The Beginnings of Quakerism

By William C. Braithwaite | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
QUAKERISM AT THE BEGINNING OF 1654

We met together often and waited upon the Lord in pure silence, from our own words and all men's words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt His word in our hearts to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the Light of Christ in us . . . and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns and ways, and denied ourselves, our relations and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord. . . . And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, . . . we received often the pouring down of the Spirit upon us . . . and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, . . . and the glory of the Father was revealed; and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty and to the Lamb for ever, who had redeemed us to Gods and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death,--and all this was by and through and in the Light of Christ within us.--EDWARD BURROUGH, Epistle to the Readers prefixed to Fox Great Mistery.

AT this point we may turn aside for a time from watching the hurrying drama of a victorious cause in order to consider the life and practice of the newly born Quaker communities. Group-life of the simplest kind began inevitably and naturally from the first; indeed, it was characteristic of Fox that he won men to an acceptance of his message, not merely as individuals but most often in groups. The Mansfield "Children of the Light," the Balby circle, the great Preston Patrick community, the Swarthmore household, the groups scattered up and down Cumberland and Cheshire, are illustrations of this, and it seems probable that Quakerism has always consisted of compact bodies of Friends in a limited number of localities. These groups, as we have seen, consisted most often of pre-existing church-fellowships, spiritually prepared for the message of Fox. They were composed

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