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[The fifteen Theological Theses or Propositions of Robert Barclay, which are the text of his 'Apology,' contain the most authoritative summary of the principles and doctrines of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers. The 'Apology' appeared first in Latin, 1675, and then repeatedly in English and other languages, and was widely distributed by the Society as a standard doctrinal treatise. I have taken the text from the magnificent copy of the 8th English edition, Birmingham, 1765, 4to. On this and other Quaker Confessions, see Vol. I. pp.864 sqq.]

Theses Theologicæ.



To the Doctors, Professors, and Students of Divinity in the Universities and Schools of Great Britain, whether Prelatical, Presbyterian, or any other;

Robert Barclay, a Servant of the Lord God, and one of those who in derision are called Quakers, wisheth unfeigned repentance, unto the acknowledgment of the Truth.

Friends,—Unto you these following propositions are offered; in which, they being read and considered in the fear of the Lord, you may perceive that simple, naked truth, which man by his wisdom hath rendered so obscure and mysterious that the world is even burthened with the great and voluminous tractates which are made about it, and by their vain jangling and commentaries, by which it is rendered a hundredfold more dark and intricate than of itself it is: which great learning, so accounted of—to wit, your school divinity, which taketh up almost a man's whole lifetime to learn, brings not a whit nearer to God, neither makes any man less wicked, or more righteous than he was. Therefore hath God laid aside the wise and learned, and the disputers of this world; and hath chosen a few despicable and unlearned instruments, as to letter-learning, as he did fishermen of old, to publish his pure and naked truth, and to free it of those mists and fogs wherewith the clergy hath clouded it, that the people might admire and maintain them. And among several others, whom God hath chosen to make known these things—seeing I also have received, in measure, grace to be a dispenser of the same gospel—it seemed good unto me, according to my duty, to offer unto you these propositions; which, though short, yet are weighty, comprehending much, and declaring what the true ground of knowledge is, even of that knowledge which leads to Life Eternal; which is here witnessed of, and the testimony thereof left unto the Light of Christ in all your consciences.                                                      Farewell,                                               R. B.


Concerning the true Foundation of Knowledge.

Seeing the height of all happiness is placed in the true knowledge of God ('This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent'),22112211John xvii. 3. the true and right understanding 790of this foundation and ground of knowledge is that which is most necessary to be known and believed in the first place.


Concerning Immediate Revelation.

Seeing 'no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth him;'22122212Matt. xi. 27. and seeing the revelation of the Son is in and by the Spirit; therefore the testimony of the Spirit is that alone by which the true knowledge of God hath been, is, and can be only revealed; who as, by the moving of his own Spirit, he converted the chaos of this world into that wonderful order wherein it was in the beginning, and created man a living soul, to rule and govern it, so by the revelation of the same Spirit he hath manifested himself all along unto the sons of men, both patriarchs, prophets, and apostles; which revelations of God by the Spirit, whether by outward voices and appearances, dreams, or inward objective manifestations in the heart, were of old the formal object of their faith, and remain yet so to be; since the object of the saints' faith is the same in all ages, though set forth under divers administrations. Moreover, these divine inward revelations, which we make absolutely necessary for the building up of true faith, neither do nor can ever contradict the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or right and sound reason. Yet from hence it will not follow that these divine revelations are to be subjected to the examination, either of the outward testimony of the Scriptures or of the natural reason of man, as to a more noble or certain rule or touchstone; for this divine revelation and inward illumination is that which is evident and clear of itself, forcing, by its own evidence and clearness, the well-disposed understanding to assent, irresistibly moving the same thereunto; even as the common principles of natural truths move and incline the mind to a natural assent: as, that the whole is greater than its part; that two contradictory sayings can not be both true, nor both false: which is also manifest, according to our adversaries' principle, who—supposing the possibility of inward divine revelations—will nevertheless confess with us that neither Scripture nor sound reason will contradict it: and yet it will not follow, according to them, that 791the Scripture or sound reason should be subjected to the examination of the divine revelations in the heart.


Concerning the Scriptures.

