Why I Strongly Disagree with Micah Bales' article that all humans are "depraved"

To Micah in response to his claim in his new blog article that all humans are "depraved."

I often am renewed, uplifted, encouraged by your blog posts, Micah.

BUT not this time! No way.

I can't believe you actually said that--all humans are basically "depraved."

True, there is no way getting around the very real potential for evil in every human 'heart.' As the famous Russian writer stated, "...the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. ... And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained."
And
the noted atheist psychologist, and founder of Transactional Analysis, emphasized that within every human along side the good, exists a "little fascist" that we need to resist.

Granted. Just a quick look at history, even Quaker history shows this. Why did so many transformed Quakers slaughter in war? Why did the vast majority of Quakers, despite their witness to equality, actually own, transport, and defend slavery for hundreds of years?!
Etc.

BUT those facts are entirely different from Calvinism, from its (and Roman Catholicism's, etc.) that infants at conception are "depraved."

It isn't true what you wrote, "You and I are ourselves depraved. We are liars, self-seeking, potential murderers. We are dishonest with ourselves and others."

I spent 55 years battling against this Calvinistic horrific distortion, and am now devastated to find it making inroads into Quakerism:-(
Heck, at least one Friends meeting now is promoting Matt Chandler, the famous Calvinist who claims infants are on the way to hell, etc.

One of the central reasons I became a Quaker was my understanding that Friends completely rejected Calvinism.

On the other hand, I do agree with you that we need to realize that we are all capable of very bad behavior. And that we need to extend the "truth in love" to political and religious opponents.

All humans are "basically" good. HOWEVER, we do have conflicting temptations which seek to destroy, to take us down wrong paths.

That is why it is so important to seek God.

Notice, that many of the central Christian leaders supporting Trump are Calvinists, do think that all humans are "depraved," do think that God's loves saves us.

YET their being convinced that everyone is "depraved" didn't help them realize that Trump was totally contrary to all that is true.

Instead, famous Calvinist leaders such as Wayne Gruden, strongly supported Trump, wrote long articles explaining why Trump ought to be president.

Such Calvinist leaders are the very ones who emphasize that all humans are "basically" "depraved."

So on this, Micah, we very strongly disagree.

It is because "basically" humans are made in the image of the Light, that there is hope.

We are given free will to seek God, or not.

That has nothing to do with original "depravity" that makes everyone incapable of seeking God.

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Good Morning Howard:

The difficulty with critiques that rely on the 'constructed' nature of what one is critiquing is that it cuts both ways, as David touched upon.  If the idea of Grace is 'constructed' then so is the idea that 'in a state of 'constant living Light' there is no need for Grace'.  In my opinion, this kind of argument makes communication between people more difficult, shifting the discussion from the original topic to the idea of 'socially constructed'.  

There are many people today who argue that they do not need Grace.  From what I hear this is based on the idea that the true nature of people is in some sense good.  As I mentioned in my previous post, this is an idea that is widely held in New Age thought, Western Non-dualism, Western Buddhism, and some other teachings.  I get it.  But my experience is that at the core people are held captive by negative tendencies and habits; I don't think there are any exceptions.  And for this reason Grace is needed.  

I understand you don't see it that way.  Perhaps we can find a way to proceed in this discussion.

Dear Friends,

You are taking 'offense' at most, or 'concern' in the lesser, at the word "constructed" - when no negative connotation was meant by me.  Certainly, anything that any of us live by as a value is "constructed" in our minds.  I was not slamming the concept of Grace.  I have benefitted by the concept immensely in my own life.  I am only expressing the power of living wholly in the Light - a place where all constructs for our minds to enjoy 'living wholly in the Light' are no longer needed because we are experiencing the same Light (or, call it what you want) that Jesus experienced.  It simply was (is) his being.

And yes, I am well aware that all of the above is a 'construct' from for my own mind.

Constructs are often used in the New Testament in order to transition the mind of listeners from a set of old paradigms into a set of new paradigms.  These constructs were useful to the First Century listeners to help them grasp and accept the message and mission of Jesus.  They were coming from Old Testament (Jewish) paradigms.  Without 'constructs' like 'the New Covenant', 'sacrificial lamb', 'Jesus dying for our sins', 'Grace', and many others; no Jew would have mentally and emotionally been able to HEAR the message of Jesus with a logical understanding.

