By John Banks
Unto You With Whom I Once Had My Conversation
The truth in soundness held forth and declared unto those with whom I formerly had my conversation, who are yet remaining in the cloudy dark day, tossed from mountain to hill, and cannot find a place of rest for your souls, but are crying, "There are so many ways, worships, and opinions held forth in the world that we do not know which is the true way. For if we did but know the way of God, we would walk in it."
For your sakes who are thus crying and in whom there are true breathings after the way of God, I write. As I have learned of Christ who is the true light of the world and hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world, so shall I declare that unto you, I who once had my conversation with you according to the vain customs of the world.
While I remained with you in vain sports, pleasures, and wantonness and could have gone to the same excess of riot which many of you are yet in, you could have spoken well of me, though in an evil action, because it was a pleasure to the vain mind, which the light of Christ in my own conscience reproved me for. I knew not then what it was which reproved me and let me see that I should not do so. Therefore I was apt to believe those that called it a natural light or the check of a natural conscience, a thing not sufficient to bring salvation, as the world calls it. "For," say they, "we know that we have all such a thing as you tell us of, but it is only a natural light or the check of a natural conscience."
Is that natural which reproves in spiritual things? Let the wise in heart judge by plain Scripture. Is Satan divided against himself? How then shall his kingdom stand? This is the windy doctrine of the priests, for which they have no Scripture, and so add their meanings thereunto or diminish therefrom, deceiving the simple. But the Scriptures witness against them who tell you that the light of Christ is natural. It is the Spirit of Truth which he hath sent, which doth reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, which whosoever believes in, shall not abide in darkness but shall have the light of Life. They are deceivers whom the prophet declares against, every one seeking after his own way, for his gain from his quarter. For put into their mouths and they will cry peace, peace. But hold from them and they will even prepare war against you. And so they are the false prophets which the true prophets declared against and by which the people of God in all ages suffered the spoiling of their goods. For they that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.
When was the covenant changed or when do you look for those days declared of in the Scriptures? "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord). But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith, the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more."
Cease then from man whose breath is in his nostrils and come to the teachings of the Lord in spirit, where the New Covenant is known, for God is a Spirit and they that truly worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. And such he is seeking to worship him in this his everlasting day. And the children of the Lord are taught of the Lord and in righteousness are they established, and great is the peace of his children.
So all people, turn your minds to that which reproves you in secret of that which no man can accuse you for, that by it you may be led and guided into all truth. It is the light of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, which he hath sent to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. And take heed of the hasty will that would say, "Away with this light; if this be your way, we do not desire the knowledge of it."
Do not call it so, but try and prove its strength and depart from the evil which it makes manifest, and do not call it natural or a thing not sufficient because it appears but little in you, for this is because you are disobedient to it. Whatever the light makes manifest to be evil, depart from; lying, swearing, drunkenness, and all manner of profaneness. Yea, if it be a secret thought or any intent harbored in thy bosom against thy neighbor or any man or woman whatsoever, ever so secretly, yet being made manifest by the light in thy own conscience, thou must depart from it or else the indignation of the Almighty thou must one day know to be heavy upon thee for disobedience when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. For all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light. And they that believe in the light shall not abide in darkness but shall have the light of Life. Mark the words, shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of Life. And though these things may seem but little in your eyes, yet be faithful in a little and you shall be made rulers over more. You shall know power over all the works of darkness and over the power of the devil.
The people of God witness a cleansing and sanctifying throughout in body, soul, and spirit and the blood of Christ cleanses them from all sin, for the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save to the utmost, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear. His power is the same and as all-sufficient as ever it was. "But ye will not come unto me that ye might have life," saith Christ, and so you remain in sin and in death. And he that sins is of the devil and hath not seen God, neither knows him. And as death leaveth such, so will judgment find him.
Therefore cease from all those who make a prey of you for dishonest gain, who lead captive silly women laden with sin, led away with divers lusts, ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, who is the true light, the way, the truth, and the life; and no man can come unto the Father but by him. I say, cease from all these scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, and deceivers who walk in long robes and are called of men master, who love the chiefest places in the synagogues, uppermost rooms at feasts, and greetings in the market-places, whom the woe is to, who shut up the kingdom of God against men and will neither enter themselves nor suffer those to enter that would.
