Stephen Crisp

Sewell, William. The History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the People Called Quakers, Vol. II. Philadelphia: Uriah Hunt, 1832.

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[235] Dearly beloved friends and brethren, gathered out of the world by the eternal arm and power of the mighty God, to bear his holy name in your generation; my love and life in the fellowship of the universal spirit salutes you all, and my prayer to God is, you may be kept steadfast and immoveable in the grace of God, and in the communion of his holy Spirit, that ye may bring forth fruit in abundance, according to the abundant mercy and grace bestowed upon you, to the glory of God, and to your mutual joy, comfort, and edification.

And that you may so do, let your eye be kept daily to the Lord, and behold and take notice of the wondrous works that he hath wrought in you, and for you, since the day ye were first quickened by his immortal word, and stirred up to seek after him, and to wait upon him: how good and gracious he hath been to you, in bringing you from the barren mountains, where your souls languished for the heavenly nourishment; where you knew not the Lord, nor one another, but were without a comforter, or any to sympathize with you in your mournings; Oh, how hath he pitied your groanings, and had compassion on your sighings, and brought you into acquaintance with those that were in the like exercises; and then he taught you to believe on him that was able to help you: and those that were thus taught of the Father, and felt his drawing cords of love prevailing upon them; these came to Christ their Saviour, and in him began to feel an unity one with another, in the faith you had received in him; whereby you believed he would give you of his spirit to teach and guide you in the way of truth, righteousness, and peace; and thus was the foundation of your holy communion laid, and a lively hope raised in each particular soul, that he that had begun this blessed work would carry it on; and this hope [236] made you that were not ashamed to make a public profession, of his name before the world; but cheerfully to take up his cross, and deny yourselves of your former pleasures, friendships, and delights of this world: this hope hath been your support in many sharp trials, and bitter combats you have had with the enemy of your souls' peace within, and with the enemies of God's holy way and truth without; and in all your conflicts you have found him nigh at hand, to put forth his power on your behalf, as you have depended upon him for assistance; and by these experiences of his goodness, your faith hath been strengthened; and by the same word of life that quickened you, many more have been reached unto, so that you have seen a daily addition of strength in the particular, and also an addition to your number, to your great comfort and encouragement; and many have come to wait upon the Lord among you; and many are daily inquiring the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward. These things are worth your remembrance and serious considerations, that you may look upon these great mercies as obligations upon your souls, to walk humbly before the Lord, and to be devout and fervent in your testimony, for that God that hath done thus great things for you.

And, friends consider of the great works that this might arm of the Lord hath brought to pass in the general, as well as in the particular; how many contrivances have been framed, and laws and decrees made to lay you waste, and to make you cease to be a people, and how have the wicked rejoiced thereat, for a season, crying, 'Ah, ah! thus would we have it; they are all now given up to banishments, to imprisonments, to spoils and ruins; now let us see if that invisible arm they trust in can deliver them.' Oh friends! How hath your God been your support in the midst of all these exercises! And when he hath pleased, how he hath quieted the sharpest storms, and turned back the greatest floods and torrents of persecution that ever you met! and how hath he confounded his and your enemies, and brought confusion upon the heads of them that sought your hurt! Were not these things wrought by the power of God? Did you number, your policy, your interest, or any thing that might be called your own, contribute any thing to these your great preservations and deliverances? If not, then let God have the glory, and acknowledge, to his praise, these have been the Lord's doings, and are marvelous in our eyes.

Again, dear friends, consider how the wicked one hath wrought in a mystery among yourselves, to scatter you, and to lay you waste from being a people as at this day; how many several ways hath he tried, raising up men of perverse minds, to subvert and to turn you from the faith, and from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus our Lord; and to separate you from that invisible power that hath been your strength, and to separate you one from another, and by subtle wiles to lead you into a false liberty above the cross of Christ; and sometimes by sowing seeds of heresy and seditions, endeavoring to corrupt the minds of whom they could with pernicious principles; but oh, how have their designs been frustrated, and the authors thereof confounded and brought to nought: and how have you been preserved as a flock under the hand of a careful shepherd, even unto this day, which ministers great cause of thanksgiving unto all the faithful, who have witnessed the working of this preserving power in their own particulars.

