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Quaker Studies

Abstract

This paper examines why the evangelical revival became such an important issue for the Society of Friends in the early nineteenth century. The focus is on the conflict that evangelicalism aroused between 1835 and 1840 with the Beacon controversy and the resultant challenge to the concept of the inward light. The shifting attitudes of Quakers are situated in their contemporary world, in which fundamental changes were occurring in almost every sphere. The position is taken that the wider context of economic growth and political reform provoking social action contributed to evangelicalism making inroads into Quaker belief. The close-up image compares Quakers in Manchester and Kendal and looks at their reactions to the controversy. The wealth, reputation and upward mobility of many leading Quakers by the 1830s, gives credence to my view that evangelical belief and action for them justified their social standing in the eyes of God and man. This was in opposition to the belief in the authority of an unverifiable inward light which required a certain passivity and inaction.

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