THE WAY OF LIFE AND DEATH
SET BEFORE MEN
In this writing the many Paths of DEATH are pleaded, and the one Path of LIFE propounded, and pleaded for; in some POSITIONS concerning the Apostasy from the CHRISTIAN SPIRIT and LIFE; with some PRINCIPLES guiding out of it; and also an ANSWER to some Objections, by which the simplicity in some may be entangled; held forth in tender Good-will, both to PAPISTS and PROTESTANTS, who have generally erred from the faith for these many generations, since the days of the APOSTLES; and with what they have erred from are they comprehended.
By ISAAC PENINGTON
The Apostasy Throughout All of Christendom is Even Worse In 2007
MY soul has still in remembrance the grievous shakings and rendings that have been in this nation, which entered deep into the bowels of it, and made every heart ache, and every mind astonished. This nation was settled in religion and outward peace, in such a way that was pleasing to most; but yet there was a spirit within, which had been long groaning under oppression, whose sighs and cries entered into the ears of the Lord; and he rose up in his fury and jealousy, and rent the heavens, and rent the earth; so breaking the very foundation of both, that men generally were amazed, and wondered what would become of all. The former religion was almost buried in confusion, and in danger of being utterly lost. We were entangled in a long-spun, corroding war, which administered no hopes nor likelihood of peace. -- The hand of the Lord reached through all these dominions; magistracy, ministry, the common people, the people of God, (both such as were accounted so, and such as were indeed so), the line of confusion was stretched over them all; they all reeled and tottered like a drunken man, as if to fall and not rise again.
But behold how suddenly and unexpectedly was there a settlement of all again! The nation settled in peace, magistracy settled, ministry settled, the common people settled, and those which were shaken in their spirits went into their several ways in religion, and settled again. Thus there was a general healing of all again, except for only a few, whose spirits God had so reached, that their wound was incurable; and unless something of God had been brought forth, which the world cannot know, (no, the religious spirit of man, which is below, can no more reach it than the common spirit of the world), they would have remained miserable, lost, scattered, and confounded to this day. But the Lord has in infinite mercy visited them in the season of distress; and there has a little foolish thing broken forth, (at which all the wise and religious in the spirit of this world cannot but stumble), which has administered relief, and discovered the foundation on which they also can settle. So that there is now a universal settlement, as every creature is gathered into the center which is proper and suitable to its spirit to bottom on.
Now this I have to say to all: Let every one look to his foundation; for the Lord can arise again; yes, and will arise again, and shake once more; and then the heavens and the earth, which have not a true foundation, cannot but fall. If the earth be not founded upon and settled in righteousness, its present establishment will not stand. If the heavens be not founded upon and settled in truth, they will melt and pass away before the fire of the Lord, [spiritually, not physically]. There is a spirit that mourns deeply to the Lord, groaning inwardly, and his ears are open to it, and he will plead the cause of his seed; and the churches and religions in which the seed of the serpent can live and flourish, shall wither and come to an end. Dust has already become the serpent's food. The spirit of man, in all his exercises of religion, knows not the bread of life; but the dead feed upon the dead, and the dead spirit of man loves to have it so. But this cannot continue; for the Lord has been at work all this while; and when he brings forth the people which he has been forming, and their religion, the religion of man will appear what it is; and shame and sorrow will be the portion of all who have pleased themselves with that, and trifled away the day of their visitation.
Be wise now, therefore, Oh you wise ones! Be religious, Oh you religious ones! open the eye and ear that have been shut; shut the eye and ear that have been open: stumble no longer, lest you fall and rise no more. I know you cannot see; for the wrong eye is open, and the Lord has designed to hide his wisdom from that eye. If it is possible for you, become poor in spirit; lest you at last prove to be the rich whom the Lord will send empty away. Sell all swiftly, that you may have that by which to buy the pearl. You have not known the appearance of the Lord; but in your wisdom have disdained it, and he has disdained to make use of you in this great work; but it has been pleasant to him to lay stumbling-blocks before you, that you might fall and be broken. The children, the fools, the blind, can see the way, and enter into life; but you that are men, that are wise, that have both your eyes, that can judge in religion, and determine what is orthodox, and what erroneous, you cannot.
Oh hear, that your souls may live! You know not how short your time is; the day of your visitation passes away faster than you are aware. The cry has long gone forth, Behold, the bridegroom comes, and his spouse has been preparing for his bed! You must off with your old garments, and have the new on. You must have the true oil in your lamps, or the door of the kingdom will be shut upon you, and there will be no entrance for you. In plain terms, you must part with all your religion which you have gathered in your own wisdom, which has grown up in the apostasy, and which only can make a fair show in the dark; but cannot endure the searching light of the day of the Lord; and you must purchase the true religion, the true righteousness, the true innocence and purity of Christ. The old must be done away, truly done away, and the new come in the place. So that flesh and self may be quite destroyed, and nothing but Christ found in you, and you found nowhere but in Christ, if you enter into his kingdom; for no unclean thing can enter. Therefore put away pride and passion and enmity and fleshly reasonings, and seek out what is pure, and enter into it, and take up the cross against all that is contrary, so that you may be wrought into it, and found in it. And turn from all imaginings and conceivings about the meanings of scriptures in the uncertain and erring mind, and come to what is infallible. And know the silencing of the fleshly part, that the spiritual part may grow in the wisdom, so that you may learn in the spirit, and know the word of God, and be able to speak it.
My bowels are towards you, and in compassion has this been written, not to anger or shame you, but to provoke you to jealousy against that dark and evil spirit, which leads you to destruction under the guise and appearance of a light and good spirit. Nor is it to glory over you; for my soul lies down in shame and sorrow before the Lord, and the reproach of my own apostasy, and seeking relief from the world, (turning from the Lord, who had wounded me, to earthly vanities for ease), will not easily be recovered.
The Lord has been kind to me in the breaking of me in my religion, and in visiting me with sweet and precious light from his own spirit; but I knew it not. I felt, and could not but acknowledge, a power upon me, and might have known what it was by its purifying of my heart, and begetting me into the image of God; but I confined it to appear in a way of demonstration to my reason and earthly wisdom, and for want of satisfaction with that, denied and rebelled against it; and so, after all my former misery, lost my entrance, and sowed seeds of new misery and sorrow to my own soul, which since I have reaped. So that I have no cause to boast over others; but to lie low in abasement of spirit. And what I write is not in any dominion and authority of my own; but to bring others into that dominion and authority which it is good for me, and for every one else, to be subject to. The Lord strip us of our own understanding, and of that righteousness which is our own, (though we have called it his), so that we may be gathered into, and receive his understanding, and be clothed with his righteousness, and feel his rest and peace! And happy is he that loses all to gain this. But he that keeps what he has too long, shall in the end lose all, and yet not gain this either; therefore be no longer wise in the eye of flesh, or according to what man calls wisdom; but be TRULY wise.
Concerning the Apostasy from the Christian Spirit and Life
(Universally thriving in Christendom of 2010)
That there has been a great apostasy from the Spirit of Christ and from the true light and life of Christianity, which apostasy began in the apostles' days and ripened quickly afterwards.
THAT the apostles and Christians in their days had the true spirit, the true light, and true life, I think will not be denied. "We know that we are of God, and that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." . They were truly born of God, and knew the Son of God to have come [in them, to be seen by them], receiving from him a true understanding, and the true light and knowledge in that understanding; and both the understanding and knowledge were rooted and seated in him that is true, where their situation and abiding were ("we are in him that is true"), where they met with the true Spirit, the true God, the true life, even life eternal. That they had the true Spirit from God, ("because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." ), that they had the true light from God, ("God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined into our hearts,.." ), that they had the true life from and in the spirit, ("if we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit." ), is generally acknowledged concerning them.
Now of an apostasy from this, beginning even in their days, and to be completed not long after, the Scriptures also make mention. The Apostle Paul speaks expressly of the thing, that there must come "a falling away," and a revealing of "the man of sin, the son of perdition." . Christ, the man of salvation, had showed and declared the path of life; had discovered the true church, which was "the pillar and ground of truth," against which the gates of hell could not prevail; had sent the true spirit, which could "lead into all truth," and preserve in the truth; but there must spring up a "man of sin, a son of perdition," who, in a mystery, should work against this, and cause a falling from this to another thing. And this the apostle did not only give a touch of here in writing, but he had likewise told them of these things by word of mouth, to which he refers them, This were enough to an eye opened; but for further illustration to the thick understanding of man, which is surrounded with fogs and mists of darkness, some more evidences of scriptures may be given.
Christ foretold of false prophets, . "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." The Lord sent true prophets under the law, and gave them true visions to declare; Christ sent true apostles and ministers under the gospel, and gave them the truth which they should preach and propagate; but then there were false prophets, false apostles, and ministers to come after, who were never sent by Christ, nor ever received the truth from his spirit. Now these do not come to gather into the life and truth of Christ, but to scatter from it; and so either to begin or uphold an apostasy. And, said Christ, beware of them; for they come very subtly; they come in sheep's clothing. They get the garment of the sheep upon their backs, even that very garment which the sheep did wear; but they have not the nature of the sheep, but the nature of the wolf, which is ravenous after the life of the sheep. Mark: where there is the garment without, but not the nature within; where there is the form of godliness, but not the power; where there are scripture words and practices, but not the spirit of life from which they came; there is the false prophet! there is the wolf! there is the apostate! there is the seducer from Christ!
Again, Christ foretells of many false prophets, "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." And "For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
And as Christ himself, so his apostles also after him, by the same spirit, foretell of the same thing.
The Apostle Paul speaks of seducing spirits in the latter times, and of doctrines of devils, which should prevail to cause a departure in some from the faith. -- And if, in those days, the power of seducers was so great as to draw from the truth, which was then so manifest and living, how easy it would be to keep from the truth afterwards, when it had been long lost, and out of remembrance, and thereby deceit got into the place and name of it.
The Apostle Peter also foretold of "false teachers," who should "slyly bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them:" and that they should so prevail, that their "pernicious ways" should be followed by many, and "the way of truth evil spoken of."
Again, Paul, in his 2nd Epistle to Timothy, speaks of the last days, that the times of then should be "perilous;" chap. 3. Christ had said, "The love of many should wax cold, and iniquity abound." Mat 24:12. And Paul shows how the times would prove very perilous, by the abounding of iniquity. "In the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." . Behold what kind of fruit sprung up from the false doctrine of the false teachers in the apostasy from the truth. And yet all this under a form of godliness; "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." . Christ sent the power of godliness into the world, to subdue the root from where all this springs; to kill the evil nature inwardly; but in the apostasy the evil nature is not killed, but the power denied which should kill it, and the form kept up to cover the evil nature with the inwardly ravening nature, which devours and destroys the stirrings and shootings-forth of the just-one in the heart, that gets the sheep's clothing, the form of godliness, to cover itself with. Look anywhere among the apostates from the apostles' spirit and doctrine, and see. Is self-love killed? is covetousness killed? Are boasting and pride killed? Is the love of pleasures killed? Are persecutors and oppressors killed? And are your honor and glory laid in the dust? No, they are only covered with the form; their life is still in them; the power by which they should be killed was at first denied, and now is lost and not known. Where there is the life, there is the power; and where there is the power, the evil nature is killed. But where the evil nature is not killed, there is only a form of godliness, a covering, a painted sepulcher, but rottenness within.
