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Aristotle, and Cicero, on the one hand, and upon the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, on the other.

The contrast between the mental condition of the wretched idolaters of modern times, and that of Christians who are acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, is perhaps still more palpable. In contemplating these differences, we ought always to remember, that God deals with all his rational children after a rule of perfect equity; and that in exact proportion to the measure of light be stowed upon them, is their moral responsibility. Where the law of God shines very faintly, the guilt of transgressing it is, in the nature of things, comparatively small. On the other hand, how awful will be our condition, if we neglect or despise the noontide ray, with which we are so mercifully blessed in the gospel of our Redeemer! The law of Christ is preeminently a law of love; let us then be willing diligently to labour for the diffusion of the gospel among our fellow-men; and let us at the same time, dearly prize our own privileges. Let us be diligent in the daily perusal of the Holy Scriptures. Let us come to Christ in simple faith, not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but for those more abundant measures of the light and influence of the Comforter, as they are bestowed on believers, which shall guide us into all truth, and sanctify us wholly “in body, soul, and spirit !”

With these precautions, we need fear no danger in the Christian doctrine of universal light and grace. On the contrary, a hearty acceptance of it will be one important means of enlarging our hearts and understandings, and of animating and increasing our love both to God and man. Happy shall we be, if we individually discover, from our own experience, the benefit and importance of this precious truth!




The members of the true visible church of Christ, some of whose common religious privileges have now been described, are divided, as the reader cannot fail to know, into a variety of particular societies. United as they are in the fundamental principles of "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” these societies are distinguished from one another by different and sometimes even opposite views and practices, in connexion with several particulars in religion, of a less essential character.'

When we consider the infirmity and deceitfulness of the heart of man, and remember how often the power of habit and prejudice is found to interfere with a just and enlightened apprehension of truth, it is no matter of wonder that such a result should have taken place. Nor ought we, in tracing the causes of these differences, by any means to forget that, on many points of a merely secondary naturethose particularly which relate to modes of worship and of church government,—there is to be found, in the divinely authorized records of the Christian revelation, very little of precise direction; and thus is there obviously left, in reference to such points, a considerable scope for the formation of different views.

1 I am well aware that, in the various societies of professing Christians, many persons are necessarily included, who cannot, on any sound scriptural principle, be considered members of the true visible church of Christ. To such nominal professors of religion, under whatever denomination they may be ranged, I am not now alluding; and I must, in a particular manner, request my reader to observe that, in treating of the Society of Friends, as forming a part of that true church, my views are directed only to those persons, of our peculiar profession, who are really living under the influence of vital religion.

While indeed these differences among the servants of the same divine Master, afford many humbling proofs of weakness and imperfection, and, in some instances, of degeneracy from the strength and purity of truth, we ought to acknowledge that they are, in some respects, overruled for good. The existence of different opinions, respecting minor points, entails on us the necessity of a careful selection of our own particular course, and thus operates indirectly as a stimulus, by which we are induced to bestow a closer attention on religion in general. Such a difference of sentiment brings with it, moreover, a course of moral discipline: for many occasions arise from this source, which call for the exercise of Christian charity-of mutual liberality, meekness, and forbearance: nor is it unreasonable to suppose that, as we rightly avail ourselves of this discipline, it will be one means of preparing us for a perfect unanimity in a better state of being. Lastly, while a reasonable hope may be entertained that, as the church militant proceeds in her appointed career, a gradual, yet certain, advancement will take place toward a state of greater unity and simplicity, yet it can scarcely be denied that, in that variety of administration, through which the saving principles of religion are for the present permitted to pass, there is much of a real adaptation to a corresponding variety of mental condition. Well, therefore, may we bow with thankfulness before that infinite and unsearchable Being, who, in all our weakness, follows us with his love, and who, through the diversified mediums of religion, to which the several classes of true Christians are respectively accustomed, is still pleased to reveal to them all the same crucified Redeemer, and to direct their footsteps into one path of obedience, holiness, and peace.

