Now that which they preach to is men's consciences in the sight of God. They open the truth which they know ; they give their testimony in the moving, leading, and power of the Spirit, and leave it to the same Spirit to demonstrate it to men's consciences as it pleaseth. They are nothing, they can do nothing, they cannot convert any man to God; but the power that speaketh by them, the same power worketh in other men's consciences at its pleasure. And here is the beginning of the government of Christ in the heart; when his truth carries conviction with it to the conscience, and the conscience is drawn to yield itself up to him, then he lays his yoke upon it, and takes upon him the guiding of it; he cherisheth it, he cleanseth it, he comforteth it, he ordereth it at his pleasure; and he alone preserveth it pure, chaste, gentle, meek, and pliable to the impressions of his Spirit. And as the conscience is kept single and tender to Christ, so his government increases therein ; but as it becomes hard, or subject to men's wills, so another spirit gets dominion over it.
Therefore the great work of the minister of Christ is to keep the conscience open to Christ, and to preserve men from receiving any truths of Christ as from them further than the Spirit opens ; or to imitate any of their practices further than the Spirit leads, guides, and persuades them. For persons are exceeding prone to receive things as truths from those whom they have a high opinion of, and to imitate their practices, and so hurt their own growth, and endanger their souls. For if I receive a truth before the Lord by his Spirit make it manifest to me, I lose my guide, and follow but the counsel of the flesh, which is exceeding greedy of receiving truths, and running into religious practices, without the Spirit. Therefore the main thing in religion is to keep the conscience pure to the Lord, to know the guide, to follow the guide, to receive from him the light whereby I am to walk; and not to take things for truths because others say them to be truths; but to wait till the Spirit make them manifest to me ; nor to run into worships, du ties, performances, or practices, because others are led thither; but to wait till the Spirit lead me thither. "He that makes haste to be rich" (even in religion, running into knowledge, and into worships and performances, before he feel a true and clear guidance) "shall not be innocent: " nor the Lord will not hold him guiltless, when he comes to visit for spiritual adultery and idolatry. The apostles were exceeding tender in this point:. for though they certainly and infallibly knew what was to be believed; yet they were not lords over men's faith, but waited till he who is lord of the faith, would open the way into men's consciences. They did not take upon them to be able to turn the key, to let in truth and conviction into men's spirits (as men in these days have been too apt to undertake) ; but directed them to him who had the key, there to wait for the conviction and illumination of their minds, and so to receive in, as they found him give forth to them. pg. 460,461
Use of Conscience
Source: The Works of Isaac Penington: A Minister of the Gospel in the Society of Friends : Including His Collected Letters, Volume 1
1. I, with many thousands more in this onr age, day, and generation, have cause to admire, bless, praise, and magnify the name of the Lord God of heaven and earth, in that he hath so largely manifested himself in the hearts of male and female, to the tendering their hearts, and enlightening their understandings; and to the gathering them out of the empty professions, and by-ways, and crooked paths of this world, and to the purifying and sanctifying their hearts by his powerful word; and giving them a good understanding in the knowledge of himself, and the deep mysteries of his heavenly kingdom; and enabling many of them, in the openings and motion of the same life and power, to speak and write, to the answering unto the witness of God in many, and for the joy, comfort, and establishment of others. I can truly say, dear Isaac Penington was one of that num ber; for after full seven years travail and deep exercise of mind among the empty professions, and that God had showed me mercy in drawing a little nearer to me, and shining by his glorious light into my conscience, whereby I came to see the formality of professors, and the emptiness of all forms and professions that stood in man's will, and the vile- ness of my own heart, and the necessity of being saved and sanctified; and that there was no other way, but 'through and by the light of Christ Jesus, that had wrought thus powerfully to convince me; then did some of this good man's writings come to my view, which answered to the light, life, and truth, which was raised of the Yjord in my heart, as face answers face in a glass; I can truly nay, to my joy and comfort and consolation and establishment in the truth. pg. 23
2. Nay, further; such was the great kindness the Lord showed to me in that hour, that my spirit ascended with him in that very moment that his spirit left his body; and I saw him safe in his own mansion, and rejoiced with him, and was at that instant gladder of it, than ever I was of enjoying him in the body. And from this sight my spirit returned again to perform my duty to his outward tabernacle, to the answer of a good conscience. pg. 29
