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THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY

 

To the Sons and Daughters of Zion, grace, peace, ect., be multiplied.

Dearly Beloved, it may with some seem altogether needless and useless to bring to public view, a narrative of faith in such a day as This is, especially there having been the like brought forth by several baptized congregations formerly. Unto which we reply, that our publishing This Narrative of our faith and practice, is not from any dislike we found with the former Confession of our beloved Brethren. (We mean the Narrative published by the seven Churches in London), whom we own, and with whom we are one both in faith and practice. Neither is there any thing in ours contradictory to our brethren, that we know of, that have gone before us.

We can say when the Lord set us first upon This work, we did not think of bringing it to public view, but did it rather for a trial of our unity in the faith, and for our more clear fellowship one with another, from our harmony in faith and practice.

  1. In regard of the general change laid upon our profession, as if none in the counteries that professed baptism were of our Brethren’s judgment that published that Confession of faith in London, but old freewill, falling away from grace, &c., all which through the grace of God we disclaim, and not only we, but to our knowledge, many other Churches in the adjacent Counties, who stand fast in the profession of the unchangeable love of God in Jesus Christ to His people.

  2. Being very sensible of the great distractions and divisions that are among profession people in This nation, the many ways and wiles of Satan to seduce and deceive souls, the great departing from the faith, and that under glorious notions of spiritualness and holiness, Satan transforms himself into an Angel of light, and His Ministers into Ministers o righteousness, we could not but judge it our bounden duty in This our day to come forth in a renewed Declaration of our faith, as a public testimony before all men that (through grace) we do with one soul desire to cleave to the Lord, contending earnestly for the faith that was once given to the Saints: for This being the great design of Satan to destroy the faith and practice of the Gospel churches, we judge nothing more suitable and proper to us as Churches of our Lord, wherein me might bear our witness for him (in This day of temptation) in print as well as in practice, then thus our testimony to the faith and truth, as it is in Jesus. And, Oh, that it might be a Remembrancer to all our Sister-churches in This Commonwealth, that they be not soon moved from the hope of the Gospel, and give us leave to cry mightily unto you, and to be your remembrancers as from the Lord in these few following particulars:

  3. That it be our care, and that which may daily lay next to your hearts to have a high and precious esteem of Jus Christ, and of Him crucified; God having made Him to His people, to be the way, the truth and the life, John 14:6. Know that if has been the design of Satan in all ages to seek the undermining of Him; for Satan knows that God has made Him to be the way of salvation to all that truly believe in Him. Hence it is that the devil said to Christ, we know thee who thou art, &c. the devil knows that there is no other name given under heaven by which we may be saved, Acts 4:12, he who goes about like a roaring Lion, seeking whom he may devour, I Peter. 5:8. If he cannot have His prey in one way, he will seek it in another. He can and does transform himself into an Angel of light, and His Ministers as the Ministers of the righteousness, 2 Cor. 11:14, 15. It is all one with the adversary, whether he ruins souls in a way of profession or in a way of profaness; and if in profession, he cannot quite souls with the form without the power, (which is His great work) 2 Tim. 3., from the first to the fifth verse, Titus 1:16; then he will pretend to being them into a power without all form; all form must be accounted fleshly, yes, Christ Himself (the most glorious Dispensation of God, the spirit, and the life of souls truly living in Him by faith, with out whom there is neither grace nor glory) must now be accounted fleshly, and all that own it must be of the Devil. Oh, the subtle ways of Satan to deceive and ruin souls. Oh, give us leave to call upon you, and to cry unto the Lord both for our selves and you. That He who is our Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, would now be our Keeper in the hour of temptation. Oh, be not easily cheated out of your esteem of, and interest in a crucified Jesus. Oh, little do souls think, what they lose when they part with the man Christ Jesus, trampling the blood of the covenant under feet, for nothing but wind and vanity, they sow the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind; if mercy do not recover them again, who lay aside Christ, scripture and obedience all at once, subjecting themselves to a suggestion, or voice within them, more than to the mind of God written in the Holy Scriptures, who lay aside Christ in all His Offices; we say again let it be your care, yea your great care, as you hope for mercy in that day, that you keep close to your head, Christ Jesus, from Whom some are turned aside, and let it be our work rather to be mourning and lamenting the state of poor deluded souls, then to run away from Christ, and truth with them. Oh! Let not any of us, who have owned the Lord, part with Him because others do it; or trample underfoot His ordinances, because we see and hear others do it; but rather let that noble spirit appear in you that was in the prophet, Psa. 119:97; and verse 126, 127; they make void thy Law, therefore I love thy commandments above Gold; do men under pretence of light, trample under foot the blood of the covenant, and the ordinances all at once, and pretend love in it, and persuade you to do it. Oh! Love Christ and His laws the more, love them above gold, yea, above fine gold, so shall you manifest yourselves to be the Spouse of Christ, betrothed unto Him in truth, and not a harlot that does run away from him, and say all is well.

