Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Hicksite-Orthodox Agitation > The Cabinet
The following authentic documents are offered to the public with a view to shew to what stretch of power, men, clothed with ecclesiastic authority, would extend their influence, were they not restrained by the Constitution of these United States, which guarantees to every citizen the rights of conscience and freedom of sentiment; and any infringement on these sacred privileges, by men, let them be ever so dignified, they will (in this enlightened age) meet with opposition from the intelligent and liberal minded part of every association over whom these pretended Spiritual Guides sit as Censors, and with an imperious sway judge down all that venture to dissent from them in matters of opinion; however the Lord's faithful Servants and Handmaidens have been rejected and persecuted from city to city, as the following facts evidently demonstrate.
N.B. The above remarks were not intended to apply to the religious society called Friends, generally, but only to a few, who would, if they only had power vested in them, lord it over the whole heritage of God: however, their machinations are unveiled, and the worthy characters against whom they combined, were cordially and sentimentally received by the generality of Friends, both in this city and adjacent country; and thousands assembled to hear the Gospel preached in its primitive purity and simplicity, and with power and demonstration.
Philadelphia, 4th month 14th, 1824.
In the Ninth Month, 1822, previous to Elias Hicks coming to this City, at a meeting for Suffering, several of the members were privately requested to stop, at the rise of the Meeting; accordingly, on the adjournment, Jonathan Evans, Ellis Yarnall, Samuel Bettle, Samuel P. Griffitts, Richard Jordan, Joseph Whitehall, and several others, remained in the Meeting house till the rest had gone - when Jonathan Evans rose and spoke to the following import, viz.: I expect you have heard that Elias Hicks has obtained from his Monthly Meeting a certificate to visit Friends in this city, and as it is well known that he holds doctrines that are not doctrines of Friends, it is necessary some steps should be taken to prevent him from disseminating them among us; he is full of words, and it will answer no purpose to argue with him. Richard Jordan and Joseph Whitehall, are present, and can state to you what they heard from himself. Then, the above named persons, one after the other, rose and stated what they said were the doctrines held by Elias Hicks; after some desultory conversation, several persons were appointed to wait upon him as soon as he might reach this city; among the number thus nominated, were Ellis Yarnall and Samuel P. Griffitts, who called upon him very early after his arrival. - Query. Was not this unconstitutional, and contrary to good order, and most certainly a conspiracy against the peace and harmony of Society. And from this proceeding, all the confusion which subsequently ensued arose; but, providentially, all their machinations proved abortive, and recoiled with confusion upon the heads of their projectors; and this may be justly attributed to the independence of the Society: and one would have reasonably supposed, it would have taught the Pharisaical spirit with whom they originated, a useful lesson, by the which, he might have profited more than it appears he has done. - O ye modern Nimrod's - ye "mighty hunters before the Lord!" erect a tribunal in your own breasts, before you are called to the tribunal of Him whose prerogative you have wantonly assumed: judge yourselves by the Golden Rule, for by this you must be judged. Institute a just comparison, I pray you, between the tokens of Divine approbation (as the seals to his embassy) bestowed on the Gospel labours of this venerable servant of the Lord, and your own, and if you are not void of sensibility, it will give a chill to your ambition, rebuke your imperious spirit, and change the voice of vituperation into humble confession, and self-reproach. I have made the above remarks for the man of sensibility and candour who may deign to read, ponder, and be wise while time and opportunity is afforded. As for the bigot, blind with prejudice and made with intolerance, I must leave him in his sins and in his blood, to hug his ever beloved prejudices, and to roll the precious manna of asps under his tongue, which will prove corrosive poison to the heart in the end. - May the Lord alarm and unmask the hypocrite, and grant him light, life, and salvation.
NEW YORK, 10th Month 18th, 1822.
My dear friend, - I send the annexed to thee in homes it may be useful for such Friends as thee thinks proper to offer it, for their perusal; if approved by thee it may be handed to any other Friends. Please see W. Evans, show it to him, and if he or any others wish to copy it, permit them: if it would be more extensively useful, I have no objection that 10 copies be printed. It was done in a hurry, and might have been improved, if I had time to copy it, however, it can be corrected with you. It may be of more use if it should not be know to be written by me, or that it came from New York. Elias gave large notice to have a public meeting at Newark, but the people knew his sentiments and would not attend, except about a dozen of the lower class. Please see Wm. Evans or Thomas Evans soon - I wish thee to write me soon. Thy son Benjamin will perhaps copy the annexed, so as it may not be read in my hand writing. - Letters addressed to me as usual, at New York, will be handed me next day. Thy affectionate friend,
If we take a view of the general state of our religious society from the days of G. Fox, it will be found, that there has seldom been divisions amongst them on account of the introduction of new doctrines. It is true, an opposition to order and discipline appeared at different periods, but this at no time was of long continuance. The annual epistles of the yearly meeting of London, and various other documents that may be met with in the writings of Friends, serve to shew that the Society in Europe and America, were uniformly preserved in a wonderful manner, in love and amity. This happy state of things lasted till the time of Hannah Barnard's going to Eng. in the year ____. During her visit to Ireland, she introduced in her public comments, and occasionally in her intercourse with the families of Friends, sentiments of unbelief as to some parts of the Holy Scriptures - on the weak ground that we are not obliged to believe what we cannot understand or comprehend; and finding a disposition in many to join with her, she very soon manifested that she did not unite with the society respecting a belief in the divinity of Christ and other matters relating to the fundamental doctrines of the children religion. These sentiments very soon spread, and particularly in the North of Ireland a number of all ranks in society became infected with her speculative notions, and in consequence of this, a confused state of things occurred, that had never before taken place in Society. - Great pains were taken by these deluded people to lessen the divine authority of the Scriptures, and thus, considering them no longer a test by which doctrines might be tried and in which our early Friends on all occasions declared their willingness to appeal - many disorders occurred and strange notions were taken up in different places. The religious observance of set-day was deemed a mark of superstition, and to testify their disapprobation, the females employed themselves on that day at their needlework, and in some places the men worked at their usual occupations. Every species of church government or discipline was by them dispensed with - all was to be done by revelation, either to peruse the Scriptures, go to Meeting, or the performance of any other religious duty. These baneful principles were so widely spread, that some eminent ministers, distinguished elders and others who had been foremost in society, sent to their respective Monthly meetings their resignations as members in Society; after some time those of the younger class, and others who had not before been considered as active members, came forward and put in force the discipline by disowning such of the delinquents as had not already resigned their right of membership - those separately not uniting among themselves soon dwindled, and at the present day are scarcely known; indeed, many of them were favored with the light of their own folly and made suitable acknowledgements, by which means, they were restored to the unity of their friends. Hannah Barnard, who appeared to be the ostensible author and promoter of these disorders, was silenced in England as a minister of the Monthly meeting of Devonshire and Quarterly meeting of London; which judgment was afterwards confirmed on her appealing to the Yearly Meeting of London: and on her return to America, she was disowned by the Monthly Meeting of Hudson. In England there were very few that advocated the sentiments and conduct of Hannah Barnard and the separatists in Ireland, among the few were William Rathbone and Thomas Foster, both men of education and possessed of considerable literary talents, each of them published a book taking part with Hannah Barnard, and advocating Unitarian doctrines, on which account they were both disowned. The circumstances attending the case of Thomas Foster were very singular, and as regarded society, were highly important; he had united himself with the Unitarian Books Society, which was formed for the express purpose of spreading books favorable to the Unitarian doctrine, and in 1810 or 11, he published a tract containing a review of the London Yearly meeting Epistle, in which he endeavored to prove that the sentiments therein expressed were opposite to those held by the society and particularly by our early Friends, who he insisted held Unitarian doctrines and esteemed Christ only as a man and a great prophet, &c. On this account he was disowned by Radcliffe Monthly meeting, on which he appealed to the London Quarterly meeting, which appointed 16 of the most eminent Friends in the society as a committee, who sat 6 days in order to give him a full hearing. He introduced before the committee a new version of the New Testament, in order to prove wrong translations, and divers interpolations in the version in common use; and he also urged many extracts he had made from Penn's "Sandy Foundation Shaken," on which he laid great stress every day of the sitting of the committee; he made lengthy speeches and very dogmatically urged his arguments. It is worthy of remark that all the Unitarian people of whom we have any knowledge are full of words and wonderful reasoners, which may properly be attributed to their principles being bottomed on speculation and the efforts of mere human reason. Now, it is hard, and perhaps impracticable, by dint of reason to convince even rational man of things which are above reason, which are supernatural; they must be conceived by supernatural means, even by the effort of that power which they deny. The committee reported their opinion that the judgment of Ratcliffe Monthly Meeting ought to be confirmed. The report was signed by all the committee. When this report was read in the Quarterly meeting, Tho. Foster made a long speech, and as he said he had not finished, the meeting adjourned to the next day in order to hear him further; and when he left the meeting, it was concluded to accept and adopt the report. He then appealed to the Yearly Meeting of 1814, after being very fully heard by the Committee of the Yearly meeting appointed to hear him, and the respondents appointed by the Quarterly meeting, the committee unanimously reported