Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I have taken the liberty of adapting substantial portions of the Queries and Advices of Ohio Yearly Meeting’s Book of Discipline to create an Advices and Queries document for Isolated Friends (with a traditional understanding of Quakerism). I have contemplated OYM's Queries and Advices regularly as part of my own spiritual practice for a number of years. Over time, I felt that it would be good to re-work them slightly to emphasize the challenges that I face as an isolated Friend and to leave aside sections that don’t apply to my life as a Friend without a meeting for a spiritual home. For starters, I chose to use the plain language second-person singular thee/thy/thine/thyself to emphasize the personal nature of these Advices and Queries. I found it useful to significantly re-order the Advices to correspond with the Queries, to add three Queries (in part to come up with a once-a-month number of 12 Queries), and to combine the Advices and Queries so that I could contemplate the relevant passages in tandem. I also added a few advices and queries of my own devising, including something regarding online communications.
The way I use them is to contemplate the advice during my time of private retirement over the course of a month (as I feel led) and then to sit at the end of the month and actually write answers to the queries. I have also posted these at my website (Quaker Jane). (After creating this, I found that Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) has its Advices and Queries (pdf) in a similar blended format.)
Advices and Queries
1. Seek to know an inward retirement, even amid the activities of daily life. Make a quiet place in thy daily life, wherein thee may learn the full meaning of prayer, and the gladness of communion with thy Heavenly Father. Remember the special opportunities for refreshment of spirit and for service which the first day of the week affords; use them faithfully, as befits the Friends of the Master. When opportunities for worship arise, be earnestly concerned to enter reverently into communion with God. Come with mind and heart prepared. Yield thyself up to the influence of the Divine Presence so that thee may find the evil in thee weakening and the good raised up. God calls each one to his service. Be obedient and faithful, whether by word or silent prayerful waiting; and be ready to receive the message of others in a tender spirit.
1st Query. Does thee give time of private retirement to the Lord each day? Is thy daily behavior conducive to meditation and communion with God? Does thee maintain a witness for waiting spiritual worship and a free gospel ministry? Does thee seek out fellowship with Friends, as thee is able, with such means as the Lord provides thee to otherwise connect and commune with others living in the Truth and the Way?
2. Live in love, as Christian brethren, ready to be helpful one to another. Rejoice together in the blessings of life; sympathize with each other in its trials. Know one another as fellow-workers in the things that endure. Watch over one another for good, praying that each may be a living member of the Church of Christ, and may grow in the knowledge of the love of God.
2nd Query. Does thee cherish a forgiving spirit, and strive to "walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us"? Is thee careful for the reputation of others, more concerned in fact for others’ reputations than thy own? Does thee avoid detraction and gossip? Is thee ever mindful to love thy neighbor as thyself? If thee finds thyself at odds with another that threatens to disrupt thy peace, does thee act to repair the breach promptly and lovingly, as Christ commands?
3. Endeavor to make thy home an abiding place of joy and peace where the Presence of God is known and felt. Watch with Christian tenderness over the opening minds of thy children. Help them to understand the teachings of Jesus. Seek to awaken in them the love of Christ, and through example and training in self-control, to bring them to obedience to the law of God in their own hearts, that they may be joyful and willing in his service. Gather daily in your families for worship. Such times have a special value in bringing little children especially into the experience of united worship, and so preparing them for larger meetings for worship, as such opportunities might arise, as they learn in the silence to bow to the power of God. Seek for thy children that full development of God's gifts which true education can bring about. Remember that the service to which we are called needs healthy bodies, trained minds, high ideals, and an understanding of the laws and purposes of God.
3rd Query. Is thy home a place of peace, joy, and contentment? Does thee seek to be an influence for good in thy neighborhood, community, and country? Does thee set a good Christian example for thy children to follow? Is thee, as a Friend careful that thy children realize that our loving Savior will faithfully guide them through life, as they are willing to accept and obey Him? Does thee help thy children to read and appreciate the Bible?
4. In view of the evils arising from the use of tobacco and intoxicating drinks, we urge all to abstain from using them, from offering them to others, and from having any part in their production, manufacture, or sale. Do not let the claims of "good fellowship" or the fear of seeming peculiar prevent thee from standing by principles which thee has conscientiously adopted. Be on thy guard, dear Friend, lest the love of pleasure take too strong a hold upon thee. Choose such recreations as are pure and healthful. Let them be in harmony with thy service to God and man; and in that service be ready at any time to lay them aside when called upon.
4th Query. Believing our bodies to be the temple of God, is thee concerned to attain a high level of physical and mental health? To this end is thy life an example of temperance in all things? Does thee avoid and discourage the use and handling of intoxicants, tobacco, and improper use of drugs?
5. Friends are affectionately reminded of the importance of keeping correct and clear accounts pertaining to all outward affairs. An orderly financial life allows thee to be of service to others in need, as well as providing for thy family. It is important to make wills, or revisions of them, while still in health of mind and body, and free from any feeling of resentment. In their senior years, and before debilitating infirmities prevail, Friends are affectionately admonished prayerfully to seek Divine Guidance and counsel from their families and friends regarding plans to continue to live in their own homes, enter a retirement home, or to make other living arrangements appropriate for their financial capabilities in their last years.
5th Query. Is thee sensitive to the needs of those around thee who may be in less fortunate circumstances? Does thee prayerfully consider how thee can share anothers burdens when the need arises, with compassion and courage? Does thee counsel lovingly and prayerfully with those whose actions in any phase of life give thee grounds for concern? Does thee keep thy own affairs, both spiritual and temporal, in good order?
