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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

IV. The Early Quakers

§ 11. Barclay’s Apology

There is one book, out of all this welter of controversy, that can be read to-day with interest and profit: An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, by Robert Barclay, son of David Barclay, of Ury, who had served as a soldier under Gustavus Adolphus, and had afterwards joined the quakers. Robert Barclay was brought up among the strictest Calvinists in Scotland, and among Catholics during his studies in Paris; nevertheless, without any urging from his father, he, also, at the age of nineteen became a quaker.

  • When I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me, and the good raised up; and so I became thus knit and united unto them, hungering more and more after the increase of this power and life, whereby I might feel myself perfectly redeemed.
  • Robert Barclay is the first of the very few theologians whom the Society of Friends has produced. Possessed of remarkable natural gifts, he set himself deliberately to the study of theology, mastering Greek and Hebrew, the writings of the Fathers and the history of the Christian church. His Apology was written at the early age of 28, but is the work of a mature mind. It was written first in Latin, was afterwards translated into English and low Dutch and became the chief classic of the quaker faith. Learned and scholastic as it is, the style is clear and flowing, and it can be read with ease. In a series of fifteen propositions, or Theses Theologicae he deals with the true foundation of knowledge with immediate revelation, with the Scriptures, with universal and saving Light, and so forth.

    The following passage will serve to illustrate at once his style and his treatment of the problem of justification:

  • We understand not by this Justification by Christ, barely the good works even wrought by the Spirit of Christ; for they, as Protestants truly affirm, are rather the effect of Justification than the cause of it; but we understand the formation of Christ in us, Christ born and brought forth in us, from which good works as naturally proceed as fruit from a fruitful tree. It is this inward birth in us bringing forth righteousness and holiness in us, that doth justify us; which having removed and done away the contrary nature and spirit that did bear rule and bring condemnation, now is in dominion over all in our hearts.… This is to be clothed with Christ, and to have put him on, whom God therefore truly accounteth righteous and just.… By this also comes the communication of the goods of Christ into us, by which we come to be made partakers of the divine nature, as saith 2 Peter i. 4, and are made one with him, as the branches with the vine, and have a title and right to what he hath done and suffered for us; so that his obedience becomes ours, his righteousness ours, his death and sufferings ours.