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able groanings, without any creaturely additions, giveth life; and doubtless would frequently not only give a small beginning of real divine life, even to those who are thus unwisely dissipating it by hastily rushing into words, but were they quietly to wait on that inward operation, whereby the spirit is at seasons thus helping their infirmities, they would witness a glorious degree of the arisings and increase of divine life in their souls; yea, many times till death would be swallowed up of victory, and life and light triumph over death and darkness, to their unspeak. able consolation. This is the real and happy experience of many, who dare not presume to add of their own to the word of the Lord, inwardly operative and revealed; dare not be rash to utter any thing before God; dare not make such haste as to force themselves into the vocal expression of what God intended should operate only to the production of inward groanings and divine life, and there to terminate. These do most joyfully find, that as they are thus careful to act the part of true.believers, who must not make haste, but abide in the patient waiting, in that whereby they feel the spirit helping their infirmities, and are willing to be limited to, and by, the measure and manner thereof, either in inward groanings or vocal solicitations ; that as these are truly unspeakable, and cannot be formed into words, without great loss of the inward life and energy attending them, so also is the divine and soul-felt consolation, arising from dwelling in the depths of this inward exercise and stillness, as truly unspeakable, as are the groanings through which it is attained.
But they who will make haste, who will be always ready, outrun their little portion, dry up the small spring of life, their words fall to the ground, and they wonder why they are so cold and lifeless in their devotions; whereas had they been limited by the degree of inward help and life, and content with inward breathings and groanings, they might have increased with the increase that is truly of God; might have mounted upwards in living and silent approaches toward his throne and presence, “ with wings as eagles ;” might run and not be weary, or walk, and not faint.
As this is the certain effect of waiting upon God, so directly the reverse is the consequence of running before him : for, perhaps it will bear to be again repeated, “ the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Here ends the race run of many in man's own wisdom and ability, in flat formality, if not in degeperacy into the bondage of sin and corruption, from which the Lord by the inward working of the spirit, had in some degree redeemed them.
The operation of the spirit in the soul, is that which, in all ages, countries, and persons, began and begins the work, wherever any thing really good and truly religions, is brought forth; and nothing else can do it. Man once dead in sin, would, without this quickening influence, forever remain so, having no more ability of himself to quicken his own or another's soul, or to change his own or others' inclinations and pursuits from bad to good, than the Ethiopean has power to change his skin, or the leopard his spots. But God, ever gracious, visits and revisits the souls of men, by the operations of his spirit; this begins the work, and nothing can carry it on, without the constant assistance of his holy efficient principle, this divine agency of the spirit, in and through every step, movement, and performance of religious life.
The work begins in the spirit, effecting a change, or alteration in our inclinations, dispositions, views, enjoyments, and pursuits, and is carried on by its continued operations, advancing and more and more establishing this change, till a conversion and settlement in the divine life is effected: and our advancement is in proportion to the degree of our submission to, and co-operation with it: that is, the work of redemption goes on no faster or further, than in exact proportion to the degree in which we are influenced by, and through this efficient operation of the spirit or giace of God, whereby he worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure.
And notwithstanding the necessity of our submission to the divine operation, and working out our own salvation in and through it; yet he that thinks he can add any thing of his own, he that thinks he can take one step in any stage of the race, without the spirit's assistance, will find himself mistaken; will find he has been trusting in flesh and blood, a mere broken reed, and that he has had too high an opinion of human ability, even though he may have been foremost and loudest in exclaiming against it.
He who can do any thing for himself that is truly and religiously good, without divine assistance, may hope consistently enough to be made perfect by the flesh, or by creaturely ability, which imports the same thing; and he that attempts to move of himself, unassisted, in the performance of any outward acts of devotion, in any vocal religious duties and performances, is, whether he knows it or not, attempting to be made perfect by the flesh.
Perhaps this may seem like a digression; but I was led into it from the consideration that the merely searching the letter of the scriptures cannot bring a soul to the real knowledge of God, but that the letter tends, when dwelt in without the life, to kill ; and so far these views are naturaly connected with the subject I am upon--" the knowledge of God."
