William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

. (page 5 of 105)
Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 105)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

through the operations of the Holy Spirit,
over that which is acquired from reading the
Sacred Volume by the mere exercise of the
unassisted intellectual faculties. Friends were
sometimes misunderstood ; and charged with
denying the Scriptures of Truth, placing their
own writings on a level with them, and pro-
fessing that equally good Scriptures could be
written at the present day, as those which
were penned by Prophets, Evangelists, and

Vol. I.— No. 1.

Apostles. But no sooner were these accusa-
tions made, than they wei'e met by an unqual-
ified denial, asserting in the fullest and most
solemn manner, their sincere belief in all that
the Scriptures say respecting their Divine ori-
gin, authority, and use.

The prominent manner in which they be-
lieved themselves called to hold up the impor-
tant offices of the Holy Spirit in the Avork of
salvation, was another source of misappi-ehen-
sion among their opponents. Baxter, in his
account of Friends, says of them, " They
spake much for the dwelling and working of
the Spirit in us, but little of justification and
the pardon of sin, and our reconciliation with
God, through Jesus Christ."

It is not correct to say that Friends " spake
little'''' on the great doctrines of justification
and remission of sins, through Christ Jesus,
our propitiation ; for they frequently and ear-
nestly insisted on them. But finding that these
were generally admitted by all Christian pro-
fessors, while many either entirely denied, or
undervalued the work of the Holy Spirit in
the heai't, they were engaged to call the atten-
tion of the people to this, as the life of true
religion ; without which the Scriptures could
not make them wise unto salvation, and Christ
would have died for them in vain. But while
thus enforcing this important doctrine of Holy
Scripture, they were careful to recognize and
acknowledge the whole scope of the Gospel,
in all its fulness. They declared against that
construction of the doctrine of Christ's satis-
faction, which taught men to believe they
could be justified from their sins, while they
continued in them impenitent ; asserting that
the very design of Christ's coming in the flesh,
was to save people from their sins, and to de-
stroy the works of the devil. Yet they fully
and gratefully acknowledged the mercy of
God, in giving his dear Son, a ransom and
atonement for mankind, that the penitent sin-
ner might be justified freely by his grace,
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Many of them were persons who had been
highly esteemed for their piety, in the socie-
ties with which they had formerly been con-
nected, and several of them had been preach-
ers. In the progress of their religious experi-
ence, they were convinced that they had been
resting too much on a bare belief of what
Christ had done and suffered for them, when
personally on earth, and also in the ceremo-
nies of religion, without sufficiently pressing
after the knowledge of " Christ in them, the
hope of glory" — to feel his righteous govern-
ment set up in their hearts, and the power of
the Holy Spirit giving them the victory over
sin in all its motions, and qualifying them to
serve God in newness of life. They saw that



the Holy Scriptures held up to the view of
Christians, a state of rehgious advancement
and stability, far beyond that which most of
the professors of their day appeared to aim at
or admit ; a state in which sin was to have no
more dominion over them, because the law of
the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, had set them
free from the law of sin and death. That this
was an inward work, not effected by a bare
assent of the understanding to the blessed
truths contained in the Bible, hearing ser-
mons, dipping or sprinkling in water, or par-
taking of bread and wine, but a real change
of the heart and affections, by the power of the
Holy Ghost inwardly revealed, regenerating
the soul, creating it anew in Christ Jesus, and
making all things pertaining to it of God.

Convinced that this great work was neces-
sary to salvation, and yet in great danger of
being overlooked amid a round of ceremonial
performances, and a high profession of belief
in Christ as the propitiation for sins, they zeal-
ously preached the doctrine of the new birth ;
calling their hearers to come to Christ Jesus,
the true Light which lighteth every man that
Cometh into the world, that they might expe-
rience Him to shine into their hearts, to give
them the light of the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The ofRces of the Holy Ghost, or Comforter,
as the guide into all Truth, as the unction from
the Holy One which teacheth of all things,
and is Truth, and no lie, was the great theme
of their contemplation and ministry, and it
stands forth no less conspicuously in their

When we turn to the Sacred Volume, and
read there the numerous testimonies borne to
the great importance of this doctrine in the
Gospel plan, we cannot wonder to find it pro-
minently set forth by a people professing emi-
nently the spirituality of religion. But to infer
from the fact of their preaching Christ within,
that they designed in any degree to deny Christ
without, or to derogate from any part of the
work which, in adorable condescension, he
was graciously pleased to accomplish for us,
in the prepared body, or from that complete
justification from our sins which is obtained
through living faith in Him, as our sacrifice
'and Mediator, would be iUiberal and unjust.

