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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.


discernment and guidance

34 If you build upon anything or have confidence in anything which stands in time and is on this side eternity and (the) Being of beings, your foundation will be swept away, and night will come upon you, and all your gathered-in things and taken-on and imitated will all fail you. … Why trim you yourselves with the saints’ words, when you are ignorant of the life? Return, return to Him that is the first Love, and the first-born of every creature, who is the Light of the World. … Return home to within, sweep your houses all, the groat is there, the little leaven is there, the grain of mustard seed you will see, which the Kingdom of God is like; … and here you will see your Teacher not removed into a corner, but present when you are upon your beds and about your labor, convincing, instructing, leading, correcting, judging and giving peace to all that love and follow Him.

francis howgill, 1656

35 There is a Spirit that I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations, as it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; and takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It’s conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings: for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.

james nayler, 1660

36 My prison shall be my grave before I will budge a jot; for I owe my conscience to no mortal man; I have no need to fear, God will make amends for all.

william penn, 1668

37 The Cross of Christ … truly overcomes the world, and leads a life of purity in the face of its allurements; they that bear it are not thus chained up, for fear they should bite; nor locked up, lest they should be stole away; no, they receive power from Christ their Captain, to resist the evil, and do that which is good in the sight of God; to despise the world, and love its reproach above its praise; and not only not to offend others, but love those that offend them. … True godliness don’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it; not hide their candle under a bushel, but set it upon a table in a candlestick.

william penn, 1682

38 Men may tire themselves in a labyrinth of search, and talk of God: but if we would know him indeed, it must be from the impressions we receive of him; and the softer our hearts are, the deeper and livelier those will be upon us.

william penn, 1692

39 And one day being under a strong exercise of spirit, I stood up and said some words in a meeting, but not keeping close to the divine opening, I said more than was required of me; and being soon sensible of my error, I was afflicted in mind some weeks without any light or comfort, even to that degree that I could take satisfaction in nothing. I remembered God and was troubled, and in the depths of my distress he had pity upon me and sent the Comforter. I then felt forgiveness for my offense, and my mind became calm and quiet, being truly thankful to my gracious Redeemer for his mercies. And after this, feeling the spring of divine love opened and a concern to speak, I said a few words in a meeting, in which I found peace. This I believe was about six weeks from the first time, and as I was thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the language of the pure Spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart and taught [me] to wait in silence sometimes many weeks together, until I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet through which the Lord speaks to his flock.

john woolman, 1740

40 They fail to read clearly the signs of the times who do not see that the hour is coming when, under the searching eye of philosophy and the terrible analysis of science, the letter and the outward evidence will not altogether avail us; when the surest dependence must be on the light of Christ within, disclosing the law and the prophets in our own souls, and confirming the truth of outward Scripture by inward experience.

john greenleaf whittier, 1870

41 We who are members of the Society of Friends have little to fall back on except as our experience with truth. We cannot resort to ritual or creed or ecclesiastical decisions for guidance. We must find our way by seeing the hand of God at work in the weaving of the fabric of daily life.

clarence e. pickett

42 There is a need in us to be controlled, to receive, to worship, and adore. If our service is to be real it is that we have received something in worship and pass it on; we do not imitate, we express the Spirit in us. To live by the rule is one of the most disastrous things we can do. If you try deliberately to be loving and kind because you think you should imitate, you put on something from the outside; you waste your life; and worse— you do great damage. If you live in the Spirit you live from the center within you. In worship we search for the Center in ourselves and in one another,“ from whence cometh our help.”

pacific yearly meeting, 1954

43 The concern arises as a revelation to an individual that there is a painful discrepancy between existing social conditions and what God wills for society and that this discrepancy is not being adequately dealt with. The next step is the determination of the individual to do something about it— not because he is particularly well fitted to tackle the problem, but simply because no one else seems to be doing it.

dorothy h. hutchinson, 1961

44 The character of Jesus Christ, the tone of his voice over the centuries, so to speak, has made a tremendous appeal to me. I think it very likely that a great deal of legend has gathered round the story of his life; and yet many of his sayings ring so true today that they — to use an oldfashioned Quaker phrase — they speak to my condition. I rejected a good deal of my religious upbringing during the process of thinking for myself in my teens and later; I found it impossible to accept as true much that I had been told I must believe about Jesus; but thinking for myself brought me closer to Jesus, for he had the simplicity of approach that I wanted. He didn’t just talk about God, he talked with God; and he taught his friends to do the same.

kathleen lonsdale, 1962

45 Lift us above frustration with our lack of quick solutions to social and political problems.Move us so that our actions may be clear and wise. Let us not despair of mankind and surely not of each other. May we be open always to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

pacific yearly meeting, 1965

46 Whenever we are driven into the depths of our own being, or seek them of our own will, we are faced by a tremendous contrast. On the one side we recognize the pathetic littleness of our ephemeral existence, with no point or meaning in itself. On the other side, in the depth, there is something eternal and infinite in which our existence, and indeed all existence, is grounded. This experience of the depths of existence fills us with a sense both of reverence and of responsibility, which gives even to our finite lives a meaning and a power which they do not possess in themselves. This, I am assured, is our human experience of God.

john macmurray, 1967

47 The inward experience must be checked by accordance with the mind of Christ, the fruits of the Spirit, the character of that willed caring which in the New Testament is called Love.… if God is known in measure by every person, our knowledge of him will be largely gained through the experience of others who reverently and humbly seek him. In the last resort we must be guided by our own conscientiously held conviction — but it is in the last resort. First, we must seek carefully and prayerfully through the insights of others, both in the past and among our contemporaries, and only in the light of this search do we come to our own affirmation.

l. hugh doncaster, 1972

48 To be without ordained clergy is not to be without either leadership or ministry. The gifts of the Spirit include both. For us, calls to particular ministries are usually for a limited period of time, and these gifts pertain to the task rather than the person. In one lifetime a person may be called to a number of ministries, each with its own charism.

london yearly meeting, to lima with love, 1987

49 In 1657, George Fox counseled Friends not to travel and prophesy as a way of life but, once their message had been delivered, to go home, stay home, and lead a sanctified life ‘in the flesh.’ … The fact that prophetic preaching was a transient experience and not a permanent office or lifestyle meant that all Quakers, men and women, had to integrate moments of being ‘in the power’ with other aspects of their social and personal existence ‘in the body.’

phyllis mack, 1992

50 A Quaker social concern seems characteristically to arise in a sensitive individual or very small group — often decades before it grips the Society of Friends as a whole and as much as a century or more before it appeals to the secular world. … Good enduringly practiced must overcome evil.

stephen cary, 1997

51 Our commitment is to notice the stirrings within ourselves and to let them carry us to new levels of expression and service.

paul niebanck, 1981

52 One of my final observations … has to be about the extraordinary ordinariness of many of these women. They wanted their mundane daily lives to be impregnated with the experience of the Spirit and its fruits of love and peace and harmony. They went out into the streets, faced physical abuse and cried their message over baying opposition, then they went home to check the household accounts and feed and comfort their children. They foresaw the millennium, wrote letters to the King and served beef and beer at supper.

christine trevett, 1991

53 How can we hope to prepare our hearts and minds for humble worship by speeding to Meeting hermetically sealed in a tonne of glass, metal and plastic? Cars inevitably “protect” passengers from the real world: wind, rain, the wait for a bus and the need to communicate with people. This amounts to a spiritual challenge for Friends. Our need to seek an earthly humility adds other dimension to our need for a sane approach for transport and clean air.

david boyd, 1994