Puritanism, Spiritualism, and Quakerism:
An Historiographical Essay
Melvin B. Endy, Jr.
The problems posed by the attempt to define Puritanism have driven some scholars to substituting description for definition and others to the use of the term as an umbrella for the religious experience shared by groups as disparate as mildly dissatisfied Anglicans, on the one band, and the Ranters and other enthusiasts of the Interregnum on the other. I confess that at times the issue has left me less confused than disinterestednamely, when I have remembered that the definition of an historical entity such as Puritanism is in part, at least, dependent upon the focus and aims of the historian. To the extent that this is the case, the debate about the most adequate definition is beside the point. At the same time, I have become increasingly uneasy with what appears to be a developing consensus among a weighty body of interpreters that has opted for what John T. McNeill has called "a recklessly extensive application of the word 'Puritan'" to groups whose religious thought differs in decisive ways from that of English Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists on the basis of a presumed "continuity of experience" and similar origins.1 Of particular interest to me is the application of the label to Quakerism, which is increasingly seen as an expression of Puritanism even by scholars reluctant to apply the term to other Interregnum enthusiasts.
Although the major figures in the revival of Puritan studies in the 1930s, Perry Miller and William Haller, referred to Puritanism in broad terms as, respectively, a "point of view," a "philosophy of life," a "code of values," and a "spiritual outlook, way of life, and mode of expression," both scholars were sufficiently concerned with Puritanism as a body of ideas and with what Miller called the "equilibrium of forces, emotional and intellectual, within the Puritan creed," that they applied the term primarily to the movement centering on Haller's "spiritual brotherhood" of preachers and then to the Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist groups that came into being in England and America.2 For Miller especially, enthusiasts of any sort were beyond the pale. In the last thirty years, however, students of Interregnum England and colonial America have made us well aware of the similarities between Puritanism and the various kinds of enthusiasts -- often called "Seekers," "Familists," and "Ranters" by their contemporaries that appeared in the heady times of the English Civil War, with the mantle of Puritanism descending especially on that most sober and significant body of religious radicals, the Quakers.
The tendency to emphasize the affinities and minimize the differences between Puritanism and Quakerism has been the dominant note in the most prominent studies of both movements in the last generation. Developing hints dropped by Miller and Haller, among others, concerning the Puritan drive toward unmediated experience of God through the Holy Spirit, many scholars have concluded, in the words of Alan Simpson on Puritanisms relation to Quakerism, that "an enterprise which began in the sixteenth century by exhorting men to prepare themselves for a miracle of grace and ended by asserting the presence of the Holy Spirit in every individual is one movement."3 The same judgment is found in the most monumental and influential chronicle of American religion by another Puritan scholar, Sydney Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People.4 Probably the most influential exponent of the continuity between Puritanism and the Interregnum religious groups is Geoffrey Nuttall, whose study, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience, set the tone for a whole generation of students of "left-wing" Puritanism and Quakerism.5
Working in the opposite direction to reach the same conclusion, historians of Quakerism of the last generation have seen fit to play down what the Quaker scholar Rufus Jones called the "mystical" element in early Quakerism and to stress its prophetic Puritan spirit. Frederick Tolles sounded the representative note when he wrote that "Quakerism as it arose in the middle of the seventeenth century cannot be understood unless it is seen as one of the variant expressions of the dominant and all-pervading Puritanism of the age."6 The standard and most influential study of early Quakerism, Hugh Barbour's The Quakers in Puritan England, is based on the assumption that "both groups actually stemmed from the same traditions, and most of their crucial doctrines were the same."7
My purpose in this essay is to sort out the various themes and emphases in the recent literature stressing the affinities between Puritans and Quakers and to analyze them in the light of a new look at the way in which Puritanism was related in Interregnum England to the rise of what I shall call "Spiritualist" religious groups, including, among others, what were at the time called Familists, Seekers, and Ranters as well as Quakers. My thesis is that although many of the insights of recent scholarship are important correctives to earlier work on both Puritans and Quakers, it is essential to recognize that Puritan roots do not necessarily produce Puritan fruits.8 A concern for terminological clarity in the definition of Puritanism as well as a full understanding of the place of Quakerism in its contemporary setting and its significance in the history of religious thought require that we distinguish between the Puritans and the Spiritualists of seventeenth-century England and link the Quakers more closely with the latter.
Those who extend the definition of Puritanism to encompass the Quakers and other Spiritualists correctly point out that the narrower definition associated with Miller and Haller was the fruit of an approach to Puritanism that dealt primarily with the history of ideas. This perspective viewed the movement somewhat as a static philosophy or body of ideas and failed to appreciate fully what David Hall has termed its "dynamic and expansive qualities or its "restlessness."9 It gave inadequate attention to the experiential and emotional side of Puritanism and, in the words of Richard Schlatter, "left out of account the circumstances, the concrete times and places and social networks in which the thinkers lived."10
The spokesmen for the continuity between Puritanism and the Spiritualists usually allow that even the relatively sober Friends differed in some respects from other Puritans and sometimes list the many heresies that orthodox or Reformed Puritans found among the Quakers and other Spiritualists.11 Although many recent Quaker scholars believe that the doctrinal differences were overshadowed by similarities on the more momentous matters, others, such as Geoffrey Nuttall, are at times ambivalent on whether even the Friends should be called Puritans and admit that there was something in Quakerism "which was genuinely contrary to the Puritans, even the radical Puritans, beliefs and which excited their keenest antipathy."12 But even Nuttall, the most careful of the students of left wing Puritanism, while noting that the Quakers may not be Puritans "in the exclusive sense, nevertheless finds that they "repeat, extend, and foresee so much of what is held by the radical, Separatist party within Puritanism that they cannot be denied the name or excluded the consideration."13 Moreover, the revisionists coalesce in their belief that Quakerism and Puritanism are best understood when the Quakers Spiritualist emphases are seen as the "logical terminus" of the Puritan movement because they indicate "the direction of the Puritan movement as a whole."14
The differentium of the Puritan movement or that which pushed it constantly in the direction of Spiritualism and Quakerism was its tendency toward direct communion with God through his Holy Spirit in independence of all mediatorial means. More specifically,
In Puritanism what religiously and theologically springs from concentration on the doctrine and experience of the Holy Spirit may be seen more philosophically or psychologically as a concern with immediacy, as an insistence on the non-necessity of a vehiculum or medium. Historically this arose in reaction against, indeed in horror at, a religion throughout which, in priesthood, in sacrament, in invocation of saints, mediation was dominant. It is possible for the reaction to lead, as von Hugel fairly remarks, to dispensing with the Mediator. Originally, it is equally fair to remark, it was the outcome of joy and liberation in a new, direct, personal faith in Christ and a new, direct, personal experience of His Spirit.15
As a result of this drive toward immediate spiritual experience one can see in Puritanism, according to Nuttall, the constant thrust toward, and occasional surfacing of, several tendencies which the Quakers and other Spiritualists would carry openly to completion: the belief that the Spirit might operate apart from Scripture; the association of the Spirit's operation not with reason or conscience but with a special spiritual sense; the experience of spiritual leadings that provided infallible certainty of full sanctification and that at times provided "objective" divine knowledge and directives; a tendency toward immediate reliance on spiritual leadings for all worship, including prayer and preaching; disuse of the sacraments and suspicion that the Spirit was hindered by such physical mediating agents; a dispensational view of salvation-history looking toward a third age of the Spirit that would follow upon and improve the dispensation of the gospel as it had improved on the dispensation of the Law; and a mystical tendency a sense of being carried out beyond the things of time and space into unity with the infinite and eternal."16
The strength of the school of thought that places the Quakers and other Spiritualists in their Puritan environment and on the left wing of the movement lies in its insight into the dynamic nature of Puritanism and in its realization that such terms as Puritanism tend to become abstractions unless defined by reference to individuals and particular groups, historical connections, and patterns and directions of influence. The conditions brought on by the Civil War in England, not primarily continental "mystical" influences, were responsible not only for the splintering of Puritanism into a group of orthodox "denominations" but for the rise of the "fanatics or enthusiasts to the left of them". Moreover, most of the leaders of the Quakers, Ranters, Familists, and Seekers can be seen to have arrived at their destination after traversing much of the Puritan spectrum. In the course of that trek they found themselves relying less on trained intellectual leaders and more on their own overwhelming experiences of spiritual rebirth.
