Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Bunyan-Burrough Debate > Kuenning dissertation, chapter 7
The inner workings of Burrough's religion escape Bunyan, just as those of Bunyan's escape Burrough. In this chapter we will examine a feature of Burrough's theology of which Bunyan has little inkling.
Underwood unfortunately adopts part of Bunyan's misconception of Quaker doctrine when he writes:
Up to the point of Christ's ascension, Quakers did not deny that the events of Christ's life had occurred outwardly. . . . However, they apparently perceived Christ's ascension to have been into his saints rather than into a physical heaven as the Baptists believed.1
This idea, which evidently comes from Bunyan's "that heaven into which he is ascended is not within, but must needs be that above the clouds,"2 needs to be corrected by observing Burrough's statement, in response to a charge of this kind from Bunyan, that "we own him as he is ascended far above all Heavens, who fills all things; yea, and without us too."3 The association of "ascended far above all heavens" with "fills all things" is taken from Eph 4:10, where indeed this filling is said to be the goal or purpose of the ascension.
Contrast this with Bunyan's statement: "Now I am to prove that he is above the clouds and the heavens. My meaning is, he is above the lowest heavens. For there are three. . . ." This lowest heaven is "the material heaven, where the sun, moon, and stars are placed . . . above which heaven Jesus the Son of Mary is ascended."4 That Bunyan should feel a need to clarify this point is significant. There is a higher heaven, and Jesus has gone not above that higher heaven but into it: "when he went into this heaven into which he is gone, he went AWAY from his disciples."5 Being there and being present anywhere else are mutually exclusive. For Burrough, on the other hand, since the ascension leads above all heavens it is the path not to earthly absence but to omnipresence. Christ is thus within the disciples and without them at the same time.
Omnipresence might seem a trivial matter to assert of Christ if it concerned only his spirit. This indeed is why Bunyan insists specifically that Christ is now "absent from his people touching his bodily presence, though present in spirit."6 But for Burrough and Fox, the presence of the ascended Christ in his saints includes his flesh as well. In replying to Bunyan's repeated statements on Christ's physical absence, Fox mentions seven times that the saints eat Christ's flesh7 and seven times that they are "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone,"8 a conflation of the textus receptus of Eph 5:30 (on Christ and the church) with Gen 2:23 (on Adam and Eve).9 Lest these references to flesh be thought purely metaphorical, we should note that Fox is quite aware that Bunyan is emphasizing the physical, for in reproducing Bunyan's text for comment he is capable of paraphrasing "touching his bodily presence"10 with "as touching his flesh."11 We should note also Fox's pairing of flesh with spirit when he speaks of Christ as "he who did ascend to be revealed and made manifest in his saints, in flesh, and spirit, that did descend."12
Burrough too cites Eph 5:30 to the same effect. To Bunyan's question "Is that very man, with that very body, within you, yea, or no?"13 Burrough replies:
The very Christ of God is within us, we dare not deny him; and we are Members of his Body, and of his Flesh, and of his Bone, as the Ephesians were:14
Bunyan, who is trying to elicit the obvious answer "no" in order to recapture the term "body" from what he perceives as illegitimate Quaker metaphor, takes this for an evasive answer: "I see you are minded to famble, and will not answer plainly." 15 But in the light of Fox's usage, Burrough's allusive reference to Christ's body, flesh and bone appears to be intended as a fairly direct affirmative answer to Bunyan's question. He alters the wording only because he prefers the wording of scripture, not in order to change the subject. Christ's flesh is within the saints as really as material from Adam's rib was present in Eve's body when he called her "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh."
