“Quaker Faith & Practice” is a book published by Friends House in London, which is the centre or “headquarters” of Quakerism in Britain. The book (currently in its 5th edition) is 688 pages long and can be thought of as the Quaker “handbook” or “manual”. It contains all manner of material, from historical records of the earliest days of Quakerism to writings from the present-day generation, containing information about Quaker principles and traditions, thoughts and meditations on day-to-day issues, as well as the purely practical details of how Quakers manage their organisation and administrative affairs.
Here is a selection of just a few particular and favourite passages to give a flavour of the way Quakers think, and the things that are important to them. The paragraph numbers from “Quaker Faith & Practice” are given as well as the source for each quotation.
para. 7 . . . Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come? Do you approach new ideas with discernment?
para. 17 . . . Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.
para. 38 : If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity, are you prepared to resist it? Our responsibilities to God and our neighbour may involve us in taking unpopular stands. Do not let the desire to be sociable, or the fear of seeming peculiar, determine your decisions.
para. 41 : Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?
para. 42 : We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.
(“Advices and Queries”)
10.28 : It is often hard to accept that other people have their own valid relationship with God, their own specialness and insights. We are not just disciples – we are disciples together. Our vision of the truth has to be big enough to include other people’s truth as well as our own. We have to learn to love difficult unloveable people. Accepting each other and each other’s relationship with God, let us continue to hold together at our deepest level. We are a forgiven community. Part of the cost of discipleship is living with the other disciples. (Beth Allen)
18.20 : The Society of Friends might be thought of as a prism through which the Divine Light passes, to become visible in a spectrum of many colours. (from “Christian Faith & Practice, 1959 edition)
19.07 : What had any to do with the scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth? You will say, ‘Christ saith this’, and ‘the apostles say this’, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light, and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God? (George Fox, as quoted by Margaret Fell)
19.12 : There is a spirit which 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 . . . As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other. If it is betrayed it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God.” (the dying words of James Naylor)
19.21 : When I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people I felt a secret power among them which touched my heart, and as I gave way unto it I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up. (Robert Barclay)
19.28 : The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here makes them strangers. (William Penn)
19.32 : 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 every one. (from a letter written by George Fox while in prison in Launceston)
19.47 : When William Penn was convinced of the principles of Friends, and became a frequent attendant at their meetings, he did not immediately relinquish his gay apparel; it is even said that he wore a sword, as was then customary among men of rank and fashion. Being one day in company with George Fox, he asked his advice concerning it . . . George Fox answered, “I advise thee to wear it as long as thou canst.” Not long after this they met again, when William had no sword, and George said to him, “William, where is thy sword?” “Oh!” said he, “I have taken thy advice; I wore it as long as I could.” (from Samuel Janney’s “Life of William Penn”)
20.20 : For a Quaker, religion is not an external activity concerning a special “holy” part of the self. It is an openness to the world in the here and now with the whole of the self. If this is not simply a pious commonplace, it must take into account the whole of our humanity: our attitudes to other human beings in our most intimate as well as social and political relationships. It must also take account of our life in the world around us, the way we live, the way we treat animals and the environment. In short, to put it in traditional language, there is no part of ourselves and of our relationships where God is not present. (Harvey Gillman)
20:26 : To me, being a Christian is a particular way of life, not the unquestioning acceptance of a particular system of theology, not belief in the literal truth of the Virgin birth, or the Resurrection and Ascension, but being the kind of person that Jesus wanted his followers to be and doing the things he told them to do. (Kathleen Lonsdale)
20.29 : Some are so taken with themselves it would seem that nothing else deserved their attention. Their folly would diminish if they could but spare half the time to think of God that they spend in washing, perfuming, painting and dressing their bodies. In these things they are precise and very artificial and spare no cost. But what aggravates the evil is that the pride of one might comfortably supply the needs of ten. Gross impiety it is that a nation’s pride should be maintained in the face of its poor. (William Penn)
20.47 : To conform a little to a wrong way strengthens the hands of such who carry wrong customs to their utmost extent; and the more a person appears to be virtuous and heavenly-minded, the more powerfully does his conformity operate in favour of evil-doers (John Woolman)
21.43 : If we are getting older it will be harder to acknowledge that we have not been called to spectacular service, that we are unlikely now to make a stir in the world, that our former dreams of doing some great healing work had a great deal of personal ambition in them. A great many men and women have had to learn this unpalatable lesson – and then have discovered that magnificent opportunities lay all around them. We need not go to the ends of the earth to find them; we need not be young, clever, fit, beautiful, talented, trained, eloquent or very wise. We shall find them among our neighbours, as well as among strangers, in our own families as well as in unfamiliar circles – magnificent opportunities to be kind and patient and understanding. (Clifford Haigh)
21.64 : I was then carried in spirit to the mines where poor oppressed people were digging rich treasures for those called Christians, and heard them blaspheme the name of Christ, at which I was grieved for His Name to me was precious. Then I was informed that these heathens were told that those who oppressed them were the followers of Christ, and that they said amongst themselves, “If Christ directed them to use us in this sort, then Christ is a cruel tyrant.” (John Woolman)
22.95 : The truest end of life is to know that life never ends. He that makes this his care will find it his crown at last. And he that lives to live forever never fears dying, nor can the means be terrible to him that heartily believes the end. For though death be a dark passage it leads to immortality, and that’s recompense enough for suffering of it . . . Death then being the way and condition of life, we cannot love to live if we cannot bear to die. They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies . . . Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still (William Penn)
