The True Foundation of Knowledge
Since the real happiness of any person is dependent upon his possession of the true knowledge of God, this knowledge is that which is essential, above all else. John 17. 3: "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." 1Cor. 3. l9a: "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." Pro. 1. 7a: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Pro. 2. 1, 2, 5: "My son, if thou wilt receive my words . . .and apply thine heart to understanding; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Job 28. 28b: "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." The philosopher Epictetus wrote: "Know that the main foundation of piety is this, to have right opinions and apprehensions of God."
The question is, What is absolutely necessary? Answer: the true knowledge of God, through the revelation of His Spirit. But without this, the most profound knowledge will not avail to the saving of the soul.
Concerning Immediate Revelation
Immediate Revelation maybe defined as: That which proceeds from the warm influence of God's Spirit upon the heart and from the comfortable shining of His light upon the understanding.
Mat. 11. 27b: "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Therefore, the true knowledge of God has been, is, and can be revealed only by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. By the revelation of the same Spirit He has manifested Himself all along to the sons of men, patriarchs, prophets and apostles. The Object of the saints' faith (Christ) is the same in all ages. Moreover, the divine inward revelations neither do nor can ever contradict the outward testimony of the Scriptures or right and sound reason. This knowledge is attained only by the revelation of God's Spirit.
"It is the inward Master," says Augustine, "that teaches it is Christ, it is inspiration. Where this inspiration and unction is wanting, it is in vain that words from without are beaten in." Martin Luther: "No man can rightly know God or understand the word of God, unless he immediately receive it from the Holy Spirit." Phillip Melancthon: "Those who hear only an outward and bodily voice, hear the creature; but God is a spirit, and is neither known nor heard but by the Spirit." Gregory the Great says, "Unless the same Spirit is present in the heart of the hearer, in vain is the discourse of the doctor."
The Mosaic Law came not from man, but by direct revelation from God. Neh. 9.13, 20: "Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments. Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them." Just before the Great Flood God said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6.3).
There is no knowledge of the Son but by the Spirit. Jesus Christ teaches and instructs mankind inwardly by His own Spirit. Rev. 3. 20: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me."
The apostle Paul got his theology directly from God, not from any man. Gal.1.15-18: "But when it pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia.... Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem." Also Paul wrote: "It is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8. 16, RSV); "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8.14); "We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom. 8.26, RSV).
"No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which none of the princes of this world knew. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. The things of God knoweth no man, but by the Spirit of God. Now we have received the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (selected from 1Cor. 12. 3; 2.7-14).
The revelations of truth by the Holy Spirit are for all Christians as well as for ministers. Num. 11. 24-29: "Moses gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp. . . and the spirit rested upon them; . . . and they prophesied. . . . And Joshua. . . said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all"
To say that there is no true certain guidance of the Spirit is like one who wilfully closes his eyes to the light, denying that the sun shines; or a deaf man denying that any words were ever spoken. The Spirit of God- because He is the Fountain of all truth and sound reason- cannot contradict either the testimony of Scripture or right reason.
Psa. 34. 8: "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him. "How comes David to invite us to taste and see that God is good, if this cannot be felt and tasted?
1 John 5. 6: "It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." Wait, then, for this witness in the small revelation of that pure light, and as you become fitted for it, you shall receive more and more.
The best of Protestants, who plead for such an assurance of salvation, ascribe it to the inward testimony of the Spirit. The writings of the primitive Protestants are full of such expressions. The Westminster Confession of Faith states: "This certainty is not a bare conjecture . . . but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promise of salvation; the inward evidences of these graces . . . the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing to our spirits that we are the children of God"
Concerning The Scriptures
From these revelations of the Spirit of God to the saints have proceeded the Scriptures of truth, which contain: (1) A faithful historical account of the doings of God's people in succeeding ages. (2) A prophetical account: some things already past and some things yet to come. (3) A full account of all the chief principles of the doctrine of Christ, held forth in various precious declarations, exhortations and sentences.
We believe the Scriptures to be not the adequate primary rule of faith and conduct, but rather a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which Spirit they have all their excellency and certainty, since the Spirit is the Guide by which the saints are led into all truth. We do therefore receive and believe the Scriptures because they proceed from the Spirit. John l6:13: "When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth."
John Calvin wrote, "Let this remain the firm truth, that he only whom the Spirit hath persuaded can repose himself on the Scripture with a true certainty." In the Confession of Faith of the churches of Holland we read: "We receive these books (the Scriptures) only for holy and canonical, not so much because the Church receives and approves them, as because the Spirit of God doth witness in our hearts that they are of God." The divines at Westminster I quote as follows: "Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."
We also give praise to the Lord for His wonderful power in preserving these writings so pure and uncorrupted as we have them, through so long a night of apostasy, to be a testimony of His truth.
The law or letter, which is external, kills; but the Gospel, which is the inward spiritual law, gives life; for it consists not so much in words as in virtue. Rom. 6.14: "Sin shall not have dominion over you: For ye are not under the law, but under grace." Rom. 10. 8, 10: "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." It is the Word in the heart that counts, not the outward letter. "Ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He sent, Him ye believe not. Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of Me; and ye will not come to Me, that ye may have life" John 5. 38-40, (ASV)
Moreover, that which of all things is most needful for a man to know, that is, whether he really be in the faith and an heir of salvation: the Scripture alone can give him no certainty concerning this. 2 Cor. 13.5: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves." Our assurance of salvation comes from the Holy Spirit, as we read in Rom. 8.15,16: ". . . you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, 'Abba I Father !' it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (RSV).
We do look upon the Scriptures as the only fit outward judge of controversies among Christians; and that whatsoever doctrine is contrary to their testimony may therefore justly be rejected as false. We are very willing that all our doctrines and practices be tried by them. Anyone who thinks he is being led of the Spirit, while he is acting or speaking contrary to the Scriptures, is really under the delusion of the devil. Isa. 8. 20: "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
We affirm that the Scriptures give a full and ample testimony to all the principal doctrines of the Christian faith. For we do firmly believe that there is no other gospel or doctrine to be preached, but that which was delivered by the apostles. Any doctrine which cannot be proved by the Scripture is not a necessary article of faith. Gal. 1. 8: "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you . . . let him be accursed." 1 Cor. 3.11: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 2 Tim. 3.16,17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Concerning the Condition of Man in the Fall
Rom. 5. 12: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." All Adam's posterity is fallen, degenerated and spiritually dead, and subject to the power, nature and seed of the Serpent. While they abide in this natural and corrupt state all their imaginations are evil perpetually in the sight of God, as proceeding from this depraved and wicked seed (sin). Man therefore, as he is, can know nothing aright; yea, his thoughts and conceptions concerning God and things spiritual-until he be separated from this evil seed and united to the divine light-are unprofitable. Eph. 2.1-3: "And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.... Also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
"Both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes" Rom. 3. 9c-18.
Never the less this seed (sin) is not imputed to infants, until by transgression they actually join themselves therewith. Some teachers run into extreme: They are not afraid to affirm firm that many poor infants are eternally damned and forever endure the torments of hell. To infants there is no law; therefore sin is not imputed to them. Eze. 18. 20: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father." Rom. 5. 12: "And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
Adam, by the fall, came to a very great loss, not only in the things which relate to the outward man, but especially concerning that true fellowship and communion he had with God. Gen. 2.17: "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." This death could not be an outward death, for he did not die (physically) yet many hundred years after; so that this must needs refer to his spiritual life and communion with God.
