The Kingdom of Heaven Taken by Prayer
An Account of the Author's Translation from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God.
As my gracious God still appears the Bank of Faith, I am come once more to pay thee a visit from the press. Whether thou wilt smile or frown at me, I know not, nor shall I make any inquiry. If thou approvest of my company, discourse with and examine me; for the wise man saith, "Wisdom in the heart is as deep waters, and a man of understanding will draw it out," Prov. xx. 5. If my company be agreeable, prepare me a lodging upon one of thy shelves; my board will be no expense, lodging will be all; and you can take me down and peruse me when you please; only take care to put me out of sight when any of my enemies visit thee, or else thou wilt be in as much danger of losing thy reputation as poor Jonah was.
But perhaps my reader is one that loves the truth, and is valiant for it, and not awed by the fear of man; if so, thou needest not put me out of sight, for I am not ashamed of myself before men, if thou art not ashamed of me. And, shouldest thou entertain me, and use me till thou hast worn me out, thou mayest have me again for little more than the price of a pack of cards.
Possibly my reader is one that despises heart-work, and rests in carnal security - with a little speculative knowledge in the head, and a little decent morality in outward show: if so, thou hast got thy lamp; there is nothing wanting but oil in thy vessel; that is, the Spirit of grace in thy heart. This thou must have, before thou canst be assured that thou art a vessel of mercy. But perhaps my reader is too old to learn, and too wise (in his own conceit) to be taught by a coal-hearer; if so, I shall not stand to dispute thee out of thy wisdom - for I would sooner dispute "with a young and a wise child, than with an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished," Eccl. iv. 13. Of this, however, be assured, that God's word is called a lamp, Psal. cxlx. 105. A bare speculative knowledge of God's word is a lamp taken by many; that is, by half the bulk of professors. "Five were wise, and five were foolish." An external reformation under the gospel is an hypocritical "going forth to meet the bridegroom." Mark - the feet go forth out of the world, and join in communion with the righteous in external appearance, while the heart is still fixed on earthly things. But, if thy heart be destitute of the Spirit of God, thou hast no oil in thy lamp, Matt. xxv. 8; no "treasure in thy earthen vessel," 2 Cor. iv. 7; and without God's Spirit thou canst not know God, nor the things of God; "for they are spiritually discerned," 1 Cor. ii. 14. It is God's Spirit that teaches us to "know the things that are freely given us of God," 1 Cor. ii. 12. "God reveals them to his saints by his spirit," 1 Cor. ii. 10. That blessed Spirit is "the oil that anointeth us," 2 Cor. i. 21. And he is "that unction which teaches us all things, 1 John, ii. 27; and seals us up to the day of redemption.
Therefore, "if thou hast not the Spirit of Christ, thou art none of his," Rom. viii. 9. Thou art not "made wise to salvation," 2 Tim. iii. 15. Thou art a foolish virgin, and thou wilt one day call about thee for inspiration. "Give us your oil," will be the universal request of every foolish virgin, when the midnight cry cometh to call the "labourers from the vineyard;" and this will be a "night in which no man can work."
Therefore beware of trusting to a little head knowledge; for, depend upon it, that lamp will not stand the appearance of an angry Judge, Prov. xiii. 9. "Our lamps are gone out," say the foolish virgins. How should it be otherwise, when there was no oil to feed the flame, no golden pipe of faith to bring it from the bowl of the candlestick? Zech. iv. 2, 3 Thou mayest be so reformed as to deceive many; yea, thou mayest preach and pray too, and have a deal of zeal and diligence about thee; insomuch that thou mayest almost, if not altogether, deceive the very elect. But all thy zeal, joy, diligence, and gifts, shall wither, "if the root of the matter be net in thee," Job, xix. 28. And thou wilt then fall away; for God declares that "a prating fool shall fall," Prov. x. 8. And then thou wilt go to sleep in carnal security and insensibility; as it is written, "and, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept," Matt. xxv. 5. The wise, as well as the foolish, slumbered and slept. But the watchman began to sound an alarm to those in a Laodicean church state; and to tell them that the Saviour knocked at the door, and was just ready "to come in and see the guests," Matt. xxii. 11. The watchmen then began to give them the counsel they had received from the Lord, which was, "that they should buy of Christ gold tried in the fire, that they might be rich; and white raiment, that they might be clothed, and that the shame of their nakedness might not appear; and anoint their eyes with eye-salve, that they might see" that the Judge is even at the door, Rev. iii. 18.
