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plan proposed, to show, by means of the peculiar system of the Quakers as a religious body, that this is one of the traits given them by the world, which cannot be otherwise than true.
The members of this Society believe, in the first place, that the Spirit of God, acting in man, is one of the causes of virtuous character. They believe it to be, of all others, the purest and sublimest source. It is that spring, they conceive, to good action, and of course to exalted character, in which man can have none but a passive concern. It is neither hereditary nor factitious. It can neither be perpetuated in generation by the father to the child, nor be given by human
It is considered by them as the great and distinguishing mark of their calling. Neither dress, nor language, nor peculiar customs, constitüte the Quaker, but the spiritual knowledge which he
possesses.. Hence all pious men may be said to have belonged to this Society. Hence the Patriarchs were Quakers ; that is, because they professed to be led by the Spirit of God. Hence the Apostles and primitive Christians were Quakers. Hence the virtuous among the Heathens,
who knew nothing of Christianity, were Quakers also. Hence Socrates may be ranked in profession with the members of this com, munity. He believed in the agency of the Divine Spirit. It was said of him, “ that he had the guide of his life within him ; that this Spirit furnished him with divine knowledge; and that it often impelled him to address and exhort the people.” Justin the Martyr had no scruple in calling both Socrates and Heraclitus Christians, though they lived long before Christ; “ for all such as these,” says he, “who lived according to the Divine Word within them, and which Word was in all men, were Christians.” Hence also, since the introduction of Christianity, many of our own countrymen have been Quakers, though undistinguished by the exterior: mark of dress or language. Among these we may reckon the great
and venerable Milton. His works are full of the senti, ments of Quakerism*. And hence, in other
* Milton considered the Spirit of God as a divine teacher: he maintained also that the Scriptures were not to be spiritually understood but by the means of this Spirit. He believed also, that human learning was not necessary for the qualification of a Minister of the Gospel. And he wrote an Essay agażnst Tithes.
countries and in other ages, there have been men, who might be called Quakers, though the word Quakerism was unknown to them.
But independently of the agency of the Spirit of God, which the individuals of this Society thus consider to be the purest cause of a good life and character, we may reckon a subordinate cause,
be artificial, and within the contrivance and wisdom of man. When the early Quakers met together as a religious body, though they consisted of spiritually-minded men, they resolved on a system of discipline, which should be fol lowed by those who became members with them. This discipline we have already seen. We bave seen how it attempts to secure obedience to Christian precepts; how it marks its offences; how it takes cognisance of them when committed ; how it tries to reclaim and save :-how, in short, by endeavouring to keep up the members of the Society to a good life, it becomes instrumental in the production or preservation of a good character.
From hence it will appear that the virtue of the Quakers, and of course their character, may be distinguished into two kinds,
as arising from two sources. It may arise from spiritual knowledge on the one hand, or from their discipline on the other. That, which arises from the first, will be a perfect virtue. It will produce activity in excellence. That, which arises from the second, will be inferior and sluggish. But, however it may be subject to this lower estimation, it will always be able to produce for those, who have it, a certain degree of moral reputation in the opinion of the world.
These distinctions having been made as to the sources of virtuous character, there will be no difficulty in showing that the world has not been deceived in the point in question. For if it be admitted that the Divine Spirit, by means of its agency on the heart of man, is really a cause of virtuous character, it will then be but reasonable to suppose that the Quakers, who lay themselves open for its reception more than others, both by frequent private retirements, and by their peculiar mode of public worship, should bear at least as fair a reputation as others on account of the purity of their lives. But the discipline, which is unquestionably a guardian of morals, is peculiar to them2
selves. Virtue is therefore kept up in the Society by an extraordinary cause, or by a cause, which does not act among many other bodies of men. It ought therefore to be expected, while this extraordinary cause exists, that an extraordinary result should follow; or that more will be kept apparently virtuous among the Quakers, in proportion to their numbers, than among those, where no such discipline can be found; or, in other words, that whenever the Quakers are compared with those of the world at large, they will obtain the reputation of a Moral People.