Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
The inward apocalypse of the Lamb’s War annihilated early Friends’ collusion with and submission to the outward violence of the World. As Lewis Benson writes, early Friends were “at war with society as it is organised apart from the wisdom and authority of God” (Catholic Quakerism p48). This meant that the early Quaker was a “man of war, and in Fox’s vision the people of God in the new covenant are a people ‘undaunted and valiant for Christ Jesus and God’s name…upon the earth” (48). A pacifist position, a quiet and passive non-resistance to evil, “was never espoused by original Friends. Their position reflected a strong prophetic tradition: a spiritual tradition that required an active, truthful confrontation of evil, not only with love, but also with God’s uncompromising demands for righteousness and justice “ (Traditional Quaker Christianity p171).
James Nayler: “And as they war not against men's persons, so their weapons are not carnal, nor hurtful to any of the creation; for the Lamb comes not to destroy men's lives, nor the work of God, and therefore at his appearance in his subjects, he puts spiritual weapons into their hearts and hands: their armor is the light, their sword the Spirit of the Father and the Son; their shield is faith and patience; their paths are prepared with the gospel of peace and good will towards all the creation of God. Their breastplate is righteousness and holiness to God; their minds are girt with godliness, and they are covered with salvation, and they are taught with truth. And thus the Lamb in them, and they in him, goes out in judgment and righteousness to make war with his enemies, conquering and to conquer, not as the prince of this world in his subjects, with whips and prisons, tortures and torments on the bodies of creatures, to kill and destroy men's lives, who are deceived and so become his enemies; but he goes forth in the power of the Spirit with the word of truth, to pass judgment upon the head of the serpent, which doth deceive and bewitch the world, and covers his own with his love, whilst he kindles coals of fire on the head of his enemies; for with the spirit of judgment and with the spirit of burning will he plead with his enemies: and having kindled the fire and awakened the creature, and broken their peace and rest in sin, he waits in patience to prevail to recover the creature and slay the enmity by suffering all the rage and envy and evil entreatings that the evil spirit that rules in the creature can cast upon him, and he receives it all with meekness and pity to the creature, returning love for hatred, wrestling with God against the enmity, with prayers and tears night and day, with fasting, mourning and lamentation, in patience, in faithfulness, in truth, in love unfeigned, in longsuffering, and in all the fruits of the Spirit, that if by any means he may overcome evil with good, and by this his light in the sight of the creature, that the eye may come to be opened which the god of this world hath blinded, that so the creature might see what it is he thus hates, and what fruits he himself brings forth, that the creature may be convinced he is no deceiver, but hath with him the life and power of innocency and holiness, in whom he rules…”
Edward Burrough: “The Lamb…hath called us to make War in righteousness for his name’s sake, against Hell and death, and all the powers of darkness….And they that follow the Lamb shall overcome, and get the victory over the beast, and over the Dragon, and over the gates of Hell” (introduction to George Fox’s The Great Mystery of the Great Whore Unfolded).
William Dewsbury: “Friends, Babylon is within you, the mother of harlots is within you…the beast which all the world wanders after, is you wills, that makes war against the Lamb of God in you, which is the light that makes manifest the evil of your hearts” (The Discovery of Man’s Return to his First Estate).
Margaret Fell: “This Lamb is now arising and raising up that which was fallen down…worthy is the Lamb that was slain…he has redeemed us out of every kindred, tongue, and nation, and has made us unto our God, kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.”
“From the tyme off Jhon Baptist hitherto, the kingdom of heven suffreth violence, and they that make vyolence pull it unto them” (Matthew, Tyndale translation, p25). The violence of the Lamb’s War, the Light shattering the seven seals miring the heart, or the Cross drilling down into the old Adamic skull leads to the overthrow of captivity and precludes the Christian from engaging in worldly or carnal violence. As Ohio Yearly Meeting's Traditional Quaker Christianity puts it: "The Lamb's War is, first and foremost, an inward war in which the inward enemy is the man or woman of sin within us, our own disobedience in not following God's commandments" (162).
"Put on the armour of god, that ye maye stond stedfast agaynst the crafty assautes off the devyll. For we wrestle not agaynst flesh and bloud: but agaynst ruele, agaynst power, and agaynst wordly ruelars of the darcknes of this worlde, agaynst spretuall wickednes in hevenly thynges" (Ephesians p415).
John Punshon: "In modern terms, the Lamb's War was a campaign against the structures of iniquity by an assault on their foundations" (Testimony and Tradition p29). It was "the long-term struggle between God and the forces of meaninglessness and destruction" (28).
George Fox: “…is sent to stand a witness against all violence and against all the works of darkness…” (Journal, appendix, p493).
Lewis Benson: “In Fox’s teaching great emphasis is laid on the freedom that belongs to the gospel and new covenant” (Catholic Quakerism p29).
George Fox: “…they are free citizens, they are freeholders of an everlasting inheritance, so they are not captives, they are not bondmen, they are not servants nor slaves”.
