CONCERNING THE CHURCH: OR, Of the Church-State Under the GOSPEL.

Whereby it may appear what a miserable Apostacy from the Truth hath overspread and covered the Earth for many Ages and Generations, and how gross and thick the dark­ness yet lies upon it, though the Light of God in his tender Mercy hath broke forth and shined upon the People of his gathering, and through them hath also visited the World.

The guidance of this in my heart, was particularly and chiefly towards the Papists, but I afterwards had a true sence, that it also extended to the state of such Protestants, as had not waited on the Lord, for him (in his Wisdom and Power) to rear up his own Building, but had ventured to build of themselves, and so had reared up Churches in the same spirit of Error, Darkness, and Apostacy, which they seemed to depart from: against all which the Lord will fight, and all which he will break down, in the day of the revelation of the glorious Light and Power of his Truth, which will overcome, sub­due and reign over the Earth, not after the manner of men, but in the heavenly dominion of his Life.

Written in Alisbury Prison about the middle of the 6th Month, 1666.

By ISAAC PENINGTON.

Whereunto is annexed, Some Observations upon the Eternal Judgment, as it is ex­pressed by Christ, Mat. 25.31. to the end of the chapter.

LONDON, Printed in the Year, 1666.

The Preface.

BEcause the corruption of the Christian Doctrine and Worship hath been great (yea indeed very great) since the dayes of the Apostles; and the Judgements also are to be very great, because of this Corruption, even dread­ful Woes, Plagues, Cups of Wrath and Thunders unutterable, as is expressed in the Book of the Revelations. Therefore, that men may avoid the terrible Wrath of God, which is brea­king and to break forth, by discerning and forsaking that, which his Wrath is against; therefore, I say, in tender bowels was it in my heart to discover somewhat of that, which the Lord hath made manifest to me (among many others) con­cerning the creeping in of this corrupt state, and its getting up after the dayes of the Apostles, with its continuance to this day; that Men and Churches may consider their state, see their nakedness, and look after the pure Garment, that they may be cloathed with the Spirit of the Lord, and found in the righ­teousness thereof, that so they may stand boldly before him, when the transgressors and hypocrites (of all sorts) shall have their fig-leaf coverings ripped off, and lie open to the strokes of his Indignation. And this I say to all; Take heed of two things, in this Day of the LORD'S Love and Vengeance; Take heed of retaining or setting up any thing, which the Lord is coming forth against; and take heed of slighting or appearing against that, which the Lord is preparing to set up. The appearance of his Spirit, the shining of his Day is preci­ous, even in the meanest glimmerings of it. O who shall be guiltless before him, who defendeth or setteth up any thing of man's will or wisdom (his Sun, Moon and Stars, in all their glo­ry, being to fall and lose their shining) or who debaseth the lowest appearance of his Seed! And if the Jews suffered so deeply, for refusing and despising Christ's appearance in flesh, [Page] what will light on those who refuse and despise his appearance in Spirit? I know this, that Christians now over-look and slight this, as the Jews did that, and by the same snare, even by a prejudice they have drunk in, that this is contrary to the Scriptures, as the Jews then did conclude, that that coming of Christ then was not agreeable to, but different from what the Scriptures had said concerning his coming. But what said Christ then? Wisdom is justified of her Children. They, who then were of the Spirit, and in the Spirit, knew the voice of the Bridegroom then. And such also know it now, and rejoyce in it; though the wise in another wisdom (ac­cording to the Scriptures, as they think) refuse and disdain it; and not knowing the Righteousness of Christ in Spirit, set up a Righteousness of their own in flesh: for their belie­ving (and applying to themselves the Righteousness of Christ) out of the true limits of Life, according to their own appre­hension of things, is no other. And this must fall. Man's knowledge of Scriptures, the faith of man, through his own apprehensions, must fall; and man appear naked underneath; that the glorious Righteousness of Christ in Spirit, and the pre­cious covering thereof may be magnified over all. And in this Light of Life, and newness of Nature in Christ, runs the Bloud which clenseth, and not elswhere. It runs not according to mens notions, but in its own life, virtue & power in the heart: where (where it is livingly felt) the iniquity is washed away, the sin is gone, the everlasting Righteousness appears, yea the Water-springs, which washeth and keepeth clean continually. Away with your Notions and empty husks, O several sorts of Professors, come to the thing it self, or rather wait on the Lord to be led to it, that ye may Seed, the Seed, the pure Seed, the living Seed, the Holy One of God, and may know its planting and growth in you, and your uncloathing and emptying of all else, that ye may be cloathed upon and filled with it. And in the sence of it, and unity with it, ye will own and love what comes from it, and rejoyce in all the springings of its Light, either within or without.

