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Readings for Reflection: July 2010
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

The Language of the Pure Spirit

In the following passage, John Woolman (1720 - 1772) describes his process of learning to calm his inner spirit so as to be clear that his spoken contributions to worship are from a deep place of silence and rightly led.

I went to meetings in an awful [i.e. filled with awe] frame of mind, and endeavored to be inwardly acquainted with the language of the true Shepherd. And one day, being under a strong exercise of spirit, I stood up, and said some words in a meeting, but not keeping close to the divine opening, I said more than was required of me and being soon sensible to my error, I was afflicted in mind some weeks, without any light or comfort, even to that degree that I could take satisfaction in nothing. I remembered God and was troubled, and in the depth of my distress he had pity upon me, and sent the Comforter. I then felt forgiveness for my offence, and my mind became calm and quiet, being truly thankful to my gracious Redeemer for his mercies. And after this, feeling the spring of divine love opened, and a concern to speak, I said a few words in a meeting in which I found peace. This I believe was about six weeks from the first time, and as I was thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the language of the pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart, and taught me to wait in silence sometimes many weeks together, until I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to his flock.

John Woolman, Journal, 1741, 
as printed in Britain YM Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.57
Reprinted with permission


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