For George Fox and early Friends the Gospel was "the power of God in which was liberty" (Journal p31).
“He that leadeth into captivitie, shall go into captivitie” (Revelation p536).
“He is gone uppe an hye, and hath ledde captivitie captive” (Ephesians p411).
“Stond fast therefore in the libertie wherewith Christ hath made us fre, and wrappe nott yourselves agayne in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians p404).
George Fox: “But if ye look out from the faith, and from that which would keep you in the victory, and look after fleshly things or words, ye will be brought into bondage to the flesh again” (Journal p18).
George Fox: “For the ministry of Christ Jesus, and his teaching, bringeth into liberty and freedom: but the ministry that is of man, and by man, and which stands in the will of man, bringeth into bondage, and under the shadow of death and darkness” (19).
Douglas Gwyn: “The apocalyptic perspective puts all things in a new light, judging the world’s judgements. This is by no means a humanistic liberation; the Quaker witness was less against the limiting of human freedom than for the freedom of the Spirit, with human freedom as a corollary” (Apocalypse of the Word p186).
George Fox: “We know that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts of men, out of which lusts the Lord hath redeemed us, and so out of the occasion of war”.
George Fox: “God’s hand is turned against you all that have destroyed God’s creatures upon your lust…”
George Fox: “Though ye swell in venom, and live in lust for awhile, yet God will find you out, and bring you to judgement”.
The seeds of disturbance and war lie in the human anatomy itself: "From whence commeth warre, and fightynge amonge you? Come they not here hence? even off youre volupteousnes that rayneth in youre members. Ye lust, and have not" (James p511). The early Quaker vision shares something in common with the Franciscan striving to live 'sine proprio' (with nothing of one's own), in a state of non-appropriation, detachment from concupiscence, and striving to negate covetousness.
James Nayler: “I found by daily experience that my salvation was not complete so long as my soul was subject under any earthly lust or passion, nor the War over, but as by the mighty working of God in me by that Spirit this came to be subdued under the feet of Christ.”
“Let no man saye when he is tempted that he is tempted of god: for god tempteth not unto evyll: he tempteth no man: But every man is tempted drawne awaye, and entysed of hie awne concupiscence” (James p507).
George Fox: “’The path of the just is a shining light’, the path of the unjust is darkness. So there are but two paths. Now the unjust cannot abide to hear talk of the light, but call it natural, and created and made, or conscience, they do not know what to call it, whose darkness cannot comprehend the light, though it shines in the darkness”.
James Nayler: “True Judgement…is a gift from the Spirit of God, set in the heart of every one who dwells in the Light of Christ: which Judgement passes upon all that’s in the Creature, contrary to the life of God, and so, as it is received, springs up with Light and Salvation, to the redeeming of the heart from all uncleanness” (Love to the Lost).
John, on Patmos, describes the New Jerusalem: “And theare shall be no moare nyghte there and they need no candle, nether light off the sunne: for the lorde God geveth them light, and they shall raynge for evermore” (Revelation p550).
“And there was no temple therin. For the lord god allmyghty and the lambe are the temple of hit, And the cite hath no need of the sunne nether of the mone to lyghten hit. For the bryghtnes off God dyd light hitt: and the lambe was the light off hit” (550).
The Testimonies demonstrated that "Friends saw themselves obeying a sovereign authority alien to the consciousness of mainstream society. These were the first enactments of a radically new, more equitable, and moral society. Such politics were anarchist in nature, a daring faith in Christ's Spirit to inspire, coordinate, and direct the movement beyond anyone's understanding or intention. From these
eccentric and exasperating behaviors, they expected great things to grow" (Gwyn, James Nayler and the Lamb's War).
George Fox: “I desire, I wish that these outward powers of the earth were given up. I can tell what to say to them. Oh, hypocrisy! It makes me sick to think of them. I have given them a visitation and as a faithful a warning as ever was. There is an ugly a slubbering hound, an ugly hound, and ugly slubbering hound. But the Lord forgive them – destruction, destruction.”
James Nayler: "Hast thou looked for reformation but all in vain! for as power hath come into the hands of men it hath been turned into violence, and the will of men is brought forth instead of equity, and this they seek to establish by a law to which all must bow that are under them, or they must be judged as offenders, so that which should be for deliverance of the simple from the hand of the oppressor is turned into a snare to entrap the righteous, and he that turns from iniquity is made a prey to the wicked, and none lays it to heart through the nation, for all hearts are full of oppression, and all hands are full of violence, their houses are filled with oppression, their streets and markets abound with it, their courts, which should afford remedy against it, are wholly made up of iniquity and injustice, and the law of God is made altogether void, and truth is trodden under foot, and plainness is become odious to the proud, and deceit set on high, and the proud are counted happy, and the rich are exalted above the poor and look to be worshipped as God, which if anyb refuse a snare is laid, and bonds and imprisonment is appointed for them as not worthy to breathe in the air, and no law, equity, nor justice can be heard for their freedoms, and this is not done by an open enemy, for then it had not been so strange unto thee, but it is done by those who pretend to be against oppression; and for whom under that pretense thou hast adventured all that is dear unto thee to put power into their hands; and now thou criest to them for help but findest none that can deliver thee. Oh foolish people, when will ye learn wisdom? When will ye cease from man, who is vanity, and the sons of men who are become a lie?" (A Lamentation over the Ruins of this Oppressed Nation).