From these revelations of the Spirit of God to the saints have proceeded the Scriptures of truth, which contain: 1. A faithful historical account of the actings of God's people in divers ages, with many singular and remarkable providences attending them. 2. A prophetical account of several things, whereof some are already past, and some yet to come. 3. A full and ample account of all the chief principles of the doctrine of Christ, held forth in divers precious declarations, exhortations, and sentences, which, by the moving of God's Spirit, were at several times, and upon sundry occasions, spoken and written unto some churches and their pastors: nevertheless, because they are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Nevertheless, as that which giveth a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty; for as by the inward testimony of the Spirit we do alone truly know them, so they testify that the Spirit is that guide by which the saints are led into all truth: therefore, according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal Leader.22132213John xvi. 13; Rom. viii. 14. And seeing we do therefore receive and believe the Scriptures, because they proceeded from the Spirit, therefore also the Spirit is more originally and principally the rule, according to that received maxim in the schools, Propter quod unumquodque est tale, illud ipsum est magis tale. Englished thus: 'That for which a thing is such, that thing itself is more such.'


Concerning the Condition of Man in the Fall.

All Adam's posterity, or mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, as to the first Adam, or earthly man, is fallen, degenerated, and dead, deprived 792of the sensation or feeling of this inward testimony or seed of God, and is subject unto the power, nature, and seed of the Serpent, which he sows in men's hearts, while they abide in this natural and corrupted state;22142214Rom. v. 12, 15; Eph. ii. 1. from whence it comes that not their words and deeds only, but all their imaginations are evil perpetually in the sight of God, as proceeding from this depraved and wicked seed. Man, therefore, as he is in this state, can know nothing aright; yea, his thoughts and conceptions concerning God and things spiritual, until he be disjoined from this evil seed, and united to the Divine Light, are unprofitable both to himself and others: hence are rejected the Socinian and Pelagian errors, in exalting a natural light; as also of the Papists, and most Protestants, who affirm that man, without the true grace of God, may be a true minister of the gospel. Nevertheless, this seed is not imputed to infants, until by transgression they actually join themselves therewith; for they are by nature the children of wrath, who walk according to the power of the prince of the air.


Concerning the Universal Redemption by Christ, and also the Saving and Spiritual Light, wherewith every man is enlightened.


God, out of his infinite love, who delighteth not in the death of a sinner, but that all should live and be saved, hath so loved the world that he hath given his only Son a Light, that whosoever believeth in him should be saved; who enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world, and maketh manifest all things that are reprovabie, and teacheth all temperance, righteousness, and godliness:22152215Ezek. xviii. 23; Isa. xlxix. 6; John iii. 16; i. 9; Titus ii. 11; Eph. v. 13; Heb. ii. 9. and this Light enlighteneth the hearts of all in a day,22162216Pro tempore: for a time. in order to salvation, if not resisted: nor is it less universal than the seed of sin, being the purchase of his death, who tasted death for every man; 'for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.'221722171 Cor. xv. 22.



According to which principle (or hypothesis), all the objections against the universality of Christ's death are easily solved; neither is it needful to recur to the ministry of angels, and those other miraculous means which, they say, God makes use of, to manifest the doctrine and history of Christ's passion unto such, who, living in those places of the world where the outward preaching of the gospel is unknown, have well improved the first and common grace; for hence it well follows, that as some of the old philosophers might have been saved, so also may now some—who by providence are cast into those remote parts of the world where the knowledge of the history is wanting—be made partakers of the divine mystery, if they receive and resist not that grace,' a manifestation whereof is given to every man to profit withal.'221822181 Cor. xii. 7. This certain doctrine then being received, to wit, that there is an evangelical and saving light and grace in all, the universality of the love and mercy of God towards mankind—both in the death of his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the manifestation of the light in the heart—is established and confirmed against all the objections of such as deny it. Therefore 'Christ hath tasted death for every man:'22192219Heb. ii. 9. not only for all kinds of men, as some vainly talk, but for every one, of all kinds; the benefit of whose offering is not only extended to such, who have the distinct outward knowledge of his death and sufferings, as the same is declared in the Scriptures, but even unto those who are necessarily excluded from the benefit of this knowledge by some inevitable accident; which knowledge we willingly confess to be very profitable and comfortable, but not absolutely needful unto such, from whom God himself hath withheld it; yet they may be made partakers of the mystery of his death—though ignorant of the history—if they suffer his seed and light—enlightening their hearts— to take place; in which light communion with the Father and Son is enjoyed, so as of wicked men to become holy, and lovers of that power by whose inward and secret touches they feel themselves turned from the evil to the good, and learn to do to others as they would be done by; in which Christ himself affirms all to be included. As they then 794have falsely and erroneously taught who have denied Christ to have died for all men, so neither have they sufficiently taught the truth, who, affirming him to have died for all, have added the absolute necessity of the outward knowledge thereof in order to the obtaining its saving effect; among whom the Remonstrants of Holland have been chiefly wanting, and many other asserters of Universal Redemption, in that they have not placed the extent of this salvation in that divine and evangelical principle of light and life wherewith Christ hath enlightened every man that comes into the world, which is excellently and evidently held forth in these Scriptures: Gen. vi. 3; Deut. xxx. 14; John i. 7–9; Rom. x. 8; Titus ii. 11.


