« PreviousContinue »
An OBJECTION against the PRINCIPLE, which in Faithfulness to GOD, and in Love to Souls, we bear witness to; briefly anfwered.
ANY do believe, and in that belief do object against it, that it is a natural principle, and but a natural principle: and fo, in its utmost improvement, could lead but to the state of Adam's nature, and not to the redemption and new life, which is in and by Jefus Chrift.
Anfw. I can grant that it is natural, in a fenfe; but not in the intended fenfe. It is a principle indeed of God's nature, of Chrift's nature; but not of man's nature. It is that which stands a witnefs in man against him, when he falls and tranfgreffes. It is a light indeed that fhines in his confcience; but it was before his confcience was, and is of an higher nature. Man is earthly (with his understanding, knowledge, reafon, judgment, confcience); but the light that fhines in him (even in his dark, hard, unregenerate, earthly heart) is heavenly; fuch as his darkness cannot comprehend, though it fhine in his dark nefs. But wouldst thou in true underftanding know what it is? Feel it; come out of that darkness where it finds thee, into that light where it dwells, and then thou wilt know it indeed, and be able to judge of it better. Now I will tell thee how we know it to be the light of the new covenant. Why thus: Because we find it discover to us the new covenant, and lead us into it; yea alfo fhew us the fins against the new covenant, and furnish us with power from God against them, and preferve us out of them. And with this demonftration indeed, our hearts are fatisfied; though we could alfo fay further, we have witneffes, both in heaven and in earth, concerning this thing, whose testimony fully concludeth it, to the full fatisfaction of the foul, where it is heard and felt.
Some QUESTIONS and ANSWERS Con-
HAT is the New Covenant?
Queft. 1. WH4jw. It is a new agreement between God and the
foul, different from that former agreement, which was between God and that people of the Jews. It is a precious glorious covenant, containing precious promises on God's part, and as eafily to be obtained on the crea ture's part as can poffibly be. It is a covenant of the eternal love of God; of life, peace, and reft to the foul; of the power of the Lord ftretched out for the foul, to deliver it from Egypt; carry through the wilderness; bring into the Holy Land; giving it its proper poffeffion and inheritance there; and maintaining it therein againft all its enemies. Yea, this covenant contains very precious things, which the foul finds great need of, and rejoiceth in the fenfe and prefence of, when they are felt flowing from the covenant into it; as writing the laws of God in the heart, putting his fear in the inward parts; yea, putting his own Spirit within, to be a fountain of life and ftrength there, whereby he caufeth the foul to walk in his ways, and preferveth it from departing from him. Likewife in this covenant God becomes the teacher, who createth in the foul a capacity to learn, and caufeth it to heed and profit. And in this covenant there is a forgiving of iniquity, and a remembering of fins no more, but a deftroying and rooting out of that which caused to fin, and an healing of the backflidings of the foul, and a loving it freely.
Queft. 2. How is this covenant made with the foul?
Anfw. In Chrift the feed, who is all in this covenant. He is the light of it; he is the life of it; he is the power of it; he is the righteoufnefs and fanctification of it. By coming into him, the foul comes into this covenant; by abiding in him, it abides in this covenant; and by growing up in him, it grows up in this covenant.
Queft. 3. Is this an abfolutely free covenant? or are there any terms ar conditions required of the foul in it?
Anfw. It is abfolutely free in its own nature. It comes from the free love of God, it contains in it the free love of God, it is freely offered to all to whom it is offered, it is freely given to all to whom it is given. Here is no price, nothing of the creature's required for it, all that is required, is the creature's receiving of it and giving up to God in it. And here, and U u 2
after this manner, many things are required of the creature, without which the creature can never come to receive the covenant, abide in it, or reap the bleffings contained therein. This the fcriptures abundantly teftify to; as also the experiences of those who know and feel the nature and virtue of the covenant.
Queft. 4. What things are required in this covenant according to the scriptures, and according to the experiences of those that enter into it, and reap the fruits and benefits of it?
Anfw. 1. This is required, that when the Lord calls, when the Lord quickens, when the Lord toucheth the heart, openeth the ear, giveth a faculty and ability of hearing, that then the Lord be hearkened diligently unto, the ear (which he hath opened) kept open to him, and that that whereby he openeth the one ear and fhuts the other be kept close to, and he waited upon therein; the true ear may be more and more opened by him, and the other ear (which is apt to hearken to and let in the enemy) more and more fhut. Who is there among us that hath not felt the Lord God requiring this of us? Wherein, as he hath been answered, the work of God hath gone on in us; and as he hath not been answered, the work hath gone backward, and not forward. And the fcripture bears witness to the fame, as Ifai. lv. 1, 2, 3. where the free covenant is proclaimed; yet there is somewhat even there required. Hearken diligently: come and eat ye that which is good, and let your foul delight itself in fatnefs. Incline your ear and come unto me; hear, and your fouls fhall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the fure mercies of David.
2. Repentance is required, turning from the old unclean nature and fpirit, and touching it no more; but cleaving to that which hath power against it, and preferveth from it. This alfo is felt and witneffed to be required of God now, and was alfo teftified to of old, as 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18. Touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my fons and daughters, faith the Lord Almighty.
3. Faith, believing the teftimony of truth, and receiving the Spirit's baptifm, is required. He that will enter into this covenant, muft believe the teftimony of the gofpel (the record of God concerning his Son) with the faith which is of him, and must be circumcifed, baptized, renewed and changed by him. Now he that doth this fhall be faved, as Chrift promised, Mark xvi.; but he with whom is the power of life and falvation did not promise that any fhould be faved otherwise.
