Good Counsel and Advice to all the Friends of TruthWilliam Ames (1576-1633) - One of the Greatest Theological Puritans and Writers
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“The first act of religion, therefore, concerns those things which are communicated to us from God. The other concerns those things which we yield to God.”
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Good counsell and advice to all the Friends of truth to be read throughout all their families by them whom the Lord hath called and is calling into his everlasting covenant
Ames, William, d. 1662.
Good Counsell AND ADVICE TO ALL THE Friends of Truth, To be Read throughout all their Families, by them whom the Lord hath Called, and is Calling into his everlasting Covenant.
Written from Amsterdam by William Ames.
LONDON, Printed for Thomas Simmons, at the sign of the Bull and mouth near Aldersgate, 1661.
Friends, the Lord hath put it into my heart to write unto you concerning those things which are most needful to be witnessed by you, and brought forth in you, and amongst you.
MY Brethren, Sisters and Friends, the Almighty God hath visited you in his everlasting love, and in a time in which you were without the true peace did the Lord reach unto you, and called you into the way where peace is found; Then did the Lord touch your hearts, and begot in you a Hunger, Thirst and breathing after himself, and he opened the way unto you, which before you knew not, wherein you might find rest and be satisfied; and the Almighty hath shined amongst you, and the brightness of his rising did break forth in you, by which your hearts were enlightned that you have seen and comprehended all the worlds waies, in which you also did walk; And the Lord hath watched over you for good, even unto this day he hath preserved you in many difficulties and dangers which appeared against you, he rebuked the proud for your sakes, and the Mighty who contemned you brought he into cotempt, he preserved you in the midest of the fiery rage of men, and hath not suffered the flame to hurt you, Salvation hath been your defence round about, and life did spring up within you, the vertue of the Almighty attended you, that you might feed upon it, that the Immortal vertue might be your daily bread, the power of his Arm reached unto you to bear you in the way that you should walk, that thereby
your hearts might be purged from all uncleannesse, that you might have fellowship with your God.
The glory of his power broke forth in you, which gave you courage and dominion, the eternal inheritance was opened unto you to draw your affections thither, that your portion might be with your God, and that he might be your lot for ever, that your minds might be redeemed from the Earth, and your affections from things that perish, that you might know your life to be in God, and your strength to be the power of his Arm, that the light of his countenance might be your delight, and the brightness of his glory your joy, that his Righteousness might be your covering, and his wisdome a fountain within you, that in his counsel you might dwell to praise his name for ever.
You dear Children whose rejoycing is in the Lord, who dwell in his power and his eternal Counsel and wisdome, your dwelling is glorious, you seek not the favour of men, neither do you seek to be esteemed by men above others, but your peace is to know that you are esteemed by the Lord; you are poor, but the Lord is to you riches, you are weak, but the Lord is strength unto you, your delight is not to flourish in knowledge, therein to appear before men, to gain a great name, and to be looked upon to be the greatest, but your delight is to know the Tree of life flourishing in you, and you love not your lives unto death for the love of God who hath called you, and you are content to be esteemed fools, and do not seek by the wisdome of words in the exalted knowledge, or any disobedience to fly the reproach of men.
You delight in the least appearance of God in any,
and you dispise it not, because they in whom it appears are not so wise as you, you look not upon the poor with disdain, but the love of God flows from you to the needy, you delight to deal your bread to the hungry that they also might be partakers of your refreshments, and the poor in spirit you cherish with delight, because you judge not with respect of persons, for the spirit of true Judgment is within you.
You are not offended when another is esteemed above you, neither for that cause (nor any other) doth evil lodge in your hearts; you strive not to rule over others, but you rejoyce to be ruled by the Lord, whose power is in your inward parts, and the glory of his rising is the light in which you walk, your day shall never be darkned, neither shall the night overtake you who keep the word of life, the proud shall not prosper in their way, neither shall the mighty prevail against you, your way hath the Almighty Established, and his eternal and out-stretched Arm shall guide you therein, and therewith will he overcome your enemies whensoever they shall rise against you, that his Name might be glorious amongst the Heathen, and that his renown might spread to the ends of the Earth, and that you might dwell with him for ever in the Kingdome prepared for you.
