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The Spirit, the truth, the life, the substance, is God's for ever; the unclean spirit cannot enter into it, the unclean womb cannot conceive of it, nor bring it forth; but the letter, the fhell, the outward figure, the outward relations and descriptions of things; the other fpirit, wisdom, and nature in man may read, guess at, transform, receive, believe, and build up with according to che felh. And here is the foundation and rise of antichrist and Babylon, among them who raise up a building, a knowledge, a faith, an hope, a church, a worship, duties, ordinances, justification, fanctification, &c. in imitation of Sion. But they are not the thing itself, but false representations of the thing; either such as were invented by man, or fuch as were once appointed, and made use of by the Spirit of the Lord. For there is little difference between inventing a new thing, and making use of an old thing, which once was of God, but is now understood, observed, and practised out of the sense, light, and guidance of his Spirit, in another spirit, and according to another wisdom. Now this is not the right way of reformation; to wit, to return to outward (literal) things, which were practised by the Jews in their day, or by the former Christians in their day; but to return to the Spirit that they were in, and to feel in the true life and leadings thereof) what it teacheth and requireth to be observed and practised now. For there are things, whose value is not in themselves, but in God's requiring of them; which the wrong spirit may get in to, and the Lord may draw his people out of them as he did out of the outward court, into the inward building or temple, by his light and Spirit within, when he gave the outward court to the Gentiles, Rev. xi. 1.-8.) And he that is found in those things, after God. bath given them to the Gentiles, and drawn his people out of them ; is not therein owned or accepted of God, though God may bear with him in the time of his ignorance ; yet if he abide in them, after the rising of light, and its teftimony, the Lord will not so bear with him ; but will condemn him, and deal with him as a transgressor of that covenant, wherein life and peace with him is witnessed.
Therefore, in all things that concern God, whether in reading the scriptures, praying, or observing any thing ye call duties and ordinances; Oh! that ye would approve yourselves Christians indeed, waiting to know your guide and leader, and the true limits which are set by God; that ye may ferve him in the true faith, Spirit, and understanding, even in that which God knoweth to be so, and not in that which ye may fally account fo! For mark; if ye be Christians, are ye not in Christ, and is not Christ in you? And are ye not to feel his life, and the guidance of his Spirit, so as ye may live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, read in the Spirit, pray always in the Spirit, believe in the Spirit, worship in the Spirit, and in the holy understanding of his truth, which is of him?
He that would be right in religion, must have a right beginning. How is that? He must begin in the Spirit: his knowledge, his faith, his hope,
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his peace, his joy, his righteousness, his holiness, his worship, &c. must begin there. He must come out of his own spirit, his own wisdom, the counsels and thoughts of his own heart; and wait on him, who beginneth the work of regeneration and life in the heart.
And he must afterwards diligently watch against that spirit and wisdom, from which the Lord hath led him, that it at no time again enter him; for it will be striving to lead him out of the way, with likenesses, and falle images of things, with knowledge falny so called, with a faith which is not truly of God, nor of the fame nature with that which he first felt; with false hopes, false fears, false joys, a false righteousness and holiness, which are not Christ's, nor according to the scriptures; but only such as he apprehends to be so. For a man, who once tasted the truth, and in some meafure judged aright, may afterwards err in his palate and judgment; and then take the wrong for the true, not keeping to that, nor being now in that, which formerly gave him the true relish.
Now, he that would meet with the true religion, the religion of the golpel, must meet with the power, receive the power, believe, dwell, and act in the power. For Christ was made a king, priest, and prophet, not after the law of a carnal cominandment, but after the power of an endlefs life: and his covenant is not like the old, in word or letter ; but in the fame power and life wherein the priests were made ministers.
So the knowledge here, the faith here, the hope here, &c. are not literal, but living. He that receiveth this knowledge, receiveth living knowledge. This faith gives victory over unbelief, and over that fpirit whole strength lies in unbelief. This hope purifies the heart even as he is pure. And he that receiveth the righteousness of this covenant, receiveth a living garment, which hath power in it over death and unrighteousness. The beginning of this religion, of this power and holy inward covenant, is fweer ; but the pure progress and going on of it much more pleasant, as the Lord gives to feel the growth and sweet living freshness of it; noi. withstanding the temptations, fears, troubles, trials, oppositions, and great dangers, both within and without, which the life (which was at first turned to) being still kept to, by the power which is from it, and through the faith which is in it, in its own seasons and way of its own wisdom overcomes, giving the soul that is diligent and faithful to witnefs, that all its ways are pleasantness, and its paths peace; yea, the very yoke is easy and the burden light, when the mind and will is changed by the power, and helped and · assisted by the Lord in its subjection to the power. .
So the Lord God of tender mercies (who pitieth the miserable and erting out of the way, especially those in whom he hath begot defires after himself) remove the stumbling-blocks, and lead the wandering Jews (wbo are entangled in their own thoughts and reasonings about the letter) into that which is of himself in them, which is Spirit and life, and was before the letter, and excells the letter (with its dispensation) in glory; and is to remain (after the letter) the rest, joy, life, peace, and portion of the soul for ever and ever. So honour the letter, in believing its testimony concerning Christ, who is the Shepherd (to whom the sheep are to be gathered) the way, the truth, the life itself, to whom the soul is to come, and on whom the soul is to wait for life, and having received life from him, to dwell, abide, and grow up into him, who is the life, and not go backward into any thing that is literal, or without life, nor to glory in the knowledge, or literal descriptions of things; but forward, into the spiritual, heavenly dispensation of life and power. The law was letter, the gospel is life and power: the law was a shadow of good things to come; but the gospel is the substance, the life, the virtue, the Spirit of what the law shadowed our. From hence the Christian is to spring; the Jerusalen from above is to be its mother, the Holy Spirit its begetter. And because here the state of true sonship is witnessed, therefore God pours out the Spirit of his Son upon these; and then the Spirit being received, which is above the letter, a life is to be felt and lived in beyond words; even that which the good words lead to, and end in.
