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LETTER ON THE PRESENT STATE OF THE
SOCIETY OF PRIENDS.
resenting all attempts at their enfranchisement ?
Let us extend the comparison be[The following letter from SCRUTATOR tween these two classes of slaves a is written in so Christian a spirit, and little farther. And first the poor negro, embraces so many points of interesting who is hardly allowed time to cultivate moment at the present time, that we the small provision-ground which is his readily fall in with the desire of our sole dependence : behold him pining correspondent, in giving it an early in- with hunger, while luxuriant crops are sertion in our periodical anxiously hop- springing and ripening around him ; ing it may claim the impartial consider- but, however tempting the prospect, ation of many in the Society of Friends.] there is a line of demarcation between
it and him which he dares not pass. And My dear Friend,—Thou art not un- in the moral world there are boundaacquainted with the deep interest which, ries equally insuperable, because the in common with many of my neigh- slaves of prejudice cannot, or dare not, bours and friends, I have felt on the exert those energies which God has subject of Negro Apprenticeship ; nor given, but which custom has paralysed. with the anxiety with wbich I have As one generation succeeds another, watched the results of the general ex- and grows up under the benumbing inpression of public opinion, and the fluence of prejudice, small communisimultaneous national movement on ties, and even nations, acquire pecutheir behalf, with a view to their imme- liarities of character, resulting from the diate emancipation ; thou canst, there- circumstances in which they are placed. fore, form a better estimate of the in. This is exemplified on a large scale tensity of those grateful emotions which among the Hindoos, who are remarkwarm my heart at the prospect now ably circumscribed in all attempts at opening of a successful termination of improvement; hence, as a nation, they our labours.
appear to be “ abjectly superstitious, How unexpectedly does one train of firmly attached to ancient customs and thought sometimes awaken another! opinions, passively yielding to authority, Yet, surely, it is no unnatural transi- and apparently incapable of exerting tion to turn from contemplating the any free agency.” Their intellectual outward bondage which the ambition faculties are described as presenting or avarice of man inflicts upon his fel
similar features :
They have little inlow-creatures, to the consideration of vention, but great power of imitation ; that deeper “ abyss of servitude” into and though void of active energy, have which thousands, yea, millions of the much persevering energy.” This negahuman race are plunged, by a tyranny tive character is not, however, so comwhich rivets its fetters, not upon the plete a barrier to improvement as the disbodies, but the minds of victims, who tribution of society into the hereditary present the moral phenomenon of pas- divisions called castes, and theimmutable sive acquiescence in their own degra- custom which requires each individual
Nay, do we not often see to tread in the steps of his fathers, by them hugging their chains, and glorying limiting the exercise of his faculties to in their bondage, forbidding, and even the same kind of employment. Thus
he is compelled to pace through life in severing attempts to propitiate his ofone dull, uniform circle. But, though fended deities, or to save his soul by precluded from the possibility of rais- his own efforts,—to attain a fancied pering himself above the prescribed level, fection by a state of complete mental the poor Hindoo may fall below it : by quiescence, or by voluntary continuthe loss of caste he may be degraded ance in protracted suffering, by which to a condition resembling that of an he hopes to obtain an union of soul excommunicated person, be cut off with, or ultimate absorption into, the from society, and regarded as an out- Divine nature. cast-an impure and detestable animal. Great indeed are our advantages
From the corporal bondage of the over the Hindoos, for we possess the negro, and the mental vassalage of the Oracles of God; but do we acknowHindoo, let us advert to our own situ- ledge them as “the primary rule of ation, to that of our friends, and thou. faith and practice ?"
Have we not our sands of our countrymen.
Vedas, presenting other views of Divine “ He is the freeman whom the truth makes truths ? and which do we regard as the free,
true representation ? And all are slaves beside."
We reject a hireling ministry, but Alas! how few attain this noble eleva- are there not various modes of compention! How few are delivered from sation beside compulsory payments ? “the fear of man that bringeth a snare,” and have we not our Brahmins, to whose from the tyranny of custom, from the authority we bow ? The Hindoos and often unsuspected influence of habit ourselves agree in believing that man and early prepossession ! With the is a fallen creature, but do either their perfect law of liberty in their hands, Vedas, or our own, always give the how few fix their attention upon it so scriptural view of his fallen state ? effectually as to experience deliverance When once the “ sure word” is defrom long-cherished prejudices! We serted we may wander widely, and who may look down
Hindoos; shall decide whether it is more rational their devotion to hideous, grotesque to teach man to look into his own dark idols, to abject superstitions, and cruel mind for spiritual illumination, or to ceremonies, appears to us unworthy of believe that his errors will be corrected rational beings; but perhaps it never oc- by passing through successive states of curred to us to reflect whether there probation, till, rising by degrees in the are not some points of resemblance be- scale of being, he is ultimately absorbed tween ourselves and this very people- in the Divine essence ? whether the tyranny of custom has not Again; has nothing like the tyranny forged chains for us also, which we not of caste obtained place amongst us? only passively endure, but jealously Have we not lost sight of conversionguard with as unreasonable an attach- of the necessity of being " born again," ment.
