Society of Friends. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

A declaration of the Yearly Meeting of Friends : held in Philadelphia, respecting the proceedings of those who have lately separated from the Society: and also, showing the contrast between their doctrines and those held by Friends online

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Online LibrarySociety of Friends. Philadelphia Yearly MeetingA declaration of the Yearly Meeting of Friends : held in Philadelphia, respecting the proceedings of those who have lately separated from the Society: and also, showing the contrast between their doctrines and those held by Friends → online text (page 10 of 17)
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pleased in great mercy to draw near and to dispense to
his dependent ones that bread that sustains the spiritual
life, and that water that slakes the thirsty soul ; and we
also unequivocally declare our belief that any change in
our well known ancient mode of divine worship, will
tend to endanger the very existence of our religious So-

Ministry. — " We believe that the authority and qual<-
ification for the ministry of the Gospel, is a special gift,
dispensed by the Head of the church, to those whom he
sanctifies, and prepares for the work, agreeably to the tes^
timony of the Holy Scriptures. ' And he gave some
apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and
some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints,
for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the
body of Christ.' Eph. 4 : 11, 12. This gift cannot be
exercised, but as the ministers are actuated and moved by
the Spirit of Christ ; and minister under the renewed ir -
flnences and openings thereof; according to the apostolic
injunction : ' If any man speak, let him speak as the ort.*
cles of God ; if any man iriinister, let him do it as of th^


ability which God giveth ; that God in all things may be
glorified, through Jesus Christ.' " 1 Pet. 4:11,

" As this gift is freely received, so it is to be freely ex-
ercised, without coveting any man's silver or gold: not for
the sake of popularity, nor restrained by the slavish fear
of man, but in simple and humble obedience to the will
of God."

" As it is the sole prerogative of the Head of the
church, to qualify and send forth such as it pleases him,
without respect to sex, worldly rank or human acquire-
ments, he has conferred the gift of the ministry on women
as well as men ; as foretold by the prophet Joel, and con-
firmed by the apostles of our Lord : " And it shall come
to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all
flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."
Joel 2 : 28.

" As by the light or gift of God all true knowledge in
things spiritual is received and revealed, so by the same,
as it is manifested and received in the heart, by the
strength and power thereof, every true minister of the
gospel is ordained, prepared, and supplied in the work of
. the ministry, and by the leading, moving and drawing
hereof, ought every evangelist and Christian pastor to
be led and ordered in his labour and work of the gospel,
both as to the place where, as fo the persons to whom,
and as to the time wherein he is to minister. Moreover,
they who have this authority may and ought to preach
the gospel, though without human commission or litera-
ture ; as on the other hand, they who want the authority
of this divine gift, however learned, or authorized by the
commission of 'men and churches, are to be esteemed but
as deceivers, and not true ministers of the gospel. Also
they who have received this holy and unspotted gift, as
thiy have freely received it, so are they freely to give
it." — [Barclay.]

Regarding the solemn exeroise of Prayer, we hold that
" Although we are commanded to watch and pray con-
tinually, neither of which can be done without divine
help, yet we believe that the solemn duty of vocal prayer
requires a special impulse ;' and in our addresses to the
throne of Grace, it becomes us to remember that we are


but dust — that He who is ' glorious in holiness, fearful in
praises, doing wonders,' ought to be approached with
holy fear and reverence. But we are emboldened to draw
near to him in living faith, for ' the Spirit also helpeth
our infirmities : for we know not what we should pray for
as we ought ; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession
for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.' And as
he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of
the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints,
according to the will of God,' we doubt not that those
prayers which are put up under his divine influence, will
be graciously answered." — [ Test, of Friends in America.'^


We are very sensible and it is our practical belief, that
true pra3'er consisteth not in any form of words, but in
the aspirations of the soul, mentally experienced or vo-
cally expressed, under the immediate influence of the
Spirit of Christ.

