Quakers (or Friends, as they refer to themselves) are members of a family of religious movements collectively known as the Religious Society of Friends. The central unifying doctrine of these movements is the priesthood of all believers. Most Friends view themselves as members of a Christian denomination, and include those with evangelical, holiness, liberal, and traditional conservative Quaker understandings of Christianity. Unlike many other groups the Religious Society of Friends has actively tried to avoid creeds and hierarchical structures.
- See also:
- Statements of Quaker faith sorted alphabetically by author or source
- Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
- Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.
- The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people's hearts … his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them.
- George Fox, Journal (1694)
- I was suddenly arrested by what seemed to be an awful voice proclaiming the words, "Eternity! Eternity! Eternity!" It reached my very soul — my whole man shook — it brought me like Saul to the ground. The great depravity and sinfulness of my heart were set before me, and the gulf of everlasting destruction to which I was verging. I was made to bitterly cry out, "If there is no God — doubtless there is a hell." I found myself in the midst of it.
- Mysticism has been for the most part sporadic. It has found an exponent now here, now there, but it has shown little tendency toward organizing and it has manifested small desire to propagate itself. There have been types of mystical religion which have persisted for long periods and which have spread over wide areas, but in all centuries such mystical religion has spread itself by a sort of spiritual contagion rather than by system and organization.
It has broken forth where the Spirit listed, and its history is mainly the story of the saintly lives through which it has appeared. The Quaker movement, which had its rise in the English Commonwealth, is an exception. It furnishes some material for studying a "mystical group" and it supplies us with an opportunity of discovering a test and authority even for mystical insights.
- There has always been in the Society of Friends a group of persons pledged unswervingly to the ideal. To those who form this inner group compromise is under no circumstance allowable. If there comes a collision between allegiance to the ideal and the holding of public office, then the office must be deserted. If obedience to the soul's vision involves eye or hand, houses or lands or life, they must be immediately surrendered. But there has always been as well another group who have held it to be equally imperative to work out their principles of life in the complex affairs of the community and the state, where to gain an end one must yield something; where to get on one must submit to existing conditions; and where to achieve ultimate triumph one must risk his ideals to the tender mercies of a world not yet ripe for them.
- Rufus Jones, in Quakers in the American Colonies (1911), p. 175
- There is one great God and power that has made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in this world. This great God has written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and do good to one another, and not to do harm and mischief one unto another.
- William Penn, in a letter to the Lenape Nation (18 October 1681); as published in William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania 1680 - 1684: A Documentary History, (1983) edited by Jean R. Soderlund, University of Pennsylvania Press
- Men being born with a title to perfect freedom and uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature … no one can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political view of another, without his consent.
- William Penn, in First Frame of Government (25 April 1682) Full title: The frame of the government of the province of Pennsylvania, in America, together with certain laws agreed upon in England by the governor and divers freemen of the aforesaid province, to be further explained and continued there by the first provincial council that shall be held, if they see meet.
- We never swear, not even in a court of justice; being of opinion, that the name of the Most High ought not to be prostituted in the frivolous contests between man and man. When we are obliged to appear before a magistrate, upon the concerns of others — for lawsuits are unknown among the Friends — we affirm the truth by our "yea" or "nay," and they believe us on our simple affirmation, while other Christians are daily perjuring themselves on the blessed Gospels. We never take up arms, not that we are fearful of death; on the contrary, we bless the instant that unites us to the Being of beings. The reason is, that we are neither wolves, tigers, nor mastiffs, but men and Christians. Our God, who has commanded us to love our enemies, and to suffer without repining, can certainly not order us to cross the seas, and cut the throats of our fellow-creatures, as often as murderers, clothed in scarlet, and wearing caps two feet high, enlist peaceful citizens by a noise made with two sticks on an ass' skin extended. And when, after the gaining of a battle, all London blazes with illuminations, when the air glows with fireworks, and a noise is heard of thanksgivings, of bells, of organs, and of cannon, we groan in silence for the cruel havoc which occasions these public rejoicings.
- Andrew Pit, as quoted in "The History of the Quakers" by Voltaire, in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 33, as modernized by William F. Fleming
- It was three hundred years ago, in October 1656, that George Fox had a memorable interview with Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. It was one of the great moments of a great century, for here, face to face, were two of the most powerful personalities of the age, the one the military dictator of the British Isles at the pinnacle of his worldly power, the other a crude, rustic preacher who had just spent eight months in one of England's foulest prisons. They met in Whitehall, at the very heart of the British government. Fox bluntly took the Protector to task for persecuting Friends when he should have protected them. Then characteristically he set about trying to make a Quaker out of Cromwell, to turn him to "the light of Christ who had enlightened every man that cometh into the world." Cromwell was in an argumentative mood and took issue with Fox's theology, but Fox had no patience with his objections. "The power of God riz in me," he wrote, "and I was moved to bid him lay down his crown at the feet of Jesus."
