The Missing Cross to Purity



Stephen Crisp's Letters Continued

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AN EPISTLE FROM STEPHEN CRISP, TO FRIENDS IN AMSTERDAM

 

Dear Friends,

You who are kept alive to God in your several measures of his grace and truth, to you is the remembrance of my love in a heavenly bond, in which my life reaches you, rejoicing with you in your rejoicings, and suffering with you in all your sufferings. My tender advice to you is, that you dwell in the seed that gives you life, and renews it in you daily. In this you will have wisdom to judge, and strength to bear contradiction of sinners, as he did in the days of his flesh, and does still in his members; but in this seed, Christ Jesus, is your victory; for he shall overcome, and his enemies shall be his footstool. Everyone that rises up against him and his power, shall be confounded and brought to nothing; for it is given to this seed to break the head of the other seed. Therefore it has been his [evil seed’s] policy from the beginning, to put his head that was to be broken, under something or other, that had a pretence of holiness and righteousness, that he might save his head. While he is there, he has his time to bruise the heel of the true seed, and grieve and hurt the just, and to make the hindermost of the flock to halt, and to walk lamely and staggering; but when the covering comes to be rent, and his head appears as it is, then he cannot do so much harm. But it is a time for the true seed to show his power, according to promise, and to break it in pieces; so if you live in the faith of the seed, you shall see the fulfilling to your joy and comfort.

Dear Friends, do not be dismayed nor discouraged, when you see this evil seed to put up its head in anywhere it has been long covered; for know this assuredly, the serpent can do less harm when manifest, than he can do when covered. It is the working of the power and spirit of the true seed, that rends the coverings, and makes a discovery of the evil ground which was hidden for a time; but when it is manifest, then it brings forth according to its own nature, wrath and bitterness, clamor and reproach, and foams out its own shame. Such [that are exposed in shame] grow fierce, are despisers of those who are good, are heady, unruly, and not easily entreated. By their fruits you may know them. Such were in the primitive days, and such are now; but the power and life of the true seed was over them then, and so it is now. Therefore, live in that innocent life, above the striving, reasoning nature, and meet in the name of Jesus, the seed of promise, and you will feel first the promise. As you lay hold of that by faith, you will wait for the fulfilling of it; and in time the power will arise, and you will see the fulfilling; and that head broken, which is so put up against the anointing. Then your joy will be full, and praises will be offered to God through him who has received all power in heaven and earth, to whom belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory, for evermore.

Stephen Crisp

AN EPISTLE FROM STEPHEN CRISP, TO FRIENDS

 

Dearly beloved Friends and brethren in the everlasting fellowship, that stands in the spirit of Christ Jesus our one head, I do at this time dearly and tenderly salute you, in a fresh and living remembrance of the precious unity and joy in the pure spirit of life, in which we have been mutually refreshed together in years past, when I, according to the will of God, travailed and labored among you, in my younger years, with great consolation, rejoicing greatly in beholding your order and unity in the blessed truth, in which you prospered, and were as an army with banners in the Lamb's host. The Lamb went forth conquering among you, and defending and preserving you by his Almighty power, from the manifold snares of Satan that were laid for your feet; but you who are ancient can remember with joy, how you were kept steadfast and immovable in the holy path of life, and in the blessed concord, being of one heart and mind, bent to serve the Lord and his blessed truth. I say, the remembrance of these things is precious to me and to you who retain the simplicity of the gospel of Christ our saviour.

