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


Primitive Christianity Revived

in the faith and practice of the people called Quakers.

by William Penn.


Chapter I.

§ 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, 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 hath 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 diversely 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 either 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 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 them.

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 with hope, by ceremonial and bodily service, to excuse himself to God from the stricter discipline of this Principle in the soul, which leads Man to take up the Cross, deny self, 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 all men 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.

[Continued, Chapter II.]


NOTES and COMMENTS

Divers ways of speaking, by which they declare and express this principle:
 ^ light of Christ within man, or, light within
John i. 9. That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
 ^ manifestation or appearance of Christ
Rom. i. 19. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.
Titus iii. 4. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.
Acts xvii. 28. For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
2 Peter i. 4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world
 ^ witness of God
Rom. viii. 6. For to be carnally minded, is death ; but to be spiritually minded, is life and peace.
1 John v. 10-12. He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life ; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.
 ^ seed of God
1 Peter i. 23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.
1 John iii. 9. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
 ^ seed of the kingdom
Matt. xiii. 19-23. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which receiveth seed by the way side.
     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while : for when tribulation or persecution ariseth, because of the word, by-and-by he is offended.
     He also that received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
     But he that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty.
 ^ wisdom
Prov. i. 20-23. Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Prov. viii. 1-4. Doth not wisdom cry ? and understanding put forth her voice ? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors: Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
 ^ word in the heart
Deut. xxx. 12-14. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it ? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it ? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Rom. x. 6-8. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven ? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead:) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach.
Psalm cxix. 10. With my whole heart have I sought thee: 0 let me not wander from thy commandments.
 ^ grace that appears to all men
Titus 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.
 ^ spirit given to every man to profit with
1 Cor. xii. 7. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
 ^ truth in the inward parts
Psalm li. 6. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Isaiah xxvi. 2. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.
John xiv. 6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.
 ^ spiritual leaven that leavens the whole lump of man
Matt. xiii. 33. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.