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In perusing the subsequent correspondence, we have been forcibly struck with the spirit, in which the letter of Elias Hicks to Edwin A. Atlee, appears to be written.
Let any person calmly and dispassionately read it and the statement of Anna Braithwaite, which it is designed to refute, and then seriously say, whether the language which E. H. uses in speaking of Anna Brathwaite, comports with the meekness and gentleness of a gospel minister.
Does it correspond with that “gospel love" to which he alludes in the concluding paragraph of the letter, or with that readiness to forgive, which is so strongly inculcated in the precepts of Christ ? However erroneous we may suppose the assertions of Anna Braithwaite to be, it must be admitted, we think, by all, that she has expressed herself in respectful and becoming language.
The letter of E. H. is generally vague and inconclusive, and appears to meet the statement of A. B. in but few points, and most of those it admits to be correct. He digresses into the discussion of irrelevant subjects, as if to divert our attention from the main object; the greater part of it being taken up in treating upon matters which are in no way connected with the controversy.
Anna Braithwaite has not said, in any part of her letter, that Elias Hicks “ asserted that the Scriptures were held in too high estimation among the professors of Christianity generally”—her words are,
“He spoke on the subject of the Scriptures, as being much too highly thought of amongst Friends.”—Hence, it is clear, that although E. H. says much on the subject of the Scriptures, he has not answered the assertion of A. B. but has contended against something entirely foreign to the subject under discussion, and although he asserts that his views on this point have always been in accordance with “ our primitive Friends,” it is obvious that by "this point” he alludes merely to “the Scriptures being held in too high estimation by those who consider them as the only rule of faith and practice," a subject which A. B. has not once mentioned. He further says, the assertion that the Scriptures were held in too high estimation” was“ generally made in opposition to such as held them to be the only rule of faith and practice”-hence it fol. Iows, that he has made the assertion at other times, in opposition to those who do not hold them to be the only rule of faith and >
.practice, for the word “generally” will admit of many exceptions.
Elias Hicks, in his letter to E. A. Atlee, as well as more pointedly and at large, in the subsequent one to Dr. N. Shoemaker, rejects the doctrine of the Atonement. In the latter we find the following assertion : “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." We would simply wish this doctrine to be compared with the following passages of Scripture:
“For it pleased the Father that in him, (Christ,) should all fulness dwell. And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself. By him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven. And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight.” Paul to the Colossians, Chap. i. 19, 20, 21, 22.
“ And I lay down my life for my sheep, therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me ; but I lay it down myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” John, x. 15 17, 18.
These and many others which might be quoted, such as “Ye are bought with a price"_" Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture,” Paul-"By the which will ye are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ Jesus once for all”
Forasmuch then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves," &c. Peter" Jesus Christ the righteous," &c." He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world,” John-conclusively prove Jesus Christ to be the Redeemer of the whole world. Indeed, if we strike from the pages of holy writ those parts which inculcate this prominent feature in the system of Gospel Redemption, we shall leave but a small portion of several of the books of the sacred volume. Now who can believe but that the statement of A. B. on the subject of the Scripture is true ?
The whole of E. H's observations and reasoning upon the superiority of the Spirit over the Scriptures, and the appointment of representatives to the quarterly meeting, are entirely foreign to the subject of Anna Braithwate's letter; they are not noticed in it.,
Again: E. H. says, “I also assert that we ought to bring all doctrines, whether written or verbal, to the test of the Spirit of Truth in our own minds, as the only sure directer relative to the things of God; otherwise why is a manifestation of the Spirit given to every man, if it is not to profit by ? and if the Scriptures are above the Spirit, and a more certain test of doctrines, why is the Spirit given, seeing it is useless ? From these expressions it would appear as though the only purpose for which the manifestation of the Spirit is given, is to be a test of doctrines; and that if we do not make it the supreme judge in this point, it is of no usé
at all. We can readily believe that the Spirit of Truth would prove an invaluable blessing to man, as a guide in the practical duties of Christianity, were it considered to be no test of doctrine at all. But on this point we shall quote Robert Barclay's Apology, which has long been recognized as the standard doctrinal work of the Society : “ We do look upon them (the Scriptures,) as the only fit outward judge of controversies among Christians; and that whatsoever doctrine is contrary unto their testimony, may therefore justly be rejected as false. And for our parts, we are very willing that all our doctrines and practices be tried by them; which we never refused, nor ever shall, in all controversies with our adversaries, as the judge and test. We shall also be very willing to admit it as a positive certain maxim, that whatsoever any do, pretending to the Spirit, which is contrary to the Scriptures, be accounted and reckoned a delusion of the devil.”
