Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of James Nayler > A Testimony to the True Jesus
Concerning the people called Quakers, and that way, a sum of their faith & profession is come forth signed by James Nayler who seems to be chief; whereby having obtained through grace a more perfect understanding of them than I had before, his trumpet giving a more certain sound than others had done; and having observed that spirit to show itself therein with more nakedness and less covering (at least to me) than at other times, I shall in righteousness and love to them and others present a view thereof according to the same form and visage it there presents itself under.
The ground of my appearing herein is not any interest I have in court or clergy, from both whom I stand at a distance so far as they appear at a distance from Christ and his work; not any zeal I have to any form or way of worship cried down by this people; my heart is knit to all the Lord's people, from the priesta to the darkest forms, though I am not joined to them outwardly in the letter; nor that I am ignorant or a stranger to spiritual mysteries or inward truths, at least in part; touching which I may say that my thoughts and zeal for Christ <139> within have abounded so above the thoughts I had of his blood without, that I account it infinite mercy. I am not at this day in unity with that spirit that makes the death of Christ of none effect, instead of this my appearing against it: but my ground is this, that I might bear some testimony to the blessed mystery of Christ crucified, and against this or any people, so far as they appear against it: and that according to my measure I might set forth and justify the harmony that is between the perfect redemption in Christ for us, and the revelation of him in us, which two have been by the mystery of iniquity divided and set up one against the other; the first against the last, by men zealous for the dead faith of Christ without, against his Spirit; and the last against the first, by men pretending to the mystery of Christ in them, against the redemption in Christ for them.
The law was given by Moses in darkness, blackness, and tempests, and with loud noises; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ in a still and meek way, no cry nor voice to be heard in the streets; like as it was then, so will it be now; if the loud noises of the commandment and condemnation by Moses be brought in again, the still voice of reconciliation and peace by Christ may not be heard as to many.
The law was given by him that spake on earth, commanding things to be done by men in the flesh; the gospel by him that spake from heaven revealing our righteousness already wrought in the Lord himself: as many as are not ignorant of Satan's devices do know how easily, having begun in the Spirit, we return back to the bondage of the first, but how hardly we stand fast in the loyalty of the second: if such a spirit or faith shall cover this land, that saith, we are not perfected forever in Christ the head, before any good be done in us, what remains then but that sacrifices for sin be offered again, though not in the temple at Jerusalem, yet in the temples of our bodies, and so build up again the old worldly sanctuary, only changing the manner and form of administration.
What may be useful for us to know, as to the general consideration of this and many other spirits, the things following may in part acquaint you, in whose hearts the faith and love of truth does yet remain.
There is a righteousness according to the letter, consisting of bodily exercises in the earthly members after the outward commandment, which is but the purifying of the flesh (Heb. 9:13); herein stood the religion of the carnal Jews under the first testament; this became a covering upon their eyes, a veil upon their hearts, that they could not see <140> nor receive him who was the righteousness of God.
There is a righteousness of angels, or a worshipping of angels (Col. 2) which is the spirit of man retired into things within, passing beyond the things of the letter or of the body into speculations of the Godhead, understanding of mysteries, to a certain perfection of knowledge and holiness, all which is but the glory of man: herein stands the religion of the anti-Christian Gentiles now under the new testament: this was the sum of all the divinity the school doctors did know or deliver: this angelical perfection (falsely so called) laid the foundation of the eremites living by roots in the wilderness, or anchorites shutting up themselves from communion with men, of monasteries and holy houses, for mortifying the flesh and perfecting in holiness: these things, while they bear a show of wisdom in humility and neglecting the body, have been in every age and still are set at enmity against him who is the righteousness of God, in the several approachings and manifestations of himself; so what Satan cannot do in a weaker way by the righteousness of the letter he will endeavor to effect by a ministry of light and righteousness, that appearing as in the glory and purity of an angel of God he may darken or diminish the righteousness and glory of the Son of God.
There is the righteousness of God, Jesus Christ, who by that fullness of Spirit and life dwelling in him, did at once and forever, not in ours but his own body, triumph over and put an end to the law, sin and death on his cross, and rising from the grave, raised up and set up, together with himself, his church in the heavenly righteousness in him; this righteousness is as far above either of the former as Christ is exalted above all principality and power: therefore can they not add nor extend any righteousness to this, no more than the glory of man or angels can add glory to Jesus Christ.
This righteousness is the word made flesh: not the word alone nor the flesh alone, but the union of these, God and the man Christ in one, and the operation proceeding from this union wrought and remaining in the person of Jesus Christ: this righteousness being broad and perfect, according to the person in whom it is, extends itself unto all and upon all that believe and presents them perfect and without spot to God in itself, without and before any work or good done whatsoever: let this righteousness shine forth amongst us, and our eyes shall be kept seeing, our judgment sound; neither philosophy of men nor perfection of angels shall spoil us; neither iniquity in the letter nor in the mystery shall beguile us; but where this righteousness is denied or out of sight, there darkness had covered the mind, there spiritual wickedness will be taken for gospel mysteries.<141>
Among the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:20) idolatry is one, the knowledge and worship of God according to the law, according to philosophy, and not after Christ, this is idolatry; until Christ be formed in thee not as a lawgiver but as a mere savior, not only as putting away sin and perfecting righteousness in thee, but as having already put it away and perfected thee in himself, thou art in idolatry (Heb. 9:26 and 10:14). That of God which is manifest in all men presents God according to one form in his eternal power and Godhead: Moses presents God in another form, in his back parts, as a lawgiver and a judge: Christ presents his face to us, glory in the highest, peace on earth, good will towards men; all these prepared already. Hence may be observed:
That God may be known three ways: first, to that in every man by the things that are made: this may discover to men the invisible things of him, his eternal power and glory, but not his good pleasure or purpose of grace; this may raise up to high imaginations of the divinity, as over all, through all, and in all to a glorious show and height of seeming holiness and perfection, but knows nothing of the mystery hid in God, redemption by Christ, nor can lead any into it; unto these Christ crucified is foolishness.
2. God may be known by the law from Mount Sinai; but this sight is so terrible that Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake"; this knowledge exerciseth the body, purifies the flesh, compels unto works, but opens not the way into the holiest, the heavenly righteousness hid with Christ in God: unto these Christ crucified is a stumbling block.
3. God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ without a veil, as in a glass; there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2); the invisible, inaccessible God comes down in the man Jesus and appears in him as upon a mercy-seat: unto him let all men look that would see the Father: the crucifying of his flesh was the renting of the veil, that grace and glory before hid in God might now shine forth in him; so Jesus Christ alone in his person is the face and image of God, wherein he may and will be seen. If any man, though an angel from heaven, shall not point you unto a crucified and glorified Jesus for sight and access to God, know this, that he leads you out from the new and living way unto the old and deadly gate, where the flaming sword turns every way, that no flesh can enter in and live (Gen. 3:24). Curious speculations of the divine majesty without Christ Jesus are the proper work of reason, and the highest divinity of philosophers, Jesuits and justiciaries; if thou thinkest to approach the divinity, his light and holiness, excluding the mediator, thou shalt be <142> confounded of his glory. Let J. Nayler and his followers with fear and trembling hear and consider.
Doctrines and spirits are spoken of fair in show, high and perfect, which yet hold not the head (Col. 2). What are the doctrines, and what is the head? The doctrines are first of men; such are they who come in the words and wisdom of man; their doctrine a leaven of the Pharisees, that is a compound of human wit and learning, law and gospel letter, Jesus Christ having only a name among them, himself being not believed nor known by them, neither in his crucified body, nor quickening Spirit; these being of a lower and common nature are received by the greater part of men.
Secondly, there is a doctrine of devils, of Satan transformed into angels of light; such preach a Jesus, gospel and Spirit, but not the true; speak great things, abstaining from meats, from marriages, neglecting of the body, as things base & sensual; imagine & intrude into things in show more excellent, things not seen, purity, perfection, life of angels; but the true perfection and life which is in Christ alone they deny, and set up another in work; that which is prepared and finished already in one, the body of the man Christ they destroy, and teach another to be wrought or done again in many by angel or spirit, in the bodies of all the saints; these are they who worship angels, who hold not the head; their doctrine by how much in show more spiritual, by so much does it spoil and bewitch the minds of men above all other.
What then is the head?
The head over all things, the head of the church is Christ, of this there is a twofold understanding. First, according to his Godhead only; that God is head over all things, to be feared and worshipped of all men; thus Jews, Turks, pagans and all men do know and profess; this is that which may be known of God by all men and is manifest in them, the enlightening upon everyone that comes into the world. Secondly, according to the whole person God and man in one; as such he received power to become head over all things to his church; against him drove two great and dreadful enemies: the handwriting of ordinances, charging our sins and curse upon him, and principalities and powers with their spiritual wickednesses to have swallowed him up; against both these he prevailed, blotting out the one, having nailed it to his cross, and spoiled the other, making a show of them openly, and triumphing over them in it: and thus he was declared head over all things, which is to be rightly understood, not only as he is in the form of God, equal with God, able to subdue all things in us to himself (for <143> this is true of him, had he never been manifest in flesh at all, and is known and professed by all nations, though they believe not or know nothing of Christ come in the flesh, as Jews and pagans) but he is head according to his whole person, Immanuel, God and man in union; in that, not often and in every generation and in many bodies, but in one body by one offering once and forever he hath, not in our persons but in himself, already subdued for us all things whatsoever are named in heaven, on earth, or in the deeps, the law, sin and death, with all their might, dominion and power. Hence are these sayings faithful and true; and if any man or angel preach another doctrine, believe him not.
That Jesus Christ, the brightness of the Father's glory, has already by himself without us, and before any good wrought in us, finished transgression, made an end of sin, abolished condemnation and death, and that not by Spirit only, but by Spirit, water and blood.
That though in the kingdom of the law, of reason and sense, that is, in the flesh, sin, condemnation and death are seen and felt; yet in the kingdom of grace and faith, that is, in Christ, they are vanquished and appear no more.
That a believer while enclosed and shut up in a body of sin and death, fightings and fears within and without, as he is in flesh, is at the same time raised up into the heavenly righteousness, immortality and freedom above all sin or shadow of evil, as he is in Christ the head; as redeemed in spirit, a Christian is in heaven, in rest, in victory and perfection; as not yet redeemed in the body, he is on earth, in labors, infirmities and imperfection.
These blessed sayings, whosoever holds fast in faith and love, will be in him as a lamp leading him through the thick veil of legality, the vain speculations of philosophy, the mysterious depths of antichrist; and will be to him a light to discern the doctrine, Spirit, ministry and church of Christ from them that say they are so, and seem to be so, but are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan.
Ye are complete in him. Upon this truth has the church of Christ been built, as upon a rock, higher than all the floods and storms that have gathered against her during the long night of antichristian darkness; as this truth shined forth, literal and mystical idolatry in England, France and Germany, as shadows of the night, fled away. On the other hand, this truth dying and decreasing out of the churches of Galatia, Colosse, &c., prepared the way of the man of sin into them, and to this day hath exalted him over all nations: when the knowledge of Christ as head shall more increase, and the church grow up more into him who is head, antichrist in his highest forms, his deepest speech, his fairest shows, worshipped and wondered at by the unbelieving and unstable world of <144> professors, shall be revealed and consumed.
Concerning this people, passing by their language, postures and all other respects as to person or circumstance, the trial and knowledge of theirs or any other spirit may more certainly be had from the substance and ground of their doctrine and faith; the sum and scope whereof (as to me it appears) may be fully and faithfully gathered up in these three following principles:
1. That the light which enlightens every man, accusing of sin, is Christ and God, the pure and perfect, the eternal and just one, and so the redeemer and savior, and the all, to be known and believed, not as do others, in word, letter, or person without, but as within, redeeming, reconciling and making atonement, not without in another, but within in ourselves; out of which light man departing was lost in darkness and the fall; into which light returning again, he is restored and redeemed as at the beginning.
2. That this light as condemning of sin and death, and restoring out of it into righteousness and life, this is the blood and death of the cross, the resurrection and second coming of the Son of God; and that obedience without mixture unto this light working all our works in us, this is our redemption, justification, mortification and sanctification; so much obedience, so much redeemed: thus the law and gospel, faith and obedience, death, resurrection, redemption, justification and sanctification are not things distinct, but one and the same within us.
3. That the way to come to all this, and to Christ and the Father, is the light in every man condemning of sin, the sure word of prophecy, wherein we must wait within, and not as others go out unto a Christ without, a letter without; Christ and the Scriptures only delivering their own experiences and conditions not as a rule or word of faith to others; and giving their testimony only to the light within, & not to any person, redemption, or operation without; also his and their ministration in work, words or letter, without being only the literal covenant that makes nothing perfect. This is the justest description, and my truest understanding I can give of their faith and principles; their other doctrine are but conclusions proceeding from these.
Three principles of truth are perverted and denied by these three principles of theirs: the person of Christ as the object of faith; the Scriptures as the rule of faith; and faith itself as the evidence of things not seen: of each of these a word, whereby both truth and error may appear.
Jesus Christ was in the beginning with God, the word, the promise, <145> the life; yet foreordained in the end of the world to be manifest in flesh, to put away sin therein by the sacrifice of himself.
Unto him, that is, Christ as to come in the flesh, the two great witnesses under the old testament, the law and the prophets, did testify and point as the true promise and sacrifice; the law having a shadow of things seen afar off, not then received; of good things to come, not present and done; of Jesus the high priest to minister in flesh, and therein to offer himself the one, the perfect, the eternal sacrifice once and forever, no more to be offered from thenceforth in any age or generation.
In the fullness of time the word was made flesh, and being greater than Moses, the prophets, or John, he gathered up their several ministrations and finished them in himself; the fullness of the Godhead in him, as a sea of righteousness, life and blessing, abolishing and overwhelming the sin, condemnation and curse of the world, as the less is overcome of the greater.
And hereunto when he ascended on high he gave gifts unto men, whom he ordained as apostles and witnesses to the world, that the purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world began, which was shadowed by the law and foretold by the prophets, was now made manifest by the appearing of our savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished sin and death in his crucified body, and hath brought forth immortality and life in himself in Spirit.
Thus the mystery of grace and truth lay hid in the divinity, but came forth and was acted in the humanity; neither is the divinity without the humanity, nor the humanity without the divinity, but both one in Christ: thus the crucified and glorified person of Christ is the express image of God the alone object of faith, the way whereby God came down in salvation unto men and by which we ascend and have access unto God: thus redemption and righteousness is gloriously wrought without us in the person of Christ; to point to any person or Spirit within for the working redemption over again, other than to him that descended and ascended again, is to bring Christ down from above, and up again from the dead, to raise up Moses out of his sepulcher, which no man knows to this day, with his ministration of death, and to make the blood of Christ a common thing, or as the blood of another man: consider this and fear ye people of whom I speak.
To conclude this first principle with one other note: the person of Christ and redemption in him is veiled and denied by two sorts of men, legal teachers of the gospel, and mystical teachers of the law; they differ herein, the first set forth Christ in words of man's wisdom, conditions of law, and as only in the flesh without, not discerning him spiritually; the <146> other speak of him in more spiritual words and deep speculations, but only as redeeming within us, in Spirit, not discerning nor believing the glory of that redemption without us in his person; they agree in this, by both Christ is known only after the flesh, by the one only as in the form of a man or person without, by the other as a redeemer only within, that is, as not having finished already redemption on earth, nor as being head over all things in the Father: wherefore to know Christ as having already redeemed by his blood without, and as the incomprehensible fullness of Spirit, and life above all through all, and within all his people, this is the true, the safe, the blessed knowledge of Christ; and by this the first of their principles above named is weighed and reproved of error.
Concerning faith: it is the evidence of things not seen; heavenly things were in God from everlasting by way of purpose, yet unseen, unsearchable by any eye; in fullness of time they were manifested in the person of Christ, as by him perfected and wrought at once, yet seen and discerned only by faith; according to the measures of grace they are shed forth by the Spirit from him upon all the members and manifest to our sense: all things of the first creation were made by Christ, all things pertaining to the second are ceased in him; thus redemption is first entire in him, afterwards in measures revealed in his, a work once perfected forever in him, not to be done by pieces in us; and so it is in being and finished already, but hid with Christ in God.
Now upon these heavenly things there is a veil whereby they are hid: the law in the conscience, reason and sense in the flesh; and there is an evidence whereby they are seen, that is, faith; unto such as are under this veil nothing is seen nor heard but the commandments to work, and the sentences of death where work is not; the law in the letter and deeds in the flesh, as the face of the covering spread upon the heart that Christ cannot be seen: the highest divinity of men in this state is this perfection by obedience to the letter without, or at the best to the Spirit within; Christ as a lawgiver in their conscience and a worker of it in their persons, not as a savior having once fulfilled it for them in himself: what of God is felt and wrought in themselves, that they believe, and by that rule they judge, while the unspeakable righteousness, operation and life hid in Christ, and with him reserved in God, with the faith, liberty, joy and peace thereof, is hid from their eyes; such is the veil and the people thereof.
But where faith is come the veil is done away; the earthly man with his deeds and death, his hopes and fears, and all things belonging to him are seen to be abolished and overcome by the everlasting <147> righteousness and Spirit of life that is in Christ, even as the night is overcome by the day; and this is to be understood to be true in him, a covenant in him, ordered in all things and sure to us, not always perceived in feeling to our earthly members, yet seen and fulfilled in the inward man through faith.
