(The British Friend, Vol. V, No. 5 (5th month, 1847,) pages 132-137.)
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
Earlham, near Norwich, Seventh month 26th, 1846.
Having been requested by my friend Stephen A. Chase, of Salem, Massachusetts, to furnish him with a statement of my Christian faith, respecting the Holy Scriptures, the immediate and perceptible operation of the Spirit, the doctrine of justification, and that of the Trinity, (as it is called,) I have much satisfaction in complying with his request.
I. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
My belief respecting the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament may be stated in the words of George Fox: "Concerning the Holy Scriptures, we believe they were given forth by the Holy Spirit of God through the holy men of God, who spoke as they were mov ed by the Holy Ghost: we believe they are to be read, believed, and fulfilled, (he that fulfills them is Christ;) and they are profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly fu rnished unto all good works; and are able to make wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus: we believe the Holy Scriptures are the words of God. See Declaration of Faith issued by George Fox and others, and presented to the Governor and Coun cil of Barbados. - Evan's Exposition, page 238.
Also in the words of Robert Barclay; "Moreover because they are commonly acknowledged by all to have been written by the dictates of the Holy Spirit, and that the errors which may be supposed by the injury of the times to have slipped in, (1) are not such but that there is a sufficient testimony left to all the essentials of the christian faith, we do look upon them as the only fit outward judge of controversies among christians, and that whatsoever doctrine is contrary unto their testimony, may therefore be rejected as false. And for our parts, we are very willing that all our doctrines and practices by tried by them, which we never refused, and never shall in all controversies with out adversaries, as the judge and test. We shall al so be very willing to admit it as a positive certain maxim, that whatsoever any do, pretending to the Spirit, which is contrary to the Scriptures, be accounted and reckoned a delusion of the devil." - Apology, Prop. III.
Also in the words of William Penn, "We both love, honour, and prefer them before all books in the world; ever choosing to express our belief of the christian faith and doctrine in the terms thereof, and rejecting all principles and doctrines whatsoever, that are repugnant thereto." - Testimony to the Truth, Evans, p. 248.
Also in the words of the General Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of London, for the year 1836. "It has ever been, and still is, the belief of the Society of Friends, that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, were given by inspiration of God: t hat therefore the declarations contained in them rest on the authority of God himself; and there can be no appeal, from them, to any other authority whatsoever; that they are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which in Christ Jesus, being the appointed means of making know to us the blessed truths of Christianity; that they are the only divinely authorized record of the doctrines which we are bound, as christians, to believe, and of the moral principle which are to regulate our actions; t hat no doctrine which is not contained in them can be required of anyone to be believed, as an article of faith; that whatsoever any man says or does, which is contrary to the Scripture, though under profession of the immediate guidance of the Spirit, mu st be reckoned and accounted a mere delusion."2
While I fully agree with the plain testimony which has thus been always borne by Friends to the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, and do sincerely acknowledge that the doctrine and precepts contained in them, are the doctrines and precepts of the Almighty himself, I also unite with Friends in objecting to the common practice of denominating the sacred volume "the Word of God," because I am of the opinion that this epithet, considered as a distinguishing and exclusive title, belongs properl y only to Christ, of whom the Scriptures testify.
Secondly, I wish it to be clearly understood, that since the paramount authority of the Holy Scriptures over that of all other books is a simple consequence of the fact, that they were given by inspiration of God, I must ever regard these sacred writings , pure and precious though they be, as entirely subordinate, in point of dignity and power, to the Holy Spirit from whom they came, and who is himself their true and ever living Author. And further, though they are "the appointed means of making known to us the blessed truths of Christianity," and thus "are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," I entertain a deep and thorough conviction, that they can never impart an efficacious and saving knowledge of divine thing s, unless their contents are unfolded to the understanding, and impressed on the heart, by the immediate influences of that Spirit from whom they emanated. While, therefore, it is our unquestionable duty, as the Society of Friends has frequently declared , to read them diligently ourselves, and as diligently to teach them to our children, we ought, in the performance of this duty, reverently to depend on divine aid and illumination, remembering the words of our blessed Lord, especially applicable as they are to the present subject, "without me ye can do NOTHING."
