« PreviousContinue »
Snath, if he did not happen to be a worker in metal.
The most amusing part of the matter^ however, is, that in their abhorrence of this etymological falsehood, they have themselves adopted a practice, which is liable, on the same principles, to more serious objections. Though they will not call any body Sir, or Master, they call every body "Friend;" although it is evident that, to a stranger, this must be mere civility, like the words they reject, and to an enemy must approach nearly to insincerity. They have rejected an established phraseology, therefore, to adopt one much more proper to fill them with scruples. We have dwelt too long, however, on this paltry casuistry; and must leave our readers to apply these observations to our common epistolary salutations, which are exactly in the same predicament.
For similar, or rather for more preposterous reasons, the Quakers have changed the names of the months and of the days of the week. Some of them are named, it seems, after the Heathen gods; and therefore the use of them '• seemed to be expressive of a kind of idolatious homage." If such a new calendar had been devised by the original Christians, when March a'.id June were not only named after Mars and Juno, but distinguished by particular festivals in their honour, we could have comprehended the motive of the innovation; but, now-a-days, when Mars and Juno are no more thought of than Hector or Hecuba, and when men would as soon think of worshipping an ape or a crocodile as either of them, it does appear to us the very acmé of absurdity to suppose that there can be any idolatry in naming their names. In point of fact, whatever the matter may be etymologically or historically, we conceive that Wednesday and Thursday are words in modern English that have no sort of reference to the gods Woden and Thor: Since they certainly raise no ideas connected wilh those personages, and are never used with the intention of raising any such ideas. As they are used at present, therefore, they do not signify days dedicated to these divinities; but merely the days that come between Tuesday and Friday in our calendar. Those who think otherwise must maintain also, that the English word expedient actually signifies untying of feet, and the word consideration a taking of stars together.
Another of their peculiar customs is, that they will not pull off their hats, or make a bow to any body. This is one of their most ancient and respected canons. "George Fox," Mr. Clarkson assures us, "was greatly grieved about these idle ceremonies. He lamented that men should degrade themselves by the use of them, and that they should encourage habits that were abhorrent of the truth." Honest George! He was accordingly repeatedly beaten and abused for his refractoriness in this particular; and a long story is told in this volume, of a controversy he had with Judge Glynn, whom he posed with a citation from Daniel, purporting, that the three children were cast into the fiery furnace "with their
hats on." Is it possible however to belieie, that any rational being can imagine that th*re is any sin in lifting off one's hat. or bendu$ the body? It is an easy and sufficiently coavenient way of showing our respect or itto tion. A good-natured man could do a great deal more to gratify a mere stranger; ai»d .i there be one individual who would take the omission amiss, that alone would be a sofficierit reason for persisting in the practice.
Mr. Clarkson next discusses the pr.raie manners of this rigid sect, and admits that they are rather dull, cold, and taciturn. Their principles prohibit them from the use of idle words; under which they include every so;: of conversation introduced merely for gaiety or amusement. Their neglect of classical literature cuts off another great topic. Politics are proscribed, as leading to DcJue warmth; and all sorts of scandal and gussp. and allusion to public spectacles or amusements, for a more fundamental геаюп. Tíu*. they have little to talk about but their health, their business, or their religion ; and all the« things they think it a duty to discus* и. а concise and sober manner. They saj no graces; but when their meal is on the table they sit silent, and in a thoughtful posture ftr a short time, waiting for an illapse of the spirit. If they are not moved to make any ejaculation, they begin to eat without more ado. They drink no healths, nor toast«; though not so much from the inconvenience of the thing, as because they conceJTe ill.» li have been a bacchanalian practice borrows i from the Heathens of antiquity. They are very sober; and instead of sitting over tbeu wine after dinner, frequently propose to theu guests a walk before tea; the females do Mo! leave the party during this interval. Thai marriages are attended with no other ceremony, than that of taking each other by ¡Lihand in a public meeting, and declaring lb. :r willingness to be united. Notice, however, must be given of this intention at a prev;i -? meeting, when the consent of their parents i» required, and a deputation appointed to inquire whether they are free from all previous engagements. Quakers marrying out o! th" society are disowned, though' they may re again received into membership, on expressing their repentance for their marriage; » declaration which cannot be very flattering to the infidel spouse. There are many поте women than men disowned for this traiw'^sion. The funerals of the Quakers are «s free from solemnity as their marriages. They wear no mourning, and do not even corer their coffins with black ;—they use no prayers on such occasions;—the body is generally carried to the meeting-house, before it isct.itmilted to the earth, and a short pause is^ma./e. during which any one who feels hiir.sui moved to speak, may address the coiisrrfP1' tion ;—it is set down for a little time, also, at the edge of the grave, for the same орротнь nity ;—it is then interred, and the friends and relations walk away. They use no vaults, ami erect no monuments, — though tucy sometimes collect and preserve some account of
ihe lives and sayings of their more eminent and pious brethren.