On the First Day of the Week.
" We, not seeing any ground in Scripture for it, cannot
be so superstitious as to believe, that either the Jewish
Sabbath now continues, or that the first day of the week
is the antetype thereof, on the true Christian Sabbath ;
which with Calvin we believe to have a more spiritual
sense : and therefore we know of no moral obligation by
the fourth command, or elsewhere, to keep the first day
of the week more than any other, or any holiness inhe-
rent in it. But first, forasmuch as it is necessary that
there be some time set apart for the saints to meet togeth-
er to wait upon God ; and that secondly, it is fit at some-
times they be free J from their other outward affairs ; and
that thirdly, reason and equity doth allow that servants
and beasts have some time allowed them to be eased from
their continual labor ; and that fourthly, it appears that
the apostles and primitive Christians did use the first day
of the week for these purposes ; we find ourselves sufii-
ciently moved for these causes to do so also, without su-
pers! itiously straining the Scriptures for another reason ;
which, that it is not there to be found, many Protestants,
yea, Calvin himself, upon the foiu:th command, hatha
abundantly evinced. And though we therefore mee|,^
and abstain from working upqn this day, yet doth that nfi


hinder us from having meetings also for ■worship at otiiej'
times."-^[Barciay's Apology.]

Our early friends were remarkable for the plainness and
simplicity of their lives and conversation, in their consci-
entious testimony against the vanities, maxims and cus*
toms of the world, in their clothing, the furniture of their
houses, and in all their appointments in life. We desire
to continue steadfast in the support of these testimonies,
believing them to be among the genuine fruits of the
Spirit of Christ.

The foregoing extracts from the eariy writers of the
Society of Friends, with the remarks accompanying them,
contain declarations upon most of the subjects upon
which our religious Society have heretofore declared their
faith, and perhaps upon all, upon which it may be neces-
sary for us now to treat. It may be added, however,that
upon all the different doctrines and testimonies as held
and supported by Friends, our views accord with those
that are set forth in the well known and acknowledged
writings of our religious Society.

We have thus, dear Friends, seriously and candidly de-
clared our faith upon these various points of Christian
Doctrine, and we entirely disclaim, and have invariably
disclaimed all views and doetrines inconsistent therewith,
from whatever source they may come, or by whomsoever
they may be pronmlgated ;. and we do not consider our-
selves responsible for the- writings of any individuals
which have not received the approval of a meeting of
the Society authorised to inspect and sanction writings
on doctrines ; nor do we countenance the receiving of any
sentiments whieh are at variance with those contained in
our approved writers.

Having thus endeavored to discharge our religious du-
ty in this respect, we desire to cultivate the disposition to
leave the event to Him, who doeth all things well, with-


out whose notice not even a sparrow falleth to the ground,
and who can turn the hearts of the children of men as it
pleeiseth Him.

May the unslumbering Shepherd of Israel watch over
and preserve us, may his Almighty arm be underneath to
sustain us, and may we one and all put ova dependence
entirely in Him.

At our Yearly Meeting of Friends for New-England,
held on Rhode Island, from the 15th to the 23d, inclu-
sive, of the sixth nfi^nth, 1845 —

The foregoing document, embracing the Doctrines of
the Gospel as they ever have been, and are now most as-
suredly believed by the Society of Friends, weis laid be-
fore us by the Committee appointed to take into solid and
careful consideration, what they apprehend may be called
for at our hands, under the present peculiar and trying cir-
cumstances in which we are placed ; and being read, was
fully united with, and adopted by the Meeting, and de-
clared to he its Faith upon the subjects on which it treats.
And the Clerk was directed to sign the same on our be-

From the Minutes of said Meeting,

HANNAH GOULD, Jun., Clerk.