Now those last days and last times were not far off, but had already began then for the apostle exhorts Timothy to turn away from such, verse 5. "From such turn away;" intimating, that even then there were such to be turned away from. -- And he said, verse 8, that they did then resist the truth, like Jannes and Jambres; who with a likeness of what Moses wrought, but without life, did strive to resist the life and power that was in Moses. And this is the work of all deceivers, to get their own spirit into the likeness, and then to make use of the likeness to oppose and suppress the true life and power. So that they were come even then, when the apostle wrote this epistle to Timothy.
And Jude said, that "ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ," were "crept in" already, verse 4 of his epistle.
[These false apostles, deceivers, antichrists that were appearing in the Apostles' time labeled themselves Christians. They didn't deny Christ as Lord and Master with their lips, rather they denied him by their continuing to sin; for even Christ said, whoever sins is a slave to sin. You either serve God or you serve Satan. ]
And the Apostle John speaks very expressly, "Little children, it is the last time; and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists, by which we know that it is the last time. They went out from us..," Christ, instructing his disciples concerning the last times, tells them there shall arise false Christs, with great power of deceit. . Now, said John here, there are come "many antichrists, by which we know it is the last time." Mark: there were many antichrists to begin and lay the foundation of the apostasy, and make way for the great antichrist, who was to be their successor in the apostasy, and not the successor of the apostles in the truth. These antichrists did not abide in the doctrines of the apostles, who preached "the everlasting gospel," nor in the spirit and principle which they were in; but "went out" from them, from their spirit, (from the anointing to which they kept, and by which they were kept), into another spirit, and preached another gospel; a gospel which was not the power of God to kill the earthly, but consisted in such a dead, literal knowledge of things as the earthly might be fed and kept alive by. And as the great antichrist was to come, so these antichrists who were to make way for him were already come, and were already laying the foundation of, and beginning the apostasy. So that the spirit of antichrist, (that very spirit in which antichrist succeeded, and in which he grew up, and perfected the apostasy), was then in the world, as this apostle said yet more manifestly, "This is that spirit of antichrist, of which you have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world."
Nor was it idle, but it was at work, working itself into the form of godliness, that it might eat out the power, drive out the true spirit, and make a prey of the life. "The mystery of iniquity," said the Apostle Paul, "does already work." This spirit did work in a mystery of iniquity to eat out the mystery of godliness, and to set up this mystery of iniquity in the world, instead of the mystery of godliness. And it did prevail to wind itself in the form, and get possession of the form, and also to trample upon and keep under the life. It gained the "outward court", (for when that spirit had corrupted it, the Lord did not regard it, but gave it up to it), and it trod down the "holy city." And this mystery of iniquity did not begin to work many ages after the apostles; but even then, in their days, already: "the mystery of iniquity does already work."
And look now into the estate of the churches then, according to what the Scripture records of them, and the symptoms of its working will plainly appear. The church of Ephesus, (among whom some of the grievous wolves had entered, ), had left their first love. . The churches of Galatia were bewitched from the gospel. The church at Colossus was entangled, and made subject to the rudiments of the world, and ordinances, (which perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men. . Mark: when once one comes to be subject to the commandments and doctrines of men, to perishing ordinances, and worldly rudiments, which men teach and command, the true state is lost, and the apostasy is entered into. Here the wrong teacher is teaching, and he teaches the wrong thing, the wrong doctrines, the wrong commandments; and the wrong ear is hearing, which hears the wrong voice, and knows not the true; and so the more it hears and practices, and the hotter its zeal grows, the deeper it still runs into the apostasy. The church at Corinth also was haunted with false apostles, , insomuch that the apostle was afraid that church would be corrupted by them. verse 3. The church in Pergamus had them that held the doctrine of Balaam. Rev 2:14. The church in Thyatira suffered the woman Jezebel, which called herself a prophetess, to seduce and bring forth children in the apostasy. Rev 2:20-23. The church in Sardis had a name to live, but was dead; Rev 3:1, having defiled her garments. verse 4. The church in Laodicea looked upon herself as rich, and increased with goods, and as having need of nothing; but was wretched, miserable, poor, blind, (so then the eye was put out), and naked, wanting the gold, wanting the raiment, wanting the eye-salve. Rev 3:17-18. And lastly, all the Gentiles were warned by Paul, in his epistle to the church at Rome, (by which that church might look upon herself as more particularly concerned with that), to look to their standing; lest they, falling from the faith, from the truth, from the life, into the apostasy, (as the Jews had done), might also feel the severity of God, as the Jews had. Rom 11:20-22.
Thus it is evident that the apostasy had gotten footing, and begun to spread in the apostles' days: and the Apostle John, in the spirit, beholding the future state of things, sees it over-spread and over-run all: "all nations drunk with the cup of fornication." Rev 18:3. The way of truth had been evil spoken of long before, 2 Pet. 2:2 and the Rock of Ages, which alone can establish in the truth, had been forsaken, and all became as a sea; and up gets the beast, (which could not rise while the power of truth stood), and the woman upon the beast, with the cup of deceit and error from the life, in her hand; and this she gives all the nations to drink, and they drink, and are drunk with it. So that all nations have been intoxicated with the doctrines and practices of the apostasy. They have taken that for truth which the whore told them was truth, and they have observed those things as the commands of God which the whore told them were the commands of God. And by this means they have never come to be married to Christ, to be in union with him, to receive the law of life from his spirit, and to know the liberty from the bondage of corruption; but have been in the bed of fornication with the whore, and have pleased, glutted, and satisfied the whorish principle in themselves with this fornication. And thus corruption did overspread all the earth; for taking in a corrupt thing instead of the truth, it cannot purify the heart, but corrupt it more. A corrupt profession, corrupt doctrines, may paint, and make a man to himself seem changed; but the corruption still lodges within, which a spiritual eye can easily discern, though he that is in the corruption cannot. The Pharisees seemed glorious to themselves; but Christ saw through them. And every sort of people now, in their several strains and forms of apostasy, seem glorious to themselves; but the spirit of Christ sees through them all, to that which lies underneath, (in whom it reigns), and there it finds corruption increased and strengthened in its nature by the form, though outwardly painted with it. Does not fornication defile and corrupt? So does the fornication of the whorish spirit: "the earth was corrupted with it." . So that this has been the universal state of Christendom since the apostasy; the error, the deceit, the fornication of the whore, have corrupted them, and withheld their eyes from the sight of that life and truth that has power in it to purify them. People, multitudes, nations, tongues, have been all waters; weak, unstable, without any foundation in religion, but fit to be swayed and tossed up and down with every wind or breath of the whore, of whose cup they had all drunk, and by whose spirit they were all guided; for "the whore sat upon them." . The whore, which had whored from God, and so was not the true church, "sat upon people, multitudes, nations, and tongues." She sat upon them; she had them under her; she ruled and guided them by her cup of fornication, and with her spirit of fornication, as a man would guide the beast whereupon he rides. So that all that the nations do from henceforth in religion, is under the whore, according to her guidance, by virtue of the wine that they have drunk out of her cup.
[Men drink from the cup of fornications, when they buy off on the false teachings of the whore, who promises them heaven, while they pursue their lusts, pleasures, and pride, with no fear of God. The whole world is drunk on their pleasures and passions, without a clue that they are subject to the fury of God.]
And though God reserved to himself a remnant to worship him, and give some testimony to his truth all this time; yet the "beast", (which was managed by the whore), had power over them: power to make war with them; power to overcome them. . The "beast" had power over all "kindreds, tongues, and nations" everywhere; to overcome the "saints," and suppress the truth they at anytime were moved to give testimony to; and to set up the worship of the "beast," and make all the earth fall down before that. And the second "beast" had, and exercised, all the power of the first "beast," and set up his image, and gave it life, and caused men generally to worship it. Rev 13:12 "And he caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive his mark" some way or other, either in their right hand, or in their forehead. verse 16. And such as would not receive his mark, nor worship him, he had power to persecute and kill; and he did kill them. verse 15. And the whore drank their blood. chap. 17:6. And God required it at her hand. chap. 19:2. Though she made the hand of the beast execute it, and would seem to wash her own hands of it.
[The first beast was is the beast of heathen religious authority. The second beast looks like a lamb, resembles the original Christian church, but without the Spirit; and so speaks like a dragon - speaks from the carnal mind of man, which is the evil one speaking: let your 'yes' be 'yes,' and your 'no,' 'no;' for whatever is more than these comes from the evil one (the spirit of Satan within you). The second beast incorporates heathenish ceremony into the imitation Christian church: infant baptism, eating bread and wine for sacrifice, bowing and praying to images, praying to dead men and women as supposed mediators, a paid clergy, supervision of marriage, etc.; thus the second beast forces its victims to indirectly worship the first beast of heathenish religion.]
So that now, since the days of the apostles, even all this time of the apostasy, since the man-child has been caught up to God, and was not to be found in the earth, (which makes it seem such a strange thing for people to say Christ is in them), and the woman has been in the wilderness, and not in the habitable part of the world, If all this time anyone will look for the true religion, for the true church, for the true knowledge and worship of God, he must not look on any nation, or any people, or among the tongues, which are cried up in nations and people for the original, and as the chief interpreters of the original; for they are all drunk with the whore's cup; they are under the power, dominion, authority, and service of the "whore," who rides upon the "beast" to whom "power was given over all kindreds, tongues, and nations." But look among the nations who were persecuted, whose blood was drunk, whom the powers of the nations made war against; there alone the testimony of Jesus is to be found. . There alone are the witnesses against the present idolatry and corruption, and to some truths or other of Christ, which God enlightened them with, and where he stirred them up to give their testimony, though with the loss of their estates, liberties, or lives.
Now, by what has been expressed, is it not apparent to every eye that has room only to let in the letter of the scripture, in simplicity and plainness, that there has been a great apostasy from the true knowledge of Christ, and a universal corruption and power of death sprung up, instead of the power of his life and grace? "The grace of God, which brings salvation," has disappeared; and "the abomination of desolation" has taken up its place, and filled it with deadly venom against the truth, and against the life; so that enmity against God, under a pretence of love and zeal to him, has reigned generally in the hearts of men, from the times of the apostles to this present day.* And as the light breaks forth, and their eyes come to be opened, they will see that they have been and are haters of God, and of his life and spirit; but lovers of the world, and of such a religion as suits the worldly spirit.
*[The woman fled into the wilderness about 388 AD; so at least a remnant of the early church survived aroun 360 years. The early Quakers re-established the true Christian church, starting in 1648. By 1671 the devil had already infiltrated many of the early Quaker assemblies, and by 1880 the last substance of the early Quaker movement had disappeared. Thus the Apostasy, although suffering the setback of hundreds of thousands of Early Quakers rejecting its lies, soon deceived everyone all over again.]
That in this great apostasy, the true state of Christianity has been lost.
