Several years ago, I was talking with an Indiana Quaker discussing the importance of the New Covenant in Quaker thought when his glance and comments revealed his suspicion that I was introducing something new even opposed to his church's teachings.  "Where does this idea of a new covenant come from?" he asked accusingly.  I remained speechless for several seconds, amazed he didn't know the answer and wondering how I could answer without revealing my dismay that he would ask such a question.   I think I said, "it is another word used for New Testament so when you read or discuss the New Testament you are discussing the New Covenant."  It connects the work of Jesus and the New Creation in Him to the Old Covenant or Old Testament.   The word "New Testament" may be so common in our experience that it has faded into the background and is simply seen as another word for Bible.  Just to refocus attention and start us thinking, how would you answer these four questions?

1.  What is your definition of the New Covenant or the New Testament?

2.  How does the New Covenant differ from the Old Covenant?

3.  How much of the New Covenant could you teach to someone else right now?

4.  Is it important for a person to understand the New Covenant?   Why or Why not

The following are excerpts from Fox "A clear Distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant" Works Vol. 6 p 38ff  From Digital Quaker Collection.

And therefore the Lord saith by Jeremiah, ‘Behold, the day shall come, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: But this is the covenant that I will (page 39)  make with the house of Israel: after these days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws in their inward parts, and write them in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: And they shall not need to teach every man his brother, and every man his neighbour, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.'
So this is the new covenant, in which all shall know the Lord, that was promised and prophesied of before it came to pass, which is not according to the old. Jer. xxxi.
And in Heb. viii. the apostle shows the fulfilling of Isaiah's and Jeremiah's, and Ezekiel's prophecy; and how the new covenant was come, and he preached up the new covenant, and preached down the old; and how that all should be taught of God in the new covenant: So in that he saith, the new covenant, he hath made the first old covenant as a thing decayed, and ready to vanish away.
And in Heb. ix. he saith, how the first covenant had ordinances of divine services, and a worldly sanctuary and tabernacle, and candlestick, and table, and show-bread, and censors, and pot of manna, and Aaron's rod, and many other outward things.
But in the new covenant Christ hath abolished all these outward things, who will rule all nations with his rod of iron, which is beyond Aaron's rod.
And so it is clear, that the new covenant is not according to the old: For in the old covenant, the priest's lips were to preserve the people's knowledge. And Ezra had a pulpit of wood to read the law to the people upon: And the law was written in tables of stone. But in the new covenant and testament Christ ends this priesthood, whose lips were to preserve the people's knowledge; and they are to look unto Christ Jesus, who is the treasure of wisdom and knowledge in the new covenant.
And God writes his laws in their hearts, and puts them in their minds in the new
covenant by which all may know him, from the greatest to the least of them.
(Page 41)  But in the old covenant and testament the priests had chambers in the temple; which chambers and priesthood Christ hath abolished, and made his chamber in the hearts of his people.
And in the old covenant the Jews were to keep their feasts of tabernacles, and the feast of passover, throughout all their generations; and they eat of this passover when they came out of Egypt: but in the new covenant and testament, the Jews in spirit, that pass out of the spiritual Egypt, feed upon Christ, their heavenly passover, and keep the heavenly passover throughout all their generations in the new covenant, and keep their heavenly spiritual feast of tabernacles, dwelling in the green booths of the green tree, Christ Jesus, the heavenly man, the second Adam, whose leaf never withers, fades nor falls, but is always green. And Christ abolishes the feasts and passovers of the old covenant; so the new covenant is not according to the old. ....
(Page 43)  So people was to hear Moses and the high priest in the old covenant and testament: But now they are to hear Christ, their high priest and prophet, that God hath raised up in the new covenant, in his grace, light and spirit. For the law came by Moses, in the old covenant; and all the people of the Jews was to hear the law in the old covenant, and do it, and live: ‘But grace and truth is come by Jesus Christ,' in the new covenant and testament of light, life, and grace. And so all the children of the new covenant are to hear Christ in his grace, and to be under the grace, and truth's teaching, which will bring their salvation
(Page 44) So this worship in the new covenant and testament, is a new worship. ... And this spirit and truth must every man and woman feel in their hearts, by which they may know the God of truth, who is a spirit. .... in the spirit, in the new covenant and testament and new and living way sings and rejoices, and prays in the Holy Ghost, their bodies being temples of the Holy Ghost.
(Page 50) But in the new covenant and testament and new and living way, Christ the son of God saith, ‘Swear not at all, but let your yea be yea and your nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil'
(Page 66)  and this is Christ's doctrine in the new covenant.  And the apostle saith, ‘Being reviled we bless; and being persecuted we rejoice.' I Cor. iv.
For doth not the apostle tell you, that Christ hath abolished Moses' old testament, and hath taken off his vail, and made his glory no glory, because the glory of the new covenant and testament hath dimmed it, and done away the glory of the old?
(Page 72) And therefore, are not you under the vail, with your tenths, and tithes, and offerings, and candles, and candlesticks, in your temples, and altars, and outward places of worship, with your priests' distinguishing garments, and your feasts, and observing of days and times, and swearing to end strife and controversy amongst you?  Is not this Moses and the old testament , and reading the old testament, and not the new testament and new covenant, which saith, ‘'Swear not at all, but let your communication be yea, yea, nay, nay?'  And Christ's righteousness is all the believers' fine linen, which are the children of the new covenant and of the light, and their altar is spiritual; and Christ hath enlightened their candle, their spirits, with the light, which is the life in him; which burns in their temple night and day.  And so Christ, in his glorious new testament and new covenant, he hath done away with and abolished the first priesthood, ....

