Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
The Infallible Mark
Studies from "The Christian Quaker ..." by William Rogers (1680).
Note: The spelling and sentence structure from the quoatations of Rogers behold has not been modernized.
"For though the Apostle saith, Gal. 5. 2. I Paul say unto you, if ye be Circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing, and Gal. 4. 9, 10, 11. But now after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the Weak and Beggerly Eliments? Ye observed Daies, and Months, &c. I am afraid of you. Yet this did not at that time condemn that Christian Liberty, and Forbearance, which the Apostle before approved, in and with respect unto such, as made Conscience of Circumcision,and the Observing Daies; for it plainly appears, he spoke to a People, who were redeemed out of those Beggerly Eliments, and were come past those Rudiments which is evident by these his words, how turn ye again? And so he might well exhort such neither to Circumcise, no yet be in the Observation of Daies; for that God doth not usually lead into those things, which he he hath led out of; and this might well consist with the Truth, even at such a time and season, when others, thorough a Conscientious Scruple might in a plea for both, with respect to themselves, be uncondemned." (Rogers. Third Part. Pg. 82.) See Galatians 4 ESV Bible
Here Rogers sets lays out that God had led Paul's audience out of the observance of outward forms and that Paul feared their turning back again into that which God had led them out of even as there were others among them who in good conscience observed outward forms.
"These things considered, and that also we find the Apostle exhorting the Churches, not to be Judging one another with respect to things relating to Conscience, there is great need for every one to watch against a Censorious Judging Spirit, lest whilest any are Judging their Brethren, they themselves become Castaways."
Right on the heels of highlighting Paul's audience as coming out of observance and obedience to outwards form, Rogers introduces a check against the Censorious Spirit that would judge one another relative to the conscience of the other. Those who are come out of the observance of outward forms should forbear those whose conscience leads them into observance and obedience to outward forms and likewise those whose conscience is bound to observance of outward forms should refrain from judging those whose conscience is freed from outward observance and practice.
"Having in some Measure cleared my Conscience, I have this further to add; That 'tis a blessed ting for Brethren to dwell together in Love and Unity; yet this Love and Unity ought to consist in the Truth, else the blessing is not."
What is the nature of Love and Unity that consists in Truth?
"I doubt not but that there are many who are ready to conclude, That an Universal Unity ought to be establish't in the Churches, by the Assistance of outward Instruments; that as we are Members of one Body, so we may not only be one in Faith, one in Doctrine, but also one in Practice, with relation to Discipline, Order, and Outward Formes of Government. " (Source Rogers. Third Part. pgs 82,83.)
After only a about three decades from their beginnings, Rogers here concedes that there are many among the gathering of early Quakers who had turned from being come out of a unity based upon outward instruments and were coming back into a unity based upon the observance of outward practices and doctrine.
"My soul should rejoyce to see that Day, wherein we might all be so led by the appearance of Christ's Spirit in us, under his Government, which ought to be exalted over all, as that this Oneness might thereby be witnessed amongst all the Families of Gods People at this Day. But since it is so with the Church of God at this day, as it was with the Church in the Primitive Dayes, viz. that there are diversities of Administrations, and diversities of Gifts & Operations in the Body, and yet thorough the same Spirit; it behoves every one diligently to watch, that we Judge not one another by reason of these differing exercises; as if these things consisted not with the Unity of the Body." (Source: Rogers. Third Part. Pg. 83.)
In this paragraph Rogers first highlights the blessed nature of Oneness under the Government of the inshining impulse or appearance of Christ. He then acknowledges the diversities of outward practices and gifts that manifest through the inshining impulse. Finally, comes the rub and the cause of disunity. He asks the reader to watch against judging each other based various outward elements and instruments as if the unity or oneness of the Body of Christ consists in uniformity of outward practice and doctrinal belief. Rogers, here accepts the diversity of outward forms but does not use outward forms and universal acceptance and practice of particular outward forms as the mark of unity in the appearance of Christ's Spirit. What is the mark of unity and Oneness in the Body of Christ? What is the mark of Gospel Order?
"And since also it is so, that amongst the primitive Believers there were such as practiced Circumcision, some made Conscience of keeping a Day, and some that Abstayn'd from eating Flesh, and others that did not, and yet a Christian-Liberty and forbearance was so exercised, as that they were not to be Judging one another about these things, as that we find not these differing exercises in a Christian-Liberty, did subject any of those Believers exercised therein to the Censure of being out of the Unity of the Body; I therefore do reasonably conclude, that the infallible Mark, whereby any member of the Body is known to be in true Unity with the Body, doth not consist in Profession and Belief of certain Principles, and Doctrines, and Practices depending thereon; nor yet in Obedience to the Measures of others; but in the Circumcision of the heart, and an Answer of a good Conscience towards God, and that every Member keeps his own order, Office and Place in the Body, thorough his Obedience to the Measure of Gift of Grace in himself, which he hath received from God to Profit withal. The most infallible mark and token then of a Member in the true Unity with the Body of Christ, is an inward invisible mark that cannot be stampt on any, but by the impression of Gods power on the heart; and therefore it is, that the outward endeavours of all such Christian Professors, as have been and are in the Apostasy, instead of attaining to an Heavenly Union in the Spirit, have at most but arrived to an Outward Unity, consisting in their Outward Conformities and Uniformities, according to the Commands, Traditions, Decrees, or Examples of Men." (Source: Rogers. Third Part. pgs. 83,84.)