that the judgment of the Quarterly meeting ought to be confirmed. When this report was read in the Yearly meeting, Tho. Foster, as is usual in that meeting, was allowed to be present, he was again heard and replied to by Josiah Foster one of the respondents. A young man was employed by T. Foster to take down in short hand the whole that was said by himself, the respondents, and every Friend that spoke on the subject before the Meeting. He afterwards published it, and it is allowed to be a tolerable candid and accurate statement of the whole proceedings; the appellant had before him a number of Friends' books, and the Unitarian version of the New Testament, and made such quotations as he conceived would answer his purpose; he again laid much stress on William Penn's "Sandy Foundation Shaken;" to this the respondents particularly replied, and stated that W. Penn very fully cleared himself of the charges made against him, of his having in that tract advanced sentiments favorable to the Unitarian doctrine, and in his "Innocency with her open face," expressly declared he never thought or wrote in support of what they charged him with; the object of his writing the "Sandy Foundation Shaken," being only intended to show the great impropriety of using unscriptural terms of distinct and separate persons. The respondents then quoted "Penn's Guide mistaken," published by him sometime before he wrote his "Sandy foundation Shaken," in which he asserts the divinity of Christ in the most clear and unequivocal terms; they then read many parts of "Innocency with her open face," and many other parts of Penn's writings; among others, was an extract from the Journal of Thomas Ellwood, in which he states, that being in company with W. Penn, and a number of opponents of Friends being present, one of them observed that no Englishman or Quaker, was ever known to offer prayers to Christ; to which W. Penn replied, I am an Englishman and a Quaker, and I have oft times prayed to Christ, unto him who was crucified at Jerusalem. The respondents also read extracts from Fox, Barclay, Penn, Penington, Claridge and many others of our early Friends to prove that they clearly and uniformly advanced doctrines entirely opposed to those which Thomas Foster had stated to be held by them. After T. Foster and the respondents were heard, Thomas withdrew, and the clerk, Jno. Wilkinson, said that he hoped Friends would confine themselves to the simple question before the Meeting - on the doctrines and principles advanced by Thomas Foster, and the doctrines and principles of the Society of Friends or not. The case being now fairly before the meeting, 75 friends separately and deliberately declared their opinions in favor of confirming the Monthly Meeting of Ratcliffe and the Quarterly Meeting of London - Indeed this may very truly be said to have been the unanimous sense of this meeting, excepting only Thomas Compton, father-in-law to T. Foster; both of them had been closely and intimately concerned with Hannah Barnard. This short account of the Separatists in Ireland, has been introduced with the case of Thomas Foster, in order to show how decidedly the society have shewn their abhorrence of the doctrines advanced by them; and also, the conduct of those deluded people and may be compared with the present state of Society within the limits of the Quarterly Meeting of Westbury; by which it will be seen, that there, as in Ireland, the same cause has produced the same effects, namely, lessening the Divine authority of the Scriptures, and advancing that we are not bound to believe what our reason cannot comprehend, which in both places caused a great disposition for speculation, and naturally produced an intolerant spirit towards their fellow members who could not unite with them in a disregard of the Scriptures, the religious observance of the first day of the week, &c., all which for a time they openly avowed till at length they boldly denied the divinity of Christ and openly declared that his death and sufferings were not to be considered as a propitiary offering for the sins of mankind, &c. &c. It may be truly said that within the Yearly Meeting of New York, as well as the adjacent Yearly Meetings, Friends were remarkably preserved in love and unity until ELIAS HICKS disturbed that harmony.
FIRST. By lessening the Divine authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, and then, when he supposed he had sufficiently prepared the minds of the people, he came out with his Unitarian principles or doctrine, and showed a wonderful fondness for speculation and reasoning, frequently asserted that he was not obliged to believe what our reason could not comprehend. The multitude being always fond of something new, run after him wherever it was known he was to be at Meeting, as they were confident he could not be silent owing to his having a remarkably acute memory, and by nature the advantage of a great flow of words and ready utterance, and his fondness for reasoning and advancing his sentiments in the most positive and dogmatical manner, and moreover, having the advantage of addressing himself to numbers who had little opportunity of acquiring a full knowledge of the doctrines held by our early Friends, he acquired great popularity, and in a little time his influence became so extensive that he dictated and completely directed all the business of the Yearly Meeting; and every other meeting of discipline he attended, he never failed to speak to almost every subject, and to carry his point would speak to one subject 15 or 20 times. His gaining an unbounded influence and his fondness for reasoning have worked upon his imagination and leading him into a course of speculation that at length brought him to embrace his present doctrine tending to destroy the whole system of the christian religion. It will seem to exhibit this man's character with great clearness, when it is considered how artfully he avoided coming out with his Unitarian doctrine until he thought he had prepared the people's minds to receive it, which he knew would be hazardous to attempt without previously lessening the divine authority of the Scriptures, and to accomplish this he was all-concerned. He then began by speaking of Christ as a great Prophet who had suffered martyrdom for his principles as other prophets had done before his time: at this period his principles were discovered by a number of Friends, but there were many that were so closely attached to him, that any person who passed censure on him was seen to incur the frowns of his supporters: some valuable Friends now regret that he was not checked at that period, but they are fearful it is now too late. It is much to be lamented that this step was not timely adopted, as it would no doubt have saved society from being misrepresented as to its doctrines and principles, and moreover, would have prevented the present unhappy divisions in New York and other places. He went on for a considerable time in the manner already mentioned, printing and speaking of Christ as a mere man, and lessening the Scriptures on every occasion, which of course produced in him a great dislike to Bible Societies - against them he would vent himself in the most violent and abusive language. Having declared his disbelief in the most essential doctrines of the christian religion, that could alone have preserved him in the humble and meek spirit of the gospel, he would in the most abusive manner, with his mind wonderfully heated, disclaim against the doctrines of other denominations and speak of their ministers with the most supercilious contempt; and in the same manner and in the same bitter spirit, he would utter the most severe epithets against all who differed from him in the use of articles manufactured by slaves; such he would say were bloody minded men, and the highwaymen would fare better in the next world than they. Occasionally (always accompanied with the same severe tone) he would vent himself against Banks, East India trade, civil government, agricultural societies, chemistry (which he called the "Black Art,") the Grand Canal, which he called a wicked plan to deceive and impose on people; all who should unite in any kind of charitable societies, were declared to be actuated by a spirit of pride, merely to get a name; all who united in any of these things, were spoken of, and abused in a haughty dogmatical and domineering manner, and called wicked unprincipled men. At length he ventured more openly to speak against the Divinity of Christ, by stating, first, that he might have fallen as Adam did; and at another time after repeating over the same words, he added, the Devil knew this or he was a fool to try; and in a public communication at Pearl street Meeting, he said that if an innocent man should suffer death for the sins of others it was an absurdity, and no rational man would believe it - similar sentiments he has expressed in a letter to Wm. B. Irish. - After this it is impossible for any man of common understanding, except indeed he is wilfully blinded, to say that this man is sound in the faith once delivered to the Saints. But it is said by those who are determined to excuse him, that he does sometimes deliver what is good and every way unexceptionable, but it may be seriously asked of such, would the apostles or our early Friends listen to what might be delivered by any man under pretence of preaching the Gospel, although true in the abstract, if spoken by a person who would repeatedly lessen the Divine truth of the Scriptures, lessen the character of Christ, and deny that mankind has derived any benefit by his death, &c.
June, 1696, Geo. Whitehead published a book under this title, "The Divinity of Christ and the Unity of the Three that bear record in heaven, with the blessed ends and effects of Christ's appearance, coming in the flesh, suffering sacrifice for sinners, confessed and vindicated by his followers called Quakers," Sewell's History p. 638. The estimation in which such a man ought to be held is stated by the beloved Apostles, read 2. John 9, 10 and 11. It may be proper to mention that E. Hicks' manner of treating the Scriptures and his harsh style when speaking against those of other societies, have been mentioned and advice given him by some worthy Friends of New York Yearly Meeting - some of them as well as those of other Yearly Meetings, and from Europe, have stated to him his sentiments relative to the divinity of Christ, which went to the destruction of the Christian religion, and to produce divisions in Society. But owing to his inordinate fondness for reasoning (and in this talent he has the weakness to conceit no one equal to himself) he has acquired a degree of obstinacy in which he is scarce equalled by any other man - It is owing to this that no advice that has been given to him has been of any use. Although many Friends in the City of New York, as well as some on Long Island, are convinced of his being unsound in the christian faith, yet most of them are secretly afraid of him; this appeared clearly to be the case at the Quarterly Meeting where he applied for a certificate to attend the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and to visit families in Philadelphia; those were then present whose sentiments it is well known were entirely adverse to those which they acknowledged to be held by Elias Hicks, and of course did not unite with his having a certificate, yet they were afraid to oppose it, indeed, unaccountable as it may seem, two of this description expressed some words giving countenance to the application. - When mankind is viewed as race of beings made but little lower than angels, how wonderful it is that there are minds so perverted, and whose conduct should be so extremely inconsistent.
