I wrote a critique on Carole Spencer`s Holiness book recently and thought a good place to let others see it would be on a blog.
Will the real holiness stand up please?
In Carole Dale Spencer`s fine historical analysis : Holiness : The Soul of Quakerism (2007), the strands of holiness throughout Quaker history are masterfully untangled and exposed, showing clearly that it was the central theme from the early days. However, the strands have not been knitted together to form a fine garment, the form of which led to the explosion of New Testament Christianity which we saw during the early period. This paper is to show that Spencer`s argument that "Evangelicalism and Quakerism are rooted in the same essential experience" (Spencer 2007. 6.2.4.) is incorrect although, using her words in speaking of Rufus Jones, she is :
......not misguided (s)he was on the right track ; but (s)he was only half right. (S)He had found an important clue, but only
half the equation (Spencer 2007. 6.1.6. brackets mine)
I will endeavour to strip away two errors which have been assimilated by Quakerts from Protestantism in order to capture the gospel as understood by George Fox in its purity. Protestantism has brought in many errors since its instigation, in it`s protesting against Catholicalism and Orthodoxy over the most important issue for Christians that is to say, our source of authority. It denied authority as coming from church councils and tradition and instead looked to scripture, sola scriptura. This has to be the dividing line in what is classed as Protestantism. To say that there can be two sources, that is, scripture added to revelation by the Holy Spirit is to deny the express words of Barclay in Propositions 1 2 & 3 Apology and fall into the errors of Protestantism which the early Quakers hotly disputed over but which sadly we now accept.,
Seeing "no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth him"; and seeing the "revelation of the Son
is in and by the Spirit" (Matt. 11:27); therefore the testimony of the Spirit is that alone by which the true knowledge of God hath
been, is, and can be only revealed; who as, by the moving of his own Spirit, he disposed the chaos of this world into that wond-
erful order wherein it was in the beginning, and created man a living soul, to rule and govern it, so, by the revelation of the same
Spirit, he hath manifested himself all along unto the sons of men, both patriarchs, prophets, and apostles; which revelations of
God by the Spirit, whether by outward voices and appearances, dreams, or inward objective manifestations in the heart, were
of old the formal object of their faith, and remain yet so to be, since the object of the saints' faith is the same in all ages, though
held forth under divers administrations. 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 the 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 in-
ward illumination, is that which is evident and clear of itself, forcing, by its own evidence and clearness, the well-disposed un-
derstanding to assent, irresistibly moving the same thereunto, even as the common principles of natural truths do move and in-
cline the mind to a natural assent: as, that the whole is greater than its part, that two contradictories can neither be both true, nor
both false. (Sippel 2002. 2. 21).
The second most fundamental error Protestantism made was to say that a man can be entirely sanctified or holy if he is still sins, even unintentionally, and have the Spirit dwell within and therefore able to correctly interpret the sciptures. Barclay argues that it is those indwelt by the Holy Spirit who are able to rightly interpret the words of God :
And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever," (17) 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 with you, and shall be in you." Again (v. 26), "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father
will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance." And (16:13), "But when
the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all Truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall
hear he shall speak, and he will show you things to come." We have here first, who this is, and that is divers ways
expressed, to wit: The Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost, the Sent of the Father in the name of Christ. And
hereby is sufficiently proved the sottishness of those Socinians, and other carnal Christians, who neither know nor
acknowledge any internal Spirit or power but that which is merely natural; by which they sufficiently declare themselves
to be of the world, who cannot receive the Spirit, because they neither see him nor know him. Secondly, where this
Spirit is to be, "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." And thirdly, what his work is, "He shall teach you all things,
and bring all things to your remembrance, and guide you into all Truth," (Sippel. 2002. 2.10).
I will discuss later what scriptural qualifications are outlined in order for Spirit of Truth to dwell within. It will surfice for now to note how many different interpretations and indeed denominations (tens of thousands) that these errors have spawned despite Jesus pleading that we be one.