3. And indeed, when I came, I felt the presence and power of the Most High among them, and words of truth from the Spirit of truth reaching to my heart and conscience, opening my state as in the presence of the Lord. Yea, I did not only feel words and demonstrations from without, but I felt the dead quickened, the seed raised; insomuch that my heart (in the certainty of light, and clear ness of true sense) said, This is he, this is he, there is no other: this is he whom I have waited for and sought after from my childhood; who was always near me, and had often begotten life in my heart ; but I knew him not distinctly, nor how to receive him, or dwell with him. And then in this sense (in the melting and breakings of my spirit) was I given up to the Lord, to become his, both in waiting for the further revealing of his seed in me, and to serve him in the life and power of his seed. pg. 37
4. The faith which gives victory over the world ; the faith which feeds the life of the just, and slays the unjust; the faith which is pure, the mystery whereof is held in a pure conscience; the faith which gives entrance into the rest of God; the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; this hath been lost, and is not yet to be found among those who go for Christians. For those who challenge the name of Christians, and say they believe in Christ, and have faith in him, cannot with their faith overcome the world; but are daily overcome by the world. Where is there a Christian, but he is either in the honors, or in the fashions, or in the customs, or in the worships of the world, if not in them all? He is so far from overcoming these, that he is overcome with them; yea, so overcome, so drunk therewith, that he hath even lost his senses, and thinks he may be a Christian, and in a good state while he is there. And the life of the just is not fed by their faith, but the unjust nature is fed, and the righteous witness, which is raised up and lives by the true faith, is kept down, and cannot bring forth his life in them, because of their unbelief; for that is the proper name of their faith; for being not true faith, it is not faith, but unbelief. And the faith of Christians (so called) is not a mystery (they know not the mystery of it, which is held in a pure conscience), but consists in believing an historical relation, and in a fleshly improving of that, and can be held in an impure conscience. Neither are they entered into rest by their faith; for they know not the sabbath in the Lord, but are still in a shadowy sabbath. pgs. 72,73
Neither did they make use of their own wisdom and art to tickle the natural ear; but spoke to the conscience, with the demonstration of the Spirit in the sight of God, as it pleased the Spirit to give them utterance.
6. That whereby the Spirit of God convinceth of sin, is his light shining in the conscience. pg 103
7. That this light convincing of sin, shineth in every conscience. pg. 104
8. The true way to life eternal, is by believing in the light of the Spirit, which shineth in the conscience. pg. 105
9 That believing in the light of the Spirit, which shines in the conscience, unites the soul to God, and opens the springs of life to it. pg. 106
10. Therefore consider your condition in the fear of the Lord; and if you feel not yourselves able to fight it out, make your peace he- times, and let your greatest crowns (your choicest wisdom and strength in the flesh) be laid down at the feet of Christ, at the lowest appearance of his light in the conscience. Let not the least check of his Spirit be slighted there; but es teemed above the highest notions of light that ye have gath ered in, or can gather with your fleshly understandings. pg. 108
11. In some PROPOSITIONS concerning the ONLY WAY OF SALVATION ; where is an ANSWER given to that great OBJECTION, that the Light which convinceth of Sin, is the Light of a natural Conscience ; and a brief Account rendered of the Ground of Men's understanding Scriptures. pg. 145
12. Object. But I may be deceived in hearkening to a light within; for while I think that I therein hearken to the light of the Spirit, it may prove but the light of a natural conscience.
Ans. 1. If it should be but the light of a natural conscience, and it draw thee from sin, which separates from God, and so prepare thee for the understanding, believing, and receiving what the scripture saith of Christ; this is no very bad deceit: but if, in the result, it should prove to have been the light of the spirit, and, thou all thy life-time, hast taken it for the light of a natural conscience (and so hast despised, or at least neglected, if not reproached it), thou wilt then find that this was a very bad deceit.
2. I can show thee by express scripture, that it is the work of the spirit to convince of sin. John xvi. 8. And again, that the law, which is spiritual, manifesteth that which is corrupt and carnal. Rom. vii. 14. But where canst thou show me from scripture, that a natural conscience can convince of sin? pg. 158
13. Man, by nature, is dead in trespasses and sins ; quite dead, and his conscience wholly dark. That which giveth him the sense of his death, and of his darkness, must be another thing than his nature, even the light of the spirit of Christ, shining in his dark heart and conscience. It is the seed of the woman which not only destroys, but also discovers, all the deeds of the serpent. pg. 160
14. … changed, and yet remainest still the same in nature: and hast had a name that thou hast lived, but art still dead; a name of being sanctified, but still unclean; a name of being justified, hut still condemned by the light in thine own conscience ; which is one with him who is thy judge, and who will judge according to it: and so, as that which is real taketh place in thee, so that which hath been but imaginary will pass away. pg. 167
Quest. What is that darkness wherein the light shines?