The cause and origin of all sin, called "the seed of sin," is often in the Scripture called "death," or "the old man." The term "original sin" is not to be found in the Scriptures.
We do not believe Adam's guilt is shared by any of his posterity, until they make it theirs by their own acts of disobedience. Gen. 6. 5: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Jer. 17. 9: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Concerning the universal redemption by Christ
In introducing this proposition let us first consider the negative side. The false doctrine called "absolute reprobation" claims that God, by an eternal and immutable decree has predestinated to eternal damnation the far greater part of mankind-before they ever disobeyed; yes, even before they were born-He has appointed these miserable souls necessarily to walk in their wicked ways, whom God justly condemns for disobedience. Because He has ordained and decreed that they shall not obey, and that the offer of the Gospel shall never prove effectual for their salvation, but only serve to aggravate and occasion their greater condemnation.
I say, as to this horrible and blasphemous doctrine, our case is common with many others, who have both wisely and learnedly, according to Scripture, reason and antiquity, refuted it. We may safely call this doctrine a novelty, since during the first 400 years after Christ there is no mention made of it. For as it is contrary to the Scriptures' testimony and to the tenor of the Gospel, so all the ancient writers, teachers and doctors of the Church do not even mention it.
The first foundations of this doctrine were laid in the latter writings of Augustine, who (totally unaware of the mischief it could later cause in the Church) let fall some expressions which some have unhappily gleaned up, to the establishing of this error, thereby contradicting the truth. Afterwards was this doctrine fomented by Dominicus, a friar, and the monks of his order. At last it was unhappily taken up by John Calvin (otherwise a man in various respects to be commended), to the great staining of his reputation, and defamation both of the Protestant and Christian religion. It is now beginning to be exploded by most men of learning and piety in all Protestant churches. We would not oppose it if we believed it to have any real basis in the sayings of Christ and the apostles.
First, it is highly injurious to God, because it makes Him the Author of all sin, which of all things is most contrary to His nature. Some of the most eminent teachers of this doctrine have been so plain in the matter as to have put it beyond all doubt. I shall cite a few among many quotations:
CALVIN: "I say that by the ordination and will of God Adam fell. God would have man to fall. Man is blinded by the will and commandment of God. The highest or remote cause of hardening is the will of God. The hidden counsel of God is the cause of hardening." Calvin caused one, Castellio, to be banished because he refused to believe "That God had ordained man to be damned."
ZWINGLIUS: "God moveth the robber to kill. He killeth, God forcing him thereto."
PESCATOR: "Reprobate persons are absolutely ordained to undergo everlasting punishment and therefore to sin, that they may be justly punished."
Second, this doctrine is injurious to God because it pictures Him delighting in the death of sinners, yes, and causing many to die in their sins, contrary to these Scriptures: Eze. 33.11: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." 1 Tim. 2. 3, 4: "God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Pet. 3. 9: "The Lord is . . . longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Third, it is highly injurious to Christ our Mediator and to the efficiency and excellency of His Gospel; for it renders His mediation ineffectual, as if He had not by His sufferings removed the wrath of God or purchased the love of God toward all mankind-if it was afore-decreed that it should be of no service to the far greater part of mankind.
Fourth, it makes the preaching of the Gospel a mere mock and illusion, if many of those to whom it is preached be by an irrevocable decree excluded from being benefited by it. Man needs do nothing but wait, if he be in the decree of election; but he can never obtain salvation if he belong to the decree of reprobation.
Fifth, it makes the coming of Christ and His propitiatory sacrifice to have been rather a testimony of God's wrath to the world, it being only ordained to save a very few, and for the hardening and augmenting the condemnation of the far greater number of men. God never loved the world, according to this doctrine, but rather hated it greatly, in sending His Son to be crucified in it.
Sixth, this doctrine is highly injurious to mankind: for it renders them in a far worse condition than the devils in hell. For the devils do suffer for only their own guilt; where as millions of men are forever tormented (according to them) for Adam's sin, for which they never were responsible. They make the preaching of the Gospel, the offer of salvation by Christ, the use of the sacraments, of prayer and good works, sufficient to condemn those whom they account reprobates within the Church.
God, in His infinite love, who delights not in the death of the sinner, but that all should live and be saved, has sent His only begotten Son into the world, not to condemn, but to save men. Lucius Osiander terms the doctrine of predestination to perdition impious; calls it a making God the Author of sin, and a horrid and horrible blasphemy. Luke 2.10: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Now, if this coming of Christ had not brought a possibility of salvation to all, it should rather have been accounted bad tidings and great sorrow to most people.
The doctrine of universal redemption, if well weighed, will be found to be the foundation of Christianity, salvation and assurance, since it exalts the mercy and grace of God, agreeing with the nature and ministry of Christ and magnifying the merits of His death. It gives everyone the hope that he may be saved. "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways and live?" Eze. 18. 23. 2 Pet. 3. 9: "The Lord is longsuffering . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Christ's disciples are commanded to preach repentance and remission of sins to all. Mark 16.15: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature"- surely a very comprehensive commission. 1 Tim. 2. 3-6: "God our savior, who will have all men to be saved . . . Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all." Mat. 11.28: "come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." John 3.16,17: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that who so ever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." Heb. 2. 9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death . . . that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." 1 John 2. 2: "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
The Saving and Spiritual Light
"That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" John 1. 9. 'Whatsoever doth make manifest is light" Eph. 5.13. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" Tit. 2.11. This Light enlightens the hearts of all for a time, in order to bring salvation; and it is this which reproves the sin of all individuals, and would work out the salvation of all, if not resisted. Since this Light was purchased by the atoning death of Him who "tasted death for every man," it is as universal as the seed of sin. 1 Cor. 15. 22: "For as in Adam alI die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
That secret Light, which shines in the heart and reproves unrighteousness, is the small beginning of the revelation of God's Spirit. John 16. 8: "And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment." It is called LIFE, heavenly seed, celestial substance, spiritual body of Christ "that divine and evangelical principle of light and life", "His seed, that yet lies pressed and crucified in the hearts of the ungodly, a mystery sealed up from all the wise men who are yet ignorant of this seed in themselves, and oppose it."
Every man has a measure of true and saving grace- the mere measure of light, as it is given to reprove and call him to righteousness. So has God likewise poured forth into the hearts of all men a measure of that divine Light and seed, that, thereby reaching into the consciences of all, He may raise them up out of death and darkness by His life and light. Thus they may be made partakers of His body, and so come to have fellowship with the Father and with the Son.
This spiritual body, flesh and blood of Christ is understood to be that divine and heavenly seed. John 6. 33: "For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." For that spiritual Light and seed, as it receives a place in men's hearts and room to spring up there, is as bread to the hungry and fainting soul, which is (as it were) buried and dead in the lusts of the world. He receives life again and revives, as he tastes and partakes of this heavenly bread; and they that partake of it are said to come to Christ. John 6. 35: "Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: He that cometh to Me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst."
By that Light, in his day, Socrates was informed of the falsity of the heathen gods. Hence it follows that some of the old heathen philosophers might (or at least could) have been saved. And so may others in this day, in places where the Gospel is unknown-if they receive and resist not that grace, which is an evangelical and saving light, even the light of Christ.
