Sixth Month 30

…  I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:6-9 and 11-12 (NIV)

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Look, Paul is speaking of an individual spiritual experience. Direct experience. Life-changing experience.

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We, too, must be careful to voice only Spirit-induced utterances or to perform only that service the Holy One directs us to fulfill. All of our ministry must be grounded in this same solemn place, which is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Any other message or service is only a shadow of Truth.

Those who testify to possessing the Holy Spirit risk blasphemy if they deliver an uninspired, reflective message. Nothing less than prophecy is demanded.

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So that this Light, with which all Men are in some Measure enlightned of God, ’tis no other, but a Measure of that Divine Fulness that dwelt in the Son of his Love, when he was here on Earth, and now dwelleth in him, since he is ascended up to Heaven, where he was before, whence he descends the Streams thereof into the Hearts of all the Children of Men, in order to bring them out of the Fall in the first Adam, and to redeem them up unto himself, the second Adam. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

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Sixth Month 29

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  … – Galatians 1:6-9 and 11-12 (NIV)

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When we consider our spiritual yearnings and practices, we need to keep an eye open for consequences that can occur when we lean to much toward belonging to the world. I have been told (but have not verified) that the young John Wesley was so moved by Quaker writings that he was prepared to join the Society of Friends. But the meeting for worship he visited in London was perhaps the wealthiest in all Quakerdom, and Wesley was appalled to see that the distinctive plain gray Quaker coats and dresses, hats, and bonnets these Friends sported were made of the finest wool, silk, and beaver. He perceived that while these Friends kept the form, they had lost the substance: they were not dressing in a true sympathy for the poorest of their neighbors. Quaker historian John Puncheon argues that the historic irony is that the one Christian movement that Quakerism failed to develop an appropriate response toward was Methodism, and that we have suffered decline as a consequence – even as we have often adapted its systems of Sunday Schools, missionaries, and often even pastors.

Now I look at the Methodist condition today and wonder how Wesley would evaluate it.

But back to the Society of Friends …

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But, I say, before Remission of Sins comes to be known, there must be a centring down into the Manifestation of the Spirit of God within, which will bring down every exalted Imagination, and every high Thing, and lay it low, even to the Ground, that so every Thought may be brought into Subjection to Jesus Christ. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Sixth Month 28

For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. … Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. – Proverbs 5:2 and 4

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“Doctrine” means “teaching,” which we need. As we do guidelines.

Law, as I’ve been contending, can be another matter.

Let me add that in passages that offend our contemporary sensibilities, we need to pause, asking ourselves: just where is God in this situation? Are these people turning to the Divine for insight? Why not? Are they simply running off to do their own will, and then asking for God’s endorsement? In much of the Hebrew Bible, for instance, I wonder whether the people were able to even perceive of a loving, merciful deity, much less accept one.

Until we as humans can comprehend and express such concepts, we cannot expect to find them in our relationship with the Divine. So what qualities are we today similarly unable to encompass?

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This I write, as one having witnessed the Spirit to be given for a Remembrancer, which was faithfully promised by the Lord Jesus, even that Spirit of Truth, which he told his Disciples, it should bring all Things to their Remembrance, and so indeed it doth call back Things that are past, and set them in order before us, judging and condemning of us for what we have done amiss. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Sixth Month 27

…  If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he hath not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. – 1 John 4:13-21 (NIV)

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So it’s not just about me and Jesus. (Yes, I hear the old English teacher admonishing us: “It’s Jesus and me.”) No, this puts the little self of selfishness in its place.

There’s no place for hate in this dynamic.

But love invokes passions – the emotions in their full range.

In our history and tradition, it seems Friends have too often lost appropriate ways to celebrate our faith and life in the Spirit of Christ. We forget that Jesus celebrated, as at Cana. Thanks to all who travel in Free Gospel Ministry, to celebrate with faithful communities, and to encourage us invite our neighbors and coworkers to enter our circle, tasting and seeing what God is doing among a “peculiar people.”)­ In love and delight, your Friend.

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However, all that have sinned, must know a Time of Sorrow, yea, even such who have not so rebelliously despised his Counsel, and stighted his Reproofs, and cast his Law behind their Backs, as some there are which have; yet inasmuch as they have at any Time not hearkened unto his Holy Spirit within them, his Judgments will overtake them, and in Righteousness will he plead with them, and then, I know, former Things will come into their Minds. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Sixth Month 26

… We love because he first loved us. … – 1 John 4:13-19 (NIV)

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Some translations, like the King James, turn the love back toward Jesus, “We love him, because he first loved us.” But I like the awareness that our ability to love others originates in our own being loved and embraced. Let Jesus be the source, then, but let’s fill the whole world.

The New Jerusalem Bible takes this one step further, as an affirmative command:

Let us love, then,
because he first loved us.

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Where we shall receive the End of our Faith, even the final Salvation of our immortal Souls, which shall eternally live to sing and set forth Praises and Hallelujahs in the highest to him that sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb, Christ Jesus, who hath redeemed us from the Earth, unto whom the Praise doth belong, for the Assistance of his Spirit in this Thing. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)