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Primitive Christianity Revived

in the faith and practice of the people called Quakers.

by William Penn.


Page 125, listing of section titles for chapter 10.§ 1. Of the true worship of God in what it stands.
§ 2. Of the true ministry, that it is by Inspiration.
§ 3. The Scripture plain in that case.
§ 4. Christ's ministers, true witnesses, they speak what they know, not by report.
§ 5. Christ's ministers preach freely; it is one of their marks.
[§ 6. Of the sufficiency and glorious privilege of inward and spiritual teachings.]

Notes on Chap. X, § 6

This on-line edition of Primitive Christianity Revived comes from an 1857 edition published by James M. Brown, a non-Friend who admired William Penn and thought Penn's work should be available to the wider public. At the time, William Penn's reputation was under attack by British historian and politician T.B. Macaulay, and Brown includes in his book material defending Penn as well as an Appendix intended to show that Penn was fairly orthodox by conventional Christian standards.

Brown does not indicate the source text for his edition of Primitive Christianity Revived. He did edit it somewhat, modifying the patterns of capital letters and, in the body of the text, inserting the lines of scripture that Penn had merely cited.

In one aspect, however, Brown was scrupulous – he kept an odd feature of the original text – a section mark, § 1, marking off what would otherwise have been the last part of Section 5, Chapter 10.

Page 137, giving a Section 1 after Section 5. § 1. Obj. But does not this sort of ministry, and worship, tend to make people careless, and to raise spiritual pride in others, may it not give an occasion to great mischief and irreligion?

The text above is from Brown's 1857 edition. The photos on this page are of an original copy of Penn's 1699 second edition, in the Rare Books Collection at the University of Pennsylvania. The title page:

Title page, Primitive Christianity Revived, Wm Penn.

Following are photos of page 125 of the original, showing the listing of sections for Chapter 10, and of page 137, showing the section mark, § 1:

Page 125 of Primitive Christianity Revived, 2nd ed. Page 137, Primitive Christianity Revived, 2nd ed.

It seems that Penn may have marked off a separate section but neglected to supply a title to be used at the head of the chapter. The typographer, in such a situation, might have put in the section mark, numbered it 1 to show the anomaly, and gone on to set the type for the rest of the work. But how this anomaly might have been carried forward into the second edition is a mystery.

Note that the previous section, § 5, deals briefly with the specific issue of paid ministers. The next section answers an objection made to the entire mode of Quaker ministry and worship, as described in the chapter as a whole. The objection suggests that, without a religious hierarchy and paid ministry, Friends would go astray. Properly, then, there ought to be a separate section in answer to this objection.

This wouldn't be so interesting except that, in hindsight, the answer that Penn gives in the "missing" section seems to anticipate a shift over the next three centuries in Quaker faith and practice, which could be understood as fulfilling the emphasis that Penn put on "walking with, more than talking of, God." (The link here is to discussion in the Street Corner Society blog.)

The full version of Chapter 10 from Brown's 1857 edition, which includes the verses of scripture that Penn cites, is available here as part of this online edition. The section title given at the beginning of the chapter for § 6, "Of the sufficiency and glorious privilege of inward and spiritual teachings," comes from the body of the text.

Another online edition of Primitive Christianity Revived, provided by Earlham College's Digital Quaker Collection, is here as part of the Collection of the works of William Penn (Volume 2). This edition also retains the anomalous section mark.

Meanwhile, a print edition of Primitive Christianity Revived published by Earlham School of Religion in 2003, translated into modern English by Paul Buckley, treats it as part of section 5, without comment.

The final section of Chapter 10, without the scriptural quotes that Brown added, is as follows:

§. 1. Obj. But does not this sort of ministry, and worship, tend to make people careless, and to raise spiritual pride in others, may it not give an occasion to great mischief and irreligion?