Therefore you that have a quick and a large comprehension, take heed that when your understandings are opened and knowledge increaseth, that that part which delighteth in knowledge without the power of God get not up to live in exaltation there, for in that state you deceive your own Souls which should be nourished by the Power and Presence of God.
And although you shine in appearance as Stars of Heaven in that state, yet (you being without the power of God by which you should be kept) there hath the Dragon power over you, and he will bring you down to the Earth in the day of tryal; for many aspire thither, and though they have a zeal for God, yet they themselves being exalted in knowledge above the power and wisdome of God, they are without the true feeling fellowship or discerning; And thus many times they disdain the appearance of God in others, who are meek and poor, and appear not in that excellency of wisdome and knowledge (in the thoughts of the conceited wise) as they do, and to such spirits the Declaration of truth by our dear Brethren declared (though in the power and wisdom of God) becomes as an old thing, if it appear not in that excellency of the wisdome of words, which may suite with their spirits, and so that by which the poor and the meek who truly fear God are refreshed, is to them a loathing, because of their fulness, of which they ought to be empty, and by such spirits my dear Brethren do often suffer by back-bitings and secret reproaches, besides the burden of that Spirit it self.
And although such in the general may have in their understanding how God ought to be worshiped, and what is his way and in that knowledge be exalted, yet the secrets of the Lord they know not, neither is his Counsel the place of their dwellings; and although they may have a zeal for the Lord and his way, yet they themselves are out of it, and being without the power of God, they cannot overcome their lusts, and this is the cause that many times through the evil practises of some, the way of truth
is evil spoken of, and although they have a form of Godliness, yet are their hearts unsanctified; therefore watch all that you be not overcome.
I say unto you all watch that you may not be overcome, and when you feel any thing rising in you against another, because (as you think) he doth not respect you as he ought to do, take heed that that prevail not over you, for if it do, then from thence as a stream will evil thoughts, prejudice, and had surmisings against others flow forth, untill you are consumed in it; Therefore be sure to watch against that part in you, which would rise up in prejudice and evil thoughts, that the simplicity of the Gospel might abound in you, in that, in meekness and long suffering to bear, that they who walk otherwise might be ashamed.
For many there are who surmise evil, and conceive prejudice in their hearts against others without a cause, and this is a cursed thing; therefore every one watch that your hearts may be kept from being overcome with it.
And you that have attained to a measure of stability, let the wisdome of the Almighty be your guide, that you might cherish the fainting and help the needy, encourage the tender and them that are weak, let your tenderness in staidness, wisdome and gravity appear unto them, for a friendly behaviour cherisheth the simple, comforteh the weak and encourageth them who are of a fainting heart, when a strange, and stern carriage may discourage, oppress, and in some beget prejudice.
But have not familiarity without the wisdome of God, as many have to the giving liberty to vanity, or to the letting up of a light spirit in any, or to the letting
in of an unclean spirit over you, either so to become your burden, or otherwise to captivate your hearts into evil, as it hath been with many, who for want of the watch to the light to be guided by the true wisdome, have been familier with unclean spirits, and have been defiled with them; but be ye patterns of Righteousness, Holiness and Purity by your wise walking in the fear of God in all your conversation.
And walk in love towards all men, in wisdom and fear, and towards them who have received the Testimony of truth, let the manifestation of your love be such, that nothing in them thereby may be raised up to expect that from you, which you intend not towards them, which they ought not to except from you; for thus many have been snared and have fallen, that when love in familiarity hath been manifested to them, the contrary part in them, thereby hath taken occasion to look out after, and to except that which was not intended towards them; So the wrong desires and expectations being raised, becomes a snare to the Soul; Therefore in the true fear, wisdome and discerning, let your love be manifested, that all occasions of evil may be avoided.
