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Concerning God, Christ, the Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, the Gospel,
". !" WILLIAM SHEn'EN.
• He is not a Jew that is one outwardly.—Rom. ii. 28.
Concerning God—Christ—The Holy Spirit—The Holy Scriptures—
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TO THE READER.
Falend—Thou mayst know, that in this part of the world called Christendom, the name Christian is very famous, and that there are few therein but desire to be called by that name; and a high and great profession of Christianity abounds amongst the divers sects therein, all coveting the name of Christian; but the Christian life, the Christlike life, and the nature of Christianity is much wanting; and the fruits and effects of the holy spirit of Christianity are much wanting among them all, and the contrary much abounds, whereby an evil savour is sent forth to the nations round about, called heathens and infidels. For there is scarce any sort of wickedness to be found upon the face of the whole earth, which is not done and committed in this part of the world called Christendom, whereby the Jews and heathens, instead of being converted, are strengthened and confirmed in their infidelity, ignorance, blindness, and idolatry. For where this nominal or titular Christian hath prevailed, (as among the Americans) he hath sent forth such a stink and ill savour, by his abominable inhuman practices, that the name of Christ is blasphemed, and the Christian religion hated by many that have heard the fame and report thereof.
Had the life of Christ, and the nature of Christianity been known and lived in, by all that profess the name, Christendom had been as a fruitful field, and as a pleasant garden enclosed, and as a vineyard walled about, full of trees of righteousness and plants of God's own right hand planting. And the tree of life would have flourished among them in the midst thereof, and the leaves of the same would have healed the nations round about. And it would have been as a city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid; and as a lamp that burneth, being fed with sweet oil; and as a glorious light that shineth: and many would have fled unto it, as unto a city of refuge, and have walked in the light thereof, and have seen and beheld their good works, and have glorified their Father which is in heaven. And they would have lain down as a flock of harmless lambs together, solacing themseves in the green pastures of life and salvation, in the low valley, and on the top of that holy mountain, where no destroyer is nor none can make afraid.” Where the lion eats straw like the ox,t and where the sucking child Plays on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child puts his hand on the cockatrice's den without hurt, and the earth would have been full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And this song would have been in Christendom, as in the land of Judah, “We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” And the gates thereof would have been open to them, as a righteous nation that keepeth the truth, that they might have entered in, and dwelt safely. This would have been the state of Christendom. But, alas! alas! the quite contrary appears. Instead of being as a fruitful field, and as a pleasant garden enclosed, and as a vineyard planted and walled about, bearing fruit unto God, and flourishing with trees and plants of his own right hand planting, 'tis like a desert howling wilderness, full of briars and thorns and hurtful weeds, whereby the good seed that was sown is choaked, and the noble plant degenerated from, and become the plant of a strange vine, which brings forth the sour grapes, which makes the wine of Sodom, which fills the whore's cup, whereby nations are made drunk. And instead of being like a flock of harmless lambs, and lying down together in love and unity, feeding in the green pastures of life and salvation, in the low valley and atop of the holy mountain, where no destroyer is, they are like unto a heard of swine, that is possessed, and runs violently into the sea, and that walloweth in the mire; and like the wolf, bear, lion, asp and cockatrice, which the little child hath not power over; but their devouring and poisonous nature remains, which makes them prey one upon another, bite and devour one another, hate and murder one another, even under the profession and name of Christ and Christianity. So instead of being as a city whose walls are salvation, and as the heavenly Jerusalem, they are like Sodom, Gomorrah and Babylon. And instead of being like a lamp that burneth, being fed with sweet oil, and a light that shineth, they are like a lamp that's gone out, and a candle under a bed or bushel, which gives no light to others. Instead of the meekness, love, brotherly kindness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, innocency, goodness, harmlessness, righteousness, and heavenly-mindedness of Jesus, which he and his followers were and are endued withal, the quite contrary abounds. And yet a profession of Jesus in words is not wanting in these nations called Christendom; so that Isaiah's vision, sight, or prophecy is fulfilled therein, “The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not: wo unto their soul; for they have rewarded evil unto themselves: children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people! they which lead thee, cause thee to err, and destroy the
* Isa. xi. 7, 8, 9. f Isa. xxvi. 1, 2.
In this day also the prophecy is fulfilled in Christendom, “Seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel, only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach.” These seven women are (or may fitly be compared to) the perfect full number of all the titular christians of all the divers sects and opinions in whole Christendom, who profess the name of Christ, and call Christ their husband, but play the harlot with other lovers, and eat their own bread, which is the forbidden fruit, and the old gathered manna, and wear their own apparel, which they have sewed together with their own hands, and formed by their own inventions, to cover their nakedness in transgression. But the Lord God, whom they have transgressed against, is come down to walk in his garden; and he finds it overgrown with weeds, thorns, briars and thistles; but neither the weeds, trees, nor fig-tree leaves of profession, though sewed together, and made like a garment of modesty and righteousness, can hide from his all-seeing eye. The word “Adam, where art thou?” is sounded forth, and he and all his works are found out, and the hidden things of Esau are found out, and the earth can no longer cover her slain: but the blood of righteous Abel cries, and the souls under the altar cry, “How long, Lord, how long will it be ere thou avenge thyself on them that dwell on the earth, and yet profess thy name, and thy son's, name, and say, Thus saith the Lord, when they have not heard thy voice, nor seen thy shape, nor known thy wonderous works in the deep, nor regarded the operation of thy hand!” Because of these things the cry of the righteous hath been unto the Lord in all ages, and is now in this age, even because of the hatred and bloodiness of Cain about religion and worship, and because of the envy of Esau about the blessing; and because the great whore, who sits upon the waters, and rides upon the beast, and calls herself the lamb's wife, and holds forth her golden cup, full of abominations, with which the nations (even those called Christendom) are made drunk, hath so far prevailed. And because the waters on which the whore sitteth, which are nations, tongues and people; and the beast on whom she rides, takes her golden cup for the cup of blessing, and for the gold that is tried in the fire, and the wine of fornication, for the new wine of the kingdom. And because this great whore is taken for the bride, the lamb's wife, the harlot for the spouse of Christ, the titular christian for the true; finally, because light is called darkness, and darkness light, good evil, and evil good.t I say, because of these things the cry and breathing of the souls of
* Isa. iv. 1. f This made Jeremy wish his head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears,