Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ceived tithe* and otherjfees at his living of Yeldon". So much for Dr. Dell, to whose authority on this subject, Mr. Clarkson might-have added the respectable name of Cobler Howe, of Gloucester, who published a famous tract at that

?eriod, entituled "The Sufficiency of the Spirit's Teaching." 'his delectable performance has been lately revived, and is considered as a kind of text-book and vade-mecum, by the tinkers, coblers, and taylors, who take up the sixpenny privilege of preaching the Gospel.

The right of women to preach, is contended for by the Quakers, and the practice, which is very common among them, is here vindicated in direct opposition to the authority of St. Paul, who says "Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak." To get rid of this troublesome text, it is roundly asserted, that the charge of the Apostle has no allusion to "preaching" but to the making of speeches, and the putting of questions; for according to a wonderful discovery made by Mr. Clarkson, the primitive churches were debating societies, in which one member frequently interrupted another. The women it seems, were 'particularly troublesome on these occasions, and, according to the natural infirmity of the sex, their curiosity and propensity to tattle, led them oftentimes to disturb the order of debate. 'Now supposing this to be a true representation, we cannot see, upon the principles of the Quakers, backed by the authority of Cobler Howe or Doctor Dell, why the women had not full as much right to display their oratory on one occasion as the other, or that if they had the high privilege of addressing the whole church, e cathedra, why they fliould be refused the lesser right of asking questions concerning doctrine, or discipline. ,

The apostolical command, however, is peremptory and plain against the "speaking of women at all in the church," it will therefore require better sophistry than this, to prove that "preaching" is not included in the prohibition* Such miserable subterfuges are unworthy of any cause, and they particularly disgrace a master of arts, who must know if his reading in ecclesiastical history has extended to the early writers of Christianity, that no such thing was ever heard of as a female preacher among Christians, till the rife of Montanism, of which heresy, Quakerism is the counterpart.

Much is said about the sermons of the Quakers, and the author labours to defend not only the general subjects of

them,

them, but the canting manner in which they are usuaily delivered.

He says "They always deliver their discourses with great seriousness. They are also singularly bold and honest when they feel it to be their duty, in the censure of the vices of individuals, whatever may be the riches they enjoy. They are reported also, from unquestionable authority, to have extraordinary skill in discerning the internal condition of those •who attend their ministry; so that many feeling their advice to be addrefled to themselves, have resolved upon amendment in the several cases to which their preaching seemed to be applied." '. •- f

The "extraordinary skill" which is here mentioned in such a manner as to make weak readers believe, that the modern ^Quakers possess the fame faculty as was claimed by Fox and his immediate disciples, namely, that of " discerning spirits," or of " knowing the hearts of men," arises from nothing more than the intimacy which subsists between the teachers and the families of their sect: [t is the practice of these teachers, to visit all the members of their society in turn, and this of course, brings them intimately acquainted with their private characters and circumstances; it therefore requires no " ex*. traordinary skill" for men and women so informed, to level their occasional discourses at particular persons. It would indeed be very extraordinary, if in such a system and order of things, this inquisitive spirit did not frequently produce that public mode of advice and reprehension, which might lead the persons'addressed to conclude that the teacher was divinely led into a knowledge of their condition. This " extraordinary skill" naturally reminds us of the supernal saga* city displayed by Sidrophel after he had received his cue from Whachum,

Whose business was to pump and wheedle, And men with their own keys unriddle. The fame "extraordinary flcill" is often to be found among other sectaries, particularly the Methodists, and it has its origin with them precisely irom the same cause, the familiar intercourse maintained between the preachers and the people. By those means, much minute information is obtained, of which artful use is made, and no doubt, a considerable impression produced on the minds of the hearers. We have heard some pious, but weak persons, express their firm persuasion that the pastor was divinely led to describe their cases and character in his sermon, when in fact he had previousiy obtained all the particular^ from

3 N their

Vel.Xlll. Churchm. Mag. jor December 1807.

their own lips, or from the information of one in their confidence.

In vindication of the silent meetings of the Quakers, seve. ral authorities are produced, and the first is the father of the Quietists, Michael de Molinos; but to such an oracle who will attends even in this age of hypothetical extravagance?

Among other names troughs forward by Mr. Clarkfon, are those of the ever-memorable John Hales and bishop Smalridge, but we scruple not to say, that they are impertinently produced, and most unfairly quoted. These respectable writers it is true, were great advocates for mental prayer, but not more so than bishop Butler, and other profound divines of our church; "what however has this to do with silent worship in public? They thought, and every man offense and seriousness must be of the fame opinion, that prayer does not consist in bending th'e knees, in the service of the lips, or in the lifting up of the hands and eyes to heaven. When they maintained this, could they suppose that their words would be pressed into the service of Quietism; or could they possibly conceive, that by any rule of fair construction, their arguments for the prayer of the heart would serve to prove external worship unnecessary?

But Mr. Clarkfon is as unfortunate in his reasoning as in citing evidences.

