Sunday, May 31, 2009

Early Friends' Experiences of the Light, Part 3

This is a continuation of a previous post.

Friends experienced a power and strength through the Light. Some of this power wasin form of transformation – the power to overcome sin. Some of this power and strengthening was in the form of healing. Many other times, it was in the form of being given the courage and ability to stand in witness to the Inward Light. In his journal, George Fox relates an amazing story of strengthening and healing:
When they had haled me to the common moss side, a multitude following, the constables, and other officers gave me some blows over my back with their willow rods, and thrust me among the rude multitude; who having furnished themselves with staves, hedge-stakes, holm or holly bushes, fell upon me, and beat me on my head, arms, and shoulders, till they had deprived me of sense; so that I fell down upon the wet common. When I recovered again. I saw myself lying in a watery common, and the people standing about me, I lay still a little while, and the power of the Lord sprang through me, and the eternal refreshings revived me; so that I stood up again in the strengthening power of the eternal God and stretching out my arms amongst them, I said, with a loud voice, “Strike again; here are my arms, my head, and my cheeks.” There was in the company a mason, a professor, but a rude fellow, who with his walking rule-staff gave me a blow with all his might just over the back of my hand, as it was stretched out; with which blow my hand was so bruised, and my arm so benumbed, that I could not draw it to me again; so that some of the people cried, “He hath spoiled his hand for ever having the use of it any more.” But I looked at it in the love of God, (for I was in the love of God to them all that had persecuted me,) and after awhile the Lord’s power sprang through me again, and through my hand and arm, so that in a moment I recovered strength in my
hand and arm in the sight of them all.

The ministry of early Friends was often described in terms of power, not necessarily in terms of one being a powerful speaker, but that there was a power that accompanied the words that answered the witness of God in others. Richard Hubberthorn wrote to Margaret Fell that:

The Lord is gathering in many in this city daily; there are many meetings full and large, where there is any to declare the Truth
amongst them; and they that are great in the earth, the power of Truth shines through them, and is drawing them in daily. The priests confess that there is such a power amongst us, that none who come to us can escape; and they exhort people not to come to us.

George Fox relates several incidents in which the Lord’s power was so great that the very room seemed to tremble. In this incident, he also shows the feeling of deadness when someone else prayed outside of that power:

After this I went again to Mansfield, where was a great meeting of professors and people: and I was moved to pray; and the Lord’s power was so great, that the house seemed to be shaken. When I had done, some of the professors said, “It was now as in the days of the apostles, when the house was shaken where they were.” After I had prayed, one of the professors would pray; which brought deadness and a veil over them. Others of the professors were grieved at him, and told him, “it was a temptation upon him.” Then he came to me, and desired that I would pray again; but I could not pray in man’s will.

Isaac Penington wrote that ministers “must abide in the power, keep in the power, feel the motion, virtue, and assistance of the power, in all their work and service.” He also wrote that there was strength in remembering one’s experiences of the Light:

Keep thine eye and heart upon the preciousness of what thou feltest. O remember, how fresh, how warm, how living it was; how it reached, how it overcame, how it melted! The remembrance of this, cleaved to in the mind, will be a strength against the temptations and subtle devices of the enemy.

When Friends wrote of the power of the Lord being “over all”, it often referred to the Inward Light having power over those gathered against Friends. William Edmundson, whose conversion we saw earlier, relates this story of rescue:

The bishop seeing this, was amazed, and bid two of his waiting men take me into the buttery*, and make me eat and drink. They took me by the arms down the stairs, and bid me go into the buttery to eat and drink. I told them I would not eat or drink there; but they urged me, saying, I heard their lord command them to make me eat and drink. I asked them if they were Christians at that house. They said yes; then, said I, let your yea be yea; and your nay be nay, for that is Christ’s command. I said, I will not eat or drink here, and you take no notice of it, being accustomed to break your yea and nay. They stood silent and let me go, for the Lord’s power astonished and was over them all.

* buttery - A storeroom for liquors

Continued in Part 4

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