Isaac Penington: “This is the thing which the Lord has determined to do…namely, to pull down the mighty from their seats…This work has the Lord begun already; for his great and notable day hath appeared.”
Edward Burrough: “Neither are we of one party, or against another, to oppose any by rebellions or plottings against them, in enmity, and striving with them by carnal weapons; nor to destroy any men’s lives, though our enemies, and so we war not for any, nor against any, for the matters of the world’s kingdoms. But out kingdom is inward, and our weapons are spiritual.”
Douglas Gwyn: “…Friends came to their radical stance through an extreme theocentrism, an absolutist insistence upon the social authority of Christ’s Spirit, moving mysteriously at large in society” (The Covenant Crucified p122).
Douglas Gwyn: “Anarchism, in Christian definition, is the mysterious, unchartable rule of Christ’s Spirit among a gathered people. This people, having witnessed Christ’s victory over the principalities and powers through the cross, follow Christ through the cross into a new order that relativises all earthly forms – though, like Christ, this people remains subject, answerable to the principalities and powers” (The Covenant Crucified p180).
“…howe can ye beleve, which receave prayse won of another, and seke not the prayse which commeth of god only?” (John p205).
Isaac Penington: “Hither would I have thee come, out of the talk, out of the outwardness of knowledge, into the thing itself, and into the trueness of the new and living knowledge which is witnessed here”.
George Fox: “Mind not words without the power, nor the pleasing of the reason and carnal knowledge, wisdom and understanding, of fancies and thoughts of men”.
The seventeenth century conception of the "fluidity of the ego and of the emotions implied that activities of the mind were linked to the will, to sexuality, and to the lust for power" (Visionary Women p144). Intellectual concupiscence was a vice to be combated, and in many "Quakers' actual conversion experiences, it was words - the seducers of the mind - not the flesh, that proved to be the real whore, because the enjoyment of one's own wisdom and eloquence fed the carnal appetite for self-esteem long after the other appetites of the body had been subdued" (144).
This one is so commonly remarked upon that I shall refrain from adding to it.
James Parnell: “And here is the ground of the world’s superiority, nobility, gentility, honour, breeding and manners; and here they Lord over one another by their corrupt wills; and here is the ground of all tyranny and oppression, rackings and taxings, and wars, and imprisonments, and envy, and murder, and the persecution of the righteous; all arise from proud Lucifer, the lust in man who would be honoured; and all this is in the fall, and under the curse.”
James Nayler: “Oh England! How is thy expectation failed now after all thy travails?...as power hath come into the hands of men it hath been turned into violence, and the will of man is brought forth instead of Equity” (Lamentation over the Ruins of this Oppressed Nation).
Margaret Killam: "Howl ye rich men, for the misery which is coming upon you, for the rust of your silver and gold shall eat you through as a canker....Howl ye proud priests, for the misery that is coming upon you, for ye shall run to and fro, as drunken men, and none shall be to pity you. Woe to you that have fed yourselves with the fat, and clothed your selves with the wool, and the people perish for want of knowledge;...because ye have departed out of my counsel, I will spread dung on your faces, yea I have cast dung on your faces already" (A Warning from the Lord to the Teachers and People of Plimouth).
Benjamin Nicholson: “O all ye powers of the earth, God is coming to overturn, overturn your power, and give it to him whose right it is: Jesus Christ shall have the rule and dominion over all nations…Instead of covering the naked, and feeding the hungry, you set out laws to punish them, my heart bleeds to think of the hard usage of my poor fellow creatures who have no abiding…if a poor creature steal a horse, ox, or sheep, he is either put to death or burned in the hand; but you never consider how many horses, oxen or sheep you steal from the Lord…O you great men of the earth, it is along of you that there is so many thieves, for you hold the creation in your hands, and by all means go about to defraud the poor” (Blast from the Lord).
Margaret Braidley: "Woe unto thee that layest thy house, and land to land, till there be no room for the poor to dwell; the earth is the Lord's...thou art one of those that devours widows' houses...the Lord God will trample upon thee in the wine-press of his indignation;...the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be dreadful to thee, for oppressing the poor" (Certain Papers Which is the Word of the Lord).
Richard Farnsworth: “No true Christian persecutes others”.
Isaac Penington: “Christ was anointed and sent of God, a Saviour, to destroy the works of the Devil, to break down all rule and authority contrary to God in man; for his work is in the heart”.
“Brethren have not the faith of oure lorde Jesus Christ the lorde off glory in respecte off persons” (Epistle of James p508).
