I have been looking at the history of the Pilgrims and have read some that goes along with the lesson of Paul being "bound in the spirit" (Acts 20:22) to go the course set for him:

    The first of the Stuarts had scarcely received a new crown as James I of England when he was presented with the Millenary Petition so-called, signed by more than eight hundred reformist ministers, a tenth of all the clergy in the realm. The petitioners humbly begged the correction of the worst of the "abuses," finding particular fault with the continued use of papish vestments, want of weekly sermons by competent preachers, use of the ring in the marriage ceremony, inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Holy Book, and generally lax and "profane" observance of the Sabbath.
    Acting upon the Millenary Petition, the king called the Hampton Court Conference early in 1604, taking a personal part in the proceedings, for he fancied himself as a theologue. Archbishop Whitgift had carefully seen to it as almost the last act of his life that the conference was packed against the reformers. Only four moderates were invited to attend, and these were left to cool their heels in an antechamber for days. When admitted at last, they were curtly asked what they wanted, and the bishops immediately created a diversion by falling upon them for daring to appear before His Majesty "in Turkey gowns." Mercilessly badgered, misrepresented and insulted, with the King joining in the sneers and abuse, the Puritans refused to be provoked and behaved themselves very well, one of them even venturing at the first opportunity to make a restrained plea for liberty of conscience.
    "I will none of that!" thundered James, and at mention of the Scottish church and its more democratic organization he worked himself into a characteristic fit of slobbering rage.
    "A Scottish Presbytery ... as well agreeth with a Monarchy as God and the Devil. Then Jack & Tom, & Will & Dick, shall meete and at their pleasure censure me, and my Councell, and all our proceedings."
    That explosive political issue had not yet been posed, but it must be said for James that he sensed the drift of the argument. It was impossible to confine the demand for freedom of conscience, for freedom of thought and speech, to the field of religion alone. Retreating from that issue, the Puritan delegates ended by asking merely that ministers should no longer be required to wear the surplice when conducting Sunday services.
    "Away with all your snivelling!" cried the King, breaking up the conference with an ominous threat. He and his mother, he said, had been haunted from their cradles by a Puritan devil, and he feared it would not leave him till his grave. But he would put down such "malicious spirits" even at the cost of his crown.
    "I will make them conform," he thundered, "or I will harry them out of the land!"
    The conference achieved next to nothing in the way of reform though it incidentally accomplished two things of the greatest importance. First, at the suggestion of John Reynolds, one of the Puritan delegates, a new translation of the Bible was authorized, eventuating seven years later in the King James Version, one of the towering monuments in our literature, a poetic masterpiece that has colored the thought and speech of the English-speaking world more than three centuries.
    Second, hope of reforming the church from within was now dead. A rigid pattern had now been set which could not be broken short of revolution, as Cromwell and his Independents were to learn during the next reign. James immediately implemented the decisions of the conference by issuing new decrees commanding use of the Book of Common Prayer, full and unreserved acceptance of the Thirty-nine Articles, suppression of all private meetings, and obligatory communion in the Anglican church at least three times a year. Within twelve months more than tree hundred clergymen were deprived of office for their obvious reluctance or flat refusal to obey these decrees. ...
    Always an eager and sensitive soul, John Robinson was increasingly tortured by doubts about Anglican doctrine and ceremony. ... He had been in office less than a year when he ran afoul of the drastic new decrees issued as a result of the Hampton Court Conference and found himself one of the three hundred clergymen deprived of office in all parts of the realm for "branding the ceremonies." ...
    Now at the crossroads of his career, Robinson hesitated, reluctant to go forward, unwilling to turn back. At length, after wrestling with his soul for two years, he came to a decision which he resolutely followed without the slightest wavering to the end of his life.
    "Had not the truth been in my heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones," he once exclaimed when the anguish of these days was still upon him, "I had never broken bonds of flesh and blood wherein I was so straightly tied, but had suffered the light of God to have been put out in mine own unthankful heart by other men's darkness."
--George F. Willison, Saints and Strangers581

At once we see Robinson following Paul's example "bound in the spirit" (Acts 20:22) as the King James Version aptly puts it, "breaking bonds of flesh and blood wherein I was so straightly tied," but where the NIV not arising from the same cauldron waters down as merely being "compelled by the Spirit."

Curiously, the converse occurred in the Orthodox Church.

