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Elpis Israel
by Dr. John Thomas

Religion is of two kinds -- that, namely, which is invented by the thinking of sinful flesh; and that which is revealed of God.

The former is superstition, and leads men to do a vast deal more than God requires of them, or less than He has appointed.

In what is called "Christendom" most improperly (for instead of being Christ's dominion, as the word implies, it is the arena of his sufferings in the persons of his disciples, and in the suppression of his truth), these extremes of superstition in its plus and minus exhibitions, are illustrated in all their diversity from popery, which is superstition in excess, down to Quakerism, which is superstition in its homoeopathic proportion.

The religion of God, on the contrary, is the juste milieu, occupying a commanding and dignified position between the two extremes.

It does not require men to abase themselves in the dust, and to afflict their bodies for their sins; nor to plant themselves as so many statues of clay, with downcast or upturned visage in the silence of the sepulchre, under pretence of waiting for Him to move them to preach or pray.

There is no fanaticism nor pietism in His religion.

When in the exercise of it men are moved to action, they are acted upon by an intelligent and earnest conviction of the truth.

This is the instrumentality by which He rouses men to religious exercise -- by the spirit which is the truth.

When, therefore, they are really "moved by the spirit" they are moved by the truth, and do not talk nonsense.

They speak according to "the law and the testimony"; and thus evince to all who understand the scriptures, that they have "light within".

Everything spoken not according to the word is nonsense; and the spirit never moves men to speak nonsense: nor doth the light of truth within ever teach men to undervalue the institutions of religion; or to live in neglect of them under pretence of a refined spirituality, or superior sanctity.

"By their fruits ye may know them".

This is an excellent rule by which to discern the spirits.

Men pray for the Holy Spirit; profess to preach under its guidance; and often in a very bad spirit, protest that they received it when converted.

But the spirit dwells only with those who understand, believe, and obey the gospel of the kingdom; and who walk according to its precepts.

No man, be he preacher or "layman," has the spirit, or anything else to do with it than as resisting it, who does not preach and believe the gospel Paul preached.

The "religious world" is utterly destitute of the spirit which belongs to God's religion; because it is ignorant of the gospel, and understands not "the voices of the prophets".

If, therefore, it be sincerely desirous of the spirit of God, let it renounce the traditions of "the fathers" and "mothers" of the apostasy, from Origen to Joanna Southcott, Jemima Wilkinson, and Ann Lee; let it shake off the thrall of Rome, Oxford, Wittenburg, Geneva, and Nauvoo; all of which make of none effect the word of the living God: and let it "search the scriptures" according to the divine command, "proving all things and holding fast that which is good," that it may believe the truth and obey it in the love of it.

Christ will then dwell in its heart by faith; it will be rooted and grounded in love, having attained to the obedience of faith, which is the sole criterion of love to God; and the well-intentioned and conscientious, though unenlightened members of its community, will have no longer ground of lamentation on account of "the decay of spirituality, and the prevalence of formality and worldliness in the churches".

All the Most High requires of men is just to believe what He has done, what He teaches, and what He promises: to obey the law of faith; to take care of the poor of His flock, and keep themselves unspotted from the world.

This is pure and undefiled religion.

But, alas!

where is it to be found?