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First Dialogue between Academicus, Rusticus and Theophilus; at which Humanus was present
Acad. Well met, honest Rusticus. I can now tell you with much pleasure, that we shall soon see a Second Part of The Spirit of Prayer. And as soon as I get it, I will come and read it to you.
Rust. I have often told you, Academicus, that I wondered at your eagerness and impatience to see more of this matter. As to my part, I have no such thrift within me, and should make no complaint, if it never came out.
Acad. My friend Rusticus, you cannot read; and that is the reason, that you are not in my state of impatience, to see another book.
Rust. Indeed, Academicus, you quite mistake the matter. The first part of The Spirit of Prayer you read to me more than three or four times, and that is the reason, why I am in no state of eagerness after a second part. I have found in the first part, all that I need to know of God, of Christ, of myself, of heaven, of hell, of sin, of grace, of death, and of salvation: that all these things have their being, their life, and their working, in my own heart: that God is always in me, that Christ is always within me; that he is the inward light and life of my soul, a bread from heaven, of which I may always eat; a water of eternal life springing up in my soul, of which I may always drink. O my friend, these truths have opened a new life in my soul: I am brought home to myself; the veil is taken off my heart; I have found my God; I know that his dwelling-place, his kingdom, is within me. What need we then call out for books written only with pen and ink, when such a book as this, so full of wonders, is once opened in our own hearts? My eyes, my ears, my thoughts, are all turned inwards, because all that God, and Christ, and grace, are doing for me, are only to be known, and found there. What need then of so much news from abroad, since all that concerns either life or death, are all transacting, and all at work, within me?
How could I be said to have felt these great truths, to be sensible of these riches of eternity treasured up in my soul, to know what a great good the divine nature is in me, and to me, if instead of turning all the desire and delight of my heart towards them, I only felt a longing and desire to read more concerning the spirit of prayer? No, Academicus, another, and a better fire is kindled within me; my heart is in motion, and all that is within me tends towards God; and I find that nothing concerns me more, than to keep my heart from wandering after anything else. I now know to what it is that I am daily to die, and to what it is that I am daily to live; and therefore look upon every day as lost, that does not help forwards both this death, and this life, in me. I have not yet done half, what the first part of The Spirit of Prayer directs me to do, and therefore have but little occasion to call out for a second.
Theoph. Indeed, Academicus, I must own, that honest Rusticus, as you called him, has spoken well. Your education has so accustomed you to the pleasure of reading variety of books, that you hardly propose any other end in reading, than the entertainment of your mind: thus The Spirit of Prayer has only awakened in you a desire to see another part upon the same subject. This fault is very common to others, as well as scholars, and even to those who only delight in reading good books.
Philo for this twenty years has been collecting and reading all the spiritual books he can hear of. He reads them, as the critics read commentators and lexicons, to be nice and exact in telling you the style, spirit, and intent of this or that spiritual writer, how one is more accurate in this, and the other in that. Philo will ride you forty miles in winter to have a conversation about spiritual books, or to see a collection larger than his own. Philo is amazed at the deadness and insensibility of the Christian world, that they are such strangers to the inward life and spiritual nature of the Christian salvation; he wonders how they can be so zealous for the outward letter and form of ordinances, and so averse to that spiritual life, that they all point at, as the one thing needful. But Philo never thinks how wonderful it is, that a man who knows regeneration to be the whole, should yet content himself with the love of books upon the new birth, instead of being born again himself. For all that is changed in Philo, is his taste for books. He is no more dead to the world, no more delivered from himself, is as fearful of adversity, as fond of prosperity, as easily provoked, and pleased with trifles, as much governed by his own will, tempers, and passions, as unwilling to deny his appetites, or enter into war with himself, as he was twenty years ago. Yet all is well with Philo; he has no suspicion of himself; he dates the newness of his life, and the fullness of his light, from the time that he discovered the pearl of eternity in spiritual authors.
All this, Academicus, is said on your account, that you may not lose the benefit of this spark of the divine life that is kindled in your soul, but may conform yourself suitably to so great a gift of God.
It demands at present an eagerness of another kind, than that of much reading, even upon the most spiritual matters.
Acad. I thank you, Theophilus, for your good will towards me; but did not imagine my eagerness after such books to be so great and dangerous a mistake. And if I do not yet entirely give in to what you say, it is because a friend of yours has told us (and as I thought by way of direction) that he has been a diligent reader of all the spiritual authors, from the apostolical Dionysius down to the illuminated Guion, and celebrated Fenelon of Cambray. And therefore it would never have come into my head, to suspect it to be a fault, or dangerous, to follow his example.
Theoph. I have said nothing, my friend, with a design of hindering your acquaintance with all the truly spiritual writers. I would rather in a right way help you to a true intimacy with them: for they are friends of God, entrusted with his secrets, and partakers of the divine nature: and he that converses rightly with them, has a happiness, that can hardly be over-valued.
My intention is only to abate, for a time, a spirit of eagerness after much reading, which in your state has more of nature than grace in it; which seeks delight in a variety of new notions, and rather gratifies curiosity, than reforms the heart.
Suppose you had seen an angel from heaven, who had discovered to you a glimpse of its own internal brightness, and of that glorious union in which it lived with God, opening more of itself to the inward sight of your mind, than you could either forget or relate. Suppose it had told you with a piercing word, and living impression, that all its own angelic and heavenly brightness was hid in yourself, concealed from you under a bestial covering of flesh and blood; that this flesh and blood was become the master of it, would not suffer it to breathe, or stir, or come to life in you. Suppose it had told you, that all your life had been spent in helping this flesh and blood to more and more power over you, to hinder you from knowing and feeling this divine life within you. Suppose it had told you, that to this day you had lived in the grossest self-idolatry, loving, serving, honoring, and adoring yourself instead of loving, serving, and adoring God with all your heart, and soul, and spirit: that all your intentions, projects, cares, pleasures, and indulgences, had been only so much labor to bring you to the grave in a total ignorance of that great work, for which alone you were born into the world.
Suppose it had told you, that all this blindness and insensibility of your state, was obstinately and willfully brought upon yourself, because you had boldly slighted and resisted all the daily inward and outward calls of God to your soul, all the teachings, doings, and sufferings, of a Son of God to redeem you. Suppose it left you with this farewell, "O man awake; thy work is great, thy time is short, I am thy last trumpet; the grave calls for thy flesh and blood, thy soul must enter into a new lodging. To be born again, is to be an angel: not to be born again is to become a devil."
