A General Epistle To the Dispersed and PERSECVTED FLOCK OF CHRIST JESUS In the DOMINION of ENGLAND AND All Parts and Regions where this shall come who have believed IN Christ the Light OF THE WORLD, AND Now suffers for his Names sake.

F. H.

Printed in the Year 1665.

A General Epistle to the Dispersed and Persecuted Flock of Christ Jesus, &c.

DEarly beloved whom God hath called and redeemed out of the World, and the vanities thereof; to follow the Lamb in the Regeneration through the Cross and suffer­ing in this age, wherein the Whore, Beast and false Pro­phet, and all that have drunk of her Cup, and have received the mark of the Beast, and are led aside to believe lyes, that proceeds out of the mouth of the time serving, flattering, deceitful work­ers of this Generation: who are all joyned together in their strength and power to act every way against the Lamb and his meek Appearance, (who takes away the sins of the World) and against all them that are made clean through his blood, and are come out of the pollutions of the World: and to make War against the remnant of the Seed of God who are begotten again to the lively hope of Christ Jesus, and to the Inheritance that fades not away, and to root out and destroy and weary out through cruell sufferings the Saints of the most High, that so the Prince of darkness might rule in his full Power and Authority in his Instruments and Servants without opposition or any gain-say­ing. And as God out of his everlasting love hath redeemed and translated many from great darkness wherein they have been held in the time of unbelief, into his marvelous light, to walk in it and to bring forth the fruites of the day, of light, faith and righteousness to the praise and glory of his grace, who hath called them and translated them for that very end, to shew forth his power and glory in the Earth; who have been quickned and raised by it out of the Grave that they might bear witness thereunto and testifie of it both in word and work against the World, and the God thereof, who now rules in the Children of Disobedience; therefore is his wrath the more kindled and his fury grown great [Page 2] against them that are departed out of his Kingdome and will not yeild their hearts and necks to be subject any more unto his yoak, by whom they have been enslaved and held Captive, under ma­ny and divers lusts which the wrath of God is revealed against and to be revealed against, and because they are made free by the brightness of the glorious rising of the Sun of righteousness in his power and quickning life in their hearts which hath broken his yoak of bondage, and destroyed the Law of sin and death which sometimes had power over them: but now being made Conque­rors of them, through the power of Christ: The old Dragon the Deceiver of the Nations who is out of the Truth labours by all meanes to bring them back again to under his yoak; and his devices are not a few which are set on foot at this day to make all bow unto him, which the Children of light are not ignorant of who are and have been watchfull against the mysterious working of his power, within and also without in his Instruments, who have received great power from him to propagate his Kingdome that stands in wrath, evil doing and cruelty: And therefore all had need to watch and be circumspect that they that are escaped be not insnared and intangled again, least their bondage be great­er and the yoak heavyer then before; Therfore the Lord moveth often in my heart to exhort all unto watchfulness and diligence, and so much the more because the dayes are perilous and the times dangerous, and the temptations many on every hand; so they that look out are in danger to be insnared, and let in the Enemy, and doubts and fear and unbelief enter and questioning in the hast; Can God deliver, or will he deliver, or hath he any re­gard unto our afflictions, and because the time seemes long, and they cannot see to the end thereof their hearts failes, and their faith is in danger to be shaken and they loose their states, there­fore it concerns every one to watch and pray that they enter not into temptations, neither be overcome with the wicked one, neither of the fadeing pleasure, profit and ease that the Children of this World do enjoy, which is but for a time; and then is the begin­ing of endless misery. Therefore all dearly beloved look over all the sufferings, and troubles, and temptations, and necessities, and over the Devil and all his works; to the begining and to that have an eye which was before they had a being; to the Lord God ever­lasting [Page 3] who made Heaven and Earth have an eye, and let your eye be fixed on him which destroyes the Devil and all his works, and will reward the workers of Iniquity according to their deeds with everlasting torments.