This conversation is beginning to have the feel of déjà vu all over again.

I think even the word "concern" (especially in a Quaker context) is taking this far more seriously than I want to go to. Our metaphysics differ. And in particular are philosophies of language and how language means. And if were going to go there we may as well start a whole new thread on Wittgenstein and Austin (or even Augustine and Umberto Eco if you prefer) among others.

I'm OK David.  I was simply wanting to clarify that I meant no negative inference in my choice of words.  I appreciate your reply which provided me the opportunity to do that.

Jim,

Please don't get me wrong.  I personally do need Grace.  I am not at the place where I do not need that construct.  I am not yet 'home'.

I stand before each of you testifying to my witness that I am come and am coming out of a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward political and religious ideological and institutional constructs. This witness is not an outward construct. In this inshining witness am not guided or informed by outward ideas like depravity or goodness concerning human being and human relations. This different way of being is open to and is opening to each person and there is no special place or practice or time that must be adhered to know and live a life that is no longer conditioned by the mirrors of reflected being. In this Life there is no need to consult the outwards lines and letters of other people like Austin or Augustine. It is come into and discovered to you directly and unmediated by any outward construct.

Thank you Keith. For the first time I feel I have a sense of where you're coming from. Some of your uses of language has puzzled me in the past and I did not understand what you are trying to say.

The very Quakers that you name as the ones seeking to bring Quakerism back into empty forms are the ones I'm relying on to get a sense of what Quakerism was and could be separate from the liberal Quakerism that I know. And so to a certain extent we've been talking at cross purposes.

The reality you are trying to witness to I have seen glimpses of but not in a sustained way. And though I've not been in an actual Quaker meeting in several years, and for a variety of reasons — mostly geographical, but also otherwise — I do recall a similar experience to what Robert Barclay witness to in his chapter on worship — that worshiping with others has a way of clarifying things, of focusing the mind, of making possible access to those glimpses that are more muffled in my private meditation times.

So while I am on a quest for something deeper — something more — for the time being at least I remain with the guides I have. At least until the Light comes in the shadows fade.



Keith Saylor said:

Many of the early and founding Quakers testified, relatively speaking, to this different way also. They testified specifically to coming out of being guided by outward forms and taking up habitation in the inshining Light itself in itself without reference to and regard for outward forms. Other Quakers like, George Fox, William Penn, Margret Fell, and Robert Barclay, successfully suppressed those who would not be brought back into that which they had been led out of ... specifically, identification with and conformity to the outward forms George Fox and others led the gathering back into.

Hello David, Thank you for your response. It hit my mind Cordially. I honor and affirm your journey in the Light. May there be many sparklings of Light in your conscious and conscience upon your journey.


Your mention of "empty" forms forms capture my attention and has played much in my mind. Many Quakers contemporary to Fox would not follow him into the forms he recommended by the urging of the Lord because to practice those forms and prescriptions without sharing a spirit filled conviction would literally have been to follow, for them, an empty form. It was not that they were suggesting Fox's recommendations were empty, but that they were empty for them until or unless the spirit discovered to them a conviction to follow the recommendation. They even suggested that those who were convicted to follow and practices Fox's forms should do so if the are convicted by the Spirit in that direction.


It happened the inshining Light did not discover to many early and founding Quakers a conviction to follow Fox and the establishment forces in the outward forms recommended. And so, they were not of a mind to conform to Fox's recommendations. Then it happened that many who came into Fox's outward prescriptions (including Fox himself) began to find fault (to put it mildly) with those people who follow Fox's recommendation and began to suggest that it was the duty of all Quakers to follow Fox's forms because those forms were given to him from God. They said, to not enter into the newly established outward forms under the pretense of the inward Spirit not discovering to them a conviction to follow was no excuse and beyond that was to be in disobedience to God because Fox's forms were God given. The establishment forces stated that in following Fox's recommended forms was not following Fox but following God. They, in essence made Fox a proxy. Many Quakers said that because of the second Coming of Christ into their conscious and conscience as their teacher in all matters spiritual, they were no longer led by proxy; that the inshining Spirit itself in itself was their mediator and guide and that no man or institution or ideology carried that role any longer. In fact, they argued that Fox and his followers like Barclay had turned from the very founding experience of the Quaker gathering by seeking to impose an outward form (even a form that was spirit filled) upon those who the Spirit had not discovered a conviction in conscious and conscience to follow. For those who did not conform to Fox's form, Fox was trying to force them into sin because following a form without the conviction of the Spirit was the very nature of sin. They all agreed the the Protestants and Catholics were in sin because they followed empty forms. That Fox and his followers would advocating for them same was a source of scandal and great disunity.