Answ. By no means, for when people are of age, they, of right, expect their inheritances; and the end of all words is to bring people to the great Word, and then the promise of God is accomplished, "They shall be all taught of me, from the least to the greatest, and in righteousness (pray mark that) they shall be established, and great shall be their peace." To this of the evangelical prophet, the beloved disciple agrees, and gives a full answer to the objection: These things have I written unto you, concerning them that seduce you: but the anointing, which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you, of all things, and is truth, and is no lie: and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him: In which, three things are observable. 1st. That he wrote his epistle upon an extraordinary occasion, viz. to prevent their delusion. 2dly. That he asserts a nearer and superior minister than himself, viz. the anointing or grace they had received; and that not only in that particular exigency, but in all cases that might attend them. 3dly. That if they did but take head to the teachings of it, they would have no need of man's directions, or fear of his seducings. At least of no ministry that comes not from the power of the anointing: though I rather take the apostle in the highest sense of the words: thus also the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians: "But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another," 1 Thess. iv. 9. But helps are useful, and a great blessing, if from God, such was John the Baptist's; but remember he pointed all to Christ. John i. 26: "Lo, the Lamb of God! I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," Matt. iii. 11. And so the true ministry does. And while people are sensual, and under such an eclipse, by the interposition of sin and Satan, God is pleased to send forth his enlightening servants to awaken and turn them from the darkness to the light in themselves, that, through obedience to it, they may come to be children of the light. John xii. 36: And have their fellowship one with another in it, and an inheritance at last, with the saints in light forever.

And as it is the way God has taken to call and gather people, so a living and holy ministry is of great advantage to watch over, and build up the young, and comfort and establish the feeble and simple ones. But still I say, the more inward, the less outward; the more people come to be taught immediately of God, by the light of his word and Spirit in their hearts, the less need of outward means, read Isa. lx. 19, 20. Which is held by all to be a gospel promise, and the sun and moon there are generally understood to mean the external means in the church. Compare them with John i. 13. Rom. i. 19. 1 Cor. ii. 11-15. 1 Thess. iv. 9. 1 John ii. 20-27. Rev. xxi. 22, 23, 24. All which places prove what we assert of the sufficiency and glorious privilege of inward and spiritual teachings. And most certainly, as men grow in grace, and know the anointing of the Word in themselves, the dispensation will be less in words (though in words) and more in life; and preaching will in great measure be turned into praising, and the worship of God, more into walking with, than talking of God: for that is worship indeed, that bows to his will at all times, and in all places: the truest, the highest worship, man is capable of in this world. And it is that conformity that gives communion, and there is no fellowship with God, no light of his countenance to be enjoyed, no peace and assurance to be had, further than their obedience to his will, and a faithfulness to his word, according to the manifestation of the light thereof in the heart.

I say, this is the truest and highest state of worship; for set days and places, with all the solemnity of them, were most in request in the weakest dispensation. Altars, arks and temples, Sabbaths and festivals, &c., are not to be found in the writings of the New Testament. There every day is alike, and every place is alike; but if there were a dedication, let it be to the Lord. Rom. xiv. 5, 6, 7, 8, 17 . 1 Cor. viii. 6. Col. ii. 16, 17. Phil. i. 21. Gal. ii. 20. Thus the Apostle, but he plainly shows a state beyond it, for to live (with him) was Christ, and to die was gain; for the life he lived, was by the faith of the Son of God, and therefore it was not he that lived, but Christ that lived in him; that is, that ruled, conducted, and bore sway in him, which is the true Christian life, the supersensual life; the life of conversion and regeneration; to which all the dispensations of God, and ministry of his servants have ever tended, as the consummation of God's work for man's happiness. Here every man is a temple, and every family a church, and every place a meeting-place, and every visit a meeting. And yet a little while and it shall be so yet more and more; and a people the Lord is now preparing to enter into this Sabbath or degree of rest.

Not that we would be thought to undervalue public and solemn meetings: we have them all over the nation where the Lord hath called us. Yea, though but two or three of us be in a corner of a country, we meet, as the Apostle exhorted the saints of his time, and reproved such as neglected to assemble themselves. But yet show we unto thee, 0 reader, a more excellent way of worship: for many may come to those meetings, and go away carnal, dead and dry; but the worshippers in spirit and in truth, whose hearts bow, whose minds adore the Eternal God, that is a Spirit, in and by his Spirit, such as conform to his will, and walk with him in a spiritual life, they are the true, constant, living and acceptable worshippers; whether it be in meetings or out of meetings; and as with such, all outward assemblies are greatly comfortable, so also do we meet for a public testimony of religion and worship, and for the edification and encouragement of those that are yet young in the truth, and to call and gather others to the knowledge of it, who are yet going astray; and blessed be God, it is not in vain, since many are thereby added to the church, that we hope and believe shall be saved.

[Return to entire Chapter X.]