Am I therefore become your Enemy because I tell you the truth. Gal. iv.10
1826 Respected Friend, LUKE HOWARD:
Thy Letter addressed to me bearing date 1825, was not received until about two months since. It was neatly printed in octavo form, and contains about 20 pages. Agreeably with thy entreaty, I have given it a patient and candid perusal and have carefully referred to the passages of Scripture quoted in the work: and having always had the highest esteem for the memory of our deceased friend Job Scott, I have felt a concern to send thee a few remarks and observations, as they occurred to my mind on perusing thy Letter.
In the first place, I was for some time at a loss, to discover any adequate motive for so much labour as this Letter must have cost thee. The subject of Job Scott's book is regeneration and the new birth: its title "SALVATION BY CHRIST": a doctrine which I believe is by all Christians admitted to be scriptural. -- It is treated by him a little, and but a little, differently from the usual mode. To those who have not come to rely entirely on the Holy Spirit for instruction, it may appear strange, and like Nicodemus, they may query, "How can these things be?" But to those who, by a total renunciation of the will and wisdom of the creature -- that "Wisdom which is from beneath," have come under the administration of the New Covenant -- I think the treatise will be easily understood. Perhaps the author may not always have been the most happy, in the choice of metaphors to illustrate his subject -- perhaps he did not conduct and support his Allegory with the most critical skill -- perhaps he did not sufficiently explain the deep spiritual views which his exercised mind had taken of the doctrine -- perhaps he may have applied some scripture texts, in a way thou canst not approve. -- Admitting all this, I cannot see in these circumstances, while we admit the doctrine to be scriptural, a sufficient ground for a Letter, calculated to prostrate his religious character, and to destroy, especially in the youthful mind, all confidence in his religious writings. If thy conduct be correct, who that has left written or printed memoirs of their religious labours and experience, may escape the fatal thrust of some posthumous opposer?
It appears by the memorial of his brethren, that Job Scott's moral character was remarkably correct. They say, "in the various duties of private life, as well as in the relations of son, husband, parent, and neighbour, he was truly exemplary." His literary attainments were probably superior to those of a large majority of his cotemporaries. The memorial says, "through his turn for literary improvement, he acquired both a competent share of common school learning, and made some progress in other branches of literature." The course of instruction, at that time, in the common schools in New England, was perhaps, superior to that in any other of the Colonies; and Job Scott, in his Essay on Baptism, as well as in his other works, gives evidence, that he was a man of strong mental capacities, as well as of considerable reading. But it was in the depth and consistency of his religious character, and his extraordinary qualifications as a Gospel Minister, that he stood most conspicuous. On these points his friends remark, "Being of strong and ready abilities, and his mind improved and enlarged by the sanctifying power of Truth, he was enabled, and zealously, and very usefully disposed for the promotion of the cause of Righteousness, in which he was engaged. Having, in the School of Christ, measurably learned the mystery of the fall and restoration of man and to understand the scriptures, and pertinently to apply them; he was brought under the preparing hand of the Lord, for the work of the ministry; under which dispensation his soul was deeply baptized and brought under great sympathy with seeking souls, who were travailing in birth that Christ might be formed in them: to whom, he was at times and seasons enabled, powerfully to administer encouragement and consolation. Thus, for several years, by letters and epistles, for which he was eminently gifted with instructive and edifying talents, he laboured for the promotion of the cause of TRUTH." Of his MINISTRY, in particular, they say: "His appearance in the Ministry was not very frequent when at home, and he was frequently led into an example of silence when abroad; circumspect not to minister without fresh anointing, and careful in attending closely, to the turnings of the KEY of DAVID."
The Memorial of the National half-year's meeting of Friends in Ireland, says: "From genuine marks, evinced in the course of his religious services, we believe him to have been an instrument, fitted and prepared by the Great Master, through deep and repeated baptisms, for use and service in his Church militant - - called and sent forth by the immediate influence of his Spirit, to publish the Gospel." "He was a diligent waiter to experience renewed qualification for service, before he attempted to move, either in the Ministry or Discipline; well knowing, that without a fresh anointing, any endeavours to act must prove ineffectual, and tend to center in lifeless formality; against which he was zealously concerned to bear testimony. His conversation was coupled with fear, as well as seasoned with grace, and being deep in heavenly mysteries, he was cautious of squandering the same; yet, when at liberty for conversation, his communications were agreeable and remarkably instructive."
Such was the character of Job Scott, as pourtrayed by his brethren in America and Europe! It is the valuable influence of such an example, that thy Letter is calculated to destroy!
Permit me now, to call thy attention to some parts of thy Letter, which seem intended to produce this unhappy effect; in a review of which, I shall occasionally contrast them with the authentic testimonies of the Society, on both sides of the Atlantic. In page 4, thou sayest: "There was certainly in the character of this dear friend, a perceptible excess, on the side of the imagination and the feelings" "such a temperament, in measure disqualifies a minister from being a competent judge of Doctrine and controversies." Now it is this "excess on the side of the imagination and the feelings" that constitutes a fanatic. An ardent imagination, and warm feelings on religious subjects, when governed and regulated by the holy Spirit, are no impediment to religious growth, or usefulness: On the contrary, they fit the instrument for more extensive and productive labour in the LORD'S vineyard. That such was the natural character of the Apostle Paul, is I believe universally admitted. There is scarcely a page of his writings, that does not give ample evidence of a warm imagination. His frequent illustrations of the typical law, and its figurative character, with relation to divine realities under the Gospel dispensation. -- His free use of allegories and metaphors -- his allusions to the customs, and practices, and amusements -- to the races, and sports, and games, of the people of that day -- his quotations from their Poets and Philosophers, are all incontestible evidences of a warm and vigorous imagination; which under divine influence, made him eminently useful, as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Of the ardency of his feelings there can be no doubt.
But when an ardent imagination, and warm feelings enlisted in the cause of Religion, are suffered to burst the bounds of truth and reason, and run out into "perceptible excess," what are then the consequences? The history of the Anabaptists of Munster, the riots in London under Lord Gordon, and many other circumstances, sufficiently answer the question. To one of the consequences, less terrible, but more fatal to the cause of pure and undefiled religion, thou has called our attention. "Such a temperament, in measure disqualifies a Minister from being a competent judge of doctrines and controversies," and consequently, with respect to doctrines, no reliance should be placed in his judgment. Carried into excesses by his "imagination and feelings," he is an incompetent judge, and unworthy of credit -- He is a fanatic!
But, how does thy character of Job Scott, agree with that given him, not by individuals, whose judgment might be warped by esteem or dislike; but by the Monthly meeting, of which he was a member -- by Friends, amongst whom he resided, and who had long watched him, under those circumstances where the character of a minister is seldom mistaken -- by Friends, who must have been more competent judges of his character, than a Friend in London, who had seen him a few times during a visit to that city! "His mind," says the Meeting, "was improved and enlarged, by the sanctifying power of Truth" -- "He had measurably learned, in the school of Christ, the mystery of the fall and restoration of man; and to understand the scriptures, and pertinently to apply them" -- "His soul was deeply baptized" -- "He was eminently gifted with instructive and edifying talents." From all parts of the American continent, where he had laboured in the Gospel, his friends say, "he returned certificates of the approbation of those he visited, and we have good reason to believe, he has left many seals of his Gospel ministry, and impressions of near and dear unity and fellowship with him, as a brother beloved."
Now I would ask thee to say, if Job Scott was the man thou hast described him, would Friends, in all parts of this Continent, where he had travelled, have borne such a testimony of him If he had run into "excess on the side of the imagination," would they have had "near and dear unity and fellowship with him as a brother beloved"? To answer in the affirmative, is to say, that Friends in all the places he visited, had unity with a wild fanatical spirit!
But let us suppose for a moment, that Friends in this land, were so blind, that they never perceived this spirit in him; -- Or let us suppose, that he never indulged in any excesses of the imagination and feelings, on this Continent -- that he reserved all this false fire until he visited Europe! what then becomes of the European testimonies concerning him? Let us now recur to that of the National half-year's meeting for Ireland, and attend for a moment to some of its sentiments. It tells us, that "from genuine marks evinced in the course of his religious services, we believe him to have been an instrument, fitted and prepared, by the great Master, through deep and repeated baptism, for use and service in his Church militant" -- "He was a diligent waiter to experience renewed qualifications for service." -- "His conversation was coupled with fear, as well as seasoned with Grace, and being deep in heavenly mysteries, he was cautious of squandering the same; but when at liberty for conversation, his communications were agreeable and remarkably instructive."
Do we see any marks of fanaticism in all this? -- Is it through deep baptism, that this false fire is elicited? Is it by "diligently waiting to experience renewed qualification for religious service, that the "imagination" becomes heated and runs out into "perceptible excesses." I believe none, who are acquainted with such baptisms, and whose "conversation is coupled with fear, and seasoned with grace" will answer in the affirmative.
Perhaps however, our Friends in Ireland, being themselves naturally of a warm temperament, may have been mistaken -- Or, they may have wilfully thrown a veil, over a weakness; which, from self- love, they were willing to believe was a venial defect! Therefore, as a last resort, to defend the character of this self-denying and baptized servant of Christ, who is not here to speak a word for himself; let us now recur to the Yearly Epistle from Friends of London, in the year 1793, to the Yearly Meeting of Rhode Island. -- In the Memorial of Providence Monthly Meeting, concerning Job Scott, I find these words: "He arrived at Dunkirk [in France] the fifth day of the First month, and after tarrying there about ten days, much to his own and Friends' satisfaction, he proceeded to England. Taking some meetings in Kent, went to London, attended the different Meetings in that City -- then into Wales, and attended the several Monthly and Quarterly Meetings, and the Yearly Meeting at Caermarthen; thence to Bristol, and returning to London, attended the Yearly Meeting there, who, [Friends of the Yearly Meeting] in their Epistle to ours, speak of him in a very satisfactory manner."
Thus we see, from authentic documents, that not only in the United States, but in Ireland, and France, and Wales, and England, Job Scott's character and labours, are represented in terms of the highest approbation. Even in London, near the place of thy residence, he is spoken of in "a very satisfactory manner." Can we suppose this would have been the case, if his labours and conduct had been marked by a fanatical spirit -- or if thou prefer the terms, by "a perceptible excess of the imagination and the feelings"?
From any thing that appears, thou art the only Friend who ever perceived this defect in Job Scott's character! It was left to thy penetration to discover it, and more than thirty years, after this excellent Minister, and devoted follower of Christ, was laid in his grave, thine was the task to proclaim it to the world!
I will now call thy attention to a portion of thy Letter, which, I think, not only evinces a lightness of spirit on thy part, but a disposition, by a degrading comparison, to propagate the idea that Job Scott was an ignorant man!
After speaking of that "perceptible excess on the side of the imagination and the feelings," which thou declares with great assurance "was certainly in the character of our deceased friend," thou makest the following remarks, which that I may not be misunderstood, I will quote in thy own language, page 4 -- "It," that is this perceptible excess in a minister, "is sometimes corrected by experience, and by an intercourse, in a spirit of charity, with others as zealous and knowing as himself. I remember an honest man's remark, who had been hired as a help from a distant country, and had had to follow his employer for the first time, through our crowded metropolis. 'I never saw such a place as London in my life! -- why, no body would get out of my master's way'! -- Just so it is with powerful but secluded minds, when they emerge from their circle of assenting hearers, and weak opponents, into a wider horizon, and have to compare the contents of their budget with the variety of conflicting opinions around them."