"When such accusations were brought against
them by their enemies, they indignantly repelled
and denied them ; and the official declarations
and acts of the Society evince that such opin-
ions were never received or tolerated by it.

In carrying out these views of the spiritual
nature of the Gospel, and of that great work
in the soul described as " the washing of re-
generation and the renewing of the Holy
Ghost," the primitive Friends were led to the

adoption of their peculiar sentiments respect-
ing water baptism and the use of the bread
and wine. They found it declared in the Sa-
cred Volume, that as " there is one Lord and
one faith," so there is but " one baptism ;" and
that " the baptism which now saves, is not
the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the
answer of a good conscience toward God, by
the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Corres-
ponding with this, is the saying of the apostle
to the Romans, " Know ye not that so many
of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were
baptized into his death — therefore, we are bu-
ried with him by baptism into death ; that like
as Christ was raised up from the dead, by the
glory of the Father, even so, we also, should
walk in newness of life." Also, that to the
Galatians, " As many of you as have been
baptized into Christ, have put on Christ ;" and
to the Colossians, where he declares that those
who are in Christ, " are buried with him in
baptism, wherein, also, ye are risen with him,
through the faith of the operation of God, who
hath raised him from the dead." Sensible that
these blessed effects were not the result of dip-
ping or sprinkling the body with water, and
apprehensive that many professors of religion
were trusting to the outward ceremony, as a
means of initiating them into the Church of
Christ, while neglecting the necessary work
of " repentance toward God and faith in our
Lord Jesus Christ," they pressed upon their
hearers the necessity of experiencing that one
saving baptism, which John describes when
drawing the distinction between his dispensa-
tion and that of Christ — " I indeed baptize you
with water : but One mighter than I cometh,
the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to
unloose : He shall baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire."

Convinced that the Gospel is not a dispen-
sation of shadows, but the very substance of
the heavenly things themselves, they believed
that the true communion of saints consisted in
that divine intercourse which is maintained
between our Merciful Saviour and the souls of
his faithful disciples ; agreeable to his own
gracious words ; " Behold, I stand at the door
and knock : If any man hear my voice, and
open the door, I will come in to him and sup
with him, and he with me."

There is a strong tendency in the human
mind to substitute the form of religion for the
power, and to satisfy the conscience by a cold
compliance with exterior performances, while
the heart remains unchanged. And inasmuch
as the baptism of the Holy Ghost and the com-
munion of the body and blood of Christ, of
which water baptism and the bread and wine
are admitted to be only signs, are not depen-
dent on those outward ceremonies, nor neces-



sarily connected with them, and are declared
in Holy Scripture to be effectual to the salvation
of the soul, which the signs are not, Friends
have always believed it their place and duty to
hold forth to the world a clear and decided tes-
timony to the living substance — the spiritual
work of Christ in the soul, and a blessed com-
munion with him there.

A distinguishing trait in the character of
the first Friends was, that amid the great po-
litical commotions which prevailed, they at-
tached themselves to none of the parties, nor
entered into any of their ambitious views. It
was a principle of their religion, to avoid all
strife and contention, and to live peaceably,
under whatever form of government Divine
Providence was pleased to permit. When the
laws of the land came into collision with their
duty to God, and they could not, for con-
science sake, actively comply with their de-
mands, they patiently endured the penalties.
When the nation was in a great ferment, after
the death of Cromwell, George Fox, ever
watchful for the welfare of his brethren, ad-
dressed a letter, exhorting them " to live in
love and peace with all men — to keep clear of
all the commotions of the world, and not to
intermeddle with the powers of the earth, but
to let their conversation be in heaven." — " All
who pretend to fight for Christ," says he, "are
deceived ; for his kingdom is not of this world,
and therefore his servants do not fight."