Being thus alarmed, and awaked out of their lethargy, they cried out, "It is the voice of my beloved that knocks," Cant. v. 2. "I sleep, but my heart waketh," Song. v. 2. The bridegroom is coming. Now they began to look about them. And the Saviour, having awakened their attention, calls to them again, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore) and repent," Rev. iii. 19. And now his rebukes came on them, and his chastening hand was heavily felt. Under these rebukes and chastisements they sink into "the furnace of affliction, in which God hath chosen them," Isa. xlviii. 10; and "they come forth from the fiery trial like gold," Job, xxiii. 10; yea, they found "the trim of their faith more precious than gold that perisheth, though it was tried with fire," 1 Pet. i. 7. This made them "rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of glory, that was just ready then to be revealed," 1 Pet. i. 4, 5. Having obtained faith's wealth, they now looked with a pitying eye on their much abused Lord, whom they had greatly slighted by their spiritual sloth and drowsiness; and mourned and repented, as he bid them. The finger, too, of their tried faith brought fresh healing "virtue out of Christ," Mark, v. 30. And they then felt precious" refreshings come forth from the presence" of the Lord; as it is written, "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things," Acts, iii. 19 - 21.
More grace being given them, they were purged and sanctified, and appeared in the "covering of God's Spirit," Isa. xxx. 1; which was their "white raiment," Rev. iii. 18. Having thus obtained the white raiment, they found they were purged and healed; they saw their interest clear, their evidences were brightened, and God's testimony was sweetly felt; and this was "the oil in their vessel," or the eye-salve of the great Physician. And thus, reader, "their loins were girt, their lamps trimmed, their lights were burning, their raiment was on them;" and "the Lamb's wife had made herself ready," Rev. xix. 7. And now behold the bridegroom knocketh again, saying, "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him." And they answered, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." And immediately the door was opened, "and they that were ready went in with him into the marriage, and the door was shut." The Master was risen up from a throne of grace, and was sat down on the throne of judgment; and mercy's door was shut.
And now come the refined Pharisees, with a part of their church liturgy - not "Good Lord, deliver us;" nor yet, "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord." No; business now required haste; they were obliged to cut it short, as Peter did when he was sinking in the sea. "Lord, Lord, open to us!" But the expression of "Lord, Lord," had no more success at mercy's door, in the day of judgment, than "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord," has at a throne of grace without the Spirit. They found that the Lord was no friend to repetitions; but faithful to the word he had left upon record; namely, that "not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven," Matt. vii. 21. "And this is his will, that we believe on the name of the Son of God" for our justification. Secondly, that we repent with an evangelical repentance, that brings us towards God; not with a legal repentance only, such as Judas had, for that drives us from God. And, thirdly, that we "worship God in spirit and in truth, for God seeks such worshippers to worship him," John, iv. 23. To "worship God in the Spirit" shews that a man must be inspired, and approach God with a spiritual mind, with a spiritual understanding, 1 Cor. xiv. 15; with spiritual affections; and to pray as the Spirit operates on him, 2 Sam. vii. 27; and "gives him utterance," Acts, ii. 4. "The words of his mouth must be the meditation of his heart," Psal. xix. 14. He must pray in spiritual faith, James, i. 6. He must plough in spiritual hope, Prov. xiii. 12. And in spiritual expectation, Hab. ii. 1. Yea, he must pray against every thing of which the Spirit convinces him to be evil, 1 Cor. iv. 10. And he must pray for every blessing which the Spirit convinces him of the need of, Heb, iv. 16. And he will find this blessed Spirit will help his weaknesses, and kindle a willing frame when he is reluctant; a fervent frame when he is lifeless; yea, a bold frame when he has cause to blush and take shame to himself, Dan. ix. 7-9. Yea, and a believing frame, to enable him to call Godfather, as the prodigal son did, even "when he was in a far country," Luke, xv. 18. This blessed "Spirit makes intercession for us according to the will of God" revealed in his word and never contrary to it, Rom. viii. 26, 27. To worship God in truth, implies that a man prays for what he truly feels the want of, Matt. v. 6; and that he prays to the only true God, whom he hath a scriptural and an experimental knowledge of; that he, by the Spirit, sees how all the glorious attributes of God harmonize together in Christ Jesus, the true substance and sacrifice of all the ceremonial types, figures, and shadows. To worship God in truth, is to let our lips and our hearts go together, Prov. iii. 26; to pray against every sin and error that the Spirit points out to us; to pray for every blessing that God has promised to give, and to take a scriptural warrant for it; and so address God in his own language, Hoses, xiv. 2. This is spiritual, and this is true worship; and, if my reader tries this way, he will find "the Spirit help his infirmities, and make intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered," even when he has grieved him. And, under the fervent influences of the Spirit's intercession, he will be brought to know the very thoughts of the Lord concerning himself, Psalm, cxxxix. 17; and to "pour out his very soul before him, and shew him all his trouble," Psalm, cxiix. 2; and leave his burdens with him, Psalm, lv. 22; like Hannah, that sweet female wrestler, when she went from her knees at Shiloh, with her blessed "countenance no more sad," 1 Sam. i. 18.
