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step in this direction until, at least, I had seen the successful essays, and was in a position to judge for myself whether they had fully exhausted the subject or not. As I did not obtain copies of these till the end of December, and as some time longer must have elapsed before I could make arrangements for publishing, while several of the other essays had already appeared, I concluded that the public curiosity must have been more than satisfied by the number and variety already in print, and abandoned any idea I might have entertained of adding one to their number. But learning more recently that a second edition of each of the prize essays had been called for in the course of two or three months from the time of their first appearance, I was led to believe that the number of those interested in the subject was greater than I had supposed; and that, if two volumes so different in their whole mode of viewing the subject were extensively read, some might be willing still to look into others, even though without the prestige of a prize.
In the circumstances, I have thought it best to publish the essay as it was written, with only such verbal alterations as seemed necessary to bring out more distinctly the meaning. But I would have the reader to bear in mind that it was written more than eighteen months ago, at a time when I had not the acquaintance of a single member of the Society of Friends, and when I had some difficulty in obtaining access to the proper sources of information on the subject, or even in learning what these sources were. Were I now to re-write it, there are points on which I would be disposed to modify its statements. For instance, I think there is reason to believe that the course of the Society's history has not been quite so stationary as the essay assumes, but that there has been (as represented by the author of the Peculium) a gradual tending towards opinions which, as a whole, are characterised by the expression, “ modern evangelical.” As a consequence, and, in part, also a cause of this, it may be allowed (as is brought out in Quakerism, Past and Present), that increased attention has been paid, of late years, to the study of the Scriptures; and that, in the minds of many Friends, these occupy very much the same place as they do with other professing Christians. So again, in regard to some of the doctrines which have been commented on, the strictures which are here passed upon the views of Friends do not apply to some of their more recent writers, the doctrines of imputation and justification, as I have represented them, being set forth or implied in the writings of Joseph John Gurney, and others. And neither has there been such an absolute lack of missionary zeal in later times as the essay takes for granted, as appears from the history of such men as Samuel Capper. To this extent, therefore, I would be willing to modify my statements, so as to guard them against being supposed to imply anything like a general charge against modern Friends, either of neglect of Scripture study, or denial of justification by faith, with its collateral doctrines.
But, while cheerfully making these admissions, the main argument of this work will still, I believe, hold good. The fact remains, that the Society has been losing in numbers and influence, and the question to be answered is, How is this to be accounted for? My answer is, that it is to be traced in a large measure to the views and practices of the early Friends themselves, coupled with the circumstance that their successors have professed their attachment to, and cordial approval of, the same views and practices. My position is, that the germ, at least, of false doctrine, is to be found in the writings of the early Friends, and that it has borne fruit in some of those desolating heresies which have swept over the Society's borders. I do not say that the writers from whom I quote would have countenanced the proceedings of those who have separated from Friends. What I maintain is, that they have afforded such only too plausible a pretext for their conduct, by the mixture of old leaven contained in their own works.
That there is a want of explicitness in some points in the writings of the early Friends is admitted by the reviewer of Quakerism, Past and Present, in the Friend for First Month 1860. “In one respect,” he says, "we should be prepared to go further than our author has done, in tracing up some of the causes of our weakness to the
early Friends' themselves. We allude to certain modes of expression to be found in their writings, in reference more especially to the person and work of the Lord Jesus, and the offices of His Spirit, which appear to us to be more or less at variance with the simple truths of holy Scripture. J. S. R. admits that the inward and spiritual offices of Christ were magnified by them at the expense of His outward appearance, as Jesus of Nazareth, and of His atoning offering for sin. But this was not all: the doctrine of the Spirit's influence was at times so stated, as apparently to ignore the representation made to us in Scripture of the great distinction between the converted and the unconverted—between those in whose hearts the Lord Jesus knocks by the power of His Spirit as a guest at the door, and those who, having opened the door, have known Him to come in and hold free communion with them. The same sort of ambiguity existed, at times, in the manner of stating the grounds on which the repentant sinner is to rest his hope of acceptance and forgiveness.”
The views expressed more or less throughout this essay, and more especially in Chapter IV., are very much an expansion of the ideas contained in these words. As a safeguard against the accruing evils, the writer just quoted suggests one remedy at which I had binted: “If the question be raised, “What can the Society do to prevent a recurrence of such mistakes ?' we answer, let it cease to publish at its own cost the writings of any of its individual members, ancient or modern. We would have such a rule applied equally to the works of Fox, Penn, and Barclay, and to those of Joseph John Gurney, and others who have written in later times.”—(The Friend, First Month, 1860.) So long as the writings of the early Friends are issued by the authority, and published with the sanction, of the Society, it is fair to regard these as containing the views of the Society, and to judge it by them. If individual members who have been brought much in contact
with those of other persuasions evince a leaning to sounder and more Scriptural views, it may still be assumed that the works which are regarded as the standards of opinion and practice have influenced in some measure the history of the body. And, to the extent to which these can be proved to be weak or erroneous, may they be regarded as accounting for weakness or decline in the Society.
But this cause would not, probably, have told so powerfully on the prosperity of the Society, were it not for the existence of another along with it—the disposition which Friends latterly have manifested to depart from, or hold more loosely, their testimony in favour of a purely spiritual religion. The operation of this cause has served, in a manner, to counterbalance any advantage which modern Friends might have been supposed otherwise to possess over their predecessors, in point of doctrinal accuracy. Any changes which have come over the tone and feelings of the Society, or of individual members of it, have not been an unmixed good, such changes being in the direction of an undiscriminating approximation to the views of other sections of the Protestant Church, and not a real building upon the foundation laid by the early Friends. With modern evangelical views on the doctrines of justification and the atonement, there has come a disposition to look with more favour also upon modern evangelical views of Sabbaths and Sacraments. Thus the line of demarcation has become less marked between Friends and others, the reasons for the Society's separate existence have become less obvious, and the step is made easier from within its borders to without.
It is partly as suggesting an explanation of this latter cause that I have dwelt at such length on what I must consider as one of the most important aspects of the question—the interpretation of types. One reason why Friends seem more favourably disposed (or, at least, less strenuously opposed) to the ritual in religion, is, to my mind, furnished in the fact that they have not worked out the spiritual equivalents of the institutions and history of Israel of old. Had they been ever bringing out of their treasure things
"new as well as “old,” unrolling the chart of events, giving a spiritual interpretation to the facts and incidents of Old Testament history, they would have been more impressed with the truth of that Scripture—“The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life,”—while they would, at the same time, have manifested real progress, and in the right direction. But to this subject, as well as to that last treated of in these pages--the practical peculiarities of Friends—it is not necessary in this place to do more than simply to advert.
Bearing in mind that what I have written can be blessed only in so far as it accords with His mind who is the Truth, I have only to request of the reader a candid perusal, and that I may be judged by the motto I have placed at the head of the essay—“Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.”
EDINBURGH, April 1860.