Quaker Religious Thought


John Woolman (1720–1772) is well-known to many Quakers. The tailor, schoolteacher, farmer, and Quaker minister worked to free humans from enslavement at the hands of his fellow Quakers. He criticized and rejected the machinations of the British imperial economy and he refused to pay war taxes. He also wrote a journal that has been received as a classic of spiritual autobiography. While less read than his journal, Woolman also wrote essays, many of which were published during his lifetime. Woolman also wrote many letters. Unfortunately, these letters are not readily available for general consumption. They are mostly in manuscript form in the archives at Swarthmore, Haverford, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Friends House London. That is, until now.

Drew Lawson’s Movings of Divine Love makes Woolman’s letters accessible to the general reader.

I have had the fortune to study Woolman and write about him in many places for more than a decade. It is my opinion that the letters of Woolman are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Quaker spirituality in practice. John Woolman did not save the letters he received from others, and so we don’t have a full understanding of the occasions for his letter writing, but fortunately many of the recipients of his letters did save what he wrote to them and so have preserved these manuscripts for us.



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