  4. Let it be your great care to press after, and live more in the power of the Gospel, This is that will prove the condemnation of men who live in the profession of the Gospel; without the power and life of the Gospel, 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 1:16, for the Gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation, Rom. 1:16, and if you do indeed live in the power of the Gospel, you shall have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life, Romans 6:22. We do not mind such a power as men pretend to in these days, viz., a light and a voice within them, without any relation to Christ, or Scriptures, but the power of Christ handed forth in the Ministration of the Gospel through the exercise of faith in Jesus, for ye are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, I Peter 1:5, living in the constant apprehensions of Christ crucified for you, everlasting to make intercession, Hebrews 7:25, by virtue of which the spirit, power and virtues of Christ are daily manifested in you, so Christ is not only for you, but in you, the hope of glory.

  5. Take heed of being ensnared and entangled with the evils of the world, This is what which Christ has prayed for (to This farther) that those who believe in Him might be kept from the evils of the world, John 17:15. And, indeed we cannot but judge that it much concerns the Lord’s people (on whom His name is called) to die daily to the worlds ways and fashions; how often are the saints called upon in Scripture to This work, Ephesians 4:17, 18,19. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their minds, &c., Col. 3:5, mortify therefore your members which are upon earth, 7C., Rom. 12:2, and be not conformed to This world, &c., I Peter 1:14, as obedience children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lust in your ignorance, &c., with many other the life. Oh, therefore, give us leave to mind you (and we desire the Lord to mind both you and us) of those abominable sins of formality, hypocrisy, covenantousness, pride, &c., with many other gross enormities, which are too incident to professing people, and we have cause to fear it is that which has and does at This day very deeply wound the truth; Oh, that it might wound our hearts more, and & that the hearts of Saints might be signing and crying, not only for the abominations of the profane, but the likewise of professing people; these aforementioned evils we can say, through grace, that God has in a measure set home upon our hearts, but 2 of them we shall mention more particularly, viz., Pride in apparel and covetousness, and has likewise set our hearts in seeking and endeavoring a reformation, and we shall present unto you our light in This matter, covetousness and pride, being not only natural sins, but reigning evils, were not discovered and opposed; for the finding out of which evils that it may be discerned and dealt withal, we judge covetousness to consist either in: 1, in getting of goods, and not by right; or 2, in an over eager pursuit of a lawful calling; 3, in a close keeping, when the necessity of the Saints calls for it; for pride and vanity in apparel, we judge that things that are altogether needless and useless, may clearly come under the denomination of vanity and pride; as likewise costly array, when more costly than profitable; these we judge are the symptoms of a vain mind, and oh, that the Lore would set it home upon the hearts of all the Saints to reform, and that it might become Church work to look after those things; for Church-sins will bring down Church-afflictions, if not repented of, see Revelation the second and third chapters. As the Lord in His infinite goodness has purposed to work His people into a conformity to Jesus, that as they have born the image of the earthly, so they might bear the image of the heavenly man, I Cor. 15:49, so it is or should be the longing desire of all the Saints that do indeed expect to be like Christ in glory, to be pressing more after a conformity to Him here, I John 3:3. He who has this hope in him purifies himself, as he is pure. Not how much does the contrary appear, are not many professing men and women in our days; rather pressing after the world in is pride and fashions, then after Christ in meekness and holiness. And we fear that there may be some rising in some good people against a reformation in these things, and we earnestly desire that one may so pursue it, as to adventure the loss of an interest in Christ, rather than to part with such lusts as these are, which do indeed war against the soul. But it may be objected that pride consists in the hearts and not in apparel, persons may be as proud in mean apparel as others are in costly.