Unaided by any alliance with the great or
powerful ; ridiculed and hated by the world, and
everywhere pursued with contempt and cru-
elty, the principles of Friends silently spread
through the kingdom, winning the assent of
men who were inferior to none in education,
talents, and respectability. Amid the severest
persecution, when deprived of every temporal
comfort, torn from home and all its endear-
ments, with every probability that they should
seal the truth of their principles with the sa-
crifice of their lives, they faltered not. Though
all around them looked dark and threatening,
yet there was light and peace within ; — they
not only met their sufferings with patience and
fortitude, in the unresisting spirit of their Di-
vine Master, but through the goodness of God,
were so filled with heavenly consolation, that
they sang for joy even in the extremity of their

Exposed to almost universal hatred and
abuse, their names despised and cast out from
among men, the disinterested love they showed
for each other excited the admiration even of
their enemies. While each one seemed re-
gardless of his own liberty and estate, all were
zealous in pleading the cause of their suffer-
ing brethren, when occasion presented ; freely

sacrificing their time and property to promote
their comfort, and even offering themselves to
lie in prison, instead of those whom they
thought could be less easily spared from their
families or the Society.

Such fruits of Christian love and forbear-
ance, under protracted and poignant suffering,
unjustly inflicted, have rarely been exhibited
to the world ; and nothing less than the mar-
vellous extension of Almighty Power could
have sustained, and carried them through it
all, to the peaceful enjoyment of that liberty
of conscience, for which they nobly contended.
Their conduct furnishes the strongest evidence
of sincere and devoted attachment to the cause
of Christ. It proves that they were true men,
earnestly engaged in seeking after truth ; while
the Divine support they experienced, and the
brightness with which they were enabled to
hold forth, in their example, the Christian
virtues, are no inconsiderable testimonies of
the favour of that God whom they delighted
to serve.

The character of the founders of the Soci-
ety has not been duly appreciated, even by
many of their successors in religious profes-
sion. We look back to the age in which they
lived, as one of comparative ignorance ; and
tracing the improvements which have since
been made in the arts, and in literature and
the sciences, as well as the more liberal views
of civil and religious liberty which now gene-
rally obtain, we are apt to undervalue the wis-
dom and attainments of our ancestors. But
our opinion respecting them will change when
we discover how far they were in advance
of the times in which they flourished, — that
though many of them possessed but few of
the advantages of literary instruction, yet
their minds, enlightened by the influences of
the Spirit of Truth, and expanded by Chris-
tian benevolence, were prepared to perceive
and to promulgate those great moral and reli-
gious truths which are considered the peculiar
ornament and glory of the pr<3sent age.

One of the earliest subjects of concern to
George Fox, was the want of modei'ation and
temperance in eating and drinking. " The
Lord showed me," says he, " that I might not
eat and drink to make myself wanton, but for
health, using the creatures as servants in their »"
places to the glory of Him that created them."
He also observes, that he was engaged " in
warning such as kept public houses for enter-
tainment, that they should not let people have
more drink than would do them good," and in
crying against the sin of drunkenness ; setting
an example of remarkable abstinence in his
manner of life. The testimony thus early and
zealously enforced has ever since been main-



tained, and from that period to the present,
Friends, as a body, have been a Temperance

No less clear were his views in regard to
speaking the truth on all occasions, without
the use of an oath. " The Lord showed me,"
says he, " that though the people of the world
have mouths full of deceit and changeable
words, yet I was to keep to yea and nay in
all things, and that my words should be few
and savoury, seasoned with grace ;" — " warn-
ing all to deal justly, to speak the truth, to let
their yea be yea and their nay nay, and to do
unto others as they would have others do unto
them ;" — " that Christ commanded, Swear not
at all ; and God, when he bringeth the first
begotten into the world, saith, Let all the an-
gels of God worship Him, even Christ Jesus,
who saith. Swear not at all. As for the plea
that men make for swearing, viz., to end their
strife, Christ, who forbids swearing, destroys
the devil and his works, who is the author of

