Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)...For unto us a a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. (Isaiah 42:6-7)
Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. (Isaiah 49:8-10)
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.(John 1:4-5)
It is important to note that the Hebrew word used in Isaiah (9:2, 42:7 and 49:9), means ″the dark; hence (lit.) the darkness; fig. misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness . . .″ (Hebrew Dictionary in Strong’s Concordance, s.v. Chôshek # 2822) So when Isaiah spoke of the Messiah bringing those who are in darkness into the light, he was talking about bringing the people out of wickedness and death: out of sin. The Greek word that has been rendered “darkness” in John 1:5 means “dimness, obscurity (literally or figuratively):—darkness.” (Greek Dictionary in Strong’s Concordance, s.v. skŏtia #4653) The connotations of the Greek word has no connection with death or wickedness. Even though there is a lack of shared nuance between the Hebrew and Greek words translated as darkness, there is sufficient evidence throughout the book of John to indicate that the writer views the light as the antidote to death, wickedness, and darkness—a Hebrew understanding. It is with this understanding that John the Baptist cried out “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
How does He do it? The customary answer is that this was taken care of when Jesus died on the cross. The customary answer has produced theology and documents like the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says:
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated [empahsis added]; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. (The Confession of Faith of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, ...)
Such theology leaves one in the grip of sin. If the Lamb of God is to take away the sin of the world, there must be something else at work than the customary answer.
George Fox wrote to Friends:
And you who have received Christ, have received power to become the sons of God, and to believe in the light, in obedience to Christ’s command; by which you become children of the light, and children of the day . . . you have the light, to see all evil, and the power to withstand it . . . (Works of Fox, Vol. VIII, p. 33)
The whole of Christendom preaches ”receive Christ, believe in Christ,” but their belief and their receiving does not free them from captivity to sin. Fox goes on to say:
. . . now is the time to contend for the faith, that gives victory . . . And so the God of power preserve you all, and keep you in his blessed seed, to wit, Christ Jesus, that none of you may be without a minister, without a priest, or without a prophet, or without a shepherd, or without a bishop, but let every one receive him in his offices: then you all have one who will exercise his offices in you all, whom God hath given for a leader and a covenant . . . who was the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and is to us this day. . . (Works of Fox, Vol. VIII, pp. 33-34)
The difference is that for Fox and the early Quaker, knowing Christ present in and among us in all his offices was of critical importance. It is still critically important today. For most of Christendom, this is unfathomable.
Fox proclaimed that the cross of Christ is the power of God that crucifies you to the state of Adam and Eve in the fall. Living in this power you are crucified to the unrighteousness, unholiness, and image of satan and made to live in righteousness, holiness, and the image of God. This power shows us the state that Adam and Eve were in before the fall and brings us into Christ who never fell. Fox stated:
The way to this is Christ, the light, the life, the truth, the saviour, the redeemer, the sanctifier, and the justifier, in and through whose power, light, and life, conversion, regeneration, and translation is known from death to life, from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God again. These are members of the true church, who know the work of regeneration in the operation and feeling of it . . . (Works of Fox, Vol. I, p. 311)
This time of year, many churches trot out the above scripture passages from Isaiah as part of their Christmas celebration. Isn’t it time to know the fulfillment of those passages, to know the work of regeneration in the operation and feeling of it?
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"You have the light, to see all evil" (VIII, 33). These words from Fox that you quoted in this piece, Ellis, stood out for me, as they confirm what happens when the light of Christ is given: we can finally see the difference between the good that we've only lately received (Christ) and the evil in which previously we blindly tread, as in an ocean of darkness. Not only does "darkness" refer to that condition where evil and error is inevitable, but it also refers to our not being able to know it as evil and error: because of the darkness, we can't see our error.
The one quality that vaguely alerts us to our condition is our despair, a sort of malaise that can't be tied to any specific outward calamity but pervasively weighs upon the soul. Lifting that weight and the darkness hitherto endured is the event of the coming of the Lord within. Like the carol has it: Joy to the world; the Lord is come!
I am so grateful that we have the Scriptures and early Friends writings to teach us that our most inward workings are, in fact, the same in all people, and also divinely sanctioned, regardless of time or place.
These are good points, Pat. Thanks for adding them.