Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Perserverance

Although this gift, and inward grace of God, be sufficient to work out salvation, yet in those in whom it is resisted it both may and doth become their condemnation. Moreover, in whom it hath wrought in part, to purify and sanctify them, in order to their further perfection, by disobedience such may fall from it, and turn it to wantonness, making shipwreck of faith; and after "having tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, again fall away." Yet such an increase and stability in the truth may in this life be attained, from which there cannot be a total apostasy.
[Barclay's Apology Proposition 9]


This proposition states simply that God's work in us can be resisted either at the beginning or later on. In fact, one can have experienced some amount of Grace and still fall away. It finally proposes that it is possible to achieve to such a state of grace that one cannot fully fall away.


This seems a peculiar proposition. Certainly my own experience can testify to the truth of the first two portions. I have resisted God's working in me any number of times. Furthermore, I have turned back to my old ways any number of times, even after experiencing moments of grace. In fact, I find that it is after times of great spiritual intensity or insight that I am most prone to succumb to temptation and in particular to my own set of besetting sins. I think that it was Jan Hoffman who first drew my attention to the fact that the temptation of Jesus did not take place when he was a spiritual neophyte. It came after what would have to be a spiritual high point. He had just been baptized by John and then the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon him and a voice came from the heavens saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” Certainly something like that would be the high point of my spiritual life. So what happened next? Jesus was led into the wilderness where he was tempted. I cannot claim to be Christ-like in much of anything, but maybe in this, a few spiritual high points followed by a lot of time in the wilderness. I am certainly grateful that God seems to have mellowed out some since the days of Lot and his wife fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah or I would long ago have been turned into a pillar of salt.


But as Barclay begins his argument, it is clear that this is another front on his attacks on predestination. In particular, this proposition stands for the idea that there is not a small group of people so blessed that they cannot fall and the vast majority that cannot be saved no matter what they do.


The final part of this proposition affirms that it is possible to achieve a state of stability in the truth that one cannot fall away. Barclay argues that if this were not true, then it would not be possible to truly enter into God's rest or be assured of God's love and salvation. If one would always be in danger of falling away there could be no rest or assurance. Since many testify to such assurance and it is promised in the Bible, it must be true. Once again, the final argument is based on the love and compassion of God.


And this ends the propositions that describe Quaker spirituality. Simply put, God loves us all, no matter what we have done or how far we have fallen from what God would have us be. Through the working of the Inner Christ, God's light will show us our sins and give us power to overcome them. While it is possible to turn away from this process, if we persevere, we can come into God's rest and become filled with God's presence. We can live in God's kingdom even in this life. The rest of the Apology is a defense and argument for the various ways in which living in God's kingdom made Quakers act in ways that seemed peculiar to those living in the kingdom of this world.



Blessings to all,

Will T

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