Known long before the appearance of our Lord in that body that was born of the virgin Mary, in which he did the Father's will and exemplified and displayed the way and work of salvation as a union of God and man:--a work of God in man, and of man by God, in a blessed harmony and cooperation.
The work of salvation is neither, on the one hand, in any stage or degree of it, the work of man merely of himself, unassisted by the power and spirit of the Lord; nor, on the other hand, a work of God without the consent and cooperation of man. Many ignorantly entertain high notions of free will, and of ability in and of themselves to act according to reason and the fitness of things; and so to do, as mere creatures, all that is necessary towards their acceptance with God, and complete well-being during the whole of their existence. Others as ignorantly imagine the merits and righteousness of Christ imputed to the full justification and salvation of sinners, so as to render them truly justified, acceptable with, and reconciled to God, while they continue in daily transgression and sin, in the exercise of a will in opposition to his will, in the indulgence and enjoyment of a life contrary to the divine life. They seem to have a confused idea that the moral law of God is abrogated; at least to such as have dependence on the outward coming, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of Christ for salvation; or that these are under grace, and not under the law, though they live a life of sin and defilement; and that such as maintain sanctification absolutely necessary to a state of justification, or that they are never separately experienced, the one without the other, deny the purchase of Christ's death, and are going about to establish their own righteousness!
But these opinions are very remote from the true doctrine of salvation, which has ever been, in all ages, Christ in man the hope of glory; a real union of the life of God and the life of man, and therein a blessed harmonious cooperation. The whole work of true religion, regeneration, and sanctification, is the work of God in Christ; "We are his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus, (and that) unto good works" (Eph. 2:10). Good works, though not the producing cause of justification, yet are that, without which none can be justified. Men may do many works, which, as to the outward act, are good, or which would have been truly so had they been works of the new creation, and wrought of God in Christ, and which yet have no part in the great work of true justification. Those who are thus busied, may be very zealous of "good works," and at the same time very high in profession of Christ, and of a hope of salvation only through him, and yet be wholly on the wrong ground, built on the sand, and remain as gross Pharisees as those who formerly rejected our blessed Lord in high veneration of Moses! Names do not much alter the nature of things. There is as much scope for self-righteousness and rank Pharisaism under a profession of Christ, yea, under a most confident profession of renouncing all our own righteousness, as ever there was under the law. Our preaching, praying, and all our religious and devotional exercises may be, and too often are, in the mere spirit, will, and activity of man: this is going about to establish our own righteousness, and not a whit the less so because we profess to have no dependence on our own works, but that we expect all from Christ! Talk and profession are not the life and substance of salvation in Christ; but this forward active worker, that is always ready, is ever, by this kind of zealous activity and performance, as effectually prevented from the right knowledge of, and submission to, the righteousness of Christ, even under the greatest profession of a single dependence on nothing but his righteousness, as any were of old in the professed rejection of him, and dependence on Moses.
As to the life and substance of it, there never was but one true religion; nothing has ever been such but the immediate inward work of God in man. And this, on the one hand, can take place and proceed no further than God is livingly the continual mover, worker, and efficient cause of all that is rightly wrought therein; nor on the other hand, any further or faster than man comes under the holy influence of the spirit, grace, or power of God, whereby he worketh in us. If man resists the spirit, turns from the grace of God, rebels against his light in the heart, does despite to the holy discoveries of truth, he tramples under foot the very blood of the everlasting covenant, he rejects the son of God, and in the midst of all his professional claim to the merits of a crucified savior is crucifying the life of the Lamb in himself. And thus the Lamb has been slain from the foundation of the world, and is slain in all who thus do violence to the motions of divine life in themselves. "Christ in us" has been in every age and nation the only true and solid ground and hope of glory. Nothing but a true and living birth of God in the soul, of the divine and incorruptible seed, a real and substantial union of the divinity and humanity in one holy offspring, has ever brought salvation; and this, throughout all generations (in all the true seed, in every heir of God and joint-heir with Christ) is the only begotten of the Father. None can be a true child of God without this divine birth, this true brother and sister of Christ, this real offspring of God, that cries Abba, Father! and is one with Christ forever. This birth ever does the works of God. In this, and in its bringing forth, are wrought the "good works" without which there is no justification.
Except we are regenerated and born again; that is, except another birth and life take place in us, besides our natural birth into, and life in this world and into things natural; except a work, that, strictly speaking, effects and produces a real regeneration and new birth, as real a conception, generation, and birth of the seed of God in us, and of us too; as the production of our natural life is a real work of conception, generation, and birth into this world, we cannot possibly enter into the kingdom of God. This is the new creature that is born of God and sinneth not; and this must have the rule and government in us and bring forth the works of God, so far as we are justified. This is the justified of God forever; and nothing is justified of him but what is wrought in him. That which is wrought out of him, and out of his divine life, is excluded from his acceptance, and can never be heir of the promise. Every evil thought, word, and action, is and will be subject to eternal exclusion: and equally so is every sigh or groan, every prayer or sermon, every fast or thanksgiving, with every other religious exertion, that is not in the divine life and influence of God! This is all but "Mount Sinai in Arabia, that is in bondage with her children." The bond-woman must be cast out. It is impossible that she should inherit the promise, or that her son, or any of her children, should be heir with Isaac, the son of the free woman, the son of promise, the son of God's immediate operation and power, born above and beyond the ordinary operations of nature, with all the force and workings of her utmost activity and exertion. It is only the son of promise, the offspring and begotten of God, that can ever do the works of God.
