By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield
In 1620, because the religious laws of England forbade any religion but that of the English national church, the Pilgrims sought a new life in the New World. On board the ship were evangelical Protestants and Quakers. Forty-one men signed the Mayflower Compact declaring they would promote “the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith,” covenanting to create “a Civil Body Politic with just and equal laws.”
After their sixty-six horrendous day voyage, feeling the solid ground beneath their feet, they fell upon their knees and prayed, and as William Bradford writes, the prayer went something like this; Bless ye God of heaven, who brought us over ye vast and furious ocean, delivering us from all ye perils and miseries thereof.
More families fleeing religious persecution followed. One such group was the Amish. They sought asylum between 1717 and 1750. The Quakers and Amish are similar, yet upon a closer look, one realizes they are very different from one another.
These two Protestant religious groups formed during the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation when a rebellion broke out against the medieval church and the people desired a personal interpretation of the Bible.
The Amish religion was founded by Jakob Ammann, a Swiss Anabaptist leader. The Quakers, or as they are often called, the Religious Society of Friends, were founded in England by George Fox and focuses on the idea of an inner light that guides individuals to live a spiritual life.
William Penn joined the Religious Society of Friends at age twenty-two. Quakers believed in and obeyed their “inner light” (also called inward light), which Quakers believed to come directly from God. They refused to bow, even take off their hats to any man, and strictly refused to take up arms. Quakers refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the King because of their beliefs. They obeyed and followed the command of Christ Jesus who said not to swear, as stated in Matthew 5:34. They also adhered to a “thee and thou” language to be more like their Savior—to be no respecter of persons. William Penn founded the Quaker colony in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, city of “Brotherly Love.”
“If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that, thou must be ruled by him…Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” William Penn
Quakers like Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney (1801–1881) visited President Lincoln at the White House on October 26, 1862, one Sunday afternoon during the height of the Civil War, and said:
“I come in the love of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—that blessed gospel which breaths glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill to men. In common with the members of my own Society.”
Eliza quoted from memory Philippians 4:6: “But in everything, by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let our requests be made known unto God.” Eliza went on to claim Psalm 91:7–12 “ a thousand may fall…” and ended with this, “May our Father in heaven guide thee by His own unerring counsel through the remaining difficulties of thy wilderness journey, bestow upon thee a double portion of that wisdom which cometh down from above, and, finally when then thou shalt have served thy generation according to the will of God, through the fullness of His atoning, pardoning love and mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord, receive they ransomed spirit into that rest.”
President Lincoln, moved to tears, said, “We are indeed going through a great trial—a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happened to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to His will and that it might be so, I have sought His aid.”
Many of the Quakers strong religious beliefs can be seen in Eliza’s prayer for President Lincoln and shown in the earliest forming of America’s foundations. And at first glance, you might imagine seeing the Quakers today in their capes and prayer caps, speaking the thee and thou language which set them apart; however, this is far from true now.
Quakers and Amish both practice pacifism, live simple, humble lifestyles, believe in non-violence, do not take oaths, and live communally. Both practice Christianity and have for years.
Through the centuries, changes occurred in the Quaker culture.
Some Amish have embraced modern-day technology. However, the Old-World Amish lifestyle, which my novel Love’s Final Sunrise depicts, continues to keep their communities separate from anything that appears to be worldly. Most Quakers have blended into society as a whole.
The Amish have continued in the custom of their ancestors and have kept their distinct language, style of clothing and even their haircuts. The men wear plain black or dark suits without decoration. The women wear modest plain-colored dresses with a cape and apron.
The way the Amish wear their hair is different from the way the modern women wear theirs. Men wear their hair short and have long beards with no mustaches. Women never cut their hair but wear it in a bun and cover it with a prayer Kapp.
The clothing styles of the Quakers are not restricted. Though their mode of dress usually is not flashy, they have no requirements for their physical appearance. They can wear their hair anyway they please.
It’s easy to point out an old-order Amish person from a crowd based on their dress. You can’t with a Quaker. While visiting Amish country, you can always spot those Amish buggies, their horses clipping down the road in a ground-covering trot. Old-order Amish do not use electricity in their homes or shops; they sport a very traditional lifestyle.
Quakers have fully embraced technology. They use modern tools and conveniences. Computers and cell phones are part of their lifestyle. They follow their business or professional goals, sometimes continuing on to college if they desire. Whereas Amish never go past the eighth grade. Their skills and trades are taught to them by their families, providing ample avenues of productivity.
The identifying quality of an Amish home is that they are heavily rooted in Scripture. They rely on rules to keep order inside their community, and all Amish say they are Christians and that the Bible is the Word of God.
The modern-day Quakers continue to practice “the inner light.” This has made many a person follow their conscience and intuition before the Word of God. Consequently today, not all Quakers identify as Christians. Some even say they are members of a universal religion.
Many Quakers continue to regard their Bible highly, but it is not the only Holy Book that formulates their beliefs.
Amish do not have church buildings; they hold services in member’s homes. They have a church hierarchy, which includes a bishop, minister and deacon. When a person is old enough, they get baptized and take communion.
Quakers don’t have churches either; they hold meetings in meeting houses. However, they don’t believe in clergy or formal liturgy. Believers minister to one another. They don’t believe in ceremonies like baptism or communion because everyone can have a direct relationship with God.
Amish avoid political involvement. They do not vote and are not part of a political party. Quakers actively participate in the political arena, especially in promoting peace and justice. They have taken stands against slavery (as we have seen with Eliza), human trafficking, poverty, climate change and other human rights abuses.
There are some modern-day Quakers who still use the manner of “plain speaking” and continue to use the “thee” form without any corresponding change in verb form, for example, is thee, or was thee.
Quakers once made up more than 10 percent of the population of the thirteen colonies. Now, they represent a small fraction of the population.
Today, the Amish population in the United States is around 360,000 individuals. There are about 75,000 Quakers in the United States. However, unlike the Amish who reside only in the United States and about 6,000 in Canada, Quakers live in 87 different countries, about 400,000 total.
Quakers and Amish have differences, yet, as other ethnic religions have proved—withstood the portals of time and continued in their commitment to live according to their religious beliefs and values.
One can only imagine the hopeful prayers of those brave pilgrims encouraged the ship's sails to billow forth. After centuries of wars and hardships, the Mayflower Compact rings true to this day and continues to promote the glory of God and advance the Christian faith through our individual lives. These wise stewards of the Word knew that just and equal laws must prevail so God’s people can declare His Word until He returns. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NKJV). Please visit the blog to comment on this post.
Love’s Final Sunrise: New Yorker Ruth Jessup and Amish-bred Joshua Stutzman lived in different worlds; their lives collided into catastrophic proportions battling wits against a psychopath and The New World Order...
Fleeing for her life and suffering from amnesia, Ruth finds herself in an hourglass of yesteryear. Can Joshua’s Amish ways help them survive these final three-and-one-half years?
“To be honest, I’m not usually drawn to fiction. But for this no-nonsense nonfiction lover, Love’s Final Sunrise was a risk that paid off in full measure. I highly recommend this author’s way of weaving intrigue, romance, and Christian principles. Lori Ann Wood
“My readers are my encouragers and God's Word is my inspiration!”
Catherine is an award-winning author of the inspirational historical romance Wilted Dandelions, and Destiny Series, Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny.
Her newest book, is the inspirational Amish futuristic
romance, Love's Final Sunrise.
World Book Encyclopedia Vol 12 Copyright 1961