The Missing Cross to Purity


WORSHIP GUIDELINES

Summary

Below are the references to meetings taken as excerpts from several of George Fox's writings, one of Francis Howgill's, and one of Isaac Penington's. The early Quakers' worship meetings took place on First-day, (Sunday). In the beginning they met in houses, fields, and barns. Later, they met in 'meeting houses.' There was no one designated as the pastor to preach a sermon. There was no group singing, Bible reading, or group praying in unison from text or memory. Instead, everyone assembled quietly and then began to wait in silence for the guidance, teaching, and leading of the Holy Spirit and the Light within each of them.

No one came to the meeting with any agenda to present or anything prepared to say. That would violate the Spirit of the meeting: to be totally controlled by the Holy Spirit at that moment. As people would get silent and think on the name of Jesus, there would be individuals who were told by the Holy Spirit to share some revelations that they had just received, (or to stand and prophesy), and there were the newly convinced, seized by the Holy Spirit to utter their groans, their joys, and their pleas. Spirit-inspired singing was recognized and allowed, and others joined in singing if they desired; but there was not set time for songs, nor was anyone's duty to lead in singing; everything was spirit inspired at the moment. Many revelations would be private to the individuals receiving them, without any requirement to share them. The business of the Society was carried out the next day in the Men's Meeting and the Women's Meeting.

Arguments were never permitted in a meeting. If there was a disagreement, a separate meeting was appointed to address the disagreement, without disturbing the entire group. The spiritually mature members of the group ruled on the disagreement. Even questions of scripture interpretation were discouraged in meetings - for the question too often created controversy among the immature in Christ, leading to groups forming sects that coalesced around a particular scripture interpretation, which was irrelevant to anyone's spiritual progress and only retarded those in sympathy with the controversy.

If anyone mistakenly violated these rules, they were not censored in the meeting; rather they were sought out after the meeting to be gently corrected by a spiritually mature member of the group who would not be seized by pride in the position of being the corrector, thereby deafening the ears of the person being corrected.

In this manner, the Holy Spirit controlled the entire worship; so no two people were moved to speak at the same time. The particulars of the shared revelations were most applicable to all.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24. So worship from your carnal mind, speaking from your mind's will, praying from you mind, reciting a previous teaching, singing from your mind, reading from the Bible - they are all out of a worship that is in spirit and truth and an abomination to the Lord. The Apostle Paul and the early Quakers termed such worship: will-worship. So no worship is in the Spirit, unless the Holy Spirit is controlling the sequence of events and the words, be it talk, singing, or prayer. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing [by the words of Christ dwelling within your heart] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Col 3:16.

Further scriptural backup to such a meeting: 1 Cor 14:26-33

26 How is it then, brothers? When you assemble together, may everyone of you have a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (But not brought already prepared; rather all was received in the meeting from the Spirit.)
27 If any men speak in an unknown tongue, let it be limited to two, or at the most to three, and that by taking turns; and let one interpret.
28 But if there is no interpreter, let them keep silence in the church; and let them speak to themselves and to God.
29 Let two to three prophets [those inspired by the Spirit to teach or preach] speak, and let the others judge what they hear.
30 If anything is revealed to another that sits by, let the first cease talking [so that the second may declare his or her revelation].
31 In this way you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 For the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of order and peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Think about it. How can the Holy Spirit lead a service unless everyone is subject to the Spirit's direction by being simultaneously quiet to listen for the Spirit's teachings and promptings? Unless a person is prompted (at that moment) by the Holy Spirit to preach or prophesy, sing, or pray, the service is without the Spirit's control. If someone is preaching, singing, reading, and praying from a planned agenda, therefore from their carnal mind, etc., the Spirit can not be heard or lead - Be silent, oh all flesh before the Lord.” Zech 2:13. Paul said, so all can prophesy one by one. Note: there is no one preacher. Every man and woman, as prompted by the Spirit, is to speak; and there will not be multiple people speaking, because the spirit is in control. If one man is speaking, and another has something to say; the first is to yield to the second. This is the orderly service described in the Bible, but missed by almost all, due to preconceived notions of what a worship meeting must be.

Even Jesus did not judge, speak, or act without the Spirit's specific prompting :
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, John 5:30
whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.  John 12:49-50
the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord);
but He [the son] is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, John 5:19

He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory,
but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent him,
that man is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him. John 7:18.


To witness, preach, or teach without the Holy Spirit's specific promptings, is seeking your own glory and to estimate yourself above Jesus. John 7:18, Luke 6:40
Until you are purified with the Spirit speaking through you, your witnessing, teaching, and preaching will not reach the holy part of each person, and your growth will be retarded or stopped. (Teaching is why people can't hear, reach purity, and enter the Kingdom; they are in spiritual captivity because they are leading others into spiritual captivity by teaching errors.)

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but what the HolySpirit teaches. 1 Cor 2:13.

Men and women met in separate rooms or with a curtain running through the middle of a single room. As I understand, this was to avoid the distraction of the opposite sex in their waiting on the Lord; realize there was a spectrum of purity within each meeting: ancient Friends in the Kingdom and matured to Fathers and Mothers in Christ, down to the newly convinced, still with the spots of the world on them to be removed and thus still subject to the distractions of the opposite sex. Below Fox has a lot to say about the criticisms of this physical, but not spiritual separation.

There was a fellowship of their spirits that occurred in the Light. People became acquainted with each other's spirits. As Fox said in this excerpt from Letter 149:

All Friends everywhere,

Meet together, and in the measure of God's spirit wait,
that with it all your minds may be guided up to God, to receive wisdom from God.
That you may all come to know how you may walk up to him in his wisdom.
That it may be justified of you, and you in it preserved up to God, and be glorified.
And Friends meet together, and know one another in that which is eternal,
which was before the world was.
For knowing one another only in the letter and flesh,
differs you little from the beasts of the field;
for what they know they know naturally.
But all knowing one another in the light which was before the world was,
this differs you from the beasts of the field,
and from the world's knowledge,
and brings you to know one another in the elect seed which was before the world was.

....

In a letter to newly convinced believers, Francis Howgill gives us a little more description:

And wait for discerning, to have salt in yourselves, to know and savor one another in the spirit, and operation, and working of it; that being sensible, and feeling one another’s conditions in the spirit, you may speak to the informing of one another, to the building up on one another, in the precious faith. But be slow to speak, and swift to hear; and do not feed each other’s sensual wisdom, which is the serpent’s seat. For words without knowledge darken counsel, and betray simplicity.

From Alexander Parker's Letter, giving further guidance on meetings:

As it was the manner and practice of the holy men of God, (who were called in the light), to meet together to wait upon God, and to speak one to another, as the Spirit of Truth did move and give them utterance, for the strengthening one another, and building up one another in their most holy faith ;—so it is now judged proper and good for all who are called to be saints, to meet often together to wait upon the Lord,—that their strength may be renewed. So Friends, when you come together to wait upon God, come orderly in the fear of God. The first person who enters into the place of your meeting, should not be careless, nor wander up and down, either in body or mind; but innocently sit down in some place, and turn in your mind to the light, and wait upon God singly, as if none were present but the Lord; and here you are strong. Then the next that comes in, let them in simplicity of heart, sit down and turn in to the same light, and wait in the Spirit; and so all the rest coming in, in the fear of the Lord, sit down in pure stillness and silence of all flesh, and wait in the light; a few that are thus gathered by the arm of the Lord into the unity of the Spirit,—this is a sweet and precious meeting, where all meet with the Lord!

Those who are brought to a pure, still waiting upon God in the Spirit, are come nearer to the Lord than words are for God is a Spirit, and in the Spirit is he worshipped; so that my soul has dear union with you, who purely wait upon God in the Spirit, though not a word be spoken to the hearing of the outward ear. Here is the true feeding in the Spirit; and all who thus meet together to wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength daily. In such a meeting, where the presence and power of God is felt, there will be an unwillingness to part asunder, being ready to say in yourselves, "it is good to be here;" and this is the purpose and end of all words and writings—to bring people to the eternal living Word. So, all dear hearts, when you come together to wait upon God, come singly and purely; that your meetings together may be for the better, and not for the worse.

And if any be moved to speak words, wait low in the pure fear, to know the mind of the Spirit, where and to whom they are to be spoken. If any are moved to speak, see that they speak in the power; and when the power is still, you are still. All who speak of the movings of the Lord, I lay it as a charge upon you, to beware of abusing the power of God, in acting a wrong thing under pretence of being moved of the Lord;—for the pure power may move, and then the enemy, (who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour), he may present a wrong thing to the view of the understanding; and here is a danger of abusing the power, acting what the true power condemns, and yet pretending that the power moves to it;—this is a double sin. Therefore, let every one patiently wait, and not be hasty to run in the dark; but keep low in the true fear, that the understanding may be opened to know the mind of the Spirit; and then as the Spirit moves and leads, it is good to follow its leadings ;—for such are led into all truth. Thus, my Friends, as you keep close to the Lord, and to the guidance of his good Spirit, you shall not do amiss; but in all your services and performances in the worship of God, you shall be a good savor to the Lord; and the Lord will accept of your services, and bless and honor your assemblies with his presence and power.

Edward Burrough gives us further advice on speaking what has been heard:

Therefore wait in the power of God, and stand in the light, which is the armor against all temptations, by which the darkness and death, and he who has the power of death, is overcome, and all who love the light are guided by it. All dear Friends, who have tasted of the love and power of God, and do witness the rending of the earth, dwell in the power and pure fear of the Lord, that so all deceit may be kept down and under. Take heed of the false prophet's speaking, or allowing your minds to run out in the openings so that you can speak what is opened in the light.

We charge you all in the presence of the dreadful God of life and power, that you all wait in silence, and wait to have salt and savor in yourselves, to know the voice of Christ vs. the voice of the stranger for until that difference is known in yourselves, you are not able to judge. Therefore all wait in the light, which is the eye, which sees into the mysteries of the kingdom; and none to utter a word, but what you are divinely moved to,* or else that in everyone's conscience will bear witness against you. Do not be hasty, when you see things open in your minds; dwell in them, and do not run out to speak them, but treasure them up in your hearts, and take heed, and keep low in the fear of the Lord God, that pride and presumption do not get up, nor anything be exalted above what is pure.

* To be divinely moved you must be able distinguish the divine voice vs. the devil's voice.

If you are not supposed to even speak a teaching you have heard until you can distinguish the voice of Christ vs. the voice of the stranger, you should definitely decline any order you hear to do anything for the Lord, (other than to repent), until you are sure which lord is ordering you.

Follow this advisory, and you will progress. Ignore it, and you will not progress; but you may think you are progressing because the devil will have you doing more and more things for the Lord, all of which you really wanted to do to begin with, but each thing you do, digs you deeper into delays. Should you repent and begin to follow this advisory, you will still have a delay in your progress that is proportional to the spiritual injuries that you caused to others with your false words and deeds.