This criterion our blessed redeemer appealed to in the days of Jewish unbelief and opposition. He urged his doing the works of God, as a certain evidence of his being the son of God. And this had never been a certain evidence at one time and on one occasion, had it not been always so at all times and on all occasions. Could any else than the son of God, the new creature, the only begotten, the born again of the incorruptible seed and word of God, at any time have done the works of God, Christ's doing them would not have been a certain and infallible evidence of his sonship. This evidence is as sure and certain, to, in, and concerning all the seed, as it was then in, and concerning the holy head, the bishop and bridegroom of every soul, that is so opened and taught of God as to see and know that anything done by him, in and by another, is truly and spiritually the work of God; and is infallible evidence that a greater than Solomon is there, that Christ is there, come in the flesh in that man by his Holy Spirit; that there is a real birth and babe of God, an heir of God, a joint heir with Christ, a true and living branch of the everlasting vine; indeed, the presence, activity, and good works of God's only begotten. All other works are either directly the works of darkness and the devil, or at best, but the willings, runnings, and toilings of the son of the bond-woman, that never inherits the kingdom, nor can possibly enter into, or even see it. None other ever saw it than that which is begotten of God; that ever beholds it, dwells in it, and enjoys it as its own, the rightful inheritance of him who only is God's heir forever. For though there is, in a sense, properly a plurality as brought forth in the many coheirs of the inheritance, yet in the ground and substance of it, as in God, it is one heir, one offspring, one only begotten: and hence the assertion, "we, being many, are one bread"; and hence Christ's prayer to the Father, that they might all be one, as he and the Father were one. They are all one in the everlasting principle of life and salvation, and they ever do the works of God, and are no further his children, nor born again of him, than they do his works. Nothing is more idle than to suppose anything is born again of God that does not his works, or that sinneth against him. In all the begotten, the very seed and life of God remaineth, and "they cannot sin, because they are born of God." Many people pass through some small convictions, and perhaps pretty deep exercises, and finding a degree of relief and solid satisfaction, conclude that they are born again, and are now safe and sure. But no man is ever wholly born again of God, who is not brought wholly under his rule and government in all things. Everything that revolts, rebels, or sins against him, is not born of him. A little leaven, in time, leavens the whole lump, as it is suffered to operate; but until the whole is leavened, until every thought is brought into the obedience of Christ, we are never wholly born of the incorruptible seed, and may be in danger of a total and final apostasy.
Our real justification is ever in proportion to our real sanctification, and can no more outrun it than real sound health of body can consist with pain, sickness, and putrefaction. Christ is our complete justification. Nothing else ever was or will be any part of it. But Christ, as certainly as he is Christ, ever works the works of God; and that in every soul that will have him to rule over him, or be his Lord and savior. We are complete in him, and in him alone, without any addition. No addition can be made but what will ever be hurtful. But we are never complete in him any otherwise than as we are really in him, as the branch is in, belongs to, and is of the vine; nor any further than we are thus in him, is he truly and substantially formed in us, and become our life and hope of glory: so far, and no further, he is the "end of the law," to us. He never repeals a jot or tittle of the moral law to any, further than it is fulfilled in them. It can never pass away till it is fulfilled: and it is never further fulfilled than the state of transgression is removed, on account of which it was added.
"God is unchangeable." All the changeable dispensations result from, and are accommodated to, the different states of mankind. There never was but one way of salvation, nor of remission of sins. Could any thing else ever have answered this purpose but the birth, life, and government of Christ in man, it would answer still, and as well now as ever. This was pointed to by the law and its ordinances, by John and his figurative and preparatory baptism; and as far as the work of salvation was ever wrought in any age or dispensation, it was the work of God in Christ; yet never was carried on and completed without the creature's consent and cooperation. Nothing, however fervent, zealous, and devout, can have anything of the real nature of true religion in it, that is not in and of the life of God. And this goes on only to such a degree as the life and spirit, the will and activity of the soul, go on with and in it. All religious activity out of this, is but toiling in the night, and without divine help or direction. This gains nothing substantial: it is loss and not true gain: it is dross, and dung, and filthy rags. The sooner we lose it all, the better. But, on the other hand, all holding back, and declining to work with the Great Worker of all things in true religion; all backwardness in letting down the net on the right side of the ship, in the break of heavenly light and day, and by his direction; all staying behind when he puts forth his sheep, goes before them, utters his voice, and calls upon them to follow him--are as effectual in preventing the work of salvation, as running, toiling, and willing of ourselves, in our own might and spirit, without him. We must, through the divine workings of God by his grace and spirit in us, work out our own salvation. This is always the way it is wrought. We can do no more of it ourselves, unassisted by him, than "the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots." And yet, even where it is done in the most sudden manner that ever it was known, it is done no other way, and no further, than as the will or spirit of man yields up, submits to, and becomes a co-worker with him who worketh all in all in true religion. All our springs are in God. He has wrought all our works in us. But the springs are no further ours, and the work is no further wrought in us, than we suffer the obstructions to the arising and flowing of the well of life and salvation in us to be removed, and are willing to be wrought upon, formed, and fashioned by the Great Potter as he pleaseth. Our part is to be unresisting, as the clay in the hand of the potter. The simile regards the nonresistance of the clay but does not extend so far as to represent us inactive, unconscious, or without choice, will, or exertion in this great work. It might as well represent us unconscious, and entirely insensible, as inactive, or active as mere machines. It shows that we can do no more merely of ourselves in it, than lifeless clay; and that even where we are the most vigorously active in a right line religiously, our will and activity are not only wholly yielding and unresisting under the divine operation, but they are no further or faster exertive in the work than the divine hand or influence is felt and extended, holds us fast, and puts us forward, forms and fashions us vessels of use and honor, as he pleases. And he never pleases to make any of us anything in religion, either in ourselves or to others, without the consent, concurrence, and cooperation of our own minds and abilities in it. As we yield to his call and operation, the new formation, creation, and generation begin and advance. Old things are done away, all things become new, and all things of God; and not of ourselves without him. Here we are brought into reconciliation with him and know our sins to be blotted out and freely remitted. Remission of past sins is equally, in all ages, the act of divine grace. It is the mercy of God, in and through Christ the begotten: his unchangeable nature, an attribute or excellency inseparable from the Divine Essence. He cannot retain anger or opposition to a state not in opposition to him. Anger, as a passion, he has none; he is always in himself the same, and always one. There is no twain in him. Love and wrath, compassion and vengeance, are not in him as different things, or even as states or dispositions. It is more strictly proper to say, he is love, goodness, wisdom, power, compassion, a fountain of living waters, a consuming fire, &c., than to say he has such and such attributes, or properties. Indeed, I suppose the word attribute was originally used on this very ground, and implies that he has not any two different things or states in himself. But because he is all these, we attribute to him those different excellencies or qualities, which are familiar to our ideas. He is love, and always and altogether love; he is goodness, and always and altogether goodness; power, wisdom, and justice, and always and altogether all these, and all are ever but one in him. Perhaps goodness is a word as expressive of what he is, as any. However, being goodness, he was and is prompted to create subordinate intelligences, thereby to diffuse bliss, happiness, and enjoyment. His eternal nature (or say, love or goodness) prompts him to visit, revisit, or operate upon, call and invite all that he has made capable of happiness or misery, in a spiritual sense.
