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sheep and the oxen, the prophet Samuel told him, that rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry; and added, because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he also hath rejected thee from being king, I Sam. xv. 23, 26. When the children of Israel did not believe in the Lord their God, but rejected his statutes, and covenant, and testimonies, 2 Kings, xvii. 14, 15, the Lord also rejected them, ver. 20. The like is said of Jerusalem, that "the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath," Jer. vii. 29, and the reason is given, chap. viii. 9, "Lo, they havé rejected the word of the Lord." So the Lord first complains, "My people," saith he, "are destroyed for lack of knowledge;" and then threatens them in these words, because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee," Hos. iv. 6.
In all which places, the Hebrew word signifies to disallow or reject, in such a manner as is before observed and the Septuagint, in Jer. vii. 29, and viii. 9, render by, disallow, or reject. And in the like sense the same Greek word often occurs in the New Testament, as Matt. xxi. 42; Mark, xii. 10; Luke, xx. 17; 1 Pet. ii. 7, with its passives, as Mark, viii. 31; Luke, ix. 22, and xvii. 25; Heb. xii. 17; 1 Pet. ii. 4.
The love of God in his Son Jesus Christ, is manifested unto all men, in order to their recovery out of sin and transgression; for he will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of his truth, 1 Tim. ii. 4, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. iii. 9. These are texts which are liable to no exception, if
it were not for the wilful blindness and perversions of men. For a further confirmation, God hath ratified this with a most solemn asseveration, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. xxxiii. 11. Upon which, saith Tertullian, "God would fain have us believe him;" adding, Lib. de Pænit. c. 4, “Happy are we, for whose sake the Lord vouchsafeth to swear; but most unhappy, if we believe him not when he sweareth!" So that, the love of God is universal; he would have none to perish, by an absolute irrespective decree; but the cause is man's own voluntary rejecting the love and grace of God, which comes by Jesus Christ.
ABOUT the month called June, 1700, Richard Claridge removed from London to Barking in Essex, where he dwelt, and kept a boarding-school for some years.
Having observed, while he walked in communion with the Baptists, a sober and sensible remnant among that people, of whom he was persuaded that they feared the Lord, and were waiting for the consolation of Israel; he was now drawn forth in a spirit of love and compassion toward them, to write the following epistle; which for the sake of such serious enquirers, is here published.
“To the people called Baptists, with whom I formerly walked in fellowship.
"From the time of my first coming amongst you, my soul met with disappointment, in that which it most earnestly longed for and desired, namely, satisfaction. I hoped your ministers had been rightly called, your congregations rightly gathered, and your doctrine, worship, and ordinances, such as were in all things conformable unto the primitive pattern, unto the doctrine, worship, and ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy apostles. The first thing that startled me, and put me upon further enquiry, was upon this occasion: after I had been in the water, and was pulling off the wet garments, wherein I had been immerged, or dipt, a certain seeker came into the room, and, as I remember, addressed himself to me in these very words, saying, 'Sir, you are welcome out of one form into another.' This struck me to the very heart, and in the secret of my soul, I cried unto the Lord, saying, Lord! what a condition am I in! Is this all the advance that I have made, to lay down, or relinquish one form, and take up another!' Great sorrow and heaviness seized upon me, and I was so concerned and troubled for a time, I knew not what to do. But, conversing with some amongst you, who took upon them to resolve the doubts of scrupulous consciences, I got over my trouble for the present, being ignorantly persuaded, that though your baptism was a form, yet it differed much from the forms of others, and that it was an apostolic practice, and to continue. And I began to rejoice, and be glad in it, and pressed it with great zeal and earnestness; and many thereupon in several places were convinced of it, and baptized; but as I never felt an inclination in me to baptize any, till called thereunto by the congregation at Newgate-street; so, I thank God, I baptized persons, and that rather in compliance with the congregation's call, and the present occasion, than any necessity laid upon me from the Lord. And after I had baptized those few, the thoughts of that work quite departed from me; and a concern came upon me, to mind and witness by personal experience, the baptism of the Spirit, whereof water-baptism was but a type and figure, and a dispensation of temporary continuance, appertaining only to John's ministry, who was the fore
