Sir I salute you in the Lord. Whereas you <haue> bene pleased to præfix an Epistolicall Discourse as you call it, to a Booke entituled Clauis Apocalyptica, & from that your Discourse, as it is probable, some Seducing Spirits, who are willing to catch at any thing to Strengthen their Faction, haue deriued somewhat to Foment their Errours, not sparing in a Triumphant manner to make their Boast that you doe fully agree with them in their opinion, concerning [left margin: X] the Nullitie of a Visible Church in these Times; I who haue subscribed my Name to this present Writing, & who haue had you in some Esteeme in my heart for the Workes sake, which for a while you vndertooke here in the Countrey, where I haue bene according to the Grace that is giuen vnto mee a Co=agent with you in the same Worke, cannot but bee Troubled in my Spirit, when I find that your Name should bee made vse of in the Carrying on of so pernicious a Tenet. And truely I am now out of a Tender respect that I beare vnto the <Church of Christ which is the> common Mother of vs all, necessitated to make this Addresse vnto you; & the rather am I engaged hereunto, because it was I, who had that Conference with Mr Ellis (of which I perceiue hee hath giuen you an Intimation) about some passages in your Discourse, & was much offended at them; An Occasion being thereby giuen as I conceiued to those that desire Occasion to bee the bolder in their opposition to the Truth, & to Insult the moue ouer vs who are Contrarieminded vnto them. I haue also seene & perused your Letter which you writt in the Vindication of your selfe against their Sinister Construction & my Misinterpretation (in your Account) of your meaning; which truely is not so Satisfactory to mee; as that I can with Mr Ellis acquiesce therein But doe still feare that you haue giuen too iust occasion vnto those whom in your Letter you disauow, to Triumph as they doe, & haue opened too great a Doore to let in more Followers vnto them. Your Words are so plaine that there is no need of an Oedipus to Construe them, yea so agreeable with that Forme of Unsound Words, which that Selfe-conuicted Schismatick whom vnder that Notion you mention in your Letter, commonly vseth, that whatsoeuer you can [left margin: X] deuise without a Retraction, will not bee sufficient to stopp his Mouth from Clamouring out to the World, that Mr Dury is his Coryphæus in that point of Separation. To giue you an Instance. It is his constant Cry, that wee are all in the Wildernes of Spirituall Desolation; And doe not you say so too? Hee saith that the Church is euery where kept in Bondage under Babilon, And you say, It is to this Day in the Wildernes of Confusion. And in truth if it bee so as you pretend to beare Witnes that the Visible Estates of all the Churches are the outward Court, which is giuen to the Gentiles wherein to this Day they tread the Holy Citie, that is, as it seemes in your Sense the Inuisible Church, vnder Foot, & are in the Wildernes of [left margin: X] Spirituall Desolation & Confusion, Let us then all passe ouer to the Tents of those Separatists whom wee haue hitherto blamed, & take vnto our Selues that Shame as is meet for ioyning with them no sooner. But I must craue leaue to tell you that I question the Truth of your Witnes in this particular, & it may bee you your Selfe will see iust Cause to retract it. That about which I shall Treat with you at this time being vrged thereunto by Mr Ellis in regard of my Non Satisfaction by your last Writing shall bee limited to that part of your Epistle which I complained of to him as vnsound, & from which in all likelihood the Enemies to the present order established in the Churches haue taken their aduantage to bee more confirmed in their Virulency then formerly they haue bene. Your Words are these. As for the Bride wee expect her from Heauen for it is apparent that as yet wee haue no permanent Citie here on Earth, such as the Apostle hath described the Lambes Wife to bee in Reuelation Chap: 22 (sed verius 21) Wee therefore seeke this Citie that hath Foundations etc[underlining in pencil] And a litle after you adde, How farre any Societies of Churches or Single Church=Congregations haue receiued the Fauour to bee Arrayed in fine Linnen Cleane & White, which is the Righteousnes of Saints, is to mee as yet not apparent, for I must Confesse that I haue not seene any Perfection [underlining in pencil] in any of them; & I know I haue made it a good part of Worke to visit them all, & to consider them in their Wayes as well abroad as at Home in respect of their seuerall Associations: & truely the Laodicean Temper is ouer vs all etc etc [catchword deleted]
