Page images

by scriptural rules. If they contradicted the apostle's doctrines, the spirits were false. How perfectly do you reverse this order, and instead of trying the spirits by the scriptures, you try the scriptures by the spirit!



Saturday, May 25, 1821.


In my last I considered your doctrine of Internal Light, and showed its inconsistency with the inspiration of the Bible, that it was contrary to the example of Christ, and the command of the apostle John. Let me now offer a few further arguments for your consideration.

4. You expose your people to the delusions of an evil heart. I put this simple question, How shall a man know when he has the spirit? I can conceive of but two ways, from consciousness alone, or a comparison of our feelings with the scriptures. If the latter, you make the Bible your standard, contrary to your doctrine: if the former, if you permit a man to judge in himself, without reference to scripture, when he has the spirit, you leave every man at the mercy of his worst enemy, and under the guidance of deceitfulness itself. For says the prophet, Jerem. xvii. 9: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it." And is this the infallible standard by which we are to estimate truth! (You would have every man make conscience a higher guide than the word of truth.) You make every thing of conscience, set it up as an infallible guide, an unerring counsellor. Now, we admit conscience is good, as far as it goes, but unless guided by scripture, it will in many points go wrong; scripture speaks of an "evil conscience," of persons whose "mind and conscience were defiled." The apostle Paul says he lived in all good conscience," while in his unregenerate state, and that he verily thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth:" Acts xxvi. 9. for which very acts he afterwards condemned himself as a blasphemer, persecutor and the chief of sinners: 1 Timothy i. 13, 15. Have we any hint that the scriptures are so “deceitful, defiled," deceptive as this standard of yours! Can you wonder then that we prefer trusting, where the Lord and his apostles trusted, to the firm word of prophecy," rather than the ignis fatuus of our own imaginations? The letter of scripture is plain, the heart is more delusive than a dream, That a way may


seem to us right and yet prove wrong is evident from Prov. xvi. 25: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." How then shall any one know whether a way which seems right, is right! You have no standard, we have; we go to the letter of scripture. He that trusts to any light independent of, or contrary to scripture, trusts to his own heart, and he who trusts his own heart is a fool." Prov. xxviii. 26.

5. Scripture proposes itself as our standard, Isaiah viii. 19. 20: "And when they shall say unto you seek unto them that have familiar spirits, should not a people seek unto their God? To the Law and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them.” Can any direction be more plain? The law and the testimony are to be our guide, and men professing divine light are to be tried by the plain letter of the law. If they contradict the scriptures, there is no light in them; their light is darkness. Thus the apostle commends the Bereans, because they searched, (what? internal light? no,) the sacred scriptures whether the things which he preached, were so," Acts xvii. 11. And the direction of our Lord, to the Jews was, not to consult some internal luminary, but search the "sacred scriptures."


Arguments on this head might be multiplied to an indefinite extent; but conciseness is my object. To all this you will object.

Obj. 1"The sacred scriptures are never called the word of God." Ans. It is of little consequence what they are called, provided they represent his mind and will. But that they are called the word of God, instead of more, I will rest on two passages to prove, 1. Thess. ii. 13: "We thank God, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as the word of God.” Here the "word of God" means something which might be heard, and is put in opposition to the word of men. The other is still more plain, Col. iii. 16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly," i. e. on your construction, let the Christ of Christ dwell richly in you! But as I said before, the rejection of the name is nothing, did it not lead to the rejection of the thing.

Obj. 2. "Christ is the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." True; he giveth to each, all the light he has; but where is it said, how much? and where that he hath furnished each with a guide superior to the Bible? Those regions where the Bible is not known, are called "the dark places of the earth," the "places where no vision is."

Obj. 3. "The sacred Scriptures have been corrupted by transmission." Ans. This is a bold assertion, which you are bound to prove. But before you undertake the task, remember,


1. That in so doing you reflect on Providence, as if after taking pains to give, he would not take care to preserve. He hath said, "not a jot or tittle of his law shall fail." Now suppose a word clause in a prophecy be altered, it may falsify the whole. 2. We have Manuscripts of the Bible, known by the form of the letter and manner of writing, to be 14 or 1600 years old, which in every material respect tally with our translation. Such are the Alexandrine Manuscript in the Bristish Museum, the Codex Beza, Cambridge, the Codex Ephraim, Paris, and the Vatican at Rome, supposed to have been written before the fifth century.