Dear hearts, as you have met with many assaults to break your blessed unity, so it is not to be expected, but that still your great adversary will go about seeking whom he may devour; and he, knowing that your strength is not in yourselves, but in that seed of life that has in all ages broken his head, and overcome him in and for the faithful; therefore, his work is to draw from that seed, and from that sweet dependency upon it, into some strange ground, where you may be removed from your strength, and be made a prey to his net. Therefore, as that seed is meek and lowly, if he can but exalt any into the contrary property, they are prepared for him. As that seed is not of this world, if he can draw any into the spirit of this world, they are prepared for him. As that seed is patient and long-suffering, if he can draw any into haste and passion, they are prepared for him. As that seed made himself of no reputation, and sought not honor in this world, if the enemy can but draw any one to the affecting reputation and honor, they are prepared for him. From here came grindings, heart-burnings, back-bitings, jealousies and mistrust, which gender strife and contentions, which break out into schisms and rents under various pretences, which give room for the corrupt wit and wisdom that are from beneath, to raise disputes and irrelevant doctrinal arguments, which are not of God, but of the lusts, the ground of wars and contentions, which are hurtful to those concerned in them. But in Christ Jesus is our peace and tranquility, in whom we have grown up to be a church and body to his honor and glory and to our salvation. In Christ we rejoice together and have dominion over the work of the wicked one, in the particular, and in the general; and by his power we have seen the counsels of the disobedient brought to nothing many a time, and he is the same still as ever he was. Therefore, do not be discouraged at any work of the enemy, which you see appearing, but keep in the Lamb's patience, and have faith in the lion of the tribe of Judah, and be assured his work in your hand shall prosper, as you abide in his spirit, which is unchangeable and invincible.

Dear Friends, as concerning your present exercises that you labor under, through the discontents of some among you, let none faint in their minds, as if some strange thing had happened to you, nor any be overcome with a zeal beyond sound judgment; but remember that the dominion belongs to the meek and innocent seed, which will guide you to be tender and condescending to the brother of low degree, and to keep inviolable the law of charity, and to heal the broken and the wounded, and to restore that which is hurried out of the way by temptation, making a difference between the tender-hearted, and the willful, and heady, fierce despisers, who are easily known by their fruits.

Dearly beloved, this is a windy day, or a day of winds, in which that which is in itself chaff, will be blown away, and what the north wind does not remove, will be driven with the east wind, and what persecution does not cause to start presently, the winds of dissension and seducements will drive away, and many are lost already, and many more will be lost, who have lost the innocent and beautiful love that first shined among us, and made us amiable to one another. These having lost their first love, it is no marvel if the first works decay also.

From that comes the self-love, and shunning the cross, and a desire after the worldly and fleshly liberty, in which many are entangled, and become enemies to the cross of Christ, and seek to make the offence of it to cease, by which an enmity does arise against those who bear it, though it works under other specious pretences, whose end will be according to their work, and the day will declare and make it manifest.

So, dear Friends, in bowels of dear and tender love, having a little opened my heart unto you, as a remembrance of that ancient and lasting love that has abounded in my soul to you from the beginning, I bid you farewell in the Lord; and the God of power keep you in the unity of his spirit, and in pureness and cleanness of mind, serving the truth with one heart and mind; and keep down the faultfinding wit, and carnal reasonings and disputation for mastery in all your assemblies; and let the divine sense rule your affairs, and the wisdom that comes from above, which you may know by its being peaceable, as well as pure. Those who trust in this gift, need not strive nor be hasty, but wait in faith, and exercise their patience the appointed time of the Father, and they shall see the desire of their souls and be satisfied. So the God of power, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, keep and support you by his divine, comfortable presence, and direct you in his heavenly wisdom to do his holy will in your day and generation, which is the hearty supplication of your sincere and faithful Friend and brother, in the kingdom and patience of Christ Jesus,

Stephen Crisp

 

AN EPISTLE OF TENDER LOVE AND BROTHERLY ADVICE TO ALL THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, Who are gathered into the one living faith, and walk in the light, and therein have their fellowship one with another.

From a Friend and brother in the same fellowship, who has long travailed, and still travails for Zion’s prosperity, and for the gathering of Zion’s children out of Egypt and darkness, that they may walk and dwell in the light of Zion’s savior, which is Christ the Lord, whose outward name is Stephen Crisp.

