The Beginnings of Quakerism

By William C. Braithwaite | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
CHURCH ORGANIZATION

Being orderly come together, . . . proceed in the wisdom of God . . . not in the way of the world, as a worldly assembly of men, by hot contests, by seeking to outspeak and overreach one another in discourse, as if it were controversy between party and party of men, or two sides violently striving for dominion, . . . not deciding affairs by the greater vote, . . . but in the wisdom, love and fellowship of God, in gravity, patience, meekness, in unity and concord, . . . all things to be carried on; by hearing and determining every matter coming before you, in love, coolness, gentleness, and dear unity; --I say as one only party, all for the Truth of Christ, and for the carrying on of the work of the Lord, and assisting one another in whatsoever ability God hath given; and to determine of things by a general mutual concord, in assenting together as one man in the spirit of truth and equity, and by the authority thereof.--EDWARD BURROUGH, Testimony concerning the setting up of the Men's Meeting in London, Letters of Early Friends, p. 305.

IN a former chapter we described Quakerism as it existed in the North at the beginning of 1654, prior to the great extension work which was to carry its message into the farthest corners of England by the close of the following year. We noted the group-life and strong fellowship of the new movement, its nascent energy and universal mission, its guidance by the vital forces of personal conviction and inspired leadership rather than by discipline and organization. We traced the early provision made for the aggressive work of "the camp of the Lord," and the place occupied by the itinerating Publishers of Truth. We brought into prominence the few simple institutions which satisfied the early needs of the Quaker fellowship,--the regular meetings for waiting on the Lord, the local leaders or Elders, the Monthly Meetings of Elders and General Meetings for Friends of a district, and the practical arrangements which were beginning to

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