« PreviousContinue »
chosen to be the immediate forerunner and preparer of the way, and could point with his finger to the Meffiah? And yet is not this immediate testimony from the excellent glory greater than the testimony of John?
Fourthly, Consider whether Christ's own words in the flesh to his difciples were furer than the voice from the excellent glory? If I should extol the words of Christ in the flesh above the words of the prophets which testified of him, should I therein do the words and testimonies of the prophets any wrong? He was the Son; he had the fullness of life, the fullness of the Spirit, the great authority and virtue of God his Father. God (saith the apostle) who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, bath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, Heb. i. 1, 2. seeming to exalt and magnify God's speaking by his Son, and the way of this ministration above the ministration of the prophets (which ministration was first by him in the flesh, afterwards in Spirit, which is properly called the ministration of the Spirit, 2 Cor. iii. 8.). Now consider whether this sure word of prophecy from the excellent glory, so immediately from the majesty on high, was not intended by him as a seal to the faith of the disciples, as a feal to Christ's appearance in the flesh, and to what he had taught them (which was sometimes in parables, and not so fully understood by them); and whether this was not more bright, more ravishing, more certain, more establishing, than his common presence and appearance among them, and than the words which he from the Father, not the Father to immediately himself, spake to them? For that which is given to confirm a thing, is (in order of nature, and for evidence fake) more certain and clear than that which it is given to confirm,
Fifthly, Consider whether the voice of God's Spirit and light within in the heart be not more clear and certain to him that hears it, than any word or testimony from without? Is it not a surer word of prophecy than this relation or testimony of the apostles, of what they heard from the excellent glory? Yea, is it not surer than any teftimony of the scriptures, or than all outward testimonies put together?
Sixthly, Consider whether they who are turned from darkness to the light, even to the inward manifestation of God's Holy Spirit, ought not to give diligent heed unto it, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in their hearts?
Lastly, Consider, what is the difference between this light shining (as a word of prophecy) in the dark place, and the day dawning, and the dayftar arising in the heart? Is it not the same light, only further revealed and shining in its glory, in the holy and pure place?
The apostle Paul excellently openeth the ching, Coloff. i. 25, 26, 27. First, he speaketh of the Word in general, which he was to fulfil, or fully to preach. Then he sheweth how this Word is a mystery, hid in the Gentiles (for fo the Greek, ver. 27. is) even in them that believe not; the Word is nigh there, the instruction and commandment of life nigh there. But
B b 2
in those that receive the grace, and believe in the light, and so become children of the light, and walk in the light, as God is in the light : in them Christ is risen, and they are risen together with him, and he is in them the hope of glory. So that the day hath dawned there; the day-star hath risen, and they know not only a meafure of Grace from Christ, but Christ himself arisen, dwelling, living, acting, walking in them, and they in him.
Let these things be duly considered of, and equally weighed in the holy balance, and then I dare appeal to every serious and iober heart and mind, whether the inward light, the inward Word, the Word nigh in the mouth and heart, and the holy living testimony thereof, the voice of the witness within, of the prophecy within, be not surer to that man that hath it, and hears and knows the voice of it, than any outward voice or testimony whatso
Object. But some may objeet thus, or after this manner: I am fatisfied that there is a Word nigh in the mouth and heart (to which Moses did direät the Jews, and the apostles the Christians), and that this Word dotb enlighten the mind, and doth separate in the mouth between words and words, and is a swift witness against the bad words, and a justifier of the good words; which come from the truth and uprightness of the heart, and are seasoned with grace. I also believe that this Word is quick and powerful in the heart; separating and dividing between the thoughts and intents there; and that the testimony thereof is furer and clearer (as to the bearts in which it hines, and to them wbose spiritual cars are opened to hear its voice) than any words and testimonies from without. And I am satisfied also, that they wbo are the sheep of Christ, do thus bear the shepherd's voice, and do know both the voice behind them; when it comes after them to reprove their wanderings, and direct their minds into the true way; and also the voice before them, when the Shepherd (who is the leader) putteth forth his sheep, and goeth before them, and they follow. him; for they know his voice, John X. 4. Yea, I have had the experience bereof in: my own beart : for I bave felt that work within, and that living sweet teftimony of God's Spirit in my own heart, which bath been more to me than all that ever I heard or read from without; so that I can truly say (with the Samaritans, John iv. 22.) Now I believe, not because of the testimonies or words I have heard from without, but from the evidence and demonstration of life, and of God's boly Spirit in my own beart. Nor can I see how the apostle Peter, in this place, can prefer the testimonies of the prophets (for that which is called the New Testament was not yet written and added to the old) before this glorious immediate tefti. mony from God Almighty, which Cbrist was bonoured with, and they were greatly honoured in being admitted to be bebolders and witnesses of. ret somewhat sticks. with me; namely, those words of the apostle, ver. 20, 21, wherein be plainly feems to me to speak of the scriptures or writings of the prophets, as if they bad been the more sure word of prophecy, which in tbis place be had directed to. For: wby pould be say thus, Knowing this first, &c. unless he bad intended the fame
Word of prophecy wbich be bad been speaking of before, and dire&ting their minds bow they might make use of that Word of prophecy?
