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June 30, 2006

Apocalypse of the Word

Douglas Gwyn's Apocalypse of the Word is a stunning re-telling of early Quakerism, focusing on "The Life and Message of George Fox." Gwyn builds on Lewis Benson's earlier work (which unfortunately I haven't yet read) to present a comprehensive overview of Fox's work, exploring Fox primarily through the Journal and the Works.

I don't think I can write a review of the book - beyond to say that it's compelling, and has me reading a lot deeper into Fox. I'll be writing about and around it here for a long time to come. Its very title - Apocalypse of the Word - can be read with a eschatological perspective (Fox did, after all, have a tremendous interest in the Book of Revelation), or as Apocalypse meaning revealing, and the Word as Christ.

June 25, 2006

Revelation old and new

I wrote earlier of the competition between Tradition, Scripture, and Spirit. The world George Fox inhabited had seen seen Scripture raised to new heights in England - mostly at the expense of the old Catholic (and Anglican) tradition, but also at the explicit expense of Spirit.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, made law by Parliament in 1648 as part of the Articles of Religion, led with a section on Scripture:

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased....

IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed....

X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture. [Emphasis added.]

The citation for the claim of those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased is Hebrews 1:1-2:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Fox himself used this quote on a regular basis to discuss Christ's presence, and there is nothing here that states clearly that God no longer speaks except through Scripture. The Spirit in this confession is accepted only as a means by which we may come into accordance with Scripture, and that within the narrowest bounds possible. Compounding that, the Scripture is treated as the exclusive Word of God, which is difficult to square with John 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

While I find this Confession hard to square with the Scripture it exalts, that obviously hasn't been a problem for many people, then and now. The Protestant Reformers, in abandoning the authority of the Church and Tradition, felt bound to look somewhere else for authority, and found their foundation in Scripture. Building on the Spirit no doubt felt - as it usually has - too risky, too prone to false claims of inspiration and too open to conflict. (The Spirit's role in salvation led these same people toward predestination, rather than to a powerful God interacting with the people he had created and supposedly left free.)

Quakerism leapt on the notion that the Spirit still speaks, and that "there is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition." While Fox was so immersed in the Bible that many of his writings are uncited quotations, Christ's presence was very real to him, not something used exclusively to demonstrate the divinity of the Bible. The Spirit's role in interpreting the Bible was critical to Fox, but that was far from the only function of the Spirit, as this 1653 letter demonstrates:

XLII. - To Friends, concerning the light, in which they may see their saviour, and the deceivers.

To all Friends every where, scattered abroad: in the light dwell which comes from Christ, that with it ye may see Christ your saviour; that ye may grow up in him. For they who are in him are new creatures, and 'old things are passed away, and all things are become new.' And who are in him, are led by the spirit, to them there is no condemnation; but they dwell in that which doth condemn the world, and with the light see the deceivers, and the antichrists, which are entered into the world..

And such teachers as bear rule by their means; and such as seek for the fleece, and make a prey upon the people, and are hirelings, and such as go in the way of Cain, and run greedily after the error of Balaam; and such as are called of men master, and stand praying in the synagogues, and have the chief seats in the assemblies, all which are in the world, who by those that dwelt in the light, were cried against; for it did them condemn, and all such as speak a divination of their own brain, and are filthy dreamers, who use their tongues, and steal the words from their neighbours; with the light, the wolrd and all these aforesaid are comprehended, and all that is in it; all they that hate it, and all the antichrists that oppose it, and all the false prophets and deceivers, that are turned from it, with the light are comprehended, and with the light are condemned, and all that are turned from it and hate it.

'I am the light of the world,' saith Christ, and he doth enlighten everyone that cometh into the world; and he that loves the light, and walks in the light, receives the light of life: and the other, he hates the light, because his deeds are evil, and the light doth reprove him. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, in which light, they that love it, walk; which is the condemnation of him that hates it....

For he is not an antichrist, that walks in the light that comes from Christ; he is no deceiver that walks in the light that comes from Christ. Many deceivers are entered into the world. The world hates the light, and deceivers are turned from the light, and the antichrists they are turned from the light, therefore they oppose it, and some of them call it a natural conscience, a natural light; and such put the letter for the light.

But with the light, which never changes, (which was before the world was,) are these deceivers seen, when they enter into the world.... And here it is not possible, that they that dwell in the light should be deceived, which comprehends the world, and is the world's condemnation. Which light shall bring every tongue to confess, and every knee to bow: when the judgements of God come upon them, it shall make them confess, that the judgments of God are just. (Works, VII, p. 50-1, emphasis and paragraph breaks added.)

The Spirit, the light, is strong for Fox, coming from Christ, originating before the world, and not a mere natural light of human reason. It is not only a guide to the Scriptures, but a path to walk in or to hate. The Spirit interacts with us constantly, and the 'elect' here are those who can best discern the path in the Spirit's light.

Fox would, of course, later have to deal with the consequences of such a direct connection, lacking the simple appeal to scripture as a path for discipline. The notion that the light never changes yet is available to all is the means by which "such as speak a divination of their own brain" can be revealed, allowing the construction of a firmer base to build Quakerism than its Puritan critics imagined possible.

