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PRE E FAC E.
HE gofpel is the power of God unto falvation. Oh! bleffed is he, who meets with that which powerfully faves! Moft mens religion is but a talk and profeffion of that which they have not; and what will fuch a kind of religion avail, when it comes to be tried by the piercing fire of the Spirit of burning, and pure (impartial) judgment. Neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion, but a new creature. Alas! how few know that! And yet if any man be in Chrift, he is a new creature; old things are paffed away, and all things become new there. Who can bear the decifion of this trial? For many pretend to be in Chrift, and yet they themfelves are ftill in the old nature and spirit. Be not deceived, faith the apostle, God is not mocked. Alas! how many are deceived about their religion! Indeed it is impoffible for a man not to be deceived, who knoweth not the anointing, nor is taught his religion by the anointing. He is truth and no lye, and he teacheth truth and no lye; but mens apprehenfions and conceivings, upon the holy fcriptures and myfteries of God's kingdom, are but like themselves, empty and vain. Oh! that men could fee with the true eye, hear with the true ear, understand with the true heart! Then might they know indeed, and come to witness the Ethiopian skin washed, and the leopard fpots changed; but till then, they may change from one opinion to another, and from one profeffion and way of religion to another, and yet in nature, fpirit, mind, and heart, yea, and in conversation also (as to the fubftance thereof), remain still one and the fame. And what will become of men, whose hope is in their religion, in their knowledge of Chrift, in their faith, in their worship, &c. if all thefe, when they come to be tried, fhall be found wanting of the true nature and virtue, and condemned by the Lord for dead and dry! Oh! that men knew what should be yoked down, what should be turned from and denied, how gloriously and takingly foever it appears! All flesh is grafs; all fleshly knowledge and religion muft pafs away. That which the earthly man can comprehend in his understanding, is but the outward, the fleshly part of religion; the fpiritual knowledge, the living knowledge, is referved for, and given to, the fpiritual capacity and understanding, which the children of the Moft High received in the new birth, and holy begettings of life.
Here are fome queries, held forth in love to thee, reader, to bring thee to a true fenfe in many weighty matters. They are not of a confounding (unlefs it be to that part which is not to know), but of an opening nature; they were sweet to my tafte, which (as in God's prefence, and by the virtue of his life and Spirit flowing in me) relished the things queried of. I defire they may be profitable to thee alfo, and that thou mayeft witnefs the guidance of God's Spirit, leading thee into, and giving thee faithfully to walk in, the way that leads to eternal reft. For our days in this world are but for a moment, and then we must be judged, and difpofed of by the Lord, for ever; each perfon according to the nature and fpirit he is of, and according to the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or evil. The Lord give thee fo to confider thy ways, that thou mayest apply thy heart to true wifdom; which confifts in fearing of God, and departing from evil; which the least child, that is taught of God, learns; and those that are grown up in holiness and righteousness, are skilful and perfect in; fo that they cannot do any thing against the truth, but in and for the truth.
There are also some questions answered; one about preaching the gofpel after the apoftafy, another about the reafon of God's not teaching others what it pleaseth him to teach us; and the way of his teaching us. There is likewise somewhat concerning the threefold appearance of Chrift, and touching Mount Sinai, from whence the law of the letter was given; and Mount Sion, from whence the law of the Spirit goes forth; as likewife concerning the temple and facrifices under the gospel, and of the way to know one's election, and to obtain full affurance thereof, &c. All these sprang from life in my heart, for thy fake who breatheft after the Lord, and after his pure way and holy path of life, and who readeft in humility, fear, and uprightness; and my prayers to the God of my life go along with them, that thy heart may be opened by him, in the reading of them, and that thou mayeft have the fenfe of them in the fhinings of his light in thine own heart, whose work it is to cause it to shine out of the darkness; that his glorious gospel may not be hid from the fons of men; but, through the virtue, power, and operation of the Spirit of truth (which first convinceth of fin, and then leadeth out of it, into that which is pure and holy) they may come to be acquainted with the mystery of life, which hath been hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifeft to God's children and fanctified ones; which being made manifeft to them, is revealed and known to be Chrift in them, the hope of glory, The Lord grant thou mayest know and experience him to be fo to thee and in thee, Amen.