He cannot, (such is the purity and goodness of his eternal unchangeable nature,) make a sham invitation to any and pass it upon them as a real and sincere one! As his promise is yea and amen forever, so is his call. All have heard it; but they have "not all obeyed" (Rom. 10:16). The call is as real to him who does not, as to him who does obey. In order that we might be rational creatures, conscious of good and evil, and proper objects of reward and punishment, free agency was absolutely necessary to man. Hence results our capacity to obey, or disobey God's call; to yield to, or resist the operations and workings of his power in us for salvation. And hence the divine equity of rewarding every man according to his works; according to the deeds done in the body. He that commits sin works directly against God, against the divine call, the manifestation and operation of God in himself. This is the evil of sin. It is hence the guilt and condemnation arise. It is rebellion against the light. The light shines in all; in "every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9).
It not only is, but must be so, from the very nature, the goodness of God. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light." None therefore have, nor ever can have, this condemnation, who have not had the light. Its coming cannot be to the condemnation of any but those who hate it. He that loves it, that lives in it, and conforms his deeds, his heart, his life to it, is and must be in union, communion, and reconciliation with God, the source of it, and from whom it shines an emanation of the Eternal Divinity. The word that was in the beginning with God, and truly was God, is now, and ever was the light of all men, and the life of those in whom it obtains, in all things, the pre-eminence. These live by it; or, as Paul expresses himself, it is Christ that liveth in them. Those who hate it, rebel against it, or work counter to it, are in a state of alienation and opposition to God, and therefore in guilt, and under condemnation. Here, to the froward, he must show himself froward: he cannot change into a state of reconciliation with that which is counter to his eternal nature and essence, and to his operation on the soul; but is, and must be a consuming fire. If this produces an entire change in the creature, he is, he must be reconciled to God, and cannot possibly be so any other way. Nothing can cleanse from the filth of sin, and reconcile the soul to God, but that which removes the defilement and opposition to him. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." This is the blood of the everlasting covenant, the blood of sprinkling; and as it is felt and known to cleanse from all sin, it is evident that this is not a removal of the guilt while the actual state of sin and transgression remaineth. Cleansing from all sin, and washing it away, are not effected while we are living daily and hourly in sin. Sin ever separates the soul from God. It is that which lets; and it will let, till it is removed out of the way.
Full reconciliation to God is not consistent with a state of opposition to his holy law, his divine will, and working in us. While filth and opposition to divine influence remain in man, there remains fuel for the fiery baptism of Jesus, nor can the floor of the heart be thoroughly cleansed till all defilement is removed. God and evil are in eternal contrariety, and as God cannot change, he cannot at one time be unreconciled, and at another time reconciled to the same state. Imputation of Christ's righteousness to sinners, so as to reconcile them to God in a state of actual sin, or alienation from him, is as impossible as to reconcile light and darkness, or Christ and Belial. It is a phantom that has risen up in the fogs and mists of benighted minds. It is attempting to climb up to heaven some other way than by Christ, the door. And yet such is the power of darkness, that this is called magnifying the merits of a crucified savior, who never saves his people but as he saves them from their sins!
He is the eternal Word, and as such is God. To us he is the emanation, or son of God's love. When he lives and reigns complete in us; when he is our life, and has in all things the pre-eminence with us, and so is our complete justification, as such he must have been begotten and formed in us; strictly and truly so; for it is thus, and thus only, that we are or can be complete in him. He is one in all the only begotten of God forever. God alone is his Father. Every true believer is his mother. Hence he assures us, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt. 12:50). And hence too he is the son of man. "What and if ye shall see the son of man ascend up where he was before?" (John 6:62). The outward body of flesh and blood, which cannot inherit the kingdom of God, never came down from heaven. "He that ascended is he that first descended." The outward body was prepared for him who came to do the divine will. It was the eternal holy Word that came down from heaven and took flesh in that body; and this divine word having a conception and birth in man, becomes truly, and in the Scripture sense, the son of man, as well as son of God; and so is both the root and offspring of David, according to Rev. 22:16, and as truly the seed of Abraham. It was not the outward body, nor the mere human nature, that was the seed of Abraham, in which all the families of the earth are blessed. It was that living birth of divine life, whose day Abraham saw, and wherein he enjoyed the spiritual blessing. This is the seed of the woman that bruises the serpent's head. It was and is necessary, in order to our restoration and union with God, that the life of the Deity, the holy Word, should so operate as to bring forth in us a conception and birth of his own divine nature; a real birth of the incorruptible seed and word of God. As in this holy offspring a real union of life, human and divine, is formed and brought forth, and as man herein becomes the mother of this heavenly offspring, this is really the seed of the woman, the seed of the church and spouse of Christ; for it is not only as the seed of Mary or of Eve, that the only begotten is the seed of the woman. The souls in whom he is begotten and brought forth, are all in the relation of parent to him, as well as brethren and sisters; and according to the nature of the work which forms this relation, it is strikingly represented by the parent in the female line; "Whosoever, &c. the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." And this is that begotten of God, and at the same time that son of man, which ascends up where he was before he became the son of man. And as God alone can be the father of this his only begotten, man at most can be his mother. And was not this a principal reason why his outward birth was of a virgin; showing that God only is the Father of all that is truly begotten and born again of him, and holding forth, in striking analogy, this great and adorable mystery?
Let not the wisdom of man arise against it; for though it may appear blasphemous to some, it appears to me perfectly consistent with our savior's formerly declaring himself both the son of man and son of God. Nothing was stranger to creaturely wisdom in that day, than the profession of a man to be the son of the Highest, though without such a relation actually formed, there was never any salvation to any individual. And herein is much of the glory, excellency, and efficacy of Christ's coming in that body. It wonderfully exhibits, illustrates, and exemplifies the nature of the great work of salvation, is a blessed pattern of it, and may, by way of eminence, be considered as containing the sum of it. It is all of the same nature in every individual, and was, is, and ever must be, through suffering and death, and a resurrection to newness of life.