For more on this subject see the guidelines to avoid deception in How to Benefit from the Changing Power of God by Waiting on the Lord.

Perhaps you can see how a meeting, without a spiritually discerning elder to monitor it, is at great risk for ambitious, immature persons to speak words from the wrong spirit, undetected, and therefore potentially damaging all the others in the meeting. That is why the Lord has said: "it is dangerous for the young to fellowship together."

In their meetings, they also enjoyed a fellowship with the Father and the Son. The frequent comments were: "we had, the Lord's presence being preciously among us" and "we all left the meeting greatly refreshed."

On First-day (Sunday) they met for several hours, beginning in the morning, with a break for the noon meal, and continuing in the afternoon. Further William Dewsbury writes: "Be not slack and backward, but faithful the Lord, in improving every opportunity for Friends to meet; and, in every town where Friends are scattered, lay the charge and care on some Friends who are most grown the truth, to see that they meet together to wait on the Lord three or four hours, as the Lord orders it, one night or two in the week."

The early Quakers used scriptures to test their leadings and teaching; knowing the Spirit of God would not conflict with the scriptures, at least when understood in the power of the Spirit. They knew that the Spirit was what had written the scriptures, so any teaching or directions they received would not conflict with the scriptures; and since it is written that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, they knew what was forbidden in the past would be forbidden in the future. They would never do something that the scriptures contradicted in context of the whole.

They were strongly counseled to never make any change in their proceedings that the elder members did not agree with. The younger was supposed to submit to the elder, who would obviously have more spiritual maturity. They understood that different people had different measures of the Spirit of Christ, not everyone was equal. As another great worthy of the Lord, Isaac Penington, said:

And Friends, you that are weak, bless God for the strong; you that have need of a pillar to lean upon, bless God, that has provided pillars in his house; and, in fear and the guidance of his Spirit, make use of these pillars; who are faithful, and have ability from God, in his power and glorious presence with them, to help to sustain his building, even as they had ability from the Lord to gather unto him. He that despises him that is sent, despises Him that sent him; and he that undervalues any gift, office, or work, that God has bestowed upon any person, despises the wisdom and disposal of the Giver. Are all fathers? Have all overcome the enemy? Are all grown up in the life? Are all stars in the firmament of God's power? Has God made all equal? Are there not different states, different degrees, different growths, different places, etc.?

Then, if God has made a difference, and given degrees of life, and gifts different, according to his pleasure; what wisdom and spirit is that, which does not  acknowledge this, but would make all equal? Oh my Friends! Fear before the Lord; honor the Lord in his appearances, and in the differences which he has made among the children of men, and among his people. He gave prophets of old, and the rest of the people were not equal with them. He gave evangelists, apostles, pastors, teachers, etc., and the other members of the churches were not equal with them. He has given fathers and elders now, and the babes and young men are not  equal with them. Thus it is, in truth, from the Lord; and what is of God in you, will so acknowledge it.

Therefore watch, everyone, to feel and know his own place and service in the body, and to be sensible of the gifts, places, and services of others; that the Lord may be honored in all, and everyone owned and honored in the Lord, and not otherwise.

William Caton, a young Quaker minister, was lamenting over his small stature in Christ, compared to some senior Quaker worthies he had observed, when the Lord gave him this classic understanding:

The Lord showed me how they that had much, had nothing left over; and they that had little, had no lack - just like it was with the Israelites of old. For the brethren who were wise and eminent, who had received much from the Lord, notice there was that much more required of them; so that of all they had, they had nothing over, but what they were to employ in the work and service of God.

The early Quakers insisted their members' conduct complied with Christian and the Assemblies' standards, (against lying, cheating, swearing, profane language, rage, adultery, conspicuous fashion, drunkenness, etc.). If a member violated those standards, members from his local assembly would plead privately with him to acknowledge his error and condemn his past actions, usually in writing. If the errant member admitted the error, the incident was forgotten. If the person refused to change, after repeated pleas and reasonings with them, they would be expelled from the assembly; and to preserve the Quakers' reputation, there would be a public notice that the person in question was no longer associated with Friends. This was done as a last resort after many pleadings, but was thought to be necessary to preserve the reputation of Truth and the unity of the spirit within the Society. Anyone expelled could return at any time, providing they condemned their past actions. By the same token, any report of misconduct investigated, which proved to be false, was traced to the originator, who was rebuked for "raising a false report on the people of God." Only the spiritually mature members were allowed to participate in decisions of discipline.

The scriptural backup for this is:

But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of [Christian] brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater [whose soul is devoted to anything that usurps the place of God], or is a person with a foul tongue [railing, abusing, reviling, slandering], or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. [No] you must not so much as eat with such a person. What [business] of mine is it and what right have I to judge outsiders? [But] Is it not those inside [the church] upon whom you are to pass disciplinary judgment? God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside. [But for insiders,] Drive out that wicked one from among you [expel him from your church]. 1 Cor 5:11-13  

And of course if those sort of believers cannot be expelled from your congregation, then you must leave: Come out of her my people! The voice of the Lord said, "They must withdraw from their sect to be taught;" and "withdraw from your sect, not out of pride and prejudice, but separate yourself long enough to see its false rulings." To be able to hear Christ's teachings, you must quietly withdraw from you deficit sect because he will not build you up on top of a false foundation. See 'Sect's Services' for more detail.

From George Fox's Letter on Covetousness:

So the apostle here does not speak of the fornicators, and covetous idolaters, and extortionists of the world, which were without; for God judges such. But the saints, the apostles, and the true church were to judge them that practiced such things within the church, showing the true christian's church had a power; and not to keep company nor to eat with such, professing Christ, that were of such practices, knowing that the unrighteous should not inherit the kingdom of God, nor drunkards, nor fornicators, thieves, railers, extortionists, nor covetous idolaters; they that lived in these evils, were not like to inherit the kingdom of God; for they were defiled, unwashed, and not sanctified nor justified, etc. So that if the saints did keep company, or did eat with such unwashed, unsanctified, unjustified persons, or have fellowship with them, they took the members of Christ and joined them to an harlot; for he that is joined to an harlot, is one body; ‘for two,’ said he, ‘shall be one flesh.’ And therefore, the saints' bodies are members of Christ; God forbid they should be joined to harlots, or that they should make them members of an harlot. ‘And he that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit:’ And the saints' bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which proceeds from God and Christ, and being bought with a price, the blood of Christ, and washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus Christ by the spirit of God, they are to glorify God in their bodies, souls, and spirits, which are God's which he has given to them to glorify him withal; glory to his name forever.

See George Fox's letter 391 for more.

One reason the Quaker faith deteriorated is because, in the name of tolerance and love, they failed to insist on standards of conduct from their members; and a little leaven affects the whole loaf. They lost any resemblance to the 'unity of Holy Spirit,' replacing it with a diversity of spirits. Deterioration of their faith was sealed when the Quakers began denying any authority necessary within the Church, as was beginning in Fox's time. (Click here for his statements regarding this deception of supposed "freedom.") They also later gave up the requirement for the Scriptures to not be violated by their understandings, resulting actions, and resulting pursuits; rationalizing that the Spirit could conflict with and override the Scriptures - directly opposite to the early Quaker's fundamental tenet. Further, they dropped the requirement to never violate the elder's wishes in any changes to their policies or directions; instead, they substituted a consensus of opinion required, giving license to those spiritually immature persons, often the most aggressive in nature, to seize and control the direction of the church. These aggressive, immature persons, often attaining office in the Church, then began quarrelling over all sorts of matters, including scriptural, doctrine fine points, insisting their interpretations were correct in heated arguments attacking their opponents, leading to a series of splits in the Society, and forcing the true worshipers to leave. And of course, as they abandoned their faith in the divinity of Jesus, or even a belief in God, the Holy Spirit no longer presides over their meetings; therefore, they now bring preconceived statements to be shared in their meetings, as well as highlight their social actions. Thus their meetings are only a form of the original.

Consider these wise words of William Penn, written in response to John Perrot's run out from truth, stating that his inner light had shown him, in conflict to the Quaker practice, that removing his hat in prayer was wrong. Penn writes:

It is stated that men may acknowledge and believe the doctrine of the inward light of Christ, and yet mistake the suggestions of their own dark imaginations for the leadings of this divine light; and yet neither the profession nor the belief of being guided by it, can exempt those who are not really led by it, from the just judgment of those who are. If the mere profession of being led by the spirit of Truth could exonerate those who are strangers to it from the judgment and censure of such as actually walk in the Spirit, a door would be opened to all kinds of libertinism. Though it is the duty of all to walk in the light, and to wait for it, that by it they may be instructed in the way of life and salvation, yet it is they only who are actually led by it, that can rightly discern between the false spirits and the true.

The early Quaker government had one principal guarding tenet: make no changes unless the elder members of the assembly or church agree. When a less mature member, with pride still alive, seizes on some revelation that conflicts with the elders' spiritual understandings, that less mature member must defer, or else there will be chaos in the church. For certain, Satan will always attempt to introduce by stealth subtle changes, one by one, until he has defeated the order and unity of the church. The deferral to elder's guidance is the principal safeguard, which always are compatible with the guidance of the scriptures correctly interpreted by the Spirit of God to a mature member.

Today we hear Christians throughout the world, and particularly within the modern Quaker ranks, stating their justification for almost any social action or political stance: I feel called to do it. Without spiritually mature members in control, who can argue with their call, particularly if both parties do not even recognize the authority of the scriptures that often plainly conflict with the call?

For more detail on the deterioration of the Quaker faith, see The History of the Quaker Departure from Truth.
For more information on the wiles of Satan to destroy any unity of faith, see Stephen Crisp's writings.

The only social agenda the early Quakers had in their business meetings was the relief of the poor, sick, widows, orphans, and imprisoned. They not only cared for their own, but also provided relief for the poor outside the Society in their community. They never protested a single government policy; personal courteous appeals, but never a protest against government, because such opposition to government was, and is, still forbidden by scripture. Rom 13:1-7 1 Peter 2:13-14 2 Tim 2:4 See Submission for more.

One meeting a week ( 3-4 hours per meeting on First Day was common) is not "seeking with your whole heart." You must seek at home too, daily. This time must increase as the Lord draws you away from the love of the world. Early Quakers also met one or two nights per week to wait on the Lord together.

If you have no one to meet with, don't worry; our all-knowing, all-capable God is still be able to guide you in your individual waiting on the Lord until there are others to meet with too.