Of the Church-state under the Gospel.

THe Jews Church-state under the Law was precious, who (walk­ing with God, according to the Covenant of the Law) were an holy People, nigh and dear unto God above all other People. But they provoked him so continually and grievously, that (in­stead of blessings) they drew plagues upon themselves, and were at last by his righteous Judgments made desolate, and cut off from being any longer his select Nation and People.

The Church-state of the Christians under the Gospel, is much more precious and glorious, they being gathered into the substance of that, whereof the Jews State had but the shadow. The Presence of God, the manifestation of his Life and Power is more inward and bright among them; their union with him more close, their communion and joy more fell, he tabernacling among them, dwelling and walking with them, and advancing them into the state of sons and daughters, where­as the Law-state was but a state of servitude. And their standing also is more firm; the Covenant wherein they stand, being more able to hold them together with God than the other was. The standing of the other was by the works of the Law, which they were to observe and live. The standing of these is in the Faith, which is from the Power, which worketh their works in them and for them.

Yet, as they are gathered in the Faith: so their standing is in the Faith; and out of it they cannot be preserved. So that (before they are established) there is a possibility of their fal from the Faith, where­in their standing is, and from the Power which preserveth. And if they so fall, they are liable to be cut off, as the Jews were, as their Apostle tels them, Rom. 11.20, 21, 22. In the fear, in the humility before the Lord, in keeping to the Faith their safety is: but if they become high-minded, because of their State and Church-priviledges; if they think their standing so sure, as that they are out of the danger of falling: then they are out of the fear, out of the humility, out of the Faith which pre­serves; and being out of the Preservation, they must needs fall, and so continuing must needs be cut off.

Now the same Apostle doth not only warn them to take heed of fal­ling from the Faith, but afterwards expresly foretels of a falling away, even that there must come such a thing among them also; yea, and of [Page] such a falling away from the Truth and Power of Life, as should give Antichrist advantage to get into God's Temple, and sit there as God, taking upon him the power and authority, as if he had the true Power and Authority of God, 2 Thess. 2. ver. 3, 4. And what doth he then? doth he not corrupt all? even as God's Power and Presence purifies and preserves all. And as he shews himself as God: so doth he not also shew forth his Church, as God's Church? Yes, it goes so in the World, as God's. All that drink of his Spouses Cup take it to be so, who are very many and great ones, even Kings and Inhabiters of the Earth, Peoples, Multitudes, Nations and Tongues (Rev. 17.2, 15. & chap. 18.3.) and none are able to discern that it is not so, but those that are anointed with the true eye-salve, which giveth to see through his deceits, 1 John 2.20. For he cometh with all deceivableness of un­righteousness (2 Thess. 2.9, 10.) he makes the Church (after he hath got possession of it and made it his, sitting as God in it) appear as like the true Church as possibly he can, that he may hold up his mystery of de­ceit in the World, which if once discerned, would soon fall and come to nothing; 2 Thess. 2.7. Rev. 17.5.

To open these things a little more fully and further from the Scrip­tures, that they who yet cannot read otherwise, may read them there, and come in some measure to the acknowledgment of the Truth, and wait for the Power from on high, from whence is the true Faith (wherin is the true Church, and its standing) for want of which the World is be­come a Wilderness; full indeed of Profession, but very empty of the nature and life of Christianity.

Christ tels his Disciples, that false Christs and false Prophets should come and deceive many; yea that they should prevail so far, as if it were possible, to deceive the very Elect, Mat. 7.15 & ch. 24.11, 24. The Lord God had sent forth his truth, and now after it he suffers to go forth a power of Deceit, a mighty power, even having all maner of Decei­vableness of unrighteousness in it, 2 Thess. 2.9, 10, 11. And it works according to its power, it gathers all its own every where. Not one, but he that is of the Elect Seed can stand before it. Now the reason, why God suffered this to go forth, was in Judgment. Men had dallied with the Truth, had took up a Form of Godliness, and rejected the Po­wer: therfore God withdraws from the Form, and suffers the unclean spirit to enter it, and the uncircumcised nature of man to shelter it self there. It arose also from the Devil's subtilty, who finding himself dis­possessing of his Kingdom, played this Masterpiece (both to save what he could at present, and to recover the rest again in process of time) He (in his Apostles and Ministers) takes upon him the profession of [Page 7] Christianity, sending them forth as the Ministers of Righteousness, (2 Cor. 11.13, 15.) but for all that, they were still of the worldly na­ture, of the worldly root, spirit and principle: And so by them, he brings forth Christianity, (or the profession and observation of the Chri­stian Religion) in such a way, as would please the worldly mind and nature: And bringing it forth so, he gathers to him all, that were not gathered and preserved by the Power, and so becomes the greater Bo­dy and Church in view, and the rest (as to the outwardness of their Church-state) are fain to give way, and retire into the Power, cut of their former place and station in the world, Rev. 12.

