William Penn Lecture
The Flavor of Man
Arch Street Meeting House
Once again we approach the spring season. Soon a
new cycle of life will start in the earth; and all men, if
not participants, will be beneficiaries. We advance towards
new birth in the natural order. Man's hands and man's
machines will be in the fields. The store of things to eat will
be replenished. More generously we shall have light and
warmth from the sun, and life-giving waters. The earth and all of
its teeming life, man excepted, will show abundance. God
shall be manifest in His World. Dawn will be the herald; and
when full day comes it will come with glory.
It was this season that Nicholas Herman, known to
us as Brother Lawrence, was anticipating when he saw
the bare tree that soon would be renewed to full foliage,
and received a high view of the providence and power of
God, and felt kindled in him a true and abiding love of God.
He was then eighteen years of age, having been a soldier and
a footman. Thus by God's grace the former soldier became
a tender person, the footman received a measure of
holiness. Then and there that young man was given the flavor of
man, for the primary ingredient of man's substance is love,
love of God, love of man, and through love, a sense of unity
with all creation.
For the remaining sixty-two years of his life
Brother Lawrence experienced an increasing fullness of life and
an undiminished love of God. To live in love with God for
sixty-two years! Would that you and I might so love just for
one year, one week. Some day will it not come to pass? Does
the divine hand, moving in eternity, touch one of us, but
not others? Surely it must happen, in God's time, that He
will enable all of His children to obey His first
commandment. Will we ever become thus able unless He does enable
us? We cannot make ourselves love. The pale yearning I feel
is not love. Much of the time I have more desire for
dinner than for God. Most of the time I could more readily be
the devil's advocate than Christ's disciple. I am still among
the descendants of the rebel angels, though I wonder if
they were angels.
Yet in me, as in you, there is a power greater
than myself, stronger than the evil in me, that grips my
being and moves me toward a harvest. What I shall
ultimately reap I do not really know, though I make believe I know
by using words as if they were the reality. Of this I am
certain. Our lives have meaning only as they are preparations
for what the Creator has in store for His creations.
And once again, these being the days just before
things start growing, catalogues arrive from the large houses
that supply seeds for the gardens of America. Not long ago
my wife was going through one of the catalogues that
annually fascinate her, when she suddenly exclaimed, "Listen to
this! Here's something for you." Indeed it was. This is what
Crystal Apple. 65 days. An amazingly attractive cucumber, perfectly round, crystal-white at
all stages, with a sweetness and lack of cucumber flavor that is remarkable. Produces a
tremendous number of fruit about the size of a lemon
Crystal Apple. It is not called a cucumber. It has
neither the shape nor the size of a cucumber. And, to cap it all,
it remarkably lacks the cucumber flavor! What ingenuity
and labor went into the production of this cucumber that isn't
a cucumber! Is this not typical of twentieth century man?
Consider the bread without the flavor of bread. In
any restaurant you can get milk that hardly tastes like
milk. Could it be that here in Philadelphia there is water
that does not taste like water? Experts have some
unpleasant but important facts for us. They tell us that it is
doubtful whether there is a single stream in the United States
which has not deteriorated during the past hundred years. The
air of our cities is becoming smog. On most farms the topsoil
is depleted. Much of our work is without the flavor of
creativity; our literature without the flavor of literature; our
religion without the flavor of religion.
Outstanding at this time is the fact that we have
peace without the flavor of peace. But the wars we wage have
the full horrible flavor of war. The bombs we make are not
In fine, there are too many men without the
substance and the flavor of men. Wrong ways of living deplete
our inheritance. The uncontested evil within and around
us ravages the body of our life. Millions of people,
having reached what should be the age of maturity, find
themselves squeezed dry. Gutted lives make their miserable
patterns upon the earth. They are still human beings, but
something worse has happened to them than to the streams and to
the atmosphere of cities.
People with an abundance of life, full of the
content proper to human beings, would inevitably fashion
a corresponding world. Those filled with creative energies,
not to mention divine powers, would not and could not
despoil the materials of the earth, exploit and fight their fellowmen.
We in America pride ourselves on being well
off. Compared to the majority in Europe and Asia we are.
But compared to the full norm of mature man ours is a poor
life. Whether we be materially rich or poor, most of us live
in spiritual scarcity. David, the writer of the 23rd psalm,
could say and virtually sing, "My cup runneth over." We
cannot. Our cups are more nearly empty.
It is this inner scarcity that causes the frustration
so evident in human life as ordinarily lived. It is this
frustration, in turn, that sets people against people in
domestic antagonisms, racial conflicts, class wars, international
wars_one party wanting to punish the other for its own
frustration, one hoping to wrest from the other what neither
possesses. Frustration sets people against people in strife and
war. Strife and war still further bleed us. Frustration
thus increases, causing ever more acute conflict. This is
the vicious circle that mankind is caught in, from which
we must break free. This is the locked situation that holds
us tight, from which we must be liberated, from which we
must arise. But how are we to rise? Not even a balloon can rise
if it is empty. We must be filled. Then, as George Fox
and others have demonstrated, no outside force can hold us
down or prevent us from doing our share to enable others
to become fulfilled.
