§ 1. Of the true worship of God in what it stands. § 2. Of the true ministry, that it is by Inspiration. § 3. The Scripture plain in that case. § 4. Christ's ministers, true witnesses, they speak what they know, not by report. § 5. Christ's ministers preach freely; it is one of their marks. [§ 6. Of the sufficiency and glorious privilege of inward and spiritual teachings.]*
§ 1. As the Lord wrought effectually, by his divine grace, in the hearts of this people, so he thereby brought them to a divine worship and ministry: Christ's words they came to experience, viz.: That God was a Spirit, and that he would therefore be worshipped in the Spirit, and in the truth, and that such worshippers the Father would seek to worship him. For, bowing to the convictions of the Spirit in themselves, in their daily course of living, by which they were taught to eschew that which was made manifest to them to be evil, and to do that which was good, they, in their assembling together, sat down, and waited for the preparation of this Holy Spirit, both to let them see their states and conditions before the Lord, and to worship him acceptably; and as they were sensible of wants, or shortness, or infirmities, so in the secret of their own hearts, prayer would spring to God, through Jesus Christ, to help, assist and supply: but they did not dare to awake their Beloved before. his time; or approach the throne of the King of Glory, till he held out his sceptre; or take thought what they should say, or after their own or other men's studied words and forms, for this were to offer strange fire; to pray, but not by the Spirit; to ask, but not in the name, that is, in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed, as well as spoke, like one having authority, that is, power, a divine energy and force to reach and pierce the heavens, which he gives to all that obey his light, grace and Spirit, in their solemn waitings upon him. So that it is this people's principle, that fire must come from heaven; life and power from God to enable the soul to pour out itself acceptably before him.
And when a coal from his holy altar touches our lips, then can we pray and praise him as we ought to do. And as this is our principle, and that according to Scripture, so it is, blessed be God, our experience and practice: and therefore it is we are separated from the worships of men, under their several forms, because they do not found it in the operation, motion and assistance of the Spirit of Christ, but the appointment, invention and framing of man, both as to the matter, words and time. We do not dissent in our own wills, and we dare not comply against his that has called us, and brought us to his own spiritual worship; in obedience to whom we are what we are, in our separation from the divers ways of worship in the world.
§ 2. And as our worship stands in the operation of the Spirit and Truth in our inward parts, as before expressed, so does our ministry. For as the holy testimonies of the servants of God of old, were from the operation of his blessed Spirit, so must those of his servants be in every age, and that which has not the Spirit of Christ for its spring and source, is of man, and not of Christ. Christian ministers are to minister what they receive: this is Scripture; now that which we receive is not our own, less another man's, but the Lord's: so that we are not only not to steal from our neighbours, but we are not to study nor speak our own words. If we are not to study what we are to say before magistrates for ourselves, less are we to study what we are to say for and from God to the people. We are to minister, as the oracles of God; if so, then must we receive from Christ, God's great oracle, what we are to minister. And if we are to minister what we receive, then not what we study, collect, and beat out of our own brains, for that is not the mind of Christ, but our imaginations, and this will not profit the people.
§ 3. This was recommended to the Corinthians by the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. xiv., that they should speak as they were moved, or as any thing was revealed to them, by the Spirit, for the edification of the church; for, says he, ye may all prophesy; that is, ye may all preach to edification, as any thing is revealed to you, for the good of others, and as the Spirit giveth utterance. And if the Spirit must give Christ's ministers their utterance, then those that are his are careful not to utter any thing in his name to the people, without his Spirit; and by good consequence, they that go before the true guide, and utter words without the knowledge of the mind of the Spirit, are none of Christ's ministers: such, certainly, run, and God has not sent them, and they cannot profit the people. And indeed, how should they, when it is impossible that mere man, with all his parts, arts and acquirements, can turn people from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, which is the very end and work of the gospel ministry. It must be inspired men, men gifted by God, taught and influenced by his heavenly Spirit, that can be qualified for so great, so inward, and so spiritual a work.
§ 4. Ministers of Christ are his witnesses; and the credit of a witness is, that he has heard, seen or handled: and thus the beloved disciple states the truth and authority of their mission and ministry; 1 John i. 1, 3: That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, that declare we unto you, that your fellowship may be with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. I say, if Christ's ministers are his witnesses, they must know what they speak; that is, they must have experienced and passed through those states and conditions, they preach of, and practically know those truths they declare of to the people, or they come not in by the door, but over the wall, and are thieves and robbers. He that has the key of David comes in at the door, Christ Jesus, and has his admission and approbation from him, anointed by him, the alone high-priest of the gospel dispensation. He it is that breathes, and lays his hands upon his own ministers; he anoints them, and recruits their cruse, and renews their horn with oil, that they may have it pure and fresh for every occasion and service he calls them to, and engages them in.
§ 5. Nor is this all, but as they receive freely, freely they give: they do not teach for hire, divine for money, nor preach for gifts or rewards. It was Christ's holy command to his ministers to give freely, and it is our practice. And truly we cannot but admire that this should be made a fault, and that preaching for hire should not be seen to be one; yea, a mark of false prophets, when it has been so frequently and severely cried out upon, by the true prophets of God in former times. I would not be uncharitable, but the guilty are desired to call to mind, who it was that offered money to be made a minister, and what it was for; if not to get money and make a trade or livelihood by it; and what answer he met with from the Apostle Peter, Acts viii. 18, 19, 20: "And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostle's hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money."
The Lord touch the hearts of those that are giving money to be made ministers, in order to live by their preaching, that they may see what ground it is they build upon, and repent, and turn to the Lord, that they may find mercy, and become living witnesses of his power and goodness in their own souls; so may they be enabled to tell others what God has done for them, which is the root and ground of the true ministry; and this ministry it is that God does bless. I could say much on this subject, but let what has been said suffice at this time, only I cannot but observe, that where any religion has a strong temptation of gain to induce men to be ministers, there is great danger of their running faster to that calling, than becomes a true gospel minister.
§ [6.]* Obj. But does not this sort of ministry, and worship, tend to make people careless, and to raise spiritual pride in others, may it not give an occasion to great mischief and irreligion?
Answ. By no means, for when people are of age, they, of right, expect their inheritances; and the end of all words is to bring people to the great Word, and then the promise of God is accomplished, "They shall be all taught of me, from the least to the greatest, and in righteousness (pray mark that) they shall be established, and great shall be their peace." To this of the evangelical prophet, the beloved disciple agrees, and gives a full answer to the objection: These things have I written unto you, concerning them that seduce you: but the anointing, which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you, of all things, and is truth, and is no lie: and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him: In which, three things are observable. 1st. That he wrote his epistle upon an extraordinary occasion, viz. to prevent their delusion. 2dly. That he asserts a nearer and superior minister than himself, viz. the anointing or grace they had received; and that not only in that particular exigency, but in all cases that might attend them. 3dly. That if they did but take head to the teachings of it, they would have no need of man's directions, or fear of his seducings. At least of no ministry that comes not from the power of the anointing: though I rather take the apostle in the highest sense of the words: thus also the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians: "But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another," 1 Thess. iv. 9. But helps are useful, and a great blessing, if from God, such was John the Baptist's; but remember he pointed all to Christ. John i. 26: " Lo, the Lamb of God! I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," Matt. iii. 11. And so the true ministry does. And while people are sensual, and under such an eclipse, by the interposition of sin and Satan, God is pleased to send forth his enlightening servants to awaken and turn them from the darkness to the light in themselves, that, through obedience to it, they may come to be children of the light. John xii. 36: And have their fellowship one with another in it, and an inheritance at last, with the saints in light forever.
And as it is the way God has taken to call and gather people, so a living and holy ministry is of great advantage to watch over, and build up the young, and comfort and establish the feeble and simple ones. But still I say, the more inward, the less outward; the more people come to be taught immediately of God, by the light of his word and Spirit in their hearts, the less need of outward means, read Isa. lx. 19, 20: "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." Which is held by all to be a gospel promise, and the sun and moon there are generally understood to mean the external means in the church.
Compare them with John i. 13: " Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." And Rom. i. 19: "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them: for God hath shewed it unto them." And 1 Cor. ii. 11-15: "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." And 1 Thess. iv. 9: " But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another."
And 1 John ii. 20-27: "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth; but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (BUT HE THAT ACKNOWLEDGETH THE SON HATH THE FATHER ALSO.) Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing, which ye have received of him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, find is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." And Rev. xxi. 22, 23, 24: "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved, shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it."
All which places prove what we assert of the sufficiency and glorious privilege of inward and spiritual teachings. And most certainly, as men grow in grace, and know the anointing of the Word in themselves, the dispensation will be less in words (though in words) and more in life; and preaching will in great measure be turned into praising, and the worship of God, more into walking with, than talking of God: for that is worship indeed, that bows to his will at all times, and in all places: the truest, the highest worship, man is capable of in this world. And it is that conformity that gives communion, and there is no fellowship with God, no light of his countenance to be enjoyed, no peace and assurance to be had, further than their obedience to his will, and a faithfulness to his word, according to the manifestation of the light thereof in the heart.
I say, this is the truest and highest state of worship; for set days and places, with all the solemnity of them, were most in request in the weakest dispensation. Altars, arks and temples, Sabbaths and festivals, &c., are not to be found in the writings of the New Testament. There every day is alike, and every place is alike; but if there were a dedication, let it be to the Lord. Rom. xiv. 5, 6, 7, 8, 17: "One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regarded the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. Be that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." 17th ver. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
1 Cor. viii. 6: " But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." Col. ii. 16, 17: " Let no man therefore, judge you, in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new-moon, or of the sabbath-days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
Phil. i. 21: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Gal. ii. 20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth, in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Thus the Apostle, but he plainly shows a state beyond it, for to live (with him) was Christ, and to die was gain; for the life he lived, was by the faith of the Son of God, and therefore it was not he that lived, but Christ that lived in him; that is, that ruled, conducted, and bore sway in him, which is the true Christian life, the supersensual life; the life of conversion and regeneration; to which all the dispensations of God, and ministry of his servants have ever tended, as the consummation of God's work for man's happiness. Here every man is a temple, and every family a church, and every place a meeting-place, and every visit a meeting. And yet a little while and it shall be so yet more and more; and a people the Lord is now preparing to enter into this Sabbath or degree of rest.
Not that we would be thought to undervalue public and solemn meetings: we have them all over the nation where the Lord hath called us. Yea, though but two or three of us be in a corner of a country, we meet, as the Apostle exhorted the saints of his time, and reproved such as neglected to assemble themselves. But yet show we unto thee, 0 reader, a more excellent way of worship: for many may come to those meetings, and go away carnal, dead and dry; but the worshippers in spirit and in truth, whose hearts bow, whose minds adore the Eternal God, that is a Spirit, in and by his Spirit, such as conform to his will, and walk with him in a spiritual life, they are the true, constant, living and acceptable worshippers; whether it be in meetings or out of meetings; and as with such, all outward assemblies are greatly comfortable, so also do we meet for a public testimony of religion and worship, and for the edification and encouragement of those that are yet young in the truth, and to call and gather others to the knowledge of it, who are yet going astray; and blessed be God, it is not in vain, since many are thereby added to the church, that we hope and believe shall be saved.
[Continued, Chapter XI.]