Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
As it has been all along the history of human beings' renunciation of its measure of inknowing through the power of the direct illumination of Presence itself, today people gather around and are enchanted simulations or shadows of life rather than the Life itself. Men and woman (ministers, philosophers, theologians, teachers, politicians, political and religious activists) fashion religious and secular ideological, theological, political, institutional, and scriptural simulations of meaningful life and vie for adherents to their outwardly expired agenda. They build a metaphysical simulation and teach and profess it; overshadowing the in-with Life with layers and layers of outward incantations bewitching inknowing inspired spiritual being with outwardly expired similitudes.
The early Quakers knew and spoke to directly inspired Presence itself as the only true spiritual guide and turned from outward expired knowledge and teaching in matters of the Spirit. This inspired Presence is active today in many people. This inknowing Life is an existential threat to those who profess and those who are anchored in outwardly expired similitudes of spiritual life. It is an existential threat to outwardly mediated traditional, political, religious, and secular philosophical and religious forms because the Life itself is Mediator in itself without regard to outwardly expired governmental, secular, and religious forms. Presence itself is Governor and Authority and Teacher in spiritual matters. In the Life, we do not look to outward governmental and religious institutions for meaning and direction a life outwardly anchored shall not be so among us. We are waking to the trick of those who give substance to shadows or similitudes or simulations, as the early Quakers also awoke. We are contemporaries of the first Quakers in our measure of the inward Life, not on our adherence to outward forms.
Today, the in-with Light is working in individuals and increasing their measure of illumination to witness to the Life itself through waiting upon the Spirit's working within. The shadows and simulations are crashing down all around the outward professors and leaders and their metaphysical simulations. The Sun is inshining and replacing the outwardly expired shadows with awakening light.
"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
HERE Christ cuts off that power and authority which grows up in the corrupt nature of man, which was ever and anon springing up even in the disciples. Here he wholly excludes it out of the church, and says expressly he would have no such thing among them; no such kind of greatness no such kind of authority. Among the Gentiles there are great ones, there are princes; and these great ones, these princes, they lord it over the inferior ones, exercising authority and dominion over them; "but it shall not be so among you."
The Gentile-state was a shadow, even as the Jews' state was a shadow. The one of death, the other of life ; the one of darkness, the other of light. The one was the image of Satan, the prince of wickedness; the other of Christ, the prince of righteousness and peace. They were both veils, under which the two kingdoms were hid.
[ The corrupt nature that springs up in man is giving substance to shadows or veils. It is the establishment and institution of outward forms and traditions as guides rather than inknowing faith through the illumination and guidance of Presence itself in conscious and conscience.]
Now in the Gentile-state there were nations, princes, laws, governments, dominions, authorities, &c., but all in the fall, till in darkness, all in the transgression from the life. The whole state was corrupt, and there must be no imitation from hence, no likeness of any such thing in the kingdom of Christ, no such kind of law, no such kind of government, no such kind of authority, no such kind of anger with persons that transgress, no such kind of dealing with any, no such kind of detriment or hurt to any. There is nothing to hurt in the mountain of God's holiness; but there is a righteous sceptre, a sweet sceptre, a spiritual sceptre, which reacheth the spirit in the power of life, but toucheth not the outward man.
[In the Kingdom, there is no imitation of the outward ways of secular and religious government or the teachers or ministers. In the Kingdom, the Spirit itself governs and teaches. There is no looking to outward rules and principles in the new covenant. Presence itself is sufficient to teach and reprove.]
Two things are here excluded by Christ, from whence all the mischief ariseth in the church (all the tyranny and oppression of men's consciences, and of their persons, estates, and liberties, for conscience' sake): first, greatness; secondly, the exercising dominion and authority by those that would be great therein.
[The world seeks men and women who seek greatness and dominion to impose their consciences on others through secular and religious outward ideological, theological, traditional, and institutional forms. This is excluded by Christ.]
Such a kind of greatness as is in the world, is the destruction of the life of Christ; and such a kind of dominion and authority as is among the nations, is the direct overturning of the kingdom of Christ. It sets up another power than Christ's, another greatness than Christ's, another kind of authority than Christ's ; and so it eats out the virtue and life of his kingdom, and makes it just like one of the kingdoms of this world.
