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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Adam and Eve had got another god than the
only true and living God. He that enticed them
to all this mischief, furnished them with a vain
knowledge and pernicious wisdom : the skill
of lies and equivocations, shifts, evasions and
excuses. They lost their plainness and sin-
cerity : and from an upright heart, the image
in which God had made man, he became a
crooked, twining, twisting serpent ; the image
of that unrighteous spirit, to whose tempta-
tions he yielded up his obedience and his para-
disical happiness.

5. Nor is this limited to Adam ; for all who
have fallen short of the glory of God, are
right-born sons of his disobedience. They,
like him, have eaten of what has been forbid-

den : they have " committed the things they
ought not to have done, and left undone the
things they ought to have done." They have
sinned against that divine light of knowledge,
which God has given them : they have grieved
his spirit ; and that dismal sentence has been
executed, " In the day that thou eatest thereof
thou shalt die." That is, when thou doest the
thing which thou oughtest not to do, thou shalt
no more live in my favour, and enjoy the com-
forts of the peace of my spirit. This is a
dying to all those innocent and holy desires
and affections, with which God created man ;
and he becomes as one cold and benumbed,
insensible of the love of God, of his Holy
Spirit, power and wisdom ; of the hght and
joy of his countenance ; of the evidence of a
good conscience, and the -co-witnessing and
approbation of God's Holy Spirit.

6. Fallen Adam's knowledge of God stood
no more in a daily experience of the love and
work of God in his soul, but in a notion of
what he once knew and experienced. This
being not the true and living wisdom that is
from above, but a mere picture, it cannot pre-
serve man in purity ; but puffs up, makes peo-
ple proud, high-minded, and impatient of con-
tradiction. This was the state of the apostate
Jews before Christ came ; and it has been the
condition of apostate Christians ever since he
came. Their religion stands, some bodily per-
formances excepted, either in what they once
knew of the work of God in themselves, and
which they have revolted from ; or in an his-
torical behef, and an imaginary conception
and paraphrase upon the experiences and pro-
phecies of such holy men and women of God,
as in all ages have deser\'ed the style and
character of his true children.

7. As such a knowledge of God cannot be
trucj so by experience we find that it ever
brings forth iquite contrary fruits to the true
wisdom. For as this is first pure, then peace-
able, then gentle, and easy to be entreated ; so
the knowledge of degenerated and unmortified
men is first impure. For it came by the com-
mission of evil, and is held in an evil and im-
pure conscience and heart, which disobey God's
law, and daily do those things they ought not to
do ; and for which they stand condemned be-
fore God's judgment-seat in the souls of men ;
the light of whose presence searches the most
hidden things of darlvucss, the most secret
thoughts, and concealed inclinations of un-
godly men. This is the science, falsely so
called ; and as it is impure, so it is unpeacea-
ble, cross, and hard to be entreated ; forward,
perverse, and persecuting ; jealous that any
should be better than they, and hating and
abusing those that are.

8. It was this pride made Cain a murderer:



it is a spiteful quality ; full of envy and re-
venge. What ! was not his religion and wor-
ship as good as his brother's ? He had all the
exterior parts of worship : he offered as well
as Abel ; and the offering in itself might be as
good : but it seems the heart that offered it,
was not. So long ago did God regard the in-
terior worship of the soul. What was the
consequence of this difference 1 Cain's pride
could not bear to be outdone by his bi'other.
He grew wrathful, and resolved to vindicate
his offering, by revenging the refusal of it
upon his brother's life ; and without any re-
gard to natural affection, or the low and early
condition of mankind, he barbarously dyed
his hands in his brother's blood.

9. The religion of the apostatized Jews did
no better ; for, having lost the inward life,
power and spirit of the law, they were puffed
up with the knowledge they had ; and their
pretences to Abraham, Moses, and the pro-
mises of God, in that frame, served only to
blow them up to an insufferable pride, arro-
gance and cruelty. They could not bear true
vision, when it came to visit them, and enter-
tained the messengers of their peace as if they
had been wolves and tigers.

