Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
James Nayler writes of the:
... Light shining into the conscience* [the throne of Christ] ....
William Rogers writes:
Oh Friends, let the Remembrance of this Day come before you, and consider further, what was the voice of the Eternal Power unto such, who were struck of the Power of God; I well remember the voice was on this wise, To your own, to your own, to your own. Meaning thereby that they should turn in their minds to the Light of Christ in their consciences ... Source: The Christian Quaker ... the preface pg. 38
Immersion into the writings of the founding Children of inshining Light reveals the working of the inshining Light upon the conscience as the foundation of their experience. They are ever referencing the inshining Light itself illuminating the conscience as sufficient teacher and guide without regard to outward forms. However, once it is known that the term "conscience" (see footnote below) was more nuanced in meaning in the 17th century, the transforming and revolutionary significance of their witness and testimony is revealed.
Conscience in the 17th century did not reference the mere moral component that it does today. It also carried the meaning ... conscious. That is, when the word conscience was used by the founding Quaker it also meant conscious. When Nayler writes the inshining Light in the conscience which is the throne of Christ, he is saying the inshining Light into the conscience and conscious is the throne of Christ. He has not only witnessed the inshining Light being throned upon his conscience (moral) but his very conscious. That is, his conscious or awareness is anchored is the inshining Light and his conscience is informed by the inshining Light. Furthermore, he is saying the gathering of the Children of Light is anchored in mutual inshining knowledge and experience of the inshining Light. The gathering is conscious and conscience in the inshining Light itself and not in outward ritual, ideology, practice, institutions, or instrumentalities.
The mystery of a faith which is held in a pure conscience is this: consciousness is anchored in and conscience is informed by the inshining Light itself. This pure conscience is awareness in the inshining Light itself without regard to outward forms and persons. There are two ways of consciousness. A consciousness that is based on outward forms and a conscience that is founded upon the inshining Light in the conscious and conscience.
A common phrase used by many of the founding Children of Light (called Quaker by those who opposed them) out of their witness of a faith anchored in the mystery of a pure conscience. For example, James Nayler writes:
... that faith stands in that which is pure, and the mystery of it is held in a pure conscience...
George Fox Writes:
... this is the faith which all the household of faith are to contend for, this one faith which Christ Jesus is the author of; which faith is the gift of God, and is held in a pure conscience. And it is called the mystery of faith ; for no natural men, with all the arts, languages, and wisdom upon the earth, can find it out, or know this mystery, nor make it ...
... the mystery of which is held in a pure conscience ; in which faith it hath its true liberty ...
So an everlasting fellowship in the everlasting power of God, that will out-last the power of darkness; for it was before it was. And also, their unity was to be in the precious divine faith, which Christ was the author and finisher of; the mystery of which was held in a pure conscience; and their worship was in the spirit of God, and in truth.
Isaac Penington writes:
The faith which gives victory over the world; the faith which feeds the life of the just, and slays the unjust; the faith which is pure, the mystery whereof is held in a pure conscience; the faith which gives entrance into the rest of God; the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen ; this hath been lost, and is not yet to be found among those who go for Christians. For those who challenge the name of Christians, and say they believe in Christ, and have faith in him, cannot with their faith overcome the world; but are daily overcome by the world. Where is there a Christian, but he is either in the honors, or in the fashions, or in the customs, or in the worships of the world, if not in them all ? He is so far from overcoming these, that he is overcome with them; yea, so overcome, so drunk therewith, that he hath even lost his senses, and thinks he may be a Christian, and in a good state while he is there. And the life of the just is not fed by their faith, but the unjust nature is fed, and the righteous witness, which is raised up and lives by the true faith, is kept down, and cannot bring forth his life in them, because of their unbelief; for that is the proper name of their faith; for being not true faith, it is not faith, but unbelief. And the faith of Christians (so called) is not a mystery (they know not the mystery of it, which is held in a pure conscience), but consists in believing an historical relation, and in a fleshly improving of that, and can be held in an impure conscience. Neither are they entered into rest by their faith; for they know not the sabbath in the Lord, but are still in a shadowy sabbath. Source: The Works of Isaac Penington: A Minister of the Gospel in the Society of Friends : Including His Collected Letters, Volume 1 pgs. 72.73
Penington also writes:
Now that which they preach to is men's consciences in the sight of God. They open the truth which they know; they give their testimony in the moving, leading, and power of the Spirit, and leave it to the same Spirit to demonstrate it to men's consciences as it pleaseth. They are nothing, they can do nothing, they cannot convert any man to God; but the power that speaketh by them, the same power worketh in other men's consciences at its pleasure. And here is the beginning of the government of Christ in the heart; when his truth carries conviction with it to the conscience, and the conscience is drawn to yield itself up to him, then he lays his yoke upon it, and takes upon him the guiding of it; he cherisheth it, he cleanseth it, he comforteth it, he ordereth it at his pleasure; and he alone preserveth it pure, chaste, gentle, meek, and pliable to the impressions of his Spirit. And as the conscience is kept single and tender to Christ, so his government increases therein ; but as it becomes hard, or subject to men's wills, so another spirit gets dominion over it. Source: The Works of Isaac Penington: A Minister of the Gospel in the Society of Friends : Including His Collected Letters, Volume 1 pg. 460
James Nayler writes:
You call, but receive no answer: but did you but mind that in your conscience which is pure, you would see how often he hath called to you, and checked you for sin, but you have not answered: there might you read the cause why you call, but he doth not answer; as he hath said, because I called, and you would not answer, therefore when you cry, I will not answer.