In this paragraph Job Scott is compared to an ignorant hired servant who had to follow his master through the streets of London, in which "crowded metropolis he had never been before," and who was so stupid as to think the passing multitude ought all to get out of his master's way. It is plainly intimated that Job Scott's mind had been a "secluded" one and had never "emerged from the circle of assenting hearers and weak opponents" -- that he had never compared, what thou art pleased to call "the contents of his budget, with the variety of conflicting opinions around him"!
That he was not an ignorant man the memorial I have quoted, and his various publications, sufficiently attest. That he had not just emerged from a "circle of assenting hearers and weak opponents," the Journal of his travels published since his decease, and the well known character of the population of New England, clearly demonstrate. To those who are acquainted by personal intercourse with the people of our Eastern states, it will be vain to say they are "weak opponents" or "assenting hearers"; that they never were so, is evident from their history!
On the contents of the paragraph last quoted from thy Letter I will not detain thee long; but after a few remarks will leave thee to enjoy all the satisfaction that such comparisons may afford thee in moments of cool reflection. There runs through the whole passage a vein of irony and sarcasm, which thy readers cannot fail to perceive, and which is not only inconsistent with the gravity of a religious character, on such a subject, but is much to be lamented when employed by a Friend against a worthy deceased minister of his own denomination.
That thou shouldst suppose him to be an ignorant man, is perhaps very natural. Those who have seldom emerged from the narrow circle, and smoky atmosphere of any "crowded metropolis" seem, very generally, to suppose almost all the learning and knowledge in the world, are centered with them; and that the little which the rest of mankind possess, may be compared to the "gleaning grapes, or as the shaking of an olive tree -- two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches." I am inclined to think thy own countrymen are peculiarly subject to this error, especially as it regards the people of the United States. Until very lately, the people of England have acted as if they thought we could hardly get along well, unless they sent us Law, Physick, Philosophy, and Religion; whilst we at the same time, could not perceive in the professional character or qualifications of those that came amongst us, any superiority worth the expense and trouble of their transportation.
That the people of the United States ought not to be denominated "a circle of assenting hearers and weak opponents," is evident from all authentic histories of them since the first settlement of this country. They have always been apt to discern the spirit of encroachment, tenacious of their rights, and zealous in their defence. On religious subjects they have been engaged to inquire with great earnestness: and being unshackled with the yoke of an oppressive Hierarchy, and free from that seducing influence which the "dignified clergy" are constantly exercising to draw dissenters into their schemes, it is to be presumed the Americans have attained to as clear views of truth as any other people. With respect to the society of Friends, from a pretty extensive acquaintance with its members on this side the Ocean, I think I may say, they are an active, intelligent and thoughtful people, and too far removed from the weakness of infancy, to stand in need of foreign aid.
The following passage of thy Letter, page 6, seems intended to convey the idea that Job Scott was a man of a gross indelicate character. Nor do I wonder that thou could be easily persuaded to believe it. With ignorance we are apt to connect indelicacy. That the reader may judge for himself I will quote the passage verbatim. "I shall strive not to make this Letter the vehicle of improper thoughts by quoting expressions [from the Essay entitled Salvation by Christ] which could not be read, I think, in a mixed company of Friends of both sexes, without bringing confusion over some of their faces."
Now the doctrine implied by this censure is evidently this; that if any writer, under the solemn engagement of opening and illustrating divine truths, should use language that "could not be read in a mixed company of both sexes, without bringing confusion over some of their faces," such writer is censurable for making his work "the vehicle of improper thoughts." Upon this hypothesis, almost every scripture writer, from Moses down to the latest author of any book in the New Testament is guilty of gross indelicacy. In attempting to propagate such a sentiment, thou hast passed a severe censure on nearly all the scripture writers. Who does not know that there are hundreds of passages in the Bible far more indelicate than any thing in Job Scott's book? It is unnecessary to refer to them. Perhaps thy mind, refined and chastened by intercourse with the elegant and polite society of your "crowded metropolis," might think such reference indelicate! One thing however is obvious, that rather than not bring an odium on Job Scott's character thou art willing to involve all the scripture writers in the guilt of making their work "the vehicle of improper thoughts," and like him, they must lay under the charge of grossness and indelicacy! And what adds to the singularity of thy conduct on this occasion, thou condemns in theory, what thou exhibits in practice; for the succeeding pages of thy Letter express all the ideas in Job Scott's book, that are calculated to bring "confusion over some faces in a mixed company of both sexes."!
Having briefly noticed the charges of fanaticism, ignorance and indelicacy, preferred against Job Scott, I will now revert to some remarks, on the 3d page of thy Letter. Thou sayest, "having heard him preach with much power and energy when he was in England, I was interested and affected by the circumstances of his death in Ireland, soon afterwards; and the regard I have cherished for his memory, made me a little concerned for his religious reputation." I would not suggest a hint on this occasion to impeach thy veracity; but I cannot omit calling thy attention to the inconsistency of thy conduct with thy profession of "regard for his memory." I think it cannot be doubted that if thy Letter were generally to make the impressions which it is eminently calculated to produce on weak and ignorant readers, it would do more injury to his religious reputation than all that the open enemies of spiritual religion and worship, could ever effect. That thy Letter will injure his religious reputation in this country, I do not say. The "seals of his ministry" are yet thickly scattered up and down this land, and thousands of witnesses are yet living and ready to bear testimony to the sobriety, gravity, and steady deportment of this dignified ambassador of Christ -- that so far from being a fanatic, or ignorant or indelicate, his ministry, and his instructive and chaste conversation, were evident proofs to the contrary. Thy professions of concern for his memory reminds me of the famous Lacerta, that terror of the Nile, who is said to weep over his victim before he destroys it. Hadst thou omitted one little word in the sentence I quoted, and said the regard I cherished for his memory made me little concerned for his religious reputation; there would have been some correspondence between thy professions and thy conduct afterwards.
Connected with the quotation I last made from thy Letter, is the following remark respecting the book under thy review. -- "Had he [Job Scott] lived to near the present time," "my own decided opinion, after mature deliberation, is that he never would have published it as it now appears nor probably, at this time of day at all." To the former part of this opinion, I can very fully assent. It is very probable, had he lived, he would have done what every author, who has time and opportunity, ought to do -- he would have revised and corrected it for the press. -- To use his own language, he would have had it "properly digested," and "a good deal better guarded," -- that so no after critic, who might be disposed to invalidate his character, or cavil at his doctrine, should have had a pretext however flimsy, to make his book appear the work of an ignorant or indelicate writer. But he was prevented from effecting his prupose, by an early transition to a better world; and thou hast taken advantage of this circumstance to destroy his reputation! and thus it appears, that this dying martyr in the cause of truth, had good reason to desire that his writings might be "properly digested, and better guarded."
But why should thou think he would not have published it at all? Thou acknowledgest that on his death bed, alluding to the doctrines advanced in his essay, "he still regarded them as true." Dost thou suppose that after he had said, "I am deeply grounded in them, as being the very life and substance of Christianity, indeed of all true religion," he would now, like many of our polite modern Quakers, have receded from this ground, and exchanged the joys and consolations and support of spiritual religion and worship, for the dry husks of a barren and lifeless theology? Dost thou think he would have followed the example of those, who have sold and are selling their birth-right to the invaluable inheritance of our faithful predecessors, for what is far worse than "a mess of pottage"? Canst thou admit the idea, that he would have gone creeping to the world, and have bartered any of our noble testimonies, for the transient honours and applause of a day? For my part I cannot; -- I think he was too "deeply grounded" in the truth! Could I think otherwise, I should rejoice in his timely escape; and thank an allwise Providence, that he had taken him from us while his lamp was burning in brightness, with this language on his dying lips -- "Follow me as I have endeavoured to follow Christ, the Lord of life and glory, and the Rock of my eternal salvation."
Thou thinkest it probable, he would not have published his essay, at this time of day at all. But why not at this time of day? -- Has any new or better light appeared since his death? or have we so much improved the light we had, that to publish it would be supererogatory? Look at the state of society in England, and Ireland, and Scotland and Wales. Do "the fruitful fields laugh with abundance" -- has "the parched ground become a pool, and the dry land springs of water?" -- Is the doctrine of regeneration and the new birth so well understood, that there is no further need to call the public attention to the momentous subject? Have commentators and critics so perfectly opened and explained it, that our religious society have no cause to proclaim it, in the deep spiritual manner of our early Friends?
Well I think he would have published it. Thou has given me no reason for thy opinion; I will give thee one for mine. Many of the members of the society to which he belonged, have since his time "receded from genuine Quakerism" in doctrine and practice, and have approached what are called "the reformed churches." Of this they are publicly reproached by our adversaries, in books published on purpose to bring the society under odium.* And the reproach is but too well founded. Our country is teeming with pamphlets, couched in intemperate and scurrilous language, written by members of our society, advocating the most irrational and unscriptural doctrines; drawing the attention from the inward, potential, and only means of salvation, "the light within;" the holy spirit in the soul; "God manifest in the flesh"; in our flesh -- to outward and carnal objects, to outward blood, outward laws, an outward sacrifice, an outward mediator, an outward intercessor, an outward redeemer, in fine, to an outward religion -- a scheme of redemption, of which Job Scott said, "It is as dark as Egyptian darkness' -- a scheme with which his enlightened and redeemed mind was disgusted; and which he faithfully laboured, by his ministry and writings, to expose in its own natural deformity! -- and in no work more than in the essay entitled, "Salvation by Christ." For these reasons I think if he had lived to near the present time, he would have published it, if not long before.
Now if I mistake not, thy opposition to Job Scott's work and thy desire to lessen his character have originated from the fact, that he was an enemy to this outward scheme of redemption; and, in a clear and lucid manner, preached and illustrated this eternal truth, "except man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." For this sentiment, it is but just that I should give thee my reasons; because thy real object is not very obvious to a superficial or hasty reader; it lies indeed perceptible through every part of thy Letter, but is so mixed up with other matter, that an unsuspecting reader might not discover it.
In the first place then as the doctrine of Job Scott is undeniably true; and so admitted, even by thyself; the mere circumstance of an alleged defect in the manner of illustrating it, could hardly be an adequate motive for assailing the religious character of a deceased friend, and holding him up, as an object of public censure.
Secondly. If the mode taken to illustrate and explain his doctrine, had been defective, and such as thou thought worthy of public attention, thy object might have been accomplished without impeaching him of fanaticism, ignorance, indelicacy, and several other capital defects not yet noticed.
Thirdly. In thy prologue, page 3, it is made evident, that thy Letter was intended for cirulation amongst Friends in this country, for whose use "it was exclusively written"! But at the same time thou seemest anxious we should be explicitly informed, that it "is not the result of any correspondence, previously had, with any Friend in the United States"! Why this anxiety?
From what I have said I think it appears: 1st, Thy object was not to refute the doctrine of the "New Birth." 2d, It was not mere criticism, nor explanation. 3d, It was something offensive, in which American Friends were not to appear! It required an apology, a veil to cover its deformity, something to make it pass current, for error when naked does not travel well!
It is very obvious, from several late publications of Friends in England, and still more so by the oral communications of several ministers from thence, that this outward, carnal scheme of redemption, has been adopted by some of the wealthy, influential, leading men and women amongst them; and by thy Letter it as plainly appears that thou art united in principle with them, as will more plainly be seen in the sequel. Job Scott was a noble testimony- bearer against this dead image, and its worship; and while his reputation and influence remain unimpaired, many will never bow at its altar. It is therefore an important point to remove him out of the way.
