Whittier Friends School
A Quaker School
6726 S. Washington Avenue
Whittier, CA 90601
Robert Barclay (1648-1690): "Turn Thy Mind to the Light"
[Selection taken from The Quaker Reader, edited by Jessamyn West, Viking Press, New York,1962]
Seeing the height of all happiness is placed in the true knowledge of God (this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent) the true and right understanding of this foundation and ground of knowledge is that which is most necessary to be known and believed in the first place.
We do distinguish betwixt the certain knowledge of God, and the uncertain; betwixt the spiritual knowledge, and the literal, the saving heart-knowledge, and the soaring, airy head-knowledge. The last, we confess, maybe diverse ways obtained; but the first, by no other way than the inward immediate manifestation and revelation of God's Spirit, shining in and upon the heart, enlightening and opening the understanding.
Knowledge then of Christ, which is not the revelation of his won Spirit in the heart, is no more properly the knowledge of Christ, than the prattling of a parrot, which has been taught a few words, may be said to be the voice of a man; for as that, or some other bird, may be taught to sound or utter forth a rational sentence, as it hath learned it by the outward ear, and not from any living principle of reason actuating it; so just such is that knowledge of the things of God, which the natural and carnal man hath gathered from the words or writings of spiritual men.
But as the description of the light of the sun, or of the curious colors to a blind man, who, though of the largest capacity, cannot so well understand it by the most acute and lively description, as a child can by seeing them; so neither can the natural man, of the largest capacity, by the best words, even scripture-words, so well understand the mysteries of God's kingdom, as the least and weakest child who tasteth them, by having them revealed inwardly and objectively by the Spirit.
What is proper in this place to be proved is, That Christians now are to be led inwardly and immediately by the spirit of God, even in the same manner (though it befall not many to be led in the same measure) as the saints were of old.
I shall prove this first from the promise of Christ in these words, John14:16-17: "And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth in you, and shall be in you."
That this Spirit is inward, in my opinion needs no interpretation or commentary. He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. This indwelling of the Spirit in the saints, as it is a thing most needful to beknown and believed. so is it as positively asserted in the scripture as anything else can be.
He then that acknowledges himself ignorant and a stranger to the inward in-being of the Spirit of Christ in his heart, doth thereby acknowledge himself to be yet in the carnal mind, which is enmity to God; and in short, whatever he may otherwise know or believe of Christ, or however much skilled oracquainted with the letter of the holy scripture, not yet to be, notwithstanding all that, attained to the last degree of a Christian; yea, not once to have embraced the Christian religion. For take but away the Spirit, and Christianity remains no more than the dead carcass of a man, when the soul and spirit is departed, remains a man; which the living can no more abide but do bury out of their sight, as a noisome and useless thing, however acceptable it hath been when actuated and moved by the soul. Lastly, whatsoever is excellent, whatsoever is noble, whatsoever is worthy, whatsoever is desirable in the Christian faith, is ascribed to this Spirit, without which it could no more subsist than the outward worlds without the sun. Here unto have all true Christians, in all ages, attributed their strength and life.
And what shall I say more? For the time would fail me to tell all of those things which the holy men of old have declared and the saints of this day do themselves enjoy, by the virtue and power of this Spirit dwelling in them. If therefore it be so, why should any be so foolish as to deny, or so unwise as not to seek after this Spirit, which Christ hath promised shall dwell in his children? The then that do suppose the in dwelling and leading of this Spirit to be ceased, must also suppose Christianity to be cased which cannot subsist without it.
Seeing then that Christ hath promised his Spirit to lead his children, and that every one of them ought and may be led by it, if any depart from this certain guide in deeds, and yet in words pretend to be led by it, into things that are not good, it will not from thence follow, that the true guidance of the Spirit is uncertain, or ought not to be followed; no more than it will follow that the sun sheweth not light, because a blind man or one who willfully shuts his eyes, falls into a ditch at noon-day for want of light; or that no words are spoken, because a deaf man hears them not; or that a garden full of fragrant flowers has no sweet smell, because he that has lost his smelling doth not smell it.
