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the saving use of them: but that this may be resisted and rejected in both, in which then God is said to be resisted and pressed down, and Christ to be again crucified and put to open shame, in and among men: and to those who thus resist and refuse him he becomes their condemnation.” *
Modern Quakerism has sadly diluted and perverted this cardinal principle of the ancient faith. In such books as J. J. Gurney's Observations on the Religious Peculiarities of the Society of Friends, and The Doctrines of Friends, by Elisha Bates, as near an approach as possible is made to the system of Evangelicism in its Arminian form. It is true that a considerable tinge of the great original element still remains; but that element is employed rather to give a special character to another doctrinal scheme, than to constitute the one germinating seed of a scheme of its own. The true Quaker doctrine of the Inward Light occupied a position of supremacy with regard to all the other doctrines with which it might be connected. It was not regarded as auxiliary to them, but they were regarded as entirely subordinate to it. This may be illustrated by the bearing which that doctrine was supposed to have upon such a subject as justification. The Evangelical opinion is, that justification is solely the result of faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. But the Quaker opinion was, that justification is the result of a faithful obedience to the light of God within the soul. That opinion was held when the expiatory character of Christ's sacrifice was also believed in. It must be very clear that the orthodox belief in the one case, stood in a very different relation to the question of salvation from that which belongs to it in the other; and that the essential part of the religion which Quakerism acknowledged might be fully retained, though the necessities of Evangelicism were denied. Such, indeed, was the fact. Fox and Barclay were perhaps orthodox. Penn and Whitehead were heterodox. But neither the orthodoxy nor the heterodoxy assumed a very precise character. As to the orthodoxy, it would be easy to throw just suspicion upon its purity; and as to the heterodoxy, it is often of a very puzzling kind. We believe the truth to have been, that a great variety of dogmatic opinion existed among this people at the time of which we are speaking, but that it was not, even in individual instances, reduced to any thing like accurate definition. With the exception of the one ruling principle to which every thing else was held subservient, the religion cultivated was a matter of character rather than of doctrine.
As on the one hand we have to distinguish the great peculiarity of Quakerism from any influence auxiliary to the system of Evangelicism with which it has been identified, so on the other hand we have to distinguish it from the light of man's natural conscience which is sometimes confounded with it. This latter distinction is very plainly pointed out by Barclay:
“There are," says he, “ that lean to the doctrine of Socinus and Pelagius, who persuade themselves through mistake, and out of no ill design to injure us, as if this which we preach up were some natural power and faculty of the soul, and that we only differ in the wording of it, and not in the thing itself; whereas there can be no greater difference than is betwixt us in that matter. For we certainly know that this Light of which we speak is not only distinct,
* An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, by Robert Barclay, p. 107. Baskerville's edition, 1765.
but of a different nature from the soul of man and its faculties. . . . To the Light of Christ in the conscience, and not to man's natural conscience, it is that we continually commend men; this, not that, is it which we preach up and direct people to, as to a most certain guide unto life eternal."*
Again : “It wholly excludes the natural man from having any place or portion in his own salvation, by any acting, moving, or working of his own, until he be first quickened, raised up, and actuated by God's Spirit." +
We do not at all wonder that the preaching of this doctrine should have had the extraordinary influence which it exerted upon society. It not only accords exactly and fully with the revealed character of Christianity, but brings it, in its form of a revelation, to bear upon each individual. It reconciles the gospel of Christ with all the other religious manifestations which have been made to mankind, by presenting that gospel to us as identified with the universal operation of God upon the human heart. It exalts to its proper place of supreme importance the religious nature of man; and at the same time gives personal freedom to those who are actuated by it, as to all the religious exercises in which they engage. There is in Barclay's Apology a fine summary of the peculiar advantages dependent upon this doctrine, the whole of which we would extract if our space permitted us to do so. One portion of it, relating to what may be called the natural advantages of the case, those which arise from the agreement of that case with the principles of human nature,—we cannot forbear to quote:
“It wonderfully commends as well the certainty of the Christian Religion among infidels, as it manifests its own verity to all; in that it is confirmed and established by the experience of all men; seeing there was never yet a man found in any place of the earth, however barbarous and wild, but hath acknowledged that at some time or other, less or more, he hath found some what in his heart reproving him for some things evil which he hath done, threatening a certain horror if he continued in them, as also promising and communicating a certain peace and sweetness as he has given way to it, and not resisted it.
“It wonderfully sheweth the excellent wisdom of God, by which he hath made the means of salvation so universal and comprehensive, that it is not needful to recur to those miraculous and strange ways, seeing according to this most true doctrine, the Gospel reacheth all of whatsoever condition, age or nation.”I
An impressive instance of the ease and fulness with which this doctrine may be brought home to savage people, is recorded by Fox as having occurred to him when in North America.