Tell me now, Academicus, what would you expect from a man who had been thus awakened, and pierced by the voice of an angel? Could you think he had any sense left, if he was not cast into the deepest depth of humility, self-dejection, and self-abhorrence? Casting himself, with a broken heart, at the feet of the divine mercy, desiring nothing but that, from that time, every moment of his life might be given unto God, in the most perfect denial of every temper, will, and inclination, that nourished the corruption of his nature: wishing and praying from the bottom of his heart, that God would lead him into and through everything inwardly and outwardly, that might destroy the evil workings of his nature, and awaken all that was holy and heavenly within him; that the seed of eternity, the spark of life, that he had so long quenched and smothered under earthly rubbish, might breathe, and come to life, in him.
Or would you think he was enough affected with this angelic visit, if all that it had awakened in him, was only a longing and eager desire to hear the same, or another angel talk again?
Acad. O Theophilus, you have said enough: for all that is within me consents to the truth and justness of what you have said. I now feel in the strongest manner, that I have been rather amused, than edified, by what I have read.
Theoph. A spiritual book, Academicus, is a call to as real and total a death to the life of corrupt nature, as that which Adam died in paradise, was to the life of heaven. He indeed died at once totally to the divine life in which he was created: but as our body of earth is to last to the end of our lives; so to the end of our earthly life, every step we take, every inch of our road, is to be made up of denial, and dying to ourselves; because all our redemption consists in our regaining that first life of heaven in the soul, to which Adam died in paradise. And therefore the one single work of redemption, is the one single work of regeneration, or the raising up of a life, and spirit, and tempers, and inclinations, contrary to that life and spirit which we derive from our earthly fallen parents. To think therefore of anything, but the continual, total denial of our earthly nature, is to overlook the very one thing on which all depends. And to hope for anything, to trust or pray for anything, but the life of God, or a birth of heaven, in our souls, is as useless to us, as placing our hope and trust in a graven image. Thus saith the Christ of God the one pattern, and author of our salvation: "If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, hate his own life, take up his daily cross, and follow me." And again: "Unless a man be born again from above, of water and the Spirit, he cannot see, or enter into, the kingdom of God."
Now is your time, Academicus, to enter deeply into this great truth. You are just come out of the slumber of life, and begin to see with new eyes the nature of your salvation. You are charmed with the discovery of a kingdom of heaven hidden within you, and long to be entertained more and more with the nature, progress, and perfection of the new birth, or the opening of the kingdom of God in your soul.
But my friend, stop a little. It is indeed great joy, that the pearl of great price is found; but take notice, that it is not yours, you can have no possession of it, till as the merchant did, you sell all that you have, and buy it. Now self is all that you have, it is your sole possession; you have no goods of your own, nothing is yours but this self. The riches of self are your own riches; but all this self is to be parted with before the pearl is yours. Think of a lower price, or be unwilling to give thus much for it, plead in your excuse, that you keep the commandments, and then you are that very rich young man in the gospel, who went away sorrowful from our Lord, when he had said, "If thou wilt be perfect," that is, if thou wilt obtain the pearl, "sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor"; that is, die to all thy possession of self, and then thou hast given all that thou hast to the poor: all that thou hast is devoted and used for the love of God and thy neighbor. This selling all, Academicus, is the measure of your dying to self; all of it is to be given up; it is an apostate nature, a stolen life, brought forth in rebellion against God: it is a continual departure from him. It corrupts everything it touches; it defiles everything it receives; it turns all the gifts and blessings of God into covetousness, partiality, pride, hatred, and envy. All these tempers are born, and bred, and nourished, in self; they have no other place to live in, no possibility of existence, but in that creature which is fallen from a life in God, into a life in self.
Acad. Pray, sir, tell me more plainly, what this self is, since so much depends upon it.
Theoph. It is hell, it is the devil, it is darkness, pain, and disquiet. It is the one only enemy of Christ, the great anti- Christ. It is the scarlet whore, the fiery dragon, the old serpent, the devouring beast, that is mentioned in the Revelation of St. John.
Acad. You rather terrify than instruct me, by this description.
Theoph. It is indeed a very frightful matter; it contains everything that man has to dread and hate, to resist and avoid. Yet be assured, my friend, that, careless and merry as the world is, every man that is born into it, has all these enemies to overcome within himself. And every man, till he is in the way of regeneration, is more or less governed by them. No hell in any remote place, no devil that is separate from you, no darkness or pain that is not within you, no anti- Christ either at Rome or England, no furious beast, no fiery dragon, without, or apart from you, can do you any hurt. It is your own hell, your own devil, your own beast, your own anti-Christ, your own dragon, that lives in your own heart's blood, that alone can hurt you.
Die to this self, to this inward nature; and then all outward enemies are overcome. Live to this self, and then, when this life is out, all that is within you, and all that is without you, will be nothing else but a mere seeing and feeling this hell, serpent, beast, and fiery dragon.
See here, Academicus, the twofold nature of every man. He has within him a redeeming power, the meekness of the heavenly life, called the Lamb of God. This seed is surrounded, or encompassed, with the beast of fleshly lusts, the serpent of guile and subtlety, and the dragon of fiery wrath. This is the great trial, or strife of human life, whether a man will live to the lusts of the beast, the guile of the serpent, the pride and wrath of the fiery dragon, or give himself up to the meekness, patience, the sweetness, the simplicity, the humility, of the Lamb of God.
This is the whole of the matter between God and the creature. On one side, fire and wrath, awakened first by the rebellious angels; and on the other side, the meekness of the Lamb of God, the patience of divine love coming down from heaven, to stop and overcome the fire and wrath that is broken out in nature and creature. Your father Adam has introduced you into the fire and wrath of the fallen angels, into a world from whence paradise is departed. Your flesh and blood is kindled in that sin, which first brought forth a murdering Cain. But, dear soul, be of good comfort, for the meekness, the love, the heart, the Lamb of God, is become man, has set himself in the birth from him, heaven and paradise may be again opened both within thee, and without thee, not for a time, but to all eternity.
Once more, Academicus. Every man in this world stands essentially in heaven, and in hell, both as to that which is within him and that which is without him: for man and the world are both in the same fallen state. The curse in the earth is that same thing in outward nature, that the loss of the divine life was to the soul of Adam. The whole world, in all its nature, is nothing else but a real mixture of heaven and hell. The sun and water of this world, are what keep under and overcome the darkness, wrath, and fire of hell, and carry on the vegetable and animal life that are in it. The light of the sun blesses all the workings of the elements, and the cool softening essence of the water, keeps under the fire and wrath of nature. In all animal creatures, the birth of light in their own life, and the water of their own blood, both produced by the light of the sun, and the water of outward nature, bring forth an order of earthly creatures, that can enjoy the good that is in this world in spite of the wrath of hell, and the malice of devils.