It is said (1 Cor. 5:7), "We walk by faith not by sight." Faith and sight are to be understood, either as they are perfecting each other, or as by men divided and made contrary one to the other; sight of God has a glory and sweetness; faith in him, though not so seen, has a certainty and evidence; faith beholds things as true in Christ, though hid to sense and feeling; sight knows them only as shining or flaming forth upon the heart: visions and revelations bring joy and comfort, but they are things that go and come, and the breathings of the Spirit may blow when they list; but when these streams are withheld and as passed away, yet he ever lives, and we also in him: God spake in times past with the fathers and prophets by visions to sense; he speaks in these last times in his Son to faith: visions by figure, as those were, they were but given at times and passed away; the face of Jesus Christ beheld by faith is the constant and standing vision now under the gospel: spiritual influences and actings do yield some reflection and vision of God, but as a man sees his face in a troubled water, broken and changeable; but the face of Christ as the crystal and still waters presents God always in his clear and blessed image as full of grace and truth: they who put spiritual workings for the grace that is in Christ, and a sense of the Spirit for faith in him, they do under a pretense of Spirit destroy Christ Jesus, they take away that gospel which presents us in him before any work done, our perfection, our Sabbath, our rest, and leads us to work again for perfection by obedience to the light within, that is, by the law.
Faith and sight, the gospel-Christian is for both in their season and place; all other religions have divided them and erred; as it is very observable that sight being alone, that is, sight of the Godhead without faith in Christ has been & is the foundation of all false, fancied and idolatrous worships that are named: sight of the deity by the things that are made is the highest religion of philosophers and pagans; sight of God by the golden calf, by the idols of gold and silver, was the idolatry of Israel in the wilderness and Canaan. Conceiving the things of the Spirit of God by the sight and judgment of natural reason is the foundation of Arminians, a sect of morality, and of Socinians, a sect of subtlety: a kingdom with observation and fair shows in the flesh to the light without, was the religion of Pharisees and legal gospellers: some are of a weaker spirit, <148> their religion is about things of sight, touch not, taste not; some are of stronger heads, such are for divinations of the brain, things seen to reason; babes in Christ are for enlightenings and tastes and gifts, things of sight to the inward sense; and they that would seem to be the highest are for all to be known and believed as done only within: thus nothing is less learned and understood by the most of religions and opinions that are, than faith in Christ, and the life of faith: sense, or reason, or fancy, or mystical legality (all which in the account of the Spirit are but sight and appearance) having left no more room for true gospel faith, than only in that church of the faithful that holds the head, even him that is far above all things and they in him by faith.
And hence it is, that where sight or sense as to spiritual things is by any spirit or doctrine made a principle and rule of judgment, these and suchlike conclusions follow: do this and live; if thou sinnest after faith, thou art under the law; so much obedience, so far justified; while flesh lusteth within thee, no freedom from sin; to be perfectly justified by Christ and reconciled to God is not till fully mortified and obedient to Christ within thee, all which are sentences of the law, not of grace, denying Christ, overwhelming the afflicted in sorrow without hope, and turning the feet of the lame out of the way; of such doctrines beware.
On the other hand, where faith, or things not seen, or things in Christ are made the rule or principle of judgment, these sayings are blessed and true: I am black but comely; as dying and behold we live; when I am weak then am I strong; Enoch, Noah and Abraham died in the faith, yet received not the promises, only saw them afar off; all things are put in subjection under Christ, though we see not all things yet put under him.
The sum of all is, measure not things by sight but faith; the door of faith is open when that of sense may be shut; rejoice always in the Lord, though thou mayest not always see him; sight as alone is the foundation of idolatry, if thou beest led by that thou fallest back into the law, though in a mystery of deceit; if thou walkest by faith, thou shalt be led on to sight, not that of reason or dry speculation, but of spiritual, sweet and gracious manifestation of Christ, as in person a savior for thee, and as in Spirit revealing himself in thee: and hereby their second principle above named of justification and redemption to be the light within, as obeyed within may appear to be a mystery of iniquity to my understanding, affirming in effect that Christ is divided, Paul and every Christian crucified and made an offering for himself, and thereby justified, reconciled and accepted; and if it be so, let this people consider and fear; but if not so, let plainness of speech be used and not a veil.<149>
Concerning the Scriptures, passing by all other distinctions; they are first, the law of commandments ordained by angels, a ministration of the letter answering to that of God in every man, the law in the conscience; this within and that without being one in substance, a light and a law of things to be done for righteousness and life; thus all nations have received a law, having a law in themselves, though suppressed and veiled; thus all have a law, though dimmed and darkened, pointing to the righteousness of the law or first Adam, but not attaining thereunto: and herein all nations are one, whether Jews, Turks or pagans, their light one, law one, religion one, all following one righteousness, that is, of the law; only in difference of notion, and form, and manner of worship; all equally concluded under the law of sin, and all equally ignorant of the second Adam and righteousness by him: thus if Scriptures were not, by that candle in man God might be known, and the law and righteousness, yet but as in a ministration of death: the righteousness of God, and the law of the Spirit, and God manifest in flesh being a mystery hid from the natural man, declared only by the gospel and discerned by the Spirit.
2. The word of the gospel or reconciliation being the joyful tidings of an heavenly person and an heavenly gift, both equally wonderful, God manifest in flesh, and our righteousness in him; in whom old things, or things belonging to the first Adam, whether the law of God, or deeds of the flesh are passed away, having in him received their period or perfection, and all things, though not yet to us fully seen, in him become new.
Thus the gospel being a mystery of things hid in Christ is neither written nor to be seen in the heart of man; and being a mystery of things of the new creature and of another world, cannot be known by the wisdom of this world, that is, by the wisdom, spirit and light of the natural man: as he that gave a law to all the world has set in every man a light to know that law; so the ministration of grace being a far other thing, and exceeding it in glory, cannot be known but by a far other light than that in every man and exceeding it in glory, that is the Spirit of grace. Wherefore the bringing the gospel to light is after this manner: it first lay hid in God, unknown to angels or men, as the deeps that are beneath; afterward was declared and administered by the word made flesh in the person of Christ, as the springhead bring forth the deeps beneath, thereby him revealed through the sending of the Spirit to them that were with him, and to this day by the same Spirit to them that believe through their word: and hence these things follow.
That the knowledge of God according to the law all nations may <150> have by his enlightening within them; the mystery of God in Christ not so, the first being engraven in the spirit of man, this having not so much as entered into the heart of man, and being only revealed by another light far exceeding in glory, even that Spirit which the world never saw nor can receive.
That the Scripturesb as joined in one are the only sufficient, warranted and standing evidence of Christ to men; the Scriptures as the image of him without, and the Spirit as the light shining upon them, bring forth the true and living image of him into the heart: if grace have appeared to any, where Scriptures are not, the Spirit is free to blow where he lists, but this Spirit or grace the light in the natural man knows nothing of.
That the Spirit and Scriptures together, as they are a full witness to Christ and truth, so they are as the standing oracle or constant vision, unto which all ought to come for the knowledge of truth, the perfect judge for ending all difference about spiritual matters, and the perfect rule for trial of all spirits and ways of religion; the Scriptures as the lantern and the Spirit as the candle therein; they as the commandment of Christ to his church, and the Spirit as the judge giving the true understanding thereof, and bringing forth the mystery and majesty that lies hid therein.
Either of these, if set up asunder without the other, brings forth a twofold error, both perilous and hurtful.
1. Imposing the letter of Scripture without the light of the Spirit, whether by churches or councils, may be an opposing the Scriptures against the Spirit, and sets up another dominion over the conscience, which is subject to Christ alone.
2. Imposing anything for vision or Spirit without liberty of appeal, or reference to Scripture, whether by an angel from heaven, or an apostle, is a shaking men's minds from off the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone, and a carrying them away as by a blast of wind unto another Jesus, another spirit, of whom God never spake: he that imposeth anything upon conscience for Spirit without testimony of Scripture is as he that imposeth for Scripture without testimony of the Spirit; both equally seeking to bear dominion over our faith: the second error, if either, is worse than the first; the generations that are past, who lived more in the letter, suffered much by the first; these last times, which profess more of the Spirit, may suffer an hour of sore temptation by the last.
<151> The conclusion is: A call to any light, or voice, or word within, as the way to Christ, from the Spirit and Scriptures, unto spirits in distemper, who take apparitions of the night for dawnings of day, the sparklings of fancy for the true beams of faith, unto such this may seem a ministry of light; but he that through grace has still the faith of Jesus knows it to be a foundation of Satan laid in the deep, in order to a design of blotting out the gospel and therein the face of the mediator, the church in him, their liberty, their joys and songs in Christ: and hereby their third principle aforesaid, affirming the light in the conscience the way or guide to Christ, whereto only to attend, appears to be a darksome, fleshly and most legal principle, a very grave, wherein Christ, redemption, atonement, our victory and triumph and sabbath in him lies buried, despised and forgotten forever: thus according to my measure, their main principles are weighed; let the spiritual judge.
There is one thing more which I may not pass, as being the soul and life of all their principles, that the light which is in every man is Christ the redeemer, the Spirit; a twofold error may be discerned herein by the things following. Christ as in the beginning, the word, was he by whom all things pertaining to the first creation or natural man were made and do consist; and so he was and is the fountain of being and life to every creature; in him we live and breathe.
Christ, as the word by whom all things were made, is the splendor and image of the invisible God to the first creation; as brightness to the Son, so Christ to the Father, is a face of light sending forth his lightenings upon every creature, as a rule or law to every motion and operation; and as thus, he hath lighted up a candle in the natural man's heart, and also presents some beams of the Godhead and therein of justice, equity, soberness, &c., to be discerned by his candle and observed as his law: thus all natural principles, moral virtues and just laws of nations are beams from Christ, as he is the word and light of God to the natural man, not as he is a redeemer.
The highest office and use of this light within, or of the natural man, is this: to receive from God the manifestation of the invisible things of him, that is, the divine power and Godhead, and to return to God obedience thereto just and perfect, as God is just and perfect; that is, to know him as God and glorify him as God: thus the fullest account of the light within every man, according to the Spirit and Scriptures, is this: as in itself it is the work of the law written in their hearts; as to its object, it is the candle of the Lord in the Spirit of man, beholding God according to some speculations of the divinity, knowing <152> nothing of the precious gospel mystery, God manifest in flesh; and as to its exercise, it is a doing by nature the things contained in the law: hence as the sum of things spoken these conclusions follow.
That the light within for matter and substance is the same with the law of Moses, that was written upon tables of stone, this upon tables of flesh in the conscience; both were given for transgression, not for righteousness; neither of them could reveal or give life; both Jews and Gentiles being all under sin. From both these laws, whether in tables of stone or tables of conscience, Christ came to justify and deliver, bringing forth in himself instead of both a more excellent and perfect law, as far as the Sun of Righteousness himself excels that which is but a beam or letter of righteousness only: according to J. Nayler and the people of that way, Christ came to redeem Israel in the flesh from the law and every letter without, but to establish in force that within in the conscience, by obedience unto which men come to be redeemed: this is the first error; the light within or work of the law in the heart, from the terror and condemnation whereof the blessed Lord Jesus came to deliver, is called and worshipped by them as the redeemer and Spirit.
Secondly, while they affirm the light within, or in every man is the redeemer, they know Christ only as a lawgiver and worker, not as a justifier and savior; naturally, according to the Godhead, as judging and purging away sins within them, not evangelically, according to that blessed union or marriage with the humanity, as having already therein purged away all sins by himself.
Christ is formed in the minds, and described in the writings of men under a twofold image or resemblance; one according to gospel mystery by the Spirit of God, the other according to natural reason by the spirit of this world: Christ beheld as having our sinful flesh, condemnation and death as a garment upon him, and as having rent and torn the same from off him again by the power of the Spirit of life in him, and having so taken them all away as if they had never been; this is a true resemblance of him; thus is he seen in his proper colors; thus Christ is no Moses, no exactor, no giver of laws, but a most sweet savior and giver of grace, thus is he nothing else but infinite mercy and goodness, freely given and freely giving to us all things in himself; Christ according to this form shining in thy faith shall put to flight armies of thy temptations, shall try the spirits, shall preserve thee from being spoiled by any false doctrines, either of subtle philosophy or specious legality; if this image of him thou sufferest to be defaced, or any other ways painted out unto thee, when the hour of temptation or trouble cometh, thou shalt soon be overthrown.
By the spirit of this world Christ is set forth under another resemblance, by some more according to the Godhead, as the word, the <153> light, the truth, the Spirit; by others according to the humanity, as a man holy, spotless, separate from sinners, and by both as a living example unto the world of perfect obedience to the law of the Spirit and the life of God; this sets forth Christ indeed as a divine person and so has a truth, but presents him only as giving a law and working it in us, and so denies and blots out the glory of his grace as being the end of the law: this is the divinity of sophisters and justiciaries, and all that they know or can teach of Christ; let such teachers know, who cry up the Spirit to cry down the blood, who teach him as an example and cast out the atonement, let all such know, while they vaunt of sublime divinity and mysterious truth, they do but set Christ in Moses' chair as lawgiver and judge; but the great love in him, as propitiation for sins, they know nothing of: the highest religion of natural reason is to pierce far into notions of God, and to set him before it as a pattern to obey; but faith only sees the deep secret of grace laid up in a crucified Christ: he that would behold the glory of God and would be set up in those heavenly places, let him lay down his reason how heightened soever and begin in the simplicity of faith at the crucified body of Christ, in whom he shall see himself dead and buried and raised up also together with him, not by any work or obedience to Christ within, but by the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Christ from the dead.
Hence these things follow: 1. That the light within, or of the natural man, with the work of reason together, is that spirit of this world which hath formed this false resemblance of Christ as a lawgiver and worker and pattern; as upon the cross, an atonement to justice, the victory of sin, curse and the grave, and the head over all (which is the true likeness or image of him, terrible to others but the joy of his own), so he is not known to the light within. If a man should be born into the world and in the space of one hour should grow up to the perfection of a man, to the fullness of light and reason, propound unto him these doctrines whether he will choose, that Christ has already by himself purged away his sins and sanctified him forever before any good work wrought in him; or that not Christ without but the light within him is the Christ, which through obedience thereto purges away sin in him and redeems him that way; the first would seem foolishness and a contradiction to his light, the last would be received as the more reasonable and excellent way.
2. That this false conception or resemblance of Christ as a lawgiver and worker is an idol, and the root of idolatrous religions, doctrines of circumcision added to Christ by the false apostles; of charity, humility and bodily chastisements by the church of Rome; preparatives before <154> faith by the teachers of the law, and obedience to the light within, as the way of redemption, by the people called Quakers: all these, though diverse as to parties and notions, yet are one in the root and foundation of their faith, all looking upon Christ, according to the law, as perfecting out in part or in whole redemption by work within them. Conceptions of Christ, how divine soever, if not as crucified for our offenses, and raised up again for our justification, are but idols set up of a more spiritual nature, as the gods of gold and silver.
Lastly, that they who affirm the light in every man that condemns of sin to be Christ, the redeemer, have set up an idol for Christ, they are gone back from that Christ that came not to judge but to save the world, that speaks not condemnation but mere joy and sweetness to the weary and weak, and have set up another Jesus and another gospel, neither of which, nor the worshippers thereof, shall be able to stand when the true Jesus shall appear; this is the other error as to the light within.
This blessed doctrine of grace, Christ bearing away sins as in his crucified body, and justifying the ungodly as in himself, is by the words and writings of this people often and principally charged of two things: 1) as denying the light within, and setting it against Christ; 2) as teaching Christ at a distance, and only without. A word to both may not be unseasonable. While the light within condemns of sin, to believe by Christ, I am justified from sin, is not this to make the light within against Christ? no, no more than the law is against the promise; the light in the conscience and the law of commandments for substance are one, their power one, their kingdom one, that is, the flesh or first Adam; Jesus Christ came forth one greater than the law, greater than our conscience: against him arose the law of commandments, the law in the conscience, sin in the flesh, death and the curse, all great and mighty lords who had devoured the earth, sparing no flesh, neither kings, princes, nor people, whom he having vanquished and triumphed openly over them, he took the law out of the tables, the work of the law out of the heart, and sin out of the flesh, as the conqueror takes the conquered kings out of the throne of their kingdoms, and nailed them to his cross: according to the flesh he was, as it were, given for a prey to the fowls of heaven and the beasts on earth, principalities on high, and the miseries of the flesh: according to the Spirit of glory and power he redeemed the prey, brought back the spoil, raised up his flesh and therein his body mystical, and gathered together all things that were against him, that are against us, <155> buried them in his grave, and therein shut them up forever.
Hence then a believer is divided into twain, and accordingly lives in two kingdoms, according to his faith he is a man in Christ, raised in him, and set up in him above the law of his flesh, of conscience or sin, above the whole world, with all things therein, into the glorious liberty and blessedness of Jesus Christ; as thus he is to be known no more after the flesh, but as having put it off in union with Christ; according to reason and sense he is a man in the flesh, subject to the law, to infirmity and death, the life of his spiritual man being many times hid from the sense of his natural, as the life of Christ in the Godhead was sometimes hid from his flesh.
