As I noted at the time, in every monthly meeting I’d visited over the previous three years (about thirty in all), I found at least one or two Friends who were hungering for fellowship in Christ. I became convinced that Christ wants His meetings back, reclaimed from the confused and often hostile voices within so many. We “Barnesville Friends” do have something to offer. To pass up the opportunity to labor in His service among so many (between one thousand and two thousand people) in our own backyard would seem, to this member, to fail in our commission.
I believe, too, we need to recognize gifts, especially those individuals who have talent to be Overseers, sensitive to the pastoral care of the Meeting.
Just listen to Elizabeth Bathurst (1655?-1685):
- Thus they darken Counsel, by uttering Words without Knowledge: They say, The Grace of God is free; and yet they make it a Monopoly, so it shall not be free to all, nor must all be Sharers in it; neither will they allow the Lord himself to dispense it, nor yet to inspire his Servants to go forth and preach it; but arrogate to themselves a kind of Sacerdotal Right to be Dispensers of the Grace of God, and Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because of some outward Qualifications atchieved by them, as external Parts, or human Learning, altho’ they never were called of God to the Work of the Ministry, nor never had the Word of Reconciliation committed to them; yet would they have People come to enquire of them the Way to the Kingdom, though they are so narrow-spirited, as to shut out the greatest Number of Mankind, by absolute Predestination, not sticking to affirm, that God nor Christ never purposed Love nor Salvation to a great Part of Mankind, and that the Coming and Sufferings of Christ never was intended, nor can be useful to their Justification, but must and will be effectual for their Condemnation.
- So being void of universal. Love themselves, they fondly imagine the Lord to be like themselves; hence concluding, there is no Salvation to be had without the explicit Knowledge of Christ’s Coming in the Flesh, and of the Scriptures, both which we know whole Kingdoms and Empires in the World are unavoidably ignorant of; and yet few or none of these will jeopardize their Lives to preach amongst such, notwithstanding this was the Apostle Paul ‘s Practice, to preach Christ where he had not before been named; for said he, If I build upon another Man’s Foundation, I make my Glorying void.
- But ’tis the Extent hereof that some would have limited, affirming, that Christ died for a certain definite Number, and not for the whole Lump of Mankind, one as well as another; nay, they speak as if none had any Benefit by, no, nor so much as the Revelation of Christ, this Gift of God, whom to know is eternal Life; but those who have the outward Letter of the Scripture: Yet do I believe, and so do Thousands more, whom the Lord hath called, viz. That the Father of Lights, and God of the Spirits of all Flesh, hath given a Measure of his own Divine Light and Spirit, unto all the Children of Men, to manifest and reveal the Appearance of his Son in them, who is that same Saviour which shed his Blood for us, that he might wash us and cleanse us from our Sins.
- A Heretick is one that maintains an Error, contrary to the Light of his own Conscience, pertinaciously persisting in it, notwithstanding Reproof. And without doubt the Text was truly exposited, may be understand him to intend the Light of Christ Jesus in the Conscience; (for it is Christ the true Light who lighteth every Man’s Conscience, and that is the Light of Conscience) which if we may believe, he had Regard unto; then it will follow from the foregoing Words, First, That it is possible for People to turn from the true Grace of God, by sinning against the Light which he hath placed in their Consciences: Secondly, That those are nick-named (or miscalled) who are called Hereticks, for acting according to the Dictates of their enlightned Consciences; or, which is more clear, to say, For being guided by the Light of Christ in their Consciences: Thirdly, It follows, that it is utterly impossible to prove a Man an Heretick, unless he be guilty of Heresy, and condemned in himself by the Light of Christ placed in his own Conscience, to shew him what is Error, and what is Truth. Thus much the Words import; but it may be, some will refuse to confess to the Import of them, for fear of being counted Quakers herein: Howbeit the Spirit speaks expresly, That in the latter Days some shall depart from the Truth, &c.
- And such who have so done, we know that inward Condemnation doth attend them, according as the Apostle Peter and Jude spake of some in their Day, as had forsaken the righteous Way, and were gone astray, following the Way of Baalam, the Son of Besor, who loved the Wages of Unrighteousness: These, saith Jude, are Wells without Water: Clouds carried about with a Tempest, to whom the Mist of Darkness is reserved for ever; for when they speak great swelling Words of Vanity, they allure, through the Lusts of the Flesh, through much Wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in Error: For if after they have escaped the common Pollutions of the World through the Knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the Latter end is worse with them than the Beginning; for it had been better for them not to have known the Way of Righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the Holy Commandments delivered unto them.
- But it is happened to them according to the true Proverb, the Dog is turned to his Vomit again, and the Sow that was washed to her wallowing in the Mire.
- And in his Epistle to Timothy, he speaks positively, The Time will come, when they will not endure sound Doctrine, but after their own Lusts shall heap unto themselves Teachers, having itching Ears; and they shall turn away their Ears from the Truth, and shall be turned unto Fables, 2 Tim. iv. 3 ‘Tis likewise said of Hymeneus and Philetus, that concerning the Truth they have erred, 2 Tim. ii. 27.