Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > A Question to the Professors of Christianity
Now having sought and travelled (from my childhood) after the true knowledge of God, and of his Christ; and having been satisfied with nothing else that ever I could meet with, and having at length (through the tender mercy of the Lord, and guidance of his Spirit) met with this, and been satisfied therewith, finding it to be the eternal life, the true food, the living power, the pure rest, the joy and salvation of my soul, I cannot but testify it to those that lay out their money for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which satisfieth not.
We (some of us at least) laid out as much of our money as others, who now despise us, have done; and as much of our labor; and (I may speak it in the fear of the Lord, and in true sense, without boasting) some of us had as much of that which they feed on, and call bread, as they have now. Yet when the Lord brought us to the true balance, we found it not to be bread, nor able to give the soul true satisfaction. The bread was not that which we then called bread, but that which we overlooked, and wist not what it was. But the eternal life which was hid with <20> the Father, and is manifested in the Son, and made known to the soul (as the Son is manifested to it, and revealed in it), -- that is bread indeed, that is meat which perisheth not, but will endure when all literal and outward knowledge of God and Christ fails, and will fall short of satisfying that hunger of the soul, which is after the substance itself.
Now to draw men's minds to a sense of truth, to a sense of that which is the thing, that they might know the bread indeed, that they might know the living waters, come to them, and drink thereof, and find Christ in them a well of water springing up to eternal life; therefore was it in my heart to give forth this question, and the ensuing queries; which he that rightly answers, must know the thing; and he that doth not rightly know the thing, by his inability to answer, may find that he doth not, and so may wait upon God that he may receive the knowledge of it, and come to it for the eternal life which it freely giveth.
The Jews were puzzled with a literal knowledge of the law and prophets, and about the Messiah to come, according to their understanding of the prophecies concerning him, and so were kept from the true knowledge thereby. Most sorts of those that now profess Christ, are puzzled about a knowledge concerning the outward body, flesh, and blood of Christ, according as they apprehend the Scriptures to speak; and so the veil is over their hearts likewise, and they cannot see the eternal life and substance, no more than the Jews, but by an outward and literal knowledge are kept back from the thing, as the Jews were. Now the breathing of my heart to the Lord is: To take away the veil off all hearts that sincerely desire after truth, and to open the true eye in them, that they may see the desire and beloved of their souls, and may be led by him into the true travel, out of self, towards the kingdom; yea, into the very land of the living, where the food of life is fed upon, where the living springs flow, where are vineyards which we planted not, and dwelling-places which we built not, where the fruit of the vine of God's planting (the wine of the kingdom) is drunk of, even new in the kingdom, with the Father and Son in the Spirit, who are One and All there.
The Lord give a sense and understanding, that the ear of the needy, the afflicted in spirit, the mourners, the captives, the <21> bowed-down may hear, and may be drawn to touch that which hath the virtue in it, and which effectually redeemeth those that wait upon it, from all that boweth down and oppresseth.
Since the prevailing of the apostles' testimony, the way of the enemy hath not been directly to deny Christ, but to bring men into such a knowledge of Christ, as saves not. And as the enemy did own Christ, when he appeared in that body of flesh, saying: "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God;" so he hath found it for his advantage, almost ever since, to own that appearance of his. So that this he doth not oppose, nor men's knowledge and understanding of scriptures, so as to confirm them in this. But the saving knowledge, the true knowledge, the living knowledge, the powerful knowledge of truth, -- that he always opposeth; for that alone overturns and destroys his kingdom in man, and brings man from out of his reach.
Now there is a vast difference between knowing the relations concerning a thing, and knowing the thing related of. And there is also a great deal of difference between believing the relations <22> concerning a thing, and believing in the thing which is related of.
Spiritual things cannot be savingly known, but in union with them, in the receiving of them. A man can never really know the Spirit of God, by all that can be said concerning it, but he must first feel somewhat of it, whereby he may truly know it. So the peace, the joy, the life, the power, -- they pass the understanding; and a man can never rightly know them by reading, or comprehending ever so much concerning them; but by coming out of himself, and travelling thither where they are given and made manifest, he may come into acquaintance with them. And if the peace which Christ gives, the joy, the life, the power, cannot be thus known by literal descriptions; how can he, who is the fulness of all, the fountain of them all, the treasury of all perfection, in whom are hid all the riches and treasures of wisdom and knowledge, -- how can he be known by outward and literal descriptions?
Now we have travelled through these things. We knew formerly what ye know now; and we also know now, what God hath given us further; and what our former knowledge was, and what our present knowledge is. And this is it which gives us satisfaction.
Our knowledge is in a principle, wherein we receive our capacity of knowing, and wherein the Father (from whom the principle came) teacheth us. And this is his way of teaching us; by making us one with the thing he teacheth. Thus we learn Christ, by being born of him, by putting him on. Thus we know his righteousness, his life, his wisdom, his power, by receiving a proportion of them, which giveth an ability to discern and acknowledge the fulness. And in this we receive the understanding of the Scriptures, and know the seed of the woman (which bruiseth the serpent's head), by receiving the seed, by feeling its growth in us, and its power over the enemy. Then we know the thing; likewise we know the woman that brings forth this seed after the Spirit, which is the Jerusalem above; and we know also, and singly acknowledge, the bringing forth of it outwardly after the flesh. This seed we know to be the seed of Abraham, the seed of David after the flesh, and the seed of God after the power of the endless life; and we are taught of God to give <23> the due honor to each; to the seed of God in the first place, to the seed of David in the second place. There was the seed that wrought the thing, which seed was the life; and the seed in which he wrought it, which was formed into a vessel like ours, but without sin, in which the pure Lamb appeared in the pure power of life, which kept the vessel pure; and so he (who was to be the first fruits) had the honor above all his brethren, being anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.
But we also are born of the same seed. He is formed in us; we are formed of him; we are as well of his flesh and blood, as he was of ours. And by being thus formed, and feeling him grow up in us, and receiving an understanding from him, and in him, thus we come to know him, and to understand the words of scripture concerning him. By feeling and knowing the Lamb in our vessels, we know also what was the Lamb in his vessel.
Thus we know things in the certainty and demonstration of God's Spirit, even in the light which shines from him, and in the life which he begets; and we speak of things as they are, and as we feel them to be in the true life, which the Spirit of Christ hath begotten in us. And we can truly say concerning the Scriptures: that now we believe, not so much because of the relation of things concerning Christ, which we have found in them; but because we have seen and received the thing which the Scriptures speak of, and find it to be the very thing indeed, the very Christ of God, the spotless one, the living garment of righteousness and salvation, wherein God findeth no fault, and in which the soul appears without blame before him. And concerning this, can we speak words of its nature, words of its virtue, words of its life, power, and righteousness; which that which is of the flesh cannot hear, but that which is born of God naturally owneth and understandeth. Why so? Because it knoweth the nature of the thing, and receiveth them in the savour thereof. Can life deny life? Can the birth of life deny that which springs out of the same womb? No, no. The children which are born of wisdom, do justify wisdom in its several sproutings-forth and appearances; but that which denies it is a birth after the letter, a birth after the literal and outward knowledge of things, a birth of the comprehending wisdom; that indeed reproacheth and <24> blasphemeth the incomprehensible wisdom, in its incomprehensible ways, and would restrain life to what they apprehend, or can comprehend by the letter concerning it.
And this may be a great evidence to professors, that they know not indeed Christ in his nature, Spirit, life, and power; because they speak not of him as persons who feel the thing, and speak from the present sense of it, and acquaintance with it, but only as persons that bring forth a notion they have received into their understandings. And yet they fail therein also; for they speak not of Christ according as the Scriptures hold him forth, compared one with another, but as they have grossly apprehended concerning him from some scriptures, as the Jews outward did. For the Scriptures speak not only of a body, but also of him that appeared in the body; nor only of bodily flesh, blood, and bones, but also of such flesh and bones, whereof Christ and his church consist. He is Christ (say the scriptures) who is one with the Father, who came from the Father, in whom the Father was, and who was in the Father; so said Jesus of himself (lifting up his eyes to heaven, and praying to the Father for his disciples, and the children whom the Father had given him) more than once in that seventeenth chapter of John. Yea, he is Christ, whom a man cannot see, but he must see the Father also; and whom, whosoever seeth the Father, seeth; who was before Abraham was; whom no man could know whence he was, even as no man can know whence the Father is. Christ granted the Jews that they knew him, and whence he was as to his body; and yet for all that, he was the Christ who was to come, whom no man knew from whence he was. What was that, Christ called me speaking to Philip? "Hast thou not known me, Philip? Has thou not seen me?" What! dost thou know me after the flesh, after the body? Dost thou take that for me? Have I been so long with you, and do you know me no better than so? The body is from below, the body is like one of yours (only sanctified by the Father, and preserved without sin); but I am the same Spirit, life, and being with the Father. We are one substance, one pure power of life, and we cannot be divided; but he that sees one, must needs see both; and he that knows one, must needs know both. This is the Lamb of God which John bare witness of, which he <25> said was before him, John 1:15. which the body was not.
Now friends, if you have this living spiritual knowledge, if ye hold it in him that is true; then own and acknowledge it (as it is expressed in the Scriptures, and as God hath now brought it forth in his people), that ye may manifest yourselves to that which is of God, that ye are of him. There is an understanding and wisdom of man, and there is a witness of God, which witness gives true judgment. Man (at best) judgeth but according as things appear to him from the Scriptures; but the witness judgeth of the things of God in the demonstration of the Spirit, according as they are felt and known to be in him.
But if ye have not this knowledge, but have long laid out your money and labor for that which is not bread, nor can yield the true satisfaction; oh, come to the waters, and receive that which is given freely, without money and without price! Oh, sell all for the pearl, for the knowledge which is of life, for the knowledge which is life! "I am the way, the truth, and the life," saith Christ; this is life eternal to know. And wait to feel the rock laid as a foundation in you, even the seed of God, the life of Christ, the Spirit of Christ revealed in you, and your souls born of it, and built upon it. Oh that ye could come out of your own understandings, that ye might feel and receive the love of my heart, and know the travail of my bowels for you; that ye might be born of the truth, and know and receive it as it is in Jesus, and as it is felt in the Spirit, and its own pure power!
Now a little further, to remove the scruples and prejudices out of the minds of such as sometimes have been touched with the power of truth, and have had the witness of God reached to in their hearts; but afterwards the enemy hath raised mists, and cast blocks in their way, stirring up in them hard thoughts against us, as if we denied what the Scriptures affirm in this thing, and indeed (in effect) that Christ which died at Jerusalem, and set up a natural principle within, instead thereof:
To remove this out of the minds of the honest-hearted (who in the guidance of God might light on this paper), I shall open my heart nakedly herein.