It is indeed a most deplorable state of society when it is considered that a Quarterly Meeting should sanction a man to go abroad to visit other Yearly Meetings, who has been for some time propagating principles which tend to destroy the christian religion. If however the sentiments of each individual could have been known and declared, there would have been exhibited such a formidable opposition, that such a certificate would never have been granted him; it was obtained in consequence of his adherents on Long Island immediately getting up one after another expressing approbation, so that those who otherwise might have said something to discountenance the measure, were deterred from expressing their sentiments, besides it so happened that very few were present from New York, except those who were so blindly prejudiced in his favor that they cannot persuade themselves he can do or say any thing wrong. It is said that only two Friends showed any disapprobation and one of them stated he thought it would be very incorrect to retain in the certificate as it was read by the Clerk, the words "fully united with;" a particular adherent of Elias Hicks, remarked, that as so many had united he thought it would be very proper to retain those words; the Friends again urged for them to be left out. The Meeting then directed they should be omitted; yet notwithstanding this conclusion of the Meeting, the Clerk has furnished a certificate in which those words are inserted!* In short if we believe the words of Christ that the house divided against itself is brought to desolation, then we may tremble when we find such a man countenanced in advancing doctrines that go to destroy the direct foundation of our society, and lay waste its first principles, and that he should be permitted to go to other places to produce the same divisions that he has already produced at New York. The injury that society has already received through the conduct of this man has been very great. Highly respectable persons of other denominations, charge our Society with being Unitarians; when they are told this charge is untrue they reply they have heard E. Hicks openly and publicly avow this doctrine, and as he is an acknowledged minister in the Society of Friends, and as they allow him to go about the country to hold meetings, of course the doctrines delivered by him must be considered as held by the society. It is very humiliating to observe there are ministers among us who so much admire E. Hicks as to imitate and copy after him at least in the unchristian and violent manner in which he abuses the clergy - Indeed they try if possible to exceed him in this respect; Elias Hicks, at a public meeting at Long Island, at a place where no Friends reside, and in company with his cousin Elias, in the course of a long communication, disclaimed in a most severe manner against the Clergy, their Common Prayer Book, and many of the religious observances of the Church of England, one of their ministers was present; he told them you might search the kennels of any great city, and take soldiers, sailors, and the very worst of mankind, and they would be more likely to enter into the kingdom of Heaven than the hireling priest. Another preacher, Dr. Carey of Saratoga, speaking in the same spirit against ministers of other denominations, at a public meeting at which a number were present, not members of our Society, burst out with these expressions: I insist upon it that one hireling is worse than ten old devils; and at another public meeting he said, "I will tell you how they make a hireling - they first send a young man to an academy for a few years, they then send him to Eliphalet Nott to finish him, and then the young devil is sent abroad into the world to do all the mischief he can." In this way those people, instead of being under the calm influence of the Gospel, which would preserve them in a meek, humble, quiet spirit, present the phantoms of their own wayward, foolish imaginations, and presume with daring impiety to bar the gates of Heaven against all whom from their influence of early education adopt a different mode of offering worship to the Almighty. If all who differ from us in religious opinions are to be doomed to destruction in the next world, it might be asked these deluded people, what has been the lot of many of our Friends who were ministers, that a few years ago bought and sold their fellow creatures as slaves? surely no considerate man will pretend to say, that hireling ministers are worse for being such than slaveholders. But the conduct of these men defeats their own views by giving way to their violent dispositions, as it is a solemn truth that the very valuable and essential testimony that Friends have to bear in favor of a free ministry, can only be spread in the world by the spirit of love, and in this spirit the principles founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can only be preached with any effect.
After what has been said respecting the unsound doctrines held by E. Hicks, it may be well to enquire, how are we to account for the circumstance of so many of the members of his quarterly meeting being so blind as not to discover the unsoundness of his principles? we have no hesitation in saying, that the leading cause is the want of a proper or suitable education; the writings of early Friends (except some Journals) are scarce and little read, all kinds of school learning, except reading, writing, and the first rules of arithmetic, are discouraged, as well as general History, and books written by persons who are not members. To read the Scriptures daily or at fixed hours, is declared to be mere formality, in many families they are very little read. It is therefore not so very extraordinary as might at first appear, that a great proportion of the people so educated and so instructed, should submit to be led, and be so entirely influenced by such a man as Elias Hicks. If Friends in Philadelphia should allow this man to visit families, and in this way spread his poisonous principles, divisions among them will assuredly be the consequence.
The following was addressed by Isaac Penington to a person holding similar doctrines to Elias Hicks, and may be now read as if addressed immediately to him - Gurney's Memoirs of Isaac Penington, page 150. "O shallow man, when wilt thou cease measuring God by the eye of thy reason; wilt though say it must be thus and thus, because thou canst not see how it can be otherwise, a proper query for the great reasoners of this age? O man, behold thy Saviour, know thy life, do not despise eternity, because of its appearing, and acting through mortality. This is he that came to redeem thee, to be a propitiatory sacrifice for thee, and a pattern for thee, art thou able to measure God in any work of his through the Creation? Thou knowest thou art not. Then why dost thou measure him so confidently in his greatest work through his Christ: even the work of Redemption, and so apparently contradict him in it? Very deep and weighty was the answer of Christ to Philip when Philip said, "show us the Father and it sufficeth." "Hast thou not seen me, Philip?" said Christ; "How is it that thou sayest show me the Father? he that has seen me has seen the Father also." Are they not one nature, one wisdom, one pure eternal Being? Can the one be possibly seen and not the other, though they may be distinct in manifestation, in the heart where they are received is it possible they should be divided one from the other, and separate? They that thus apprehend, plainly manifest that they have never received the knowledge of the Father and Son, but have only notions and apprehensions of man's wisdom concerning them.
During George Withy's being in New York, many of those who have uniformly appeared as zealous supporters of Elias Hicks showed themselves highly displeased with George, and addressed to him several anonymous letters, in which they charged him with preaching wrong doctrines, &c. A few days before he embarked for England, they (sixteen of them) had prepared a letter of several sheets to be signed by two or three of them in behalf of the whole, which they intended to deliver to him. They seemed to be in much trouble because the doctrine preached by him was so directly opposed to that held by Elias Hicks, and were exceedingly disturbed that George should have told Elias that his sentiments went to destroy the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. In order to support Elias they published one thousand copies of William Penn's "Sandy foundation Shaken," for the purpose, as they said, to show that the Unitarian doctrine held by Elias Hicks agreed with what was advanced by Penn - They were also urged to print Penn's Trace called "Innocency with her Open Face," as they were told that that was afterwards published by him in order to prevent any wrong constructions that might take place in the minds of those who should read "Sandy foundation Shaken," but this of course they refused to print.
The above letter from Thomas Eddy of New York to a Friend in this city, and the accompanying remarks, are taken from the original in the hand-writing of the author. It was very desirable that a few friends should be furnished with a copy, in order that the baneful and invidious effects intended to be produced by it might be counteracted, and it was thought best to have a few copies printed, being less liable to error than in transcribing, and its length would make this process tedious; bad, indeed, must be the cause that calls for such means to support it, and how any man can talk of tale-bearing and backbiting, &c. and be instrumental in handing about this letter, as true, is really astonishing; such conduct is in itself a direct conspiracy against the peace and harmony of society - agreeably to the request of the author the essay appears to have been corrected in this city - but it was thought best to print it in its original form.
To ELIAS HICKS,
FRIENDS in Philadelphia having for a considerable time past heard of thy holding and promulgating doctrines different from, and repugnant to those held by our religious society, it was cause of uneasiness and deep concern to them, as their sincere regard and engagement for the promotion of the cause of truth, made it very desirable that all the members of our religious Society should move in true harmony, under the leading and direction of our Blessed Redeemer, upon being informed of thy sentiments expressed by Joseph Whithall. That Jesus Christ was not the Son of God, until after the Baptism of John; and the descent of the Holy Ghost, and that he was no more than a man; that the same power that made Christ a Christian must make us Christians; and that the same power that saved him must save us; many Friends were much affected therewith, and sometime afterwards, several Friends being together in the city on subjects relating to our religious Society, they received an account from Ezra Comfort, of some of thy expressions in the public general meeting immediately succeeding the Southern Quarterly meeting lately held in the State of Delaware, which was also confirmed by his companion Isaiah Bell; That Jesus Christ was the first man that introduced the Gospel dispensation, the Jews being under the outward and ceremonial law or dispensation, it was necessary that there should be some outward miracle, as the healing of the outward infirmities of the flesh, and raising the outward dead bodies, in order to introduce the Gospel dispensations, he had no more power given him than man, for he was no more than man, he had nothing to do with the healing of the soul, for that belongs to God only, Elisha had the same power to raise the dead; that man, being obedient to the Spirit of God in him could arrive at as great, or greater, degree of righteousness, than Jesus Christ. That Jesus Christ thought it not robbery to be equal with God, neither do I think it robbery for man to be equal with God; then endeavoured to show that by attending to that stone cut out of the mountain without hands, or the seed in man, it would make man equal with God, saying, for that stone in man was the entire God. On hearing which, it appeared to Friends a subject of such great importance, and of such deep interest to the welfare of our religious Society, as to require an early extension of care, in order, that if any incorrect statement had been made, it should as soon as possible be rectified, or if true, thou might be possessed of the painful concern of Friends, and their sense and judgment thereon. Two of the Elders accordingly waited on thee on the evening of the day of thy arriving in the city, and although thou denied the statement, yet, thou declined to meet these two Elders in company with those who made it, left the mind of Friends without relief: one of the Elders who had called on thee, repeated his visit on the next day but one, and again requested thee to see the two Elders and the Friends who made the above statements, which thou again declined. The Elders from the different monthly meetings in the city were then convened, and requested a private opportunity with thee, which thou also refused, yet the next day consented to meet them at a time and place of thy own fixing; but when assembled, a mixed company being collected, the Elders could not in this manner enter into a business which they considered of a nature not to be investigated in any other way than in a select private opportunity, they therefore considered that meeting a clear indication of thy continuing to decline to meet the Elders, as by them proposed. Under these circumstances it appearing that thou art not willing to hear and disprove the charges brought against thee, we feel it a duty to declare, that we cannot have religious unity with thy conduct, nor with the doctrines thou art charged with promulgating.