[The extent to which people advocate for outward principles, rules, institutions, traditions, and the dominion of these over the consciences of men and women is the extent to which they contribute to the overturning of the Kingdom of Christ and establish an authority other than Christ within the conscience of people and contribute to their condemnation. Those who advocate for the establishment of outward political agendas through outward political and religious institutions and traditions establish an authority outside of the authority of Presence itself, which is idolatry. In the same way, many establish and advocate for religious institutional dominion over against individual conscience and likewise condemn people by giving substance to shadows and dimming the inner work of the Spirit itself.]
"It shall not be so among you." This spirit must be kept out from among you ; this aspiring spirit, this lofty, ruling spirit, which loves to be great, which loves to have dominion, which would exalt itself, because 'of the gift it has received, and would bring others into subjection ; this spirit must be subdued among Christ's disciples, or it will ruin all. The Lord gives grace and knowledge for another end than for men to take upon them to be great, and rule over others because of it. And he that, because of this, thinks himself fit to rule over men's consciences, and to make them bow to what he knows or takes to be truth, he loseth his own life hereby; and so far as he prevails upon others, he doth but destroy their life too.
Quest. But how shall this spirit be kept out, or kept down, that it may not hurt the disciple in whom it ariseth: or if it do, that the hurt may remain to himself, and may not prejudice the church!
Ans. When this spirit begins to arise up in any so soon as ever he perceives it, in that which discovers it. he is to fight against it: laying himself so much the lower, by how much he finds this evil spirit raising him up. He is to hearken to that which presents the cross to it. and so to come down, and subject himself in serving and ministering to those who are little in his eyes. Instead of reigning over them, let him lie beneath them: let him watch and know the life even in the meanest, and. serve it: for that is his place. That which would rule is to serve: that which would be great is to be little ; and the little one is to become a nation. That which is low is to rise ; and thou art not fit to rise with it, further than thou canst serve it. both in thyself and others. Therefore if ever thou beest aspiring, if ever thou have a mind to rule, if ever thou think thyself fit to teach, because of what thou hast received, sink down, lie low, take up the cross to that proud spirit, make it bend and serve, let the life in every one rise over it, and trample upon it ; and afterwards that in thee may arise which is fit to teach, yea, and to rule in the Lord : and so long as that hath the do minion, thou mayst be serviceable to the Lord, and to his truth and people; but if ever the other get up again, thou must presently come down again, or the wrong spirit will get dominion over thee, which with force and cruelty will rule over the life both in thyself and others. Thus, if a man be faithful to Christ, this evil, aspiring spirit, at its first appearance, may be dealt with, and kept down ; but if it be cherished, given way to, and once let up, it will be hard bringing of it down afterwards. Therefore the disciples, or the church of Christ, arc to watch over every such spirit, to beat it down, to testify against it, to turn from it, to lay it flat, to put it in its proper place ; that is beneath all, to minister to all, and so not to suffer it to rise; see ver. 26. "Let him be your minister." This is his place, this is his work, by the authority of Christ. He that would be great, he that would rule, let him minister. Own him there; if he will lie low there, if he will be faithful there, ye may have unity with him. But in that his aspiring temper, in his ruling, in his teaching by what he hath gained, or what hath been given to him formerly (if out of the present life) he is to be denied and turned from.
If this rule of Christ's had been kept to, antichrist's power could never have got up: nor the poor innocent lambs so often have been worried by the wolves. Ah, poor hearts ! how simply do they come thither, where they once tasted refreshment, to find wholesome advice, not suspecting what is got up there since, but give the dominion to a wrong thing, and so take directions from a wrong spirit, and betray their own simplicity.
[Those teachers who seek greatness will be known by their want for dominion over the consciences of others. They seek outward institutional, traditional, political, secular and/or religious, and personal dominion over people rather than the dominion of inward Presence as the sole and only teacher and guide.]