Dearly beloved Friends and brethren, gathered out of the world by the eternal arm and power of the mighty God, to bear his holy name in your generation; my love and life in the fellowship of the universal spirit, salutes you all; and my prayer to God is, that you may be kept steadfast and unmovable in the grace of God, and in the communion of his Holy Spirit, that you may bring forth fruit in abundance, according to the abundant mercy and grace bestowed upon you, to the glory of God, and to your mutual joy, comfort and edification.

So you may do so, let your eye be kept daily to the Lord, and behold, and take notice of the wondrous works that he has wrought in you, and for you, since the day you were first quickened by his immortal word, and stirred up to seek after him, and to wait upon him; how good and gracious he has been to you, in bringing you from the barren mountains, where your souls languished for the heavenly nourishment, where you knew not the Lord, nor one another, but were without a comforter, or any to sympathize with you in your mournings. Oh, how has he pitied your groans, and had compassion on your sighs; and brought you into acquaintance with those who were in the like exercises; and then he taught you to believe on him who was able to help you. Those who were thus taught of the Father, and felt his drawing cords of love prevailing upon them; these came to Christ their Saviour, and in him began to feel a unity one with another, in the faith you had received in him; whereby you believed he would give you of his spirit, to teach and guide you in the way of truth, righteousness and peace; and thus was the foundation of your holy communion laid, and a lively hope raised in each particular soul, that he that had begun this blessed work would carry it on. This hope made you who you were not ashamed to make a public profession of his name before the world, but cheerfully to take up his cross, and deny yourselves of your former pleasures, friendships and delights of this world. This hope has been your support in many sharp trials and bitter combats you have had with the enemy of your souls' peace within, and with the enemies of God's holy way and truth without. In all your conflicts, you have found him near at hand, to put forth his power on your behalf, as you have depended upon him for his assistance; and by these experiences of his goodness, your faith has been strengthened. By the same word of life that quickened you, many more have been reached unto; so that you have seen a daily addition of strength in the particular, and also an addition to your number, to your great comfort and encouragement. Many have come to wait upon the Lord among you, and many are daily inquiring after the way to Zion, with their faces towards there. These things are worth your remembrance, and serious consideration, that you may look upon these great mercies, as obligations upon your souls, to walk humbly before the Lord, and to be devout and fervent in your testimony, for that God that has done thus great things for you.

Friends, consider of the great works that this mighty arm of the Lord has brought to pass in the general, as well as in the particular; how many contrivances have been framed, and laws and decrees made to lay you waste, and to make you cease to be a people, and how have the wicked rejoiced thereat, for a season, crying, ah, ha, thus would we have it; they are all now given up to banishment, to imprisonment, to spoil, and ruin. Now let us see if that invisible arm they trust in, can deliver them. Oh Friends! How has your God been your support in the midst of all these exercises? When he has pleased, how has he quieted the sharpest storms, and turned back the greatest floods and torrents of persecution that ever you met with? How has he confounded his and your enemies, and brought confusion upon the heads of those who sought your hurt? Were not these things wrought by the power of God? Did your number, your policy, your interest, or anything that might be called your own, contribute anything to these your great preservations and deliverances? If not, then let God have the glory, and acknowledge to his praise, these have been the Lord's doings, and are marvelous in our eyes.

Again, dear Friends, consider how the wicked one has wrought in a mystery among yourselves, to scatter you, and to lay you waste from being a people, as at this day! How many several ways has he tried, raising up men of perverse minds, to subvert, and to turn you from the faith, and from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, and to separate you from that invisible power that has been your strength, and to separate you one from another; and by subtle wiles, to lead you into a false liberty above the cross of Christ; and sometimes by sowing seeds of heresy and seditions, endeavoring to corrupt the minds of whom they could, with pernicious principles. But oh! How have their designs been frustrated, and the authors thereof confounded and brought to nothing; and how have you been preserved, as a flock under the hand of a careful shepherd, even unto this day; which ministers great cause of thanksgiving unto all the faithful, who have witnessed the working of this preserving power in their own particulars.