We answer first, it is true, it may be so, yet we have no rule to judge our brethren’s heart in such a case, but love should teach us other things, and we do not question, but that those that are most mortified in This matter, have full experience of too much pride in their nature.

Secondly, we judge it to be too carnal a way of reasoning for Saints, to suppose their brethren may be proud in mean apparel, and from hence resolve to be proud in gay apparel. We desire that Satan may not get such an advantage over any o f the Lord’s people in this thing.

Thirdly, we cannot but judge that from our own experience in past, that the true cause why there is so much vanity and pride of apparel upon the back is because the root of all lies in the heart. If it were not in the heart, it would not appear so much on the back as it does. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and suitably the body acts. If we see a proud and gay outside, we may easily conjecture where there is a proud heart.

Objection: We find ourselves in the use of such things, not al all puffed up, and therefore we judge it Lawful, &c.

We answer, first, if it were so in truth it’s the better.

But secondly, we cannot but conceive that as the original of all lies in the heart; so that those who do not know that those needless vain things on the back, do minister occasion to the vain mind to be puffed up. They do not know their own hearts, and it may be discovered in such things as these;

  1. The heart’s desiring after, and preferring of persons in gay attire, before those in mean, James chapter 5;

  2. The heart’s unwillingness to part with it; a heart never so knows His love to pride in a thing, till he comes to part with it.

  3. A heat rising against a reproof of this vanity. Herod heard John the Dipper gladly till he touched him in His beloved sin; and this reformation probably may make many startle who are glorious in profession, but we hope that Sion’s Sons and Daughters will be willing upon a right information to come to a right reformation.

Objection: If we should lay aside the fashions of the World, we should be slighted among the people of the world, pass through shame, be as an Owl among birds, none of fashion would care for our company.

We answer, First, it is the portion of the followers of Christ to suffer shame in the world for His sake, and to be slighted of men, I Peter 1:4. They think strange that you run not with them to the same excess of riot, and shall any that fear the Lord run with the world to this excess of pride in apparel, that so the world may not think strange of them, God forbid.

But, 2; we are in expectation of such a general conviction (from the Lord) amongst the Saints in this matter; that ere long it will be a shame to a Saint to be found in Babylon’s deckings in the outward man as well as in spiritual things. However, we desire not to be tedious, we hope a word to the wise, through the blessings of God may be enough; only we commend unto further,

  1. that the name of the Lord is much concerned in it. What advantage does Satan and His instruments take to reproach the truth from the vanity and pride of professing people in this matter;

  2. Secondly, it is a sin that is attended with many other sins, as covetousness, oppression, &c. to maintain it.

  3. Thirdly, it is a sin most of all abhorred of God, all that are proud in heart, are an abomination to him; He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

  4. Fourthly, it was the sin and cause of the condemnation of the Devil, first of Timothy the third chapter and the sixth verse. It was the sin and cause of the fall of man from His first estate, Genesis the third chapter and the fifth verse, ye shall be as God knowing good and evil, and this prevailed to draw on to disobedience.

  5. Fifthly, and finally, it is that for which men must stand liable to the burning flame, when the great and terrible day of our Lord comes, which day we believe to be near at hand.

When that day comes that shall burn like an oven, Malachi the fourth chapter and the first verse, then proud persons must be the fuel of that fire. Oh, take heed and beware of this sin of pride, both in heart, and in the outward man. Take heed and beware of covetousness, take heed and beware of hypocrisy, and of all those abominations by which men are fitted for the everlasting burning, for even our God is a consuming fire.

Objection, it may be some may fear they should be accounted covetous by the world, if they should set about such a reformation as we here mind.

