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Concerning the True CHURCH and MINISTRY.
HERE is a great noife in the world about church and miniftry. Many are affirming which is it, and many are doubtful and enquiring about it; and many are truly and groundedly fatisfied, 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 wife part before him. Now I have a teftimony to give concerning thefe things, which that ear which is of God can hear, and to that I defire to speak.
That is the church which is the fpiritual body of Christ. The church is Chrift'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 lefs can any outward thing, way, profeffion or practice, make a church. The church under the law was made fo by outward things, by an outward gathering, an outward circumcifion, an outward law, an outward worship, &c. but the gofpel is a state of substance, a state of the invifible things, of perfons invifibly gathered by the Spirit into the life and power of God, inwardly circumcifed, inwardly baptifed 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 ftate 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 af femblings and walkings) by the power. 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 in this power he gathers, governs, and preferves 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 Chrift the head, whofe dominion and ftrength is over all, against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.
And fo for the minifters of this church. The fame thing that gives to know the church, gives to know the minifters thereof; for they alfo are
of God, called by him, receiving power from him, and abiding and miniftering in that power. So that there are three things requifite to a true miniftry, without which they cannot be right, or execute their office rightly.
1. They must be called by God. The miniftry under the law, this was their warrant; they were called and appointed of God thereunto. Chrift himfelf took not the honour to himself, but he was called of God to this priesthood, as Aaron to his. So the apoftles and minifters, in the first publication of the gofpel, were called and appointed by Chrift. And when the everlasting gospel is again to be preached, God fends his angel with it, as Rev. iv. 6.
2. They must receive ability and power from God. The elders that were to help Mofes, were to receive of his fpirit. Under the law, the priests were to be anointed with the outward literal oil, and the minifters of the gospel are to be anointed with the inward fpiritual oil. Their work is fpiritual; and how can they perform it, but by the anointing, by that prefence, guidance, life, virtue, and power of the Spirit, putting itself forth in them? The apoftles themselves, who had been taught by Chrift, who knew his converfation and doctrine, who were eye-witneffes of what they were to publish, and had received an authority and commiffion from him, yet were not to go forth meerly upon this call and commiffion, but to wait for power from on high; and when they had received the Spirit and power, then they were made able minifters of the New Teftament, 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 affiftance of the power, in all their work and fervice. They muft neither pull down, nor build up, nor watch over, or overfee the flock in their own wisdom, in their own fpirit, 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 flesh must be kept out of the whole carrying on of it.
And indeed unless the minifters of the gospel be in the Spirit, in the life, in the power, how can they minifter to the nature, to the fpirit, to the life in the body? yea, fo much as to the least member in the body? They may minifter outward knowledge to the man's wisdom, to the man's understanding; but that is not the food that is to be miniftered to the church, nor is that part in man to be fed by the true minifter. But they are to minifter life (living food) from the living fountain, from the head, from the Spirit of Chrift in them, to the particular members under their charge; and fo are to be good stewards and fhepherds to the flock, giving every one their proper portion in due season.
It was no fmall matter to be a minifter under the law. It was easy to err, and minifter amifs then. It was eafy erring from the letter, unless great care and circumfpection was used to keep strictly to it.
But it is a much more weighty thing to minifter 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 controverfy) of God, wherever it is found. But they only that are of God, can hear and receive this miniftry, (as 1 John iv. 6.) The uncircumcifed ear cannot hear here, nor the wife and knowing according to the flesh. The wifdom of God is foolishness to him, and the myfteries of his kingdom (the mystery of his life, and the true godlinefs) are riddles, and direct madness to the eye of his wifdom: fo far is man degenerated from God, and bound down with chains of darknefs and corruption. And he that would know the true church, or be of it, and hear the voice of God in his true miniftry, must first take up the cross 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 expostulating EXHORTATION.
Tis objected against us, that this which we testify to, bold forth, and practife, is a new way, sprung up of late, never known nor heard of in the world till fome few years ago.
Anfw. The light eternal, when it fhineth out of the darkness, after the great apoftafy from the Spirit and life of the apoftles, is new indeed to thofe 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 fame that it was from the beginning. This feed of life, this feed of bleffing, is the fame that was promised at firft to bruise the ferpent's head. The fame which was promifed to Abraham, when the gofpel was preached to him. The fame that faved all (that believed in it) under the law; for it was not the types and fhadows, and outward ordinances, which faved the foul 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 fame which was the gofpel in the days of the apoftles. They preached the feed alfo, the word of faith; Chrift the way, Chrift the power. Yea, all along the times of the apoftafy, this was the thing that preferved the witneffes, faving them from being fwallowed up in the darkness, and keeping them alive in their teftimony. 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 teftimony to it. This is it from whence life hath fprung in any that have felt life, in all ages and generations. This is the root and offspring of David, the bright and
the morning-ftar. This is the defire of all nations (Oh! that they knew their defire) and their faving health too, without which they can never be healed! And O ye! who ever felt any thing of God at any time, which was true, either in reading the fcriptures, or hearing a ministry, or in private breathings, &c. this was it which gave you to feel in that ftate, to defire after the Lord, to turn from vanity, to long for communion with him, &c. Oh! that ye were fo far in it now as ye have been in times paft! For there is no other thing we teftify to you of (or defire to draw you to) than that which was the root and ftrength of your life in thofe 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 foul bleffeth his name in the remembrance of it: but he that sticks in the letter of that (having loft the life thereof) is in a dead state before the Lord; and in that dead state hath not the true fenfe and feeling, and then must needs err and mistake concerning the truth, and (in that error) make use of his wisdom and knowledge to refift and oppose it. And this brings more death and darkness upon the foul, infomuch as the very light there becomes darkness, and the very life dead; and if they could truly look inwards, they would fee that they are not now there, what once they were, nor their duties or ordinances (as they account them) fuch; but a blafting and withering is come upon them, from the Spirit and power of the Lord, and they have loft 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 whitherfoever he goes. He may in his tender mercy vifit in Egypt, in Sodom, in Babylon: but these are not the places of his reft, nor fo to be efteemed, because he once appeared, vifited, touched, refreshed the foul there. But his dwelling-place is Sion, his holy city is Jerufalem, where the Chriftians dwelt with him before the apoftafy, and where thofe that are redeemed out of the apoftafy, are again to dwell. For the darkness of the night is not to diminifh or take away any of the beauty or brightness of the day for ever; but the brightness and beauty of the day, in its rifing and glorious growth, is to overcome and fwallow it up. Therefore lofe no more time in difputings, in thoughts, in reafonings, in confultings, 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 fenfe of his feed, to the feeling of the nature of his eternal light and life in the heart; and that will put an end to disputes; yea, fcatter the difputing mind, and powerfully determine the controverfy in the pure fenfe 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 fpirit. And thus, O poor foul! if the Lord touch thine heart, and
open thine eye, thou wilt fee thy beloved, even the choiceft among ten thoufand; whom none can parallel, whom nothing is like to for excellency of nature, nor is there any can do for the foul 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 fpeak 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 feed is his mouth, in and through which he speaks to our fouls, who fear before him, and wait upon him, in his own eternal and everlasting ordinance, at the door and posts of the everlasting wifdom. And here we meet with all in fubftance, in life, in freshness, in purity, in power, that ever we met with of God; and we meet with fomewhat 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 prefent ftate, your wants, your wanderings, your deep prejudices and fettled hardness against his truth; yet he remembers the days of your youth, and cannot give over feeking 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!
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 Senfe loft, and the Mind filled with Prejudices and Stumbling-blocks instead thereof.
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