With encouragement to all Friends everywhere that suffer for the sake of truth and righteousness.
The great work of God in the sons and daughters of men is to purify the heart and make clean the inward parts, which is through faith in his Son. Faith is the gift of God and the work of it is to purify the heart and cleanse from dead works to serve the true and living God in newness of life, to work out the old leaven, and mold into a new lump, to make the heart anew, the mind heavenly, and the soul living.
Oh, the blessed effects of true and saving faith, even that faith which stands in the power of God! which as man comes to the knowledge of, such come truly to believe in God and confession with the mouth is made to salvation, and so gradually a casting off and forsaking everything that is evil, whereby a learning to do well by the teachings of the grace through faith comes more and more to be known. These are the blessed effects of true and saving faith, which works tenderness in the heart, instead of hardness, and brings to true openness those that have been shut up, and into a nearness with the Lord and one with another, even such who have been far separated from him by wicked works. This is true faith that works in the heart to the overcoming of it, saves them that were lost, quickens them that were dead, and brings them through the strength and power thereof to serve the true and living God in the newness of life.
The blessed effects of this true and saving faith are to make clean, pure, and holy and to sanctify throughout, in body, soul, and spirit; to make a new creature and bring to a true knowledge, what it is to be in Christ Jesus. And so the heart with the whole affections come to be set on things which are heavenly, everlasting, and eternal. Oh! the pure change and blessed alteration that comes to be known hereby. Man that hath been unclean is made clean, and man and woman that have been unholy and impure are made holy and pure. And so in the holy life, holy men and holy women come to worship and serve the pure holy God in the newness, livingness, and tenderness thereof. According to their measure, they come with the blessed apostle to say by living experience, "The life that I now live is by faith in the Son of God. Old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new." The old words are passed away, the bad actions and vain conversation put off, which are for judgment and condemnation, and the armor of light put on through the blessed effects thereof.
Through this true and saving faith which stands in the power of God, his people come to have on their armor, by which they are made more than conquerors, made able to withstand all the fiery darts of the devil, and all his instruments both within and without, and with the prophet to leap over a wall, run through a troop, and to break that which is as a bow of steel spiritually, that otherwise cannot be got over, run through, nor broken. Oh! what is too hard for those who are in this true and saving faith?
The author to the Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter, verse thirty-second, having spoken largely of the fruits and effects of faith, saith, "What shall I say more? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Sampson, and of Jephtha, of David, and also of Samuel, and of the prophets who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong. Women received their dead raised to life again and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, and these all have obtained a good report through faith."
So dear Friends, wherever this may come, unto whom the salutation of my life reacheth, try yourselves, prove yourselves, that you may know whether you be in this faith or not, whereby all these blessed effects are wrought and brought to pass, and many more, to the making perfect throughout. Let none content or satisfy yourselves with the word faith or with the bare profession of faith. But carefully mind what Christ Jesus our Lord saith, "If thou hast faith as a grain of mustard seed, thou shalt say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and it shall be so." If faith in this small measure or degree, through the blessed effects of it, be thus powerful, or those whose faith is no more, thus gain the victory, how much more victory shall those obtain that keep it unto the end. For it is those who finish in that same faith in which they began who shall be saved and for whom the crown of life and immortal glory is laid up. But some who are young in the truth and whom the enemy may bear hard upon by temptations may say, "I thought I had faith in some measure, and yet those things stand in my way like mountains, so that I cannot get over as yet, and great oppositions and temptations I meet with, both within and without, that prevail with me."
Dear Friend, in much tenderness my soul breathes unto the Lord for thy deliverance. And in order that thou mayest be delivered from that which so oppresses thee in spirit or stands in thy way, mark well what I say unto thee. Thou willest too much, and through thy willing thou wouldest run too fast and make too much haste, striving to get over things which is the great cause why thou comest short of obtaining victory through faith and that thou dost not come to know the blessed effects or work of it in thy heart. Remember the counsel given to Israel of old, "Thy strength, O Israel, is to stand still." True strength and victory through faith over and against the enemies both within and without is in standing still and being quiet and cool in thy mind. For as the Scriptures of Truth testify, it is certainly true that it is not in him that wills nor runs. The battle is not unto the strong nor the race to the swift. And Christ saith, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to your stature?"