Signed, 12th month, 19th, 1822.
Samuel P. Griffitts,
Having been charged by you of unsoundness of principle and doctrine, founded on reports spread among the people in an unfriendly manner, and contrary to the order of our discipline, by Joseph Whitehall, as stated in the letter from you dated the 19th instant; and as these are charges not literally true, being founded on his own forced and improper construction of my words, I deny them; and as I do not consider myself amendable to him, or any other, for crimes laid to my charge as being committed in the course of the sitting of our last yearly meeting, as not any of my fellow members of that meeting discovered or noticed any such things, which I presume not to be the case, as not an individual has mentioned any such thing to me, but contrary thereto, many of our valuable Friends (who had heard some of these foul reports promulgated by an individual of our city) acknowledge the great satisfaction they had with my services and exercises in the course of that meeting, and were fully convinced, that all those foul reports were false, and this view is fully confirmed by a certificate granted me by the monthly and quarterly meetings of which I am a member, in which they express their full unity with me, and which meetings were held a considerable time after our yearly meeting, in the course of which Joseph Whitehall has presumed to charge me with unsoundness, contrary to the sense of the yearly, quarterly and monthly meetings of which I am a member, and to whom only I hold myself amenable for all conduct transacted within their limits. The other charges against me made by Ezra Comfort, as expressed in your letter, are in the general incorrect, as is proved by the annexed certificate, and moreover as E. Comfort has departed from gospel order in not mentioning his uneasiness to me when present with me, and when I could have appealed to Friends of that meeting to have justified me, therefore I consider E. Comfort to have acted disorderly and contrary to discipline; and these are the reasons that induced me to refuse a compliance with your requisitions, as considering them arbitrary and contrary to the established order of our Society.
(Signed) E. Hicks
Philadelphia, 12 mo. 21, 1822.
We the undersigned being occasionally in the city of Philadelphia, when a letter was produced and handed us, singed by ten of its citizens, Elders of the Society of Friends, and directed to Elias Hicks; after perusing and deliberately considering the charges therein against him, for holding and propagating doctrines inconsistent with our religious testimonies, and more especially those said by Ezra Comfort and Isaiah Bell, to be held forth at a meeting immediately succeeding the late Southern Quarterly Meeting, and we being members of the Southern quarter, and present at the said meeting, we are free to state, for the satisfaction of the first-mentioned Friends, and all others whom it may concern, that we apprehend the charges exhibited by the two Friends named, are without substantial foundation; and in order to give a clear view, we think it best and proper here to transcribe the said charges exhibited, and our own understanding of the several, viz. "That Jesus Christ was the first man that introduced the Gospel Dispensation, the Jews being under the outward and ceremonial law or dispensation, it was necessary there should be some outward miracles, as healing the outward infirmities of the flesh, and raising the outward dead bodies, in order to introduce the gospel dispensation;" this in substance is correct. "That he had no more power given him than man," this sentence is incorrect; and also, "That he had nothing to do with the healing of the soul, for that belongs to God only" is likewise incorrect; and the next sentence "That Elisha also had the same power to raise the dead" should be transposed thus to give Elias's expressions. "By the same power it was that Elisha raised the dead." "That man being obedient to the spirit of God in him could arrive at as great or greater degree of righteousness than Jesus Christ" this is incorrect, "That Jesus Christ thought it not robbery to be equal with God", with annexing the other part of the paragraph mentioned by the holy apostle would be correct. "Neither do I think it robbery for man to be equal with God," is incorrect. "Then endeavouring to show that by attending to that stone cut out of the mountain without hands or the seed in man, it would make man equal with God" is incorrect; the sentence for that stone in man should stand thus. "That this stone or seed in man had all the attributes of the divine nature that was in Christ and God." This statement and a few necessary remarks we made without comment, save only that we were then of opinion and still are, that the sentiments and doctrines held forth by our said friend Elias Hicks, are agreeable to the opinions and doctrines held by George Fox and other worthy friends of his time.
12 mo. 21, 1822.
(Signed) Robert Moore,
Joseph G. Rowland.
On 7th day, the 7th of the 12th mo. 1822, Elias Hicks arrived in Philadelphia, and on that evening he was waited upon by Ellis Yarnal and Dr. S.P. Griffitts, two elders of the city, who desired an interview with him on account of some doctrine he, the said E. Hicks, was said to hold. At first Elias denied their authority to question him, but upon their telling him they came in love as brethren, he said he was willing to answer them; and after an interview of about fifty minutes, they went away apparently well satisfied: but on the next day (1st day the 8th) there was a meeting of the elders of the city, as I was informed, or at least a majority of them, and a deputation from that meeting waited on Elias on second day, and requested him to meet the elders of the city on 4th day the 11th, at the Arch street House, at 3 o'clock. Elias declined meeting them, saying, that he did not acknowledge their authority to call him before them; but afterwards at the request of Dr. Robt. Moore of Easton, Maryland, who thought it might be most satisfactory to Friends generally, Elias consented to meet them at the Green street House, on 5th day the 12th inst. at 3 o'clock P.M. accordingly Elias met them at the time and place appointed, and expressed his willingness that some of his friends should accompany him, which they did, and I was one of the number. At this meeting there was Elias Hicks and his companions. John Comly, Dr. Robert Moore of Easton, Dr. John Moore, John Hunt an elder from Darby, Evan Davis from Wilmington, and perhaps 12 or 15 of the members of Green street Monthly Meeting. I believe all the elders of the city were present except Jonathan Evans who was indisposed, and John Townsend, senr. who declined meeting with them, and Charles Stowe, who became uneasy in mind after he had started to go, and returned back. After sitting some time in silence, Thomas Wistar got up and said that a serious concern had arisen among the elders of the city, and they had requested a select opportunity with Elias Hicks and his companion; but instead of the opportunity desired, he thought it very extraordinary that so many Friends should be present, who in the present stage of the business had no concern in the case, and concluded by observing, that if those Friends thought proper to keep their seats, that they (the elders) had better withdraw: Elias Hicks then rose and observed, that he thought it a very extraordinary proceeding that they should summon him before them, to answer or give an account of himself, in reply to flying reports against him, and not be willing to have those friends present who were to be witnesses that those reports were false. He then mentioned the circumstances of the first interview as above stated, and that in reply to a charge that was reported against him, he had told the Friends it was not true; he then stated he thought he had been cruelly treated since he came to the city; that Friends had listened to reports, and judged him upon those reports; he recapitulated the circumstances of a Friend having attended the Southern Quarterly Meeting, who had reported something as having been said by him which he had told Friends was not true. After he sat down, a hint was again given that the elders might as well withdraw if other Friends chose to stay. Caleb Pierce said, Friends had better keep to the one point, whether Elias would give them the private opportunity they desired - and after some few remarks transiently made, Elias said, he was not free to meet them alone. Thomas Wistar said, are we to understand this to be the answer? Elias replied, Yes. Then, rejoined Thomas Wistar, we are to understand if the opportunity desired is not granted that the charges are admitted? Elias said, No. His companion immediately said, no charges have been made by you; Elias said, here we are, ready to hear any charge you have to bring in the presence of these Friends.
There was now some confusion, and evident irritation on the part of some of the elders, several of them rising to go out; and while on his feet in the act of moving towards the door Thomas Stewardson said, "the ministers are answerable to the elders," in a tone of voice evincing some excitement; Elias mildly said, as he sat on his seat, I am answerable to my Friends at home, I have their certificate, God makes ministers, but man elders; and some few more words I did not distinctly hear owing to the noise. Edward Randolph, as he rose and went out at this time, said, with some impatience, "It is a very strange procedure indeed." The elders now all left the house except Isaac Lloyd, a member of Pine street Meeting, and Samuel Noble, a member of Green street: Isaac Lloyd had, while all were together, expressed his disapprobation of the whole proceeding, in thus calling Elias before the elders, and said he did not understand what authority or right they had to act thus. After the others retired there was a short pause, when Elias got up and said, that if those Friends who had just retired, were to have the whole rule and government of ministers and others, and others were to be bound to submit to them in all things, it was time for Friends to take care of their rights, and not suffer themselves to be imposed upon. This was done in a mild and calm tone of voice; there was then an expression of great unity ad sympathy with Elias Hicks as a Gospel minister, and a desire also prevailed that he might be encouraged in his exercises. Friends also were concerned that no resentment or hardness might be suffered to get in towards those Friends who had retired. Abram Lower thought it might be a satisfaction for Friends to hear, what was said to be charged upon Elias Hicks, and to hear it explained by Dr. Robert Moore of Easton, who was at the Southern quarter, where it was said Elias had used some unsound expressions. Elias then said, that Ezra Comfort, who attended the Southern quarter, had charged him with having said that Jesus Christ was nothing but a mere man, and that any other man, by attending to the light within, might attain to equal if not greater perfection than he did! Dr. Moore then said that he attended said quarterly meeting, and that Elias's services and gospel labours were very acceptable, and that Friends had great unity with him both at that quarter and also at Baltimore yearly meeting, and that he heard no such expressions, and he did not believe they had been used by him. After some time Elias said, that this friend Comfort appeared to have a friendship and unity with him, and shewed nothing either in word or action that implied any thing like disapprobation though he had opportunity, but that he came away from them and reported a thing of him which he never said nor thought, and repeated his opinion that he had been cruelly used since he came to this city. After some further remarks by Friends, a few minutes of silent sympathy was proposed before separating, and there was a solemn covering attended this silence, which seemed like pouring the oil upon Aaron's head, which extended to the skirts of his garments, and I thought I never had been in a meeting of any kind which seemed more evidently owned by the Divine presence. Before a separation took place, Elias Hicks observed, in a very feeling manner, that he felt thankful in saying that he felt as much love for those Friends who had left us as he ever had done, and that if they had been actuated by any improper motives (which however he did not charge them with) his prayer for them was, that they might be forgiven.