1. We do own that the Word of God (the only begotten of the Father) did take up a body of the flesh of the virgin Mary, <26> who was of the seed of David, according to the Scriptures, and did the will of the Father therein, in holy obedience unto him, both in life and death.
2. That he did offer up the flesh and blood of that body (though not only so; for he poured out his soul, he poured out his life) a sacrifice or offering for sin (do not, oh! do not stumble at it; but rather wait on the Lord to understand it: for we speak in this matter what we know), a sacrifice unto the Father, and in it tasted death for every man; and that it is upon consideration (and through God's acceptance of this sacrifice for sin) that the sins of believers are pardoned, that God might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus, or who is of the faith of Jesus.
3. What is attributed to that body, we acknowledge and give to that body in its place, according as the Scripture attributeth it, which is through and because of that which dwelt and acted in it. But that which sanctified and kept the body pure (and made all acceptable in him) was the life, holiness, and righteousness of the Spirit. And the same thing that kept his vessel pure, it is the same thing that cleanseth us. The value which the natural flesh and blood had, was from that; in its coming from that, in its acting in that, in its suffering through that: yea, indeed, that hath the virtue; that is it which is of an unchangeable nature, which abideth for ever; which is pure, and maketh pure for ever; and it is impossible for a man to touch it, but he must feel cleansing by it. Now this living virtue and power man was shut out from by the fall; but through the true knowledge of the death of Christ, the way is made open for it again, and man brought to it to be baptized, washed, cleansed, sanctified, fitted for, and filled with life. So that this it is that doth the thing; this is it from whence Christ had his own flesh and blood (for we are taught, both by the Spirit, and by the Scriptures, to distinguish between Christ's own flesh, and that of ours which he took up and made his); which flesh and blood we feed of in the Spirit; which they cannot feed on which serve at the outward tabernacle; nor they neither which know only the outward body; but they only that feed in the Spirit.
Now of this thing we might speak yet more clearly and plainly, could men hear our words. But if we have spoken to <27> you earthly things (in parables and figures), suitable to your understanding, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if we speak to you heavenly things; if we should tell you plainly of the Father, in whom is all the life of the Son, and all the virtue and salvation that ever the Son had from him? The Jews were to learn in types, figures, and shadows, till Christ came. And after Christ came, he also taught them in resemblances and similitudes of things: and the apostles wrote and spake much to persons, as just coming out of that state, in a language suited to that state. But he that comes into the thing itself, and is taught there by the Spirit, after he is grown up and made capable, he is taught plainly the nature of the heavenly things, and the words of the apostles (concerning the deep things of God), which are mysterious to others, are manifest and plain to him. Yea, the Lord so teacheth him things, as words cannot utter; that is, he so knoweth the peace of God, the joy of his Spirit, the life and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, his wisdom, righteousness, and pure, precious ways of sanctifying the heart, the tender mercy, faithfulness, and rich love of the Father, &c. as he cannot utter to any man; nay, so as he never learned (nor could learn) from words about the things; but by the sense and experience of the thing itself, the Lord (in whom are the depths of life, and who giveth the sense and understanding of the deep things of the Spirit) opening them in him, and manifesting them to him. And indeed this is the right and excellent way of knowledge, to come into the union, to come into the thing itself; to learn in the union, to see and know in the thing. This is the way that the Lord teacheth all his children in the new covenant, by the inward life, by the pure light within, by the inward demonstration of his Spirit, by the power and virtue of the truth itself, which it hath in him that is true. And he that is in the Son, hath some measure of this life; and he that hath not some measure of this life, is not in the Son; but in a talk and wise knowledge of things after the flesh, which will perish, and he with it, who abideth there. For no man can be saved, but by coming into the knowledge which is of a pure, eternal, living, saving nature. Can an opinion which a man takes up concerning Christ from the Scriptures (and casting himself thereupon) save him? For it is no more than an opinion or <28> judgment unto a man, unless he be in the life and power of the thing itself. Then indeed it is truth to him, knowledge in him, right knowledge; otherwise it is but knowledge falsely so called; knowledge which will not subdue his heart to truth, nor hath its seat there; but in his head, making him wise and able there to oppose truth, and so bringing him into a state of condemnation, wrath, and misery, beyond the heathen, and making him harder to be wrought upon by the light and power of the truth, than the very heathen. Therefore consider your ways, O professors of Christianity! and do not despise the hand which is stretched forth to you in the love of God, and in the motion and guidance of his Spirit, who condescends to you exceedingly, that he might reach to his own in you, and scatter your apprehensions, imaginations and conceivings about the meanings of scriptures (which are as so many chains of death and darkness upon you), that ye might come to him in whom is life, and who gives life freely to all who come to him. Oh, observe what bars were in the way of the Scribes and Pharisees! They would not come to him that they might have life; nay, indeed, they could not, as they stood. There are greater bars in your way; yea, it is harder for many of you to come to him, than it was for them. My upright desire to the Lord for you is, that he would remove the stumbling-blocks out of your way, that he would batter and knock down the flesh in you, that he would strip you of all your knowledge of scriptures according to the flesh, that ye might be made by him capable of knowing and receiving things according to the Spirit, and then ye will know how to understand, honor, and make use of the letter also; but till then ye cannot but make use of it both against your own souls, and against Christ and his truth.
And then for setting up a natural principle, we are further from that than ye are aware. For we were as shy of this, and jealous that it was a natural principle, as ye can be; and started from it, divers of us, till the Lord, by his eternal power, and demonstration of his Spirit, reached our hearts, and showed us that it was the seed of the kingdom (even the root of all the spiritual life, that either we ourselves formerly, or ever any else received at any time), and gave us the sight of the things of the kingdom in it, and at length wrought that in us, and for us, by <29> it, which never was wrought in us before, and which can be wrought by nothing else but the power of the Spirit. Now having certainly felt and known the thing in our own hearts, and having also seen the snares and nets which the enemy lays for you, whereby he keeps you from the true bread, and from the water and wine of the kingdom (even as he kept us formerly), how can we hold our peace, but witness to you (in the love and drawings of the Spirit of the Lord) of the truth, life, and power which we have felt in Jesus, though ye become our enemies therefore? Nor do we this to bring you to another opinion, or outward way (that is not our end); but that ye might feel the thing itself, and know assuredly what is the truth, in that which never was deceived itself, nor ever deceived any; nor will suffer any to be deceived who are joined to it, and abide in it. Oh! why should ye wander in the dark opinions and uncertainties of the night? why should ye not rather come to that wherein the light of the day springs, and out of which it shines? And can the natural man (who hath his eyes) be deceived about the light of the natural day? Doth he not know the light of the day, both from the lights, and also from the darkness of the night? Ten thousand times more certain and inwardly satisfied is he, who is born of the spiritual day, brought forth in the light thereof, and who spiritually sees, lives, and walks therein. So that there is no doubt in him who is grown up into the thing; but he hath the assurance of faith (which is far above the assurance of outward sense or reason), and the assurance of understanding. Oh! blessed is he who hath an eye to see, an ear to hear, a heart to understand, the things which God hath revealed by his Spirit in this our day, the living way which he hath now made manifest, the principle of life that he hath raised out of the grave of death. But he that reproacheth and speaketh evil of this (that will neither enter in himself, nor suffer others), he is far from receiving the blessing or blessedness of this seed; but groweth up in the wrong nature and spirit, the end whereof is to be burned, with all that is in union with it, and groweth up from it. Therefore come out from that spirit; come out of that dark mind and nature, which never saw, nor can see the truth, but setteth up opinions and appearances of things instead of it; and receive the <30> anointing which is given with and in the seed, which is raised in some, and visited in many, in this day of the Lord's love and tender mercy; to whom the living, the sensible, the redeemed sing praises, and on whom they wait, for the further manifesting of his power and glory in them daily more and more.
Now, friends, if ye will know aright, or believe aright, ye must know and believe in him, who was with the Father before the world was; who was the Saviour, the Jesus, the Christ, from everlasting. For what makes him so? Is it not the power of salvation in him? His taking up a body made no alteration in him, added nothing to him; only it was necessary that he should take it up, to fulfill the will in it, and to offer it up a sacrifice in his own life and Spirit to the Father. This we firmly believe; and this also we cannot but say further, that the virtue, the value, the worth, the excellency of what was done by him in the body, was not of the body, but it was in him before time, in time, and will be after time, and for ever: yea, it is he to whom the name Jesus and Christ did of right belong before he took up the body: and he only put forth in the body the saving virtue which he had before, which belonged to the nature, to the anointing in him, whether ever he had saved any with it or no. And this virtue, this life, this Spirit, this nature of his, is the food, the righteousness, the garment of life and salvation, which he (through the death of the body) made and prepared a living way for the soul to come to, to feed on, and be clothed with. I can hardly stop speaking of these things for your sakes, that through my words (or the words of whom the Lord shall please) ye might come to feel that which is able to give you the holy understanding, and might come to the true sense and experience of the truth itself, and might see who hath blinded you, and how he hath blinded you, and fed you with husks and dry food, instead of that which hath the true living sap in it. But while ye see and judge in that which is wrong, ye must needs judge amiss both of yourselves and others, and also of the truth itself, and of the words spoken, either formerly or now, concerning it, whereby ye expose and bring yourselves under the righteous judgment of the truth itself, even of the Son, and the light of his day, which hath power from the Father to judge all false appearances, deceits, and deceivers.
Now of this appearance and return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his fresh bringing forth of his life and power in his body, the church, there are many witnesses, who have seen, felt, and tasted thereof, with the eyes and senses which are of God, and of the new birth. And of this, in the love and good-will of God, and from the drawings and requirings of his Spirit, they bear witness to others, that they also might come to see the glory and brightness of his day, and rejoice therein. For indeed it is a glorious day inwardly in Spirit, to those that are quickened and gathered to the living Shepherd and Bishop of the soul, by the eternal arm of his power. And happy is the eye that sees the things that they see, and the ear that hears what they hear, and the heart which understands the things which God hath revealed in and unto them by his Spirit.
