Imatges de pÓgina
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that of preventing wars and promoting peace. To add to this, I perceive a most erroneous view concerning Baptism beginning to be propagated, as if it introduced us to one particular fellowship of Christians, as the Church of Scot. land, whereto it bound us in all circumstances to adhere, instead of joining us to the body of Christ, and making us free of the ordinances of the church, wherever and by whomsoever administered, so they be lawfully called thereto. Besides these, I perceive many other tendencies towards a servile and schismatical spirit within the church itself, which, as I have been instrumental in reviving the true doctrine of the church in these days, I am bound by all means to withstand, as a very evil perversion of it. If I, in my zeal for the ordinances of the Church of Scotland, and the greater personal liberty of her members, were to refuse my ear to the written sermons and liturgical services and sacramental forms of the Church of England, if I were to refuse the consolation and nourishment of her breast for these peculiarities of her attire, I were sinning, like a fool or a babe who is unable to discriminate, and would be punished for my folly and childishness. As a baptized man, I am at liberty to hold communion with any church which standeth in the truth: nor is it in such entrammelling of the spirit to outward forms or ceremonies that we shew our zeal for the ordinances of Christ, or hold fast the things which he hath committed to our charge till he come again. If men will not consider these things betimes, they will be taken at unawares, and most likely will suffer loss: for I see the day not far distant when the state may intermeddle with the sacred things of the church, and when the church herself may cast out her most faithful children; and what then are they to do, if till then they have been binding themselves up in the false and base doctrine of conformity, and obedience to the canons of the church, be they what they may? They will be silenced, they will be excommunicated, and deprived of all loving fellowship with the brethren; and what then if they be regarding that visible community as the infallible oracle of the living God and of the Lord Jesus Christ? But if they have been carrying every thing to the law and the testimony; proving all things, and holding fast that which is good; hearing the infal

lible voice of the Holy Ghost answering to the word of truth, and not answering to any lie; if they have been regarding the church as the ruler of the expedient, as well as the depositary of the true, and ever liable to the temptation of confounding the one with the other; then such events, as I believe to be in the womb of providence, will not unnerve the resources of a Christian, or silence his voice, or destroy his fellowship, but, contrariwise, will make him more zealous and bold and persevering, in promulgating and maintaining that truth of God, for which he is counted worthy to suffer reproach from the spirit of Babylon the Great. I not only believe in the infallibility of the church of Christ, but I believe in the infallibility of every member of it, because he is inhabited and wrought in by the Holy Ghost; and that every baptized man is ever responsible both for spotless holiness and for infallible truth; and I abhor the claims of the Pope, and General Councils, and the Roman church, not because they claimed infallibility, but because they claimed it to the exclusion of the other members and churches of Christ. The truth of God is one, and not many; is unchangeable, is indestructible; and we have that anointing of truth from the Holy One, which knoweth all things, and hath perfect knowledge of what is a lie. Every member of Christ is responsible for the keeping of this treasure, and not another responsible for him; and, therefore, whosoever denies the right of the Holy Ghost to testify the truth in every member of Christ, let him be anathema; and whosoever surrenders this into the hand of any man, or body of men, be they called Apostles (John wrote to them because they knew the truth), be they called Reformers, be they called Evangelical Ministers, be they called Convocation, or General Assembly, or Pope, or General Council, or what you please, that man is making himself a beast, betraying his obligation to God and to Christ, resisting the Holy Ghost, and practically denying him; and he is a bondsman, who hath sold himself to be a bondsman, because he hates to exercise the immunities of a freeman. I write these things for many men and many minds, and therefore I sow my seed widely, beside all waters.

"That no man take thy crown." Having discoursed abundantly, in our Lecture upon the church of Sardis,