Also, my friends, it is worth your considerations, to behold how that [237] by this invisible power so many faithful watchmen are raised up upon the walls of your Zion; that in most of your meetings there be men and women, upon whom God hath laid a concern to be taking care for the good of the whole; and to take the oversight upon them, to see all things kept in good and decent order, and to make due provision for the comforting and relieving the necessities of the needy and distressed; that nothing be lacking to make your way comfortable; and these have not been, nor are brought under this charge by any act of yours, but God hath raised up pastors and teachers, elders and deacons of his own election and choice, and bowed their spirits to take upon them the work and service to which they are appointed, for the Lord's sake, and for the body's sake, which is the church; to whom it may truly be said, as in Acts xx. 28. "Take ye heed to the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers," &c. And such ought to be hearkened to in the discharge of their trust, as those that must give an account to him that called them, and gifted them for their several works and services in the church.

And by these ways and means hath the Lord established among you a heavenly government, and built as it were a hedge about you, that ye may be preserved from generation to generation, a people fitted for the glory that is, and shall daily more and more be revealed among and upon the faithful, who delight in that power that called them to be saints, and to bear a profession for the holy nature of God, against the many names and ways that men in their changeable minds have set up, that the name of the Lord alone may be exalted.

And, dear friends and brethren, I entreat you, that the consideration of these great and weighty things which God hath wrought for you, and among you, may have that deep and weighty influence upon your souls, that ye may find yourselves engaged to answer the love and mercy of God in your lives and conversations, and in all you have to do in this world; that ye may show forth the honor of God in all things, that the light which hath shined in you, may shine forth through you unto others, who yet sit in darkness; that all men may know by your innocent and harmless conversations, and by your close keeping to the Lord, that ye are a people who are assisted and helped by a supernatural power, which governs your wills, and subjects them to his blessed will; and that guides and orders your affections, and sets them upon heavenly and divine objects, and that gives you power to deny your own private interests, where they happen to stand in competition with the interest of truth; for these, and these only, will be found the true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, who can deny themselves, take up a cross daily, and follow him in the guidance of his regenerating power; which brings death upon itself, and crucifies the old nature, with its affections and lusts, and raises up a birth in you, that hath a holy will and desire to serve the Lord, and do his will in the earth; and such as these are instruments in the hand of God for him to work by, and to do works of righteousness, of justice, of charity, and all others the virtues belonging to a Christian life, to the honor of God, and for the comfort and benefit of his church and people.

