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great joy to the poor captives. And this gospel was preached to Adam; the sced of the woman was promised to bruise the serpent's head, and that was, and is, the power of God, the glorious gospel; but as for such as know nó gospel in manifestation nor operation, but only the scriptures which do but declare of the gospel, show that they are without, in the world, and have no other knowledge of the gospel, but natural knowledge, which is not unto eternal life, nor can edify the body of Christ, which is immortal.
P. • The good tidings, which the glorious"gospel of Jesus Christ brings to sinners, was a great mercy to the Jews, and a very gracious dispensation to us sinners of the Gentiles.'
A. The good tidings, the glorious gospel, is in itself a mercy to all; but only a mercy in manifestation and operation to them that receive it, whether Jews or Gentiles, and it is a judgment and a condemnation, to all that do not receive it, both Jews and Gentiles. But as for you fifteen priests, you have included yourselves among the sinners, showing that you are yet unconverted to the precious faith, which brings out of all sin and gives victory over it. And they who are converted are changed and renewed from being sinners, to be righteous, and these are not sinners of the Gentiles, (as is manifest you yet are,) but they are believers of the Gentiles, who are made righteous in the righteousness of the second Adam, who hath quickened them from death to life, and from sin to God; but upon such that remain sinners of the Gentiles, and receive not the gospel which is the power of God, the dispensation of it is judgment and condemnation; and this shall the testimony of God in every man give witness to.
P. · Dark we are since the cloud of sin overshadowed our minds, our brightest notions are stained, our light eclipsed by nature, we are chained up into a cave of darkness ; taking mere notions to be things substantial, and substance to be shadows; and as our eyes are dim and cannot see much, so our sloth is great and heedlessness inexcusable, our ignorance of God may be charged on the want of meditation in all men, the sins of teachers being teachers' sins. Admit the minister be sinful, shall the people despise his doctrine ? Scripture is scripture though uttered by satan.'
A. The ministers of Christ Jesus who were called and sent of him, were light in the Lord, and were translated from darkness to the light, and from satan's power to God, and the cloud of sin was not over them, for that was removed, and they were as a city set on a hill, and were the lights of the world, and their minds were spiritual and enlightened, and not overshadowed with the darkness nor with the cloud of sin, as it is with these fifteen priests, whose brightest notions are stained, and their light eclipsed by nature, as they confess. But thus it was not
with Christ's ministers, for their knowledge was in the spirit, and what they knew, was in, and through the spirit, and they were changed in nature. And their light, which was Christ, was above nature, and beyond nature, and not eclipsed thereby; neither were they chained up in a cave of darkness, but were as candles lighted, and as a city set on a hill that could not be hid, and they delivered forth to the world the pure truths of the gospel of Christ, which were not stained nor polluted, but
pure and holy. And in that you take notions to be substance, and substance to be shadows, this is your great ignorance and blindness ; but thus do not the true ministers of Christ, neither are their eyes dim, but the Lord is their light, and this promise is fulfilled to his ministers whom he hath sent, the Lord is become their everlasting light; but to you his promise is not fulfilled, whose eyes are dim, and sloth great, and heedlessness inexcusable; as it was with the false prophets and dreamers of old, whom the Lord never sent, and thus it is with these fifteen priests, according to their own confession! But the ministers of Christ were not so, neither were they in sin, nor in ignorance, but had received the knowledge of God, and were known of him; and if the minister be sinful, he is not sent of God, but hath run and never was sent, and his doctrine is despised, and not profitable, for scripture in the mouth of the devil, is but a temptation, no more is the doctrine of sinful men, as taught by them; for if the minister be sinful, he cannot convert sinners to God, nor turn them from darkness to light, nor from satan's power
to God, which is the work of the true ministers that have received the gift of the holy ghost; as it is manifest these men have not by their own confession.
P. “We are presented with a necessity of acknowledging that the light of the moon with us is as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as the light of seven days.'
A. How doth this confession of yours answer to your last? Let all wise and sober people judge, how confusion hath uttered forth itself. What! your light eclipsed, and you chained up in a cave of darkness,
, and your eyes dim, and yet the light of the sun with you as the light of seven days ! Is there any thing in both these confessions, except ignorance, and a heap of confusion, and plain contradictions, that all may see your own confusions, out of your own mouths ? But to them who are come to the fulfilling of the promises of God where the light of the sun is as the light of seven days, sin and iniquity are blotted out, and transgression is done away, and life and immortality are brought to light, and the glory of the Lord is revealed; and they that are in this promise, are come out of the apostacy, and out of the beast's kingdom of darkness, where you get remain, as is manifest; for you are such as Christ said should come, and as John saw were come, who went into Vol. III.
the world and deceived nations, but now the nations are gathering from you again, into the fellowship of the mystery of the gospel, which gospel hath been lost (I mean the receiving of it by the holy ghost, and the preaching of it as the spirit of God gave utterance) for many generations. But that gospel again is to be preached, and it is going forth to nations, tongues, and people, and great Babylon shall be confounded, and all her merchants shall weep and lament for her fall.
P. “We the unworthy ministers of Christ whose names are under written, having waited upon God in a way of earnest prayer, have jointly agreed to communicate our thoughts,' &c.
A. They that are true ministers of Christ are not unworthily so, nor in the unworthiness; and being unworthy, to what purpose do ye wait upon the Lord ? for who are in the unworthiness, God doth not hear nor regard, nor give his answer to such ; and ye having no answer from God, you must needs agree in your thoughts. But have you nothing to communicate to your people, but your thoughts, which are vain? how shall thoughts convert any to God, or establish any in him? And your prayers that are in darkness are not accepted of him ; for they who are heard of the Father, are in Christ Jesus, and are new creatures, being changed from death to life.
