Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER V.

This Spirit was not only given to man as a teacher,

but as a primary and infallible guide-Hence the Scriptures are a subordinate or a secondary guide Quakers, however, do not undervalue them on this account-Their opinion concerning them.

The Spirit of God, which we have seen to be thus given to men as a spiritual teacher, and to act in the ways described, the Quakers usually distinguish by the epithets of Primary and Infallible. But they have made another distinction with respect to the character of this Spirit ; for they have pronounced it to be the only infallible guide to men in their spiritual concerns. From this latter declaration the reader will naturally conclude, that the Scriptures, which are the outward teachers of men, must be viewed by the Quakers in a secondary light. This conclusion has indeed been adopted as a proposition in the Quaker-theology; or, in other words, it is a doctrine of the Society,

That

That the Spirit of God is the primary and only infallible, and the Scriptures but a subordinate or secondary, guide.

This proposition the Quakers usually make out in the following manner :

It is, in the first place, admitted by all Christians, that the Scriptures were given by inspiration; or, that those who originally wrote or delivered the several parts of them gave them forth by means of that Spirit, which was given to them by God. Now in the same , manner as streams or rivulets of water are subordinate to the fountains which produce them, so these streams or rivulets of light must be subordinate to the Great Light from whence they originally sprung “We cannot,” says Barclay, “call the Scriptures the principal fountain of all truth and knowledge, nor yet the first adequate rule of faith and manners, because the principal fountain of truth must be the Truth itself; that is, that whose certainty and authority depend not upon another."

The Scriptures are subordinate or secondary, again, in other points of view. First, because, though they are placed before us, we can only know or understand them by

the

[ocr errors]

the testimony of the Spirit. Secondly, because there is no virtue or power in the of themselves, but in the Spirit from whence they came.

They are, again, but a secondary guide; “ because that,” says Barclay, “ cannot be the only and principal guide, which doth not universally reach every individual that needeth it.” But the Scriptures do not reach deaf persons, nor children, nor idiots, nor an immense number of people, more than half the globe, who never yet saw or heard of them. These, therefore, if they are to be saved like others, must have a different or a more universal rule to guide them, or be taught from another source.

They are only a secondary guide, again, for another reason. It is an acknowledged axiom among Christians, that the Spirit of God is a perfect Spirit, and that it can never

But the Scriptures are neither perfect of themselves as a collection, nor are they perfect in their verbal parts. Many of them have been lost. Concerning those which have survived there have been great disputes.

Certain parts of these, which one Christian council received in the early times

of

err.

of the church, were rejected as not canonical by another. Add to this, that none of the originals are extant. And of the copies, some have suffered by transcription, others by translation, and others by wilful mutilation to support human notions of religion; so that there are various readings of the same passage, and various views of the same thing. “Now, what,” says Barclay, “would become of Christians, if they had not received that Spirit, and those spiritual senses, by which they know how to discover the true from the false? It is the privilege of Christ's sheep, indeed, that they hear his voice, and refuse that of the

stranger; which privilege being taken away, we are left a prey to all manner of wolves.” The Scriptures, therefore, in consequence of the state in which they have come down to us, cannot, the Quakers say, be considered to be a guide as entirely perfect as the internal testimony of their great Author the Spirit of God.

But though the Quakers have thought it right, in submitting their religious creed to the world on this subject, to be so guarded in the wording of it as to make the distinction

described,

[ocr errors]

described, they are far from undervaluing the Scriptures on that account. They believe, on the other hand, whatever mutilations they may have suffered, they contain sufficient to guide men in belief and practice; and that all internal emotions which are contrary to the declaration of these are wholly inadmissible.

“ Moreover,” says Barclay, “ because the Scriptures are commonly acknowledged by all to have been written by the dictates of the Holy Spirit, and that the errors,

which

may

be supposed by the injury of time to have slipt in, are not such but that there is a sufficiently clear testimony left to all the essentials of the Christian faith, we do look upon them as the only fit outward judge of controversies among Christians, and that whatsoever doctrine is contrary to their testimony may therefore justly be rejected as false.”

: The Quakers believe also, that as God gave a portion of his Spirit to man to assist him inwardly, so he gave the Holy Scriptures to assist him outwardly, in his spiritual

Hence the latter, coming by inspiration, are the most precious of all the books that ever were written, and the best

[ocr errors]

outward

concerns.

« PreviousContinue »