The Inward Kingdom of God
A sketch of the Christian experience the writer has gone through - IV
My happy soul, decked thus with the wedding garment, inwardly and outwardly, of Christ s righteousness imputed to me, and adorned with the sweet vital innocence arising from his pardoning blood, it might have been thought, indeed, that the battle was won, and that I had bid farewell to sorrow.* But not so. Being now fairly enlisted in the King of kings service, I must now be tried. From this time I began to find the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven more plainly. Now it was I began,
First, to be martyred by indwelling sin. And whatever men may say of their sinfullness, I believe not but those who, like Lydia, (Acts xvi. 14,) have their heart opened by the operation of God, know anything "effectually" of the evil of the heart. O the hell within the heart! But it is shut up as with a close seal to all but the manifested elect. Not it was that I began to find the flesh lusting against the Spirit, as it is written. Now I began to feel it. Now it was I began to find the enmity of my carnal mind against God, as Paul speaks of. The reason why most professors know nothing of it is that God has never opened their hearts; therefore all is shut up within them under the icy seal of death in trespasses and sins by nature; for by nature we are the children of wrath, alienated from God by darkness and the night of Satan and sin. O the intoxicating nature of sin! how it binds men in silk, as it were, to drop into endless fire, everlasting burnings, a burning lake of brimstone and wailings.
From the time my sins were forgiven me, as I say, God came manifestively, I humbly believe, to dwell within me. God must come and dwell within a man, making him thus "the temple of God," in the strictest and truest sense of the words, before the flesh will begin to show forth its virulent hate against him. O what I went through in those times no tongue can tell! It seemed to me as if the fury of hell was let loose in my heart. I never could describe it; it baffles description. Formerly I had felt myself to be a quiet sort of young man; now from this time it seemed to me as if a gash had been made in my heart by the circumcising knife of God, out of which gash or opening in the heart, like Lydia s, streamed forth and oozed out of the flames of enmity against the love of God. O how dead the Pharisees or Church of England people are to these things! How holy the Pharisees are, with their erroneous guides, at sacrament on a "Good Friday" or "Easter Sunday!" O, if God was to open their hearts, (poor, blind, dead creatures that they are!) how their religion would, in some degree, become soon worse than a sink or the kennel, in their estimation! For I insist upon it (and Scripture bears me out in every direction) that until God opens the heart effectually, (Acts xvi. 14,) there is no saving manifestation of our fall in Adam. O the depth of the fall! O the hell in the heart, I repeat! Now it was I began to find unknown sins streaming forth like lightning from that evil fountain, as the Saviour terms the heart. Now sins which I had never been tempted to began to measure swords, as it were, with God in my heart. Let God come and dwell (2 Cor. vi. 16) in a person, and then see what an uproar there will be. Then there are two irreconcilable foes met in one bosom. O it is ineffable! O the gigantic struggling there was in my soul against the Lord!
Now this is a mystery. How, some will say, could it be that I could have my sins forgiven, the peace (in some degree) of God, which passeth all understanding, and yet have this inward spring of indwelling sin roaring like a lion against god? However, it was so; and scripture is express to it: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Now mark that. Again: "I see another law in my members warring - (O how ignorant ninety people out of a hundred, yea, ninety-nine people out of a hundred are of it!) - warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity (!!!) to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!" Paul thus was a wretched man. Where are there any of the Church clergy wretched? Are any scarcely of the Dissenting clergy wretched? No. How plain from this, as well as sundry other data, that the Dissenting clergy are academy-made, as the Church clergy are college-made. The God-Man, the spiritual Bishop, the Chief Bishop in heaven has nothing to do generally with either classes, the Dissenting or Church ministers.
2ndly. After this vision, &c., I was let in more clearly to this great secret; "the secret of the Lord is with them that supernaturally fear him;" namely, I was shown the great difference between stringing passages of Scriptures together, and calling that prayer, and the Holy Ghost praying. Now, many people rummage the Bible over, tack passages of Scripture together, and, on their knees or standing, spout forth those, and call it prayer; whereas, I believe that there is not a drip of prayer in it. No. The only prayer I was shown that ever reached God to do a soul any good spiritually, was under the working, manifestation, or sensible dictation of God the Spirit in the soul, which the Scriptures abundantly testify to the truth of to all but letter-learned ministers and their letter-learned flocks.
3dly. I saw and felt, more clearly than ever, that college-made preachers, doctors in divinity, and their flocks, cannot so understand one word of the Bible spiritually, for Paul calls it "hidden wisdom," and "the wisdom of God in a mystery," and "the mystery of Christ;" so that all the learning of these letter-learned tutors and doctors can only make a bone or glass lantern, without a candle in it, and as cold as death. The Spirit of the Lord is the candle, which doctors, priests, and tutors are as ignorant of as the priests were in Christ s time who crucified him; and "there is no new thing under the sun;" as it was then, it is now.
