Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

satisfaction of others they were indispensable :which leads me to observe

4. That the modern revelations of Quakerism, even on the assumption of their being genuine, and of their being certified to the mind of the individual with divine assurance (an assumption, however, which would be a begging of the question at issue,-the question, namely, whether such revelations, independent of what is already recorded in the Scriptures, be still made)—yet can be of avail, so far as their authority is concerned, and the consequent obligation they impose, to him only who receives them. How are they to avail for others ?

But, the present letter having been more than sufficiently extended, I shall defer the consideration of this question, along with remarks on some other topics connected with the all-important subject of the authority and completeness of the Scriptures, to form the contents of my next, and subscribe myself again,

Yours very respectfully,

R. W.

LETTER III.

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.

Respected FRIENDS,

In the conclusion of my last letter, I had just announced a fourth general observation, in regard to the standard of religious truth and duty. I repeat the terms in which it was then stated, and proceed with the consideration of it:—“ That the “modern revelations of Quakerism, even on the as“sumption of their being genuine, and of their be“ing certified to the mind of the individual with “divine assurance, yet can be of avail, so far as “their authority is concerned, and the consequent "obligation they impose, to him only who receives "them. How are they to avail for others ?—The question is one of essential moment.—How are they attested ? Whatever assurance inspired men had of old, that “the Divinity stirred within them," and that the intimations to their minds were from Him, —this assurance was exclusively their own. They could not convey it to other minds. It was of too peculiar a nature, to be known otherwise than by

1

experience. Hence they required credentials of their commission, and of the divine authority of their message. They performed miracles ; they delivered predictions. If any man, therefore, now assures us of his being “moved by the Holy Spirit," like the “ holy men of God” by whom the divine oracles were delivered of old, we are fully entitled to demand his credentials; to say to him, “ What sign showest thou, that we may see it and believe thee ?” In what other way is the revelation given to one man to have authority with another? Must we, in all cases, take it upon trust; and, whenever a man-let the excellence of his character be what it may-is pleased to assure us that “the Spirit moveth him” to make any particular communication, must we accept it simply on his word, and defer to him as an inspired authority ?-or must every individual wait for the Spirit's intimations to himself? I certainly feel myself, not merely warranted, but imperatively bound, before accepting as divine the lessons or the commands, the counsels, the consolations, or the admonitions, of another, to ask satisfactory evidence of his speaking from God. The correspondence between the witness of the Spirit in him, and the witness of the Spirit in me, is not sufficient; for both may be a delusion :-and if they should differ, which am I to follow ?

Allow me, in this connexion, a few remarks on the

extent of fallacy and contradiction into which the admission of a single false principle may lead. I take my exemplification from the same eminent individual, Barclay himself. He writes clearly and ably, when he happens upon right ground; but, on the subject before us, and on some others, he is betrayed by the exigencies of a false principle, into the most extraordinary inconsistencies.—In the first place, for example, he confounds the thing believed and the mode of its communication to the mind.He lays down as a maxim what no Christian of any intelligence will dispute, that the object of the faith of the saints has, in all ages, been the same. But, his creed requiring that the object of faith be something inward, the spiritual mystical Saviour, the Christ within,,he is led by this into the strange confusion to which I have just adverted. As a specimen of this confusion, of which it were not difficult to produce many, observe what he says, when speaking of the examples of faith enumerated in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews :-“ And as to the other part or conse

quence of the antecedent, to wit, that the object is

one where the faith is one, the apostle also proveth “ it in the fore-cited chapter, where he makes all the “worthies of old examples to us. Now, wherein are

they imitable, but because they believed in God? “And what was the object of their faith, but inward " and immediate revelation, as we have before proved?

66

66

“ Their example can be nowise applicable to us, un“ less we believe in God as they did ; that is, by the

same object.”—Confusion of ideas seems here to have led to confusion of terms. Inward and immediate revelation, was not surely the object of their faith, or the thing believed : it was no more than the mode of its communication to the mind. When it is said “ Their example can be no ways applicable to

us, unless we believe in God as they did ; that is, by the same object ;” the confusion of terms is surprising. If the words have any meaning at all, they must mean, that we cannot be said to believe the same thing, unless it be communicated to us in the same way; that the object of our faith cannot be the same, unless the mode of communication be the same; that that which was communicated to prophets and apostles by direct inspiration, must also be communicated to us by direct inspiration, else we cannot be said to have the same faith with them, to believe the same thing !—"If the object of faith were not

one and the same both to us and to them, then it “ would follow that we were to know God some other

way than by the Spirit !"—that is, is it not?) unless God is known in the same way, it cannot be the same God that is known :-unless faith in God arise, in every case, from immediate inspiration, it cannot be the same God that is the object of it:-unless all believers are, in the same sense as prophets and

« ForrigeFortsæt »