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Τ Η Ε
P R E F A C E.
HE gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Oh! blessed is he,
who meets with that which powerfully saves ! Most mens religion is but a talk and profession of that which they have not; and what will such a kind of religion avail, when it comes to be tried by the piercing fire of the Spirit of burning, and pute (impartial) judgment. Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. Alas! how few know that! And yet if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things become new there. Who can bear the decifion of this trial? For many pretend to be in Christ, and yet they themselves are still in the old nature and spirit. Be not deceived, saith the apostle, God is not mocked. Alas! how many are deceived about their religion ! Indeed it is impossible for a man not to be deceived, who knoweth not the anointing, nor is taught his religion by the anointing. He is truth and no lye, and he teacheth truth and no lye; but mens apprehensions and conceivings, upon the holy fcriptures and mysteries of God's kingdom, are but like themselves, empty and vain. Oh! that men could see with the true eye, hear with the true car, understand with the true heart! Then might they know indeed, and come to witness the Ethiopian skin washed, and the leopard spots changed; but till then, they may change from one opinion to another; and from one profession and way of religion
to another, and yet in nature, fpirit, mind, and heart, yea, and in conversation also as to the subftance thereof), remain still one and the same. And what will become of men, whose hope is in their religion, in their knowledge of Christ, in their faith, in their worship, &c. if all these, when they come to be tried, Thall be found wanting of the true nature and virtue, and condemned by the Lord for dead and dry! Oh! that men knew what should be yoked down, what should be turned from and denied, how gloriously and takingly foever it appears! All Aleth is grass; all feshly knowledge and religion must pass away. That which the earthly man can comprehend in his understanding, is but the outward, the Aeshly part of religion ; the spiritual knowledge, the living knowledge, is reserved for, and given to, the spiritual capacity and understanding, which the children of the Most High received in the new birth, and holy begettings of life.
Here are some queries, held forth in love to thee, reader, to bring thee to a true sense in many weighty matters. They are not of a confounding (unless it be to that part which is not to know), but of an opening nature; they were sweet to my tafte, which (as in God's presence, and by the virtue of his life and Spirit Aowing in me) relished the things queried of. I desire they may be profitable to thee also, and that thou mayest witnefs the guidance of God's Spirit, leading thee into, and giving thee faithfully to walk in, the way that leads to eternal rest. For our days in this world are but for a moment, and then we must be judged, and disposed of by the Lord, for ever; each person according to the nature and spirit he is of, and according to the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or evil. The Lord give thee so to consider thy ways, that thou mayest apply thy heart to true wisdom ; which consists in fearing of God, and departing from evil; which the least child, that is taught of God, learns; and those that are grown up in holiness and righteousness, are skilful and perfect in ; so that they cannot do any thing against the truth, but in and for the truth.
There are also some questions answered; one about preaching the gospel after the apostasy, another about the reason of God's not teaching others what it pleaseth him to teach us; and the way of his teaching us. There is likewise" somewhat concerning the threefold appearance of Christ, and touching Mount Sinai, from whence the law of the letter was given; and Mount Sion, from whence the law of the Spirit goes forth; as likewise concerning the temple and sacrifices under the gospel, and of the way to know one's election, and to obtain full affurance thereof, &c. All these sprang from life in my heart, for thy fake who breathest after the Lord, and after his
pure way and holy path of life, and who readest in humility, fear, and uprightness; and my prayers to the God of my life go along with them, that thy heart may be opened by him, in the reading of them, and that thou mayest have the sense of them in the shinings of his light in thine own heart, whose work it is to cause it to shine out of the darkness; that his glorious gospel may not be hid from the sons of men; but, through the virtue, power, and operation of the Spirit of truth (which first convinceth of sin, and then leadeth out of it, into that which is pure and holy) they may come to be acquainted with the mystery of life, which hath been hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifest to God's children and fanctified ones; which being made manifest to them, is revealed and known to be Christ in them, the hope of glory; The Lord grant thou mayest know and experience him to be so to thee and in thee, Amen.