See, the trouble was not that people in the gathering were coming into Fox's forms. For, even if they themselves did not follow the forms themselves, they agree it would be sin the not follow the forms if convicted to do so. The trouble happened because Fox, Penn, Fell, Barclay, etc. were establishing what Rogers called "indispensable" outward forms, prescriptions, and practices, that must be followed even in case wherein people do not share the conviction of the inshining Light to follow. To advocate for following these forms in such a case was to led people in sin and was to led the gathering back into the state they had come out of in their former adherence to Protestantism and Catholicism. When you read these Quakers who came out against the establishment forces attempts to set up a proxy outward structure of the same nature of the Protestantism and Catholicism the inshining Light had discovered a pathway out of, you feel their shock and amazement ... even disbelief there were Quakers who set themselves up as Moses or the Pope who advocated following God by proxy all over again.


George - fox and those who followed him testified to having come out of the empty forms of Protestantism and Catholicism. They eventually came to testify that that God had spoke to them and recommended outward forms like established meetings and set times for Worship. These recommended forms Fox came to describe as spirit fitted forms unlike the empty forms of Protestantism and Catholicism




David McKay said:

Thank you Keith. For the first time I feel I have a sense of where you're coming from. Some of your uses of language has puzzled me in the past and I did not understand what you are trying to say.

The very Quakers that you name as the ones seeking to bring Quakerism back into empty forms are the ones I'm relying on to get a sense of what Quakerism was and could be separate from the liberal Quakerism that I know. And so to a certain extent we've been talking at cross purposes.

The reality you are trying to witness to I have seen glimpses of but not in a sustained way. And though I've not been in an actual Quaker meeting in several years, and for a variety of reasons — mostly geographical, but also otherwise — I do recall a similar experience to what Robert Barclay witness to in his chapter on worship — that worshiping with others has a way of clarifying things, of focusing the mind, of making possible access to those glimpses that are more muffled in my private meditation times.

So while I am on a quest for something deeper — something more — for the time being at least I remain with the guides I have. At least until the Light comes in the shadows fade.



Keith Saylor said:

Many of the early and founding Quakers testified, relatively speaking, to this different way also. They testified specifically to coming out of being guided by outward forms and taking up habitation in the inshining Light itself in itself without reference to and regard for outward forms. Other Quakers like, George Fox, William Penn, Margret Fell, and Robert Barclay, successfully suppressed those who would not be brought back into that which they had been led out of ... specifically, identification with and conformity to the outward forms George Fox and others led the gathering back into.

Thank you Keith for your inspirational explanation. 

Without reading or knowing the historical account you have explained, the meeting I am part of has traveled that same road as those earliest Quakers who sought to follow the Spirit's leading and conviction in their hearts without being in bondage to the forms others might would place on us.  What some Friends are not understanding, I think, is that when a practice emerges from another's heart, and is then held out as a requirement for others to accept, that practice becomes a form that in effect is being held out as something that should be worshiped - because it has been put above the Spirit's interaction within another's own heart.

Some may think we have rampant individualism at our meeting (that is the observation occasionally).  But the opposite is actually true.  There is a strong unity as one spiritual body based solely on genuineness, love, support for one another's journey, and  an enthusiasm for spiritual seeking - both individually and as a community.  This is evident to any who visit our meeting; and is palpably evident by the strong spiritual energy present on the grounds and in the meetinghouse.  Because we are conscious to do everything in love so that the Spirit may flourish upon us as a community, we often make decisions as a community that others outside our meeting find puzzling ("too tolerant", "not in keeping with Quaker tradition or norms", "not according to the yearly meeting's Faith and Practice", "allowing individual autonomy", etc.). 

