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RANTERS - Section Two: Concerning the Ground and Cause of This Controversy

By Robert Barclay


      When as the Lord God by his mighty power began to visit the nations with the dawning of his heavenly day, (for thus I write unto those that have received and believed the truth,) and that he sent forth his instruments, whom he had fitted and prepared fo r his work, having fashioned them not according to the wisdom and will of man, but to his own heavenly wisdom and counsel, they went forth and preached the gospel in the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit: not in the enticing words of man's wisdom; but in appearance as fools and mad, to those that judged according to man. But their words and testimony pierced through into the inner man in the heart, and reached to that of God in the conscience; whereby as many as were simple-hearted and waited for the redemption of their souls, received them as the messengers of the Most High God; and their words were unto them, not as the words of men, but as the words of God: for in the receiving and embracing the testimony of truth through them, they felt thei r souls eased, and the acceptable day began to dawn in and upon them.
      Now what evidence brought these men to make their testimony to be received? Did they entice? Did they flatter? Did they daub up? Did they preach liberty to the flesh, or will of man? Nay verily, they used no such method: their words were as thunderbolts, knocking down all that stood in their way, and pouring down the judgment of God upon the head of the transgressor every where. Did they spare the zealous professor more than the open profane ? Nay verily, they condemned equally the hypocrisy of the one, as well as the profanity of the other; yet wanted they not regard to the tender seed and plant of God in either. Did they give way? Did they yield to the wisdom of man? To the deceitfulness of the serpent, that would reason truth for themselves, saying, I must stay, until I be convinced of this, and that, and the other thing to be my duty? How did they knock down this manner of reasoning by the Spirit of God, which wrought mightily in them, showing and holding: forth that this is the day of the Lord th at has dawned; that all are invited to come; that none ought to tarry behind; that that which so pleadeth, is the same Spirit, which of old time said in those that were invited, "I cannot come yet, I must first marry a wife; I must go prove my yoke of ox en; I must go visit my possessions; let me first bury my dead father?" Did not the Lord through them testify and declare against forms, fellowships, false worships and foolish fashions of this world ? But we felt, as we were obedient, all these things to be for condemnation; and that, as we obeyed the pure manifestation of the Light of Jesus in our hearts, there was no hesitation. We might and should have parted with all things at the first; and what occasioned such scruples, was but that which drew ba ck,through being unwilling to give pure obedience to the cross of Christ: for as many as gave obedience, and believed the light, found no occasion of stumbling; but such as believed not were condemned already, because they believed not in him that appear ed. Now the boldness and courage, and efficacy of these messengers' testimony wrought such astonishment, fear and amazement, in the hearts of such as were ingenuous, that many began to be inwardly pricked, as in the days of old, and the foundations of m any began to be shaken ; and some that were asleep were awakened, and many that were dead and buried in the graves of sin, and formality, and superstition, an idolatry of all sorts, were alarmed; and many were brought in from the hedges and the highways, and the truth was received by thousands with great cheerfulness and a readiness of mind; and the feet of those were beheld to be beautiful upon the mountains, that brought the glad tidings of these good things. And great lowliness and simplicity of hear t was upon such that were newly convinced of the truth, and deep humiliation of spirit, and subjection to the power, both in themselves, and in those who were over them in the Lord, and had gathered them into the truth.
      But as it was in the gatherings of old, so it also fell out in this day; all kept not their first love: as among those thousands which Moses led out of Egypt, and carried through the Red Sea, who had sung praises to God upon the banks of salvation, many carcasses fell in the wilderness; some who murmured and longed to return again to the flesh-pots of Egypt; and some for opposing and contradicting the servant, and servants of the Lord, whom the Lord had made use of to lead them out of bondage, in saying "ye take too much upon you. Hath the Lord indeed only spoken by Moses? Hath He not spoken also by us?" And as among these multitudes, which were gathered by the apostles, there were many, who continued not faithful to the end; some returned back again w ith the sow to the puddle, after they were washed; some embraced the present world; some again separated themselves, being sensual and without the Spirit, despising dominion, and speaking evil of dignities; their mouths speaking great swelling words, bei ng puffed up, and not abiding in those things, which they were taught of the apostles; so it is to be lamented, that among those many thousands, who the apostles and evangelists whom God raised up in this day (for the gathering of his seed and people out of spiritual Egypt and Babylon into his pure