Page images
PDF

. In 1681 Charles the second granted to W. Penn the province of Pennsylvania. Penn's treaty with the Indians, and the liberty of conscience which he granted to all denominations, even those which had persecuted his own, do honour to his memory. ' In the reign of James the second the Friends, in common with other English dissenters, were relieved by the suspension of the penal laws. But it was not till the reign of William and Mary that they obtained any thing like a proper legal protection. An Act was made in the year 1696 which, with a few exceptions, allowed to their affirmation the legal force of an oath, and provided a less oppressive mode for recovering tythes under a certain amount; which provisions under the reign of George the first were made perpetual. For refusing to pay tythes, &c. however, they are still liable to suffer in the exchequer and ecclesiastical court, both in Great Britain and Ireland. The doctrines of the society of Friends have been variously represented. Mr. John Evans, in his sketch of denominations, has been thought to have taken pains to prove them favourable to Socinianism. Without entering into any controversy

on this subject, we shall give the reader an account which has been drawn up by one of themselves, and nearly in the words of their own writers. 1. On God.—They believe that God is one, and there is none other beside him ; and that this one God is Father, Son, and holy Ghost,” as in Matt. xxviii. 19.—To the assertion that “the Quakers deny the trinity,” William Penn answers, “ Nothing less: they do believe in the holy Three, or the trinity of Father, Word, and Spirit, according to the scripture; but they are very tender of quitting scripture terms and phrases for schoolmen's ; such as distinct and separate persons and subsistences, &c., from whence people are apt to entertain gross ideas and notions of the Father, Son, and holy Ghost: and they judge that a curious enquiry into those high and divine relations, though never so great truths in themselves, tend little to godliness, and less to peace.” 2. On Christ.—They believe that Christ is both God and Man in wonderful union; not a God by creation or office, as some hold; nor Man by the assumption of a human body only, without a reasonable soul, as others suppose; nor that the manhood was swallowed up of the Godhead, as a third denomination grossly fancy ; but God uncreated. (John i. 1–3. Col. i. 17.) The true God. (1 John v. 20.) The great God. (Pet. ii. 13.) And Man conceived by the holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. (Luke i. 31, 35.) Who suffered for our salvation, and was raised again for our justification, and ever liveth to make intercession for us.-In reply to the charge, that “the Quakers deny Christ to be God,” W. Penn says, “A most untrue and uncharitable censure: for their great and characteristic principle being this, that Christ, as the divine Word, lighteth the souls of all men who come into the world, with a spiritual and saving light, according to John i. 9–12, (which none but the Creator of souls can do) it doth sufficiently shew they believe him to be God. They truly and expressly own him to be so, according to the scripture: In him was life, and the life was the light of men— God over all, blessed for ever, &c.”—And to the objection, that “the Quakers deny the human nature of Christ,” he answers, “We never taught, said, or held, so gross a thing; for as we believe him to be God over all, blessed for ever, so do we truly believe him to be of the seed of Abraham and David after the flesh ;

* Claridge.

and therefore truly and properly man like us, sin only excepted.” 3. On the scriptures.—They believe the scriptures to be of divine authority, given by the inspiration of God through holy men: that they are a declaration of those things most surely believed by the primitive christians; and that they contain the mind and will of God, and are his commands to us: in that respect they are his declaratory word, and therefore are obligatory on us, and are profitable for doctrine, reproof, &c. They love and prefer them before all books in the world, rejecting all principles and doctrines that are repugnant thereto. “Nevertheless, (says Penn) because they are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all truth and knowledge, nor the primary rule of faith and manners; yet, because they are a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are, and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from whom they have all their excellence and certainty.”—Barclay argues in support of this proposition thus: “That whereof the certainty and authority depends upon another, and which is

received as truth because of its proceeding from another, is not to be accounted the principal ground and origin of all truth and knowledge. But the scriptures' authority and certainty depend upon the spirit by which they were dictated; and the reason why they were received as truth is, because they proceeded from the Spirit: therefore they are not - the principal ground of truth. The same argument will hold as to the other branch of the proposition, that it is not the primary adequate rule of faith and manners. Thus, that which is not the rule of my faith in believing the scriptures themselves, is not the primary adequate rule of faith and manners. But the scripture is not, nor can it be the rule of that faith by which I believe them, &c. : therefore they are not the primary adequate rule, &c. The principal rule of christians under the gospel, is not an outward letter, nor law outwardly written and delivered; but an inward, spiritual law, engraven on the heart—the law of the Spirit of life—the word that is nigh, in the heart, and in the mouth. God is teacher of his people himself; and there is nothing more express than that such as are under the new covenant need no man to teach s

