From John Woolman (1741)

I went to meetings in an awful frame of mind, and endeavored to be inwardly acquainted with the language of the true Shepherd. And one day, being under a strong exercise of spirit, I stood up, and said some words in a meeting, but not keeping close to the divine opening, I said more than was required of me and being soon sensible to my error, I was afflicted in mind some weeks, without any light or comfort, even to that degree that I could take satisfaction in nothing. I remembered God and was troubled, and in the depth of my distress he had pity upon me, and sent the Comforter. I then felt forgiveness for my offence, and my mind became calm and quiet, being truly thankful to my gracious Redeemer for his mercies. And after this, feeling the spring of divine love opened, and a concern to speak, I said a few words in a meeting in which I found peace. This I believe was about six weeks from the first time, and as I was thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the language of the pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart, and taught me to wait in silence sometimes many weeks together, until I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to his flock. John Woolman (1741)

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Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 28, 2020 at 10:32am

John Woolman expresses here a classical understanding of Quaker ministry.  "He, being dead, yet speaketh"!

Comment by Keith Saylor on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 12:09am

Hello William,

Thank you for sharing Woolman's testimony to his witness of the direct experience of the operation of the Spirit in the conscience. 

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 12:43am

The classical understanding of Quaker ministry is deeply flawed. I know some very good people who manage to fit their religious thought into that framework; but God prefers His people alive. Yes, we're typically more trouble that way; but that's normal for children, even God's children.

Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 6:15am

Forrest wrote: "The classical understanding of Quaker ministry is deeply flawed."

Forrest, in what way is it flawed?  What alternative do you see as better, and why?

Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 6:18am

Isaiah 58:1 - "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."

Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 6:21am

Keith, tell us more!

Comment by Keith Saylor on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 10:59am

I appreciate Woolman's actual witness of the way the spirit relates to him and the way he relates to the spirit. It is pivotal that the direct experience of the operation of the spirit was not of the nature of reflective thought. The corrective in his experience was the the relative decrease of the the spirit's presence as the result of a particular behavior or interaction with people. The experience of the spiritually tactile distancing of the everlasting presence of the Light itself brought him to say I was afflicted in mind some weeks, without any light or comfort ... The resulting increase of the motion and impulse of the spirit manifested a comfort and quiet in his conscience and a return to giving the prerogative to the operation of the spirit. This is an experience I share with those who are come into the everlasting appearance of the Life itself. It is frightful to experience the dimming of the self-sustaining Light in the conscience as a result of a particular action which usurps the prerogative of the spirit by asserting my own will out of the Light. It is a blessing, the increased presence of the Life itself, to give over the prerogative of the spirit of Christ rule and guide relationships and interactions.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 11:38am

The trouble with the traditional Quaker understanding is that it grew out of the Puritan notion that the only good human was being like a zombie under Divine remote control.

As with automatic writing, the ego can all too readily self-deceive as it unconsciously manifests in actions where we're hoping to deny our individual participation.

When we are at peace with Spirit at work in and around our limited individual selves, we sometimes get to participate in what it's creating. It is something we do even though it transcends anything we could possibly do if we were merely disjunct fragments of spirit.

My wife's experience on the bus, being led to say (silently to herself) "Comfort that man" and seeing him immediately quiet and consciously looking around -- would be one example. Practicing any art form can provide frequent examples of "creating" work we "don't know how to do."

Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 2:04pm

Forrest: Do you think feeling it necessary to be led by God before speaking in a meeting for worship " was being like a zombie under Divine remote control"?

Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 29, 2020 at 2:07pm

Was John Woolman "like a zombie under Divine remote control"??

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