And when any of you feel any thing rising in you, that is discontented at any time, because another (as you may think) is esteemed above you; watch against that, for that is Cains nature by which the world is guided, who seek every one to be greatest, and if that get Dominion in your hearts, then envy and emulation which proceedeth thereout, will lodg within you, and that will break your unity with God and his people, and cause swift destruction to come upon you; Therefore watch that through the
power of Gods Spirit working in you, that nature may be utterly destroyed and rooted out, that you may be content to be esteemed the least, and whatever man esteemed you to be, (whatever man he may be) your peace may abide in this, that you know that you are esteemed by the Lord.
And when any of you feel any thing that desireth fleshly liberty, keep that down, and let the fear of God possesse your hearts, for if that be given way unto in one thing, it thereby recovereth strength to prevail over you, to lead you to another, and this it will do untill it hath estranged you from Gods Spirit, and have made you to be as other men, Children of wrath and condemnation; Therefore in the light watch against it, and give no liberty to the lust of the flesh, but let that be (through Gods spirit) crucified in you that your liberty may stand in the eternal Kingdom of God.
And if there be any thing in you that longeth for revenge, or the destruction of them that have harmed you, that proceeds from the evil root, and you are not to be of that Spirit, and if that prevail over you, it will destroy your peace with God, and break your unity with his people; And although you may deny to act outwardly against your enemies, yet if such a Spirit hath place in you which do desire the destruction of their persons, that will become a snare unto your souls, except in the Light and power of God you wait, that thereby it might be overcome, that you may truly know what it is (and also do it) to love your enemies, to blesse them that curse you, and to pray for them that dispitefully use you; And in so doing you will heap coals of fire upon their heads, and approve your selves the Children of God, and
abide in peace with him, and in the time of tryal you wil possess your souls in patience; but if the other spirit hath dominion over you, when your enemies increase, you will fret your selves and be impatient, in desiring their destruction, you will destroy your own peace, and the Lord will not regard you.
And all friends take heed that you are not filled with the cares of this life, to gather together worldly goods to provide for the time to come, least your hearts are taken up with it, and you be overcome with Covetousness, and so forget the living God, that Created Heaven and Earth, and the treasure of this World become your God; but wait in the light that your hearts may be kept out of evil to worship God in Spirit, casting all your care upon him, having found his Kingdom and Righteousness; Yet to be diligent every one in his place and calling in the true fear of God, that you may be a holy people peculiar unto God, and ordering the Creation in his fear and wisdome, to his glory every one in his place; But make not the corruptable things your Treasure.
And you that are Parents of Children, let not your minds run into the Earth, there to strive to heap up, that you may get portions for your Children, but let the fear of God possesse your hearts, and then with content you will indeed know, that God careth for all his Children, who trust in him, and not in uncertain riches, and stand single in the Counsel of God, that you may know his will, him in all things to obey, casting your whole care upon him, that you fall not into the snare of he Devil; for he that striveth to heap up the Treasure of this life, runneth into a snare and will fall into a pit; Therefore wait that in all things whatever it be, you may be governed by
the Spirit, and in the wisdome and Counsel of God, that your peace may flow as a River.
And you that feel that assaults of the enemie, seeking to prevail over you, take heed and in the Light watch, that that nature get not up to prevail over you, which will dispair of the victory, for if it do, that will cause you to yield unto him; But in the fear of God dwell low in patience, believing in the light that God will preserve you, and there he will give you power against that dispairing nature and all the powers of death; And this faith is only in the light, in which in patience wait (through true obedience) for the power of God to give you the victory.
And you that see the Crosse and are affraid of it, whilest you are looking out, your Condition is miserable, and fear will be the snare of your souls because you have regard in your hearts unto that which you must loose; Therefore turn your eys to the lord, that in the leadings of his Light you may freely give up that which is to be crucified, and then your fears will cease, and your strength in God will abound.
And take heed you that are wise, that high thoughts of yourselves prevail not over you, for that ought not to be, for that will lead you into self-exaltation, to think your selves to be wise when indeed you are without the true wisdome, and then there will be more hope of a fool then of you, if that should prevail over you; Therefore let the fear of God possesse your hearts, that self may be kept in no reputation, that the Lord may be exalted in you, that so you may dwell in peace; for a servant of the Lord must not exalt himself, but keep low, that the true God may be exalted, for whatever he hath which is good it comes from the Lord; Therefore not unto us, but
unto his Name be the praise for ever.