10. It is remarkable, that false prophets,
the great engineers against the true ones, were
ever sure to persecute them as false ; and by
their interest with earthly princes, or the poor
seduced multitude, made them the instruments
of their malice. Thus it was, that one holy
prophet was sawn asunder, and another stoned
to death, &c. So proud and obstinate are
false knowledge, and the aspii'ers after it ;
which made holy Stephen cry out, " Ye stiff
necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear,
ye resist the Holy Ghost ; as your fathers did,
so do ye."

1 1 . The true knowledge came with the joy
of angels, singing " peace on earth, and good-
will towards men :" the false knowledge en-
tertained the message with calumnies : Christ
must needs be an impostor ; and this must
prove him so, to wit, his power of working
miracles ; which yet proved the contrary.
They stoned him, and frequently sought to
kill him ; and at last they wickedly accom-
plished it. But what was their motive to it ?
Because he cried out against their hypocrisy,
the broad phylacteries, the honour they sought
of men. To be short, they give the reason
themselves, in these words ; " If we let him
thus alone, all men will believe on him ;" he
will take away our credit with the people ;
they will adhere to him, and desert us ; and
so we shall lose our power and reputation with
the multitude.

12. The truth is, he came to level their
honour, to overthrow their rabbiship, and by

his grace to bring the people to that inward
knowledge of God, which they, by transgres-
sion, were departed from ; that so they might
see the deceitfulness of their blind guides, who
by their vain traditions, had made void the
righteousness of the law ; and who were so
far from being the true doctors and lively ex-
pounders of it, that in reality they were the
children of the devil, who was a proud liar
and cruel murderer, from the beginning.

13. Their pride in false knowledge having
made them incapable of receiving the simpli-
city of the Gospel, Christ thanks his Father,
that he had hid the mysteries of it from the
wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes.
This false wisdom swelled the minds of the
Athenians to that degree, that they despised
the preaching of the apostle Paul, as a vain
and foolish thing. But that apostle, who of
all the rest had an education in the learning
of those times, bitterly reflects on the wisdom,
so much valued by Jews and Greeks ;
"Where," says he, "is the wise? where is
the scribe ? where is the disputer of this
world ? Hath not God made foolish the wis-
dom of this world?" And he gives a good
reason for it, " that no flesh should glory in
his presence." Which is to say, God will
stain the pride of man in false knowledge,
that he should have nothing to be proud of:
it should be owing only to the revelation of
the Spirit of God. The apostle goes farther,
and affirms, " that the world by wisdom knew
not God :" that is, it was so far from an help,
that, as men use it, it was an hinderance to the
true knowledge of God. And in his first epis-
tle to his beloved Timothy, he concludes thus :
" O Timothy ! keep that which is committed
to thy trust ; avoiding profane and vain bab-
blings, and oppositions of science, falsely so
called." This was the sense of apostolical
times, when the divine grace gave the true
knowledge of God, and was the guide ^f

14. But what has been the success of those
ages that followed the apostolical? Is it any
better than that of the Jewish times? Not
one jot. They have exceeded them in their
pretences to greater knowledge, and also in
their degeneracy from the true Christian life.
For though they had a more excellent pattern
than the Jews, to whom God spoke by Moses
his servant. He, speaking to them by his be-
loved Son, the express image of his substance,
the perfection of all meekness and humility ;
and though they seemed addicted to nothing
more, than an adoration of his name, and a
veneration to the memory of his blessed disci-
ples and apostles ; yet so great was their de-
fection from the inward power and life of
Christianity in the soul, that their respect was



little more than formal and ceremonious. Not-
withstanding they, like the Jews, were zealous
in garnishing their sepulchres, and curious in
carving their images ; not only keeping what
might be the relics of their persons, but re-
commending a thousand things as relics which
are purely fabulous, and very often ridiculous,
as well as altogether unchristian ; yet, as to
the gi'eat and weighty things of the Christian
law, viz., love, meekness and self-denial, they
were degenerated ; they grew high-minded,
proud, boasters, without natural affection, cu-
rious and controversial ; ever perplexing the
church with doubtful questions ; filling people
with disputations, strife and wrangling, draw-
ing them into parties, and at last they fell into
blood : as if they had been the worse for being
once Christians.