FEW WORDS in GENERAL,
To thofe that Defire the
KNOWLEDGE of the TRUE
The Infpiration of the Almighty giveth Understanding.
T is a great matter to receive an understanding from the Lord; which until a man doth, his knowledge is neither true, living, nor faving. Now, he that would receive an understanding from the Lord, muft wait to know the beginnings of the new and holy understanding; and what that understanding and knowledge is, which ftands in the way thereof, and how to part therewith: and then he must faithfully lofe and part with it for the other; which is pure, true, and heavenly.
And when a man hath received an understanding from the Lord, then he may weigh, confider, and come to know things aright: but till then, deceit will lodge in his heart, and have power over him; and his very wisdom and knowledge will pervert him, and turn him afide from the way of life and truth. The wife profeffing Jews were hindered from owning the Meffiah, by the very knowledge which they had gathered and comprehended out of the letter of the fcriptures.
But if a man hath received an understanding from the Lord in meafure, yet it is an hard matter to keep to that understanding; and he must lie very low and humble, who fo doth. Oh! what a continual watch hath my foul had (and still hath) against that part wherein my religion formerly ftood! For though the Lord had reached to the pure feed of life in me, and had quickened my foul thereby; yet I knew not how to turn to the feed, and abide in the feed, and to hold my knowledge and life there; but was still striving to live and know (and comprehend and practise) in a part above the feed; and the enemy was ftill too hard for me, and did often deprive me of the benefit or right use of what the Lord had wrought in me, and freely bestowed upon me.
Alas! who can understand this voice! Surely it is very hard for any so to do, but fuch who have had fome fenfible and lively experience thereof in themselves; but for want of this knowledge, fenfe, and experience, many are deeply deceived concerning the Lord Jefus Chrift, and the state of their own fouls, concerning faith in him, love to him, pardon of fin and juftification in and through him; regeneration and fanctification by his Spirit; and concerning walking in the way of holiness, and obeying his commands; and fo err in heart exceedingly (both in doctrine and practice) concerning the weighty things which appertain to falvation.
Now I having erred in time paft in my former profeffions, and been deeply perplexed and diftreffed, through my erring from the holy feed, Spirit, and power of life; bear with me! bear with me! yea I fay again, bear with me, if I pity others, and fincerely defire that their eyes may be opened to see the pure, living, holy, undefiled way, in which no defiled spirit can walk; but a man must be truly made alive, and truly cleansed in mind and spirit, before he can walk in this way. Now, if we experimentally, moft tenderly, and in true love, witness, from the God of life and falvation, where the life of the Lord Jefus Chrift, and the cleansing of his blood and Spirit is met with, and that according to the plain teftimony of the fcriptures, why are ye offended with us for our love, and for telling you the truth, as the Lord hath opened our eyes, and taught us to fee and read it in the fcriptures of truth, and as we have experimentally found it in Jefus ?
Well! the Lord knoweth how we are many times mourning and praying for you, while ye are reviling and backbiting us; for we know the way and courfe of that fpirit, wherein ye oppofe us. And, oh! that ye yourselves alfo did know what fpirit it is, which thus acts you! For then, furely, ye would confefs it to be the very fame which opposed Chrift in the days of his flesh, having only a different cover and way of appearance; that, crying him up as to come; this, as already come; but both denying him who is the Meffiah. For in that ye deny his Spirit, life, appearance and power in the least of his, ye deny him. Oh! that ye could feel the tender bowels, truth of heart, and true understanding from God's Holy Spirit, wherein this is written! Oh! that ye could rightly diftinguish between the precious and the vile; and not call that vile, which in God's fight is precious; nor that precious, which in God's night is vile. Ye muft feel the holy feed, the living of God, judge in you; and ye judge only in that, or ye will err in judging according to the appearance, and not judge the righteous judgment.
Reading Goal, 26th of the