We know, but tend to forget from time to time,
the sources which can enrich the lives of the world's
people. One source is the presence and works of men and
women, past and present, who managed to attain some measure
of spiritual fullness. Another is the hidden resources
within all people. It is my belief that even those whose
substance has been wasted have, deep within themselves, the
powers capable of making full restoration, could these resources
be reached. If salt has lost its savor, nothing can be done.
Not so with human beings. Man is renewable. The great
source is God, whose abundance is limitless. Christ came to
open the way between men and the Eternal Being, that we
might have life and have it abundantly.
A man's roots must go down into what is deeper
than himself, his crown touch what is higher, his heart open
to the beyond, and the whole move forward. Then will he
be connected with the great heart and power of life.
Three hundred years ago in England there arose
a people_and they did rise. They came upon a power. A
power gathered them, and they knew they were related to the
Divine Being. By awakening they opened, by opening there
flowed into them an ample measure of human substance from
their own resources, and, from the sacred Source, a
goodly measure of the life that is above this life. A light,
which previously had been hearsay, the light of Christ,
invaded them. A love, which formerly was but a word to them,
became the potent reality of their lives, the love of God. They
found themselves changing, being born anew through a
spiritual birth. Darkness and death fell away; and their
condition ceased being that of spiritual scarcity in the midst of
spiritual abundance. It became that of abundance within
an immeasurably greater store.
At first they were not called Quakers, nor did they
seek to become Quakers. They sought contact with the
mighty power whose touch makes men tremble. They sought to
be Christians through and through, to possess what
they professed, to be followers of Christ and more, to have
Christ and his redemptive love real to them_to know this, to
be this, experimentally. And to this end they disciplined
their total lives.
Each in his and her measure made the discovery
which the whole world awaits; namely, that there are direct
and immediate links between man and God; and that,
when man's seeking is crowned by God's grace, the
apparent separateness of man from Deity is superseded by a
wondrous partnership. No other discovery can mean to us what
this one means. With it, all that plagues us begins to fall
Without it, discover what else you will, the hard knot of
our darkness remains. Evil is evil only because it separates
our consciousness from God. Overcome that separation and
we have overcome evil. Pain is pain only because we
lack realization that we are related to divinity. Problems are
locked problems because of the same lack. The divisions
between individuals and groups are so wide, and often so
injurious, because of the same. Whoever realizes his connection
with God is unlocked. In some measure he is released from
his tight self to God and to men. All life is transvalued.
Days and nights have sacred meanings.
Those early Friends, as we know, were gathered
from all ranks and levels of society, and from all
occupations. Unified into one body were farmers, fishermen,
tradesmen, innkeepers, shipmasters, jailers, soldiers,
blacksmiths, preachers, ladies, knights, squires. There is indication
that certain thieves, harlots, and murderers were affected.
Many were changed from their old ways to the new way, and
what they had been was as nothing compared to what they
God's radiance spread from man to man. People felt
as though a holy contagion were upon them. As the word
of life was spoken in each one, each became of good
substance and good flavor, and all were joined together by the
Spirit wherein men have brotherhood. An irresistible power
was in them, behind them, before them. Knowing what was
being wrought within themselves, and how swiftly, and how
rapidly it was spreading, they could not doubt that God's hour
was at hand; that He was coming to touch and teach His
people, every one, and lift them into a new dispensation with
the full flavor of the Kingdom; and that they, the people
now called Friends, were God's agents to transform the world.
It is difficult for us in this secular age of
mechanization and global power-politics, living under the cloud of
world wars and the rumble of catastrophe, to imagine the
vision that glowed in those early Friends, to feel with like
conviction that God's Kingdom is coming, coming swiftly,
gathering the world's people into the long-awaited resurrection.
We can more readily believe that anti-Christ is upon
us, empowering evil, widening the path that leads to destruction.
We must acknowledge that the world of darkness
is potent and, at the present time, ominous; but it is not
the only possible world. There is another Being behind and
above our ordinary persons. There is another world behind
and above our ordinary world. We must renew the vision of
that other world. The only way to renew it is to have
experiences similar to those that gave it birth. To have such
experiences we must seek God who gives them. The only way to
seek God is to seek God first. Deny the nayward, affirm
the yeaward, be true to those stirrings and motions which
He starts in us, refuse priority to all else, and be faithful to
Many British people of those days did not like the
flavor of the Quakers. To some, the Friends savored not of
Christ but of satan. Others feared that these religious radicals
did have the true power of the spirit, and, having it,
threatened to overturn the entrenched social and churchly orders.
