Historical texts  >  James Nayler's Spiritual Writings  >  How Sin Is Strengthened, And How It Is Overcome.


How Sin Is Strengthened, And How It Is Overcome.

{Written in 1657}


That sin is in the world, and that all are thereby become children of wrath, is generally believed and confessed by all; but how sin is strengthened in men and women against God and their own souls, or how it is overcome, few there be that have learned or mind to know; yet for their sakes that do, I do here declare somewhat of that which I have received from Him, who is faithful and true in His testimony.

And this I find, that as sin got rooting at first through lust, so till this day it has its strength, by the desires going forth to affect or lust after something, whether spiritual, or carnal, above, before, or besides what that eternal Spirit by which man was created, does communicate to him, or beget in him; for the eye of mankind being blinded by the god of this world, which eye should look to God for all; there is an eye of unbelief open, which looks into the visibles, and gives occasion for the lust to conceive in the mind, affections and desires, after something which the Spirit of God leads not to, for the obtaining whereof, all the power and wisdom that is in man is set on work, and this becomes sin both in desires and actions; and the more it is followed, the stronger it is; for whatever is hereby obtained, becomes a treasure of wickedness, laid up in the habitation of the wicked one, whereby the lust is increased, and the Seed of God burdened and buried, whereby the creature becomes daily more insensible, of the will of God, and the movings of the pure Spirit which should keep the creature alive towards the Creator, and draw the mind wholly up to the Father, on Him alone to wait for a supply in all things, both for soul and body.

And every desire that springs from this root being suffered to go forth, defiles the man, and brings in that which oppresses the Just, until by continuance man grows into the nature of the enmity, and the imaginations of the heart be wholly evil, and that which should give the knowledge of God buried, and in many that which should give the knowledge of sin also, whereby man becomes past feeling, utterly dead in sins and trespasses heaped upon the Just against the day of judgment, which becomes by custom as natural to commit, as for the ox to drink water; yea with greediness does man in this condition, hunt after his own destruction, having dammed up the way of life in himself by often transgressing it, and is become degenerate from the nature of God, having received in, and willingly joined to that nature of satan, which as a leaven has and does work into his own nature all that receive it, or yield to it, whom as they grow therein, there springs up fruits of the same spring and nature, which they bring forth in his time and opportunity, with liking and delight, being furnished with all subtlety, to color them over, and plead for them, being in covenant and agreement with sin, some in one thing, and some in another, everyone pleading the allowance of that sin with God which most suits their lusts, pride, profit or pleasure, credit or esteem in the world, or some self-end, and at these they take counsel, and not at the Spirit of the Lord, to know what is sin, and what is no sin, but none will believe that they can be set free from all sin by Him who testifies against all sin in Spirit; and in all this the man of sin has his kingdom by consent, for they being willing to keep covenant with him, in one evil, are guilty of all:

Now the way to overcome all this, and Him that Has power therein, is by faith in Christ Jesus; the light, and life, and way to the Father; for without believing there can be no victory; but in the faithful following of Him, and patient bearing of His cross, and enduring His sufferings, comes the enmity to be slain, and captivity led captive, and man set at liberty in the holy Seed, to serve the Father in Spirit and life again.

And first, Christ as He is the light of the world, must be believed, for so He comes to manifest and reprove the deeds of darkness, and to make a separation between the works of God, and the works of the devil in the mind and spirit of the creature, and to let them see what spirit does exercise their minds and affections, and the fruits of each spirit, and the moving and working of each spirit severally, without which none can rightly know what is to be destroyed, and what saved; what to join to, and what to war against; for by this light alone comes man to the knowledge of sin in himself, in the ground and root of it, and every motion thereof; for though the letter, or something without, may show what is sin by its fruits when it is brought forth, yet it is the work of the Spirit to discover spiritual wickedness in its first motion, which is the only place to kill it e're it become sin; and this light must be believed, and diligently minded all along, for such is the subtlety of the enemy, having got power over the will and senses of man, that he will set them to war against the creature, and destroy the creation, rather than that of his which defiles the creature. And this cannot be avoided any other way but by minding the light of Christ, to separate that which is but to be cleansed, from that which is to be destroyed, and this man cannot do without the Spirit, it being a spiritual work, though he never so much seeks after it.

