By John Banks
THE TESTIMONY OF TRUTH AGAINST ALL THE CUSTOMS, FASHIONS, WAYS, WORDS, WORSHIPS, CARRIAGES, AND BEHAVIORS THAT BE IN THE WORLD, WHICH ARE OUT OF THE TRUTH
With an exhortation and warning to all that profess the truth and come amongst God's people, and yet are found in the said customs, fashions, ways, words, &c., and plead for them. The people of God, in scorn called Quakers do deny and have no fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them, because the testimony of truth is against them.
Fashion not yourselves like unto the world, for the world passeth away and the glory of it as the flower of the field. And the world by wisdom knows not God nor the things of his kingdom, for its wisdom is from below, which leads and draws down into the beggarly elements and rudiments. The carnal-minded man knows not the things of God nor his kingdom, even those things that belong to the soul's peace, for they are foolishness to him because they are spiritually discerned. The carnal mind and wisdom lead out into carnal, visible things to feed on the husks among the swine, for without are dogs, sorcerers, &c.
That spirit which rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience leads into divers lusts, pleasures, customs, fashions, idle talking, foolish jesting, lying, swearing, pride, and drunkenness. Such discern not the Lord's body, but crucify him, and say, as some did of old, that they will not have this man, even Christ, to rule over them because by his light he reproves them for their evil deeds. So they crucify the Son of God afresh and put him to open shame by sinning against him. And in such who bring forth these fruits, the just suffers by the unjust.
For these are the fruits of the flesh and of those who preach and teach for doctrines the precepts of men, and are found in the many inventions in outward washings, eating and drinking, under a pretense that God requires these things at their hands when as he saith, "Who hath required these things at your hands?" These things do not so much as make clean the outside and so are far from making or keeping the heart or conscience clean, or void of offence towards God. All such ways, worships, customs, and fashions truth's testimony is against, for these things are practiced amongst them who say they are erred and strayed from the way of God, like lost sheep. And so upon good ground God's people dissent from them.
The practice of the world is to change from fashion to fashion, in pride of apparel, meats and drinks, to see who can exceed each other in pride and high-mindedness to the end that their eyes and minds may look out one after another.
The practice of those who truly fear the Lord is to be plain and decent in their apparel, not given to change, as they of the world are, nor to wear anything but what becomes the truth and may tend to adorn the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where God hath endowed with much, they are not to be extreme because of that. Nor they who are endowed but with little, to strive to set out the fleshly part beyond their ability. For both in rich and poor, this is to cause the eye to look out and the mind to wander. But the people of God strive who can exceed each other in good example both in meat, drink, and apparel, only using what is decent and comely to the end every eye may be turned inward, and all learn to be lowly minded.
The ways of the world are many, crooked, and unclean and they run to and fro in lying, swearing, and drunkenness; idle, vain, needless, unsavory words; vain customs and proud antic fashions which is the cause why their ways are crooked and unclean.
The way of the people of God, whom he hath redeemed out of the world, is but one straight and pure way in which they follow the Lamb in the regeneration, who leads them out of all uncleanness into purity and holiness.
The words of the people of the world, are many, needless, and unsavory. But the words of God's people are few and savory.
The worship of the people of the world, who deny the true light, is in darkness and their prayer therein is not heard nor answered, for in praying they cry, "Lord forgive us our sins," and yet they do not believe they can be freed from them and the people they preach to, live in their sins and so are never the better.
The worship of the people of God is in spirit and truth. They pray with the Spirit and with the understanding, and their prayers he hears and answers. They preach, being sent of God, and so profit the people. And such receive the end of their hope, the salvation of their souls, by Jesus Christ the righteous.
And now unto you who profess the truth and assemble amongst God's people, and yet are not in reality what you should be either in your words or practice in many things but are loose and unfaithful, in love to your souls this is written as a faithful warning, being the testimony of truth.
Take heed both old and young who are fashioning yourselves according to the world in extremes, beyond the bounds of truth, either in your apparel, words, carriage, or behavior. What! cannot you set the people of the world an example according to truth, and if they will not come to that, never go you to join with, embrace, or follow their vain and antic fashions?
And you that are old men and women, both as to convincement and years, set a watch in the fear of God against hastiness, rashness, peevishness, and crossness of spirit, for this is an ill example to your children and to such who are young and weak in the truth. But be ye grave and temperate, as nursing fathers and mothers. And set a watch before your lips, that you may not offend with your tongue.
And both old and young who make a profession of the truth, take heed that you do not utter unsavory words in your communications, and using the name of the Lord and God in your common talk, as is the manner and custom of the people of the world. This is taking the name of God in vain, and such he will not hold guiltless. It is evil communication that corrupts good manners. "Ye are the salt of the earth," said Christ Jesus to his disciples, "but if the salt hath lost its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men." Wherefore have salt in yourselves.