On the subject of trade there is a good deal of casuistry amongthe Quakers. They strictly prohibit the slave-trade, and had the merit of passing a severe cens,'re upon it so long ago as 1727. They also prohibit privateering, smuggling, and all traffic in weapons of war. Most other trades they allow; but under certain limitations. A Quaker may be a bookseller, but he must not sell any immoral book. He may be a dealer in spirits; but he must not sell to those whom he knows to be drunkards. He may even be a silversmith; but he must not deal in splendid ornaments for the person. In no case may he recommend his goods as fashionable. It is much and learnedly disputed in this volume, whether he may make or sell ribands and other fineries of this sort; or whether, as a tailor or hatter, he may furnish any other articles than such as the society patronises. Mention is also made of a Quaker tailor well known to King James II., who was so scrupulous in this respect, that "he would not allow his terrante to put any corruptive finery upon the clothes which he had been employed to furnish;" and of one John Woolman, who '•' found himself sensibly weakened as a Christian, whenever he traded in things that served chiefly to please the vain mind, or people." Apart from these fopperies, however, the Quaker regulations for trade are excellent. They discourage all hazardous speculations, and all fictitious paper credit. If a member becomes bankrupt, a committee is appointed to inspect his affairs. If his insolvency is reported to have been produced by misconduct, he is disowned, and cannot be received back till he has paid his whole debts, even although he may have been discharged on a composition. If he has failed through misfortune, he continues in the society, but no contributions are received from him till his debts are fully paid.
When Quakers disagree, they seldom scold; and never fight or go to law. George Fox recommended them to settle all their differences by arbitration; ami they have adhered to this practice ever since. Where the arbitrators are puzzled about the law, they may адгее on a case, and consult counsel. When a Quaker disagrees with a person out of the society, he generally proposes arbitration in the first instance ; if this be refused, he has no scruple of going to law.
We should now proceed to give some account of what Mr. Clarkson has called the four Great Tenets of the Quakers; but the length to which we have already extended these remarks must confine our observations to very narrow limits. The first is, That the civil magistrate has no right to interfere in religious matters, so as either to enforce attendance on one mode of worship, or to interdict any other which is harmless. In this, certainly, their doctrine is liable to very little objection. Their second great tenet is, That it is unlawful to swear upon any occasion whatsoever. We have not leisure now to
discuss this point with Mr. Clarkson ; indeed, from the obstruction which this scruple has so often occasioned to law proceedings, it has been discussed much oftener than any of the rest. Those who want to see a neat and forcible abstract of the Quaker reasoning on the subject, had better look into Barclay at once, instead of wading through the amplification of Mr. Clarkson.
