William Rogers: The founding Quakers and no adherence to outward Marks and Signs.

William Rogers - Christian Quaker - First Part - Section 4 - pages 23-27

It has been suggested the Rogers' text is difficult to read. I'm working on a way to share Rogers' "Christian Quaker" by making it easier to experience his work. This is a beginning. I offer an overview and then link to the original text with somewhat of a paraphrase along side.

Overview:

In this section Rogers deals with the contention, by some, that it is silly for someone to call themselves a member of the Church and not adhere to the outward creeds codified by the institutionalized Church.

Rogers, amongst the founding Quakers, expresses complete dissatisfaction with the insistence that people follow the outward creeds of the outward Church. He admonishes instead holding to the inward manifestation and revelation of God’s Spirit within each person. He even goes so far as to suggest that establishing creeds for members to adhere to is, in itself, a turning away from the inward manifestation and revelation of God’s Spirit and that no Quaker up to 1680 had penned anything with the intention of suggesting all should follow what they have written or they are not a true Quaker. In truth, he says, Quakers were not described using outward marks and tokens.

When the Light came into the consciences of the founding Quakers, Rogers says, they came to see that others (not in the Light) used visible order and written faiths of the visible church to guide their paths. However, Quakers did not establish their faith in visible orders and written faiths; they had entered into a new dawning because they were guided by and established within the inward manifestation and revelation of the Light within themselves. It is essential to the testimony of the founding Quakers that the Light entered their consciences and works and guides them from within the conscience and not from outward orders and faiths.

Rogers shares that, when the Quaker gathering just beginning, people (Church Leaders of the time) whose faith was in outward orders and faiths to guide them came to the Quakers and expressed (calling Quakers confused) heir exasperation that the gathering of Quakers did not set down creeds so that people may know what they must believe to be a part of the Quaker gathering and so others may assess Quaker articles of faith. The founding Quakers replied by saying that the inward Light itself is sufficient and that they did not hold to any marks or signs by which they would be under the pale of a Church. They also did not establish articles to which all members must adhere.

Rogers points out differences among founding Quakers did not translate into a judging of each other as fools or hypocrites. Instead, there was Charity in differences. He quotes Romans 14:3,4,22,23 to point out that it is a fact that there has always been differences but such differences are embraced with patience and are no excuse to impose adherence to outward forms in the outward church to resolve differences.

Link to Original Text and Paraphrase

 

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 20, 2015 at 11:51am

Early Friends relied also on external signs and behavior, nor are they anything but external to us... except that from time to time we find their words moving us spiritually.

Thinking and emotion are also internal -- though not the Spirit -- but these, and what happens physically in and around us, are also ways that Spirit can manifest, whether directly or by confronting us with a Snap Quiz from time to time...

I agree that we find far too many contemporaries pointing to one external or another, one idea or one feeling or another, asking pathetically, "How can we possibly stay on track, without _this_" [or that?] But then when we're hungry, we normally nourish ourselves with food, and enjoy that just fine, nourish our minds and emotions with other things the way God organized it all to work. We're meant to connect with these realms without losing touch with Spirit; and I don't know any way to assure that, but if we pray for that, we should find help in that direction...

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 20, 2015 at 12:28pm

Hi Forrest. The Spirit within me also validates your notion that Spirit is neither internal or external. However, many early Friends and Friends today place the working or illuminating of the Spirit exactly in the conscience of each individual. This is an essential distinction. For, while it is true the Spirit is not limited to any one individual or group of individuals the place where the Spirit works is in individuals from within the conscience. 

Also, it is true that many early friends relied or depended on external signs and behavior and wished to impose that dependency on the whole the the Quaker gathering. That was the reason Rogers and others penned their conscience. However, others expressed that the coming of the Spirit within their conscience had resulted in their independence from all external signs and behavior so the they were and are fed exclusively by the inward illumination of the Spirit. For them, and for many of us today, the inward Spirit in our conscious and conscience is sufficient spiritual nourishment and sustenance in itself and we turn our conscious and conscience no other outward place, doctrine, teacher, or guide. Your analogue to the eating of physical food brakes down in the context of the inward Spirit working in the conscious and conscience. A more penetrating analogue would be one of not needing to gather physical manna but that ir just fell from the heavens. That is the essential nature and grace of the inward workings of the Spirit itself in our conscience and conscience. 