Now as Christ had said, that false Christs and false Prophets should come: so John said they were come, 1 Joh. 2.18. and also shewed from whence they come, They went out from us, ver. 19. They were such as came into the Form among us, but were not begotten of the Life, nor subject to the Power with us. And there were many of them, chap. 4.1. and such they were as had a great power of Deceit, and came therewith to seduce them, 1 Joh. 2.26. Therefore he bids them (in the Unction which they had received, v. 27. which searcheth and dis­cerneth all) try the spirits. If their spirit (or the spirit that is in them) confess Christ (who is the power of the endless life, the sum, substance and end of all that which shadowed-forth life) they are of God, chap. 4.2. But if their spirit confess not Christ come in the flesh, though they may seem never so much to preach him, they are not of God, v. 3. Now whose spirit confesseth Christ? Surely his only that is subject to him. He that preacheth Christ in words, and denieth him in works, (whose works are not wrought in Christ, nor brought forth by Christ) his confession is but outward, but formal; it is no true confession. It is but the confession of his mouth, not of his spirit: and he is, in the sight of God, not a confessor, but a denier of him. And who so is en­abled by God to try spirits (and waiteth in his Light and Anointing to try such) findeth him to be so, notwithstanding all his fair words and speeches of Christ, and his pretending to be his Minister, Rev. 2.2. For men with fine words and fair speeches may deceive the hearts of the simple: but they cannot deceive those, to whom God giveth abi­lity to try spirits. Could the Devil deceive Christ, when he said, Thou art the Son of God? No, Christ knew his spirit to be against him, not­withstanding those words. And can the ministers of Antichrist deceive the Elect of God, when they preach up Christ (in words) to be the Sa­viour and Redeemer, and yet own not that Life and Power which saves, but persecute it wherever they find it? No, The same Spirit of Christ in them discerneth quite through their words, to their spirit. [Page 8] My Sheep, saith Christ, hear my voice, Joh. 10.27. Man may be de­ceived and caught in the snare: but the Elect, the Sheep know the voice of the Shepherd from the voice of the Stranger. If the Stranger say, Christ is the Son of God: though he believes and owns the thing, yet they receive it not from his mouth. Well; whence are these false Prophets and false Christs? They are of the World. That's their root. Thence they come. They are of the worldly spirit, the worldly wis­dom, the worldly nature, only cloathed outwardly with a profession and shew of the Doctrine and Practices of Christ and his Apostles. And what do they do? They preach worldly things. They suit their doctrine to the worldly nature, principle and spirit. And what is their success? The World heareth them, 1 Joh. 4.5. The earthly wisdom in man falls in with them, judges them to be right, owns them, sets up their way of Christianity and Worship in the World: and thus the World become Christians. Those which came in the Name of Christ, the World could not receive. (He that knoweth God, heareth us; not the World, 1 John 4.6.) There were but a few (in comparison) gathered here and there then: a few in one place, a few in another. The Doctrine that comes forth in the Power, scatters the worldly part. Man's wisdom, man's nature cannot receive it, in the Love and Life of it. But when these false Christs and false Prophets come, the World can turn Christians; then a whole City, or a whole Nation can presently become a Church. Why so? These come in that, which the World can receive, which their wisdom can answer, fall in with, and subject to. These can bring forth a Cross, which the World can like, fall down and worship; but the Cross of Christ they cannot: for that crucifies and slayes the worldly nature, wherever it is felt, taken up, and subjected to. The way of Life is strait and narrow, and few there be that can walk therein: but a broader way more may walk in. The true Church is not easily found or entred into; but the false is wider and far larger, yea, desirable to the flesh. The true Church is circumspect, will admit none but in the way of God's Wisdom and Power; but the false Church prostitutes and thrusts her self upon all. She meets men in the streets and forceth them into her bed; whereas the voice of the true Church is, Wait for the preparation, for the being changed by that which giveth entrance into the Truth: for the Builder of the Church is God, Heb. 3.4. (he builds this House by Christ, ver. 6. as by Moses he built the House under the Law) and he is the adder to the Building, Act. 2.47.