We say that God has appointed other ways for His people wherein they may give convincing testimony of their liberality; that is in clothing the backs and refreshing the bowels of the poor, and needy, and not in decking their own backs with needless vanities, and that too it may be when the poor and needy are crying for want. Oh, that it may be your care and ours for the future, to show forth the life and virtues of Christ by our good works to the praise and glory of God.

  1. Let it be your care to seek after things that make for peace and things wherein you may edify one another, follow peach with all men, and holiness, without which none shall see the Lord, Hebrews the 12th chapter and the 14th verse, as God is the God of Peace, and Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. So, let the Lord’s people manifest themselves to be indeed the Sons of Peace. However, if any be contentious, let no such custom be owned in the Churches of Christ.

  2. Let it be your care in this evil day to cleave close to the principles of truth, the want of which we judge to be the cause of falling from the truth, souls not being grounded in principles, for we judge that there are such doctrinal principles of truth, left by the Lord unto, and wrought in His peace, that if an Angle from heaven should come and preach contrary unto it, they might let him be accursed. Some of which we believe to be, that Jesus Christ crucified, was raised again by the power of God, and is the way, the truth, and the life, that we are justified by faith in His blood, that a person justified is to live to him and obey him according to His will in Scripture, that he is ascended into the heavens, and is with the Father, making intercession for His people, that He will come again and raise and change His people, and judge and reign and rule, & c. And His people shall reign with, &c.

  3. Let it be your care in all things to live holy in this world, to be holy in all manner of conversation, I Peter 1:15, that both you and we may have our conversation in heaven from whence we look for a Savoir, Phil. 3:20.

  4. Let it be much upon our hearts (to the end that it may be so) to be much in the exception of, and the exercise of faith in the promises of God, for the powering forth of a greater measure of the Holy Spirit.

And lastly, Oh, that the glorious appearing and kingdom of our Lord Jesus might be much upon your hearts and ours, which is the blessed hope of Saints, Titus 2:13. Then, what manner of persons should we be in all manner of holy conversation? For he that has this hope in himself purifieth himself as He is pure, I John 3:3. However, lest we should be though too tedious, we shall proceed no further, only mind a word to the Reader. For his help in the narrative, we have set down for the most part the Scriptures between every clause of branch of the article, and most of the Scriptures are set down at length. For the benefit of the Reader, the articles are in the same letters or characters as this Epistle is, and what is in a different character from those, they are the Scriptures in proof of the foregoing Article.

Thus dear Friends, having given some account of the reasons of our publishing this Narrative at this time, we commend it to you, as it is, desiring it may be useful to that end; for which it is intended. We have not desired either to follow cunningly devised fables, nor to use the excellency of speech, which man’s wisdom teaches, but to bring forth the truth or our faith in the plainness and simplicity of our hearts, and that we believe according to the truth, as it is in Jesus, in whose hands we leave it for a blessing upon it to you, Fare ye well.

Signed in the name, and by the appointment of the several Churches, by us whose names are as followeth:

In the County of Somerset:

Of the Church of Christ meeting at Bridge-water, Alexander Atkins and Tobias Wells; Of the Church meeting at Ryden, Robert Adrigde; Of the Church meeting at Hatch, George Parsons; Of the Church meeting at Chard, Robert Chanson, and John Sparke; Of the Church meeting at Somerton, William Scriven and William Anger; Of the Church meeting at Wells, David Barret, and Thomas Savery; Of the Church meeting at Wedmore, Thomas Urch and Richard Coals; of the Church meeting at Stoak, William Hare; Of the church meeting at Wincanton, Blaze Allen and Ambrose Brook; Of the Church meeting at Munticue, Thomas Bud.

In the County of Wilts: Of the Church meeting at North-Bradly, William Crab, and Nicholas Elliot.

In the County of Devon: Of the Church meeting at Luppit, Edward Burford and Samuel Ham.

In the County of Gloucesher: Of the Church meeting at Sedburg, James Nobs; Of the Church meeting at Bristol, Henry Hineham.

In the County of Dorset: Of the Church meeting in, and near Lime, Abraham Podger.

Thomas Collier.

 

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