EARLY SHAKER  wRITINGS
RELATING TO SEXUAL ABSTINENCE AND SELF DENIAL.  

     FILE  3  of  4  contains:
SIX AUTHENTIC SHAKER EXCERPTS regarding...
The Seat of SinLaws of Uncleanness;  Law of Grace requires Self Denial;
The Meaning of Taking Up the Cross;  Those who lead a Married Life;  The Walk of true Followers of Christ in the Primitive Church.

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On-line at PTW: December 25, 2004
  Last update: May 30, 2013


 

Early Shaker Writings Relating to
Sexual Abstinence & Self Denial


Six Authentic Excerpts Regarding:

The Seat of Sin Uncovered;
The Meaning of the Old Testament Laws of Uncleanness;
New Testament Law of Grace requires Self Denial;
The Meaning of Taking Up the Cross of Christ;
Those who Lead a Married Life;
How the true Followers of Christ walked in the Primitive Church.


 

Excerpts from: TESTIMONY OF CHRIST'S SECOND APPEARING

BOOK ONE: CHAPTER VIII.

The Principal Seat of Human Depravity.

1. IT is granted that sin is the first cause of shame; for, when Adam and Eve stood in a state of innocence, they were both naked, and were not ashamed.   But no sooner had they transgressed, than they felt shame, and made themselves aprons of fig leaves, to cover and hide something from each other.

2. And as they begat children in their own likeness; from thence it is decided, by the practice of all nations, what part that was which they covered, and, of course, where the seat of sin is.

3. But what was the matter with that part?  Why did the shame occasioned by sin, fall particularly there?  If their transgression is to be considered in a literal sense only, and not as represented in a figure, why did not the shame fall upon the hand that took the fruit, and the mouth that ate it?

4. But it does not appear that God took any notice of the hand, or the mouth, in pronouncing the curse which they had merited; but laid it on the same part which they covered, and of which they were ashamed.

5. And God said unto the woman, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow, and thy conception; thy desire (or lust) shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen. 3:16).

6. Why multiply her sorrow and her conception?  Why not punish her some other way? God distributes punishments according to the nature of the crime.

7. The Israelites lusted for flesh, and their punishment was to have their fill of it, till it turned into a great plague, and they died with it between their teeth. (Num. 11:33, 34).   As it is written, “he gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust.” (Psalm 78:29, 30).

8. Hence, from the very nature of the curse denounced upon the woman, it is easy to see wherein the offense lay; a curse of which all her daughters, especially those of her child-bearing daughters, have had more or less sorrowful experience even to this day; and this curse is augmented in proportion to their violation of the order of nature and inordinate gratifications of lust.

9. “And unto the serpent the Lord God said, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle — And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.(Gen. 3:14, 15).

10. Now, if this serpent is to be understood literally, only as a natural serpent or snake, and the seed of the woman be Jesus Christ; when, or how, was ever the thing literally fulfilled?

11. The truth is, the words of God to the serpent, are to be understood in a figurative sense.  And the serpent here meant, (what ever might be the figure) is that old serpent the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the nations; for he it is whose works Christ came to destroy. (1John 3:8 & Rev. 20:3)

12. But when we say the serpent, whose head Christ was to bruise, was not a natural serpent, or snake, this is not saying, that there was no natural animal in the case.  To say the figure of a thing is not the substance, is not saying there was no figure.  The word here improperly rendered serpent, does not signify a snake according to the original, but a creature nearest in knowledge to man, and may be called a serpent, because of the crooked and poisonous qualities infused thereby into man through the medium of his animal nature.

13. And if the “garden” and its “tree of life,” its “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and its “serpent,” are to be understood wholly in a literal sense, as natural things, then where are those things at this time?

14. It is evident from the Scriptures, that the tree of life, in a spiritual sense, was not destroyed, but still remains.  As it is written, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” The tree of life is that spiritual agency which ministers the way of life. (Rev. 22:14).

15. Then, as life is represented by a tree, so is the knowledge of good and evil; and so also the serpent has his head, and the woman her seed, in a figure.

16. It is certain that the nature and image of the serpent is formed in fallen man, that is, a poisonous and destructive nature, from whence Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers!”   And as it is by means of certain passions or affections that man is formed, it must be among these that this serpent's head is to be found.

17. The head of anything is the highest or uppermost part: that which is superior to any other part.  And that which forms or produces a thing must be its superior and proper head.

18. Therefore, as man is not literally a serpent or a snake, it cannot be literally his head that is to be bruised.  But as the body is made up of different members or parts, so in these is represented that system, or body of affections, desires and propensities, by which man is led and governed.

19. And if the affections and desires of fallen man are low, mean and base, resembling the subtlety and poison of the serpent, then it must be among these that we are to look for the serpent's head; and this must be his highest affection, that in which he finds the most supreme delight.

20. By the fall, the whole body of the serpentine nature was formed in man; but the head of this body is not the inferior, but the superior part; and every part of the body, though of one nature, must be distinguished from the head, and all are dependent on and subject to it.

21. Hence it is written, “Mortify your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth — seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds — in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.” (Col. 3:5, 8, 9 also chapter 2:11).

22. Everyone knows that anger, wrath, malice, covetousness, uncleanness, and such like, are not members of the human body, yet they are members of that body which is called “the body of the sins of the flesh.” And as every body must have a head, and as these members or affections are of a low, base, serpentine nature, of course their head must be in the substance, that head of the serpent which Christ was to bruise.

23. Then, as the leading part of the serpent's image which was formed in man, can exist only in the principal or leading part of man's affections, of course it may easily be determined where it is that the head of the serpent lies.

24. Every part of man is possessed of some sensitive quality, yet his affections are not inherent in him, but are created by means of certain objects presented to him.

25. Thus he has a sense of seeing, hearing and feeling; but he cannot see where there is no light, he cannot hear where there is no sound, nor feel where there is nothing to feel; so neither can he love where there is nothing lovely, nor be pleased where there is nothing pleasing.

26. And although man is composed of so many capacities and organs of sense, yet they cannot be all equal; there must he a ruling sense, some one that is counted more noble, that is quicker in its motion, and affords superior enjoyment in its gratification.  Thus, as this ruling sense is capable of being moved only by some other object, so that which creates, or gives life to this sense, must also be the supreme object.

27. Then what is there in the universe, within the comprehension of man, that has so sensible, so quick and ravishing an operation, as a corresponding desire of the flesh in the different sexes?  And in proportion as that desire is manifested by words or actions in either, so much the more is that head, or chief passion, quickened and inflamed.

28. As a gushing fountain is more powerful in its operations than an oozing spring; so that desire for carnal enjoyment, that mutually operates between male and female, is far more powerful than any other passion in human nature.  Man, under its influence, hears everything before him with impetuosity.  No other object can attract his notice, while that is in view; his ears are stopped to every other sound but the voice of his charmer; he is insensible to every other pleasure.

29. Surely then, that must be the fountain-head, the governing power, which shuts the eyes, stops the ears, and stupefies the sense to all other objects of time or eternity, and swallows up the whole man in its own peculiar enjoyment. 

30. And such is the Lust of the flesh, that poison of the old serpent, which, from the near relation, and tie between male and female, soul and body, takes possesion of the mind, turns it against God, and all that is good, and makes it a receptacle of all that is evil; and thus the noblest capacity of man, originally, the seat of innocence and purity, is perverted, and made the seat of all iniquity — that being corrupted by the subversion of the original law of God, it changes that which in the beginning was pure and lovely, into the poison of the serpent, and the noblest affection of man into the seat of human corruption.  To which the following words of Boston will justly apply: (Four-fold State, p. 106, 107, 108).