Dearly beloved who have been under great sufferings and loo­sers for Christs sake and the Gospels in this Age; like as many faithful witnesses have been in former Ages: I am a sufferer with you, and am sensible of your griefes, afflictions, necessities, and tribulations which are many, and do bear and suffer with you all in my heart, and in the true sence and feeling of you all, disper­sed every where, where God hath placed you in the Earth; my heart, soul, life and spirit breatheth forth unto you all; and your burden is mine, your afflictions are mine, your sufferings is mine; I do weep with them that weep, I am sorrowful with them that are sorrowful; and that which is a grief and vexation unto the spirit of God in any; in the spirit of Christ which is but one in all I am burdened with them, and do bear a part of their grief, I speak without austentation or glorying, for what have I to glo­ry in any, but the Lord, or to rejoyce in, but that which all the World hates, because it testifies against it; and therefore we are become the objects of scorn and hatred in this World by them that are of it, who glory in sin, who rejoyce in Iniquity, whose end is destruction and perpetual misery, and their rejoycing shall be turned into endless sorrow and grief.

Elected of God, our portion in this World is to be sufferers in it and by it; because, God hath chosen us out of it and its nature; therefore, we are hated, despiced and persecuted in our Generation, like as all the People of God were in former Gene­rations, we cannot be exempted from drinking of the same Cup which Christ the Heir of all things drank; neither to be exemp­ted from being Baptized into his suffering: And therefore Christ told his Disciples, In the World yee shall have trouble; and the Apostles and Ministers, and Believers in Christ did drink of the same, and were Baptized into the same Baptisme, and therefore testified, That them that will live Godly in Christ must suffer Perse­cution; for the World loves only the Children of it, but alwaies hated the Children of God, and them that were redeemed out of it, and they bore witness, against it and the workes thereof; [Page 4] it's no new thing or strange thing for it's that portion which all the Prophets and Holy Men of God were partakers of, Christ and the Apostles, and all true Believers in every Age; and the nearer any came to be unto God in their life and practice the more they were hated, and the more vilefied, slandered, and evil spoken of; sometime by the Jewes, sometime by the Heathen, and now by the Apostatized Christians; for the Nature is one through all Ages, and diversities of Names in Profession doth not at all alter Man or Men at the heart; the Jews who professed God in words, and cryed up the Temple and Moses, and the Law in words, flew the Prophets, and laid false things to their charge; Jeremiah when he Prophesied against Jerusalem, and spake to the Princes and Rulers when they were re­volted from God in the dayes of Zedekiah, and denounced evil against the City and People because of Transgression, (they put him in the Dungeon, & where his feet sticked in the Mire) and said, He was fallen away to the Caldeans, and did he alienate the heart of the Jewes from them, and their Law, and despised their Government. Christ was accounted a friend of Publicans and sinners, and had a devil, a Transgressor of Moses Law, though he came to fulfill it; and an enemy to Caesar, and a blasphemer, and what not; Who said so? the Elders, the Doctors, the Rabies and Rulers of the People; and they crucified him as an evil doer, though none could con­vince him of sin; the Apostles of Christ as seditious men, Ringlea­ders of Sects, Authors of Vproars, turners of the World upside down, as disobedient, enemies to peace, as discontented men with the present Lawes and Customs then established, and judged as not fit to live. And therefore, many suffered long for holding out their Testimony faithfully they had received, and last of all suffered death, not as Saints and Prophets but as evil doers at last; some by the Jewes, some by the Heathen: The Primitive Christians of whom the World was not worthy of, were falsly accused by the Romans, Heathens, and Pagans, in the great Persecutions that arose, were evil spoken of, and falsly represented, and rendred odious, and as objects of hatred through the envy of the Devil, because they opposed his Kingdom of Darkness. Tertullian saith, the Heathen commonly reputed the then Primitive Christians incestious men, killers of Children, enemies of all mankind, enemies against the Gods, against the Emperours, against the Laws; they made an 0ut­cry [Page 5] upon them, Its not lawful they should live: And when any Judgment did befall them, Augustine saith, it was become a Pro­verb, Our Rain failes us because of these Christians. And Eusebius saith, the Religion of Christ was called the Heresie of Godless Christians. Likewise, after the name of Christ and Christian became in repute and esteem, many Hypocrites and Formalists took on the Name when it was countenanced by the Kings and Princes of the Earth, and then turned against them that were more in the life and po­wer then they; as the Bohemians and the Waldences, and first Prote­stants in Germany; how were they branded with heresie, schisme, as seditious, factious, enemies, to the Lawes, Church and State, and to Princes; and how was the hatred of the Pope and Emperour kind­led against them, and War raised upon them, and many suffered death, in their account as evil doers who persecuted them: Like­wise come nearer our own Age in the dayes of Queen Mary, how were the best of Men and the best of Christians in that Age cen­sured as Enemies to the Queens Laws and Government, enemies to the Church, seditious hereticks, and such as was not fit to live; and there­fore, many suffered in the cruel flames of fire, and did undergo many great torments and sufferings, and last of all cruel deaths many suffered, and by them called Christians, and yet slew him and persecuted him in his Members. Last of all God hath brought us forth in our Age to bear witness unto him, and unto that life, power and light by which we are quickned and raised out of the grave of sin and death to live unto him, and serving him in new­ness of life and to confess unto his holy name and power, by which we are saved, illuminated and directed, and to worship him in spirit and truth according to the manifestation of his spirit to us, and in us, & according to the Scriptures of Truth; for the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, Judge and all his holy Angels, and all just men who are anointed with the holy Unction, that knowes truth from error, whether we hold any other thing either in Doctrine or practice, but that which the Primitive Christians bare witness of, and also the Scriptures bare witness unto, and that which we are perswaded in our Consciences by the unerring spirit of the Lord, which doth give us assurance of his acceptati­on and peace in our hearts.

