A TRUE DISCOVERY OF THE NATURE AND GROUND OF THE RELIGION AND KINGDOM OF CHRIST
SEVERAL WEIGHTY QUERIES PROPOUNDED; AND OTHER SERIOUS MATTERS TREATED OF, HIGHLY IMPORTING THE ETERNAL SALVATION OF SOULS
IN THE TIME OF HIS IMPRISONMENT IN READING JAIL
[1671. Published posthumously]
THE Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Oh, blessed is he, who meets with that which powerfully saves! Most men's religion is but a talk and profession of that which they have not; and what will such a kind of religion avail, when it comes to be tried by the piercing fire of the Spirit of burning, and pure (impartial) judgment. Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor <51> uncircumcision, but a new creature. Alas, how few know that! And yet if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things become new there. Who can bear the decision of this trial? For many pretend to be in Christ, and yet they themselves are still in the old nature and spirit. "Be not deceived," saith the apostle, "God is not mocked." Alas, how many are deceived about their religion! Indeed it is impossible for a man not to be deceived, who knoweth not the anointing, nor is taught his religion by the anointing. He is truth and no lie, and he teacheth truth and no lie; but men's apprehensions and conceivings upon the Holy Scriptures and mysteries of God's kingdom are but like themselves, empty and vain. Oh that men could see with the true eye, hear with the true ear, understand with the true heart! Then might they know indeed, and come to witness the Ethiopian skin washed, and the leopard spots changed; but till then, they may change from one opinion to another, and from one profession and way of religion to another, and yet in nature, spirit, mind, and heart, yea, and in conversation also (as to the substance thereof), remain still one and the same. And what will become of men, whose hope is in their religion, in their knowledge of Christ, in their faith, in their worship, &c., if all these, when they come to be tried, shall be found wanting of the true nature and virtue, and condemned by the Lord for dead and dry! Oh, that men knew what should be yoked down, what should be turned from and denied, how gloriously and takingly soever it appears! "All flesh is grass;" all fleshly knowledge and religion must pass away. That which the earthly man can comprehend in his understanding, is but the outward, the fleshly part of religion; the spiritual knowledge, the living knowledge, is reserved for and given to the spiritual capacity and understanding, which the children of the Most High receive in the new birth, and holy begetting of life.
Here are some queries, held forth in love to thee, reader, to bring thee into a true sense in many weighty matters. They are not of a confounding (unless it be to that part which is not to know), but of an opening nature; they were sweet to my taste, which (as in God's presence, and by the virtue of his life and Spirit flowing in me) relished the things queried of. I desire <52> they may be profitable to thee also, and that thou mayest witness the guidance of God's Spirit, leading thee into, and giving thee faithfully to walk in, the way that leads to eternal rest. For our days in this world are but for a moment, and then we must be judged, and disposed of by the Lord, for ever; each person according to the nature and spirit he is of, "and according to the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or evil." The Lord give thee so to consider thy ways, that thou mayst apply thy heart to true wisdom; which consists in fearing of God, and departing from evil; which the least child, that is taught of God, learns; and those that are grown up in holiness and righteousness, are skilful and perfect in; so that they cannot do any thing against the truth, but in and for the truth.
There are also questions answered; one about preaching the gospel after the apostasy, another about the reason of God's not teaching others what it pleaseth him to teach us; and the way of his teaching us. There is likewise somewhat concerning the threefold appearance of Christ, and touching Mount Sinai, from whence the law of the letter was given; and Mount Zion, from whence the law of the Spirit goes forth; as likewise concerning the temple and sacrifice under the gospel, and of the way to know one's election, and to obtain full assurance thereof, &c. All these sprang from life in my heart, for thy sake who breathest after the Lord, and after his pure way and holy path of life, and who readest in humility, fear, and uprightness; and my prayers to the God of my life go along with them, that thy heart may be opened by him, in the reading of them, and that thou mayest have the sense of them in the shinings of his light in thine own heart, whose work it is to cause it to shine out of the darkness; that his glorious gospel may not be hid from the sons of men; but, through the virtue, power, and operation of the Spirit of truth (which first convinceth of sin, and then leadeth out of it, into that which is pure and holy) they may come to be acquainted with the mystery of life, which hath been hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifest to God's children and sanctified ones; which being made manifest to them, is revealed and known to be Christ in them, the hope of glory. The Lord grant thou mayest know and experience him to be so to thee and in thee. Amen.
It is a great matter to receive an understanding from the Lord; which until a man doth, his knowledge is neither true, living, nor saving.
Now, he that would receive an understanding from the Lord, must wait to know the beginnings of the new and holy understanding; and what that understanding and knowledge is, which stands in the way thereof, and how to part therewith: and then he must faithfully lose and part with it for the other; which is pure, true, and heavenly.
And when a man hath received an understanding from the Lord, then he may weigh, consider, and come to know things aright: but till then, deceit will lodge in his heart, and have power over him; and his very wisdom and knowledge will pervert him, and turn him aside from the way of life and truth. The wise professing Jews were hindered from owning the Messiah, by the very knowledge which they had gathered and comprehended out of the letter of the Scriptures.
But if a man hath received an understanding from the Lord in measure, yet it is a hard matter to keep that understanding; and he must lie very low and humble, who so doth. Oh, what a continual watch hath my soul had (and still hath) against that part wherein my religion formerly stood! For though the Lord had reached to the pure seed of life in me, and had quickened my soul thereby; yet I knew not how to turn to the seed, and abide in the seed, and to hold my knowledge and life there; but was still striving to live and know (and comprehend and practise) in a part above the seed; and there the enemy was still too hard for me, and did <54> often deprive me of the benefit or right use of what the Lord had wrought in me, and freely bestowed upon me.
Alas, who can understand this voice! Surely it is very hard for any so to do, but such who have had some sensible and lively experience thereof in themselves; but for want of this knowledge, sense, and experience, many are deeply deceived concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and the state of their own souls, concerning faith in him, love to him, pardon of sin, and justification in and through him; regeneration and sanctification by his Spirit; and concerning walking in the way of holiness, and obeying his commands; and so err in heart exceedingly (both in doctrine and practice) concerning the weighty things which appertain to salvation.
Now, I having erred in time past in my former professions, and been deeply perplexed and distressed, through my erring from the holy seed, Spirit, and power of life; bear with me! bear with me! yea, I say again, bear with me, if I pity others, and sincerely desire that their eyes may be opened to see the pure, living, holy, undefiled way, in which no defiled spirit can walk; but a man must be truly made alive, and truly cleansed in mind and spirit, before he can walk in this way. Now, if we experimentally, most tenderly, and in true love, witness, from the God of life and salvation, where the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the cleansing of his blood and Spirit is met with, and that according to the plain testimony of the Scriptures, why are ye offended with us for our love, and for telling you the truth, as the Lord hath opened our eyes, and taught us to see and read it in the Scriptures of truth, and as we have experimentally found it in Jesus?
Well! the Lord knoweth how we are many times mourning and praying for you, while ye are reviling and backbiting us; for we know the way and course of that spirit wherein ye oppose us. And, oh that ye yourselves also did know what spirit it is, which thus acts you! For then, surely, ye would confess it to be the very same which opposed Christ in the days of his flesh, having only a different cover and way of appearance; that, crying him up as to come; this, as already come; but both denying him who is the Messiah. For in that ye deny his Spirit, life, appearance, and power in the least of his, ye deny him. Oh that ye could <55> feel the tender bowels, truth of heart, and true understanding from God's Holy Spirit, wherein this is written! Oh that ye could rightly distinguish between the precious and the vile; and not call that vile, which in God's sight is precious; nor that precious, which in God's sight is vile. Ye must feel the holy seed, the living of God, judge in you; and ye judge only in that, or ye will err in judging according to the appearance, and not judge the righteous judgment.
Query 1. WAS not the church exceeding beautiful, and in heavenly glory, in the days of the apostles? Did she only travail after life and glory? Did she not also bring forth? Did she not witness the kingdom come, the power come, the eternal life come? And did she not partake thereof, and dwell therein? Was she not a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and crowned with a crown of twelve stars? Yea, did she not bring forth the man-child, which was to rule all nations with a rod of iron? Who can read this state, who is not in some measure a partaker of the same glory?
Query 2. Was not this heaven afterwards wrapped up, rolled up; and did not this glory pass away? Did not the great red dragon fight with the woman? And did she not fly into the wilderness, and was not the man-child caught up to God? And did not the remnant of her seed (who had the testimony of Jesus, and who kept his commandments) testify and prophesy in sackcloth? Read the 11th and 12th chapters of the Revelations.
Query 3. Upon the flight of the true church into the wilderness (when she was thus gone out of sight) did not the false church start up; which made a glorious and taking appearance in the world, to the eye of man's wisdom? Did not she sit upon a scarlet-colored beast (wise and strong) having seven heads, and ten horns? Was she not arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and <56> decked with gold and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, making the kings, nations, and inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication? What do those things mean? What did the wisdom of God thus describe her for?
Query 4. What did the true church carry into the wilderness with her, and what did she leave behind her? Did not the temple, the altar, and the true worshippers go along with her? Did not the Gentiles, such as were not true Jews, such as could not come into the temple (but only into the outward court, and worship there), did not these stay behind? And had not these Gentiles henceforth (from the true church's flight into the wilderness) the outward court given to them, that they might make use of it, and worship in it, as much as they would? The virtue, the life, the power, the Spirit, being taken away, and removed with the true church, which fled into the wilderness, what did God regard the outward? "Leave it out of my measure," saith the Lord, "and give it to the Gentiles." Rev. 11:2.
Query 5. What is the cup, the golden cup, which this false church hath in her hand, wherein are sorceries and witchcrafts, wherewith she bewitcheth people, and maketh them drunk? Is it not a glorious appearance of things without the true life and power? doctrines concerning God, doctrines concerning Christ, doctrines concerning worship, doctrines concerning sanctity, &c? Yea, but the Spirit, the life, the power, that was in the apostles' days, is wanting. What remains of these is to be found with the true church in the wilderness (the blood of whose seed she drinks), not with her.
Query 6. What will become of this great woman in the end; this rich, this glorious church? Shall she continue for ever? Shall she sit as a queen for ever, and never see sorrow? Shall the true church never come out of the wilderness, to be restored to her beauty and glory again? Nay, nay; in one day shall her plagues come, -- death and mourning and famine. It is true, she is wise and strong (and the beast also, on which she sits and rides, who is able to make war with? saith man's wisdom); but wiser and stronger is the Lord God Almighty, who judgeth her, and who is taking and will take to him his great power, wherewith he will thunder against her, until he hath brought her down, <57> and her flesh be utterly burnt with fire.
Query 7. What shall become of those who drink of her cup, and who believe and worship as she teacheth? Shall they not all drink of the wine of the cup of the wrath of God Almighty, poured out without mixture? Shall they not partake of her dreadful plagues, in the hour of her judgment? Read Rev. 14:9-11 and chap. 18. For these things are to come to pass as certainly as they were foretold; and when they do come to pass, blessed shall the saints be who have suffered with patience, keeping the commandments and the faith of Jesus; and woe will be to them who have persecuted them, and drunk their blood. Read the 13th, 14th, 17th, and 19th chapters of the Revelations, which signify of and testify to these things.
Now, whereas many say, that the book of the Revelations is such a mystical book that it is not to be understood; to what end then was it written? It was the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass, chap. 1:1. and would Christ give them forth in such words as could not be understood? Again, it is said, ver. 3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand. How can any be blessed in reading, or how can any keep what is written therein, without understanding the things contained in it? How can any follow the true church into the wilderness, or avoid being taken with the golden cup of fornications of the false church, or refuse the mark of the beast (that he take it neither on his forehead nor hand, nor have the name of the beast upon him, nor so much as the number of his name), unless he truly and rightly understand these warnings and descriptions of the Holy Spirit of God, given forth in the book, to preserve in the way of truth, in the way of life (though through great sufferings and tribulations), out of the way of spiritual whoredom and death? For mystical Babylon, the nations of the earth and great ones (generally) commit fornication with. Rev. 17:2 and 18:3. Indeed this book is a mystery to man's wisdom; for it was not given to the wisdom of this world, but is hid from that; but God gave it to Christ to give to his servants; and it is not a mystery (but opened and revealed by the Father's Spirit) to the children of the <58> true wisdom, who are instructed and taught of God to escape the bed of whoredom and spiritual fornication, which the earthly wisdom (in the wisest men of this world) is entangled in.
Query 1. DID not God command Moses to make a covenant with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant he made with them in Horeb? Deut. 29:1.
Query 2. What was this covenant? Was it of the same nature with the former, or was it of a different nature? Was not the former the covenant of the law? And was not this the covenant of the gospel? Did not this covenant contain the promise of circumcising the heart? Deut. 30:6. Whereas, under the other covenant, notwithstanding all the temptations, signs, and miracles which they had seen in Egypt, and in the wilderness, about the space of forty years; yet the Lord had not given them a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto that day. But Moses and Aaron, with Caleb and Joshua, who knew and partook of the other covenant, they were of a better spirit, and understood the leadings and commands of God, and followed after him.
Query 3. Had the Jews minded this covenant, might they not have been able to keep the other also? Did any fail in sacrifices, or outward obedience of the law, who kept to this covenant? What a holy man was Samuel, who did not so much as err in government, but could plead with the people, Whose ox or ass have I taken, or whom have I defrauded or oppressed? Zacharias, and Elizabeth his wife, walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And so the children of God in the gospel, who have a new heart, and a new spirit, and walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit and law of life in Christ Jesus, they also fulfil the righteousness of the law declared in the letter. Rom. 8:4.
Query 4. What is the commandment of this covenant, and where is it written? The commandments of the other covenant are written in the law of Moses, and in tables of stone; but where is this commandment written, or where is it to be found? Is it in heaven above, to be fetched down from thence; or is it <59> beyond the sea, &c? Nay, is it not very nigh? Is not the Word of this commandment nigh in the mouth and in the heart? And is it not there placed by the Lord for this very end, that men might hear it and do it?
Query 5. Was not this the Word of commandment of life and good, or of death and evil to the Jews? See chap 30:14-15. And is it not so also to mankind? He that hears and obeys the Word of this commandment, doth he not live and partake of good? He that disobeys it, doth he not die, and undergo wrath and evil, tribulation and anguish upon his soul from the hand of the Lord, either poured out upon him at present, or treasured up for him against hereafter? Read Rom. 2:5-6, &c.
Query 6. Was not this other covenant, this second covenant, this new covenant, which God bid Moses make with them then, the same which God makes with believers in the days of the gospel? The old covenant had been made with the Jews before; was not this the new? They had had the law in the letter before, wherein the commandment was afar off; but is not the commandment of the new covenant (the law of the Spirit of life) nigh? And had not the people of the Jews the Spirit of the Lord nigh to instruct them, by virtue of this covenant? That they had so, is plain, Nehem. 9:20. and Isa. 63:10; but whether they had the Spirit nigh to them by virtue of the old covenant, or by virtue of the new (which Moses was appointed by God to make with them, as is afore expressed), let the wise in heart consider. And whether the tender mercies which God all along expressed to them (as is mentioned Isa. 63:7) were by virtue of that covenant wherein God had continual advantages and provocations against them, or by virtue of this covenant, from which mercy and redemption is continually springing freely towards the Israel of God?
Query 7. Whether the Word of faith which the apostles preached, was not the same Word nigh in the mouth and heart which Moses preached? Is not the Word of life, the Word of faith, the Word of the new covenant, one and the same thing in all ages and generations? Indeed there are outward sayings and testimonies after divers manners; but Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And the commandment of life in the mouth and heart changeth not, but is always one and the same.
<60> Query 8. What is the justification under this covenant; or what is that which God hath an eye to in justifying any person here? Is it not the obedience of faith? What doth God condemn but unbelief? And will he not justify faith? For faith flows from life, and life from Christ. So that, indeed, here the holy root makes all that are of it holy, and the righteous root makes all that are of it righteous; and he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 1 John 3:7. And Christ is here, indeed, made unto the soul that thus receives him and obeys him as the Word and commandment of life, -- I say, he is, indeed, made unto such a one of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and blessed are they that do not mistake about this, but come truly to witness it.
Query 1. WHETHER there be not somewhat which destroys, which hath the nature of death and destruction in it, and which leaveneth with death and destruction, as it is let in and received?
Query 2. Whether there be not somewhat also which saves, which hath the nature of life and salvation in it, and which leaveneth with life and salvation, as it is let in and received?
Query 3. Whether that which destroys be not near, and whether that which saves be not near also? (Doth not Christ stand at the door and knock? And may not he be heard and let in? See Rev. 3:20.)
Query 4. Whether this, which is so near, and so able to save, was not that which saved in all ages and generations, even before Christ appeared in a body of flesh, and the shedding his blood?
Query 5. Whether, after Christ appeared in a body of flesh, and shedding his blood, any can be saved thereby, or by any believing on Christ whatsoever, without letting in or receiving that life and power which saves? Be not deceived; God is not mocked. He that believeth in the power which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and is subject to the power, shall be redeemed and saved thereby. For death came by the soul's separation from the power which gave life, and Christ saves by bringing to the power again; so that he that would indeed be saved by Christ, must believe in God through him, and feel the <61> power which redeems. But let a man believe ever so much concerning God and Christ, until he feel this, and be changed by the virtue and operation of this, he cannot be saved, but is still in his sins, and under condemnation and wrath, because of sin, whatever he thinks of himself.
Query 6. Whether Christ was not the same yesterday, today, and for ever; even before he took up the body of flesh, while he was in the body, after he laid down the body, and after he took it up again and appeared in it to his disciples?
Query 7. Whether Christ, where he inwardly and spiritually appears and is received, doth not discover, shake, dissettle, and remove that nature which cannot receive the law, and so bring up and bring forth the heavenly seed, which was afore the law (which is appointed by God for a generation to himself), which always doth the will of him who quickens it, and who fills it with life and power from on high?
Query 1. WHETHER there be not a mystery of light, a mystery of life; somewhat of a true light hidden, somewhat of true life hidden in the Gentiles? Whatsoever makes manifest, is light, saith the apostle. Ephes. 5:13-14. And that which may be known of God, is manifest in them. Rom. 1. Is there not somewhat in the Gentiles, which in some measure discovers somewhat contrary to God in them, and is many times working in their minds against it? Is not this of a precious nature? and hath it not precious virtue and power in it, though it be little took notice of by them?
Query 2. Do not the saints know what this mystery is? Do they not know what is the riches and glory of it? Indeed it hath been hid from ages and generations, so that they knew it not; but is it hid from the saints also in the day of the gospel? is it not revealed in them and to them?
Query 3. What is this mystery in them in whom it is revealed? Is it not Christ in them? Is it not the hope of glory in them? Do <62> they not know it to be Christ? Do they not know it to be the hope of glory? Who can damp the faith, or darken the knowledge, of those who feel the mystery of life revealed in them? who feel Christ (the hope of glory) living, dwelling, and reigning in the authority and power of the Father, in their own hearts?
Query 4. Did not the apostles preach this mystery? Did they not preach the word of faith within in the heart? the kingdom within? Christ, the hope of glory, within? Did they not preach this message of the gospel (which they had from Christ to carry to men), that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all"? And did they not preach it to this very end, to turn men, and bring men from the darkness within to the light within, that in it they might have union and fellowship with God, who is light? Can any have fellowship with God, who is light, but as his spirit is brought out of the inward darkness into the inward light?
Query 5. What did the apostle Paul, and the other apostles aim at, in their warning men, and teaching them in all wisdom? Was it not to perfect the work of God in them, and that they might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus?
Query 6. Did not the grace and power of God go along with the apostles, and work in them mightily to this end, even for the perfecting the saints? And the grace and power of God, working mightily against sin and the power of Satan, is it not able to conquer Satan, and to make him fall like lightning, and to trample him under feet? Consider ver. 29 and 2 Thess. 1:11-12.
Query 7. Did the apostles ever preach such a doctrine, that no man could be perfected in this life; but man must always (every day) be committing sin? Nay, did they not speak wisdom among them that were perfect, and say, Let as many of us as be perfect, be thus minded? Did they not distinguish between the weak, and between the strong and perfect? Do they not speak of some that had overcome the wicked one, and were born of God, and did not sin? It is a precious thing to feel the power of God regenerating the mind; but it is much more precious to witness it regenerated. But that state none know but they that are in it; but this is most certain, that sin is shut out of it, and that all things are new there.
Query 8. Will the mystery of life, where it is received and <63> turned to, ever cease working against the mystery of death, until it hath wrought it out of the mind? Shall judgment never be brought forth unto victory over sin in the heart? Shall there never be pure and full communion with the Lord here in this world, without the interruption of sin? "These things," saith John, "I write to you, that your joy may be full." Shall the joy never be full in any? How can the joy be full, where sin hath power, and breaks in upon the soul, and prevaileth upon the mind, even to the committing of it daily? The soul that is weary of sin, and grieved at its grieving God's Spirit thereby, can never come to full union and fellowship with the Lord, nor to have its joy full, while it doth that which grieves God's Spirit; for it is impossible but it should grieve the soul also, and weaken its joy and rejoicing in the Lord.
Query 1. Is not the way of life, the way of holiness, the way of truth, the way of peace, one and the same in all ages and generations? Was there ever, or shall there ever be another than that which was from the beginning?
Query 2. Is not this way a pure way, a clean way? Can any impure thing walk in it? Is not the gate strait, and the way narrow, that leadeth unto life? Is it easy finding it, or is it easy entering into it, and walking in it? Doth not the corruption and unholiness of the hearts of many, hinder them from walking in the holy way of life and peace?
Query 3. Is not this way a mystery? Can any learn it, but those whose eyes are opened by the Lord, and to whom the mystery is revealed by him? Can any discern or understand it, but the children of the pure, heavenly wisdom, whom the Lord teacheth, and whose eyes he openeth, to see and justify it in every age?
Query 4. Is not the whole vision of God, the whole vision of life, the whole vision of peace, a book sealed to all sorts (both learned and unlearned in every age and generation), but those to whom the Lord unseals it?
Query 5. May not such as are not at all acquainted with the mystery of godliness, the mystery of life, the mystery of redemption, <64> read what the Scriptures say concerning these things, and get a great deal of knowledge, from the letter of the Scriptures, into their minds, and be able to raise doctrines, reasons, uses, &c., and back all by scriptures very plentifully? But are not those who teach not from the mystery of life, and gift of the Spirit, but only what they have gathered and formed from the letter, -- I say, are not such blind leaders of the blind? and is it possible but that they themselves, and such as follow them, should fall into the ditch? For it is only the mystery of life and redemption (not a literal knowledge and wisdom, though with an endeavor to practise according thereto) which preserves out of the ditch. Oh that this were duly considered of! for it is tenderly and weightily proposed.
Query 6. What is the knowledge of Christ which saves? Is it a knowledge of him after the letter, or a knowledge of him in the Spirit and power of the endless life? Can he be known truly, livingly, and savingly, without the Father's revealing him in man? Or can any truly call him Lord, but they that are first taught by the Father to discern his spiritual and heavenly glory, and to receive him and bow to him in Spirit?
Query 7. What is it to kiss the Son? Can any do so, but those who discern and receive the light of his Spirit?
Query 8. Can any truly know the Father, unless the Son reveal him? or can any know the Son, unless the Father reveal him? I know men may get notions out of the Scriptures concerning God the Father and his Son; but can they get true knowledge of either without the inspiration of the Almighty, which giveth understanding?
Query 9. Can any person fear God, and depart from evil, anywhere upon the face of the earth, without some visit of the Lord Jesus Christ to his soul, and without receiving somewhat of life and power from him? He is the wisdom of God, he can teach this; but can any else teach it? If none else can teach it, then he that learned it must needs learn it of him. Is not this, to wit, to fear God, and depart from evil, the path of wisdom, which is hid from all living, but such as are taught by Christ, who is the wisdom of God? Read Job 28:12. to the end of the chapter, and consider. For doth not the Spirit of Christ, which convinceth of sin, reach to all men, and minister to all men, <65> inwardly and spiritually, in some days of instruction about fearing God, and departing from evil?
Query 10. Can any be acquainted with the fear of God, and be sensible of the hour of his judgment, and give glory to him, and worship him, but they must know and receive the everlasting gospel? They that are sent to preach this after the apostasy, are they not sent to preach it as the everlasting gospel? Read Rev. 14:6-7. and consider. For come to life and power in any doctrine, which Christ sends his messengers to preach towards the salvation of men's souls, a man comes to the gospel presently; but read and assent to, and practise all the things, as well as men can, related in the Scriptures, without the life and power, and so acknowledge and believe all that is said concerning Christ; yet for all this, and in the midst of all this, a man may miss of the gospel; for the gospel is a hidden mystery of the life and power, see Col. 1:26-27.
Query 11. Is not the message of the gospel, That God is light, and in him is no darkness at all? Doth not the Spirit of Christ preach this, more or less, to all people under heaven? Yea, is not the gospel preached in every creature, and hid in those that are lost, whom the god of this world hath blinded? For is not the spirit of God, in some measure, everywhere convincing men of sin, and drawing them out of darkness into the sense and obedience of light? And will not this be the general and universal condemnation of the world, that they did not bring their deeds to the light, but turned from it and hated it, loving the darkness more than it, because their deeds were evil, and they had not a mind to part with them, but to remain and abide in them?