Ans. Man: man's heart, man's conscience, man's spirit. This is the world, which Christ, the Sun of righteousness, is the light of, in every part whereof he causeth the rays or beams of his light to shine at his pleasure; though in no part the darkness can comprehend the least shining of his light. pg. 172
16. Mind therefore this my single-hearted advice : Let thy religion be to feel the pure principle of life in the pure vessel of life ; for the eye must be pure that sees the life, and the heart that receives it. And faith is a pure mystery, and it is only held in a pure conscience. Know that in thee that purifies thee, and then thou knowest Christ, and the Father, and the Spirit and as that lives and grows up in thee, so shalt thou know their dwelling-place, and partake of their life and fulness.
Then should I wish, Oh that I might appear before his throne ! for surely my conscience is clear in his sight, and I have not wickedly departed from my God, but was broken in pieces by his hand, even while my soul was earnestly seeking after him. pg. 186
18. Then as for all the abominations of the earth, all the filth that defiles the heart, it is to be found on the skirts of the whore, even in her most refined dress: for her religion, her worship, her profession, her practices, do not reach to the purifying of the conscience, but only to paint over the old sepulehre, where rottenness lodgeth within. The sore was never thoroughly searched ; the heart was never thoroughly circumcised or baptized ; the old man was never put off, or the new man put on; the blood of purifying (which truly washeth away the sin) was ncver felt in its virtue and power,
19. Look on the several sorts of Protestants; they have their riches in their kind too; their churches, their buildings, their arts, their sciences, their languages, their bodies of divinity, their cases of con science, &c. pg 215
… for that which God works upon is the conscience, which he convinceth by the light of his spirit; and no other light can truly convince it. pg. 219
21. The work of the minister of Christ is to keep the conscience tender, that the voice of Christ may be heard, and the law of his spirit of life (which makes obedient to the God of life) spring up there : but this is the image, here is the way, bow, conform, say the ministers of antichrist. But we are not convinced in the sight of God that this is the way, say poor souls. It is your own fault ; ye may be convinced if ye will, say the ministers of antichrist; we are ready to give you arguments and scriptures to convince you ; how is it ye are not convinced? Ye must be convinced, otherwise the magistrate must deal with you. Thus they endeavor to harden the conscience, that they may sit upon it and ride it, and terrify it from its subjection to its only true and lawful king. Oh, the havoc that hath been made of souls by this means ! the Lord is requiring it of this generation. pgs. 219,220
22. Therefore break the yokes, and take off the burdens, and let there be no new snares laid; but leave the conscience (where the .Lord chooseth to appear, and which he delights to draw out of the world to himself) free to the Lord. pg. 244
23. Though the cry hath long been, Hurt not the tender conscience; it is that on which God works, and wherein he chooscth to appear, and with which he is pleased, and pities. Many promises have been, touching liberty of conscience; yet still the meek of the earth, the innocent lambs of Christ (those that are faithful to the light of God in their consciences) are persecuted and suffer. pg. 251
24. And to this day, the Lord can bring forth no birth of his Spirit, but the zealous professor hates, reviles, and seeks to destroy it. If the Lord lay any law upon the conscience, if it be not suit able to their apprehensions from the letter, how do they reproach, disdain, revile, and endeavor to render such odious to the magistrates, and to the people ! pg. 256
25. Now was it likely that ever men should mind what they said, or observe their doctrine, when he had thus represented them "as oppressors of the conscience," pg. 270
26. But it is antichrist's way, by the magistrates' power, to force an agreement about the out ward, which destroys that tenderness of conscience which preserves the inward. pg. 279
27. The Lord hath risen to remove the yoke from the oppressed, that he might cause the powers of this nation to let the op pressed conscience go free ; but the nation would have them bound. pg. 355
" THE day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety ; then sudden de struction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape." 1 Thes. v. 2, 3. And when the Lord cometh, woe to him who is found beating his fellow-servant, and endeavoring to force the conscience (which God hath made tender and pliable to the voice of his spirit) from its obedience and subjection thereto. pg.367