23.01 : Remember your responsibility as citizens for the government of your town and country, and do not shirk the effort and time this may demand. Do not be content to accept things as they are, but keep an alert and questioning mind. Seek to discover the causes of social unrest, injustice and fear; try to discern the new growing-points in social and economic life. Work for an order of society which will allow men and women to develop their capacities and will foster their desire to serve. (from the 1964 revision of the “Advices”)
24.02 : Whoever can reconcile this, ‘Resist not evil’, with ‘Resist violence by force’; again, ‘Give also thy other cheek’ with ‘Strike again’; also ‘Love thy enemies’ with ‘Spoil them, make a prey of them, pursue them with fire and the sword’; or ‘Pray for those that persecute you and those that calumniate you’ with ‘Persecute them with fines, imprisonments and death itself’ – whoever, I say, can find a means to reconcile these things may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil, Christ with Antichrist, Light with Darkness, and good with evil. (Robert Barclay)
24.03 : A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it . . . It is as great presumption to send our passions upon God’s errands as it is to palliate them with God’s name . . . We are too ready to retaliate rather than forgive, or gain by love and information. And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us then try what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. (William Penn)
24.26 : Friends are not naïve enough to believe that such an appeal ‘to that of God’ in a dictator or in a nation which, for psychological or other reasons, is in an aggressive mood will necessarily be successful in converting the tyrant or preventing aggression. Christ was crucified; Gandhi was assassinated. Yet they did not fail. Nor did they leave behind them the hatred, devastation and bitterness that war, successful or unsuccessful, does leave. What can be claimed, moreover, is that this method of opposing evil is one of which no person, no group, no nation need be ashamed, as we may and should be ashamed of the inhumanities of war that are perpetrated in our name. (Kathleen Lonsdale)
25.04 : All species and the Earth itself have interdependent roles within Creation. Humankind is not the species to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. All parts, all issues, are inextricably entwined. Indeed the web of creation could be described as of three-ply thread: wherever we touch it we affect justice and peace and the health of all everywhere. So all our testimonies, all our Quaker work, all our Quaker lives are part of one process, of striving towards a flourishing, just and peaceful Creation – the Kingdom of God. (Audrey Urry)
25.13 : That the sweat and tedious labour of the farmer, early and late, cold and hot, wet and dry, should be converted into the pleasure of a small number of men – that continued severity should be laid on nineteen parts of the land to feed the inordinate lusts and delicate appetites of the twentieth, is so far from the will of the great Governor of the world . . . . it is wretched and blasphemous. (William Penn)
26.27 : It’s a funny thing about God which I still haven’t understood. If you say with all your heart, ‘He isn’t there’ then oddly he isn’t. He seems to withdraw. In the same way, just not noticing produces the same results. He doesn’t come thrusting himself into your life if you don’t want him there . . . Yet if we say, ‘God I need you’ then he moves closer to us. (Tony Brown)
26.43 : The heart of the Quaker message does not lie in a doctrine expressed in abstract terms, but it an experience of power and grace, known in our hearts and also related to the structure of the universe; also known individually and recognised as belonging to all. At the same time this universal spirit is focused and made personal to us in Jesus, in a way which makes it appropriate to speak of the Universal Light as the Light of Christ. (L. Hugh Doncaster)
26.61 : There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath different names; it is however pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever, they become brethren (John Woolman)
26.62 : The light for which the world longs is already shining. It is shining into the darkness, but the darkness does not apprehend it. It is shining into the darkness, but the darkness is not overcoming it. It is shining in many a soul, and already the new order has begun within the kingdom of the heart. It is shining in many a small group and creating a heavenly-earthly fellowship of children of the light. It will always shine and lead many into the world of need, that they may bear it up into the heart of God. (Thomas Kelly)
26.65 : It is easy to misconstrue “Inner Light” as an invitation to individualism and anarchy if one concentrates on the subjective experience known to each one. But it is an equally important part of our faith and practice to recognise that we are not affirming the existence and priority of your light and my light, but the Light of God . . . 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 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 affirmation. (L. Hugh Doncaster)
27.03 : Can we settle the question, “Is the Society of Friends Christian or not?” In the historical sense the answer is Yes: but that does not preclude the possibility that we may now be called to a new and wider perception of the Truth. We have the witness of the Society itself, as well as the example of Jesus, against turning yesterday’s inspiration into today’s dogma. (John Lampen)
27.04 : From the beginning the Quaker Christian faith has had a universal dimension. George Fox saw the Light “shine through all” and he identified it with the divine Light of Christ that “enlightens every man that comes into the world” (John 1:9) . . . Obedience to the Light within, however that may be described, is the real test of faithful living. (Alastair Heron, Ralph Hetherington, and Joseph Pickvance)
27.13 : Even in the apostles’ days Christians were too apt to strive after a wrong unity and uniformity in outward practices and observations, and to judge one another unrighteously in those things . . . this is the true ground of love and unity, not that a man walks and does just as I do, but because I feel the same spirit and life in him, and that he walks in his rank, in his own order, in his proper way and place of subjection to that; and this is far more pleasing to me than if he walked just in that track wherein I walk. (Isaac Penington)
27.27 : And the end of words is to bring men to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter. So learn of the Lord to make a right use of the Scriptures, which is by esteeming them in their right place, and prizing that above them which is above them. (Isaac Penington)
29.08 : We Quakers say we have no creed. We almost do! For nearly all of us would say we believe in “that of God in everyone”. How easy that is to say. How difficult to live! If we mean it, we have to live it. That is why some of us in Northern Ireland do speak to the men of violence. It does not mean we agree with what they do. It does mean believing in the good that is in everyone and in the potential for growth and change that is in us all. (Diana Lampen)