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William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

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youth, and the truth has been much dishonour-
ed thereby. And such do not only lose the
wisdom of God and the true understanding
given to them by his Son, but even the reason
of men, in these practices." 1669.

" Keep all j^our meetings in the name of
the Lord Jesus, that be gathered in his name
by his power and spirit ; by which you will
feel his blessed and refreshing presence among
you and in you, to your comfort and God's
glory." 1689.

SLEEPING IN MEETINGS.

" Friends, all take heed of sleeping in
meetings, and of sottishness and dullness.
For it is an unsavory thing to see one sit
nodding in a meeting, and so to lose the
sense of the Lord's presence. It is a shame
and a sadness both, and it grieveth the up-
right and watchful, that wait upon the Lord,
to see such things. And for people who
come into your meetings, to see you sit
nodding, that come together to worship God,
and to wait upon him and to have fellow-
ship in his Spirit, it is a shame and an unseemly
thing. Therefore be careful and watchful,
and let it be mended ; and mind the light and
power of Christ Jesus in you, and that will con-
demn all such things, and lead you out of and
above them all, and make you watchful one
over another for your good." 1668.

MEETINGS FOR DISCIPLINE.

" Friends live in the power of the Lord
God, and in his truth, light and life, that b}^ it
you may all with one heart and mind, keep do-
minion, and do true judgment and justice, truth
and righteousness, in all your men and women's
meetings, without favour or affection to rela-
tions, kindred, or acquaintances, or any re-
spect of persons. For if you do not so, judg-
ment will come upon you from God, to put
you down from your places. For the power
of God, his light and truth, respects not any,
but justice, truth, righteousness, and equity.

" Let mercy overshadow the judgment seat,
and let mercy be mixed with judgment.

"Take heed of foolish pity; and if you
be not diligent against all profaneness, sin,
iniquity, and uncleanness, looseness and de-
bauchery, and that which dishonoureth God,
then you let these things come up upon you,
which you should be atop of, and subdue and
keep down with righteousness, and the truth
and power of God.

" And in all your men and women's meet-
ings, let all things be done in love, which doth
edify the body ; and let nothing be done in
strife and vain glory ; but keep in the unity
of the spirit, which is the bond of peace ; and
let all things be done in the wisdom of God,



which is pure and gentle, from above, above the
earthly, which is sensual and devilish. 1668.

" Now dear Friends, let there be no strife
in your meetings, nor vain janglings nor
disputings, but let all that tends to strife, be
ended out of your meetings, that they may be
Ivcpt peaceable, so that you may be at peace
among yourselves, and the God of peace and
love may fill all your hearts ; whose love
edifies his church. Condescend one to an-
other in the fear of the Lord, to that which
is honest, just, virtuous, and of good report.
And where any weakness has been in any, let
it be covered and buried in the spirit and love
of God, that his spirit and love may be upper-
most in you all, to unite your hearts to-
gether, and that you may show forth that you
are the children, which the heavenly wisdom
is justified of. In all matters of business,
or difference, or controversies, treat one an-
other in such things kindly and gently, and
be not fierce, or heady and high minded ; for
this spirit will bring men and women to be
lovers of themselves, and to be despisers of
others, and of that which is good : It leads
nature out of its course, and so loses natural
affection and at last comes to be without
natural affection. 1683.

" Be careful in all your meetings that they
be kept peaceable, in the wisdom of God, which
is pure, peaceable and easy to be entreated,
so that wisdom may be justified of her children.
That there be no harshness nor fierceness, but
meekness and mildness, and gracious lan-
guage, which will edify and season the hearers
and be of a good savour. This will honour
Christ from whom grace and truth come, and
will be to your comfort, and show whose chil-
dren you are ; as Christ said ' Blessed are
the peacemakers, for they are the children of
God ;' therefore all do this work that you may
have this blessing. 1683.