So Paul also, writing to Timothy, tells him of perilous times in the last dayes, 2 Tim. 3.1. For when the last dayes come, and the Anti­christs and false Prophets appear, then men are in great danger of being [Page 9] deceived, and of making shipwrack of Faith and a good Conscience. Then he that is not in the Truth, but only in the form and outward ap­pearance, will be swallowed up by the deceit, and take up his dwelling in the Form with out the Power: for so saith the Apostle concerning them, v. 5. they have a Form of Godliness, but deny the Power of it. And all manner of Wickedness will shelter it self under this Form. Self-love, Covetousness, Boastings, Pride, Blasphemy, Disobedience to Parents, Unthankfulness, Unholiness, &c. ver. 2, 3, 4. and indeed what not? For what is so evil, which cannot shelter it self under that Form of Religi­on and Profession, where there is not the true Power and Life of Reli­gion to resist and subdue it?

Now mark; When these Antichrists and false Prophets had got up into a body and strength, gaining Authority and Credit in the World; what did they then do, but endeavour wholly to crush and suppress the Truth, with those that abode still in it? Then the Dragon, with his Angels, fighteth with Michael and his Angels. They had still been fighting with the Apostles and Ministers of Christ, endeavouring to dis­parage them, and eat out their esteem in the Churches (as 2 Cor. 11.) but they could not prevail; Satan, in all his enterprizes, fell down like Lightning, before the Glory and Power of Christ in his Apostles and Ministers. But when the Apostacy encreased, and the Churches pro­voked their Preserver, growing cold in Love, and faint in Faith (being lifted up with their Gifts, thinking highly of themselves, and their standing to be firm) and many received not the love of the Truth, but only a profession of it for by-ends, &c. Then the Lord began to threa­ten some with the removal of their Candlestick, and did afterwards proceed in Judgment, even to let the false Prophets and Antichrists prevail, and strong Delusions enter, that they who had dallied with the Truth, might be frustrated of the Salvation they expected by it, meeting with a Lie (which destroyeth) in the stead of it, 2 Thess. 2.10, 11, 12. And so God, who before built up, in his jealousie and in­dignation afterwards threw down (men abiding not in the Faith, nor in the Power, but in the Form and outward Profession, which, separated from the Power, the Lord abhorreth.) What he loved, he secured for himself, (his holy Temple, his holy Altar, his spiritual Worshippers:) and what he regarded not (which was the Form and outward Ordinan­ces, now polluted) he gave to the heathenishly-professing spirit; and there they worship, and magnifie their own state, prizing it by its out­ward glory and appearance, and not by a right sence and knowledge of it in the Truth. Read these things outwardly, in the letter (or ra­ther wait upon God that ye may read them, who caused them to be [Page 10] writ to that end, for to be read and understood) Rev. 12. & chap. 11. 1, 2. where the battel of the Dragon is related, and God's taking down his Building, and disposing of it according to his pleasure.

Again, mark. Antichrist gets into the Temple (upon the falling a­way) sits there as God, ruling, giving Laws, and exacting Obedience in the Name of God. But when was this to be? In the last times, 1 Tim. 4.1. (which would be very perilous, through the power of wic­kedness and deceit, then getting up.) When did those times begin? They began in the Apostles dayes. The Mystery of Iniquity was then at work, 2 Thess. 2.7. Yea, saith John, it is the last time; by the com­ing of the Antichrists and Deceivers we know it to be so, 1 Joh. 2.18. Christ said, They should come; John said, they are come; Paul saw them then at work in the mysterious Power of Darkness. But they could not carry their work through; the Spirit and Power of Christ in his Apostles stood so much in their way: but after they were removed out of the way, Antichrist got up his Mystery of Deceit apace. Well, how long doth he reign? Even till the very coming of Christ in his Spi­rit and Power; yea, there is some remainder of him, till the very brightness of his coming, 2 Thess. 2.8. This Mystery of Iniquity hath power and authority over all the wisdom of man: but the appearance of Christ, in the Spirits of his People, hath power over it, and tor­menteth it, by opening its nakedness and causing its darkness to appear; and the brightness of his coming shall quite dissolve and scatter it: For it is but a mist of darkness, it hath no being in the Truth, nor can it stand before the Truth. So Babylon is found standing at the very last; just before the breaking forth and coming down of the new Jerusalem and the Marriage of the Lamb with his Bride, Rev. 19.6, 7. What is Babylon? A Mystery of Iniquity in a Form of Godliness. A Profession, a People, a Religion, that seem to set up Christ; but set up another nature, spirit and power in his stead. A Church that is not of God, not formed in his Divine Wisdom, not brought forth in his Light and Power, and in the season of his Will; but of man, and by man, that can go no further in Religion than the number of a man. Sion, under the Gospel, is not literal, but mystical: and so is Babylon also, who is the mother of Fornications, who teacheth her daughters to adulterate from the Life and from the Power, who never knew the Marriage of the Lamb in his Spirit, nor his pure Bed of Life, but enter into the cham­bers and bed of a strange spirit.