I propose that it is not the same essential experience as the type of holiness preached about and lived out by the early Quakers, the apostles, the patristic fathers and medieval mystics, which is described by Spencer as the via Triplex (2.2) and regarding which Spencer quotes the words of Fox as spoken to John Taylor :
When I first went to him, he treated me in meeknessas a lamb, he took me by the hand and said "young man, this is the
word of the Lord to thee. There are three scriptures thou must witness to be fulfilled , first though must be turned from
darkness to light, next thou must come to the knowledge of the glory of God, and then, thou must be changed from glory
to glory". (Fox , 1831, 4.6. Testimonial of Taylor 1691).
The process is in three stages according to Fox and other followers of the mystic tradition : purgation, illumination and union or glorification. This is in contrast to the two stages generally understood in the Holiness revivals of the 19th and 20th centuries and especially by Keswick theology which are known as Justification and Sactification, the latter being known as the second blessing. There were some who believed in three stages, but they were generally of Pentecostal persuation and the third blessing being a sensory experience which enabled one to speak in tongues and had nothing to do with the holiness produced by the Pentecostal fire. The reason for the confusion is explained in the following quote :
There is really only one Dwelling Place: that is God Himself. But there are depths in God. And He has given us His Spirit
to search out those depths. “The Spirit searcheth all things, the depths of God.” Jesus said, when He sent the Comforter,
the Spirit of truth, that He would “guide us into ALL the truth.”
But all too often we as His people, when God leads us into a measure of truth, we tend to put that for the whole, and think
we have arrived. So we take a “Baptist” position, or a “Pentecostal position” as a result of experiences we have had. But
it is really out of ignorance that we do that. We forget God is a God of eternal purpose who is ever leading us into a greater
and fuller and deeper knowledge of Himself. He has a destiny in mind for us, which is “that we should be conformed to the
image of His Son.” He has planted a Seed in the earth, and He will not rest till He has fruit in the earth exactly like the Seed
He planted, the Seed that “fell into the ground and died.”
And so we read of the kingdom of God being planted in the earth and springing up “first the blade, then the ear, after that the
full corn in the ear.” The full corn in the ear. That’s what God has His heart set on. So… how foolish of me to claim, “I’m a Bladist
because I’ve had the Blade experience). Or, “I’m an Earist,” because I’ve grown a little further and now have this experience
of seeing the ear form in the stalk. What, after all, is the purpose of the blade springing out of the ground… or of the ear beg-
inning to form on that blade? The Husbandman is waiting for the “precious fruit of the earth…” and I too must not settle for
anything short of that.
God has set in the Scriptures many other patterns to show us this truth. And we see the number three coming up time and
again.We see it in the tabernacle, with the outer court, the Holy Place, and then the Holiest of all. There is yet the fullness of the
Spirit before me… and so I must continue on… like Ezekiel, when the man in fine linen measured out the waters of the River…
till there were “waters to swim in, an River that could not be passed over,” flowing out of the House of God. I must continue on.
I must not settle for the “outer court,” with the altar of burnt offering, and the laver. I must not neglect that, but I must not settle for
it either. I must move further into the Holy Place, where there is the illumination of the Lampstand, and the table of shewbread,
and the golden altar of incense (which, we are told, actually pertains to the Holiest of all, Heb. 9.4, I Kings 6.22). ALL of this was
given as a provision for the priests (the worshippers) to prepare them and equip them to come into the realm beyond the veil…
God’s own dwelling Place between the cherubim… and DWELL there with Him. We are told that in the old tabernacle only the
high priest could enter that place, but in the New Covenant we are all called “to enter the Holiest of all…” (Heb. 10.19). His prov-
ision to us of salvation, and gifts and ministries… this is all to equip us for what He ultimately has in mind for us, which is union
with Himself, the same union shared by Father and Son (Jn. 17.20-23). (ADisciple 2010)
The three stages are also depicted for us in the journey of the children of Israel, where they are under bondage of the law of the Pharoh (not the state of an unbeliever as Pharoh is typifying the old nature in us) are delivered into a place where they are tested but have been enlightened and have seen great works of God, but alas, few entered into the land of promise (union) full obedience and fruitfulness of the Spirit because of unbelief. They reached the borders to the place where God would save them from their enemies, but they "believed not God and trusted not in His salvation."