" Let all your meetings be preserved by the
wisdom of God in the unity of the spirit, the
bond of peace, and in the fellowship of the
Holy Ghost ; that, being ordei'ed by the pure,
gentle, heavenly, peaceable wisdom, easy to
be entreated, they may be holy and virtuous
examples to all others. Let all be careful to
speak shortly and pertinently to matters, in a
Christian spirit, and despatch business quickly
and keep out of long debates and heats ; and
with the help of the Spirit of God, keep that
down which is doating about questions and
strife of words, and tends to parties and con-
tention. In the church of God, no such cus-
tom is to be allowed. Let not more than one
speak at a time, nor any in a fierce way, but
as the apostle saith, 'be swift to hear and slow
to speak,' and let it be in the grace which
seasons all words."



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



125



REPRESENTATIVES.

" Now concerning them that go to the
Quarterly Meeting ; they must be substantial
Friends, that can give a testimony of your
sufferings, and how things are amongst you in
every particular meeting. None that are raw
or weak, and are not able to give a testimony
of the affairs of the church and Truth, may
go on behalf of the particular meetings to the
Quarterly Meetings, but may be nursed up in
your Monthly Meetings, and there fitted for
the Lord's service. Two may go at one time
from every particular meeting, and two an-
other time, or as it may be ordered in your
Monthly Meetings ; so that some may go from
all the meetings that make up your Monthly
Meetings : For the Quarterly Meeting should
be made up of weighty, seasoned, and sub-
stantial Friends, that understand the business
of the church ; but no unruly and unseasoned
persons should come there, nor indeed into the
Monthly Meetings, but those only who are
single-hearted, seasoned and honest.

" And if any one should speak or talk any-
thing, out of your Monthly or Quarterly Meet-
ings, to the blemishing or defaming of any
person, or of the meeting, such are to be
brought to judgment and condemnation ; for
it breaks the privilege and order of Christian
society in your meetings ; so that all may be
kept and preserved in the power of the Lord,
and in his spirit, in love and unity.

" And the least member in the church hath
an office, and is serviceable; and all the mem-
bers have need one of another." 1669.

OVERSEERS.

At the rise of Meetings for Discipline, they
were held quartei'ly, and when any mem-
ber had given cause of complaint to his bre-
thi'en, and would not be reclaimed by private
labour, the report was carried to the meeting
by some substantial and judicious Friends,
chosen for the purpose, and persons there
appointed to admonish them. This was proba-
bly the origin of the office of overseers.*



* It is proper here to remark, that from an epis-
tle written by William Dewsbury in 1653, it is
evident his mind had been led in a manner similar
to that of George Fox, respecting the establish-
ment of Meetings for Discipline, and the service
of overseers in the church. This epistle was
shown to George Fox, and is signed and endorsed
by him. The following is extracted from it, viz :

" That in every particular meeting of Friends,
there be chosen from among you, one or two who
are most grown in the power and life, and in the
pure discernment in the Truth, to take the care
and charge over the flock of God in that place.
And you who are chosen, watch over the flock of



Afterwards, when the number of members had
greatly increased, as well as the business which
required attention. Monthly Meetings were in-
stituted embracing a smaller number of Friends,
and such cases were reported by the overseers
to them, and further labour bestowed on the
offender in Christian love. 'I'hus a more
frequent, and minute inspection into the con-
duct and circumstances of the members could
be obtained, and the care and help of the
church, be more readily and effectually ex-
tended to every individual. The establish-



God, you to whom is committed the charge and
care ; and take the oversight thereof, not by con-
straint but willingly, not for filthy lucre but of a
ready mind. I charge and command you in the
presence of the living God, not. to rule as lords over
God's heritage, but in the power of the Spirit in
all purity. Be examples to the flock, and see that
order be kept in the church, in constant meeting
together, according to the rule that hath been given
forth, that is to say, once a week, or more, if it
may be, besides the First-day meeting. And you
are to have a general meeting with other Friends
near you, once in two or three weeks, as the Lord
orders and makes way.

