A Testament of Devotion

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About two years ago I was introduced to Christian Quakerism through the writings of its founder, George Fox.  I found Fox’s focus on the indwelling Christ spiritually rich.  I went on to read An Apology for the True Christian Divinity by Robert Barclay.  This was the first systematic presentation of Quaker beliefs.

For Christmas, I received a book by Thomas R. Kelly called A Testament of Devotion.  Kelly was also a Christian Quaker but from the 20th century as opposed to the 17th century like Fox and Barclay.  Not long ago I started reading it.

A Testament of Devotion has a simple focus: giving oneself entirely and unreservedly to the life of Christ within.  Yieldedness is another word that comes to mind.  Kelly’s focus is practical and experiential rather than theological.  He is concerned with being set apart to the indwelling Christ in the midst of daily realities.  His tone is conversational rather than systematic.  Yet he waxes philosophical and is frequently poetic in his descriptions of spiritual life.

Kelly worked in the university setting.  Occasionally, he quotes philosophers or non-Christian religious works to make a point.  This, I think, is evidence of his education moreso than adherence to other worldviews.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this until I remembered Paul quoting Greek poets when preaching in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Kelly’s language was appropriate to his audience, just as Paul’s was.

I’d like to finish this post with a few quotes from the book that have blessed me.  I’m about 2/3 of the way through and look forward to the rest!

***

“The last fruit of holy obedience is the simplicity of the trusting child, the simplicity of the children of God.  It is the naïveté which is the yonder side of sophistication.  It is the beginning of spiritual maturity, which comes after the awkward age of religious busy-ness for the Kingdom of God—yet how many are caught, and arrested in development, within this adolescent development of the soul’s growth! […] I have in mind something deeper than the simplification of our external programs, our absurdly crowded calendars of appointments through which so many pantingly and frantically gasp.  These do become simplified in holy obedience, and the poise and peace we have been missing can really be found.  But there is a deeper, and internal simplification of the whole of one’s personality, stilled, tranquil, in child-like trust listening ever to Eternity’s whisper, walking with a smile into the dark.”

“Theological quarrels arise out of differences in assumptions.  But Holy Fellowship, freely tolerant of these important yet more superficial clarifications, lives in the Center and rejoices in the unity of His love.”

“There is a tendency today, in this generation, to suppose that the religious life must prove its worth because it changes the social order.  The test of the importance of any supposed dealing with Eternity is the benefits it may possibly bring to affairs in time.  Time, and the enrichment of events in time, are supposed to pass judgment upon the worth of fellowship with the Eternal.  We breathe the air of a generation which, as the old phrase goes, ‘takes time seriously.’  Men nowadays take time far more seriously than Eternity. German theology of a century ago emphasized a useful distinction between This-sidedness and Other-sidedness, or Here and Yonder. […] We are in an era of This-sidedness, with a passionate anxiety about economics and political organization.  And the church itself has largely gone ‘this-sided,’ and…seems to be predominately concerned with this world, with time, and with the temporal order.  And the test of the worthwhileness of any experience of Eternity has become: ‘Does it change things in time?  If so, let us keep it, if not, let us discard it.’  I submit that this is a lamentable reversal of the true order of dependence.  Time is no judge of Eternity.  It is the Eternal who is the judge and tester of time.

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