Illustrative Experiences of Friends
In this chapter the attempt has been made to state truth, not by formulating it, but by expressing it through the living personal and corporate experience of Friends. Life itself, with its variety of outlook and condition, seems to us the way by which God has spoken to men and women through the prophets, and supremely through Jesus Christ, and by which God's living Spirit continues to speak today.
The passages in this chapter have been selected as illustrations of deeply spiritual experiences sufficient to illustrate the varied ways in which the heavenly vision has come with living power to human souls. While modes of thought and utterance change, the central truths remain. The statements of these truths, if written by the society today, would no doubt vary in some respects from earlier modes of expression. Brief biographical and explanatory notes have been added.
Declaring our faith in the words of those who went before us, we are mindful also of the many New England Friends whose testimonies have come down, not through their writings but their deeds: Nicholas Upsall, who eased the imprisonment of the first Publishers of Truth in America; Mary Dyer, who "hung there as a flag"; George Rofe, who, concerned to call a General Meeting in New England, paddled his canoe, "but fourteen foot by the keel," from the Chesapeake to Narragansett; Mary Starbuck, who, having become convinced, gathered a great company of Friends on Nantucket; Paul Cuffee, the slave who became a Quaker sea captain; those who befriended the Indians; the "conductors" on the Underground Railroad, whose acts of mercy often had to be carried out in such secrecy that we do not know their names; and Moses Brown, the generous industrialist with a vision of education; Prudence Crandall, who was forced to close her school because she admitted a black pupil; those Friends who suffered in the tragedy of separation, and those who, a hundred years later, achieved the felicitous union of Friends in New England.
But let us not forget the thousands whose names have slipped from sight, the men and women who lived out their Quaker testimonies in their fields and their kitchens, on roadsides and vessels, in town meetings and country schoolhouses, in federal penitentiaries and Civilian Public Service camps, wherever it was that the Inner Light impelled them to state their belief. It is in roles such as theirs that most of us are called out to bear witness to "that of God in every one."