“…but yf ye regarde one person more then another, ye commit synne” (508).
“But ye shall not suffer yourselves to be called rabi, for one ys youre master, that is to witt Christ. and all ye are brethren. And call ye no man youre father on the erth, for one is youre father, and he is in heven. be ye not called masters, for one ys youre master, and he is Christ” (Matthew p54).
Christopher Hill: “…a Quaker of the early 1650s had far more in common with a Leveller, a Digger or a Ranter than with a modern member of the Society of Friends” (The World Turned Upside Down p14).
Richard Farnsworth: “Deny thyself and follow the Lamb.”
William Dewsbury: “I am made to see there is nothing for me to do but to stand still in the obedience to the light that doth decover and judge as I faithful on my watch stand…”
Francis Howgill: “We were knit together not by any external covenant or form, but by the covenant of life with God, a strong obligation, or bond upon all our spirits, united as one to another…in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.”
Lewis Benson: “The ethic of idealism starts with ideal social ends or goals, and it sees religion as a force leading to the realisation of these goals….The ethic of obligation, on the other hand, sees right action as a response to God’s command” (Catholic Quakerism p21).
James Nayler’s words contrast with the emphasis today, in Liberal Quakerism, on a largely secularist/humanist pacifism: “…if you are making Peace while the Dragon is upheld, you are false hearted and betray the Lamb, as that of God in you shall witness…you are making a covenant with the World, to settle yourselves in Ease and Pleasure, and bring you out of Judgement…”
Douglas Gwyn argues that the early Friends did not operate an ideology of pacifist idealism: “…peace was not the political slogan or goal of revolutionary Quakerism. It was the spiritual state in which Friends waged a highly conflictive social struggle, and into which they sought to bring all men and women” (The Covenant Crucified p212).
George Fox: “Now mind where the watching is, and the praying is, they are in the light, in that which silences all flesh…Therefore come to know that watch set before every one of your mouths, so to keep that silenced which must be stopped; so what Christ saith to one, he saith unto all, watch.”
George Fox: “…all the world’s teachers, people, and professors, you are far from silence, and the silent meeting together, and waiting upon the Lord in silence, you have too much flesh in you, which speaks, and so are too full of words…”
George Fox: “Keep out of the many words of the world, and take heed of a liberty of going into them, but keep in the power of the Lord God.”
Isaac Penington: “O my dear Friend, let not any part of thy life lie in notions above the Seed, but let it all lie in the Seed itself, in thy waiting upon the Lord for its arisings in thee, and in thy feeling its arisings.”
“Let therfore abyde in you that same which ye herde from the begynnynge. Yf that whych ye herde from the begynnynge shall remayne in you, ye also shall continewe in the sonne, and in the father” (1 John p476).
“Wherfore laye a parte all filfthynes, all superfluite off maliciousnes, and receave with meknes the worde that is grafted in you, which is abhle to save youre soules” (James 508).
Richard Farnworth contrasts the absolute simplicity of discipleship in Christ and seeing all equal in Christ with the oppressive ambivalence of those who collude with unjust systems: “…heady high-minded ones that fare sumptuously, grinding the poor to powder in taxation and oppression, you, that have got a great deal of earth into your hands which is the Lords…let the poor starve in the streets…did you but know Christ you would not suffer him to want in his members, you would not imprison him to satisfy your lusts.”
George Fox reminds us that the absolutes involved in discipleship far outweigh considerations of profits: “But there is the danger and temptation to you of drawing your minds into your business and clogging them with it; so that ye can hardly do anything to the service of God, but there will be crying, my business, my business, and your minds will go into the things and not over the things…Then that mind that is cumbered will fret, being out of the power of God.”
George Fox: “All you who love the light, you love God and Christ, and if you love it and obey it, it will lead you out of darkness, out of your evil deeds into the light of life, into the way of peace and into the life and power of truth.” The choice presented here is simple: the lightgnawn liberation of Christ or the darkness of disobedience.
Jonathan Dale highlights the prophetic nature of the contrast: "...the gentle greys of spiritual and moral relativism are death to the prophetic; death, indeed, to any powerful leading" (Beyond the Spirit of the Age p61).
Lewis Benson: “Jesus did not come to found an institution that would carry on after he was gone, but he came to die and rise again and continue to be present in the midst of his people as their abiding head” (Catholic Quakerism p41).
Lewis Benson characterised the true church as “a fellowship that is not an institution” (40).
George Fox: “...that your minds might be stayed along upon God, and you might not gad abroad without you for a teacher; for the Lord God alone will teach his people; he is coming to teach them, and to gather his people from idols’ temples, and from the customary worships which all the world is trained up in.”
George Fox: “And why have they so many religions? Because they are out of the pure and undefiled religion before God, which was set up above sixteen hundred years ago…and they are gone from this religion, into those of their own making, and tell people, they must be not be perfect here, and must carry a body of death with them to the grave.”
