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BRETHREN and sisters in Christ Jesus, it is known, and evident to all the true children of God, who are enlightened by his Holy Spirit, that human reason is so depraved in Adam, that it possesses but little light which can lead to godliness; yea, it has become so unfit, haughty, ignorant and blind that it would even attempt presumptuously to alter, bend, break, gainsay, judge and find fault with the word of the Lord God; it will not yield to any spirit or gift and persists that it is right, and that all it does or says is God's word; whereby the saving truth, and blessed love and peace have often to endure and suffer much injury, infamy and disgrace.
In the second place, it is evident that also the enchanting spirit of anti‑christ has made the whole world so drunk with the cup of his abominations; has so rejected the doctrine of Christ and his holy apostles, sacraments, Spirit, life, ordinances, usages, example and the true worship, that but little of a salutary nature is left among men; hence it is difficult to restore what has been destroyed to its true order and proper usage, to which the Lord had ordained it.
In the third place, it is evident that the old master, satan, the arch enemy of God and souls, is always about us, as a roaring lion, and seeks whom he may devour, as Peter says. He assails us in divers ways; now with the unclean, wicked nature of our depraved flesh, and anon with some enchanting, false doctrine and fair words; and again, by persecution, cross and fears; then with liberty and worldly life of the flesh; now with riches and abundance, then again with defects, wants and poverty. In short, he shoots his fiery darts constantly; they fly by day and by night, in secret and in public. He that does not zealously abide in the fear of God cannot withstand the manifold assaults of his temptations. Yea when we think the end is attained, then we are assailed the most violently. Some are led to quarreling and wrangling under the semblance of truth; such are called by Paul, "Men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth;" whose fruits are abominable envy, disgraceful defamation, slanderous words, unclean, perverted minds, a lamentable destruction of the holy peace of God, a grievous denial of pure, christian love, a hindrance of the saving doctrine, the fruitful mother of faction, and an easy way to rain, as we have abundantly seen in the days of the revealed truth.
O! brethren, take warning; again I say, beware and watch; for James says that such wisdom is not from above, but it is earthly, sensual, devilish; for the wisdom which is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Yea, my brethren, where there is no peaceable, friendly, saving and impartial wisdom, there is nothing but forced appearance of good; powerless, impure and sinful prayer; an unsteady, wavering mind; a restless and troubled conscience, full of strife and dissension, no matter how much we may boast of the truth. The Lord grant that we may see this.
In the fourth place, it is evident that the community or church cannot continue in the saving doctrine, an unblamable and pious life without the proper use of the Excommunication or Ban; even as a city without a good police, or laws and regulations, or a field without any inclosure, and a house without walls and doors, so is also a church which has not the true apostolic Exclusion or Ban; for without it there would be an opening for all deceiving spirits, for all 241abominations, and for proud scorners, for all idolatrous and wantonly, perverted sinners; yea, for all lewd debauchees, sodomites, adulterers and knaves, as is the case with all the great sects of the world, which call themselves, though improperly, the church of Christ; according to my opinion it is the distinguished usage, honor and prosperity of a sincere community, if they with Christian discretion teach the true apostolic Separation, and observe it carefully in love, according to the ordinance of the holy, divine Scriptures; it is more than evident, that if we had not with due zeal insisted upon it, we would be esteemed and called, by every one, the members of the sect of Munster and all other perverted sects. But, thank God, since, in consequence of the proper use of excommunication, it is well known, among several thousand honorable, sincere persons, in different principalities, cities, and countries, that we are guiltless of, and free from all ungodly abominations, and preverted sects, and that we also do make this known, unreservedly, to the whole world, not only by our doctrines and walk, but with our possessions and blood.
