A Portraiture of Quakerism Volume Ii Part 12

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That Christ, in all the offices stated by the proposition, is neither more nor less than the spirit of G.o.d, there can surely be no doubt. In looking at Christ, we are generally apt to view him with carnal eyes. We can seldom divest ourselves of the idea of a body belonging to him, though this was confessedly human, and can seldom consider him as a pure principle or fountain of divine life and light to men. And yet it is obvious, that we must view him in this light in the present case; for if he was at the creation of the world, or with Moses at the delivery of the law, (which the proposition supposes) he could not have been there in his carnal body; because this was not produced till centuries afterwards by the virgin Mary. In this abstracted light, the Apostles frequently view Christ themselves. Thus St. Paul:[102] "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." And again,[103] "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"

[Footnote 102: Gal. 2.20.]

[Footnote 103: 2 Cor. 15.5].

Now no person imagines that St. Paul had any idea, either that the body of Christ was in himself, or in others, on the occasions on which he has thus spoken.

That Christ therefore, as he held the offices contained in the proposition, was the spirit of G.o.d, we may p.r.o.nounce from various views, which we may take of him, all of which seem to lead us to the same conclusion.

And first let us look at Christ in the scriptural light in which he has been held forth to us in the fourth section of the seventh chapter, where I have explained the particular notions of the Quakers relative to the new birth.

G.o.d maybe considered here as having produced, by means of his Holy Spirit, a birth of divine life in the soul of the "body which had been prepared;" and this birth was Christ. [104] "But that which is born of the spirit, says St. John, is spirit." The only question then will be as to the magnitude of the spirit thus produced. In answer to this St. John says,[105] "that G.o.d gave him not the spirit by measure." And St. Paul says the same thing: [106] "For in him all the fulness of the G.o.dhead dwelt bodily." Now we can have no idea of a spirit without measure, or containing the fullness of the G.o.dhead, but the spirit of G.o.d.

[Footnote 104: John 3.6.]

[Footnote 105: John 3.34.]

[Footnote 106: Coloss. 2.9]

Let us now look at Christ in another point of view, or as St. Paul seems to have viewed him. He defines Christ [107] "to be the wisdom of G.o.d, and the power of G.o.d." But what are the wisdom of G.o.d, and the power of G.o.d, but the great characteristics and the great const.i.tuent parts of his spirit?

[Footnote 107: 1 Cor. 1. 24.]

But if these views of Christ should not be deemed satisfactory, we will contemplate him as St. John the Evangelist has held him forth to our notice. Moses says, that the spirit of G.o.d created the world. But St.

John says that the word created it. The spirit therefore and the word must be the same. But this word he tells us afterwards, and this positively, was Jesus Christ.

It appears therefore from these observations, that it makes no material difference, whether we use the words "Spirit of G.o.d" or "Christ," in the proposition that has been before us, or that there will be no difference in the meaning of the proposition, either in the one or the other case; and also if the Quakers only allow, when the spirit took flesh, that the body was given as a sacrifice for sin, or that part of the redemption of man, as far as his sins are forgiven, is effected by this sacrifice, there will be little or no difference between the religion of the Quakers and that of the objectors, as far as it relates to Christ[108].

[Footnote 108: The Quakers have frequently said in their theological writings, that every man has a portion of the Holy Spirit within him; and this a.s.sertion has not been censured. But they have also said, that every man has a portion of Christ or of the light of Christ, within him.

Now this a.s.sertion has been considered as extravagant and wild. The reader will therefore see, that if he admits the one, he cannot very consistently censure the other.]



_Ministers--The Spirit of G.o.d alone can made a Minister of the Gospel--Hence no imposition of hands nor human knowledge can be effectual--This proposition not peculiarly adopted by George Fox, but by Justin the Martyr, Luther, Calvin, Wickliffe, Tyndal, Milton, and others--Way in which this call, by the Spirit, qualifies for the ministry--Women equally qualified with men--How a Quaker becomes acknowledged to be a Minister of the Gospel._

Having now detailed fully the operations of the Spirit of G.o.d, as far as the Quakers believe it to be concerned in the instruction and redemption of man, I shall consider its operations, as far as they believe it to be concerned in the services of the church. Upon this spirit they make both their worship and their ministry to depend. I shall therefore consider these subjects, before I proceed to any new order of tenets, which they may hold.

It is a doctrine of the Quakers that none can spiritually exercise, and that none ought to be allowed to exercise, the office of ministers, but such as the spirit of G.o.d has worked upon and called forth to discharge it, as well as that the same Spirit will never fail to raise up persons in succession for this end.

Conformably with this idea, no person, in the opinion of the Quakers, ought to be designed by his parents in early youth for the priesthood: for as the wind bloweth where it listeth, so no one can say which is the vessel that is to be made to honour.

Conformably with the same idea, no imposition of hands, or ordination, can avail any thing, in their opinion, in the formation of a minister of the Gospel; for no human power can communicate to the internal man the spiritual gifts of G.o.d.