Bunyan of course thinks Burrough is merely adapting, for purposes of evasion, the biblical language of the church as Christ's body. Fear that Quakers may be using such language to evade all discussion of Christ's human body lies behind Buyan's question, "Hath that Christ that was with God the Father before the world was, no other body but his church?" Believing that this is indeed the Quakers' "wonted course," he therefore follows this opening question with a further series demanding to know in what body Christ was crucified.16
Burrough's answer to this question is heatedly written and easily misread, and therefore requires careful parsing:
In this thou hast not only queried, but Slandered; therefore first thy Slander I do remove, It is our wonted course to say, that Christ hath no other Body but his Church; thout art herein as in other things, a false Accuser, but we say the Church is Christ's Body: And it is sufficient for Salvation to know Christ Jesus to be head in us, and over us, and our selves to be members of his Body. . . .17
The difficulty centers on the words "it is our wonted course." Bunyan takes this to be Burrough's own affirmation, for in reproducing the passage for rebuttal he inserts here his own "sayest thou." In fact he inserts it four times before he is finished quoting, apparently with the meaning of "sic," and ends the quotation with a flourish "These are thy words," for he finds Burrough's wording so incredible that he wishes to assure readers that he has quoted it correctly.18
On Bunyan's interpretation Burrough's answer is indeed nonsensical, and the reader would have to agree with Bunyan's reply: "Now, in my query thou sayest I slander . . . yet dost thou not clear thyself at all, only thou wouldst say something to dazzle the eyes of the ignorant."19 But Bunyan's is not the only interpretation possible, nor is it, on close examination, the most likely. Burrough calls Bunyan's statement a slander, says he is going to remove the slander, and calls Bunyan a false accuser. In the midst of these three statements we find Burrough's repetition of Bunyan's "slander" about the Quakers' "wonted course." That Burrough would here reaffirm Bunyan's statement passes belief; we should instead read it as an indignant indirect quotation, as if Burrough had written, "therefore first thy slander I do remove, to wit, that it is our wonted course to say. . . ." This is consistent with the generally defective punctuation of the sources and with other instances where Burrough is too excited to write fully coherent sentences.20 As a less likely alternative, one could instead follow Ellis Hookes's editing of Burrough's Memorable Works in hypothesizing and restoring an original "not" accidentally omitted in Giles Calvert's print shop: "It is not our wonted course to say. . . ."21
On this understanding, Burrough intends his continuation "but we say the Church is Christ's Body" as something in contrast to Bunyan's accusation, a wonted statement of Quakers which Bunyan has distorted. As it stands this appears to be an unexceptionable Christian truism which all types of Christians could accept in principle even while differing vigorously over which concrete church is meant. It is not, Burrough implies, a denial of the outward body in which Christ was crucified. Though he follows this generic truism with a statement about what is "sufficient for salvation" which Bunyan could not possibly accept, the controversy has by this point shifted to a different topic: not the identity or existence of Christ's outward body but the conditions for salvation.
If this is true, one might expect that Burrough would allow a logical distinction between two senses of the term "Christ's body," one for the church and one for the body that was crucified and resurrected. However, this way of stating the matter entails a further difficulty for Burrough, who finds in Eph 4:4 Paul's statement that "There is one body." To Burrough this means that the statement "there are two bodies" is not allowable, even if it is meant only as a way of distinguishing two quite different meanings of the word. When John Burton tries to explain matters this way, Burrough's Quaker informants in Bedfordshire find it so unacceptable that they include it in a list of scandalous quotations which Burrough prints as a postscript to The True Faith:
These things further we shall add, which are contrary to the Doctrine of the true Gospel.
First, John Burton said in a Discourse with some Friends, That Christ had two Bodies, and one of the bodies was out of the sight of the Saints.22
It is not only the "out of the sight of the saints" that bothers Burrough and his informants here. That indeed is objectionable, because the body that was crucified and resurrected is now ascended above all heavens and therefore fills all things; the saints, who have an eye to see, may therefore see it. But Burrough also explicitly rejects the "two bodies" wording when he replies to Bunyan's defense of Burton:
And to this Joh. Bunion confesses, but would excuse it if he could, and would manifest that Christ hath two bodies, clean contrary to the Scripture, which affirms, Ephes. 4.4. Now no marvel that he gain-sayes me, when as he hath gain-said the Apostle, who saith expressly, There is one body, but they say two bodies; let them be ashamed for ever, thus to contradict Scripture.23
Given this objection, which may well have been stated orally to Burton before his words were reported to Burrough, it is not surprising that Bunyan should implicitly construct a logical inference on behalf of the Quakers: the church is Christ's body; Christ does not have two bodies; therefore Christ has no body but his church. Yet Burrough considers this a slander. We must try to see how he avoids the inference.
