Nathaniel Smith and his testimony of the uniqueness of Quakers

Research Note, Inshining Light sufficiency, Outward Forms, excommunication, I AM


In The Quakers Spiritual Court Proclaimed published in 1669, Nathaniel Smith writes:


... all Sects, Formes, or other Dispensations, it thou please to call them so (or by what Name soever) after they have raised to themselves a considerable number of People, then they go about to set up themselves, and make to themselves Laws, whereby they may Govern, and bear Rule one over another; for these People called the Quakers, were the only People that did speak against this, and said, That Man ought to fear God, and to walk justly before him, and be taught of him; but now they have a Rule or a Light to walk by, (or rather of Law) and if any do not observe this, then he is cast out from amongst them, as not being one of the Flock of God.


This is another compelling piece of personal testimony (anecdotal) suggesting that there was a time at the foundation of the Quaker gathering wherein not only were they not guided and informed by outward forms and insitutions, but they actually spoke out (relatively speaking) against the very process of identification with and participation with outward forms to rule and govern over against the conscience. Smith here actually takes the time to point that Quakers, were the only People that did speak against this and who testified to the sufficiency of being taught of God. He also documents that there came a time wherein, like all other “Dispensations,” some of the quakers were led back into idenitification with and participation in outward forms.


The is compelling to me because, in my research, Smith’s testimony mirrors the testimonies of a number of other founding and early Quakers; which I will also publish over time. One piece of anecdotal information is not reliable enough to support a conclusion, however, a number of them over time and place and from different people, can be.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 11th mo. 5, 2017 at 3:32pm

People find God, think it means immediate delivery of their deepest dreams; but then God has a wiser sense of what results will be good for them.

None of these people, on either side, were the wicked monsters their rivals imagined. They simply had little concept of honest, well-meant disagreement.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 11th mo. 5, 2017 at 6:41pm

Note: This is a reminder to the reader that this thread is concerned with a specific moment in the 16th century. The testimony of those concerned (primary sources) testify to the truth that those who sought to re-establish the Quaker gathering back into identification with and participation in outward forms (by there own admission and actions) sought to suppress and did excommunicate those who would not follow them out of their sole identification with and participation in the inshining Light itself in itself. The testimony of those who would not come out of the sufficiency of identification with and participation in the inshining Light and into identification with and participation in outward forms was against the establishment force's admitted action to suppress the conscience of others and impose their conscience over against others. There is no need to whitewash the ugly dynamics and nuanced nature in this matter. The establishment forces did not hide their wish to expunge those who, for conscience sake, spoke out against the tyranny of the brethren. And those who would not follow the establishment forces back into outward forms, did not hide what they found as the apostasy of those who were come back into identification with and participation in outward forms and sought to impose this upon those who were not of the same conscience.


William Roger writes further on pages 23-27:

"Those who are accounted Apostate Christians, have from such Assemblies, which they call their Church, set forth their Creeds, by which it may be known, what the Members of their Church do and ought to Believe; and since ‘tis so, that no Person is able to make out, that ever any Assembly under the Notion of the true Church, amongst the People called Quakers, have published their Creed, by which we mean a certain number of Articles of Faith, recommending them as those things which every Member of the true Church ought to believe, or else not be accounted a Member of the true Church, we cannot account it unreasonable, if any one that liketh not the Language touching Believing as the true Church Believes, should ask the Publisher thereof this Question, Hast thou not spoken this with respect to the People called Quakers, as <First Part 24> those whom thou accountest the True Church? And if so, is it not folly to talk of believing as the Church believes, when no assembly under the notion of this Church have to this day declared, and published their Creed, for the ends aforesaid? Nay, may it not further be said, we know how Papists and Protestants describe their Church, but at the day wherein that which occasions this present discourse was given forth, it was not discovered by any reputed Quakers, publickly in Print (that we know of) who or were the true Church is, with respect to visible persons, more than what is to this effect given forth by the Author, occasioning this present discourse, viz. That the People called Quakers are the Church. Wherein we do not take his meaning to be, that all called Quakers were the Church of God, but the Elect amongst them; for he also saith, the Church signifies the Elect; and so the reader is left without any certain Description who or where this Church is, with respect to visible Persons; since the Elect amongst them are not outwardly described."