Whenever you attend a meeting for worship, seek to recognize this Life and Light within (that is, the Holy Spirit), that you may be directed and actuated by His power: it may be to pray, to preach, or to sing. Often times, through such obediences of God's children, the power of God will break forth in the meeting; then, as the truth prevails, there will come upon the congregation a sweet sound of thanksgiving and praise. Also, this same power often works in little children. Singing that pleases God must proceed from the Word of Life in the heart.
This seed, grace and word of God, and light, may be quenched, wounded, suppressed. A spiritual, heavenly and invisible principle, in which God as Father, Son and Spirit dwells. The spiritual body of Christ, upon which all the saints do feed and are thereby nourished unto eternal life. As it is resisted, God is said to be resisted, and Christ is said to be slain and crucified.
And, as this seed is received in the heart, Christ comes to be formed, "Christ within, the hope of glory," and to deliver them from all sin. It is a real, spiritual substance, which the soul of man is able to feel and apprehend. We are made sensible of it, by a true and certain experience. It is in and by this inward seed in our hearts that we are capable of tasting, smelling, seeing and handling the things of God.
We do further rightly distinguish this from man's natural conscience; for conscience may be defiled and corrupted. Tit. 1.15: "Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is no thing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
Those also who perish, when they remember the times of God's visitation towards them, when He wrestled with them by His Light and Spirit, are forced to confess that there was a time when the door of mercy was open to them, and that they are justly condemned - because they rejected their own salvation. Thus man's condemnation is of himself. Gen. 4.6,7: "And the Lord said unto Cain, why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." Gen. 6. 3: "And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man."
Augustine writes in his Confessions: "What is that which shineth unto me, and smites my heart without hurt, at which I tremble? It is wisdom; wisdom which shineth in unto me, and dispelleth my cloud. It is too late that I have loved Thee, Thou beautifulness, so ancient and so new I Late have I loved Thee; and behold Thou wast within. Thou didst call, Thou didst shine, Thou didst chase away my darkness."
One named George Buchanan wrote in a book: "Truly I understand that Light which is divinely infused into our souls: for when God formed man, He not only gave him eyes for his body, but also hath set before his mind, as it were, a certain Light, by which he may discern things that are vile from things that are honest. I truly judge it to be divine, a compend of the Law, which in a few words comprehends the whole; that is, that we should love Him from our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves."
At the giving of the Law to Israel, the Holy Spirit, through Moses, gave instruction as follows (see Deu. 30. 11-20): "For this commandment is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. But the word is very nigh unto thee; in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. I have set before you life and death. Therefore choose life, that thou may live. But if thine heart turn away and worship other gods, ye shall perish. Love the Lord thy God, and obey His voice, for He is thy life."
Rom. 1.18-20: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Rom. 2.14,15: "When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness."
The offer of salvation, or "day of grace," to each individual may not necessarily last throughout his lifetime: he can reject God's offer of mercy, or having once received it, cast it aside and finally be eternally lost. Read Romans 1.17-32. A few pointed excerpts read thus: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness. They are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped the creature more than the Creator. They did not like to retain God in their knowledge. Being filled with all unrighteousness, haters of God, inventors of evil things, without natural affection, unmerciful; knowing the judgment of God."
Heb. 12. 16, 17: "As Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.... Afterward ... he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." So it is, after real offers of mercy and salvation are rejected, that men's hearts are hardened-and not before. To the people of His day Jesus said (John 12. 35), "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."
As many as resist not this Light, but receive the same, in them is produced a holy, pure and spiritual birth, bringing forth holiness, righteousness, purity and all those other blessed fruits which are acceptable to God. By this holy birth (to wit, Jesus Christ formed within us) we are justified in the sight of God. 1 Cor. 6. 9, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators . . . nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
Good works are rather an effect of justification than the cause of it. It is Christ in us, from which good works as naturally proceed as fruit from a fruitful tree. This inward birth in us, bringing forth righteousness and holiness, now is in dominion overall in our hearts. Those, then, that come to know Christ formed in them do enjoy Him wholly and undivided, who is "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." This is to be clothed with Christ and to have put Him on, by which we come to be made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1. 4), and are made one with Him, as the branches with the vine.
Therefore, it is not by works, but by Christ, who, as He has reconciled us, does also in His wisdom save and justify us. Tit. 3. 5: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." 1 Pet. 3.18: "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."
The sufferings-that is to say, the death-of Christ is the procuring cause of that grace, by whose inward working Christ comes to be formed within, and the soul to be made conformable to Him, and so just and justified. Therefore God is said to be reconciled; but not so long as they remain in their sins really impure and unjust.
First, then, we renounce all natural power and ability in ourselves, to bring us out of our lost and fallen condition, and confess that, as of ourselves, we are able to do nothing that is good. Neither can we procure remission of sins or justification by any act of our own, so as to merit it. But we acknowledge all favors to be of and from His love, which is the original and fundamental cause of our acceptance.
Second, God manifested this love toward us in the sending of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world. He gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, having made peace through the blood of His cross, that He might reconcile us unto Himself. By the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God, and suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
Third, forasmuch as all men (the man Jesus only excepted) have sinned, therefore all have need of this Savior, to remove the wrath of God from them due to their offenses. He is truly said to have borne the iniquities of us all, and therefore is the only Mediator between us and God. Eph. 2.12,13: "At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."
The twofold aspect of our redemption: 1) The redemption performed and accomplished by Christ for us, in His crucified body. We that were lost, unable of ourselves to do any good thing, but naturally joined and united to evil, prone to all iniquity, servants and slaves to the power and spirit of darkness; we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. We are provided with a capacity for salvation, and God, being reconciled to us in Christ, calls and invites us to Himself. 2 Cor. 5.19-21: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.... We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin."
2) The redemption wrought by Christ in us. That whereby we witness and know this pure and perfect redemption in ourselves, purifying, cleansing and redeeming us from the power of corruption and bringing us into unity, friendship and favor with God. We witness and possess a real, true inward redemption from the power and prevalency of sin; and so come to be truly and really redeemed, justified and made righteous, and thus enter a heartfelt union and friendship with God. Tit. 2. 11-14: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Phil. 3. 8-10: "That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness . . . but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection."
The teaching that men can continue in sin while justified occasions great false security and opens the door to every evil practice. Rom. 8. 13, 14: "For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Isa. 59. 2-15 (selections): "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you. They have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. Our sins testify against us: and as for our iniquities, we know them. And the Lord saw it; and it displeased Him." Exo. 23. 7: "For I will not justify the wicked." Job 27. 8: "What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?" Gal. 6:7, 8: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for what so ever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
In those in whom this holy and pure birth is fully brought forth, the body of death and sin comes to be crucified and removed, and their hearts united and subjected to the truth, so as not to obey the temptations of the evil one, but to be free from actual wilful sinning and transgressing of the law of God-and in that respect, perfect. Yet there is still room and need for growth. Also, there remains a possibility of sinning, where the mind does not most diligently and watchfully attend unto the Lord.
For a more clear stating of this subject, let it be considered: First, We place not this ability in man's own will, as he is in his natural state.
Second, We attribute it wholly to man as he is "born again," renewed in his mind, raised by Christ; knowing Christ living and ruling in him and leading him by His Spirit, which Spirit not only manifests and reproves sin, but also gives power to come out of it.
Third, The perfection we teach does not preclude either the need or the possibility of continued growth. It is not absolute perfection, for that would make one as pure, as holy, as wise as God. It is only a perfection in proportion to man's measure, whereby we are kept from transgressing the law of God and enabled to fulfill what He requires of us: even as a child has a perfect body as well as a man, though it daily grow more and more.