Alas! alas! men should pass through the knowledge of things after the letter, into the knowledge of things after the Spirit and power of the endless life; but instead thereof, men stick in their apprehensions of the letter: and if any man be taught of God, and have the things of his kingdom, and the mystery of the Scriptures, revealed to him in the Spirit, and so signify of them in the words which God's wisdom teacheth; yet so, men know them not, but oppose and resist the ministration of life and power in their day and generation! And this will be bitterness in the latter end, even as bitter to the professors of this age, as the former denying of Christ's appearance in the flesh was to the professors of that age.
Query 1. Is there not a new covenant under the gospel, as well as there was an old covenant under the law?
Query 2. What did the old covenant require? Did it not require obedience to the law of Moses? What doth the new covenant require? Doth it not require faith in Christ, and obedience to his Spirit? Doth it not require faith in the grace, and obedience to the grace which bringeth salvation, teaching to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, &c.?
Query 3. What is the righteousness or justification in the old covenant? What doth God justify in the old covenant? Doth he not justify the obedience thereto, and condemn all disobedience? What is the righteousness or justification of the new covenant? What doth God justify in men under the new covenant? Doth he not justify their faith in Christ, and their obedience to the law of his Spirit? Is not whatsoever is not of faith sin, and condemned; and whatsoever is of faith holy, and justified?
Query 4. What is faith? Is it not the gift of God? What is obedience? Doth it not flow from faith? Is it not performed by the power and in the newness of the Spirit? and is not that justifiable, and always justified in the sight of God? Doth it not spring from the new tree, from the holy root of life in the heart? And whatsoever springs therefrom, is it not holy and righteous? And is not whatsoever is truly holy and righteous justified and accounted righteous by the holy and righteous God?
Query 5. To what end was Christ made under the law, and did fulfil the righteousness of the law? Was it not that he might accomplish and fulfil that righteousness, and so make way for the bringing in of the everlasting righteousness, even of the righteousness of his own nature and Spirit, which is everlasting? Is not this the righteousness which the children of the new covenant experience in the new and living way? Is not this far beyond the righteousness of the law, if they could fulfil it ever so exactly from the letter? For I feel a vast difference between that righteousness which would belong to me from the law, and the righteousness which flows into my heart from the nature and Spirit of Christ revealed in me, and which floweth up in me from my union with him: for this is absolutely a righteousness of <67> another nature, of another kind, of another root.
Query 6. If Christ's fulfilling the law of Moses, the law of the first covenant, were imputed to us as our righteousness, and we justified in the sight of God thereby, were not then our righteousness the righteousness of the first covenant in nature, and our justification a justification by the righteousness of the first covenant? For Christ was made under the law, made under the first covenant, and fulfilled the righteousness of the first covenant; so that if that be imputed to us for righteousness, then the righteousness of the first covenant is imputed to us for righteousness, and is our righteousness.
Query 7. Was not faith imputed to Abraham for righteousness? What was his righteousness? Was it not the faith which he had from Christ, whereby and wherewith he believed God? Is not faith of the nature of Christ? Is not true faith justified for ever, and doth it not justify him in whom it is found? And doth not gospel obedience flow from faith? and hath it not of the nature of faith in it? Oh, how pure and precious was it in the eye of God, that Abraham reasoned not, consulted not with flesh and blood, but retired into faith in the pure power! "He believed God," say the Scriptures, "and it was accounted to him for righteousness:" and shall it not be imputed to us also, if we have the same faith, and believe in the same power?
Query 1. WHETHER they that have received the Spirit of grace, and are under the Spirit of grace; I say, whether they are under the law also, or witness freedom therefrom?
Query 2. What is the law? Is it not a ministration of death, of bondage, of condemnation? What is the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of grace? Is it not a Spirit of life, a Spirit of liberty, a Spirit that frees from bondage? They that have received it, and are in subjection to it, do they not partake of its liberty, and through it come into dominion over sin and death?
Query 3. Is the law to the righteous or the unrighteous? Whom was it made for? He that cometh into the holy and righteous nature of the seed, doth he not come from under the <68> law? Doth he not come into the nature, state, and spirit, which is free from the law?
Query 4. What is it to come through the law into the liberty and redemption of sons? What is it to know the seed free in the particular, and to come into the freedom of the seed? Doth not the Son make free, the Truth of God make free, all that come to it, and dwell in it? and are not they that are made free by it, free indeed? O Zion! thy children are all free-born! Jerusalem, which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all; and she bringeth forth none but free children. They that dwell in the height of notion, they are not free; but they that dwell in the power of life, know that which makes free, and witness freedom by it.
Query 1. IS thy spirit, heart, mind, soul, and body, a temple for God to dwell in? Who dwells in thy heart? Doth the Holy Spirit, or the unclean spirit? Is that dislodged and purged out of thee, with which God will not dwell? Is that discovered and taken away, in which the wicked one dwelleth? O Jerusalem! wash thine heart from wickedness; how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee! O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be? Is not forbearing to touch every unclean thing, and cleansing from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, more necessary to the state of a son and daughter of the Most High than most people are aware of? Read 2 Cor. 6:16-17 and chap. 7:1.
Query 2. Is Christ revealed in thee? Doth God dwell anywhere, in any heart, but where Christ is, but where he is inwardly and spiritually revealed? "Know ye not that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" And can any know Christ in them, who hath not had him revealed there by the Father? Almost all sorts of pretenders to Christ own him as spoken of without; but the true Christian witnesseth him revealed within: for it pleaseth the Father to reveal the Son in such; and none can be truly ingrafted into Christ, but as Christ is in some measure made manifest within.
<69> Query 3. How dost thou confess Jesus to be the Lord? Is it by notions from the letter, or by feeling his Spirit and power revealed within, and thy heart made subject to his Spirit and power inwardly revealed? For there is a confessing Christ in and by the Spirit, and a confessing him without the Spirit, according as men can read, conceived, and apprehend of him from the letter. Consider which of these thine is.
Query 4. Art thou come out of the apostasy and spirit of darkness, into the light and Spirit of Christ? What was the apostasy from? Was it not from the Spirit, from the anointing? Wherein did it consist? Did it consist in holding a knowledge of Christ, and form of godliness out of the power? Art thou returned to the anointing, -- to the Holy Spirit of the Father? Hast thou received it? Dost thou live and walk in it, and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh?
Query 5. Dost thou know the tree of righteousness, and the tree of unrighteousness, inwardly? Hast thou felt the axe laid to the root of the corrupt tree, and it cut down; and the holy plant of God (the plant of his renown) planted in thy heart, and bringing forth fruit to him? Can the fruit ever become good in thee till the tree be made good? Can the corrupt tree ever bring forth the holy fruit of righteousness to the Lord? Oh, mind thy growth! I mean, from what thou growest, and from what thy fruit proceedeth: for all the knowledge, faith, love, zeal, practices, &c. which proceed not from the renewed Spirit and nature, are not the good fruit which God calls for and accepts; but the denying the least custom or fashion of this world, from a renewed nature, and from the drawings and teachings of God's Spirit, is good fruit, and accepted by him.
Query 6. Can any be redeemed to God, but by his judgment and righteousness revealed in them? Is the soul redeemed from its enemies, while its enemies remain in strength, and have the dominion over it? Where grace is received, and the soul taught by it and subject to it, doth it not break the dominion of sin? As the spirit of judgment and burning is felt in any heart, doth it not cut down and burn up sin there? And as the righteous Spirit is turned to, is not his righteous nature received, and doth not the holy and righteous seed spring up in the heart? and as it springeth up, doth <70> it not redeem and deliver that which is joined to it? Can any be redeemed by a righteousness at a distance, without partaking of the new, and holy, and righteous image of the Son? And he that is righteous in measure, he may do righteousness: but no man can do righteousness, until he become righteous, by being joined to, changed by, and in some measure brought forth a new plant to God, in the new, righteous, and holy seed. See 1 John 3:7.
Query 7. Do ye indeed know the new covenant? Was it ever inwardly revealed in you? Do ye know the difference between reading the holy directions given forth in the Scriptures, and so getting them into your minds and practicing them as well as you can, -- I say, do ye know the difference between this and God's writing them in your hearts, and causing you to walk in his ways? Do ye know the difference between reading in the letter and in the Spirit; and between walking according to the oldness of the letter, and according to the newness of the Spirit? Oh that ye might not be deceived about these things, but might know the truth as it is in Jesus, and come into fellowship with us therein! For truly our fellowship is with the Father and the Son, in that which changeth not, but is one and the same for ever: yea, the Lord our God hath redeemed us out of all changeable ways, religions, and worships, into the one pure way of life, and into the worship in the one Spirit and truth, which changeth not, but is still what it was, even one and the same before the law of Moses, or writings of the prophets, all the time of the law, while Christ was in the flesh, afterwards when he was revealed in Spirit, and all the time of the apostasy, and after the apostasy, and so for ever.
Quest. WHY doth God after the apostasy send an angel to preach the everlasting gospel, after a manner different from what it was preached before the apostasy? How was it preached before the apostasy? Was it not preached thus, That in Christ alone is remission of sins, and salvation through faith in his blood? How is it to be preached after the apostasy? Is not an angel from God sent to preach it thus: Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him <71> that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters? Is this the same gospel that was preached before? How different is the sound thereof! Surely this would seem not the same, but rather another gospel, to any man who is not taught of God, and hath not received of him the true understanding to observe and discern the nature of things.
Ans. The gospel is the same in substance, though differing in sound and manner of appearance; and they that judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment, experience it to be the same: for whoever receives the gospel thus preached, receives the power of God unto salvation, which goeth along with his fear, and with the hour of judgment, and with the true worship.
And this is the reason why the Lord sends his angel thus to preach it; that he might shut out the birth of the false wisdom, and convey it to the children of the true wisdom. For in the apostasy, the doctrines of the knowledge of Christ had been corrupted, and held in the wrong part; and men had got a wrong knowledge and a dead belief, concerning Christ and his blood, &c.
Therefore to shut out these, God so orders his gospel to be preached, as these cannot understand it, nor know it to be the gospel, nor come into this spiritual ministration of it; but those whom the Lord toucheth, whose hearts he openeth and quickeneth, they (in the demonstration of his Spirit) have the sense and obedience of it: for men had got a form of religion, a form of knowledge, a form of doctrine, a form of worship, out of the power. Therefore the Lord comes with the light of his Spirit, to sever between that which was known and held out of the power, and that which was received and held in the power, and so preached the truth, that none but those that are of the truth can own and receive it.
Had he sent an angel to preach the birth of Christ, the death of Christ, his resurrection, &c., all the dead would receive this; but to preach thus, "Fear God, come to the Spirit of judgment and burning; worship him that made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and fountains of waters;" who can understand what this means? Who can know this to be the everlasting gospel, but he that is taught of God?
<72>This is to preach God the creator, saith the wise professor; this is not to preach Christ the redeemer; this is not to preach the everlasting gospel, will they readily say. Yes; but God who is wise, and knows what the gospel is, and sends his angel to preach it after the apostasy, sends it thus to be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people: read Rev. 14:6-7. and consider seriously, and spurn not against the way of God's preaching his everlasting truth, wherein is wrapped up the eternal salvation and happiness of mankind; yea, more especially of this age, who ought to bow to God in this his way of dispensing his truth, which he himself hath chosen.
Now, consider this one thing; was ever the gospel thus preached before this age? The same gospel was preached from the beginning; but was it ever thus preached before? "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head;" so it was preached to Adam: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed;" so it was preached to Abraham: "To us a child is born, to us a Son is given," &c.; so it was preached in the days of the prophets: "By this man, every one that believeth in his name shall receive remission of sins;" so it was preached in the apostles' days.
And in the reformation from popery, some of the doctrines about free justification by grace, and of remission of sins by faith in Christ, &c. were revived; but was it ever preached thus before our age? Did persons ever come forth in the power and authority of God, bidding men fear him, and be sensible of the hour of his judgment, even of his mighty day which was at hand; and come out of all false ways and worships, into the worship of him who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and fountains of waters, -- I say, did persons ever come forth thus, and preach the everlasting gospel thus, preach these doctrines to men, as the gospel of God, before this day? And let men well consider, whether it be not indeed of God, and by his command and power thus preached; and take heed of opposing his message, lest they be found fighters against him.
For mind: was not this always the sum and substance in every dispensation? Could men be saved by believing that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; or that in Abraham's seed all the families of the earth should be blessed; or that a child <73> should be born, and a Son given; or that through Christ's name, remission of sins was to be had, &c.; without coming into the true fear, which teacheth and causeth to depart from evil; and without giving glory to God, in bowing to his Spirit's instructions and teachings; and without worshipping him, who made heaven and earth, and sea, and fountains of waters? Or could any fear the Lord, and give glory to him, and come under the hour of his judgment, and worship him, who made heaven, and earth, and sea, and fountains of waters; but they must first feel the power of the gospel overcoming their spirits, and leading them thither?
Quest. 1. WHAT is the reason that others cannot learn, nor become subject to, the same spiritual truths, which God makes manifest to us, and subjecteth our spirits to?
Ans. The reason is, because they do not learn the same way that God teacheth us; and so, though they have many advantages above us of parts, learning, &c., and study hard to know much; yet not coming into the right way, wherein God's Spirit teacheth, they never come to learn the truth, as it is there taught.
Quest. 2. But what is the way wherein God teacheth you? may some say.
Ans. Thus God teacheth us, by giving us an understanding to know him that is true, and by opening an ear in us to hear his voice; and so, being kept within the limits of that understanding and ear, we come to hear and know aright.
"Take heed," said Christ, "how ye hear." Oh! the Lord hath made us sensible of the weight of that scripture; and we have often experienced, that it is easy to hear amiss, and read amiss, and pray amiss, and believe amiss, and hope amiss; but hard to do any of these aright. Therefore, we are taught still to wait for the stirring of the waters, for the moving of God's Holy Spirit upon our spirits; and then healing virtue and ability is felt and received from him, to perform what he requires.
Thus, when we read the Scriptures, our eyes are towards him, and we watch against our own understandings, against what <74> they could gather or comprehend of themselves, and wait to feel how he will open our spirits, and what he will make manifest to them, being opened; and if he drop down nothing, we gather nothing; but if he give light, then in his light we see and receive light. So in praying, we wait to feel the birth of life (which is of the Father, and which the Father hears) breathe in us; and so far as the Spirit of the Father breathes upon it, and it breathes to the Father, so far we pray; and when life stops, we stop, and dare not offer up to God any sacrifice of our own, but what the Father prepares and gives us. So in eating and drinking, and whatever we do, our heart is retired to the Lord, and we wait to feel every thing sanctified by his presence and blessing; and, indeed, here every thing is sweet unto us. And in whatever God enables us to do, we narrowly watch to that direction of Christ, "not to let the left hand know what the right hand doeth." For we are nothing of ourselves, nor can do any thing of ourselves; therefore whatever is done in us, as we feel the grace of God, the virtue and power of his life working all in us; so it is still given us to attribute all the honor and glory thereto.
And in this temper of spirit we find nothing too hard for us; for the strength of Christ is still at hand, even in the midst of our weakness; and the riches of the kingdom are still at hand in the midst of our poverty and nothingness; and his strength works, and our weakness doth not hinder the glory of him that works through it. So being beaten to it, by constant sense and daily experience, that it is not by our willing or running, according to our wisdom and strength, that we can attain any thing; but by God's showing mercy to us in Christ; we therefore daily wait at the posts of God's heavenly wisdom, to feel the gate of mercy and tender love opened to us, and mercy and love flow in upon us; whereby we may, and daily do, obtain what our hearts desire and seek after; blessed be the Lord for ever!
And truly here in the springings of love, and openings of mercy from our God, we have fellowship and converse with the Father and Son, and one with another, in the holy Spirit of life; and we testify of these things to others, that they also might come into the same fellowship, and be of the same faith which flows from, and abides in, and makes living in, the power and life eternal.
<75> The Lord guide all tender, breathing, panting spirits hither, that they may be satisfied in the goodness and loving-kindness of the Lord, and may eat abundantly of the fatness of his house, and drink of the rivers of his pleasures, and not wander up and down any longer in their own barren thoughts, apprehensions, and conceivings upon the Scriptures.
FIRST, Under the law. Various were the appearances of Christ; sometimes as an angel, in the likeness of a man; so to Abraham, and so to Jacob, when Jacob wrestled with him, and prevailed, and had overcome God; so to Joshua, or the captain of the Lord's host, at his besieging Jericho; so to Moses in the bush, he appeared as an angel, Acts 7:35. so likewise in visions. Those glorious appearances of God to the prophets in visions were the appearances of Christ; as particularly, that glorious appearance of God sitting upon a throne, and his train filling the temple, and the Seraphims crying, "Holy! holy! holy is the Lord of hosts; his glory is the fulness of the whole earth!" Isa. 6. This was an appearance of Christ to Isaiah, as is manifest, John 12:41. where the Evangelist (relating to that place) useth this expression: "These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him." So he was the angel of God's presence, which went before the Jews, in all their journeyings and travels out of Egypt, through the sea, and in the wilderness, and in the time of the Judges; and wrought all their deliverances for them, as is signified, Isa. 63:9. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them," &c. So with the three children, he appeared in the midst of the fiery furnace in a form like the Son of God, as Nebuchadnezzar judged. Dan. 3:25.
Now, indeed, the whole law was a shadow of him, who was to come to be the substance of it, and to perform that inwardly in the hearts of his, which the law figured forth, and represented outwardly. Thus Moses and all the prophets were forerunners of him, the great prophet of the spiritual Israel of God. All the priests, especially the high-priests, were types and forerunners of him, and to end in him, who is the high-priest over the household <76> of God for ever. The judges and saviours were types of him, the great Saviour and Redeemer: for they saved not by their own strength, but by his Spirit and power coming upon them; so that the yoke (which was made and brought upon them by their rebellion against the Lord, and disobedience to his law) was still broken, because of the anointing.
David, Solomon, and the good kings were types of him. David, of his conquest over his spiritual enemies; Solomon, of his ruling his Israel in peace, after he had conquered their enemies.
Circumcision was a type of his circumcising the heart, that his children (his holy seed) might love the Lord their God with all their heart, and live.
The passover, and blood of the lamb, was a type of his blood, and sprinkled upon the conscience, which preserveth against the stroke and power of the destroyer; and so God passeth over all such, when he visits for sin and transgression.
The outward sabbath was a type of the pure rest which Christ gives to those that believe in his name; for, indeed, they that truly believe in him do enter into rest, and cease from their own labors and workings of themselves, and witness God's working in them, "both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
The outward law, in the letter, written in tables of stone, was a shadow of the inward, living, pure, powerful, spiritual law of love and life, which God writes in the hearts of his children, which constrains them to obedience, and enables them to do all that God requires of them with ease and delight. For truly the yoke of his law is easy, and the burden of his commandments is light; so that they are not at all grievous to them that are under, and in subjection to, his Spirit.
When the mind is gathered, and brought from under the spirit and power of darkness, into his Spirit and power, oh, how easy is it to believe, to love, to obey, &c.! Indeed there is nothing but love, and faith, and obedience, and life, and righteousness, and holiness, and pure power, and peace, and joy here. "For the old things are passed away, and all things are become new in Christ," to them that are in the new creation in him.
So Canaan, the Holy Land, represented the land of life, or country of life, into which God gathers, and in which he feeds <77> and preserves all the living, whom he gathers out of the territories of death and darkness. And the plenty and fulness of the land of Canaan, and the sweet rivers therein, signified the abundance of rich things, and the rivers of God's pleasure, whereof his redeemed ones drink, as they come to live and dwell and walk and sup in and with him.
Jerusalem, the holy city, was a figure of the new Jerusalem, the spiritual Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of all them that are born of the Spirit; and the hill whereon Jerusalem was built signified God's holy mountain, whereon this his city is built; and the inhabitants of the outward Jerusalem signified the inhabiters of the new and inward Jerusalem; and the temple signified Christ's body, and the bodies of the saints, which are temples, which the Holy One dwells in the midst of. And that altar in the outward temple signified the altar in this inward temple, which all the true, inward, spiritual Jews have right to partake of, and none else. The fire in the outward temple, and the candlesticks, and the lights which were never to go out, signified the holy fire in the spiritual temple, which comes from heaven, wherewith all the spiritual sacrifices are to be offered up; and the candlestick is to hold the light (and the priests to keep the lamps burning) or God will remove it out of its place. So the holy garments of the priests signified the robes of righteousness, innocency, and purity, wherewith the people of God under the gospel (who are a royal priesthood to him) are to be clothed.
And the ark signified that which holds the law of the new covenant; and the pot of manna, with which kind of food God fed and nourished the soul in the wilderness, before he brought it into the Holy Land, must be for an everlasting memorial in the land of the living. For, indeed, Christ appeared to and was with that people in the wilderness, in a cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night; which signified the leadings of God's Spirit in the day of the gospel. Isa. 4:5. And he was the rock that followed them; and he was the manna of which they did eat, and the water of which they did drink; for they did eat and drink of the heavenly things in a figure, and (as their spirits were at any time opened) had a taste and sense of the true food, in and through the figure; yea, doubtless, at some times, they had all some sense, and did all eat <78> of the same spiritual meat as we now eat of, "and did all drink of the same spiritual drink" as we now drink of; 1 Cor. 10:3-4. for they were not only all under the cloud, and did not only all pass through the sea, but they were also all baptized in the cloud and in the sea, having a sense of the pure power of the Lord, and of his outstretched arm made bare for them; in which sense they sang his praise, though they soon afterwards forgot his works. Psa. 106:11-12. So likewise there was Aaron's rod, that budded, laid up in the ark; which is the evidence of the true priesthood and ministry for ever; and that which is so is not to be spurned against, but still to be acknowledged and honored, as of God.
In it also were the tables of the law, in the representative ark: in the true ark are the tables of the law of life, which God writes by the finger of his Spirit, and appoints to be kept in the spiritual ark for ever.
Above the ark was the mercy-seat, with two cherubims of glory, one at each end of it, spreading their wings on high over the mercy-seat, between whom God dwelt or sat, where God met with and communed with Moses, and the priests under the law, when they came to worship him, and inquire of him; which figured out the true mercy-seat under the gospel, where the true priests (the true circumcision, the spiritual Israel of God) have access with boldness to the throne of grace, that, through the high-priest of their profession, they may obtain mercy and grace, to help in time of need.
So under the law, all the sacrifices (the sin-offering, the peace-offering, the thank-offering, the heave-offering, the wave-offering, the whole burnt-offering, the meat-offering, the drink-offering, &c.) signified Christ, the one offering, who comprehends them all; and the holy, spiritual, heavenly offerings, which the spiritual people (the priests of the gospel) are daily to offer up to God: and the sweet spices, frankincense, and odors signified the sweet seasonings of the gospel sacrifices with grace, with salt, with the Spirit, with the fresh breathings of life, with innocency, with meekness, with tenderness, with zeal, with faith, with love, &c., which yield a most pleasant scent in the nostrils of the Lord.
Now, in the bullock and goat for the sin-offering, the blood was to be brought into the holy place, to make atonement; and <79> the fat and inwards burnt on the altar; and the flesh, skin, and dung carried forth and burnt without the camp. What means this? Oh, how precious is it to read the figures of the heavenly things with true understanding! but to read through the figures (with the eye of life, with the eye of the Spirit) into the invisible substance, -- this is sweet, precious, and heavenly indeed!
Secondly, Concerning Christ's appearance in a body of flesh. When the time of these shadows drew towards an end, and the fulness of time was come, he who thus appeared in several types and shadows among that people of the Jews under the law, he now came down from the Father, debased himself, and clothed himself like a man, partaking of flesh and blood; and was in all things made like unto us (excepting sin; for he was the Lamb without spot) humbling himself to come under the law, and under the curse, that he might redeem those that are under the law (and under the curse) by fulfilling the righteousness thereof, and bringing them through into the righteousness everlasting.
Now, while he was in the body, his glory did shine to the eye of the children of true wisdom: his disciples (to whom not flesh and blood, nor the wisdom and knowledge which they could get from the letter, but his Father revealed him) they saw the hidden glory; they saw through the veil of his flesh, and beheld him as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Now, in this body he finished the work which his Father gave him to do; he fulfilled all righteousness (the righteousness of the letter, the righteousness of the Spirit) that he might bring his through the righteousness of the law or letter, into the righteousness of the Spirit and power, into the righteousness of the new life; and here that scripture is read and fulfilled, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God." So his whole life was a doing the will of the Father, which sent him.
When he was but twelve years old, he disputed with the doctors and teachers of the law, hearing and asking them questions (discovering the pure wisdom of the Father which dwelt in him), because it was his Father's business which he was to be about, as he told his mother. Luke 2:49. And when the Lord led him into the wilderness to be tried, he went and was tempted, that he might fight the battle against his great adversary. <80> And when the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, moving him to preach the gospel, he preached the gospel in the Spirit and power of the Father, and went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, as his Father's Spirit led and guided him: for he did nothing of himself, or in his own will, or for himself; but all in the will and time of the Father.
"Mine hour is not yet come," said he to his mother, when she was hasty to have him do that miracle of turning water into wine. John 2:4. And so when his brethren urged him to go up to the feast, John 7:3-4. "My time," said he, "is not yet come; your time is always ready," ver. 6.
