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The direction of this in my heart, was to friends in truth, in Chal· font, and thereaways, among whom my heart hath been greatly com· forted and refreshed, who (some of you) had some knowledge of my
former great misery and distress, for want of the power and presence of the Lord, and are now witnesses with me of his tender mercy and great salvation ; glory to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb whose kingdom is exalted over all, who already reigns in righteoufness in the hearts of a remnant; who sit down, and find rest and peace, and true joy of heart, soul, and spirit, under the shadow of his government, and cannot but sing and found forth praises, pure praises, honour, and dominion, and strength, to the name and arm which hath done the valiant acts, bringing sin, corruption, death, and the grave under, and bringing life and immortality to rule and have dominion over it ; so that he that is pure power and life, is felt tabernacling and living in his people, and he gives unto them to live in, and through, and with him; and they cannot but found praises to the power and glory of his life from day to day; glory in the highest to our God, and to his Christ, for ever and ever, Amen, Hallelujah.
SOM E QUE RI E S
Query 1. W H ETHER every man ought not to endeavour to be fully
V persuaded in his own soul concerning the religion and worship which he performs and offers up to God?
Query 2. Whether, when a man is fully persuaded concerning the religion and worship he ought to perform to God, whether he is not then bound in conscience so to worship and serve God, as he is fully persuaded in his own soul ?
Query 3. Whether, if a man should leave that way of religion and worship, whereof he is fully persuaded in his own soul, and should worship according to the law and worship of the country wherein he lives, whether this would be accepted of the Lord, and whether his soul would not be in danger of the displeasure and wrath of the Lord therefore ?
Query 4. Whether God hath given any man or men power, by laws and penalties, to compel men to worship him contrary to the belief of their hearts and the full persuasions of their souls? Is it not written, that whatsoever is not of faith is sin ? And hath God given, any men power and authority to compel others to fin? Surely the end of magistracy is to restrain men from sin, and not to compel men to sin.
Query 5. Whether under the law of Moses, the worship was not first made manifestly clear to mens hearts and consciences, and they fully perfuaded thereof; before they suffered any penalties annexed for failing in it, or turning aside from it?
Query 6. Whether under the gospel, Christ or his apostles did ever com. pel any by outward force to their way of worship, or give any rule for compulsion after their days. Did not they say, they were not lords over mens faich, but that there was one Lord and Master, even Christ, to whom every man was to give an account? Now if men should commend us for worshiping as they teach us, and by laws require of us contrary to the belief and full persuasion of our own souls, and Christ condemn and punish us therefore, would it not go hard with us ?
Query 7. Was it not the beast that compelled men to worship, and is he not branded therefore, Rev. xiii, ? But could he by his laws and penalties compel any, whose names were written in the book of life, to his worship? others indeed he did compel, and cause to worship, as may be seen in that chapter.
Query 8. Is not Christ's kingdom Spiritual? Are not the weapons of his warfare spiritual ? Are they not mighty through God, to convince and establish men in the truth, and in the way of the gospel-worship? Would Chrift have any people forced by outward compulsion, to serve or worship him? Whosoever will, let him come, faith he; and his people are a willing people, and God loveth a chearful giver and a chearful worshipper. Is not compulsion a great argument against that church and ministry that useth it, that they want the spiritual weapons ? That they want the authority and power of the true church and ministry, and so are fain to seek to supply it by the authority and power of Man ? For that which is of man, if it were not held up by man, would fall; but the truth will grow and increase, and that which is of God will stand and out-live all the violence and oppositions of men. And one thing is worthy of very serious consideration concerning this worship, which there is such striving to compel men to, which is this ; what kind of persons they are that diffent from it, and what they are, for the generality, that so cry it up. Are not many of them very loose, prophane, swearers, cursers, excessive drinkers, yea some of them Atheists? Is there not a ground of jealousy at least, if not a strong argument, against that worship and way of religon which pleaseth these?
Can that which came from God, and is of God, please corrupt man? And who are chey that diffent from, and dare not practise it ? Are they not
men of tepder consciences, and that fear to offend the Lord, and who seek after that religion and worship, wherein there is truth, life, virtue, and power ? Now which of these are likeliest to know the truth, and to be taught of the Lord the true worship.
Oh! that these things were seriously considered of; for though men were wicked and prophane themselves, yet if they did not oppose that which is good, but could suffer others quietly to serve and fear the Lord, neither their fin nor danger would be so great.
Reading Goal, 19th of the
7th Month, 1670.
He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God, now
he that is just and ruleth in the fear of God, cannot afflict or punish any for fearing God, or for worship which they perform to him in his fear. Shall not he that made the world, be worshipped by his children and servants, according as he requires of them ? But shall the authorities of this world oppose him therein, and with all their might stop and hinder (as much as in them lies) his children and servants from obeying him ? Now the Lord God of heaven and earth (who is above all, and hath power over all) knoweth, that not in opposition 10 authority, but in the fear of his name, do we (who are called QUAKERS) meet together to worship him as he hach required of us; and that if we should not so do, we should sin against him, and be guilty of rebellion against the King of kings, who is able to save and destroy body and soul for ever. And in this case it is that Christ hath bid us not fear him that can kill the body, and can go no further, but rather
to fear him who can kill both body and soul, and cast them into hell. Oh! that the magistrates of this nation were just, ruling in the fear of
God! could they then affict those that fear him as they do, even such as are taught by him to love and pray for their enemies? Is not there work enough for the magistrates sword against manifest wicked men, but it must still be turned against those that fear the Lord? Will ye provoke the Lord to the utmost? Are ye stronger than he? Will ye put it to the proof, whether he be able to deliver his people or no? Remember, the nations are but as the drop of a bucket, and as the small dust of the balance before him? What then is the wisdom and strength of one, two, three, or four nations, to his wildom and
strength ? This is written in our hearts, that God is to have his due, as well as C#
far his; and that God is to have his due in the first place, but Cell after God, and in subjection to God. But if there be an absolute ne
ceffity put upon us by men (which they ought not to do), either of disobeying God or Cæsar, we do really believe that question of some of the apostles, in this case, to be very weighty, and worthy to be duly considered, Aets iv. 19. Whether it be right in the light of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye (for we cannot but obey the Lord our God in what he hath required and doth require of us). And truly if we should so do, great and dreadful woe would be upon our souls, and we should lose the enjoyment of God's presence, and the peace which pafseth all understanding; which we cannot but value above our estates, liberties, or whatever outward thing we can enjoy or possess in this world, even above our very lives; yea, it were far better for every one of us to lose our lives in our faithful testimony to the true worship of God in Spirit and truth, which he hath taught us, and required us to practise and give our teftimony to, than to be found unfaithful and disobedient to him herein.
Reading Goal, the 12th of the
7th Month, 1670.