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The Spirit, the truth, the life, the fubftance, is God's for ever; the unclean spirit cannot enter into it, the unclean womb cannot conceive of it, nor bring it forth; but the letter, the fhell, the outward figure, the outward relations and defcriptions of things; the other fpirit, wifdom, and nature in man may read, guefs at, transform, receive, believe, and build up with according to the flesh. And here is the foundation and rife of antichrift and Babylon, among them who raise up a building, a knowledge, a faith, an hope, a church, a worship, duties, ordinances, juftification, fanctification, &c. in imitation of Sion. But they are not the thing itself, but falfe reprefentations of the thing; either fuch as were invented by man, or fuch as were once appointed, and made use of by the Spirit of the Lord. For there is little difference between inventing a new thing, and making ufe of an old thing, which once was of God, but is now understood, obferved, and practifed out of the fenfe, light, and guidance of his Spirit, in another spirit, and according to another wisdom. Now this is not the right way of reformation; to wit, to return to outward (literal) things, which were practifed by the Jews in their day, or by the former Christians in their day, but to return to the Spirit that they were in, and to feel (in the true life and leadings thereof) what it teacheth and requireth to be obferved and practifed now. For there are things, whofe value is not in them-felves, but in God's requiring of them; which the wrong spirit may get into, and the Lord may draw his people out of them (as he did out of the outward court, into the inward building or temple, by his light and Spirit within, when he gave the outward court to the Gentiles, Rev. xi. 1.8.) And he that is found in thofe things, after God. hath given them to the Gentiles, and drawn his people out of them; is not therein owned or accepted of God, though God may bear with him in the time of his ignorance; yet if he abide in them, after the rifing of light, and its teftimony, the Lord will not fo bear with him; but will condemn him, and deal with him as a tranfgreffor of that covenant, wherein life and peace with him is witneffed.
Therefore, in all things that concern God, whether in reading the fcriptures, praying, or obferving any thing ye call duties and ordinances; Oh! that ye would approve yourselves Chriftians indeed, waiting to know your guide and leader, and the true limits which are fet by God; that ye may ferve him in the true faith, Spirit, and understanding, even in that which God knoweth to be so, and not in that which ye may falfly account fo! For mark; if ye be Chriftians, are ye not in Chrift, and is not Chrift in you? And are ye not to feel his life, and the guidance of his Spirit, fo as ye may live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, read in the Spirit, pray always in the Spirit, believe in the Spirit, worship in the Spirit, and in the holy understanding of his truth, which is of him?
He that would be right in religion, must have a right beginning. How is that? He must begin in the Spirit: his knowledge, his faith, his hope,
his peace, his joy, his righteoufnefs, his holiness, his worship, &c. muft begin there. He must come out of his own fpirit, his own wildom, the counfels and thoughts of his own heart; and wait on him, who beginneth the work of regeneration and life in the heart.
And he muft afterwards diligently watch against that spirit and wisdom, from which the Lord hath led him, that it at no time again enter him; for it will be striving to lead him out of the way, with likeneffes, and falle images of things, with knowledge falfly fo called, with a faith which is not truly of God, nor of the fame nature with that which he first felt; with falfe hopes, falfe fears, falfe joys, a falfe righteousness and holiness, which are not Chrift's, nor according to the fcriptures; but only fuch as he apprehends to be fo. For a man, who once tafted the truth, and in fome meafure judged aright, may afterwards err in his palate and judgment; and then take the wrong for the true, not keeping to that, nor being now in that, which formerly gave him the true relish.
Now, he that would meet with the true religion, the religion of the gofpel, must meet with the power, receive the power, believe, dwell, and act in the power. For Chrift was made a king, priest, and prophet, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life: and his covenant is not like the old, in word or letter; but in the fame power and life wherein the priests were made minifters.
So the knowledge here, the faith here, the hope here, &c. are not literal, but living. He that receiveth this knowledge, receiveth living knowledge. This faith gives victory over unbelief, and over that fpirit whose ftrength lies in unbelief. This hope purifies the heart even as he is pure. And he that receiveth the righteoufnefs of this covenant, receiveth a living garment, which hath power in it over death and unrighteoufnefs. The beginning of this religion, of this power and holy inward covenant, is fweet; but the pure progrefs and going on of it much more pleasant, as the Lord gives to feel the growth and fweet living freshness of it; notwithstanding the temptations, fears, troubles, trials, oppofitions, and great dangers, both within and without, which the life (which was at first turned to) being ftill kept to, by the power which is from it, and through the faith which is in it, in its own feafons and way of its own wifdom overcomes, giving the foul that is diligent and faithful to witnefs, that all its ways are pleafantnefs, and its paths peace; yea, the very yoke is eafy and the burden light, when the mind and will is changed by the power, and helped and affifted by the Lord in its fubjection to the power.
So the Lord God of tender mercies (who pitieth the miferable and erring out of the way, especially thofe in whom he hath begot defires after himself) remove the ftumbling-blocks, and lead the wandering Jews (who are entangled in their own thoughts and reasonings about the letter) into that which is of himself in them, which is Spirit and life, and was before the letter, and excells the letter (with its difpenfation) in glory; and is to
remain (after the letter) the reft, joy, life, peace, and portion of the foul for ever and ever. So honour the letter, in believing its teftimony concerning Chrift, who is the Shepherd (to whom the sheep are to be gathered) the way, the truth, the life itself, to whom the foul is to come, and on whom the foul is to wait for life; and having received life from him, to dwell, abide, and grow up into him, who is the life; and not go backward into any thing that is literal, or without life, nor to glory in the knowledge, or literal descriptions of things; but forward, into the spiritual, heavenly difpenfation of life and power. The law was letter, the gospel is life and power the law was a fhadow of good things to come; but the gofpel is the fubftance, the life, the virtue, the Spirit of what the law fhadowed From hence the Chriftian is to fpring; the Jerufalem from above is to be its mother, the Holy Spirit its begetter. And because here the ftate of true fonfhip is witneffed, therefore God pours out the Spirit of his Son upon thefe; and then the Spirit being received, which is above the letter, a life is to be felt and lived in beyond words; even that which the good words lead to, and end in.
