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The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus: James…

The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus: James Nayler and the Puritan Crackdown on…

by Leo Damrosch

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A professor of literature at Harvard, Leo Damrosch has analyzed the early development of the Quaker movement through the words and actions of James Nayler. This scholarly book is more than a study of Nayler and the charge of "horrid blasphemy" leveled against him after his ride through Bristol imitating Jesus' Palm Sunday ride through Jerusalem; it is an analysis of Quaker doctrine and theology as seen through the life of Nayler.
If Puritanism is defined as a movement of Christians in Britain who wished to purify the Church of England, it would seem that the Quakers belong in the Radical Puritan movement rather than outside the Puritan movement altogether, which is where Damrosch placed them. Nevertheless, this book is a fine piece of research into the issues of religious toleration and social order in Cromwellian England.
Through Nayler's defense of is belief that Jesus dwelt in all believers, Damrosch vividly shows the predicament of Quakers in a society that felt threatened by them and their prophetic claims. He used primary sources to demonstrate that Nayler was an eloquent speaker and deeply intelligent as well as interesting thinker. In fact, Nayler comes across as a subtler and more perspicuous writer than George fox.
This excellent book is a profound study of human beings caught up in one of the more fascinating sects that grew out of the radical Puritan movement in Britain. Marcella Biro Barton, University of Rio Grande; Cambridge Journal Online
  CFMLibrary | Apr 15, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674821432, Hardcover)

In October 1656 James Nayler, a prominent Quaker leader--second only to George Fox in the nascent movement--rode into Bristol surrounded by followers singing hosannas in deliberate imitation of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. In Leo Damrosch's trenchant reading this incident and the extraordinary outrage it ignited shed new light on Cromwell's England and on religious thought and spirituality in a turbulent period.

Damrosch gives a clear picture of the origins and early development of the Quaker movement, elucidating the intellectual foundations of Quaker theology. A number of central issues come into sharp relief, including gender symbolism and the role of women, belief in miraculous cures, and--particularly in relation to the meaning of the entry into Bristol--"signs of the in-dwelling spirit." Damrosch's account of the trial and savage punishment of Nayler for blasphemy exposes the politics of the Puritan response, the limits to Cromwellian religious liberalism.

The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus is at once a study of antinomian religious thought, of an exemplary individualist movement that suddenly found itself obliged to impose order, and of the ways in which religious and political ideas become intertwined in a period of crisis. It is also a vivid portrait of a fascinating man.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:11 -0400)

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