Stand still and patiently wait to receive the power which the Lord will give to all in his own time, not in theirs, who patiently wait for it, that so patience in thee may have its perfect work and thou mayest have the victory given to thee over all the temptations of the enemy, through faith in the power of God. And so will all those things come to be removed out of thy way that thou standest questioning and reasoning about. True faith gives victory and is known by the blessed effects of it. And as the apostle said, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," and this is the way to know an anchoring and establishing upon the sure rock, through faith and hope, which never make ashamed.
And now, dear Friends, unto all you whom God in and through Christ Jesus his Son hath not only called to believe in his name, but also to suffer for truth and righteousness sake, blessed and happy of the Lord shall you be if you continue unto the end. You have a true knowledge and right understanding, that your suffering is for truth and righteousness sake, for Christ's sake, as those that are his, whom he hath redeemed and saved and sanctified by his blood, death and suffering. You are not your own, nor anything you have or enjoy, that your suffering may be for Christ your Redeemer, your Savior, your Shepherd, Counselor, King, Priest, and Law-giver, and so for righteousness' sake, as those who because of the tenderness of their consciences cannot do nor consent to have done that which is unrighteous, unjust, or unlawful, according to the righteous law of God.
Blessed and happy are all you whose suffering is on this wise. For it is not only what any suffers, whether in body or goods, that will tend to bring the recompense of reward home to the comfort and joy of the soul, as a confirming encouragement in suffering, but also that you all know for what you suffer, to wit, the name, the power, the truth, in the Seed Christ. Here is true ease, true peace, and quietness in spirit under suffering. This makes the yoke easy and the burden light, and the blessed recompense of reward from the hand of God cometh unto all such an hundred fold in this life, and such also shall inherit life everlasting, as Christ Jesus our Lord said unto Peter that where there is a willingness to forsake father or mother, wife or children, houses or lands for his name sake, this shall be their reward.
So dear Friends, my counsel and advice unto you all is that you all be truly careful what you suffer for, that none may have only a name to live and be dead. But suffer as those who have faith in Christ, and are in a spiritual travail. For if anyone suffer in body or goods, and not in the truth, that will be a sad, comfortless suffering.
While as a great mercy from God you have yet health and liberty to meet together to worship and serve him, be faithful in meeting often together, First-day and week-day, in men and women's meetings. And when met, be diligent in waiting upon him, to receive of his living power from time to time. This is that which truly fits, furnishes, and prepares in every good word, work, and service. Make good use of time in being truly careful how you spend it, for it is the ill use made of time, or the careless squandering away of it, that makes many unfit for a time of trial when called thereunto.
Remember, the ten virgins all had lamps, but five wanted oil, and it is said their lamps were gone out. It seems they once did shine. And they were all called to prepare, but the five foolish wanted oil, and so were left behind, and the door was shut against their entering into rest and partaking of joy because of their unwatchfulness in the time they had given them. And although they came calling and crying afterward, it was to no purpose. The door was shut. It is plain there was a time when the door was open when the wise, who had both the lamps and oil, entered in. Therefore all be upon your watch continually with a care to have oil in your lamps, that you may enter into the place of rest where you shall partake of joy unspeakable and full of glory, as in a habitation of safety, where none can make afraid. If the storm or tempestuous trial last long, you shall never want for bread, but it will be sure and your water will never fail. For He for whose name sake ye suffer will spread your table, fill your cup, and maintain your cause. There your communion will be sweet with the Lord, and your unity and fellowship will be very comfortable, that you will have with all faithful suffering people.