II. THE IMMEDIATE AND PERCEPTIBLE OPERATION OF THE SPIRIT.
In reference to this great subject, I have, in the first place, plainly to declare my belief, in unison with that of Friends from their first rise to the present day, that the influence of the Holy Spirit is very far from being confined to those who have a knowledge of Holy Writ, and of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Saviour of who it testifies. On the contrary, it is my firm conviction that as Christ died fro all men, so all men, through his mediation and sacrifice o the cross, are placed in a cap acity of salvation, and receive a measure of divine light, which, although in numberless instances "shining in darkness," and overborne by ignorance and superstition, is in its own nature pure and holy, and perceptible to the rational mind of man - so th at those who believe in it, and obey it, and thereby led to fear God, and to keep his law as it is written on their hearts; that such as these are accepted for Christ's sake, even though they may never have heard his name; and thus sharing in the benefit of his atoning death on the cross, through faith in the degree of light bestowed upon them, as they are to be regarded as partakers in their measure, and according to their capacity, of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In stating this point, I do not forget that the heathen world, both in ancient and modern times, has been found, generally speaking, in a state of great blindness and degradation, as compared with that part of mankind which has the outward knowledge of C hrist, and that their moral responsibility is small in proportion; and I freely confess my belief, (also in unison with Friend from their first origin until now,) that the immediate and perceptible guidance and government of the Holy Spirit, are pre-e minently enjoyed by the true believers in Christ - the living members of the Christian church. To these was addressed the language - "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things;" and again, "The anointing which ye have received of h im, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth and is not lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." - I John ii. 20-27. Although directly miraculous gifts , and that extraordinary measure of inspiration which the apostles received, were peculiarly adapted to the first settlement of Christianity in the world, and (without daring to limit the operation of divine power) we do not look for them in the present day, yet I am well assured that the promise of the Holy Ghost, as a perciptice guide to truth and righteousness, and as the only qualifier for the exercise of those gifts which are instrumental for the edification and enlargement of the church , were no t confined to primitive days, but are the inheritance of the people of God, under the gospel dispensation, to the end of time. That promise was not only to the first believers, but to their children, and to all that were afar off, even to as many as the Lord their God should call: Acts ii. 39. The Hoy Ghost, the Comforter, was to abide with the church "forever;" John xiv. 16. "As for me, this is my covenant with them saith the Lord," (Israel's Messiah,) MY SPIRIT THAT IS UPON THEE, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever." Isaiah lix. 21.
If I am asked in what respects, according to my belief, the immediate and perceptible operation of the Holy Spirit is experienced by true Christians, I answer,
First,in that divine teaching and illumination by which the truths of our holy religion are made clear to the mind, and by which the mind is brought into such a condition, as to be able fully to receive and appropriate them; more especially in dee pening those convictions of sin, and strengthening that living faith, of which the Spirit Himself is the very Source and Author.
Secondly, in the application of the general moral principles declared in Scripture, to every particular exigency or question which may arise in the course of our lives, there being a swift witness for God within us, instructing our conscience, and plainly showing us, on every successive occasion which requires it, in what way that love to God and man which is the fulfilling of the law, is to be brought into practice; what we ought to do, as responsible moral agents, and what to leave undone. And here I would remark, that according to my apprehension of the subject, it is on this ground, in connection with a simple obedience to the precepts of our Lord and his apostles, that Friends have so long been led to bear an open practice testimony against war in all its forms, against oaths under whatsoever circumstance or pretext, against the sin of trading in our fellow-men, and of holding them in slavery, against the vain amusements and heartless dissipation of the world, against extravagance a nd useless ornament in dress or furniture, and against all that is opposed to Christian simplicity and truth, in the modes of behaviour and address current amongst men.
Thirdly, in the call to his own particular line of duty, of every living member of the church, for the welfare of the body, and for the advancement of the cause of truth and righteousness; seeing that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal;" 1 Cor. xxii. 7; - an office of the Comforter wholly independent of the sacred records; for while Scripture abounds in descriptions of spiritual gifts, and of their true origin and operation, the call of the individual member of the church to the exercise of any particular gift, is a matter which belongs to the hidden councils and sole prerogative of the Saviour himself; and is made known to the Christian only by the immediate and perceptible light and guidance of the Holy Spirit. These remarks apply with especial force to the gift or office of the Christian ministry. I am one with the Society of Friends in openly declaring my conviction that it si the great Head of the church alone who selects and ordains his own min ister, calls them into his service, qualifies them by his Spirit for the performance of it, and graciously directs them as to time, place, and matter of their communications, by the immediate putting forth and anointing of the Holy Ghost, bin indispensab le, not only for the first entrance eon the work, but for the continued exercise of it, on every successive occasion. I also believe, as Friends have always declared, that in accordance with the prophecy of Joel (ii. 28) and with the experience of the ea rliest Christian believers, the gift of "prophecy," - that is, of ministry uttered under the immediate influence of the Spirit, is graciously imparted to persons of both sexes; and that as it is freely received, so it must be communicated to others, without money or price. Incapable in its own nature of being appointed, provided, or hired by men, and coming fro the Lord alone, it ought to be exercised in simple conformity to his will, under the immediate teaching and government of his S pirit, without any secular end in view, and for the sole purpose of the glory of God our Saviour.
