BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
"If the Jews had received the Messiah in the way of his coming, and kept His commandments in love to God and to one another, they would have been a united people, living in true harmony, and not divided and contending as they were, when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and they scattered among the nations of the earth as at this day; a warning to all people against disobedience to the manifested will of God, who is love." (Rachel Hicks)"see no need of directing men to the type for the antitype, neither to the outward temple, nor yet to Jerusalem, neither to Jesus Christ or his blood [outwardly], knowing that neither the righteousness of faith, nor the word of it doth so direct.’” (G. Whitehead, Light and Life of Christ, Phila. ed. 1823, p. 34 )
“The new and second covenant is dedicated with the blood, the life of Christ Jesus, which is the alone atonement unto God, by which all his pleople are washed, sanctified, cleansed, and redeemed to God.” (3 G. Fox, Doctrinals, p. 646, and Am. ed. Vol. V. p. 365. )
Society of Friends
"Quaker eschatology is, Ball 1975: 204 says, "clearly a realized eschatology, perhaps the most significant such interpretation in early post-Reformation theology."
"By which second coming thou and you understand his outward coming; Now we say, he did come according to his promise, in a spiritual and inward way of appearance in their hearts"
"..central to Quaker thought, followers were urged to turn to the light of Christ within themselves: they were `spiritual millenarians'. They relegated the importance of the Scriptures in favour of the pre-eminence of this inner spirit, and so rejected the necessity for an educated clergy to lead and interpret. What mattered was not so much biblical stories about Christ and the past, but one's own present. Heaven was within the believer. Nathaniel Smith turned to Quakerism for this very reason, that `the Kingdom of Heaven was in Man'."
Abstract: This study challenges contemporary members of the Religious Society of Friends to expand the richness of their tradition and empower their spiritual witness by reclaiming the example and inspiration of their eighteenth century predecessors. Damiano employs the theological construct of realized eschatology to interpret Eighteenth Century Quakerism. Realized eschatology is the manifestation of God's created order an earth now.
Damiano's approach moves between an analysis of theological constructs and a personal faith perspective. She brings to her study her own formation as a Quaker and a feminist. She discusses the discipline of study itself as a means of God's grace for changing the quality of being. In her study, she relies heavily on the spiritual journals of Eighteenth century Friends to capture in their own special language a description of their interior landscapes.
Damiano points out that scent scholarly attention has been paid to Eighteenth Century Quakerism. That which has been addressed, she explains, has been from a political, economic or social perspective. Furthermore, this period of Quaker history has been misunderstood and devalued as a time of decline due to Its Quietism, rigidity of discipline and the lack of apparent social and political impact. To support this point, she reviews the interpretations of Rufus Jones, Frederick Tolles, Daniel Boorstin, Sydney James, Richard Vann, Jack Marietta and J. William Frost.
In response to the above authors, this research demonstrates how Eighteenth Century Quakerism in particular exemplifies a fruition of God's created order. Three categories of corporate experience are used to support this premise: The formative or the inward process of transformation; the redemptive or the function of the faith community through which Christ takes form; and the prophetic or the embodiment of peace and justice in the world.
The study further examines the conceptions, structures and experimental flavor that creates the worldview of realized eschatology for Eighteenth Century Friends. Described are an experience of a reality and a way of knowing that are grounded In the accessibility of Christ's guidance In everyday life. Additional themes that are highlighted are the priestly role of Christ, eschatological social and individual transformation and a conception of mysticism that balances both the incarnational and transcendent."
The spirit of the Lord came nightly upon us to preach the Gospel, and our
faith took hold of this promise. “I will build again the old waste places of
Jerusalem, and restore the old paths
and gather that which has been scattered.” (Nathan T. Frame)
(Lord's Supper and Christ's second coming is spiritual.)
"The WAY of deliverance from BONDAGE. Set forth in love to the simple, who have erred for lack of knowledge. The Redemption of the holy Seed, is through Judgement on that which hath hindered its growth Isa. i., 27, and purification is by the fire of Zion, and and the furnace of Jerusalem,
the which comes to be known by owning and submitting unto the power of the burning Light in its operation of Judgement against the transgressor, which breaks the peace of the wicked that he hath in his wickedness, and hereby through submission unto the sword of the Spirit of Judgement is learned to answer the requirings thereof, by which man comes to be purged, and made a vessel unto honour, meet for the Master's use."
(London, Printed for Thomas Simmons, at the Bull and Mouth, near Aldersgate, 1659. Small 8vo. 1659.)
"Now, you know the Jews had a prophet, who told them the time when the Messiah should come, afore-hand, to wit, Daniel, as you may see, Dan. ix. 24, &c. where he told them, that it was seventy weeks that were determined upon the people, and upon the city, and that the Holy One should be anointed. Now, this was not such a great mystery to them; they knew it was common to reckon a day for a year among the prophets; so that that time was but four hundred fourscore and ten years that the vision should be sealed, and the daily sacrifice taken away, the city be made desolate, and the anointing of the Holy One, and the Messiah be slain for the sins of the people. And since the time that the command was gone forth to build Jerusalem again, in which time the seventy weeks had their beginning, it is above two thousand years ago; the city is since builded again, and also made again desolate, and the daily sacrifice taken away, and the prince of the people that then came, viz. Titus Vespasian the Roman, has destroyed the sanctuary, and the destruction of it, was with an overflowing to the end of the war; and yet all these things cannot convince them, nor make them believe that the Messiah is come, or that it was he whom their forefathers have killed as a blasphemer.
Now, that we, after such clear prophecies of the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, and dethroning of the devil, sin and Antichrist, should not come to be surprised with the same blindness and hardness of heart; let us have a strict observation of the times, that we may not fight against the appearance of Truth, and put it far away from us, and say, the days are not come yet, in which the pouring out of the Spirit can be witnessed; and that the knowledge of God must cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; and that the gospel must be preached again unto those that dwell upon the earth, and that the Lamb and his saints must have the victory over the dragon and his angels. For, such as put the day so far from them, are in one and the same error with the Jews, and do not understand the times better than they do; and so are persecuting the true appearance of that which they seem to expect, and to pray for, (as the Jews did,) because it does not appear in their way to answer their carnal expectations, that despise the day of small things: but from such are the mysteries of the kingdom shut up, and are revealed unto those that fear the Lord.
