In the course of human history the Lord Jehovah has manifested his glorious power from time to time in a most eminent manner, as for instance in the Garden of Eden, at the Flood, in the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh, in the glorious Resurrection of Christ from the dead, in the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Ghost, in the most amazing spread of the Gospel during the time of the apostles, in the Reformation in Europe, and in the powerful moving of His Holy Spirit through the men and women of the Society of Friends who were in scorn called Quakers, whereby He spread the Gospel afresh throughout the western hemisphere after a dark night of apostasy.
Unfortunately, all spiritual movements have a life cycle. They have a birth, an early growth in youthful power and vigor, a mature growth, a time of spiritual decline, and lastly a spiritual death wherein the institution or organization remains but the life and power no longer exists in its members. At this stage there remains only a talk about its doctrines and a pretense in its claims to be that original living body (much the same as the Roman Catholic Church claims to be the apostolic church when in actuality it does not resemble that glorious church in the least). But its death is evident by the visible fact that it is no longer a spiritual force in the world. It no longer has converts and it no longer suffers persecution from the world, two things that the Spirit of Christ will always produce when He resides in the hearts of a people.
We consider that movement of God among and through the early Quakers to have been by far and away the most spiritual and powerful manifestation of God on the earth since the apostolic days. The deep spirituality of their lives, their profound separation from the world with all of its deluding pleasures and cares, their unstinting sacrifices for the cause of Christ and lost souls, their unmatched courage in their ministries, their boldness to speak the word of truth even before kings, all of these things demonstrate that they were in deed and in fact the people of God in that age.
Unfortunately for the world, the people who call themselves Quakers today are not even a shadow of those stalwart and spiritual men and women who were called by that name in days of yore. Some of them try to emulate those amazing saints, but they are unable to do so because they have never experienced the same sin-killing power in their own lives that would allow the Holy Ghost to dwell in them and work through them. They speak many of the words of the old Quakers but they lack the inward work and understanding of what those words really mean. Thus, they have no spiritual understanding nor do they have spiritual power for the salvation of a lost world. They have a name that they try to live but they are dead.
George Fox and the early ministers of Quakerism well understood that true religion is not in rites or church fellowship or even in true doctrine. True religion is in the possession of the Life and Power of a risen Christ to give deliverance from sin and from the power of Satan and to give a living access to the throne of God. It is having fellowship with the Savior. Unconverted church members may easily know about Jesus, but only true Christians can know Him in a very personal way. Likewise any unconverted person may easily know Quaker history and Quaker doctrines without being in that same spirit and power that they were in. They may even try to imitate the Quakers of old, but it is impossible to imitate the life and power of Christ. A bare imitation can produce only hypocrisy and folly. It is like a child dressing up in her mother's clothes and pretending to be a big lady.
There are some few people that hope to revive Quakerism. But this is a forlorn hope. No movement of God that has gone through its cycle of life and death has ever been revived. That is not the way that God works. He does not revive the old bones of that which is in death. The dead are unclean and must be buried. He raises up a new thing in the earth, just as he did in Fox's day. And that is what we are all about. We are expecting the new thing to appear in life and power once again before the Lord returns for His church. It will not be Quakerism, but it will contain all of the life giving elements of that wonderful movement of the Spirit of God.
We do not read the Quaker writings to learn doctrine. We are not trying to be Quakers. The true Quakers are a thing of the past and will never be with us again. We read the writings of the early Quakers because we love that life and power that was so evidently in them. We read them in order to fellowship with them. We read them for inspiration and edification. We read them to remind ourselves of what the life and power of Christ can do for a person that is willing to pass through the ministration of condemnation in order to enter into the promised land of light and life. Those wonderful saints are our brothers and sisters and we long to be in our day what they were in their day. And by God's grace and for Jesus' sake one day we will be.
It is our hearts desire that every reader of these books that we have edited to be more readable and reprinted will become aware of that spirit and power that is possible through Jesus Christ. What those early Quakers were in spirit and life is what a true Christian is supposed to be. But it is not attained by comprehending in the brain those doctrines that they promulgated nor is it reached by imitation. It is attained only by experiencing the same new birth and baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire that they experienced. And that is a work of God and God alone.
May the God of my life, in whom I live and breathe and have my being, bless thee, dear reader, with a sincere hunger for that same measure of the Lord that those precious saints possessed.
If you would like to read the accounts and memoirs of some of the more eminent of these
Gospel laborers click below.
The Lives of Early Quakers