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Real Nature of Regeneration
Asserted, for the Sake of the Undisciplined Soldier of Christ
"I am the vine, ye are the branches." John xv.5.
Here CHRIST, our second Adam, uses this similitude to teach us that the new birth that we are to have from him is REAL, in the most strict and literal sense of the words, and that there is the same nearness of relation betwixt him and his true disciples, that is betwixt the vine and its branches; that he does all that IN US, and for us, which the vine does for its branches. Now the life of the vine must be really derived into the branches; they cannot be branches till the birth of the vine is brought forth in them; and therefore as sure as the birth of the vine must be brought forth in the branches, so sure is it, that we must be born again of our second Adam. And that unless the life of the HOLY JESUS BE IN US BY A BIRTH from Him, we are as dead to him, and the kingdom of God, as the branch is dead to the vine, from which it is broken off. It is also the language of scripture, that CHRIST, IN US is our hope of glory; that CHRIST, formed in us, living, growing, and raising his own life and spirit IN US, is our only salvation. And indeed all this is plain from the nature of things; for since the serpent, sin, death, and hell, are all essentially within us, the very growth of our nature, must not our redemption be equally inward, an inward essential death to this state of our Souls, and inward growth of a contrary life within us? If Adam was only an outward person, if his whole nature was not our nature, born in us, and derived from him into us, it would be nonsense to say, that his fall is our fall. So in like manner, if CHRIST our second Adam, was ONLY an outward person, if he entered not as deeply into our nature as the first Adam does, if we have not as REALLY from Him a new inward spiritual man, as we have outward flesh and blood from Adam, what ground could there be to say, that our righteousness is from him, as our sin is from Adam?
To the woman at Jacob's Well, CHRIST said, If thou knowest the Gift of God, and who it is that talketh with thee, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee Living Water. How happy (may one well say) was this woman, to stand so near this Gift of GOD, from whom she might have had living water, had she but have vouchsafed to have asked for it! But, dear Christian, this happiness is thine; for this Holy Jesus, the Gift of GOD, first given into Adam, and in him to all that descended from him, is the Gift of GOD to thee, as sure as thou art born of Adam; nay hast thou never yet owned him? Art thou wandered from him as far as the Prodigal Son from the Father's house, yet is he still with thee, he is the Gift of GOD to thee, and if thou wilt turn to him, and ask of him, he has living water for thee.
Poor Sinner, consider the treasure thou hast within thee! the Saviour of the World, the Eternal Word of GOD lies hid in thee, as a spark of the divine nature, which is to overcome Sin and Death and Hell WITHIN THEE, and generate the life of heaven again in thy Soul. Turn to thy heart, and thy heart will find its Saviour, its GOD, within itself. Thou seest, hearest, and feelest nothing of GOD, because thou seekest for him abroad with thy outward eyes, thou seekest for him in Books, in Controversies, in the Church, and outward Exercises, but there thou wilt not find him, till thou has first found him in thy heart. Seek for him in thy heart, and thou wilt never seek in vain, for there he dwells; there is the seat of his Light and Holy Spirit.
For this turning to the Light, and Spirit of GOD within Thee, is thy only true turning unto God; there is no other way of finding him but in that place where he dwelleth in thee. For though GOD be every where present, yet he is only present to thee in the deepest and most central part of thy Soul. Thy natural senses cannot possess GOD, or unite thee to him; nay thy inward faculties of Understanding, Will, and Memory can only reach after GOD, but cannot be the place of his habitation in thee. But there is a root, or depth in thee, from whence all these faculties come forth, as lines from a centre, or as branches from the body of a tree This depth is call the centre, the fund, or bottom of the soul. This depth is the unity, the eternity I had almost said the infinity of thy soul; for it is so infinite that nothing can satisfy it, or give it any rest, but the infinity of GOD. In this depth of the soul, the holy Trinity brought forth its living image in the first created man, bearing in himself a living representation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and this was his dwelling in GOD, and GOD in him. This was the kingdom of GOD within him and made Paradise without him. But the day that Adam did eat of the forbidden earthly tree, in that day he absolutely died to this kingdom of GOD within him.