But to proceed. How shall he be known, seeing neither reading nor reasoning can make us know him?
Answer. He never was, nor can ever be savingly known, but by immediate revelation; or if this word offend any, who may ignorantly suppose revelation is ceased, and not to be known in our day, though this is a most unreasonable conclusion concerning days of gospel light and privileges, I will explain. I mean here, by immediate revelation, the same as if I should, to accommodate myself to their ideas, express myself thus : God cannot be clearly and savingly known, but in and by the shinings and manifestations of his own light, " for whatsoever doth make manifest is light,” Ephes, v. 13. This the apostle positively asserts, and we know it is true. We cannot see any outward object without light; in the light objects become manifest. What light then is that wherein is the manifestation and knowledge of God ? Surely it must be a light that shineth in the soul; for that which may be known of God is manifest in man. Read Romans i. 19.
Seeing then nothing but light can make manifest, and that the manifestation of God is to be made within; seeing there is no eternal life to the soul, without the knowledge of God, what light bas he afforded to the souls of men whereby they may know him? Answer. “ The true light, that now shineth,” 1 John ii. 8. and “that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;"? John i. 9. the very life of God, the life of the word, that was in the beginning with God, and was God. Read John i. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Hence it is clear that the light which enlightens all men is Christ, the life of him that was in the beginning, that 4 was and is God.” Well then might the primitive testimony and message be, that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all;" 1 John i. 5. and well might the primitive labourers in the gospel of Christ be sent expressly to turn people" from darkness to light; from the power of satan unto God.” Acts xxvi, 18. That is, to turn their attention to that true light, that had enlightened them in degree, and would and did enlighten them much more abondantly, as their attention became thus turned to it.
But many hated this light, because their deeds were evil, and so it became their condemnation ; for this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." John iii. 19. But they that love it, obey it, and bring their deeds to it, thereby discover that they are wrought in God; for the light reveals God and the knowledge of his will and approbation.
Were it not for this inward divine light, all nations must forever have been in darkness. And had it not enlightened every man, it could not be the condemnation of the wicked and abandoned. God will never condemn a soul for non-attention to a light that never shined in him, or upon him, or for the non-improvement of a talent never afforded. Some were condemned of old for the non-occupation of their talents, but none for neglecting, or not improving, what never was bestowed or offered to them, and so not possible to have been improved.
Indeed this cannot be; God is just. Therefore as sure as the condernnation is, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, so sure the light must enlighten all that are thus condemned, else they could not be condemned for the rejection of it.
Observe how sweetly this conclusion coincides with, and con: firms John's testimony, that "the true light enlighteneth every man!" But some may say, we know the light is sufficient to condemn, but it is not able to save nor to give the knowledge of God. Surely such are mistaken, for it is abundantly able to do both, and in those who attend to it, it most joyfully and assuredly does both.
But, can this light certainly reveal, or give the knowledge of God? Yea, most certainly; and nothing else can. He inhabits eternity, and dwells in the light. In the light only, therefore, can he possibly be known, or manifested to the soul. He is the light, and extends beams of his light to the eye of our souls or minds, as the outward light, the sun, does to the eye of our bodies. Hereby we may receive the manifestation and knowledge of God, and that too by his own light.
As we cannot know the outward sun, but by its own light and influence, no more can we know God, but by his own immediate light and influence.
Whatsoever makes manifest is light. The light of the sun manifests the sun, and the things of this world. The light of the Lord, that the house of Israel is called upon to walk in, and that only, can manifest God.
For this reason we are exhorted, “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light.” John xii. 36. And further, as the influence of the sun will both barden clay and soften war, so the internal luminary, though it is powerful in the condemnation of those who rebel against it, is the joy and consolation of those that love it. They rejoice in the increase of it. They walk therein : it is their path. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. iv. 18. Now the just man's path is his way, and his way is Christ; for Christ says, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”. John xiv. 6. Here we see that Christ, the light of the world, and the way of the righteous, is truly that light which is the path of the just. And though as the light of the world, or of the unregenerate, his shining in them, by reason of many clouds and obstructions arising from themselves, may be very dim; yet whenever we come to walk in the light as the apostle advises—whenever we take it for our path, our