*' It must be obvious" fays he " that in these silent meetings, men cannot become chargeable before God, either with hypocrisy or falsehood, by pretending to worship him with their lips, when their affections are far from him, or by uttering a language that is inconsistent with the feelings of the heart."

In reply to this miserable sophistry, we shall not scruple as positively to contend that there must be at least as much hypocrisy and falsehood in these meetings, as in places where the worship is constancy oral.

It will not be denied, that the Quakers professedly go to their meeting for the purpose of public worship, and for edification; now the younger part of the congregation, and ti ©se 'who are not in the habit of speaking, must be deprived of instruction if all the preachers remain silent. But perhaps it will be said that they may meditate. That, however, they might as well do at home, or in some suitable place of retirement. Now it is impossible that where so many persons ef different ages and dispositions arc assembled together, the minds of all can be composed into solemnity of thought and

abstractedness

abstractedness from worldly concerns. According to the plea of the Quakers, they fit in these meetings waiting for the motion of the Spirit, and worshipping God in their hearts ; but they will hardly presume to say that every individual among them has his mind intent upon spiritual things. Of the many •who sit pensive, with their eyes shut under the shade of their broad beavers, some would be found, if we could penetrate their bosoms, meditating the price of sugar, anticipating the arrival of a fleet, or the event of some commercial speculation. Whatever may be the case with regard to the chosen few who occupy the elevated benches of the meeting, of these, at least, it must be said that they are hypocrites, and are guilty of falsehood to God and man, though they do not say a word. Their deportment has the appearance of sanctity and devotion; and they would be thought by their junior brethren to be waiting on the Lord, while in fact, under all their affected gravity, they are busily employed about secular things, and their thoughts are wandering, like the fool's eye, to the ends of the earth.

On the sentiments of the Quakers with respect to the great Christian doctrines of Original Sin, the Trinity, the Resurrection and Justification, Mr. Clarkson is very concise, and evidently much embarrassed. Indeed, it is no easy matter to state what are the precise opinions of the Quakers upon these subjects; but it is an error to say that these sectaries have avoided much perplexity and difficulty, by adhering to scriptural terms. On the contrary, their language upon the most important points, is mystical and confused in the extreme. They admit of Father, Son, and Spirit, in the Deity, but it is plain enough that in their estimation, the distinction is only nominal, and Fox expressly declared, that it was " God the Father who took upon him hitman nature." It is remarkable enough, that Mr. Clarkson does not once quote the father of Quakerism jn this part of his work; though he has drawn the character of Fox to the highest advantage in the Introduction. The omission is no proof of that candour, to which Mr. Clarkson makes such great pretensions. He must know, for he has read the writings of Fox, that this fanatick called himself the " Son of God" and "Christ who was yesterday, to day, and forever," which blasphemy was pretended to be accounted for, oil the ground that "Christ" or the "Word" or the " Light" was only * divine principle which dwelt in Jesus, and afterwards was in George Fox,

We are now come to that broad feature which so strikingly distinguishes the Quakers from all others, who are called by the Christian name. The rejection of the sacraments established by Christ, and expressly enjoined by him, to be in use among his followers, to the end of the world, is so bold a measure, that even Mr. Clarkson finds it necessary to solicit "great indulgence to the Quakers on this occasion. He grounds this claim to indulgence, on the footing that the regard paid to the Sacraments, is merely the effect of education and prejudice. "People have received" fays he, "the ordinances in question from their ancestors. They have been brought up to the use of them. They have seen them sanctioned bv the world. Finding their authority disputed by a body of men, who are insignificant as to numbers when compared with others, they have let loose their censure upon them, and this without any inquiry concerning the grounds of their distent."

Nothing can be more disingenuous and illiberal than this representation. All Christians who think it their duty to comply with the injunctions of. their Lord, are here described as a set of weak, credulous bigots, who can give no other reason for their faith and practice, than that they follow their ancestors. By what authority does Mr. Clarkson make this sweeping charge; and how dare he presume to treat the general body of the Christian world as a blind, ignorant, and intolerant mass, lor the purpose of exalting a sect of fanatics, who have no other reason for their peculiarities than this, that they were born in the society which enjoins them as the bond of union, and that their ancestors had them about a century and a half ago from an illiterate enthusiast, whom they considered as divinely inspired?

The Quakers and their advocate, have a fair right to be heard in vindication ot the notions and practices which divide them Irom the rest ot mankind, but when they ask for indulgence in the language of abuse, and pronounce judgment while they are preparing to plead, we may justly consider them as profuse ot the very spirit of bigotry and intolerance,'which they charge upon others.

Mr. Clarkson sets out with observing, that the religion of Jesus Christ is spiritual, from whence he labours to prove that every thing ceremonious, is a departure from that spirituality, and Consequently that the more simple worship is, the nearer it comes to the design of Christianity. Now to this son of reasoning it is easy to reply, that ceremonies which • have

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »