The early Quaker understanding was quite different from the “Inner Light” concept voiced by modern Friends. Just listen to Elizabeth Bathurst (1655?-1685):
- For this Principle of Light, of which I now write, ’tis something of the Nature and Being of God himself, who as he is a Spirit, so he is Light, as you may read concerning him, and therefore it is by his Light, with which we are enlightned: It proceedeth from him, he being the Ocean wherein the Fulness thereof is contained; ’tis from him, through his Son Christ Jesus, that we come to be enlightned by the same: So ’tis in his Light that we see Light, even as the natural Sun causeth its Beams to extend to the Ends of the Earth; so this eternal Sun of Righteousness, who is the Ocean and Fountain of Divine Spiritual Light, causeth more or less of the Streams thereof to descend into all immortal Souls upon it.
- But if People will shut their Eyes against the Light, how just is it for the Lord to withdraw its Shinings from them, and to cause Darkness to overtake them?
- For though a Measure of this Divine Light, is, or hath been in every Man, in order to save them, yet it will not always abide with them, (I mean, as to its saving Efficacy) it will continue no longer than during the Day of their Visitation: Therefore saith Christ, Yet a little While is the Light with you; walk while ye have the Light, lest Darkness come upon you.
- But if Men pass this Time over without any Regard to the Loving-Kindness of the Lord extended to them in this Matter, ’tis just with him to turn their Light into Darkness in them; and then, as Christ said to some of old, If the Light that is in you be Darkness, how great is that Darkness.
- Mistake me not, ’tis not to be understood as if the Sun of Righteousness, which is the Fountain of Light, could in itself possibly become Darkness, but as to those that have fast-closed their Eyes, or lost the true Sight, lest they should see by its Illumination in their inward Man; when once their Day is over, they may be as dark as if there were no Sun in their Horizon, and so they put Darkness for Light.