« PreviousContinue »
As to the Holy Scriptures, they only consist of let ters, words, and sentences, which, being void of life, cannot have a sufficient degree of efficacy and power, to enlighten the human mind unto salvation. The only advantage, which, in their opinion, results from the perusal of them, is this, that “they excite “ the mind” to hearken to the “ internal word,” and exhort it to go to the school of Christ, who teaches effectually “ within.” The Gospel is a certain pow. “ er or nature within all men," not divine sentiments or truths, and the Bible must be considered by us, as a mute master, who, by signs and figures, points out and discovers
the living master, or “ internal” effectual guide: This, now, reader, without disguise, or at least, any intended misrepresentation, is the very foul and life of Quakerism.
It opens, you must confess, a large field to the imagination and fancy. With the fanguine, the first self-approving thought will be termed the testimony “ of the Spirit," or the kind and forgiving voice of the divine and “inward word.” But Wo, Wo, Wo, to the self-diffident and melancholy! Their “ day of “ Grace is over :" All is dark, totally dark, within them! They strive to acquire the injoined “stillness," or absence from thought; but, like their shadow, it flies from them, whenever they attempt to embrace it. Being told that the Bible contains nothing for their relief, any farther than it points out that to them ♡ within,” which can alone be their comfort and fal. tion, their perusing it, with this most dangerous prejudice upon their minds, will rather increase their misery than give them confolation.
Yet, I acknowledge, there is fomething in this scheme, generally soothing to the pride and vanity of the human heart. For it allows its votaries to talk much in the affecting strains of inward devotion; which people of all persuaficns will admit to be neceffary.
Here the words “inward life," “ power,” “ light,”
Yet, however pleafing this scheme may be to diftreffed men, if the New Testament be divine, and has any plain meaning, it is most affuredly a very dangerous delusion; though it proposes a method of relief, with which most sinners will be at first delighted, because it puts them upon a wonderful work of mortification and restraint, and leads then to think most reverently of the “ throne” of their hearts, or, the inward franie of their minds ; yet, if it be contrary to or different from the mind and will of the Son of God, as it was taught by his inspired fervants, it will, in the iffue of things, be attended with a dreadful disappoint
We confess it inay be an effectual bar against outward Idolatry, but whether it does not set up a most abominable Idol within, deserves well to be con-' fidered,
When once a person has acquired, under the influence of this felf-approving plan, any tolerable fatiffaction and peace of inind, there is, I seriously think, just reason to fear, that he becomes, like a convert of the Pharisees, “two-fold more the child of hell than," Matt. xxiii, 15. he was before. His ears are shut,
and his heart hardened against the gracious declarations of the Gospel, concerning an outward Chrift, who is now " at the right hand of God," and is the same Saviour that was preached by the Apostles : yea, the goodnews of the New Testament itself, is treated by him, as a dead letter and trifling report, which inay be believed without receiving much comfort, or Perverted and rejected without much hazard or loss.
The profeffor, who is powerfully impreffed with the delusion I am speaking against, will readily reject outward ordinances, though practised by the New Testament. Christians, numbers of years after the effusion of the Holy Ghost, and by all Christians, of whatever fect, before the appearance of George Fox. Every flight of fancy, which is pleafing, will be reckoned by him the sublime discovery of the Holy Ghost; and inflated with an imaginary superiority, he will treat the Christians with folemn censure and pharifaical contempt, whose hope, experience, and conduct, are founded upon the plain import of a written revelation.
To Thew the reader, what a taste there was for this mystical kind of religion, in the last age, and what a different effect the " god within” of several noted enthusiasts had upon their principles and conduct, I will give him a short account of two or three of them:
“ Michael de Molinos,” in his “ Spiritual Guide," Ch. 1. taught, that, “ the soul was the centre habi«« tation and kingdom of God, which he will inhabit 6 and discover himself in, when it is pacified;" that “ the way to pacify it, is for a person to enter into «? himselt, by means of internal recollection, and in « order to obtain internal recollection, there must be “ three kinds of silence acquired, a filence of words, “ of desires, and of thoughts.”
But it does not appear, that the author's soul was ever so pacified, as for God to discover to him the
impropriety of holding communion with the corrupt church of Rome : Nor was he influenced, by “ the “ Deity within” him, to die as a martyr for his principles rather than recant them; for, in consequence of the cruel artifice and influence of the Jesuits, he was forced publickly to renounce thein as errors. It was computed that he had millions of followers, which is not at all surprizing, when we consider how well his book was calculated to engage, foften, and enrap:ure, the ignorant and devout mind.
With some improvement of the priest's plan, follows the celebrated virgin, “ Madam Bourignon” * She imagined, that “ religion consisted in a certain in“ ward impulse and sensation of mind, which arose “ from communion with the Deity, and not in know“ ledge and practice :" Yet, her inward impulses, and supposed heavenly sensations, thut up her heart, and those of her followers, against the moving calls of the necessitous poor, and besides this, induced her to write against the Quakers, for neglecting baptism and the Lord's supper uf. She, however, was fully perfuaded, that she was, in an extraordinary manner, in. spired by the Deity; and one of her learned followers was of the fame opinion, for he affirmed of his fpiritual mother, that “ he no more doubted of her being “ inspired of God, than he did of his own existence."
In the same century “ John Labbadie" distinguished himself, by founding a new sect. The translator of Molheim's ecclefiaftical history informs us, in a note, that some of his principal opinions were, that “ the holy scripture was not sufficient to lead men to
salvation, without certain particular illuminations “ and revelations from the Holy Ghoft;" that “ in
See her Lux Mundi. + The English translator of her Lux Mundi, tells us, p 13. tha: “ she wrote against the Quakers. upon these two points particularly, of the respect due to Paftor , and the Sacr. ments.
“ reading the Scriptures, we ought to give less atten« tion to the literal sense of the words, than to the “ inward suggestion of the Spirit, and that the faithful “ ought to have all things in common :" “ These sen« timents,” he tells us, “ were collected from the “ writings of Labbadie."
Mollerus, as quoted by the translator, reports, that Barclay, and Keith, were sent by their brethren to Amsterdam, to examine his doctrine, and if they approved it, to receive himn into communion : They offered to admit him, but he refused to join them, Penn, it is said by the fame author, made a second attempt, to gain over the Labbadists to the Quakers, but with no better fuccefs.
Passing over many others, we next turn our thoughts to “ George Fox," who, in the fame age, comes forward to the world, boldly affirming, “ he was, in « an extraordinary manner, commiffioned by God, to « publish his fingular notions to mankind;" at the same time, treating with pharisaical contempt, the religious professors of his day, deeming them all ander “ dreadful ignorance and darkness.”
His spirit being more uncivil and less courtly than that which influenced most other enthusiasts, he pretended to have received a message from Heaven, to “ drop all the common forms of falutation, and to « affect a mode of speech, different from that which
was used by the generality of mankind; and a con“formity to it, was made a neceffary mark of disciple“ fhip, in his followers." The particular sentiments which he taught concerning other subjects of religion, we have elsewhere mentioned, so that we need not repeat them here.
Upon the whole, we see, all these pretended reformers and heads of sects agreeing in this, that they were to Le governed by the immediate influence of the Deity “within them," or by the motion or inward fug