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thine own understanding, and a judgment according to the appearance of things to thee, instead of the true and righteous judgment; therein expofing thyfelf to the righteous judgment of the Lord, who judgeth in truth and righteoufnefs, and far otherwife in this matter than thou doft.
Chrift is the pearl of price, or treasure hid in a field. The field is the world. The word is in man's heart. And yet this mystery was hid from ages and generations; and the kingdom which the Pharifees fought, was within them; who were as far from any fense and understanding of it, as the Gentiles; and fo though it was within them, yet they were without it; they had no knowledge, no understanding, no fense of it, had reaped no benefit by it, but were enemies and alienated in their minds from it. Ah! what palate and understanding is that, to which this is unfpiritual and unfavoury? But how bold and prefumptuous, do mens apprehenfions (which they take up from the letter of the fcriptures, without the light and leading of God's Spirit) make them, even to fly in the face of that which is certainly known, witneffed, and experienced to be of God, as well as held forth in the fcriptures, as Col. i. 27, fee the Greek.
As to those harth expreffions, vilifying the truth of our God, and the converfion to him thereby; I fhall only fay this; well, friend, go on; reproach us and our teftimony, and the truth of our God, as being able to lead us no further than morality, &c. we affuredly know and experience, and faithfully teftify as in God's fight, that it hath led us further into the myftery and power of life, and into union and fellowship with the Father and the Son, than your doctrines ever have done or can do. For the apprehenfions of man upon fcriptures are paffing away, and the pure truth itfelf, which the fcriptures teftify of, is already revealed, and further to be revealed, and to have the glory.
Ye think we fet up a natural light, and esteem it fpiritual; but we are taught of God to diftinguish, understandingly and experimentally, between nature, and him from whom nature came, who is the word of life, the Lord God of life, befides whom there is no Saviour; who is near to every man to warn him of, turn him and deliver him from, the devourer and oppreffor of the foul. Now though the veffels in which the light fhines be natural, and filled with darkness, and become darkness in the darkness; yet the Discoverer, Reprover, and Checker thereof, which giveth the living found in the veffel, is fpiritual, even the Spirit of the Lord God, which ftriveth with fallen man in the midst of his darkness and captivity at seasons, according to his good pleasure. This the Shepherd of our fouls hath taught us, opening our ears, and caufing us to hear and know his voice, and to learn of him; who is truth, and fpeaketh truth; who is life and Spirit, and giveth of his own eternal life and Spirit to his children.
To the Sixth.
What others have been I know not; but this I know concerning myfelf, that I was fettled firmly in the doctrines which ye now own, and in the congregational way of worship, till the Lord fmote me and brake me to pieces. Which fuch as I did converfe with (to wit, teachers, and others of esteem in that way) profeffed they could not conceive the ground of; but faid it was a prerogative cafe, and did not doubt but the iffue thereof would be good unto me. But what if the sheep were scattered, before the Shepherd came to gather them? What if they were wandering from mountain to hill, feeking their refting place? What if they went mourning up and down from one watchman to another, from one fort of people to another, inquiring after their beloved? Did this make them unfit to be pitied and vifited by the Shepherd? What fort did Chrift gather in the days of his fleth? Were they not defpifed of the wife, learned, fettled ones (in their knowledge of the law and prophets)? But bleffed be the Lord, who hath now manifeftly revealed the foundation, and the kingdom that can never be fhaken, and in his mercy and tender love, and by his power, fixed them thereon; that they know in whom they have believed, and how they came to believe; and have taken up the crofs of our Lord Jefus Chrift, wherein the power is manifefted to crucify that, which cannot otherwise be crucified. The Seventh hath been largely fpoken to already.
To the Eighth.
The Lord God knoweth, that it is not in my heart to judge or fet at nought any man; but in faithfulness to God, and in tender love to fouls, to teftify to others what I have seen in his light, as he requireth of me. And is this fetting them at nought? It is true, they cannot believe nor receive the teftimony in the ftate wherein they stand; but that doth not dif annul or weaken it; but truth and its teftimony ftands, notwithstanding their rejecting and rifing up against it.
To the first particularly. To own and contend earnestly for the fcriptures aright, is good, but it was not good formerly to fet up the writings of Mofes and the prophets above and against Chrift; nor is it good now to fet up the fcriptures above the Spirit, or to make them the tryer inftead of the anointing, John ii. 27. for the fcriptures came from the Spirit, and they teftify of the Spirit; and the Spirit is to be received and to dwell in the foul as in its temple: and here the King and Law-giver of the church (with the balance of the fanctuary) is indeed known. And he that receives the Spirit is to live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, and in the light of the New Jerufalem; which light is eternal, difcovering, difpoffeffing, and working out the darkness, and fo taking up its place.
Now though ye may aim at having things concerning churches, and church-worship, regulated according to the fcriptures; yet ye may easily err
therein, and cannot but err therein, if your understandings be not opened and kept open by the Spirit; yea, ye may not wait for the Spirit's gathering and building, but may gather of yourselves, and build of yourfelves; whereas the apostles were to wait for the power from on high to do their work with. And were your eyes truly opened, ye would quickly and easily fee, that neither your preaching nor praying is at all like theirs. They spake what they received from the Spirit; ye, what ye apprehend and conceive concerning words fpoken of by the Spirit. This is very fhort of fpeaking as God's oracles. And one fort of you conceives thus, and another thus, concerning the fcriptures, &c.