6. Be faithful in maintaining thy testimony against all war as inconsistent with the Spirit and teaching of Christ. Live in the Life and Power that takes away the occasions of all wars and strife. Seek to take thy part in the ministry of reconciliation between individuals, groups, and nations. Let the law of kindness know no limits. Show a loving consideration for all people.
6th Query. Does thee live in the life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars? Does thee, on Christian principles, refuse to participate in or to cooperate with the military effort? Does thee work actively for peace and the removal of the causes of war? Does thee endeavor to cultivate good will, mutual understanding, and equal opportunities for all people?
7. Carefully maintain truthfulness and sincerity in thy conduct, and encourage the same in thy family. In thy style of living, in thy dress, and in the furniture of thy houses, choose what is simple, useful, and good. Be zealous that education shall be continued throughout life. Willingness to be used in mind as well as in body, and to be equipped in both, is a needful part of Christian character. Thy service to God is incomplete without the contribution of the intellect.
7th Query. Does thee observe simplicity in thy manner of living, sincerity in speech, and modesty in apparel? Does thee guard against involving thyself in temporal affairs to the hindrance of spiritual growth? Is thee just in thy dealings and careful to fulfill thy promises? Does thee seek to make thy Christian faith a part of thy daily work?
8. Regard the taking of oaths as contrary to the teachings of Christ, and setting up a double standard of truthfulness; whereas sincerity and truth should be practiced in all walks of life. Avoid and discourage any kind of lotteries, betting or gambling, as well as commercial speculation of a gambling character. Remember how widespread are the temptations to grow rich at the expense of others, and how apparently harmless indulgence leads often by degrees to ruin and crime.
8th Query. Is thee faithful to Christ’s command to avoid swearing oaths? Is thee watchful for and faithful to Christ’s promptings to share with others our testimony against the use of oaths? Does thee avoid gambling and speculation based on the principles of chance? Does thee avoid lotteries of any kind?
9. In consideration of marriage, remember that happiness depends on a deep and understanding love. Seek to be joined in a common discipleship of Jesus Christ. Ask guidance of God, desiring above all temporal considerations, that your union may be owned and blest of Him. Consider the precious responsibilities of parenthood, and do not forget the help thee may draw from the loving counsel of thy own parents.
9th Query. Is thee sensitive to the problems of family living? Does thee exercise care and give loving attention to thy familial relationships? Does thee nurture the loving bonds of marriage in thy own life and in others? How does thee help others, individuals, married couples and families to strengthen and enrich their lives?
10. Remember that thy spiritual life will not be complete unless thee has experienced an inward baptism and transformation. Growth in inward purity and outward Christian effectiveness should follow this experience; but such growth can come only if thee persists in seeking to know and follow the commands of Christ. Let thy whole conduct and conversation be worthy of disciples of Christ. "Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). When led to participate in online interactions, consider that thy words may well outlive thee and influence people in ways thee did not intend. Let thy words be a witness to thy Christian walk. Be wary of interactions of any kind that do not weaken evil and raise up the good.
10th Query. Has thee found ways to find spiritual refreshment in thy daily life? Does thee seek the guidance of the Christ Within in things small and large? Does thee feel the presence of the Lord in thy times of private retirement?
11. Be diligent in the reading of the Bible and other spiritually helpful writings. Give of thy best to the study of the Bible, and the understanding of the Christian faith. “Some of the ways of reading the Bible emphasize intellectual analysis, while others use a more spiritual approach. Although academic discipline is useful in examination of religious scriptures and of our relationship to them, an entirely intellectual perspective on scripture blocks the spiritual dimension of the Bible. For those of us trained to rely on logical thinking, it is difficult to shift out of an intellectual frame of reference. Nevertheless, in order to make use of all that the Bible offers, we must be willing to be led beyond rational analysis into feeling the Bible's spiritual direction. The true source of that spiritual direction is not the pages of the Bible but rather God Almighty, through whose Holy Spirit the spiritual usefulness of the Bible has been established. Furthermore, the spiritual power within the Bible cannot be authentically tapped unless the person using the Bible is also, at that time, under the influence of God's Holy Spirit. Personal whim or an unholy spirit can find appropriate passages for consideration, but the result will not be in harmony with God. When the Bible is used without the Holy Spirit's immediate guidance, spiritual growth will be absent and harm may be done, either to the person involved or to someone else. Any such hurt inflicted can be resolved not through rejection of either the harmful person or the Bible, but through returning to the renewing power of God.” (From Susan S. Smith’s A Quaker Invitation to the Bible).
11th Query. Does thee read the Bible frequently? Has thee felt the difference between reading the Bible in thy own will and when thee is Guided to read it in the Spirit? What Bible passages has the Lord brought to thy attention, and in what ways have these passages influenced thy spiritual and temporal life?
12. Use vigilant care, dear Friends, not to overlook those promptings of love and truth which you may feel in your hearts; for these are the tender leadings of the Spirit of God. Nor should any of us resist God's workings within us, for it is His redemptive love which strives to show us our darkness, and to lead us to true repentance, and to His marvelous light. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). Follow steadfastly after all that is pure and lovely and of good report. Be prayerful. Be watchful. Be humble. Let no failure discourage you. When temptation comes, make it an opportunity to gain new strength by standing fast, that you may enter into that life of gladness and victory to which all are called. Make it your aim to promote the cause of truth and righteousness, and to spread the Kingdom of God at home and abroad. Be ready to take your part fearlessly in declaring His message and in witnessing to His power.
12th Query. Does thee attend to the correction and guidance offered to thee by the Seed in thy heart? Does thee seek assistance from more seasoned Friends when spiritual need arises? Does thee seek to be obedient to the promptings of love and truth which thee may feel in thy hearts? Does thee seek to humbly submit to the challenges and travails of life, striving not in thy own will but only as led, confident in the dominion of the Lord over all, courageous in His name?