" Be not slack and backward, but faithful to the
Lord, in improving every opportunity for Friends
to meet; and, in every town where Friends are
scattered, lay the charge and care on some Friends
the most grown in the Truth, to see that they meet
together to wait on the Lord three or four hours,
as the Lord orders it, one night or two in the week.
Watch over one another with a pure, single eve,
to see that those who come amongst them, walk
orderly, according to what they profess. And if
any walk disorderly, those to whom the care and
charge is committed, or any other who discerns
them, and is moved to speak to them, to deal plainly
with them in reproving them, ministering to that
which is pure in the conscience, for the restoring
of them. But, if they will not reform, acquaint
two or three more who are most grown in the
Truth, or you to whom the charge and care of the
fiock is committed, with the other that did admonish
them in tender bowels of love, to admonish them ;
and, with plainness of speech, minister to that
which is pure in their consciences, to raise up the
Witness, and to judge and cut down the deceit ;
that their souls may be saved and their nakedness
covered. But if they still walk in disorder, when
the church is met together, reprove them openly ;
and if still they do not reform, but walk in their
filthiness, when the church is met together, in the
name of the Lord Jesus Christ, charo-e tliem to
depart from amongst you. So, cast them out, and
have no union with them, not so much as to eat
with them, until they repent, and turn to the Lord,
and walk in obedience to that which is pure. If
they do this, then receive them again : but if they
still walk on in the stubbornness of their wills, and
do not bend to that which is pure in their conscien-
ces, keep them forth, that no filthy person dwell in
the house of God. Then will the blessing of the
Lord God be with you.

" And see that there be not any in outward want
m the church, and that all walk orderly in their



126



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



ment of the Monthly Meetings however, did
not do away the service of Quarterly Meet-
ino-s. These, embracing several Monthly
Meetings, took the supervision of the whole,
to see that good order was duly maintained in
each, and to render such advice, or aid as
their situation might call for.

On the appointment of overseers, George Fox
says, " In all the meetings of the county, two
or three may be appointed from them, to go to
the Quarterly Meetings, to give notice one to
another, if there be any that walk not in the
truth ; or have been convinced and gone from
the truth, and so have dishonoured God.
And likewise, if any that profess the truth,
follow pleasures, drunkenness, gamings, or
are not faithful in their callings or dealings,
nor honest nor just, but run into debt, and so
bring a scandal upon the Truth, Friends may
give notice to the Quarterly Meeting, (if there
be any such persons) and some may be ordered
to go and exhort them, and bring in their an-
swers to the next Quarterly Meeting.

"And [overseers are] to query and search



places and callings. And if any root of bitterness
spring up in any, which causeth strife in their
minds one against another, as soon as you know of
it, call such before you and examine the matter
strictly; and stand in the wisdom and power of
God to guide you to judge the cause, and end it in
righteousness. But if the cause be hard for you
to discern, and the measure you are grown to can-
not discern betwixt the parties, I charge you, and
command you, not to be hasty in the cause be-
fore you, to order it in your doubtful and dark
minds : ' for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.' But
send for some who are more grown in discerning,
to judge the cause and end it in righteousness.
Then will deceit be judged, and strife kept out,
and the innocent set free to serve the Lord : and
your union will be in Christ Jesus, where you will
bring forth fruit, abiding in him, and through his
blood you shall overcome the world in you and
without, and shall reign as kings upon the earth.
In the power of Christ you shall command the un-
clean spirit, in all his appearances within you and
without ; and he shall submit to the power of God
in you dwelling in Him, who alone is power, and
to whom all glory belongs for ever. The eternal,
pure. Spirit of the most high God, rest upon you,
whom he hath chosen to watch over his flock ; and
his mighty power open the pure eye in you, to
discern and separate between the precious and the
vde, the holy and the unholy; and furnish you with
courage and with boldness and pure wisdom to
rule in the power of his Spirit, to cut down all
deceit, and to wash the disciples' feet, in bowing
to the pure [mind] in the least appearance ; and
ministering to it, to strengthen the desire raised
up towards the name of the Lord, until judgment
be brought forth unto victory. Then will you have
unity together in that which is pure, eternal, be-
gotten of God, who reigns over all, blessed for ever.
And Wisdom is justified of her children.

"W. D."



out all such as live not as becomes the Truth
and the Gospel, and yet do profess it, so that
all may walk in it, as well as talk of it ; for
none have the heavenly comfort of it but they
who walk in it. For all the talkers of Christ
and his Gospel, that do not walk in him, dis-
honour him. All unclean ness, and looseness
in all your meetings, judge and condemn with
the light, power and spirit of Christ ; so that
nothing may reign among you, but that which
doth glorify God and Christ."