Nevertheless, terms such as Puritanism, Quakerism, and Spiritualism become confusing and misleading if the concern for patterns of continuity and historical influence is not tempered by an insistence on observing the lines of debate and major points of divergence, as well as the doctrinal differences that produced these divergences. Although historians have clearly benefited from the broadened approach to Puritanism, with its recognition of the Puritan prehistory of the various enthusiasts who arose in the 1640s and l650s, its appreciation of the "turmoil of feeling" and emotional intensity that lay at the heart of Puritan experience, and its emphasis on the spiritualizing thrust of the movement, the "stretched passion" was not, it seems to me, as elastic as it has been made out to be.17 Stretched beyond the breaking point, the definition of Puritanism masks an important discontinuity that must be recognized if seventeenth-century English and American religious life and thought are to be adequately understood.
As David Hall has written, "An adequate definition of the Puritan movement must . . . seek to unite the experiential dimension with the formal structure of the Puritan intellect."18 What seems to have happened in Puritan and Quaker studies is that the Miller-Haller history-of-ideas emphasis on the Puritan intellect has not been united with an experiential thrust so much as replaced by it. Mountains of dispute over religious experience, means of grace, the nature of worship, and doctrine, in which protagonists as in the case of Quakers and Puritans see themselves often engaged against mortal enemies denying the central tenets of their faith, are seen as involving simply "feuding, rather than kissing, cousins."19 In the course of stressing the historical connection among religious groups and the experiential side of Puritanism, many historians seem to have given inadequate attention to the fact that the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Seekers, Familists, Ranters, and Quakers, although not, in most cases, juridically organized denominations, were religious groups that had to state their raison detre and define themselves either positively or negatively in doctrinal terms. Even those groups that relied more on the Spirit than on trained intellects and who shied away from doctrinal standards defended their denials and their peculiar beliefs in oral and written theological and historical debates. The content of these debates must be taken seriously by anyone who would understand the seventeenth century in its own terms, and when that is done, there emerges a fundamental dividing line that cannot be ignored. As George Sabine has observed, in the study of seventeenth-century English religious history and I would add American as well "no reasonable clarity can be attained unless a line is observed at least between mystics like Winstanley and the Quakers, and those who, like all Calvinists and nearly all Baptists, thought it essential to maintain a creed, a church discipline, and the outlines of rational theology."20
Robert Middlekauf has discussed the way in which the Puritans generated and controlled emotion through ideas or intellect, suggesting that the Puritans were no longer Puritans when they let their concern for immediate experience of the Spirit go to extremes and break the controlling casing provided by Scripture, doctrine, and reason.21 Although, as David Hall has argued, Miller may have overemphasized the "hidden rationalism" of the Puritans to a certain extent, we nevertheless can return some clarity and order to Puritan studies by attending to Miller's conception of Puritanism as an "equilibrium of forces" in which emotion is guided and restrained by intellect, remembering that, for the Puritan, "while the soul does indeed have an access to God, it receives from the spirit no [independent] verdict upon any question, only a dutiful disposition to accept the verdict confirmed by Scripture, by authority, and by logic."22 The verdict is confirmed by Scripture, according to Miller, because the Puritan knew that in this world man will always "see through a glass, darkly" despite his intensive spiritual experience and that regeneration will always come "through the impact of a sensible species or phantasm, that it is always attached to some spoken word or to some physical experience." It is confirmed by authority because the counterpart to the Puritan sense of inward communication was an ideal of social conformity, of law and order, of regulation and control. At the core of the theology there was an indestructible element which was mystical, and a feeling for the universe which was almost pantheistic; but there was also a social code demanding obedience to external law, a code to which good people voluntarily conformed and to which bad people should be made to conform.
It is confirmed by logic because "Puritan theorists sought to unite in one harmonious system both science and religion, reason and faith, . . . to reconcile revelation with natural learning and so to combine in one systematic belief both piety and the inherited body of knowledge."23
What seems to me most fruitful in Miller's approach to Puritanism is its recognition that at the heart of the movement certain ideas were in tension and that a Puritan was one who formed a more or less stable equilibrium out of a balancing of polar parts, including not only intellect and affection or mind and heart, but also a Platonic mystical and an Aristotelian sense epistemology, ecclesiastical authority and individual experience, free will and predestination, justification and sanctification, and separatism (in the cause of purification) and transformationism. This seems to be not only a more accurate approach to the mind of the Puritan movement but one that allows the historian to describe how events determined the directions taken by different Puritans in the New World in the seventeenth and especially the eighteenth centuries and how the splintering of the movement took place in Interregnum England. One problematic aspect of the recent emphasis on the "continuity of experience" from right to left on the Puritan spectrum through at least the Quakers is its implicit idealistic assumption that Puritanism, based as it was on a powerful conception of spiritual experience, spewed forth ever more spiritualistic exponents by a kind of inner logic until it reached its terminus in the Interregnum enthusiasts. Although this approach is predicated on a reaction against what is perceived as an overly intellectualistic interpretation of the movement and claims to take seriously the "circumstances, the concrete times and places and social networks" of the Puritans, ironically it seems to explain the direction of the movement by recourse to an inner "thrust" rather than to events such as the Civil War and its turmoil and makes it difficult to account for the complexity and animosity of the splintering process that took place. Certainly the analyses of Nuttall and Simpson and the similar emphases of other recent exponents of the spiritual thrust of Puritanism are based on a keen appreciation of the psychological or inward nature of Puritan thought, but the belief that Quakerism was the logical outcome of the movement makes it difficult to understand how under the press of events the Puritan focus on the process of regeneration could go to a "logical" extreme in more than one direction, whereas the equilibrium image has precisely that virtue.
Probably the clearest illustrations of the loss of balance and the splitting of polar parts were the successive confrontations in that laboratory of Puritanism, Massachusetts Bay, between the colonial pillars, on the one side, and Roger Williams, Ann Hutchinson, and radical New Lights a century later on the other confrontations that can be seen as resulting from the splitting apart of the poles of the movement under the press of social, political, and economic as well as religious developments. A similar process took place in England in the Interregnum, although here the splinters flew in more directions. In the heady times of the Revolution those caught up in the exhilarating victories of the Roundhead army and insistent on justifying the ecclesiastical and religious freedom they were experiencing found it easy enough to be seized by the self-authenticating raptures of the Spirit, to join the mystics who no longer needed to "see through a glass, darkly," and to move toward a new heaven and a new earth either as chiliasts or as spiritual millennialists. On the other hand, under the influence of the Scots and parliamentary pressure, the sense of responsibility engendered by the duties assigned them at Westminster, and their own dour perceptions of a social and religious scene increasingly plagued by chaos and disunity, the men of a conservative bent inevitably pulled back from the radical implications others saw in Puritan thought. Developing the conservative possibilities in covenant thought, they said that conversion was to be viewed as a process fitting certain prescribed rules and requiring the guidance of trained interpreters of Scripture and spiritual psychology. Their judgment was that this could be done better in churches in which trained clerics, rather than congregations of laity, selected and ordained new ministers, and in which a hierarchy of judicatory bodies could insure uniformity by providing rules for the church and working out the patterns by which the rules could be enforced in church and state. These men could find ample roots in Puritanism for their insistence on hierarchical control by saintly intellects, on the wisdom of adhering to reason in religion, and on the necessity of guided disciplined steps and a dependence on the law both before and after conversion. John Bastwick, the authoritarian Dortian Calvinist; Richard Baxter, the ecumenical rationalist and virtual Arminian; John Goodwin, the moral rationalist; and William Dell, the Antinomian Spiritualist, can all be easily shown to be logical developers of Puritanism.24
The understanding of Puritanism as an equilibrium of forces, rather than an outworking of the spiritualistic thrust, also prepares the historian to understand more elements of the long-range consequences of the Puritan movement, since it enables him to see the role that Puritanism played in producing not only enthusiasts and revivalists but also the Unitarians and other liberals of the eighteenth century.