According to this twofold state a believer is under, he does at the same time give a twofold account of himself, both just and true; in my body indeed I have a law of sin, but as I am in the Lord I have put it off; as I walk by sight I am in the earth, in labors, in groanings, warfare and imperfection; but as I walk by faith I am in heaven, received into glory, walking on my high places in rest, in victory and perfection, where I shut my eyes from looking upon myself and forget all my fears, infirmities and bondage, leaving them all behind me as under my feet; and so is that word fulfilled in him, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
This is some of the mystery and knowledge of Christ crucified, not like unto that of the schools and lawmakers, whose highest knowledge therein comes to no more but this, that the humanity on the cross resigned up itself in profound humility and meekness to the will of the divinity, as the popish doctors; or that he yielded perfect obedience to the light within him, for a living example to the world, as this people called Quakers: I say, this knowledge and such preachings of the cross of Christ are poor, barren and empty, reaching only to the morality thereof, the praises of a just man dying without cause, and of his spirit and temper; but not discerning the mystery therein, that is, an end put to the law, to sin and the flesh, to and upon all them that are given to him: thus their first charge is weighed and resolved in this, that to a man in Christ, the light within accusing of sin pertains only to the flesh, and should abide in the flesh; that Christ alone as justifying from sins, as joy and sweetness, should abide in the conscience as the chamber of the bridegroom and bride, into which no law, nor light, nor anything that accuseth may in any wise enter, Christ reigning therein over every law; thus according to the flesh and light within there is conscience for sin in the justified man, according to faith and union with Christ there is no more conscience of sins (Heb. 10:2).<156>
The other charge follows, that to believe Christ has redeemed us as in his own body without is to believe in a Christ without and at a distance: this charge examined will appear to be vain: the faith of the gospel saith that Christ descended into our nature and therein came down to us in our blood, our prisons, under judgment, and thence raised us up together with himself into the heavenly places; he descended first into the lower parts of the earth, into the lowest estate of lost and undone sinners, and thence ascended up far above all heavens, and raised us up together in himself; this sets forth Christ as near, and not at a distance, as one within us, wrapped in our sin, as our sin, and us as one with him in righteousness, and his very righteousness; oh the blessed nearness between him and the believer.
That Christ comes down in Spirit into our persons, not to redeem, but to manifest the redemption, not as a light accusing of sin, but as revealing righteousness and liberty from sin in himself, and gathering us out of the life of reason and sense, the law and things without, into the glorious rest and victory in himself; he there lets us know that we are in him his sister and spouse, that he is in us our head and fullness, and that all things are ours, that we are Christ's, and that Christ is God's. Thus Christ is beheld both as without, having wrought all things for us, in the person of the mediator, and also as within us, working all our works in us as a quickening Spirit.
On the other hand, the faith of the Quakers, so-called, says thus: that Christ indeed took on him our nature, but not our judgment and sin, that he died at Jerusalem but by way of example, not as a sacrifice putting away sin; that he did not the work by himself at that once, but only showed us the way how he redeems within us in every generation.
That Christ is come in our flesh, but as a light accusing and judging, renewing a law, and requiring obedience thereto through the fire and the sword, by them called the blood of the cross, and so through perfect obedience justifying and redeeming. Oh what darkness and confusion has covered this people, thus to make faith void, and the blood of Christ of none effect, and now let the spiritual-wise judge unto whom Christ is known as nigh or as afar off, to them, or to us: to us who behold him as having already scattered the clouds of the law and darkness, dried up the floods of sin and death, opened a way into the holiest, and received us into his glory; and besides all this, showing himself in the nearest conjunctions and friendliest appearances of a brother, a father, and husband, after an unspeakable manner filling us with his fullness: or to them, who draw the veil over this most comfortable face and aspect of things, set <157> up the law, sin and death again to be suffered, satisfied and done away within us, and Christ standing upon terms with us of obedience and death, without which no remission of sins, no redemption, nor benefit to be expected from him; I say, let the wise judge who of these have Christ most nigh, most as unveiled, in the most inward and friendly way; let the charge then of Christ without return from whence it came.
I shall only mind ye of the parable of the wounded man lying between Jericho and Jerusalem: there came first a priest and a Levite, looked on him and passed by; after came a Samaritan, had compassion and bound up his wounds, putting in oil and wine, set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him there: according to the severe and unmerciful doctrine of this people, Jesus Christ came down into our nature, beheld it wounded and lying in blood, able enough to have said to us, while in our blood, live, and to have made us so; but only leaving us an example of perfection and sufferings, wherein, if we followed him, we should live, and so departed, leaving us as he found us, till the light within come and cured us; so they reckon of the man Christ to be such a one as was the priest or Levite; but blessed be that gospel that says he passed by, beheld us in blood, and it was a time of love; with the blood of his humanity, and the love and glory of his Godhead, he bathed our wounds, suppled and healed them, and after set us upon his own beast, carried us to the inn, bare us in his body, and carried us into his mansion in the Father's house; according as it is said, "He hath borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, for he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, the chastisements of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed." This sets forth Christ to be the kind Samaritan, the neighbor nighest unto us; the other makes him unmerciful, going afar off, not tarrying with us.
This gives occasion, among other matters, to cast in a word concerning the inward life or retired Christian; as all other spiritual things, so this has its truth and its counterfeit, by mistake whereof of one for the other, the faith may be perverted and our minds soon shaken.
Separation from the world, the company of men and affairs of this life, in stillness and silence searching into the knowledge of mysteries, the divine being and things of the inward world, was the religion of some Jesuits, schoolmen and others; that superstition in the conscience and fancy in the head was all in this, may appear by their writings, which are filled either with perplexities of wit, natural speculations of God, or rules of legality, leading men unto God by a perfection of obedience, Christ crucified as the way into the holiness being not <158> known unto them; these had but a show of the inward life, for they entered not by faith within the veil.
Retirement from the Scriptures and administrations without, from religions and assemblies, from all order and form, professed and practiced by whomsoever, unto the light within, and to it alone to attend as to the only Scripture, the voice of God and light of men, without respect to person or work, redeemer or redemption without, this is the religion of the people called Quakers: they who by the light within pierced into invisible things, the eternal power and Godhead had but the wisdom of this world (Rom. 1:20; 1 Cor. 1:20) and were of the world under sin as all other; again, they who excelled in shows of humility, wisdom and all outward holiness, as to the exercise of the body, and neglecting the same, yet their religion was no more than the rudiments of this world and perishing ordinances (Col. 2). I must say the same of this people and their religion to be both of this world, until they give faith or acknowledgment to the flesh or dead body of Christ to be the only way into the inward life or within the veil; which whilst they deny, instead of bringing into heaven, into the peace of God, and rest from their labors, they shut up the kingdom, and keep men on earth to perform sacrifices and obedience in flesh for their atonement; these have a pretense to the inward life, but are not entered through the veil of his flesh by faith into the holiest.
He that by faith goes out of all things in himself, whether perfections of reason, or the light in the conscience, into Jesus Christ crucified, and in him believes, all things of law or nature, with the works of both, to be passed away, and himself crucified and washed and perfected forever; and not considering his body now dead, nor yet the deadness of all things as to any good in his flesh, but shutting his eye and ear from all things of sense and reason in the world or his flesh, cleaves only by faith to the dead body of Christ, and therewith mounts up into the spirit of his mind into Christ Jesus alone as his own victory, righteousness and life, this man is he that enters into rest, into the inward life; he is truly separate from all the religions of the world and yet exercises a religion in the world, he is free from all men and yet a servant unto all; his life is in the head, while decays and deaths in his flesh; and of him is that true he is as unknown and yet well known. This is the retired Christian that most truly lives and rejoices in things not seen to sense nor reason, nor the light in the natural man; he has the clearest, surest and sweetest beams of Christ, leading him not into pharisaical austerity, nor wanton libertinism, but into a spirit of holiness, quietness and stillness in the Lord, yet so as that, according to grace received, he desires to become all things to all men.
There is a generation who have the form of faith and knowledge, <159> of the words and profession of Christ, but have not the faith, whereby they are dead in Christ, and he lives in them; it sufficeth them to know Christ died for sins, which faith is common to all men; but the mystery of faith they have not, that is, union with him in it, or that they are buried with him into death in the flesh, and raised up with him into life in the Spirit; they behold Christ as without to be the end of the law, of sin and death, the fullness and fulfilling of all things in himself, wherein they do well and taste some joy therein; but they receive him not by faith into themselves: my root and foundation is this, what Christ is and has done without me in himself, but the way to partake of the benefit of it is my union with him; these do confess to the truth of the first, but are not joined to it by union with it, and so fail in the last. Christ indeed is by these honored only as without, while in his Spirit and grace he is by lust crucified within: from such do ye turn away.
Another generation there is, not believing the end of sin in the death of Christ, nor themselves perfected only in the head, look for a redemption, not that already in being in Jesus Christ, but to be wrought out by him in their own persons; that is, after the example of Christ, turning away from all things inwardly and outwardly, every thought, desire, pleasure or affection and every creature, till they come to the light and being of God, and become so passive, and in all things subject thereto, that God may do all things in them. A chief master of this way speaks plainly thus: "Though God should assume all men that are unto himself, and should become man in them, and they in him should become God, and the same should not be done in me, my fall should never be recovered, nor yet my sin done away, except the same were also done in me." These are the words of a German priest, written (as is said) above two hundred and fifty years ago; this doctrine, as it carries upon it the notion of God or the divine nature doing all in us, has a show of glory, but as it denies that God has done all things for us in Christ, so it has no glory, but rather spreads again the veil which Christ rent in his blood, that the riches and glory of grace may not appear. If any of the fiery darts of hell have ever been shot against the faith whereby I stand, and if by any of them I have ever been near to staggering, this doctrine was one: if Scriptures and a crucified Jesus may stand for a little aside, among all the doctrines either named or professed this day among men, for shows of light, spirituality and holiness, I know none to be compared with this; yet if I much mistake not, the glorious and eternal efficacy, victory and triumph of the Son of God upon the cross over the whole world and all things against us, is by none so much obscured and debased as by this; of which I think it meet at best in this place to say only this: that if the sins, transgressions and evils of mankind were so great before God, that <160> all the wood of Lebanon, all the rams of Nebaioth, ten thousand rivers of oil, and the first-born of our body, were not sufficient to offer for the sin of our soul, that the blood of Jesus, and in him the eternal wisdom and righteousness of God was found only among all things in heaven and earth to be sufficient to take away the same; then let all high thoughts come down whereby any do or shall exalt themselves into an equal capacity with Christ Jesus of drinking that cup and being baptized with that baptism in the measure and manner as he did, in hope to make that atonement for their own sins which only could be made once by Christ, never to be renewed more: wherefore coming to God through the blood of Jesus, beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ, and communion with God in the Spirit of Christ, this is the true inward life; but he that enters in any other way may break through unto the Lord and gaze, but he shall perish.
Now the things hitherto spoken of give occasion to admonish you of a twofold departure that should come to pass in the last days: the one of men holding the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (2 Tim. 3), the other of men denying the form of godliness, or of the words of faith and good doctrine, but pretending to the power thereof (1 Tim. 4:1,2,6); seducing spirits & worldly interests mingling themselves with the gospel and church of Christ have in every age since the apostles fell asleep been as the two arms of the god of this world; with the one he has defaced and veiled the image and glory of Christ in gospel truths, with the other he has quenched the love of Christ and the power of godliness in the hearts of men.
The one of these defections is to be seen at this day in this our nation, in degrees of wickedness beyond what has happened in former generations: namely in the army, their leader and commanders, their court and clergy, with all their stupefied admirers and servants, who have sometimes been as the sword of the Lord, as the chariot of fire, wherein our Lord Jesus has ridden forth against the interests of usurpation and tyranny, and against his and his people's enemies in this nation; this was their ministry; the eyes of their understandings enlightened with beams from the face of Christ; their hearts as burning coals consuming them with zeal to Christ; their hands stretched up towards heaven to receive him coming; their feet with wings setting them up upon the head of all worldly and lower interests to prepare the way of the Lord. This was their spirit and posture: against the whole kingdom of Antichrist, both in its forms and powers either in the civil or spiritual state, went forth their <161> prayers, professions and undertakings, the sound whereof went abroad almost through all the earth; from off them is this spirit of glory and virtue departed, and in the place thereof is entered another spirit, fierce, ruling the people by laws and weapons of war, instead of pure, spiritual righteousness and meekness; without natural affection piercing the hearts with unkindness and the sides with sufferings, of them who have been as a mother that bore and nourished them with their own blood, life and spirit all the days of their youth, while they were little in their own, and despised in the world's eyes: blasphemers, thinking, speaking and measuring evil to that spirit of faith, light and expectation in others, which they had tasted and testified of formerly in themselves: traitors, betraying that right and liberty, the price of much precious blood, the succoring and defense whereof was committed to their trust unto the will and pleasure of unlimited monarchy: heady, proud, high-minded, imposing laws, constitutions, powers, forming, transforming all things in the spiritual and civil interests, in a way of superiority and mastership above and apart from others, without taking in the hopeful assistances of more light, by the conjunction of the counsels, hearts and hands of their sometimes dear brethren unto themselves, as if the Spirit of the Lord came forth only from them, or came only into them: incontinent, not behaving themselves towards the wife of their youth, the new Jerusalem, to which they are joined as one flesh and one spirit, but have poured out themselves upon everyone that passeth by: unholy and profane, defiling their holy things, the appearances and gifts of Christ, the buddings, beginnings and earnests of a more excellent way both in church and state, by mingling them with a strange seed, the dark and fleshly principles, policies and administrations of worldly reason and prudence: despisers of those that are good, casting contempt upon those principles and persons which were a cheering and strengthening to them in the day of their straits, refusing the one as not squaring to their greatness, and imprisoning or shaking hands with the other, as too sullen or noble to be vassals thereto. Lastly, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, careless daughters at ease in Zion, who are gone up to their father's bed, and have bestowed the ornaments the Lord put upon them for the dressing up the old harlot again, which though themselves had been teaching before, yet fell in love with her after above measure, to wit, greatness and glory in the flesh, while Christ stands without door as crucified and forgotten; so that they having lost their savor, from them hath proceeded sourness upon the spirits, and filthiness upon the actions of many others who had a savor before: their fall being not alone, but thereat, as it were, the heavens were removed, and the stars therein darkened; righteousness and truth being as the heavens over our land, and many excellent spirits, as lights <162> and stars to men, are also darkened and fallen together with them; this first departure is a sorrow, but the other adds thereto.
Not many years since Jesus Christ began to shine forth in clearer principles and doctrines of light and grace, justification and faith, whereby the darkness and bondage of the law, with the teachers thereof, passed away, and liberty and peace in him brake forth: severe descriptions & preachings of Christ as a lawgiver & judge, which were as the veil upon him, gave place to more evangelical manifestations of him, as a savior of sinners; the covenant in heaven, completeness in the head began to be more opened, and the people came to Mount Zion, as the children of the free-woman, as saved already in the Lord, and set up above all things in him.
This grace and liberty in Christ being by some turned into wantonness and liberty in the flesh, by very many into dispute and contention about the letter and form, has given occasion to the old spirit to enter again into the house new swept and garnished, that is, the law-working spirit, denying the blessed atonement and righteousness as already in the head, the person of Christ, in zeal to another atonement and righteousness by obedience to the light within: which mystery of iniquity works more secretly in the churches, who too much press and praise a certain perfection by their rule and order, but more manifestly in the people called Quakers, of both whom it may be said, whilst their first light and love, liberty and perfection in Christ the head was turned into strife about the letter and bitings of one another by the first, they are in danger to be consumed and destroyed by the last; a people indeed that have show like a lamb, but speak like a dragon devouring words to destroy both old and young, not sparing the flock, whom nothing sufficeth (as to me yet appears) but to tear out of our faith, knowledge and profession the blood of atonement, redemption and reconciliation by that one sacrifice offered once and forever, to blot out of our hearts the name, remembrance, the light and joy thereof, till no other redemption nor liberty be known but by a pretended divinity or light within, working it in us through our perfect obedience thereunto; which his true sense is to say, the veil is yet spread, the law yet is standing, the lamb is to be slain, all things continue as they were from the beginning, ye are yet in your sins, till by obedience to the light within you be redeemed.
The glorious rest and liberty in Christ the head, as it is the light of our eyes, the girdle of our loins, to conduct and defend us from the mists and darts, whether proceeding from the law, philosophy, or satanical mystery; so if once we suffer ourselves to be spoiled of them, our <163> strength is departed and our eyes put out, and we betrayed unto every fox out of the hole, and boar out of the wood, unto every confusion, distemper, or deceit which may come amongst us; therefore stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, that liberty in him, which is in being as to the spirit, when in you are felt nothing but buffetings and straits as in the flesh: thus these departures from the faith have been as a door set open, the one to let in upon us the old spirit of tyranny upon our bodies, the other of legality upon our spirits, and the darkness and rebuke that is upon us is very great.
This leads me to two questions of weightiest consideration as to this people:
1. Whether they deny the Christ that died at Jerusalem to be the redeemer?
2. Whether they establish a righteousness by the law?
As to the first, how far they affirm or deny: I shall give that just judgment, and therein do them that right I desire they may do unto me: That Christ became flesh, was made in the likeness of men, therein humbled himself, and became obedient to death, that he might become a living example to all generations of perfection, thus far they affirm and have a zeal for Christ: that in that body of his flesh, through that obedience to death, he crucified our old man, purged away sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, and perfected forever all that are sanctified, this they deny (as to me it appears) and the faith thereof.
The gospel has in it morality and mystery: the morality of it is this, that Christ came forth from God, a man holy and innocent, obedient in all things to the light or will of God, and left that obedience for an example unto others; this sets forth Christ only as a lawgiver, as one who came to give a law more divine and perfect than others before him had done; and as thus he is known by this people, and set forth by their words and writings. The mystery is this: that Christ the righteous, the blessed and Lord of the law, was made for us sin, a curse and under the law; that was we who believe, being the unjust, the cursed and under the law, are made in him the righteousness of God, the blessed and no more under the law.