Also, my Friends, it is worth your consideration, to behold, how that by this invisible power, so many faithful watchmen are raised up upon the walls of your Zion, that in most of your meetings, there are men and women upon whom God has laid a concern, to be taking care for the good of the whole, and to take the oversight upon them, to see all things kept in good and decent order; and to make due provision for the comforting and relieving the necessities of the needy and distressed, that nothing is lacking to make your way comfortable. These have not been, nor are brought under this charge, by any act of yours; but God has raised up pastors and teachers, elders and deacons, of his own election and choice, and bowed their spirits to take upon them the work and service to which they are appointed for the Lord's sake, and for the bodies sake, which is the church; to whom it may truly be said, as in the Acts 20:28 take you heed to the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers. Such ought to be listened to in the discharge of their trust, as those who must give an account to him who called them, and gifted them for their several works and services in the church.

By these ways and means has the Lord established among you a heavenly government, and built as it were a hedge about you, that you may be preserved from generation to generation; a people fitted for the glory that is, and shall daily more and more be revealed among and upon the faithful, who delight in that power that called them to be saints, and to bear a profession for the holy name of God, against the many names and ways that men in their changeable minds have set up, that the name of the Lord alone may be exalted.

Dear Friends and brethren, I entreat you, that the consideration of these great and weighty things which God has wrought for you, and among you, may have that deep and weighty influence upon your souls, that you may find yourselves engaged to answer the love and mercy of God in your lives and conduct, and in all you have to do in this world, that you may show forth the honor of God in all things. That the light which has shined in you, may shine forth through you unto others, who yet sit in darkness, that all men may know by your innocent and harmless conduct, and by your close keeping to the Lord, that you are a people who are assisted and helped by a supernatural power, which governs your wills, and subjects them to his blessed will, and that guides and orders your affections, and sets them upon heavenly and divine objects, and that gives you power to deny your own private interests, where they happen to stand in competition with the interest of truth; for these, and these only, will be found the true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, who can deny themselves, take up a cross daily, and follow him in the guidance of his regenerating power, which brings death upon self, and crucifies the old nature, with its affections and lusts; and raises up a birth in you, that has a holy will and desire to serve the Lord, and do his will on the earth; and such as these are instruments in the hand of God for him to work by, and to do works of righteousness, of justice, of charity, and all other the virtues belonging to a Christian life, to the honor of God, and for the comfort and benefit of his church and people.

All you, dear Friends, upon whom the Lord has laid a care for his honor, and for the prosperity of the truth, and gathered you into the good order of the gospel, to meet together to manage the affairs thereof; take heed that you have a single eye to the Lord; to do the Lord's business in the leadings of his spirit, which is but one, and brings all who are given up to be governed by it, to be of one mind and heart, at least, in the general purpose and service of those meetings; although through the diversity of exercises, and the several degrees of growth among the brethren, everyone may not see or understand alike in every matter, at the first propounding of it. Yet this makes no breach of the unity, nor hinders the brotherly kindness, but puts you often upon an exercise, and an inward travailing, to feel the pure, peaceable wisdom that is from above, to open among you, and every one's ear is open to it, in whomsoever it speaks; and thereby a sense of life is given in the meeting, to which all who are of a simple and tender mind, join and agree. But if any among you should be contrary minded in the management of some outward affair, relating to the truth, this does not presently break the unity that you have in Christ, nor should it weaken the brotherly love, so long as he keeps waiting for an understanding from God, to be gathered into the same sense with you, and walks with you according to the law of charity; such a one ought to be borne with, and cherished, and the supplications of your souls will go up to God for him, that God may reveal it to him, if it is his will, so that no difference may be in understanding, so far as is necessary for the good of the church, no more than there is in matters of faith and obedience to God. For, my Friends, it is not of absolute necessity that every member of the church should have the same measure of understanding in all things; for then where were is the duty of the strong bearing with the weak? Then where is the brother of low degree? Where would be any submitting to those who are set over others in the Lord, which all tend to the preserving unity in the church, notwithstanding the different measures, and different growths of the members thereof? For as the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets, so are the spirits of all who are kept in a true subjection to the spirit of life in themselves, kept in the same subjection to the sense of life given by the same spirit in the church. By this means we come to know the one master, even Christ, and have no room for other masters, in the matter of our obedience to God. While everyone keeps in this true subjection, the sweet concord is known, and the oil is not only upon Aaron's head, but it reaches the skirts of his garment also; and things are kept sweet and savory, and you love one another, from the greatest to the least in sincerity, and, (as the apostle says), without dissimulation; and this love excludes all whisperings of evil things; all backbiting, tale-bearing, grudges, and murmurings, and keeps Friends' minds clean one toward another, waiting for every opportunity to do each other good, and to preserve each other's reputation; and their hearts are comforted at the sight of one another. In all their affairs, both relating to the church and to the world, they will be watchful over their own spirits, and keep in the Lord's power, over that nature and ground in themselves, that would be apt to take an offence, or construe any word or action to a worse sense than the simplicity thereof, or the intention of the other concerned will allow of.