Much might be said in support of this doctrine. The Scriptures bear ample testimony to it, though in a way that is hid from the natural reason of mankind till illuminated from on high. When Peter knew Christ to be the son of God, Christ told him, flesh and blood had not revealed it unto him, but his heavenly Father (Matt. 16:17). This holds good to every individual. The world by wisdom never knew God, and never can know Christ. None know him but those to whom the Father reveals him; nor can any know the Father, but by the revelation of the son in themselves. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor. 12:3). This is the reason why "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God" (1 John 4:2). The evil spirits of old confessed him in words, but he rejected their testimony, and suffered them not to speak (Luke 4:41). For though they had an outward knowledge who he was, they spake not by the Holy Ghost; they were not of God. And thus thousands now confess him to have come in the flesh in that body, and are proud to call him Lord; but none ever rightly call him so but by the revelation of the Father. Therefore, on this rock only he builds his church, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, though against every other building they can and do prevail. It is not merely confessing, though in full assent to the truth of it, that Christ did come in that one outward body, that determines anyone to be of God; the devils believe, confess, and tremble; but none truly and thoroughly confess him without knowing (in the present tense) that he "is come in the flesh" in themselves, spiritually.
"I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever, even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you: yet a little while and the world seeth me no more, but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day (that is, when I come again the second time, the comforter, to salvation) ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" (John 14:16-20). This is the great mystery of godliness. God manifest in the flesh, is not confined to the flesh of that one body. "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, if a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him" (verses 21-23). "That which may be known of God is manifest in them" (Rom. 1:19). The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, "is Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). "Always bearing about in the body," says the apostle, "the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body; for we which live, are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:10-11). "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us". Here is plainly in us the death; the dying of the Lord Jesus, in order that his life may be manifest in us. This is baptism into his death, and rising with him into newness of life; the one soul-saving baptism. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me, and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me" (John 13:20).
Great, indeed, is this mystery, much unknown to, yea, even rejected as enthusiasm, by many professors of Christ. No man can really receive anyone that Jesus sendeth, and not as really receive him (I mean absolutely him, the only begotten of God) any more than we can receive Christ, and not receive the Father that sent him. "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). Let none suppose he means simply, that he will accept it as if done unto him; it is true in the strictest sense. It is actually done unto him in them, for they are all real brethren; "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). "He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one" (Heb. 2:11). "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17). "We being many are one bread" (10:17). "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Christ formed in man, is in the oneness with the Father. The begotten of God in every soul is one with him in the everlasting covenant; as truly so, in measure, as there was a real oneness with God in the man Christ Jesus.
"I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High" (Psalm 82:6). (And if children, then heirs.) And their dying like men, in the next verse, is as it happened to the blessed Jesus, as well as to all his co-heirs and brethren. "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, 'ye are gods?' If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken, say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him" (John 10:34-38). For this they sought to kill him, or took up stones to stone him. And when he says the same thing now, in his joint-heirs and brethren, is it not condemned as rank enthusiasm, if not blasphemy? And yet this reasoning was then cogent and unanswerable, and is equally true at all times, and in all the seed. None ever did the works of God but the seed, the son, the sent and sanctified of the Father. This is the reason, "he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one." He told them, the works he did, they should do; that is, the works of God. And that babe that is begotten and born of God, of the incorruptible seed, and so doth his works in every redeemed soul, has always a right to say as he did, "But if I do the works of God, though ye believe not me, believe the works." But why believe the works? "That ye may know and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." Only believe the works and the point is settled at once. "For there is none good but one, that is God." No real good work can be done, but he doeth it. We are enabled to work out our own salvation, but it is only as God worketh in us and we work by him; he in us and we in him.
No mere man can receive this doctrine. Hence the divine truth and certainty of John Baptist's declaration, "He that cometh from above, is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all, and what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth, and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true" (John 3:31-33).
And who is this that receiveth his testimony? Answer, No man, as man merely, but the begotten of God. "The world cannot receive him, because it seeth him not." "No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). "And of his fullness have all we received". Had we not, we could never rightly know God, nor receive the testimony of the son. There is nothing else through which we can receive it. It is hid from the wisest of men except only so far as it is manifested to them in and by this. It is revealed only unto babes, that is, to his begotten. Men, as natural men, and as such considered as the work of God, are created. But the new born babes in Christ, though in a sense the work and creation of God (as Christ is the beginning of it), yet they are, as his production, not merely created as Adam; they are, strictly speaking, begotten. There is in their formation, a spiritual conception and birth in the soul. The Father, by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost upon the willing mind, which embraces and yields to the visitations, operations, and wooings of his love, begetteth and produceth a true and real birth of divine life, a conception and birth of that which is truly and properly his only begotten forever, being one in all his spiritual offspring. This is he that is born again of God, of the incorruptible seed and word of God.
In the production of this conception, generation, and birth, there is both Father and mother. He that begets, is the only possible Father of this the only begotten. The soul in whom this conception and birth is effected, is the mother; and here "the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord." This conception and birth cannot possibly be effected by the mother without the Father, and is never produced by the Father without the consent of the mother. There must be a celestial union, a real cooperation, wherein two become one. Of twain the one new man is made, which is God and man in the heavenly and mystical fellowship and union. This is the mystery of Christ. This is what is held forth strikingly and livingly in his birth of the virgin Mary; and this ever was, and ever will be the only possible way of salvation. This is the new creature that being born of God sinneth not; indeed, cannot sin, and that for this very reason, because "his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9); as really so as one was ever born of another in natural procreation.
The natural man, the mere creature, as the work of God, is a created being; he never saw God, cannot know him, nor receive the testimony respecting the mystical union and sonship: but the babe, the begotten, that with a true and living knowledge of its sonship, cries Abba, Father, both sees and knows the Father, and receives the heavenly testimony. For Christ, speaking of this mystery, says, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven, their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 18:10. And again, calling them sheep, he says, "My sheep hear my voice" &c. (John 10:27). Thus they receive his testimony, but will not receive that of a stranger. "All that ever came before me, are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them" (verse 8). Were Moses and the prophets, and John, who came before him to prepare his way, thieves and robbers? Nay, verily, they came not before him in this sense; for he came in them, and was their leader; and all the real message of God by them, was through him. He is "the word of the Lord, that came unto them." The same word that was in the beginning. But whenever man, of himself, out of Christ, meddles in the things of God, he is a thief, takes that which is not his, sets his post by God's post, and robs the babe of his honor. Here is the ground and rise of idolatry. Here is antichrist in the temple of God, exalted over the seed of God in man, and got up above all that is truly called God, and rightly worshipped.
Christ is the door. Is there a door of entrance into the kingdom in our hearts? If so, it is Christ in us; there is no other door, nothing can open to receive him, nor enter into the kingdom with him, but that which is of him; all else is, and ever will be, darkness, and cannot comprehend the light or receive it. Nature works against it; men love darkness rather, and as men merely, ever will.
"Israel is my son, even my first born" (Exodus 4:22). This is true forever; for Israel, the begotten and born of God, even when the seed of Abraham suffered in Egypt, was truly his only son, his first born; and hence he speaks of all the seed in the singular number. "Israel is my son, my first born." This could not have been true had not this Israel been the seed of Abraham spiritually; and in the same sense Christ is so called; that is, not seeds as of many, but the one seed, which is Christ in all the heirs and brethren. "This day have I begotten thee," is, through all time, the language of the Father. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isa. 9:6), is as true at one time as another, in the present tense, without looking backward or forward. They ate the spiritual meat, and drank of the spiritual rock, when Israel, God's son, was called out of Egypt, long before the virgin Mary, "and that rock was Christ." They not only ate outward manna, they ate the same spiritual meat the saints ever live by, else they had no life in them; there was never any other possible way for men to have divine life in them.
To know God and Christ is life eternal. He is in all; all have of his fullness, and yet thousands are dead because they do not know him; they eat not his spiritual flesh, nor drink his spiritual blood, and so cannot live by him. "He that eateth me, shall live by me," says he. He is hid and buried in them. He is as "leaven hid" (the very seed of the kingdom) (Matt. 13:33). A talent laid up in a napkin; or buried in the earth (Luke 19:20; Matt. 25:18); overlooked and rejected, yea, trampled underfoot, as an unholy thing, although it is the very blood of the everlasting covenant (Heb. 10:29). "The cornerstone," which all the wise builders among men as men, have ever rejected; but to those who come to know him, and build in and by him, he becomes "the head of the corner" (Acts 4:11). There is wisdom in the word become; "is become the head of the corner"; for he is so to none, but as he becomes so. The head-stone in religion, and even in the profession of Christ, is always another thing to natural men, however zealous and full of faith, as they may suppose, whilst he lies hid and buried in them, though they cry up ever so loudly his former appearance in that body. Thousands do so, and yet know no more of him than the Jews did. They who then received his testimony, and saw his glory, as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, saw through the veil of his flesh, or they had never seen him, or livingly known him in that appearance: and none now rightly know him, that stick in that appearance and see no further. "Though we have known Christ after the flesh," says the apostle, "yet now henceforth know we him no more" (2 Cor. 5:16).
"Lo, I come," says he, and "a body hast thou prepared me" (Heb. 10:5,7). The I that came, the me the body was prepared for, is he who says, "Before Abraham was, I am." Hence all who knew him, knew the Father also, and all who now know him, know the Father; there is no possible failure of this. "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us: Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, show us the Father?" (John 14:7-9). It seems Philip had not yet fully learned this mystery; and this is the case with many who are in degree his disciples. Paul says, "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor. 12:27). "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one spirit" (verses 12-13).
It is plain this body of Christ is spiritual; for we are members of it by baptism of the one spirit into it: by drinking into the one spirit. It is not our outward bodies that compose, and are the members of Christ's body, but it is the birth of Christ in us; it is a union of the life of God and the life of man; and thus the apostle's simile is beautifully instructive; the outward body is one with the head, the members are all of the body; "so also is Christ." The begotten are all members of the body; the body is one with and in the head, "and the head of Christ is God." And when the birth of Christ is fully formed in man, and grown up to the measure of the stature and fullness of sonship, where every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, so that God becomes all in all, here the holy Head is known. Christ is the head of every man, and God is the head of Christ; that is, Christ the begotten entirely governs the whole man, as the head directs and governs all the members of the body; and God the Father, as the head of Christ, entirely guides, governs, and in all things directs the begotten.
"I am the true vine," says Christ, "and my Father is the husbandman" (John 15:1). Are the vine and the husbandman one? Answer, yes, in the heavenly union and mystery: the wisdom of man makes it nonsense; but if the vine and the husbandman are one, surely then, so are the vine and the branches. "I am the vine, ye are the branches" (5). "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away" (2). "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (4). "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and withereth" (6). "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (7). "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do" (John 14:13). As he cannot deny himself, a branch abiding in him, and asking in his name, cannot ask without receiving: therefore it holds good forever, "Ask, and ye shall receive." It cannot possibly fail, for, says he, "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (10). Just so every branch in him may say, "I speak not of myself, I ask in thy name: it is thy word that speaks, and asketh in me"; "I live, yet not I, it is Christ that liveth in me." This is he, that in all the truly begotten can always say, "I know that thou hearest me always." This is true prayer, and no other is so; all other is but the noise, the voice and breath of man, and is not answered; it receives not; it falls to the ground!
But let us now hear the great wisdom of man, that God has made real foolishness with him. "What!" says the reasoner, the wise disputer of this world, "how can the branch and vine be one, if the branch may be cast forth, and withered?" This is just as wise as the reasoning of the Jews, "We have heard out of the law, that Christ abideth forever, and how sayest thou, the son of man must be lifted up?" (John 12:34). Can the branch be cast forth, and wither outwardly? It can. Was it not therefore of the vine? It was. Can Christ be crucified afresh in spirit, and put to open shame? Can the blood of the covenant be trodden under foot and despised? Can despite be done to that Holy Spirit of grace and salvation? Can a birth of real life be stifled and slain? It can. Was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"? Was this said only of what should be afterwards; or was it really done from the very foundation? It was really done; it is still done in thousands. In the very day that Adam ate the forbidden fruit he died. Death took instant place in him, upon that which was before alive in him, only in the life of the Lamb. Here the Lamb was slain in him; here the branch was cast forth and withered.