Christ urgeth this upon his disciples from his own pattern, "even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but, &c." ver. 28. If any had right to be great, surely Christ ; if any had right to exercise authority, surely Christ; if any was to be advanced because of any gift received, or because of any presence of the Spirit with him, surely Christ: yet Christ took not upon him this kind of greatness, nor did exercise this kind of authority; but he was a servant; he made use of the gift of the Spirit, of the power of life where with the Father filled him, to minister and serve with. He did never lord it over the consciences of any of his disciples; but did bear with them, and pity them in their infirmities. ("What! can ye not watch with me one hour? The Spirit" said he "is willing, but the flesh is weak.") He did not hold forth to them whatever he knew to be truth, requiring them to believe it; but was content with them in their state, and waited till their capacities were enlarged, being still satisfied with the honesty and integrity of their hearts in their present state of weakness. Nor did he strive to reign over the world, or call for fire from heaven, when they would not receive him, or express indignation when they desired him to depart out of their coasts, or pray for twelve legions of angels when they came to betray him, and most unrighteously sought his life ; but the life he had received of his Father he gave up as a ransom for his disciples, yea, and for his enemies. Mark: he did not make use of what was given to him, to raise himself up above others, to make his word to stand for a law, and be received ; but he waited till that was opened in his disciples, and in the people, which was able to receive his testimony; and he made use of his power of life, and the fulness of the Spirit, to enable him the more abundantly to serve, and to wait in patience for the fulfilling of the will of the Father. And though Israel was not gathered by him, yet was he meek, and patient, and at rest in the will of him that sent him ; and instead of reigning over all, could serve all, and give that life (whose due it was to reign) "a ransom for many." ver. 28.
"His kingdom was not of this world," nor did he seek any greatness or authority according to this world, neither over the Jews, nor over the Gentiles, nor over his own disciples ; but he served all, he sought the good of all : the life in him, which was to reign over all, yet here served all, suffered for all, and from all, and that was his way to his crown ; who having finished his course, fulfilled his service, perfected his sufferings, is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high, where now he reigns over all, and is made a king by God in righteousness. And this is the pattern which all his disciples are to walk by. The more life they receive, the more they are to minister, the more they are to serve. They must not lift up themselves by their gifts; they must not hereupon lord it over others, or hold forth their knowledge or doctrines, and think to make others bow thereto ; but wait in their service, till the Lord make way into men's hearts, and plant his truth there; and upon him also must they wait for the watering and growth of it.
Quest. But is there to be no greatness, no authority among the disciples of Jews, or in the church of Christ? Is every one to do what he will, to be subject to his own fancies and imaginations, to the inventions of his own corrupt heart? What a confused building will this be! Surely this will not ony remain a Sion, but soon become a Babylon, even a heap of disorder and confusion.
Ans. There is to be no such kind of greatness, no such kind of authority ; yet there is both a greatness and authority suitable to the state of disciples ; suitable to that kind of kingdom whereof they are. There are laws, there are governments, there are governors, there is ruling, and there is subjection : but all in the Spirit ; all suitable to that which is to be governed ; but no government of, or according to, the flesh. As Christ's kingdom is not of this world, so the government of his church and people is not according to this world; but as that which gathers in his Spirit, and that which is gathered, is spiritual ; so that which is governed is the spirits of his people, and they are to be governed by his Spirit, and spiritually, and not after a fleshly manner.
[Here Penington witnesses to a completely different government than that of the corrupt nature, which anchors conscious and informs conscience through outward secular and religious forms, rules, principles, traditions, etc. He speaks of a completely different orientation wherein human being is anchored to and informed by the inward Light itself .... directly and without mediation. In this orientation those governed by the Spirit itself do not look outwardly after ideologies, philosophies, theologies, rituals, practices, institutions, scripture, etc., for spiritual guidance; instead the individuals rests in the directly experienced Light itself. He does not acknowledge outward secular and religions forms as valid substitutes or preparation for Presence itself. To give value to outward secular and religious forms is to set up another government than the inward Christ. He even goes so far as to say, to do so, destroys the Kingdom within.]
Thus Christ himself, though he ministered to his disciples, yet he also was their Lord and Master, and in the Spirit and life of the Father ruled over them. And thus the apostles and other ministers of Christ had likewise, in the Spirit, the care of the churches, and authority in the Lord, by his Spirit, to govern the spirits of his people: not to govern after a fleshly manner, by their own wills : not to pre scribe to them in a lordly way, either what they should believe or practise ; but, in the light and in the power of the Spirit, to make their way into every one's conscience in the sight of God, ministering to every one in the Spirit according to their capacity and growth, and waiting patiently for God to convey the food and nourishment, and to build their spirits up in the faith thereby.