Their third great tenet is, That it is unlawful to engage in the profession of arms. This is founded entirely upon a literal interpretation of certain texts of scripture, requiring men to love and bless their enemies, and to turn one cheek to him who had smitten the other, &c. It is commonly supposed, we believe, that these expressions were only meant to shadow out, by a kind of figure, that amicable and gentle disposition by which men should be actuated in their ordinary intercourse with each other, and by no means as a literal and peremptory directory for their conduct through life. In any other sense, indeed, they would evidently amount to an encouragement to all sorts of violence and injustice ; and would entirely disable and annihilate all civil government, or authority among men. If evil is not to be resisted, and if the man who takes a cloak is to be pressed to a coat also, it is plain that the punishment of thieves and robbers must be just as unlawful as the resisting of invaders. It is remarkable, indeed, that the Quakers do not carry their literal submission to the scripture quite this length. They would struggle manfully for their cloaks; and, insteatl of giving the robber their coats also, would be very glad to have him imprisoned and flogged. If they can get rid of the letter of the law, however, in any case, it does appear to us, that there are occasionally stronger reasons for dispensing with the supposed prohibition of war than with any of the others. If they would be justified in killing a wild beast that had rushed into their habitation, they must be justified in killing an invader who threatens to subject them and the whole community to his brutal lust, rapacity, and cruelty. We must call it a degrading superstition that would withhold the hands of a man in such an emergency. The last great tenet is. That it is unlawful to give pecuniary hire to a gospel ministry. This, again, is entirely a war of texts; aided by a confused reference to the history of tithes, from which the following most logical deductionsare made.
"First, that ihpy are not in equity dues of the Church,—secondly, that the payment ol them being compulsory, it would, if acceded to. be an acknowledgment that the civil magistrale had a rieht to use force in matters of religion—and, thirdly, that, being ctnimcd upon an act which holds them forth as of divine right, any payment of them would be an acknowledgment of the Jin if/, religion, and that Christ had not yet actually come ¡"—III. 141.
After perusing all that we have now abstracted, Mr. Clarkson's readers might perhaps have been presumed capable of forming some conclusion for themselves as to ihe Quaker character; but the author chooses to make the inference for them, in a dissertation of one hundred and fifty pages; to which we must satisfy ourselves, for the present, with making this general reference. We must use the same liberty with the “miscellaneous particulars,” which fill nearly as many pages with an attempt to prove that the Quakers are a very happy ... that they have done good by the example of their virtues, and that those who have thoughts of leaving the society, had better think twice before they take a step of so much consequence. We come now to say a few words on the subject of their interior government; which appears to us to be formed very much upon the model of the Presbyterian churches so long established in this part of the kingdom. The basis of the whole system is, that every member of the society is not only entitled, but bound in duty, to watch over the moral and religious deportment of any other whom he has an opportunity of observing, and to interfere for his admonition and correction when he sees cause. Till the year 1698, this duty was not peculiarly imposed upon any individual; but, since that time, four or five persons are named in each congregation, under the title of overseers, who are expected to watch over the conduct of the flock with peculiar anxiety. The half of these are women, who take charge of their own sex only. Four or five congregations are associated together, and hold a general monthly meeting of deputies, of both sexes, from each congregation. Two or more of each sex are deputed from these monthly meetings to the general quarterly meeting; which reunites all the congregations of a county, or larger district, according to the extent of the Quaker population; and those, again, send four of each sex to the great yearly meeting or convocation; which is regularly assembled in London, and continues its sitting for ten or twelve days. The method of proceeding, where the conduct of a member has been disorderly, is, first, by private admonition, either by individuals, or by the overseers; where this is not effectual, the case is reported to the monthly meeting; who appoint a committee to ...}. him, and, upon their report, either receive him back into communion, or expel him from the society by a written document, entitled, A Testimony of Disownment. From this sentence, however, he may appeal to the quarterly meeting, and from that to the yearly. These courts of review investigate the case by means of committees; of which none of those who £o. the sentence complained of can e members. In the monthly meetings, all presentations of marriages are received, and births and funerals registered;—contributions and arrangements are made for the relief of the poo, ;persons are disowned, or received back;-and cases of scruples are stated and discussed. They likewise prepare answers to a series of standing queries as to the state and condition of their several congregations, which they transmit to the quarterly meeting. The quarterly meeting hears appeals, receives the reports in answer to these queries, and pre