The society of Friends in England were originally planted, "a noble vine." Under the guardian care of the great husbandman, it struck deep its roots, and spread wide its branches -- and being watered with the dews of heaven, it became fruitful, to the praise of that grace, by which it stood unhurt through every storm. But alas! trusting to the frail supports of human contrivance and worldly policy, it has bowed its noble head, and many of its branches have become as "the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto its Lord." This is so obvious, that many of the weighty members of the church, on both sides of the Ocean, have had to take up the plaintive language of the prophet, "I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer, the vine of Sibmah (conversion) I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon (invention) for the shouting of thy summer fruits, and thy harvest is fallen; all gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there can be no singing, neither can there be shouting, the treaders can tread no wine in their presses, the vintage shouting hath ceased."
I say many of its branches have become degenerate, for I trust and believe, that amongst the constituent members of the society in Europe, there are not a few who are maintaining its simple doctrines and noble testimonies, in humility and faithfulness. It is, nevertheless, too obvious to escape attention, that some of its most active members, have mournfully lapsed in doctrine and practice, from the example of our primitive Friends; and that in many places the society has become a desolation.
This fact I presume will not be denied. The great causes are unfaithfulness, the love of the world, a reluctance to bear the cross, a want of magnanimity to despise the shame. Amongst the secondary causes, the great accession of wealth, has been a fruitful source of degeneracy. This has led to associations with the world, and an amalgamation with its spirit; hence, not only a fear to offend, but a desire to please the great, the noble, the rich, and the learned has been the consequence. -- The nature of the Government has also had its influence. The titles and the splendour of nobility, are very dazzling to the natural eye. They who regard them with unceasing gaze, especially the rich, should have their eyes frequently anointed with the eyesalve of the kingdom, to prevent partial, and even total blindness. A learned and numerous body of the clergy, scattered through the land, of all grades, from the mitred prelate, to the gentleman priest; flattering and fawning, to draw Friends into their popular schemes, for spreading religion, as they call it has had a very visible effect, on the characters of many of the opulent and accomplished members of the society in England; and through them, on the character of some Friends on this side the Ocean.
Soon after the coalition of Friends with the nobility, gentry, and clergy, in order to send bibles over the world, we began to hear the excellence of charity preached up, and a narrow sectarian spirit decried. This met the ear like music. Charity is so exalted a virtue, that the very name is sweet; and what can be more odious than bigotry? Soon after this, we heard that Friends, the once despised Quakers, were permitted to sit in the same room with Dukes, and Earls, and Lords, and Gentlemen -- not exactly on the same side of the room, but actually within the same walls! Next we heard that some of our ministers had been invited to address the honourable assembly: On which they took the floor, made florid speeches, and were actually complimented and applauded by some of the nobles, for their eloquence! -- and then we heard, that in return for all this civility, our grateful Friends had adopted the use of titles, and that the hireling ministers of an oppressive hierarchy, were saluted by the style, of the "dignified clergy"!!!
Thus things went on for several years. Quakerism in England began to lose its awkward gait and uncouth appearance. It was no longer that rustic "secluded" thing, neither willing nor fit to mingle in the politer circles of society. Clarkson had published its "portraiture" in flattering colours -- the news-papers rung its praise. It had shaken off the fetters of bigotry and superstition, and its avowed principles, except a few "peculiarities," were the delight and admiration of the world! From what I have heard and seen, I apprehend many friends in England, and a few in America, began to think the millennium was at hand; when kings should be the nursing fathers of the church, and Queens its nursing mothers; when even emperors should come bowing at the foot of the cross. It is said that the emperor Alexander, of Russia, when on a visit to England, after the sanguinary conflicts at Waterloo and Paris, attended the meetings of Friends in London, and that many thought they had nearly converted this hardy warrior, just reeking from the slaughter, and drenched in gore, into a peaceable, polite Quaker! But, somehow or another, he escaped to his native country, and soon raised an army of several hundred thousand men, to keep down the rising spirit of freedom in Europe. It is uncertain, to this day, whether the HOLY ALLIANCE, was not the fruit of Alexander's religious impressions, received while in England.
But the spirit of reform did not end here. Our "peculiarities," as they have been termed by one of thy friends in England, were found to be offensive to the new colleagues; it was therefore desirable to soften them down, and Joseph John Gurney wrote two or three books, to explain the doctrines of Christianity, in which the leading features of the trinitarian scheme, were openly advocated; and so acceptable were the books to other religious societies, avowed trinitarians, that they paid for many thousands of them to distribute for the public good!
Now the doctrine of a TRINITY had been publicly disowned by Friends. They denied any distinction in the divine nature. Penn's "Sandy Foundation Shaken" had been adopted by the society and published over and over in his "Select Works." -- Barclay had declared "God is a most pure, simple Being, void of all composition or division. As if to shew that this doctrine did not, in his estimation, belong to the Christian system, he did not in his "Apology for the true Christian divinity" ever treat on the subject -- he did not even admit the term 'trinity' into his book! The ATONEMENT as preached by Fox, Penn, Whitehead, Pennington, and the great body of Friends in their day, was not an outward atonement, but an inward and spiritual one, to be accomplished in the soul of every candidate for salvation. It was the reconciliation of the sinner unto God by repentance and obedience -- not any change wrought in the unchangeable nature of the Deity! It is true George Keith opposed them in this point, but becoming turbulent, as these outward satisfactionists are very apt to be; he was disowned, and by an easy accommodation joined the Episcopal church. The SCRIPTURES had always been considered by Friends, not the "word of God" nor the words of God, but a record of things known, or believed, or predicted, or done -- written by faithful men, under divine influence or inspiration. Barclay had declared, that "the letter of the scripture is outward, of itself a dead thing; a mere declaration of good things, but not the things themselves." Ap. Prop. III. Sec. 2. We now hear from the gallery, this doctrine contradicted by ministers from England. When the Apostle declared, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life," we are told he only meant by "the letter," the old law of Moses; and in thy Letter, page 16, the same false opinion is advocated. Thou say'st 'It was plainly not the letter of this book [the New Testament] to which the Apostle applied the text'! Thus we are taught that "the letter of scripture" which Barclay says "is outward of itself a dead thing" is now come to life, and is that on which we are to depend for religious instruction. Now though we cannot receive thy doctrine, yet we can perceive its inconsistency with scripture, reason, and the testimony of our early Friends. We know from experience and the history of the church for the last fourteen centuries, that a dependence on the letter of scripture, brings death, division, contention, detraction, debate, persecution, and even a disposition to defame the illustrious dead: of which thy own Letter furnishes some corroborative evidence.
But these "peculiarities" which I esteem fundamental principles of the society, were found to be as stumbling blocks in the way of a perfect union, between the parties to the new coalition; and an ardent desire was felt to remove them out of the way; hence in addition to other means, a system of preaching, quite new to us, was adopted by many of your ministers. The plan was to quote the figurative or metaphorical language of the scripture, and apply it in an outward and literal sense, contrary to the views and well known practice of our primitive Friends. And then, if any honest hearted, practical Friend, denied their interpretation, he was to be denounced as an unsound member of society. This plan was soon put in operation, and is now producing its natural fruits -- fruits which it has always produced, from the time of Constantine, down to the present day -- intolerance on the one hand, and opposition on the other. And now these ministers and their adherents, having left the broad and plain ground of George Fox and his coadjutors, have gradually slidden from our original principles, and are landed in the dark and intricate mazes of a lifeless, irrational, and barren theology. They have been "receding from genuine Quakerism, and approaching the reformed churches" until all the difference in doctrine, between them, is scarcely worth the trouble of pointing it out!
Happy would it have been for our peaceful country, had this plan been confined to the land of its origin. But the spirit of proselytism has ever been observed to connect itself most closely, with the most erroneous systems, the advocates of which, wanting the support that truth gives, seek, as a substitute, the sustaining power of numbers. Hence, strenuous efforts have been made to extend the system; so as to include within its limits the numerous meetings of this extensive continent; and, within a few years, an unusual number of ministers from England, have landed on our shores. I would be very sorry to attribute to any labourer in the gospel field, an improper motive; but there has been so marked a difference between the temper and conduct of some of our late visiters, and of those who, during the forty preceding years, have laboured amongst us; that viewing their measures in connection with well known facts, no reasonable doubt can remain, that they have acted upon different principles and with different views:** But all this shows they did not understand the general character of the visited; nor did they consider how widely, in many respects, our circumstances differ from those of our Friends in England. They have sought to convert us to the principles of the new coalition, while the motives to a junction are repugnant to our feelings. It may be very desirable to our trans-atlantic brethren, to stand upon good terms with the nobility, gentry and clergy. But our case is different. We have no noblemen to oblige us by their favours, or flatter us with their praise. Here all men are equal in the eye of the law. We have no hierarchy to oppress us -- no titheman to conciliate -- no priest to pay! Every man in the land may worship his Creator as his conscience dictates, without buying the privilege. This is not a "toleration;" -- it is a right, guaranteed by the Constitution of our country, and never infringed except when the leading members of some self- constituted society, forgetting their own frailty, attempt to impose upon us their own private views. Unhappily, this kind of attempt, is now made upon many in this land; through, as we believe, the influence of foreigners. It is painful to state the fact, that some of these, not content with the liberty which our country amply affords, to propagate their own opinions, are so regardless of the rights of others, that they go from house to house, bearing "evil reports," tending to destroy the religious influence of our most exemplary ministers. Now, to us this is grievous. We consider it a violation of the good order of society; and though we wish them no harm, and can regard them with charity, and even with pity, yet we cannot but regret they did not remain at home, until sent by the head of the church, not to preach contention, but the gospel of peace!
Hitherto however they have failed in their object, and indeed, from appearances, are not likely to succeed. Friends in this country do not drive well, and there has been no attempt to lead them. Indeed, I have my doubts whether they would lead well. They are a people who are very much accustomed to think for themselves, and such a people will not implicitly embrace the doctrines and opinions of a fellow creature, who has no other, nor better means, of coming to a knowledge of the truth than themselves!
I have said that within a few years a number of your ministers have landed on our shores for the purpose, no doubt, of instructing us on religious subjects; but I believe thy Letter printed here, is the first book written on your side of the water, expressly with that design. Like some of your living itinerants, it is going from house to house, bearing evil reports, to destroy the religious character of a faithful minister of Christ. In one point however, their object is different. The former impeach the characters of the living -- the latter strikes at the character of the dead! This I think is carrying matters one step farther than any you have heretofore taken; but I doubt whether it will answer the purpose. There is something so offensive to most minds, in the bare idea of violating the grave, that it is more likely to produce disgust than conviction! The living can answer for themselves, and when openly attacked, can act on the defensive. -- But the tongue of the dead is dumb -- his arm is nerveless; and therefore, where the spirit of party has not hardened thy readers, every feeling of sensibility will rise in his defence. Were it not that experience has taught us, to what unbounded lengths this desolating spirit will sometimes carry men, otherwise amiable, I should wonder that any Friend in our country could submit to be the bearer of thy Letter, or condescend to aid in its distribution amongst our members!
It is far from my intention to censure Friends of England as a body. I have great pleasure in believing there are many in your island, who are honestly concerned, to support our original doctrines and testimonies; and who will reprobate the design and spirit of thy letter, as sincerely as I do. Friends, who are labouring in great sincerity, though under much depression, to promote the cause of truth. So far from casting any reflection on these, I would rather offer them a word of encouragement; and in the language of scripture, say "Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" -- "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." But many who ought to have been standard bearers in our society, have deserted their colours, and gone over to the enemy. Under the garb of a concern for spreading religion, are breaking down the barriers, raised in Divine Wisdom, to separate us from the world. It is against such that I would guard my fellow professors; and if Friends, however obscure their allotment, keep faithful to the light of truth, they will be enabled to perceive and detect these deserters. Our testimony to the simple truth, will again be exalted, and its standard lifted up to the praise of Him who hath called us -- not for our own sake only, but for his own glory in the happiness of the human family.
