« PreviousContinue »
oblige those that are of them, to walk suitably, or they are denied by them: that is all the mark, they set upon them, and the power they exercise, or judge a Christian society can exercise upon those that are members of it."
“ The way of their proceeding against such as have lapsed or transgressed, is this: He is visited by some of them, and the matter of fact laid home to him, be it any evil practice against known and general virtue, or any branch of their particular testimony, which he, in common, professeth with them. They labour with him in much love and zeal, for the good of his foul, the honor of God, and reputation of their profession, to own his fault, and condemn it, in as ample a manner, as the evil, or scandal was given by him; which, for the most
part, is performed by some written testimony, under the party's hand; and if it so happen, that the
party prove refractory and is not willing to clear the truth, they profess, from the reproach of his, or her, evil doing, or unfaithfulness, they, after repeated entreaties, and due waiting for a token of repentance, give forth a paper to disown such a fact, and the party offending: recording the same, as a testimony of their care for the honor of the truth, they profess.”
“ And if he or she, shall clear the profession, and themselves, by sincere acknowledgment of their fault, and godly sorrow for so doing, they are received, and looked upon again as members of their communion. For, as God, so his true people upbraid no man after repentance.” That the general conduct and practice of this Their con
sistency in people have been, in a remarkable manner, con- condus sistent with their profession, we are well assured, with their not only by the accounts given by themselves, but profeffon, also by those of others, who appear to have been best acquainted with their manner of life, in early
time; and whose certain knowledge enabled them to speak with that moderation, which is divested of passion and prejudice; besides, it is manifest from the many acrimonious and abusive writings of their enemies themselves against them, yet ex. tant, that their conformity to the principles and customs before mentioned, was the chief cause of the severe persecution and suffering; which they fo, long endured:--for which, if any instances of intemperate zeal, in early time, appeared in any individuals among them, (from which, probably, the first rise of no religious fociety has been entirely free) it seems to have been too much the delight of their adversaries to exaggerate and misrepresent them.-For, as they profeffed no theory, but what they chiefly derived from practice or conviction; nor speculation, but what they principally had from experiment, so it has been long obferved, particularly in Great Britain, that, as any of the members of this fociety failed in the practical part, they confequently, for the most part, discontinued the profession, in proportion; and either went over to such other religious focieties, as place less stress on the practice of Christianity, or of true religion; or else they made no formal profession of it at all, with any particular set of people: fome apparently from an irreligious, mean and indolent, or depraved turn of mind; and others, probably, from looking upon all forms of religion, as vain; and that the knowledge of truth, and the interior of religion, or the intercourse be tween the creature and the Creator, depends not upon, nor is necessarily connected with, any fixed form; but is rather obscured, or impeded, by that attention, which such forms, in general require; or which ultimately have so much tendency to engross the minds of many people with that slavish formality, which is observable to terminate in mere religious superstition.
Nevertheless it is well known, that in later times, divers among them have been observed, under the covering of a plain garb, and a formal compliance to sundry of these external customs, before mentioned, to make this profession an engine to accumulate wealth, and from an apparent zeal for their profession, in divers of those very things, without the possession of the real life, or substance, of it, have notwithstanding continued among them, and used that credit and
reputation, which the society, in general, had acquired by a better principle, so as to obtain low, terrestrial enjoyments, and worldly advantages, even, beyond others of the same degree, or rank of people. For it cannot be reasonably supposed that every person who is born and educated, or brought up, merely in the form, is therefore consequently experienced in every practical truth of the profession, so much as those, who have embraced the same from real conviction and experience, in their own minds, unless they possess the fame experience and enjoyment; which may, or may not be the case; for profesfion, or implicit belief, alone, cannot give a lively experience, nor a bare assent, convince the judg
But the Christian care of this society, as appears by their discipline, already mentioned, as well as by the many additions, since made by them, to this part of their religious economy, has not been small, to prevent and redress this evil, as well as to remedy all other deviations from the truth of their profession, and the primitive practice among them; which, in fome or other of their members, cannot but sometimes happen, while in this frail and mortal state of existence:Yet the result of this very care, so far, at least, as it respects the external obligations, upon
the members of this society, and the many rules increased from time to time, among them, for that purpose, it is thought by some, has had this cer
W. Penn's account of
tain and inevitable tendency, to render it, in fact,
more formal, and to distinguish it more, in realiSee R. Bar- ty, as a fect, than fome of its first, or early prinPerrallove
; cipal founders, by their writings, appear to have intended; who would not admit of that name, nor the natural contractedness of fuch a distinction, particularly R. Barclay, and others among
them. I shall, therefore, after having, in a few words, further expressed respecting them, in early time, from two persons of eminence in their religious society, W. Penn and W. Edmundson, conclude this account. The former, addressing himself to them, speaks thus, viz.
“ The glory of this day, and foundation of the the religi- hope, that has not made us ashamed since we were a the primio people,”—“ is that blessed principle of light and tive Qua- life of Christ, which we profess, and direct all people
to, as the great and divine instrument and agent of man's conversion to God. It was by this, that we were first touched, and effectually enlightened, as to our inward state; which put us upon the consideration of our latter end, causing us to set the Lord before our eyes, and to number our days, that we might apply our hearts to wisdom. In that day we judged not after the fight of the eye, or after the hearing of the ear, but according to the light and sense this blessed principle gave us, so we judged and acted, in reference to things and perfons, ourselves and others; yea towards God, our Maker: for, being quickened by it in our inward man, we could easily discern the difference of things, and feel what was right, and what was wrong, and what was fit, and what was not, both in reference to religion and civil concerns. That being the ground of the fellowship of all faints; it was in that our fellowship stood. In this we desired to have a sense of one another, acted towards one another, and all men, in love, faithfulness and fear,”
“ In feeling of the stirrings and motions of this principle in our hearts, we drew near to the Lord, and waited to be prepared by it; that we might feel drawings and movings, before we approached the Lord in prayer, or opened our mouths in ministry. And in our beginning and ending with this, stood our comfort, service and cdification. And, as we ran faster, or fell short, in our services, we made burdens for ourselves to bear; finding in ourselves a rebuke, instead of an acceptance; and in lieu of well done, “Who has required this at your hands?” In that day we were an exercised people; our very countenances and deportment declared it.”
“ Care for others was then much upon us, as well as for ourselves; especially of the
young convinced. Oft had we the burden of the word of the Lord to our neighbours, relations and acquaintance; and sometimes
strangers also. We were in travail likewife for one another's preservation; not seeking, but shunning occasions of any coldness, or misunderstanding; treating one another as those that believed and felt God present. which kept our conversation innocent, serious and weighty; guarding ourselves against the cares and friendships of this world. We held the truth in the spirit of it, and not in our own spirits, or after our own wills and affections, they were bowed and brought into subjection, insomuch that it was visible to them, that knew us.
We did not think ourselves at our own disposal, to go where we list, or fay, or do, what we list, or when we lift. Our liberty stood in the liberty of truth; and no pleasure, no profit, no fear, no favour, could draw us from this retired, strict and watchful frame. We were as far from feeking occasions of company, that we avoided them what we could, pursuing our own business with moderation, instead of meddling with other people's unnecessarily.'
“ Our words were few and favcry, our looks composed and weighty, and our whole deportment