Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of Isaac Penington > Isaac Penington to I. H.
_______ INDEED, to speak properly, the church of the gospel, or new testament church, is invisible. The persons in whom the church is, are visible; yet the new testament church is not a society of men, but rather of the invisible life in men. It is a fellowship in the faith, in the Spirit, which is the bond of their unity and of their peace.
The life is breathed invisibly into the hidden man; John 3:8; it is there nourished and built up invisibly into a spiritual, invisible temple, house, or church; and in that is the unity and fellowship. So that the church is a mystery, and the fellowship a mystery, which is hid from every eye but the eye of life; and there is no having fellowship one with another, but by coming to that, and keeping in that, wherein is the fellowship. 1 John 1:7. It is of inward Jews the church is built; it is of such, God seeks to frame his new house of worship, under the gospel. John 4:23. Now, of such stones as these, the Lord builds up a temple for his Spirit to dwell in, a house for his life and presence to manifest itself in, -- even a church for the living God. This building is by the Spirit, in the Spirit, and of that which is spiritual; this building is <25> one with the foundation, and therefore is the pillar and ground of Truth, which none is but Christ, and that which is married to him, and so one with him. 1 Tim. 3:15. Consider the place well, and see whether it relate to that which thou callest the invisible, or to that which thou callest the visible church.
It is the candlestick in persons, that is the church; not any outward meeting of persons, or joining together by covenant, or receiving or practising of ordinances, can make a church; but the eternal life in believers, formed by the Spirit into a candlestick, to hold the eternal lamp or light, with the everlasting oil of salvation. The light thus shining in this candlestick, continually refreshed by this oil, -- here is a flourishing temple, wherever it is found; here is the church of the living God, here is the spouse married to the Lamb, her Husband. But grieve the Spirit, quench the Spirit, despise the prophesyings thereof, and light up a candle of the fleshly wisdom and knowledge of the things of God, instead of these, the oil soon fails; the oil failing, the lamp goes out; the lamp, or light, being gone out of the candlestick, the Lord soon removes the candlestick; and the candlestick being once removed, the very same persons may meet together often, and hold up the form, -- performing things mentioned in the Scriptures concerning a church, and observing such things as they may call the institutions and ordinances thereof, -- but they are far from continuing to be a church. Take away the faith, what is left of a Christian? and take away the candlestick, what is left of a church?
It is the Spirit alone that can square stones, and fit them for building a church of; and he alone can build them up into a house, when he hath squared them. Eph. 2:22. And after he hath built, he can pull down again, and bring into a wilderness state; for there is a wilderness state of Christianity as well as a built state; Rev. 12:6, and as, in the built state, it is dangerous to be out of the church, so, in the wilderness state, it is dangerous remaining in that building which the Spirit of the Lord hath forsaken. Now, if the Spirit be the builder, then, surely, he will take in no stones, but such as he hath first squared and fitted for the building. And after the church is built, it is he alone who addeth to the church; who will be sure to add none, but those whom he hath first converted. Acts 2:47.
The church is a body gathered in the Spirit, and watching to <26> the Spirit; who is present there with his pure, searching, discerning eyes; so that nothing that is impure can enter (they watching to the Spirit, according to the order of the gospel), no, not one counterfeit Jew, no, nor so much as one false apostle, though they clothe themselves ever so like angels of light. Rev. 22. But if they be negligent, and from off the watch, not waiting for the guidance of the Spirit; then that which is corrupt may creep in, and endanger the body. Jude 4.