Page images
PDF
EPUB

GENERAL EPISTLE

Of the Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends, to the Yearly and other Meetings with which we are in correspondence, and to the lovers of Truth and Progress wherever located.

Beloved Friends :—We prize very highly the privilege of correspond. ing with sincere and earnest minds who, like ourselves, are impressed that religion divorced from humanity is a scourge to the human race.

We are animated in receiving your words of cheer and encouragement. We say to you in turn, worh on! Let your faith be exhibited by deeds of mercy and love. Multitudes have yet to learn the nobility there is in labor. When they receive the Divine anointing, they will learn, through obedience to Divine laws, that labor is an ordinance of Heaven for the elevation of man. Experience satisfies us that the anti-sectarian character of our association is a constant source of vitality. Our distinctive idea we have found it useful to repeat. Theology is not religion. Bockinger, a learned French writer, said of Sakia, the reformer among the Hindoos, " he did not invent a system altogether new. lie merely pronounced strongly and clearly, that which many of his cotemporaries had obscurely felt. He made himself the representative of opposition to Brahrninism which had existed some time among them." So it was with us at the beginning of our movement. We set forth our conviction "that Churches, however high their pretensions of authority derived from God, are only human organiza. tions and the repositories of only such powers as may have been rightfully conferred upon them by the individuals of whom they are composed, or derived from the laws of our social nature;" that " too long have the common people been deluded with the idea, that the Church holds a mysterious organic relation to the Infinite—a relation distinct from that existing between the soul and its Creator, and conferring special powers and prerogatives;" that "no error has done more than this to debase and enslave the mind of man, to fetter his godlike powers, and make him the ready instrument of superstition and priestcraft;" that "this is the most vicious element of Popery, from which our Protestant sects are not yet delivered." Time only proves to us that we were not alone in these views, but that they had been pondered in the hearts of many, who only waited an opportunity to express them.

We should be humble and grateful for the privilege of living and working in the present period of the world's History. We hope to be preserved from a spirit of egotism, for the most devoted and earnest lover of truth has contributed but very little towards producing the present great awakening. The hand of a child may set in motion a rock

* Want of room compels us to omit several letters and to abbreviate others.

nicely balanced on the edge of a precipice. The rock may be thrown from its place and hurled with irresistible velocity into the valley below. Thus Divine truths are sometimes poised so nicely that comparatively insignificant means may hurl them with powerful effect upon the head of error. But as the rock finds the valley from its own intrinsic weight, and not from the feeble power which set it in motion, so does truth reach its result, not from the feeble band by which it is wielded, but by its own inherent mighty power. We respond to the sentiments of a beloved correspondent* who said to us, "We are in the midst of the most important era in the life of Christianity: neither the period when it detached itself from the Jewish ritual under the leadership of Paul, nor the time when it shook off the scarlet cloak of Rome by the strong arm of Luther, were crises so important as ours, when it is slowly and painfully disengaging itself from the creeds and ceremonies that were the natural expression of middle age culture, and clothing itself anew in the forms of thought and life appropriate to a world already made a family by the telegraph, and modified in all its habits by an advancing intelligence and freedom."

Our Meeting this year has been large beyond all precedent. We have had the acceptable presence and cooperation of a number of well-known and beloved co-laborers, among them Theodore Parker, Charles 0. Burleigh, Andrew Jackson Davis and Mary F. Davis.

On the first day the house was densely crowded, and thousands who could not gain access stood in the yard, and were addressed from the vestibule. The immense crowd, all standing, gave earnest attention.

Our Committee on Education reported, in substance, that in consequence of the late financial pressure, they had been unable to take any definite steps towards the organization of a seminary of learning; but they were united in the opinion that the contemplated institution should preserve the family relations and character sufficiently to secure the pupils from those immoral influences and violations of physiological laws which so frequently undermine the moral purity and the physical health of the students in our Colleges and Universities.

Our Committee appointed last year for the purpose of holding meetings, produced a very satisfactory and encouraging report. Conventions held by them in divers places, were often attended by overflowing numbers, who invariably gave kind and courteous audience to the anti-sectarian and reformatory sentiments which were uttered. We have appointed a new and larger Committee this year.