But let mee <now> argue a litle with you in the Words of Truth & Sobernes concerning this matter. In the first place if your Meaning had bene with Reference to the Church Triumphant after the Finall accomplishment of all her Victories vnder her Head Christ Iesus, as the first Words of this Clause doe properly import, I thinke you would haue none to Gainesay you either amongst the Romanists or Reformed (though some in these Times haue nothing in their Mouthes but Glory Glory in effect giuing out with those Heretickes of old that the Resurrection is past already) But this as it appeares by what followeth is not your meaning: If you meane that the Church of Christ hath not as yet attained to such a Perfection as is designed for her whiles shee is here in Viâ, for my part [left margin: X and against next four lines / in pencil] I shall also herein readily consent vnto you, so it bee not such a Perfection as the Chiliasts haue Fancied, vnto which your expressions seeme in my Apprehension very strongly to tend A Perfection I beleeue is to bee discernd in the Churches of Christ at this Day, not onely is respect of the Gifts & Graces which are shed forth abundantly in the Hearts of Beleevers, but in respect of the visible order that is exercised amongst them for the Reiglement of the Churches, which makes them Beautifull in the eyes of Christ, & Terrible as an Army with Banners to Antichrist & his Adhærents And this I shall constantly affirme till I heare particularly what it is that is wanting in them which makes them so Imperfect as you proclaime them to bee. For my part I thinke (& I haue good reason for my Supposall), that the Condition of the Church in Generall may bee somewhat alike to that of euery particular Beleeuer, viz Perfect, though accompanyed with much Imperfection; you haue heard I know of the Perfection of Parts, & the Perfection of Degrees in reference to the Saints, & that there are Perfecti Viatores & Perfecti Possessores, In like manner there may bee a Perfection in the Churches of Christ, in the premised Modifications, pro Huiusce Status Modulo seu Capacitate that may entitule them to that Honour of being the Spouse of Christ here on Earth: In which respect I may with Safetie affirme that they haue receiued the Fauour already in some measure to bee Arrayed in fine Linnen Cleane & White, which is the Righteousnes of Saints & that they are the Bride abiding in the Wildernes, where Christ like a Faithfull & tender Husband hath a Special Care shee shall bee Fed & Cherished Yea if you Consider the Church euen in the Times of the Apostles when shee was [several words and an insertion deleted] in [her?] ([Greek: Akme]) the Height of her Health yet euen <then> you will find many Failings, and if those particular Imperfections did not cast such a Blemish vpon the Churches then, but that euen the Apostles could discerne a Perfection in them, Why should any Man now whatsoeuer hee bee take so much vpon him, as to pronounce (Tanquam ex Cathedrâ) such a Dictatoriall Censure ouer all the Churches of Christ in these times as this, That there is not any Perfection in any of them?[underlining in pencil] Surely if this bee to bee subscribed vnto, wee haue another Way to escape from the Nationall Couenant more then as yet [left margin, in pencil: X] hath bene thought vpon, When wee bound our Selues so Solemnely with hands lifted vp vnto the high God to endeauour the Reformation of Religion in the Kingdomes of England and Ireland in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline & Gouernment according to the Example of the best Reformed Churches Wee did not then Sweare to the Lord in <Truth and> Iudgment, for there was nothing in those Churches Worthy of Imitation, the Couenant therefore not Binding in that particular: But Caue sis say I to my Soule, and I beseech you (Sir) bee you well aduised of what you haue written.
Neuerthelesse I doe withall acknowledge a Perfection is yet to come, which for the present is wanting in the Churches, yet not such, but that they may euen in respect of theire Visible estate bee owned by all the Children of the Bridechamber as the Spouse of Christ. In some things I conceiue the Churches excellencie to bee greater in the Times to come, then it is at present, as namely In the performance of Promises, & in the accomplishment of Prophecyes that relate vnto the last Times. The visible Kingdome <of Christ> shall doubtles bee extended beyond the present Bounds; Knowledge shall couer the Earth more plentifully, euen as the Waters couer the Seas, The Doues shall Fly more Cheerefully to their Windowes, & the Oliue=Branches shall empty the golden Oile out of themselues more abundantly because the Time is short; As Satan hath great Wrath, & makes haste because his Time is not long so Christ will make a Short Worke in Gathering together his Elect, for his Comming draweth nigh The fulfilling also of the Prophecies in Daniel, the Reuelation & other places of Scripture concerning the Downefall of Antichrist, & the Calling of the Iewes will adde much to the Splendour & Beauty of the Church in the last Times: So that herein I confesse wee or our Posteritie shall bee more Happy then those that haue bene before vs. But as for any other Visible Perfection, the want whereof should so farre prouoke the Lord Iesus Christ, as to pronounce Lo-ammi against his Churches, I know none, If you doe, I desire you to impart it vnto mee.