The gospel, as a commandment and piece of morality, may be read and believed by every man, and so was taught by the popish schoolmen, and is at this day by such ministers as are more zealous for duty than grace; the gospel as a mystery or free gift can only be known to whom it is given, and so is clearly known and sincerely and worthily preached <164> not by many: obedience to moral principles is the divinity of pagans; to the law of Moses the divinity of the Jews; to the preceptive part of the gospel of Jesuits and papists; to the light within of the so-called Quakers; these indeed excel one another as to notion and rule, but they agree all in one as to principle or bottom, that is, that work or obedience to some law or rule is the way to redemption, perfection and God, the sum of all is this: a Jesus in flesh as a preacher of perfection, also as dying for an example to us they believe and teach; the Jesus that died, and therein by blood and Spirit perfected us forever in himself, they deny, they know not: whosoever deny the blood of atonement in the death of Christ know not the Son, nor the Father in him, nor the grace in his bosom, nor our glory in him; and to all such in some bowels of compassion, I say, you may walk a while, during your hour, in the light of your fire, and warm yourselves in the sparks you have kindled, conceits of approaching perfection and the glory of God by a righteousness and cross set up in your flesh, but you shall not be able to stand before God and the Lamb in the day of his appearing, whose blood, whose travails, whose sacrifice on the cross is of no more account with you.
The other question is resolved in this, only for fuller satisfaction it may be weighed by itself. The law and prophets testified of Christ, and continued till he came, who fulfilled all that was written therein, even the righteousness of the law, whereby he was justified according to the law; and so it is said, he was a minister of the circumcision: being made thus under the law or first testament, he was to stand or fall, to live or die upon account of works according to the nature and terms of that testament he was under, as it is written, he that doth these things shall live by them, and therefore the reward unto Christ that worked was not reckoned of grace but of debt; and so he was made under the law, fulfilled the law, and was justified according to the law.
That God requires the same obedience of us as of him, and that through offering up ourselves in the same obedience he did we become justified in measure and degree according to the measure of obedience, being perfectly justified when come up to the same measure of obedience that Christ did, not before, this they affirm.
The conclusion of this, that even as Christ by doing the works of the law was justified according to the law, after the same manner by the same works done by us in the same spirit, unto the same measure we become justified and accepted with God, that is, by the works of the law; the righteousness of the law saith thus, he that doth the will of God commanded in the law is sanctified thereby, and shall live therein; <165> the righteousness of faith says, he that works not but believes the will of God is already done by the offering of the body of Christ, by this will is he sanctified and perfected forever; of these they take away the second and establish the first, that is, the righteousness of the law.
God having wrought all things for us in the person of Christ, this is our righteousness, and that truth which is first; God working all things in us by Christ is the fruit or manifestation of our righteousness, and that truth which comes after; these when together are both gospel truths, yet in their own order; when the first is alone without the other it is turned into a principle of carnal libertinism; where this last is alone without the first, it is made a principle of mystical legality: both these truths have their glory, but in a different respect, the first as in Christ the head, only visible to faith, therefore to the children of reason, the law and the letter not known nor discerned, nor by them desired nor praised; the other has its glory in the members, upon the flesh, as therein seen and felt, therefore more eyes are upon it, more admirers of it, and a greater name and show thereof in the world than of the other.
The mystery of God manifest in flesh was a ministration of infinite necessity as to us, that thereby all sin might first be taken away and the reconciliation made; this being done in him for all made way most blessedly for the other mystery of God, Christ in us, to be brought forth: I cannot, I did not know Christ Jesus a fountain of living waters in me until I first knew and believed that I was washed, sanctified and justified in him before any good done in me or by me: we love not him by bringing forth the fruits of love to him in our members, till we knew that he loved us first by the fruits of love manifested for us in our head: God as having perfected me forever in the body of Christ through the Spirit appears to me with open face as love, as light, a father and friend, as nigh me, I in him, and he in me: God as having not saved me in himself already, so he appears with a veil upon his face, the sight of him terrible, and to come near him is consuming fire; can two walk together except they be agreed?
It is a faithful saying, and a sure rule of judgment, and will stand forever; that as the greatest zeal for the sacrifice in the body of Christ, excluding his spiritual appearance in us, is a professing him as afar off, but not a joining or bringing us together into one; so the most spiritual pretenses to Christ in us, excluding the sacrifice for us in the body of his flesh, is to bring God and us together before we be agreed, that is, before the propitiation for sins or atonement be performed or done: woe unto them that profess they are brought nigh unto God in the death of the mediator, but come not unto God by him in the Spirit of him, these have only the form, but not the power of faith; woe unto them <166> that would enter in or come nigh unto God, excluding the death of the mediator, the man Christ Jesus, as the only way unto him, such have lost both the form and power of faith. Darkness and delusion works upon men by these two mistakes; some preach Christ as the head, but bring not men into union with him; others preach Christ as doing all things in union with us, but hold not the head as having done all for us in himself; these condemn each other, both are condemned by the children of faith, who rejoice in Christ Jesus as having overcome all things for us, as the head over all things to us, and who wait till the same victory be declared in us by his appearance in us.
For further satisfaction, another great question concerning this people may be taken into serious and humble consideration; whether may not they be that angel of God that should fly through the midst of heaven preaching the gospel of the kingdom unto all nations a little before the end should come?
Two things searched out may give light and resolution herein: the comings of Christ first and second, and the last coming of antichrist: the comings of Christ and his work in both are expressed (Heb. 9:26,28), once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him the second time shall he appear without sin unto salvation: the flesh, sin and death, with all the evils of mankind, were laid upon Christ together, who being the righteousness, wisdom and power of God could not be held of them, but as Samson the new ropes, so he rent them from off him on the cross, and together with his body buried them in his grave, where in a mystery unknown to sense and reason, but known to faith, they lie to this day hid and covered, taken out of the sight of God and the conscience of the believer, as perfectly as if they had never been; so that as the flood of Noah overwhelmed the old world, that it was not; or as the sun shining at noonday vanquisheth the least shadow of darkness that it is no more, so he that was the brightness of the Father's glory, and the deep fountain of David, abolished and purged away sin by himself that it is no more: if sense or reason, or the natural conscience may be judge in things of God, these things are not so; but let all such know that this gospel of Christ is a mystery hid from such eyes or principles of flesh: that religion that saith sin is not done away for us in the head, because felt in part in our earthly members, whatsoever honor it may take to itself as above others, yet is but built upon the same principles with all the false religions of the <167> world, to wit, sense, reason and unbelieving conscience, that is to say, the law; thus Christ's first coming was to take away sin.
As Christ first appeared bearing and taking away sin, so he shall appear the second time without sin, that is, not as at first, condemning, bearing and taking away sin, for this he did once when he offered up himself: as he first came clothing himself upon with our sin, so he shall come again clothing us upon with his everlasting righteousness; once he came in grace, taking upon himself the sin, the sentence that was upon us, then he shall come in more grace as having taken away sin both from off us and himself: his first coming united him to our flesh, and us unto him, all his were gathered together in him in one body on the cross; his second coming shall unite us together with him in one glory and Spirit, and shall gather all saints into one in himself, as it is said, "The Lord my God shall come and all his saints with thee"; we who believe are entered into rest, we have redemption, perfection and life already, but hid in him; we wait for the same at his second coming, not to be done over again, but to be revealed in us: those that shall trouble them who have believed in Jesus, by charging them of sin, and calling to a redemption as a thing yet to be done, or that shall declare him coming again to charge or accuse his people of sin, to set up in them a cross of atonement and redemption from sin; such do make void his first coming in flesh, which was to bear away sin; such are not the angel that shall publish his second appearance, which is without sin unto salvation.
Jesus Christ in person, as raised up above all principalities and powers, is the head of his church; all that are Christ's, whether those that are fallen asleep, or that yet remain alive, are in a mystery, raised up already in him, as in union with their head; they are so, but they appear not so: as all that were Christ's were raised up together with him when he was raised up, so they shall all come together with him when he shall appear again, the dead out of the graves, and the living changed, and all this by virtue of union, the members with the head: as Christ is not head in Spirit alone, but as the whole person; so his second appearance will not be in Spirit alone, but also in person; and as we are his members, not as to the Spirit alone, but also as to the body spiritual, so our gathering together unto the coming of the Lord will not be in Spirit only, but also in the spiritual body: thus the coming of the Lord in his heavenly person, and our meeting of him in our heavenly tabernacle or incorruptible state will be together; the union of head and members, and the evidence of Scriptures agreeing thereto persuading me so.
Let this union be kept clear as to our understanding, and entire from first to last, so shall the disputes of many and the diversities of <168> their faith about the coming of the Lord be cleared and ended, and the professions of this people will appear to be not according to truth, who some of them say, to us the day is come and the shadows are fled away; that day being as the lightning that shall shine from east to west, that is, not coming to some first, but to all that are Christ's together, bringing forth redemption, not of the Spirit alone, but also of the body, & bringing forth our Lord Jesus, not only in Spirit but also in person, and with him all that are his at coming.
Wherefore our union in Christ the head, and his union with us the members, are truths of a distinct nature and consideration: according to the first we are in him complete already; according to the other we know him in part, and grow up in measures: to be in him complete is a state more inward, more hid, seen only to faith; to have him in us increasing and in part is a thing more in sight, and seen to sense and feeling: learn and believe yourselves perfect in him, and wait and groan for the manifestation thereof in your members; let no man spoil you of your reward in the first, if you would not fail and come short of the last; live by faith always in him, though the clear and comfortable sense of him live not always in you. Thus much of Christ his first and second comings.
Concerning antichrist in his last coming it may be said, a conjunction of carnal things with spiritual, law and reason with Christ, was the egg of antichristianism, wherein that kingdom began, and whereby it has been nourished and continued unto this day: circumcision and philosophy under the pagan power; ceremony and works under the papal; subtle speculations in the days of the schoolmen; and fair shows in the flesh in these our times; all these in their several seasons having been coupled and mingled with the things of Christ, and standing where they should not, have made antichrist appear as a mystery, worshipped and wondered as the true Christ. In times of light, or of the apostles and first churches, he came forth in a ministry of light and righteousness of works, that he might dishonor and diminish the righteousness of Christ; in after ages as spiritual lights and truths decreased and declined into more carnality and darkness, he likewise took up and worked by more carnal principles; in later times as truth has begun to shine forth again, he also has transformed himself into an angel of light again.
Thus the way and method of antichrist in general has been by a similitude of truth to deface the truth, or by lesser truths to oppose the greater, by principles of reason to oppose the things of faith, by the letter to oppose the Spirit, or by the Spirit working all in us to oppose Christ as having wrought all for us in himself.
<169> That antichrist in his last coming will observe the same method as before, to wit, a counterfeit of truth, seems to be expressed by the Lord himself in his speech to his disciples concerning antichrist's and his own last coming (Matt. 24:5,26-27). "Many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; some shall say he is in the desert, some in the secret chambers, but my coming shall be as lightning shining from east to west."
The last truths, or truths last to be revealed before the coming of the Lord will be such as relate to his coming: spiritual whispers and voices from Christ to the virgins, behold I come quickly; and a call of the virgins one to another, saying, let us go trim our lamps, and go forth to meet him, this will be the work of the Spirit and saints at that time. Antichrist will come forth in the same form and language, as suiting with that season, speaking words not of mean and low strain, but of high and spiritual things: I am Christ, or he is come; his doctrine will be of things of note and wonder, deceiving and drawing many, behold he is in the desert, among us the lonely,c despised, afflicted and cast out, not among the wise, mighty and noble; behold he is in the secret chambers, not in the multitude, the assemblies, the common ways of religion, but among a people separate, and gathered and called out of the world into the more inward and spiritual way; moreover he will come forth with power: all men, all things of the earth, the faith, religion, souls and bodies of them which professed the truth but were not of the truth shall be given into his hand and be at his devotion; the true Christ with his church shall be as poor, weak and inconsiderable in comparison of him. Lastly, he will come with signs; the world looks for a sign, and he will come with signs of light, zeal and holiness; signs, tokens and wonders to sight, sense and judgment of all that are not in Christ, such as if they were the very truths, workings and comings of the Son of Man himself; only the elect, such as chose not God but were chosen of him, such as have not their life in gifts and workings in the spiritual vigor and activity exercised in themselves, but in the root of all this, that is hid with Christ in God; who have their redemption, their life, their religion in something that is perfect without, and beyond all work in themselves, that is, in Christ himself; these are those elect that have that in them which shall keep them that they cannot be deceived: he that in that day shall have a name written in heaven, that is a life complete in Christ, shall be greater than he that shall say, Lord in thy name have we cast out devils, that is, we have prophesied and gone forth in the gifts, activity and power of thy Spirit.
Wherefore it may be concluded concerning this people and all <170> other: whatsoever spirit or doctrine in them or any other shall teach the coming of Christ to make redemption or reconciliation in us, as having not fulfilled the same for us already in himself, I testify against it, as no other but the old law-working spirit under a new name and form, and therein the power of antichrist coming forth in one of his highest and last counterfeits of truth, thereby to pervert the faith and draw away the eyes and expectations of men from the true savior and his true appearance, which also draws near.
Concerning both whose appearances, that which is past and that which is to come, I shall give a short account of that faith wherein I stand, from which I trust neither word nor spirit shall ever remove me. That Jesus Christ first manifest in flesh came forth, not only as an example of perfection (as some say) nor only as a type or figure without of things to be fulfilled in us; nor only as a lawgiver (as others), but that in his own body on the tree, through union with the eternal Spirit, he bore away and abolished our sin and death, and fulfilled the law and prophets, wherein God so rested and therewith was so well pleased, that he signified the same by causing the blackness, darkness, thunderings and lightnings of Sinai, in the midst whereof he dwelt before, to pass away, and the veil of partition between him and us to rent asunder; besides which redemption there is none other either before or after, by angels without, or by Spirit within, that is or shall be wrought as to the thing, but only as to the manifestation thereof.
That not by following his example, or by any work, but by faith I come to know and partake of this redemption, which was in being before in him, but with other the heavenly things hid in God, and in time manifested to my faith and feeling; so that I began not to be redeemed or loved when I first believed, but I began by faith to behold and enjoy that love and redemption which was prepared and entire for me in him, before I had done either good or evil; sin and death being finished, and my old man crucified before in him as to God with whom all things are present; by faith I come to know it, and do reckon with him, I am as truly crucified, buried and raised up according to the comprehensiveness of his death and crucified person, much more than if the same had been acted in and upon my own person.
That while according to my inward man or in a mystery I am in heavenly places above law, sin and death, yet for the exercise and trial of faith, according to sight, or my earthly man, I often walk in the valley of the shadow of death, in the feeling of infirmities, buffetings and <171> fightings in the flesh: thus I am at once both weak and strong, on earth and in heaven, a sinner and righteous; thus I know my redemption and victory as in him complete, while I feel the same redemption and victory, as in me but in part and increasing; if my redemption were not more than what I feel, the gospel were not a mystery, nor faith would be any more than sight, nor grace have any glory.
That I look for Jesus Christ to come in me more in Spirit, manifesting his death, his cross and life in me, not thereby to make atonement for sin, but to gather me up through daily dyings and quickenings into the full sight, union and profession of that redemption and grace and glory already given me freely in him: also I look for the appearance of the Lord Jesus as God and man, who shall enlighten the saints with his brightness, and shall cover the earth with his righteousness, before whom all that which is against him shall be consumed by him, and that which is of him shall yield up itself to be perfected in him, as the lesser in the greater; this is my testimony and my hope.
After all that hath been said, some may retain this persuasion of this people, that they are a people of light, purity and power above all others: as to their light I would say that there is a ministry that knows Christ only as in an history, and teach him so, that presseth only the outward letter according to principles of law and natural reason, but know not the mystery and Spirit therein; what they can comprehend by the letter and reason, that they teach, and what is more they do judge error, heresy, and to their power oppose and persecute; this is a ministry of darkness.
There is a ministry also, that teacheth Christ only as an allegory or figure of things to be done in us, the cross and blood without only typing and signifying the cross, and blood, and Spirit within us; Moses, John and Christ with their several ministries being only as transient forms, figures and examples of another and more spiritual ministry within that only makes perfect; that doctrine indeed has a glory with the natural man, or him that is led by the principles of law or heightened reason, but has no glory with afflicted ones, who are under workings of wrath, and spoiled of all: let the masters of such doctrines with all their disciples know, the law was an allegory or shadow of good things in Christ, had nothing in itself, but signified all in another, and referred us over to him; this was but the weakness and emptiness of the law, it was but an allegory.
So they that preach the person of Christ, and redemption in him, to be only an allegory of things in us, such set not forth Christ in glory <172> but weakness; this is the emptiness of Christ, that he was but a figure, having done nothing for us in himself, but only pointing us to another, the Spirit to work redemption in us, this is a ministry of darkness, but under a form of light.
Which sets forth Christ in most light, let it be judged: he that says Christ has already by himself done away the ministration of condemnation and death, which was as a cloud of darkness spread over us, as a thick veil before us, that we could not come unto God, and in the place thereof hath brought forth a ministration of righteousness and life, whereby a way is opened into the holiest, into the light and glory of God; that saith, "Sing O heavens, for the Lord hath done it, shout ye lower parts of the earth, break forth into singing ye mountains, O forest and every tree therein, for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob and glorified himself in Israel"; all things that were against us are overcome on his cross, and descended into his deep grave forever; nothing remains but that you receive this savior as having done all things for you, as working all things in you; or he that saith, Christ came once into the world a teacher of perfection and a living example therein; but is now come in us, setting up a law of condemnation and death, wherein if we abide, and bear the indignation of God and punishment of sins, in his Spirit and after his example; through these sufferings as by the blood of the cross shall the atonement and redemption be made and perfected, if we be perfect in obedience; and that we are not to believe any such thing that the blood of Christ without takes away sins; sin is not taken away, nor redemption made till the same obedience and sufferings be fulfilled in us as in him: this doctrine because pointing to the blood, the cross, the redeemer within may, by shaken and darkened hearts, be called a doctrine of light, but indeed it bringeth back the shadows and terrors of the law again, remembrance of sin, suffering, sacrifice, wrath; and so far from being a light that it shuts up the light, grace and glory of God, that he cannot be seen any other ways than through a veil far thicker than that of Moses.
