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ALTHOUGH more than a century hath elapsed since we became a distinct religious society; yet, from several causes, our principles at this day are frequently either not understood, or misrepresented. Many books, explanatory of our tenets and practices, have indeed been published by authors of our own profession. Some of these are more diffuse than every reader hath leisure or inclination to peruse; others, more compendious, do not extend to all the particulars which we ourselves wish to be known, or with which inquirers may desire to be acquainted. It is therefore judged expedient to present to such as are disposed to be rightly informed respecting us, a summary account of our origin and history, of our doctrines, and of our discipline; which may give the reader a true, though general, representation, and then, as leisure or inclination may allow or induce him, he may render his knowledge of us, and of our principles, more particular, by having
recourse to some of the publications already hinted at.
To such a purpose, among others, the works of George Fox, William Sewel, William Penn, and Robert Barclay are well adapted; and to those who may be thus induced to inquire into our principles, we would also recommend the example of the Bereans, who examined the Holy Scriptures to find if · those things were so."*
It may however be remarked, that the Gospel, which we believe to be the highest as well as the last dispensation of God to man, can never be so well understood, as when it is considered as having the boundless love of the Great Creator for its cause, and the salvation of the whole human race for its end and aim.
It seems to be time for the sincere in heart to waive the ceremonials of religion, concerning which there hath been enough of contention and animosity, for the sake of its essence. In proportion as men are gathered to the one thing needful, the government of Christ's Spirit in the heart, they lose the inclination for contention, and are in the true way to unity. Then can they breathe forth the primitive and permanent gospel language, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.”+
* Acts xvii. 11.
+ Luke ii, 14.
THE DOCTRINE, DISCIPLINE, &c.
The beginning of the seventeenth century is known to have been a time of great dissension in England, respecting religion. Many pious persons had been dissatisfied with the settlement of the Church of England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Various societies of Dissenters had accordingly arisen ; some of whom evinced their sincerity by grievous sufferings, under the intolerance of those who governed church affairs. But these societies, notwithstanding their honest zeal, seem to have stopped short in their progress toward a complete reformation;" and, degenerating into formality, to have left their most enlightened members still to lament the want of something more instructive and consolatory to the soul, than the most rigorous observance of their ordinances had ever produced. Thus dissatisfied and disconsolate, they were ready to follow any teacher, who seemed able to direct them to that light and peace of which they felt the need. Many such in succession engaged their attention ; until, finding the insufficiency of them all, they withdrew from the communion of every visible church; and dwelt retired, and attentive to the inward state of their own minds; often deeply distressed for the want of that true knowledge of God, which they saw to be necessary for salvation, and for which, according to their ability, they fervently prayed. These sincere breathings of spirit being answered by the extension of some degree of heavenly consolation, they became convinced, that as the heart of man is the scene of
a Sewel, p. 5, 6. edit. 1722.
h Penn, vol. 5, p. 211, 212. edit. 1782.
the tempter's attacks, it must also be that of the Redeemer's victory. With renewed fervency, therefore, they sought his appearance in their minds; and thus being renewedly furnished with his saving light and help, they not only became instructed in the things pertaining to their own salvation ; but they discovered many practices in the world which have a show of religion, to be nevertheless the effect of the unsubjected will of man, and inconsistent with the genuine simplicity of the truth.
These people were at first hidden from each other, and each probably conceived his own heart to be the single repository of a discovery so important; but it did not consist with divine goodness, that the candle thus lighted should always remain under the bed, or the bushel. Our honourable elder, G. Fox, who had signally experienced the afflicting dispensations which we have described, and had also been quickened by the immediate touches of divine love, could not satisfy his apprehensions of duty to God, without beariug public testimony against the common modes of worship, and directing the people where to find the like consolation and instruction. As he travelled in this service, he met with divers of those seeking persons who had been exercised in a similar manner; these readily received his testimony; several of them also became preachers of the same doctrine ; multitudes were convinced of the reality of this inward manifestation;and many meetings were settled.
Those who attempt to detach the people from the teachings of men, must expect for their enemies those men who make a gain of teaching. Such was the lot of our first friends; and laws, made either in the times of popery, or since the reformation against non-conformists, served as the means of gratifying the jealousy of the priests, and the intolerance of the magistrates. Indeed, at the time Friends first attracted public notice, legal pretences were not always thought necessary to justify the abuse which they suffered.s It was during the time of the commonwealth, when opposition to a national ministry, which was supposed to be peculiarly reformed, was deemed an offence of no small import. Much personal abuse was accordingly bestowed;"
C Mark iv. 21. d Fox's Journal, p. 14, 15, 21. edit. 1765, e ibid. 49. f 1 Cor. xii. 7.
g Fox, 26. h Besse's Sufferings of the People called Quakers, ch. 6, and 29. and passim.
imprisonment was common, and corporal punishment frequent. Imprisonment was often rendered more severe and disgusting by the cruelty of particular magistrates, and from the numbers which were confined together; and stripes, under pretence of vagrancy, were inflicted without regard to sex, and on persons of unimpeached character, and of good circumstances in the world.