Answ. Peter was the minister of the circumcision, and he was to deal with people who were great admirers and studiers of the letter ; therefore, though he, as well as Paul and John, and the other apostles (Rom. x. and Aets xxvi. 18. and 1 John i.) was to direct men to the Word within, and light within; yet he knew it was of great concernment to them rightly to read and be able to understand the letter without. Therefore, having first directed them to the Word of prophecy, to the path of the just, which is the inward shining light, to the light which shines more and more in the dark place to them that give heed to it; in the next place it was very proper, useful, and necessary to direct them how to read the scriptures aright. For indeed the oracles of God were given to them, Rom. iii. 2. and they ought to be diligent in the reading of them, that they might understand the holy prophecies and precious promises, &c. and reap the hope and comfort of them, and be made partakers of the divine nature, which is the thing promised. And not only to the Jews, but to the Christians gathered from among the Gentiles in that age, were the scriptures greatly useful: and so they are also to such as are gathered by the Holy Spirit and power of God in this age. The prophecies, the judgments, the promises, the mercies, the experience, &c. are all useful, and profitable to those that read and understand them in the light of God's Holy Spirit. But the first thing needful is, to turn a man's mind to the light, that he may have somewhat to guide him, somewhat to stay his mind upon in reading the scriptures, fomewhat to open and unseal the holy and divine words and mysteries to him. For no man can truly and rightly understand the scriptures, but as his mind is opened by the Lord, and the understanding of words and things given him. So that this is exceeding necessary to be known (after a man is turned to the light and Word of prophecy within, and comes to read the outward oracles and testimonies of the Holy Spirit) that all the holy men spake not in their own wills, nor in the will of the flesh, nor in the will of man, but as the Spirit of God gave them words, and moved them to speak. And those words spoken by God's Spirit knoweth none, but that Spirit which spake them. So that no man ought to venture by his private spirit to undertake to open and interpret those words; but he must first receive the same Word of life, the fame Spirit of prophecy within, and wait upon him, and learn to know his voice, who openeth what and when he pleaseth to the fons of men. And so when the same Word of life speaks in a man's heart now, fhewing things to come, either concerning a man's self or others, that man must be careful to retire, and lie very low before the Lord, waiting upon him for the true understanding and right interpreting of his own words, elle a man may easily misunderstand and misapply what was truly and rightly Spoken. So that this is the right way of understanding the words of pros phecy from the holy men of God in former ages, and the instructions of
the the Word of life in the heart. The secrets of the Lord are with them that fear bim. In the true fear the car is opened, and the right understanding given; but in the wisdom of the flesh, and in the confidence thereof, it is easy erring at any time from the true sense and right use of that which was opened and given by God, either for the foul's own good, or for the good of others.
