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“full of hypocrisy and iniquity,” of “extortion and excess !"
The “SEED," of which our Lord so frequently makes figurative use, is “the word of the kingdom," Math. xiii. 19. called in the parallel passage of Luke's gospel, “ the word of God,” Luke viii. 11.
, and, in the gospel by Mark, simply “the word," Mark iv. 14. “ The sower soweth the word.”—This seed was sown in the preaching of Christ himself, and of his apostles and other ministers ;—and it is still sown, in the preaching of all who publish the same truths. It found of old, and it still finds, various soils, and presents various results :-like seed, in the natural world, either taking no root at all, as on the trodden foot-path ; springing up with hasty but feeble and inefficient growth, and scorched immediately before the sun,—as on the thinly covered rock; presenting a fairer promise, but choked and rendered fruitless by the rankly-springing thorns; or, in the good ground, growing up, and bearing fruit, thirty, sixty, an hundred fold :the first case representing those from whose minds “ the wicked one" catches away the word, the instant it has found admission ;-the second, those whose inconsiderate profession, superficial and rootless, gives way at the first approach of difficulty and trial ;-the third, such as set out well, but become the victims of " the cares of this life, the deceitfulness
of riches, and the lusts of other things;"—and the fourth the genuine subjects of the kingdom, in whose “good and honest hearts,” rendered such by the influence of the Divine Spirit, the word is retained, and fruit is brought forth with patience.--All this is simple and intelligible. The mystic little “ seed," which exists, independently of the written or preached word, “in every man's and woman's heart,” and which requires only to be “ cherished,"—though with what kind of culture it is not easy to tell,-in order to bring out of it all the fulness of the Gospel,-is as far as possible from being so :-—and I know not any one thing that has given occasion to a larger amount of the misappropriation and perversion of Scripture terms and Scripture figures, than this “ seed,”—this “light”—this “ Christ within ;"- -nor can I refer you to a more satisfactory exemplification of the truth of this, than to Barclay himself.
In my next and last letter, I mean to consider the sentiments of Mr Gurney on “the perceptible influence and guidance of the Spirit of Truth,” along with some of their practical bearings. Meantime, believe me again, Yours respectfully,
“ ON THE PERCEPTIBLE INFLUENCE AND GUIDANCE
OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH."
“ The yearly committee,” in their statement of objections to the Beacon, declare their conviction, which I may presume, therefore, to be that of the Quaker body generally, that “the doctrine of the inward light is absolutely identical with the doctrine of the Spirit.”—I was glad to find, from this authorized statement, that I had not gone too far, in the outset of these letters, when I pronounced the “ inward light" to be the very vital principle of Quakerism; and it has been under this conviction, that I have allotted to it so large a proportion of my strictures. At the same time, although the denial of the “inward light" might fairly be regarded as a denial of the doctrine of the Spirit in the sense in which that doctrine is held by Friends; yet there are different departments of the same doctrine, and different views under which it may be contemplated and discussed. All mankind, according to the Friends,
have “a portion of the light of the Spirit of Christ;" and they have this, as the result of Christ's mediation. Now, it may be one question, how far this universal possession of the Spirit is capable of being maintained; and another question, how far, when the Spirit is possessed, his guidance and influence are direct and perceptible. The latter position, indeed, would appear hardly to admit of question, in those cases where there exists no external revelation, as the rule by which, when it is enjoyed, the Spirit may be supposed to impart his directions :—for, the light of nature, as usually understood, being by the Friends denied,—unless the influence and guidance of the Spirit, in the measure in which it is possessed, were direct and perceptible, it would, in such cases, amount to absolutely nothing. But the question still remains, how far the influence and guidance of the Spirit are direct and perceptible, in the case of those who are in actual possession of the written word ;that is, as a little explanation will show, how far they are independent of that word. It is to Mr Gurney's views on this question, with some of its practical bearings, that I now solicit your attention : and in discussing these, I take for my text-book the “ OBservations” of that esteemed author, of which the third chapter is exclusively appropriated to this subject.
Having already considered, at great length, the
doctrine of the Friends respecting “immediate revelation, "--and having, on one occasion, alluded to the title of this letter,-(which is the same as the title of the chapter in Mr Gurney's work just referred to)as only a modified form of designation for the same doctrine, I may seem to you as if I were about to retrace the ground I have already traversed. And so, to a certain extent, I am. I hinted, however, the possibility, when discussing Barclay's representations of this Quaker principle, that I might bring them into comparison with those of Mr Gurney. I now follow out this hint; not, indeed, for the purpose of tracing, directly, either a parallelism or a contrast between the one and the other ; but for the sake of showing that even Mr Gurney's modified statements are such as cannot be maintained in consistency either with the Scriptures or with themselves ;-and still more, for the sake of presenting what appears to me to be the truth on this fundamental point in a clearer and more direct light than has yet, in these letters, been done, as well as of pointing out the pernicious tendency of the doctrine of “perceptible guidance" in some of its more obvious and avowed practical results. I foresee a little repetition here and there of sentiments already advanced in a different form, which connexion may render unavoidable, and which must find its vindication in the paramount importance of the subject,—a subject which