O the miserable state of these pretended
Christians ! who instead of Christ's and his
apostles' doctrine, of loving enemies, and bless-
ing them that curse them, teach the people,
under the notion of Christian zeal, most inhu-
manly to butcher one another ; and, instead
of suffering their own blood to be shed for
the testimony of Jesus, they shed the blood
of the witnesses of Jesus, as heretics. Thus
that subtle serpent, or crafty evil-spirit, that
tempted Adam out of innocency, and the Jews
from the law of God, has beguiled the Chris-
tians, by lying vanities, to depart from the
Christian law of holiness, and so they are
become slaves to him ; for he rules in the hearts
of the children of disobedience.

1-5. It is observable, that as pride, which is
ever followed by superstition and obstinacy,
put Adam upon seeking an higher station than
God placed him in ; and as the Jews, out of
the same pride, in order to outdo their pattern,
given them of God by Moses upon the mount,
set their post by God's post, and taught for
doctrines their own traditions, insomuch that
those who refused conformity to them, ran the
hazard of crucifixion : so nominal Christians,
from the same sin of pride, with great super-
stition and arrogance, have introduced, instead
of a spiritual worship and discipHne, that
which is evidently ceremonious and worldly ;
with such innovations and traditions of men,
as are the fruit of the wisdom that is from
below : witness their numerous and perplexed
councils and creeds, " with, conform, or burn,"
at the end of them.

16. And as this unwarrantable pride set
them first at work, to pervert the spirituality
of Christian worship, making it rather to re-
semble the shadowy religion of the Jews, and
the gaudy worship of the Egyptians, than the
plainness and simplicity of the Christian in-
stitution, which is neither to resemble that
of the mountain, nor the other of Jerusa-

lem ; so has the same pride and arrogancy
spurred them on, by all imaginable cruelties,
to maintain this great Diana. No meek sup-
plications, nor humble remonstrances, of those
that keep close to primitive purity in worship
and doctrine, could prevail with these nominal
Christians, to dispense with the imposition of
their unapostolical traditions. But as the mi-
nisters and bishops of these degenerate Chris-
tians left their painful visitation and care over
Christ's flock, and grew ambitious, covetous,
and luxurious, resembling rather worldly po-
tentates, than the humble-spirited and morti-
fied followers of the blessed Jesus : so almost
every history tells us, with what pride and
cruelty, blood and butchery, and unusual and
exquisite tortures, they have persecuted the
holy members of Christ, out of the world ;
upon such anathemas, that, as far as they
could, they have disappointed them of the
blessings of heaven too. These, true Chris-
tians call martyrs ; but the clergy, like the
persecuting Jews, have styled them blas-
phemers and heretics ; in which they have
fulfilled the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He did not say, that they should think they
did the gods service to kill the Christians, his
dear followers, which might refer to the per-
secutions of the idolatrous Gentiles, but that
they should think they did God good service
to kill them : which shows, that they should
be such as professedly owned the true God,
as the apostate Christians have all along pre-
tended to do. So they must be those wolves,
that the apostle foretold should arise among
themselves, and worry the flock of Christ,
after the great falling-away should commence,
that was foretold by him, as necessary, in order
to the proving of the faithful, and the revela-
tion of the great mystery of iniquity.

I shall conclude this head with the as-
sertion, that it is an undeniable truth, where
the clergy has been most in power and autho-
rity, and has had the greatest influence upon
princes and states, there have been most con-
fusions, wrangles, bloodshed, sequestrations,
imprisonments and exiles ; to justify which, I
call the testimony of the records of all times.
How it is in our age, I leave to the experience
of the living : yet here is one demonstration
that can hardly fail us : the people are not
converted, but debauched to a degree that time
will not furnish us an example. The worship
of Christendom is visible, ceremonious, and
gaudy; the clergy ambitious of worldly pre-
ferments, under the pretence of spiritual pro-
motions ; making the earthly revenues of
church-men, much the reason of their func-
tion : being almost ever sure, to leave a smaller
incumbence, to solicit and obtain benefices of
larger title and income. So that with their



pride and avarice, which the apostle Peter
foresaw would be their snares, they have
drawn after them, ignorance, misery and irre-
ligion upon Christendom.

