To the soul which has long been traveling in the Letter,* but has not yet been acquainted with the Power, nor hardly so much as entered into the Ministration of the endless Life, (which is the Ministration of the Gospel), that it may feel the spring, and come to drink there of the living waters."COME unto me, all you that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Mat 11:28-30.
Some sweet meditations sprang in my heart concerning this portion of scripture; with breathings of spirit for, and rollings of bowels towards, those "that labor and are heavy laden," which I find drawings to communicate.
1. In the gospel, (which is "the power of God unto salvation"), is the soul's rest. It is the doctrine of the kingdom, in which is life, joy, peace, and everlasting rest to the soul in God. The law had the shadow of the good things to come; but under it was not the possession of the good things themselves, but only a laboring after them, and a mourning and load because of the lack of them. But in the gospel is the substance, the enjoyment; life and immortality are there brought to light, and an entrance ministered into the everlasting kingdom, where they are felt, possessed, and enjoyed. "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," said the forerunner. It is come, said the Messiah; and in it there is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the pure spirit of life.
2. It is the will of the King of saints that his people should enjoy the rest and peace of his gospel. He would not have them always laboring and heavy laden, as under the law; but he would have their souls feel and enjoy the ease, the liberty, the sweetness, the pure power and eternal rest of his life. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach glad tidings to the meek, liberty to the captives, life to the dead, the opening of the prison to the prisoner of hope, the binding-up of the broken-hearted, the pouring in of oil upon the wounded: and he would have the souls of his people enjoy that which he came to bring them.
3. Christ has plainly chalked out the path of his rest to every weary, panting soul, in which he that walks cannot miss. He has cast up, cast up; he has made the way plain in the gospel, so plain, that the way-faring man, though a fool, yet keeping to the light of the gospel, cannot err within, or miss of the blessed rest of it. How is it? Why "come unto me; take my yoke upon you and learn of me." He that walks in this path cannot miss of it; the rest is at the end of it, no, the rest is in it:* "he that believes enters into the rest." The true faith, the faith which stands in the power, and which is given to the birth which is born from above, is the substance of the rest hoped for, and there is a true taste and some enjoyment of it given to him that truly believes.
4. The rest was once felt and enjoyed, when the gospel was known in power. Believers, in the first day of the gospel, before the night overtook that glorious dispensation, found "peace and joy in believing;" yes, they could rejoice in the Lord always. They felt the power and the life, which stood over all the powers of darkness, and brought good to them out of every affliction, and out of every temptation, and out of every distress; so that they, standing in the life and in the power that had quickened them and was present with them, they could "count it all joy when they fell into manifold temptations," knowing the advantage which would accrue to them thereby, and possessing their souls in the pure patience, until God wrought it out for them. They had an entrance ministered to them into the everlasting kingdom; they received the kingdom which could not be shaken, and in it had fellowship with the Father, and with the Son, and in the eternal light the blood ran in their vessels, which cleansed them, and kept them pure; and they sat down with Christ in the heavenly places, even every one in the particular mansion that God had built in them by his Spirit. The fear of the living God was put in their hearts; the Spirit of the Lord was within them, and there his law was written, and read in the Spirit, and the treasures of his kingdom were opened by the key of David in the hand of the Spirit, and their souls had true satisfaction and rest in measure, and were traveling on towards the fullness.
5. There is no rest to the soul to be enjoyed in the gospel from under [without] the yoke. This stands eternally: that which yokes down what would be at ease and liberty out of the life, that is the soul's true rest; there is no other; and under the yoke it is enjoyed, and not otherwise. Only when what is to be yoked down is consumed and destroyed, it is then no longer a yoke but perfect liberty. But the same thing which is the liberty is the yoke; and under the yoke, the sweetness, the ease, the lightness, the safe possession of the life is enjoyed. Mark this therefore diligently: the yoke is not one thing, and the liberty another; but they are one and the same. The power of God, the life everlasting, the pure light, the divine nature, is a yoke to the transgressing nature; but it is the ease, the pleasure, the rest, the peace, the joy, the natural center of that which is born of God.
