« PreviousContinue »
handmaidens, should prophesy;1 that all the children of Zion should be taught of the Lord, and that great should be their peace; that Jesus exalted very high, "should sprinkle many nations;" that he should lead captivity captive, and receive gifts for men, even for the rebellious; that he should sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and purify the sons of Levi; that he should babtize his followers with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and thoroughly cleanse them from sin; that he should send the Comforter unto them from the Father, and that the Father should send the same Comforter in the name of Christ ;-that the Holy Spirit should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; that he should testify of Christ; that he should receive of the things of Christ, and show them to his disciples;1o that he should teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance whatsoever Christ has said unto them; that he should be in them, and dwell in them;12 that he should show them things to come;13 finally, that he should GUIDE THEM INTO ALL TRUTH.13
Paul bears testimony to the fulfilment of these predictions when he declares, in reference to the gospel dispensation, that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus had made him free from the law of sin and death;" that as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God;15 that Christians are " the temple of the Holy Ghost" which is in them, which they "have of God;" and that they are "baptized by one Spirit into one body;"""-Peter, when he writes of the baptism which now saves us, and of the Spirit of glory and of God resting on believers ;"-James, when he tells us of the pure and peaceable wisdom which cometh from above;20-and John, when he proclaims the sovereign efficacy of the Lord's anointing, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things . . . . . the anointing which ye have received of him (i. e. of Christ) abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things,
1 Joel ii. 28. 29.
4 Ps. lxviii. 18.
7 John xiv. 26; xv. 26.
10 John xvi. 14.
13 John xvi. 13.
16 1 Cor. vi. 19. 19 1 Pet. iv. 14.
2 Isa. liv. 13.
5 Mal. iii. 3.
8 John xvi. 8.
11 John xiv. 26.
20 James iii. 17.
3 Isa. lii. 15.
6 Mat. iii. 11.
9 John xv. 26.
12 John xiv. 17. 15 Rom. viii. 14. 18 1 Pet. iii. 21.
and is truth and no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him."
There is probably no body of Christians by whom these precious truths have been more clearly advanced, than by the Society of Friends. It has always appeared to them, that the free and immediate teaching of the Spirit of Christ is the main characteristic of that new covenant which was established in the world by his propitiatory death. It seems, indeed, to have been the chief business. intrusted to them, in the church of Christ, to wean men from an undue reliance on an outward ministry, and from all merely human systems in religion, and to lead them to the feet of Jesus. Rightly have they deemed it to be the highest privilege of the Christian believer to draw near to the Father of mercies, through his beloved Son, to wait on God in the silence of all flesh, and to be guided and governed, in ALL THINGS, by his Holy Spirit.
It is under this guidance, as Friends have always believed, that the disciples of Jesus are enabled to apply to particular occasions, the general rules of God's law; and that even in temporal matters which, more or less, involve their spiritual interest, they may be led along in a path of safety. Christ, their divine teacher, cannot be removed into a corner-his light shines in their consciences. If they patiently wait upon him, and pray for his spirit, he will, from time to time, arise for their help; he will guide them with his "counsel," and make his "way" straight before their face.
But if this be true respecting our common course of life and duty, who shall deny that it is also true in relation to the particular services into which we may be called for the benefit of the church? It is on scriptural authority, that Friends have always asserted, that no voice can lawfully call into these services, but the voice of the Holy Spirit; and that nothing can truly qualify for the performance of them, but the Lord's anointing.
I wish to take the present opportunity of expressing my continued conviction of the immense importance of this Christian principle, which appears to me to have been far too much neglected in the professing church of Christ. I am, indeed, well aware that we have no reason in the present day to expect either miracles, or those extraordinary measures of inspiration, which were bestowed
1 1 John ii. 20—27.
on the apostles; for these probably have already served their purpose in the establishment of Christianity in the world. But we are surely authorized in expecting the enlivening visitations of an omnipresent Saviour, the perceptible guidance of his Spirit in the path of duty, and the pouring forth of that divine influence, which can alone prepare us for the Lord's service, and rightly suggest and direct the ministry of the gospel.