to qualify us for a right entrance into In our own little Society we assign the church of Christ ; and, by adopting peculiar importance to temperance, sim- the unscriptural rule of birthright memplicity, and self-denial; but, in practice, bership, shut up our children to a tacit do we excel, are we even comparable acquiescence in the opinions of their to, the Hindoos in these virtues ? ancestors ? Where are they taught to Were we to make a fair comparison, look for the foundation of their faith? even in those particulars where our ad- Are they not daily, hourly required, by vantages are most striking, we might various overt acts, to bear a personal be startled by unexpected resemblances, testimony to scruples which probably which would show us that the nature they never felt, to dogmas they never of fallen man is every where the same, examined; and which, perhaps, might and manifests its identity by displaying not bear the test of Scripture ? What the same tendencies.
Hence his per
can be the result of such an education,
such a gratuitous profession of an un- of the human heart,-of the necessity felt principle, but to produce a lifeless of regeneration, of the blessed assurimage of consistency? No wonder ance of justification by faith ; I know that“ religion is in a low state amongst not that any thing more effectual could us," no wonder that conviction, re- have been devised than to instil the pentance, and conversion are so much persuasion that unregenerate, unconthrown into the back-ground, and that cerned persons, have a birth-right inhe“ obedience to manifested duty” is often ritance in the church of Christ, and substituted for dependence on the great have within themselves “a seed of light atonement for sin, thus leading to self- and life,” a guide to duty and to peace, complacency, instead of the peace of which renders them independent of the conscience arising from justification by Scriptures and of outward instruction. faith.
Haply many of these are of amiable When we reflect how jealously every tempers; a guarded education may have avenue to clearer knowledge is guarded preserved them from open sin, and habit by eviting the present controversy, or confirmed them as respectable moral by exclusively presenting certain con- characters, while yet their notions reventional constructions of Scripture,- main so vague and undefined that they how perseveringly the spirit of inquiry are insensible of the wide distinction is checked, not by declared opposition, between devotional feelings occasionbut by the expressive disapprobation of ally experienced, and the knowledge of silence ; or, if this fails to quench the the Gospel, which, practically received, kindling spark, by the denunciation of works an abiding change, a self-dedicaimpending loss of caste,-of dismission tion never to be forgotten. from a sphere of usefulness which our Unhappily for us, our laws and cusearliest associations led us to regard as toms as effectually prevent a growth honourable among men, and acceptable in the truth,” a progress in the knowto God ;-is it strange that young per- ledge and practice of some parts of sons so educated should, as they grow Christian doctrine and duty, as up, be afraid to examine for themselves, be presented by the institutions of the lest truth should present herself under Hindoos; because, when questions are the interdicted form ? or is it any won- started—even questions of personal obder that persons advanced in years, ligation—they are not tried by whose associations are consequently perfect law of liberty," but, if not more fixed, and who have long and use- silently quashed, they are referred to our fully filled influential stations, should Vedas, and the constructions of our feel that the stroke of such a separa- Brahmins. Thus we forsake “ the livtion must be terrible ?
ing waters,” whose freshness is unimThou wilt say, my friend, that I co- paired, for cisterns of men's hewing, lour this description too highly,—that broken and dilapidated, incapable of numbers, both young and old, have supplying our necessities.
Alas! are cheerfully borne this loss of castè, this we sensible of our spiritual wants ? Of disruption of ties which I represent as all“ the signs of the times,” none strikes almost indissoluble.
I grant it, and me as of darker omen than the undisdoubt not that many of them have re- guised acknowledgment, not only by ceived that “ hundred fold in the pre- young persons, but by Friends high in sent time” which was graciously pro- office, of the deplorable state of the mised to such renunciation : but when ministry, accompanied as it sometimes, I consider the natural effect of this and I fear increasingly, is, with such an combination of circumstances, I must exaltation of the privilege and advansay, advisedly, that if the subtlety of tage of silent meetings, as implies that Satanic influence had been employed to things would be on a better footing if invent something of power to counter- we were fairly rid of the ministry we act the doctrine of the natural depravity have.
