§ 1. A confession to Christ and his work, both in doing and suffering. § 2. That ought not to make void our belief and testimony of his inward and spiritual appearance in the soul. § 3. What our testimony is in the latter respect: that it is impossible to be saved by Christ without us, while we reject his work and power within us. § 4. The dispensation of grace, in its nature and extent. § 5. A further acknowledgment to the death and sufferings of Christ. § 6. The conclusion, showing our adversaries' unreasonableness.
§ 1. AND lest any should say we are equivocal in our expressions, and allegorize away Christ's appearance in the flesh; meaning only thereby, our own flesh; and that as often as we mention Him, we mean only a mystery, or a mystical sense of Him, be it as to his coming, birth, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, mediation and judgment; I would yet add, to preserve the well-disposed from being staggered by such suggestions, and to inform and reclaim such as are under the power and prejudice of them, that, we do, we bless God, religiously believe and confess, to the glory of God the Father, and the honour of his dear and beloved Son, that, Jesus Christ took our nature upon him, and was like unto us in all things, sin excepted : That he was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, was crucified, dead, and buried in the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea; rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God, in the power and majesty of his Father; who will one day judge the world by him, even that blessed man, Christ Jesus, according to their works.
§ 2. But because we so believe, must we not believe what Christ said, "He that is with you shall be in you" ? John xiv. "I in them and they in me," &c.: chap. xvii. " When it pleased God to reveal his Son in me," &c.: Gal. "The mystery hid from ages, is Christ in the Gentiles the hope of glory :" Col. i. "Unless Christ be in you, ye are reprobates:" 2 Cor. xiii. Or must we be industriously represented deniers of Christ's coming in the flesh, and the holy ends of it, in all the parts and branches of his doing and suffering, only because we believe and press the necessity of believing, receiving and obeying his inward and spiritual appearance and manifestation of himself, through his light, grace, and Spirit, in the hearts and consciences of men and women, to reprove, convict, convert, and change them ? This we esteem hard and unrighteous measure; nor would our warm and sharp adversaries be so dealt with by others : but to do as they would be done to, is too often no part of their practice, whatever it be of their profession.
§ 3. Yet we are very ready to declare to the whole world, that we cannot think men and women can be saved by their belief of the one, without the sense and experience of the other ; and that is what we oppose, and not his blessed manifestation in the flesh. We say that he then overcame our common enemy, foiled him in the open field, and in our nature triumphed over him that had overcome and triumphed over it in our forefather Adam and his posterity: and that as truly as Christ overcame him in our nature, in his own person, so, by his divine grace, being received and obeyed by us, he overcomes him in us: that is, he detects the enemy by his light in the conscience, and enables the creature to resist him and all his fiery darts; and finally, so to fight the good fight of faith, as to overcome him, and lay hold on eternal life.
§ 4. And this is the dispensation of grace, which we declare has appeared to all, more or less; teaching those that will receive it, "to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ; looking for (which none else can justly do) the blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ," &c.: Tit. ii. 11, 12, 13. And as from the teachings, experience and motion, of this grace we minister to others, so the very drift of our ministry is to turn people's minds to this grace in themselves, that all of them may up and be doing, " even the good and acceptable will of God, and work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and make their high and heavenly calling and election sure;" which none else can do, whatever be their profession, church, and character ; for such as men sow they must reap; and his servants we are whom we obey. Regeneration we must know, or we cannot be children of God, and heirs of eternal glory: and to be born again, another spirit and principle must prevail, leaven, season, and govern us, than either the spirit of the world, or our own depraved spirits ; and this can be no other spirit than that which dwelt in Christ; for unless that dwell in us, we can be none of his. Rom. viii. 9.: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." And this Spirit begins in conviction, and ends in conversion and perseverance; and the one follows the other. Conversion being the consequence of convictions obeyed, and perseverance a natural fruit of conversion, and being born of God. "For such sin not, because the Seed of God abides in them." John iii. 7, 8 : "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind floweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." But such, through faithfulness, continue to the end, and obtain the promise, even everlasting life.