Cromwell knew what Fox meant, for two years earlier he had received a strange and disturbing missive in which he had read these words:
- God is my witness, by whom I am moved to give this forth for the Truth's sake, from him whom the world calls George Fox; who is the son of God who is sent to stand a witness against all violence and against all the works of darkness, and to turn people from the darkness to the light, and to bring them from the occasion of the war and from the occasion of the magistrate's sword...
- The man who persisted in calling himself the "son of God"— he later acknowledged that he had many brothers — was demanding nothing less than that the military ruler of all England should forthwith disavow all violence and all coercion, make Christ's law of love the supreme law of the land, and substitute the mild dictates of the Sermon on the Mount for the Instrument of Government by which he ruled. In a word, Fox would have him make England a kind of pilot project for the Kingdom of Heaven. Fox was a revolutionary. He had no patience with the relativities and compromises of political life. His testimony was an uncompromising testimony for the radical Christian ethic of love and non-violence, and he would apply it in the arena of politics as in every other sphere of life. It is not recorded that Cromwell took his advice. Neither is it recorded that Fox ever receded an inch from his radical perfectionism.
- If one has been visited by a direct sense of inward presence, he is driven to tell everyone who will listen to him. Strange and unendurable irony – that Friends who speak so much about the Inward Light should so timidly hide their own light under a bushel! The time has come to preach the faith we have resolved to practice. If we have good news for our brothers, and I believe we do, let us shout it from the housetops! Let us learn to be publishers of truth about our faith as well as our social concerns.
- John Yungblut, in Quakerism of the Future (1974)
Quotes about Quakers
- My luck is getting worse and worse. Last night, for instance, I was mugged by a Quaker.
- Woody Allen, as quoted in The Good Luck Book (1997) by Stefan Bechtel and Laurence Roy Stains, p. 371
- Now I see there is a people risen that I cannot win with gifts or honours, offices or places; but all other sects and people I can.
- The Puritans had accused the Quakers of "troubling the world by preaching peace to it." They refused to pay church taxes; they refused to bear arms; they refused to swear allegiance to any government. (In so doing they were direct actionists, what we may call negative direct actionists.) So the Puritans, being political actionists, passed laws to keep them out, to deport, to fine, to imprison, to mutilate, and finally, to hang them. And the Quakers just kept on coming (which was positive direct action); and history records that after the hanging of four Quakers, and the flogging of Margaret Brewster at the cart's tail through the streets of Boston, "the Puritans gave up trying to silence the new missionaries"; that "Quaker persistence and Quaker non-resistance had won the day."
- Voltairine de Cleyre, in "Direct Action" an address in Chicago (21 January 1912); published in Mother Earth (1912)
- If any church could come to holding Sydney's allegiance, it was the Society of Friends, with its rejection of dogma, and its reliance on personal experience and social activism, and its affirmation of God's presence in every human being.
- The Quakers have an excellent approach to thinking through difficult problems, where a number of intelligent and responsible people must work together. They meet as equals, and anyone who has an idea speaks up. There are no parliamentary procedures and no coercion from the Chair. They continue the discussion until unanimity is reached. I want you guys to do that. Get in a room with no phones and leave orders that you are not to be disturbed. And sit there until you can deal with each other as individuals, not as spokesmen for either organization.
- Hyman G. Rickover, as quoted in The Rickover Effect (1992) by Theodore Rockwell
- "The History of the Quakers" in The Works of Voltaire (1762), Vol 13, as translated by Tobias George Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al., later published as "The Religion of the Quakers", in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes (1901), Vol. 39, as modernized by William F. Fleming
- Being of opinion that the doctrine and history of so extraordinary a sect as the Quakers were very well deserving the curiosity of every thinking man, I resolved to make myself acquainted with them, and for that purpose made a visit to one of the most eminent of that sect in England, who, after having been in trade for thirty years, had the wisdom to prescribe limits to his fortune, and to his desires, and withdrew to a small but pleasant retirement in the country, not many miles from London. Here it was that I made him my visit. His house was small, but neatly built, and with no other ornaments but those of decency and convenience.
- He advanced toward me without moving his hat, or making the least inclination of his body; but there appeared more real politeness in the open, humane air of his countenance, than in drawing one leg behind the other, and carrying that in the hand which is made to be worn on the head. "Friend," said he, "I perceive thou art a stranger, if I can do thee any service thou hast only to let me know it." "Sir," I replied, bowing my body, and sliding one leg toward him, as is the custom with us, "I flatter myself that my curiosity, which you will allow to be just, will not give you any offence, and that you will do me the honor to inform me of the particulars of your religion." "The people of thy country," answered the Quaker, "are too full of their bows and their compliments; but I never yet met with one of them who had so much curiosity as thyself. Come in and let us dine first together."