Concerning Justification.

As many as resist not this light, but receive the same, in them is produced an holy, pure, and spiritual birth, bringing forth holiness, righteousness, purity, and all those other blessed fruits which are acceptable to God; by which holy birth, to wit, Jesus Christ formed within us, and working his works in us, as we are sanctified, so we are justified in the sight of God, according to the apostle's words, 'But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.'222022201 Cor. vi. 11. Therefore it is not by our works wrought in our will, nor yet by good works, considered as of themselves, but by Christ, who is both the gift and the giver, and the cause producing the effects in us; who, as he hath reconciled us while we were enemies, doth also in his wisdom save us, and justify us after this manner, as saith the same apostle elsewhere, 'According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.'22212221Titus iii. 5.


Concerning Perfection.

In whom this holy and pure birth is fully brought forth the body of death and sin comes to be crucified and removed, and their hearts united and subjected unto the truth, so as not to obey any suggestion 795or temptation of the evil one, but to be free from actual sinning and transgressing of the law of God, and in that respect perfect. Yet doth this perfection still admit of a growth; and there remaineth a possibility of sinning where the mind doth not most diligently and watchfully attend unto the Lord.22222222Rom. vi. 14; viii. 13; 1 John iii. 6.


Concerning Perseverance, and the Possibility of Falling from Grace.

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.'222322231 Tim. i. 6; Heb. vi. 4–6. Yet such an increase and stability in the truth may in this life be attained, from which there can not be a total apostasy.


Concerning the Ministry.

As by this gift, or Light of God, all true knowledge in things spiritual is received and revealed; so by the same, as it is manifested and received in the heart, by the strength and power thereof, every true minister of the gospel is ordained, prepared, and supplied in the work of the ministry; and by the leading, moving, and drawing hereof ought every evangelist and Christian pastor to be led and ordered in his labor and work of the gospel, both as to the place where, as to the persons to whom, and as to the times when he is to minister. Moreover, those who have this authority may and ought to preach the gospel, though without human commission or literature; as, on the other hand, those who want the authority of this divine gift, however learned or authorized by the commissions of men and churches, are to be esteemed but as deceivers, and not true ministers of the gospel. Also, who have received this holy and unspotted gift, 'as they have freely 796received, so are they freely to give,'22242224Matt. x. 8. without hire or bargaining, far less to use it as a trade to get money by it: yet if God hath called any from their employments or trades, by which they acquire their livelihood, it may be lawful for such, according to the liberty which they feel given them in the Lord, to receive such temporals— to wit, what may be needful to them for meat and clothing—as are freely given them by those to whom they have communicated spirituals.


Concerning Worship.