light and life) did bring forth and gather, there are that have fallen upon the right hand and the left Some are turned back again into Egypt, running into the same excess of lust and riot, from whence they w ore once purified and redeemed. Some could not bear the reproach of the Cross of Christ; and were by and anon offended in him: some could not bear the tribulations, sufferings, and persecutions, which came for the truth's sake; and the seed in them was s oon scorched with the heat of the day. And some not abiding in subjection to the truth in themselves, were not contented with that place and station in the body, which God had placed them in but became vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds, intruding i nto those things which they have not seen: and would needs be innovators, given to change, and introducing new doctrines and practices, not only differing, but contrary to what was already delivered in the beginning; making parties, causing divisions and rents, stumbling the weak, and denying, despising and reviling the apostles and messengers of Christ, the elders of the Church, who loved not their lives unto death, but through much care and travel, and watchings and whippings, and bonds, and beatings, in daily jeopardy, gathered us by the mighty power of God in the most precious truth. Yet in all this there hath nothing befallen us, but that which hath been the ancient lot of the Church of Christ in the primitive times.
      Now he that was careful for his Church and people in old times, hath not been wanting to us in our day; but as he has again restored the truth unto its primitive integrity and simplicity, and as he has delivered our understandings from these false doctri nes and principles, which prevailed in the apostasy; so he hath not gathered us to be as sheep a scattered without a shepherd, that every one may run his own way, and every one follow his own will, and and so to be as a confused mass or chaos without an order; but he, even the Lord, hath also gathered and is gathering us into the good order, discipline an government of his own Son the Lord Jesus Christ: therefore he hath laid care upon some beyond others, who watch for the souls of their brethren, as th ey that must give account. There are then fathers, that have gotten us unto Christ Jesus through the gospel, of whom we ought to be followers, and to remember their ways, which be in Christ. There are then fathers and children, instructors and instructe d, elders and young men, but must exhort, instruct, reprove, condemn, judge; or else, for what end gave Christ the gifts mentioned Ephes. iv. 11,12 ? and how are the saints perfected? and the body of Christ edified of those, who came under the cognizance , and as it were, the test of this order and government? I may chiefly sum them up in three sorts (though there be divers others little subdivided species of them.)
      The first is, those that turn openly back to the world again, through finding the way of truth too narrow. These have not been capable to do us any considerable hurt; for being as salt, that has lost its savor, they mostly prove a stink among those to wh om they go: and I never knew any of them, that proved any ways steadable to those, to whom they go. I find other professors make but small boast of any proselytes that get out from among us; I hear little of their proving champions for the principles of others against us. And, indeed, for the most part they lose all religion with the truth: for I have heard some of them say, that if ever they took on them to be religious, they would come back again to the Quakers, etc.
      Secondly, Those who through unwatchfulness, the secret corruption of their own hearts, and the mysterious or hidden temptations of the enemy, have fallen into his snares; and so have come under the power of some temptation or other, either of fle shly lusts, or of spiritual wickedness; who being seasonably warned by those that keep their habitation and faithful overseers in the Church, have been again restored by unfeigned repentance: not kicking against the pricks: but have rejoiced that others watched over them for their good; and are become monuments of God's mercy unto this day.
      Thirdly, Such, who being departed from their first love and ancient zeal for the truth, become cold and lukewarm; and yet are ashamed to make open apostasy, and to turn back again, so as to deny all the principles of truth, they having had already such evidence of clearness upon their understanding; yet not keeping low in their own habitations, but being puffed up, and giving way to the restless imaginations of their exalted and wondering minds, fall out with their brethren; cause divisions; begi n to find fault with every thing, and to look at others more than at themselves; with swelling words to talk of and preach up a higher dispensation, while they are far from living up to the life and perfection of this present; like unto such, who said, " we will not have this man to rule over us:" cry out of formality and apostasy, because they are not followed in all things; and if they be reproved for their unruliness, according to the good order of the Church of Christ, then they cry out, "breach of l iberty, oppression, persecution! we will have none of your order and government; we are taught to follow the light in of consciences, and not the orders of men." Well of this hereafter; but this gave the rise of this controversy; which leads me to that, which I proposed in the second place.

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