Consider the experience of the young Samuel Bownas, who would become a faithful and effective traveling Quaker minister in the 18th century:
Samuel records in his journal that at a First Day Meeting in late 1696, “. . . a young woman, named Anne Wilson, was there and preached; she was very zealous, and fixing my eye upon her, she with a great zeal pointed her finger at me, uttering these words with much power: ‘A traditional Quaker, thou comest to meeting as thou went from it (the last time) and goes from it as thou came to it, but art no better for thy coming; what wilt thou do in the end?’ This was so pat to my then condition that, like Saul, I was smitten to the ground, as it might be said, but turning my thoughts inward, in secret I cried, ‘Lord, what shall I do to help it?’ and a voice as it were spoke in my heart saying, ‘Look unto me, and I will help thee;’ and I found much comfort, that made me shed abundance of tears.”
After this Meeting, the change in his life was remarkable:
“I longed for the meeting-day, and thought it a very long week. When the time of Meeting came, my mind was soon fixed and staid upon God, and I found an uncommon enjoyment that gave me great satisfaction, my understanding being opened, and all the faculties of my mind so quick, that I seemed another man.”
Suddenly, Samuel found new levels of understanding about the Bible, which had been “as a sealed book to me,” about preaching “in the power and the Spirit,” and about the enormous difference between a Quakerism “only by education” and a Quakerism truly alive to the Spirit.
Reflections on the above passage: These questions can be discussed as a whole group or in pairs.
- Do you feel that you leave meeting for worship just as you arrived, or do you feel an inward transformation?
- What was the direct role of God in Samuel Bownas’ awakening experience, and what was the role of a human instrument through whom Spirit worked? What role did Samuel himself play?
- Are you open to the challenging words of an “Anne Wilson” when you attend meeting for worship?