Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Friends, Society of

Friends, Society of, a Christian sect popularly known as Quakers. The latter name arose from the circumstance of their founder, George Fox (q.v.), having bidden a Derby magistrate to tremble at the Word of God. At first applied in derision, the word gradually came to be used by the Quakers themselves. Their proper designation originated in the practice of addressing each other as '-friend" rather than by name. They hold as a body the leading doctrines of orthodox Christianity, but differ from the Church and the sects on important secondary points, and especially in the matter of practice. Their central doctrine is that of the inner light, which they derive from St. John's Gospel: "the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." This leads them to reject training in theology or secular learning as a preparation for the ministry, as well as the outward observance of sacraments and holy days, and set forms of prayer. At their meetings any member, man or woman, is listened to when he or she is moved to speak by the Holy Spirit. Their differences with other Christians on the subject of oaths and the payment of tithes led to much persecution in their earlier days, though they themselves sometimes provoked it by entering churches and interrupting services. They cite the words of Scripture (Matt. v. 34) as to oaths, and also as to the unlawfulness of war (Matt. v. 39, 44, etc.). During the Commonwealth and the Restoration period Quakers were punished by mutilation and banishment; 5,000 were imprisoned under Charles II. The Toleration Act (1689) allowed them to hold meetings after signing a confession of Christian belief, a declaration against transubstantiation, and a promise of fidelity to Government. Their objections to the payment of tithes and to oaths have been met by the conversion of the former into rent-charge and by an Affirmation Act. Their own ministers are not paid, but receive hospitality. There has been in the present century a serious schism among the Quakers. It is called the Hicksite movement, from Elias Hicks, who in 1827 denied the divinity of Christ and the orthodox view of inspiration. About half the sect in America followed him. This was followed by a movement in England under Joseph John Gurney, who advocated doctrinal education and the relaxation of some Quaker practices. The orthodox in America took alarm at this, and John Wilibur formed a sect in which the strictest traditions of the Society were adhered to. Wealth has to some extent undermined their strictness, if not their simplicity. Monthly meetings of the Society are held for educational and charitable purposes, and to deliberate upon the admission and correction of members, and the appointment of ministers. Preparative meetings get ready the business for the monthly, and the business of the latter is revised and controlled by meetings held quarterly. These last report to yearly meetings, which exercise a general supervision over the affairs of the Society. The Friends number at the present time about 120,000, of whom 90,000 are in the United States. Among their leading names have been Robert Barclay, author of a Catechism and Confession of Faith (1673); William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania; Elizabeth Fry, the prison philanthropist; and John Bright. Fox's Journal gives an account of the early days of the Quakers; Sewel's History of them was published in 1722; and Mr. Storrs Turner's recent work (1890) surveys and criticises their history and opinions from their origin till the present day.