29. Thus still they whose arguments go forth under the shelter, or by the command of, the pres ent authority, are looked upon as most weighty; and the others' cause is trampled upon, though ever so just, inno cent, upright, and weighty in itself; and the meek of the earth, the humble-hearted, the tender-conseienced towards God, are still made the offenders and sufferers: and their enemies are still made their judges. I do think these of New England would have once thought it hard measure, that Conformists, whom they differed from, should have been the judges, whether their grounds were sufficient or not; and yet they (ever since they have had the power in their hands) have taken upon them to be the judges of the sufficiency of the grounds of such as differ from them, and have as freely condemned all that differed from them, and been as sore a curb upon the tender conscience, as ever the bishops were. So that it is plain, that which they sought was their own liberty (they did not like to be oppressed and enthralled contrary to their judgments), but not the liberty of the tender conscience towards God, but rather the yok ing and enthralling of it to their judgments and arguments and interpretations of scripture, which he that differs from, must be an offender with them, even as they were once ac counted offenders for differing from the Conformists; and so are all become transgressors of the law of God, in doing that to others, which they would not that others should do to them. pgs. 381,382
30. Now the magistrate's sword may hurt a friend, may affright the tender conscience from its duty towards Christ; but it cannot ijeach the falsehood which lodgeth in the heart, nor draw the party from that, but rather hardeneth him in it: so that it is not a duty to have the magistrate's sword drawn out against that for which it is not proper, where it may flo hurt, and not good. pg. 436
31. " That the dictate of the conscience is not a sufficient pica in case of mere and single ignorance, much less in wilful and affected ignorance." Ans. The dictate of conscience is not made a plea by us; but the answering and obeying the light of Christ in our consciences, is that which kecpeth them void of offence, both towards God and towards men. JTow it is one thing for a man to act evil, and plead it is his conscience; and it is another thing for a man to be guided by the infallible Light of the Spirit; or if he he not come so far, yet to be made tender in his heart towards Christ concerning his practices in religion. In this last case we say, that in things, whose good or evil chiefly depends upon the knowl edge and persuasion of the mind, which Christ alone can do, here Christ is the sole Lord and judge of the conscience, Rev. xiv. 4. and not either minister, church, or magistrate. Christ giveth knowledge, Christ increaseth knowledge, and Christ requireth obedience according to the knowledge given or increased. That is many times required to be left, upon a further degree of knowledge given, which was not required to be left before; and so also upon the same terms may things be required to be performed, which were not required to be done before. And this, indeed, is the very sum of the true religion (since the death of Christ, and his finishing of his work here), either to worship in the Spirit, or to wait for the Spirit. He who hath not received the Spirit, he is to wait for the Spirit. He who hath received the Spirit, he is to wait in the Spirit for the movings and outgoings thereof, and to be obedient thereto. And Chris tians are to take heed, not only of a wrong spirit, but also of quenching the movings of the true Spirit in themselves or others. If the erring mind hath mistaken about wor ship, and through its mistake set up a wrong way, the Spirit in the tender plants will be moving against it, which the wise, reasoning, fleshly part will be knocking down ; and so the birth, which is after the flesh, will be getting advantage of, persecuting, and keeping under the immortal seed. Now suppress evil to the utmost, but take heed of quenching the good in any; take heed how ye stop that in its course of discovering evil (in your worships, or otherwise) which easily passcth for good, until the Spirit begin to make it manifest. Ah! friends! if the earnal wisdom had been crucified in yon, and the spirit of God had had more scope in manifesting evil among you, what might ye have grown to ere this day ! Hut if the magistrate upon every doubt, or difference, or startling of the tender conscience, step in with his sword, how is the way of the breaking forth of truth stopped up! And that which is truly of God, and most tender towards him, is most liable to suffer this way. And this is that which makes the QVAKERS such a suffering people, because they have found the benefit of keeping the conscience tender towards God, and so prize it above all things; and this mercy have they received from the Lord, sensibly to distinguish (in this tenderness towards (-Jod, and in the fear of his name) between the dictates of conscience, and the voice of his spirit there. Now it is not at all pleaded by us, that under a pretence of conscience, ye should suffer all manner or any manner of evil: but first, Punish not </ond. forcfil: do not punish the good in others, to defend the evil in yourselves. Secondly, 'J'fmt irhid> is wat>(fffH>i c»v7, pnn>'j*l> it. h>/ iw>'k /i'W/.s- and IHCO.IU* ax (r»<l hull' >//>/w'///<v/ ; the spiritual by spiritual, the temporal by temporal; anil do uot make punishing of evil a pretence of persecuting good iu others, and of upholding the evil in yourselves. pgs. 443,444
