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Delivered by Stephen Crisp at St. Martin's-Le-Grand, March 26, 1687
Here Crisp explains to a Quaker assembly that too many of them had not progressed spiritually to the baptism of fire and death, with the resurrection of Christ within them following. He cries that they are too content with an outward expression of their belief, too content in going to meetings, too complacent with having heard the Voice of the Lord — thus without possessing the kingdom and fear of their ultimate destiny. He rather urges them to take up the pain and reproach of the inward cross of self-denial that leads to the everlasting peace and confidence of true righteousness and holiness.
And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness.
Oh how happy are those who have bread in their own houses! And who can draw water out of their own wells! These have a blessed glorious dwelling-place, these are the children for which their Father provides. All the divine treasures and the riches of heavenly things are laid up for them. Oh that all could see this blessed state, and were possessors of it! That their minds might not wander any more; that people might not be scattered in their thoughts; that when they meet together, they might have their expectations entirely from that God whom they profess to worship. Lord you have said that you will teach your people yourself. Here a cry goes up to the Lord, and their expectations through faith pitched upon God. They never meet in vain, but a well springs up, and the water of life comes to them, by which they meet with divine refreshments. For, you know, the promise that our Lord made to his disciples, He that drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst again. Why will one drinking serve? Because I have tasted of the living water that the Lord Christ gives me; will that serve? No, but instead of a taste, he gives me a substantial river; that is the reason why I shall thirst no more, it shall be in me a well of living water, springing up to everlasting life. Blessed are the witnesses of it. These are those who are satisfied concerning religion and doctrine; they are satisfied concerning worship; they are looking after no new things. When they meet together, they meet in the name of the Lord, and they have their eyes to him, who is a fountain, and they discern a brightness and a glory that is unspeakable.* The glory that is describable, that appears many times through interim experiences, will not satisfy them. There is something beyond that, which must satisfy; this will never do it; people will never be satisfied with hearing, nor never satisfied with seeing, till they come to hear and see what is unutterable, and then they are satisfied. Christ had preached many sermons in the hearing of his disciples, and there were a great many who said, that there was never a man who spoke like him, preached like him. Yet one of those who was nearest to him, and most acquainted and intimate with him, after some years of meeting and hearing of his sermons, cries out, "show us the Father, and it will satisfy us."
My friends, this comes near to many of your states. Many of you have heard long, and have heard the spoken voice of the Lord, what could be uttered, what could be spoken forth, by the demonstration of the Holy Ghost, by those who have received of the Father. This you have heard long, and yet there are many of you, who if you come to a serious search, you will find a lack; you will find still that you have not that satisfaction that puts you beyond doubt, beyond fear. There is something that stands in the way, that hinders your enjoyment of the unspeakable glory of the unspeakable living word; and this will never be removed, but by your innocent submission to the work of the power of God in your own hearts, so that you may not only be believers, but come to be really baptized, [by fire with the baptism of death] and then all is out of doubt; for our Lord said, he who believes and is baptized shall be saved. He does not say, he may be saved, but, he shall be saved.
Woeful experience has told us in our days, that a great many have believed the truth, and yet they are never likely to be saved. They have made shipwreck of their faith; but if they had been baptized [with fire], if they would have endured the baptism, if they would have been buried with Christ in baptism, they should have been saved every one of them. And now there are a great many who remain in the belief of the truth, and yet they are not baptized. They are not dead, not buried, despite the fact that they have received like precious faith with us; that faith which is of the operation of God, and that is like precious in its nature to all who receive it, and would work the same effect in all too, if it were not obstructed. But despite the fact that they have received faith towards the saving of their souls, yet their souls are captives; their souls are subject to lusts, and pleasures, and vanities, and to empty and foolish things, and to passions and corruptions, after they have received faith.
For if you take one who is a believer of truth and is overtaken with his lust, and passions, and corruptions, he will commonly own that he believes the contrary; he believes that these things should not be, that it ought to be otherwise. This is the sign of truth against untruth. If it should be otherwise, why is it thus then? Why does he find a life to spring up in what is corruptible that is always contrary to the life of God and at enmity with it? What shall I do? I believe the truth. I know truth is a holy thing, and that it leads all who submit to it to a holy life; but there is this and that unholy thing, this and that corrupt thing that remains, what shall I do?
It is an evident demonstration that you lack the baptism of him in whom you believe. You have believed in Christ Jesus that comes after John, and was before him; and now having believed in him, you lack being baptized by him. For the lack of the baptism of fire, the pollution and corruption that had grown up in your nature in the time of your alienation still prevails upon you, contrary to your faith. There is no coming to obtain this baptism, but by sinking down into what will slay you, what will kill you. But there is such a shifting to save one's life, there are so many twistings and twinings of people to save their lives, that at last they lose them. But no one can ever find life that is eternal, but those who are willing to be given up to the dead, and submit to this baptism — that is, by the Holy Ghost and by fire. Only such come to life; they come to the resurrection. For you never knew any that died this death but that they rose again; it is as impossible for death to hold any one down that is buried in this baptism, as it was impossible to hold Christ down, when he was in the grave. The same power that brought again our Lord Christ from the dead, the same power it is that quickens us, while we remain in these mortal bodies, after we have sustained this death and crucifixion.
But who can believe this saying? For this is a hard saying, who can hear it? Is it not enough that I am a believer, which makes me a friend, and entitles me to a community among you, and as long as I hold the truth, and profess the truth, I am looked upon as one of your society? This is very true, this does entitle people unto the outward privileges of the church of Christ; but there is another inner court, that lies under the angel's reed, the measuring-reed, that is to be measured, the temple is measured, and every worshipper in the temple is measured; there was an outward court, that was for representing the church of God in general, from the particular; the outward court was not measured, that the gentiles might come in; the un-baptized people, who were never regenerated, might come as far as the outward court, but this did not entitle them to the privileges of the house of God, nor to any worship or sacrifice that was accepted upon God's altar.
It concerns you and me (my friends) to be serious about matters of this moment and importance, and not spend your days, and, as it were spoken by rote, under an airy profession, (though of truth itself), without considering what progress you have made, what benefit you have obtained, and whether you have come not only to the shadow of good things to come, but to the very substance of the heavenly things. For the comers to the outward worship could never with those sacrifices they offered be made perfect; the comers thereunto were not made perfect as to the things pertaining to the conscience, speaking there of the outward worship, Heb. 10:1. But coming to the heavenly things, of which the other were but a shadow; they made people perfect, as to the conscience, and brought them to salvation. The apostle alludes to this baptism, for he speaks in a figure of the eight persons that were saved in Noah's ark. Then he brings down the allegory to Christian baptism, not only the baptism of John, the forerunner of Christ, that preached of Christ, but to the Christian baptism itself. By the like figure or which baptism now saves us, said the apostle, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience. What does he mean by baptism saving us? He means, the answer of a good conscience towards God, through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. So that Christian baptism did bring along with it the cleansing and putting away of all sin out of the conscience, that might bring them under doubts and scruples; and then there is an arising of Jesus, the Savior in the conscience, the mediator that brought them to answer for them in the sight of God. If people are conscious of sin and do restrain sin, this does not yet cleanse the conscience; for there still remains a conscience of sin. It is not restraining our sin that makes our atonement with God, or that expiates our guilt, or does away the guilt of the sins that we have committed. No, there must be a forsaking and an avoidance of sin by the virtue and power of the Spirit, by which we are enabled, not only to avoid sin, but are guided and directed to the mediator, whose blood alone reconciles us to God, and cleanses us from all sin. If I should never commit a sin for the rest of my life, this alone will not give me the answer of a good conscience in the sight of God. For there remains the guilt of sin committed in the days of unbelief, which is a bar and hindrance that none can approach the Holy God but in the atonement and salvation that comes by Jesus Christ. For all that believe and obey the gospel are accepted in Christ, and upon the account of Christ's precious blood, that cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness. Whom does it cleanse? Only those who forsake their sins, and by his power are brought to a holy life. They by the virtue of his power, and the cleansing of his blood, come to have their former sins removed from them, as far as the east is from the west.
