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Historical texts  >  Primitive Christianity Revived, William Penn  >  Chapter Three


Primitive Christianity Revived

in the faith and practice of the people called Quakers.

by William Penn.


CHAPTER III.

§ 1. How this Scripture is wrested. § 2. That it is a Natural Light. § 3. That it lighteth not all. § 4. That it is only the Doctrine and Life of Christ when in the Flesh. All answered, and its Divinity and Universality proved.

§ 1. BUT though there be no passage or proposition to be found in Holy Scripture, in which mankind is more interested, or that is more clearly laid down by the Holy Ghost, than this I have produced, yet hardly hath any place been more industriously wrested from its true and plain sense: especially since this people have laid any stress upon it, in defence of their testimony of the light within. Some will have it to be but a natural light, or a part of man's nature, though it be the very life of the Word, by which the world was made; and mentioned within those verses, which only concern his eternal power and Godhead. But because I would be understood, and treat of things with all plainness, I will open the terms of the objection as well as I can, and then give my answer to it.

§ 2. If by natural be meant a created thing, as man is, or any thing that is requisite to the composition of man, I deny it: the text is expressly against it; and says, the light with which man is lighted, is the life of the word, which was with God, and was God, But if by natural is only intended, that the light comes along with us into the world; or that we have it as sure as we are born, or have nature; and is the light of our nature, of our minds and understandings, and is not the result of any revelation from without, as by angels or men; then we mean and intend the same thing. For it is natural to man to have a supernatural light, and for the creature to be lighted by an uncreated light, as is the life of the creating word. And did people but consider the constitution of man, it would conduce much to preserve or deliver them from any dilemma upon this account. For man can be no more a light to his mind, than he is to his body: he has the capacity of seeing objects when he has the help of light, but cannot be a light to himself, by which to see them. Wherefore as the sun in the firmament is the light of the body, and gives us discerning in our temporal affairs ; so the life of the word is the glorious light and sun of the soul: our intellectual luminary, that informs our mind, and gives us true judgment and distinction about those things that more immediately concern our better, inward and eternal man.

§ 3. But others will have this text read thus, not that the word enlightens all mankind, but that all who are enlightened, are enlightened by him, thereby not only narrowing and abusing the text, but rendering God partial, and so severe to his creatures, as to leave the greatest part of the world in darkness, without the means or opportunity of salvation; though we are assured from the Scriptures that all have light, that Christ is the light of the world, and that he died for all; yea, the ungodly, and that God desires not the death of any, but rather that all should repent and come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved; and that the grace of God has appeared to all men, &c.

§ 4. There is a third sort that will needs have it understood, not of any illumination by a divine light or spirit in man, but by the doctrine Christ preached, and the life and example he lived, and led in the world; and which yet neither reached the thousandth part of mankind, nor can consist with what the apostle John intends in the beginning of his history, which wholly relates to what Christ was before he took flesh, or at least, what he is to the soul, by his immediate inshinings and influences. 'Tis most true, Christ was, in a sense, the light of the world, in that very appearance, and shined forth by his heavenly doctrine, many admirable miracles, and his self-denying life and death: but still that hinders not, but that he was and is that spiritual light, which shineth more or less, in the hearts of the sons and daughters of men. For as he was a light in his life and conversation, he was only a light in a more excellent sense than he spoke of to his disciples, when he said, Ye are the lights of the worlds But Christ the word enlightened them, and enlightens us, and enlightens all men that come into the world; which he could not be said to do, if we only regard his personal and outward appearance: for in that sense it is long since he was that light, but in this he is continually so. In that respect he is remote, but in this sense he is present and immediate, else we should render the text, That was the true light which did lighten, instead of which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. And that the evangelist might be so understood, as we speak, he refers to this as an evidence of his being the Messiah, and not John; for whom many people had much reverence, for in verse eighth he saith of John, He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light: now comes his proof and our testimony, that was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world; which was not John, or any else, but the word that was with God, and was God.

The evangelist did not describe him by his fasting forty days, preaching so many sermons, working so many miracles, and living so holy a life; and, after all, so patiently suffering death, (which yet Christ did) thereby to prove him the light of the world; but, says the evangelist, That was the true light, the word in flesh, the Messiah, and not John, or any else, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. So that Christ is manifested and distinguished by giving light: and indeed so are all his followers from other people, by receiving and obeying it. There are many other Scriptures, of both Testaments, that refer to the light within; either expressly, or implicitly; which, for brevity's sake, I shall waive reciting; but the reader will find some directions in the margin, which will guide him to them.

The Scriptures referred to are as follows.

Job xviii. 5, 6. Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine. The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him.

Chap. xxi. 17. How oft is the candle of the wicked put out? and how oft cometh their destruction upon them? God distributeth sorrows in his anger.

Chap. xxv. 3. Is there any number of his armies ? and upon whom doth not his light arise.

Chap. xxxvlii. 15. And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken. Psalm xviii. 28. For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will lighten my darkness.

Psalm xxvii. 1. The Lord is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm xxxiv. 5. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

Psalm xxxvi. 9. For with thee is the fountain of life : in thy light shall we see light.

Psalm cxviii. 27. God is the Lord, which hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

Psalm cxix. 105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Prov. xiii. 9. The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.

Prov. xx. 20, 27. Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

Prov. xxiv. 20. For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.

Isa. ii. 5. 0 house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isa. viii. 20. To the law and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Isa. xlii. 6. I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles:

Isa. xlix. 6. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

1 Peter ii. 9. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

1 John ii. 8. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him, and in you; because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

[Continued, Chapter IV.]


Notes and Links

 ^ all have light
John i. 4, 9. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
 ^ Christ is the light of the world
Chap. viii. 12. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
 ^ he died for all; yea, the ungodly
Rom. v. 6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.
2 Cor. v. 15. And that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
 ^ that all should repent and come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved
1 Tim. ii. 4. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
 ^ the grace of God has appeared to all
Tit. ii. 11, 12. For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.