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THE EPISTLE TO THE READER.
To all the world to whom this may come to be read, that they read with a good understanding, and hereby they may come to the perfect knowledge of the ground of difference between the priests, and professors, and all sects in these nations, and us who are in scorn called Quakers; showing that the controversy on our part is just and equal against them all, and that we have sufficient cause to cry against them, and to deny their ministry, their church, their worship, and their whole religion, as being not in the power, and by the spirit of the living God, as commanded of him, or ever practised by his saints: but this declareth the ground, and foundation thereof to be another thing, than that on which the true church, and ministry, and practice, and worship, and true religion were built in the days of the apostles. And also, this is an invitation to all sects and professions of people, to come forth and try if what they hold and profess be according to the scriptures of truth; and to do this by evident and sound arguments, and by the best spiritual weapons they have, and to lay aside all this persecution and unrighteous dealing, and stocking, and whipping, and imprisoning of us for speaking against their religion; and that they come forth in fair dispute, to contend in the spirit of meekness, for what they profess and practice, and to prove, according to the scriptures, their ministry, church, and whole religion, that it is in, and by the spirit and power of God, or otherwise to renounce and deny all their religion, and the profession and practices thereof, that every man may be satisfied who they are that are in the true and right way, and of the true worship, and true religion, and who are not; and this is desired by us who are called Quakers. And here also is a true account of our first beginning and coming forth in the world; and of the great sufferings we have sustained, and how we have been carried on and preserved to this day.
The Lord God everlasting, who is true and faithful, hath fulfilled his promise in us, and unto us, and we are gathered from the mouths of all dumb shepherds, and out of the mouths of all hirelings, who have made a prey upon us, and fed themselves with the fat, and devoured souls for dishonest gain. And we are come to the fold of eternal rest, where Christ Jesus is the chief shepherd, and he is the shepherd and VOL. III.
bishop of our souls, that feedeth his flock with living bread that nourisheth us unto life eternal. He hath called us by his name, and put us forth, and he feedeth us in green pastures, and we are are fed with hidden manna, and lie down at noon with his gathered flock. And out of nations, kindreds, multitudes, and peoples are we redeemed to God, and are come out of the world, and out of great Babylon, and out of spiritual Sodom and Egypt, where the Lord Christ was and is crucified, and lieth slain to this day. And atop of the world hath the Lord set us, on the mountain of his own house and dwelling; where we behold and feel the life, and glory, and crown of the world that hath no end; and the world that hath an end is seen over, and its crown and glory are his footstool that reigns among us. And as for all that which this perishing world brings forth, which men seek after only, it is reckoned our temptation, though all the sons of Adam are seeking its glory, its riches, its crowns, its contentments. But of that birth are we which hath no crown, no glory, nor rest under the sun: a birth is brought forth amongst us which is heir of another kingdom, and possessor of another crown, whose glorying is in the Lord all the day long; and he is our refuge, our rock, and our fortress against all our enemies. And what though the wicked arm themselves, and the ungodly bend their bow ?-what though all sorts of people, from the prince upon his throne to the beggar upon the dung-hill, exalt themselves against the despised people of the Lord's inheritance, who, for his name's sake, are killed all the day long ?--what though the wise men bring forth their arguments, and the rulers bring forth unrighteous judgments against the seed that God hath blessed ?-what though the revilers and scorners open their mouths, and reproachers and revilers cast out their bitter words as a flood against the remnant of the woman's seed, that hath long been fled into the wilderness ?--and what if the teachers, the prophets, and the elders, and the heads, and wise men of the world set themselves to pray, and preach, and print against the chosen seed of Jacob?-Notwithstanding all this, though this is come to pass, and hell open her mouth, and her floods break forth to overflow, and be much more increased; yet shall the King of righteousness rule among his people, and his presence will not forsake his chosen ones. The Lord is with us, a mighty, and a terrible one, and the shout of a king is amongst us, and the dread of the Almighty covereth us, and it goeth before us, and compasseth us about; and the Lord is working a work in the earth, mighty and wonderful! He is gathering the scattered, and binding up the broken hearted, and his people shall dwell in safety, and none shall make them afraid, and no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper, nor any hand that is lifted up shall prevail. For Sion shall arise out of the dust, her beautiful garments shall be put on, and mourning and sorrow shall Ace away; and her light is risen that is everlasting, and the sun shall never go down, but his day shall remain for ever, and the night shall not again cover her brightness, nor the sun set upon her habitations. The city that hath