31. A disease affecting any particular member of the body is ill; but that which affects the whole, is worse.  The corruption of nature is the poison of the old serpent, cast into the fountain of action, and so affects every action, every breathing of the soul.

32. It is the cause of all particular lusts and actual sins in our hearts and lives.  It is the spawn which the great leviathan has left in the souls of men, from whence comes all the fry of actual sins and abominations.  It is the bitter fountain; particular lusts are but rivulets running from it, which bring forth into the life a part only, and not the whole of what is within.

33. Now the fountain is still above the streams; so, where the water is good, it is best in the fountain; where it is ill, it is worst there.  The corruption of nature being that which defiles all, itself must needs be the most abominable thing.

34. It is virtually all sin, for it is the seed of all sins, which want but the occasion to set up their heads, being in the corruption of nature, as the effect in the virtue of its cause.  It is the cursed ground fit to bring forth all manner of noxious weeds.

35. As the whole nest of venomous creatures must be more dreadful than any few of them that come creeping forth, so the sin of thy nature, that mother of abominations, must be worse than any particular lusts that appear stirring in thy heart and life.

36. Look thou into thy corrupt nature, and there thou mayest see all and every sin in the seed and root thereof.   There is a fullness of all unrighteousness.  There is atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, and whatsoever is vile.  The sin of our nature is of all sins the most fixed and abiding: it remains with men in its full power by night and by day, at all times, fixed as with bands of iron and brass.

37. Pride, envy, covetousness, and the like, are not always stirring in thee.  But the proud, envious, carnal nature is still with thee; even as the clock that is wrong is not always striking wrong, but the wrong set continues with it.  It is the great reigning sin, (like Saul among the people,) higher by far than the rest, commonly called one's predominant sin, which never loseth its superiority over particular lusts, that live and die with it and by it.

38. “Surely then, the word should be given against this sin, as against the king of Israel, Fight neither with small nor great save only with this.’  For” (as the writer justly concludes) “while it stands entire there is no victory.”

Published by the Shakers in their book,   “Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing”
1823 & 1856

 


 

Excerpts from: TESTIMONY OF CHRIST'S SECOND APPEARING

BOOK TWO:  CHAPTER I.

The Figurative Import of the Mosaic Dispensation.

1. THE express purpose of the law, was to search out and condemn sin, root and branch.  “For until the law sin was in the world; and death by sin reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”  That is, of Christ Jesus, through whom salvation should be obtained. (Rom. 5:13, 14).

2. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.”  As it is written, “I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet, or lust. (Rom. 3:20 & 7:7, also, Cruden on Concupiscence and Lust.).

3. And, although the law went to search out and condemn sin, yet it could not save the soul from its reigning power, until Christ Jesus, the first born in the work of Redemption should appear.  And therefore the law was added because of transgressions, that the “offense might abound till the seed should come to whom the promise was made. (Gal. 3:19 & Rom. 5:20).

4. It is impossible for souls ever to find a final salvation, without a full discovery of their loss.  In vain is freedom sought for in any government, where the very seat and center of action in the government itself, is established in tyranny and oppression, by the consent of the people.

5. In vain is every attempt to change the nature of an evil tree, by lopping off the branches, while the body and root of the tree remain whole; or by any means ever to expect good fruit from a corrupt tree; so in vain are pure waters expected from a corrupt fountain.

6. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree bear olive berries? either a vine figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”   “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Jas. 3:11, 12 & Matt. 7:16-18).

7. “The fruit of the Spirit is love;” pure and perfect love. “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” (Gal. 5:22 & Mark 12:29-31).

8. “And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”  This comprehended the spirit and real intention of the whole law, and was all that God required.

9. But man in his natural and fallen state, is held under the dominion of other objects.  And as the law was added because of transgressions, that the offense might abound, and was given to the Israelites as a schoolmaster, to teach them the nature and purity of the promised Messiah's kingdom, it was necessary to point out particularly what kind of fruit this spirit of love would naturally produce, and what would as naturally flow from the want of it. (Gal. 3:24).

10. The tree is known by its fruit. Then, if man was the uncorrupted fruit, or offspring of pure and perfect love, he certainly would discover no other fruit in all his life and actions.  But both the law of Moses, and the Prophets, plainly discovered that the tree and the fruit are both corrupt, or in other words, that man in his fallen state is a corrupt creature, and descended from a corrupted and degenerate stock. (Deut. 32:5, Isa. 1:4, Jer. 2:21 & 6:28).

11. This was going to the root of the matter.  It was more than cutting off as a type, or teaching how the Messiah should lop off the outside branches of a corrupt tree.  The root of human depravity is laid naked and open to view, in plain words, written on tables of stone, and delivered by the special command of God.

12. And not only so, but with repeated and solemn injunctions: “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them; that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out; thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” (Lev. 20:22, Deut. 6:17 & 18:9).

13. The law pointedly condemned every fleshly gratification; such as lying with a beast — lying with another's wife — defiling an unmarried virgin, etc., and, in many cases, it punished such with death. (Lev. 20:15, 16, 10 & Deut. 22:21-24).

14. Stoning to death was the penalty for such like abominations.  And if a man took a wife and her mother, or if the daughter of any priest committed whoredom, such were to be burnt with fire. (Lev. 20:14 & 21:9 Ex. 20:5).

15. Idolatry, giving seed to Molech [using artificial instruments to gratify lust], man lying with man, as with a woman, witchcraft, blasphemy, murder, disobedience to parents, &c., were condemned by the law as capital crimes; the spirit of the law was therefore holy, just and good, condemning nothing but sin. (Deut. 17:2-7, Lev. 20:2, 27 & 24:16, 17 & Deut. 21:18).

16. Yet, however severe the punishments that were inflicted for sin, they only lopped off the branches of a corrupt tree, while the root and foundation of all the abominations that were committed in the earth, remained unchanged.

17. But, when the law proceeded to take cognizance of the very nature of man, and condemned that as sinful and unclean, which might have been supposed to be lawful and right, then the fountain of evil began to be uncovered.

18. Observe: “The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient; for the ungodly and for sinners.”  The spirit of the law was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and thy neighbor as thyself.” (1 Tim. 1:9, 10).

19. When, therefore, any punishment or penalty was inflicted, it is evident that it was for the transgression of the law, and that the true end and design of the law had not been answered in that particular thing.

20. The law not only prohibited all carnal and abominable intercourse between man and beast, upon pain of death; but the sexes were wholly prohibited from cohabiting, on pain of being excommunicated, for a time, from the congregation of such as were accounted clean.

21 And, as this statute respected the only motive and manner in which a man and woman were tolerated to cohabit, it sufficiently showed that the very order of nature was corrupted, and that it could never enter that new creation, of which it is said, “There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth.” (Rev. 21:27).

22. There was no possible case, in which a man and woman could lie together, with seed of copulation, in the work of the flesh, and hold their union with the congregation within the camp of Israel.  The very act cut them off, and exposed them to the reproaches of those who were unclean without the camp; it separated them from the camp.  Nor could they be again accepted until they were cleansed; for nothing unclean could abide in the camp. (Num. 19:20, 22, Deut.23:10, 11, Num. 12:14 & Heb. 13:13).

23. And, lest the serpent should try to cover his head under a cloak, by some false gloss upon the act of copulation, which is the generative act, the nature of man's seed is ascertained in its simple state, before appropriated to the purpose of copulation, and is there pronounced unclean.  So that every act of the flesh, even for procreation, was pronounced unclean.  Nay worse, it is expressly said, that, “Every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.”(Lev. 15:16-18).

24. And, concerning the act of sexual connection itself, the law said The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, in the works of the flesh, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even. This was going at once to the ground work of man's depravity. (also Lev. 15: 32).

