Bunyan challenged the Quakers in a number of his works. His first book, in fact, was an attack on Quaker beliefs. Who were these “deceivers,” as he called them, that he wrote so vehemently against?
The movement had its beginnings in 1647 when George Fox began to preach in Nottinghamshire. When he spoke, people sensed the presence and power of God.
Unsatisfied by formal religion, Fox had spent several years as a young man wandering and seeking, questioning clergymen and separatists, but finding no help for his spiritual emptiness. Finally he heard a voice say, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition:” Christ was revealed to him in immediate experience.
Fox soon became the leader of a group of believers, taking the names “Children of Light” or “Friends.” They soon acquired the name “Quakers,” first used derisively by a judge Fox had told to “tremble at the Word of the Lord.”
The Quakers emphasized the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, the “inner light,” and their meetings were marked by charismatic excitement. The age of the Spirit had come, so they saw no need to continue the sacraments of baptism and communion. Christian qualities were more important to them than doctrines. It was more important that a minister practice what he preached than that he be a scholar. Meetings were kept simple to allow worshippers to commune with the Spirit of God.
Quakers met in homes rather than church buildings, and shunned the hypocrisy of fine clothing, most normal amusements, and the use of titles in addressing others. In obedience to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, they refused to swear oaths or participate in violence. The movement crossed cultural boundaries, bringing servants and aristocrats to worship ...