Thomas Bromley (1629-1691)
Thomas Bromley was a part of the Philadelphian Society with Jane Lead.
On the Necessity of Mortification and Self Denial
And I know there may be great variety in Gods works upon Souls, so that none are to be confined to one exact Path, though all are to be informed, that we must turn and become as little Children, and be wholly dead with Christ, before we can be as the Angels in the Resurrection, delighting our selves in the Light and Life of Eternity : Therefore the Perfect Death should be aimed at by all, for nothing less can fit us for Glory. For, how can any Imperfection enter there, where is nothing but Perfection? or any thing of Darkness dwell with him who is Light, and in whom there is no Darkness at all?
'Tis true, many (from mistaking that Principle, of God being the Root of all things) have endeavoured to reconcile Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Flesh and Spirit, Christ and Belial; and so to laugh all Mortification and Self-denial out of the Church. But alas! what have the Practices and Notions of such ended in, but Shame and Confusion of Face? For they have sowed to the Wind, and reaped the Whirl-wind, grasped at an imaginary Heaven and Perfection; but have fallen like Lucifer into Hell, and palpable Darkness, having like foolish Virgins spent their Oyl, and received Poison into their Lamps, and so made themselves unfit to meet and entertain the Bridegroom.
Others there are, who come forth in such Outward Strictness and Severity, as they are ready to judge all that are not in their peculiar Mode, and Form; and to refuse Communion with some, who have attained much further in the true Death and Resurrection (and are more acquainted with the Renewal of Gods Image, and the state of Restoration) than themselves.
And there may be many Others, who though not owning the first sort, and much disgusting the last, yet give themselves too much to Earthly Indulgements, under the notion of Christian Liberty, and so make no real progress in the change of their Souls. Some of which are cheated with false Notions of their being in Christ; and others of them with sublime Apprehensions of false imaginary Deaths, and ways of Self-denial, which they much feed upon, instead of that Death and Cross, which should work their Spirits and Natures out of Flesh, into the true spiritual divine Image:
There are another sort, who are too much offended at Forms, and all usual ways of enjoying, and speaking of God, decrying them as Cheats, and empty Things, though they be used never so spiritually and advantageously to those that appear in them; which is a great Mistake, flowing from Ignorance, and the want of a clear Sight, which could not so confine the great and infinite Jehovah within the Limits of no Forms, and exclude him from appearing and working in and through Forms; being it is at his own Pleasure, to show himself how and in what he pleaseth.
But lastly, a great part of those that profess Religion, are such who rest too much upon the first Work of Regeneration, and too much Eye their first Change, afterwards running in a Circle of Duties and Performances, without making that Progress and Growth towards Perfection, which the frequent Exhortations and Examples of the Holy Scriptures call and incite us to.
But in the ordinary Acceptation amongst Professing Christians, tis used in the most restrained sense for the first Change of the Soul when the bent of the Heart begins to be habitually carried towards God in Christ. And by what I have heard and seen, from most I have conversed with, I find too much weight laid upon this first work, as though it where the complete new Birth; And that which might give sufficient ground of comfort, even to those who feel not the comfortable growth of the inward Man in its Motion towards Perfection.
Hence many rest upon their first supposed Conversion, and have a continual Eye to it, as a great prop to their Souls, though they feel their Chariot Wheels stand still, yea, go backwards, and are in much more Deadness and Drowsiness of Spirit habitually, than when they first entered into the Work of the New-Birth. But certainly, this is dangerous, Ezek.xviii.24, and may much deceive the Spirits of many, by making them more eye what they were, than what the are, or may be, by pressing toward the Mark of perfect Union; for it stops their Motion, and hinders their Ascent towards Heaven, and their constant practising Conformity to the Death of Christ; by which Death only we pass out of the Fall, are fitted for Glory, and at length attain the Crown of Life.
Now the work of Regeneration, renewing both the Will and Understanding, will bring those who persevere in it, to a clear Sight of the forementioned Mistake; by which they will be able to discern betwixt Light and Darkness (Chaff and Wheat) and come to own the good Seed in all; and endeavour by walking according to the Royal Law of Love and Charity, to cherish it. Now this Law of Love, is the Rule of Perfection, being the Scope and End of a Christian's Progress; a true Conformity to which makes us like God, who is Love, and delights to impress his own eternal Character of Love upon his Children, who are nearer to, or further from Perfection, as they partake more or less of this Essential Love, which is the Spirit and Life of Christianity; without which, all Duties and Observances are but as a sounding Brass and perishing Shadows; in which, all have their worth and use. From the Dictates and Impulses of this Law, I have written this small Discourse, as believing it may be instrumental to undeceive many who are wandering in the Labyrinths of Error, yet seek the true way; and to confirm, strengthen and direct others who are making their way through the Cross to the Crown of Life. And truly this Subject is of great Concernment to all, because all are capable of the New-Birth; and none without it can ever be happy. To mistake this work is very dangerous, because tis the Passage to eternal Rest. The highest Heaven is situate in the large Plains of Eternity; yet the way to it is very narrow: At the Entrance, the sharp Sword of Circumcision is placed; On the left Hand there is a Gulf of Fire, on the right Hand a deep Water; At the end there stands a Cherubin with a flaming Sword, whose Office is to cut off the Reliques of all Corruption from the Soul; So that the least Grain of Selfishness or Flesh, cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Spirit of Man is totally to be inhabited by Christ: There is not one Weed to be left there.
