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


Primitive Christianity Revived

in the faith and practice of the people called Quakers.

by William Penn.


CHAPTER IV.

§ 1. The virtue of the light within; it gives discerning. § 2. It manifests God. § 3. It gives life to the soul. § 4. It is the apostolic message. § 5. Objection answered about two lights. § 6. About natural and spiritual light: not two darknesses within, therefore, not two lights within. § 7. The Apostle John answers the objection fully : the light the same, 1 John ii. 8, 9. 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. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

§ 1. THE third thing, is the virtue and efficacy of this light for the end for which God hath given it, viz. To lead and guide the soul of man to blessedness. In order to which, the first thing it does in and for man, is to give him a true sight or discerning of himself: what he is, and what he does ; that he may see and know his own condition, and what judgment to make of himself, with respect to religion and a future state: of which, let us hear what the word himself saith, that cannot err, as John relates it, chap. iii. 20, 21. "For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."

A most pregnant instance of the virtue and authority of the light. First, it is that which men ought to examine themselves by. Secondly, it gives a true discerning betwixt good and bad, what is of God, from what is not of God. And, lastly, it is a judge, and condemned or acquitteth, reproveth or comforteth, the soul of man, as he rejects or obeys it. That must needs be divine or efficacious, which is able to discover to man, what is of God, from what is not of God; and which gives him a distinct knowledge, in himself, of what is wrought in God, from what is not wrought in God. By which it appears, that this place does not only regard the discovery of man and his works, but, in some measure, it manifesteth God, and his works also, which is yet something higher; forasmuch as it gives the obedient man a discovery of what is wrought or performed by God's power, and after his will, from what is the mere workings of the creature of himself.

If it could not manifest God, it could not tell man what was God's mind, nor give him such a grounded sense and discerning of the rise, nature, and tendency of the workings of his mind or inward man, as is both expressed and abundantly implied in this passage of our Saviour. And if it reveals God, to-be-sure it manifests Christ, that flows and comes from God. Who then would oppose or slight this blessed light ?

§ 2. But that this light doth manifest God, is yet evident from Rom. i. 19. Because that which may be known of God, is manifest in them: for God hath showed it unto them. An universal proposition ; and we have the apostle's word for it, who was one of a thousand, and inspired on purpose to tell us the truth: let it then have its due weight with us. If that which may be known of God is manifest in men, the people called Quakers cannot, certainly, be out of the way in preaching up the light within, without which, nothing can be manifested to the mind of man; as saith the same apostle to the Ephesians, Eph. v. 13.

But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest, is light. Well then may they call this light within a manifestation or appearance of God, that sheweth in and to man, all that may be known of God. A passage much like unto this, is that of the Prophet Micah, chap. vi. 8. God hath shewed thee, 0 man, what is good ; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ? God hath shewed thee, 0 man ! It is very emphatical. But how hath He shewed him? Why by his light in the conscience, which the wicked rebel against, Job xxiv. 13. Who, for that cause, know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof: For its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace, to them that obey it.

§ 3. But the light giveth the light of life, which is eternal life to them that receive and obey it. Thus, says the blessed Saviour of the world, John viii. 12, I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life. Now he is the light of the world, because he lighteth every man that cometh into the world, and they that obey that light obey him, and therefore have the light of life. That is, the light becomes eternal life to the soul: that as it is the life of the word, which is the light in man, so it becomes the life in man, through his obedience to it, as his heavenly light.

§ 4. Furthermore, this light was the very ground of the apostolic message, as the beloved disciple assures us, 1 John i. 5, 6, 7. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Which is so comprehensive of the virtue and excellency of the light, in reference to man, that there is little need that more should be said upon it; forasmuch as, first, it reveals God, and that God himself is light. Secondly, it discovers darkness from light, and that there is no fellowship between them. Thirdly, that man ought to walk in the light. Fourthly, that it is the way to obtain forgiveness of sin and sanctification from it. Fifthly, that it is the means to have peace and fellowship with God and his people; his true church, redeemed from the pollutions of the world.

§ 5. Some, perhaps, may object, as indeed it hath been more than once objected upon us, That this is another light, not that light wherewith every man is enlightened. But the same apostle, in his evangelical history, tells us, that in the word was life, and the life was the light of men, and that that very light, was the life of the word, was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, 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. Where is there so plain a text to be found against the sufficiency, as well as universality of the light within; or a plainer for any article of faith in the whole book of God ? Had the beloved disciple intended two lights, in his evangelical history, and his epistles, to-be-sure he would have noted to us his distinction: but we read of none, and by the properties ascribed in each writing, we have reason to conclude he meant the same.

§ 6. But if any shall yet object, That this is to be understood a spiritual light, and that ours is to be a natural one, I shall desire them to do two things: First, to prove that a natural light, as they phrase it, doth manifest God, other than as I have before explained and allowed; since whatever is part of man, in his constitution, but especially in his degeneracy from God, is so far from yielding him the knowledge of God, that it cannot rightly reprove or discover that which offends him, without the light we speak of: and it is granted, that what we call divine, and some, mistakingly, call natural light, can do both. Secondly, if this light be natural, notwithstanding it doth manifest our duty, and reprove our disobedience to God, they would do well to assign us some certain medium, or way, whereby we may truly discern and distinguish between the manifestations and reproofs of the natural light within, from those of the divine light within, since they allow the manifestation of God, and reproof of evil, as well to the one, as to the other. Let them give us but one Scripture that distinguishes between a natural and a spiritual light within. They may, with as much reason, talk of a natural and spiritual darkness within. It is true, there is a natural proper darkness, to wit, the night of the outward world; and there is a spiritual darkness, viz. the clouded and benighted understandings of men, through disobedience to the light and spirit of God: but let them assign us a third, if they can. People use, indeed, to say, improperly, of blind men, they are dark, we may call a natural or idiot so, if we will; but where is there another darkness of the understanding, in the things of God ? If they can, I say, find that, in and about the things of God, they do something.