Glorious was the appearance of Christ in the flesh; but there were blocks in the way of the Jews, that they could not know, own, believe, and receive him. And glorious is the administration of his life in Spirit, in this day of his power; but there are also blocks lying in the way of them to whom it is sent, which cause them to stumble at it, and keep them both from letting it into them, and also from giving up to it. But blessed was he who was not offended in Christ then, and blessed is he who is not offended at him now. For he that is offended at him, who is life, and gives life, stumbling at the present way of dispensation which God hath chosen to give it out by, how shall he live? This is the cause that so many poor hearts lie mourning and grovelling on the earth, groaning because of their sins, fearing because of the strength of the enemy, and the corruptions of their own hearts, which are continually ready to betray them into his hands; because they know not him who hath stretched out his arm, and <32> is come in his power to deliver; but are prejudiced against the way wherein he hath and doth deliver. Yea, they know not his voice who calls, come unto me; I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, shall receive my strength; and though he were ever so weak, shall become as David: and though ever so unclean, shall find the waters that spring from my well to cleanse him, and nourish him to life everlasting.
How tenderly did Christ visit the Jews in the days of his flesh! How powerfully, and in the true authority of God, did he preach among them! What mighty works did he show! And yet they could not believe. Why so? The enemy had entered them with his temptations, had got somewhat into their minds of a contrary nature, to keep out thereby the sense, knowledge, and acknowledgment of him. So that when their hearts were even overcome with his power, and sweet, precious doctrine, and ready to yield that this was he, this was the Christ indeed, then the enemy raised up some argument or other to prejudice them against him, that he might thereby beat them off, and drive them back again from owning or receiving him.
"This man is not of God," say some; "for he keepeth not the sabbath." He cannot be a prophet, say others, because "he is of Galilee, out of which no prophet ariseth," He "cannot" be Christ, saith a third sort, because "we know whence he is; but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is." He is not holy, strict, and zealous according to the law, say others; but a loose person, "a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber; a friend of publicans and sinners;" one who teacheth not his disciples to fast and pray, as the Pharisees did theirs, and John, who was generally looked upon as a prophet, did his, but justifieth them in plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath-day, and so thereby rather encouraging them to break it, than strictly to observe and keep it according to God's law. He is a "blasphemer," say some (speaks most horrid blasphemy), "making himself equal with God." He reproacheth the most strict and zealous men that we have, even our teachers, and interpreters of the law and prophets, calling them "hypocrites, painted sepulchres, blind guides," &c., and pronounceth woe upon woe against them. And those that are the children of Abraham he calls the children of the <33> devil; and saith: "He that committeth sin, is the servant of sin; but if the Son (meaning himself) make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And if we will have life in us, we must believe in him, and eat his flesh, and drink his blood. (Did ever Moses, or any of the prophets teach such doctrine?) Again he saith: "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death;" whereas Abraham and the prophets, who believed God, and kept his sayings, are all dead. This made them even conclude, he had a devil. John 8:52. So how could they understand him when he said, he was "the good Shepherd, and the door," &c., and "that all that ever came before him were thieves and robbers;" would they not look upon this as witnessing of himself, and endeavoring to set up himself? And when he said: "Verily, verily, before Abraham was, I am;" were they not ready to stone him, for speaking a false and impossible thing, as it seemed to them; he manifestly being not yet fifty years old? But suppose it to be true, that he was before Abraham, how then could he be the Messiah, who was to come of Abraham, and out of the loins of David, according to the Scriptures? And then for his miracles, having beforehand concluded that he was a bad man, a sinner, a breaker of the sabbath, a blasphemer, a deceiver of the people, &c., how easy was it for them to harden themselves against them, and to infer that he wrought not these things by the power of God, but by the aid and assistance of the devil, to overthrow the laws and ordinances of Moses, and to set up himself and his new doctrine by? Indeed many (and some seemingly strong and unanswerable) were the exceptions which the wisdom and understanding in them (which was out of the life and power of truth) formed against Christ, whereby they justified themselves in their refusal of him, who was sealed and sent of the Father, and so excluded themselves the kingdom, and the righteousness thereof.
This is past, and they can condemn them now, who themselves are acting over again the same thing in spirit. It pleaseth the Lord thus to suffer things to be, still so to give forth the dispensations of his life, as they alone that are in some measure of his life can discern them. And the same spirit, under a new guise, still opposeth truth in its present appearance and dispensation, and stirreth men up to slight and blaspheme that holy name <34> and power, which they that believe in are saved and sanctified by. Well, what shall I say to you? Oh that ye could discern spirits! Oh that ye could see what spirit ye are of, and whom ye serve, in opposing the present dispensation of life! Oh that ye could see how ye read scriptures out of that which wrote them, and bend them against that which wrote them, making yourselves wise and strong in a wrong wisdom and knowledge against the Lord, and against his Christ, whom he hath set upon his holy hill of Zion, and who appeareth there, though you see it not. For Zion is not now literal, or after the flesh (the day is come, the shadows are gone); but Zion is the holy hill of God in Spirit, upon which the heavenly Jerusalem was built, which is revealed, come down, and coming down from heaven, and many of the heavenly citizens dwell there already, and more are coming thither to dwell; for even from the east, west, north, and south, shall the gathering be, to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom which cannot be shaken; which kingdom was received by the Christians formerly before the apostasy, and is now received again, blessed be his name who lives and reigns in power over all the spirits of darkness and deceit, maintaining his pure life and truth in the hearts of his children, in despite of them all.
But why should you thus err in heart from the pure truth? Why should you not open to him that knocks in his holy power, and in the demonstrations of his Spirit to your conscience? Why should a subtle device of the deceiver be let in and hugged by you, to cause you to thrust him back from your hearts who is the Word of eternal life, and with whom are the words of eternal life? The Lord God discover the deep deceits of the enemy to you, where he captivateth your hearts and understandings, that it may not be always said of you, as it was of the Jews: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not"! But to as many as received him, he gave power in the day of his flesh; and he giveth much more power to them that receive him in spirit (in the day of his Spirit) to become the sons of God. And because they are sons, he poureth out abundantly of his Spirit upon them; and he that hath the Spirit hath the Son; and he that hath the Son hath life: but he that hath not the Son (but blasphemeth the appearance and light of his Spirit) hath not life, but is yet in that wisdom and <35> knowledge which is death, and which keeps him dead.
Now the Lord of his tender mercy make you sensible of, and pardon your opposing and resisting his truth; and also cause the light of life to shine in your hearts, quickening and guiding you thereby out of the land of death and darkness, into the holy land of life; that all that sincerely breathe after truth may (through the faithful travel) come to sit down, dwell, and feed together in it, in the one power, in the one life, in the one Holy Spirit, where is pure rest and peace, perfect joy and satisfaction for evermore. Amen.
CHRIST, AND HIS APPEARANCES; HIS TAKING
UPON HIM OUR FLESH: AS ALSO CONCERNING HIS FLESH AND BLOOD, AND OUR
BEING FORMED THEREOF, AND FEEDING THEREON
Query 1. WHETHER there was not a necessity of
Christ's taking upon him our flesh, for the redemption of those
that had sinned, and the satisfaction of the justice offended?
Query 2. Whether the Father did not accordingly prepare a body for him, to do his will in all things in; and particularly to offer up to him the acceptable sacrifice for the sins of the whole world?
Query 3. Whether it was not necessary, in this respect also, that Christ should take upon him our flesh, that he might have experience of our temptations and infirmities, and become a merciful and faithful high-priest and intercessor for us.
Query 4. Wherein lay the value and worth of his sacrifice, and of all he did? Did it lie chiefly in the thing done, or in the life wherein he did it, in that he did it in the pure faith and obedience to the Father? He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; and he, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God.
Query 5. What was he, for whom the Father prepared a body, and who took it up to do the will, and did the will in it? Was he not the arm of God, the power of God, the Saviour and <36> salvation of God, the Jesus and Christ of God?
Query 6. To whom do the names and titles Jesus and Christ chiefly and in the first place belong? Do they belong to the body which was taken by him, or to him who took the body? The body hath its nature and properties, and the eternal Word, or Son of God (the pure, spotless Lamb, the fountain of innocency), its nature and properties. Now the query is, which was the appointed Saviour of the Father? Which was the anointed of the Father, chiefly, and in the first place? Whether the body prepared, or he for whom the body was prepared, to do the will, and offer up the acceptable sacrifice in?
Query 7. Which is Christ's flesh and blood which we are to partake of, whereof we are to be formed, which we are to eat and drink, and which is meat and drink indeed, nourishing to life everlasting? Is it the flesh and blood of the body, which was prepared for, and taken by him, wherein he tabernacled and appeared? Or is it the flesh and blood of him who took, tabernacled, and appeared in the body? For that which he took upon him was our garment, even the flesh and blood of our nature, which is of an earthly, perishing nature; but he is of an eternal nature, and his flesh and blood and bones are of his nature. Now as the life and nature which is begotten in his is spiritual, so that which feeds, and is the nourishment of it, must needs be of a spiritual and eternal nature.
Query 8. What is the bread which came down from heaven? Is not the bread and the flesh all one? Outwardly-visible flesh and blood was not in heaven, nor came down from heaven; but the bread of life did come down from heaven, which the heavenly birth feeds on and lives by. For that which redeems, that which is Jesus (the Saviour), came down from heaven, and took upon him a body of flesh here on earth, in which he manifested himself as King, Priest, and Prophet, and did the work appointed him by the Father. John 17:1, &c.
Query 9. What was that which saved people outwardly from their outward infirmities and diseases, while Christ was on earth in that body? Was it the body, or the life, power, and Spirit of the Father within the body, and manifest through the body? And can any thing less save inwardly? Now that which saves, that <37> which hath the virtue and power of salvation in it, -- that the eye of faith is to fix upon, and not to stick or stop in that through which the life works it.
Query 10. Who was he that humbled himself, that made himself of no reputation, that took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion, or habit, as a man? Was it the body of flesh, or was it he that was glorified of the Father before the world was? And who is to have the honor and exaltation? At whose name is every knee to bow? Is not the reward to him who laid down his glory to take upon him the body of flesh, and appear in it, that he might honor, glorify, and fulfil the will of his Father?
Query 11. Are not the children and he of one? Are not he and they of the same stock? ("Both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one." Heb. 2:11). Is it not from thence that he is not ashamed to call them brethren, even because he finds the nature, Spirit, and life of his Father in them? What makes a child to God? Is it not the being begotten of the Father, and born of the Spirit? And that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Now mark: have we the denomination and relation with Christ from that which is spiritual, and hath Christ himself the name from or because of the body of flesh? Nay, nay; the name Christ was from the anointing which was in the body, which ran into and filled the vessel. It is true, the body, in and by the union, partakes with him of his name; but the name belongs chiefly and most properly to the treasure in the vessel.