To the fecond. Till ye know the Spirit, and come to the true waiting upon the Spirit, and understand his voice, ye can never recover the form of found words by reading the fcriptures; but will be liable to be fetting up your own conceivings and apprehenfions, inftead of the truth itself. And till ye have the true understanding of the Spirit, ye cannot but also err concerning the power, and about your experiences of things; and fo will be continually in great danger of being deceived, and of deceiving one another's fouls.
To the third. Ye have a notion about Chrift's active and paffive obedience being imputed to the foul as its righteousness, which the scriptures fpeak not; and which manifefts that ye do not know how the righteousness is revealed, and how the Son is made of God unto them righteousness, who wait upon him in the faith, and obey his gospel. For the righteousness is revealed in the faith, and is further and further made the foul's, in and by the faith.
To the Ninth.
God is my witness (whom I worship in fpirit, and in whose fear I write and speak) that I dearly love you; and in the truth and dearness of love, earneftly defire concerning you, that ye may not mistake about Chrift, his Spirit, his fcriptures; about faith, love, mortification; and about the righteoufness, peace, and joy of the kingdom, or any other spiritual thing; but may know, experience, and enjoy the truth and fubftance of things, as they are in Jefus. Now, if ye know, and have received, the true living faith, and witness the powerful, purifying virtue of it, which God hath given to overcome the world, and the wicked one with; how comes it about that there is such a belief in you, that it can never do its work perfectly in this world, but only in part? Surely this belief is not of, or from, the true faith; nor to the honour of him that hath given it. For the fpiritual weapons are mighty through God, to the pulling down of the ftrong-holds, and bringing all (even every thought) into fubjection to Christ.
To the Tenth.
That God did as much for Judas as for Peter, is not our doctrine: for God giveth more or lefs out of his rich treasury, according to his own good pleature. But the unprofitable fervant had alfo a talent given him, which he did not improve, but hid it in a napkin; and his Lord condemned him therefore. There were others had talents likewife, which they did improve, and their Lord accepted and juftified them therein; faying, Well done, good and faithful fervant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter into the joy of thy Lord.
Now is there juft ground for any of these fervants to boaft and fay, the other had a talent as well as I; but I made myself to differ; I improved my talent; whereas he did not? The true Jew doth believe, doth obey the gospel, and hath praife of God (he that hateth the light, doth not believe nor obey); and yet he feeth no ground of boafting: for it was not he, of himself, but the grace and power of the Lord, wrought all in him. And what is done in, and by, and through the power of the Lord; the honour and glory thereof properly belongs to the Lord. Yea, he that is in the true faith, feels that which excludes boafting, and keeps in the fenfe of the love and mercy. Oh! that thou kneweft a limit and check to this wisdom, and these reasonings in thee, which are not of, but againft, the truth; as that light which thou defpifeft would manifeft to thee, if thou kneweft the nature and virtue of it, and didft cleave unto it. In this wisdom and understanding thou mayeft read much, and comprehend much, and be greatly taken with thine apprehenfions upon fcriptures; but it is fhut out of the true knowledge of them, and out of the Spirit and power of life, which they that wrote them were in, and witnessed of.
As for free-will; we own no fuch thing as man's free-will to good in the fallen eftate. But the Spirit of the Lord changeth and reneweth the will in the day of his power; and whoever he striveth with, and draweth, may come in the drawing; virtue iffuing out with the drawing from him that draweth. And this is not the condemnation, that men cannot come to the Son, that they might have life; but that they do not come; that they do not turn, at the reproof of his wifdom, from that which he ftands ready to turn them from.
There may be high admirations concerning God and his love, in the natural part; which we have known, and are made able in the Lord to judge of, fince he hath taught us to distinguish of things: and this is chaffy in all forts of men. But there is a feeling of the pure nature of heavenly love, and a finking therein into the deep fenfe thereof; and an acknowledging of it to God, in the humility, in the fear, in the Spirit, and in the power. Now this is indeed from the beloved, and accepted with God in the beloved. And in this his children, who are ftripped of their own ability of admiring and loving, are taught of him to love and admire
him, being gathered out of that which is natural of man, into that which is fpiritual, and of God,
As for the Four Queries at the close, which I propounded in love, and for advantage to thee; it feemeth to me ftrange thou shouldft fay thou wouldft fpeak to the sense of them, and yet fo waive the main drift and plain sense.
The First was, Concerning Chrift's being fpiritually born of his church; to which thou haft faid nothing at all, but that the firft Chriftians and churches were very glorious, &c. Which they alfo can own, who have denied the faith, and are not in the truth.
To the Second thou haft answered as little, nor rightly according to the letter, putting in the dragon instead of the beast.
Thy Third and Fourth are alfo fhort, and not directly to the thing; but I wrote not to contend. The Lord God fhew thee mercy, bring down the wrong wifdom in thee, bring thee into a capacity of knowing and receiving his pure living truth, that thou mayeft not witnefs or fight against him; but, in and by his Spirit, understand the fcriptures aright, and witnefs for
Nineteenth of the Twelfth Month, 1667..