The particular sentiments and practices which distinguish the different classes of true Christians, may be denominated religious peculiarities:' and, before I proceed to the discussion of those which distinguish the Society of Friends, I would invite the candid attention of the reader to two excellent rules, laid down by the apostle Paul, on the subject of somewhat similar distinctions in matters of religion.

i The term, religious peculiarities, has been adopted for the sake of convenience and perspicuity; and I conceive it to be accurately descriptive of those opinions and customs which distinguish, from other parts of the church, any one community of Christians. It is far from my intention, by the use of such a term, to convey the idea that such distinctions are of little practical consequence. With regard to the religious peculiarities of Friends, it is the very object of the present work to evince their importance, and to show their real connexion with the fundamental principles of the Gospel of Christ.

The first of these rules enjoins that Christians, united as they are in the great fundamentals of doctrine and practice, should abstain from judging or condemning one another on account of their minor differences. “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's serTant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”l

The differences of opinion and conduct, to which Paul was here alluding, were indeed of less magnitude, and related to matters of less practical importance, than many of those which now exist within the more extended borders of the church of Christ; but whatever change may have taken place in this respect in the circumstances of Christians, it is plain that the apostle's principle of mutual liberality still holds good. While in our various allotments within the church we are severally endeavouring to “live unto the Lord,” it is our unquestionable duty to refrain from accusing and condemning each other. Had this principle been uniformly observed among those who call themselves Christians, where would have been the vexatious disputes, the polemical severity, and, above all, the cruel persecutions, which have retarded the progress, and disgraced the profession, of a pure and peaceable religion.

The apostle's second rule, respecting the different views maintained by Christians in his own time, is applicable, with an increased degree of force, to those more important religious peculiarities, by which in the present day the church is divided into classes. “Let every man,” says he, “be fully persuaded in his own mind”—a rule to which may be added his emphatic remark, “happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." In order to obtain that “full persuasion” to which we are thus exhorted, it is plainly necessary for us to comply with another precept of the same inspired writer—" prove all things.” It will not be disputed by persons of good sense, candour, and liberality, that it is very generally desirable for Christians, who are arrived at

1 Rom. xiv. 3, 4.

31 Thess. v. 21.

2 Rom. xiv. 5, 22.


of sound discretion, to prove those peculiar religious principles in which they have been educated—to examine the foundation on which they rest—to try them by the test of Scripture and experience—and, more especially, with all humility and devotion of heart, to seek the counsel of God respecting them. Such a course seems to be prescribed, not only by the rule already cited, but by the exhortation of the apostle Peter : “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;"" an exhortation which coincides with the injunction of Paul: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

."? This careful and devout examination might, in various instances, lead to the discarding of views and practices which are useless and irrelevant, and which have no favourable influence in promoting the cause of vital and practical religion. On the other hand, should any Christian be led, by such a proving of his peculiar principles, to a full persuasion" that, being founded on the law of God, they are calculated to edify himself, and to promote the spiritual welfare of the church in general, it becomes him again to obey the dictate of the apostle, and to "hold fast that which is good.3

Having premised these general remarks, I shall proceed, in pursuance of my main object, to apply them to the religious peculiarities of that society of Christians, of which I am myself a member.

There are, I believe, few persons accustomed to a comprehensive view of the militant church, and of the course which true religion is taking among mankind, who will be disposed to deny that the situation occupied in the body by the Society of Friends, is one of considerable importance to the cause of righteousness. My own observation has indeed led me to believe, that there are some spirituallyminded persons, not immediately connected with Friends, who go still farther ; and who even rejoice in the consideration that, among the various classes of the Christian church, there is numbered one fraternity who bear a plain and decisive testimony against warfare in all its forms—against oaths under any pretext and against all hiring or paying of the ministers of the Gospel: a fraternity, whose practice and history afford a sufficient evidence that God may be acceptably and profitably worshipped without the intervention of a

1 2 Pet. i. 5.

21 Cor. xiv. 20.

31 Thess. v. 21.

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