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TRUTH'S TESTIMONY AGAINST THE Power of Sin and Satan
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at Grace-Church -Street June 3, 1688
GOD has made you witnesses of the great work of this day; the Lord I say has given you eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to understand the great work of the day; he has called you forth, that you may be faithful witnesses every one in your measure of what he has brought to pass in your sight, for he has revealed his power, the eternal power by which the world was made, he has revealed and manifested that power for the raising up of life, for the subjecting and bringing under death, and the power of it; for a great while a testimony that has been born in the nation has been unto death; he that has the power of death, that is the devil, he has had a great many who found out his power, to declare the continuance of it, that death must reign, and darkness must continue, and that the kingdom of the man of sin will never be brought down.
But now in our day, glory to God on high, there is another found come forth, the Lord Jehovah has uttered his voice, and who can but prophesy! The word of prophecy is given of God, and many are raised up to publish it, and to sound forth the name of the Lord in the extirpation, the ruin, and destruction, that is and shall be brought upon the kingdom of iniquity, upon the kingdom of the man of sin, and to prophesy and declare in the name of the Lord, that righteousness shall run down like a stream; this is the gospel, the glad tidings that we have receives from God and Minister unto you, that you might believe, and that in believing you might come to wait upon the Lord, and behold the accomplishment of it.
For, my friends, in this has consisted all the labor, travail and exercise, of the servants of the Lord; and for this cause have we suffered many things, and gone through many trials, because we have steadfastly believed, and therefore have we spoken it; that the Lord will, by his Almighty power, lay waste, destroy and bring to an end, that power, that the wicked one, the devil, has had upon the minds and spirits of the sons and daughters of men, and that he will set up and establish, in the very same soul, a law of righteousness, and a law of truth, and will cause the beauty of holiness to shine forth through them, where iniquity has lodged, where the wicked one has ruled.
Now you who have believed this testimony, you have received it, as glad tidings unto yourself, for you are weary of that old service, you are oppressed under the power of that strange prince. There was a kind of spirit and power that had ruled over you, that neither gave you life nor breath, nor had done any good thing, and yet you were subject; and many there were, who through the grace of God, came to see that a state and condition of sin and iniquity was not a happy state; and by a secret kindling of the spark of God's love in your souls there you knew him, there was a cry raised to be delivered; if it is possible there is any deliverance, O why may not I be delivered? If there is any redemption, why may not I be redeemed! If there is a power that can set me free from the service of this wicked one, why may not I be set free?
Ah, friends! Remember the days and nights in which these living cries run through you, then you were poor indeed; then you were humble and broken, and the Lord beheld you in those days, he saw your state and condition, he saw how helpless you were, and did not he arise to help you. Did not a power spring forth in the day of your humility, in the day of tenderness, by which you became able to make war against the lusts of your own hearts, and did nor you overcome and prevail in your war? Did not you make a progress by the power and by the grace that first raised desires in you? And as you made this progress and gained ground, as I may say, of your own corruptions, your faith came to be strengthened, and you were confirmed in the belief and in the obedience of the truth; and the more you trusted and relied upon him, the more did he manifest his power in you; he made known his ability and his strength in your weakness, so that you did become righteous, every one in your measure, that there was such a power; and that that power was able not only to save from a little, or from a few, but was able to save to the uttermost, to save out of all that was polluted and defiled, and to cleanse and purify the conscience from all dead works, and to enable you to serve the living God.
Now the Lord having thus established you, and confirmed you by his power, that you were found in the faith, and firm in the believing of the truth my friends, all the labor, and travail and doctrine, and exercise of the preachers of the gospel, to those who were converted and confirmed, became very acceptable. So we preach, and so you believed; here was a unity in our faith, here grew up a fellowship, a communion in the faith, and the Lord became glorified in the assemblies, not only of those who preached, but of those who heard, because each one had a place in the body, and each one had a favor of the word of life by which the body was nourished.
Now, my friends, that which lies particularly upon me to leave with you for my testimony, (and I pray to God that it may be placed in the hearts of all of you who have believed), is that you may all wait upon the Lord, to see all that brought to pass, which you have believed. For I take notice by the eye that God has opened in me, by which he has made me to take care of his flock, and sometimes put his word in my mouth, that I may speak a word in due season. I say, by this eye, I take notice of many that have received this precious faith, and thereby have believed the great and high state; their faith, reached so far, they knew that power was able to bring them into a perfect dominion over their lusts and passions, and corruptions, and over the spirit of the world; over pride, over anger, over all things that are opposite to the divine life; their faith is as sound as we can preach it in respect of the extent of it, but their faith has not readied thus far in its operation upon their hearts; they have not had the power to go on to accomplish and fulfill what remains.
Are there not some here and there that are settled in the belief of the truth, but have gotten into an ease from the labor of the truth? But if I am found in the faith, my understanding is opened; I do not only believe this matter, but have inward evidence and demonstration, that I am certain, past all doubt and question of it, that the Lord reveals his power in those who believe, that purifies them, and makes them every bit clean; and here I have a fellowship and communion with those who preach, and those who believe.
But, my friends, all this will not give you communion with God; though there is communion with the church of God, with respect to men, who have come into one faith and doctrine, yet for fellowship with God, it stands in a life beyond all doctrines, and beyond all words and expressions. Therefore your business and mine, and everyone's, is what we undertook when our faces were first turned to God, that we may be followers of Christ in the regeneration. For many may be firm in point of doctrine, and yet may not follow Christ Jesus. Many hold the truth, but do not hold it in righteousness, but unrighteousness.
Now, my friends, take care for your religion and your souls’ eternal welfare are concerned. This doctrine I leave you in charge in the name of the Lord God. Do not anyone of you flatter yourselves because of the soundness of your belief, but look for soundness of heart and for a right spirit to be created in you; a spirit that can no way endure anything that the light of Christ has made manifest to be evil; if it is truth you own, then exercise faith upon it, and whatever sin or temptation assaults you, say, I shall overcome in the name of the Lord Jehovah; I shall bring it under, be what lust, passion, or corruption there is, in the name of the Lord, I shall overcome it, and bring it under.
Travel on in the faith committed to you, and you will be more than conquerors; you will not only grow into external fellowship with the people of God in the sight of men, but into a [spiritual, internal] fellowship with the church of the first born, whose names are written in Heaven; and your communion will not be in words and doctrines, and principles of faith, but your communion will be with God the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ; and so in all your meetings together, the joy of the Lord will be your strength, and the joy of his great salvation your covering, and he will manifest his gracious presence with you; and that power which has kept you to this day from your childhood, and preserved you in all your battles and conflicts with the world, and strengthened and encouraged you when you went sometimes sorrowing and mourning night and day, and fearing lest you should not overcome your adversaries; that power that has kept you till now, will do greater things for you than you have yet been witness of.
Therefore, dear friends, this I would leave with you, there is nothing will keep you and me in that little time that remains to us here to spend on earth, but what will keep us in the exercise of faith towards God, and his Son Jesus Christ, who is able to save us to the uttermost. Let us wait to see the power of God for sanctification and holiness; that will reach as far as saving us from our sins.
This has been the greatest reproach that ever our adversaries have thrown upon us, that there are some among us that talk of believing in the power of God, and talk of an ability to overcome their sins, and living a holy life, and living without sin, while they themselves live in it.
This is the greatest reproach that ever our adversaries have thrown upon us. Whoever has been the cause of this reproach, God will require it of them, for the Lord is jealous of his name and glory; and he will have the praise and honor that is due to his great name, for working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, said the apostle; though I know nothing of myself, yet am I not hereby acquitted. When you come to that, that you cannot charge yourselves, then only the Lord can charge you; but take heed that you do not place this as your justification, for by this you are not justified.
Therefore have an eye to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He begins the work of faith, and he will carry it on until he is the finisher of it, and the justifier of it; he is the Mediator of the New Covenant that alone justifies the Children of God. Depend not on your own holiness and righteousness for justification.* Keep your eye to Jesus, the author of your faith, who will be also the finisher of it; keep your hearts with all diligence, and walk humbly with God, watching, lest your adversary prevail against you. By going from the power, there is no safety for the flock, but only while they keep in the shepherd's fold. Be faithful and keep yourselves in the love of God, and he will be prefect with you, and keep you to be his witness to the end of your days; and he will raise up another generation to be witnesses to his power, when he has taken you to himself.
To that mighty power of God I commit you, for preserving you in humility of mind and soul; and my prayer for you shall be, that you may go on, and make a progress in the good ways of the Lord, until his work is finished in you.
His Prayer after Sermon
HOLY and powerful God of Life! who is the Creator of us all; in whom we live, and move, and have our being; you have made us all for the purpose of your praise and glory that we might serve you in the land of the living among the sons and daughters of men; and not only that, but you have given us your Holy Spirit as you did to the people of old.
O living God of Life! You have ordained a remnant to give up themselves to be led by it; you regard them and are with them, and they enjoy from time to time your holy presence, which makes glad their souls; and they have fellowship and communion with you, and your Son, through your Spirit, by which they are quickened to offer up pure and living praises upon your altar.
O living God of Love and Life! You have shed abroad your love upon their hearts, by which they are enabled to pray for enemies, that they may come to salvation, and the pleasures which are at your right hand, which are infinitely better than all the pleasures of this vain world.
Holy and powerful Father! Have respect to all our souls, and touch all our hearts with a sense of your divine love, so that we may feel the cords of your love drawing our souls nearer to yourself and assuring us that you have a gracious purpose to save us.
O powerful God of Life! Show forth your power, that out hearts may be touched and quickened thereby, to come to fear you, and reverence your name, and be acquainted with your operation in our own hearts, so they may be humbled and broken before you, and bow down and worship in sincerity and uprightness. That so holy God of Life! If it is your pleasure, none may depart out of this assembly without some sense of your love and feeling of the powerful drawings of your grace, and without being raised up to purity of heart, and convinced of the evil of everything that is contrary to you, and serve you in holiness and righteousness and pursue it with all their hearts, and minds, and soul, and strength, that you may have mercy upon them, and pardon their iniquity, and love them freely, for so you have ordained in your Son Jesus Christ, that we may receive remittance of sins through the belief of your everlasting truth.