[blocks in formation]

teachers and pastors for the perfecting of the saints; so that the same work is ascribed to the scriptures, as to the teachers; the one to make the man of God perfect, the other for the perfecting of the saints. This is the great work of the scriptures, and their service to us, that we may witness them fulfilled in us; and so discern the stamp of God's Spirit and ways upon them, by the inward acquaintance we have with the same Spirit and work in our hearts: and for our parts, we are very willing that all our doctrines and practices be tried by them, which we never refused, nor ever shall, in all coptroversies with our adversaries, as the judge and test; for we look upon them as the only fit outward judge of controversies among christians; and that whatever doctrine is contrary to their testimony, may therefore justly be rejected as false.” They object to calling the scriptures the word of God, as being a name applied to Christ, the eternal Word, by the sacred writers themselves, though too often misunderstood, and therefore misapplied by those who extol the scripture above the immediate teaching of Christ's Spirit in the heart; whereas without the last, the first can

[ocr errors]

not be profitably understood.

4. On the original and present state of man.-Wm. Penn says, “The world began with innocency; all was then good that God had made; and as he blessed the work of his hands, so their nature and harmony magnified him, their Creator. Not a jar in the whole frame: but man in paradise, the beast in the field, the fowl in the air, &c., worshipped, praised, and exalted his power, wisdom, and goodness. But this happy state lasted not long; for man, the crown and glory of the whole, being tempted to aspire above his place, unhappily yielded against command and duty, and so fell below it— lost the divine image, the wisdom, power, and purity he was made in ; by which, being no longer fit for paradise, he was expelled that garden of God, and was driven out as a poor vagabond to wander in the earth.”—Respecting the state of man under the fall, Barclay observes, “ Not to dive into the many curious notions which many have concerning the condition of Adam before the fall, all agree in this, that he thereby came to a very great loss, not only in the things which related to the outward man, but in regard of that true fellowship and communion he had with God. This loss was signified to him

in the command: For in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. (Gen. ii. 17.) This death. could not be an outward death, or the dissolution of the outward man : for as to that, he did not die yet many hundred years after; so that it must needs respect his spiritual life and communion with God. The consequence of this fall, besides that which relates to the fruits of the earth, is thus expressed : So he drove out the man, and placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Now, whatever literal signification this may have, we may safely ascribe to this paradise a mystical signification, and truly account it that spiritualcommunion andfellowship which the saints obtain with God by Christ, to whom alone these cherubims give way, and unto as many as enter by him. who calls himself the door. So that though we do not ascribe any whit of Adam's guilt to men, till they make it theirs by the like acts of disobedience ; yet we cannot suppose that men who are come of Adam naturally, can have any good thing in their nature, which he from whom they derive their nature, had not himself to communicate to them. If then we may affirm that Adam did not retain in his nature, as belonging thereto, any will or light capable to give him knowledge inspiritual things, then neither can his posterity; for whatever real good any man doth, it proceedeth not from his nature, as man, or the son of Adam; but from the seed of God in him, as a new visitation of łife, in order to bring him out of his natural condition.” 5. On man's redemption through Christ.--They believe that God who made man had pity on him; and in his infinite goodness and wisdom provided a mean for the restoration of fallen man, by a nobler and more excellent Adam, promised to be born of a woman; and which, in a signal manner, by the dispensation of the Son of God in the flesh, was personally and fully accomplished in him, as man's Saviour and Redeemer. He then overcame our common enemy, foiled him in the open field ; and in our nature triumphed over him who had triumphed over it in our forefather Adam and his posterity: and that as truly as Christ overcame him in our nature, in his own person, so by his divine grace, being received and obeyed by us, he overcomes him in us.” —Respecting the doctrines of satisfaction and justification, Penn says, “I shall first speak

negatively what we do not own : We cannot believe that

Christ is the cause, but the

effect of God’s love, according to the testimony of the beloved disciple: God so lored the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. We cannot say the death and sufferings of Christ were a strict and rigid satisfaction for that eternal death and misery due to man for sin and transgression; for such a notion were to make God's mercy little concerned in man's salvation : and as Christ died for sin, so we must die to sin, or we cannot be saved by the death and sufferings of Christ, or be thoroughly justified and accepted with God.—Now positively what we own as to justification: We believe that Jesus Christ was our holy sacrifice, atonement, and propitiation—that he bore our iniquities, and that by his stripes we are healed of the wounds Adam gave us in his fall—that God is just in forgiving true penitents upon the credit of that holy offering Christ made of himself to God for us—that what he did and suffered satisfied and pleased God, and was for the sake of fallen m in who had displeased him—that through the eternal Spirit, he hath for

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »