Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
George Fox, writing from Amsterdam in 1677, admonished Quakers against being draw into outward ceremony and observances. He wrote:
Where did ever Christ or his Apostles command any Believers, or Christians to observe Holy-dayes, or Feast-days; and let us see where it is written in the Scriptures of the New Testament, in the four Evangelists, or Epistles, or the Revelations? That ever Christ or his Apostles gave the Christians and such Command, that they should observe the time called Christmas, or a day for Christ’s Birth? Or that they should observe the time called Easter, or Whitesuntide, or Peter’s, or Paul’s or Marks, or Luke’s Dayes, or any other Saints Dayes?
Now you that profess your selves the Reformed Churches from the Papists, Jews, and Heathen, and the Scriptures to be your Rule, & are Professors of the New Covenant, where do you prove out the Scriptures of the New Testament that the Apostles & any of the primitive Church practised and such thing or that Christ or his Apostles gave any such Command to the Churches, that they should practise and observe any such days. Let us see where this Command is written.
For did not the Apostle say, in his Epistle to the Galatians’ in chapter 4. But now after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and Beggerly Elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in Bondage? Ye observe Dayes, and Moneths and Times, and Years; I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you Labour in vain. And in Gal. 3. it is said, O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the Truth? &c. And in Gal. 5. the Apostle exhorts them, To stand fast in the Liberty, wherewith Christ hath made them free; and moreover, said, Be not entangled again with the Yoke of Bondage.
Now doth not this manifest that here were some Teachers, that were drawing the Church of the Galatians into these Beggerly Elements, and bringing them again into Bondage, in observing Dayes, and Moneths, and Times and Years, he was afraid that he had bestowed his Labour upon them in vain: and he exhorts them to stand fast in the Liberty; wherewith Christ Jesus hath made them free & not to be entangled again with the Yoke of Bondage; AGAIN signifies that they had been once intangled with the Yoke of Bondage, and Beggerly Elements.
But O, how are all that are called Christians (since the Apostles dayes) gone again under this Yoke of Bondage, and these Beggerly Elements, in observing Dayes, Times, Moneths, and Years, let their Practice declare! Nay do not both Papists and Protestants force People by Laws to observe Dayes, and Months, and Times? &c. And therefore is not the Apostles Labour and Travel bestowed upon Christendom in vain, which was to bring People from under such Beggerly Elements, and that Yoke of Bondage, which the Law did require, to stand fast in the Liberty, wherewith Christ hath made them free, and not to be entangled again with the Yoke of Bondage. So it was and is Christ that has made, and does make his People free from these things, in the Apostles dayes, and now: And had all Christendom kept in this Freedom, they had kept from under this Yoke of Bondage: And therefore they who are redeemed, are to stand fast in the Liberty which all true Christians are to stand fast in, they are made free by Christ, and not by man; for man without the Spirit and Mind of Christ seek to force and compel Christs Followers, and such as he hath made free from the Yoke of Bondage to the outward things that the law commanded, and to the observing of Dayes, and Moneths, and Times, and Fasts, and Feasts, and Years, such weak beggaerly Elements, them that know God, or are known of God and Christ, He hath made them free, and they are to stand fast in their liberty, and not come under, nor be entangled with the Yoke of Bondage in such things again; for they that are in such things, and would force others to them, are gone from that which gives them the Knowledge of God and have not stood fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ makes free.
Source: The Hypocrites Fast and Feast, not GOD’s HOLY-DAY. HAT HONOUR to MEN MAN’s INSTITUTION, not God’s. by George Fox
Fox uses the word “beggarly” (quoting the Bible) to characterize the act of participating in and identifying with outward ceremony and Holy-days. The word beggarly is defined in Johnson’s 1773 dictionary as: Mean; poor; indigent; in the condition of a beggar: used both of persons and things. Fox’s use of polemical, and often eristic language, to represent or describe another person or group, often serves to hinder mutual understanding especially for today’s reader. The use of beggarly is an example. His basic meaning is:
The act or process of observing, participating in and identifying with outwardly established or set Dayes, Months, Years, Fasts, Feasts, Holy-days, etc. manifests a spiritual state wherein a person or group must look toward and participate in similitudes or reflections or images of the experience in itself. Human being, conscience, and consciousness are yoked or bound to the observance of these outward ecclesiastical forms, and the institutions that support or promote them, to feed their conscience and consciousness and effect spiritual meaning and purpose.1
There is a different way wherein human being, conscience, and consciousness is come out of the need to participate in and identity with outward similitudes, reflections, representations, ceremonies, or observances, and are come into the thing itself in itself and live and have consciousness in the thing itself in all things and activities. The need for participation in and identification with outward observances and ceremony for spiritual nurture and nourishment fall away through the power of the the appearance of and direct experience of immanent transcendent Presence itself in itself inshining upon and nourishing the conscience and consciousness and ruling over human relationships and interactions. Through the inshining appearance of the immanent presence of Christ inshining upon and nourishing our conscience and consciousness, many people are come into the knowledge of their freedom from the need to participate in and identify with outwardly set and established Holy-days; for the Life itself in itself is present in all things and events during daily life rendering every day and every moment holy.
Fox makes a point to highlight those Teachers who would draw people back into that which they were come out of, through the direct appearance of the immanent transcendent inshining Light upon their conscience and consciousness, participation in and identification with outward ceremony and holy-days. It is a blessing to know the Life itself in itself and to be spiritually guided, informed, and nourished through the coming of the immanent transcendent presence of Christ upon the conscience and consciousness. I am come into the Life itself in itself, through this direct experience. I am come out of the process of participation in and identification outward religious Dayes, Months, Years, Fasts, Feasts, Holy-days. For those who are come into the sufficiency of the Life itself in itself to guide and nurture your relationships and interactions in all things and activities in daily life, Fox’s admonishment stand fast in their Liberty and not to be drawn back into participation in and identification with the yoke of bondage to outward elements or outwardly set Holy-days speaks to a dispensation of the Spirit upon us that we cannot sacrifice through participation in outwardly set Holy-days.
To live, work, and have our being in the Life itself without regard for outwardly established and set ceremonies and observances is part of the experience of many early Quakers and many today. This is not to discourage others from such ceremony and observance should it be in their conscience to do so. This is to affirm and share a different way wherein, in the presence of God, people are draw out of participation in and identification with outwardly set and established ceremony and observances, even as a way or pretense to promote community. Through the direct and immediate experience of immanent transcendent Presence itself in itself in the conscience and consciousness community and gathering is established through the sole motion and impulse of the inshining Spirit upon those who are established in the immanent transcendent Presence itself in itself as sufficient guide in all things and circumstances, even when are where to gather together.
It must be stressed here that George Fox enforced set and established ceremony upon the early Quaker gathering. One example is the ceremonial removal of the hat during prayer at Meeting. There were those Quakers who, through the appearance and impulse of the inshining Light upon their conscience, were come out of participation in and identification with all outward similitudes and reflections and would not participate in the removal of their hat during prayer at Meeting because, having come out of all ceremonial affections in the Light of Christ, the removal of the hat was of no value. These Quakers testified to the witness of this further dispensation of coming out of all forms. A dispensation which George Fox and his followers rejected under the pretense that their forms and discipline were divinely inspired unlike those of the Protestants and Catholics. George Fox and others like William Penn, were brutal in their denigration, defamation, and polemic reflections, upon those Quakers who would not participate in the ceremonies and set times and places for monthly, quarterly, and yearly Meeting he and they cherished.↩