Neither, in conformity with the same idea, can the acquisition of human learning, or the obtaining Academical degrees and honours, be essential qualifications for this office; for though the human intellect is so great, that it can dive as it were into the ocean and discover the laws of fluids, and rise again up to heaven, and measure the celestial motions, yet it is incapable of itself of penetrating into divine things, so as spiritually to know them; while, on the other hand, illiterate men appear often to have more knowledge on these subjects than the most learned. Indeed the Quakers have no notion of a human qualification for a divine calling. They reject all school divinity, as necessarily connected with the ministry. They believe that if a knowledge of Christianity had been attainable by the acquisition of the Greek and Roman languages, and through the medium of the Greek and Roman philosophers, then the Greeks and Romans themselves had been the best proficients in it; whereas, the Gospel was only foolishness to many of these. They say with St. Paul to the Colossians,[109] "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." And they say with the same Apostle to Timothy,[110] "O Timothy! keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith."

[Footnote 109: Coloss. 2. 8.]

[Footnote 110: 1 Tim. 6, 20, 21]

This notion of the Quakers, that human learning and academical honours are not necessary for the priesthood, is very ancient. Though George Fox introduced it into his new society, and this without any previous reading upon the subject, yet it had existed long before his time. In short, it was connected with the tenet, early disseminated in the church, that no person could know spiritual things but through the medium of the spirit of G.o.d, from whence it is not difficult to pa.s.s to the doctrine, that none could teach spiritually except they had been taught spiritually themselves. Hence we find Justin the Martyr, a Platonic philosopher, but who was afterwards one of the earliest Christian writers after the Apostles, and other learned men after him down to Chrysostom, laying aside their learning and their philosophy for the school of Christ. The first authors also of the reformation, contended for this doctrine. Luther and Calvin, both of them, supported it. Wickliffe, the first reformer of the English church, and Tyndal the Martyr, the first translator of the Bible into the English language, supported it also. In 1652, Sydrach Simpson, Master of Pembroke-Hall in Cambridge, preached a sermon before the University, contending that the Universities corresponded with the schools of the prophets, and that human learning was an essential qualification for the priesthood. This sermon, however, was answered by William Dell, Master of Caius College in the same University, in which he stated, after having argued the points in question, that the Universities did not correspond with the schools of the prophets, but with those of Heathen men; that Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras, were more honoured there, than Moses or Christ; that grammar, rhetoric, logic, ethics, physics, metaphysics, and the mathematics, were not the instruments to be used in the promotion or the defence of the Gospel; that Christian schools had originally brought men from Heathenism to Christianity, but that the University schools were likely to carry men from Christianity to Heathenism again. This language of William Dell was indeed the general language of the divines and pious men in those times in which George Fox lived, though unquestionably the opposite doctrine had been started, and had been received by many. Thus the great John Milton, who lived in these very times, may be cited as speaking in a similar manner on the same subject.

"Next, says he, it is a fond error, though too much believed among us, to think that the University makes a minister of the gospel. What it may conduce to other arts and sciences, I dispute not now. But that, which makes fit a Minister, the Scripture can best inform us to be only from above; whence also we are bid to seek them. [111]Thus St. Matthew says, 'Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.' Thus St. Luke: [112] 'The flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.' Thus St. Paul: [113] 'How shall they preach, unless they be sent?' But by whom sent? By the university, or by the magistrate? No, surely. But sent by G.o.d, and by him only."

[Footnote 111: Mat. 9.38.]

[Footnote 112: Acts 20.28.]

[Footnote 113: Rom. 10.15.]

The Quakers then, rejecting school divinity, continue to think with Justin, Luther, Dell, Milton, and indeed with those of the church of England and others, that those only can be proper ministers of the church, who have witnessed within themselves a call from the spirit of G.o.d. If men would teach religion, they must, in the opinion of the Quakers, be first taught of G.o.d. They must go first to the school of Christ; must come under his discipline in their hearts; must mortify the deeds of the body; must crucify the flesh with the affections and l.u.s.ts thereof; must put off the old man which is corrupt; must put on the new man, "which after G.o.d is created in righteousness and true holiness;"

must be in fact, "Ministers of the sanctuary and true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man." And whether those who come forward as ministers are really acted upon by this Spirit, or by their own imagination only, so that they mistake the one for the other, the Quakers consider it to be essentially necessary, that they should experience such a call in their own feelings, and that purification of heart, which they can only judge of by their outward lives, should be perceived by themselves, before they presume to enter upon such an office.