And here is the cause why many are kept at hard labor all their time, and never come clear out of sin and uncleaness, even not believing in that which has the power to separate and lead out of the evil, but without the single eye they are at work in the dark, and see not a clear separation in the body. And hence it is that some destroy themselves, in seeking to destroy sin, not minding the light of the Savior, is led by the destroyer, fighting against that which Christ comes to save, while he that comes to destroy lies hid in the dark: But he that believes in that which manifests all things, reproves all things, and judges all things, with that light shall be led what to war against, and what to join with all along in the work, for He alone is the covenant of light, and given for a Leader, which whosoever believes and follows, shall not err in judgment or practice, but unbelief therein, is the cause why there are so many blind guides, and many people die in their sins.

And thus He is the Way of God, and is to be believed in, (to wit) as He manifests the works of the devil apart from the work of God, condemning the one in the flesh, and justifying the other in the Spirit: and as He manifests every spirit with its workings, motions and ends, the ground and off-spring, whence they come, and where they return, that thereby the creature may know who it is that exercises his mind and members, and to what spirit he yields himself in his obedience and service, and so may come to know the use and end of all his works, what to choose, and what to refuse; what to justify, and what to condemn in its first motion, before it be brought forth or formed in the womb, that judgment may be kept on the head of transgression, and liberty proclaimed to the Just.

And for want of faith and feeling of this Way of Christ, it is that so many perish in sin, even because they cannot believe that to be sufficient to save from sin, which manifests sin in the ground, and condemns it in its first motion, which if they did but in faith join with Him to condemn sin in the ground, temptation, and motion, it would die and wither, and not be able long to live or prevail: and if it for a time should prevail in the members, yet not to condemnation, for I have found a great difference between sin condemned in the creature (though not yet wholly dead) and sin lived in, and pleaded for; for if your life and judgment be in that alone which condemns sin, then are you dead to sin, and alive to Christ; and it is no more you that sin, but sin that yet remains in you, to which you are dead, to which you do not consent, like, nor approve of, nor anyway add any strength thereto; but your faith and love, delight and strength is in Him, which condemns it: he that is truly in this faith and love, by the working thereof shall all His enemies perish, and by that faith and love shall the Just live in that creature, and he in Him condemning and killing sin till it all be done away, and the creature of God found alive in Him alone, who without spot will present him to the Father: for this I have found, that that which manifests sin in its first motion, judges it there, and condemns it there, has the only power to kill sin e're it be committed, and so has only power to save from condemnation; for this you shall find, that as Christ does not live to justification, where He is not believed and justified, loved, followed, and confessed, so sin does not live to condemnation where it is hated, condemned, and denied; for where that spirit of wickedness is seen in the light, and separated from, and judged apart from the creature, the creature joining in judgment with the Just, there sin will wither, and satan flees, for there he has no kingdom, nor a hiding habitation; for the light being minded, and judgment having free passage and consent, it searches out his hidden things, and judgment passes upon all his deceit, root and ground, with his fruits; so is the strong man spoiled, and his stuff, by faith in Christ, and not by strength of the creature, but by believing the Just, and denying the unjust.

For according to every man's faith, so shall he receive from God: Now he that believes salvation, and that cleaves to, and lives in some sin, and pleads for it, and believes he must do so, his faith stands in an unclean thing, and an unclean thing will live by that faith, and be justified by that creature; and in his justifying anything that is unclean, the wild plant has its liberty to grow until it overspread the Plant of God, and cover the man, wholly stop the ear, and blind the eye, and hardens the heart against every motion to good, or check for evil; and lets not this man look for good fruit, but after his faith who so believes.

