« PreviousContinue »
An OBJECTION against the PRINCIPLE, which
in Faithfulness to God, and in Love to Souls, we bear witness to; briefly answered.
Object. A ANY do believe, and in that belief de objett against it, that it
V is a natural principle, and but a natural principle: and fo, ix its utmost improvement, could lead but to the state of Adam's nature, and not to the redemption and new life, which is in and by Jesus Christ. • Answ. I can grant that it is natural, in a sense; but not in the intended sense. It is a principle indeed of God's nature, of Christ's nature; but not of man's nature. It is that which stands a witness in man against him, when he falls and transgresses. It is a light indeed that shines in his confcience; but it was before his conscience was, and is of an higher nature. Man is earthly (with his understanding, knowledge, reason, judgmerit, conscience); but the light that shines in him (even in his dark, hard, unregenerate, earthly heart) is heavenly, such as his darkness cannot comprehend, though it shine in his darkness. But wouldit thou' in true understanding know what it is ? Feel it ; come out of that darkness where it finds thee, into that light where it dwells, and then thou wilt know it indeed, and be able to judge of it better. Now I will tell thee how we know it to be the light of the new covenant. Why thus: Because we find it discover to us the new covenant, and lead us into it; yea also shew us the sins against the new covenant, and furnish us with power from God against them, and preserve us out of them. And with this demonstration indeed, our hearts are satisfied; though we could also say further, we have witnesses, both in heaven and in earth, concerning this thing, whose testimony fully concludeth it, to the full fatisfaction of the foul, where it is heard and felt.
Some QueSTIONS and ANSWERS con
cerning the New Covenant; opening the Nature, and Way of it, as it is experimentally felt in the Heart, and witnessed to in the Holy Scriptures.
Quest. 1. W H AT is the New Covenant ?
VV Answ. It is a new agreement between God and the foul, different from that former agreement, which was between God and that people of the Jews. It is a precious glorious covenant, containing precious promises on God's part, and as easily to be obtained on the creature's part as can possibly be. It is a covenant of the eternal love of God; of life, peace, and rest to the soul; of the power of the Lord stretched out for the soul, to deliver it from Egypt; carry through the wilderness ; bring into the Holy Land; giving it its proper possession and inheritance there ; and maintaining it therein against all its enemies. Yea, this covenant contains very precious things, which the soul finds great need of, and rejoiceth in the senle and presence of, when they are felt fowing from the covenant into it; as writing the laws of God in the heart, putting his fear in the inward parts; yea, putting his own Spirit within, to be a fountain of life and strength there, whereby be causeth the soul to walk in his ways, and preservech it from departing from him. Likewise in this covenant God becomes the teacher, who createth in the soul a capacity to learn, and caufeth it to heed and profit. And in this covenant there is a forgiving of iniquity, and a remembering of sins no more, but a destroying and rooting out of that which caused to sin, and an healing of the backslidings of the foul, and a loving it freely.
Queft. 2. How is this covenant made with the soul ?
Anw. In Christ the feed, who is all in this covenant. He is the light of it, he is the life of it; he is the power of it, he is the righteousness and fanctification of it. By coming into him, the soul comes into this covenant; by abiding in him, it abides in this covenant; and by growing up in him, it grows up in this covenant.
Queft. 3. Is this an absolutely free covenant ? or are there any terms or conditions required of the soul in it?
Answ. It is absolutely free in its own nature. It comes from the free love of God, it contains in it the free love of God, it is freely offered to all to whom it is offered, it is freely given to all to whom it is given. Here is no price, nothing of the creature's required for it, all that is required, is the creature's receiving of it and giving up to God in it. And here, and
U 1 2
the Queft. A according to ?"
after this manner, many things are required of the creature, without which the creature can never come to receive the covenant, abide in it, or reap the blessings contained therein. This the scriptures abundantly testify to; as also the experiences of those who know and feel the nature and virtue of the covenant.
Queft. 4. What things are required in this covenant according to the scriptures, and according to the experiences of those that enter into it, and reap the fruits and benefits of it?
Answ. 1. This is required, that when the Lord calls, when the Lord quickens, when the Lord toucheth the heart, openeth the ear, giveth a faculty and ability of hearing, that then the Lord be hearkened diligently unto, the ear (which he hath opened) kept open to him, and that that whereby he openeth the one ear and shuts the other be kept close to, and he waited upon therein; the true ear may be more and more opened by him, and the other ear (which is apt to hearken to and let in the enemy) more and more shut. Who is there among us that hath not felt the Lord God requiring this of us? Wherein, as he hath been answered, the work of God hath gone on in us; and as he hath not been answered, the work hath gone backward, and not forward. And the scripture bears witness to the same, as Ifai. lv. 1, 2, 3. where the free covenant is proclaimed; yet there is somewhat even there required. Hearken diligently : come and eat je that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your car and come unto me; hear, and your souls Mall live;, and I will make an everlajfing covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
2. Repentance is required, turning from the old unclean nature and fpirit, and touching it no more ; but cleaving to that which hath power against it, and preserveth from it. This also is felt and witnessed to be required of God now, and was also testified to of old, as 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18. Touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my fons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
3. Faith, believing the testimony of truth, and receiving the Spirits baptism, is required. He that will enter into this covenant, must be lieve the testimony of the gospel (the record of God concerning his Son) with the faith which is of him, and must be circumcised, baprized, renewed and changed by him. Now he that doth this shall be saved, as Christ promised, Mark xvi.; but he with whom is the power of life and salvation did not promise that any should be saved otherwise.
