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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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iii: testimony and experience of friends

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Faith and Experience

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.



16 But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition.When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said,‘ There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’ … and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory. For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let [prevent] it? and this I knew experimentally.

george fox, 1647

17 My desire after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God, yet I knew him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see His love, which was endless and eternal…

george fox, 1647

18 My relations made this cross very heavy; but as at length I happily gave up, divested of reasonings, not consulting how to provide for the flesh, I received strength to attend the meetings of these despised people which I never intended to meddle with, but found truly of the Lord, and my heart owned them. I longed to be one of them, and minded not the cost or pain; but judged it would be well worth my utmost cost and pain to witness such a change as I saw in them — such power over their corruptions. I had heard objected against them, that they wrought not miracles; but I said that they did great miracles, in that they turned them that were in the world and the fellowship of it, from all such things. Thus, by taking up the cross, I received strength against many things which I had thought impossible to deny.

mary penington c. 1625-1682

19 I found that there were two thirsts in me — the one after the creatures, to get help and strength there, and the other after the Lord, the Creator, and His Son Jesus Christ. I saw all the world could do me no good. If I had had a king’s diet, palace, and attendance, all would have been as nothing, for nothing gave me comfort but the Lord by His power. … And I went back into Nottinghamshire, and there the Lord shewed me that the natures of those things which were hurtful without were within, in the hearts and minds of wicked men. The nature of dogs, swine, vipers, of Sodom and Egypt, Pharaoh, Cain, lshmael, Esau, etc. The natures of these I saw within, though people had been looking without. And I cried to the Lord, saying, ‘Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?’And the Lord answered that it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions; and in this I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God; and I had great openings.

george fox, 1647

20 My dear hearts, be faithful every one in your particular measure of God, which he hath given you, and in the Invisible wait in silence, and patience, and obedience, in that which opens the mystery of God.

margaret fell, 1654

21 It is ordered by the providence of the Lord, and by his power, to move in the hearts of some Friends that are poor in the outward to go for New England, a place so far remote as that their passage will come to a great sum of money…which will cost when they come at London for their passage in the ship, five pounds a piece.…All these things being considered, you may all in the eternal light see it convenient, just, and equal that there be some general help made for them…who is willing to offer up their bodies, and their lives, for the service and will of the Lord, and to answer his motion in their hearts, without which they cannot have peace with God.

margaret fell, 1657

22 At last after all my distresses, wanderings and sore travails, I met with some writings of this people called QUAKERS, which I cast a slight eye upon and disdained, as falling very short of that wisdom, light, life, and power, which I had been longing for, and searching after. … After a long time I was invited to hear one of them. … And indeed, when I came, I felt the presence and power of the Most High among them, and words of truth from the Spirit of truth reaching to my heart and conscience, opening my state as in the presence of the Lord. Yea, I did not only feel words and demonstrations from without, but I felt the dead quickened, the seed raised; insomuch that my heart (in the certainty of light and clearness of true sense) said, This is he, there is no other: this is he whom I have waited for and sought after from my childhood; who was always near me, and had often begotten life in my heart; but I knew him not distinctly, nor how to receive him, or dwell with him …

isaac penington, 1667

23 But some may desire to know what I have at last met with? I answer, I have met with the Seed. Understand that word, and thou wilt be satisfied, and inquire no further.

isaac penington, 1667

24 I joyfully entered prisons as palaces, telling mine enemies to hold me there as long as they could: and in the prisonhouse I sung praises to my God, and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels, and in the name of the eternal God I always got the victory, for they could keep me no longer than the determined time of my God.

william dewsbury, 1688

25 Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new; and all the creation gave unto me another smell than before, beyond what words cannot utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness; being renewed into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me.

george fox, 1694

26 In a time of sickness with the pleurisy a little upward of two years and a half ago, I was brought so near the gates of death that I forgot my name. Being then desirous to know who I was, I saw a mass of matter of a dull gloomy colour, between the south and the east, and was informed that this mass was human beings in as great misery as they could be and live, and that I was mixed in with them, and henceforth might not consider myself as a distinct or separate being. In this state I remained several hours. I then heard a soft, melodious voice, more pure and harmonious than any voice I had heard with my ears before, and I believed it was the voice of an angel who spake to other angels. The words were, “John Woolman is dead.” I soon remembered that I once was John Woolman, and being assured that I was alive in the body, I greatly wondered what that heavenly voice could mean. … at length I felt divine power prepare my mouth that I could speak, and then I said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh is by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Gal. 2:20] Then the mystery was opened, and I perceived that there was joy in heaven over a sinner who had repented and that that language John Woolman is dead meant no more than the death of my own will.

john woolman, 1772

27 The first gleam of light, “the first cold light of morning” which gave promise of day with its noontide glories, dawned on me one day at Meeting, when I had been meditating on my state in great depression. I seemed to hear the words articulated in my spirit, “Live up to the light thou hast, and more will be granted thee.” Then I believed that God speaks to man by His Spirit.

caroline fox, 1841

28 One thing I understand now is that one’s intellect alone won’t pull one through, and that the greatest service it can perform is to open a window for that thing we call the divine spirit. If one trusts to it alone it’s like trusting to an artificial system of ventilation— correct in theory but musty in practice. How I wish it were as easy to throw everything open to the spirit of God as it is to fresh air.

hilda clark, c.1908

29 Once my Divine Master sent me on His errands, and I knew His will was good, and was happy in trying to do it. And now He has shut me up to an invalid life, and tells me to sit in my wheeled chair, and to be content to let others do His errands and carry on His work, and I know His will is good just the same, and am happy in trying to accept it.

hannah whitall smith, 1911

30 I was not “christened” in a church, but I was sprinkled from morning to night with dew of religion.We never ate a meal together which did not begin with a hush of thanksgiving; we never began a day without “a family gathering” at which my mother read a chapter of the Bible, after which there would follow a weighty silence. … My first steps in religion were thus acted. It was a religion we did together. Almost nothing was said in the way of instructing me. We all joined together to listen for God, and then one of us talked to him for the others. In these simple ways my religious disposition was being unconsciously formed and the roots of my faith in unseen realities were reaching down far below my crude and childish surface thinking.

rufus m. jones, 1926

31 Experience is the Quaker’s starting-point. This light must be my light, this truth must be my truth, this faith must be my very own faith. The key that unlocks the door to the spiritual life belongs not to Peter, or some other person, as an official. It belongs to the individual soul, that finds the light, that discovers the truth, that sees the revelation of God and goes on living in the demonstration and power of it.

rufus m. jones

32 In practice we find that divine leading is inseparable from a righteous adjustment of our lives to our mundane surroundings, and especially to the lives of others. Experience has shown that we cannot draw a line between religious and secular affairs. The service of God may be found in seeking work for the workless and in searching for the underlying causes of poverty and unemployment as much as in preaching the Gospel in England or abroad.

shipley n. brayshaw, 1933

33 I have never outgrown a sort of naive surprise and delight which I felt when I found out that there is one single thing that one can have without limit and not deprive anyone else — the love of God, His Presence.

mildred binns young, 1961