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may be led by the impressions upon their minds. But will not these internal impressions be as the dictates of an internal voice to those who follow them? But if pious men would believe themselves to have been thus providentially led, o* acted upon, in any ordinary case of virtue, if it had been crowned with success, George Fox would have had equal reason to believe, from the success that attended his own particular undertaking, that he had been called upon to engage in it. For at a very early age he had confuted many of the professors of religion in public disputations* •He had converted magistrates, priests, and people. Of the clergy'men of those times, some had left valuable livings, and followed •him. In his thirtieth year he had seen no fewer than sixty persons spreading, as ministers, his own doctrines. These and other circumstances which might be related^ would doubtless operate powerfully upon him, to make him believe that he was a chosen vessel. Now, if to these considerations it be added that George iFox was not engaged in any particular or partial cause of Tienevolence, or mercy, or justice, but wholly and exclusively in a religious and spiritual work, and that it was the first of all his religious doctrines, that the Spirit of God, where men were obedient to it, guided them in their spiritual concerns, he must have believed himself on the consideration of his unparalleled success, to have .been providentially led, or to have had an internal or spiritual commission for the cause which he had undertaken."
.->. Nothing can be more contemptible than this sophistry. The common phraseology of pious persons when they have ex-/ perienced any remarkable deliverance or other blessing, is brought in to support the claim of George Fox to the character of a teacher sent from God. The chain of cause'and 'effect is frequently imperceptible, whence it happens that ~ many incident? are considered as special providences, which, ; if closely investigated, would be found to have happened as .naturally as the more ordinary occurrences of life. But -even allowing the utmost to the piety of those who attribute the blessings they experience to a particular providence, what has this sentiment to do with the extraordinary case of; an •illiterate youth who pretends a divine call to abrqgate positive institutions, to change the order of the Christian Church, 1 and to convert the world? Though we concede much to the \ piety of the former, we must have indubitable evidences of his commission, before we can admit the" claim of the lat
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But it is alleged that Fox believed in his own call; which
is only to fay that, he was no hypocrite. The fame
might be asserted of every enthusiast. Ignatius Loyola, the
founder founder of a society as well organized as that of the Quakers, was sincere in his pretensions to a divine call; and he had as good grounds lor believing it as George Fox had.
Can any thing be more absurd than the assertion that Fox had reason to be confirmed in this belief " from the success that attended his particular undertaking?"
If success be admitted as a reason why a man mould believe that he was under divine direction, Mohammed might have justly brought his mind to the persuasion that he was actually what he pretended to be, the Prophet of God. The Arabian impostor was infinitely more succelsful than George Fox; yet the circumstances of the times in which, th^y lived, will sufficiently account for the progress of both. .
'T, he state of the Christian Church in the east when Mohammed arose, was deplorable in the extreme, divided into numberless parties, on account of distinctions the most trifling and absurd, contending with each other from perverseness, and persecuting each other with rancour, corrupt in opinion and degenerate in practice, the Christians of this unhappy period seem to have retained little more than the name and external profession of their religion. Of a Christian Church scarce any vestige remained. The most profligate principles and absurd opinions were universally predominant; ignorance amidst the most favourable opportunities of knowledge, vice amidst the noblest encouragements to virtue; a pretended zeal for truth, mixt with the wildest extravagancies of error; an implacable spirit of discord'about opinions which none could settle; and a general and striking similarity in the commission of crimes which it was the duty and interest of all to avoid *.
This melancholy picture of the state of the east in the sixth century, will be found a very exact representation bf England, when the founder of Quakerism abandoned his last and his crook, and like the Arabian camel-driver, asserted a special call from God to restore pure religion and to convert the world. We are not disposed to run a parallel between these two personages, but we have adverted to the cafe of Mohammed merely to shew that the success of George Fox did not arise either from providential operation or the excellence of his doctrine, but from the distracted state of the nation. The church was prostrate in the dust,
f See white's Bamptori Lectures, page 61, 2J edition.
and and sectaries innumerable were scattered over the land; by those who made the greatest profession of religion, religious ordinances were treated with contempt, and the sacraments •were most irreverently administered; it was therefore natural enough that in such a state, the preacher of a new faith, consisting wholly of inward feeling, should prove successful in gaining followers. In such a soil, the rankest weeds were most likely to flourish.
But in this introductory eulogy on Fox we have something still more astonishing and disgusting.
In transcribing what follows, we w<?re sometimes inclined to think, that the author intended to attack the Gospel history in the way that Philostratus did, by palming upon us another Apollonius Tyanæus. But let our readers judge for themselves. ,
After stating and apologizing as above for Fox's believing himself to have had a spiritual or divine commission, Mr. Clarkson proceeds to assign the reasons why the disciples of Fox also believed in his commission.