But man has more than all this; for being at first created an angel, and intended by the mercy of God to be an angel again, he has the light of heaven, and the water of eternal life, both given to Adam in that seed of the woman, which was to bruise the head of the serpent that is, to overcome the curse, the fire, and wrath, or hell, that was awakened in the fallen soul. So that man has not only, in common with the other animals, the light and water of outward nature, to quench the wrath of his own life in this mixed world, but he has the meekness, the light, the love, the humility of the holy Jesus, as a seed of life born in his soul, to bring forth that first image of God, in which Adam was created. This, my friend, is the true ground of all true religion: it means nothing, it intends nothing, but to overcome that earthly life, which overcame Adam in the fall, that made him a prisoner of hell, and a slave to the corrupt workings of earthly flesh and blood. And therefore you may see, and know with a mathematical certainty, that the one thing necessary for every fallen soul, is to die to all the life that we have from this world, and the life of heaven may be born again in him. The life of this world is the life of the beast, the scarlet whore, the old serpent and the fiery dragon.
Hence it is that sin rides in triumph over church and state, and from the court to the cottage all is over-run with sensuality, guile, falseness, pride, wrath, envy, selfishness, and every form of corruption. Everyone swims away in this torrent, but he who hears and attends to the voice of the Son of God within him, calling him to die to this life, to take up his cross, and follow him. Much learned pains has been often taken to prove Rome, or Constantinople, to be the seat of the beast, the anti-Christ, the scarlet whore, &c. But, alas! they are not at such a distance from us, they are the properties of fallen human nature, and are all of them alive in our own selves, till we are dead or dying to all the spirit and tempers of this world. They are everywhere, in every soul, where the heavenly nature, and Spirit of the holy Jesus is not. But when the human soul turns from itself, and turns to God, dies to itself, and lives to God in the Spirit, tempers, and inclinations of the holy Jesus, loving, pitying, suffering, and praying for all its enemies, and overcoming all evil with good, as this Christ of God did; then, but not till then, are these monsters separate from it. For covetousness and sensuality of all kinds, are the very devouring beast; religion governed by a worldly, trading spirit, and gratifying the partial interest of flesh and blood, is nothing else but the scarlet whore; guile, and craft, and cunning, are the very essence of the old serpent; self-interest and self-exaltation are the whole nature of anti-Christ. Pride, persecution, wrath, hatred and envy, are the very essence of the fiery dragon.
This, Academicus, is the fallen human nature, and this is the old man, which is alive in everyone, though in various manners, till he is born again from above. To think therefore of anything in religion, or to pretend to real holiness, without totally dying to this old man, is building castles in the air, and can bring forth nothing, but Satan in the form of an angel of light. Would you know, Academicus, whence it is, that so many false spirits have appeared in the world, who have deceived themselves and others with false fire, and false light, laying claim to inspirations, illuminations, and openings of the divine life, pretending to do wonders under extraordinary calls from God? It is this; they have turned to God without turning from themselves; would be alive in God, before they were dead to their own nature; a thing as impossible in itself, as for a grain of wheat to be alive before it dies.
Now religion in the hands of self, or corrupt nature, serves only to discover vices of a worse kind, than in nature left to itself. Hence are all the disorderly passions of religious men, which burn in a worse flame than passions only employed about worldly matters: pride, self-exaltation, hatred and persecution, under a cloak of religious zeal, will sanctify actions, which nature, left to itself, would be ashamed to own.
You may now see, Academicus, with what great reason I have called you, at your first setting out, to this great point, the total dying to self, as the only foundation of a solid piety. All the fine things you hear or read of an inward and spiritual life in God, all your expectations of the Light and Holy Spirit of God, will become a false food to your soul, till you only seek for them through death to self.
Observe, sir, the difference which clothes make in those, who have it in their power to dress as they please: some are all for show, colors, and glitter; others are quite fantastical and affected in their dress; some have a grave and solemn habit; others are quite simple and plain in their whole manner. Now all this difference of dress, is only an outward difference, that covers the same poor carcase, and leaves it full of all its own infirmities. Now all the truths of the gospel, when only embraced and possessed by the old man, make only such superficial difference, as is made by clothes. Some put on a solemn, formal, prudent, outside carriage; others appear in all the glitter and show of religious coloring, and spiritual attainments; but under all this outside difference, there lies the poor fallen soul, imprisoned, unhelped, in its own fallen state. And thus it must be, if is not possible to be otherwise, till the spiritual life begins at the true root, grows out of death, and is born in a broken heart, a heart broken off from all its own natural life. Then self-hatred, self-contempt, and self-denial, are as suitable to this new-born spirit, as self-love, self -esteem, and self-seeking, are to the unregenerate man. Let me, therefore, my friend, conjure you, not to look forward, or cast about for spiritual advancement, till you have rightly taken this first step in the spiritual life. All your future progress depends upon it: for this depth of religion goes no deeper than the depth of your malady: for sin has its root in the bottom of your soul, it comes to life with your flesh and blood, and breathes in the breath of your natural life; and therefore, till you die to nature, you live to sin; and whilst this root of sin is alive in you, all the virtues you put on, are only like fine painted fruit hung upon a bad tree.
[Pryr-2.1-35] Acad. Indeed, Theophilus, you have made the difference between true and false religion as plain to me, as the difference between light and darkness. But all that you have said, at the same time, is as new to me, as if I had lived in a land, where religion has never been named. But pray, sir, tell me how I am to take this first step, which you so much insist upon.
Theoph. You are to turn wholly from yourself, and to give up yourself wholly unto God, in this or the like twofold form of words or thoughts:
"Oh my God, with all the strength of my soul, assisted by thy grace, I desire and resolve to resist and deny all my own will, earthly tempers, selfish views, and inclinations; everything that the spirit of this world, and the vanity of fallen nature, prompts me to. I give myself up wholly and solely unto thee, to be all thine, to have, and do, and be, inwardly and outwardly, according to thy good pleasure. I desire to live for no other ends, with no other designs, but to accomplish the work which thou requirest of me, an humble, obedient, faithful, thankful instrument in thy hands to be used as thou pleasest."
You are not to content yourself, my friend, with now and then, or even many times, making this oblation of yourself to God. It must be the daily, the hourly exercise of your mind; till it is wrought into your very nature, and becomes an essential state and habit of your mind, till you feel yourself as habitually turned from all your own will, selfish ends, and earthly desires, as you are from stealing and murder; till the whole turn and bent of your spirit points as constantly to God, as the needle touched with the loadstone does to the North. This, sir, is your first and necessary step in the spiritual life; this is the key to all the treasures of heaven; this unlocks the sealed book of your soul, and makes room for the Light and Spirit of God to arise up in it. Without this, the spiritual life is but spiritual talk, and only assists nature to be pleased with an holiness that it has not.
The necessity of this first step, and the folly of pretending to succeed without it, is thus represented by our blessed Lord: "What man intending to build a house," &c.
