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Historical texts  >  Primitive Christianity Revived, William Penn  >  Chapter Eleven

Primitive Christianity Revived

in the faith and practice of the people called Quakers.

by William Penn.


§ 1. Against tithes. § 2. Against all swearing. § 3. Against war among Christians. § 4. Against the salutations of the times. § 5. And for plainness of speech. § 6. Against mixt marriages. § 7. And for plainness in apparel, &c. No sports and pastimes after the manner of this world. § 8. Of observing days. § 9. Of care of poor, peace and conversation.

§ 1. AND as God has been pleased to call us from an human ministry, so we cannot for conscience' sake support and maintain it, and upon that score, and not but of humour or covetousness, we refuse to pay tithes, or such like pretended dues, concerning which, many books have been writ in our defence: we cannot support what we cannot approve, but have a testimony against; for thereby we should be found inconsistent with ourselves.

§ 2. We dare not swear, because Christ forbids it. Matt. v. 34-37: " But I say unto you, swear not at all: neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King: neither shalt thou swear by thy head; because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." And James, his true follower. It is needless as well as evil, for the reason of swearing being untruth, that man's yea was not yea. Swearing was used to awe men to truth-speaking, and to give others satisfaction, that what an oath is answered and therefore the use of it is needless, superfluous and cometh of evil. The Apostle James taught the same doctrine, and the primitive Christians practised it, as may be seen in the Book of Martyrs; as also the earliest and best of the Reformers.

§ 3. We also believe, that war ought to cease, among the followers of the Lamb Christ Jesus, who taught his disciples to forgive and love their enemies, and not to war against them, and kill them; and that therefore the weapons of his true followers are not carnal but spiritual; yea, mighty, through God, to cut down sin and wickedness, and dethrone him that is the author thereof. *And as this is the most Christian, so the most rational way; love and persuasion having more force than weapons of war. Nor would the worst of men easily be brought to hurt those that they really think love them. It is that love and patience must in the end have the victory.

§ 4. We dare not give worldly honour, or use the frequent and modish salutations of the times, seeing plainly, that vanity, pride and ostentation, belong to them. Christ also forbade them in his day, and made the love of them a mark of declension from the simplicity of purer times; and his disciples, and their followers, were observed to have obeyed their Master's precept. It is not to distinguish ourselves a party, or out of pride, ill-breeding or humour, but in obedience to the sight and sense we have received from, the Spirit of Christ, of the evil rise and tendency thereof.

§ 5. For the same reason we have returned to the first plainness of speech, viz. thou and thee, to a single person, which though men give no other to God, they will hardly endure it from us. It has been a great jest upon pride, and shewn the blind and weak insides of many. This also is out of pure conscience, whatever people may think or say of us for it. We may be despised, and have been so often, yea, very evilly entreated, but we are now better known, and the people better informed. In short, it is also both scripture and grammar, and we have propriety of speech for it, as well as peace in it.

§ 6. We cannot allow of mixed marriages, that is, to join with such as are not of our society; but oppose and disown them, if at any time any of our profession so grossly err from the rule of their communion; yet restore them upon sincere repentance, but not disjoin them. The book I writ of the rise and progress of the people called Quakers, is more full and express herein.

§ 7. Plainness in apparel and furniture, is another testimony peculiar to us, in the degree we have bore it to the world: as also few words, and being at a word. Likewise temperance in food, and abstinence from the recreations and pastimes of the world: all which we have been taught, by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be according to godliness; and therefore we have long exhorted all, that their moderation may be known unto all men, for that the Lord was at hand, to enter into judgment with us for every intemperance or excess; and herein we hope we have been no ill examples, or scandal unto any that have a due consideration of things.

§ 8. We cannot, in conscience to God, observe holy days (so called) the public fasts and feasts, because of their human institution and ordination, and that they have not a divine warrant, but are appointed in the will of man.

§ 9. Lastly, we have been led by this good Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which I have treated in this discourse, according to primitive practice, to have a due care over one another, for the preservation of the whole society, in a conversation more suitable to their holy professions.

First. In respect to a strict walking both towards those that are without, and those that are within; that their conversation in the world, and walking in and towards the church, may be blameless. That as they may be strict in the one, so they may be faithful in the other.

Secondly. That collections be made to supply the wants of the poor, and that care be taken of widows and orphans, and such as are helpless, as well in counsel, as about substance.

Thirdly. That all such as are intended to marry, if they have parents, or are under the direction of guardians or trustees obliged, first, to declare to them their intention, and have their consent before they propose it to one another, and the meeting they relate to, who are also careful to examine their clearness, and being satisfied with it, they are by them allowed to solemnize their marriage in a public select meeting, for that purpose appointed, and not otherwise: whereby all clandestine and indirect marriages are prevented among us.

Fourthly. And to the end that this good order may be observed, for the comfort and edification of the society, in the ways of truth and soberness; select meetings (of care and business) are fixed in all parts, where we inhabit, which are held monthly, and which resolve into quarterly meetings, and those into one yearly meeting, for our better communication one with another, in those things that maintain piety and charity; that God, who by his grace, has called us to be a people, to his praise, may have it from us, through his beloved Son, and our ever-blessed and only Redeemer, Jesus Christ, for he is worthy, worthy, now and ever. Amen.

Thus, reader, thou hast the character of the people called Quakers, in their doctrine, worship, ministry, practice and discipline: compare it with Scripture, and primitive example, and we hope thou wilt find, that this short discourse hath, in good measure, answered the title of it, viz.:—

Primitive Christianity Revived, in the principles and practice of the people called Quakers.