All true and acceptable worship to God is offered in the inward and immediate moving and drawing of his own Spirit, which is neither limited to places, times, or persons; for though we be to worship him always, in that we are to fear before him, yet as to the outward signification thereof in prayers, praises, or preachings, we ought not to do it where and when we will, but where and when we are moved thereunto by the secret inspirations of his Spirit in our hearts, which God heareth and accepteth of, and is never wanting to move us thereunto, when need is, of which he himself is the alone proper judge. All other worship then, both praises, prayers, and preachings, which man sets about in his own will, and at his own appointment, which he can both begin and end at his pleasure, do or leave undone, as himself sees meet, whether they be a prescribed form, as a liturgy, or prayers conceived extemporarily, by the natural strength and faculty of the mind, they are all but superstitions, will-worship, and abominable idolatry in the sight of God; which are to be denied, rejected, and separated from, in this day of his spiritual arising: however it might have pleased him— who winked at the times of ignorance, with respect to the simplicity and integrity of some, and of his own innocent seed, which lay as it were buried in the hearts of men, under the mass of superstition—to blow upon the dead and dry bones, and to raise some breathings, and answer them, and that until the day should more clearly dawn and break forth.22252225Ezek. xiii.; Matt. x. 20; Acts ii. 4; xviii. 5; John iii. 6; iv. 21; Jude 19; Acts xvii. 23.



Concerning Baptism.

As there is one Lord and one faith, so there is 'one baptism; which is not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience before God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.' And this baptism is a pure and spiritual thing, to wit, the baptism of the Spirit and Fire, by which we are buried with him, that, being washed and purged from our sins, we may 'walk in newness of life;' of which the baptism of John was a figure, which was commanded for a time, and not to continue forever.22262226Eph. iv. 5; 1 Pet. iii. 21; Rom. vi. 4; Gal. iii. 27; Col. ii. 12; John iii. 30; 1 Cor. i. 17.

As to the baptism of infants, it is a mere human tradition, for which neither precept nor practice is to be found in all the Scripture.


Concerning the Communion, or Participation of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The communion of the body and blood of Christ is inward and spiritual, which is the participation of his flesh and blood, by which the inward man is daily nourished in the hearts of those in whom Christ dwells;222722271 Cor. x. 16, 17; John vi. 32, 33, 35; 1 Cor. v. 8. of which things the breaking of bread by Christ with his disciples was a figure, which they even used in the Church for a time, who had received the substance, for the cause of the weak; even as 'abstaining from things strangled, and from blood;' the washing one another's feet, and the anointing of the sick with oil;22282228Acts xv. 20; John xiii. 14; James v. 14. all which are commanded with no less authority and solemnity than the former; yet seeing they are but the shadows of better things, they cease in such as have obtained the substance.


Concerning the Power of the Civil Magistrate, in matters purely religious, and pertaining to the conscience.

Since God hath assumed to himself the power and dominion of the conscience, who alone can rightly instruct and govern it, therefore it 798is not lawful for any whatsoever, by virtue of any authority or principality they bear in the government of this world, to force the consciences of others; and therefore all killing, banishing, fining, imprisoning, and other such things, which men are afflicted with, for the alone exercise of their conscience, or difference in worship or opinion, proceedeth from the spirit of Cain, the murderer, and is contrary to the truth; provided always that no man, under the pretense of conscience, prejudice his neighbor in his life or estate, or do any thing destructive to, or inconsistent with, human society; in which case the law is for the transgressor, and justice to be administered upon all, without respect of persons.22292229Luke ix. 55, 56; Matt. vii. 12, 29; Titus iii. 10.


Concerning Salutations and Recreations, etc.

Seeing the chief end of all religion is to redeem man from the spirit and vain conversation of this world, and to lead into inward communion with God, before whom, if we fear always, we are accounted happy, therefore all the vain customs and habits thereof, both in word and deed, are to be rejected and forsaken by those who come to this fear; such as the taking off the hat to a man, the bowings and cringings of the body, and such other salutations of that kind, with all the foolish and superstitious formalities attending them; all which man has invented in his degenerate state, to feed his pride in the vain pomp and glory of this world; as also the unprofitable plays, frivolous recreations, sportings, and gamings which are invented to pass away the precious time, and divert the mind from the witness of God in the heart, and from the living sense of his fear, and from that evangelical Spirit wherewith Christians ought to be leavened, and which leads into sobriety, gravity, and godly fear; in which, as we abide, the blessing of the Lord is felt to attend us in those actions in which we are necessarily engaged, in order to the taking care for the sustenance of the outward man.22302230Eph. v. 11; 1 Pet. i. 14; John v. 44; Jer. x. 3; Acts x. 26; Matt. xv. 13; Col. ii. 8.

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