Are we, then, so dull as not to per- ters, they are desired by thy friend to ceive that it is ignorance of the mean- be upheld, as he has heretofore ining and connexion of Scripture which formed thee. has tended to degrade our ministry, by I make no apology for this frank inducing misapplication of texts, and communication of sentiment, because, opening the way for a mystic phrase- though I am ignorant whether thy ology, unintelligible to common sense ? view of the present state of our Society
Nor is this lamentable ignorance exactly coincides with my own, I know confined to our ministers, it is only thou art not an unconcerned spectator, more apparent in them from their sta- nor one who justifies his own supineness tion. It springs from a cause which by saying, “ Let these questions alone, operates on all classes from the want and the excitement will die away.” of public and private scriptural instruc- Alas ! how many of our rulers are acttion. We do not honour the word of ing on this principle, as if the lethargy God by reading it in our religious as- of indifference, the stillness of Bethesda's semblies, by establishing Bible classes, pool, were not far more to be dreaded and by taking care that, in every meet- than the agitation of its waters ! ing, there shall be some one qualified Let us, then, my friend, continue to and authorised to explain the great “speak often to one another," in fear doctrines of the Gospel to the young and in love. Let us impartially exaand the ignorant. But of such an im- mine the materials with which the provement on the old system there is founders of our little church have been no reasonable
prospect. The cold dis- building. There may be a mixture couragement with which recent at- of the precious and the vile, of gold tempts to raise the tone of the ministry and silver, hay and stubble, let us by imparting clearer views of Gospel see how they will severally abide the truth, have been met by those who bear fire,-how far they will endure to be rule amongst us, I forbear to comment tried by that word which is the ly
It seems as if it were desired or standard of doctrine. Oh that it had designed that Divine worship should free course amongst us, to act as a assume a character wholly negative. hammer and a fire! we should then be And do not Friends attach to their idea willing to investigate the origin of our of “ true silence,” (a thing, by the by, peculiarities,—to inquire, not only whenever witnessed,) somewhat of the Hin- ther they ever did stand upon the doo notion of abstraction,--that in such foundation of the apostles and prophets, a state, when attained, we are nearer but on what ground they are now so heaven, and secure from the attacks of anxiously upheld ;-whether these efour grand adversary ?
forts are the result of conviction, or With regard to what are called “ whether they spring from a desire to minor testimonies,” I would say that justify the zeal with which our religious simplicity is a lovely fruit of the Spirit Society has maintained these “ testiand when united with godly sincerity monies,” but, by giving way, on any in all our words and actions, and with point, to reason or to Scripture, we obedience to all the commands of the should seem to stultify the faith of our Saviour, evidence is afforded of being, ancestors. not only engrafted into Christ, but But I must leave these questions to fruit-bearing branches of the true Vine. thy consideration, having already exIf the inside be clean, the outside will tended my remarks much beyond what be clean also ; and our dress and ad- I had in prospect when I began. That dress cannot but come under the re- we may honestly seek, and cordially straining influence of self-denial. As receive, “the truth as it is in Jesus," for the weightier matters of our law, is the sincere desire of thy affectionate the testimonies against war, oaths, and friend.
SCRUTATOR, the compulsory maintenance of minis
much as he can to what is outward and A Letter from an Independent Minister
adventitious. Ever feel, then, that to Two Young Persons who have
your great concern must be "to grow lately withdrawn from the Society of Friends.
in grace and the knowledge of our
Lord Jesus ;" cherish a lively remem[The following letter having come brance of some of your first and best to our hands, we cannot do better, we
feelings, when the great, and peculiar, think, at the present juncture, than
and precious doctrine of justification give it insertion entire ; we admire
through the blood and righteousness both the spirit and the judgment of of Christ first opened upon your minds the writer, and it is a cause for thank
in all its power. Try to come again fulness to find in this case, as in some
and again to the point to which you others that we have known, there are
were then brought, and hold fast that those who are willing, and qualified
truth, and feed on it-remembering that from deep experience, to “speak a it is in order “ that you may grow word in season to him that is weary.”]
“ receive the pure MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS,
milk of the word.” As you received The very peculiar position in your first views through the teaching which, by the movements of Divine and guidance of the Holy Spirit, let Providence, I have been placed in your eyes still be directed to Him, relation to yourselves, causes me to
rather than to Christians around you. feel a deep and anxious concern for Do not make the attainments or exyour welfare.
You have, indeed, cellences of any one your standard, around you several kind and Christian then you will not be stumbled or hinfriends, who take a lively interest in dered though you should meet with your prosperity, and I hope it will not those who do not adorn the doctrine be long before the church, of which they profess to hold, but you will you are members, is blessed with an come afresh to that great Teacher who efficient and affectionate pastor, who can imprint all his lessons on the heart, may watch
over you in the Lord, and who can give a relish for all that and help you on in your way to he discovers to the mind. the heavenly kingdom. Meanwhile, it 2. This leads me to another thing has occurred to me that on
nearly connected with the former-the points some little counsel may not be importance of your diligently and deunacceptable to you, and if any thing I voutly searching the Scriptures, conam enabled to write is productive of stantly keeping in view the necessity benefit to you, I shall exceedingly of the influences of the Holy Spirit. rejoice and be thankful.
You have withdrawn from a body of 1. The first thing which I would Christians who profess to esteem most seriously commend to you is, that you highly the influences of the Holy keep continually in view the spiritual Spirit on the human mind, and who, in character of true religion. I need not their zeal for the maintenance of this tell
you that the outward profession, doctrine, have lost sight (as we think) even of the most correct creed-and of the importance and completeness of outward conformity, even to the most those communications, which the same correct moral standard, are not enough; Divine Spirit made of old to the church, of this you are
You have and which he caused to put on taken a very decided step in that permanent record for the instruction which is external, and I trust you have and guidance of those who should done it with spiritual dispositions, con- afterwards believe ; and which record sistent with your profession ; but the may be called the written constitutions great adversary of souls is now on the of the church of Christ, to which, as a watch, and will endeavour to draw off test, all must be brought, and by which your minds, and keep your attention as every doubtful point must be decided,