Thus he did always please his Father, and seek the honor of him that sent him; and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, being willing to drink of the cup which his Father gave him to drink; and so having finished his work, he returned from whence he came, and sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, being exalted above all principalities, and powers, and dominions, both in this world, and in that which is to come.
Thirdly, Now, the third appearance of Christ, which these two outward appearances made way for, was his appearance in Spirit, even his pure, inward, heavenly appearance in the hearts of his children. This he bids his disciples wait for; telling them, "that he would not leave them comfortless, but would come again to them." They had had the appearance of the bridegroom in the flesh, and he was to go away. It could not be helped; it was necessary for them that he should go away; but (saith he) "I will come again." The same power and presence that is now with you in a body of flesh, shall visit you in Spirit, and so abide with you for ever. For he that is now with you shall be in you; till that time ye shall have sorrow, and be like a travailing woman; but the world, in the mean time, shall rejoice; "but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you." And was it not so? Did not Christ send the Spirit, the Comforter? Did he not come in the Spirit and power of the Most High, to be with them always to the end of the world? Did he not bid them "stay and wait at Jerusalem" for that appearance of him in his Spirit, and not go about his work and message till he came in the power and authority of his Father to go along with <81> them? And did not their hearts rejoice when he came with joy unspeakable, and full of glory? Had they not then the joy and peace which passed all the understanding of man; which joy and peace none could take from them; which joy they were not promised that they should receive till he came and saw them again? Yea, truly; in the kingdom, Spirit, and power of our Lord Jesus Christ there is a seeing eye to eye. Yea, it was so, in some measure, with some precious ones in the days of old, which that promise, Psal. 32:8. "I will guide thee with mine eye," intimates; for the eye of the soul must be upon God's eye, and observe the motion thereof, if it be guided thereby.
And truly this administration of the Spirit and power of the gospel is exceeding glorious, and they that come into it come into the glory and heavenly dominion and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (and so are made kings by him, and wear crowns in his presence, though they still cast them at his feet), and are changed from glory to glory; and behold, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, which none can do but with the eye which is in some measure changed and glorified.
Now, this dispensation of the gospel, Spirit, and power, began in the apostles' days, and the church was exceeding chaste, pure, and beautiful then, without spot or wrinkle; though there were some crept into the outward court, which were spots among them; but that did not mar the beauty of the rest, but they could bring victory and dominion to him that sat on the throne, and witnessed that salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ was come. For the man-child was born, and was among them; and the glorious woman (the church, the spouse of Christ) "was clothed with the sun," &c., and had both her husband (her Lord and head) and the man-child (the pure birth of life) with her. But there was a falling away after this, and a thick dark night, and a very great and universal apostasy from the Spirit and power of the apostles; many departing out of the fear into the high-mindedness, and not keeping their standing in the faith, and love, and obedience of the truth; but holding a form of godliness out of the power.
But God, in his tender mercies, determined to send an angel to preach his everlasting gospel again; and in due time so did, as <82> is expressed, Rev. 14:6-7. (Mark: none could preach the everlasting gospel after the apostasy, by any ordination or succession of ministry left amongst them; but there must be a new receiving of the gospel, by a new message and commission from on high.) And God likewise sent forth his Spirit of judgment and burning to consume the whore (the false church) which was grown very great, sitting over peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues; and to bring the true church out of the wilderness into the enjoyment of her beauty and glory again. And when she comes again, she comes as a morning without clouds, without any veil, without any outward types or shadows of the glory to be revealed, even in the pure and heavenly glory itself.
He that hath a true eye, let him read this; and he that hath a heart opened by the Lord, let him acknowledge it: for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted, and the knees of his redeemed ones bow to him, and acknowledge him the only Anointed One, the only Lord and King over all, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
WAS not Sinai the mount that might be touched, an earthly mount, from whence was the ministration of the law outward, or in the letter, which gendered to bondage, condemnation, and death? Doth not the apostle Peter say, concerning the law as so administered, "that it was a yoke too heavy for them or their fathers to bear"? Acts 15:10.
Is not the gospel Zion a spiritual mount, an heavenly mount, a mount that cannot be touched by human senses, a mount from whence is the ministration of the Spirit, the ministration of liberty, the ministration of life, the ministration of the glory that excelleth? Is it not the holy mountain, whereon the holy city (the New Jerusalem) is built, and where the King of Righteousness rules in righteousness and peace over all his subjects; where he makes to them the feast of fat things, and of wines on the lees well refined; where he and his sup together, eating and drinking the bread and wine of the kingdom, even the living bread, and the fruit of the living vine?
Is not the whole ministration of life, from the beginning to <83> the end, from Mount Zion? Is it, any of it, from Mount Sinai?
Is not Zion to be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness? Doth either the judgment or the righteousness, wherewith Zion and her converts are to be redeemed, come from Mount Sinai? Do they not both come from Mount Zion?
Out of "Zion shall go forth the law, and word of the Lord from Jerusalem," Isa. 2. He that understandeth this scripture, knoweth the gospel state.
"Ye are not come (said the apostle) to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire; nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, &c.; but ye are come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," &c. Heb. 12.
Now, they that come thither, they witness the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which maketh free from the law of sin and death; and the pure Word of eternal life issuing thence, even from that Zion and Jerusalem.
Mind that scripture, Gal. 4:25-26. "For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem, which now is, and is in bondage, with her children; but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all."
We read, Rev. 11:19. "That the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." Whence did those lightnings, voices, thunderings, &c. issue; out of Sinai, or out of Zion? Doth not the lion of the tribe of Judah roar out of Zion against his enemies, and shoot the arrows of his judgments from thence? And if he judge his enemies from thence, doth he not judge his people from thence also? Is not his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem? And doth not the Spirit of judgment and burning (by which he washeth and purgeth away the blood and filth of the daughter of Zion) issue forth from thence? Oh that men had a true and spiritual understanding of these things, and were taught of God to know and distinguish concerning the things of his kingdom!
MOUNT SINAI was that mount of earth which the voice and <84> presence of the Lord shook at the ministration of the law outward.
Now, there is an inward earth, which is to be shaken also; even the nature which transgressed, the nature which was subject to sin, and under the curse, the earth which brings forth briars and thorns. Into the earth the plow of the Lord is to go, to break it up, and overturn it, that there may be a new earth formed, fit to receive the heavenly seed; out of which it may spring, and bring forth fruit to God. Yea, not only the earth, but also the heavens, are to be shaken, yea, and removed too; though the shaking of Mount Sinai did not signify that, but only the shaking of the earth. "But yet once more" (saith the Lord) "I shake not earth only, but also heaven;" which signifieth the removing those things that may be shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
There is that which is changeable, and there is that which is unchangeable. The old earth, and the old heavens, are changeable; the new heavens, and the new earth, are unchangeable. There is a changeable mind, a changeable spirit, a changeable nature, a changeable will, a changeable wisdom, a changeable reason and understanding (which one while goeth this way, and another while that way), a changeable knowledge of God; which man learns not of the Spirit of the Lord, but after a traditional way, and by the search of his own hunting mind, and drinks into that part which is old and earthly. There is man's kindling a fire there, a beating out sparks there, with which he compasseth about and warmeth himself, getting unto himself peace and joy, hope and confidence, &c. But when the Lord appears, and his voice is heard (when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth, yea, and the heavens also), all these will be shaken, and fall like untimely figs at the rushing of a mighty wind and terrible tempest.
For the day of the Lord, the day of his pure appearance, the day of the brightness of his rising, will be upon all that is high and lofty; upon all that is proud and lifted up above the pure seed. Every cedar of Lebanon, and oak of Bashan, that is high and lifted up; every high mountain and hills that are lifted up; every high tower, and fenced wall; every ship of Tarshish, and pleasant picture, &c. shall all feel the terror of his majesty: and that alone which is of the pure seed, gathered into the seed, and <85> changed into the nature of the seed, that alone shall stand. Nothing else shall be able to dwell with the devouring fire, and everlasting burnings: so that it may be very well said, "Who may abide the day of his coming; and who shall stand when he appeareth?" For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap; and he cometh with his fan in his hand, to fan away the chaff; and shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, to purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness, pleasant to the Lord; which none can do but those that are purified by him.
And happy will they be, whose religion and worship in that day will stand the trial, and bear the fire. And oh! blessed for ever be the Lord, who is come near to judgment, and is a swift witness against all deceit and unrighteousness; but a justifier of them whose consciences he hath sprinkled with the blood of Jesus.
But now, as the Lord taketh away the old, so he bringeth in the new. As he removeth the old earth and the old heavens, wherein dwelt unrighteousness; so he formeth and bringeth forth the new heavens, and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
And here the kingdom is known and received, which can never be shaken. Here is the Mount Zion, which shall never be removed; and the Jerusalem, one of whose stakes or cords shall never be plucked up, or broken. Here is the city which hath everlasting foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Blessed are they that come hither, and dwell here; who are not come to the mount that may be touched and shaken, and removed (read inwardly); but to the holy mount of God, and whereon all the buildings of life are raised, and whereon they stand firm for ever.
And all that are herein built up and established can truly say, and sing in spirit, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, and blessed by him shall be the habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness, from this time forth for evermore." For Jerusalem is now become a quiet habitation, and the king of glory reigneth therein: for the Lord of Hosts, who hath created the new heavens, and the new earth, hath created Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy; and they shall be glad, and rejoice, and bless <86> themselves in him, for ever and ever. Amen, Amen.
GOD'S temple under the gospel is the light of his Son, the Spirit of his Son, and those souls which are renewed, and built up a habitation for him in the Spirit of his Son, and those bodies in which renewed minds and spirits dwell. God is light, and he dwelleth in light; God is Spirit, and his building is holy and spiritual; for he dwelleth in nothing that is dark or corrupt or unclean.
And that which is sacrificed or offered up to God must be clean and pure. No unclean thought, no unclean desire, nothing that is earthly or fleshly or selfish, must be offered up to God, but the pure breathings of his own Spirit; for whatsoever is of him, and comes from him, is accepted with him; but whatever man can invent or form or offer up of his own, or of himself, though it be ever so glorious or taking in man's eye, yet it is but abomination in the sight of the Lord.
Thus all the sacrifices of the Gentiles (or heathenish nature) are rejected. Thus all the sacrifices of the Jews outward (or of the professing mind and nature, without the true life) are rejected also.
"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord," said the prophet of the Lord of old, "and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Mic. 6:6-7.
What saith the answer of God? No, no; this is not the way to come to pardon of sin, or to acceptance with the Lord; but come to that which teacheth what is good, and what the "Lord requireth of thee, O man!" which is "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the Lord." Come thither in the teachings of God's Spirit, and worship there, and there thou shalt witness forgiveness of sins, and acceptance with the Lord. Mic. 6:7-8. and Isa. 1:16-18. For it was not offering sacrifices of old (appointed under the law) that would do the thing, nor men's pleading the sacrifice of Christ under the gospel; but coming to that Spirit which teacheth holiness, and being subject <87> to that Spirit, and offering in that Spirit (to the Father) what proceeds therefrom. So that his building in the Spirit is the only temple, and the sacrifices or offerings in the Spirit are the only offerings of the New Testament.
And here every groan or sigh towards the Lord after that which is pure, every supplication in the Spirit, every acknowledgment of the goodness of the Lord in a true and pure sense, are of a sweet savor in the nostrils of the Lord: yea, using hospitality, relieving the poor, or doing any thing that is good from the good and holy root, are sacrifices acceptable to the Lord. Read these scriptures following (and if the Lord open thine eyes, thou mayst thereby come to see both what the temple and sacrifices are), 1 Cor. 3:16. and 2 Cor. 6:16. Isa. 5:7,15. Eph. 2:21-22. Heb. 3:6. Rev. 21:22. John 4:23. Psa. 90:1. These places foregoing are for the temple: then for the sacrifices, Psa. 1:14-15. and 51:16-17. and 141:2. Mal. 1:11. Heb. 10:8-9. Rom. 12:1. 1 Cor. 6:19-20. 1 Pet. 2:5. Heb. 13:15. Phil. 4:18.
Quest. 1. WHAT is the message which Christ sent his apostles to declare, whom he sent to preach the gospel?
Ans. This is the message which they heard of him, and which they declared unto others, "That God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
Quest. 2. What was Christ's intent in sending them with this message; and for what end were they to declare it to others?
Ans. For the opening of men's eyes and hearts, that men might come to a sight and sense of the darkness, and to a sight and sense of the light; and might be turned from darkness to light (and so from Satan's power to God); and might come out of the one into the other (that is, out of the darkness into the light), and so might walk in the light, as God is in the light.
Quest. 3. What is the danger of abiding in darkness?
Ans. In the darkness is sin, death, condemnation, and destruction of the soul, and separation from God and Christ for ever.
Quest. 4. What is the benefit of being turned to the light, <88> and of coming into the light, and walking in the light, as God is in the light?
Ans. The benefits are great and many; three whereof I may now mention, which comprehend and contain in them many more.
First, In the light, remission of sins is received; for there is the blood of sprinkling, wherewith those are sprinkled that come thither; and, indeed, none can walk and abide there, but they come to witness the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleansing them from all sin; and true, real cleansing is nowhere else witnessed.
Secondly, They have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and come also into fellowship with the saints in light; which are great mysteries, and none know what they mean, but such as are in that holy fellowship.
Thirdly, They there receive the earnest of the everlasting inheritance, and the sealing up by God's Holy Spirit unto the day of full redemption.
Quest. 5. Where is the darkness which men are to be turned from?
Ans. It is within, chiefly within; there is Satan's kingdom; there is the house, which the "strong man armed" keepeth; where his goods are in peace, till a "stronger" than he cometh to trouble and dispossess him.
Quest. 6. How or where is the light to be met with which man is to be turned to?
Ans. It appears within also; it shines in the darkness: for thither Christ (the stronger) comes, with the light of his Spirit, to overcome and dispossess the strong man of his house and kingdom.
Quest. 7. When doth the light of Christ's Spirit shine in the darkness of man's heart?
Ans. When and as God pleaseth. For the light is his, and he causeth it to shine (in the hearts of the sons and daughters of men) according to his pleasure; and therefore men are to wait for the shining of his pure, heavenly light in their hearts, that with it the darkness may be resisted, overcome, and subdued in them, and scattered and dispelled from them, and their hearts filled with the light and power of life.
Quest. 8. How may a man perceive or know the light when it shines?
<89> Ans. By its shining; for light (both outward and inward) manifests both itself and other things by its own shining. And as there is no discerning the things of this world but by the light of the world, so there is no discerning the things of the other world but by the light of the other world; that is, there is no discerning spiritual things but by the light of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God causeth to shine in the heart; which light searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins, and discovereth the most hidden things there.
Obj. But the heart is deceitful above all things, and Satan can transform himself into the likeness of an angel of light; so that he shines inwardly too by his feigned appearances: how then may I know the shinings of the true light of Christ's Spirit in my heart, from his false shinings and transformings?
Ans. God hath a witness in men's consciences. For as God hath not left himself without witness outwardly, but all his works testify of him (his works of goodness, love, mercy, power, &c. testify of his goodness, love, mercy, power, &c.), so he hath not left himself without witness inwardly; but there is somewhat in men to testify of God, and for God, and against his enemy, and all deceitful appearances; which witness always speaketh faithfully, and testifieth truth.
Therefore he that cometh to discern that, and mind that, shall find that near him which will always witness for God upon every occasion, and against all the appearances and devices of the enemy.
Now, no man can come to discern or distinguish in cases of this nature, but as that which is of God, and for God, gives the judgment in him; and he that judgeth thus shall never judge according to the shows and appearances of things, but shall still judge the true and righteous judgment.
Quest. 9. What is the nature and properties of the light of Christ's Spirit; and what will it do in the hearts of those that turn to it, receive it, and walk in it?
Ans. It hath a most excellent nature and properties, and it will work wonderfully in the hearts of those that receive it, and walk in it towards the redeeming and saving them from sin and the powers of darkness; so that following this light, and abiding and walking <90> in it, they cannot be overcome by the enemy of their souls; but must needs conquer and overcome him. To instance in some:
First, It hath an enlightening or manifesting property. It will discover all that is of God, and likewise all that is against him. It will discover the very mystery of death, and the most subtle workings of the enemy in the mystery of darkness, and deceivableness of unrighteousness. And it will discover the mystery of life, and the mystery of the way of holiness. So that not only the precepts of holiness, but the way of the precepts, the way of obeying the holy will and Spirit of God in every thing, is here learned.
Secondly, It hath an awakening property. This light will not let a man sleep in sin, or grow heavy and dull (if he hearken to it); but it awakens him that sleeps: and whoever is truly awakened at any time, is awakened by this light; by the shining thereof in his heart; by the manifestation of God to his spirit by it. This testimony Paul gives, Ephes. 5:13-14. "Whatsoever doth make manifest is light." Wherefore he saith, "Awake thou that sleepest," &c.
Thirdly, It hath a quickening property. For it is the light of life, the light of Christ's Spirit, which is living and powerful; and it hath life and power in it, and quickeneth and raiseth the man to whom it reacheth, and giveth him ability to arise from the dead.
Fourthly, It hath a cleansing, a sanctifying, a purifying, property. Oh! how clean it makes within! The light is pure, and it maketh pure. All the defilement and corruption is in the darkness; none of it is in the light, but the light purgeth it away, where it findeth entertainment.
Fifthly, It hath a uniting and separating property. It unites to God; it unites to that which is pure; and it separates from sin, Satan, darkness, and whatever is impure.
Sixthly, It hath a preserving nature and property. It preserves the man in whom it dwells; and where it hath power, and rules, it keeps out the darkness; so that darkness cannot break in where it hath place, and is kept to: nor can the mind break out from the Lord, which keeps in the sense, savor, and seasoning of the light of his Spirit.
Indeed time would fail me, to speak of the excellent nature, virtues, and properties thereof; but come, taste, and see how <91> sweet the light is, and what a pleasant thing it is to behold the shinings of this Sun.
Quest. 10. Doth God visit all men with this light?
Ans. Yes; as God loveth all men, and would have all men saved, so he visiteth all men (more or less) with that which is able to discover the darkness to them, and to save them therefrom.
Quest. 11. What is the reason, then, that all men are not saved by it?
Ans. Because they do not receive it, and join to it against the darkness; but join to the darkness, and hearken to the wisdom and reasonings thereof, against the appearances and discoveries of the light.
Quest. 12. How comes it that men do so?
Ans. From their love to the darkness, and to the deeds of darkness; which they know they should not love, because they have somewhat near them, which often shows them the evil, both of the darkness that is in them, and of the deeds that come from it. So that this is the condemnation, that men love the darkness, cleave to the darkness, and follow the darkness; but hate the light, and turn from the light, which in the love and mercy of God follows them, to bring them out of love with the darkness, and to bring them into the sense of, and fellowship with, him in the light.
Quest. 13. How come some to love the light?
Ans. God affords a capacity therein to all, and God is love; and from the flowings of his love, and aboundings of his mercy to all, are men begotten to him; and the obedient are kept by him in subjection to that, which many resisting the strivings of his Spirit with them, are finally given up to hardness of heart, who turn from and hate the light. So that to God and his grace is to be attributed the salvation of all that are saved; and to man, his own destruction and perishing from the way of life, notwithstanding the tender visitations of God, to recover and reconcile man to himself, through the blood of his Son.
Quest. 14. Against whom do they rebel, that rebel against the light?
Ans. They rebel against Christ, from whom the light comes; and will Christ save such as rebel against him? Oh that men did aright consider this thing! for it is a greater matter to know and <92> be subject to the light of Christ's Spirit, as it shines from him in the heart, than men are aware of. Now, that which discovers the hidden things of darkness in the heart, and reproves for it, is the light of Christ's Spirit, and not another. Oh that all that desire to know what and where the true light is, did understand so!
Quest. 15. What do they miss of, who do not know nor heed the light of Christ's Spirit, nor mind the reproofs thereof in their hearts, but look on it as inferior in kind and nature to what it is?
Ans. They miss of many great and precious privileges, which they that know it and have received it, and so walk in it, and are subject to it, do experience and are acquainted with.
First, They miss of knowing the ways of it: for in this light there are ways or paths of holiness, paths of life, paths of righteousness, paths of peace, paths of joy, paths of refreshment and consolation, wherein all these things are daily met with by those that walk there; which they that know not the light (or rebel against the light) are not acquainted with. See Job 24:13.
Secondly, They miss of the lighting of their candle by it: for God lights his candle in the heart by this light, and by no other thing; so that in this his light, they, whose candle is lighted by him, see light.
David had experience of this, and from that experience spake, "Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness." Psa. 18:28. And Job had experience of this also, as those words of his plainly signify, Job 29:2. &c., where he saith, "Oh that I were as in the days past, when his candle shined upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness." And all the children of God, who in this day wait for the shinings of the light of his Spirit in their hearts, and are subject to him therein, they experience the same, and know the word of life (which is nigh in the mouth and heart) to be a "lantern to the feet, and a light to the path," of the lowest and meanest here.
Thirdly, They miss of the sending forth, or revelation of that from God, which leads to his holy hill and to his tabernacles, which David experienced and desired more of. Psal. 43:3. For "who shall dwell in God's holy hill, or abide in his tabernacle?" Psal. 15:1. "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart, &c., he shall never be <93> moved," ver. 2. to the end, and Isai. 33:15, &c. But how shall any come thither? Surely by God's light and truth sent forth from his Spirit into their spirits. This is the way of ascending thither in all ages and generations.
Fourthly, They slight that measure of light given them, and despise the day of small things, and therefore miss of the pouring forth of God's Spirit upon them, which is plentifully poured forth upon the sons and daughters of the spiritual and heavenly Jerusalem, in this day of God's visiting the earth again after the apostasy; blessed be the name of the Lord! And how comes it to be poured forth upon them? How comes wisdom to pour out her spirit unto them? Why, they hearken to her reproofs, turning thereat, and forsaking that which they are reproved for, and so come into wisdom's fear; and then wisdom opens her secrets, and pours out her spirit, and makes known her words to those that are subject to her reproofs, and learn her fear, which is the fear of the New Covenant. See Prov. 1:23. He that receiveth the convincer of sin, and followeth his leadings, out of the sins he is convinced of (and into the paths of righteousness and holiness, into which he is the leader), cannot miss of the Comforter, or of his comforts; for he is one and the same with the convincer or reprover.
DAVID saith, "The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself." Psa. 4. This is God's choice. God is the great potter, who formeth vessels upon the wheel of his power; some to honor, some to dishonor; but not before they were. Some he melteth and tendereth for salvation, who hearken to his voice; others he hardeneth and giveth up for destruction, who rebel against his Spirit. Oh! how should all fear before him, who hath power over them, as the potter over the clay, that they should reverence and obey him, lest his power break them to pieces!
Now, this is most certain: the holy man, the righteous man, the godly man, he that is renewed in the spirit of his mind: this is a vessel of honor, fitted and chosen by God unto honor: but he that is corrupt, dead, filthy, polluted, &c. this is the vessel which God rejects. For the righteous God loveth righteousness <94> for ever, and the holy God loveth holiness for ever, and he that is holy and righteous is of him, and chosen by him: but all that is unholy and unrighteous, is of another nature and spirit, and so rejected and cast out by his pure nature and Spirit.
Therefore every one that would be accepted of the Lord, and witness his choice, is to mind that, and be subject to that, whereby God fitteth vessels for himself; which is the Holy Spirit, nature, and life of his Son, wherein every man is accepted, as he is called thither, gathered thither, and found there, and none rejected: but out of this every man is rejected, but none accepted, "for God is no respecter of persons."
He carried himself equally to every Jew under the old covenant; and he carrieth himself equally towards all who obey the call of his Spirit into the new and living covenant; so that the truth standeth for ever, that in every nation, tongue, and people, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him, and none else. And this is the great mercy and tender love of God to all men, that which bringeth into his fear, and teacheth and enableth to work righteousness, is near every man, which is the word of faith, the word of life, the word of power, the word of reconciliation; so that no man need go far to seek out salvation: for Christ, the Saviour and salvation of God, is nigh to every man, in the light of that holy spirit of truth wherewith God visiteth mankind, and wherein he speaketh peace and reconciliation, both to them that are nigh, and to them that are afar off, as they hear the voice of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and learn subjection to it.
"Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure," said the apostle Peter. 2 Pet. 1:10. How shall we do that? may some say. "Why, give all diligence to add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love: for if these things be in you and abound, ye cannot be barren in the knowledge of Christ, but must needs be fruitful." Well, but what then? What if they be fruitful? Why, if they be fruitful, then (to be sure) they are chosen branches; for God casts off none but that which is dry, barren, dead, and unfruitful. Feel life, which <95> is active and bears fruit, thou feelest the choice of God, thou answerest the end of thy call, &c., and herein as thou comest to settlement and establishment, thou wilt find thy calling and election made sure to thee, and an entrance ministered to thee abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For Christ hath the key of the kingdom, and shutteth out no such as these, but giveth them further admittance day by day. And so by this means thou wilt witness translation further and further, out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son, and an inheritance and possession of life and glory in measure; which will be an earnest to thee of the full inheritance in due time, and a seal upon thy heart unto the day of full redemption: yea, thou mayest then also come to see how thou wast loved and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, through obedience unto, and sanctification of the Spirit, manifested in time. 2 Thess. 2:13. (For known unto God are all his works from the beginning, before ever any of them were wrought.) If thou feel that which cometh forth from the Lord to call and gather to him, and to renew and sanctify, and make fit for him, and to make thee fruitful (from the holy root and power of life) in that which is good; this is enough for thee, and thy soul is safe and blessed here: for here thou knowest that, and art in the blessed seed of promise, into which all that are gathered and abide, are blessed in and with it.