The Lord has told us that "it is dangerous for the young to fellowship together;"
especially if silence is not strictly maintained, before, during, and after the meeting. All they will do is compound their errors. This is easy to understand because young, unfinished people will not have sufficient truth to even fellowship together verbally; whatever they speak will likely be in error, misleading others as well as incurring condemnation on themselves by speaking error. The one most eager to speak, is probably the one greatest in error. It is also damaging for the young to express their doubts to others, resulting in a tearing down of the body rather than a building up of the body. Even sharing teachings received between meetings can be harmful because if the person speaking relates the teaching with pride, he and the hearers are both damaged. Since everyone has not been taught sufficiently to be in total truth, there is even the possibility that arguments will result from meeting of the young - damaging to all who hear. Until a mature leadership has formed to gently counsel the young in the Truth, there is danger for the young to fellowship together without strict silence, of course with the exception of sharing what the Holy Spirit, during the meeting, instructs them to speak to all for everyone's benefit.

And remember Paul, the Spirit led him to Arabia to teach him one-on-one; George Fox was taught the same way, as were most of the Quakers whose writings appear on this site.

Per the voice of the Lord: "no profane language or cursing should be permitted in the meeting; and it should be apparent to all what spirit it is of anyone who verbally attacks their neighbor; and in any meeting there should be some uniformity of mind and purpose." It should be universally subscribed by all that their purpose in association and assembly is to seek the face of God through a faith in at least the name of Jesus Christ, to be taught by the Light (Christ) of God directly, and to share their teachings when so directed; so that all may attain purity union with God in his Kingdom, and to be controlled by Him in obedience to His will - a sincere desire for thy will be done. Any social actions would not violate scriptures' warnings, (i.e., have no political purpose, and no anti-government slant), and would be required to be directly ordered by the Spirit of God, as testified to by those who were spiritually mature enough to have edified the group in godliness as a prerequisite.

If you have others who share your hope and belief in the necessity of the Spirit's guidance to holiness and purity, with no other agenda, you can wait on the Lord, silently together according to the guidelines above, unless the Spirit tells you to stay separated. No one should speak, even their teachings, unless the Spirit specifically tells them to stand and repeat the words at that time.

There is a point for all seekers, in the Ministry of Condemnation, where you are not fit for fellowship, due to the nature of the sufferings you are undergoing; here is where you go outside the camp, (as did Christ to Calvary), to suffer the shame and indignity of the cross.

So blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gate, watching at the posts of my door.
For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD. Prov 8:34-35

Regarding Meetings for Worship by George Fox

CONCERNING SILENT MEETINGS
From Vol. 4, The Works of George Fox, Doctrinal Books I


The intent of all speaking is to bring into the life, and to walk in it, and to possess the same, and to live in and enjoy it, and to feel God's presence; and that is in the silence, (not in the wandering whirling tempestuous part of man or woman). For in silence is the flock lying down at noon-day, and feeding of the bread of life, and drinking at the springs of life, not speaking words. For words declared are to bring people to the spirit, confessing God's goodness and love, but only as they are moved by the eternal God and his spirit. All the ravenous spirits that are from the witness of God in themselves, cannot be still, cannot be silent; it is a burden to them. They cannot keep at home in their own houses, but are the hunters before the Lord like Nimrod, the first builder of Babel; but God confounded them, for they went out of the stillness and quietness, as did the Jews that went from the law of God, then they gadded abroad, and changed their ways, and so did not see their salvation. The apostate christians do the same, who have become inwardly ravened [consumed] from the spirit of God. They are gone from the silence, and stillness, and from waiting upon God to have their strength renewed; and so they have devolved into into sects, among one another; they have the words of Christ and the apostles, but inwardly are ravened from the still life. In the still life, the fellowship is attained in the spirit of God, in the power of God, which is the gospel, in which is the fellowship, when there are no words spoken.

George Fox

Excerpts from: AN EPISTLE TO ALL PEOPLE ON THE EARTH
From Vol. 4, The Works of George Fox, Doctrinal Books I
On the Side Bar topic: Why Silence?

And therefore all friends, that are come to witness the Holy Ghost and faith, in which the true praying and building is, which gives victory over the world, which is the gift of God, in which you please God, keep your meetings. Meeting together, as you are moved, speak; for they spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and as the spirit gave them utterance. They prayed with the spirit, and it helped their infirmities, for they [of themselves] could not tell what to pray for as they should. But He that searches the heart, knows the mind of the spirit that teaches to how and what to pray. In silence is the birth, born of the spirit, which God the Father of spirits hears, which is not of that birth born after the flesh, but is persecuted by that birth.

Now they that are exalted above their measure of the spirit of God manifest in them, such glory in the expressions, glory in words, and feed upon them more than life, and delight in words and methods, and curiosity in speech. These people who glory in repeating words are offended at silent waiting upon God, which looks at high expressions, and is fuller of them than life, that feeds the birth that must be silent, that is born of the flesh. So there is the time to be silent. This is the word of the Lord God to you all: that you may all come to that which God does manifest within you; it will let you see the birth that must be silent, and bring you to be silent, and to wait to receive teaching from God; then what is said, you may declare from the Lord of Heaven most high.

Now he that has a psalm, [one received in the Spirit, not one read from the Bible] now he that has one, let him sing, and sing in the spirit, and with understanding. He that sings in the spirit, and prays in the spirit, as the spirit gives utterance, he is in the birth that silences the birth of the flesh. This is to all, who learn the silent waiting upon God, and silent meeting; for none ever shall come to God that is upon the earth, but as they do come to that of God in them, the light which Christ has enlightened them withal; and that is it which must guide every one's mind up to God, and to wait upon God to receive the spirit from God; and the spirit leads to wait upon God in silence, and to receive from God. Many of the prophets and holy men of God sat often long waiting upon God, and said, blessed are all they whose minds are staid upon God, they should be kept in perfect peace. And, my soul wait you upon God; and the meek inherits the blessing; and ye shall find more strength, virtue, water of life, and the mercy of the Lord, and the presence of the Lord God, as you are still.

The apostle said, build up yourselves in the most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. [Mark,] The building up is in that which is holy, in the holy faith, and the praying in the Holy Ghost. Now he speaks of some: that speak high swelling words, but themselves living in the hypocrisy, and were gone into the ways of Cain and Balaam, and are they that must know a time of silence; for such build not among the saints, for they are Babylon's stones. So all these high speakers which speak the words of the scriptures, but not from the Holy Ghost that gave them forth, they are out of that Spirit in which the saints pray; and so those, who pray out of the Holy Spirit, are an abomination; they are to be silent.

Keep to that of God in you, which will lead you up to God, when you are still from your own thoughts and imaginations, and desires and counsels of your own hearts, and motions, and will; when you stand single from all these, waiting upon the Lord, your strength is renewed; he that waits upon the Lord, feels his shepherd, and he shall not want. That which is of God within every one, is that which brings them together to wait upon God, which brings them to unity, which joins their hearts together up to God. So as this moves, this is not to be quenched, when it moves to pray or speak; for there is the power of the Lord. This is the arm of the Lord, the dominion, the victory over death. And all teachers and people on the earth that have kept people from the light that enlightens every man that comes into the world, that which is to be known of God manifest in them, they are those who shut up the kingdom of heaven from men, that would neither go in themselves, nor suffer others. These are those who have taken away the key of knowledge from people, that neither they nor the people could get into the scriptures, nor tell what the prophets meant, nor what Christ nor the apostles meant; but wrangling all about the light, about the door. For the light is the door, the light is the power, that enlightens every man that comes into the world; that all through the light might believe. He that believes, is entered into his rest, has ceased from his own works as God did from his, and he has the witness in himself. And he that is born of God overcomes the world, he does not make haste. Here he knows a silent meeting and waiting upon God; and knows that all people upon the earth, if they come to the light Christ Jesus has enlightened them withal, their crowns must be laid down, down at his feet, and their peace taken away from the earth; and Christ, (God's covenant of peace, of light with God and man), they must come into; then all flesh must be silent before the Lord; so the life of God comes to guide.

And all you that are in your own wisdom, and in your own reason; it tells you that silent waiting upon God is famine to you; it is a strange life to you to come to be silent, you must come into a new world. Now you must die in the silence, to the fleshly wisdom, knowledge, reason, and understanding; so you come to feel that which brings you to wait upon God; (you must die from the other), that brings you to feel the power of an endless life, and come to possess it. And in the silent waiting upon God, you come to receive the wisdom from above, by which all things were made and created; and it gives an understanding and a reason, which distinguishes from the beast. And the life of God in you, which brings to wait upon God, which gives you life, brings to know God; and to know God and Jesus Christ is life eternal. And to you, this is the word of the Lord God.


George Fox

from Letter 117

Keep your meetings, and you will feel the seed to arise,
though never a word be spoken among you.

from Letter 122

So meet together and wait upon God, if there be not a word, I charge you.
Beware of contention for there you get above that of God in the conscience,
and so go out of the fear of the Lord.

from Letter 16

Therefore rejoice, you simple ones, who love simplicity,
and meet and wait together to receive strength and wisdom from the Lord God;
and in departing from sin and evil,
you will be able to speak to the praise of the Lord.
And meeting and waiting in his power, which you have received,
in it all to improve your measure that God has given you;
for you never improve your measure,
so long as you rely upon any visible thing without you;
but when you come alone to wait upon God,
everyone shall have a reward according to your deserts,
and everyone your penny, who are called into the vineyard to labor.

from Letter 286

When you are met together in the name of Jesus your savior,
let your minds be over all to him,
and out of all things that change, and perish,
and die of itself, and will corrupt, and are visible,
up to him who is invisible, the Lord God, and his son Jesus Christ,
that you may see him and feel him among you, and in your meetings,
in his life, and light, and power, and spirit;
and that you may know that God is,
and that he is the rewarder of all those who diligently seek him;

and to know that God is present.
And that which gives the knowledge of him, is the light that shines in the heart,
in the face of Jesus Christ,
and so see him in all your troubles and afflictions;
and that God is present, beholding all your actions done in your bodies,
and your consenting to your evil thoughts, lusts, or motions;
the thoughts, what you will speak or act;
or motions that you have not acted outwardly;
but if you do consent to do them in your mind or heart,
the Lord sees them to be done there,

though they are not done outwardly to the sight of men;
and so you must give an account to God of things done in your bodies,
and of things done out of the body;
for God both hears, and sees what is done in the body,
and what is said and done without the body.

from Letter 43

And all meet together everywhere,
and in your meetings wait upon the Lord;
and take heed of forming words,
but mind the power, and know that which is eternal,
which will keep you all in unity, walking in the spirit,
and will let you see the 'Lord near you, and among you.'

from Letter 248

Keep your meetings in the power of the Lord God that has gathered you;
and none quench the spirit, nor despise prophesying,
but keep up your testimony in public and private.
Do not let the mouths of babes and sucklings be stopped,
nor the seed in male or female,
but all be valiant for the Lord's truth upon the earth.