I know there is too great a Failing in the Vigorous Exercise of Church=Discipline in many places and this it may bee you charge vpon the Churches as a Laodicean Temper ouerspreading all (For as for the Inuisible State of the present Churches you highly extoll it accounting it in your Letter as I remember to bee beyond all Paralell) which if you doe, I shall not herein much differ from you; But withall when I consider that Christ is now Chiding & Chastning his Churches euery where, it is a certaine Argument to mee of his Loue vnto them, and though their Visible Estates may because of their Failings bee for a while Defectiue, yet seing that in respect of their Inuisible State they are as you seeme to imply still Amiable in the Eyes of Christ, it is not likely that hee will Cast them out of his Fauour, & call vnto him another People which shall bee made ready for the Marriage Supper of the Lambe
Moreouer I cannot but obserue a Strange Incongruitie in these Words of yours When you say, that the Bride is to bee expelled from Heauen, & yet withall Speake often [left margin, in pencil: X] of an Expectation of her comming out of the Wildernes, Both which as it is euident you make to bee one & the same future Estate of the Church before the End Commeth; But how these can [left margin, in pencil: X] bee reconciled, I cannot tell; if there were any such thing as the Brides comming out of the Wildernes to bee found. As for the first it is most Certaine that the Church shall come from God out of Heauen, prepared as a Bride adorned for her Husband, but then her Glory shall bee another manner Glory, then that shee was Vested with before, For then shee shall haue the Glory of God vpon her Reu: 21. 11. Whereas before shee is onely described to bee clothed with the Sunne etc. Reu: 12. 1. But as for that of her comming out of the Wildernes which you so often write of in your Discourse, I find not any mention at all of any such matter throughout the Reuelation. I read indeed of the Womans Flying into the Wildernes & that shee should bee confined there for a certaine Time, but nothing at all of her [left margin, in pencil X] comming forth, Neither doe I thinke that shee euer shall;[underlining in pencil] But that when the Time of her Confinement is expired, her Dwelling shall then extend againe to her antient Habitation, without any Relinquishing of her present Possession: For if I may by comparing Scripture with Scripture giue my Iudgment concerning the Sense of that place I would rather vnderstand thereby the Extrusion of the Apostolicall Church from the Nation of the Iewes; & her Enlargement amongst the Gentiles, then to say
to with him whom you doe so much Condemne, that you <I> expect her Comming out of the Wildernes of Desolation & Confusion which expression of Desolation & Confusion cannot but fill the hearts of Gods people with Horror & amazement;[underlining in pencil] Neither is that Word of the Churches comming out of the Wildernes warrantable by the Word of God, vnlesse you will fasten vpon some places in the Canticles, which haue no [left margin, in pencil: X] reference at all to your present purpose. In many places of Scripture wee find sweet promises of Gods mercy towards the Gentiles euen vnder that Notion of a Wildernes, but especially in the prophecy of Isaiah (vti patet) es: 32. 16./ 35. 1. 2. 6./ 41. 18. 19./ 42. 10. 11./ 43. 19. 20. etc. etc. etc. Which for Breuities sake I onely quote vnto you.
And to conclude, in that 12th of the Reuelation where mention is made of the Womans Flying into the Wildernes shee is said there to haue a place proper & peculiar vnto her, & that there They should feed & Nourish her; So that the Inference howsoeuer
will <would> necessarily rise <there hence> past all contradiction, that it cannot bee vnderstood of the Wildernes of Desolation & Confusion
I had thought to haue written somewhat more, but that my Writing <hath> swelled into too much prolixitie already, & how this that I haue written may bee resented by you I know not Howsoeuer take it from him who preferres the Publicke Good of the Catholicke Church before your priuate Freindship, yea before his own Welfare. Yet notwithstanding I doe subscribe my Selfe
The Churches Seruant & your Faithfull Freind
Iun: 10th anno 1651./ Edward Lane
To the Reuerend Mr Iohn Dury
bee these presented.
<another hand: Lane to> Durie
[Dury:] Mr Lane 1651