And here the truth, sweetness, and fulness of words is known, felt, and wineffed, even in that which comprehends them, and gives them their due weight and measure. Nor can any poffibly understand the words of the Spirit, but he that is in the Spirit; and then he knows the place of the words, which came from the Spirit, and of the Spirit from whom the words came. And this is precious; but not to be witneffed by the wife difputer, but by the serious traveller, who first is broken and dashed to pieces in his own wisdom, and then afterwards healed, led, and guided by the eternal Spirit of wifdom, which is the fure and unerring guide.
The Spirit of God knoweth the things of God, and the ftates of perfons, and what is proper or improper for them: he knew what was proper for the Jews under the law and prophets, what was proper for them in Egypt, what in the Wilderness, what in Canaan, and what in their feveral difperfions and captivities; for the difciples, in the days of Chrift's appearance in flesh, for the churches in the days of the apoftles, for the witneffes and mourners in the times of the apoftafy, and for those who by his power are raised up, and delivered out of the apoftafy.
And the Spirit of the Lord doth not only know the ftate thus in general, but likewise every foul's particular state, and how to apply things to its ftate. There are fome newly quickened, newly come out of the darkness. There are several states and degrees of growth; there is a tempted ftate, a wandering ftate, a back-fliding ftate, a fhaken ftate, an established state, &c. Now there is fomewhat proper to every one according to his ftate, which the Spirit of the Lord knows; and thofe who are called out by him, to minister in his name and power, know alfo, as his Spirit pleaseth to teach them, and make manifeft to them. All truths are not proper to every state, nor all remedies to every disease. Chrift had many things to teach
and fay to his difciples, which they were not able to bear; and a man in reading the fcriptures, though he fhould understand the truth of what he reads, yet he is apt to mifapply things, as to himfelf or others, unless the Lord guide and help him. He is apt to apply that to him, which belongs not to him; and thrust that from him, which belongs to him.
Thus may a man eafily err and wander, from error to error, and toil and wear out himself in his feveral apprehenfions, ways, and practices (thinking he doth as he ought, and as God requires of him, according to the fcriptures) and yet his mind be from that, and his understanding out of that, which opens the fcriptures aright, and gives the right ufe of them.
Therefore wait on the Lord to feel quickenings from him, through a measure of his life revealed, and the mind gathered into, and purged thereby; and then wait for the Spirit's appearing to thee in this meafure; further quickening, purifying, guiding thee, and manifefting his truth therein to thee, according as he fees thy need, cftate, and condition to require.
And thus thou wilt be like a child, living not upon a wifdom of thy own, but upon thy Father's wisdom, and not gathering a knowledge according to thy own will, and into thy own comprehenfion; but receiving it as a gift daily from the hands of the Father, and fo thou fhalt always have it fresh and living, and fafe for thy ufe; whereas that, whilst thou keepest in thy comprehenfion, and can't run to when thou lifteft, and make ufe of when thou lifteft, putrifies, and yields but corrupt nourishment; feeding not the living, but the dead in thee; and fo thy very knowledge corrupts thy mind, and brings it into death; and thou haft only fuch a knowledge as may be held in the dead part, and fo liveft and walkeft as man may live and walk, without the pure life and presence of God.
So this is the antwer which was in my heart (and indeed sprang up in me, as the queftion was laid before me in fpirit). In the true meature of life, which is from God, and one with him, the fcriptures are rightly read and understood, in the will of God, by him that doth it in the holy underftanding which comes from him: not in a man's own will or understanding; for he cannot understand what fcriptures he will, or when he will, or as he will; but he must wait on him who hath the key, who understandeth what is fit and proper for him, to know, or not to know; and fo openeth or fhutteth in his eternal pleasure, and according to his eternal wildom; and what he openeth to thee, that is proper for thee to know; and what he fhutteth from thee, that is proper for thee (as yet) not to know; but to wait the times and feafons of things, which are in the Father's hand. And fo, what the Lord reveals not to thee, that is yet a fecret with him, as to thee; but what he reveals to thee, that is thine in his fear and counfel to feed on, and make use of.
So here, in the gathering of life, in the holy building, there is a holy order and wisdom from the Moft High, wherein every one waits on the
Mafter, on the Lord, on the Shepherd, on the Father of spirits, and receives from his hand, what is proper to his ftate. And fo all hold the head, and live by the life, virtue, and teaching that comes from the head. And there is one God who is over all, and one Chrift in whom all are, and one Spirit of life in which all are baptized and joined together. And every one as he, fprings from this life, and feels the union, virtue, and fellowship thereof, fo abiding here, he is in his place and fervice, beloved of the Lord and Father of all, and felt by the life in all, in the unity of the body; and fo cherished and helped forward in the love and Spirit, wherein the body is knit to the head; yea, whatever his ftate be (whether a ftate of mourning, 'or temptation, or deep diftrefs; or a ftate of joy, rejoicing, and peace) yet abiding and waiting on the Lord, he is felt, received, owned, and dearly beloved in the Lord.