P. “Our deep sense of the ignorance of our hearers puts us upon our prayers to God, and counsel one to another, what further course to take.'
A. Indeed a sad complaint may be taken up concerning this matter, for ignorance abounds, and many other grievous evils, in your church, and amongst your hearers, showing that your church is not the true church of Christ, nor you Christ's faithful ministers. But where or what is the ground of this ignorance that is amongst your hearers ? is not the ministry in a great measure the cause thereof, and doth not the blind lead the blind, and have not you been unjust and unrighteous in taking money and wages of people for teaching of them, and yet they have not received knowledge, but continue in ignorance? And as for your prayers and counsel, the Lord takes no notice thereof till you purge yourselves of your iniquities; and how should you profit the people, and bring them to the knowledge of God, while as yet yourselves are shut up in a cave of darkness, as you confess.
P. Speaking of your children, you say, do not they come into the world with souls naked as their bodies ? nothing but filth upon the one, and nothing but sin upon the other.'
A. It is manifest then that you are unbelievers and have not received the faith of Christ, but are yourselves in an unconverted estate; for the apostle saith concerning the believers' children, that they were holy. If you can receive it, you may. But as for the soul, that is immortal,
for God breathed into man the breath of life, and made man a living soul,' and sin came by disobedience, and that separates between man and God, who is pure, and hath all souls in his hand. But as for are in a cave of darkness, the mystery of the soul is hidden from you, but you confess it is by your means that sin is conveyed to your children, yea, take it to yourselves, it is your work, and the Lord hath no hand in it, not in sin, nor in making sinners; and it is manifest you are out of the power of God, remaining in iniquity, and are out of the covenant of reconciliation.
P. • For sending children to us, we shall briefly offer the duty of it in these particulars: we are to feed the lambs of Christ as well as the sheep, they are part of our charge who are to watch over souls.'
A. What! are children now the lambs of Christ, and were they in the last, having nothing but sin upon their souls, being begotten and born in sin? Sinners are not the lambs of Christ, but children of wrath; the lambs of Christ are such as are regenerated and born again. And as for feeding the lambs, how can ye do it, who are taking substance to be shadows, and shadows to be substance ? The bread of life ye know not, which feeds the lambs and the sheep. But how many sheep and lambs are found in your flocks ? do not they by their fruits rather appear to be in the nature of wolves and swine? Let their fruits witness against them. And as for your charge, who committed any charge to you? and as for watching over the soul, the soul is immortal, which you watch not for, but for money and hire, and casting people into prison if they will not give it you, and causing the servants of the Lord to be persecuted; these and such like are the fruits of the priests of England; but if you watched for the soul, it would be otherwise with you. But who can gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
P. · We should be full of affection to ourselves if we desired to work upon our hearers; and our authority in preaching is marred by unholy living.'
A. We do believe you; and it is manifest to the whole nation that your unholy living mars your preaching; for unholy men have not received commission from the Lord to preach his word. So you have run and not been sent, and there is no possibility of working upon your hearers by words, who give them so evil examples by your practices, by your unholy lives: and no authority of God's presence can be in your preaching to convert sinners, till you repent and come to live holily and like God. And this confession of yours hath shamed you; for Christ's ministers never made such a confession ; but they witnessed the authority of God's presence in their preaching, whereby they wrought upon their hearers, and they answered their preaching by a holy con
versation, and did not mar their preaching by unholy living, as ye confess ye do.
P. Sad one day will be the account of sleepy watchmen, blind seers, and dumb dogs, that cannot bark to fright the wolves or warn the sheep.'
A. Then look to yourselves; for blind seers are such as do not convert the people who speak imaginations of their own hearts, and not from the mouth of the Lord, and use their tongues, when the Lord hath not spoken unto them, and preach for hire and divine for money, and seek for gain from their quarter; and that cry peace to them that put into their mouths, and prepare war against them who do not: such are blind seers, sleepy watchmen, and dumb dogs, of whom you speak; whose account indeed will be sad one day. And these are the wolves that must be frighted, that do put on the sheep's clothing, but inwardly are raveners and devourers, which went out from the apostles in the days of John, and which Cbrist prophesied should come; of whose generation you are, and not of the generation of the sheep, who ever were persecuted; and the Lord is beginning to affright you and to gather his sheep, and this is the Lord fulfilling in this day.
P. • Many congregations still continue waste; none compassionate to tell them of the fire and brimstone from heaven for their sins; how many shoot off a few pop-guns against their gross sins, and then lick them whole with ill applied promises, but the blood of the people shall be required at their hands.'
A. Many congregations are waste, and ten thousands of people are as a wilderness, untilled or unploughed, or unplanted, in the way of righteousness, and the guilt of this will be laid upon the teachers, who have long been teaching and have been well paid for the work, and yet left whole congregations waste. But it was not so in the apostles' days, nor among their churches who were in the faith of Christ Jesus; but when the wolves in sheep's clothing entered, then began congregations to lie waste, which has continued for many generations, even while the beast and the whore have ruled over the nations; all nations have laid waste and been void of truth to the Lord. And who is it except yourselves that shoot pop-guns against their gross sins, and then lick them whole? is it not common to cry peace to them that put into your mouths, and to prepare war against them that do not ? and is it not common amongst you to apply justification by Christ to people that are uncovered and unrenewed, and to apply the promises to that birth that is not heir of the kingdom ? and this is ill applied. And though you may cry against their unholy lives, yet yourselves being unholy, this is but hy. pocrisy, and sewing pillows under arm holes; and the blood of the people will God require at the hand of such teachers and such shepherds.