25. And that something more than uncleanness accompanied the generative act, the act of begetting and conceiving seed according to the flesh, is evident from the statute respecting women after child-bearing, by which they also fell under the penalty of excommunication. (Lev. 12:2-7).

26. The woman who brought forth a man-child, was unclean seven days, according to the days of her separation for her infirmity; and thenceforth to continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days, and to touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying were fulfilled, which were forty days and eighty days; separation, if she brought forth a female.

27. And, in order to be restored, she was required to bring a burnt offering, and a sin offering, to make an atonement; a sin offering unto the Lord made by fire.  And with all their offerings they were commanded to offer salt. (Lev. 2:13).

28. The whole of which was nothing short of signifying, in the most pointed manner, that all such carnal and fleshly things as were contrary to the pure nature of God, should be kept at a distance from the true seed of promise, and be finally offered up and consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, which is the incorruptible word of God, and the salt of the earth in the children of the regeneration, and the new birth. (Mal. 3:2, 3, Luke 12:49, Eph. 6:17 & Mark 9:49, 50).

29. If therefore, this conception-sin, and this birth-sin be overlooked, and made something contrary to what God hath signified it to be, it is in vain to look any further for a distinction between good and evil; seeing that by the law is the knowledge of sin.

30. The patriarchs did not overlook it, when they held their separate tents.  Moses did not overlook it, when by the command of God from Mount Sinai, he solemnly charged the people, saying, “Come not at your wives. If something there had not been offensive to God, why was this charge? (Gen. 18:6, 9 & 24:67 & 31:33 & Ex. 19:10, 15).

31. God did not overlook this as inoffensive, when he commanded that a woman should “not touch any holy thing, nor come into the sanctuary of the congregation, for the space of forty, or even eighty days;” and when he commanded that she should “bring a burnt offering, and a sin offering, to make an atonement.”

32. David did not overlook it, when he said, “There is no rest in my bones, because of my sin — For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease — Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin — Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 38:3, 7 & 51:2, 5).

33. Jesus did not overlook it when he said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh;” — And, “The lusts of your father ye will do.” — Nor did Paul, when he said, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” — Nor did James, when he said, “When lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin.” (John 3:6 & 8:44, & 1Cor. 15:50 & Jas. 1:15).

34. It is written of the Lord God, that “his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he. (Deut. 32:4).

35. And if so, will the God of perfect justice, judgment, and truth, do that which is contrary to his own nature and attributes?  Will he inflict punishment without a cause? or grieve willingly the children of men?  Will he count that unclean, which is not unclean? or require an offering for sin, where there is no sin?  By no means.

36. Then it is certain, that where God commanded anyone not to touch anything that was counted holy, there was something offensive to his Divine nature; and that wherein he required an offering for sin from anyone, there certainly was sin in that case; either in the whole case, in the nature or motive to an unclean action, or in the act itself.

37. Therefore, let that which God has counted both sinful and unclean, be both sinful and unclean; that God may be just, and every man a corrupter, until he fulfills the very spirit of the law, by loving God supremely; and till no inferior object can take possession of the highest seat in his affections.*{Footnote: *Affections may be considered in a three-fold sense.  1. Natural affection. 2. Vile affection. 3. Heavenly affection.  Pure natural affection belonged to man, only in his first innocent state; vile affections belong to all Adam's fallen posterity; heavenly affection, which is the purest of all, belongs to those who come into the regeneration.}

38. Thus the true end and purpose of the law will be answered, and it will not be said in vain, The law was our school-master to bring us to Christ. And, although it be a severe and mortifying school-master to the pride of fallen man, yet it is a true and faithful one.

39. The law condemned many things as being either sinful or unclean, which arose from natural causes, and were figurative of the heinous nature of sin.  Such as the leprosy, which had a striking reference to the plague of sin; — touching a dead body — eating unclean beasts and fowls; and many such like things, which prefigured the abominations of man, and which were to be destroyed under the law of grace, by the Gospel.

CHAPTER II.

The Mosaic Law, wherein it was Fulfilled by the Law of Grace, through Jesus Christ.

1. “THE law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”  And Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; not by observing its external rites and ceremonies; but by loving and serving God, as the supreme object of his affections; and by teaching the same to others. (John 1:17 & Matt. 5:17).

2. Then, which of these two requires the greatest purity — the ceremonial law given by Moses? or the law of grace and truth, which came by Jesus Christ?  Undoubtedly the latter, it must be granted.

3. Therefore, let those who disregard the law, because they imagine they are under grace, at least be careful to examine their fruits, or works, by the law of grace.  Faith without works is dead; — For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law.'' (Jas. 2:20 & Rom. 2:12).

4. And further: Let such as imagine they are under grace, at least regard that superior reason and dignity, by which God hath exalted man above the order of the brutes; and not defile themselves, nor gratify the inclinations of a corrupt and inferior nature, with any woman, after she hath conceived seed.

5. And besides, after nine months, according to the common time of pregnancy, let the same restriction be continued, for the space of eighty days longer, according to the time which God prescribed to Israel.

6. And finally, let such as imagine that they are free from the law, and under grace, never gratify the sensual and fleshly appetites of their corrupt animal nature, at any time or season, nor in any manner whatever, but cohabit barely for the propagation of their species, and that with the sole motive to honor and glorify God.

7. Then they will show how much grace and truth lies at the bottom!  But, if they fail in the attempt, then it may be understood why kings and prophets desired to see the days of the Son of man.

8. It was not because they expected Christ to come, with some extraordinary grace, to daub over their secret corruptions, that they might live in them with impunity; but on the contrary, they looked for a day of full redemption from that predominant nature of evil, root and branch, to which they were held in bondage.

9. But in vain will the fatal wound of man's depravity be covered over, by the superficial ornaments of an empty profession of grace, when “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing! (Ecc. 12:14).

10. In vain will souls groan for deliverance from the bondage of sin, till they drop into eternity, while, by some plausible reasonings to enjoy a momentary pleasure, they willingly conceal the very core of their corruptions. (See Matt. 23:27).

11. It was nothing short of supreme and perfect love to God, that could ever order and regulate the actions of man so as to render them well pleasing to Him; and therefore, where any action was condemned, or any atonement required, it proved that the nature from which the action proceeded was evil.

12. And, until that which was the spring or cause of the evil was removed, the same evil action would be repeated; for the effect is like its cause, and the same cause must continue to produce the same effect.

13. And hence came those perpetual offerings for sin, in which God had no pleasure; but they were added that the offense of sin might abound, until the cause should be removed by Christ the true seed, in whom only, the promise of final redemption was made. (Heb. 10:5, 6).

14. Therefore the design of the ceremonial law, was not to fulfill the real law of God, but to point out the way in which it should be fulfilled: first, by discovering that object which stands in competition with God, and engrosses the highest affections of man; and then to have that object taken out of the way.  And until that was done, the soul could never be free from bondage and captivity to sin.

15. In every respect, the law given by Moses, went to search out the root of man's depravity.  Many things pertaining to the same nature, besides those that were actual, all fleshly emotions, sensations and desires, and all issues, voluntary or involuntary, which are the product of the fleshly nature, were counted either as sinful, or unclean, or both; and were to be expiated according to the statutes of the law. (Lev chapter 15)The voluntary, and unnatural crime of self pollution, was ever an abomination in the sight of God; and so also was that of defiling themselves with their own sex. (Gen. 28:7-10, Rom. 1:26, 27 & 1Tim. 1:10).

16. Such was the involuntary issue of that unclean nature of man, which chanced him by night; which polluted every thing that it touched, and which (however modestly accounted for, as a mere bodily infirmity) was cognizable by the law of God, as a fruit of man's fall, and subjected the filthy dreamer to excommunication from every thing sacred, until washed and purified according to the law.  Such also was the “issue of uncleanness” in the female, which excluded her from touching any hallowed thing, during the time of her separation, and also required a sin-offering and a burnt-offering, to make an atonement for her, before the Lord.  These and such like fleshly things, although they were the workings of an inferior nature, independent of any act of the mind, were, nevertheless rejected by the law, as contrary to that purity both of mind and body, which man was originally created to possess.