Friends, you know that from the time you were first convinced the truth would not allow nor admit of any of those things above and it is the same now as ever. Therefore consider from what root it is these things arise, for they are all out of the truth and disowned by the children of light and the testimony of truth is against them.
You who are parents of children, train them up in the fear of the Lord, as becomes the truth, and give no liberty to them, nor indulge them in word or action that is contrary to the truth of God. Teach them the plain language of thee and thou to every single person and to name the days of the week and months in the year according to the testimony of the holy Scripture, for this is according to truth, and not as the people of the world do, after the names of the heathen's gods. And beware, both old and young, of taking liberty and presuming to do such things as you call little faults, until greater evils break out, for then will shame come openly to such and God's truth and people suffer.
And let none join with the people of the world in their customs of marriages, feasting, or set drinking, sports, pleasures, or vain shows whatsoever, but take heed unto the light of the Lord Jesus Christ which makes manifest all things that are reprovable and for condemnation.
Beware all you who profess the blessed truth of being overcome with strong drink or other liquors, for by such the truth will suffer great reproach. Take heed of idle talking, foolish jesting, or fair speeches. For pleasing your relations in the flesh for an earthly end, more than the truth will allow of, that is a deceitful thing. Neither be ye found back-biters, tattlers, nor tale-bearers to stir up strife, or busy bodies in other men and women's matters.
Be watchful in the fear of God and carefully mind and obey his teaching grace and Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth that leadeth into all truth. And as this is kept to, we cannot in conscience join with the people and spirit of the world, for that spirit leadeth out of the truth into the broad way which leads to destruction. So all who in any measure have known your garments washed and made clean from the pollutions of the world, have a care that they be not spotted and defiled again by being familiar with the people of the world in their vain, loose discourse in their communications. This is the inlet of many evils. For we cannot join with the spirit of the world that leads into vanity and excess, without there is first a going from the Spirit of Truth in ourselves, for light hath no fellowship with darkness. Hence when the mind is gone from the pure light and all-sufficient grace, the eye is abroad after many things, which should be inward to the Lord. And so that eye and mind being too much one with the world, such begin to spy out which is the newest and finest cut and fashion, and the minds of such are restless until they have it, being gone from the truth in themselves, in which is the true rest and peace.
And yet you would be owned and called Friends! "You are my friends," said Christ, "if ye do whatsoever I command you." And he says, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." His grace teaches not to be proud or high-minded, for that is the enemy's work, and the spirit of the world joins with it, but not the Spirit of Truth.
But some are friends to the world and enemies to God. So consider whether you are friends of Christ or of the world. For according to the blessed apostle Paul, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, such as you sow, such must you reap; they that sow to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, but they that sow to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
Now it is plain and clear to every one who knows what it is to have their eye in their Head, (which is Christ) that they who follow and join with the world, in their needless and extravagant fashions, sow to the flesh and the wrong spirit, for some of which the prophet Isaiah, in chap. 3, from ver. 16 to the end of it, reproves the haughty carriage and behavior of the daughters of Zion.
Wherefore I say unto you, away with your round tire like the moon, (as said the prophet) and setting your dresses high above your brows with your powdered hair, but adorn yourselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with broidered hair, or with gold or pearls, or costly array, but, which becometh women professing godliness, with good works, as said the apostle Paul, I Tim 2:9, 10. And for further proofs read Jer 10:2, 3; I Cor 7:31; I Pet 1:14, and 3:3-5 and there you may see how many fashions the apostles name.
The fashions which too many of you are found in the practice of, had you not your example from the people of the world and were taught by the spirit of it to uphold and plead for them, and not from those who truly fear and serve God nor yet from his pure Holy Spirit? For the testimony of the Spirit is against your fashions that the truth never led into. And they who live the life of the Spirit must stand in their testimony against them. These things cannot be hid from the world, being daily and publicly practiced and seen with their eyes. That as Thomas Ellwood said in his Epistle to Friends, "It hath come to pass that there is scarce a new fashion comes up, or a fantastic cut invented, but some one or other who professes truth is ready with the foremost to run into it. Ah! Friends, the world sees this and smiles and points the finger at it. And this is both a hurt to the particular, and a reproach to the Society in general."
If you would not have these things spoken nor written against, take away the cause, and the effect will cease. See to it that the inside be clean and then the outside will be clean also. Cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light, and willingly take up the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and contentedly bear it, and it will crucify you to the world and the world to you, with all the vain fashions, words, and actions of the world, with all the sinful lusts of the flesh.
And as our dear and elder brother George Fox who was a good example to us in his time said, "All Friends everywhere, admonish one another, young and old, that you do not run after every fashion which is invented and set up by the light and vain mind, for if you do, how can you judge the world for such things? And set not up nor put on that which you once did with the light condemn, but in all things be plain, that you may adorn the truth of the Gospel of Christ and judge the world and keep in that which is comely and decent."
