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Historical texts  >  Burrough's Epistle To The Reader (2)

The Epistle To The Reader


Edward Burrough

London the 9. Mo. 1658

(Part 2 of 5)

"And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes ..."

It is now about seven years since the Lord raised us up in the north of England, and opened our mouths in this his spirit; and what we were before in our religion, profession, and practices is well known to that part of the country; that generally we were men of the strictest sect, and of the greatest zeal in the performance of outward righteousness, and went through and tried all sorts of teachers, and run from mountain to mountain, and from man to man, and from one form to another, As do many to this very day, who yet remain ungathered to the Lord. And such we were, (to say no more of us,) that sought the Lord, and desired the knowledge of his ways more than any thing beside, and for one I may speak, who, from a child, even a few years old, set my face to seek and find the saviour, and, more than life and treasure or any mortal crown, sought with all my heart the one thing that is needful, to wit, the knowledge of God.

And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works.

And this light gave us to discern between truth and error, between every false and right way, and it perfectly discovered to us the true state of all things; and we thereby came to know man, what he was in his creation before transgression, and how he was deceived and overcome by the devil, and his estate in transgression, and in disobedience, and how he is driven and banished from the presence of the Lord, and the sorrow and anguish which he is in and to undergo. And also by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration, and the means by which to be restored, and the state of man when come out of transgression and restored. These things to us were revealed by the light within us, which Christ had given us, and lighted us withal; what man was before transgression, and what he is in transgression, and what he is being redeemed out of transgression. And also as our minds became turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know; her estate before the apostles' days, and in the apostles' days, and since the days of the apostles.

And her present estate we found to be as a woman who had once been clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, who brought forth him that was to rule the nations; but she was fled into the wilderness, and there sitting desolate, in her place that was prepared of God for such a season, in the very end of which season, when the time of her sojourning was towards a full end, then were we brought forth.

If any have an ear they may hear. So that all these things concerning man, and concerning the times and seasons, and the changing and renewing of times, and all things that pertain to salvation, and redemption, and eternal life, needful for man to know, all these were revealed, discovered, and made known to us, by the light which was in us, which Christ had lighted us withal.

And we found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from whence this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation.

And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing.

And so we ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships, and their temples, and all their baptisms and churches; and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion, in times before zealously performed by us, through 'divers forms, and we became fools for Christ's sake, that we might become truly wise. And by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men's words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord's pure spirit, and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways: and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord; and we chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and the gift of God's holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb for ever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. And much more might be declared hereof, that which could not be believed if it were spoken, of the several and particular operations and manifestations of the everlasting spirit that was given us, and revealed in us.

But this is the sum: life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared unto us, and the joyful sun of righteousness did arise and shine forth unto us and in us; and the holy anointing, the everlasting comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the promise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, whereby we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and covenant with the Lord God, whose mercies are sure and infinite, and his promise never fails. We were raised from death to life, and changed from satan's power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest, and mighty and wonderful things hath the Lord wrought for us, and by us, by his own outstretched arm.

And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes; and he hath called us to make war in righteousness for his name's sake against hell and death, and all the powers of darkness, and against the beast and false prophet, which have deceived the nations. And we are of the royal seed elect, chosen and faithful, and we war in truth and just judgment; not with weapons that are carnal, but by the sword that goes out of his mouth, which shall slay the wicked, and cut them to pieces. And after this manner was our birth or bringing forth, and thus hath the Lord chosen us and made us an army dreadful and terrible, before whom the wicked do fear and tremble; and our standard is truth, justice, righteousness, and equity; and all that come unto us, must cleave thereunto, and fight under that banner without fear, and without doubting, and they shall never be 'ashamed nor put to flight, neither shall they ever be conquered by hell or death, or by the powers of darkness; but the Lord shall be their armour, weapon, and defence for evermore. And they that follow the Lamb shall overcome, and get the victory over the beast, and over the dragon, and over the gates of hell; for the Lord is with us, and who shall be able to make us afraid.'