Early Quakers had a 'doctrine of the mortification of the intellect' (Mack, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England, p149). In many conversion experiences "it was words - the seducers of the mind - not the flesh, that proved to be the real whore, because the enjoyment of one's own wisdom and eloquence fed the carnal appetite for self-esteem long after the other appetites of the body had been subdued" (Mack p144).
Elizabeth Hendricks: "Keep single and clean of all incumbrances; and reasonings, and consultations about things which you cannot discern....Watch against that which would be striving to comprehend, and know, and understand" (An Epistle to Friends in England).
The early Quaker opposition between reason and spirit was "partly rooted in their belief that the activities of the mind and heart resembled bodily drives. In their psychology, as in that of their contemporaries, attitudes and emotions did not sit securely buttressed by fixed attributes of personality" (Visionary Women p145). In distinction to the ossifying tendencies of more recent conceptions of identity, "attitudes and emotions were portrayed as physical forces or actual fluids that permeated and exited the body, like a dye that could be washed out" (Visionary Women p144).
George Fox: “…you must come into a new world. Now you must die in the silence, die from the wisdom, die from the knowledge, die from the reason, and die from the understanding.”
George Fox: “And take heed of words without life, for they tend to draw you out of the power to live above the truth, and out of your conditions; which nature will not have peace, except it have words.”
Isaac Penington: “And take heed of the quickness and strength of reason, or of the natural part, which avails little: but wait for the evidence and demonstration of God’s Spirit, which reaches to the witness and doth the work.”
Isaac Penington: “Take heed of looking out of the reasonings of thy mind, but dwell in the feeling sense of life.”
James Nayler: "Feed not on knowledge. It is as dangerous to you, as ever it was to Eve. It is good to look upon but not to feed on, for he who feeds on knowledge dies to the innocent life."
James Nayler: "If you take to your own ways, and make nothing in your minds, you must not create that which must stand before God, for he will be served with his own begettings in you..."
The Apostle Paul exhorts disciples of Christ to not “wasteth his braynes aboute questions, and stryfe off wordes, whereoff sprynge envie, stryfe, realinges, evyll surmysinges superfluus disputynges in scolus of men with corrupte myndes, and destitute of the trueth, which thynke that lucre is godliness. From soch separate thysilfe” (1 Timothy p447).
“Beware lest eny man come and spoyle you thorowe philosophy and disceatfull vanitie, thorowe the tradicions of men, and ordinacions after the worlde, and not after Christ” (Colossians p426).
“Ungostly and vayne voyces passe over. For they shall encreace unto gretter ungodliness, and their wordes shall fret even as doeth a cancre” (2 Timothy p451).
Richard Farnworth: “The great day of the Lord is coming….We look for new heaven and new earth…and the nations that are saved shall wake in the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God.”
James Nayler: “…and as man beholds the seed growing, so he comes to see the new Creation, and what he lost in the Fall, and so is restored by the power of the Word, the Son of God…able to resist the devil, to choose the thing that is good, and delight in it” (Love to the Lost).
Edward Burrough: “This is the whole salvation…that God dwells in us…according to his promise…salvation is come unto us…we…are…Creatures…knowing the Election which it is not possible to deceive.”
George Fox: “…and all people come to know the new Covenant that God hath prophesied by his prophet, the everlasting Covenant, and knowing the end of the first Covenant, know this Covenant which is everlasting.”
“…and that in a moment and in the twinclinge of an eye at the sounde of the last trompe. For the trompe shall blowe and ye deed shall ryse incorruptible and we shalbe chaunged” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
“…fassion nott youreselves lyke unto this worlde: But be ye chaunged in youre shape, by the renuynge of youre wittes, that ye maye fele what thynge that good, that acceptable, and perfaicte will of god is” (Romans p341).
“And I sawe a newe heven, and a newe erth. For the fyrst heven, and the fyrst erth, were vanysshed awaye, and there was no more see. And I Jhon sawe that holy cite newe Jerusalem come doune from God oute off heven prepard as a bryde garnysshed for hyr husband” (Revelation p549).
Christ says: “Behold I make all thynges newe” (549), and the early Friends, like John on Patmos were “caryed…awaye in the sprete to a grett and an hye mountayne, and he shewed me the grett cite, holy Jerusalem descendinge out off heven from God, havynge the brightnes off God” (549). This emphasis on being remade, on a transformative encounter, arising out of being carried away to a mountain or wilderness reflects the spirituality of desolation experienced by early Friends: in the desert, in the silence and stillness, one would be prepared “for a new reality” (Gerald Hewitson, Journey Into Life p12). “Quakers found themselves being changed at the most intimate levels of their being, down to the level of their root motivation. From henceforth, from the time of their convincement, they were to be motivated not by arrogance or fear, guilt, anger or complacency, but by Truth” (12). As Ben Pink Dandelion also reminds us: “The Quaker way is a way of transformation” (Open for Transformation p3).