If my reader be a stranger to all that I have said about prayer he has never yet prayed; he may have read prayers, and have said his prayers; but he never yet prayed so as to prevail with God. God takes no more notice of lip prayers, than I do of a parrot that calls to me on the road, when it neither knows what it says, nor whom it calls after.
But perhaps I have offended my reader already, in dwelling too long on this important subject; if so, thou mayest easily get rid of me, by doing as some (who are called Christians) have done with my ARMINIAN SKELETON; that is, throw it into the fire. And, if thou wast so to do, thou wouldest not be the first that the devil has stirred up to burn the rolls of truth. Jehoiakim, king of Judah, did the same, Jer. xxxvi. 23. The smoking vengeance of God "upon himself, upon his seed, upon his servants, upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, was all the wages that he got for this impious contempt of God, Jer. xxxvi. 31. However, as some have burnt my Skeleton, I have done as God commanded Jeremiah to do; that is, "I have wrote another," Jer. xxxvi. 28.
Had I been a private Christian, I might not have published the dealings of God with my soul to the world; for I do not find that many private Christians have wrote of their experience in the Scriptures, though there may be some: but a public minister ought to preach and write his own testimony, that his hearers may have the satisfaction of knowing that he is a "minister not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead," Gal. i. 1.
When a man preaches his own experience, it convinces the saints that the "Spirit of God is in him, as a well of water, springing up into everlasting life," John, ix. 14. And, as he speaks, this precious well keeps springing up to supply him with matter; as it is written, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive," John, vii. 38, 39. On purpose to "refresh the bowels of the saints," Philemon, 7. When a man relates from the pulpit the operations, the sweet influences, and the soul-establishing testimony of the Spirit of Wisdom in his own soul, he gives the righteous an opportunity of trying their testimony by his; and, when he establishes his own testimony by the Scriptures, they are led to establish theirs also; and, if he be a deceiver, they have a right to condemn him as such: but, if he has the Spirit of God, they will approve of him, and contend for the testimony of his faith. Thus Wisdom submits to the tribunal of her offspring; as it is written, "Wisdom Is justified of her children," Luke, vii. 35.
When a minister does this he appears with honour, and ought to be feared as a "messenger of the Most High," Mal. ii. 7; or as the ambassador of God, Eph. vi. 20. And the inquiry ought to he "What saith my Lord to his servant?" or "What hath the Lord spoken?" or "Comest thou peaceably?" or "Is it peace?"
Thus a minister convinces us that his doctrine is not after man, neither of man's invention; for he proves to us that he learned it not of man, nor was he taught it at the schools, but that it came "by the revelation of Jesus Christ," Gal. i. 19.
A man's informing us from the pulpit that he was ordained by my Lord Bishop of nobody knows what, ought to have no weight with us; for God tells us in his Word that there shall be no "lords over his heritage," 1 Pet. v. 3; but that the greatest apostle "shall be servant of all," Mark, x. 44. And, if he tell us that he has been ten, twenty, or thirty years in orders, we must pay no regard to that circumstance; for we read that the devil himself appears in holy orders: yea, he assumes the order of angels, who "are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who are heirs of salvation," Heb. i. 14. As it is written, "for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," 2 Cor. xi. 14.