And how often have we declared our selves both by word and [Page 6] writing, which is sufficiently manifest unto all, who have not wil­fully closed their eyes, and stopped their eares against us; that we are of no other faith, hope or Religion, but that which Christ and his Apostles and Primitive Christians were of, which they did hold forth, both in Doctrine and practice as in respect of Worship: And how peaceably and humbly we have walked towards all men without seeking the hurt or detriment of any; thou Righteous Judge of Heaven and Earth knows, and according to the innocen­cy of our hearts do thou judge us, and plead our Cause: And further, we have laboured that sin might be beat down, and that all every where might have been turned from it unto the living God, and that Righteousness might have been advanced, and truth have taken place in all Mens hearts both in word and deed; that Christ who is professed in words, might have ruled in the hearts of all men that make mention of him; that so Gods bles­sing might have been felt and known by all, and the Souls of all saved from the snares of Sathan, and out of that which the wrath of God and his Judgments comes upon; and Lord God of Hea­ven and Earth thou knows how our Adversaries have sought oc­casion against us, for no other cause but for the matter of worship of the living God, and unto Gods righteous Judgment seat we dare appeal, and do thou judge us and reward us according to our deserts if ever we have contrived the hurt of any man or men, or have sought to violate any righteous Law of Man which stands to the well governing of a Nation or Country, in the things that pertain to the World, yet how have we been fasly represented, slandered, belyed, misreported, hated, backbited, persecuted and killed, as all the day long; and reputed we are as not fit to live in our Native Land, neither to enjoy our own Wives and Children, a thing common to all men, Christian and Heathen; neither to breath in the common air. And how many grievous things hath been heaped, and are daily upon our backs that we are factious, seditious, enemies to Magistrates, to the Ministers of Christ, Plotters, Conspirators against humane Government; enemies to the King, disobedient to the Lawes, broachers of heresie, authors of sedition, enemies to the Church and State. And this the Devil who was a lyar, and a murderer, and a slanderer from the Beginning, he hath put a Lying spirit in the mouthes of some, and its entred into the hearts of others: And [Page 5] thus by them are the Powers of the Earth stirred up, and the Ru­lers to persecute us without any just cause; but this must not be counted persecution, for all the aforesaid things and many more he hath perswaded them we are guilty of, and therefore all that comes upon us It must be reckoned as just, and is an equal reward for our offences, and as just punishment for our transgression and disobedience; and so is no persecution at all, and he hath wines­ses enough to testifie against us, as he had against Christ, all the Scribes and Pharisees and the Leaders and Rulers of the People with the high Priests, Judas and all to testifie against him that he was not fit to live, but all cry away with him; Even so now he hath all the Rabbyes, and Elders, and all the time-serving Hirelings, who serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellyes, and all formal professors who profess him in words, but denyes him in works, and despises his cross; with all Drunkards, Lyars, and Swear [...]rs, all proud and covetous, all wanton and riotous, and all that loves the pleasures of sin for a season, all these will give their verdict a­gainst us.