And here the truth, sweetness, and fulness of words is known, felt, and winessed, even in that which comprehends them, and gives them their due weight and measure. Nor can any possibly understand the words of the Spirit, but he that is in the Spirit ; and then he knows the place of the words, which came from the Spirit, and of the Spirit from whom the words came. And this is precious; but not to be witnessed by the wise disputer, but by the serious traveller, who first is broken and dashed co pieces in his own wisdom, and then afterwards healed, led, and guided by the eternal Spirit of wildom, which is the sure and unerring guide.
The Spirit of God knoweth the things of God, and the states of perfons, and what is proper or improper for them: he knew what was proper for the Jews under the law and prophets, what was proper for them in Egypt, what in the Wilderness, what in Canaan, and what in their several dispersions and captivities; for the disciples, in the days of Christ's appearance in flesh, for the churches in the days of the apostles, for the witnesses and mourners in the times of the apostaly, and for those who by his power are raised up, and delivered out of the apoftafy.
And the Spirit of the Lord doch not only know the state thus in general, but likewise every foul's particular state, and how to apply things to its state. There are some newly quickened, newly come out of the darkness, There are several states and degrees of growth; there is a tempted state, a wandering state, a back-fliding ftate, a shaken state, an established state, &c. Now there is somewhat proper to every one according to his state, which the Spirit of the Lord knows; and those who are called out by him, to minister in his name and power, know also, as his Spirit pleafeth to teach them, and make manifest to them. All truths are not proper to every ftare, nor all remedies to every disease. Christ had many things to teach VOL. II.
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and say to his disciples, which they were not able to bear; and a man in reading the scriptures, though he should understand the truth of what he reads; yet he is apt to misapply things, as to himself or others, unless the Lord guide and help him. He is apt to apply that to him, which belongs not to him; and thrust that from him, which belongs to him.
Thus may a man easily err and wander, from error to error, and toil and wear out himself in his several apprehensions, ways, and practices (thinking he doth as he ought, and as God requires of him, according to the fcriptures) and yet his mind be from that, and his understanding out of that, which opens the scriptures aright, and gives the right use of them.
Therefore wait on the Lord to feel quickenings from him, through a measure of his life revealed, and the mind gathered into, and purged thereby; and then wait for the Spirit's appearing to thee in this measure ; · further quickening, purifying, guiding thee, and manifesting his truth therein to thee, according as he fees thy need, cítate, and condition to re
• And thus thou wilt be like a child, living not upon a wisdom of thy own, but upon thy Father's wisdom, and not gathering a knowledge according to thy own will, and into thy own comprehension; but receiving it as a gift daily from the hands of the Father, and so thou shalt always have it fresh and living, and safe for thy ufe; whereas that, whilst thou keepest in thy comprehension, and can't run to when thou listest, and make use of when thou listest, putrifies, and yields but corrupt nourishment; feeding not the living, but the dead in thee; and fo thy very knowledge corrupts thy mind, and brings it into death, and thou haft only such a knowledge as may be held in the dead part, and fo livest and walkest as man may live and walk, without the pure life and presence of God.
So this is the answer which was in my heart and indeed sprang up in me, as the question was laid before me in spirit). In the true measure of life, which is from God, and one with him, the scriptures are rightly read and understood, in the will of God, by him that doth it in the holy under standing which comes from him: not in a man's own will or understanding; for he cannot understand what scriptures he will, or when he will, or as he will; but he must wait on him who hath the key, who understandeth what is fit and proper for him, to know, or not to know; and so openeth or shutteth in his eternal pleasure, and according to his eternal wisdom; and what he openeth to thee, that is proper for thee to know; and what he shutteth from thee, that is proper for thee (as yet) not to know; but to wait the times and seasons of things, which are in the Father's hand. And fo, what the Lord reveals not to thee, that is yet a secret with him, as to thee; but what he reveals to thee, that is thine in his fear and counsel to feed on, and make use of.
So here, in the gathering of life, in the holy building, there is a holy order and wisdom from the Most High, wherein every one waits on the
Master, Mafter, on the Lord, on the Shepherd, on the Father of spirits, and receives from his hand, what is proper to his state. And so all hold the head, and live by the life, virtue, and teaching that comes from the head. And there is one God who is over all, and one Christ in whom all are, and one Spirit of life in which all are baptized and joined together. And every one as he springs from this life, and feels the union, virtue, and fellowship thereof, to abiding here, he is in his place and service, beloved of the Lord and Father of all, and felt by the life in all, in the unity of the body; and so cherished and helped forward in the love and Spirit, wherein the body is knit to the head; yea, whatever his state be (whether a state of mourning, 'or temptation, or deep distress; or a state of joy, rejoicing, and peace) yet abiding and waiting on the Lord, he is felt, received, owned, and dearly beloved in the Lord.