The Quaker Meeting:
The Quakers of
“There lives in
We mean the branch of the Quaker church sometimes called the Old-fashioned Quakers,…
“No paid ministry, a
rejection of baptism and the ‘outward ordinances’, and their great reliance on
the “inward light” or guiding spirit, are the society’s most distinguishing
doctrinal points. “Freely ye have
received, freely give,” is their authority for not paying the ministry. A desire to break away from “the tyranny of
the clergy” of
“…about this time the Society
was rent by separation. Away back in
1827 the parent body in the Eastern States was divided by what is known as the Hicksite separation.
Elias Hicks openly denied Christs’s divinity,
depreciated the value of the Scriptures and placed a greater dependence upon
“the inward light”. The tendency in the
society toward the unitarianism of Hicks had its
opposite in the more evangelical doctrines of Joseph John Gurney,… Thus it happens
that there are two distinct branches of Quakers in
… “On entering a Friends’ meeting for the first time the stranger is seated about midway in the audience part of the room. Care is taken not to seat him too far forward,… The men enter with their hats on and many keep them on throughout the entire meeting. All take their seats in silence. As the meetings are mostly in the country, they gather irregularly, and sometime considerable time elapses before all are in. Then perfect quiet settles over all. There is no opening hymn, no announcement, no reading of the scripture, no prayer, no collection, no text, no regular sermon. Every head is bowed and every member is supposed to be communing with the Spirit of the living God. A large congregation waiting in absolute silence for the teaching of the “still small voice that teacheth as never man taught,” is surely a sublime spectacle.
“No one dares break that solemn stillness until he is sure that he is called by the Divine Spirit to speak to the people. Then he rises, slowly removes his hat, and in peculiar, half sing-song voice, discourses on the beauty of holy living and exhorts to faithfulness. These sermons are mostly short and unstudied. They are apparently what is presented to the mind of the speaker when under deep religious thought. As the society does not believe in educating its ministry, the sermons seldom display much learning, but they do sometimes show wonderful spirituality. They never elaborate a subject, but they powerfully condense and put the main truths of the Christian religion in a few short sentences which sometimes are both strong and eloquent.
“A member anywhere in the house may kneel to pray, whereupon all rise to their feet, the men removing their hats. All remain standing until the sometimes eloquent and usually highly figurative prayer ascends to the throne of grace. When the amen is said all are again seated.
“It frequently happens that there is no word spoken through the whole service, the meeting being an entirely silent one. But these are not considered at all profitless by Friends, as they contend that acceptable worship may be rendered in this way, and often remark that such meetings are to them most favored season of divine blessings. When the time for ending the meeting has come, the man sitting at the “head of the meetings,” on the gallery and next to the partition, simply shakes hands with the one next to him, which is the signal for general greeting and handshaking among the members and the meeting is adjourned.
“The formation of the society
“The unbounded faith which Quakers have in their own principles, and the way they regard the principles and practices of other churches, approach intolerance on their part. They believe they are guided to their convictions by the Spirit of Truth, and they really think they have arrived at absolutely correct conclusions, and that any other opinions are wrong. They think that all who differ from them would agree with them if they had sufficient light….
“Behind them they behold the
history of their society made glorious to them by the suffering of its
founders. It has become endeared to them
by every tie of sentiment and conscience, and they regard it as their highest
duty to maintain its existence and preserve its purity against the
encroachments of time.