Sunday, May 22, 2005

Advices 12, 13 & 14 of the Elders at Balby

12.- That the necessities of the poor, widows and fatherless, may be truly supplied, and that such as are able to work, and do not, may be admonished: and if, after admonition, they refuse to work, then let them not eat. And that the children of such as are in necessity, be put to honest employment; that none be idle in the Lord's vineyard.

Comment: This advice recalls Advice No. 5, already discussed, in which it is advised that Friends make and properly administer collections "for the poor (that are so indeed)". Here, however, the qualification only hinted at with that phrase "that are so indeed" is made more explicit. The elders evidently wanted Friends to make sure that they cared for those who were truly poor, but not to enable (as we might phrase it today) any one whose poverty sprang from a simple refusal to work. Much of the language here (as in all these advices) comes directly from the Bible, including "let them not eat". We have to wonder how this advice was actually applied. Was tender love or "tough love" predominant? Who made the determination of whether a given poor person was unable to work or simply didn't want to? Was it understood that work should be fairly compensated and not under oppressive conditions? There are loopholes here that could be exploited for hard-hearted abuse. That wouldn't be a problem, however, if the advices were read "in the spirit" as their famous postscript urges, rather than in the letter.

13.-That care be taken, that as any are called before outward powers of the nation, that in the light, obedience to the Lord be given.

Comment: This seems to mean "obey God rather than men", but the meaning is not made explicit. I noticed that this advice was recently quoted in a document published by the Friends Committee on National Legislation. FCNL assumed that being called before the "outward powers of the nation" meant being pressed into military service. Sounds likely, but I would like the opinion of an historian. Remember that these advices pre-date the declaration to King Charles against wars and fightings with outward weapons.

14.-That if any be called to serve the commonwealth in any public service, which is for the public wealth and good, that with cheerfulness it be undertaken, and in faithfulness discharged: and that therein patterns and examples, in the thing that is righteous, you may be, to those that be without.


Comment: I just received a jury summons. Is that a case in point?

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Robin M. said...

13: I am not a historian, but I would have thought that "called before outward powers of the nation" would mean being accused or arrested and hauled into court. Then this would be a reminder to be obedient to God, and not to be intimidated by the judge, for example. Thus it would be a reminder not to swear oaths or remove your hat, etc.

14: Yes, I think jury service, or civil service employment, or being elected to office, etc. would all fall under this category

11:27 PM, May 23, 2005  
Anonymous Matthew said...

I'm very glad you are discussing the original advices. For some reason NYYM has the 13th advice printed in F&P as simply "Any called before outward powers of the nation are to obey." In the past I've been confused by this advice in that I read it in the same way as Rich but in its edited version. In fact a couple of months ago I asked a particularly weighty Friend of my MM about this advice. I had assumed it pre-dated Fox's Declaration to King Charles. Seeing it printed in full I can see it as a presursor to this statement rather than being a contrary declaration as it seems to be in its shortened state. Of course Robin's explanation seems just as feasible.

3:34 PM, May 25, 2005  
Anonymous Alice M. said...

Hi all

Regarding 13:
"That care be taken, that as any are called before outward powers of the nation, that in the light, obedience to the Lord be given."

I understood it first as meaning if a Friend hears the call from G-d to witness to those humans in positions of authority in the state, that the leading be tested with care in the Light and if found to be true then the Friend is to go forth in obedience to G-d's Will.

But I think it may be as Robin M. says, either. It's not totally clear.

Regarding your summons for jury service: Friend Rich, I wish you all faithfulness in that call. I was called for jury service last year and really struggled with it, I could have done to come across #14 then. I hope you have and feel the support of the local Meeting where you are, and you have my best wishes.

6:12 AM, May 26, 2005  

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