Here I think it right to remark, that I fully untie with Friends in approving and maintaining the excellent practice of sitting down in silence for the public worship of Almighty God; for while this mode of worship alone consists with our principles resp ecting ministry as now stated, it is peculiarly adapted to that prostration of soul before the Lord, that patience waiting upon him, and that listening to the immediate teaching of his Spirit, which are essential to a real growth in grace, and to the sol id formation of the christian character. Nor ought such a practice to be confined to public occasions; for "it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth; he sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him; he puttet h his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope." Lam. iii. 27-29. Comp. Robert Barclay on Immediate Revelation, Universal and Saving Light, Worship and Ministry: Apology, Prop. ii. vi. x. xi.
By this term I understand the forgiveness and acceptance with God, of the penitent sinner, for the sake and through the mediation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood. This is a doctrine absolutely fundamental and essentia l in Christianity, and has always been steadily maintained by the Society of Friends. It ought, however, to be inseparably associated in our minds, with the equally important truth that "without holiness, no man can see the Lord," and that we cannot avai l ourselves of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, unless, being born again of the Spirit, we heartily repent of our sins, resolutely forsake and renounce them, and humbly endeavour, through divine aid, to walk in the light. "There is, therefore, now no co ndemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. viii. 1. "If we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us fr om all sin." 1 John ii. 7.
I can most freely subscribe to the following declaration made by the Society of Friends as a body, and by some of its most eminent members,, on this cardinal and vital topic.
"Christ gave himself, his body, for the life of the whole world, and paid the debt and made satisfaction,, and doth enlighten every man that comes into the world, that all through Him might believe; and he that doth not believe is condemned already. - George Fox - Great Mystery, p. 63. Evans, p. 29.
"Christ Jesus the Emmanuel, God with us; whom all the angels must worship. Christ offered himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God, and by his blood purges our consciences from dead works, to serve the living God. And so we know that Christ , by one offering, for ever perfected them that are sanctified. And so as people walk in the light, they have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Christ cleanseth them from all sin. and Christ his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree, that we being delivered from sin, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes we are healed. And we being justified by the blood of Christ, shall be saved from wrath through him; for if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." - Epistle issued by the Society in 1688; Evans, pp. 29, 30.
"This Jesus who was the foundation of the holy prophets and apostles is our Foundation; and we believe there is no other foundation to be lad, but that which is laid, even Christ Jesus, who tasted death for every man, shed his blood for all men, is the p ropitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, according as John the Baptist testified of him when he said, 'Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.'" Letter from George Fox, to the Cou ncil and Government of Barbados: Evans, p. 32.
"We do not hereby intend" (that is by enforcing the necessity of obedience to the Holy Spirit) "any ways to lessen or derogate from the atonement and sacrifice of Jesus Christ; but on the contrary, do magnify and exalt it. For as we believe all those thi ngs to have been certainly transacted which are recorded in the Holy Scriptures concerning the birth, life, miracles, sufferings, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; so we also believe that it is the duty of every one to believe it, to whom it pleases God to reveal the same; yea, we believe it were damnable unbelief not to believe it when so declared, but to resist that holy seed, which as minded, would lead and incline every one to believe it, as it is offered unto them." - Robert Barclay' s Apology: Evans, p. 43.
Again, "As we believe it was necessary that Christ should come, that by his death and sufferings He might offer up himself a sacrifice to God for our sins, who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree, so we believe that the remission of sins, which any partake of, is only in and by virtue of that most satisfactory sacrifice, and no otherwise." Idem.