I know it is a mystery too high for mere man to comprehend; but man can laugh it to scorn, and bring forth his strong reasons against it; yea, render it impossible; for impossible it is, and ever will be to this world's wisdom. I do not expect to escape censure and severe ridicule; for I know that no man as man merely, receiveth the true undisguised testimony of the son, because it is "foolishness unto him" (1 Cor. 2:14). To preach "Christ crucified, was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness" (chap. 1:23). To preach this doctrine in its full extent, is now both a stumbling block and downright foolishness unto the creature, as much as ever; but to such as see it in the light, it remains to be both "the power of God, and the wisdom of God; because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (24-25). This is "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom (for it remains hid to this day) which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew" (2:7-8). "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (12). There is a measure of the spirit, grace, light, and life of the son, freely given to all men to profit withal, but none savingly know it, but those who give up to its motions in themselves, so as to receive it for their teacher; then they see clearly, it had been freely given them of God before, though it lay long hid and buried, and they knew it not. "If thou knewest the gift of God," said Christ to the woman, "and who it is that saith to thee, give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10).
This gift of God was he that dwelt in that body; which, whoever saw, saw also the Father. This gift was not only then near her, but had been in her, and is in all; and had she known it before she saw the Lord Jesus outwardly, even as it talked with her, and was the gift of God to her inwardly, she might have asked of him and received the living water; even as Israel of old drank of that spiritual rock that truly was Christ; and is now in every believer "a well of water springing up into everlasting life;" according to his promise, "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
This is the salvation of God in every age and dispensation; coming into this living faith, in full subjection to this inward holy gift of God, is our only reconciliation with him. This inward gift is the mediator between God and man: it was so in the body prepared by him to do the Father's will in; it is so now in all. It is not one thing in him, and another in us. This is the bond of union, that unites God and the soul in the divine and saving fellowship; "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." A will, opposite to the divine will, is self-will, is enmity to God; nothing but the cross of Christ can ever "slay the enmity"; hence no true disciple, but by the daily cross, and denial of self: this brings all into the one will, crucifies the old man, with his affections and lusts.
Without death, there is no new life; even under the law, "without shedding of blood there was no remission." The life was taken; here was suffering for sin, in the figure. Burnt offerings pointed out the necessity of fire, the saving baptism of Jesus; who, when he came, passed through the fiery baptism of extreme sufferings, outward and inward; till at length he endured the pangs of death and poured forth his very "soul an offering for sin" (Isa. 53:10).
And it now remains that what is yet behind of his sufferings and afflictions be filled up in us (Col. 1:24). His sufferings are not ended; "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Cor. 1:5). Again, "As ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation" (7). "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17). Here we suffer with him, expressly in order that we may be glorified together. "If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us" (2 Tim. 2:11-12). "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4:13). "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Phil. 3:10). This is the baptism that now saves us; it is not a figure; we never receive remission of sins, but in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ, and conformity to his death; this was always the only way. So that of old, when blood was taken for atonement, and no remission was had without blood, the outward was but the shadow, and of itself procured no remission, no reconciliation. It is, through all time, only by the death and sufferings of Christ, that we can be, or any could be, reconciled to God. And as none obtained this blessing by the offerings themselves, without knowing in themselves a death to sin, a fellowship in the sufferings of the holy seed, so none can now receive it otherwise.
The death and sufferings of Christ in that body are of great price in the sight of God, and in all things have the pre-eminence in the view of the saints. Therein was wonderfully held forth the way of salvation, as a work of God in man, and of man by God; that it is all through suffering, a wounding to heal, and killing to make alive in God. He, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, has always borne the chastisement of our peace; nor without his stripes were any ever healed. God hath laid on him the iniquities of us all, but unless we partake in the chastisement, and feel his stripes, we are not healed; for he that will save his life, shall lose it; but he that will lose his life, and die with Christ, shall save it unto life eternal. Ever of old, "in all their afflictions, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them" (Isa. 63:9). They had his real presence, or all else had been useless: they were afflicted with him, as well as he with them, and those who know not reconciliation with God and remission of sins in this way are not reconciled to him. But this is death to man's will and wisdom too; he won't endure it; he had rather believe, or pretend to believe, anything than die into life. His whole aim as man, in his own activity in religion, is to climb up some other way; and among his many inventions, that he may seem to come in by Christ, he has hewn out the broken cistern of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to man in transgression! But his righteousness is forever unimputable to all who have not died with him to sin, and risen in the power of his resurrection to newness of life; it can be no further imputed to any, than they are actually conformed to his death, and the fellowship of his sufferings. There is an eternal distance and separation between Christ and all that is unholy. No grain of his righteousness was ever imputed to any soul, but in exact proportion to its actual sanctification, or submission to the divine will. What can be more absurd, than to suppose Christ's sufferings have altered him, who is always unchangeably the same? or that he sees us any otherwise than as we are, in our actual state and condition? I can have no expectation of salvation by Christ, without the fellowship of his sufferings, and conformity to his death.
But, blessed forever be the name of the Lord, I have known something of the power of Christ to salvation. I know certainly that there is no other name given under heaven, whereby men can be saved. But who is this savior? "I, even I, am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior" (Isa. 43:11). This is he who ever liveth; his taking flesh has tended powerfully to unveil the mystery, and show man that salvation is a work of God and man in union, wrought out through suffering, fear, and trembling. This was ever the only way. The sufferings of Christ for the salvation of men began not when he took flesh of the virgin Mary, nor are his sufferings one thing in nature or kind in the head, and another in the members. If "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). All is in the oneness. Suffering and being put to death in the flesh or fleshly motions, has ever been the alone way to know the quickening of the spirit; the only trodden path to glory. The sufferings of the seed in that one specially prepared body, could do no more towards reconciling a soul to God, than the blood of bulls and goats towards the washing away sin, were it not that the promise is sure to all the seed; and that the seed is one in all; its sufferings one; its reigning and rejoicing one. The seed, the life, the begotten, was of old pressed as a cart with sheaves. How the divine life so unites with humanity, as to be capable of suffering, is a question too high for human wisdom; but it is the truth, and the only true way of salvation, learnt only in the rending of the veil, and in removing the covering that, in the first state, is spread over all nations.