George Fox" was one of the first of our Friends who was imprisoned. He was confined at Nottingham in the year 1649, for baving publicly opposed a preacher, who had asserted that the more sure word of prophecy, mentioned 2 Pet. i. 19, was the Scripture; George Fox declaring that it was the Holy Spirit; and in the following year, being brought before two justices in Derbyshire, one of them scoffing at George Fox, for having bidden bim and those about him to tremble at the word of the Lord, gave to our predecessors the name of Quakers ;" an appellation which soon became, and hath remained our most usual denomination; but they themselves adopted, and have transmitted to us, the endearing appellation of Friends.
Although Oliver Cromwell did not employ his authority to put a stop to persecution, it doth not appear that he was inclined to promote it. He gave several of our Friends access to him ; and once in particular, when George Fox had been brought to him as a prisoner," he released him after a considerable time spent in conference; on which occasion he confessed that our Friends were “a people risen up that he could not win, either with gifts, honours, offices, or places.”
Persecution, however, continued; but, when Charles II. on the prospect of his restoration, issued from Breda, among other things, bis declaration for liberty of conscience, it might well have been expected thrat Friends would be permitted to exercise their religion without molestation. Yet during this reign they not only were harassed with the oath of allegiance, which in common with all oaths, they scrupled to take, and by which they often incurred tedious imprisonment, and not unfrequently premunire ; but new laws' were made, by which even their meetings for worship subjected them to punishment.
i Besse's Suff. pref. and passim. k Fox, 24. 1 Ibid. 29. m Sewel, 25.
n Sewel, 98. o Ibid. 99. p 161h Car. II. Cap. 4. 22d Car. II. cap. 1. Also 13th, and 14th Car. II. cap. 1.
The king, as a branch of the legislature, joined in the enacting of these laws; nevertheless, he did not seem in all cases to countenance severity; for in an instance, wherein he acted independently of the Parliament, he was the means of affording relief in the most sanguinary persecution which our Friends ever experienced. This was in New-England, where it was made penal for a Friend even to reside.
The first Friends who arrived at Boston were women. These were imprisoned, and otherwise cruelly treated. The date of this transaction is 1656. The following year the scourge was employed, and a woman" is also recorded to have been the first who suffered stripes. She was the wife of a tradesman in London, and had made a voyage to Boston, to warn the people against persecution. Great numbers underwent this punishment; but stripes proving insufficient to deter our Friends from the exercise of their religious duty, in going to such places, and performing such services, as they believed to be required by the Divine will; it was next attempted to discourage them by a laws for cutting off their ears. This was executed in vain ; and accordingly the intolerance of the persons in power produced another, which subjected Friends to banishment on pain of death. Their constancy, however, was not thus to be shaken, and four Friends, among whom was also a woman, were hanged at Boston."
q Sewel, 160.
r Sewel, 170. s lb. 194, 198.
t lb, 199, 226—235, 276. u The following paragraph, copied from the Preface to an Abridgment of the Book of Martyrs," lately published at New-York, we think may with propriety, be here introduced.
EDITOR. “ It may be proper to remark, that as this History of the Martyrs is brought down to a later period than any work of the kind heretofore published, it embraces transactions and events which have occurred in America, and particularly in New-England; exhibiting the operation of a sanguine and persecuting spirit, wbich prevailed in the early settlement of that country, and by which the religious people, called Quakers, greatly suffered. It is however but justice to the present inhabitants of the State of Massachusetts, to observe, that so far from approving the conduct of their predecessors, they are now as much distinguished for the mildness and liberality of their laws, and kind treatment of this people, as their predecessors were for their cruelty toward them; hence we cannot forbear to add, that such is the religious toleration of that go: vernment, and its regard to conscientious scruples, as not only to excuse the Society of Friends from personal military service, but also from any commutation ; an indulgence, which, we apprehend, is not so fully granted to that people, by any or but few other states in the Union. In delineating the character of the first settlers of NewEngland, and comparing it with that of the present day, we are struck with a contrast, which, at one view, evinces the progress of light and knowledge; and in proportion as it pervades the understanding, men are inclined to cherish that disposition toward each other, which is calculated to promote the religion of Jesus Christ, who " came not to destroy, but to save men's lives." VOL. IV,