4. Obedience of the gospel, fubjection to Chrift in the rule of his Spirit, and keeping of his commandments, is required. For as the firft covenant required the obedience proper to it; fo the fecond covenant requires the obedience proper to it. And as there was no falvation, or standing in the first covenant, without the obedience thereof; fo neither in the fecond, without the obedience thereof. He that will enjoy the peace, the righte ousness, the juftification, the life, the power of this covenant, muft live in
the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, fulfil the will of the Spirit; keep to the feed, keep to the anointing, that the evil-one touch him not; that the interrupter, the flayer, the deftroyer of life in the heart, have not power over him, as he hath over any out of the limits of this covenant. For within it are all the good, but without it the evil things, the dangers, the temptations, the fnares, the death and destruction of the foul, and whoever wanders out of the covenant, cannot but meet with them, and acknowledge it to be so, if he be in the true fenfe. Therefore there must be a great care to abide in that which hath gathered, in that which hath quickened, in that which giveth the true fenfe and understanding, and keepeth out of the wrong. How tender, how free was the love of Chrift to his difciples! yet he bids them abide in his love, and tells them how they should do it: If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in bis love.
Queft. 5. But how shall the foul be able to perform all these things? Are they required of it in its own ftrength, or doth God undertake to perform and work
all in it?
Anfw. Not at all in its own ftrength, will, or wisdom (these are eternally fhut out of this covenant); but in the ftrength, life, and power, which flows from God in the covenant.
Queft. 6. How shall the foul receive this ftrength, life, and power?
Anfw. By embracing it as it comes, cleaving to it, panting after it, patiently mourning and waiting for it. (The vifion of good will come to that foul in the Lord's feason, and will not tarry). By not defpifing the little, and looking after more before the little be received, but thankfully entertaining the beginnings of life, the beginnings of the holy inftructions, the first drawings from off the fpirit and nature of this world, in whatever it be. He that difputes not concerning the thing, but receives it juft as it appears, in a fimplicity and uprightnefs, watching thereto, he shall be bleffed of the Lord, and meet with the defire of his foul in the Lord's feason, when the Lord hath fitted and prepared his heart for it. Now this is fo little and strait a door, fo poor and low a beginning, as the wisdom of man can never enter at it; and if there should be a little entrance in the overcoming power of life, yet that wisdom will drive the foul back again prefently. Let me know the doctrine firft, faith the wife man; I will understand the doctrine thoroughly before I will change my prefent way. No, faith Chrift, He that doth his will shall know of the doctrine. Thou shalt know a little, which will reach to thy heart. There thou must begin; and being faithful there, thou fhalt know further of the doctrine; but being unfaithful there, thou mayest be ftumbled and prejudiced against the doctrine, but never be able to know it. Oh! the mystery of life! Oh! the hidden path thereof, which none can learn but thofe whom the Father teacheth! But many think to learn in that, which ever was, and ever will be, shut out. If Chrift would lay his doctrine before them, and make it good
to their understanding, they would receive it. No, no; they must bow to Christ, to his name, to his power, to his will, to his way of manifefting his truth; he will not bow to theirs.
Queft. 7. What are the fins against this covenant, and what effects have they?
Anfw. The fins against this covenant are chiefly unbelief in the power, and disobedience to the power, which are of a deeper nature than the fins against the first covenant, and have more dangerous effects. The refufing of this covenant is more dangerous than the refufing the covenant of Mofes. And the breaking of this covenant; to wit, the starting back from God (through an heart of unbelief) here, is more dangerous than the breaking of the first covenant.
Quelt. 8. Why can this covenant be broken? Hath not God undertaken all in it?
Anfw. It is an agreement between God and the foul, wherein things are required of the foul, through the life and strength which flows from the Covenant. And the foul may hearken to the enemy, and not to the Lord; may walk after the flesh, and not after the Spirit; may luft after high knowledge, and hidden things of the kingdom, as they of old did after prying into the ark; may draw back from the Lord in those respects wherein it had given up unto him, &c. Now these, and fuch-like, are breaches of the covenant; or at least fuch fins against it as draw down judgments upon the foul at prefent, and at laft utter cafting off, unless the foul be brought back by the judgments into the agreement again with the Lord in truth and uprightness. It is true, the Lord doth all in the covenant according to his good pleafure; but withal, he hath appointed a way of his working out the life and happiness of the foul, to which it is his good pleasure to keep. And his way is Chrift, his feed. Hence all the love, mercy, care, and tenderness of God flows. Hither is the foul to come for it; and here the foul is to abide, that it may enjoy and poffefs it. But if the enemy can by any means draw the foul out from hence, he draws it from its life and ftrength, and from the fweet bleffings and influences of the holy and free covenant. Now the Lord hath not given power to the enemy to force from hence; but he gives power to the foul to abide with him here; and in the hour of diftrefs, if it cry to him, he helps the helpless, and lifts up a standard against the enemy.
Now all that defire the sweetness of this covenant, the life, the virtue, the bleffings of it, oh! wait to feel and receive fomewhat from God, and in that to fear before him, and walk worthy of him, and not to grieve or provoke his Spirit. For he hath the power of life and death in his hand, and whom he will he may have fufficient caufe againft, to turn from and cut off when he pleaseth; and whom he will he may extend mercy to, as far and as long as he pleaseth; for it is his own, and he may do what he will with it. Only know this, God is love; God is bowels, infinite bowels;