An issue may be "Does Fox's understanding of the New Covenant come from the New Testament or is this from some other source.  Again I wonder if in this one article, does Fox address all of the distinctive Quaker beliefs and is he accurate in finding those he does address coming from the New Covenant or Testament?  My Plan is to continue this in Biblical Basis of Quaker Beliefs Part II

Views: 283

Comment by Lee Nichols on 12th mo. 1, 2012 at 9:47am

Even though George Fox and his close associates are careful to describe him as the modern day apostle to those renewed in the Spirit of Christ, in the above article "A clear Distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant," he does admit his ideas for Quaker experience came from the Bible

Comment by James C Schultz on 12th mo. 1, 2012 at 10:13am

Where else could they come from?  Any decent preaching would have come from the bible.  Church tradition would have come, although distorted to some degree, from the bible.  The bible is the only written record of what Jesus did and said and what those who knew him did and said.  It also provides the background for the culture in which he lived  Without the bible no one, not even Martin Luther, would know about grace.   If GF had been raised in China or India he probably would have gone in an entirely differnt direction and we would be quoting someone else's revelation of the bible.  Maybe Watchman Nee's?  The problem is we continue to fit what the bible says into the way we feel comfortable living, instead of fitting how we live into what the Spirit reveals the bible says about how to live - and I'm talking here about loving our neighbor and enemy and forgiving those who slander us, not whether God ordained marraige between one man and one woman.  If we could live the basics the rest would take care of itself.  Love a Democrat, love a Republican, then talk to me about Jesus. We are supposed to be new creations in Christ, not Republicans, Democrats, liberals or conservatives! 

Sorry, I got carried away. 

Comment by William F Rushby on 12th mo. 1, 2012 at 11:29am

Well put, James!

Comment by Forrest Curo on 12th mo. 2, 2012 at 8:19pm

Actually, the Bible is a written record -- of what people who had heard about Jesus believed that he said and did.

If we had been Meant to have an authentic, authoritative Gospel According to Jesus -- that could have happened. The fact that it didn't -- tells us a great deal about God and how God chooses to communicate with us. A simple "record of" is evidently not what people needed to have. Something ambiguous, something that could slip between our human inconsistencies and reach people who don't understand, at least not initially -- evidently was.

I agree with James that we should be fitting the way we live into the best understanding we can form of God's intended message to us. The only quibble -- that has kept this whole argument going -- is that

rather than "what the Spirit reveals [that] the Bible says about how to live",

For George Fox & company it was more like: "what the Bible [as interpreted by the Spirit, yes] says about the Spirit being our Guide as to how to live." Loving our neighbor & enemy & even the silly people who keep arguing with us, as James mentions -- That is what living that way is going to look like; but it's through the Spirit that we see this.