As we have seen, Burrough says the Quakers own Christ without them, ascended above all heavens and filling all things. Fox adds that Christ is not absent from the saints in body because they feed on his flesh and thus become "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone." This last phrase, which Burrough associates with the church being Christ's body, is consciously derived by way of Eph 5:30 from Gen 2:23, where Adam declares that Eve is "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Yet although the two are to become "one flesh," it would hardly do to say that Adam has no body but Eve. Eve's body is an extension of Adam's body, physically originating from it and destined for sexual union with it, but it is not all the body Adam has. If then Fox and Burrough conceive of the church as Christ's body in terms parallel to Adam and Eve, it becomes understandable that they can laud the union of Christ and the church in language derived from Genesis while resenting the implication foisted on them by others that the church is all the body Christ has.
This in turn sheds light on the resonances which the concept of the church as Christ's body carries in early Quaker theology. The meaning is not limited to a social organism, that is, an organization visualized on a biological model. Because there can be only one body, this sense is merged with that of the physcial body that was crucified and resurrected. The church is the body that was crucified at Jerusalem, not in the sense that a social organization was crucified instead of a human being, but in the sense that the saints become Christ's actual human body by feeding on his flesh and having it within them. The sense of moral and spiritual transformation so evident in Quaker conversion stories is accompanied, in the 1650s, by a vivid sense of bodily transformation as well, as evidenced in the physical manifestations such as quaking and trembling that so often seized upon those who underwent conviction of sin by the Light. It is as if the participants were being transubstantiated into the flesh of Christ, provided we carefully ignore the proper metaphysical sense of that Thomistic term (in which nothing perceptibly changes) and use it instead in the imaginative sense of popular Catholic piety (in which the transubstantiated bread may sometimes be seen to bleed). Quakers of the 1650s were the bread; they experienced identification with Christ in a physical as well as a spiritual sense. They witnessed the flesh of Christ manifested in their own bodies, and were convinced it was the same flesh that had been crucified at Jerusalem.
It is to the present experience of Christ's flesh that Burrough applies 1 John 4:2-3: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." If this referred only to verbal affirmation of the events recorded in the New Testatment, Burrough argues,
then is not the Pope himself antichrist, seeing he confesses as much of this (it may be more then thou dost) neither canst thou justly condemn us for denying this; for we do confess it with our hearts, and not only with our mouthes, as thou and the Pope doth. But Friend, Is every one saved that saith, Lord, Lord? nay, it is only he that doth the will of the Father. . . .24
Bunyan too holds that the confession referred to must include heart belief,25 but neither he nor Burrough can accept that the other's heart is right. The underlying problem is that they interpret the content of the confession differently. For Bunyan the required belief focuses on Christ's death at Jerusalem because only it can atone for one's sins; for Burrough, what must be truly confessed, and therefore truly witnessed, is the same flesh that died at Jerusalem manifest in one's own body. This is why Burrough contrasts a merely verbal confession with doing the will of the Father, for the flesh of Christ always does the Father's will where it is manifest.
For Burrough, indeed, unless one can witness Christ's flesh in one's own body, one has no meaningful knowledge of its outward manifestation at Jerusalem either. Thus in a 1654 reply to a query of Philip Bennett he writes:
Thou askest whether the Word was made Flesh any more or oftner then once, which makes it plainly manifest, that thou knowest not what thou askest, and that thou dost not know, nor canst not witness the Word to be made Flesh once, but art one of the Antichrists and Deceivers which John speaks of, that are entred into the World, which cannot confess Jesus Christ come in the flesh . . . and the Word made flesh we witness, which dwells amongst us, and we behold his glory as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, according to the Scripture . . . and the Light in thy Conscience, if thou wouldst let it rise, will be thy condemnation, and when thou canst witness the Word to be made flesh once, then thou wilt know whether the Son of God was made of a Woman any more or oftner than once.26
Bennett has read in the scriptures of the Word being made flesh, but he has no grasp of what this means because he has not himself beheld the glory of the only begotten. He must first witness the flesh of Christ in himself before he can truly recognize Christ's outward historic manifestation. Until then, in fact, Bennett is a persecutor of Christ, and of his mother as well, for Burrough continues:
But thou art the Dragon that wouldst devour the Man-child which the Woman hath brought forth . . . and therefore dost thou persecute the Woman which hath brought forth the Man-child. . . .27
Burrough here identifies the woman of Gal 4:4 (who for Bennett, asking how often the Son of God was made of a woman, is Mary) with the woman of Rev 12, so that the entire church is the woman who brings forth Christ and in whom he continues to be persecuted.