Christ distinguished not between darkness and darkness, or light and light, in any such sense; nor did any of his disciples : yet both have frequently spoken of darkness and light. What difference, pray, doth the Scriptures put between spiritual darkness and darkness mentioned in these places,

Luke i. 79. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Mat. iv. 16. The people which sat in darkness, saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up.

John i. 5. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John iii. 19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

John viii. 12, 31, 46. 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. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; which of you convinceth me of sin ? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe on me ?

1 Thes. v. 4. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

1 John i. 6. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.

Acts xxvi. 18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Rom. xiii. 12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

2 Cor. vi. 14. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ?

Eph. v. 8. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of the light:

Col. i. 18. "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son;

Upon the strictest comparison of them I find none. It is all one spiritual darkness. Neither is there so much as one Scripture that affords us a distinction between light within and light within; or that there are really two lights from God, in man, that regard religion. Peruse Mat. iv. 16. The people which sat in darkness, saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up.

Luke ii. 32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Luke xv. 8. Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently, till she find it ?

John i. 4, 5, 7, 8, 9. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness ; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

Chap. iii. 19, 20, 21. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.

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.

Acts xxvi. 18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Rom. xiii. 12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

2 Cor. iv. 6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Chap. vi. 14. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ?

Eph. v. 8, 13. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest, is light.

Col. i. 12. Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;

1 Thes. v. 5. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness.

1 Tim. vi. 16. Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

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

1 John i. 5, 7. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Chap. 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.

Rev. xxi. 23, 24. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved, shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

Chap. xxii. 5. And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign forever and ever.

And we believe the greatest opposer, to our assertion, will not be able to sever light from light, or find out two lights within, in the passages here mentioned, or any other, to direct man in his duty to God and his neighbour: and if he cannot, pray let him forbear his mean thoughts and words of the light of Christ within man, as man's guide in duty to God and man. For as he must yield to us, that the light manifesteth evil, and reproveth for it, so doth Christ himself teach us of the light, John iii. 20. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh unto the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. And the Apostle Paul plainly saith, Eph. v. 13. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; therefore there are not two distinct lights within, but one and the same manifesting, reproving, and teaching light within. And this the Apostle John, in his first epistle, makes plain, beyond all exception, to all considerate people: First, in that he calls God, light, chap. i. 5: This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you. that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Secondly, in that he puts no medium or third thing between that light, and darkness, verse 6. If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, &c. Intimating, that men must walk either in light or darkness, and not in a third, or other state or region. I am sure, that which manifests and reproves darkness, cannot be darkness. This all men must confess.

§ 7. And, as if the Apostle John would have anticipated their objection, viz. 'Tis true, your light within reproves for evil, but it is not therefore the Divine Light which leads into higher things, and which comes by the gospel; he thus expresseth himself, 1 John ii. 8, 9: The darkness is past, and the true Light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now; which is not another light than that mentioned before, chap. i. For as light is put there, in opposition to darkness, so light here, is put in opposition to darkness. And as the darkness is the same, so must the light be the same. Wherefore we may plainly see, that it is not another light, than that which reproves a man for hating his brother, which brings a man into fellowship with God, and to the blood of cleansing, as the next verse speaks: therefore that Light which reproveth a man for hating his brother, is of a divine and efficacious nature. In short, that light which is opposite to, and reproves spiritual darkness, in a man and woman, is a spiritual Light; but such a Light is that which we confess, testify to, and maintain: therefore it is a spiritual Light. It is also worth our notice, that the apostle useth the same manner of expression here, chap. ii. 8, The true Light shineth, that he doth in his Evangelical History, chap. i. 9: That was the true Light; intimating the same divine Word, or true Light now shineth; and that it is the same true Light in his account, that reproveth such as hate their brethren: consequently, that Light that so reproveth them is the true Light. And strange it is, that Christ and his disciples, but especially his beloved one, should so often make that very light, which stoops to the lowest step of immorality, and to the reproof of the grossest evil, to be no other than the same divine light, in a farther degree of manifestation, which brings such as follow it to the Light of Life, to the blood of cleansing, and to have fellowship with God, and one with another: Nay, not only so, but the apostle makes a man's being a child of God, to depend upon his answering of this light in a palpable and common case, viz. Not hating of his brother: and that yet any should shut their eyes so fast against beholding the virtue of it, as to conclude it a natural and insufficient light, is both unscriptural and unreasonable. Shall we slight it, because we come so easily by it, and it is so familiar and domestic to us? Or make its being so common an argument to undervalue so inestimable a mercy? What is more common than light, and air, and water? And should we therefore contemn them, or prize them ? Prize them, certainly, as what we cannot live, nor live comfortably without. The more general the mercy is, the greater, and therefore the greater obligation upon man to live humbly and thankfully for it. And to those alone that do so, are its divine secrets revealed.

[Continued, Chapter V]