In a recent blog post, For the Love of Stories: Imagining Quakerism Beyond Belief, The Armchair Theologian posits the need to return to the stories of our beginnings, to sit with these stories even if they are uncomfortable to our modern ideologies, to live these stories. This advice he directs to Universalist, Christian, and Non-theist Friends. In this three part series, it is not my purpose to summarize his blog post. Part one considered the source of these stories, part two looked at the belief that undergirds the stories, and part three focuses on the consequences of living these stories.
There are consequences to living these stories. As you can see from the stories in parts one and two, you have come to the God who speaks to his people, demanding an appropriate response in return. Edward Burrough, convinced by Fox’s Firbank Fell sermon, gives us some detail of that process.
And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works….So that all these things concerning man, and concerning the times and seasons, and the changing and renewing of times, and all things that pertain to salvation, and redemption, and eternal life, needful for man to know, all these were revealed, discovered, and made known to us, by the light which was in us, which Christ had lighted us withal.(Works, Vol. III pp. 11-12)
The consequence of this enlightment was that they could no longer participate in the religions made by man, even practices they had formerly enjoyed. Burrough stated:
And so we ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships…and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion…by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and 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 while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires…we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us…as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance…this is the sum: life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared unto us,…and the holy anointing, the everlasting comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the promise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, whereby we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and covenant with the Lord God…We were raised from death to life, and changed from satan’s power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest.
But the consequences did not stop with “so we ceased…” they were called, in the power of God, to confront evil. And so evil rose up and persecuted them in the flesh, but it could not overcome them nor touch the life of Christ within them. Burrough described it in the following words:
And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes; and he hath called us to make war in righteousness for his name’s sake against hell and death, and all the powers of darkness, and against the beast and false prophet, which have deceived the nations….not with weapons that are carnal, but by the sword that goes out of his mouth, which shall slay the wicked, and cut them to pieces….thus hath the Lord chosen us and made us an army dreadful and terrible, before whom the wicked do fear and tremble; and our standard is truth, justice, righteousness, and equity; and all that come unto us, must cleave thereunto, and fight under that banner without fear, and without doubting, and they shall never be ashamed nor put to flight, neither shall they ever be conquered by hell or death, or by the powers of darkness; but the Lord shall be their armour, weapon, and defence for evermore. And they that follow the Lamb shall overcome, and get the victory over the beast, and over the dragon, and over the gates of hell; for the Lord is with us, and who shall be able to make us afraid?
Then having thus armed us with power, strength, and wisdom, and dominion, according to his mind, and we having learned of him, and being taught of him in all things, and he having chosen us into his work, and put his sword into our hand, and given us perfect commission to go forth in his name and authority, having the word from his mouth what to cut down and what to preserve, and having the everlasting gospel to preach to the inhabitants of the earth, and being commanded in spirit to leave all, and follow him, and go forth in his work, yea an absolute necessity was laid upon us, and wo unto us if we preached not the gospel.(Works, Vol. III, pp.13-14)
You can read more of what Edward Burrough wrote about this at my page: Edward_Burrough_Intro
These stories of the early Quakers are testimonies to the power of the risen Christ at work in the hearts of those who receive his light. This power is neither acceptable nor accessible to those who will not believe the voice of God calling mankind out of darkness into light, away from the power of Satan to the power of God, and out of death into life. This transformation can’t be accomplished by man’s own strength and power. It can’t come about by the techniques of the many religions of the world, including the Christian religion. Its only source is hearing and obeying the Word in whom is the life that is the light of men.