" (Christian experiences )
"One marked feature of the new doctrine is that conversion is instantaneous, and that as the scriptures say, “Today is the day of salvation,” therefore all, even in the largest assemblies, may be saved, and “saved just now,” if they will, and that they can will—they have the power with them. The error in this doctrine ought to be seen at once by all who take the scriptures for a rule of faith and doctrine. Christ said: “O, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children, * * but ye would not; behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Again, it is said he wept over the city, “Saying, if thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Then Jerusalem could not be saved “just that very hour,” because the things that belonged to the peace of her children were hid from them. The above also shows what is meant by the “day of salvation,” namely, the time of the visitation of God's spirit to the children of men—not a time of twelve or twenty-four hours in which a speaker may be holding forth." Modern Quakerism examined and contrasted )
This spirit was particularly developed at the Conference Meeting at Birmingham, held in the first month, 1869. A letter from one of the friends who had visited America the previous summer, says:
Yes, it is a day of sore affliction, because those who have walked with us rise up against what we believe to be for their and our peace and joy, and we cannot convince them of its being to their loss. The Conference sittings (four in number) at Birmingham, have more fully developed this fact. . . . . The purifying fire is, I apprehend, hotter than the rebellious nature is willing to endure; and yet it was mercifully to be noted that the Beloved Messenger of the covenant came to the temple, that He might purify the sons of Levi, and make them clean vessels unto Himself. He came to search Jerusalem with candles, that every secret corner might be discovered, and holiness inscribed upon every thought, word, and deed. . . . . It was a time in which we hoped Truth made some way—but if there is a turning away from that operation, instead of a submission to the suffering, then there comes a hardness, which prevents a co-working in the precious cause of righteousness, and an attempt, too often successful, to hinder its increase; to the distress of the little ones, who are desirous of being wholly formed by the counsels of Wisdom into a compact body, through which Life may flow uninterruptedly. . . . . We are afflicted, but not in despair; for we believe the Lord is on our side, and that we need not fear; that He is our light and salvation, and will be so, if we cleave unto Him, and cease from man. May you be comforted in knowing that His arm is revealed unto us, and our confidence steadfast in the God of Jacob." (Society of Friends in the 19th Century, 1876.)
(On Matthew 21)
(On the Significance of AD70) "And was it not often that Jerusalem and the children of Israel were carried into captivity for transgressing of the righteous law of God? And did not the enemy come upon you, which trod down the wall of Jerusalem, which was before Christ was manifest in the flesh, which after came and was manifest in the flesh, according to the saying of the prophet which shewed the coming of the just one; and when he was come among you that had the words of Moses and the prophets, but being out of the life, you saw not that which Moses and the prophets saw; though the prophet said, Jerusalem should be laid waste, and compassed with armies; the wall thrown down, and you scattered: is not the word of this prophet fulfilled among you, and upon you?"
"But now is the Lord warning you to turn to him, and to do works meet for repentance, that you might come to know the prince of life, the end of the law, the end of the prophets, the end of all outward sacrifices, and come to know the spiritual sacrifice, which is acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, going up from the spiritual household, which is built on the prophets, Christ the corner stone, who is now come to reign on the throne of David, whose seed witness him David's son; God will shew mercy to his seed for evermore; which mercy his seed witness, and witness the Son who reigns on the throne of David, the Son of God, who is the seed of Abraham, to whom the promise was when he was in the uncircumcision; and the promise which was made to him when he was in the uncircumcision do we witness fulfilled; glory, glory to the Lord God for evermore. "
"Now he that sits on the throne of David, his seed witness him Lord and king, who is the prince of life, that hath dominion over death, and through death has destroyed him that hath the power of death; and repentance is preached, and remission of sins through faith in him, from whom comes the refreshing into the soul." (A Visitation to the Jews (1670)
"For the outward law, which was written in tables of Stone, which was to the
Jews onely, is changed, and the circumcision which was outward, and the
Sabboath which was outward, and the Priests which were outward, and the
Temple which was outward; these were figures, tipes, and shadows of him, who
was to come; the body, and substance of these is CHRIST JESUS, who comes to
fulfil the Law, and is the end of the Law for Righteousness; who washeth,
and cleanseth, and purgeth by his blood, all that come unto the Father by
him" (A Call
Out of Egypt's Darkness - 1668)
"Jerusalem is a burdensome stone, (it was so in the type, it is much more so in the substance) which lies in the way of every earthly spirit and power; which they know not how to build with, neither can they rear up their own building because of it, and therefore every power strives to remove it out of their way; but they know not the weight of it, nor who it is that hath squared it, and how firm it is fixed upon the rock. ("Concerning Persecution" In Works of the long-mournful and sorely-distressed Isaac Penington)
"XXIX. Concerning the knowledge of the new covenant. Quest. What is the knowledge of the new covenant?
Ans. The knowledge which is given by God to the new-birth: for to it the new covenant belongs, and the knowledge thereof. The truly begotten of God, the true disciples of Christ, to them it is given to know the kingdom of God; but to others it is not given. The Jew outward, the first birth, the birth after the flesh, for them the priest's lips were to preserve knowledge, and they were to seek the law at his mouth; and to them God sent prophets to speak to them, and taught them by his prophets: but concerning the inward Jews, the children of the new covenant, the children of the Jerusalem which is above, concerning her seed it was prophefied, that they all should be taught of the Lord; they all should hear and know the voice of the Shepherd himself; they should all be gathered to the Shepherd and Bishop of the soul, and taught by him. So that in this new, holy, living covenant, God himself is the Shepherd, God himself is the Teacher, not only of the greatest, but of the very least, Heb. viii. For he teacheth them all to know the Lord, and to know his Son, and to come to his Son, and to love him their Father, and one another. So that he that is taught of God, he hath the true knowledge, the living knowledge, the substantial knowledge, the knowledge of the thing itself, of the life eternal itself. All that are not thus taught (but learn only from a literal description and relation of things) have not the knowledge of the new covenant, the knowledge of the thing itself; but only an outward knowledge, such as the first birth may catch at, lay hold on, and comprehend. " (Naked Truth, or Truth nakedly manifesting itself" In Works of the long-mournful and sorely-distressed Isaac Penington (Volume 3)
"ALTHOUGH I have not written to thee since the commencement of thy present sorrowful state, thou canst not be ignorant of my sympathy with thee; and considering my increased debility for writing (of which I advised thy mother), I might have hoped that thou wouldst not have waited for my doing it before thou hadst addressed me: if but with a few lines, they would have been very acceptable; especially so, if they had breathed a spirit of acquiescence with the will of the All-wise disposer of events. He knows best on what to lay his hand, in order to facilitate his merciful designs respecting us; and if he deprives us of what is most dear, and which also may appear to be the most valuable and beneficial to us of all his temporal gifts; does he not therein speak this instructive language, Set your affections on things which are in heaven, and not on things which are upon the earth, which must all pass away in their appointed season? They are only lent us as temporary assistants or accommodations in our passage through time; and although they may be rejoiced in and valued as his gifts, they are not to be depended upon or loved beyond the appointed standard of his wisdom. It is our interest as well as duty, to hold them by the tenure wherewith he has intrusted us with them, viz. to be returned at his call; which always ultimately comports with our real happiness, if we look not at the things which are seen, which, however high we may prize them, are but temporal; but steadily behold, with ardent desire of possessing, “those which are not seen” (save with the eye of faith), “which are eternal.” My principal concern for thee is, that this eye may be opened widely in thy soul; that thou mayest see and rightly estimate all possessions which are attainable by man; and, beholding and contemplating the transcendent excellency of spiritual gifts, mayest covet them earnestly. This is the only allowable covetousness, and the mind being thus engaged, becomes transformed from a state of nature to that of grace: agreeably to the apostle's testimony and experience, viz. And we all beholding as in a glass with open face, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the spirit of the Lord.