"In him (Christ) we have life, and by faith atonement in his blood." - William Penn's Works: Evans, p. 54.
"We do own first that the Word of God, the only begotten of the Father, did take up a body of the flesh of the Virgin Mary, who was of the seed of David, according to the Scriptures, and did the will of the Father therein, in holy obedience unto h im in life and death.
Secondly, That He did offer up the flesh and blood of that body though not only so, for He poured out his soul, he poured out his life, a sacrifice or offering for sin, (do not, oh do not stumble at it, but rather wait on the Lord to unders tand it, for we speak in this matter what we know) a sacrifice unto the Father, and in it tasted death for every man, and that it is in consideration and through God's acceptance of this sacrifice for sin, that the sins of the believers are pardoned,< /I> that God might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, or who is of the faith of Jesus." - Isaac Penington's Works: Evans, p. 87.
"Question. Are you justified by that blood of Christ that was shed at Jerusalem?
Answer. By the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who was the express image of the Father's glory, in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead really, am I justified." Humfrey Smith: Evans, p. 94.
Richard Claridge, like some other writers of our Society, has treated on Justification as consisting of two parts; first, the forgiveness of the penitent sinner through faith in Christ crucified; and secondly, purification from sin by the power of the Holy Ghost. For my part, I am accustomed to describe the latter by the term "Sanctification." Nevertheless I am one with him in his Christian doctrine. "By the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, without us," says he, "we truly repen ting and believing, are, through the mercy of God, justified from the imputation of sins and transgressions that are past, as though they had never been committed: and the mighty work of Christ within us, the power, habits, and nature of sin a re destroyed; that as sin once reigned unto death, even so now grace reigneth unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord; and all this is effected, not by a bare or naked act of faith, separate from obedience, but in the obedience of faith; Christ being the author of eternal salvation to none but those who obey him." - On Justification, p. 79.
"We do, indeed, renounce the profession of justification by the imputation of Christ, or his righteousness performed without men, by men while they are in the degenerated estate, and unconverted and unreconciled, and unborn again; for by such profession of justification, many deceive their souls. But yet we say that righteousness is imputed to us, and reckoned unto us, who believe in Christ, and have received him; even the obedience and suffering that He performed without us are ours who have rec eived him within us, and there fore we are not reprobates; yet we do acknowledge that He wrought perfect righteousness by obedience and sufferings, and that righteousness is ours by faith." - Edward Burrough, "Satan's Design Defeated;" Evans. p. 9 9.
A safer of more satisfactory declaration than this of the true doctrine of justification by faith, as it is held by every sound Christian, cannot surely be required by the most ardent advocate of evangelical truth. Those who accuse the early members of o ur religious society, of unsoundness in Christian doctrine, are little aware how remarkably they were distinguished by a firm unbending faith in Christ as the Saviour of the world, and by that ardent love for him, which constrained them to devote themsel ves to his service, and to follow him faithfully, through many and deep sufferings, even unto death. Conscientiously do I affirm, that although I may have used terms somewhat different from those which some of them employed, and have occasionally taken a different view of particular passages of Scripture, we have advocated one and the same precious Truth, even the "Truth as it is in Jesus." Most willing were they at all times to confess, as the Society has frequently done in its corporate capacit y, that Jesus Christ in all his gracious offices is the only Foundation which can be laid in Zion; that all our hopes of salvation are in Him; that it is through his perfect obedience, and propitiatory offering on the cross, that we poor sinners receive the forgiveness of our sins, and are placed in possession of a well-founded hope, full of immortality, and that a living faith in Him is the appointed means by which we are made partakers of these free mercies of God our Father. by this faith did our for efathers in the truth, spiritually eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood; and being richly favoured with this inward experience, they neither required nor admitted any outward ceremony in divine worship, to remind them of the death of their Lord.
Equally willing have I always been, and still am, to acknowledge that (as they frequently declared, and as the Society itself has never failed to testify) we cannot truly come unto Christ, except the Father who hath sent him draw us, that the influence b y which the Father draws us to the Son is that of the Holy Spirit, who convinces of sin, bestows true repentance, and lays the sinner prostrate at the feet of the Saviour; and finally, that except we be thoroughly cleansed from our iniquities by the bapt ism which saves, even the ONE baptism of Christianity,, which is with the Holy Ghost, and thus become new creatures in Christ Jesus, we can never obtain that glorious inheritance which the Saviour has purchased for us with his own blood.