32. So the case of Paul's appealing to C;csar doth not prove that Cii'sar was a proper judge in cases of conscience; but he wat», at that time, a proper defence against the malice of the Jews, who most unconscionably persecuted Paul, under a pretence of zeal for God, and defence of their church and ordinances. pg. 445
33. So then the magistrate's punishing of the QUAKERS is not regular hy any institution of Christ; but only by a law of their own making, as it is further explained, p. 9;>. of this Appendix; the grounds whereof have been already exam ined and found insufficient to warrant them therein; which I leave to themselves, and to every man's conscience, to consider of, in the dread of God, the judge of all. pg. 448
34. But this is the nature of the persecuting spirit; first it seeks a cover to stop the mouth of its own conscience, and to hide its blood-thirsty actions from the eye of the world; and then its feet are swift to shed the blood of the innocent. pg. 451
35. They did not fly from England to be persecuted by the prevailing part among themselves, but to enjoy freedom of conscience in inquiring after the Lord, his truth, and way of worship ; and not to be tied and bound up in a form, exalted and established according to the opinions and result of the reasonings of the major part. Now whether ye have preserved these liberties for them, and really sought their safety or whether ye have persecuted, or made a prey of them for their conscience' sake (beyond whatever was done to you here in England, or beyond whatever they had been like to suffer, had they staid here in England), the Lord, in his day, will righteously judge. Ye have judged between cattle and cattle; the Lord also. pg. 453
The AUTHORITY AND GOVERNMENT WHICH CHRIST EXCLUDED OUT OF HIS CHURCH, &c. MAT. xx. Ver. 25 to 29. "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you ; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whoso ever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." HERE Christ cuts off that power and authority which grows up in the corrupt nature of man, which was ever and anon springing up even in the disciples. Here he wholly excludes it out of the church, and says expressly he would have no such thing among them; no such kind of greatness no such kind of authority. Among the Gentiles there are great ones, there are princes; and these great ones, these princes, they lord it over the inferior ones, exercising au thority and dominion over them; "but it shall not be so among you." The Gentile-stotc was a shadow, even as the Jews' state was a shadow. The one of death, the other of life ; the one of darkness, the other of light. The one was the imago of Satan, the prince of wickedness; the other of Christ, the prince of righteousness and peace. They were both veils, under which the two kingdoms were hid. Now in the Gentile-state there were nations, princes, laws, governments, dominions, authorities, &c., but all in the fall, till in darkness, all in the transgression from the. life. The whole state was corrupt, and there must be no imitation from hence, no likeness of any such thing in the kingdom of Christ, no such kind of law, no such kind of government, no such kind of authority, no such kind of anger with per sons that transgress, no such kind of dealing with any, no such kind of detiiment or hurt to any. There is nothing to hurt in the mountain of God's holiness; but there is a right eous sceptre, a sweet sceptre, a spiritual sceptre, which reacheth the spirit in the power of life, but toucheth not the outward man.
Two things are here excluded by Christ, from whenco all the mischief ariseth in the church (all the tyranny and op pression of men's consciences, and of their persons, estates, and liberties, for conscience' sake): first, greatness; secondly, the exercising dominion and authority by those that would be great therein.
Such a kind of greatness as is in the world, is the destruc tion of the life of Christ; and such a kind of dominion and authority as is among the nations, is the direct overturning of the kingdom of Christ. It sets up another power than Christ's, another greatness than Christ's, another kind of authority than Christ's ; and so it eats out the virtue and life of his kingdom, and makes it just like one of the kingdoms of this world.