#. in its turn, a more general and comple. ensive report for the great annual meeting in London. This assembly, again, hears appeals from the quarterly meetings, and receives their reports; and, finally, draws up a public or pastoral letter to the whole society, in which it communicates the most interesti particulars, as to its general state and condi. tion, that have been collected from the reports laid before it, makes such suitable admonk tions and exhortations for their moral and civil conduct, as the complexion of the times, or the nature of these reports have suggested,— and recommends to their consideration any project or proposition that may have been laid before it, for the promotion of religion, and the good of mankind. The slave-trade has of late years, generally formed one of the topics of this general epistle, which is printed and j throughout the society. In all their meetings, the male and female deputies assemble, and transact their business, in o arate apartments; meeting together only for worship, or for making up their general reports The wants of the poor are provided for by the monthly meetings, who appoint certain over. seers to visit and relieve them: The greater part of these overseers are women; and what. ever they find wanting in the course of their visits, money, clothes, or medicines, theyo. der, and their accounts are settled by the treasurer of the monthly meeting. Where it happens that there are more poor in any one district than can easily be relieved by the more opulent brethren within it, the deficiency is supplied by the quarterly meeting to which: is subjected. The children of the poor are all taught to read and write at the public expense, and afterwards bound apprentice to trades;the females are generally destined for service, and placed in Quaker families.
“Such,” says Mr. Clarkson, with a very natural exultation on }. good management of his favour. ites, “such is the organisation of the discipline of government of the Quakers. Nor may it impos” erly be called a Government, when we conside. that, besides all matters relating to the church.” takes cognisance of the actions of Quakers" Quakers, and of these to their fellow-citizens; an of these, again, to the state; in fact, of all action. of Quakers, if immoral in the eye of the society.” soon as they are known. It gives out its prohit tions. It marks its crimes. It imposes offices." its subjects. It calls them to disciplinary duties This government, however, notwithstanding to ower, has, as I observed before, no president" ead, either permanent or temporary, There is.” first man through the whole society. Neither h; it any badge of office—or mace, or constable's stol. or sword." It may be observed, also, that it has!” office of emolument by which its hands can be strengthened—neither minister, elder, clerk, ove" seer, or deputy, being paid : and yet its administ". tion is firmly conducted, and its laws are belo obeyed than laws by persons under any other do nomination or government.” I. 246, 247.
We have nothing now to discuss with ho good people, but their religion: and with we will not meddle. It is quite clear to to that their founder George Fox was exceeding: insane; and though we by no means suspoo many of his present followers of the sam: malady, we cannot help saying that most
¿ici r peculiar doctrines are too high-flown for our hmnble apprehension. They hold that God has at all limes communicated a certain portion of the Spirit, or word, or light, to mankind; but has given very different portions of it to (litierent individuals: that, in consequence of this inward illumination, not only the ancient patriarchs and prophets, but many of the old heathen philosophers, were very good Christians: that no kind of worshiper preaching can be acceptable or profitable, unless it flow from the immediate inspiration and movement of this inward spirit; and that all ordination, or appointment of priests, is therefore impious and unavailing. They are much attached to the Holy Ghost ;. but are supposed to reject the doctrino of the Trinity; as they certainly reject the sacraments of Baptism and the I/ord's Supper, with all other rites, ordinances, and ceremonies, known or practised in any other Christian church. These tenets they justify by various citations from the New Testament, and the older fathers ; as any one mav see in the works of Barclay and Penn. with rather more satisfaction than in this of Mr. Clarkson. We enter not at present into these disputations.