After enumerating several assertions of A. B's, E. H. says, 66 These assertions of her's are all false and unfounded, and must be the result of a feigned or forced construction of something I might have said, to suit her own purpose.” Had E. H. informed us what it was he“ might have said,” (or as we suppose he means did say) we could have judged for ourselves whether all these assertions of her’s are false and unfounded ;” and after admitting fully, as he has done, in this letter, that we cannot believe what we do not understand, that the Scriptures are no test of doctrine, and that the atonement of our blessed Redeemer is of no avail in the salvation of man, his denial of the points above alluded to, must certainly be considered as making very little in support of his cause.
We have thought proper to append to A. B's statement, her observations in reply to E. H.
The subjoined letter from Ann Shipley, was written, we are informed, without any solicitation on the part of the individual to whom it is addressed, and has been printed in New York. It furnishes a full and decided confirmation of the truth of Anna Braithwaite's statement, and is supported by the testimony of another respectable individual, who was present during a part or the whole of the second conversation. He has been seen, we understand, on the occasion, and asserts that part of A. B's statement which rehearses the conversation that took place while he was present, to be correct.
It is but proper to mention, that all the letters are published without the knowledge or consent of the writers.
Extract of a letter from Anna Braithwaite, to a friend
at Flushing, on Long Island. The first conversation had with E. H., by A. B., was after the quarterly meeting of Ministers and Elders—she dined at his house. After expressing his great unity with her, he seemed to think she wanted nothing but further experience to enlarge her views and make them more correct.
He spoke on the subject of the Scriptures as being much too highly thought of among Friends, elucidating his views by saying that a master was useful in teaching the rules of arithmetic, but when we had learned them he was no longer needful to us; therefore, when we come to the Spirit, to which the Scriptures direct, we had no longer need of them. Indeed, he thought that since the Comforter, or Spirit of Truth, had come into every heart, we should be better without them; and that children brought up to pay attention to the Spirit, would have all revealed to them which the Scriptures contain that was needful for them without the perusal of them. Even with regard to the creation of the world, it would be better left to the revelation of the Word, than to any outward means of information: and he strongly recommended her disuse of the Scriptures, stating, that he only referred to them in his communications on account of the low state of the times, the people being still attached to the letter. But his opinion was, that both A. B. and himself would preach the gospel better without reference to the Scriptures in any way, as he believed the Bible had done more harm than any other book ever published; and that, if we supposed it a great advantage to have the Bible, we must suppose the Almighty very unjust to leave so large a portion of the human species without it. [The foregoing is the substance of the first conversation, omitting strong expressions of E. H. of disapprobation of Bible societies, not thought needful to note.]
When at Jericho, in the third month, A. B. took tea with E. H. in a social way. She had not long been in the house, when he began to speak on the subject of the Trinity, which A. B. considers a word so grossly abused, as to render it undesirable ever to make use of it. E. H. spoke much of the impossibility of believing what we could not comprehend; and also on the propriety of bringing even Scripture truths to the test of the Spirit in our own hearts, and rejecting all such parts as we do not see to be consistent with the attributes of the Almighty; stating, that from reading various works he was convinced not only that our English translation of the Bible was in many parts erroneous, but also that the gospels handed to us were no more authentic than many other writings that we have received; and that they have been greatly contaminated by coming through the medium of popes, who were anxious to favour their own views. Indeed, he said it was not needful for us to believe more than a small part of what was contained in the Scriptures, and that he conceived the writings of Confucius, and many others of the philosophers, were equally of divine revelation with the Scriptures. That the heathen nations, the Mahometans, Chinese, Indians, &c. bore greater evidence of the influence of divine light than professing Christians. E. H. also asked A. B. if she could be so ignorant as to believe in the account of the creation of the world, as given in the Scriptures: that he had been convinced for the last ten years that it was nothing but an allegory: that this had been specially revealed to his mind in a meeting in Liberty street, about that time. He asked A. B. if she thought Adam was any worse after he had eaten the forbidden fruit than before, saying he did not believe he was. He also asked her if she conceived we were born into the world in any different condition from Adam when he was first created; stating, that to suppose we had any propensities to evil, was to suppose the Almighty created evil, and that he believed all our propensities were good: it was the excessive indulgence of them that made them evil. He spoke much of the absurdity of believing in any out