The uniform and consistent example of the
first Friends, in respect to a scrupulous ad-
herence to their word, as men of truth, and
to strict uprightness in all their dealings, soqn
gained them a high reputation for those vir-
tues. Their objection to the use of oaths cost
them much suffering, but their faithfulness at
length triumphed over opposition, and their
conscientious scruyjle was recognized and toler-
ated by an act of Parliament. Since that period,
a striking change has been wrought in public
opinion, scarcely one in five taking the oath
in our courts of judicature. By a late act of
Parliament, nearly all oaths, excepting those
of judicial character, are dispensed with in
England, by which it is computed nearly a
thousand oaths per day will be spared.

The benevolent and enlightened mind of
George Fox was deeply affected with the san-
guinary character of the penal code of Great
Britain, and believing that the benign spirit of
the gospel would lead to save men's lives ra-
ther than to destroy them, he was engaged to
write to the judges and others in authority,
" concerning their putting to death for small
matters, and to show them how contrary it
was to the law of God in old time ; for," says
he, " I was under great suffering in my spirit
because of it." In an address " to the Parlia-
ment of the Commonwealth of England," set-
ting forth a number of particulars " for taking
away oppressive laws, &c.," he says, "Let no
one be put to death for [stealing] cattle, or
money, or any outward thing — but let them
restore ; and mind the law of God, which is
equity and measurable, agreeable to the of-

This is perhaps the earliest account extant

of any proposal for meliorating the severity
of penal enactments.

The amiable and pacific principles which
produced these views in the founder of the So-
ciety, gave rise to corresponding feelings in
the minds of other members. William Penn,
in framing the laws of Pennsylvania, mitigated
considerably the harshness of the English
code, and it is a well-known fact, that Friends
have always been the advocates of a mild sys-
tem of punishment, coupled with penitentiary

In the improvement of prisons and prison
discipline they also took the lead.

Being frequently confined for his conscien-
tious adherence to the precepts of Christ and
his apostles, he had an opportunity of seeing
the wretched condition of the jails in Eng-
land, and of witnessing the demoralizing ef-
fects of associating the novice in crime with
the hardened offender. His tender feelings
were quickly awakened on this interesting sub-
ject, and when about twenty-six years of age
he published a paper, showing " what a hurt-
ful thing it was for prisoners to lie so long in
jail, and how they learned wickedness one of
another, in talking of their bad deeds ;" and
inciting the judges of courts to the prompt ad-
ministration of law, that the prisoners might
as quickly as practicable be removed from the
influence of such corrupting examples. In
the address to the Parliament, before quoted,
he says, " Let none be gaolers that are drunk-
ards, swearers, or oppressors of the people ;
but such as may be good examples to the pri-
soners. And let none lie long in jail, for that
is the way to spoil people, and to make more
thieves ; for there they learn wickedness to-
gether." Again, he says, " Let all jails be in
wholesome places, that the prisoners may not
lie in the filth, and straw like chaff, &c. ;" and
after mentioning some of the nuisances then
existing in prisons, he adds, " Let these things
be mended."

There are several other recommendations,
which bespeak the liberality and correctness
of his views ; such as the following, viz.

" Let all the laws in England be brought
into a known tongue." Many of them, as
well as the proceedings of courts, were then
in the Latin language.

" Let no swearer, nor cursor, nor drunkard,
bear any office whatever, nor be put in any

" Let none keep alehouses or taverns but
those who fear God ; that will not let the
creatures of God be destroyed by drunken-

" Let no man keep an alehouse or tavern,
that keeps bowls, shuffle-boards, or fiddlers,
or dice, or cards."



" Let neither beggar, nor blind people, nor
fatherless, nor widows, nor cripples, go beg-
ging up and down the streets ; but that a
house may be provided for them all, and also
meat, that there may be never a beggar
among you."

