The Establishment of Outward Doctrine invades Christ's Prerogative: William Rogers - "Christian Quaker" 1680.

From William Rogers - "Christian Quaker" - published in 1680.

"As to the word Established, we further add, That the word (as used in the Objection) is disowned by us; for though the Children of God may be Instruments in the hand of the Lord, to establish one another in the Faith of God's Elect, yet 'tis not in their power, or any one of them, positively and without exception, to establish what ought to be believed and practiced, whether it respect Doctrine, or Discipline: and if any one or more have attempted so to do , it may Justly be said of such, that he or they have endeavoured to invade Christ's Prerogative."

William Rogers - Christian Quaker - Part Three - page 32.

I've been working on a particular difficult section of "Christian Quaker" for me to paraphrase. When I get bogged down in this work there are sections I go to and read over because they are easier for me to read. The above quote is a part of one of those sections. For context, Rogers is here explaining the deep disagreement many of the founding Quakers had with Barclay and his arguments for the establishment of outward forms which the Quakers had been lead out of by there faith in and experience of the sufficiency the inward Spirit itself to guide and direct. 

While Rogers rightfully acknowledges that the Children of God may be instruments in the hand of the Lord to establish others in the Faith, there is no power or authority to establish what people ought to believe or practice through outward forms. To establish outward doctrinal forms or disciplinary forms to rule over other people invades the prerogative of Christ.  That is, it is not the privilege of any human being to establish outward rules to guide other people and enforce those rules against the conscience of another. It is only the privilege of the inward Light, working in the conscious and informing the conscience, to establish and guide and rule over other human beings. What a powerful testimony to the faith many of the founding Quakers had in the role and authority of the inward Spirit of Christ in their live that they adhere only to that directly experienced inward Light itself.

As it was then so it is now. There are many of us who experience the sufficiency of the inward Rule of the Spirit of Christ and are mindful of outrunning the Guide and invading the sole prerogative of Christ by imposing outward rules against the conscience of another.

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Comment by Diane Benton on 10th mo. 26, 2015 at 6:48pm

From reading The Light in Their Consciences by Rosemary Moore, it seems clear that by the mid 1650’s some major differences had developed among Friends, which created great confusion.  How could people listening to The One Spirit be hearing apparently different things?  It seemed to make a mockery of their message and encourage their persecutors.  Especially George Fox found this untenable and saw the solution to be to bring everyone into obedience to him and those who agreed with him rather than continuing to proclaim the inward teacher.


This seems to be what William Rogers is dealing with in his book.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 10:10am

Thanks for that comment; I've just ordered the book from the local library interchange circuit!

This does sound like something that must have happened... Would that be another example of God leading people to the best solution some particular person or group would accept -- rather than the best solution possible? (I think I've seen that phenomenon illustrated in myriad ways, both in the Bible and in the various decisions of Friends over the years -- and maybe, yes, alas, even in my own dealings with God.)


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