And it is plain, from Scripture, that the devil sends many ministers in the garb of holy orders: yea, he sent some in mock orders, even to mimic the apostles themselves; as it is written, "for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed, &c. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works," 2 Cor. xi. 13-15 The Jewish Sanhedrim sent many scribes and rulers in their days, who knew nothing of Christ; as it is written, "Have any of the rulers believed on him?" John, vii. 48. The pope of Rome has sent his thousands, and the devil ordained and sent the pope; as it is written, "And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority," Rev. xiii. 2. Jezebel, the witch, sent many prophets in her days; as you read, "Now therefore send and gather to me all Israel up to Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the grove four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table," 1 Kings, xviii. 19. Yea, and the devil appeared in the mouths of four hundred prophets at one time, to oppose good old Micaiah, the prophet of God; as you read, "Now, therefore, behold the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets," 1 Kings, xxii. 23. You have their number in the 6th verse.
If a man shall tell us he came from Oxford, or from Cambridge it is not sufficient. Many have declared, at their ordination, that they were "inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost," who knew no more about that Holy Spirit than Nicodemus did, when he thought a spiritual birth consisted in re-entering his mother's womb. Hence the Saviour's challenge, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" John, iii. 10. If the master was such a novice, what must the pupils be? There are many who have run from colleges and from academies, whom God never sent at all; and this they have loudly proclaimed, both by their lives and doctrine. Nay, a man may be sent out by a true church, as many are in our days, and yet never be sent of God as it is written, "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." The apostles commanded them to "look out among themselves seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost - (mark that!) - full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business:" and among the seven "they chose Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch," Acts, vi. 1, 3, 5. The corrupt doctrines of Nicolas, and the corrupt lives of his followers, are left upon record in Rev. ii. 6 and 15; "so hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate."
It appears plain to me, from Scripture, that every peace officer must be a son of peace: "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," John, xiv. 27; "And into whatsoever house ye enter say, Peace be unto this house," Matt. x. 13. If he be an ambassador, he ought to shew his commission; and, as a messenger, he ought to tell us where he got his message.
It is manifest that the Holy Ghost has left it on record who commissioned the prophets and apostles from the first to the last. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the first public prophet, Jude, 14, is said to walk with God, which shows his union with him by the Spirit; and it is declared, that "before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God," Hob. xi. 5. Peter tells us that the Spirit of Jesus in Noah preached to the souls of the antediluvians - the "spirits that are now in the prison" of hell, "which were once disobedient, while the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah," 1 Pet. iii. 19, until the patience of the Lord was tired out; and then God tells Noah "his Spirit should not always strive with man," Gen. vi. 3. The Scriptures tell us of God's call to Abraham, and of God himself declaring him a prophet to Abimelech, Gem xx. 7. Moses tells us how "God appeared to him at the bush;" how he revealed himself and his name to him; the orders he gave him, and the success he had in executing those orders. Samuel tells us how the Lord made himself "known to him at Shiloh by his word? 1 Sam. iii. 21; and made it known to all Israel that Samuel "was established a prophet of the Lord," 1 Sam. iii. 20. You have also an account of Elisha's call from the plough-tail, and of the Lord's giving him "a double portion of his Spirit to rest upon him." Isaiah likewise informs you how he "saw the Lord high and lifted up;" and of the dreadful view he had of himself When he cried, "I am a man of unclean lips," Isa. vi. 5; how the life-giving coal from off the altar was laid on his tongue, to inspire it, and to take away his iniquity, and to purge him from guilt; how "the Lord instructed him with a strong hand; how he sent him to preach, and what his message was, Isa. vi. 9, 10. And the same prophet declares that "all God's children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be their peace," Isa. liv. 13. Ezekiel (chap. i. 11) tells you, also, how he was called and sent of God. The prophet Habakkuk tells you how God exercised him before he was sent; "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save? why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?" Hab. i. 2, 3. The prophet tells what effect this had upon him; "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble," Hab. iii. 16. He likewise informs you of praying, and then setting himself on his watch. "I will stand," says he, "upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it; for the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." And now it comes: "Behold, his soul that is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith," Hab. ii. 1 4. The prophet Jeremiah prefaces his book with the dealings of God with him thus; "Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Read Jeremiah, i. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. And Amos also informs you how God called him; as it is written, "Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I am no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock; and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." And he gives a most cutting prediction to his opposer: "Now, therefore, hear thou the word of the Lord: thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land; and Israel shall surely go into captivity," Amos, vii. 15, 16, 17. This is his call, his message, and the fortitude of mind with which he delivered it. But time would fail me to tell of all the prophets' calls and commissions.