This must be; for if there was an apostasy from the thing, there could not be a retaining of the thing about which the apostasy was. If they apostatized from the spirit, from the light, from the life; then they were gone from it -- they lost it.
Now it may be instanced in every particular how the state of Christianity was lost; but that would be too vast and tedious. It may suffice, therefore, to state some considerable ones, which may lead into the discovery of the rest.
1. The true rule of Christianity, or the rule of a Christian,
which is to direct, guide, and order him in his whole course,
was apostatized from, and lost.
What is a Christian's rule, by which he is to steer and order his course?
A Christian is to be a follower of Christ, and consequently must have the same rule to walk by as Christ had. A Christian proceeds from Christ, has the same life in him, and needs the same rule. Christ had the fullness of life, and of his fullness we all receive a measure of the same life. "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Eph 5:30. Yes, we came out of the same spring of life from where he came: "For both he that sanctities, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Heb 2:11. Now what was his rule? Was it not the fullness of life which he received? And what is their rule? Is it not the measure of life which they receive? Was not Christ's rule the law of the spirit; the law which the spirit wrote in his heart? And is not their rule the law of the spirit; the law which the spirit writes in their hearts? How was Christ made a king and a priest? Was it by the law of a carnal commandment? or by the power of an endless life? And how are they made kings and priests to God? Is it by the law of a carnal commandment? or is it by the power of the same endless life? "Lo, I come to do your will, Oh God," said Christ, "when he comes into the world." Heb 10:5,10:7. But by what rule? By what law? "Thy law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8. And the same spirit who wrote it there, is also to write the new covenant, with all the laws of it, in the heart of every Christian, from the least to the greatest. Yes, the same spirit that dwelt in Christ's heart, is to dwell in their hearts, according to the promise of the covenant.This was Paul's rule, after which he walked, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus." Rom 8:1-2. This made him "free from the law of sin and death." Where is the law of sin written? Where is the law of death written? Is it not written in the heart? And must not the law of righteousness and life be written there also, if it is able to deal with sin and death? The spirit forms the heart anew, forms Christ in the heart, begets a new creature there, which cannot sin "(He that is born of God sins not)." And this is the rule of righteousness, the new creature, or the spirit of life in the new creature. Gal 6:15-16. "In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but a new creature. And as many as "walk according to this rule, peace be on them." Mark: there is the rule; the new creature, which is begotten in every one that is born of God. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature;" and this new creature is to be his rule. And as any man walks according to this rule, according to the new creature, according to the law of light and life that the spirit continually breathes into the new creature, he has peace; but as he transgresses that, and walks not after the spirit, but after the flesh, he walks out of the light, out of the life, out of the peace, into the sea, into the death, into the trouble, into the condemnation. Here then is the law of the converted man, the new creature; and the law of the new creature is the spirit of life which begat him, which lives, and breathes, and gives forth his law continually in him. Here is a Christian; here is his rule. He who does not have the new creature formed in him, is no Christian; and he who has the new creature, has the rule in himself. "You have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things." 1 John 2:20. How came they to know all things? Does John not say, it was by the "unction"? The anointing was in them, a fountain or well-spring of light and life, issuing forth continually such rivers and streams of life within, as they needed no other teacher in the truth and way of life. verse 27. The "Comforter" did refresh their hearts sufficiently, and led them into all truth. Search the apostles' epistles, and you shall find them testifying of the Lord's sending his spirit into the hearts of Christians; and exhortations to them not to grieve or quench the spirit, but to follow as they were led. They were to "live in the spirit," and to "walk in the spirit." Gal 5:25. And the spirit was to walk, and live, and bring forth his own life and power in them. 2 Cor 6:16. And what can be the proper and full rule of God's sons and daughters, but the light of the spirit of life, which they receive from their Father? Thus God did advance the state of a believer above the state of the Jews under the law. For the Jews had the law, though written with the finger of God, yet but in tables of stone; but these have the law, written by the finger of God in the table of their hearts. The Jews' was a law without, at a distance from them, and the priest's lips were to preserve the knowledge of it, and to instruct them in it; but here is a law within, near at hand, the immediate light of the spirit of life shining so immediately in the heart, that they need no man to teach them; but have the spirit of prophecy in themselves, and quick, living teachings from him continually, and are made such kings and priests to God, as the state of the law did but represent. The gospel is the substance of all the shadows contained in the law. A Christian is he that comes into this substance, and lives in this substance, and in whom this substance lives; and his rule is the substance itself, in which he lives, and which lives in him. Christ is the substance, who lives in the Christian, and he in Christ: Christ lives in him by his spirit, and he in Christ by the same spirit: there he lives, and has fellowship with the Father and the Son, in the light in which they live, and not by any outward rule. 1 John 1:6-7.
But what is the rule now in the apostasy?
Among the Papists, the rule is the Scripture, interpreted by the church, (as they call themselves), with a mixture of their own precepts and traditions.
Amongst the Protestants, the rule is the Scriptures, according to their understanding of them by their own study, or according to the understanding of them received from men who they regard as orthodox [educated]. And here arise continual differences and heats and sects; one following this interpretation, another that interpretation.
And this is a grievous apostasy, and the root, spring, and foundation of all the others; for he that misses in his beginning, he that begins his religion without the true rule, how can he proceed correctly in anything afterwards?
Objection: But are not the Scriptures the word of God? -- And is not the word of God to be a Christian's rule? If every one should be left to his own spirit, what confusion and uncertainty would this produce!
Answer: The Scriptures are not that living Word, which is appointed by God to be the rule of a Christian; but they contain words spoken by the spirit of God, testifying of that Word, and pointing to that Word which is to be the rule. "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think to have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me; and you will not come to me that you may have life." John 5:39-40. The Scriptures are to be searched for the testimony which they give of Christ; and when that testimony is received, Christ is to be come to, and life received from him. But the Pharisees formerly, and Christians since, (I mean Christians in name only), search the Scriptures; but do not come to Christ for the life, but stick in the letter of the Scriptures, and oppose the life with the letter, keeping themselves from the life by their wisdom and knowledge in the letter. Thus they put the Scriptures into the place of Christ, and so honor neither Christ nor the Scriptures. It would have been no honor to John to have been taken for the Light; his honor was to point to it: nor is it any honor to the Scriptures to be called the Word of God; but their honor is to discover and testify of the Word. Now hear what the Scriptures call the Word; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1. "And the Word was made flesh." verse 14. This was the name of Christ, when he came into the world in the flesh, to sow his life in the world. And when he comes again into the world, out of a far country, to fight with the beast and false prophet, and to cleanse the earth of the whore's fornication and idols, by which she had corrupted it, he shall have the same name again; "his name is called the Word of God." Rev 19:13. So Peter calls that the Word of God, which lives and abides forever. 1 Pet. 1:23. And this Word that lives and abides for ever, was the Word that they preached. verse 25. And those who believed did not cry up the words that the apostles spoke for the Word; but received the thing they spoke of, "the engrafted Word;" which being received with a meek, quiet, and submissive spirit, "is able to save the soul." Jam 1:21. This is "the Word of faith" that is "near, in the heart and in the mouth." Rom. 10:8. This is the Word that stands at the door of the heart, and speaks to be let in "(Behold, I stand at the door and knock):" and when it is let in, it speaks in the heart what is to be heard and done. It is near; it is in the heart, and in the mouth; to what end? "That you might hear it, and do it." The living Word, which is "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," divides in the mouth, and divides in the heart, the vile from the precious; yes, it reaches to the very inmost of the heart, and cuts between the roots, Heb 4:12, and this you are to hear and do. You are to part with all vile words, the vile conversation, the vile course and worship of the world outwardly, and the vile thoughts and course of sin inwardly, as fast as the Word discovers them to you, and to exercise yourself in what is folly and madness to the eye of the world, and a grievous cross to your own worldly nature; yes, when the Word reaches to the very nature, life, and spirit within, from where all that comes, that strong, wise root of the fleshly life in the heart must not be spared, nor that foolish, weak thing, (to man's wise eye), which is brought instead thereof, be rejected: which, when it is received, is but like a little seed, even the least of seeds; and when it grows up, it is a long while but like a child; and yet keeping in that childishness, out of the wisdom, it enters into that kingdom which the greatest wisdom of man, (in all his zealous ways and forms of religion), falls short, and is shut out of. This is the word of life; this is the true, living rule, and way to eternal life; and this is the obedience; this is the hearing and doing of the word. "He that has an ear, let him hear." "Examine yourselves whether you are in the faith: prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you are reprobates?" 2 Cor 13:5. Are you in the faith? Then Christ is in you. Is Christ not in you? Then you are in the reprobate state, out of the faith. Is Christ in you, and shall he not hold the reins, and rule? Shall the living Word be in the heart, and not be the rule of the heart? Shall he speak in the heart, and the man or woman in whom he speaks run to the words of scripture formerly spoken, to know whether these are his words or not? No, no, his sheep know his voice (He may give you words or understandings that are not exact copies of scripture, but they will not be in conflict with scripture). Did the apostle John, who had seen and tasted and handled and preached the word of life, send Christians to his epistles, or any other part of scripture, to be their rule? No, he directed them to the anointing as a sufficient teacher.. "He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." John 7:38. He that has the fountain of life in him, issuing out rivers of living water continually, has he need to go forth to fetch in water? "The kingdom of heaven is within you," said Christ; and he says "seek the kingdom." Light the candle, sweep your own house, seek diligently for the kingdom; there it is, if you can find it. Now he that has found the kingdom within, shall he look without, into words spoken concerning the kingdom, to find the laws of the kingdom? Are not the laws of the kingdom to be found within the kingdom? Shall the kingdom be in the heart, and the laws of the kingdom written without in a book? Is not the gospel the ministration of the Spirit?* And shall he who has received the Spirit run back to the letter to be his guide? Shall the living Spirit, that gave forth the Scriptures, be present, and not have pre-eminence above his own words? What is the proper intent of the letter? Is it not to testify of the Spirit, and to end in the Spirit? The law, the prophets, John, led to Christ in the flesh; and he was to be the increasing light, when they should decrease. Christ's words in the flesh, the apostles' words afterwards, and all words since, are but to lead to Christ in the spirit, to the eternal, living substance; and when words of Christ, of the apostles, or any other words spoken from the same spirit in these days, have brought to the spirit, to the feeling and settling of the soul in the living foundation, and to the building and perfecting of the man of God within, they have attained their end and glory. But to cry up these, not understanding their voice, but keeping at a distance from the thing that they invite to: the words hereby are put out of their place, out of their proper use and service, and so attain neither their purpose nor their glory. And though man put that upon them which seems to be a greater glory, namely: to make the scriptures his rule and guide; yet, it being not a true glory, it is no glory, but a dishonor both to them and to the Spirit, who gave them for another purpose.
[The gospel says that grace (the Spirit of Christ) will show a man his sins and then removes them — repentance with release from the bondage of sin — a teaching, redeeming, purifying Spirit accessed by coming to Jesus (waiting on the Christ's Spirit to speak), with hope to hear and hope for change. This is the ministration of the Spirit - the gospel.]