Update: This Wikipedia article on cessationism has more on the question of whether "those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased" makes sense.

June 22, 2006


This sounds rather different from the modern Quaker meetings I've attended:

"Convincement," the term the Children [Quakers] used for conversion, meant to be overcome, and their meetings were gatherings of those who had been overtaken and gripped by God's Spirit. With no obvious leader, the group met in silence to await the promptings of the ever-present Christ. Almost anything was possible: shaking, quaking, rolling, even stripping. Sometimes nothing of moment was said or done, but an attender might still be touched by the power that seemed collected in the group.

One Friend described such a meeting at Grayrigg in Westmorland where a troubled young girl left, sat on the ground, and then cried out in agony, "O Lord make me clean." Such incidents revealed the Lord's presence to the person convinced but also spoke to others, leading them to sense their own needs. At other times, as at Malton in early 1653, nearly two hundred came together and were so moved that, to quote a visitor who was there, "almost all of the room was shaken." An evangelist explained how people leaving a steeplehouse were astonished to see the Children "trembling and crying" in their meeting.

Sometimes three or four who were strong in the truth would appoint a "threshing meeting" to winnow those ready to be convinced from among the heathen. Here, sparked by the presence of opponents, the scene was often more turbulent. At one such meeting a Ranter challenged Fox, who bluntly responded, "Repent you swine and beast." (First Among Friends, 59-60, paragraph breaks added)

Perhaps convincement comes more quietly now? I can't find good reason why it should.

First Among Friends

The cover of H. Larry Ingle's First Among Friends is a first sign that it isn't going to be the typical biography/hagiography of George Fox. The picture is a cartoonish "supposed portrait" of Fox, not an idealized vision of a man with long hair wearing leather.

Inside, the book promises "a biography firmly rooted in [Fox's] period," attempting "to rescue Fox from poorly grounded, usually uncritical, and theologically oriented works." Ingle seems determined to go back to the sources, including but not defined by Fox's own Journal.

So far, it's been an interesting ride. I'll post more here when I've finished it, but I'll be posting a few tidbits well before that.

June 16, 2006

Tradition, Scripture, and Spirit

I've been reading a lot about the history of Christianity lately, and also following various threads in Quaker blogs and message boards about a number of tensions people see in Quakerism. The tensions in Quakerism echo those through Christian history: some folks are most interested in Tradition, some are most interested in Scripture, and others are most interested in Spirit. Most everyone values all three of those on some level, but the prioritization is often very different.

(Yes, this three-part division is abstract, though I still find it helpful.)

Looking back over the grand divisions of Christianity, and oversimplifying drastically, the Catholic and Orthodox approaches have explicitly valued Apostolic Tradition, though built on Scripture and with room for Spirit. In the Protestant Reformation the reformers catapulted Scripture to the top, then divided amongst themselves over how much Tradition to retain and what Scripture actually meant. Spirit is still present, though often the Word (per John 1 and elsewhere) seems to be treated as the Word of Scripture, and Spirit often primarily validates Scripture.

I see Quakerism as having followed the third path, emphasizing Spirit. Early Friends were steeped in Scripture, but more willing than the Anglicans or even the Puritans to jettison existing church Traditions. They did, of course, develop their own new Traditions quite quickly after throwing off the old.

None of these religious groups completely excludes Tradition, Scripture, or Spirit; it's more about which gets priority when. Quakerism, while it is likely best defined by the priority it gives the Spirit, still contains Tradition and Scripture.

Within Quakerism - surfacing in the Quaker messageboard and blogs I follow, more than in the Meeting I attend - people seem to be fighting over the proper relation of these three components. To over-generalize once again:

  • Some people see the Spirit, the Light, as the key feature of Quakerism, and the notion that the Light is Christ or is connected to Scripture is just unfortunate Tradition.

  • Some people see the Light as dimmed terribly when removed from the Scriptures, and some of those people add Tradition and doctrine from more other Protestant perspectives as well. (Some people also want to subtract existing Quaker Tradition.)

  • Some people value Quaker Tradition and practice, but have less interest in the possibilities the Light opens, while others see Tradition as a barrier to fruitful connection with the Spirit. (The latter seem better represented on blogs, and I doubt anyone is completely uninterested in the Light anyway.)

Personally, I see all three of these pieces working together, with the Spirit mediating Scripture and Tradition. I enjoy reading the early Quakers' works and watching them figure out how these three pieces fit together, and how to live by that. Their direct dealing with all of these tensions created a group that has survived three and a half centuries so far, despite the tremendous potential for splits and schisms that always seems to be created by humans' difficulties in discerning the Spirit.

Maybe it's just the nature of blogging and messageboards, but it feels like a lot of people despair about the current state of Quakerism, since it doesn't meet their expectations of what it should be. My own perspective is that it should - and can - be a lot of different things.

Balancing these three pieces in their myriad facets is never an easy thing, and as Quakerism in key ways abolished the laity, we all - as ministers - have to work through them, hopefully with guidance from the Light.

