Chapter

‘Let your lives preach’: the embodied rhetoric of the early Quakers

Hilary Hinds

in George Fox and Early Quaker Culture

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780719081576
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702383 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719081576.003.0003
‘Let your lives preach’: the embodied rhetoric of the early Quakers

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This chapter examines how the inward light figured in the ministry of the First Publishers of Truth – in the convincement of new Friends, and in the condemnation of those who hardened their hearts towards the light. It suggests that the opprobrium levelled at early Friends was not so much owing to the divergence of the forms and strategies of the rhetoric of Quaker ministry, which had much in common with orthodox preaching practice, but much more to do with the Quaker refusal to set limits to the place, time or manner in which that ministry was carried out. The erasure of the boundary between the sacred and the secular entailed the rejection of the notions of consecrated ground, of the ordination of ministers and of formalised acts of worship, so that Quaker preaching could be performed by any Friend experiencing an immediate call to such work, in any place and at any time. Quaker rhetoric thus occupied an unbounded field of operation, and drew on a wide repertoire of linguistic and symbolic modes of preaching, since, by definition, the inward light rendered out of bounds nothing that it touched.

Keywords: Quakers; Society of Friends; inward light; Publishers of Truth; convincement; Quaker ministry

Chapter.  11716 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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