And holy, powerful, God of Life! that all your people may partake of holiness and sobriety, to the praise of your name, and that they may all come to obtain a victory over all those spiritual enemies that war against their souls, that your holy work of redemption and regeneration may be carried on; to the praise of your grace, and the exaltation of your holy name, to whom praise, honor, and wisdom belong , and pure and humble thanksgivings; and unto you, the living God of Life, we desire to offer up our praises and adorations, for you alone are worthy; who are God over all, blessed forever and ever. Amen.
Bearing the Cross of Christ, the true Mark of a Christian
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at Devonshire-House, October 12, 1690
HE who knows the day of the Lord, and the stretching forth of his arm, is quickened to feel the power that is in Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church; that so he may be enabled, through his power, to bring forth fruit unto God. The eye of the Lord is upon you all, and he expects at the hand of every one, that they bring forth fruit unto God, that according to the abounding of his mercy towards you, and of his patience and long-suffering concerning you, there might at last be an answer in the soul of everyone, unto the mercy and goodness of God. Those who do not know and experience this, that the long-suffering and patience of God leads unto repentance, they know no part of Christianity; let them make their profession ever so high, and proclaim their notions ever so loud, those who know not the work of repentance in their hearts, as yet, need to learn the first principle of the Christian religion. You know it has been the custom of people to teach their children principles, and those who have learned their principles, they are named Christians, whether they repent or not; though they go on in sin and iniquity all their days, yet they go under the reputation of Christians; and it is high time to examine and find out (if you can) a reason for this, that a man shall be accounted a Christian upon any other terms now in this age, than the Lord Christ did preach and publish in the days of his flesh; for he did absolutely deny that any man could be his disciple, without taking up a daily cross, and without self-denial. Now how should a man at this day be a Christian, or a disciple of Christ, without taking up a daily cross, and without self-denial?
It may be some will tell you, that they are baptized into the Christian faith, and have been taught, and have made a profession of Christian principles, and associated themselves among those who make profession of Christ; but here is not a word of a daily cross in all this, nor of self-denial; so that they would have you to understand in this, that the terms of Christianity are changed, and that men may be Christians without the terms of Christ, or at least so they say.
And this has been occasioned by the great apostasy that has been brought into the church by a long night of darkness, and the revealing of Antichrist. Antichrist has been discovered and revealed, and has set up, in despite of Christianity, a false Christianity; and, there came in the terms of a man's being accepted, and being reputed a Christian upon Antichrist 's terms. And if you will conform to do thus, and say so, you shall be admitted into the Christian Society. Now all these terms of Antichrist, have been such things as an unregenerate man could conform to and comply with.
And the opening of this door, has let into the church abundance of hypocrites and evil-doers, who were in too unregenerate a state to conform to those things that were required; for in the public society of Christians, it was not said, you must be regenerate, and take up a daily cross, and deny yourselves, and walk as becomes saints, and so behave yourselves that God may be glorified, and the profession of Christianity honored by you. These were the terms of old; but there are other terms of being Christians, which are of a later date.
Now this apostasy has prevailed and spread over whole nations and countries, not a few, so that whole kingdoms have become Christians upon these latter terms, and God is greatly dishonored among us, and Christ the Holy One most horribly profaned. It is not so common among Heathens and infidels, to find people wronging and deceiving one another, and killing and destroying one another; and yet it is the practice of many that are called Christians. These are the fruits and effects of those latter times of Christianity. Now feeing it is thus, which no mortal man can deny, I have this question to ask, and I desire that you would seriously weigh it in your hearts and souls, both while you are together, and when you are separate one from another, whether it is not high time for all of us to return again to the first terms of Christianity, and to consider no man a Christian, whatever he professes, unless that person knows and witnesses that the long-suffering, and patience, and goodness of God, leads him to repentance; and unless that person has so much faith towards God, that for love to God, he will deny himself, and take up his cross, and be a follower of Jesus in that way and life he lived in.
It is high time for all of us to return again to the terms of Christianity, that were set up by a higher authority than ever Antichrist had, and before Antichrist was revealed; for though it is true that Antichrist has obtained power on earth, to establish his sort of Christianity, that is, without the cross, and a sort of religion whereby they indulge themselves in whatever pleases their carnal hearts, and corrupt minds; yet Antichrist has not all power, he is not Almighty. I hope neither Antichrist, nor the beast, nor the dragon, nor the false prophet, nor the whore, have all power on earth, though they have a great deal, and by that power they have established laws, decrees, canons, and innumerable things about religion; and some cry, this is the way you must walk in; others cry, the way to heaven lies here, and here you must travel if you will go there. Some cry, this is truth; others say it is error. So that the world is divided; Antichrist’s government in the world is divided; and when the house is divided against itself, there is hope that it will fall at last.
But there is one, to whom all power in Heaven and Earth is given and committed; and his Christians are not divided among themselves, but they are of one heart, and of one mind; and he who has all power in Heaven and Earth committed to him, can crush and bruise that power that others have. Herod had some, and Pilate had some; but Christ said, your power is limited, this is your hour and the power of darkness; and you would not have power, said Christ to Pilate, were it not given to your from above. Here is power given to the dragon, to the false prophet, and the beast, to speak great things; but this power of Antichrist is going away. Christ Jesus was sent into the world in his day, to bring people back again to God, and to primitive Christianity and obedience, and to the first terms of society and communion, and to a fellowship in Christ Jesus through the Holy Ghost.
Now if we had set up a way of religion, as other people have done, which is contained in some canons, articles, doctrines, and such and such commandments of men; and if men will confess these articles, and observe these canons, they shall be of our society, and then we would have done like the rest of the fallen Christians. However, we have declared from the beginning that professing our doctrine and the principles of religion does not give any man fellowship and communion with us. Our communion is in the self-denying life, and a daily cross, in opposition to sensual lust, vanity, pride, bitterness of spirit, corruption, enmity and wrath. This has brought us to a holy fellowship and communion in the Holy Ghost, and to live in unity from one head, which is Jesus Christ; so that there is not this man's church, and the other man's church among the people of God.
Do you read in the primitive times, that Paul had his church, and Peter his church, and James his church, and Jude his church? Indeed they had their meetings as we have now, in many cities and countries among the Jews and Gentiles; but these holy apostles that were the first publishers of the everlasting gospel, after their great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. They never appropriated any church to themselves; that was not their business. Our work and business, said the apostle, is to gather you to Christ, and present you as a chaste virgin to Christ; our work is, to turn you from darkness to light that you walk in it, and be the children of it; our work is, to build you up as a spiritual house to be presented to Christ the Mediator.
This is primitive Christianity that has its foundation in holiness and righteousness, sincerity and truth, not in words, and terms, and articles, and canons, and decrees, and other observances. This is not the foundation of true Christianity, nor will it ever be, for the devil's kingdom must be destroyed; and his kingdom is shaking, for He in whom we believe, has power from his Father to break the devil's head, Antichrist, and the dragon's head. Christ Jesus is signified by many names, the second Adam, Lord from Heaven, the Way, the Truth, and the Life; but he is the same Christ. Likewise Antichrist is expressed by several terms and names, but he is the same power of darkness; he has made the nations drunk, to stagger and destroy, and devour one another.
This has been done in the fallen state of Christians, and the design that the Lord Christ has in sending his ministers and workmen to labor among you, is to restore men to the first Christianity, and to bring men to God. That religion is not made up of doctrines, articles, canons and decrees of men, but it has the word of God for its foundation; he, who has an ear to hear, let him hear. There is some spirit, and power, and visible work in a true Christian, which the false Christian never had. The false Christians have taken the name and profession of Christ, and their fruits have been dishonorable to him; they might as well make profession of Antichrist and Satan. They have a form of godliness, they have some of the words, but they deny the power. What is their religion and outward profession, when they lack the internal life, and the motions of the Holy Spirit; if they bring forth the cursed fruits of the flesh, enmity, wrath, sin and corruption, which belong to the fallen nature and unregenerate hate?
The apostle takes notice of this deceit and hypocrisy in religion, which was growing up before he died; men having a form of godliness, and denying the power thereof, from such turn away. If there are any brothers who walk disorderly, have no company or fellowship with them, if you would have the holy name of Jesus free from scandal.
This has been the work of all the faithful ministers of Christ, to keep their holy profession of the name of Christ free from reproach; that the holiness of God's ways might be seen in the holy lives of the professors of them. Until men come to know this, and take up their daily cross, and exercise self-denial, their Christianity is good for nothing. I would not have you trust in it; neither in articles, tenets, or observations; but see how with your lives you answer your profession. Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. And why should not Christians be so too? How can Christians be followers of Christ, and not separate from sinners? Christ was so. He went one way, and sinners went another; they followed their sins and lusts, but he followed the work his heavenly father sent him about. If you are a follower of Christ, you must be worthy of the name of a Christian. Do drunkards and swearers follow Christ? Do the wanton and proud follow him? Do the unclean and hypocrites follow him? You know they do not, so why do you call them Christians? This is a reproach and shame to the holy name of Jesus, and to true Christianity, that any of these people should be called Christians; but such as are followers of Christ, who are holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
This seems a strange kind of doctrine, yet if it had been preached in the primitive time, there were people that would have received it as apostolic doctrine, that a man should crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts. For said the apostle, mortify your members which are on earth; if you, through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live; but if you live after the flesh, you shall die. And to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. This was sound doctrine then.
Now go and tell a man he shall certainly perish and come to damnation for all his profession, if he does not mortify the deeds of the flesh; if he lives in sin and dies in it, he is likely to perish. How many have been hauled to jails and dungeons, only for preaching this doctrine, and when we were first sent to preach, we dared not do otherwise? And God did not send us to preach until he had washed us, and sanctified us, and fitted us for the work of the ministry. Now when we saw in the holy scriptures, that God did work upon others by his Spirit, before he sent them to preach the gospel, was not here sufficient authority given to preach the downfall of sin, and destruction of it? One would think that such a person, thus called and sent by God, had as good authority to preach the everlasting gospel as the laws enacted by all the princes of the world could give him. A man sure that has an authority for preaching the gospel, would not need to wait for orders and approbation; he would not wait for an induction. The apostle Paul took it for a commission that was creditable, when he tells you of his mission, it was not by man, but by the will of God, that he was called to preach the gospel. If we should say we were made preachers, if you ask by whom, not any man in the world can tell you; but we were made preachers many years ago. Not by man, or by the authority of man, but by the will of God. What was your commission? To turn men from darkness, (which darkness we had formerly lived in), to turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. The apostle sums up his commission in a few words; the Lord told me I must turn men from darkness to light. This is our commission that we have received from God in this age, to turn men from darkness.