June 13, 2006

To dwell in that which keeps peace

Another letter by George Fox, this one a very short one from 1657:

Dear friends,—Dwell in that which keeps your peace, and comprehends the deceit, and answers that of God in every one. And let Friends keep their meetings, and never hearken to tales, nor things without; but keep their peace, and know the life and power, union and fellowship, which stand in God, in and with which ye may stand over the world in the one power, life, and wisdom, and therein be kept to the glory of the Lord God. So, in that which is pure, the Lord God Almighty preserve you! - G. F. (Works, VII, 133, letter CXXXVI.)

June 5, 2006

A child's Quaker catechism

I mentioned earlier that the Speller by George Fox and Elias Hooke contained a catechism. Steve Angell had written an article on the catechism, and other Quaker catechisms, and hopefully having this available will make that more accessible. (Angell is right that this particular catechism spends little time on the Peace Testimony, though it certainly discusses the suffering of Christians and the warlike tendencies of false prophets and deceivers.)

I've put the full text of the catechism in the extended entry, so as not to overwhelm the front page of this and other sites, but I especially enjoyed this question and answer:

Sch. How many Faiths are there? and which is the true one?

Mast. There is one Faith, and the true Faith is that which works by love, and purifies the heart, and justifies thee, and saves thee, and gives thee Victory over that which separates thee from God, through which Faith thou hast access to God, in which Faith thou pleasest God, and hast unity with him, and them that please God. (47-48)

I can't say this is aimed at especially young children, though it does feel simplified from much of Fox's other writing.


Scholar. How many Offices has Christ in his Church? The Baptists and Teachers of the World tell us Christ has but three.

Master. Yes Child, he has many more than three.

1. His Priestly Office, when he offered up himself for the People in the whole World; and sprinkles the hearts and consciences of his People with his Blood, to cleanse them from dead Works, to serve the living God, and to offer up and present his Church without spot or wrinkle to God.

2. The Kingly Office is to subdue all the Enemies of man, the Devil & all his Works, and to subdue all his Enemies under his Feet, and to give forth the law of love, law of Life, law of Spirit, law of Faith; who is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

3. His Prophetical Office; Christ is a Prophet raised up like unto Moses, who is to be heard in all things, who speaks to you by his Light, Power, and Spirit; and opens unto you by his Power, Spirit, and Light, things to come.

4. Christ hath the Office of a Bishop, to over-see thy Soul, Spirit, and Mind, that thou dost not go astray from him, who is Light and Salvation.

5. He hath the Office of a Shephard, who put his Sheep forth out of the prison and Captivity of old Adam and the Serpent, out of the Jaws of Death and the Pit, wherein there is no Water, and the Grave of old Adam, and out of his Bryars and Thorns; and Christ goes before them as a Shepherd, and they know his Voice, and a stranger they will not follow, and he brings them to the Pasture of Life, and to the Waters and Springs of Life, where he feeds them and fills them abundantly; Christ doth, who is the Life.

6. And he hath the Office of Minister, to minister Grace and Truth unto thee, and Glory, and Faith, and the Heavenly Riches, and Light, and Power, and Strength.

7. He hath the Office of a Teacher, whom God hath anointed to preach (the Spirit of the Lord is upon him) to bind up the Broken-hearted, to open the eyes of the Blind, to set the Captive at liberty, and the Prisoner free, and to teach thee the way of Life, Salvation, Holiness, and Godliness, the way of the Redeemed, and the way of the Lord which is perfect, and the way of the Just, which is a shining Light, distinct from way of Unjust, which is Darkness.

8. He hath the Office of a Physician, to heal thee of thy Sicknesses and Infirmities, thy deafness and blindness, who is a Physician of value, Christ Jesus, &c.

9. He hath the Office of a Mediator and Interceder, who meditates and makes intercession for thee to God, that thou mayst pass to God through him, who is able to save to the utmost.

10. He hath the Office of a Captain of thy Salvation, who conquers the Devil and his Works, Hell, Death, & the Grave, who trains up and disciplines his Souldiers with the heavenly Armour, the Breastplate of Righteousness and the Helmet of Salvation and the Armour of Light, and shoes the feet with the preparation of the Gospel; and this Armour is proof of being tryed; and the Arms are, the Shield of Faith, the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God: and Christ trains up his Souldiers to keep their Ranks in Righteousness, in Godliness, in Holiness, in Truth, in Life, that they may stand against Death, and stand against Darkness, Unrighteousness, Unholiness, and the Power and Prince of it, but doth not wrestle nor war with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness, the Rulers of Darkness in High places, &c.

And many more Offices, as thou readest the Scriptures, thou will see Child, as thou growest in Truth, that Christ hath; for Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Leader of people to God, who old Adam and the Serpent that led from God.

Schol. What is it that gives the knowledge of God? and where is it?

Mast. The Light which shines in the heart, it gives the knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Christ Jesus, 2 Cor. 4.

Schol. What brings Salvation?

Mast. The Grace of God which hath appeared to all men, brings Salvation, Titus 2.11, which Grace teacheth us to deny ungodliness and worldly Lusts, that we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present World.

