You are now far enough along in your study of Quaker history to be aware that early Friends believed their movement to be a genuine uprising of “primitive Christianity restored.” A keystone of that outpouring was George Fox’s proclamation, “Christ has come to teach his people himself,” wiping away centuries of darkness, disobedience, and apostasy.
I know of no other collection like the Bible. One of the best descriptions of what occurs in a 1953 statement by Friends General Conference:
The Bible means a “library.” It contains the records of the search for God by the Hebrews (Jews); and as they grew and changed, so did their idea of God. The Bible contains myths, legends, poetry, laws, prophecies, history, biography, drama, short stories, and novels, as well as the oldest riddle in the world, the oldest detective story, and the oldest battle-hymn. … Of course the Bible was written by many people over hundreds of years. Not all of it applies to our problems today: not all of it is about good men [or good women], but the more we read, the more fascinated we become and the more we want to read and study. If we do this intelligently, we will find the Bible truly a source of joy, help, and interest all our lives and a pathway to God for each one of us.
The collection also contains Wisdom literature, rigorous extensions of theology (Job, Romans, and Hebrews), administrative decisions (the epistles), personal letters (the epistles, again), and basic day-to-day regulations ranging from Kosher diets to issues of social justice and peace. While the books of the Hebrew Bible were carefully copied and proof-read over centuries, those of the New Testament was often written and copied quickly on the run, errors and all.
In the Daybook this blog presented last year, I hoped to give readers a sampling of those riches.
Here, more than in other Friends’ writings I’ve read, come suggestions of bridging the Light-based theology of Quaker faith and the more Trinitarian teachings of conventional Christianity. Notice how Elizabeth Bathurst (1655?-1685) places the crucifixion within each person’s heart and not merely at Calvary:
- I affirm, they [Quakers] faithfully own the Scriptures: And therefore what John the Divine saw in his Revelations concerning him … That he (to wit, Christ) was the Lamb slain from the Foundation of the World.
- To be the Brightness of the Father’s Glory, and the express Image or Character of his Substance (for so the Word Person ought to be rendred) by whom also he made the Worlds. And therefore I believe, and so do they in whose Behalf I write, that Jesus Christ is very God.
- Forasmuch as the Children are Partakers of the Flesh and Blood, he also took Part of the same, that through Death he might destroy him that had the Power of Death, that is the Devil. So that his Strength being broken, and his Power destroyed by the Captain of our Salvation, if we resist him stedfast in the Faith, he will flee from us, as ’tis written, James iv. 7.
- For they do believe the Resurrection of the Dead; for if the Dead rise not, they are of all Men most miserable. What can be a Balance of an equal Prize with the Trials, Exercises, Afflictions and Persecutions that are their Lot and Portion in this Life, short of an eternal Inheritance, and a Crown of Glory that fadeth not away?
- But because they dare not be so foolishly inquisitive as to ask, nor so arrogant in their Minds as to determine with what Bodies they shall rise; therefore do some say, They deny the Resurrection of the Body of Christ, and of all that are or shall be dead.
- For the Wages of Sin is Death, but the Gift of God is Eternal Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Now if any shall think I have raised this Principle too high, let them read Rom. viii. 11. and they will find the Apostle speaking expresly, If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the Dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the Dead, shall also quicken your mortal Bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
- Behold all Things are become new: Lo here is a new Creature, as there is a putting off the old Man with his Deeds: There is a passing away of the first Heavens and the first Earth, and then behold, new Heavens and a new Earth, wherein dwelleth Righteousness: As there is a Coming to this Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (which Law is inward, written in the Heart, and engraven on the inward Parts) there is a setting Free from the Law of Sin and Death: And so we come to know a Blotting out of the Law of Commandments contained in Ordinances, which was against us, and contrary to us, our Lord having taken them and nail’d them to his Cross.
- And that he was sent to the whole World, see what John the Evangelist saith, Chap. iii. 16. For God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting Life: To which the Apostle testifies, 1 John ii. 2. saying, He is the Propitiation for our Sins, and not for ours only, but for the Sins of the whole World.
- And was offered upon the Cross, not only as a propitiatory Sacrifice, to make Reconciliation for the Transgressors; but that by his once offering up of himself, he might bring in everlasting Righteousness, and perfect for ever them that are sanctified; and a Measure, I say, of this his Power, which is Light, God hath placed in every Person’s Heart, in order to their Sanctification, as they shall be subject to this his Appearance in them.