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Friends, Religious Society of

Origins and Early Years

Claiming that no theologically trained priest or outward rite is needed to establish communion between the soul and its God, Fox taught that everyone could receive whatever understanding and guidance in divine truth they might need from the "inward light," or "inner light," supplied in their own heart by the Holy Spirit. Many of his early converts were from among groups of separatists. Calling themselves Children of Light, Friends in the Truth, and Friends, they eventually agreed upon the name Religious Society of Friends.

The Friends regarded the sacraments of the church as nonessential to Christian life. They refused to attend worship in the established church and to pay tithes. They also resisted the requirement to take oaths and opposed war, refusing to bear arms. Believing in the equality of all men and women, Friends would not remove their hats before their alleged superiors. Consequently, they were subject to persecution until the passage of the Toleration Act of 1689.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Protestant Denominations


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