A second problematic aspect of the recent emphasis on the continuity between Spirit-oriented religious groups is a concomitant reluctance to deal with the problem of discontinuity. There seems to be inadequate concern with setting criteria for discerning the points at which Puritanism shaded off into other movements and a corresponding tendency to link in a misleading way religious groups that differed at central points and that perceived themselves as so differing. It is true that there is a certain sense in which the groups loosely called Seekers, Ranters, and Familists or, to one writer, "locusts out of the bottomlesse pit" were drawing out the implications of a certain Puritan attitude toward the relationship between God and man in general and their doctrine of the Spirit in particular.25 But it makes no more sense to argue that Spiritualism was the logical outcome of Puritanism than it would to hold, should the United States see the rise of a significant Communist movement in the near future, that this was the logical outcome of the liberal Democratic program of the 1930s through the 1960s. Communism may incorporate in an extreme form some of the egalitarian concerns of the liberal Democrats, but it also represents a contradiction of some of their central beliefs about man and society. Gerrard Winstanley and George Fox, among other Spiritualists, carried through admirably on the Puritan concern for a Spirit-mediated encounter between God and man, but they did so at the expense of central beliefs shared by the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and most Baptists. The Puritans agreement with the Continental Reformed movement on essential points of doctrine and ecclesiology is seldom spotlighted, since these were shared with most religiously literate Anglicans before the Restoration. The historians need to stress that which distinguishes Puritanism from the Continental Reformed and Anglican churches should not, however, lead to any ambiguity about the Reformed theology of the movement. Puritans believed that in this world man, poor worm that he was, not only was a gross sinner but had no direct access to the divine presence. For this reason God had brought about the salvation of the elect by sending his Son to live and die as a man in history and then to return to heaven to await the final judgment. The Bible was the record of his deeds and the proclamation of his salvation, and through the power of the Holy Spirit this primary Word of God to man could lead one to regeneration and perseverance when read and proclaimed by studious men as a guide for worship and all of life. The focal point of the Bible and of Puritan religion was the belief that man could be justified by the grace of God with no merit of his own as a result of the crucifixion of Jesus.
The upheavals of the Interregnum found many men experiencing hopes and even visions that convinced them that very shortly or even now man no longer was to be restricted to an ambiguous and indirect, if powerful, sense of the divine presence. In the new age of the Spirit that was dawning, Christ within was to replace the outward Christ; no man need be dependent on other men for his religious knowledge, be they apostolic writers or contemporary ministers; and what was important was not a historical story about a divine-human agent floating down or up or a tale about a future coming judgment but the present experience of the eternal Christ lifting one above the fallen state of man. Many of those on the path to this Spiritualist perspective, such as William Dell, John Webster, Richard Coppin, and John Saltmarsh, traveled only part of the way; others, such as the Ranters in the narrow or proper sense, including Jacob Bauthumley, Laurence Clarkson, and Abiezer Coppe, spiritualized organized religion out of existence and ended up with a complete antinomianism and pantheism; and others, such as the Quakers, traveled far down the path but after the Interregnum turned around and tried to work out a compromise between the old faith and the new. There had already developed intraparty disagreement among Puritans on such matters as justification, religious liberty, and even election and its relation to human will, although all but the General Baptists, who were somewhat anomalous in any case, still called themselves Calvinists or Dortians. There could be no similar leeway in such doctrinal areas as the historic drama of Redemption, the significance of the historical Christ, and the revelatory sufficiency of the Bible. Anyone who suggested that the biblical drama was significant primarily as an allegory of Gods dealing with each soul, that the historical Christ be replaced as the focus of faith by the Christ within, and that the Bible be replaced by the Spirit as the norm and guide of the Christian, was beyond the Puritan pale. As the polemical works of men as different as the Presbyterian Richard Baxter, the Congregationalist John Owen, and the Baptist John Bunyan make clear, there could be no compromise on these issues.26
The Puritans, then, were those representatives of Continental Reformed theology in England who were distinguished from Continental Reformed religious movements primarily by the way in which they combined a rather extreme for Reformed thinkers emphasis on a powerful experience of Gods regenerating grace as a mark of election with an insistence on exteriorizing their regenerate Christian life through a pattern of self-examination and self-denial leading to saintly behavior, by participation in a visible church patterned after that explicitly ordained in the New Testament, and, in most cases, by an interest in religious, social, and political reform centered on the hope of turning England into a model Christian social order. Operating more or less loosely within the Anglican church before 1640 or gathering separatist congregations apart from it, they formed after that date until at least 1688 a spectrum of religious bodies including the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Particular Baptists.27
The Spiritualists were those Englishmen who, influenced in most cases by the Puritan emphasis on the interior religious experience, came to believe in the days of the Revolution and in some cases before that the dispensation of the Holy Spirit prophecied in the Book of Joel had arrived or was about to arrive. The Spirit was operating in a uniquely powerful fashion to produce a new most often seen as the third dispensation in which, as William Dell said, men could climb above "all visible and sensible things, even as high as God himself," through an experience of a totally overpowering spiritual death and rebirth.28 This experience prepared them to participate in a religious life based wholly on immediate spiritual leadings and caused them to scoff at the "gross, carnall, visible evidences and materiall beams" that had been appropriate for the previous salvation-history dispensation.29 Although Dell and Saltmarsh, as well as several other men often called Spiritual Puritans or Antinomians, hovered around the edges of Puritanism, what clearly separated Seekers such as Gerrard Winstanley, members of the English followers of Henry Nicholass Family of Love, Ranters such as Laurence Clarkson, Abiezer Coppe, and Jacob Bauthumley, and the Quakers, among others, from Puritans was not only an extremist reliance on spiritual experience that clashed with the Puritan tendency to balance polar elements including external authority and inner experience but a tendency to carry their spiritual emphasis to the point of denying central Reformed doctrines and practices including, at least, election, justification by imputation, and Scripture as the key to doctrine and practice; and ecclesiastical practices, including a set liturgy and the use of the sacraments.30
At virtually every point the new doctrinal and ecclesiastical emphases, contemporary Puritans believed, could be traced to the Spiritualists views of the person and work of Christ, and, more specifically, as Henry More said in reference to the Quakers, to their "excluding the external Christ from the business of Religion, and only admitting the internal Christ."31 Mores charge was an exaggeration, especially as applied to the Quakers, but despite a good deal of both intentional and unintended ambiguity in their writings, the Spiritualists shared in varying degrees of conviction the belief that the lynchpin of true religion and universal salvation was not the act of Atonement by which the historical Christ provided, said Puritans, the possibility for the salvation of individuals (the Elect) and the renewal of the Covenant, but rather, the experience of the "eternal" or "inward" Christ who had mediated true knowledge and saving grace to all men in all eras. The Spiritualists were involved, to varying degrees, in a spirit-body dualism, according to which true religious knowledge dealt with noncorporeal realities and was mediated by means of direct intellection or intuition not involving the senses. For this reason they had difficulty believing that true knowledge and grace could be mediated by "sensible," "visible," "corruptible," "outward," and "carnal" means such as a truly human, incarnate Jesus of Nazareth or the Scriptures.32