But some will say that we have not human learning and qualifications for the work of the ministry. To this I answer, if I heard a man swear or tell a lie, I could tell him that this was not of God. I have learning enough to know and tell men that, and say, whoring, drunkenness, swearing, and lying, were works of the flesh and fruits of the devil's power. I would have you turn from these works to the power of God. What is that power of God?* I will tell you, it is a manifestation of grace in your hearts that will draw you away from the love of all these things; the grace of God, is the power of God to salvation to those who believe. To as many as received Christ, those who believe in His name, to them he gave power to become the sons of God. Such Christians will show forth the power and life of religion in their conversations. So here is a sufficient authority and no lack of authority.
I have been sometimes examined by what authority do you preach? By the highest authority in heaven and earth, by the authority of God that came by Christ, the Redeemer. What do you preach? I preach truth in the inward parts, grace and truth, and against all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
[They say] As long as Antichrist has a rule, you must not preach down sin without authority; you must have power, you must be ordained, and have an induction before you undertake to preach the gospel, and preach down sin and wickedness. The devil has got such power and rule, that some tell us, that no man can live without sin; if it please God here and there to raise a man and bring him to a holy and righteous life, this man lacks a license, a commission, an induction, an ordinance to preach and cry down sin in other people; what commission did the Psalmist have when he said, Come all you that fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.
Is it not high time for people that have evidences of the love of God shed abroad upon their hearts by the Holy Ghost, to bear their testimony against sin and wickedness? Is it not high time for every one's mouth to be open, to testify against such a horrible mist of darkness that is come over men; to testify against hypocrisy, uncleanness, and unrighteousness?
It was the great design of the primitive preachers of the gospel, to cry down what some ministers cry up, so that Christianity is not like what it was, for then they told those that there was no happiness but by breaking off from sin by repentance. No possibility of salvation without confessing and forsaking sin, and trusting in the mercy of God through Christ for the pardon of it. Tell them of the mercy of God, and the blood of Christ, they will tell you that they cannot be cleansed from all sin, they cannot live without sin. How comes it to pass that there are ministers that preach an impossibility of living without sin, when we are warned in the holy scriptures, that without holiness no man shall ever see the Lord? And that there shall in no way enter into the kingdom of God, anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie? Rev 21:27. How can ministers preach the impossibility of living without sin? “Will any of you,” says such a false minister, “be so presumptuous as to say a man may live without sin? I will prove it from good authority, both from scripture and the fathers, that no man in the world can do it.”
If any set themselves to it in their own strength, the devil will make fools of them; some indeed have gone about it in their own power and will, and have cloistered themselves up in monasteries, and shut themselves up between two walls so that they might be separated from all society and live without sin; they would do it in their own power, and the devil is stronger than they.
Let me tell you, men of the greatest wisdom, courage and strength, of the most excellent natural talents that any man can have, are not able to grapple with their enemy the devil by their own power; there are seeds of sin, and lust, and sexual desires sown in all their hearts; so far this is right and sound doctrine, that no man can do anything in his own power and strength. But here is the mistake: a man has been a long time wrestling with his sins and lusts, to get the victory over them; but by woeful experience he finds his weakness and insufficiency; he is sunk in his bondage, and so gives up the battle, saying, “I shall never overcome the devil and his temptations, my sins and lusts are too hard for me, I despair of ever overcoming them in my own strength, by all that I can do.” That is true enough, but must your need to be delivered from sin perish because you can never overcome your corruptions alone? If ever I am saved, it must be by the power of God, the free grace of God that must save me. How can you come to lay hold of the free grace of God? I am told I must lay hold on Christ by faith, who is the Mediator between God and man, and is my only Redeemer; there is no salvation in any other. This is very well; now you are a believer, what do you expect, what do you hope that Christ will give you? He will not give me power over my corruptions, so as to live without sin, that is more than I hope for; but I expect that Christ will reveal his power in me, and give me so much strength and power against my lusts and corruptions, that they may not have dominion over me. Now if you tell me that you hope for strength and power from Christ against sin, Satan and corruption; do you now tell me that it is still impossible? It was impossible before indeed to live without sin, when you only trusted in your own strength; but now, when you come to have grace and assistance from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, who gives you ability to withstand temptation, and overcome your corruptions, and the lusts of your own heart, is it impossible still to live without sin? Then you may say, “the devil's slave I am and must be;” for there is no other power in Heaven or earth for you to lay hold of, if your own power, nor Christ's power neither can suffice. If they say this, they have just said that the devil is Almighty. Thus they tell us, when Christ has revealed his power, it is still impossible still.
If I would call this anti-christian doctrine, it would make more sense. Blessed be God, I do believe that Christ is able to preserve me from the devil's temptations, and all his instruments, if I believe; though I could not do it in my own power, yet by Christ's power I may be preserved an hour without sin. If an hour, then a day, and if one day, then a thousand days, if I live so long; Christ has promised that he will bruise Satan, and tread him under feet, and destroy his works. Now judge for yourself whether sin is not the devil's work; shall I despond or despair to have the devil's work destroyed in me?
Here is ground for you all to believe, he that has faith may lay hold of this power which is offered of God; therefore lay hold of it, else your religion will be good for nothing. This is the enjoyment of a true believer, that he receives power from Christ to deny himself; therefore all their pretended Christianity and professions at the day of judgment will melt away like snow. These canons, articles, forms, and liturgies, will all melt away when the day of the Lord comes to burn upon them; none but those who feel the redeeming virtues of the blood of Christ, that have their souls filled with the love of God; and those who will part with whatever they love in the world, for Christ's sake, shall be accepted.
I am not for setting up this and any other sect or opinion; if it is among those of my own profession, if they profess holiness, and bring forth unrighteousness, they are all part of the same hypocrisy, and I shall not value their profession. There are many in this city and nation, that have sheltered themselves under the profession of truth, and talk of perfection, and have brought their lusts and imperfections with them. Here Antichrist is trying another game to bring them under a profession that will serve his turn; the devil will allow men to profess perfection, if they will live according to their own hearts lusts, so that they may save his head from the blow that God’s power will bring upon it, so that they may dishonor the holy name and religion they make profession of. As the apostle said, I have told you often and now tell you weeping; they were Christians, so called, to whom he spoke, but they were enemies to the cross of Christ, not to the profession of Christ; he did not say they were strangers to the cross of Christ, but enemies to it; they let it fall, they kept the name, word, and doctrine up, but they let the cross fall; how much were these Christians worth? Surely only a little.
No, Antichrist has been so silly, that because the words are so put upon the cross, no being disciples of Christ without the cross; the words of scripture are so put upon it, Antichrist thinks to himself, "I shall never persuade the people to be at ease, unless I give them a cross;" therefore he sets them to making crosses. They must be baptized with the cross; they say we do not deny not the cross of Christ; we hang it about our necks; we set it up in our meetings and academies. Many princes, wise men, and learned men, have been so bewitched and drunk with delusions, that they have called this the Christ which they have made with their own hands; they have made Christs, and prayed to them; and all their religion has been putting together crosses, crucifixes, forms, and liturgies, which they have made with their own hands.
Here is Christianity in an empty profession, but where is the soul of it? I would inquire for the life of it; I would see Christianity living in love to God above all, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. When this Christianity comes, there will be no killing one another, nor persecuting one another, nor fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, nor pleading for it either.
Blessed be God, that our eyes have seen the witnesses raised, and life from Heaven come into them; and now religion begins to have a life and soul, and shows itself in a little remnant. There is a people raised by God that feel life in their worship, in their families, in their conversations, and in their behavior towards relations; they do what they do as to God. Many lads and lasses, menservants and women-servants, do their work and service, not merely to please their master and mistress, but to please God. The life they live is by the faith of the Son of God; they live as becomes the members of his body. Husbands love their wives, not simply because they are their wives, as the men of the world do, but they do it upon the account of inward religion, and of the divine fellowship and communion they have in Christ Jesus. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved his church, and laid down his life for it; so a man should love his wife, and be tender over her, and minister to her.
The life of Christianity has taught us to behave ourselves as though we were doing everything for God; may he have the glory and Christianity be restored to its ancient luster and beauty that it had in former times.
But some will say, “do as well as you can, men will never love you; if you have the soul of Christianity, you shall be reviled and scandalized. Men will make works against; you, and serve legal papers against you, and set the magistrates against you; live as well as you can, they will follow you and disturb you."
This is more than you know. If a man once comes to feel the life of Christianity working in him, and the power of it keeping him from doing evil, and wishing evil to his enemies, and disposing his mind to a frame of praying for them, inclining him to pity them; if a man comes to this state, he is at peace in himself, and enjoys tranquility of mind; he looks up to the Mediator, Christ Jesus, and feels an answer of peace in his own soul, and is come to rest in himself.
Now concerning persecution, hatred and enmity, between the woman's seed and the serpentine seed, and how long it will last. God, whom we serve, did say to the devil in Paradise, I will put enmity between you and the man, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your heady and you shall bruise his heel. So that it is not to be expected, that the seed of the serpent, (those who are born of that seed), can love those who are born of the woman's seed. It is possible that those who are born of the seed of the serpent, should be translated and brought out of that corrupt state; but it is impossible that those who are born of the flesh, should love those who are born of the spirit, while they continue in their unregenerate state, but rather persecute them. It is like a natural instinct, like water to run downward, and fire to fly upward. Were not all men and women born children of wrath, and naturally enemies in their minds to Christ Jesus? And did he not die and suffer for them all? So that the very nature of the thing is the very reason why Christ died to redeem those who were his enemies to be his friends.
Suppose I, or any other member of Christ is persecuted by men who revile me, and hate me; should I not love them, and do good unto them, when I see one infinitely better than either you or I, do it for us? When we were enemies, Christ has sent his Spirit into our hearts, that we might become friends of him, and of him who sent him. This is the effect of the righteousness of Christ and of his innocence, that enemies may become friends; thus have many been brought to a friendship of truth that were enemies to it. If we could not suffer for the testimony we have received of God, what was it worth? But seeing God has not only given us to believe, but to suffer for his name, many have been turned by this means from darkness to light, and many more will be; the light breaks forth quickly, despite there has been so much effort to stop it.