This depth or centre of his soul having lost its GOD, was shut up in death and darkness, and became a prisoner in an earthly animal, that only excelled its brethren, the beasts, in an upright form, and serpentine subtlety. Thus ended the fall of man. But from that moment that the GOD of mercy IN-SPOKE into Adam, the bruiser of the serpent, from that moment all the riches and treasures of the divine nature came again into man, as a seed of salvation sown in the centre of the soul, and only lies hidden there IN EVERY MAN, till he desires to rise from his fallen state, and to be born again from above.
Awake then, thou that sleepest, and CHRIST, who from all eternity has been espoused to thy soul, shall give thee light. Begin to search and dig in thine own field for this Pearl of Eternity that lies hidden in it; it cannot cost thee too much, nor canst thou buy it too dear; for it is ALL; and when thou hast found it, thou wilt know, that all which thou hast sold or given away for it, is as a mere nothing, as a bubble upon the water. But I will now shew you what this Pearl of Eternity is. First, it is the Light and Spirit of GOD within thee, which has hitherto done thee but little good, because the desire of thy heart has been after the light and spirit of this world. Thy reason and senses, thy heart and passions have turned their attentions to the poor concerns of this life, and therefore thou art a stranger to this principle of Heaven, this riches of Eternity within thee. For as GOD is not cannot be truly found by any Worshippers, but those who worship him in spirit and in truth, so this light and spirit, though ALWAYS WITHIN US, is not, cannot be found, felt or enjoyed, but by those whose whole spirit is turned to it; and the reason that so many persons, who seem well affected to religion, make so little progress therein, is because religion lies only in their head, but something else has their hearts; and therefore they continue from year to year mere admirers and praisers of piety, without ever coming to the reality of its precepts: and yet they are often found the most zealous for their particular sect, forms, &c. possessing an ardent desire to make others (who in truth may be better than themselves) converts to their principles. The reason why religion does not get possession of their hearts, is not because they live in gross sins or debaucheries, but it is because their hearts are constantly employed, perverted, and kept in a wrong state, by the indiscreet use of such things as are lawful to be used; for our souls may receive an infinite hurt, and become incapable of all virtue, merely by a wrong use of innocent and lawful things. How lawful and praise worthy is the care of a family, yet how frequently are many people rendered incapable of all virtue by a worldly and solicitous temper! How it is for want of a religious exactness in the use of these innocent and lawful things, that religion cannot get possession of our hearts! And it is in the right and prudent management of ourselves, as to these things, that all the art of holy living chiefly consists.
Again, how many persons there are who seem amazed at the deadness and insensibility of the christian world, that they are such strangers to the inward life and spiritual nature of christian salvation; they wonder how people 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 they never think how wonderful it is that a man or woman who knows regeneration to be the whole, should yet content themselves with the love they have in reading books written by those whom GOD has inspired, and the pleasure they feel in perpetually talking about spiritual matters without being born again and becoming themselves spiritual. For all that you see in them is a taste for new books and fresh ideas; being no more dead to the world, no more delivered from themselves are as fearful of adversity, as fond of prosperity, as easily provoked and pleased with trifles, as much governed by their own will, tempers and passions, as unwilling to deny their appetites, or enter into war with themselves, as they were ten years ago, when they neither read these books or conversed with spiritual persons. Yet all is well with them; they have no suspicion of themselves; they date the newness of their life, and the fullness of their light from the time that they discovered the Pearl of Eternity in their favourite divine authors. Whereas spiritual books are 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 a life and spirit, and tempers and inclinations, contrary to that life and spirit which we derive from our fallen parents. To think therefore of any thing, but the continual total denial of our earthly nature, is to overlook the very one thing on which all depends. And to hope for any thing, to trust or pray for any thing, 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.