Schol. What is the true Hope, from the Hypocrites?

Mast. The true hope is Christ in you, the hope of Glory, Col. 1, 27.

Sch. Who are them which seek that which comes down from above?

Mast. Them that be risen with Christ and dead with him, their affections are set on things above, and not on things on the earth.

Sch. What makes a man a Believer? and how cometh a man or woman to be a Believer?

Mast. Christ Jesus teaches thee how to believe, and what to believe in, John 12. 36. While you have the Light believe in the Light; so there are no true Believers, but who believe in the Light; so Christ teaches people to believe in the Light, which Light manifests all things; It manifesteth Christ to be its Saviour, its way, its Light, and to be its Mediator; for the light cometh from Christ, who is the Light that enlightens every man that comes into the World that all through him might believe, John 1.

Sch. What makes a Child of Light, and to come to have that honourable Name after God, who is Light?

Mast. By believing in the Light he be- comes a Child of Light, and so Children of the day; and so there are no Children of the light, no Children of the Day; but first they believe in the light.

Sch. What is that which shall lead into all Truth?

Mast. It is the Spirit of Truth which must lead into all Truth.

Sch. Where is the Spirit?

Mast. Within.

Sch. What shall reprove the World of Sin, of their Righteousness, & of their Judgement.

Mast. It is the Spirit of Truth that leads the Saints into all Truth.

Sch. In what is God Worshipped?

Mast. He is worshipped in Spirit and in the Truth.

Sch. Where is this Spirit, and where is this Truth?

Mast. The Spirit is within, and the Truth is within, in the inward parts, by which Spirit God is known; and by the Truth the God of Truth is known.

Sch. What is God?

Mast. God is a Spirit.

Sch. Where is the Church?

Mast. The Church is in God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thes. 1.1.

Sch. What is the Church?

Mast. The People of God, which he hath purchased with his own Blood.

Sch. Was Christ's blood shed for all? and did he taste death for every man? and was he an offering for the sins of the whole World?

Mast. Yes, his blood was shed for all men, and he tasted Death for every man, &c. tho some trample the blood of the New-covenant under their feet, and deny the Lord Jesus that bought them.

Sch. Who is he that must instruct people?

Mast. Neh. 9. Thou mayst see how God gave his people his good Spirit to instruct them in the ways of Righteousness and Holiness, and in the way of the Lord, which is perfect.

Sch. What is the just man's Path? and what the unjust-man's path?

Mast. The path of the Just is a shining light, which shines more and more till the perfect day; but the path of the wicked is Darkness.

Sch. Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his ways?

Mast. By taking heed to the Word.

Sch. Where is this Word?

Mast. In the heart and in the mouth, to obey it, and do it, Rom. 10.

Sch. What is the good old way? and which is the new and living Way, and which of these ways must we walk in?

Mast. The good old way was the way among the outward Jews which they were to walk in; but the new and living way is Christ Jesus, which thou and all true Christians must walk in.

Sch. What was that Image of God that Adam was made in? was it from below or from above?

Mast. It was from above, from God, of his Image and Righteousness, likeness and holiness; the Image of God was not of the Earth from below.

Sch. What is meant of that Rib Eve was made of?

Mast. A Rib is a beam or a side-piece, which was part of the building of the whole creation, so she was called Woman because she was taken from man; for Eve signifies Living; and she was the Mother of all living, Gen. 2.

Sch. How many Faiths are there? and which is the true one?

Mast. There is one Faith, and the true Faith is that which works by love, and purifies the heart, and justifies thee, and saves thee, and gives thee Victory over that which separates thee from God, through which Faith thou hast access to God, in which Faith thou pleasest God, and hast unity with him, and them that please God.

Sch. How many Baptisms are there?

Mast. One.

Sch. Who is the Baptizer?

Mast. Christ; for John is decreased, and Christ is increased, that is the one Baptism that saves; he baptizeth with the Holy Ghost and with Fire, and burns up the Chaff with unquenchable fire, who comes with his Fan, and thoroughly purges his Floor, and gathers his Wheat into the Garner.

Sch. What is the Wheat?

Mast. The Wheat is the Seed of God.

Sch. What is the Chaff?

Mast. The body of Death, and the body of the sins of the flesh, and the corruptions that must all be plunged down to the Fire.

Sch. What is the Jordan that John baptized in?

Mast. Jor. is a River, and dan is Judgment; he dipt them in the River of Judgment.

Sch. What is the Ministers of Christ's Work?

Mast. Christ gave Gifts unto men for the Work of the Ministry, and their work was for the perfecting the Saints, and for the edifying the body of Christ, till we be all come to the unity of the Faith, the knowledge of the Son of God [Mark] and unto a perfect man, and unto the measures of the stature of the Fulness of Christ.

Sch. And are these Christ's Ministers?

Mast. Yes.

Sch. And what are the rest that do not bring People to this stature, such as toss People to and fro, and carry them with their cunning slights and craftiness of men, and lies in wait to deceive them?

Mast. Yes, they are them that bring People to no Stability, Ephes. 4.