" It shall not be so among you." This spirit must be kept out from among you ; this aspiring spirit, this lofty, ruling spirit, which loves to be great, which loves to have domin ion, which would exalt itself, because 'of the gift it has re ceived, and would bring others into subjection ; this spirit must be subdued among Christ's disciples, or it Avill ruin all. The Lord gives grace and knowledge for another end than for men to take upon them to be great, and rule over others because of it. And he that, because of this, thinks himself fit to rule over men's consciences, and to make them bow to what he knows or takes to be truth, he loseth his own life hereby; and so far as he prevails upon others, he doth but destro}' their life too. pgs. 454, 455
37. " It shall not be so among you." This spirit must be kept out from among you ; this aspiring spirit, this lofty, ruling spirit, which loves to be great, which loves to have domin ion, which would exalt itself, because 'of the gift it has re ceived, and would bring others into subjection ; this spirit must be subdued among Christ's disciples, or it Avill ruin all. The Lord gives grace and knowledge for another end than for men to take upon them to be great, and rule over others because of it. And he that, because of this, thinks himself fit to rule over men's consciences, and to make them bow to what he knows or takes to be truth, he loseth his own life hereby; and so far as he prevails upon others, he doth but destro}' their life too. pg. 459
"What they have seen, what they have felt, what they have tasted, what they have handled, what they have found redeem and deliver them, that they declare abroad to others, as they are moved, as they are sent, as they are guided and assisted.
So that the true church government being in the Spirit, and over the conscience as in the sight of God, the great care must be to keep it within its bounds, that nothing else govern but the Spirit, and that the government be extended only unto that which is to be governed.
First, Care must be had that nothing govern in the church of Christ, but the spirit of Christ: that nothing else teach; nothing else exhort; nothing else admonish and re prove ; nothing else cut off and cast out. Every minister in the church is to watch over his own spirit, that it intrude not into the work of God, that it take not upon it to be the teacher, the exhorter, the reprover, &c. And every member is to wait in the measure of the Spirit which he hath received, to feel the goings-forth of the Spirit in him who teacheth and governeth ; and so to subject not to man, but to the Lord ; to receive from the Lord, to obey the Lord. Not to know any minister according to the flesh ; but to receive and submit to what comes from the Spirit, in the Spirit. Not to know Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, but the Spirit ministering in them. Paul may err, Apollos may err, Peter may err (and did err, when he compelled the Gentiles to live as the Jews, Gal. ii. 14. for which Paul withstood him to the face. ver. 11.), and Barnabas also did err. ver. 13. But the Spirit cannot err; and he that keeps to the measure of the Spirit in himself, cannot let in any of their errors, if they should err, but is preserved. For the least measure of the Spirit is true, and gives true judgment; but he that receiveth ever so great a measure of the Spirit, yet if he keep not low therein, but lifteth up himself because thereof above his brethren, may easily err himself, and draw aside others into his error.
Secondly, Care must be had that the conscience be kept tender, that nothing be received, but according to the light in the conscience. The conscience is the seat of faith; and if it be not kept close to the light which God lighteth there, faith is soon made shipwreck of. Christianity is begun in the Spirit, which keepeth out the fleshly part, with all its fleshly wisdom and reasonings about spiritual things; and HH the beginning is in the anointing, so must the progress be. As the Spirit begins in the conscience, by convincing that, by persuading that, by setting up his light there, and leading the soul by that light; so that light must still be eyed, and according to its growth and manifestation in the conscience, so must the soul stand still, or go on.
The great error of the ages of the apostasy hath been, to set up an outward order and uniformity, and to make men's consciences bend thereto, either by arguments of wisdom, or by force ; but the property of the true church government is, to leave the conscience to its full liberty in the Lord, to preserve it single and entire for the Lord to exercise, and to seek unity in the light and in the Spirit, walking sweetly and harmoniously together in the midst of different practices. Yea, and he that hath faith, and can see beyond an other, yet can have it to himself, and not disturb his brother .with it, but can descend and walk with him according to his measure; and if his brother have any heavy burthen upon him, he can lend him his shoulder, and bear part of his burthen with him. Oh ! how sweet and lovely is it to see brethren dwell together in unity, to see the true image of God raised in persons, and they knowing and loving one another in that image, and bearing with one another through love, and helping one another under their temptations and distresses of spirit, which every one must expect to meet with.
If thou art a Christian indeed and in truth, preserve thy conscience pure and tender towards God ; do not defile it with such religious practices, duties, ordinances, &c., as thou dost not feel the Spirit leading thee into; for all such are idols, and exceedingly pollute thee. And be tender also of thy brother's conscience, and be not an instrument to draw him into anything which the Lord leads him not into; bat rejoice if thou find him in simplicity of heart startling at any thing; for if he abide here faithful, his guide will in due season appear to him, and clear up his way before him ; but if he be too hasty, he may follow a wrong guide, and that guide will never lead him aright towards the kingdom, but entangle him further and further from it.
