ed. D. Freiday. Philadelphia, PA: Friends’ Bookstore, 1967. 465 pages.
One of the major leaders of the British Society of Friends (Quakers) was Robert Barclay (1648-1690) ; Barclay’s genius expressed itself in the attempt to articulate the Friends’ faith in the heat of Puritan–Anglican–Nonconformist theological debate. (At the time of his writing, it is estimated that there were more than 4000 Friends in British prison.) In an attempt to speak rationally in the midst of acrimony, then, the Apology appeared first in Latin (1676) and later in English (1678). The present edition brings this compendium of Quaker theology within the grasp of any reader. Barclay’s words about “vain and empty customs” (proposition 15) strangely disturb the reader who has made his peace with a secular society; his emphasis on the Spirit (proposition 2) rings afresh in our time. The Apology remains the best statement of classical Quaker belief and practice.