4. Obedience of the gospel, subjection to Christ in the rule of his Spirit, and keeping of his commandments, is required. For as the first covenant required the obedience proper to it; so the second covenant requires the obedience proper to it. And as there was no salvation, or standing in the first covenant, without the obedience thereof; fo neither in the second, without the obedience thereof. He that will enjoy the peace, the righteousness, the justification, the life, the power of this covenant, must live in
the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, fulfil the will of the Spirit; keep to the feed, keep to the anointing, that the evil-one touch him not; that the interrupter, the layer, the destroyer of life in the heart, have not power over him, as he hath over any out of the limits of this covenant. For within it are all the good, but without it the evil things, the dangers, the temptations, the snares, the death and destruction of the soul, and whoever wanders out of the covenant, cannot but meet with them, and acknowledge it to be so, if he be in the true sense. Therefore there must be a great care to abide in that which hath gathered, in that which hath quickened, in that which giveth the true sense and understanding, and keepeth out of the wrong. How tender, how free was the love of Christ to his disciples ! yet he bids them abide in his love, and tells them how they should do it: If ye keep my commandments, ye hall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in bis love. · Quest. 5. But how mall the oul be able to perform all tbese things? Are they required, of it in its own strength, or doth God underteke to perform and work all in it?
Answ. Not at all in its own strength, will, or wisdom (these are eternally shut out of this covenant); but in the strength, life, and power, which flows from God in the covenant.
Quest. 6. How shall the soul receive this strength, life, and power?
Answ. By embracing it as it comes, cleaving to it, panting after it, patiently mourning and waiting for it. (The vision of good will come to that soul in the Lord's season, and will not tarry). By not despising the little, and looking after more before the little be received, but thankfully entertaining the beginnings of life, the beginnings of the holy instructions, the first drawings from off the spirit and nature of this world, in whatever it be. He that disputes not concerning the thing, but receives it just as it appears, in a simplicity and uprightness, watching thereto, he shall be blessed of the Lord, and meet with the desire of his soul in the Lord's feason, when the Lord hath fitted and prepared his heart for it. Now this is so little and strait a door, so poor and low a beginning, as the wisdom of man can never enter at it, and if there should be a little entrance in the overcoming power of life, yet that wisdom will drive the soul back again presently. Let me know the doctrine first, faith the wise man; I will un: derstand the doctrine thoroughly before I will change my present way. No, faith Christ, He that dotb. bis, will shall know of the doctrine. Thou shalt know a little, which will reach to thy heart. There thou must begin ; and being faithful there, thou shalt know further of the doctrine ; but being unfaithful there, thou mayest be stumbled and prejudiced against the doctrine, but never be able to know it. Oh! the mystery of life! Oh! the hidden path thereof, which none can learn but those whom the Father teacheth! But many think to learn in that, which ever was, and ever will be, Thut out. If Christ would lay his doctrine, before them, and make it good
to their understanding, they would receive it. No, no; they must bow to Christ, to his name, to his power, to his will, to his way of manifesting his truth; he will not bow to theirs.
Quest. 7. What are the fins against this covenant, and what effekts bave they?
Answ. The sins against this covenant 'are chiefly unbelief in the power, and disobedience to the power, which are of a deeper nature than the fins against the first covenant, and have more dangerous effects. The refusing of this covenant is more dangerous than the refusing the covenant of Mofes. And the breaking of this covenant; to wit, the starting back from God (through an heart of unbelief) here, is more dangerous than the breaking of the first covenant.
Quelf. 8. Why can this covenant be broken? Hath not God undertaken all in it?
Antw. It is an agreement between God and the soul, wherein things are required of the soul, through the life and strength which flows from the covenant. And the soul may hearken to the enemy, and not to the Lord; may walk after the flesh, and not after the Spirit; may lust after high knowledge, and hidden things of the kingdom, as they of old did after prying into the ark; may draw back from the Lord in those respects where. in it had given up unto him, &c. Now these, and fuch-like, are breaches of the covenant; or at least such fins against it as draw down judgments upon the soul at present, and at laft utter cafting off, unless the foul be brought back by the judgments into the agreement again with the Lord in truth and uprightness. It is true, the Lord doth all in the covenant according to his good pleasure ; but withal, he hath appointed a way of his working out the life and happiness of the foul, to which it is his good pleafure to keep. And his way is Christ, his feed. Hence all the love, mercy, care, and tenderness of God flows. Hither is the soul to come for it; and here the soul is to abide, that it may enjoy and poffefs it. But if the enemy can by any means draw the soul out from hence, he draws it from its life and strength, and from the sweet blessings and influences of the holy and free covenant. Now the Lord hath not given power to the enemy to force from hence; but he gives power to the soul to abide with him here; and in the hour of distress, if it cry to him, he helps the helpless, and lifts up a standard against the enemy.
Now all that desire the sweetness of this covenant, the life, the virtue, the blessings of it, oh! wait to feel and receive somewhat from God, and in that to fear before him, and walk worthy of him, and not to grieve or provoke his Spirit. For he hath the power of life and death in his hand, and whom he will he may have sufficient cause against, to turn from and cut off when he pleaseth ; and whom he will he may extend mercy to, as far and as long as he pleaseth; for it is his own, and he may do what he will with it. Only know this, God is love; God is bowels, infinite bowels;