From Letter 149

Meet together, and in the measure of God's spirit wait,
that with it all your minds may be guided up to God, to receive wisdom from God.
That you may all come to know how you may walk up to him in his wisdom.
That it may be justified of you, and you in it preserved up to God, and be glorified.
And Friends meet together, and know one another in that which is eternal,
which was before the world was.
For knowing one another only in the letter and flesh,
differs you little from the beasts of the field;
for what they know they know naturally.
But all knowing one another in the light which was before the world was,
this differs you from the beasts of the field,
and from the world's knowledge,
and brings you to know one another in the elect seed which was before the world was.

And if you turn from this light you grow strange;
and so neglecting meetings you grow cold,
and your minds run into the earth and grow weary and slothful, and careless, and heavy, and sottish, and dull, and dead.
You may speak then of things which were opened once from the light,
though now you be turned from it!
but with the light in which is the unity, is all that condemned.
In which (light) is the fellowship with the son, from where the light comes,
which keeps in the liveliness, which keeps from slothfulness,
and all those things before mentioned, which are contrary to the light;
which who turns from, turns into.
Therefore in the light wait and walk,
that you may have fellowship one with another.
I charge you all, in the presence of the Living God,
that none boast yourselves above your measure of light;
if you do you will be buffeted.
For such run into presumption, and so into reproof.
Which reproof that spirit will not take patiently, but gets up into presumption;
which is to be condemned with the light, in which is the unity,
which keeps from desperation and presumption.
They who go from the light, the enemy comes into them,
and the envy, and the murderer gets up within and slays the man;
and no such one has eternal life abiding in him,
for he is turned from the light
which comes from Christ Jesus, the life.
All who dwell in the light which comes from Christ, come to receive the eternal life.
And here the love of God is shed abroad in the heart;
and dwelling in love you dwell in God,
and from the life the eternal love does flow,
which life comes from the Father of life, whose love does not change.
And so with the light (you dwelling in it which leads to the life)
you will come to witness the faith unfeigned, and the humility unfeigned,
and the faith which works by love, which purifies the heart;
waiting in the light which comes from Christ Jesus, this is received from him.
For with the light man sees himself,
which (light) comes from Christ, who is the author and finisher of his faith;
which faith gives him the victory
over that which he sees to be contrary to the light and to the word.
And this is the one faith;
and here the first Adam and the second Adam are known and seen.

from Letter 365

And, friends, after your meetings are settled and seasoned by the power of the Lord,
if you do alter them, without the consent of Friends in the power of the Lord,*
that makes and breeds discontent;
and therefore keep them, after they are settled,
in the power of the Lord, (and you settled in it),

upon Christ the holy rock and foundation of God, that stands sure.
And in all your meetings, if there occurs any difference between brother and brother,
do not reflect one upon another in meetings,
but speak one to another between yourselves, as Christ commands;
and then you may preach the gospel of peace freely,
and speak the truth in the love of it, as it is in Christ Jesus.
And this is the best way;
so that nothing may be seen in your meetings but the life, truth, and peace;
so that the serpent, whose meat is dust, may find none in your meetings;
and none to quench nor abuse the power or spirit, nor any to go beyond its motion;
for, if you do, you will both bring trouble and burdens upon yourselves, and others,
and run out, that so you can hardly get in again.
And therefore be wise in the heavenly wisdom of God,
to be ordered in his spirit of understanding,
to the glory of God, and the comfort and edifying of his people;
that you all may know how to behave yourselves in the church of God,
to the glory of God.

from Letter 66

And all live in peace, in love, in life, and in the power of the Lord God,
and keep your meetings, everyone of you waiting in the power of God upon him;
that in it you may have unity with God, the Father, and the son, and one with another.
And, dear friends, let wisdom guide you in patience,
and do not strive with any in meetings;
but dwell in the power of the Lord God,
that can bear and suffer all things.
And make no strife among Friends, but live in that which makes for peace,
and love, and life, in which edification is known.

from Letter 83

Dear friends in the eternal truth of God,
whose minds by the light of Jesus Christ are turned towards God,
meet often together in the fear of the Lord, and to the light take heed,
that with it all your minds may be kept up to God, from where it comes.
And in all your meetings wait low in his fear,
that you may come to know the life and power of truth one in another.
And all you whom the Lord has made overseers over his church in your several places,
be faithful to the Lord, and watch over the flock of Christ with all diligence;
you which are strong watch over the weak, and stir up that which is pure one in another;
see that all your meetings be kept in order.


from Letter 320

Now when the women are met together in the light, and in the gospel, the power of God;
some are of a more large capacity and understanding than other women,
and are able to inform, and instruct, and stir up others into diligence, virtue,
and righteousness, and godliness, and in the love and wisdom of God, to inform and reform their families,
and to help them that are of weaker capacities and understandings in the wisdom of God,
that they may be fruitful in every good work, and word. .

from Letter 178

If anything be spoken in a meeting which you cannot bear,
speak to them concerned between them and you, after the meeting is ended;
for if any of the world be there it may give occasion to them to reproach truth.
For wisdom preserves in the peace, and makes peace,
and preserves out of the contrary, and overcomes with the wisdom, and love,
and answers the witness with the life, and so has unity and that has the kingdom.

Anecdote, Don't Limit the Spirit to the Expected: In 1702, John Salkeld, a traveling Quaker minister in America, while sitting in silence, felt an impulse to make a sudden noise by rapping his cane on the floor, and immediately after he delivered this brief testimony: "Resist the devil this once, and he will not trouble you again." After the meeting, some of the elderly Friends expressed dissatisfaction with his conduct, which seemed to them strange, if not disorderly. He answered, "If ever I have known the Divine commission to preach, I think what I have done this day is in obedience to my Master's command, and there I must leave it." About a year afterwards he met with a man who reminded him of what had taken place in that meeting, saying he was the person for whom that singular service was intended, and that it had been the means of saving him from an awful death. Some time prior to that memorable meeting, he had been in a despondent state of mind, and that morning had walked out with a rope in his pocket, intending to put an end to his life. As he drew near the meeting-house, he decided to go in and sit with Friends, thinking he would afterwards execute his purpose. The sudden rap of the cane aroused his attention, and the encouraging language of John Salkeld enabled him to resist the temptation. He found the truth of the promise verified in his experience, for he was never afterwards tempted in the same manner.

from letter 251

And also such that will not go to meetings, and cry against others that do,
and say, they are forms of men;
and one while they will not give the hand;
and another while they will keep on their hats when Friends pray,
and yet secretly they can go to bad house's, as several have done.
From these abominable things they must be exhorted and reproved.

from Letter 256

And if any weakness should appear in any in your meetings,
it is not for any to lay it open and tell it abroad, this is not wisdom that does so;
for love covers a multitude of sins, and love preserves and edifies the body;
and he who dwells in love dwells in God;
for God is love,
and love is not easily provoked;
and therefore keep the law of love,
to keep down that which is so provoked;
for that which is easily provoked has words, which are for condemnation.
Therefore, let the law of love be among you,
which is not easily provoked;
and this law of love being among you,
it will keep down that which is so provoked, and its words;
and so the body edifies itself in love.

from Letter 257

And, friends, all take heed of sleeping in meetings, and sottishness, and dullness;
for it is an unsavory thing to see one sit nodding in a meeting,
and so to lose the sense of the Lord.
And it is a shame and a sadness both, and it grieves the upright and watchful,
that wait upon the Lord, to see such things;
and for the priests, people, and others, that come into your meetings,
and see you, that come together to worship God,
and to meet together to wait upon him, and to have fellowship in his spirit,
for you to sit nodding, it is a shame and an unseemly thing.
Therefore be careful and watchful, and let it be mended;
and mind the light and power of Christ Jesus in you,
and that will condemn all such things, and lead you out of, and above, such things,
and make you watchful one over another for your good.

A brief Account concerning Silent Meetings; the nature, use, intent, and benefit of them,
by Isaac Penington

THIS is a great mystery, hidden from the eye of man, who has run from the inward life into outward observations. He cannot see either that this is required by the Lord of his people, or any edification within, or benefit from it. But to the mind that is drawn inward, the benefit is plain; and by which the building up in the life of God, and fellowship one with another within, is sweetly felt. Precious refreshment from the presence of the Lord is received by them, who singly within wait upon him, according to the leadings and requirements of his Holy Spirit. Now, to open the thing a little to the upright-hearted, (if the Lord please).

After the mind is in some measure turned to the Lord, his quickenings felt, his seed beginning to arise and spring up in the heart, then the flesh is to be silent before him, and the soul to wait upon him, (and for his further appearances), in that measure of life which is already revealed. Now, this is a great thing to know flesh silenced, to feel the reasoning thoughts and discourses of the fleshly mind stilled, and the wisdom, light, and guidance of God's Spirit waited for. For man has to come into the poverty of self, into the shame, into the nothingness, into the silence of his spirit before the Lord; into the putting off of all his knowledge, wisdom, understanding, abilities, all that he is, has done, or can do, out of this measure of life, into which he is to travel, that he may be clothed and filled with the nature, Spirit, and power of the Lord.

Now, in this measure of life which is of Christ, and in which Christ is, and appears to the soul, there is the power of life and death; power to kill to the flesh, and power to quicken to God; power to cause the soul to cease from its own workings, and power to work in and for the soul what God requires, and what is acceptable in his sight. And in this, God is to be waited upon and worshipped continually, both in private and in public, according as his Spirit draws and teaches.

For the Lord requires of his people not only to worship him apart, but to meet together to worship him, in the seasons, and according to the drawings, of his Spirit. They that are taught of him, dare not forsake the assembling of themselves together, as is the manner of some; but watch against the temptations and snares, which the enemy lays to deceive them from, and to disturb their sense by, that they might not feel the drawings of the Father, (providing there are those who share his hope and faith to meet with).

This is the manner of their worship. They are to wait upon the Lord, to meet in the silence of flesh, and to watch for the stirrings of his life, and the breakings forth of his power among them. And in the breakings forth of that power they may pray, speak, exhort, rebuke, sing, or mourn, etc. according as the Spirit teaches, requires, and gives utterance. But if the Spirit does not require one to speak, or to give to utterance, then every one is to sit still in his place, (in his heavenly place I mean), feeling his own measure, feeding thereupon, receiving from, into his spirit, what the Lord gives. Now, in this is edifying, pure edifying, precious edifying; his soul who thus waits, is hereby particularly edified by the Spirit of the Lord at every meeting. And then also there is the life of the whole felt in every vessel that is turned to its measure. So that as the warmth of life in each vessel not only warms the particular, but they are like a heap of fresh and living coals, warming one another, so that as a great strength, freshness, and vigor of life flows into all. And if any are burdened, tempted, buffeted by Satan, bowed down, overborne, languishing, afflicted, distressed, etc., the estate of such is felt in Spirit, and secret cries, or open (as the Lord pleases), ascend up to the Lord for them, and they many times find ease and relief, in a few words spoken, or without words, if it be the season of their help and relief with the Lord.