I testify to you that I know in my life, through the power of the Spirit within, me the sufficiency of the inward Spirit and, as the Light more and more candles in my conscious and guides my conscience, I do not wish to connect with the impulse toward outward dependencies. Forrest. It is literally true that the inward Light is sufficient and we can come to learn that, in fact, we were not meant connect with the outward realms of ides, emotions, feelings, desires, perceptions etc. We were meant to connect with the Light itself and to put no things before that Light.

Comment by James C Schultz on 10th mo. 20, 2015 at 1:52pm

Keith, please define "conscience" as you are using it.  Thank you.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 20, 2015 at 5:47pm

Hello James, I refer you to our previous discussion about conscience in another thread (especially on page two of the thread) here of quakerquaker. You asked me basically the same question. It may be that my response was not satisfactory. You did not respond to my response your question. If that is the case, I welcome further discussion and questions on this thread.

Just click on this link to our previous discussion:

Without regard to outward Persons, Communities, etc., there is Heaven.

Thank you for your question,

Keith

Comment by Diane Benton on 10th mo. 20, 2015 at 8:22pm

Keith, I receive so much inspiration from your writings of your experiences.   Living life in and by Presence is experienced.

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 20, 2015 at 8:45pm

This whole issue of the sufficiency of the inner Light versus religious norm, doctrine, and tradition was at the core of the great Quaker schism of 1827-1828.  Of course, at the center of that schism was placed Elias Hicks who was an obsessive advocate for the sufficiency of the inner Light.  From that schism was born (eventually) Orthodox Friends, which successively splintered over the ensuing centuries; and Hicksite Friends, which have tended towards William Rogers' vision (but not quite there yet!) with no sustained splintering.   I'm not sure what this says?

In fact, the Hicksite Friends (renamed in our century "liberal Friends") have attracted more and more meetings from previously Orthodox territory.  For example, for east coast yearly meetings, within several decades after unity between the Orthodox and Hicksite branches in the 1950s/1960s, those united yearly meetings soon adopted liberal Quakerism hook, line, and sinker - even though they still retain membership in both FUM (Orthodox Quakers worldwide) and FGC (liberal Quakers worldwide).  And the list of Quaker sub-branches that continue to be attracted to the spirituality of liberal Quakerism grows: Most of Europe (beginning with England - once a stronghold of Orthodox Quakerism), Beanite descendant meetings, Conservative meetings (especially in North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative and Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative, with a few meetings in Ohio Yearly Meeting conservative.  Many conservative Friends and their meetings consistently rub shoulders with liberal Friends because their sympathies, spirituality, and interests lie with them).  And with issues over the authority of a yearly meeting over local meetings and the question of same-sex marriage looming in Evangelical and pastoral Quakerism - now a number of pastoral and evangelical meetings are cozying up to liberal Quaker associations, yearly meetings, and FGC itself.  I suspect this trend will continue - especially if liberal Quakers wholeheartedly embrace in practice the vision of William Rogers due to a renewed depth of spirituality.

Coming myself from an original place of fanatical Jesus-center religiosity, my conclusion has been for some time that the actual vision of Jesus was genuine inclusivity between people at a core spiritual (read 'Love and Light') level - rather than from a religious level.  He certainly demonstrated that in his interactions with all he met.  And since liberal Quakerism (with all its faults) is still basically an extremely "inclusive" Quaker body, the Spirit can easily move within that group to bring all Quakers together in that 'Love and Light'.  Spirit is like water: it will find any unlikely vessel to manifest itself in; whatever vessel is willing to welcome it unbridled.  It is not a respecter of religious institutions.  So, those religious groups that are the most open, are in a good position to inherit the mission of Jesus to its fullest.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 21, 2015 at 12:30am

I suspect the growth of LiberalFriendish Meetings at the expense of 'Orthodox' comes mostly from changing attitudes in muddle-class US society, that traditional Protestant beliefs have simply gone out of fashion in secular society so that our Society moved accordingly. Many traditional churches are going the same way, with no particular change in the theology they're supposed to be based on.

The messages of Jesus -- Central, I believe, was God's scandalous love of each person -- and the need for people to reflect and diffuse that light among ourselves. The ideal of "Inclusivity" is rather a pallid shadow of that, wouldn't you agree?

And there were certainly warnings among Jesus' messages, that our need to come to know God -- whether in this life or another -- is absolute... that self-righteousness and alienation from each other is a terrible obstruction between us and God... that persisting in normal secular cluelessness (aka 'sin') will bring great suffering, if nothing else serves to break a person free of it.