But Burrough's doctrine of the flesh of Christ goes even further than this. The body in which Christ died at Jerusalem not only fills all things (especially the saints who feed upon it); it has existed from all eternity. Bunyan actually raises this possibility, but only in a rhetorical question designed to exhibit its absurdity:
This question I briefly ask thee, "Had Christ a body of flesh before the world began?" If you say no, as you must if you say true, then do not I say true when I say they are deceived who own Christ no otherwise than as he was before the world began? because they own him not with that body of flesh which he took of the Virgin Mary, and so are antichrists, as the Scripture saith. And how say you? Do you believe that the same Christ who was before the world without a body, did in time come into the world and take a body from the Virgin, and in that body did obtain everlasting redemption for sinners; and is gone with that very body into the presence of his Father above the clouds into heaven from his saints on earth, though in them by his Spirit? A plain answer to this would unlock your double meanings.28
Bunyan's entire argument here assumes that Burrough cannot but agree with him that Christ had no body of flesh before the world began. He asks the question only to point out the obvious, never guessing what Burrough actually thinks.
A plain answer to Bunyan's query would indeed unlock Burrough's meaning, but Burrough is offended at the accusation of a double meaning and insists that his prior answer was plain enough. However, he adds significantly:
the fault is in thy weakness, and sottishness, and blindness of heart, who knows not that which is infinite and immortal, and eternal, the flesh of Christs body is so.29
The expression that Christ's flesh is "immortal and eternal" might of itself mean only that it is eternal in the forward direction, but the context excludes this. Burrough is here defending his former answer, which he restates as follows:
Christ we own the same yesterday to day & for ever; and doth believe the Father granted that request [in John 17:5], and he is glorified with the same glory that he had before the World was. . . .30
This in turn is an answer to Bunyan's exclamation, "how are they then deceived who own Christ no otherwise than as he was before the world began, who was then without flesh and blood. . . ."31 In applying to Christ's body the idea that he is eternally unchangeable, Burrough is disallowing any difference between forward and backward eternities: if Christ's flesh is immortal and eternal then it also antedates creation. To own him as he was before the world began, then, is to own him with his body of flesh, not without it.
Fox, too, speaks of Christ as being man not only during his earthly life and as risen and ascended, but even in his pre-existence. His term for Christ in his human nature (which as we have seen he refuses to call "human") is "the Son of man," which he clarifies in this passage with the additional expression "not as he was God":
And Matt. xxvi.24. Christ saith, 'surely the Son of man goeth his way, as it is written of him, but woe be unto that man, by whom the Son of man is betrayed; it had been good for that man if he had never been born.' So it was the Son of man that was betrayed and crucified, not as he was God; and he that was betrayed and crucified, to wit, the Son of man, is he that is risen.
And John vi.62. Christ said, 'what then if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?' [mark, the Son of man.]
And John xiii.31,32. when Judas that betrayed him, was gone out from him, Jesus said 'now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him, if God be glorified in him, God shall glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.'
And John iii.13. Christ saith, 'but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man, which is in heaven.' And this we believe, though ye have given him other names, as humane body, or humanity, which names are not found in scripture. . . .32
Fox's bracketed "mark, the Son of man" emphasizes that he is speaking throughout this passage of Christ as man. He could not be crucified as God because God cannot die. But having been crucified as man, Christ is risen as man, ascended as man, and glorified as man. Further, he is ascended to where he was before—once again as man, for it was as the Son of man that he descended from heaven.