The Quakers do not fit quite so neatly as some of the more radical enthusiasts into the Spiritualist mold, and there are many contemporary Quaker scholars who, while admitting the need for a fundamental differentiation between Puritans and Spiritualists, object to linking Quakers with the latter. Seizing on the tendency of Puritan scholars to stretch the definition of Puritanism, they insist that the Friends were extreme Puritans. According to this approach, Fox and the First Publishers of Truth simply "somewhat impatiently restated the essentials of the Christian [i.e., Puritan] flame that fired up England in their day of spiritual visitation." "The breakthrough for Quakerism did not come from the newness of Foxs doctrines. It came when Fox turned north . . . into the largely untouched hill country of Yorkshire, Westmorland, and Cumberland."33 It is difficult to ignore the mountain of doctrinal controversy between Puritans and Quakers that began to grow from the beginning of the Quaker movement, but under the influence of the Puritan mystique some scholars have been led to conclude, with Frederick Tolles, that Friends were sound on the "traditional Protestant doctrines of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Vicarious Atonement, and the plenary inspiration and authority of the Scriptures."34 Others make smaller claims, simply listing Fox's letter to the governor of Barbados as a representative and basically orthodox statement of Quaker doctrinal essentials, or remaining content to point out that, despite doctrinal aberrations on Scripture, the Church, the sacraments, and other matters, the earliest Friends retained the keystone of orthodoxy, a belief in Christ as the watershed and Lord of history, and a reliance on his historical act of Atonement as well as his contemporary indwelling.35
Whatever their aberrations, they lacked the peculiar dehistoricizing and anti-sense knowledge thrust of the true Spiritualists. In their more careful moments some recent Quaker scholars have been willing to list the Quakers departures from Reformed theology and their special difficulties in dealing with the person and work of the historical Christ, only to conclude that these differences in doctrine were somehow overshadowed by the "prophetic" thrust of the movement and that the similarities far outweighed the differences.36
The view of Quakerism as a Puritan sect can be explained in part as a result of the mutually reinforcing historiographical situations that have prevailed in Puritan and Quaker scholarship in the last generation. As Puritan scholars have uncovered their subjects doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Quaker scholars of an evangelical cast have been emboldened to stress the Calvinist-Puritan and orthodox Christian elements in Quakerism by the rise to prominence of Calvinism in the form of Protestant neo-orthodoxy, a desire for inclusion within the ecumenical movement, and the inevitable reaction against the somewhat simplistic liberal or "mystical" interpretation of Quakerism by Rufus Jones that had gained wide acceptance by 193O.37 But the difficulty of pinning down the Quakers stems from the sources as well as from historiographical developments. Like the other Spiritualists, the Friends were clearly influenced by the spirit-body dualism that led to a denigration of the historical Christ, Scripture, and liturgical ordinances. From George Fox and James Nayler, the closest Quakerism came to having founders, through the former Puritan Isaac Penington and former General Baptist Samuel Fisher, and through more theologically sophisticated writers such as Robert Barclay and George Whitehead, there runs a strong tendency to insist that the spiritual man cannot rely on indeed, runs a danger in relying onanything "visible," "corruptible," or "outward." In the words of Fox, the Spirit "draws off and weans you from all things, that are created and external, (which fade and pass away,) up to God, the fountain of life, and head of all things." Therefore, the "new covenant is not according to the old; for the one was of natural things, and the other of inward and spiritual."38 It followed that the focus of Quaker thought was not the incarnate Christ who died at Jerusalem but rather the "eternal" or "inward" Christ.
At the same time, many of the Quaker writers were conservative by instinct and reluctant to attack openly the central Christological and soteriological structure of Christianity. In the earliest stages of the movement, genuinely confused about the proper means of relating the historical Christ to the inward or eternal Christ to whom they attributed the rebirth of true religion, they tended to avoid the issue. For example, Edward Burrough, in A Description of the State and Condition of all Mankind (1656) and A Standard lifted up (1657), described man's fallen state and its remedy and in the latter treatise gave an orderly statement of essential Quaker beliefs, and in neither was the incarnate Christ, as opposed to the eternal Christ, mentioned. When pressed by opponents about his failure to mention the historical Christ, Burrough admitted that the Christ he had been referring to was the same as the one who had died at Jerusalem and risen again, making it clear that he took the Gospels literally, but his admission did not imply that Christs incarnate deeds were essential to salvation.39
Burrough was typical in his handling of the issue. Rather than denying the significance of the historical Christ, the Quakers preferred to stress the continuity or essential sameness at least for the purposes of salvation between Christs pre-incarnate, incarnate, and post-incarnate states. But if this studied ambiguity often prevented open heresy on the central Christian doctrines of the person and work of Christ, the Quakers were, in the debates of the day, drawn into explanations that revealed the radical Spiritualist implications of their position. To emphasize the continuity in Christ's states several Quakers referred to the heavenly flesh by which he operated throughout history as a mediatorial principle and referred to his incarnate state in such a manner as either to dissociate the true Christ from his fleshly garment or to make that flesh "incorruptible" and hence not truly human.40 Moreover, it followed, as Penington said, that it was more appropriate to attribute whatever good resulted from the historical Christ's work to his active divine part rather than the body he assumed, and since the incorruptible, unchangeable divine part could not suffer and die, what the divine incarnate Christ accomplished soteriologically could be done as easily in his pre- and post-incarnate states.41
Unlike most of the other Spiritualists, however, the Quakers survived into the Restoration and beyond, were given the time to reflect on their views, and were subjected to the pressure to escape persecution especially after 1688. Some Quaker leaders, including Fox and Nayler, had from the beginning been less consistent than others in carrying out their spiritualizing to the point of utterly ignoring or denying Christ's Atonement as the watershed of history, and Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity made the more conservative or orthodox position central by combining a clear spiritbody epistemology with the position that somehow Christ's atoning act was a causal factor in the salvation even of those who knew only the inner or eternal Christ.42 Barclay's view of the person and work of Christ hardly satisfied Puritans and Anglicans, and he was even less orthodox in his positions on Scripture and other entailments of his spirit-sense dualism, but he provided the compromise on this central issue that had enabled Quakerism ever since to house both liberals carrying to conclusion the original Spiritualist thrust of the movement and more orthodox, even evangelical, Christians. When to the stick of persecution was added the carrot of the Toleration Act, with its promise of peace for orthodox Christians who could affirm the Trinity and traditional views of the person and work of Christ, even Quaker writers of a less orthodox bent, including William Penn and George Whitehead, tempered their doctrinal statements to win acceptance for Friends. The price of that peace has been the warfare among historians of later generations who have found ample evidence in Quakerism's conflicting signals for their own apologetic or historiographical purposes.
However mixed their signals were by 1690, the Quakers are more appropriately linked with the Spiritualists than with the Puritans.43 Although many Friends were convinced of their own utter uniqueness, in reporting on their contemporaries many Quaker writers made clear their belief that the Spiritualists had carried the reformation of religion farther than the Puritans to the right of them and in general spoke in more tender terms of the former than the latter." The Quakers perception of their links to the Spiritualists was shared by their enemies, who invariably perceived them as part of what Henry More called "that smutt of familism" even if, in time, they came to see them as the least offensive element of what they viewed as the lunatic fringe. In addition, with most of the Spiritualists they rejected the Puritans Reformed views of election, revelation (and hence Scripture), justification by imputation, original sin, and worship as consisting of the Word expounded from Scripture and the sacraments.45 When doctrinal differences on these points are viewed as of secondary significance, an interpretative perspective is being brought to bear that does injustice to seventeenth-century religious priorities, as well as to the historic boundary of orthodox Christianity.
