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Concerning the True Church and MINISTRY.
THERE is a great noise in the world about church and ministry.
Many are affirming which is it, and many are doubtful and enquiring about it; and many are truly and groundedly satisfied, having received the knowledge of the thing from God, who is not deceived about it, nor deceiveth any, but giveth the true understanding of these and other things, to them that wait upon him aright; to wit, in his fear, and in the filence of the fleshly wise part before him. Now I have a testimony to give concerning these things, which that ear which is of God can hear, and to that I desire to speak.
That is the church which is the spiritual body of Christ. The church is Christ's spouse, he the husband. The head is living, and so are all the members of the body. The head is anointed, and the oil wherewith the head is anointed, runs down from the head upon all the body; and that upon which the oil runs not, is none of the body. Now no outward thing can make one a member of this body; much less can any outward thing, way, profession or practice, make a church. The church under the law was made fo by outward things, by an outward gathering, an outward circumcision, an outward law, an outward worship, &c. but the gospel is a state of substance, a state of the invisible things, of persons invisibly gathered by the Spirit into the life and power of God, inwardly circumcised, inwardly baptised with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, inwardly worshipping in Spirit and truth, bowing at every found and name of the Lord Jefus : and what is of an outward state here, is brought forth and preserved by the power of the inward appearing, and dwelling in it. So that this is the church now: a people gathered by the life and Spirit of the Lord; a people gathered by the power from on high, abiding in the power, acting in the power, worshipping in the power, keeping in the holy order and government of life. (both inwardly in their own hearts, and outwardly in their alsemblings and walkings) by the power. Christ was made a king, priest, and prophet, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life ; and in this power he gathers, governs, and preserves his church, and miniftereth from, and by, his Spirit and power in it. Now find this power of the endless life, find a people any-where gathered by this power, and in this power; there is the church, there is the living body, there is Christ the head, whose dominion and strength is over all, against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.
And so for the ministers of this church. The same thing that gives to know the church, gives to know the ministers thereof; for they also are
of God, called by him, receiving power from him, and abiding and ministering in that power. So that there are three things requisite to a true ministry, without which they cannot be right, or execute their office rightly.
1. They must be called by God. The ministry under the law,, this was their warrant; they were called and appointed of God thereunto. Christ himself took not the honour to himself, but he was called of God to this priesthood, as Aaron to his. So the apostles and ministers, in the first publication of the gospel, were called and appointed by Christ. And when the everlasting golpel is again to be preached, God sends his angel with it, as Rev. iv. 6.
2. They must receive ability and power from God. The elders that were to help Moses, were to receive of his spirit. Under the law, the priests were to be anointed with the outward literal oil, and the ministers of the gospel are to be anointed with the inward fpiritual oil. Their work is spiritual ; and how can they perform it, but by the anointing, by that presence, guidance, life, virtue, and power of the Spirit, putting itself forth in them? The apostles themselves, who had been taught by Christ, who knew his conversation and doctrine, who were eye-witnesses of what they were to publish, and had received an authority and commission from him, yet were not to go forth meerly upon this call and commission, but to wait for power from on high; and when they had received the Spirit and power, then they were made able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit and
power. 3. They must abide in the power, keep in the power, feel the motion, virtue, and asistance of the power, in all their work and service. They must neither pull down, nor build up, nor watch over, or oversee the flock in their own wisdom, in their own spirit, in their own wills; but in the anointing, in the light and guidance of the Lord. This gathering, this building, this work of the Lord begins out of flesh, out of man; and Aesh must be kept out of the whole carrying on of it.
And indeed unless the ministers of the gospel be in the Spirit, in the life, in the power, how can they minister to the nature, to the spirit, to the life in the body? yea, so much as to the least member in the body? They may minister outward knowledge to the man's wisdom, to the man's understanding; but that is not the food that is to be ministered to the church, nor is that
part in man to be fed by the true minister. But they are to minister life (living food) from the living fountain, from the head, from the Spirit of Christ in them, to the particular members under their charge ; and so are to be good stewards and shepherds to the flock, giving every one their proper portion in due season.
It was no small matter to be a minister under the law. It was easy to err, and minister amiss then. It was easy erring from the letter, unless great care and circumspection was used to keep strictly to it. Vol. II.
But it is a much more weighty thing to minister under the gospel, to receive the power, to minister in the power, to that which is begotten and born of the power. And this is precious, and (without controversy) of God, wherever it is found. But they only that are of God, can hear and receive this ministry, (as 1 John iv. 6.) The uncircumcised ear cannot hear here, nor the wife and knowing according to the flesh. The wisdom of God is foolishness to him, and the mysteries of his kingdom (the mystery of his life, and the true godliness) are riddles, and direct madness to the eye
of his wisdom : so far is man degenerated from God, and bound down with chains of darkness and corruption. And le that would know the true church, or be of it, and hear the voice of God in his true ministry, muft first take up the crofs to that part in him which is not of God, and receive from God the eye which fees, and the ear which hears.
An OBJECTION concerning the Newness of the
Way of Truth, answered: With a tender expoftu
lating ExHORTATION. Object. I
T is obječted against us, that this which we testify to, bold forth, of in the world till some few years ago.