Fourth, We do affirm that those who have attained it in a measure may, by the wiles and temptations of the enemy, fall into iniquity and lose it sometimes, if they be not watchful. Though every sin weakens a man, yet it does not destroy him altogether, or render him incapable of rising again.
God has no delight in iniquity, but abhors transgression. Wherefore, if a man must be always joined to sin, then God would always be at a distance from him. Isa. 59. 2: "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you." The saints are said to be "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1. 4) and to be "one spirit" with the Lord (1 Cor. 6.17). Now, no unclean thing can be so. 2 Cor. 6.14: "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? And what communion hath light with darkness?"
Rom. 6.14-20: "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are, to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked that . . . ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye be came the servants of righteousness.... So now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin ye were free from righteousness."
So then, if the saints sin daily in word, thought and deed, yea, if the very service they offer to God be sin (as some teach), surely they serve the devil more than they do God. Either God enables men to fulfill His will, or else He is requiring more than He has given power to perform. This last is to declare Him openly to be unjust and to be a hard master. Tit. 2. 13, 14: "Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." 1 John 3. 8: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested; that He might destroy the works of the devil." Rom. 8. 2, 4: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who was not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." This perfection, or freedom from sin, is attained and made possible where the Gospel and inward law of the Spirit is received.
Men labor to gain a perfect conformity to the law- which they can never obtain. This has caused them to wrest the Scriptures for an imputative righteousness, to cover their impurities; and that has made them imagine an acceptance with God possible without obeying Christ's commands.
But alas ! Oh, deceived souls ! That will not avail in the day wherein God will judge every man according to his work. It will not save you to say that it was necessary for you to sin daily. And what is provided for such but "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish"? (Rom. 2. 8, 9).
So then, if you desire to know this perfection, be made conformable to Christ's death, that you may know yourself to be crucified with Him to the world, by the power of His cross in you. Then the love and lusts thereof will die and a new life be given, by which you may live henceforward to God and not for yourself, saying, "It is no more I, but Christ alive in me" (Gal. 2. 20). Then you will be a Christian in deed, and not in name only. Then you will know what it is to be "renewed in the spirit of your mind" and to have "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness" (Eph. 4. 23, 24), and so not to sin always.
To this "new man" Christ's yoke is easy and His burden is light, yea, the commandments of God are not to this man grievous; for it is his meat and drink to be found fulfilling the will of God.
Gen. 5.22: "Enoch walked with God. . . three hundred years" - which no man can do while sinning. Gen. 6. 9: "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." Job 1.1: "Job was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, eschewed and shunned evil." 2 Chr. 15.17: "The heart of Asa was perfect all his days." Hezekiah told the Lord (2 Kings 20. 3), "I have walked before Thee in truth with a perfect heart." King David admonished Solomon (1 Chr. 28. 9), "My son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a perfect heart." And has not the Lord promised (2 Chr. 16. 9) "to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him"?
Zacharias and Elizabeth were declared to be "righteous before God . . . blameless" (Luke 1. 6). Referring to the saints (saved ones) the apostle Paul writes (Eph. 2. 6) that God "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." I judge while they were sitting in these heavenly places, they could not be daily sinning in thought, word and deed.
1 John 1. 9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. "Blessed, then, are they that believe in Him who is both able and willing to deliver them from all sin, forsaking unrighteousness and pressing "toward the mark."
2 Cor. 13. 9, 11: "This also we wish, even your perfection. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect." Phil. 3.13 - 1 5: "This one thing I do . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Heb. 7. 19: "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God." Heb. 13. 20, 21: "Now the God of peace . . . through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will."
1 John 4. 18: "Perfect love casteth out fear." 2 Cor. 6. 16-18; 7. 1: "As God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord . . . and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Perserverance and the possibility of Falling from Grace
This gift and inward grace of God-in those in whom it is resisted-both may and does become their condemnation. Moreover, in those in whom it has wrought to purify and sanctify them: by disobedience such may fall from it and turn to wantonness, making shipwreck of faith. Heb. 6. 4-6: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; see in they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame." Heb. 6.11: "Do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end."
If men may turn the grace of God into wantonness, then they once must have had it. Jude 4,1 1-13 : "Ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Woe unto them ! . . . These are spots, clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead . . . raging waves of the sea, foaming out of their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
If men may make shipwreck of faith, they must once have had it; neither could they ever have had true faith without the grace of God. 1 Tim. 1. 19, 20: "Holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck."
That doctrine (Predestination) is wholly inconsistent with the daily practice of those that preach it. They exhort people to believe and be saved, while if they belong to the decree of reprobation it is simply impossible for them so to do. And if God has decreed their election, it is just as impossible for them to be finally lost. While they daily exhort people to be faithful to the end: it is to no purpose to beseech them to stand, to whom God has made it impossible to fall.
The Augustine Confession condemns as an error the teaching that they who once are justified cannot lose the Holy Spirit. This (against Predestination) was the common opinion of the fathers. Philip Melancthon many times affirms the same opinion.
Rom. 8.13a: "For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die." Heb. 3.14: "For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." 1Cor. 9.27: "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 2 Pet. 1.10: "Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall."
Here we can learn a lesson from the experiences of people. It is plainly evident that there have been those -both in the past and in the present-who have fallen from their faith and integrity. The inevitable conclusion is that such a falling away is possible.
Yet we believe that such a stability in the truth may in this life be attained, from which there cannot be a total apostasy. The apostle Paul gained an assurance of final perseverance shortly before he departed this life. 2 Tim. 4. 6-8, 18: "For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.... And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom."
By the gift of Ministry every true minister of the Gospel is ordained, prepared and supplied in the work of the ministry. By the leading and moving thereof ought every evangelist and Christian pastor to be led and ordered in his work of the Gospel. This applies to the place where, the persons to whom and the times when he is to minister. Moreover, those who have this authority may and ought to preach the Gospel, though without human commission or credentials. On the other hand, those who lack the authority of this divine gift, however learned or authorized by men and churches, are not to be regarded as true ministers of the Gospel.
Eph. 4.8,11,12: 'When He (Christ) ascended upon high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And He gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.' "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet I show unto you a more excellent way" (selections from 1 Corinthians 12). 1 Pet. 4. 10, 11: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
We do firmly believe that God raises up in Christian congregations - by the inward operation of His own Spirit - ministers and teachers, to instruct and teach and watch over the believers. The spiritual gifts and divine calling of such ministers are made manifest in the hearts of their brethren, who, being inwardly built up by them in the most holy faith, thus become the seals of their apostleship. 2 Cor. 13. 3: "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me."
As the true call of a minister is manifest in the working of the Holy Spirit through him, so is the power, life and virtue thereof his chief and most necessary qualification. Without this qualification he can not at all perform his duty acceptably to God or beneficially to men. Yea, Christ says expressly that without Him we can do nothing (John 15. 5).
Recorded in the Bible are many instances of the divine commission being given by direct individual revelation. These are a few: Moses: Exo. 3. 1-12; 4. 1-11. Joshua: Jos. 1. 1-9. Samuel: 1 Samuel, third chapter. Isaiah: Isa. 6. 1-12. Jeremiah: Jeremiah, first chapter; Lam. 1. 12, 13. Ezekiel: Eze. 1. 1-3; second and third chapters. Amos: Amos 7. 14, 15. Jonah: first and second chapters; 3. 1-5. John the Baptist: John 1. 6, 8, 21-23. Christ's apostles: Mat. 28. 16-20. The apostle Paul: Acts 9. 1-20; 13. 1-4; Gal. 1. 10-18; Acts 20. 24-27.