In a former part of this reply, I have intimated that thou hast impeached Job Scott of several capital defects, not yet noticed. Permit me now to draw thy attention to another part of thy letter, page 15. After trying to prove, that several of his opinions are incorrect, when squared by thy literal notions of scripture truth, thou has drawn the following conclusions; which, for the purpose of exposing the object and character of thy work, I will give in thy own words -- they are as follow: "Such are the consequences of affecting to be wise above that which is written -- of making that real which is metaphorical -- that figurative or mystical which is literal -- of not being content, to take the plain text along with the context, and draw from both, in humility and faith the instruction they may thus well afford -- in short of rejecting, from an apprehension of our own superior attainments, and greater spirituality, the doctrines deduced from scripture, by christians in all ages, concerning salvation by Christ"!
In this short paragraph there are several imputations on Job Scott's character, wholly inconsistent with the one given him by his most intimate associates, and utterly opposed to the testimonies of Friends in America and Europe.
In the first place, he is accused of affecting to be "wise above that which is written." Now the justice of this accusation entirely depends on one point; that is, whether Job Scott or Luke Howard had the most correct views of the meaning of the scripture writers. Thou assumes the point at issue. "I, Luke Howard, have the most correct views of the meaning of 'that which is written,' I am right and Job Scott is wrong, and consequently Job Scott affects to be 'wise above that which is written'"! This assumption is gratuitous, and if Job Scott were living, he might say, with equal propriety and more truth, Luke Howard pretends to be wise in that which is written -- he makes that metaphorical which is real, that literal which is figurative or mystical! Nothing further need be said to show that thy assumption arises from an overweening confidence in thy understanding of the scriptures -- that thou thinkest thy self wise; in that which is written. Now I can see no proof of spiritual pride, in Job Scott's case, more than in thine. The difference between you lies in this; Job Scott depended upon the illumination of the holy spirit, for his views of scripture truth, thou depends on thy own understanding, aided by critics and commentators. Of the superiority of thy qualifications for explaining the scriptures, we have no evidence, except that furnished by thyself; and from the specimen thou hast given, I suppose our readers will not value it very highly -- but of Job Scott his friends, in their memorial say, "he had learned in the school of Christ to understand the scriptures, and pertinently to apply them." With this kind of evidence in his favour, I leave my readers to judge, whose interpretation of the scriptures is most to be relied on!
In the second place, thou accusest him "of not being content to take the plain text along with the context." The validity of this charge lies, like the former, in the understanding to be put upon "text and context." If they have a figurative meaning, and thou givest them a literal one, thou wouldst be as far in the wrong as Job Scott would if they had a literal one and he should explain them figuratively! Thus, nothing at all depends upon thy assumption "I am right and Job Scott is wrong," but all upon the capacity you may have respectively possessed, for the high office of an expounder of the scriptures! For my own part, notwithstanding the opinion thou hast tacitly given of thy superior claims to that office, if I were to depend on any human authority, I would prefer Job Scott's to thine. He has, at least, one claim to that preference -- the testimony of his brethren that he had "learned, in the school of Christ, to understand the scriptures, and pertinently to apply them."
In the third place, Job Scott is accused "of not being content to take the plain text along with the context, and to draw from both, in humility and faith, that instruction they may well afford." I need not say much on the subject of this charge. -- Whether Job Scott or Luke Howard have evinced most of the fruits of humility and faith, I leave our readers to determine. It appears however by the testimony of his brethren, that Job Scott had learned to "understand the scriptures in the school of Christ." Luke Howard understands them by comparing the text with the context -- the consequence I think has been, that the former had learned to draw spiritual instruction from the scriptures -- the latter is content with that kind of instruction which learned commentators can afford. The one takes the kernel the other the shell!
In the fourth place, the deceased is accused "of rejecting, from an apprehension of his own superior attainments and greater spirituality, the doctrines deduced from scripture, by Christians, in all ages, concerning Salvation by Christ." This accusation is partly grounded, I apprehend, on the supposed accuracy of another charge, which is repeated several times in thy Letter, and dwelt on with very evident marks of satisfaction! This will appear from the following references. In page 6, thou sayst "Job Scott insists again and again that those things are real which sober christians have regarded only as lively and apposite metaphors in the sayings of Christ, and his Apostles" -- the same idea is twice expressed in p. 14 -- and again in the paragraph quoted, p. 15. From the notion, that those things which Job Scott considered real, are only [mark, only,] "lively and apposite metaphors," thou drawest a long string of consequences, of thy own making -- some of them intended to make Job Scott appear ridiculous, and all, entirely founded on thy own misapprehension of the meaning of the word real. Now I think, a little examination of this subject, will show that Job Scott understood the English language, at least as well as thyself!
Our lexicographers render "real," by the words "true, certain, sure" in opposition to "untrue, uncertain, fictitious -- having no reality." But "real," is not opposed to spiritual, otherwise all the things of the spiritual world, would be but phantoms! According to thy position, the "new birth" is no reality! it is a mere fiction -- "only a metaphor"! and thus, when Christ taught Nicodemus this important doctrine, he was merely amusing him with a figure of speech! -- declaring of a new birth and the kingdom of heaven, in which there was no reality! Into such palpable inconsistencies hast thou been betrayed in thy zeal to lessen the influence of Job Scott's writings -- in all which there is not one error, either in matter or manner, half so gross, as thine on this point.
The truth is, spiritual things are the only everlasting realities. "The fashion of this world passeth away," -- Here all is mutation, revolution and change. The body I now possess, is not precisely the same I had yesterday. It has lost some of its component particles, and has had an accession of others. In the spiritual world all things are real, unchangeable, and certain.
Now, spiritual things being invisible, are best described by metaphors, parables, similes, and other figures, representing things unseen, by things known through the medium of the senses. Hence, it was as I apprehend, that Christ seldom spoke on religious subjects, except in this way. With respect to the multitude, Matthew expressly says, "Without a parable spake he not unto them. Ch. xiii.34"; and Mark says, "and with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it, but without a parable spake he not unto them." Ch. iv.33,34. Indeed it must be obvious to the attentive reader, that even to his immediate followers, his language was almost always metaphorical. When the metaphor figured to them any divine truth already known by experience, they understood him clearly; and so it is with all his true disciples to this day. They know these things by experience, and thus are prepared to declare, they are eternal realities. When his figures represented any truth not known in this way, they were at a loss to comprehend the real sense of them, and were often offended. On one occasion, when he had taught them by the very singular figure, of eating his flesh and drinking his blood; it is said "from that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him." John vi.66. These were carnal hearers, the literal men of that day. They were, however, a better sort of professors, than the literal men of our own. They turned back it is true, but they neither persuaded, nor drove others back. Our literal men endeavour to do both!
But we are told that Job Scott, "from an apprehension of his own superior attainments, and greater spirituality, rejects the doctrines deduced from scripture, by christians in all ages, concerning salvation by Christ." This accusation lies with equal weight, against John Wicliff, John Huss, Jerom of Prague, John Calvin, the martyrs under queen Mary, George Fox, and thyself! Was it not from an apprehension of their own superior attainments, and greater spirituality, that all these rejected the doctrine of the "real presence"? -- a "doctrine deduced from the scripture, concerning salvation by Christ." Was it not from the same "apprehension" that George Fox and his brethren rejected the Eucharist -- water Baptism -- singing Psalms -- a hireling Ministry, and divers other things, "deduced from scripture?" In short, do not all Christian societies, "deduce from scripture," all their doctrines, however absurd, or repugnant to the spirituality of the gospel dispensation? Thy conduct brings to mind the fable, where a man is represented as being willing to lose one eye, so that his adversary might be made blind! In censuring Job Scott thou condemnest thyself and thy friends.
The Church militant has always been, and ever will be, a progressive body. Light is rising. And Spiritual Light, like the Orb of the natural day, does not attain its meridian all at once -- as it regards individuals, who are faithful to its discoveries, it is always on the ascent. Look back, through the vista of a thousand years, what was the state of the Church then? Wrapt in Cimmerian darkness -- in darkness that might be felt -- groping her way in a ditch, where she had been led by her blind leaders -- deluged in her own blood, spilled in fighting for a creed! And are we now to be referred to the doctrines of such a Church, for a proof, that Job Scott was a presumptuous man? Thou assumest that "Christians in all ages" interpreted the scriptures in a certain way. This is not true; but suppose they did, is that any proof they were not mistaken? Or is it a reason, that when the "sun of righteousness," has risen above the horizon, and discovered an error which our predecessors had not light to see, we should shut our eyes, and refuse to be benefitted by his beams?
I apprehend thy errors on this subject have originated from one of the principles of the new coalition, that "THE SCRIPTURES are the light of the spiritual church." "The scriptures of the New Testament," say they, "are not a dead letter" -- Of course they must be a living letter. "They may be understood by comparing the "text with the context"; and by taking them along together, we may arrive at the truth!" This is thy doctrine, as expressed in the paragraph I have just quoted. It is a doctrine thou hast preached and defended, in the fifth page of thy Letter. By this test thou sayest "I will proceed to try some opinions of Job Scott." And memorable is the result! It furnishes an evidence of the falsity of thy scheme, as clear as the most lucid demonstration of a mathematical problem. It has added another proof to the vast mass of evidence, accumulated during eighteen centuries, that the scriptures, in their literal sense, or expounded by human wisdom, never have been any test of doctrines at all; and that, notwithstanding thy assertion to the contrary, they are a dead letter, incapable of themselves of giving either light or life. And this thou well knowest was the judgment of our primitive Friends. It was a testimony, uniformly maintained by them -- it was emphatically, a doctrine of the society! -- and is a truth so plain, that any one who has an eye to see and a mind to think, cannot doubt it for a moment. Only look over christendom -- see the innumerable sects into which she is divided, all claiming the scriptures, as the ground and foundation of their doctrines and opinions, however contradictory and absurd; and all defended by learned men with the bible in their hands, as the source and origin of every jarring and opposing creed! -- men as capable as Luke Howard, of comparing the "plain text with the context." and of drawing conclusions from both, to support their views! What plainer evidence can we have, of the futility of thy scheme, or the solidity and excellence of that which opposes it? See Barclay's Apol.. Prop. III. Sec. 1,2.
I would now invite thee to review another part of thy letter, page 15. After representing Job Scott as a man puffed up with spiritual pride, "from an apprehension of his own superior attainments, and greater spirituality," thou sayest, "It is greatly to be feared that a spirit of self- righteousness, may sometimes be lurking under these exalted pretensions. For how can a man be supposed to entertain and feed his mind upon such doctrine, without applying it to his own case, and to his neighbors? -- He himself, forsooth, is regenerate, and born again -- he has in him the only begotten, the son and heir of the promises; who ever beholds the kingdom, and dwells in it." &c., &c.
Let us suppose, for a moment, that Job Scott was this "exalted pretender, this self-righteous man -- that this caricature, is a true portrait, and all thy sarcasm well applied! -- Let us also suppose, that Luke Howard really disclaims and detests all such "pretensions," and all those who make them; then, I suppose, the following consequences will necessarily follow; 1st, To the defects of Job Scott's character, already noticed, we must add, spiritual pride, exalted pretensions, self-righteousness. -- Thy charges will now stand against him in the following order, "fanaticism, ignorance, indelicacy, spiritual pride, exalted pretensions, self- righteousness."
2d. Friends in America, France, England, Ireland and Wales, were all greatly deceived by him, and he was a plausible, artful, consummate impostor!