This is the counsel and advice of your brother, in tender love, that all who suffer by oppression for truth and righteousness sake, it may be in this manner, that so you all may have cause of great encouragement under suffering, whether in body or goods. This I can give in truth by good experience, who have had my own goods spoiled and my body imprisoned time after time, and now am a prisoner, because for conscience sake I cannot uphold that great oppression of tithes. In the same day and hour I was to go to prison, the spoilers were carrying away my goods for no greater crime than worshiping and serving the Lord my God. And oh! the joy, gladness, and rejoicing that was in my heart because I was truly sensible of the cause wherefore I suffered. My joy was unutterable under this consideration, that the Lord my God should not only count me worthy to believe in his name, but also to suffer for the same. Christ Jesus the Son of the Father's love suffered to save and redeem my soul, and therefore should not I willingly offer up all I had and did enjoy in answer to what God through Christ his Son had done for me? Yea, surely, I said in my heart, "I will offer up all freely." I speak to his praise and glory, and the encouragement of all faithful, willing sufferers, whose suffering will never be wearisome nor tedious unto you. No murmuring nor complaining will have room in any such heart as to say or think, "How shall I live? Or how shall my wife and children be maintained? Or my business be carried on?" For though we are not to be void of an honest care in those things, yet not to murmur because of the suffering.
What! is not God Almighty all-sufficient for the soul? And must not he be relied upon, through Christ his Son, our Lord, for the salvation thereof? And is not he that is all-sufficient for the soul, sufficient for the body also? Yea, assuredly, by living experience can my soul say so. And is not the earth the Lord's, and the fulness thereof? And cannot he take and give according to his good will and pleasure?
Let all remember the patience of Job in retaining his integrity in his deep affliction and suffering, both in goods and body, whose wife gave him bad counsel, saying, "Wilt thou always retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die." But he refused it and reproved her and suffered the loss of his thousands of sheep and camels, and hundreds of oxen, and all his children and servants. Yet the Lord restored him double, so that it is said, "The latter end of Job was far more happy and blessed than the beginning."
Oh! that all who are called to suffer may be careful to refuse evil counsel given either by wife or husband, kinsfolk or relations, who would persuade them to requite the Lord evil for good and desert their testimony in suffering. Such who would give counsel on this wise, "This is but a small matter, and the other is but a little thing. Thou mayest do it well enough, or suffer another to do it for thee." "Nay," saith the honest-hearted and true to God, "I must first be faithful in the little and then my Lord and Master will make me ruler over more. And that which I cannot for conscience sake do myself, I cannot suffer any connivingly to do for me, for this is hypocrisy and dissimulation."
Oh! what encouragement have all the faithful in suffering to trust the Lord with all they have and enjoy, and to consider the patience of Job, the faithfulness of Daniel, and the faith, courage, and nobility of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel could not but open his window and pray to his God though a decree was made to cast him into the den of lions. But the angel of the Lord's presence shut their mouths and preserved Daniel, the servant of the living God, as the king called him when he saw his faithfulness.
The kings and rulers of the earth, with many people, are made to confess that we are the people of God indeed when they see us stand faithful in our testimony, as Nebuchadnezzar was made to call the three servants of the Lord, "Come forth ye servants of the Most High God," although he had threatened, as some in our times, that if they would not fall down and worship the image he had set up, they should be cast into the fiery furnace, seven times hotter than ever; and who is that God that shall be able to deliver out of my hand! Yet as the Lord had then, so he hath a way now, to deliver all whose trust and confidence is in him, beyond the expectation of wicked and cruel men, notwithstanding their fury. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said, "Be it known unto thee, O king, we will not serve thy gods, for our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. And if not, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." And because they could not bow to the king's image, at the sounding of several sorts of instruments of music, they were bound and cast into the burning fire with their coats, hoses, and hats. And the flame of the furnace was so great that those men that cast them in were slain thereby, but not so much as one hair of the three faithful servants of the Lord was singed, nor the smell of fire found on their clothes.
What great encouragement is here for all who in any measure know God, to believe and trust in him in suffering, whether in body or goods, though ever so deep. For hereby it is evident that the Lord always had and hath a true regard to his people. And the more need they stand in of him, so accordingly he appears and works their deliverance, according to that saying, "The rod of the wicked shall not always rest upon the lot of the righteous." Not only so, but he brings plagues and judgments upon the heads of the persecutors and afflictors of his faithful ones, "One hair of whose head," saith Christ, "shall not fall to the ground without your Father's notice."