No amount of education or book-knowledge can make up for the lack of the Spirit in the most learned and eloquent person. If you would make a man a fool, do but teach him (only) logic and philosophy; he shall then be good for nothing, but to speak nonsense.
The apostle Paul exhorted the Colossian church thus (Col. 2.6-8): "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith. . . . Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." And to Timothy he wrote (1 Tim. 6. 20, 21): "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred from the faith." Read God's answer to Job (Job 38): "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding; declare, if thou knowest it all. Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who hath given understanding to the heart?"
But a man with a good upright heart may learn more in half an hour, and be more certain of it, by waiting upon God and His Spirit in the heart, than by reading a thousand volumes, which might well stagger his faith but never confirm it.
In our day (17th century) God has raised up witnesses (the Friends) for Himself, as He did fishermen of old; many of whom are laboring men, who have by the power of the Spirit of God struck at the very root and ground of Babylon; and in the strength and might of this power they have gathered thousands of converts, who were not able to resist the virtue that proceeded from them. My own heart has been often greatly broken and tendered by that spiritual power that proceeded from the ministry of those illiterate men.
It is God who selects for the work of the ministry those whom He chooses, whether rich or poor, servant or master, young or old; yea, male or female. And such as have this call verify the Gospel by preaching "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (1 Thes. 1. 5).
Prophecy, as it signifies a speaking of the Spirit of Truth, is not peculiar to pastors and teachers, but a common privilege to the saints. Instructing, teaching and exhorting are a common privilege and duty of all laymen - when the saints are met together - as any of them are moved by the Spirit. 1 Cor. 14. 29, 31,40: "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be comforted. Let all things be done decently and in order."
There is due to them (ministers, teachers, etc.) from the flock a certain obedience and subjection. Heb.13. 17: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls." 1 Thes. 5. 12, 13: "Know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord . . . esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." 1 Tim. 5. 17: "Let the elders that rule well be accounted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine."
Since male and female are one in Christ Jesus, and God gives His Spirit to one no less than the other: When God moves by His Spirit in a woman, we judge it not at all unlawful for her to preach in the assemblies of God's people. Paul (1 Cor. 14. 34) reproved those women who were inconsiderate and talkative among the Corinthians, who troubled the church of Christ with their unprofitable questions. He advised (1 Tim. 2. 11, 12) that women ought to learn in silence, not usurping authority over the man. This, however, does not in any way oppose the doctrine of women's ministry, for it is clear that women have prophesied and preached in the church.
Peter, at Pentecost, thus quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2. 17,18): "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and on My servants and on My handmaids I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy. "Four lady preachers: "Philip . . . had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy" (Acts 21. 8, 9).
It has been observed that God has effectually in this day converted many souls by the ministry of women; and by them also frequently comforted the souls of His children. This manifest experience puts the matter beyond all controversy.
The ministry and ministers we plead for, are those who are directly called and sent forth by Christ and His Spirit to the work of the ministry: as were the holy apostles and prophets. The source and authority of the callings of ministers and other special workers in Christ's church are clearly set forth in Ephesians 4. 8,11,12.
Even the Lord Jesus Christ became our great High Priest, not of his own volition; but He was appointed to the office by God the Father. Heb. 5.1,4,5: "For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained . . . and no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son."
The ministers we plead for, are those who are actuated and led by God's Spirit, and by the power and operation of His grace in their hearts. They are converted and regenerate, and so are good, holy and gracious men (and women): such were the holy prophets and apostles.
1 Tim. 3. 2-7 (selections): "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house. Not a novice. Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without." Tit. 1. 7-9 (sel.): "A bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, a lover of good men; sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word, able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."
Micah 3.11: "The priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money." Eze. 13. 1-3, 6 (sel.): "And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, and say unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing ! The Lord hath not sent them." 1 Tim. 6. 2-4: "These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing."
The ministers we plead for, are the kind who labor in the work of the ministry, not from their own mere natural strength and ability, but as they are actuated, moved and influenced by the Spirit of God; and "minister . . . as good stewards."
1 Cor. 1. 17, 18, 23: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. We preach Christ crucified." 1 Cor. 2. 1, 4, 13: "And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.... not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." 1 Cor. 4. 20: "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."
The ministers we plead for, are such as, being holy and humble, contend not for priority, but rather strive to serve one another in love; neither do they desire to be distinguished from, or honored above, the rest. Such were the holy prophets and apostles. Mat. 20. 25-28: "But Jesus called them unto Him and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The ministers we plead for, are such as, having freely received, freely give; who covet no man's silver, who seek no man's goods; but seek them, and the salvation of their souls: whose hands supply their own necessities, working honestly for bread for themselves and their families. And, if at any time they be called of God, so that the work of the Lord hinder them from the use of their trades, they take what is freely given them by those to whom they have rendered spiritual help; and having food and raiment, are therewith content. Such were the holy prophets and apostles. Mat.10. 7, 8: "And as ye go, preach. . . freely ye have received, freely give." Acts 20. 31, 33-35: "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
. . . These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Portions of Isa. 56.10-12: "His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark. Yea, they are greedy dogs, shepherds that cannot understand: they all look everyone for His own gain. Come, say they, I will fetch wine." Eze. 34. 2-6,10 (selections): 'Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves, but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye sought that which was lost. My sheep wandered, yea, My flock was scattered, and none did search or seek after them. Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require My flock at their hand."
In a word, we are for a holy, spiritual, pure and living ministry; in contrast to a human, carnal, dry, barren, fruitless and dead ministry. Jer. 23. 28b: "He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully."
All true and acceptable worship to God is offered in the inward moving and drawing of His Own Spirit. Though we worship Him always, yet (outwardly)-in prayers, praises or preaching- we ought to do it where and when we are moved thereto by the secret inspirations of His Spirit in our hearts.
Mat. 10. 20: "For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." Acts 2. 4: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak . . . as the Spirit gave them utterance. "John 4. 23: "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."
Now, let it be considered that what is here affirmed is spoken of the worship of God in these Gospel times, and not of the worship that was under or before the Law.
This worship is not limited to times, places or persons; yet, to meet together we think necessary for the people of God, in a joint and visible fellowship and bearing of an outward testimony. However, all too often (when the saints are met together), the Spirit of God is limited in His operations by setting up a particular man to preach or pray; and all the rest are excluded from waiting for God's Spirit to move them in speaking or prayer. So they, neglecting the Spirit in themselves which should quicken them and not waiting to feel the pure breathings of God's Spirit (so as to obey them), are led to depend wholly upon the preacher, and hear what he will say.
Yet even in the darkness of popery there were righteous men (though zealous in these abominations), who were heard of God and accepted of Him. Who can deny that Bernard, Bonaventure, Thomas a Kempis and various others have both known and tasted of the love of God, and felt the power of God's Spirit working with them for their salvation?