There was and is a Generation that called darkness light, and light darkness, and good evil, and evil good; the judgment of all such is false, and must be judged, and God who hath Immortality and dwells in the Light, with whom is no darkness at all, judgeth not as these men, & therefore let us never heed the censures and judg­ment of fallen men, who erre in their judgment, who cannot judge for God or his people but against them, let us count it a light thing to be judged or condemned by man, seeing the Lord justifies us in his work and service, whereunto we are called, and all the aforesaid crimes falsly laid to our charge he cleares us off, and we can with a good conscience and pure heart bid defiance to all the powers of darkness, and all the enemies of God, and the Lord will clear us more and more as his power, glory and light appears in the Earth, and brings forth our Righteousness as the Noon-day before our enemies, notwithstanding all the false as­persions, and reproaches cast upon us in the mean time; If we be crowned with reproaches as Christ was with thorns, and evilly intreated for his names sake, let us bear all things, and endure all things with patience and hope to the end. And though they cover us with bare skins, and with draff as the Heathen did the Primi­tive [Page 8] Christians, and so let all the wild beasts upon us, let us give up our bodies as a sacrifice unto the Lord, and for a witness unto his name and truth, that so we all may witness eternal rest unto our Souls, and Everlasting joy in his Heavenly habitation where all Persecutors and evil doers are shut out.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord, I write not these things unto you because you, many of you do not know them, but because you know them to put you all in mind, and to stir up your he [...]rts to the holy consideration of these things in these perilous and trying times, and in very truth whatsoever doth lye within my view, that might conduce to any or all your good, I cannot withhold it from you, because I know it is not only my duty, but I can truly say, the love of Christ constrains me; for my soul, heart and life is knit unto you in the everlasting Covenant of life above all the Families of the Earth, and the more you are hated the more I love you, and the more you are despised and set at naught, the more I prize you, and the more you are compassed about on every side with tryals and afflictions, the more my soul is poured forth unto the Lord for you, that you may be kept stedfast in the faith and hope in the Lord unto the end, that you may receive his rewa [...]d the Crown of Glory which is laid up for all them that love the Appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Faith do overcome.