But what is this to them that remain in their sins? What is this to them that are not baptized? For the dead that have not put off the old man, nor put on the new man, but have only put on the name and profession of Christ, and put on the outside of him, his garment, but have not put him on. They are not created again in Christ Jesus unto good works, that they might walk in them? No wonder there remains a conscience of sin in them, there is a bar that hinders them from the sight of the glory of God, and from real and true satisfaction, concerning their atonement and reconciliation with God, and this hinders them from the enjoyment of that peace that passes understanding. This is no surprise because they have not come to this baptism that brings the answer of a good conscience in the sight of God; they have not risen with Christ; how should they? for they are not buried with him, Rom 6:3. Know ye not that so many of us (said the apostle) as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into his death; therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life; here is a change figured out between them that had partaken of the spiritual baptism, and were come again to the participation of life in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and those who were not baptized.
So it is now with every one that comes to believe the truth, and make a profession of it. There is a way cast up, and there is a door opened for salvation; but the grand question that everyone ought to inquire about and put to themselves is: What progress they have made this way? Whether they are baptized yet or not? Whether they have put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man and the new man's deeds, which are righteousness and holiness? Those who find that, though they are believers, they are short of this. They also find that their shortcoming is their hindrance, their shortcoming in not coming up to the pattern that has been shown to them. This is their hindrance, so that they do not enjoy the things spoken here of the being under this sense, and really sitting under this sense in a meeting. Even though there should be no man speaking to them outwardly, yet having come to this faith, and made partakers of this baptism, people would find in their own bosoms the hidden word of life ministering to their condition. They would have enough; there would not be a famine of the word unto them, nor would they need to be in expectation of going out to this or the other instrument. They would be satisfied when they are met together with the presence of the Lord, that the Lord is in the midst of them, ministering them the word of life, in his operating and working, speaking in a tongue that every one can understand , speaking with a kind of voice and language, that every one may understand his own state and condition. This is the way that God brought up people from the beginning, to the knowledge of heavenly things, and opening of the mysteries of salvation. We had it not from men, but from Jesus our Lord. He was our great minister; we waited upon him, and trusted in him, and he taught us himself. He has ministered to us at our silent and quiet waiting upon him those things that were convenient for us. We might well say, He gave us our food in due Season. He has not only given strong meat unto men, but has ministered of the sincere milk of his word unto babes, that lived in sincerity and self-denial, loving God above all things; and he taught and conducted us in our way, this way of simplicity, until our understandings came to be opened, until our souls came to be prepared to receive the mysteries of his kingdom.
In those days there were some that started up in knowledge, and that built their nests on high, and took flax and wool, and silver and gold, and decked themselves with them; but the Lord found them out, and brought them down, and took the crown from their head, and clothed them with dishonor. So God does from age to age, his judgment will begin at his own house. If you wish to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, then grow in humility and self-denial, and keep a constant watch upon your hearts. Examine your hearts, and commune with yourselves upon your beds, and be still. Take heed lest you sin against the Lord, and provoke him. There were some that provoked the Lord of old, and they committed two great evils. What are they? They have gone away and forsaken the fountain of living water; as much as to say, they do not have the dependence upon an invisible power, as they ought to have. For I am a living fountain, and it is by an invisible power that I am able to counsel and teach, direct, and purify and open their understanding; but they have forsaken me, that is one great evil; and the other is, they would not be without some small thing. They have forsaken the Lord, and they would have some small thing instead of God. They have dug to themselves broken cisterns, that will hold no water. And how many in this age have committed these two great evils?
My friends, examine yourselves; are there not many that have been guilty of these two great evils? They do not keep their close dependence, trust and reliance upon the invisible power of God, as they profess they ought to do, but are hurried away from it; some by the love of the world, some by lusts and pleasures, some by passions, and others by worldly interests, are drawn away from the power, to do and say what the power is against. Is not this a forsaking of the Lord, the living fountain? What do they do then? Are they not for this and that, and the other man? For hearing this and the other man's word, and digging to themselves broken cisterns? Have they not put their trust and confidence in going to meetings, in commending this and the other way? Have they not put their trust in their outward profession, when it ministers nothing to their souls, so that they secretly wither for all this? If you had all the men and angels that were ever sent of God, appointed to preach to you, that could not minister life to you, unless there is that faith that stands in the power of God. The faith that stands in any man's words, that will not overcome your lusts; but the faith that stands in the power purifies the heart, it will not allow any unclean thing there. As for preaching, let a man preach against this and the other lust and corruption. There it will remain for all his preaching, unless men know God's power and life in which there is righteousness; for words and knowledge, and sight and speculation, will never give people victory over their sins.
Therefore you know, everyone who is settled must be settled where the foundation of religion is. It is not coming to meetings, and owning this and the other doctrine which is the foundation of our religion. God has revealed his power to every one of us. God has not given his Spirit to preachers and prophets only, for then there would be a famine of the word, as was in Israel, The priest's lips preserved knowledge. If you took away the priest, you took away their knowledge. The prophets had the word of God, and they only spoke the word of God. If the prophet was taken away, then the word of God was taken away. The Lord threatened to send a famine among them, they grieved and vexed, and killed and destroyed the priests and prophets; therefore said the Lord, I will send a famine among you, not of bread, but of the word, and they shall go from city to city, and inquire for the word of the Lord.
Thus it was in the Jewish church; if there was a prophet they would go 30, 40, or 100 miles to him who had the word of the Lord. They shall go from city to city to inquire for the word of the Lord. But blessed be God, we have come to another day; for now the word of the Lord is manifested in the hearts of all that believe. They know the word. I do not say all that believe do preach the word, or ought to preach, but the word preaches to them; they are not as broken cisterns that can hold no water. When they find the word and hear it, they speak it presently what is ministered to their own condition, that they tell to other people. When people come to the blessing of this dispensation that God's word reveals in their hearts, they then know what the significance of it is, they understand the doctrine of it; the doctrine preaches holiness to them, not that they should preach holiness and yet remain unholy; not that they should preach humility, and yet remain proud. It preaches holiness, humility and singleness of heart to a remnant, that like good scholars and disciples learn the lessons and doctrine of the word of God.
Now when you have learned them well, and have come to see the effect of the word, and bring forth the deeds and works which are the fruits of holiness, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, and with humility known and witnessed in Christ Jesus, and are not only meek in show, but meek and low in heart. When people come to be meek and lowly, and of a clear conscience, purged from all dead works to serve the living God; then if the Lord gives them a word of exhortation, of doctrine or counsel it is very welcome, and it has a savor through the blessing of God, and by it they come to be built up in their most holy faith. This word is brought forth in holiness and righteousness in their lives, and shows itself in a life of holiness. Then you will shine in your conduct with everyone, so that they may see you are such a man or woman as has been with Jesus, and learned of Jesus, and receives a word engrafted. When you receive the word into your heart, there is the engrafting of it. If it has no root there, then, said Christ, my word does not abide in you. If you feel something of this invisible word in your hearts, it brings you to a resolution to serve God, and to keep yourselves from sin, and to answer the profession which you make of God. This is the effect of the word of God, if it does abide in you. Does it abide? You shall know in a little while or tomorrow, so soon as a temptation comes to stir you up to pride or passion, to fraud or deceit, then you will see whether the word abides: If it abides, you sin not.
This is scripture, a certain foundation doctrine, that may be as safely preached as any doctrine. If the word abides in you, you sin not. What of that? Let the word go, and you will sin, whenever you are tempted to it. I write to you young men, because you have overcome the wicked one, you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. We shall see as soon as temptation meets with you, whether the word abides in you. If it abides, you will not sin, but resist the tempter. Set your foot upon the temptation, and go over it, and you will have the dominion; and this will make you a free man or woman, and you will stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made you free. The apostle supposes them free, and that they have gotten dominion; then stand fast, said he, in the liberty with which Christ has made you free. It is a liberty not of lust and sin, but a liberty of the soul; the soul now is not at the devil's will and call.