And all you, dear friends, upon whom the Lord hath laid a care for his honor, and for the prosperity of the truth; and gathered you into the good order of the gospel, to meet together to manage the affairs thereof; take heed that ye have a single eye to the Lord, to do the [238] Lord's business in the leadings of his Spirit, which is but one, and brings all that are given up to be governed by it, to be one mind and heart, at least in the general purpose and service of those meetings; although through the diversity of exercises, and the several degrees of growth among the brethren, every one may not see or understand alike in every matter, at the first propounding of it; yet this makes no breach of the unity, nor hinders the brotherly kindness, but puts you often upon an exercise and an inward travailing, to feel the pure peaceful wisdom that is from above to open among you; and every one's ear is open to it, in whomsoever it speaks, and thereby a sense of life is given to the meeting, to which all that are of a simple and tender mind join and agree; but if any among you should be contrary minded in the management of some outward affair, relating to the truth, this doth not presently break the unity that ye have in Christ; nor should weaken the brotherly love, so long as he keeps waiting for an understanding from God, to be gathered into the same sense with you, and walks with you, according to the law of charity. Such a one ought to be borne with and cherished, and the supplications of your souls will go up to God for him, that God may reveal it to him if it be his will; that no difference may be in understanding, so far as is necessary for the good of the church, no more than there is in matters of faith and obedience to God; for my friends, it is not of absolute necessity that every member of the church should have the same measure of understanding in all things; for then where were the duty of the strong bearing with the weak? Then where were the brother of low degree? Where would be any submitting to them that are set over others in the Lord; which all tend to the preserving unity in the church, notwithstanding the different measures and different growths of the members thereof; for as the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; so are the spirits of all that are kept in a true subjection to the spirit of life in themselves, kept in the same subjection to the sense of life given by the same spirit in the church; and by this means we come to know the one master, even Christ, and have no room for other masters in the matter of our obedience to God: and while every one keeps in this true subjection, the sweet concord is known, and the oil is not only upon Aaron's head, but it reacheth the skirts of his garment also; and things are kept sweet and savory, and ye love another from the greatest to the least in sincerity, and, as the apostle saith, without dissimulation; and this love excludes all whisperings of evil things; all backbiting, talebearing, grudging, and murmuring; and keeps friends' minds clean one towards another, waiting for every opportunity to do each other good, and to preserve each other's reputation; and their hearts are comforted at the sight of one another; and in all their affairs, both relating to the church and to the world, they will be watchful over their own spirits, and keep in the Lord's power, over that nature and ground in themselves that would be apt to take an offence, or construe any word or action to a worse sense than the simplicity thereof, or the intention of the other concerned will allow of.

And whereas it may often fall out, that among a great many, some may have a different apprehension of a matter from the rest of their brethren, especially in outward or temporal things; there ought to be a Christian liberty maintained for such to express their sense with freedom of mind, or else they will go away burdened; whereas if they [239] speak their minds freely, and a friendly and Christian conference be admitted thereupon, they may be eased, and oftentimes, the different apprehension of such an one comes to be wholly removed, and his understanding opened, to see as the rest see; for the danger in society doth not lie so much in that, that some few may have a differing apprehension in some things from the general sense, as it doth in this, namely, when such that so differ, do suffer themselves to be led out of the bond of charity, and labor to impose their private sense upon the rest of their brethren, and to be offended, and angry if it be not received; this is the seed of sedition and strife that hath grown up in too many, to their own hurt.

And, therefore, my dear friends, beware of it, and seek not to drive a matter on in fierceness or in anger, nor to take offence into your minds at any time, because what seems to be clear to you, is not presently received; but let all things in the church be propounded with an awful reverence for him that is the head and life of it; who hath said, "Where two or three are met in my name, I will be in the midst of them." And so he is, and may be felt by all who keep in his spirit; but he that follows his own spirit, sees nothing as he ought to see it. Therefore let all beware of their own spirits and natural tempers, as they are sometimes called, but let all keep in a gracious temper; then are ye fit for the service of the house of God, whose house ye are, as ye keep upon the foundation that God hath laid; and he will build you up, and teach you how to build up one another in him, and as every member must feel life in themselves, and all from one head; this life will not hurt itself in any, but be tender of the life in all; for by this one life of the word ye were begotten, and by it ye are nourished, and made to grow into your several services in the church of God. It is no man's learning, nor artificial acquirements; it is no man's riches, nor greatness in this world; it is no man's eloquence and natural wisdom, that makes him fit for government in the church of Christ; unless he, with all his endowments, be seasoned with the heavenly salt, and his spirit subjected, and his gifts pass through the fire of God's altar, a sacrifice tor his praise and honor; that so self be crucified and baptized in death, and the gifts made use of in the power of the resurrection of the life of Jesus in him; and when this great work is wrought in a man, then all his gifts and qualifications are sanctified, and they are made use of for the good of the body, which is the church; and are as ornaments and jewels, which serve for the joy and comfort of all who are partakes of the same divine fellowship of life in Christ Jesus our Lord; and thus come many to be fitted and furnished to good works, which are brought forth in due seasons, for edification and building up the weak, and for repairing the decayed places, and also for defense of them that are feeble, that hurtful things may not come near them.