All our ability and preparation to succeed in this great affair, lie in this first step. You may perhaps think this an hard saying. But do not go away sorrowful, like the young man in the gospel, because he had great possessions. For, my friend, you little think what a deliverance you will have from all hardships, and what a flow of happiness is found even in this life, as soon as the soul is thus dead to self, freed from its own passions, and wholly given up to God; of which I shall speak to you by and by. I have told you the price of the new birth. I shall now leave you to consider, whether you will be so wise a merchant, as to give up all the wealth of the old man for this heavenly pearl. I do not expect your answer now, but will stay for it till tomorrow.
But pray, gentlemen, who is this Humanus? I do not remember to have seen him before; he seems not willing to speak, yet is often biting his lips at what is said.
Rust. This Humanus, sir, is my neighbor; but so ignorant of the nature of the gospel, that he is often trying to persuade me into a disbelief of it. I say ignorant (though he is a learned man) because I am well assured, that no man ever did, or can oppose the gospel, but through a total ignorance of what it is in itself; for the gospel, when rightly understood, is irresistible; it brings more good news to the human nature, than sight to the blind, limbs to the lame, health to the sick, or liberty to the condemned slave. But this neighbor of mine has never yet been in sight of the truth, as it is in the gospel; he knows nothing of the grounds and reason of it, but what he has picked up out of books, that have been written against it, and for it. He often makes use of one maxim of the gospel, to overthrow it, and wonders that so plain and honest a man as I am, will not submit to it. He says, if it be a truth, as the gospel saith, "That the tree must be known by its fruit, and that a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit," we need only look at the lives of Christians, the craft of priests, the wars, contentions, hatreds, sects, parties, heresies, divisions, outrages, and persecutions, which Christianity has brought forth, we need only look at this, to have all our senses and reason assure us, that the gospel must be a bad tree.
But this is enough concerning the man. He comes with me at his own earnest desire, which has lately seized him, and upon his own strict promise, not to interrupt our conversation; but to be a silent hearer, till it is all over. And therefore, if you please, sir, I beg our conversation may for a while turn upon the chief points asserted in The Spirit of Prayer, for two reasons; first, that Academicus may see what reasons I had for saying, that book had given me a sufficient instruction; and also that Humanus, hearing these great points, may hear the whole ground and nature, the necessity and blessedness of the Christian redemption, set forth in such a degree of light, and truth, and amiableness, as he had no notion of before.
Theoph. Your neighbor is welcome, and I pray God to give him an heart attentive to those truths, which have made so good an impression upon you. The first point that you desire us to speak to, is concerning the original of this temporal world. How God was moved to create it, upon the fall of a whole host, or kingdom of angels, who, by their revolt from God, lost the divine light, and awakened in themselves, and the region in which they dwelt, the dark, wrathful fire of hell: for hell is nothing else, but nature departed, or excluded, from the beams of divine light. The materiality of their kingdom was spiritual, and the light that glanced through it, that filled its transparency with an infinity of glorious wonders, was the Son of God, the brightness of the Father's glory. The spirit that animated the inward life of those glorious angels, and that moved with its sweet breath, through all this glassy sea, opening and changing new scenes in the mirror of divine wisdom, was the Holy Spirit of God, that eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. Thus did these celestial spirits live, move, and have their being, in God. All was heaven, and they all were so many created gods, eternally sinking down, and rising up, into new heights and depths of the riches of the divine nature. With this degree of glory and happiness was the whole extent of the place of this world filled, before the angels fell: and to this degree of happiness, and heavenly glory, will the whole place of this world be again raised, when the love of God shall have finished the great work of the redemption of mankind. Heaven again, and angels again, raised out of the misery of time, to sing eternal praises to the Holy Trinity, and to the Lamb that has overcome sin, and death, and hell, and turned all the wrath, and misery and darkness of this world, into an heaven never more to be changed. Oh Rusticus, what sentiments do these things raise in you?
Rust. Indeed, sir, they almost make me to forget, that I am in the body. You have set me upon a mountain, from which, whether I look backwards, or forwards, or downwards, all is equally surprising: backwards, a breach made in heaven, the first opening of hell and darkness, and a new creation out of the ruins of the fallen angels; forwards, time and all temporal nature rising again into its first eternity; downwards, a globe of earth, the seat of war between heaven and hell, where men are born to partake of the dreadful strife, and have only the little span of life, either to overcome with God, or be overcome by the devil. Oh, sir, what great things are these? I wish that all the world, as well as my neighbor Humanus, were forced to be silent hearers of them. But pray, sir, go on.
Theoph. When God saw the darkness that was upon the face of the deep, and the whole angelic habitation become a chaos of confusion, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; that is, the Spirit of God began to operate again in this outward darkness, that covered this once transparent glassy sea; for from a glassy sea it was become a deep covered with darkness, which was soon to take another nature; to have its fire and wrath converted into sun and stars; its dross and darkness into a globe of earth; its mobility and moisture into air and water; when the Spirit of God began to move and operate in it. But before this chaos had entered into this new order, God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. This light, my friend, was not the present light of this world, which now governs the night and the day; for the sun, the moon, and stars, were not created till the fourth day. But the light which God then spoke forth, was a degree of heaven, that was commanded to glance into the darkened deep, which penetrated through all the depth of the chaos, and intermixed itself through every part; not turning the whole into a region of light, but only by its quickening virtue fitting, disposing, and preparing every part to take that change, which every following day of the creation was to bring forth, in and out of this darkened deep: for darkness is death, and light is life. This was the nature and work of that first light, which God called forth on the first day: it was God's baptizing the dead chaos with the Spirit of life, that it might be capable of a resurrection into a new creation.
See here the uniformity of the divine procedure, with regard both to fallen nature and creature. When the creature (man) was fallen, his redemption was begun by God's speaking a seed of light, called the seed of the woman, into the birth of his life. This alone could qualify him for the new creation in Christ Jesus. When nature was fallen, its restoration was begun in the same manner: light was commanded to enter into it, or rather to rise up in it: this was its power or possibility of coming out of its fallen state.
Marvel not, Rusticus, that I call this first light of the first day, a degree of heaven: for light is natural, essential, and inseparable from heaven; it belongs only to heaven; and wherever else it is, it is only there as a gift from heaven. And therefore so much as there is of light in this world, so much there is of heaven in it. Darkness is natural, essential, and inseparable from hell; and can be nowhere else, but where hell can in some degree open and discover itself. And wherever, and in what degree, darkness can show itself; there, and in the same degree, is the nature of hell known and felt. This world is made up of light and darkness, not only as it consists of day and night, but because every earthly thing is itself a mixture of light and darkness. The darkness is the evil, and the light is the good, that is in everything. If the darkness was predominant in vegetables, they would all be rank poison; if in animals, they would all be as so many venomous serpents of hell. If the light did quite suppress the darkness in vegetables, they would be like the fruits which were to have been man's food in paradise.