Then having thus armed us with power, strength, and wisdom, and dominion, according to his mind, and we having learned of him, and being taught of him in all things, and he having chosen us into his work, and put his sword into our hand, and given us perfect commission to go forth in his name and authority, having the word from his mouth what to cut down and what to preserve, and having the everlasting gospel to preach to the inhabitants of the earth, and being commanded in spirit to leave all, and follow him, and go forth in his work, yea an absolute necessity was laid upon us, and wo unto us if we preached not the gospel. For when we looked abroad and beheld the world, behold it was altogether darkness, and even as a wilderness,and desolate, and barren of good fruit; and death reigned over men, and no good fruit was brought forth to God, but leaves we beheld upon every soul. And all men and peoples were made drunk with the wine of whoredoms, and the whore's cup they had drunk, and were committing fornication with the great whore, and she reigned over the kings and peoples of the earth. And the antichrist was set up in the temple of God, ruling over all, having brought nations under his power, and set up his government over all for many ages; even since the days of the apostles and true churches hath he reigned, while the woman hath been fled into the wilderness, and the man child caught up to God. Christ said antichrist should come, and put on the sheep's clothing, and be inwardly a ravening wolf; and John saw that antichrist was come in his days, and he went forth then from the true church, and went into the world, and deceived the world; and ever since, his kingdom hath reigned over nations; for then he began to exalt himself, and it is sixteen hundred years since, all which time antichrist hath had the sheep's clothing, but inwardly a ravener, and hath ruled and reigned. And this we saw, and perceived in the very time of our birth and bringing forth; and we beheld nations as a wilderness untilled, and men's hearts as the fallow ground, unbroken up, and not ploughed nor sown with the good seed of God's kingdom. So that we saw all states and orders of men corrupted and degenerated from what they ought to be, and from what God had once ordained them. As for the ministry, first, we looking upon it with a single eye, in the light of the spirit of God which had anointed us, we beheld it clearly (which formerly we had been stumbling at, and much doubting that it was not the perfect ministry of Christ, for many years before) not to be of Christ, nor sent of him, nor having the commission, power, and authority of Christ, as his ministry had in the days of the true churches; but in all things, as in call, practice, maintenance, and in every thing else, in fruits and effects we found it to disagree, and be wholly contrary to the true ministry of Christ in the days of the apostles. And likewise, we truly beheld it to be in call, practice, and maintenance; and all things, the very same in fruits and effects with the false ministry, and false prophets, and false apostles, and deceivers of old. And this I do testify, and am able to prove in the spirit and authority of the Lord, that the public ministry as now it stands generally, is wholly degenerated from what the true ministry of Christ once was, and differeth, and is contrary in all things to what Christ's ministers were, and agreeth, and is equal in all things with what the false prophets and deceivers were throughout all ages. And this I charge upon it, in the face and view of all men to whom this may come; for this we saw concerning it, in the beginning, and our first assurance.