Our observed individual freedom that some label "individualism" does not spring forth from the egos of Friends; rather, it springs forth from our desire to let the Spirit flourish and rest within each of us so that we each may be led in our own time and way to a place of unity in the bosom of divine love.  The outcome of this approach has been a deepness in the meeting's spirituality and a love for the community we have.

Thank you for sharing the blessing and grace your gathering is discovering in devotion to in shining Light upon your consciences. Your testimony of your Meeting always brings me back to this long quote from Isaac Pennington. I yhinkbI've shared it with you before.

----

Issac Penington

The Apostles and Ministers of Christ came from Christ with a Message of Life and Salvation, with a Testimony concerning the Good Will of God, and his Love to Mankind, pointing out the Way from Death to Life, from Bondage to Liberty, from Wrath and Destruction to Peace and Salvation. What they have seen, what they have felt, what they have tasted, what they had handled, what they have found redeem and deliver them, that they declare abroad to others, as they are moved, as they are sent, as they are guided and assisted.


Now that which they preach to, is Mens Conscience in the Sight of God. They open the Truth which they know, they give their Testimony in the Moving, Leading, and Power of the Spirit; and they leave it to the same Spirit, to demonstrate it to Mens Consciences, as it pleaseth. They are nothing; they can do nothing; they cannot convert any Man to God; but the Power that speakers by them, the same Power workers in other Mens Consciences at its Pleasure: And here is the beginning of the Government of Christ in the Heart, when his Truth carries Conviction with it to the Conscience, and the Conscience is drawn to yield it self up to him, then he lays his Yoak upon it, and takes upon him the guiding of it: he cherisheth it, he cleanseth it, he comforteth it, he ordereth it at his Pleasure; and he alone preserve the it pure, chast, gentle, Meek, and pliable to the Impressions of his Spirit; and as the Conscience is kept single and tender to Christ, so his Government encreases therein: but as it becomes hard, or subject to Mens Wills, so another Spirit get Dominion over it.


Therefore the great work of the Minister of Christ, is to keep the Conscience open to Christ, and to preserve Men from receiving any Truths of Christ as from them, further than the Spirit opens, or to imitate any of their Practices, further than the Spirit leads, guides, and persuades them. For Persons are exceeding prone to receive things as Truths, from those whom they have an high Opinion of, and to Imitate their Practices; and so hurt their own growth, and endanger their Souls. For if I receive a Truth, before the Lord by his Spirit make it manifest to me, I lose my Guide, and follow but the Counsel of the Flesh; which is exceeding greedy of receiving Truths, and running into Religious Practices without the Spirit. Therefore the main thing in Religion, is to keep the Conscience pure to the Lord, to know the Guide, to follow the Guide, to receive from him that Light whereby I am to walk, and not to take things for Truths, because others see them to be Truths; but wait till the Spirit make them manifest to me; nor to run into Worships, Duties, Performances, or Practices, because others are led thither; but to wait till the Spirit leads me thither. He that makes haste to be rich (even in Religion, running into Knowledge, and into Worships, and Performances, before he feel a true and clear Guidance) shall not be Innocent: nor the Lord will not hold him guiltless, when he comes to visit for Spiritual Adultery, and Idolatry. The Apostles were exceeding tender in this point; for though they certainly and infallibly knew what was to be believed, yet they were not Lords over Mens Faith; but waited till he, who is Lord of the Faith, would open the way into Mens Consciences. They did not take upon them to be able to turn the Key, to let in Truth and Conviction into Mens Spirits (as men in these Days have been too apt to undertake) but directed them to him who had the Key, there to wait for the Conviction and Illumination of their Minds, and so to receive in, as they found him give forth to them.


Let every man (saith the Apostle) be fully perswaded in his own Mind: take heed of receiving things too soon, take heed of running into Practices too soon, & doing what ye see others do; but wait for your own particular Guidance, and a Full Perswasion from God, what is his Will concerning you. Tho I know this to be a Truth, yet do not ye receive it, till God make it manifest to you; receive Truth from his Hand, stay till He gives it You. Indeed that main Matter in Religion, is to keep out the wrong part, the forward part, the bastardly birth, from running into Duties, catching of Openings, and Laying hold of Promises; and to feel the Heir born of the Immortal Seed, to whom all belongs; and the other Birth never afterwards get up above him, but be subdued and brought into Subjection.