Well, you who are dry, dead, barren, as it were without the living God, (that know not the shining of his sun, nor the descending of his dews from on high on his tender plants, nor the care, diligence, and circumspection of the husbandman over his husbandry); oh! wait for the quicken-virtue, for the visitations of the day-spring from on high! That you may be quickened again to God, that you may find his life visiting you, his Spirit breathing upon you, that the seed of Jacob may be raised in you to travel out of this barren state, even out of this land of darkness, and from under the shadow of death, to the land where life lives and flourishes, and daily distributes plentiful nourishment and refreshment to all its offspring, who are taught to wait for it, and to feed on it in the holy place, out of the sight of the eye of the fleshly wisdom.
You who are still gasping after the living God, on whom the breathings of life still abide; who remain unsatisfied inwardly for lack of the presence of the Lord, and whose hearts still mourn and lament deeply after him; oh! consider what is the matter, that you have mourned so long, and sought so long, and yet to this day are at a distance from the thing you have mourned for and sought after.
"Strait is the gate, narrow is the way, that leads unto life, and few there are that find it." The way of unbelief is broad, yes, the way of belief is broad also. It is easy for a man so to believe concerning Christ, or in Christ, (as his heart may call it), as to miss of the nature of the true faith, and of the sweet and blessed effects which accompany it. It is easy likewise to miss the yoke, (to take up a wrong yoke, in the self-will, self-wisdom, self-interpretation of scriptures), or easy starting aside from the true yoke; but it is hard coming under the yoke of the life, and hard abiding under it. Again, it is easy misunderstanding; a man may so read, and so hear, as that he may be always learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth; never come to the truth as it is received and held in Jesus; but may so get and hold the knowledge of the truth, as man in his wisdom may get and hold it from the letter. And if a man thus misses the way, how can he attain the end? If a man begins not in the true faith, in the living faith, how can he attain the rest which the true faith alone leads to? If a man misses the yoke, or abides not constantly under the yoke, how can he meet with the true ease and rest which is in it, and which it alone can administer? If a man learns not the truth rightly from the true teacher, how can he ever reap the effects of the true knowledge? Ah, poor hearts! It is not enough to have breathings after God, nor to be very diligent and industrious, either in outward ordinances, or inward exercises of spirit; but the way of the gospel must be cast up by God, and the soul led into it by him, and daily preserved by him, and must walk in the path which is proper for it to walk in, or it may mourn and cry all its days, and never meet with that enjoyment of God, and satisfaction in God, which it waits for, and cries after. It is one thing to mourn after a gospel-state, but another thing to be brought into it by the power. With my heart I own those who mourn after and feel the lack of God, wherever they are; but this I know certainly, that they can never come to the enjoyment of him, but in that living path, which the Scriptures testify of to be in him who is the life, and which his Spirit is now found manifestly leading into. Blessed be his name!
Question: But how may my poor soul, who has long mourned, and groaned, and been sick of love after my beloved, but could never attain to the satisfactory enjoyment of him, come to walk in his path, so that I may meet with, and lie down in, the power of life and salvation which the gospel holds forth to the true believer, and which I have been long sensible of the deep want of?
Answer: You who would enjoy your beloved, and feel the rest of his gospel, and walk in that path which leads there, wait to learn of the Spirit these things following:
1. Know what it is, that is to walk in the path of life, and indeed is alone capable of walking within. It is that which groans, and which mourns; that which is begotten of God in you. The path of life is for the seed of life. The true knowledge of the way, with the walking in the way, is reserved for God's child, -- for God's traveler. Therefore keep in the regeneration, keep in the birth; be no more than God has made you. Give over your own willing; give over your own running; give over your own desiring to know or to be anything, and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in you, and be in you, and breathe in you, and act in you, and you shall find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that, and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion. And as you take up the cross to yourself, and allow that to overspread and become a yoke over you, you shall become renewed, and enjoy life, and the everlasting inheritance in that.