"The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets." Here is the government, here is the law of rule and subjection in the life. Every one feeling a measure of the Spirit in himself, is thereby taught to own and be subject to a greater measure of the same Spirit in another. He that hath no measure of the spirit of God, he is not of God, he is none of Christ's: and he that hath received a measure of the Spirit, in the same Spirit feeleth another's. measure, and owneth it in its place and service, and knoweth its moving, and cannot quench it, but giveth way to it with joy and delight. "When the Spirit moves in any one to speak, the same Spirit moves in the other to he subject and give way: and so every one keeping to his own measure in the Spirit, here can he no disorder, but true subjection of every spirit; and where this is wanting, it cannot he supplied by any outward rule or order, set up in the church by common consent: for that is fleshly, and lets in the flesh, and destroys the true order, rule, and subjection.
[Notice the spirit of deference in those whose conscious is anchored in and conscience is informed by the immediacy of Presence. This is Penington's answer to those who argue that faith in the sufficiency of Presence itself rather than faith in outward forms leads to chaos. In Presence, those who are of different measure will open way to each other in faith in Presence itself. But watch, he goes on to say, where a measure of light is severely lacking, that it cannot be supplied or offset by outward rule or order or set up in the church by common consent. He then even goes further and says to do so, destroys the true order, rule, and subjection of the direct guidance of the inward Spirit itself. This is powerful testimony and truly demonstrates the distinguishing mark of the early Quaker experience. The inward Light is the true rule and the only true rule; the institution or establishment of outward rules and teachers destroys the true order.]
The apostles and ministers of Christ come from Christ with a message of life and salvation, with a testimony concerning the good-will of God, and his love to mankind; pointing out the way from death to life, from bondage to liberty, from wrath and destruction to peace and salvation. "What they have seen, what they have felt, what they have tasted, what they have handled, what they have found redeem and deliver them, that they declare abroad to others, as they are moved, as they are sent, as they are guided and assisted.
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 be comes hard, or subject to men's wills, so another spirit gets dominion over it.
[It is one thing to witness to the inward Spirit and to leave it to the Spirit itself work in people's conscience. It is destructive of inknowing to shadow the Spirit behind a veil of outward forms using outward reason to justify the overshadowing. This overshadowing sears and scabs inknowing itself; leaving it a mere crust or shell covering and concealing inspired Presence with expired forms.]
Therefore the great work of the minister of Christ is to keep the conscience open to Christ, and to preserve men from receiving any truths of Christ as from them further than the Spirit opens ; or to imitate any of their practices further than the Spirit leads, guides, and persuades them. For persons are exceeding prone to receive things as truths from those whom they have a high opinion of, and to imitate their practices, and so hurt their own growth, and endanger their souls. For if I receive a truth before the Lord by his Spirit make it manifest to me, I lose my guide, and follow but the counsel of the flesh, which is exceeding greedy of receiving truths, and running into religious practices, with out the Spirit. Therefore the main thing in religion is to keep the conscience pure to the Lord, to know the guide, to follow the guide, to receive from him the light whereby I am to walk; and not to take things for truths because others see them to be truths; but to wait till the Spirit make them manifest to me ; nor to run into worships, duties, performances, or practices, because others are led thither; but to wait till the Spirit lead me thither. "He that makes haste to be rich" (even in religion, running into knowledge, and into worships and performances, before he feel a true and clear guidance) "shall not be innocent: " nor the Lord will not hold him guiltless, when he comes to visit for spiritual adultery and idolatry. The apostles were exceeding tender in this point:"" for though they certainly and infallibly knew what was to be believed; yet they were not lords over men's faith, but waited till he who is lord of the faith, would open the way into men's consciences. They did not take upon them to be able to turn the key, to let in truth and conviction into men's spirits (as men in these days have been too apt to undertake) ; but directed them to him who had the key, there to wait for the conviction and illumination of their minds, and so to receive in, as they found him give forth to them.
[How many lost souls may have come to inknowing but for those leaders, ministers, professors, teachers, politicians, political activists, traditionalists, conservatives, liberals, etc., that cast their shadowy veils of outward forms over those tender souls in search of the thing itself? How many souls have come to inknowing because those inspired, did not expire outwardly, but opened to direct inspiring through a witness of waiting and resting for increased a measure of inward Spirit itself?]
"Let every man," saith the apostle, "be fully persuaded in his own mind ; " take heed of receiving things too soon, take heed of running into practices too soon, take heed of doing what ye see others do, but wait for your own particular guidance, and for a full persuasion from God, what is his will concerning you. Though I know this to be a truth, yet do not ye receive it, till God make it manifest to you ; receive truth from his hand, stay till he give it you. Indeed the main matter in religion is to keep out the wrong part, the forward part; the bastardly birth from running into duties, catching of openings, and laying hold of promises ; and to feel the heir born of the immortal seed, to whom all belongs ; and that the other birth never afterwards get up above him, but be subdued and brought into subjection.