4thly. I began to feel power, in which alone the kingdom of God within us stands; the Spirit of God as a Spirit of supplication was with me; and I felt myself able to pray in a more illuminated, enlarged way, conquering mere nature and self more than I ever knew before. I had God s manifested presence with me. I prayed because I could not help it. I was in wars and wants, and therefore prayed like a soldier and cried like a beggar. I had realities to tackle; and mere formalities were not worth a chip to me, nor more were they spiritually to any person ever on the earth; for even the clearest unregenerate apprehension, as the foolish virgins had, of all divine truth will all vanish away. As for "knowledge, it shall all vanish away;" which the stony-ground hearers will all experience when their thin, letter-learned, skin-deep, and natural acquaintance with the Bible will vanish like the clouds under the amazing blast of God. For every man s work shall be tried by fire; and I am persuaded every thing will then be burnt up but the Spirit s pure work in the heart. "What says thy conscience reader?" Is Christ in thy heart? If not, thou hast no hope of glory rightly. Thou mayest know the history of Christ, but thou dost not know "the mystery of Christ." The devil knows the history (Luke iv. 10) of Christ better than any clergyman, but not the mystery; so that thou wilt have to settle it in thy heart (if ever thou gettest to heaven) that salvation is a mystery; and then letter-learned and Bible-made preachers, without the Spirit, will be no more use to thee than a glass lantern with a candle in it on a pitch-dark night.
5thly. I was led also effectually thus to have a spiritual understanding, really enlightened, in some degree, I hope, (as Paul prays for,) to "understand" "the Word." Christ and the Bible are "the Word," the first incarnate, the second written; both by God himself framed expressly to be a stumbling-block to all but the elect. "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and rock of offence;" a stumbling-block to natural Jews or Bible-learnt professors of every denomination who have not the Spirit; for it is the Spirit only who can take off the seven seals away from the Bible, to the living understanding of it. All others stumble at the word, "whereunto also they were ordained." All having not the Spirit are none of Christ s. In this way it was I began to have solemn glimmerings, first, concerning the marvellous mine of wisdom hid in the Scriptures, which the Spirit that searcheth the deep things of God digs out for the elect alone, he leaving the rest of mankind to feed and starve to eternal death on the husks of outward knowledge, stumblings, and contradictions in the word. Thus all Denominations quarrel over the Bible, like curs growling and barking over a bone. They are, as I have said, in endless mazes and contradictions lost; "whereunto also they were appointed." Thus, secondly, I began to see that nearly all the religion among all denominations is nothing but shadows; "Like people like priest." (Hos. iv. 9.) Those in the pulpits learn their religion at schools, and their hearers from them and the text and letter of Scripture. Thus, they encourage one another in building their paper image of letter Christianity till the living breath of God will sweep them into endless woe: "Whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth." For every one that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in his flesh, every one in whose flesh Christ is not come, is Antichrist. Christ in the heart is the only hope. All short of that is popery, worthlessness, and image-work, as far as pertains to salvation, which I began to see was the character of nearly all in all denominations, (as I have stated in the preface;) for I saw they knew nothing of inward work, (as a worthless worm as I did,) without which inward felt work of being lost and found, sick and healed, bound and loosed, I saw all religion was not worth a penny-piece. The law of God must gender us to be lost. The gospel must also feelingly find us by the felt remission of sins in our conscience. O the shakings that these things gave me in my feelings! not to be able to think sincerely well scarcely of any one! "Fear not, little flock." The elect are after a little flock. Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many are appointed to go there! Well, it is to be so! (Matt. vii. 13.)
6thly. Now, I believe that I am going to enter on a subject that all man-made clergymen nearly and professors will call me the same as they called my Lord Jesus. The priests and strict professors called him a "madman, a Samaritan, and a devil;" yea, they called him "Beelzebub, the chief devil of all; and a winebibber, this fellow, and a glutton." The priests now-a-days, the lineal descendants, no doubt, of those in Christ s time, (for as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, nature then is nature now,) will laugh me to scorn for the following. And it is concerning the nature, power, and degree of divine vision; as it is written, (speaking of the elect manifested,) "Now we see through a glass;" and again, "But we all beholding as in a glass." This power of vision, then, as in a mirror or looking glass, belongs to and is manifest in the regenerate. Accordingly, we find that Moses, and all the pure in heart, are to see God in this world in the kingdom of grace and of God within them; as it is written, Moses "endured as seeing Him who is invisible;" not with his bodily eyes, but with his spiritual eyes; again, "The world seeth me no more, but ye see me," says Christ to his disciples; again, "This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day." This seeing is the supernatural power of vision Paul speaks of, as I have quoted, where he declares of those who have the everlasting charity or love of God, that they see through a glass dimly, yet that they do see. Isaiah, Stephen, Daniel, John, and various saints, are expressly mentioned as seeing God. It is said "the elders saw the god of Israel." (Exod. Xxiv. 10.) Now Christ to his friends says, "The world (the non-elect) seeth me no more, but ye see me." "He that loveth me," says Christ, "I will manifest myself to him;" to which one said, "Lord, how wilt thou manifest thyself unto us and not unto the world?" Thus, I infer, as a certain truth, that the power of this supernatural seeing is, more or less, in every elect soul; and "where there is no vision the people perish," says Solomon.
