« הקודםהמשך »
New-Bedford, 12th Month 9, 1811.
SAMUEL ETHERIDGE, JUN.
Respected Friend, WE are authorized by the representative body of the Yearly Meeting of Friends for New England, who, as a standing committee, have the general care of whatever may arise affecting the society, during the intervals of that meeting, to request of thee, that in order to refute some of the gross misrepresentations of the Society of Friends, contained in Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, now republishing by thyself, thou wilt be so obliging as to annex to that work some extracts which we now forward to thee, together with a short Summary of our History, Doctrine, and Discipline, as printed in London, in the year 1800. We feel desirous, that the Summary should be added, in the hope, that future Historians, finding it in connexion with so celebrated a work, will be so candid as to give our own account of our principles, rather than to take the account from those who were wanting either in knowledge or liberality toward us.
15 The following corrections of the MISREPRESENTATIONs, principally of the Translator, of Mosheim, were written by gentlemen who had not all of them) seen the preceding Vindication of the Quakers, which was penned in Philadelphia. This will account for the repetition of the same things, which, in a few instances, appears.
OF MOSHEIM'S ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE
It is not to be wondered at, that Mosheim, in his Ecclesiastical History, should have said some things amiss, among the many things which he has said; and as his work is much read, and in general deservedly admired, his ill report extends further, and does more injury, than that of an inferior author. What degree of credit is to be given to that part, which treats of the Society called Quakers, will, I hope, appear from the following remarks; in making which, I wish to acquit him of ill will, and to allow for his want of personal acquaintance with his subject, and the strangeness with which the simplicity of a Friend must appear in the eye of a Lutheran.
His account of our origin, needlessly inserted in his history of the Arminians, wherein we are compared to a rank weed, springing up from the neglect of reason, may be passed over, as a rhetorical flourish, inserted to fill up the antithesis, or to serve as a foil to relieve the subject on which he was treating. But, when he makes us his more immediate theme, in whatever he is deficient, or whatever foreign matter he may have allowed himself to add, we have a right to expect, that in his assertions he be well founded and accurate. In the following passages, taken
from Maclaine's 8vo. English edit. of 1768, he appears to · me to be, either ill informed, inaccurate, or liable to a charge of malevolence, which it is not pleasant to bring against so learned and instructive an author. In page 29, line 2, the Quakers are said to have made use of their pre
* The following is taken from a small 12mo. vol. by Joseph Gurney Bevan ; entitled, “ A Refutation of some Modern Misrepresentations of ihe Society of Friends," &c. &c. Printed in London, in 1800.
tended inspiration to excite the "most vehement commotions in church and state." Now I appeal to the page of English history, and defy any man to show that in the state, any commotions were ever excited by these people, much less, if that were possible, through design. Whitelock, a member of parliament, and a circumstantial recorder of transactions at the time of which Mosheim treats, although he now and then mentions the Quakers, relates no commotion to which they gave rise. As to the church, it is possible, she might be troubled at seeing her authority disputed ; but as the avowed ground of all dissent is the apprehension of error in the establishment from which it separates, the Friends must be contented with the common lot of Reformers, as to the public opinion.
The next ill-founded, or unfounded, assertion of which I shall take notice, is in page 30, line 14, &c. where Mosheim confederates Barclay, Keith, and Fisher, into a triumvirate, in order to raise that beautiful fabric of our discipline, which he seems to think could never have arisen from what he calls the gross ignorance of Fox. As I may have future occasion to vindicate George Fox's memory from this and other aspersions, it will here only be necessary to seek for the authority on which Mosheim rests his assertions. As he cites none, and in citations he is generally liberal, it is not very unfair to suppose he had none; but as the discipline has been an object of admiration, and George Fox an object of contempt, it was difficult to believe that it had him for its author; and therefore not unnatural to ascribe it to others. Nevertheless, our own historical memoirs do not ascribe the establishment of the discipline to either of those three persons. If we understand by discipline, either the setting up of the monthly meetings, or the mode of proceeding in them, we have no records from which we can even infer that Barclay, Keith, and Fisher, had any share in it; or that it was not chiefly, if not wholly, brought about by the means of Fox. Indeed it is from his works alone, that we have any clear account of the business. He describes circumstantially his journeys through England, for the purpose of establishing monthly meetings. It was in 1667, the year in which Barclay, then nineteen years old, joined the Society; and whose youth, therefore, both as a man and a Friend, makes it improbable he should so soon be a colleague of George
Fox. As to Samuel Fisher, he died in 1665, in prison, where he had been about a year and a half; and of about the last four years of his life he was three years and a half in different prisons. *
As to the rules of the society, whoever will consult the printed collection of them, t will see that they have flowed from time to time from the yearly meeting itself; but much of the substance of them is to be found in Fox's epistles of 1668, and 1669, in the collection of them printed in 1698, when his memory was still fresh. Penn's account is dated 1694. Fox died in 1690.