It is God's will that that be "not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual." Our state is first natural, our acquaintance is with natural things; our ideas and conceptions natural: by degrees the eternal holy Word, that was with God, and was God, that is nigh in the heart and in the mouth, and enlightens all men, more and more operates upon us, to illuminate, to burn, to quicken, awaken, plead with, and demand audience and dominion in us: this is God's goodness for our redemption; and what says he? "I will overturn, overturn, overturn, and it shall be no more till he come, whose right it is, and I will give it him." And Christ says, "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled?" Forever lauded be his goodness to the souls of men, it was, it is already kindled; it burns as an oven (that is, inwardly) in order to refine us as silver is refined! "Verily there is a vein for silver, and a place for gold where they fine it." "Gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of affliction." The Lord's fire is ever in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem. "The light of Israel shall be for a fire; and his Holy One for a flame," and it shall kindle in the thickets; the briers also and thorns shall be burnt up. This is all inward, for redemption and salvation: it is so in all, as far as it is not quenched. But men may and do quench the spirit, this spirit of judgment and burning; but those who cease to quench it, soon find the good effects of it; it kindles up more and more, till the chaff is consumed, and the wheat is gathered into the Lord's garner.
This is the baptism of Christ; the one baptism, as old as Abraham; known to all that have ever known salvation. As this work of refinement advances, the veil rends, the covering is gradually removed, until the veil is done away in Christ. Here the spiritual understanding and discernment are gradually received; here we know the meaning of these words: "Afterwards that which is spiritual!" God never intended men should know these things by natural reason, or by a man's own spirit. The natural man cannot know them; they are foolishness unto him; and only to be spiritually discerned. The acutest philosopher is herein as great a fool as any; hence some of the greatest sons of natural science, the very darlings of genius, and masters of reason, have been and now are deists.
I confess, I see nothing so absurd in deism, at least nothing so repugnant to the good sense and common understanding of mankind, as I see in what some of the great doctors of divinity, so termed, hold forth for the doctrines of the Gospel! I don't question, if any of these should read this little treatise, but they will feel in their own estimation able to swallow me up at once, and confound all my wild enthusiastic notions, as they may call them, by the force of human reason, as Behemoth "trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth" (Job 40:23). "His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron" (18). So may seem the strength of carnal reasoners. But a word by the way: "He that made him, can make his sword to approach unto him" (19)! May the sword of the spirit approach to and penetrate the hearts of such professors as these. But if I knew Christ no otherwise than they teach, describe, and declare him, I think I must be either a skeptic or a deist. I can never see the connection between the sufferings of a body of flesh, seventeen or eighteen hundred years ago, and the salvation of an immortal soul at this day, without seeing those sufferings connected with the sufferings of the seed, that is one in all. The seed groaned on Calvary, the seed groans in all; "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." The whole creation of mankind, groans more or less to be delivered into the liberty of the children of God. And this salvation by Christ, the suffering seed, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is, in this way, the most glorious display of infinite wisdom. But I think the systems, by some promulgated for the gospel of salvation by Jesus, as full fraught with absurdity, as almost any thing I have met with in Mohammedanism, or the ancient mythology of the heathen.
The world by wisdom knew not God then, nor can the wisdom of the world a whit more know him now. This wisdom has got hold of things given by inspiration and revelation from God to his children, and doubts not its full competency to the comprehension, methodizing, and promulgation of the gospel! This wisdom reads, "There are three that bear record in heaven," and will have it, these are three distinct persons in one God; and rivers of human blood have been shed in consequence of the contentions that have been about this mystery! As they handle it, they advance natural flesh and blood to divinity; they deify a person of shape and dimensions, and look for his coming, as such, to judgment. They make in short three Gods; and yet say there is but one God! But the three that bear record in heaven, are known where God reveals them, and never elsewhere. No mystery can be declared from God, and gain credence, but anon, the poor finite wisdom of the creature presumes to lay hold of it, and vainly proceeds to absolute determinations; and then often seeks to enforce these notions on mankind, sometimes by the point of the sword, sometimes by fire and fagot: and were I an honest deist, I must endure their tortures, before I could subscribe to their dogmas.
Let the creature be passive till life leads to action; let man be a fool as he is, and wait on God for instruction, and he will at least avoid the labyrinths of learned absurdity; and may learn that the infinite Jehovah, the great I am, as the eternal self-existent, omnipotent, and first cause of all things, ever reigns properly God, and is one. As the begetter of life divine in mortals, the babe that cries Abba, Father, and to which alone divine mysteries are or can be revealed, he is properly the Father; and such too in a larger sense; for as there is in the depth of every soul at least a panting conception of the incorruptible seed and word of life, he may be called "the Father of us all." How far he is, or is not, properly the Father of all created intelligences, all animated nature, I am not curious to inquire, or anxious to decide. But as putting forth his power, or uttering his voice, or as power put forth, or a voice uttered, in order for production or creation, or in order for diffusion of bliss, he is the holy Word: also, as manifesting in intelligible language the divine will to the ear of the soul, he is the word of the Lord; the word nigh in the heart and mouth; not only in the heart, for when the prophets speak, "it is [as Christ said] not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." And as he speaketh in them, and by or through them, to others, he is also the word in the mouth, as well as in the heart. As a production, or as being begotten and brought forth in man, in a state of dependence and want, and looking up to a superior preserver, feeder, and helper in every sense, he becomes a son; and this was our savior's state in that body, and is the state of sonship in all. He was dependent, he was tried and tempted in all things as we are; hence his sympathy with all the seed; he is touched with a feeling of all our infirmities; is a merciful and faithful high priest; and being himself tempted, knows how to succor them that are tempted. He could do nothing without his Father; "My father worketh hitherto, and I work," said he. "My Father is greater than I." "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). As a son he was begotten; this implies Father and mother; every one in whom he is begotten is his mother; and as he is begotten in all these, so is each of these his sister and brother; and as he is married to these, they are his wife, bride, or spouse.
Much more might be said of the state of sonship; but "who will believe our report, and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Who can bear to hear that the son differs nothing (as the apostle saith) from a servant, for a season, though he be Lord of all? Who can allow him to lay in a manger, and then to be under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father? But so he is in all, whether men know it or not, and so he was in that body. He submitted to his parents, obeyed and learned gradually, "learned obedience by the things he suffered." He advanced by degrees, and grew in "stature and in favor with God and man." And though he never sinned, yet "he died unto sin once"; that is, unto the motions, which, if obeyed, had brought forth sin; for he had a will as a man; as a man his nature was reluctant to the cross. "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" but he abode in subjection, "not my will, but thine be done." Just the path we all must tread to glory, the way we all must walk, if ever we obtain salvation. He must reign in us, till he puts all enemies under him in us. Here he must sit at God's right hand, the right hand of omnipotence, in every soul, till eternal power makes all his foes his footstool; till he puts down all other rule and authority in us but his own; till perfect obedience and subjection takes place; till our will is swallowed up in the divine will. Here, as mediator, having made perfect reconciliation, he renders up the kingdom to the Father; and God becomes all in all. Death is swallowed up in victory. Here he rises from the grave, bursts the bands of death, puts off the grave clothes, mortal puts on immortality, rises from the sepulchre, notwithstanding the sealing of the stone, and setting of the watch; and yet after all this, "touch me not, for I am not yet ascended." Wait to have an ear open to receive this, and wait his ascension over all in thee; be not hasty; "he that believeth shall not make haste."