So they broke up their meetings, stoned and beat them,
and threw them into jail. In prison the Quakers were more
truly free than those who committed them. And right in the
jails, amid the filth and the stench, those Children of the
Light continued to radiate the Light.
The dynamic center of the Quaker movement was
of course a man known as George Fox, but who once said
of himself that he had a name unknown to men, a new
name for the new man born within him. William Penn referred
to Fox as "the first blessed and glorious instrument of
this work," Penn, after Fox's death, paid him one of the
finest tributes ever given man to man. Excerpts from
Penn's portrait will refresh those who know them and give others
a sense of the substance and flavor of George Fox.
He was a man that God endued with a clear and wonderful depth; a discerner of others'
spirits, and very much a master of his own. As to man
he was an original, being no man's copy. The most aweful, living, reverent frame I ever felt or
beheld, I must say, was his in prayer. He exercised
no authority but over evil, and that everywhere,
and in all; but with love, compassion and long-suffering. Though God had visibly clothed him
with a divine preference and authority, and indeed
his very presence expressed a religious majesty;
yet he never abused it; but held his place in the
church of God with great meekness. Having been with
him for weeks and months together on divers occasions, and those of the nearest and
most exercising nature, I can say I never saw him
out of his place, or not a match for every service
or occasion. In all things he acquitted himself like
a man, yea, a strong man, a new and heavenly-minded man, and all of God Almighty's making.
Admit the excesses of George Fox, take into
account those of his traits which have caught the eyes of
the psychiatrists, and you still have a prodigious human
being_and one, moreover, who turned men not to himself, nor
to the power in him, but to God and to the power in
themselves. He called men to be set free, not by themselves, not by
other men, but by the Truth that illumines and liberates.
He knew the ravishing love of God. He was released
to God and to men. He ascended and he extended.
His abundance increased as he gave it away.
Outward change inevitably follows inward change; inward does not necessarily result from outward. Fox's
chief aim was not economic or political reform, nor church
reform, nor even peace. He aimed directly at the heart of the
human situation_the change of changes, the radical change of
man's consciousness, values, ends _ the change of man's
very being, and of his apprehension of reality. And he
himself was the instrument, so that it actually happened in
some numbers of people. Other men have had a similar aim;
too few have had the effective power and purity.
When this man was in meetings he gave his flavor
to the meetings; when in the market place to the market
place; when in courts to the courts; when in jails to the jails.
They tried to beat him down, to break his spirit. Man's
spirit, when reinforced by God's, is unbreakable. They threw
him into prison after prison. But he was inwardly released.
No outer restriction could constrict him. In or out of jail
he declared the Truth and changed people. Wherever his
body was, he remained in the power, in the pure air of the spirit.
What enabled George Fox to be what he was and to
do what he did? Shall we regard him as a religious genius
living on a level unattainable by us? Was he favored by God
more than we can ever hope to be? Not at all; but I find that
some Friends of today tend to hold one or both of these
views, and thereby miss the meaning that Fox's life can and
should have for us. As his own ministry declared, his
experiences were of a type that we may come to have, some time
in God's time, provided we do our part. There were
practices he engaged in which, if known and practiced by us,
will promote our rise. I have no thought that we should or
could become like Fox. He was no man's copy. Neither should
we be his copy, or any man's. Each of us, though bearing
the common human stamp, is unique. It is a matter of levels
of possible spiritual awakening and attainment.
Later on we shall see what Fox's crucial
experiences were. Investigation of his inward practices, important as
it is, lies beyond the intention of this paper. It is to be
hoped, however, that each and all of us, particularly our
young people, will pursue it. One of the best pieces of advice
ever offered to aspirants in the religious life is contained in
a book, published anonymously, The Path of the Saint.
"The task before us is not to imitate what the saints do
after they attain to divine knowledge. Instead we must
acquaint ourselves with the means and exercises they used to
achieve their goal."
William Penn was among those opened, raised up:
and set in new motion. He too ascended and became of
good substance. He too extended. And within, behind and
before him was the larger substance and motion of the world
that the Quakers were creating. Having entered into a new
world of the spirit, he carried the flavor of it across the ocean
to the land that was to become America, and began his
Holy Experiment; wherein men, on a basis of wise
economy, concerned government, and in all things fair dealings
with one another, were to move Godwards, were to merit the
grace of new birth, so that in truth and wholly they would
be changed men, new men in a total New World.
What has happened to that Holy Experiment? Has
it increased and spread? Is it evident in the Market Street
of the city still called the City of Brotherly Love? Does it
radiate from the City Hall, on top of which stands the colossal
statue of William Penn? Is there an uncommon light in the eyes
of the city's people, and in their hearts a common
goodwill? Has it been modified and enriched by the aspirations of
other peoples and the vision of other faiths, so that it now
covers the entire United States? Is this what modern America
means to itself and to the world?
