Before this text in 1686, the term species just meant some sort or kind of organism. It was a Latin word in ordinary use without much meaning in natural history, but then arguments began whether or not there were one or more species for this or that group, and so it became important to know what was meant by the term in natural history. That is, a distinctly biological concept of species was needed, and John Ray gave it here:
The translation is this:
In order that an inventory of plants may be begun and a classification (divisio) of them correctly established, we must try to discover criteria of some sort for distinguishing what are called ?species?. After long and considerable investigation, no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed. Thus, no matter what variations occur in the individuals or the species, if they spring from the seed of one and the same plant, they are accidental variations and not such as to distinguish a species ? Animals likewise that differ specifically preserve their distinct species permanently; one species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa. [Historia plantarum generalis, in the volume published in 1686, Tome I, Libr. I, Chap. XX, page 40 (Quoted in Mayr 1982: 256)]
So now you know what was said and where. Note that this is not a “biological” species concept – there is nothing here about interfertility; it is a generative conception of species – things are one species if they generate the same forms reliably.