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ELIZABETH FRY OF NORWICH AND LONDON

WHAT OWEST THOU UNTO THY LORD?
 

 

We shall let this essay be in simple Quaker grey and black. But we shall remember the rebellious teenager swinging her scarlet -stockinged legs during Meeting in Goats' Lane, Norwich, with a smile. Mother of a large family, this eighteenth-century Quaker woman became, with William Wilberforce, England's greatest prison reformer, and personally carried out literacy programmes in England's prisons, teaching women and children inmates to read the Bible, and to make gai ly-coloured patchwork quilts, so that they would have a start in their new life on arrival in Australia . How proud I am to be related to her! From their founding in the seventeenth century by George Fox and Margaret Fell, men and women have been equal in the Religious Society of Friends. Immediately, upon the adults' persecution and imprisonment, with their children carrying on Meeting for Worship, the equality, too, of children with adults was acknowledged. In the New World, there was no distinction between White and Indian, White and Black, slaves being admitted in Meeting, the Jubilee ! Likewise, in Quakerism the tradition was kept up of lay women and men writing spiritual journals, based on lectio divina, to be found at their deaths, read at their memorial meetings, as had been encouraged amongst the English Benedictine nuns in exile, preserving Julian of Norwich's text for us. Elizabeth Fry's family, the Gurneys, had lived next to Julian of Norwich 's anchorhold in the Middle Ages. A Quaker couple, the Howitts, emigrated to Sweden, their daughter writing on Birgitta of Sweden as ambassadress of peace. Quakerism's equality is the Jerusalem Community of Acts, of Pentecost, of Jubilee .

{ Peter in Acts 2.17-21, quoted Joel :

{ In these last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit: and they shall prophesy.

. . . Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.



WHAT OWEST THOU UNTO THY LORD?

ELIZABETH FRY, QUAKER FROM NORWICH

Are there not many here present whose desired are raised up to the living God, and to his kingdom of everlasting rest and peace, who are ready to adopt this language, "Oh Lord revive thy work in the midst of the years?" and are there not among you some of the bowed down, of the broken hearted, some who have many trials of faith and of patience, some of those conflicts which are much hidden from the eye of man? Oh! my friends, remember that we have to deal with a compassionate Father, who pitieth his children, who knoweth our frame, who remembereth that we are dust, who seeth us not as man seeth, who judgeth us not according to appearance, but according to the heart. Oh! my friends, whatever be the trials of your faith and of your patience, I sympathize with you; I desire that you may be upheld, that you may be strengthened, that you may find the grace of your Lord to be sufficient for you; and if we poor frail, feeble, unworthy mortals can feel as we do at seasons one for another, oh, what consolation is it to remember, that he who is infinite in mercy, infinite in love, and infinite in power also feels for us; we have a High Priest who is touched with the sense of our infirmities. Oh, my friends, however many of you may be cast down for a season, however you may not know any peace, oh, trust in the Lord and stay yourselves on your God, for his tender mercies are over all his works. Oh, remember, that the very hairs of your head are all numbered; remember that not a sparrow falls to the ground without him, and you are of much more value than many sparrows. Were not these expressions made use of by our blessed Lord for the encouragement of his poor little tender ones, those who are brought very low before him? How consoling is it to remember that there is no desire however feeble after himself but he regards it, he is willing to strengthen it, and it rises before him even as a pure and acceptable sacrifice, therefore ye humble, broken-hearted, contrite, and afflicted ones, lift up your hearts and put your trust in him who suffered for you, who was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Oh, how he did bear our sorrows; what an encouragement is it for us to remember this in all our tribulations, of whatever nature they may be, that the Lord can make all our trials, as well as all our blessing, work together for our good. Oh, may the language of our hearts increasingly be unto the Lord, "that which I know not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do so no more." Oh, may we be strengthened to walk closer to God, to cleave very close unto him in spirit, to follow the Lamb our Saviour withersoever he leadeth us, to make it the first business of our lives to be conformed to his will and to live to his glory, that whether we pass through heights or depths, whether prosperity or adversity be our portion, though our years pass away as a tale that is told, the blessings of the Most High will rest upon us, and through his unbounded love, and through his unmerited mercy in Christ Jesus, we may indeed humbly trust that when this passing scene is closed to our view, an entrance will be granted unto us, even abundantly ministered unto us, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Indeed it is well for us, my friends, to enquire, "What owest thou unto thy Lord?" Ah, dear friends, is it not well for us to do this when we reflect on what he hath done for us, even He who was wounded for our transgressions, who was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace, we may remember, was on him, and by his stripes we are healed. It is well for us to remember what he hath been from time to time doing for us in the visitations of his love unto our souls; how often have the proofs of his love been extended towards us to gather us and keep us within his sacred enclosure, even the revelation of the will of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, our hope of glory. Oh, then seeing, my brethren and sisters, that the work is a progressive one, the enquiry arose in the secret of my heart, is our salvation nearer than when we first believe? What do we owe unto the Lord? what can we rightly perform that he may be pleased to receive at our hands? and the language of the Psalmist came before the view of my mind with renewed instruction, whilst I have been led to believe that he, the Lord Almighty who dwelleth on high, is calling up us to go forward, to look not behind, to tarry not in the plain: "Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in his holy place? he that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully; he shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

In Sermons Preached by Members of the Society of Friends (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1832), pp. 25-28.


SEE ALSO JOHN WOOLMAN'S PLEA FOR THE POOR
 

JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS 1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER  || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||