long lain waste, shall again be builded, and the dwelling that hath long been without inhabitant, shall be replenished; for the numberless seed of Jacob is coming out of Egypt, that will replenish the whole earth, and the seed of Esau shall become bondmen. And wherefore are you gathered together? and to what purpose have the wicked spent their strength to oppose what the Lord is bringing to pass ? Shall not all our enemies be broken to pieces, and will not the Lord grind them to powder? Will he not mar their beauty, and stain their pride? Will he not bring down their crowns, and corrupt their glory, and stain it with his fire of wrath, and make them ashamed of their ways and doctrines? Hear this ye priests, and howl, and lament for the misery that is coming upon you! the Lord hath laid you naked, and made you bare, and you are seen as you are, and the elect is risen amongst us which ye cannot deceive. But, alas! wo is me! how have you caused the people to err, and how have you led the blind out of the way, and how is truth fallen in your streets! And you have daubed falsely with untempered mortar, and have cried peace to the wicked, and condemned the righteous, and all this hath vexed the righteous soul, and the Lord will now arise, and is risen, and you shall not resist, and escape the stroke of his hand, which will come upon you, and bruise you as a millstone; for you have caused the wicked to rejoice, and the righteous to mourn, and you have made sad his heart whom God hath not made sad. Have not you fed yourselves with the fat, and clothed with the wool? and hath not the people's souls been starved, and leanness been upon them all? Your plants are dry, barren trees that bring forth no good fruit; and your people are like a wilderness that is untilled, and unploughed, and undressed; and your flocks are like wild asses upon the mountains that are untamed, as rude as the horse and mule, that know no bridle. And now it is seen what the end of your ministry is, and what fruit it hath brought forth. The Lord hath taken notice, and beheld how you have loitered and lain idle, and the nations lie yet like fallow ground that bears no fruit; and men's hearts are untouched with absence of God's word, and there is no sound, true, and perfect sense amongst your people of the dealings of the Lord, nor of the operation of his spirit, but they remain in great blindness and ignorance, void of the knowledge of God. For ye have not caused them to hear his word, but you have told your dreams, and your false visions, and you have spoken imaginations of your hearts, and not from the mouth of the Lord; neither have you stood in his counsel, nor hearkened to his voice, and therefore people remain unprofited. What they and you know, it is naturally, and not by the spirit of the Father; but as dry trees you are, not taught of the Father, and as rough goats, in the nature of swine that are polluted in the filth of the world, and in the nature of dogs, and lions, devouring one another, and biting one another, and killing one another; which things were not in the churches of Christ. And we have a great controversy with you, and that from the Lord. We have tried you, searched you, and discovered your foundation, and it is not sound, nor will stand in the trial. We have fetched your line from the first original, and we have found out your beginning, and we find yours of that race, which Christ prophesied of that should come, who should deceive many, having the sheep's clothing, but inwardly ravening; and who John saw were come, and went out from the apostles and true churches, went from the truth, and went into the world, and had the form of godliness without the power: here began the race in the apostacy of the churches. And when they apostatized from the true faith, then came your original up, and the world went after them, and all that dwelt
upon the earth worshipped the beast, that hath reigned through all this time of apostacy, which hath been since the days of the apostles. And we find your original goes no further than to the false brethren, and false apostles, who went out from the true apostles, and run for gists and rewards, and preached for filthy lucre, and through covetousness made merchandise of souls, seeking money and gain to themselves. I say, we find your original begins there, and your line goes no further, and never came your first rise so far as the true apostles; you were not, in your beginning, of their life nor birth, nor can be reckoned from their original, for you succeed not them; but you truly succeed the false apostles, and false brethren, which Christ prophesied should come after his days, and John saw were come and coming in his days. And we find you of this stock and generation, and now you are discovered to be contrary to the true apostles, and agreeing with the false apostles, in call, in practice, in maintenance, and in all things; and the line of true judgment is laid upon you all, and you are measured, and found too short, and weighed, and found too light. And we will deal truly with you in judgment: first, we do hold controversy with you as concerning your call, your ministry, it agreeth not with, but is contrary to what the apostles' call was; they were called by power from on high, and were made ministers by the gift of the holy spirit received from God, and their ministry was an absolute gift from God, and not to be bought and sold for money; and they were anointed of the Father, by his spirit of promise, to preach the gospel. But your call is at schools and colleges, in such and such orders, which are attained through natural industry, such and such arts and sciences, and degrees, having been so