It has been the design of many learned men of this nation: “how shall we stop these men's mouths that preach the doctrine of truth in the inward parts, the light within, and Christ within them?” I will not repeat the many laws that have been made against those who will not preach lies, instead preaching the power of Christ and his truth; now what will you do? You cannot lay hand on [fight] them as you used to do; no, but we will reproach them with the tongue. We will render them odious to the government, as persons that will overturn church and state, and that preach false doctrine, and when all is done, and they have said their worst, people will still believe that sin and wickedness is hateful to God, that God takes no delight in sin, and that the devil will lead us to sin; he that keeps most from sin, keeps most out of the devil’s clutches; and he that lives most holy, is most like to God.
These things we will preach, and we will go on in this testimony, that the best way that man can take, is to break off their sin by repentance and turn to God their Maker with their whole hearts; and they will look to their ways, and search, and try and examine their hearts, and if they see evil, to keep out of it. This is such a thing, as there is no withstanding of it, it will go through this nation, and all the nations of the earth.
What if a company of people should combine together, and say, we will not have the sun to shine upon the city of London; what course must we take? When the sun is down, we will build a bank or high wall to intercept its light; but notwithstanding all their endeavors, when the sun rises, it will get over their high banks and wall. Similarly all their designs and all the contrivances against the light of the gospel, and against Christ the Son of righteousness, and against the Spirit of Christ, the light will ascend and get over the heads of them all, and it will confound them, and break through all opposition.
I exhort you all, my friends, that laying aside all doctrines, and tenets, and contrivances among Christians, to come to this simple thesis and position; it is no matter what I profess of religion, if my life is not answerable to it, if there is not a love to God, and my neighbor, and to mine own soul; there is no life nor power in my profession of religion. I will rest satisfied in the measure of knowledge that God has given me; I must not do to my neighbor what I would not have my neighbor do to me; I must be upright and sincere towards God; God will not accept of any worship from me, when I am unclean in body and in mind too; we must see that we become purified, for God will not accept of an offering from an unclean heart; you cannot bring a clean thing out of an unclean heart, said our Lord Jesus Christ, the great preacher of truth and righteousness; I must first make the tree good before the fruit will be so; you and I are these trees; until we have something good in ourselves, we cannot bring forth good fruit.
Therefore you must have respect to the principle of sanctification in your own hearts, and turn to what you may feel an experience of in yourselves, some principle of grace and light in your hearts, that can distinguish between good thoughts and evil thoughts. Is this good for me to do? I will go on in it with faith and courage; but if it is evil, I will not touch it, though there is profit and pleasure to allure and draw me to it; I will not touch it, though I might gain the world by it.
Here is Christianity with life and soul in it; we have been scandalized as if we preached up error for justification. We say there is no justification without sanctification; so you that know the power, so live in it; and you that desire to know the power, turn your minds to the light and grace of God, and you will feel the power that will oppose sin in its motion, and it will never trouble you in its actions and workings. If I would not do ill to my neighbor, and I judge such a motion when it is suggested, it will never trouble my conscience, because when the devil moved me to it, I rejected it, I would not follow him. It is no sin to be tempted; for our Savior, that was perfectly holy, and free from all sin, was yet tempted; he had motions in his mind, but he withstood them, and resisted the devil in all his temptations; Christ was tempted that he might be able to succor us when we are tempted; and he will do it for all those who wait for him.
Therefore, friends, trust in the name of the Lord, and you shall feel the stirrings of that power, that has called you out of darkness into the marvelous light of the sun of righteousness in which you live, and which will shine to his immortal glory and praise, and the everlasting comfort of your immortal souls.
The Spirit of Christ, the Only True Guide
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at at Grace-Church-Street, October 10, 1690
YOU who are met together in the name of the Lord, and have your expectation from God, and are really waiting to receive a blessing from his bountiful hand; you are they to whom the Lord will communicate the good things of his kingdom, and instruct you in the divine knowledge that the wisdom of this world cannot find out; you shall have your portion in the blessings prepared for you and laid up in Christ for you to be handed forth to you from day to day for your support. And hereby you have been preserved and kept alive unto this day. You have received your nourishment, and divine and spiritual refreshment, always in the presence of God; when you have been out of his presence, you have met with troubles, and darkness has gendered upon your minds and veiled and clouded your understandings, that you have been sometimes in danger to lose your way, until you have returned again unto the great shepherd and overseer of your souls, by whom you have had access unto God. You who have had these experiences, O let your hearts and souls be engaged to continue together in one heart and one mind, serving the Lord and waiting upon him for something that may do you good; that may strengthen and confirm you in the blessed truth.
For there are a great many that are convinced, who yet do lack establishment. There are a great many that know the truth, yet cannot be brought to abide in it, but are sometimes drawn out of it; and then they meet with trouble in their minds, and distress and anguish lays hold upon then; and they do not enjoy that tranquility, peace, and inward joy, which they believe others enjoy at the same time; and which they might have enjoyed if they had lived steadfast in the truth. Now what is it that will establish such a person, but their waiting upon God to receive power from him to resist the temptations, and the manifold wiles and snares of their soul’s enemy, by which they are daily in danger to be drawn away from God and drawn out of the way?
You know, friends, how the Lord brought us into this exercise of waiting upon him by making us sensible that there was none who could help us but him. Teachers we have always had, and men that have spoken of God, spoken of his power, and spoken of his wisdom; but how to dwell in that power, and stand established in it, so as at all times to resist the power of the wicked one, is what no man can help us do; and upon this account it was, that the Lord's people were willing to cleave close to him, and by faith to have their dependence upon him; and cry in their souls, "Lord, unless you establish me, I shall never be established."
The confirming power that stays and settles their minds upon the Lord comes from him, and it is handed to us through the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we have believed in; those who kept their faith in him have had longings and breathings of soul, that they might receive some divine blessings by him, and through him. So that those who meet together in this mind find a settlement in the truth as it is manifested and revealed in them, and goes down into the deep where unity is known. Here they are of one mind, and the soul is made capable of putting forth strong cries to God, and living breathings and prayers to God that he will teach them how they shall profit, how they shall grow, and how they shall serve him and honor him in their day; that he will reveal his power in them, to expel any darkness or veil that has been gathered upon their minds, that does hinder them from beholding so much glory and excellence in the truth, and in the ways of God, as some they have beheld. And so these are travelers that are traveling with the Lord in faith, to receive a blessing at his hands. Their minds are not left to this, or that, or the other man, or to mere words or visible things; but they feel the word of truth answering the truth in themselves, and they receive a comfort and benefit, because they find a blessing to arise in them. These words reach my soul; these administer help to me, and I am comforted in them, because I find those works working in me, or wrought in me.
For, alas! my friends, many of you know, that there are some who hear the word, and the declarations in the word are but founds unto those who have no experience of the work that is signified by the word. Many such people do hear the lovely sound, and they are affected many times to hear talk of the work of regeneration, and of the enjoyments of God's people, and how they are borne up in all their trials by an inward and divine power, and how they are always kept alive to God, and preserved in his living presence; but this does not bear them up in a time of trial. For if a trial or an affliction comes, they sink under it, and they are filled with anguish and perplexity; so that the word barely heard spoken, and not rooted in the mind, does not Minister to the work; the words spoken do not carry that kind of operation upon them as to witness an inward work wrought upon them. But where there is an effectual work and operation in the soul, it continues in its labor and travel from death to life. And as those heavenly things, those divine operations of God's power are spoken of, there is an Amen in your souls, saying as far as you have traveled, thus has God dealt with me, he has indeed by his power carried some beyond my state and condition, and my faith is hereby strengthened, and my hope is confirmed. He that has begun a good work so gloriously in my soul, will carry on his own work, and bring me to higher attainments, and further experiences that some of his servants bear witness of. So that now being exercised, the work goes on, and the pleasure of the Lord prospers in Christians, that when they meet together in the name of the Lord, they know for themselves that the Lord is present with them; they know what the word of the Lord is unto them. If they hear the word preached to another state and condition, yet they abide in and keep what makes manifest to them in their own state. And this prevents the soul from being carried away with the word, and sight and vision of a higher state than their faith can witness to; and they keep low, and humble, and tender, and have a care of their own souls; as the apostle when he had come to glorious and high attainments in the work of the Lord, yet he would not glory of anything but what the grace of God wrought in him. We do not boast of things that are not wrought in us.
It is profitable for the creature to gather in, and comprehend the form of things, of which the work has not been done in them; and a great many have done so to their great damage, and some, it is to be feared, to their utter ruin. They have comprehended high things, and the notions of great attainments; they have heard them declared and spoken of thus, and so some have in their speculations declared to others their conceptions about those things, yet those things were never wrought in them. They could preach of humiliation, when the root of pride was not removed; they could preach of regeneration, while the old man had not been put off, and the new man created in righteousness not put on. All this kind of preaching has been in the world, and is still too much in the world, but it has not produced and brought forth any profit and advantage to the soul, either to preacher or hearer; for it has not been accompanied with a divine and heavenly blessing; but the true ministry ordained of God brings forth a work of holiness and righteousness in the soul.
And therefore everyone whom God has thus reached, and has opened your understandings, and has made you capable of comprehending and understanding divine things, take heed, lest by the subtlety of Satan and the wiles of your great enemy, you are at any time lifted up and exalted in your minds in the notion of the things that you have not attained; not that you should not so understand the things of God that God opens to you, as they are many times opened to the creature before the work of them is in the heart of the creature. And why so? Why are they opened to me? It is for my encouragement, that if you do hold on, and are steadfast in waiting upon the Lord, these things God has in store for you [a taste of things to come].
Now the creature waits, and says, “though I have not attained such things as I have seen, yet the very sight of them encourages me to wait upon the Lord, that I may experience the witness of them in myself.” There are many that have some taste of great joy, and apprehensions of heavenly things, which they have not attained, but they know what they are waiting upon God for; not that they may have a little joy, which passes through them, but come to have that joy and tranquility that will accompany them in all their doings, and their whole conduct. God has opened many things to you, and you have seen the way of righteousness that he has cast up for you; and many have taken strait steps to themselves, until they have attained to say, “now my salvation is nearer than when I first believed.” Let such go on and follow that guide by which they have been directed, and they shall at last attain to a further state, not only to know that their salvation is now nearer than when they at first believed, but that they may come through the Divine Spirit of grace that they followed, and so closely cleaved to, as their blessed guide in their way, to have an entrance administered to them abundantly into the salvation of God, whereby they may sit down, in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and have a wall about them, which is the salvation of God.