As to the public worship, we judge it the duty of all to be diligent in the assembling of themselves together. And when assembled the great work of one and all ought to be to wait upon God; and, leaving their own thoughts, to feel the Lord's presence, where He is in the midst according to His promise (Mat. 18. 20). There the secret power and virtue of life is known to refresh the soul, and the pure moving and breathing of God's Spirit are felt. Then, as words of declaration, prayer or praise arise, the acceptable worship is known, which edifies the church and is well-pleasing to God. Here everyone is obedient as the Lord moves in their hearts: and words are uttered in the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Yea, though there be not a word spoken, yet is the true spiritual worship performed and the body of Christ edified. Many meetings have passed without one word; and yet our souls have been greatly edified and refreshed, and our hearts wonderfully overcome with the secret sense of God's power and Spirit, which without words has been ministered from one vessel to another.
This silent waiting upon God is observed by those who find no outward ceremony, no words, able to satisfy their weary and afflicted souls. Rather, they are directed to that light and life in themselves, that thus they may be actuated by the Spirit, whether to pray, preach or sing. Isa. 30.18, 21: "Blessed are all they that wait for Him. And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it."
Each worshiper makes it his work to retire inwardly . . . silent. So, watching in a holy dependence upon the Lord, and meeting together thus inwardly in one Spirit and in one name of Jesus, they come thereby to enjoy and feel the moving of the Spirit, which, as it prevails, becomes as a flood of refreshment and overspreads the whole meeting. Thus the glory of God breaks forth and covers all; and there is such a holy awe and reverence upon every soul. This is that divine and spiritual worship, which the world neither knows nor understands.
Superstition and idolatry have no lodging here. The witness of God arises in the heart and the light of Christ shines, whereby the soul comes to see its own condition. There is an inward travailing and wrestling, an overcoming of the power and spirit of darkness, and thus we are often greatly strengthened and renewed. Thus we enjoy and possess the holy fellowship and communion of the body and blood of Christ, by which our inward man is nourished and fed. And as truth comes thus to have victory and dominion in our souls, we receive an utterance and speak to the edification of our brethren, and what is thus spoken edifies the body (of Christ) indeed.
Eph. 4. 3 -7: "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
Yea, sometimes when there is not a word in the meeting, but all are silently waiting, if one come in that is rude and wicked and in whom the power of darkness prevails much- if the whole meeting be gathered into the Life - it will strike terror into such a one. The power of darkness in him will be chained down. It (the Life) will reach to the measure of grace in him, to the redeeming of his soul. 1 Sam. 10. 9-11 (selections): "And it was so, God gave him (Saul) another heart. And behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. Then the people said, Is Saul also among the prophets?"
Many people have come to be convinced of the truth in this manner, of which I myself (Robert Barclay) am a true witness. I came to receive and bear witness of the truth by being secretly reached by this Life (the Holy Spirit), for when I came into the silent assemblies of God's people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart. And as I gave way to it I found the evil weakening and the good raised up, and so I became thus united to them, hungering more and more after the increase of this power and life, whereby I might feel myself perfectly redeemed.
As this worship is steadfastly preached and maintained, it becomes easy, though it be very hard at first to the natural man, whose roving imaginations are not so easily brought to silence. When the children of God wrestle by the armor of light, sometimes the power of God will break forth into the whole meeting, and as the power of truth prevails, the meeting will end with a sweet sound of thanksgiving and praise.
As a result of soul-travail working by the power of God in these saints, groans, sighs and tears would prevail, while often their bodies would tremble. From this the name of QUAKERS, that is, TREMBLERS, was first reproachfully cast upon us. We are not ashamed of it. This power has often times laid hold of our adversaries and made them yield, and join with us in confessing to the truth. Sometimes many at one meeting have been thus convinced. This power would sometimes also reach and wonderfully work even in little children, to the admiration and astonishment of many.
Many are the blessed experiences which I could relate of this silent manner of worship; yet I do not commend silence as if we had tied ourselves thereto. Our worship consisted not in silence, as silence; but in a holy dependence of the mind upon God: silence only until words can be brought forth which are from God's Spirit. Of the many gatherings there are scarcely any in which God does not raise up someone to minister to his brethren. There are few meetings that are altogether silent.
Ezra 9. 4: "Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel . . . and I sat astonished (silent) until the evening sacrifice." Eze. 3. 14-16 (sel.): "The hand of the Lord was strong upon me. Then I came and I sat there astonished (silent) among them seven days. And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me." Zec. 2.13: "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord."
To wait upon God, and to watch before Him, is the duty incumbent upon all: this is frequently commanded in the Holy Scriptures. Psa. 24.17: "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." Psa. 69. 6: "Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed .... Let not those that seek Thee be confounded." Isa. 40. 29, 31: "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles."
The formal, ceremonial worship is self-pleasing, having an outward and worldly splendor, delightful to the carnal and worldly senses. People can pleasantly continue in it and so satisfy their minds, though without the Spirit and power. But this true worship of God - which we profess and practice - consists not in man's wisdom, arts or industry, neither needs the glory, pomp, riches or splendor of this world to beautify it. There is nothing in it to invite and tempt men to dote upon it, unless it is accompanied with the power.
To conclude: The worship, preaching, praying and singing which we plead for proceeds from the Spirit of God, and so it is a worship purely spiritual and in harmony with the Scripture. Jesus Christ, the Author and Institutor of the New Covenant worship, testifies thus (John 4. 23, 24): "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
Just as there is "one Lord" and "one faith," so there is "one baptism." This "one baptism" is a pure and spiritual thing, namely, the baptism of the Spirit and fire, by which we are buried with Him, that, being washed and purged from our sins, we may walk in newness of life. Of this the baptism of John was a figure, which was commanded for a time and not to continue for ever. As to the baptism of infants, it is a mere human tradition, for which neither precept nor practice is to be found in all the Scripture.
Eph. 4. 5: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." 1 Pet. 3. 20, 21: "In the days of Noah . . . eight souls were saved by water. The like figure where unto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "John the Baptist said of Christ (John 3. 30, 36): "He must increase, but I must decrease. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
Rom. 6. 2-7: "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Gal. 3. 26, 27: "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Portions of Col. 2.10-14: "And ye are complete in Him which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him. And you, being dead in your sins, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, nailing it to His cross."
Under the notion of zeal and piety the Jews added to the divinely ordained sacraments, ceremonies and ordinances of the Mosaic law, their own ceremonies and traditions, which they were prone to prefer in importance to the explicit commands of God. Mat. 15. 6, 9: "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commands of men."
Is it not true that there are many laymen, as well as ministers, who stick tenaciously to and more earnestly contend for these ordinances than they do for the weightier, essential points of Christian doctrine? And regarding the details of the ordinances there has been a great deal of debate, contention and controversy - concerning their number, nature, virtue, efficacy, administration and other things - more than about any other doctrine of Christ.
Some call the Sacraments "sealing ordinances," whereas in Scripture we find not anything called the seal and pledge of our inheritance but the Spirit of God. Eph. 1.13: "After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." Eph. 4. 30: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
First: There is but one baptism, as well as but one Lord, one faith, etc. Secondly, This one baptism, which is the baptism of Christ, is not a washing with or dipping in water, but a being baptized by the Spirit. Thirdly, the baptism of John was but a figure of this inward washing, and therefore, as a figure, is to give place to the substance.