Admittedly, however, the key difference between Puritans and Spiritualists was their view of the person and work of Christ. Here the earliest Quakers' central concern with the eternal Christ to the neglect of the historical Christ was enough to place them in the Spiritualist milieu. Clearly, just as it is important to recognize that Puritan roots do not necessarily produce Puritan fruits, it is equally important to realize that the Spiritualist milieu of the earliest Friends is not necessarily a broad enough frame of reference for understanding the religious/theological position of Friends in the wake of Barclay and the pressures of the Toleration Act. However, the fact that the Friends tempered their spiritualizing view of the person and work of Christ, among other doctrines, to fit if awkwardly the confines of the Toleration Act does not make even the later Quakers Puritans. It simply places them closer to conservative and hesitating Spiritualists such as the men I have called Spiritual Puritans or possibly places them beyond the pale of earlier classifications. In addition, it leaves us with a chronological complexity and a uniqueness that historical abstractions can rarely accommodate.
I have suggested that debates over definitions of historical terms such as Puritanism at times reflect less a genuine difference in interpretation than a divergence in intention and perspective. It has also been my contention that broad definitions of Puritanism that encompass many Spiritualists have their uses and even provide a needed corrective to other approaches. At the same time, my central argument has been that some definitions are more useful than others for understanding and classifying seventeenth-century English religious groups and that a definition of Quakerism as a religious movement that locates it among the Puritans is decidedly misleading. Some closing remarks about the definitional perspectives and tasks of students of religious movements and their implications for understanding the groups under consideration may make more explicit what is at issue in this controversy.
Students of religious movements have found useful three kinds of definitions, namely, the functional, essential, and formal or elemental (sometimes called the phenomenological). Puritanism has been analyzed from all three perspectives. Scholars such as Christopher Hill, Michael Walzer, and Larzer Ziff, among others, have focused primarily on the ways in which the religious movement performed certain psychological, social, economic, and political functions for its adherents and have defined it primarily as a response on the part of a class or group with distinct personal and social needs. Such an approach sees Puritanism as, for example, a rationalization of the activities of a new middle class or, in the words of Ziff, "a way of coping with the threatening conditions of masterlessness and landlessness."46
A second definitional approach, the essential, looks for the sine qua non or essential characteristic that marks the movement as a religious or sacred phenomenon and that links a variety of such groups and individuals. What is the characteristic experience of the sacred or perspective on the sacred that is distinctive about this movement and gives it its motivating power? A very common such definition is that found in Francis Bremers claim that "the earliest and most constant characteristic of Puritanism [is] the belief that the Church of England had not been sufficiently purged of the theology and worship of Roman Catholicism."47 More common in the literature I have discussed is Sydney Ahlstrom's definition of Puritanism as a spirituality that centered on "an unprecedented emphasis on the need for an inner experience of Gods regenerating grace" and "a concern for drawing out mans duties in the church and the world."48
The third definitional approach views Puritanism as a complex form of religious expression which, like all significant religious groupings, includes certain forms or elements. This "formal" definition calls Puritans those bodies and individuals who share a common approach to beliefs (myths and doctrines), practices (rituals and ethics), and institutional life or what has been called creed, cult and code, and community. Those interpreters, such as Norman Pettit and Darrett Rutman, who focus on the religious and ecclesiastical thought and practices of William Haller's "spiritual brotherhood" and their successors best exemplify this approach.49
A comprehensive view of any developed religion or religious movement requires that we include all three definitions within our purview. The functional definition provides insight into the motivational power and social location of the movement and into its inter-relationships with the other orders of society. The essential definition points to that which unites individuals and subgroups that for a variety of reasons including social, cultural, and personality differences express their religious impulse in a variety of ways. It thereby alerts us to patterns of influence and to social and religious dynamics. The formal or elemental definition shows us the full-orbed religious life of a movement and lets us see the relationship among its parts, their relative importance, and the logic of its religious life. Although each of the three can become dominant for certain scholarly purposes, they work best when each modifies the other. An example is the balancing of the functionalist or social historians emphasis on the repressive and coercive aspects of Puritanism with the emphasis on liberty and voluntarism of those historians focusing on the Puritan views of conversion and church and its historic results or dynamic.
The major problem in much of the scholarship discussed in this essay stems from a lack of sophistication about definitional approaches and especially a lack of clarity concerning which definition is most appropriate for the task at hand. The apologetic concern among Quaker scholars to stress the relative orthodoxy of the earliest Quakers cannot be minimized, but this tendency among historians of Quakerism has been encouraged by the broad definitions of Puritan scholars without this apologetic purpose. The most prominent definition to be found in this scholarship is the essential one. Scholars have sought the one characteristic or perspective or experience that unites rather varied groups and individuals and have stressed the "continuity of experience" among them. But since this has been done with little definitional self-awareness, there has been inadequate recognition of the need to supplement it with other angles or of the bias that is introduced when the essential definition is used almost exclusively to describe a concrete religious body. Having established the identity of Quakers and possibly other Spiritualists as Puritans, the scholars involved, when describing the beliefs, practices, and communities of Quakers, have, on occasion, slipped unwittingly into the assumption that the formal characteristics of the various groups are more similar than is the case.
As my own reference to "Spiritual Puritans" indicates, I have no difficulty with the idea that the thrust of the "Puritan" insistence on a patterned spiritual experience was from right to left or from the somewhat dissatisfied Anglicans of the sixteenth century through the groups that crystallized as the Presbyterians, Independents, Particular Baptists, and General Baptists to the various Spiritualists of the Interregnum. But the existence of that horizontal line or pattern of continuity does not preclude the necessity for drawing vertical lines at certain significant junctures. As Edmund Morgan has written, "the most hotly contested religious differences have often been differences of degree: the shift from orthodoxy to heresy may be no more than a shift of emphasis."50 Although Morgan was referring to the differences between the Massachusetts Bay Congregationalists and the Baptist Roger Williams, thereby reminding us of the intensity of struggle among Anglicans, Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, it cost members of these various groups some time and agony to decide that their differences were great enough to prevent brotherhood. They had no such difficulty deciding that the Quakers and other Spiritualists were of a decidedly different spirit.51
However loudly the Puritans and Spiritualists contended within their own ranks, it was not difficult for them to draw the vertical lines separating the two clusters, and it should be even easier for us if we remember to let the task at hand determine our definitional priorities. Since the formal or elemental approach provides the most comprehensive view of religious movements and of their internal coherence and priorities, the historian of religions whose main task is to describe and classify a religious movement in relation to contemporary and to temporally and spatially distant forms of religious expression will usually subordinate functional and essential considerations to formal ones.
When such a spotlight is trained on the spectrum of religious expression in seventeenth-century England and America, it becomes immediately apparent that the creed, cult and code, and community of Puritans, on the one hand, and Quakers and Spiritualists on the other, were markedly different. In this line-up the Calvinist creedalist and literalist faces the non-creedal universalist; a formal liturgy of Word and sacrament stands over against inspired silence and spiritual utterance; crusader squares off against pacifist; and a clerical world of coercive authority is pitted against anti-clerical Antinomians.
Remembering the horizontal line linking the various "purifying" or "spiritualizing" bodies, we can, to be sure, make some sense of the idea that the Puritans, on the one hand, and the Quakers and Spiritualists on the other, were hissing, if not kissing, cousins. The reasoning or justification is the same as that which makes me a distant relative of the apes. But if the Quakers and Spiritualists were Puritans in the proper sense, then I'm a monkeys uncle.
1. McNeill, Modern Christian Movements (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 19. The phrase "continuity of experience" is that of Alan Simpson; see Puritanism in Old and New England (Chicago, 1955), p. 2.