Sch. What is the Scripture? Are they the Word of God?

Mast. The Scriptures signifie writings; the Scriptures of Truth are the Words of God; Christ's Name is called the Word in the Revelations; In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word, John 1.

Sch. What is the Original of Sin?

Mast. Original is the Beginning; the beginning of Sin was the Devil.

Sch. And who destroys him?

Mast. Christ Jesus destroys the Devil and his works, and through Death destroys Death, and the Devil who has the power of Death; and the Seed of the Woman shall bruise the Serpent's Head.

Sch. What Seed was that?

Mast. Christ Jesus.

Sch. To bruise, how is that?

Mast. It is to break to pieces, to crush, to break into pieces and into powder his strength and power.

Sch. Master, the Star-gazers tell me, all Light comes from the Sun.

Mast. Read Genesis 1. there thou wilt see, there was Light and Day, and there was three days before the Sun was made.

Sch. What is the Church Fellowship?

Mast. It is the Gospel Fellowship.

Sch. What is the Gospel?

Mast. The Gospel it is the power of God unto Salvation to everyone that believeth; so the Power of God (the Gospel) is everlasting.

Sch. What is the Cross of Christ.

Mast. The Cross of Christ is the Power of God, and this is foolishness to them that perish, and set up a wooden or a stone or iron Cross, or any other outward Cross.

Sch. What is the ministration of condemnation, which was glorious? And what is that administration that exceeds it in glory?

Mast. The Ministration of Condemnation was the Law that took hold upon the outward Actions of Men and Women; but the Ministration of Restoration that exceeds it in Glory is Christ, that takes away the Root of Sin, which the Fruits of Sin proceeded from, and the Law took hold upon the outward Action, which Christ takes away the Root of, and so makes the Root and the Branches holy, who destroys the Devil and his works, and bruiseth the Serpents head, Christ doth, by whom all things were made and created, who was glorified with the Father before the World began, and set up from everlasting to everlasting, the beginning and ending, the first and last.

Sch. Who is the Christian Sabbath or Rest?

Mast. Christ Jesus; he that believeth hath entered into his Rest and ceased from his own Works, as God did from his; and so Christ is the Rest by whom all things are made and Created, and there is Rest and Peace in him, but not in old Adam.

Sch. Is the Light sufficient for Salvation.

Mast. Yes, by believing in the Light, thou shalt be a Child of Light.

Sch. Who are true Christians?

M. Such as believe in the Light of Christ and are led and guided by Christ Jesus.

Sch. Why are the true Christians called Quakers in this Age?

Mast. It is in scorn and derision that they are so called, to render them and the Truth odious to the People, that so they might not receive the Truth and be saved. Yet quaking and trembling is no new thing; for thou mayst read of Quakers in the Scriptures, as in Heb. 12.21. Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. And it is said, Son of man, eat thy bread with Quaking, and drink thy Water with Trembling. And when Daniel saw a Vision, a great quaking fell upon the men that were with him: And Habakkuk his Belly trembled, and his Lips quivered, Hab. 3.16.

Sch. Sure those that scoffingly call the true Christians Quakers, never read these Scriptures: for they prove very plain, that there were Quakers in the Primitive times: But why do the people called Quakers say Thee and Thou to a single person? Is that according to the Scriptures?

Mast. Yes, it is the proper Language to a single person, and according to the Scripture; God said Thee and Thou to Adam, and Adam said Thou to God; and people say Thee and Thou in their prayers; and it is the Pride in peoples Hearts that cannot take that Language themselves which they give to God: And God said Thee and Thou to Moses, and Moses said Thee and Thou to him again; and Jacob said Thee and Thou to Laban, and Laban said Thee and Thou to him again; and Jacob and his sons said Thee and Thou to each other, Gen. 43 to Chap. 49. And Jeptha, who was a Judge in Israel, did Thee and Thou his Daughter, and she did Thee and Thou her Father the Judge again, Judge. 11. And when Daniel and the three Children were before the King, upon Examination they said Thou to the King; and the Caldean did Thou the King, Dan. 3. And Paul did Thou King Agrippa: And many other Examples there be in Scripture; but these are sufficient; And Thee and Thou is the singular Number, and to be spoken to one, & You or Ye the plural Number, and to be spoken unto more than one.

Sch. I am very well satisfied that Thee and Thou is the proper Language to a single Person, and You to more than one; but the People called Quakers will not put off their Hats, nor bow, nor give flattering Titles to People; what Scripture have they for that?

Mast. With God there is no respect of persons; and James said, if you have respect of persons you commit sign, and are convinced of the Law as Transgressors; and in Job, Elihu said, Let me not, I pray you, accept any mans person, neither let me give flattering Titles unto Man; for I know not to give flattering Titles, in so doing my Maker would soon take me away. Job 32.21, 22.

Sch. They say the People called Quakers deny the Scriptures.

Mast. No, they own the Scriptures more than any People, for they walk in the Light of Christ Jesus, and by following him do witness the Scriptures fulfilled in them; and they who hate to be reformed, have nothing to do to speak of the Siants and holy men of Gods conditions mentioned in Scripture.

