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perceive that the young Friend, who submits to such restraints upon his language and personal appearance, is armed with an important defence against the temptations of the world? While he adheres to that simplicity of diction which marks the profession of a strict and spiritual religion, he cannot easily join in the loose ribaldry and obscene conversation of the idle and the dissolute; and, while he maintains in his apparel an entire plainness of appearance, his access will be very difficult to the haunts of folly, fashion, and dissipation. The language and dress which distinguish him will not only have the effect of discouraging others from any attempt to entice him into the vices of the world, but, by reminding him, from hour to hour, of the high profession which he is making, will be found to operate as a constant check upon himself, and thus will not fail to prove a useful barrier against those multiplied vanities and vices which abound among men.
III. Such being the practical effect of the peculiar plainness of Friends, I may now remark that, although it is not adopted by them on any principle of mere expediency, it is nevertheless useful and expedient. Nor is this utility confined to the experience of individuals; it extends to the society at large. Our plain language, manners, and dress, may be regarded as forming an external bulwark, by which Friends, considered as a religious community, are separated from the world, and, in some degree, defended from its influence. Did we differ from other Christians only in the maintenance of certain speculative views, such a bulwark would, perhaps be little needed. But this is not the true state of the case. The whole religious peculiarities of Friends consist in a series of testimonies, which they believe it to be their duty to bear, in their own conduct, against a variety of particular practices, affecting partly the worship of God, and partly his moral law, which are still prevalent not only among unregenerate men, but among sincere Christians. In thus running counter to many of the common customs, both of mankind at large, and of other Christian societies, and in upholding what we deem to be a higher and purer standard of action, it is plain that we have to tread a path of some difficulty, trial, and personal mortification ; and in order to a consistent walk in such a course, while our dependance must ever be chiefly placed on the power of the Lord's Spirit, we, nevertheless, need every outward assistance and defence which can be lawfully derived from our own principles. Such an assistance and such a defence are, undoubtedly, found in our peculiar plain
We well know, from experience, that, when any persons among us allow themselves to disuse the customary language, deportment, and dress of Friends, the effect very often produced is this—that they become negligent of our other testimonies, gradually depart from religious communion with us, and finally, perhaps, connect themselves with Christian societies of less strictness, or merge in the irreligious world. Instances of this description must be familiar to every one who has any intimate acquaintance with the circumstances and history of Friends. Now, there is much reason to believe that the causes which thus operate on individuals would, in the same manner, similarly affect the Society at large; and that, were we to sacrifice these protecting peculiarities, we should not long continue to maintain, in other respects, our true and appropriate place in the church of Christ. Not only would such a sacrifice of our minor scruples naturally introduce a relaxation respecting those major ones which arise out of the same root, but the line of demarcation, by which we are now so providentially surrounded, being removed, there would be little to prevent our becoining completely mixed up with general society. Thus should we be gradually subjected to an influence directly opposed to all our peculiar views; and, with our distinctness and singularity, as a religious body, might very probably be lost the high and conspicuous standard which it is now our privilege to uphold, respecting the Christian law of peace, and respecting the complete spirituality of the Gospel dispensation.
If, then, our young men and women are aware of the importance and excellency of that standard—if they have good reason to believe that our religious Society is raised up for the purpose of shewing forth certain practical truths, not yet fully embraced by Christians in general-let them not venture to break down that “ hedge round about us,” which not only affords a useful protection to themselves, but appears to be graciously provided by our heavenly Father, for the purpose of preserving us in our right place, and of facilitating the performance of our own duties, in his church universal. Nor will those distinguishing habits, which are thus useful in promoting our peculiar views, produce the slightest interruption in our harmony and unity with the serious members of other Christian communities. Experience amply proves the contrary to be the fact. 37
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The religious and consistent Friend is at peace with all the world, and is capable of a free communion of spirit with many who have little or no part in some of his sentiments. The more faithful we are in filling up that place in the body which has been assigned to us by the Great Head of the Church, the greater will be our capacity for a true brotherhood with all those persons who are building on the same foundation—with all who love, serve, and follow, the Lord Jesus Christ.
ADDENDUM TO CHAPTER XIL.
A. D. 1934.
During the ten years which have elapsed since the foregoing chapter was written, I have been furnished with abundant evidence, that the subject to which it relates, is by no means destitute of practical importance.
