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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 exposing thyself to the righteous judgment of the Lord, who judgech in truth and righteousness, and far otherwise in this matter than thou dost.
Christ 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 Pharisees sought, was within them; who were as far from any sense and understanding of it, as the Gentiles; and so though it was within them, yet they were without it; they had no knowledge, no understanding, no sense 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 presumptuous, do mens apprehensions (which they take up from the letter of the scriptures, without the light and leading of God's Spirit) make them, even to fly in the face of that which is certainly known, witnessed, and experienced to be of God, as well as held forth in the scriptures, as Col. i. 27, see the Greek.
As to those harsh expressions, vilifying the truth of our God, and the conversion to him thereby; I shall only say this, well, friend, go on ; reproach us and our testimony, and the truth of our God, as being able to lead us no further than morality, &c. we assuredly know and experience, and faithfully testify as in God's fight, that it hath led us further into the mystery 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 apprehensions of man upon scriptures are passing away, and the pure truth itself, which the scriptures testify of, is already revealed, and further to be
and to have the gloryty of, is already reveal and the pure truth it.
Ye think we set up a natural light, and esteem it fpiritual ; but we are taught of God to distinguish, understandingly and experimentally, between nature, and him from whom nature came; who is the word of life, the Lord God of life, besides whom there is no Saviour ; who is near to every man to warn him of, turn him and deliver him from, the devourer and oppressor of the soul. Now though the vessels in which the light shines 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 vessel, is fpiritual, even the Spirit of the Lord God, which ftrivech with fallen man in the midst of his darkness and captivity at seasons, according to his good pleasure. This the Shepherd of our souls hath taught us, opening our ears, and causing us to hear and know his voice, and to learn of him; who is truth, and speaketh 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 myself, that I was settled firmly in the doctrines which ye now own, and in the congregational way of worship, till the Lord smote me and brake me to pieces. Which such as I did converse with (to wit, teachers, and others of esteem in that way) professed they could not conceive the ground of; but said it was a prerogative case, and did not doubt but the issue thereof would be good unto nje. But what if the sheep were scattered, before the Shepherd came to gather them? What if they were wandering from mountain to hill, seeking their 'resting place? What if they went mourning up and down from one watchman to another, from one sort of people to ancther, inquiring after their beloved ? Did this make them unfit to be pitied and visited by the Shepherd ? What sort did Christ gather in the days of his fleih? Were they not despised of the wise, learned, settled ones (in their knowledge of the law and prophets)? But blessed be the Lord, who hath now manifestly revealed the foundation, and the kingdom that can never be shaken, 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 cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein the power is manifested to crucify that, which cannot otherwise be crucified. The Seventh hath been largely spoken to already:
To the Eighth.. The Lord God knoweth, that it is not in my heart to judge or set at nought any man; but in faithfulness to God, and in tender love to souls, to testify to others what I have seen in his light, as he requireth of me. And is this setting them at nought? It is true, they cannot believe nor receive the testimony in the state wherein they stand, but that doth not disannul or weaken it; but truth and its testimony stands, notwithstanding their rejecting and rising up against it.
To the first particularly. "To own and contend earnestly for the scriptures aright, is good; but it was not good formerly to set up the writings of Moses and the prophets above and against Chrift; nor is it good now to set up the fcriptures above the Spirit, or to make them the tryer instead of the anointing, John ii. 27. for the scriptures came from the Spirit, and they testify 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 sanctuary) 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 Jerusalem ; which light is eternal, discovering, dispossessing, and working our the darkness, and so taking up its place.
Now though ye may aim at having things concerning churches, and church-worlhip, regulated according to the scriptures; yet ye may easily err
therein, and cannot bur 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 yourselves; 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 spoken of by the Spirit. This is very short of speaking as God's oracles. And one fort of you conceives thus, and another thus, concerning the scriptures, &c.
To the second. 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 sound words by reading the scriptures; but will be liable to be setting up your own conceivings and apprehensions, instead 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 so will be continually in great danger of being deceived, and of deceiving one another's souls.
To the third. Ye have a notion about Christ's active and passive obedience being imputed to the soul as its righteousness, which the scriptures speak not, and which manifests 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 soul's, in and by the faith.
To the Ninth. God is my witness (whom I worship in spirit, and in whose fear I write and speak) that I dearly love you; and in the truth and dearness of love, earnestly desire concerning you, that ye may not mistake about Christ, his Spirit, his scriptures; about faith, love, mortification; and about the righteousness, peace, and joy of the kingdom, or any other spiritual thing; but may know, experience, and enjoy the truth and substance of things, as they are in Jesus. 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 spiritual weapons are mighty through God, to the pulling down of the strong-holds, and bringing all (even every thought) into subjection to Christ.
To the Tenth. That God did as much for Judas as for Peter, is not our doctrine: for God giveth more or less out of his rich treasury, according to his own good pleature. But the unprofitable servant had also 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 likewise, which they did improve, and their Lord accepted and justified them therein ; saying, Well done, good and faithful servant, thou haji been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter into the joy of thy Lord. . Now is there just ground for any of these servants to boast and say, 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 thie gospel, and hath praise of God (he that hateth the light, doth not believe nor obey); and yet he seeth no ground of boasting: 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 boasting, and keeps in the sense of the love and mercy. Oh! that thou knewest a limit and check to this wisdom, and thele reasonings in thee, which are not of, but against, the truth; as that light which thou despisest would manifest to thee, if thou knewest the nature and virtue of it, and didft cleave unto it. In this wisdom and understanding thou mayest read much, and comprehend much, and be greatly taken with thine apprehensions upon scriptures; but it is shut 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 such thing as man's free-will to good in the fallen estate. 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 issuing 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 wisdom, from that which he stands 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, since he hath taught us to distinguish of things: and this is chaffy in all sorts of men. But there is a feeling of the pure nature of heavenly love, and a sinking therein into the deep sense 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 stripped 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 spiritual, and of God.
As for the Four Queries at the close, which I propounded in love, and for advantage to thee; it seemeth to me strange thou shouldst say thou wouldīt speak to the sense of them, and yet so waive the main drift and plain sense.
The First was, Concerning Christ's being spiritually born of his church ; to which thou hast said nothing at all, but that the first Christians and churches were very glorious, &c. Which they also can own, who have denied the faith, and are not in the truth.
To the Second thou hast answered as little, nor rightly according to the letter, putting in the dragon instead of the beast. • Thy Third and Fourth are also short, and not directly to the thing; but I wrote not to contend. The Lord God shew thee mercy, bring down the wrong wisdom in thee, bring thee into a capacity of knowing and receiving his pure living truth, that thou mayest not witness or fight against him; but, in and by his Spirit, understand the scriptures aright, and witness for him.
Nineteenth of the Twelfth Month, 1667.