Again, saith the apostle, take heed of doing anything " doubtingly ; " be not forward, be not hasty; wait for the leading, wait for the manifestation of the Spirit. Be sure thou receive what thou receivest in faith, and practise what thou practisest in faith; .for "whatsoever is not of faith is sin," being an error from the principle of life, which is to guide; and thereby thou losest ground, and dishonorest Christ, and comest under condemnation.
And so the apostle warns believers, to take heed of drawing one another on too fast, or of judging one another in such things as some of them might have light in, others not. He that eateth, not to judge him that did not eat; and he that did not eat, not to judge him that did eat. Yea, in matters of worship, he that observed a day, and kept a sabbath, not to judge him that observed not a day, or kept not a sabbath ; for the Jews, which were truly converted, were yet hard to be drawn off from the observation of their sabbath, and could hardly bear with the believing Gentiles, who were never taught to keep their sabbath with them, but were taught to esteem every day, and sanctify it to the Lord. Rom. xiv. 5. And those who esteemed every day, and dedicated it to the Lord (ceasing from sin, and resting to him : for under the gospel we are not to set up a new type, but to enter by faith into the true rest, which is the substance of what the other signified) could hardly bear with them who observed a day. Even in the apostles' days, Christians were too apt to strive after a wrong unity and uniformity in outward practices and observations, and to judge one another unrighteously in these things. And mark ; it is not the different practice from one another that breaks the peace and unity, but the judging of one another because of different practices. He that keeps not a day, may unite in the same Spirit, in the same life, in the same love with him that keeps a day ; and he who keeps a day, may unite in heart and soul with the same Spirit and life in him who keeps not a day ; but he that judgeth the other because of either of these, errs from the Spirit, from the love, from the life, and so breaks the bond of unity. And he that draws another to any practice, before the life in his own particular lead him ; doth as much as in him lies, destroy the soul of that person, ver. 15. This was the apostle's rule, for every one to perform singly to the Lord what he did, and not for one to meddle with the light or con- Bcience of another (undervaluing his brother, or judging him because his light and practices differed from his, chap, xiv. 10.) but every one to keep close to their own measure of light, even to that proportion of faith and knowledge, which God of his mercy hath bestowed on them. And here is the true unity in the Spirit, in the inward life, and not in an outward uniformity. That was not necessary in the apostles' days, nor is it necessary now ; and that eye which so dotes upon it, overlooks the one thing which is necessary. Men keeping close to God, the Lord will lead them on fast enough, and give them light fast enough ; for he taketh care of such, and knoweth what light, and what practices are most proper for them ; but for men to walk on faster than the Lord holds forth his light to them, this over turns them, raising up a wrong thing in them, and the true birth hereby comes to suffer, to shrink, and be driven back. And oh ! how sweet and pleasant is it to the truly spiritual eye, to see several sorts of believers, several forms of Christians in the school of Christ, every one learning their own lesson, performing their own peculiar service, and knowing, owning, and loving one another in their several places, and different performances to their Master, to whom they are to give an account, and not to quarrel with one another about their different practices! Rom. xiv. 4. For this is the true ground of love and unity, not that such a man walks and does just as I do, but because I feel the same Spirit and life in him, and in that he walks in his rank, in his own order, in his proper way and place of sub jection to that. And this is far more pleasing to me, than if he walked just in that rank wherein I walk: nay, so far as I am spiritual I cannot so much as desire that he should do so, until he be particularly led thereto, by the same Spirit which led me. And he that knows what it is to receive any truths from the Spirit, and to be led into practices by the Spirit, and how prone the fleshly part is to make haste, and how dangerous that haste is, will not be forward to press his knowledge or practices upon others, but rather wait patiently till the Lord fit them for the receiving thereof, for fear lest they should receive and practise too soon, even in that part which cannot serve the Lord. And this I can truly say concerning myself, I never found my spirit forward to draw any, either to anything I believed to be true, or to any practice or way of worship I observed or walked in ; but desired that the power and leadings of life might go before them, and was afraid lest men should receive things from my hand, and not from the Lord's. Yea, and this I very well remember, that when I walked in the way of Independency (as it hath been commonly called) I had more unity with, and more love towards, such as were single-hearted in other ways and practices of worship (whose spirits I had some feeling of in the true simplicity, and in the life) than with divers of such who were very knowing and zealous in that way of Independency, in whom a wrong thing in the mean time had got up, which had caused them to swerve from the life, and from the simplicity.