2. Miller and Thomas Johnston, eds., The Puritans (New York, 1938), p. 1; Haller, The Rise of Puritanism (New York, 1938), p. 9. The second quotation from Miller is in The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939; reprint, Boston, 1961), p. 77.
3. Simpson, Puritanism, p. 1.
4. (New Haven, 1972), pp. 130, 134, 177-78, 208-9.
5. Oxford, 1946. Important articles by influential scholars include Jerald C. Brauer, "Reflections on the Nature of English Puritanism," Church History, 23 (1954):99-108; James F. Maclear, "The Heart of New England Rent: The Mystical Element Early Puritan History," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 42 (1956):621-52; and David D. Hall, "Understanding the Puritans," in The State of American History, ed. Herbert J. Bass (Chicago, 1970).
6. Tolles, Meeting House, p. 52; see also ibid., pp. 9, 205; idem, Quakers and the Atlantic Culture (New York, 1960), pp. 10-11, 59-60, 74-75; and the introduction by Tolles to William C. Braithwaite, The Second Period of Quakerism, 2d ed., rev. Henry J. Cadbury (Cambridge, 1961), p. xxvii.
7. (New Haven, 1964), p. 2; see also Barbour and Arthur 0. Roberts, Early Quaker Writings 1650-1700 (Grand Rapids, 1973), pp. 15-16, 21-22, 155; J. William Frost, Quaker Family in Colonial America (New York, 1973), chap. 1; James L. Ash, Jr., "'Oh No, It is Not the Scriptures!: The Bible and the Spirit in George Fox,"Quaker History 63 (1974):94-107; and the essays of T. Canby Jones, Wilmer Cooper, Maurice Creasey, and Christine Downing in the journal, Quaker Religious Thought. For the effects of this scholarship, see the influential book by Peter Brock,Pacifism in Europe to 1914 (Princeton, 1972), esp. p. 255, where he assumes that it has been shown "conclusively" that Quakerism "must be placed squarely within the framework of English Puritanism" and that a realization of the Puritanism of Quakerism is essential to an understanding of the Quaker peace testimony.
8. The metaphor is Richard Vanns in Development of Quakerism, p. 31.
9. Hall, "Understanding the Puritans," pp. 331-32.
10. "The Puritan Strain," in Puritanism and the American Experience ed. Michael McGiffert (Reading, Mass., 1969), p. 18.
11. See, for example, Barbour, Quakers in Puritan England, chap. 5; Frost, Quaker Family, chap. 1.
12. Nuttall, Holy Spirit, p. 151. Nuttall says elsewhere (Visible Saints: The Congregational Way 1640-1660 [Oxford, 1957], p. 125), regarding the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists who should be classified as Puritans, that Quakerism "was impossible for the churches to include in the differences of judgment which might be tolerated; ministry, ordinances, Scripture itself, all seemed to be denied."
13. Nuttall, Holy Spirit p. 13.
14. Simpson, Puritanism, p. 1; Nuttall, Holy Spirit, p. viii. On the move away from set liturgies and prayer to spontaneous and Spirit-guided worship, Nuttall writes (ibid., p. 70): "It is not to be supposed that the development represents Puritanism as a whole, although Puritanism as a whole can be understood best when seen in relation to such a development."
15. Nuttall, The Puritan Spirit: Essays and Addresses (London, 1967), pp. 102-3; see also Maclear, "Heart of New England Rent," p. 623, and Jerald C. Brauer, "Puritanism, Mysticism, and the Development of Liberalism," Church History, 19 (1950):153.
16. Nuttall, Holy Spirit, pp. 22-24, 42, 52-60, 63-86, 91-101, 104-12, 146.
17. The quoted phrases are from Simpson, Puritanism, p. 21.
18. Hall, "Understanding the Puritans," p. 332.
19. Frost, Quaker Family, p. 11.
20. Sabine, ed., The Works of Gerrard Winstanley (Ithaca, 1941), Introduction, p.35.
21. Middlekauf, "Piety and Intellect in Puritanism," WMQ, 3d ser., 22 (1965):457-70.
22. Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (1956; reprint, Cambridge, Mass., 1964), p. 190. For Halls remark, see "The Puritans versus John Calvin: A Critique of Perry Miller's The New England Mind", paper read to AHA conference, Toronto, 30 Dec. 1967, cited by Michael McGiffert, "American Puritan Studies in the 1960s," WMQ, 3d ser., 27 (1970):49.
23. The first and last quotations are in Miller, New England Mind, pp. 281, 77; the second quotation is in idem, Errand into the Wilderness, p. 24.
24. For a more extensive discussion of the splintering process of the 1640s, and how it led to Quakerism, see Endy, William Penn and Early Quakerism (Princeton, 1973), pp. 21-53.
25. The unattributed quotation is given in Norman Cohn, Pursuit of the Millennium (1957, reprint, New York, 1961), pp. 322-23.
26. Especially relevant sources here include: Baxters transcription of a debate with William Penn, 5 Oct. 1675, Dr. Williams Library, London; Owen, Pneumatologia, or a Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (London, 1674); idem, Vindiciae Evangelicae; or the Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated and Socinianism Examined (London, 1655); idem, Of the Divine Original Self-Evidencing Light, and Power of the Scriptures (London, 1659); Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened. . . or, The Divine and Human Nature of Christ Jesus (London, 1656).
27. The General Baptists, beginning with the congregation formed by John Smyth in Holland in 1609 that returned to England with Thomas Helwys and John Murton in 1612, were too influenced by Mennonite and Spiritualist views to be called Puritans. See John Smyths final confessions of faith in Robert Barclay, The Inner L~fr of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, 3d~d. (London, 1879), app. to chap. 6; Rufus Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion (London, 1909), chap. 17; Lonnie D. Kliever, "General Baptist Origins: The Question of Anabaptist Influences," Mennonite Quarterly Review, 36 (1962):291-321. On the smaller Continental influences on Particular Baptists, see Donald F. Durnbaugh, "Baptists and Quakers Left Wing Puritans?" Quaker History, 62 (1973):72-75.
28. Dell, The Building, Beauty, Teaching, and Embellishment of the Truly Christian and Spiritual Church (1651), in The Works of William Dell (New York, 1816), p. 100.
29. John Saltmarsh, Smoke in the Temple (London, 1646), p. 14.
30. Other Spiritual Puritans or halfway Spiritualists might include John Webster, Richard Coppin, William Erbury, Joshua Sprigge, Thomas Collier, and possibly Samuel Gorton, Hugh Peters, William Sedgwick, Walter Cradock, Richard Symonds, Henry Denne, Sir Harry Vane, and Morgan Llwyd. For lists and suggestions about Spiritual Puritans, see George A. Johnson, "From Seeker to Finder: A Study in Seventeenth Century English Spiritualism Before the Quakers," Church History, 17 (1948):301; Leo E Soft, Saints in Arms (Stanford, 1959), p. 9; Nuttall, Holy Spirit, p. 13.
31. Divine Dialogues, 2nd ed. (London, 1713).
32. Representative treatises expressing central Spiritualist ideas include, for Spiritual Puritans: William Dell, The Building, Beauty, Teaching, and Embellishment, of the Truly Christian and Spiritual Church (1651); idem, The Way of True Peace (1649); idem, The Crucified and Quickened Christian (1652); John Saltmarsh, Smoke in the Temple (1646); idem, Sparkles of Glory, or Some Beams of the Morning-Star (1648); Richard Coppin, Michael Opposing the Dragon (1659). For Seekers: Gerrard Winstanley, Truth Lifting up its Head Above Scandals (1649); idem, The New Law of Righteousness (1649). For Familists: The Familists did not publish separate treatises in the Interregnum, although works of Henry Nicholas began to appear in English after 1646 (see Jones, Mystical Religion, chap. 18; idem, Mysticism and Democracy in the English Commonwealth [Cambridge, Mass., 1932], pp. 123-30; C. E. Whiting, Studies in English Puritanism [London, 19311, pp. 283-88). For the Ranters: Jacob Bauthumley, The Light and Dark Sides of God (1650); Laurence Clarkson, The lost sheep found: or, The Prodigal Returned to his Fathers house (1660); Abiezer Coppe, A Fiery Roll: A Word from the Lord to all the Great Ones of the Earth (1649). On the Quakers, see references below. For a more detailed description of the Spiritualists, see Endy, William Penn, pp. 35-53.