The "infallible mark or token" of a member anointed by the inshining appearance of Christ being in unity with the Church Body is in not judging one another according to the practice and obedience to outward forms or the lack of obedience to outward forms but to hold to the invisible inshining appearance itself that transcends outward diversity and manifest Oneness in the Church Body.
In the power of inshining immanent Presence it is easily imagined a unity and oneness in the Body of Christ founded upon and focused in the inshining experience itself that manifests unity even as diversity of obedience to outward practice manifests (or the lack of obedience to any outward practice) in the body itself. As long as the inward or inshining anointing is the focus and not departed from, there can be no disunity in diversity of outward practice. Rogers goes on to write:
"When in Ages and Generations past, the Apostasy first entred as a Flood, I am perswaded, that all who have known the Truth, and have had the Consideration and true Sense thereof upon their Spirit, do conclude, that the Cause thereof sprang through an inward Departure from the Anointing in themselves (Obedience whereunto according to the respective Measures of Grace given of God, and received by each Member, was a manifestation of that wherein the Unity of the Body stands) and as the Apostasy entered, no doubt but the Traditions and Rudiments of Men came to be exalted; against which the Apostle Paul cautioned the Colossians, saying, Col. 2. 8. Beware lest there by any that spoil you through the Traditions of Men, according to the Rudiments of the World, and not after Christ; but yet notwithstanding, I Question, whether any have been greater Pretenders to Unity, that those who have been exalting the Tradition of Men; and shall leave it to the Judicious Reader to consider, whether a sufficient Evidence hereof appears not in divers Apostatised Churches1 professing Christianity, wherein is establish't by Outward means what is to be Believed, and what is to be practiced; and yet doubtless as remote from the Unity, wherein the Fellowship of the Saints in Light doth consist, as the East if from the West, and so in their Unity (being but Outward) have found no more acceptance with the Lord, than the Unworthy Eaters did, whilest they discerned not the Lords Body." (Source: Rogers. Third Part. Pgs 84,85.)
"Many of Gods People yet in the Body are Witnesses that, one part of that testimony which accompanied the Servants of the Lord in those latter Days was against Outward Forms, Tradition, Prescriptions, Decrees, Ordinances of men, with relation to Matters Spiritual and Divine, and wherein the Consciences of Gods People might be concerned, as being those Rudiments of the World, out of which he hath determined to gather his People (for to the Children of Light they appeared more agreeable to the Nature, and Tenour of the First-Covenant than the Second) and not only so, but to establish his Church on the Rock Christ, that so, as they received him, they might walk in him, according to their respective Measures of Grace given the of God to profit withal, and which, as the Apostle declared, was sufficient for them." (Source: Rogers. Third Part pg. 85.)
"Now, Inasmuch as the Testimony of Truth hath been, that what God leads out of, he usually leads not into again; I appeal to Gods witness in all Consciences, whether an Indispensable Establishment of Outward Orders, Prescriptions, and Decrees for the Members of the Church of Christ to walk by, and submit unto, at this Day, and wherein the Liberty of their Consciences may be invaded (of which my meaning is not other Liberty that what the Gospel allows) doth not seem to exalt the sort of Unity, wherein the Fellowship of the Saints in Light doth not consist, and so consequently may become the means to draw the Minds of Gods People outward, and to cause them to look at Outward things (under the notion of Things establish't in the Church) more than to the Anointing in themselves; let Gods Witness in every Conscience Judge." (Source: Rogers. Third Part pg 85.)
"I cannot but say, it is against right Reason for any to Prescribe and Establish Outward Indispensable Rules, and Orders, relating to the Conscience, and in order to be a Bond theron, for the Conservation of Christs Body, since 'tis evident, that the most certain and infallible Marks of Memberhship in the said Body, are Invisible to the Outward Man, though felt and known to the Inward Man of the Heart ..." (Source: Rogers. Third Part pg. 57.)
It is evident that disunity is not manifest because of diversity of outward practice or the lack thereof, but is the direct result of the coming out of focus or watchfulness upon the directly experienced inshining impulse of the Light itself in itself and coming back into a focus upon and the establishment of indispensable outward forms and practices that the whole of the Body must follow.