The Beginnings of Quakerism

By William C. Braithwaite | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
QUAKERISM AT THE END OF 1660

Our work in the world is to hold forth the virtues of Him that hath called us; . . . to forget our country, our kindred, our father's house, and to live like persons of another country, of another kindred, of another family: not to do anything of ourselves and which is pleasing to the old nature: but all our words, all our conversation, yea, every thought in us is to become new. Whatever comes from us is to come from the new principle of life in us and to answer that in others; but we must not please the old nature at all in ourselves nor in anyone else. . . . We are also to be witnesses for God and to propagate His life in the world, to be instruments in His hand to bring others out of death and captivity into true life and liberty. We are to fight against the powers of darkness everywhere, as the Lord calleth us forth. And this we are to do in His wisdom, according to His will, in His power and in His love, sweetness and meekness.-- ISAAC PENINGTON, Works, 1784 edn. i. 91.

MANY of the developments in Quakerism which are of most significance to the student of Church history had not taken place by the year 1660. The Quaker groups were already vividly conscious of their special fellowship with one another, but they still regarded themselves as a spiritual Israel within the nation rather than as a separated sect. Organization and Church discipline were as yet only in an incipient stage, and, as we have seen, the personal leadership of strong local Friends and of the itinerating Publishers of Truth was the main dominating and regulating influence. The pattern conduct of these leaders was still a thing of living example and inspiration and had not become a matter of orthodox tradition, as would be the case when the first generation of Friends began to pass away. A unique instrument for spiritual education was afforded by the meeting for worship. It was in these early years the most potent agent for what we should now call the "intensive" work of the Church,

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