Now, as concerning election itself, observe this; that it is in Christ, and not out of him. For it was the intent of God to honor his Son, even as his Son honored him: and this was the honor which God gave him, "That he should be his salvation to the ends of the earth; that whosoever believed on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." That he should be the way for all mankind to come to the Father, through faith in him; that as in Adam all died, so in Christ all might be made alive; and as in Adam all men were shut up in death and condemnation, so the free gift might come upon all, and the way of life and redemption be opened to all, in him.
Mind the figure, the brazen serpent, which was not lifted up, that a certain number might be healed, and no more; but that every one that was wounded, every one that was stung with <96> serpents, might look up and be healed.
So was Christ lifted up, that every sinner that was stung with sin and the serpent might look up to the physician of souls, and receive virtue and healing from him, according to that precious scripture, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. And whoever is athirst, let him come; and whoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely." Yea, God stands ready, by his Holy Spirit and quickening power, which is near men, to kindle the true thirst in them, and to make them truly willing. To open it yet further;
There is predestination, election, calling, justifying, glorifying: predestination unto holiness, election in that which is holy, calling out of darkness into light, justifying and glorifying in the light, through the renewing and sanctification of the Spirit. All these God ordereth and manageth according to his good will, and according as he hath purposed in himself; although he be not the decreer, nor author of sin or rebellion against himself, which is the cause of the creature's condemnation.
Thus all things are as present with God before they were: for God did foreknow Adam's fall (though he was not therefore the author of it) before it came to pass; and he foreknew how his power and love and mercy should work towards men and for men, in and through Christ; and how far he would visit men therewith, and how far men would resist and strive against his holy and good Spirit; and he determined how long his Spirit should strive with nations and persons: for with some he would long wait to be gracious; with others he would be quicker and more severe, according to their provocations.
Now, his love, his mercy, his power, his good Spirit, are his own; and he may show forth the operations of them towards men according to his pleasure; and who may say unto him, What dost thou? May he not do with his own what he pleaseth? (who is "good and righteous in all his ways?") and because he may show mercy as long as he will, and harden as soon as he will (as he sees cause), may it not be truly said, "That he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth"? But that he hardeneth any, without first giving them a day of mercy, and visitations of mercy, following them with mercy, and <97> forbearing them in mercy, and so by the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, leading them to repentance, that they might escape his wrath, and the dread of his powerful vengeance, because of sin, -- I say, that God hardens any before he hath dealt thus with them, from a mere will in himself, because he would destroy the most and far greater part of men; this the Scriptures nowhere testify to, but abundantly testify against. For how long did God strive with the old world, even to have saved them, whom afterwards he did destroy? And how did he strive with that people of the Jews (yea, and with other nations also, though they might seem cast off)? "As I live, saith the Lord," (and he speaketh his heart) "I desire not the death of the wicked, but rather that they might return and live. I am not the destroyer, I am the Saviour; and my delight is not to destroy, but to save. "O Israel! thy destruction is of thyself; but in me is thy help." And no man's blood will lie at God's door, but at his own.
Therefore as God hath prepared a Saviour, so there is no want of love, or mercy, or power on his part, to draw men to the Saviour; but this is the condemnation, that men harden themselves against the drawings of his Spirit, and against the operation of his holy light and power, when it appeareth, and is willing to work in and upon their hearts. This is not the condemnation of men, that light doth not shine in their hearts; but that they love the darkness more than the light, which appears and shines in them, and is there witnessing against and drawing from the darkness. And so when it shall at last be made manifest, how light hath appeared to all men, and God's Spirit therein and thereby striven with all men, and how they have refused, and would not be turned from their darkness to the light of the Lord; every mouth will be stopped before him, and all men that perish, justly condemned for refusing and neglecting so great salvation: for the light of the sun of God's everlasting day, and the sound of his Spirit of life, visiting dark man, reacheth throughout all the earth, and his voice and words to the ends of the world.
Obs. 1. WHO is the apostle and high priest of our profession. <98> It is Jesus Christ the Son of God, whom God hath appointed heir of all things, by whom he made the worlds; and who is the express image of his Father's substance, &c. Heb. 1. and chap. 3:1.
Obs. 2. Why this high priest was to suffer death; which was, that he might taste death for every man, and so through suffering become a perfect Saviour, or perfect Captain of salvation, to all the sons that were to be brought by him to glory, chap. 2:9-10.
Obs. 3. Why he partook of flesh and blood; one reason whereof was, because the children (and that therein he might show them an example of righteousness, that he might condemn himself in the flesh) were partakers of flesh and blood; for that was the very ground or reason that he took part of the same: another reason was that which was mentioned before; that he might taste death, and through death destroy him who had the power of death, and so break open the prison doors, and deliver those who were captives under him, chap. 2:14-15.
Obs. 4. Why he was tempted; and why in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren; which was, "that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." For his own suffering under temptations (even the sense thereof) renders him merciful, tender, faithful, and ready to help and succor his in all their temptations, chap. 2:17-18.
Mark: Christ was not only to die, and so offer up a sacrifice of atonement, but he was also to make reconciliation by it ever afterwards for his children (in case of transgression) whenever occasion should be. So saith John, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father" (to plead for the forgiving and blotting out of the sin); and he is the propitiation (or reconciliation) for our sins; as the old translation renders it. 1 John 2:1-2.
Obs. 5. Christ, our apostle and high priest, is as faithful over all his house as Moses was over his. There is not one of the children, not one of his family, but he will teach: not one soul belonging to him, but he will succor, being tempted; nor any one, but he will be an advocate and reconciliation for (in case of sin), in and according to the way that God hath appointed. Heb. 3:2.
<99> Obs 6. Who are Christ's house; over whom is he an apostle and high priest. It is over his own house; whose house are all such as are called by him, if they receive and hold fast that which gives a right to him, and interest in him. chap. 3:6. and ver. 14. For as under the law, the high priest was priest only over the outward Israel, the Jews natural; so under the gospel, Christ is appointed of God high priest over the inward Jews, the Jews spiritual.
Obs. 7. How this apostle or high priest of our profession doth work in the hearts of his family or household; which is by the Word of Life, by the Word of his own eternal power, which pierceth deep, and divideth between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, discerning and judging every thought and intent, and bringing every high reasoning and imagination into captivity, that the heart, soul, mind, and spirit, with all the thoughts and intents thereof, may become subject to his Spirit and power. chap. 4:12.
Obs. 8. What an advantage we have, by having such an high priest (as was tempted like us, and touched with the sense of our infirmities), or coming boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need! For he who experimentally knew what the weakness of our flesh is, and what it was to be tempted therein, and how needful and seasonable help from his Father then was; surely he cannot but be ready to give out and multiply grace and mercy to his in the time of their need, chap. 4:15-16.
Obs. 9. How Christ came to be a high priest; which was not by his own taking the honor to himself, but by God's glorifying him with the call thereto, chap. 5:4-5.
Obs. 10. How God fitted Christ, and made him a perfect high priest; which was by preparing for him a body of flesh, and exercising him in the days of his flesh with many trials and temptations; and at last with a bitter baptism, and cup of death, in which he felt and bare the griefs and sorrows of his people, and cried mightily to his Father, and was heard in that he feared; and so, having himself perfectly learned obedience to the Father, he knows how to become the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. For Christ, who was heard and saved from <100> death in his obedience to his Father, is appointed to be the leader and Saviour of his people, to save and redeem them in their obedience unto him, the leader into, and in the way and paths of, life, chap. 5:7-9.
Obs. 11. Where Christ mediates for his people; which is within the veil, in the heavenly place, in the holiest of all, where the anchor of our hope reacheth to him, and fasteneth upon him, and there remains sure and steadfast; so that we are staid upon him, the rock of life and power, against all the storms and tempests of the powers of darkness, both inward and outward, chap. 6:19-20.
Obs. 12. After what order Christ was made a high priest; which was after the order of Melchizedeck, who was king of righteousness, and king of peace, even after an holy and heavenly order: not after the order of the earthly priesthood, the high priests whereof were taken from amongst men, but after his order who was made mention of; without father, without mother, without descent, (for who can declare his generation?) without beginning of days or end of life, chap. 7:1-3, and 15.
Obs. 13. That this priest put an end to and changed the laws of the other earthly, shadowy priesthood of Levi, by which perfection was not, that he might bring in that priesthood of his own, by which perfection was to be, chap. 7:11. &c.
Obs. 14. How Christ was made a priest after a different manner from the priests of the law; for they were made priests after the law of a carnal commandment; but Christ was not made priest so, but after the power of an endless life, chap. 7:16.
Obs. 15. That the work of Christ's priesthood continueth until it be finished; that is, till this high priest hath saved all whom he is to save, which is thus: as in all ages the Father draweth souls to him, so he is to save them; to destroy their enemies, to blot out their sins, to break down what stands between God and them, and so to bring them into the true oneness; for God will never be reconciled to his enemy, the devil, nor to man while in union with him, chap. 7:24-25.
Obs. 16. That this high priest needeth not to offer many sacrifices to atone by, as the priests under the law needed to do often: for he was a perfect priest, and offered up one perfect, <101> spotless sacrifice; and is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, chap. 7:27-28.
Obs. 17. What sanctuary is Christ the high priest and minister of; which is, of that sanctuary and true tabernacle which the Lord pitcheth, and not man, chap. 8:2.
Obs. 18. What hath he to offer; for every high priest was ordained to offer both gifts and sacrifices. He hath the heavenly gifts and sacrifices to offer; even all the gifts and spiritual sacrifices that are revived and brought forth by him in the holy place, even in his temple or spiritual house within the veil; he is to offer them all up to his Father, ver. 3. &c.
Obs. 19. What covenant he is the mediator of; even a better covenant than the priests under the law were mediators of, which is established upon better promises: a covenant, wherein there is no defectiveness or imperfection, wherein all shall certainly be redeemed and saved by him, who come to him in the drawing of his Father, and abide with him. For in such God will put his laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts; and "will be their God, and they shall be his people;" and will so teach them, that they shall need no other teacher; but shall all know him, from the least to the greatest. For as men come into this covenant, God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will he remember no more, ver. 6. to the end.
Obs. 20. That Christ is not a high priest of the figures of things, but of the good things themselves (which came in the time of reformation), even of the perfect covenant, the perfect tabernacle, and of the worship and service in Spirit and in truth; where the perfect refiner (by his Spirit of judgment and burning) purifieth the sons of Levi, that they may offer to God an offering in righteousness, chap. 9:9-11. and Mal. 3:3.
So that there is a different state witnessed by the people of God in this covenant, from what was witnessed by the Jews in the other covenant: for what was amiss there, is reformed here by the Spirit and power of our God, in all those that abide and walk in this covenant; who live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, and do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, which grieve and provoke God's Holy Spirit.
Obs. 21. How Christ came to obtain eternal redemption for <102> all his: which was by his blood. For as the high priest under the law entered into the holy place of that tabernacle made with hands, by the blood of goats and calves, and so obtained remission for the sins of that outward people, the Jews; so Christ entered into the truly holy place, into the greater and more perfect tabernacle, and there by his blood obtained remission for all that should receive repentance from him, and believe in him, ver. 11-12.
Obs. 22. How Christ purifieth, purgeth, and sanctifieth the people with his blood? which is, by sprinkling it upon them. For under the law, in that outward covenant, the unclean were sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice, that they might be sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; and under the gospel, in this inward covenant, believers are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, that their consciences might be purged from dead works to serve the living God, as his cleansed, holy, renewed people, ver. 13-14.
Obs. 23. For what cause Christ was mediator of the New Testament; which was, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressors under the first Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance, ver. 15. For God hath made Christ a propitiation for all men, both Jews and Gentiles, that through faith in his blood, his righteousness might be declared for remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, that he might be just, and a justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus. Rom. 3:25-26. So that they that were under the first covenant, hearkening unto him, and believing in him, were justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:39.
Obs. 24. The necessity of Christ's death; which was, because he was to make way by his own blood into the holiest, to appear before God for us; and to sprinkle the heavenly things with the blood of a sacrifice, of a higher and better nature than the blood of bulls and goats was; for that was the blood of the covenant which was to pass away, but he was to sprinkle his with the blood of the everlasting covenant; and by this his death and blood (sprinkled upon the hearts of his) his covenant comes to be of force, ver. 16. to 25. and chap. 13:20-21.
<103> Obs. 25. That this high priest need not often offer sacrifices, to put away sin, as the priests of the law did; because this one offering is sufficient, and the blood thereof sprinkled upon the conscience, is able to purge away dead works, wherever it is sprinkled. There needeth not any other offering, nor any other blood to do it: but all that is now further needed, or to be expected by his is, his appearing the second time, without sin, unto salvation, in the pure virtue, power, and life of his own Spirit, ver. 25. to the end.
Obs. 26. What it was, that was the thing of great value with the Father, in Christ giving up himself to death. It was his obedience. He did obey his Father in all things, not doing his own will, but the will of him that sent him. "He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross:" and so, as by one man's disobedience, death came upon all; so by the obedience of one, the free gift came upon all, which free gift is unto life; for life comes upon all that come to him, and believe in him, through the free gift, which is freely tendered to and come upon all, chap. 10:7. Rom. 5:18-19.
Obs. 27. That God took away sacrifices and burnt-offerings, which were appointed by the old covenant, that he might establish this obedience among all his children. Christ led the way, and all are to follow him in the new obedience, and to walk in newness of spirit before the Lord, ver. 9.
Obs. 28. That we are sanctified by the same will, by which Christ was sanctified, or sanctifieth himself. In subjection to the same will, which the head obeyed (even in denying themselves, taking up the cross to their own wills, and submitting to God's) are the members sanctified. The Spirit of God works them into holiness by this will of God, and through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once, ver. 10. John 17:19.
So mark: there is the will of God, the offering up the body of Jesus, the pouring out the Spirit of grace, the new covenant, and faith in Christ, &c., -- all these tend to work out one and the same thing, and they all concur thereto, in their several orders and places.
Obs. 29. That as this high priest sanctifies men, so he perfects them; and when they are fully sanctified, then they are <104> for ever perfected; but till then, Christ, the high priest of our profession, hath somewhat to do upon them towards the perfecting of them, that he may present them spotless and blameless to his Father, ver. 14-15.
Obs. 30. How the apostle proves, "That by this one offering, Christ hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified." He proves it thus: by this offering the covenant is established, wherein is the putting and writing God's law in the heart and mind, the remission of sins.
So, come into this covenant, come under this high priest; there is no more remembering of sin there, but perfect forgiveness through this one offering, and so no more need of any more sacrificing or offering for sins to such, ver. 15-19. For "he shall sprinkle many nations with the blood of this one offering" Isa. 52:15.
Obs. 31. The great privilege of those who indeed believe in Christ, and are sprinkled with the blood; and how they are to improve and make use of that privilege.
First, They have liberty, confidence, or boldness, to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, ver. 19. What is more holy than God's Spirit? Is not that the most holy place? Why, there they are to worship; for they that worship the Father in the new covenant, or according to the new covenant, must worship him in the Spirit, and in the truth; yea, and must also live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, which is the place of everlasting rest, and land of the living.
Secondly, Take notice how they come into the holiest, which is by the new and living way, which Christ hath prepared, or consecrated through his flesh, ver. 20.
Thirdly, They have a high priest there over the house of God, who appears before God in the holiest, and stands ready there to perform all the offices of priesthood for his household, ver. 21.
Fourthly, There is an orderly way of drawing nigh to God, and worshipping him in the holiest. There is a certain manner, after which believers are to approach, and draw nigh to God; which is, 1. With a true heart. 2. In fulness of faith, or in full assurance of faith; not waveringly, but as those that are called of God, and shall be helped by him, and accepted of him through <105> their high priest. 3. In purity of conscience and conversation, having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water, ver. 22, 23. and Psal. 26:6. "Christ came by water and blood; so here is both the water and the blood, according to the figures thereof, under the law.
Obs. 32. Whither they came in the apostles' days, who knew Christ as their high priest and mediator, and who partook of the blood of sprinkling. They came to spiritual Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Heb.12:22.
Observe likewise where they walked, who felt the virtue of Christ's blood cleansing them; which was "in the light, as God is in the light." 1 John 1:7.
Now, what light is that which the redeemed are to walk in? Is it not the light of the Lamb's city, the New Jerusalem? Is it not the light thereof, that the nations of them that are saved must walk in? Rev. 21:24. Yea, this light, this city, and the holy waters of the sanctuary, which flow and stream from the river of life there, were in measure known and experienced in the days of old, which David prayed for, and experienced a sense of. Psal. 43:3. and 46:4. Yea, he knew also the blood of the everlasting covenant, praying and waiting to be sprinkled and cleansed therewith. Psal. 51:7. For he looked through the outward figure, to what his soul needed to purge and wash it inwardly; which outward hyssop, or outward water of purification, he knew would not do; for he that saw through the outward sacrifices, to the inward, could not choose but see through these also.
But that power, virtue, and life of God's Spirit, which could "create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in him," and bring him into God's presence, where he might feel the upholdings of his free spirit, and partake of the joy of God's salvation and deliverance from that which had defiled him; this was it he prayed for; knowing assuredly, he should here meet with the true hyssop, and water of life, and blood of the covenant, which purgeth the heart and conscience from dead works, and maketh it whiter than the snow in God's sight, ver. 10-12. For he that delighted not in sacrifice, nor burnt-offerings, neither could he delight in hyssop, or water, or blood, outward or natural; but in that which melteth the heart, and purifieth the conscience, from <106> that which is dead and unclean, in that is God's delight; and in that which is melted, broken, and purified by it, ver. 16-17.
Obs. Lastly, That there is a sin unto death, a kind of sinning for which there is no sacrifice (but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, to destroy and devour the adversaries, ver. 26-27), which is a wilful despising this covenant; which he that doth, must die without mercy; as he that despised Moses' law did, ver. 28-29. For the Lord will revenge this sin, wheresoever he finds it; and such shall know, that it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," when he comes to judge them, ver. 30-31.
THERE are chambers of imagery in many people; and strong-holds, and reasonings, and imaginations, and high thoughts, exalted above the pure seed and measure of life in their hearts. For every true Christian, every true believer, hath received somewhat of Christ's Spirit, some proportion of grace and truth from the fulness of Christ, which is as leaven and salt, to leaven the heart, and season the mind and spirit with.
But all do not distinctly know this, nor are all that do know it subject to it; so that this doth not lead, and command, and rule in all; but there is somewhat which holds captive, and the enemy of the soul hath the rule and dominion in many men's spirits, professing godliness; whereby the seed is kept under in them, and their souls kept back from that redemption and deliverance, which they should partake of, in and with the seed. So, many talk of the gospel (and speak great words of Christ, and redemption by him) who know not "immortality brought to light," nor the dead raised by it, to live to God, and praise his name.
Now, in these chambers of imagery, in these strong-holds, there are many pleasant pictures, many images of the heavenly things, which men form in their minds, from their own apprehendings and conceivings upon the Scriptures. For men <107> reading the Scriptures, not in the life, Spirit, and power which gave them forth, but with that which is natural, they come not to the true, pure, heavenly, living knowledge; but only obtain a natural knowledge, according to which they believe and worship; and so fall down before, and according to, the apprehensions and imaginations of their own minds; and so one believes and worships one way, and another believes and worships another way. And truly, here men worship they know not what; but they that are the true Jews, know what they worship: for salvation is of the true Jews, who worship neither at this mountain, nor at the other mountain; but only in Spirit, and in truth, even in the life and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus it is with all men in their several professions of religion in the darkness, in the apostasy from the true life and power, which all sorts have erred and wandered from, but few have returned to. Ah! few have found the pearl of price, which hath been long lost; but have contented themselves with a literal relation and knowledge concerning the pearl, without knowing and possessing the pearl itself. Yea, indeed, this was the state of darkness the Lord found us all in, when he came to visit us; for the strong man armed had his strong-holds in us, whereby he held us in the bands of death, and kept us captive, and free from that righteous life and power which we thirsted after. But when the stronger than he came, he battered his strength, he assaulted and took his strong-holds: he break all his reasonings, knowledge, wisdom, and subtlety, wherein he trusted, and made spoil of his goods, and delivered the captive from under his hand.
For, indeed, when the mighty day of the Lord came upon us, and his pure, heavenly light shone in our hearts, God searched Jerusalem as with candles, discovering the most hidden things of Esau's nature inwardly; and then all the knowledge and wisdom, all the understanding and experiences, which were treasured up in us out of the pure life, out of the truth, which lives and abides, they were found dead, and condemned as dead in us, and so cast forth, as the treasures of Egypt and Babylon, and thrown to the bats and moles; who either creep up and down in the earthly nature, or soar aloft in the dark dreams and imaginations of the night of darkness and apostasy.
<108> For when the true light shines, it discovers what the day is, and what the night is; and the things which are of the day, and the things also which are of the night.
Now, when the Lord thus appeared unto us, and caused the light of his Son to shine in us, many of us quickly came out of Egypt, turning our backs upon the darkness; and went willingly into the wilderness, to travel along with the Lord, and to be exercised and fitted there for the good land, the land of the redeemed, the land of the living, the land which flows with milk and honey (which is pure, heavenly food), whither they that come, find the excellent vine, which bears the heavenly grapes, of which is the wine of the kingdom; and the true olive, which yields sweet oil; and houses which they built not, wherein are many mansions of rest and pure glory; and vineyards which they planted not, wherein the living plants grow, and spring up in the presence of the Lord, who dwells among his, and walks in the gardens and holy plantations.
But there were others, who were loath to come out of Egypt, or to forsake the idols and way of worship in Egypt and Babylon, whom the enemy long held captive in their thoughts and reasonings, and in the disputings of their minds.
Now, these suffered much, and felt many of the strokes and dreadful judgments of the Lord, poured out upon that spirit in them, which held them captive, and upon them for their hearkenings and joinings to the subtle twinings, and entangling reasonings and suggestions of that spirit. For the enemy useth all his strength and subtlety to the utmost, to hold his captives in subjection to him, and under his power, as long as ever he can. He keeps every hold, he strengthens every reasoning, and every thought and imagination of the mind against God's call, against the appearances of his Spirit in the heart. Do not go yet (saith the enemy), thy way is not yet plain before thee, thy light is not yet clear enough; the reason or consideration which is objected, is not yet fully answered. Thou art to try all things; but there is this, or that, or the other consideration, which thou hast not yet tried, or considered of fully, and satisfactorily to thy own heart. Thus many pure drawings of the Father (in which there was light sufficient for the soul to follow) have been lost, and the soul <109> thereby hath missed of the hand which was put forth (in the tender love of the Lord) to help and save it.
Quest. But some may say, What have ye learned of the Lord more than we, or more than ye knew before, when ye walked among us, and practised the ordinances which we practise? Have not we good directions from the Scriptures? Do not we practise them? and is not the Spirit of God in the Scriptures? Are they not joined together? and so, having the Scriptures, we have the Spirit of God too.
Ans. It is not in my heart to enter into dispute now, though I am sensible of the darkness from whence this objection ariseth: and oh that it were removed from their hearts in whom it is! for truly, we ourselves were once there; and when we were there, we knew not the Scriptures aright, as we ought to know, nor the power of God. But to answer plainly and directly to the thing itself:
There are three things I shall mention (besides many others, which might be mentioned) which the Lord hath taught us, since his Spirit and power hath appeared to us, and led us out of the darkness, towards, and into, the land of light; which are these. He hath taught us to believe, he hath taught us to obey, and he hath taught us to pray to him in the name of his Son.
Obj. Why, did ye never learn these before?
Ans. No, not so far as the Lord hath now taught us. There was indeed some true faith from the true seed in us, and some true obedience, and some pure breathings to the Father, in the days of our former profession; but we knew not the root from whence they came, so as to turn to it, and abide in it; and so the holy desires, and true sense in us, were often made a prey of, and we still in want and penury in a strange land, and could not enjoy (possess or retain) what was freely given us of our God and Father in Christ; but still a fleshly wisdom, a fleshly comprehension, a fleshly nature, mind, and knowledge (which in that day went with us for spiritual, as well as it doth so with others now), pecked up over it; and so Hagar was in the house, and would be mistress there, but was not cast out with her seed. Oh, who can read, and truly understand this! But when the Lord turned us to the light of his Spirit, and by the light and power of his Spirit brake the bonds and chains of darkness in us; then we <110> could believe in him who appeared, and (in the strength and virtue received from him) we could obey him, yielding our members instruments of righteousness to do his will; and in the Spirit of the Son (which we then received in the faith, even the heavenly Spirit, the most excellent Spirit) we could pray to the Father; first, sighing and groaning before him, afterwards pouring out our requests and supplications to him, with giving of thanks.
Quest. How did the Lord teach you to believe? Or what did he teach you to believe now, more than before?