The further duties of overseers, he thus
points out, "To admonish all that are careless
and slothful, to diligence in the truth and
service of God, and to bring forth heavenly
fruits to God ; that they may mind the good
works of God and do them, in believing in his
Son, and show it forth in their conversations ;
and to deny the devil and his bad works, and
not to do them.

" And to seek them that be lost, or driven
away from the truth into the devil's dark
wilderness, by his dark power ; to seek them
again by the truth, and by the truth and
power of God, bring them to God again.

" And to see that all that come amongst
Friends and profess truth, keep to yea and
nay, in their dealings and conversations, in
justice and equity, and not in oppression.

" And all you whom the Lord hath made
overseers of his church, in your several places,
be faithful to the Lord and watch over the flock
of Christ with all diligence. Ye that are strong
watch over the weak, and stir up that which
is pure one in another. See that all your
meetings be kept in order ; Be faithful unto
the Lord where he hath set you, and you shall
not lose your reward." 1655.

TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS.

" Now concerning Gospel order, though the
doctrine of Jesus Christ requireth his people
to admonish a brother or sister twice, before
they tell the church, yet that limiteth none, so
as that they shall use no longer foi'bearance,
but that they shall not less than twice admon-
ish their brother or sister before they tell the
church. And it is desired of all, that before
they publicly complain, they wait in the power
of God, to feel if there is no more required of
them to their brother or sister, before they ex-
pose him or her: let this be weightily considered.

"And further, when the church is told, and
the party admonished by the church again and
again, and he or they still remain insensible
and unreconciled, let not final judgment go
forth against him or her, until every one of
the meeting have cleared his or her conscience.
If anything be upon any, further to visit such
transgressor, they may clear themselves, that
if possible the party may be reached and saved.



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



127



And after all ai'e clear of the blood of such an
one, let the judgment of Friends in the power
of God go forth against him or her ; for the
Lord's honour and glory's sake, that no re-
proach may rest upon God's holy name, truth
and people.

" And all such as behold their brother or
sister in a transgression, go not in a rough,
light or upbraiding spirit to reprove or admon-
ish him or her ; but in the power of the Lord,
and spirit of the Lamb, and in the wisdom and
love of the truth, which suffers thereby. So
may the soul of such a brother or sister be
seasonably and effectually reached unto and
overcome, and they may have cause to bless
the name of the Lord on their behalf, and a
blessing also may be rewarded into the bosom
of that faithful and tender brother or sister
that so admonished them.

" And be it known unto all, we cast out
none from among us ; for if they go from the
light and spirit and power, in which our unity
is, they cast out themselves. And it has been
our way to admonish them, that they may
come to that spirit and light of God, which
they are gone from, and to come into the
unity again. For our fellowship stands in the
light, that the world hates, and in the spirit
which the world grieves, vexes and quenches ;
and if they will not hear our admonition, as
before, the light condemns them, and then the
testimony of truth goes out against them.

" No condemnation ought to go further than
the transgression is known. And if he or she
returns, and gives forth a paper of condemna-
tion against him or herself, which is more de-
sirable than that we should do it, this is a tes-
timony of his or her repentance, before God,
his people, and the whole world ; as David,
when Nathan came to admonish him. And
let no testimony, by way of condemnation, be
given forth against any man or woman, what-
ever crime they commit, before admonition,
and until such time as they have had Gospel
Order, according to Christ's doctrine — that is,
if thy brother offend thee, speak to him be-
twixt thee and him : if he will not hear, take
two or three ; if he will not hear two or three,
then tell it to the church," &c.

This must, of course, be understood to ap-
ply to cases within the reach of Friends, and
not to those of a reproachful character, where
the parties have gone from the settlements of
Friends, and the reputation of the Society is
likely to suffer by their evil deeds.

In cases where persons have missed their
way, and yet not so as to merit disownment,
it would appear the following advice was de-
signed to apply : —

" Admonish them gently, in the wisdom
of God, that you may preserve them and



bring them to condemnation, and preserve
them from further " evils, which it is well if
such do not run into. And it will be well for
all to use the gentle wisdom of God towards
them in their temptations and condemnable
actions, and with using gentleness, bring them
to condemn their evil, and to let their con-
demnation go as far as the bad action has
gone, and no further, to defile the minds of
Friends and others ; and so to clear God's
truth and people, and to convert the soul to
God."