The direct evidence for Christ's pre-existent flesh or manhood in Burrough and Fox is admittedly scanty, but it is supported by the light it sheds on other details. In Burrough, as we have noted, it arises as the outcome of an exchange sparked by Bunyan's exclamation, "how are they then deceived who own Christ no otherwise than as he was before the world began." How Burrough can object to this, while holding a soteriology which places great importance on Christ's flesh, is an apparent difficulty in his thought which vanishes once we realize that on his view Christ already had a body of flesh before the world began. Again, Burrough's apparently casual statements that Christ "was made manifest from Mary's womb"33 and "in time was manifest in Bethlehem"34 may turn out to be, for him, a more natural expression than Bunyan's "the flesh that he took from the Virgin Mary,"35 in that, for Burrough, Christ did not need to take flesh when he already had it: it remained only for this "infinite and immortal" flesh to be "made manifest" in the world and in time. Indeed, when manifest in time it may not have been entirely like an ordinary Adamic body, apparently having instead some of the qualities of a spiritual resurrection body as hinted by Paul in 1 Cor 15, for Burrough tells Bunyan, "That body which was begotten by the holy Ghost is not so carnal as thou supposest."36 It is typical enough to find early Quakers objecting to the idea that "Christ is in heaven with a carnal body" (since it ought to be a "spiritual body" following 1 Cor 15),37 but Burrough here extends this backwards to apply, at least in some degree, to Christ's body as it was born of Mary.
After Burrough's lifetime the concept of Christ's body or flesh existing from all eternity underwent further development in Quaker theology. More educated exponents of Quaker doctrine were apparently unable to maintain Burrough's identification of the "not so carnal" body begotten by the Holy Ghost with the pre-existent body and the ascended body that fills all things. Abandoning Burrough's objection to the idea that Christ has two bodies, writers such as Robert Barclay and Isaac Penington explicitly distinguish between the life-giving spiritual body of Christ, on which the saints feed, and the outward body in which he lived in Galilee and Judea. Thus Penington writes:
What is attributed to that body, we acknowledge and give to that body in its place, according as the Scripture attributeth it, which is through and because of that which dwelt and acted in it. But that which sanctified and kept the body pure (and made all acceptable in him) was the life, holiness, and righteousness of the Spirit. And the same thing that kept his vessel pure, it is the same thing that clenseth us. . . . So that this it is that doth the thing; this is it from whence Christ had his own flesh and blood (for we are taught, both by the Spirit, and by the Scriptures, to distinguish between Christ's own flesh, and that of ours which he took up and made his); which flesh and blood we feed of in the Spirit; which they cannot feed on which serve at the outward tabernacle; nor they neither which know only the outward body; but they only that feed in the Spirit.38
Neither the Spirit nor the Scriptures had taught Burrough to make such a distinction. For him every biblical text that spoke of Christ's body or flesh referred to the same thing, and to try to make two bodies of it was contrary to Eph 4:4.
Similarly Barclay, after citing thirteen separate verses of John 6, writes:
From this large description of the origin, nature, and effects of this body, flesh and blood of Christ, it is apparent that it is spiritual, and to be understood of a spiritual body, and not of that body, or temple of Jesus Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and in which he walked, lived, and suffered in the land of Judea; because it is said, that it came down from heaven, yea, that it is he that came down from heaven. Now all Christians at present generally acknowledge, that the outward body of Christ came not down from heaven; neither was it that part of Christ which came down from heaven.39
Barclay not only makes a distinction like Penington's but is willing to speak of one or another "part of Christ." It is hard to imagine Burrough being comfortable with this. Nayler certainly was not:
The priest asked, 'if Christ was in him as man.' James said, 'Christ is not divided.' But he urged him to tell whether Christ as man was in him or not. He answered, 'Christ is not divided; for if he be, he is no more Christ; but I witness that Christ in him who is God and man, in measure.'40
Barclay further refers to what "Christians at present generally acknowledge." This comes strangely in a work printed just a year after Fox's A Testimony of what we Believe of Christ, which as we have seen speaks of Christ's descending from heaven as the Son of man. Most likely Barclay believes he is expounding Fox's own doctrine in more educated terms; but in Barclay's explanation the flesh of Christ that comes from heaven is not his manhood but a purely divine principle:
§XIII. Secondly, By this seed, grace, and word of God, and light wherewith we say every one is enlightened . . . we understand a spiritual, heavenly, and invisible principle, in which God, as Father, Son and Spirit dwells; a measure of which divine and glorious life is in all men as a seed . . . and this some call vehiculum Dei, or the spiritual body of Christ, the flesh and blood of Christ, which came down from heaven, of which all the saints do feed, and are thereby nourished unto eternal life.41
These later developments of Quaker theology are historically more understandable if we see them as attempts to rationalize an earlier doctrine of the heavenly flesh which was intellectually less respectable but emotionally more compelling. The heavenly flesh concept could not be discarded, for it was too close to the heartbeat of the movement's earliest stages. Yet its earliest formulations, complete with pre-existent manhood, were hard for educated minds to assimilate unaltered. It was surely unintentional that Barclay and Penington expressed the doctrine in terms that failed to convey the immediacy of the earliest Quakers' sense of almost physical identification with Christ, who spoke in them as he had spoken in Galilee, and suffered in them as he had suffered at Jerusalem.