Or is it, rather, that the Holy Experiment has
suffered during the intervening years a fate similar to that of
the top-soil, the streams, the atmosphere? If this latter be
the case, what mainly should we do about it? Strive by
means of prayer, worship, service, and a creative contending
with oneself, as Penn and most of the early Friends strove,
to merit a spiritual birth. Surely we cannot give the flavor
of God's world to this world unless we ourselves have it
to give. We cannot organize our world as an expression of
God's Kingdom unless we know by experience the nature of
the model. Those who would lead others to the Kingdom,
but have not seen it themselves, are likely to mislead. Most
of those who doubt Christ do so because they doubt
Christians. Most of those who doubt God do so because they
As I ride into Philadelphia the train stops at a
station near which is a building bearing in large letters this
sign: Wrecks Our Specialty. It refers to motor-cars. I am
thinking of human beings. I am thinking that that sign is
appallingly appropriate to an aspect of our own civilization and
every other of which we have record. Not whole men
our specialty. Not holy men. Neither our own nor any other culture
has been so enlightened. Wrecks_and my heart aches.
Human wrecks by the millions. They are to be seen in the slums
of any city, in hospitals, in poorhouses, on the roads, on
farms, and in mansions and penthouses too. These are the
wrecks of so-called peace-time society. The wrecks of
war-time society are here and there the world over, and the
mutilated bodies of countless thousands are buried out of sight.
Not far from this meeting house, at Byberry, there is
a Pennsylvania state institution for the insane. It
specializes in the acute condition of wreckage that is being
increasingly caused by the severe dislocations of our time. It is said to
be typical of such institutions throughout the nation
that congratulates itself on its prosperity and well-being.
Some of us are concerned about that place and its people.
Some have given service there. Albert Deutsch has made a
nation-wide investigation of insane asylums and recorded
his findings in a book entitled, The Shame of the States.
Writing of Byberry he says:
I was reminded of the pictures of the Nazi concentration camps at Belsen and
Buchenwald. I entered buildings swarming with naked
humans herded like cattle and treated with less
concern, pervaded by a fetid odor so heavy, so
nauseating, that the stench seemed to have almost a
physical existence of its own.
I hear this and I say_there in that institution the
flavor of man has departed, and a stench taken its place.
There, but for the grace of God and the help of some of
my fellowmen, I might be, my body among the naked
bodies, my mind among the unhinged minds, my soul in the
torment of being bound to an instrument it cannot use. I am
humble before so much choked suffering. So many of our
kinsmen are in asylums so-called, in ghettos, in concentration
camp and colonies, and in some high places, critically
reduced below the par of man. Does it matter that some have
white bodies, some black, that some are Jews, some Gentiles,
some Republicans, some Democrats? It matters that they
are human. It matters that they are men and women,
whatever else they are or were, but have lost the powers and
the faculties proper to men and women. May God reach
those beyond human reach.
Your and my comparative good fortune carries with
it the duty that we shall share such substance as we
have, and increase it so as to share it more. Every human
derelict puts the cross upon those relatively whole and sound,
and reminds us to be disciplined and dedicated.
Man has made his impress upon the earth_and
upon man. Each generation leaves its mark, each individual.
Some marks are magnificent, some have beauty; many are
ugly, many are blights. Claiming to develop Earth's
resources, men have carried on a systematic exploitation of them,
and of each other. Forests have been hacked down, land
ruined, nature's stores squandered, people enslaved. In the
name of farming, deserts have been made. In cities there are
slums and filth, and on the outskirts smouldering refuse. By
their marks the vaunted lords of the earth are revealed as
rebels against the harmony of Nature, against the laws of
their own beings, exiles from God. The lords are outlaws.
Now the rulers of the two most powerful nations of the world
are contemplating and preparing for _ or, as they would
say, preparing against _ a war that may indeed end war by
In God's Kingdom there are no policemen who
might descend to earth and prevent our committing
race-suicide, impound us until we come to our senses. Yet I pray that
His power may reach us directly in this hour. I pray, not
because I think men should cling to this life, or have indefinite
tenure on this planet. But if we are to continue living, may
the ignoble and the mediocre be burnt out in the fires of
this age. May we be regenerated and live nobly.
From all sides, especially from the scientists, we
hear that there is a desperate race between education
and catastrophe. Education moves slowly. Catastrophe
moves swiftly. Time runs out. The alternatives, I am
convinced, are starkly these: Transcendence or extinction. We
must rise, rise above ourselves into that ocean of light and
love, or the ocean of darkness and death will engulf us. We
must rise not only so as to surmount impending catastrophe,
but that we may take a decisive step upward towards our
true destiny. The peril of the present situation, if we make
good use of it, can release force for human transformation.
Words no more than point to the tragic yet
potentially wonderful condition of man in our time. Our deeper
rhythms may seem a death march; rightly heard, they may
herald the approach of mankind's ascent to a higher level
of existence. O, that we might go down into our roots and
meet one another, below words, below thoughts. Now is the
time to meet the reality of that of God in every man, and to
realize that all the peoples of the earth are brethren.