Sch. The People called Quakers do not call their Days and Months as other Professors do.

Mast. No, Professors and People are so far degenerated from Truth that they have lost the very form of sound Words used by the Primitive Christians.

Sch. How did the Primitive Saints call their days and months?

Mast. God made the World in six Days, and rested the seventh Day, and he called the Evening and the Morning the first Day, and the Evening and the Morning the Second Day, and the third Day, &c. And Christ rose on the first Day of the Week? and they came to the Sepulchre when the Jews Sabbath was ended, on the first Day of the Week, and upon the first Day of the Week the Disciples met together: And in Ex. 12.2. This month shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first Month of the year to you: And in Ex. 16. Moses writeth, the fifteenth day of the second Month, and the Scriptures say, the third Month, and fourth Month, &c.

Sch. Who invented those Names of Sunday, Monday, &c. and calling the Months March, April, May, &c.

Mast. The old Pagan Saxons in their Idolatry were the first that brought in the names of the Days after than manner, and these called Christians, have retained them to this day. The first Day of the week they worshipped the idol of the Sun, from whence came Sunday; The second Day of the week they worshipped the Moon, from whence came Moonday or Monday; the third day they worshipped the Idol of the Planets, which they called Tuisce, from whence came Tuesday; and from the Idol Woden came Wednesday; and from the Idol Thor came Thursday; and from the Idol Friga came Friday, and from the Idol Seatur came Saturday. And the Heathen called Mars the God of Battle, and from thence they called the first Month March: And Venus they called the Goddess of Love and beauty, and from thence they called the second Month April; and Maja a heathen Goddess called Flora; Flora and Cloris were called the Goddesses of Flowers; Unto Maja the heathen Idolaters used to sacrifice, from thence was the third Month called May; and upon the first day of the same Month they used to keep Floralia Feasts to the two Goddesses of Flowers (viz.) Flora and Cloris, and Flora was a Strumpet in Rome, that used on the first Day of that Month, to set up a May-pole before her Door, to entice her Lovers, from whence came May-poles to be first observed: And from the Heathens Goddess Juno is the fourth Month called June: And in honour to Julius Caesar a Roman Emperor, is the fifth Month called July: and the sixth Month took it Name August, in honour of Augustus Caesar; and September, October, November, and December are called from the Latines: And one Janus a King of Italy, was for his Wisdom pictured with two Faces, whom they honoured as God: and from this name Janus was the eleventh Month called January: And Saturnus, Pluto Februs, were called the Gods of Hell, whom the Heathens said, had the rule of the evil Spirits there, and from Pluto Februs, was the twelfth Month called February.

Sch. Who have been the Ministers and Intrusters of those People, that they are erred so from Scripture Example? Let me have some marks and signs by which I may know the Deceivers and false Prophets?

Mast. The marks the Scriptures give of Deceivers and false Prophets are these: I shall set them down in short, that thou maist remember them the better.

1. They are such as bear rule by their Means, Jer. 30. 31. Mat. 10. 19,20.

2. They are such as seek for their Gain from their Quarters, Isa. 56.

3. They seek for the Fleece and make a prey upon the People, Ezek. 34.1, 2, 3.

4. They are such as preach for Hire, and Divine for Money, Mic.3.11.

5. They cry Peace so long as People put into their Mouthes; but when any come to see them to be Deceivers, and cannot put into their Mouths, nor give them Gifts, then they prepare War against them, Mic. 3. 5. Hos. 6. 9.

6. They run when the Lord never sent them, and prophesie Lies in his Name, Jer. 14. 14.

7. They stand praying in the Synagogues: They love the uppermost Rooms at Feasts, and the chief Seats in the Synagogues, and love Greeting in the Markets, and to be called of men Master, and they make them broad Philacteries on their Garments, that they may be taken notice of; for they do that they do to be seen of men, and are proud and covetous, and they come of Cain's Stock, for they are full of Envy, and are in Balaam's way, who was erred from the Spirit of God, and received the Wages of Unrighteousness, and so do they, 2 Peter 2, Jude 1.

8. They are such as sprinkle Infants, for which they have no rule in Scripture; and tell people it is an Ordinance of Christ, when it is but one of their own Inventions, and so are Lyars and Deceivers.

9. They tell people they shall never be free from Sin while they live here.

10. They are made Ministers by the Will of man, and men uphold them: if thou meetest with them and seeth those Fruits brought forth by them, then beware of them; for they have got on sheeps Clothing, but inwardly they are ravening Wolves.

Sch. How may I know the true Ministers?

Mast. I may give thee some Marks how to know them.

1. The true Ministers of Christ, as they have received the Gift of God freely, so they minister freely from the same, as good Stewards of the manifold Grace of God, and they do unto all Men as they would have all men do unto them.

2. They do not strive for Mastership, like the false Prophets; but are gentle unto all men, and apt to teach, patient in meekness, instructing those that oppose themselves 2. Tim.2.22 that so the Church may be edified.

