Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Nature of the Church of Christ and the Christian Witness

Tis well remembered, that that one Man G.F. went some years past into many parts of this Nation, advising Friends to hold such Meetings, viz. Monthly, and Quarterly; and in many places his Counsel was readily embraced: but for our parts, we understood not at that day, that it was designed by him, or any else, that those Meetings should not only be accounted the Church, but also such as professed the Truth, ought to believe as this Church believes; had he so expressed himself, Testimonies would have arisen as a Flood against {First Part 12} such Darkness; for this would have plainly appeared to us, to have opened a Door, whereby that Babylonish Rubbish, which we had been long testifying against, might have been exalted in one day. And to be very plain, we cannot but now declare, that we are fully satisfied in our Consciences, that by this very Door, a Body of Strife, Contention, Emulation, Malice, and Envy, together with a Rending, Dividing Separate Spirit from the Truth, is entred amongst many hundreds, who before walked together with us in an Heavenly Union and Fellowship, in the Life of Righteousness; which doubtless may (if it hath not already) occasion many Honest Simple-hearted Friends this in their Hearts to say; [Where are the People whom we shall now follow?] But if such retire into the Sanctuary of the Lord, there in stillness to wait what God will say, they will undoubtedly have this answer; [You have a Teacher with you, which cannot be removed into a Corner; follow that Teacher, lest peradventure your Feet do slip, by going from your Inward Guide, and following the Footsteps and Dictates of Man.]

But to return, ‘Tis now our Concern, as to the second Position thus further to declare, That whosoever hath or shall testifie, that all those Meetings (as usually held) were the Church of God, hath and will appear to be such, as know not whereof they affirm: for such a Testimony carries with it neither inward, nor outward Evidence (though we dare not conclude, that none in those Meetings were Members of the Church) for the1 Church of God consists properly of such as are by one Spirit baptized into one Body; and so are in the Possession as well as Profession of Truth: But yet whoever they were, that did not but so much as profess the Truth, were admitted to be Members of such Meetings, whilst they appeared in the outward Form thereof, and were not then of Scandalous Conversations: All which might appear in such as were far remote from witnessing the Circumcision of the Heart, and the Answer of a good {First Part 13} Conscience towards God, which must be witnessed as the proper Product of the Baptism of the Spirit, before a Possession of the Truth be known: And whether Mens Meetings have not often consisted of such Members, and are like so to do, whilst the Door is open for any under the aforesaid Qualifications to sit there (as it yet is) we recommend to the Serious Consideration of the Impartial Readers; and if so, we desire them further to weigh and Consider:

First, Whether it can be agreeable to the Truth, to account every thing acted and done by every such Meeting, to be the Product of the Church of Christ, and accordingly to be submitted to.

Secondly, Whether the Judging of some (conscientiously refusing to submit) to be dark, leavened, rending dividing or separate Spirits, because they refuse, be not the fruit of that Spirit that would remove us from that Teacher that cannot be removed into a Corner, to follow the Dictates of Fallible Men.

Thirdly, Whether a Plea for Obedience to the Orders of such Meetings, from Persons Conscientiously Refusing to Obey, hath not a tendency to Justify Usurpation; since they have never evidenced to the Consciences of those, from whom they have seemed to expect Obedience, any other Call to that Service, than their own.  

Fourthly, Whether a Plea for such Meetings, to Govern in matters relating to Conscience, hath not a tendency to Justify Confusion; since according to the reputed Order of such Meetings, None that are to be Ruled, are excluded from being Rulers?

Let those who cannot believe this our last Assertion, peruse Robert Barclay’s Book of Government, approved by such as have been accounted Ministring Friends, at the second Days Meeting in London, wherein ‘tis said, Page. 33. “We are not so foolish, as to concern our selves with those who are not of us:” none of which are (according to the Import of the said Book of Government, as we take it) excluded from {First Part 14} such Meetings, nor yet to give Judgement therein (witness Page 79, and 82. of the said book) and since we are not treating of those Meetings, we are not without a sense, but that some may be ready thus to query, viz.

Commentary on the observations of William Rogers Rough Draft 10-12-2020 Incomplete
Paragraph One

Sec1. George Fox Recommends the establishment of Monthly and Quarterly Meeting
Sec2. Some, in the Quaker Gathering, embraced the establishment of Institutions.
Sec3. Some people in the gathering, who orignally embrace Fox's recommendation, became concerned with the institutionalization measures because the institutions became the Church itself and it became the practice that all institutionalized Quakers must conform to the beliefs of the Church.
Sec4. Had Fox explained that his recommendation for the institutionalization of the gathering meant the institution ruled over the conscience, there would have been many Quakers unwilling to participate because they had long been testifying against institutionalized religion.
Sec5. People were against the institutionalization of the gathering because the very process was the cause of contention and strife where there was none.
Sec6. To resolve contention and strife in human relations people should retire from the institutional structure and come into and wait upon the presence of God in the conscience as their Teacher in itself without regard for the institutionalized Church, dictates, and agency of people.

Paragraph Two

Sec1. The outward visible Church is not the Church of God. The Church of God is those people who know and experience the direct immediate, self-evident presence of God in their conscience and consciousness (that is, those who are in possession of Truth).
Sec2. There may be people who are come into the direct presence of God and who participate in the visible Church, however, their membership into the fellowship of Christ is through the self-evident presence of God in their conscience and consciousness which is the invisible Church.
Sec3. It happened that, through the establishment and institutionalization of the Quaker gathering into Meetings, a practice of admitting people who, by the narrowest of margin, outwardly and formally professed the concept of the presence of God but did not acknowledge the direct experience of God's presence in their conscience which is the baptism of the Spirit.

Paragraph Three

Sec1. In light of the practice of admitting people who are in the formality of the Meeting and do not acknowledge self-evident possession and witness of the presence of God in their conscience, Rogers asks whether the actions, dictates and recommendations of such a visible Meeting can properly be called the product of the invisible Church of Christ in the conscience and consciousness of people.

  1. 1Cor. 12.13.

End of Works and Books

Pr. He calls it a ſubtile deluſion that owns not the Law without in Tables and Books to try the ſpirits within, &c. See page 8. Anſ...