And as for other places and orders of men and callings, we saw them also corrupted and degenerated, and evil and iniquity abounding among all sorts of people; and blindness and darkness covered the face of the earth and of the world; and all people were in their transgressions, and making void the law of God; and that it was time for the Lord to work, and to arise to ease himself of his adversaries. And as for all churches (so called) and professions and gatherings of people, we beheld you as all in the apostacy and degeneration from the true church, not being gathered by the spirit of the Lord, nor anointed thereby, as the true members of Christ ever were, but to be in a form, and in forms of righteousness without the power, and in imitations without life and perfect knowledge. So that all the practices of religion we beheld without power and life, though some had a sincerity in them, and a zeal and a desire towards the Lord; yet all people erred in judgment, and none were guided in judgment by the eternal spirit; and the error in judgment made their zeal blind, and their performances of righteousness not accepted, though acted in some sincerity and zeal; because they were not guided in practice, and led in judgment by the spirit of the Lord, which only leads into all truth, and none are in the truth but who are led only thereby. So that we beheld all profession to be but as coverings with fig leaves, while the nature of transgression stood uncondemned and not crucified. We then also saw not only that the performance and practice in church state, and in religious orders were corrupted, but also government, and magistracy, and all things in civil state were not aright in the sight of the Lord, nor as the Lord required, neither as he had ordained in the beginning; for government, we know, as ordained of God, is to punish, and limit, and terrify all evildoers, and to preserve and defend all that do well; and that men's consciences are to be left free, to be ruled by the Lord alone, and guided by his spirit; and that outward power and civil magistrates and laws, (so-called,) ought not to be Lord or ruler in men's consciences, nor over them. But we beheld how unrighteousness and iniquity, and sin and wickedness were strengthened and encouraged in the government, and by such as were in authority; and how the exercise of a good conscience in the fear of God was abused; so that it was turned backward from what it ought to be; them that did well were punished, and limited as transgressors, and the evildoers were set free, and not made afraid: so that we could truly cry, truth was fallen in the streets and justice and true judgment turned backward, and equity had no place to enter, and the innocent were devoured through want of true and just judgment, and the needy were spoiled and made a prey. And thus it was framed, for no sooner had we opened our mouths, but the magistrates began to put us in prison, and execute great injustice upon us, and became oppressors of the innocent, and laid grievous unjust burdens upon us, grievous to be borne, and true justice and judgment were neglected, and wrong judgment brought forth, and good government abused, and men in authority not ruled by the Lord, neither ruling for the Lord among men: and thus it came to pass upon us, through the corruption and degeneration in government and magistrates, which we saw to be, as it was fulfilled by them, to wit, not as the Lord required, nor as he in the beginning ordained it, but quite the contrary. And this we saw in the beginning, when the spirit of the Lord was poured down upon us, and power from on high was revealed to declare against all the abominations of the earth, and to make war against all corruption, in all orders, and places, and men.

Then being prepared of the Lord, and having received power from on high, we went forth as commanded of the Lord, leaving all relations and all things of the world behind us, that we might fulfil the work of the Lord into which he called us. We consulted not with flesh and blood, nor any creature, nor took counsel of men, but of the Lord alone, who lifted up our heads above the world, and all fears and doubtings; and was with us in power and dominion, over all that which opposed us, which was great and mighty; and gave us power over it all, and to bind kings in chains, and nobles in fetters of iron; and this is the saints' honour. And the word of the Lord we sounded, and did not spare, and caused the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the heart that was hardened to be awakened; and the dread of the Lord went before us, and behind us, and terror took hold upon our enemies. And first of all, our mouths were opened, and our spirits filled with indignation against the priests and Teachers, and with them and against them first we began to war, as being the causers of the people to err; the blind leaders that carried the blind into the ditch; the fountain of all wickedness abounding in the nations, and as being the issue of profaneness: for from them hath profaneness gone forth in all nations: and against them we cried aloud, being redeemed from their mouths who had made a prey upon us, as they do upon all that follow their ways. And in steeple-houses we visited them often, and in markets and other places, as the Lord moved and made way for us, showing unto them and all their people, that they were not lawful ministers of Christ, sent of him, but were deceivers and antichrists, and such whom the Lord never sent. And we spared not publicly, and at all seasons, to utter forth the judgments of the Lord against them and their ways, and against their churches, and worships, and practices, as not being of God, nor commanded by him, by which they deceived the world. And this was our first work which we entered upon, to thresh down the deceivers, and lay them open, that all people might see their shame, and come to turn from them, and receive the knowledge of the truth, that they might be saved.

[Continued in Part 3]

Notes and Links

Second part of five
Part 1 - Come forth in fair dispute, to contend in the spirit of meekness ...
Part 2 - And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes ...
Part 3 - To all manner of sufferings and reproaches, and hard trials ...
Part 4 - We should agree to have the liberty, freely and soberly to object against the priests ...
Part 5 - Them that have had the words but were out of the life, which life now is risen ...