33.Barbour and Roberts, Early Quaker Writings, pp. 247, 21-22.
34.Tolles, Atlantic Culture, p. 109.
35. See Barbour and Roberts, Early Quaker Writings, pp. 26, 245, 250; Ahlstrom, Religious History, p. 209.
36. Barbour, Quakers in Puritan England, p. 2 and chap. 5; Frost, Quaker Family, chap. 1; Maurice Creasey, "Early Quaker Christology with Special Reference to the Teaching and Significance of Isaac Penington, 1616-1679" (Ph.D. diss., University of Leeds, 1956). My reservations about the tendency to highlight the connections between Puritans and Quakers to the neglect of important distinctions is by no means unique. The two late elder statesmen of contemporary Quaker scholarship, Henry J. Cadbury and Howard H. Brinton, did not join the Puritan interpretation. See especially Brinton, Friends for Three Hundred Years (New York, 1952); and idem, Quaker Journals: Varieties of Religious Experience Among Friends (Wallingford, Pa., 1972); see also Lewis Benson, Catholic Quakerism (Gloucester, Eng., 1966). Moreover, the lively theological discussions of historical and contemporary issues in Quaker Religious Thought, while showing the massive influence of Protestant neoorthodoxy and Quaker ecumenical contacts on many contemporary Friends, also reveal some continuing awareness of Quakerism as a movement radically distinct in ways from historical Protestantism. The works of Brinton and Benson, however, as well as the Quaker Religious Thought articles, tend to circulate primarily within the Quaker community and have been overshadowed among historians of England and America by the works referred to above.
37. Vann, Development of Quakerism, p. 56, makes the same point; see also Durnbaugh, "Baptists and Quakers," p. 71. Joness interpretation is seen in many of his works, including Spiritual Reformers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York, 1914), Mystical Religion, and Mysticism and Democracy.
38. Epistle 18, in Fox, Works (Philadelphia, 1831), 7:26; Fox, A Clear Distinction between the Old Covenant or Old Testament and the New Covenant or New Testament, (n.d.), in ibid., 6:59.
39. Burrough, Memorable Works of a Son of Thunder and Consolation (London, 1672), pp. 117-20, 243-53, 440.
40. Isaac Penington, An Invitation to Professors seriously to consider, Whether they or we fail, in the true acknowledgment and owning of the Christ which died at Jerusalem (n.d.), in idem, Works (London, 1681), 2:19; Fox, A Testimony of What We Believe of Christ (1677), in Fox, Works, 5:152-54.
41. Penington, Works, 2:12-13, 18.
42. For Fox, see Epistle 388, in idem, Works, 8:236; idem, The Second Covenant (1657), in ibid., 4:149-50; idem, The Pearl Found in England (1658), in ibid., 4:164. For Nayler, see Love to the Lost (1656), in idem, A Collection of Sundry Books, Epistles and Papers (London, 1716), pp. 345-54. For Barclay, see Apology, proposition VI.
43. In addition to those cited above, other treatises that reveal the Spiritualist affinities of Friends rather clearly include: George Fox, To all People in Christendom Concerning perfect Love; idem, And concerning Christ's flesh which was offered (1663); idem, The Great Mistery of the Great Whore Unfolded (1659); Isaac Penington, Concerning the Sum or Substance of our Religion, Who, are called Quakers (1660); idem, The Holy Truth and People Defended (1672); Josiah Coale, A Vindication of the Light Within (n.d.); George Whitehead, The Divinity of Christ (1669); Samuel Fisher, Rusticus ad Academicos in Exercitationibus Expostulatoriis, or, the Rusticks Alarm to the Rabbies (1660); George Keith, Immediate Revelation, or Jesus Christ the Eternall Son of God, Revealed in Man and Revealing the Knowledge of God (1668); idem, The Way Caste Up (1676); Robert Barclay, The Possibility and Necessity of the Inward and Immediate Revelation of the Spirit of God (1676). For a more detailed identification and description of the Spiritualism of the early Quakers and its implications for their view of Christ, see Endy, William Penn, pp. 60-84, 182-94, 262-69, 274-81, 292-96.
44. See, for example, Edward Burrough, A Trumpet of the Lord (1656), in idem, Memorable Works, pp. 106-9; see also Geoffrey Nuttall, Studies in Christian Enthusiasm (Wallingford, Pa., 1948), pp. 82-83.
45. Despite their denial of the Real Presence in the Lord's Supper and their view of baptism as a seal of the covenant, the Puritans gave the two Protestant sacraments a much more prominent place in their religious views than most Puritan scholars have recognized. A review of the theological tracts of Puritans in colonial America, for example, reveals that debates on the two sacraments were probably more prominent than any other theological subject. The beginning of a corrective is made in E. Brooks Holifield, The Covenant Sealed: The Development of Puritan Sacramental Theology in Old and New England, 1570-1720 (New Haven, 1974).
46. Ziff, Puritanism in America: New Culture in a New World (New York, 1973), p. x.
47. Bremer, The Puritan Experiment (New York, 1976), p. 4.
48. Ahlstrom, Theology in America: The Major Protestant Voices From Puritanism to Neo-Orthodoxy (New York, 1967), p. 27.
49. Pettit, The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life (New Haven and London, 1966), esp. chap. 3; Rutman, American Puritanism: Faith and Practice (Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, 1970), esp. chap. 1. Haller's clearest exposition of Puritanism is in The Rise of Puritanism (New York, 1938).
50. Roger Williams: The Church and the State (New York, 1967), p. 11, quoted in J. Sears McGee, The Godly Man in Stuart England (New Haven and London, 1976).
51. Leonard Trinterud has reminded us that in the Restoration era those Baptists who had become radical sectarians shared as much with the Quakers as they did with those groups that still lived in what he calls the "clerical world" of Puritanism. See "A.D. 1689: The End of the Clerical World," in Winthrop Hudson and Leonard Trinterud, Theology in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England (Los Angeles, 1971). His perspective reminds us of the need to attend to chronology in discussing terms such as Puritanism and Spiritualism.
This is one in a series of guest posts authored by students in an undergraduate course I taught during Spring 2014, “Protestantism and the Development of American Culture.” Each student’s task was to write an informative essay explaining some way that Protestants have shaped (or tried to shape) American culture. Students knew that their essays would be posted to this blog, so they would have a real-world online audience.
Students are entirely responsible for the content and quality of their essays; I am merely the vehicle for broadcasting them (though on the whole I’m reasonably pleased with the results).
Quakers and Foundational American Values
By Matthew Hurd
What do you know about Quakers? You probably know about the little man on the Quaker Oats tub in grocery stores, the “pilgrim” style of dressing themselves, or that they were some radical religious group that was not in the majority back during the 17th -19th centuries. Believe it or not, there is a lot more to the Quakers (collectively known as the Religious Society of Friends) then meets the eye. One would say that they laid the foundation for many basic civil rights in today’s America. Quakers were heavy backers for abolition of slavery, promoting equal rights for women, promoting education and humane treatment of prisoners, and peace. These may seem like basic civil rights today, but one point in our history they were not. As such, Quakers were ridiculed and prosecuted to measures that would be seen as torture today.