And thus it is with you who observe the outward worships, but mind not the spirit which is given to proﬁt withal in the worship; and though all have a measure, yet you that hide your talent, cannot pray with the spirit, nor with the understanding; and so your fellowship is with the form, but not in the power; with men in words, but not with God; and so your times are in your own hands; and you have resolved them before hand; and you have a time to pray, and a time to play; a time to abstain from your lusts, and a time to fulﬁl your lusts; a day to abstain from the world, and a day to conform to the world; and thus not being guided with that spirit which is before all, to lead and bring you out of time, you are still in observations, and your times of religion, and your times in the world; your customs in religion, and your customs in the world, are both in your own will, and corrupt nature, and so your prayers are abomination, and your ploughing sin: but the times of sons and daughters are not in their own hands; and this we have learned of Jesus in spirit not to please ourselves, nor be men-pleasers, but to be obedient to another principle, which moves contrary to the will of men, for him we witness, who is not born after the will of man, but which the ﬁeshly will of man could never own, who by the wills of men ever suffered,where he is born into the world; and the same this day is manifest, a seed contrary to the seed of evil-doers, and a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the world, that which is amongst the greatest professions; and this is that holiness without which none shall see God.***
And this further is given me to say to every particular person, to whom this writing shall come, whatever is thy condition, wait in the light which lest thee see it; there is thy counsel and thy strength to be received, to stay thee, and to recover thee. Art thou tempted to sin‘? Abide in that which lest thee see it, that there thou mayst come to feed on the right body, and not on the temptation; for if thou mindest the temptation it will overcome thee, but in the light is salvation: or having sinned, art thou tempted to despair or to destroy thy self. Mind not the temptation, for it’s death that sin hath brought forth; feed not on it nor mind it, least thou eatest condemnation, for that’s the wrong body.
The body of Christ is felt in the light, in which is life from death, grace and truth to feed on, which will overcome for thee being followed; but if thou followest the temptation, fear and condemnation will swallow thee up; if there appear to thee voices, visions and revelations, feed not thereon, but abide in the light and feel the body of Christ, and there wilt thou receive faith and power to judge of every appearance and spirits, the good to hold fast and obey, and the false to resist. Art thou in darkness? Mind it not; for if thou dost, it will ﬁll thee more; but stand still and act not, and wait in patience till light arise out of darkness to lead thee.— Art thou wounded in conscience? Feed not there, but abide in the light, which leads to the grace and truth, which teaches to deny and put off the weight, and removes the cause, and brings saving health to light; yea, this I say to thee in the name of Jesus Christ, that though thou hast made thy grave as deep as the nether-most hell, or were the afﬂictions as great as Job’s, and thy darkness as the depth of the sea, yet if thou wilt not run to vain helps, as I have done, but stay upon the Lord, till he give thee light by his word (who commands light to shine out of darkness) from thence will he bring thee forth, and his eye shall guide thee, and thou shalt praise his name, as I do this day, glory for evermore! And this word is nigh thee which must give thee light though darkness comprehends it not. ****
The inshining Light in the conscious and conscience (the throne of Christ) is eternal life. It is the distinguishing experience of the inward life over the outward life of forms. For those of you who have come to feel the body of Christ in the inshining Light upon your conscious and conscience and the conviction it brings, wait patiently in the Light, even in your successes and failures, wait patiently in the Light and feel the body of Christ and you will know the seconding coming of Christ and the sufficiency of the inshining Light to anchor you very awareness, meaning, purpose, and identity in itself. The promise of reconciliation and salvation is right there shining into your very conscious and conscience. Watch and wait upon it in all things and all circumstances.
In the 17th century, the word conscience carried a much more nuanced meaning than it does today. Conscience also carried the interwoven sense of conscious or consciousness which was a shared inward knowledge with others. The Oxford English Dictionary establishes the "obsolete" definition as:
1. Inward knowledge, consciousness; inmost thought, mind.
a.. Inward knowledge or consciousness; internal conviction.
b.. Internal or mental recognition or acknowledgement of something.
2. Inmost thought; mind 'heart'
The Oxford English Dictionary establishes the "obsolete definition as:
1. Knowing or sharing the knowledge of anything, together with another; privy to anything with another.
The obsolete definition of "Consciousness" in the Oxford English Dictionary is "joint or mutual knowledge."
You can read more on this here:
** From James Nayler's essay: "A discovery of the wisdom which is from beneath, and the wisdom which is from above: or the difference between the two seeds, the one after the flesh, the other after the spirit."
*** From James Nayler's essay "Salutation to the Seed of God"
**** From James Nayler's recantation.