We are to be stript of all the Riches of corrupt Nature, before we can pass through the last Gate into the City. A naked Spirit quickly enters. Hence that of Christ, Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God; An empty Spirit God will fill: For God is Love, and delights (through his Son) to communicate of his own Fulness to all that can receive it. The Soul cannot be emptied but through Regeneration; nor filled if not first empty'd. If we part with Darkness, Vanity and Lust, we receive Light, Substance and Love. A complete exchange brings complete Happiness. How few are willing to sell all for Christ? How many Distinctions are created by Reason to avoid the Cross and Death of Christ? But it is very dangerous to take up such Principles that may indulge any part of that which must be destroyed. It may make us fall short of Heaven, when we expect to enter into it, 'Tis far more safe to be too strict than too remiss...
Now therefore the Circumcising Knife of Gods Power constantly cuts off the fleshly Part, which is offered up in the Fire of Justice, and consumed before the Lord. Now the Soul sees it must resist to Blood, that is, to the Death of the Body of Sin, which is wholly to be separated from the Spirit, with all its Members: For this is that false Covering it hath wrapped itself in through the Fall, instead of that naked Innocency in which there was no uncomeliness, and therefore no Shame: Except therefore this fore-skin of the Flesh be cut off, the Angelical Robe cannot be put on: And as that falls off, this is assumed; increasing as that decays: For, they cannot both rise and fall together; for while the outward Man Decays, the inward Man is renewed Day by Day.
Here it clearly appears, we must forsake all; otherwise we cannot be Christs Disciples: All Objects of our Carnal Affections, all Complacency in fleshly Things; all Self-Propriety in the Will of Nature, which came through the Fall, and the Souls departing from the universal Charity, (the true Ground of heavenly Community) into the particular Objects of Self-affections, which as it hath been awakened by the Souls going out of Gods Will, into its own; so it must be crucified by returning from itself into the pure eternal Will of God, which we can never attain, till we are dead to the Affections of the sensitive Part.
For Carnal Love, Joy, Hope, Fear, Desire, Displeasure, are all the Selfish Motions of the Natural Man, the corrupt Members of the Body of Sin, together with earthly Pride, Covetousness, Envy, Jealousy, Emulation, Wrath, Strife, all which are the legs of the Earthly Adam, and therefore to be cast away and destroyed; and in their Fall, the Will comes to be crucified to all their Objects and so to all selfish Propriety. Here we come to lose our own Lives, to hate our selfish Motions, to be slain to all fleshy Things that the Will hath espoused, instead of God in Christ. Here we begin to be truly Poor, renouncing all for Christ, in a resign'd Will and mortified Affections, as also a Moderate, Charitable and Sanctified use of all temporal Things.
And as to the Case of Property in Earthly Estates: it is good to know and declare Impartially, the full and perfect thing design'd to be brought forth in the Church, that Christians of this Day may at least wish and pray for it; tho' it seems indeed to be almost impracticable in the present degenerated State of the Christian Church: Nor to be set upon without an Aid and Concurrent Power of the Holy Ghost, like that in Pentecost, where no Man call'd any thing that he had his own, but they had all in Common. It is certain that Covetousness in the desire of the natural Man, hath been the cause of all those Engrossings of Land and Money, which most are Involved in, and Christ with his Disciples, and his Disciples afterwards with their followers, gave a Pattern, and made a Beginning of the Renewal of the Law of Love; which regards our Neighbour or Brother as our self. And the least we can do in this Point at this Day, must be for those that have Estates, to be as tho they had them not, and to use them as Stewards for God and Christ, and also with regard to his Body or Members, being Communicative according to the Will of God, in the more enlargd and generous Proportions of Wisdom, Goodness and Love.
We are also in this to see our present Shortness, and bemoan the loss of the Spirit and Power of Primitive Christianity; and stand ourselves so loose and indifferent to all things, that if, or whenever God may please to restore the Primitive Spirit, Power and Life of Christianity again; we may be in a Posture prepar'd and ready to give up all, and Concur in the more perfect Manner of such a blessed Day. viz. In a Heavenly Community here on Earth which may Imitate the Holy Angels and the Glorified Saints above, who inherit their Eternal Substance, as their Eternal Joys, without any Self-appropriation, in blessed Unity and Community.
