« PreviousContinue »
THINGS relating to RELIGION, &c.
Of Certainty, and rightly-grounded Affurance, in Matters of RELIGION.
HERE is a witness of and from God in every confcience; which, in his light, power, and authority, witneffeth for him, and against that which is contrary to him, as he pleaseth to move upon it, visiting and drawing the hearts of the fons of men by it.
From this witness proceeds the true and well-grounded religion in the mind towards God: For this witnefs both teftifieth and demonftrateth that there is a God, and alfo inclineth the mind to defire and seek after the right knowledge and true worship of him.
And fuch who keep to this witnefs, and wait upon God therein, are taught by it the true fpiritual worship; the true and pure fear of the Most High; the faith which he giveth to his faints; the love which is chaste and unfeigned; the hope which purifieth the mind, and anchors it on the eternal rock; the meeknefs, patience, gentleness, humility, &c. which is not of man's nature, but the gift of God, and the nature of the heavenly giver.
And then for exercises of religion, as praying to the Father of fpirits, hearing the heavenly voice, reading in the Spirit, and with the renewed understanding, finging and making melody in the heart (and also with the voice) to the Lord, as his life is felt, and the spiritual bleffings and treasure received; all these, and whatever elfe is judged neceffary for the foul, are taught by this witnefs of God in the confcience, as the foul groweth up in the light, Spirit, nature, and holy power thereof.
But now, when the Lord reacheth to his witnefs in men, and is teaching their hearts by it, then the enemy, the other fpirit, whofe feat is in the other part, keepeth a noife there, to overbear the voice of the witnefs, and to make men take up religion in another part, which is fhallow, and reacheth not to the depth and weight of truth, which is in the witness
of God, and which the witnefs of God gives to them. that come thither.
- Thus the enemy ftirreth up reafonings, imaginations, and confultations about God, and his worship; wherein he raifeth up the vain fhallow mind, forging and bringing forth fomewhat pleafing and fuitable to the earthly understanding; taking up the mind therewith, and engaging the heart in fome fuch practices therefrom as may quiet and fatisfy that part in men. For the ways that men take up in their reafonings and understandings, fatisfy their reafonings and understandings; and fo they walk in the light of the fparks, and warm themselves by the fire of their own kindling; but all this answers not the witnefs of God in them, nor will be approved by his light in their own confciences, when it comes again to be revealed and. made manifeft in them.
This was the ground of the error both of the Jews and Gentiles.
The Gentiles were enlightened by God with his true light; what might be known of God (fuitable to their state and capacity) being manifefted in them; infomuch as it is witneffed concerning them in the fcriptures (which are a true record and teftimony) that they knew God. But when they knew him, they glorified him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations, and fo their foolish heart was darkened concerning him: and they worshipped him not as the witnefs taught them he was to be worshipped, not according to the manifeftation of his light in them; but according to their own foolish imaginations and reasonings, which taught them to make images of him, and fo to worship him in and through creatures, according to their own inventions; which is not the true worship, Rom. i. 21, 22, 23,
So likewife the Jews, not keeping to the manifeftation of his light within them (to the word or commandment nigh in the mouth and heart, to. which Mofes directed them), which would have taught and enabled them. to have kept to the Law of the letter without them; they alfo ran into the nature and spirit of the heathen, and fell into imaginings and reasonings, which led them to worship like them; infomuch that they also changed. their glory into the image of an ox, that eateth grafs, Pf. cvi. 20.
Now from this part in man arifeth all the uncertainty, and doubts, and diffatisfaction about religion. And hence arife the opinions, and judgments, and reasonings, in the minds of men: yea, indeed, the best of mens religion here is but an opinion or judgment, which the breath of God's Spirit will shake and diffolve every-where, fooner or later. All flesh is grafs; and all the beauty of mens knowledge, religion, and worship here, will wither like grafs. All the buildings and churches that are raised here (how beautiful foever) are but Babylon, built by man's understanding, by man's knowledge, by man's comprehenfion, by man's wisdom, by man's skill, and indeed in man's will and time, and their ftanding, beauty, ftrength, and glory, is but from man, and in man's day, and will fade away like a flower.
But the true certainty is in the day of God, from the light of his Spirit fhining into man's fpirit, from God's inward reaching to his heart by his power, and testifying his truth there. And this all the powers of darknefs cannot prevail against in itself; no, nor against that man that is kept to it. For it is the rock (the only rock) upon which the whole church is built, and which cannot fail to preserve every member of the church which is built upon it.
Ye then which would come to certainty in religion, obferve the way which is made manifeft from God in this our day, bleffed be his name, which is this mind the witnefs of God in thy heart, and come to, and build upon, the light thereof. the light thereof Dwell not in reafonings; take not up thy religion in reafonings of the mind; but pafs through them, pafs beyond them, into a light of an higher nature. Wait to know the birth which is from God, and the light which he gives to that birth. What is the birth? Is not the birth of and from the second Adam? And what is the heavenly birth's light? Is it not the light of the fecond Adam? Is it not in nature and kind above the light of the firft Adam? Where is the feat of reasonings? Is it not the earthly mind, the fallen mind? Here lies man's ftrength; here is man's wisdom; here is man's life. It is fo indeed; but the wisdom of Chrift, the light of Chrift, the life of Chrift, the power of Chrift, is a crofs to this; finds it in the enmity against God, crucifies it, flays it, brings it to nothing; and he that will become wife as to God, muft become a fool unto all this, a child, a babe, entering the kingdom without this, and muft there remain naked as to this, and never put it on more.