Rust. These things, Theophilus, strike a most amazing light into all the mysteries both of nature and grace. But they do not more enlighten, than they edify the mind. They are all reforming truths; they have the nature of alternatives, they purge the heart of all its dross; they force it to drop all its pretensions to earthly things, as the poor deceitful baits of fallen nature; and to long for nothing, but to have that first heaven and life in God, for which angels and men were at first created. But I want to show to my friend Humanus, as it were in one view, that chain of truths, which follows from what you have said: though I had rather you would do it.
Theoph. Agreed: and I will set them in order thus. First, that the place of this world is the very place, or region, which belonged to Lucifer, and his angels. Secondly, that everything that we see in this world, all its elements, the stars, the firmament, &c., are nothing else but the invisible things of the fallen world, made visible in a new and lower state of existence. Thirdly, that before the rebellion of the angels there was nothing but God, and heaven, and heavenly beings. Light, and love, and joy, and glory, with all the wonders thereof, were the only things seen and felt by the angels. Darkness and fire, with every quality thereof, were absolutely unknown to the angels; they had no more suspicion of them, than of the possibility of sickness, pains, heat, and cold. All they aimed at, was at being higher in the glories, and powers, and light, of that heaven in which they lived. But their turning to their own strength to effect this, was their whole turning from God, and a falling into nature without God, which was the first discovery of darkness, wrath, and fire, and pain, and torment. Fourthly, hence it appears, that darkness is the ground of the substance, or materiality of nature; fire is its life; and light is its glorious transmutation into the kingdom of heaven; and spirit is the opener of all its wonders. All that can be conceived, is either God, or nature, or creature; God is the Holy Trinity without, or before nature; but nature is the manifestation of the Holy Trinity in a triune life of fire, light, and spirit.
Fifthly. Here we see the plain and true original of all evil, without any perplexity, or imputation upon God: that evil is nothing else but the wrath, and fire, and darkness of nature broken off from God: that the punishment, the pain, or the hell of sin, is no designedly prepared, or arbitrary penalty inflicted by God, but the natural and necessary state of the creature, that leaves, or turns from God. Sixthly, that the will of the creature is the only opener of all evil or good in the creature; the will stands between God and nature, and must in all its workings unite either with God, or nature: the will totally resigned, and given up to God, is one spirit with God, and God dwelleth in it; the will turned from God, is taken prisoner in the wrath, fire, and darkness of nature.
Seventhly. Here we see, how and why a creature can lose, and die to all its happiness and perfection, and, from a beauteous angel become a deformed devil. It is because nature has no beauty, happiness, or perfection, but solely from the manifestation or birth of the Holy Trinity in it. God manifested in nature, is the only blessing, happiness, and perfection of nature. Therefore the creature, that in the working of its will is turned from God, must have as great a change brought forth in it, as that of heaven into hell, forced to live, but to have no other life, but that of its own gnawing worm left to itself.
Eighthly. Hence we see the deep ground, and absolute necessity, of the Christian redemption, by a birth from above, of the Light and Spirit of God, demonstrated in the most absolute degree of certainty. It is because all nature is in itself nothing, but an hungry wrathful fire of life, a tormenting darkness, unless the Light and Spirit of God kindle it into a kingdom of heaven. And therefore the fallen soul can have no possible relief, or redemption, it must be, to all eternity, an hungry, dark, fiery, tormenting spirit of life, unless the Light, or Son, and Spirit of God, be born again in it.
Hence also it follows, that in all the possibility of things, there is and can be but one happiness, and one misery. The one misery, is nature and creature left to itself; the one happiness, is the life, the Light, and Spirit of God, manifested in nature and creature. This is the true meaning of those words of our Lord, "There is but one that is good, and that is God."
Ninthly. Hence it is also seen, that there is and can be but one true religion for the fallen soul, and that is, the dying to self, to nature and creature; and a turning with all the will, the desire, and delight of the soul to God, sacrifices, oblations, prayers, praises, rites, and ceremonies, without this are but as sounding brass, and tinkling cymbals. Nay, zeal, and constancy, and warmth, and fervor, in the performance of these religious practices, is not the matter; for nature and self-love can do all this. But these religious practices are then only parts of true religion, when they mean nothing, seek nothing, but to keep up a continual dying to self, and all worldly things, and turn all the will, desire, and delight of the soul to God alone. Lastly, there is and can be only one salvation for the fallen soul, and that is heaven opened again in the soul, by the birth of such a life, Light, and Spirit, as is born in angels. For Adam was created to possess that heaven from which the angels fell; but nothing can enter into heaven, but the angelic life, which is born of heaven. The loss of this angelic life was the fall of Adam, or that death which he died, on the day he did eat of the earthly fruit; therefore the regeneration, or new birth of his first angelic life, is the one only salvation of the fallen soul. Ask not therefore, whether we are saved by faith, or by works? for we are saved by neither of them. Faith and works are at first only preparatory to the new birth; afterwards they are the true genuine fruits and effects of it. But the new birth, a life from heaven, the new creature, called Christ in us, is the one only salvation of the fallen soul. Nothing can enter into heaven, but this life which is born of, and comes from heaven.
Rust. I thank you, Theophilus, for setting these awakening truths in so strong a light. And I think it is not possible for my friend Humanus to be unaffected with them.
They must needs open in him a new way of thinking about religion, and show him the deep and solid ground of the absolute necessity of the Christian redemption, and incline him to be a willing hearer of that which follows.
Theoph. I hope it will be so, Rusticus; and what I would here, and through every point we speak of, observe to your friend Humanus, is this: that the Christian religion is the one only true religion of nature, deeply and necessarily founded in the nature of things; that its doctrines are not founded in an arbitrary appointment of God, but have their natural and necessary reason, why they cannot be otherwise, as has here been shown in the one great point of regeneration, which is the whole of man's salvation, and the one only thing intended by all revelation, from the fall of man to the end of the world. Now the true ground of the one true religion or nature cannot be known, or seen into, but by going back to the beginning of things, and showing how they came into their present state. We must find out, why and how religion came to be necessary, and on what its necessity is founded. Now this cannot be done, unless we find out, what sin, and evil, and death, and darkness, are in themselves; and how they came into nature and creature. For this alone can show us, what religion is true, is natural, is necessary, and alone sufficient to remove all evil, sin, and disorder, out of the creation. For this reason, we began with the grounds and reasons of the creation of this world, showing how it came to be as it is. But this could not be done, but by going so far back as the fall of angels. For it was their revolting from God, that brought wrath, and fire, and thickness, and darkness, and death, into nature and creature; and so gave occasion to this new creation, and to its being in such a state, and of such a nature, as it is.