- Voltaire's account of meeting the Quaker Andrew Pit.
- I opened with that which good Catholics have more than once made to Huguenots. "My dear sir," said I, "were you ever baptized?" "No, friend," replied the Quaker, "nor any of my brethren." "Zounds!" said I to him, "you are not Christians then!" "Friend," replied the old man, in a soft tone of voice, "do not swear; we are Christians, but we do not think that sprinkling a few drops of water on a child's head makes him a Christian." "My God!" exclaimed I, shocked at his impiety, "have you then forgotten that Christ was baptized by St. John?" "Friend," replied the mild Quaker, "once again, do not swear. Christ was baptized by John, but He Himself never baptized any one; now we profess ourselves disciples of Christ, and not of John." "Mercy on us," cried I, "what a fine subject you would be for the holy inquisitor! In the name of God, my good old man, let me baptize you."
- Voltaire's account of his conversations with Andrew Pit.
- I asked my guide how it was possible the judicious part of them could suffer such incoherent prating? "We are obliged," said he, "to suffer it, because no one knows, when a brother rises up to hold forth, whether he will be moved by the spirit or by folly. In this uncertainty, we listen patiently to every one. We even allow our women to speak in public; two or three of them are often inspired at the same time, and then a most charming noise is heard in the Lord's house." "You have no priests, then?" said I. "No, no, friend," replied the Quaker; "heaven make us thankful!" Then opening one of the books of their sect, he read the following words in an emphatic tone: "'God forbid we should presume to ordain any one to receive the Holy Spirit on the Lord's day, in exclusion to the rest of the faithful!'
- Further account of his conversations with Andrew Pit.
- You have already heard that the Quakers date their epoch from Christ, who, according to them, was the first Quaker. Religion, say they, was corrupted almost immediately after His death, and remained in that state of corruption about sixteen hundred years. But there were always a few of the faithful concealed in the world, who carefully preserved the sacred fire, which was extinguished in all but themselves; till at length this light shone out in England in 1642.
It was at the time when Great Britain was distracted by intestine wars, which three or four sects had raised in the name of God, that one George Fox, a native of Leicestershire, and son of a silk-weaver, took it into his head to preach the Word, and, as he pretended, with all the requisites of a true apostle; that is, without being able either to read or write. He was a young man, about twenty-five years of age, of irreproachable manners, and religiously mad. He was clad in leather from head to foot, and travelled from one village to another, exclaiming against the war and the clergy.
- This new patriarch Fox said one day to a justice of peace, before a large assembly of people. "Friend, take care what thou dost; God will soon punish thee for persecuting his saints." This magistrate, being one who besotted himself every day with bad beer and brandy, died of apoplexy two days after; just as he had signed a mittimus for imprisoning some Quakers. The sudden death of this justice was not ascribed to his intemperance; but was universally looked upon as the effect of the holy man's predictions; so that this accident made more Quakers than a thousand sermons and as many shaking fits would have done. Cromwell, finding them increase daily, was willing to bring them over to his party, and for that purpose tried bribery; however, he found them incorruptible, which made him one day declare that this was the only religion he had ever met with that could resist the charms of gold.
The Quakers suffered several persecutions under Charles II; not upon a religious account, but for refusing to pay the tithes, for "theeing" and "thouing" the magistrates, and for refusing to take the oaths enacted by the laws.
At length Robert Barclay, a native of Scotland, presented to the king, in 1675, his "Apology for the Quakers"; a work as well drawn up as the subject could possibly admit. The dedication to Charles II, instead of being filled with mean, flattering encomiums, abounds with bold truths and the wisest counsels. "Thou hast tasted," says he to the king, at the close of his "Epistle Dedicatory," "of prosperity and adversity: thou hast been driven out of the country over which thou now reignest, and from the throne on which thou sittest: thou hast groaned beneath the yoke of oppression; therefore hast thou reason to know how hateful the oppressor is both to God and man. If, after all these warnings and advertisements, thou dost not turn unto the Lord, with all thy heart; but forget Him who remembered thee in thy distress, and give thyself up to follow lust and vanity, surely great will be thy guilt, and bitter thy condemnation. Instead of listening to the flatterers about thee, hearken only to the voice that is within thee, which never flatters. I am thy faithful friend and servant, Robert Barclay."
The most surprising circumstance is that this letter, though written by an obscure person, was so happy in its effect as to put a stop to the persecution.