Now for the other part of the objection, that if men should be left to their own spirits, and should follow the guidance of their own spirits, it would produce confusion and uncertainty. I do acknowledge it; it would do so. -- But here is no leaving of a man to his own spirit spoken of or intended, but the directing and guiding of a man to the Word and Spirit of life; to know and hear the voice of Christ, which gathers and translates man out of his own spirit into his Spirit; and here is no confusion or uncertainty; but order, certainty, and stability.
[Left to their own spirits, man has created 41,000 different sects of Christendom, all with their conflicting opinions as to what the scriptures mean; all having constructed a different gospel, different Jesus, and different God, according to their imaginations - rather than the one church called by the Spirit, taught all things including the scriptures by the Spirit, gifted by the Spirit, sent to preach by the Spirit, and given words to speak by the Spirit. There is no unity of the Spirit in Christendom beause there are 41,000 variations of an imaginary Jesus being worshipped; from the Word of the Lord within: "When they pray, they don't pray to God; they pray to their collective conscience."]
The light of God's Spirit is a certain and infallible rule, and the eye that sees that, is a certain eye; at which point man's understanding of the scriptures is uncertain and fallible; he, having not the true ear, receives such a literal, uncertain knowledge of things into his uncertain understanding, as deceives his soul. And here man, in the midst of his wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures, is lost in his own erring and uncertain mind, and his soul deceived, for want of a true root and foundation of certainty in himself. But he who has come to the true Shepherd and knows his voice, he cannot be deceived. Yes, he can read the scripture safely, and taste the true sweetness of the words that came from the life; but man who is out of the life feeds on the husks, and can receive no more [never tasting the corn]. He has gathered a dead, dry, literal, husky knowledge out of the scripture, and that he can relish; but should the life of the words and things there spoken of be opened to him, he could not receive them, he himself being out of that in which they were written, and in which alone they can be understood. But poor man having lost the life, what should he do? He can do nothing else but cry up the letter, and make as good a spin with it as he can; though in the meantime his soul starved and remains in famine and death for want of the bread of life, and a wrong thing is fed.
The Scribes and Pharisees made a great noise about the law and ordinances of Moses, exclaiming against Christ and his disciples as breakers and profaners of them; yet they themselves did not truly honor the law and ordinances of Moses, instead inserting their own doctrines, commandments, and traditions. So those now who make a great noise about the Scriptures, and about the institutions of the apostles, do not honor the Scriptures, or the institutions of the apostles; instead they honor their own meanings, their own conceivings, their own inventions and imaginations thereupon. They run to the Scriptures with an understanding that is out of the truth; and which never shall be let into the truth; and so being not able to reach and comprehend the truth as it is, they study, they invent, they imagine a meaning; they form a likeness, a similitude of the truth as near as they can, and this must go for the truth; and this they honor and bow before as the will of God; which being not the will of God, but a likeness of their own inventing and forming, they worship not God, they honor not the Scriptures, but they honor and worship the works of their own brain.* And every scripture which man has thus formed a meaning out of, and has not read in the true and living light of God's eternal Spirit, he has made an image by, he has made an idol of; and the respect and honor he gives this meaning, are not a respect and honor given to God, but to his own image, to his own idol. Oh, how many are your idols, you Christians of England, as you think yourselves to be! How many are your idols, you gathered churches! How full of images and idols are you, you spiritual notionists, who have run from one thing to another, with the same mind and spirit by which you began at first! But the founder of images has never been discovered and destroyed in you, and so he is still at work among you all; and great will your sorrow and distress be, when the Lord's quick eye searches him out, and reveals his just wrath against him.
*[Each sect in Christendom worships their own collective spirit, which has created and defined their Christ.]
In my heart and soul I honor the Scriptures, and long to read them throughout with the pure eye, and in the pure light of the living Spirit of God; but may the Lord preserve me from reading one line of them in my own will, or interpreting any part of them according to my own understanding, but only as I am guided, led, and enlightened by him, in the will and understanding which come from him. And here all scripture, every writing of God's Spirit, which is from the breath of his life, is profitable to build up and complete the man of God; but the instructions, the reproofs, the observations, the rules, the grounds of hope and comfort, or whatever else which man gathers out of the Scriptures, (he himself being out of the life), have not the true profit, nor build up the true thing; but both the gatherings and the gatherer are for destruction. And the Lord will ease the Scripture, of the burden of man's formings and invention from it, and recover its honor again, by the living presence and power of that Spirit that wrote it; and then it shall be no longer abused and wrested by man's earthly and unlearned mind, but, in the hands of the Spirit, come to its true use and service to the seed, and to the world.
2. The true worship was lost.
The true worship of God in the gospel is in the Spirit. "The hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeks such to worship him." John 4:23. The true worship is in the spirit, and in the truth, and the true worshippers worship there; and such worshippers the Father seeks, and such worship he accepts; but all other worship is false worship, and all other worshippers are false worshippers; such worshippers as God seeks not, nor can accept their worship. Did God refuse Cain's sacrifice formerly? Can he accept any sacrifice or worship now that is offered in that same nature? Why, he that worships out of the Spirit, he worships in Cain's nature; but he that worships correctly, must have his nature changed, and must worship in that thing in which he is changed, in that faith, in that life, in that nature, in that Spirit by which and to what he is changed. For without being in this [true faith], and keeping in this, it is impossible to please God in anything. He that is the true worshipper is a believer, and in his worship he must keep to his rule, the law of faith, the law of the Spirit of Life in him, the law which he receives by faith fresh from the Spirit of Life continually. He must hear and observe the voice of the living Word in all his worship, and worship in the presence and power and guidance of that, as that moves, and as that carries on, or God is not worshipped in the Spirit. I shall instance only in prayer. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." Eph 6:18. Mark: all prayer and supplication must be in the Spirit; yes, it must be always in the Spirit, which speaks in the heart to God, and makes the intercession, or it is no prayer. If a man speaks ever so much from his own spirit, with ever so much earnestness and affection, yet it is no prayer, no true prayer, but only so far as the Spirit moves to it, and so far as the Spirit leads and guides in it. If a man begins without the Spirit, or goes on without the Spirit, this is out of the worship; this is in his own will, and so will-worship; and according to his own understanding, and so fleshly worship; both which are to be crucified, and not to be followed in anything under the gospel. "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit,", (here are the true worshippers, "the circumcision;" and here is the true worship, "in the Spirit;" and they have no bounds and limits in the flesh, in which their strength and confidence are broken), "and have no confidence in the flesh." If a man address himself to any worship of God without his Spirit, does he not have confidence in the flesh? If he begins without the moving of his Spirit, does he not begin in the flesh? If he goes on, without the Spirit's carrying on, does he not proceed in the strength and confidence of the flesh? But the worship of the Spirit is in its will, and in its time, and is carried on by its light and power, and keeps down the understanding and affectionate part of man, in which all the world worship, and offer up the unaccepted sacrifices, even the lame and the blind,* which God's soul hates.
*[In the Old Testament, God would not allow the lame and blind to approach the altar; the restriction is an allegory to God's repulsion of being worshipped by those who cannot see by his light and walk by his spirit.]
Now this worship, as it is out of man's will and time, and in what continues, so it is continual. There is a continual praying unto God [in the Spirit]. There is a continual blessing and praising of his name, in eating, or drinking, or whatever else is done. There is a continual bowing to the majesty of the Lord in every thought, in every word, in every action, though it be in worldly things and occasions; yet the Spirit of the Lord is seen there, and the tongue confesses him there, and the knee bows to him there. This is the true worship, and this is the rest or sabbath in which the true worshippers worship. When the creation of God is finished; when the child is formed in the light, and the life breathed into him; then God brings him forth into his holy land, where he keeps his sabbath. They who are in the faith, which is the substance of the things hoped for under the law, are come from all the shadows and types of the law, and from all the heathenish observations of days and times in the spirit of this world, where the spirit of man is hard at work, into the true sabbath, into the true rest, where they have no more to work, but God works all in them in his own time, according to his own pleasure. "We which have believed, do enter into rest." Heb 4:3. "And he that is entered into his rest, has ceased from his works, as God from his." verse 10. He that has the least taste of faith, knows a measure of rest, finding the life working in him, and his soul daily led further and further into life by the working of the life, and the heavy yoke of his own laboring after life taken off from his shoulders. Now here is the truth, here is the life, here is the sabbath, here is the worship of the soul, that is led into the truth, and preserved in the truth.
But what is the worship now in the apostasy?
Among the Papists, a very gross worship; a worship more carnal than ever the worship of the law was; for that, though in its nature it was outward and carnal, yet it was taught and prescribed by the wisdom of God, and was profitable in its place, and to its end; but this was invented by the corrupt wisdom, and set up in the corrupt will of man, and has no true profit, but keeps from the life, from the power, from the Spirit, in fleshly observations, which feed and please the fleshly nature. Look upon their days consecrated to saints, and their canonical hours of prayer, and their praying in Latin, with their fastings, feastings, saying of Hail-Mary's, Our-Fathers, Creeds, etc., are not all these from the life, out of the Spirit, and after the invention, and in the will of the flesh? Ah! their stink is greater than the flesh-pots of Egypt.
And the worship of the Protestants comes too near them for their worship is also from a fleshly principle, and in their own times and wills, and according to their own understanding and apprehension of things, and not from the rising up and guidance of the infallible life of the Spirit in them; for that they will quench. They also observe days and times, and perishing ordinances, and have not come out of the flesh, into that Spirit where the worship is to be known, and to be in.
3. The faith, the true faith, was lost.
The faith which gives victory over the world; the faith which feeds the life of the just, and slays the unjust; the faith which is pure, the mystery of which is held in a pure conscience; the faith which gives entrance into the rest of God; the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; this has been lost, and is not yet to be found among those who call themselves Christians.
For those who challenge the name of Christians, and say they believe in Christ, and have faith in him, cannot with their faith overcome the world; but are daily overcome by the world. Where is there a Christian, but he is either in the honors, or in the fashions, or in the customs, or in the worships of the world, if not in them all? He is so far from overcoming these, that he is overcome with them; yes, so overcome, so drunk with them [the honors, fashions, customs, and worships of the world], that he has even lost his senses, and thinks he may be a Christian, and in a good state while he is there.
And the life of the just is not fed by their faith, but the unjust nature is fed, and the righteous witness, which is raised up and lives by the true faith, is kept down, and cannot bring forth his life in them, because of their unbelief; for that is the proper name of their faith; for being not true faith, it is not faith, but unbelief.
And the faith of Christians, (so called), is not a mystery, (they know not the mystery of it, which is held in a pure conscience), but consists in believing an historical relation, and in a fleshly improving of that, and can be held in an impure conscience.
Neither have they entered into rest by their faith; for they know not the sabbath in the Lord, but are still in a shadowy sabbath.
Neither is it the substance of what they hope for; but the substance of what they hope for is strange to them. They have not come to "Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to the innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, to God the Judge, Christ the Mediator, and the blood of sprinkling," and so to unity and certainty in the life; but are in opinions, ways, and practices suitable to the earthly spirit; which may easily be shaken, and must be shaken down to the ground, if ever they know the building of God, and the true faith.
