Counsel to the Christian Traveller – Put Your Hand to the Plow

A while back when we were at the Convergent Friends weekend I got a copy of “Counsel to the Christian-Traveller: Also Meditations and Experiences” by William Shewen. It is an early Quaker text that was originally published in London in 1683, Shewen was among the early prominent London Friends. He got started as a writer while engaged in a pamphlet war with the Baptist Jeremish Ives in 1674 (6). Shewen’s collection of writings has been reprinted by Charles Martin who runs InnerLight Books (You can preview the book there as well). Anyways, I’m enjoying (very slowly) working through this book, more as a devotional text than anything. One interesting thing about the book is that the first couple chapters are just lists of Scripture passages early Quakers understood as being key to how they understood the Light as well as “the Holy Scriptures.”

I just came across this quote a little later in the book and it really struck me as a beautiful and challenging saying:

Put your hand to the plow (look not back) keep it there until the fallow ground be plowed up, and the briars and thorns rooted up and destroyed, so that the seen may grow up in you to perfection.

Have you know the kingdom and the power, in which it stands, like a little leaven hid in the three measures of Meal? Hinder not its working; let it leaven the whole lump?

Do you know the field where the pearl of great price is hidden? Then dig deep, and find it; and when you have found it, sell all, and purchase it, and then you will be the wise Merchantman indeed (19).

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

3 thoughts on “Counsel to the Christian Traveller – Put Your Hand to the Plow”

  1. "… I have seen the sun break through
    to illuminate a small field
    for a while, and gone my way
    and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
    of great price, the one field that had
    treasure in it. I realize now
    that I must give all that I have
    to possess it. Life is not hurrying

    on to a receeding future, nor hankering after
    an imagined past. It is the turning
    aside like Moses to the miracle
    of the lit bush, to a brightness
    that seemed as transitory as your youth
    once, but is the eternity that awaits you …"

    'The Bright Field' by R. S. Thomas

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