17. So that the strictest ceremonies of the law, were nothing more nor less, than to show, that the very root and fountain of man's nature, in his fallen state, was corrupt before God, and offensive to his pure nature.

18. Thus the law, not only distinguished between good and evil actions, but searched out the cause, and the different motives, from which actions proceeded — And it discovered the root of all evil to be in the very nature, in which man was begotten.

19. For, while the spirit of the law required perfect love to the invisible God, as the only justifying motive in the soul of man, it immediately excluded that inferior instinct, which led Sodom and Egypt, and the inhabitants of Canaan, to the perpetration, through lust, of the most horrid and unnatural crimes, merely for the sake of its own gratification, or the momentary pleasure which it afforded.

20. Moses plainly demonstrated, that these carnal desires by which man was begotten and conceived in his fallen state, were inconsistent with perfect love to God, from its motives and actions being lawless, under no government, and subject to no control.

21. This passionate and lawless instinct, this lawless passion, was blind to the law of God, and even to the order and law of nature, and was without regard of the objects of its choice or refusal; so that it moved with equal freedom to any object that could afford it the gratification of its own agreeable and corrupt SELF; whether that object was animate or inanimate, brutal or human.  They “committed adultery with stones and stocks.” (Jer. 3:9).

22. All this is most strikingly evident from the law of Moses, as well as from the Prophets. (Lev. chapters 18 & 20).   And after Moses had given a numerous list of the abominations, which all sprang from one and the same source of human corruption, he adds, For all these abominations have the men of the land done. (Lev. 18:27).

23. And, to show that the natural seed of Abraham had the same corrupt inclinations of other nations, it is again added, And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations which I cast out before you; for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. (Lev. 20:23 & Deut. 9:4-6).

24. Then, if that propensity of the fallen natural man, was so blind and lawless, that it would move toward a neighbor's wife, a sister, a father's wife, a mother, a daughter, a fellow man, a four-footed beast, a dumb idol, a lifeless stock, or a stone; could any thing produced by it, be any better than itself?

25. Here again, we may see, that the true design of the law, was to discover the distinction of objects, and the chief motive from which actions proceeded.

26. As every external object upon which man, in his fallen state, placed his affections, was more or less offensive to God, and merited punishment, according to the degree of the offense; so the whole law went pointedly to discover that no motive, or affection, fixed upon any external object whatever, could satisfy the real spirit of the law; and that nothing could do it, short of perfect love to God, as the supreme object of man's affections.

27. And therefore, until the reigning power of that lawless corruption was taken out of the way, how could the soul love God supremely, and his neighbor as himselfFor “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:39, 40).

28. Christ Jesus was the first that ever fulfilled the spirit of the law; and thereby he put an end to all those external rites and ceremonies, meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances; and set the example for others to do the same.  Nothing, therefore, but perfect obedience to his commandments, could ever satisfy the demands of the law.

29. A perfect obedience to the law of Christ, walking in his very footsteps, traveling in the work of regeneration, denying self, and abstaining from every actual and sensual gratification, as he did, released every member of his body, from all those external ceremonies and obligations of those carnal ordinances.

30. As it is written: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.(Rom. 10:4).  Not to such as believe only; but he became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. (Heb. 5:9).

31. Thus far, we have opened, from its true origin, the nature of man's loss, and the fundamental cause of his depravity and separation from God, and the design of the law to search it out from its true origin:   not superficially, nor in disguise, but faithfully, and with that plainness which the importance of sacred and solemn truth demands.  It is the only TRUTH that ever will, or ever can, make souls free. (John 8:32).

32. And here we add a few very just observations from a respectable writer. {Wilberforce on Religion. Bost. Ed. 1803, p.17,18.}   They disclose in some measure, a spirit of willingness and candor to acknowledge and expose the root of evil; and on the contrary, a general principle of disguise to conceal it.

33. “But though these effects of human depravity,” says the writer, “are everywhere acknowledged and lamented, we must not expect to find them traced to their true origin. Causa latet, vis est notissima: that is: The cause lieth concealed, the effect is notorious.

34. Prepare yourself to hear rather of frailty and infirmity, of petty transgressions, of occasional failings, of sudden surprisals, and of such other qualifying terms as may serve to keep out of view the true source of the evil, and — may administer consolation to the pride of human nature.

35. Far different is the humiliating language of Christianity.  From it we learn that man is an apostate creature, fallen from his high original, degraded in his nature, and depraved in his faculties — that he is tainted with sin, not slightly and superficially, but radically, and to the very core.

36. These are truths which, however mortifying to our pride, one would think (if this corruption did not warp the judgment) none would be hardy enough to attempt to controvert.

37. How, on any principles of common reasoning, can we account for it, [this corruption] but by conceiving that man, since he came out of the hands of the Creator, has contracted a taint, and that the venom of this subtil poison has been communicated throughout the race of Adam, every where exhibiting incontestable marks of its fatal malignity.

38. Hence it has arisen, that the appetites deriving new strength, and the powers of reason and conscience being weakened, the latter have feebly and impotently pleaded against those forbidden indulgences which the former have solicited.

39. Sensual gratifications and illicit affections have debased our noble powers, and indisposed our hearts to the discovery of God. — By a repetition of vicious acts, evil habits have been formed within us, and have riveted the fetters of sin.  All [of humankind] without exception, in a greater or less degree, bear about them, more visible or more concealed, the ignominious marks of their captivity.

40. Such, on a full and fair investigation, must be confessed to be the state of facts; and how can this be accounted for on any other supposition, than that of some original taint, some radical principle of corruption?  All other solutions are unsatisfactory, while the potent cause which has been assigned, does abundantly, and can alone sufficiently account for the effect.”
So says Wilberforce: and that with the greatest reason and truth.  Then let it be so.

41. To this subject we shall only add, that although the ceremonial law was given to discover the root and fountain of all evil, yet it never did, nor could it ever remove the cause.  And although the law stood “only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed upon the people until the time of reformation” (Heb. 9:10), and could never make the comers thereunto perfect; yet it was never intended to be taken out of the way, nor destroyed, until the filthy nature which it was intended to expose, is destroyed by the fire of the gospel —   substituting something more excellent and permanent in its place. (Heb. 10:1-10).

42. “For verily I say unto you,” saith Jesus Christ, “till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18).

Published by the Shakers in their book,   “Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing”
1823 & 1856

 

 

Excerpts from: TESTIMONY OF CHRIST'S SECOND APPEARING

BOOK THREE:  CHAPTER IV.

The Cross Maintained by the Primitive Church.

1. ALL who believed the doctrines taught by the Apostles, and were reclaimed from the open practice of vice, were received, and counted as believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, how much soever they differed in many things.

2. It was indeed a marvelous work, that brought down those Gentiles, with all their learning and wisdom, in any degree to accept of the humiliating Gospel of a despised and persecuted Nazarene; — that reclaimed them from their heathenish and lascivious practices; — from a plurality of wives, to be confined to one wife; and from their pagan idolatry, to serve the living and true God.

3. The Gospel that Christ taught, was a Gospel of self-denial and mortification to a carnal nature; which is called the cross of Christ“He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, (said Jesus,) is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:38).

4. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.'' (Matt. 16:24, 25 & John 12:25).

5. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.'' (Luke 14:26, 27).