Again sayeth the Apostle, Take heed of doing any thing doubtingly; be not forward; be not hasty; wait for the leading; wait for the Manifestation of the Spirit. Se sure thou receive what thou receives in the Faith, and Practice what thou practisest in the Faith: For whatsoever is not of Faith is Sin, being an Errour from the Principle of Life, which is to guide: and thereby thou loses ground, and dishonoureth Christ, and comets under Condemnation.


And so the Apostle Warns Believers, To take heed of drawing one another on too fast, or of Judging one another in such things as some of them might have Light in, others not. He that eateth, not to Judge him that did not eat; and he that did not eat, not to Judge him that did eat; yea in Matters of Worship, he that observed a Day, and kept a Sabbath, not to Judge him that observed not a Day, or kept not a Sabbath: For the Jews, which were truly converted, yet were hard to be drawn off from the Observation of their Sabbath, and could hardly bear with the Believing Gentiles, who were never taught to keep their Sabbath with them, but were taught to esteem every day, and sanctifie it to the Lord Rom. 14. 5. And to those who esteemed every day, and dedicated it to the Lord (ceasing from Sin, and resting to him; for under the Gospel we are not to set up a new Type, but to enter by Faith into the true Rest, which is the Substance of what the other signified) could hardly bear with them who observed a Day. Even in the Apostles Days, Christians were too apt to strive after a wrong Unity, and Uniformity in Outward Practices and Observations, and to Judge one another Unrighteously in those things. And mark, it is not the different Practice from one another, that breaks the Peace and Unity; but the Judging of one another because of different Practices; he that keeps not a Day, may unite in the same Spirit, in the same Life, in the same Love with him that keeps a Day; and he who keeps a Day, may unite in Heart and Soul, with the same Spirit and Life in him who keeps not a Day; but he that Judgeth the other because of either of these, Errs from the Spirit, from the Love, from the Life, and so breaks the Bond of Unity. And he that draws another to any Practice, before the Life in his own Particular lead him, does as much as in him lies to destroy the Soul of that Person, Vers. 15. This was the Apostles Rule, for every one to perform singly to the Lord what he did, and not for one to meddle with the Light or Conscience of another (undervaluing his Brother, or Judging him, because his Light and Practices differed from his, Vers. 10. of that 14th Chap.) but every one to keep close to their own Measure of Light, even to that proportion of Faith and Knowledge which God of his Mercy hath bestowed on them; and here is the true Unity in the Spirit, in the Inward Life, and not in an Outward Uniformity, that was not necessary. Men keeping close to God, the Lord will lead them on fast enough, and give them Light fast enough (for he takers care of such, and knoweth what Light, and what Practices are most proper for them) but for Men to walk on faster then the Lord holds forth Light to them, this overturns them; raising up a wrong thing in them, and the true Birth hereby ones to suffer, to shrink, and be driven back. And Oh! how sweet and pleasant is it to the truly Spiritual Eye, to see several sorts of Believers, several Forms of Christians in the School of Christ, every one learning their own Lesson, performing their own peculiar Service and knowing, owning, and loving one another in their several Places, and different Performances to their Master, to whom they are to give an Account, and not to quarrel with one another about their different Practices, Rom. 14. 4. For this is the true ground of Love and Unity; not that such a man walks and does just as I do; but because I feel the same Spirit of Life in him, and in that he walks in his Rank, in his own order, in his proper way and Place of Subjection to that; and this is far more pleasing to me, than if he walked just in that track wherein I walk: nay (so far as I am Spiritual) I cannot so much as desire that he should do so, until he be particularly led thereto by the same Spirit which led me. And he that knows what it is to receive and Truths from the Spirit, and to be led in Practices by the Spirit, and how prone the Fleshly Man is to make haste, and how dangerous that haste is, will not be forward to press Knowledge or Practices upon others; but rather wait patiently till the Lord fit them for the receiving thereof, and fear lest they should receive and practice too soon, even in that part which cannot serve the Lord. And this I can truly say concerning my self, I never found my Spirit forward to draw any, either to any thing I believed to be true, or to any Practice or Way of Worship I observed or walked in, but desired that the Power and leadings of Life might go before them; and was afraid, lest men should receive things from my hand, and not from the Lords. Yea, and this I very well remember, that when I walked in the way of Independency (as it hath been commonly called) I had more Unity with more Love towards such as were single-Hearted in other Ways and Practices of Worship (whose Spirits I had some feeling of in the True Simplicity and in the Life) than with divers of such who were very Knowing and Zealous in that was of Independency, in whom a wrong thing in the mean time had got upon which had chased them to swerve from the Life, and from the Simplicity.