[Ours is to witness and hold to inspired and intuited Christ so that it is the immediacy of Presence itself that guides and not our ideologies, theologies, institutions, practices, scripture, or book of faith and practice.]
So that the true church government being in the Spirit, and over the conscience as in the sight of God, the great care must be to keep it within its bounds, that nothing else govern but the Spirit, and that the government be extended only unto that which is to be governed.
First, Care must be had that nothing govern in the church of Christ, but the spirit of Christ: that nothing else teach; nothing else exhort; nothing else admonish and reprove ; nothing else cut off and cast out. Every minister in the church is to watch over his own spirit, that it intrude not into the work of God, that it take not upon it to be the teacher, the exhorter, the reprover, &c. And every member is to wait in the measure of the Spirit which he hath received, to feel the goings-forth of the Spirit in him who teacheth and governeth ; and so to subject not to man, but to the Lord ; to receive from the Lord, to obey the Lord. Not to know any minister according to the flesh ; but to receive and submit to what comes from the Spirit, in the Spirit. Not to know Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, but the Spirit ministering in them. Paul may err, Apollos may err, Peter may err (and did err, when he compelled the Gentiles to live as the Jews, Gal. ii. 14. for which Paul withstood him to the face. ver. 11.), and Barnabas also did err. ver. 13. But the Spirit cannot err; and he that keeps to the meas ure of the Spirit in himself, cannot let in any of their errors, if they should err, but is preserved. For the least measure of the Spirit is true, and gives true judgment; but he that receiveth ever so great a measure of the Spirit, yet if he keep not low therein, but lifteth up himself because thereof above his brethren, may easily err himself, and draw aside others into his error.
Secondly, Care must be had that the conscience be kept tender, that nothing be received, but according to the light in the conscience. The conscience is the seat of faith; and if it be not kept close to the light which God lighteth there, faith is soon made shipwreck of. Christianity is begun in the Spirit, which keepeth out the fleshly part, with all its fleshly wisdom and reasonings about spiritual things; and as the beginning is in the anointing, so must the progress be. As the Spirit begins in the conscience, by convincing that, by persuading that, by setting up his light there, and leading the soul by that light; so that light must still be eyed, and according to its growth and manifestation in the conscience, so must the soul stand still, or go on.
The great error of the ages of the apostasy hath been, to set up an outward order and uniformity, and to make men's consciences bend thereto, either by arguments of wisdom, or by force ; but the property of the true church government is, to leave the conscience to its full liberty in the Lord, to preserve it single and entire for the Lord to exercise, and to seek unity in the light and in the Spirit, walking sweetly and harmoniously together in the midst of different practices. Yea, and he that hath faith, and can see beyond an other, yet can have it to himself, and not disturb his brother with it, but can descend and walk with him according to his measure; and if his brother have any heavy burthen upon him, he can lend him his shoulder, and bear part of his burthen with him. Oh ! how sweet and lovely is it to see brethren dwell together in unity, to see the true image of God raised in persons, and they knowing and loving one another in that image, and bearing with one another through love, and helping one another under their temptations and distresses of spirit, which every one must expect to meet with.
If thou art a Christian indeed and in truth, preserve thy conscience pure and tender towards God ; do not defile it with such religious practices, duties, ordinances, &c., as thou dost not feel the Spirit leading thee into; for all such are idols, and exceedingly pollute thee. And be tender also of thy brother's conscience, and be not an instrument to draw him into any thing which the Lord leads him not into; bat rejoice if thou find him in simplicity of heart startling at any thing; for if he abide here faithful, his guide will in due season appear to him, and clear up his way before him ; but if he be too hasty, he may follow a wrong guide, and that guide will never lead him aright towards the kingdom, but entangle him further and further from it.