As Adam (through the Serpent) killed that which was to have been immortal in him, and raised into life that which never should have been alive in him; therefore that which is to be undone and altered both in himself and his posterity, was this it was to part with a life that he had raised up into being, and to get another life which he had quite extinguished consequently, if CHRIST had not renounced this life, as heartily and thoroughly as Adam chose it, and declared absolutely for another kingdom in another world, and if he had not sacrificed the life he took up in and from this world, he could not have been our Redeemer.
But to return the Pearl of Eternity, is the Wisdom and Love of GOD within thee. In this pearl of the Serpent Bruiser, all the holy nature, spirit, tempers and inclinations of CHRIST, lie as in a seed in the centre of thy soul, wherefore divine wisdom and heavenly love can and will grow in thee, if thou givest but true attention to GOD present in thy soul. There is also, on the other hand, hidden in the depth of thy nature, the root, or possibility of all the hellish nature, spirit and tempers of the fallen angels. For heaven and hell have each of them their foundation within us; they come not into us from without, but spring up in us (as said CHRIST) according as our will and heart is turned, either to the light of GOD, or the kingdom of darkness. Therefore when this life, which is in the midst of these two eternities is at an end, either an angel, or a devil, will certainly be found to have a birth in us.
To live in the love, the patience, the meekness, and humility of CHRIST, then, the celestial, transparent, spiritual body of an angel is continually forming itself, and growing in and from, and about our souls, till it comes to the fullness of the stature of CHRIST JESUS; this is the true eating the flesh, and drinking the blood of CHRIST, which will become our body of glory to all eternity. And though our astral reason and outward senses, whilst we are in Adam's bodily flesh, know nothing of this inward body of CHRIST, yet there it is, as surely as we have the love, the patience, the meekness and humility of CHRIST; for where the true spirit of CHRIST is, there is his true spiritual body.
On the other hand, live to selfishness, to diabolical pride, wrath, envy, and covetousness, and then nothing can hinder these tempers from forming within us such a spiritual body to our soul, as that which devils have, and dwell, and work in.
THE PEARL OF ETERNITY is, also, the church, or temple of GOD within thee, the consecrated place of divine worship, where alone thou canst worship GOD in spirit and in truth. In spirit, because thy spirit is that alone in thee which can unite and cleave unto GOD, and receive the workings of his divine spirit upon thee; in truth, because this adoration in spirit is that truth and reality, of which all outward forms and rights, though instituted by GOD, are only the figure for a time; but this worship is eternal. Accustom thyself to the holy service of this inward temple. In the midst of it is the fountain of living water, of which thou mayest drink and live for ever. There the supper of the Lamb is kept; the Bread that came down from Heaven, that giveth life to the world, is thy true nourishment. All is done in real experience, in a living sensibility of the work of GOD on the soul. There the birth, the life, and sufferings, the death, the resurrection and ascension of CHRIST, are not merely remembered, but inwardly found, and enjoyed as the real state of thy soul, which has followed CHRIST in the regeneration. It is then, and then only, that it is washed and cleansed by his blood, when it drinks his blood; and it drinks his blood when it willingly drinks of the cup that he drank of.