The following extract from a declaration of faith, issued by the Yearly Meeting of Philadelphia, in 1828 (the time of the Hicksite separation), lis so clearly to the point, and so excellent, that I think it right to subjoin it to the quotations already g iven. "We believe that nothing man can do, or suffer, will atone for, or cancel his sins. They are remitted by the mercy of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, for the sake of the sufferings and death of Christ, and it is the power and efficacy of that p ropitiatory offering upon faith and repentance, that justifies both Jews and Gentiles from the sins that are past; and it is the power of Christ's spirit in our hearts, that purifies and makes us acceptable before God; 'Being justified freely by h is grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God has set forth to be a proportion through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare I say at this time his righteousness; that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,' Rom. iii. 24-26. But God commandite his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his bl ood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Chris t, by whom we have now received the atonement,'" Rom. v. 8-11.
"Not only do the Separatists deny the universal efficacy of the offering of our Lord, and term the imputation of his righteousness as the ground of our acceptance, a pernicious and absurd idea, but they appear to rejoice in the hope, that the doctrine wi ll be discarded, as the fruit of the apostasy from the Christian faith. Believing as we do, that it is only as we come to be divested of our own righteousness, and of all confidence in it, and through divine mercy, clothed upon with the righteousness of Christ, that any can have a firm ground whereon to rest their hope of salvation, we sincerely deplore the delusion of those, who thus wantonly deprive themselves of that hope, which maketh not ashamed, and entereth within the veil."
IV. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
I have never thought it right, either in preaching or writing, to make use of this term, which is scholastic in origin, and is liable to misconstruction; but I consider the doctrine itself, though far beyond the reach of the natural understanding of man, to be plainly set forth in Scripture; and so far am I from regarding it as merely theoretical in its nature, that I accept it as of the highest practical importance in the experience of every true believer.
No one who has an experiential knowledge of the great plan of redemption, and calmly reflects on its several features, can fail to perceive that the proper divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is one of those amazing truths which impart a livin g efficacy to the whole; for while he offered himself up on the cross as man, yet was he omnipotent, because of his deity, to bear the weight of the sins of all mankind, and just in proportion to the supreme dignity of the sufferer, is the compreh ensives of the hope and joy which we derive from his sufferings. "He that spared not HIS OWN SON, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Rom. viii. 32. Again, where is the individual convinced of the t ruth, as Friends have ever held it, who will not allow that it is in virtue of his glorious Godhead, that Christ governs his universal church by the immediate influences of his Spirit; and that he is by the same Spirit, "the true light which light eth every man that cometh into the world?
I would be irrelevant for me here to adduce the clear and frequently repeated testimony of Scripture to the deity of Christ. Suffice it to say, that this testimony was accepted and promulgated without reserve by our earliest predecessors in this truth, a nd has always been maintain inviolate by the Society of Friends to the present day. Nor has the faith of our religious body been less scriptural, or less explicitly declared, respecting the divinity of the Holy Spirit; for where is the sound believer, wh o does not acknowledge that the Comforter, even the Holy Ghost, whom the Father sends to us in the name of the Son, to dwell with us, and to guide us into all truth, (John xiv. 17 and xvi. 13;) against whom it is an unpardonable sin to blaspheme; (Mark i ii. 29;) into whose name the true convert is baptized, as well as into the name of the Father, and of the Son (Matt. iii. 29;) who divideth to every many severally in the church "as he will," (I Cor. xii. 11) is himself truly and properly God? Yet , although the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are all three presented to us in Scriptural as actually divine, and as severally distinguished by relative properties, in the economy of grace, it is still the same mind, the same power, the same essen ce. The whole Scripture assures us there is but one God, even the immutable and everlasting Jehovah, and, therefore, these Three are One. and here I wish it to be distinctly understood, that when in of my writings I have adverted to the "personality," or "personal attributes" of the Holy Spirit, I have no intention whatsoever to convey the idea that the Comforter possesses a personal form; much less to represent him, as an object separate from God; but only to show, that so far from being a mere influen ce, he must be regarded as a divine intelligent Agent, truly ONE with the Father and Son.
