« PreviousContinue »
And thus men may come, waiting here in humility and fear upon the Lord, to judge true and righteous judgment concerning the appearances of God, and the things of his kingdom; which they can never do by their own understanding, and comprehending things from the fcriptures, out of the light and quickening life of God's Spirit. For man is dead, dark, and corrupt, but as he is quickened, enlightened, and his heart fanctified by God's Holy Spirit. What can a dead man fee? What can a dead man hear? Can he hear the living found before he is quickened by it? Do not the fcriptures relate, and treat of, fpiritual things? And can the natural man understand them? Can man's unholy mind understand the words of God's pure Holy Spirit, which were given forth through veffels that were fanctified (fome from the womb), and when the Spirit of the Lord was upon them, and they gathered by his Spirit into an holy living sense?
Oh! that men faw their need of the Lord, to open their hearts, and that flesh might be filent in them, that they might come to witness the birth of God's Spirit, and the precious understanding of the heavenly things which is therein given! And then that understanding which is not precious, nor living, nor of God, but of themselves, would not be of so great value with them for indeed, through this great mistake, many (fome whereof are zealous and knowing, according to the efteem of men) reject that which is of God, and fet up that which is of themselves, even of their own apprehending and conceiving; which will be bitterness and forrow in the latter end, when that eye fhall be opened in them, which is at prefent closed in
too too many.
Bleffed is he who can truly fay, The Lord hath opened an eye in me, even the true eye, the pure eye, the living eye; and with that eye I now fee; but with the eye wherewith I faw before, I now fee not: and now I know the difference between seeing the fame things with my own eye, and with the eye which God hath given me. So that now my earnest defire and prayer to the Lord is, to keep open in me for ever that eye which he bath opened; and also to keep that eye hut, which he in his tender mercy to me hath been pleased to close up
And truly this is the ground of the great difference between us and others, about the things of God; for though we own the fame things, and fpeak of the fame things, yet we own them not alike, nor fpeak of them alike. Why fo? Because we fee them with different eyes, and fo have a different sense of them.
Others call things true, and fo acknowledge them as they apprehend them from the letter: we call things true, as they are demonftrated to us by God's Spirit, and as we feel the virtue, life, and power of them from God,
in our hearts.
Now this we are affured is the true way of knowledge; therefore is it our hearts defire (in true love to all, efpecially to thofe in whom there are any tender breathings after God), that people might fo wait upon the Lord,
as that they might be led by him into it, and quickened daily more and more by him in it.
And indeed thofe teachings and demonftrations of truth, which are given and received in the pure fenfe, and in the quickening life, they are the teachings of God's Spirit according to the new covenant; which is a miniftration not of the letter (no, not of those shadowy or dead things which are administered therein), but of the power and life. For the law is letter, but the gofpel is Spirit and power. The gospel-state is a state of fulfilling those things in the Spirit and power of the endless life, in the new covenant, which were spoken of, promised, and shadowed out under the law in the old covenant.
Some Obfervations on 2 PET. iii. 14, 15, 16.
Wherefore beloved, feeing that ye look for fuch things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. And account that the longSuffering of our Lord is falvation; even as our beloved brother Paul alfo, according to the wisdom given unto him, bath written unto you: As alfo in all his epiftles; Speaking in them of these things; in which are fome things hard to be underfood, which they that are unlearned and unftable wreft, as they do alfo the other fcriptures unto their own deftruction.