Comment by Lee Nichols on 12th mo. 3, 2012 at 8:58am

James, thanks for pointing out I am guilty of asking boring questions.  I can see you are right.  I am just surprised that it is so hard to come to an agreement on the traditional way early Quakers used the Bible.  This is not an issue of what is the best way or even what is my way of using Scripture. It asks how did the Quakers in the 1600s use Scripture.  
     There are a few statements that on the surface point to personal leadings replacing the Bible as the source of Quaker beliefs and practice, as in the often quoted paragraph from Fox's Journal: Now the Lord God hath opened to me by his invisible power how that every man was enlightened by the divine light of Christ; and I saw it shine through all, and that they that believed in it came out of condemnation and came to the light of life and became children of it but they that hated it, and did not believe in it, were condemned by it, though they made a profession of Christ.  This I saw in the pure openings of the light without the help of any man, neither did I then know where to find it in the Scriptures, though afterwards, searching the Scriptures, I found it. ....
Fox's statement "this I saw .... without the help of any man" is similar to Gal 1:11-12 where Paul is defending his apostleship against the Christians who say Jewish ceremonies are required for gentile Christians.
11 But I make known to you, brothers, concerning the Good News which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. 12 For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.  WEB
 Based on the many other statements by Fox and other early Quakers, it seems improbable that Fox would be pleased with the suggestion that he was advocating personal inspiration above the accurate understanding and application of the truth set forth in scripture.  Fox does know that the knowledge of Scripture is useless without applying and conforming to the truth revealed as he says in "Some Principles of the Elect People of God."   "The Scriptures are words, whose chief end, drift, and service is, to bring men to the Word from which the Scriptures came. And when men are there; then they are in the Life of the Scriptures, and witness the fulfilling of the Scriptures , even the executing of the righteous judgments of God upon that spirit, mind and nature in them, which is contrary to his image; and the fulfilling of the Promises and sure Mercies, which belong to Christ the Seed, and to them who are gathered into, and abide in Christ the Seed. Here's the Covenant, the new Covenant,"  
While Friend Patricia Dallmann noted Fox affirms the following from his Journal "Scriptures were above the spirit...and were the Word of God, and I told him the Word was God and the spirit gave forth Scriptures, and that he must know in himself both the Word and spirit which reconciles to the Scriptures, to God, and to one another; and that he must know it in his heart and mouth" Looking at this statement in light of the body of Fox's writing, it is Fox's emphasis on applying and not just knowing Scripture.  It does not change Fox's habit of teaching Scripture to explain Quaker beliefs or practices, and it does not endorse a private revelation that is different from that set forth in Scripture when the New Covenant is the basis of understanding Scripture.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 12th mo. 3, 2012 at 12:25pm

If you're thinking of "personal leadings" as "only 'personal' " then you're missing what Fox, and the Spirit, and the Christian scriptures are saying about the Spirit.

Seeing it as one Spirit that expresses itself through various less-than-perfectly-adequate mediums: scriptures, other people's 'openings', and one's own lagging understanding... There's nothing purely 'personal', ie idiosyncratic about Fox's 'personal leadings'. They reflect 'the Spirit as understood by Fox', which is not at all in conflict with 'scriptures as understood by Fox' -- but could certainly clash with "scriptures as understood by Lee Nichols" or even "as understood by Forrest Curo" (although the Spirit continues to work on us both.)

Comment by Forrest Curo on 12th mo. 5, 2012 at 11:28pm

Something I found in a Jacob Needleman book tonight:

"This form of knowing imparts a degree of certainty and boldness that may seem unwarranted to the conventional student of religious tradition, especially if he is intellectually learned or expert. Certain interpretations of Scripture by individuals with significant inner experience can be maddening to the conventional scholar, because such interpretations are based on a transformed quality of attention, rather than on an intellectual hypothesis subject solely to standards of external evidence and the coherence criteria of conventional logic...."

"Would that we had more 'mystics' offering the results of their experiential understanding, but would that all of them were more aware of when they are speaking from their new state and when they are only speaking from memory of that state."


This suggests that  it is not so much "an interpretation", a finished product of a person's insight into a passage's meaning that needs to be 'accepted' or not -- but for people (members of a "community" perhaps)  to  develop  their gift  that permits them  seeing  the truth directly. "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets!" But this is God's intention for us over the long run.

Comment by Paula Deming on 12th mo. 6, 2012 at 10:21pm

Thank you for that, Forrest.


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