"A Plea for the Poor," Part X
by John Woolman (1720-1772)

The way of carrying on wars common in the world is so far distinguishable from the purity of Christ's religion that many scruple to join in them. Those who are so redeemed from the love of the world as to possess nothing in a fleshly spirit, their "life is hid with Christ in God;"(1) and these he preserves in resignedness, even in times of commotion.

As they possess nothing but what pertains to his family, anxious thoughts about wealth or dominion have little or nothing in them to work upon; and they learn contentment in being disposed of according to his will who, being omnipotent and always mindful of his children, causeth all things to work for their good. But where that spirit works which loves riches, and in its working gathers wealth and cleaves to customs which have their root in self-pleasing; -- this spirit, thus separating from universal love, seeks help from the power which stands in the separation, and whatever name it hath, it still desires to defend the treasures thus gotten: -- This is like a chain, where the end of one link encloseth the end of another. The rising up of a desire to obtain wealth is the beginning; this desire, being cherished, moves to action; and riches thus gotten please self; and while self has a life in them it desires to have them defended.

Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and proceedings, contrary to universal righteousness, are supported; and hence oppression, carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul. And as this spirit which wanders from the pure habitation prevails, so the seeds of war swell and sprout, and grow, and become strong, until much fruit is ripened. Then cometh the harvest spoken of by the prophet, which "is a heap, in the day of grief and desperate sorrows."(2)

Oh! that we who declare against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great estates! May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions, or not. Holding treasures in the self-pleasing spirit is a strong plant, the fruit whereof ripens fast.

A day of outward distress is coming, and Divine love calls to prepare against it. Hearken then, O ye children who have known the light, and come forth. Leave every thing which Jesus Christ does not own. Think not his pattern too plain, too coarse for you. Think not a small portion in this life too little. But let us live in his spirit, and walk as he walked: so shall we be preserved in the greatest troubles.

(1) Colossians 3:3. With verse 2: "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
(2) Isaiah 17:11. The revised version has: "In the day of thy planting thou hedgest it in, and in the morning thou makest thy seed to blossom; but the harvest fleeth away in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow."

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