17. The way of recovery from this mise-
rable defection is, to come to a saving know-
ledge of religion ; that is, an experience of
the divine work of God in the soul ; to obtain
which, be diligent to obey the grace that ap-
pears in thy own soul, O man ! This brings
salvation, it turns thee out of the broad way,
into the narrow way ; from thy lusts to thy
duty, from sin to holiness, from satan to God.
Thou must see and abhor self, thou must
watch, and pray, and fast : thou must not
look at thy tempter, but at thy preserver :
avoid ill company, retire to thy solitudes, and
be a chaste pilgrim in this evil world ; and
thus thou wilt arrive at the knowledge of God
and Christ, that brings eternal life to the soul ;
a well grounded assurance from what a man
feels and knows within himself: such shall
not be moved with evil tidings.

1. Pride craves power as well as knowledge.
2. The case of Korah, &c. a proof 3. Absa-
lom's ambition confirms it. 4. Nebuchadnez-
zar's does the like. 5. The history of Pisistra-
tus, Alexander, Csesar, &c. shows the same
thing. 6. The Turks are a lively proof, who
have shed much blood to gratify pride for power.
7. The last ten years in Christendom exceed in
proof of this. 8. Ambition rests not in courts ;
it finds room in private breasts too, and spoils
families and societies. 9. Their peace is great,
who limit their desire by God's grace, and
having power, use it to the good of others.

1. Let us now see the next most common,
eminent, and mischievous effect of this evil.
Pride does extremely crave power, than which,
nothing has proved mox'e troublesome and de-
structive to mankind. I need not labour my-
self much in evidence of this, since most of
the wars of nations, depopulation of kingdoms,
ruin of cities, with the slavery and misery that
have followed, both our own experience and
unquestionable histories acquaint us, to have
been the effect of ambition, which is the lust
of pride after power.

2. How specious soever might be the pi'e-
tences of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against
Moses, it was their emulation of his mighty
power in the camp of Israel, that put -them
upon conspiracies and mutinies. They longed
for his authority, and their not having it, was
his crime : for they had a mind to be the
heads and leaders of the people. The conse-

quence of which was, a remarkable destruc-
tion to themselves, and all their unhappy

3. Absalom too was for the people's rights,
against the tyranny of his father and his king;
at least, with this pretence he palliated his am-
bition. But his rebellion showed that he was
impatient for power ; and resolved to sacrifice
his duty, as son and subject, to the importu-
nities of his restless pride, which brought a
miserable death to himself, and an extraordi-
nary slaughter upon his army.

4. Nebuchadnezzar is a lively instance of
the excessive lust of pride for power. His
successes and empire were too great for him :
so much too strong for his understanding that
he forgot he did not make himself, or that his
power had a superior. He makes an image,
and all must bow to it, or be burnt. And
when Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego re-
fused to comply, "Who (says he) is that God
that shall deliver you out of my hands ?"
Notwithstanding the convictions he had upon
him, at the constancy of those excellent men,
and Daniel's interpretation of his dreams, it
was not long before the pride of his power had
filled his heart, and then his mouth, with this
haughty question, " Is not this great Babylon
that I have built, for the house of the kingdom,
by the might of my power, and for the honour
of my majesty V But we are told, that while
the words were in his mouth, a voice from
heaven rebuked the pride of his spirit, and he
was driven from the society of men, to graze
among the beasts of the field.

5. If we look into the histories of the
world, we shall find many instances to prove
the mischief of this lust of pride. I will
mention a few of them for their sakes, who
have either not read or not considered them.

Solon made Athens free by his excellent
constitution of laws : but the ambition of
Pisistratus began the ruin of it before his
eyes. Alexander, not contented with his own
kingdom, invaded others, and filled with spoil
and slaughter the countries which he subdued:
and it was well said by one whom Alexander
accused of piracy, that Alexander was him-
self the greatest pirate in the world. It was
the same ambition that made Caesar turn
traitor to his masters, and with their own
army, put into his hand for their service, sub-
due them to his yoke, and usurp the govern-
ment ; which ended in the expulsion of free-
dom and virtue together from that common-
wealth. Goodness quickly grew to be faction
in Rome; and that sobriety and wisdom, which
had rendered her senators venerable, became
dangerous to their safety : insomuch that his
successors hardly left one they did not kill or
banish ; unless such as turned to be flatterers



of their unjust acquisition, and the imitators
of their debauched manners.

