Princess, because mummy asked...
I love the Lord & I love to talk about the Lord & I really enjoy sharing what I believe but history, & especially theological history, can seem very dull sometimes. So you must remember that history is about people; what they thought, what they did, how they acted.
I sometimes quip that Quakers were the first modern charismatics because Quakers is not what Quakers called themselves. They called themselves Friends & their Meeting the Society of Friends. Nowadays Quakers are mostly pacifists but when it all began, back in 17th century England, it wasn't quite like that. Quakers were a zealous bunch & people like George Fox tended to get quite heated about certain things ~ paid ministers, sacred buildings, priests coming between people & God. The early Quakers were fiercely persecuted & brought to trial would often condemn the very people trying them. In their zeal they would often *quake* & if they weren't quaking they were exhorting people to tremble at the word of the Lord~ hence the nickname. It stuck.
England at that time was caught on the twin prongs of the Church of England & Puritanism under Cromwell. The less said about Cromwell the better but he was an important & powerful man. The rise of Quakerism threatened both of these church views in important & profound ways. Firstly, & most importantly, Quakerism stressed that the Holy Spirit was directly accessible by everyone. If you actually believe that then certain other things flow logically from that belief. If you believe the Holy Spirit can & does speak directly to individuals then ordained priests aren't necessary. If you believe that then the biblical argument that we are all priests [1Peter2:9]takes on a new meaning. If you believe that then you believe you can hear from God yourself. If you are convinced you are doing as God tells you you will act according to conscience, not according to church law. You can see how such thinking would upset some people.
I like this quote from Quakersonline: Thus if the Holy Spirit speaks to us personally our highest duty is to listen & our immediate obligation to act in accordance with His will.
Listening. Listening is the Heart of Quakerism. If one is noisy or busy doing one can't really listen so Quaker meetings were held in silence, broken only occasionally if someone felt moved to share what the Holy Spirit had laid upon their heart. This probably sounds very dull. My Ditz certainly thinks it is & I can't speak for those Quakers who aren't Christians or who belong to more programmed Meetings. There are quite a few of those these days but speaking as a Conservative Christian Quaker entering in to the silence is a deeply profound experience. It is like going to meet a good friend. There is a sense of expectation as you wait. Your thoughts might skitter about all over the place but you wait. Eventually your mind settles & grows still & then the Lord Jesus comes & sits with you. Sometimes we just sit together. Sometimes He's got something he wants to say to me. How do I know it's Jesus & not some figment of my overactive imagination you might well ask? Good question, one the early Quakers asked too & set certain guidelines in place as checks. Those checks include things like checking scriptures or having other Friends go to the Lord. There is always agreement when something is fully of God. Over time, as you get to know Jesus better & better it is easier to tell what's what.
Quakerism is experiential. It's whole aim was to bring people into a living, vital confrontation with God where they could know God was true for themselves. We believe something of God resides in everyone. Out of that basic assumption a great social concern arose out of Quakerism. Quakers were among the first to address the issue of slavery & the physical & spiritual needs of prisoners. It is meant to be a faith lived with holiness, that sees other people through God's eyes & each day as sacred as a witness of the love God has for us.
Now, Princess, I may not have answered some questions you may have. I may not have given you enough history ~ like the whole Cromwell thing [but I don't like the man, so I didn't] so feel free to ask ~ either here or by e~mail & I will do my best to answer. One or two other Quakers also read here ocassionally & might be better able to answer your questions so even if I don't know someone is bound to. Your Friend, with boundless joy, Ganeida.