Friday, November 19, 2010

John Wesley and the Quakers

"John Wesley discovered from his itinerant preaching that Quakers gave him a mixed reception - in much the same way that members of the Church of England did. There were some Quakers who listened to his preaching, believed the gospel and professed Christ for salvation. Wesley’s Journal has records of these happenings. At the same time there were other Quakers who strongly opposed Wesley’s ministry. Wesley had made a close study of the writings of Robert Barclay (1648-1690), the Scottish Quaker theologian and friend of George Fox. He charged Barclay with making sanctification the ground of our justification - the same error that’s found in Roman Catholic teaching - and that, as a consequence, Barclay was teaching justification by works and not by faith. But he also found sound doctrine in Barclay and adapted and used his work, An Apology for the true Christian Divinity when Wesley was refuting the doctrine of unconditional predestination. Wesley first published his edited version of Barclay’s anti-predestinarian arguments in 1741 under the title, Serious Considerations on Absolute Predestination: Extracted from a late Author."

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  1. Great stuff, Hay (thanks for following out blog!). I'm interested in knowing how the Quakers of Blake's day reacted to him and why he never mentioned them. I have an opinion about it, but would appreciate yours.

  2. Hi Larry,
    I'm a great fan of your Blake website and a regular reader. I think you mentioned somewhere that it was the connection with industrialization that prevented Blake from developing empathy with the Quakers. This may well be the case, but I think industrialization really got off the ground some time after the time of Blake and Fox.
    In his book 'The World Turned Upside Down' Christopher Hill toys with the idea that Blake was strongly influenced by the Ranters and as they were a 'rival' group to Quakers he may have seen them as being closer to his personal religious beliefs.
    I think the real answer to this question will never be known as we could not hear the conversations between Blake and Tom Paine. Paine came from a Quaker household but rejected Quakerism for reasons we're not sure of. He must have discussed this with Blake and perhaps influenced him in a way that we cannot tell. Bronowski and Ackroyd both touch on the idea that Blake was a great supporter of political movements of his time. Quakers of that period in contrast, almost saw themselves as divorced from politics (unlike Quakers of today) and this may be the real reason that Blake had little to say about them.
    I'd be interested to hear what your opinion is as a Blake scholar...
    Thank you

  3. I know this is late days but I just came across this post. Blake (1757-1827) certainly must have witnessed the beginnings of industrialization in England. Quaker John Woolman, on his visit to England in 1772, commented on ground defiled with toxic dyes and "factories" where trade goods were made to send to Africa in the slave trade. Some Quakers were beginning to get rich in the commercial beginnings of industrial capitalism, as Woolman noted when he lodged with them and sent them letters of concern about their life stance.

    The Ranters were mostly a memory by the time Blake was born. But their memory would certainly have contrasted with the way of life of some prominent wealthy Quakers of Blake's day.

  4. Thank you for shedding some more light on this question Rachel. My mind is now toying with the idea of Woolman and Blake and what might have transpired if they had met! I think that the influence on Blake, from the Ranters, was certainly through pamphlets and not through direct contact (a point made by Christopher Hill). Your example from the Woolman Journals is a good one, and provides me with a good excuse to delve into them again. Thank you!


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