And you who are called to suffer for the Testimony of Jesus, let your dwelling be in the Power, Wisdom and Counsel of God, that your desires prevail not over you, and cause you to bow for your liberty, or at least take away your peace in your bonds; for when you are bound, if you desire liberty, your dedesires working in you make your bonds grievous, for where desires have liberty, and are not satisfied, that is a state of grievous bondage; But if you are bound and desire not your liberty, but are given up in the will of God, your bonds are not grievous, but you are in the glorious freedom of the Lord; Therefore watch against your desires, and in stead of desiring liberty, by the Spirit of God wait in the Crosse, that those desires which would captivate might be destroyed, then shall your liberty be glorious, though you are outwardly in bonds, then you will not be hasty for your deliverance, but will be willing to wait the Lords time, in patience and with rejoycing.
And my dear Friends, let your bodies and all that you have be given up a Sacrifice unto God, that in the time of tryal you may approve your selves to be the peculiar people of God, being willing to deny your selves, and all outward injoyments for the name of God, and such a people God will Crown with eternal life; Therefore my dear Friends, let none have occasion to say, that for the love of your goods, your liberty or your lives, any of you have forsaken the way of truth, which the Lord hath called you to, for it is through sufferings that the God of Heaven this day will glorifie his people; Therefore fear not the rage of man, neither be ye dismayed because of the
Mighty flood, for the Lord God who loveth his people with an everlasting love, hath set the bounds thereof, and for tryal it is (that they that are approved may appear) and not for the destruction of his people; Therefore fear not, but be valiant for the truth of our God.
And take heed that when at any time you have outwardly suffered loss for truths sake, that not any of your minds be drawn out to expect an outward recompence, but rather to rejoyce that you are accounted worthy to suffer for the Lords sake, then you shall have your reward, which is eternal life; for many when they suffer murmur at their outward losses, and have an eye out after an outward recompence, which if they obtain according to their desire, verily they have their reward, but if they obtain not, they are offended, and stumble and reproach them from whom the did expect it, and so they become a burden to the Lords people, and a dishonour to truth; But learn every one in all Conditions without murmuring to be content, and whatsoever you do, or whatever you suffer let if it be singly unto he Lord.
And you that have this worlds goods, set not your hearts upon it, to bind up the bowels of your love, from them who are in want, for if you do your treasure will be the snare of your souls, and the Lord will not hold you guiltless.
And you that are outwardly poor, let not your minds run out after relief from others to depend there upon, and so neglect your own diligence, as many have done, for that mind prevailing in you, if it be not satisfied it will break forth into emnity, but let the fear of God possess your hearts, that you may keep the truth in humility, meekness and contentedness
to walk, and your tryal will not be beyond your ability, and herein (though to you is distributed of the temporal things according to your need, yet) you will not be burdensome to Gods people, for it is the desiring and the craving spirit after those things which is a burden to the just.
And all friends take heed that that spirit prevail not in any of you which will lead you to watch for evil with an evil eye, and although the good appears it regardeth it not, but watches for the evil, thereby to take an advantage, this will beget strif and emulation; But my Friends where any thing of Good appears in any, although there may be yet much of evil, yet let your tenderness, patience, meekness and love be exercised towards such in the wisdome of God, that the good which appears may be cherished, that you might be Instruments of Salvation unto them.
And whensoever you are called to suffer for the Lords Testimony, take heed that the hasty fiery spirit in a fiery zeal be not exalted in you, for that will endure but for a season, but keep low to feel and enjoy the meek quiet suffering and patient spirit of the Lamb, to bear you through, and therein you will have peace in your sufferings, and in the end obtain the victory.
And the eternal God will establish your goings, and Crown you with honour, glory and everlasting dominion above all the families of the Earth.
I am your Brother in the fellowship of the Eternal Gospel.