F E W W O RDS in GENERAL,
To those that Desire the
KNOWLEDGE of the True GOD.
The Inspiration of the Almighty giveth Understanding.
standing, that we may know him that is True.
T is a great matter to receive an understanding from the Lord; which until a man doth, his knowledge is neither true, living, nor saving.
Now, he that would receive an understanding from the Lord, must wait to know the beginnings of the new and holy understanding; and what that understanding and knowledge is, which stands in the way thereof, and how to part therewith: and then he must faithfully lose and part with it for the other ; which is pure, true, and heavenly.
And when a man hath received an understanding from the Lord, then he may weigh, consider, and come to know things aright: but till then, deceit will lodge in his heart, and have power over him; and his very wisdom and knowledge will pervert him, and turn him aside from the way of life and truth. The wise professing Jews were hindered from owning the Messiah, by the very knowledge which they had gathered and comprehended out of the letter of the scriptures.
But if a man hath received an understanding from the Lord in measure, yet it is an 'hard matter to keep to that understanding; and he must lie very low and humble, who fo doth. Oh! what a continual watch hath my soul had (and still hath) against that part wherein my religion formerly stood ! For though the Lord had reached to the pure seed of life in me, and had quickened my soul thereby; yet I knew not how to turn to the seed, and abide in the seed, and to hold my knowledge and life there ; but was still striving to live and know (and comprehend and practise) in a part above the seed; and the enemy was still too hard for me, and did often deprive me of the benefit or right use of what the Lord had wrought in me, and freely bestowed upon me.
Alas! who can understand this voice ! Surely it is very hard for any so to do, but such who have had some sensible and lively experience thereof in themselves, but for want of this knowledge, sense, and experience, many are deeply deceived concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and the state of their own fouls, concerning faith in him, love to him, pardon of sin and justification in and through him ; regeneration and fanctification by his Spirit; and concerning walking in the way of holiness, and obeying his commands; and so err in heart exceedingly (both in doctrine and practice) concerning the weighty things which appertain to salvation.
Now I having erred in time past in my former professions, and been deeply perplexed and distressed, through my erring from the holy feed, Spirit, and
power of life; bear with me! bear with me! yea I say again, bear with me, if I pity others, and sincerely desire that their eyes may be opened to see the pure, living, holy, undefiled way, in which no defiled spirit can walk; but a man must be truly made alive, and truly cleansed in mind and spirit, before he can walk in this
way. Now, if we experimentally, most tenderly, and in true love, witness, from the God of life and salvation, where the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the cleansing of his blood and Spirit is met with, and that according to the plain testimony of the scriptures, why are ye offended with us for our love, and for telling you the truth, as the Lord hath opened our eyes, and taught us to see and read it in the scriptures of truth, and as we have experimentally found it in Jesus?
Well ! the Lord knoweth how we are many times mourning and praying for you, while ye are reviling and backbiting us ; for we know the way and çourse of that spirit wherein ye oppose us. And, oh! that ye yourselves also did know what spirit it is, which thus acts you! For then, surely, ye would confess it to be the very same which opposed Christ in the days of his flesh, having only a different cover and way of appearance; that, crying him up as to come; this, as already come ; but both denying him who is the Meffiah. For in that ye deny' his Spirit, life, appearance and power in the least of his, ye deny him. Oh! that ye could feel the tender bowels, truth of heart, and true understanding from God's Holy Spirit, wherein this is written! Oh! that ye could rightly distinguish between the precious and the vile ;, and not call that vile, which in God's sight is precious ; nor that precious, which in God's sight is vile. Ye mult feel the holy seed, the living of God, judge in you; and ye judge only in that, or ye will err in judging according to the appearance, and not judge the righteous judgment.
Reading Goal, 26th of the
Third Month, 1671.