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been ; and God requireth that which is past (3. 15). Yea, better is be than both they, which hath not yet been (4. 3). Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female (Matt. 19. 4; Mark, 10. 6)? For we brought nothing into this world (1 Tim. 6. 7). I understand not these last words as referring to this visible world, but to the Scriptural, and to a previous existence of the soul, before she arrive into that unknown world, wherein she brings nothing, and from which she can carry nothing out (Psalm 49. 17), no more than we can from this present emblematical world. I believe, Theophila, you will find some other verses in confirmation of the probability of a former state, very superior to this ; and that, in meditating upon it, several instructive and satisfying consequences will occur to your mind.
In the fall of man, as well as in his creation, the early converts might have suspected that the Scriptures alluded to their own disobedience; and inferred that it was on account of their own faults in a past life, that in this they were in a degenerate condition ; which I think it was wrong to impute to the sin of any creature, though the offence of one was by the will of God, the means by which all became sinners; and so death passed upon all men, and the spirit of error or death reigned in every heart, for that all have sinned : Rom. 5, 12, which must have taken place in an antecedent world, for it cannot be said of infants in this that they have sinned. Likewise in reading the process of the regeneration of man, by applying it to themselves, they might have followed him with great benefit for their soul, through all the different states and transitions of his, such as Canaan, Egypt, the wilderness, the promised land, Babylon, Zion, Jerusalem, &c. &c.; wherein I understand that the first man,—the first in every sense of the word,-appears under various names that show his progressive degrees of knowledge, regeneration, and power: first, as Adam, afterwards, perhaps, as Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Joseph, the just and charitable man. I think the same might be said of the Woman, of the Son of Man, of the Apostles and others; whose names or titles in the Scripture seem to me to change in proportion as they advance into the knowledge of the truth, Gen. 2. 23.-3. 20.-17. 5.-32. 28.-36. 1, 43.-41. 38, 45. Matt. 11. 13, 14.-17. 10, 13.-27. 17. Mark, 3. 16, 17. Luke, 1. 31, 32. John, 1. 42. The Acts, 1. 23. - 11. 26.-12. 25.-13. 9. Rev. 2. 17.
In reading of the Scriptural Egypt, why should I not inquire within myself, whether my soul is not in a state something similar to that of the children of Israel, the miserable slave of as evil a spirit as the spirit Pharaoh, which oppresses her, and keeps her in the bondage of its false notions? Why would she not, like the people of God, cry to the Lord, and pray Him to send her a deliverer? Is He not the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and in truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin ; visiting (out of pity,) the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation, (to eradicate it from their hearts)? Exo. 34. 6, 7. Why would not my soul seek in the commandments of God, in Christ's precepts, and in Moses's ordinances, the sure way by which she could get out of her own Egypt, and out of the grasp of the wrong spirit that governs her?
Why should I not examine with candour and simplicity, whether my soul is not in a state of wilderness, in a dry, barren system, in a condition of imperfection and ignorance, the shadow of the waste desert in which the souls of the people of God are represented, after they have been withdrawn from a distressing, tyrannizing error ? Would it not be exceedingly advantageous to me, to apply to my soul, and to practise in fulfilment of the law, those essential purifications, those mental ceremonies, those religious observances, which the spirit Moses recommends to the souls that are the descendants of Abraham's righteousness? Why should not my soul, by the trials and contradictions she has to sustain in her wilderness, be, as well as they, in preparation to a better, condition, like the promised land, the Zion, the Jerusalem, to which the people of God is brought up by degrees?
O that it were given to my soul to perceive within herself the Babylon in which she is in captivity; to meditate upon it, and to pray that she might be led back to the Jerusalem that would make ber free and happy!
Why should I feel any objection to apply to myself what is said in Daniel, of the fall of Nebuchadnezzar by pride, that father and mother of all vices, that source of all our misfortunes; what is said of the loss of his understanding, of his mental degradation, of his being deprived of the heart of a man, and receiving for a while, and for his correction, that of a beast?
So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee. Psalm 73. 22.
But at the same time I should have great hopes that towards the end of the seventh philosophical year or stage of my instructive probation, a state of difficulties intermixed by the goodness of God with many alleviations and consolations, it would be given to me to lift up the eyes of my soul to the spiritual knowledge; great hopes that my former reason would return unto me; that I should have the good sense of praising and bonouring the King of heaven, whose works are truths and His ways judgement; and who is able to abase the souls that walk in pride: in fine, that after having gone through the different degrees of the first probation, which is the Scriptural world ; and perhaps, according to my deeds, through a protracted time of bitter and painful reprobation, or of a second, severe, unmitigated probation, (Rev. 20. 6,) decreed against me by Divine Justice and Mercy, for my correction, I should be reinstated in the wisdom of a soul image of the Spirit Creator, and in the government of mine, and restored for ever to a state of felicity, (John, 14. 2,) unknown to me in my present lamentable lowness.
Instead of considering the Old Testament as an historical account of what had happened to a small nation that existed 2000 years ago in Palestine, which view of it tends to confine it to a peculiar set of men, would it not be more instructive for me to believe that the Almighty, the Maker and the Father of all, gave it, the same as the New, for the amendment of all his creatures, without any reference to the spot they inbabit, and the time they live in ; and to apply the whole of it to my soul, and to those who will receive a new life from Abraham's righteous spirit, and from the companion of his soul the spirit of the new Covenant, (Gal. 4. 22,) to those who will circumcise themselves of their pride, vanity, ambition, revenge, covetousness, &c. (Rom. 2. 28, 29,) and who will go through the various circumstances and instructions, or regenerating degrees of the Old Testament, that they may become the true children of the spirit Israel, near unto, or drawing nigh to God? Psalm 148. 14.
I have no doubt, Theophila, that, should we refer the whole of the Scripture to our soul, the hidden man of the heart, (1 Pet. 3. 4,) as having been intended for her benefit, for her admonition, (1 Cor. 10. 11,) by the holy mercy who bestowed it upon us, she would receive much more consolation than she can reap in continuing in the track of the early converted Jews; who, from want of understanding the Sacred Writings, and from inability to raise themselves to the sublimity and spirituality of the Gospel, lowered and accommodated it to their former erroneous notions, which pressed heavy upon them: the consequence of which has been the doubtful and unsatisfactory, though till this day useful, system which they adopted ; and which may be said, notwithstanding trifling differences, to prevail still among nearly all classes denominated Christian ; all of which understand the Scriptures, save very few points, mostly alike the converts of the first century: whose system, if discussed without prevention, could not, I think, be reconciled with the word of God, on account of their material notions, which seem to me totally at variance with the philosophical and the spiritual meanings of the language of the Sacred History. From the New Testament, and from what we know