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A BRIEF ACCOUNT
RISE AND PROGRESS
Their Fundamental Principle, Doctrines, Worship, Ministry, and Discipline, are plainly Declared.
BY WILLIAM PENN.
Published in the Year 1694.
AN EPISTLE TO THE READER.
THIS following account of the people called Quakers, &c. was writ in the fear and love of God: first, as a standing testimony to that ever-blessed truth, in the inward parts, with which God, in my youthful time, visited my soul, and for the sense and love of which I was made willing, in no ordinary way, to relinquish the honours and interests of the world: secondly, as a testimony for that despised people, that God has, in his great mercy, gathered and united, by his own blessed Spirit, in the holy profession of it; whose fellowship I value above all worldly greatness: thirdly, in love and honour to the memory of that worthy servant of God, G. Fox, the first instrument thereof, and therefore styled by me, the great and blessed apostle of our day.
As this gave birth to what is here presented to thy view, in the first edition of it, by way of preface to G. Fox's excellent journal; so the consideration of the present usefulness of the following account of the people called Quakers, VOL. III.
(by reason of the unjust reflections of some adversaries, that once walked under the profession of friends) and the exhortations that conclude it, prevailed with me to consent that it should be republished in a smaller volume; knowing also full well, that great books, especially in these days, grow burthensome, both to the pockets and minds of too many; and that there are not a few that desire (so it be at an easy rate) to be informed about this people, that have been so much, every where, spoken against: but, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is upon no worse grounds, than it was said of old time of the primitive Christians; as I hope will appear to every sober and considerate reader. Our business, after all the ill usage we have met with, being the realities of religion, and effectual change, before our last and great change: that all may come to an inward, sensible, and experimental knowledge of God, through the convictions and operation of the light and Spirit of Christ in themselves; the sufficient and blessed means given to all, and that thereby all may come savingly to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent to enlighten and redeem the world; which knowledge is, indeed, eternal life. And that thou, reader, mayest obtain it, is the earnest desire of him that is ever
Thine in so good a work,
A BRIEF ACCOUNT, &c.
Containing a brief account of divers dispensations of God in the world, to the time he was pleased to raise this despised people, called Quakers.
DIVERS have been the dispensations of God, since the creation of the world, unto the sons of men: but the great end of all of them has been, the renown of his own excellent name, in the creation and restoration of man: man, the em blem of himself, as a god on earth, and the glory of all his works.
The world began with innocency: all was then good that the good God had made: and as he blessed the works of
his hands, so their nature and harmony magnified him, their Creator. Then the morning stars sang together for joy, and all parts of his works said amen to his law. Not a jar in the whole frame; but man in paradise, the beasts in the field, the fowl in the air, the fish in the sea, the lights in the heavens, the fruits of the earth, yea, the air, the earth, the water and fire, worshipped, praised, and exalted his power, wisdom, and goodness. O holy sabbath, O holy day to the Lord!
But this happy state lasted not long: for man, the crown and glory of the whole, being tempted to aspire above his place, unhappily yielded against command and duty, as well as interest and felicity, and so fell below it; lost the divine image, the wisdom, power, and purity he was made in. By which, being no longer fit for paradise, he was expelled that garden of God, his proper dwelling and residence, and was driven out, as a poor vagabond, from the presence of the Lord, to wander in the earth, the habitation of beasts.
Yet God, that made him, had pity on him for he, seeing man was deceived, and that it was not of malice, or an original presumption in him, but through the subtlety of the serpent (who had first fallen from his own state, and by the mediation of the woman, man's own nature and companion, whom the serpent had first deluded) in his infinite goodness and wisdom, found out a way to repair the breach, recover the loss, and restore fallen man again, by a nobler and more excellent Adam, promised to be born of a woman; that as, by means of a woman, the evil one had prevailed upon man, by a woman also He should come into the world, who would prevail against him and bruise his head, and deliver man from his power: and which, in a signal manner, by the dispensation of the Son of God in the flesh, in the fulness of time, was personally and fully accomplished by him, and in him, as man's Saviour and Redeemer.
But his power was not limited, in the manifestation of it, to that time; for both before, and since, his blessed manifestation in the flesh, he has been the light and life, the rock' and strength, of all that ever feared God: was present with them in their temptations, followed them in their travels and afflictions, and supported and carried them through and over the difficulties that have attended them in their earthly pilgrimage. By this Abel's heart excelled Cain's, and Seth obtained the pre-eminence, and Enoch walked with God. It was this that strove with the old world, and which they rebelled against, and which sanctified and instructed Noah to salvation.
But the outward dispensation that followed the benighted
state of man, after his fall, especially among the patriarchs, was generally that of angels; as the scriptures of the Old Testament do in many places express, as to Abraham, Jacob, &c. The next was that of the law by Moses, which was also delivered by angels, as the apostle tells us. This dispensation was much outward, and suited to a low and servile state; called therefore, by the apostle Paul, that of a schoolmaster, which was to point out, and prepare that people to look and long for, the Messiah, who would deliver them from the servitude of a ceremonious and imperfect dispensation, by knowing the realities of those mysterious representations in themselves. In this time, the law was written on stone, the temple built with hands, attended with an outward priesthood and external rites and ceremonies, that were shadows of the good things that were to come, and were only to serve till the Seed came, (or the more excel lent and general manifestation of Christ) to whom was the promise, and to all men only in him, in whom it was yea and amen, even life from death, immortality, and eternal life.
This the prophets foresaw; and comforted the believing Jews in the certainty of it; which was the top of the Mosaical dispensation, and which ended in John's ministry, the fore-runner of the Messiah, as John's was finished in him, the fulness of all. And then God, that at sundry times, and in divers manners, had spoken to the fathers by his servants the prophets, spoke to men by his Son, Christ Jesus, who is Heir of all things; being the gospel-day, which is the dispensation of sonship; bringing in thereby a nearer testament and a better hope; even the beginning of the glory of the latter days, and of the restitution of all things; yea, the restoration of the kingdom unto Israel.
Now the Spirit, that was more sparingly communicated in former dispensations, began to be poured forth upon all flesh, according to the prophet Joel, and the light, that shined in darkness, or but dimly, before, the most gracious God caused to shine out of darkness, and the day-star began to arise in the hearts of believers, giving unto them the knowledge of God in the face (or appearance) of his Son Christ Jesus.
Now the poor in spirit, the meek, the true mourners, the hungry and thirsty after righteousness, the peace-makers, the pure in heart, the merciful and persecuted, came more especially in remembrance before the Lord, and were sought out and blessed by Israel's true Shepherd. Old Jerusalem with her children grew out of date, and the new Jerusalem into request, the mother of the sons of the gospel-day.
Wherefore no more at old Jerusalem, nor at the mountain of Samaria, will God be worshipped above other places; for, behold, he is, by his own Son, declared and preached a Spirit, and that he will be known as such, and worshipped in the spirit and in the truth! He will now come nearer than of old time, and he will "write his law in the heart, and put his fear and spirit in the inward parts," according to his promise. Then signs, types, and shadows flew away, the day having discovered their insufficiency in not reaching to the inside of the cup, to the cleansing of the conscience; and all elementary services were ended in and by Him that is the substance of all.
And to this great and blessed end of the dispensation of the Son of God, did the apostles testify, whom he had chosen and anointed by his Spirit, to turn the Jews from their prejudice and superstition, and the Gentiles from their vanity and idolatry, to Christ's light and Spirit that shined in them; that they might be quickened from the sins and trespasses in which they were dead, to serve the living God, in the newness of the Spirit of life, and walk as children of the light, and of the day, even the day of holiness: for such "put on Christ," the light of the world, and "make no more provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." So that the light, spirit, and grace, that come by Christ, and appear in man, were that divine principle the apostles ministered from, and turned people's minds unto, and in which they gathered and built up the churches of Christ in their day. For which cause they advise them not to quench the Spirit, but to wait for the Spirit, and speak by the Spirit, and pray by the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit too, as that which approved them the truly begotten children of God, "born not of flesh and blood, or of the will of man, but of the will of God;" by doing his will, and denying their own; by drinking of Christ's cup, and being baptized with His baptism of self-denial; the way and path that all the heirs of life have ever trod to blessedness.
But, alas! even in the apostles' days, (those bright stars of the first magnitude of the gospel light) some clouds, foretelling an eclipse of this primitive glory, began to appear; and several of them gave early caution of it to the Christians of their time, that even then there was, and yet would be more and more, a falling-away from the power of godliness, and the purity of that spiritual dispensation, by such as sought to make a fair show in the flesh, but with whom the offence of the cross ceased; yet with this comfortable conclusion, that they saw, beyond it, a more glorious time than ever to the true church.