Of The Right And Of The Wrong Going To Church, Receiving The Sacraments And Absolution
Beloved Brethren, we will teach youfaithfully, not with flattering Lips to please the Antichrist,but from our Pearl, the Virtue, Power, and Spirit of Christ in us,from a Christian Essence and Knowledge; not from the Husk andHistory, but from a Newborn Spirit, from Christ’s Knowledge, asa Branch growing on the Vine Christ; from the Measure of that knowledge whichis opened in us, according to the Will and Counsel of God.
134. Men tie us in these Days to theHistory, and to the material Churches of Stone; whichChurches are indeed good in their Kind, if Men did also bring theTemple of Christ into them. They teach moreover that their Absolutionis a Forgiving of Sins, and that the Supper of the Lord takethaway Sin: Also that the Spirit of God cometh into Men through theirMinistry. All which hath a proper Meaning, if it was rightly understood;and if Men did not cleave merely to the Husk.
135. Many a man goeth to Church twentyor thirty Years, heareth Sermons, receiveth the Sacraments,and heareth Absolution read or declared, and yet is as much aBeast of the Devil and Vanity at the last as at the first. ABeast goeth into the Church, and to the Supper, and aBeast cometh out from thence again.
136. How will he eat that hath no Mouth?can any Man eat that Food which is so shut up that he cannot get it? Howwill he drink that can come at no Water? Or how will he hear thathath no Hearing?
137. What good End doth it answer, for me togo to the material Churches of Stone, and there fill my Earswith empty Breath? Or to go to the Supper, and feed nothingbut the earthly Mouth, which is mortal and corruptible? Cannot I feedand satisfy that with a Piece of Bread at Home? What good doth it to theSoul, which is an immortal Life, to have the Beastial Man observethe Form, and venerate the Shell, of Christ’s Institution, if it cannotobtain the Kernel thereof? For St Paul saith of the Supper, – `Youreceive it to Condemnation, because ye discern not the Lord’s Body.’
138. The Covenant stands firm, and isstirred in the Use of the Institution. Christ proffereth HisSpirit to us in His Word viz., in His preached Word andHis Body and Blood in the Sacrament, and His Absolution in a BrotherlyReconciliation one to another.
139. But what good doth it in a Beastto stand and listen, who hath no Hearing to receive the inwardliving Word, nor any Ground wherein to lay the Word, that it may bringforth Fruit? Of such Christ saith, `The Devil plucketh the Word outof their Hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.’ But how can he doso? Because the Word findeth no Place in the Hearing Mind totake root in.
140. And thus it is with Absolutionalso; what Benefit is it to me for one to say, I pronounce or declareto thee the Forgiveness of thy Sins, when my Soul is wholly shut up inSin? Whosoever saith thus to a Sinner so shut up, erreth; and he that receivethit without the Voice of God within himself confirming the same, deceivethhimself. None can forgive Sins but God only.
141. The Preacher hath not Forgivenessof Sins in his own Power; but it is the Spirit of Christ in theVoice of the Priest that hath the Power, provided the Priest himself is aChristian.
142. What good did it to those that heard ChristHimself teaching on Earth, when he said, “Come unto me all ye that are wearyand heavy laden, and I will give you Rest’? What good did this blessedPromise to those that heard it, if they laboured not, nor wereheavy laden? What became of the Refreshment or Rest then? Seeingthey had dead Ears, and heard only the outward Christ, and not theWord of the Divine Power, certainly they were not refreshed.Just so much good the Beastial Man hath of his Absolution andSacraments.
143. The Covenant is open in the Sacraments;and in the office or Ministry of teaching also the Covenantis stirred; the Soul doth receive it, but in that Property only ofwhich the Mouth of the Soul is.
144. That is, the outward Beast receivethBread and Wine, which it may have as well at Home. And the fiery Soul receiveththe Testament according to its Property, viz., in the Angerof God it receiveth the Substance of the eternal World, but accordingto the Property of the dark World; it receiveth therefore, as theScripture saith, to its own Judgment or Condemnation. For as the Mouthis, so is the Food which is taken in by the Mouth. And after this Manneralso it is, that the Wicked shall behold Christ at the lastJudgment as a severe Judge; but the Saints shall beholdHim as a loving Immanuel.
145. God’s Anger standeth open in hisTestaments towards the Wicked; but towards the Saints theHeavenly Loving Kindness, and in it the Power of Christ inthe holy Name Jesus, standeth open. What good then doth the HolyThing do to the Wicked, who cannot enjoy it? Or what is it there,that can take away his Sins, when his Sin is only stirred and mademanifest thereby?