That God is available, when we truly want God's presence -- yes. But there are so very many obstacles, not with God, but with us. (People always have something more important to do than to come to The Feast. )

Keith, I'm sure your experience of God suffices you just fine... but we all receive that differently, more or less consciously, wanting props of different sorts to help us recognize it -- for some, with notions, and for some, without. With some moved by hymns and some needing silence. Some creatures for the land, and some for the sea, and others in the air... and for anyone who can recognize the feel of pure spirit,  it would probably be good to realize that other people get it other ways...

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 21, 2015 at 1:20am

"Keith, I'm sure your experience of God suffices you just fine... but we all receive that differently, more or less consciously, wanting props of different sorts to help us recognize it -- for some, with notions, and for some, without. With some moved by hymns and some needing silence. Some creatures for the land, and some for the sea, and others in the air... and for anyone who can recognize the feel of pure spirit,  it would probably be good to realize that other people get it other ways..."

Hello Forrest. I will try to express myself clearly and succinctly. I am open to the truth that each person has his or her own measure of Light and that in some the Light is but a diffuse glow in their conscience and conscious. However, that is no excuse to offer up a hope in outward forms. You misrepresented me and jumped to an untrue conclusion by suggesting that I do not realize the relative measures of Light each person experiences in their conscious and conscience. It is essential, however, that people testify to the truth that the Spirit works from within the conscious and conscience. There is no other place or fashion from which the Spirit works since the event at Golgotha and the coming of the Christ impulse (the Comforter); Not in the outward land, not from outward notions, not from the outward sea, not from the outward air. People can look all through the all of the land, all over the sea, all through the outward teachings of men and women, and no where will they find satisfaction. All they need do is feel deep within for the Foundation in themselves and there they will find a new life and a new birth. The Christ impulse is from within the conscious and conscience and candling outward. To teach that the Spirit works from outward things is to teach idolatry and is of the nature of the outward impulse and sin. The biting of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge is ingesting the deception of the outward impulse and turning from our inward grace and heritage. Instead, the message of the inward impulse is one of connection with the inward Spirit in each individual's conscious and conscience. Merely look inwardly and their you will find eternity and peace in the conscious and conscience. We admonish all have faith and trust in the grace of their measure of the directly experienced inward Light. Look no where else and to no other person. Put that measure of the inward Light before all other outward things and you will be blessed with increased measure in the Light itself. There is no reason or excuse to look anywhere else.

It is mine to share and encourage increased Candling in the conscious and conscience of all who will hear it. I am clear that not all will hear it and will look in other places. 

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 21, 2015 at 7:46am

I think it cannot be denied that Jesus shed any outward forms as his spiritual motivators.  They indeed were merely props he was willing to "visit" (use) in order to reach people with his message of 'Love and Light'.  But his being and words (as recorded generations later) exemplified that this 'Love and Light' was sufficient for all.  And he prayed that his followers would find this Oneness within the being of God, as he had done.  Further, he did not leave his followers written instructions; nor did he leave them a physical church structure.  Instead, he left them a Helper - the Spirit - or as the apostle John framed it, "the Light" that is within.

So, should modern seekers choose to put their faith and inspiration source in outward forms, I suppose the Spirit does use these to spur them on to that inward experience that is sufficient as it was for Jesus.  Yet, there is a danger that the outward forms can become a permanent distraction from the action of the Spirit within.  This was the whole realization of the very earliest Quakers.  Instead of turning away from that realization, I suggest we whole-heartedly turn towards it as a spiritual community.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 21, 2015 at 10:15am

I am not saying "You need this; or you need that." What I am saying is that people gotta do what people gotta do, and will do so -- and that that inward influence is ultimately behind all of it, at work in all of it.

The example of yoga may help -- in which the tradition points out that the inward connection is the essence of what you're doing and the object of the practices, but makes different means available for people with different needs and different bents. If it helps, one should do it -- but "meditation is the main thing."

Jesus said what he could, to people who came mainly to have their bodies healed, or their communities bound together again, or to let go of one cherished obstacle or another. He was clear that many would show up & then drift off; and also clear that it was better to seek within until one found the rock that his precepts and insights were founded on. And that many people just clung so tightly to their obstacles that only devastating outward experience was going to break them loose.

In these times, are we concerned to maintain our purity, and to not provide outward flowers or Bibles on the plain table in our midst -- or to bring people in, point them towards the goal as best they can understand and move in that direction -- but make space for whatever harmless thing nourishes them as they are?

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