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miraculous conception, divinity and atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also the authenticity and divine authority of the holy scriptures. These, with some other notions, were so entirely repugnant to the acknowledged and settled principles of the society, that endeavours were used to prevent the promulgation of them. The friends and admirers of Elias Hicks and his principles were dissatisfied with this opposition to their views; and after some years of fruitless effort to get the control of the meetings of Friends, they finally withdrew and set up meetings of their own. In this secession some members in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Ohio and Indiana yearly meetings, and a few in New England went off from the society. In the others; viz. London, Dublin, Virginia and North Carolina, no separation took place. This new society, (commonly known by the appellation of Hicksites, after the name of its founder,) being still in existence, claiming the title of Friends, and making a similar appearance in dress and language, some notice of the separation seemed necessary, in order to prevent confusion.
BY WILLIAM GIBBONS, M. D.,
Note.- In the following sketch, I have given what I believe to be the doctrines of that portion of the Society of Friends of which I am a member. No doubt there are different opinions among them, as there were among primitive Friends, on some subjects not reducible to practice, or in regard to which we cannot appeal to experience, and which, in reference to scripture, may be differently understood. I alone am responsible for what I have written—the society having no written creed.
William GIBBONS. Wilmington, Del., 7th month, 1813.
ORIGIN OF THE SOCIETY.
The Society of Friends originated in England about the middle of the 17th century. The chief instrument in the divine hand for the gathering and establishment of this religious body was George Fox. He was born in the year 1624. He was carefully educated according to the received views of religion, and in conformity with the established mode of worship. His natural endowments of mind, although they derived but little advantage from the aid of art, were evidently of a very superior order. The character of this extraordinary man it will not, however, be necessary here to describe with critical minuteness. The reader, who may be desirous of acquiring more exact information on this head, is referred to the journal of his life, an interesting piece of autobiography, written in a simple and unembellished style, and containing a plain and unstudied narration of facts. By this it appears, that in very early life he indulged a vein of thoughtfulness and a deep tone of religious feeling, which, increasing with his years, were the means of preserving him, in a remarkable degree, free from the contamination of evil example by which he was surrounded. The period in which he lived was distinguished by a spirit of anxious inquiry, and a great appearance of zeal, on the subject of religion. The manners of the age were
. nevertheless deeply tinctured with licentiousness, which pervaded all classes of society, not excepting professors of religion. Under these circumstances, George Fox soon became dissatisfied with the mode of worship in which he had been educated. Withdrawing, therefore, from the public communion, he devoted himself to retirement, to inward meditation, and the study of the scriptures. While thus engaged in an earnest pursuit of divine knowledge, his mind became gradually enlightened to discover the nature of true religion; that it consisted not in outward profession, nor in external forms and ceremonies, but in purity of heart, and an upright walking before God. He was instructed to comprehend, that the means by which those necessary characteristics of true devotion were to be acquired were not of a secondary or remote nature; that the Supreme Being still condescended, as in former days, to communicate his will immediately to the soul of man, through the medium of his own Holy Spirit; and that obedience to the dictates of this inward and heavenly monitor constituted the basis of true piety, and the only certain ground of divine favour and acceptance. The convictions, thus produced in his own mind, he did not hesitate openly to avow. In defiance of clerical weight and influence, he denounced all human usurpation and interference in matters of religion, and boldly proclaimed that “God was come to teach his people himself.” The novelty of his views attracted general attention, and exposed him to much obloquy; but his honesty and uprightness won him the esteem and approbation of the more candid and discerning. Persevering, through every obstacle, in a faithful testimony to the simplicity of the truth, he found many persons who, entertaining kindred impressions with himself, were fully prepared not only to adopt his views, but publicly to advocate them. The violent persecution which they encountered, served only to invigorate their zeal and multiply the number of their converts. United on a common ground of inward conviction, endeared still more to each other by a participation of suffering, and aware of the benefits to be derived from systematic co-operation : George Fox and his friends soon became embodied in an independent religious community.
Such is a brief history of the rise of the people called Quakers: to which I will only add, that the society continued to increase rapidly till near the end of the seventeenth century, through a most cruel and widely-extended persecution. Between the years 1650 and 1689, about fourteen thousand of this people suffered by fine and imprisonment, of which number more than three hundred died in jail; not to mention cruel mockings, buffetings, scourgings, and afflictions innumerable. All these things they bore with exemplary patience and fortitude, not returning evil for evil, but breathing the prayer, in the expressive language of conduct, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” The testimonies for which they principally suffered, were those against a hireling priesthood, tithes and oaths; against doing homage to man with “cap and knee;" and against using flattering titles and compliments, and the plural number to a single person.
