Page images

holiness and acceptance with God; but are under doubts and despondings of their attaining it, from the want they find in themselves of inward power to enable them, and are unacquainted with this efficacious agent, which God hath given and appointed for their supply:

For these reasons and motives, know, reader, I have taken in hand to write this small tract, Of the nature and virtue of the light of Christ within man;' what, and where it is, and for what end, and therein of the religion of the people called Quakers; that, at the same time, all people may be informed of their true character, and what true religion is, and the way to it in this age of high pretences, and as deep irreligion. That so the merciful visitation of the God of light and love, (more especially to these nations,) both immediately and instrumentally, for the promotion of piety, (which is religion indeed) may no longer be neglected by the inhabitants thereof, but that they may come to see, and say with heart and mouth, This is a dispensation of love and life from God to the world; and this poor people, that we have so much despised, and so often trod upon, and treated as the off-scouring of the earth, are the people of God, and children of the Most High.'

Bear with me, reader; I know what I say, and am not high-minded, but fear: for I write with humility towards God, though with confidence towards thee. Not that thou shouldest believe upon my authority, nothing less; for that is not to act upon knowledge, but trust; but that thou shouldest try and approve what I write for that is all I ask, as well as all I need for thy conviction, and my own justification. The whole, indeed, being but a spiritual experiment upon the soul, and therefore seeks for no implicit credit, because it is self-evident to them that will uprightly try it.

And when thou, reader, shalt come to be acquainted with this principle, and the plain and happy teachings of it, thou wilt, with us, admire thou shouldest live so long a stranger to that which was so near thee, and as much wonder that other folks should be so blind as not to see it, as formerly thou thoughtest us singular for obeying it. The day, I believe, is at hand, that will declare this with an uncontrolable authority, because it will be with an unquestionable evidence.

I have done, reader, with this preface, when I have told thee, First, that I have stated the principle, and opened, as God has enabled me, the nature and virtue of it in religion; wherein the common doctrines and articles of the Christian religion are delivered and improved; and about which, I

have endeavoured to express myself in plain and proper terms, and not in figurative, allegorical, or doubtful phrases; that so I may leave no room for an equivocal or double sense; but that the truth of the subject I treat upon may appear easily and evidently to every common understanding. Next, I have confirmed what I have writ, by scripture, reason, and the effects of it upon so great a people; whose uniform concurrence in the experience and practice thereof, through all times and sufferings, since a people, challenge the notice and regard of every serious reader. Thirdly, I have written briefly, that so it might be every one's money and reading: and, much in a little is best, when we see daily, the richer people grow, the less money or time they have for God or religion: and perhaps those that would not buy a large book, may find in their hearts to give away some of these for their neighbour's good, being little and cheap. Be serious, reader; be impartial, and then be as inquisitive as thou canst; and that for thine own soul, as well as the credit of this most misunderstood and abused people: and the God and Father of lights and spirits so bless thine, in the perusal of this short treatise, that thou mayest receive real benefit by it, to his glory, and thine own comfort: which is the desire and end of him that wrote it; who is, in the bonds of Christian charity, very much, and very ardently,

Thy real friend,




§. 1. Their fundamental principle. §. 2. The nature of it. §. 3. Called by several names. §. 4. They refer all to this, as to faith and practice, ministry, and worship.

§. 1. THAT which the people called Quakers lay down, as a main fundamental in religion, is this, "That God, through Christ, hath placed a principle in every man to inform him of his duty, and to enable him to do it; and that those that live up to this principle, are the people of God; and those that live in disobedience to it, are not God's people, whatever name they may bear, or profession they may make of

religion.' This is their ancient, first and standing testimony with this they began, and this they bore, and do bear, to the world.

§. 2. By this principle they understand something that is divine; and though in man, yet not of man, but of God; and that it came from him, and leads to him all those that will be led by it.

§. 3. There are divers ways of speaking they have been led to use, by which they declare and express what this principle is, about which I think fit to precaution the reader, viz. they call it "the light of Christ within man," or, 'light within,'* which is their ancient, and most general and familiar phrase, also the manifestation + or appearance of Christ; the witness of God, the seed of God; the seed of the kingdom;§ wisdom, I the word ** in the heart; the grace ++ that appears to all men; the Spirit ‡‡ given to every man to profit with; the truth |||| in the inward parts; the spiritual leaven,§§ that leavens the whole lump of man: which are many of them figurative expressions, but all of them such as the Holy Ghost had used, and which will be used in this treatise, as they are most frequently in the writings and ministry of this people. But that this variety and manner of expression may not occasion any misapprehension or confusion in the understanding of the reader, I would have him know, that they always mean by these terms, or denominations, not another, but the same principle, before mentioned: which, as I said, though it be in man, is not of man, but of God, and therefore divine: and one in itself, though diversly expressed by the holy men, according to the various manifestations and operations thereof.