The apostles also inform us how Christ had revealed his will to them; as it is written, "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit; and that your fruit shah remain," John, xv. 16. And that he bid them "go and preach the gospel to every creature," Mark, xvi. 15; as soon as they had received the Spirit of power from on high, Acts, i. 8. And on the day of Pentecost a cloven tongue of fire sat upon each of them, Acts, ii. 3. And why did the blessed Spirit appear in the shape of a tongue? To shew that he would inspire them to speak the mysteries of heaven with celestial eloquence, and that in all languages; as it is written, "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all the languages of the nations" Zech. viii. 23. And why did he appear as a firey tongue? To shew that their hearts should burn with love to God, Luke, xxiv. 32; their understanding shine as a candle, Luke, xi. 36; and their whole souls be inflamed with zeal for the honour of Christ; and that the "word of the Holy One should be as a flame," Isa. x. 17. It is this that makes "a minister a flame of fire," Heb. i. 7. And "they were burning and shining lights." And he appeared as a cloven or cleft tongue, to shew that they should separate the elect from the reprobate "the vile from the precious, as God's mouth," Jer. xv. 19; that they should make a proper distinction between the law and the gospel, "and rightly divide the word of truth." And thus, sirs, he teaches us also to divide the persons of the glorious Trinity, though not the essence; yea, and to divide the work of each person of the Trinity in the salvation of man; and yet that they all concur in seeking their own honour and our eternal happiness. And likewise to divide between men's traditions and God's truths; between the doctrines of God and the "doctrines of devils;" between the form of devotion invented by men, and the ancient model delivered by God: and to this end the Holy Ghost "appears a cloven tongue of fire;" and, wherever he preaches by an instrument, he either inflames the heart with his own flame, or leaves the sinner "twice dead, fit fuel for everlasting burnings."
The Saviour says, "The good man shall bring forth out of his own heart good treasure;" and David calls to all that fear God to "come and hear what God had done for his soul:" and, for my part, if I never hear a minister mention the operations of God's Spirit on his own soul, nor any thing of his call to the ministry from God, I always think he preaches an unknown and an unapplied Christ I however, every experimental Christian ought to stand in doubt of him.
Preaching and writing the borrowed testimonies of other men do not make a man "a minister of the Spirit," 2 Cot. iii. 6; he is but a minister of the dead letter at best.
But perhaps my reader may object, and say the call of the prophets and the apostles was miraculous; but miracles have now ceased. True, in some senses they have ceased; but the spiritual substance of every miracle still continues. Did Christ raise Lazarus out of his grave? He did; and by his own Spirit he raises dead souls out of the grave of original pollution, where they have covered their souls over, deep enough, with actual transgressions; as it is written, "Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off from our parts. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you," (this is the spiritual resurrection) "and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord," Ezek. xxxvii. 11 - 14. And to this agree the Saviour's words, "The time cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live," John, v. 25. Nor is the miracle of "rebuking the waves of the sea" ceased; for I read that the wicked, in persecuting the righteous, are like the "troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt," Isa. lvii. 20. But God stilleth "the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumults of the people," Psa. lxv. 7. Nor are the miracles of opening the mouth of the dumb, unstopping the ears of the deaf, and strengthening the limbs of cripples, ceased; for I read that "the eyes of the blind (understanding) shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing: for in the wilderness the Spirit of God shall break out, and streams shall run in the desert," Isa. xxxv 5, 6.
When this becomes the experience of a soul, he shakes off? the galling yoke of priestcraft, and throws away his Sheep's clothing, that so many wolves assume; I mean his forms of prayer; for, if the Holy Ghost makes the "lame man leap as an hart" (or deer), he certainly can walk to God without crutches; and, if he does not, he acts like an impostor, in leaning on his wooden props without cause, when he ought (to the honour of the Spirit)to convince the world that by a miracle he has got the use of his limbs. And this brings to my mind what I once read in a sweet tract on Divine Providence, written by Professor Franck; who, in his relation of the efficacy of the Spirit on the hearts of sinners, says, "The number of prayer-books and communion-books, wherein too many place the whole substance of their religion, has begun to abate, and people put in the way more to mind their experience within them than the book without them. Some have laid by the crutches, for fear of losing the use of their own limbs, by walking too constantly on them." Footsteps of Providence, page 47.