So hear and fear, betimes, and lay to heart and consider these things, for the Spirit of the Lord is grieved because of them, and the hearts of the righteous are made sad. Therefore see that these things be amended, for all those are for judgment.
And you who profess the truth and meet amongst God's people, and yet go out into the world to seek wives or to join yourselves with the world for wives or husbands, the testimony of truth and of the holy Scriptures and all God's people is against you because you have fellowship and join with them who are in darkness. In so doing, you go from the truth in yourselves, and so lose unity with the children of light and wax cold in your love and affection towards God, his truth, and his people and grow hard, proud, and high-minded, and count this but a light matter. But it will prove heavy unto such in the end, except they unfeignedly repent. Oh! be not deceived, you cannot serve God and mammon; you cannot live in the truth, though you make profession of it, and join with the world.
Why are you so vain in your imaginations, and why are your foolish hearts so darkened? Surely it is because you have not been watchful in the fear of God against the out-goings of your minds. And not keeping to that which is good, the evil hath overcome you. For if you had dwelt in the pure light, it would have expelled your dark thoughts, and then the world's spirit would have had no place in you.
It never was the practice of God's people in any age of the world to be joined together in marriage by a hireling priest. But marriage being an ordinance of God, and the true joining together being in and by his Spirit, God's people who kept the law of marriages took one another in the assemblies of the righteous, or before witnesses, and they were and are witnesses thereunto.
And so, dear Friends, whom God hath redeemed out of the world and the evil that is therein, keep out of the same, keep your garments unspotted of it. Take heed of that which would spot and mar your garments and heavenly image. Evil words in your communication spot and mar. Corrupt ways, peevish, hasty, and passionate humors, lead and drive the heart far from God and out of the way of truth. Evil customs and changeable fashions spot and defile your garments. Condescending to the worldly spirit for pleasing relations or others, for an earthly end, loses your dominion in the truth. Mixed marriages by a priest, and yet the truth professed, tend to bring into worldly-mindedness. And where the earth and love to the world come over the pure mind, the just is oppressed by it.
Live and dwell in the redeeming power of God that sets free and preserves so, all those who abide in it. It preserves out of the world's ways, customs, and fashions; out of unsavory words, out of hastiness, bitterness, and crossness of spirit; out of pride, and high-mindedness, bad marriages, and the like, and preserves the mind unto God to seek first his kingdom and the righteousness thereof, and then all other things, in the Lord's time, will be added. Thus you may be true witnesses that greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. Christ Jesus, God's everlasting power, you are all to follow, hear, and obey. He leads into purity and holiness. He leads into the green pastures which make fat. But the spirit and power of the prince of the air and darkness that rules in the world, if you give way to it, leads into blindness, and darkness, and hardness of heart, and leanness of soul. And when the soul is in death, what better will any be to have a name to live and be dead? What comfort can a wife, a husband, houses, lands, gold or silver then minister unto any, especially when their dying hour comes and they not fitted for it, for tribulation, anguish and woe will then be to every soul that doth evil.
So know Christ Jesus the power of God to be your head and husband, and never forsake or deny him for any pleasure or delight in the world, for the world passeth away and the glory of it. But he, the way, the truth, and the life, will last and endure for ever, whose name is called the Word of God. He hath said, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." He was before, and will outlast all the world's ways, worships, customs, fashions, tithes, types, figures, shadows, and inventions of men. He the substance is come and fed upon, blessed be his name for evermore.
And, dear Friends, keep all your meetings in his name and power. Come orderly together at the time and hour appointed, not scatteringly, a long time one after another, for this is no good example to the world, nor so profitable for your growth in the truth in your own particulars. Keep your meetings in constancy and faithfulness, as well on the weekday as on the First-day, as our manner was in the beginning. Prize truth and God's glory, for truth is the same that ever it was. And the Lord is not wanting to his people now, any more than formerly, to them who in faithfulness wait upon, worship, and serve him.
And when you are met together, be faithful and diligent in keeping your watch, and take heed that you be not overcome with the spirit of slumber, especially you that are ancient and public in the affairs and concerns of truth, nor any professing to wait upon, worship, and serve God, neither old nor young. It is of bad report and ill savor, and very uncomely to behold, a stumbling-block in the way of the weak, a hurt of their own souls, and a grief unto the heart of the upright.
Dear brothers and sisters, be faithful and diligent in your meetings and waitings, lives and conversations, that you may adorn the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so that the life you live may be the life of the just, which is by faith in the Son of God. For this only gives the victory over the world, and all the evil that is in it. Hold fast the same unto the end, that you may receive the crown of life and of immortal glory. To God alone, who hath called you by an holy calling and gathered you together by his own hand and arm of power to wait upon, worship, and serve him, who never said to the house of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain, give the praise and evermore have cause to return him the honor and glory, who is worthy thereof for evermore. Amen.
Mooregate, in Cumberland, the 22nd of the Twelfth month (year unknown).