The heavenly flesh doctrine also sheds light on what may be the most frustrating impasse of the Bunyan-Burrough debate. Bunyan cannot figure out what difference it makes, from a Quaker viewpoint, that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and was crucified at Jerusalem. He knows that in his own religious life it makes all the difference between salvation and damnation. But he is not aware of anything the Quakers say that would give the matter any importance at all. It is not only that they do not explain it in his own highly Anselmian terms, though he certainly wishes they would do so. As far as he can tell, they do not explain it in any terms whatever. Hence his accusation, as neatly summarized in Burton's epistle, of "undervaluing the Lord Jesus Christ, God-man . . . they do not rightly and savingly lay him for their foundation."42
Burrough, of course, indignantly denies the charge:
We prize the Lord Jesus Christ God Man to be precious unto us, and unto all that do believe, and have owned him alone to be the Foundation, whom God hath laid for Salvation unto the ends of the Earth, and in his Light are we saved, and therein do walk; and because hereof are we hated by thee. . . .43
But the very terms in which he does so can only confirm Bunyan's suspicions. Nothing here appears to depend on first-century events at Jerusalem, and although Burrough echoes Burton's words "the Lord Jesus Christ God Man," he gives no hint of an answer, Anselmian or otherwise, to the question Cur Deus Homo?
We must of course fully allow for the fact that in this passage Burrough is not trying to answer the Anselmian question. He is trying to convict his opponents of slander. He wishes to disqualify their entire religion as hypocrisy on the grounds that they falsely accuse the innocent, and he therefore has no inclination to let them set the standards by which is own religion should be judged. All their theological learning is invented in the serpent's wisdom, and their questions are designed to ensnare the innocent. They must bow to the Light that condemns them for their sins, and their earthly wisdom will be laid in the dust; patiently abiding there they will come to see their Savior and will know who he is and what his nature is.
That said, the serious student of early Quakerism can hardly help noticing that the Anselmian question is conspicuous by its absence. But a study of the heavenly flesh doctrine suggests a possible explanation for this absence.
To ask the question Cur Deus Homo? in the Anselmian tradition, as Bunyan does, is to raise the specter of the alternative: What if God had not become man? The answer, inevitably, is that no one could have been saved. But this means that it is possible to investigate this non-salvific, non-incarnational option which God could have chosen but did not.
The present study proposes that Burrough does not answer the Anselmian question because he cannot even raise it. It is not that it is unimportant to him that Jesus Christ is both God and man, or that he died on the cross; it is that he cannot envision an alternative. The manhood of the Son of God is a raw datum of religious experience. The flesh of Christ is not merely heard or read of, as Burrough is sure is the case for Bunyan and Burton; it is witnessed. The only Christ Burrough knows is a Christ who has come in the flesh: first in his own proper flesh, and then in the flesh of his saints by making them flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. This is who Christ is. No one who truly knows him would ask what else he could have done and been in place of being God and man; it would be an inconceivable impertinence. Those who raise such questions show that they do not know him.
This unquestionable identity of Christ as God and man is what is projected backward into Burrough's concept of the pre-existence of Christ's body of flesh. This can be usefully contrasted with Bunyan's concept of the Lamb being slain from before the foundation of the world. In both cases a theological fact about Christ, known in the first place from its manifestation among human beings in time, is projected back into the eternity before creation. But they differ not only in which theological fact is selected but in how the backward projection is accomplished.
