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And the apostle saith, 3 John i. 9. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not; wherefore if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doth, prating against us with malicious words. And not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.' Now here you may see the apostle's care of the church in his day then, which ought to be so now, against such prating Diotrepheses with their malicious words, which love to have the pre-eminence. And did not this Diotrephes go under the name of a christian? But John had the power and spirit of Christ to deal with him, and to remember his deeds, and to judge them. And so hath the church of Christ now, with the power and spirit of Christ, to judge and try such spirits, whether they be of God or no.
And likewise the apostle James' in his General Epistle, he taught the church to try the pure religion from the false, from such as seemed “to be religious, and bridled not their own tongues, that deceived their own hearts' in their vain religion.
And likewise, the apostle brought the church to see who were the doers of the word, not only hearers ;' for they that were only hearers and not doers, deceived their own selves.
And also the apostle exhorted the church to try their faith and belief, for many would say they had faith, and believed. Then you would say these were called christians ; but the apostle saith, “If a brother or sister be naked, and be destitute of daily food, and if you say to them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, and you give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone.' And therefore the true and living faith is to be showed forth by its good works, which will feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and relieve the widow and fatherless; and so to practice religion and faith, which is the victory, and gives the victory over the devil and his bad works, in which faith they do please God.
And so here you may see the practices of the church of Christ in the apostles' days, and now; and who are the hearers of the word, and not the doers of the word, and who are in the pure undefiled religion, &c. which is to visit the fatherless and the widow, &c. and who seem to be religious in a vain religion, and who are in the true living faith, and who are in the dead faith, and who are in the pure peaceable wisdom that is from above, and its fruits, and who are in the wisdom that is earthly and devilish below, and whose dead faith brings them to respect a person, because of his gold ring and gay apparel, and despise the poor; such, their spirits are to be tried with the spirit of God, and anointing within, in the church of Christ now, as in the apostles' days.
11 James xxvi.
And Peter, in his General Epistle to the church, tells them, that there shall be false teachers amongst them, who privily should bring in damnable heresy, even denying the Lord that bought them, and should bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious and lascivious ways, by reason of whom, the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you. And there shall be false teachers amongst them; whose judgment, &c. lingered not, and their damnation slumbered not.'1
And the apostle shows the church the state and example of the fallen angels, and old world, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, of their destruction, and how God saved Noah the preacher of righteousness, and delivered just Lot, who was vexed with the filthy conversation of the Sodomites. But these, to wit, the false teachers that should come amongst the christians, which the apostle speaks of, which are as natural brute beasts, &c. that speak evil of the things they understand not ; sporting themselves with their own deceivings, as they feast with you, (to wit, the christians,) beguiling unstable souls, &c. which have forsaken the right way, (to wit, Christ,) and following the way of Balaam, (that is, in the error from the spirit of God, these are the wells without water, carried about with a tempest, (mark, with a tempest,) and speak great swelling words of vanity, to allure them that escaped from them, &c. while they promise them liberty; yet, themselves are servants of corruptions, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same he is brought into bondage. For if after they have escaped the common pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the be. ginning; for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened, &c. the dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to the wallowing in the mire.'
Now here you may see what care Peter had, in his General Epistle, of the church of Christ; the same care in the same power and spirit ought to be now. And do you think that these false teachers had not, or did not go under the name of christians, which were amongst the christians then, and should make merchandise of them, and feasted with them, which had forsaken the right way; but they could speak high
12 Pet. ii. 1, 2.
2 Ibid. 22.
swelling words of vanity, to allure, and promise them liberty, to bring into bondage, and it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, (which it seems they had,) than after they had known it, to turn from it and the holy commandment;' who had been washed, and to turn again into the mire; and therefore the apostle very well might say, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, with the spirit of God, and the anointing within.
So the church of Christ is now to try such spirits, and to blow the trumpet in heavenly Sion against such spirits, when they do rise; and so you may see what kind of spirits these were, that promised liberty, or what liberty it was which brings into bondage, and into the mire, and to forsake the right way of Christ, in whom true liberty is; and in him they are free, and yet, as not using their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, as too many do, and have done, but using their liberty as the servants of God, in righteousness and holiness; and this is the true church's liberty in Christ Jesus.