Observing that now the bright light of the holy gospel of Christ shines again in refulgent splendor in these vexatious times of all anti‑Christian abominations; God's own and first begotten Son, Christ Jesus, is gloriously revealed, his good will and pleasure and holy word concerning faith, regeneration, repentance, baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the whole saving doctrine, life and ordinance, have again come to light through much seeking, prayer, reading, teaching and writing; that now all things (God be praised for his grace) proceed according to the true, apostolic rule in the church, whereby the kingdom of Christ rises in honor, and the kingdom of anti‑Christ is sinking. For this reason the arch enemy of our souls violently opposes and uses his old wiles and arts most subtlely against it. He appears under the cloak of a christian; understand me rightly; he proudly boasts of faith; upbraids, yea, rejects all the Babylonian deeds; is baptized; seats himself with the saints at the Lord's Supper; praises the lives of the pious; hears exhortations; gives alms; receives the poor; washes the saints' feet; says that Christ is the Son of God. In short, in appearance he is an unblamable, regenerated, penitent and true christian. But in the mean time, he watches where he may assail us most easily and injure us the most; he pleasingly approaches the depraved and enchanted souls, some of whom, as is evident, as yet know little about the nature and disposition of the Holy Ghost; he presses them closely, for he knows how skillfully to defend his cause with the letter of the Scriptures; he speaks gently; whatever he does, he does as though out of pure fear of God, and love to the church, with the word and truth of the Lord. He commences as though in the anxiety of a distressed conscience, to argue and dispute, principally concerning the separation which he can not well tolerate and endure; here and there he raises pernicious questions and answers, whereby he so influences and inflames the perverted and enchanted, that some of them, when they cannot stand before the power of the truth, from mere partisan spirit, leave the pleasant Jerusalem of peace and return again to unclean, blind Babel; or build up a sect of their own, as I have, with much sorrow, seen it to be the case two or three times. Behold, this is the pearl which the old deceiver seeks with his ire and wrangling; for whether we stay away from the idolatrous church or not, be baptized or not, it is immaterial to him; if he can only inflame our hearts with hatred and envy one towards another, corrupt our minds, mar our love, destroy our peace; if he can but sow discord, defamation, hatred, lies, enmity and backbiting, which generally arise from such disputes; if he can but do this, then he has accomplished what he sought. Ah! Dear brethren, beware, for it is more than clear, that all those who have not the meek, friendly, peaceable and affectionate Spirit of Christ, but are contentious, are not of God. Be this known to you.
Inasmuch then, that we know, that he did from the beginning of the expounded gospel, to the present moment, cause us much pain and sorrow of heart, with his cunning, unfruitful questions of contention, and other pernicious disputations, I do most affectionately and sincerely entreat all who would desire to walk peaceably and quietly in the 242fear of God with a good conscience, before the Lord and his church, that they would all, before God in Christ Jesus, lay this sincerely to heart, how faithfully the Holy Spirit of Christ warns us concerning our unprofitable, foolish questions, answers, disputations, and quarrels, 1 Tim. 6; for the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of love and peace, and therefore, teaches it to all of his children, and writes it upon the tablets of our hearts with his gracious finger. Ah! do reflect upon what we teach; and that his holy kingdom and word are a word and kingdom of peace, and not of strife; that his messengers and servants, are messengers and servants of peace, in order that you, who call yourselves after his holy name, who alone has graciously called you into his kingdom of peace, through the word of his peace, may escape the snares of the devil, and that you may so conduct yourselves in all your ways after the will and pleasure of Christ, towards all men, and observe his holy word and ordinance, and defend it; that you may promote that true righteousness required of God, such as faith, love, repentance, regeneration, piety and peace with all other fruits of the Holy Ghost; gladden the hearts of all the sorrowful of heart, and the young and tender souls in Christ Jesus, and strengthen, console and encourage them in all their trials, need, temptations, tribulation and fear; so that the most holy city and temple, which lay desolated for so many centuries, may again be rebuilt, and all its usages, ordinances and services restored to primitive order. Yea, that the saving light of the true gospel of Christ may be spread among all nations, kindred and tongues, in its full splendor; and that the accursed, lying and anti‑christian darkness may be dispelled.