6. The Turks are a proof of the point in
hand ; who, to extend their dominion, have
been the cause of shedding much blood, and
laying waste many stately countries. And
yet they are to be outdone by apostate Chris-
tians ; whose practice is the more condemna-
ble, because they have been better taught :
they have had a Master of another doctrine
and example. It is true, they call him Lord
still, but let their ambition reign : they love
power more than one another ; and to get it,
kill one another; though charged by him, not
to strive, but to love and serve each other.
What adds to the tragedy is, that natural
affection is sacrificed to the fury of this lust :
and therefore are stories so often stained with
the murder of parents, children, uncles, ne-
phews, masters, &c.

7. If we look abroad into remoter parts of
the world, we shall rarely hear of wars ; but
in Christendom, rarely of peace. A very trifle
is too often made a ground of quarrel here :
nor can any league be so sacred or inviolable,
that arts shall not be used to evade and dis-
solve it, to increase dominion. No matter
who, nor how many are slain, or made
widows and orphans, or lose their estates and
livelihoods ; what countries are ruined ; what
towns and cities spoiled ; if by all these things
the ambitious can but arrive at their ends. To
go no farther back than sixty years, that little
period of time will furnish us with many wars
begun upon ill grounds, and ended in desola-
tion. Nay, the last twelve years of our time,
make as pregnant a demonstration, as we can
furnish ourselves with from the records of
any age. It is too tedious, nor is it my busi-
ness to be particular : It has been often well
observed by others, and is almost known to
all ; I inean the French, Spanish, German,
English and Dutch v/ars.

8. But ambition does not only dwell in
courts and senates : it is natural to every
private breast to strain for power. We daily
see how much men labour with their utmost
wit and intei'est to be great, to get higher
places, or greater titles than they have, that
they may look bigger, and be more acknow-
ledged ; take place of their former equals, and
so equal those who were once their superiors ;
compel friends, and be revenged on enemies.
This makes Christianity so little loved by
worldly men, its kingdom is not of this world:
And though they may speak well of it, it is
the world they love ; that without uncharita-
bleness we may truly say, people profess
Christianity, but they follow the world. They
are not for seeking the kingdom of heaven
first, and the righteousness thereof, and to

Vol. I.вАФ No. 6.

trust God with the rest ; but for securing to
themselves the wealth and glory of this world,
and adjourning the care of salvation to a sick-
bed, and the extreme moments of life ; if yet
they believe in a life to come.

9. To conclude this head ; great is their
peace, who know a limit to their ambitious
minds, have learned to be contented with the
appointments and bounds of providence ; and
are not careful to be great, but being great,
are humble, and good. Such keep their wits
with their consciences, and with an even mind,
can at all times measure the uneven world,
rest fixed in the midst of all its uncertainties,
and, as becomes those who have an interest
in a better inheritance, in the good time and
will of God, cheerfully leave this ; when the
ambitious, conscious of their evil practices,
and weighed down to their graves with guilt,
must go to a tribunal, which they can neither
awe nor bribe.


1. The third evil effect of pride is love of honour
and respect. Too many are guilty of it. 2. It
had like to have cost Mordecai dear. Great
mischief has befallen nations on this account.

3. The world is out in the business of true
honour, as well as in that of true science.

4. Reasons why the author, and the rest of the
people he walks with, use not these fashions.

5. The first is, the sense they had in the hour
of their conviction, of the unsuitableness of
them to the Christian spirit and practice, and
that the root they came from was pride and self-
love. 6. Reproach could not move them from
that sense and practice accordingly. 7. They
do it not to make sects, or for distinction. 8.
Nor yet to countenance formality, but passively
let drop vain customs, and so are negative to
forms. 9. Their behaviour is a test upon the
world. 10. And this cross to the world a test
upon them. 11. The second reason against
them is their emptiness. 12. Honour in Scrip-
ture, is not so taken as it is in the world. It is
used for obedience. 13. It is used for prefer-
ment. 14. A digression about folly in a Scrip-
ture sense. 15. Honour is used for reputation.
16. Honour is also attributed to functions and
capacities, by way of esteem. 17. Honour is
taken for help and countenance of inferiors.

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 49 of 105)