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Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

The one true religion in the world: the work of the spirit of God in the souls of humankind

From the Journal of Job Scott (1751-1793): a thumbnail-sketch anticipation of his book-length essay On the Knowledge of the One Lord, the Only True God, which was published posthumously and may be found in his Works, in the Digital Quaker Collection (esr.earlham.edu/dqc/):

On 5th-day 20th [of Eighth Month 1788], we had a very small, yet precious meeting at Camden, South Carolina, where no member of our society liveth, except one very ancient woman; though once there was a settled meeting for Friends there – this was a watering time to a few sincere hearted, whom my soul loved; and an awakening, and in some degree convincing time, to some who were too much hardened in sin, and unacquainted with that light and power which is the authority of our meetings and ministry: this they now felt, so that divers were constrained to acknowledge, and bear testimony thereto, in their conversation with one another – And I am on this occasion renewedly confirmed in a sentiment I have long been settled in, that is, that there never was, and never will be but one true religion in the world, to wit, ‘the work of the spirit of God in the souls of mankind;’ that some of all denominations have something of this true religion, even though some of these, through the prejudice of education, may disallow it in profession; and that no man has any real religion, but what he comes to the knowledge and experience of through the alone influence of this holy spirit of God. This is is that begins and carries on the work – this it is, that, by its own divine influence operating in the minds of mankind, reveals Christ in them, the hope of glory; or so operates from time to time, on reading the scriptures or other good books; on hearing the gospel preached; on meditating on the works of creation and providence; on God’s judgments in the earth; or his dealings with themselves as individuals; or whatever other occasion, circumstance, or thing, is ever made a mean of conviction or conversion; the holy spirit so operates, I say in all these cases, as to produce the happy effect – and without the inward operation thereof, all these other opportunities and things would be utterly in vain, as to salvation, and never able to produce the least degree of true religion or sanctification in the soul. So that though there are many opinions, many creeds, professions, and denominations, and some truly religious persons in them all; yet there is, and can be but one true religion; all true religion is of one kind – all springs from one source – And blessed and adored for ever be the Lord, in order that all men may, of they will, be benefited experimentally by this one true religion, ‘the manifestation of the spirit is given to every man to profit withal’ (1 Cor. xii. 7.) – he that rightly profits thereby, and continues so to do, will live in the exercise of the one true faith; will witness the one true christian baptism; will know and obey the one living Lord; will, by the holy Ghost, in word and deed, acknowledge and call him Lord; and so will be saved with an everlasting salvation. And on the other hand, seeing a measure of the holy spirit is given to every man; seeing the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared unto all men; seeing the light and life of the holy word, which in the beginning was with God, and was God, hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world; and seeing, moreover, Christ Jesus has tasted death for every man; how shall we escape if we neglect and reject so great salvation? how great must be the condemnation of every soul, thus highly favoured, which yet stands out and rejects the strivings of the spirit, the teachings of grace, the shinings and convictions of this divine light! Now this light, grace, and spirit of God, is all one thing, under different appellations – it is called spirit, because it is quick, lively, and operative, and quickens the soul to a sensibility of its state and condition – it is called grace, because it is the free unmerited gift of God – and is called light, because it makes manifest – as, ‘whatever doth make manifest is light,’ (Eph. v. 13) saith the scriptures. And as this grace or light is attended to, it will bring the soul into a state of grace and favour with God. – Well therefore, might the apostle, with holy reverence, break forth in these expressions, ‘thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.’ (2 Cor. ix. 15.) And all who obey the light will be brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light; for though the hearts of fallen men are grossly darkened; yet the light shineth in their dark hearts, and though the darkness comprehend it not, if it is taken heed to, will shine more and more to the perfect day; even until the whole body be full of light; but those who rebel against the light, will grow darker and darker, until they know not the way thereof, nor understand the paths thereof! and become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts become wholly darkened! having loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

From Journal of the Life, Travels, and Gospel Labours, of that Faithful Servant, and Minister of Christ, Job Scott. Re-printed for, and sold by W. Leicester, Warrington [PA], 1798, 178-181.

John Jeremiah Edminster is currently editing Scott's On the Knowledge of the One Lord, the Only True God for re-publication.

Views: 31

Comment by Ellis Hein on 12thMo. 30, 2019 at 4:15

John, I was just reading from Lewis Benson's The Truth Is Christ particularly from his essay on Prophetic Quakerism that says something about the things Job Scot brings up. I would be interested in seeing your comparison of what Job Scott is saying with what Lewis is writing. Below is material from pages 26-28.

Quakerism began as a world crusade for the reestablishment of the true church in all lands and among all peoples.
By 'the true Church' they meant 'the church which is the spiritual body of Christ ....The head is living, and so are all the members of the body ....Now, no outward thing can make one a member of this body; much less can any outward thing, way, profession, or practice make a church ....So that this is the church now--a people gathered by the life and spirit of the Lord, a people gathered by the life and power from on high, abiding in the power, worshipping in the power, acting in the power, keeping in the holy order and government of life (both inwardly in their own hearts, and outwardly in their assemblings and walkings) by the power. Christ was made a king, priest and prophet, not after the law of carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life; and in the power he gathers, governs and preserves his church, and ministereth from and by his spirit and power in it. Now find this power of the endless life, find a people anywhere gathered by this power, and in this power; there is the church, there is the living body, there is Christ the head, whose dominion and strength is over all, against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.' In these words Isaac Penington is describing the church as the first Friends believed it ought to be. They believed that they had been called to demonstrate the power of a church so gathered and so maintained to prevail against the gates of hell. They believed that through them God was commencing a new age in which the standard of a purified Christianity would be raised up and the true nature of the church would be demonstrated. 'God,' says Robert Barclay, 'is appearing in ten thousands of his saints; in and among whom (as the first fruits of many more that shall be gathered) he is restoring the golden age, and bringing them into the holy order and government of his own son, who is ruling, and to rule in the midst of them, setting forth counsellors as at the beginning and judges as at first; and establishing truth, mercy, righteousness and judgement again in the earth....'
Outside of their own movement the Quakers looked in vain for a parallel demonstration of this Christ-governed church and although they found millions who professed to be part of such a church they could find no church where the rule and dominion of Christ was actually experienced as a living reality and which could not be caused to yield to some form of worldly power. They knew no church but the Christ-ruled community. 'The world would have a Christ but not to rule over them,' said Fox.
The belief in a divine teacher whose inward word was absolutely authoritative and whose actual administration of His church could be experimentally known was the rock upon which the early Friends built. On this foundation they proceeded to work out a pattern of Christian community life which was able to do away with the ecclesiastical machinery regarded as indispensable by most Christians. The whole purpose was to be a church in which God's command could be taken absolutely seriously. 'This is my beloved Son, hear Him: The Friends allowed that there were some who took this command seriously in all outward gathered churches and that all such were true Christians and might be called a part of the great invisible church. This invisible church exists but there is also the visible gathered church to be considered. The first Friends had no intention of forming what would be no more than another variety of church organization composed of a mixed multitude in which there would be a more or less normal quota of candidates for the great invisible church. Their object was to wait to have the pattern of the true visible church revealed to them. The invisible church is a great amorphous company of saints whose fellowship and power are not brought to full actualization because of its intrinsic inability to function as a mighty army that engages with and overcomes the organized opposition of the princes of the powers of this world. If the true church is of such a nature that knowledge concerning it is only accessible in the realm of speculative thought then how can it ever take a stand against its enemies and overcome them? Can there be any real moral and spiritual engagement between this invisible church and the organized evil of the world? The Quakers longed to feel that they were a part of a functioning spiritual organism that was engaged in a great historical mission. In time their longing was fulfilled. They became intensely conscious of being a part of a visible gathered church with a definite mission in the world. In one generation they demonstrated every quality of such a church to a degree unequalled since apostolic times. Over a period of years they developed a pattern of Christian polity that has never failed to furnish an adequate framework for true Christian community where is has been faithfully adhered to.
Comment by John Jeremiah Edminster on 12thMo. 30, 2019 at 16:05

Ellis,

What a rich and powerful statement you’ve answered my posting with!

I’d say, unless I’m greatly mistaken, that Job Scott rightly named the one true religion that unifies the Church Invisible. I’m delighted to report that I seem to meet my co-religionists everywhere, as if drawn to them by providence, and they are from all over the denominational map! But what Job Scott did not do, in this journal entry, is discuss the as-yet-unfulfilled promise of the gathering of this Church Invisible, or Church Latent, into the Church Gathered, which Lewis Benson so eloquently describes here, drawing together apposite writings from Penington (Works, 4:6-7), Barclay (“The Anarchy of the Ranters,” in Truth Triumphant, 506), and Fox (Epistle 2, Works, 7:17 – as you see, Ellis, I did my homework before answering you!).

And about that promise of a Church Gathered, ruled directly by Christ – I’d be in real despair, looking over recorded history, with its apostasy upon apostasy, and its frightening record of counterfeits, continuing even to this day, if I didn’t know in my heart that if Christ had the power to convert me, and Christ has had the power to “ascend far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things,” all quintillion-or-so visible or inferrable solar systems, then He has the power to gather His Church when the right time comes. It may even be in my lifetime! I hope, through obedience to His will, to play a part in that gathering; may He perfect me in obedience!

John

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