipline would be a means of our edification in righteousness, and preservation from many evils of the world.
“ We are concerned that the management of our Christian discipline be not committed to hands unclean, particularly of such who allow, or connive at, undue liberties in their own children or families. If a man, said the apostle, know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God."
The way of the enemy's working in order to rend and di
vide and draw from the truth, and into a disbelief of it, and a libertine and disorderly conduct—And the views of the primitive Christians, and of Friends, on the power of the Church to disunite from membership with it, such as walk disorderly.
William Penn says, “From the deep sense that I have of the working of the enemy of Zion's peace, to rend and divide the heritage of God, who under the pretence of crying down man, forms and prescriptions, is crying down the heavenly Man Christ Jesus, his blessed order and government, which he hath brought forth by his own revelation and power through his faithful witnesses : this I further testify, first, that the enemy by these fair pretences strikes at the godly care and travail that dwells upon the spirits of many faithful brethren, that all things might be preserved sweet, virtuous, comely and of good report in the Church of God,” &c. He further adds, “I warn all that they take heed of a slighting and obstinate mind, and that they have a care how they give way to the outcry of some, falsely entitled, Liberty of conscience against imposition, &c.
Robert Barclay, in his excellent treatise on Church government, makes the following observations, viz.
“ Now the ground of all schisms, divisions or rents in the body is, when as any member assumes another place than is allotted it; or being gone from the life and unity of the body, and losing the sense of it, lets in the murmurer, the
eye that watches for evil, and not in holy care over its fellow members ; and then, instead of coming down to judgment in itself, will stand up, and judge its fellow members ; yea, the whole body, or those whom God has set in a more honourable and eminent place in the body than
itself. Such suffer not the word of exhortation; and term the reproofs of instruction, which is the way of life, imposition and oppression, and are not aware how far they are in the things they condemn others for ; while they spare not to reprove and revile all their fellow members; yet if they be but admonished themselves, they cry out as if their great charter of gospel liberty were broken.
“ And some not abiding in subjection to the truth in themselves, were not contented with that place and station in the body, which God had placed them in; but became vainly puffed up
in their fleshly minds, intruding into those things which they had not seen ; and would needs be innovators, given to change, and introducing new doctrines and practices, not only differing, but contrary to what was already delivered in the beginning; making parties, causing divisions and rents, stumbling the weak, and denying, despising and reviling the apostles and messengers of Christ, the elders of the church, who loved not their lives unto death, but through much care, and travel, and watchings, and whippings and bonds, and beatings, in daily jeopardy, gathered us by the mighty power of God into the most precious truth.'
“ Such, who being departed from their first love and ancient zeal for the truth, become cold and lukewarm ; and yet are ashamed to make open apostacy, and to turn back again, so as to deny all the principles of truth, they having had already such evidence of clearness upon their understanding ; yet not keeping low in their own habitations, but being puffed up, and giving way to the restless imaginations of their exalted and wandering minds, fall out with their brethren ; cause divisions ; begin to find fault with every thing, and to look at others more than at themselves; with swelling words to talk of, and preach up a higher dispensation, while they are far from living up to the life and perfection of this present; like unto such who said, we will not have this man to rule over us : cry out of formality and apostacy, because they are not followed in all things ; and if they be reproved for their unruliness, according to the good order of the Church of Christ, then they cry out, Breach of liberty, oppression, persecution; we will have none of your order and government; we are taught to follow the light in our consciences, and not the orders of men.
“ Now I say, we being gathered together into the belief of certain principles and doctrines, without any constraint or worldly respect, but by the mere force of truth
upon our understanding, and its power and influence upon our hearts ; these principles and doctrines, and the practices necessarily depending upon them are, as it were, the terms that have drawn us together, and the bond* by which we became centred into one body and fellowship, and distinguished from others. Now if any one, or more, so engaged with us, should arise to teach any other doctrine or doctrines, contrary to these which were the ground of our being one; who can deny, but the body hath power in such a case to declare, This is not according to the truth we profess; and therefore we pronounce such and such doctrines to be wrong, with which we cannot have unity, nor yet any more spiritual fellowship with those that hold them ? And so such cut themselves off from being members, by dissolving the very bond by which they were linked to the body. Now this cannot be accounted tyranny and oppression, no more than in a civil society, if one of the society shall contradict one or more of the fundamental articles, upon which the society was contracted, it cannot be reckoned a breach or iniquity in the whole society to declare, that such contradictors have done wrong, and forfeited their right in that society ; in case, by the original constitution, the nature of the contradiction implies such a forfeiture, as usually it is; and will no doubt hold in religious matters. As if a body be gathered into one fellowship, by the belief of certain principles, he that comes to believe otherwise, naturally scattereth himself; for that the cause, that gathered him, is taken away: and so those that abide
* Yet this is not so the bond, but that we have also a more inward and invisible, to wit, the life of righteousness, whereby we also have unity with the upright seed in all, even in those, whose understand.
are not yet so enlightened. But to those who are once enlightened, this is an outward bond; and if they suffer themselves to be darkened through disobedience, which as it does in the outward bond, so it doth in the inward.
constant in declaring the thing to be so as it is, and in look. ing upon him, and witnessing of him to others (if need be) to be such, as he has made himself, do him no injury. Í shall make the supposition in general, and let every people make the application to themselves, abstracting from us; and then let conscience and reason in every impartial reader declare, whether or not it doth hold ? Suppose a people really gathered unto the belief of the true and certain principles of the gospel, if any of these people shall arise and contradict any of those fundamental truths, whether have not such as stand, good right to cast such an one out from among them, and to pronounce, positively, this is contrary to the truth we profess and own; and therefore ought to be rejected, and not received, nor yet he that asserts it as one of us ? And is not this obligatory upon all the members, seeing all are concerned in the like care as to themselves, to hold the right and shut out the wrong? I cannot tell, if any man of reason can well deny this : however, I shall prove it next from the testimony of the scripture.”
Gal. 1. 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. i Tim. 1. 19, 20. Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenæus and
Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
2 John 10. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him rejoice.
" These Scriptures are so clear and plain in themselves, as to this purpose, that they need no great exposition to the unbiassed and unprejudicate reader. For seeing it is so, that in the true church there may men arise, and speak perverse things, contrary to the doctrine and gospel ALREADY RECEIVED ; what is to be the place of those that hold the pure and ancient truth? must they look upon
perverse men still as their brethren ? must they cherish them as fellow