2. Know in what light it is to walk, which is in the light of the Spirit. There the child is born, (not in Satan's darkness, or highest transformings into the likeness of light, which is but darkness; nor in the light of man's wisdom, searching knowledge, or comprehension), and there it walks; in that light it takes every step and motion towards the land of life; therefore hold no knowledge outside of the Spirit. If any knowledge concerning the things of God are held out of the freshness of the Spirit, it presently proves dead and unprofitable. The spiritual Israel cannot travel without a spiritual light; which light is eternal and incomprehensible, and cannot be held by man's spirit, but shines fresh in the renewed spirit every day, and so is daily gathering it more and more inward into itself, comprehending it in itself, and preserving it in its own purity, clearness, and brightness. Oh! this what has undone many: catching at light from the Spirit, transplanting the image of divine things into the earthly principle, and there holding of them in the earthly part, growing wise by them there, and making use of them from there as man sees good, and not seeing a necessity of depending on the Spirit for fresh light and life every day to every spiritual motion. Thus the traveler soon comes to lose the true path, and instead of it travels on in a road of his own wisdom's forming; and so though he seems to himself to make a large progress, yet makes no true progress at all, but is exceedingly side-tracked; all which ground he must travel back over again, so he can come to the truth of his former state, or proceed in the true travel.
3. Know and keep to the power, which alone began any true work in the heart, which alone can preserve it, and which alone can carry it on. Christ was made a priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life; and every sacrificer under him, (which every true believer is), is so made by the same power. The powers of darkness are continually at hand, which nothing can stand its ground against, (much less walk on safely), without being in that power which is above them. The first coming to Christ must be in the power of the Father's drawing; and no believing afterwards is of the true nature, nor will avail the soul in its progress and travel towards life, but what abides in, and goes forth in the same power. So the taking up the yoke, and drawing in it, must be by the power of the new life; and so must the disciple's learning be. As the master teaches in the power of the Spirit the things which alone can be seen with the new eye, heard with the new ear, and received into the new heart; so the scholar must learn and receive his lessons of life in the same power. Let any disciple of Christ be from under the shadow of the power, believe out of the power, walk out of the power, act out of the power, he is from that in which his life stands, and in which alone is his preservation; and ah! how liable is he then to falls, bruises, snares, and temptations of the enemy.
4. Watch against the selfish wisdom, in every step of your growth, and in every spiritual motion, that that comes not between you and your life; that that deceives you not with a likeness, a shadow, making it appear more pleasing to the eye than the substance. Every step of your way, it will be laying baits for you; and it is easy for deceit to enter you at anytime, and for that wisdom to get up in you under an appearance of spiritual wisdom, unless the Lord tenderly and powerfully preserves you; and if it prevails, it will lead you from the path of the true wisdom. It will trick you with a false faith, instead of the true faith; with false praying, instead of the breathings of the true child; with diligence and zeal in your false way, instead of the true zeal and diligence. Yes, it will hurry you on in the path of error, shutting that eye in you which should see, and hardening your heart against your bosom friend. And being thus deceived, you may be as zealous in your age and generation against the truth, as the Jews were in theirs; and as certainly as they that put Christ to death, and persecuted his apostles, though they cried up the former prophets, so certainly you, under this deceit, can not but act against the present dispensation and appearance of Christ's Spirit, and would persecute either the prophets, apostles, or Christ himself, were it their present day now so to appear as formerly they did.
5. Let nothing judge in you, (concerning your own heart, or concerning others, or concerning any way or truth of God), but only the begotten of God in the heart. Let the light in which you are begotten to God, and which shines upon his begotten, be the only judge in you, and then you can not err in judgment. Be not hasty, be not forward in judgment; keep back to the life, still waiting for the appearance and openings of the life. A few steps taken in the life and power of God are much safer and sweeter than a hasty progress in the hasty, forward spirit.