3d. Luke Howard disclaims any pretensions to the new birth -- he does not acknowledge that "he himself forsooth is regenerate and born again"; such a profession would be an "exalted pretension" -- he does not profess to have "in him, the son and heir of the promises"! -- he does not "feed his mind upon such doctrine," nor "apply it to his own case!"
4th. The Apostles and primitive Christians, were exalted pretenders; they professed to have experienced the new birth -- that Christ was in them, "the hope of glory" -- that the son "was revealed in them."
5th. The primitive Quakers were all in an error, which has lately been discovered for the first time by a fellow professor. They entertained and fed their minds upon such doctrine -- they applied it to their own case -- they declared they had "the son in them," and life by him.
6th. That according to thy notions, a new era in the annals of Quakerism has opened. We are now to be so modest, as to decline an open acknowledgment of the truth, and to satirize those who make it.
7th. That the primitive christians and early Quakers, having made these "exalted pretensions," Luke Howard disclaims them and their doctrine.
As the above conclusions are the necessary result of the premises, they need no comment; yet there is one question to which I would call thy attention, as naturally growing out of them. I am not acquainted with thee, nor do I know what is the opinion of Friends in England concerning thee. I do not know, for instance, whether they rank thee among those we term "the solid, weighty members of society." or whether they consider thee a worldly minded, nominal Quaker. It is however evident, that no man is a competent judge of the deep and weighty subjects of which Job Scott has treated, who has not been "regenerated, and born again"; who has not "in him, the only begotten, the son and heir of the promises": for the Apostle expressly declares "He that hath the son hath life, and he that hath not the son of God, hath not life"; and thou disclaims those who "feed their minds upon such doctrine"! How then couldst thou attempt to sit in judgment on Job Scott and his writings? That thou hast not the "life" here mentioned, I do not say, though it seems to result from the premises; but it may safely be said thy Letter gives us no evidence of a lively renewed mind; of that tender state, which always marks the character of a regenerated man! It is I think, a very invidious, dry, dark production; and I am very glad thou hast told us, that "the society of Friends in England, is not responsible for its contents."
Thou introducest the subject of Job Scott's treatise, in the following words, (page 5.) "The subject of this pamphlet is regeneration and the new birth" that doctrine which our Lord chose to propound but to one person, and that in privacy; as if on purpose to instruct us, that it should be learned in secret, and brought to the test of individual experience; not talked of in crowds, or discussed in religious assemblies" -- "a subject, which he who is clothed with right authority, under the influence of the holy spirit, may at times, profitably impress upon the minds of serious hearers, in the solemnity of public preaching; but which, when cast before the sensual and worldly minded, is as pearls among swine; and may serve to bring the great and precious truth, which lies under it, into doubt, if not into derision."
In this paragraph, the first thing that strikes our attention is the acknowledgment that the doctrine is scriptural! It was "propounded by our Lord himself" -- it may be "profitably impressed upon the minds of serious hearers" -- "it is a great and precious truth." One would therefore suppose, that Job Scott's attempt to illustrate and unfold a truth so "precious," might have met thy cordial approbation! But, not so. Steady in thy attempt to depreciate his character, it is insinuated that he has disregarded our Lord's example; he has "talked of it in crowds"; "thrown his pearls among swine"; "cast them before the sensual and worldly minded," and done what he could to bring the doctrine "into doubt, if not into derision." But, in this attempt, thou hast stumbled at the very threshold, and by self-contradiction and inconsistency, shown thy determination to find fault at all hazards. Permit me now to call thy attention to the component parts of the passage quoted; and first, "This doctrine was propounded but to one person, and that in privacy; as if on purpose to instruct us that it should be learned in secret, not talked about in crowds or discussed in religious assemblies." Contrast this sentence with the following: "A subject which he, who is clothed with right authority, &c., may at times, profitably impress upon the minds of serious hearers, in the solemnity of public preaching"! That is, this doctrine is "not to be discussed in religious assemblies," but may be profitably impressed on the mind by PUBLIC PREACHING!!! It was propounded but to one person privately, on purpose to teach us it should be learned in secret; and yet it may be profitably impressed on serious hearers, IN PUBLIC!!! It may be taught by "public preaching," but "not talked of in crowds"; and thus the preacher ought never to speak on the subject in a crowded meeting, and must be certain that no "sensual and worldly minded" hearers be present; or he would be casting pearls before swine, &c.!!! Didst thou ever see so much inconsistency in so small a compass?
But this is not all. The Evangelist comes in for a large share of thy censure. Forgetting his Lord's purpose in "propounding it but to one person, and that in privacy"--or, disobeying his will, he commits the conversation with Nicodemus to writing; and like Job Scott, proclaims the doctrine to the wide world. By this means he threw it into crowds, brought it before the sensual and worldly minded, and cast it, like pearls, among the swine of every generation, for eighteen hundred years.
I think thy American friends, may hereafter rank thee amongst the most extraordinary expounders of the Scriptures, who have hitherto made their appearance in our new world.
Before I notice that part of thy letter, which treats with unwarrantable levity, the doctrine of the new birth, as explained by Job Scott, I will premise a few observations on this subject, as treated by several of the scripture writers.
The introduction and operation of the Holy Spirit, in the soul, are described in the New Testament, by two distinct metaphors, taken from the generation and birth of man into this world. One of these is used by Christ, in conversation with Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The soul of man, in an unregenerate state, may be said to have had a birth, or introduction, into this world. Through the medium of the senses, we can obtain a knowledge of natural things. As rational intelligent creatures we can, without that, which the scripture writers call the new birth, understand "the things of man." We can learn much of the objects that surround us, and even become adepts in the sciences. A man may be a very good astronomer, geologist, or botanist; yea, and a notable expounder of the Scriptures; and yet be only the "natural man"--only "born after the flesh," in which state he "knoweth not the things of the spirit, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The truth of this statement is confirmed by every day's experience. By obedience and submission to the gentle intimations of the Holy Spirit, that "grace of God which hath appeared to all men," the soul receives new powers, new perceptions, new senses; and this is called a "new birth." In the early stage of its religious progress, it may very properly be called "a babe of life"; for though its knowledge of things spiritual be very limited, yet it is enabled to breathe to heaven for preservation; in Scripture phrase, to cry "Abba, Father."
The other allegorical birth is that of the primitive Quakers, "Christ within." It is alluded to by the apostle (Gal. 4:19): "My little children with whom I travail in birth, until Christ be formed in you." In this passage the Holy Spirit, and its work in the soul, are likened to an embryo not perfectly formed; the Galatians are compared to mothers, and the apostle expresses a lively interest in them, as such. In it he also compares himself to a mother in travail, whose time of deliverance is not come. By the former allegory I understand him to mean, that though the Galatians had known something of the work of redemption, they were yet shackled with legal ceremonies--to use his own words, "in bondage under the elements of this world" (Gal. 4:3). By the latter he tells them, he is in pain for them, because he cannot bring them forth, into usefulness in the church.
By what has been said it appears, that the new birth of the Scriptures is twofold: the one, a birth of the soul into a spiritual state. This is that spoken of by Christ to Nicodemus. The other, is a birth of the Holy Spirit, into the soul; and is that of the apostle in the text alluded to, as well as in divers other places, as Rom. 8:10, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 3:17, &c.
Having premised these few observations, I will now state the doctrine of Job Scott, on this subject; by which it will appear, that it is substantially a Scripture doctrine, and all along taught by our society, from its very origin. Job Scott's views, as expressed in his essay entitled "Salvation by Christ," are these: "There must be an assent of the mind, a uniting with, and cleaving to, the holy overshadowing influence of the Holy Spirit, in every soul, where the new birth is effected. This new birth, or birth in man, of the incorruptible seed and word of God, is as real a birth, as is our first birth, or birth into this world. It is as perfect a reality as any in nature, and that babe of life, that true child of God, that cries Abba, Father, is never brought forth but through a union of the two seeds, human and divine. And as both seeds are spiritual, hence, he that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit; as the apostle truly asserts. This is the true union with God, and those thus begotten of him, are strictly speaking, the offspring of God and children of the Most High. Stumble not at it, reader, it is the very truth of God--the only way of salvation by Christ."
This is the doctrine of Job Scott; and I very much doubt whether any one, who has entered the Christian fold by the right door, will find any difficulty in understanding it. In conducting the allegory, he has, like the apostle, compared the soul which thus experiences a new birth, to "a mother"; and the birth he calls a "babe of life." He has, however, blended together two metaphors. In the one case, he speaks of a birth of Christ in the soul, where he says "this new birth or birth in man, &c."; in the other, of a birth of the soul into a spiritual or heavenly state: "those thus begotten of him are the offspring of God, &c." and thus has given occasion to such critics as Luke Howard, to cavil, and find fault with his work. It appears, however, that Job Scott's allegories are scriptural; and notwithstanding he might have expressed his views in a more classical way, yet I cannot see in this circumstance, any plausible ground to make his work a subject of public censure! It is "the very truth of God," although like the apostle, by his manner of treating the subject, he has laid himself open to the lash of the hypercritical adversary.
That the doctrine of Job Scott has been taught by our society from its origin, is I think, very evident. For a proof of it I will refer thee, in the first place, to Clarkson's Portraiture of Quakerism, Vol. II. Sect. 4; where so far as his authority goes, it is conclusive. In the next, to Barclay's Apology, Prop. II. Sect 16, where he says, "And as, by forsaking iniquity, thou comest to be acquainted with that heavenly voice in thy heart, thou shalt feel, as the old man, or natural man, is put off, with his evil and corrupt affections and lusts; I say thou shalt feel the new man or the spiritual birth, and babe raised, which hath its spiritual senses, and can feel, see, taste, handle, and smell the things of the spirit."
Sarah Grubb, in a letter dated Clonmel, 1 mo. 1783, says, "it requires wisdom, undefiled wisdom, that the immortal birth may be surrendered to the breast of its true mother, and that nothing hurt it, or diminish its strength, but that under all turnings and overturnings, divisions and subdivisions, it may gradually and steadily grow in statute, in wisdom, and pure understanding; and take to itself an everlasting dominion in us."
In another letter, dated at the same place, 2d mo. 1788, she says; "though we enjoy [the springtime of divine favor] in but a small degree, we can salute each other in spirit, and word; and hail all those who like Mary are bearing precious seed, let their stations in religious society be what they may."
What dost thou think of the foregoing metaphors? Couldst thou not, by taking the same pains, make Robert Barclay and Sarah Grubb, appear as worthy of ridicule, as thou hast been willing to make Job Scott? Are not the "spiritual birth and babe," of Robert Barclay, "the immortal birth," and "precious seed," of Sarah Grubb; the same babe, of which Job Scott speaks? to use thy own sarcastic language, are "they not the babe of his pamphlet"?
I could make numerous extracts from the writings of our early Friends, to the same purpose; but I think the foregoing reference and quotations, will be sufficient to convince any unprejudiced reader that Job Scott was not singular in his views, respecting the momentous doctrine of the new birth.