4. The love, the true love, was lost.
The innocent love, which thinks no ill, nor wishes no ill, much less can do any ill to any; but suffers long, and is kind, meek, humble, not seeking its own, but the good of others; this love is lost. The love unfeigned is banished; a feigned love, such a love that enmity and violence proceed from, is gotten in the place of it. The true love loves the enemy, and cannot return enmity for enmity, but seeks the good of them who hate it; but this love can persecute and hate what it calls the friend, no, even the brother, because of some difference in opinion or practice. The love that was in Christ, taught him to lay down his life for his sheep; and he that has the same love, can lay down his life for his brother. But the love that is now among Christians tends rather to the taking away of life.
What is the love among the Papists? See their inquisitions, their wraths, their fire and faggot, etc.
What is their love in New England? Is it not a love that can imprison or banish their brother, if he differs but a little from them in judgment or practice about their worship? Yes, they can whip, burn in the hand, cut off ears, just like the bishops of Old England. If one had told them, when they fled from the persecution of the bishops here, that they themselves should have done such things, they would have been likely to reply, with Hazael. What! are we dogs? But they fled from the cross, which would have crucified that persecuting spirit, and so carried it alive with them; and being alive, it grew by degrees to as great a head there, as it did in the bishops here.
[Penington speaks of the Puritans, persecuted in England, fleeing to Boston, and then later viciously persecuting the Quakers, including hanging three men and one woman.]
And what is the love here in Old England? Is it not a love that whips, stocks, imprisons, stones, jeers? Yes, the very teachers, (who should be patterns of love to others), they will cast into prison, and seize the goods of their brother, even almost to his undoing, for maintenance [tithes of money and farm produce], according to the law of the land made in the apostasy. See the Record of Sufferings for Tithes in England, which may make any tender heart bleed to read it, and is likely to lie as a brand of infamy on the magistracy and ministry of England to succeeding generations. Is this the love of the righteous seed? Or is it Cain's love, which is in profession, in word, in show, but not in deed and in truth? How can these [pretending to love others] love God? No, if the true love of God were in them, this enmity could not stand, nor such fruits of it shoot forth. But they have not seen the Father or the Son. And that life of them which appears in the earth, the evil spirit in man seeks to destroy, that he may keep up his own image and shadow of life, which the nature of the true life in its appearance fights against. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." -- And by this may all men know, that those who now appear to be Christians are not Christ's disciples, in that they do not love one another. They are not at unity in the light, and so cannot love one another there; but are only in unity in forms, in opinions, in professions, in practices; so any difference there stirs up the enmity, causing risings in the heart against them at least, if it proceed not further. The true love grows from true union and fellowship in the light; where that is not known, there cannot be true love in the Spirit, but a feigned love in the flesh.
5. The true hope, joy, and peace are lost.
The true ground of hope is Christ in the heart, and the true hope is that hope which arises from this ground, from the feeling of Christ there; "Christ in you the hope of glory." Col 1:27. What is the true Christian's hope? It is Christ in him; he "has eternal life abiding in him;" and he knows that cannot but lead to glory. But what is the common Christian's hope? He fastens his hope upon the relation and his belief of a history. "He that believes shall be saved." I believe; therefore I shall be saved. -- And thus, as he has gotten up a wrong faith, and a wrong love, so he gets up a wrong hope. And this hope will perish; for it is the hope of the hypocrite, or a hope in the hypocritical nature, which complies with scripture words, but is not in union with God, nor with the life of the scriptures; and so being without the anchor, is tossed in the waves of the sea.
And the true joy is in the Spirit, from what is felt, and enjoyed, and hoped for there. But the common Christian's joy is from things which he gathers into and comprehends in his understanding; or from flashes which he feels in the affectionate part, from a fire and sparks of his own kindling,* from where he takes his warmth and comfort.
*[He works himself up into fleshly zeal and an emotional pitch, and mistakes those for the joy of the Lord.]
And the true peace stands in the reconciliation with God, by having that broken down which causes the wrath, and to which the wrath is, wherever it is found. The Lamb of God breaks down the wall of separation in the heart; the blood of Jesus, in which is the life, cleanses away the sin there, makes the heart pure, unites the pure heart to the pure God. Here is union, here is fellowship, here is peace; but the common Christian's peace is from a misunderstanding of scriptures, while the wall of separation is standing, while wickedness lodges in the heart. They reason themselves, from scripture words, into an belief that God is at peace with them, and that they are in union with him; while that of God which is in them, witnesses against them, and checks them, and wars with them; and they are not one with it, and cannot be, in that nature and understanding in which their life lies, to which belongs no peace.
*[Peace is quietness and confident assurance forever. Quietness, means your mind is quiet; not rushing around plotting, planning, worrying, doubting, etc.]
6. The true repentance, conversion, and regeneration have been lost.
The true repentance is from dead works,* and from the dead principle where all the dead works proceed: but these have not been repented of, but cherished in the apostasy. The praying, the striving, the worshipping, the fighting, have been from the dead principle. The building up and whole exercise of religion in the apostasy, have been in that understanding which is to be destroyed; and the will, which should have been crucified, has been pleased and fed with its religion.
*[Dead works are any works not prompted by or ordered by the Holy Spirit. Dead works are all actions by men without the Life of God, who are still like Adam, cut off from the life of God, and so dead, performing dead works according to their imagination, pride, and lusts.]
The true conversion is from the power of Satan to God, from the darkness to the light: but in the apostasy, men have not known God or Satan, the light or the darkness; but have mistook, taking the one for the other, worshipping the devil instead of God,* and following the dark conceivings of their own and other men's minds concerning scripture, and calling them light.
*[Worshipping the devil, who they think is God; their defined God, who doesn't care if they keep sinning until death, who doesn't care if they worship him without the Spirit of God providing the words and promptings, etc.]
Regeneration is a changing of man, by which the birth is born of the Spirit; the stripping of the creature of its own nature, of its own understanding, of its own will, and forming it anew in the womb of the Spirit; so that the old creature is passed away, and comes forth a new thing, which grows up daily in the new life towards the fullness of Christ. But men have been so far from being born of the Spirit, that they have not so much as known the gift of the Spirit in them; but to this day are enemies, and at a distance from that of God in them, which is pure. And if they could only open their eyes, they would see that their birth is fleshly, and consists, at best, but in a such a conformity to the letter, as the old nature may imitate and attain; but the immortal seed is not sprung up in them, nor they dead to the mortal, nor alive to the immortal.
7. The true wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption are lost.
The true wisdom stands in the fear of God, and departing from evil: this those that are taught of God learn, and thereby are made wise unto salvation. But most who are called Christians have not come to the fear of God; and many have gotten above it, looking upon it as legal, and not pertaining to the gospel; but the gospel state is [perfect] love, which casts out fear. Does the love of God refuse or cast out the fear of God? No: it casts out the fear that brings bondage; the fear that came in by transgression; which fear is stirred up, and discovered by the law. And this is a fear of sin, or a fear arising from sin, through the law's manifestation of it, and the wrath against it, which causes both the fear, and much bondage from the fear; and this the gospel, (which discovers the love, the mercy, the grace, the power, and unites to them), frees from, and casts out. But then there is a fear of God; a fear wrought in the heart by his Spirit; a fear which is part of the new covenant, ("I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me"); a fear which is part of the "everlasting gospel,", and "endures forever." Psa 19:9. And this fear is not bondage, but liberty; it is indeed bondage to the unjust, but liberty to the just; for where this fear is, sin is departed from; it sets free; it delivers the feet out of the snare of iniquity; there is true liberty. Can sin prevail in that heart, where the pure, clean fear of God is placed by God to keep it down? The love of God does not cast out this fear, but keeps in this fear;* and this fear keeps the heart clean from the evil which defiles, and preserves the love from the enmity, which springs up where this fear is not. Now this fear, in the apostasy, was lost, or else what needed there an special ministry to be raised up to preach it again. Rev 14:6-7. And the estate of Christians everywhere does manifest this loss; for their hearts are not kept clean, which shows that the fear, (which does keep clean where it is), is lacking in them. There is pollution, there is filth, there is deceit, there are high-mindedness, self-conceitedness, and love of the world, and worldly vanities, and many other evils to be found in the hearts of those that go for Christians; and the purity of heart, (which comes from the fear, and stands in the wisdom), is not known. They are wise to do evil; but lack the knowledge to avoid the evil, and do the good. They are wise to get and enjoy the world; but know not the true riches. They are wise to gather together many scripture words against sin, and yet still keep the nature and life of it in the heart, and it is as a sweet morsel under the tongue. They are wise to apply promises to comfort themselves with, (when sometimes they receive a just wound in their hearts from the righteous One); but know not that nature, nor that estate and condition, to which all the promises are made; but are yet in that nature, and in that estate and condition, to which the curse appertains.
*[After the Lord has shown you the evil in your heart and life, and after you have departed from evil, and hate evil, and shun evil, you will eventually be filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, including God's love. Then love will have been perfected in us. Then you will know no fear, because perfect love expels all fear; and your conscience will be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, purging even the memory of your guilt, so you can served the living God. You will have boldness in the day of judgment. But you will still reverence God with awe of his power and glory; as George Fox said regarding godly fear - "To fear God, is not to grieve nor offend Him, but to be subject to Him and reverence Him."]
The true righteousness stands in the faith, in hearing and obeying the word of faith. How does the righteousness of the law come, but by hearing and obeying the voice of the law? And how comes the righteousness of the gospel, but by hearing and obeying the Word of faith, who [Christ, the word of God in your heart] is preached, and the preacher [Christ, the word of God in your heart] of righteousness, in the heart? The Apostle Paul makes this comparison. Rom 10. The righteousness of the law speaks on this wise, "The man that does these things, shall live in them." But how speaks the Word of faith? "The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart;" he that does that, he that hears that, shall live in that. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live." Disobedience to the law is unrighteousness, and brings death; and disobedience to the living Word is unrighteousness, and cannot be justified, but condemned; and obedience to it cannot be condemned, but justified. So that when the soul hears, believes, and obeys, then it is justified;* then its former sins are forgotten, and this is imputed to it unto righteousness. But when the soul will not hear, will not believe, will not obey, this unbelief is judged in him, and his sins retained, and not remitted. Now is not this a just and equal way of justification, Oh you sons of men! Is not your way unequal? Shall a man continue in the unbelief and rebellion against Christ, against the light, against the faith, and yet be justified by Christ, by the light, by the faith? This cannot be; God's way of imputation will stand; but man's invented way of imputation, which sprung up in the apostasy, will not stand. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, the blood cleanses; but not otherwise. If we walk after the Spirit, and not after the flesh, there is no condemnation; and not otherwise. The true baptism is the plunging down of the old thing, with all its filth, and the raising up of a new thing; and it is the new thing, the circumcision, the baptism, which is justified. God justifies his Son, and man only so far as he is found in his Son.
*[the soul is justified by hearing, believing, and obeying — but this is not a one-time hearing event; it is a repetitive process, requiring persistence to the end, when you see Christ bring your salvation. Justification, purification, perfection, sanctification, and salvation all occur simultaneously.]
