For it is the light which makes all things visible

David Johnson, Queensland Regional Meeting

For it is the light which makes all things visible (Eph. 5:14 NIV) – so what is this light? It is not the normal daylight of the Sun shining upon the world. Nor is it the light of mental reasoning in our minds. It is the Inward Light which we experience in our conscience – it is that light which makes us aware of something inwardly, it is the light which shows us something we had not understood or been unwilling to face about ourselves. It is the light which reveals new understandings or aspects of the mysteries of God. We may suddenly, in a ‘lightbulb’ moment, come to ‘know an inward truth or what it is all about’ — that is the light showing us things we did not know before and could not have come to by rational thinking. It is as if a layer of darkness has been lifted, and a Truth has been uncovered. In 1600s language it has been discovered to us.

 We can be tempted to take credit for these inward revelations and say ‘my intuition says…’, though it is more honest to admit “it occurs to me” or “I suddenly became aware”. Even better to admit that the Light of God just revealed to me, and to let go of our ego-centred habit of claiming credit for ourselves.

 This inward, sudden, mystical knowing is so different to the knowing we have from the outward learning from books or other people. That is the knowing that fruit grows from flowers, the learning of what different words mean, the knowledge that some substances dissolve in water and others do not, the knowledge of how to repair an engine, that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, or how to bake a loaf of bread.

 The Light shows us our darkness

When we close our eyes and sink inwardly, the experience is darkness – how do we notice this darkness? It is like starlight on the night of the new moon, and yet we can notice the night is dark. In the same way, we are aware of our inward darkness, for with an inward ‘seeing’ we perceive the inner darkness. If we learn to sit silently within the darkness, and let go of our own vain imaginations and bright ideas, that is, opening the doors of our heart in receptive silence. Rather than speaking inwardly to ourselves, we are beginning to listen with our inward ears. The Quaker experience is that in such waiting worship, God will convey to us many things. God is able to do so, because we are finally listening.

 George Fox saw this turning toward the Inward Light as the core of his ministry, and he emphasised from his own experience that this inward guidance and power was a gift, a grace, it was infallible and was available to everyone:

 I was sent to turn people from darkness to the light, that they might receive Christ Jesus; for to as many as should receive him in his light, I saw he would give power to become the sons [children] of God; which I had obtained by receiving Christ. I was to direct people to the spirit, that gave forth the scriptures, by which they might be led into all truth, and so up to Christ and God, as those had been who gave them forth. I was to turn them to the grace of God, and to the truth in the heart, which came by Jesus; that by this grace they might be taught, … I saw that the grace of God, which brings salvation, had appeared to all men [people], and that the manifestation of the spirit of God was given to every man [person], to profit withal. These things I did not see, by the help of man, nor by the letter, though they are written in the letter; but I saw them in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his immediate spirit and power, as did the holy men of God by whom the holy scriptures were written.  … I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation and their way to God; even that divine spirit which would lead them into all truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any. (George Fox, 1648, aged 24)[i]

We may receive a sense of inner rest and peace, or emotional stability. We may receive a prompting or a leading. We may be cautioned or reproved for something we have said or done amiss. We may receive guidance. We now have the opportunity, we have the teaching to let go of old ways and to become Children of Light, re-born in the Light, sustained by the Light, keeping our inward eye on the Light, that we may be guided and quickened and faithful. When we are tempted to eye other ways, the Light will caution us. We feel the caution against over-indulgence and the rightness of simplicity, feel the restraint against speaking too much with frivolous or vain words, and the rightness of clear and honest language. The tendency for judgemental and critical thoughts and words, is replaced by plainly spoken and tender counsel, with a spirit of loving kindness and mercy.

 With this Inward Light, when it is accepted and believed in, comes a mysterious Life and energy, a spiritual power, that enables us to do things we could not do beforehand. We become changed people.

 The Light is ever present

 The first place a person may become aware of the Light is in the conscience and the deep feelings of the heart.[ii] As we practice being centred and attentive to the Light, initially we sense only a small measure, yet the awareness of the light increases, our measure increases. This was the early Quaker experience. Thomas Evans, an Orthodox Friend in Pennsylvania wrote A Concise Account of The Religious Society of Friends which summarises the ministry of early Quakers, and of the threefold work of the Light as the main message Fox preached: to reprove sin, to reveal duty to God as an Inner Teacher and Guide, and then to enable us to be faithful and joyous.

 The message of George Fox appears to have been, mainly, to direct the people to Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls (1 Peter 2:25), who died for them, and had sent his Spirit or light into their hearts, to instruct and guide them in the things pertaining to life and salvation.

To the light or Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus, in the conscience, he and his fellow-labourers in the gospel endeavoured to turn the attention of all, as that by which sin was manifested and reproved, duty unfolded, and ability given to run with alacrity and joy in the way of God’s commandments. The preaching of this doctrine was glad tidings of great joy to many longing souls, who eagerly embraced it, as that for which they had been seeking; and, as they walked in this Divine Light, they experienced a growth in grace and in Christian knowledge, and gradually came to be established as pillars in the house of God. (Thomas Evans, 1870).[iii]

We commonly, at first, feel the work of the Light as an inward reproving or of being chastened in our conscience. We may feel uncomfortable and want to shy away, yet what Truth is telling us inwardly is making us aware of something which needs to be rectified in the sight of God. If we welcome that truth about our inner reality, the Light will then start to show us the next steps and begin to heal us. Fox’s advice was to love the Light. That is just the start, and the Light has much work to do to bring us into a deeper communion with God.

 The second work of the same Light is to show us what God is asking of us, or requiring of us. In this Light we become aware of Truth instructing and guiding us into a new path. We have been shown what was in error and are now being invited into ways of doing well. George Fox emphasised this second step because he knew it was important people did not get stuck in rejecting any inward admonitions of the first step.  This method is clearly enunciated in Fox’s Journal:

I directed them to the divine light of Christ and his spirit in their hearts, which would let them see all the evil thoughts, words, and actions, that they had thought, spoken, and acted; by which light they might see their sin, and also their saviour Christ Jesus to save them from their sins. This I told them was their first step to peace, even [specifically] to stand still in the light that showed them their sins and transgressions; … and by the same light they might see Christ …, and their way to God. (George Fox, 1652)[iv]

Then, thirdly, the Light will enable us to do what is asked or required, that is we are given the Life and power to do what is righteous, forgiving, kind, charitable, wise counsel.  As do we what is asked we find a sense of inner peace, calm and happiness, that we are of single mind, rather than the divided and troubled heart of previous times. We have been opened a little so that the work of God can proceed through us without being blocked by our self-centredness – whether that be excessive reliance on our own knowledge and what we think is right, or by our fears or by baser inclinations.

 It is not we who do it. It is the love of God working through us. It is the love of God for us that we are changed that it may happen, and the love of God for others that they receive the help and care and counsel they need.



[i] George Fox 1648. Journal of George Fox, 1831 Ed., p. 90; Nickalls 1975 Ed., p.34-35.

[ii] David Johnson, 2023. The Fundamental Principle of Quaker Spirituality: Light in the Conscience. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 483. Wallingford, Pennsylvania: Pendle Hill Publications, 2023.

[iii] Thomas Evans, 1870. A Concise Account of The Religious Society Of Friends, Commonly Called Quakers; Embracing a Sketch of Their Christian Doctrines And Practices. Reprinted by Authority of The Meeting for Sufferings. Philadelphia: Friends’.Book Store, 1870, p. 10=11.

[iv] George Fox, 1652. Journal of George Fox. 1831 Ed., p. 148; Nickalls 1975 Ed., p. 117.


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