For it is a shame to the doctrine of Christianity, that we profess things, and yet deny them in practice. We profess that there is a power in Christ to keep and preserve us out of sin, and we profess to believe that this power is communicated to them who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for their preservation; that is, he will not withhold it from them. We profess these things in the face of the whole world; and yet when the devil calls one man to covetousness, and another to defraud his neighbor, and another to defile himself, he is drawn away by it. What hypocrisy is here, to profess this, and act the contrary? I do not wonder that those who profess they cannot live a day without sin, that they should fall; but those who profess to believe there is power enough in Christ, and that it is offered to them; for them to live in sin and yield to temptation, this is horrid wickedness. Those who are of an upright single mind, would die before they would sin, knowing that God is Almighty and gracious, and willing to bestow his power and wisdom, and grace upon them that ask it; they would die rather than sin against God presumptuously. Let it cost me my goods, my estate, my liberty, or my life, how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? They love God above all; you never heard them complain that they lacked power, for the Lord is at their right hand, and they shall not be moved. They cannot fall; though they are tempted, they will not fall into temptation. They have power when they see the devil before them, to put him behind them; the nobility of their extract, of their new birth and regeneration puts such a temper and disposition into their souls, that they scorn to be at the devil's command, as if they were his children.
Oh! it is a noble and honorable thing to be a child of God, a very high dignity to be in such an honorable relation to God, and to have a right to the heavenly mansions, to sit down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I wish to God you were all ready for it, that you had the wedding garment on, that you might not be bound hand and foot, and cast into utter darkness. What is the reason that you do not sit down in this heavenly frame and temper, and draw the waters of salvation out of your own souls? Could the Lord do anything more than he has done, and could his servants do any more than they have done for your help? Are their labors not demonstrations of it? We have been as epistles of Christ written in your consciences. We have been testifying that there is something lacking in too many: the lack of resigning up themselves to the baptism of the cross. People are willing to be counted friends; but friends of God are those who do whatsoever he commands them; that is the Christian lesson, not to say I will be a friend to you, and a friend to the Church, and to such a sort of people; but I will be a friend to God, and do whatever he commands me; whatever command God lays upon you, either to take up a cross, or to deny yourselves and follow him.
Learn this lesson, and you will be disciples indeed, and members of the Church too; not members of a Church privileged outwardly only, but members of a Church of the first-born, and you will have your names written in heaven. When one comes to have his name written in heaven, he comes to know his name, it is a white stone, not a speckled one; those who have it, they know it, they are not ignorant of one another's names that are written in this book. They have a fellowship that nobody can declare. Their communion is in that bread and that cup. This is a cup of blessing indeed, and this has blessed us, and will bless us. God will preserve a people in this fellowship. You that are at a distance now, you must come nearer to him. God will choose a people by whom his name shall be magnified. Because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, we cannot but desire this for all, especially for the household of faith; we cannot but desire their perfection, their growing up in the grace of God, that they might come to be partakers of heaven. And in the next place, our love is to all people, everywhere. We would be happy that all were saved. They that despise us when we are speaking of heavenly things, speaking like a child, like a stammering child, speaking of the glorious excellencies of God, of the loving kindness of God, speaking of those things which God has spoken to our souls, those who despise these things, we would be glad that they might be saved. If they were partakers of these things, they would be glad as well as we, and they would be more really happy in respect to this world, for the time that they are to live here; they would live a happier life, even in this world, and they would have everlasting life in the world to come.
The Love of Christ constrains men thus to judge, that every one that has received like precious faith, ought to answer that grace and faith which God has ministered to them in an holy life and conduct, and every one who is a stranger to this thing, ought to be of an inquiring mind and an open heart to wait for the day when God will visit them with the same grace. When you give up yourselves to a daily Cross, as Christ's disciples, you will not be running after anyone to teach you to know the Lord, for you will all know the Lord, from the least to the greatest. I that have been but a little convinced, shall I know the Lord? You shall know the Lord, you that are dead in your sins and trespasses, you that have not known the blood of cleansing, you shall know the Lord to be your judge, and your lawgiver, to teach you how you must live, walk, and act; and is this not good knowledge? This is the way they depended on in old time. It is a notable expression, The Lord is our judge; there is the beginning, he began there. Judgment began at the house of God; those he brings into his house, he brings them under the discipline of his house. The Lord is our judge, he is our King and lawgiver, and he will save us. This same exercise of discipline under judgment brought to them the faith and experience of his being their lawgiver, and this brought them to a faith of the last sentence, we shall be saved; and the Lord answers such a people, that he will bring salvation to them, salvation shall be for walls and bulwarks. If only the people of this nation knew salvation was brought near to them, and that it was their bulwark, there would not be a crying up of this and the other rotten thing for a bulwark.
We talk of a bulwark as well as others; we have a bulwark, blessed be the God of heaven, made of better stuff than theirs. For it is the salvation of God which has kept us from the pollution of sin, and from a running into all excess and riot that others have run into. It has kept us from the evil, it has kept evils out of us, and we have found that certainly true, that all things work together for good, to them that love God, and fear God; that all the providences of God together, they have all wrought for our good; and this is the bulwark that we have trusted in, and it has served up till now, and it will serve us and our posterity to the end of the world. This is a bulwark that will never be stormed, that will never be thrown down nor laid waste. Though all the powers on earth, and all the rulers in this world should agree together, they shall not prevail against it. We have salvation for walls and bulwarks. If I am within these walls, salvation is round about me. If I have gotten into this eternal bulwark, I am safe from the devil and his instruments. Here is a bulwark to be relied upon.
Many wonder why we differ with them in some opinions. We have that confidence in this bulwark, that we desire not another. God will last and abide for ever, so will this bulwark. All the care that I take, and all the care that you should take, is to keep within these walls. Do not venture out. If you go out, the devil is watching, and seeking continually whom he may devour; he will catch stragglers. If people go out for profit, or for pleasure, or interest, the devil will catch them. What, even when such people talk of salvation for walls and bulwarks? The devil has got them in his snare, and they are caught in drunkenness, uncleanness and other sins. The reason is, they have gone out of their bulwark; they have ventured out of their walls, for the devil could never have fetched them out.
O take Heed, says the apostle, lest there spring up in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. As if he had said: You are Christians now, you are a people come to a good estate in Christ; but consider you have no strength to stand but in him, no power to keep yourselves but in him. Take heed at all times that there spring not up in you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. Take heed lest there spring up in you such a thought as this: I may take this pleasure, and the other profit. Consider that you die and wither if you depart from the living God. Take heed of taking liberty above the fear of God. It is not our talk of salvation for walls and bulwarks that will do us good but our keeping within these walls.
I remember a notable saying of the apostle, which has a great emphasis in it, and a great deal of doctrine, he writes to the Church after they had become a people of professing Christians [believers]: Take heed lest you come to be beguiled by the serpent, as he beguiled Eve. He did not speak of Jezebel, a wicked woman; but he spoke of Eve, a good woman created after the image of God, in righteousness and holiness. They had come to a life of sanctification, to a life that was hidden from ages and generations. You must look to yourselves, and look upon yourselves as in the state of your mother Eve, a woman brought forth in righteousness and holiness, that might have stood in that primitive state, not withstanding all the subtlety of all the serpents in the world. But letting her ear listen to this old serpent, she was beguiled; there grew up a consultation in her reasoning part. It may be so as he said, I will try.
So I say to you that have come to a state of sanctification, and in some measure to know the cleansing power of God, and that you have not believed in it in vain, but it has effectually created some change and alteration in you, and is still carrying on the work of your salvation; many temptations will attend you, and many snares will be laid in your way, but God has preserved you to this day. I know the devil's wiles and temptations are manifold; they are suited to every one's inclinations, fitted to every opportunity, and to every occasion in this world. Men are tried every way by the tempter, to see which way he may ensnare them. He tries every way to ensnare and entangle the simple, that he may turn them to the right hand or to the left, that their souls may be destroyed and perish.
