« PreviousContinue »
WAY of SALVATION in the Covenant of LIFE
And fome Stumbling-blocks removed out of the Way of the Simple-hearted.
HERE are many whom the Lord hath raised up, in this day of the manifestation of his power, and of his everlasting love, to bear witness to his truth; among whom I alfo (who was an outcaft, and miferable beyond expreffion) have obtained mercy to partake of the virtue, life, and power of his precious truth (which redeems from the bondage of fin and iniquity); and am also many times moved by the Lord to testify of that which he hath made known unto me, and given me to experience.
This brief touch sprang in me by way of preface. Now to the thing itself. The Father, in whom is the whole virtue and power of redemption, fent his Son to gather the fcattered and loft sheep of the house of Ifrael; and not only fo, but he gave him alfo for a light to the Gentiles, that he might be his falvation to the ends of the earth; and sending him, he sent his Spirit and power with him: for that which is begotten by the Father is not able to do the work, unless anointed and affifted by the Father: therefore the Father, who fent him to preach the gospel, anointed him, and filled him with his Spirit, that he might preach the gofpel according to that scripture, Ifai lxi. 1, 2, 3. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening the prifon ta them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of our Lord, and to comfort all that mourn, &c,
Quest, But how came thefe meek, thefe broken-hearted, thefe captives, thefe bound in prifon, these mourners, to meet with the redemption and bleffings which be is anointed to preach to them? Or which way do they come to receive and partake of them from him?
Anfw. In faith. This all his outward healings did fignify, being thus difpenfed. (If thou wilt believe, thou shalt fee the glory of God. Thy faith bath made thee whole. O woman! great is thy faith! be it unto thee according to thy faith). And thus all his inward healings are bestowed upon, and received by, the foul; to wit, in the faith.
Queft. But how came they to have faith? Or how cometh any man to have faith in the redeeming power?
Anfw. It is bestowed upon them by God, in the fenfe which is from him. His Word goeth forth from his mouth; there is a witness of him in
the heart, towards which it reacheth. Now it reaching to the witnefs, immediately it brings into a sense, and in that fenfe begets faith; and being mixed with this faith (which is of its own begetting) in them that hear it, begins the work of life and redemption in that heart where it is not yet begun, or carries it on in that heart wherein it is already begun. Thus faith hath a work, a work from the beginning of the heart's turning to God even to the end; which he that abides in the faith till the end, finds accomplished.
Object. But this faith is bestowed on fome few whom God hath elected, not on all men.
Anfw. God hath fent his gofpel to be preached to every creature, and his Word is able to reach the witnefs, and work fenfe in every creature; and in whomfoever there is a fenfe wrought, they liftening to God in that fenfe, he works faith in them; and waiting on the Word, hearkening to the Word, and staying their minds there-through on the Lord, he will speak peace to them, and keep them in peace, daily removing them more and more out of the reach and power of that which troubleth them.
Quest. Doth the new covenant lay all upon God, and require nothing of the creature? Or is there fomething required by God of the creature, in and by virtue of the new covenant ?
Anfw. Confider well; Doth not God require of the creature in the new covenant what he gives in the new covenant? Doth he not require the faith, and the exercifing of that faith, which he himself works and gives in the fenfe, from the power and demonstration of his truth, to the foul? The new covenant requires more of the creature than ever the old did; but it requires them not of the creatures as weak in the fall, but as taught (strengthened and enabled) to walk with God in and by virtue of the covenant. Yea, all manner of holiness, and righteoufnefs of heart, life, and conversation is required in and by the new covenant: for as the Lord works out of all therein in the creature, fo the creature works out all thereby in the Lord, according to that known fcripture, work out your own falvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. And as the creature is able to do nothing that is good of itself, fo being grown up into the life and ability, which is of God, it is able to do all things through Chrift that strengtheneth it.
Queft. But why is it faid that Chrift was anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, the meek, the broken-hearted, the captives, the bound in prifon, the mourners (for want of righteousness, life, and peace)? Did not God give his Son in love to all? Was he not made a ransom and propitiation for all? Yea, was be not anointed to preach the gospel to all? How then comes it here to be thus limited and restrained to fome?