Christ as appearing above all mountains, as head over all principalities and powers to his church, so he is a light; as by the brightness of his glory he has vanquished that darkness and death brought in by sin, so he is a light; as he has in himself the second Adam destroyed all that which came in by the first Adam, so he is a light; he that brings not this doctrine makes Christ no more a light, but either a figure and example without, or at the best a lawgiver, a Moses and an exactor within.
There is a purity that is so with men, but not before God; reason saith man's nature is defiled by sin and must be washed by our <173> obedience; disobedience to God was the defilement, and by obedience and mortification we return to purity; but faith says, purity before God is the conscience purged by the dead body of Christ, and the heart purified by the Spirit of faith, believing the same: who are most for spiritual purity, they that believe sin already done away in him that came by blood, water and Spirit, and by union with him are therein washed and made clean every whit; or they who contend, sin not yet done away, take away our righteousness in the head so pure and perfect, and affirm our righteousness to be but in part till perfection in obedience? If bodily exercise or purifying the flesh may be called purity, divers monks and Jesuits especially of old may claim a name herein, who yet knew little of purity by the righteousness of God: when alms, bodily chastisements, retirement into holy houses, and going on pilgrimage was believed as the way to be perfect, no wonder if this religion abounded; so where this principle is received in power, that obedience to the light within, and all the several acts of that obedience till come unto perfection are the only redemption and way to be perfect; to see zeal and exactness, labors and sufferings, denying the pleasures, fashions and customs of the world in such, 'tis not to be wondered at: to purify the earthly members by the Spirit is good, while the inward man abides as in a more excellent way purified in the head; but to purify the members as reckoning it our redemption, our righteousness, all such purity is sin, blindness and idolatry.
Lastly, as to their power: the law is mighty to kill, because of sin, weak to save, because of the flesh; he that takes out of our sight our righteousness as in heaven, in the Lord already prepared, brings us back into weakness and bondage again, and leaves us without light or strength to withstand in the hour of temptation that may come either by spirits from without, or our flesh from within: that doctrine that declares our liberty, victory & triumph to be already in being in Christ the head, that shows us a life given unto us above all spiritual actings, exercises and comforts felt in ourselves, a life, liberty and perfection hid in Christ; this doctrine brings power and a spirit of power.
Completeness in the head without law or work, being believed and learned, gives a spirit of judgment over all spirits and doctrines, interest and kinds of life, and a strength of righteousness which preserves from the evils of all: whilst this truth lay hid, the church was in bondage unto the elements of the world, will-worship and monkish holiness having overspread all; instability and unfaithfulness to this truth does at this day deliver up many unto principles and practices not according to Christ: thus where righteousness in the head without work is denied, <174> there is neither light, purity nor power, though a show of all: speech, or words and outward appearance was one thing, and power another with him that said, I will know not the speech of them that are puffed up, but their power.
Having given this general view of this people and their way, I shall conclude with a word concerning the opposition and persecution that is everywhere practiced against them, and my sense thereupon. The opposition made against that or any way that pretends to be of God may be said to proceed either from ignorance, or enmity, or truth. As to the first, they that have not the Spirit of light in themselves oppose the same and the very appearance of the same in others; the religion and faith of the greatest part of the nation is no more but traditions of others, or inventions of their own reason; the teachings of God through the Son and Spirit being things they know nothing of, and therefore the more lively, inward and spiritual manifestations of truth they oppose: being in darkness themselves, they know not the light nor the workings of it in others, and therefore think no man sees more than themselves, and to measure all things by themselves; by this sort of men is this way everywhere spoken against, because under shows of light and spirit it testifies against them as in darkness and the flesh: as to this, I testify against the nation as fighters against God, while they ignorantly oppose any spirit or way, whether it be of God or do but appear to be so. Christ and the light of him is an offense to this world, therefore is this way such an offense, because having some resemblance of him, though to me no more; what is done against them, though it be not done against him, yet is done as against him, and the nation's sin is not the less.
Others have had a taste of light and truth, and begun in the Spirit, but are returned back to the flesh, and are sit down at ease in their forms and interests; and having lost their simplicity, savor and love to the interests of light and truth, the gospel and kingdom of Christ; further measures and manifestations of Christ and light and of obedience thereto are as much an offense to them as the least measures thereof are to the other: stinted forms of words and worship were the interest of the bishops; stinted measures of light and profession are the interest of these; those were at war with everything that was beside their form because against their interest; these are at war with what is beside their measure, because against their interest, while the tyranny of princes and idolatry of religions was heavy upon them, that righteousness and light was sweet that redeemed and led them out. Liberty and pleasures <175> in the flesh having since flattered them into the policies, principles and customs of the world, they take up the same weapons against increases of light and reformation in others, which their oppressors took up against the beginnings of it in themselves; by this sort are this people and others opposed and persecuted, because pretending to higher measures of light and righteousness than they can bear; unto such I say, it is a shame and sadness in such a day as this, that for mere differences and offenses about spiritual things, where no more occasion is given, men should be delivered up unto bonds, prisons and unreasonable men: let them live under you in peace, who break not your peace: let the true Jesus and the true gospel spirit shine forth more in our hearts and ways, and there will not need the arm of flesh either against the whore or the beast, spiritual or outward enemies.
Truth as it is in Jesus is the only principle whereby to oppose error, unto which truth I do here bear witness, and have so far herein appeared against this people as they have to me appeared against the truth in Christ: disputes and strifes among brethren divided in the letter, where the spirit is one, I avoid and forbear: enmity and opposition against spiritual enlightenings in others has been the sin of many in this nation; if I had been left to my own heart I should have been as they; but a searching for more light, and a readiness to receive it has been my frame; having through grace learned that one beam of true gospel light is more worth than the reading of many books, more mighty than all the kingdoms of the world with all their policy, force and greatness. The difference between me and this people is (as I judge) no other but what is between them and Christ; not about words, or postures, or gifts, or operations, but about the blood, the atonement, the person of Jesus Christ; if after divers conferences, readings and hearings their words and writings I could have found the difference no more than in gifts and measures of light and knowledge; if I could have found them holding the head, the person of the mediator, and completeness in him by faith, I should have been silent and studied unity with them.
God indeed is love, but Christ coming forth as righteousness and peace was the manifestation of this love; in him is our victory, liberty and songs: this truth sense feels not, reason cannot reach, law veils it, flesh and blood resist it, spiritual wickednesses in all false religions fight against it; if our faith and sight hereof be taken from us we are delivered up to the power of some of these earthly, dark and worldly principles; as this truth is darkened or denied by this people, I have appeared for it; it has been my light herein by which I have written; as it is opened or shut upon my heart, I did herein go or stand still; if it had <176> pleased the Lord to have increased my light and faith herein I might have written with more evidence and power; that little strength that has been lent I have not denied, not knowing what use it may be of.
The sum of things spoken by him is, that God's own wisdom and power or Spirit was placed in man, whereby he had power to be the son of God and ruler over all the creatures; this was the state of the first man; that man's departing out of God's own wisdom and power or Spirit put into him, and joining to another, the disobedience entered in; God's own wisdom and Spirit remaining yet in him, but as a captive; this was his fall: that by looking and turning not to anything without, but to that of God lying under and covered within him, the same makes atonement in him, and reconciles unto God through his yielding up himself thereunto, which is the blood of the cross; this is his redemption.
The account of truth is, that the first man Adam was made a living soul (1 Cor. 15), had a beam of light & power & glory of God, as to that appearance of him to the first creation, yet still but a living soul, not a quickening spirit: as to his outward part, earthly, not heavenly, created of earth, and feeding upon things created; as to his inward, natural not spiritual; that is, having in him the perfection and beauty of a created wisdom and power, not the eternal wisdom and power; a candle of light, not the sun or fountain of light itself: by that in him he saw the Godhead as light, righteousness, and power, but as giving a law and a sentence of death; thus God appeared and appears to the first creation; he saw him not as his light, righteousness, and power, by himself fulfilling the law and abolishing death: this appearance as then lay hid in God, reserved to be brought forth in the second creation; thus was man in his first estate.
That by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; Adam <177> was so one, that he was many in one; as the root before the branches is one, yet many as a root: departing from the commandment, and therein from God, he disobeyed and died, yet not as alone, but we all in his loins: the root being unholy, so were the branches; all flesh was defiled in him that was the father of all flesh; his sin and death like a flood having overflown himself and all the earth with a curse. This was his fall, and all ours in him.
That by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous: Christ was one, as to person, yet many in one in a mystery: so his obedience was not the righteousness of one, but of all in him: not by looking back and returning to the first Adam made a living soul, or the glory of the Godhead shining forth upon him; but by looking out of everything in man to the second Adam, made a quickening Spirit, and the grace of God shining forth in him through the blood of his cross, we are redeemed, and that not unto the righteousness of the first, but of the second Adam: thus Christ crucified was that wisdom hid in God before the world unto our glory, not known by the natural or first man, neither before nor after his fall: if there be that in the natural man, which being turned into and followed can redeem and make atonement for him (as this man says) then the blood of Christ is of no more effect; but do this and live.
He saith, that the light shining in every man is Christ the true light and life of men. That the going out of this light is the cause of all false religions, sects, and errors; that redemption out of all these, out of sin and death is by the light within all men as minded and obeyed; that a righteousness done as far as Indiad and preached as far as Corinth, where the same is not done in us, is the profession of Pharisees, hypocrites.
Faith says that God manifest in the flesh, and his glory shining forth in the man Jesus, vanquishing and doing away the ministration of the law, sin and death for us by his own righteousness and life, as excelling in glory, this is the Christ and light of men: the word made flesh as the mediator, having purged away our sins by himself, so he is light unto us, the same word as the spirit of revelation in us, so he is light within us, so he is not light in every man.
That where faith in the blood of the mediator is not, there is darkness the mother of errors, and all false religions, every of which are more or less bottomed upon the law in the conscience that is the light within, righteousness by obedience or work being the root of all, they <178> only differ in the rule; some are for Moses, others for the Koran, others for Holy Church, these for the light within. That the righteousness done in India, and preached at Corinth is the light that scatters the redemption, that leads out of all erring religions, from sin and death, and that the righteousness as far as India (a term of dishonor by them put upon it) is to the true spiritual believer not confined in the land of India, but according to the divine person in whom it is, is extended unto and upon all that believe, as a garment spread upon them for the covering of sins, a fountain of life within them for the washing away sin.
The sum of their faith is, that the imputed righteousness that justifies is the light within, or that of God in every man, which is the free gift that saints are justified with this righteousness by obedience to it; so much we work or obey, so much justified and no further. That the righteousness that is made a covering for sin is an invention of men, and will not stand in the last day. Nothing said of Christ manifest in flesh, or his crucified body and righteousness that way.
The gospel faith says that the righteousness that justifies is Christ not as God alone, nor as man alone, but as God-man in one, who being sin for us did most graciously and gloriously upon the cross abolish and overwhelm sin, condemnation and the curse laid upon his flesh, by that omnipotent righteousness, life and blessing that was in his Godhead.
That not by the works of God in us, but by the work of God in Christ, with the brightness of his glory purging away our sin in himself, are we justified without works, only through faith. Redemption is a work wholly and entirely in the person of Christ as head, revealed and given unto us through faith, and confessed and manifested by works. By once offering of his body he hath perfected forever all that are his; he that truly believes this is perfectly purged, and there is no more conscience of sin though yet the feeling of sin; by this faith is the creature made perfect in righteousness at once as in Christ; by the light within he is not made perfect till obedience be perfected; judge whither doctrine leads to perfection.
That the righteousness of Christ as a covering upon sin presenting the believer in him as righteous to God, while ungodly and in sins, as to his own sense, is a mystery of God that never entered into the heart or invention of man: but that righteousness that covers us no further than our works is the invention of man's reason, the very life and soul of all false religions. The first is Jerusalem above, bringing forth her children unto liberty, joy and rest, as complete in the Lord; the last is Jerusalem beneath, bringing forth to bondage and hanging down the head, laboring <179> for a perfection in the flesh, not discerning that already in the Lord. Was the woman that touched but the hem of Christ's garment made as whole as they whom he touched with his hand? Were the disciples that sat at Jesus his feet made clean every whit, as he that leaned in his bosom? or was as the child while under tutors and governors yet heir of all things? And is it not so now? Doth God measure out his love and everlasting righteousness by inches and ells according to our obedience as men in a bargain? What grace or glory is in such a faith? Where such a gospel is received, judge what is their spirit: unmerciful, censorious. Let these people know that the righteousness as in the Lord though now least in sight shall be a shadow, a cover, a cloud upon saints under which they shall be safe, where righteousness as only within, or the light within where the blood is not, though now having a glory with religious reason and unstable souls shall be condemned as found wanting. Let saints stand fast in their liberty in Christ, while infirmity is in themselves, yet let them look for the revelation of it in themselves, if it may be to swallow up all infirmity; let such as boast of their liberty in the Lord and desire not to be gathered into it in their members, know, they have neither liberty in him nor in themselves.
They say that the light within all men is the word of God, sufficient in itself without any other word for counsel and strength: that this word or light in all men is that of which the Scriptures were given to declare and can be understood only by it; that this light or word be obeyed, washeth, cleanseth, and conformeth man to God, and this is the reconciliation. The inference: if the light within every man be the word, the gospel, then all ages have had, all nations have had the gospel in equality of light and fullness, if they would obey it; then Moses, prophets and Christ were all but as one in authority and ministry, equal and one; that is, testifying and pointing to the light within men, not to the son of David, the mediator, him that came as none before him, nor after shall, by Spirit, water, and blood.
Truth says that the light within every man is the remaining sparkle of that law or light that God set up in greater glory in the first or natural man, and serves in all nations as the candle of the Lord, representing God only as under a veil, that is, according to the law, and by things that are made.
That Christ come in the flesh, in himself fulfilled the voices of the law and prophets, and put an end to their ministry, as being the minister by whom God would speak in the last times; this is the word, the oracles, figure and tables, with all the divers manners of God's speaking <180> under the law, being all to serve but for a season and to be silent when he came who was the living word. Christ is the word according to a twofold ministry; as without us in flesh, dying for our sins, and rising for our justification, so he was the minister or living word of reconciliation; as within his in Spirit, so he is the inward word or Spirit of revelation; these two ministries are not one without the other, both are needful for us, yet each in their order; Christ's ministry in flesh must first make way for his ministry in Spirit; till the word of reconciliation had finished his work of redeeming us to God by his blood, the Spirit of revelation could not come; as it is said, the Spirit was not given because that Jesus was not glorified. If no redemption by his blood in that ministry without, then no revelation of the Spirit of grace within; this people believe not the first, therefore they have not the last; but I entreat them to hear that the blood, the cross, the grace, the crucified body of the man Christ was and is to the true believer as the loud voice of God, speaking reconciliation and redemption to be already finished in himself, not to be done in us; as it is written, when he had said "it is finished" he gave up the ghost; by that ministry without in flesh he brought us unto God, by that ministry of his Spirit he reveals God in us; this Christ is the word as in both these mysteries, and one is not without the other, but the light within every man knows him in neither; therefore, together with the law with which it is one, ought to give place.
He affirms that the Spirit of life from God, wherein is the mind, will, and love of God, the name, power and wisdom of Christ, wherewith alone God can be acceptably worshipped, is in every man; that the way whereby the movings of this Spirit of life and leadings may be seen and attained is the light within every man, and waiting therein; that the light or Spirit within every man is the pattern of true worship; they who abide and serve God therein deny all the worship and religions of the world and are well pleasing to the Father; they who go out of this light into the letter or anything without go into the dead works and worships, darkness and idolatry.
The word of faith says that the law without or spirit in every man that says do this and live are the veil, and do keep them that are under it in the first tabernacle, that is washings, righteousness, redemption by obedience in us; that Christ's dead body was the rending of the veil or first tabernacle and the way into the holiest, through which we draw nigh unto God by the faith alone of Christ crucified for us, without works; to abide in any law or light whatsoever either from within or without, and to be exercised therein, as to be redeemed or perfected thereby, this is <181> to worship God according to the law, and as in the flesh; but to worship God as already redeemed from the law, flesh, and sin, as already freed and set up through faith in the life, spirit, and righteousness of Christ; this is to worship the Father as in Spirit and truth.
That the way to attain to this Spirit of Christ is not by the works of the law, or waiting in the light within every man, which is all one, but by the hearing of faith, or Christ revealed in the soul as the end of all laws, curses and evils, and the fullness of all good things unto us; that principle placed in all men may lead unto a spirit of fear, zeal and activity for God in the contemplations of him as a pure and holy God; but 'tis a far other principle, that is, Christ crucified for us, and the faith of him that leads unto that Spirit of peace, power, and joy, in the beholding of God as our Father in him; so then that spirit that shows the commandment and leads to the services thereof to be redeemed thereby is a spirit which all men may attain unto; but that spirit that reveals the things freely given of God without law or service is that spirit that is not given unto all; nor eye, nor ear, nor heart of man can see or find this out; he only descends and blows where he lists; neither being received can he be retained any longer than he pleaseth, no more than we can restrain the breath in our nostrils; that spirit exerciseth the servants thereof with labor and hard bondage and then kills them, as preferring the commandment of the old before the blood of the new and everlasting testament; this makes his children free and saves forever, as rejoicing in the head, and having no confidence in the flesh or the works done therein.