I cannot speak to you by a more emphatic word, by a more familiar exhortation than this: Take heed you be not beguiled as Eve was. Many will be tempted as she was; but I would not have you do as she did, and yield to the temptation. Take heed that you do not defile yourselves, but keep your garments white. You that have been washed and cleansed, labor to keep yourselves unspotted from the world. This is pure religion and undefiled, what has enlightened many a nation, and shall enlighten many of those whose religion is to be undefiled, and to keep themselves unspotted from the world. I pray that God will increase the number of them, so that the blessed work of sanctification, that has begun in this way, may be carried on to his praise, and the salvation of our souls, to the spreading forth of his glory, and the exalting of his name; that the strangers which are scattered and desolate, may be brought into his holy way, and walk in it; that we all, in a fellowship together, walking in that holy way, may through the eternal Spirit, offer praise and thanksgiving to God, who is worthy to receive glory and honor, power and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper Asserted
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at Grace-Church-Street, April 15, 1688
IF I should say no more, there is something in every one's conscience that will testify; if he who does not have the Spirit of Christ, is none of his, you may say, whose is he then? If those who do not have his Spirit, are not Christ’s, then whose are they? They all belong to the Spirit that rules them; every one of us belongs to him whose Spirit rules over us, unto whose power we are subjected. You know this distinguishes people in the world; one king knows his subjects from another king's subjects; they are under the obedience of this, that, and the other king or prince, his law is over them, they are subject to it; so here is a decision of all the people in the world, whom they belong to.
We, all of us, I hope, do expect there will be a decision at the day of judgment, and believe the things we read concerning it, that there will be a decision, and some will be placed on the right hand, and some on the left; some will have the sentence of, come you blessed, and others the sentence of, go you cursed; but now there is a way of finding out the decision of the matter before we go out of the world, before the day of judgment, when there will be no remedy, what then is, must be and stay so. Now there is no need it should continue so; if it is amiss, it may be mended; if I do not belong to the right prince, if I am not under the right power and spirit, I may be, for now it is a day of grace, a day of mercy; I have been a rebel to the right prince, I may be pardoned and taken into favor; it is far better for people to know their state now, than to know it then, because then there will be no remedy.
The apostle, in laying down fundamental, apostolic doctrines, which were to be believed and taken notice of, and are in our age, so that we may say, things written of old time, were written for our learning; he makes this affirmation and position of doctrine, he that has not the Spirit of Christ, is none of his, he does not belong to him; though he is called a Christian, he is not a Christian. If he does not have the Spirit of Christ, it is only a name he has gotten; he does not have what makes him essentially so, for nothing can make a Christian, but having the Spirit of Christ. Therefore when they would vindicate their being Christians, they prove it thus; for he, (speaking of God), has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, and we know the mind of Christ; we know him who is true, or we are in him who is true. These things, if they were right, if they were true, were evident demonstrations that they were a sort of men who depended more upon the Spirit and spiritual teachings, and spiritual guidance, than upon all the rules and methods of teaching that were in the world.
I speak of this, friends, because you know as well as I, how adverse this age of ours has been, to have anything spoken of spiritual dispensations, or about spiritual teachings; though a man has been counted formerly a wise man, a learned man, or a man of parts, if once he come to smatter out a little about inward teaching, it is enough to spot him, and make him ridiculed of his acquaintance, as if there were no such thing in the world. We have a book, called the bible, it is from one end to the other full of such expressions, of being led by the Spirit, you have an anointing which teaches you all things. The whole tenor of the New Testament is about spiritual teachings and divine operations, and of faith being the operation of God; and the Old Testament has abundance of expressions by way of prophecy, that in the New Testament days, if people would look for the law of God, they must look for it in their hearts; and if they would know God, they must look to the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament also directs us that way, Christians should be the most spiritual people in the world; that is the guide, the rule.
But, they say, the scripture is the foundation of faith and manners, belief and practice; this is too often but dissimulation, and I am afraid it is to be found in some; what, is the scripture the rule of faith? And may people believe what they find in scripture? Yes, but say some, it is best to be aware for fear of error. What is in the scripture is serious, sound and orthodox; do you think that Quakers never found in scripture that people were to wait for the Spirit, and pray in the Spirit, and serve God in the Spirit, and that all religion that is not in power, is not available; did they not find it in scripture? And you that are not Quakers, did you ever read the New Testament? How could it be that you never found these texts? But some people read and read the New Testament twenty times over, and mock and deride, and persecute a man that shall speak of the Spirit's teaching.
I have admired at it, how intelligent men, to whom God has given a competent understanding, should be so blinded; they have learned to read English, and they have read the New Testament over several times, and the Old Testament too, and they have read those sentences of Christ's doctrine, that do so currently and unanimously speak of divine teachings and spiritual operations, spiritual worship and spiritual religion, that must have some motion and stirring of the Holy Ghost to be the originator of it, and that all others are not acceptable to God; doubtless they have read these things, but I have often desired and do still desire that they would read it again once more, and try and see what God will do; he has oftentimes made use of the holy scripture as a means to awaken people and to open their understandings, and let them see the mind of the spirit by which the scripture is written, and the next time if they can find scripture text and apostolic doctrine, to teach people to wait upon the Spirit, I hope they will leave scoffing and mocking.
It has been previously looked upon as an invention, to speak of the teaching of the Spirit, and waiting on the Spirit, and being moved by the Spirit. This apostolic doctrine, prayer, and worship, has been looked upon as an invention that we have brought in. To look for the Holy Ghost in that way that was never known to our fathers, is a fantastic conceit of the Quakers, say they. To tell people they must be led by the Spirit in divine things, as in prayer and worship, and the like, that in these things they must wait for the Spirit; was there ever any man that was counted good for anything that ever preached so, before the Quakers came. Do we read any such kind of thing in scripture?
O! the blindness that has happened to this nation! I have considered, not without admiration, how the devil, (he is a Spirit too, and a wicked one), how he should have power to prevent our acknowledging the belief, sense and feeling of the Spirit of God now days; there are thousands in this nation that have formerly believed that it was as impossible for a man to believe the divine motions and struggles of the Spirit of God in this life, as to raise their fathers and mothers out of their graves; some of their learned teachers have told us it is a whimsy and fancy, and that there was no inspiration of the Spirit now days, but that it was a foolish fancy in us to wait for such a thing, it is needless; they say there was an immediate teaching in the apostles days, and they had the sense of the Spirit of Christ working in them, to teach them to write letters and epistles to the church, which letters and epistles were written by the moving of the Holy Ghost, but we have no need of it now for the Holy Ghost has brought order and government into the church. We have it now in black and white printed in our books, therefore say they, there is no need of the Spirit, and people need not be acquainted with the operation of the Spirit now days, in regard they have it in their books what manner of worship they must perform.
I grant them their due, that they have the direction of the scripture. I am able to understand that people are to worship God, and pray to him, and are to meet together and to observe this and the other doctrinal precepts there laid down; I confess I can make shift with scripture to frame out a form of religion, and if I do not mistake in the opening and explanation of the doctrine, I could make a right form too, but I am liable to mistake, another man that understands Greek better than I, saying that the Greek word ought to be translated so, and the form ought to differ in such a respect. Some say the only way of government is by bishops, and the word bears it in the original; and another faith he has stretched the word, for the word means presbyter; another faith presbyter signifies no more than choice of church elders and deacons, and such like; and this is all out of one book, the settlement of bishops, presbyters, and elders.
Here a number of form-makers all fall out about the meaning of the word; what remedy can any mortal man provide for this? We must not be killing and slaying one another about words. If I am an Episcopal man and say the word signifies bishops, I may be a wicked man still; and if another say it must be presbyter, he may be a wicked man too; and if another say it should be pastor, elders, and deacons, he may be a wicked man notwithstanding.
Thus they have rent and torn one another about church government; what remedy shall we have so that these quarrels and contentions about terms and words may come to an end? Could a man prescribe a more certain remedy for all these mistakes than this, if they had a measure of this Spirit which did work in the apostles when they wrote down these words, which the apostles had in writing them; then I say they could tell you what the Spirit meant, for the Spirit is the same and not changed, and the words are the same to a small matter. So that if a man had the Spirit, he might end all the controversy; but where shall we have a man that has this Spirit to end the controversy? There is none now days say the Protestants, and say the Papists there is none but one that has this infallibility; and many will not support that either, for some of them say, that one man is as infallible as another man. There is a great dispute whether any one man is infallible, or a great many men together are infallible about doctrine and worship. This might be cured all at once if we could come to this conclusion. Papists, Protestants, and Quakers, here is an end of all outside worship, he that has not the Spirit of Christ is none of his. If there is not Spirit in it, it is not Christ's religion and worship.