Query 12. What is it to put on Christ, or what is the putting on of Christ? Is it the putting on of that body of flesh? Or the putting on a belief concerning him, according to what is said of him in scripture? Or is it not rather a putting on of his nature, his seed, his Spirit, his life, wherewith the souls of those that are born from above are clothed, as the body is with a garment?
Query 13. Who was it that said, I am the resurrection and the life? Was it not Christ? And what did he say it concerning? Did he say it concerning the body, or did he say it concerning the power and virtue of the Father which was in the body? Did he not say it concerning that which had the power of life in it before it took up the body, and had also the power of life while <38> it was in the body? yea, and could raise up not only other bodies, but that also after it had laid it down? For after it was laid in the grave, he could raise it up, and take it on again, as well as he did at first, when it was first prepared. John 10:17-18.
Query 14. If I, or any one else, have felt the saving arm of the Lord revealed in us; if we have felt a measure of the same life, power, and anointing revealed in our vessels as was revealed in his, is it not of the same nature? Is it not the same thing? Is not Christ the seed? And is not this seed sown in the heart? Now if this seed spring and grow up in me into a spiritual shape and form (though it be but of a babe), is not Christ then formed in me? If I be ingrafted into, and grow up in it, am I not ingrafted into Christ (the true olive-tree, the true vine), and do I not grow up in him? And is not this the same Christ that took upon him the body of flesh, and offered it without the gates of Jerusalem? Is there any more than one, or is there any other than he? Is Christ divided? Is there one Christ within, and another without? He that knoweth the least measure of the thing, doth he not know the thing in some measure? And he that is in the least measure of the thing, is he not in the thing? He that knoweth the Son, doth he not know the Father? And he that knoweth the Spirit, doth he not also know the Son? And he that is in the Spirit, is he not in the Son? For they are one nature and being. A man may have notions of the one, and not of the other; but their nature, their being, their life, their virtue, is inseparable. And as Christ said concerning the Father, -- that he was in the Father, and the Father in him; and that he that saw him saw the Father; so may it not be as truly affirmed (in the true sense and understanding of life) concerning Christ, that he is in the Spirit, and the Spirit in him; and that he that seeth the Spirit seeth him; and he that seeth him seeth the Spirit? For he is the Spirit, according to that scripture, 2 Cor. 3:17. "Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." What to do? Why, to see and read within the veil, and to behold the glory of the Lord, which is revealed there; which they whom the veil was over formerly, or whom the veil is over now, have not liberty to do. Here is confusion and impossibility to man's wisdom; that Christ should be all one with <39> the Spirit; that Christ should send the Spirit in his name, and also himself be the Spirit whom he sends. (This is a hard saying, who can bear it?) And yet this confusion to man is God's wisdom, and precious in their eye who are taught of him.
For it is one and the same Christ that was signified in types and shadows under the law, revealed in the fulness of time in that prepared body, and afterwards in Spirit. Now after he was ascended, he received the Spirit so as he had not received him before; and so having received the promise of the Father, he so dispenseth the Spirit to his brethren and disciples, as it had not been dispensed before. Indeed he comforted and refreshed his people under the law by his Holy Spirit, which was their instructor then, Neh. 9:20. and taught them the things of God under types, shadows, and resemblances. When he came in the body, he chose out disciples, whom he taught the things of the kingdom, and was a refresher and comforter of them therein. And was not this another comforter than those had under the law? Had the Jews before ever any such comforter, as Christ was to his disciples in his bodily presence? Now when he ascends, he receives the Spirit from the Father, as the Father had promised him; and having so received him, he sends him to them for their comforter. And may not this justly be termed another comforter than Christ was in his bodily presence? And yet is it not also the same Spirit of life, that had been with them in that body? So that it is another in the way of administration, but the same in substance; even the Word which was from the beginning, the Spirit which was from everlasting; and to everlasting there is no other.
Now as the Father sent the Son, and yet was with and in the Son, so the Son sending the Spirit, he also is with and in the Spirit. And as it is the Father's will, that the same honor be given to the Son as is given to him; so it is the Son's pleasure, that the same honor be given to his Spirit as is given to him. Yea, as he that will worship the Father, must worship the Son, must come to him in the Son, must appear before him in the Son, must reverence and kiss the Son; so he that will come to Christ, will worship him, must come to him in the Spirit, must bow to him in the Spirit. Yea, he that will know and worship Christ in his fulness (in the majesty of the glory, dominion, and <40> power), must learn to bow at the lowest appearance of his light and Spirit, even at the very feet of Jesus; for that is the lowest part of the body.
Query 15. Did not the bridegroom go away, as to his appearance in flesh, that he might come again in Spirit? Did not the apostles, who knew his appearance in flesh, and his tabernacling among them, know also afterwards his appearance in Spirit, and his tabernacling in them? And were not their hearts filled with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, because of the presence of the bridegroom? Did they not know the man-child born and brought forth in Spirit, as really as ever he was born and brought forth in flesh? Yea, did they not travail and help to bring him forth? Were there not many in that day, who could say concerning the spiritual and inward appearance of the bridegroom: We know that the Son of God, the eternal life, the pure power and wisdom of the Father is come? Did they not receive from him the understanding which he gives in and by his coming? Yea, were they not in him that is true, even in Jesus Christ the Son, who is the true God, and life eternal? 1 John 5:20. Had they not received the kingdom which could not be shaken? And did they never see and converse with the King in the Kingdom? Nay, did not he walk in them, and they in him, and he sup with them, and they with him, in the kingdom? Oh that ye could read in Spirit! Oh that ye did receive that measure of life from Christ, which the Father hath allotted you, that ye might read therein! but the letter, read out of the Spirit, darkeneth and killeth.
Query 16. What is the laver of regeneration, or the water wherewith the soul is washed, and whereof a man is born again? Is it outward or inward? Is it the water which ran out of the side of the natural body, when it was pierced with a spear? Or the water which springs from the fountain of life, the water which floweth from the Spirit? What are the waters which corrupt, mud, and defile the mind? Are they outward waters? And what are the waters which purify and cleanse it? Can they be of a lower nature than spiritual? What are the waters which answer the thirst of the soul after life, after purity, after salvation; that refresh and glad the heart of him that drinketh thereof? Are they <41> not from the pure river, clear as crystal, which runs from the throne? And if the water which cleanseth and nourisheth the soul be spiritual; can the flesh and blood (which falleth not short of the water in its virtues, properties, and operations) be inferior to it in nature and kind?
Query 17. Can outward blood cleanse the conscience? Ye that are spiritual consider. Can outward water wash the soul clean? Ye that have ever felt the blood of sprinkling from the Lord upon your consciences, and your consciences cleansed thereby; did ye ever feel it to be outward? It is one thing what a man apprehends (in the way of notion) from the letter concerning the things of God, and another thing what a man feels in Spirit.
Query 18. Seeing the apostle speaks of purifying the heavenly things themselves, Heb. 9:23. it would seriously be inquired into, and the Lord waited on, to know what nature these sacrifices must be of, which cleanse the heavenly things? Whether they must not of necessity be heavenly? If so, then whether was it the flesh and blood of the veil, or the flesh and blood within the veil? Whether was it the flesh and blood of the outward, earthly nature, or the flesh and blood of the inward, spiritual nature? Whether was it the flesh and blood which Christ took of the first Adam's nature, or the flesh and blood of the second Adam's nature?
Query 19. What is that, wherein they that are in the Spirit, behold as in a glass, with open face, the glory of the Lord? Is it not Christ? And how is Christ so? Is it not as he is made manifest in Spirit? Doth he know Christ aright, or believe in him aright, that knoweth him according to his bodily appearance (that can relate, and firmly believe, what he did therein), or he that knoweth and believeth in his Spirit and power? Henceforth know we no man after the flesh; no, not Christ, saith the apostle, though we have known him so. What meaneth that? The same thing may be known several ways: outwardly, inwardly; according to the flesh, according to the Spirit. Now, if ye are of the Spirit, live in the Spirit; if ye live in the Spirit, know in the Spirit the things of God after the Spirit, as the Spirit reveals, as that which is born of God receives; and not as the wisdom, understanding, reason, and flesh of man can receive; and then ye will come into fellowship with Christ, both in his death and <42> resurrection, and know indeed the resurrection both of the life and of the body: which to know, and be able to acknowledge in Jesus, is very precious.
Query 20. Hath not Christ made us kings and priests to God, even his Father? What is it that is the king and priest in us? And if we be priests, must we not have somewhat to offer? What have we to offer? And what makes our sacrifices savory and acceptable? Is it not that of his Spirit, that of his life, which is in them? Is it not the faith, the love, the obedience, which are all of him, wherein they are offered? If we should give our bodies to be burned (in the way of testifying to truth), without this would they be accepted? If we give but a cup of cold water in this, is it not accepted?
Now, is the life, the faith, the obedience of the Son, the thing which is of value in us? And was it not the same which was of value in him? What did the Father require of the Son, for satisfaction for Adam's disobedience? Was it not the obedience of the second Adam, which weighed down the transgression and disobedience of the first? Doth not this make all righteous (who are of him, and found in his nature), as the transgression of the first made all unrighteous? Rom. 5:19. Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not. Lo, I come to do thy will, O God! (He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.) By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Heb. 10:9-10. What can be plainer to that which hath truth's ear? So by truth manifested in the heart, there is nothing denied of what is said concerning Christ in scripture, but every thing owned, believed, and received in its proper place.
Query 21. Who is the Captain of our salvation? Who is it that girdeth himself with might, riding on conquering and to conquer all the enemies of the soul? Is it not the Lamb? Is it not Christ? Is it not he whose name is called the Word of God? And yet how can it be he? Is not he to sit at God's right hand, until his enemies be made his footstool?
Query 22. What is the water and Spirit, whereof a man must be born again, or he cannot see the kingdom of God? Is it Christ's flesh and blood, or no? His flesh saw no corruption; and incorruptible flesh and blood may enter the kingdom, though <43> corruptible cannot.
Query 23. What did all the types, veils, and shadows under the law signify? Did they signify another veil? Did they signify or shadow out that which was outward? Or did they shadow out and signify that inward life, virtue, and saving power, which was the substance of all?