Ans. It is written in the prophets, "all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;" and in the new covenant it is promised, "they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest."
Now, as we were brought by the Lord into the light of this covenant, we were taught thus to know him, and to believe in him, and his Son, as thus made known. So that we knew the Father revealing the Son, and the Son revealing the Father; and our hearts were drawn to believe in both, as they were both revealed in us, and to us, and the revealing was in the Spirit of both, in the light of both, in the life of both, in the power of both; which Spirit, which light, which life, which power, are one; and he that indeed knows the Son, knows the Father also; and he that indeed knows the Father, knows the Son also.
Very deep and weighty was that answer of Christ to Philip, when Philip said, "show us the Father, and it sufficeth. Hast thou not seen me, Philip? said Christ. How is it that thou sayest, show us the Father? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father also." Are they not one nature, one wisdom, one power, one pure, eternal being? Can the one possibly be seen, and not the other? Though they may be distinguished in manifestation, in the hearts where they are received; is it possible they should be divided and separated the one from the other?
Those that thus apprehend, plainly manifest, that they never received the true knowledge of the Father and Son; but have only notions and apprehensions of man's wisdom concerning them.
So now to us there is but one God and Father, "Of whom are all things, and we in him;" and "one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him;" and but one Spirit and one power of life, which we have received of the Son and <111> Father, through which we believe, and lay hold on the pure eternal power and strength of the Almighty, which redeems and saves the soul; and so believing on him, who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, here we meet with justification, and are at peace with our God, laying hold on his strength, and being held by it.
And so here, in the new covenant, under the teachings of God's Spirit, we witness that scripture fulfilled in our hearts. Isa. 27:4-5.
Quest. How did the Lord teach you to obey? Ye do not obey the ten commandments; ye neither learned nor teach them: but all that ye obey is all light and spirit within; which may be a spirit of delusion, for aught we know; and we believe it is so, because we do not find it agreeing with the Scriptures, nor you in the practice of the ordinances of Christ, according to the Scriptures.
Ans. That harsh spirit, which in this manner objecteth, is not very fit nor likely to receive or embrace information, from the meek and tender Spirit of the Lamb; but there are some, who are broken and tendered, and fit to receive impression and information from the Holy Spirit and power of our God; and to them, and for their sakes, are my answers given forth and directed. So, for their sakes, I shall proceed in plainness and evidence of truth, answering, as the Lord shall open my heart.
Truly, the Lord hath taught us obedience, so as we never learned before; putting his laws into our minds, and writing them in our hearts, and giving us his good Spirit to dwell in us, to quicken and help us to obey and perform his holy laws. And those two commandments (on which the whole law and prophets hang); to wit, "To love God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves," as taught by Moses and Christ: yea, the very substance of the law written in tables of stone, he hath inwardly written in our hearts, and taught us to observe and obey; so that we have no other God but him, who brought us out of spiritual Egypt, by his out-stretched arm and holy power, revealed inwardly for us, as it was outwardly for that people of the Jews, whom God redeemed out of outward Egypt.
Indeed, before, other lords had rule over us, and somewhat still got between us and our God; so that, when we were without <112> the limits of the pure power, we were idolaters in God's sight, though we then knew it not; but now we make mention of the Lord's name only.
So the Lord hath taught us not to make any image, or likeness of his appearance, or of the heavenly things; not to form any thing in our minds from the Scriptures; but to wait on God, to know his truths revealed in their own pure nature.
The Lord hath likewise taught us to sanctify his name, which he hath made known to us, and not to take it in vain; but to reverence his holy power and Spirit, in every degree of his appearance; for the name of our God is living, and is only sanctified, and not taken in vain, by those that are living.
Also the Lord hath taught us to observe and keep his holy sabbath, and day of rest (even the day of the gospel rest, for that is the sabbath now), not doing our own works, or thinking our own thoughts, or kindling a fire of ourselves, on his holy day; but ceasing from our own willing and running, and from all the works of the flesh; and waiting to feel him work in us, both "to will and to do of his good pleasure;" which works in the Spirit (works of faith, of love, of mercy, &c.) break not the gospel rest or sabbath.
And having thus learned the duties of the first table (the Lord having circumcised our hearts to "love the Lord our God with all our hearts," and to exalt him, his Spirit, his nature, his will, his name, his day, in us), the duties of the second table are easy and natural to us, and we cannot but "do to others as we would be done unto;" and so love and honor all men in the Lord, as the Lord teacheth us from the true and holy balance. Therefore, we cannot kill, or commit adultery, or steal, or bear false witness, or covet any thing that is our neighbor's.
Then, for the laws and ordinances of the new testament; the ministration of the gospel is a ministration of the Spirit and power; even of the light of the everlasting day, which the true ministry was sent to turn men's minds from the darkness to.
And here we see what was taught and required before the apostasy, while the church was in its first glory; and what was permitted and practised by permission; which were such kind of things as were not of the nature of the kingdom, not of the <113> nature of the light of the gospel day; but of a lower nature, of an outward nature, of an earthly (elementary) nature, which were to be shaken in due time, that that which could not be shaken (which they signified of and represented) might remain, and be established in the spiritual and heavenly Jerusalem (which is the Jerusalem of the gospel) without any such thing as could be shaken; as is testified, Heb. 12:22, to the end. And we understand also from God's Spirit, and from the Scriptures of truth, that all such kind of things were part of, or belonging to, the outward court; which was shaken, and given to the Gentiles, when God's Spirit measured what he would have abide with his true, inward, spiritual Jews; and what he would leave to the professing world, who, in mind, nature, and spirit, and in God's account also, are but Gentiles.
Quest. How did God teach you to pray? Surely ye never learned the Lord's prayer; for ye do not practise that among you.
Ans. As God brought us into a sensible condition, so we came to feel our wants, and the need of our souls, inwardly and spiritually.
Now, waiting on the Lord in this sense, when we meet together, and when we are alone also, the Lord breatheth upon us, and kindleth in us fervent desires and longings of soul after that which is pure, and to be delivered from that which is impure; and that we might be ingrafted more and more into Christ; and that judgment and condemnation might pass upon all that is not of God in us; and that our hearts might be so united to the Lord, as that we might fear his name fully. For we feel and observe, that all our life and strength flow from the union of our souls with the Lord; and therefore, above all things, we cry for that, and for separation from that spirit which captivateth into the things of the earth, and in the earthly mind and nature.
So, we watch unto prayer, and watch for help from God in our calling upon him; and are deeply sensible that we have need both of watching and praying continually, the enemy is so near, and the soul's snares and dangers so many.
And truly, Christ, our Lord and Master, who taught his disciples to pray formerly, hath taught us also to pray that very prayer; though not to say the words outwardly in the will of <114> men, or in our own will; he hath taught our hearts to breathe after the same things, even that the name of our heavenly Father might be hallowed or sanctified more and more, among all that call upon his name in truth, and especially in our own hearts; and that his kingdom might come more and more, that he might reign more in men's spirits, and the kingdom of sin and Satan be thrown down; and that his will might be done, even in our earth, as it is done in the heavenly places, where all the hosts of God obey him; and that we might have every day a proportion of the heavenly bread, whereby our souls may live to him; and convenient food and provision outward also, according as he seeth good, who careth for us.
Now, as we are kept in the light, and watch to the light which discovers things, we see what we are kept out of, and what we at any time are entangled in and so trespass against the Lord; and then we are taught to beg pardon, and to wait where pardon is to be received, through our advocate, even as God hath taught us to forgive.
Yet this doth not imbolden any of the little ones to sin; but they pray that they may not be led (or fall) into temptation; but may witness deliverance from the evil, which the enemy watcheth to betray and insnare them with. And these cries are put up to him, who is ready to hear, and who can answer and fulfil the desires of them that love and fear him; and indeed not only so, but they are also put up in faith, that in the way of God the soul shall obtain and receive what it prayeth and waiteth for.
Now we witness this to be true religion, and undefiled before God; and we are sensible that the Lord hath taught us this, and is with us in our faith, which he hath given us; in our obedience, in our praying to him in the name of his Son, in our watching, in our waiting, in the silence of our spirits, before his mighty and glorious majesty.
Oh that ye all knew our God, and his Christ, in the same covenant and power of life, wherein it hath pleased him to make himself manifest to us! Oh, awake, awake out of your dreams, come out of the night of sin and darkness, into the light of the day!
Be not offended that I call them dreams of the night, for they are no better before the light of the day. Oh! be not contented <115> with dreams concerning God; with dreams concerning fellowship with him and the saints in light; with dreams concerning remission, concerning justification, concerning peace, concerning sanctification, concerning the help of God's Spirit in prayer, &c.
Ah! friends, dear friends (for ye, in whom there are any true breathings after the Lord, are so to me); oh, let go the dead for the living; away with dead knowledge, dead faith, dead hope, dead prayers, dead understanding of the scriptures, dead strivings after holiness, which shall never obtain, but ye be still bowed down under corruption, when at any time truly sensible, notwithstanding all these (truly, groaning and complaining is your best state here, for your peace here is wrong); and come to feel that raised in you, in the true retired waiting upon the Lord, which shall certainly obtain in you, as your minds are united to it, and come into the true sense and subjection under it; and then ye shall obtain in it, and with it, what the hearts of all the upright (whether in captivity, or out of captivity) breathe after!
Oh! therefore, be not any longer prejudiced, by the subtle devices and deceits of the enemy, against that in your hearts which reproves because of sin; and likewise draws and leads into that which is holy; for it is no less than the pure, heavenly light of God's own Spirit, whatever ye, through mistake, misunderstanding, or want of true experience, may judge of it.
THE Gospel is a ministration of the new covenant, or a spiritual ministration of the substance of all that was shadowed out under the law. There were many things under the law; but in the gospel, God hath gathered all into one; in Christ there is but one seed, one Spirit, one life, one power, which redeems, one circumcision, one baptism, one faith, &c.
The law was given by Moses, and the ministration thereof continued through the prophets, until the seed should come, which was to put an end to the law, and the righteousness thereof (as in the letter), and bring in the righteousness in the spirit, which should last for ever.
The gospel is by Christ, by whom God spake in the last days, who is the beloved Son, the prophet and high priest of <116> God, who is to be heard for ever; who taught his disciples, while he was with them on earth, in that body of flesh which his Father prepared for him; and afterwards by his spirit (or holy anointing), whereby he continueth teaching his children, and bringing them up in the virtue, life, and power of the new covenant; giving them a new heart and spirit and causing the old nature of the earthly Adam to die in them, and pass away from them.
The law was given to the Jew outward, and is against nature in man, which seems forward to obey, but will not.
The law also is given to check that part (or nature in man) which is above the seed, to which were all the shadows and types outward.
But in the gospel, which is the power of God to the redemption of the soul, that part is done away, and the seed raised, and comes to live in the soul, and the soul in the power which quickens it, in and through the seed.
And so, here the life and virtue and nature of the seed overshadows all, and changes all in the gospel ministration; so that here is a new heaven, and a new earth, wherein God reigns, and where righteousness dwells; and the old things, wherein unrighteousness dwelt, and wherein the devil reigned, are done away, and so his kingdom is destroyed, and laid waste in man, and the kingdom of Christ set up, exalted, and established.
Then comes the mountain of the Lord's house to be known on the top and above all the mountains and hills; and then is the flowing of the enlightened soul thither, to learn of the Lord in his holy sanctuary, that it may know his ways, and walk in his paths. Then is the voice of the true Shepherd heard, and the law known (the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus) which cometh out of Zion, "and the word of the Lord (even the holy one of Israel) which cometh from Jerusalem." Then is the day of the Lord known; the mighty, terrible, shaking day of the Lord, which is then upon all flesh, silencing it in the dread and awe of him, who is holy and pure; and the seed is then raised to life, and in life and power, and the Lord alone exalted in that soul. "For the Son exalted the Father only, in the days of his flesh;" and it is so now, wherever the same seed and power of life is made manifest, and rules.
<117> Then, after this shaking, after the work of this terrible day of the Lord in the heart, when God hath purged away the filth and blood of the defiled soul and spirit, by his Spirit of judgment and burning, then that which is left shall be called holy, and dedicated to the Lord, even in every one that is written and reckoned by God among the living in his Jerusalem. And all God's tabernacles and dwelling-places on his holy mountain, and in his holy city, will he cover with the glory of his presence; and all their assemblies (by his cloudy pillar, and by his shining flame) will God be a defence about; before which brightness (and the arising of his life and power in the midst of his people) Satan with his devices and fiery darts shall fall like flashes of lightning, and his storms and winds shall not be able to prevail against the houses or dwelling-places which God builds on this his holy mountain of peace and salvation.
Then the rod of the stem of Jesse is known, and the branch which groweth out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord resting upon him. "For grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;" and where the grace and truth which comes by Jesus Christ is received, and his everlasting covenant entered into, there the same Spirit is poured forth, and rests (even upon all the sons), and true judgment is set up in the heart, and the soul established in the righteousness and peace of his kingdom.
So if any want wisdom, let him ask in faith: it is presently given from the Spirit of wisdom, which is poured out upon the seed; which is a Spirit of understanding and knowledge, and of pure, heavenly fear, &c., which maketh quick in understanding the fear of the Lord; which fear (being understood and observed) keepeth the heart clean, teaching it to avoid and keep out of all that defiles; so that here is not so much as a touching the unclean thing by any of the sons and daughters, who are led by God's Spirit, and live and walk in the Spirit; but a following of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus fully and perfectly.
Let sin and imperfection be received back to Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon, from whence they came; but let holiness and unstained beauty dwell in Zion; yea, let Urim and Thummim, even God's light and perfection, be with his redeemed people for ever and ever.
<118> Here the wolf dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and the little child leads them. Here the lion devours not, but eats straw like the ox; and the sucking child and the weaned child can play in the hole of the asp, and put his hand on the cockatrice's den; and they that are in the power can tread upon serpents, and they cannot hurt, wound, poison, or destroy; for there is safety all over God's holy mountain, and the venom or poison of the wicked spirit cannot reach thither, to hurt or poison any there: for God's earth is filled with knowledge, with life, with pure, living knowledge, which preserves out of the reach of darkness and death.
Nay, here Ephraim doth not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim; for the envying, vexing nature and spirit is taken out of them both. And here is turned to the Lord a people of a pure language, who speak the truth as they feel it, as they receive it from the Lord, in the life of it, in the true sense and understanding of it, and not according to their own apprehendings or imaginations concerning it, which are the various and many languages of Babel. For in the seed, and of the seed, is the pure language; but out from the seed are the many voices and languages (even the confusion of Babel); one speaking as he apprehends, thus; another speaking as he conceives, thus; so plainly manifesting that they are out from the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit, whose voice is one, and language one, in all, in the day of the gospel. And he that speaks otherwise than the law and testimony of life speaks in the heart, it is either because he knoweth not , or is not yet gathered into, the morning light of the everlasting day of the gospel; for there all are to speak, as the oracles of God, the truth as it is in Jesus.
In this day the anger of God is turned away, and condemnation come to an end (for "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"): and the Comforter is come, by whom God comforts the soul; and the soul with joy draweth water out of the wells or springs of the Comforter. Yea, the soul is gathered into the love (or into God, who is love), where the Saviour and salvation is felt, and God found such a present help and strength in time of <119> trouble, that fear is done away, and the Lord trusted and hoped in; yea, and boasted of in every condition. So that his name is made mention of, and sung of, and exalted over all that can come to oppose or break down the work of his power in the heart; insomuch that the inhabitant of Zion cries out and shouts against the enemy when he appears, because the Holy One of Israel is so great in the midst of her, who breaks the spear and the bow, the shield and the battle, Selah. See Isa. 12.
Yea, in this day the feast of fat things is made on God's holy mountain, of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined. And in this mountain the veil of the covering (spread over the heart) is done away: for in the seed there is no feigned covering; but an opening of the unveiled eye, to see the unveiled life and power, even the revealed arm of the Redeemer.
"Who hath believed our report; and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" It was said so in the old covenant, in the law dispensation; but it is not said so in the new covenant, in the gospel dispensation; for the veil is done away in Christ, and the children there with open face behold (as in a mirror) the glory of the Lord.
And here, where the seed is revealed, and the soul come into the seed, and become one with the seed, that is felt which breaketh the serpent's head; and when his head is broken, death is soon swallowed up in victory, and the tears of sorrow wiped away (so that there is no room for any tears now, but tears of joy, tears of melting love and sweetness, before the Lord), and the rebuke because of uncircumcision taken away. For when God circumciseth the heart, "to love the Lord with all the heart," then it receiveth life from him, and then the shame and rebuke of the uncircumcised and dead state passeth away.
And then saith the soul, "Lo! this is my God I so much wanted, and so long waited for. Oh! he is come, he is come to judge my heart in righteousness, and to bring under all that hath kept the seed under in me; and I feel him, my soul's salvation, and my heart is glad in him. And now I know the land of Judah" (for that land outwardly was but a figure of the inward), "and the strong city that is therein" (which the righteous nation that keepeth the truth enters in at the gates of) "where God appointeth salvation for walls and bulwarks." See Isa. 25 and 26.
<120> And in this day, when the seed is raised, when the gospel power reacheth to the seed, and raiseth up the soul with the seed, and punisheth Leviathan, that crooked serpent, and destroyeth the place where the dragons lay, so that as such a place it can be found no more, because the Lord hath made all things new, and laid waste the old, then shall be sung, to her that was afflicted, a vineyard of red wine, which the Lord will keep and water every moment, lest any hurt it; yea, the Lord (who is the keeper of Israel, who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth) will keep it night and day; and though fury be not in the Lord, yet he will go through the briars and thorns which set themselves in battle against him, to hinder the current of his love and blessings upon his heritage.
But as for his people, God will be very gracious to them, answering them in all that they call upon him for, and being with them in the fire, and in the water; so that the waters shall not be able to overwhelm them, nor the flame of the fiercest fire kindle upon them. For the enemies' fire shall not be able to burn up God's heritage, nor their waters to overflow them; but God's fire and waters shall overflow and consume the adversaries, as he pleaseth to let forth his overflowing scourge and fiery indignation upon them.
The gospel is a state of pouring out the Spirit of God upon his seed, and his blessing upon his offspring; wherein he strengthens that which is weak, and confirms that which is feeble; wherein he comforts worm Jacob, and recompenseth vengeance to that which oppressed him, that which wounded him, that which bowed him down, that which closed his eye, stopped his ear, made him dumb and lame, hardened his heart from God's fear, &c., that nature, that wisdom, that spirit, that power, is visited with vengeance. That which emptied him of the good, and made him desolate and solitary, is now smitten, distressed, and made solitary; and the prisoner of hope loosed, and brought out of the pit; and the blind eye opened, and the deaf ear unstopped, and the lame made to leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing, and the parched ground become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; and that nature wherein dragons dwelt is now changed; and life dwells there; and the holy <121> new earth brings forth her increase of life to the Lord, and the way of holiness is made plain; which rough Esau, or conceited Ishmael, or sacrificing Cain (who hath not the true brotherly love in him), cannot come into; but holy Abel, blessed Isaac, plain Jacob, walked therein, and inherited the blessing; and the ransomed of the Lord return from all their desolations, captivities, and scatterings in the apostasy, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads, where they obtain joy and gladness, and where sorrow and sighing flee away. For when the Comforter is come to the soul, when the Spirit from on high is poured out upon it, then the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted for a forest; then judgment dwells in the wilderness, and righteousness remains in the fruitful field; then righteousness is known, and the work thereof; and the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness, and assurance for ever. And the people of God then dwell (even his holy Israel, his spiritual Israel, the redeemed ones by his spirit and power) in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places, where their God is to them as a munition of rocks, and as broad rivers of love, righteousness, peace, joy, and blessedness for ever.
In the gospel state, the Lord, the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, who is the teacher of his people in the new covenant, who teacheth them to profit therein, and leadeth them in the way that they should go, -- I say, in the gospel state he is known, and his voice hearkened to. "My sheep" (those whom I gather and redeem) "hear my voice, and follow me," saith Christ; who feed my flock like a shepherd, guiding them by my Spirit into fresh and green pastures, gathering my lambs with my arm, carrying them in my bosom, and gently leading those that are with young. Yea, I bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and lead them in paths they have not known. I make dark things light before them, and crooked things straight. These things do I unto them, and will not forsake them. Yea, worm Jacob, which was trampled upon by all, is now made a sharp threshing instrument having teeth, which thresheth the mountains (beating them small) and makes the hills as chaff, which fans them, and the wind carrieth them away, and the whirlwind scattereth them; but Jacob <122> rejoiceth in his God, and glorieth in the Holy One of Israel; who openeth rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of valleys; and makes the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. For the Lord hath comforted Zion, and had compassion on her waste places, and on her oppressed seed in Babylon; and hath said to the prisoners, "Go forth; and to them that sat in darkness, show yourselves abroad in the light;" and he hath made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; so that joy and gladness is found in her (even the joy of God's Spirit, which is unspeakable and full of glory), with thanksgiving, and the voice of melody: for the destroyer, and those that made her waste, are gone forth of her, and great is the Holy One in the midst of her. So that the barren that did not bear, sings; and she cries aloud, and breaks forth into singing, that did not travail with child; for she travails not now in vain, but also brings forth abundantly: so that more are the children of the desolate than of the formerly married wife. And how can it be otherwise? For the Maker is the husband, who hath made an everlasting covenant of peace with the soul in the Son of his love, and keeps and preserves in that covenant, where the Lord can never be wroth with the soul, nor rebuke it: for here all the children of the Lord are taught of the Lord, and kept in his holy fear, and in subjection to his Spirit; and great is their peace, and in righteousness are they established, and are far from oppression, the terror whereof cannot come near them.
There are three or four things yet more on my heart to mention concerning the gospel state.
First, In it the gospel fast is known; which is not to afflict the soul, or to hang down the head like a bulrush for a day; but to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke, to deal one's bread to the hungry ("to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction," and to keep one's self unspotted from the worldly spirit and nature, which defiles, and so not to touch the unclean thing.)
Then the light of the soul breaks forth as the morning, and its health springs forth speedily, and its righteousness goeth before it (for that which judgeth unrighteousness, that is its righteousness; which instead of coming after, to reprove and <123> condemn, now goeth before), and the glory of the Lord is the rearward, coming after to preserve and defend all that springs up in the power. Oh, blessed is he that witnesseth this state!
Secondly, In the gospel state the gospel sabbath is kept, and known to be God's holy day, and called a delight (the holy of the Lord, honorable), and the Lord is honored in it by the soul while it walketh not in its own ways, nor findeth its own pleasures, nor speaketh its own words: and then the soul delighteth itself in the Lord, who then (in this state) causeth it to ride on the high places of the earth, and feedeth it with the heritage of Jacob its father. What is that? What is Jacob's heritage? What is it Jacob is to be fed with, and inherit? Is it any less than the life and blessedness of the promised land? Is it any less than the hidden manna? Is it any less than the fruit of the living vine? Is it any other than the sweetness and fatness of the true olive-tree?
Thirdly, In it the garment of salvation is put on, even the Lord Jesus Christ; for here the filthy garments are put off, and the pure garments put on. For here the Lord hath appointed to them that "have mourned in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. So that here the soul can truly say, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness." For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord hath caused righteousness and praise to spring forth before the eyes of all that are truly opened by him; and he will not draw back his arm, or put up the sword which he hath drawn, till he hath destroyed his adversaries, and laid waste the mount of Esau, and made his Jerusalem the praise of the whole earth. Amen, hallelujah!
And here is the love which casteth out fear, and removeth care; so that they that dwell here are careful in nothing, but in every thing make their requests known to God by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving; "and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding," guards the heart and mind, through <124> Christ Jesus. So that here God glorifieth the soul, changing it from glory to glory, in and by his Spirit; and God is praised and glorified in and by the soul, and the heart kept pure and chaste in the eye of the Lord; and the conversation ordered aright by his Spirit and power, in which the soul lives and walks, and his salvation seen and enjoyed daily more and more. So that here is a possession or inheritance of life in the kingdom (in the holy land of the living), of which there is no end. Everlasting, endless prayers to the Holy One of Israel (whose tabernacle is with men, and who dwelleth in the midst of his people) for ever and ever.
Now, if any one doubt concerning the truth of these things, this word is in my heart to such, Come and see. Oh! come and see the glory of the Lord, and the power of his life, and righteousness of his kingdom, which is now revealed, after the long night of darkness! Oh, blessed, blessed be his name, who hath caused his light to shine, and opened the eye, which was once blind, to see it!
Quest. But how may I come to see the glory of the gospel state?
Ans. Come to the seed, and wait to feel and receive the power which raiseth the seed in the heart, and bringeth the heart, soul, mind, and spirit into union with the seed.
Quest. But how may I come to the seed; and how may I wait aright to feel and receive the power which raiseth it?
Ans. Mind that in thee which searcheth the heart, and what it reacheth to, and quickeneth in thee; what it draweth thee from, what it draweth thee to; how it showeth thee thine own inability to follow, and how it giveth ability when thou art weary of toiling and laboring of thyself. Oh, this is he whom we have waited for! Thus he appeared to us; thus he taught us to turn in, and to turn from the kingdom of darkness within, towards the kingdom of light, which the good seedsman had sown in us as a grain of mustard seed; which when we found, we knew it to be the pearl of price, and were made willing to sell all for it; and now it is purchased, and also possessed in a good measure; blessed be the name of our merciful God, and tender Father, for ever and ever.
