Billeder på siden

and immutable certainty of all its articles. According to Dr H., the Friends' Testimony has been maintained for two hundred years. I presume that, in saying so, he refers not merely to any one or more

malus animus. I conceive there is abundant internal evidence in the little work itself, of a deeply pious and sincere desire after truth, evidence, both of a sound mind and an honest heart.

Thus much I feel myself called upon to say in behalf of the author of the Beacon. I do not, however, consider myself authorized, by either the rules of propriety or the dictates of expediency, to enter here into any discussion of the public steps which the Society, by their yearly and quarterly committees, have thought it their duty to adopt, in regard to the book and its author. Although in possession of materials which might enable me to do so, I should, in making such a use of them, only embroil myself in a disputation about rules and modes of procedure, and the respective rights of religious communities and their individual members, instead of a controversy about important principles of truth. It is with these I have to do. Regarding the other I shall only say, that I can, by no means, approve, either of the attempts made to induce the author to suppress the Beacon, or of the subsequent silencing of his ministry. The former, while it involved a tampering with conscience, and a fettering of free discussion, implied also the strange inconsistency of allowing him to hold his opinions, provided he would keep them to himself for the future, and avow repentance for having given them publicity :-whereas the opinions, being evidently on momentous and fundamental points, were either (laying aside the question of their truth or falsehood) consistent with sound Quakerism, or they were not ;-if they were, why should they be suppressed ?—and if they were not, suppression should not have been enough ;-the author should have been required to disown them, or to relinquish his connexiom with the Society, as holding sentiments subversive of its leading principles. To have been satisfied with suppression, would have been to be satisfied

of their peculiar views and practices, but also to the great principles of their system. Does he, then, conceive, that the two centuries which have elapsed since their adoption and promulgation by George Fox are a sufficient guarantee for their truth? If he does, we may well ask him, why they were then embraced. If at the time they were embraced, they were,


any of their articles, new, then they were different from what had been held during a much longer term of prescription. Two centuries form but a ninth part of what is past of the Christian era. The principles, therefore, which were previously professed, had a guarantee eight times surer than that now pleaded for them; and Isaac Crewdson is eight

[ocr errors]

with dishonesty ;-it would have been a constraining of him to “ hold the truth in unrighteousness,” and, on the part of the Society, a toleration of error, and a sacrificing, or at least a compromising, of important truth, for the sake of a merely apparent and nominal unity.--As to the silencing of his ministry, while it was liable to all the same objections, it seemed also to involve the inconsistency of subjecting the ministry to the authority of man,—of bringing the sentiments taught to some test different from that of direct manifestation,--and thus of interfering with the Spirit of God, or admitting that his dictates in one minister might be inconsistent with his dictates in others ;—and, along with this, the partiality of silencing in one the preaching of doctrines which were acknowledged by others, of deserved eminence, to be, in almost all their essential elements, in harmony with their own.- -Consistency would have required the suppression of other writings than the Beacon, and the silencing of other ministries than that of Isaac Crewdson.

times less to blame in venturing to differ from George Fox, than George Fox was in presuming to dissent from all before him. But, indeed, we should protest against all such calculations. The longer sentiments have been held, it is true, and the more numerous and respectable the names with which the profession of them stands associated, self-diffidence should render us the more cautious and considerate in impugning them. But still, there is no period of prescription by which error can be transmuted into truth,no term, however long, that can bring us under an obligation to believe it.— The question now before us is, whether there be any authentic and permanent standard of religious truth and duty; and, if there be, what it is. To this question, with a special reference to the peculiar sentiments of Friends, I shall beg your attention in my next letter. Meantime believe me, Yours very respectfully,

R. W.






The question to which this and probably another letter may be devoted, is, as I have already hinted, one of primary importance,—one, without the settlement of which it is impossible, with the smallest satisfaction, to move a single step in our inquiries after truth. I feel that I have no room to set down my foot, till we have come to some agreement here. I cannot reason with you, till we have some common principles as to the test by which our respective positions are to be tried, and truth to be ascertained. And indeed this very question is one, and a principal one too, of the articles of difference between us.--I come, then, at once to the point. I affirm THE PRIMARY AND PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, as the only reasonable ground on which we can conduct any of our discussions, their SUPREMACY, and their coMPLETENESS, as the standard of truth and duty in all matters of

the "

religion.-Here we are at issue. You deny my position. You affirm that there is another and a superior standard or rule,-called by you INWARD Light," or "LIGHT WITHIN,"—a phrase which, as I have before noticed, is used by your writers in strangely various though analogous senses, but which I may here, it is presumed, understand as meaning THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF IN HIS IMMEDIATE SUGGESTIONS TO THE MIND.—This you regard as primary, and the Scriptures as secondary.

Distinct conceptions are here of essential moment. The manner in which some of your leading authorities have treated this subject, discovers at times an extraordinary confusion of ideas, and contradictoriness of statement; so that when at one time I have fancied I had got almost as much admitted as I could wish in behalf of the authority of the Scriptures, I have not proceeded far, till I have found the admission so qualified as in fact to nullify its meaning and its worth. There is, moreover, on this as on other points, so much of what is true and excellent mixed up with what is false and pernicious; so much that is true in one sense of the terms, but not true in another; and so much that is true to a certain point, but loses the attribute of truth by the excess to which it is driven ; that, to me at least, it has been a task of no small perplexity, to winnow the false from the true, and to know with certainty what I should re

« ForrigeFortsæt »