Philadelphia, 1 mo. 4, 1823.
To Elias Hicks.
On the perusal of thy letter of the 21st of last month, it was not a little affecting to observe the same disposition still prevalent that avoided a select meeting with the Elders, which meeting consistently with the station we are placed in and with the sense of duty impressive upon us, we were engaged to propose and urge to thee as a means wherein the cause of uneasiness might have been investigated, the Friends who exhibited the complaint fully examined, and the whole business placed in a clear point of view.
On a subject of such importance the most explicit candour and ingenuousness, with a readiness to hear and give complete satisfaction ought ever to be maintained; this the Gospel teaches, and the nature of the case imperiously demanded it. As to the Certificate which accompanied thy letter, made several weeks after the circumstances occurred, it is in several respects, not only vague and ambiguous, but in others (though in different terms) it corroborates the statement at first made. When we take a view of the whole subject, the doctrines and sentiments which have been promulgated by thee, though under some caution while in this city; and the opinions which thou expressed in an interview between Ezra Comfort and thee, on the 19th ult. we are fully and sorrowfully confirmed in the conclusion, that thou holds and art disseminating principles very different from those which are held and maintained by our religious Society.
As thou hast on thy part, closed the door against the brotherly care and endeavours of the elders here for thy benefit, and for the clearing our religious profession, this matter appears of such serious magnitude, so interesting to the peace, harmony, and well being of society, that we think it ought to claim the weighty attention of thy Friends at home.
(Signed) Ellis Yarnall,
Samuel P. Griffitts,
Being present when the foregoing Letter was concluded on, I unite with the concern and care of my brethren the Elders of this city, that our religious Society might not be under the imputation of holding doctrines which do not accord with the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.
We the subscribers, being informed that certain reports have been circulated by Ezra Comfort and Isaiah Bell, that Elias Hicks had propagated unsound doctrine, at our general meeting on the day succeeding our quarterly meeting in the 11th month last, and a Certificate signed by Robert Moore, Joseph Turner, and Joseph G. Roland, being read, contradicting said reports, the subject has claimed our weighty and deliberate attention, and it is our united judgment, that the Doctrines preached by our said Friend on the day alluded to, were the Truths of the Gospel; and that his labours of love amongst us at our particular meetings, as well as at our said quarterly meeting, were united with by all our members, for aught that appears.
And we believe that the Certificate signed by the three Friends above named, is in substance a correct statement of facts.
William W. Moore,
John Cowgill, junr.
Little Creek, 2 mo. 26th, 1823.
I hereby Certify, that I was at the Southern Quarterly Meeting in the 11th month last, but owing to indisposition, I did not attend the general meeting on the day succeeding, and having been present at several meetings with Elias Hicks, as well as at the Quarterly Meeting aforesaid, I can testify my entire unity with the doctrines I have heard him deliver.
Arrived in this city on the 7th instant, Elias Hicks, a distinguished Minister of the Gospel, the Benign Doctrines of which he as a faithful Embassador, has for many years past practically endeavoured (both by precept and example) to promulgate in its primeval beauty and simplicity, without money and without price. Those who are Friends to plain truth, and Evangelical preaching, that have heretofore been edified and comforted under his ministry, will doubtless be pleased to learn of his arrival, and avail themselves of the present opportunity of attending such appointments as he, under the direction of Divine influence, may see proper to make in this tour of Gospel Love, to the inhabitants of this city and its vicinity.
Philadelphia, Dec. 9th, 1822.
For some time past it has been understood, that P.H. of Indiana, widow of a son of that valuable Friend Nathan Hunt, of North Carolina, was expected to pay a visit to this city in a religious capacity. Some Friends having previously learned that she entertained sentiments in many respects congenial with those of our worthy friend Elias Hicks, were inclined to prevent her from coming, and it is confidently said, took steps accordingly; with intimations thus given, it is believed, she would willingly have complied, had she consulted only her own natural inclination, but an impression was fixed, deeply fixed in her mind, that as her intended visit was of the Lord's requiring, however repugnant it might be to the feelings of nature; she was enjoined to obey - accordingly her first public appearance was on a first-day morning at Pine Street Meeting, of the state of which it was clearly seen that she was favoured with a true sense, when she was lead to speak of strife, and contention as being inimical to the true Spirit of the Christian Religion, which could not, (she said) exist where there was such a state of mind. Speaking of the Star in the East, (she said) "What was this Star? I fear not to say it was Reason; and understand me my friends, I do not believe that attention to reason alone in man, would any more lead to God, than that star which appeared to those wise men, would have lead them to God." As nearly as can be recollected, these were the words spoken. As soon as this sensible and interesting female had sat down, a young man, by far the youngest in the Minister's Gallery, William Evans by name, arose, and with a confidence of manner and tone, evincing an uncharitable and prejudging frame of mind, spoke as follows: "These are not the doctrines of our religious Society, we never professed to the world that reason leads to Christ." The meeting was astonished at the forwardness of this young man, and the more so, because he seemed by implication, to construe the words that were uttered, into a sense that the words themselves would not bear; the Friend did not say that Reason alone would lead to Christ, as the forward young man would seem to intimate, but her meaning evidently was, that reason combined with revelation, as in the figure of the star in the East, would direct us; she also disclaimed any meaning, that would raise Reason above Revelation. To return to the narrative, as soon as the indecorous intruder had done speaking, the female, without taking the least notice of his unfeeling attack, kneeled in supplication; the meeting spontaneously arose, with the exception of this self-important young man, his father Jonathan Evans (an elder), and one or two others, not being able further to resist, after a short hesitation arose, and joined apparently in supplication, in which the dark veil which now appeared to cover some minds, wass petitioned to be rent asunder, and the meeting then broke up in a state of agitation difficult to describe; such was the reception of a virtuous female stranger, travelling on God's errand to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. I have stated the occurrence with as much accuracy as my recollection permits, and if I am under any misapprehension, numbers can correct me: all I can say is, that I have endeavoured to keep within the strict bounds of Truth. It may be right, however, to add, that the young man, who was the sorrowful cause of so much agitation, professes to be sensible, in part, of his indecorous behaviour, for the manner in which he spoke, but not for the matter, and it is thought by many that not only the manner, but the matter needs an apology, and that in as public way as the indecorum was committed, but that he should also farther apologize, for having broke the solemnity of the meeting in a way contrary to the good order of Friends - but as he still persists in dividing his offence into justifiable and unjustifiable parts, it is evident his compunction of mind does not lead to abasement and contrition of Spirit.
2 mo. 19th, 1823.
Philadelphia, 2 mo. 20, 1823.
I left my home and came to see you with nothing in my hand but a staff of love. It is my support - it is my shield. And this I have to declare unto the inhabitants of the earth, and I have had to declare in every part of the earth where I have been, "That there is no other guide to Heaven but the light of Christ within." And this all may clearly see that will attend to the light of reason; for it is that part of man that is susceptible of light, and by this light operating on the mental faculty which I term reason, that which raises the man above the brute, we are enabled to see and come unto the light of Christ within the hope of glory. It shows us that he is the way, the truth, and the life: and this gentle monitor it is, that is to guide us to Heaven. Now beloved, do I say reason is the light that leads to heaven? No, I put no more dependence on reason than is due; for reason alone cannot guide a man in the way that is right. He undoubtedly was endued with reason, for a man that is void of reason cannot know Christ, neither will he be led by his light within, for he disregards it. His mind is not capable of coming to it, therefore he cannot dwell in the light without reason. Here, beloveds, as we attend unto the monitor in the breast, the light of Christ, we are led unto God the fountain of light, we come to the knowledge of ourselves; it unfolds to the view of man what he really is; and there is nothing else but this that can guide a man to peace but that which has power to open to the view of his mind what he really is. For until a man do see and know himself, he cannot come to the knowledge of God. Where is there any other power that can guide man into the depth of nature but this eternal Word. For by diving into the depth of nature, we behold nature's God. Him we see in all his works. We behold him above all, and filling all. And this light of Christ within, is the Lion of the tribe of Judah that is prepared to open the book and loose the seven seals.