When therefore thou art well grounded in this inward temple of worship, thou wilt have learnt to live unto GOD above time, and place. For every day will be Sunday to thee, and wherever thou goes thou wilt have a Priest, a Church, and an Altar along with thee. For when GOD has all that he should have of thy heart, when renouncing the will, judgment, tempers and inclinations of thy Old Man, thou art wholly given up to the obedience of the Light and Spirit of GOD within thee, to will only his will, to love only in his love, to be wise only in his wisdom, then it is, that every thing thou doest is as a Song of Praise, and the common business of thy Life is a conforming to God's will on Earth as Angels do in Heaven. Now, Dear Reader, pray consider what follows, with more than thoughts, namely, that to have SALVATION from CHRIST, is nothing else but to be made like unto him; it is to have his humility and meekness, his mortification and self denial, his renunciation of the spirit, wisdom, and honours of this world, his love of GOD, his desire of doing GOD's will, and seeking only his honour. To have these tempers formed and begotten in thy heart is to have salvation from CHRIST. But if thou willest not to have these tempers brought forth in thee, if thy faith and desire does not seek, and cry to CHRIST for them, in the same reality as the lame asked to walk and the blind to see, then thou must be said to be unwilling to have CHRIST to be thy Saviour.
Oh, my friend, enter with all thy heart into this most certain truth; let thy eye be always upon it; do every thing in view of it; try every thing by the truth of it; love nothing but for the sake of it. Wherever thou goest, whatever thou doest, at home or abroad, in the field or at church, do all in desire of union with CHRIST, in imitation of his tempers and inclinations, and look upon all as nothing, but that which exercises and encreases the spirit and life of CHRIST in thy soul. From morning to night keep JESUS in thy heart; long for nothing, desire nothing, but to have all that is within thee changed into the spirit and temper of the HOLY JESUS. Let this be thy christianity, thy church, and thy religion. For this new birth in CHRIST, thus firmly believed and continually desired, will do every thing that thou wantest to have done in thee; it will dry up all the springs of vice, stop all the workings of evil in thy nature; it will bring all that is good into thee, and thou wilt know what it is to be taught of God; but until then, thy knowledge will be uncertain. This longing desire of thy heart to be one with CHRIST will soon put a stop to all the vanity of thy life, and nothing will be permitted to enter into thy heart, or proceed from it, but what comes from GOD, and returns to GOD; thou wilt soon be bound in the chains of holy affections and desires; thy mouth will have a watch set upon it, thy ears would willingly hear nothing that does not tend to GOD, nor thy eyes be open, but to see, and find occasions of doing good. In a word, when this faith has got both thy head and thy heart, it will then be with thee as it was with the merchant, who found a Pearl of great price; it will make thee glad to sell all that thou hast to buy it.
To conclude The REASON that the light and spirit of GOD, which has been again restored to the soul, and lying in it as a secret source of Heaven, is called grace, free grace, or a supernatural gift, or power of GOD in the soul, is on account of its being an essential and indispensible something, which the natural powers of the soul could no more obtain. Hence, therefore it is, that in the greatest truth, and highest reality, every stirring of the soul, every tendency of the heart towards GOD and goodness, is justly and necessarily ascribed to the holy Spirit of GOD, and therefore every stirring, or opening of this seed of life, every awakened thought or desire that arises from it, must be called the moving or the quickening of the Spirit of GOD; and therefore that new man which arises from it, must of all necessity be said to be SOLELY THE WORK AND OPERATION OF GOD.
Dear Friend! Mayest thou be disposed to read all the preceding, over and over again, until every sentence is most indelibly impressed on thy heart! to which end, Oh GOD, be thou the inspirer, guide and leader.
Note from Pass the WORD: This short treatise appeared in the 1816 Edition of Jane Lead's "The Wars of David and the Peaceable Reign of Solomon", just prior to Francis Lee's "The Publisher's Address to His Readers" and after A Short Exercise of the Spiritual Warriours; it is thought to have been authored by Lee although it was not signed. Further evidence of Lee's authorship may be found in William Law's Spirit of Prayer, Part I, Chapter 2, where William Law used Francis Lee's text (above) verbatim; then Law proceeded to enlarge and build upon Lee's thought, a practice that Law sometimes followed in his later works. It is known that William Law had in his possession all of the works of his elder, Francis Lee, which Wm. Law had borrowed from Lee's daughter after the death of her father. [Notes & Materials for an Adequate Biography of William Law, by Christopher Walton, London, 1854.]
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