O hungering and thirsting soul after life, after truth, after the Lamb's righteousness, do thou also wait to be taught of the <125> Lord, who thus taught us, and then do thou go and do so likewise, and thou wilt never repent of this purchase, or of what thou parted with for it, when once thou comest to enjoy and possess any proportion of it.
The Lord make thee sensible of the visits, drawings, and leadings of his Holy Spirit, and guide thy feet thereby into the way of truth and peace. Amen.
THIS is a very weighty scripture, and necessary for every Christian rightly to understand, that he may so believe, and be so baptized, as to witness salvation by the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, what believing is this which is here required as necessary to salvation, and which the promise of salvation is to? Is it any thing less than a believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, from a sense of the power which the Father hath given him to save with? Is it not an inward believing, a believing with the heart? And what baptism or washing is it which saves? Is it not an inward washing, a washing of the soul, a washing of the heart, a washing of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Doth outward washing save the soul? Inward washing doth; baptizing into the name doth. Bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness (the inward renewing and washing of the mind) profiteth greatly.
There is one faith, one baptism. Is not the one faith inward and spiritual? Is not the one baptism so also? Sure I am, that he that thus believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, remaineth in the filthy, unwashed state, in which there neither is, nor can be, salvation; but judgment and condemnation, death and destruction, for ever.
The apostle Peter shows, I Pet. 3. what the baptism is which saveth, even that which is the antitype, or which inwardly or spiritually answers to Noah's ark. The Greek word is , which signifieth the antitype, or that which answers to the type; the substance, which comes instead of the figure or shadow; and <126> so it is more properly and naturally rendered in the old translation thus; The baptism that now is, answering that figure, saveth. For as Noah's ark saved the bodies of those that were in it when God came to judge and destroy the old world; so the inward washing saveth those that are washed thereby from the wrath and destruction which will come upon all that are unwashed.
Now, lest any should misunderstand and misapply his words, as if he spake concerning outward baptism, or washing, he explaineth himself in the following words: "Not," saith he, "the putting away of the filth of the flesh," not the outward washing of the body, that is not it that saves; but that baptism which causeth the answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For this is the effect of the inward baptism; sin being washed away by the water of life, by the blood of the Lamb, that which is new, that which is renewed, riseth up out of the water which washeth away sin; and then the pure and good conscience answers to God, and the soul knows and partakes of both the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so being baptized by the one baptism, even the baptism of Christ, into the one body, comes into the state and fellowship of the living. Another apostle also speaketh of the inward washing, even the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; by which, saith he, "God according to his mercy saved us." Tit. 3:5.
The apostle Paul speaks of a "circumcision made without hands," and tells wherein it consists; to wit, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh: and showeth how this is effected; namely, not by Moses' circumcision, but by the circumcision of Christ. Col. 2:11. And truly, they who are thus circumcised are the true circumcision, the spiritual circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and have no confidence in the flesh, but rejoice in Christ Jesus, who thus circumciseth them. Now, in the next verse he speaketh of baptism, "of being buried with Christ in baptism, and of rising with him in the same, through the faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead." What is this baptism? Is it inferior to the circumcision before spoken of? Is it not without hands also? What is it that buries into the death of Christ; that raiseth into the life of Christ <127> through the faith of the operation of God? Is not this the one spiritual and heavenly baptism, wherewith the one body is baptized by the one Spirit? What doth outward circumcision avail? Doth it avail any thing? What doth outward washing avail? Doth it avail any more than outward circumcision? But the inward circumcision of the Jew inward, and the inward washing of the soul from sin, doth avail very much.
Now, for that place Mat. 28:19. where Christ expressly commandeth baptizing, it is a question very weighty, and worthy duly to be considered, what baptism he there commandeth. For if it be outward baptism, they greatly err who apprehend it to be the inward and spiritual baptism; but if it be the inward and spiritual baptism which Christ intended in those words, then they greatly err who apprehend it to be the outward. Now consider the words in the fear and weight of God's Spirit.
It is said, "Go teach, baptizing;" but it is not said, baptizing with water, but "in the name," or rather (as the Greek is) "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Now, to baptize with water is one thing, and to baptize into the name is another; as they who experience the spiritual baptism know it to be. For the word of faith turns men from Satan to the power of life; and then as they receive the power, and are made partakers of the power, they are baptized into the power and virtue of life; and so they are buried (so far as they come into Christ) by the power of his Spirit, with this heavenly baptism, into death unto sin, and by the same power are made alive unto righteousness; and so the name of the Lord, the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, comes over them, and they rise up in it unto life and righteousness, and so are dead unto sin, and alive unto God. Now, any outward circumcising or washing can be but a figure of this; but the inward circumcising and washing is the thing itself. For Christ sent not his able ministers of the New Testament to minister the letter, or to minister the figures of things; but to minister the Spirit, (else how were they able ministers of the Spirit?) to minister the substance; not to minister a circumcision or baptism which might be shaken and pass away, as outward and elementary, but to minister the circumcision and baptism which cannot be shaken; which is the circumcision and baptism of the <128> gospel, the circumcision and baptism of the Spirit, the circumcision and baptism of the kingdom, which is never to be shaken and pass away as elementary, but to stand and abide for ever. Read Heb. 12:26-28, and consider how all elementary and outward things which could be shaken were to be shaken and pass away; that those things which were of a higher nature (even of the nature of the kingdom) might remain and be established in their stead.
And, indeed, as the inward circumcision could not be thoroughly and alone established while the figure thereof remained, the same may be truly said concerning the inward baptism; so that by this it may appear, that the baptism of water cannot be the baptism which Christ intended in this place, because the baptism here spoken of was to continue to the end of the world; but the baptism of water is plainly of such an outward, elementary nature as might be shaken as well as circumcision, and so was to be shaken in due time, that that which could not be shaken might remain. Read also Rev. 11:2. where it is plainly signified, under that phrase of the outward court being left out of God's measure, and given to the Gentiles, that things of such a nature were shaken; and so were those that were not the true and spiritual worshippers in God's sight. For they are Jews under the gospel who are Jews inwardly; and they who are not Jews inwardly are, by God's Spirit, numbered amongst the Gentiles. And consider how, not only the notorious Heathen, but such as had got the "form of godliness, but denied the power thereof," were rejected, with their outside shadows, as really as outward Jerusalem was rejected to be trodden under foot of the Gentiles.
Obj. 1. But against this it is objected, that the baptism of the Spirit cannot be the baptism spoken of in this place, because the baptism spoken of in this place is commanded; but the baptism of the Spirit was never commanded, nor was it any man's sin not to be so baptized.
Ans. Surely this is a great mistake. Was the inward washing of the heart never commanded? "Rent your hearts, and not your garments." What is this but the spiritual baptism? The gospel is a ministration of inward things, and the inward things are strictly commanded there. Can any man be saved without inward baptizing? and is he not commanded to receive inward <129> baptizing? and doth he not sin, if he do not wait to receive it, and give up his heart and soul to be baptized by God's Holy Spirit? If the eye were opened in people to look into the gospel ministration, and into the inward nature of things, this might easily be demonstrated to the least babe there. For as the gospel was before the law, and could not be disannulled by the law; so this ministration of the Spirit's baptism (for nature and kind) was long before John's baptism, and could not be disannulled by any outward ministration of baptism, but abideth the same for ever; and is to have its place in the gospel state, where the figures and shadows of things pass away, and that which is true, lasting, and substantial, filleth up the room thereof.
Now, the baptism of the Spirit, or the spiritual washing and circumcising the heart (which is all one in substance), was called for and required of the Jews under the law; and it was their sin not to answer God's call and requiring therein. Consider these scriptures following, with many more of the like nature; "Break up your fallow-ground, and sow not among thorns" Jer. 4:3. Can the fallow-ground be broken up, and the thorns rooted out (else the sowing will be amongst them), without the circumcision or baptism of the Spirit, which is all one in nature and ground? Again: "Circumcise the fore-skin of your hearts, and be no more stiff-necked" Deut. 10:16. "Make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel!" Ezek. 18:31. (Is not this all one in substance with that scripture, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved"?) "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayst be saved! how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee!" Jer. 4:14. "Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" Isa. 1:16 to 20.
Is not here the true baptism, and the remission of sins, <130> which ensueth thereupon, with the blessing on the baptized estate, and the curse on the unbaptized, which extendeth both to Jew and Gentile? for with God there is no respect of persons.
Oh that men could read the Scriptures of truth, with the true Spirit and with the true understanding! For these things, which were written to the people of the Jews, were written for our learning; and precious things may be learned from the Scriptures, by those whose eyes are opened by the Lord, and who keep close in their reading to that which anointeth and openeth the eye; whereas others cannot but misunderstand and wrest them, to their own great danger at least, if not to the ruin and destruction of their souls.
I shall here mention but one place more, which is that of Psa. 51:17. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Can any offer up the sacrifice to God, but he who is inwardly and spiritually washed from that which defileth and hardeneth? And doth not God require this baptism? And what is this but the baptism of the Spirit? who thus washeth the soul with his heavenly water, in the ministration of his word and power, when the virtue and efficacy thereof reacheth to the heart, in and through the faith.
Obj. 2. The baptism of the Spirit cannot be here intended, because this baptism is to be administered by men; but the baptism of the Spirit was never administered by men; Jesus Christ was the alone minister of this baptism.
Ans. The apostle saith, "that God had made them able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" 2 Cor. 3:6.
Mark: They were made able ministers by God, of that which giveth life: and that they did minister the Spirit by imposition of hands is manifest, Acts 19:6. and in many other scriptures.
Indeed the apostles were not able of themselves, or by any virtue or strength of their own, to beget men to God, or to baptize men into his name and power; but their sufficiency was of God.
Again, Paul was sent to the Gentiles, to open their eyes. Acts 26:18. Now, opening the eyes of the blind is as peculiar to Christ, as baptizing with the Spirit can be.
When Christ gave his apostles commission to teach, baptising, <131> he told them, "All power in heaven and earth was given him;" and bid them not "depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father: for John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence;" and that then they should receive power. What to do? To baptize with water? or to baptize into the name with the same baptism wherewith they themselves were baptized? See Mat. 28. and Acts 1.
Now, if this commission, here given to the apostles, Mat. 28:16, etc., was to baptize with water, then Paul was inferior to the other apostles; for he, though he had seen the Lord, and was sent from him to open the eyes of the Gentiles; yet he was not sent to baptize with water, as he expressly saith, he was not sent to baptize (that is, outwardly with water), "but to preach the gospel." But if the baptism intended by Christ was inward and spiritual, even into the name, virtue, life, and power of the Spirit, then Paul had the apostolic commission as fully as any of the rest, and the grace and power of God did work as mightily in him to this end, as in any of them.
But men are as much mistaken about the teaching required by this commission, as about this baptism; for this teaching is not a literal teaching of things, or a discipline into an outward knowledge and way, but a teaching in the Spirit and power; and him whom God enableth so to do, he also enableth to baptize into the same Spirit and power. Yea, indeed, when the life and power ministers (the word spoken being mixed with faith in them that hear), it brings the earthly part under, and brings the life and power of the Lord Jesus Christ over the heart and spirit. And this is true baptism, and the substance of the figure or shadow, which was before the figure either of baptism or circumcision was, and remains when they are gone.
Obj. 3. This baptism in the commission was to all nations; but the baptism of the Spirit fell only on some few at the beginning.
Ans. The promise of receiving the Spirit is upon believing, and it extendeth to every one that believeth. "He that believeth on me," as the scripture hath said, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water;" but this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive. John 7:38-39.
Answerably Peter said to that great assembly to which he <132> preached, whereof there were added about three thousand souls, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2:38-39.
Indeed, several gifts of the Spirit were given, some to one, some to another, according to the pleasure of the giver, and diversities of manifestations and operations of the same inward life and power: but every one received so much of the Spirit as to make him a son, and to cry Abba, Father, and to wash him.
And this is the one washing which all the flock are washed with, and so baptized into the one pure, living body: and this is the substance of the figure, which substance belongs to the gospel state; though God also saw a use of some figures in that day, and so inclined their hearts then to make use of them, which his gathered sons and daughters, by the gospel Spirit and power in this day, would make use of also, if the Lord did so require them. For the Lord is our judge, and the Lord is our king, the Lord is our lawgiver; who, by his Spirit and power, determines in every age what he would have his people do; and who leads into the way of life, truth, and holiness, which always was and is but one and the same for ever.
And what if the Lord, who hath caused his everlasting day to dawn again, and the everlasting gospel to be preached again, will have every shadow and figure to fly away, seeing they are of but one elementary nature and use, and not everlasting and abiding; who may gainsay him herein, and say, that this is not the ministration of the everlasting substance, or the same gospel the apostles preached, because some shadows which they expect, and have a strong belief concerning, are not found therein?
Obj. 4. The baptism in this commission cannot be the baptism of the Spirit, because it is to be administered in the name of the Spirit.
Ans. The Greek word is not , which signifieth in; but , which signifies into: so that the baptism here commanded is to baptize into the name, into the Father's name, into the Son's name, into the Spirit's name, by turning them from <133> darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God; and then the power and life of God's Holy Spirit comes over their hearts and minds, and breaketh the power of Satan, and washeth their consciences from that which is dead, and plungeth or dippeth them into that which is living.
Now, as God made them able ministers of the New Testament, which is a spiritual ministry, an inward ministry, and gave them the heavenly treasure of life, and of his Spirit to minister with; so he required and expected of them the work of the spiritual ministry, which was the spiritual teaching, and spiritual baptizing into the inward name.
But that there was also a baptizing with outward water, that I do not deny; and that it was of use as a type to the weak and ceremonious state the Jews were in, when Christ sent forth his apostles to gather them out of the law state, into the gospel state, I am also satisfied in: but it hath been since corrupted, and set up above its place by apostates; and every one should consider and wait on the Lord, to know what God requires, and will accept of him. For the kingdom of God stands not in meats and drinks, or any outward washings, nor comes in the way of man's observation, but in a heavenly seed, and in the Holy Spirit and power of life; which, happy are they who are made partakers of, baptized with, and led by. God will try every man's religion, work, and practices, by the true reed or measuring line: blessed is he whose religion will bear that trial!
It is a great matter to know the gospel state and ministration, the gospel Spirit and power, the gospel church and ordinances, the words of the holy prophets concerning the day of the gospel, the words of Christ concerning the kingdom and power of God, the words of the apostles concerning the mystery of faith, and the Word which was from the beginning.
These are weighty things, and of great concernment, about which men may easily miss and wrest the Scriptures, unless they be enlightened by the Lord in the renewing of their minds, and their eye kept to the holy anointing, that they may not out-run (and so imagine and conceive of themselves according to their own ability of understanding), but know and keep to the gift and inspiration of the Almighty, which giveth true understanding. <134> For as no man knoweth the mind of a man, but man's own spirit within him; so the mind of God (in the words which his Spirit spake), no man knoweth but his Spirit. And there is a key of knowledge to open the words of scripture by, which they cannot be opened without, -- I mean such scriptures as relate to the mystery of life and salvation, which was always hid from the wise and prudent in every age.
The Pharisees had got a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the law of God, and prophecies of things to come, from the words of Moses and the prophets; but they had not the key of knowledge; and "so they erred, not knowing the Scriptures" (notwithstanding all their diligent reading and studying them), nor the power of God.
Every one had need be wary lest he err after the same manner, and so set up his own apprehensions from the Scriptures, instead of God's truth and the mind of his Holy Spirit; for then he cannot but also oppose that which is indeed his truth, and truly agreeable to the Scripture, though to man's mis-biassed judgment it may seem different or contrary.
The Lord beget in people's hearts true desires after himself, and guide them into the way wherein they may obtain all the desires of their souls, which he begets in them; and the Lord preserve all that fear him, from clashing against the present dispensation of his life and power in their day and generation!
The Pharisees little thought they would have killed the prophets, had they lived in their days: nay, they greatly condemned their fathers for so doing; and yet they themselves crucified Christ. And many now little think they would have crucified Christ, had they lived in the days of his flesh; and yet they disdain, reproach, and persecute the appearance of the same Spirit, life, and power, as it now appeareth in his saints, whom he hath redeemed and dwelleth in, and in whom he manifesteth himself, preacheth and suffereth, whatever men think of them.
Oh, blessed are they that are not offended in Christ, in the present appearance of his life and power! For they are not offended at him who gives life in the Father's name to all that receive him and wait upon him, and worship in the quickenings and virtue of his Spirit.
Question 1. By what nature did the Gentiles the things contained in the law? By the enlightened or unenlightened nature? By nature, as it lieth corrupted in the fall, or by nature in some measure renewed by the light of God's Spirit shining in the heart? And by what covenant was the law written in their hearts? Is not the writing of the law in the heart a promise of the new covenant? And can it be writ in any heart, but by virtue of the new covenant? Is not the least writing of the law in the heart a degree of the promise? For the old covenant contains only the law in the letter; but the new covenent contains the writing of the law in the heart by the Spirit.
Ans. The apostle had showed before, that that which might be known of God was manifest in them, for God had showed it unto them; so that they had a manifestation of the light of God's Spirit in them, whereby they might discern his eternal power and godhead, in or by the things made; for that which is visible shadows out and declares that which is invisible, which the inward eye sees, it being opened by the Lord.
Now, their hearts being joined to this manifestation of God within, it changeth the heart and nature; and in the changed heart and nature, God writes his law; and the law being writ in any measure in the heart, it hath some power upon man, to cause him to subject to it, and answer what God requires of him thereby; and so his heart and conscience will accuse him, or excuse him, as he is found answering or rebelling against the holy light and law of God's Spirit within, manifesting the will of God unto him. For God, though he peculiarly chose the Jews, and in that sense had cast off the Gentiles, not choosing them so to be his peculiar people, yet he was not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also; and had a care of their precious souls, visiting them with that light, and inward manifestation of his Spirit, which was able to save and deliver them from the darkness. And it is testified, they came thus far by this inward manifestation of God in their hearts, and what God had showed them thereby, that they knew God. Rom. 1:21. They had a true knowledge of God from the light <136> within; they had a measure of the pure and heavenly gift: but they were not thankful for so great a gift, in their dark state; and when they came to some true knowledge, did not glorify God, according to what they knew of the Lord, from the light of his Spirit within; but ran out from the measure of the gift into imaginations, into the conceivings of their own wisdom; and this brought darkness upon them, and gave deceit power over their hearts.
Now, if they had not professed themselves to be wise, but kept low to the manifestation of God's Spirit, and denied their own wisdom, they might have been truly wise; but running out from the measure of the gift, into their own wisdom and thoughts, they became fools as to the true wisdom, and wandered into gross idolatrous conceptions, and brought great judgments from God upon themselves. And this was their condemnation (not that the light of God had not shone in their hearts; not that that which might be known of God was not manifest in them; but) that they loved their own dark wisdom, thoughts, and conceivings, more than the manifestation of the light of God's Spirit within.
Quest. 2. But if God was the God of the Gentiles, and thus visited them, were any of them saved thereby? Did not all the Gentiles universally perish, notwithstanding this light, or manifestation of God's Spirit within?
Ans. God forbid, that the inward manifestation of his light and visitation of his Holy Spirit, should be of no effect to none of the Gentiles; but that they should all perish notwithstanding it! It is testified here, that some of them came so far as to have their nature changed, so that they were a law to themselves, and did by nature the things contained in the law; which it is impossible for corrupt fallen man to do. And these hearkening to that, and following that which led them thus far, could not choose, but like to retain God in their knowledge, which the generality (who followed their own wisdom) did not; whereupon God gave them over to a reprobate mind, ver. 28.
But now, those that had the law written in their hearts, and answered it, fearing God, and working righteousness, and liking to retain God in their knowledge, such God did not give up to a reprobate mind, but kept them savory to himself, and made them <137> more and more partakers of the true and inward circumcision; so that their want of outward circumcision was no hindrance to them as to acceptance with God, but their uncircumcision went with God for circumcision.
And this their state (from the inward life and power) judged the Jew, who boasted so much of his state, because of the letter of the law, and outward circumcision. Rom. 2:26-27. Yea, this state shall be justified by God, when "God cometh to judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel," said Paul, ver. 16. Jesus Christ, is the judge, who will justify whatever his Spirit hath made known of God the Father in the hearts of the Gentiles, and them in their sense thereof, and subjection thereto.
That man who hath bowed to the Spirit, been taught by the Spirit (having had the law of God written in his heart), and learned obedience in the new nature, so as to do the things contained in the law, and hath received the inward circumcision, which cutteth off, teacheth to deny, and keep down that which is corrupt; which will never answer the law, nor suffer the man in whom it rules to answer it, -- I say, he that cometh into the sense of God's Spirit, and the law thereof, and into the denial of his own spirit, he bears that which in substance is the cross of Christ, which crucifieth the worldly nature and spirit; and as he is truly circumcised, so must he needs also be justified and saved under this yoke. For the Lord God of life, the Father of glory, will condemn none whom he finds in Christ, subjected to Christ, one in nature with the image of his Son; and Christ will condemn none whom he finds in his Spirit, taught by his Spirit, receiving holy laws from his Spirit, and walking in obedience thereto. And, indeed, I doubt not, but the merciful God hath saved many among the Gentiles, in all ages and generations, by the light of his Holy Spirit working their minds into the sense thereof, and into subjection thereto, according to the manifestation thereof within them. For it is not the having much knowledge that saves, but the being subject to the measure of the gift which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
Quest. 3. But how can those be justified according to Paul's gospel, who never heard Paul's gospel?
Ans. Paul's gospel is the gospel of Christ, the everlasting <138> gospel, the one gospel, which is the power which saves, which is manifested in the new covenant within; which is hid in them that are lost, but revealed, in some measure, in all that are saved. Wherever the new covenant is, there is the gospel; wherever the law is in any measure written within, there is somewhat of the gospel.
If a man believe in that which shines within, which manifests the will of God within, he believes in that power which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave; and if he lay hold on it by faith, he lays hold on God's strength, which inwardly visits to save the soul; yea, and if he obey it, he obeys the gospel, and shall not be condemned for disobedience, when Christ appears in flames of fire, to judge and condemn all the ungodly.
WHAT was the rule of the Jew outward, as to their outward state? Was not the law and testimony outward? Did not God make the law in the letter? What is the rule of the Jew inward? Is not the law and testimony inward? Is not the gospel a ministration of Spirit and power? And is it not a more glorious ministration than the law of the letter? Under the law, God spake by Moses and the prophets; but under the gospel he speaketh by his Son: and do not his sheep hear his Son's (the true Shepherd's) voice? We all, like sheep, have gone astray; but (blessed be the Lord) are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls: and shall we not hear him, and follow him, whithersoever he goes and leads by his holy and good Spirit? "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things," said Moses. Did Moses say, My words shall be your rule; or the words of the prophets shall be your rule then, in the days of the new covenant? Nay, he did not say so; but, "him shall ye hear in all things;" and he that will not hear him shall be cut off; yea, verily, it is so. He is the minister of life; and he that doth not hear him, and receive life, virtue, and power from him, he builds but from the letter (from what he apprehends from the letter), but is really separated and cut off from the ministry of the life and power. "He that hath an ear, let him hear;" and he that hath a heart, let him consider.
<139> Now, the true Jew, the Jew inward, in whose heart God writes his law by the finger of his Spirit, he is to read and to meditate on the inward law written in his heart, as the outward Jew was to read and meditate on the outward law. And as, in obedience to the outward law, the outward Jew was blessed, and free from the curse, and his outward enemies; so, in obedience to the inward law (the law of the Spirit of life), the inward Jew reaps the spiritual blessings, and becomes inwardly free from his inward and spiritual enemies. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," said Christ to his disciples; and every true disciple in the obedience of the truth witnesseth it.
And here the mystery of all (which was outwardly written and testified of) is known; the mystery of the law, the mystery of the prophecies, the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of the fellowship in and with the saints in light; the mystery of the faith, which is held in a pure conscience; the mystery of the love, which ariseth from the true and inward circumcision; the mystery of the hope, which anchors within the veil, and purifies the heart, as he is pure. For the true children, the children of the heavenly wisdom being children of the hidden life, are begotten in a mystery; for the Spirit of God breatheth upon them no man knoweth how; and thus is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Now, as they are begotten in the mystery of life, so the mystery belongs to them, and is revealed and opened in them; insomuch that they know God not only as outwardly described, but as inwardly revealed and manifested in Christ, his bright and heavenly image.
So here the one truth is known, even as it is in Jesus; the one way is known; the one name of the Lord (which is and was the strong tower in all ages and generations, which the righteous did, and do still, fly unto and are safe) is known; here the one baptism is known; here the one supper is known; yea, here the one God is worshipped, as Father and Son, in the one Spirit and truth. So that here is no dreaming in the night, by men's comprehendings and conceivings upon the Scriptures; but here is seeing with the true eye, in a measure of the light of the everlasting day, which is given to the children of light, who live in the light, and walk in the light, and in the true light (which now <140> shines) see the pure and eternal light daily more and more.