Since it may often fall out, that among a great many, some may have a different apprehension of a matter from the rest of their brethren, especially in outward or temporal things, there ought to be a Christian liberty maintained for such to express their sense, with freedom of mind, or else they will go away burdened; whereas if they speak their minds freely, and a friendly and Christian conference is admitted thereupon, they may be eased, and oftentimes the different apprehension of such a one comes to be wholly removed, and his understanding opened, to see as the rest see; for the danger in society, does not lie so much in this, that some few may have a differing apprehension in some things from the general sense, as it does in this; namely, when such so who differ, do allow themselves to be led out of the bond of charity, and labor to impose their private sense upon the rest of their brethren, and to be offended and angry, if it is not received; this is the seed of sedition and strife that has grown up in too many to their own hurt.

Therefore, my dear Friends, beware of it, and seek not to drive a matter on in fierceness or in anger, nor to take offence into your minds at any time, because what seems to be clear to you, is not presently received; but let all things in the church be propounded with an awful reverence of him who is the head and life of it; who has said, where two or three are met in my name, I will be in the midst of them. So he is, and may be felt by all who keep in his spirit. But he that follows his own spirit, sees nothing as he ought to see it. Therefore, let all beware of their own spirits and natural tempers, (as they are sometimes called), but let all keep in a gracious temper, then are you fit for the service of the house of God, whose house you are, as you keep upon the foundation that God has laid; and he will build you up, and teach you how to build up one another in him; and as every member must feel life in themselves, and all from one head, this life will not hurt itself in any, but be tender of the life in all; for by this one life of the Word, you were begotten, and by it you are nourished, and made to grow into your several services in the church of God; it is no man's learning, or artificial acquirings; it is no man's riches, or greatness in this world; it is no man's eloquence and natural wisdom, that makes him fit for government in the church of Christ; unless he, with all his endowments, is seasoned with the heavenly salt, and his spirit subjected, and his gifts pass through the fire of God's altar, a sacrifice to his praise and honor, so that self is crucified and baptized in death, and the gifts made use of in the power of the resurrection of the life of Jesus in him. When this great work is wrought in a man, then all his gifts and qualifications are sanctified, and they are made use of for the good of the body, which is the church, and are as ornaments and jewels, which serve for the joy and comfort of all who are partakers of the same divine fellowship of life, in Christ Jesus our Lord; and thus many come to be fitted and furnished to good works, which are brought forth in their due seasons, for edification, and building up the weak, and for repairing the decayed places, and also for defense of those who are feeble, that hurtful things may not come near them.