“The governor with his wife," says he, “received us lovingly, but a doctor there would needs dispute with us. And truly his opposing us was of good service, giving occasion for the opening of many things to the people, concerning the Light and Spirit of God, which he denied to be in every one, and affirmed that it was not in the Indians. Whereupon I called an Indian to us, and asked him, whether or not, when he did lie, or do wrong to any one, there was not something in him that did reprove him for it?' He said, 'there was such a thing in him that did so reprove him, and he was ashamed when he had done wrong or spoken wrong. So we shamed the doctor before the governor and the people, insomuch that the poor man ran out so far, that at length he would not own the Scriptures."S * Barclay's Apology, pp. 117, 120.
† Ibid., p. 108. Ibid., p. 109.
♡ Fox's Journal, Vol. II. p. 172.
We can conceive of nothing more interesting than the scenes which would naturally be presented when this spiritual gospel first fell upon the ears of those whose previous condition prepared them to receive it. The authentic record of many such scenes is within reach ; but there is one that, above all the rest with which we are acquainted, touches the heart with a sense of beauty and power. At an early period of his ministry, George Fox became known to the family of Thomas Fell, a Judge of Assize, who resided at Swarthmore, near Ulverstone, in Westmoreland. Margaret, the wife of this gentleman, together with her children, made profession of Quakerism; and the Judge himself stood in very friendly relations to the Society, though he did not actually join it. After the death of her husband, Margaret Fell stood forth as one of the most zealous adherents of this persecuted sect, and in the course of time was married to Fox. As Sewell says of her, “ she was a woman of a noble endowment." She herself has given an account of her first introduction to the Quaker faith; and it is this account to which the special commendation we have just pronounced applies. It is as follows:
"In the year 1652, it pleased the Lord to draw him towards us ; 80 he came on from Sedbergh, and so to Westmoreland, as Firbank Chapel, where John Blakelin came with him; and so on to Preston, Grayrigg, Kendal, Underbarrow, Poobank, Cartmell and Stavely; and so on to Swarthmore, my dwellinghouse, whither he brought the blessed tidings of the everlasting
Gospel, which I, and many hundreds in these parts, have cause to praise the Lord for. My then husband, Thomas Fell, was not at home at that time, but gone the Welch circuit, being one of the judges of assize, and our house being a place open to entertain ministers and religious people at, one of George Fox's friends brought him hither, where he stayed all night. The next day being a lecture or a fastday, he went to Ulverstone steeple-house, but came not in till people were gathered; I and my children had been a long time there before. ` And when they were singing before the sermon, he came in; and when they had done singing, he stood up upon a seat or form and desired that he might have liberty to speak, and he that was in the pulpit said he might. And the first words that he spoke were as followeth: 'He is not a Jew that is one outward, neither is that circumcision which is outward; but he is a Jew that is one inward, and that is circumcision which is of the heart.' And so he went on, and said how that Christ was the Light of the world, and lighteth every man that cometh into the world, and that by this Light they might be gathered to God, &c. I stood up in my pew and wondered at his doctrine, for I had never heard such before. And then he went on and opened the Scriptures, and said, 'the Scriptures were the prophets' words, and Christ's and the apostles' words, and what, as they spoke, they enjoyed and possessed, and had it from the Lord; and said, then what had any to do with the Scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth. You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of light, and hast thou walked in the light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God ?' &c. This opened me so, that it cut me to the heart; and then I saw clearly we were all wrong. So I sat down in my pew again and cried bitterly; and I cried in my spirit to the Lord, 'We are all thieves—we are all thieves ! we have taken the Scriptures in words, and know nothing of them in ourselves.' So that served me, that I cannot well tell what he spake afterwards ; but he went on in claring against the false prophets and priests and deceivers of the people. And there was one John Sawrey, a justice of peace and a professor, that bid the churchwarden take him away, and he laid his hands on him several times, and took them off again and let him alone, and then after a while he gave over and came to our house again that night. And he spoke in the family amongst the servants, and they were all generally convinced, as William Caton, Thomas Salthouse, Mary Askew, Anne Clayton, and several other servants. And I was struck into such a sadness I knew not what to do, my husband being from home. I saw it was the truth, and I could not deny it; and I did as the apostle saith, I received the truth in the love of it,' and it was opened to me so clear that I had never a tittle in my heart against it; but I desired the Lord that I might be kept in it, and then I desired no greater portion.”*
This narrative is a piece of true spiritual painting, conceived in a spirit of sublime simplicity, which makes us feel even more than it enables us to see.
There are some natural effects of the doctrine we have endeavoured to describe which, as might be expected, have strongly marked the people who have made it the foundation doctrine of their religious faith.