3. The true Ministers have no mans person in admiration because of advantage, but are men of sorrows, dispised and rejected of men, as Christ was; and they are not made Ministers by the Will of man, but by Christ Jesus and are blameless as he, Stewards of God, not self-willed, nor soon angry, nor given to Wine, no Strikers, nor greedy of filthy Lucre, Tit. 1.7.

4. And the true Ministers work was, for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the Body of Christ: and the true Ministers were not bred up from years at the Colleges, as the Deceivers are now; but the Lord called Tradesmen to be Ministers: Moses was a Keeper of Sheep, and Jacob and David were Keepers of Sheep, and Elisha was a Ploughman, and Amos a Herdsman, and Peter and John Fisher-men, and Paul a Tent-Maker.

Sch. The People called Quakers are mocked, beated, persecuted, and imprisoned; was it so with the People of God in former Ages?

Mast. Yes, the People of God were in all Ages mock'd, persecuted, imprisoned, and sufferers. Elisha the Prophet was mocked, and called Bald-head. And the Lord sent his Messengers, rising up betimes and sending, because he had compassion on his People; but they mocked the Messengers of God, and despised his Words and misused his Prophets, wherefore the Wrath of the Lord was against them, 2 Chron. 36.15. And David was as dispised of the people, they laughed him to scorn, they shot out their Lips, and shaked their Heads at him: And in Psal. 69. 12. David said, Sack-cloth is my Garment and I am become a Proverb to them, and I am the Song of the Drunkards. And Jer. 20. 8. Jeremiah said, I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. And thou mayst read before, how he was persecuted, and put in the Dungeon. And David said, The wicked have waited for me, to destroy me, and they have laid a Snare for me. And Job said, I am as one mocked of his Neighbour: and said, The just and upright man is laughed to scorn. Job 12. 4. and said, Now I am their Song, yea, I am their By-word; they abhor me, and spare not to spit in my Face. And in Acts thou mayst read, how Herod the King stretcht forth his hand to vex some of the Church of Christ; and how he killed James and imprisoned Peter; and how Paul and Silas had their Cloaths torn off, and after they had received many stripes, they cast them into Prison, and a strict charge was given to the Gaoler to keep them safely, who thrust them into the inner Prison, and made their Feet safe in the Stocks: and above forty of the Jews bound themselves under a Curse, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And in Acts 22, when Paul spake to the people, some of them cried, away with such a Fellow from the Earth; for it is not fit that he should live. And in Acts 24. For we have found this man a pestilent Fellow, and a mover of Sedition, and a Ring-leader of the Sect of the Nazarens: And Christ himself was derided by the Pharisees, Luke 16. And Paul said, Whoever will live Godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer Persecution, for it is through many Tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

(From the Speller, pages 40-62.)

June 4, 2006


Quakers don't celebrate lots of feasts and saints' days, but today is Pentecost on many western Christian calendars, celebrating an event in the New Testament which gives tremendous inspiration to the notion that the Spirit can speak through humans:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance...

And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is [but] the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:1-4, 12-18)

Quakers don't speak in tongues all listeners hear in their own language, as the apostles did, but this and other passages inspired the early Quakers (as it later did Pentecostals) to see a direct connection between the Spirit and humans, as in this from George Fox:

And therefore all friends, that are come to witness the Holy Ghost and faith, in which the true praying and building is, which gives victory over the world, which is the gift of God, in which you please God, keep your meetings, and being met together, as you are moved, speak: for they spake as moved by the Holy Ghost, and as the spirit gave them utterance: and they prayed with the spirit, and it helped their infirmities, for they could not tell what to pray for as they ought: but he that searcheth the heart, knoweth the mind of the spirit that teacheth to pray. And here comes to be known the birth born of the spirit, which God the Father of spirits hears, which is not of that birth born after the flesh, but is with that persecuted. Works, IV, 123.

June 3, 2006

Millenarian Quakers for the Military (1659)

I mentioned the "the slow development of the Peace Testimony" in an earlier piece on New Light on George Fox, but it's actually a little more startling than that, seen from a modern Quaker perspective. The early period of Quakerism's development, in 1640s and 1650s England, was an era fraught with expectations that the end was near, that Christ's kingdom would break out on earth at any moment. The Peace Testimony didn't appear formally until after those expectations had been disappointed, as Christopher Hill writes:

As far as the Quakers were concerned, by 1659-60 the Army offered the only hope for reform - if it could be radicalised again. Bishop, Burrough, Howgill, Isaac Penington, all defended the Army's intervention in politics in 1659. Burrough acted as political leader of the Quakers in this period: Fox withdrew into the background. Burrough, Byllynge, and other Quaker leaders negotiated seriously with the republican government for co-operation to prevent a restoration of monarchy, and for social reforms.

In 1659-60 Quakers were rejoining the Army, and there was much talk of 'arming the Quakers'. Quakers acted as commissioners of the militia, as JPs. They were the last defenders of military dictatorship in England But the defeat of the radicals, when it came, was so decisive that it had to be accepted as the work of divine providence....

So Charles II came back in May 1660.