For who does not see, that this first deadness, thickness, wrath, fire, and darkness, caused by the angels' sin, are the very materials out of which this world is made? For are not the fire, the air, the water, the earth, the rocks and stones of this world, the rage of heat and cold, the succession of day and night, the wrath of storms and tempests, an undeniable and daily proof of all this? Now when we thus see what sin, and evil, and death, and darkness, are in nature, and how they came into it, then we see also, how and what they are, and how they came into the creature; because the creature has its forms, its being, in and out of nature. They came into nature, or rose up in it, by nature's being broken off from God, and so losing the Light and Spirit of God, which made it to be a kingdom of heaven; we see also, that when this disordered nature was to be taken out of its fallen state by a new creation, that, to do this, the Spirit of God moved, or entered again into the darkness of the waters, and the Light of God was called into it. A plain proof, that the malady of nature, was nothing else but its loss of the Light and Spirit of God working in it. This shows us also, that the fallen creature is to be restored, or put into a way of recovery, in one and the same way as fallen nature; viz., by the Spirit, and Light of God entering into it again, and bringing forth a new birth, or creation in Christ Jesus. Just as the Spirit and Light entering into the chaos, created or turned the angels' ruined kingdom into a paradise on earth. God help him, who can see no light or truth here! Your friend Humanus lays claim to a religion of nature and reason: I join with him, with all my heart. No other religion can be right, but that which has its foundation in nature. For the God of nature can require nothing of his creatures, but what the state of their nature calls them to. Nature is his great law, that speaks his whole will both in heaven and on earth; and to obey nature, is to obey the God of nature, to please him, and to live to him, in the highest perfection. God indeed has many after-laws; but it is after his creatures have fallen from nature, and lost its perfection. But all these after-laws have no other end or intention, but to repair nature, and bring men back to their first natural state of perfection. What say you now, Academicus, to all these matters?
Acad. You, sir, and Rusticus, both of you know, how these matters affected me, ever since I read the book called The Appeal to all that Doubt, &c. >From that time, I have stood upon new ground; I have seen things in such a newness of light and reality, as makes me take my former knowledge for a dream. A dream I may justly call it, since all my labor was taken up in searching into a seventeen hundred years' history of doctrines, disputes, decrees, heresies, schisms, and sects, wherever to be found, in Europe, Asia, and Africa. From this goodly heap of stuff crowded into my mind, I have been settling matters betwixt all the present Christian divisions both at home and abroad, according to the best rules of criticism; having little or no other idea of a religious man, than that of a stiff maintainer of certain points against all those that oppose them. And in this respect, I believe I may say, that I only swam away in the common torrent.
And in this laborious dream I had in all likelihood ended my days, had not that book, and some others of the like kind, shown me, that religion lay nearer home, was not to be dug out of disputes, but lay hid in myself, like a seed, which, for want of its proper nourishment, could not come to the birth. But however, though matters stand thus with myself, and I seem to be entered into a region of light, yet I must not forget to tell you, what some of my learned friends object to all this. They say, that in those books, there are many things asserted, which have not the plain letter of Scripture to support them; and therefore men of sober learning, are cautious of giving in to opinions, not strictly grounded on the plain letter of Scripture, however fine and plausible they may seem to be.
Theoph. Is there not some reason, Academicus, to take this objection of your learned friends to be a mere pretense? For what is more fully grounded upon the plain letter of Scripture, than the doctrine of a real regeneration, a new birth of the Word, the Son, and Holy Spirit of God, really brought forth in the soul? And yet this plain letter of Scripture, upon the most important of all points, the very life, and essence, and whole nature of our redemption, is not only overlooked, but openly opposed, by the generality of men of sober learning. But this point, has not only the plain letter of Scripture for it, but what the letter asserts, is absolutely required by the whole spirit and tenor of the New Testament. All the epistles of the apostles proceed upon the supposed certainty of this one great point.
A Son of God, united with, and born in our nature, that his nature may have birth in us; an Holy Spirit, breathing in the birth and life of our souls, quickening the dead life of fallen Adam, is the letter and spirit of the apostles' writings; grounded upon the plain letter of our Lord's own words, that unless we are born again from above, of the Son, Word, water, and Spirit of God, we cannot enter or see the kingdom of heaven.
Again: is it not the plain letter of Scripture, that Adam died the day that he did eat of the earthly tree? Have we not the most solemn asseveration of God for the truth of this? Was not the change which Adam found in himself a demonstration of the truth of this fact? Instead of the image and likeness of God in which he was created, the beauty of paradise, he was stripped of all his glory, confounded at the shameful deformity of his own body, afraid of being seen, and unable to see himself uncovered; delivered up a slave to a rage of all the stars and elements of this world, not knowing which way to look, or what to do in a world, where he was dead to all that he formerly felt, and alive only to a new and dreadful feeling at his sad entrance into a world, whence paradise, and God, and his own glory, were departed. Death enough surely!
Death in its highest reality, much greater in its change, than when an animal of earthly flesh and blood is only changed into a cold lifeless carcase.
A death, that in all nature had none like it, none equal to it, none of the same nature with it, but that which the angels died, when, from angels of God, they became living devils, serpentine, hideous forms, and slaves to darkness. Say that the angels lost no life, that they did not die a real death, and then you may say, with the same truth, that Adam did not die, when he lost God, and paradise, and the first glory of his creation, because he afterwards lived and breathed in a world which was outwardly, in all its parts, full of the same curse that was within himself. But further, not only the plain letter of the text, and the change of state, which Adam found in himself, demonstrated a real death to his former state; but the whole tenor of Scripture absolutely requires it; all the system of our redemption proceeds upon it. For tell me, I pray, what need of a redemption, if Adam had not lost his first state of life? What need of the Deity to enter again into the human nature, not only as acting, but taking a birth in it, and from it? What need of all this mysterious method, to bring the life from above again into man, if the life from above had not been lost? Say that Adam did not die, and then tell me, what sense or reason there is in saying, that the Son of God became man, and died on the cross to restore to him the life that he had lost? It is true indeed, that Adam, in his death to the divine life, was left in the possession of an earthly life. And the reason is plain why he was so: for his great sin consisted in his desire and longing to enter into the life of this world, to know its good and evil, as the animals of this world do; it was his choosing to have a life of this world after this new manner, and his entering upon the means of attaining it, that was his death to the divine life. And therefore it is no wonder, that after his death to heaven and paradise, he found himself still alive as an earthly animal. For the desire of this earthly life was his great sin, and the possession of this earthly life was the proper punishment and misery that belonged to his sin; and therefore it is no wonder that that life, which was the proper punishment, and real discovery of the fruits of his sin, should subsist, after his sin had put an end to the life of paradise and God in him. But wonderful it is to a great degree, that any man should imagine, that Adam did not die on the day of his sin, because he had as good a life left in him, as the beasts of the field have.