Lewis Benson: “The Quaker movement had as its ground, root and foundation a fervent desire to experience, through Christ, the God who speaks, and to become one with the prophets and apostles in the experience of hearing and obeying” (Catholic Quakerism p18).
Lewis Benson: “Fox believed that it was a part of his mission to proclaim the non-religious character of the new covenant. He claimed that the Christian revelation is most misunderstood when it is understood as bring in a new religion” (Catholic Quakerism p38).
The prophetic spirit is the cruciform womb from which their Christian Testimony sprang forth: “For the testymony off Jesus ys the sprete off prophesy” (Revelation p546). In Acts we are reminded that disciples are “children of the prophetes” (p254).
Lewis Benson: “That which the prophets and apostles had in common was the spirit of hearing and obeying the voice of the creator” (Catholic Quakerism p17).
Lewis Benson: “The Lamb’s war, as the Quakers saw it, was not a contest between two types of institutional Christianity, but a fight to the finish between institutional Christianity and non-institutional Christianity” (51).
The relationship between human and God was one of listening: “…faith commeth by hearynge, and hearynge commeth by the worde of god” (Romans p338). In 1 Timothy the apostle Paul counsels them: “Despyse not the gyfte that is in the, which was geven the thorow prophesy” (p445). It is this prophetic element which allows disciples of Christ to dispense with obedience to human rulers/leaders: “And ye nede not that eny man teache you: but as that annoyntynge teachech you all thinges, and is true, and is no lye: and as it taught you, even so byde therein” (1 John p477). This hearing relationship means that “hym shall ye heare in all thinges whatsoever he shall saye unto you” (Acts p254). Where we, as Quakers, “covet to prophesy” (1 Corinthians p327), we can “overthrowe ymagenacions, and every hye thynge that exalteth itsilfe against the knowledge of god, and brynge into captivitie all understonynge to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians p391).
Scholars such as Douglas Gwyn, Richard Bauman, Ben Pink Dandelion, Creasy, and Graves have written about this distinction in early Quaker thought and practice.
This could also be stated as individualism vs. group witness to Christ. As Phyllis Mack writes, "For these Quakers, both will and mind were, quite simply, the enemies of the soul, and the first object of Quaker meditation, prayer, good deeds, or visions was to suffocate impulses toward personal expression and achieve the annihilation of the thinking self" (Visionary Women p142).
Priscilla Cotton: "See your thoughts, and deny them, deny thy own will, they own thoughts, and thy own self."
For Sarah Cheevers a prophetic vocation demanded relentless self-negation: "...the much the more are we broken down into self denial, sealed down forever in the true poverty, and upright integrity of heart and soul, mind and conscience, wholly ransomed by the living word of life, to serve the living God....then we cannot hold our peace; the God...of glory doth open our mouth, and we speak to his praise, and utter his voice, and sound forth his word of life, and causeth the earth to tremble..." (Epistle to Friends to read at Bull and Mouth).
For early Friends all human drives or appetites were "superficial and transitory...things that pass away with the death of the individual, and they included in this the drive to satisfy the cravings of the intellect as well as those of the stomach and the genitals" (Visionary Women, p135). The aim of these early prophetic Quakers was "nothing less than the experience of a divine presence, or indwelling, in their own bodies" (Visionary Women, p143).
Douglas Gwyn argues that the sense of conscience among early Friends is “contrary to the liberal, individualistic model that later came to dominate. Here conscience is not the seat of personal opinion and the individual’s dissociation from the social whole, but the place where God’s law for both individuals and society is received. The corporate exercise of conscience toward God and toward humanity leads toward social wholeness. Conscience is thus a collective term in Quaker usage” (The Covenant Crucified p144).
Lewis Benson: “…we witness before the world that our lives and consciences are not our own but belong to Christ” (None Were So Clear p94).
Christine Trevett: "The privatisation of religion is destructive of the prophetic function. Unchallenged liberalism is at odds with it, as is ignorance of history and tradition, of patterns and examples" (Previous Convictions p178).
George Fox: “Now will-worship is among them that have the scriptures given forth by the spirit of God in their own wills…and can sing, pray, preach, and read in their own will, and are out of the spirit that gave scripture forth…And such are opposite to the scriptures, that are fighting about words, falling into sects and heaps about the words.”
Humphrey Smith: “And this I say plainly unto you, that your long tyranny will never weary out the patience we have received, neither can you inflict more punishment than the Lord has enabled us to bear…for self we have denied, and we have given up our bodies and souls a living sacrifice unto God, to do or suffer his will. And him that kills the body we fear not, much less those that can but whip or imprison for a few months, for our life you cannot reach, neither can you disturb their rest whom the Lord has crowned with honour.”
