As a Quaker Catholic, I have no problem identifying Penington’s Savior with the historical and “Post-Easter” Jesus. And I agree with St. Paul when he says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Although I don’t believe in a literal Resurrection, I do believe that, after his crucifixion, the Disciples had a mystical experience of Jesus’ Presence.
Of course, many Quakers do not believe in the Resurrection and cannot bring themselves to call Jesus “Lord.” No matter. As Penington reflects in the passage below, there are many names for that Presence which we sense in our meetings. And salvation does not depend on accepting Paul’s formulation or believing the Catholic doctrine of a literal Transubstantiation. Read what Penington has to say about the Quaker metaphor of “The Light”:
Q. I perceive, by what is said, that there is a Saviour; one which hath virtue, life, and power in him to save; but how may I meet with him?
A. Yea, he that made man pitieth him, and is not willing that he should perish in the pit into which he fell, but hath appointed one to draw him out, and save him.
Q. Who is this Saviour?
A. He is the tree of life I have spoken of all this while, whose leaves have virtue in them to heal the nations. He is the plant of righteousness, the plant of God's right hand. Hast thou ever known such a plant in thee, planted there by the right hand of God? He is the resurrection and the life, which raiseth the dead soul, and causeth it to live. He is the spiritual manna, whereupon the quickened soul feeds. Yea, his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed, which he that is raised up in the life feeds on, and findeth the living virtue in them, which satisfieth and nourisheth up his immortal soul.
Q. But hath not this Saviour a name? What is his name?
A. It were better for thee to learn his name by feeling his virtue and power in thy heart, than by rote. Yet, if thou canst receive it, this is his name, the Light; the Light of the World; a light to enlighten the Gentiles, that he may convert and make them God's Israel, and become their glory. And according to his office, he hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world; though men neither know the light that cometh from him, nor him from whom the light comes; and so, notwithstanding the light is so near them, remain strangers to it, and unsaved by it.
Q. Why dost thou call him the light? Are there not other names every whit as proper, whereby he may as well be known?
A. Do not thus set up the wise and stumbling part in thee; but mind the thing which first puts forth its virtue as light, and so is thus first to be known, owned, and received. Yet more particularly, if thou hast wherewith, consider this reason: we call him light, because the Father of lights hath peculiarly chosen this name for him, to make him known to his people in this age by, and hath thus made him manifest to us. And by thus receiving him under this name, we come to know his other names. He is the life, the righteousness, the power, the wisdom, the peace, &c., but he is all these in the light, and in the light we learn and receive them all; and they are none of them to be known in spirit, but in and by the light.
~ quoted by Richard Russell
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