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Editor's Note: This statement, drafted by Rufus Jones and James Wood, was prepared early in the 20th century for the Uniform Discipline of the Five Years Meeting of the Friends in America (now known as Friends United Meeting). In 1922, the Five Years Meeting adopted this along with two other documents as the Authorized Declaration of Faith of the Five Years Meeting of the Friends in America. The other two documents are the Letter to the Governor of Barbadoes and the Richmond Declaration of Faith.
The vital principle of the Christian faith is the truth that man's salvation and higher life are personal matters between the individual soul and God.
Salvation is deliverance from sin and the possession of spiritual life. This comes through a personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior, who, through his love and sacrifice draws us to Him.
Conviction for sin is awakened by the operation of the Holy Spirit causing the soul to feel its need of reconciliation with God. When Christ is seen as the only hope of Salvation, and a man yields to Him, he is brought into newness of life, and realizes that his sonship to God has become an actual reality. This transformation is wrought without the necessary agency of any human priest, or ordinance, or ceremony whatsoever. A changed nature and life bear witness to this new relation to Him.
The whole spiritual life grows out of the soul's relation to God and its co-operation with Him, not from any outward or traditional observances.
Christ Himself baptizes the surrendered soul with the Holy Spirit, enduing it with power, bestowing gifts for service. This is an efficient baptism, a direct incoming of divine power for the transformation and control of the whole man. Christ Himself is the Spiritual bread which nourishes the soul, and He thus enters into and becomes a part of the being of those who partake of Him. This participation with Christ and apprehension of Him become the goal of life for the Christian. Those who thus enter into oneness with Him become also joined in living union with each other as members of one body.
Both worship and Christian fellowship spring out of this immediate relation of believing souls with their Lord.
The Holy Scriptures were given by inspiration of God and are the divinely authorized record of the doctrines which Christians are bound to accept, and of the moral principles which are to regulate their lives and actions. In them, as interpreted and unfolded by the Holy Spirit, is an ever fresh and unfailing source of spiritual truth for the proper guidance of life and practice.
The doctrines of the apostolic days are held by the Friends as essentials of Christianity. The Fatherhood of God, the Deity and humanity of the Son; the gift of the Holy Spirit; the atonement through Jesus Christ by which men are reconciled to God; the Resurrection; the High priesthood of Christ, and the individual priesthood of believers, are most precious truths, to be held, not as traditional dogmas, but as vital, life-giving realities.
The sinful condition of man and his proneness to yield to temptation, the world's absolute need of a Saviour, and the cleansing from sin in forgiveness and sanctification through the blood of Jesus Christ, are unceasing incentives to all who believe to become laborers together with God in extending His kingdom. By this high calling the Friends are pledged to the proclamation of the truth wherever the Spirit leads, both in home and in foreign fields.
The indwelling Spirit guides and controls the surrendered life, and the Christian's constant and supreme business is obedience to Him. But while the importance of individual guidance and obedience is thus emphasized, this fact gives no ground for license; the sanctified conclusions of the Church are above the judgment of a single individual.
The Friends find no scriptural evidence or authority for any form or degree of sacerdotalism in the Christian Church, or for the establishment of any ordinance or ceremonial rite for perpetual observance. The teachings of Jesus Christ concerning the spiritual nature of religion, the impossibility of promoting the spiritual life by the ceremonial application of material things, the fact that faith in Jesus Christ Himself is all-sufficient, the purpose of His life, death, resurrection and ascension, and His presence in the believer's heart, virtually destroy every ceremonial system and point the soul to the only satisfying source of spiritual life and power.
With faith in the wisdom of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and believing that it is His purpose to make His Church on earth a power for righteousness and truth, the Friends labor for the alleviation of human suffering; for the intellectual, moral and spiritual elevation of mankind; and for purified and exalted citizenship. The Friends believe war to be incompatible with Christianity, and seek to promote peaceful methods for the settlement of all the differences between nations and between men.
It is an essential part of the faith that a man should be in truth what he professes in word, and the underlying principle of life and action for individuals, and also for society, is transformation through the power of God and implicit obedience to His revealed will.
For more explicit and extended statements of belief, reference is made to those officially put forth at various times, especially to the letter of George Fox to the Governor of Barbadoes in 1671, and to the Declaration of Faith issued by the Richmond Conference in 1887.
[Text source: Friends... One in the Spirit booklet published by direction of the General Board of Friends United Meeting in 1974.]
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