* We are assured by a Friend who was present at the Quarterly Meeting of Westbury, that no such opposition as stated above took place. The circumstances as they occurred were simply these, - after a very general expression of unity, one single Friend observed, that he thought the word "full" might be spared; a pause, as is common in such cases, ensued, and no other expressing his approbation of the proposition, the word was retained, and that without any observation on the part of the Clerk: so that the assertion that the Clerk inserted words in the endorsement, which had been agreed to be omitted by the Meeting, is altogether unfounded and false.
The following rare product of human invention, was generated at a Select Council, commonly called a "Meeting for Suffering," which speaking in the vernacular tongue, I call the Standing Committee of the Yearly Meeting, and I am fixed in the unshaken belief, that their secret Cabinet and Councils are oft polluted with the spirit of error, which causes them to stray in vision, and err in judgment, and this engenders bigotry, superstition, and ecclesiastical tyranny, and this has brought forth many noxious plants that will not bud, blossom and thrive among the trees of Gospel liberty in this American soil - hence arose this new fangled triangular Creed; which no doubt, was introduced as a manade to bind down the liberal minded, and stop the current of free investigation, which that bold, independent and faithful servant of the Lord, Elias Hicks, has been an instrument in promoting among us, particularly the juvenile part of society, who have been more generally induced to search the Sacred Volume, and the writings of their forefathers, than ever was before known in the Society called FRIENDS - and this excitement to free enquiry has justled the lees of that old leaven, which the Son of God cautioned his Disciples to beware of, which must be purged out, before the pure seed of the Kingdom will take root and flourish in the hearts of the children of men. O! that this fermentation may purge out the old leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees, and cause the vitality of pure and undefiled religion to circulate, like the illustrious blood through the left ventricle of the heart, which circulates through the whole body and gives vitality. The following singular CREED was rejected in the yearly meeting, by an overwhelming majority of its members, and we are at no loss to account for the noble decision, when we consider the independence that has always characterized the Society, and I trust it has taught many a useful lesson, to those rigid Sectarians, who were looking up to these man-made Elders, as a superior race of beings, guided by the spirit of truth in all their movements; but alas, will any rational being presume to say, these men were dictated by the unerring spirit of truth, when they were endeavoring to frame a Creed that would have disgraced the days of the flight of Mahomet, much more the 19TH CENTURY in which we live? - Marvel not then that this stretch of power was curtailed, and the fetters broken before they were firmly rivetted - May this human effort stimulate us to redoubled vigilance in guarding our Religious rights, prizing our privileges, and appreciating the manifold blessings that are bountifully strewed upon us by an Overruling Supreme Intelligence.
N.B. This Pamphlet was honorably rejected by the Annual Assembly, and ordered not to be published, still it was not expunged from the minutes of said meeting, and some orthodox ones entertain a belief that it will one day come forth and be sanctioned by the yearly meeting of Philadelphia, but I must beg leave to differ from them in opinion. - It may possibly meet the approbation of some of the loyal orthodox tribes on the other side the Atlantic, as I am credibly informed a number of printed copies have been transported across the ocean - however, time will demonstrate all things, and bring all hidden works of darkness to light - Even so.
Philadelphia, 4th mo. 14th, 1824.
An Essay containing a few brief extracts from the writings of our primitive Friends on several of the doctrines of the Christian Religion, which have been always held, and are most surely believed by us, being produced and read; on solid consideration, they appeared so likely to be productive of benefit, if a publication thereof was made, and spread among our members generally, that the committee appointed on the printing and distribution of religious books, are directed to have a sufficient number of them struck off, and distributed accordingly; being as follows:
We have always believed that the Holy Scriptures were written by divine inspiration, that they are able to make wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus; for, as holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, they are therefore profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. But they are not, or cannot be subjected to the fallen corrupt reason of man. We have always asserted our willingness that all our doctrines be tried by them; and admit it as a positive maxim, that whatsoever any do (pretending to the spirit) which is contrary to the scriptures, be accounted and judged a delusion of the Devil.
We receive and believe in the testimony of the Scriptures, simply as it stands in the text, "There are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one."
We believe in the only wise, omnipotent and everlasting God; the Creator of all things in Heaven and earth, and the preserver of all that he hath made, who is God over all, blessed forever.
The infinite and most wise God, who is the foundation, root and spring of all operations, hath wrought all things by his eternal word and Son. This is that word that was in the beginning with God, and was God; by whom all things were made and without whom was not any thing made that was made.
Jesus Christ is the beloved and only begotten Son of God, who, in the fullness of time, through the Holy Ghost, was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary - in him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. We believe that he was made a sacrifice for sin, who knew no sin; that he was crucified for us in the flesh, was buried and rose again the third day by the power of his Father for our justification, ascended up into Heaven and now sitteth at the right hand of God.
As then that infinite and incomprehensible fountain of life and motion operateth in the creatures by his own eternal word and power, so no creature has access again unto him but in and by the Son, according to his own blessed declaration, "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." Again "I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me." Hence he is the only mediator between God and man, for having been with God from all eternity, being himself God, and also in time partaking of the nature of man; through him is the goodness and love of God conveyed to mankind, and by him again man receiveth and partaketh of these mercies.
We acknowledge that of ourselves we are not able to do any thing that is good; neither can we procure remission of sin or justification by any act of our own; but acknowledge all to be of and from his love which is the original and fundamental cause of our acceptance, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
We firmly believe it was necessary that Christ should come, that by his death and sufferings, he might offer up himself a sacrifice to God for our sins, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree; so we believe, that the remission of sins which any partake of, is only in and by virtue of that most satisfactory sacrifice, and no otherwise; for it is by the obedience of that one, that the free gift is come upon all to justification. Thus Christ by his death and sufferings, hath reconciled us to God, even while we are enemies; that is, he offers reconciliation to us; and we are thereby put into a capacity of being reconciled. God is willing to be reconciled unto us and ready to remit the sins that are past, if we repent.
Jesus Christ is the intercessor and advocate with the Father in Heaven, appearing in the presence of God for us, being touched with a feeling of our infirmities, sufferings and sorrows; and also by his spirit in our hearts, he maketh intercession according to the will of God, crying abba Father. He tasted death for every man, shed his blood for all men, and is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. He alone is our Redeemer and Saviour, the Captain of our salvation, the promised seed, who bruises the serpent's head; the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.
He is our wisdom, righteousness, justification and redemption; neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under Heaven, given among men, whereby we may be saved.
As he ascended far above all Heavens, that he might fill all things, his fullness cannot be comprehended or contained in any finite creature, but in some measure known and experienced in us, as we are prepared to receive the same; as of his fullness we have received, grace for grace. He is both the word of faith and a quickening Spirit in us, whereby he is the immediate cause, author, object and strength of our living faith in his name and power, and of the work of our Salvation from sin and bondage of corruption.
The Son of God cannot be divided from the least or lowest appearance of his own divine light or life in us, no more than the Sun from its own light, nor is the suffering of his light within, set up or mentioned in opposition to him, or to his fullness considered as in himself or without us; nor can any measure or degree of light received from Christ, be properly called the fullness of Christ, or Christ as in fullness, nor exclude him from being our complete Saviour. And where the least degree or measure of this light and life of Christ within, is sincerely waited in, followed and obeyed, there is a blessed increase of light and grace known and felt; as the path of the just, it shines more and more until the perfect day, and thereby a growing in grace, and in the knowledge of God, and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, hath been and is truly experienced.
Whereof we say, that whatever Christ then did, both living and dying, was of great benefit to the salvation of all that have believed, and now do, and that hereafter shall believe in him unto justification and acceptance with God: but the way to come to that faith, is to receive and obey the manifestation of his divine Light and grace in the conscience, which leads men to believe, and not to disown or undervalue Christ, as the common sacrifice and mediator. For we do affirm, that to follow this holy light in the conscience, and to turn our minds and bring all our deeds and thoughts to it, is the readiest, nay the only right way, to have true, living, and sanctifying faith in Christ, as he appeared in the flesh; and to discern the Lord's body, coming, and sufferings aright, and to receive any real benefit by him as our only sacrifice and mediator, according to the beloved disciple's emphatical testimony, "If we walk in the light, as he (God) is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin."
By the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ without us, we, truly repenting and believing, are, through the mercy of God, justified from the imputation of sins and transgressions that are past, as thought they had never been committed: and by the mighty work of Christ within us, the power, nature, and habits of sin are destroyed; that as sin once reigned unto death, even so now grace reigneth through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Signed on behalf of the Meeting,
Jonathan Evans, Clerk.
All the primitive writings on the Doctrine of the Gospel, which were wrote by Fox, Barclay, and Penn, and other worthies of their day, go to establish that there is but one God, the sole Creator, Former, Supporter and Governor of the Universe, the only Supreme object of religious worship, ad adoration; and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time; who was approved of God, by miracles, signs, and wonders; that he was put to death by wicked hands, yet declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection of the Dead. That he was the Son and sent of God, the only begotten of the Father and the true Messiah, the following texts of Scripture corroborate, Mark 12th chapter. 28th to the 34th verse. - Acts 17th chap. 22d to 31st verse. - 1st Cor. 8th chap. 5th and 6th verses. - 1st Tim. 2d chap. 1st and 5th verses. - 2d Tim. 1st chapter, 1st, 2d, 7th and 10th verses. - I have searched the Scriptures, and the writings of Primitive Friends, and I cannot find that they any where speak of Christ's Eternal Divinity and Omnipotence. - Query, has the Society of Quakers, (so called,) changed its principles, or is it become less tolerant, than formerly? (perhaps both.) Since an open profession of the primitive Doctrines, as held forth by our ancient forefathers, now incurs censure and even disownment, both in England and America. I do not learn that any of the ancient Friends held to the Athanasian Creed, i.e. Three Co-equal and Co-eternal Gods - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; hence I cannot learn how an Athanasian Creed could be extracted from the writings of Primitive Friends.