Through the efficacy of this principle our society first arose; and if we would continue as a people, to live and grow in the truth, we must adhere to it with unalterable firmness. "The anointing" will yet do wonders for us, if we are but faithful to its monitions, and submissive to the various crosses and mortifications into which it leads.
Nor are we left without an adequate motive to such a course of faithfulness and obedience. The love of Christ constraineth us; we are bound by every tie of duty, honour, and gratitude, to devote ourselves to the service of that adorable Redeemer, whose we are, because he has bought us with his own blood.
Here I must be allowed to express my belief that an humble reliance on the teaching of the Spirit, and a diligent use of the sacred Scriptures, were the means of leading our forefathers into all those distinguishing views and practices which are described in the present volume. If this be true-and we have surely abundant reason for believing it to be so-what ought to be our course?
Shall we turn our backs on our high Christian views of the spirituality of true worship? Shall we return to ceremonial and figurative rites? Shall we make way in our meetings for a ministry, which one man may prepare, and another appoint? Shall we cease from our testimony against all pecuniary corruption in the church? Shall we forget the sweetness and solemnity of true silence? Shall we surrender our Saviour's standard of the yea and the nay, and no longer refuse an oath when expediency is supposed to demand it? Shall we, after all our peaceable professions, recur to the warfare of the world? Shall we forsake our simplicity in dress and language, and break down a hedge which so usefully protects many of our beloved young people from the vanities of the world? In short, shall we renounce that unbending adherence to the rule of right, by which our forefathers were distinguished? B
Shall we exchange a child-like obedience to the Shepherd's voice, for the mind which is ever ready to criticise and to argue?
If such, through the wiles of Satan, should be our course, how awful and affecting must be the consequence! The gracious purposes for which we were raised up to be a people, will be frustrated through our want of faithfulness; and by forsaking our own place and sphere of duty in the fold of Christ, it is but too probable that we may, in the end, fall from Christ himself, and become wanderers in the barren wastes of an empty profession. But if, on the contrary, we are bold in the Lord to answer these questions in the negative-if we resign ourselves, through every loss and cross, to the disposal of our Holy Head, and diligently endeavour to "keep" all his "testimonies;" if we resolve to follow the Lord's Spirit in all things—we may reverently believe that he will preserve us unhurt. The humble hope may then arise, that his own eternal power will again be known to abound among us; and that many living witnesses to the truth will yet be raised up, within our borders, to the praise of his glorious name.
In conclusion, I would express an earnest desire that we may be enabled more and more to commend our religious Society, in secret and fervent prayer to God. Let us pray that we may be taught of him, to open our hearts and understandings to the whole truth as it is in Jesus-that we may stand with immoveable steadfastness on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone-and that on this foundation we may be built up a spiritual temple, which shall ever bear the inscription of HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD.
ON THE GROUNDS OF RELIGIOUS UNION WHICH SUBSIST AMONG
To a series of observations on the particular tenets and peculiar religious advantages (as I deem them) of a comparatively small body of persons, I know of no more salutary introduction than a survey of those grounds of union in matters of religion which subsist, first, among mankind in general; and secondly, among the true members of the visible church of Christ. Such a survey will, I trust, produce the effect of warming our hearts with the love of our neighbour, and will prepare us for a calm and charitable discussion of those particulars which belong, more or less exclusively, to our own religious situation in the world and in the church.
I. Let us, then, in the first place, endeavour to form some estimate of the breadth of that foundation in religion, on which we are standing in common with mankind in general. God is the Creator and merciful Father of us all. Christ died for us all. A measure of the influence of the Holy Spirit enlightens and, if obeyed, would save us all. Upon these successive positions I will venture to offer a few remarks, and will adduce a selection of scriptural declarations, by which they appear to me to be severally established.
1. That God, to whom alone can be ascribed the existence of the universe, and of every thing which it contains "From whom, and through whom, and unto whom, are all things"-is the Creator of all men, is a point which none but atheists deny, and which I shall therefore take for granted. Now, it is expressly asserted in Scrip