Answ. The light eternal, when it shineth out of the darkness, after the great apoftasy from the Spirit and life of the apostles, is new indeed to those that were overwhelmed and buried in the darkness of the night, and so never saw or heard of it before ; but it is not new in itself, but the same that it was from the beginning. This seed of life, this seed of blessing, is the same that was promised at firsê to bruise the serpent's head. The same which was promised to Abraham, when the gospel was preached to him. The same that saved all (that believed in it) under the law; for it was not the types and shadows, and outward ordinances, which saved the soul then, but the feed, who was the Saviour from the beginning, and is the Saviour all along, even to the end : and it was the same which was the gospel in the days of the apostles. They preached the seed also, the word of faith; Christ the way, Christ the power. Yea, all along the times of the apoftafy, this was the thing that preserved the witnesses, laving them from being swallowed up in the darkness, and keeping them alive in their testimony. And there is no other thing held forth now by those who are in the truth, and raised up by the power of God in it to give testimony to it. This is it from whence life hath sprung in any that have felt life, in all ages and generations. This is the root and offspring of David, the bright and the morning-star. This is the desire of all nations (Oh! that they knew their defire) and their saving bealth too, without which they can never be healed! And ye! who ever felt any thing of God at any time, which was true, either in reading the scriptures, or hearing a ministry, or in private breathings, &c. this was it which gave you to feel in that ftate, to desire after the Lord, to turn from vanity, to long for communion with him, &c. Oh! that ye were so far in it now as ye have been in times past! For there is no other thing we testify to you of (or desire to draw you to) than that which was the root and strength of your life in those days. I remember that time very well, and what I was and felt among you, nor can I deny it at this day, but know that it was of the Lord; yea, my soul blesseth his name in the remembrance of it: but he that sticks in the letter of that (having lost the life thereof) is in a dead state before the Lord; and in that dead ftate hath not the true sense and feeling, and then must needs err and mistake concerning the truth, and (in that error) make use of his wisdom and knowledge to resist and oppose it. And this brings more death and darkness upon the soul, insomuch as the very light there becomes darkness, and the very life dead, and if they could truly look inwards, they would see that they are not now there, what once they were, nor their duties or ordinances (as they account them) such; but a blasting and withering is come upon them, from the Spirit and power of the Lord, and they have lost their beauty and freshness, to all that with a true eye behold them. Therefore come back to the life ; know that which formerly gave you life. Is it removed? stick not behind, but follow on. Oh! know the Lamb, who is the leader! And this is the great duty of duties to follow him whithersoever he goes. He may in his tender mercy visit in Egypt, in Sodom, in Babylon : but these are not the places of his rest, nor so to be esteemed, because he once appeared, visited, touched, refreshed the soul there. But his dwelling-place is Sion, his holy city is Jerusalem, where the Christians dwelt with him before the apostaly, and where those that are redeemed out of the apostasy, are again to dwell. For the darkness of the night is not to diminith or take away any of the beauty or brightness of the day for ever; but the brightness and beauty of the day, in its rising and glorious growth, is to overcome and swallow it up. Therefore lose no more time in difputings, in thoughts, in reasonings, in consultings, with that which will never advise the foul for its good, but wait on the Lord, that ye may come (through his leadings) to the true sense of his seed, to the feeling of the nature of his eternal light and life in the heart, and that will put an end to disputes; yea, scatter the disputing mind, and powerfully determine the controversy in the pure sense and demonftration of the Spirit. And he that knoweth any thing of this, let him abide here, wait here, live here, dwell here, and breathe to the Father here, watching narrowly over that which would lead from hence, and draw the mind into another way, wisdom, and spirit. And thus, O pour soul! if the Lord touch thine heart, and
open thine eye, thou wilt see thy beloved, even the choicest among ten thousand; whom none can parallel, whom nothing is like to for excellency of nature, nor is there any can do for the soul as he ! It is felt, it is experienced, it is teftified unto you in the love, and in the truth : oh! that ye could hear ! They are not the words of the letter, nor the observation of all that is in the letter, that can give life ; but his voice gives life. The words that he speaks (at any time) are Spirit and life ; and if he speak them not, but letter. So this is it we live upon; not the bread which we can make; not the things we can gather or comprehend from the letter ; but the words which proceed from the mouth of God. Now this seed is his mouth, in and through which he speaks to our souls, who fear before him, and wait upon him, in his own eternal and everlasting ordinance, at the door and posts of the everlasting wisdom. And here we meet with all in substance, in life, in freshness, in purity, in power, that ever we met with of God; and we meet with somewhat more also than we formerly met with. And this teftimony is given forth to you in the love of God, from his tender bowels, which know your present state, your wants, your wanderings, your deep prejudices and settled hardness against his truth; yet he remembers the days of your youth, and cannot give over seeking after you, and crying unto you, Ob! when will ye turn, when will ye bear, when will ye wait to feel life in the Spirit, and not increase death in you from the letter !
Τ Ι Ο Ν
Who are at any Time touched with the Power of Truth;
how they afterwards hearken to and let in the Enemy, and so thereby have the good Seed stolen away,
the true Şenfe loft, and the Mind filled with Prejudices and Stumbling-blocks instead thereof. T
HE Truth of God being received into the inward parts, is found
to be of a living powerful nature, working mightily there for the cleansing and redeeming of the hearts. Yea, this is certainly witnessed, that