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In presenting to my young friends and the public at large, a new edition of the “ Observations," I wish to make a few remarks on its contents, as well as on some subjects with which they are connected, and which I deem to be of vital importance to the welfare of our religious body.
First, with respect to the language and style of the volume—I have endeavoured to simplify many of the sentences, and have exchanged a number of long words of foreign origin, for others which are at once shorter and plainer. The experience of more than ten years, since the work was first published, has convinced me of the importance of aiming, as far as possible, at a simple style, that the meaning of the writer may be clear to all men ; and especially to a large class of readers, who have not enjoyed the opportunity of much mental cultivation, but to whom religious truth, in all its branches, is, I trust, increasingly precious.
Frequent complaints having been made to me of the title of the work, I have ventured in the present edition to take the somewhat unusual step of changing it; and for the term “Peculiarities,” in the title page, I have substituted “Distinguishing Views and Practices."
The reader will observe that in the present edition, I have added some new passages and notes, which I have marked with two asterisks. These are the results of farther reflection and observation; and will, I trust, be found to strengthen the several arguments to which they are attached. I propose also to add, as an appendix to the volume, a brief essay on one part of our system, which, although it is of considerable importance, I have not hitherto noticed-I mean the nature, origin, and effect, of our Christian Discipline. I am persuaded that the more diligently our young friends inquire into the subject, the more they will find cause to believe, that our plan of discipline was very wisely formed, and that its provisions, in their scope and intention, truly agree with the order of the gospel. May they be led to place a right value on its wholesome checks, and to account the protection which it affords them, one of their happiest privileges !
In confining my attention, in the present work, chiefly to those points in religion, by which Friends are distinguished from other bodies of true Christian believers, nothing can be farther from me than any
desire to throw into the shade those fundamental doctrines, in which all such believers agree. To unfold these doctrines, and to prove their truth from Scripture, is, in some other works,* the sole object which I have pursued; and to maintain them fully and freely (as ability is afforded) in the presence of all men, I deem to be both my first duty, and my dearest right. When we reflect on the unutterable importance of eternity, on the value of never-dying souls, on the pains of hell, and on the joys of heaven, we cannot deny that to dwell on essential, saving, truth, is the main business of every religious teacher.
Dearly ought we to prize the many noble testimonies which have been borne by the Society of Friends, not only in the present day, but from its earliest rise, to the truth and importance of the doctrines of the New Testament. Christ has been the centre around which they have delighted to gather; and those who have quitted that centre have never failed to lose, in a spiritual sense at least, their unity with the body.
Since the Holy Scriptures contain a divinely authorized standard of revealed truth, and are fully sufficient for their purpose, Friends
* The present edition, in octavo, will bind up with the second edition of the Essays, and the second edition of the Biblical Notes; also with a pamphlet entitled “Terms of Union." It is my intention to republish several minor works in another octavo volume.
have always refused to bind themselves by any other written creed. Nevertheless, in every period of the Society's history, the acknowledged faith of the body has been sound and unquestionable. Repeatedly have they confessed their belief in one ever-living God, all-wise, almighty, omnipresent, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, holy, just, true, and merciful; in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the dead; in the eternity of future rewards and punishments; in the mysterious union and distinction of the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ; in his incarnation and birth of the virgin Mary; in his sinless human nature; in his meritorious obedience, sufferings, and death; in his resurrection and ascension ; in his supreme and universal reign; in his spiritual presence with his people; and in his glorious future coming to judge the quick and the dead.
They are well aware of the fatal effects of the transgression of our first parents—that man is a fallen creature, by nature the child of wrath, prone to iniquity, and absolutely incapable of true holiness and happiness, unless he be born again of the Spirit ; and they have been among the foremost to proclaim the power and devices of Satan, our tempter and accuser, who rules, in every age of the world, over the children of disobedience.