§ 5. But let my reader take this along with him, that we do acknowledge that Christ, through his holy doing and suffering, (for being a Son he learned obedience) has obtained mercy of God his Father for mankind, and that his obedience has an influence to our salvation, in all the parts and branches of it, since thereby he became a conqueror, and led captivity captive, and obtained gifts for men, with divers great and precious promises, that thereby we might be partakers of the divine nature, having (first) escaped the corruption that is in the world, through lust. I say, we do believe and confess, that the active and passive obedience of Christ Jesus affects our salvation throughout, as well from the power and pollution of sin, as from the guilt, he being a conqueror as well as a sacrifice, and both through suffering. Yet they that reject his divine gift, so obtained, (and which he has given to them, by which to see their sin and the sinfulness of it, and to repent and turn away from it, and do so no more; and to wait upon God for daily strength to resist the fiery darts of the enemy, and to be comforted through the obedience of faith in and to this divine grace of the Son of God) such do not please God, believe truly in God, nor are they in a state of true Christianity and salvation. "Woman," said Christ, to the Samaritan at the well, "hadst thou known the gift of God, and who it is that speaketh to thee," &c. People know not Christ, and God, whom to know is life eternal, John xvii., because they are ignorant of the gift of God, viz., a measure of the Spirit of God that is given to any one to profit with. 1 Cor. xii. 7 : "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." Which reveals Christ and God to the soul; 1 Cor. ii. 1: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written,
'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.'
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.
For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
'For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?'
But we have the mind of Christ." [1 Cor. ii. 2-16.]
Flesh and blood cannot do it, Oxford and Cambridge cannot do it, tongues and philosophy cannot do it: for they that by wisdom knew not God, had these things for their wisdom. They were strong, deep and accurate in them; but, alas! they were clouded, puffed up, and set further off from the inward and saving knowledge of God, because they sought for it in them, and thought to find God there. But the Key of David is another thing, which shuts and no man opens, and opens and no man shuts; and this key have all they that receive the gift of God into their hearts, and it opens to them the knowledge of God and themselves, and gives them a quite other sight, taste and judgment of things than their educational or traditional knowledge afforded them. This is the beginning of the new creation of God, and thus it is we come to be new creatures.
And we are bold to declare, there is no other way like this, by which people can come into Christ, or be true Christians, or receive the advantage that comes by the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore we say, and upon good authority, even that of our own experience, as well as that of the Scriptures of truth, Christ will prove no saving sacrifice for them, that refuse to obey him for their example. They that reject the gift, deny the giver instead of themselves for the giver's sake. Oh that people were wise, that they would consider their latter end, and the things that make for the peace thereof! Why should they perish in a vain hope of life, while death reigns? Of living with God, who live not to him, nor walk with him?
Awake, thou that sleepest in thy sin, or at best, in thy self-righteousness! Awake, I say, and Christ shall give thee life! For he is the Lord from heaven, the quickening Spirit, that quickens us, by his Spirit, if we do not resist it and quench it by our disobedience, but receive, love and obey it, in all the holy leadings and teachings of it. Rom. viii. 14, 15, 16: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God. [Rom. viii. 15, 16.]
To which Holy Spirit I commend my reader, that he may the better see where he is, and also come to the true belief and advantage of the doings and sufferings of our dear and blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who saves from the power and pollution, as well as guilt of sin, all those that hear his knocks, and open the door of their hearts to him, that he may come in and work a real and thorough reformation in and for them; and so the benefit, virtue and efficacy of his doings and sufferings without us, will come to be livingly and effectually applied and felt, and fellowship with Christ in his death and sufferings known, according to the doctrine of the apostle; which, those that live in that which made him suffer, know not, though they profess to be saved by his death and sufferings. Much more might be said as to this matter, but I must be brief.
§ 6. To conclude this chapter, we wonder not that we should be mistaken, misconstrued and misrepresented, in what we believe and do to salvation, since our betters have been so treated in the primitive times. Nor indeed is it only about doctrines of religion; for our practice in worship and discipline have had the same success. But this is what I earnestly desire, that however bold people are pleased to make with us, they would not deceive themselves in the great things of their own salvation: that while they would seem to own all to Christ, they are not found disowned of Christ in the last day. Read the 7th of Matthew; It is he that hears Christ, the great Word of God, and does what he enjoins, what he commands, and by his blessed example recommends, that is a wise builder, that has founded his house well, and built with good materials, and whose house will stand the last shock and judgment. For which cause we are often plain, close and earnest with people to consider, that Christ came not to save them in, but from their sins; and that they that think to discharge and release themselves of his yoke and burden, his cross and example, and secure themselves, and compliment Christ with his having done all for them (while he has wrought little or nothing in them nor they parted with any thing for the love of him) will finally awake in a dreadful surprise, at the sound of the last trumpet, and at this sad and irrevocable sentence, "Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I know you not:" which terrible end may all timely avoid, by hearkening to wisdom's voice, and turning at her reproof, that she may lead them in the ways of righteousness, and in the midst of the paths of judgment, that their souls may come to inherit substance; even durable riches and righteousness in the kingdom of the Father, world without end.
[Continued, Chapter X.]