6. Such were the precepts of the Gospel, as taught by Jesus, and confirmed to his followers by his own daily life of self-denial and the cross.  And his Apostles obeyed his precepts and followed his example, faithfully abstaining and denying themselves of every sensual and carnal work of the flesh as he did and they preached the same to others; which was a stumbling block to the Jews, and to the Greeks foolishness.

7. The former were superstitiously bigoted to the rites of Moses, and hated the idea of a Messiah and his kingdom, that would not bring every other nation and kingdom into subjection to them.  The latter were basely licentious, and riveted to the pompous and superstitious ceremonies of their pagan gods and goddesses; and hated the piety and simplicity of the Gospel.

8. A Messiah who would have tolerated mankind in licentiousness, and in shedding each other's blood, and who could have proved by miracles, that the practice of vice and every carnal pleasure, was the readiest way to heaven, would have given little or no offense to Jews nor Pagans.

9. But this was not the case. Jesus said to his kinsmen: “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”  And to his disciples he said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 7:7 & 15:18-20).

10. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord.  If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

11. The fundamental cause of all the offense in Christ and his immediate followers, and of all the persecutions against them, was their lives of virtue and self-denial, by which they were pointedly separated and distinguished from the children of this world. (1 John 3:12).

12. To speak after the common manner of men, Christ Jesus himself was not married; and such of the Apostles as had wives, when they came to follow Christ in the spiritual work of regeneration, had nothing more to do with the works of natural generationAnd such of them as were single when they were first called to follow Christ, ever after remained so, with regard to the practice of the world. And all his real followers, without exception, took up their cross, and abstained from or denied themselves of every carnal gratification of the flesh.

13. And herein the words of Christ to his Father, concerning his followers, were strictly true: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14).

14. The word which Christ gave to those whom he had chosen, was, follow me; and, in following him, they walked even as he walked, and denied themselves as he did.   Here was the cause of every offense, of every evil suspicion, and false construction upon their lives and conduct.

15. The Pharisees came to Jesus, tempting him, and saying unto him, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” as though his doctrine led to a licentious variety: for it seems they had no better esteem of it. (Matt. 19:3-12).

16. He answered and said unto them, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning, made them male and female; and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh? What, therefore, God hath joined together let not man put asunder.  They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?”

17. From which it is plain that they did not understand him.  Jesus did not refer them to the history of the stiff-necked and rebellious Jews, nor to the history of mankind in general, who after the fall had corrupted the earth; but he referred them to what was said at the beginning, when man stood in a state of innocence.

18. He saith unto them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away, committeth adultery.”

19. By this he exposed the hidden cause of putting away their wives, and marrying others.  His disciples understood him, and said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

20. Jesus approved of their understanding, and manifested it to be a gift of God, by observing, — “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.  For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

21. Let it be observed, that, as there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake, these are the very ones who are able, and who do receive this saying, “It is good not to marry;” and “therefore they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30).

22. Jesus knew that all men did not, and would not, receive his sayings: the generality closed their eyes, lest they should see, and stopped their ears, lest they should hear, and be converted from the evil of their doings.

23. He knew that none but such as willingly, and of choice, denied themselves, and followed his example, were worthy to be his disciples; and therefore he never forced any to receive his sayings, or to follow him, by any human authority whatever.

24. He felt it his duty to reprove hypocrites; and to teach those who had ears to hear, what was necessary to be done, in order to obtain the kingdom of heaven.  And when he said, He that is able to receive it, let him receive it, he left it with themselves either to choose or refuse.

25. And when he said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple,”—  Was it either their souls or their bodies that were to be hated?   In no wise.  But it was that selfish disposition, and fleshly, earthly tie of a corrupt nature, which rivaled God's claim to the principal seat of man's affections; this he taught his disciples to hate.

26. He came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.  “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17).

27. The advocates of marriage lay much stress upon Jesus having attended a marriage in Cana of Galilee.   Now, although he did not thereby condemn this practice in its proper order among the people of the world, it is clear that he did not attend for the purpose of introducing the practice among his disciples.

28. Christ Jesus was not of this world; and therefore it was not his concern to give laws to govern, or set an example, to regulate them in that state.  His being at a marriage in Cana, and turning water into wine, was for a better purpose.  As it is written, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.  This was the true end and design of his being there. — Not to confirm the practice of the world, but to confirm the faith of his followers. (John 2:11).

29. And what was that glory which he showed unto them, but a manifestation of his own glory, and the glory of his Father, in which he was to come with all his holy angels, at the marriage of the Lamb?  For Jesus himself was not yet glorified. (Rev. 19:7).

30. And his turning water into wine, was nothing less to his disciples, than a seal of the certainty of the future accomplishment of his own marriage; and a figurative manifestation of that wine which he afterwards promised to drink with them in his Father's kingdom. (Matt. 26:29).

31. It is therefore a mistake, among those who profess to be his followers, to suppose, that because, as they say, he graced a marriage with his presence, he thereby gave any latitude for the carnal gratification of the flesh.

32. By the same mode of carnal reasoning, might it not with equal propriety be said, that, because he turned so much water into wine, after men had well drunk, he also encouraged drunkenness?

33. When he graced with his presence the assemblies of publicans and harlots, and ate and drank with them, did he thereby encourage them in injustice and whoredom?  For his enemies seem to have had no better sense of his life and conduct, who called him, “a winebibber, a gluttonous man, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Matt. 11:19).

34. But shall we not rather say, that he took those opportunities of being with them, in order to teach or show them, by his example, a better way of living?  For he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Matt. 9:13).

35. And what more shall we say, when he graced with his presence the dark abodes of the spirits in prison, who were disobedient under all the long-suffering of God in the days of Noah?  Did he encourage them to continue in their disobedience, or did he preach unto them repentance? (1Pet. 3:19, 20).

36. For the like reason Jesus wrought the miracle at the marriage, i.e. to establish the faith of his disciples in following him, which would lead them away from this darling custom of the world.    It is an undeniable fact, that Christ Jesus and his Apostles did actually deny themselves of all the carnal works of the flesh — that they had nothing to do with the works of generation, and neither married nor were given in marriage, as did “the children of this world.

37. And it is as undeniable, that, when the Gospel was preached among the Gentile nations, who had accustomed themselves to licentiousness and a plurality of wives, every man, who for the want of sufficient faith, would not refrain, was permitted to have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.

38. Instructions were given by the Apostle of the Gentiles concerning married bishops and deacons, that such should be the husband of only one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well, having them in subjection. — That the husband should love his wife even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (1Tim. 3:2-12, Titus 1:6, 7 & Eph. 5:33).

39. From which it is evident that none were forbidden to marry.  The Apostles themselves copied the example of Jesus Christ, and took up a full cross against the flesh; but there were many professing Christ in the Apostle's days who did not abstain from marriage.  The Gospel was ever a matter of free choice, and not of compulsion.

40. Nevertheless, a plain distinction is made, by the sacred writers, between that which was acceptable to the Lord, and that which was of the world.  This distinction is particularly made in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians; unto whom he writes as unto a carnal people, and not as unto spiritual.

41. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters contain their character, which is very different from that given of the Church at Jerusalem.  The seventh contains a diversity of instructions concerning the married and unmarried; and concerning which, it appears, that they had written to him before.

42. The instructions of the Apostle were adapted to the state of the people.  There were but few among them who were able, for the lack of faith, to bear the doctrines of the cross; and, as the Apostle expresses it, he had fed them with milk, because they were not able to bear meat; and therefore, however plain and pointed he speaks in one sentence, in another he indulges them with permissions.

43. In the first verse of the seventh chapter, he answers them very pointedly, saying “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”   In the next verse he speaks by permission, saying, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.” and so on. (1Cor. 7:1-9).