Oh! Friends, great is the work the Lord has called you to, and is fitting you for, who innocently wait upon him; and the Lord has opened my heart unto you, and laid it upon me, to exhort and beseech you to have a care that you conduct yourselves as you ought, in what God requires of you. For the more particular expressing what lies before me in the matter, I shall set down a few particular observations, for your benefit and advantage; and my soul's desire is, that my labor of love may have a good effect in all your bosoms, that God may be honored thereby. Friends, you know the chief business to which you are called in your particular men's and women's meetings, is under these two heads, justice and charity; the first, to see that everyone has right done him, and the other to take care there be nothing lacking to the comfort of the poor, who are made partakers of the same faith with you.

When you meet about these things, keep the Lord in your eye, and wait to feel his power to guide and direct you, to speak and behave yourselves in the church of God, as becomes the peaceable gospel. Beware of all brittleness of spirit, and sharp reflection upon each others' words; for that will kindle up heats, and create a false fire; and when one takes a liberty of a sharp word spoken out of the true fear and tenderness, it oftentimes becomes a temptation to another; and if he has not a great care, it will draw him out also, and then the first is guilty of two evils: first, being led into a temptation, and then, secondly, he becomes a tempter to others. Therefore, all had need to be upon their watch, neither to tempt, nor be tempted; and let none think it a sufficient excuse for them, that they were provoked for we are as answerable to God for evil words spoken upon provocation, as without provocation; for this end has the Lord revealed his power to us to keep and preserve us in his fear and counsel in the time of our provocation. Therefore, if any man, through lack of watchfulness, should be overtaken with heat or passion, a soft answer appeases wrath, says the wise man; and, therefore, such a time is fittest for a soft answer, for fear that the enemy prevails on any to their hurt, and to the grief and trouble of their brethren; for it is the proper duty of watchmen and overseers, to spare the flock, that is, let nothing come near those who will hurt them, and wound and grieve them; no, the good apostle was so careful over the flock of believers, that if there were any doubtful matters to be disputed of, he would not have those who were weak in the faith at such disputes, much less ought those who are weak to see those who are strong, descend from their strength, and go into the weakness, where they are not able to bear, for that is certainly weak that cannot bear. Those who really live in the strength and power, they can bear even burdens for those who cannot bear their own. The apostle, in the place before mentioned, when he sent for the elders of Ephesus to Miletus, and left a charge with them, before he said, "take heed to the flock of God," he said, "take you heed to yourselves." Indeed, we are none of us likely to discharge ourselves well toward others, except by taking heed to ourselves, to be kept in that sober, innocent frame of spirit for which the truth calls.

In the next place, my dear Friends, when you are called upon in point of justice, to give a sentence of right between Friend and Friend, take heed that neither party get possession of your spirits beforehand, by any way or means whatsoever, or obtain any word or sentence from you in the absence of the other party, he not being yet heard. There is nothing more comely among men, than impartial judgment; judgment is a seat where neither interest nor affection, nor former kindnesses may come; we may make no difference of the worthiness or unworthiness of persons in judgment, as we may in charity; but in judgment, if a good man, being mistaken, has a bad case, or a bad man a good case, according to his case must he have sentence. It was a good saying, he that judges among men, judges for the Lord, and he will repay it. Therefore, let all be done as unto the Lord, and as you are willing to answer it in his presence; and although some may for a time be discontent thereat, yet in time, God shall clear up your innocence as the sun at noon-day; and those who kick at sound judgment, will find but hard work of it, they do but kick against that which will prick them; and, however, such through their willfulness, and their abounding in their own sense, may hurt themselves, yet you will be preserved, and enjoy your peace and satisfaction in the discharge of your consciences in the sight of God.