In this renewed state the will of the creature is so absorbed in the will of the Creator, that its life is swallowed up in it; and it does not wish to enjoy any thing which is not freely given to it of God; whose inscrutable wisdom bounds its desires, and under a sense that it knows not what is best, it refers all thereto, and thus it comes to experience new heavens and a new earth to be created unto it, wherein dwelleth righteousness; and it abundantly rejoiceth in that which God creates, as it is sensible that he creates Jerusalem (the city of the solemnities of his saints), a rejoicing, and her people a joy." (EPISTLE XIII. To a Relation. Redruth, 29th of Seventh Month, 1793.)
"York, 8th month, 1775—And now permit me to tell thee how welcome a part of thine was; it led me, when I read it, to conclude, that after looking on all the frailties of human nature, and perplexing ourselves with a view of the various and intricate scenes of this life, the necessary result should be, “to be quiet, and mind our own business;” or, as thou sayest, to endeavour to feel ourselves approved by Him who sees not as man sees. If we make welcome every obstacle that is presented in the way to peace, we may justly conclude that we shall never arrive at the peaceful Jerusalem, the quiet habitation which cometh down from God out of heaven. The consideration of this enjoyment, sometimes prompts the mind to soar, or to ascend gradually to the holy mountain, where we may be taught the ways of righteousness, and be instructed
in the paths of true peace. But how fast we descend to the place from whence we came! how precipitately do we drop into some region of darkness! for surely there are many degrees; but happy are they who are redeemed from its power. May we not justly deem ourselves, when under any entanglement, any fetter that prevents our deeds from being brought to the true light, the light of the Lamb, as alienated, in part, from the Father of mercies, and estranged from His celestial spring? How necessary therefore is it for us to watch at all seasons, in times of peace, as well as in the spiritual warfare; for we know not when the hour of temptation cometh, and our fortification may prevent the engagement. How preserving is that language; “I will get me to my watch tower;” and what a favour it is, our not being ignorant, that the name of the Lord is a tower to the righteous."
(Some account of the life and religious labours of Sarah Grubb )
"First-day morning, we had a large meeting, in which I was engaged to labour with the youth, not to slight that day of Divine visitation which was mercifully extended, lest they should draw down upon themselves the displeasure of heaven, and that the declaration pronounced against Jerusalem formerly should be pronounced against them,—their house left desolate, and the things belonging to their souls' peace be for ever hid from their eyes." (Journal of the life, labours, and travels of Thomas Shillitoe (Volume 1)
CHAPTER XXXIII. Third Visit to Europe. The Crimea.—Karaite Jews.—German and Swiss Colonies.—Return to Perekop.—Kherson.—Nikolaiev.—Odessa.
"Arrived at the chief scene of attraction in the Crimea, Stephen Grellet and his companion at once resumed their accustomed work. In the spirit of the Apostle, who—without giving up any Christian principle, or lowering the standard of Gospel requirements,—was “made all things to all men that by all means he might save some,” they freely mingled in religious intercourse with all classes and denominations that came in their way, both among the rich and the poor, “ready, as much as was in them, to preach the Gospel” to all. Of their interesting labours in those parts, and the conclusion of their visit in Russia, at Odessa, S. G. gives the following description:
... Some men, after a while, came to look at us, and soon after their High Priest approached, and invited us to go into the synagogue, speaking to us through the medium of our Tartar, who translated again to our Pole, and he to us. His name is Isaac Covish. We were soon joined by other Rabbies and Jews. They have another synagogue near, one not being sufficient to contain them all. They are about one thousand men, besides women and children. They tell us that they have evidences, from their Records, that their ancestors have been on this rock for more than nine hundred years; but, by their traditions, they trace their coming here to the time when Titus came against Jerusalem. They differ much from other Jews. Like that people formerly, they till the ground. They have gardens, vineyards, ploughed fields, &c. They take great care in the religious and moral education of their children. Besides having the Law written on parchment, kept in the ark, which they showed us, they have the Old Testament printed in books, and each of their children has a copy of it. It contains nothing but the simple Scriptures: none of the Rabbinical additions, with which they do not unite. They told me that our own Bibles are a very faithful version of theirs. We have been told by the Governor and Police officers at Perekop and other places, that these Jews are very exemplary in every part of their conduct; they know of no instance of any of them being ever brought before them for misdemeanour of any kind. A very similar testimony is given of the Malakans wherever they reside, so far as we have been able to hear.* A large number of the Jews collected about us, and our conversation became of a more serious nature, chiefly with the High Priest; he fully believes, he said, in the operations of the Divine Spirit, and that the Lord, by the prophets, bears a clear testimony to it; among other prophecies he mentioned that of Joel; he also holds the sentiment that if all men were obedient to the teachings and guidance of the Holy Spirit, there would be no difference between Jews and Gentiles, for all would bring forth the same fruits, all would bring the same acceptable offering unto the Lord. He was told that he must then believe that the prophecy of Joel was now fulfilled, “It shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, that I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh,” &c., &c., for we are now living in these latter days; this led us to speak of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the prophecies respecting him, the manner of his coming, the end for which he came, &c., &c. Among others reference was made to this Scripture testimony; “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”—Gen. 49, 10. He well knew that the sceptre had departed from Judah some time before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, that Christ had then come on the earth, and in him was so literally accomplished all that the prophets had written of him, that it might appear as if they had given a description of what had already come to pass, rather than of what was not fulfilled till many centuries afterwards. He remained silent and pensive for a length of time, then said, “I know not what to say.” We had some further serious conversation, and on parting he desired that we might not forget to visit some of his people further on in the Crimea, expressing his satisfaction with our visit here; others did the same." (Memoirs of the life and gospel labors of Stephen Grellet (1860)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
We are not even sure what he looked like. The few portraits that exist are less lifelike than many of the descriptions of him which accumulated over the years. He was a `bulky person', with long hair `like rats' tails'. He needed little sleep and was capable of enduring extreme hardship and physical privation, at first in his early years when forced to sleep rough, and later when repeatedly exposed to the misery of prison cells. More unusual than his looks or physical strength, however, were his inner qualities. Even as a child he stood out from others -- or at least he said he did: `I had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit, not usual in children'.
