In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab; and half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but the language of each people. And I contended with them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair; and I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women?” – Nehemiah 13:23-26 (RSV)

*   *   *

Here we are again, blaming the women. But what was really wrong with the Jewish men that they didn’t find wives who shared their culture? How I wish we’d hear this history from their side!

As a wrote at the time, a Friend “had mentioned something thee had raised in conversation – about how Plain sects seem to be closed societies, rather than reaching out to preach the gospel to all peoples. (If I understood rightly.) Actually, after a few generations, all denominations seem to close in – Plain or Fancy. It happened to the Methodists as well as the Mennonists. The Plain ones simply stand out from society a little more. He contended that the Mennonites went about it wrong from the very beginning – rather than going to the people first, they attempted to reform the church first. Friends, of course, went loudly into the marketplace as well as the churchyard – which is why they could raise 250,000 to 400,000 members within a few years. It wasn’t until the Wesleyan revivalism of the 1740s and on, when everybody else was trying to ‘save’ people by bringing them to the altar to repeat a few words, that Friends felt to emphasize that what happened after accepting Christ was important – that just because we had accepted an altar call, we could continue in our old, sinful ways – and thus we began tightening the screws on our discipline. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to observe the outside of a person – and administer the discipline there – than the inner person. Which can lead us back into legalisms and phariseeism. (As thee well knows and rails against. Rightfully. Now, back to the inner person …)”

*   *   *

That I may be rightly understood, let me acquaint my Reader, Neither do I assert, that those who are set out as Travellers in Sion’s Road, are at once so perfectly instructed in all the Paths thereof, that they need not to inquire of those who are gone before, which is the Way thither, whose Experiences may be to them of use, for escaping the Snares which the subtil Fowler layeth to catch Souls in, both on the Right-hand and on the Left, that so they may walk right forward with their Faces Sionward, until they shall come to sit down in Heavenly Places … (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

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