One of these effects is, the habit of contemplation which it contributes to form. It leads directly to self-examination and meditation. It gives a peculiar constancy to these exercises. The man who lives under its influence has his mind turned inward in continual reflection upon itself
. Watchful and diligent inspection of what passes within the soul, and spiritual cultivation by which the growth of every seed of truth and goodness may be promoted,—these things become the customary practice. The whole character assumes a specific modification in consistency with that practice, and preserves this special feature in all the departments of life in which it may be displayed. “Mark and consider in silence, in lowliness of mind, and thou wilt hear the Lord speak unto thee in thy mind,” | was Fox's advice to his followers, and it is advice on an obedience to which their distinctive excellence has depended.
Another effect of the grand principle of Quaker belief is the rejection of rites and ceremonies and formal institutions which it produces. Sacraments, creeds, fixed rules, a settled ministry, and other outward modes of religious administration, were excluded from the community which was instituted upon its basis. This exclusion may have been defended by arguments relating to each of its separate points; but it is all really resolvable into the force exerted by the one conviction of the entire spirituality of Religion itself. We may think that this conviction was, in some of the respects to which we are referring, pressed beyond its legitimate application ; but that its tendency is in this direction, none can deny, and it would necessarily manifest that tendency in the marked external difference it created between the body it animated and those bodies by which it was renounced.
A third effect of the doctrine of the Inward Light is the separation from the world for which it presents the occasion. To dwell with God, by means of those acts of religious communion which a man conducts within his own heart, is, as society at present exists at least, to seek seclusion from mankind. It results in a relinquishment of many of the ordinary occupations of men, both as to business and pleasure. It is easy to carry this too far; and Quakerism has carried it too far. It • The Testimony of Margaret Fox. Fox's Journal, Vol. I. P.
lxi. + Fox's Journal, Vol. I. p. 135.
has, by so doing, rendered itself liable to the charge of the very formality which it professes to avoid. Dress, amusements, language, behaviour, have all been the subjects of characteristic regulation by it; and though we cannot refrain from smiling at some of the extravagant niceties which have thus been committed, we wish ever to remember that even the broad-brimmed hat and collarless coat are signs of a singularity which in some manner or other must belong to every one who “ will live godly in Christ Jesus.”
We should do injustice to Fox's character if we were not specially to mark the high moral qualities he possessed. He had his faults, it is true; but they did not relate to any deficiency in the strictest adherence to his own sense of right and duty. The principal fault attaching to him was an excess in the application of that persuasion of divine guidance under which he lived and acted. It led him to judge too severely of those who differed from him in opinion and practice, so that many of his reprobations stepped beyond the bounds of Christian charity. It led him also to regard the misfortunes and afflictions of his opponents as judicial visitations of God. It still farther led him to consider himself as the subject of miraculous interference on the part of the Almighty. These were infirmities which detract from the value of much that he said and did; but he nevertheless, in spite of them, perfectly preserved the purity and rectitude of his own feeling and conduct. Where, for instance, we cannot at all coincide with the sentences he passes upon men with whom he had to do, we are quite conscious that nothing of the nature of personal resentment entered into those sentences.
Two moral qualifications he seems to have possessed in a very high degree-integrity and disinterestedness.
His integrity, his sense of truth and justice and equity, was altogether unimpeachable. His bitterest enemies, even when engaged in acts of persecution toward him, acknowledged it, and depended upon it for the farther pursuit of their enmity. When he was a prisoner in Lancaster Castle in the year 1660, an order came down from Chas. II. for his removal to London. He thus relates the result:
“ It was long before the sheriff would yield to remove me to London unless I would seal a bond to him, and bear their charges; which I still refused to do. Then they consulted how to convey me up, and first concluded to send up a party of horse with me. I told them, if I were such a man as they had represented me to be, they had need send a troop, or two of horse to guard me.' When they considered what a charge it would be to them to send up a party of horse with me, they altered their purpose, and concluded to send me up guarded only by the gaoler and some baliffs. But, upon further consideration, they found that would be a great charge to them also, and therefore sent for me to the gaoler's house, and told me, if I would put in bail that I would be in London such a day of the term, I should have leave to go up with some of my own friends. I told them I would neither put in bail nor give one piece of silver to the gaoler; for I was an innocent man, and they had imprisoned me wrongfully, and laid a false charge upon me. Nevertheless, I said, if they would let me go up with one or two of my friends to bear me company, I might go up, and be in London such a day, if the Lord should permit; and if they desired it, I, or any of my friends that went with me, would carry up their charge against myself. At last, when they saw they could do no otherwise with me, the sheriff yielded, consenting that I should come up with some of my friends, without any other engagement than my