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SPANISH RELIGIOUS WRITINGS READ BY EARLY FRIENDS By Domingo Ricart* Editor's Note: We regret that our printer has not been able to supply all of the accents and diacritical marks needed for correct Spanish usage in die following paper. Friends have never attached primary importance to the reading of religious books other than the Bible, least of all, at an earlier time, those written by non-Friends. Where such works did find favor with them, they are found to be very closely linked with Quaker experience. The fact that certain Spanish books were read and prized by early Friends is therefore particularly interesting. The well-known Spiritual Guide of Miguel de Molinos was by no means the only one. Juan de Vaidés. Rufus Jones1 rightly places Juan de Valdés (1500P-1541) among the representatives of that type of personal religion which precedes Quakerism; that is, a religion of inspiration and experience, purified as far as possible of dogmatic rigidity and outer ceremony and of dependence on external authority. In Valdés we find an interpretation of inward religion and inward light almost like that of the Quakers a hundred years later. He is a forerunner, like those other spiritual reformers who emerged in different parts of Europe in the sixteenth century—Sebastian Frank in Germany, Castellio in France, and John Everard in England. The Hundred and Ten Considerations, his best known work, was translated into English later than the other popular Spanish religious writings of the sixteenth century; and later into English than into other European languages. His views were too radical to satisfy Anglican piety or to be used by Catholics in their fight against the ideas of the Reformation. They were introduced into England during the period of intense spiritual agitation which preceded the birth of Quakerism. The mystical reaction in England was particularly strong in the •Domingo Ricart, an emeritus professor of the University of Kansas, now resides in Boulder, Colorado. 1. Rufus Jones, "A Quaker forerunner (Juan de Valdés), Friends Quarterly Examiner, 1932, p. 49. 98 SPANISH RELIGIOUS WRITINGS99 period of the Commonwealth, when even the Anglican church was affected. The sweet and saintly poet George Herbert was one of its representatives. Another was his friend Nicholas Ferrar, a fascinating combination of a practical and successful man of business, scholar, and humanist, and extreme idealist. He had very much in common with Valdés, with whose life it has not been difficult to trace some parallel. Ferrar was the translator of Valdés's Considerations , and according to the author of Ferrar's memoirs: "Mr. Ferrar seems not only to have studied the letter of Valdés's Considerations , but also to have imbibed their spirit."2 The small community that Nicholas Ferrar gathered at Little Giddings, Huntingdonshire , England, had many resemblances to the little band of intimate friends and disciples that gathered around Juan de Valdés in Naples during the last years of his Ufe. Ferrar's translation was revised by George Herbert, who was very much impressed by the work, although he was chiefly attracted by Valdés's endearing personality. However, George Herbert did not refrain from taking exception to some fundamental points which he found inconsistent with his Anglican faith. The English translation of the Hundred and Ten Considerations, first published at Oxford in 1638, was reprinted at Cambridge a few years later (1646). It was widely read, much to the alarm of the guardians of orthodoxy such as Samuel Rutherford, who wrote in 1648: "Valdesso is one of the poysonable sources of Familisme, Antinomianisme and Enthusiasme."3 It would not be surprising, therefore , if the Considerations reached the hands of some of the seekers who later became Friends. Towards the end of the eighteenth century an elderly Friend possessed a copy of the Considerations which had an extraordinary mission to fulfill. Travelling on one occasion with Benjamin B. Wiffen, himself a lover of books, the old Friend mentioned an ancient book in his library, written by an unknown author, and representing essentially the principles of George Fox. From it, he said, he had obtained no small spiritual profit.4 Benjamin B. Wiffen was not yet interested...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 98-105
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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