Here we likewise die to, and forsake earthly Relations, as part of that we call Ours: And though we are not to destroy natural Affection, nor to neglect the performing of any due Obligation laid upon us by the Law of Nature, as it accords with the Will and Justice of God; yet we are to die to all such Propriety of Affection, as flows from corrupt Nature, and hinders the impartial Communication of our Love to every one, according to the perfect Example of our Heavenly Father, who takes in no fleshly Respects, in the giving forth of his Love to his Creatures, which is our Pattern to imitate; for we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Here those that have Wives, are as though they had none, in Sanctification of the Marriage Bed, and subordination of inferior Desires, by a superior regard to Christ the Spouse of the Church, whereof they are here appointed a Holy Figure. Thus forbearing to Idolize the Woman of the World, and returning to the true Mother and Spouse of the Soul in Christ Jesus, viz. The Virgin Sophia, or the Heavenly Wisdom, who is the unspotted Mirror of the Eternal World, the first and Chief Spouse of Christ, see Rev.xii.2. And they who can receive it, follow the Example of Christ, who lived and died in Virginity, as he was born of a Virgin: And this they do for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake, according to that precept, Mat.xix,12. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it; where Christ speaks concerning the abstaining from Marriage, and of those that had made themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven. Whence it is clear, that a greater degree of dying to, and crucifying the Root, whence the enjoyment in that State comes, is to such, a real means to the greater growth and encrease of Gods Kingdom in the Soul, which is to be presented as a Chaste Virgin to Christ, 2Cor.xi.2. And St Paul, 1Cor.vii,21,32,33,34,35. prefers the Virgin State far before the Married; and therefore Verse the 7th saith, I would that all Men were as I am: Which certainly he spake according to true Light, sound Judgment and great Experience in the Work and Progress of Regeneration.
EXCERPTS taken from:
THOMAS BROMLEY'S "THE WAY TO THE SABBATH OF REST"
... then, as the way of their attainment, it hath been that of the Cross, i.e. by the habitual Practice of Self Denial, both internal and external :
Internal, as first, by dying to all Imaginations, and speculative Pollutions, keeping up our Thoughts to God, and heavenly Objects. Second, by continual Watchfulness over our Affections and Passions, in exercising the Cross, upon the first Motions of them. Third, by dying to the desire of Repute and Honour amongst Men in the World, looking after that Honour which comes from God only.
External, first, by Fasting, and keeping under our Bodies, by constant Observations of the Rules of Christian Sobriety. Second, by abstaining from all Objects of sensual Lust and Pleasure, in observing the Rules of Chastity. Third, by withdrawing ourselves, except for necessity, both from all Persons and Employments that might interrupt our inward Communion, or awaken any earthly Passion, as knowing that evil Communications corrupt good Manners; especially where the Habit of Mortification is not yet very strong, and deeply rooted. A second Means hath been frequent and earnest Prayer in private. Third, in spending our Time when together, by redeeming Time in Prayer and heavenly Discourse, in relating our Experiences, in exhorting and encouraging one another: And all this from a Principle of Love to God and Faith in Christ, by whose Goodness and spiritual Blessing, these Means have been effectual to the fitting of us for our present Enjoyments.
...As to the Tendency and Effects of these Enjoyments, they have been and are suitable to the Means thro' which they were attained, leading to those Things which are the chief Scope of the Scripture;
as 1st, to the giving of us a deep Sense of our natural Corruption, and sad Condition in this elemental Body.
2dly, Of the very great Grace of God, in affording us such happy Means of Redemption by the Blood, Life and Death of his Son.
3dly, Of our Necessity of Conformity to the Death and Sufferings of Christ, in regard that the way to Life is thro' Death, and the Opposition of Devils very great and constant.
4thly, They lead us to a continual Watchfulness over our inward and outward Man.
5thly, To the Denying our selves of all Enjoyments pleasing to the Flesh, which are any way hindrances to the spiritual Temper and Progress of the Soul to God.
6thly, To the freeing of us (by Abstinence) from many fleshly Entanglements, in which many Christians are sadly ingulfed.
7thly, To a constant Sense and Sight of the Presence of God and his holy Angels.
8thly, To the enjoying of exceeding much spiritual Comfort and Refreshment.
9thly, To the loving of God and our fellow Saints, with a pure, strong and constant Love.
10thly, To the renouncing of the Desires of Honour and Riches in this World,
11thly, To the denying of spiritual Pride, and the selfish Desire of Greatness and Honour in the Kingdom of God.
12thly, To the continual taking up our Cross, and constant pressing forward to the Mark, for the Prize of the high calling in Jesus Christ; hence we shew the Danger of spiritual Sloth, and the Principles that lead to it, affirming it our Duty to labour to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect and that our Business and Work in this World, is to return to God and Paradise.
13thly, To the spiritual opening of Scriptures, more to the Advantage of God's Kingdom, and our spiritual growth, less to the indulging of the Flesh, and corrupt Principles of old ADAM..."
EXCERPTS taken from:
THOMAS BROMLEY'S "AN ACCOUNT OF THE VARIOUS WAYS OF GOD'S
MANIFESTING HIMSELF TO MAN. WITH OBSERVATIONNS ON THOSE
DISPENSATIONS CALL'D EXTRAORDINARY"