It was not that the revivalists were wrong, it was just that many had only reached illumination,or sanctification (not entire sanctification) in which they received enlightenment :
Ephesians 1:13-14 In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holt Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory,
that it is though faith that we are sanctified and not by religious duties (works even righteous works). It is the stage where they receive the earnest of the Spirit and the experience can mislead us as it is very similar to union as spoken of as much as possible that it can be spoken of in human terms.
St. John of the Cross describes the three stages in Ascent of Mount Carmel as a believer desiring to go forward with God, experiencing the dark night of the soul as a crucifixion of the flesh, then illumination. A few go on to the dark night of the spirit, though most do not, with the final stage which is union with Christ which is St John`s along with other Christian mystics understanding and, I posit, George Fox`s after his four years of wandering and despair. At a guess he was illuminated at age 11. Although it is not clear in his Journal, it seems to have been a significant age for him.
This indeed is a second blessing occuring after a man first comes to Christ for forgiveness of his sins, and is seen when Jesus finds His disciples after He had risen, and breathed on them the Holy Spirit John 20:22. They still had Pentecost before them however, but they were at last able to gather in one accord whereas previously they could not get along without dispute after they had been illuminated and each received the same revelation.
The theology of the two step way runs into problems when we look at Paul`s letter to the Corinthians where he says in 1Cor. 1:2 that he writes to those who have been sanctified yet he upbraids them for their sinful behaviour. It also has to add a qualifier when scripture says we are to be holy as He is holy and that whosoever sins is of the devil instead of taking these words at their literal simple sense.
Therefore the difference between the stage of illumination and union is one of having the vritue of God communicated that is to say, the holiness of Christ imparted as one is baptised into His death Romans 6:3 and made one with Him which is the promise and our inheritance. Those who have reached the stage of union have the same testimony which is very well described by Fox in his Journal :
Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new; and all the creation
gave unto me another smell than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and
righteousness; being renewed into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell.
The creation was opened to me; and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature
and virtue. I was at at a stand in my mind whether I should practise physic for the good of mankind, seeing the nature and
virtues of things were so opened to me by the Lord. But I was immediately taken up in spirit to see into another or more
steadfast state than Adam's innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus that should never fall. And the Lord showed me
that such as were faithful to Him, in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before
he fell; in which the admirable works of the creation, and the virtues thereof, may be known, through the openings of that
divine Word of wisdom and power by which they were made. (Nickalls. 1952. 1.27.)
Fox is describing sinless perfection using the same terms as others who have also reached sinless perfection.
Spencer reports that Barclay himself (like John Wesley after him) never taught or claimed sinlessness (Sipple 2002, 2.07). Although he confessed that he had not reached the stage of perfection, he confirmed the state.
Lastly, though I affirm that after a man hath arrived to such a condition in which a man may not sin, he yet may sin; I will
nevertheless not deny but there may be a state attainable in this life, in which to do righteousness may become so nat-
ural to the regenerate soul, that in the stability of this condition they can not sin. Others may perhaps speak more cert-
ainly of this state, as having arrived to it. For me, I shall speak modestly, as acknowledging myself not to have arrived
at it; yet I dare not deny it, for that it seems so positively to be asserted by the apostle, in these words (1 John 3:9),
"He that is born of God sinneth not, neither can he, because the seed of God remaineth in him." (Sippel 2002. 8.2.)