When Herod the king, the troubler of the church killed James, and because it pleased the Jews, took Peter also, and put him in prison, intending to bring him forth to the people, that same night, although Peter lay bound in prison with two chains between two soldiers, an angel from God came upon him and loosed his chains and caused the iron gate to open of its own accord. And Paul and Silas, who were put in the inward prison after they had been beaten and sorely abused and their feet fastened in the stocks, prayed and sang praises unto God at midnight and such was the wonderful appearance of the great power of the mighty God which caused the prison doors to open that it is said, "The foundations of the prison were shaken and when the jailer waked, he thought to have killed himself, seeing the doors open, supposing the prisoners had been fled. But Paul said, "Do thyself no harm, we are all here." And he came trembling, when he perceived what was done, and said, "What shall I do to be saved?" And Paul and Silas spoke unto him the word of the Lord and bid him believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he should be saved. And he and all his house believed.
There is great encouragement for all faithful, honest hearted Friends under suffering to go on in all faithfulness, freely giving up life and liberty and all into the Lord's hand, willing to cast their care and put their confidence in Him who hath all power in his own hand to bring to pass whatsoever seems good in his eyes. The wicked many times in the height of their wickedness are frustrated and God's people, beyond all expectation, preserved and delivered, of which you yourselves have many times been made living witnesses. Hold it fast, dear Friends, in your remembrance!
And you may also see that when there is a giving up freely to what the Lord requires, through the might of his power people's hearts and consciences are reached, causing them to tremble, whereby good desires are begotten and the query raised, "What shall we do to be saved," though before they have been persecutors and afflictors of God's people. They whose care it is thus to walk and show forth a godly conversation and example in doing or suffering so as to reach to the witness of God in people's consciences, though in the inner prison as Paul and Silas were, have not only cause to bless and praise the holy name of God for accompanying them by the angel of his presence, but also to sing and make melody unto him in their hearts.
Dear Friends and suffering brethren, though the Lord our God see it good to try your faith and patience to see how you will trust in him in the hour of temptation and time of trial, and men are permitted to take your goods and also to separate you from your nearest relations, your dear wives and tender children, and put you in prison, yet this is your joy and comfort, being sensible of the cause wherefore you suffer, and that man with all his power and rage cannot separate you from the pure enjoyment of the presence of the Lord, but it reaches unto his dear suffering lambs, though in a dungeon. If it were not so, we were most miserable. But now above all people we are blessed and happy, blessed and praised and magnified for evermore be the holy name and great power of our God, by which he doth carry through all his faithful children and people, for he is forever worthy of all praise, honor and glory, unto him alone be it given, both now and for evermore. Amen.
Dear Friends, put on courage and boldness as an armor, in the name, fear, and power of the Most High, faithfully to follow your Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will never leave you nor forsake you, except you first leave him, who will lead through good and bad report, fire and water, and in every trouble and exercise, he will be your preserver who upholds all by his word and power. In faithfulness follow your Leader whithersoever he goes, for as you with diligence follow him, he will bring you forth in his own time. Happy are they that patiently wait till then though in as great trial as ever any of his people suffered.
Yet, if you be steadfast in the faith, he will bring you forth, and make you more bright and pure, holy and clean, for the fiery trial makes so, concerning which, as the apostle Peter said, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
So a true and faithful testimony, whether in doing or suffering in body or goods, may be borne unto the truth and for God and his pure holy worship, and against all oppression and unrighteousness, that the same may be left upon record to after ages as a confirmation to their faith and may tend to their encouragement, just as the example of those faithful witnesses who have already finished their course in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and are gone to their rest doth greatly tend to strengthen the faith and encourage those who are now traveling in the same way.
In that same love, pure life, and true tenderness into which at first you were begotten and raised to bear a faithful testimony for the Lord, his truth and glory, though but in little things, when nothing was too near or dear for you to part with, may you all persevere so that he who was known to be the first, may carefully be kept unto, and be known to be the last; the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the same yesterday, today, and forever, who is from everlasting to everlasting; that so the crown of life and immortal glory may be set upon your heads, which is laid up in store for all who in faithfulness continue unto the end. Unto which the Lord God of life, by and through the greatness of his own power, preserve you all faithful in life and unto death. Amen.
From my prison-house in Carlisle, in Cumberland, the 17th of the Fifth month, 1684.