So that those who bicker, bark, and bite, are without, among dogs and sorcerers,* who are strangers to the Spirit of Christ; there is a spirit in those who deny the Spirit of Christ; there is a Spirit that rules in those who are without the Spirit, for nobody that I know of, adds things without a spirit, and without being moved. What, are good and bad all moved by the Spirit, and yet are there no motions? I have sometimes turned the question upon people, and asked them if there were no motions of the evil spirit, has it no such kind of influence that it can move upon our spirits, that we can sensibly feel ourselves thrust forth to such an action? I never met any man that would deny it, they are so generally favorable to the wicked spirit; no man will deny but the devil has a way of moving and stirring upon the spirit of a man, and to suggest to him such an evil thing. As I have sometimes said, it is such a generally accepted opinion, that when the criminal comes to be arraigned at the bar for some grievous crime, they lay the foundation of the indictment to read: "on such a day he was moved and instigated by the devil to do such a thing." Here is a settled motion for the devil, for him to influence peoples spirits, but they admit no way for the good Spirit of God to influence men’s spirits. Which leaves us nothing except bad instigation; and to know inward motions to good things, it is not to be expected now days.
How should ever the cunning serpent, that would have power over the best of us all, be said to winnow us? Christ signified to Peter, a bold and resolute disciple, Satan desires to have you, and sift you as wheat; if the devil had power over every one, to make them his servants and slaves, what remedy have we except we must all perish and go headlong to hell with him, unless there is some way of resisting him? That is true, say people, the devil must be resisted; we find it in the New Testament, resist the devil; this is a good exercise; but tell me one thing, when I go about to resist the devil, must I resist him in my own power? If I were to say you might do so, you would say I was an erroneous preacher, and well you might. This is an old free-will doctrine, that a man may resist the devil by his own power, and escape his snares, and do the will of God. This has been cried down by the doctors of the Church of England, and by most of all sorts of Christians; and for our parts, since the Lord has opened our mouths, we never did speak a word in favor of it, as if we went about to resist the devil in our own strength; if we did, the devil would make fools of us. He that goes about to resist the devil in his own strength, will be entrapped and ensnared by him, in that men have a propensity to sin, and by his cunning and subtlety, may be led into a snare before they are aware.
Thus it is agreed on all hands, that our power, as men, is too weak to resist Satan's temptation, so that you see we must have the assistance of the divine power, or all go to hell; there is no medium between those two extremes, some extraordinary power must assist me, or else the devil will have me. If you will not admit of a supernatural power to come in to help me and you, we must all go to hell, there is no remedy. I will say my prayers, says one; do so, yet in the best of your prayers there will be sin; and if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. I will go and hear sermons, say you; the very man that preaches will tell you, that hearing of sermons will do you no good at all, unless there are motions of the Spirit of God, so that you will be wrapped from one thing to another, and have diversity of doctrines, and come to no fixedness; and while you concern yourselves about doctrines, all the while the devil prevails upon you. As for the tongue, he has the rule of that, and as for the hands, he has the rule of them, and makes you do those things that by his perpetual suggestions he moves you to; so that your going to church and saying your prayers signify nothing to bring you from under the wrath of God, and from the captivity of the devil. Has not the devil those in captivity that go to church, and say their prayers, and give alms? These are things that you can do by your own power, the saying of your prayers, and fasting, and giving of alms, these things you may do, the devil will not hinder you, for he knows that these will not bring you out of his clutches, nor out of his chains and fetters.
There is but one way and means by which the devil may be effectually resisted, that is by taking to our help one stronger than he. I have gone for help to many stronger than I, in my young days, that I thought to be stronger Christians, and many of them did afford their help in the work, by counsel, by persuasion, by exhortation and by doctrine, but all this did not do; and the reason was this, because the devil was too strong for me, and so he was for them. As long as you go for help to this and the other place, until you find one stronger than the devil, expect no deliverance or help from anything in the world, but lay aside all confidence in the flesh, in any man on earth, or in all the doctors’ [of divinity] words and best preaching you shall hear. Lay aside your confidence in them; they will never do you any good in this respect for they will never break off your chains. Many themselves are loaded with chains, but some, I hope, are weary and heavy laden, and feel the weight of sin, (which I pray God to increase the number); though it is a state of sorrow, it is better than the state of fools, that make a mock of sin. I would have you weary and heavy laden with your sins, and brought into this state, to see yourselves captivated by the strong power of darkness, and to see you are unable to deliver yourselves out of it by your own power.
For me to fall into the hands of a tyrant that is stronger than I, and no man to deliver me, how sad that would be. If I could find a man stronger than this tyrant, and that would kill him, I would be his servant and have a better master. No man can kill this tyrant, who has led me captive and made me a slave; if this tyrant says, be drunk, I must be drunk; if he tells me swear, I must swear. This is the slavery that the devil has gotten his servants into, that whatever he says, that they must do, if he tells them do it: O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me? I cannot deliver myself, and no man can deliver me; I would be acquainted with all Christians, if they could help me; I would try all religions that are this day in the world, to see if there is help for me. Many are oppressed with sin, and they go to and fro, to see what help can be given them, to free them from the bondage that the devil has them in. This sort of people are to be pitied, and the souls of all good people will pity them, for such as these seek the living among the dead, they seek to redeem what cannot redeem them. We have fought, they say, for power and strength from those who had not enough for themselves, they were captivated as us, and all this because we did not come to him who is stronger than the devil. You will take the same course, and remain on it until gray hairs come, and you go down to the grave with sorrow, unless you come to one stronger than the devil, and then trust in him, believe in him, and expect deliverance by him. The reason why people do not expect deliverance is because these two things are shut out of their belief:
The devil has brought men to this pass, that they live as easily in a sinful life, as a fish in the stream. "We are in the way," say they; "when we were baptized; we were initiated into the Christian church; we were baptized with the sign of the cross; that shows we are soldiers of Christ and bear his badge and banner upon us." As the man said at that time, "I was made a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven. If this is not true, then I am cheated and deceived, for I am to believe this to be true; the church has affirmed that these things are to be believed; and to question the veracity of the church, is to question everything."
I would question whether thousands find the truth of it. When you were baptized, there was a kind of covenant and bargain made for this child of God and heir of eternal life, that he should forsake the devil and all his works, and the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and the sinful lusts of the flesh. And there is promise given that this child shall never serve the devil and sinful lusts, and never be proud, but serve God and keep his commandments. Now this promise being taken, then they suppose that this child will certainly be an heir of the kingdom of God. It is very true, stand to your church; if this promise that is taken for a child is but kept, then there is no doubt of being a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven. But if this promise fails, is the church to blame if men's hopes to eternal life fail? Was it not my condition, that you would forsake the devil and all his works, and the pomps and vanities wicked world, and the sinful lusts of the flesh, and if you break the bargain, and your part of the covenant, and fail to inherit eternal life, who is to blame? Look to the promise, that you would forsake the devil and all his works, and the pomps and vanities of the world. But you may rather say, “I have enjoyed as many of them as I could;” and for the lusts of the flesh, “I have enjoyed as much of them as I can.” And what, do you believe yourself to be a child of God and an heir of the kingdom of Heaven, despite that?
If I promise to deliver a man any particular kind of goods, upon the payment of so much money, if I fail in delivering the goods, he will not deliver the money; a man must forsake the devil and all his works, and never lust after the pomps and vanities of this world, to be as a child of God. Let us see him grow up, and if he goes on to be faithful in this covenant until he dies, in which case I do not at all question but he will be an heir of eternal life; but when all this is broken, and the promise signifies nothing, and the man is given up to serve the devil, breaks all God's holy laws, errs and strays from the way of God's commandments like a lost sheep, and grasps at the pomps and vanities of the world, as much as he can, and thinks he gets no more than comes to his share; and when he shall indulge the lusts of his flesh, this is a child of the devil. He is a child of the Spirit that was a liar from the beginning. Never talk of being a child and an heir of God's kingdom, such a man is in fetters, he is to go along with the devil and his angels, and there is a kingdom prepared for them, and a kingdom of darkness, and he must have his portion with them in everlasting misery. Tophet is prepared of old for all the workers of iniquity,
What for those who are baptized? Yes, but do not you deny baptism?