    In the seventeenth century Nikon, the Patriarch of Moscow, in face of fierce opposition, carried through a reform of the Service Books. The Raskolniki--literally "schismatics," sometimes called Old Believers--, led by Avvakum, seceded from the Church rather than accept the changes. The origin of Russian Dissent is, therefore, the exact opposite of the origin of English Dissent. The Raskolniki afterwards themselves split into more sects, some having a priesthood and some without. Some of these sects degenerated into oddities, and indulged in the strangest excesses. But the more sober element among the Old Believers incorporates some of the best of the Russian religious spirit and character.582

A contingent of one of the strange sects, in fact, settled in Eugene at one time, the Dukhobours. Dukhobar Road in Eugene is named after them, and one can see still standing one of their old barns. They believe in Jesus but not in the Bible. One of their distinguishing customs has to do with their belief that we are all naked children in the eyes of God. That gets them in the news every now and then. In Canada a judge decreed that they would have to wear clothes. Their response was to immediately disrobe right in the courtroom. Pretty odd!

But people with religion tend to live out their beliefs. I was going to a mainline Protestantchurch before I came to the Restoration church I atend now. That church had officially adopted the NIV. After a few weeks I went right back to my KJV. Bound in the spirit, one might say.

I have a pretty tolerant preacher. If he were a Dukhobour preacher, he'd give us a sermon every Sunday, just not out of the Bible. Say, I showed up one day and asked him, saying I notice that this congregation wears clothes. I don't feel comfortable wearing clothes. Would I have to wear them?

No, he tells me, I don't have to wear clothes if I don't want to. I can use my KJV if I don't want to go by the NIV.

By and by, I notice that we have a traditional service in which we sing all the old traditional Russian songs. But they all wear clothes anyway. I point this out to him, and he replies that there's good reason to wear clothes these days.

Well, maybe there be very good reasons to wear clothes, but that hardly qualifies this as a traditional service, the traditional hymns notwithstanding.

Then we might want to look at the Quakers.

    Why, if the Quakers saw themselves as reformers in the same tradition as the Puritans, did Quaker doctrine appear to have within it the potential to destroy Puritanism? At its very basis the disagreement was theological. In spite of their common impulse toward reform, the Quakers and the Puritans espoused radically different theologies of the divine and the human. Whereas the Puritans preached a depraved humanity and an omnipotent sovereign God who had revealed himself through the Bible, the Quakers believed in the possibility of human perfection and in a deity who was made known through the religious experience of the individual. For the Quakers there were no creedal prerequisites, no clergy, no sacraments through which the experience of the divine would be mediated--at the heart of Quakerism there was just the individual experience of the Inner Light--the Quaker term for the in-dwelling presence of God.
    The Quaker belief led to their insistence on the equality of each person. To reflect and emphasize that equality, the Quakers radically simplified their lives in every aspect--from worship to dress and speech. They wanted to eliminate all those manifestations of rank which appeared to indicate that some people were better than others. Quaker worship took the form of a meeting, the word also used as the equivalent of congregation. The meeting was regulated by no set ritual, nor was it celebrated by a member of the clergy. Members of the meeting sat in silence together, opening themselves to the experience of the Inner Light. When a member was moved to speak, he or she did so. Further, it was the Quakers, not the Puritans, who wore plain, unadorned clothing; and their use of thee and thou instead of you, which today seems merely quaint, served the same purpose as simple dress--to minimize rank and social status. According to Margaret Bacon, common people in the seventeenth century were expected to address their betters as you whereas thee and thou were more intimate forms, and the Quakers refused to comply with this linguistic form of ranking. For this same reason of equality, Quakers did not remove their hats to authorities nor did they take oaths, since that custom seemed to imply two standards of truth, the oath being for special occasions.
    Far from being merely irritating to the Puritans, Quaker beliefs and practices appeared to threaten the very foundation on which society was built: the acknowledgement of and submission to authority and leadership, whether it be in the government, the church, or the family. Thus, the Puritans perceived Quakerism not only as a competing religious system but as a threat to the entire social order. But in spite of Puritan efforts to stop it--in some cases going so far as execution--Quaker membership grew steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and one might have guessed that Quakerism today would be among the mainstream churches of America. On the contrary, Quakers now number about 120,000 in a population of more than 230 million.
    There are several factors that account for this. One is the series of divisions and schisms that occurred in American Quakerism during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which resulted from disagreements over rigidity of doctrines, evangelical forms of worship, abolition, and the establishment of foreign missions. Another theory is that of Rufus Jones, Quaker historian, teacher, humanitarian, and mystic, who speculates that as long as the "tragic collisions" with Puritanism persisted, the Quakers experienced a dynamism and unity that resulted from their need to establish their identity and resist persecution. When freedom of religion was established, fervor diminished. Even more telling, according to Jones, was the Quaker predilection, developed early, to see themselves as a "peculiar people," a people set apart to preserve a universal truth that the rest of the world refused to accept. As a result, the Quakers turned in upon themselves, paralleling the trap that many other dissenting religious groups had fallen into: "The living idea organizes a definite society for the propagation of it, and lo, the Society unconsciously smothers the original idea and becomes absorbed in itself!"
Acts 20:22     ...
    Some Quaker groups have adopted a more typically Protestant form of worship with hymn singing and Scripture reading; some groups have pastors as well, and refer to their groups as "churches."