For is this the life or is the death that such animals die, the life and death with which our redemption is concerned? Are not all the Scriptures full of a life and death of a much higher kind and nature? And do not the Scriptures make man the perpetual subject to whom this higher life and death belong? What ground or reason therefore can there be to think of the death of an animal of this world, when we read of the death, that Adam was assuredly to die the day of his sin? For does not all that befell him on the day of his sin, show that he lost a much greater life, suffered a more dreadful change, than that of giving up the breath of this world? For in the day of his sin, this angel of paradise, this lord of the new creation, fell from the throne of his glory (like Lucifer from heaven) into the state of a poor, darkened, naked, distressed animal of gross flesh and blood, unable to bear the odious sight of that which his new-opened eyes forced him to see; inwardly and outwardly feeling the curse awakened in himself, and all the creation, and reduced to have only the faith of the devils, to believe and tremble. Proof enough, surely, that Adam was dead to the life, and Light, and Spirit of God; and that, with this death, all that was divine and heavenly in his soul, his body, his eyes, his mind, and thoughts, was quite at an end. Now this life to which Adam then died, is that life which all his posterity are in want of, and cannot come out of that state of that death into which he fell, but by having this first life of heaven born again in them. Now is there any reason to say, that mankind, in their natural state, are not dead to that first life in which Adam was created, because they are alive to this world? Yet this is as well as to say, that Adam did not die a real death, because he had afterwards an earthly life in him. How comes our Lord to say, that "unless ye eat the flesh, and drink the blood, of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you?" Did he mean, ye have no earthly life in you? How comes the apostle to say, "He that hath the Son of God has life, but he that hath not the Son of God hath not life"? Does he mean the life of this world? No. But both Christ and his apostle assert this great truth, that all mankind are in the state of Adam's first death, till they are made alive again, by a birth of the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God brought forth in them. So plain is it, both from the express letter, and spirit of Scripture, that Adam died a real death to the kingdom of God in the day of his sin. Take away this death, and all the scheme of our redemption has no ground left to stand upon.
Judge now, Academicus, who leaves the letter of Scripture, your learned friends, or the author of the Appeal? They leave it, they oppose it, in that which is the very life of Christianity.
For without the reality of a new birth, founded on the certainty of a real death in the fall of Adam, the Christian scheme is but a skeleton of empty words, a detail of strange mysteries between God and man, that do nothing, and have nothing to do.
On the other hand, look now at the things set forth in the Appeal, concerning the fall of angels, the nature and effects of their revolt, and the creation of this world as deduced therefrom. They neither leave, nor oppose any letter, or doctrine of Scripture. They add nothing to religion, but the full proof of all its articles; they intend nothing but to open the original ground, and true reason, of the Christian redemption, and the absolute necessity of its being such, as the gospel declares. Now the letter of Scripture does not do this in open words; it sets not forth the why, and how things are, either in nature or in grace; it teaches not the ground or philosophy of the Christian faith; it contents itself with bare facts and doctrines, and calls for simple faith and obedience. No wonder therefore, that when the natural and necessary ground of the Christian redemption is opened, that the letter of Scripture is not step by step appealed to, for everything that is said. And yet many things may be sufficiently grounded on Scripture, that are not so expressed in the letter. The Sadducees denied, that there was any resurrection at all; and this they did, because they could not find it in the express letter of the five books of Moses. And yet it seems, that the resurrection was plainly and strongly taught there: for thus saith our Lord, That the dead shall rise again, Moses showed at the bush, when he said, "The Lord is the God of Abraham, Isaac, &c. For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living." This shows us that a thing may be fully and sufficiently proved from Scripture, which is not plainly expressed in the letter. And thus stands the matter with regard to those great, and edifying truths set forth in the Appeal. They are truly scriptural, they have their ground and authority from Scripture, though not so open and express in the letter, as matters of faith and necessary doctrine are. For is not the fall of angels a Scripture truth? Is not the desolation which their fall brought into nature, and the very place of this world a Scripture-truth? What else can be meant by "darkness upon the face of the deep"? What darkness, or what deep, but in the place of this world? What darkness, or state of the deep, but that, which God was about to raise out of its disordered state? And does not the letter of Scripture show, that out of this darkness and waters, and state of the deep, the Spirit and Light of God entering into them, brought forth the earth, the stars, the sun, and all the elements, into a form of a new world?
To ask for a particular text of Scripture, saying in so many express words, that the place of this world is the very place and extent of the kingdom of the fallen angels, is quite ridiculous, and without the least ground in reason, as is enough shown in the Appeal. For does not our Lord expressly call the devil, a prince of this world? But how could this name belong to him, but because he is here in his own first region and territories, and has still some power, till all the evil that he has raised in it, shall be entirely separated from it? For was not this world raised out of the materials of the fallen angels' kingdom, and was not the wrath, and fire, and darkness of their fall, still in some degree remaining in every part of this world, they could have no more power in it, than they have in heaven; they must be as entirely incapable of seeing or entering into it, as they are of seeing or entering into the kingdom of heaven: for they have nothing but evil in their nature; they can touch nothing, move nothing, see nothing, feel nothing, taste nothing, act in nothing, but that very evil, darkness, fire, and wrath, and disorder, which they first awakened and kindled both in themselves, and their kingdom. And therefore it is a truth of the utmost certainty, that they can be nowhere, but where there is something of that evil still subsisting which they brought forth. And this may pass for demonstration (if there be any such thing) that the Scriptures themselves demonstrate the place of this world, to be the very place and region in which the angels fell. And they still are here, because their kingdom is not wholly delivered from all the evil they had raised in it, but is to stand for a time, only in a state of recovery, where they themselves must see, in spite of all the rage and malice of their fiery darts, that the mystery of a Lamb of God, born upon earth, will raise creatures of flesh and blood, amidst the ruins of their spoiled kingdom, to be an host of angels in heaven restored, and themselves plunged into an hell, that is cut off from everything, but their own wrath, fire, and darkness. And all this, Academicus, to make it known through all the regions of eternity, that pride can degrade the highest angels into devils, and humility raise fallen flesh and blood to the thrones of angels. This, this is the great end of God's raising a new creation, out of a fallen kingdom of angels; for this end it stands in its state of war, a war betwixt the fire and pride of fallen angels, and the meekness and humility of the Lamb of God: it stands its thousands of years in this strife, that the last trumpet may sound this great truth, through all the heights and depths of eternity, "That evil can have no beginning, but from pride; nor any end, but from humility."
Oh Academicus, what a blindness there is in the world! What a strife is there amongst mankind about religion, and yet almost all seem to be afraid of that, in which alone is salvation!