Upon the whole, we are inclined to believe the Quakers to be a tolerably honest, painstaking, and inoffensive set of Christians. Verystupid, dull, and obstinate, we presume, in conversation; and tolerably lumpish and fatiguing in domestic society: active and methodical in their business, and narrow-minded and ill-informed as to most other particulars: beneficent from habit and the discipline of the
society; but cold in their affections, and inwardly chilled into a sort of Chinese apathy, by the restraints to which they are continually subjected; childish and absurd in their religious scruples and peculiar usages, and singularly unlearned as a sect of theologians; but exemplary, above all other sects, for the decency of their lives, for their charitable indulgence to all other persuasions, for their care of their poor, and for the liberal participation they have afforded to their women in all the duties and honours of the society.
We would not willingly insinuate any thing against the general sincerity of those who remain in communion with this body; but Mr. Clarkson has himself noticed, that when they become opulent, they are very apt to fall off from it: and indeed we do not recollect ever to have seen either a Quaker gentleman of fortune, or a Quaker day-labourer. The truth is, that ninety-nine out of a hundred of them are engaged in trade ; and as they all deal and correspond with each other, it is easy to see what advantages they must have as traders, from belonging to so great a corporation. A few follow the medical profession ; and a still smaller number that of conveyancing; but they rely, in both, almost exclusively on the support of their brethren of the society. It is rather remarkable, that Mr. Clarkson has not given us any sort of estimate or calculation of their present numbers in England; though, from the nature of their government, it must be known to most of their leading members. It is the general opinion, it seems, that they are gradually diminishing.
Memoirs of the Private and Public Life of William Penn. By Thomas Clarkson, M. A. 8vo. 2 vols. pp. 1020. London: 1813.
It is impossible to look into any of Mr. Clarkson's books, without feeling that he is an excellent man—and a very bad writer. Many of the defects of his composition, indeed, seem to be directly referrible to the amiableness of his disposition. An earnestness for truth and virtue, that does not allow him to waste any thought upon the ornaments by which they may be recommended—and a simplicity of character which is not aware that what is substantially respectable may be made dull or ridiculous by the manner in which it is presented—are virtues which we suspect not to have been very favourable to his reputation as an author. Feeling in himself not only an entire toleration of honest tedionsness, but a decided preference for it upon all occasions over mere elegance or ingenuity, he seems to have transferred a little too hastily to books those principles of judgment which are admirable when applied to men; and to have forgotten, that though dulness may be a very venial fault in a good man, it is such a fault in a book as to render its goodness of no avail
whatsoever. Unfortunately for Mr. Clarkson. moral qualities alone will not make a good writer; nor are they even of the first importance on such an occasion: And accordingly, with all his philanthropy, piety, and inflexible honesty, he has not escaped the sin of tediousness,—and that to a degree that must render him almost illegible to any but Quakers, Reviewers, and others, who make public profession of patience insurmountable. He has no taste, and no spark of vivacity—not the vestige i of an ear for harmony—and a prolixity of 'which modem times have scarcely preserved any other example. He seems to have a sufficiently sound and clear judgment, but no great acuteness of understanding; and, though visibly tasking himself to judge charitably and speak candidly of all men, is evidently beset with such antipathy to all who persecute Quakers, or maltreat negroes, as to make him very unwilling to report any thing in their favour. On the other hand, he has great industry—scrupulous veracity—and that serious« and sober enthusiasm for his subject, which is sure in the long run to disarm ridicule, and win upon inattention—and is frequently able to render vulgarity impressive, and simplicity sublime. Moreover, and above all, he is perfectly free from affectation; so that, though we may be wearied, we are never disturbed or offended—and read on, in tranquillity, till we find it impossible to read any more. It will be guessed, however, that it is not on account of its literary merits that we are induced to take notice of the work before us. WILLIAM PENN, to whose honour it is wholly devoted, was, beyond all doubt, a personage of no ordinary standard—and ought, before this time, to have met with a biographer capable of doing him justice. He is most known, and most deserving of being known, as the settler of Pennsylvania; but his private character also is interesting, and full of those peculiarities which distinguished the temper and manners of a great part of the English nation at