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The Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Society of Friends owes its being to the personality of George Fox, who was born in 1624 in a Puritan home. Gradually he came to three 'truths':

He wanted to call people from an unreal external religion to the true knowledge of God and the worship which is in spirit or in truth. From about 1648 he went out into the world challenging all that was merely conventional. He refused to doff his hat, bow or follow the usual social courtesies. He refused to use worldly titles or to take oaths. He attacked churches, calling them 'steeple-houses', and priests, since none could stand between man and God - this meant a refusal to pay tithes. He opposed war and preached truth and love. He was arrested, imprisoned, beaten, persecuted; yet he never returned violence for violence.

The fundamental principle for which Quakers stood is usually today called the Inner Light, which is God in man. This direct experience of the Inner Light precluded any theological formulations, so Quakers did not have a Creed; neither did they make the Bible the primary source of their faith. Quaker services had no fixed form: they waited silently for the Spirit to move them. There were no ministers or priests or formal sacraments, since all life was deemed to be sacramental.

The experience of the Inner Light found its expression in social crusades, in philanthropy and reform, in the repudiation of war and the commitment to peace as a positive way of life. Perhaps the most famous Quaker of this period was Elizabeth Fry, who expressed her beliefs by visiting prisons and becoming involved in prison reform.

Again, there were laws which penalised these people for not belonging to the Anglican Church, including the Test and Corporation Acts which were finally repealed in 1828. Dissenters were not so severely punished as Catholicsbecause at least Dissenters were Protestants, and did not acknowledge the authority of the Pope.

The Quakers - Society of Friends is a site where more information about the Society may be found.
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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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