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AN HISTORICAL DISSERTATION
ORIGIN, RISE, &c.
SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.
"We do not wish to meddle with those called Mystics, or to adopt many of their expressions."Religious Society called Quakers, 1799.
§ 1. ALL systems of christian doctrine, which lay claims to consistency, have certain first principles, on which, as their basis, the whole superstructure rests.
The first principles of the religious system of the Friends are reducible to two classes. The first respects the character of Deity; the second, the nature of the human soul. On their opinions respecting these two subjects, rests the peculiarity of all their religious sentiments-complicated and mysterious as they may seem to be at first view.
I. On the first of these articles there is, unquestionably, something like a very serious defect in their system. According to their approved writers, the Deity does, indeed, possess the perfection of justice. But it is not that justice which does make an atonement by the real sufferings and real death of an outward mediator, indispensably necessary. The Deity, they teach, can pardon sin without such shedding of blood.* They admit that
* Penn, vol. ii. pp. 13, 529, 530, folio edition of his works, A, D. 1726.
"there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost." But from the variety, and the obscurity of their opinions, it is difficult to ascertain whether they follow the bare theory of Plato's triad; or embrace the modifications of this by Sabellius, or those of Socinus. But their trinity is not the trinity of the holy scriptures. They admit of no distinction between the sacred persons of the most Holy Trinity. They deny, in the most decided terms, that there are three distinct divine persons, equal in power and glory, united in the ONE GODHEAD. The word and the spirit are, in their system, the same thing; and these are, moreover, the Father--and they reject the word person from their system as altogether improper.*
II. Of the soul. On this subject they discover more clearly those opinions which distinguish them from every other sect of christians. "The soul," say they, "came out of God, and is of him, and is part of him." The soul of man, simply as such, is not the very essence of God. But as God "breathed into man the breath of life, and he became a living soul," it is of God, it is of his being; and that which comes out of God is a part of God.‡ And to illustrate his meaning, Penn quotes a Jewish expositor on Genesis ii. 17, and embodies his idea into their system. "God inspired man with something of his own substance. He bestowed something of his own divinity on him. He inspired him with the Holy Ghost."
The soul, which is "a part of God," is, by Christ, brought up again into God, whence it came, whereby they came to be one soul.|| Hence, at death, the soul and spirit of man is centred into its own being with God; and this form of person returns whence it is taken--into the essence and being of God.§
The soul being of this divine origin, possesses a measure of the spirit of God. "This divine principle is a divine light in
See a more full inquiry into this subject in chap. 7, part ii, following. Fox's Great Mystery, pp. 29, 91, 273, &c. ancient edit. Penn, vol. ii. p. 521. See also the Snake in the Grass," sec. 2.
Penn, vol. ii. p 521.
Fox's Great Myst. pp. 91, 100, 229, ancient edit.-and their rabbi, S. Fisher, who treated Doctor Owen as an illiterate rustic, has expressed the same opinion. See his "Velata quædam revelata," p. 13, and Penn's Defence of it, in vol. ii. p. 296.
§ Burroughs's Dying Words-See pref. to his works, fol. 1672, and Fox ut supra.
anan. This internal guide every man brings into the world with him. Man is fallen from his primitive dignity and excellence. In his body there is an evil seed or principle. This opposes with violence, and presses down the holy seed within. But if man, by proper means, does cultivate the holy seed, it will spring up: it illumines all within: it is the Christ in us who speaks in whispers; it teaches us all that is necessary to salvation: it purifies and elevates the soul to divinity. These means are not labour, nor study. Learning is useless and even hurtful. The means are solitude, silence, contemplation, and introversion. This last includes the suspension of carnal reason, and of wisdom, and of judgment: and thence the bending of the whole soul inward to the dictates of the holy light. During this mental labour the holy seed struggles with the evil seed: its success is, for a time, doubtful; at last it rises, in the power of God, over all opposition. This they call the sufferings of Christ--for Christ in them offers up a sacrifice to God for them.* Its success in rising over the corrupt nature is Christ's resurrection. By binding down the evil seed, or by hurling it out of the soul, it justifies us before God. In the same manner it sanctifies and elevates man to sinless perfection. This victory is, however, not easily obtained. The opposition created by the evil seed is often most violent. Hence the soul is filled with horror, and the body quakes and trembles as the leaf before the wind. Finally, the human body, composed of the gross materials of flesh and blood, is the prison of the soul in this world. But it is dissolved at death, and crumbles into dust. The soul then receives a subtle and luciform and etherial body, in which it shall exist forever: and hence there is no resurrection of the same body from the grave.t
§ 2. Notwithstanding the assertions of the Friends to the contrary, it has been constantly maintained by the learned, that the peculiar tenets of the Society are Platonic, or mystic. It is but justice to the Society to set the proofs before them, that they may judge if it be fairly made out.‡
* Smith's Catech. and Penn. ii. 410. Barcl, Quak. Confut. sec. 4.