In thy letter (page 10), thou hast taken much pains to show that the "babe of life, the true child of God that cries Abba, Father," is not the babe of Job Scott's pamphlet; and thou tellest us, "It happens, that in the only two places in Scripture, in which this figure of the infantile cry to its parent, is introduced, each passage exhibits the infant as an adopted child"; and after sundry arguments thou concludest, that because "generation is not adoption, &c.," Job Scott derives no support to his hypothesis, from either of the texts alluded to. I must however think differently. It is true "generation is not adoption," but it is a necessary prelude to it. A child cannot be adopted, before it is generated; nor cry, before it is born. In a Scripture sense then, regeneration is the ground or cause of adoption, a sine qua non without which no adoption can take place. We must be "born again," before we can be admitted into the heavenly family. The infantile cry of "Abba, Father," is never heard but from the lips of those who have been "born of the incorruptible seed, and word of God." It is this new birth, which receives "the spirit of adoption," and is entitled to all the privileges of membership in Christ's kingdom. Suppose we were to admit thy hypothesis, that the child of God was such only by adoption; that "before he was adopted, he was the servant of sin," and that, without passing through the process of regeneration, he was made a member of the kingdom merely by believing or assenting to some formula of faith, even the most excellent; what then would become of the positive assertion of Christ to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"? It would be a mere nullity; and we should be placed on the same kind of ground with those who believe that by sprinkling a little water on the face of a child, it is regenerated and made a member of the church of Christ. I think therefore, the doctrine of Job Scott, does derive substantial support from the texts in question; and that thy criticism evinces more of a disposition to find fault, than any solid qualification for illustrating the Scriptures!
Having shown that the doctrine of the new birth, as taught by Job Scott, is scriptural, and in strict accordance with the views of approved members of our society; I would invite thy attention to the 7th and 8th pages of thy letter, where, after alluding to the parables of the "grain of mustard seed," "the leaven hid in the meal," "the treasure in the field," and the "pearl of great price," thou sayest: "In all these, there is nothing that tends to the thing so much insisted on by the author of this piece [Salvation by Christ], nor is the subject, in his sense, so much as once mentioned or alluded to by our Savior." Let us now inquire, what is "the thing so much insisted on" by Job Scott, in the work under thy review. It is without all doubt, "Salvation by Christ," as an inward, divine, operative principle. This, no candid reader will call in question:--it is the burden and stress of his whole essay, from first to last. Now I would ask any man of common understanding, Is there nothing in the parable of the "mustard seed," that tends to the thing, so much insisted on by him? Is there nothing in the "little leaven," which was hid in the three measures of meal?--nothing in the "pearl of great price," nothing in the "treasure hid in the field" that tends to illustrate salvation by Christ, as an inward, divine principle, growing and spreading and producing fruit in the soul--leavening us into the divine nature, enriching us with heavenly riches? That "Christ has not so much as once alluded to the subject, in Job Scott's sense," is so far from being true, that it is the only thing he alludes to, in many of his parables, metaphors, and figures, which were expressly intended to point out the "kingdom of heaven" or divine government in the soul of man!
Job Scott, like his great master, illustrates the work of redemption, by a metaphor of the new birth; at first, like a tender infant crying "Abba Father"; and afterwards, growing and increasing, until it arrives at the fullness of the stature of man, in Christ. It is the same subject that is illustrated by the parables of "the grain of mustard seed, the little leaven," and many others. I say the subject is the same--the metaphors to enforce it are different, and this is the only difference in the case.
I shall now notice the following paragraph to show, that in endeavoring to lessen our esteem for the religious character of Job Scott, thou hast wandered far into the dark wilderness of speculative theology; and there, with critics and commentors, art lost in the mazes of uncertainty and conjecture. The paragraph immediately follows that last cited (page 8); it is in these words: "In reply to a question of the apostle Peter (Matt. 19:28), as to what they should acquire, who followed him, as the reward of their adherence to him; he says indeed, Ye who have followed me in the regeneration, when the son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also, shall sit upon twelve thrones &c." Here the term "regeneration" occurs--now let us see what thou wilt do with it! Thou sayest, "But if the English were made to agree with the construction of the text, according to the punctuation, that may, and probably should be given in the Greek it would be seen, that the term regeneration, or renovation, belongs to the latter part of the sentence; and points to the future state of the VISIBLE church, in the new and spiritual dispensation, with Christ its KING and HIGH PRIEST at ITS head." That this is all idle conjecture, appears on the face of it; for the sense thou would give the passage depends on the punctuation; not that which is given, but that which "may be given" and "probably should be given"; according to thy notions derived from a certain learned commentator!
Now suppose we state the text, with the punctuation that may be given, according to thy views; it will then read thus, "Ye who have followed me, when the son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, in the renovation!" According to this construction, the apostles who followed Christ, not "in the regeneration," but through the countries of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, &c., shall, in the future state of the visible church [mark, the VISIBLE CHURCH!] sit upon twelve thrones--shall be twelve kings--to judge the twelve tribes of Israel! and then, "in the renovation," the Jews will have "Christ as king and high priest at their head;" and under him twelve subordinate kings to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, to wit: king Peter, king James, king Bartholomew, &c. &c. &c.!!! Into such absurdities are we led, by leaving the only certain expositor of the scriptures, and following the pointings of letter-learned commentators!
But all this follows, from the notion thou hast adopted and expressed afterwards (page 8), that "as Christ had never sinned, he had not gone before them [in the regeneration] nor could they as yet, have been said to have followed him." This notion supposes that sin is a necessary prelude to regeneration. But this is not true; for regeneration only presupposes a natural birth. "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit." This is the language of Christ himself, and taken in connection with his own assertion, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," shows plainly that every being born of a woman must experience a birth of the spirit, in order that he may see the kingdom of God--in other words, that he may come under the divine government. Now, Christ as the son of Mary was born "of the flesh"; he was "of the seed of Abraham," and was "in all things made like unto his brethren" (Heb. 2:17). By this birth, or the faculties and powers of his first nature, he could work no miracle--could preach no gospel; for though from a child he "grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man," though "the grace of God was upon him," yet he did not presume to begin the work assigned him until he was "about 30 years of age," and after he had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that essential qualification for every gospel service! and as the work he had to do was evangelical, it was necessary he should be "born of the spirit," experience the whole process of "regeneration"--pass through all the pangs of the "new birth," and as "the captain of our salvation," be made "perfect through suffering." I say this was necessary. It was necessary to make him our "example, that we might follow his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). It was necessary to institute him a minister of the gospel and mediator of the new covenant. For these purposes, he was led of the spirit into the wilderness, and all the glory, and honor, and wealth, and pleasures of this world, were offered him! He was tempted and tried and proved in all things as we are; but through a faithful allegiance to his Father and to our Father--to his God and to our God--he triumphed over them all and came off victorious! Yet, notwithstanding this happy result of his fidelity, it is very evident that the cup of suffering was as bitter to him, as it is to us: that his nature shrunk from it with indescribable horror! Look at him in the garden of Gethsemane--struggling against it--praying that, if it were possible, it might pass from him: and during the awful conflict plunged into such agony, that "he sweat as it were great drops of blood." It was in this conflict he perceived that nothing short of submission to the divine will could possibly give him relief--and to crown his warfare, he was enabled in perfect resignation to say, "Not my will but thine be done." Having "learned obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8), he became calm and collected, and being "made perfect through suffering," was prepared to fulfil the remaining duties of his mission with holy courage and divine complacency. By these means he was made "the captain of salvation," the great leader and pattern in his militant church (Heb. 2:10).
Thus we see the propriety of his reply to Peter, as stated in our present translation: "Ye that have followed me in the regeneration, when the son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." This is one of the sublime figures of oriental language--incomparably beautiful even in a foreign dialect. Were I to venture a paraphrase of it I should say it meant, "Ye who have followed me in obedience, and submission to the will of God; whereby I have experienced a birth into the heavenly nature; when the gospel dispensation shall be preached to the world, ye shall be made ministers of the new covenant; judges of spiritual things; able to divide the word aright, and instrumental in gathering the 'outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah' unto the one shepherd and into the one sheepfold."--In other words, to the divine light in the soul--into union and communion with God, and those, his children of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, who fear him and work righteousness. And this my friend, was really fulfilled. Christ did really go before them in the regeneration; and they followed him in the regeneration; by which they were made "able ministers of the New Testament: not of the letter, which killeth, but of the spirit which giveth life."
Thy next objection which I shall notice, is in the 11th page of thy letter. If any one will examine that part of Job Scott's work, to which thou hast referred (pp. 53, 54, &c.), he will find the author's great object is to show "it is not merely confessing, though in full assent to the truth of it, that Christ did come in that one outward body, that determines any one to be of God--that none truly confess him, without knowing in the present tense that he is come in the flesh, in themselves, spiritually." This is Job Scott's own language, and it would be difficult to conceive, without knowing the principles of the new coalition, why any Friend could object to it. It is so plainly and palpably the doctrine of George Fox and his fellow professors, that no one can doubt it! Yet rather than not say something against our deceased Friend, thou venturest to attack it. Let us now review thy work. In the passage referred to, Job Scott has said "This is the great mystery of godliness. God manifest in the flesh, is not confined to the flesh of that one body." But says Luke Howard, quoting 1 Tim. 3:16, "All this is said in the past tense. God was manifest in the flesh, not is; the whole is connected together, as the proper attributes of Jesus Christ, even of him that was crucified." By this we must understand that as "God manifest in the flesh" is the proper attribute "of him that was crucified," it can belong to no one else; otherwise Job Scott's position could not be an object of censure: therefore according to thy scheme, God is not now manifest in the flesh! and the old Quaker doctrine of "immediate divine revelation" is false! But other awful consequences result from this scheme;--unless the Messiah was crucified without one of his attributes, then God was killed by the Jews! And as Christ declared he was "not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," therefore the great and prominent glory of the Christian dispensation, "the mystery hid from ages" was confined to the Jews. The further thy scheme is investigated, the more irrational and absurd it appears; and the sooner the principles of the new coalition are abandoned, the sooner will our members be restored to the plain, consistent and rational ground of their enlightened predecessors.
But why, when on this subject, didst thou pass over the quotation of Job Scott, from 1 John 4:2? "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." Here the apostle speaks in the present tense; and Job Scott very properly remarks upon the passage--"The devils believe, confess, and tremble: but none truly and thoroughly confess him, without knowing, in the present tense, that he is come in the flesh--in themselves spiritually." But let us hear the apostle again, who, as if to impress us with his deep spiritual views on this point, states the same proposition in the following verse NEGATIVELY! "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, IS NOT of God"; and afterwards, "He that hath the son hath life, and he that hath not the son of God hath not life." Here again the apostle speaks in the present tense; and the whole of thy argument, upon Quaker principles, is as forcible against him, as against the doctrine of the pamphlet. If thou wouldst not overthrow the old tenet of "IMMEDIATE divine revelation," why all this pains to make Job Scott appear in the wrong?
The 12th page of thy letter contains some observations tending to confirm the idea, that thy sentiments are inimical to those of our worthy predecessors. John the Baptist on seeing Jesus coming to him, said "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). On this thou remarkest, "The common notions of the Christian world, which I believe to be quite right, and the pamphlet quite wrong, make the Lamb of God to be the man Christ Jesus, who was foreshown by the lamb in the Jewish passover." Now, according to thy doctrine, "the sins of the world" are taken away by "the man"! the lamb of the Jewish passover was the type of a "man"!--the outward lamb, was the type of the outward man! One outward thing was the type of another outward thing! By this interpretation, when Christ partook with his disciples of the paschal feast, the antitype helped them to eat the type of himself! This kind of doctrine, I would suppose, could hardly be relished by Friends on either side of the ocean! However that may be, by William Penn it could not. In his "Christian Quaker" (a very significant appellative in the present case) he says, "one outward thing cannot be the proper figure of another. Nor is it the way of holy Scripture so to teach us. The outward lamb, shows forth the inward lamb--the Jew outward, the Jew inward, &c." See Christ. Quak. chap. xvi.