Here is a great encouragement for sinners, and upright ones, to follow on to know the Lord, and then they are sure they shall know him, for they shall behold his glory, and their souls shall be satisfied, for nothing else will satisfy them.
People may have great openings, and great discoveries of things, and may have delight and joy in the opening of things, as it was with the disciples, when Christ our Lord converted with them in the flesh; he opened many things to them, and they had great joy and comfort in those things which he opened to them, yet there was something lacking to satisfy them. Philip said unto Christ, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will satisfy us.” John 14:8. There was something further to be discovered and revealed, so that they could not find their souls to be satisfied and sufficed, until they had it. Christ gave them such an answer as relates to that ministration that we are now under; he that has seen the Son, has seen the Father. Now they had seen Christ daily, and conversed with him, and had eaten and drank with him in that fleshly and bodily appearance in which he conversed with them; but they had not a light of the Eternal Son of God in a spiritual manner, as he was the Son of God, and their Savior; they had not seen him so. And he that has seen Christ in a spiritual manner has seen the Father also.
So it is with us in our day. We have, in our profession, the teaching of this and that man. We have conversed with Christ, as it were, to his fleshly appearance. We have read the history of his birth, and of his life and great miracles, and of the great love he had to mankind, by which he laid down his life for them. We have been conversing with Christ as to his fleshly manifestation; but consider whether there does not, until now, remain an empty place in our souls, something that is not sufficed and satisfied?
What would you have? Don't you have scripture? Do you not read there of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ? I would still have something more, for that will not suffice me. I would have pardon of sin, and my peace with God, and the light of his countenance lifted up upon me and further manifestations of Christ to my soul. We can never see the glory of God, but in the face of Jesus Christ. This is the discovery that Christ makes to the soul that believes in him; this is what gives satisfaction.
A Christian's work is to be conversing with him, and exercising his mind under the gathering and teaching of him who can lead him to the Father. None but Christ can do that, lead them to the Father, and show them the Father; and he has in our day revealed himself, and made himself manifest by his spirit, that spirit, by which we come to know his holy teaching, reproof and instruction, daily discovered in our souls. The spirit is our guide; that spirit we are led by, and are to walk in. Let men go under whatever form and denomination they will, those who have not the spirit of Christ are none of his, until they come to be guided by his spirit.
People are not led into sin by the spirit of Christ; they will tell you these are the devil’s temptations, and the frailty of our nature, and the corruption of our hearts, by which we are led into sin; it is not the spirit of Christ. It would be a horrid thing for men to say that the spirit of Christ led them into sin; there are few or none so wicked as to say so. The business we are to do in the world is, to obey the will of God. And where the understandings of men are so illuminated, that they are satisfied in their minds, that God has been pleased to give them a manifestation of the spirit to profit withal; all those who have this spirit of Christ, are directed by it to do the will of God, and to deny their own wills, and the will of others, that would draw them from their duty that they owe to God in their generation.
It is an excellent state and condition for a man to be guided by the spirit, and to be brought under the government of Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. So that those who come under this government, are directed and pointed out every day to do the will of God. This you must do, and God will be pleased with you; and this you may not do, for if you do it, the Lord will be angry with you; it is sin against God. So that we have a heavenly advantage of being taught of God by his spirit, to have the divine and heavenly teaching of the spirit of God revealed in us; if we are at a loss, or have a question, or dispute about a matter, the spirit will lead us into all truth, if we give up ourselves to his guidance and teaching.
This has been our desire and labor many years, not to draw people to observe what we say, for who can direct another man in all things relating to the service of God? If we were ever so certain ourselves, we could not convey certainty and infallibility upon all occasions to another, if we should speak ever so much, and be ever so conversant with them. Therefore our work is that all people in all things relating to their souls might have recourse continually to the infallible teacher and guide, which God, through Jesus Christ, has made known to them. If people are ruled by this, they cannot but live in unity and love one another; they will not fall into malice, contention, and hatred one against another. It is impossible for nations to make war, and destroy one another, if they were guided by the unerring spirit of Christ, for how should it contradict itself? For how can anything agree with the standard of truth, which Christ has set up, that is in contradiction to it? For nothing is truth but what concurs with it; therefore it must agree with itself. If we are directed by the spirit, we shall call something good that is really good; and something evil which is so. If there are thousands directed by the spirit of Christ, who leads into all truth, what is good to one, is so to all; and what is evil to one, is so to all. We must first know what is good, and then receive power to do it. If we come to be instructed by the unerring spirit, to know what is the good and acceptable will of God, we shall daily receive power from him to do the will of God; we shall all speak the same thing, and be of the same mind, and be in love and unity. There is no evil willfully done against God, where the spirit of Christ, the gospel spirit, comes to prevail upon us; it will bring us to a peacefulness of spirit, to live in love and unity. And the great work we have in the world, will be to do the good and acceptable will of God, both with respect to our solemn worship of God, and our duties towards our neighbors. Then there will be tranquility, peace, joy, and comfort to all the churches of Christ that are under his government. And it is given to the sons and daughters of men everywhere, when they come under the yoke of Christ, and take up a daily cross, and live in self-denial; this will bring peace and concord among them.
Many will come to our meetings, and spend a little time to hear what we say. We exhort them to give up themselves to the peaceable government of the spirit of Christ, that will finish transgression, and make an end of sin, and bring into the soul, (where sin reigned), everlasting righteousness. Where there is a great deal of pride, malice and envy, the spirit of Christ will root it up, and all that evil that the enemy has planted in men, he will pluck it up, and bring in everlasting righteousness, and plant love in the same soul, and establish and settle it. Such a one will have more joy, pleasure and delight, under the government of the Spirit of Christ in one day, than anyone can have that is governed by the evil spirit in a thousand days.
You say the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal; what profit shall we get? How does it appear, that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to profit withal? Because there is that life and grace stirring in the heart that makes it profitable, and truth does so prevail, that it makes us do those things that are good and profitable, and to avoid those things that are reprovable. If you would hearken to the spirit that is the reprover that convinces of sin, you must turn away your mind from what will lead into those things that are reprovable, otherwise you will be under condemnation in your own bosom.
When the Spirit of God illuminates men to see sin, the evil of sin, he will give them power against it; but when they come to receive power against it, and steadfastness in the ways of God, what will be the effect of that? If I become righteous and live a holy life, and my companions are wicked, they will mock me, and reproach me; what benefit shall I have by being righteous? I see evidently I shall lose many advantages which I might otherwise reap, and reach with my own hand. I must forsake my profits and pleasure, and other delights of this world.
The disciples said to Christ, we have forsaken all and followed you; what shall we have? People before they would forsake all would have something in the place of it. Christ tells them that he who has forsaken all, father and mother, brother and sister, and house and land, for his name sake, shall have in this life a hundred fold, and in the world to come, eternal life. What is the meaning of: “they shall have in this life a hundred fold?” Christ, who is truth itself and cannot lie, has promised that those who forsake all, shall receive a hundred fold. Now people are ready to grasp at it; they think it is something that will answer the loss of what they part with; what you receive in this promise must not be of the same sort and kind with those things you parted with, but when you have parted with all for Christ's sake, and the gospel, you shall receive what you shall acknowledge is a hundred fold better, and will make you a hundred fold richer and happier, and it will give you a hundred fold more than all that you have parted with could give you.
If we part with sin, we part with what brings bondage and fear of death; having parted with that, then your fear and bondage is gone, and you lived then the rest of your life-time at liberty. But this is not all, you live in the enjoyment of the favor of God; you shall have the sense of his love, and the comfort of his Holy Spirit; and you shall live in peace and righteousness, and treasure up to yourselves, glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. Whereas before you treasured up only wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; you shall receive a hundred fold, what is a hundred fold better. Those who part with the things that are reprovable, and do what Christ in his day performed, the good and acceptable will of God, the enjoyments that he has in Christ, and the comfort, peace and tranquility he enjoys, is a hundred fold better and more delightful than all the pleasures of sin, and the pleasures and delights of shows, and fights and plays, and comedies, which vain men entertain themselves with in their carnal state. A carnal man cannot understand and discern the things of God, and the pleasures that are to be had in his holy ways; he only looks at the things that are seen, which are temporal, and not at the things that are not seen, which are eternal.
But, my friends, those things which are unseen, are not so unseen, but that when a man has an eye opened within him of the same nature with those things, he can see them. Blessed be God that we have an eye opened to see spiritual things, to see the heavenly treasure, and enjoy it in these earthen vessels.
For all that have an ear to hear, it would be a profitable change to part with all that is evil in the sight of God, and put themselves under the yoke of Christ, and receive a principle of grace which he will communicate to them, that they may do the good and acceptable will of God, and so may enjoy a hundred fold, and have comfort, peace, and joy before they leave here and are no more seen. You to whom God has so graciously and mercifully appeared, that have an understanding, and a taste and feeling of those things which are divine and spiritual, and which pertain to life and godliness; of all the people in the world, you are an engaged people to serve the Lord; great obligations He places upon you, that you should abide and continue in what God has revealed and discovered to you; I mean grace. For you will never grow, until you are under the government of the grace of God, that grace that appeared to you before you came to the knowledge of God and his ways, that has been with you in your travel from death to life, and from darkness to light. Prize it as a heavenly jewel, as what contains in itself all those things that your soul stands in need of. If you have any strength to resist temptation, it is from the grace of God that you receive power to withstand temptations; if you have any living openings in your hearts, it comes to you from that grace that is in Christ. When this, and that, and the other prophecy of the prophets of old is opened to you, prophesying and foretelling that state and condition which you are traveling towards, how the Lord will subdue your enemies under you, you are encouraged hereby to go on cheerfully in your way, to that rest which you are traveling to.
