In 1775, there were many communities of European settlers in the American west. Some of these were followers of William Penn and called themselves the Society of Friends, though others often call them Quakers. These Christian disciples had found a new way of practising their faith. They keep to a simple way of quiet worship, often meeting in silence, seeking to be peaceful in every situation. Many Friends went to America to find the religious freedom that was denied them back in Britain. You may have read about the Pilgrim Fathers, and the Mayflower, their ship.
Robert Nisbet was a Quaker preacher. One weekend he had to set out on Friday to arrive at a new and remote settlement by Sunday, to preach. It was a thirty-mile walk, tiring and thirsty, and he slept two nights in the open. The journey could be dangerous too. Many of the white settlers, though not the Friends, had used guns against the native Americans, and the response was swift, and often murderous.
As Robert walked, he thought about how to preach. The small community of Friends he was visiting were fearful and hard pressed, but faithful to their peaceful intentions. Every day there were stories of fierce fighting between settlers and native Americans, aka 'Red Indians'. Robert chose a Bible verse, Psalm 91, verse 4. ‘God will cover you with his feathers. Under his wings you will find refuge. Do not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day.’ Robert Nisbet planned a short sermon on the text.
On Sunday morning, as usual, all the Friends, from the eldest grandparent to the tiniest child, sat together in silent worship and meditation in the largest of their wooden cabins. It was a fresh morning, with a clear sky. The doors and windows were left open, and a gentle wind blew through. Robert read his text, and the people listened while he spent a few minutes sharing his thoughts. Silence descended: the community was worshipping. No sound arose inside the cabin. But outside soft footfalls came into the little village.
The native American Chief followed by many Braves crept into the little group of wooden buildings. They carried war axes, scalping knives, arrows and bows. They came to kill the settlers, and drive the whites away from their land. At first they thought the tiny village was deserted, but their expert trackers noticed all footprints leading to the largest cabin. They silently surrounded the wooden building.
Then two Braves stepped across the open window. Two more, and the chief, stood in the doorway. One by one, the worshipping Friends inside noticed the presence of the attackers. The quiet air crackled with tension. Each one looked to Robert: he motioned with his hands to keep still, to continue in prayer. Time stretched. The native American eyes took in the scene. There were no guns. No swords. No weapons. Then the Chief murmured to his Braves in a low voice. Silently, one by one, each Brave laid his axe and weapons on the ground. Each one filed into the crowded cabin. They too sat at peace with the Friends in worship.
Minutes passed, and the oldest of the Friends, a man called Zebulon,
closed the meeting with a blessing. He stood, approached the Chief, and
wordlessly motioned him to follow. He took the chief home, and shared
his meal with him. Another of the Braves told Robert, ‘We came
to kill you, and destroy your settlement. But you worship the Great Spirit
in silence as we do.’ The Braves gave the Friends a white feather
and an arrow as signs of peace, to display from their rooftop. There
was no war between them.
This story was copied and re-copied from a Magazine called 'Space for Reflection'. Date: ? Place?
Details that can be seen in the original print of the picture:
If you search for the name of "J Doyle Penrose" in Google, his name will come up 22 times. You can find about 11 more of his paintings, including some on Quaker themes.
"None shall make them afraid" occurs repeatedly in the Bible:
Isaiah 17:2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (i.e. nobody shall make the flocks afraid)
Ezekiel 34:28 And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.
Micah 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4:4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
4:5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
Zephania 3:13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
Several other re-tellings of this story can be found on the Internet.