Query 24. Is not the substance, the life, the anointing, called Christ, wherever it is found? Doth not the name belong to the whole body (and every member in the body) as well as to the head? Are they not all of one; yea, all one in the anointing? Was not this the great desire of his heart to the Father, that they all might be one, even as the Father and Christ were one. John 17:21,23. And so being one in the same Spirit (one in the same life, one in the same divine nature, 2 Pet. 1:4. even partakers of God's holiness. Heb. 12:10), Christ is not ashamed to call them brethren, Heb. 2:11. nor is the apostle ashamed to give them the name Christ together with him. 1 Cor. 12:12. The body is the same with the head; one and the same in nature; and doth not the name belong to the nature in the whole? So that the name is not given to the vessel, but to the nature, to the heavenly treasure, to that which is of him in the vessel, to that which the Lord from heaven begets in his own image and likeness, of his own substance, of his own seed, of his own Spirit and pure life.
Query 25. What was that live coal from the altar, whereby the prophet Isaiah's iniquity was taken away, and his sin purged? Isa. 6:6-7. Can any thing purge away sin, but the blood of Christ?
Query 26. What are the leaves of the tree of life, which are for the healing of the nations? Is not Christ the tree of life? Is there any other tree of life besides him? Is there any other healer? And what do these leaves of the tree of life heal the nations of? Do they not heal them of their sins, and of the sicknesses and distempers of their souls because of their sins? And have these leaves any of the blood of Christ in them, or no?
Query 27. Is not Christ the true vine, the true olive-tree; the living vine, the living olive-tree; the spiritual vine, the spiritual olive-tree; into which all the spiritually-living are ingrafted? As the Father is the husbandman; so is not the Son the vine? And <44> hath not this spiritual, this eternal vine in it juice and sap of an eternal nature? And is not this sap its blood?
Query 28. Is there not a choice vine, to which the foal and ass's colt of the seed of Judah is tied? And are not the garments and clothes of the true Jews washed in the wine, and in the blood of the grapes of this vine? Gen. 49:11.
Query 29. What is that which the earthly nature slays? And what is the blood which the earthly nature shall disclose, and the slain which it shall no more cover?
Query 30. What are the robes which are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb? And how are they washed and made white therein? And what is the blood (of what nature, earthly or spiritual?) wherein they are washed and made white?
Query 31. What is it to have, or how come we to have, fellowship with Christ in his death, and to suffer and be crucified with him? Is it by having our natural bodies crucified on the same cross of wood (or some such like one) as his body was crucified on, or by having the fleshly nature crucified, subdued, and worn out of our souls, minds, spirits, &c., by the power of the Spirit? Rom. 8:13. Now if the flesh we are to put off be of such a nature and kind; to wit, inwardly and spiritually corrupt; must not the flesh of Christ, which we are to put on instead thereof, be of as deep, inward, and spiritual a nature? What is the flesh whereof we are to be unclothed, before we can be clothed with Christ? is it outward or bodily? And what is Christ's flesh we are to put on? is that any more outward or bodily than that which we are to put off?
Query 32. Is not the flesh and blood, which they that have eternal life feed on, and which nourisheth them up to life eternal (they continuing to feed thereon, and not feeding afterwards on strange flesh, and strange blood), -- I say, is not this flesh and blood Spirit and life? For that is it which profiteth. John 6:63. Is it not the flesh and blood of the Word? Was not the Word made flesh? And did not the Word, who was made flesh, dwell and appear in a tabernacle of flesh, and cause the glory of his own divine flesh to shine through that earthly flesh? Oh! read and consider, that ye who have stumbled and murmured against the truth may stumble or murmur no more, but now at length <45> receive the pure and precious doctrine thereof (and so come to witness the fulfilling of that promise, Isa. 29:18-24) and praise him who giveth understanding.
Query 33. Is not the true church flesh of Christ's flesh, and bone of his bone? Is not the false, or antichristian church, flesh of antichrist's flesh, and bone of antichrist's bone? What is the flesh of the spiritual whore, which is to be stripped naked and burnt with fire? Shall ever the church which is of Christ's flesh be stripped naked and burnt with fire? Nay, doth not his flesh make able to abide the devouring fire, and to dwell with the everlasting burnings?
Query 34. What is the pure milk of the word, which is milked out to the babes from the pure breast? And what is the breast from which it is milked out? Is it of the flesh of Christ, or no?
Query 35. Are not the wicked of the seed and flesh of the serpent? Is not that the body of flesh, of sin, of death, which is to be put off? And are not they who are renewed in spirit, of the seed and flesh of Christ? Is not that the body or garment of holiness, of righteousness, of life, which is to be put on?
Query 36. Is it not as necessary that the eternal word be made flesh inwardly, that so the children may feed on him, as it was for him to take on him an outward body of flesh, to suffer and die for them, and to fulfil all righteousness, both of the law of the letter, and of the law of the Spirit in?
Query 37. Is there not that which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt? And do not they which dwell there, instead of eating Christ's flesh, and drinking his blood, put his flesh to pain, crucifying it in and to themselves, trampling under foot the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing? Read the figure. Did not outward Israel suffer in outward Egypt? Did not just Lot suffer in Sodom? Doth not the spiritual seed suffer in and by spiritual Egypt? Doth not the flesh of the holy and just One suffer in and by spiritual Sodom?
Query 38. What is that which the Gentile-Christians, who are not Jews inward, circumcised in heart and spirit, who know not the inward temple (the place of the true Jews' worship, where they worship the Father in Spirit and truth), but only <46> worship in the outward court, which God hath cast off, and left out of his measure, Rev. 11:2 -- I say, what is that holy city which these Gentiles tread under foot forty-two months? Is it the church which is of the flesh and bones of Christ, or no?
He that knoweth the substance, the seed of the kingdom, the birth of the Spirit, knoweth the flesh and blood which is of the seed. And this flesh is flesh indeed, this blood is blood indeed, even the flesh and blood of the seed's nature; but the other was but the flesh and blood of our nature, which he honored in taking upon him, in which he did the will, in which he offered up the acceptable sacrifice; but yet did not give the honor from his own flesh and blood to it. For the flesh and blood of our nature was not his own naturally, but only as he pleased to take it upon him and make it his. But that whereof he formeth us, and which he giveth us to eat and drink, is the flesh and blood of his own nature; and this was it wherein was the virtue, and wherein is the virtue, life, and power for ever. Happy, oh happy is he who is of it, who is taken out of and formed of him (as Eve was of Adam), and so becomes flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone! Then will he know the mystery of life, feed on the thing itself, and not stumble about appearances and expressions, as those that are out of and from the thing itself do, through the darkness of their mind, and because of their ignorance of the thing spoken of in the Scriptures.
Now this we have often found: That this our testimony hath not been received in the same Spirit and love wherein it hath gone forth; but the enemy, by his subtlety, hath raised up jealousies concerning us, and prejudices against us, as if we denied the Scriptures and ordinances of God, and that Christ that died at Jerusalem; professing him only in words (to win upon others by), but denying him in reality and substance.
To clear this latter (for my heart is only at this present drawn out concerning that), we have solemnly professed, in the sight of the Lord God (who hath given us the knowledge of his Son in life and power), these two things.
First, That we do really in our hearts own that Christ, who came in the fulness of time, in that prepared body, to do the Father's will (his coming into the world, doctrine, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, &c.) in plainness and simplicity of heart, according as it is expressed in the letter of the Scriptures.
Secondly, That we own no other Christ than that, nor hold forth no other thing for Christ, but him who then appeared, and was made manifest in flesh.
Now it would be nakedly inquired into by professors, what is the reason that their jealousies still remain concerning us, and why they are still so ready to cast this upon us. Certainly if they did know and own the same thing with us (in the Spirit, and in the power, in the life, and in the love, which is of the truth), this prejudice and these hard thoughts could not remain. But if they themselves do not know Christ in the Spirit (but only according to a relation of the letter), no marvel though they miss both of the Spirit, and of the true intent and meaning of the letter; and likewise be liable to clash against the truth, as it is made manifest in others.
<48> And indeed the Lord hath shown me in Spirit several times, that they themselves are guilty of that very charge (and that he will so implead them at his judgment-seat) which they cast upon us, even of denying that Christ which died at Jerusalem to be the Christ. For he that owneth the words of scripture, as he apprehends or conceives them in the reasonings of his mind, and doth not wait to have them revealed in the Spirit, keeping out of his own reasonings and conceivings, and waiting patiently till the Lord open the thing in the Spirit, he setteth up his own conceivings, or an image in his mind, of the mind of the Spirit, but misseth of the thing itself, which alone is known in the Spirit, by them who wait upon the Spirit, there to receive it, and are not hasty to set up their own reasonings and imaginations concerning the thing in the mean time.
No man can in truth call Jesus the Lord, but by the Spirit. But any man that is any thing serious, and weighs the Scriptures in the natural part, may so learn to acknowledge his coming into the world, and that he is Lord and King, &c., and may thus call him Lord, yea, and kindle a great heat in his affections towards him; but all this (out of the life, out of the Spirit) is but man's image, which he forms in his mind, in his reading the Scriptures, and observing things therefrom. But the true calling Jesus Lord is from the feeling of his eternal virtue in the Spirit, and finding the Scriptures opened to him by the Spirit, in a principle which is above the reason, comprehends the reason, and confounds and brings it to nothing.
Again; there is no true knowledge of Christ, no living knowledge, no saving knowledge, no knowledge which hath the eternal virtue in it, but that which is received and retained in a measure of light given by God to the creature, in the faith which is the gift, in the grace which is supernatural and spiritual; whereas the reasoning part is but natural. And such as have received the spiritual understanding know it to be distinct from the natural; and we experimentally find a very clear distinction, between scriptures searched out by the reasonings of the mind (and so practices drawn therefrom), and scriptures opened by the Spirit, and felt in the life.
Now that professors generally have not received their knowledge <49> of Christ from the Spirit, or from scriptures opened in the Spirit (and so know not the thing, but only such a relation of the thing as man's reasoning part may drink in from the letter of the Scriptures), is manifest by this, in that they are not able in spirit and understanding to distinguish the thing itself from the garment wherewith it was clothed, though the Scriptures be very express therein. Speak of Christ according to a relation of the letter, there they can say somewhat; but come to the substance, come to the spirit of the thing, come to the thing itself, there they stutter and stammer, and show plainly that they know not what it is.
Now the Scriptures do expressly distinguish between Christ and the garment which he wore; between him that came, and the body in which he came; between the substance which was veiled, and the veil which veiled it. "Lo! I come; a body hast thou prepared me." There is plainly he, and the body in which he came. There was the outward vessel, and the inward life. This we certainly know, and can never call the bodily garment Christ, but that which appeared and dwelt in the body. Now if ye indeed know the Christ of God, tell us plainly what that is which appeared in the body, -- whether that was not the Christ before it took up the body, after it took up the body, and for ever.