"For the clearing of the Truth, and the opening of the Understandings of such, as may be muddled about this matter, ‘tis with us thus to testifie:"


"‘Tis well known, that is pleased the Lord, to reach unto many our Consciences at the beginning of the latter Day, that hath dawned amongst us; whereby we came to Believe in the Everlasting Light of the Lord; and as others held forth the Visible order, and Written Faiths of a Visible Church to be as a Lanthorn to their Paths, and as a Ground of their Faith, so this Light of Christ was preach’t up as a Lanthorn to our Paths, and as the Ground of our Faith, and then (as our Understanding came to be more and more opened) we clearly saw, that as other Churches had outward Marks and Tokens, whereby a man might manifest himself to be a Member of their Church, when received into Society with their Church, so we (who had Believed in the Light of our Lord Jesus Christ, and had the Evidence in our selves, that we were of <First Part 25> the true Brotherhood, and Members of Christ’s Body) were at a loss infallibly to manifest unto others, by any Outward Marks or Tokens, that we were in Reality Members of the true Church: Because this Light (in which we had Believed) did reveal unto us, that those who were but in the Gentile Nature, and had come no further than the Outward Court (that was given to the Gentiles) might have all the Outward Marks and signs of a Member of their Churches, and yet now very little of the washing by the Water of Regeneration, and Sanctification through the Spirit, which every Member of the true Church, that's Built on the Rock Christ, comes to be Witness of."


"And therefore, when our Opposers (who professed not the Truth) would reflect upon us on this wise; You are a confused People; you gather not into Church-fellowships; you have no certain Way to know one another to be Members of the Church, as we have. And why do you not put forth your Creed, that so we may know what and how many the Articles of your Faith are, and what you stand for, and what you stand against? The best Answer, that ever (as we could understand) we were capable to give in Truth unto such, was this:<"/em>


"The True Church is in God, who is the Author and Finisher of our Faith; we have believed in the Sufficiency of his Grace, unto which , if we are obedient (according to the respective measures thereof given of God, and Received by us) we then have the Witness of God in our Consciences, giving Evidence, that we are of the True Brotherhood, and of the Church of the First Born, whose Names are written in Heaven, though we do not alleadge any outward Marks and Signes, whereby our Bodies (being Temples wherein the Holy Ghost doth dwell) ought to be accounted within the pale of the true Church. And albeit no Outward Society of Men amongst us, calling themselves the Church, have put any certain number of Articles of Faith, with the Testimony, that every one that professeth himself a Member of the Church of Christ out by so to Believe, or else not be <First Part 26> accounted of the True Church; yet many of our Friends, unto whom the Lord hath given Divine Understanding, have written divers Books (according as the Spirit of the Lord hath moved upon their Hearts) out of which the sound Doctrines we hold, and stand for, may be collected; through others, so reputed may (thorough Weakness) have erred. To conclude as to this particular we further thus testifie."


"In the Church of Christ, there are Babes, Young Men, and Fathers; there are the Weak, and the Strong: Suppose a Weak Brothers Faith Differs from his Brethren, must he be account a fool, or an Hipocrite? Nay; Nay, Charity measure not so."


"We find this very Case happening amongst the Romans; and what said Paul in that Case? Read Rom. 14.3,4,22,23. and there Paul thus adviseth; Let not him that eateth, dispise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not, Judge him which eateth; for God hath received him. Who art thou that condemns the another Man’s Servant? To his own Master he standeth or falleth: Hast thou Faith? Have it to thyself. He that doubteth, is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of Faith; and whatsoever is not of Faith, is sin."


"Hence ‘it's evident, the Members of the Church differed in their Faith; he that did eat, was not to be Judged, because he was Received of God; he that did not eat, was so far from being Judged, that the Apostle condemns the very eating, whilest there was a Doubt: though the abstaining from eating, was the Fruit of Weakness."