As we go down to rise, we shall encounter under
the surface, and shall have to penetrate, an obstruction
more unyielding than words. It is a knot of darkness in each
of us, composed of indifference inertia, prejudice _ all of
our nayward forces. It is tied tight by fear, and by the
self-willed, self-sufficient ego. This is what keeps us away from
our Father, and from each other, and from all that lives.
Take hold of it. Loosen it. Suffer it to be burnt out. Go
down under the knot of death; for below it, still below it is
the golden core. There we shall find the forces of life that
rise, and that will lift us with them. This is the inward journey.
Young people in whom life is fresh, who have not
yet acquired so thick an insulation between themselves
and Deity, may they make way to the sanctuary of the
heart, and bring to earth the flavor of heaven, and bring to
men the flavor of God.
It may be, as some think, that the condition of
man's world is currently showing signs of improvement. It
may be, as others think, that nothing has yet been done to
lessen the undertow to destruction, much less to free us from
it. But we here are certain of this. Times of crisis must not
be used as an excuse for demoralization and inner collapse,
or for relaxing the struggle that each and all are called upon
to make. Whatever the world situation, we must make
certain that at least a remnant continues to live within the
moral law, upholding human values and duties, acting on
the conviction that in each human being there is an
undying essence or soul that survives the death of the
perishable body, and persists ultimately to fulfill God's purpose.
For the sake of Christ's work on earth, for the sake
of others and of ourselves, we are obligated here and now
to do all we can to dispel the stuff of darkness; to retain
the good substance we now have, regain what has been
lost, and continue growing. Douglas Steere has said, "The
power of renewal is part of the nature of man." Creative
living activates this power.
Suppose that by creative living, each in his own
field, each in accord with his uniqueness and in harmony
with the common structure of man, we have regained, at
the adult level, the wholeness and the flavor natural to a
child, and have acquired marks of maturity. Is this all? Do
we stop here? Is this the end of development? Has God
nothing more in store for us?
Even a perfectionist would have to grant that this
would be a great deal. Were some number of human beings
to become as adequate in the human order as a tree is in
its order, the whole atmosphere of our world would begin
to clear, the spiritual and physical slums to
disappear, abundance to replace scarcity, and war cease.
Considering how many of our kind usually become derelicts, it
would indeed be wonderful could there be a substantial
increase of those becoming whole and sound. Considering the
age-long condition of the mass of people, it would seem
nothing short of miraculous were an effective number to flower
in just a natural way.
Yet there is more. There is still the Beyond. There is
a rise as high above the ordinary human as the
ordinary human is above the animal_and we should know of it, so
as to lift up our eyes and aim for it. There are higher
terraces in the life of man. To attain them should be our
long-range objective. The human adventure does not end with
ordinary maturation. Were we as adults to fulfill the promise
of childhood and become integrated, we would still be
within the frame of the first birth. A second birth awaits us.
Were we to flower in a natural way, we would still remain in
the natural-human order. God's design for us is that we
rise higher, in virtue of His yeast and seed in us, through
a spiritual birth into the divine-human order. Robert
Barclay referred to the higher state of being as the "new creation."
Religion is rooted in the entire life of man. With
what objective? To nurture, guide and implement our growth
in the spirit up to the threshhold of transformation,
and beyond. Religion's first total yield occurs when a
man becomes a risen being. For only then can he truly
pray, worship, and live a wholly consecrated life. Then he
can effectively practice the love of God, and the love of men
and all creation.
How do we know that it is possible for man to
rise above himself and become established in a higher
condition? There is evidence. If not yet within ourselves, it is to
be found in the lives and works of some men and
women; specifically, in the records of Quakers from the early
days up to the present. Said William Penn of the early
Friends, "They were changed men themselves before they went
about to change others." So it must be. The reformers
must themselves be reformed. They must have undergone a
new birth before they can speak and act with the power of
the resurrected. Prophetic ministry can only come from
prophets. Apostolic work can be done only by apostles.
They were changed men, said Penn. But how
changed? They were changed by God towards God, and toward
one another. They were born again of the water and of the
Spirit. Thus they knew what Nicodemus could not
comprehend, though Jesus was there to instruct him. Each, by a
spiritual birth saw the Kingdom of God, which is to be seen in
no other way. Each in his measure entered the Kingdom,
which is to be entered in no other way. Humble in himself,
yet exultant in the glory and goodness of God, William
Dewsbury declared: "I witness I am regenerated and born again of
the immortal Seed." Others of the early Friends gave
essentially the same testimony in the same spirit.
Thus changed, how did they aim to help change
others? Having themselves been through a major
transformation, they would hardly want less for other men. They could
not have been satisfied to effect small improvements in
individual character and conduct, in social institutions and
conditions, unless these were necessary means to the root-change.