Lewis Benson: “It is evident that the New Covenant community was composed of people who had accepted the life of discipleship and who were committed to the principle that the vocation of disciple cannot be accommodated to the conditions and demands of personal, family business and political life. Here was a community where none pursued wealth or economic security. It was a loving fellowship bound together by ties closer and stronger than those within the natural family. It was a martyr church–a community that had fellowship with its Lord in his sufferings. It was not conformed to the world but was hated and persecuted by the world. It was united in its singleminded rejection of worldly standards of success and its single-minded pursuit of the righteousness which comes through absolute obedience to Christ. Here was community in material things as well as in the things of the spirit. “No man called anything that he possessed his own.” None worked for personal gain but for the sake of all and for the cause of the kingdom. These possessors and inheritors of the promised kingdom were poor in the world but rich in faith.” (Disciple Church Lectures).
Richard Bauman: “…silence, as the cessation of outward speaking, became a metaphor for the suppression of all joining to the flesh” (Let Your Words Be Few p22).
“Silence, for the Quakers, was not an end in itself, but a means to the attainment of the defining spiritual experience of early Quakerism, the direct personal experience of the spirit of God within oneself” (23).
Sarah Benson: “Silence is the result of the presence of Christ. It comes when we gather to listen to Him. In the silence, He does for us what no other teacher, priest, shepherd, bishop, or spirit can do: He speaks to us in the name of, and with the voice of, the Creator of the Universe. Silence is not just a medium in which we get to know ourselves better, or meditate, solve our problems or share insights. Christ teaches righteousness and this is where we learn it, together, in the silence” (None Were So Clear p138).
“Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for He is raised up out of His Holy habitation” (Zechariah 2:13).
“Keep silence at the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the Lord is at hand” (Zephaniah 1:7).
Elijah received revelation from within the “sound of sheer silence”, when all the storms have ceased.
George Fox: “And your growth in the Seed is in the silence, where ye may find a feeding of the bread of life…and there is innocence and simplicity of heart and spirit is lived in and the life is fed on.”
Isaac Penington: “…but stand and walk in fear and humility, and tenderness of spirit, and silence of flesh.”
The prophetic testimony of early Friends was an eschatological incision in the world of time, space, and mortality: “Powerful personal and intimate religious experience convinced them of a direct connection with God, an inward experience of the Second Coming of Christ, and the beginning of the end of the world” (Ben Pink Dandelion, The Liturgies of Quakerism p12).
The Second Last Supper, spoken of Revelation, had superseded the earlier Last Supper. The emphasis now fell on the triumphant, Risen Christ, the True Liberator. The experience of being made new in Christ meant being unspotted by the scent of time – in one’s sense of morality and worldly pursuits. Douglas Gwyn comments: “This ‘inward and heavenly supper’ can be entered only by faith. It is therefore a ‘higher supper’ than the outward Last Supper, which was and still may be entered by betrayers and deniers of Christ” (Apocalypse of the Word p210). This immediate contact heightens the prayer-like awareness of the disciple into a prophetic relationship of hearing, waiting, and obeying. It is no longer susceptible to the fragmentation of being that saturation in the horizontal/temporal sphere causes.
Robert Wilkinson: "God now in these Days is discovering the false Coverings of Creatures, and so stripping them Naked; God is bringing Men to see this Great Mystery of Self in all its Glory: He is annihilating Creatures and bringing them to a Spiritual Death: He is laying low Mountains...even to a Loss and Silence, Confusion and Darkness; That now their Light is Darkness, their Wisdom Folly, their Life Death...now they are made to wait in Silence."
George Fox: “In the power ye will all come to feel the end of words, the life, from which all words of truth were given forth”.
George Fox: “And all Friends, live in the power of the Lord God and keep down the wise part, which will judge truth to be simple and come to despise it, and cry up their own words of wisdom in its place.”
Early Quakers "perceived a space in both mind and body that was suffused, both from within and without, by divine light, that same light, or seed, that had lain buried under layers of personality and habit and was now dissolving not only the trappings of social adulthood but the boundaries that separated individuals from one another. This dissolution of the individual personality, a dissolution that Friends perceived as a sensation of melting, was expressed through the loosening of all bodily inhibition in tears, groans, and shaking" (Mack, Visionary Women, p150).
For Esther Biddle the word of God was not an abstraction but a living force, "which proceedeth out of thy bowels, which is the word of god, which raised our souls...and quickened our mortal bodies" (Letter to Francis Howgill).
“For he taught them as one havynge power, and not as the scribes” (Matthew p17).
In the second letter to the Corinthians Paul contrasts the two: “I nowe reioyce, not that ye were sory, but that ye so sorowed, that ye repented. For ye sorowed godly: so that in nothynge were ye hurte by us. For godly sorowe causeth repentaunce unto health, not to be repented off: when worldly sorowe causeth deeth” (p387). One might speak of the gleams and incisions of ‘godly sorowe’ atonement, and metanoia – turning of the mind away from being curved in upon the self of despair – taking place against a backdrop of harsh darkness. It causes diligence and ‘caused you to cleare youreselves” (387). Godly sorrow is womb, wound, and tomb through which the transformative contact with the Divine may break in and make all things new. It is the tears of godly sorrow that God shall wipe away from all eyes: “And there shalbe no more deeth, nether sorowe, nether cryinge, nether shall there be eny more payne, for the old thynges are gone” (Revelation p548). On the contrary, wordly sorrow is rooted in barren concupiscence and appetites of vanity and deception.
