Seekers Found by Douglas Gwyn

I read our meeting's copy of Douglas Gwyn's The Covenant Crucified: Quakers and the Rise of Capitalism and loved it. I kept it on my bedside table for months, intending to re-read it "immediately." Well, that didn't happen. Now it's been reprinted by Britain Yearly Meeting, and a copy is on order for me from Quaker Books, where it's out of stock (sigh). I can't wait! This time I really will re-read it.

In the meantime, I am posting the following brief excerpts from Gwyn's 2000 book, Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience. These quotes have been sitting around as a draft post for at least three months, waiting for me to come up with some kind of brilliant insight to tie it all together.

Well, that's not happening, either, so I'll offer this as a sampling in hopes that you'll read, or re-read, both of these books yourself.
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Page 367:
Truly, early Friends had emphasized strongly the present apocalypse of Christ's coming in terms of the light within. Any future coming was usually left unconfirmed. It was contrary to early Quaker witness to speculate upon future or past events. What mattered was to know the truth of Scripture's prophecy here and now.

Page 368:
In 1690, George Keith proposed to PhYM that membership should be limited to those who would give written testimony to key articles of Christian faith.... The demurral of the YM to act on his proposal only confirmed his unease... Keith was censured by the YM in 9/1692... on the basis of the disorderliness of his actions, rather than his beliefs. Keith and his followers responded with an expanded critique of the YM and Quaker political leadership. They cited anomalies such as oath-refusing Quakers administering oaths to non-Quakers and the Quaker government selling gunpowder to Indians and supplying the Crown with money and troops, despite Friends' well-established pacifist position. Finally, they denounced the rapid increase in slaveholding in the colony and called for its abolition.

Page 370:
Pennsylvania Friends also resisted confronting the conflict between their faith and their political power. It was not until the 1750s and the French and Indian War that Friends finally admitted their position to be untenable and began to withdraw from colonial leadership. And after fending off decades of prophetic criticsm from the time of George Keith to that of John Woolman, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting finally renounced slavery in 1755. "Not until Friends had forgotten George Keith were they willing to endorse his reforms."

Page 371:
Over the course of the next century, a slow, subliminal drift took place among Friends. Some became more orthodox, reclaiming more biblically based doctrinal standards and beginning to see potential allies in the evangelical renewal movement of the wider church. Others found both apocalypse and atonement to be increasingly meaninglesss doctrines, even considering them to be ancient supersitions. These Friends came to view Christ more humanistically as a moral teacher and example. They found new allies among Deists, liberal humanists, Transcendalists, Uniteraians and others. Thus, we see the reconciliation between two types of Seekers - radical Protestant and incipient liberal - begin to break down by 1700 as the atonement drama of the early Quaker movement ended. Two streams of modern consciousness, so powerful in their personal and social dynamics, thus become enervatingly conflicted, even mutually destructive, as they move apart from one another. Therein lies the fall, the alienation, apostasy, and captivity of our modern consciousness.

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