runner of Christ: so that water-baptism was to cease and determine, as the gospel dispensation came on, the substance being to take place of the shadow, and the servant to give way to the Son, who is Lord of all. That word was often with me, when I was a teacher among you, The dispensation of the gospel is a ministration of the Spirit. At first I did not know the meaning of it, and I sought to understand it by reading the Holy Scriptures, and searching into commentators and expositors, by studying the grammatical meaning, the scope of the place, the coherence of the context, and endeavouring to bring the result of all down to that, which you called, the analogy of faith. These, with the addition of prayer, were the usual rules laid down among you, for the attaining to the sense and meaning of Scripture. These rules I observed with great diligence and exactness, but my own will and wisdom bearing the greater sway in this enquiry, I was so strangely confused and bewildered, that I could arrive at no satisfactory interpretation. And it was well for me, that I saw what loss and confusion I was in; for had the result of that enquiry ended in satisfaction, I might have lain in gross ignorance to this day: for I can truly say, as I was sincere in my search, so I would fain have stayed, such was my natural inclination, where I was, could I have met with satisfaction. But my soul was in a travail, and exercise of mind daily increased, so that I could be at no rest day nor night; for the emptiness of this and other external practices amongst you, was discovered to me, and I had a kind of glimmering, as I may say, of an higher state, and a more spiritual worship, but knew not what it was, nor where to find it.
"Under this exercise I continued for several months. When I lay down to take my natural rest, I could have none, and then I wished for the morning, and when the morning came, my trouble returned with it, and then I wished for the evening for now a concern came upon me, not only about worship, but also about the qualification that my soul was in for the right and acceptable performance of it. For the light, which before shined in my darkness, began to shine a little out of it, and to show me that my state, notwithstanding my water-baptism, high profession, zealous preaching, and strict conversation, was but a polluted state; and that whilst I remained in it, my duties and performances were polluted also: He that killeth an ox, in such a state, is, as if he slew a man; he that
sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; and he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Isa. lxvi. 3. So that except I came to witness redemption and deliverance out of this estate, all my services were abomination, and my goodliest performances as the offerings of strange fire.
"Now judgment dwelt in the wilderness, and the day of the Lord burned as a fire in my bowels; for my sin was set in order before me, and mine iniquities, which profession could not discover, were manifested to me by the light of Christ in my conscience; and I saw, though a strict professor, and a sober liver, that there was yet a further work to be done; I must either come to witness regeneration, or there was no hopes of acceptance for me with the pure and holy God. That it was not the name of Christian, without the nature; nor the profession of religion, without the possession, that would do. That Isaac must be offered up, as well as Ishmael cast out. That no league was to be made with Amalek, no sin or lust to be spared, no Canaanite suffered to dwell in the land, no possessions kept that Christ required to be sold; but that all must be judged down, all must be parted with, that was contrary to the holy will of God, which is our sanctification; and that not in part only, as your doctrine is, but wholly, as the apostle's prayer was, 1 Thes. v. 23. This was a time of solitude and retirement with me, and I desired and delighted to be much alone; though I was not alone, for the Lord was with me. The Lord was in his temple, and the flesh was brought into silence before him. And in this silence, as I waited low upon him, by the strength of Christ communicated to me, (without whom I neither do, could, nor can do any thing acceptable to him,) it pleased the Lord to break in upon me by his heart-tendering power, and to open my understanding, and to give me the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Now, the vail being measurably taken off in Christ, these words, namely, The dispensation of the gospel, is a ministration of the Spirit, which before was as a sealed book, began to be opened in me, and the eyes of my understanding to be enlightened, by the immediate inshining of the light of Christ. So that I came to see an end of all former ministrations, whether of divine appointment, as of Moses, the prophets, or John, which had their time and period; or such as men had shaped,