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may fairly be regarded as the hinge on which the whole system of Quakerism turns ; this “ perceptible influence and guidance of the Spirit of truth” being not only pleaded for as the direct and ever-present rule of personal conduct, but appealed to in support of some modes of divine worship and in opposition to others, and invested with judicial authority in deciding controversies respecting Christian ordinances, -controversies which, in the apprehension of Christians generally, can receive no satisfactory settlement but in an answer to the question " What saith the Scripture ?"
In introducing this subject to the attention of his readers, Mr Gurney, in accordance with what has just been said, speaks of it as “an important doc“trine of religion, which, although by no means “peculiar to Friends, is certainly promulgated among “ them with remarkable earnestness, and which lies “ at the root of all their particular views and prac“ tices."*
“ The differences of sentiment which exist in the “church on this great subject,” he continues, “ have respect, not to the question whether the Spirit does
does not operate on the heart of man (for on this “ question all true Christians are agreed;) but princi“pally, if not entirely, to the mode in which that Spirit
* Observations, &c. page 74. close of Chap. 2.
operates."-And he then proceeds to state the amount of the difference between other Christians and those of his own communion, in the following terms :-“ On this point there appears to exist, “among the professors of Christianity, and even
among serious Christians, a considerable diversity “of opinion. Some persons conceive that the Spirit “ of God does not influence the heart of man directly, “ but only through the means of certain appointed “instruments; such as, the Holy Scriptures, and the “ word preached. Many others, who allow the di“rect and independent influences of the Spirit, and “ deem them absolutely essential to the formation of “the Christian character, refuse to admit that they
are perceptible to the mind; but consider them to “ be hidden in their actions, and revealed only in “ their fruits. Now with Friends (and probably with
many persons under other names) it is a leading “ principle in religion, that the work of the Holy
Spirit in the soul is not only immediate and direct, “ but perceptible. We believe, that we are all fur“nished with an inward Guide or Monitor, who “ makes his voice known to us, and who, if faithfully “ obeyed and closely followed, will infallibly conduct
us into true virtue and happiness, because he leads us into a real conformity with the will of God."*
* Ibid. pages 75, 76.
I have marked this last sentence in Italics, because I am desirous that the statement contained in it should be specially noted. It is Mr Gurney's explanation of what he wishes to be understood as meaning by the “perceptible influence and guidance of the Spirit of Truth.”—Let it be observed, then
In the first place, that such a statement goes far to a setting aside of the Scriptures as the Christian's rule and guide, or at least of the necessity of their counsel and direction. It seems as if it brought against the divine word a charge of felo de se, adducing it in evidence of its authoritatively setting aside itself. Regarding the sentence as expressing the amount of the privilege of “perceptible influence and guidance" conceived by Mr Gurney to be enjoyed by New Testament believers, I take it in connexion with what he says, page 89. “ That the perceptible “ influence of the Spirit on the soul proceeds from “ God, the Christian enjoys satisfactory evidence"first, in the declarations of Scripture that such an “ influence shall be bestowed upon him—and second“ ly, in the practical results into which it leads.”_Of the latter branch of evidence I may speak again. It is to the former I at present refer. According to Mr Gurney, then, the Scriptures assure believers, that they
“ all furnished with an inward Guide or Moni. tor, who makes his voice known to them, and who, " if faithfully obeyed and closely followed, will infal
“libly conduct them into true virtue and happiness, “ because he leads them into a real conformity with “the will of God.”—Now, my question is, am I to understand this as meaning that the Scriptures, on the part of their Divine Author, promise a guidance that is independent of themselves ? Is it thus independent, or is it not? If it be, then to what purpose the multiplied directions and admonitions of that blessed Book, as to principles, affections, desires, actions, and words ? Why lay down so many laws, and urge an unceasing remembrance of them and attention to their prescriptions and prohibitions, and at the same time assure us of an inward guide by which laws are rendered needless,—a guide “infallibly conducting into virtue and happiness” all by whom it is “faithfully obeyed and closely followed ?"When Mr Gurney says of this Guide—“he leads us into a real conformity with the will of God,”—either he means the will of God abstractly, that is, simply as existing in the divine mind,—or he means the will of God as contained in the Scriptures. If he means the former, then the consequence just stated clearly follows; that, namely, of the Scriptures, according to him, disowning their own necessity to the guidance of God's people. If he means the latter, then the Scriptures, after all, are the rule—the fundamental and primary rule ; for such a rule that must assuredly be, into conformity with which it is the design and effect of the Spirit's agency to bring us. That which brings us into this conformity can never itself be the rule or canon.-A friend (let me suppose) who is familiarly and correctly versant in the law of the land, undertakes to be my director; and I surrender myself implicitly to his guidance, having a perfect confidence that he will, in no point, lead me astray. This friend does not, in these circumstances, become himself the primary rule. It is the Law that still holds this place, into conformity with which his directions bring me. It is not difficult, however, to perceive, that, in proportion to the measure of implicit faith with which I give myself up to the counsels of such a guide, will become my indifference about investigating the law, and obtaining an acquaintance with it, for myself. The same must be the tendency of the sentiment in regard to the study of the Holy Scriptures. If the Spirit dwelling in us is an independent Guide, we have but slender inducements to study with assiduity a rule, of which, with the higher and more immediate direction of an infallible Monitor within, we cease to feel the necessity. It is for the excellent author on whose words I am commenting, to consider, how far the view he thus gives of the Spirit's “perceptible guidance" is in harmony with the sentiments he elsewhere expresses respecting the paramount authority of the Holy Scriptures.