Eight months later, in January 1661, there was a violent revolt by Fifth Monarchists which for a short time terrorized London. Many Quakers were arrested on suspicion of connection with this revolt. Twelve days later the 'peace principle', henceforth characteristic of Quakerism, was declared. 'The spirit of Christ', Fox declared, 'will never move us to fight a war against any man with carnal weapons.' This was a new principle. There had been Quaker pacifists in the fifties, including John Lilburne and the sailor Thomas Lurting. But there was no official endorsement of pacifism....

Support for the peace principle was by no means unanimous. Some thought that the new discipline which accompanied it amounted to apostasy - a breach with the absolute individualism of the inner light in all believers.

1660 was a defeat for all radical social policies. It marked the end of millenarian hopes. The peace principle recognised these facts, and differentiated Quakers from irreconcilable Fifth Monarchist insurrectionists who advocated inaugurating Christ's kingdom by immediate military violence.

So acceptance of the peach principle marked the end of an epoch - recognition that Christ's kingdom was not of this world,at least not yet. Abandonment of the rule of the saints, possibly through the Army, ended the perceived Quaker political threat, though it took some time for non-saints to appreciate this. It marked the end of perfectability on earth as a political principle. It was a great turning point, shared by most other dissenters - as they now reluctantly became. (New Light, 29-32, paragraph breaks and links added.)

That first declaration is well worth a visit:

Our principle is, and our practices have always been to seek peace and ensue it; to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God; seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all. We know that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts of men, (as James Chapter 4. v1-3), out of which lusts the Lord has redeemed us, and so out of the occasion of war. The occasion of war and war itself, arises from the lust, (wherein envious men, who are lovers of themselves more than lovers of God, lust, kill, and desire to have men's lives or estates). All bloody principles and practices we, as to our own basics, do utterly deny, with all outward wars, strife, and fighting with outward weapons for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever: this is our testimony to the whole world.

(Nickalls, 398-404; Works, I, 421-6; QS1, 105-6; QS2, 66-7; Online )

That declaration of the peace principle and the meeting discipline which accompanied it mark, I suspect, the point at which early Quakerism becomes easily recognizable to modern Quakers or, indeed Quakers from any generation after the first.

June 2, 2006

History, Quakerism, Christianity

Reading New Light on George Fox was a rather jarring experience, though since my background is in history, a not entirely surprising one. I didn't expect Fox or other early Quakers to be perfect saints, or Quakerism born at once, wholly formed. Still, there's always something unsettling about history done right, something that rarely fits with settled opinion.

Tonight I returned to my quest to finally finish Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (Since 1700), the last volume of Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, and found:

Like any good historian, the historian of the church and of Christian doctrine in any period had the responsibility to begin with the sources and to lead the reader back to the sources.

In the course of doing so, the historians of all the churches learned how questions that seemed to be purely historical could become doctrinally explosive and profoundly divisive. "The assembly in Moscow of ancient manuscripts from various places of Russia" in the seventeeth century might have seemed to an outside observer to be a harmless exercise in antiquarianism and what Orthodoxy called "ecclesiastical philology," but a nineteenth-century historian showed how it had become the occasion for the Russian schism or "Raskol"; the history of the liturgy was an indispensable part of the history of the church.

Even while one Roman Catholic historical theologian was seeking to reject as a slander the charge that the Catholic faith required "an assent to views and interpretations of Scripture which modern science and historical research have utterly discredited" and another was declaring the rejection of the sacrificial interpretation of the Mass by the Protestant Reformers to be a "stubborn denial" of the clear results of honest historical investigation, the debate over the doctrine of papal infallibility was about to involve yet another in researches whose conclusion it was that "to the adherents of the theory of infallibility the history of the ancient church for the first millenium must appear to be an insoluble riddle."

Such contradictions were taken by Protestants that honest historiography would necessarily clash with the authoritarian teachings of "the Roman church." For their part, Roman Catholics strove to rescue and rehabilitate history from its domination by "Germans and Protestants" and, because Protestants denied both the authority of tradition and the validity of doctrinal development, to insist that "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (236-7, additional paragraph breaks added.)

That's just the history of the church itself - the discussion hasn't yet reached the Bible. It's clear that history can be a problem for religion, and I think it's also clear that early Quakers were aware of this:

For example, much of Thomas Holme's exalted language toward Fox has been so severely edited (and literally ripped from the record) that it cannot now be recovered. This occurred when Fox personally tampered with letters now contained in the Swarthmore Manuscripts. He made deletions with broad ink strokes and made corrections indisputably in his own hand. He struck out extravagant phrases of adoration and substituted more moderate ones. In places where whole patches were torn from the record (probably at a later date by Margaret Fell), the jagged edges still revealing the broad ink crossings out. (New Light, 113)

When the founders were clearly aware of the functions of history, and take steps to manage it (the writing and editing of Fox's Journal among those steps), it can be especially dangerous to raise the cry of "back to the Founders". I'm enjoying reading Fox and exploring early Quakerism, but his valuable insights require much context.

I don't think history is incompatible with Quakerism or Christianity in the way, I'd say, for example, economics is, but it's definitely a complex relationship, one I hope to explore much further. I expect the Light will prove a necessary guide, not just a subject to research.