Many young people, whose situations expose them to a variety of dangers, have frankly confessed to me, that they find their plain dress and language a salutary defence against many temptations. Being known by their attire to be quakers, and being accustomed to the faithful use of the plain language to all men, they find a bar between themselves and the vanities and vices of the world, over which they cannot easily pass; and they are wise enough to disdain so useful an ally to virtue. On the contrary, the surrender of these peculiarities opens an easy access to unprofitable associations, to marriages out of the society, and to other compromises of our religious testimonies. Too often, indeed, has it been found a first step to grievous departures from the paths of rectitude and purity.
Knowing, as I do, the truth of these facts, I cannot do otherwise than mourn, when I observe our younger brethren and sisters who have been educated in the habits of Friends, throwing off the restraints of their childhood, and adopting, by degrees, the common dress and language of the world. Although such persons may en
deavour to pacify their consciences under the notion that our peculiar plainness is of small importance, I would affectionately enquire of them, whether this easy change works well in practice? Does it bring them nearer to their God and Saviour ? Does it tend to separate them from an evil world? Is it accompanied with increased diligence in the attendance of their religious meetings, or with greater fervency in private prayer ? Has it brought their souls into that peace which is ever found to be the reward of a patient bearing of the cross of Christ? If they know that the precise contrary of all these things is true, have they not great reason to pause in their course, to humble themselves before God, and to seek for a more entire conformity to his blessed will ?
I would encourage such of my young friends as are tempted to make this change for the worseas I am constrained to consider it —to scrutinize their motives. If the motive be an impatience of restraint, and a love of the world, there is too much reason to fear that tne change itself will be to them, an entrance at the “wide gate.” May no plausible pretences of our great adversary ever induce us to forget that " wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction !"
It is a miserable circumstance, when members of our society, who strictly adhere to plainness, are found to be negligent of the weightier matters of the law, "justice, mercy, and faith.” And equally lamentable is it, when persons under our profession assume one character at one time, and another at another; plain quakers at their meetings, and soon afterward, perhaps, without a vestige of quakerism—the gay companions of the gay—at some place of public amusement. But who can seriously entertain the opinion, that these instances of weakness and hypocrisy—these mere mockeries of truth-afford a valid pretext for our sacrificing one iota of our duty, as Christians and as Friends ?
In the education of children, it is of great importance that we should pursue a wise and enlightened course with regard to plainness. If there be an uncompromising strictness on this subject, without sound Christian instruction, and without the softening influence of piety on the part of parents, one extreme may easily produce another; and what is felt to be a yoke of bondage may often end in unrestrained liberty. But if, on the contrary, we humbly endeavour, both by word and example, to acquaint our children with the love of Christ, and with its constraining influence on the heart; and if we train them up in plainness as part of their duty toward him, we need not greatly fear their afterward departing from this narrow course.
There have, probably, been periods in the annals of our society, when the laying of an injudicious stress on these peculiarities was no uncommon error.
But the calm observer of facts may easily perceive, that, in the present day, our prevalent danger lies on the opposite side. Would that many parents among us, who earnestly desire the religious welfare of their children, but have adopted a lax standard in reference to these particulars, might be induced, with fervency of spirit, to seek of God, both counsel and strength, with regard to this branch of their duty. Were this their practice, I believe they would avoid the opening of a door for their families, which may prove an inlet to many dangers.
Here, however, I would address a few sentences to some of my young friends, who have not been brought up in plainness, but who are, nevertheless, sincerely attached to our principles, and are, as I believe, often visited with the day-spring from on high. If in moments of solemnity and divine favour, the inward Teacher whispers in their souls, that plainness of speech and apparel is a sacrifice required of them, I would beseech them not to reason against the Shepherd's voice. Rather let them follow that voice in faith, and they will not lose their reward. Timely obedience in a matter which, though called trifling, is of a very humbling nature, may introduce them to a degree of peace which they have not hitherto known, and will probably open their way to enlarged usefulness, as well as happiness in the church of Christ. It is dangerous for any of us to despise “the day of small things.” A chain graciously constructed by divine Providence, for important and desirable purposes, may be severed by the lapse of its smallest, as well as by that of its largest link.
It is worthy of remark, that although an alteration in dress, and the substitution of “thee and thou” for the plural pronoun, when addressed to an individual, appear to be sacrifices of little cost, there are few things which, in many tender minds, occasion a greater struggle. As is the smallness of the required sacrifice, so appears to be the greatness of their fear to offer it. But is it not Satan, the father of lies, who makes the path of duty, even in very little things, appear distressing and difficult? And would not the constraining