I first met Luke Cock when I was moved to pick up the unfamiliar book from the table in meeting for worship. I’d only been attending Loughborough meeting for a few weeks and was curious as to what this book was. It was ‘Christian Faith and Practice’. I opened it, apparently at random, and encountered Luke Cock.
The words spoke to me then, and have continued to ever since. The same quotation is included in the revised edition of the book ‘Quaker Faith and Practice‘. My family tease me about my tendency to refer to ‘my Friend Luke Cock’, but that is a good way to express my response to this passage. It appears to be the only recorded piece of his ministry that we have, though you’ll realise that his is not an easy name to run a google search for, so my research has been somewhat curtailed.
The language is archaic dialect, but to me has a ring of the style of speech of my grandparents, giving it a certain homely familiarity. The absence of particularly ‘Christian’ language makes the passage more accessible, I like the idea of ‘my Guide’, clearly an inner spiritual guide. He speaks from the heart, from his experience. He exposes his fallibility ‘I mun leave Thee here: if Thou leads me up that lane, I can never follow’ and makes clear that there is always hope, however often we fail ‘I said, if I could find my good Guide again, I’ll follow Him, lead me whither He will. So here I found my Guide again, and began to follow Him’, but that we need to persist ‘This was very hard; yet I said to my Guide, ‘Take my feeble pace, and I’ll follow Thee as fast as I can. Don’t outstretch me, I pray Thee.’ His fear that ‘I’se be ruined of this butchering trade, if I mun’t lie for a gain.’, but eventual experience that ‘I had been nought but beggary and poverty before; and now I began to thrive at my trade’ may well have something to say to us today. The image of ‘my Guide led me up another lane’ appeals to me, especially as it is only one lane at a time – there is no compulsion to achieve everything at once. I’m trying to apply this to leading a more sustainable life, changing one thing at a time, however small. One step at a time towards the goal.
I admit that I still don’t understand all of the passage, especially the reference to ‘creep under the hedges’, though I have gained some insight into ‘a watering’ which is a phrase used by other Friends of that time about some meetings. It remains my personal favourite passage from Quaker Faith and Practice.