Oh! all people cease from them and come to the teachings of the Lord in spirit, for the nations of them that are saved must walk in the light of the Lamb. But this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be manifest that they are wrought in God.
Repent, repent, and turn unto the Lord Jesus Christ who is the stone refused and rejected by all the builders of the world. The same stone is become the head of the corner, praises everlastingly unto his holy name, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, where we walk and are not faint, run and are not weary. He hath not only called us, but also chosen us out of the world, and therefore the world hateth us, for the world loveth its own. And though we be hated, persecuted, scoffed, scorned, and judged as a people not worthy to live by this wicked and adulterous generation who speak evil of the thing they know not and though the beast push with his horns and the false prophet cast his envy and wrath against the Lamb and his followers, yet they shall both be taken alive and cast into the lake of fire, and the saints shall rejoice for evermore.
I say again, repent and turn from the evil of your ways, from your idle talking, foolish jesting, and laughter, which is madness and folly; yea, all your vain conversation whatsoever, lest sudden destruction come upon you, which shall come upon all the wicked, who love and make a lie, without speedy repentance and amendment of your ways, not only in confessing your sins but in forsaking them. There is no other way to obtain mercy at the Lord's hand. For be not deceived, God will not be mocked, such as every one sows, such shall he reap. They that live after the flesh shall die, but they who have a part in the first resurrection, over such the second death shall have no power.
If ever you come to know the way of God and to walk in it, you must come to the spiritual worship, for God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, and such he is seeking to worship him in this his everlasting day. So you in whom tender desires are, come ye out from among them and be ye separated, and touch no unclean thing and I will receive you, saith the Lord. Be careful now while you have time to cast off the deeds of darkness and to be separated from all your idol worships, for the Lord is wearied with them. Prize the everlasting love of God to you, who hath spared you so long; some twenty, some thirty, some forty years, and upwards; and yet you are crying, if we knew the way of God, we would walk in it. And then to satisfy yourselves, you say, "We hope we are in the way," whereby it is evident that you have no certainty of it.
By this you may plainly see, if you are not wilfully blind, that your teachers have not been sent of God, for they have not profited you and ye are always learning, led away with divers lusts, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Some led into lying, swearing, and drunkenness, fighting, and quarreling, gaming, and sporting, and such like fruits as these.
And though both priests and people cry and say we are the false prophets and deceivers come in the latter days, I answer as the Scripture saith, by their fruits the false prophets are known. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Nay, they are not so blind. So whether we or the priests and teachers of the world, who have the words but are strangers to the life, bear the fruits of the false prophets, let that of God in all consciences and plain Scripture judge.
Christ said, "False prophets shall come," and John said that in his days, "Many false prophets and antichrists are already entered into the world; whereby," said he, "we know it is the last times." I believe many of you will confess that there were no Quakers (as in derision we are now called) in John's time, yet he said that they knew it was the last time then because many false prophets and antichrists were already entered into the world. You say the last time is but now come in our days. And so whether it is John or the professors and priests and teachers of the world which have holden forth the truth in this thing, let the wise in heart and plain Scripture judge. Christ, who is the light and life of men, is the door by which you must enter into the kingdom, if ever you enter, "for he that climbs up any other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
And if ever you come to own God and the way that leads to his kingdom, you must own the light of the Lord Jesus Christ in his inward appearance to be your teacher, leader, and guide. It is even he, the true light, who is the way, the truth, and the life. And if you speedily repent and turn unto God by him from whom you are fallen and put away the evil of your doings before repentance be too late, it shall be well with you. But if otherwise you go on in rebellion against the light and strivings of his good Spirit and grace which God hath placed in your hearts to witness against all sin and iniquity and harden your hearts, stop your ears, and close your eyes, you shall seek repentance with tears and shall not find it. And this you shall know in the day of the Lord when you must give an account unto him of every idle word and of all the hard speeches which you have spoken against his servants, his pure way of truth, and his people. You were warned to repentance in your lifetime by a lover of all your souls, though but as a child and one of the least among many of the Lord's children and people. Yet he hath obtained favor with the Lord and mercy at his hand through true judgment for sin and transgression. And therefore hath "rather chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season."
Given forth in the year 1661.