Qu. But what is the state of the Church all this while, from this hour of corruption, till the coming of Christ in his Spirit and Power?

Answ. A state of desolation, a state of widowhood, a wilderness-state, [Page 11] where her living body is not discerned by the vultrous eye; but her children, whenever they appear witnessing for her, are persecuted, hunted, afflicted, and sometimes slain. This bloody Church, which comes from the red Dragon, and rules in his spirit and nature, drinks the blood of the Lambs and Martyrs of JESUS, who in their several Ages are his faithful Witnesses, and love not their lives unto the death. And here the Truth, and that which hath appeared of the true Church in the world, for Ages and Generations (ever since this might of the Dragon's and Antichrists darkness, and his sitting in the Temple un­der an appearance of light) hath only been to be found, even among the Persecuted Ones, who have been dear to God, of whom the Pro­fessing World hath not been worthy, no not at all, of that heavenly life, spirit and power, which dwelt in them, and through which they have been able to testifie for the Truth, and bear up their heads against the malice and persecutions of their enemies, Rev. 12.11, 17, &c. and chap. 11.3, 7. chap. 13.15, 16, 17. chap. 14.12. chap. 17.6.

Now, for a close, There are a few Questions in my heart, briefly to propound and answer, which it may please God to reach forth to his Witness in such, who in distrust of themselves and their own wisdom, shall wait upon him for understanding. The Questions are these. First, what a true Church is? 2dly, How a True Church may be known? 3. How a True Church may continue so? 4. How a Church may lose its state and being? 5. When a Church hath lost its state and being?

Quest. 1. What a true Church is?

Answ. A true Church is a truly Spiritual Body, gathered out of the World, or worldly nature and spirit, into God's Spirit and Nature, there to live and walk with him, and worship him in Spirit and Truth, and for him to tabernacle in and walk among, and fill with his glorious Presence and powerful Life, Eph. 2.21, 22. 1 Pet. 2.5. Joh. 4.23. 2 Cor. 6.16. It is not the Profession of the Truth, makes a true Believer; nor is it a company of Professors makes a true Church: but their proceed­ing from, and union with the Truth it self, and their abiding in the Life and Power of that which they profess; Ephes. 4.16.

Quest. 2. How a true Church may be known?

Answ. There must be somewhat in man to know them, and somewhat in them to be known by. That in man which knows them, must be some­what of God in him: for that which is of man cannot measure or judg of the things of God. As the worldly wisdom & spirit could not know Christ formerly: so neither now can it know his Church. Many may appear to be Churches of Christ, and yet not be so: and that which is so, may not appear so. In this case, who shall distinguish? Not he that judgeth [Page 12] according to the appearance, but he that judgeth the Righteous Judg­ment. Therefore it is not for every man to take upon him to judge, which is the true Church: but first to wait upon God to be led into that, and in some measure born of that, which giveth ability to judge. Wisdom is justified of her Children: but of others she is condemned for foolishness, and the foolishness justified in her stead.

And there is also somewhat for the Church to be known by, which is that which distinguisheth her from all other Assemblies and Gather­ings, which is the nature, life and presence of the Head with her and in her. This none hath, but the true Church, the gathered Body, the separate Body of the Lamb, which is of his flesh and of his bones, Eph. 5.29, 30. Her Husband is with her, his life is in her: for she is a living body, or gathering of living stones. So that find the true life of the Lamb any where, there is somewhat of his Church: find a ga­thering in his Life, Name and Power, there is his Church, and he al­so: for where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them, Mat. 18.20.

Quest. 3. How a true Church may continue so?

