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"minds.... turned toward God"

I wrote about humility a while ago, and the theme continues to reverberate. Early Quakers often talked about humility using a variety of descriptions, many of which are contained in this letter from George Fox:

Dear friends in the eternal truth of God, whose minds by the light of Jesus Christ are turned towards God, meet often together in the fear of the Lord, and to the light take heed, that with it all your minds may be kept up to God, from whence it comes.

And in all your meetings wait low in his fear, that ye may come to know the life and power of truth one in another. And all ye whom the Lord hath made overseers over his church in your several places, be faithful to the Lord, and watch over the flock of Christ with all diligence; ye which are strong watch over the weak, and stir up that which is pure on in another; see that all your meetings be kept in order.

Be faithful unto the Lord where he hath set you, and ye shall not lose your reward. Servants, be faithful unto your masters, not with eye service, serving them as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, as unto the Lord; that ye may come to undo the heavy burdens; being faithful in your places, where the Lord hath set you, there is your right service.

And take heed of forward minds, and of running out before your guide, for that leads out into looseness; and such plead for liberty, and run out in their wills, and bring dishonour to the Lord; and the unbridled will gets at liberty, and an exalted spirit gets up, and pride, and haughtiness, and high words. And such are they who add to the burden, and do not take it off.

Therefore all wait low in the fear of the Lord, and be not hasty nor rash, but see the way be made clear; and as the Lord doth move you, so do, and return with speed, (when ye have done,) to the place where ye were abiding, and be faithful there; that the truth of God be not evil spoken of through you, as they speak of vagabonds and wanderers, that it may not be so among you. For such are vagabonds and wanderers, who run before their guide.

And masters rules over your servants in love, with all diligence and meekness, knowing that ye have one master in heaven.

And friends, in all places, where any go abroad, as they pass by examine them, whither they are going, and what about? And if they cannot give a good account, exhort them to return back and abide faithful in their places until they see their way made clear.

So farewell in the Lord. The eternal God of power and wisdom direct and guide you to his eternal praise, that his name may be honored and glorified in you and through you all! Be diligent every one in your places, where the Lord hath set you, for the work of the Lord is great; and God Almighty keep you to be faithful laborers in his work.

From one who is a lover of your souls, and whose care is over the church of God, that it may be kept in order, and that all, that are guided by his spirit, may be led into all good order. G. F. London, the 15th of the 3d month, 1655. (Works VII, page 94-5, Epistle LXXXIII, paragraph breaks added for readability.)

There's a lot going on in this early epistle of Fox's, one which warns of the dangers of pride and the disorder it brings. The opening discussion of fearing God may seem a little unusual to modern Quakers more familiar with the light as comforter and leader, but Fox's emphasis on the right relationship between worshipper and worshipped still leaves plenty of room for a life rightly led - "as the Lord doth move you."

It's also interesting to think about the "servants" and "masters" lines, as the divisions between those groups is less clear today than it was then. As consumers, we are encouraged to think "the customer is always right", placing us in the master role in many interactions, while we also act as servants much of the time. Be diligent in your work, faithful, with "singleness of heart", and masters must "rule... in love, with all diligence and meekness.

All of this is possible when we "to the light take heed."