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OF A LETTER
FROM ELIAS HICKS
DR. N. SHOEMAKER.
PRINTED BY THOMAS KITE_64 WALNUT STREET.
Note.—The following letter of Elias Hicks to Nathan Shoemaker, has been widely disseminated in manuscript, and represented by its admirers as containing more rational and consistent views on the doctrine of the atonement, &c. than those held by Christian professors. It purports to be a deliberate reply to certain queries propounded for the author's consideration. The writer says, “ he considers the whole subject to be a very simple one;" and as he had nearly two months to reflect upon it before writing his answer, we may fairly conclude that he has given us his sober and matured opinion on the points in question. How 6 simple" he has made the subject appear, by his manner of treating it in this letter, we shall endeavour to show in our remarks.
ELIAS HICKS TO DR. N. SHOEMAKER,
Jericho, 3d mo. 31st, 1823. DEAR FRIEND,
Thy acceptable letter of 1st month last, came duly to hand, but my religious engagements, and other necessary concerns, have prevented my giving it that attention that its contents seem to demand. Thou queries after my views of the suffering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and what was the object of the shedding of his blood on the cross, and what benefits resulted to mankind by the shedding of this blood, &c. I shall answer in a very simple way, as I consider the whole subject to be a very simple one, as all truth is simple when we free ourselves from the improper bias of tradition and education, which rests as a burthensome stone on the minds of most of the children of men, and which very much mars the unity and harmony of society.
1st. By what means did Jesus suffer? The answer is plain, by the hands of wicked men, and because his works were righteous and theirs were wicked. Query. Did God send him into the world purposely to suffer death by the hands of wicked men ? By no means ; but to live a righteous and godly life, (which was the design and end of God's creating man in the beginning,) and thereby be a perfect example to such of mankind as should come to the knowledge of him and of his perfect life. For, if it was the purpose and will of God that he should die by the hands of wicked men, then the Jews, by crucifying him, would have done God's will, and of course would all have stood justified in his sight, which could not be. But it was permitted so to be, as it had been with many of the prophets and wise and good men that were before him, who suffered death by the hands of wicked men for righteousness sake, as ensamples to those that came after, that they should account nothing too dear to give up for the truth's sake, not even their own lives.
But the shedding of his blood by the wicked scribes and pharisees, and people of Israel, had a particular effect on the Jewish nation, as by this, the topstone and worst of all their crimes, was filled up the measure of their iniquities, and which put an end to that dispensation, together with its law and covenant. That as John's baptism summed up in one, all the previous water baptisms of that dispensation, and put an end to them, which he sealed with his blood, so this sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, summed up in one all the outward atoning sacrifices of the shadowy dispensation, and put an end to them all, thereby abolishing the law, having previously fulfilled all its righteousness, and, as saith the apostle, “ He blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances, nailing them to his cross ;" having put an end to the law that commanded them, with all its legal sins, and abolished all its legal penalties, so that all the Israelites that believed on him, after he exclaimed on the cross, “ It is finished,” might abstain from all the rituals of their law, such as circumcision, water baptisms, outward sacrifices, seventh day sabbaths, and all their other holy days, &c, and be blameless : and the legal sins that any were guilty of, was now remitted and done away by the abolishment of the law that commanded them, for " where there is no law there is no transgression." But those that did not believe on him, many of them were destroyed by the sword, and the rest were scattered abroad in the earth. But, I do not consider that the crucifixion of the outward body of flesh and blood of Jesus on the cross, was an atonement for any sins but the legal sins of the Jews; for as their law was outward, so their legal sins and their penalties were outward, and these could be atoned for by an outward sacrifice; and this last outward sacrifice was a full type of the inward sacrifice that every sinner must make, in giving up that sinful life of his own will, in and by which he hath from time to time, crucified the innocent life of God in his own soul; and which Paul calls “the old man with his deeds,” or “ the man of sin and son of perdition,” who hath taken God's seat in the heart, and there exalteth itself above all that is called God, or is worshipped, sitting as Judge and Supreme. Now all this life, power, and will of man, must be slain and die on the cross spiritually, as Jesus died on the cross outwardly, and this is the true atonement, which that outward atonement was a clear and full type of. This the apostle Paul sets forth in a plain manner, Ro
mans, vi. 3 & 4. “ Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead (outwardly), by the glory of the Father, even so we,” having by the spiritual baptism witnessed a death to sin, shall know a being raised up spiritually and walk in newness of life.
But the primitive Christian Church having soon after the apostles' days, turned away from the true and only sufficient guide, the Spirit of Truth, that Jesus commanded his disciples to wait for, and not attempt to do any thing until they had received it, but assured them that when they had received it, it would be a complete and sufficient rule, without the addition of any other thing, as it would lead them and guide them in all truth. And to its sufficiency, John, the beloved apostle, bore this noble and exalted testimony, in full accordance with his Divine Master, in this emphatic language to his fellow believers : “ Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you, which is truth, and is no lie.” But the believers, by too much looking to their old traditions, soon lost sight of or neglected fully to attend, as they ought to have done, to their inward guide, turned their attention outward to the letter, which always killeth those who lean upon it as a rule. Hence, the successors of those meek and self-denying followers of the example and commands of Jesus, apostatised from the simplicity of the Gospel, by which the unity was broken, and they soon became divided into sects and parties, and persecuted each other; and invented and promulgated inconsistent and unsound doctrines, such as original sin, certifying that all Adam's offspring was condemned to eternal punishment for one mis-step of our first parents; for they don't appear to have been guilty of but one failure, and that it appears they made satisfaction for at the time of their first arraignment by their benevolent creator, inanifesting sorrow and repentance : which seems to be fairly implied by the sequel of the interview between them ; for it is said he clothed them with coats of skin, to hide their nakedness, which is an emblem of durable clothing, and as their nakedness was not an outward one, but a nakedness of soul, not being able to conceal their sin from the all-penetrating Eye of Divine Justice, so when he had brought them, through conviction, to see their error and repent of it, he was reconciled to them, and clothed them again with his Holy Spirit. And inasmuch as those idle promulgators of original sin.