Oh! how many have run a whoring from the Lord! How many have first lost the guidance of his Spirit, and then drowned their life in religious performances ! How many have drunk of the cup of fornication from the life, at the hands of the fleshly wisdom ! How many have filled their spirit with New-Testament idols and images! How many have even hardened their hearts and consciences, by following the doctrines of men, their imaginary meaning of scriptures, and the imaginations and dreams of their own hearts! Is it not time for men at length to turn back towards the Lord, to wait for the visitation and light of his Spirit; from whom they have gone a whoring, and whom in all things they have grieved ? And if ever any feel and enjoy the guidance of God's Spirit, their conscience must be kept ten der to it, and ready to hear and follow his voice, who speaks in Spirit to that which is born of him, which infallibly knows his voice, and (being kept clear) cannot doubt con cerning it. "My sheep hear my voice," saith Christ: they know it, and the voice of the strange spirit they know not so as to follow it, but turn from it, both in themselves and others. But that which is not the sheep, but hath only got the sheep's clothing, cries out, How shall we know the voice of the Spirit? We may be deceived. Nay, that which is born of God, that which is the elect of God, can not be deceived. Wait therefore for the birth of the Spirit, to which the Spirit is given for a guide, who infallibly guides it out of deceit. All deceivers are out of this birth, out of this Spirit; perhaps in some birth or other framed from the letter, and living in the imitation of some practices and ordinances from the letter (under which cover they lie in wait to deceive), but strangers to the life and power, and to that wisdom which begets and bears to God. Thus the Jews erred, and deceived their proselytes before the coming of Christ: thus the Christians (in name) have generally erred all along the apostasy; and, indeed, for the gener ality, have not been true Christians, but only a persecuted remnant amongst them ; whose life Lath been nourished and preserved, not hy doctrines and observations which they have been taught by thc precepts of men, nor by the knowledge which they themselves have gathered, bnt by a little bread daily handed to them from the Father of mercies out of the wilderness; that was the thing which nour ished their souls up to God, though many of them knew not distinctly what it was that nourished them, nor how they came by it.
Object. But is not uniformity loilely; and doth not the apos- li£ exhort Christians to be of one mind; and were it not a sweet thing if we were all of one heart and one way?
Ans. Yea, uniformity is very lovely; and to be desired and waited for, as the Spirit of the Lord, which is one, leads and draws into one. But for the fleshly part (the wise rea soning part in man) by fleshly ways and means to strive to bring about fleshly uniformity, which ensnares and over bears the tender conscience; this is not lovely, nor spiritual, nor Christian. And the apostle, who exhorts Christians to one mind, yet doth not bid them force one another into one mind, but walk together sweetly so far us they had attained; and wherein they were otherwise minded, God in his due time would reveal more to them. Philip, iii. 15, 16. He that hath, to him shall be given. And the intent and work of the ministry (with the several ministrations of it) is to bring into the unity, Ephes. iv. 13. as persons are able to follow: and not to force all men into one practice or way; that is the way to destroy the faith, and the true unity, and at best can introduce but a fleshly appearance of unity, in such a form of worship and godliness as eats out the power. And for being of one heart and one way, blessed be the Lord, this is in measure known and witnessed. The way is one ; Christ, the truth of God ; and he that is in the faith, and in the obedience to that light which shines from his Spirit into the heart of every believer, hath a taste of the one heart, and of the one way ; and knoweth that no variety of practices, which is of God, can make a breach of the true unity. This is the one way, for every one to be subject to that light of Christ's Spirit which he hath received from Christ; and every one keeping here, there is also one part kept in the midst of all the variety, and diversity of practices. And the unity being thus kept, all will come into one outwardly also at length, as the light grows in every one, and as every one grows into the light; but this must be patiently waited for from the hand of God (who hath the right way of effecting it, and who alone can do it) ; and not harshly and cruelly attempted by the rough hand of man. pgs 465-469
40. Thus the one of these wrestles with flesh and blood, fights with the creature, hurts that; the other loves the creature, seeks the saving of it, and fights only with the power of darkness, which rules the creature. Now which of thc.se are the ministers of Christ ? These that stir up the magistrate to afflict the body, or these that use the sword of the Spirit to wound the conscience? pg. 504
41. But the grossest persons will not ac knowledge that they persecute for conscience, but accuse those whom they persecute for evil-doers, and say they suf fer as evil-doers. pg. 505