Answ. By abiding in the Spirit, Life, and Power, that gathered and built them up into a Church. This first gave them their being; and this still preserves them in their being: (if they abide till they be perfected and established) but falling or being cut off from this, they wither, die, and come to nothing. Even as a Disciple, departing out of the Vine, making shipwrack of the Faith, loseth that which made him a Disciple or Christian, John 15.6. So a Church, departing from the Spirit and Life of what they profess, languish by degrees, even till their life be wholly extinct, and they wholly lose that state and being which they had by their gathering. Thus the Churches in Asia, be­ginning to corrupt, grew formal, lukewarm, dead, &c. were warned to repent and strenthen that which remained, lest they were spued out, the Candlestick removed, &c. Rev. 2d & 3d chapters.

Quest. 4. How may a Church lose its state and being?

Answ. Several wayes; as first, By departing from the Truth and Simplicity of the Gospel, letting in Doctrines, Principles, Observa­tions, Customs and Practices, which are not of the pure Spirit, nor in the unity of it, but from the corrupt spirit, and which corrupt the minds of them that are entangled in them. Corrupt doctrines, cor­rupt principles, corrupt practices, &c. they all have of the nature and poison of death in them; and as they prevail, they bring death upon (and engage God against) that Person or Church where they get do­minion. See what danger one corrupt doctrine of the Nicholaitans [Page 13] brought the Church of Pergamus unto, even of God's coming forth with his sword and fighting against her, Rev. 2.16. And if God, who is the Defender of his Church, Himself fight against her, how shall she stand?

2. By negligence and sluggishness in the Truth: by this means also life may languish and extinguish by degrees, even till death come wholly over and swallow it up, Rev. 3.1, 2, 3. If the first Love do but abate and wax cold, Iniquity will be abounding, Mat. 24.12. and the Church will be in danger of losing its Candlestick, Revel. 2.4, 5.

3. By God's withdrawing his Presence and Power, (for these or such causes abovesaid) which nourisheth and preserveth. For the life of a Church (as well as of a Disciple) is fed and nourished from the Fountain or Vine; and if it miss of the nourishment, its life cannot long continue. The Jews may keep up their Sacrifices, and reading of the Law: but yet they are a dead people to God, after their cut­ting off from the Olive-tree. And the Gentiles may worship in the outward Court, and keep up the outward Ordinances, after God's rejecting and cutting them off also, and be as dead to God therein, as the Jews in theirs, Rev. 11.1, 2. & Rom. 11.21, 22.

4. By their listning and yeelding to the power of the Enemy, who quickly deceiveth, (with his Lies, instead of the Truth) destroyeth, and layeth waste such buildings, where God in his just Judgement letteth him forth upon them. For the Gates of Hell will prevail against that building, which the Arm of Christ is not stretched forth (or ceaseth) to defend. And as the defence of every particular Building upon the Rock, is in its abiding there, and subjecting to the Head; so the defence of larger Gatherings, or Churches, is no other­wise. As their union and gathering is; so is their standing, to wit, in believing and giving up to their Leader, hearkning to his voice, and obeying him only. But if they hearken to a Stranger, if they hear another voice than his; if they follow another spirit, letting in his lies and deceit; they cannot keep their standing in the Truth, but in so doing depart from it, and lose the promise and protection of it. For, as before, by God's gathering them from the spirit of darkness, they became His, and met with his Power, Presence and Blessing: so afterwards, being again (by any subtilty of deceit) gathered from the Truth it self, into some likeness and appearance of it, which the Ene­my hath formed, they become the Enemies Synagogue, not God's Church, into which he entereth again, and dwelleth there, in that likeness and appearance. And this House, which was once cleansed, [Page 14] swept and garnished by God, being again recovered and repossessed by the Enemy, becomes worse and more filthy in the nature of wic­kedness, than it was before. What is more pure, glorious and ex­cellent, than a true Church of God, which is sanctified by his Spirit, and holds forth the vertues and pure nature of his Life in the world? what is more filthy and abominable, and where doth Satan more strongly dwell and act, than in that which pretends to be a Church and is not? The Promises of God are only to the Seed absolutely; but not so to any man or society of men, but as (in the tender mercy of the Lord) they are gathered into, and preserved in the Seed, in the way that the Lord hath chosen and appointed. For the way of Life is glorious and perfect, and the Lord will honour it; so that those that expect to reap Salvation from Him, must walk and abide with Him therein: for besides Him there is no Saviour; and besides his Way, there is no way of Salvation, either for any man or Church.

Quest. 5. When hath a Church lost its state and being?

