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bers of the Quaker-society can read, they can collect their Christian duty from the Scriptures, independently of their own ministers; or that they can collect those duties for themselves, which others, who are illiterate, are obliged to collect from the church.
The second objection is, that the Quakerdiscourses have generally less in them, and are occasionally less connected or more confused than those of others.
It must be obvious, when we consider that the Quaker-ministers are often persons of but little erudition, and that their principles forbid them to premeditate on these occasions, that we can hardly expect to find the same logical division of the subject, or the same logical provings of given points, as in the sermons of those who spend hours or even days together in composing them.
With respect to the apparent barrenness, or the little matter sometimes discoverable in their sermons, they would reply, that God has not given to every man a similar or equal gift. To some he has given largely; to others in a less degree. Upon some he has bestowed gifts that may edify the learned, upon others such as may edify the Men are not to limit his Spirit by their own notions of qualification. Like the wind, it bloweth not only where it listeth, but as it listeth. Thus, preaching, which may appear to a scholar as below the ordinary standard, may be more edifying to the simple-hearted than a discourse better delivered or more eruditely expressed. Thus again preaching, which may
of highsounding words, and of a mechanical manner, and an affected tone, and which may, on these accounts, please the man of learning and taste, may be looked upon as dross by a man of moderate abilities or acquire
And thus it has happened, that many have left the orators of the world and joined the Quaker-society, on account of the barrenness of the discourses which they have heard among them.
With respect to Quaker-sermons being sometimes less connected or more confused than those of others, they would admit that this might apparently happen, and they would explain it in the following manner : Their ministers, they would say, when they sit
the congregation, are often given to feel or discern the spiritual states of in
dividuals then present, and sometimes to believe it necessary to describe such states, and to add such advice as these may seem to require. Now these states being frequently very different from each other, the description of them, in consequence of an abrupt transition from one to the other, may sometimes occasion an
inconsistency in their discourses on such occasions. The Quakers, however, consider all such discourses, or those in which states are described, as among the most efficacious and useful of those delivered.
But whatever may be the merits of the Quaker-sermons, there are circumstances worthy of notice with respect to the Quaker-preachers. In the first place, 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
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 addressed
to themselves, have resolved upon amendment in the several cases to which their preaching seemed to be applied.
As I am speaking upon the subject of ministers, I will answer one or two questions which I have often heard asked concerning it.
The first of these is, Do the Quakers believe that their ministers are uniformly noved, when they preach, by the Spirit of God ?
I answer, The Quakers believe they may be so moved, and that they ought to be so moved. They believe also, that they are often so moved. But they believe again, that except their ministers be peculiarly cautious, and keep particularly on their watch, they may mistake their own imaginations for the agency of this Spirit. And upon this latter belief it is, in part, that the office of elders is founded, as before described.
The second is, As there are no defined boundaries between the reason of man and the revelation of God, how do the Quakers know that they are favoured at any particular time, either when they preach, or
when they do not preach, with the visițation of this Spirit, or that it is, at any particular time, a resident within them?
Richard Claridge, a learned and pious clergyman of the Church of England in the last century, but who gave up his benefices, and joined the Society of Quakers, has said a few words, in his Tractatus Hierographicus, upon this subject; a part of which I shall transcribe as an answer to this latter question.
“ Men,” says he, “ may certainly know, that they do believe on the Son of God, with that faith which is unfeigned, and by which the heart is purified; for this faith is evidential, and assuring, and consequently the knowledge of it is certain. Now they who certainly know that they have this knowledge, may be certain also of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them; for “ he that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself *:" and this witness is the Spirit; for “ it is the Spirit that beareth witness t;" of whose testimony they may be as certain, as of that faith the Spirit beareth witness to.
* 1 John v. 10.
+ i John v. 6.