Chapter 24 » 24.04

The corporate testimony

Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace, and ensue it, and to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all. All bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny, with all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world. That 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 do certainly know, and so 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.

And as for the kingdoms of this world, we cannot covet them, much less can we fight for them, but we do earnestly desire and wait, that by the word of God’s power and its effectual operation in the hearts of men the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, that he might rule and reign in men by his spirit and truth, that thereby all people, out of all different judgments and professions might be brought into love and unity with God and one with another, and that they might all come to witness the prophet’s words, who said, ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’. (Is 2:4; Mic 4:3)

Declaration to Charles II, 1660

Margaret Fell’s earlier expression of these ideas may be found at 19.46

After the first wave of enthusiasm had spent itself, the Society of Friends settled and became organised. Henceforth there was greater emphasis on specific Quaker testimonies which distinguished Friends from the rest of the community. The peace testimony gradually became institutionalised, reflecting the preoccupations of succeeding generations and their perceptions of world affairs. It found expression in more formal and reasoned statements as well as in the vivid personal witness of Friends. The formal statements reflected different experiences of war and violence through the centuries, but the kernel of faith remained unchanged.

For further passages from the seventeenth century see 19.4519.47

← 24.03 24.05 →