We must decrease, and Christ increase


To all Friends everywhere,

We must decrease, and Christ increase.

All power is His in heaven and earth, but He will force no entry into an unwilling heart, and if we leave Him standing outside on our day of visitation, we slight Him to our own impoverishment and hurt.

He stands at the door and knocks now. Why do we hesitate? It may be that we fear diminishment, for we’ve all been promised comfort and security by the world, and we don’t want to risk the loss of it. It may be that we cherish individual ambitions, for we’ve been taught since infancy to compete for the world’s honors, and to withdraw from the contest too much resembles death in our eyes. It may be that we live in artificially heightened opinions of our own powers, rights and agency, and shrink from the possible realization that the self we so worship is but a mask, a shadow, a fiction. Of old, Christ Jesus prophesied that that which is done in secret or whispered in the ear would be shouted from the housetops, and we all have lies, tender spots, grudges, guilts, sexual kinks, shameful memories and outright sins that we dread having the whole world know about. There are so many reasons to pretend that we don’t hear that knock at the door! But none of them are good reasons, because they all involve choosing unreality over reality; and all such choices are known to end in unhappiness.

The Knocker at the door, then, is the Light that will show us who and what we are. But two things may distract us from opening to let Him in. One is our membership in a club of nice folks who also don’t answer the door. The other is our involvement in a righteous cause too important to be distracted from. The Religious Society of Friends, unfortunately, may provide us with both of these excuses.

But fortunately, the Religious Society of Friends is not really a nice folks’ club, but a people of God, bound to God by a covenant. Oh, we’ve done our best to forget the Quaker covenant announced to and through Francis Howgill on 3/28/1662. Many who know of it may regard it as a mere historical curiosity, not relevant today, though Howgill’s contemporaries took it seriously enough; his account is accessible online in William Sewel’s History of the rise, increase, and progress, of the Christian people called Quakers (p.403 of 3rd ed., 1728). But the real question, Friend reader, is: what does thy own heart say about its genuineness? If it was a real communication from the living God, then God may at any moment shake our meeting houses to their foundations, and hold us each answerable for that covenant today.

As for our righteous causes, God may prosper or frustrate them as God thinks best, but it will surely be only a matter of time before we’re shown the folly of deploying on the battlefield before consulting the General.

Let’s waste no time, Friends, in opening the door.


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2 Responses to “We must decrease, and Christ increase”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    Hmmm, there is also a danger of suppressing the individual person we be — who is, after all, a piece of God’s Creation — intentionally there. Or of thinking you’ve suppressed it, and having it break loose behind your back in some unfortunate way.

    Still … Clearly we both see [other] people so thoroughly stuck in their own habitual thoughts that suppressing these temporarily is a good practice. I happen to prefer John Humphrey Noyes’ observation that “If you don’t get into a rut, the Devil won’t know where to find you.”

    Isn’t this supposed to be an interactive interaction? One party definitely far superior in wisdom, knowledge and power — but also loving this limited manifestation, wanting it available to interact with — if only it would grow up & stop pooping itself so?

    I went searching for your ‘covenant’ and the only 1662 statement I found was less a ‘deal’ than an edict: “~I’m going to look after this people.” No particular clauses as to our end of this.

    “I’m going to keep them from getting Differently-Located” doesn’t seem to have been an element, unless I’ve missed something. So now that we seem collectively ‘all over the map’, are we still ‘this people’?

    Part of the nature of ‘a people’ is that we change, come to include people ‘whose names would not have occured to us’, develop new and different ways to understand what we started with. So now I’m seeing some promising new attenders, worshiping with my bunch, and being reminded that all this is in better hands than mine.

  2. Jack Hoefer Says:

    Hi this is Jack Hoefer of Knoxville, TN. You sent our First Friends Church a check for $100 and I wanted to write to thank you but I do not have your address. My address 12018 Couch Mill Road, Knoxville, TN 37932… It would be great to hear from you!

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