Now obferve (ve that have understanding and true fenfe) the difference between the religion which God hath taught us, and led us into, and the religions of all men upon the earth befides.
Our religion ftands wholly out of that, which all their religion ftands in. Their religion ftands in the comprehenfion, in a belief of a literal relation or description. Our religion ftands in a principle which changeth the mind, wherein the Spirit of life appeareth to, and witneffeth in the confcience to and concerning the things of the kingdom; where we hear the voice, and fee the exprefs image of the Invifible One, and know things, not from an outward relation, but from their inward nature, virtue, and power. Yea, here (we muft profefs) we fo know things, that we are fully fatisfied about them, and could not doubt concerning them, though there never had been word or letter written of them; though indeed it is also a great comfort, and fweet refreshment to us, to read that teftified of outwardly, which (through the tender mercy of our God) we feel and enjoy inwardly. And in this our whole religion confifts; to wit, in the filence and death of the flesh, and in the quickening and flowing life of the Spirit. For he who is of the new-birth, of the new-creation, of the fecond Adam (the Lord from heaven), is as really alive to God, and as really lives to him in his Spirit, as ever he was really dead in trespasses and fins in the time of his alienation and eftrangement from God.
Of Tenderness of Spirit, and Perfecution.
E which is born of God, he who is of the love, and in the love, cannot but be tender. He who is born of the earthly wifdom, who taketh up and holdeth forth a religion there, cannot but perfecute. Why fo? Because he cannot but judge that any man may take up religion as he hath done, and fo, by reafonings, may come to acknowledge and take up what he hath taken up, and holdeth forth, or else he is wilful and ftuborn, as he judgeth. But now he that is born of God, and hath received his light, knowledge, religion, and way of worship from him, he knoweth that no man can rightly receive them but the fame way; to wit, from God, by the light which he caufeth to fhine into the heart at his pleasure, and in the faith which he gives. So that God's free and powerful Spirit is to be waited upon, for the working of all in his people, and not any forced to act beyond, or contrary to, the principle of his life and light in them.
A QUERY concerning SEPARATION.
HETHER, after the apoftafy from the Spirit, life, and power of the apoftles, and the getting up of the antichriftian ftate, church, and worship, there must not of neceffity be a feparation from all these, before there can be a recovery of the life and power again, and of the true church-ftate, which was brought forth in the days of the apostles? Muft there not be a perfect coming out of the corrupt ftate (in the whole nature, feveral parts and degrees of it) before there can be a restoration to, and witneffing of, the true and pure ftate? Muft not the Chriftians now come out of all the antichriftian inventions and churches, as well as the Chriftians of old came out of all the heathenish worship, yea, out of the Jewish worship and church (which once was of God) before they can become an holy building, an habitation to God in the Spirit? Yea, doth not the fame Spirit which cried to the people of God then, Come out from among them, and be ye feparate, &c. call and cry now, Come out of her, my people, out of Babylon, out of the falfe church, out of all the antichriftian buildings, which are reared up after the feveral forms and ways of mens inventing, being out of the Spirit, life, and power which alone is able to build up in and unto the Lord? And what is that which cries out againft feparation, in the day of the Lord's dividing and feparating, but that spirit
which would hold back the foul from being gathered to the Lord, in the chains of darkness, and in the land of death and confufion?
Oh! that men knew that which divides and feparates, and which is appointed by God to divide and separate both inwardly and outwardly, and might feel the full work and effect of it, even perfect feparation from all that is not of God, that fo they might be joined to him, and built up in him, who is the life, reft, peace, joy, and pure breath of the foul for ever! The word of God is quick and powerful, fharper than any two-edged fword; and what doth it do? Why it feparates between nation and nation, between church and church, between people and people, between cattle and cattle, between foul and foul, yea, between the thoughts and intents of the same heart; owning and cherishing all that is of the pure, and condemning and destroying all that is of the impure. And happy, oh! for ever happy is he, who can witness the work of this word perfected in his foul, even the axe of the Lord powerfully laid to, and having cut down all that is corrupt in him, that the pure plant of God may flourish, and bring forth fruit in him in peace, without annoyance or interruption of the impure. Then the river of life, as the ftreams of everlasting righteousness, fhall flow into the veffel, and Jerufalem become in and to him a quiet habitation, and nothing be able to hurt or destroy any thing of life in him, who dwells in, and abides on, the mountain of God's holiness. Oh! bleffed is the race of travellers, which in the pure light of the everlasting day are travelling thitherwards, even with their hearts and faces faithfully bent towards Sion, which is the holy, fpiritual, heavenly hill of God! And bleffed, oh! bleffed for ever is the Lord God of life and power, who is the faithful guider, leader, and conducter of all that follow the footsteps of the flock, in the way which is pure, true, living, and everlasting,
Concerning the washing away of Sin from the Confcience, and the Garment of Salvation, and what it is that is covered therewith.
HERE is fomewhat appointed by God to wash away fin, which is the water of regeneration, the water of life, the Spirit's water, and the blood of the Lamb, which are known, received, and felt by faith in the light of the Spirit, wherein alone his work is wrought.
Thus now, upon believing, the foul is washed; the faith brings in, or lets in, the water and blood, which cleanse and purge the confcience from the fin, which before ftained and defiled it: and according to the faith, fo is the water and blood let in, and accordingly is the washing. And he that