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John Bright
by [?]

No priests, no liturgy, no creed, no sacraments, no titles nor degrees–a religion of friendship! You should not kill your enemy, because he is your friend who does not yet understand you. To make war on others is to make war on yourself. Do as you would be done by.

Fox had no intention of founding an organization, nor was he in competition with any other religion. Such a movement, of course, depends entirely upon the quality of the man who advocates it. George Fox had personality–character–and so people flocked to hear him speak. His plea was so earnest, so direct, so vivid, so irrefutable, that as the listeners listened, some trembled with emotion. “Quakers,” a scoffer called them, and this word, flung by an unknown hoodlum, stuck like a mud-ball. The name of the particular hoodlum, like the man who fired the Alexandrian Library, still lies mired in the mud from which he formed the ball that stuck. That ball escaped the fate of the mass because it hit a great man; had the thrower thought only to have attached his name, it might have gone down the ages linked with that of greatness.

In a short time Fox found himself in troubled waters. He had offended the Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Baptists, and to save himself and his people he finally banded them into an organization. About this time William Penn appeared (with his hat firmly on his head) and organized colonies of Quakers to go to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Quakers refused to accept the sacrament, claiming that no one part of life was any more holy than the rest, and that no one man was any more worthy of performing a rite than another.

Parliament then stepped in and made church attendance compulsory, the sacrament obligatory, and the protest against war and advocacy of universal peace a misdemeanor.

Those early Quakers were really people who had graduated from the Church. When the scholar graduates from school the teacher is proud, and friends send flowers and kindly congratulations. When you graduate from Church the preacher declares you are lost, and the congregation calls you bad names. Up to Sixteen Hundred Eighty-nine, things were not allowed to rest even there, for you were considered by the law to be the enemy of the State. In Sixteen Hundred Fifty-six, a thousand Quakers were in prison in England on account of their religious belief, several hundred had been hanged, a few were burned at the stake, many had their ears cut off, others were branded, and many others had their tongues bored through. But strangely enough, the number of Quakers increased. A king can’t kill all his people, even if they are all wrong, and so in fear the government changed its tactics.

In Sixteen Hundred Eighty-nine came the Toleration Act, which put a stop to violent persecution, retaining merely the passive sort. The Quakers were excluded from all schools, colleges and universities, and from all right of franchise and the holding of political office; like unto the fond mother who orders her child to come into the house, and then when the child does not obey, says, “Well, stay out then!”

So the Quakers stayed out, not wishing to come in, but they had to pay tithes for support of the Established Church, whether they attended services or not. This arrangement still exists in America, only it has to be worked by indirection: instead of compelling everybody to pay for the support of the clergy, we reach the same point by allowing church property to be exempt from taxation.

Persecution having ceased, the Quakers quit proselyting and therefore ceased to grow. But the traditions remained and the sentiment of friendship of man for man remained to fertilize that wonderful year, Seventeen Hundred Seventy-six, the year that man was really discovered.

George Fox prepared the way for Susanna Wesley and her two great sons, John and Charles.