This book is a commentary on Love to the Lost, a pamphlet published by the early Quaker James Nayler in February 1656. It explores Nayler’s theology described in this pamphlet, which was written prior to his blasphemy conviction, as similar to that of other early Quakers. This book puts Nayler’s thought into its historical and biographical context.
It is not easy to be sure what Nayler meant in his pamphlet. Several mountain ranges stand between us and James Nayler: the changed thinking of the Enlightenment about God and the universe; the aesthetic revolution of the Romantics; and the post-modern and liberal Quaker skepticism about whether absolute and certain ‘Truth’ exists. We lack his deep Christian background. Modern Friends probably understand more about (for example) Buddhism and Celtic mysticism than the theological mix of Reformation Europe. But despite these difficulties, this book chooses to assume that there is a continuity in spirituality between Nayler and twenty-first-century Friends, even though it may not be expressed in the same language.
Central to this commentary is a comparison of the theology in Love to the Lost with the various books of discipline of London Yearly Meeting (later Britain Yearly Meeting). The comparison will, it is hoped, explain Nayler to a modern audience, illustrate the Quaker journey since 1652, and offer some reflections on the present condition of Quakerism in Great Britain.
David Lewis is a Quaker living in Portsmouth, United Kingdom. David has served on various central committees for Britain Yearly Meeting. David is also assistant clerk to his area meeting. He has published short articles in Quaker Voices, and in Friends Quarterly.