The Quakers believe that men, qualified in this manner, are really fit for the ministry, and are likely to be useful instruments in it. For first, it becomes men to be changed themselves, before they can change others. Those again, who have been thus changed, have the advantage of being able to state from living experience what G.o.d has done for them; [114] "what they have seen with their eyes; what they have looked upon; and what their hands have handled of the word of life." Men also, who, by means of G.o.d's Holy Spirit, have escaped the pollutions of the world, are in a fit state to understand the mysteries of G.o.d, and to carry with them the seal of their own commission. Thus men under sin can never discern spiritual things. But "to the disciples of Christ," and to the doers of his will, "it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven." Thus, when the Jews marvelled at Christ, saying [115] "How knoweth this man letters, (or the scriptures) having never learned?

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his who sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of G.o.d, or whether I speak of myself." Such ministers also are considered as better qualified to reach the inward state of the people, and to "preach liberty to the captives" of sin, than those who have merely the advantage of school divinity, or of academical learning. It is believed also of these, that they are capable of giving more solid and lasting instruction, when they deliver themselves at large: for those, who preach rather from intellectual abilities and from the suggestions of human learning, than from the spiritual life and power which they find within themselves, may be said to forsake Christ, who is the "living fountain, and to hew out broken cisterns which hold no water," either for themselves or for others.

[Footnote 114: Coloss. 2. 6.]

[Footnote 115: 1 Tim. 6.20.21.]

This qualification for the ministry being allowed to be the true one, it will follow, the Quakers believe, and it was Luther's belief also, that women may be equally qualified to become ministers of the Gospel, as the men. For they believe that G.o.d has given his Holy Spirit, without exception, to all. They dare not therefore limit its operations in the office of the ministry, more than in any other of the sacred offices which it may hold. They dare not again say, that women cannot mortify the deeds of the flesh, or that they cannot be regenerated, and walk in newness of life. If women therefore believe they have a call to the ministry, and undergo the purification necessarily connected with it, and preach in consequence, and preach effectively, they dare not, under these circ.u.mstances, refuse to accept their preaching, as the fruits of the spirit, merely because it comes through the medium of the female s.e.x.

Against this doctrine of the Quakers, that a female ministry is allowable under the Gospel dispensation, an objection has been started from the following words of the Apostle Paul: [116] "Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak"--"and if they will learn any thing, let them ask their Husbands at home." but the Quakers conceive, that this charge of the Apostle has no allusion to preaching. In these early times, when the Gospel doctrines were new, and people were eager to understand them, some of the women, in the warmth of their feelings, interrupted the service of the church, by asking such questions as occurred to them on the subject of this new religion. These are they whom the Apostle desires to be silent, and to reserve their questions till they should return home. And that this was the case is evident, they conceive, from the meaning of the words, which the Apostle uses upon this occasion. For the word in the Greek tongue, which is translated "speak," does not mean to preach or to pray, but to speak as in common discourse. And the words, which immediately follow this, do not relate to any evangelical instruction, which these women were desirous of communicating publicly, but which they were desirous of receiving themselves from others.

[Footnote 116: 1 Cor. 14.34.35.]

That the words quoted do not relate to praying or preaching is also equally obvious, in the opinion of the Quakers; for if they had related to these offices of the church, the word "prophesy" had been used instead of the word "speak." Add to which that the Apostle, in the same epistle in which the preaching of women is considered to be forbidden, gives them a rule to which he expects them to conform, when they should either prophesy or pray: but to give women a rule to be observed during their preaching, and to forbid them to preach at the some time, is an absurdity too great to be fixed upon the most ordinary person, and much more upon an inspired Apostle.

That the objection has no foundation, the Quakers believe again, from the consideration that the ministry of women, in the days of the Apostles, is recognized in the New Testament, and is recognized also, in some instances, as an acceptable service.

Of the hundred and twenty persons who were a.s.sembled on the day of pentecost, it is said by St. Luke that [117] some were women. That these received the Holy Spirit as well as the men, and that they received it also for the purpose of prophesying or preaching, is obvious from the same Evangelist. For first, he says, that "all were filled with the Holy Ghost." And secondly, he says, that Peter stood up, and observed concerning the circ.u.mstance of inspiration having been given to the women upon this occasion, that Joel's prophecy was then fulfilled, in which were to be found these words: "And it shall come to pa.s.s in the hist days, that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy--and on my servants and handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit; and they shall prophesy."

[Footnote 117: Acts, Chap. 1.]

That women preached afterwards, or in times subsequent to the day of pentecost, they collect from the same Evangelist. [118]For he mentions Philip, who had four daughters, all of whom prophesied at Caesarea. Now by prophesying, if we accept [119]St. Paul's interpretation of it, is meant a speaking to edification, and exhortation, and comfort, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It was also a speaking to the church: it was also the speaking of one person to the church, while the others remained silent.

[Footnote 118: Acts 21.9.]

[Footnote 119: 1 Cor. 14.]

That women also preached or prophesied in the church of Corinth, the Quakers show from the testimony of St. Paul: for he states the manner in which they did it, or that [120]they prayed and prophesied with their heads uncovered.

[Footnote 120: 1 Cor. 11. 5.]

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