§. 4. It is to this principle of light, life, and grace, that this people refer all: for they say, it is the great agent in religion; that, without which, there is no conviction, so no conversion, or regeneration; and consequently no entering into the kingdom of God. That is to say. there can be no true sight of sin, nor sorrow for it, and therefore no forsaking or overcoming of it, or remission or justification from it. A necessary and powerful principle indeed, when neither sanctification nor justification can be had without it. In short, there is no becoming virtuous, holy, and good, without this principle; no acceptance with God, nor peace

[blocks in formation]

of soul, but through it. But, on the contrary, that the reason of so much irreligion among Christians, so much superstition, instead of devotion, and so much profession without enjoyment, and so little heart-reformation, is, because people, in religion, overlook this principle, and leave it behind


They will be religious without it, and Christians without it, though this be the only means of making them so indeed. So natural is it to man, in his degenerate state, to prefer sacrifice before obedience, and to make prayers go for practice, and so flatter himself to hope, by ceremonial and bodily service, to excuse himself with God from the stricter discipline of this principle in the soul, which leads man to take up the cross, deny himself, and do that which God requires of him: and that is every man's true religion, and every such man is truly religious: that is, he is holy, humble, patient, meek, merciful, just, kind, and charitable; which, they say, no man can make himself; but that this principle will make them all so, that will embrace the convictions and teachings of it, being the root of all true religion in man, and the good seed from whence all good fruits proceed. To sum up what they say upon the nature and virtue of it, as contents of that which follows, they declare that this principle is, First, divine. Secondly, universal. Thirdly, efficacious: in that it gives man,

First, The knowledge of God, and of himself; and therein, a sight of his duty, and disobedience to it.

Secondly, It begets a true sense and sorrow for sin in those that seriously regard the convictions of it.

Thirdly, It enables them to forsake sin, and sanctifies from it.

Fourthly, It applies God's mercies, in Christ, for the forgiveness of sins that are past, unto justification, upon such sincere repentance and obedience.

Fifthly, It gives, to the faithful, perseverance unto a perfect man, and the assurance of blessedness, world without end.

To the truth of all which, they call in a threefold evidence: First, The scriptures, which give an ample witness, especially those of the New and better Testament. Secondly, The reasonableness of it in itself. And lastly, a general experience, in great measure; but particularly their own, made credible by the good fruits they have brought forth, and the answer God has given to their ministry which, to impartial observers, have commended the principle, and gives me occasion to abstract their history, in divers particulars, for a conclusion to this little treatise.


§. 1. The evidence of Scripture for this Principle, John i. 4. 9. §. 2. Its divinity. §, 3. All things created by it. §, 4. What it is to man, as to salvation.

§. 1. I SHALL begin with the evidence of the blessed scriptures of truth, for this divine principle, and that under the name of light, the first and most common word used by them, to express and denominate this principle by, as well as most apt and proper in this dark state of the world.

John i. 1. "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God."

Verse 3. "All things were made by him."

Verse 4. "In him was life, and that life was the light of men."

Verse 9. "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

§. 2. I have begun with him, that began his history with Him that was "the beginning of the creation of God," the most beloved disciple, and longest liver of all the apostles; and he, that for excellent knowledge and wisdom in heavenly things, is justly intituled John the Divine.' He tells us, first, what he was in the beginning, viz. The Word. "In the beginning was the word."

And though that shows what the word must be, yet he adds and explains, that the "word was with God, and the word was God;" lest any should doubt of the divinity of the word, or have lower thoughts of him than he deserved. The word, then, is divine; and an apt term it is, that the evangelist styles him by, since it is so great an expression of the wisdom and power of God to men.

§. 3. "All things were made by him." If so, he wants no power. And if we were made by him, we must be newmade by him too, or we can never enjoy God. His power shows his dignity, and that nothing can be too hard for such a sufficiency as "made all things, and without which nothing was made, that was made. As man's "maker must be his husband," so his creator must be his redeemer also.

§. 4. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." This is our point. The evangelist first begins with the nature and being of the word: from thence he descends to the works of the word: and lastly, then he tells us, what the word is, with respect to man above the rest of the creation, viz. "The word was life, and the life was the light of men.' The relation must be very near and intimate, when the very life of the word (that was with God, and was God) is the light of men as if men were next to

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »