Old Quaker Discipline on the Poor

While I was researching for a recent sermon I came across some great quotes on poverty from 18th Century Quakers. One thing I loved was that the section on plainness and living an unfettered life is right next to the section about caring for the poor. These two things, how we live and what we produce and consume, and interrelated to whether others have enough or not.

Here are few quotes I dug up from the Old Quaker Disciple on poverty:

“With respect to the poor amongst us, it ought to be considered, that the poor, both parents and children, are of our family, and ought not to be turned off to any others for their support or education; and although some may think the poor a burthen, yet be it remembered, when our poor are well provided for, and walk orderly, they are an ornament to our society; and the rich should consider it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that he who giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord, who will repay. Written in 1718 “(198)

“As mercy, compassion, and charity, are eminently required in this new covenant dispensation we are under; so, respecting the poor and indigent among us, and to see there be no beggar in our Israel, it is the advice of this meeting that all poor friends be taken due care of, and none of them sent to the town or parish to be relieved; and that nothing be wanting for their necessary supply; which has been according to our ancient practice and testimony. And it has long been of good report, that we have not only maintained our own poor, but also contributed our share to the poor of the respective towns and parishes wherein we dwell.” Written in 1720 (198).

What are our communities writing (and doing) today about this very issue?

Published by Wess Daniels

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College.

2 thoughts on “Old Quaker Discipline on the Poor

  1. Wess,

    Beautiful quotes and a great post.

    I attend Stillwater Meetigng and was moved last spring when a Quaker who had lived through the Great Depression, seeing what seemed akin to it happening today, offered to help anybody in need, remembering that people had pulled together and helped each other in the 1930s. On the other hand, do the Quakers do enough to help the poor? I don’t know. Many of us live “fine” while others live “hard,” so I suspect not.

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