Obferv. 1. HAT Peter, Paul, and the reft of the holy men of God wrote of. They wrote of the grace of the gofpel: they wrote of the fufferings of Chrift, and the glory that should follow, and the fal vation of the foul; and true reft, which believers should receive, and enter into in him, i Pet. i. 2, &c. and Heb. iv. 39. They wrote concerning the times of reformation, wherein those things fhould be reformed under the fecond covenant, which had been amifs under the firft, Heb. viii. They wrote of the times of reftitution, and refreshing from the prefence of the Lord, Acts iii. For in the new covenant, there is a renewing and restoring; and the pure prefence of God, which refrefheth, is witneffed and enjoyed there. They wrote of the everlafting kingdom, the kingdom which cannot be fhaken, Heb. xii. 28. which stands in that power which shakes all things that may be shaken, but itself is unmoveable. They wrote of the day of the Lord, the day of the gospel, which brings darkness and confufion upon man's fpirit and glory, and defolation upon his buildings, melting and diffolving the old heavens and the old earth, wherein unrighteoufnefs had a place, and bringing forth the new beavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, Ifai. li. 16.
For if any man be in Chrift, there is a new creation; old things pass away, and all things become new, at Chrift's appearing in his glory in the heart;
to which they that truly believe in him, cannot but haften; that the earth, with the works thereof, may be burnt up, and the heavens allo; that so the new heavens, and the new earth, may be inwardly witneffed and experienced, and the King of Glory found fitting on his throne, and reigning therein.
Obferv. 2. How Peter and Paul, with the reft of the apostles and holy men of God, wrote. They wrote according to the wisdom given unto them. They wrote not in their own wills, or according to their own wisdom; but kept to the gift and light of the Spirit, which they had received from the Lord. They waited to obferve the Lord go before, the Spirit of the Lord move, and also give ability from the measure and gift of life, which he had bestowed upon them.
And these are the proper limits of writing and fpeaking under the miniftration of the gofpel; which is a miniftration of the Spirit and power, and not of the literal knowledge of things, according to man's understanding and comprehenfion.
Obferv. 3. That there are some things in the writings of Paul (and in the other fcriptures alfo), hard to be understood; which every one that hath true life and true fenfe, does not at first understand, but only fuch as are grown to a capacity. For the writings of the apoftles, and miniftrations of the Spirit, are to feveral states and capacities, and can only be understood according to the growth and capacity of each state; much lefs can the carnal mind understand or digeft that which is high and fpiritual.
Obferv. 4. That there are fome among those whom the Lord vifiteth, and reacheth to by his power, who do not attain to the knowledge of the truth, nor come to the establishment therein: fome that are always learning, but never come to the true, heavenly, fpiritual knowledge of the things of God; fome that know Chrift only according to the letter, but not according to his Spirit and power. Some there are that learn in fuch a way, as they can never come truly and thoroughly to understand: for it is God that openeth the heart and ear; it is Chrift who hath, and giveth, the key of knowledge; but many learn what they can of the things of God and Chrift, without having their hearts and ears opened by the Lord, and without the true key of knowledge; and fo thofe remain unlearned and unftable as to the mystery of godliness, as to the mystery of life and falvation, and as to the nature of the things of God's kingdom.
Obferv. 5. That thofe who are unlearned and unstable in the mystery of truth, are wrefters of the scripture. They cannot understand things as they are, not having the key; and fo they wreft them, and ftrive to make them speak, as they apprehend and would have them.
And here in this ftate, in this wisdom, is both adding to, and diminishing from, the holy words of truth: for in many places they add of their own conceivings, and in other places diminish from the drift and intent of God's Spirit.
Obferv. 6. That wrefting the fcriptures tends to the deftruction of thofe that do it. God is the Saviour, and the holy words of the Saviour tend to fave; but being bent afide by man's nature and fpirit, they are not the fame they were when they came from God, nor have at all that virtue and nature in them.
And indeed wresting the fcriptures is an high, presumptuous, and provoking act, and brings God's displeasure against, and curfe upon, the foul.
Now it is impoffible for any man not to wreft the fcriptures, unless he keep close to God's Spirit to receive from him the understanding of them; for the infpiration of the Almighty giveth understanding, and not another thing. God knoweth what he intendeth, in the words he fpake concerning the heavenly things; but man knoweth not, but as his fpirit is opened and enlightened by the Lord.