Anfw. It is true, God had a general refpect to mankind, in the gift and anointing of his Son: but yet there are fome in a better capacity to receive; already in the sense of the want of him, and panting and longing after him.
Yea there are fome, who are grievously fick in foul, and deeply wounded in fpirit; the fadness and mifery of whofe condition cries aloud for the help of the physician. Now the eye and heart of the Lord is more especially towards thefe; and fo he bids his prophets be inftructing and comforting these, concerning the falvation, the healing, the oil of gladness, the Meffiah to come; and when he comes, he fends him up and down to feek out these, to keep company with thefe, to help and relieve these; having given him the tongue of the learned, to fpeak a word in season to these weary diftreffed ones. Thefe are not like the common, rough, unhewn, knotty, rugged earth; but like earth prepared for the feed, and so easily and naturally receive it. The gospel is preached to others at a distance; which, it is true, they may have, if they will hearken to it, and wait for it, and part with what must first be parted with, but they have a great way to travel thither. But these are near the kingdom; these are near that which opens, and lets in life; these are quickly reached to, melted, and brought into the fenfe, in which with joy they receive the faith; and with the faith the power; which brings righteousness and falvation to their fouls. Tho' alfo the enemy is exceeding bufy, to darken, disturb, and bow down these; that he might ftill keep them in the doubts, in the fears, in the chains, in the fetters, in the prifon-house, from the liberty and healing which the word of the anointing brings.
Now mind. God is real towards all; he defires the life and falvation of all; not the deftruction of any one foul that ever he created (it is unnatural to him). And the way that he holds forth, he ftands ready to meet any man in. Whom is it that he doth draw? And who is it that may not come in the drawing? Is not his word an hammer? And whom can it not break? Is it not fire? And whose corruption can it not burn up? Is it not water,. wine, and blood? And whom cannot it wash and nourish? Therefore, let no man think to lay the blame upon God, because of his perifhing; for he will be deceived therein: and God will prove true, who faith, Man's deftruction is of himself; and every man a liar, who layeth any blame on him, for not giving him further affiftance with his power. Neither let him blame God for hardening him; for God hardeneth no man, but him who first refuseth and grieveth the power and love which would melt and foften him. It is true; we are the clay, and God the potter: and may not the potter make what veffels he will of his clay? This parable came from the Spirit of the Lord, to Ifrael of old: but what use did the Lord make of it? Did he say to them, Do what ye will; fome of you I will caft off, and others of you I will fhew mercy to; for I have determined fo? Nay, not fo: but I have this power over you; therefore do not provoke me. [Read Jer. xviii.] Was not God exceeding tender to that outward people, in that outward covenant? Did he ever give them up to pain and fufferings, without great provocations on their parts? He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Wherefore doth a living man complain; a man for the punishment of his
fins? Let us fearch and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. And the Spirit of the Lord never failed to do what was his part, towards the turning them from iniquity, towards the Lord, in that covenant.
And when they did believe, confent, and obey, and did eat the good of the land, was it not pleasant and delightful to him? And when they provoked him to jealousy, and drew down judgments upon their heads, was it not irksome and painful to him [Read Deut. v. 29. Ifa. v. Ezek. xx. Jer. xliv. 4. and chap. xxxi. 20. Ifa. lxiii. 7. to ver. 15.] And will God fail to do his part towards any man for the falvation of his foul, which is fo precious, of fo great concern, and the lofs whereof he knoweth to be fo invaluable? No, no; the Spirit of God fuffers, in every man upon the face of the earth, that fins against him; and is grieved and wounded by their unjust and unrighteous conversations, from day to day, against the teftimony of fomewhat of him in them, which is contrary thereto. Now this is of a precious nature; and being fo despised and rejected by men, can it be wondered that God doth not proceed to make it more manifeft, and to work more in men by it? Nay, may it not rather be wondered that God doth continue to manifeft it so much? What man could endure to behold a thing fo precious in his eyes (as this is in God's) fo continually abused by, and to fuffer fo much from, that which is fo far beneath it, as God daily doth? Therefore, if there come a day of reckoning for this, with all men upon the face of the earth (for who hath not had a talent from God; even of the pure eternal light in him, witneffing in his heart and confcience against the darkness ?) there will be no cause of wondering at it. And is not this Light and Spirit (which shines in all mens darkness in fome measure, ftirring and witneffing against it, and endeavouring to perfuade and draw the mind from it) the very fame, in nature and kind, with the Light and Spirit of the Father, which appeared in that person of Chrift? And, if hearkened unto and followed, would it not bring into union and fellowship with him, and into a partaking of the benefit of all he did in that body? Yea, would not the Spirit reveal whatever is necessary to be known, to that foul which receives and follows it? Oh! what hath God done (in his rich and tender mercy towards all) for mankind! And how clear will he be, when he opens and manifefts the righteousness of his judgment! He will not clear himself after this manner; that he hath difpofed of them to deftruction, according to the power and prerogative of his will; but that they have run headlong into deftruction, against the light and leadings of his will and power; to which it is natural to fave, but not to deftroy. That is the act which is proper to another nature and fpirit, but strange to his.