To conclude this appeal: there is one consideration on my heart to propose to the serious and sober-minded; and oh! that they might rightly consider and understand it! David was a man after God's own heart, a wise man, an inwardly-exercised man, an experienced man, an holy, spiritual, heavenly man; a man who knew the inward everlasting kingdom, and had the Spirit of God, and witnessed his truth in the inward parts : can ye think that David did not know the Word and commandment of life within? Did not God write his law in his heart? How else could he become a man after God's own heart? Did not he witness the everlasting covenant, and the law thereof, the new law, the living law, even the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus? Now when David said, the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, what law did he mean? What is the law which converts the soul to God? Can any thing lefs than an inward power, an inward light, an inward law, an inward life, than the inward drawings and teachings of God's Spirit, convert the foul to God? And what testimony is that which makes wise the fimple ? Is it not the inward testimony ? What made him wiser than the antients, and his teachers, who knew and could teach the law outward? Were they not the inward teachings and inward precepts of God's Holy Spirit from the Word of life within, which doubtless was very nigh him, he being a man so exercised by God's Spirit, and so formed after his heart? And what are those right statutes which rejoice the heart, and the pure commandment which enlightens the eyes, and the clean fear and righteous judgments ? Are not all these things known within, and received within ? Doth not God put his fear within, in the heart? Doch not God reveal his righteous judgments within against sin and iniquity ? Oh! how did David cry out because of God's dreadful judgments upon him for sin, and faid his fore ran in the night, and he watered his couch with his tears ! And in another place, My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments. And when he speaketh so much (as in Psal. cxix.) of God's word, God's law, his testimonies, precepts, statutes, judgments, &c. what doth he speak of? Doth he speak of the outward or inward ministration of the Word in the heart? Doth he not speak of the inward writing, of the law in the heart, of the commandment in the heart, of the testimony of life there? For he had the testimony within, the Spirit within, the law within, the light within, the inward and spiritual kingdom (wherein the holy dominion of God is revealed) he knew within, and so believing, could speak of the power and glory thereof, and of God's wonderous works, Psal. cxlv. And when he said, thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, what Word did he mean? Did he mean the letter or law outward, or the Word nigh in the mouth and heart, which Moses had teftified of, and directed the Jews to, and he himself had been very well acquainted with? When again he faith, Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? And immediately giveth the answer, By taking heed according to thy Word. Doch he mean the letter without, or the Word within ? What is it that cleanseth the heart, that cleanseth the way? Is it any thing less than the water of life, than the blood of the everlasting covenant, than the Word and life of truth within ? SanEtify them by thy truth; thy Word is truth. In the sense of that inwardly, and obedience to it, is the renewing and sanctification felt. And so this brings to be undefiled in the way, and to keep the testimonies of life, and preserves from doing iniquity. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, faith he, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity, &c. Had he no experience of these things himself? Yea, surely. He knew the holy heart, the pure heart, the new and heavenly image, the heart after God's own heart; and he knew what it was to walk in innocency, and to be kept out of sin. Hear what he himself faith, Pfal. xviii. 21, &c. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all bis judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. What was that? Was not that it which had most power over him, and was most apt to entangle and ensnare him? Now he that arrives here, he that doth this, that keeps himself from his iniquity, doubtless witnesseth great power and victory over leffer and smaller sins. Was not David strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might? Did not the Word of God abide in him ? Did not he overcome the wicked-one by the power thereof? How else could he walk thus in the ways of the Lord, as he expresseth, and keep himself from his iniquity?
Now this Word of life, thefe living testimonies and precepts, yea, the everlasting ordinances and statutes of the new covenant, with the sure mercies of David, which Word Moses had reftified of, and directed to, and Da. vid had experienced (it being the pearl he had treasured up and hid in his heart) and which was the Word of faith which Paul and the other apostles preached and testified of, turning men from darkness to this inward light; I say, this Word, this living Word (and the inward ministration thereof) God hath revealed and made manifest in this our day, and hath turned the minds of many to it, and is daily inviting men to Shiloh's streams, to the living waters, to the light and habitation of the living. Blessed are they that hear the joyful found, and come to the holy mount and city of our God, where life lives and reigns, and is fed on by all the living; who are God's elect, God's heritage, God's vineyard of red wine, God's inclosed garden, whom he watcheth over night and day, and watereth every moment, and in whom he dwelleth and walketh, and is to them a God and Father, and