And to this power of seeing spiritual objects, more or less, to this power of seeing Jesus spiritually, my experience bore and does bear great testimony. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
But the saints also spiritually saw Satan; and so have I, in the open mirror of divine light: "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him; and the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan!" (Zech. iii. 1,2.) Did Zechariah see Satan or not? Certainly he did, if (as the Pharisees pretend to believe) the letter of Scripture is true. John saw an angel lay "hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him." (Rev. xx.) Satan came to Jesus, tempted him, talked to him, took him up into an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, asked him to worship him, &c., and then leaveth him for a season.
Now I am not going to contend for seeing God or Satan with our bodily eyes; no, God is a spirit, and Satan is a spirit; but I contend that spiritual men, through the new birth, are, more or less, like Moses, Paul, and all saints; and that there is power in the new man in their heart to see; and Paul prays for it. Thus, Moses, as I have quoted, endured as seeing God that is invisible; he did not see him with his bodily eyes, but it was as if he did see God; so glorious was the power of divine vision, or seeing, in his soul. Now a natural man knows no more of this than a dumb beast does. So likewise concerning Satan. Zechariah saw him and John saw him. Colonel Gardiner, (whose life Dr. Doddridge wrote) and William Huntington, and other good men declare they saw Christ in such a manner as no words can express. Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and various spiritual men speak also that to them ("with open face," spiritually, "as in a transparent looking "glass," or mirror reflecting spiritual objects) Satan was manifested as God was seen by Moses, Paul and others. And to this truth I cannot but bear testimony. As Paul says of Christ, "And last of all, He was seen of me also." That is, after Christ s ascension and after Christ departure from this earth, yet Christ was seen by Paul. Christ s body is spiritual now; he is known no more after the flesh now.
So James says to the spiritual, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." And Peter says to them, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about (not to destroy, frighten, or annoy the non-elect, for he has and is to have all them fast enough and for ever; but) seeking whom" of Christ s sheep, plucked away by regeneration from him, "he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in the faith; knowing that the same afflictions (of annoyances from Satan, &c.) are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Pet. v. 8,9.) Thus Peter calls the devil an adversary, to be resisted. And how an adversary never seen is to be resisted, I shall leave for the clever-headed men who get their religion at colleges, and for the cleaver-headed hearers of such dim guides to settle at their leisure. For blind clergy will believe anything; for they are, as Christ says, no doubt under the tuition of the prince of the air.
You thus will find, reader, that most men, most ministers, most professed Christians, know no more about Satan than they know about God; it is all mere hearsay with them. They know no more about God or Satan than I know about Bonaparte, namely, they only know them by hearsay, and reading, and school-learnt knowledge. They talk about resisting the devil, and yet they never saw him. They talk about him as a roaring lion, and know no more of him than a tree does. They talk with Paul about "wrestling with Satan," and yet never came within, as it were, a thousand miles of him. Good God! what a blank is the religion of ninety-nine ministers out of a hundred! The ministers in Christ s day called Christ a madman, a Samaritan, and a devil; and the ministers now-a-days will call me, who am a poor broken-hearted sinner, what their ancestors called Christ my broken-hearted Lord. He pulled the mask off them, and my testimony pulls the mask off nearly every minister, showing him to be a man of straw. The adversary they fight they never saw. No; for who can spiritually see that s dead in trespasses and sins? What natural man can see ought spiritual? Not one. Thus it turns out that God and Satan are perfectly unknown to preachers made at colleges. "The words of their mouth are smoother than butter, but war is in their heart; their words are softer than oil, yet are they drawn swords." (Ps. lv. 21.) O the dreadfulness of a "blind watchman!" The "blind shepherds," alias "blind watchmen," as Isaiah calls them, are the captains-general in Satan s army. Satan does not now lead multitudes into hell. No. He is transformed as the false Christ, and has thousands upon thousands of religious guides in every direction as his aides-de-camps, generals, and helpers. I say, the blind guides are becoming the grand engine of Satan now, to lead men into "the ditch."
* I believe some poor souls do, from "indwelling sin," (those Canaanites,) Satan, &c., suffer almost more after they are delivered by Jesus into the glorious liberty of the children of God than when under the leading of Moses, miraculously, in the wilderness of the law. Also a law-work and gospel-deliverance, though experienced by every saint (Luke xix. 10,) differ so in degree! "Some find their latter stages worst;" "Some long repent, and late believe." "O the depth of the wisdom of God! His judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out!"