Also, on the contrary, he that feels a strife in himself between the clean and the unclean, and sees the one reprove for sin, and the other plead for sin, and believes in that which is pure, clean and just, which condemns the unjust and unclean, that faith stands in that which is pure, and the mystery of it is held in a pure conscience; and that pure faith being followed, will purify the heart, and cleanses the hands from unjust actions; and by that faith the Just lives, and grows and springs, and brings forth, and the pure Plant spreads and covers the earth with the knowledge of God, His holiness and purity, and all grace in the heart, which becomes as a working leaven, till it has wrought out the unclean nature, and conformed the whole man to himself; and this is a work of the holy faith, which none can receive, but who believes in holiness; for none can bring clean fruit out of an unclean faith.

And this further, for the encouragement of such as honestly indeed would be rid of their sin, and set free to serve God in holiness without deceit, you feeling in yourself the moving of that which is holy, bearing witness against that which is contrary to holiness, and condemning it, and you for joining with it in all your conversation: I say, in that believe, for that is all you know of Christ in you; and believing and following it, you will feel it making a separation in your inward man, between that which Christ comes to save, and that which He comes to destroy; for this is He that comes from above, to set before you life and death divided, that you joining to the life, and believing, may be saved from death: And as you are faithful to this Spirit which condemns sin in the flesh, so you will feel warring against, and working out sin daily, to which if you clearly join, denying that which it condemns, then are you one spirit with Him in His work, and are no longer in the flesh, nor to be condemned with the sin remaining in the flesh, but are one in Him that condemns sin, and self in sinning, till sin become exceeding sinful in your eyes, as it is in the eyes of God; and as you grow in love and liking with that pure Spirit, its law and leadings, so you will become dead to the law of sin, and it will lose its power in you, not being minded, loved and served, your mind, love and fear being exercised in that which condemns it; and here that faith that works by love takes the victory, and not your striving in your own strength only from a sight of sin by the law, for by the works of the law you cannot be justified, but by the working of faith in Christ Jesus, that Spirit; and as you feel His working in you, and you one with Him therein, in His work you are justified, and by beholding of Him in this faith, you will be changed into His likeness by His mighty power working in you, even by that Spirit to which you are turned: And as He grows in you, and you in Him, you will feel that power arising which will make you able to answer a good conscience, and give lasting peace, and so by His resurrection shall be saved from condemnation, from which your own works will not save you, and this work will go on with joy, if your heart be honest; for seeing Him that is holy set before you condemning sin, and His holiness and beauty in all His motions does so delight the honest heart, to see such a glory and beauty near you, that it makes the way easy after Him for the joy that is set before you; for in all your tribulations, trials, and temptations, this faith will present Him before you; and this made the Saints of old endure the cross, and despise the shame, and bear the reproach after Him joyfully, following the Lamb in all His leadings.

So you that love holiness, it is near you; power over sin and satan is near you: salvation is at hand; go not forth to seek that abroad which you have lost in your own house; He is your salvation that condemns sin in your bosom: He that reproves the wicked is with you: He that is pure is your peace: He that never consented to sin, but stands a Witness against it: if you have such a Spirit in you, you have the Spirit of Christ the Savior. So take heed to Him, to believe in Him, and to mind His leading, and to follow Him; if you part not from Him, He will be your everlasting peace, and over-ruling power to subdue your sins; and by Him shall you tread down strength with ease and delight, and shall be able to say with such as were come to the same Spirit, Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world; and only that faith that sees Him has power to overcome the world; for he that beholds His glory, treads the world's glory under his feet; for whatsoever is seen in Him, does so far exceed all other things, that it takes the mind out of all other delights, and leaves them empty; so that things in heaven, and things in earth, principalities nor powers are able to separate you from the love of Him, how much more will you leave your delight in sin, when you come to delight in Him! His love will constrain you, who loves purity, and has found it, for this is joy indeed, and love unspeakable, when the soul finds that treasure in his own house freely given, which he has long been seeking abroad, and could never purchase, neither with life nor estate.

