The Beginnings of Quakerism

By William C. Braithwaite | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE MISSION TO THE SOUTH (1654)

From the dales and fells and from the country-sides of the North went out a band of preachers whose names are hardly known to the historian, but whose lives and teaching had the deepest influence on seventeenth-century England. Simple yeomen most of them, whose message came more strongly through the spoken word than the written page: men whose writings make difficult reading after two centuries and a half of time, but of whose spirit we can in some measure get glimpses in the brief spiritual autobiographies which not a few left behind them, and in the "testimonies" which their friends published after their death to bear witness to the truth for which they had lived.-- T. EDMUND HARVEY, The Rise of the Quakers, p. 71.

THE new faith that had been cradled in the nooks and corners of the North was now to prove its worth in a wider world, where it would find less generous welcome. The envious priests had said, "The Quakers would not come into any great towns, but lived in the fells like butterflies."1 There was some truth in this. Just as the secluded highlands of Judaea were the fit home for the earnest hearts waiting for the redemption of Israel, among whom Christ was born,2 so, in the stirring Commonwealth times, the country districts of the North furnished receptive soil for the Quaker message, which could not appeal to a larger audience until it had rooted itself strongly in these favourable spots. Many of the travelling ministers in later years must have felt like Richard Roper of Cartmel, who wrote to Margaret Fell:3 "Truly Friends in the North is rare and precious, very

____________________
1
Journ. i. 413; cf. Short Journ.
2
Sanday Outlines of the Life of Christ, pp. 22, 23.
3
20th October 1656, Swarthm. Colln. iii.131.

-153-

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