They saw a great, quiet, sweeping inward revolution awaiting
all men, they the agents of it. The early Friends aimed to
help others change as radically as they had been _ to reach
others, open them, bring them to Christ and to God, that by
a spiritual birth all might enter the Kingdom, and none
be left outside.
Of course, not all early Friends were thus
empowered, and pointed. Had they been, then indeed their way of
life would have been irresistible, expanding throughout
England and beyond, unlocking the nations, gathering into its
motion the peoples of the earth. That did not happen then. It is
not happening now. But may it not happen, in God's time?
Even in those days of the covering, some were Quakers more
in name than in experience. Some drowsed in meetings,
even as we. Some strayed, and had to be gathered again.
Some even turned against the testimony and steamed off to
other ends. Yet the truth is, and the wonder too, that the
number of those opened extends considerably beyond the names
we know best.
Through conscious and unconscious preparation, through effort and seeking crowned by God's grace,
many Friends came up over. They arose in spirit, above that
which had bound them, to a new consciousness of reality, to
a new character, and consequently, to new behavior. As
they arose, they deepened and extended. Their rise had
elevation, depth and breadth. It was a deep rise. A deep
rise characterizes all true spiritual transformations. It is to
a deep rise that we of this day are called _ not as an end
but as a means, not because we may personally want it
but because by and through it we will become really able to
love and to serve God and man. Only as we so rise will
our contemporary Quaker faith and practice have the vision
and the power of the original. Only so will the Quaker
message of today be, not simply an interpretation, but a
glowing witness in our time of the progressive revelation of God
in the lives of men.
The early Friends ascended to God before they
extended to men. It was the rise that enabled them to extend.
They continued ascending to God while they extended to
men. They extended so that others might in their turn
ascend. The purpose of extending through ministry and every
kind of work was to enable others to experience the deep
rise, the holy rise.
There are three progressive stages _ seeking,
ascending, extending. Asking, receiving, giving. The one is
necessary to the other. Without receiving, what have we to give?
As Gilbert Kilpack has said: "We must be served before we
can serve." These stages are vividly illustrated in the life of
Fox's phase of intensive seeking covered a period
of about four years, beginning with his departure from
home at the age of nineteen and culminating in his first
decisive experience. It is so well known that we need not dwell on
it, except to recall that throughout this stage, Fox,
feeling himself a stranger in the earth, underwent all manner
of trials, temptations, struggles, suffering _ and some
openings to the truth. Time and again his needs and problems
impelled him to seek help from men. Each time he was thrown
back upon himself. No one could reach him and speak to
his condition. Presently he found himself in a locked
situation. Then came the experience indicated in the often
quoted passage, "And when all my hopes in all men were gone,
so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I
tell what to do; then, oh! then I heard a voice which said,
`There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy
condition': and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy."
Most interpreters of the life of George Fox give
an outstanding place to this experience, as indeed they
should. Some give the impression that it was Fox's main and
highest experience. To my mind, there is nothing to indicate that
it was a deep rise. Not yet was he radically changed. Not
yet did he extend to others, publishing the Truth. It was a
rise of joy, to be sure. It marked the point where belief became
a certainty and was reinforced by a higher authority. It was
a turning point, without doubt. And, though not itself
a transforming experience, it signalized, as we can see
in retrospect, that Fox's arduous climb was soon to be
graced by an effortless ascent.
Shortly thereafter, his desire for the Lord grew
stronger, as did his zeal for direct knowledge of God and
Christ, without help of man or book. God let him feel His love,
which is endless and eternal, and in this love Fox saw himself
as he was without God, and other men as they were
without God. Now he was full within the current that was leading
to his first deep rise. Something of the great heart of life
was entering his life.
Again he felt the love of God, and, in its light he
saw death and the working of death in men, and Christ and
the working of Christ in men, as the way out of death
into everlasting life. He saw all that is out of the light. As a
pure fire arose in him, he was lifted by it into the light and
given spiritual discernment; and there came to him a vision
of the world being prepared for God's occupancy.
And it was after all that, and only after it, that
the Lord's power began to spring in George Fox and he
went forth, extending to men, declaring the Truth,
convincing them of the Reality of which he was convinced, turning
them to the experience he was experiencing, telling them of
the possibility of a sinless and holy life, in this life, above
this life, before their bodies should die.
Towards the end of his twenty-third year Fox
began his ministry, the many forms of his apostolic work. Not
yet, however, had he completely come up over. He
continued under temptations and sufferings for yet a while. We
can see from the context that he felt himself somewhat
held down when he had the opening recorded in the
memorable words, "I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness
and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love which
flowed over the ocean of darkness."