And the more you behold Him, the more will His love and glory appear; for as you in the light behold the pure motions of the Holy One, you will come to see what you are without Him, and what your ways are, without which you cannot be happy, and that you cannot have a lasting peace till with His virtue you be filled, and with His glory covered, and with His power armed against every temptation; all which He will make you heir of with Him, as you mind to be faithful, and hearken to His movings, to obey them in all things, who thereby will lead you His way by which He obtained all this glory and power, and this inheritance from the Father; in which way you will find a cross to all your own ways, and to the world's spirit in all things; which will be easy if you keep your eye single to Him who is set before you therein, His glory, and the gaining thereof: But if you look back into the world, you look into temptation without Him, and there the spirit of the world presents you with loss, and not with gain, setting before you what you must forgo, with all the hardships and impossibilities that may be, but no power to bear it; but keeping the eye to Him, you have always power and peace before you in the way, the hope thereof will be as an anchor, and the faith a shield, and the love will give you life to undergo all the trials for His sake, bearing His cross daily, which must part you and your sins, and crucify the worldly spirit with the lust thereof, and kill all that yet wars against your soul, and keeps you from your inheritance; wherefore it is called, The great power of God unto salvation.

And as you become faithful thereto, you will feel the fruit of that Holy One springing in you, moving to be brought forth in you towards God and man, your faith will grow, and prayers with strong cries to the Father; as the Spirit sees your wants, your love will spring and move in you, and bring forth towards God and man upon all occasions; which if you willingly serve in its smallest motion, it will increase, but if you quench it in its movings, and refuse to bring it forth, it will wither and dry in you, not being exercised.

And it is the like of gentleness, meekness, patience, and all other virtues which are of a springing and spreading nature, where they are not quenched, but suffered to come forth to His praise in His will and time, who is the Begetter thereof, and to the comfort of His own Seed, and cross to the world: And if you be faithful daily to offer up your body as a sacrifice, to bring forth His image, name, and power before His enemies, then what He moves you to bring forth shall be your inheritance, and will daily increase with using; but if you will not give up for His names sake, but would hold the treasure, and escape the reproach, then will it be taken from you, and given to him who will yield the Lord of the vineyard His fruit in due season; for that which the Father freely begets, He will have freely brought forth, that the shining thereof in the dark world may praise Him.

What a glory is it to see peace shine in the midst of war, love in the midst of hatred, meekness in the midst of strife, righteous judgment in the midst of wickedness, innocency in the midst of violence and oppression; as a lily among thorns, so is that of God among the men of the world; and therein does His nature and beauty appear in His temple, to which all must confess, and praise Him therein.

This is the glorious day which many have talked on, and those only are the children of it, in whom the brightness shines forth; that which God begets in you in His Son, confess Him in the midst of His enemies, and thereby is the Father glorified, and His Son crowned: But if you deny Him to testify against the world, He will deny you His life to redeem you from the evil of it; the breaking forth of the Son is the beginning of the good day, when that which so long has condemned you in sin, comes to shine forth freely in acts of righteousness, then shall your darkness be turned into light, your condemnation into peace, your sorrow for sin, to rejoice in holiness; and this will be a good day to you, even the day of the Lord's righteousness and redemption to your soul, and a witness to all men of the appearance of the Just One; which testimony whosoever refuses to bear, all his religion will prove in vain, and consists in words without power.

There is a way in which the barren becomes fruitful, and a little is more serviceable to God than he that has great riches for himself; you that see your wants are nigh it, and the lowly mind will soonest follow it; and for the honest hearted it is prepared, who seek to serve God, and not yourselves. If you take heed to your own ways, and make nothing in your minds, you must not create that which must stand before God, for He will be served with His own begettings in you.

Take heed, therefore, that you make nothing to yourselves, nor murder that which He freely begets, but let your minds be always heavenly, waiting with patience in that which lets you see your wants therewith, that your hearts may be opened always upward towards God the Father of every good gift; and you being hid in the heavenly mind from that nature which compasses the earth in its comprehensions, and would compass heaven also; and waiting in a cross to that mind, as you come into the patient stillness, you will feel the begettings of the Father moving in you to be brought forth, to which you must become servants, setting aside all subtlety, and that which is hasty, and whatever is your own, and has an end to yourselves, and in the pure mind behold what way this moves its appearance against the worldly spirit, that with your whole hearts and might you may bring it forth in its own image, without reasoning or consulting with anything of your own, or anything of this world, for this arises in a contrary nature to that which is one with the world, bears another image and fruit, and has another glory in its appearance, in which the Father alone is glorified, that He be brought forth with His fruits in the world, who thereby is known how far He is above and contrary to the worldly spirit, both in the ground, root, and off-spring.