"We now leave it to the Conscience of every Impartial Reader, in the Light of Christ Jesus to weigh and consider, whether it can be Service to the Truth, and agreeable to the meaning of the Spirit at this day, for any person under the name of Quaker, to give forth this Doctrine, ‘tis folly and hipocrisy to profess our selves Members of the True Church, and yet not believe thus, as the True Church believes, though the giver forth <First Part 27> thereof may to this purpose also declare (as to give the publisher thereof his due, he hath) That they never did preach up such a Position as a great Argument to enforce People into their faith."

Comment by Forrest Curo on 11th mo. 5, 2017 at 8:42pm

Two groups with different choices of shibboleth, both convinced that their own beliefs and emphases had come to them directly -- as clear and well-understood Messages from God -- left with little acceptable explanation for their disagreement except the other side's obvious spiritual darkness.

We moderns have different ways of, different rationales for disparaging people we disagree with. But the issues that divided them have never really gone away.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 11th mo. 6, 2017 at 12:25pm

Research of the early and founding Quakers is discovering a compelling history to me of a group of people who were come into a specific dispensation wherein their consciousness and conscience came out of identification with and participation in outward forms to guide and inform and into a consciousness and conscience that was exclusively and solely (relatively speaking) guided and informed by the inshining Light itself in itself and that that witness was sufficient unto itself govern and rule the gathering. This gathering of people was unique, in time and place, (not just because they were come out of outward forms) because they were come into the sufficiency of the inshining Light itself in itself to rule and govern. These people called themselves Children of Light and their opposers called them Quaker and they testified to the anti-Christian nature of Catholicism and Protestantism in that they were of a consciousness and conscience that identified with and participated in being guided, informed, and governed by outward forms.


I often turn to Charles Leslie (1650-1722), an Anglican Priest, wrote extensively against Quakers, and with laser beam like focus on George Fox. I particularly gain much from him, first and foremost, because he is so well read in Quaker writings, and references them so often, that he is an exceptional source for gleaning the titles of Quaker writings. Secondly, his mind is sharp and to the point; making him much easier to read than most of the Quaker writers. I turn to Leslie here to present a contemporary outside source (non-Quaker) among the others already presented to support the paragraph above. Leslie, in his “Satan disrobe’d from his disguise of light, or, The Quakers last shift to cover their monstrous heresies, last fully open …” on page 76 writes (underlining my own):


“That there was but one Sin in her Communion, viz. To oppose the Authority of the Church, Is much more true of the Quaker-Church, which Asserts her Authority higher; an requires a more Implicite obedience, than Pope or Conclave. So far are they gone from the Original Principle, by which they seduc’d Men from under other Church-Authority, Viz. The sufficiency and Independency of the Light in every Particular Person: And consequently, That all outward Imposition were Anti-Christian! But that Principle (like the Fair Pretences of Usurpers) is only Calculated to Begin a Rebellion, and withdraw our obedience from those to whom it is due; Till they can get into the Saddle: But then, like Scaffolding, it must stand no longer. As such Deluded Subjects find (when ‘tis too late) That they have Changed their Masters; But not their Slavery.


Leslie’s words lead into another chapter in the early history of the Quaker Gathering. Leslie discovers to us and supports the witness of many early Quakers was their Original Dispensation is of the sufficiency of the Light to rule and guide everyone and that being come into this sufficiency and out of outward forms or imposition is the essence of the Christian witness.


It then happened that many of the early Quakers were lead out of this original Dispensation and back into identification with and participation in outward forms to rule an govern their consciousness and conscience. The leaders of this movement back into outward forms then set out to intimidate and even persecute those Quakers who remained in the sufficiency of the inshining Light to rule and govern. Those would not follow George Fox back into indentification with and participation in outward forms called themselves Christian Quakers and those who were re-established in outward forms the Christian Quakers called Foxonian Quakers.


Now, this short little summary setting out the original dispensation as being shared by all early Quakers and was the source of the original unity and those Quakers who moved back into outward forms disrupted that unity is the testimony of those “Christian” Quakers who would not follow the “Foxonian” Quakers. The Foxonian Quakers suggest it was never their testimony that coming into the sufficiency of the Light meant that the outward visible Church or the Brethren had no role in ruling and governing the Gathering. Leslie, however, whole chapters of books to debunking this contention by the Foxonian Quakers as do many Christian Quakers.

More research is neeed

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