He is a little unclear here, which you would expect, in speaking about a subject in which he has no experience. Even those who have come through the flaming sword have trouble putting it into words and even more so for those who are not living in this realm. When he says that man may sin, it is not clearly saying that if he sins he will retain his position in Eden. Scripture assures us that he will be thrown out and indeed the verse he quotes from 1John, says the man cannot not sin. The occasions where he is not exactly clear are those in which anyone who wishes to avoid the light, can hang onto their darkness. When the rest of any writings are clear apart from places which accomodate this practise, I become suspicious of interference.
Wesley indeed did not confess it either, though there is some indication that he may have later in his life, it most likely at this point, come only to illumination yet he taught it, having read widely of those who had, which led I believe, to the confusion. This confusion led to the two stage holiness version which became the basis of Keswick theology where one is said to be capable of victory over intentional sin only. Rather than look to the teaching of two men who failed to give the clear testimony, Spencer would have done better to look to Fox in this matter, as he certainly witnessed to sinless perfection :
At last they asked me whether I was sanctified. I said, `Sanctified? yes, for I was in the paradise of God. They said, had I
no sin? `Sin?` said I. `Christ my Saviour hath taken away my sin, and in Him there is no sin......They said `If a man steal
is it no sin?` I answered, `All unrightousness is sin.` (Nickalls. 1952. 1.51)
This was afer all, the reason for the intense persecution as others were preaching similar doctrines and practises as the Quakers and desiring holiness and declaring victory over unintentional sin is quite acceptable in the church whereas sinless perfection has never been. It is hotly denied. I believe that it was also the reason for the power and influence they possessed in the revival that ensured, (and the reason why it does not happen today) amongst believers known as Seekers, who like Fox had been searching for the truth to give them an authentic New Testament Christianity during a time of confusion and wrong teaching - in many ways like today.
Problems occur when people lack understanding about what sinless perfection or otherwise known as glorification means as most do not expect this until the next life which was not the belief of Fox. It does not claim that man will never sin again, his will remains free as he is a free moral agent. But so long as he remains in this state he will not sin, in thought word or deed and as Fox said, he is perfectly restored not only to the state of Adam`s innocence, but to a higher state where he will not fall into sin as Adam did, who did not immediately lose his standing until the Lord had spoken to him, but will be kept by the power of God (Jude 24) and presented faultless . This is the sort of perfection that is spoken in scripture as the partaking of the Divine nature (2Pet.1:4), of one Spirit with the Lord (1Cor 6:17), having come to the new birth (John 3:3), Christ being formed within (Col 1:27), receiving the END of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1Pet 3:21), where God hath from the begining chosen us to salvation through sanctification of the spirit (2Thes 2:13) having been saved through the Spirit baptism the resurrected Christ came to give (1Pet 3:21), wherefore we died to the old sin nature through being baptised into His death (Rom 6:37). Risen and glorified with Him (Rom 8:17), walking in the light whence the blood of Jesus cleanses us from ALL sin (1John 1:27), whereas he who sins is of the devil (1John 2:8).
So scripture is telling us here that salvation is the end of the process, yet paradoxically the begining, entered into by a conscious experience of being made free from sin. There are no degrees of moral purity. Love is perfect when we love Him with the whole heart mind soul and strength though there is never a time when we will have all knowledge in this life which is the growth that is referred to. And it is not only an experience, but is the means of living at a level of dedication to and knowledge of God previously sought but found impossible.
Measure or Capacity
For I say through the grace given unto me to every man that is among you, not to think too highly of himself, more highly
than he ought to think but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Rom 12:3.
Paul is speaking here about our place in the body and our God given ability for ministry. Fox speaks about a measure of light :
To the measure of light take heed, that with it all your minds may be guided up to the father of Life. (Epistle 63. Sharman p29)
Spencer quotes Barclay (Spencer 2002. 7.2.) on saying that perfection is only proportional and answerable to man`s measure, but he enlarges on it soon afterwards from his illustration of a little gold still being as perfect of its kind as a mass. (p 207) Growth in holiness is not a growth towards holiness but is union with Christ. We are either in Christ or not as the scriptures make clear. If we are in Christ then absolute obedience does not happen at some time in the future - it is for today and if we are not living that way we are not in Christ no matter how much we know..