All these mistakes therefore are to be ascribed to the weakness or wickedness of men, and not to that Holy Spirit.
Moreover, these divine inward revelations, which we make absolutely necessary for the building up of true faith, neither do nor can ever contradict the outward testimony of the scriptures, or right and sound reason. Yet from hence it will not follow, that these divine revelations are to be subjected to the test, either of the outward testimony of the scriptures, or of the natural reason of man, as to a more noble or certain rule and touchstone; for this divine revelation, and inward illumination, is that which is evident and clear of itself, forcing, by its own evidence and clearness, the well-disposed understanding to assent.
From these revelations of the Spirit of God to the saints have proceeded the Scriptures of Truth.
Because they are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all truth, and knowledge, not yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty; for as by the inward testimony of the Spirit we do alone truly know them, so they testify, that the Spirit is that Guide by which the saints are led into all Truth; therefore, according to the scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader.
Through and by the clearness which that Spirit gives us it is that we are only best rid of those difficulties that occur to us concerning the scriptures. The real and undoubted experience whereof I myself have been a witness of, with great admiration of the love of God to hischildren in these latter days: for I have known some of my friends, who profess the same faith with me, faithful servants of the Most High God, and full of divine knowledge of his truth, as it was immediately and inwardly revealed to them, by the spirit, from a true and living experience, who not only were ignorant of the Greek and Hebrew, but even some of them could not read their own language, who being pressed by their adversaries with some citations out of the English translation, and finding them to disagree with the manifestation of the truth in their own hearts, have boldly affirmed the Spirit of God never said so; which when I on this account seriously examined, I really found to be errors and corruptions of the translators; who (as in most translations) do not so much give us the genuine signification of the words, as strain them to express that which comes nearest to that opinion and notion they have of truth.
If it be then asked me, Whether I think hereby to render the scriptures altogether uncertain, or useless?
I answer: Not at all, provided that to the Spirit from which they came be but granted that place the scriptures themselves give it, I do freely concede to the scriptures the second place.
For tho' God doth principally and chiefly lead us by his Spirit, yet he sometimes conveys his comfort and consolation to us through his children, whom he raises up and inspires to speak or write a word in seas, whereby the saints are made instruments in the hand of the Lord to strengthen and encourage one another, which doth also tend to perfect and make them wise unto salvation; and such as are led by the Spirit cannot neglect, but do naturally love, and are wonderfully cherished by, that which proceedeth from the same Spirit in another; because such mutual emanations of the heavenly life tend to quicken the mind, when any time it is overtaken with heaviness.
Secondly, God hath seen meet that herein we should, as in a looking glass, see the conditions and experiences of the saints of old; that finding our experience answer to theirs, we might thereby be the more confirmed and comforted, and our hope of obtaining the same end strengthened; that observing the providences attending them, seeing the snares they were liable to, and beholding their deliverances, we may thereby be made wise unto salvation, and seasonably reproved and instructed in righteousness.
This is the great work of the scriptures, and their service to us, that we may witness them fulfilled in us, and so discern the stamp of God's spirit upon them, by the inward acquaintance we have with the same Spirit and work in our hearts.
We have said how that a divine spiritual, and super-natural light is in all men; also how that, as it is received and closed within the heart, Christ comes to be formed and brought forth: but we are for from ever having said, that Christ is thus formed in all men, or in the wicked: for that is a great attainment, which the apostle travailed that it might be brought forth in the Galatians. Neither is Christ in all men by way of union, or indeed, to speak strictly, by way of inhabitation; because this inhabitation, as it is generally taken, imports union, or the manner of Christ's being in the saints. But in regard Christ is in all men as in a seed, yea, and that he never is nor can be separate from that holy pure seed and light which is in all men; in this respect then, as he is in the seed which is in all men, we have said Christ is in all men, and have preached and directed all men to Christ in them, who lies crucified in them by their sins and iniquities, that they may look upon him whom they have pierced, and repent: whereby he that now lies as it were slain and buried in them, may come to be raised and have dominion in their hearts over all.