or A










The legitimate objects of controversy are the propagation
and the defence of trutn. Whenever it is engaged in with any-
other view, as for the promotion of party purposes, or to screen
measures justly liable to objection or censure from the condem-
nation they deserve, it is almost sure to betray those engaged
in it into inconsistency, or lead them deeper into error. In
religious societies, whose members are to be supposed united in
one common faith, it would seem always to be deplored, on
account of the jealousy and estrangement it too often effeqts
among them, changing the zeal for truth into a strife for mas-
tery. This seems to us especially to be dreaded when contro-
versy occurs between the members of the highly professing
Society of Friends, claiming, as it does, to have been placed by
the Great Head, as a city set upon an hill, to show forth the
spiritual nature of Christianity ; the meekness, the gentleness,
and the entire redemption from the world, of the true believer.
Hence unity and harmony are indispensable to the full accom-
plishment of the great end for which it was raised up. " The
servant of the Lord," said Paul to his beloved Timothy, "must
not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in
meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God,
peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging
of the truth." Controversy may, then, be necessary; but it
should not be commenced or persisted in unless important prin-
ciples are at stake and in jeopardy; and it should never be
allowed to degenerate into strife.

Occasions, however, as we have had sad reason to know, have
occurred among Friends, and they may occur again, wherein

principles that had always been recognized as fixed in our faith,
or in our/system of church government, have been called in ques-
tion, denied, or violated ; and, unless the heresy or the departure
from long-settled rules and usages were exposed, fears might be
justly entertained lest there would follow a general lapse on the
part of the Society from its long-avowed belief, or its long-
established form of disciplinary proceedings. In such cases it
becomes the duty of those who are desirous to retain our ancient
faith and order inviolate, to stand forth in their defence ; and,
while manifesting the spirit of Him who intrusted both to the
keeping of the Society, unhesitatingly to point out the inroad
made, whether by open assault, or insidious undermining, and
to contend unflinchingly for the right and the true.

It has been in order conscientiously to perform this duty,
as we believe, that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, some years
ago, issued its Appeal for the ancient doctrines of the religious
Society of Friends, pointing out and condemning the unsound
sentiments published to the world by two members, and at-
tempted to be fastened on the Society as its modern and more
enlightened faith ; and also that the same body, more recently,
having, for the purpose of arriving at a correct knowledge of the
facts and circumstances that led to and accompanied the sepa-
ration within the limits of New England Yearly Meeting,
directed its Meeting for Sufferings to make an examination of
the statements furnished by both bodies there, and to report to
the Yearly Meeting ; after considering and adopting the report
prepared, forwarded copies of it to them respectively ; with a
minute, expressing "its sincere desire, that, under the heavenly
influence of Divine love, all parties may be favored to be brought
into true fellowship on the only sure foundation, so that we may
be enabled to unite as brethren in the promotion of the blessed
cause for which the Great Head of the Church raised us up as
a people."

How this communication was received and treated by those
bodies respectively, is generally known : the larger one refused
to read it ; the smaller one read it, and after some time had it
printed and published ; its contents thus became generally known
throughout the Society.

Since then, which was in 1849, there have been two Con-

ferences held, of committees appointed by four of the Yearly
Meetings on this continent, and by the larger body in New
England, having for their avowed object " the restoration of
that unity and Christian fellowship which formerly characterized
the Society." Although they declined making any examination
into the causes of the division in New England, yet both of
these conferences have virtually indorsed the proceedings of
those who now compose the larger body there, and consequently
given their sanction to the principles involved in those proceed-
ings, condemning the two Yearly Meetings which have felt
themselves restrained from giving countenance to them. Within
a short time past there<has appeared a pamphlet entitled, " A
Vindication of the Disciplinary Proceedings of New England
Yearly Meeting of Friends," put forth under the authority of
the Meeting for Sufferings, representing the larger body there,
as attested by a minute appended thereto.

The object of this publication is stated to he " with a single
eye to the clearing of the truth from all misconstruction,"
" briefly to review some of the positions which are taken in the
'Report,' respecting the disciplinary proceedings of this [New
England] Yearly Meeting." The "Report" here alluded to,
is that adopted by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in relation
to the facts and causes of the division in New England Yearly
Meeting, a copy of which we have mentioned as having
been sent to each of the two bodies there. From the tenor of
the Minute of the Meeting for Sufi"erings, we should not infer
that the " Vindication" had been prepared by a committee of
the body indorsing it, though it may have so been ; but as they
say it was " deliberately considered, approved, and adopted"
by it; they, and those they represent, are fully committed to the
principles and conclusions contained therein. And inasmuch
as the authority of a Conference of committees of four Yearly
Meetings may be appealed to as corroborating those principles
and conclusions, it is a matter of no little importance and interest
to every member of the Society, wherever situated, clearly to
understand them and the consequences that may flow from them,
before he makes up his mind either to accept or reject them.
This may be our apology for ofi"ering the following remarks on
the "Vindication," withqut waiting to see whether the meeting

•whose report is thus reviewed, shall feel itself called on to take
any step in the matter.