concerning the crown of life, there promised by the Spirit to those who should overcome, I might dispense with further discourse concerning it in this place, did I not feel loth to pass any opportunity of descanting on themes so rich and excellent. There is such a goodliness about the words which our Lord giveth in this book, that my mind can never have enough of them. This crown the Philadelphian bishop is represented as actually possessing, according to the hymn of the church in the mouth of John, "He hath made us to be kings and priests unto God and his Father;" and yet, though now held as by right, in virtue of the anointing with water and the Spirit, it is not to be received into possession until that day when Christ shall appear: according to the declaration of the Apostle, "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 not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." We are, like David, anointed, but not yet come to our kingdom; like Christ, baptized with water and the Holy Ghost, and named sons of God, yet not manifested as such till we attain unto the resurrection from the dead; and the intervening while, we are tried by God, in the midst of all trials and persecutions and most beggarly experiences, in order to prove whether we can preserve the soul and temper of royal dignity and honour in the midst of all mean and base predicaments. He useth us to teach kings, and potentates, and principalities, and powers, the lesson of casting their crowns perpetually at the feet of Christ; who all his life long laid his own at the feet of God, nor would wear it until he had first performed for his Father, some work and service worthy to be rewarded with a crown and sceptre and heavenly throne. So also we, being called to royal estate, desire not the instant offputting of those beggarly robes, and the putting on of our royal attire, but, gathering to ourselves the whole armour of God, we go forth into the wars against the devil, the world, and the flesh, preferring to have that as a reward, which God would give us as a grace. God giveth it to us of grace; in our unconscious childhood he doth put the honour upon us; but we, drinking into the Spirit of our

Father, would first fulfil the same function of grace before entering upon our heavenly government. Therefore, most like unto the knights-errant of old, without any thing to give save the blessings of mercy and of goodness, we wander over the desolate world, the scene of plunder and rapine and all injustice, and labour continually in the work of redressing the injured from the hands of the wicked, and redeeming the captives from their oppressors. It is a low view of the Christian calling to desire to die; ours it is to desire to live for God's sake, in order to prove that we have a sense of God's love, and for God's sake are willing to endure and to undergo labours infinite. This was the worthiness of Christ, that, though rich, for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich; that, though a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and, though the Son of God, was made man, in all things like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people and so we, being destined for the fellowship of his Melchisedek priesthood, must first follow his footsteps into death, to conquer death; into all his sufferings, to be able to sympathize with those over whom we shall be ordained priests, and care for those over whom we shall be ordained kings. Our Father would first prove our affiliation to himself, and Christ would first prove our oneness of spirit with him, and we would first prove our willingness to part with all earthly good for them, ere we be revealed in our glory and our majesty; that, before taking our crowns, we might be able to say, with Paul, "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." (2 Tim. iv. 6, 7.)

It is no easy matter to win this crown, and I believe that far more do lose it than keep it: wherefore it is said in this book, that only the martyrs are crowned and reign with Christ; signifying, as I take it, that this is a dignity which, though free to all baptized men and sealed upon them, few live to enjoy; the greater part perishing in their sins, drowned in their worldly lusts, or following after the pride and falling into the snare of Satan. God, to prevent

this, exhibits that prince and potentate with all that followed him reserved for judgment and perdition, thus to guard us against spiritual pride, and to teach us that only the meek should inherit the kingdom, and in Adam's fate, from lordship of the world to become the food of worms, he exhibits the peril of outward temptations; and by Christ's attaining to the sovereignty through the denial of the devil, the world, and the flesh, God teacheth us through what tribulation we are to enter into the kingdom, Few care to endure these, and so they fall short of the grace given to them. The blessed Lord, to guard his faithful servant of the Philadelphian church against such dishonour, commands him to hold fast what he had, that no one might take his crown. The language is altogether very remarkable, and indicates a desperate temptation and obstinate conflict; where nothing less was in controversy than his crown, for which kings contend only in the last extremity. And Christ, perceiving his servant hard pressed in the battle, calls aloud, "Keep thy ground, hold fast thy position, stand well to thine arms, and maintain what thou hast; for I am close at hand, I am hasting to thy help, I come quickly." He is like to be overpowered; the enemy is come in like a flood; he and his faithful band of brothers in the name of the Lord lift up a banner against him and the Lord, to give them heart, calls out to them by his name of Holy and True to keep their hold of the truth and contend earnestly, for it would not be long till he would come to their help. And I believe it will even be found to be, as it was in that last great battle wherein we overthrew the leader of the infidel host. All day long our men stood to their positions, and kept their ground undaunted and unshaken, nor cared much to act offensively being in a continual expectation of effectual help, which being arrived towards the fall of night, they then rushed on with all their valour and overwhelmed the enemy in one fell blow. So shall it be with us who are holy and true and brave enough to stand in the room of this faithful church. The battle which hath begun will surely thicken upon us more and more. It will not slack. We shall be sorely and more sorely pressed; and nothing but staunch and unflinching valour, hand to hand and foot to foot, will avail us or Him whom we serve. Weary shall the

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