I have no desire to spy out the nakedness of the land, nor to dig up the iniquities of the people. My feelings are such as would rather retire from the view that is given me, adopting the language of Simeon - "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes hath seen thy salvation." My spirit has been carried, as in the Lord's day, to see and to feel the highest degree of iniquity, and most secret abominations, that the seven-headed beast has yet brought upon the land; the mystery of Spiritual Babylon, clothed in scarlet, of high profession, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, that was not and yet is. This mystery of Babylon, with many of her abominations, has been searched out, and detected in many of her forms and appearances, by different reformers, glorious sons of the morning, who have stood as lights in the world, and who, though dead, yet livingly speak, and prove, that in the darkest ages, "God hath not left himself without a witness" of his life-giving power; without a valiant to wield the sword of his spirit against the desolating effects of spiritual wickedness in high places, a putting on the form of godliness with all secret unrighteousness. And these have endeavoured, as faithful servants, to lay the foundation of a city, wherein she, Mystery Babylon, should not find her out an habitation. They have walled it about, and set watchmen thereon to prevent her entrance. But while they have been looking at her abroad, and endeavouring to secure themselves against her from without, she hath risen up in the midst of them, entered the sanctuary, seated herself in the highest places, taken the holy things in her hand, of which she maketh them drunk, while they think they dwell in safety. She takes the richest vestments from the treasury to clothe herself with, and the jewels of God for her most excellent ornaments. She puts the crown of religious sanction upon her head, and sits as queen in high profession; and as she speaks the language of the church, she sits in all her former power and authority, and is not once suspected.
There is much building upon the excellency of our principles, our order and peculiar favours as a society. We hold forth our principles as a light to the nations, as having been favoured of God with a more extensive display of his will in the spirituality with which they are fraught. But how have I been made to feel and see that very same alienation, superstition, and hardness of heart, which we see in the formal professors of those many societies over which we claim pre-eminence. And I believe I may say, that the mystery of iniquity was never more subtle in Popes, Bishops, or Priests, than in some of the high professors of spirituality among us; nor more hard, by reason of the purity of their profession, to dig out. We have orders and degrees in the advancement of our members; and the same spirit, the same prudence and human calculation have crept into the appointment, support, and government of these, as are to be found in the government of Popish and Protestant Churches; against which our forefathers had to declaim, as idolatry, mockery, tyranny, and oppression. The same authority, human prudence, and calculation are exercised with us, to support the spirituality of our principles, or the Truth as we call it, as are exercised with others to support the systems and ordinances. We would not be found contending for ceremonies; our principles will not allow of that; but we take precautions, we have appointments for certain services (which have dwindled into mere human appointments) to promote our principles and order, under the character of "Truth;" to repel all invasions and waylay all encroachments, that the church may be preserved without spot or blemish before God.
So much care must be extended and labour bestowed, or the beautiful outside will be laid waste, and its corruptions exposed to the view of others, to the dishonour of our Society, or what we call the "Truth." Here creeps in great deception, under the specious pretext of care and concern for the truth. What is more subtle, what is harder to reach than this legal, this superstitious, this false exercise for the truth; this holding the truth in unrighteousness? Our Society has established rules and precepts for Church government, conduct, example, and conversation, more enlightened, and nearer what would be the fruits of Christ's spirit, were that in dominion, than any society whatever: and herein is our greater danger of deception, and of the intrigues of satan in his various transformations. The laws are strict, appointments must be made for such and such services; and then follows the injunction of their being performed in the authority of Truth. But our discipline makes no exemption for the want of that authority.
Now we believe (in the light that is given us) that many who go forth in the service, and by the appointment of the Church, have not the same authority and power in the truth, as was witnessed by our forefathers, the founders of our discipline; and which they expected would be preserved as an unction, a putter forth, leader, and director, through future generations. But unhappily, in common with other sects, we have dwindled. We have, in great measure, left our first love, this holy unction of spirit, which was so manifest in the beginning; and have slidden imperceptibly from the power into the lifeless form; which, as a form, will do no more for us, and is no better to us, than that of other sects is to them. And a sufficiency of this life and power, to give a zest and spring of action to all our movements in the Church, and to support that testimony which is so expressly enjoined in the letter of our law, being wanting, in a greater or less degree, every where among us, recourse must be had to human strength, or the walls of the letter will fall, and our corruptions be exposed to the view of the heathen; so that they might exultingly say, "Where is your God?"
But unwilling that this should be the case, that our reproach should come upon us; and with a high veneration for George Fox and others of his day, as favoured with the revelation of the Father, and for the many sufferings which they underwent, to procure our privileges and establish the peaceable government of our principles, as a separate people; and perhaps seeing, as on "Mount Pisgah," the excellency of the principle, as experimental, and the beauty of the outward order; we want that it should be supported, that such a light should not be totally extinguished. We cannot bear the idea, that this temple, which was so many years in building, and composed of such excellent materials, should be suffered to fall to the ground, for want of repairs. And thus we set ourselves to work, as enjoined by the letter of the law, to repair its waste places, and supply its vacancies. And not waiting for the first principle of action, (the light and power of truth) to rise over all in ourselves, and go to before us as a devouring fire; we fix upon the outward support of the testimony, which was given forth in that spirit and power. And though we may be sincere, according to our measure of light, yet in our hands, this testimony, however excellent in itself, becomes a dead letter, which only killeth. There is no life, there is no spirit in it; and it can produce nothing but that which is of its own nature, a spurious offspring, miserable darkness, death and corruption; even thick darkness to be felt by the true seed. And thus have we become, with all the light and superior favours we assume, an abomination unto God, a stinking savour before him.
We take the same words into our mouths, which were given with power in the beginning. We hold forth the same things, make the same profession of being governed by the "Light within," of the operation of God as a spirit upon the soul, of spiritual baptism, sanctification, and redemption; but know them not livingly wrought and brought forth; though we may experience something, that we try to clothe with that name, of which we have made an image; and when we feel the burthens and troubles of our own earthly nature, we call it spiritual baptism; we feel weak and poor, as not having access to the springs of life; we feel the frailty of human nature, and call it humility, wherein there is no true self-abasement before God. We feel emptiness and want; and instead of letting those feelings go on to do their work, to lead us to and sink us into God, as the great all in all, se sit down under them, giving them the name of that poverty of spirit of which is the Kingdom of Heaven. We have mournful feelings; we experience a kind of melancholy, which is the effect of the absence of the vivifying power of Grace; feeling the perishing state of earthly comforts, and not knowing the resurrection of that life which is above and beyond them; and here we rest again, as entitled to the promise of Christ to those that mourn, of being "comforted," perhaps in another world if not in this. We mourn that the law and the testimony are not better supported, and here we think ourselves the true "mourners in Zion." We now and then feel a glance of the beams of light and the sunshine of love upon us; and we lay hold of this as an evidence of Divine approbation and of the acceptance of our states; and thus we lose its use in the designs of God, as a means to draw us from ourselves, from our dark states into himself, that we may travel from the mere profession, into the fullness of that life and light of which he dispenses this ray.
These feelings which we call religious exercises, and which are, in the beginning, the effect of the light discovering to us the darkness of our states, would, if rightly improved, lead us out of them, into God, the resurrection, power and life. But as we sit down under them, giving them these excellent names, we build upon a sandy foundation, which though it has Christ in profession, and the revelation of the Father, must and will be shaken by God, when he arises in his power, "to shake not only the earth but the heavens also;" these false heavens of theory, upon which the visible Churches are so much building.
The highest and last mystery of iniquity has gotten her place in the chief seats of the assemblies amongst us, in a more refined and subtle working, than has ever before appeared in Christendom; as being deeper rooted and more hidden, from the view of reformation-light; I mean that light that has been committed to our understandings by the many reformations, from Papacy down to our society; consisting, as to us, in a mere change of views, which finds and leaves us in the same darkness that they were in. Thus when she is discovered in one form of religion, she passes into another, as that becomes established in a body capacity; whereby a power and dominion are the same, though she changes her name and appearance.
This mystery of iniquity has become so exceedingly crafty, has attained to such a refined height of dissimulation, in its presentations to the soul, that it deceives and builds up those in whom it dwells, in such a manner, that it is almost impossible to make them sensible of their states. There are none so hard to reach by the power, though high in belief and profession of the power; none in whom the power is so likely to be rejected, if it come not according to their ideas; while they think themselves deeply exercised and concerned for the truth and its prosperity. And by blending this spurious exercise with a sanctity, a solemnity, that feels so much for the state of the church and the honour of truth, it has great power to deceive itself and others; whereby it produces a numerous offspring, a progeny that cannot be numbered.