Though then this seed be small in its appearance, so that Christ compares it to a grain of mustard-seed, which is the lest of all seeds, Matth. 8:31, 32 and that it be hidin the earthly part of man's heart; yet therein is life and salvation towards the sons of men wrapped, which comes to be revealed as they give way to it. And this seed in the hearts of all men is the kingdom of God, as in capacity to be produced, or rather exhibited, according as it receives depth, is nourished, and not choked. And as the whole body of a great tree is wrapped up potentially in the seed of the tree, and so is brought forth in due season, even so the kingdom of Jesus Christ, yea Jesus Christ himself, Christ within, who is the hope of glory, and becometh wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, is in every man's and woman's heart, in that little incorruptible seed, ready to be brought forth.
This leads me to speak concerning the manner of this seed or light's operation in the hearts of all men. To them then ask us after this manner, I two men have equal sufficient light and grace, and the one be saved by it, the other not? is not then the will of man the cause of the one's salvation beyond the other?
I say, to such we thus answer: That as the grace and light in all is sufficient to save all, and of its own nature would save all; so it strives and wrestles with all in order to save them; he that resists its striving, is the cause of his own condemnation; he that resists it not, it becomes his salvation: for that in him that is saved, the working is of the grace, and not of the man; and it is a passiveness rather than an act; though afterwards, as man is wrought upon, there is a will raised in him, by which he comes to be a co-worker with the grace: for according to that of Augustine, He that made us without us, will not save is without us. So that the first step is not by man's working, but by his not contrary working. And we believe, that at these singular seasons of every mans visitation, as man is wholly unable to himself to work with the grace, neither can he move one step out of the natural condition, until the grace lay hold upon him; so it is possible for him to be passive, and not to resist it, as it is possible for him to resist it. So we say, the grace of God works in and upon man's nature; which, though of itself wholly corrupted and defiled, and prone to evil, yet is capable to be wrought upon by the grace of God; even as iron, though an hard and cold metal of itself, may be warmed and softened by the heat of the fire, and wax melted by the sun. And as iron or wax, when removed from the fire or the sun, returneth to its former condition of coldness and hardness; so man's heart, as it resist or retires from the grace of God, return to its former condition again.
It will manifestly appear by what is above said, that we understand not this divine principle to be any part of man's nature, not yet to be any relics of any good which Adam lost by his fall. For we certainly know that his light of which we speak is not only district but of a different nature from the soul of man, and its faculties. Indeed that man, as he is a rational creature, hath reason as a natural faculty of his soul, by which he can discern things that are rational, we deny not; for this is a property natural and essential to him, by which he can know and learn many arts and sciences, beyond what any other animal can do by the mere animal principle. Neither do we deny but by this rational principle man may apprehend in his brain, and in the notion, a knowledge of God and spiritual things; yet that not being the right organ, it cannot profit him towards salvation, but rather hindereth; and indeed the great cause of the apostasy hath been, that man hath sought to fathom the things of God in and by this natural and rational principle, and to build up a religion in it, neglecting and over-looking this principle and seed of God in the heart; so that herein, in the most universal and catholic sense, hath Anti-Christ in every man set up in himself, and sittethin the temple of God as God, and above every thing that is called God. For men being the temple of the Holy Ghost, as saith the apostle, I Cor. 3: 16 when the rational principle sets up itself there above the seed of God, to reign and rule as a prince in spiritual things, while the holy seed is wounded and bruised, there is Anti-Christ in every man, or somewhat exalted above and against Christ.
Nevertheless we do not hereby affirm as if man had to receive his reason to no purpose, or to be of no service unto him, in no wise; we look upon reason as fit to order and rule men in things natural. For as God gave two great Lights to rule the outward world, the sun and moon, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; so hath he given man the light of his Son, a spiritual divine light, to rule him in things spiritual, and the light of reason to rule him in things natural. And even as the moon borrows her light from the sun, so ought men, if they would be rightly and comfortably ordered in natural things, to have their reason enlightened by this divine and pure light. Which enlightened reason, in those that obey and follow this true light, we confess may be usefulto man even in spiritual things, as even as the animal life in man, regulated and ordered by his reason, helps him in going about things that are rational.