146. The Sacraments do not take awaySin; neither are Sins forgiven thereby. But it is thus: When Christariseth, then Adam dieth in the Essence of the Serpent; as when the Sun riseth,the Night is swallowed up in the Day, and the Night is no more: Just so areSins forgiven.
147. The Spirit of Christ eateth ofhis Holy Substance, the inward Man is the Receiver ofthe Holy Substance; he receiveth what the Spirit of Christ bringethinto him viz., the Temple of God, Christ’s Flesh and Blood. But whatdoth this concern a Beast? Or what doth it concern the Devils?Or the Soul that is in the Anger of God? These eat of the HeavenlyBlood, that is in the Heaven wherein they dwell, which is theAbyss, or Bottomless Pit.
148. And thus it is also in the Office or Ministryof Preaching; The Ungodly Man heareth what the outward Soul of the outward World preacheth; that He receiveth, viz., the History; and if there be Straw or Stubble in that which is taught, he suckeththe Vanity out of that. Yea, if the Preaching be mere Calumny, Railing,and uncharitable Abuse, as is sometimes the Case, then his Soul sucketh thevenomous Poison, and the murdering Cruelty of the Devilfrom it, wherewith it tickleth itself, and is pleased with learning how tojudge and condemn others.
149. Thus if the Preacher be one thatis dead, and hath no true Life in him, but soweth only Venomand Reproach proceeding out of his evil Affections, then it is theDevil that teacheth, and the Devil that heareth. Such teachingis received into a wicked heart, and bringeth forth wickedFruits. By which means the World is become a mere den of murderingDevils. So that if you look among the Herd of such Teachers andHearers, there is little to be found but Revilings, Slanderings, andReproachings; together with Contention about Words, andWrangling about the Husk.
150. But the Holy Ghost teacheth inthe Holy Teachers, and the Spirit of Christ heareth through the Soul,which is the Divine House of the Divine Sound or Voice in the Holy Hearer.
151. But the Holy Ghost teacheth inthe Holy Teacher, and the Spirit of Christ heareth through the Soul,which is the Divine House of the Divine Sound or Voice in the Holy Hearer.
151. The Holy Man hath his Church inhimself, wherein he Heareth and Teacheth. But Babel hath a Heapof Stones, into which she goeth with her seeming Holiness and real Hypocrisy.There she loved to be seen in fine Clothes, and maketh a very devout andgodly Show; the Church of Stone is her God, in which she putteth herConfidence.
152. But the Holy Man hath hisChurch about him everywhere, even in himself; for he always standethand walketh, sitteth and lieth down in his Church. He liveth in thetrue Christian Church; yea, in the Temple of Christ; the Holy Ghostpreacheth to him out of every Creature. Whatsoever he lookethupon, he seeth a Preacher of God therein.
153. Here now the Scoffer will say thatI despise the Church Of Stone, where the Congregation meeteth; butI say that I do not. For I do but discover the Hypocritical Whore ofBabylon, which committeth Whoredom with the Church of Stone,and termeth herself a Christian, but is indeed aStrumpet.
154. A true Christian brings hisHoly Church with him into the Congregation. For the Heart of the trueChurch, where a Man must practise the Service of God. If I shouldgo a thousand times to Church, and to the Sacrament every week, and hearabsolution declared to me every day, and have not Christ inme, all would be false, an unprofitable Fiction and graven Image inBabel, and no forgiving of Sins.
155. A Holy Man doth Holy Worksfrom the Holy Strength of his Mind. The Work is not theAtonement of Reconciliation, but it is the Building which thetrue Spirit buildeth in his Substance; it is his Habitation.But the Fiction and Fancy is the Habitation of the false Christian,into which his Soul entereth with Dissimulation. The outward hearingreacheth but to the outward, and worketh in the outward only;but the inward Hearing goeth into the inward, and workethin the inward.
156. Dissemble, roar, cry, sing, preach, andteach as much as thou wilt; yet if thine inward Teacher andHearer be not open, all is nothing but a Babel a Fiction, anda graven Image, whereby the Spirit of the outward World dothmodel and make to itself a graven Image in Resemblance of the inward;and maketh a Holy Show therewith, as if he performed some Divineor Holy Service to God. Whereas many Times in such Service and Worship,the Devil worketh mightily in the Imagination, and very muchtickleth the heart with those Things wherein the Flesh delighteth.Which indeed not seldom happeneth to the Children of God, as to theiroutward Man, if they do not take great Heed to themselves; so busilydoth the Devil beset and sift them.