Answ. When its nature is changed, when it is overcome by and gathered into another power and spirit, than it was first gathered into by the Lord; when its standing is not in the Spirit, nor after the Spi­rit, but in the flesh and after the flesh; when its wayes are carnal, its weapons carnal; when its hedge or wall is broken down, and the spi­rit of the world not kept out, but entred into it and become one with it. Then it is no longer of God, and separate from the world, but one in nature, state and being with the world. Rev. 2.9.

These things are written in the love and good-will of God, that men may see that spirit, which hath bewitched and entangled them from him, with the wayes and false appearances wherein it hath entangled them, and may wait on the Lord (in truth of heart) for his Light, Guidance and Power to deliver them; that so they may come into his Holy Land, and within the limits of his Holy City, out of all pol­luted Lands and Buildings (where his Holy Nature dwelleth not, and the Pure Dominion of his Holy Life and Power is not felt) that they may sing Praise to Him among his Redeemed Ones, for his precious Redemption; who is breaking the bonds of Captivity, and redeeming His out of all Lands and Countries, wherein they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day, Glory in the Highest to his Name for evermore.

Some Queries to the Professours of Christianity, to provoke them to jealousie for their good.

Qu. 1. Have ye eat of the Bread and drank of the Wine in the Father's Kingdom, which they that have received the King­dom, and are in the Kingdom, eat and drink of?

Qu. 2. Have ye known the heavenly Jerusalem, and are ye come to it, as the Christians were in the Apostles dayes? Hebr. 12.22.

Qu. 3. Are ye in Him that is true, and your Churches and Ga­therings in God, and in the Name of his Son? Is your being and dwelling in the Eternal Life?

Qu. 4. Have ye received the Promise of the Father, even the excellent Spirit of the Son?

Qu. 5. Have ye the true Faith? Do the living Waters spring out of your bowels, according as the Scriptures have said? He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, Joh. 7.38. & ch. 4.14.

Qu. 6. Doth God tabernacle in you? is his dwelling among you? doth he walk up and down in your spirits, and sup with you, and you with him?

Qu. 7. Are ye in the New Covenant; taught of God so, as ye need no man to teach you? and your sins so blotted out (accord­ing to the Covenant) as to hinder no good things from you?

These things were spoken of in the Law and Prophets, to be fulfilled, witnessed and enjoyed under the Power and Life of the Gospel; which is not a state of the names and fore­tellings of things, as under the Law, but of the presence and enjoyment of the things themselves: and so far as ye fall short of them, ye fall short of the state of Christianity.

THE END.

SOME OBSERVATIONS UPON THE Eternal Judgement, As it is expressed by CHRIST, Matth. 25.31. to the end of the Chapter.

Observe 1.

THe condition of Christ here in this world, in many of his Members, in their several Ages and Generations. He is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in pri­son: yea indeed, what is there of misery, shame and reproach, which he is not exposed to, or which they are not exposed to, who entertain Him as their Lord and King, and are faith­ful in their obedience and subjection to him? ver. 35, 36, & 43.

Observ. 2.

The notice Christ takes of what is done in this kind, or not done in this kind, to any of his suffering Members, which extends to all, even the very least. Insomuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me, ver. 40. In­somuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me, ver. 45.

Obser. 3.

The honourable esteem Christ hath of his poor suffering Members, with what eye of contempt soever the World looks upon them, yet he looks upon them as his Brethren, ver. 40.

[Page 17] Observ. 4.

The different carriages of persons towards Christ, in this his low condition in his Members. Some gave him meat, some gave him drink, some took him in, some cloathed him, some visited and came unto him; ver. 35, 36. Others did none of these things unto him, ver. 43.

Observ. 5.

The different Judgment Christ passeth upon these, accord­ing to their different carriages. The one he pronounceth bles­sed of his Father, judging them to the inheritance of a King­dom of Eternal Life, ver. 34, & 46. The other he pronoun­ceth Cursed, and adjudgeth to Everlasting Punishment in the fire of his Wrath, ver. 41 & 46.

Observ. 6.

The ground or reason why those, who did not minister to him, neglected him, which was their ignorance of him. They saw indeed, and knew several persons to be in such kind of conditions, but they did not know that it was Christ which suffered in them: This is implied in their Answer to him, ver. 44. When saw we thee an hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or na­ked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? v. 45.

Obser. 7.

That it will not excuse men from the Judgment, their not knowing of Christ in his Members: but if they neglect and have not done this thing (though they may plead never so strongly that they did not know any such) they will in our and must suffer the Judgment. The Jews cryed up Moses and the Prophets, which had been before, and yet persecuted Christ and his Apostles: And many now cry up the Prophets, and Christ's appearance in a body of flesh (with his Death, Re­surrection, Ascension, &c.) and also the Apostles, both their words & practices; and yet persecute him (and the same pra­ctices) in his present Servants and Members. How will these [...]