The true sanctification consists in the growth of the seed, and its spreading, like a leaven, over the heart, and over the whole man. By faith Christ is formed in the heart; the hidden man in the mystery is formed there; and as this seed, this leaven, this man grows, so he makes the man holy in whom he grows. The seed of life, the kingdom of heaven, is a holy thing; and as it grows and spreads, it purges out the old leaven, and makes the lump new; but now, in Christians that have grown up in the apostasy, this seed is not known, this leaven is not so much as discerned; but their holiness consists in a conformity to rules of scripture, received into the old heart and understanding. And what a noise has this made in the world, all this night of the apostasy! as if this were the heir, and should inherit the kingdom. No, no; the heir has appeared,,(by whose presence it is seen, that this is not the heir), and you shall not be able to kill him; but he shall live to enjoy his inheritance, and the inheritance shall not be yours.
Redemption consists in being bought, by the price of the life, out of sin, out of death, out of the earth, out of the power of the devil. It is a casting off the strong man out of the heart, with all that he brought in, and a delivering from his power. It is a dissolving of the work of sin, which the devil has wrought in the heart, and a setting the soul, which is immortal, at liberty, free from sin, and free unto righteousness; this is the true redemption. But this redemption in the apostasy is a feigned redemption, in which salvation from sin, and the devil, and his power, is not felt; but the strong man is still in the heart, and keeps the soul in death, and brings forth fruits of death daily.
The Christians formerly, (in the first day [the church the Apostles] of the breaking forth of God's power), had Christ in them, the living Word; they opened their hearts to him, received him in, felt him there, found him made of God to them, their wisdom, their righteousness, their sanctification, their redemption. They had the thing that these words signify and speak of, and knew the meaning of the words by feeling of the thing. But Christians now, in the apostasy, have gotten several apprehensions from the words, without feeling the thing the words speak of;* and there lies their religion. -- And now the true heir being come, holding forth the thing they have been all talking of, all sects upon the earth are mad against him, and would willingly kill him. They would not have the living substance, which is the heir, live, and nothing be esteemed life but that; but they would have their dead apprehensions from the words live, and their dead forms and practices owned; and the heir of life must come in their way, in the way that they have hoped and waited for him, or they will not own him. Awake! awake! Oh you sons of the apostasy, and of the night! rise up out of the fleshly wisdom, out of the dead fleshly interpretations of scriptures, out of the dead invented forms of worship, and bow to the heir; kiss the Son, lest you feel the force of that dreadful sentence, "Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring here, and slay them before me." For of a truth the great Prophet is risen, and speaks in the heart, and his sheep hear his voice, (there are many faithful witnesses thereof); and he that will not hear his voice, must be cut off; there is no avoiding of it; for the two-edged sword is in his hand, and he will cut down the transgressor.
*[From the Word of God within the heart: "Salvation is not expectation. Salvation is to be delivered from sin. Your past evidences are a failure. Witness salvation. Make every effort, for the days are few. Saved by grace; but what about the rest of that chapter? You have not experienced grace until you have been raised with Him. Changing grace is alive in those who are confident."]
8. The church, the true church, was lost.
The true church was a company gathered out of the world into God, begotten of, and gathered into his life by the living Word, and so had a true place and habitation in God. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, styles them a church in God. A church under the gospel is made up of true Israelites, gathered out of their own spirits and nature into the measure of the Spirit of God in them, as Christ was into the fullness They are such as are begotten of God, born of his Spirit, led by him out of Egypt, through the wilderness, to Zion the holy mount; there they meet with the elect, precious corner-stone which is laid in Zion; and they, being living stones, are built upon it into Jerusalem the holy city. . . This is the true church. Everyone that believes in Christ* is a living stone; and being a living stone, he is laid upon the living foundation, and so is a part of the building in the temple of the living God. Yes, his body and spirit being cleansed, he himself is a temple in which God dwells, appears, and is worshipped. And the gathering of any of these together at anytime in the life, in the name of Christ, is a larger temple, and such a temple as Christ never fails to be in the midst of. But the great temple, the full church, is the general assembly of the first-born. This is the unerring pillar and ground of truth: this always bore up truth; truth never failed here; but when it was at anytime lost in the world, it might from here be recovered again when God pleased, and as far as he pleased. Indeed the law of the Lord has always gone forth from this Zion, and the living word from this Jerusalem.
*[To believe in Christ means to be a new creature, dead to sin, raised to union in him, to sit with him in the heavens, and him being their true Lord, controlling their thoughts, words and deeds. The apostasy has changed this definition to become, a belief in the record of Christ in the scriptures to be true
But what has the church been in the apostasy? A building of stone, say some; and that not only among Papists, but here in England also. Many have called the old mass-house a church, a temple, the house of God, pleading for it to be a holy place; and have showed it by their practices, keeping off their hats while they were in it.
Others say, not the stone building, but the people that meet there, are the church; of which many are openly profane; yes, so far from being gathered into the Spirit, and so ignorant of his motions, that they are ready to scoff, if they hear a man speak of being moved by the Spirit. What are these? Are these living stones, whereupon the true church alone can be built? Are these children of the day? No, these are children of the night; children brought up in the apostasy from the true light, the true life, the true rule of Christianity, the true worship, the true faith, the true love, etc., and so are dead stones in that building; but not true living stones in God's building.
Other sorts separate from these, and gather congregations out of these; but still in the same spirit, in the same nature, being not themselves gathered out of the apostasy from the Spirit, into the Spirit again; and so they build but with the same stones as were in the old building, and not with the new and living stones, and so are but a more refined appearance of a church; but not a true church, not a church in God, and by the gathering of his Spirit; but of their own gathering, after a form, according as they have imagined from their reading and studying of the Scriptures.
9. The ministry, the true ministry, has been lost.
The true ministry was a ministry made and appointed by the Spirit, by the gift of the Spirit bestowed on them, and by the Spirit sending of them, and appointing them to their work. Christ told his apostles and disciples wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the [power of the] Spirit, and when he had given them the Spirit, he gave them to the church for the work of the ministry. Eph 4:11-12. Acts 20:28. And if none can be a member of the true church but by being begotten out of death into life by the Spirit, surely none can be able to minister to him who is so begotten, but by the same Spirit. So these receiving their ministry of the Lord Jesus, . and the gift of the Spirit from him, they were made "able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit." 2 Cor 3:6. They were able in God to minister from his Spirit to the spirits of his people; and they did not minister a literal knowledge of things to the understanding of man; but they led men to the Spirit of God, and ministered spiritual things to that spiritual understanding which was given them of God. Neither did they make use of their own wisdom and are to tickle the natural ear; but spoke to the conscience, with the demonstration of the Spirit in the sight of God, as it pleased the Spirit to give them utterance.
But how have ministers been made in the apostasy? By orders from men, set up in their own wills, after their own inventions. And how have they been qualified, but by human arts and languages, which have been of high esteem in what men call the church, since the language and skill of the Spirit of God have been lost. God, who chose in his own church, does not choose here who shall be his ministers; but any man can appoint his son to be a minister, if he will but educate him in learning, and send him to the university, and so bring him into that way of order in which men make ministers, and then he is able to minister unto man the things of man, according to human skill; and this, in the dark night of apostasy, must go for a true call to the ministry of God. Indeed, they are as true ministers as the church is to which they minister; but they never were, nor ever can be, thus made ministers of the church of God: but as God alone can form and build his church, so he alone can fit and appoint the ministers thereof. And though others, having seen the grossness of this, make their ministers by a call in their church [the Independents, not depending on their church hierarchy to appoint their minister]; yet neither is that out of the apostasy, but only a striving of man to get out of it; which man cannot possibly do until he meets with the Spirit of God to lead out of it. So that such [congregation appointed] ministry also is but an invention of man made by man, and comes not from the Spirit, nor is able to minister spirit to the spirit.
Objection: But hasn't there been no true religion since the days of the apostles? No true rule, no true worship, no true faith, no true love, no true hope, joy, or peace! no true repentance, conversion, and regeneration! no true wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption! no true church, no true ministry! What is become of all our forefathers? Did they all perish? And has not this ministry converted many to God? Were not you yourselves converted by it? No, have not many of them been martyrs, and witnessed to the truth of God? And though some of them are bad, yet are not many of them zealous and conscientious preachers of the word at this day? (By such reasonings as these, the wisdom of man much strengthens and hardens itself against the truth.)
Answer: The rule in nations, the worship in nations, the faith, love, hope, joy, peace, repentance, conversion, regeneration, etc., which have been cried up in nations for the truth, the churches in nations, the ministry in nations, all these have been corrupted, and never recovered their true state to this day. There have been changes from one thing to another; but the restoration has not been known. The whorish spirit has been hunted and pursued, and so run out of one form into another, traversing her way, and changing her ground and garments; but has not been taken and judged to the death. The true spirit has not been able to find the bed of her husband; but has wandered from mountain to hill all the time of this cloudy and dark day, forgetting her resting place.
Yes, though the whole earth was corrupted, and false doctrine and worship set up everywhere among the nations, which continued the fornication and whoredom from the Spirit of life in the public ways and national worships; notwithstanding this, even all this while God reserved a seed to himself, which he caused to spring up in a remnant, and which he moved and carried on to witness against somewhat of these corruptions, in their several ages and generations. And as fast as the beast killed and knocked down these, God raised up more. Yes, though the whorish spirit, in some nations, painted herself curiously, leaving some of the gross doctrines and worships of popery, and have gotten into a more refined way; yet God raised up witnesses against her there also, and still does, into whatever form she gets. Although she has lately decked herself very pleasingly, as she thinks, and covered herself round with scripture words and professions and practices as like as ever she can form them to the practices of former saints; yet quick and lively is the Spirit of God that searches after her, who has found her out, and raised up witnesses against her there also.
Now this seed, this remnant, though they were not able to recover the possession of the life and power that was lost; yet they had a true taste of it, and their testimony which they gave out from that taste was true; and so far as they kept to this testimony in the faith and in the patience which they had learned and received from God, (though but in a low measure), they were accepted of him. So that all were not lost in this night of darkness; but such as feared God, and knew and listened to his voice, had the testimony of his presence with them, and tasted of his life and power in measure. God was not a hard master to them; but tender and gentle, and contented to reap what he sowed. But the appearance of God in this dark time was weak and low, and easy to be made a prey of. And this is very observable, so that long as the simplicity ran pure, it was preserved; but so soon as ever the spirit of man was tempted either into any old, or into any new-invented form, the wisdom of the flesh got in with it, grew up more than it, and when it had gathered strength, corrupted the vessel, betrayed the simplicity, and lost the life. There was a precious thing stirring in queen Mary's days, the life of which was more hurt and suppressed by that dead form of Episcopacy succeeding afterwards, than by the subsequent persecution. The persecution did clear and brighten it; but the fleshly form of Episcopacy brought death over it. Thus many precious beginnings and buddings-forth of the life have been betrayed in these late days; and the forms of Presbytery, Independency, and Anabaptism, have been little less than graves to bury and keep down the life. How many spirits, that had a precious savor in them at their entrance into those forms, did soon become fleshly, earthly, and very unsavory, losing the quickness and freshness that were in them before, and falling into the deadness of the form, withering with it.