Spencer quotes Barclay on his understanding of Philipians 3:14, but Paul was not speaking of "pressing forward to perfection" but is talking instead about his ministry and his high calling which is probably his martyrdom when he `attains the resurrection of the dead` verse 11. He makes it clear in verse 15 when he calls others who have already been perfected, to be of one mind with him.
Annette Fricke (Fricke 1997. p 30) helps us see what Fox meant by measure :
In Epistle 113 George Fox addresses Burrough personally as an individual `.....dwell in the pure measure of God in thee
and there thou wilt see the Lord present with thee. You can almost hear the appeal : Improve your measure! Then
you will be able to answer that of God in others better.
`Friends, In the measure of the life of God wait, to guide your minds up to the father of Life, where there is no shadow nor
changing....keep you rmeetings, and ye will feel the Son of God amontg you all, though never a word be spoken among
you. And be faithful that you may answer that of God in everyone`. (Epistle 77. Sharman p 35)
Although Barclay is a good authority on many matters, his failing was in not having entered into the fullness of the way of holiness which is in fact the start of the Christian life, and before then, like the early disciples, we have a measure of knowledge of Christ, and are believers indeed, but in fact not yet Christians ie little Christ`s. No matter how much we reassure ourselves with Bible verses, without the witness that we have the divine nature in its fullness then like many in the Holiness movement , we are preaching half a gospel whereas the full gospel for every man and not for a chosen few or those who only have a small measure is Christ within you the hope of glory - glorified today, otherwise as scripture clearly says that any man who sins is of the devil.
Whever this gospel is accepted and believed in, it brings forth the unity for which we crave. Unless we unite in the truth, there can be no true unity, we only achieve a man made substitute, an unholy allience, which is more damaging than separations due to being unequally yolked where freedom of speech is curtailed and replaced with the need to be sensitive in case of offending others as darkness will always reject light.
Carole Spencer has correctly identified the mystical belief`s of Fox and others but has assumed that the experience is the same as that found mainly in the Holiness Movement and especially Keswick teaching which was made popular by Andrew Murray and the Smith`s. Although these people had knowledge about the way of holiness and could point others to Christ to have the same enlightenment, they were misled by their Protestant background in thinking that they were qualified to be teachers when the scriptures say that only His sheep or those in union with Him hear His voice - clearly that is. They had no testimony that they were without sin (apart from some deluded ones but no-one believed them) and denied sinless perfection which is what Fox, the church fathers, medieval mystics and others including Willian Law taught. The result of it was great confusion and eventually the cessation of the Holiness Movement until now it is dead.
If we really want the truth, instead of false assurance, then we need to look to those who had reached the summit of the spiritual journey and who had an uncontested confession that they were without sin, having had the works of the devil destroyed in them and then we must listen to their voices even if they sound a little strange and unlearned as in the case of George Fox. The Lord knoweth them that are His, and let every one that nameth the name of the Lord, depart from unrighteousness (1Tim 2:19). Looking to a theologian instead, in hope of his greater understanding, whoever he/she may be, will prove a mistake unless he has the Holy Spirit dwelling in His fullness. It will be a case of the blind leading the blind.
Brenda Jackson 2010
ADisciple. Anonymous forum writer, permission haven been given to quote.
Fricke, Annette. 1997. George Fox Speaks To Me, Germany, George Fox Fund.
Nickalls, John L. 1952. The Journal of George Fox. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Sippel, Peter D., ed 2002 (1678). An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, Glenside, PA, Quaker Heritage Press.
Spencer, Carole D, 2007. Holiness : The Soul of Quakerism, Bucks. England, Paternoster.