There are many of those who believe the truth, who have not come to establishment; and they will find the reason and cause in themselves. Do but ask and inquire how it comes to pass, that such and such are established, and not subject to fear, and horror, and perplexity, as I am? A little thing will turn me over, and shake and unsettle my mind; this has been the cause, lack of keeping close to the grace of God in your conduct in the world. When you, and your children, and servants are governed by the grace of God in all you undertake, then the devil will endeavor to bring you into darkness, and bring discomfort upon your spirits; for the purpose of Christ Jesus, our Savior, is to settle you, and the purpose of the destroyer is to discomfort and unsettle you, and to bond you to this and the other changing thing; if he can fix your hearts upon this and that object, then there is instability upon the soul; take away that thing, and it brings disturbance upon you. If you have any object that your mind is set upon, you will be much disturbed at the parting with it; but whose fault is that? The truth manifested unto you from the beginning of your conversion, did engage you to separate yourself from all visible, sensual things, so that God might have your heart and chief love. If he had been your God, nothing could disquiet you, when separated from you. If you will have other Gods besides him, you will lose your Gods; and when they are taken from you, you will be like Alicah, and say, “you have taken away my Gods, and what have I more?” Judges 18:24. The reason of your discomposure, and anguish, and sorrow, was this: when you had some other Gods besides the Lord, and your hearts cleaved to some temporary thing, and the trial came that you had to part with it, you could not bear it.
If you would live a serene life and a life of tranquility, set your minds upon nothing but upon the Lord; let him be the object of your soul's love; live in the light of his countenance, and you may always rejoice. Consider temporals as though you hold them for the Lord. God gives you this husband, that wife, that child, that estate, God has entrusted you with it? But do not think that he who has it must necessarily part with it and be bereaved of it when God pleases. Now, if you give up your hearts to God, here will be your establishment and settlement, and you will have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And would we seek to know and feel in which the communion of the saints stands; does it not stand in partaking together of the bread of life, which our father gives us from Heaven? The father spreads a table for us in the sight of our enemies, and we are satisfied. They that come to partake of this table of the Lord, find strength and refreshment; so do I, and also my brethren and sisters that sit at the same table. We are daily confirmed and strengthened by what we receive from God and enjoy there; here is our heavenly fellowship and society; and where there is this root of love, love cannot be lacking in the branches. There must be a departing from the bread of life, before there can be any jarring and contention among the members of the same body, for we receive life from the same head, from which all the body, by joints and hands, having nourishment ministered, are knit together, and increase with the increase of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, grows unto a Holy Temple in the Lord.
Now that you may be all preserved in Christ, this is the end of our labor, that so every one that has begun in the spirit, may go on in the spirit, and never look for perfection in the flesh. That you that have begun in humility, tenderness, and brokenness of heart, may in that meet together at times and seasons, and have daily the presence of God among you, and have the bread of life, which will nourish you to life everlasting, and that you may show forth to the world, the glory, brightness, and excellence of that holy life, which in Christ Jesus is manifested to you.
Pure and Spiritual Worship
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at Devonshire-house, on the 12th day of the 11th month, 1690
The worship of God, of the great God, is pure; He is a Holy God, of purer eyes than to behold evil. Those who are resolved to worship God, whose souls are breathing to have a return of a testimony in his sight, must offer up pure worship, and it must come from what is pure. For that purpose the greatness of the love of God is made manifest in Christ Jesus. There is a diffusing of his grace and virtue in the hearts of the sons and daughters of men, by which he has laid a foundation for his own worship; because his worship must be pure. Therefore he has freely given to us, through his son, the knowledge of that pure principle of life and grace, from where and out of which, all true worship springs, and all true honor to God rises, and real obedience to his holy will springs forth out of what is from himself.
Therefore all, who wish to be worshippers of God correctly, must first know and be sensible of the ability and capacity in which it stands; what may enable them to so great and so good a work. Some have imagined it as standing in their own will; and according to the workings of their own will, they have framed worships, religions, and observations, thinking that will please God. But you know the apostle in a few short words lays down a positive Christian doctrine, without faith it is impossible to please God.
Now this declares and signifies that there must be something upon which this faith must work, which must be the object and foundation of faith. Faith as it works in the creature, works upon something. It lays hold upon something in which there is a capacity of pleasing God. Now if we are all by nature children of wrath, and that no one of himself can please God, then there must be something that is supernatural that must be the object of that faith, by which men alone can please God. This something must be made manifest to the creature for its help; it must be its director and supporter in that work, which is too mighty for himself, too great a work for a man or woman, too deep, too profound for any man's abilities, power, wisdom, and acquirements, that he can attain to in this world, to worship God correctly. To worship God, that is, to perform a pure worship to a pure God; who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Now if we are all obliged to bring a clean worship, a pure worship to a pure and holy God, who has created us and all things; where shall we obtain it? Not out of an unclean heart; not out of a defiled mind. There is no bringing it forth from there, for that is the state and condition in which men have fallen into sin, in which their minds and consciences are defiled, their hearts are polluted, and their affections depraved and set upon wrong objects; and in this state none can serve God properly. What is pure and holy must be first made known, revealed, discovered and believed, before people can perform a proper worship to God.
Therefore it is in vain to go and compel people to this and that worship, and force people to this and that service and conformity, to supposedly worship of God. When they have done all, and it is not acceptable to God, this is vain worship; the poor creature has no return from the Lord, for God accepts no service or worship, but only through his son. If this is true, men cannot pray and preach in the Spirit of his Son, and cannot present their complaints and supplications to God without the assistance and help of his blessed Spirit; there is no reason in religion why people should expect a return and answer from God of the prayers they make. For it is the general doctrine of Christendom, that Christ Jesus is appointed of God for a mediator between God and man, and all the acceptance we have, or desire to have, must be through him. Therefore if we pray without him, and perform this and the other duties without him, it is contrary to the doctrine of Christianity to think that we should ever have acceptance in God's sight.
Therefore there is a necessity for every man and woman that desires to be religious, that has a religious mind, and is willing to worship God, and serve God aright, there is a necessity that they come to the knowledge of Christ, who tells us that he is the way to the Father. They that go any other way go a wrong way; but those who go to God by Christ, they receive from him power to draw near to God; and through him they receive from God all those blessings that their souls stand in need of.
So here would be an end of all religions the world is full of, of all the several worships that men have made. They have invented and found out several ways for people to worship and serve God. This and that other ceremony, this and that other observation and method of preaching and praying. If all this is without the assistance and divine help of the mediator, through whom alone we can justly expect acceptance at God's hands, it is all good for nothing. Therefore the first lesson of a Christian in point of worship, is that he come to the knowledge of Christ, by whom, and through whom he may expect favor with God.
Now say some people: We have already come to the knowledge of Christ; we have read the relation in the gospel of his conception, birth, life and death, resurrection and ascension. Now whether this belief gives a man this kind of Christian knowledge that opens a door and way for him into the presence of God, this is a question that ought seriously to be considered, for if we err in this question, we err in all. This is like stumbling at the threshold, and never coming into the house. If we mistake in laying hold of Christ, we mistake in our worship, and in all matters that relate to life and salvation.
For if we must have another sort of knowledge of Christ than we can have from the reports of others; if I must have Christ revealed in me before I can have the Hope of glory; if I must have the Spirit of Christ in me, to help me to put up my requests and supplications before he can present them to the Father, then all read-about knowledge and faith cannot be of any advantage to men. But this is evident by the testimony of all the writers of the New Testament. Christ and his apostles did concurrently signify, that the hope of a Christian, that the power and strength of a Christian, it all lies in this: in that they had known the revelation of Christ, and the powerful operation of the Spirit working in them; this was what was well pleasing to God. Many scriptures might be spoken of, but you know the scriptures, and can read them, and see in them the concurrent testimony of all Holy men to this day, that the knowledge they had of Christ was a divine knowledge, a spiritual knowledge; it was knowing him after the Spirit, and it was a revelation of Christ in them, that separated and distinguished them from reprobates, even the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ their Lord. Why should we not come to this knowledge as well as they? The Lord is the same, and his power is the same and his arm is not shortened. We may see as much need of divine assistance, and divine Love as any men ever did; we can perform no duty, either of prayer or preaching, without divine Assistance; not so much as a sigh or groan, that may have acceptance with God, without the help of his spirit, Rom 8:26, The Spirit helps our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself makes Intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. If we go about the duty of prayer without divine assistance, we see what sad work we make of it; if we pray not in the Spirit and with the understanding, how can we receive the thing we pray for? But if we pray in the Spirit, and with the understanding also, then the Spirit helps our infirmities; the Spirit that came from God brings us the things we stand in need of.
So that a Christian has a foundation for his worship and Christian performance; what is that foundation? Nothing that is corrupt, if it is corrupt, it is good for nothing; for nothing that is corrupted and that defiles can be acceptable and pleasing to God. We are all polluted and defiled by nature, so how can carnal men worship a Spiritual God? Carnal men who are in death and darkness cannot worship God, who is Light, and dwells in Light that is unapproachable, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Carnal men lack a foundation for their worship, and will, until they come to that foundation that God has laid.
Now, that I may speak intelligibly what the Lord has laid upon my heart, I would say thus: there is a universal benefit and privilege distributed and given freely of God, unto the sons and daughters of men, in their natural state, through his son Jesus Christ, in that he has caused his Light to shine, and his grace to be extended to every man; for the grace of God which bring salvation (for it is not by works) has appeared unto all men, and brings Light, by which every man may see how to worship God. God has enlightened every man, and this Light comes by Christ the mediator. This mediator is the way that men must walk in, if they will come back again to God for men have run out and departed from God. If men desire to draw near to God, and take some footsteps towards the Kingdom of God, away from the kingdom of sin and Satan, they must mind the way, the way must be their director, and they must not go whatever way they like.