The Committee on Testimonies produced reports on Slavery, Caste, Coequality of Woman, War, Tobacco, Intemperance, Sectarianism, Revivals, Treatment of Criminals, and Education, which were adopted.

The discussion upon some of these questions was interesting and very profitable. We also agreed to publish a very able and lucid paper on Public Worship, by Charles K. Whipple, of Boston.

With salutations of love, we are your friends.

Joseph A. Dugdale, 1 •
Oliver Johnson, > Clerks.
Sidney Peieoe Cuktis, J

[ocr errors]

FKOM THE WATERLOO YEARLY MEETING.

Your epistle was received and read in our meeting, and greeted by us as an expression of fraternal feeling from those, distant personally, but near in spirit—natural, spontaneous, and therefore mutually pleasant and advantageous.

We are glad to hear of the success of your gathering; to know that while there is no lowering of tone, no compromise of truth, no concealment of views for policy's sake, no putting aside of agitating questions to preserve a false peace, but frank, free speaking, "right out and right on," increasing numbers are with you. Parties and sects seek numbers and popularity as " first things." To gain them, Truth must hourly be crucified, like Christ of old, between two thieves. Platform and creed must embody only what is established, honored, and therefore authoritative. Thought must be fettered, lest it stray outside the pale of respectability; words of frank rebuke, ideas springing up, fresh and inspiring from the heart, questionings in regard to life's great duties and the occasions of today, must be hushed to soft whispers and soon silenced, lest the walls of some little Zion fall, and free humanity walk with rude step over the ruins.

So children build houses of paper cards, fancying them lasting wood and stone, yet fearfully rear them in some corner, lest the wind shall puff away their frail walls.

It is not for us to imitate such poor example. Men and women must "put away childish things," and be strong, free, kind, wise and brave; must gladly come together, and welcome each honest word, whether it utters their precise thought or not; must have such grand faith in Truth as to know that it will flourish in a free atmosphere, since, by its inherent power, it has lived and triumphed despite of dungeon, rack and fetter, and even gained victories over the subtle blandishments of ease and wealth, so enervating and dangerous.

As the priests of old exorcised the foul fiend with "bell, book and candle," even so must we, by the mightier spell of frank words, coming from bravely earnest souls, cast out of our meetings that timid fear of rebuking popular and powerful wrongs, that weak sensitiveness which shrinks from meeting and questioning new ideas, that dread of a thorough speaking of truth, endorse or condemn who or what it may, so common among men. If numbers are with us in this, it is well; if not, we are strong, though few, (better far than to be weak, though many,) and in time shall move the world.

Our meeting opened Sunday morning, amidst clouds and rain, with a good audience, largely increased in the afternoon, and to the last day a goodly number were present, although the weather was unpropitious.

Men and women came, endeavoring to think freely, to speak and hear candidly. We were favored with the presence of those gifted with persuasive eloquence of speech. Many, too, whose feelings found no utterance, were eloquent at heart, and their presence and influence helped to create that moral magnetism, that blending of souls so sweetly pleasant, so deeply felt, so well described in that quaintly expressive phrase of the early Friends as a "precious covering" over our meeting.

During the first day Jacob Dickinson, of Oswego County, Oliver Johnson, Philip D. Moore, Aaron M. Powell, G. B. Stebbins and others spoke.

Andrew Jackson Davis made some very suggestive remarks on the power, vitality, and immortality of great ideas. Freedom from arbitrary authority, obedience to the soul's highest demands, the blessed privileges and enjoyments of true Freedom, were prominent subjects, the interest increasing until a late hour of adjournment.

The second day slavery, the sacredness of true marriage, the evils woman suffers as wifo and mother under our laws, customs, and false views, occupied attention. Mary F. Davis made some feeling, eloquent, and able remarks on the last subject.

A paper from Elizabeth 0. Stanton, clear and valuable, on the same subject, was also read by Susan B. Anthony, who the next day gave an excellent address in favor of the joint education of the sexes.

Some difference of opinion existed as to some parts of a testimony against slavery; after discussion, a majority expressed themselves in its favor, other topics were taken up with unity and interest; thus are we learning to agree to disagree.

On the third day, War, Intemperance, the prevalent false views of Inspiration and Authority, were also spoken of as evils to be remedied.

The more advanced and rational class of teachings of the Harmonial or Spiritual views and ideas, were commended as worthy of acceptation, with the wise discrimination those teachings themselves enjoin. An Oberlin student read a document against infidelity. Lucy A. Coleman, Mr. Shattuck, and several others occupied the time, which was so limited that many subjects were passed over.'

We are encouraged by the feeling that in sustained interest, in varied ability of speech, in a prevailing sentiment that it was indeed "good for us to be here "—as well as in numbers—this meeting surpassed previous ones, pleasant as they had been.

The genial hospitality of friends in the vicinity was truly pleasant.

Accept our heartfelt wish that your partings from your meetings at their close, may be, as were ours, with the trust that your souls have been fed and strengthened, and that truly religious influences have been around you.

We close with an expression of cordial desire for the growth of Love, Wisdom and Harmony among you.

In behalf of Waterloo Yearly Meeting of Friends of Human Progress.

Deeply recognizing the friendly feeling which prompted the fraternal communication from the last Yearly Meeting of the Progressive Friends of Pennsylvania, the friends of Human Progress of Michigan, in Yearly Meeting assembled at Battle Creek, are glad to send you our God-speed in return.

Our Second Yearly Meeting was held in Battle Creek, on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th days of October last. Its proceedings were of great interest, and were characterized by general harmony and hearty co-working in all humanly useful and elevating endeavors.

Resolutions were passed embodying the highest ideal of the friends on nearly all the subdivisions of Progress, and the following subjects were discussed.

The principle of Freedom, without distinction of color, was presented

[merged small][graphic][merged small]

by Sojourner Truth, Martin, a fugitive slave, Charles C. Burleigh and Parker Pillsbury; its discussion occupied fully one-third of the ten sessions of the "i'early Meeting, and many views were advanced which were new to many of the friends who were assembled.

The principle of Freedom, without distinction of sex, was earnestly represented by Mary F. Davis. The interest which was manifested promises well for the speedy alteration of the law of our State, a full recognition and guarantee of Woman's Right of Property and of Suffrage. Besides the address of Mrs. Davis, delivered on Sunday, and before an audience so large that it could be accommodated under no roof in the place, a communication was read from the pen of H. F. M. Brown, of Cleveland, which was well received.

The principle of Freedom of the Public Lands was set forth by friend Pease, of Cincinnati, whose address was characterized by great benevolence and earnestness.

The principle of Freedom of Religious Opinion was ably vindicated by a communication from friend Charles K. Whipple, of Boston.

A resolution calling for a better system of Education, especially for women, elicited much interest and many suggestions for improvement.

It was resolved that the introduction of so-called modern Spiritualism had promoted human progress, physically and spiritually. Friend Hewitt claimed that Spiritualism embraced all other reforms, and Mary F. Davis gave an address on its uses and abuses.

Harmonial Philosophy, the new Era in which Power,Wisdom and Love are united, was represented by its apostle, Andrew Jackson Davis.

The Unity in Diversity of all things in the Universe,—especially of Religions, and of all movements for the amelioration of the condition of the Race,—-was the subject of addresses from Chas. 0. Burleigh and Charlotte M. Beebe.

From the first session until the last, the attendance was undiminished and the interest unabated. A large number of persons were present from Wisconsin, Blinois and the remote towns of Michigan. The success of this meeting leads us to hope that we shall be able to send you reports of meetings of increasing interest for years and years to come, until the special subjects of our present discussion shall have been rendered obsolete by the advance of civilization, and be superseded by higher and still higher ranges of truth.

C. M. Bekbb, Secretary.

FROM NORTH COLLINS (n. T.) YEARLY MEETING.

We again embrace the opportunity afforded us to renew our testimony in favor of truth and righteousness, and to send an encouraging word to kindred associations.

The unt'oldings of truth and development of soul which we witness everywhere promise greater results than our most sanguine hopes had pictured. We feel strengthened and encouraged by associating together in our Yearly Meetings; it awakens within us the God-given elements of our nature, which bid us speak against the vices and wrongs under which our beautiful earth is groaning. The universal expression of the spirit of the age is, "Free thought, free speech, free men and women." Then let us all, inspired by one sentiment, work together for the welfare of the human family, and use every method to prevent the spread of physical,

« PreviousContinue »