Fox was born in 1624, the son of a devout Puritan who was a reasonably prosperous weaver and an equally `upright woman' in Leicestershire. He was destined in childhood for the Anglican ministry, but instead he became an apprentice shoemaker to a Nottingham man who also dealt in sheep and wool. In his youth, Fox was conspicuous for his piety and aloofness. (`When rude people and boys would laugh at me, I let them alone.') Famous for his honesty, he proclaimed that `The Lord taught me to be faithful in all things ... and to keep to Yea and Nay in all things.' Then at the age of 19 he underwent a crisis that changed his life. It was prompted by a simple but symptomatic incident.
In the summer of 1643, Fox sat with a cousin and other Puritans at a fair. The young men tried to goad him into joining their drinking round: the proposing of health and the custom that the man who refused to drink should pay for the round. George Fox was shocked. He paid for his own drink, and left. That night he could not sleep, paced his room and called to the Lord for guidance. Divine intercession advised him to abandon his friends and family, and to seek truth and spiritual guidance elsewhere. Over the next four years Fox wandered throughout England, often living rough (trough he clearly left home with cash in his hand), badgering clerics and divines, and seeking guidance in prayer and isolation. His sole attachment was to his bible and to the occasional companionship found among the proliferation of sects and divines that had been spawned by the turmoil of the English Revolution. For Fox it was a period of mysticism and personal doubt, but he found no satisfaction -- no truth -- in the protestations of priests and `professors' of any description. Just when he despaired most, in 1647, `When all my hopes in them and in all men, were gone ... I heard a voice ...' The Lord spoke directly to Fox. Henceforth his path was clear, though rarely straight or untroubled.
George Fox, now in his mid-twenties, embarked on his lifetime's mission. His aim was not to create a sect but to persuade his fellow men and women to worship honestly, not through the intermediary of the priesthood or any religious organisation but from within themselves, directly to the Almighty. He set out to persuade people to be true to themselves and to others, and to be frank in their private dealings with the Lord. Yet we will never fully understand Fox simply by scrutinising his own words. For all his uniqueness he was also a man of his time. Fox and the Quaker movement established in his wake were, first and foremost, creatures of the English Revolution.
Fox was not alone in suffering turmoil in the 1640s. The entire nation was racked by personal and social agitations that had been whipped up by a bloody and vengeful civil war. That decade, and the Interregnum years of the 1650s, formed what Christopher Hill has described as `the greatest upheaval in English history'. Old assumptions and beliefs -- old certainties -- were shattered by the convulsion of religious and political freedoms which had scarred most people in some way or other. The traditional acceptance that all English people belonged to the national Church and must worship as a matter of obligation was destroyed for ever. As the world turned upside-down, religious and political groupings of the most varied (and sometimes most bizarre) kind sprang up across the nation. Unleashed by the collapse of draconian censorship laws, books and tracts flew off the presses in unprecedented numbers, speaking for each and every sect and radical splinter group. The printed word was eagerly devoured by a curious readership that had been previously kept in check.
As the old restraints melted in a new climate of freedom, there was a parallel blossoming of political and religious activity. Men and women found a voice previously denied them. They could be heard everywhere: in homes and alehouses, at crossroads and army camps, on the street corner and inside parish churches. The old order of church and formal worship collapsed before a nationwide spiritual agitation. Authority of all kinds, whether monarchical or priestly, was swept away by an upsurge of secular and theological individualism. Levellers and Diggers, Ranters and Muggletonians, Fifth Monarchists and Millenarians: these and many others flourished in proportion to the discomfort of the old order. King, lords and bishops were mocked and humbled, levelled by those of no previous consequence.
The political tumult after 1642 was unprecedented: civil war, the eventual victory of Parliament, the abolition of lords and bishops, and the trial and execution of the King all followed in quick and disturbing succession. In this confusion of change, anything seemed possible. Even those who proclaimed the imminence of the Second Coming did not appear unduly unrealistic. The 1640s were, in effect, a political and religious free-for-all that heralded a democratic tradition of the most fundamental and varied kind, and which would be bequeathed to later generations. The personal anguish experienced by George Fox in 1643 did not, then, seem out of the ordinary.
Men who later became Quakers played their part in the fighting of the Civil War with no hint of their subsequent squeamishness about bloodshed. Indeed, the Quaker vernacular that emerged from those upheavals was suffused with military imagery, itself forged in the battle for freedom against the royalists in the 1640s. But the years of the Interregnum, between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the restoration of Charles II in 1660, witnessed a progressive disillusionment with Oliver Cromwell's rule. During the 1650s, when the victories of the preceding decade turned into the dust of Cromwellian compromise and failure, George Fox placed himself at the head of those whose formative memories had been the libertarian experiences and expectations of the 1640s, and who now formed the first shock troops of the Quaker movement.
By 1647 Fox had found his voice, and he began to preach, at first only a `few, but powerful and piercing words'. His reputation soon spread, but his words were not always welcome as he was an uncompromising preacher, hurling disputation and contradiction at the heads of his opponents. In 1649 he experienced his first imprisonment for rising in a crowded church in Nottingham to dispute the resident cleric's biblical views. Not surprisingly, `the officers came and took me away, and put me into prison, a pitiful stinking place'. It was to become the first of many similar experiences. The years of sleeping rough in the mid-1640s now seemed like an apprenticeship for the even starker rigours of detention in various English jails. A year later Fox was back in prison, this time in Derby, committed for six months for blasphemy. The man who convicted him, Justice Bennet, was the first to call Fox's followers Quakers, `because we bid them tremble at the word of God'.
As Fox trekked across the North of England he encountered crowds of people keen to hear his words and anxious to share his thoughts. Many were striving for a new way to express their beliefs in the wake of the fragmentation of religious experience and ideals, much of it related to the splintering of other political groupings. Bands of worshippers had turned their back on other sects, most notably Puritanism, and were therefore ripe for the appropriate message and leadership. For example, Fox found a sympathetic audience among agricultural workers, who by instinct had spurned their betters and clashed with landlords about rents or tithes.
The recruitment to Quakerism was rapid. In the course of the 1650s, numbers swelled to 40,000, perhaps even 60,000, equalling the Catholics and overtaking the older, more famous sects. The movement effectively began and thrived in the poor, backward and remote North-West of England. One contemporary Quaker propagandist compared the North to Bethlehem, in that it was the focus of Quaker strength. It was here, among people who felt ignored or rejected by Church, State and powerful landowners, that Quakerism first took root. And it was from the North-West that the first Quaker ministers, men and women, fanned out to take the message to other regions and towns. These missionaries, sixty-six in total (almost all from Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmorland, and almost all recruited from older, highly individualistic Seeker communities) travelled southwards in 1654-5 to London and Bristol, later to Scotland, Ireland, Europe and on to America. It seemed as if London had been invaded by `plain North Country ploughmen'.
