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and how we may be said to fulfil all our religious duty to God; for the creature's true religion is its rendering to God all that is God's; it is its true continual acknowledging all that which it is, and has, and enjoys, in and from God. This is the one true religion of all intelligent creatures, whether in heaven or on earth; for as they all have but one and the same relation to God, so though ever so different in their several births, states, or offices, they all have but one and the same true religion, or right behaviour towards God. Now, the one relation, which is the ground of all true religion, and is one and the same between God and all intelligent creatures, is this, it is a total unalterable dependence upon God, an immediate continual receiving of every kind and degree of goodness, blessing, and happiness, that ever was, or can be found in them, from God alone. The highest angel has nothing of its own that it can offer unto God; no more light, love, purity, perfection, and glorious hallelujahs, that spring from itself, or its own powers, than the poorest creature upon earth. Could the angel see a spark of wisdom, goodness, or excellence, as coming from, or belonging to itself, its place in heaven would be lost, as sure as Lucifer lost his. But they are ever-abiding flames of pure love, always ascending up to, and uniting with God, for this reason, because the wisdom, the power, the glory, the majes
ty, the love, and goodness, of God alone, are all that they see, and feel, and know, either within or without themselves. Songs of praise to their heavenly Father are their ravishing delight, because they see, and know, and feel, that it is the breath and Spirit of their heavenly Father that sings and rejoices in them. Their adoration in spirit and in truth never ceases, because they never cease to acnowledge the all of God; the all of God in themselves, and the all of God in the whole creation. This is the one religion of heaven, and nothing else is the truth of religion on earth.
The matter therefore plainly comes to this:Nothing can do, or be, the good of religion to the intelligent creature, but the power and presence of God really and essentially living and working in it. But if this be the unchangeable nature of that goodness and blessedness which is to be had from our religion, then, of all necessity, the creature must have all its religious goodness as wholely and solely from God's immediate operation, as it had its first goodness at its creation. And it is the same impossibility for the creature to help itself to that which is good and blessed in religion by any contrivance, reasonings, or workings, of its own natural powers, as to create itself; for the creature, after its creation, can no more take any thing to itself that belongs to God, than it could take it before it was created. And if truth forces us to
hold, that the natural powers of the creature could only come from the one power of God, the same truth should surely more force us to confess, that that which comforts, that which enlightens, that which blesses, which gives peace, joy, goodness, and rest, to its natural powers, can be had in no other way, nor by any other thing, but from God's immediate holy operation found in it.
Now, the reason why no work of religion but that which is begun, continued, and carried on, by the living operation of God in the creature, can have any truth, goodness, or divine blessing in it, is, because nothing can in truth seek God, but that which comes from God. Nothing can in truth find God as its good, but that which has the nature of God living in it; like can only rejoice in like; and therefore no religious service of the creature can have any truth, goodness, or blessing in it, but that which is done in the creature, in, and through, and by, a principle and power of the divine nature, begotten and breathing forth in it all holy tempers, affections, and adorations.
All true religion is, or brings forth, an essential union and communion of the spirit of the creature with the Spirit of the Creator; God in it, and it in God, one life, one light, one love. The Spirit of God first gives, or sows the seed of divine union in the soul of every man; and religion is that by which it is quickened, raised, and brought forth to a ful
ness and growth of a life in God. Take a similitude of this, as follows: The beginning or seed of animal breath must first be born in the creature from the spirit of this world; and then respiration, so long as it lasts, keeps up an essential union of the animal life with the breath or spirit of this world. In like manner, divine faith, hope, love, and resignation to God, are, in the religious life, its acts of respiration; which, so long as they are true, unite God and the creature in the same living and essential manner as animal respiration unites the breath of the animal with the breath of this world.
Now, as no animal could begin to respire, or unite with the breath of this world, but because it has its beginning to breathe begotten in it from the air of this world, so it is equally certain, that no creature, angel or man, could begin to be religious, or breathe forth the divine affections of faith, love, and desire towards God, but because a living seed of these divine affections was, by the Spirit of God, first begotten in it. And as a tree or plant can only grow and fructify by the same power that first gave birth to the seed, so faith, and hope, and love towards God, can only grow and fructify by the same power that begot the first seed of them in the soul. Therefore, divine immediate inspiration and divine religion are inseparable in the nature of the thing.
Take away inspiration, or suppose it to cease, and then no religious acts or affections can give forth any thing that it is godly or divine; for the creature can offer or return nothing to God, but that which it has first received from him. Therefore, if it is to offer and send up to God affections and aspirations that are divine and godly, it must of all necessity have the divine and godly nature living and breathing in it. Can any thing reflect light before it has received it, or any other light than that which it has received? Can any crea ture breathe forth earthly or diabolical affections, before it is possessed of an earthly or diabolical na, ture? Yet this is as possible, as for any creature to have divine affections rising up and dwelling in it, either before or any further, than as it has or partakes of the divine nature dwelling and operating in it.
A religious faith that is uninspired, a hope or love that proceeds not from the immediate working of the divine nature within us, cau no more do any divine good to our souls, or unite them with the goodness of God, than an hunger after earthly food can feed us with the immortal bread of heaven. All that the natural or uninspired man does, or can do in the church, has no more of the truth or power, of divine worship in it, than that which he does in the field or shop, through a desire of riches. And the reason is, because all