So that the true Church Government being in the Spirit, and over the Conscience, as in the Sight of God, the great Care must be to keep it within its Bounds, that nothing else govern but the Spirit, and that the Government be extended only unto that which is to be Governed.


First, Care must be had, that nothing Govern in the Church of Christ, but the Spirit of Christ: Every Minister in the Church is to watch over his own Spirit, that it intrude not into the work of God, that it take not upon it to be the Teacher the Exhorter, the Reprover, &c. And every Member is to wait in that Measure of the Spirit which he hath recieved, to feel the Goings forth of the Spirit in him that teachers and governeth; and so to subject not to Man, but to the Lord, to recieve from the Lord, to Obey the Lord. Not to know any Minister according to the Flesh, but to receive and submit to what comes from the Spirit, in the Spirit. Not to know Paul or Apollo, or Cephas, but the Spirit ministering in them. Paul may Err, Peter may Err and did Err, when he Compelled the Gentiles to live as the Jews Gal 2. 14. for which Paul withstood him to the Face, Vers. 11 and Barnabas also did Err, Vers 13. but the Spirit cannot Err: and he that keeps to the Measure of the Spirit in himself, cannot let in any of their Errors, if they should Err, but is preserved; for the least Measure of the Spirt is true, and gives true Judgment: but he that recieveth never so great a Measure of the Spirit, yet if he keep not Low therein, but Lift up himself because thereof above his Brethren, may easily Err himself, and draw aside others into this Errour.


Secondly, Care must be had that the Conscience be kept tender, that nothing be recieved but according to the Light in the Conscience; the Conscience is the seat of Faith; and if it be not kept close to the Light, which God Lighteth there, Faith is soon made shipwrack of. Christianity is begun in the Spirit, which keepers out the Fleshly Part, with all its fleshly Wisdom, and Reasonings about Spiritual Things: and as the beginning is in the anointing so must the Progress be. As the Spirit begins in the Conscience, by convincing that, by perswading that, by setting up his Light there, and leading the soul by the Light: so that Light must still be eyed, and according to its growth and manifestation in the Conscience, so must the Soul stand still, or go on.


The great error of the Ages of Apostasy hath been, to set up an Outward Order, and Uniformity, and to make Mens Consciences bend thereto, either by Arguments of Wisdom, or by Force: but the Property of the true Church Government is, to leave the Conscience to its full liberty in the Lord, to preserve it single and entire for the Lord to exercise, and to seek Unity in the Light and in the Spirit, walking Sweetly and harmoniously together in the midst of Different Practices; yea, and he that hath Faith, and can see beyond another, yet can have it to him-self, and not disturb his Brother with it, but can descend and walk with him according to his measure . And if his Brother have any heavy Burthen upon him, he can lend him his Shoulder, and bear part of his burthen with him. Oh how sweet and lovely is it to see Brethren dwell together in Unity! to see the true Image of God raised in Persons, and they knowing and Loving one another in that Image, and bearing with one another through Love, and helping one another under their Temptations and Distresses of Spirit, which every one must expect to meet with.


If thou art a Christian in Deed and in Truth, preserve thy Conscience pure and tender towards God; do not defile it with such Religious Practices, Duties, Ordinances, &c. as thou dost not feel the Spirit leading thee into: for all such are Idols, and exceedingly polute thee. And be tender also of the Brothers Conscience, and be not an instrument to draw him into any thing which the Lord leads him not into; but rejoyce if thou find him in Simplicity of Heart startling at any thing: for if he abide here faithful, his Guide will in due season appear to him, and clear up his way before him; but if he be too hasty, he may follow a Wrong Guide, and that Guide will never lead him aright towards the Kingdom, but entangle him further and further from it.