That the pattern of true worship is Jesus Christ as the oracle speaking from heaven, and the gospel as the preacher on earth; the one being the substance of heavenly things themselves, the other but the copy; that doctrine or spirit whatsoever it may seem, that calls you to the light in every man and to that alone as the only pattern of faith and worship, doth but build up a worship upon the same foundations with the worships of the world, that is, righteousness by the law, and serves to no other end than to blot out the true atonement, the blood and water, that fountain of healing in the person of Christ, with the very name and remembrance thereof, to bring forth instead thereof another atonement to be made in our persons, which in true sense is no other but the righteousness of the law.
He saith that the light within every man is that Spirit of truth which judgeth all deceit but can be deceived by none: that to divide or go out from this Spirit or light is error, and the mother of all false worship and religions.
<182> It has been before proved that the light within all men is the candle of the Lord in every natural man revealing the law and the offenses against that law; but the spirit that reveals the gift of grace by one man Jesus Christ the natural man neither knows nor can receive.
There are three that bear record in heaven, and they are one; there are three that bear witness on earth, and they agree in one; God sending forth his Son in our flesh for a propitiation for sins, this is the witness of the Father as the fountain of grace and truth; Christ coming forth as the image and brightness of the Father, purging away our sins by himself, and returning to God; this is the witness of the Son, as the fullness of grace and truth; the Spirit of Christ coming into our hearts, revealing the righteousness of Christ and the life of Christ in us, this is the witness of the Spirit.
Now among these witnesses there is such a unity that he that denies one, denies all; the witnesses are one and their testimony one, yet each in their order. The Father spoke and appeared, and bowed himself to sinners, but so as in the mediator the man Christ; the Son redeemed sinners, but so as he did in his own body, not in ours; the Spirit comes unto such, but so as he leads them into the light and fullness of Christ, not the light in every man. To divide from any of these, or to set one against another is error; Jews and Turks believe in God, but not as in the Son; they divide from the Son, and so have not the Father. The literal and carnal professors after a sort believe in God as in the mediator, but deny his Spirit in their hearts; these divide from the Spirit, and so have neither the Son nor the Father. This people believe in God as by the light within men redeeming from sin, but not as in the man Jesus having done it already; and so deny the witness of the Son, and have neither Son nor Father.
Christ is the band of unity between God and men; in him mercy and truth, righteousness and peace do kiss each other. In him God and sinners are met together, reconciled, and at unity. In him God comes down to sinners; by him we come unto God. In him the blessed divinity, and the seed of Abraham that is the human nature, are in covenant, in union; the covenant, the union was made by the cross, by blood, by the body of Christ; this was the Son's witness. Take heed, he that divides you from the Son and this his witness sets you at such a difference with the majesty of God as no light nor spirit within you can atone or make up; thus error is not to divide from the light within all men, but from Christ the head, the fullness of all truth, in whom we only see and have the Father and Spirit, and without whom all religions are fleshly or mystical idolatries.<183>
He says, the measure or light of God in every man is God's righteousness, perfection; that turning into this righteousness and abiding therein is the receiving of the righteousness of Christ by faith; that by waiting in the light within through faith and obedience thereto righteousness is wrought in, and unrighteousness wrought out; and so the creature is made free from sin—not a word of the faith in the person of Christ, or the operation of God in him for us.
The scope of their doctrine herein, and in all the height and depth of it, seems plainly this: that a measure of the eternal divinity is in every man, by turning whereinto, out of all sayings, writings, persons, operations, Scriptures, or Christ without, the same doth through obedience thereto destroy and purge away sins out of us, and so redeems and reconciles unto God.
The precious faith says that the eternal word manifest in flesh, being the substantial fullness of the divine life and righteousness, and having thereby vanquished in his flesh and buried in his grave our sins and death with all powers visible or invisible that were against us, this is he who is the pure, perfect and acceptable righteousness of God.
That to look away from all the voices and condemnations of the law without, or conscience within, from all things in our flesh and heart, whether good or evil, unto the person of Jesus Christ himself; and to believe him to be our righteousness, salvation and liberty, as in the hidden mystery of faith; which to our sense or earthly members we are in infirmities, buffetings, and bondage; this is to receive the righteousness of Christ by faith, the faith of things not seen to sense and reason, yet hid in God.
That by him all that believe are justified from all things by the law of the Spirit according to the conscience, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses without, or the work of the law written within according to the flesh; by the eternal Spirit in the blood of Jesus were sins washed away in the person of Christ before either faith or work; by faith the same is brought to light in the conscience, by the works of faith is manifest in the body; as I am in the flesh I labor between light and darkness, flesh and spirit, in fightings, in work; as I am in Christ, I am entered into rest and victory, and know no more work but Christ to be all; that faith that cannot see justification in Christ till full mortification in the flesh will be found to be that fleshly reason that cannot enter within the veil, that is, beyond the law, sense, and reason.
Let these things be weighed, that the purging away sin by a measure of God or light within is a baptism devised by reason, and may wash away the filth of the flesh before men, and hath a glory in <184> appearance; but the answer of a good conscience in the death and resurrection of the man Jesus will be found to be the baptism that saves before God, and brings forth the true glory within.
That this people seeking after righteousness by perfect obedience to the light within, and the Jews seeking it by obedience to the law of Moses without, are both in one spirit and under one law of work, and differ no more but in the copies of the law: those say, the law in the conscience is holy, just and pure, and by obedience thereunto the unholiness and sin is taken away; these say the law upon tables of stone is holy, just and spiritual, and by obedience to it they think to attain righteousness; let both these know that neither the letter of the law without, nor the light of the law within, how holy and pure soever, but Christ Jesus crucified as the end of both, and faith in him is that which shall preserve men blameless and without spot before him at his coming; all other coverings, whether by law, letter, or light within, if without that in him, shall be too short in that day.
He saith, to hope that that of God in every man or a Christ may be revealed to take away sin; to give freedom from sin in this life, is the pure, the reasonable hope that makes not ashamed; that to hope salvation while the witness in the conscience condemns of sin is the devil's hope, and the unreasonable hope; that they who have this hope look only for Spirit, light, word and righteousness without, and deny the witness within, and Christ within the hope of glory.
To believe Christ hath already once in the end of the world appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, whereby we are saved through faith according to the inward man (Heb. 9:26, 1 John 3:5), and to look and long for him to appear again without sin unto salvation and redemption of the body or outward man; this is the lively hope that makes not ashamed, that gives perfection and strength in him, while yet poor and wanting in ourselves.
That to rest in hope that I am saved already from sin and wrath in Christ the head through his blood and Spirit, whiles conscience condemns of sin in my flesh, this is the hope against hope, the hope of grace and faith, against the hope of law and conscience, or sense and feeling; this is the hope unreasonable indeed according to the law and natural light, but most true and reasonable, according to a higher law and reason in God, that is, the word made flesh, and made sin for us; this hope in many is no more but an imagination or idle notion, living in the pleasures of sin; in such it was begotten by the letter or reason, or at the best by a vanishing flash of light; but where it is begotten by <185> the inhabiting and abiding Spirit, there it is a hope beholding the glory of the Lord, and changing the creature into the same image in the Lord; the hope that sees the love of the Father shed forth upon us in the blood of atonement, and all sins and evils finished therein, is the hope that gives rest to the afflicted, wearied, and not comforted, and lifts up the head above the floods of all waters that can come against them.
He that truly looks unto the righteousness and grace in the person of the mediator doth also wait in hope for the righteousness, light and Spirit of the mediator to be revealed within him; therefore his words are a slander: to know Christ only as without, & to know him only as within are both alike error; to conclude, they that are Christ's are saved already, but it is by hope, not in clear and full enjoyment; the hope is laid up in him but not seen to sense and feeling. What a man sees or enjoys, why doth he yet hope for it?
His doctrine is that God's love to the world in sending his Son is this: that God had given a light in every man to condemn sin in the flesh and take it away through walking after the Spirit and denying the works of the flesh; that God's love in the creature doth likewise condemn all sin in others, not flattering or sparing any, and then covers them with righteousness.
Was this God's great and abounding love in sending his Son? Is it no more but God giving a light in all men condemning of sin and taking it away in them, or was it not rather herein, that when the law was weak, the flesh weak, while we were yet sinners and in our blood, while there was no man, no intercessor, that even then God sent his Son a propitiation for sins; who came down unto us not in the nature of angels, but in our flesh, and therein through death quenched in the still deep waters of his meekness and love, the anger, enmity, sin and death, with all things that might separate us from the love of God? Which of these was the great love? Let the Scriptures, Spirit, and spiritual man be judge; or is this God's love in men to condemn, curse, and judge others as not justified and saved in Christ, whilst they feel sin in the flesh? To take away my liberty, joy, and peace which I have in Christ, witnessed by the Spirit to faith, until the same be witnessed in my flesh to sense? Is this divine love? to trouble them that have believed in Jesus, the afflicted and wounded and weary, by calling them unto the ministration of Moses, the fire and the sword, the suffering, the indignation for sin, and unto perfect obedience, all this as the way to redemption and righteousness by Christ? Is this the love that is of God, the grace, the meekness of the gospel? or rather is it not the love of the false apostles, calling them to the fulfilling <186> of the law that were at liberty in Christ? who indeed zealously affected, but not well, that is, that they might glory in their flesh.
God's love to his people speaks woe and wrath indeed, but to the wise and strong who will not bow to the weakness and foolishness of a crucified Christ, to be saved in him, but to the hungry and weary, to the least of the little children that are in Christ, it speaks peace: fear not, your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake; wherefore to bring forth a full Christ, a fullness of righteousness, life and liberty in Christ to a creature empty and destitute of any such thing, this is that love that feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and gives water in the wilderness. There is a generation that flatters and spares in sin them whom the Lord condemns; this is to justify the wicked. There is another generation that charges and reproves of sin whom the Lord hath justified. Let this people fear that this is their error: both are alike abomination to the Lord.
His words summed up are, that the light in every man condemning of sin is the ministration of judgment and condemnation, and as it is received is light and salvation, redeeming from all uncleanness; that the spirit of judgment that went forth in the prophets against all unrighteousness is come forth in a people now; I understand, in him and in them.
The faith of the gospel saith that Christ having all judgment committed to him, in the body of his flesh, judged and gave up to condemnation and death the prince of this world, the flesh, the glory of man, his sin and righteousness, and having done all, he went to the Father and was seen no more; he being the brightness of God's own righteousness, and being to be made righteousness to men, he judged and put an end to all other righteousness, even to that which had a glory, as having no glory; so that it may be said by him, that is, in his cross fell all the mighty lords and tyrants of the world—law, sin, and death—all which are judged and overcome by that righteousness and Spirit of life in him; by this judgment are sinners redeemed already as in him the head.
That as Christ hath in every age come forth more or less, so in this last time he will come forth the righteousness and salvation of his people, whose appearance doth and will judge the works of the law as well as the lusts of the flesh, with all things that shall not be found in him and of him; God will judge the world by Christ, not by Moses, nor by angel nor by any other spirit; the gospel and Spirit of Christ in his people shall judge both angels and men, spiritual and fleshly wickedness.
The spirit of judgment is found either in the natural or spiritual man; the natural man being under the law hath a light within him to discern the things of the law; his judgment reacheth only to the righteousness <187> of the law, and to sins against the law; the spiritual man, being freed from the law in the glorious righteousness of Christ, is able to judge of all things, all religions, spirits, kinds and conditions of life whatsoever; judgings do abound amongst all men in this age, but few have the true Spirit or rule of judgment; law, or form, or light within are the principles of judgment with most. With the spiritual man so far as he abides free in Christ, it is a small thing to be judged by any of these; yea, he judgeth not himself; therefore let all take heed with what spirit you judge, lest you judge and not by the gospel, nor in the Lord.
The prophets and John had a spirit of judgment, but they testified also of righteousness only by him that was to come; they called not the people to a redemption present or to be done in that age, or by the light within every man; let this people bear testimony to that alone righteousness as already fulfilled for us in him, and not call away from that unto another redemption to be done over again, of which no prophets spake, that is, by the light within all men; and then shall true judgment be given unto them. Till then they will but err in judgment and stumble in vision.
His principal matter is, that perfection is that gift or light in every man by joining to which he is made perfect; that God sent his Son into the world to preach perfection, a perfect example, which whoso believe and follow him in it are made perfect; that nothing but perfection, that is, freedom from sin in the body before death can give rest and redemption; that imperfection of righteousness and gifts came in by the ministry of antichrist and is of the devil.
The gospel mystery saith that Christ, being the perfection of grace and truth, of life and righteousness, came forth in flesh, and therein on the cross put an end to the imperfect ministry of the law and prophets, to the pollutions and imperfections of flesh, and by one offering in his own person perfected forever all that were sanctified; he being the perfection of love, life, light and righteousness slew in himself the enmity, the power of death, and all that darkness and sin that was by the law. The Law could not give life, men could not obey, all creatures could not find out an intercessor; at this time Christ came forth in the glory of the Godhead, in the weakness of our manhood, that in the one he might bear all that was against us, by the other he might spoil and triumph over all for us. He was love and bowels to perfection, a savior to perfection; so that not by the law without, nor light within, nor any other imagined or pretended perfection, but in him ye are complete, who is the fullness of the Godhead, in whose death you are dead and buried, and in him raised up into the heavenly liberty and perfection, if <188> you do believe, though darkness, imperfections, & fightings may yet remain in your flesh. Christ first descended into the lower parts of the earth, our weakness and death, that he might finish them in himself; after he ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things, that he might make the angels, life and death to minister, to be for his own; as it is said, all are yours. This is perfection, yet hid; not in every man, but with Christ in God, and in the hearts of the children of faith.
And if so, then was Christ in flesh no more than a preacher or example of perfection? Was that fullness of the Godhead, that brightness of the Father's glory in him, no other than such a light as God hath set up in every man? or was his bearing our sins and the wounds for iniquities no more but to show unto us how we should bear them in ourselves? Then what pre-eminence had his person above Moses, Noah and the rest who were preachers of righteousness and perfection? Or wherein is his gospel above the law, which is a rule of perfection? or what were his sufferings more than those of Paul, who was in deaths often? Let the spiritual judge which is the doctrine of perfection.
Perfection is either that in the head, hid for us there until he shall appear, or a measure and earnest thereof manifest in our bodies. According to the first, a believer overcomes, possesseth all things, is dead, raised up, and received by Christ into the glory of God (Rom. 15:7); according to the other, a believer knows but in part, sees, enjoys and prophesies but in part, and so is in imperfection. Wherefore let the children in Christ know that they are saved and perfected in the Lord forever, whilst yet their seeings, prayings and actings in the Lord are but in part. And this people know, if they look away from that one offering in the head, and be not first perfected therein, that all other perfection by the light within and utmost obedience will not stand them in stead in the last day.
The sum of things spoken by him is, that to be guided in obedience to the Spirit or light within us, as Christ was by the Spirit of the Father in him, this is the righteousness of Christ; and thus by the obedience of one are many made righteous. That the Father calls for the same obedience of the believer as of Christ; and the believer offers up himself in the same obedience Christ did; and so is the obedience of Christ and a believer one. That the creature is not made perfectly righteous by the obedience of Christ, till he comes to the same perfection of obedience that Christ did; and so he is made righteous no further than he obeys.
If nothing should be said, the swelling pride of this spirit in lifting up itself in an equal sufficiency with the person of Christ, to drink the <189> same cup, and offer up the same obedience for the purging away sin, may hereby appear; yet I may not be silent in the cause of my Lord, although I am the least in my Father's house. Although this doctrine may have a glory with the sublime wits of speculative pagans, who know not, or deign not to know any other way of approaching the divine glory than the way Christ did, that is, without a mediator; yet unto the true Christian who through many tribulations have seen an end of all perfection, whether fleshly lusts, works of the law, or heights of philosophy, it is known to be but a depth of Satan; but who art thou O man that utterest these great words? Hast thou all the fullness of the Godhead in thyself, in the measure the man Jesus had? Hast thou all those treasures of light, wisdom and power in the same fullness that he had? that thou canst follow him into the perfection and glory of God, by the same way of obedience he did? Art thou able to bear the sins of many, to sustain the sentence and terrible majesty of the law in thy body, to encounter with all the angels and powers of darkness, to lay down thy life for many and take it up again? Was not this and much more the obedience of Christ? Was not he made perfect by these sufferings? And dost thou think to come to perfection or the glory of God by doing the like, or not rather by believing he hath done all this for thee?
Wherefore let it be known that the Spirit hath testified in Scriptures of two things in the obedience of Christ: a mystery to be believed, and an example to be followed. Christ as mediator being the only person in whom all things pertaining to God and men, the repairing of the breach, and the making up of a blessed union between them were to be transacted, received into himself, and therein slew our old man, the enmity, and all the evils of the world; and being in the glory of the second Adam, put an end in himself to the glory of the first, and in the place of all this brought forth in himself everlasting righteousness, liberty and peace, into and upon all them that believe. Whereupon a believer may say, as I am in the first Adam, where the law, reason and sense bear rule, so I am in a tabernacle of flesh, a house of darkness; so I often neither feel nor know nor behold any redemption, liberty or peace; but as I am in the second Adam I neither know law, reason nor sense, flesh, world nor work, but Christ to be all in all. This is the mystery to be believed, a mystery hid from the spirit of this world, or the purest and clearest principle in the heart of the natural man; if this mystery of Christ in his death were known to any as it is in him, Christ would appear to that man as a fullness of light and glory, in, through, and over all things; or were a believer known to himself or the world, as he is known in Christ to Christ, he would not be able to bear the <190> world, nor the world him; therefore blind or worse are those reproaches that are cast upon this mystery of the death of Christ and redemption by it, as a knowing of Christ without, at Jerusalem, or after the flesh; nothing brings forth Christ more as a Spirit of wisdom, power, and holiness within me unto good works, than when I behold him as made righteousness and sanctification to me without work; whosoever takes away the last doth also take away the first, and at best hath no more but a devised likeness or imagined shadow thereof.