3. We have versions and translations into the various languages of the earth, made soon after the christian era, all of which agree with our English version. The Syriac version was made (say learned men) at the close of the first, or commencement of the second century. Now these are so many unequivocal proofs that we have the sacred books as they were first penned. But, lest you should say, who knows whether all these agree: I add,

4. The different versions and manuscripts have been collated and compared, and the extent of the "various readings" ascertained. That the sacred scriptures were corrupted, and that different nations had different Bibles was a very popular infidel objection urged during the last century. To meet the objection and to compose the anxiety of timid christians, learned men travelled over Europe and throughout christendom, comparing the various Manuscripts in all their parts. Kennicott collated 594 Manuscripts. De Rossi, 927 Manuscripts and printed copies. Dr. Mill labored 30 years, and ascertained 30,000 various readings. Wetstein afterwards discovered more than a million! But to what did they amount? to nothing! The whole resulted in the blessed discovery that the objection was false, that God had most remarkably preserved the purity of his word, suffering no material change to be effected, and only permitting such changes of letters and synonimous particles, and such other unimportant errors as could not have been prevented without a constant miracle.

Since then the sacred scriptures were given by inspiration of God-since Christ made them the subject of constant appealand the apostle brings all spirits to their bar-since they assume for themselves the judgment seat-since all other guides are deceitful and vain-and since we have no reason to doubt we have them as at first given by the spirit of God, we conclude, to reject, reduce, or alter any part, or to make the whole subordinate to some other standard, is unreasonable, incorrect and dangerons.


Seventh-day, s mo. 26, 18t



I OBSERVE in the FIFTH number of the "Christian Repository," that a correspondent has commenced a series of addresses to the Religious Society of Friends. As it is important that an author should have a clear understanding of his subject, in order to be useful to those whom he wishes to instruct; and as " PAUL" professes to be a lover of truth," I entertain a hope that I may be able to give him some information, that may add materially to his stock of knowledge, relating to that people, and perhaps save him the trouble of much further inquiry. Notwithstanding his first address bears the unkindly face of a challenge, and his attitude is that of a man "strongly armed" for battle, yet it is not my intention to enter with him into the field of Religious Controversy; for though he may "not fear it," yet I confess I do. I have cherished from my youth up, a kindly feeling towards my fellow professors of the Christian name, under the various religious denominations which distinguish them, and I am afraid of controversy, because in its course it often, if not always enlists those passions which militate against charity, without which, all our professions, and even our other virtues are as the APOSTLE Paul affirms, but as "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." My object is to state a few facts, and to make such observations as naturally arise out of the subject, and then to leave the candid and dispassionate enquirer to make such reflections as the statements may suggest.

The first observation in his preliminary essay, that claims particular attention is, "our careful absence from the religious assemblies of all other denominations."

Whether this feature of the Society of Friends is peculiar to them, I cannot say. I presume that most christian professors attend their own places of worship, and are consequently absent from the religious meetings of others. But there are two causes which I apprehend operate with us to produce this effect, which I will endeavour to explain: And

First. It is about 170 years since the Society of Friends were regularly organized as a religious body. They set out with a belief that the injunction of our Lord was binding on them, where he said to his disciples, Matthew x. 8: "freely ye have received, freely give." This plain command, standing in contradiction to no other precept of the same or equal authority, they consider as conclusive, and in conformity with it their ministers have ever preached without money and without price." They conceive that a mercenary ministry is unwarranted by the

precepts of the gospel, or the practice of the Apostles; that it is derogatory to the dignity of a christian minister; that it lessens the practical influence of the office, by the imputation of selfish views to those who receive pay for preaching; that it has a tendency to suppress reproof and other plain dealing towards those who pay, and begets a desire to please at the expense of truth; and finally, that it is subject to the grossest abuses, as the experience of ages abundantly demonstrates. It needs not that we be deeply read in ecclesiastical history, to discover proofs of this; almost every page of it gives some incontrovertible evidence of the fact. Let us cast our eyes on Europe, and look back through the gloomy vista of a few centuries. What a melancholy picture do the effects, produced by a hireling priesthood, present to the contemplative mind! and even at this day, in some parts of that country, what grievous burdens do this elass of people bind upon the shoulders of their christian brethren, which they will not raise a finger to lighten or unloose.

It is the connexion of pecuniary rewards with the ministry that has given rise to the word "Priestcraft," and other opprobrious terms which go to lessen the influence of the professed ministers of Christ, terms which would never have been invented, had they always imitated the noble example of the Apostle Paul, who, at Miletus, addressing those among whom he had laboured in the Gospel, told them in these memorable words, Acts xx. 33: "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel, yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord, how he said it is more blessed to give than to receive."

Under impressions produced by reflections such as these, the Society of Friends have believed that they could not consistently with their principles, and views of Scripture truth, countenance a mercenary ministry, even so far, as to attend the worship of those who employed it. It is not from a belief that there are no sincere and virtuous men in the ministry amongst them; it is not. from any personal dislike to these functionaries; it is not from any disrepect to our fellow prefessors of the Christian name; it is not from any shyness towards those who differ from us in opinion, that we do not join them in their forms of worship. We sincerely love and esteem those under whatever name, whose lives correspond with their profession, who evince by their conduct that in essential points they are not hearers only, but doers of the word.

Secondly. As God is equally present every where, the Society of Friends do not believe that the place of meeting for religious

« PreviousContinue »