They know that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," and have often declared in the most explicit manner, that it is only through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us on the cross, that our “ iniquity is forgiven,” and our “ sin covered.” This awful sacrifice they have always regarded as ordained in the eternal counsels of the Father, and as the highest proof both of his holiness and his love; and boldly have they asserted that it was made for all men ; Christ was “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.”
I conceive that the views of our Society on this subject are remarkably comprehensive, and not more comprehensive than just. Not only have Friends at all times ascribed the forgiveness of sin to the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus; but they have set forth the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the very centre of all the virtue and all the hopes of our species. They have always believed that according to the gracious purposes of God our Father, this sacrifice (ordained before the foundation of the world, and accomplished in due season) was the means of procuring for
fallen man the gift of the Holy Spirit; and that CHRIST HIMSELF, manifested by his Spirit in the heart, is that “true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Our frequent declaration of the Christian principle, that without holiness none can see the Lord, or enter into his kingdom, has led some persons to imagine that our Society underrates the importance and necessity of faith. Yet there is probably no truth on which Friends have been more accustomed to insist, than the Scripture doctrine, that the “just shall live by faith.” They freely acknowledge that faith is the appointed instrument of man's salvation; and that as is the light bestowed upon us, so is the belief required of us. They rejoice in the assurance of Scripture, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them ;”” that “we are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,"> and that whosoever believeth in the Son of God, shall “not perish,” but shall have everlasting life.”
But Friends have not failed to declare their sentiment, that the faith by which we are saved, is not the result of learning, or the mere conviction of the human understanding, but a divine gift-an effect of the Spirit—infallibly productive of a life of righteousness as a tree produces its natural fruit. Neither do they allow that even a saving faith is anything more than the instrument of our justification--the hand by which the penitent sinner, made sensible of the terrors of the law, and turned away from his iniquities, is enabled to put on the robe of the righteousness of Christ. They ever held that, under the pardoning love of the Father, the procuring cause of our acceptance with God, and of our final salvation, is CHRIST ALONE, received in the heart of the believer as the sole object of his confidence, and ruling there by his Spirit.*
We plainly learn from Scripture that the Mosaic priesthood, with all its ceremonial rites, was in point of authority abolished by the death of Christ; and that, under the dispensation of the gospel, the glorified Jesus alone is invested with the sacerdotal office. Not only has he offered once for all a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, but now he “ appears in the presence of God for us,” pleads our cause, rebukes our enemy, and intercedes with the Father, on our behalf. He is the “minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man;”” and “in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." Now I conceive that among the various classes of true Christians, there are none who have more faithfully maintained these truths than the Society of Friends. It has always been with them a point of leading importance, that Christ is the only High Priest of our profession; the sole mediator between God and man, on whom the Christian believer may place his reliance. How often has it been proclaimed within our borders, that Christ“ is able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by him; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them;" and that “such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens !""
? Rom. iii. 24.
8 John. iii. 16, 36.
4 Rom. iv, 25;
1 2 Cor. v. 19. Gal. iv, 19.
It was part of the office of the high priest of the Israelites, to conduct the worship of the people, to preside over their religious assemblies, and to bless them in the name of the Lord. Friends have always been strongly attached to the corresponding features in the priesthood of our Redeemer. They delight in the assurance that he still condescends to preside over the solemn meetings of Christian believers, to hallow their worship, and to spread over them the peaceful canopy of his presence. Long have they been accustomed to realize that ancient prophecy—“In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty to the residue of his people; and for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.'
What a noble view did our forefathers take of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit! They were bold to assert that as, on the one hand, Christ died for all men, so on the other, all are made partakers of a measure of the light, life, power, and spirit, of the Redeemer of men—that there is not a man born into the world who has not his day of visitation that a law is written with the finger of God, on the hearts of all men, by which, in various degrees, the natural conscience is enlightened and guided.
They knew indeed that this light is often very faint in the chil
1 Heb. viii. 2.
2 Heb. ii. 18.
4 Isa, xxviii. 5, 6.
3 Heb. vii. 25, 26.