Nor is the miracle of cursing the fruitless fig-tree ceased; for many such withering trees there still are, who are fruitless, Luke, xxii 6, 7, or their "fruit is so vile that it cannot be eaten," Jer. xxlv. 8; and God's awful axe is at their root; yea, and their countenance and lips both declare that they are withered beneath the burning wrath of God, Luke, viii. 6; Joel, i. 12.
Nor is the miracle of enclosing the multitude of fishes ceased; for I read that every gospel minister is a "fisher of men," Matt. iv. 19; Ezek. xlvii. 9,. 10: and every real believer that is entangled in the gospel net is a fish; and such shall be gathered into the kingdom, when the bad are thrown away.
Nor is the miracle of rebuking the winds ceased; for I read that he still forbids the winds of error to blow, "till he has sealed the servants of the Lord in their foreheads," Rev. vii. 3.
All these miracles, in their spiritual meaning, are still to be found in the world, though they are bound up in the hearts of God's hidden ones, in whom are all the springs of God; as it is written, "All my springs are in thee."
Thus, reader, the Scriptures inform us of the dealings of God with his servants in old time; and he is the same God now as he was then; as you read, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," Heb. xiii. 8. Thou seest, likewise, that miracles have not ceased in their spiritual operations; no, not even the miracle of" speaking with new tongues," Mark, xvi. 17; for I firmly believe that if ten men, out of ten different countries, and each of them of a different language, were to come and hear a discourse delivered in the English tongue, if God intended to convert those men, his own Spirit would carry the word with such convincing power as to make them "know what were their own thoughts," and would make them feel and understand his displeasure against their sins, and make them know their wretched life, and their present state before God, even in the language wherein they were born. The Spirit of God would make them understand, by feeling that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, 1 Cor. iv. 20. I could find a living witness of the above assertion, if I chose; but I forbear. However, I myself appear as great a mystery to myself as any I find in the Word of God, and as great a miracle; and can just as soon unriddle the whole Bible as unriddle myself.
When God writes his laws on the heart, and puts them in the mind, of a man, just as far as he feels this, so far he can with comfort understand the Bible. "What I do know thou knowest not, but thou shalt know hereafter," John, xiii. 7. He finds his heart a sealed book, as well as the Bible: and he can just as soon unseal the one as the other. This he often finds when critical questions are put to him; and he is, at times, enabled to bring out what he never considered before; which appears as wonderful to himself as to him that hears it; but the time will come when the veil, that is rent at the top, shall open down to the bottom; and then "that which is in part shall be done away, and that which is perfect shall come;" then we shall "see as we are seen, and know as we are known." But in our present state "it doth not appear what we shall be; but this we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Reader, let this be thy "expectation and thy hope," and hope for what thou seest not; and let patience bring up the rear; as it is written, "But, if we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." The vision will surely speak in the end, when the mystery of God and the mystery of iniquity are finished.
Perhaps my reader has heard of the report that is lately gone abroad; namely, that the little treatises written by me are not my own: but thou mayest tell them that I defy the world to produce any book that I have plundered, except the Bible; and that blessed book I call my own, because God has written it on my heart, and given it me freely, John, xvii. 8; therefore the divinity and the language is all my own, as Archbishop Bunyan says; - nor have I one commentator in my possession; nor was I ever owner of one, nor ever intend to be. And the reason why I would not have them is, that I feared they would quench the Spirit, and that I should get slothful in my studies, and then fly to a commentator for matter to preach, instead of praying to God for it.
In short, as God has hitherto supplied me, I chuse to cleave to my old friend, and to ask wisdom of him; and I find, in this way, that I generally get something new. And indeed I have often been without a word on my mind till within a few minutes of going into the pulpit; when, in answer to a few petitions, I have got matter enough to last me an hour and a half: and it was poured in as fast as I could pour it out; as it is written, "He that watereth shall be watered also himself," Prov. xi. 25.
Indeed I found the wise man's words true to me - the more I have scattered the more I have increased, Prov. xi. 24; or, as the Saviour says, "to him that hath, to him shall be given;" and so it has often appeared, insomuch that I have left off with my cruse springing as fast as when I began.