Bleffed is he who waiteth upon and watcheth to God's Spirit in reading the Scriptures, not leaning to his own understanding and apprehenfion of things, but waiting to feel his mind opened and quickened by the Lord, that in the renewings of his mind he may learn of God that which is new and living, which is not comprehended in the letter (or in literal defcriptions of things) but in the Spirit and power itself, which is the limits of the new covenant, out of which the children of life are not to depart, but to abide, dwell, and grow up therein.
Concerning the gospel ministry, or right way of teaching and learning the mystery of life and falvation.
HEN Chrift came in the fullness of time, in that body prepared for him by the Father (he who was filled with the Spirit, and anointed of God to preach the gofpel), he preached the kingdom of God, bidding men feek it, directing them where to seek it, and how they might find it; telling them, in feveral parables, what it was like, and where to look for it, even within their own hearts; and that they might the better difcern it, fhadowed out the being, nature, and properties of it, in feveral refemblances. He compared it to a treasure bid in a field, which the wife merchant felleth all to buy; to a pearl bid in the earth; to a loft piece of filver, which they that fweep their own boufes, and fearch with the true candle, may find; to a talent (for fuch is the free-gift of the pure and heavenly life); to leaven (hidden leaven); to a feed; to falt, &c.
So when Chrift fent his apoftles after him, in the fame Spirit and power wherein he himself came and miniftered, he fent them to preach the fame thing, giving them this meffage to declare to men, that God is light, and in bim is no darkness at all; and that Chrift is the way, the truth and the life; and that the life was manifefted; fo that they heard, and faw, and tafted, and VOL. II. Kkk
handled of it; and fo were to direct men how to come into fellowship with them in this life, and to walk in the light, as God is in the light.
Thus Paul likewife, who was fent after the reft, was fent to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Acts xxvi. 18.
Now people being turned to the light (where they may receive underftanding, and feel virtue, and know the anointing, and hear the voice of the fhepherd), thofe who are over them in the Lord, and are made use of by him as inftruments to turn their minds hither, may be fenfible of their conditions, and may have a word of direction from God to fpeak to them. And this teaching is not the teaching of man, but the teaching of the holy anointing; and he that heareth this teaching, heareth Chrift, and he that rejecteth this teaching, rejects Chrift."
Yet (though the Lord pleafeth thus to minifter from the heavenly treafure in fome veffels, which he hath prepared for that end) people are not always to be expecting penfions, or portions of food from others without; but to know and to come to the bread and water of life in their own houfes, that there they may eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, as all do who have true life in them.
Now to give forth precepts of holiness (as the way in the apoftafy hath been) before mens minds are turned to that which enlighteneth, and giveth power to believe and obey; that is not the way of the gofpel; but the way of the gospel is to bring to the foundation of light and life in the particular, and fo to diffettle the fpirit from that which is dead, and found it upon that which is living; that a living building of pure life, of living materials, of living stones, may be raised up unto the Lord; in which temple he dwells and appears, exercifing his authority and power.
For indeed God dwelleth in the temples of his own building, which are built by and in his Spirit; but in all other temples, which are built out of the Spirit, and only by men (not by God) in a way of imitation from the letter, in which they fet up the likeneffes of things, and fo fet themfelves to pray and preach, according to their apprehending and forming of things; I fay, in thefe buildings the Holy Spirit of God dwelleth not; but that spirit which hath thus deceived them.
And thus men erring in their hearts concerning the light, concerning the power, concerning the foundation (not knowing how it is indeed laid in Sion) concerning the fcriptures of truth (which can only be understood in the light and inspiration of the Almighty, from whence they were given forth) they can never come to know Chrift and his Spirit livingly revealed in power in their own hearts, nor the new and living way, and how to walk therein, nor the truth as it is in Jefus, according to the miniftration of the New Testament (which is not after the letter, but after the Spirit), nor the new covenant, which is made with the foul in Chrift, wherein all things are made new, and the old done away; nor the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jefus written in the heart, which blots out the other law, even the