In whatever we may have to offer, as our object is solely thq
defence of what we believe to be the truth, we desire to keep
our minds free from any feelings of unkindness towards those
whose errors we are attempting to point out and correct; and to
say nothing that can be justly charged with tending to separate
more widely one part of the Society from the other.

We shall pass over with' but little remark the several pages in
the fore part of the " Vindication," containing extracts from
the different publications put forth by members of the smaller
body, given to show " that a spirit of disaffection, and aliena-
tion of mind from the body of Friends, a jealous disposition
towards them, and a great lack of that love and unity, which,
in accordance with the precepts of the gospel of Christ, our
discipline enjoins, had existed with those who separated from us
[the larger body] for many years." See page 13.

Had the "Vindication" afforded facts or reasoning to show
that the charges of defection and intolerance contained in the
extracts given, were untrue, and the grievances complained of
groundless, there would have appeared some foundation for the
inference which it strives to enforce, that the deplorable state
which now exists in New England is to be altogether attributed
to the smaller body, where they say : " When feelings such as
are evinced in the extracts from the publications of the sepa-
ratists which we have given, have taken root, and are cherished,
what other fruits could be looked for, than such as have been
brought forth ? Alienation of brother from brother, and friend
from friend, until open separation took place." See page 16.

Disaffection, and a great lack of love and unity, must of course
have existed, where so great dissimilarity of opinion on highly
important principles and acts, prevailed long enough to produce
a disruption of the ties that had heretofore bound the parties
together in one body. Both sides have sufficiently proved this,
and the point of interest is, whether that disaffection was to the
truth, or to error, and whether the lack of love and unity com-
plained of, arose from an unwillingness to submit to what was
right, or merely to the views and requirements of a party in
power. Both parties have amply set forth the facts which they

believe connected more or less intimately with the origin and
progress of the difficulties, and their final termination in a sepa-
ration, together with the views which they respectively entertain
relative to those facts, and the prominent actors in them ; and
we apprehend there are few who have taken the pains to make
themselves acquainted with these facts and views, but who have
come to a judgment in their own minds upon the case, which
judgment we may hardly expect to confirm or alter. There are,
however, we fully believe, a very large number of Friends who
are ignorant of the facts connected with this separation, and we
would they would give them a candid examination ; but this is
not the place to attempt- a recital of them, and we shall, there-
fore, proceed at once to notice the objections raised to some of
the principles laid down and enforced by Philadelphia Yearly
Meeting in its " Report."

In that "Report," the following paragraph occurs, page 29: —
"Although each Yearly Meeting is the judge of its own dis-
cipline, there is an understood and implied necessity of conform-
ing in its decisions to principles of religious duty and Christian
doctrine, of civil liberty and constitutional rights common to us
all, and alyiays acknowledged and held inviolable by us."

After expressing their full approbation of the sentiments con-
tained in the fore part of the paragraph, the " Vindication"

" But how far the decisions of the Yearly Meeting upon the
discipline of the Church may or should conform to the principles
of 'civil liberty and constitutional right common to us all,' we
think very questionable.

"By the principles of civil liberty, and of constitutional right,
at least, in our own country, all men may worship God, in the
manner and form they may judge their own consciences dictate,
but a member of our Religious Society, by becoming such, re-
linquishes this right, arid agrees to our mode of worship ; and
if, in the exercise of his civil liberty and constitutional right, he
should adopt any other mode of worship, he would become
amenable to the discipline ; — and surely it would be no valid
plea against the exercise of the discipline, that, by the princi-
ples of civil liberty and constitutional right he might choose his
own form of worship.