Bunyan carefully explains that it is only "in God's account" that Christ's death was accomplished before creation; in actual fact it did not, and could not, occur until the historical incarnation: "I said only this, that in the account of God (mark it, in the account of God) his blood was shed before the world was."44 The importance of its earlier accomplishment "in God's account" is part of the eternal "bargain" or covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son: it enables the Father, who cannot deliver guilty souls from eternal vengeance without satisfaction for sin, to begin giving the fallen elect into the Son's care immediately after the fall of Adam:
The meaning [of Zech 9:11] is this: As for thee also, seeing the covenant or bargain that was made between me and thee before the world was, is accomplished in my account, as if it were actually and really done, with all the conditions that were agreed upon by me and thee; I have, therefore, according to that agreement that was on my part, sent forth the prisoners, and those that were under the curse of my law, out of the pit wherein there is no water; seeing thou also hast completely fulfilled in my account whatsoever was on thy part to be done, according to our agreement.45
Such a device is not available to Burrough, because he cannot accept that God would, as he bluntly puts it, "account that for Truth, which is a Lye," exclaiming, "this is little less then Blasphemy, what, is God a Hypocrite, like thy self?"46 Burrough cannot project any Christological doctrine backward solely by using the forensic device of "God's account"; whatever was true before creation must have been so factually and not just by legal fiction. The crucifixion, which can be carried out only by sinners because crucifying Christ is a sin, cannot have begun to occur any earlier than the fall; this is why Burrough insists that in the slaying of the Lamb "from the foundation of the world," "from" must mean "since" and not "before."47 As soon as the fall has occurred, it can begin immediately; as Fox explains it: "Christ was in prison, and they visited him not; and hungry and ye fed him not. . . . How as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but among such as thou art?"48
For Burrough, therefore, any backward projection reaching before creation must be of something which conceivably be factually true of Christ before the fall, and this mental feat is easier for him to accomplish with Christ's manhood than with his death. Any conceptual difficulty here, such as that manhood presupposes a created universe, is more easily overcome than a difficulty that presupposes actual sin. Although Burrough does not spell out the connections, biblical texts that could possibly help in overcoming the difficulties of a pre-creation manood might include Gen 1:26-27 on the creation of man in God's image, Heb 1:3 identifying Christ as the image of God, 1 Cor 15:45-49 on the parellelism between Adam and Christ, and John 3:13 on the descent of the Son of man from heaven.
The consequence is that whereas Bunyan's backward projection is based on a covenant entered into by the Father and the Son, Burrough's is based on the unchangeable nature of Christ (Heb 13:8). But it is much more natural to ask "What if God had chosen differently than he did?" than to ask "What if God had been of a different nature than he is?" This is why Bunyan can readily contemplate what would be the dreadful alternative if Father and Son had not entered into the covenant of redemption, whereas Burrough cannot nearly so well contemplate what reality might be like if Jesus Christ were not God-man. This in turn explains why neither can see what the other means by laying "the Lord Jesus Christ God Man" for a foundation. Bunyan wants Burrough to demonstrate the importance of Christ's manhood by showing the momentous issues that would come out vastly the worse for humanity if Christ were not man, but Burrough cannot consider that Christ might have been any other than he is. Burrough, rather more simply, wants Bunyan to exhibit Christ's manhood in his own life by repenting of slandering the innocent, but Bunyan cannot see that his charges amount to slander. Each is therefore certain that his own church, and not the other's, is founded on Jesus Christ as God and man.
1. Underwood, Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb's War, 4-5.
2. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 78 (appendix, 332, col. 1).
3. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 8 (appendix, 245, col. 4).
4. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 77 (appendix, 331, col. 1).
5. Ibid., 78 (appendix, 331, col. 1).
6. Ibid., 111 (appendix, 352, col. 1).
7. Fox, Works, 3:51, 337, 339, 340, 344, 345 (twice).
8. Ibid., 3:46, 49, 51, 337, 339, 344, 345.
9. Fox shows his deliberate reliance on Paul's reference to Genesis by adding that Christ and the church are "as nigh together as husband and wife" (ibid., 3:49).
10. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 78 (appendix, 331, col. 1).
11. Fox, Works, 3:344.
12. Ibid., 3:344.
13. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 114 (appendix, 357, col. 1).
14. Burrough, The True Faith, 27 (appendix, 357, col. 2).
15. Bunyan, Vindication, 192 (appendix, 357, col. 3).
16. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 115 (appendix, 359, col. 1).
17. Burrough, The Truth Faith, 28 (appendix, 359, col. 2).
18. Bunyan, Vindication, 194 (appendix, 359, col. 3).
19. Ibid. (appendix, 359, col. 3).
20. Note especially the following as originally punctuated: "only Mind thee of thy Carnall sottishnesse, who speakes of Christ to be four, or five foot long, let shame cover thy lipps thou blind sot, when did you see Christ in that length [no punctuation here!] hast thou not here spoken of that which thou knowes not, and art a busy body intruding into things, whereof thou art ignorant, but fooles loves to be medling, to Manifest their owne folly, among whom thou art, and much more stuffe [dangling noun phrase] which I passe by, as not worth Nameing. . . ." Burrough, The Truth Faith, 23 (appendix, 332, col. 2).
21. Burrough, Memorable Works, 150.
22. Burrough, The True Faith, 30 (appendix, 368, col. 2).
23. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 54 (appendix, 370, col. 4).
24. Burrough, The True Faith, 14 (appendix, 292, col. 2).
25. Bunyan, Vindication, 162 (appendix, 292, col. 3).
26. Burrough, Answers to several Queries (1654), in Memorable Works, 29-30.
27. Ibid., 30.
28. Bunyan, Vindication, 161 (appendix, 291, col. 3).
29. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 31 (appendix, 291, col. 4).
30. Ibid. (appendix, 291, col. 4).
31. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 46 (appendix, 290, col. 1).
32. Fox, A Testimony of what we Believe of Christ (1675), in Works, 5:149-150.
33. Burrough, The True Faith, 27 (appendix, 357, col. 2).
34. Ibid., 14 (appendix, 291, col. 2).
35. Bunyan, Vindication, 191 (appendix, 357, col. 3).
36. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 32 (appendix, 293, col. 4).
37. Fox: "ye have given him other names, as humane body, or humanity, which names are not found in scripture. . . . and Christ, as ye say, is in heaven with a carnal body; and so we cannot believe you further, then ye give forth scripture for your names and terms that ye give to Christ": A Testimony of what we Believe of Christ (1675), in Works, 5:150. Nayler: "If Christ be in heaven with a carnal body, and the saints with a spiritual body, it is not proportionable; neither was that a carnal body which appeared among the disciples, the doors being shut, and appeared in divers shapes": Saul's Errand to Damascus (1654), in Fox, Works, 3:610.
38. Isaac Penington, A Question to the Professors of Christianity, Whether they have the True, Living, Powerful, Saving Knowledge of Christ, or No (1667), in Penington, Works, 3 (Glenside, PA: Quaker Heritage Press, 1996): 26; italics added.
39. Robert Barclay, An Apology for the True Christian Divinity (1676; reprint, Philadelphia: Friends Book Association, n.d.), 415-416 (Prop. 13, §2).
40. Saul's Errand to Damascus, in Fox, Works, 3:605.
41. Barclay, Apology, 136 (Props. V-VI, §13). The Latin original had hoc vocamus vehiculum Dei, but in the English text Barclay retreats to the more accurate "this some call vehiculum Dei." The divine chariot (of Ezekiel) was not, apart from this occurrence in Barclay, a standard theme of Quaker theology.
42. Burton, "To the Reader," in Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 8 (appendix, 245, col. 1).
43. Burrough, The True Faith, 7 (appendix, 246, col. 2).
44. Bunyan, Vindication, 139 (appendix, 246-247, col. 3).
45. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 32 (appendix, 276, col. 1).
46. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 10 (appendix, 247, col. 4).
47. Ibid. (appendix, 247, col. 4).
48. Fox, Works, 3:46.