the period in which he lived. His theological and polemical exploits are no less characteristic of the man and of the times;–though all that is really edifying in this part of his history might have been given in about one: twentieth part of the space which is allotted to it in the volumes of Mr. Clarkson. William Penn was born in 1644, the only son of Admiral Sir W. Penn, the representative of an ancient and honourable family in Buckingham and Gloucestershire. He was regularly educated; and entered a Gentleman Commoner at Christ's Church, Oxford, where he distinguished himself very early for his proficiency both in classical learning and athletic exercises. When he was only about sixteen, however, he was roused to a sense of the corruptions of the established faith, by the preaching of one Thomas Loe, a Quaker—and immediately discontinued his attendance at chapel; j, with some other youths of his own way of thinking, began to hold prayer meetings in their private apartments. This, of course, gave great scandal and offence to his academical superiors; and a large fine, with suitable admonitions, were imposed on the young nonconformist. Just at this critical period, an order was unluckily received from Court to resume the use of the surplice, which it seems had been discontinued almost ever since the period of the Reformation; and the sight of this unfortunate vestment, “operated,” as Mr. Clarkson expresses it, “so disagreeably on William Penn, that he could not bear it! and, joining himself with some other young gentlemen, he fell upon those students who appeared in surplices, and tore them every where over their heads.” This, we conceive, was not quite correct, even as a Quaker proceeding; and was but an unpromising beginning for the future champion of religious liberty. Its natural consequence, however, was, that he and his associates were, without further ceremony, expelled from the University; and when he went home to his father, and attempted to justify by argument the measures he had adopted, it was no lessnatural that the good Admiral should give him a good box on the ear, and turn him to the door.
This course of discipline, however, not proving immediately effectual, he was sent upon his travels, along with some other young gentlemen, and resided for two years in France, and the Low Countries; but without any change either in those serious views of religion, or those austere notions of morality, by which his youth had been so prematurely distinguished. On his return, his father again endeavoured to subdue him to a more worldly frame of mind; first, by setting him to study law at Lincoln's Inn; and afterwards, by sending him to the Duke of Ormond’s court at Dublin, and giving him the charge of his large possessions in that kingdom. These expedients might perhaps have been attended with success, had he not accidentally again fallen in (at Cork) with his old friend Thomas Loe, the Quaker, who set before him such a view of the dangers of his situation, that he seems from that day forward to have renounced all secular occupations, and betaken himself to devotion, as the main business of his life. The reign of Charles II., however, was not auspicious to dissenters; and in those evil days of persecution, he was speedily put in prison for attending Quaker meetings; but was soon liberated, and again came back to his father's house, where a long disputation took place upon the subject of his new creed. It broke up with this moderate and very loyal proposition on the part of the Vice-Admiral— that the young Quaker should consent to sit with his hat off, in presence of the King—the Duke of York—and the Admiral himself! in return for which slight compliance, it was stipulated that he should be no longer molested for any of his opinions or practices. The heroic convert, however, would listen to no terms of composition; and, after taking some days to consider of it, reported, that his conscience could not comport with any species of Hat worship—and was again turned out of doors for his pains. He now took openly to preaching in the Quaker meetings; and shortly after began that course of theological and controversial publications, in which he persisted to his dying days; and which has had the effect of overwhelming his memory with two vast folio volumes of Puritanical pamphlets. His most considerable work seems to have been that entitled, “No Cross, no Crown;” in which he not only explains and vindicates, at great length, the grounds of the peculiar doctrines and observances of the Society to which he belonged, but endeavours to show, by a very large and entertaining induction of instance: from profane history, that the same general o had been adopted and acted upon y the wise and good in every generation; and were suggested indeed to the reflecting mind by the inward voice of conscience, and the analogy of the whole visible scheme of God's providence in the government of the world. The intermixture of worldly learning, and the larger and bolder scope of this performance, render it far more legible than the pious exhortations and pertinacious polemics which fill the greater part of his subsequent publica