And blessed and happy are all they that keep their Garments clean in this polluted time wherein wickedness walkes with open face, and ungodliness with an outstretched neck, and is exalted in great heigth, and doth corrupt many, and the Earth is growing ripe with wickedness for destruction, for the proud are counted happy, and they that work wickedness is admired and gloryed in as the only brave men of these times; which they make evil through yeil­ding themselves servants unto sin and their lusts, ease, and world­ly enjoyments, and immediately drop down into eternal perditi­on: And its time for the Lord to arise and plead with all Flesh, for Men make void his Law, and goes about to establish their own in opposition thereunto, for violence, cruelty, and hardness of heart, and persecution are the forerunners of desolation and destruction: rhese things do generally abound all is secure and at ease, hardness of heart is generally over people, and clearly to me it doth [Page 9] presage Judgment; tenderness of heart and spirit is generally lost among people, and the most have made shipwrack of all their Hope, Faith, and Professi [...]n to please the time and men of this Generation, who is perverse and froward, they have been treacherous to God, and to their own Souls, and cannot do good to his people; Keep as much as in you lies out of their spirit and manners, for they corrupt. And though Gods Judgments be abroad in the Land, and his Anger kindled and broken forth, yet few enquires the cause, or saith, what have I done? but if any do enquire, it is generally in that dark spirit that leads them to evil, which God hides his councel from, and will not be found of, and yet they make conclusions, and gives judgment as the Heathen of old, if any Pestilence, Famine, or drought, or Judgment came upon them, they said, the Christians was the cause, and so stirred up Persecution against them; the like the Dreamers of this age in their mock-fasts and humiliations, they say, heresie is the cause, and because all does not conform, and are not willing to submit to the changable in­stitutions of Men, though never so repugnant to the Law of God; they tell the Magistrates, the Phanaticks and Quakers is the cause, and so they fast for strife, and to kindle debate, and to stir up Persecution; and they seem to cleave so close to the Magistrates that will force and exact gain for them, and give them large pay, they will cry them up as the higher power, that all is to submit unto, in all things under pain of condemnation, and they will cry them up, and dance, and clap their hands, and rejoyce as Israel did about the Calfe, when they had forgotten God; so the Lord is provoked more and more, and they think by root­ing out his people is possible, will stay his Judgments; it's la­mentable to see what blindness is over the hearts of the Seers of this Generation, w [...]o c [...]y peace, peace, and how People are given up to believe their lyes, and to hardness of heart, and never consider their own estate, neither the afflictions of Joseph is re­membred.

Another thing also hath been in my heart many weeks, and a query hath been in my self, and I know hath been on many spirits why in this common Calamity and in Gods Visitation of the City of London, and many other places of this Nation, that they that [Page 4] have suffered so greatly, so long and so faithfully, and have borne such a Testimony for the Lord, why also they should be taken away among the Rest? seeing the Lord was able to deliver, and also command his Destroying Angel to pass over as it pleased him, and spare and take away as he pleased, and why it should not be wholly upon his enemies, and upon them that called not upon his name in truth and righteousness? I have had many sad thoughts of heart, and have waited upon the Lord concerning these things, with supplications and tea [...]s concerning his afflicted People, and concerning his Name and Truth, and this satisfaction I have received in my self, and do communicate unto you.

First, Of all it is said, that Paul stayed and preached the Gospel at Ephesus two yeares, so that not only them of Ephesus but all Asia heard the Word of God, both Jewes and Greeks, and many were gathered unto God, and believed, and the rest were hardened. When I considered this, that not only two years but twelve years that Citty of London hath heard the Word of the Living God declared and published plentifully in it, and the ever­lasting Gospel of Christ in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power, in so much that the sound went through and through, and many believed, and the rest were hardened, having lost the day of their visitation, but alass it was but a few, considering the labour and travel, and considering so many thousands who counted the things of God a sleight matter: and for them that were worthy, and did believe, they were hated and despised, and evilly entreated with the most, and shut up in holes, and miserable bonds and prisons, and lin­gering torments, which often time was the cause of their death, whose lives God is requiring at the hands of that place; and the Messengers of God was mocked, abused, and evilly entreated, and shut up in bonds till death and wicked­ness did abound, and peoples hearts grew hard in ease, riches pride, and vain glory, till the wrath of God broke forth and cut down thousands in his displeasure, and this was seen and foreseen full three whole years and upwards by some of the faithful servants of God who laid down their lives in bonds [Page 1] in that City, and are gathered unto the Lord, and also some who remain in the body unto this day, and it was prophesied of, and the City was warned thereof, Rulers and People, but the most made a mock of it, till the just judgment of God seized upon it.

Secondly, The Lord took away these faithfull men of God, Edward Burrough, Richard Hubberthorne, and George Foxe Ju­nior, who had been much conversant there, who were faithfull Watchmen, and prevailed often with the Lord till they were shut up in Bonds for all their sore travel and labour amongst the Inhabitants thereof; and that place being unworthy of them any more, he delivered them and took them away to himself, from the evil to come, that they had seen and prophesied of; that they might see none of that misery that is now come.

Thirdly, They were gathered unto the Lord as a token and signe unto them that believed; of many following after and of their dissolution.