44. Then again he pointedly says, “I would that all men were even as I myself; but every man hath his proper gift of God, [or measure of faith,] one after this manner, and another after that.*
{Footnote: * A more corrupt idea could not be invented than to make God the author of all the different manners of faith and practice that exist among the professors of christianity; we cannot, therefore, admit, as genuine scripture, those words which are corruptly used to support such an idea.  To supppose that one good christian hath a proper gift of God to marry, and live in the habitual gratification of his filthy nature, and another to take up his cross and follow Christ, would imply a duplicity in the deity, unworthy of the divine character.  God is one, and his people are one, and have but one manner of faith, and live one manner of life, and that is a life of self denial, and abstinence from every thing that defileth.  See Eph. iv. 1Cor,xii, and Matt. xxv.15 }  I say, therefore, to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.   But if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.”

45. This was the best instruction the Apostle could give the Corinthians in such circumstances.  They might now live a little longer in the gratification of their flesh — the order of generation, or take up a full cross, and follow his example, as he followed the example of Christ Jesus.

46. “It is better to marry than to burn,” says he. — He well knew their licentious dispositions, and that it was better for them to be contented with one wife, than to burn in their lusts one towards another, or defile themselves with mankind, as some of them had formerly done. (Rom. 1:26 to end & 1Cor. 6:9).

47. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire destroys the very nature and power of lust, which is the cause of that burning; so that he that is dead to sin, cannot live any longer therein, being delivered and made free from that burning of the flesh, which is the first and moving cause to sin. (Rom. 6:2).

48. As long, therefore, as any were under the necessity of making any provision for the flesh, it was an evidence that the affections and lusts of the flesh were not yet crucified, nor destroyed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, with which the Apostles and all the true and real followers of Christ were baptized.  As it is written, They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.(Gal. 5:24).

CHAPTER V.

Permissions and Instructions to Those who Choose a Married Life.

1. CONCERNING those who were married, the Apostle said, Let not the wife depart from her husband.   But, and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. (1Cor. 7:10-15).

2. And, by permission, he said, If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.  And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.   For the unbelieving husband is (or may be) sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is (or may be) sanctified by the husband.  But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases; but God hath called us (believers) to peace.”

3. This instruction applies to the truth of Christ's words, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth?  I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. — And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.” (Luke 12:51, 52 & Matt. 10:36).

4. But here the remedy is prescribed by the Apostle; which is nothing less than for the parties to allow each other the free exercise of their faith in matters of conscience; to be kindly affectionate one towards another; and by love and good works serving one another, and setting the same example before their children.

5. Thus the unbelieving husband may be sanctified by the wife, the wife by the husband, and the children by the parents— the unbeliever may be won by the chaste conversation of the believer.   As it is written, “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?  Or, how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1Cor. 7:16, 25-27).

6. Concerning virgins, the Apostle gave his judgment, as one that had obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful: saying, “I suppose, therefore, that this is good for the present distress.   Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

7. What was this present distress? Was it persecution?  By no means.  It was not concerning persecution that they had written to him; but on the very subject, on which he was writing through the whole of his seventh chapter.

8. By marrying, they might avoid a great deal of persecution; but it was not to avoid persecution, but to avoid fornication, according to their sense of the matter, that the Apostle said, “Let every man have his own wife.”

9. After all the indulgence which the Apostle gave them, in their carnal state, the sentiments which he held up foremost to their view, were the very cause of persecution.

10. This is plain from the words of Christ, “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the Gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10: 29, 30).

11. Here persecutions are put instead of father and wife, and every necessary blessing is preserved, both in this world, and that which is to come.  Here was the doctrine of the cross: —  a stumbling block to the cruel Jews, who could no longer see any way to uphold wars and fighting, for the want of a posterity of murdering Cains, to involve the earth in blood and oppression:  — a rock of offense to the licentious Greeks; and a mortifying stain to all flesh.  Let it be particularly noticed, that the wife is required to be forsaken in order to gain the reward; but in this reward, although an hundred fold is returned, yet the wife is left out; which clearly shows that this relation of wife has no part in Christ. (Isa. 8:14, 15 & Rom. 9:32, 33).

12. The readiest way to avoid persecution, would have been, to advise those who professed faith in Christ, not to live contrary to the children of this world, but to run with them to the same excess of riot and ruin; but far different is the humiliating language of the Gospel.

13. Except a man deny himself, said Jesus, and hate even his own life, and take up his cross daily and follow me, he cannot be my disciple. Take away, therefore, the precepts of Christ, and all obligations to following his example, and the offense of the cross, immediately ceases.

14. “But if thou marry, said the Apostle, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned.”  This evidently applied to such as had not sufficient faith to bear a full cross, i.e. the earthly minded.  But, “nevertheless (adds the Apostle,) such shall have trouble in the flesh.”  The truth of this latter position is so abundantly proved by experience, that it entirely excludes the propriety of any contradiction.  But the Apostle has here so clearly pointed out the state of those who marry that it seems as if the most blinded (by nature's darkness) might see the truth.   “Such shall have trouble in the flesh,” and thus, such are indisputably in a state in which they cannot please God.  “For they that are in the flesh cannot please God.(1Cor. 7:28 & Rom. 8:8, 9).

15. “But I spare you,” said he.  This agrees with what he had told them before, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.  But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none: and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1Cor. 3:2 & 7:29-31).

16. Observe: they that have wives, shall be as though they had none; and they that use this world, as not abusing it.  Can this be said, where the silent grave has enclosed the one and left the other in desolate widowhood? or where the souls of both inhabit eternity?  Or can it be said, where the tombstones over their bodies have sealed their separation from all the works of time? By no means, for then none can suppose that they can “use the things of this world.”  The Apostle alludes to the time for which Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done IN EARTH, as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10).

17. And this time had already come to the Apostle, and to all the true followers of Christ, as he tells them in the same epistle, when speaking of the idolatries, and fornications, and murmurings of the Jews, for which they were destroyed; saying, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition,” [the followers of Christ,] “upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1Cor. 10:11).

18. Whatever degree of indulgence was extended to some among the Gentile nations, who professed faith in Christ, because they were not able to bear the whole truth; yet the truth did not conceal the pointed distinction which Christ made between his own true followers, and the children of this world.

19. “But,” saith the Apostle, “I would have you without carefulness.  He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:” [His noblest and principal affections are there.]   “But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.   The wife is put in the place of the Lord, as the first object of his affections. (1Cor. 7:32-34).

20. “The unmarried woman (i.e. the virgin for Christ's sake,) careth for the things of the Lord,” [upon whom she places her affections,] “that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  She places her first affections upon her husband, instead of the Lord.

21. The same pointed distinction is made by Jesus Christ; not only when he says of his disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;” but in answering the Sadducees, who denied, and knew not that he was the resurrection, he said, “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.  Neither can they die anymore; for they are equal unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:27-37. Compare John 11:25, 26 & 15:4-7 & Col. 2:12 & 3:1, 2 & 1John 3:1-3).

22. Christ declared, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  If his words have any meaning, then the children of the resurrection are in his life, and live in him; hence it follows conclusively, that all who are in Christ, neither marry nor are given in marriage. And it is equally proved, that all who marry are not in Christ, but are in the life of the world. (John 11:25).

23. After the Apostle had pointedly shown the Corinthians the distinction, between what belonged to the world, and what belonged to the Lord, so careful was he lest they should stumble at the truth, that he added: “And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” (1Cor. 7:35).

24. In his epistle to the Galatians, he showed the cause of this distraction.  It was the lust of the flesh, by which they were bewitched.  They held, as it were, the flesh in their right hands, and the truth of Christ in their left; and the spirit could but feebly plead against the flesh; hence they could profess to believe one thing, and practice another, and never practice what their own faith taught them. (Gal. 3:1, 3).

25. But the Apostle prescribes to them the remedy, when he says, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal. 5:16, 17).

