Early Quaker William Rogers and Gospel Order

At some time around the middle or end of the 1640s, some of the Children of Light, who came to be called Quakers, gathered together. The Quaker gathering experienced a disaffection between one another a decade later. Some were lead to engage in the reflective nature by establishing various outward formalities as incumbent upon all members to practice and perform. Some of those in the gathering who (for conscience sake) were guided and informed in the practice of these formalities, like attending Meeting at proscribed times and places and the removal of the hat while another rises in prayer, were agitated at those Quakers who testified to being drawn out of adherence to formalities and/or those Quakers who testified to toleration of both those who were established in formalities and those who were not; so that, for example, those who (for conscience sake) did not attend Meeting at proscribed times and places, were embraced as Quaker as much as those who adhered to the formality in deference to the prerogative of Christ in each member of the gathering.

Unity and peace in the gathering was broken when Quakers became so established in the reflective nature that affection for formalities or outward forms or religious and political opinion became the rule. Those who were drawn out of adherence to formalities established being drawn out of formality as a formality in itself and sought to enforce compliance by ridiculing those in the gathering who were lead into formality. Likewise, those who were lead into formalities sought to enforce adherence to their prescriptions by ridiculing those who were drawn out of adherence to formality. Both sides appealed to Gospel Order to support their reflected forms.

In 1680, three decades later, William Rogers The Christian Quaker was published. Herein Rogers severely reflects upon Quakers who professed and promoted the establishment of outward formalities to guide and inform the gathering and who were enforcing adherence.

Here is some of what he wrote concerning Gospel Order: The underlining is not part of the original text.

"{Third Part 25} We know from the testimony of truth in our selves, as well as from the Scriptures of Truth without us, that we may be Instruments in the hands of the Lord, to build up one another in the most Holy Faith, in Christ the Truth, that Power of God: but 'tis neither agreeable to the Testimony of Truth in us, nor yet the Scriptures of Truth without us, for any to account themselves of Ability to establish God's Power: for its that by which the World was made. Now the Order of the Gospel is the Power of God, and nothing else (according to the declared sense of our ancient Friends) can properly be called the very Order of the Gospel, than the Fruit of a Tree, can be called the Tree it self; and therefore those who pretend to establish the Order of the Gospel, may as well pretend to establish the Power of God it self. 'Tis true, this Power is of Ability to establish Man in the Faith of God's Elect; but Man is not of Ability to establish it: those who understand the Nature and Tenours of the two Covenants, may easily discern the Truth hereof."

"Under the First Covenant, which was outward, the mind of God was manifested to the People from the Priests Lips, which were to preserve Knowledge; and this Covenant did consist in divers Outward Ordinances, &c. established and impos'd upon the People, until the Time of Reformation. Under the Second Covenant (being the New Covenant or Gospel dispensation) the Mind and Will of God is manifested in his People through the Revelation of his Spirit: according to that of Paul, Rom. 1. 19. That which may be known of God, is manifested in them; Christ also said, John 14. 26. The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. The Law under the covenant is written in the heart, Heb. 8. 10, 11. I will write my Law in their Hearts, & they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all {Third Part 26} shall Know me, &c. Here's not the least ground to encourage for any man under the New Covenant (which was not to be like unto the Old) to pretend, that Gods Spirit doth or will lead any, to establish Outward Orders, relating to matter of Conscience, as the Order of the Gospel: for if that which is to be known of God is manifested in us, then (though it may be needfull to stir up, according as the Lord shall move in his servants the pure Mind in us, that so we may be in the Exercise of what god requires (through the manifestation of himself in us) there is no need to establish any thing without us, to shew it. If the Spirit of Truth is to lead into all truth; those who would be leading us in another way, will prove little better then Thieves and Robbers, which Climb up another way to enter in, than by the door. If the Law be written in the heart, and that no Obedience finds Acceptance with the Lord, but Obedience to his Law, from an inward Impulse and Drawing of his Spirit thereunto in our Selves; there's no need of establishing Outward Indispensible Rules, which may relate to the Conscience, to walk by; for were it possible so to do, and should yield Obedience on no better ground, then because 'tis so establish't by such a Man, or Assembly of Men; this sort of Obedience would find no more acceptance with the Lord, than the offering of Swines flesh (or the Halt and Blind for a Sacrifice) under the First Covenant did. For though many may be so Weak, as not to know the difference between the two Covenants in some respects; yet there are Few of the Lord's People called Quakers, but have this undoubted Truth sealed in their hearts, That none of their Outward Practices, under the Exercise of Christ's Government, find's acceptance with the Lord, but as they have an Evidence in their Consciences, that therein they Answer the measure of Truth in themselves..."

"... Now, Inasmuch as the Testimony of Truth hath been, that what God leads out of, he usually leads not into again; I appeal to Gods witness in all Consciences, whether an Indispensable Establishment of Outward Orders, Prescriptions, and Decrees for the Members of the Church of Christ to walk by, and submit unto, at this Day, and wherein the Liberty of their Consciences may be invaded (of which my meaning is not other Liberty that what the Gospel allows) doth not seem to exalt the sort of Unity, wherein the Fellowship of the Saints in Light doth not consist, and so consequently may become the means to draw the Minds of Gods People outward, and to cause them to look at Outward things (under the notion of Things establish't in the Church) more than to the Anointing in themselves; let Gods Witness in every Conscience Judge."

Source: The Christian Quaker, by William Rogers, 1680, Third Part The Innovations AND Scripture-Misapplications of R. B. Detected, pgs. 25, 26, and 85. To navigate to the entire section published online CLICK HERE.

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