[Note: This document is the first attempt to show part of the vision behind the Christonomy (www.christonomy.net) network. There are various embedded links in the document directly to the document or cross-reference discussed. This will give the reader the opportunity to interact with and immerse themselves in the Early Quaker source documentation directly and in real time and with ease while reading the content of the article. This is the third year of a ten year project. At this stage in the project there are enough early Quaker source documents keyboarded and published to begin adding content to the blog side of the project.]
In 1666, a document ( [London 1666] View Document ) was published and sent to various Quaker Meeting-houses. The subscribers to the document state they are called to watch over the souls of the gathering and, out of that calling, are concerned with its viability in the face of those in the gathering who speak out against the leaders of the gathering and the establishment of outward formalities and prescriptions to rule and guide the relationships and interactions of the people in the gathering. To preserve the fellowship and the viability of the gathering the subscribers lay down six prescriptions on how people, in the established Meetings, are to relate to and interact with those Quakers who are come out of outward formalities (relatively speaking) and who speak out against the enforcement of outward forms and the leaders who promote adherence to outwardly established forms over against the prerogative of the inshining Light in the conscience.
In 1673, an anonymous Quaker published a pamphlet ( The Spirit of the Hat [SOTH] View ) noting his concern over the establishment or institutionalization of the gathering around outward formalities and prescriptions over against the prerogative of the inshining Spirit of Christ in the conscience. In the SOTH a document ( View XR7117) is mentioned which was not well received by the Quakers in Hartford, England. The writer may well have had the London, 1666 document in mind.
In 1673, three other pamphlets were published in response to the SOTH. William Penn wrote his initial direct response to the SOTH entitled The Spirit of Alexander the Copper-Smith … [TSOACT] (View). In his TSOACT, Penn published a letter XR4772 View subscribed by three people from Hartford, England who denied any knowledge of such a document subscribed by Quaker leaders. An anonymous writer (not a Quaker) wrote a response to William Penn’s TSOACT entitled Tyranny and Hypocrisy Detected [TAHD] (View). This writer also takes up the SOTH document’s mention of a document not well liked by Quakers in Hartford, England and suggests the writer of the SOTH was referencing the London, 1666 document entitled “A Testimony from the Brethren who met together of London in the Third Month of 1666 …” The concern expressed in the SOTH does match some of the prescriptions laid down in the London, 1666 document. For example, the third prescription XR3113 (View) in the London, 1666 document matches the concern expressed in the SOTH XR5174 (View), further suggesting the SOTH writer had the London, 1666 document in mind when he mentioned a document not well received by Quakers in Hartford. William Penn responded in Judas and the Jews Combined Against Christ and His Followers (View Document) to the TAHD pamphlet and included a further response XR5674 (View) from one of the three who testified they had no recollection of the document mentioned in the SOTH.
To further support the contention of the writer of the SOTH that the London, 1666 document was not well received by some Quakers, the writer of TAHD brings forward the testimony XR4761 (View) (later retracted after pressure from Quaker leaders) of George Bishop concerning the London, 1666 document which he wrote in 1666. His testimony addresses each point brought forward in the London, 1666 document; labeling them in this way:
- Concerning the One (View): Institution
- Concerning Point Two (View): Inhibition
- Concerning Point Three (View): Doctrine
- Concerning Point Four (View): Correction
- Concerning Point Five (View): Admonition
- Concerning Point Six (View): Exhortation
- Concerning the Conclusion (View): Instruction
Bishop then writes: The Spirit of the Lord in this day, and in the days of the Apostles bears not the same proportion: then were Apostles, Pastors, Teachers, Elders, &c. but in this day the Spirit itself is Pastor, Teacher, Elder, &c. So that we have not now things in the disposition of Persons, but according to the Power which moves in every one, so there is not that Hazard, as to Apostacy, as was in that day XR7256 (View). As the writer of the SOTH expresses his concern about the establishment of the Body’s rule over the prerogative of the inshining Spirit in the conscience, so too does George Bishop.
The writer of the SOTH and George Bishop’s concerns over the London, 1666 document reveals a spiritual experience which has brought them out of the very process of being guided and informed by reflected ideological constructs of other people or a group of people. They were come into a process wherein the inshining experience of the impulse of the inherent being of Christ, in their conscience, was (relatively speaking) sufficient in itself to guide their relationships and interactions without regard for the reflective, mirrored, or shadowed, thoughts of a person or body of people. This testimony was troublesome to the subscribers of the London, 1666 document. They write that for the sake of the viability of the Quaker fellowship they must contend against those who testify to the sufficiency of the inshining Impulse of Christ, in the conscience and consciousness, as the sole rule and guide regarding human relationships and interactions. It is not difficult to sympathize with the subscribers of the London, 1666 document when it is read impartially. They found value in the establishment of outward Godly forms to guide and inform the relations with people in the gathering. There were people in the gathering who did not look to them or the fellowship as a whole regarding relations in the gathering, but testified to a different way wherein the impulse of the inshining and inherent Presence itself in itself in their conscience guided their relationships. This threatened to undermine the work to establish and institutionalize the Quaker gathering around Godly formalities and prescriptions (reflective thought).
The subscribers of the London, 1666 document speak of those who were come out of (relatively speaking) all formalities, ceremony, and prescriptions (reflective content) to guide and inform as speaking evil of dignities and speaking against government (which is a mark of being guided and informed by reflective thought). And to the extent that those who were come into the sufficiency of the inshining Light in their conscience did speak evil against them and the godly outwardly reflective government they sought to establish, their frustration was valid. Such was itself a form of imposition. However, an equally impartial reading of those like the writer of SOTH and George Bishop exposes people who were struggling with a spiritual experience that perhaps the majority of those in the Quaker gathering did not share in the same measure and found troublesome. It was the extent to which people in the Fellowship sought to attenuate the spiritual experience of others in the Fellowship by relating to each other through reflected thought or content that contention and strife manifested.