For absolutely silent meetings, in which there is a resolution not to speak, we do not acknowledge; but we wait on the Lord, either to feel him in words, or in silence of spirit without words, as he pleases. And what we aim for, and are instructed to by the Spirit of the Lord as to silent meetings, is that the flesh in everyone be kept silent, for there is no building up except in the Spirit and power of the Lord.

Now, there are several states of people: some feel little of the Lord's presence; but feel temptations and thoughts, with many wanderings and rovings of mind. These are not yet acquainted with the power, or at least do not know its dominion, but rather feel dominion of the evil over the good in them. And this is a painful travailing and mournful state, and meetings to such as these, (many times), may seem to themselves rather for the worse than for the better. Yet even these, turning, as much as may be, from such things, and cleaving, or at least in truth of heart desiring to cleave, to that which dislikes or witnesses against them, have acceptance with the Lord within; and continuing to wait in this trouble and distress, (keeping close to meetings, in fear and subjection to the Lord who requires it, though with little appearing benefit), do reap an immediate hidden benefit, and shall reap a more clear and manifest benefit afterwards, as the Lord wastes and wears out that in them, in which the darkness has its strength. Now, to prove that the Lord requires these silent meetings, or meetings after this manner silent, it may thus appear.

God is to be worshipped in spirit, in his own power and life, and this is at his own disposal. His church is a gathering in the Spirit. If any man speaks there, he must speak as the oracle of God, as the vessel out of which God speaks; as the trumpet out of which he gives the sound. Therefore there is to be a waiting in silence until the Spirit of the Lord moves to speak, and also gives words to speak. For a man is not to speak his own words, or in his own wisdom or time; but the Spirit's words, in the Spirit's wisdom and time, which is when he moves and gives to speak. And seeing the Spirit inwardly nourishes, when he gives not to speak words, the inward sense and nourishment is to be waited for, and received as it was given when there were no words. Yes, the ministry of the Spirit and life is more close and immediate when without words, than when with words, as has been often felt, and is faithfully testified by many witnesses. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man how and what things God reveals to his children by his Spirit, when they wait upon him in his pure fear, and worship and converse with him in spirit; for then the fountain of the great deep is unsealed, and the everlasting springs surely give up the pure and living water.

and from Penington's Babylon the Great

This is a standing truth; whatever is not of the spirit of God in religion and worship, is of the spirit of antichrist. Whatever the spirit of man has invented or imitated, is not the thing itself, is not the true worship; for the true worship is only and continually in the spirit, and never out of the spirit. The true praying is in the spirit; the true singing, in the spirit; the true preaching, in the spirit: whatever is out of it, is of antichrist in man. Now therefore give up all your religion, your knowledge, your worship, your practices, which are out of the spirit; and return unto the Lord, and wait for his raising of that seed in you, which once began to spring, but is now slain, and lies in death and captivity under all these; and the earthly part, (in which all this religion and these practices stand), covers its blood, so as you cannot see how you have slain, and daily do slay, the just One.


from George Fox's Letter 299

We do hear that some, professing truth among you,
do not keep to your meetings so diligently as they ought to do,
nor yet meet but few of you together on the First-days.
And the reason is, that upon the First days some of you write and make up your accounts;
so as you cannot have time to go to and frequent the meetings.
Truly friends, this is an ill savor to come over here into England,
and shows that you mind your own business more than the Lord's,
and the things of this life, more than the things that pertain to the life that is without end;
which should be sought for first, if you desire to be blessed and to prosper.
And if you do not, you will grow loose and wither,
and not have the blessing of God with you; you cannot expect it.
And therefore, you that go under the name of the friends of God and of truth,
keep diligently your meetings on the First day together,
that the Lord's power may stir among you;
for if you do not keep your meetings upon the First day of each week,
you are worse than the world, that meet in their steeple-houses or places of worship,
who prefer your own business before the Lord's.
The Lord, I say, will not, in so doing prosper you in it.
And therefore I say once more, in the name of Christ Jesus,
keep your meetings, who are gathered in it.
And let there be meetings on the week days, and also men's meetings,
to see that nothing be lacking among you, once in a fortnight;
and likewise a women's meeting, though there be but a few.
For you that have seen the order of truth in England and other places,
how can you go out of the practice of it, without growing wild and withering.
That so men and women in their distinct places, may be help mates in government,
in the seed of life, and in the wisdom of God, by which all things were made,
and in the gospel, the power of God, which was before the devil was:
so that you may feel the presence of the Lord with you.
And that all Friends may be invited to the meetings;
and that you may be good examples and patterns unto all in the island,
in righteous dealing and doings, in weights and in measures.
And keep to the sound language, and the honor that you have received from above;
so that your lives and conversations may preach in virtue, righteousness, and holiness,
that God may be glorified through you, and among you all,
that you may be patterns in holiness, and in truth,
as you expect the blessing of God in, with, and among you.
And owe nothing to any man but love.
And so seek first the kingdom of God, and keep in it,
then all outward things will flow to you, so there will be no want of them,
if you enjoy God, who upholds all with his word and power, and gives the increase of all.
And see that there may be no ill example among you,
and no such ill report may be heard of you in Old England.
And when you have got up your First-days and weekly meetings,
and men and women's meetings, in the power of God,
which will preserve you in truth and righteousness;
see that nothing be lacking among you;

from Letter 131

And all Friends everywhere, take heed of slothfulness and sleeping in your meetings;
for in so doing you will be bad examples to others, and hurt yourselves and them.
And all take heed of going up and down to minister,
but as you are moved of the Lord God, or to speak in meetings, or any other places;
for traveling to such is dangerous to lift them up,
going among settled meetings, that are settled.
For there is difference between Friends going into the world,
and of coming among them that are come to silent meetings, and to feed there;
for that which may be seasonable to the world, may not be to them.

from Letter 353

And now the Lord has gathered his people, by his power,
into the same spirit that the apostles and churches were in, in the primitive times:
and though they are absent in the body, or flesh,
men [meeting] in one room, and the women [meeting] in another;
yes, as far as the east is from the west, or the north is from the south,
yet they are present in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding with the spirit,
the spiritual order that the churches and apostles were in,
and the steadfastness of their precious, holy, and divine faith,
which Christ, (the second Adam), is the author and finisher of;
and this is no separation,
but they are the household of his holy, divine, and precious faith;
and live and walk in this holy faith, and spirit of God,
by which they are baptized into one holy body,
of which Christ Jesus, the holy and spiritual man, is the head.
And this, I say again, is no separation, though they are absent in the body or flesh,
yet they are present in the spirit, and with the spirit behold the spiritual order.
And this is not an imposed outward form, order or prescription,
as some ignorantly think.
But they that do say, and prescribe,
that men and women must meet all together outwardly,
in a bodily presence in one room, or else it is a separation:
I say, it is an outward form, an outward order, and imposition, and prescription,
and they that fiercely press it, do not know the spiritual order;
yes, I say, if all men and women in the world could meet outwardly together,
and are not in the power and spirit the apostles were in, they are in a separation.
But God Almighty is bringing his people, by his son Christ Jesus,
and by the same power the apostles were in, out of this separation,
and apostasy from the apostles' spirit, that began in the apostles' days,
into the same spirit that the church and the apostles were in, in the primitive times;
and though being absent in the body, or flesh;
yet they are present in the spirit, seeing and beholding, in the spirit, the spiritual order,
and the steadfastness of their divine faith, which Christ, the second Adam,
the spiritual man, has been the author and finisher of.
And therefore, let no man beguile you by enticing words,
from this spiritual order, fellowship, and unity.
And again, the apostle said,
'For I verily , though I am absent body, I am present in the spirit,
and I have already decided and passed judgment, as if I were actually present,
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the man that has committed such a deed.'

So here was a spiritual sight, and a spiritual judgment;
yes, a judgment, though absent in the body,
by a spiritual sight of such as walk not in the spirit, but walk out of the order of it.
1 Cor 5:3-4

And this is to the spiritual minded, who can judge of these things,
'for as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God;'
and the Lord now, by his spirit,
is separating his sons and daughters from the apostasy and sin,
which has separated from the spirit that the apostles were in,
that they may behold one another with joy and comfort with the spirit,
in the spiritual order, fellowship, and unity;
though they be absent in the body and in the flesh, yet they are present in the spirit,
and know one another in the spirit of God.
And also, the apostle said,
'As many as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ:
there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free;
and here is neither male nor female,
but you are all one in Christ Jesus.
'
So, though they are absent in the body, one from another,
Jews, Greeks, bond, or free, males or females,
yet they are all one in Christ Jesus,
the spiritual and heavenly man
,
and with the spirit rejoicing and beholding one another's spiritual order;
so the rejoicing, unity, and fellowship stand in the spirit of God,
and not in the outward fleshly bodily presence, and carnal and natural sight.
And therefore keep your spiritual order, rejoicing in the spirit,
beholding your spiritual order, and steadfastness of your faith in Christ Jesus.
And in this you will be all steadfast men and steadfast women,
and not tossed up and down with every windy doctrine,
and the cunning crafts and slights of men
,
but steadfast men and steadfast women in the faith of Christ, as trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord
whose 'fruit is unto holiness, and whose end is everlasting life.'
And such have fruit on their own trees, and water in their own wells,
and are not shaken with winds, storms, nor tempests,
that may rise up within or without, but are steadfast and immoveable,
built upon the rock and foundation of life, Christ Jesus
.
So that as everyone has received the gift, even so minister one to another,
'as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.'

And this is the grace of God in which you stand,
that will teach you to live godly, righteously, and soberly, and brings salvation;

so not only to talk godly, but to live godly, keeping yourselves in the love of God,
and building up yourselves in the most holy faith, which you have from Christ Jesus,
which makes you steadfast and immoveable,
from him who is the author and finisher of it;
and with the spirit of God, in which you spiritually behold your substantial and steadfast spiritual order,
over all outward and carnal orders, and will out last them all.
With which spirit you all see your work and service for the eternal immortal God of truth,
to whom be all glory, honor, thanks, and praises in the church of Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, world without end.
Amen.

from Letter 137

There is a day coming, wherein some may wish that they had walked in wisdom,
as touching the weaknesses one of another, or the failings one of another;
for what know you, who may stand or who may fall in the day of God's trial?
Then many, that have been unstable,
may wish that they had kept their secrets in their bosoms,
and in God's wisdom sought to restore all, and not to scatter;
as that spirit does which cannot bear and cover the weaknesses one of another
who are yet in the wilderness, where the trials are many.
I have seen a great danger in this thing.
Wherefore beware of that spirit that cannot bear one with another,
or forgive one another; for that which cannot, will discover rather than cover,
and bring cloud over many, where ever it is received,
and raise the contrary in many, and veil the just, (it may be in whole meetings),
for want of wisdom to be stayed in the meek spirit,
which tries all spirits, and gives clear sight of things.
For want of this many may be cast by, and scarce ever restored again.


from Letter 173

Take heed of running on in a form, for fear that you lose the power;
but keep in the power and seed of God, in which you will live in the substance.
And at any disputes take heed;
many may be lifted up in the victory and conquest,
and after have a joy in the prophecies and openings, and after fall.
And if babblers (vain talkers) come,
and janglers (people who want to quarrel over some minor scriptural interpretation)
don't say the meeting was bad;
such is the complaining nature out of patience, and the seed, which bears all things, and suffers all things,
which keeps down that which causes lifting up, murmuring and disputing.

