Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Though he was a tailor by trade and ran a successful dry-goods shop at Mount Holly, New Jersey, John Woolman’s central concern was to serve as a channel for divine love for all creatures, including the poor and oppressed. He visited fellow Quakers in the Southern colonies, convincing them of the evils of slaveholding, and in addition to his journal wrote a number of pamphlets, including A Plea for the Poor and Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes.
The overwhelming impression that greets the reader of Woolman’s Journal is of a life intent on obedience to God. With a sense of urgency and passionate concern, Woolman repeatedly accepted the hard way he believed God was placing before him, preferring it to the less demanding well-traveled paths. For him, the supreme danger was to block the divine work by allowing worldly desires to crowd out the “pure, universal love” that God would have govern us. He was never in doubt that for the Christian the way to be followed would be filled with difficulties, but he was equally convinced that learning to bear the cross opened the door to inner peace.
Woolman’s account of his own life reveals a constant struggle to hear the voice of God. He tells of an experience early in his life at a Quaker silent worship service. In such services, the custom was to wait in silence until the Spirit of God led one or more worshipers to minister audibly to the group. During one...
(The entire section is 2175 words.)
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