Fourthly, The Lord did fore-know and fore-see, and also had determined evil against that City, and that which is now come to pass, and that this Generation, notwithstanding all the en­treaties, woeings, warnings, and exhortations which they had and slighted, and that they would proceed on to more mischief and persecution in presumption against God, and his People; and are yet determined, and have said in their hearts, though the bricks be fallen down, we will build with hewn stone; to fortifie themselves that their end might not faile, which the Lord God will blast and confound; and though Friends have borne their iniquity they shall at last bear it themselves, and know the reward thereof, and have none to help; so the Lord hath taken away many in his love and mercy from the evil to come, and hath freed them from further misery, and hath Translated them out of the reach of all their Ene­mies.

Fifthly, Seeing they have suffered long and faithfully in [Page 12] that place and elsewhere, and hath borne a living Testimony many to the loss of their lives, and to their ruinating in this World against the Abominations that did abound, and their righteous souls was vexed as Lots was with the Sodo­mites, the Lord hath considered and hath said, it is enough, your afflictions I will end, and take you into my rest and peace, out of the reach of the Oppress [...]r.

Sixthly, For the frustrating of the purpose of them who decreed that unrighteous decree for banishment, that it may not profit them, neither answer their end and unrighteousness, and the Lord, the Lord hath cut them short of their pur­pose, and will cut them short of their hope, and in the end bring their councel to nought, for that which is formed against the Lord shall not prosper.

Seventhly, For the hardening the hearts of this Genera­tion who have devised mischief from the Womb, and have gone astray as soon as they were born, after so many warn­ings and evident tokens of his hand against them, and of his dis­pleasure which hath been set at nought, and yet are resolved to go on to root out the heritage of God; I say that their hearts might be hardened, and their eyes closed that they may not discern betwixt the end of the Righteous and the wicked, nor see a difference in their states, but as one dies, so dies the other as to the outward appearance; though you beloved know a difference both in life and death; and I do believe many who have laid down the body, and put off this Earthly Tabernacle have given great Testimony of Gods love unto them of his favour, peace; and acceptation in the in the latter end; in this which I have said, I am satisfied, and therefore could not but signifie the same un [...]o you, that we might not sorrow concerning them that die in the faith and sleep in Christ, as them who are without hope, for these rest from their labours, and their faith, works and life shall live, and we have and enjoy their spirit and life, so it is only personal absence of this Earthly Tabernacle that we want, so in that all be comforted.

Last of all, The wayes of the Lord are unsearchable, but as [Page 13] he reveals them to them that fear him, and whatever may be manifest to any other, this I am certainly perswaded of, that God will have honour and glory through all these things as it shall be in the end for the prosperity of the Gospel of truth, and I am perswaded of this, though the Lord should permit many to be destroyed outwardly of all they enjoy, yet they are resolved to trust in him for ever.

And though the day be dark and gloomy, and the Devil be let loose to try the faith of them that dwell upon the Earth, and the wrath of the wicked be great, yet the bond is set that they can­not pass, and though we that yet remain alive to this day were all dissolved and rowled in the dust together, which is the end of all flesh, yet that life and power which we have believed in, and that everl [...]sting truth which we have testified of, and suffered for shall never be extinguished or rooted out, but shall take up other persons and bodies from Generation to Generation, while Sun and Moon endureth, in this be all assured and comforted in the Lord, and chearful in your sufferings, and comfort and strengthen one another: in the royal seed of God all live and dwell, (which cannot bow to the seed of the Bond-woman) which hath the pro­mise of life and Immortality, and everlasting blessedness; and all look unto the Lord over all and above all the rage and wrath of men, and the afflictions of this present life, and feel that which is without end.

The God of power be with you, and comfort you in the midst of all your trials, and preserve you that your faith fail not, is the earnest desire of him whose heart is knit unto the Lord and all his suffering People, in the Everlasting Covenant of life and peace: Pray all unto the Lord without ceasing, that you may be able to follow the Lord though through the valley of the shadow of death; the peace of God fill all your hearts that you may re­joyce in the Lord and trust in him for ever.

Yours in Life or Death, F. H.

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