Brief History and Persecution of the Quakers
The origins of the Quakers started overseas in the country of England by a man named George Fox. Ingle, who was George Fox’s biographer, says this was back in the mid 1600’s and Fox expressed the idea that God could speak to all sort of peoples, not just your churchmen that paid their way through the church. In Ingle’s text it said that for roughly 4 years, Fox was recruiting people’s of all types to be potential Quakers; one’s that might have been uncertain about their religion or disillusioned, as well as just common folk that could be persuaded.
Yount explains that Quakers referred to an Inner Light that was shared by every person. It is the doctrine of Inner Light that explains their beliefs in God’s continuing revelation of himself through personal inspiration. Fox sought not to create a new faith, but to restore the authentic faith and practice of the earliest Christians. Yount recounts to the Acts of the Apostles to explain the original community of faith, “There was complete agreement of heart and soul…. A wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed there was not a single person in need among them” (Acts 4:43-44).
In Hamm’s Origins of American Quakerism chapter of The Quakers in America, it talks about how Fox was flexible in what the movement could be called. His preference was “Children of the Light”, but other terms for the movement were such as “People of God”, “Royal Seed of God”, and “Friends of the Truth” which is eventually how the official name “Religious Society of Friends” came about.
Hamm’s text also states that one of the definite movements in the founding of Quakerism happened in 1652, after Fox was released from jail. Fox climbed to the top of Pendle Hill where he was led by the Lord to see what places where people were to be gathered. This location, after gathering about a thousand people, was on Firbank Fell where Fox first gave word to the masses of the Quakerism movement.
Eventually there were many movements by the Quakers through the 1650’s and it led across the Atlantic into the New World, later known as the United States.
Worrall writes that scholars are in agreement to who the first Friend (another term for Quaker), from the Religious Society of Friends, was to arrive in North America. It was Elizabeth Harris who travelled in the Chesapeake region to arouse interests from Puritans starting around 1655. Hamm writes that there were nearly sixty Friends that were in the two colonies by 1662. Maryland was very tolerant of the Quakers, but Virginia was a different case. Quakers in Virginia were imprisoned because of their refusal to attend the services of the established church and pay their tithes to it. At least one of the Virginia Quakers died in jail.
Another example of persecution to the Quakers is when they moved to the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. Barbour and Frost write that two women Friends, Ann Austin and Mary Fisher, arrived in Boston and they were immediately imprisoned. Their Quaker books were burned and were examined for witchcraft. Jones writes that between 1656 and 1659, 33 Quakers visited Massachusetts and all were expelled. On top of expulsion, they were often brutally punished in ways of whipping, branding, and other mutilations. Two children of a Quaker couple in Salem were sold to be indentured servants in the Caribbean. It even got to the point where Massachusetts passed a law that imposed death on any Quaker who returned to the colony after being banished twice.
As one can see, Quakers were treated incredibly poorly back in the day. Hamm writes that Quakers were seen as heretics and blasphemers who put blockades in the way of salvation. Their refusal to defer to authority, the power and public roles of Quaker women, and their opposition to oaths all seemed like direct challenges to the Puritan social order.
Elliot’s text gives a good breadth of the spread of Quakerism across the American Frontier. Early in the days, Quakers reached land from the already stated colonies to regions south, north, and west. Regions such as Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, all the way out to the west coast, but more importantly the two colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
Jones and Worrall both write that Rhode Island was the colony that was most open to Quakers which was the colony that was founded on religious toleration. This colony had attracted a wide variety of nonconformists, many of which followed the Quaker message. At the same time, toleration did not mean acceptance. When George Fox visited the colony in 1672, Roger Williams, the founder of the colony, challenged Fox to a public debate. Fox could not stay for the debate, but other Friends agreed to do so. Eventually, Quakers started becoming a major force in politics in this region.
The next colony of importance to the Quakers was Pennsylvania which was the region that many Quakers called home. William Penn, a member of the Society of Friends, was the founder of the colony. Penn received a royal grant to this land in 1681 and had absolute power over the colony and the form that its government and settlement took. He framed it according to Quaker principles, which made it the first society in the world to be so established. Penn wanted Pennsylvania and its capital, Philadelphia to be a model for the rest of the world. Penn’s “Frame of Government” provided for complete religious freedom and did not include governmental support for any church, including Quakerism (Penn did limit office holding, however, to Christians). Compared to England, the criminal code was enlightened and capital punishment was only provided for treason or murder.
Penn also encouraged settlement by making land available on easy terms. Many people would settle to this new land. At the same time, he wanted to have fair dealing relations with the native peoples of the land, mainly the Lenni Lenape or Delaware, he even learned to speak their languages. The Indians saw him as treating them equitable and with respect. Since all these things were so attractive to the Friends, more than three thousand friends arrived in Pennsylvania in the span from the founding in 1681 to the end of 1683.
Beliefs of the Quakers
Yount writes that over time, Pennsylvania became the model for the United States. He also says that the liberty Americans take for granted did not originate in the minds of secular Enlightenment thinkers but from the application of the Quakers’ Christian faith. The American Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Quaker Pennsylvania, the nation’s Bill of Rights was modeled after the Quaker-drafted constitution of Rhode Island. The Liberty Bell was originally the Great Quaker Bell, purchased long before the American Revolution. Despite the obscurity of Quakers in America today, their role in forming the American character can be said to fit the definition of American democracy.
Yount lays out some examples of beliefs by the Quakers that are basic, fundamental rights to all today:
- Equality: The Friends’ sense of equality was radical for its time, extending to women, African Americans, Native Americans, and many more. This meant suffrage for women and civil rights for all.
- Informality: The Quakers sense of simplicity in many aspects of life was quickly picked up by fellow countrymen and women
- Tolerance: The Quakers believed that there is “that of God in everyone”, meaning they welcomed all culturally and religiously different people to have God’s rights of conscience.
Besides some foundations of American character, Quakers also strongly influenced many other aspects of American life:
- The dialect and word of Quakers was a very muscular speech-bluff, literal, direct, vivid, forceful, and plain-spoke. Unlike other American dialects, their speech employed expressions, pronounced vowel, and stressed the same syllables we find in standard American speech today.
- The Quaker’s also employed a sense of family life that characterizes many American families today. Puritans and Anglicans were said to employ fear to maintain family unity, where Quakers completely opposed that. On top of this, the idea of Marriage under Quaker thought was ideal for today. Quakers thought it should be a union of “sweethearts”, and love must precede marriage, not follow it.
- Optimism is another trait that Quakers often strive for. Death was as familiar as life and was not to be feared but welcomed as the beginning on eternity.
- Education in America today is what early Quakers wished it would be to best serve all students. They completely opposed state churches and were critical of frivolous and speculative education because they believed such schooling caused divisions between the people.
- For Quakers, work was a fundamental form of worship, doing the service of God through one’s God-given talents. Being occupied was a matter of discipline, one of taking control of your life.
- Bankruptcy was considered a failure to Quakers, but when happened, they were still there to help their friends who were going through rough times. Since the Quakers believed so much in helping one another, they became a leader in the insurance industry. The oldest corporate business in America was founded by Quakers to insure all against fire.
Besides these values that Quakers held, there were also many other things they influenced such as they way we build our homes, dress ourselves, eat, sport and leisure, defining social status and power, and many others.
The biggest thing I wanted to accomplish with this essay was to let people become a little more aware of Quakers, their influence on America, what their ideals and beliefs were, and the persecution they had to go through. They are not just the little man on the Quaker Oats tub, they are more than that. Quakers hold some of the ideals and beliefs that we place as some of the most important foundational values to America. Whether it is equality, informality, tolerance, optimism, et cetera, the Quakers can be considered to help lay the ground to make America what it is today. I really love Yount’s title of his book because I really do think the Quakers helped “invent” America.