Resistance and Obedience to God
Memoirs of David Ferris 1707-1779
Some say that every century since the Seventeenth Quakers have shaved a half hour off of Meeting for Worship, and some might even say Quakers have correspondingly cut back on everything else that made Quakers Quakers. Then there is wonder that our ancestors seem to be so much more devout, loving, faithful, dedicated, committed and happy than Quakers now. In the early eighteenth century, in our forming country, David Ferris lived the Quaker life fully. This book can show you what it is like to be a Quaker from bonnet to socks.
As a young man there was choice available, critical choices, choices that would determine his future. One might say, “Something to think about!” David does not think about them, he sinks down into the inner light and waits for God to call him. In college God calls him first to be Quaker and then tells him that the church is about to be reawakened and he should have a major role in that, so he quits school, leaving behind a secure status and quite a few of his elders concerned for his well-being, perhaps for his sanity.
He chooses his profession based on the will of God as expressed in his inner being.
His calculations lead him to the perfect woman for his wife, whom he bypasses in favor of woman somewhat crippled. He realizes it is her to whom God has called him. And indeed in their life together, their belonging one to another is deep and lasting.
For all that docility, he struggles twenty years with his call to the ministry, finally giving in to what would be his life’s work motivated by a dream in which an officer, who he feels is himself, begs off on taking command of a critical sector of the battle and begs off to a less critical and safer position. After twenty years of sitting silently in meeting, even while traveling as a companion to preachers, he rises after an inward struggle, to preach.
Central to his ministry was his call to speak for the slaves and in a sense speak for the slave masters. He said that in terms of the harm he would receive he would prefer being the slave to the master.
This is not a great book. No new and earthshaking ideas. The sky did not open for me. All it is is an eighteenth century Quaker doing what Quakers should do. I found it of interest to see what happens to a man who acts like we talk. God walks as his companion. A beautiful sight.
Can we do that again? I feel a little closer to the possibility, for reading the words of David Ferris.