The following is the Lord's instruction of an elder's responsibility for discipline, as received and communicated by William Dewsbury.

This is the word of the living God to his church that he has called and chosen out the world, to place his name in, to order and guide in his pure wisdom to his praise and glory, who alone is worthy, God over all, blessed forever.

That in every particular meeting Friends, there be chosen from among you, one or two who are most grown in the power and life, and in discernment in the truth, to take the care and charge over the flock God in that place. And this is the word of the living God to you who are chosen: Watch over the flock of God, you to whom committed the charge and care; and take the oversight thereof, not by constraint but willingly, not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind. I charge and command you in the presence of the living God, not to rule as lords over God's heritage, but in the power the Spirit in all purity. Be examples to the flock, and see that order is kept in the church, in constantly meeting together, according the rule that has been given forth, that is say, once a week, or more, if it may be, besides the first-day meeting. And you are to have a general meeting with other Friends near you, once in two or three weeks, as the Lord orders and makes way.

Be not slack and backward, but faithful the Lord, in improving every opportunity for Friends to meet; and, in every town where Friends are scattered, lay the charge and care on some Friends who are most grown the truth, to see that they meet together to wait on the Lord three or four hours, as the Lord orders it, one night or two in the week. And watch over one another with a pure, single eye, to see that those who come among them walk orderly, according to what they profess. And if any walk disorderly, let those to whom the care and charge is committed, or any other who discerns them, and is moved to speak to them, deal plainly with them in reproving them, ministering to that which is pure in the conscience, for the restoring of them. But, if they will not reform, acquaint two or three more who are most grown in the truth; or you to whom the charge and care of the flock is committed, with the other that did admonish them in tender love, admonish them again; and, with plainness of speech, minister to that which is pure in their consciences, to raise up the witness and to judge and cut down the deceit; that their souls may be saved and their nakedness covered. But if they still walk in disorder, when the church has met together, reprove them openly; and if they still do not reform, but walk in their filthiness, when the church has met together, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, charge them to depart from among you. So, cast them out, and have no union with them, not so much as to eat with them, until they repent, and turn to the Lord, and walk in obedience to that which is pure. If they do this, then receive them again: but if they still walk on in the stubbornness of their wills, and do not bend to that which is pure in their consciences, keep them forth, that no filthy person dwell in the house of God. Then will the blessing of the Lord God be with you.

And this is his word to you, see that there is not any in outward need in the church, and that all walk orderly in their places and callings. And if any root of bitterness spring up in any, which causes strife in their minds one against another, as soon as you know of it, call such before you and examine the matter strictly; and stand in the wisdom and power of God to guide you to judge the cause, and end it in righteousness. But if the cause is hard for you to discern, and the measure you are grown to cannot discern between the parties, I charge you, and command you, not to be hasty in the cause before you, to order it in your doubtful and dark minds: 'for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.' But send for some who are more grown in discerning, to judge the cause and end it in righteousness. Then will deceit be judged, and strife kept out, and the innocent set free to serve the Lord; and your union will be in Christ Jesus, where you will bring forth fruit, abiding in him; and through his blood you shall overcome the world in you and without, and shall reign as kings upon the earth. In the power of Christ you shall command the unclean spirit, in all his appearances within you and without; and he shall submit to the power of God in you, dwelling in Him who alone is power, and to whom all glory belongs forever.

The pure spirit of the most high God, rest upon you, whom he has chosen to watch over his flock; and his mighty power open the pure eye in you, to discern and separate between the precious and the vile, the holy and the unholy; and furnish you with courage and with boldness and wisdom to rule in the power of his spirit, to cut down all deceit, and to wash the disciples' feet, in bowing to the pure [mind] in the least appearance; and ministering to it, to strengthen the desire raised up towards the name of the Lord, until judgment is brought forth to victory. Then will you have unity together in that which is begotten of God, who reigns over all, blessed forever. Wisdom is justified of her children,

William Dewsbury

 

Regarding Business Meetings
Men's Meetings, Women's Meetings,
Monthly Meetings, Six-Weeks Meetings, etc.

From the Testimony of the Elders' Meeting in London, signed by Edward Burrough

The [business] meeting should be kept once a week or fourteen days, as service and Truth's necessities do require, as the Friends see cause when and where to appoint it; and being orderly come together, not to spend time with needless, unnecessary and fruitless discourses; but to proceed in the wisdom of God, in such things as may upon occasion be moved among you, for the service of Truth and good order of the body; to hear and consider, and if possible to determine the same in justice and truth, —not in the way of the world, as a worldly assembly of men, by hot contests, by seeking to out-speak and over-reach one another in discourse, as if it were controversy between party and party of men, or two sides violently striving for dominion, in the way of carrying on some worldly interests for self-advantage; not deciding affairs by the greater vote, or the number of men, as the world, who have not the wisdom and power of God ;—that none of this kind of order be permitted in your meeting. But in the wisdom, love and fellowship of God, in gravity, patience, meekness, in unity and concord, submitting one to another in lowliness of heart, and in the holy Spirit of truth and righteousness, all things to be carried on; by hearing and determining every matter coming before you, in love, coolness, gentleness, and dear unity;—I say, as one only party, all for the Truth of Christ, and for the carrying on the work of the Lord, and assisting one another in whatsoever ability God has given; and to determine of things by a general mutual concord, in assenting together as one man in the spirit of truth and equity, and by the authority thereof. In this way and spirit all things are to be among you, and without perverseness, in any self-separation, in discord and partiality; this way and spirit is wholly excepted, as not worthy to enter into the assembly of God's servants, to give any judgment or counsel among them, in any case pertaining to the service of the church of Christ; in which his Spirit of love and unity must rule.

If at any time, any matter or occasion is presented to the meeting, which is doubtful or difficult, or not within the judgment of Friends then assembled, they not having full knowledge or experience of the matters pending,—that then on such occasions the judgment shall be suspended, for fear that any unfruitful contest should arise through want of full knowledge and discerning in that case, or any determination be made unsoundly or untruly; until more Friends that are anciently grown in the Truth have the understanding of the matter, as it has been from the beginning; and that we may be present, assisting in counsel and judgment with that meeting in all such things, for the carrying on the work of the Lord; and that all things may be ordered in all verity and soundness of judgment, for the honor of the Lord and happiness of his people, in all outward affairs relating to the Truth. For the proper work service of the meeting is, for the well ordering of the affairs of the Truth in outward things, among the body of Friends; and that a general concord and assent may be among the ancients of them, for the government of the whole, by hearing and considering of things fitting for the advancement of Truth.

All assemblies were instructed to change nothing in format, agenda, or policy without concurrence from the spiritually mature members.

from Letter 365

And, friends, after your meetings are settled and seasoned by the power of the Lord,
if you do alter them, without the consent of Friends in the power of the Lord,
that makes and breeds discontent;
and therefore keep them, after they are settled,
in the power of the Lord, (and you settled in it),

upon Christ the holy rock and foundation of God, that stands sure.

From George Fox's Introduction to His Epistles:

Sarah Blackberry complained to me of the poor, and how many poor Friends were in want; and the Lord had showed me, what I should do, in his eternal power and wisdom. So, I spoke to her, to bid about sixty women to meet me about the first hour in the afternoon, at the sign of the He1met, at a Friend's house. And they did so accordingly, such as were sensible women of the Lord's truth, and fearing God. And what the Lord had opened unto me, I declared unto them, concerning their having a meeting once a week, every Second-day, that they might see and inquire into the necessity of all poor Friends, who were sick and weak, and were in want, or widows and fatherless in the city and suburbs. And so, they blest the Lord for the wisdom of God that had settled such a meeting in his power among them. For they saw, that all that were heirs of the power of God, were to take their possession of the power of God, the gospel and its order, which was, before the devil was. And this brought them into the practice of the pure religion, and to visit the sick, and for the relief of the fatherless and the widows, and to see, that nothing was lacking among them; and that they, in visiting the sick in the Lord's power and word, through it they would have the wisdom of the Lord, and of his creation, and how to administer his creatures, and by the same power to heal and strengthen with the outward things, and without them. Which they have felt prosperous to this day; and great things have been done in their meetings by the Lord's power, and very honorable it has been in the eyes of all the faithful, yes , and commendable in the world also.

And afterwards the same Women's Meetings were settled up and down the nation, and beyond the seas, in the power of the Lord, which was before the devil was; into which power of the Lord neither sect nor apostasy can come, but peace and unity. And the power of the Lord, the gospel, is the authority of all the Men's and 'Woman's Meetings, and all the heirs -of the power, the gospel, both men and women are to take their possessions of the inheritance of the power of God, which is over the devil. So, in it nothing can get between them and the Lord God.

And at the settling of the Men's Meetings in the gospel, the power of God, I let them see, how they had a men's meeting in the first conversion among the primitive Christians, of such as were faithful men, and full of the Holy Ghost; and these were to see, in the Lord's power and wisdom, that nothing was lacking. For since the Christians denied the Jews' temple, storehouse, and priests, where the widows, strangers, and fatherless were relieved; they set up a men's meeting in the power of God, and in the Holy Ghost, (and they had Deaconesses also), to see that widows, fatherless, and strangers were relieved, and that nothing was wanting among them. Now, though this practice has been lost since the apostles' days, since men have gone from the power of God, and the holy ghost, that the apostles were in, (and therefore are the streets and country so full of widows, strangers, and beggars, and so full of wants, who want the sense bf the good spirit and power to open their hearts, that the apostles and primitive Christians were in.) But the everlasting gospel being preached again by the same holy ghost that the apostles were in; and received from heaven as they received it; and many thousands having received this gospel now again, men's meetings are set up, (as were in the days of the apostles), in the power of God, and in the holy ghost. And women's meetings as mothers, and that they may be teachers of good 'things, and so to see, that nothing be lacking among them; and so to do good unto all, but especially to the household of faith.

