By John Banks
FOR FRIENDS OF PARDSAY MEETING, OR ELSEWHERE IN CUMBERLAND; TO BE READ AMONG THEM IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.
The foundation of God standeth sure and they whose building is thereupon dwell in safety, where the enemy cannot come. Dear Friends, keep the watch, that nothing may have any entrance into your hearts but the beloved of your souls, whose love hath been so prevalent with you, that by it a willingness hath been wrought in you to part with all for his sake. Oh! therefore, press on towards the recompense of reward, always following him, so that you may feel sweet peace with him in your bosoms. For behold he cometh quickly and his reward is with him who can deliver, both out of the fire and out of the water.
Let none think it strange concerning the fiery trial in which the Lord hath seen it good to try you among the rest of his people, as though some strange thing had happened. But all be faithful to the Lord unto death and you shall receive a crown of life. It is not they that have begun well and sit down by the way who receive this recompense of reward, but they who in faithfulness continue unto the end, who know the saving health of Israel, and are cured of all their infirmities.
Let none suffer that to have place in your hearts which would say, "Why is it thus or why hath the Lord suffered it thus to come to pass?" But all keep the faith and hold fast your integrity and be steadfast in your minds, for ere the day be over, the trial must be greater before the dross be separated from the pure gold. For the Lord our God is about to work a thorough work in the earth to make you clean vessels for his use, by which he will get himself honor and make you shine who are faithful.
Blessed and happy are all you, my dear Friends, who honor God in your generation and woe to them who dishonor him in their lives and conversations, who would seem to honor God with their mouths and lips, and yet their hearts are far from him, in the earth. And all that are given to tattling and talebearing, and of a whispering spirit and busy mind are for judgment. And in what bottle soever these things are retained, it will burst and must be broken to pieces.
Therefore, watch against every appearance of evil, both within and without, with an eye for good over one another, that where there is an evil eye, it may be plucked out and so the eye being single, the whole body will be filled with light, by which the darkness comes to be expelled. And they whose abiding and dwelling place is here know that it is a pleasant thing to dwell together in unity. "It is like the ointment that was poured upon Aaron's head, which ran down his beard to the skirts of his garment; yea, as the dew of Hermon and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."
Dear brethren, dwell together in unity, that this blessing may be witnessed among you, even life for evermore. And that this everlasting dew may be felt to be distilled among you, that so you may all be members of that body that is fitly framed together by joints and bands, which the Lord God hath prepared to do his will.
And all my dear Friends in the Lord Jesus Christ, who have kept your garments unspotted of the world and who have borne a faithful testimony for him in this trying day and perilous time, peace be unto you. The love of God fill your hearts and his living unity tie you together for evermore, with whom I am truly bound up in that bundle of love and life that can never be broken. Surely my soul loves you and I am truly one with you in that love and unity of which length of time, distance of place, and wide seas can make no breach or separation. Oh! be you all encouraged to follow the Captain of your salvation, who hitherto hath gone before you and pleaded your cause with your enemies, both within and without. Surely you have good experience how he hath spread his banner over you, which is love, which unto you hath been as a covering from the heat and a hiding place from the tempest and the storm. Yea, it is even so, for there never hath been any weapon yet formed against you which hath prospered as you have stood in his pure counsel.
Therefore, whatsoever the Lord may yet suffer to come to pass for the further trial of your faith, fear not, ye little flock, for it is his good pleasure to give you the kingdom. And though the waves toss themselves, yet need you not be troubled, for he that delivered Daniel out of the lion's den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the fiery furnace is the same as ever he was. "I am the Lord, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed," but preserved, and that to his praise and glory, even all who are of that seed and offspring.
And blessed are all you that suffer for the sake of truth and righteousness, who count nothing too hard, too near, or too dear to be parted with for this righteous cause of your God. Great is your reward in heaven, even life everlasting, world without end. And as the Lord your God hath not only counted you worthy to believe in his name and truth but to suffer for him, Oh! suffer joyfully the spoiling of your goods. Wife, or husband, or whoever it be, part with and freely give up each other, whether to a prison or the spoiling of goods or to be spoken all manner of evil against. The servant is not greater than his Lord. "As they have done unto me," saith Christ, "so will they do unto you," who suffered even unto the death upon the cross, through the counsel of the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and hardhearted Jews.
Dear Friends, consider the everlasting love of God unto you, who spared not his only Son for your sake, that by him, to wit, by his death and suffering, you might be redeemed out of your miserable state and lost and undone condition. By this love, the Lord your God hath wrought a willingness in your hearts. And oh! that he may work more and more, that so in a true sense of the same you may be preserved to the tendering of your spirits in true unity and fellowship with him and one with another. In a blessed inward feeling of that love, life, and heavenly unity which are at this time in my heart, I take my leave of you and breathe unto the Lord, that we may all be preserved unto the end.
Your brother in the living truth that changeth not.
From Malloe in the county of Cork in Ireland, the 19th day of the Sixth month, 1671.