I am next to speak of their religious principles, which are found embodied in their testimonies.
DOCTRINES OF THE SOCIETY.
The Society of Friends has never formed a creed after the manner of other religious denominations. We view Christianity essentially as a practical and not a theoretical system ; and hence to be exemplified and recognised in the lives and conduct of its professors. We also hold that belief, in this connexion, does not consist in a mere assent of the natural understanding, but in a clear conviction wrought by the Divine Spirit in the soul. (1 John v. 10.) For that which here challenges our belief involves a knowledge of God; and no man knoweth the things of God but by the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. ii. 11.) Again, religion is a progressive work: “ There is first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear.” (Mark
“ And some there are who have need of milk, and not of strong meat; and every one that useth milk is unskilful in the work of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Heb. v. 12, 13.)
Seeing, therefore, that there are different growths and degrees of knowledge in the members of the body, we cannot but view the practice of requiring them to subscribe to the same creed, or articles of faith, as a pernicious excrescence ingrafted on the Christian system. And hence we prefer judging of our members by their fruits, and leaving them to be taught in the school of Christ, under the tuition of an infallible teacher, free from the shackles imposed by the wisdom or contrivance of man.
Our testimony to the light of Christ within.-We believe a knowledge of the gospel to be founded on immediate revelation. (Matt. xvi. 18; 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11, 12; John xiv. 26.) Being the antitype of the legal dispensation, it is spiritual as its author, and as the soul which
it purifies and redeems. (Rom. i. 16.) Under the gospel dispensation, the temple, (1 Cor. v. 19; Acts vii. 48,) altar, (Heb. xiii. 10,) sacrifices, (1 Pet. ii. 5,) the flesh and blood, (John vi. 53–63,) water and fire, (John vii. 37, 38; iv. 14; Matt. iii. 11,) cleansing and worship, (John iv. 23, 24,) are all spiritual.* Instituted by the second Adam, the gospel restores to us the privileges and blessings enjoyed by the first; the same pure, spiritual worship, the same union and communion with our Maker. (John xvii. 21.) Such are our views of the Christian religion; a religion freely offered to the whole human race, (Heb. viii. 10, 11,) requiring neither priest nor book to administer or to illustrate it, (1 John ii. 27 ; Rom. x. 6, 7, 8); for all outward rites and ceremonials are, to this religion, but clogs or cumbrous appendages, God himself being its author, its voucher, and its teacher. (John xiv. 26; 1 Cor. ii. 9-12.) These are not speculations or notions, for we speak of what we do know, “and our hands have handled of the word of life.” (1 John i. 1.)
Such is a summary of the religion held and taught by the primitive Quakers;" from which I descend to a few particulars, as a further exposition of their and our principles.
The message which they received is the same given to the apostles, that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all,” (1 John i. 6, 7): and their great fundamental principle to which they bear testimony is, that God hath given to every man coming into the world, and placed within him, a measure or manifestation of this divine light, grace, or spirit which, if obeyed, is all-sufficient to redeem or save him. (John iii. 19, 20; i. 9; Tit. ii. 11; 1 Cor. xii. 7.) It is referred to and illustrated in the scriptures, by the prophets, and by Jesus Christ and his disciples and apostles, under various names and similitudes. But the thing we believe to be one, even as God is one and his purpose one and the same in all, viz. repentance, regeneration, and final redemption. It is called light of which the light of the natural sun is a beautiful and instructive emblem; for this divine light, like the natural, enables us to distinguish with indubitable clearness all that concerns us in the works of salvation, and its blessings are as impartially, freely, and universally dispensed to the spiritual, as the other is to the outward creation. It is called grace, and grace of God, because freely bestowed on us by his bounty and enduring love. (John xiv. 16, 26.)
It is called truth, as being the substance of all types and shadows,
* Vid. Christian Quaker, Phila, edition, 1824, p. 52. I. Pennington, vol. i. p. 360 ; vol. ii. pp. 115, 116, 281, 282. Whitehead's Light and Life of Christ, pp. 48, 49.