In the North of England Quakerism quickly assumed a shape which was to survive successive waves of persecution in later years. Quaker organisation, financial structure and headquarters were established in the region. Money for the cause was raised from local sympathisers, administered from Kendal, and spent on sending missionaries to other parts of the country and on providing relief for Quakers in prison. The Monthly Meeting was introduced `to look after the poor and to see that all walked according to the Truth'. Elders from those meetings met other county representatives at the Yearly or General Meeting. It proved an ideal structure for an expansive movement. The location of the headquarters came about more fortuitously, however. In 1652 Fox visited Swarthmore Hall near Ulverston, where he converted Margaret Fell and three of her children. Her husband, Judge Fell, was a powerful local figure whose support ensured protection for the Quaker activity that became centred upon his wife and home. Swarthmore in effect became the headquarters of the movement, and Margaret, the `Quaker matriarch', managed the finances for the missionary activities that spread the cause through the South of England. (In 1669, Fox was to marry the then-widowed Margaret Fell, thereby establishing the first Quaker dynasty.)
In the 1650s, the movement began to establish itself in other parts of the country, with strongholds in London and Bristol, but the richest Quaker seam remained rural. Many of those attracted to Quakerism tended to be traders and artisans, yeomen and husbandmen. They were also likely to be literate. Few were very poor and few came from the ranks of the gentry. As had happened in the North, many turned to Quakerism after rural agitation, mainly against the tithe; others had seen their radical instincts finely honed in the military conflicts and the associated political wrangling of the war years. There was also a sizeable number of women who turned to the cause, where they found a freedom of expression and activity denied them in other spheres.
What Quakers actually believed during their explosive growth of the Interregnum years is less easily described. There was at first no clear outline of principles or tenets. Instead they tended to define their views by rejecting the ideas of others. They proclaimed the prospects of salvation for all, and announced a sense of unity with God. Most important of all, indeed central to Quaker thought, followers were urged to turn to the light of Christ within themselves: they were `spiritual millenarians'. They relegated the importance of the Scriptures in favour of the pre-eminence of this inner spirit, and so rejected the necessity for an educated clergy to lead and interpret. Even the Bible was demoted, to become, in the words of Christopher Hill, `a book like any other'. What mattered was not so much biblical stories about Christ and the past, but one's own feelings of the present. Heaven was within the Quaker believer. Nathaniel Smith turned to Quakerism for this very reason, that `the Kingdom of Heaven was in Man'.
This led certain Quakers to claim miraculous powers. Fox himself claimed to have effected no fewer than 150 cures by the laying on of hands. Naturally they had their failures, the most spectacular of which concerned the Worcester Quaker who dug up a corpse, commanding him `in the name of the living God, to arise and walk'. Quakers formed an ecstatic movement, hence their name, and in their early years were renowned for the frenzy of their responses. That first generation of preachers often provoked shrieks and communal tremblings from the congregation. When Fox spoke at Ulverston in 1652, `the steeplehouse shook'. A year later, when preaching in Carlisle, the effect was even more remarkable: `A dreadful power of the Lord there was amongst them in the steeplehouse, that the people trembled and shook, and they thought the steeplehouse shook and thought it would have fallen down.' Fox seemed able to sway even the doubters. From Tickhill in 1652, he reported that the priest who `scoffed at us, and called us Quakers' was swept along by the power of the spirit and `fell a-trembling himself, so that one said unto him "Look how the priest trembles and shakes, he is turned Quaker also".'
From the first, the Quakers inherited the anti-clericalism of the English Revolution. Fox's Journal records his repeated conflicts with `priests', yet he was only the most prominent of a host who regularly clashed with the authorities. It was perhaps natural that they should dispute with other theologians (a favourite tactic was to bellow objections at a priest in his own `steeplehouse'), but it was equally inevitable that such frictions would spill over. Congregations, parishioners, local townsfolk, government officers and the military all joined in the arguments. What began as a polemical dispute often ended in a brawl, with the Quaker assaulted by a baying mob inside and outside the church, before being expelled from the district or flung into the local jail. And the trouble did not end there. Fox, for example, sought to win over his jailers (sometimes successfully), but most tended to be as cruel and vindictive as the outside rabble. Thus, in those early years, Quakers became familiar with the prisons of England as they found themselves persecuted not only for their actions but also because they refused to bow to demands made of them by the political and ecclesiastical authorities. What made the Quakers so dangerous and troublesome was their resolute refusal to accept authority.
So the Quakers were heirs to an older radical tradition of dissent and vocal opposition that had been forged in the Civil War, and their evolving beliefs engaged in political matters, as much as questions of faith and theology. They were destined, from the first, to clash with authority of all kinds as there was to be no compromise. They had the inner light and were not to be diverted by injunctions to obey, or to accord to the demands of Church and State. The Quakers' first and most obvious enemy was the church and its officers, the priests who were maintained in luxury by the labour of the poor, thanks to the iniquitous tithe. Quakers sought an end to the university-educated clergy, allowing instead the rise of `a ministry of simple men and women'; people who `spoke plaine words, and reached to the consciences of men of the meanest capacity'. But since the church was a pillar of the state, and the tithe was the tax which financed that church at parish level, the Quaker challenges therefore involved matters of fundamental political importance.
Quakers may have lacked a clear philosophy in the early years, but there was an unmistakable emergent Quaker sensibility with a levelling, democratic tone, articulated by a growing band of preachers. They attacked privilege and rank on all hands. Aristocracy and gentry, lawyers and priests, the wealthy and the privileged all found themselves denounced by these preachers and pamphleteers. The rich man, argued Fox, is `the greatest thief' because he acquired his wealth `by cozening and cheating, by lying and defrauding'. At times, Quaker views had uncomfortable echoes of the old Levellers. One Quaker wrote in 1653 that `the earth is the Lords ... he hath given it to the sons of men in general, and not to a few lofty ones which Lord it over their brethren'. They were unequivocal in their support for the winning side in the Civil War, but they also believed that the revolution had not gone far enough. In the course of the 1650s they became progressively disenchanted with Cromwell's regime, disliking the compromises with the old order and hating what had become a rapacious army that seemed interested solely in its own well-being and future.