And then their confining of Christ to that body, plainly manifesteth that they want the knowledge of him in Spirit. For Christ is the Son of the Father; he is the infinite eternal Being, one with the Father, and with the Spirit, and cannot be divided from either; cannot be anywhere where they are not, nor can be excluded from any place where they are. He may take up a body, and appear in it; but cannot be confined to be nowhere else but there; no not at the very time while he is there. Christ, while he was here on earth, yet was not excluded from being in heaven with the Father at the very same time; as he himself said concerning himself, "The Son of man which is in heaven." John 3:13. Nor was the Father excluded from being with him in the body; but the Father was in him, and he in the Father: whereupon he said to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." What! did every one that saw that body, see the Father also? Nay, not so; but he that saw Christ, the Son of the living God, whom flesh and blood revealed not, but the Father only <50> (Mat. 16:16-17), he saw the Father also.
O friends! look to your knowledge of Christ, and to your faith and knowledge of the Scriptures, and to your prayers also; for it is easy missing of the living substance in all these, and meeting with a shadow; which may please, and make a great show in the earthly part, in the natural understanding and affections, but satisfieth not the soul, or that which is born after the Spirit, but still the cry goes out (where the soul is awakened) after truth, substance, life, virtue from God's Spirit in the spirit which it alone can feed upon.
These four things following I am certain of; which he that cometh into the true light, shall infallibly experience them there.
First, That nothing can save but the knowledge of Christ, even of that very Christ, and no other, who took upon him the prepared body, and offered it up at Jerusalem.
Secondly, That no knowledge of Christ can save but the living knowledge. Not a knowledge of him after the letter (which the carnal part may get much of, and value itself much by), but a knowledge of him in the Spirit; which is only given to that which is begotten and born of the Spirit, and only retained by that which abides and remains in the Spirit, and runs not out into the fleshly reasonings, imaginings, and conceivings, about the things mentioned in the Scriptures.
Thirdly, That that man who knoweth not Christ in Spirit, nor keepeth close to him in spirit; but (through darkness and misguidance of the spirit of deceit) calleth the shinings of his light (his reproofs, his checks for that which is evil, and his secret motions to that which is good) natural; this man, though he seem to own Christ ever so much according to the letter, yet in truth denies him.
Fourthly, He that denies Christ, in his knockings and visitations of him in his own heart, and before men in the truths which he holds forth by his servants and ministers of his Spirit, him will he deny before his Father in heaven.
Oh! I beseech you do not trifle about these things (for they are exceeding weighty), lest ye perish from the way! For missing of the Saviour, ye must needs also miss of the salvation. Oh that ye knew your state, as God knows it to be, and as it is <51> certainly known and felt, in the measure of his life and Holy Spirit, by those which God hath gathered thither, and whose eyes he hath opened, and preserveth open there! glory be to his name therefor: yea, glory, glory, glory, and everlasting praises be sung to him throughout all the holy land; yea, in the very heights of Zion, by the souls of the redeemed, from henceforth and for evermore, amen: whose mercy, love, grace, wisdom, power, and rich goodness remaineth and endureth for ever; by and in which the redeemed lived to his praise, who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, whose blood they know what it is, and none else knoweth it, but they who feel the sprinkling and virtue of it. Lo! this is our God, we have waited for him, and how can we but be glad, and rejoice in his salvation! Oh! let all that live by the breath of thy power, and drink of thy streams, sing praise unto thee, and exalt thy great and wonderful name for ever and ever!
AND CONSIDERATIONS CONCERNING THE
NATURE OF CHURCH WORSHIPS
AND ORDINANCES SINCE THE DAYS OF THE
APOSTLES, FOR THE SAKE OF THE SIMPLICITY WHICH HATH BEEN
LONG HELD CAPTIVE THEREIN
HE that would know the true state of the
church, and ordinances thereof, must wait upon God in fear and
humility of heart, who alone is able to give the true knowledge and
understanding of these things. And he that cometh to the Spirit,
waiteth in the Spirit, and receiveth the true light from the
Spirit, he shall be able to measure ages and generations past as
with a span, and see clearly, in that light, how things were before
the apostasy, how while the church was in the wilderness, and how
things shall be again after the apostasy, when the church cometh
out of the wilderness. She herself is the same in all; but her
state is different, according to the wisdom and good pleasure of
him who variously disposeth of her. One while she is clothed,
appearing in the beauty and glorious dress which the Lord had put
upon her. Another while she is stripped of her outward garments,
and the harlot dressed therewith, and appearing therein. After
which season she is adorned again as gloriously
(if not more
gloriously) than before; but whether ever she appears more in those
garments wherein the harlot had been dressed, and wherein she had
long appeared (even all the time of the apostasy), the Lord would
be inquired of, and waited on to know. Now to help the tender and
upright hearts towards the true sense of these things, the
Propositions and Considerations following are given forth, which he
that sincerely waiteth on the Lord, from him may receive the true
understanding and right acknowledgment of.
1. That upon the coming of Christ, and the change of that outward covenant, the distinction between the outward Jew and Gentile fell, they becoming all one, as in relation to Christ; and then another distinction arose in relation to the faith, believers becoming Jews now, and unbelievers Gentiles.
2. That these true and inward Jews had not only the inward faith, the life, the power, the Spirit; but also a ministry, ordinances, and gifts of the Spirit relating to their present state.
3. That there was a time, after a long and sharp fight between the true ministers, who appeared in the true light and power of the true Spirit, and the false ministers, who also appeared as ministers of righteousness, and as in the power of the Spirit, but were not such indeed, but instructed by Satan to transform themselves into a resemblance and likeness of ministers of righteousness: for though they said they were apostles, and seemed so in appearance; yet their spirit, being tried, was found not to be the Spirit of the apostles: -- I say, there was a time, when there was a division (or separation) made, between the inward temple and the outward court.
4. That when this division was made, the outward court was given to the Gentiles; not any longer reserved by God for the true worshippers, who worship in Spirit and truth; but given to the unbelievers, the worshippers out of the true faith, the worshippers out of the Spirit, and out of the life.
5. That henceforward, since this separation, the believers, or true Jews, are not to be expected in the outward court, in the worship thereof, wherein they were found before this separation, but the unbelievers, the Gentiles, who have not the true nature, but at best the appearance of the Jew, are to be expected there, <53> and the true Jew is to be looked for and found more inward.
6. That, therefore, which allureth to look for God there, and to wait for him in the ways and worships of this time of the separation, is not the true Spirit (which rightly guideth the simple heart to the place where God appears, and where he is to be waited for), but the wrong spirit, who, when he cannot stifle the simplicity, and hinder it from breathing and seeking after God, waits to draw aside and mislead it.
7. That the great way of that spirit's misguiding and misleading the honest heart, in its breathing and longing state, is not by a direct taking it off from seeking after God; but rather by pointing it to a way to seek him in, wherein he once appeared and was enjoyed, but is now withdrawn from.
8. He that will keep close to God, and not be withdrawn from him, must watch to his Spirit, and know the leadings of it, else he will not follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes; but stay behind in some observation or practice which the Lamb is gone out of; and so miss of his leader, and meet, instead thereof, with another leader, even the spirit of antichrist, who enters into the outward court, and outward practices, so soon as ever the Spirit of God hath left them.
9. That God's people, since his withdrawing inward, and giving the outward court to the Gentiles, have been much deceived by the antichristian spirit, and led captive into Babylon; insomuch as God, when he cometh to overthrow antichrist, with the Babylon of his building, finds them there, and calls them out from thence. For the light growing low, and the deceit great, and the spirit subtle; how can the poor, weak, innocent babe espy that spirit, and escape his snares, when he tempts to those very paths and ways of worship wherein the saints had walked, and met with God, before the Spirit of the Lord departed out of them, and gave them up to the Gentiles?
10. That there is danger to the people of God of not understanding his call out of Babylon, but abiding there, through the subtle entanglements of the false spirit, who bewitcheth with the cup of fornication, to make Babylon appear as Zion, her doctrines as the truths of the gospel, her ordinances and ways of worship as the true ordinances and ways of worship. For the <54> deceit is exceeding deep, and the mystery of iniquity very great, following the heart close which the Lord is drawing to depart therefrom; and if the Lord God is not strong and vigilant, who judgeth the whore, she would still keep her hold of the heart; and if the heart be not kept very close to the Lord in the judgment, it cannot come out of Babylon, but will still be entangled and held in some part or other of the mystery of its deceit.
11. Such of the people of God as do not wait to understand and receive the full call, and so do not follow the Lord perfectly out of that city of abominations; but by her subtleties, and inward and outward witchcrafts, are held captive therein, and found in any part thereof, when the Lord cometh to judge her; such must partake of the plagues from the hand of the Lord, who will not spare her, nor the spirits of his dearest people who are found there, in the day of his visitation and righteous judgments.
Therefore come out of her, come out of her, O ye that love your souls, and the pure presence and fresh light of God's countenance! Ye that know what it is to provoke him to jealousy, and fear the weight of his hand upon your spirits; ye that love the holy land, the holy city, and temple of the living God, oh! come out of that impure building, that fleshly building, those fleshly ways and worships, which that spirit adorneth, to make them appear as if they were spiritual. Oh! depart ye, depart ye, out of your new removes; for they are also polluted, and not your rest; but short of that wherein the rest, the peace, the presence, of the Lord of life is felt by others, and to be found by you.
And consider this, if ever ye will come to the holy city, which was once built in the days of the apostles, but, since the division of it from the outward court, hath been trodden down, and trampled under the feet of the unbelievers, even while they have been worshipping in the outward court (which God once built and chose, but afterwards withdrew his Spirit from, and gave up to the unbelievers), -- I say, if ever you will come to this holy city, the holy land wherein it is built, and the holy hill whereon it was founded, ye must pass through the wilderness, be exercised in the wilderness, even till ye are fitted for it; and not strive to raise up a building yourselves in the likeness of it; but wait till God hath hewn and prepared the stones by his Spirit, <55> and then, by the skill of the Spirit, build up his Zion again.
Therefore, in the fear of the Lord, consider seriously, meekly, humbly, and brokenly, that the Lord may manifest your present state and condition unto you, whether ye have not erred in these things as well as others, and have not cause to repent of your forwardness herein, and to acknowledge that your buildings have been raised in the forwardness of your own spirits, and in the confidence of your reasoning upon scripture words, without feeling the presence (guidance and holy power) of God's Spirit raising up the foundation of many generations, and rearing his own pure house upon his own holy mountain.