Oh how many have run a Whoring from the Lord! how many have first lost the Guidance of his Spirit, and then drowned their Life in Religious Performances! How many have Drunk the Cup of Fornication from the Life, at the Hands of the Fleshly Wisdom! How many have filled their Spirit with New-Testament Idols and Images! How many have even hardened their Hearts and Consciences, by following the Doctrines of Men, their imaginary Meanings of Scriptures, and the imaginations and Dreams of their own Hearts! It is not time for men at length to turn back towards the Lord to wait for the Visitation and Light of his Spirit, from whom they have gone a Whoring, and whom, in all these things they have grieved? And if ever any feel and enjoy the Guidance of God's Spirit, their Conscience must be kept tender to it and ready to hear and follow his voice, who speaks in Spirit to that which is born of him, which infallibly knows his Voice, and (being kept clear) cannot doubt Concerning it. My Sheep hear my voyce (saith Christ) they know it, and the voice of the strange Spirit they knew not, so as to follow it, but turn from it both in themselves and others. But, that which is not the Sheep, but hath onto got the Sheeps Cloathing, cries out, How shall we know the Voice of the Spirit? we may be recieved; Nay, that which is born of God, that which is the Elect of God, cannot be deceived. Wait therefore for the Birth of the Spirit, to which the Spirit is given for a Guide, who infallibly guides it out of Deceit. All Deceivers are out of this Birth, out of this Spirit; perhaps in some Birth or other framed from the Letter, and living in the Imitation of same Practices and Ordinances from the Letter (under which Cover they lie in wait to deceive) but Strangers to the Life and Power, and to that Wisdom which begets and bears to God. Thus the Jews Erred, and all along the Apostasy, and indeed (for the Generality) have not been true Christians, but only a persecuted Remnant amongst them: whose Life hath been nourished and preserved, not by Doctrines and Observations, which they have been taught by the Precepts of Men, nor by the Knowledge which they themselves have gathered, but by a little Bread, daily handed to them from the Father of Mercies, out of the Wilderness: that was the thing which nourished their Souls up to God, though many of them knew not distinctly what it was that nourished them, nor how they came by it.


Object. But is not Uniformity lovely? and doth not the Apostle exhort Christians to be of one Mind? and were it not a sweet thing if we were all of one Heart and one Way?


Answer. Yea; Uniformity is very lovely, and to be desired and waited for, as the Spirit of the Lord (which is one) leads and draws into one. But for the Fleshly Part (the Wise Reasoning Part of Man) by fleshly Ways and Means to strive to bring about a Fleshly Uniformity, which insnares and overbears the tender Conscience, this is not Lovely, nor Spiritual, nor Christian. And the Apostle, who Exhorts Christians to one Mind, yet doth not bid them, force one another to one Mind, but walk together sweetly, so far as they had attained; and wherein they were otherwise minded, God in his due time would reveal more to them, Phil. 3. 15, 16. He that hath, to him shall be given; and the Intent and Work of the Ministry (with the several Ministrations of it) is to bring into the Unity (Ephes, 4. 13.) as Persons are able to follow, and not to force all Men into one Practice or Way; that the way to destroy the Faith, and the true Unity, and at best can introduce a Fleshly Appearance of Unity into such a Form of Worship and Godliness, as eats out the Power. And for being of one Heart and one Way; Blessed be the Lord, this is in measure known and witnessed: The Way is one, Christ the Truth of God; and he that is in the Faith, and in the Obedience to the Light, which shines from his Spirt into the Heart of every Believer, hath a tast of the one Heart and of the one Way; and knoweth that no Variety of Practices (which is of God) can make a Breach in the true Unity. This is the one Way, for every one to be subject to the Light of Christs Spirit, which he hath received from Christ; and every one keeping here, there is also one Heart kept in the midst of all the Variety, and diversity of Practices.

Good Morning Howard:

A quick note to let you know how much I appreciate your reports on the history of your Meeting.  I tend to get frustrated fairly easily, and your reports on your Meeting have given me just the right lift and sense of direction.  

Thanks.

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