Now this "inward lamb," of which William Penn speaks, is that which the primitive Christians called "Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom," says the apostle, "we preach." "The mystery hid from ages, but now made manifest in the saints." It is the great luminary of the spiritual church, under the gospel dispensation--that church, which John, in the vision of light, saw "descending out of heaven from God"--a city which "had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamb is the light thereof" (Rev. 21:10 and 23). And this "light" is what the primitive Quakers called "the light within." It was the great cornerstone of their faith--the root and spring of their ministry. They held it up as the "unspeakable gift," principle, or manifestation of God to man--the reprover, reconciler, justifier, and sanctifier of the soul--in a word, "God manifest in the flesh"--and, under the new covenant, our atonement, mediator and redeemer. And that body which John saw with his corporeal eyes, they called "the prepared body," "the veil," "the instrument or vessel in and by which," says William Penn, "God declared the blessed glad tidings of his love, and message of reconciliation to the world." See Christ. Quak. Chap. 27. See also Penington's works; Whitehead's "Light and Life of Christ Within," &c. &c. &c. From all which it plainly appears, that in pronouncing Job Scott to be "quite wrong" thou declarest thy apostasy from the original principles of the primitive Quakers! and thy unity with "the common notions of the Christian world"!--in other words, that thou hast embraced the irrational, dark doctrine of the TRINITY!
Thy letter presents a large field for animadversion, but it is not my intention to follow thee through all the windings of thy dark and devious course. It would exceed the limits I have prescribed to myself, and be as tedious as I trust it is unnecessary. There are however, a few sentiments and observations in thy letter, that I feel a concern to notice before I close this communication. They have suggested to my mind some considerations which I think worthy of attention, as being of vital importance to the society of which I am a member; for whose welfare, as for my own, I feel an ardent solicitude: therefore,
Before I proceed, I would again call thy attention to a characteristic of our friend Job Scott, as given by his friends of the National Half-year's Meeting in Ireland. It is a very important trait, in the character of any member of a church, professing our principles. It is contained in the following words: "He was a diligent waiter to experience renewed qualifications for service, before he attempted to move, either in the ministry, or discipline; well knowing, that without a fresh anointing, any endeavor to act must prove ineffectual, and tend to center in lifeless formality." I notice this part of the testimony concerning Job Scott, because it has immediate reference to the only safe ground, on which the true church, or any of its members can stand. We may be very active in the temporal concerns of the church--we may send out missionaries to preach to the heathen, as we call them--we may form Bible Societies, Tract Societies, and indeed any other Societies, with the most imposing titles, and with the most benevolent designs--we may, by the knowledge of the languages, and the assistance of learned men, become famous expounders of the Scriptures; yet, if we have not experienced renewed qualifications for the service, immediately conferred by the head of the church, it will all "center in lifeless formality," and instead of promoting the object in view, will greatly retard it. If I mistake not, it has been one of the leading objects of our society, to hold up these views, and so far as we depart from them, we let fall this noble testimony, weaken ourselves, as a member or branch of the universal church, mingle with the mass of Christian professors, and defeat the great design of Divine Providence in raising us up, as a distinct religious society. True charity does not lead to an amalgamation of our society, nor indeed of any religious community, with others. It leads us faithfully to support the various testimonies committed to our trust--to hold up to the world the light, which it has pleased divine goodness to place in our candlestick--to regard others with kindness, charity, and brotherly love, but not to mingle with them, in the execution of their religious schemes, unless, by the indubitable clearness afforded in the light of truth.
When I have taken a view of the honest, upright members of all societies, into which the Christian world is divided, I have compared them, to the different kinds of workmen, necessary to the erection of a building. These workmen all contribute to the completion of the work, in various ways, and the design is best effected, by each one faithfully performing the distinct portion allotted him. If the carpenter should interfere with the object of the mason, or the painter neglect his work to do the business of the carpenter, instead of promoting the great design, embarrassment would ensue, and the work, like the vessel of an unskillful potter, would be marred upon the wheel!
I have made these remarks preparatory to a review of a part of thy letter (page 19), in which, I believe, thou hast expressed unnecessary concern for the reputation of our religious community--a concern arising from a very mistaken view of the design of Providence, with respect to the building of his militant church. It is in these words: "When I see in many, whom I know, of other denominations, a lively concern and diligent endeavor to spread the knowledge of Christ [book-knowledge], to promote the reception and perusal of the holy Scriptures [by means of Bible Societies]--when I am obliged to admit on certain evidence, that these labors have been blessed and have succeeded, to the turning many to righteousness,--when I behold these things, in which we (as a body) have taken, hitherto, so little part, I own I feel for the Christian character and reputation of that part of the visible professing church on earth, to which I belong."
Now, admitting all thou hast said respecting the effect of this kind of labor, does it therefore follow, that there is any ground for "regret," that "we as a body," have taken so little part in them? While we are doing our part of the building, cannot we behold others doing their part, without envy or "regret"? Thy regret in the case, appears to me just as rational, as it would be in a mason, when seeing the painter at work, to regret that he had not laid down his trowel and taken up the brush! while at the same time, he could do much more service, by keeping to his trade! In the same page, thou hast granted, that "we are a peculiar people, and have peculiar testimonies to bear to the simplicity, peaceableness, and purity of Christ's kingdom." Then, why not bend all our efforts to bear up our testimonies? Have we not work enough to do for our master, in the sphere allotted us? Have we so much idle time, that we can do all our own work, and the work of others too? Or have we finished our work, and may now charitably help our neighbors? Alas! my friend, the true answer to these questions might very reasonably abate all thy "regret," that we "as a body," have not joined with others, in what they may very consistently perform, but which we cannot, and have neither time nor any religious call to undertake. I believe it to be more foreign to our business than the trade of a painter is to that of a mason! There are various reasons of great weight, why we cannot unite with others in these schemes, some of which have been alluded to in a former part of this letter; but a volume might be profitably filled in pointing them out!
I believe the solemn language of Divine mercy to our society is "Come out from among them, and be ye separate." "To thy tents, O Israel"; and not only in divine mercy to our society, but to the universal church. For the good of the whole depends upon the health and soundness of every part. Thou hast admitted that we have "peculiar testimonies to bear." Now, I believe, our strength to bear them depends on our devotion, in singleness of heart, to the secret unfoldings of Divine wisdom, and to our united labor as a distinct body of religious professors. By mingling in the concerns of others, we neglect our own business and become weak, as the reed that is shaken by the wind. To "come out from among them and be separate," is therefore the highest act of charity to others, and the surest proof of wisdom in ourselves!
When I consider the extent of Divine goodness to us as a people--when I consider the origin, and progress, and present state of our religious society, my heart is affected, and the tear steals down my cheek. We were brought forth in great weakness, with hardly swaddling clothes to wrap us, with no manger to shelter us, and a dreadful storm howling around. George Fox, a poor stripling, wandering up and down the country, seeking rest to his soul and finding none--asking of the priest a morsel of bread and receiving a stone, was, in adorable mercy, not by any outward means, but by the immediate pointing of the divine finger, led to seek for heavenly bread where it can only be found--to "Christ within," to him who said, through his "elect servant," the blessed Messiah, "I am the bread of life, he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." As the wandering Arab of the desert, who, parched with thirst, and ready to perish, when he finds a fountain of water, pure and refreshing, in some unexpected spot, lifts up his eyes to heaven, in tears of gratitude, wanting language to express his praise; so it was with this poor despised outcast. Being now brought to the spring of divine life in the soul, and enabled to draw water from "the wells of salvation," in gratitude to God, and love to his fellow creatures, he felt himself called to go forth and preach this gospel to the world. Happily for him and his country--happily for us, and for generations yet unborn, he "reasoned not with flesh and blood, but gave up to the heavenly vision"--and what was the immediate consequence? "As face answereth to face in a glass," so did his simple message of "the light within," his testimony to the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit in the soul, as a teacher and guide in the way of salvation, answer to the experience of his hearers! Thousands flocked to this standard; it was something they could understand! The rich and the poor--the wise and the ignorant--the learned and the unlearned, like the "merchantman seeking goodly pearls," when directed to this "pearl of great price," went and "sold all that they might buy it." In a very short time, many able ministers were raised up to preach with power and authority the same simple doctrine! It was in vain that priests and magistrates--the ecclesiastical and the civil authorities attempted to crush them. It is true they raised a storm, whose desolating blast threatened inevitable destruction. But he who is the refuge of his people, was to them like a great rock in a weary land--he sheltered them from the intended ruin, and raised them up, over all opposition, to be his witnesses for this simple but eternal truth, that, "whatsoever is to be known of God is manifest in man, for God hath shewed it unto him"--a truth so fully confirmed in the experience of every real Christian, and so entirely accordant with many of the plainest passages in the New Testament, it is a matter of surprise that anyone, but especially a member of our society, should doubt it for a moment, or be induced by any means to raise above it an inferior standard.
While the society of Friends kept close to this principle, preaching and practicing upon this simple ground, they were like "a tree planted by the waters, that spreadeth out her roots by the river, regardless of the heat; whose leaf is always green; who is careless of the year of drought; and doth not cease from yielding fruit" (Jer. 17:8). But what is our situation now? Much more like "the heath in the desert," like those who "inhabit the parched places of the wilderness"; "like an oak, whose leaf fadeth; or as the garden that hath no water!" And what is the cause? Is the fountain become dry? Is the arm of the Lord shortened that he cannot save? No! Christ is "the same today, yesterday and forever." But we, or at least many of us, "have committed two great evils"--"forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewed out to ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Instead of "waiting for renewed qualification before we attempt to move in religious service," we are uniting with those, who do not even profess so to wait; instead of holding up the "light within," and the necessity of its heavenly illumination, to direct us in every step we take, we "have kindled a fire, compassed ourselves about with sparks, walked in the light of our fire, and in the sparks that we have kindled." We have taken the government of ourselves into our own hands!" And what is our reward? It is that, which always did, and always will follow such a course: we "lie down in sorrow," we have "centered in lifeless formality"!
Happy would it be for our religious society, if, taking warning by the past, we should wisely improve the future; go back to first principles; resign our hold on the world, and its deleterious spirit--"come out from amongst them and be entirely separate." It is from deep conviction that I venture to express the sentiment, that nothing short of this painful but necessary course, will ever restore us, as a society, to our ancient brightness; or enable us to accomplish the gracious design of our merciful Creator, in raising us up, and giving us a name, as a distinct body of religious professors.
I know very well thou wilt differ from me in opinion on this subject. While I am pleading for a more distinct line of demarcation between us and the world--thou art anxious for obliterating the little difference that remains! It happens, however, that both of our plans have been tested by experience, and the result of each cannot be mistaken. It is visible in every page of our history--the present state of society proclaims it in language that cannot be misunderstood. Just in that degree that we have approximated to the world, and accommodated ourself to its maxims and manners, in that same degree have we become weak and tottering. Just in that degree that we have embraced its doctrines and opinions, in that degree have we become distracted and divided amongst ourselves! In the same proportion that we have united in the plans of others and become partners in their schemes, we have neglected our own proper business, until a state of insolvency has in many places nearly overtaken us. What clearer proof can we have, that thy plan is defective--that it is palpably erroneous.
There is one passage in thy letter, which pertains to the present subject, and which I consider, as the most extraordinary of any, that was ever presented for my consideration. It is couched in the following terms. Speaking of the religious society of Friends, thou sayest, "The day will come, however soon or late, when we must merge (if we remain so long a society) into the great assembly of the visible church!"
If I understand the meaning of this passage, it is, that the day will come when the society of Friends must unite itself with the numerous societies which constitute the visible church! Now, the truth is, that, we are sound in our views of Christianity--or we are not. If we are sound and the other professors of religion are not so--for, notwithstanding all assertions to the contrary, we widely differ from each other--and if ever gospel principles prevail, the "visible church" must merge in ours. If we are not sound, then, as thou sayest, "we must merge in the great assembly of the visible church," or seek for some new light to guide us on our way.
