Quaker Religious Thought

Article Title

Lucretia Mott: Isaiah 58


Mark Bredin


In a sermon at Cherry Street Meeting on 31 March in 1850, Lucretia Mott drew upon Isaiah 58:6–7, 13 and James 2:15 for inspiration against sentiments expressed by Isaac Watts (1674–1748), views that led, she believed, to complacency towards the poor and the slave. She perceived such to be an outrage to the God of the biblical prophets. More precisely, Lucretia’s evocation of Isaiah 58 in her address resulted in an intensification of her already developed sympathy for the poor, motivating her to social engagement for justice. In making this argument I consider: (1) what it means to read the Bible empathetically; (2) her use of Isaac Watts for rhetorical purposes; (3) her breakfast musings; (4) her belief in the original goodness of creation designed for hospitality; (5) her use of Isaiah 58. I conclude that Lucretia should be studied, at least provisionally, as one who used Scripture as a probe to self-reflection and examination sensitizing her to God within, in opposition to the status quo. She did not read Scripture as a book of information to be mastered. Rather, for her, it was a book of transformation to be assimilated into her very being. In short she read Isaiah 58 empathetically. This concept could be helpful and an instructive insight for Friends today.



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