« PreviousContinue »
is baptized, he that is wathed by the Spirit, comes out of the water clean; and watching to the light wherein he was purified, witneffeth the powerful word of life as able to preferve in cleannefs, as it was to cleanfe.
But if there be not a watch to, and faith in, and fingle-hearted obedience to, that which purified, and keepeth pure, there is that near which will defile, where it is hearkened to and let in; there is that which will tempt to luft and fin, and fo draw into darkness and death again. And if fin afterwards, fin defiles again, and the ftain thereof will lie upon the confcience, till by repentance and faith the water and blood be let in again, and the cleanfing virtue from it received and reftored again. So that if any man fin, there is an * advocate, an interceffor, a divine helper, one who hath the water of life, and the blood of life to wash with. There is a fountain fet open for fin, and for uncleannefs, for Judah and Jerufalem to wash therefrom; but every defilement and pollution fticks until it be washed off.
Now there are fins of several kinds. Some are easily remitted and washed off, infomuch as the stain is hardly felt by the foul, the tender mercy and pure life doth fo readily and naturally flow over them. Some again are long held and bound by the Spirit upon the conscience, and often remembered to the heart, which is apt to backflide: yea, there is in fome cases a fevere judgment, and a long waiting on the Lord for his mercy, and for his renewing and enlivening of faith, before the water and blood which washeth can be again felt. For faith is not in a man's power, nor repentance neither; but they are given of God, to whom and when he pleaseth. And a man that is in part converted, may give ear to the enemy, and let in fin and death upon the foul; but he cannot repent again prefently, nor believe again presently; but as God breathes upon him, and revives the work of faith and repentance in him.
There were fins under the old covenant, and there are fins under the new. The fins of the old covenant did lie upon him that committed them, until they were expiated according to the law of the old covenant; and fins under the new covenant lie alfo upon the foul and confcience, until they be expiated according to the law of the new covenant; which is until the advocate interpofe and plead with the Father, and give faith and repentance to the foul, and fprinkle upon the heart and confcience that water and blood which hath virtue in it to wafh. And if it were not for this after-washing (as I may fo fay) no man could be faved: but though he were once washed, yet finning again afterwards, he would die in his fins (and fo fall under condemnation), unless he were again washed. Oh! blessed be the name of the Lord, for the water and blood of the covenant, and
*But this is not the ftate of them that fin wilfully after they have received the knowledge of truth.
for his continual pouring them out upon the fouls of his, in the light that is eternal!
Now as men come to the truth as it is in Jefus, they will find their own aprehenfions about these things to have been but dreams, wherewith the enemy hath fed and pleased them, while he hath lulled them afleep in the night of darkness, that he might the better fteal away the true weighty knowledge of the things of the kingdom from them. Thus men have dreamed about juftification, about fanctification, about regeneration, about redemption, about faith, hope, love, righteousness, peace, joy, &c. And have been mistaken about them, miffing of that power and light whereby and wherein they are revealed and made manifeft. Now he that will rightly know these things, must know them in the feeling and true experience; and therein he shall find all these are wrought in a myfterious way of pure life's operation, out of the reach of man's comprehenfion; and no man can understand them, but as the new and holy understanding is given him; nor retain the sense and knowledge of them, but as he abides in the new nature, and retains the new understanding.
So for the garment of falvation; that is Chrift, the righteousness of Christ, the nature of Chrift, the Spirit of Chrift. This is the holy covering. He that puts on Chrift, puts on this: he that wears Chrift, wears this: he that appears before God in Chrift, appears in this; and the foul puts on this, as it puts off the other. It is the purified foul that only puts on him that is pure: and as a man is cleanfed from the impure, fo only hath he in him a capacity of receiving and being cloathed with Chrift. And this now is the work of the true miniftry; to wit, to preach the Word, to reveal the Word, and bring the mind to the Word (which changeth it, and begets the new capacity), and fo to begin the work of life and reconciliation, wherein and whereby there is fome uncloathing of the old, and fome cloathing with the new; and fo to carry on this work in the Spirit and power of the Father until it be perfected. And this is a bleffed work, and bleffed is the miniftry which is called to, and entrusted with, this work, being faithful in it: and bleffed are they that witness the truth of, and receive the effect of, this miniftry, and are fubject to it in the Lord. For through and under this miniftry there is a receiving of a perfect gift in fome measure at first (wherein fome true union and little acquaintance with the Lord of life is at firft witneffed, and some operation of the light and power of his Holy Spirit): and a growing up in it unto perfection, as the foul is exercised by it, and faithful to the Lord in the exercise, under the daily cross, which daily worketh against and crucifieth in the heart, mind, life, and converfation whatever is contrary to God, as it is fingly waited for, taken up, and subjected to..
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS,
The Church of the New Covenant, the Rock or Foundation whereon it is built, and its Preservation by and upon the Rock. With fome QUERIES concerning the fcattered Eftate of the true Church, and concerning that Church which got up in its ftead, and made a great Shew with her golden Cup, for the Time while the true Church was fcattered.
HAT is the church of God under the new agreement or covenant?
Anfw. It is a company of living ftones, quickened by God, and knit together in the unity and fellowship of his Spirit, to worship God together in his Spirit, and offer up unto him fpiritual facrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. What was the church of the old covenant? Was it not the feed of Abraham, the outward Jews, the children of the old covenant? And what is the church of the new covenant? Is it not the feed of God, the Jews inward, the children of the new covenant?
Queft. How are thefe ftones joined together?
