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Opening the way to every Capacity how to distinguish the Religion professed by the
PEOPLE CALLED QUAKERS,
From the Perversions and Misrepresentations of their
A BRIEF EXHORTATION
ALL SORTS of PEOPLE,
To Examine their Ways and their Hearts, and turn speedily
to the Lord.
Published in the Year 1692.
OBSERVING the prevailing power of prejudice, and the too great easiness of mankind to be imposed upon by designing persons, and especially on the side of uncharitableness, (so depraved is the nature of man) and considering also what mischievous effects that evil has produced among too many of all sorts of people, to the hurt of civil as well as religious society, by the coldness, jealousy, uncharitableness, and animosity, even to hatred and persecution, (the very contrary and reverse of the true Christian religion) that have thereby abounded; we have the less wondered at the hard treatment we, as a people, have suffered from other persuasions, almost all of them having in their turn, some, I hope, ignorantly, others, I fear, wilfully, misrepresented our principles, misgiven our plain meanings, and called their own strained interpretations, aye, and their downright perversions too, our faith and religion: and thus dressing us in the bear's-skin, the credulous have been excited to look upon and treat us as heretics, seducers, blasphemers, and what
not; while (blessed be God) our aim and bent have been the very power and work of religion upon our souls, that we might be God's workmanship through Christ Jesus, his blessed Son and heavenly Agent; taking this to be the very life and soul of true religion; the effect and fruit of the divine nature, which makes us Christians indeed here, and fits us for glory hereafter. And because we have chosen retirement, moderation, self-denial, which to be sure are the solids and inwards, the spirit and substance of religion, and have therefore waved and sequestered ourselves from more outward and pompous communions, offence has been taken at us, and we have been disingenuously represented to the world; on which account I have published this little treatise, for the sake of others, as well as in our own vindication, but theirs especially that are under prejudices from vulgar abuses. I would intreat such to consider, that if it be an evil to judge rashly or untruly of any single man, how much greater sin it is to condemn an whole people: and if the matter about which the judgment is made, renders it more or less evil, certainly to condemn the religion of an whole people in the lump, which at once comprehends their faith, worship, and morals also, must be, if false or mistaken, as great an injustice as can well be committed; and the Almighty will not hold them guiltless that have been so uncharitable and injurious to their neighbours. And this we have frequently lamented as our great unhappiness, above all that our enemies have been able argumentatively to urge against us, that we are yet unknown of those that stick not to condemn us. But they must certainly be inexcusable, with just minds, that will take our belief at our enemies' rather than at our own hands, who best ought to know what we believe. But it will be the business of this little key to explain the pretended obscurity, and show the difference between our principles, and the vulgar account and apprehensions, and thereby open a way into so clear and plain an understanding of our true principles, from our ene mies' perversions, that we hope, with God's blessing, all impartial inquirers will be satisfied of our holy and Christian profession: and this we also earnestly desire for their good, that as we have been called of God, out of the evil of the world, to be a people to his praise, through his grace, so none may stumble or be offended at the truth we testify of; but seeing the excellency of it, by the peace and purity -it leads into, they may embrace it, and walk in it; which is the best way to end controversy, and obtain the great and true end of religion, the salvation of the soul.
A KEY, &c.
Of the Light within, what it is, and the virtue and benefit of it to man.
Perversion 1. THE Quakers hold, that the natural light in the conscience of every man in the world, is sufficient to save all that follow it; and so they overthrow salvation by Christ.' A mighty error indeed if it were true.
Principle. But it is, at best, a great mistake: for their belief and assertion is, "That Christ, who is the Word, that was with God, and was God; (and is so for ever) hath lighted every man that cometh into the world, with his own light," as he is that true light, or such a light, as there is no other to be compared with him; which is the meaning of the emphasis true in the text, John i. 9. And that such as follow the reproofs, convictions, and leadings of that light, with which he enlightens the understandings and consciences of men, shall not walk in darkness, that is, in evil and ignorance of God, but shall have the light of life; that is, be in a holy and living state or condition towards God: a state of acceptance and salvation; which is, from sin here, as well as from wrath hereafter; and for which end Christ was given of God.+ So that they assert the light of Christ to be sufficient to save; that is, to convince of sin, lead out of it, and quicken the soul in the ways of holiness; and not to be a natural light, otherwise than as all men, born into the world, have a measure of Christ's light; and so it may, in a sense, be said to be natural to all men, because all men have it coming into the world. For this light is something else than the bare understanding man hath as a rational creature; since, as such, man cannot be a light to himself; but has only a capacity of seeing, by means of the light with which Christ, the Word, enlighteneth him. For we can no more be a mental or intellectual light to ourselves, than we are an external and corporeal light to ourselves: but as the sun in the firmament is the light of our bodies, so the light of the Divine Word is the sun of our souls; the glorious
John i. 1, 9.
c. v. 40.
