Wherein Christian Religion Consisteth And How Men Should Serve God And Their Brethren
All Christian Religion wholly consistethin this, to learn to know ourselves; Whence we are come, and Whatwe are; how we are gone forth from the Unity into Dissension,Wickedness, Unrighteousness; how we have awakened and stirred up theseEvils in us; and how we may be delivered from them again, and recoverour original Blessedness.
181. First, how we were in theUnity, when we were the Children of God in Adam before he fell.Secondly, how we are now in Dissension and Disunion, in Strife andContrariety. Thirdly, whither we go when we pass out of thiscorruptible condition; whither with the immortal, and whither withthe mortal Part.
182. And lastly, how we may come forth fromDisunion and Vanity, and enter again into that one Tree, Christin us, out of which we all sprung in Adam. In these Four Points all thenecessary Knowledge of a Christian consisteth.
183. The Testaments of Christ are nothingelse but a loving Bond or Brotherly Covenant, wherewith God inChrist bindeth himself to us and us to him. All teaching, willing, living,and doing, must imply, aim at, and refer to that. All teaching and doingotherwise, whatsoever it be, is Babel and a Fiction; a mere gravenImage of Pride in unprofitable Judgings, a disturbing of the World,and an Hypocrisy of the Devil, wherewith he blindeth Simplicity.
185. Every Preacher void of the Spiritof God, who without Divine Knowledge, setteth himself up for aTeacher of Divine Things, pretending to serve God thereby, is false,and doth but serve the Belly, his Idol, and his own proud InsolentMind, in desiring to be honoured on that Account, and esteemed Holy,or a Divine in Holy Orders. He beareth an Office, to which he is setapart and chosen by the Children of Men, who do but flatter him, andfor Favour have ordained him thereunto.
186. Christ said, `Whosoever entereth not bythe Door,’ that is, through his Spirit, `into the Sheepfold, but climbethup some other way, the same is a Thief and a Murderer, and Sheep follow himnot, for they know not his Voice.’
187. He hath not the Voice of the Spiritof God, but the Voice of his own Art and Learning only; the Manteacheth, and not the Spirit of God. But Christ saith, `Every Plantwhich my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be plucked up by theRoots.’
188. How then will he that is Ungodlyplant Heavenly Plants, when he hath no Seed alive in its Power inhimself? Christ saith expressly, `The Sheep hear not his Voice, they followhim not.’
189. The written Word is but anInstrument whereby the Spirit leadeth us to itself withinus. That Word which will teach, must be living in the literal Word.The Spirit of God must be in the literal Sound, or else noneis a Teacher of God, but a mere Teacher of the Letter, a Knower of theHistory, and not of the Spirit of God in Christ.
190. All that Men will serve God with, mustbe done in Faith, viz., in the Spirit. It is the Spiritthat maketh the Work perfect, and acceptable in the Sight of God. All thata Man undertaketh and doeth in Faith, he doeth in the Spirit ofGod, which Spirit of God doth cooperate in the Work, and thenit is acceptable to God. For He hath done it Himself, and His Powerand Virtue is in it: It is Holy.
191. But whatsoever is done in Self,without Faith, is but a Figure and Shell, or Husk of a true ChristianWork.
192. If thou servest thy brother, anddoest it but in Hypocrisy, and givest him unwillingly, thenthou servest not God. For thy Faith proceedeth not from Love, norentereth into Hope, in thy Gift. Indeed thou servest thy brother,and he for his Part thanketh God and blesseth thee, but thou blessest nothim. For thou givest him thy Gift with a grudging Spirit, which enterethnot into the Spirit of God, into the Hope of Faith, thereforethy Gift is but half given, and thou hast but half thy Reward for it.
193. The same is true of receiving aGift. If any giveth in Faith, in Divine Hope, he blesseth his Gift by hisFaith: But whoso receiveth it unthankfully, and murmureth in his Spirit,he curseth it in the Use or Enjoyment of it. Thus it is, that everyone shallhave his own; `Whatsoever he soweth, that shall he also reap.’
194. So likewise it is in the Office ofteaching; `whatsoever a Man soweth, that also he reapeth.’ For if anyMan sow good Seed from the Spirit of Christ, it sticketh inthe good Heart, and bringeth forth Good Fruit; but in the wicked,who are not capable of receiving the good Seed, the Anger of God isstirred.
195. If any sow Contentions, Reproaches,and Misconstructions, all ungodly People receive that unto them; whichsticketh in Them also, and bringeth forth Fruit accordingly. So that theylearn thereby to despise, revile, slander, and misrepresent one another.Out of which Root the great Babel is sprung and grown; wherein Men,from mere Pride and Strife, contend about the History, and theJustification of a poor Sinner in the Sight of God; therebycausing the simple to err and blaspheme, insomuch that one Brother revilethand curseth the other, and excommunicateth, or casteth him to theDevil, for the Sake of the History and Letter.
196. Such Railers and Revilersfear not God, but raise the great Building of Dissension. And seeingcorrupt Lust lieth in all Men, in the earthly Flesh still, thereforethey raise and awaken Abominations even in the simple Childrenof God, and make the People of God, as well as the Children of Iniquity,to blaspheme. And thus they become Master-Builders of the great Babelof the World, and are as useful in the Church, as a fifth Wheel ina Wagon; yea, what is worse than that, they erect the Hellish Buildingtoo.
197. Therefore it is highly necessary for theChildren of God to pray earnestly, that they may learn to know thisfalse Building, and go forth from it with their Minds, and not help tobuild it up, and persecute their Fellow-Children of God. Forby that means they keep themselves back from the Heavenly Kingdom,and turn aside from the right Way.
198. According to the saying of Christto the Pharisees, `Woe unto you Pharisees; for you compass Sea andLand to make one Proselyte, and when he is one, you make him two-fold morethe Child of Hell than yourselves.’ Which is truly too much the Case withthe modern Factions and Sects among these Criers and Teachers ofStrife.
199. I desire therefore, out of my Gifts,which are revealed to me from God, that all the Children of God,who desire to be the true Members of Christ, be faithfully warnedto depart from such abominable Contentions and bloodyFire-brands, and to go forth from all Strife with their Brethren,and strive only after Love and Righteousness towards all Men.
200. For he that is a good Tree must bringforth good Fruits, and must sometimes suffer Swine to devourhis Fruits, and yet must continue a good Tree still, and bealways willing to work with God, and not suffer any Evil to overcomehim. And then he standeth and groweth in the Field of God, and bringethforth Fruit to be set upon God’s Table, which he shall enjoyforever. Amen, `All that hath Breath praise the Name of the Lord.Hallelujah.’