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In publishing, at the present day, a Treatise on the Doctrines of Friends, it is not intended to convey an idea, that the works of this kind, already extant, are not judiciously written. Nor is it intended, by the present performance, to supersede those valuable writings : on the contrary, I would recommend them to more general attention than they now receive. Nor is it to propagate or defend new principles, that I have entered into the present engagement: but to present, in a concise and yet explicit manner, an account of the acknowledged doctrines of the Society. For though I consider the doctrinal works that have been published (with the consent of the Society) are all well adapted to the particular views of the respective writers, and to the times at which they were written : yet it may be noticed, that the writings of our primitive Friends are voluminous and scarce, while those of modern date do not notice many points of doctrine, which sometimės become interesting, from the particular course of religious inquiry
It has long been a settled sentiment in my mind, that a work setting forth clearly the acknowledged principles of the Society, in all material points, without being tedious or expensive, would be useful both to the members of the Society itself, and to serious inquirers of other religious denominations. With this sentiment, I cherished, for several years, a hope that some qualified individual would undertake the task. Finding, however, this hope not realized, and feeling more impressively the importance of the work, the apprehension of duty gradually and permanently settled on my mind, to make the attempt.
Though the arrangement of the subjects, and the manner of treating them, have been dictated by the views presented to my own mind; yet in the subjects themselves, I have endeavoured to keep to the acknowledged doctrines of the Society. And in compiling the following pages, I have made such extracts from the writings of our early Friends, as seemed necessary to establish the position, that they held the principles laid down. And in taking these extracts, I have consulted those parts of their writings in which they make a statement of what they believe, rather than those in which they expose the errors of contrary opinions.
And here it may not be improper to remark, that many of the Essays which were published by the members of this Society, in the early periods of its history, were in direct and pointed controversy ; and frequently in reply to effusions from the press, which have long since been consigned to merited oblivion. In these replies of our Friends, the object of the writer was frequently to expose the consequences of the opinions which they opposed. And as the publications thus opposed and exposed, are now out of print and generally forgotten, while the replies of our Friends are preserved, there is some possibility that their views and sentiments may not be gathered from such of their writings, without a knowledge of the causes which gave rise to them.
This remark will not apply exclusively to the writings of Friends ; it will hold in relation to controversial works in general. And the more bold and animated the manner of the writer, the more occasion there will be to keep this particular distinction in view.
My intention, at first, was to compile a general history of the Society ; embracing its doctrines and discipline, together with biographical notices of individual members : which several divisions of the subject, I proposed to treat of separately. The doctrines stood first in my view, anda having completed these, it seemed, for different reasons, best to publish this part, without waiting for the slow collection of materials, and the laborious arrangement of the historical and biographical parts. These remaining parts of the original design are not abandoned; but whether either of them will ever be accomplished, remains with Him, at whose disposal are time, opportunity, and capacity for every good word and work.
It is perhaps one of the laws of nature, that objects assume a degree of the shade, which belongs to the medium through which they are seen. And this is as true in the moral as in the physical world. Hence prejudice or prepossession cannot fail to cast a shade over any principle or performance that may be examined through them. But there is a principle, the Spirit of Truth, which can divest the mind of these, and enable us to see things as they really
I solicit therefore a calm and candid perusal of the “Doctrines of Friends." And over and above all, I earnestly desire an increasing prevalence of the influence of that principle, which, independent of names or denominations, infuses into the hearts of the children of men, the feelings of gratitude and love to God, and of charity and love to each other.
ELISHA BATES. MOUNTPLEASANT, 2nd mo. 1825.
At a MEETING FOR SUFFERINGS OF Ohio YEARLY Meeting, held by adjournments, from the 3rd of the 9th month, to the 13th of the same, inclusive, 1824:
The writings of Elisha Bates, on the Doctrines of Friends, were examined, and approved; and he left at liberty to publish them: and the clerk is directed to furnish him with an extract of this minute, and sign it on behalf of the Meeting.
Extracted from the Minutes, by
JORDAN HARRISON, Clerk.