Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
George MacDonald in his 'Cross Purposes and the Shadows" writes:
... for many things we never could believe, have only to happen, and then there is nothing strange about them.
The awakening into a new way of being through the illumination of consciousness and conscience by the inward Light is unbelievable outside the experience. However, when the Light shines within the soul it is as natural as the former life outside the Light.
Lately, as I rest into my upholstery work and into observations of nesting wild bird species here on the south coast of Oregon, my consciousness and conscience are ever illuminated by the inward Presence. Penington's words from his essay : "Some Things of Great Weight and Concernment to all" are right up against the borders of my conscious like moonlight droplets of water hanging from petals of experience.
He begins his essay challenging people to go further than mere belief in outward scriptural; based on the understanding of the outward reasoning faculties, to direct experience of the inward Light transforming the very foundation of individual consciousness and conscience.
He speaks of the"principle" through which all spiritual knowledge is recieved. This Principle is not conceptual, it is experiential. This Principle is not an idea we borrow from the witness of others, it is directly experienced. It is the source of true peace ... inward peace. The experiential Principle is the new Life. It is the new consciousness. It is the new conscience. It is the spiritual person.
Penington then witnesses to the suffciency of this Principle in all things. In this experiential Principle, the new conscousness and conscience no longer is anchored in and informed by the outward ideas and insititutions anchored in the natural faculties of men and women.
When we patiently, and in watchfulness, deepen down into the quiet and feel for the foundation, the inward Light will candle within, filling conscousness and conscience; a rebirth ... a new life which is as natural as the old.
It is such a blessing to know and share the inward manifestation of eternal life with the early Quakers through inward witness. The Presence within is sufficent, freedom from the outward ways.
1. That it is a great and hard matter to come into a capacity of knowing and receiving the truth. It is no hard matter to take up any religion that a man finds in the world. To read scriptures, to believe what a man finds related there, according to his understanding of them; yea, to believe that he hath the light and help of the Spirit in his reading and understanding; to apply himself also to practise and observe what he finds therein required; and to aim at holiness, &c.; this is no hard matter; every man that is serious, and seeks religion of any kind but in the weight of a man's spirit, may go thus far. But all this administers not the true capacity, but he that meets with it, must go further than thus.
2. That which gives the true capacity is a principle of life from God, and there alone and nowhere else, can man meet with it and receive it. This principle is the seed of the kingdom, or heavenly leaven, with which the mind must be in some measure leavened, ere it can come into a true capacity of understanding and receiving the truth. And in this leaven must it abide and grow up, if it abide and grow in the true knowledge, &c.
3. That from this principle, and in this principle, not only the true light and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and all spiritual things is given and received; but also the true faith, the true love, the true sanctification, the true justification, the true peace, the true joy, &c. And what of these is not received and held here, is not of the truth, but a garment of men's own forming, and not the covering of the Spirit.
4. That the Spirit himself sows this principle, and is received in this principle. And he that receives this principle, and is born of this principle, receives and is born of the Spirit; and he that receives it not, nor is born of it, neither hath received nor is born of the Spirit; but is but in the imagination and self-conceit about the things of God, but is not in the truth as it is in Jesus.
5. That in this principle the new covenant is made with the soul and entered into; and he that receives this principle from the hand of God, receives life, and enters into the covenant of life, and feels the pure fear, wherein God cleanseth the heart, and whereby he keeps the heart clean, and feels the laws of God daily writing there by the finger of God's Spirit, and feels the power and sense of the Spirit to teach and cause obedience; so that the yoke, which is hard to the transgressing nature (alienated from the life and power), is easy (and as I may say natural) to him that is born of this nature. For being dead with Christ, and risen with Christ, and changed into the nature of Christ, by the principle which is of him, through the power and Spirit of Christ, which worketh therein; he can say as Christ did, when the Lord calls him to any thing; Lo, I come; it is my meat and drink, yea, my great delight, to do thy will, O God! yea, thy law is written in the midst of my bowels!
... He hath all from a principle; yea, he is gathered into, preserved in, and abideth in this principle by the power, goodness, and mercy of the Lord. The power begins the work in him, the power accompanies him; the power carries him through, or he falls and miscarries. There is no man can stand any longer here, than he submits to and is upheld by the power, nor act nor suffer, but as the power acts in him and helps him to suffer. Let the man that boasteth, bring forth somewhat of his own, if he can, here. Is the will at any time his own? Doth not he that is spiritual, and in the true sense, always find God to work in him to will, whenever he willeth rightly and holily? And if he cannot will of himself, can he do any thing of himself? Can he believe of himself, pray of himself, wait of himself, resist enemies and temptations of himself; nay, so much as give a look to the Lord at any time of himself? Indeed, in the grace of the Lord, and the principle of his life, there is sufficiency: and therein he that is joined to the Lord, and become one Spirit with him, what can he not do here? but that is, as he is new-made in Christ, and as Christ ariseth, lives, and acts in him: which he that is in the true sense and feeling will still acknowledge, not only in his words to men, but in his heart and spirit before the Lord.
The inward Principle is true peace and true religion.