Plow up the fallow ground : a meditation in the company of early Friends

by Lu Harper

Pamphlet, 2011



Call number

CP 411


Wallingford, Pa. : Pendle Hill Publications, 2011.

User reviews

LibraryThing member kaulsu
Early Friends--a synonymous term for George Fox's contemporaries, or 17th c. British Quakers--used the metaphor of "the hedge" quite differently than their 18th c. American counterparts. Americans felt the need to separate themselves from the wider society, often using the image of a hedge to evoke
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the security that came by shutting out the profane world. In Lu Harper's Pendle Hill Pamphlet #411, she cites British Quaker's understanding to be quite different: "In the 17th century, when outward hedges were increasingly used to enclose the commons, to separate the haves from the have nots, to consolidate political and religious wealth, the metaphor of the hedge would have been alive to Fox's hearers... Fox's use of the metaphor of the hedge as the inward power of God is significant. This inward hedge protects the Seed and also holds the space for Spirit's inward work of transformation."

Early Friends lived, for the most part, close to the earth. Harper explores the agricultural language that early Quakers used in their epistles and tract writing and demonstrates that its source was Biblical, as indeed most of their writing was. In order to understand our Quaker roots, it seems important that we be able to follow their writings. Since their writings and messages were so heavily laced with Scripture, it would seem to follow that we familiarize ourselves with scripture, also. But to be able to interpret the Bible, we must be able to understand the agricultural metaphors used!

Whether we are interested in closely following Fox's arguments, or simply wishing to be more responsive to the Spirit in our 21st c. lives, it would seem we, too, need to plow up the fallow ground of our hearts to allow the Seed there planted to flourish.
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LibraryThing member QuakerReviews
In this helpful pamphlet, the author explains a contemplative practice for reading the Bible that early Friends called reading the Scriptures in the Spirit. Early Friends contemplated Biblical images and stories as metaphors for their own spiritual conditions, opening an empowering and enlightening
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understanding of both the Bible and spiritual life. This created the language for explanation of the life of the Spirit that we find in their writings.
She demonstrates this practice with a series of Biblical images, combined with writings of early Friends using the same images, so readers can experience the process and contemplate several queries and aspects of our own spiritual lives and transformations.
Reading the Bible this way does not lead to an "authoritative" reading of the text, but is rather a way to open ourselves to a teachable moment, where the Spirit opens us to insight and spiritual growth.
The examples of Biblical images, such as plowing up the fertile ground, the sower and the seed, fields and hedges, the weeds, separating the wheat from the chaff, illustrate a holistic understanding of the working of the Spirit in us, in all our conditions, throughout our lives. Seeing these metaphors as about the ongoing process of healing transformation opens us to the inward teaching of the Spirit.
This topic is addressed also in PHP 398, The Messenger that Goes Before: Reading Margaret Fell for Spiritual Nurture, by Michael Birkel.
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0875744117 / 9780875744117

Local notes

Pendle Hill Pamphlet 411

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Call number

CP 411


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