Who would not count all dross and dung (even all the knowledge he can gather and comprehend of himself) for the excellency of this knowledge which God gives to those that are turned to the light and power of his Spirit, from the darkness of their own thoughts, reasonings, and conceivings upon the Scriptures, and do wait upon him therein, even in his holy temple, night and day? For all under the gospel are to be priests to God; and all his priests are to wait upon him, and worship him in his holy temple; and to watch diligently that neither the fire go out, nor the lamp go out, nor the salt be wanting to season and keep the heart melted and broken, that it may be a continual acceptable sacrifice to the Lord.
Time was, when we also did believe that the Scriptures were the only rule of faith and practice; and so bent ourselves to search out and observe what we found written therein, hoping thereby to have attained to that which our souls desired after. But we found all the directions thereof weak as to us, through the flesh, and sin had still power over us; and we knew not what it was to be made free by the Son; free by the truth, free indeed from that which stood near to tempt and draw us into sin. But when the light of God's holy Spirit shined upon us, and our minds were by him turned thereto, and his law written on our hearts, in and by the new covenant, which he revealed in us, and made with us, in and through his Son; then we felt the ministration of the power of the endless life, and were experimentally assured, that in the gospel administration, which is an administration of the Spirit and power, nothing less than Spirit and power can be the rule.
Mark; In the old covenant, letter (or outward directions) was a rule; but the living commandment, or Word in the heart, is the rule in the new covenant; living laws; laws livingly written; laws that give life to them in whom they are written; they are the living, powerful, and effectual rule.
Nor do we undervalue the Scriptures, in thus giving honor to Christ and his Spirit; for it is their honor to testify of Christ and of his Spirit, who is the pure, certain, infallible rule of the new life, and who gives to fulfil all the holy directions, which are written in the Scriptures, concerning the way of life.
<141> And man, at a distance, may easily speak uncertainly; but let a man be joined to God's Spirit and feel his holy nature, movings, leadings, and guidings, he cannot but acknowledge them to be his certain and infallible rule; for nothing is more certain than God's Spirit, than the holy anointing, which is truth and no lie, and leads into all truth, and out of every lie and deceit.
DAVID said, "Thy Word is a lantern to my feet, and a light to my paths." He found it sweeter than the honey and the honey-comb. He desired to be taught God's statutes, and to learn the way of his precepts, &c., as may be abundantly read, Psa. 19. and in other places.
Query 1. What was this Word or law, which there was such an earnest desire in David after; by observing whereof he became wiser than his teachers? Was it the law of Moses, the law outward; or was it the Word and law of life inward?
If it be said, It was the law of Moses; then I query in the second place:
Query 2. What rule had David from the law of Moses to say, That God desired not sacrifices, nor delighted in burnt-offering? Did not God desire and require of his people under the law, that they should perform these things? And did he not accept of them, and delight in them, when they performed them aright, in faith and obedience to him? Was not the Lord pleased with Abel's sacrifice? And did not God smell a sweet savor in Noah's sacrifice? How could David say in truth, and from a true Spirit, That God did neither desire them nor delight in them?
Query 3. Ought not David to try this Spirit which spake thus in him, whether it was of God or no? Should he receive a testimony from any spirit so directly contrary in appearance to the foregoing testimonies of God's Spirit in the holy Scriptures, without a full and certain evidence and demonstration that it was the Spirit of God?
Query 4. How was David to try, or how might he certainly try this Spirit, whether it was of God or no? Was he to try it <142> thus, whether it spake according to the testimony and law of Moses, according to what Moses had spoken in this matter, which certainly was of God, and was given by God for a law or rule to that people the Jews? If he had tried it thus, would he not have judged it a spirit different from the Spirit of Moses, speaking contrary to the law and testimonies which God gave forth by him? For sacrifice and burnt-offering was strictly required there, and God often testified his acceptance thereof, and delight therein. So that God did accept and did delight therein in one respect, and did not accept nor delight at all in them, in another respect; but his aim was at another thing, and at other sacrifices, which David clearly saw. And so David's eye, mind, heart, and spirit being gathered inward, even thither where God's eye and heart was, he there had a clear sight, and gave a certain sound concerning what was acceptable in the eye of the Lord, and what not; and so saith, "God did not desire sacrifice, nor delight in burnt-offering." Psa. 51:16. Though the language of the law of Moses speaketh far otherwise, where circumcision, sacrifices, and such outward things are expressed as of great value with the Lord, and as great and high privileges, which were bestowed upon that people in that day.
Query 5. May not the same Spirit, or the children of God in the same spirit, say to the Lord in this day, concerning things of the same outward nature, Thou desirest not such outward things, else would we perform them. Thou delightest not in outward shadows of the things of the kingdom. Thou desirest not outward washing the body with water, or eating and drinking of outward bread and wine, which avail no more than circumcision and the passover. If thy delight were in things of this nature, and thou didst require them of us, how willingly would we be found in the practice of them before thee: but thy delight is in that water which washeth the soul from its filth, and in the souls that are washed therewith. And thou desirest to see thy children feeding on the living bread, the bread which comes down from heaven, and to drink of the wine which refresheth, and maketh glad the heart both of God and man?
Query 6. If any of the children of the Most High should in this feel the life wherewith God hath quickened them open in their <143> hearts, and such a testimony arising from his Spirit in them, how should they try whether this Spirit and voice were of God or no? Should they look into the writings of the evangelists and apostles, to see whether baptism with outward water, and eating of outward bread, and drinking of outward wine, was ever commanded and practised in the apostles' days? And if they suppose strongly that it was commanded, or find it was practised, may they thereupon safely conclude that it was a wrong spirit, and wrong voice, that testifieth thus in them, and not the voice and Spirit of the Lord? Had David tried and judged thus, might not he have judged and condemned the Spirit and voice of God in his day? And if we try and judge in this manner, may not we judge and condemn the Spirit and voice of God in our day? David saw clearly that outward sacrifices were not the abiding thing, but significations of that which was abiding; and this sight greatly shook them in his spirit. The Lord hath likewise shown us clearly that outward water, bread, and wine, are not the substantial, the spiritual, the heavenly water, the heavenly bread and wine; but of the nature of such things as were to be shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken, may remain in the gospel state and kingdom.
Oh! therefore, let men take heed how they build, or how they judge concerning the appearances of God, by their own apprehensions upon the letter of the Scriptures. But let every one be careful to build upon the rock, Christ; upon his Spirit, his life, his power inwardly revealed, which the birth, being kept to, reveals in and to us; but no man, by his own conceivings and apprehensions upon the letter, ever knew, or can know the Spirit and voice of the Lord.
And thus men may come, waiting here in humility and fear upon the Lord, to judge true and righteous judgment concerning the appearance of God, and the things of his kingdom; which they can never do by their own understanding, and comprehending things from the Scriptures, out of the light and quickening life of God's Spirit. For man is dead, dark, and corrupt, but as he is quickened, enlightened, and his heart sanctified by God's Holy Spirit. What can a dead man see? What can a dead man hear? Can he hear the living sound before he is quickened by it? Do not the Scriptures relate, and treat of, spiritual things? And <144> can the natural man understand them? Can man's unholy mind understand the words of God's pure, holy Spirit, which were given forth through vessels that were sanctified (some from the womb), and when the Spirit of the Lord was upon them, and they gathered by his Spirit into a holy, living sense?
Oh that men saw their need of the Lord to open their hearts, and that flesh might be silent in them, that they might come to witness the birth of God's Spirit, and the precious understanding of the heavenly things which is therein given! And then that understanding which is not precious, nor living, nor of God, but of themselves, would not be of so great value with them: for indeed, through this great mistake, many (some whereof are zealous and knowing, according to the esteem of men) reject that which is of God, and set up that which is of themselves, even of their own apprehending and conceiving; which will be bitterness and sorrow in the latter end, when that eye shall be opened in them, which is at present closed in too many.
Blessed is he who can truly say, The Lord hath opened an eye in me, even the true eye, the pure eye, the living eye; and with that eye I now see; but with the eye wherewith I saw before, I now see not: and now I know the difference between seeing the same things with my own eye, and with the eye which God hath given me. So that now my earnest desire and prayer to the Lord is, to keep open in me for ever that eye which he hath opened; and also to keep that eye shut which he, in his tender mercy to me, hath been pleased to close up in me.
And truly, this is the ground of the great difference between us and others, about the things of God; for though we own the same things, and speak of the same things, yet we own them not alike, nor speak of them alike. Why so? Because we see them with different eyes, and so have a different sense of them.
Others call things true, and so acknowledge them as they apprehend them from the letter: we call things true, as they are demonstrated to us by God's Spirit, and as we feel the virtue, life, and power of them from God, in our hearts.
Now, this we are assured is the true way of knowledge; therefore is it our hearts' desire (in true love to all, especially to those in whom there are any tender breathings after God), that <145> people might so wait upon the Lord, as that they might be led by him into it, and quickened daily more and more by him in it.
And indeed, those teachings and demonstrations of truth, which are given and received in the pure sense, and in the quickening life, they are the teachings of God's Spirit according to the new covenant; which is a ministration not of the letter (no, not of those shadowy or dead things which are administered therein), but of the power and life. For the law is letter, but the gospel is Spirit and power. The gospel state is a state of fulfilling those things in the Spirit and power of the endless life, in the new covenant, which were spoken of, promised, and shadowed out under the law in the old covenant.
Obs. 1. WHAT Peter, Paul, and the rest of the holy men of God wrote of. They wrote of the grace of the gospel: they wrote of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow, and the salvation of the soul; and true rest, which believers should receive, and enter into in him. 1 Pet. 1:2, &c. and Heb. 4:3. They wrote concerning the times of reformation, wherein those things should be reformed under the second covenant, which had been amiss under the first. Heb. 8. They wrote of the times of restoration, and refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19,21. For in the new covenant, there is a renewing and restoring; and the pure presence of God, which refresheth, is witnessed and enjoyed there. They wrote of the everlasting kingdom, the kingdom which cannot be shaken, Heb. 12:28. which stands in that power which shakes all things that may be shaken, but itself is unmovable. They wrote of the day of the Lord, the day of the gospel, which brings darkness and confusion upon man's spirit and glory, and desolation upon his buildings, melting and dissolving the old heavens and the old earth, wherein <146> unrighteousness had a place, and bringing forth the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Isa. 51:16.
"For if any man be in Christ, there is a new creation: old things pass away, and all things become new," at Christ's appearing in his glory in the heart; to which they that truly believe in him cannot but hasten; that the earth, with the works thereof, may be burnt up, and the heavens also; that so the new heavens and the new earth may be inwardly witnessed and experienced, and the King of glory found sitting on his throne, and reigning therein.
Obs. 2. How Peter and Paul, with the rest of the apostles and holy men of God, wrote. They wrote according to the wisdom given unto them. They wrote not in their own wills, or according to their own wisdom; but kept to the gift and light of the Spirit, which they had received from the Lord. They waited to observe the Lord go before, the Spirit of the Lord move, and also give ability from the measure and gift of life, which he had bestowed upon them.
And these are the proper limits of writing and speaking under the ministration of the gospel; which is a ministration of the Spirit and power, and not of the literal knowledge of things, according to man's understanding and comprehension.
Obs. 3. That there are some things in the writings of Paul (and in the other scriptures also) hard to be understood; which every one that hath true life and true sense does not at first understand, but only such as are grown to a capacity. For the writings of the apostles, and ministrations of the Spirit, are to several states and capacities, and can only be understood according to the growth and capacity of each state; much less can the carnal understand or digest that which is high and spiritual.
Obs. 4. That there are some among those whom the Lord visiteth, and reacheth to by his power, who do not attain to the knowledge of the truth, nor come to the establishment therein: some that are always learning, but never come to the true, heavenly, spiritual knowledge of the things of God; some that know Christ only according to the letter, but not according to his Spirit and power. Some there are that learn in such a way as they can never come truly and thoroughly to understand: for it is <147> God that openeth the heart and ear; it is Christ who hath, and giveth, the key of knowledge; but many learn what they can of the things of God and Christ, without having their hearts and ears opened by the Lord, and without the true key of knowledge; and so those remain unlearned and unstable as to the mystery of godliness, as to the mystery of life and salvation, and as to the nature of the things of God's kingdom.
Obs. 5. That those who are unlearned and unstable in the mystery of truth, are wresters of the Scripture. They cannot understand things as they are, not having the key; and so they wrest them, and strive to make them speak, as they apprehend and would have them.
And here in this state, in this wisdom, is both adding to, and diminishing from, the holy words of truth: for in many places they add of their own conceivings, and in other places diminish from the drift and intent of God's Spirit.
Obs. 6. That wresting the Scriptures tends to the destruction of those that do it. God is the Saviour, and the holy words of the Saviour tend to save; but being bent aside by man's nature and spirit, they are not the same they were when they came from God, nor have at all the virtue and nature in them.
And indeed wresting the Scriptures is a high, presumptuous, and provoking act, and brings God's displeasure against, and curse upon, the soul.
Now, it is impossible for any man not to wrest the Scriptures, unless he keep close to God's Spirit to receive from him the understanding of them; for the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding, and not another thing. God knoweth what he intendeth, in the words he spake concerning the heavenly things; but man knoweth not, but as his spirit is opened and enlightened by the Lord.
Blessed is he who waiteth upon and watcheth to God's Spirit in reading the Scriptures, not leaning to his own understanding and apprehension of things, but waiting to feel his mind opened and quickened by the Lord, that in the renewings of his mind he may learn of God that which is new and living, which is not comprehended in the letter (or in literal descriptions of things), but in the Spirit and power itself, which is the limits of the new <148> covenant, out of which the children of life are not to depart, but to abide, dwell, and grow up therein.
WHEN Christ came in the fulness of time, in that body prepared for him by the Father (he who was filled with the Spirit, and anointed of God to preach the gospel), he preached the kingdom of God, bidding men seek it, directing them where to seek it, and how they might find it; telling them, in several parables, what it was like, and where to look for it, even within their own hearts; and that they might the better discern it, shadowed out the being, nature, and properties of it, in several resemblances. He compared it to a "treasure hid in a field," which the wise merchant selleth all to buy; to "a pearl" hid in the earth; to a lost "piece of silver," which they that sweep their own houses, and search with the true candle, may find; to "a talent" (for such is the free gift of the pure and heavenly life); to "leaven" (hidden leaven); to a "seed"; to "salt," &c.
So when Christ sent his apostles after him, in the same Spirit and power wherein he himself came and ministered, he sent them to preach the same thing, giving them this message to declare to men, "that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all; and that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; and that the life was manifested;" so that they heard, and saw, and tasted, and handled of it; and so were to direct men how to come into fellowship with them in this life, and to walk in the light, as God is in the light.
Thus Paul likewise, who was sent after the rest, was sent to "turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" Acts 26:18.
Now, people being turned to the light, where they may receive understanding, and feel virtue, and know the anointing, and hear the voice of the Shepherd, those who are over them in the Lord, and are made use of by him as instruments to turn their minds hither, may be sensible of their conditions, and may have a word of direction from God to speak to them. And this teaching is not the teaching of man, but the teaching of the holy <149> anointing; and he that heareth this teaching, heareth Christ; and he that rejecteth this teaching, rejects Christ.
Yet, though the Lord pleaseth thus to minister from the heavenly treasure in some vessels, which he hath prepared for that end, people are not always to be expecting pensions, or portions of food from others without; but to know and to come to the bread and water of life in their own houses, that there they may eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, as all do who have true life in them.
Now, to give forth precepts of holiness, as the way in the apostasy hath been, before men's minds are turned to that which enlighteneth, and giveth power to believe and obey; that is not the way of the gospel; but the way of the gospel is to bring to the foundation of light and life in the particular, and so to dissettle the spirit from that which is dead, and found it upon that which is living; that a living building of pure life, of living materials, of living stones, may be raised up unto the Lord; in which temple he dwells and appears, exercising his authority and power.
For indeed, God dwelleth in the temples of his own building, which are built by and in his Spirit; but in all other temples, which are built out of the Spirit, and only by men, not by God, in a way of imitation, from the letter, in which they set up the likenesses of things, and so set themselves to pray and preach, according to their apprehending and forming of things, -- I say, in these buildings the Holy Spirit of God dwelleth not; but that spirit which hath thus deceived them.
And thus men erring in their hearts concerning the light, concerning the power, concerning the foundation (not knowing how it is indeed laid in Zion), concerning the Scriptures of truth (which can only be understood in the light and inspiration of the Almighty, from whence they were given forth), they can never come to know Christ and his Spirit livingly revealed in power in their own hearts, nor the new and living way, and how to walk therein, nor the truth as it is in Jesus, according to the ministration of the New Testament, which is not after the letter, but after the Spirit, nor the new covenant, which is made with the soul in Christ, wherein all things are made new, and the old done away; nor the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus written in the <150> heart, which blots out the other law, even the law of sin and death, and makes free therefrom; and so they cannot witness what it is to come from under the law, where sin reigns, into and under grace, where life reigns and hath the dominion.
Who knows the truth which makes free? Could men then say, they shall never be made free from the body of sin on this side the grave? Who hath received grace for grace from Christ Jesus the Lord, and knows the virtue of it? Could men then testify against it for sin, as if the grace of Christ could never deliver from it, and give dominion over it here in this life? Who knows the faith which gives victory, the hope which purifies, the love which unites to God, and constrains unto the obedience of the gospel, and whose strength in the heart is stronger than the strength of death?
Oh, the gospel religion, the gospel spirit, the gospel power, the gospel love, the gospel faith, the gospel obedience, the gospel knowledge, the gospel worship, hath been lost for many ages and generations! And now God hath caused it to shine forth and appear again, what a flood of reproaches doth the dragon send forth against it! And how do men strive to uphold their dead knowledge, and their dead buildings, their dead ways, their dead worship, &c., which they think highly of, and magnify; blaspheming that which is living, which came from God, is accompanied with his power, and hath the evidence and demonstration of his Spirit going along with it!
Well, all flesh is grass, and its beauty shall fade. Let it paint and make a flourish as long as it can; yet the breath of the Lord hath blown upon it, and it is already withered, and shall wither daily more and more. But the Word of the Lord, which quickeneth and changeth the heart (which his despised servants have been visited with, and have testified, and do testify of), shall abide for ever, when that spirit, wisdom, and religion, which hath opposed, shall vanish like smoke, and sink under eternal condemnation.
THE old covenant was that covenant which God made with <151> that people, the Jews, when he took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt outward. The new covenant is that covenant which God makes with the soul, when he takes it by the hand to lead it out of Egypt inward, which is the land of darkness and pollution.
The old covenant was made with the outward people, with the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. The new covenant is made with the inward people, with the seed of Abraham according to the spirit, according to the faith, according to the promise: for in this covenant, not they that are the children of the flesh are of Abraham; but the children of the promise are accounted for the seed.
The old covenant was made by Moses, the servant, who was faithful in all his house as a servant. The new covenant is made by Christ, the Lord and King of his church and people, who is faithful in quickening them all, reconciling them all, interceding for them all, according to the tenor and way of this covenant.
The old covenant consisted in laws and directions outward, which that nation and people had fully and exactly given them from God, above all nations and people of the earth. The new covenant consists in life and Spirit inward, which the holy people, the renewed people, the redeemed people, are visited with, and made partakers of, above all other people.
Under the old covenant, though the Lord did great things before the eyes of that people in Egypt, and exercised them with signs, miracles, and trials also in the wilderness; yet the Lord did not give them a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto that day; as mentioned in Deut. 29:2-4. the veil was over their hearts. But the other covenant contains the giving the new heart, the opening of the blind eye, the unstopping of the deaf ear, the writing the law in the heart, the putting the pure fear in the inward parts, the putting God's Spirit within them, and so causing them to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments and do them. Whereupon these Queries are in my heart:
Query 1. Will not this covenant inwardly reform the heart, soul, mind, and conscience, and amend all in this inward, spiritual, renewed people, which was amiss in that outward, earthly, unrenewed people?
<152> Query 2. Doth not the soul begin to enter into this covenant so soon as ever it answers the Lord in the visits of his love, turning from sin unto him?
Query 3. How precious is that grace of the gospel which brings into this covenant! For the people of the Jews came into the old covenant by the law which was given by Moses; but the children of the new covenant come thereinto by receiving the grace and truth which comes by Jesus Christ.
Query 4. Can any possibly enter into this covenant without coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, and receiving grace from him? Can observing precepts and directions from scripture bring into this covenant? Or is it receiving grace, truth, life in the inward parts, from Christ, the Lord, which brings into this covenant? Oh! wait to know the ministration of the gospel, and covenant of life, with the entrance thereinto, O all that truly desire the salvation of your souls!
Query 5. Wherein doth the ministry of this covenant consist; or how is the teaching thereof? Is it by getting a form of knowledge out of the letter, or ministering the letter? Is it not a ministration not of the letter, but of the Spirit? The apostle said so, who knew what it was, and was made an able minister thereof by God. 2 Cor. 3:6. Truly, none can minister gospelly, none can minister under the new covenant, but those that minister from and in the Spirit.
Query 1. WHAT is it to be baptized into Christ? Is it not to be baptized into his death? Are not they that are truly baptized into Christ buried with him by baptism into death? That "like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so they also should walk in the newness of life." How can they that are dead to sin live any longer therein?
Query 2. What was the end of Christ's manifestation in the flesh, and sending his Spirit? Was it not to destroy the works of the devil; to crucify the old man, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin?
Query 3. Is he that is crucified with Christ, and dead unto <153> sin, freed from sin? Doth the truth of Christ, the life of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the power of Christ, make those that receive and obey it free indeed; so that sin cannot have dominion over them, to make them do what they hate, or to hinder them from doing what God requires? Did not Christ himself die to sin once, but now lives to God? And are not believers after this manner to reckon themselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord?
Query 4. Have believers received power from Christ ("who had all power in heaven and earth given unto him") to become sons? Have they received the Spirit of the Father, which hath dominion over sin? Can they stop or hinder the reign of it in their mortal body, and refuse obeying the lusts thereof, and not yield their members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin?
Query 5. Are believers alive from the dead? And can they yield their members servants to righteousness, for God to work in and by them, according to his will and pleasure? Can they ever come to such a state, as to do nothing against the truth, but for the truth; "to do all things through Christ that strengthens them"?
Query 6. Is this true, that to whom people yield themselves servants to obey, his servants they are to whom they obey, whether of "sin unto death," or of "obedience unto righteousness"?
Query 7. Do men, or is it possible for men, in receiving, joining to, and obeying the truth, to be made free from sin, and become the servants of righteousness?
Query 8. Cannot men have their fruit unto holiness, and at the end everlasting life, without being made free from sin, and becoming servants to God? Is the wages of sin death after a man hath believed? After a man is turned from sin to Christ, if he hearken afterwards to Satan, and commit sin, doth he reap death thereby? See also Gal. 6:7-8.
From Chapter 7
Query 1. What law is that which hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth; and what life is that in man which the law hath dominion over?
Query 2. How doth a man become dead to the law, that he might be married to another, even to "him who is raised from the dead, that he should bring forth fruit unto God"? Can any be <154> married to the raised, living husband, but the quickened, raised, and living soul? And can any else bring forth fruit to God?
Query 3. What is the state of being in the flesh, and of knowing the things of God after the flesh? of receiving directions and practising duties in that state? Do not the motions of sin (which all outward laws and directions do but stir up, but cannot overcome) work in the members there, in that state, to bring forth fruit unto death?
Query 4. How comes a man to be delivered from the law? Is it not by the death of that in him which held him captive unto sin? And why doth God quicken with a new life, and kill in the hearts of his that wherein they were held? Is it not that they should serve him in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter? For the letter killeth, and the literal service and worship is dead, and that worship alone is living and gospel worship, which is in the newness of the Spirit; for such alone the Father seeketh to worship him, and such worship alone he accepteth.
Query 5. Is the law sin because it stirs up sin? Nay; the law itself is not sin, but that which discovers and makes it known; for no man can know sin, but by the law or light which discovers it.
Query 6. How is sin dead without the law? And how doth it take occasion by the commandment to work in the heart all manner of concupiscence?
Query 7. How was Paul alive without the law once? Could he sacrifice, could he read the Scriptures, could he be knowing, could he be zealous, could he walk according to the law in the letter blameless in that state? See Phil. 3:4-6.
Query 8. What commandment was that, upon the coming whereof sin revived, and he died? Was it the law in the letter, or the law in the Spirit? He saith, "the commandment which was to life, he found to be unto death." What is the commandment which is to life? Is it not the "word nigh in the mouth and heart"? See Deut. 30.
Query 9. How came sin to take occasion by the commandment (which came forth holily, and as just and good from God), to deceive and slay him? What was it which it deceived and slew? Was it not that part which thought it could obey and <155> serve God, if his will was made manifest; which now, when the law indeed came, found it could not? Nor can any man obey the holy law of life, till this nature, wisdom, and spirit be in some measure slain in him.
Query 10. Doth then the holy law of God, which God ordains and sends unto life, minister death to the soul? or doth sin, being provoked and stirred up to put forth its strength to save its life, and retain its dominion in the heart, take occasion by the commandment to work death, and show the exceeding evil and sinfulness of its nature?
Query 11. Is not the law spiritual? Can sin gain any strength, or advantage by that which is spiritual? Surely nay; but it taketh occasion then to tyrannize over and captivate me (who am carnal, and sold under it), till the power of the Lord make a change in my state, working me from under the dominion of it.