Quaker demands, backed by the growing strength of their numbers, began to spread alarm among men in authority. `These vipers', said one MP, `are crept into the bowels of your Commonwealth, and the government too ... They grow numerous, and swarm all the nation over; every county, every parish.' Fox submitted to Parliament a series of fundamentally egalitarian reforms involving a massive programme of expropriation. These ideas reminded men of substance everywhere of the wilder fringe groups of the previous decade. There was reason to fear that this increasingly numerous and vocal body of people, who espoused `such principles as will level the foundation of all government into a bog of confusion', would usher in a `social anarchy'. The Quaker refusal to recognise rank seemed corrosive of the very fabric of social life itself. They refused to bow, to remove their hats to superiors, to acknowledge titles, and they spoke to their betters with the common, plain `thee and `thou'. It was a style, a tone, a vernacular of equality which could be interpreted as showing disrespect and disdain; it was a message which could prove utterly seductive to the common people.
Quakers were successful in garrison towns, for example, where their egalitarianism posed a military threat. Their principles, thought Henry Cromwell, `are not verry consistent with civil government, much less with the discipline of an army'. Not surprisingly some regiments were purged of their Quaker soldiers. Quaker successes, however, often depended on local patronage. Where they secured the sympathy or the conversion of a local powerful figure (notably Judge Fell), they could weather the storm of local hostility and persecution which they endured throughout the 1650s; but more common was the banding together of local (especially urban) interests to deny them a platform or even entry to the town. Time and again, their preachers were cruelly dispatched from the area and any sympathisers persecuted. Officials dragged Quakers before the courts on a range of charges, conjuring forth whatever Act or by-law seemed most likely to secure a conviction.
By the late 1650s Cromwell's government felt obliged to heed the voices of provincial alarm and authorised local magistrates to use old vagrancy laws against travelling Quakers. A new Act allowed prosecution for the interruption of Sunday services (a favourite Quaker tactic) and reinstated the obligation to attend these services. Magistrates took full advantage of these measures, continuing to imprison and persecute wherever they could, but even that failed to staunch the rising popularity of Quakerism. By 1659, many felt that only a swift restoration of the monarchy would stop the encroaching tide of egalitarianism and the drift of people to the Quakers and other sects. It was ironic but obvious that the rise of Quakerism emboldened the reactionary forces intent on restoring the King.
The Quakers were set against the restoration of the monarchy in that, whatever its altered form, it would usher in many of the men, ideas and relationships against which they had struggled. The greatest risk to the return of Charles II was the hostility within the Army and the fear that it would go over to the Quakers en masse. Here surely was a remarkable phenomenon: a group which had scarcely existed a mere decade earlier was now feared for its potential influence within the most powerful body in England. But just when Quakers seemed poised for even greater influence, they were subjected to acute persecution by the vengeful forces unleashed by the return of Charles II.
The men who came back to England with the King in 1660 knew very little about the Quakers, who had scarcely existed when the royalists had fled the country in defeat. It was therefore difficult for them to distinguish the Quakers from the other, more overtly revolutionary sects of the previous two decades who had been anxious to turn the nation back to the basics of democracy. The Restoration, notably the Clarendon Code, sought to reimpose loyalty to Church and State. This inevitably spelled persecution for those who refused to obey. Following an uprising of Fifth Monarchists, a wide-ranging clampdown was launched against all those sects thought to be subversive and dangerous. Despite protestations of loyalty, the Quakers were plunged into a spiral of oppression, the scale and depth of which surpassed all previous agonies. By the end of January 1660, jails across the country were filled with them.
From one town to another the story was the same: of Quakers detained in stinking prisons and mouldering detention rooms in appalling, sometimes fatal conditions. More than 4,000 men were incarcerated -- including 500 in London, 400 in Yorkshire and almost 300 in Lancashire -- and women and children were not exempt from these miseries. In Aylesbury, John Whitehead and Isaac Penington joined sixty or seventy others in an old malt-house `so decayed that it was scarce fit for a dog-house'. Quakers in Norwich were housed in a recess in the castle wall; one in Dover was thrown into a hole, `a place very filthy ... overrun with maggots and other insects'. Yet in York, where local Quakers were of `the better sort', unwilling to antagonise their local business associates and neighbours, their community did not suffer as such.
During these years the `Society of Friendst' was `the most vilified of all the sects', denounced and physically attacked by both the propertied and the poor, in town and country alike. Stories from across the country told of frenzied assaults which in retrospect are hard to comprehend. When James Parnell preached in Colchester he was viciously attacked `by a blind zealot who struck him a violent Blow with a great Staff, saying There, take that for Christ's Sake.' The first Quaker preachers to arrive in Cambridge were women who were publicly whipped in the market place `so that their Flesh was miserably cut and torn'. Such acts of parochial violence were often prompted by a dislike of outsiders trying to interfere in local matters. It is easier to understand such feelings in the context of Quakers disrupting church services, burials and the like. Sometimes the offending Quaker seemed to be merely crazy. Solomon Eccles walked through Smithfield in 1663 `with his Body naked, and a Pan of Fire and Brimstone burning on his Head'. He was promptly dispatched to Bridewell.
The growing hatred for Quakers flared up even when they were going about their normal business. When the Huntingdon shopkeeper Robert Raby and others traded on Christmas Day, they had `Dirts and Mire cast upon them'. Quakers were also attacked as they worshipped. In Sawbridgeworth, a local `rabble' threw `Showers of stones, Dirt, rotten Eggs, human Dung and Urine' into the meeting house. Their hats were filled with dirt and placed back on their heads. After the widow Ann Cock disrupted a service in Cambridge, an angry local tailor threw a `piss-pot of Urine' at her.
The animosity against Quakers clearly ran deep, for they were described and considered as less than human -- as cannibals, satanists and the like -- a process which allowed their tormentors to punish them in the most violent and bloody fashion. Men were herded through the streets like cattle, crammed into stinking confinement, beaten, starved and roundly abused. For that first generation of Quakers, these humiliations on a ghastly scale and from all quarters was a regular occurrence.
The severity of these post-1660 persecutions which lasted for more than a decade shaped the course of Quaker history. It was from the violations of these years that their `peace principle' gradually evolved. Fox declared that `The spirit of Christ will never move us to fight a war against any man with carnal weapons.' Thereafter Quakers eventually became wedded to this new concept and practice of non-violence. Indeed, many of the features we today associate with Quakerism emerged from this difficult time. For example, it was necessary to devise and maintain a form of discipline primarily to withstand attacks from others. It was also imperative to present their case to the outside world, and important to exclude those who failed to abide by the movement's basic tenets. Thus, in the climate of persecution, Quaker organisation gradually assumed the recognisable shape of quarterly and national meetings, with an accountable financial system. Those sects who failed to reorganise -- who tried to exist as they had before the Restoration -- simply disappeared. A small number of Quakers, it is true, periodically rose up in opposition over the next generation; others took strident issue with the imposition of tight discipline upon a movement which was highly individualistic in origin and spirit. But these were exceptions. Most quickly accepted the new order of the Society of Friends, thereby ensuring its survival.