We do further rightly distinguish this from man's natural conscience; for conscience being that in man which ariseth from the natural faculties of man's soul, may be defiled and corrupted.
Now conscience, to define it truly, comes from conscire, and that is knowledge which ariseth in man's heart, from what agreeth, contradicteth, or is contrary to any thing believed by him, whereby he becomes conscious to himself that he transgresseth by doing that which is persuaded he ought not to do. So that the mind being once blinded or defiled with a wrong belief, there ariseth a conscience from that belief, which trouble him when he goes against it. As for example: A Turk who hath possessed himself with a false belief that is unlawful for him to drink wine, if he do it, his conscience smites him for it; but though he keep many concubines, his conscience troubles him not, because his judgment is already defiled with a false opinion that it is lawful for him to do the one, and unlawful to do the other.
For conscience followeth judgment, doth not inform it; but this light, as it is received, removes the blindness of the judgment, opens the understanding, and rectifies both judgment and conscience. So we confess also, that conscience is an excellent thing, where it is rightly informed and enlightened: wherefore some of us have fitly compared it to the lanthorn, and the light of Christ to a candle; a lanthorn is useful when a clear candle burns and shines in it: but otherwise is of no use. To the light of Christ then in the conscience, and not to man's natural conscience, it is that we continually commend men.
Justification by Faith and Works
As many as resist not this light, but receive the same, it becomes in them an holy, pure, and spiritual birth: by which holy birth, to wit, Jesus Christ formed within us, and working his works in us, as we are sanctified, so are we justified in the sight of God
The works of the spirit of grace in the heart, wrought in conformity to the inward and spiritual law; which works are not wrought in man's will, not by his power and ability, but in and by the power and Spirit of Christ in us, and therefore are pure and perfect in their kind (as shall hereafter be proved) and may be called Christ's works, for that he is the immediate author and worker of the,: such works we affirm absolutely necessary to justification, so that a man cannot be justified; without them; and all faith without them is dead and useless, as the apostle James saith. But faith, which worketh buy love, is that which availeth, which is absolutely necessary: for faith, that worketh by love, cannot be without works.
Since we have placed justification in the revelation of Jesus Christ formed and brought forth in the heart, there working his works of righteousness, and bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, the question is, How far he may prevail in us while we are in this life, or we over our soul's enemies, in and by his strength.
We do believe, that to those in whim this pure and holy birth is fully brought forth, the body of death and sin comes to be crucified and removed, and their hearts united and subjected to the truth; so as not to obey any suggestions or temptations of the evil one, but to be free from actual sinning and transgressing of the law of God, and in that respect perfect.
By this we understand not such a perfection as may not daily admit of growth, and consequently mean not as if we were to be as pure, holy, and perfect as God in his divine attributes of wisdom, knowledge, and purity; but only a perfection proportionate and answerable to man's measure, whereby we are kept from transgressing the law of God, and enabled to answer what he requires of us; even as he that improved his two talents so as to make four of them, perfected his work, and was so accepted of his Lord as to be called a good and faithful servant, nothing less than he that made his five ten.
Though a man may witness this for a season, and therefore all ought to press after it; yet we do not affirm but those that have attained it in a measure may, by the wiles and temptations of the enemy, fall into iniquity, and lose it sometimes, if they be not watchful, and do not diligently attend to that of God in the heart. And we doubt not but many good and holy men, who have arrived to everlasting life, have had divers ebbings and flowings of this kind; for though every sin weakens a man in his spiritual condition, yet it doth not so as to destroy him altogether, or render him incapable of rising again.
Nevertheless, I will not affirm that a state is not attainable in this life, in which to do righteousness may be so natural to the regenerate soul, that in the stability of that condition he cannot sin.
So then, if thou dersirest to know this perfection and freedom from sin possible for thee, turn thy mind to the light and spiritual law of Christ in the heart, and suffer the reproofs thereof; so that that life that sometimes was alive in thee into this world, and the love and lusts thereof, may die, and a new life be raised, by which though mayest live hence forward to God, and not to or for thyself; and with the apostle thou mayest say, Gal. 2: 20. "It is not more I, but Christ alive in me": And then thou wilt be a Christian indeed.