Indeed this is the true religion, to feel God beginning the work, and to wait on him for his carrying it on. The feeling of God's Spirit beginning somewhat in the heart, the heart's waiting on him for more of his Spirit, and walking on with him in his Spirit, as he pleases to quicken, lead, draw, and strengthen; this is the spiritual and true religion; and there is no duty or ordinance of the gospel out of the Spirit; but it is easy crying up and observing the likeness of any of them out of the Spirit, into which observance a strange spirit easily enters; and then that which was of God in the heart soon withers, and a contrary building is raised, and the state of the heart changed. Oh! wait on the Lord, that he may give you to understand these things; for the apostasy from God is very deep, and more provoking among the Protestants than among the Papists, yes, most of all provoking where it is most inward and spiritual.
Question: But how may I know and keep to the begotten of God, and to the light and power of the Lord, and keep down the fleshly wisdom and comprehension concerning the things of God?
Answer: When God begets life in the heart, there is a savor of it in your vessel, and a secret, living warmth and virtue, which the heart in some measure feels, by which it is known. Lie low in the fear of the Most High, that this leaven may grow and increase in you. This is the leaven of the kingdom; this is it which must change your heart and nature, and make your vessel, (which perhaps has been long and much corrupted), fit to receive the treasure of the kingdom. Now while the savor is upon you, while the virtue of the life is fresh in you, you find some strength towards God, with some little taste and discerning of the things of his kingdom. Know your weakness, and go not beyond the measure; but in what you have received bow before the fullness, worship God in that, and be patient in what he exercises you withal, waiting for more from him. And when the night comes upon you, and you perhaps are at a loss, missing the savor and presence of the life, and not knowing how to come by it again, be patient and still, and you will find breathings after a fresh visitation, and a meek, humble, broken spirit before the Lord. You will see you can do nothing to recover his presence again; no, you cannot so much as wait for him, or breathe after him, without his help; but he is near to the poor, near to the broken, near to the distressed, near to the helpless. Oh! do not, with your fleshly cries and roarings, think to awaken your beloved before his season; but in the night of distress, feel after somewhat which may quiet and stay your heart until the next springing of the day. The sun will arise, which will scatter the clouds; and he is near you who will give you to hope that you shall yet see God, and find again the quickenings and leadings of his Spirit. And in the day of his power you will find strength to walk with him; yes, in the day of your weakness his grace will be sufficient for you; and he will nurture you up in his life by his pure Spirit, causing you to grow under his shadow; and he will be teaching you to live, and to speak, and to move and act from the principle, and within the compass of his light and life eternal. Only be not wise to catch the notion of things into the earthly part, where the moth can corrupt, and where the thief can break through and steal; but know the divine treasury, where all the things of life are treasured up by the Spirit, and handed forth to the living child with fresh life, according to its need of them. And thus your heart being kept close to God, and your spiritual senses continually exercised about the things of God, it will be easy to you to know the shepherd's voice, and to distinguish the sound of the Spirit in your own heart: and that which tries spirits and motions in your own heart, will also give you the discerning of truth and error abroad, even of the Spirit of God, and the spirit of Satan in others; so that you will be able to try not only words, but spirits, becoming acquainted with the anointing, which savors all things, and will give you to judge, not by the words, but by the power; for you yourself being in the power, in the anointing, in the savor, it will become natural to you to feel, to taste, to know and unite with what is one with your life, what comes from the same spirit in others, and to turn from the contrary. And thus your life, your growth, your path will be sweet, safe, clear, certain, demonstrative in the Spirit and past all reasonings of flesh and blood, either in yourself or others. The beginning of life eternal is in a higher principle than man can come at. Man's wisdom and knowledge of the things of God is but brutish before it. As you come into that principle, abide and grow in that principle, you are beyond man's judgment, and are able to judge man, and fathom his whole course as with a span; but are quite out of his reach in the lowest of your motions, thoughts, or actions; I mean such as flow from, and are comprehended in, the life.
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