Oh friends! Great is the work the Lord hath called you to, and is fitting you for, who innocently wait upon him; and the Lord hath opened my heart unto you, and laid it upon me to exhort and beseech you to have a care that ye quit yourselves as ye ought, in what God requires of you; and for the more particular expressing what lies before me in the matter, I shall set down a few particular observations for your benefit and advantage; and my soul's desire is, that my labor of love may have a good effect in all your bosoms, that God may be honored thereby. And, friends, ye know the chief business, [240] to which ye are called in your particular men and women's meetings, is under these two heads, justice and charity; the first, to see that every one hath right done him; and the other, to take care there be nothing lacking to the comfort of the poor, that are made partakers of the same faith with you.

And when ye meet about these things, keep the Lord in your eye, and wait to feel his power to guide and direct you, to speak and behave yourselves in the church of God, as becomes the peaceable gospel: and beware of all brittleness of spirit, and sharp reflections upon each other's words; for that will kindle up heats, and create a false fire; and when one takes liberty of a sharp word spoken our of the true fear and tenderness, it oftentimes becomes a temptation to another; and if he hath not a great care, it will drawn him out also, and then the first is guilty of two evils, first, being led into a temptation, and then secondly, be becomes a tempter to others; therefore all had need to be upon their watch, neither to tempt, nor be tempted; and let none think it a sufficient excuse for them that they were provoked; for we are as answerable to God for every evil word spoken upon provocation, as without provocation; for, for that even hath the Lord revealed his power to us, to keep and preserve us in his fear and counsel in the time of our provocations; and therefore it any man through want of watchfulness, should be overtaken with heat or passion, a soft answer appeases wrath, saith the wise man; and therefore such a time is fittest for a soft answer, lest the enemy prevail on any to their hurt, and to the grief and trouble of their brethren; for it is the proper duty of watchmen and overseers to spare the flock; that is, let nothing come nigh them that will hurt them, and wound and grieve them; nay, the good apostle was so careful over the flock of believers, that it there were any doubtful matters to be disputed of, he would not have them that were weak in the faith at such disputes; much less ought they that are weak, to see those that are strong, descend from the strength, and go into the weakness where they are not able to bear; for that is certainly the weak that cannot bear; those that really live in the strength and power, they can bear even burdens for them that cannot bear their own. The apostle in the place before-mentioned, when he sent for the elders of Ephesus to Miletus, and left a charge with them, before he said, take heed to the flock of God, he said, "Take ye heed to yourselves." And indeed we are none of us like to discharge ourselves well towards others, but by taking heed to ourselves, to be kept in that sober innocent frame of spirit, which the truth calls for.

In the next place, my dear friends, when we are called upon in point of justice, to give a sentence of right between friend and friend, take heed that neither party get possession of your spirit aforehand, by any way or means whatsoever or obtain any word of sentence from you in the absence of the other party, he not being yet heard: there is nothing more comely among men than impartial judgment; judgment is a seat where neither interest, nor affection, nor former kindness may come; we may make no difference of the worthiness or unworthiness of persons in judgment, as we may in charity; but in judgment, if a good man, being mistake, hath a bad cause, or a bad man for a good cause, according to his cause must he have sentence. It was a good saying, he that judgeth among men, judgeth for the Lord, and he will repay it. Therefore let all be done as unto the Lord, and as ye are willing to answer [241] it in his presence; and although some may for a time be discontent thereat, yet in time God shall clear up your innocency as the sun at noon-day; and they that kick a sound judgment will find but hard work of it; they do but kick against that which will prick them; and however such through their wilfulness, and their abounding in their own sense may hurt themselves, yet you will be preserved, and enjoy your peace and satisfaction in the discharge of your consciences in the sight of God.