[Page 18]Object.

But th e that did minister unto him, they knew not that it was he neither, as ver. 37, 38, 39. Therefore they doing of it igno­rantly (as we may say) it seemeth to want its due weight, and not to render them so worthy of the reward, as if they had done it in a clear and distinct understanding.

Answer.

They did not know it so, as to put so great a value upon it, as Christ here doth: but they knew that they had done things of this kind, and that they had done them on Christ's account. But that Christ was so in those to whom they did them, as he now speaks; and that he would set so high an esteem of it, that they were not aware of. Was it thou thy self that wast naked, sick, in prison, &c.? and didst thou take all this as done to thee? This is wonderful to us, that thou shouldst so set by what we poor worms did to thy suffering Saints, in thy Name and Fear.

Quest.

But why doth Christ make this the ground of the General and Universal Judgment? Men have committed many other sins (some of which are in appearance far greater:) why doth Christ men­tion none of them, but fix the Judgment only upon this?

Answ.

Surely because this is more in his eye, and more hateful to him than them all. This argues an evil nature and spirit, and the joyning of the mind to the wicked one, more than them all. For it plainly shews, that there is none of the Love and Nature of Christ in such persons: for if there be of the Love and Nature of Christ in any person, it will encline his heart towards those which are Christ's, and especially in their suffering conditions. He therefore that hath no sence of those that belong to Christ, in their suffering conditions, shew­eth plainly, that he hath none of Christ's Nature in him, and so is not at all found in that which Christ comes to save, but in that which he comes to judge and destroy for ever.

[Page 19]Now I have three Questions more to propose, which I desire that all men that read, may judge of it in that, which giveth the true sense and judgment of their weight.

1. If this be the cause and ground of the Eternal Judge­ment, whether it may not also be the ground of Temporal Judgments on Person; and Nations, to wit, if there be such a thing to be found in them, as neglecting to minister to Christ in his suffering Members?

2. If there be not only this to be found, but also a causing of him in his Members thus to suffer (a causing of their hun­ger, thurst, nakedness, sickness, imprisonment, &c.) whether this is not of very great force to draw down Plagues, Judge­ments and Miseries upon a Nation?

3. If there have been such sins committed, God's Anger provoked, and his Judgments drawn down, whether it be pos­sible to stop them, or there can be any reasonable hope of the diverting of them, without a deep humbling before God, con­fessing the thing in the sight of the World (as it hath been done in the sight of the World) and laying such a foundation for the future, as the Lord and men may be satisfied and as­sured, that no such thing shall be done any more? Was it not a shameful thing, that Jerusalem the outwardly holy City (and chief, if not only professing [...]oop [...]e of the world) should stone, cast out, persecute, put to death, &c. the Prophets and Christ of God, and set up Priests and Prophets of their own? And where and by whom are the Witnesses and Martyrs hunted and slain? Is is not still in that which is called the Christian World? do not they strive (each sort) for their Forms, perse­cuting the Life and Power, and those which follow the Lamb therein, out of their Forms, from which his Life and Spirit cal­leth and gathereth? O that the World were awaked, O that this Nation were awakened! Have there not been Judge­ments enow to awaken it! O do not dally: ye have God to deal with, who hath brought his Truth and People upon the Stage; who is arisen against the Darkness (which hath [Page 20] long possessed the he [...]s of [...] and held his People in capti­vity under their corrupt wills and wisdom) and to bind down sin and iniquity in men. O do not say, Let us break their bonds in sunder, and cast away their cords from us; but rather let every one be willing to be bound by the pure Light of God, by that which is holy of God in him (from the King that sits upon the Throne, even to the very Beggar on the dunghil) that ini­quity may be purged out of the hearts of men, and they be­come, not a vainly-professing Nation, but indeed an Holy Na­tion to the Lord; that Peace and Righteousness, Love and Mercy, yea sweet and tender Bowels may dwell within it, and flow up and down in all its borders; to the glory of God's Truth, which is able to work this (were it but let in, re­ceived and subjected to in the minds of men) and to the de­light and joy of the hearts of all in the Nation.

By Isaac Penington

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. Searching, reading, printing, or downloading EEBO-TCP texts is reserved for the authorized users of these project partner institutions. Permission must be granted for subsequent distribution, in print or electronically, of this EEBO-TCP Phase II text, in whole or in part.