No, not I, I would have men and women baptized with a baptism that will do them some good. Some have seen the vanity and weakness of this kind of baptism that is called infant baptism; and therefore would go and be baptized and plunged in the water over head and ears, but they came up again with the same heart and mind, and the same polluted soul. John baptized in Jordan, and all Jerusalem and Judea came to be baptized by him. They were a sort that included persons then that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, who never did them harm in his life, but much good.
This baptism [water baptism] had never an apostolic patron, but there was another baptism that is so infallible a baptism, that if a man was surely baptized with it, he was sure of Heaven, he would never need any other assurance of Heaven than to be baptized with the baptism of Jesus Christ. The lip of truth speaks of him: he that believes and is baptized, shall be saved. He shall be saved in spite of the devil and all his temptations, in spite of persecutions and the stumbling blocks laid before him. Here is a baptism worth a man's while, worth all his labor, if he could obtain it. He that comes after me, said John the Baptist, he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; here is a baptism that belongs to Christians, an ordinance ordained. Far be it from us to deny baptism; but we would identify the right one, since there are so many sorts. This baptism is so right and certain that it assures a man of his salvation, but it is done by the Holy Ghost and with fire. If it is by the Holy Ghost, then it is far enough from us because there is no Holy Ghost in our days, say some, so this baptism is ceased, the consequence cannot follow: you and I cannot be baptized because there is no working of the Holy Ghost in our days; some say, this baptism is with the Holy Ghost and with fire; with fire to burn up our corruptions, and purifying our hearts. But the Holy Ghost has quit working on men, they say; why then, there is an end to this baptism. A man is hungry, and when his time comes to eat, he had no food, yet he sits him down as if he is to eat; will this feed and nourish him? So men now days, they have a baptism wherewith they are baptized; but baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, is the right baptism; therefore do not baptize until you find the Holy Ghost, this will be far better. This is the baptism that they which come to know it, are sure of salvation by it; for by this baptism, they are borne up and tinctured in their souls with the Divine Spirit of Christ Jesus, proceeding from the Father in the Son, until they receive his likeness and so die unto sin. As many as were baptized, were baptized into Christ’s death. The apostle opened it, in that he died, he died unto sin once, but that he lives, he lives unto God; so that they were baptized, were baptized into Christ’s death; and you that are dead to sin, how could you live any longer in it.
These that were baptized lived without sin; can that be true, when no one lived without sin but Christ only. Yes, said the apostle, you that were free from sin, are alive to righteousness. Their life stood before in sin, and now that life is taken away by baptism and they are alive to Christ, and he that lives, he lives to God. He that comes to be partaker of the first resurrection, he lives ten, twenty, forty, or a hundred years, he lives no more in the pomps and vanities of the world, and the sinful lusts of the flesh, but lives unto God. This baptism, whoever comes to be baptized with it, shall be saved; so that we do not deny baptism.
But we hear said, that you deny the Lord’s supper.
We have never had such a thought, God knows; there is nothing that our souls long after more; but people have been making a kind of work of their own [the invented sacrament of communion]; they have lost a reality, and make shadows, as children do, who when they see things made in the house for service, they will make the likeness in sand and clay. People do not see what a great thing it is to attend the supper of the Lord; as things come into an evangelical opening, we spoke then more lively and freshly of things. Behold I stand as the door and knock, if any man opens to me, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20. For understanding of this text, go and search all the commentators you can find, and see what the learned men say of it; see if they do not apply this to the inward call of the Spirit and grace of Christ, to let him into our hearts; would one think that those who wrote those things should be against the spiritual dispensation of things. They say that this knocking at the door of the heart signifies the call of God’s Spirit at the door of the heart. There are two sorts of sinner that God knocks at the door of their hearts. One is a man who is weary of his sin; for his part he wishes that he might never sin more. As soon as he perceives the knock, and is called upon to let in the grace of God, to help him against temptation, he freely opens his heart to receive it, and says, with all my heart I will entertain and welcome the grace of God; I am glad that God has had so much patience towards me; and since God offers his grace, I will embrace this grace of God above all pleasures, and I will take it into my heart. The grace of Christ is the greatest jewel that I know. Honest Paul, took this course, and prayed, Lord take away this tempter; here is a temptation the troubles me, and I am not willing to yield, for all the devil follows me with it; he cried unto the Lord, and besought him three times, earnestly, to take away the temptation. What the Lord answers him is: my grace is sufficient for you. What does it matter if the tempter buffets you and troubles you? Have you not received my grace into your heart? You are a believer, and your trust is in me, and my grace is sufficient for you. Let the tempter do his worst, keep to the grace of God, and you shall withstand and overcome the temptation when it comes.
If a man opens his heart and receives Christ when he comes, then you shall find such an alteration in that man, that go and try him with the same temptation which prevailed over him in the last week, it will not do so now; though he is as weak as water, and as prone to corruption and iniquity as before, yet now having a faith begotten in him, that the grace of God will defend him, he keeps out of the devil’s snares. Now this man trusting in this grace until his sin and iniquity is purged out, now is the time to spread the table; there is a clean heart, and the heavenly guest has now come, and the dainties of the kingdom are brought to him for his nourishment. Now, says Christ, I will come in and sup with him, and my Father will also come, and we will sup with him and he with us. This never happens to anybody so long as the table and heart is foul; for the table must be clean, and the devil and sin thrown out, and then will the Lord confirm and ratify, and seal the covenant; so that here is a seal with a witness. When a man has this testimony of the love of God, that God is reconciled to him in Christ, then Christ will come in, and he will bring his Father, and they will sup with him; and this is what will give complete satisfaction to such a soul.
All the tongues of men and angels are too short to speak of these things, as they are in themselves, but they are all manifested by the Spirit. All the mysteries of the kingdom of God, are manifested by the Spirit of God; now to say there is no Spirit to be regarded now days, that is as much as to say, we must never regard the kingdom of God, for no man can discern the things of God but the Spirit of God, no man can tell what they are; as no man can know the things of a man but the spirit of a man.
[Some incorrectly say], But I must look to this and the other form, and mark, and methodize them, for men can know nothing of the things of God themselves.
I hope you are all of another judgment, and believe that this is a trick and cheat of the wicked one; people do find the Spirit and will feel it, if they will wait upon the motions of it. I do not only mean when you are here together, but when you are separated one from another; when you feel the motions of this good Spirit, embrace them, and make them yours. This Spirit is a gift that is given; so may a coin or a piece of bread is held forth to a poor creature, but if he does not receive it, he may perish for all that; it is not his, though I have appointed it to be his, and have separated it from my other substance to be his. If he does not receive what I offer and would give him, he may perish for all that.
Here is grace and truth comes by Jesus Christ, and God has offered it to all men, in that he has raised up Christ from the dead; the grace of God which brings salvation, has appeared unto all men; but all men have not received it, therefore all men do not have it; and those who do not have not the grace of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ are not of his; but it does not follow that they never will be none of his. When they have received the gift by Christ, and say, I will be his sheep or lamb, they will come into his favor by that gift, and shall partake of the good things of his Father's kingdom; but until they have received this gift, they are not the better for it; they have not any benefit by the death of Christ; they have no help, no benefit by it, except in the patience and long-suffering of God, who for Christ's sake bears with their weakness, and waits to be gracious, and for Christ's sake offers them favor; but they are not come to the possession of it, until they open their hearts, and receive the grace of Christ; then they are convinced of Christ's end, and that there is a possibility of enjoying the Spirit of God, and of being taught and led by it.
Take this along with you, that it is your absolute and indispensable duty to wait from day to day upon the great God of Heaven, the giver of every good and perfect gift that you may have that blessed gift, that you may have the assistance of a greater power than your own to lead you out of sin into righteousness, that through Jesus Christ you may be acceptable to God.
Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Delivered by Stephen Crisp at Grace-Church-Street, April 18, 1687
I fear the high places are not taken away; it has been so in all ages, and it is manifestly so in this day; where the heart is not rightly prepared for the Lord, there the high places are not taken away. For all the high places in the time of Israel's idolatry, they were ever set up when they departed from the Lord, and all the high places now they are up in a time of ignorance of God; when people have forgotten the Lord, then they exalt themselves, then pride, and arrogance, and every evil way prevails upon us ', but when men come to seek the Lord with uprightness, that brings down their high conceits, that brings every one into humility; for every one comes to be convinced in themselves that none can find the Lord, but as they are brought to be humble; no, indeed, none seek after him correctly but such, none have the promise of finding him but the humble.