Poor mortals! What is the one wish and desire of your hearts? What is it that you call happiness, and matter of rejoicing? Is it not when everything about you helps you to stand upon higher ground, gives full nourishment to self-esteem, and gratifies every pride of life? And yet life itself is the loss of everything, unless pride be overcome. Oh stop a while in contemplation of this great truth. It is a truth as unchangeable as God; it is written and spoken through all nature; heaven and earth, fallen angels, and redeemed men, all bear witness to it. The truth is: pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of this truth, give up yourselves to the meek and humble Spirit of the holy Jesus, the overcomer of all fire, and pride, and wrath. This is the one way, the one truth, and the one life. There is no other open door into the sheepfold of God. Everything else is the working of the devil in the fallen nature of man. Humility must sow the seed, or there can be no reaping in heaven. Look not at pride only as an unbecoming temper; not at humility only as a decent virtue; for the one is death, and the other is life; the one is hell, and the other is all heaven.
So much as you have of pride, so much you have of the fallen angel alive in you; so much you have of true humility; so much you have of the Lamb of God within you. Could you see with your eyes that every stirring of pride does to your soul, you would beg of everything you meet, to tear the viper from you, though with the loss of an hand, or an eye. Could you see what a sweet, divine, transforming power there is in humility, what an heavenly water of life it gives to the fiery breath of your soul, how it expels the poison of your fallen nature, and makes room for the Spirit of God to live in you, you would rather wish to be the footstool of all the world, than to want the smallest degree of it. Excuse, Academicus, this little digression, if it be such, for the subject we were upon, forced me into it.
Acad. Indeed, sir, the lesson you have here given, is the same that the whole nature of the fall of angels, and the whole nature of the redemption of man, daily reads to every creature; and he, who alone can redeem the world, has plainly shown us, wherein the life and spirit of our redemption must consist, when he saith, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." Now if this lesson is unlearnt, we must be said to have left our master, as those disciples did, "who went back, and walked no more with him." But if you please, Theophilus, we will now break off till the afternoon.
Theoph. Give me leave first, Academicus, but just to mention one point more, to show you still further, how unreasonably your friends object to the Appeal the want of the plain letter of Scripture. Now let it be supposed, that the account of the fall of angels, the creation, &c., given in the Appeal, has not Scripture enough; take then the contrary opinion, which is that of your friends; viz., that all worlds, and all things, are created out of nothing.
Show me now, Academicus, I do not say a text, but the least hint of Scripture, that by all the art of commenting, can so much as be drawn to look that way. It is a fiction, big with the grossest absurdities, and contrary to everything that we know, either from nature or Scripture, concerning the rise and birth, and nature of things, that have begun to be. Adam was not created out of nothing; for the letter of Moses tells us in the plainest words, out of what he was created or formed, both as to his inward, and his outward nature. It tells us also as expressly out of what, Eve, the next creature, was created. But from the time of Adam and Eve, the creation of every human creature is a birth out of its parents' body and soul, or whole nature. And to show us how all things, or worlds, as well as all living creatures, are not created out of nothing, St. Paul appeals to this very account, that Moses gives of the woman's being formed out of the man; but "all things" (says he) "are out of God." Here this fiction of a creation out of nothing, is by the plain and open letter of Scripture, absolutely removed from the whole system of created things, or things which begin to be; for St. Paul's doctrine is, that all things come into being, out of God, in the same reality, as the woman was formed or created out of man. So again, "There is to us but one God, out of whom are all things": for so you know the Greek should be translated, not "of," but "out of" God; not "of," but "out of" the man. The fiction therefore, which I speak of, is not only without but expressly contrary to, the plain letter of Scripture. For everything that we see, every creature that has life, is by the Scripture-account a birth from something else. And here, sir, you are to take notice of a maxim that is not deniable, that the reason why anything proceeds from a birth, is the reason why everything must do so. For a birth would not be in nature, but because birth is the only procedure of nature. Nature itself is a birth from God, the first manifestation of the hidden, inconceivable God, and is so far from being out of nothing, that it is the manifestation of all that in God, which was before unmanifest. As nature is the first birth, or manifestation of God, or discovery of the divine powers, so all creatures are the manifestation of the powers of nature, brought into a variety of births, by the will of God, out of nature. The first creatures that are the nearest to the Deity, are out of the highest powers of nature, by the will of God, willing that nature should be manifested in the rise and birth of creatures out of it. Nature, directed and governed by the wisdom of God, goes on in the birth of one thing, out of another. The spiritual materiality of heaven brings forth the bodies, or heavenly flesh and blood of angels, as the materiality of this world brings forth the birth of gross flesh and blood. The spiritual materiality of heaven, so far as the extent of the kingdom of fallen angels reached, has by various changes occasioned by their fall, gone through a variety of births, or creations, till some of it came down to the thickness of air and water, and the hardness of earth and stones. But when things have stood in this state their appointed time, the last purifying fire, kindled by God, will take away all thickness, hardness, and darkness, and bring all the divided things and elements of this world back again, to be that first glassy sea, or heavenly materiality, in which the throne of God is set, as was seen by St. John, in the revelation made to him.
But the fiction of the creation out of nothing, is not only contrary to the letter and spirit of the Scripture-account of the rise and birth of things, but is in itself full of the grossest absurdities, and horrid consequences. It separates everything from God, it leaves no relation between God and the creature, nor any possibility for any power, virtue, quality, or perfection of God, to be in the creature: for if it is created out of nothing, it cannot have something of God in it. But I here stop: for, as you know, we have agreed, if God permit, to have hereafter one day's entire conversation on the nature and end of the writings of Jacob Behmen, and the right use and manner of reading them, as preparatory to a new edition of his works, so this and some other points shall be adjourned to that time. In the afternoon, we will proceed only on such matters, as may further set the Christian redemption in its true and proper light before your friend Humanus.
Acad. I am very glad, Theophilus, that I have mentioned these objections to you, though they were of no weight with me, since you have thereby had an occasion of giving so full an answer to them. The matter stands now in this plain and easy point of light.
In the Appeal we have a system of uniform truths, concerning the fall of angels, their spoiled and darkened kingdom, and the creation of this world as raised out of it. We have the creation and fall of man, his regeneration, and the manner of it, all opened and explained according to the letter and tenor of Scripture, from their deepest ground, in such manner, as to give light and clearness into all the articles of the Christian faith; to expel all difficulties and absurdities that had crept into it; and the whole scheme of our redemption is proved to be absolutely necessary, both from Scripture, and all that is seen and known in nature and creature.
On the other hand, the opinion which is, and must be received, if the account in the Appeal is rejected, appears to be a fiction, that has no sense, no reason, no fact, no appearance in nature, nor one single letter of Scripture, to support it, but stands in the utmost contrariety to all that the Scripture saith of the creation of everything, and is in itself full of the grossest absurdities, raising darkness and difficulties in all parts of religion, that can never be removed from it. For a creation that has nothing of God in it, can explain nothing that relates to God: for a creation out of nothing, has no better sense in it, than a creation into nothing. My friends, for this time, adieu.
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