+ See Isa. xlix. 6.
John i. 4, 9. c. iii. 21. c. x. 10.
luminary of the intellectual world; and they that walk in it, will by it be led to blessedness.*
Pervers. 2. 6 The Quakers hold, that the light within them is God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit: so that every Quaker has whole God, Christ, and Holy Spirit, in him; which is gross blasphemy.'
Principle. This is also a mistake of their belief: they never said that every divine illumination, or manifestation, of Christ, in the hearts of men, was whole God, Christ, or the Spirit; which might render them guilty of that gross and blasphemous absurdity some would fasten upon them: but that God, who is light, or the word Christ, who is light, styled "the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, and the quickening Spirit, who is God over all blessed for ever," hath enlightened mankind with a measure of saving light; who said, "I am the light of the world; and they that follow me shall not abide in darkness, but have the light of life."+ So that the illumination is from God, or Christ, the Divine Word; but not therefore that whole God, or Christ, is in every man, any more than the whole sun, or air, is in every house or chamber. There are no such harsh and unscriptural words in their writings. It is only a frightful perversion of some of their enemies, to bring an odium upon their holy faith. Yet, in a sense, the scriptures say it; and that is their sense; in which, only, they say the same thing. "I will walk in them, and dwell in them. He that dwelleth with you, shall be in you: I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you; I in them, and they in me: Christ in us, the hope of glory. Unless Christ be in you, ye are reprobates. Little children, of whom I travail again in birth, until Christ be formed in you." Now if they who denied his coming in the flesh, though high-professing Jews, were to be accounted Antichrists, because enemies to that appearance and dispensation of God to men; what must they be reputed, who as stiffly disown his inward, nearer, and more spiritual coming, formation, and dominion in the soul; which is to be sure the higher and nobler knowledge of Christ? Yea, "the mystery hid from ages," and now revealed to God's people: "the riches of the glory of the mystery which God reserved to be made known to the Gentiles," of whose stock we are. Certainly though they are called Christians, they must be no whit less Antichrists than those obstinate Jews of old, that opposed his more visible and bodily appearance.
Pervers. 3. By the Quakers' doctrine, every man must
Rev. xxi. 24. + John i, 4, 8, 12. 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47. xiv. 3, 17, 18, 20. Col. i. 26, 27. 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Gal. iv. 19.
John | Col. i. 27.
be saved; for every man, they say, is savingly enlightened.'
Principle. Not so neither: for though the light, or grace, of God hath and doth more or less appear to all men, and that it brings salvation to as many as are taught by it to "deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world," as the scripture teacheth; yet it no way follows that men must obey, and learn so to do, whether they will or not. God tenders saving light or grace to all, and by it calls all, and strives and pleads with all, according to the measure and manifestation of it: but if they will not hearken to it, he is clear of their blood.* His light is saving, that lighteth them; but it cannot be said to save them, while they rebel against it. In short, though men are lightened or visited with a saving light or grace, yet the Quakers never concluded, nor can it rightly be concluded from their testimony, that such men must necessarily and absolutely be saved, whether they obey, or rebel..
Pervers. 4. By the Quakers' light or spirit, they may be moved to murder, adultery, treason, theft, or any suchlike wickedness; because they say that such as are so led, have the light within them.'
Principle. This never was their doctrine, nor is it consequent of it: for though they hold that all have light, they never said that all obeyed it, or that evil men, as such, or in such things, were led by it: much less could the light be chargeable with the sins of those that refused to be led by it. For herein they know the Spirit of God, and the motions of it, from the spirit of this world, and its fruits, that the Spirit of God condemns all ungodliness, and moves and inclines to purity, mercy, and righteousness, which are of God.'
They deny and abominate that loose and ranting mind, which would charge the Spirit of God with their unholy liberty. God's Spirit makes people free from sin, and not to commit sin. Neither do they distinguish, as such loose people wickedly do, between the act, and the evil of it. Wherefore they say, 'That as the tree is known and denominated by its fruits; so spirits are by their influences, motions, and inclinations: and the Spirit of God never did incline any one to evil.' And for that cause they renounce this construction of the ranters, That evil is no evil, when they are led to it by God's Spirit:' for that grossly implies,
* John iii. 20, 21. Tit. ii. 11, 12. Mic. vi. 8. 1 Tim. ii. 4. 2 Pet. iii. xxiv. 13. + John iii. 20, 21.