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SINGING IN THE SPIRIT IN EARLY QUAKERISM Kenneth L. Carroll* Early Friends were quite convinced that they were living in a "new age"—one which closely paralleled that of the church in the days of the Apostles. They sometimes saw themselves as "prophets"— dressing in sackcloth and ashes, going "naked as a sign," and expressing their prophetic calling in still other ways. ' Some were given to the performance of "healings" and other miracles.2 Like the earliest Christians they, too, were guided by the Spirit and attempted to live and worship in the spirit. Their knowledge ofscripture (which reflected and recorded the life and experiences of the primitive church) influenced their attitudes and practices very much.3 One ofthe more intriguing aspects ofearly Quakerism is to be seen in its somewhat mixed attitude toward singing. Today it is widely known that the earliest Quakers rejected the practice of singing "David's Psalms" which was so much a part of the seventeenth century English worship, attacking it as a "form." Few people today, however, know that the earliest Quakers did not thereby rule out all use of music—but often sang in a variety of places, including even meetings for worship. The foundation for the early Quaker attitude toward the singing of Psalms was, to some degree, already laid before the start of Fox's preaching. Geoffrey Nuttall long ago pointed out that in late sixteenth century England there was a growing movement against "set prayers ."4 By the 1640s there had developed a much greater rejection of "stinted prayers." In Cromwell's Army, Nuttall notes, Baxter "found the men 'sometimes against the tying of our Selves to any *Kenneth L. Carroll is Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University , Dallas, Texas. 1.Kenneth L. Carroll, "Sackcloth and Ashes and Other Signs and Wonders," Journal ofFriends Historical Society, LIII(1975), pp. 314-325, "Early Quakersand 'Going Naked as a Sign'," Quaker History, LXVII (1978), pp. 69-87. 2.Cf. HenryJ. Cadbury, George Fox's Book ofMiracles (Cambridge, 1948) fora good presentation ofthis subject. 3 . Henry J . Cadbury, Quakerism and Early Christianity (London, 1957) provides a fascinating discussion of the parallels between early Quakerism and early Christianity . 4.Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Oxford, 1946), p. 66. 1 2 Quaker History Duty before the Spirit moves us'." 5 Thus, there was even some opposition to the "customary use" of the Lord's Prayer. Nuttall's summary of the situation is that "The more extreme the radicalism the more insistence we find that the prayer only is spiritual which is dependent on the immediate movings ofthe Holy Spirit."6 As might be expected, there was a somewhat similar development where hymn-singing was concerned. From 1644 to the Restoration in 1660 all church music was prohibited by Parliamentary decree except unaccompanied singing of "metrical versions of the Psalms." Some radical Puritans objected to hymn or psalm singing from books (a position taken both by Particular and General Baptists and also by the Amsterdam Separatists led by John Smith).7 A number of early Friends had already arrived at such a position in their pre-Quaker Days: William Springett and his wife refused to sing the Psalms of David "in meter," as did also William Dewsbury, George Whitehead, Luke Howard, and Samuel Fisher before they became convinced Friends.8 Most churches did have the singing of Psalms as a regular part of their worship service. The favorite collections were by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins. Sternhold's earlier metrical versions of the Psalms may have been done as early as the time of Henry VIII. His meter had four rhymes, while those of Hopkins had two. The Sternhold and Hopkins' edition ofthe Psalms is reported to have had a greater circulation than any book in the English language with the exception ofthe Bible and the Book ofCommon Prayer.9 George Fox, who attacked "forms without power," was opposed to the singing of these "metrical Psalms" in worship. He and his followers expressed their opposition in a number of ways—and especially in the written word. A very early manuscript, probably by Richard Farnsworth (d. 1666), sets forth the...


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