*[Make no mistake; you cannot stay in the false church, thinking to reform it or help others there.
From the Word of the Lord within:
"Just like Judaism was taken over by the enemy, so has Christianity, which is corrupt, through and through. Like Daniel, you are captive of the Chaldeans. Your place of worship is filled with unclean birds. Babylon is great and mighty. Your heart cannot reach those who wonder after the beast. Woe to those who try to bring good from evil. Oh Christendom, be not at ease in Babylon!" ]
As touching the ministry, though in itself it was evil, being in the degeneration from the true ministry all this time of the apostasy, and the persons with that, for the most part, very corrupt, being brought up to it as a trade, and making use of it as a trade; yet I do believe that there was a simplicity of heart in some persons among them,* which did cause them, in some degree of faithfulness, to seek the Lord, his service, and the good of souls. And in the time of ignorance and darkness, it pleased God to wink at and overlook the evil, and to cause good to pass from the good in them to the good in others, through the evil that hung about both. And this was the great tenderness of the Lord, in pity to his poor creatures, who were very destitute of help in the thick night of darkness, and should not now be made use of to justify and keep up the evil. Do you thus requite the Lord, Oh foolish people and unkind! because his mercy and goodness extended to you, notwithstanding the evil which might have hindered, will you make that an argument to keep up the evil, and to oppose the light which discovers it? Because God caused light to shine through the darkness, and visited man in the dark, will you therefore set up the darkness as his proper way of ministration? The corrupt way, call, and exercise of the corrupt ministry could not keep out the tender love of God; but he had respect to the simplicity of some who were found in it, and to the simplicity of others who waited on him for instruction there, and did please to give some answer to both. And will you make this ungenerous use of it, to interpret it as his approbation of that ministry, which sprung up in the apostasy from him, among those that were apostatized, and is a great dishonor to him, and the abhorring of his soul? A ministry of Christ, a ministry set up by his Spirit, is precious; but a ministry made by man, according to his will, and ministering in his wisdom, the soul of the Lord bears as a burden, and is pressed with it; and as he raises up his own life, will ease himself of it. And what do they minister from, but the literal part of the Scriptures, which kills, and cannot give life. And what do they minister with, but their own understanding part; what meanings they can invent, what deductions their wisdom can draw from the Scriptures; but do not see the true meaning in the infallible and unerring light: and what do they minister to, but the understanding part in you? Whereas there is somewhat else to be ministered to by the true minister. And what do they minister to you, but food for the understanding; food for the serpentine wisdom, which always fed upon knowledge, but never upon the true bread. And hereby another thing is fed in you, and not your souls; but they are kept in leanness and barrenness, under death and the bondage of corruption, (which Paul cried out upon as a wretched state, and could find no ease, rest, or freedom from condemnation there), and without the true life and redemption. I do not deny but you may there meet with some kind of warmth in the affectionate part, which may be heated by a fire and sparks of man's kindling and blowing up; and this may go for life with you now: but in the presence of the truth, where the eye is open, it vanishes; yes, the Spirit of the Lord has so blown upon it, that it is even withered in the sight of a more inferior eye in many people.
*[Penington chooses to "believe" there were good intentioned false ministers in his day, and so did this site editor previously have the same opinion; but the Lord has told me that not one has good intentions. The Lord knows because He quietly, anonymously speaks to every man, pleading with them to depart from evil. Men can choose to ignore the truth of those pleadings so they can pursue their own evil intentions. Before Saul's Damascus Road experience, the Lord had been pleading with Paul; but Paul was kicking against the pricks of conscience."
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks of your conscience,' [trying to warn you to stop your murderous persecutions]. Acts 26:14
Those pricks of the conscience, left ignored, will eventually result in a conscience that is seared, as Paul told Timothy: speaking lies with hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron. Paul called such, ministers of Satan, masquerading as ministers of righteousness. Yet these self-appointed ministers of Satan are often deceived to believe they are Christ's, even though Christ never called them, never trained them, never perfected them, never authorized them, did not send them to the harvest, or gift them with the ministry, of which all true ministers' sole purpose for the perfection of the saints. Eph 4:11-13. Satan's ministers will deny perfection is even possible, denying the same scriptures they claim to be their rule and guide.]
That there is to be a recovery,
a true recovery, out of this state of apostasy,
into the true state of Christianity again.
GOD will not let the desolations of Zion remain forever; but he will again "build up Zion, and appear in his glory." He will set his "king upon his holy hill of Zion. The new Jerusalem shall again come down from heaven. The man-child," which was taken up, "shall come down again, conquering, and to conquer; and the Lamb shall get the victory" over the whore, and over all her apostatized nations and churches, that have a name and not the life; and he shall "rule them with a rod of iron," and make them a desolation which have made his holy city desolate, and trampled them down which have trampled upon it. "The lofty city he will lay low; he will lay it low, even to the ground: he will bring it even to the dust; the foot shall tread it down, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy." The whore shall be judged, with the beast whereupon she rode. The life, which they trod upon, shall rise up in the mighty power of the Lord, and overturn them. "The everlasting gospel shall be again preached to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation and kindred and tongue and people." . Mark: the gospel that was preached to the nations all the time of the apostasy, was not the everlasting gospel; that gospel did not bring life and immortality to light; but they were hidden from men's eyes, and men had only a sound of words instead of the thing. And thus poor nations, kindreds, people, tongues, were everywhere bewitched with a form of things; with an outward knowledge, a perishing knowledge in the perishing part; a vain, traditional, invented worship, which stands in the wisdom and will of man; but had no union and fellowship with what is everlasting. And thus all the nations, in the smoke of the bottomless pit, ran into the pit from where the smoke came. But the Lord has a time to pity the poor nations, and to send forth his true everlasting gospel again, to deliver the nations from that witchery and sorcery and spiritual enchantment which got up in the dark. And as this everlasting light springs up, then down goes Babylon; down go all invented doctrines, all invented forms, all invented worships, and that wisdom and evil spirit that raised them up. "Babylon is fallen, is fallen! that great city! because she made all nations drunk of the wine of the cup of her fornication." . And now the new wine of the kingdom, which is tasted of in the everlasting gospel, purges out the old wine; and the drunkenness which thereby came upon the nations. And those who have tasted of this life, and know this life, can never be bewitched back again by the whorish spirit, to dead forms and likenesses without life. No, when Babylon falls, she can rise no more. Though the life falls often, it can rise again; but when the witchery from the life is discovered and cast into the pit, it can get out no more. Indeed the beast has had all the strength of the nations, and the whore has had all the wisdom, all the esteem, all the honor. -- Who can make war with the beast? Who can show miracles and wonders like the false prophets? Who can teach, but the wise, learned, orthodox men, that have the arts, and know the original [Latin, Greek, Hebrew]? Yes, there is another that can make war, and a prophet that can preach better than they; one that can preach life; one that can preach the everlasting gospel, and knows the original of it; one that is wiser and stronger than the whore, and by his wisdom and strength is able to judge her, and cast her out of the nations, though she has gotten very strong possession. . Now learn wisdom; "know the parable of the fig-tree;" come to the life that is arisen, and abide not in the death that is passed and passing away. You have heard the voice of the whore, you have drunk of her cup, you have been bewitched, you have set up her inventions; but have wanted the thing which cannot be invented, and which the invented understanding cannot comprehend. But if the force of the wine shall remain upon you, so that you cannot seek after, or let in, what is everlasting, assure yourselves, as the life rises, you will meet with plagues and wraths from it, instead of the refreshments it brings to others; and know what it is to sit down under the dead talk of, without feeling, the living power of redemption. Therefore be wise, and know the times and seasons. That will not be borne with now, which was borne with formerly; but as the love and power of God to salvation have more appeared, so the severity against those who now resist will appear more also; and death shall have its sting, which those who will love darkness, and hate the light, shall feel.
That those who are in those things which have been set up in the times of the apostasy, are not yet come to the recovery from the apostasy.
Those who are in the doctrines and bodies of divinity which have been formed since, are not in the true doctrine.
Those who are in the rules of life which wise church-men or synods or councils have given, or which they themselves have gathered by their industry out of the Scriptures, are not in the true, living, and everlasting rule. Those who are in the worship, or under the ministry, or of any church which has been set up since by the power of man, or from the inventing wisdom, (though this wisdom has founded its inventions upon the Scriptures), are not in the true worship, in the true church, or under the true ministry. Those who are in the faith, which has since been gathered into the understanding, and did not spring up from the mystery of life in the heart, are not in the true faith. The same may be said of love, hope, joy, peace, and all the rest mentioned before; yes, and all other things in religion; for all have been corrupted, even the inward part. And while here has been a great contention about the forms of worship and church-government, the power of godliness, and the government of Christ in the heart, have been lost.
Observe diligently what we have now to say. When the apostles, who had the true ministry, preached the gospel, they stirred and raised up the power of God in the heart; and the power of sin, corruption, and deceit sunk down, and was under foot, and trampled upon by the power. But when antichrist and the false prophets arose, they raised up the corruption again, and fed it with doctrines of deceit; but the power sunk down, and was not felt, but was buried all that time of the prevailing of the corruption and deceit. Now the power was not lost all this while in itself; but only lost to man, so that he knew not where to find it. Yet this power, in this time of loss, did stir and move, and make them in some degree sensible of the loss, causing them to pant and seek after the living truth. And this was good; this was of God. But then there was an evil spirit, which was near to the good, and lay lurking in the serpentine wisdom of the heart, and that drew the mind, (which was bent towards the seeking of a right thing), a wrong way, that cried, Lo here! lo there! look into the Scriptures; the church was so and so; go, get into such a thing; the Christians there did so and so; go, do such a thing; there is the way; there you shall meet with the life and the power. And thus it drew from what stirred within, into an imitation of a form without, and there they came to a loss. I dare appeal to all honest hearts, was there not a good thing stirring in you, when you went into your church forms? Were you not led in simplicity, hoping to meet with life and power there? No, did you not lose it there, and become deader? Did you meet with the life and power there? I know, if you have not forgotten the taste of life, you will confess to me, that what now you have is not life, but far short of what you had when you entered into your form. Ah! poor hearts, the whore bewitched you. The harlot in your bosoms, and the false prophets without, helped to increase the witchery, crying Lo here! and lo there! but you knew not that the kingdom of heaven was within, from where that stirring of life was in you, where you should have kept, and not have gone forth; but now you are dead, and buried in your graves, lying there without sense, and are now gotten into the spirit of the world, and into the enmity against that life in others, which was then your life. And do you know where you are, and what you are doing? Can you bear to hear it?