From a pretty close attention to events, during thirty or forty years, I have been consoled and encouraged in the belief, that the original principles of our society are spreading widely in the world. The unlawfulness of WAR has found able advocates in those not of our name. A HIRELING MINISTRY is coming more and more into disrepute in our country; and many not of our society have lifted up a noble standard against it. The curse of SLAVERY, which we were very early engaged to paint in all its horrors, is beginning to be seen in its true light, by the serious and upright members of all religious communities. OATHS are generally acknowledged to be inefficient for the purposes intended by them, and many of different persuasions bear a practical testimony against them in our Courts of Justice. And RELIGIOUS EQUALITY, hardly thought of in the seventeenth century, and if at all the subject of consideration, was supposed to be an impractical thing; is now the law of our land.
So far the merging has been the right way; and if our society had been faithful to its original principles and testimonies, neither bartering them for the smiles nor abandoning them for the frowns of the world, I believe the happy consequences would have been much more conspicuous.
When Admiral Penn, the father of the founder of Pennsylvania, was on his death bed, and with a mind serene and unclouded, was enabled to make a just estimate of this transitory world; "wearied to live, as well as near to die, he took his leave of us," says his son, "and of me with this expression, and a most composed countenance--'son William, if you and your friends keep to your plain way of preaching and your plain way of living, you will make an end of the priests to the end of the world.'" On the border of the grave, this great man, by a beam from heaven, shining across the narrow limits which separate time from eternity, was enabled to perceive a most momentous truth--a truth, which I weep to think, many of my fellow professors are trampling under their feet--blind to its importance, both to themselves and to the best interests of mankind. O, that I had the power, as I have the will, I would impress on the soul of every member of the society, to which I belong, a sense of the awful responsibility of our station, in the church of Christ and in the world. Called, as I believe, by the Holy Spirit, to hold up a standard to the surrounding nations--to promulgate the gospel, in its divine simplicity and purity; many of our members by truckling to the world--courting its friendship--aspiring to its honors--seeking its riches, and conforming to its spirit, are not only depriving themselves of the superior joys and consolations of inward spiritual religion, but are casting stumbling blocks in the way of the honest, but poor and disconsolate inquirers, who are seeking the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward. And now, instead of keeping to our "plain way of living, and plain way of preaching," they have launched out into all the fopperies and fashions, of a vain trifling age--have mixed in the assemblies, and united themselves with the schemes of priests, and prelates--building up, what they were designed to cast down; and thus frustrating the original, and everlastingly-important design, of the great head of the church!
The subject of Admiral Penn's dying communication is too important to be passed over lightly. Bear with me, my friend, if I dwell a little longer on the subject. "If you and your friends keep to your plain way of living"--a most important branch of our religious profession! How is the situation of thousands of our members, to be pitied and lamented, owing to their departure from this testimony? With large families to support by their attention to business--with manifold charges to defray, more than is necessary to maintain them; they are kept like galley slaves to the oar, struggling against the tide--no leisure for retirement, and with little time to improve their own minds, or attend to the all-important subject of educating their offspring. Thus, thousands of our children, in their tender years, when their minds are most susceptible of religious impressions, are left uncultivated; and they grow up, insensible to the importance of our testimonies--prepared to listen to the first whispers of temptation, and when, in the ardor and inexperience of the youthful state, the overbearing current of passion and example sets in upon them, they are swept away--lost to society at least, and perhaps become the subjects of poignant but unavailing grief to their affectionate parents.
"Your plain way of living." It seems to me, that many of our members have so entirely lost sight of our original testimony, in this particular, that they think, if their garments are formed to a certain plan, the great object of the concern is attained! When we consider the mode of living, common amongst our members, their splendid houses, costly furniture, elegant ornaments, all so nearly corresponding to the fashion of the times, we cannot suppose, for a moment, that a "plain way of living" is any part of their concern. It is true, certain "peculiarities" are scrupulously attended to. An active member of society, for instance, though he may indulge in great splendor, in other respects, must not hang in his parlor, prints, or paintings. The most costly productions of the loom may ornament his house, cover his floors, or clothe his back; his glittering coach and prancing steeds, may bear him to his worship; still, he must conform to a certain unintelligible rule; he must not introduce pictures or statues, into his house; the brim of his hat must be a little wider, and the crown a little lower than others; and his coat must be cut to a certain pattern! His moral deportment being correct, and these things attended to he is at liberty to appear in meetings for the support of our discipline, without any objection or difficulty. But this is not all.--While he is laying waste our most important testimonies, regardless of our "plain way of living," and an enemy to our "plain way of preaching," he may judge and oppose our authorized ministers, however correct in their deportment, however conformable to our discipline, who keep to our "plain way of preaching," but testify against the dark principles and inconsistent practices of those who profess the self-denying doctrines of George Fox and our primitive Friends.
Our practices, as members of the society, are indeed a little various. Some indulge in one thing--some in another; but, taking us all together, we very much resemble the Muslims, who were forbid to eat a certain undefined part of the swine. One eats one part, another takes a different part; one thinks this forbid--the other that; all are very scrupulous; but at length the whole animal is completely devoured.
"Your plain way of preaching"--This concerns both parts of our society,--you as well as us. How is our noble testimony for a free gospel ministry laid waste by a temporizing spirit? On our part, in some of our meetings, I have heard objections made to the term "hireling," when applied to a stipendiary priesthood--a priesthood as much opposed to the doctrines of the New Testament--to the practice and example of Christ, and his apostles--as darkness is opposed to light! I have heard honest Friends publicly censured for bearing an open testimony against such a priesthood! The fear of offending, or some other weakness, has, by these mistaken professors, been put into the scale against this excellent testimony; they have added their weight to the wrong side of the balance and done what they could, to abate a concern, against one of the greatest evils that afflicts the church and the world.
On your side of the ocean, a more affecting scene is exhibited! In your yearly Epistle, we are informed that from £13,000 to £16,000 sterling, about 70,000 dollars, are annually extorted by the clergy, &c., from the little community of Friends! And for what is it done? Is there any "quid pro quo" in the case? Is there any equivalent given for this enormous sum? No! The law of the land opposed to the plainest precepts of the gospel--opposed to the gospel dispensation itself, is in their favor; and by that unrighteous law, they do not scruple, to wrest from the hand of labor, the just reward of patient, painful toil. And yet that same society, who struggled into existence, through the oppressive weight of clerical influence--who owes its standing to the Divine arm, enabling it to resist, by great exertion, the deadly force of a learned, acute, persevering, though benighted priesthood. I say that same society, or at least some of its leading members, are cringing to, or fawning upon their oppressors--courting their favors, and ready to kiss the hand that is raised, to take the bread out of the mouths of their poor struggling fellow professors! Such conduct as this, cannot but weaken our testimony for a "plain way of preaching"; instead of making "an end of the priests to the end of the world," it will only prolong their existence--strengthen the hands of oppression, and defeat one of the ends of our most righteous testimony to the freedom and spirituality of a pure gospel ministry. It needs not the spirit of prophecy to foresee, that if this course is pursued, we must at length "merge into the great assembly of the visible church!"
"Your plain way of preaching." What thinkest thou this dying man meant by these expressions? I will venture to mention, what I suppose he meant by them. The Admiral had lived long enough to see, that any legalized, privileged church establishment, was a dead weight on society. He had observed that the ministers of such an establishment, did not preach the self-denying doctrines of the gospel--such doctrines militate against them and their trade. He knew, that abstruse metaphysical questions, and all the endless quiddities of speculative theology, though they might amuse some of the auditors, were not only unprofitable, but extremely injurious. He saw, that the doctrines of our society, were plain, easily understood, and leading to practical righteousness; that when there was no pecuniary interest in question--no love of fame, or power, to impel us, there could be no motive to conceal the truth, or propagate error. He had, in fine, observed that the priests had become corrupt and cruel--that the glory of Christianity had departed from them, and had rested on the head of that despised people, whose "plain way of living, and plain way of preaching," were not only in accordance with the doctrines of the gospel, but calculated in their nature, to break down one of the most tyrannical, and oppressive systems, that had ever been established, over conscience and property, in the militant church.
I am aware that my sentiments on this and other subjects will be by one class of my readers, attributed to a narrow sectarian spirit. In the 17th page of thy letter, Job Scott is accused of wanting charity. There is a kind of a thing now very common in the world, and passing current on both sides of the Atlantic, called CHARITY--a mere counterfeit, resembling that of the apostles in but a single feature--It "covereth a multitude of sins"! But mark! they are the sins of the great, the rich, or the noble--or of those who disregard the testimonies of the society to which we belong. It overlooks, or palliates, or justifies any departure from these. It would almost subscribe to a creed of jarring and absurd doctrines rather than fall out with the world! But if a conscientious brother, however consistent his character and conduct, should differ from these charitable folks in a single speculative point, or press with zeal our original principles, then, away goes their charity! it vanishes into air--thin air! He is a heretic, or an enthusiast, or a bigot, or a deist, or an infidel, or some such terrible thing! and is held up as a bugbear to frighten us from the exercise of one of the most sacred rights of a disciple of Christ, free enquiry. The ancient cry is practically raised, "away with such a one from the earth; it is not fit that he should live" (Acts 22:22). I say practically, for his house is avoided as the seat of contagion; the business by which he lives, is taken from him, and he is left with a family on his hands, to shift for himself as well as he can. This is modern charity; and I think, it is no disgrace to be without it. It is very prevalent in the world, and many are suffering under it. If to want it is to be a bigot, or a heretic, or any other thing of that kind; I should be glad to deserve such appellatives.
The time is approaching and not very distant, when the society of Friends must resume and faithfully support our ancient testimonies to the simplicity of the gospel, in doctrine and practice--must adopt "a plain way of living and plain way of preaching," or the great husbandman will visit our vineyard "and take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down--and will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned nor digged, but briars and thorns will more and more come up therein; and he will command the clouds, that they rain no rain upon it." Then indeed shall we "merge in the great assembly of the visible church"!
But I hope better things for our society, though I thus speak. It is pleasing to look over our country, and see that the same divine providence, which first raised us to be a people, is raising up a noble army, to advance and defend the cause of pure religion. He is qualifying and sending abroad his ministers, from the hoary headed veterans, down to the little Davids of our Israel; who are going forth with the gospel trumpet towards the East and the West and the North and the South--proclaiming the truth "in its native simplicity and divine excellency." I say I hope better things for our society. In the language of that dignified minister, Samuel Fothergill, expressed in a Meeting House in London almost sixty years ago, I may say, "I cannot think that a people, whom the Lord has raised by his own invincible power, and so signally placed his name amongst; were ever designed to be only the transient glory of a couple of centuries. I am still revived by a secret hope of better times, when our Zion shall again put on her beautiful garments, and in her and with her, shall arise judges as at the first, and counsellors and lawgivers as at the beginning. The gracious ear of our heavenly Father is still open to the supplications of his children, and I believe he will yet be jealous over his land and pity his people. The time approaches when the great dasher in pieces will more and more come up amongst us, and may all who are broken by him wait to be healed by the arising of his love. I live in the faith, and I believe I shall die in the faith that the Lord of Hosts will yet beautify the place of his feet--that our Zion will yet become an eternal excellency, and Jerusalem the praise of the whole earth." The bowels of adorable compassion yet yearn over his children, with all the tenderness of a father's love. "How shall I give thee up, O Ephraim? How shall I make thee as Admah, and set thee as Zeboim? How shall I cut thee off from being a people before me?" By this moving and pathetic language would the Great Father of the universe induce us to return to the arms of everlasting mercy!