This discipline born of necessity attests to the political alertness of the movement's leadership. As the 1660s advanced, the Quakers were clearly led by George Fox. His obvious competitors died out (often from the rigours of imprisonment) or resigned. Fox's leadership was strengthened by his marriage in 1669 to the widowed Margaret Fell and he began the process of rewriting Quaker history. Henceforth all Quaker commentaries and histories had to pass his scrutiny and approval. Not surprisingly in such publications his role in the formative years came to the fore, and the work of other men was relegated or removed entirely. It was through this revised -- purged, even -- historiography that subsequent generations have come to view the original Quakers of the 1640s and 1650s, but the Quakers of the last years of the seventeenth century were very different. This peacable, industrious, plain-speaking, plain-acting second generation stood in sharp contrast to the motley collection of political and religious revolutionaries and anarchists, of whom Quakers were one group, at the heart of the English Revolution. These origins discomforted older Quakers. Who wanted to recall the image of James Nayler in 1656 riding into Bristol on a donkey as a sign of the Second Coming, or the adoration by those followers who believed him to be the true Messiah?
Consequently, the Quakers' response to persecutions after 1660 was stoical, sometimes apocalyptical. They would unnerve their tormentors even in the midst of their sufferings by seeking to convert them. More than that, those on the outside remained undaunted by the imprisonment of fellow Quakers, continuing in their `insolence' to meet in worship. The pattern repeated itself everywhere: no sooner was a prominent member arrested (Fox at Swarthmore in January 1664; Margaret Fell a month later) than even bigger congregations came together. The persecutions were clearly counter-productive. And predictably, whenever a leading Quaker was brought to trial, he or she was effectively given the floor to preach and convert. The despairing judge at Fox's Lancaster trial in 1664 sighed, `I would the laws were otherways.' They endured long months of the harshest of prison regimes, often made worse by the victimisation and cruelty of prison officers and governors. Francis Howgill, for example, festered in misery (but never relented in his faith) at Appleby until his death in 1669, `stuffed up for want of air, and at the mercy of a tyrannous gaoler'.
Quakers were an easy target. Whenever a plot, real or imaginary, was discovered, it was assumed that they (or Catholics) were involved. The prominent Puritan William Prynne was convinced that the Great Fire of London had been started by Catholics, and that Quakers were merely Catholics in disguise. Moreover, the law allowed relatively easy arrest and trial, though proving a case was more difficult. Quakers could be prosecuted for attending their own services, and imprisoned when they refused to take the oath in court. For that simple offence they could also be transported to the West Indies or North America, or heavily fined. Their meeting houses were knocked down in London, so they gathered in the rubble. Even when acquitted, they bounced back for more, inviting authorities to do their worst. Often they did.
Even though national political stability suggested the need for greater toleration, the forces of revenge were spurred on by sharp and durable memories of the troubles of the past twenty years, and endured in Parliament and Church. The immediate impetus to end the persecutions was the changed international and diplomatic climate in the 1670s, and the threat of war with the Dutch. Conflict abroad demanded greater domestic harmony, and from that need emerged the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672. Relief was immediate and Quakers turned their efforts to securing the release of `Friends' languishing in jail. Though Parliament sought to renew the attacks on Quakers in 1673, the high tide of persecution seemed to have receded, hut many of the old hateful memories lived on.
From 1670, the Friends, always swift to record the catalogue of attacks they suffered, now began to record incidents of toleration and sympathy. Non-Quaker neighbours would stand up for them when their goods and possessions were impounded by local officialdom. Sometimes even the officials themselves refused to implement what they knew to be unjust orders against Quakers. Gradually they were accepted into the local way of running things: made executors of wills, for example, or given a role in helping the poor. Non-Quakers even began to attend Quaker funerals. Mutual trust developed and Quakers came to be accepted where once they had been reviled and attacked.
The best remembered political disputes of those years were concerned with more elevated issues: the power of Parliament versus the King, and the right of the King to choose his own faith. In the struggle against the Catholic James II, Parliament found itself locked into a more fundamental battle than it had experienced with Quakers, but in some regions the authorities continued to feel the need to persecute Quakers and others as a means of enforcing and maintaining political power. Meeting houses were pillaged and destroyed (Bristol and London were especially badly hit); Quaker children were not spared. Often the authorities had to dig out old legislation to sanction their actions, so that even in relatively benign times there were hundreds of imprisoned Quakers. When James II ascended the throne in 1685, there were 1,383 in jail (200 of them women) and more than 100 had died in custody over the past eight years. It was owing to these circumstances that the `Meetings for Sufferings' were convened and continued thereafter to record details of Quaker affairs.
Much of this persecution was inspired by high politics in London, but the details, the specific pains and penalties heaped upon Quaker, heads had more to do with local enmities and jealousies. Informers or worried clerics, uncertain landowners or hesitant officials all felt the need to exact social and political reprisals as a means of securing their own position, and perhaps grasping some bounty afforded by the Quakers. The balance sheet of `suffering' -- death, personal endurance, fines, confiscated property, ruined businesses and expropriation -- was long. The Restoration period had witnessed perhaps more than 15,000 such instances. Yet this miserable litany of pain and distress elicited a remarkable display of fortitude and durability from the Quakers. Far from being destroyed, bankrupted or downhearted, they thrived. It was becoming clear that intimidatory Acts of Parliament, punative magistrates and judges, and hateful neighbours were not having the desired effect but quite the contrary. In the late seventeenth century Quakers were flourishing: one Cumberland Friend remarked that `they flock to our meetings like doves to the windows'.
Suspicions on a more national scale continued to come the way of the Quakers whenever a plot or rebellion was uncovered (most spectacularly, Monmouth's rebellion in 1685), but dissenters found themselves largely tolerated and sometimes encouraged. Friends were even invited to take local office. The lesson that a greater degree of toleration was the only way to secure national political stability, whatever the theological bent of the incumbent monarch, was quickly learned by William III when he landed at Torbay on 5 November 1688 to remove James II and protect the Protestant Establishment against the threat of Catholic control.
The new monarch believed that the nation would be best served by harnessing the abilities and talents of its dissenters, men and women of enterprise, initiative and strength; still less could it afford costly and counter-productive persecutions for reasons which seemed increasingly anachronistic. Within months of the accession of William and Mary, the Toleration Act of 1689 had moved quickly through Parliament. It was designed, as the preamble stated, to be `an effectual means to unite Their Majesties' Protestant subjects in interest and affection'; in practice, toleration was to be more liberal than the Act specified. Major discrimination continued, of course (and was not to he legislated against until the early nineteenth century), but the year marked a major turning-point in the history of the Quaker community.