And Jude in his General Epistle to the church, see what care he hath of the church of Christ, and exhorts them to contend for the faith; for he saith, there were certain men crept in unawares,' &c. yea, 'ungod. ly men, that turned the grace of God into lasciviousness,' &c. and therefore they put the church in remembrance, though they knew it, how that the · Lord having saved the people out of Egypt, and after destroy. ed them that believed not, but murmured, and rebelled against him; and how that the angels, which kept not their first state, but left their habitation, God hath reserved to everlasting chains of darkness, &c. and how God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, for their wickedness; and are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.' Now these examples, and the unbelief of them that perished in Egypt, and the destruction of the old world, and Sodom, and the angels not keeping their first state or habitation, the apostles put the church in remembrance of, that they should be steadfast in the holy faith, and contend for it, and build one another up in it.
And the apostle saith, likewise these filthy dreamers, that had crept in at unawares, ungodly men, which turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, which defile the flesh, and despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Now the dominion and dignitics were of the power and spirit of Christ; but these also, saith the apostle, speak evil of those things which they know not, but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves; and too many such there are at this day. But wo unto them, for they are gone in the way of Cain, that is in envy, who was a destroyer, a killer, and a sacrificer too, who went from Christ, the way, who came to save men's lives and to destroy the destroyer, and they ran greedily after the error of Ba.
Jaam, that is, from the spirit of God; and are gone in the gainsaying of Corah, which was against the law, and Moses the servant of God. So these “turn the grace of God,' which should bring salvation into lasciviousness,' and have forsaken the right way.
The apostle saith, Jude xii. • These are spots in your feasts of charity, and when they feast with you, (to wit,) the true christians, they feed themselves without fear.' And they were in danger to bring the christians to be without the fear of the Lord. And the apostle saith, • They are clouds without water, carried about with winds;' then they were chaff, and not wheat. And the apostle said, they were trees, whose fruit withereth, and without fruit, twice dead, and plucked up by the roots.' Then they were not like to grow; first dead in sin and trespasses, and then quickened by Christ, and then dead again. These are the raging waves of the sea, (they may be known by their rage,) foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, not fixed in the firmament of God's power, &c. These are murmurers and complainers, walking after their own lusts, and not after Christ; and these with their mouths
speak great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration, because of advantage.' And these are they, who separate themselves; sensual, having not the spirit of God; and how can they, when they are erred from it, and twice dead? So here you may see a self-separation from the spirit of God in Cain, and Corah, and Balaam's way, which turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. The fallen angels, the old world, Cain, Corah, Balaam, and Sodom, their example that they follow, that are the wells without water, trees without fruit, clouds without rain, raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, wand. ering stars, lost their first state and habitation, murmurers and complainers, their mouths can speak great swelling words, yet mockers; these be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the spirit, (as before,) filthy dreamers, defile the flesh, despise dominion, speak evil of dignities; and what dignities and dominions were in the church, in Jude's days, but the power and spirit of Christ in his church? And therefore the apostle well might say, Believe not every spirit, but try them, whether they be of God.
And the church of Christ is to try in our day, with the anointing within, and with the spirit of Christ. He saith, try such spirits and fruits, and of some . have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, plucking them out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted with the flesh.' And now to him that is able to keep you from those false teachers, and falling into their ungodly ways, and is also able to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, to him I commend you.
And John in the Revelationswrites to the seven churches, and Christ saith to the church of Ephesus, • Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars,' showing that they had power, &c. and • Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.' Now here you may see, the church of Ephesus, in the power of Christ, had authority to judge, and to try liars and false apostles, and the deeds of the Nicolaitans; and in the same spirit and power of Christ now, the church of Christ hath power to try, and to judge such things with the anointing within, as they had in the apostles' days. And therefore, Christ saith, • To him that overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.'
And John writes to the church in Smyrna, and Christ saith, I know thy work, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art rich; I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but the synagogue of satan.'
So here you may see the power and spirit of Christ, which did judge those that were not in the truth; and Christ saith to the church of Smyrna, which was to be tried, • Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life; and he that overcomes, shall not be hurt of the second death. Here is Christ's comfortable promise to the faithful.
And John writes to the church of Pergamos; and Christ saith, I know thy works where thou dwellest, where satan's seat is; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith;' to wit, the faith of Christ, &c. but I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the doctrine of Balaam, &c. and hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth,' &c.
But to him that overcomes, I will give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the white stone, a new name written, which no man knows, saving he that receives it.' Here you may see the care and encouragement of Christ concerning the church.
Now were not these, that said they were apostles, but the church found them liars, and they that said they were Jews, but found synagogues of satan, and these which held the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, a kind of christians, that were got among the churches then, who, with the power and spirit of Christ, had authority to judge such spirits then, and now, in the church of Christ, and to try their spirits whether they were and are of God?
I Rey. 2.