There is a time and season for all things; and if thou abidest in the patience, and touchest him not, thou shalt see and know all power, both in heaven and earth, committed unto him, though he has only been under tutors. He through death reunites with the Omnipotent, from whom he was put forth into a state of want, weakness, and dependence; that is, all self-will or reluctance, every motion that had striven against, or attempted to strive against the motion of divine life in the will of the Father, is slain, all yields up, and God becomes all in all. Now he leads captivity captive, ascends over all, and sits down in the throne of the kingdom; principalities and powers being made subject to him. Here, he that laid down his life, and was a servant to all--having first come forth from the bosom of the Father; been conceived in man, and brought forth, truly the son of man, swaddled and laid in the manger, scarce finding where to lay his head; persecuted, reviled, spit upon, crowned with thorns, crucified, dead, and buried--rises superior to all the powers of darkness, and all the gates of hell; and ascends up where he was, before he came forth from the Father. This is the seed of the woman that bruises the serpent's head; not then first the seed of the woman when born of Mary, but as early as a birth of God was brought forth in man. This is he of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write; whom Moses calls the word in the mouth and the heart; the true seed of Abraham, and of David in spirit. "Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Now this immortal birth is ever begotten by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost; by the influence of the Holy Spirit, the babe of life is conceived!
God is a spirit; why? because he quickens and giveth life, or maketh alive; his influence on the soul is felt enlivening, animating, and invigorating its faculties. The beginning and progress in all true religion is in God as a spirit; the renewing of the Holy Ghost, is the comfort and consolation of the begotten of God; it is the very life of God, that is food for the soul; the flesh and blood of the son, which the saints feed on and live by, and which he explains thus: "It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing." Indeed, if ye can receive it, it is the very "blood of God."
This Holy Spirit instructs, as well as clothes, feeds, and strengthens the begotten; in short, God is all in all, in beginning, carrying on, and completing the work; and finally it will be seen so, when all comes into full subjection to him. But as in putting forth his power in created intelligences, in the progress of the work carried on between God and the soul, by God in man, and by man through God, there is begetting, there is the begotten, there is assisting, instructing, feeding, clothing, and upholding the begotten, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13); so, though God is eternally but one, and there is no twain at all in him, not even love in him, in any wise different from wisdom, goodness, power, wrath, vengeance, or anything that is in him; yet as it is very proper to speak of these several attributes or perfections, and of divers operations, according to what he operates upon--a fountain of living waters to the faithful; a consuming fire to the man of sin (as the sun softens wax and hardens clay, and yet not two acts, or different operations in the sun itself); so the distinction of Father, son, and spirit is proper, and there is a substantial, experimental ground for it; yea, further, for the distinction "of God, and of the Father, and of Christ," as we find Paul expresses it.
He that pleases may make himself sport with these mysteries, but I can tell him, had he lived in our savior's day in that body, in the same disposition, he would have ridiculed him, and his living testimony to the truth, as much as he now does the unfolding of the nature and life of it; and would have been as able to raise mountains piled on mountains of seeming difficulty and impossibility against it. And therefore if he now thinks himself a believer, it would be a mercy to him to be undeceived, and convinced that he only believes, because it is the fashion, and that he has taken his faith upon trust from others! This may startle him; for I doubt not he thinks verily, that he believes, because he has examined for himself, and is fully convinced! But surely he has never made thoroughly the right examination, for if he had, he could never believe the common credenda of religion in our land. He may have gone as far as his natural powers can lead him, under all the clogs and prejudices of education and popular opinion; but it is to be feared, the Father which is in heaven, has not revealed his son in him, has not translated him into the kingdom of his dear son. He cannot then in this state, call Jesus, Lord, by the Holy Ghost; he may say, the Lord liveth, and Christ is the son of God, and nevertheless swear falsely!
The substance of what I have written, I have at least learned mostly of the Father. I learned the mystery of it, not of man, neither was I ever clearly and livingly taught it by man, as man; but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
If, courteous reader, thy mind is now, or at any time hereafter shall be, so opened and prepared as to receive and assent to these declarations, and would wish them to be of real benefit to thy soul, I have this further to say to thee: have a care; catch not at it in the prying wisdom of man; seek not to have the vulture's eye to behold it; it will do thee no good in the letter, out of the life of it. Wait on the Lord in stillness, in singleness and holy abstraction of soul, before him. Be content with a little, make not haste. And as thine eye is single to the divine light in thee, thy whole body will become full of light; thou wilt not lack any good thing, any necessary information; but God will reveal all things to thee, as far and as fast as thou canst safely and usefully bear them. If thou advancest in this school rightly, it can never be further or faster than thou advancest in purification; and that must be through burning and fuel of fire. If thou canst not dwell with devouring fire and with spiritual burnings, thou wilt never make a proficient in the science of salvation, nor stand faithful in the Lamb's warfare. But if thy heart is won to Jesus in good earnest, and thou art engaged to follow him wherever he leads thee; through fire and water, through persecution, temptation, ridicule, and contempt; if thou art bent to bear him company before the high priests, lawyers, and Pilate; and to stand by him through all his perils, in his fast, agony, and death on the cross, hold on thy way, he'll be with thee, and will not forsake thee. Remember for thy encouragement what he said to his disciples, "Ye have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom." This will hold good to all his upright followers forever.
I heartily wish thee a good journey in thy race to the heavenly Canaan, the communication and comfort of the Holy Spirit, and a blissful abode in the mansions of eternity.
I dedicate, in much real good will, the foregoing to thy use and service, and bid thee farewell; until we meet next in the realms of Immanuel, to unite with saints, angels, and seraphs in the songs of salvation, round the throne of Jehovah forever.