Imágenes de páginas

worship, which they do not conceive to be dictated by the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit: their acceptance of the publick ministry of females: their objection to human ordination, and also to the paying or hiring of preachers: their practice of silent worship: their abstaining from all warfare, and from the use of oaths: their plainness in speech, behaviour, and apparel. In the preceding chapter, has been advanced the sentiment (which I believe to be held by many persons without, as well as within, the pale of the Society) that these peculiarities are of an edifying tendency, and that the maintenance of them by Friends is calculated to promote the spiritual welfare of the church at large. It has also been observed, that this can be true, only in so much as they arise out of the principles of the divine law: and I have stated that it was my intention, in the future discussion of them, to direct my remarks chiefly to the proof of this very point --that they arise out of the principles of the divine law.

Now, the first argument to be adduced, in support of this position, is immediately connected with the doctrine unfolded in the present chapter. If the question be addressed to us, why we consider it to be our duty to adopt our several religious peculiarities, we may answer, because we believe we have been led into them by the Spirit of Truth. The casual observer, indeed, may attribute our maintenance of them to the mere force of habit and education; and, certainly, there is much reason to apprehend that, with too many amongst us, they rest upon no better foundation. Nevertheless, you whom I am now addressing can scarcely fail to be aware, that, with real Friends, the adoption and punctual observance of such a line of conduct are not only matters of honest principle, but are truly the consequences of obedience to their in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ward Guide. It is a fact which the world can scarcely be expected to notice, but which is well known to every experienced Quaker, and will not be denied by any persons who possess an intimate knowledge of the Society, that the very same guiding and governing principle, which leads the sincere-hearted and serious amongst Friends into the practice of universally-acknowledged Christian virtues, leads them also into these peculiarities. I am not asserting that such would necessarily be the experience of all persons who endeavour to follow the guidance of the Spirit; nor would I, in any respect, venture to set limits to the sovereignty, freedom, scope, and variety, of divine operation. I assert only that this is our own experience. Such, therefore, being our experience, we cannot but derive from it a strong and satisfactory conviction, that our religious peculiarities appertain to the law of God; for it is certain, that the Spirit of Truth, by whose influence alone men are made truly righteous, and brought into conformity with the divine will, will never lead any of the followers of Jesus into a course of conduct which is not founded on the principles of that law. The inward manifestations of the Spirit are, in themselves, the law of God written on the heart.

I may now proceed to confirm this general argument by more particular observations on the several peculiarities already enumerated; and, in endeavouring to trace the connexion of each of them with the law of God, I shall appeal to the principles of that law, as they are unfolded in the New Testament. For, I consider that it is only under the new and more spiritual dispensation, that the divine law is revealed to us in all its purity and in all its completeness.




ALTHOUGH it is almost universally allowed among Christians, that, when the New Covenant was established in the world, by the death of Christ, the ceremonial observances of the Jewish law were abolished, there are two religious rites of a very similar description, the maintenance of which is still very generally insisted upon, as necessary to the edification, and true order, of the church of Christ. These rites are baptism with water, and that participation of bread and wine, which is usually denominated the sacrament of the Lord's supper. So great is the virtue and efficacy attributed to these ceremonies, that they are considered, by very many Christians, to be especial means of grace, or mediums through which grace is conveyed to the soul; and not a few theologians, both ancient and modern, appear to have entertained the extraordinary opinion, that the rite of baptism, more especially, is of indispensable necessity in order to man's salvation.

On the other hand, I am informed that, in some parts of the continent of Europe, there are small societies of pious Christians, by whom water-baptism and the ceremony of the Lord's supper are entirely disused;9 and that such is the fact in the Society of Friends is very generally understood. It is our belief that we have been led out of the practice of these rites by the Spirit of Truth; that we could not recur to them without grieving our heavenly Monitor; and that, in fact, they are not in accordance with the entire spirituality of the Gospel dispensation.

9 This is the case, as I understand, with the Inspirés in Germany, and with the Malakans in South Russia.

In order to explain our principle on the subject with clearness, I must remark, in limine, that the ceremonies in question, as now practised among Christians, must be considered as constituting a part of their system of worship: for they are, in the first place, in the strictest sense of the terms, religious rites performed in supposed obedience to the command of the Almighty; and, secondly, they are employed in immediate connexion with the more direct, and generally with the public acts of divine worship. Such being the state of the case, the objection of Friends to the use of these ordinances will be perceived to have its foundation in a principle of acknowledged importance, and one which is clearly revealed in the New Testament, that, under the Christian dispensation, the worship of God is not to be formal, ceremonial, or typical, but simply spiritual.

This principle was declared in a clear and forcible manner by Jesus Christ himself. When the woman of Samaria, with whom he condescended to converse by the well of Sychar, spake to him of the worship observed by the Jews at Jerusalem, and by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, our Lord answered, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father..... The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him

must worship him in spirit and in truth;" John iv, 21-24. In this passage of our Lord's discourse, there is an evident allusion to two separate and distinct systems of worship, appertaining respectively to two different dispensations; and, it is equally clear that the change was then about to take place from one of these to the other; that the one was about to be abolished, --the other to be established. The system of worship about to be abolished was that which the Jews were accustomed to practise at Jerusalem, and which the Samaritans had endeavoured to imitate on their favourite mountain. Now, every one who is acquainted with the records of the Old Testament, must be aware that this was a system of worship chiefly consisting in outward ceremonies; in figurative or typical ordinances. The greatest nicety of divine direction accompanied the institution of these various rites, which were a “figure for the time then present," and which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on the Israelites until the time of reformation; Heb. ix, 10. But now that time of reformation was at hand, and the law was pronounced by the great Mediator of the New Covenant, that men were henceforward to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The new worship which was thus to distinguish Christianity, was to be in spirit; because it was to consist, not in outward rites of a formal and ceremonial nature, but in services dictated by the Spirit of the Lord, and in direct communion of the soul with its Creator. It was to be in truth; not simply as arising out of a sincere heart,--a description which

apply with equal force to the abolished worship of the Jews—but because it was to consist in substantial realities. It was to be carried on, not through the old medium of types and figures, but by the application to the heart of the great and essential truths of

« AnteriorContinuar »