My belief on the subject cannot be better expressed than in the following declarations of the early members of our religious Society: -
"We believe concerning the Father, Son, and Spirit, according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, which we receive and embrace as the most authentic and perfect declaration of the christian faith, being indited by the Holy Spirit of God, that never errs; 1st, that there is one God and Father, of whom are all things; 2nd. that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all things were made, who was glorified of the Father before the world began, who is God over all, blessed forever. 3rd. That there is one Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father and the Son, the leader, sanctifier, and comforter of his people. And we further believe, as the Holy Scriptures soundly and sufficiently express, that these three are ONE, even the Father, the Word, and the Spi rit." - George Fox's Answer to all such as falsely say the Quakers are no Christians, pp. 26, 27: Evans, p. 3.
"So being led by the Spirit of god, ye are his sons and daughters, and, by his Spirit, will come to know the three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. These are the THREE WITNESSES that are in heaven, that bear record o f all things; for He is God in the heaven, and god in the earth." George Fox's Epistles: Evans, p. 3.
"There are three that bear record in haven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father. No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father but the son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. The Spirit searcheth all things, yet the deep things of God. For the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now the saints have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of god, that they might know the things which are freely given to them of God. for the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father sends in Christ's name, He teacheth them all things, and bringeth all things to their remembrance." - Robert Barclay's Confessi on of Faith, p. 104: Evans, p. 5.
"Perversion 9. The Quakers deny the Trinity.
Principle - nothing less. They believe in the Holy Three, or Trinity of Father, Word, and Spirit, according to the Scripture, and that these Three are truly and properly One, of one nature as well as will." - William Penn's Key, etc.: Evans, p. 7.
"The Holy Scripture Trinity, or Three thereby meant, we never questioned, but believed; as also the unity of essence; that they are one substance, one divine, infinite Being; and also we question not but sincerely believe the relative properties o f Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to Holy Scripture testimony, and these Three are One." - George Whitehead,</> p. 195; Evans, p. 7.
"Now consider seriously, if a man from his heart believe thus concerning the eternal power and Godhead, that the Father is God, the Word God, the Holy Spirit God; and that these are one eternal God, waiting so to know God, and to be subject to him accord ingly; is not this man in a right frame of heart towards the Lord in this respect? Indeed, friends, we do know god sensibly and experimentally, to be a Father, Word, and Spirit, and worship the Father? - illegible] in the Son, by his own Spirit, and here meet with the seal of acceptance in Him." - Isaac Penington's Antichrist Unmasked, p. 27: Evans, p. 10.
To these explicit testimonies, given forth on behalf of the body, by eminent individuals, may be added the following declaration made by the Society, AD 1693:
"We sincerely profess faith in God by his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, as being our light unto life, our only way to the Father, and also our only Mediator and Advocate with the Father.
"That God created all things; he made the world by his Son Jesus Christ, he being the powerful and living Word by whom things were made; and that the Father, the Word, and Holy Spirit are one; in Divine Being inseparable; one true, living, and eternal Go d, blessed for ever." Signed on behalf of our Christian profession and people aforesaid - George Whitehead, Ambrose Rigg, etc. Sewell's History, vol. ii. p. 499.
Under full conviction that this is a subject above all others, on which it were very foolishness to attempt to be wise above that which is written, and under a solemn sense of the importance of our faithfully adhering to the doctrine of the Oneness of Jehovah, I will now conclude my declaration of faith, on this grand, essential article, in words which I hope I have already published. They were suggested to me, many years ago, by a venerable minister of the gospel, who dearly loved our religious Society, and faithfully adhered to its acknowledged principles to his dying day.
"While the Christian rejoices in the distinct characters and offices of the Father, the son, and the Spirit, so graciously revealed to us for our instruction and edification, he probably never finds his soul bowed down with so deep a reverence, or filled with so pure a delight, as when he contemplates the Almighty as an ineffable glory, an incommunicable name, an infinite and incomprehensible UNITY."(3)
Although I have now given a full and explicit answer, as I trust, to the inquiry of my friend Stephen A. Chase, I am best satisfied to add a short explanation of my belief on two points which he has not mentioned, the resurrection of the dead and the Sabbath.
My convictions on the former subject are well stated in the following sentences, selected from the declaration of faith made by the Society of Friends of Friends in 1693, and already cited under another head.
