by Charles Marshall
Dearly beloved Friends,
Who in your assemblies sometimes feel a testimony for the Lord to spring to your hearts, keep your watch in the light, that so none stay behind, nor run before; but let all that open their mouths in the assemblies of the Lord’s people, do it as the oracle of God, in the arising of the eternal power; for nothing can beget to god, but what comes from the word of life, that lives and abides forever; and nothing can refresh, strengthen or comfort that which is begotten by the word of life, but what springs from the same. Therefore, dear Friends, whom this concerns, wait diligently, not only to know and savour every motion, but also to know the appointed time when the motion should be brought forth; so shall what is ministered, if it be but few words, reach, and do its service. For this I have learned,, that though there may be a true motion of the power of the Lord, and a true operation thereof, yet where there is not awaiting for the perfecting of what is to be brought forth, but instead thereof, coming forth before the time, there is an untimely birth; which hurts the vessel through which it comes, and the hearers are burdened; and the life wich first moved comes to be oppressed. As long as any are found walking in this bypath, although they may find the power of God moving in them, yet they never come to be skillful, nor to divide the word aright; and such do not truly grow, but sometimes bring forth a mixture, sowing the field with two sorts of grain, and wearing a linen and woolen garment.
Friends, this lieth upon my spirit to all who feel the beginning of a testimony spring in your hearts, wait diligently in that light, low, in stillness and passiveness of spirit, and you will come to feel the counsel of the Lord sealed to your understandings, and see the time when to speak, and when to remain silent, and here will be a right increase of your testimony. When that which is sealed to the understanding is offered, retire inward and sink down into stillness, and keep in the valley; and let all know, that no ministration, save that which comes from the life itself, from the fresh arisings of the pure power of the Lord, availeth any thing; and all ministering out of this will fade and come to an end, in the approaching day of trial.
And, dear Friends, as the will of the Lord is made manifest, yield sincere obedience thereto; if the requiring be but a few words; for I have seen it a dangerous thing to resist the motions of God’s power, and have known many hours of sorrow for it. In the beginning of a testimony for the Lord, even in the upright heart, great will be the opposition of the enemy every way, and where he cannot lead to an untimely birth, he will endeavour to shut up the heart in disobedience or rebellion, or raise up many fears and doubts, if possible to bewilder the soul. Here I had perished, if it had not been for the love and tender mercy of the Lord. And so, dear Friends, for whose sake I am moved thus to write, when a motion is felt, and openings are in the heart, sink down in that in which no vain thought can be hidden, and stand single and passive. The more still, humble and passive thou art, who art thus exercised, the motion of life will the more show itself, and the power will arise and clear thy understanding; and then, in that which warmeth thy heart, and moveth on thy spirit, enter into thy service; and when that is done, add not, but sit in the still habitation, and in humility and passiveness, and thou wilt feel the reward of obedience, and grow in experience and knowledge, and be more and more furnished to every good word and work.
And may the Lord preserve all who are thus exercised in the even path, in which they will feel strengthened with might in the inward man, and furnished to serve the Lord.
And, Friends, when any through want of experience err, in running before the power, be very tender; and although there may be a savour and judgment in yourselves, and you may be burdened, yet beware how you speak to ease yourselves, but wait on the Lord therein, to be guided by his counsel; for some having such a sense, and not discerning wherein the miscarriage lay, have run forth in judgment, and have sometimes hurt, and even destroyed, or at least have become a stumbling-block to such an exercised Friend, and have also much hurt themselves. So that not having a true discerning, between the first moving cause, which is the power, they have judged both, and so have brought a hurt over their own souls, through judging the power of the Lord; and this sometimes may extend to hurt others. Our of which snare God Almighty preserve all, that so one may be a strength to another, taking one another by the hand, and saying, “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, who will teach us more and more his ways; and here, in God’s holy mountain, is neither hurting nor destroying.
– Charles Marshall
Charles Marshall (1637-98) was an early Quaker physician, author, and traveling preacher. He and his wife (who was also a well-known Quaker preacher) were imprisoned in 1664 for attending Quaker meetings. He was injured badly during one trial, lost much property for refusing to pay tithes, and spent two years in the notorious Fleet Prison in London 1682-4.
Retrieved from Quaker Heritage Press.