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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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iii: testimony and experience of friends

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Living Our Faith

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.



65 Again, you have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

matthew 5:33-37

66 People swear to the end they may speak the truth, Christ would have them speak the truth to the end they might not swear.

william penn

67 … be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering to that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.

george fox, 1656

68 It is not opinion or speculation, or notions of what is true, or assent to or the subscription of articles and propositions, though never so soundly worded, that … makes a man a true believer or true Christian. But it is a conformity of mind and practice to the will of God, in all holiness of conversation, according to the dictates of this Divine principle of Light and Life in the soul which denotes a person truly a child of God.

william penn, 1692

69 Scrupling to do writings relative to keeping slaves having been a means of sundry small trials to me, in which I have so evidently felt my own will set aside that I think it good to mention a few of them. Tradesmen and retailers of goods, who depend on their business for a living, are naturally inclined to keep the good will of their customers; nor is it a pleasant thing for young men to be under a necessity to question the judgment or honesty of elderly men, and more especially of such who have a fair reputation. Deep-rooted customs, though wrong, are not easily altered, but it is the duty of everyone to be firm in that which they certainly know is right for them.

john woolman, c. 1755

70 And now an exercise revived on my mind in relation to lotteries, which were common in those parts. … the matter was zealously handled by some on both sides [in a meeting for business]. In this debate it appeared very clear to me that the spirit of lotteries was a spirit of selfishness, which tended to confusion and darkness of understanding.… And in the heat of zeal, I once made reply to what an ancient Friend said, which when I sat down I saw that my words were not enough seasoned with charity and after this I spoke no more on the subject. At length a minute was made, a copy of which was to be sent to their several Quarterly Meetings, inciting Friends to labor to discourage the practice amongst all professing with us.

john woolman, 1760

71 A deep reverence for human life is worth more than a thousand executions in the prevention of murder. The law of capital punishment, while pretending to support this reverence, does in fact destroy it.

john bright, 1868

72 The Friend had a life within him to wait on and to obey, not chiefly a creed to believe; and it was this life which developed in the Quaker groups a common body of truths to which they sought to bear unflinching witness. Accordingly they accumulated ‘testimonies’ rather than Articles of Faith.

william c. braithwaite

73 While seeking to interpret our Christian faith in the language of today, we must remember that there is one worse thing than failure to practice what we profess, and that is to water down our profession to match our practice.

friends world conference, 1952

74 The sick and those caring for them have need of our prayers. But let us not imagine … that a few sentimental good wishes from a distance are all that is needed.Whenever we intercede in prayer we must be prepared for an answer which places a practical obligation upon us. A prayer is always a commitment.

thomas f. green, 1952

75 The Society of Friends bears testimony against membership in any secret organizations. While some of these are less objectionable than others, wherever the obligation to secrecy exists, Friends should not join. We believe no one has any moral right to pledge obedience by oath or affirmation to the dictates of another and thus surrender independence of judgment. Secret societies are capable of producing much evil and incapable of producing any good which might not be effected by safe and open means.

iowa yearly meeting (conservative), 1953

76 Gambling by risking money haphazardly disregards our belief that possessions are a trust. The persistent appeal to covetousness … is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament as a whole. The attempt, which is inseparable from gambling, to make profit out of the inevitable loss and possible suffering of others is the antithesis of that love for one’s neighbour on which our Lord insisted. Moreover, we must consider the moral and spiritual plight of those who by indulgence in gambling become suddenly possessed of large financial resources for which they have rendered no service to the community.

london yearly meeting, 1959

77 We are faced at every hand with enticements to risk money in anticipation of disproportionate gain through gambling. Some governments employ gambling as a means of raising revenue, even presenting it as a civic virtue. The Religious Society of Friends continues to bear testimony against betting, gambling, lotteries, speculation, or any other endeavour to receive material gain without equivalent exchange, believing that we owe an honest return for what we receive.

baltimore yearly meeting, 1988

78 I had a hazy notion of what happened in a meeting … but it was really out of curiosity that I went. I suppose, in honesty, it was the Testimonies that first attracted me to Quakerism.Very briefly, these say that in all circumstances, no matter how trying, we are under a religious obligation to speak and live truthfully, peaceably and simply.

john punshon, 1987

79 Some of our greatest difficulties arise when we revert to the easy idea of ‘Quaker principles’ or ‘Quaker values’ rather than discernment. In an effort to avoid the laborious and uncertain, intuitive process of discernment, modern Friends often advert to Quaker principles or values. The principles are usually a reduction of one of the testimonies to a generalized moral obligation rather than to a statement of the vision of life attuned to Divine Love that comes of the gathered meeting.

patricia loring