In the Lord's hand is the time and season of building his own house. David, though his desire was approved, yet might not build the outward temple in the time of his choice; but God's time and season was to be waited for, both for the first building, and for the rebuilding of it. There is likewise a season for the rebuilding of spiritual Zion, after the long captivity of it in mystery Babylon. Now he that is forward, building before the time and season of the Spirit, buildeth without the Spirit, and his building is not of the Spirit, but of the nature of Babylon, which is wholly to be departed from, and left behind, in the soul's travel and progress towards Zion: and whatever is of the nature of Babylon must at length fall with Babylon, in the day of her terrible judgment, if the Lord in mercy do not shake it, and cause it to fall before.
Therefore, O all professors! awake out of the flesh, and all fleshly reasonings, into the Spirit of life; and examine there both your inward and outward buildings, that your loss be not great, and your anguish unutterable, in the day of the Lord, when all those buildings, which are raised and preserved in the pure life and power, shall shine in the beauty and glory of God's Spirit, and the greatest glory of flesh and fleshly buildings fade and wither.
THE SOUNDING OF
BOWELS TOWARDS THEE, O ENGLAND!
EARLY in the morning, on the 26th day of the
Sixth month, 1666, this, in the freshness and quick sense of life,
sprang up in
my heart again and again: O England, England, England!
how good had it been for thee, that thou hadst known and walked in
the way of peace!
There is a way of peace for persons and nations to know and walk in; but every person and nation doth not know and walk in this way, but rather in the way of trouble.
Quest. What is the way of peace?
Ans. It is the way of the pure wisdom, the way of the light and guidance of God's Spirit, from whom the creature came, and by whom alone it can be rightly ordered. He that waiteth on him for counsel, he that subjecteth to, and walketh in, his counsel, he walketh in the way of peace.
Quest. What is the way of trouble?
Ans. The way of man's own wisdom and counsel. For a man or nation to do that which is right in their own eyes. This is the way of man, whereby he thinks to establish himself, and put an end to his troubles; but he errs therein, as in the end he still finds to his woe.
Now, O England! consider; hast thou the guidance of God? Hath the light which hath guided thy steps been lighted by him, or by his and thy soul's enemy? For there is a spirit, of a contrary nature to God, near man, which he suddenly taketh counsel of, when his heart is not acquainted with, nor receiveth counsel of, the Lord. And this counsellor is the destroyer both of persons and nations, leading them in ways of ruin and subversion, under an appearance of being the proper ways of peace and settlement.
It is true of nations as well as persons, that what they sow, that shall they also reap. God measureth out their time unto them, and when that is over, his time of judging and pleading with them comes. And woe is then unto them who have acted in their own wills and wisdoms, out of the pure counsel and fear of the Lord, wherein they should have stood and been guided.
It is a day of trouble and distress. The weight of the iniquity of this nation begins to be felt upon it. Oh, let every one search and bow before the Lord, under his righteous judgments! that there may be no going on in that which bringeth and will increase the judgment; but a turning towards that which <57> intercedes, and opens the springs of mercy.
Two things lie heavy on this nation; to wit, a running on in transgressions of several kinds against the Lord (forgetting his tender mercies, with the days of former distress), and an afflicting others whom he loves, and hath led, and is leading out of transgression. Oh that these things might come to an end! that the anger of the Lord might cease, and the ways of his judgments and pleading with this nation be stopped; for who can stand before him when he riseth up in controversy against them?
There is but one eye which can rightly see the hand and judgments of the Lord; yea, it pleaseth the Lord so to manage them, that only the eye which is of him may see them. Man must be taken in his wisdom, and caught in the snare of his own understanding. He that will see the things of God, the ways of God, the counsels of God, the love and sweetness of God (yea, the very judgments of God), must receive from him the eye that seeth them. Oh that men might feel after, and come into, that wherein they might be pitied, and spared by their Maker. Man must bow; that which is of God in man (which hath long lain under oppression) must be exalted. It is the day of his power, and he will reign in it. Oh! happy they that bow to his sceptre, and kiss the shinings of his light (even the sharpest rebukes of it in their hearts), that they may turn from, and travel out of, the darkness (where is death, destruction, and misery, even in all the counsels and ways of it), and come into unity with that which is pure, and live.
Written in Aylesbury prison, 27th of 6th month, 1666
A FAITHFUL GUIDANCE TO THE
PRINCIPLE AND PATH OF TRUTH, WHEREIN ETERNAL
LIFE IS WITNESSED, BY THOSE WHO ARE BORN THEREOF, AND WALK
THERE must be somewhat let down from God into
a man's heart, to change his heart, and redeem it to God, or he
cannot be saved. He must receive a seed, be born of a new and
incorruptible seed, or he cannot be renewed from his corrupt nature
and state. He must be born of water and God's Spirit, or he cannot
enter into God's kingdom.
Now this is the true religion; namely, to experience and be subject to that power which redeems to God; which breaks the power of the wicked one in the heart, first casting him out, and then taking possession of the vessel, and filling it with the holy treasure.
Quest. But how may a man meet with such a thing as this?
Ans. The scripture, which gives a faithful testimony concerning the truth, saith, Christ, the Word of faith, which the apostles preached, is nigh. Insomuch as a man need not say: Who shall go up or down to fetch it? But what saith it? "The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart." This is that which reconciles to God, cutting down and slaying the enmity by the power of the cross, and bringing up the seed. This is the adversary in the way of the sinner, which he that maketh peace with shall be remitted all his trespasses past, and find power and strength against sin for the time to come, as he is gathered into, and brought forth in, his pure life and nature.
Quest. But how shall I know and receive this?
Ans. That in the heart which is contrary to sin, which discovereth sin, which witnesseth against sin, and is drawing the mind from it, furnishing those with a new and holy ability, who wait upon the Lord in it, -- that, that is the thing, though in ever so little a seed or low measure. Now he that minds this, hearkens to this, turns from what this, in its pure, unerring light, shows to be evil, follows, in the will, strength, and ability which is of this, what this shows to be good, he receives it; and waiting upon it, and becoming daily subject to it, shall grow up in it, increase in the knowledge of it, and acquaintance with it, and receive of it daily more and more. And thus the man whose way was vile, whose heart was naught, formed in wickedness, filled with corruption, daily bringing forth sin and fruits unto death, shall find these (by the pure light, and holy instructions of life) daily purged out of him, and Christ formed in him, and the holy fruits of righteousness brought forth through his vessel, by the power and Spirit of Christ, to the glory of God the Father.
And then being in Christ, being in the principle of his life, and acting therein, here is peace in the soul, rest to it from its <59> enemies and God's judgments, and acceptance with the Father in what the soul thus is and works.
But then the world will persecute and hate exceedingly; because this soul, who thus submits to God, and is thus changed by him, is not of the world, but of the Father, which begat it in Christ, and formed it in his image and likeness.
Likewise in this light the eyes are opened to read the Scriptures, and to understand therein the conditions of the people and saints of the Most High in former generations, and how the wicked spirit wrought then, to oppose the truth and people of God, and to draw men into deceit. Yea, and many other ways the Scriptures are exceeding sweet and useful, being read in that which gives the true sense and understanding of them.
But let him that once putteth his hand to the plow (beginning to feel somewhat of God, and to subject unto it, and so to taste of the peace and pureness of it) never look back to the world, nor mind the temptations and oppositions he will meet with from that nature and spirit, either in himself or others; for if he do, he will never be able to travel on, but rather consult with flesh and blood, and so return back into Egypt, and lose the crown which is laid up for those who pass on through the wilderness, through the trials, through the temptations, through the wants, through the various exercises, to their journey's end.
This is the path of life in brief: happy is he who feels the guider into it, and faithfully follows him therein to the end.
There is another question springs up in my heart, which is this:
Quest. How may a man come to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ?
Ans. By coming into the light, and walking in the light, which discovers the blood, and wherein alone it is sprinkled by God, and felt by the soul, he may receive the cleansing which is by it. This is according to the testimony of scripture; as, 1 John 1:7. "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." By the light the darkness is dispelled, and in the light the corruption and filth is washed away by the blood, and the soul (mind and conscience) cleansed from it.
<60> "This then is the message that we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." ver. 5. What then? Why then they that will know God, and walk with God, must by the virtue of his truth be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; as, Acts 26:18. and in that light he shall meet with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, and have fellowship with them, ver. 3. and shall be washed (both with the water and with the blood) and kept clean and pure thereby in the sight of God.
Quest. But how shall I come into the light, and how may I walk therein?
Ans. Christ is the light. He is the light of the world, the light of men, the light of life. And thou needst not say in thine heart: Who shall go up to heaven, or down into the deep, for him? For he is near, in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which thou art to believe in, love, and obey; that in the love, faith, and obedience thereof, thine heart may be circumcised, and thou mayest live. This is the gospel of our salvation, even this Christ, this word, this light, this life, which redeems from sin, which destroyeth the destroyer, and setteth the soul free to serve and live to the Lord. This was the message the apostles had to deliver in their day: as, Rom. 10:8. And this was Moses' message too, when he spake concerning the new covenant. For Moses did not only deliver the old covenant, but he also spake concerning the new, even another covenant than that of Mount Horeb. Deut. 29:1. And the word of this other covenant was not the law written in tables of stone; but the word nigh in the mouth and heart. chap. 30:14.
Obj. But that place speaks of doing (which is the voice of the old covenant, do this and live); but the new covenant stands in believing.
Ans. The end of faith is obedience. Why do I believe Christ, but that I may receive the law of his Spirit, and walk before him in the newness of the obedience thereof? And he that obeys is of the faith, and in the truth; and he that obeys not is out of it, is not in the power, not in the life, which brings forth the obedience, so out of the thing which redeems, and in which the redemption is witnessed; but he that obeys, he that <61> doth the will, -- he is in the righteousness, in the power, in the life, from which the obedience springs.
And here the washing and purifying of the soul is truly known and witnessed. Outward sacrifices under the law were vain as to cleansing the soul; and an outward belief of what Christ did and suffered effects not the thing now. What then? The new creature doth; the pure faith doth; the pure obedience doth. It did it formerly, it doth it still, and nothing else can do it. "Bring no more vain oblations; but wash ye, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well, &c. But how should this be? Could they ever attain this by the old covenant? Nay; but Moses had not only delivered them the old covenant, but also had directed them to the new, to the Word of faith, to the Word of life and power in the heart and mouth, through the obedience whereof they might wash themselves (as Peter, even in the gospel times, speaketh. 1 Pet. 1:22), put away the evil of their doings; cease to do evil, learn to do well, &c. And what then? Why, then they should receive the cleansing through the blood of the Lamb; for then, though their sins were as scarlet, they should be as white as snow; though they were red like crimson, they should be as wool. Isa. 1:16-18.