† Penn, vol. ii. 298, 544, 896, &c. &c.
And no Friend can be displeased with the tracing of their tenets to
I. The Platonic system recognised the one supreme God; and it is probable that their inferior deities held the same rank and place in their system as the angels in their different orders hold in the system of divine truth. The accusation has been brought against Plato that his doctrine stript the Deity of some of his divine attributes. This charge, however, has not been made out. The sentiment of Plato respecting the invincible malignity of matter, which, according to him, the Supreme Deity could not conquer, did certainly derogate from the glory of his omnipotence: but he certainly did not remove that perfection from his idea of the divine nature; and did we even admit the full extent of this error, we should find that Plato's injury to that natural perfection of Deity is not to be placed on a level with that outrage which the leaders of the Society have offered to one of the moral perfections. Their sentiments on the atonement derogate from the glory of his justice. They deny that the claims of justice against the sinner, are so righteous that they never can, without a full satisfaction, be set aside. They do deny vindictive justice. They reduce its terrific nature to the level of human equity. They shut their eyes against the breadth and length, the depth and height of that guilt that aims its malignant force against infinite holiness and purity. They keep out of view those infinite obligations which man has violated; and by the violation of which he has contracted guilt of infinite malignity: and with a maudlin sentimentalism they aver, that if man can, without criminality, pardon an offence without a satisfaction, so may Divine Justice pardon; and so has Divine Justice pardoned human guilt without a satisfaction !*
With these exceptions the sentiments of the Society harmonize with those of Plato on this article. The unity of their sentiments is more striking on that of the triad. Plato held that there were three principles, or hypostases. The Father is the first; he is the one,† or God himself, strictly speaking. The second is the Logos, or Word, who made the world. The third is
this source, after the encomium passed on the Mystics by the Society in A. D. 1811. See the Vindication of the Quakers, Mosh. vol. iv. p. 293, edit. of 1821.
* Whitehead's Div. of Christ, p. 62, 63. Penn, ii. 13, 529, &c. †TO EN.
the Spirit, or Soul of the World. The first is the father of the second; and the second produced the third.* The Word and Spirit were considered by them as inferior to the Father. He never understood, he never taught the unity of essence in three persons. It is a melancholy fact that the same idea was adopted and persisted in by Penn. If there be any difference, the Society embrace this doctrine of Plato, as modified by Sabellius, or by Socinus.t
II. The ancient maxim of the philosophers, "De nihilo nihil,” --Nothing can come from nothing;--was never controverted by them: it was with them an axiom: it needed no proof. Even Plato had not a scruple on the subject. Human souls, were, therefore, not made out of nothing. Plato, in his Timæus, represents the great first cause in conjunction with the inferior deities, forming the inhabitants of the spheres. The immortal soul, which they called the divine seed, the seat of knowledge and wisdom, was an emanation of God, and was as pure as his own essence. He gave it in charge to the inferior gods to give man a spirit, or mortal soul; the seat of the passions and the desires. Heraclitus held that the Deity was a methodical fire, pervading the universe: and that souls of men were parts taken out of the universe; and in whatever manner expressed, this was one of the grand tenets of Platonism; that the divine essence or nature was diffused through every soul, so as to make them constituent parts of itself.T
Plato taught that the Great One created all human souls at once. He put them into light and subtile bodies. Besides this they have also luciform and etherial bodies.** These souls were placed, at first, in the spheres that roll in space. In that state of pre-existence each soul chose its guardian demon, who was to be in future its companion and guide.‡‡ These souls while ex
*Plat. Opera. 1011, 1012, and his 5 and 6 Lett. ad Dionys. ad Hermiam. Cudw. Intel. Syst. book i. chap. 4. and Grot. De Veritate Lib. 4. sec. 12. Penn's Sandy Found. and vol. ii. ad initium.
Virg. Æn. vi. ver. 731.
$ Plat. Tim. and Ogilvy's Theol. Plat. p. 105. Cudw. Intel. Syst. i. 51. 4to. mihi.
"Animas que nostras partem esse cœli." Plin. Lib. ii. cap. 26. Proclus in Timæum and Plato in his Epinomis. Cudw. Int. Syst. p. 788. Virg. Æn. vi. v. 702.
Plato in Timæo, & Phæd. and Virg. Æn. vi. ver. 730.