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


Primitive Christianity Revived

in the faith and practice of the people called Quakers.

by William Penn.


CHAPTER V.

§ 1. The Light the same with the Spirit. It is of God; proved by its properties. § 2. The properties of the Spirit compared with those of the Light. § 3. The Light and Grace flow from the same principle, proved by their agreeing properties. § 4. An objection answered. § 5. Difference in manifestation, or operation, especially in Gospel times, but not in principle, illustrated.

§ 1. BUT some may say, We could willingly allow to the Spirit and grace of God, which seemed to be the peculiar blessing of the new and second covenant, and the fruit of the coming of Christ, all that which you ascribe to the light within; but except it appeared to us that this light were the same in nature with the Spirit and grace of God, we cannot easily bring ourselves to believe what you say in favour of the light within.

Answ. This objection, at first look, seems to carry weight with it: but upon a just and serious review, it will appear to have more words than matter, show than substance: yet because it gives occasion to solve scruples, that may be flung in the way of the simple, I shall attend it throughout. I say, then, if it appear that the properties ascribed to the light within are the same with those that are given to the Holy Spirit and grace of God; and that those several terms or epithets, are only to express the divers manifestations or operations of one and the same principle, then it will not, it cannot be denied, but this light within, is divine and efficacious, as we have asserted it. Now, that it is of the same nature with the Spirit and grace of God, and tends to the same end, which is to bring people to God, let the properties of the light be compared with those of the Spirit and grace of God. I say, they are the same, in that, First, The light proceeds from the One Word, and One Life of that One Word, which was with God and was God. John i. 4: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And John i. 9 : That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Secondly, It is universal, it lighteth every man. Thirdly, It giveth the knowledge of God and fellowship with him. Rom. i. 19: Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. John iii. 21: But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 1 John i. 5, 6: 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. Fourthly, It manifesteth and reproveth evil, John iii. 20: For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. Eph. v. 13: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Fifthly, It is made the rule and guide of Christian walking, Psalm xliii. 3: 0 send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. John 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. Eph. v. 13, 14: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Sixthly, It is the path for God's people to go in, Psalm cxix. 105 : Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Prov. iv. 18 : But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Isa. ii. 5: 0 house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. 1 John i. 7: 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. Rev. xxi. 24: 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. And the nations of them that are saved, shall walk in the light (of the Lamb.) Lastly, It is the armour of the children of God against Satan, Psalm xxvii. 1: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear ? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 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. Now let all this be compared with the properties of the Holy Spirit, and their agreement will be very manifest. First, It proceedeth from God, because it is the Spirit of God, Rom. vi. 11: Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Secondly, It is universal. It strove with the old world, Gen. vi. 3: And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. Then to be sure with the new One: Every one hath a measure of it given to profit withal, 1 Cor. xii. 7. Thirdly, It revealeth God, Job xxxii. 8: But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11: But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him ? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Fourthly, It reproveth sin, John xvi. 8: And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Fifthly, It is a rule and a guide for the children of God to walk by, Rom. viii. 14: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Sixthly, It is also the path they are to walk in, Rom. viii. 1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Gal. v. 16 : This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Walk in the Spirit. Lastly, This is not all; it is likewise the spiritual weapon of a true Christian. Eph. vi. 17: Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. After this, I hope none will deny that this Light and this Spirit must be of one and the same nature, that work one and the same effect, and tend evidently to one and the same holy end.

§ 3. And what is said of the Light and Spirit, may also, very well be said of the Light and Grace of God: in that, First, The grace floweth from Christ, the Word, that took flesh, as well as the light; for as in him was life, and that life the light of men, so he was full of grace and truth, and of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace, John i. 4, 9,14,16: 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. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

Secondly, It is universal; both from this text, and what the apostle to Titus teacheth: 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, Titus ii. 11,12. Thirdly, It manifesteth evil, for if it teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, it must needs detect them, and so says the text. Fourthly, It revealeth godliness, and consequently it must manifest God. Fifthly, it is an instructor and Guide; for, says the apostle, It teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, and herein a rule of life, Tit. ii. 11, 12, Sixthly, It is to all that receive it, all that they can need or desire. 2 Cor. xii. 9: And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. An high testimony from Heaven, to the power of this teaching and saving grace, under the strongest temptations.