"Concerning the resurrection of the dead and the great day of judgment yet to come, beyond the grave, or after death, and Christ's coming, without us, to judge the quick and the dead, what the Holy Scriptures plainly declare and testify in these mater, w e have always been ready to embrace. For the doctrine of the resurrection; if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable: 1 Cor. xv. 19. We sincerely believe not only a resurrection in Christ form the fallen sinful state here, but a rising and ascending into glory with him hereafter; and when He at least appears, we may appear with him glory: Col. iii. 4; 1 John iii. 2.
"But that all the wicked who live in rebellion against the light of grace, and die finally impenitent, shall come forth to the resurrection of condemnation.
"The soul or spirit of every man or woman shall be reserved in its own distinct and proper being, and shall have its proper body as God is pleased to give it: I Cor. xv. A natural body is sown, a spiritual body is raised; that being first which is natura l, and afterwards that which is spiritual. And thought it is said that this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this moral shall put on immortality, the change shall be such as that 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither shall corruption inherit incorruption:' I Cor. xv. We shall be raised out of all corruption and corruptibility, out of all mortality; and the children of god and of the resurrection shall be equal to the angels of God in heaven. And as the celestial bodies d o far excel the terrestrial, so we expect our spiritual bodies in the resurrection shall far excel what our bodies now are." To which declaration may be added the words of John Crook. "We believe that we shall be raised with the same bodies, so fa r as natural and spiritual, corruptible and incorruptible, terrestrial and celestial can be the same." Evan's, p. 114.
Similar declarations were frequently made during the times when Friends were exposed to much controversy as well as persecution. On this subject, I have only to add that, while the testimony of Scripture to the resurrection of the dead, and a future day of general judgment, is both unquestionable and abundant, and was fully received and admitted by our early Friends, it may also be clearly proved from the Scripture (as Friends have always maintained,) that the rational soul of man exists immediately aft er death, either in happiness or woe; and that it is only as we experience what it is to be raised from our death in trespasses and sins, and quickened into newness of life by the power of the Holy Ghost, that we can possibly be fitted for the awful chan ge which awaits us all, form probation to retribution, and from a brief sojourn in this passing scene, to a fixed but boundless immortality.
With respect to the "Sabbath," I wish it to be distinctly understood that in sometimes applying that term to the first day of the week, as it is observed among Christians, I have had a view to the simple meaning of the Hebrew word, viz. - "cessation f rom labour." I am perfectly aware that the maintenance of the Jewish Sabbath, observed as it was and is on the seventh day of the week, and with a ceremonial strictness which appertained only to the Mosaic law, is, under the gospel dispensation, no l onger obligatory. And while I am of the judgment that the setting apart of one day, after every recurring period of six days of labour, for the blessed purpose of rest and worship, is not to be regarded as a matter of mere expediency, but a s a moral and religious duty, truly belonging to the law of our God, I fully unite in the sentiment expressed by Robert Barclay and others of our early Friends, that no portion of time ought to be regarded by Christians as in itself holier than another - that all of our time is the Lord's - and that ceasing from our own wicked works, and all the willing and running of the carnal mind, we must press forward after that glorious rest, (typified by the Sabbath of the Jews) of which a precious foretaste is b estowed even here, and which is perfect, for the people of God, in the world to come.
Joseph John Gurney of Earlham, in the County of the city of Norwich, a minister of the gospel in the
Society of Friends, on his solemn affirmation saith, that the declaration contained in the forgoing
part of this sheet, and printed in eight columns, is a true and honest declaration of his Christian
faith, on the several articles therein stated; and that to the best of his knowledge and belief, he has
held the same sentiments for more than thirty years.
J.J. Gurney,of Earlham, near Norwich, England.
Declared and affirmed before us, at the Guildhall, in the City of Norwich, on the first day of August,
One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty-six.
John Betts, Mayor of the City of Norwich, and County of the same.George D. Lynn, Justice of the Peace of the City of Norwich, and County of the same.J.H. Barnard, Justice of the Peace of the City or Norwich, and County of the same.
(1) The errors here alluded to, are those of copying only, which have given rise, as is generally
known, to a great number of various readings. These, for the most part, are entirely destitute of
importance. After a very extensive and accurate collation of manuscripts and other authorities, the
text both of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures may now be regarded as being, for all practical
purposes, settled and ascertained; and the blessed result is that the readers of Holy Writ are not
deprived of a single moral principle, or a single doctrinal truth.
(2) This epistle was, as I understand, republished by most of the Yearly Meetings of North America.
(3) Webmeister's note - said minister unknown to me.