A Catechism and Confession of Faith/Preface
THE PREFACE TO THE READER.
Since first that great Apostacy took place in the Hearts and Heads of those who began even in the Apostles days, to depart from the simplicity and purity of the Gospel, as it was then delivered in its primitive Splendor and Integrity, innumerable have been the manifold Inventions and Traditions, the different and various Notions and Opinions, wherewith Man (by giving way to the vain and airy Imaginations of his own unstable mind) hath burdened the Christian Faith: so that indeed, first by adding these things, and afterwards by equalling them, if not exalting them above the Truth, they have at last come to be substitute in the stead of it; so that in process of time, Truth came to be shut out of doors, and another thing placed in the room thereof, having a shew and a Name, but wanting the substance and thing itself: Nevertheless it pleased God to raise up Witnesses for himself almost in every Age and Generation, who, according to the Discoveries they received, bore some Testimony, less or more, against the Superstition and Apostacy of the time; and in special manner through the appearing of that Light which first broke forth in Germany about One hundred and fifty years ago, and afterwards reached divers other Nations; the Beast received a deadly Wound: and a very great Number did at one time Protest against, and Rescind from the Church of Rome in divers of their most gross and sensual Doctrines and superstitious Traditions: But alas! it is for matter of lamentation, that the Successors of these Protestants are Establishing and Building up in themselves that which their Fathers were pulling down, instead of prosecuting and going on with so Good and Honourable a Work; which will easily appear.
The generality of all Protestants (though in many other things miserably rent and shattered among themselves) do agree in dividing from the Church of Rome in these two particulars:
First, That every Principle and Doctrine of the Christian Faith is, and ought to be founded upon the Scripture; and that whatsoever Principles or Doctrines are not only not contrary; but even not according thereto, ought to be denyed as Antichristian.
Secondly, That the Scriptures themselves are plain and easie to be understood; and that every private Christian and Member of the Church ought to read and peruse them, that they may know their Faith and Belief founded upon them, and receive them for that Cause alone, and not because any Church or Assembly has compounded and recommended them; the choicest and most pure of which they are obliged to look upon as Fallible.
Now, contrary to this their known and acknowledged Principle, they do most vigorously prosecute and persecute others with the like Severity the Papists did their Fathers, for believing things that are plainly set down in the Scriptures, and for not believing divers Principles for which themselves are forc'd to recur to Tradition, and can by no means prove from Scripture: To shew which I shall not here insist, having allotted a Chapter for it in the Book it self, because to put it here, would swell beyond the bounds of a Preface.
Oh! how like do they show themselves (I mention it with regret) to the Scribes and Pharisees of old, who of all men most cryed up and exalted Moses and the Prophets, boasting greatly of being Abraham's Children? And yet those were they that were the greatest Opposers and Vilifiers of Christ, to whom Moses and all the Prophets gave witness; yea, their chief Accusations and Exceptions against Christ, was, as being a Breaker of the Law, and a Blasphemer.
Can there any Comparison run more parallel, seeing there is now found a people, who are greatly Persecuted, and bitterly reviled, and Accused as Hereticks by a Generation that cry up and exalt the Scriptures; And yet this People's Principles are found in Scripture, Word by Word, though the most grievous, and indeed the greatest Calumny cast upon them is, that they vilifie and deny the Scriptures, and set up their own Imaginations instead of them.
To disprove which, this Catechism and Confession of Faith is compiled, and presented to thy Serious and Impartial view: If thou lovest the Scripture indeed, and desirest to hold the plain Doctrines there delivered, and not these Strained and Far-fetched Consequences, which Men have invented, thou shalt easily observe the whole Principles of the People called QUAKERS, plainly couched in Scripture-Words, without Addition or Commentary; especially in those things their Adversaries oppose them in, where the Scripture plainly decideth the Controversie for them, without Nicities and School-Distinctions, which have been the Wisdom by which the World hath not known God; and the Words which have been multiplied without knowledge, by which Counsel hath been darkned.
In the Answers to the Questions, there is not one Word that I know of, placed, but the express Words of Scripture: And if in some of the Questions there be somewhat subsumed of what in my Judgment is the plain and naked Import of the Words, it is not to impose my Sense upon the Reader, but to make way for the next Question, for the dependence of the Matter's sake; I shall leave it to the reason of any Understanding and Judicious Man, who is not byassed by Self-Interest, that great Enemy to true Equity, and who in the least measure is willing to give way to the Light of Christ in his Conscience, if the Scriptures do not pertinently and aptly answer to the Questions.
As I have upon serious grounds separated from most of the Confessions and Catechisms heretofore published; so, not without Cause, I have now taken another method: They usually place their Confession of Faith before the Catechism: I judge it ought to be otherwise, in regard that which is easiest, and is Composed for Children, or such as are weak, ought in my Judgment to be placed first; it being most regular to begin with things that are easie and familiar, and lead on to things that are more hard and Intricate: Besides, that things be more largely opened in the Catechism, and divers objections answered, which are proposed in the Questions, the Reader having past through that first, will more perfectly understand the Confession, which consisteth mainly in positive Assertions.
Not long after I had received and believed the Testimony I now bear, I had in my view both the possibility and facility of such a work; and now after a more large and perfect acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, I found access to allow some time to set about it; and have also been helped to accomplish the same.
I doubt not but it might be enlarged by divers Citations, which are here omitted, as not being at present brought to my Remembrance: Yet I find Cause to be contented, in that God hath so far assisted me in this Work by his Spirit, that good Remembrancer; the Manifestation of which, as it is minded, will help such as Seriously and Conscientiously read this, to find out and cleave to the Truth, and also Establish and Confirm those who have already believed: Which of all things is most earnestly desired, and daily prayed for, By
- ROBERT BARCLAY,
- A Servant of the Church of CHRIST.
- From Urie, the Place of my Being in my Native Country of Scotland, the 11th. of the 6th Month, 1673.