The operation of the spirit of truth, as renovating and redeeming from the spirit and temper of the world, and leading out of all forms, types, shadows, and ceremonies, is their great "Diana." You cannot reach them nor raise on spark of life, in speaking of all the excellent things contained in our principles. They will own them to be just, and own you in them. They are agreeable to the orthodoxy of the Fathers, and it is what they have long believed in, and agreeable to what they have experienced. Here there is no reaching them. All is Unity; all goes on well; there are no schisms or difficulties among us, all in that respect is answered clear. But if one should speak of any thing a little different; if he should vary in particular points, or carry any thing a little beyond what has been received through the Fathers as "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," however in the life and power, they are touched in a tender point; the great Diana of our profession is struck at; encroachments are made upon its dominions, and it is likely to be lowered in estimation, after so much pains, which we, as well as our forefathers, have taken to exalt it. Care must be taken to secure it from harm, and to prevent all violation of its sacred prerogative. The letter of the law is resorted to in this for direction; and what is the result? "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die."
But much being expressed in the Discipline against a hasty manner of acting, exhorting to dwell low in meekness, patience and forbearance, waiting for the pure feeling, in all these things; that which would naturally come out in a hasty manner of acting, is turned by the letter of the law and its received expositions, into the more secret workings of the will, which produces a wonderful exercise in the church, and all in that which is seeking to save its own life: an exercise which we can create ourselves, and which is in reality and essence, only the effect of the will being disturbed in its own righteousness, traditions and religious Babel-building; of one passion warring against another, and trying to subdue another. It is oppressed and bowed down like a bulrush; and thinks itself under the true exercise, as it knows no other. Here this working will, which has gotten into the Church, though it puts on the most precious jewels of God for its ornaments, lives in its greatest strength and alienation from God.
People in every society may think they are doing right, in attempting to secure and propagate their own peculiar tenets, forms and ordinances, against all infringements. But this is the nature of false zeal and self-will when they get into religion. These would see where they stood, if they could not place the sanction of duty upon their movements.
We think that our society will bear no comparison with others; for that they, in their church government, support errors, while we support the "Truth;" and that our manner is so far superior to theirs, so much more enlightened and spiritual, that it precludes the same room for superstition and formality, which we see in others, in their adherence to and support of ordinances. But in this very place, in which superstition and formality seem to be shut out, they come in and live in greater subtlety. We may reason against the use of reason and not perceive we have one particle of its nature in us: So we may hold up a testimony against superstition, ceremony and imposed duties, in the very same spirit, in which they are performed and supported.
We may hold up the spirituality of our principles, and the renovating power of truth in the heart, in the same idolatrous and self-righteous spirit, which would make others reject and condemn them; persons whom we should consider deistical and profane.
We are enamoured with the beauty and excellency of the many virtues, recommended amongst us. We say, "What people are like this people, what laws and statutes like ours?" and seeing this beauty and order, we wish to be conformed thereunto; and not getting down in spirit, to dwell with God alone, leaving every thing else; we want to procure unto ourselves these virtues; and so we go to work, endeavouring to conform ourselves to every identical rule and regulation, of one of the finest buildings that ever was erected; having Christ's spirit, in profession, for its basis, the authority of God for its foundation, through the revelation of his will to the instrumental founders, George Fox and others of his day: Like the Jewish Temple worshippers, who had for their foundation stone, "that God built the Temple, through the instrumentality of his servant Solomon, to worship him in," and appointed its rules and regulations: whose stubborn hearts and perverse wills, proved an occasion of drawing from the lip of Truth, (the true Christ) the most severe reproofs and woful denunciations, that ever flowed therefrom. To Publicans and Harlots he spoke in language soft as oil, compared therewith. And these Temple worshippers were they, who most rejected him and finally put him to death; though they believed in him traditionally as one that should come.
But to return to the strict observers of the rules and precepts of our society. They have so high an idea of the spiritual graces it recommends, that they would not, on any account, be found deviating therefrom.
They would feel the same reproach of conscience, for their neglect, that others would feel, in neglecting to approach the Sacramental table, which they consider a duty and an ordinance of God. And they become such perfect scholars, by application, that they learn to regulate themselves agreeably to their ideas of right and wrong, in all things, according to the creeds of the Church. They walk as by a line drawn before them; which presents to the eye of beholders, a seemingly perfect model of Christianity; and not one particle of that unction of spirit, that brokenness and humility before God, which he owns by his presence. If justice, mercy, meekness, patience, humility, forbearance, and all the fruits of the spirit, had been considered, by the Scribes and Pharisees, of as great consequence, as they are with us, they would no doubt have been punctual, in observing these outward acts, as a duty. I believe that the genuine fruits of self abasement before God, are as much wanting among us, as in any society of religious professors. But they are so much called for and demanded, that a substitute, a likeness is necessary, to get along with a lulled conscience, and escape censure. And though we may not feel that we have any design to act hypocritically; that, our profession and views would condemn at once; yet the serpent acts in greater subtlety than he would in downright hypocrisy, finding he can work best, when he has duty for his engine. We have imbibed an idea that it would be wrong, to act in a spirit, that would appear like self-will, in conducting the affairs of the Church. We know pretty well how that looks, and how the fruits of Christ's spirit look. We therefore endeavour, with great exactness, to keep down and suppress every action or movement, that could have this stamp put upon it. One part of our nature is taken to subdue, or rather suppress, another; and as one appears so much more religious and agreeable than the other, it easily succeeds, as the will or self-love turns it. "Condescension one unto another," is a very important thing with us. That must be observed, or all will go to ruin. And all these things are observed, conformed unto, worshipped and revered, in the same spirit, the same sincerity, and the same alienation from God, in which the Catholics go to mass, implore saints, and receive the body and blood of Christ in bread and wine. There are amongst us, those who look through all unto God, regarding nothing but as it is found in him, however sanctioned by others; doing nothing but by the dictates of the spirit of truth. So there are among them, those whom God owns by his presence, and who are sealed, in the midst of heathenish darkness, with the light of his spirit. And it is as easy for us to take our principles, rules, and regulations, however excellent in themselves, into the golden cup of man's own will and selfish nature, and convert them into abominations, to become drunk with them, to become idol-worshippers of them, as it is for those who literally worship idols, made with men's hands. We want to be religious, we feel that something is necessary, that something is lacking; and if we do not cease from acting entirely, in thought, word and deed, so that God's spirit can rise into dominion within us, we are instantly set about doing something in ourselves, according to what we have been taught, as required of us. We are much more willing when we want to be religious, to perform great actions, to enter into laborious exercises of body and mind, than to stand still and let God work in us, and through us, according to his own good pleasure. Instead of this, our own judgment, with the judgment of others, whose experience we venerate, has assumed the prerogative of God; has gotten the place of God, and sits as God. It looks at consequences; it measures and limits according to human prudence; it takes upon it the power to restrain and set bounds to the spirit; to give directions, to set up and to pull down; it has become counsellor, judge, and lawgiver, under the excellent name of the guidance of truth, as revealed to our predecessors, and proved to be the right way by the worthies of many generations: And as it was given by God, through them, so it must always remain, as the emporium of the secrets of his wisdom and knowledge, a guide to succeeding generations. What is more calculated to build up man's own will and every subtle transformation of his nature, than such conclusions as these? Self is very sagacious to save its own life; and if it can get into religion, and clothe itself with its pure garments, it attains to the summit of its glory; it spreads like an infection, because it is both beautiful and easy of access; and through the great deceivableness of unrighteousness, it professes to be crucified with Christ, while it knows nothing of that crucifying and regenerating power through which only, as little children, we can enter the kingdom of heaven.
I am aware that a full sight and sense of all these abominations, is no security against the intrusion of the same spirit; but that even here, with the greatest degree of divine illumination, it may arise and be still more dangerous. But in the childlike simplicity of the heart before God, these many difficulties and dangers, with which we are surrounded, are removed or lose their influence over us. All cares and fears subside; all anxiety and watching, with regard to particulars, cease; and in this guardian power, the soul feels itself preserved untouched, unhurt by all that surrounds it, and kept in the liberty of the children of God, which nothing can bring into bondage. And here religion, as it thus becomes experimental, in the renunciation of the will and simple obedience, is at once stripped of its mysteries and perplexities, its argumentative defences and systematical rules, and reduced to the simplicity of the present moment. And as all the graces of the spirit are comprised in this, we need not labour to acquire particular virtues; for God being all in all, and the creature nothing, he is not wanting in furnishing the soul with every thing that can satisfy; for in that the will becomes his will, there is no void; and thus, having nothing, we possess all things.
Owing to a mistake, the 16th page was put to press without correction, the reader therefore will have to excuse several typographical errors. - There is one, however, in the note, which should be corrected - "one simple friend observed" should read "one single friend, &c." [These corrections have been made in the online text - QHP ed.]
[The QHP editor has also corrected a pair of typographical errors on p. 15 of the original, where George Whitehead's name is misspelled as Whitebread and a date is misquoted from Sewel's history as 1616 instead of 1696. Even this "corrected" date of 1696, though found in Sewel's history, is not given there as the date when Whitehead "published a book," but as the date of a later debate to which Whitehead's book would have been relevant if only George Keith had paid it sufficient heed. The QHP editor is not certain how much of this confusion is the work of Thomas Eddy, whose private letter and intended anonymous essay are here "brought to light," and how much is the work of the anonymous 1824 compiler.]