Therefore it is the duty of every one that is a real inquirer and seeker after God, to know the right preparation of mind, to know themselves in such a frame of spirit, that they may seek in hope, that they may have a right and just expectation of finding him whom they are seeking after; for this has been the reason that a great many have been frustrated in their endeavors, and in their purposes of seeking after the Lord, they have not been rightly prepared for him to manifest himself unto them, they have not known the preparation of his sanctuary, [cleansing of their heart]. There was a peculiar preparation that was requisite to those who drew near unto the sanctuary of God; they were hallowed, that is, made holy, before they drew near to the holy place; but alas! This has been greatly neglected in our days for unholy people with unholy minds have been seeking after the Holy God. They have been inquiring after a holy way, and were not prepared to walk in it; there was nothing raised in their minds, that was fit to walk in that way.
For so long as men or women stand in unity with their lusts and sexual desires, with the spirit of this world, and the way of it, they are not capable of receiving what should lead them into the way of holiness; no, if it appears to them that they cannot receive it for it is with them as with other guests. There are other lovers already let in their hearts, which employ the powers and faculties of their souls, so that if the most beloved of all, the most excellent, or if the greatest of ten thousand appears, they cannot see the attractive appeal of him. The prophet speaking of this state and condition of men, prophesied concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, when we shall see him there is no comeliness in him, why we should desire him; and so it has happened to a great many now days, though the truth has appeared to them, yet they have not looked upon it as a pleasant way, as a way desirable, but a way to be shunned if possible. What rationalizations have a great many people made to keep themselves, if possible, out of the way of truth, arguing for this and that, and disputing for one way and another that was out of truth's way, out of the way of holiness. What was the meaning of all their arguments, but to tell us they desired to be happy, they desired to be saved, though they had not come into truth's way and walk in truth's way? And though they did abide in those things that were contrary to the testimony of truth in their own hearts, they thought it still might go well with them.
This is the strength of the arguments of all sorts, of all persuasions in the world, that have been arguing themselves out of the truth, and would argue us out of the truth too, and would take the liberty to do those things which are not agreeable with it; but now the reason of this is because the preparation is lacking, they are those who have no need of truth, and that have no need of God, and of a Savior; but think they can be secure without them; he has not become their principal priority to them. They think they can abide in the high places, that they can call upon the name of the Lord, and that they can worship in the groves and in the high places both together. This is like those nations that were brought to inhabit the kingdom of Israel when the ten tribes were carried away; they sent for priests to teach them. They sent back to the king of Assyria to lend them some priests, to teach them to worship the God of their country [they were occupying Israel], and when the priest came to teach them, he taught them the ceremonies of the law, and the many observations that the Jews used to practice in that country; and so they grew into a formality of serving the God of Israel. They called upon the name of the Lord, while every nation continued the worship of their own gods too.
How is this nation, and the nations of Europe, now inhabited with such a people that are called by the name of the Lord, but with every one worshipping their own gods; one makes gold and silver his God, another makes his pleasure his God, another his honor, another this, that, and the other lust. And they bow down to them, that is, they yield themselves to their lusts, sexual immoralities, and corruptions, with which they stand in unity, but they call upon the name of the Lord too. They apply themselves to some kind of form of worship, which they say is directed to the immortal and invisible God; but alas! They do not come to the knowledge of God by this. Whatever that the priests could do, whom the king of Assyria sent back to the occupants of Israel, could not bring the Samaritans to the knowledge of the God of Israel; they only brought them to a report of such a God that had set up such a law. They had the report of it, and for fear that the lions should tear them in pieces, they would enter into that form, but they worshipped their own Gods still.
So it is now, people do not come to the knowledge of the true God, the living God, by entering into any form of religion; for instance, prayer, hearing of any ordinance or church-fellowship, these do not give men the knowledge of God for there is only one way to come to that, and one only. Men have found a great many, for which it is past your skill and mine to reckon up the many ways that men have found out upon the face of the earth, how they might come to the knowledge of God, and to peace and reconciliation with him; but they have only played the fool, and spent their time in vain, especially those who own the scriptures of truth to be a true and faithful record of the mind and will of God. They play the fool abominably; for the scripture that they give so much reputation to in their profession does testify the way is but one, and there is no other way for people to be reconciled to God, than by coming into Christ; to be found in him, to be regenerated and born into his nature, and have his qualities put upon them, that as he was pure, they may he pure; that he that sanctifies, and they who are sanctified by him, may become both one, and so be reconciled to the Father through him. This you know is the common profession of Christendom, or at least of our nation. And in other nations, the common profession is, there is no Mediator but one, no Reconciler but one. Indeed some others hold there may be other Mediators [Mary and their so-called “saints”], and that there are others that may contribute to them by their mediation, and by their prayers and merits, but the generality of the nations are otherwise.
Now for people to fall out, and say, my way is best, and your way is not best, and to fall into contests about many ways, when the scripture concludes there is only one way, is not well; we had better all agree about this doctrine, that there is no possibility of reconciliation with God, having fallen out with him, and since sin has made a separation, there is no way of being reconciled again to God, but by and through our Lord Jesus Christ; nor by him either, unless we receive of his Spirit to quicken us. Nothing can quicken us, enliven us, or recommend us to God, except the Spirit of Christ operating and working in our hearts, that he may prepare us for the Father's kingdom.
If people would agree upon this, there would be an end of all labor, and toil, and quarreling about the right way, for the consequence and conclusion would be this. That the man who does not know himself the sanctifying power of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, he is out of the way to reconciliation with God, let his form and profession be what may. If therefore he is reconciled to God, it must be by and through the Mediator, and he will never recommend him to the Father until he has made him a temple to let in the Spirit of Christ, to work in his heart, to fit him for the kingdom of God. And men have no other way to come to it; for though they are zealous in every prayer and form, it signifies nothing to any great purpose. Their hope will be frustrated; there is no other way, said Christ, of coming to the Father, but by me; I am the way, the truth and the life. If I am out of the truth, I am out of the way; and if I am out of the way, then I cannot come to the end of the way. This is plain reasoning among men. If I tell a lie, that is out of the truth. If I have vain communication, or deceive or wrong my neighbor, that is out of the truth; if I am in what is manifested in my conscience to be contrary to the truth, I am out of the way; though I am strict in that way, as to profession, vet I am out of. the way to God, I am out of the truth; there is no way to God but by Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life; whoever is out of him, is out of the way; which made the apostle say, that his labor; endeavor and desire was, that he might be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but having on the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
Many men think to recommend themselves to God by their righteous, just, and honest dealings, and doing wrong to nobody. This is good in itself, but does not recommend us to God, unless it is done by the righteous and holy Spirit of Christ Jesus, unless it is of his working; he must have the working of righteousness and truth in us; he must plant it, and it must grow by his working, if it is acceptable to the Father; for without me, said Christ, you can do nothing. A man out of Christ, a stranger to his Spirit, may do something, but nothing available to the well-being of his soul, until he has reconciliation by Christ Jesus. If he is reconciled to God, this Mediator must be the Reconciler, and he must fit and prepare him for reconciliation with the Father.
All the divisions, sorts and sects of religion, must all come to an end; if this measuring line is laid to them, they all appear too short; and there is nothing will do a man good, but the religion that obliges and ties him to the good pleasure of God, through the Spirit of the Mediator, which he feels working in him, by which he is raised from death to some degree of life. When he is sensible what a burden sin is to his life, that godly life which he has, he is burdened with every sin, and oppressed with every vain thought, and every vain word, if he is not in some measure quickened, he is not sensible of this burden; but being quickened, he is sensible of the burden that lies upon his life, by reason of his sin; and then, being under the weight of his sin, he calls to God for his assistance; he cries to God to help him; he now knows that he has striven and labored in vain. O God of all grace, if you will not help my soul, if you do not intervene by the assistance of your grace, I cannot overcome this sin. There is a continual cry to God for divine assistance, and as they cry to God for assistance, he ministers assistance to them, by which they are able to overcome the enemy of their souls, and all temptations when they come. And when a man finds such divine assistance, his faith is strengthened and confirmed, and so he fights the good fight of faith, and at last gets the victory; victory over his sin, and his own lusts, and sexual desires, and victory over the assaults and temptations of the adversary; and at last he comes, through the grace of God, to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly and godly in this present world.