James Nayler: “There is a Spirit that I feel, that delights to do no Evil…its hope is to out-live all Wrath, and Contention, and to weary out all Exaltation and Cruelty….Its conceived in Sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at Grief and Oppression; it never rejoiceth but through Sufferings, for with the Worlds Joy it is murthered; I found it alone being forsaken, I have fellowship therein, with them who lived in Dens, and desolate Places in the Earth, who through Death obtained this Resurrection, and Eternal Holy Life.”
Godly sorrow transcends the boundaries of species, class, nation, etc.: “For the very creatures shalbe delivered from the bondage off corrupcion, into the glorious libertie off the sonnes of god. For we knowe that every creature groneth with us also, and travayleth in payne even unto this tyme” (Romans p334). Communion in sorrow begets solidarity and is one of the ways of salvation: “Not they only, but even we also which have the fyrst frutes of the sprete morne in oureselves and wayte for the adopcion, and loke for the deliveraunce of oure bodies” (334). Mourning, waiting, and looking are linked to adoption and deliverance.
"Suffre affliccions: sorowe ye and wepe. Let youre laughter be turned to mornynge, and youre ioye to hevynes. Cast doune youreselves before the lorde, and he shall lift you uppe" (James p512).
The numbing vivisection of the mind, for which "the indefinite is analytically inexhaustible" (Rene Guenon), perpetuates its empire of worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow - the sorrow intrinsically linked to convincement - is concerned with things beyond the insatiable maw of reasonings. James Nayler saw that the treadmill of the intellect is often a reflection of the values of the world and "the pleasures out of the world, which cumbers the mind, chokes the seed, and kills the holy child, and covers the pearl with earthly affections and lusts, which continually hardens the heart, and strengthens the will against the innocent, and so puts the just to death in the womb" (How Sin is Strengthened).
This contrast is, like many here mentioned, intertwined with the early Quaker understanding and response to violence and war. To the carnal part of the soul and to the flesh, the Lamb’s War entailed obedience to the wrath of the Lamb. Once again the emphasis is on prophetic hearing and transcendence of self-will and self-ends: “Wherfore deare brethren, let every man be swyfte to heare, slowe to speake, and slowe to wrathe. For the wrathe off man worketh not that which is righteous before God” (James p508). A receptive and peaceable state is linked to a striving against the wrath of man. The tension is between curtailment of psychological concupiscence and the invasive experience of the wrath of Lamb: the shattering of the seven seals of earth miring the human heart and maintaining its covenant with the world is achieved by “the presence off hym that sytteth on the seate, and from the wrath of the Lambe, for the grete daye off hys wrath ys come, And whoo can endure hit” (Revelation p527). For early Friends, this was the portal of liberation and new birth. Obedience to the wrath of the Lamb (the Lamb’s War) meant that “Thou therfore suffre affliccion as a good soudier off Jesu Christ. No man that warreth, entanglith hymsilfe wyth worldely busynes, and thatt because he wolde please hym that hath chosen him to be soudier” (2 Peter p450).
The soldiers of the Lamb were called upon to resist the wrath of humanity in order to affirm the wrath of the Lamb: "The social witness of early Friends - their cultural revolution, their Lamb's War - was an attempt to de-alienate social consciousness and relations on several fronts. These testimonies to the world were not primarily protests; they were a modeling of Christ's utopian, eschatological ethics - which necessarily meant a confrontation with the norms of the day" (The Covenant Crucified p114).
Add a Comment
© 2023 Created by Allistair Lomax. Powered by
Blake, I am wondering if you have examples of the dualisms you are listing. I have taken the liberty of trying to put them in alphabetical order as follows. If that doesn't work, feel free to throw my ordering out. Thanks.
Ellis, thank you for taking the time to put the list in alphabetical order! I will also expand it to include examples soon.
Thank you, Blake, for this treasure!
There are a number of Fox quotes without references. If anyone needs to know where to find them, it is possible that I can locate them. Things from Fox's unpublished manuscripts, I do not have access to.
Also, I am glad to see that you are making good use of Lewis Benson's Disciple Church Lectures. They are filled with good stuff, as is all of Lewis' writtings I have had access to.
Lewis Benson's writings are such a luminous source on the early Quaker vision - I am blessed to have come across them!
Thank you, Blake, for this compendium of Quaker quotations. Many I am familiar with, but there are some I hadn't come across. It is a surprise and delight to find someone who has immersed himself in the writings of these worthy Friends! Welcome to our site!
Patricia, the words and worldview of these worthy Friends is so luminous, and such an important defense against (British) Liberal Quaker revisionism. Thank you for the welcome!