Anfw. By the Spirit of life, which begets them all in one nature, and knits them together in that nature. By the inward circumcifion, cutting off that which caufeth enmity and difunion, and fo fitting them to be made one new lump in Chrift. By Chrift's baptifm, which is the baptifm of fire and of his Spirit, which burns up the old earthly nature, and fo baptizes them into one new living body, fuitable and fitting to their head, which is the fountain of life, and diftributes life through all the body, according to its capacity, need, and service.
Queft. Upon what is this church built?
Anfw. Upon the rock or foundation of God, which God hath laid in his fpiritual Sion, which rock is Chrift. For other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jefus Chrift; nor other rock did the Lord ever chufe for his church to be built upon; nor hath any other rock fuffi
cient ftrength to bear up the building against the storms and ftrefs of the powers of darkness, which it often meeteth with, even every member, in its travels; after it is once built on the rock, the gates of hell prefs hard upon it; but abiding on the rock, it feels the ftrength and prefervation of the rock. For as they cannot prevail against Christ, fo neither can they prevail against that which is built upon him. But if there be a going forth from the strength and prefervation, there is a liableness to be made a prey. And the promise is not abfolutely and perpetually to that perfon or congregation which is received or let into the truth; but to that person or church which abideth and continueth in the truth unto the end. The Jews were fafe in the faith and obedience of their covenant; and the Christians, or Christian churches, are not fafe but in the faith and obedience of theirs. For if they walked not humbly with the Lord, and in his fear, which keeps the heart from departing from him, and in the faith whereby they stand, they were to be cut off from their church-state, as well as the Jews were from theirs, as the apostle Paul exprefly tells the church at Rome, Rom. xi. 21, 22.
Queft. 4. What was Paul?
Anfw. The apostle of the Gentiles, who laboured abundantly, even more abundantly than all the other apostles; and hath left more inftructions relating to the Gentiles than all the apostles befides; and was tender of them, in ftanding for and defending their liberty in Chrift, when Peter a little warped, and was to be blamed, Gal. ii. 11. For indeed man cannot be certain and infallible, further than he keepeth to, and is exercised by, the certain and infallible Spirit; which he is fubject to be tempted to err from, further than he ftands upon the watch; and cannot but err from, unless he feel a continual prefervation in the fear, and by the power of the Lord. And the certainty of truth doth not depend fo much upon the perfon from whom it is received, as upon the demonftration and evidence to the conscience wherein it is received. The apoftles were not lords over the true Chriftians faith; but helpers of their joy. And Chrift did not require his difciples to believe whatever he knew to be true; but prepared their capacities, and dropped in according to their capacities. And this is the way of the true minifters, to wait on God to beget, and on him again to water the begotten foul, and carry on his work in it; to make them know Chrift their mafter, from whom they are to receive light, life, inftruction, and direction; and to feel the head, and be joined to the head, and receive from the head their knowledge, as well the leaft as the greateft, Heb. viii. What is Paul? What is Apollos? What is Cephas? Were not they carnal that cried up these one above another? Yet the younger ought to be fubject to the elder, and all to be fubject one to another in the truth, 1 Pet. v. 5. Queit. 5. What was Peter?
Anfw. One of the difciples of Chrift, a precious ftone in the building (John i. 43.) one of the most eminent apostles, even the chofen minifter to VOL. II. K
them of the circumcifion, as Paul was to the Gentiles. But he knew that Chrift was the only rock or foundation, as well as Paul, and that Christ alone was able to bear the weight of that building, and to defend it against the gates of hell; and he never had commiffion, nor can it be proved that he ever preached himself the rock, but he preached Chrift the foundationftone, the rock of offence, the rock of defence, &c. fee 1 Pet. ii, 4. and ver. 6, 7, 8. And if an angel from heaven, or any man or church on earth, fo interpret any fcripture, as to hold forth any fuch thing, that any else befides Chrift is the rock, they plainly fhew that they are erred from the truth, and that their interpretation is of their own private fpirit, and not that public Spirit which all the prophets of God, and apoftles, and truly holy men, were guided by.
Queft, 6. Was the church always to be a gathered company? Or was there a poffibility of their being scattered?
Anfw. There was a poffibility of their being scattered; yea, a certainty, if they grew corrupt in doctrine and practice, and kept not the faith, Rom. xi. For the Lord God intended a pure building, a fpiritual building, fit to offer the fpiritual facrifices, 1 Pet. ii. 5. An holy people, separated from the world, 2 Cor. vi. 17. in which he might dwell and walk, ver. 16. If therefore any church depart from the Spirit, and life, and power of the apoftles, and mix again with the world, lofing their own proper pale which fenced from the world, they foon lofe that which maketh them a church of God, and fo become a fynagogue of Satan.
Now it is in my heart alfo to propound a few queries concerning the fcattered and hidden eftate and condition of the church, and concerning that church which got up in the view of the world, and was acknowledged by the world instead thereof afterwards.
Queft. 1. Whether the true church did retain her miniftry outwardly, and her outward ordinances, and way of worship of the outward court, after her scattering? Or whether the false church, which appeared in her room as if she had been the true, caught up and appeared in the outwardness of these? The grounds of this query are these following?
1. Because, upon God's meafuring of his temple and worshippers, the outward court (confider well what that is, and how far it extends) was left out of God's measure; fo that he intended to reckon it no longer as his, but given by him to the Gentile Christians; fuch as were Chriftians or Jews. in name, but Gentiles in spirit and nature, Rev. xi.
2. Because in the last days, when that strange generation of Christians. was to fpring up, who fhould be lovers of their own felves, covetous, proud, blafphemers, difobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, falfe-accufers, incontinent, fierce, defpifers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; yet these should have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, 2 Tim. iii. 1, to 6. Now mind; the temple wherein was