26. Generation and regeneration can no more be blended than can death and life, for the life of the one, is the death of the other; hence the Savior testified that “He that will save his life shall lose it; but he that hateth and loseth his life, (the generative life of this world,) shall find and keep it (the regenerative life) unto life eternal.”  For the generative life is the living principle of this world, by which beings are begotten and born into natural life.  But the regenerative life is the living principle of the superior and heavenly world, by which souls are born into the heavenly or angelic life and thereby become like the angels of God in heaven.  Therefore, no faster than the natural, generative life dies, can the spiritual, regenerative life possibly take effect in any soul.

27. How many soever there were among the Gentiles, who professed faith in Christ, but did not walk in the Spirit, but after the flesh; yet it is evident that there was a certain number, properly called the Church, who did take up a full cross against all the carnal works of the flesh, after the example of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  And whether this number were scattered abroad, or lived in different families or connexions, and possessed all things common, after the manner of the church first planted at Jerusalem, the sacred writing do not say.

28. Of this number St. Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have diligently followed every good work.  But the younger widows refuse; for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.” (1Tim. 5:9-12).

29. It is certain then, that their first faith which they had received in Christ, was not to live after the common course of the world in the works of the flesh; else how could they, by casting off their first faith, have damnation in marrying?

30. And, if their first faith in Christ did not require them to take up a full cross against every lust of the flesh, how could it be said, that when they would marry, it was because they waxed wanton against Christ?   For the whole of it pointedly shows what the faith of Christ was, and what it was that stood against Christ.

31. It is a mistake, therefore, to suppose, that the number here spoken of, was a number of widows who were taken into the Church to be supported only in temporal things.  It was not the immediate concern of the spiritual teachers of the Church to regulate that matter: but it belonged to the deacons, in union with the apostles, bishops, or elders, as may be seen by the first institution, to regulate the temporal affairs of the Church at Jerusalem.

32. Be that as it may, it would be very unreasonable to suppose, that a widow having true faith, who was a widow indeed, and who stood in need of temporal support, could not receive help because she was not yet sixty years old. (Acts 6:2-4).

33. Nature itself, and much more the Gospel of perfect justice and equity teaches, that, if a widow of no more than thirty years old, be in distress, and stand in need of as much help as one of sixty years old, she ought to be relieved.  And supposing a widow of sixty years old, who had true faith, to have had even five husbands, would this, according to the spirit and equity of the Gospel, have shut up the bowels of compassion, in those who believed, from administering to her necessities?  Certainly not.

34. The truth is, the Apostle had here, a particular reference to that certain number whose faith it was to live after the example of Jesus Christ, and not after the common course of the world.  And he admitted that all such as had already proved themselves continent, strong in the faith, and had diligently followed every good work, might have a privilege to enjoy the free exercise of their faith with this number, where they might be supported in temporal things also.

35. And in a strict sense, this number only was properly called the Church, as is evident from the words of the Apostle that follow: “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” (1Tim. 5:16).

36. This further shows, as before observed, that there were those, in the days of the Apostles, who were counted as believers, who did not take up a full cross, but more or less followed the common course of the world, in living after the flesh.  And these could only find access to the Church, as the Gentiles, under the Mosaic Dispensation, found access to the temple by coming into the outer court, but could not enter into the inner part the temple.

37. Of this sort of believers were the young widows just mentioned, who were refused admittance into the Church; not only because when they waxed wanton against Christ they would marry; but withal they learned to be idle, going about from house to house; tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

38. It was for these and such like reasons only, that the Apostle said, “I will, therefore, that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.  For some are already turned aside after Satan.” (1 Tim. 5:13-15).

39. From which it is evident, that some had already been proved, who had professed to take up their cross, and had turned aside from their first faith, and turned against Christ; and wherein they turned aside after Satan, is made sufficiently clear by the Apostle.

40. It was, therefore, far better for them to marry, and live after the common course of the world, to be keepers at home, to bear children, to guide the house, and so let their profession be according to their practice, than to make a great profession of faith in Christ, and then again turn against him by their contrary practice, and give occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

41. From what has been said concerning the primitive Church, it may evidently appear, that all who were accounted believers in that day, did not, strictly speaking, constitute that Church which was the real spiritual body of Christ — the temple of the living God.

42. The Apostles were commissioned to go and teach and baptize all nations; and as the true and abiding seal of their divine commission, they themselves were first baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.   And being baptized with, and into one and the same Spirit into which Christ Jesus was baptized, they were able to follow his example, and to teach others to follow them, as they followed Christ.

43. But were all the nations baptized?  Did all receive their testimony?  Did all follow the same example?  In nowise.  It is evident throughout the writings of the Apostles, that there were many unto whom the preaching of the cross was foolishness.  And even many who believed, or professed to believe in Christ, walked directly contrary to his example.  Of this sort St. Paul wrote, in his epistle to the Philippians. (1Cor. 1:18).

44. After having exhorted them, “Brethren, be ye followers of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample: he adds, for many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil. 3:17-19).  The same depravity of faith and manners is observable under the ministry of Jesus.  Multitudes followed him because they were fed with the loaves and fishes: but when he told them about eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, and that this was the true bread which came down from heaven, many, even of his disciples, were offended, and walked no more with him.

CHAPTER VI.

The attainments of the Primitive Church.

1.WHATEVER they were called, who professed faith in Christ, whether believers, disciples, brethren, christians, churches, or saints; none, strictly speaking, were the true followers of Christ, but such as received his word and continued therein — were baptized with the Holy Spirit — were led by that Spirit, and followed the very example of Christ Jesus in all his moral perfections.

2.  Christ came to bring salvation from sin, and to release souls from the bondage and condemnation of it; and he taught his followers how to obtain that inestimable prize of true felicity and eternal life.  And this salvation, which is the very essence of all moral perfection, was attainable only by keeping all his commandments, as he kept the commandments of his Father.  As Jesus said, If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:10).

3.  Hence his true followers who copied his example, could freely testify to others, That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1John 1:3-7).

4.  God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood (that is the life) of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

5.  He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected:  hereby know we that we are in him.  He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he [Christ Jesus] walked. (1John 2:4-6).

6.  Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he [Christ Jesus]  is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. (1John 3:7, 8).

7.  No man hath seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.  Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. (1John 4:12, 13 & 5:2, 3).

8.  Here is the character of a true follower of Christ — a transcript of the moral perfections of the Son of God — a true copy of his holy life, transcribed by obedience, — by receiving his word, his commandments, and his Spirit, and walking therein, even as he walked. Herein was the whole law fulfilled, not in Christ Jesus only, but in every one of his true followers, without the failure of one jot or tittle.

9.  Thus, while sin and death reigned from Adam to Moses, and the law brought wrath and condemnation, and made, as it were, the very life of the transgressor, offensive to God;  Christ Jesus came and burst the bands of sin and death, and brought forth the prisoners out of their prison-houses, and the captives out of their dungeons, saying, in the language of the Spirit, Deny yourselves, and follow me.

10.  And, by obedience to his commandments, following his example, and walking even as he walked, salvation from sin was obtained by every one of his true followers.  They dwelt in the love of God, and fulfilled the whole law, to a much more perfect degree than was ever done before on earth.

11.  Such then, were the nature and effects of Man's Redemption, brought to light by the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and manifested to his church, his true followers, and members of his body, who saw, and tasted, and handled of the Word of Life.

12.  The work of Redemption by Christ, in his followers, did not consist in any change in the position of their natural bodies, but in the disposition of their souls.  Their dispositions, affections, lives, and manners, were changed by the Spirit of God, through faith in Christ, and obedience to his law.

13.  The nature and work of redemption, is a perfect contrast to the nature and manner of man's fall from his first primitive rectitude.