' "Again — ^by the principles of ' civil liberty and constitutional
right,' a man may defend his life, or his possessions, by force of
arms ; — yet, if a member of our body were to exercise this lib-
erty, the judgment of the Church must needs be exercised upon
him; and it would be no good plea for such an one to make, that
such judgment was against the principles of ' civil liberty and
constitutional right.' " Page 19.

After all that the Society of Friends has passed through, to
obtain' and to maintain liberty of conscience, it would be an ano-
malous and most deplorable circumstance, were it correct, as is
here asserted, that a member of our religious society, by becom-
ing such, relinquishes the right to " worship God in the manner
and form" that his conscience may dictate. There is no right
for which our religious society has contended more determined-
ly, none for which its early members suffered more grievously,
than that appertaining to all men, and in its character inalienable,
of worshipping according to the dictates of conscience. " Liber-
ty of conscience (says the Discipline of Philadelphia Yearly
Meeting) being the common right of all men, and particularly
essential to the well-being of religious societies, we hold it to be
indispensably incumbent upon us to maintain it inviolably
among ourselves." Page 33. The trut]i of this is too well
known to require proof; and we cannot but express our astonish-
ment at finding in this day, those claiming to represent a large
body of Friends, putting forth to the public a declaration so
humiliating as the above; and if we must admit that it is correct
as regards themselves, we must protest against its being receiv-
ed as true in relation to the Society at large.

The part of the quotation relative to civil liberty and consti-
tutional right, evinces confusion of ideas, confounding the right
of individuals as members of the community, and their rights as
members of particular religious societies.

Every member of the community has the right, in accordance
*ith the principles "of civil liberty and constitutional right com-
mon to us all," to adopt and practice such belief and such modeof
worship as he may deem just and proper ; but he has no right, either
civil or religious, to carry his belief or practice into the bosom of
a society which does not unite with or approve of them ; nor, if
already a member of a religious society, has he any right.


civil or religious, to retain his membersliip, if his belief or
practice are incompatible with the faith or discipline of that
society, and it see fit to disown him ; so that, even in the Case
supposed in the last paragraph of the extract, of a member of the
religious Society of Friends defending "his life or his posses-
sions by force of arms," "the judgment of the Church may be
exercised upon him," and he disowned, without in any way in-
terfering with his civil liberty and constitutional right. But in
the proceedings instituted by any religious society to reclaim or
to disown a delinquent member, there is, as the Report of
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting asserts, an implied necessity for
the Society, throughout the different stages of the case, to con-
form its measures and decisions to those "principles of civil
liberty and constitutional right common to us all," and which,
unless violated, secure to every individual his being dealt with
according to the established rules and well-known usages of the
Society with which he may be in membership. The support of
this principle can in no way weaken the authority of societies
over their members, and we cannot but hope that those who
have advanced the sentiments on which we have made these
comments, will, 'on further reflection, see, and acknowledge how
great a lapse it is from primitive Quakerism, to deny to our
members the right to worship the Almighty according to the
dictates of their consciences, and to pronounce it " very ques-
tionable" how far the decisions of a Yearly Meeting or any
other meeting, upon the discipline of the Church, should conform
to the "principles of civil liberty and constitutional right com-
mon to us all."

The declaration made in the "Report," that " we are one
people the world over," the authors of the "Vindication" accede
to, "but (they say) we do not think it follows from this truth,
as the ' Report' maintains, when two bodies come before a Year-
ly Meeting, both under the same title, and each claiming to be
the co-ordinate branch of the Society bearing that name, that it
is incumbent for such Yearly Meeting to inquire into the disci-

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Online LibrarySociety of Friends. Philadelphia Yearly MeetingA declaration of the Yearly Meeting of Friends : held in Philadelphia, respecting the proceedings of those who have lately separated from the Society: and also, showing the contrast between their doctrines and those held by Friends → online text (page 10 of 17)