I believe the reader will never find that I publish any thing but my own divinity, which I had from God. My reason for this is, because there are so many sermons in the world that have been published in our days, which I thought were very excellent, and, in consequence, entertained a very high opinion of their authors; but, since a few old books have been lent me for my opinion of them, I have seen the mines out of which even whole volumes have been dug: this rather disgusted me, and has for ever cured me of picking and stealing; nor do I desire to shine in the rays of another man's testimony. However, some of these great men, who, I am informed, have condemned my writings, have put out some pages of them as their own, that never appeared in the world till I sent them out.
The learned Charnock, and Herman Witsius, seem to contribute greatly towards many of our new publications; though the authors have not been honest enough to own it. Their reasons for this are best known to themselves.
I must inform my reader that I have given another public offence that I never intend to acknowledge; which is, I have quoted a passage out of the book of Job, and put it at the bottom of my print, namely, "The root of the matter is found in me." My reason for this was, that I once delivered a discourse from that text, and described it from my own experience, and proved it from the word of God; and those that heard it allowed that I understood the subject; therefore I put it at the bottom of my print, not thinking it would offend so many professors, who have not that root in them. However, I found our old Kentish proverb true, that" one man may steal a horse sooner than another look over a hedge." And so I have seen it; for I can find authors who have stolen scores of pages, and published them as their own, and that without blame; but I only applied that to myself which God had freely given me; and that is a crime before men, though it is none before God. Nobody condemns Job for saying this root was found in him, though, at the same time, "he was righteous in his own eyes," and had only heard of God by the hearing of the ear; but they will not allow me to say so, though my eyes have seen the Lord as plain as ever he did at his deliverance.
I am now going to give my reader an honest account of the dealings of God with me; and, when I have thus done, I can appeal to him, and to Scripture, for a confirmation of every particular; and will appeal also to the consciences of all the real divines in the world for a confirmation: nay, more, I defy them all to overthrow it while I have got a Bible in my hand. No man can overthrow the living testimony of God's Spirit; as it is written, "What God doth, he doth it for ever; nothing can be added to it, or taken from it; and he doth it that men might Fear before him," Eccl. iii. 14.
Some have been inquiring what I mean by S.S. at the end of my name; and various constructions have been put upon it. I now chuse to inform my reader of my meaning. You know we clergy are very fond of titles of honour; some are called Lords Spiritual, though we have no such lords but in the persons of the ever-blessed Trinity; others are named Doctors of Divinity, and Prebends, though God gives no such titles; therefore I cannot conscientiously add D.D. to my function, though some hundreds have been spiritually healed under my ministry; nor have I fourteen pounds to spare to buy the dissenting title of D.D. Being thus circumstanced, I cannot call myself a Lord Spiritual, because Peter, the pope's enemy, condemns it: nor can I call myself Lord High Primate, because supremacy, in the scriptures, is applied only to kings, and never to ministers of the gospel. As I cannot get at D.D. for the want of cash, neither can I get at M.A. for the want of learning; therefore I am compelled to fly for refuge to S.S., by which I mean Sinner Saved; or, that I am made wise to salvation; or, as Luke expresses it, "I have had the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of my sins." This is true wisdom; all wisdom short of this is of no use to the soul: and to walk in the happy enjoyment of pardon and peace is to walk in wisdom's pleasant way.
I think nobody will be offended at my styling myself a sinner saved; nay, I have the testimony of some divines that hear me incog. for this truth; for not long ago there came one who owned he could not contradict what I said; but added, that I was an illiterate or unlearned man. Give me leave to try his confession by the touchstone of truth, and see if it be not a contradiction in terms. "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction," 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16. Now this divine owned that I did not wrest the scriptures, for he could not contradict what I said; and the text says that he is unlearned who does wrest the scriptures. Weigh me in that balance, and I am a scholar by his own confession. However, the Holy Ghost has put a question to every letter-learned man in the world, who is ignorant of the power of God's word; nor has it ever been answered; as you will find in Jer. viii. 7, 8. "How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it, the pen of the scribes is vain. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?" At the most, their wisdom is but a snare to their souls; for "God taketh the wise in their own craftiness."
I do not blame any man that fears God for quoting any sound author: but I blame some for condemning what they cannot overthrow; and yet, at the same time, both write and preach from it, as if it was their own. This is building again what they have by words laboured to pull down; and such thereby make themselves transgressors.
Reader, fare thee well; everlasting love be with thee, while I subscribe myself, in the face of every adversary, the honest coalheaver, and thy willing servant at command in all godliness,