This is what was prophesied of Christ, said God by the prophet Isaiah, I will give him for a Leader. [A man says], "I would willingly return to God, and go out of the Kingdom of sin and Satan, to the Kingdom of God." God has given Christ to lead you. [A man says], "If I knew that way which he would lead me in, I would go that way." As soon as a man takes hold of Christ, his grace, and Spirit, and life, he will be ready to say, "I am corrupt, my senses are corrupt, my mind is depraved, my conscience defiled and polluted; but I have found out something that God has bestowed upon me, that is essential, holy and pure, that never consented to my corruption, but is a witness for God against it." Now when a Christian lays hold of Christ, the leader; which way will he lead him? If you lay hold of this guide, he will lead you out of evil, he will teach you to cease to do evil, and speak evil. This Light will not lead you to anything that will dishonor God, or defile your own soul. But this is not all, we must not only cease to do evil, but we must be doing something; there must be a breaking off from pride, foolish jesting, and evil communication. But this is not all that he will lead me to; let us learn that lesson, cease to do evil. This doctrine was preached before Christianity was preached, as it is now preached. The prophets of old preached this doctrine to the Jews who were under an outward administration, " Cease to do evil, and learn to do well, then I will plead with you, and discourse with you", said the Lord: "Come now let us reason together, said the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
This is the first lesson that a true Christian learns in his turning to God, in his change and translation: to cease from what is evil. Here is a cessation of rebellion, and here is some hopes of being reconciled to God. A man has been a rebel against his maker, but he has now received help to resist those temptations that prevail over him. But there is no worshipping yet. There is a forward mind in men to do something that is pleasing to God. But there are some that are not troubled at all for their evil ways, and dread not God's anger, but make a mock of sin, which mocking draws others to it, and make themselves merry in sin. But there is a sort so far touched with a divine sense of God's love to them, that they have also a sense of his anger and indignation, because of their sin; and they would willingly be out of his anger; and who can blame them? When a man feels the anger of God burning like a fire in his bosom, who can blame that man if he desires peace with God? If he is under a sense of the displeasure and indignation of the Almighty, he must not depart too soon out of that condition he is brought into. For this is God's purpose, and this is the fruit of all his troubles and afflictions, to take away sin. God had no other end or design in the affliction that came upon man, than to take away sin. When God has brought a people into a distressed and dejected state resulting from their sin, the fruit that God expects, is the taking away of their sin, and he will take their pride from them, and humble them before Himself. If this is the purpose of God, that he intends to purge and purify his people; then says the poor creature, if God designs to purify me from sin, then I will pray to God to support me, and bear me up under his indignation. That is the cry of the soul, that he may not be brought too soon from under the judgment of God, but he may be supported and hidden in the hollow of God's hand, until the time of remission and refreshing comes, that he may behold the Light of God's countenance.
Here is encouragement for everyone that is acquainted with this divine principle of grace, who desires to be led by it, and follow it so far as to be led out of evil. Then they will be prepared to do something in the work of God. Every sigh and groan, in which you have had the assistance of the Spirit of God to help you, is part of worship. All your brokenness of heart is part of worship. By this you acknowledge the great God, that he is able to help you on your way, and to pardon your iniquity, and blot out your transgression, and give you all those heavenly blessings of which your soul stands in need. Then your soul will bow down to God in acts of holy worship, and say, with a humble confidence and expectation: God will do all these things in me, and for me, that will promote my salvation. It is nothing in religion for people to go from praying and preaching to singing; for God must have a holy sacrifice, and that must come out of a pure heart. Now when a man is brought by the help of God, and by the divine assistance of the mediator, Jesus Christ, to break off from his sin, then he stands worthy of becoming a child of God, and to be a servant of God, and to do something for God in his generation, and to offer to God praise and thanksgiving, and to perform all other duties into which God shall lead him.
But some will say: What, must we do anything? I have deeply weighed that question, what a poor man or woman must do, that has come out of bondage? There is a propensity in people to be doing; they would willingly do something. They would be doing. They say: What shall I do? If I do something that does not pleases God, I had better attempt to do nothing to please him; for I can do nothing acceptable to God without divine assistance. Such a person that sees his own impotence and inability, will cast his care upon God, and will say: The Lord is able to lead me and guide me; I am ready to do your will, O God. Make it clear to me that this is your will, and that this is what you require. I am ready to do it, though it is a cross to my own will. He is ready to go on in God's way, in the way of Christianity. Such a person that has the true knowledge of Christ. If he speaks, the Spirit of Christ speaks in him; if he prays, it is through the assistance of the Spirit of Christ, through whom God alone is appeased and reconciled, and through whom they may receive a blessing from God's hands. But for men to run out in their own wills, and to do anything because they will do it, they had better sit still; this doing in their own wills, has filled the world with a sort of Christians that lack acceptance with God, which is to be had alone through the Lord Jesus Christ. And the lack of the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, is the misery and downfall of Christianity in our days.
Therefore it is our work and business to build upon that foundation which God has laid; no worship is pleasing to God, but that which rises from that spring that is pure and holy. If I cannot find what will keep me from all pollution and defilement, if I cannot find that, I must stay till I can. For to begin a worship and a religion without what I know is acceptable to God, it is only worthless labor, and time spent in vain.
Therefore, friends, let every one that desires to be religious, turn their mind inward, wait for the gift of God, which is essentially pure, that never did consent to evil, that never mixed with the corruption of nature, but bears witness to the Light, that will guide you and lead you, and conduct you, first out of sin, and then it will lead you into that worship and religion, and the performance of those things that are pleasing to God. Those, who have come to this worship, do not only know what the Lord requires of them, and when he requires it of them, but they are given up into the hands of God; they pray, preach, exhort and live according to the will of God.
It is hard for people in a carnal state to believe this; but you that are believers, that have come to know the gift of God in yourselves, and the necessity of being ruled by him; you will believe us, for no one else will believe us. Let us preach to as many people and nations as we will, none will receive us as true ministers, but those who have the truth in their own hearts. If there is any that despises the grace of God in his own hearts, he hates what chides and reproves him. If there is such a man, he will hate me because I am a minister and a witness of the grace of God, and of that truth in the inward parts, which is the ground and foundation that man has of acceptance with God. A wicked carnal wretch will say, I hate such a person; I hate the Light, which checks me and witnesses against me. You are a person that bears witness against me; therefore I hate you. It is very true, it cannot be otherwise. Now our desire and labor is, that men may come to the love of the truth in themselves.
You know there are a great many other ministers, whose labors are to persuade people to believe what they say; to lay down a doctrine, and prove it by scripture and reason, and set it home upon their minds by such testimony as the scripture affords; and by this they prevail upon the minds and judgments of people, to believe what they lay down.
It is easy to lay down a position and prove it, and convince people that it must be according to scripture; but when a person is convinced of a principle of truth, he is not regenerated and does not come to God. Therefore, although he cannot deny the doctrine of truth in words, yet he can deny it in works, and does not rightly come to love it. If people would believe what we say, and observe what argument we bring for proving a position, they may be convinced of the doctrine of truth, and come to a profession of it, and yet be strangers to it, until they come to love it in themselves. If it were not for this, we would leave preaching. If God had not given a measure and manifestation of the Spirit to every man to profit withal, [we would not be effective]. You have it in yourselves, we are only monitors to you, to put you in mind of it. You have so much business in the world, that you have not had leisure to take notice of it.
A man may have a rich jewel, and still be poor until he comes to know the value of it. A man has a rich and precious jewel, a pearl bestowed upon him who would make him rich in faith and love to God, and qualify him for the Kingdom of God, and make him an heir of it; but he knows not, nor understands the value of it, and esteems it not. Therefore God has raised up ministers to put you in mind of it, that you may be happy forever, and live in blessedness to all eternity. Whoever has an Ear to hear, let him hear; and when they hear what we say, let them take the benefit of it to their own souls. We do not bring truth to you, because God has bestowed it upon you. You will be rich indeed, if you do as a man that bought a field where the precious pearl was, and dug till he found it. Come to the foundation upon which you should build all your hopes of happiness, and depend not upon your own works, or religious performances, for acceptance with God. For there is no acceptance with God, but only through Christ, we are only accepted of God through him. Those who will become Christians indeed, and worship God as he has ordained and appointed himself to be worshipped; they must come to the principle of Light and grace in their own hearts, which they have in, and through Christ, and they will find acceptance with God. Amen.
The Divine Life of Christ Jesus
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at Grace-Church-Street, March 16, 1691
THE blessed life of Christ is not of this world; and it ought to be your care in all your religious assemblies that you are gathered into the inward, feeling sense, of this divine life; that you may feel your fellowship and communion in that life of Christ that is not of this world. And may all of you lay hold upon it; for this is the nourishment and the heavenly bread, with which the children of the kingdom are fed and nourished from day to day. There are many that feed upon words, that are not the children of the kingdom of God; but the begotten of God have come to know the virtue of the divine life, Christ Jesus. Their feeding and their nourishment is by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, and they grow up to life eternal by that divine and heavenly gift, that God the Father has bestowed upon them, through his Son Jesus Christ; and they enjoy the communion of saints, through this divine Head of the Church, that communicates of his life and virtue through every member, by which they are sanctified, and every day more and more prepared for that living and eternal inheritance laid up for the children of God.
And when there are a people that are thus gathered into the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are able to draw near to God; they feel the power of entrance, because their sin is removed that formerly lay at the door; and the way is opened and consecrated for them to draw near and partake of the table of the Lord, by which they grow stronger and stronger in his might and power, and are thereby enabled to perform the whole will of God, and that divine worship and religious service, which God requires at their hands in their day.
For it is very certain, and we have found it by experience, that the words of our Lord to his disciples of old are true; without me, (his prompting and direction to action, and faith to obey) you can do nothing. For though people may meet together, and may pretend and set up a form of worship, and of religion in their own wills, yet it all amounts to nothing, with respect to acceptance with the Lord. There is no return in their souls, no addition of life, nor increase and growth of life; they are not nearer the kingdom than when they first believed, but many times further off by leaning upon a formality, and not really entering into the work of God, nor traveling out of death into life; for there must be a path, and a traveling in it. The soul must have an exercise through the power and life of Jesus, for the overcoming of death, that separated it from God, and a preparing for life, which life is what unites us to God again. And when people are in earnest in this travel, they are resigned up to the government, direction and leading of him who is gone before, that has made a way for us, and will further our progress towards the kingdom of God.
And, therefore, my friends, you know the way, and know how the power has reached to you, and has opened your understandings that you may be faithful to that power in your own souls, and may have the use and true improvement of this, and all other such meetings as this, for the gathering of your minds out of all visible and changeable objects, unto that life which God has revealed, that so in the exercise of it, you may hold your fellowship with God, and with one another. Here is the bond of perfection, here is that in which God has created peace and rest, and joy for his people. As far as every one is partaker of this innocent life, and feels himself changed into it, they are gathered into the church, and they are gathered into fellowship with the head of it, and are comforted in their membership, in their partaking together.
Though I am only a little one, yet I partake of the same virtue which the Lord administered to the greatest saints, while I am waiting upon him, and of the same divine consolation, and operation, and power that weans more and more from the world, and what is corruptible, and raises up in me daily more and more fervent desires after that bread that does not perish.