And as concerning practical charity, ye know it is supported by liberality, and where liberality ceaseth, charity waxeth cold, yea so far ceaseth; where there is no contribution, there is no distribution; where the one is sparing, the other is sparing; and therefore let every one nourish charity in the root, that is, keep a liberal mind: a heart that looks upon the substance that is given him, as really bestowed upon him for the support of charity, as for the support of his own body; and where people are of this mind, they will have a care of keeping back any of God's part, for he hath in all ages, in a most singular manner, espoused the cause of the poor, the widow, and fatherless; and hath often signified by his prophets and ministers, a special charge upon rich men that had this world's goods, that they should look to it that they were faithful stewards of what they possessed, and that they might be found in good works, and might not suffer their hearts so to cleave to uncertain riches, as to neglect the serve of God had given them the things of this life for: either to give them up when called for in a testimony of his worthy name, or to communicate of them to those that were in necessity.

Now as concerning the necessities of the poor, there is great need of wisdom when ye meet together about that affair: for as I said before, through the worthiness or unworthiness of persons is not to be considered in judgment, yet in this it is; and you will find some that God hath made poor, and some that have made themselves poor, and some that others have made poor, which must all have their several considerations; in which you ought to labor to be unanimous, and not one to be taken up with an affection to one person more than another; but every one to love every one in the universal spirit, and then to deal out that love in the outward manifestations thereof, according to the measure, that the Lord in his wisdom working in you, shall measure forth to them.

And as to those who by sickness, lameness, age, or other impotency, are brought into poverty by the hand of Providence; these are your peculiar care and objects pointed out to you, to bestow your charity upon, for by them the Lord calls for it; for as the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness of it, he hath by his sovereign power commanded in every dispensation, that a part of what we enjoy from him, should be thus employed. The Israelites were not to reap the corners of their fields, nor to gather the gleanings of the corn nor vintage; it was for the poor; and in the time of the gospel, they were to lay apart on the First day of the week, a part of what God had blessed them with , for the relief of those that were in necessity; nay, they did not confine themselves in their charity to their own meetings, but had an universal eye through the whole church of Christ, and upon extraordinary occasions, sent their benevolence to relieve the saints at Jerusalem in a time of need; and all that keep in the guidance of the same universal Spirit, [242] will make it their business to be found in the same practice of charity and good works. To do good, and communicate, forget not, saith the apostle: so they that forget not this Christian duty will find out the poor's part in the corners and gleanings of the profits of their trades and merchandishings, as well as the old Israelite did the corners and gleanings of his field; and in the distribution of it, will have a regard to comfort the bowels of such, who are by the divine providence of God, put out of a capacity of enjoying those outward comforts of health, and strength and plenty, which others do enjoy; for while they are partakers of the same faith, and walk in the way of righteousness with you, submitting themselves patiently to the dispensation of God's providence towards them, they are of your household, and under your care, both to visit and to relieve, as members of one body, of which Christ Jesus is head; and he that giveth to such poor, lendeth to the Lord, and he will repay it.

But there is another sort of poor, who makes themselves poor through their sloth and carelessness, and sometimes by their wilfulness, being heady and high-minded, and taking things in hand that are more than they can manage, and making a flourish for a season, and then, through their own neglects, are plunged down into great poverty. These are a sort of the primitive churches began to be troubled withal in the early days of the gospel; for the apostle took notice of some that would not work at all, and sharply reproved them, and said, they that would not work should not eat; and these are commonly a sort of busy-bodies, and meddles with others' matters, while they neglect their own, and run into a worse way than the unbelievers, while they profess to be believers, yet do not take a due care for those of their own household.

The charity that is proper to such, is to give them admonition and reproof, and to convince them of their sloth and negligence; and if they submit to your reproof, and are willing to amend, then care ought to be taken to help them into a way and means to support themselves; and sometimes by a little help of this kind, some have been reclaimed from the snares of their souls' enemy: but if they will not receive your wholesome counsel and admonitions, but kick against it, either in their words or actions, friends will be clear of such in the sight of God; for it is unreasonable to feed them that will not be ruled by you, they break the obligation of society by their disorderly walking; for our communion doth not stand only in frequenting meetings, and hearing truth preached, but in answering the blessed principle of truth, in life and conversation, and therein both the rich and the poor have fellowship one with another.