Just a short time before Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the latter said to the people (Mat. 3. 11, 12), "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after Me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Here John mentions two manners of baptizing and two baptisms: the one with water and the other with the Holy Spirit: "I indeed baptize you . . . He shall baptize you." Although they had been already baptized with water, they were not as yet baptized with the baptism of Christ: therefore the baptism of water is not the baptism of Christ. And again, since John declared that he neither could nor did baptize with the baptism of Christ, then the baptism of water is not the baptism of Christ. Why should John have so precisely distinguished between the two baptisms?
Acts 1. 4, 5: "And being assembled together with them (Jesus) commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." It can be readily seen that this Scripture parallels and confirms the one previously cited (Mat. 3.11,12). For Christ here grants fully that John had completed his baptism (the baptism of water), saying, "But ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost," etc. This shows that they were to be baptized with some other baptism than the baptism of water, and that although they had already been baptized with water, yet they had not received Christ's baptism.
Peter observes the same distinction in Acts 11.16: "Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost."
From the three preceding Scripture testimonies (first, of John; secondly, of Christ; thirdly, of Peter) it follows that those who had been baptized with water were, not withstanding, not yet baptized with the baptism of the Spirit, which is the baptism of Christ. So, if there be now but one baptism it is that of the Spirit, and not of water. Wherefore we may safely conclude that the baptism of the Spirit, which is that of Christ, may be received without the baptism of water.
Indeed, the controversy in this, as in most other things, exists between us and our opposers in the fact that they often prefer the form and shadow to the power and substance. This appears evident in that they count those truly baptized with the one baptism of Christ who are not baptized with the Spirit; that is, when they be only baptized with water. Moreover, they regard not those who are surely baptized with the baptism of the Spirit to be truly baptized, unless they be also sprinkled with or dipped in water. Therefore we always seek first and plead for the substance and power, knowing that to be indispensably necessary, though the form sometimes may be dispensed with.
Peter positively defines the baptism that saves as "the answer of a good conscience toward God." Now this answer cannot be, except where the Spirit of God has purified the soul, and the fire of His judgments has burned up the unrighteous nature. And those in whom this work is wrought may be truly said to be baptized with the baptism of Christ, that is, with the Spirit and with fire.
John the Baptist said of Jesus (John 3. 30, 31), "He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all." From this Scripture it is clear that the increasing of Christ's baptism means the decreasing or abolishing of John's baptism, and that the latter is therefore not to be continued.
If Christ had meant that water baptism was to continue as a perpetual ordinance in His Church, He would either have practiced it Himself or commanded his apostles so to do. John 4. 2: "(Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples) ."
After His death and resurrection Jesus said to His (remaining) eleven disciples (Mat. 28.18,19), "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The Greek is "into the name,"; now the name of the Lord is often taken in Scripture for His virtue and power.
Psa. 54.1: "Save me, O God, by Thy name." S. of Sol. 1. 3: "Thy name is as ointment poured fourth." Pro. 18. 10: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." Now, that the apostles were to baptize the nations into this Name, virtue and power, and that they did so, is evident. Gal. 3. 27: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Therefore that Scripture (Mat. 28.18,19) is not to be understood as referring to water baptism.
Therefore, the baptism with water is not a perpetual ordinance of Christ to His Church. Then, as to the duties of worship, He exhorts us to meet, promising His presence; He commands us to pray, preach, watch, etc., and gives precepts concerning some temporary things, as the washing of one another's feet and the breaking of bread. Only for this one thing (baptizing with water) - though so earnestly contended for - we find no precept of Christ.
The Christian religion is pure and spiritual: not carnal and ceremonial. Therefore, to set up the legal rites as basic is to belittle the New Covenant. Heb. 9.8-11: "The first tabernacle ... was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks and divers washings and carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come ...." If, then, "the time of reformation," or the dispensation of the Gospel (which puts an end to the shadows) be come, then such baptisms and carnal ordinances are no more to be imposed. How can water baptism be less a carnal ordinance now than it was before, since it (water) is still a material, not a spiritual substance, and can only effect an external, not an internal, cleansing?
For the law and rule of the old covenant with the Jews was outward, written on tables of stone and parchment. But the law of the New Covenant is inward and perpetual: written in the heart.
Again, if water baptism had been an ordinance of the Gospel, then the apostle Paul would have been sent to administer it; but he declares positively that such was not the case. 1 Cor. 1. 14,16,17: "I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel." Surely the apostle Paul's commission was as large as that of any of the other apostles. If, then, water baptism be accounted a badge of Christianity, he had more need than any of the rest to be sent to baptize with water, that he might mark the Gentiles converted by him with that Christian sign. But in his ministry he does always (as also in his epistles) labor to wean them from the former Jewish ceremonies and observances. Therefore his commission did not require of him that he should lead those converts into such Jewish observances and baptisms.
Some people object that Christ, who had the Spirit above measure, was, notwithstanding, baptized with water. I answer, so was he also circumcised: does that mean that circumcision is to continue as a Christian ordinance ? For it behooved Christ to fulfill all righteousness; therefore did He observe the Jewish feasts and rites, and keep the passover.
"The mystery of iniquity" (2 Thes. 2. 7), which began to work in the apostles' days, soon spoiled the simplicity and purity of the Christian worship: many Jewish rites were retained, and many heathen customs and ceremonies were introduced into the Christian worship.
But there were some in the darkest times of Popery who testified against the necessity of water baptism. The Manichees were condemned because they denied that the bestowal of God's grace comes only by baptism. Alanus speaks of some in his time that were burned at the stake for the same cause. For they said that baptism has no efficacy, and that therefore men are not obliged to be baptized.
The Communion or Participation of the Body and Blood of Christ
The communion of the body and blood of Christ is inward and spiritual, a participation of His flesh and blood, by which the inward man is nourished in the heart of him in whom Christ dwells. Of these spiritual things the breaking of bread by Christ with His disciples was a figure, which was used in the Church for a time, even as abstaining from things strangled and from blood, the washing one another's feet and the anointing of the sick with oil. All these things are commanded with no less authority and solemnity than is baptism; yet, seeing they are but shadows of better things, they cease in those who have obtained the substance.
1 Cor. 10.14,16,17: "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. " John 6. 32, 33, 35: "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. I am the bread of life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst. "1 Cor. 5. 7, 8: "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore, let us keep the feast . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
The body, then, of Christ, which believers partake of, is spiritual and not carnal; and His blood, which they drink of, is pure and heavenly, and not human or material. It is that spiritual body of Christ, whereby He communicates spiritual life and salvation to as many as receive Him, and whereby also man comes to have fellowship with God. The beloved disciple (John) gives us an adequate account of the spiritual sayings and doctrine of Christ: he is more definite and clear regarding the true participation of the body, flesh and blood of Christ, than any of the other Gospel writers.
Listen to these words of Christ: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven: I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. As I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (selections from John 6. 47-63). John 6. 60, 66: "Many therefore of his disciples when they had heard of this, said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it? From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him."
There are three main theories, or doctrines, of the Communion rite, or ordinance. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the wafer and wine of the Sacrament become the actual flesh and blood of Christ. This doctrine is called Transubstantiation. The Lutheran Church teaches that the flesh and blood of Christ are taken in and with the bread and wine. This doctrine is called Consubstantiation. The Calvinists say that the bread and wine give those who take them a spiritual participation of the flesh and blood of Christ.
Friends (called Quakers) believe that the living Christ is within the soul of the true believer "is that body which (we) must partake of and feed upon."