Now when people do thus, it is by the grace of God. This life of righteousness, sobriety and godliness, is not the effect of their labor and exercise, and of their endeavors in this, but it is the effect of the Holy Spirit that has been the teacher. When you see a man has become a good scholar, eminent in all sorts of learning, you will conclude he did not attain to all this of himself; he did not learn this and the other language, this and the other are and science of himself; no, he had some judicious and able master and teacher, who communicated of his learning and knowledge to his disciple and scholar. This is the efficient cause of his improvement. Now if a man, by the grace and the Spirit of God, and the teachings of it, lives a holy, godly life, this is the effect of something; he did not always live such a life, so how does he comes to live such a life now? Is it by his own industry, labor and exercise? No, it is by being exercised, taught and led by the Spirit of God; so that it is the effect of the grace of God that he should live such a holy life, this is the meritorious cause of it, as he is a creature, and by this only acceptable to God in Christ the Mediator.
Thus a man comes to be justified and accepted, not because he is a godly man, but is made so by the Spirit of God. You are not under the law, said the apostle, but under grace. You are under the teachings of it, under the directions of it. Grace can reprove people; for that grace and that truth that comes by Christ, and manifests itself as a light in the hearts of transgressors, reproves their sin, and calls them out of it; it reproves them for it, and exhorts them to leave it, both at the same time; so that we must acknowledge all our righteousness, holiness, and obedience is of God, and all that we do in order thereunto, as it is done by the teaching, by the influence and operation of the grace of God given us in Christ Jesus; it is the effect of him who is our Mediator, he works it in us, and for us, of his good pleasure.
If we are justified, we are not justified for a righteous, holy life, and for our obedience; but we are justified through Christ, who works a godly life in those who believe, so that a man is not justified by any other way or means; and all other ways a man takes of being reconciled to God, are vain and fruitless, and have been spoken against by all that were moved by the Holy Ghost in the New Testament. Said the prophet, what shall I come before the Lord with? I am fallen under death and sin, and in a separation from God; I would willingly be reconciled to him. What shall I do to be reconciled to God? He goes about to reckon without Christ, and without faith and holiness. Shall I take a thousand rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I come nearer still? Shall I make an offering of the fruit of my body, for the sin of my soul? Shall I offer my first-born to God, that I may not be rejected and brought to a separation from him? Thus men when they come to be sensible do feel in themselves that all this is to no purpose. The answer comes, you may live, but all your contrivances about making an offering are vain. He has showed you O man! what to do. It is not your finding this way and that way, i.e., your rams, and your oil, and your first-born, it is no way of your devising and imagining that can reconcile you to me; I have shown you, man, what is good. What is this that has been shown? It is comprised in a short charge: he is to love mercy, to do justness, and to walk humbly with your God. Will this serve without offering rams and oil, and offering my first born? This will do if you cannot help but love mercy when it is shown you, that is, embrace mercy, and love it. He has shown mercy to all men; then love it and receive it; do justly, leave everything that is unrighteous, and do what is just in the sight of God, but do not boast of your justice and righteousness, but walk humbly with your God; here is the whole duty of man. Here is no dependence on dead works, or my own exertions, in order to my justification.
Indeed the consideration of these kind of lessons do corrupt some men, and put them upon doing this or that, and upon avoiding this or that, and has brought many to confession and great abstinence, and put them upon great doings, thinking this would answer the justice of God. I have loved mercy, and given all I had to the poor. If I do justly, and abstain from this and the other liberty, if I walk humbly, that is, if I humble myself by this and the other manner of penance and contrition, then I do what God requires, and then I have pleased God.
Now all that have gone this way to work, to do justly, and love mercy, and to make themselves humble, and humbled themselves in such a low manner; they have missed the mark. He has shown you, O man! what is good; that it is impossible for fallen man to answer this himself; he may be convinced of his duty to do justice, but by his own power and strength he cannot do it; there are so many temptations from without, and so many from within, such a propensity in nature, that will prevail against all the bonds of charity that he can make.
Therefore is help laid upon one that is mighty; without the grace of God that comes by Christ Jesus, a man can never do right, though convinced. Though the Lord has shown him what is good, he shows us that we are unable of ourselves; he has taken care to send his Son. God has so loved the world, that he has sent his Son into the world, that he might help those who have need of help, that every one that is in distress might have an eye to Christ, the author and finisher of their faith. When men have a reference to their faith in Christ, this makes their duty acceptable. I cannot do it unless the Lord strengthens me; therefore I will have respect to the Mediator, Christ Jesus, who was sent for a light into the world. God sends forth his grace for every one to lay hold on, who generally believe, that though they are unable to do what God requires, yet he will enable them to do it; for as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the Sons of God, though they were the devil's children before; he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He abides always the same in his grace to men; he is in his operation to them the same; he offers grace to those who are in a frame of mind to receive it so that they may know that his power will give them ability; and so that whatever they do of themselves will prove fruitless, because it is not done in Christ's name and power, and so is not acceptable to God.
The greatest thing that we are to be concerned about, if we will be religious, and concern ourselves about divine matters, about the kingdom of God and the world to come, is to see what frame of mind we are in at present, whether the high places are taken away, whether we are not exalted in our own conceits of knowledge and wisdom, and not acknowledge to be beholden to him for his grace. If we are highly conceited, and think we can stand upon our own legs, the high places are not taken away. Men are not in this state prepared to seek the God of their fathers; therefore, let every one turn to God, and see how it is with you; see whether there be a mind brought low enough to be subject to Christ, and to the gracious teachings of his Spirit.
A man may say, I can make a sermon, I can make a prayer and exhortation, and I can make a book, and send it abroad, I can do all this by my own talents and abilities; so you may, and may make it all full of good words, but you can never make it acceptable to God for without me, said Christ, you can do nothing. You must have the assistance of the Spirit of Christ; else you cannot make a good prayer, or a good book, or anything good; God esteems the very praying of the wicked to be an abomination to him. Where the mind is not exercised by the Spirit of God, if he should pray from morning to night, and spend all his days in penance, it will do him no good. If I, said David, regard iniquity; you may think I am a man in favor with God, a man after God's own heart; yet if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer. What signifies prayers and sermons, made of good words, if they do not come from a heart separate from iniquity? If it is not so, it will do no good at all, in point of acceptance with God.
O let the fear of the Lord enter upon every heart! Wait all to feel the Divine Power of the Lord, that brings down every high thought, so that so you may look to the preparation of your hearts, which is a right preparation; when the people are so low, so broken and so tender, that they are nothing in their own eyes, but what the Lord will make them to be, then they are as clay in the hands of the potter, they are fashioned by his hands, and made the workmanship of God in Christ Jesus, the one Mediator between God and man. They must bear the likeness of Christ Jesus, bear his Heavenly image; they must have his qualities, and have the same mind in those who were in him. I do always what pleases my Father, said the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed he has the doing of things in the hearts of men, and God is pleased with him, and where men have the doing of them themselves, they are thrown back as dung in their faces; where any rightly desire justification, where men have a right preparation of heart, so to seek the God of their fathers, as to find him and be accepted of him, it is through Jesus Christ, in whom he is well pleased.
In all your assemblies, prayers, exercises and meditations, you must be separated and drawn off from your former lovers, and you must be joined to him who God has sent to be a leader and a guide to you. Then you will find his assistance daily; and as you have assistance from him, you will find acceptance with God, and he will show you the Father. That, and nothing else, will satisfy the soul hungering and thirsting after God. Show us the Father, and it suffices us. So when Christ, the Mediator, comes to have wrought so far as the purifying of the soul, and the sanctifying of it, and thereby fitted it for his glory, such holy souls shall behold his glory; for the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold* from them that walk uprightly.
That you may be brought to this state, and kept and preserved in it; that the Heavens may rain down fatness upon you, and that you may feel the living virtues that flow from Christ to every member, is the labor and travail of the servants of God, for their own souls, and the souls of others that are in unity and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
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