§ 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.]