And now, the power of God is the authority of both our men's and women's meetings, and all our other meetings; which power of God Was before the apostasy was from the apostles, and before the fall and the devil were, and is over all; and all are to take their possessions of it, and in it to do God's service and business. So these meetings are for the converted and elect, 'before the world began,' and such as are heirs of the power, and do possess it; and what they do and act in the spirit and power of God, they do it in that which shall never have an end, to the glory of God forever. Amen!

from William Penn's Introduction we further see the origin of the business meetings

This godly elder, (George Fox), in every county where he traveled, exhorted them, that some out of every meeting of worship should meet together once a month, to confer about the wants and happenings of the church. As required, those Monthly Meetings were fewer or more in number in every respective county; four or six meetings of worship usually making one Monthly Meeting of business. And accordingly the brethren met him from place to place, and began the Monthly meetings, for the poor, orphans, orderly walking, integrity to their profession, births, marriages, burials, sufferings, etc. In each county, these Monthly Meetings should make up one Quarterly Meeting, where the most zealous and eminent Friends of the county should assemble to communicate, advise, and help one another, especially when any business seemed difficult, or a Monthly Meeting was reluctant to resolve a matter.


Also that these Quarterly Meetings should digest the reports of the Monthly Meetings, and prepare one for the county against the Yearly Meeting, in which the Quarterly Meetings resolve, which is held yearly in London, where the churches in this nation and other nations and provinces meet, by chosen members of their respective counties, both mutually to communicate their church affairs, and to advise and be advised in any unresolved issue leading to improvement. The also met o to provide funds for the discharge of general expenses for general services in the church, not needful to be here explained.

At these meetings any of the members of the churches could come, if they please, and speak their minds freely in the fear of God to any matter; but decisions are rendered on any matter considered by the persons appointed to be members of the meeting and by the meeting’s membership in general.

During their Yearly Meeting, to which the Quarterly meetings have referred certain issues for resolution, care is taken by a select number, for that service chosen by the general assembly, to draw up the minutes of the meeting including the several matters that have been under consideration, so that the respective Quarterly and Monthly Meetings may be informed of all proceedings, together with a general exhortation to holiness, unity, and charity. In all proceedings of the Yearly, Quarterly, and Monthly Meetings, due record is kept by someone appointed for that service, or who has voluntarily undertaken it. These meetings are opened, and usually concluded, in their solemn waiting upon God, who is sometimes graciously pleased to answer them with as notable evidences of his love and presence, as in any other of their meetings for worship.

It is further noted that in these solemn assemblies for the church's service, no one presides among them as is the manner of the assemblies of other people; only Christ is their president, as he is pleased to appear in life and wisdom in any one or more of them. Whatever their capacity or rank, the rest listen with a firm unity, not of authority, but conviction, which is the divine authority and way of Christ's power and spirit in his people; making good his blessed promise, ‘That he would be in the midst of his, where and whenever they were met together in his name, even to the end of the world.' So be it.

And from Valiant for the Truth, we have this record of qualification for decisions regarding the discipline of the membership, necessary for preservation of the unity of the Spirit and the reputation of Truth and the Church in the community, which was only as good as its members' reputations:

In the minutes of the Yearly Meeting of 1676 we find the qualification for membership in these meetings. "All the faithful men and women in every country, city, and nation, whose faith stands in the power of God, the gospel of Christ, and have received this gospel, and are in possession of this gospel, the power of God, they have a right to the power of this meeting, for they be heirs of the power and authority of the men's and women's meetings." All such were admitted to these disciplinary meetings, or, if they were children of members and deemed converted, they were invited to attend the meetings for business. In those early day there was an outside membership of those professing with Friends, who were entitled to pastoral oversight, and in case of necessity, to pecuniary aid and relief, but who were not considered competent to exercise the discipline of the church, which was vested in the hands of more experienced Friends. Conversion to Christ [that is purified, sanctified, renewed in mind and heart] was the distinction. If anyone was deemed by the elders to be converted, he was invited to participate in the meetings for discipline; if only convinced [not yet converted] he was merely a participator in church privileges.

From Janney's History of the Religious Society of Friends, Vo1. 4

Discipline for the Society of Friends

The origin and character of that system of Church government was, in its essential features, was recommended by George Fox, and with some modifications, adopted by the Society of Friends.  

MEETINGS FOR DISCIPLINE

The meetings for discipline in the Society of Friends are called Preparative, Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly. The Preparative meeting generally consists of a single congregation; it is not a meeting of record; its purpose is to prepare and report business for the Monthly meeting to which it is subordinate. The Monthly meeting may consist of a single congregation, or be composed of several Preparative meetings contiguous to each other. This is considered the executive organ of the Society, being entrusted with the power of receiving or disowning members, granting or accepting certificates of removal, directing and recording the solemnization of marriages, keeping a register of births and deaths, providing for the support of the poor and the education of their children, inquiring at stated periods into the condition of the Society within its limits, and forwarding an account of the same to the Quarterly meeting. The Quarterly meeting is usually composed of several Monthly meetings contiguous to each other, and in some cases it is held alternately at different places. Its purpose is to receive the reports from the Monthly meetings, which are subordinate to it, and embody them in a general report to the Yearly meeting. It has a general supervision of the Monthly meetings composing it.

The Yearly meeting is composed of all the Quarterly meetings within certain limits, which send representatives to attend it and lay before it a written report. The representatives have no more power than other members in attendance, except that they are required to meet together and nominate a clerk, and to examine and report upon any other business that may be referred to them. Any member, who may feel himself aggrieved by the judgment of a Monthly meeting, may, after a copy of his testimony of disownment is delivered to him, give due notice of his intention to appeal to the Quarterly meeting; and if the Quarterly meeting shall decide against him, he may in like manner appeal to the Yearly meeting, whose judgment in the case is final. The Yearly meeting exercises a general supervision over all the meetings within its limits, and issues advices in relation to the state of the Society and the support of its testimonies. It is the highest tribunal in the Society, and has power to enact, modify, or abrogate the rules of discipline; but this authority is usually exercised with great caution and deliberation, and only with the general concurrence of in attendance. When an alternation in the rules of discipline is thought desirable, the usual course is, for a member, “feeling the concern” to propose it in his Monthly Meeting, and if there approved, the proposal is forwarded to the Quarterly Meeting, where it is considered, and if united with, forwarded in the report to the Yearly meeting.

The several Yearly meetings throughout he world are independent of each other, being established based on limitations in travel time for attendance. In 1800, there were Yearly meetings in Dublin, London, New England, Philadelphia, Baltimore, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and Ohio. They maintained a letter correspondence, and, in all essential points, their codes of discipline were nearly the same. In all the meetings for discipline, every member not under dealings for a breach of discipline, is at liberty to sit and participate in the proceedings. The men and women meet in separate apartments, and are co-ordinate branches of the same meeting, each having a clerk of its own, but in some cases they appoint joint committees to prepare business in which both branches are interested. The clerks are nominated by committees, and after consideration appointed by the meeting. It is the duty of the clerk to gather the sense or judgment of the members present, and to record their decisions on such questions us may come before them.

It is obvious that a church thus constituted cannot act upon the principle of political bodies where a majority governs; and it is still more objectionable for a minority to assume the right to govern. The only way to preserve "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" is for every member who participates in such meetings to draw nigh to the Fountain of light and life, in order to ask wisdom of God, "who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not." While waiting upon Him in this frame of mind, each member is at liberty, under a sense of duty, to express his views with meekness, and if they proceed from the pure teachings of the Spirit of Truth, they will meet the witness for truth in other minds, and being responded to, will generally prevail over the meeting, It sometimes occurs that one of the younger members, being unbiased and wholly resigned to follow his impressions of duty, becomes the instrument to point out the right course, which being acceded to by others, is adopted by the meeting; but in most cases the older and more experienced members are expected to take the lead in all matters of importance. Although there may, at first, be some diversity of sentiment, it seldom happens that a meeting where Divine love prevails, is long in doubt concerning any matter that is necessary to be decided. A meeting may be thrown into by entering into the discussion of questions for which it has no proper concern, in which case, stepping out of its province, it has no right to expect divine guidance. If a considerable degree of unanimity cannot be attained, it is best not to insist upon a decision, but rather to wait and adjourn from time to time, or dismiss the question. When discipline cannot be exercised with good feelings and tolerable unanimity, it is better to stand still; for if unity and love do not prevail, it is an evidence the Spirit of Christ does not sanction our proceedings, and, like of the Israelites of old, we should be careful not to move forward so long as the cloud rests upon the tabernacle, whether it be two days, or a months, or a year.

from Letter 256

And be diligent in all your meetings,
and see to the setting forth of apprentices, all fatherless and poor Friends' children;
and that all the poor widows be carefully looked after,
that nothing may be lacking among you; then all will be well.

There are extensive advisories regarding Gospel Order in George Fox's letters 263 and 264 . Click on the letter number to read.

 

from letter 260

All you that believe in the light, as Christ has commanded,
that are become children of the light, and of the day,
and of the promise, and do minister therein,
do not judge one another in public meetings, you that do minister,
as you have received the grace, and have the word of the Lord God committed to you,
that minister abroad, or go abroad in cities, towns, countries, or nations,
do not judge one another, nor reflect one upon another in public meetings;
for that hurts the hearers, and you do more hurt than you do good,
and that makes confusion.
If you have anything to say, have patience,
let that gift be exercised, and speak to one another by yourselves alone;
for that was the way before anything was spoken against any of the church,
and that will show the spirit of order and government,

from Letter 284

So that in all your men and women's meetings, see that virtue flows,
and see that all your words are gracious,
and see that love flows, which bears all things,
that kindness, tenderness, and gentleness may be among you,
and that the fruits of the good spirit may abound;
for nothing that is unclean must enter into God's kingdom,
which stands in righteousness, and in holiness,
and in the power of God, and in the joy of the holy ghost;
for all joy that is out of the holy ghost, will have an end.

from Letter 313

So Friends are not to meet like a company of people about town or parish business,
neither in their men's nor women's meetings, but to wait upon the Lord;
and feeling his power and spirit to lead them, and order them to his glory;
that so whatsoever they may do, they may do it to the praise and glory of God,
and in unity in the faith, and in the spirit, and in fellowship in the order of the gospel;
and the devil and his instruments cannot get into this gospel, which is the power of God;
and that makes him rage;

from the Journal

My Dear Friends,

Let every Quarterly Meeting make inquiry through all the Monthly and other meetings, to know all Friends that are poor, widows or others, that have children fit to put out to apprenticeships; so that once a quarter you may set forth an apprentice from your Quarterly Meeting; so you may set forth four in a year, in each county, or more, if there be occasion. This apprentice, when out of his time, may help his father or mother, and support the family that is decayed; and, in so doing, all may come to live comfortably. This being done in your Quarterly Meetings, you will have knowledge through the county, in the Monthly and particular meetings, of masters fit for them; and of such trades as their parents or you desire, or the children are most inclinable to. Thus being placed out to Friends, they may be trained up in truth; and by this means in the wisdom of God, you may preserve Friends' children in the truth, and enable them to be a strength and help to their families, and nurturers and preservers of their relatives in their old age. Thus also, things being ordered in the wisdom of God, you will take off a continual maintenance, and free yourselves from much burden. For in the country, you know, you may place an apprentice for a little to several trades, as bricklayers, masons, carpenters, wheelwrights, plough wrights, tailors, tanners, leather-dyer, blacksmiths, shoemakers, nail-maker, butchers, weavers of linen and woolen stuffs and other woolen trades, etc. And you may do well to have funds reserved in your Quarterly Meetings for that purpose. All that is given by any Friends at their decease (except it be given to some particular use, person, or meeting) may be brought to the public fund for that purpose. This will be a way for the preserving of many that are poor among you; and it will be a way of financially helping poor families. In several counties it is practiced already. Some Quarterly Meetings sponsor two apprentices; and sometimes the children of others that are placed on the parish. You may bind them for fewer or more years, according to their capacities. In all which things the wisdom of God will teach you; by which you may help the children of poor Friends, that they may come to rear up their families, and preserve them in the fear of God. So no more, but my love in the everlasting seed, by which you will have wisdom to order all things to the glory of God.