For, as without outward food the natural body has not life, so also, says Christ, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no (spiritual) life in you" (John 6. 53). The error is in believing that the sacramental elements are necessary in order for the soul truly to feed on the spiritual body and blood of Christ.
Many eat of the bread and drink of the wine who, notwithstanding, have not life eternal; they have not Christ dwelling in them. But all who truly partake of the flesh and blood of Christ without the use of this ceremony do have life eternal-as all the patriarchs and prophets did before this ordinance was instituted. 1 Cor. 10.1-4: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."
As for the paschal lamb, the whole purpose of it is signified in this: That the Jews might thereby be kept in remembrance of their deliverance out of Egypt. (Read Mat. 26.19, 26-28; Mark 14.16, 22-24; Luke 22. 13, 19, 20. ) Notice Luke 22. 19: "This do in remembrance of Me." Now consider Paul's interpretation of the Last Supper (1 Cor. 11. 23-26): "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come."
But to remember the Lord or declare His death - which are the special and particular ends annexed to the use of this ceremony - is not at all to partake of the flesh and blood of Christ.
"He (Jesus) riseth from supper . . . and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel.... So after He had washed their feet ... He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (selections from John 13. 14-17). If we look into the plain Scripture, what can be inferred from it to urge the one (communion of bread and wine) which may not be likewise said for the continuance of the other (feet-washing)? But since the washing of feet is justly laid aside as not binding upon Christians, so ought also the other (communion of bread and wine) for the same reason.
Oh! What strange debates and controversies Christians have brought upon themselves by superstitiously adhering to this ceremony! Out of these difficulties it is impossible for them to extricate themselves, except by laying it altogether aside, as they have done other ordinances of like nature. The Calvinist Protestants of Great Britain could never agree among themselves about the manner of partaking of it: whether sitting, standing or kneeling; whether it should be given to the sick and those that are ready to die, or not.
Such controversies have greatly contributed to much contention, even to bloodshed and devastation. For instance, the Prelatic Calvinists have termed the Presbyterians schismatical and pertinacious (obstinate); while the Presbyterians call them superstitious, idolatrous and papistical. Surely the devil has stirred up this contention and zeal, to busy men about things of small importance, that greater matters may be neglected.
Rom. 14.17: "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Tradition is not sufficient ground for faith. In this matter of ceremonies and superstitions the apostasy began very early, as may appear in the epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Colossians. Certainly we have no reason to imitate them in those things, which the apostle so much withstood, so heavily regretted, and so sharply reproved. Also, we find that in such observances and traditions people have been very uncertain and changeable; so that neither Protestants nor Catholics observe this ceremony as they (the Corinthians) did.
For we certainly know that the day is dawned, in which God has arisen, and has dismissed all those ceremonies and rites, that He only is to be worshipped in the Spirit, and that He appears to them who wait upon Him. To seek God in outward ceremonies is, with Mary at the Sepulcher, to seek the living among the dead: for we know that He is risen and revealed in the Spirit, leading His children out of these rudiments (rites and ceremonies), that they may walk with Him in His light: to whom be glory forever. Amen.
The Power of the Civil Magistrate, in Matters Purely Religious and pertaining to the Conscience
Since God has assumed to Himself the power and dominion of the conscience- God, who alone can rightly instruct and govern it-therefore it is not lawful for any person to force the conscience of others. Therefore, all killing, banishing, fining, imprisonment and other such things which men suffer (only for the exercise of their conscience or difference in worship or opinion), are contrary to the truth: provided always that no man do anything destructive to, or inconsistent with, society. Mat. 7.12: "Therefore all things, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
By conscience is to be understood, that persuasion which arises from the mind's being convinced of a belief of the rightness or wrongness of any certain proposed course of action. If a man should go against his persuasion, or conscience, he would be committing sin; because whatever a man does that is contrary to his faith is not acceptable to God. Hence the apostle says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14. 23).
First, we ask, In things religious is it right for the civil magistrate to force men to do contrary to their consciences; and if they will not be forced, to deprive them of their goods, liberties and lives? We answer, "No."
Second, We would have a magistrate avoid this extreme of encroaching upon men's consciences. On the other hand, we do not agree with those who would allow the liberty of their consciences to harm their neighbors, or work to the ruin of human society. It is wrong to seek to influence or force our fellowman, except by reason, preaching and instructing those who will hear and receive it.
Neither should men, under the false notion of conscience, do anything contrary to the moral and perpetual statutes generally acknowledged by all Christians. There are those who, on a pretense of conscience, make it a principle to kill and destroy all "the wicked" (that is, all that differ with them), in order that they (namely, "the saints") may rule; and many other such wild notions.
Third, Yet we believe that in the Church of God there should be censures exercised against those who fall in to error, as well as against those who commit open evils. Therefore we believe it lawful for a Christian church, after due admonitions and instructions (according to Gospel order), if she find them obstinate, to cut them off from fellowship by the Sword of the Spirit; but not to cut them off from the world by the temporal sword. Hence Chrysostom says well: 'We must condemn and reprove the evil doctrines that proceed from heretics; but spare the men and pray for their salvation."
Christ expressly declared, saying (John 18. 36), "My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight." But He abundantly has shown by His example that it is by persuasion and the power of God, and not by whips, imprisonments, banishments and murderings that the Gospel is to be propagated. Those that are the publishers of the Gospel must often suffer by the wicked, but they are never to cause the wicked to suffer. Mat. 10.16: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves." We are to be willing to be devoured, not to devour: for it is not the nature of lambs to destroy or devour.
Mat. 26. 52, 53: "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?" It was contrary to the nature of Christ's Gospel and ministry to use any force or violence. Luke 9. 53-56: "And they (the Samaritans) did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
The word of the Lord says, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zech. 4. 6). Again, 'We do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds)" 2 Cor. 10. 3, 4.
Bishop Ambrose says that, on going into France, he would not fellowship with those bishops that required that heretics should be put to death. Calvin says that the conscience is free from the power of all men. Why then did Calvin cause Costello to be banished because he could not, for conscience' sake, believe as he did, That God had ordained men to be damned? Calvin also caused Servetus to be burned for denying the divinity of Christ, and afterwards contended that it was lawful to burn heretics.
Of excellent patience in sufferings the witnesses of God in scorn called Quakers have given a good example: for as soon as God had revealed His truth among them, without regard to the opposition, they went up and down, as they were moved of the Lord, preaching and propagating the truth in marketplaces, highways, streets and public temples - though daily beaten, whipped, bruised and imprisoned for it. And when they were assembled for worship they kept their meetings openly, and did not shut the door nor meet secretly, that all might know it, and those who would might enter.
So this their courage and faithfulness did so weary out the malice of their adversaries that often times they were forced to leave their work undone. Yea, when sometimes the magistrates pulled down their meetinghouses, they have met the next day openly upon the ruins, their right to meet and worship God not being forfeited. When the malice of their opposers stirred them to take shovels and throw the rubbish upon them, there they stood unmoved, being willing, if the Lord should so permit, to have been there buried alive, witnessing for Him and using no resistance or weapons. This did secretly smite the hearts of the persecutors.
There has been, too, the testimony of our harmlessness, for God has preserved us hitherto in the patient suffering of Jesus. We have not hurt our cause by persecuting anyone. This can be said of few, if any, other Christians that I know. And if ever we prove guilty of persecution, by forcing other men by corporal punishment to our way, then let us be judged the greatest of hypocrites, and let not any spare to persecute us. Amen, says my soul.