There are another sort that are made poor by the oppressions and cruelties of others. These oppressed poor cry loud in the ears of the Almighty, and he will in their own time avenge their cause; but in the meantime there is a tenderness to be extended to them, not knowing how soon it may be our turn; and if there be need of council and advice, or if any applications can be made to any that are able to deliver them from the oppressors; in such cases let all that are capable to ready and willing to advise, relieve, and help the distressed; and this is an acceptable work of charity, and a great comfort to such in their sharp afflictions, and their souls will bless the instruments of their ease and comfort.

[243] And my dear friends, as God hath honored you with so high and holy a calling, to be his servants and workmen in this his great and notable day, and to work together in his power, in setting forth his praise and glory in the earth, and gathering together in one the scattered seed in this and other nations; oh, let the dignity of your calling provoke and encourage you to be diligent attenders upon this work and service you are called to, and let not your concerns in the world draw you from observing the times and seasons appointed to meet together; but you that are elder, set a good example to the younger sort, by a due observation of the hour appointed, that they that come first one time, may not by their long staying for others be discouraged, so as perhaps they may be last another time; but when the time is come, leave your business for the Lord's work, and he will take care your business shall not suffer, but will add a blessing upon it, which will do more for you than the time can do that might be saved out of his service.

And when you have to do with perverse and froward, or disorderly persons, whom ye have occasion to reprove, and to rebuke for the truth's sake, and you find them stout and high, and reflecting upon you; then is a time for the Lamb's meekness to shine forth, and for you to feel your authority in the name of Christ, to deal with such an one, and to wait for the pure and peaceable wisdom from above, to bring down and confound the earthly wisdom. And in this frame of mind you labor together to pull the entangled sheep our of the thicket, and to restore that which is gone astray, to the fold again, if you can; but if you cannot, yet you save yourselves from the guilt of his blood; and if such do perish, his blood will be on his own head; but on the other hand, if ye suffer their perverse spirits to enter, and their provocations to have a place in you, so as to kindle your spirits into a heat of passion, then you get a hurt, and are incapable to do them any good; but words will break out that will need repentance, and the wicked will be stiffened and strengthened thereby, and you miss the service that you did really intend. Therefore, dearly beloved, keep upon your watch, keep on your spiritual armor; keep your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and the God of peace will be with you, and crown your endeavors with good success, to your joy and comfort, and will bring up his power over your adversaries and opposers more and more, to which many shall bow and bend in your sight; and will bring shame and confusion upon the rebellious, who harden their hearts and stiffen their necks against the Lord, and his Christ, and kingdom; which he will exalt in the earth, notwithstanding all that Satan, and all his evil instruments can do to hinder the growth and progress of his blessed truth; for of the increase of the government, and of the peace of the kingdom of Christ, there shall be no end.

And now, friends, I have cleared my conscience of what lay upon me for some time, to write by way of remembrance, and as the exhortation of my life unto you, I remain travailing in spirit for the welfare of Zion: and although the outward man decays, yet in the inward man I am comforted, in beholding daily the great things that our God hath done, and is still ding for those that have their sole dependance upon him. So committing you to the grace of God, for your director and preserver, in these and all your several services unto which God hath [244] called you, that by the operations of his mighty power ye may be kept blameless and unspotted of the world, to his honor and your comfort, and to the universal comfort and edification of the church, that so praises and thanksgivings may fill your hearts and mouths, your families, and your meetings; for he is worthy who is our tower, our support, the Lord of hosts, the King of saints, to whom be glory, honor and renown, through this and all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

From your friend and brother, in the communion and fellowship of the gospel of peace and purity,


London, the 15th of the 7th month, 1690.