George Fox
 
4 London, the first of the 11th month, 1669.

from Letter 317

Now, friends, whosoever shall come, under whatever pretence,
to alter these meetings, or to deny or speak against the men and women's meetings,
it is the spirit of confusion and opposition,
which would be seeming to do something,
yet its work is to disquiet the simple minds;
and it is the very same spirit with John Perrot's;
and mark his end, and their end, and such as join with it.

And that is a creeping spirit, that would alter the usual and constant meeting days,
under pretence to prevent people from the corruptions of observing a constant day,
or under a pretence of keeping people out of a form,
and so would father their deceit upon God.

from Letter 116

Do not judge one another in meetings, you that minister in the meetings;
for your so doing has hurt the people, both within and without,
and you have brought yourselves under their judgment.
And your judging one another in the meetings has emboldened others to quarrel,
and judge you also in the meetings.
And this has been all out of order, and the church order also.
Now, if you have anything to say to any, stay till the meeting is over,
and then speak to them in private between yourselves,
and do not lay open one another's weakness;
for that is weakness and not wisdom to do so.
For your judging one another in meetings has almost destroyed some Friends,
and distracted them.
And this is for want of love that bears all things;
and therefore let it be amended.
No more, but my love.

From Letter 162

Keep your meetings in the power of God,
and in his wisdom, (by which all things were made),
and in the love of God, that by that you may order all to his glory.
And when Friends have finished their business,
sit down and continue awhile quietly, and wait upon the Lord to feel him;
and go not beyond the power,
but keep in the power, by which God Almighty may be felt among you.

from Letter 220

If, among Friends, any reports or surmises be about any, or any backbitings,
or whisperings, all such things must be stopped and searched out;
for thus said the Lord, "You shall not raise a false report among my people."
And that some of the faithful Friends of every meeting,
whose sincerity is for the glory of God, his honor, and his holy name,
into which they are all called, may be chosen to search out such things,
and follow it till they find out the author or authors of it,
that it may not lie upon any, or in any;
but that all may be cleared and taken out of every mind, and all the reports stopped;
and the things that are for judgment, let them be judged and condemned.

And furthermore, that Friends take notice of all such Friends as go to sea,
seamen, merchants, masters of ships and passengers, abroad and at home, that profess the truth,
that if they have any ways dishonored the Lord God,
and brought an evil report, either in their trading, lives or conversations,
upon the truth and the good land,
and dishonored the Lord God and his name, truth, and people;
that they may search into the bottom of it;
that so, if they have done any thing worthy of condemnation and judgment,
it may be past upon them without any respect of persons.
And, if the report be false, let their innocence be manifest, and the reporter reproved.
And so, that all that profess truth, may walk in the truth and the light of the Lord, who are "children of light,"
who have their name after the living God.

And all to be circumspect, diligent, and careful in all these things,
that in nowise God may be dishonored;
but in all things your lives, and words may preach; that profess the truth.
And all of them that have gone from England and dishonored God beyond sea,
to write over sea, to search out and know the ground of the matter,
that all obstructions that have hindered the glory of God,
and the spreading of his truth, may be taken away;
that the Lord's name may not be dishonored, nor his way and truth evil spoken of.
And so, all reports being searched into, in all the plantations, concerning Friends there,
that if anyone has done any thing to dishonor truth beyond sea,
let them come to judgment and condemnation, and give forth papers of the same,
that the papers may be sent abroad to take off the reproach from the innocent,
and so answer the witness of God in them through their repentance.
And, if they will not write their own condemnations,
then Friends must write and deny them, and take it out of the mouths of the world.

And all Friends that have dishonored God, and his truth, and people,
and Friends have been to admonish them in a gospel way
and they still go on in their wickedness and do not repent;
Friends may draw up a paper at their meeting,
against them and their disorderly walking, and unruly spirits, and looseness,
in general words, not mentioning the particulars, except they be notoriously known.
And Friends to do this with speed, and to bring it to the meetings;
and if anyone be known to be an open offender,
that then there may be an open testimony against him in the particular;
showing that we have no unity nor fellowship with such workers of darkness,
and how that they cast out themselves from among us,
being gone from the life and power of God; in which our fellowship is.
And that copies of the paper may be read in meetings,
and the copies of the papers to be sent to the men's meetings
in the countries where they live.

from Letter 316

And therefore, I say, in him live and walk, and keep his gospel-fellowship and order;
so that men and women may be help mates, in the distinct men and women's meetings,
one unto another in the gospel, the power of God,
in the restoration, as man and woman was in before they fell.
So if the men have anything to communicate unto the women,
or the women anything to the men,
in the righteousness, and wisdom, and power of God,
in the gospel order, in which the heavenly fellowship, unity, and order are kept,
they may, as brethren and sisters.
So here is the foundation of our meetings;
and our men and women's meetings are testified to by the spirit of the everlasting God,
that the foundation of them is Christ,
of the increase of his righteous, glorious, and spiritual government and peace
there is no end;
nor of the glorious, everlasting, heavenly unity and order of his heavenly gospel,
which the spiritual and heavenly minds keep and walk in accordingly,
which is not of man, nor by man;
so man has no glory, but God and Christ alone,
who is almighty, omnipotent, immortal, everlasting, and eternal, and dwells in the light,
blessed forever, the inexpressible God.

from Letter 350

And now, my friends, if there happen any difference among Friends,
either with Friends or the world, let it be put to reference,
if it cannot be ended between themselves,
and all that are concerned to end any difference,
let them have but one ear to one party,
and let them reserve the other ear to hear the other party;
so that they may judge impartially of matters,
without affection or favor, or respect of persons.
For you may see how the Jews in the old covenant did judge things among themselves,
as long as they kept the law of God, and did not go to other nations, or to the heathens,
for them to judge of their matters;
and therefore the apostle reproves the Corinthians for that fault,
'for going to law one with another before unbelievers,'
and told them that 'the saints should judge the world,' yes, angels;
and then how much more might they judge of things pertaining to this life?
And therefore the apostle exhorted,
"If then you have judgment of things pertaining to this life,
let them to judge that are least esteemed in the church:"
and Christ said,

"If your brother trespass against you,
go and tell him his fault between him and you alone;
if he should hear you, your have gained your brother:
but if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more,
that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established:
and if he neglect to hear them, tell it to the church;
and if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto you as a heathen and a publican.
Verily I say unto you, whatsoever is bound on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

And further Christ said,

"If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask,
it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven:
for where two or three are, gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them." Matt. 18, v20.
And Christ said, "If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him;
and if he repent, forgive him;
and if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times;
if he turns again, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him." Luke 17, v4.

from Letter 373

Now, dear friends, let there be no strife in all your meetings,
nor vain doctrinal arguments nor disputings;
but let all that tends to strife be ended out of your meetings,
that they may be kept peaceable;
so that you may be at peace among yourselves,
and the God of peace and love may fill all your hearts,
which love edifies his church.
And condescend one to another in the fear of the Lord,
to that which is honest, just, virtuous, and of good report;
and where any weakness has been in any thing,
let it he covered and buried in the spirit and love of God, that his spirit
and love may be uppermost in you all, to unite all your hearts together:
and that you may all show forth that you are the children
which the heavenly wisdom is justified of,
which is pure, (mark), pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated,
which is above the wisdom that is below,
that is neither pure, peaceable, nor easy to be entreated.
And in all matters of business, or difference, or controversies,
treat one another in such things kindly and gently,
and be not fierce, or heady, and high minded;
for that spirit will bring men and women to be lovers of themselves,
and to be despisers of others, and that which is good,
which leads nature out of its course, and so loses natural affections,
and at last comes to be without natural affections;

from Letter 374

And therefore consider,
the holy men and women of God must not strive, but be gentle to all;
and in that alone keep their dominion;
for truly, friends, love gathers into love, and edifies the body of Christ.
And let nothing be done with strife, but in love, to the glory of God,
in the name of Christ, and in his power;
so that you may all see and feel Christ among you,
ordering you all to his glory with his wisdom,
which is pure, peaceable, and easy to be entreated;
so that none may be burdened nor oppressed in your meetings,
but that the life and seed may reign in you all;
and so the Lord may have the glory of all,
and you may all have comfort in him your head.
And do not much strive with unruly talkers,
but keep your peace in the spirit and power of Christ,

And be careful in all your meetings,
that they may be kept peaceable in the wisdom of God,
that is pure and peaceable, and easy to be entreated;
so that' wisdom may be justified of her children.'
That there be no harshness or fierceness,
but meekness and mildness, and gracious language,
which will edify and season the hearers, and be of a good savor.
And this will honor the seed Christ, from where grace and truth comes,
and will be to your comfort, and show forth whose children you are;
for, as Christ said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, they are children of God.'
And therefore all do this work, that you may have this blessing.

from Letter 408 (regarding the Six Weeks Meeting)

And that all may be careful to speak short and pertinent to matters in a Christian spirit,
and dispatch business quickly, and keep out of long debates and heats;
and with the spirit of God keep that down,
which is doting about questions and strife of words,
that tend to parties and contention:
which in the church of God there is no such custom to be allowed.
And likewise not to speak more than one at a time;
nor any in a fierce way;
for that is not to be allowed in any society,
neither natural nor spiritual;
but as the apostle said, ‘Be swift to hear, and slow to speak;'
and let it be in the grace, which seasons all words.
And if there be any differences, that cannot be quickly ended in the meeting,
let the Six Weeks Meeting order some Friends to hear the matter out of the meeting,
without respect of persons,
and bring in the report to the same meeting the same day, (if possible),
and the meeting may give judgment;
that no business be delayed from time to time.

 

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