Of a truth you are in the snare of the enemy, in the enchantment from the life, in the whore's bed, in the strumpet's bosom, and not in the bosom of our beloved. And your practices are branches of the fornication, parcels of the whoredom, inventions which have been gathered in by that understanding, and set up by that will, which whored from God. They are the effects and products of the whore's cup, which gets new dresses, new habits, new forms, new ways to cozen and deceive the simple with; but still she remains the whore; and those who are seduced by her are led into her whoredom. For when God discovers and hunts her out of one form, then she decks herself with another, perhaps more seemingly spiritual, more scripture-like, and so more likely to take with the simple heart; and then she lies in wait for the young man to entrap him again, saying, Come in here; this is the true way of God without doubt. Did not the saints meet with life here formerly? Come you here also. Here is the bed of your beloved; take your fill of life, your fill of love. And thus the poor, honest, simple heart follows her, going like a fool to the correction of the stocks, not knowing that it is for his life, until he comes to feel the loss of life. And then if she find she cannot keep him there, but fresh stirrings of life spring up in him again, and withdraw him from what had deceived him, then she paints again, and lies in wait for him again, to catch him in some more refined appearance, or in some elevated notion, or at least in the shadow of what is true. For the whore has not only are and power to invent forms and likenesses of what is true, and make idols and images of them; but it has power also given it over the outward court; so that what is found there, it can make idols and images of; what is corruptible, it can get into and corrupt, and make an enemy to that life which lived in it before it was corrupted; and when it is corrupted, then there is no more truth or life to be found there, but the idol and the idolatry.
The Apostle John, who forewarned of antichrist, and gave a mark by which it might be known; namely, by his not confessing Christ come in the flesh,* 1 John 4:3, (which he that sets up anything of the old covenant, or any invention or imitation of anything within, does not), told them also beware of idols: "Little children keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21. Now, what is an idol? The Apostle Paul said, "An idol is nothing in the world." An idol is no true thing in its place; but a false thing set up instead of the true. A false conception of God in the mind is an idol: a false church or temple is an idol: a false minister, who is not made according to the appointment of God, and by the gift of his Spirit, but came in another way, by the appointment of man, is an idol shepherd; and the worship in this church, and by this ministry, is public idolatry; and all the worship in families, which has been erected after the same manner, without the guidance of the Spirit of God, is private idolatry. Were the heathens' temples, altars, priests, sacrifices, and other inventions of theirs, (in imitation of the Jews), idolatrous? And are not the inventions of the heathenish spirit, or antichristian nature in man, are not they also idolatrous?
[Every spirit that does not confess that Christ has come in their flesh is antichrist. The correct translation is: every spirit that does not confess Jesus Christ is antichrist; which means, they must confess like Paul confessed: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Gal 2:20.]
Objection: But is praying idolatry, preaching idolatry, singing idolatry, baptizing of infants idolatry, breaking of bread idolatry?
Answer: The praying which God appointed is not idolatry. Praying in the Spirit of God, when he moves, and according to the will of God, which is only known in the Spirit, is not idolatry; but your praying in your own spirit, and at your own times, and according to your own will, (perhaps in way of imitation of the Jewish morning and evening sacrifices), this is idolatry. This is what you have set up, instead of what God set up; and so it is not the true thing that God set up, but an idol of your own making; and so you do not worship God with that, but worship that spirit which helped you to invent and set up the idol. The same might be said concerning preaching, singing, washing with water, breaking of bread, and whatever else is practiced in religion upon these terms.
*[Notice! Penington is saying that unless your worship is in words supplied by the Holy Spirit, you are worshiping in your own will and not even worshiping God; instead you are worshiping the spirit that created the form. People worshiping according to a plan, with words from their carnal minds, without words from the Holy Spirit, are worshiping Satan and don't realize it.]
Objection: But does not the scripture mention these things? And did not the saints practice these things? Surely they were not idolaters! Can I be an idolater in practicing what they practiced?
Answer: No, you are mistaken; they are not the things which they practiced The stress of their religion lay in the life of it, in the presence of the Spirit of God in it; it was his breath made it the truth. Now, if you could have the same things that they had, yet without the same living breath, they would be but dead things; but idols. But you have not the true form of things either; you have not the true church, the true ministry, the true ordinances, according to the form; but things set up in their stead, by the invention of man, in the time of the apostasy from the true things; and what can these be but idols?
"The world wondered after the beast; and they worshipped the dragon, which gave power unto the beast, and they worshipped the beast." Rev 13:3-4. Behold, what was worshipped at the time of the apostasy! what arose from the beastly invention of man, and not from the true Spirit of life. And the inventing and setting up of these, and worshipping according to these inventions, is worshipping the dragon, (for he gets in, and lodges in man's inventions), and not the living God. And therefore God, at the end of this apostasy, raises up a new ministry, to recall the nations from worshipping the dragon to the worship of God again, ver. 6-7. of that chapter, "what the Gentiles sacrificed" of old, "they sacrificed to devils, and not to God." 1 Cor. 10:20. And what the late Gentiles sacrifice, (I mean Christians in the heathenish nature, Christians to whom the outward court was given, and who have a profession of the saints' words and practices, but without life), they sacrifice not to God either; but to that spirit that helped them to invent and form a likeness or image of the truth. Transgressing the principle of God within, they go from God, and from his worship; and the devil, who went out from the truth, gets in, and they go into his power; and whatever they perform in worship there, is to him [the devil]; for when they go from the principle of God in them, the devil gets into their hearts, and God goes out; and his true life, power, and worship are not known, but an image or likeness, which the devil sets up instead of the true thing. So then, in that state, let men consider what they worship; for there they cry up ordinances and duties, and kill one another about them, thinking that they worship and honor God thereby; but know not, nor are come to, that in which God alone can be worshipped and honored.
"I know the blasphemy of them, which say they are Jews, and are not, said the Spirit." Rev 2:9. Is this blasphemy? For a man to call himself a Christian, who is not, what is that? To call that a church, which is not, what is that? To call him a minister of Christ, who is not, what is that? To call those the ordinances of Christ, which are not, what is that? To call that faith, which is not, that justification which is not, etc., what is that? Can you spy out the blasphemer? You have made a great outcry against him long; are you willing now he should be put to death? The Lord has lighted his candle; he is searching for him, and he will find him out; and as we have desired, so it shall be; the Lord will not spare him. Oh be awakened, be awakened, you heathenish Christians! Open the eye that can see, and behold where you are, and what you are doing, and how fast you are running into the pit. You have forgotten God; you have lost the true line of judgment; you have lost the key of knowledge; and the light that is in you is darkness, and leads to darkness, though you cannot possibly believe it. Oh! come back to the remembrance of God, and to true holiness, without which no man shall see him. For the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God; and you have forgotten him days without number.
That the only way of recovery out of the apostasy is by returning to,
and keeping in, that Spirit from which the apostasy was.
THE apostasy came by leaving the Spirit of God, and running after another spirit; and the recovery must be by leaving that other spirit, and returning to the Spirit of God again. How did Christians formerly begin their religion? They began in the Spirit. Gal 3:3. And so they were to go on to perfection, and not to intermix anything of the flesh. And had the anointing been kept to, antichrist and the mystery of iniquity had been kept out; and where that is returned to, the antichristian spirit is purged out by degrees, and the ways thereof discovered and forsaken. Therefore know the whorish spirit in yourself, which is busy to form likenesses in your mind to seduce you, and to make you fall in love with the likenesses which she has formed in other men's minds; and let her not deceive you with her paint and gaudy appearances; but know likewise the little seal of life, from which truth springs up in you, and in which the Spirit of Truth dwells, and is to be found; and take heed, lest the serpentine wisdom teach you to despise and turn from it. From this spring it was, that truth sprung up in the witnesses all the time of the apostasy; for they had their testimony from the Spirit of prophecy. . So far as they kept to that, they gave a true testimony; so far as their own spirits mixed with it, they corrupted it. But to abide in that was very hard; and there was need of much affliction and persecution to keep the flesh down, and to preserve the life pure. But as the life springs up more strongly, and overcomes that spirit inwardly, (I mean the wise, fleshly spirit), there will be less need of outward afflictions or persecutions; yes, or inward either; but there will be a safe entrance into, and abiding in, the joy, the rest, the peace, where the whore within, (which seduced from the life, where the power is, into some form where the power is not), is burnt. Learn then, and know in yourself that Spirit of prophecy which spoke in all the martyrs. Hear that, come to that, keep to that; feel the union, the fellowship, the spreading of that in you. When that tells you go, go; when that tells you come, come; when that tells you do this, do it. But the flesh is grown strong, and strongly resists this Spirit, both inwardly and outwardly; and will not allow him to rise up in the heart, or to rise up in the nation; but at anytime when he stirs, and offers to speak, or lead to God, there is a reason that rises up in the fleshly wisdom, that knocks him down, and denies his voice, and listens to another voice instead of his. Thus they first give way to the fleshly wisdom, and suppress the truth in themselves, and then they would go forth and suppress it in others; and they think they are crazy, and their rage rises against them where the truth is allowed to grow, and man's reason or fleshly wisdom denied. And thus is the "Lord of glory" evilly entreated, and slain at this day by this generation of Christians, as he was by the Jews slain formerly in the prophets, in that his appearance in a fleshly form, and in his apostles; and his blood will be required; for the earth shall not always drink it up and cover it, nor the adulterous woman be always able to wipe her mouth, and say, she has done no wickedness. You have saved alive the unjust, and killed the just. The murdering nature is alive in you, Oh you Christians! But the Holy One is slain, and lies buried in your graves; and you have painted your graves, and speak good words of him; but still keep him down, and let another rise up and live in you. You cry up that appearance of Christ in the flesh, and the words he then spoke, and the words of his apostles, and think if you had lived in those days, you would not have killed either him or his apostles; and yet you resist and oppose the same life in yourselves and in others, with such a kind of wisdom in the letter as the Pharisees had. Oh what will you do! the uncircumcised ear has gotten up in you, and you cannot hear; and the uncircumcised heart, and you cannot understand; but when this is told you, you despise and wonder, and go on in the perishing state. My bowels! my bowels! I am pained at my bowels! Oh England! England! you who killed the martyrs in Queen Mary's days; you who persecuted the nonconformists afterwards; you who would not allow the people of God to meet together, to seek him with an honest heart; but would confine them to your gross, formal ways of worship! though the Lord has appeared, and broken the horns of the oppressors; yet the persecuting spirit is not broken in you; but you still hunt after the precious life of the seed, and would not let it spring up in the nation. The spirit of enmity is still up in you, which knows not the Lord of life; but by a natural instinct opposes him, and would willingly keep up some grave or other, it cares not what, so it might but thereby keep down the life: for you can now bear with any form, and cherish it; and your only enmity is against those who are sent by the Lord to gather out of all forms into the life. How often would the Lord have gathered you! but you would not; and yet seeks to gather you; but still you will not; but, as if the former laws, made in Queen Mary's days, were not sufficient, desire new laws, to ensnare and entangle the innocent. What will become of you, or what will you say to the Lord, when he arises to plead the cause of the innocent? For that Spirit which he raised up to witness against the whorish spirit, (which lies hidden in your forms of worship and religion, and appears in all your laws, councils, and ways of government, so far as they were formed, and so far as they are guided, by the wisdom of the flesh), is innocent; even as that Spirit which witnessed formerly against popery and episcopacy was innocent before the Lord, though accused by them as guilty of error in itself, and of disturbance to the public peace, as this is now by you.
<Part II, The Way Out of Apostasy>>>>
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