The assertion, at page 42, line 20, that they never salute any person they meet by the way, is entirely false. False also is it, that they refuse to appear on behalf of their property before a civil tribunal. These circumstances are mentioned, untrue as they are, as proofs of an austere, stiff, proud, and formal spirit. The tame relinquishing of their property, and non-resistance of injury, are however ill adduced as a proof of stiffness; nor are the rustic simplicity of their apparel, and the frugality of their tables, mentioned just after, much better selected as instances of their pride. Such are the inconsistencies of writers who meddle with that which they do not thoroughly understand, or investi
One thing more is asserted respecting the elders, in these words; “It is well known that in some places these speakers, the ministers, show their discourses to the ruling elders, before they deliver them,” &c. Which the places are, is not mentioned ; but this I may say, that such a practice is not, as Mosheim says, “well known;" and, as one who hath been, for many years, intimately acquainted with the concerns of one large meeting, and much in the way of knowing the general practices of the body, and of those relating to ministers and elders in particular, I may add, that I never knew of any such practice. It may further be noted, that the story supposes our preachers to write their discourses; a thing entirely disapproved by the society, and repugnant to our principles.
With two more gross misrepresentations I intend to close this part of my remarks on Moshein. One is the account,
* Prefatory Epistle to Fisher's Works, by Ellis Hookes.
+ Extracts from the Minutes and Advices of the Yearly Meeting, from its first institution. 4to. 1783.
that "there are in some of the most considerable congregations, and more especially in those that are erected in London, certain persons, whose vocation it is to be always prepared to speak to the people, to prevent meetings from being wholly silent." The other is, that “ these appointed speakers have a small salary.” From my long residence in London, the chief seat of this pretended provision, and personal acquaintance with all the ministers in it of our society, I can with confidence pronounce the first of these to be false ; and, being false, the latter falls of course,
Sections VI. to XI. inclusive, give us the author's account of Quaker Doctrines. In these sections much is marked as quotation, but without reference to any author: and is, probably, not any creed of the Quakers, but a creed for the Quakers, compiled out of the author's apprehension of their tenets. He sets out, in his career of description, with a similitude which he has found between the Quakers and the ancient Mystics ; a comparison, however, which, on the whole, does our friends no injury, although it is not drawn with perfect accuracy. For it appears from this very Ecclesiastical History, that whatever were the failings of the Mystics, they seem not only to have been repositories of genuine piety through the corrupt and dark ages of the church; but that in that period of it in which, says our author,* “ its corruption was complete, and the abuses that it permitted were gone to the greatest height of enormity." " If any sparks of real piety subsisted,” to continue the use of his own words, “ they were only to be found among the Mystics. For this sect, renouncing the subtlety of the schools, the vain contentions of the learned, with all the acts and ceremonies of external worship, exhorted their followers to aim at nothing but internal sanctity of heart, and communion with God, the centre and source of perfection.”
Some of the falsehoods of the Eleventh Section, at p. 42, have been already noted : it seems therefore only, but scarcely, necessary to observe, that if we take his account of Quaker morality altogether, it will not subject its professors to censure. First he tells us, " that the faithful are to avoid every thing that tends to gratify the external
* Mosheim's History, Vol. III. p. 301. 2d Edition.