*l They had seen, like himself "says he " the extraordinary success of his ministry. They acknowledged the same internal admonitions or revelations of the same Spirit in spiritual concerns. They had been witnesses of his innocentand blameless life. There were individuals in the kingdom, who had publicly professed sights and prophecies concerning him. At an early age he had been reported, in some parts of the country, as a youth who had « a ■ discerning spirit.' It had gone abroad that he had healed many persons, who had been sick of various diseases. Some of his prophecies had come true in the life-time of those who had heard them delivered. His followers too, had seen many,' who had come purposely to molest and apprehend him, depart quietly, as if their anger and their power had been providentially broken. They had seen others, who had been his chief persecutors, wither falling into misfortunes, or dying a miserable or an untimely death. They had seen him frequently cast into prison, but always getting out again by means of his innocence. From -these causes the belief was universal among them, that his commission was of Divine authority : and they looked upon him, therefore, in no other light than that of a Teacher, who had been sent to them. from Heaven."
According to this statement, George Fox, in the belief of his followers, was more than a prophet, being the bearer of a new revelation from heaven, having authority to abrogate positive institutions, and pofleffing super-human powers to prove the validity of his commission. If all this be true, it is of the most serious importance to mankind, for a new re* velation must of necessity be superior to that which preceded it: and if the institution or Quakerism be divine, if its author wrought miracles and delivered true prophecies, his doctrine and rule must be received with that reverence which we now conceive to be due to the precepts and ordinances of Christ. But before we pay any regard to the pre-» tensions of George Fox to a divine character as a teacher sent from heaven, it is necessary to enter into an examination of his story. As to his prophecies and his miracles we shall leave them till Mr. Clarkson and his friends shall produce the particulars with the necessary vouchers; in the mean time, observing that a system which is founded in delusion and fraud, whatever may be its external appearance or its political œconomy, can have no "tendency to purity and perfection."
After having considered Mr. Clarkson's eulogy, we shall row proceed to a more correct And particular delineation of the real character of George Fox, drawn from his journal and Other writings. .
He was of a melancholy temper from his youth, and his employment as a ssiepherd when he quitted ssioemaking, increased the seriousness of his disposition. He lived, as we have seen, at a time when religious enthusiasm was carried to the most extravagant lengths, and Fox being infected with the prevailing disorder, wandered about from one fanatic to another, in quest of spiritual knowledge, till at last finding no satisfaction from theprqfeffors as he called them, he secluded himself from the world with no other companion than his bible. He frequently fat in a hollow tree all day, and rambled about the fields lost in mystical meditation all night. Such was the preparation of this self-illuminated teacher: and we have related it briefly and favourably, for the reader would be ssiocked at the frightful representations which Fox gives, in his journal, of his religious views, and extravagant conduct when he was under his "first awakening."
By degrees he imagined that God made known his will to Mm: and "opened to him" as his phrase is "that the light of Christ within man" was to be his instructor and guide in matters of religion. By the light within him, he meant, as he fays himself, the same divinity which in the
New Testament is called the Word and the Light; bat of this we shall have occasion to speak in another place.
Having thus, a* he thought, discovered the truth, and received a divine call to propagate the same, Fox issued forth from his solitude, to " restore pure Christianity." His learning was so low, that through his whole life he could hardy spell his own name. What then was the illumination with which he was favoured, to make up this lack of knowledge? all divine communications made to persons specially appointed to reveal the will of heaven, must he new and important, full, clear, and adapted to the magnitude of the subject, as well as suitable to the majesty and holiness of the divine author: But what were the communications made to Fox?
"As I was going to, Coventry" fays he " and was entering towards the gate, a consideration arose in me how it was said that all Christians are believers, both Protestants and Papists, and the Lord opened to me, that if all were believers, then were all born of God."
This is making a special revelation of a plain scriptural truth, which every child who had gone through the New Testament must have known and understood.
Another "opening" revealed to Fox wa» that "God who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands, which" fays he " at first I thought a strange word."
Now this fanatic is represented as having been a man of strong mind, and acute discernment,as well asbeingan extraordinary scripturist; yet, according to his own account, he was ignorant till it was specially revealed to him from heaven, of this self-evident principle that " God does sot dwell in temples made with hands 1'
Being led away by an imaginary spirit of special and un< erring direction, Fox took every thing that came into hi» head, to be a communication or an "opening" from above. The simplest propositions and the plainest passages of holy writ which were new to him, he fancied were " opened" orrev«aled to his mind by the Almighty. From conceptions and opinions he proceeded to interpretations and to practice. Enthusiasm is a sort of madness, and all insane persons are more or less proud, irritable, and impatient of authority. Fox soon felt this effect of his mania, for he fays "When the Lord sent me forth into the world, he forbad .me to put off my hat to any; and I was required to thee and thou all men."