Now in this men and women have an evidence of that Christianity in themselves, the Spirit of God bearing record and witness with their Spirits, which all the loose professors of Christianity in the world are strangers to, their evidence in themselves, being against them; they seek to have evidence without them, and to gather up some kind of marks and tokens, and sayings, and sentences, from without them, to make them believe that they are in covenant with God, and that they are in a state of salvation by Christ; but he that truly believes, has an evidence of his Christianity, and of his reconciliation with God; and he has this evidence in himself, a divine, spiritual testimony that answers to his own spirit, that witnesses to him, that he is one of the children of God.
And my friends, to this you are called, whether you have come to it or not; it is this you are called to with a heavenly call, that you might no longer live in the rudiments of the world, to be seeking and looking here and there, for a ground of peace and of rest; a ground of hope, but may know and feel the same thing, the same ground of eternal hope that the saints of old had.
Now what is that hope? What reason did they give and render of their hopes of eternal glory? The apostle tells you plainly the ground or reason of their hope of being glorified in the world to come, was Christ in them the hope of glory. They witnessed that Christ gave his life for the world. Take the glorious testimony that the apostle did bear in one of his epistles when he said, “the life was manifested in me was not covered up or hidden, that people could not find it;” God was pleased to bring it to light by the gospel; when a thing is brought to light, you may see it. This he affirmed in his day, and the same is affirmed in our day. The life is manifested; what life? Not the life of this world, but a life not defiled, not polluted, but the life that is of God, a heavenly life that is holy and pure; that life is manifested. We have seen it, and we exhort all to lay hold of it, to lay hold of eternal life. Some had a sight of it, that had not laid hold of it; they saw it in a vision, and they might say possibly, oh that I could live such a life, that there were no sin in me, in my words, or thoughts, or actions, what a gracious life would that be! They had seen that life, they had tasted of it, but they did not lay hold of it, but let it go by them. Take heed of that, when you have seen it with open eyes. Blessed are your eyes, for they have seen, and your that have heard, said Christ to his disciples. They saw that life that was holy, harmless and undefiled. Lay hold on this life, especially when you are thus assembled together, in a solemn manner in the presence of the Lord, waiting to behold it, and see it more and more discovered to you, and labor to have that gathering power that will bring you to it, that you may know the strength that comes by it to the soul. There is none of you, but what you will meet with temptations in this world that will draw you into death and darkness, to things that are carnal, and sensual, and devilish sometimes. How shall I stand if I am not centered in that life that was before the world began, and before the devil was? If I labor to feel the influence of that divine power that is able to keep me, my faith tells me so. I know that power is able to keep me, if I keep in the exercise of it. The trust of a true believer is, that whatever temptations and trials they are exercised with, they know one already come, in whom they have trusted, who is both able and willing to deliver them. So by this means he is kept harmless, and innocent, and blameless in his life and conversation. Thus you might be kept, if you would regard, and have respect to the life that is manifested in you.
Whoever comes to know, and feel and witness in their souls the discovery and revelation of the life of Jesus, they know there is in it a certain dominion over what is contrary to it; and you have many of you had experience of the exercise of the power of God in your own hearts, that has enabled you to reign over those things, that have formerly ruled over you. That you can now subdue vain thoughts, and evil desires, that you can withstand temptations that come from without, and from within. Now if you could do this, and if ever you have done it, you did it by that power that God discovered and revealed in you from Jesus Christ. You had not such hold of this once, before you believed, but by believing, the word of God sent it unto you; it being fixed by faith in the heart, that faith which is of the operation of God. You could then do what you could not do before, and forgo what you were led away by. These experiences that God has given you should encourage you to hold on in your labor and travel, and engage you to grow in the grace of God, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever is said by men in the profession of religion, this ought to be our design and end, in the discovery that is made to us of the life of Christ; that we may grow in it, and live in it; (indeed there is great talking of it), but we should labor to show forth the resurrection of that life in us.
Those who come to the one baptism, are baptized into the death of Christ; the apostle tells you, in that he died, he died unto sin. There are none baptized into Christ, and made partakers of the death of Christ, but those who died to sin, as he died. Though Christ had no sin, yet he died to sin. What use did he make of this, that Christ knew no sin, but yet took our sin upon him? He died to sin, that they who might partake of his death, would be partakers of his resurrection. He lives again, and after death, rises again.
those who partake of this death to sin, are crucified to this world, and have taken up Christ's cross, and are dead to all the pleasures and delights of this world, which have withered away and come to nothing. What do they live to now? To righteousness, holiness, love, temperance; these are pleasant to them; these come to live to righteousness, through the power of him who loved them. This shows the glory and the power of the grace of God. It is the grace of God that works such a change in a man or woman. Those who delight in sin and wickedness, in what is corrupt and ungodly, they have no delight in this, no delight in sobriety, love, holiness, and purity of mind.
Thus the gospel has gone forth, from one to many, and from these to many more, and is increasing more and more, for grace, mercy, and peace, are multiplied, by which the heritage of God, and so every man and woman that partake of this life, are gathered into fellowship.
So that your end in coming to these meetings, is not so much to hear what this, and that, and the other friend say; but what you have in yourselves to witness to; which is the divine operations of the power of God in your souls, bringing down something that is to be brought down, and raising up something that is to be raised. If you excuse sin by saying that you are more subject to temptation than others, because you have not come to their degree, but think you are better than you were when first convinced of the true way; if you say this and deceive others, cry to God, and pray earnestly that everything in you may be brought down that is contrary to his grace. If you say and profess this, to strengthen by excuse what is already known by the light of Christ, and against the truth of God, if at the same time there is a deceitful heart, how will this appear at the great day of God? The eye of God is upon your hypocrisy; he that never slumbers or sleeps, he beholds you, if there is any sin that you would keep and save alive. If you make it a profession, and notwithstanding say, this sin I will keep, the Lord pardon me in this thing; like Naaman, the servant of the king of Assyria, who said to the prophet, your servant henceforth will neither offer burnt offering nor sacrifice to other Gods, but unto the Lord, In this the Lord pardon your servant, that when my maser goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon; when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this thing. He knew if he failed to bow, the king would take notice of the alteration of his gesture, therefore he would bow in the house of Rimmon. That sin he would save alive under a profession. That hypocrisy the Lord did abominate.
Be upright in the sight of God, and be faithful to your own souls; if so, then every sin will be a burden, and you will long to be rid of it; if so, you know whose hand it is that has brought you so far; if you are really cordial, and give up yourselves to Jesus, that work, which he has begun in you, he will finish for you. He will finish it for you; withhold nothing from him; give up yourselves to him, and join not with his enemies; take heed of hearkening to them; take heed of every sin that will at last be a burden and oppression to your souls.
But if you live this heavenly life of Jesus, you will be set at liberty, to have dominion over sin, and to stand without guilt before the throne of God. Friends, let your hearts be deeply affected with the great mercies that God has bestowed upon you, and for his gift to you of that divine life that is acceptable in his sight.
Many things have been done upon the account of religion, and we could never be satisfied whether sins were acceptable to God; we could not be satisfied whether we did anything pleasing to God. We may say of them as the apostle Paul did of the Jewish sacrifices, there remains a conscience of sin, an accusing conscience, that tells us, that guilt is not removed, nor the sin taken away, until the Lord opens this divine mystery to us, that our justification must be by faith in Jesus; that nothing could reconcile us to God but the life of Jesus, and the merit of his death.
This life of Jesus was a holy, blameless, harmless, and innocent life, which life he gave for the world; which life is the light of men; and our souls being turned to this life, we see the glory and the excellence of it, and desires are kindled in our hearts after it. Many have pursued, and labored, and travailed, that they might come to the enjoyment of it. The very discovery of this life ought to be highly prized, and your souls affected with it; and when you have obtained it, you will say, O! What a blessed condition have I come into! That Christ has manifested his divine power in me, not only in reconciling me to God, but taking away the conscience of sin; by that alone the accuser is cast out, and I may now sing to God, songs of deliverance. Now you taste of the mercies that God has bestowed upon you; this will affect your souls with a childlike submission and subjection to him, who has begun to save and deliver you, that so you may resign up yourselves to his will, and forsake the world, and the things of it.
Now when these come to such a meeting as this, their minds may be retired, and they may be sensible of the power of truth upon their hearts; but for lack of keeping their subjection to the divine power, that has opened their understandings, when they come into the world again, they are ensnared and entangled, and many times, for want of watchfulness, through a looseness of mind, and unruliness of tongue, they run into anger and passion, and this grieves the Holy Spirit of God. And how should you come to God through the Mediator, when you grieve his Spirit, and quench the motions of it.
These things have been hurtful to many, that in their time might have been pillars in the house of God. Take heed of this, and let the goodness of God dwell upon your minds, that you may feel and experience the inward ministrations of it; there are many that are much affected with the outward ministry, and are very desirous to hear the servants of God declare the things that God has wrought for them, and in them, and the wonderful things that God has opened to them; yet when you have heard all that man can say about it, if the divine ministry of the word of God does not make powerful impressions upon you, and sanctify and renew your souls, the outward ministry of the word will do you no good.
Now that you may be established in the truth that you have been taught, this testimony arises in me, to desire every one to heed and attend to the manifestation of this life of Jesus in yourselves. Whatever God has bestowed upon me or another, you may perish for all that, and I am not the better for what God has bestowed upon you, but may perish notwithstanding; but that God has manifested eternal life to my soul, let that be everyone's center. This will make you holy and blameless, and preserve you in every state, and in the hour of temptation, and in the midst of snares; this will be a bulwark to you; this will be as the walls of Zion, which is the salvation of the Lord. That so you may be preserved sensible of the goodness of the Lord. That grace, mercy, and peace may be multiplied in your bosoms; this will make you dear and affectionate one to another.
Though there may be an external fellowship among those who preach and profess the same doctrine, yet when they come off from that, when once men depart from, the power of truth, they grow stubborn and rebellious; but when men come to be gathered into the inward fellowship that stands not in terms and words, but in the revelation of Christ, and in the participation of his virtue and goodness; the more you are united in this, the more you are knit one to another, and become useful and helpful one to another.
The Lord vouches to every one of you a taste of his goodness, and you will prefer it above all that the devil has, and his instruments can present; and if you retire more into this heavenly and divine life of Jesus, you will feel and enjoy more peace and satisfaction, and true consolation in your souls, than I, or any man in the world can tell you of.
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