As concerns practical charity, you know it is supported by liberality; and where liberality ceases, charity waxes cold, yes, so far ceases; where there is no contribution, there is no distribution; where the one is sparing, the other is sparing; and, therefore, let everyone nourish charity in the root, that is, keep a liberal mind, a heart that looks upon the substance that is given him, as really bestowed upon him as much for the support of charity, as for the support of his own body. Where people are of this mind, they will have a care of keeping back any of God's part, for he has in all ages, in a most singular manner, espoused the cause of the poor, the widow and fatherless, and has often signified by his prophets and ministers, a special charge upon rich men, that had this world's goods, that they should look to it that they were faithful stewards of what they possessed, and that they might be found in good works, and might not allow their hearts so to cleave to uncertain riches, as to neglect the service God had given them the things of this life for, either to give them up when called for, in a testimony for his worthy name, or to communicate of them to those who were in necessity.

Now, as concerning the necessities of the poor, there is great need of wisdom when you meet together about that affair; for as I said before, though the worthiness or unworthiness of persons, is not to be considered in judgment, yet in this it is; and you will find some that God has made poor, and some that have made themselves poor, and some that others have made poor, which must all have their several considerations, in which you ought to labor to be unanimous, and not one to be taken up with an affection to one person more than another; but everyone to love everyone in the universal spirit, and then to deal out that love in the outward manifestations thereof, according to the measure that the Lord in his wisdom working in you, shall measure forth to them.

As to those who by sickness, lameness, age, or other impotency, are brought into poverty by the hand of providence, these are your peculiar care and objects pointed out to you, to bestow your charity upon, for by them the Lord calls for it; for as the earth is the Lord's and the fullness of it, he has by his sovereign power, commanded in every dispensation, that a part of what we enjoy from him, should be thus employed. The Israelites were not to reap the corners of their fields, nor to gather the gleanings of the corn nor vintage, it was for the poor; and in the time of the gospel, they were to lay by on the first day of the week, a part of what God had blessed them with, for the relief of those who were in necessity. No, they did not confine themselves in their charity to their own meetings, but had an universal eye through the whole church of Christ, and upon extraordinary occasions, sent their benevolence to relieve the saints at Jerusalem, in a time of need. All that keep in the guidance of the same universal spirit, will make it their business to be found in the same practice of charity and good works. To do good, and to communicate, forget not, says the apostle; so those who forget not this Christian duty, will find out the poor's part in the corners and gleanings of the profits of their trades and businesses, as well as the old Israelite did the corners and gleanings of his field; and in the distribution of it, will have a regard to comfort the bowels of such who are by the divine providence of God, put out of a capacity of enjoying those outward comforts of health, and strength and plenty, which others do enjoy; for while they are partakers of the same faith, and walk in the way of righteousness with you, submitting themselves patiently to the dispensation of God's providence towards them; they are of your household, and under your care, both to visit, and to relieve as members of the one body, of which Christ Jesus is head; and he that gives to such poor, lends to the Lord, and he will repay it.

But there is another sort of poor, who make themselves poor through their sloth and carelessness, and sometimes by their willfulness; being heady and high-minded, and taking things in hand that are more than they can manage, and make a flourish for a season, and then through their own neglect, are plunged down into great poverty; these are a sort which the primitive churches began to be troubled with in the early days of the gospel; for the apostle took notice of some that would not work at all, and sharply reproved them, and said, those who would not work should not eat; and these are commonly a sort of busy-bodies, and meddlers with others' matters, while they neglect their own, and run into a worse way than the unbelievers, while they profess to be believers, yet do not take a due care for those of their own household.

The charity that is proper to such, is to give them admonition and reproof, and to convince them of their sloth and negligence; and if they submit to your reproof, and are willing to amend, then care ought to be taken to help them into a way and means to support themselves. Sometimes by a little help in this kind, some have been reclaimed from the snares of their souls' enemy; but if they will not receive your wholesome counsel and admonition, but kick against it, either in their words or actions, Friends will be clear of such in the sight of God; for it is unreasonable in them to expect you should feed those who will not be advised by you, because they break the obligation of society, by their disorderly walking; for our communion does not stand only in frequenting meetings, and hearing truth preached; but in answering the blessed principle of truth, in life and conduct, and therein both the rich and the poor have fellowship one with another.