- William Penn, when only fifteen years of age, chanced to meet a Quaker in Oxford, where he was then following his studies. This Quaker made a proselyte of him; and our young man, being naturally sprightly and eloquent, having a very winning aspect and engaging carriage, soon gained over some of his companions and intimates, and in a short time formed a society of young Quakers, who met at his house; so that at the age of sixteen he found himself at the head of a sect. Having left college, at his return home to the vice-admiral, his father, instead of kneeling to ask his blessing, as is the custom with the English, he went up to him with his hat on, and accosted him thus: "Friend, I am glad to see thee in good health." The viceadmiral thought his son crazy; but soon discovered he was a Quaker. He then employed every method that prudence could suggest to engage him to behave and act like other people. The youth answered his father only with repeated exhortations to turn Quaker also. After much altercation, his father confined himself to this single request, that he would wait on the king and the duke of York with his hat under his arm, and that he would not "thee" and "thou" them. William answered that his conscience would not permit him to do these things. This exasperated his father to such a degree that he turned him out of doors. Young Penn gave God thanks that he permitted him to suffer so early in His cause, and went into the city, where he held forth, and made a great number of converts; and being young, handsome, and of a graceful figure, both court and city ladies flocked very devoutly to hear him. The patriarch Fox, hearing of his great reputation, came to London — notwithstanding the length of the journey — purposely to see and converse with him. They both agreed to go upon missions into foreign countries; and accordingly they embarked for Holland, after having left a sufficient number of laborers to take care of the London vineyard.
- William inherited very large possessions, part of which consisted of crown debts, due to the vice-admiral for sums he had advanced for the sea-service. No moneys were at that time less secure than those owing from the king. Penn was obliged to go, more than once, and "thee" and "thou" Charles and his ministers, to recover the debt; and at last, instead of specie, the government invested him with the right and sovereignty of a province of America, to the south of Maryland. Thus was a Quaker raised to sovereign power.
He set sail for his new dominions with two ships filled with Quakers, who followed his fortune. The country was then named by them Pennsylvania, from William Penn; and he founded Philadelphia, which is now a very flourishing city. His first care was to make an alliance with his American neighbors; and this is the only treaty between those people and the Christians that was not ratified by an oath, and that was never infringed. The new sovereign also enacted several wise and wholesome laws for his colony, which have remained invariably the same to this day. The chief is, to ill-treat no person on account of religion, and to consider as brethren all those who believe in one God. He had no sooner settled his government than several American merchants came and peopled this colony. The natives of the country, instead of flying into the woods, cultivated by degrees a friendship with the peaceable Quakers. They loved these new strangers as much as they disliked the other Christians, who had conquered and ravaged America. In a little time these savages, as they are called, delighted with their new neighbors, flocked in crowds to Penn, to offer themselves as his vassals. It was an uncommon thing to behold a sovereign "thee'd" and "thou'd" by his subjects, and addressed by them with their hats on; and no less singular for a government to be without one priest in it; a people without arms, either for offence or preservation; a body of citizens without any distinctions but those of public employments; and for neighbors to live together free from envy or jealousy. In a word, William Penn might, with reason, boast of having brought down upon earth the Golden Age, which in all probability, never had any real existence but in his dominions.
- No oaths, no seals, no official mummeries were used; the treaty was ratified on both sides with a yea, yea — the only one, says Voltaire, that the world has known, never sworn to and never broken.
- As quoted in William Penn : An Historical Biography (1851) by William Hepworth Dixon
- William Penn began by making a league with the Americans, his neighbors. It is the only one between those natives and the Christians which was never sworn to, and the only one that was never broken.
- As quoted in American Pioneers (1905), by William Augustus Mowry and Blanche Swett Mowry, p. 80
- It was the only treaty made by the settlers with the Indians that was never sworn to, and the only one that was never broken.
- As quoted in A History of the American Peace Movement (2008) by Charles F. Howlett, and Robbie Lieberman, p. 33
- It was in the reign of Charles II that they obtained the noble distinction of being exempted from giving their testimony on oath in a court of justice, and being believed on their bare affirmation. On this occasion the chancellor, who was a man of wit, spoke to them as follows: "Friends, Jupiter one day ordered that all the beasts of burden should repair to be shod. The asses represented that their laws would not allow them to submit to that operation. 'Very well,' said Jupiter; 'then you shall not be shod; but the first false step you make, you may depend upon being severely drubbed.'"
- I cannot guess what may be the fate of Quakerism in America; but I perceive it loses ground daily in England. In all countries, where the established religion is of a mild and tolerating nature, it will at length swallow up all the rest.
- Quakers at DMOZ
- Quaker Information Center
- Quakers in Britain
- The Religious Society of Friends
- Quakers at History.com
- Digital Quaker Collection: – a list of Christian Quaker literature
- Post Reformation Digital Library: – a library of early modern quaker texts
- Quaker Universalist Fellowship
- William Penn Lectures (1916 - 1966)