WHAT MADE EARLY FRIENDS DANGEROUS?
Rosemary Moore, in her book The Light in Their Consciences, gives a compelling glimpse into the 17th century. Her book and Hugh Barbour’s book The Quakers in Puritan England, are two I commend to you if you want to understand our spiritual ancestors and don’t happen to have the time to read dozens of their journals and other 17th century publications. Following are some reflections drawn from those books and others on what made early Friends a danger to evil and anything other than truth.
The inward knowledge of Christ/The Light
“In those days the world and the things of it were not near our hearts, but the love of God … we were glad one of another’s company, though sometimes our outward fare was very mean, and our lodging on straw.” William Edumunson
“I landed at Carrickfergus there a trooper readily lent me his horse, and’ I rode that evening home to Antrim, where my wife lived; when I came to the door, my brother came forth to salute me with his usual compliments; but the Lord’s Power seized upon me at that instant, he was struck amazed, went in, and sat down silent. I was much broken in the power of the Lord before them, and my brother made no opposition but received the Truth and joined with it.
“I returned to Carrickfergus to bring my goods ashore, but the officers required an oath to the truth of my bills of parcels, arid, not suffering them to come ashore without it, would have seized upon my goods. I told them, I could not swear, it was contrary to Christ’s command,. which seemed a strange thing to them, having not met with he like before; but the Lord’s Truth and testimony was precious to me, and after some time, with much difficulty, I got an order to bring my goods to the custom house: my deportment to the officers and others herein was a wonder to them, and caused much discourse, and various rumors to ‘be spread of the Quakers, and of me in particular.” William Edmundson (P. 13-14)
The power of the Cross
“When my cry is often, Lord reveal they Way unto me, that I may walk therein, whatever I undergo. But when I found the way so strait and narrow, I could very willingly have turned aside for ease; for Flesh and Blood could not bear that which I had to undergo; but blessed and renowned be the Spirit of Truth, my Comforter, which leds into all Truth; . . . And also what Happiness might be recieved by taking heed to the Light that shined in my Heart, which makes manifest, that the way to the Crown of Glory is through the daily cross to my own Will, and to take Christ’s Yoke upon that Nature that would not be subject.” JoanVokins.
“Therefore Faithfulness is very needful, for it doth produce a good effect, whatever we may endure; for the momentary Affliction that we meet with here, doth produce a further weight of Glory hereafter.” Joan Vokins
Their love for each other and for their enemies
“We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love and unity. It is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same. [We] do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, that was against the soul, which we wait for, and watch for in all people. [We] love and desire the good of all. For no other cause but love to the souls of all people have our sufferings been.”
Truth-telling & willingness to speak up – and conviction that they knew truth and must bring all others to it
“Our yes is yea. . . and our nay is nay. . . . Let us suffer as much for breaking [our word] as for breaking an oath.” George Fox, “Our Covenant wtih God and with All Men is Peace” (London, 1660): [Barbour p. 172]
“Your life and your Words are a Terrour to all that speak not Truth; in your dealings . . . your lives do judge them; and through your Constancy, Faithfulness and Life, which is Everlasting, you bring many to Amendment: For both Life, Actions, Words & Conversation preach . . . to the unrighteous world.” George Fox, “A Line of Righteousness Stretched Forth” (London, 1674) p. 8 [Barbour p. 160]
”The Lord is very near thee. Oh! That thou wouldst consider it, and see His hand, that thereby thou mayst learn righteousness, and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord, that so thy throne may be established; and that thou wouldst see the Lord Testifying, that He doth not love pride, vanity and vain glory; that now, in the very time of your joy, hath turned it into mourning. The God of power give you to understand His will and mind, that thou mayst make Him thy joy, who hath the life and breath of all men in His hand.” Margaret Fell’s letters, to King Charles the Second, and the Dukes of York and Gloucester, she writes (Life of Margaret Fox, p. 27)
“When Friends were brought before judges, ‘if they give them the hat, it is a civil thing; it pacifies the rage of the transgressor . . . but break down his Idol and bring him . . . to seek the honour which comes from . . . God . . . and not give him the hat honour . . . and he will rage.’” George Fox, An Instruction to Judges and Lawyers That They May Act and Judge as the Judges Did of Old (London, 1659 or 1660), p. 6 (Barbour, p. 166):
Their freedom from shame
“Whilst I was at sea, self reasoned strongly to save the duty of my goods, for I had an opportunity to do it, the troop my brother belonged to quartering at Carrickfergus and Belfast, who would have helped me night or day, but I durst not do it, my conscience being awakened to plead for truth, justice, and equity; yet there was a great contest betwixt conscience and self, and in this conflict many Scriptures were opened in my understanding, that duties and customs ought to be paid; and though self struggled hard for mastery, yet at last was overthrown, and the judgment of Truth prevailed.” William Edmundson, Journal (P. 13).
“In the spring following  1 removed with my family from Antrim, to live in the county of Armagh, there took a house, and grazing for my cattle, and kept a shop of some merchant goods, where I became the talk and gazing stock of, and to the people; professors [those who Professed religion] watched me narrowly to get occasion against me and the principles of Truth I professed, but the Lord strengthened me in my watch over my words and deeds, so cut off occasion from them that sought occasion against the Truth and me.” William Edmundson, Journal (p. 14)
“In those days, to use the true, plain and proper speech, as thee and thou to a single person, and keeping on the hat, were strange things to People, and few could suffer them to be used on occasion; but would reflect in abusive words, and sometimes use blows, or throw stones. The keeping to one price in selling goods, and to the first asking without abatement, was a great stumbling block to most sorts of people, and made them stand at a distance from buying for some time, until they saw further into the justice of the manner thereof. All things were rough and rugged in the world, and the cross of Christ was foolishness and stumbling block to them….” William Edmundson, Journal (p.15)
“A knot of my old Acquaintances, espying me, came to me . . . and . . . saluted me after the usual manner, putting off their Hats and Bowing, and saying, ‘Your Humble Servant, Sir,’ expecting, no doubt, the like from me. But when they saw me standing still . . . They were amazed: ‘What? Tom, a Quaker?’ To which I readily and cheerfully answered, ‘Yes, a Quaker.’ And as the words passed out of my mouth I felt joy spring in my Heart . . that I had Strength and Boldness given me, to Confess my self to be one of that despised People.” Others found a stronger reaction. The families of Richard Atkinson and Ellis Hookes would not let them come home and several were disowned by their families or as apprentices, put under pressure by their masters or kicked out of apprenticeships for refusing to take oaths. Thomas Ellwood, (Barbour p. 161)
Their energy and willingness to give up the comforts of home (and even “duty” to care for their children) AND Their Willingness to suffer rather than deny truth
“The Lord has provided for our souls and our bodies are freely given up to serve him.”
“She was ravished with the love of God to her soul and her Beloved was the chiefest of ten thousand: she did not fear the face of anyone, though she felt their arrows.”
“But whensoever we were brought upon any trial, the Lord did take away all fear from us and multiplied our strength and gave us power and boldness to plead for the truth of the Lord Jesus and wisdom of words to stop the mouths of gainsayers.” Katherine Evans, 1657
WAYS IN WHICH EARLY FRIENDS SUPPORTED ONE ANOTHER
1. Reducing the effects of persecution by seeking public sympathy
2. Local Meetings tracking who was suffering and providing support
3. Use of the Law both through lobbying and use of the court system
4. Threatening Disaster to Persecutors
5. Development of a Theology of Suffering: Taking Up the Cross Daily