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Neither can a man, except he have a portion of the
same Spirit which Jesus and the apostles and the prophets had, know spiritually that the Scriptures are of divine authority, or spiritually understand then-Explanation of these tenetsObjection that these tenets set aside human reaSON—Reply of the Quakers -- Ol'servations of Luther — Calvin-Owen — Archbishop UsherArchbishop Sandys—Milton—Bishop Taylor.
As a man cannot know spiritual things but through the medium of the Spirit of God, or except he have a portion of the same Spirit which Jesus and the prophets and the apostles had; so neither can he, except he have a portion of the same Spirit, either spiritually know that the writings or sayings of these holy persons are of divine authority, or read or understand them to the
promotion of his spiritual interest.
These two tenets are but deductions from that in the former chapter, and may be thus explained : K 2
A man, the Quakers say, may examine the Holy Scriptures, and may deduce their divine origin from the prophecies they contain, of which many have been since accomplished; from the superiority of their doctrines beyond those in any other book which is the work of man; from the miraculous preservation of them for so many ages; from the harmony of all their parts, and from many other circumstances which might be mentioned. But this, after all, will be but an historical, literal, or outward proof of their origin, resulting from his reason or his judgment. It will be no spiritual proof having a spiritual influence on his heart; for this proof of the divine origin of the Scriptures can only be had from the Spirit of God. Thus, when the apostle Paul* preached to several women by the river-side near Philippi, it is said of Lydia only, “ The Lord opened her heart that she attended to the things that were spoken by Paul.” The other women undoubtedly heard the Gospel of Paul with their outward ears : but it does not appear that their hearts were in such a spiritual state that they felt its divine authority; for it is not said of them, as of Lydia, that their hearts were opened to understand spiritually that this Gospel was of God*. Again, 'when Jesus Christ preached to the Jews in the Temple, many believed on him; but others believed not, but were so enraged that they took up stones to cast at him. It appears that they all with their outward ears heard his doctrine, in which he particularly stated that he was from above; but they did not receive the truth of his origin in their hearts, because they were not in a state to receive that faith which cometh from the Spirit of God. In the same manner persons may hear sermon after sermon at the present day, but find no spiritual benefit on their hearts.
* Acts xvi. 13.
Again: A man, by comparing passages of Scripture with other passages, and by considering the use and acceptation of words in these, may arrive at a knowledge of their literal meaning. He may obtain also, by perusing the Scriptures, a knowledge of some of the attributes of God. He may
* John viii. 3045. 49.
discover a part of the plan of his providence. He may collect purer moral truths than from any other source. But no literal reading of the Scriptures can give him that spiritual knowledge of divine things which leads to eternal life. The Scriptures, if literally read, will give him a literal or corresponding knowledge ; but it is only the Spiritual Monitor within who can apply them to his feelings; who can tell him, « Thou art the
This is thy state. This is that which thou oughtest or oughtest not to have done;" so that he sees spiritually (the Spirit of God bearing witness with his own spirit) that his own situation has been described. Indeed, if the Scriptures were sufficient of themselves for this latter purpose, the Quakers say that the knowledge of spiritual things would consist in the knowledge of words. They who were to get the most of the Divine writings by heart would know, spiritually the most of divine truths. The man of the best understanding, or of the most cultivated mind, would be the best proficient in vital religion. But this is contrary to fact. For men of deep learning know frequently less of spiritual Christianity than those of
| the poor, who are scarcel able to read the
Scriptures. They contend also, that if the Scriptures were the most vitally understood by those of the most learning, then the dispensations of God would be partial, inasmuch as he would have excluded the
poor from the highest enjoyment of which the nature of man is susceptible, and from the means of their eternal salvation.
These tenets, which are thus adopted by the Quakers, are considered by many of the moderns as objectionable, inasmuch as they make reason, at least in theology, a useless gift. The Quakers, however, contend that they consider reason as one of the inestimable gifts of God. They value it highly in its proper province. They do not exclude it from religion. Men, by means of it, may correct literal errors in the Scriptures; may restore texts ; may refute doctrines inconsistent with the attributes of the Almighty. The Apology of Robert Barclay, which is a chain of reasoning of this kind from the beginning to the end, is a proof that they do not undervalue the powers of the mind. But they dare not ascribe to human reason that power which they be