Query 12. How is it with the soul in the state of captivity, when sin is revived by the law, -- the soul dead as to its former life and strength, and not yet come under the dominion and power of grace? Doth it not do what it allows not, and not do the good it would? Yea, doth not the enemy oftentimes even force it to do what it hates, the soul being as yet weak in the faith, whereby alone strength is received to resist him? Is not this state experienced in some measure by every traveller? Doth not every one feel the strength of sin, and his own inability, either to will or do of himself that which is good, &c., before he witness help and deliverance from the Lord?
Query 13. Doth God impute to the soul, or to sin, the effect of this captivity, and work of sin and Satan upon the heart, against the bent and earnest desires and endeavors of the soul?
Query 14. When is the soul in this state of trouble and captivity? Is it not after some appearance and operation of God's power in the heart? Is it not after the mind is turned from sin, and desireth to be joined to the holy law of life and obey it? Is it not after God hath wrought the will in the mind to do good; so that the consent is given to the law, and the will is present; but how to perform that which is good it findeth not, because faith is yet so weak, and sin and unbelief so strong in the heart?
Query 15. Is not this the time of bitter warfare, and day of <156> terrible distress in the heart, and of feeling the wickedness of the estate, because of sin; and of crying out, and longing after the salvation and deliverance of the gospel? Oh! woe is me, who shall deliver me, poor captive, saith the soul, in this state!
Query 16. Is not God very tender to the soul in this state, daily blotting out, and not imputing, sin? Oh, if it were not for the exceeding mercy, and tender love, and help of the Lord in this state, it were impossible for any ever to come through it! But thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who both upholds in it, and carries through it, so that a change comes to be witnessed, and a better state known by those who consent not to sin; but continue in taking part with the good, holy, and spiritual law of life against it.
From Chapter 8
Query 1. What is that state wherein there is no condemnation? Is it not the state of the redeemed souls in Christ? Doth not condemnation follow, where there is sin and disobedience? See Heb. 2:1, &c. Doth not God condemn sin, and the soul because of sin, till it be driven from sin by the law unto Christ, and learn of him to walk as he walked, even "not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"? For to the Spirit, to the seed, to the heavenly man, there is no condemnation; nor to them that walk after the Spirit.
Query 2. How came any to walk after the Spirit? Can any walk after the Spirit, but as they are made free, by the power of Christ revealed in their hearts against the power of Satan, from the law of sin and death? Will not sin and death captivate a man, and entangle him in lusts, evil motions and works, till their strength be broken in him, and his soul delivered and set free therefrom?
Query 3. How doth the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus make free from the law of sin and death? Is it not thus? Did not God condemn sin in Christ's flesh? and doth not the same Spirit and law of life condemn it in ours also, and bring the judgment and justice of the holy law of life over it? And so bringing the soul off from that which is unholy, unto the holy and righteous Spirit and nature of Christ; and bringing it to walk out of the deadness of sin, in the newness of life; it is removed from thence where the condemnation is, thither where the condemnation cannot come: for in Christ, in the new nature, in <157> the heavenly image, in the newness of the Spirit, there never was, nor ever can be, any condemnation.
Query 4. Would God have the righteousness of the law fulfilled in his children? Would he have them walk exactly with him in the new covenant, which both comprehends and exceeds the righteousness of the old covenant? Consider whether Christ fulfilling the old covenant be their righteousness, or his fulfilling the new in them and for them: for he both doth take away their unrighteousness, and also brings in the righteousness into them, which is of his own pure, heavenly, and everlasting nature. Is not he the image of God? Is not he righteous? And when he is in them, and they changed into his nature and Spirit, is not he their righteousness? Oh, wait to determine this thing, all that desire to know and partake of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the true and pure sense of life, and in the evidence and demonstration of God's Holy Spirit!
Query 5. Do not all men act according to the principle, whether of flesh or spirit, to which their minds are joined? Do not they which are of the flesh mind, savor, approve, desire after, and delight in that which is fleshly? But they that are after the Spirit, do not they mind, savor, desire after, approve, and delight in the things of the Spirit? Therefore is not this of great concern to all to consider, not so much what their profession and appearance is outwardly, as what their root is inwardly, and what nature, spirit, and growth, they and their religion are of?
Query 6. What doth it produce to have the mind exercised by the flesh? Doth it not produce death? Is not the nature, spirit, and wisdom of the flesh separated from God's nature, who is life? and can it bring forth any thing in the heart but corruption and death? But the minding of the other principle, and being exercised by the other principle, that produceth life and peace; doth it not? Let all that have inwardly experienced these things, assent and testify in spirit before the Lord to his praise.
Query 7. Is not the flesh enmity against God? Can any thing which is enmity against God, who is the quickening life, do any thing but deaden and kill where it finds entrance? Life and peace is witnessed in subjection to God, who gives it to them that obey the law of his Spirit. Is that which is in the enmity, and stands <158> in the enmity, subject (or can it be subject) to the holy law of God? Nay; there must be a new creation felt in the heart, before there can be a subjection to that which is pure and living.
Query 8. Can any men that are in the flesh, that are not truly and inwardly changed by the Spirit and power of the gospel, -- I say, can they please God in any thing they do? Can they believe, or pray, or read the Scriptures, or practise any thing they observe from the Scriptures, so as to please God thereby? Nay surely, without changing the principle, without having the heart changed by God's power there is no right believing, praying, or doing any thing to please God. This makes most men's religion and performances unsavory, because they know not, nor are turned to, and guided by, that principle and seed of life, which seasons and makes savory.
Query 9. How may a man know whether he be in the flesh, or in the Spirit? If he be in the Spirit, doth not the Spirit dwell in him? For the Spirit createth anew, and the Spirit dwelleth in that which he new-createth. It is the strong man armed who keeps and dwells in the old house; but the Spirit of Christ keeps and dwells in the new house: and if any man have not the Spirit of Christ (notwithstanding all his religion, knowledge, faith, prayers, &c.) he is none of his.
Query 10. If Christ, the quickening Spirit, (the living power) be in a man, doth he not kill sin there? Is not the body dead there because of sin? Can sin live there, where Christ dwells? and is not his Spirit life there, to quicken in and unto righteousness? Yea, is it possible that Christ should dwell in any man's heart by his Spirit, and his Spirit not be quickening the mortal body in which he dwells? Oh! how precious is it to feel the quickening life and power! This is a daily seal of the true religion; and the daily operation of God's Spirit in the hearts of his children, shows who dwells there.
Query 11. To which are we debtors, who are redeemed to God by his Spirit and power? Are we debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh, which brings into bondage to sin and death? Or are we debtors to that Spirit and power of life, which hath made us alive to God, and preserveth us in life, and quickeneth us unto life, day by day?
<159> Query 12. Is it possible that any one should come to life, but by the mortifying, denying and destroying of that which nourisheth sin, and leads into death? and what can do that but the power of God's Spirit?
Query 13. Are not all the sons of God led by his Spirit? Oh, how necessary then is it for every man to be sure, both that he hath received God's Spirit, and that he be led by it!
Query 14. What is the Spirit of bondage, which begetteth fear when God awakeneth the soul? and what is the Spirit of adoption, whereby the soul can cry Abba, Father? Can any cry Abba, Father, but those that are begotten of God's Spirit? Many men put up requests, and are able to make long prayers (perhaps such as may be taking to the eye of man's wisdom), and yet know not that Spirit which begetteth life in the heart, and teacheth to cry Abba, Father.
Query 15. Is it not a precious thing for people truly to feel the Spirit of God bearing witness with their spirits, that they are God's children; heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ; and so leading them through the sufferings, that they may come to partake with him of his glory? But do any come to partake of his glory, who do not first come through the sufferings?
IT hath been with us, and so we have felt it from the Lord, just as is expressed, Tit. 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
We are a people who have been greatly distressed (many of us) for want of that life and power which was revealed in the apostles' days. We are a race of travellers, who have been travelling out of the nature, wisdom, spirit, and course of this world (which is vain and passeth away) towards our resting-place. We have wandered from mountain to hill, from one way of religion to another, seeking after him whom our souls dearly loved. Indeed the watchmen have often laughed at us and mocked us, wishing us to return to them; but that would not still the cry of our souls, which were sick with earnest desire, not after formal ways of <160> religion, but after life and immortality, that it might be again brought to light (as it had been in the apostles' days), and our souls made partakers thereof. Now, after many a weary step and deep sickness of heart, when we were come even near to despair of ever finding and enjoying what our souls so sorely longed after, it pleased the Lord at length in his tender mercy to appear among us, and by the directions of his Holy Spirit to turn our minds inwards; showing us, that that which we sought without, was to be found within: telling us, that there was the kingdom, which was not to be found by observations without, but by meeting with, and subjecting to, the light and power of life within. And when we were solicitous how to know it from the darkness and deceit within, this answer was given us from the Lord; Its nature will discover itself; it will find out and reprove whatever is reprovable, and furnish the soul with strength against it. Oh, blessed sound from the Lord God of life, who thus drew our hearts to wait upon him; and showed us how to wait, and what to wait for, and where we might meet with that which our hearts so exceedingly desired and panted after! And truly as our minds were thus turned inwards, the holy light did shine upon us from the Sun of righteousness, and the pure life and nature from the Son of God did spring up in us; and we felt the power of God revealed in our hearts, and the old image of sin and unrighteousness daily defacing, and our souls creating anew (in Christ Jesus), into the holy and heavenly image. So that here we felt the mercy of God, which saved his people in all ages, reaching to us also; and his Spirit regenerating, renewing, and washing us, with the water and blood which cleanseth: and as we were regenerated and renewed more and more, so we were still washed more and more, and came more into fellowship with Christ in his death; and were also raised up by him more and more into his life, and taught to set our affections more on things above, and less on things below; which are of an ensnaring and entangling nature, in which the minds of the sons of men are held captive, until they meet with that royal, excellent, noble Spirit and power, which breaks the chains and fetters of darkness, and redeems out of them. And now we can testify (in true sense, and in the evidence and demonstration of God's Spirit), that not by working, willing, or running of ourselves; not by any works <161> of righteousness which we had done or could do; but by the tender mercy of God visiting, and by the operation of his Holy Spirit upon us (in and through regenerating, renewing, and washing us from that which defiled and stained our souls, and made them guilty in his sight, and liable to his wrath), were we saved from the wrath to come, and from the ways of transgression wherein we walked, before our God thus visited us.
Now, it is the sincere desire of our souls, that this tender mercy of God might take effect on others also; and that they might likewise be lighted by him to the place where wisdom teacheth her children, and where the true redemption of the soul is witnessed, and the true knowledge of the Father and of Christ (which is life eternal) given and received; that people might not be hardened to destruction, and deceived of their souls, by a foolish and vain religion, wherein is not the substance and kernel (which alone can nourish up to life eternal), but only some show and appearance thereof, which cannot really satisfy that which is indeed begotten and born of God's Spirit.
WE fear God, who made heaven and earth, whose power is over all, who hath caused the light of his Holy Spirit to shine in our hearts, thereby teaching us how to worship him acceptably in Spirit and truth; which worship he hath required of us, and that we meet together so to do in those assemblies, which he hath gathered by his power, and ordereth by his Spirit, either in silence or sound of words, according to his pleasure.
And God, who hath appointed us thus to worship him, hath power over our bodies and souls, and can destroy and cast both into hell, if we should deny that truth and way of worship which he hath taught us. Yea, if we should deny this way of worship, we should deny Christ, and be denied by him before his Father in heaven. For he himself hath said, that neither at the mountain of Samaria, nor at Jerusalem, should men worship; but they that worship the Father must worship him in Spirit and in truth. <162> Now, men cannot worship in Spirit and in truth as they please, or in the ways of their own inventing and setting up; but he that worshippeth in Spirit and truth must first be made spiritual; and then must wait in silence of the flesh for God's Spirit to quicken him unto spiritual worship. For they that worship otherwise than thus, worship at best but after the oldness of the letter, and not in the newness of the Spirit, which is the only worship God seeketh and requireth under the New Testament.
Besides, we have found God's presence with us, and blessing upon us, in this way of worship; and our hearts greatly melted and warmed therein, and power given us over our passions and corruptions inwardly, and to order our lives and conversations holily, righteously, and innocently outwardly: which presence of God, and holy power over sin and vanity, affections and lusts, we would not lose for ten thousand worlds. And what an unjust and unthankful thing were it in us to turn from this way of worship which God hath called us to, where we have met with these things, to that way of worship where we did not meet with these things, and where others do not, nor can, meet with them! For these things are only to be met with in that way of worship which God hath appointed and blessed, and not in that way of worship which man hath invented and set up, which every profane and wicked person can cry up, and enjoy his lusts under; but they that are otherwise taught of God can by no means submit to, without grievously sinning against him.
Now, magistracy was never ordained of God, nor power given to men by him, to force people to sin against him.
And is it not a great sin to worship against one's faith, according to the wills and precepts of men, contrary to the teachings and requirings of his Holy Spirit? Are not they that do thus hypocrites? Was power given unto magistrates to make men hypocrites; or to encourage people unto truth and uprightness both towards God and men? To wait upon God in his fear, to be taught by him the true way of worship, is not this good and right in his sight? And to worship in Spirit and truth as he teacheth, is not this to do well? And was not the magistrate ordained of God to be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well? The magistrate saith we do not obey him; but he should rather <163> inquire whether he doth not require that of us wherein we cannot obey him, without sinning against the Lord, and against the light of his Holy Spirit in our own hearts and consciences, and so bring God's wrath upon us, and provoke him to destroy us both body and soul. But if men will needs be angry with us for serving the Lord, and worshipping him according to his holy law and will, we had better undergo their anger and unjust punishments for obeying our God, than come under his wrath for disobedience. And God is our witness that no stubbornness, wilfulness, or contempt of authority, engageth us in the least to continue, through many sufferings, in this way of meeting together to worship our God; but only obedience to the gospel and power of Christ, which we have found this visitation and ministration of life from on high to be to us, by its redeeming us out of sin, and from the spirit of this world. And the same that hath redeemed us in some measure hath required us thus to wait on the Lord to have our redemption perfected; and in thus waiting upon him, it is daily added to and carried on; blessed be the name of our God! But if we should forbear thus to meet, we should turn from, sin against, and provoke our God (who hath already redeemed us in part, and is still further and further redeeming us), and turn back to Egypt, Sodom, and Babylon, where is the darkness, lust, and confusion, and not the holy order of God's Spirit, neither in the conversations nor in the worships of those that dwell and abide there.
Query 1. WHETHER they know or own the Lord Jesus Christ truly and aright, who only know and own him as outwardly described and related of in the Scriptures, but know him not inwardly revealed in their hearts, as the Word and power of eternal life? Or whether they are the true knowers and owners of Christ, who know and own him not only according to a literal description of him in the Scriptures, but also as inwardly revealed by the Father, witnessing him formed in them, and their hearts changed into his holy and heavenly image, by the virtue of his inward <164> appearance, and operation of his Spirit and power in them?
Query 2. Whether they truly and rightly know the death and resurrection of Christ, who know only the relation of them in the Scriptures, but are not made conformable to his death, nor raised up by him in the power of his life? Or whether they are the true and right knowers of his death and resurrection, who are buried with him by the holy baptism of his Spirit into death; who, through the Spirit, have mortified the deeds of the body, and witness the holy seed of life raised and living in them, and themselves raised and made alive to God, in and through the power of the Father revealed in them?
Query 3. Whether they truly and rightly confess Christ to be the Lord and King, Priest and Prophet, of his people, who confess it only from the reading of it to be so in the Scriptures? Or, whether they are not the true and right confessors of Christ's kingly, priestly, and prophetical offices, who witness him exercising them in them; who witness him overcoming and reigning over sin and death in them; over whom other lords, even the spirits and powers of darkness, have not dominion now, but Christ only; and in whom he ministereth as in his temple, offering spiritual gifts and sacrifices to his Father, and who also prophesieth there, opening and revealing the mysteries of his kingdom to them, as he doth to the least babes that are truly begotten and born of his Spirit?
Query 4. Do they or can they truly know Christ's voice, who never experienced the Word of life speaking in their hearts? Where doth the false prophet speak? Doth he not speak within? And where doth the true Shepherd speak? Doth he not speak also even in the heart? And do not the sheep hear, know, and distinguish his voice there?
Query 5. Who knoweth the truth as it is in Jesus? Do any do so but those that have felt the drawings of the Father; come unto the Son in the drawings; and receive life from and abide in him? Do any know the truth in Jesus but those that witness virtue, freedom, life, and power, by the truth in some measure? Doth not that saying and promise of Christ (John 8:31-32) stand firm in every age? "If ye continue in my words, then are ye my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth <165> shall make you free."
Query 6. Who are ingrafted into Christ? Can any one be ingrafted into him, but as he is inwardly revealed and made known? Yea, is not he in them who are ingrafted into him, and are not they in him? Is not he that is truly regenerated cut off from the old stock within, from the root of bitterness within; and is not he implanted into the new stock within also; insomuch as he sensibly feeleth the pure, holy root of life bear him, and the sap thereof springing up in him, causing him to bring forth fruit to God in due season?
Query 7. Who prayeth in the name of Christ? Doth he who saith these or such like words in the best seriousness and sensibleness he can in his own will, "Hear me, O Lord, for Christ's sake: I confess I am unworthy; but I beg of thee in his name who is worthy," &c.; or he who prayeth in the child's nature, on the Father's breathing upon him, in the Spirit of the Father which is given him, and in the time and will of the Father? He that doth but sigh or groan in and from the Spirit, doth not that sigh or groan ascend up to the Father in Christ's name? Alas! how outward is men's religion! But the inward streams and current of the true, pure, and heavenly religion they know not.
Query 8. Who receiveth Christ? Do any but those who receive and bow to the light of his Spirit inwardly revealed? Can any receive him but they that hear his knocks and open to him? Do any know the inward voice of the Shepherd, besides the sheep? And can any receive his voice, and not receive him? And can any who are ignorant of and refuse his voice, receive him?
Query 9. Who do truly and rightly believe in Christ? Do any do so, or can any do so, but they who first feel life, from whence the true faith springs? Ah that all the faith in men were dashed, but what comes from life, unites to life, and abides in life!
Query 10. Whom doth Christ gather from the barren mountains? Are they not his sheep; his poor, distressed, scattered, wounded, fainting, and almost famished sheep? What are the mountains he gathers them from? Are they not the several dead ways, worships, and gatherings without life? And out of whose mouths doth he rescue them? Is it not out of the mouths of the shepherds that made a prey of them; who fed them not with life, <166> with virtue, with pure, living knowledge; but with words, with dreams, with apprehensions of their own, concerning the things of God? And whither doth he lead them? Is it not to his own holy mountain (which is exalted by God, and established over and on top of all those other mountains), where the fresh pastures are, and where the streams of life flow, and run plentifully?
Query 11. Who are Christ's kindred according to the Spirit? Who is his mother, sister, brother? Are any so but they that do the will of the Father? And is this obedience a working according to the law, or of the righteousness of the law? Nay; is it not rather of the nature and righteousness of the gospel? Is not that which floweth from his who is righteous, righteous also; even as he is righteous?
Query 12. To whom doth Christ give power to become sons? Is it not to as many as truly and rightly receive him, and believe in his name? To as many as received him of old, to them he gave power to become the sons of God. Doth he not do so still? What is it to receive power to become a son? Let the heart that hath received it answer; for the notionist cannot.
Query 13. What is the reason so many who are high in notion and profession, cannot own this precious appearance of the Spirit, power, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, in this our day, in the hearts of his children, after the long night of darkness, which hath so long covered the earth? Is not this the very reason, even because they do not truly and rightly know either the Father or the Son? Can any see or know him that begets, and with the same eye not see or know him that is begotten of him? Can any love Christ, and not love his brethren? Is not wisdom, in her appearances, justified of her children in this age, as well as formerly?
Query 14. Are there two Christs, one manifested without, and another revealed within; or is it the same Lord Jesus Christ, who, in the days of his flesh, appeared outwardly, and was afterwards manifested within as the mystery of life, and hope of glory; who also, in this our day, is revealed and made known within unto us, by the same eternal Spirit?
Query 15. He that truly and rightly knoweth the Spirit of Christ, doth he not know Christ also? even as he that knoweth <167> Christ must needs know the Father also. Are not the Father and Christ one? Could any one see Christ, even in the days of his flesh, and not see the Father also? See John 14:9. So is not Christ and the Spirit one in like manner? And are not all that are truly of Christ, begotten by, gathered into, and do they not live and walk in, that one Spirit of his? And do they not there know the things of God as they are, and testify of what they have seen and known? Though they that are out of that Spirit and power knew neither him, nor the testimony of life that comes by him, no more than the Jews knew his appearance outwardly in their day.
Query. IN what state was Abraham when faith was imputed to him for righteousness? Was he in the ungodly state; in the state of unbelief and disobedience to the Spirit and power of the Lord; or was he in the sense of God's power, in the belief of him who could raise up his son from the dead, and in the performance of obedience unto him, giving up his son at the Lord's command?
And in what state must we be, when we witness faith imputed to us also for righteousness? Must we not be in the sense of the same power, and in the belief of it, and in the obedience of faith? Read Rom. 4. and consider: for the righteousness of the gospel is not imputed in or by the works of the law, but in the obedience of faith.
It is true, God justifieth the ungodly; through faith he makes them just and godly; but doth he justify or accept them in the ungodly state? Doth he not first make a change in them by his power? Doth he not first in some measure purify their hearts by faith?
THERE are a great many who profess the gospel state, and that they are in Christ, and under grace, and freely justified by grace; so that they look upon their sins as covered by the Lord, and not imputed to them, they believing, as they pretend, in the name of his Son, and obeying his gospel, &c., I say, many profess these things, who do not at all know what they mean truly and rightly, as in God's sight.
<168> For it is a great matter to be in Christ, even to know him that is true, and to be in him that is true; to come out of darkness into his light, out of death into his life; out of Satan's kingdom, and out of subjection to sin, into his kingdom, and into subjection to his Spirit. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things become new." Is this true? Doth he that is in Christ witness this? And he that doth not witness this, is he in Christ?
Ah! how many then are deceived about their being in him, and of their hope in him! For how few of those who talk of being in Christ know what the new creation in him means, or what it is to have Christ formed in them! How few know his Spirit by receiving it, by union with it! which yet if a man have not, he is none of his. How few know how to try spirits by the holy anointing, which is only able to try and discover such false spirits as come in the sheep's clothing, and as ministers of righteousness, and yet come with the deceivableness of unrighteousness, to draw men from the Spirit and power, or to keep them in a dead form of knowledge and worship without true life!
So for being under grace, few truly know what it is; for grace is that which hath dominion over sin, and which giveth dominion to those that are under it. "Sin shall not have dominion over you," said the apostle; "for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Therefore yield not your members servants or instruments to sin. Ye did so when ye were free from righteousness; but now let not sin reign in your mortal bodies, seeing grace gives you power over it, and makes you free from it unto righteousness.
So, justification by grace is only to them who are taught by grace. The grace of God brings salvation, redemption, justification, to them, and no others; for their sins only are blotted out, covered, and not imputed, who receive grace, hear the voice of it, and obey it. "Hear, and your souls shall live." In hearing the grace which teacheth from God, souls come to light in his sight; and the living are justified by him; and in the living way and path of life are the sins blotted out, and the garment given which covers the nakedness; which garment is to be girt about the soul, and kept close on, or the nakedness and shame will appear, and be seen again.
<169> So, to believe in the name of Christ, and to fly to his name, and trust in his name, and to pray to the Father in his name, and to obey in his name and power; these are great matters, and very few of those that make profession of them truly know them: for his name is living (he was dead, but is alive), and his presence, heavenly virtue, and power is in it. They that know his name, know that which is above every name. They know that which hath an authority from God to bring all things under, (both in the heart, and also in the life and conversation) that God alone may be exalted.
The gospel state is a great state, a high state, a state not of shadowy things, but of the everlasting kingdom, where the substance of the things under the law is given to, and possessed by, those that are there, as they grow up in the gospel power and covenant. There the gospel fast is known, the fast which God hath chosen, which is to loose the bands of wickedness (which bind down the good, even that which is of God in the heart), to take off the heavy burdens, under which, and by which, that which is pure is bowed down, and to let the oppressed seed go free. This is the fast which God hath chosen under the gospel; the pure and undefiled fast, even to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world. And to those that observe this fast God maketh a feast of fat things; for their light breaketh forth as the morning, and their health groweth up speedily; and their righteousness goeth before them, and the glory of the Lord gathereth them up, or is their rearward; and the Lord is nigh unto them, and is ready to answer them in all that they call upon him for, as was promised. Isa. 58:8-9. Now, being come to this feast, they are to keep it with unleavened bread, as to the flesh, and as to man's wisdom; but with the bread which is leavened with the Spirit, leavened with life; and with the wine of the kingdom; which Christ eats and drinks with his redeemed ones, new in the gospel Spirit and power, which is his Father's kingdom: for the kingdom of God standeth not in meats or drinks, or any other outward thing, no, not in good words concerning the things of the kingdom; but in Spirit, power, and life itself, and in the righteousness, peace, and joy, which is in the Spirit.