§ 4. Obj. But there is a little mention made of the Spirit, and none of the Grace, before Christ's coming, and therefore the Spirit, as spoken of in the writings of the New Testament, and especially the Grace, must be another, and a nobler thing than the light within.

Answ. By no means another thing, but another name, from another manifestation or operation, of the same principle. It is called light from the distinction and discerning it gives. Let there be light, and there was light, said God in the beginning of the world; so there is first Light in the beginning of the new creation of God in man. It is called Spirit, because it giveth life, sense, motion and vigour: and it is as often mentioned in the writings of the Old as New Testament; which every reader may see, if he will but please to look into his Scripture Concordance. Thus God's Spirit strove with the old world, Gen. vi. 3: And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. And with Israel in the wilderness, Neh. ix. 30: Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. And David asked, in the agony of his soul, Psalm cxxxix. 7, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit ? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence ? And the prophets often felt it. It is styled grace, not from its being another principle, but because it was a fuller dispensation of the virtue and power of the same divine principle: and that being purely God's favour and mercy, and not man's merit, is aptly, and deservedly called the grace, favour, or good-will of God to undeserving man. The wind does not always blow fresh, nor heaven send down its rain freely, nor the sun shine forth clearly; shall we therefore say, it is not of the same kind of wind, rain, or light, when it blows, rains, or shines but a little, as when it blows, rains, or shines much ? It is certainly the same in nature and kind; and so is this blessed principle, under all its several dispensations, manifestations and operations, for the benefit of man's soul, ever since the world began.

§ 5. But this is most freely, humbly and thankfully acknowledged by us, that the dispensation of the Gospel was the clearest, fullest, and noblest of all other, both with regard to the coming of Christ in the flesh, and being our one holy offering to God for sin, through the eternal Spirit; and the breaking forth of his light, the effusion of his Spirit, and appearance of his grace in, and to man, in a more excellent manner, after his ascension. For though it was not another Light, or Spirit, than that which he had given to man in former ages, yet it was another and greater measure; and that is the privilege of the gospel above former dispensations. What before shined but dimly, shines since with great glory. 2 Cor. iii. 18 : But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Then it appeared but darkly, but now with open face. Types, figures and shadows vailed its appearances and made them look low and faint; but in the gospel time, the vail is rent, and the hidden glory manifest. John i. 5,17 : And the Light shineth; in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." It was under the law but as a dew, or small rain, but under the gospel, it may be said to be poured out upon men; according to that gracious and notable promise of God, by the prophet Joel, chap. ii. 28: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." Thus we say when it rains plentifully, look how it pours, so God augments his light, grace, and Spirit to these latter days. They shall not have it sparingly, and by small drops, but fully and freely, and overflowing too. And thus Peter, that deep and excellent apostle, applies that promise in Joel, on the day of Pentecost, as the beginning of the accomplishment of it. This is grace, and favour, and goodness indeed. And therefore well may this brighter illumination, and greater effusion of the Spirit, be called grace; for as the coming of the Son excelled that of the servant, so did the manifestation of the light and Spirit of God, since the coming of Christ, excel that of the foregoing dispensations ; yet ever sufficient to salvation, to all those that walked in it. This is our sense of the light, Spirit, and grace of God: and by what is said, it is evident they are one and the same principle, and that he that has light, need not want the Spirit or grace of God, if he will but receive it, in the love of it: for the very principle, that is light to show him, is also spirit to quicken him, and grace to teach, help, and comfort him. It is sufficient in all circumstances of life, to them that diligently mind and obey it.

[Continued, Chapter VI.]