The Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) 'a small group of Friends in a big city'


Message - 7th Month 31, 2005 (July 31)

Friends receive a message which speaks to that of God within us all. If we be quiet and calm and listen carefully, and if we also look around us, we will find Divine guidance for how we should act and live. Readings are from the book of Proverbs.


Message - 7th Month 17, 2005 (July 17)

The Meeting and visitors received a message about the blessed peace we are able to attain no matter what the circumstances when we unify with Christ. Readings from Isaiah and the Gospel of John.

Message - 5th Month 15, 2005 (May 15)

1. A period of silence

  1. Scripture and Readings

Journal of John Woolman – Chapter 1

I have often felt a motion of love to leave some hints in writing of my experience of the goodness of God, and now, n the thirty-sixth year of my age, I begin this work. I was born in Northampton, in Burlington County in West Jersey, A.D. 1720, and before I was seven years old I began to be acquainted with the operations of divine love. Through the care of my parents, I was taught to read near as soon as I was capable of it, and as I went from school on Seventh Day, I remember, while my companions went to play by the way, I went forward out of sight; and sitting down, I read the twenty-second chapter of Revelations: “He showed me a river of water, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb…” And in reading it m mind was drawn to seek after that pure habitation which I believed God had prepared for his servants. The place where I sat and the sweetness that attended my mind remains fresh in my memory.

Chapter 2

…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. Being thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart, and which 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.

Hebrews 13

1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." 6 Hence we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

2. Opening Hymn

3. Prayer by the person leading

Divine Light, which shines within us, blessed be thy radiance

Blessed be thy strength and thy grace, which reign in Heaven and on Earth

Grant us humility and respect, and lead us in love and forgiveness

Remind us of the example of self-sacrifice

And remind us of thy covenant, in our exercise of flesh and spirit

Hold us in thy Kingdom, and in thy power, forever.

Divine Light, which lives within us, blessed be thy eternity

Blessed be thy strength and thy grace, which reign in Heaven and on Earth

Teach us the self-sacrifice and universal love of thy covenant

In our life today, as it has always been and will always be

Lead us not into violence or selfishness, but in unity with the Truth

Hold us in thy Kingdom, and in thy power, forever.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name

Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil,

For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory for ever.

4. Hymn

5. Scripture Reading relating to the message

Isaiah 40 12 – 25 (RSV)

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has instructed him? 14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. 18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 The idol! a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is impoverished chooses for an offering wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skilful craftsman to set up an image that will not move. 21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to nought, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

6. A period of meditation

7. Hymn (related to the message)

8. Message

I want to read today from the Journal of John Woolman, sometimes known as a Quaker saint, if we speak somewhat facetiously, but he is someone who has heavily influenced me in my understanding of what it means to be a Friend.

John Woolman was a small, self-effacing, sort of man. He traveled frequently: by horseback, by ship and on foot at times, probably twice per year on average throughout his whole life which spanned 50 years. He even traveled by foot and canoe, with native Americans as guides, over the mountains into central Pennsylvania of today, to meet with Indians who were upset with the Scotch Irish settlers building on land that they hadn’t asked the Indians permission. The town today is home to my father, uncle his family, a small town on the west branch of the Susquehanna River, south of Elmira, NY.

Woolman’s Journal, or spiritual autobiography, is widely known, but little read among Friends here in North America. The Journal is unique also in that it is widely read by non-Quakers in the study of American Literature. The style as you might have begun to hear, is simple, yet very beautiful and gentle in the way it sounds as we read.

John Woolman is most famous among modern day Friends for being an early proponent of the abolition of slavery, however, as some know, he was also very interested in the integrity of the material world and his religious faith. In a way, even though he went personally to speak with Quakers about their ownership and utilization of slaves, he not only asked Friends to consider their own material lives in relation to their faith, but held his own life accountable in how he lived his faith. He did this even in thoughtfully considering almost every transaction he completed as a tailor, shopkeeper, a blood-letter, and will writer. We’re much more specialized today than in the early and mid 1700’s and Woolman was also a much sought-after servant in many of today’s realms, in legal, commercial and in medical issues of private individuals. John Woolman always put his spiritual life ahead of his material life, and made sure that his material life did not overwhelm him to the point that his religion had no affect on how he treated others, or lived as an example to others.

I’d like to read today a letter which was written 250 years ago this year, in the spring of 1755, in from the General Spring Meeting which I believe is the Annual Sessions of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, of which he was a member, still held today at that time of year. John Woolman was one of the fourteen signers, and no doubt one of the authors, since the language seems to have continuity with his many writings.