Oh! how many have run a whoring from the Lord! How many have first lost the guidance of his Spirit, and then drowned their life in religious performances! How many have drunk of the cup of fornication from the life, at the hands of the fleshly wisdom ! How many have filled their spirit with New-Testament idols and images! How many have even hardened their hearts and consciences, by following the doctrines of men, their imaginary meaning of scriptures, and the imaginations and dreams of their own hearts! Is it not time for men at length to turn back towards the Lord, to wait for the visitation and light of his Spirit; from whom they have gone a whoring, and whom in all things they have grieved ? And if ever any feel and enjoy the guidance of God's Spirit, their conscience must be kept tender to it, and ready to hear and follow his voice, who speaks in Spirit to that which is born of him, which infallibly knows his voice, and (being kept clear) cannot doubt con cerning it. "My sheep hear my voice," saith Christ: they know it, and the voice of the strange spirit they know not so as to follow it, but turn from it, both in themselves and others. But that which is not the sheep, but hath only got the sheep's clothing, cries out, How shall we know the voice of the Spirit? We may be deceived. Nay, that which is born of God, that which is the elect of God, cannot be deceived. Wait therefore for the birth of the Spirit, to which the Spirit is given for a guide, who infallibly guides it out of deceit. All deceivers are out of this birth, out of this Spirit; perhaps in some birth or other framed from the letter, and living in the imitation of some practices and ordinances from the letter (under which cover they lie in wait to deceive), but strangers to the life and power, and to that wisdom which begets and bears to God. Thus the Jews erred, and deceived their proselytes before the coming of Christ: thus the Christians (in name) have generally erred all along the apostasy; and, indeed, for the generality, have not been true Christians, but only a persecuted remnant amongst them ; whose life hath been nourished and preserved, not by doctrines and observations which they have been taught by the precepts of men, nor by the knowledge which they themselves have gathered, but by a little bread daily handed to them from the Father of mercies out of the wilderness; that was the thing which nourished their souls up to God, though many of them knew not distinctly what it was that nourished them, nor how they came by it.
Object. But is not uniformity lovely; and doth not the apostles exhort Christians to be of one mind; and were it not a sweet thing if we were all of one heart and one way?
Ans. Yea, uniformity is very lovely; and to be desired and waited for, as the Spirit of the Lord, which is one, leads and draws into one. But for the fleshly part (the wise reasoning part in man) by fleshly ways and means to strive to bring about fleshly uniformity, which ensnares and over bears the tender conscience; this is not lovely, nor spiritual, nor Christian. And the apostle, who exhorts Christians to one mind, yet doth not bid them force one another into one mind, but walk together sweetly so far us they had attained; and wherein they were otherwise minded, God in his due time would reveal more to them. Philip, iii. 15, 16. He that hath, to him shall be given. And the intent and work of the ministry (with the several ministrations of it) is to bring into the unity, Ephes. iv. 13. as persons are able to follow: and not to force all men into one practice or way; that is the way to destroy the faith, and the true unity, and at best can introduce but a fleshly appearance of unity, in such a form of worship and godliness as eats out the power. And for being of one heart and one way, blessed be the Lord, this is in measure known and witnessed. The way is one ; Christ, the truth of God ; and he that is in the faith, and in the obedience to that light which shines from his Spirit into the heart of every believer, hath a taste of the one heart, and of the one way ; and knoweth that no variety of practices, which is of God, can make a breach of the true unity. This is the one way, for every one to be subject to that light of Christ's Spirit which he hath received from Christ; and every one keeping here, there is also one part kept in the midst of all the variety, and diversity of practices. And the unity being thus kept, all will come into one outwardly also at length, as the light grows in every one, and as every one grows into the light; but this must be patiently waited for from the hand of God (who hath the right way of effecting it, and who alone can do it) ; and not harshly and cruelly attempted by the rough hand of man.
[In this piece, Penington ever brings the reader back around to the Spirit itself as the Guide and clearly marks the use of outwards forms and practice as destructive to the inward Kingdom of Heaven. Nowhere does he give space for or a role to outward rules, principles, traditions, laws, the Quaker book of faith and practice, etc, as appropriate or serviceable for spiritual preparation or guidance. He explicitly witnesses to waiting upon the direct and immediate guidance of Presence itself. This is the Kingdom of Heaven, to shed the shadowings and veils of outward forms re-placing them Presence itself and to wait and rest in the experience itself to know the increase in measure of inward Light. Place no faith in outward forms and practices. Place faith in a conscious and conscience anchored in and informed by the immediacy of Presence itself. Place faith in inspired Spirit rather than outwardly expired forms that shadow the Life itself.]
[There is no place among the inknowing for outwardly expired forms and practices. It shall not be so among us.]