14.  The first Adam lost his union and relation to God, by disobedience to his righteous law, and became a captive to the desires and works of the flesh;  and all his posterity, being begotten in that nature, were led captive by the same, and continued to fall with him, in the same line of disobedience.

15.  Christ, the second Adam, who was manifested as the beginning of the new creation in Jesus, and by whom all things were made and created, did not come to condemn mankind, but to redeem and save them from that which was their loss and separation from God, and to create them anew in his likeness. (Heb. 1:2 & Eph. 2:10).

16.  And therefore Jesus set the example of perfect obedience to the law of God his Father, and of complete self-denial, and a final cross against all the carnal desires of the flesh, and the actual works of natural flesh-generation.  And all his true followers found their union and relation to God, through Christ, in the same line of obedience with him.

17.  And herein it was, that he and his kingdom, and his true followers, were not of this world.  And herein lay the secret cause of all the enmity between those who were born after the flesh, and those who were born again, of the Spirit.  For this cause Christ was hated.

18.  God did not hate the world, but so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).

19.  He created man at the beginning for his own honour and glory; and in his first creation, as he was made in the image and likeness of his Creator, there was nothing in his soul, or body, that was offensive to the pure nature of God who created him.  But man receiving by his disobedience, a foul and rebellious spirit against God, which lusted to envy, it was this that ever stood in opposition to God's holy and pure law, and was the object of his just indignation. (Jas. 4:5).

20.  By this, the soul, with all its noble affections, was led captive by the devil into sin; but ever remained the object of God's love, and became punishable only as it yielded to the influence of sin. (2 Tim. 2:26).

21.  Through the influence of this foul and rebellious spirit, the natural body, with all its faculties, became polluted, and directed to an evil use, contrary to the pure law of God.  But the natural body, simply considered in itself, remained the same after the fall as it was before, with all its form, natural properties and qualities thereof, and only shared with the soul in its punishments, by reason of sin.

22.  The natural body of Man, comprehending male and female, being of the earth, earthy, and created for time, stood in need of temporal food for its sustenance, before the fall, as well as after.  And so with regard to the formation of his body, and its natural properties for the increase of posterity, simply considered in itself, there was no change, it remained the same after the fall as it was before: the change was in his inclination to sinful actions, and in his obedience thereto.

23.  In the beginning God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good; and He has never found any fault with his own work; but, as Man had corrupted himself and the earth, by reason of sin, therefore God promised to create new heavens, and a new earth, wherein should dwell righteousness. (2Pet. 3:13).

24.  When therefore, the law went to condemn any property, which was necessary in the natural creation, as sinful or unclean, either in male or female, it was not because there was any evil in the thing simply considered in itself; but because it was corrupted, and the soul must be redeemed from that corruption before it could ever come into the new creation. (Heb. 4:15).

25.  The Son of God himself, the Redeemer of mankind, although he was not of this world, yet he was found in fashion like other men, touched with a feeling of their infirmities, and tempted in all points as they were, subject to hunger, and weariness, and stood in need of temporal sustenance.  But he knew no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.

26.  And it is enough, said Jesus, that the disciple be as his master, and the servant as his lord.  But every one that is perfect, shall be as his master.  And in his prayer to his Father for his disciples, he says, They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. — Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (Matt. 10:25, Luke 6:40 & John 17:14, etc.).

27.  And hence the words of the Apostle, The very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Thes. 5:23).

28.  The Apostle did not pray that God would change the form or properties of their bodies, or the faculties of their souls from what he had made them at the beginning; nor did he pray that the corruption of nature might be sanctified; but that their souls and bodies, which at the beginning were innocent, and lovely, might be wholly sanctified and cleansed from sin,  the cause of every corruption and offense.

29.  Christ Jesus was a man, who had no other bodily appearance than that of other men.  And his followers were men and women, like other men and women, who possessed all their former properties, and faculties of body and mind with which they were at first created.  But the change which was wrought in the followers of Christ, by the Gospel, consisted in their being saved from sin; and hence the cause of every offense between God and them was removed.

30.  And, by receiving his word, and abiding in it, they received his Spirit, and had power to become the sons of God, and joint-heirs with Christ in his kingdom — were freely justified by his grace; and were no longer under the guilt and condemnation of the law.  As it is written, There is therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  They are made free from the law of sin and death, by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1-10).

31.  The law could never save the soul from sin; and therefore the guilt and condemnation of sin remained;  it was weak through the flesh, because those who were under it, lived in the gratification of the flesh.

32.  Hence it is written: What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [original, by a sacrifice for sin] condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

33.  For they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh: but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace: Because the carnal [fleshly] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

34.  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; [Christ and sin cannot dwell together; where he has the lead and government of the mind, the body is dead and inactive to sin;] but the Spirit is life [alive] because of righteousness.

35.  This answers to what the Apostle had before stated, when he showed what it was to be crucified and dead with Christ.  Knowing that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin [not the natural body, nor any part or property of it] might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.   For he that is dead [to sin] is freed from sin. (Rom. 6:6-13 & Gal. 5:24).

36.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof: Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead; and your members instruments of righteousness unto God.

37.  For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? [Gr. Mh genoito.]  Let it not be. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Rom. 6:14-16).

38.  Did then the Gospel of Christ Jesus come to count all mankind under grace who did not come under its influence?   In no wise.  The distinction is made plain between those who are yet under the law, and those who are under grace.

39. The law was given because of sin, that the offense might abound, (i.e. might be made manifest,) and served as a schoolmaster, until faith and obedience, grace and truth, were made manifest by Jesus Christ.  And after Christ came, those who received him by faith, and became his by obedience, were no longer under that schoolmaster, but were under grace. (John 1:17).

40.  But who were released from that schoolmaster?  Those who continued to commit sin, as some pretend, with a gracious reluctance?  Nay, in no wise.  For the law was given by reason of sin, and the testimony of the scripture, is plain and pointed: Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may he stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Rom. 3:19).

41. And again: Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.  Therefore we conclude, that whosoever liveth in sin, whether he be called Gentile, Jew, or Christian, he is yet under the guilt and condemnation of the law, and hath no part in Christ — hath not seen him, neither knoweth him in the power of his resurrection. (1 John 3:4, 6 & Phil. 3:10).

42. And, as the law of Moses was given to convey the knowledge of sin, that all the world might become guilty before God, therefore, by the deeds of the law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight.  But by Christ, all that believe, are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Rom. 3:20 & Acts 13:39).

43. Christ is become the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth; and he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.  Therefore, there is no difference; all who believe and obey him, are equally justified in his sight, and equally accepted of him, whether male or female, bond or free, Jew or Greek;  and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, because they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom. 10;4 & Heb. 5:9).

44.  And it is through the Spirit they do mortify and crucify the deeds of the body, and live unto God. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, and are not under the law, but are made free, and set at liberty, being the children of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. (Rom. 8:13, 17 & Gal. 5:18, 24).

45.  What, then, because they are made free from the law, by the Spirit and cross of Christ, shall they therefore live any longer in the gratification of the flesh?  Nay, in no wise;  their liberty, and their peace, is through the cross of Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto them, and they unto the world. (Col. 1:20 & Gal. 6:14).

46.  Hence said the Apostle, Ye have been called unto liberty: only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in this one word; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Gal. 5:13, 14).

47.  For the greatest reason then, because the Spirit of Christ dwells in them, by which the whole law is fulfilled, the Apostle concludes, Therefore, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (Rom. 8:12).

48.  And as the tree is known by its fruit, so the Spirit by which the primitive Church was led, was evidently distinguished by such fruits as are briefly summed up by the Apostle, namely love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [Gr. continence]: against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22, 23).

 

Published by the Shakers in their book,   “Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing”
1823, & 1856

 

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