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Third trait is, that they do not temporize, ör do
that, which they lelieve to le improper as a body of Christians--subjects, in which this trait is conspicuous—Civil oaths--Holy or conseerated days -War-Tithes--Language-Address Public Illuminations-Utility of this trait to their cha
racter, It is a third trait in the character of the Quakers, that they refuse to do whatever, as a religious body, they believe to be wrong. .
I shall have no occasion to state any of the remarks of the world to show their belief of the existence of this good quality, nor to apply to circumstances within the constitution of the Quakers to confirm it. The trait is almost daily conspicuous in some subject or another. It is kept alive by their discipline. It is known to all who know them. I shall satisfy myself, therefore, with a plain historical relation concerning it.
It has been an established rule with them, from the formation of their Society, not to temporize, or to violate their consciences;
or, in other words, not to do that, which as a body of Christians they believe to be wrong, though the usages of the world, or the Government of the country under which they live, should require it; but rather to submit to the frowns and indignation of the one, and the legal penalties annexed to their disobedience by the other. This suffering, in preference of the violation of their consciences, is what they call “ the bearing of their testimony," or a demonstration to the world, by the “ testimony of their own example,” that they consider it to be the duty of Christians rather to suffer, than have any concern with that, which they conceive to be evil.
The Quakers, in putting this principle into practice, stand, I believe, alone ; for I know of no other Christians, who as a body pay this homage to their scruples, or who determine upon an ordeal of suffering, in preference of a compromise with their ease and safety *
* The Moravians, I believe, protest against war upon scriptural grounds. But how far in this, or in any other case, they bear a testimony, like the Quakers, by suffering, I do not know.
: The subjects, in which this trait is conspicupus, are of two kinds: first, as they relate to things enjoined by the Government; and, secondly, as they relate to things enjoined by the customs or fashions of the world,
In the first case there was formerly much. more suffering than there is at present, though the Quakers still refuse a compliance with as many injunctions of the law as they did in their early times.
It has been already stated, that they refused, from the very institution of their Society, to take a civil oath. The sufferings, which they underwent in consequence,
have been explained also. But happily, by the indulgence of the Legislature, they are no longer persecuted for this scruple, though they still persevere in it, their affirmation having been made equal to an oath in most civil cases. . It has been stated, again, that they protested against the religious observance of many of those days, which the Government of the country from various considerations had ordered to be kept as holy. In conse, quence of this they were grievously oppressed in the early times of their history. For
when their shops were found open on Christmag-day, and on Good Friday, and on the different Fast-days, which had been appointed, they were taken up and punished by the magistrates on the one hand, and in.sulted and beaten by the people on the other. But, notwithstanding this ill usage, they persevered as rigidly in the non-observance of particular days and times, as in their noncompliance with oaths, and they still persevere in it. It does not appear, however, that the bearing of their testimony in this case is any longer a source of much vexation or trouble to them ; for though the Government of the country still sanctions the consecration of particular days, and the great majority of the people join in it, there seems to have been a progressive knowledge or civilization in both, which has occasioned them to become tender on account of this singular de viation from their own practice.
But though they have been thus relieved by the Legislature, and by the more mild and liberal disposition of the people, from 80 much suffering in bearing their testimony on the two occasions, which have been mentioned ; yet there are others, where
the laws of Government are concerned, on which they find themselves involved in a struggle between the violation of their consciences and a state of suffering, and where unfortunately there is no remedy at hand, without the manifestation of greater partiality towards them than it may be supposed an equal administration of justice to all would warrant.
The first of these occasions is, when military service is enjoined. The Quakers, when drawn for. the militia, refuse either to serve, or to furnish substitutes. For this refusal they come under the cognisance of the laws. Their property, where they have any, is of course distrained upon, and a great part of a little substance is sometimes taken from them on this account. Where they have not distrainable property, which is occasionally the case, they never fly, but submit to the known punishment, and go patiently to prison. The Legislature, however, has not been inattentive to them even upon this occasion; for it has limited their confinement to three months. The Government also of the country afforded lately, in a case in which they were concerned, an example of