Okay, let's see, we don't have any special name for our church, but we still call it a church. We have a preaching minister as opposed to a "pastor". And we follow the "typical Protestant forms of worship with hymn singing and Scripture reading." That and we incorporate the Lord's supper in the service. How can we implement a traditional service and only make the hymns traditional, but not the scripture reading? The whole idea of the Restoration Movement was that the Protestant churches hadn't gone far enough in following the Bible. And now we call a service traditional but use the most popular version of the day rather than the established traditional one. And nobod seems to care so long as we follow the crowd. Isn't that like, "The living idea organizes a definite society for the propagation of it, and lo, the Society unconsciously smothers the original idea and becomes absorbed in itself!"?

To help compare the King James Version's lesson of Paul being "bound in the spirit" (Acts 20:22) with the New International Version's being "compelled by the Spirit," I am going to quote a story of a man being bound to commit an act that otherwise he would not do under any compulsion:

    William M. Waller, a planter in Amherst County, Virginia, left a full record of one such slave selling expedition. In 1847, Waller and his neighbor James Taliaferro decided they must sell some of their slaves to escape from heavy debts. Though electing to handle the sales themselves, they consulted an experienced speculator who informed them that Natchez was the most promising market and that early October was the best time to begin the trip.
    After selecting twenty of his choicest slaves, Waller joined Taliaferro for the long overland journey to Mississippi. That his mission was distasteful and disquieting, Waller left no doubt. Compassion for his slaves, concern about the morality of his action, and a touch of self-pity caused him to brood over the matter incessantly while he was away from home. Only a "sense of duty" to his family, he repeatedly told his wife, supported him "in a trip that under any other consideration would be intolerable [emphasis added]. I have already seen and felt enough to make me loath the vocation of slave trading." A few weeks later, after reaching Mississippi, Waller wrote: "I still think it was my duty. ... I care not for my exposure, nor for my absence from home or for the privation of my usual comforts if I can effect my purpose--if I can return to you all freed from my bondage [emphasis added] [of debt] which has been for some years more awfully galling to my feelings, vastly more so, than the world supposes." Still later he referred apprehensively to a report that a Virginia friend had been "threatened by the church for his supposed participation in the negro trade--is there any thing of it and what?"
    Waller suffered many disappointments, for in the fall of 1847 slave prices in Mississippi declined and purchasers could not be found. After a month in northern Mississippi, he related sadly: "As yet neither Mr. Taliaferro or I have sold one nor does there appear the least prospect of our doing so in any short time." In December, the two Virginians separated, and Waller took his merchandise to the Hinds County plantation of his friend, Thomas S. Dabney, who promised to help him find purchasers. "I have taken away the most valuable portion of my slave property," he wrote in despair, "and if now parted with without effecting my purpose what will become of our children[?]"
    Early in January, 1848, Waller made his first sale--a slave woman for $675--to one of Dabney's neighbors. By February he had sold seven, one of them in New Orleans. He then took the remaining thirteen to Natchez where the Virginia trader, James D. Ware, offered to assist him. Together they looked for a buyer who would agree to take the entire lot. At last, on march 2, he rejoiced: "I have sold out all my negroes to one man for eight thousand dollars. ... I have not obtained as much as I expected, but I try and be satisfied--the whole amount of the sales for the twenty is $12,675." In April he was home again in Amherst County, confident that the proceeds of his expedition would emancipate him from his bondage of debt.
--Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution585

By analogy Paul being bound in the spirit is under more constraint than if he were being merely compelled by the Spirit. Waller's creditors may have compelled him to sell his negroes, but he could have resisted and not given in had he not felt so keenly his bondage to debt and his duty to family.

I was working on a construction site one week and my upper arms were getting sunburned and blistered. I asked my boss to loan me a long sleeved shirt, but the only one he had was dark and heavy which soon made me too hot. Then I asked him if he had a couple of clips. He said, "Yes, what are you going to do?"

I told him to watch. I sat down and started removing my shoes.

"You're doing a McGiver," he said.

I unzipped the legs from my pants--turning them into shorts--and then used the legs clipped to my shirt to make sleeves. Worked just fine.

But that was not a traditional clothing getup; it was a "McGiver," something used in an original way to accomplish a purpose. Maybe the preacher has legitimate reason for using a modern translation, but what it gives us is not traditional.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

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Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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