Then observe that the powerful word of the Lord is more and more miraculously breaking forth, and that, therefore, all true hearts would gladly see and have unanimity in this part of the Ban, whereby they, are sometimes so greatly troubled and perplexed, as related, that they might all orderly proceed, observing one rule, according to the Scriptures as it becomes christians; and that I, an unworthy person, the weakest of all the saints, have been severely tried in this part by many, different spirits for twenty‑two years, and have endured many an attack, whereby others are not only taught of me, but I am also taught of others, the Giver of all good gifts be praised for all this. And also that I have acquired more knowledge in some things, through length of time, and through many adventitious circumstances, examination and study; therefore, I was fraternally requested and besought, by several, pious hearts who would gladly see all things right, that before the close of my life, I would examine and revise the Ground and meaning of the true apostolic Ban or Separation, arrange it formally, and present it for examination to the elders and ministers of the church, and to all those desiring peace, so that if any one, after my departure, as I am now an old, feeble man, might cause any trouble, strife or dissension among the quiet and peaceable, under pretence that he heard this or that from me at any time, or might infer wrong views from some of my writings which have not yet been so fully explained by me concerning husband and wife, and of open, offensive, carnal sinners, as it is done here, in order that the brethren may refer them to my conclusive ground, after I shall have fallen asleep in God, and made my exit hence. Besides, that the pious, doubtful conscience may thereby be relieved, so that they may attain an assurance of confidence in their minds. To which request, although christian‑like and just, I have undertaken to respond with diffidence, because I well know that they are not all brethren and sisters in truth and power who will read, hear and see it, but also others. And where the disposition is not friendly, nor love true, there the understanding is generally partial and the construction unjust, as I, alas, have often experienced in my days. Ah! that some of them would obtain grace. Besides, I know, that the opinions, judgments, affections and minds are different; and that the all‑prevailing truth and the fear, Spirit and unction of the Lord, are not possessed by every one in their fullness; therefore, I fear that all will not receive and follow this doctrine as the True Ground of Truth. O that we all had the eyes of understanding, those of us who think we see, it would, according 243to my opinion, soon gain a strong hold with some.
Yet I confidently expect that those, who in the true fear of God sincerely seek union and peace among the pious, and are anxious for the truth, will not despise and upbraid me for this my solicitous and brotherly labor for the edification of holy peace, and explanation of eternal truth, accepted by me in true christian faith; but that they will accept it, and give the praise to God for his grace; for it appears to me, although perhaps I may be in error, almost impossible to hit upon a more certain way according to truth, in which we may stand before God and man, than that which I have impartially, and according to my limited talents, pointed out and explained as before God in Christ Jesus, and which is according to the sacred Scriptures.
I do not serve the stiff‑necked, haughty and perverse scorners, neither immovable bigots and wranglers, but those, I serve, who are of an impartial, new, christian mind, who suffer themselves to be instructed, and are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and live in the fear of God and in pure love, who have received the Lord's holy word and truth in a pure mind; who implicity follow it through the received unction, and are free from all bitter, party spirit, vain honor, hatred and envy; for with such we find the amiable spirit of peace, sincere and pious disposition, an unleavened, pure heart and conversation, and, therefore, also an upright and pure understanding, and an incorrupt, saving ground and exposition, and they live no more unto their selfish flesh, but unto Christ and their neighbors, resist none, are humble, are opposed to all unscriptural contention and strife, readily acknowledge their short comings wherein they have erred; reconcile their neighbors whom they had grieved, regarding neither honor nor dishonor; heap fiery coals upon the heads of their adversaries; walk unblamably, in order that they may awaken them again unto truth with love, lead them from the way of error, bring them unto Christ, and save them eternally. Behold these are they, I say, whom I serve with my writings; for they have Christ in power with his Spirit, word and love, and thus with him, and in him they have TRUE CHRISTIANITY, which will stand before God, which is a useful, cheering, peaceable and joyful thing. Ah, children, be admonished; learn rightly to know the subtlety of the devil, and beware of discord. May the merciful Father grant unto us the wise Spirit of his grace, Amen.
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