Robert Barclay

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Such is the malignity of man's nature in his fallen state, and so averse is he from walking in the straight and even path of truth, that at every turn he is inclinable to lean either to the right hand or to the left; yea, such as by the work of God's grace in their hearts, and powerful operation of his Spirit, have obtained an entrance in this way, are daily molested, and set upon on all hand; some striving to draw them the one way, some the other: and if through the power of God they be kept faithful and stable, then are they calumniated on both sides; each likening or comparing them to the worst of their enemies.
Those that are acquainted with the holy Scriptures, may observe this to be the lot of the saints in all ages; but especially those, whose place it hath been to reform and restore the ruins of the house of God, when decayed, or any considerable time have been liable to such censures: hence those that set about repairing of the walls of Jerusalem, were necessitated to work with the one hand, and defend with the other.
Christ is accused of the Jews a Samaritan; and by the Samaritans quarrelled with for being a Jew. The Apostle Paul is whipped and imprisoned by the Gentiles, and upbraided with being a Jew, and teaching their customs; the same Paul is hated and ready to be killed by the Jews, for breaking the law and defiling the temple with the Gentiles. The like hath also befallen those faithful witnesses, and messengers, whom God has raised up in this day to witness for his truth, which hath long been in a great measure hid; but now is again revealed, and many brought to be witnesses of it who thereby come to walk in the light of the Lord.
This people thus gathered, have not wanted those trials, that usually accompany the church of Christ, both on the right hand and on the left, each characterising them in such terms, as they have judged would prove most to their disadvantage. From whence (as the testimony of the false witnesses against their Lord did not agree, neither do these against us) some will have us to be foolish, mad creatures; others to be deep, subtil politicians; some to be illiterate, ignorant fellows; others to be learned, cunning Jesuits under a mere vizard: divers professors will have us to be only pensioners of the Pope, undoubtedly Papists: but the Papists abhor us as heretics; sometimes we are a disorderly, confused rabble leaving every one to do as they list, against all good order and government; at other times we are so much for order, as we admit not men to exercise the liberty of their own judgments. Thus are our reputations tossed by the envy of our adversaries which yet cannot but have this effect upon soberminded people, as to see what malice works against us; and how thee men by their contradictory assertions concerning us, save us the pains, while they refute one another.
True it is, we have labored to walk amidst these extremities; and upon our appearing for the truth, we have found things good in themselves abused on both hands : for such has always been the work of an apostasy, to keep up the shadow of certain truths; that there-through they might shelter other evils. Thus the Jews made use of the law and the prophets to vindicate their abuses; yea, and to crucify Christ: an how much many Christians abuse the Scriptures and the traditions of the apostles, to uphold things quite contrary to it, will in the general be readily acknowledged by most.
But to descend more particularly: there be two things especially, both of which in their primitive use were appointed, and did very much contribute towards the edification of the Church: the one is,
1.The power and authority which the apostles had given them of Christ, for the gathering, building up, and governing of his church, by virtue of which power and authority they also wrote the holy Scriptures.
2 . The other is, that privilege given to every Christian under the gospel, to be led and guided by the Spirit of Christ, and to be taught thereof in all things.
Now, both these in the primitave Church wrought effectually towards the same end of edification; and did (as in their nature they may, and in their use they ought to do) in a good harmony very well consist together; but by the workings of Satan and perverseness of men, they are made to fight against and destroy one another. For on the one hand the authority and power, that resided in the apostles, while it is annexed and entailed to an outward ordination and succession of teachers, is made use of to cloak and cover all manner of abuses, even the height of idolatry and superstition. For by virtue of this succession, these men claiming the like infallibility, that was in the apostles, (though they be strangers to any inward work, or manifestation of the Spirit in their hearts,) will needs oblige all others to acquiesce and agree to their conclusions, however different from, or contrary to, the truths of the gospel; and yet for any to call such conclusions in question, or examine them, is no less than a heinous heresy, deserving death, etc. Or while the revelation of God's mind is wholly bound up to these things already delivered in the Scriptures, (as if God has spoke his last words there to his people) we are put with our own natural understandings to debate about the meanings of it, and forced to interpret them not as they plainly speak, but according to the analogy of a certain faith made by men, not so much contrived to answer the Scriptures, as the Scriptures are strained to vindicate it; which, to doubt of, is also counted heresy, deserving no less than ejection out of our native country, and to be robbed of the common aid our nativity entitles us to. And on this hand, we may boldly say, both Papists and Protestants have greatly gone aside: On the other hand, some are so great pretenders to inward motions and revelations of the Spirit that there are no extravagances so wild, which they will not cloak with it; and so much are they for one's following their own mind as can admit of no Christian fellowship and community, nor of that good order and discipline, which the church of Christ never was nor can be without. This gives an open door all libertinism, and brings great reproach to the Christian faith. And on this hand have foully fallen the German Anabaptists, so called, John of Leyden, Knipperdolling, &c;., (in case these monstrous things committed by them be such as they are related,) and some more moderate of that kind have been found among the people of England, called Ranters; as it is true, the people called Quakers have been branded with both of these extremes, it is as true, it hath been and is their work to avoid them; and to be found in that even and good path of the primitive church, where all were (no doubt) led and acted by the Holy Spirit; and might all have prophesied one by on; and yet there was a subjection of the prophets to the spirits of the prophets. There was an authority some had in the church, and yet it was for edification, and not for destruction: there was an obedience in the Lord to such as were set over ; and a being taught by such, and yet a knowing of the inward anointing, by which each individual was to be led into all truth. The work and testimony the Lord has given us is, to restore this again, and to set both these in their right place, without causing them to desroy one another. To manifest how this is accomplished, and accomplishing among us, is the business of this Treatise; which, I hope, will give some satisfaction to men of sober judgments, and impartial, and unprejudicate spirits: and may be made useful in the good hand of the Lord, to confirm and establish Friends against their present opposers; which is mainly intended and earnestly prayed for by

Robert Barclay.

The 17th of the 8th mo., 1674.

Next: Section I, The Introduction and Method of this Treatise.