As Christ suffered for us in the flesh, that the Father in him as his head and life might be revealed and glorified in him, so in the same spirit and mind ought the believer to suffer in the flesh, that Christ in him as this head and life might be glorified and manifest in him; thus is Christ's obedience an example to be followed; our dyings and perfectings in the body by obedience, when proceeding from our first being dead and perfected in the head by faith, so they are the precious favors and fruits of Christ and grace; but if dyings and obedience in us be made the way unto perfection and justification in Christ, then they are no other but works of the law, disguised with names of Christ and Spirit; as this people stand divided from the first, so am I divided from them, and so doth this testimony go forth against them.
There are diversities of operations, but the same Spirit; his doctrine saith that we are perfectly justified by Christ's obedience when we perform obedience in the same measure he did; if so, then the obedience of the man Jesus and ours are no more one than the obedience of Paul and ours, that is, one in spirit, but two in operation; thus by his doctrine we are justified as much by the obedience of Paul as of the man Christ, as to the operation; let him, and them, consider if it be not so, and fear.
His account is that by obedience to the light which reproves of sin, following it out of the world, and bringing forth the fruits of it, the creature comes into the good work or obedience of Christ, and so is by Christ redeemed; that by being diligent in this light, waiting and obedient therein, the believer is led into the obedience, sufferings, tribulations and temptations of Christ; that all the works and measures performed by the creature in obedience to this light do all complete but this one work of the creature's redemption.
Where faith and unity with the head is lost, no marvel if all the thoughts of that man run into confusion; that the obedience or righteousness in Christ for justification, and good works in us are one thing, his own words at large may manifest, if this short account of them may not; <191> and thereupon what foundation they build, I need say no more; only for the weak's sake I shall speak a word. Christ was in the beginning with God, that good word whereby all things were made; the same word in fullness of time became flesh in him that was the holy and just one, who in his own person eternally vanquished all the evils of the world, and to the utmost fulfilled the holy and perfect work of God, for an everlasting and only righteousness upon all that believe; of the greatness whereof might I speak: it is higher than the heavens, deeper than the sea, and the utmost bounds and ends thereof can no more be known than can the heights and depths of him be known, that is, the holy one of Israel.
And this is the one obedience, one righteousness, one good work in one person, one in Spirit, one in operation, never to be renewed more in any other; the same being not of a private nature, nor for a private spirit, but one for all. He that hath made of one blood all nations of men hath by one blood created anew out of all nations a people for himself; and if the natural heavens over us were spread forth at once, in length and breadth large enough to comprehend, preserve, and nourish all nations and all things therein; how much more shall that one righteousness of Christ, which is one with himself, be as spiritual heavens large enough to take in, to cover and preserve the second creation, without any other to be added thereto; how low and narrow, yea, how unbelieving and unworthy are their thoughts and esteem of the person and righteousness of Christ, that think otherwise, I leave to be weighed.
Through faith I come to read this most good and glorious work of God, and therein to understand how that this world and my old man or flesh, with all the evils of both by the operation of the blessed divinity in his body were abolished in himself through death, whilst yet darkness, pollutions and fightings, and thereby heaviness for a season is felt in my flesh; wherein I also reckon myself to be as truly crucified and buried with him, through the operation of the Godhead, in the man Jesus for me, as if the same had been done in me; and this is the mystery of faith, and the praise thereof is great, but not before men, who esteem of nothing but of what appears, or is seen, felt, or handled; and hence I think it necessary to give this warning, that all approaches unto or converses with the majesty and glory of God by any redemption or operation of whatsoever spirit or light within, and all mysteries of light and perfection so reputed whatsoever where that blessed and eternal redemption in the person of Christ for us is excluded—I say through faith, that all such are no other but some of the brighter sparks of Satan's fire, kindled on purpose to lead the creature to God by such a door as wherein he will be unto it a consuming fire; can two walk <192> together except they be agreed? That man knows neither what God is, nor himself, that thinks to attain, or to have attained the glorious presence of God by Spirit within him, who is not first reconciled through the propitiation of grace in the blood of Jesus.
If any man ask (as they often do) how can redemption be where it is not witnessed, where conscience chargeth of sin? my answer is, who shall lay anything to my charge? it is Christ that died. My witnesses are the Spirit, water, and blood; the Spirit of revelation shining in my heart, and the power of his death and redemption in part manifest in my body. Whilst heart and flesh, that is reason and sense and law witness against me, yet Christ and grace is greater than all. Let him alone speak; let these be silent.
But if they ask, to believe redemption whilst sin in me, is not this the unreasonable hope? No, the Father laid our sins upon Christ to take them away, whilst we were yet enemies, that he might commend his great love to us; this was reasonable with God. The Son rent our sins from off him in his own body on the tree, because he could not be held of them; this was reasonable with Christ. The Spirit bears witness that all things are finished—sin, death, and the flesh—in the body of Christ unto him that works not but believes on him that justifies the ungodly; this witness is reasonable. Through faith I receive Christ into myself and am received into him, and through this oneness am made righteousness, life and light, in the Lord, whilst yet I am in many darknesses and deaths as to sense and feeling; and this is reason as in the mind of God and according to the mystery of Christ; that doctrine or spirit how mysterious soever in words or show, that teacheth redemption to be by the operation of the Spirit within us, and not by that alone operation of God in the man Christ Jesus, is indeed the excellency and height of man's reason and thoughts, but a fearful contradiction to that higher reason, or rather that blessed mystery of grace that appeared in Christ.
Whereas he saith that all the works and measures performed by the creature in obedience to the light within do all complete the one work of the creature's redemption; to this I shall only say, how is the day of free grace set upon us, and how are the thick clouds of legality and mysterious reason spread over us, if this may be received for truth; and let me only remember you of the words of Luther, a man wiser and mightier in Christ than I, which follows:
It was indeed a great glory that Abraham received circumcision at the commandment of God, that he was endued with excellent virtues, that he obeyed God in all things; but all this availeth nothing to righteousness before God; the excellent deeds and <193> virtues of Abraham were not the cause that he was counted righteous before God; so the following of the example of, doth not make us righteous before God; for to that there is a more excellent price required, which is neither the righteousness of man, nor yet of the law; here we must have Christ. How? not by works, but by faith; therefore as there is a great difference between Christ blessing or redeeming and Christ working or giving example; wherefore we must separate the believing and the working Abraham as far asunder as there is distance betwixt heaven and earth. Abraham believing in Christ is altogether a divine person, the child of God, inheritor of the world, conqueror of sin, death, the world, and the devil; therefore he cannot be praised and magnified enough. Let us not suffer this faithful Abraham to lie hid in his grave, as he is hid from the Jews, but let us highly extol and magnify him, and let us fill both heaven and earth with his name, so that in respect of the faithful Abraham we see nothing at all in the working Abraham. For when we speak of this faithful Abraham we are in heaven, but afterwards doing those things which the working Abraham did, which were carnal and earthly, and not divine and heavenly (but as they were given unto him of God) we are among men in earth. The believing Abraham filleth both heaven and earth; so every Christian through his faith filleth both heaven and earth, so that besides it he ought to behold nothing.
Thus far his words. Good works or the works of God in us are in comparison of the righteousness in Christ, but carnal, like as Abraham's good works (a thing worthy of note) are but accounted flesh in comparison of the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 4:1-2).
He saith, that "the light in every man which reproves of sin is Christ, and is the election, elect seed, the mercy of God placed in all men; that this light being believed and followed, till by it a man be changed and purged from the oldness and lusts of flesh, to the newness of the Spirit: then he comes to the election, or to be selected."
Truth saith, that in every man which reproves of sin is not Christ but the law; by the law is the knowledge of sin; that Christ the elect and beloved of God is he in whom the purposes, promises, counsels, and all the works of God were laid up and known unto God from before the world began; Christ was from the beginning the common seed or Father in whose loins God in his foreknowledge beheld, and in his love choose a seed or offspring whom he would beget of his own will by his Spirit.
God that separated the Jews from all other nations only because he <194> loved them; that said of the children of Isaac being not yet born, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated; that called them his beloved which were not beloved; that separated Paul a persecutor from his mother's womb; that hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; the same God hath foreknown and chosen and loved a people in Christ the beloved, who though for the present, as concerning the gospel they be enemies through wicked works; yet as touching the election they are beloved for Christ's sake; "you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me." Christ drawed up all his own in his body into himself in love; this love shed forth into our hearts, draws us up in love into him again; thus we love him because he loved us first. The Father gave a people to the Son from everlasting, and saw and loved them in him before the world was; the Son came forth to manifest and make way for this love through his righteousness down unto men; the Spirit reveals that love, and by Christ leads us unto the Father; thus redemption and sanctification are both fruits of that love and election that was given us in Christ before the world began. By receiving Christ, the image of the Father, I come indeed to know his love and election, but he both loved, elected and redeemed me in Christ the head before I was. Wherefore they that deny election and redemption until the creature's obedience to the light within do measure the thoughts and ways of the unsearchable goodness of God with the low and narrow thoughts and ways of man; being zealous indeed for the righteousness of God according to the law, but darkening and denying the glorious righteousness of God as in Christ Jesus.
He saith, "that by abiding in the seed or light within every man, thereby the old man is put off with his deeds: that they who are guided by this light (called by him the eternal Spirit) do follow God as he goes out of one form into another; all others stay therein after God is gone, as seeing but the outside or form only; that they who joined to the light within that reproves of sin, to be led by it, are and ever were hated and persecuted of all others."
His silence throughout of that more excellent and truly mysterious way of crucifying the body of sin in the person of Christ, whose body and blood is by him made as no more but figures of the body and blood within, that is, the light within all men, this doth sufficiently manifest his mind and principle, and end the whither it leads, unto Mount Sinai, to press through unto God by an atonement and mediation to be made in our bodies, that is, obedience to the light within.
The new creature is not a Jew, one seeking righteousness by the <195> law, either in the letter or conscience, nor a Gentile, one thinking to know, comprehend, and worship God by the light or wisdom of the natural man, but a man in Christ, dead, buried, and risen with him into heavenly places above the world, sin, and death, by faith alone without work; that is, before these things be manifest or wrought in his members: also he is one in whom Christ dwells by faith, & so made partaker of the divine nature, that Spirit which the world sees not, hath not, nor by any light they have can find it out; the world's light is a candle from the Lord, saying do this and live; the spirit of the new creature is the Lord himself, saying, I have done it, only believe and live. According to the mystery of faith, the new man is in heart and Spirit gone out of all the world and is in heaven perfectly justified, redeemed, and saved, but in a way above sense and feelings, yet seen by faith; according to present manifestation he hath the Spirit of Christ whereby he sees, knows, and enjoys in part those perfect things, in Christ, till they be fully revealed; if any man boasts of the first, that he is redeemed by Christ, and hath not the other, that he lives in some measure after the Spirit, that man's boasting is in vain; likewise if any man glories of the Spirit, that he walks in the Spirit, in mortifyings of the flesh, neglect of the body, reproaches, necessities, labors, stripes, prisons, in weariness, painfulness, watchings often, in hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness, and yet hath not that which is above all these, the heavenly and glorious righteousness in Christ by faith, let such know, their glorying is but in the flesh, and shall not profit before the Lord.
Concerning ministrations, and following God out of one into another, it may be said that the law, prophets and John were ministrations typing and testifying of things in the heavens to come, and so were done away; Christ was the substance of heavenly things themselves, and so his ministration remains to this day; as that of the letter was perfected and given at once by one man at Mount Sinai, yet to be continued till he came who was the end thereof, so this ministration of righteousness and Spirit was perfected and given at once by one man, Christ, on the cross, yet to stand in force by divers measures and manifestations of Spirit and truth to be revealed and brought to light till he comes again, and takes his people unto himself; now of the diverse manifestations of spirit, some are true, some deceivable; for discerning of which we have a good rule (1 Cor. 12:4-5): now there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit, and differences of administration, but the same Lord; administrations of light & truth, though diverse as to the measure and manner of the gifts, yet if agreeing in one Christ, are all good and useful in their seasons; to follow God into the purest and <196> best is a glory upon them that do it; to be left behind may be weakness in them that are Christ's, but is wickedness in the world.
On the other hand, those pretended ministries or angels of light whatsoever, that do teach another Jesus, another spirit, another faith, that is, redemption by obedience to the light in every man, such are not of God; and to call that a ministration of Spirit and life is no more true than to call the law so; the light in every man and the law in the letter being the same: if any shall leave Christ crucified as but a figure of redemption, and shall follow the light in the conscience as the substance thereof, let him know, out of Christ crucified is no more sacrifice for sin, nor will God be found but as consuming fire.
If any shall think that redemption without by the blood of Christ is done away when that by the light within is perfected, to such I say, till mortality be swallowed up of life, and the body now dead because of sin be thereby freed from all corruption, until then I judge both Christ crucified for us, and the faith therein will be of necessary and blessed use.
To what he saith of persecution, this may be said: they that followed after the spirit and teachings thereof were indeed always persecuted by the children of the flesh and letter; but they that sought righteousness by the law and the principles thereof in the conscience were those children of the flesh by whom the blood of them that were after the Spirit hath been shed in every age; was not the blood of saints formerly in England, France, and Germany, shed for bearing testimony to the righteousness of faith alone without works?
His profession herein is, "that the baptism of Christ is [I understand the light within all men] by which a man being baptized into his death, buried with him unto the world, its ways and worships, loves and friendships, so he is baptized with the baptism of Christ. That baptisms of water as now are carnal in the world, about which all are divided and contending that are in them, being gone out into the world."
The baptism of Christ is that in Christ wherewith he was baptized in his own person, not for himself, but for us, and we in him as in our head, that is, when together with his own body through death he put off our old man and all the sins of our flesh at once in himself, by whose baptism our sins, death, our flesh, and all this world were really, yet in a mystery dead and buried with him, and as by an overflowing river washed clean away by himself, before either the faith or power thereof was known or wrought in us. This baptism is a mystery unknown to all law-workers whatsoever, whether the more mystical or literal sort of them, who know no higher baptism than by deeds of holiness in <197> obedience to a light within or letter without; also to the masters of reason who know no other baptism than by refined principles and exercises of morality; this is the baptism of justification and sanctification in the head, wherewith we were washed, sanctified, and justified in him even before we were; the same being revealed in us by faith sprinkles from our hearts an evil conscience, and then the Spirit of him dwelling in our mortal flesh washeth our bodies with pure water; thus the baptism of Christ is one, first in him perfected for us, afterwards in measures revealed in us.
Whereas he concludes only baptisms of water to be carnal washings, I say both baptisms of water in what form soever without the Spirit are carnal; and also all baptisms by what name soever, particularly that of retirement out of all things into the light in every man, where that baptism in the head by the offering up of his body once for all is denied, will be found to be but carnal, that is, serving to the washing off the filth of the flesh only; take away that baptism in the head, wherein the first Adam with his disobedience and death was crucified and purged away, and all other baptisms whether by reformations within or fair shows without, whether by the law, letter, water, or whatsoever will be found equally carnal, equally insufficient to present the sinner holy and without spot to God. His judgment against all indifferent baptisms, that they are gone out into the world, savors of a spirit as divided and carnal as they can be whom he judgeth so; are they carnal that judge and contend for one form against another, and are not they as carnal that judge and contend against all forms, because not in their form of doctrine, and posture, and way; when Christ shall sit as judge, as there shall be no advantage to them that are in one form more than another, for neither to them that are gone out of all professed forms; but to be found in him who is the head, is more than all.
These things are said: "the true end of the Supper is moderation, to keep men from excess and lust in eating and drinking; that to do it in remembrance of his death till he comes is to eat in fear without lust till he comes to govern in the creature himself, to keep out of lust in all, and this is the restoring and reconciling to God the creation by Christ. That Christ's disciples were not changed, nor he born in them when he gave them this commandment, nor was Christ yet appeared to those believers among whom the apostles continued it. That to eat of his body is to discern his body to be the body of all creatures, and to fill all things."
How is the gospel mystery become a doctrine of bare morality with this people? to see God in all things, to discern him as the body and <198> virtue of every creature, and to use all things in moderation; what is this more than the purer principles and practices of pagan divinity? Is this all the effect, all the end of the blood of Christ?
He that appointed this supper said, drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins. Christ as he gave his flesh for the life of the world, that is, as he abolished death and brought forth life to light therein for us, so he is the true spiritual passover which was sacrificed for us, so his death is a mystery, whosoever can look therein may see the first Adam with all his deeds, the world with all its works & all old things done away therein; traditions of men and rudiments of the world, shows of wisdom, will-worship and humility were tares the Lord foresaw would spring up in the churches from the root of reason and the law; that they might avoid the same, he ordained the supper for a rudiment to all that should have need thereof, to be as a figure of his death, and therein of the crucifying of flesh with all the glory and works thereof.