There is another sort that are made poor by the oppressions and cruelties of others. These oppressed poor, cry loudly in the ears of the Almighty, and he will in his own time, avenge their case; but in the meantime there is a tenderness to be extended to them, not knowing how soon it may be our turn. If there is need of counsel and advice, or if any application can be made to any that are able to deliver them from the oppressors in such cases, let all who are capable, be ready and willing to advise, relieve and help the distressed. This is an acceptable work of charity, and a great comfort to such in sharp afflictions, and their souls will bless the instruments of their ease and comfort.

My dear Friends, as God has honored you with so high and holy a calling, to be his servants and workmen in this his great and notable day, and to work together in his power, in setting forth his praise and glory in the earth, and gathering together in one the scattered seed, in this and other nations. Oh! let the dignity of your calling, provoke and encourage you to be diligent devotees to his work and service you are called to, and let not your concerns in the world, draw you from observing the times and seasons appointed to meet together; but you who are elders, set a good example to the younger sort, by a due observation of the hour appointed, that those who come first one time, may not by their long staying for others, be discouraged, so as perhaps they may be last another time; but when the time is come, leave your business for the Lord's work, and he will take care your business shall not suffer, but will add a blessing upon it, which will do more for you, than the time can do that may be saved out of his service.

When you have to do with perverse, and recalcitrant or disorderly persons, whom you have occasion to reprove and to rebuke for the truth's sake, and you find them stout and high, and reflecting upon you, then is a time for the Lamb's meekness to shine forth, and for you to feel your authority in the name of Christ, to deal with such a one, and to wait for the pure and peaceable wisdom from above, to bring down and confound the earthly wisdom. In this frame of mind you labor together, to pull the entangled sheep out of the thicket, and to restore that which is gone astray to the fold again, if you can; but if you cannot, yet you save yourselves from the guilt of his blood; and if such do perish, his blood will be on his own head. But, on the other hand, if you allow their perverse spirits to enter, and their provocations to have a place in you, so as to kindle your spirits into a heat and passion, then you get hurt, and are incapable to do them any good; but words will break out that will need repentance, and the wicked will be stiffened and strengthened thereby, and you miss the service that you really intended. Therefore, dearly beloved, keep upon your watch, keep on your spiritual armor, keep your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and the God of peace will be with you, and crown your endeavors with good success, to your joy and comfort, and will bring up his power over your adversaries and opposers, more and more, to which many shall bow and bend in your sight; and will bring shame and confusion upon the rebellious, who harden their hearts, and stiffen their necks, against the Lord, and his Christ, and kingdom, which he will exalt in the earth, notwithstanding all that Satan and all his evil instruments can do, to hinder the growth and progress of his blessed truth; for of the increase of the government and of the peace of the kingdom of Christ, there shall be no end.

Now, Friends, I having cleared my conscience of what lay upon me for some time, to write unto you by way of remembrance, and as the exhortation of my life unto you, I remain travailing in spirit for the welfare of Zion. Although the outward man decays, yet in the inward man I am comforted, in beholding daily, the great things that our God has done, and is still doing for those who have their sole dependence upon him. So, committing you to the grace of God, for your director and preserver in these, and all your several services unto which God has called you, that by the operations of his mighty power, you may be kept blameless and unspotted of the world, to his honor and your comfort, and to the universal comfort and edification of the church, so that praises and thanksgiving may fill your hearts and mouths, your families and your meetings; for he is worthy, who is our tower, our support, the Lord of hosts, the King of saints; to whom be glory, honor and renown, through this and all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

From your Friend and brother in the communion and fellowship of the gospel of peace and purity,

Stephen Crisp

London, the 15th of the 7th  Month, 1690

This web site's purpose is to show how to become
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by benefiting from the changing power of God through the cross,
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