The letter was written at a time of national strife, not unlike today, I think, and not possibly unlike a time 250 years from now. France and England were preparing for war, and the French and Indian War here would be the expression of those European hostilities intermingled with the strife between the colonists and Indians of the day.

From Chapter 3, I read the letter which has instruction and guidance, even for us today, 250 years later.

An Epistle from our General Spring Meeting of ministers and elders for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, held at Philadelphia, from the 29th of the Third Month to the 1st of the Fourth Month, inclusive, 1755.

DEAR FRIENDS, -- In an humble sense of divine goodness, and the gracious continuation of God's love to His people, we tenderly salute you, and are at this time therein engaged in mind, that all of us who profess the truth, as held forth and published by our worthy predecessors in this latter age of the world, may keep near to that Life which is the Light of men, and be
strengthened to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, that our trust may not be in man, but in the Lord alone, who ruleth in the army of heaven and in the kingdoms of men,
before whom the earth is "as the dust of the balance, and her inhabitants as grasshoppers" (Isa. xl. 22).
Being convinced that the gracious design of the Almighty in sending His Son into the world was to repair the breach made by disobedience, to finish sin and transgression, that His kingdom might come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we have found it to be our duty to cease from those national contests which are productive of misery and bloodshed, and submit our cause to Him, the Most High, whose tender love to His children exceeds the most warm affections of natural parents, and who hath promised to His seed throughout the earth, as to one individual, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. xiii. 5). And we, through the gracious dealings of the Lord our God, have had experience of that work which is carried on, "not by earthly might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Zech. iv. 6). By which operation that spiritual kingdom is set up, which is to subdue and break in pieces all kingdoms that oppose it, and shall stand forever. In a deep sense thereof, and of the safety, stability, and peace that are in it, we are desirous that all who profess the truth may be inwardly acquainted with it, and thereby be qualified to conduct ourselves in all parts of our life as becomes our peaceable profession; and we trust, as there is a faithful continuance to depend wholly upon the Almighty arm, from one generation to another, the peaceable kingdom will gradually be extended "from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth" (Zech. ix. 10), to the completion of those prophecies already begun, that "nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, nor learn war any more" (Isa. ii. 4; Micah iv. 3).

And, dearly beloved friends, seeing that we have these promises, and believe that God is beginning to fulfil them, let us constantly endeavour to have our minds sufficiently disentangled from the surfeiting cares of this life, and redeemed from the love of the world, that no earthlypossessions nor enjoyments may bias our judgments, or turn us from that resignation and entire trust in God to which His blessing is most surely annexed; then may we say, "Our Redeemer is mighty, he will plead our cause for us" (Jer. l. 34). And if, for the further promoting of His most gracious purposes in the earth, He should give us to taste of that bitter cup of which His faithful ones have often partaken, O that we might be rightly prepared to receive it!

And now, dear friends, with respect to the commotions and stirrings of the powers of the earth at this time near us, we are desirous that none of us may be moved thereat, but repose ourselves in the munition of that rock which all these shakings shall not move, even in the knowledge and feeling of the eternal power of God, keeping us subjectly given up to His heavenly will, and feeling it daily to mortify that which remains in any of us which is of this world; for the worldly part in any is the changeable part, and that is up and down, full and empty, joyful and sorrowful, as things go well or ill in this world. For as the truth is but one, and many are made partakers of its spirit, so the world is but one, and many are made partakers of the spirit of it; and so many as do partake of it, so many will be straitened and perplexed with it. But they who are single to the truth, waiting daily to feel the life and virtue of it in their hearts, shall rejoice in the midst of adversity, and have to experience with the prophet, that, "although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet will they rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of their salvation" (Hab. iii. 17, 18).

If, contrary to this, we profess the truth, and, not living under the power and influence of it, are producing fruits disagreeable to the purity thereof, and trust to the strength of man to support ourselves, our confidence therein will be vain. For He who removed the hedge from His vineyard, and gave it to be trodden under foot by reason of the wild grapes it produced (Isa. v. 6), remains unchangeable; and if, for the chastisement of wickedness and the further promoting of His own glory, He doth arise, even to shake terribly the earth, who then may oppose Him and prosper?

We remain, in the love of the gospel, your friends and brethren.
(Signed by fourteen Friends.)

9. Hymn

10. Benediction.