Quakers and The Lamb's War: A Hermeneutic
for Confronting Evil
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Quakers and The Lamb's War: A Hermeneutic for Confronting Evil
International Historic Peace Church Consultation
Bienenberg Theological Seminary, Switzerland, June 25-28, 2001
The Restoration and the Corporate Peace Testimony
With the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the civil power was no longer held by Puritans with whom some common understanding could be expected to be found. Quaker witness changed in response to the new situation. The new Cavalier parliament was suspicious of dissenting sects and many members of these sects, including Quakers, were arrested. In January 1661 (1660 by the calendar then in use, hence the name "Declaration of 1660") Friends issued the famous letter, "A Declaration from the Harmless and Innocent People of God called Quakers," to distance themselves from the more radical and violence prone groups, in particular those who would attempt to establish Christ's kingdom by force of arms. After citing the example of Peter in the garden being told by Jesus to put up his sword, and other examples from the gospels, it goes on to say
The Spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move unto it; and we certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.9
The peace testimony was now stated as a doctrine in its own right based on scripture and the guidance of the Spirit of Christ. After the Toleration Act of 1689, for which leading Friends including Margaret Fell "lobbied," the peace testimony became less something by which we would convince others as it was our own corporate testimony.
But Friends were not confined to renouncing war for themselves at this point. The peace testimony has had a political expression and embodiment since the 17th century. Around the end of the 17th century Friends were publishing their vision for a world without war, more specifically a vision of European unity. In 1693 William Penn published his Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, by the Establishment of an European Dyet, Parliament, or Estates, and in 1710 John Bellers published Some Reasons for a European State, proposed to the Powers of Europe. (See Brock 1990 for a fuller discussion of the political expression of the peace testimony.)
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