But if you look into the earthly mind, there the worldly spirit meets you with his counsel, and consulting and reasoning therewith, you take counsel in the night, from which the counsel of God is hid, His work, the end and glory thereof; and instead of that, you will be presented with the pleasure and glory of this world, which stand in visible things, and is pleasing to the visible eye and senses, which glory the god of this world sees into, and leads into, in which his wisdom and knowledge stands, which cannot enter into the invisible glory and treasure. And in this spirit that knows not God, nor His works, but seeks his own glory, will you meet with the thief and murderer, sons of darkness, who will persuade you strongly to murder the pure motion, and not to bring it forth; or else so to bring it forth as that the image thereof may be so marred, as not to bear its clear and perfect testimony against the world's kingdom, power and glory: And this you cannot avoid if you look back into his counsel, and consult with your own reasonings, wherein arises thoughts, cares and pleasures out of the world, which cumber the mind, choke the Seed, and cover the Pearl with earthly affections and lusts, which continually harden the heart, and strengthen the will against the innocent, and so slay the Just spiritually, for want of bringing forth in its time, and according to its motion; which when you have rejected, you cannot beget again of yourselves, nor in your own wills, though you may procure the likeness from another spirit in that nature which resists the truth, and corrupts the mind, and brings forth in its own will, as some have done, who having disobeyed the still motion of the meek spirit, and looking for high things, God has given them up to a lofty spirit, and strong workings in a contrary nature, who now have a power wherewith to resist that which first begot in them out of the world, and a moving spirit which draws towards the world again, which being got into the place of God (as God) makes them believe that their return is of the same Spirit that called them out, to which they yielding the same obedience, thenceforth without fear, become the same they were, if not sevenfold worse, without all hope of recovery; and this disobedience becomes as witchcraft.

Wherefore in the fear of God watch with all diligence, hearken in the simplicity of your hearts, and take heed that you slip not anytime of hearings, nor prove false in your conception or bringing forth, but that both calling and election may be made sure to you, not only by being in the knowledge of it, but also by bringing it forth, that it may be your own forever; for that which you bring forth is your inheritance, and none can take it from you, but you have power therein against all contrary spirits, which while it is but in the motion, will strongly tempt, and seek the life thereof to stifle; but being brought forth, it is before you, and only so it is put on as a breast-plate, and becomes a defense, which being begot, and not brought forth, it withers and becomes as dry bones in the womb.

Therefore, as you must give your minds wholly to hearken. so must you give your strength wholly to obey: and when you feel the pure to move in you, with your whole strength serve it, and bring it forth, give up your bodies a sacrifice for His sake whom you have not seen, that His life may be made manifest in your mortal flesh, and through you to the world, that He may be seen in His brightness to you that love Him, before His enemies, then is the body for the Lord, and not for fornication: But if you rest in the knowledge of this mystery, and bring not forth to life, with that knowledge you commit fornication, and teach others to commit fornication also; this knowledge in the disobedient mind becomes the mother of harlots, and fornications of the earth, with which the kings of the earth are deceived, but none thereby ever joined to God.

For it is not the hearing of the truth that purifies the soul, but the obedience of the truth which makes the vessel fit for the Master's use, who in His using, and its obedience, makes it a vessel of honor, and glorifies His Son therein, in your bodies to do the Father's will in the world, whereby the Father is glorified in the Son, in whom He shines forth, as the Father begets Him again in you, and you in Him (who was with the Father before the world was,) of His own nature and good will, which as you receive again by faith and obedience, you will be changed into the same image and nature, and to delight only therein, being born of the same Spirit; as he that is born of the flesh delights in the things of the flesh.