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ship, they do no detriment to others. They believe, however, that Christian churches may admonish such members as fall into error, and may even cut them off from membership; but this must be done, not by the temporal but by the spiritual sword.
This tenet they support, first, by reason. Religion, they say, is a matter solely between God and man; that is, between God and that man who worships him. This must be obvious, they conceive, because man is not accountable to man for his religious opinions, unless he binds himself to the discipline of any religious Society, but to God alone. It must be obvious again, they say, because no man can be a judge over the conscience of another. He can know nothing of the sincerity or hypocrisy of his heart. He can be neither an infallible judge, nor an infallible corrector of his religious errors.
« The conscience of man,” says Barclay, “is the seat and throne of God in him, of which He alone is the
and infallible judge, who by his power and Spirit can rectify its mistakes.” It must be obvious again, they say, from the consideration that, if it were even possible for one
man to discern the conscience of another, it is impossible for him to bend or to control it. But conscience is placed both out of his sight and of his reach. It is neither visible nor tangible. It is inaccessible by stripes or torments. Thus, while the body is in bondage on account of the religion of the soul, the soul itself is free; and, while it suffers under torture, it enjoys the Divinity, and feels felicity in his presence. But if all these things are so, it cannot be within the province either of individual magistrates, or of governments consisting of fallible men, to fetter the consciences of those, who may live under them. And any attempt to this end is considered by the Quakers as a direct usurpation of the prerogative of God.
This tenet they adopt, again, on a contemplation of the conduct and doctrines of Jesus Christ and of his Apostles. They find nothing in these, which can give the least handle to any man to use force in the religious concerns of another. During the life of Jesus Christ upon earth, it is no where recorded of him, that he censured any man for his religion. It is true that he reproved the Scribes and Pharisees ; but this was on account of their hypocrisy, because they pretended to be what they were not. But he no where condemned the devout Jew, who was sincere in his faith. But if he be found no where to have censured another for a difference in religious opinion, much less was it ever said of him, that he forced him to the adoption of his own. In the memorable instance, in which James and John were willing to call fire from heaven to burn those, who refused to receive him, he rebuked them by an assurance, that “ they knew not what Spirit they were of.” And with respect to his doctrine, nothing can be more full to the point than his
saying, that “his kingdom was not of this world ;" by which he meant, that his dominion was wholly of a spiritual nature, and that men must cast off all worldly imaginations, and become spiritually-minded, before they could belong to him. But no application of outward force, in the opinion of this Society, can thus alter the internal man. Nor can even the creeds and doctrines of others produce this effect, except they become sanctioned by the divine influence on the heart.
Neither Neither is it recorded of
of the Apostles, that they used any
than those of persuasion and the power of God in the propagation of their doctrines, leaving such as did not choose to follow them to their own way. They were explicit also in stating the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, from whence an inference similar to the former is deducible; namely, that no compulsory interference can be effectual in matters of religion. And St. Paul in pariicular tells the Corinthians, that, in his spiritual services to them, he does not consider himself “ as having any dominion over their faith, but as a helper of their joy*.
But if neither Jesus Christ, who was the author of that religion which many
Civil Governments have established, nor the Apostles, who afterwards propagated it, forced their doctrines upon
men, or hindered them by force from worshipping in their own manner, even though the former could have called legions of angels to his support,it certainly does not become weak, ignorant, and fallible men, because they are placed in the situation of governors, to set up their
2 Cor. i. 24.
own creeds as supreme, and to throw penalties and restrictions in the
of the religious exercise of others.
But if governors, contrary to the example of Jesus Christ and of his Apostles, should interfere in religious matters, and impose laws
upon the governed, of which as Christians they cannot but disapprove,—then the Quakers are of opinion that the governed ought always to obey the laws of Jesus Christ, rather than the laws of any governors, who are only men. Thus, when Peter and John were commanded by the rulers of the Jews to speak no more in the name of Jesus, they dared not yield obedience to their commands, reasoning thus: “ Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye*.”
And as the governed, in such case, ought, in obedience to God the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and the King of kings, to refuse a compliance with the laws of their own governors, so they ought to be prepared patiently to submit to the penalties, which are annexed to such a refusal ; and on no account (if just representations made
* Acts iv. 19.