So Micah tells them (when they asked how they might come before God to please him): "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God." Mic. 6:8. Where or how doth God show this to man? Had not Moses told that before; to wit, by the Word nigh in the mouth and heart? There is somewhat near man, even in his mouth, which divides his words one from another, showing him (at some times, and would do it oftener if he heeded it) which are bad words, and which are good words. What is that that doth this? The same thing also is in his heart, as a discerner of the thoughts and intents thereof, showing him when there is a good thought, desire, or intention in his mind, and when there is a bad or wicked one. What is this? Oh that men knew what it is! Oh that they could fear the Lord, and become subject to it, and they should know what it is!
<62> "Every man that will be sanctified, and inherit God's kingdom, must be born of the will of God. He must deny his own will (as Christ did; not my will, said he, Father, but thine be done), that must be crucified. He must suffer in the flesh, die to the flesh, and live in and to the holy nature and Spirit of God.
Now thus a man comes to be born of the pure will; to wit, by hearing the word nigh in the mouth and heart, and becoming subject to it. This cuts down his own will day by day, and brings up the will and nature of God in him, through which he is changed and sanctified, and becomes a new creature. For the old creature is made up of the old understanding and will; but the new creature is made up of the new.
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to thy word," said David. What word was that? Was it the word of the old covenant, or the word nigh in the mouth and heart? And "thy word," saith he, "is a lantern to my feet, and a light to my path." What word was that, the word of the first covenant, or the word of the second? "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." What law is that? "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." What testimony is that? "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." What statutes are they? (Were not the statutes of the old covenant heavy and burdensome?) "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." What commandment is that? Yea, what is that which is "sweeter than the honey, and the honey-comb," which overcomes with sweetness? Oh that men could read! Oh that men could see the thing which is pure, and maketh pure; which is righteous, and maketh righteous! After men have seen the thing, there is a great way to travel to it; but how far are they off, who do not so much as see it, but are in the darkness and prejudices of that nature and spirit which is contrary to it.
Now if the Lord in his tender mercy and love to thy soul, bring thee to a sense of this thing, and thou beginnest to feel this precious, searching word discovering any evil to thee, either in thy heart or ways, oh! do not dispute, do not reason against it; but bless the discoverer, bow to the Son, become obedient immediately, faithfully following the Lamb therein, lest he <63> remove his light from thee, and suffer darkness and the disputing wisdom to overtake thee.
Christ is not of the world, and he leads out of the world; out of its vanities, ways, customs, fashions, &c. A man cannot serve Christ and the world. Can any man be born of the Father, be begotten by him out of the spirit of the world, and yet live in that, walk in that, which is not of the Father, but of the world; which came from the worldly part, is of the worldly part, nourisheth and pleaseth the worldly part in man, but pleaseth not the Father? Can that man who is not of the world, but of the Father, do any thing that upholdeth the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life, either in himself or others? Doth not the Spirit of the Lord, where it is hearkened to, draw out of these, and out of all things which are of these? Therefore consider well what it will cost, and how hard it is to follow Christ; that thou, who desirest to be the Lord's, mayest receive help and strength from him to be faithful, that in his strength thou mayest overcome all that stands between thee and life, that so thou mayest receive the crown, and inherit the kingdom which is prepared for, and given to, the faithful, who labor and fight not in vain; but gain ground and conquer (yea, at length become more than conquerors) through the mercy, love, might, and power of the Lord.
SOME SENSIBLE EXPERIMENTAL
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM THE
TENTH CHAPTER OF
Quest. 1. Who is the good Shepherd of the sheep?
Ans. The wisdom, life, and power of the Father (which dwelleth in, and is manifest through the Son) is the Shepherd. He that is the truth, the way, and the life, he also is the Shepherd and Bishop of the soul.
Quest. 2. Who are the sheep?
Ans. They that are born of this wisdom, gathered by this life, turned to this power, they are the sheep. They who are changed by him into his nature, they are of him; sheep of him, the Shepherd; lambs of him, the Lamb; doves of him, the Dove.
Quest. 3. What is the fold of the sheep?
Ans. The wisdom, life, and power of the Father, even the <64> same that is the Shepherd. The Father's hand wherewith he covers them, wherein he encloseth them, that is the fold. For it is the power, wisdom, and life of the Father, which gathereth the sheep; and he gathereth them into his wisdom, into his life; and that is a wall or fold about them.
Obj. Is not the church the fold?
Ans. This in the church, or the church in this, is the fold; but not out of this. For there is no safety or preservation among any sort or gathering of people, but as they stand and abide in this. And standing and abiding in this, they have authority and power from the chief Bishop of the soul; but none out of this.
Quest. 4. Who is the door?
Ans. The Shepherd is the door also, who lets into the fold, and shuts out, at his pleasure; and none can rightly enter but by him.
Quest. 5. What are they that run before the power, or further than the power leads and guides them?
Ans. They are thieves and robbers, and they may destroy the life and freshness in those that are not watchful; but they cannot help to save or build up, because they themselves are out of that, come out of that, and act out of that, which alone can do it.
Quest. 6. How may the sheep be discerned from the goats, and from such also as put on the sheep's clothing, but are not sheep in nature and spirit?
Ans. By their lamb-like nature, by the meekness and innocency in them which is of the Lamb, which none can have but they that are of him; for it is not to be found in man's nature, nor to be attained by his art. They also know and hear the voice of the Word nigh in the mouth and heart, and follow the law of his Spirit, received from his mouth, which none else but his sheep do, or can do; for this is given by him, and it is given by him only to his sheep.
Quest. 7. What doth Christ, the Shepherd (the eternal Word, the wisdom, life, and power of the Father), do for his sheep?
Ans. He doth great things for them, which who can utter? But happy is he that feels and knows them. He gives them a new nature, a new spirit, a new heart, a new name, which none knoweth but he that hath it; for it is written on the white stone, <65> which none else receives, nor none else can read, but he that hath the eye which is of him, what is written thereon. He giveth them eternal life; he leadeth them into the pastures of life; he giveth them to drink of the waters of life. He putteth them forth out of the prison-house, out of the chains and fetters, out of the darkness, out of the bonds, and from under the burdens of the soul, into the pure light and liberty of the Spirit, where they taste, know, and enjoy of his freedom, and dwell with him, and rest with him, and lie down with him, and rise up with him, even in the same eternal life, spirit, and power, wherein his dwelling-place is. And all this they enjoy safely, hearkening to the voice of the Shepherd, and turning from the voice of the stranger, which it is natural to them to do. For being turned from man, born of that which is immortal, and keeping to that, that ear which is there received will alone hearken to the voice of him who is immortal; and the voice of the stranger (who speaketh of himself) is presently discerned and turned from, by him that heareth with the true ear. The Lord God, who is the spring and fountain of all good, inflame people with desires after the pure life, and holy nature, which is of and from Christ the seed, his Son, and satisfy those desires which are singly and uprightly after him.
<66> But over this glorious state came a dark, thick, corrupt night, wherein the kernel was lost, and the shell defaced; wherein the house, which had been swept and garnished, became again recovered and possessed by the wicked spirit. And how great hath this darkness been! Oh, what a kind of church hath appeared in the world, wherein the spirit of enmity hath dwelt and acted in men, under the name of Christianity! So that instead of loving and seeking the good of enemies, they are ready to rend and tear one another for every little difference, and will be lords over men's faith, requiring men to practise things in religion before the Spirit of the Lord teacheth them so to do, which the apostles did not. For though they had from God the express knowledge of what was truth, and could certainly instruct and build up men therein, yet they were not lords over men's faith; but if men were otherwise minded than according to what they knew and taught, they could wait and bear with them, bidding them walk so far as they had attained, and God, in his due time, would reveal the rest also. Oh that men were come to this spirit again! then they would be Christians indeed, and then they might be known to be Christ's disciples, by their loving the brethren and fellow-disciples. But without this love, men's religion is but a tinkling cymbal, making a noise and sound of somewhat, but not having the true nature or virtue of religion in it.
Now will it not be a glorious day, when the Spirit of the Lord cleanseth away this thick darkness, and causeth the light of his pure truth to arise and appear again? Why, there is such a day to be, wherein the true church, which was reproached and driven into the wilderness, is to come out of the wilderness again, and her witnesses stand on their feet again, and her seed to spring up in the power of life, following the Lamb, who marcheth on fighting with the sword of the Spirit (the word of his mouth), conquering and to conquer thereby the corrupted antichristian world, even as he did at first the corrupt heathenish world.
The Lord will purify his temple, and cleanse the world by the plagues of his angels which he hath prepared, making way for the beauty of his truth, and the church of his gathering; wherein he will bring forth his righteousness, wherein his power <67> shall appear, wherein his presence shall be made manifest, wherein that which shined before in the primitive church shall shine again in this new-reared building of his, insomuch as men shall be forced to say: This is the church of Christ indeed, God is here of a truth; this is the Gospel-Jerusalem indeed, which is built upon the holy hill of Zion; in which innocency, righteousness, truth, love, sweetness, peaceableness, and the gentle nature and Spirit of the Lamb lives and reigns; and the Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.
Now, of a truth this work is begun. The times of refreshment are come from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hath heard from heaven, pitying the cries of his seed, and hath visited their souls, causing the light of life (even the pure light of the everlasting covenant) to shine upon their tabernacles. But whoever would know these things, and partake of them, must come in at the door, by the guidance of the Spirit, through the light which is with him. And he that would enjoy the full light (even the shinings forth of the sun at noon-day) must begin with its glimmerings, even that in the heart which discovereth and draweth out of the corrupt state of the world towards the Father. Oh! hear and live. Do not dispute about it, but wait to feel it; upon the feeling of it, despising the shame, and taking up and enduring the cross, and so bearing the reproach and sufferings of Christ in thy age and generation. And as thou obeyest, thou shalt know of its doctrine; but out of the pure faith and obedience, there is no true, sound, deep, rooted knowledge; but all of that kind must be parted with, for the knowledge which is of the faith, and which is made manifest and increased in the obedience; which knowledge is of a far more excellent kind and nature, than that which thou art to part with for it. The Lord guide thy mind, and stretch forth his hand to help thee, who, from the least touch of a pure nature and spirit, desirest after the pure truth and way of eternal life. Amen.
This testimony, here held forth, is faithful and true, and (I know) the witness of God in many hearts will answer to it; and happy is he that maketh a right use of it. For, so doing, his soul will not fall short of the pure, living truth, nor set up any thing else for truth which is not.