Object. But could not God fave any if he would? Who can refift bis will or his power? Who can stop or refift him in the work of redemption, or deftruction?
Anfw. God can fo put forth his will and power, as none can refift. Yea, the will and power of God (which offereth to fave, and standeth ready to fave) will bring destruction upon all that fo dally with it, as to neglect and let pass
the day of their vifitation: and thus none can refift his will, or his power. But in the way wherein he appeareth, and hath chofen to work out Life and Salvation, Satan, and man's corrupt heart and mind, may and do often refift the will and power of the Lord. Now that which refifteth, is not of God, but against him; yet it is the patience of the Lord, to fuffer it. I find drawings in my heart from God, or I durft not open these things. For I dare not hold out to men what the Lord hath given me to know and experience, but only what he giveth and chufeth for me to hold out: and that will be life to them that receive it. But if I fhould hold out any thing of myself, that would not reach to life, but only feed the wrong part in men; and fo help to build up that, which God will again throw down, before he faves that soul which is built up with the knowledge of things after this manner.
There is somewhat fprings up in my heart, which may perhaps open this thing further to the minds of fome.
Cain was the first wicked man that we read of; and how tender was God towards him! even him that facrificed not after the Spirit, but after the flesh, and flew his Brother Abel? Now can any man lay Cain's wickedness either upon the Will, or upon the Decree and Counsel of God? Might he not have done well? Might he not have facrificed to God in the Faith, as well as his brother Abel? And if he had done well, and offered in the faith, had he not found forgiveness and acceptance with the Lord? God accepteth no man's perfon; God rejecteth no man's perfon; but there is a feed he hath chofen, and to gather man into this feed, is his delight and work; as it is the delight nature, and work of another spirit to scatter from this feed.
Now in this feed he doth accept, and not out of it. Yea, in this feed shall all the families of the earth be bleffed, as they are gathered into, and abide in it. And this feed is a word nigh in the mouth and heart, both of Jew and Gentile; which, as it is hearkened to, writes the law of the Spirit of life in the heart, either of Jew or Gentile. And as they become fons, fo the Spirit of the Father is poured out upon them; even the Spirit of adoption, which crieth Abba, Father, either in Jew or Gentile. And this is the gospel of the kingdom, which is preached more fparingly, or abundantly, by the mouth of the feed, as the Lord pleaseth.
For God's power, wifdom, mercy, love, goodness, patience, long-fuffering, &c. is his own; and he may fow of it, or exercise it, more sparingly or abundantly, as he pleaseth. Yea, he doth exercise it more abundantly towards the veffels of mercy; fo that the cause of their falvation doth not fo much arife from their embracing of mercy, as from God's exercifing of it. He vifiteth nations as he pleaseth, and perfons in nations as he pleaseth; and who may say unto him, What doft thou? Why art thou fo good and kind bere? Or, Why art thou fo fharp and fevere there? But ftill in the way, way, and according to the path, of the covenant, doth the Lord walk, in and towards all: and his mercy endureth for ever towards the feed of the righteous, and his juftice and indignation for ever towards the feed of the evil-doer: and