Wherefore eating the flesh of Christ is to be esteemed, neither as any natural thing, as the Jews did, nor as any moral thing, as this deluded people do, but a divine and heavenly mystery, that is, to believe and rejoice in Christ crucified, as made the remission of sins, the destruction of death, the grace, and the end of this world and all evils therein unto us; likewise the discerning the Lord's body therein is not a bare speculation of Christ or the divinity, as filling all things (for the natural man by that of God in him may know so much) to discern together with his dead body our sins, our old man, the law and all perfection, whether by nature, morality or the law, to be already dead, buried and abolished in his grave, and ourselves raised up into the life, liberty and righteousness of Christ in him; this is the use of eating the Lord's body; if any be become so vain in imagination as to think it is no more than the exercise of temperance and moderation to be performed by us, let us know that it is the blood of the new testament for remission of sins.
That Christ coming in the creature, governing it himself, so reconciles it to God, is true indeed according to reason, the law, and this people, but in the person of Christ through death did God reconcile the world to himself; Christ revealed in a man is not that he may reconcile, but being reconciled that he may bring him to himself. But canst thou, poor sorry sinful man, bear in thy body the justice of the law, the punishment of thy sins, the shedding of thy blood, and raise up thyself again, and through thy obedience come forth out of all thy sins before the majesty of God in that perfect and spotless righteousness that he shall see no sin in thee? and if thou sayest, Christ in thee can do all <199> this; I answer, if thou believest not God hath already reconciled thee to himself by the death of his Son, that Spirit that thou thinkest doth reconcile in thee will be found most wicked and provoking delusion, except Christ died in vain.
That Christ's disciples were not changed, nor he born in them, when he appointed this supper, and that Christ had not appeared to the believers with whom the apostles continued it, are both contrary to truth; they were clean every whit through the word he had spoken, or as in him, and their bodies the temple of the Holy Ghost, though they were as yet carnal and ignorant of the more spiritual truths; so the church of Christ is pure and beautiful as in him, whilst fleshly and weak in many things as in themselves. Rejoice in Christ, as your liberty in whom you are made free; let him dwell in you crucifying your flesh, and manifesting his life; wait for his great and last appearance to reign over all; of which day it shall not need to be said, lo here, lo there, but as lightning from east to west it shall bear witness of itself in and over the whole creation.
He said "that redemption is not of sinners that take delight in sin, but of the light within, that is it which wants redemption; and of that it is said, he took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. That this light or seed as it is raised to reign in us above all, so it is redeemed, and so is the creature made free from the law of sin, and no redemption while this is in prison, and not brought above all our lusts."
How hath the blackness and darkness of Mount Sinai covered the heart of this man? How are the abounding riches of grace, the fullness of the mediator, and the power of his cross resolved at once into the light or law written in the heart of every man; but the spirit of faith saith otherwise, man formed to be a living image of the glory of God, but fallen short of his glory, separate from the life of God in spirit, soul and body fallen into darkness, death and the curse; this was it that wanted redemption, that was redeemed in Christ: "scarcely for a righteous man would one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would dare to die" (Rom. 5). To give one's life to save a righteous man, the heart and love of man may be enlarged to that; but herein divine love appeared beyond all number, measure, or the heart of man, in that whilst yet sinners we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son and raised up together into heavenly places, before we either knew, desired or sought after the same; but is the light, or seed, or Christ under the law, sin or curse? or needs he to be redeemed or saved from these? The children are partakers of flesh and blood, therefore Christ partook of flesh, and bringing <200> his divine nature thereinto, he crucified and abolished our sins and death out of it, and so presented us to God a sanctified, cleansed, and perfected people in himself, before we did obey or believe, or were; therefore let us say with joy, in the Lord we have righteousness and strength, in the Lord are we justified and do glory.
To what he saith, as the light within is raised and reigns, so is both it and the creature redeemed and no more; the law of commandments hath dominion over the flesh as long as it lives; a greater law came forth, Christ in flesh, and therein put an end both to the law and the flesh; thus we are delivered from the law by the body of Christ and are joined to one husband, not to the law and Christ, but to Christ alone. According to the inward man we dwell in the curtains of Solomon, in the liberty and rest of Christ as in him, while according to the flesh we are in the tents of Kedar, tempted and dark, and weak as in ourselves; thus in the dead body of Christ I am dead and buried unto the law, sin, death, and the whole world, and raised in Christ; and this is my redemption, which neither the principles of reason, nor morality, nor law, nor light of conscience can discern and teach, but the alone light of the glorious gospel of Christ shining into the heart.
Wherefore there is a redemption that is according to reason, and a redemption that is in a mystery; to return to that light and purity by obedience, from which we are fallen by disobedience, this is redemption according to reason, the law, the light within, and the judgment of this people; herein is no mystery, for the wise men of the heathen wrote of it and pressed after it; all nations imagine such a redemption; but that the fall should be amended and the creature restored, not into the state of the first Adam, but a greater and better, the righteousness of God; and all this without any virtue or work, or service on our parts, but by the alone operation of the blessed Godhead in the man Jesus, this is that mystery hid in God, whereof the highest speculations, the clearest light of that candle in the natural man is utterly ignorant and unlearned; otherwise it were not a mystery, if any light whatsoever set up in man by his first creation could have found it out. Wherefore to live to the law, that thou mayst live to God, is the redemption that reason and this people teach; I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live unto God, is the redemption that brings glory; the other will end in death.
He affirms, that "to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh; or Christ fulfilling the law in us, or the Spirit mortifying and sanctifying and so fulfilling the law in us, this is justification, sanctification and mortification, and these are one, and so a man is justified as <201> he is sanctified and mortified, and no further."
Will you adventure your souls upon such a justification as this, therein to appear before God? If it be not too late to tell you, know that justification is a free gift already prepared and wrought for sinners, in the person of him who is greater than angels or men; who being the fullness of all divine virtue and perfection, did thereby as by an overflowing flood upon his cross bear away our sins and death, all the evils of this world, and buried them in his grave forever. Angels though great and mighty in power could not save, the law being greater than they could not give life, Christ came forth mightier than all, gathered together in himself the enmity, death, and law, and all things that were against us, nailed them to his cross, and took all out of the way gloriously in himself; and so was that saying fulfilled, his voice then shook the earth.
He that believes this truly, according to his faith, so is it done unto him; the Christian as believing is a man in heaven, in Christ, sit down in rest, liberty and perfection in Christ; as working righteousness, he is on earth, groaning after rest, liberty and perfection.
But can there be rest and liberty where there is a groaning for it? Yea, O man, as well as Paul could be present in spirit where he was absent in body; whilst at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, yet by faith we are present in the Lord; things of nature are taken in by reason or sense; reason hath knowledge and communion with things before the sense feels or tastes them; so the things of the Spirit are taken in by faith or spiritual sense; through faith the believer hath communion with spiritual things, before they be in their power and fullness attained by sense and feeling; the mystery of grace in Christ is not limited, yet love of God and righteousness of Christ are not more or less for the believer because the manifestations thereof in him are so; the veil is rent, sin finished, all old things are passed away, but by faith I understand it to be so, as in Christ my head, and therein am justified. The manifestation thereof in myself I wait for, and therein is my sanctification as in my members; take away that justification in Christ for you, and all sanctifications by obedience to the light within will profit you nothing.
The things of note said by him are, "Law is the ministration of the letter without, the gospel or ministration of the Spirit is the same law, but written in the heart of all men; they that believe Christ fulfilled the law for us in his own person, and what we do he makes it accepted with the Father, as though we did perform all that is required, none such know his commands in Spirit; that righteousness by faith is when the law is performed in us by works in Spirit; righteousness by works <202> is when the law is done by us without life and Spirit; that the offering and blood without could make nothing perfect, that within being more pure and perfect; and that the law in the conscience is answered by the resurrection of Christ within."
Are the law and gospel the same? Ask the wounded spirit beset with the terrors of the law of God, who lie under the sharpest sense of the law and can give the best account thereof? whether redemption was finished in one, the person of Christ alone, or yet to be done in many, the persons of all the redeemed; let the Scripture with the Spirit be your light and rule until the day declare.
The holy, just, and perfect will of God revealed to the world, first, by that in the conscience, after upon tables of stone, reproving for sin and requiring righteousness by obedience, whether to the letter without or light within; this is the ministration of death, mighty to kill, because it was the working covenant; weak to give life, because it was not the mediator.
Christ, the fullness of all heavenly things, came forth in flesh; and being in lengths and breadths sufficient for that purpose, did in himself fulfill what the law required and sustain all the law had to charge upon us, and so in himself put an end to the law for all that should believe. That which requires works to be wrought in us, as the way to attain righteousness, whether it be letter without or light within, it is the law; and herein do all the false and fleshly religions of the world agree in one. The pagan seeks perfection by his law, natural reason and virtue; the Turk by his Koran; the Jew by Moses; the monk by the rule of his order; the spiritual papist by mortification of the Spirit; and this people by perfect obedience to the light within, that is, the law; in this all are one, all seeking righteousness by work in the flesh, in obedience to tradition, or letter, or Spirit. The law is a great light manifesting all flesh and the deeds thereof, a great Lord ruling over all flesh as long as it lives. Christ came forth greater than the law, crucified the flesh and the body of death in himself, and thereby put an end to the dominion of the law unto all that believe; thus in his cross I am dead to all things and they to me.
Whereas he saith, they know not his commands in Spirit, who say, Christ fulfilled the law for us in his own person, or that he makes what we do accepted with the Father. I ask of him, and of all in his persuasion: can ye pass through the depths of sin, death and the curse, that he passed through? Ye neither know the law nor what spirit ye are of. Can ye bring forth the works of obedience, an incorruptible righteousness, in your corruptible bodies, answering to that pure law and most pure God <203> before whom Moses did fear and quake, and Abraham by works could not glory, and no flesh can be justified? Were not all we like sheep gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed? Where this is truly and purely believed, revelations of Christ are most desirable and glorious; where this is excluded, all pretended approaches to God, revelations of God, or perfections of obedience will be but as hotter fires to consume first your faith and interest in Christ, and after, your precious souls, with all your labor and pains and works.
To what he says, the blood within makes perfect, that without could not; let it be said, the blood of the man Christ, through the eternal Spirit working therein, became the death of the first Adam, with all his deeds, and all the evils that came in by him; so with him am I already dead and freed from sin, as in him the head; as this my death and freedom in him does reveal itself in me, so I die daily as in my earthly members. If by the blood within be intended this: that as the blood of bulls and goats was a figure of the blood of Christ, so his blood was but a figure of blood or Spirit within us; then know assuredly that as the blood offered in the first tabernacle was offered without the holiest, though within the tabernacle; so the blood within, all purifyings by the light within, will be found to be but the blood without, that is, offered without the veil, without the holiest, though within your persons.
But is not the Spirit sufficient in power to redeem from sin by his work within us? Let this be said as of use, in most things that have been spoken; the power of the Spirit is unsearchable and unlimited, but the mystery of his will is declared in Christ; that not by Spirit alone but by Spirit and blood, and that in one man, he has redeemed and purged all the evils that came by the offense of one. Of old God filled heaven and earth, yet he would be known and sought only in Jerusalem; nothing could comprehend the Godhead, yet the fullness of it dwelt in Christ bodily; so the Spirit dwells in all his people, yet through the blood of the man Christ alone, did God choose to go forth in his power, to the abolishing of our death and manifesting eternal freedom for us. So when it is said, ye are justified, redeemed, and saved by God, by grace, by the name of Christ, by the Spirit of our God; we are to understand that the name and grace and Spirit of God went forth against our sins and death in the blood of Jesus and thereby did them away forever; which by faith we behold, and as we behold we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.
Wherefore the proper use of the law is first to bridle civil transgressions and then to reveal and increase spiritual transgressions; the <204> law is a light, which revealeth not the grace of God, not righteousness and life, but sin and death, wrath and judgment; and as in Mount Sinai, the thundering, lightning, the thick and dark cloud, the hill smoking and flaming, and all that terrible show did not rejoice nor quicken the children of Israel, but terrified and astonished them, and showed how unable they were with all their purity and holiness to abide the majesty of God; so the law in its true use doth nothing else but reveal sin, work wrath, and bring into desperation; and here it hath an end and ought to go no further. The use of the gospel is to reveal the end of the law, of sin and wrath in the death of Christ, and the righteousness, peace, and love of God brought forth for us in him.
I shall add an observation of Luther:
of this difference between the law and gospel, there is nothing to be found in the books of monks, canonists, and schoolmen, no more in the books of the ancient writers; there was a wonderful silence many years as touching this difference, in all schools and churches; and this brought men's consciences into great danger, for unless the gospel be plainly discerned from the law, true doctrine cannot be kept sound and uncorrupt; but if this difference be well known, it is an easy matter to discern faith from works, Christ from Moses, and all politic works; for all things without Christ are the ministry of death, for the punishing of the wicked.
His faith is that Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, that he might become a living example to all generations; that the light within every man, united and followed, will lead unto Christ and will reveal the power and Godhead; and so the light within is the sure word of prophecy.
The word of faith says that Christ being the brightness of the invisible God came forth in flesh, and being the eternal word, wisdom and power of God, and so having obtained a name and supremacy above all other lords, he put an end to the law, sin and death, and the dominion thereof over us, in his cross, that he might bring forth grace, righteousness and life for us in himself, that so we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve him without fear; and is this no more than a living example to you? and if so, can ye after his example break through the gates of sin, wrath and the grave, and make your access unto God through all, as he did? Is so great a mystery of faith as this become no more with you than a lofty imagination of reason, only enlivened with an active spirit of bondage?
That not the light within every man, but the word of the apostles <205> and prophets, and the spirit of revelation, shining according to their testimony, is that which leads to the Lord Jesus. The incomprehensible divinity cannot be seen nor approached unto, but in the mediator, the man Christ, so Christ is the image of the invisible God; the unsearchable mystery of Christ is brought to light by the gospel, and to be learned by the Spirit, so the Scriptures are the image of Christ; he that shall seek for God out of the humanity of Christ, he shall lose both God and himself; so he that to find out Christ shall go to the light within every man, and not to the testimony of them who spake of him what they had seen and heard, he may come to behold him as the lawgiver and judge, but as a justifier and savior he cannot know him. The light within all men may find out the Godhead, but the mystery of grace and love cannot be known but by that Spirit that blows where and when he lists. Would the light within have showed you the atonement, redemption, the blood and sacrifice, or have put these words in your mouth?
He says, the ministers of Christ have the word in them, and so declare it to others; that they preach not for hire or gain; that they are persecuted of the world.
He says rightly, that is a ministry of Christ; but ministers of righteousness are of Satan, or of Christ; zealously to affect, to compass sea and land, to make fair shows in the flesh, to be as touching the law blameless, to preach freely, suffer labor, stripes, imprisonments: Satan's ministers may be herein transformed as the ministers of Christ. Wherefore ministries are to be judged by their spirit, and spirits by doctrines. If an angel from heaven, if any persons coming forth in the wisdom, holiness, power and glory of an angel, shall not confess that Christ was made sin and a curse, and the end of both through his death unto us, let them be accursed; their doctrine takes away the blessing of Abraham, which is in Christ, and brings men again under the curse of the law, which by Christ is abolished to all that truly believe. I am jealous that the teachers of the people for the greatest part are carnal, formal, and but in the letter, and walking as men—yet the Lord has his chosen ones among them. I am as jealous that the teachers of this people are the ministers of that darkness and wrath by which God will punish this faithless, perverse and backsliding generation. Let thy Spirit of grace be poured forth upon thy sons and daughters, and the spirit of error and uncleanness shall be revealed and cast out.
He says the light within men, which reproves the evil deeds, is that <206> will of God by which we are sanctified and saved; that in every man which shows him his sin, and reproves for it, is free grace. This light in every man is the free will, which is free to God and free from sin.
If the first be so, then is the death of Christ of no effect, wherein the whole blessed will of God was done, by which will we are sanctified through his body. How is Christ crucified become foolishness to you, who whilst to yourselves and others you have a show of humility, are vainly puffed up with your fleshly mind, not holding the head?
If the second be so, then the law and free grace are the same; if the light God has put into all men accusing of sin be the gift of grace, the gift of heavenly righteousness by Christ, wherein is the end of the law and sin heeded; not that we are delivered from that law in the letter or conscience, that reveals sin and wrath, and while enemies in our minds were reconciled to God by the death of another, this is grace; that we are saved in him, raised up into heaven in him, whilst compassed about with a body of death, in ourselves, this is a mystery to all the children of reason, the law and the letter; the darkness that is upon it is that which keeps the saints in weakness and unstability, the world in blindness and idolatry, and antichrist, with all his righteousness, wisdom and works after the law, reason and flesh, in his power and greatness.
If the third be so, then there is that in the natural man whereby he is able to know and receive the things of the Spirit: there is a candle in all men upon which some beams of the Godhead do descend and may be known thereby, also the righteousness and transgressions of the law; but the deep things of God, his grace in Christ, sparkling in old time now in one promise, now in another, figured by the law, and foretold by the prophets, whereof the righteousness of the Jews, the philosophy of the Greeks, knew nothing; this cannot be discerned by the clearest light in the natural man.
Thus the mystery of the second Adam, and the restoring of all things in him, is levelled and brought down by the divinity of these people, to be no other thing than that light of the law and reason which all nations have. And so whilst they are condemning all other religions may be concluded in one common faith and principle, with all those religions whom they condemn, herein only excelling them, that those are iniquity more manifested, these are iniquity in a mystery. When they shall cease to make the death of Christ, and the whole mystery of grace in him, of none effect, I shall cease any longer to account them so.
a. "priest" crossed out; "purest" handwritten in margin (not a modern hand).
b. "& Spirit" inserted in margin by hand (not a modern hand).
c. Printed as "lovely"; corrected to probable meaning.
d. Apparently a misreading (by Higgenson or his printer) of Nayler's reference to Judea.