Two years later George Fox died having endured a life of persistent persecution, as had his followers. Yet Fox had lived long enough to see his efforts (allied to others) rewarded by a large, thriving and committed following. From the upheavals of the Civil War, through the factional disputes of the Interregnum and the oppression of the Restoration, they had survived. It was appropriate and typical that when the pall-bearers gathered to carry Fox to his grave in London's Bunhill Fields, `for a considerable time there was nothing but deep sighs, groans and tears and roaring to admiration, and, after that all had vented and eased themselves, and grew quiet in their minds'. One man present thought that the occasion `resembled that day when the apostles were met together and the mighty power of God fell upon them'. At the end of Fox's life it was hard to recall that troubled youth wandering the lanes of the Midlands and the North in search of spiritual satisfaction. Though his leadership was often disputed, by the time of his death the movement he had come to personify had grown to an estimated 50,000 Quakers (quite apart from those thriving in Pennsylvania).
By the last years of the seventeenth century, the Quakers were led and managed from London. Membership had taken root in many other regions and the North was no longer the main centre of activity, though it could still claim to be their spiritual birthplace. But Quakers everywhere were different; different from other religious groups in almost every respect. They had evolved a style of conduct both at worship and in their private lives which stood in sharp contrast to the world at large. The first Quaker organisations emerged, naturally enough, to cater for their parochial needs. Regional meetings had begun to spread in the North in the 1650s, then, prompted by Fox, annual meetings were called in London. In the counties, Quakerism organised itself through the Particular, Monthly and Quarterly Meeting (the last charged with monitoring the overall conduct and well-being of local life). There was an inevitable overlap in the concerns of these various meetings, but they formed a structure of management which allowed the London headquarters to keep in touch with events and developments in the smallest of communities.
Between 1699 and 1798 the Northern Yearly Meeting reflected the origins of the movement, but the Yearly Meeting in London served to co-ordinate business at national and regional level, while the Monthly and Quarterly Meeting channelled business upwards from local meetings. Yet Quaker feeling continued to be characterised by strong individualism; by an element of `religious anarchism'. Reactions against Fox's centralised form of organisation periodically surfaced, especially in the North, where in the 1670s John Story and John Wilkinson threatened separation. Such tensions were partly theological, but they also challenged Fox's authoritarian leadership. Many bridled against his tone and his conviction, which came out repeatedly in the London's meetings, that he alone had a monopoly on truth.
However, the Quakers needed more than an efficient organisation; they also required principled rules and specified conventions which could provide the basic tenets of Quaker conduct and belief: the bedrock of Quaker life and behaviour. Beginning in 1682, the Yearly Meeting asked three simple questions of the various representatives about numbers, imprisonments, and the state of local Quakerism. They were designed to provide the factual information that they required to function properly. By the early eighteenth century, the number of such questions had greatly increased, replies were recorded and the whole exercise had subtly changed `to ensure consistency of conduct among Friends and to obtain information as to the state of the society'. As problems were revealed (a fall in Quaker membership, for example) new strategies were devised, and a more coherent structure of control and discipline evolved. There thus emerged the Queries and Advices which, though changing from time to time, became their guiding rules. In the words of Quaker Elders in Yorkshire in 1652, `these may be fulfilled in the Spirit -- not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life'. If we are looking for a written code or constitution for Quakerism, it can be found here in the varied Advices published over the years. These Advices provided the precepts which shaped their personal and communal lives; not only the theological outlook but also the conduct of daily life, including outside businesses.
The London Yearly Meeting dispatched Queries to the Quarterly Meeting, seeking answers and advice. By the end of the eighteenth century such missives going back and forth had become the broad outline of contemporary Quaker philosophy; an accumulating corpus of judgement and suggestions which, though never sanctified as philosophy, in fact acted precisely in that way. They formed, in effect, the ideology and principles of the movement which was paralleled by an ever-tighter control exercised over Quaker life and worship. An ad hoc London committee read and monitored all their publications, excluding unwanted ideas and rejecting those manuscripts which diverged too sharply from Fox's ideas of harmony and organisation. From about 1675 onwards, the key decision-maker had been the `Meeting for Sufferings'. It regulated ministers and meetings, negotiated with the authorities, helped Quakers in distress and acted as a pressure group on behalf of their broader interests. Throughout, the conduct of Quaker business was undertaken in the spirit of worship; none the less it was businesslike, thorough and meticulously minuted from first to last.
As Quaker philosophy evolved, it was inevitable that disciplinary action would be taken against those who transgressed. A much tighter control developed than the early Quakers could ever have imagined, and those who `walked disorderly' could expect at least a reprimand, even exclusion. Individualism was gradually brought to heel and subordinated to what was deemed the broader general good. This evolution took place during years of persecution to defend Quaker interests and individuals, and to deflect external enemies and threats. This self-regulating, self-supporting community thus devised a form of organisation that survived till modern times, the foundations of which were laid as a means of self-preservation and mutual protection in the years from 1650 to 1700.
At the same time there emerged the distinctive physical face of Quakerism. They needed a place of worship and to meet, so local groups consolidated and pooled resources, and they acquired, constructed or converted buildings for their own unique use. In the early years, Quaker preachers had spoken wherever was necessary, preaching in open spaces to large crowds, converting, praying and working from within private homes. Subsequent meeting houses sometimes betrayed their domestic origins: `Sarah Sawyers', `Widow Webbs', and `The Bull and Mouth' revealed their varied sources. Often built by the co-operative help of members, meeting houses developed standard features: the simple benches, the gallery, an upper room (initially used by women). Like Quakers themselves, these houses were simple, unpretentious and functional; early ones were often remote, in part a reflection of Quaker farming roots. A number were pulled down and destroyed in the persecutions; others have decayed and been lost in the intervening years. But a clutch of those early original buildings survive to this day -- some in private hands, some still in use as meeting houses -- where we can catch some sense of their appealing tranquillity.
This tranquillity stood in contrast to the early history of the movement. Conceived in the upheavals of revolution and civil war, by the time of Fox's death in 1691 it had been refined into a national organisation with headquarters in London, committed to active missionary work across the country and alert to the need for self-preservation. The instinct to be mutually helpful was to become of prime importance as Quakerism moved into a new phase. With the age of persecution passed, Quakers were able to flourish in a more tolerant climate. Henceforth they directed their energies to assisting each other, no longer as a defence but for personal and communal self-advancement. The tactics, organisation and ideology which had been fashioned to stave off hostility provided the very basis for a great deal of Quaker success to come in a more benign religious and political world. " (George Fox and Friends)
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