" And let all this wearing of gold lace and
costly attire be ended, and clothe the naked
and feed the hungry with the superfluity. And
turn not your ear away from the cry of the

About the time that George Fox attained
his twenty-sixth year, considerable efforts
were made to induce him to join the parlia-
ment army, and a captaincy over a band of
newly-raised troops was offered to him. But
his religious opinions would not permit him to
take up arms in any cause. The ruling prin-
ciple of his life was " peace on earth and good
will to men." He whose commands he es-
teemed of paramount authority, directed his
followers to " love their enemies ;" to do good
to those who hated them, and to pray for those
who despitefully and evilly treated them. He
had none of that sophistry which could recon-
cile the horrors of the battle field, the anger,
the revenge, and the cruelty which reign
there, with these benevolent precepts. The
simple acceptance of revealed truth, was
strongly marked in the character of the primi-
tive Quakers. They sought not to evade or
fritter away the strict and positive injunctions
of Holy Writ, because they came in collision
with popular opinion, or thwarted the way-
ward inclinations of the human heart. " I
told them, says George Fox, when speaking
of the above-mentioned circumstance, " that I
knew from whence all wars arose, even from
the lusts, according to James' doctrine, and
that I lived in the virtue of that life and power
that took away the occasion of all wars. Yet
they courted me to accept the offer, and
thought I did but compliment them. But I
told them I was come into the covenant of
peace, which was before wars and strifes."
Persuasion not effecting their object, they
threw him into the common jail, where he lay
for six months, but without shaking his con-

When Sir George Booth afterward rose in
favour of the king, the Committee of Safety
solicited Friends to enrol and join the army,
offering important posts and commands to
some of them. But neither the sharpness of
their sufferings, nor prospects of honours or
preferment, could induce them to violate their
Christian testimony in favour of universal
peace, and to the present day it has been stea-
dily maintained, at no inconsiderable sacrifice
both of liberty and estate.

The situation of the African race, and of

the Indian nations in America, claimed much
of his attention and sympathy. One of his
first engagements among his friends, after
reaching Bai'badoes, was to hold a meeting of
conference, in which, among other directions,
he enjoined them " to train their negroes up
in the fear of God, that all might come to the
knowledge of the Lord, and that, with Joshua,
every master of a family might say, ' as for
me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' I
desired also that they would cause their over-
seers to deal mildly and gently with their ne-
groes, and not use cruelty toward them, as
the manner of some hath been and is, and
that after certain years of servitude, they
should maJce them free.'''' In one of his epis-
tles, he expresses the sentiment that " liberty
is the right of all men," and on many occa-
sions he evinced a strong solicitude that the
benefits of a religious education should be ex-
tended to them, as being equally interested
with others, in that salvation purchased for
us by the Saviour's death.

His mind, expanded by Christian benevo-
lence, reached forth in desii'e for the salvation
of all mankind. So exceedingly precious did
he esteem the glad tidings of the gospel, and
so adapted to the wants of man in every situ-
ation, that he not only preached Christ cruci-
fied, to the slaves and Indians, while in Amer-
ica, but urged upon his brethren the same
duty. "All Friends, everywhere," says he,
in one of his epistles, " who have Indians or
Blacks, are to preach the gospel to them and
other servants, if you be true Christians."
" And also you must instruct and teach your
Indians and Negroes, and all others, that
Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for
every man, and gave himself a ransom for all
men, to be testified in due time, and is the pro-
pitiation, not for the sins of Christians only,
but for the sins of the whole world." Again,
he observes, " Do not neglect your family
meetings among your whites and negroes ; but
do your diligence and duty to God and them."
In another epistle to his friends, he directs
them to go among the Indians, and get the
chiefs to assemble their people, in order that
they may declare to them God's free salvation
through Jesus Christ the Lord.

The same enlarged views are evinced by
the letters he wrote to some Friends, who, in
pursuing a seafaring life, had been carried
captive to the coast of Africa. He advises
them to acquire a knowlege of the language
spoken in the places where they were situated,

Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 105)