" And dear Friends, you who are gathered
in the power of the Lord God, which is the
authority of your men's and women's meet-
ings ; in the power of the Lord Jesus, see that
all things be well amongst you, and that all
walk in the truth, and as becometh the Gospel
of Christ, and his glorious light and life, so
that all may stand up for God's glory, and be
vaHant for his truth, and grow up in it. Ad-
monish, exhort and encoui'age such as are
young and tender, to keep and preserve them
in the way of life ; and watch over one an-
other for good.

" The poor, the sick, the widows, the father-
less, and the prisoners, be tender of, and feel
every one's condition as your own, and let
nothing be lacking amongst you, accordino-
to the apostle's doctrine to the church of God
of old time, and if nothing be lacking, all is
well."

LOVE AND UNITY.

" All live in peace, in love, and in the pow-
er of the Lord God, and keep your meetings,
every one of you waiting upon Him in his
power, that in it ye may have unity with God
the Father, and with the Son, and one with
another. And let wisdom guide you in pa-
tience, and do not strive with any in meetings,
but dwell in the power of the Lord God, that
can bear and suffer all things ; and make no
strife among Friends, but live in that which
makes for peace, and love and life, in which
edification is known." 1654.

" Dear Friends, do all that you do in peace
and love, and in the fear of God, condescend-
ing one unto another, in the simplicity and in-
nocency of truth, and in the wisdom of God,
that this may be every one's crown, that no-
thing may be done in strife to occasion words;
for you are called to peace and holiness, in
which the kingdom stands, and to serve one
another in love.

" Above all things, live in that which stops
strife, contention and jangling, even in the
love of God, by which ye come to serve one
another in love, which thinks no evil, envies
not, nor is easily provoked. This is that
which fulfils the law, even love out of a pure



128



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



heart. And let not prejudice boil in any of
your hearts, but let it be cast out by the pow-
er of God, in which is the true unity and the
everlasting kingdom. Thus may ye all wit-
ness a being made heirs of the same kingdom
of peace, and sitting down in the same, know-
ing your own portions and increasing in the
heavenly riches." 1658.

" Live in the peaceable truth, and keep in
the heavenly order of the Gospel, and under
the government of the Heavenly Man, of the
increase of which there is no end. Walk in
the pure and undefiled religion, that keeps you
from the spots of the world, and in the wor-
ship of God in the spirit and truth, which the
devil is out of. So that in the truth you may
be preserved in peace with God, and one with
another, in the unity and fellowship in which is
the bond of peace." 1669.

" Do not strive about outward things, but
dwell in the love of God, for that will unite
you together, and make you kind and gentle
towards one another, seeking one another's
good and welfare ; and to be helpful one to
another, and see that nothing be lacking
among you, then all will be well. Let tem-
perance, patience, kindness and brotherly love
be exercised among you, so that you may
abound in virtue and the true humility. Live
in peace, and show forth the nature of Chris-
tianity, that you may all live as a family, and
as the church of God, holding Christ your
heavenly Head, and he exercising his office
among you and in you. Hold Him, the Head,
by his light, power, and spirit, and this will
keep your minds over the earthly spirit, up to
God ; for the earth, and the sea and all things
therein are his, and he gives the increase there-
of. Therefore, be not over eager after outward
things, but keep above them, in the Lord's
power and seed, Christ Jesus, that is over all,
in whom you all have life, election and salva-
tion." 1676.

MARRIAGE.

" The right joining in marriage is the work
of the Lord only, and not the priests or ma-
gistrates ; for it is <jod's ordinance and not
man's : and therefore Friends cannot consent
that they should join them together; for we
marry none ; it is the Lord's work, and we
are but witnesses.

" Let not any go together in marriage, con-
trary to the practice of the holy men of God,
who declared it in the assemblies of the right-
eous when they took one another, all things
being clear, and they both being free from all
others in this respect. When any Friend takes



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 105)