Presently came his second deep rise. It was
without doubt a major transformation. He called it a great work
of the Lord. The experience lasted for about two weeks,
after which he was a risen man, a Child of the Light, so
changed that even his body appeared new-moulded. He wrote: "For
I had been brought through the very ocean of darkness
and death, and through and over the power of Satan, by
the eternal, glorious power of Christ; even through that
darkness was I brought, which covered-over all the world, and
which chained down all, and shut up all in death." Thereafter
his extension to men increased in height, depth, breadth;
and many were the convincements.
Another ascent came about two years later. It is
the one which most concerns us here. His account of it
begins with the arresting declaration:
Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All
things were new; and all the creation gave another
smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency,
and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam,
which he was in before he fell.
On the basis of this testimony we can see that Fox
had again quite risen out of the ordinary condition of man,
this time into a higher condition which he recognized as a
definite state, calling it the state of the unfallen Adam. Unless
we have had a similar experience, we will not understand
the nature of that state; but can we not sense the wonder
and the fullness that would be ours were we in it? Surely it
would seem enough to satisfy our aspirations. But not yet had
the summit been reached. Fox goes on to say: "I was
immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more
steadfast state than Adam's in innocency, even into a state in
Christ Jesus that should never fall." Though he did not say
he rose into it, he realized that it is there, and attainable.
Three conditions of man! Two above the ordinary condition! As I understand it, men in the ordinary
condition fulfill, at best, but one-third of their spiritual
potentialities, usually less. Thus we see in a new light why spiritual
scarcity prevails, and how there may be abundance. Risen to
the state of the unfallen Adam, we would fulfill two-thirds
of our potentialities. Only when transfigured into the state
in Christ, would all our potentialities be realized.
Fox leaves no room for doubt that in his view,
human beings, by growth and transformation, can so rise,
higher and higher until, as he expressed it, they "grow up to
the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." His
mission among men was to enable them by God's grace to
attain that fullness, that abundance, that wholeness, that holiness.
Knowing that men can rise, he also knew that,
when partially risen, they are subject to fall _ to rise again,
sooner or later to become firmly established in a risen state,
so that it becomes one's abiding condition of life and
being. George Fox was assured that he himself was
thus established. Among the passages of the Journal
that could be cited to show his attitude on this matter, I select
but one, and this because it not only speaks to the point
but throws light on one of the chief contemporary
testimonies of the Society of Friends _ the Peace Testimony.
Fox was taken from the House of Correction to
the market-place, before the commissioners and the
soldiers, and asked to fight for the Commonwealth, as captain of
the new recruits. "I told them I knew from whence all wars
arose, even from lust, according to James's doctrine; and that
I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away
the occasion of all wars. But they courted me to accept
their offer, and thought I did but compliment with them. But
I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which
was before wars and strifes were."
This shows, of course, that Fox was opposed to war
on principle and because of religious conviction; and that,
when put to the test, he refused to take part in it. It shows
more, namely, that he was in the life that
is peace-full. He was firmly established in the life and power wherein war
is impossible. He was not making a choice. He was stating
a fact, which to them was incomprehensible. Do we understand it? Do we realize that his testimony calls us to
a complete emergence from the frustrated life that
causes armed wars sometimes, antagonisms and strife all the
time? The Quaker Peace Testimony, in its very essence, is
a summons to arise.
Is there anyone in his right mind who would not
want to fulfill this testimony in his own life? Can there
be disagreement? In this we are united. And if we agree to
this, we shall have to agree that we cannot rise to peace if we
go to war.
Some, way down in themselves, in that knot of darkness, may doubt that men can rise through new
birth into new men, in a world made new. The evidence of
others, impressive as it is, does not thoroughly convince. One
can but offer it, trusting that each will in time come to have
the first-hand experience.
There are those today whose lives are
demonstrations that upward transformation is possible. This is the very
heart of the Quaker witness through the years, and of all
major religions. It is inevitably given by every man and
woman, the world over, whom God hallows and lifts up into a
truer being. What is religion if not this? Christ's mission is
to enable men through him to grow up to God.
As best we could, we have lifted our eyes to the hills.
It may have seemed a bit hazy up there, the view none
too clear. Our sight may be unaccustomed to such gazing.
But we have seen, at least in idea, that there are two
conditions of life above the one that most of us are in. We have had
a glimpse of the stretch to the human summit _ at
which point man becomes more than man, he partakes of
the divine. How do we feel? Are we encouraged or
discouraged, challenged or overborne?
We may be sure that George Fox, writing of his transcending experiences, did so with the aim of
pointing man to his true destiny and giving substance to man's
hopes. We may be as sure that Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly,
in our day, wrote and spoke as they did with a similar aim.
Yet many of us, on being shown the high vistas, feel not
uplifted but downcast, even futile. How explain the
discouragement so often felt when we are confronted with the rising
terraces of human life? Perhaps we have believed ourselves to
be more advanced than we actually are. Sight of the
heights gives us a realistic view of our present position, and
deflates our unwarranted assumptions. Our actual state of being
is not reduced, but our ego is. Perhaps we lack faith.
Perhaps we forget certain of our experiences.
A deep rise, it should be repeated, is an
enabling experience. By it we become able to do what previously
we could only try to do. Though we may not yet have had
a deep rise, every human being on earth has known
enabling experiences of some kind, from childhood on.
I remember my trials as a child trying to learn to
tell time. It was patiently explained to me; but I could not
imagine how anyone ever came to know what those hands and
figures meant. One day it happened. Something clicked in me
and to my great joy I began to understand. I could do
the impossible! That "something" which happened within
me was an enabling experience with respect to telling time.
All have had similar experiences learning to read,
to tie shoelaces, to skate, to swim, to drive a car, to create
a poem. Remember how, when first taking up the study of
a foreign language, or any subject that seemed foreign to
us, we were totally on the outside of it; and then, lo and
behold, we were on the inside. All along the line we have had
growth-compelling experiences. Every skill we now possess
was acquired partly by our efforts and partly by events
occurring deep below the level of consciousness in the mysterious
inner workings of man.
There are as many types of enabling experiences
as there are fields of human endeavor, and within every
type there are varieties. They continue to come to us,
sometimes in the midst of action, sometimes in prayer, sometimes
even while we sleep. In the life of prayer there are times
when our efforts are given a sudden rise and movement
forward by inner events which we cannot name. Thus we
progress in the life of prayer. Thus we advance in life.
Shall we then limit ourselves? Shall we hold tight
reins on our expectancy? Shall we say _ Yes, our relatively
minor efforts have been aided, but our major ones will never be?
It is true that the crucial experiences which came to
George Fox are of a higher order than those that occur in the
general run of life. Need we therefore assume that only the
lower orders are for us, the higher not at all? Is this faith? Is
it God's will to give us only the little gifts that enable us
to keep body and soul together and do the work of the
world? Or has He in store for us also the greater gifts which
will enable us to grow up to Him and serve His Kingdom?
It seems to me that the very purpose of the little gifts is
to develop us to the stage where we will be ready to receive
the greater ones.
We have seen how Brother Lawrence was enabled,
and George Fox. Rufus Jones recorded at least one of his
higher enabling experiences, as did Thomas Kelly. One came
to Antoine de Saint-Exupery while piloting an airplane
over enemy territory; one to Starr Daly while in prison. The
list is longer than we may think. Dante, William Blake,
Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman. . . . It includes not only
those known through their written records, but a large
number unrecorded. Are we left out? For the time being,
perhaps; but not forever. If we do our part, then, in God's own
time, there shall happen even to the least of His children all
that has happened to the greatest. On this faith I stand. Let
us stand together.
There is no good reason for us, the spiritual
descendants of George Fox, to be as he found so many Christians of
his day. He said of them: "For, of all the sects in
Christendom (so-called) that I discoursed withal, I found none that
could bear to be told that any should come to Adam's
perfection, into that image of God, and righteousness and holiness
that Adam was in before he fell; to be clear and pure without
sin, as he was. Therefore how should they be able to bear
being told that any should grow up to measure of the stature
of the fulness of Christ?" Surely we can bear to be told, and
to believe. Otherwise why be Quakers?
Rufus M. Jones wrote, "The unique epochs are
those in which man has risen above himself and discovered
the Unseen World where he belongs. Then one does what
he couldn't." He too called us to a deep rise, a holy rise,
that thereby we might become able _ ever more able.
God, to whom all things are possible, can help us
make in this century a great epoch. The power and the glory
are His. Our part is to aim our lives that way, doing
creatively whatever we are called to do, upholding each other,
opening ourselves more and more so that we may pray with the
power of prayer, and worship with the height and depth of
worship. At the right moment, the Light of the World will
break through our clouds, and radiance come full upon us.
In the human life of this era it is still possible to
ascend and extend. In the America of today there are hills that
for us can be Pendle Hills, if we are risen within ourselves.
On earth there are more people than ever before, beset by
more problems and a greater danger. We need, more than
ever, that some seekers shall find, shall receive the light and
love that liberates us from our ego-prisons, and works
a resurrection. And it will happen, if God so wills. In our
day some people somewhere shall be born of God, and
become agents of the Power, and form with one another a
loving body to cherish the life and share it with mankind.
Man, if he so wills, can do much for man, but only
in the natural and human orders. We can be men only if
we help each other. God alone can lift man into His order,
and impart the substance of the divine. To want less than this
is to miss the high purpose of religion; is, for Friends,
to disavow the origin and aim of their own testimonies; is,
for any and every man to consign himself to the welter of
evils and conflicts which can never be resolved save as we
emerge from scarcity by receiving life from the sacred source
within ourselves. We must advance towards new birth in the
May it come to pass through our struggles, our sufferings and joys, the little acts of service, the
greater acts of heroism, our daily work, our devotions, our
tragedies and triumphs . . . God grow us to Thee.