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THE CHRISTIAN'S BELIEF.
[P. 11] The Society of Friends believe that the Messiah spoken of by the
prophets, and expected by the Jews, did, in the fulness of time, appear;
that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, was and is this
promised Messiah; the same concerning whom the four evangelists have given
testimony, and who was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem, under the
sentence of Pontius Pilate; and that he rose again, agreeably to the Scriptures:
that he died for, and in consequence of the sins of mankind; that in his
death was an offering for the sins of the whole world; and that he is the
only mediator between God and man. [P. 12] They also believe in the necessity
of obedience to his doctrines, as contained in the Holy Scriptures; and that
the Holy Scriptures were written under the direction of the Spirit of Christ,
and can only be understood by those who live in obedience to the same.
Man is a free agent, and the means of salvation are universal.
Although we believe in the doctrine of free will, we by no means deny the
decrees of the Almighty; but acknowledge that these are fixed and unalterable.
As for instance, he has decreed that the natural man receiveth not the things
of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned, I Cor. 2:14. That is, that
no man can know the things of God but by the Spirit of God. Our free will,
therefore, we hold to be limited by capacity and by consequences; as in the
case of Cain, who was assured "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted;
but if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." Genesis 4:7. Here it
appears he was free to act, but subject to consequences. Such a freedom as
[P. 13] this we apprehend, is implied in the very nature of a command: because
it is not rational to suppose a command should be given by infinite wisdom
where there was not a capacity to obey. But the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures
are sufficiently clear that commands have been given. Adam was commanded
not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Gen. 2:17. Wheresoever,
therefore, a command is given, there we may fairly infer power to obey. Friends
believe that the Light which shines in every man, and which is offered to
him during the day of his visitation, he may obey or disobey; and if this
doctrine is well founded, the freedom of the will is thence established.
I am aware that in this particular we disagree with those who hold the doctrine
of unconditional election. But we cannot believe that if Jesus Christ came
to seek and to save that which was lost, which the Holy Scriptures testify,
or if he has in one instance offered salvation to a fallen race universally,
that he ever afterwards retracted the ground and yet he must have done so,
if the predestinarian doctrine of unconditional decree be true. That he has
offered salvation to all, the following Scriptures fully prove. "For so hath
[P. 14] the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a Light of the
Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth." Rom. 1:16.
"And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to
every creature." Mark 16:15.
"For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men."
An unprejudiced consideration of these passages, we were of opinion, might
satisfy every man that God is no respecter of persons. This was the judgment
of Peter, when at the house of Cornelius; and it is worthy of remark, that
in his more infant stage of the ministry he was differently minded, because
he was under the prejudice of education. He thought he had reason to believe
that salvation was confined by immutable decree to the Jews. Now he [P. 15]
finds it governed by conditions. And so also we believe, "That of a Truth
God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and
worketh righteousness is accepted with him." Acts, 10:34-35.
"For there is no respect of persons with God." Rom. 2:11.
With our opinion of free will we nevertheless connect the dependency of man.
We do not say, as some have supposed, that there is in us, or in any others,
a natural Light or means of salvation. But otherwise that "every good gift,
and every perfect gift is from above," James 1:17, and has the Lord only
for its author and giver. And therefore all the Light in man is all the effect
of the Divine power, and cannot be attributed to any inferior cause. On this
subject we profess, according to the Scriptures, that God has made the means
of salvation universal. To support which we refer to the following passages,
among many others which might be chosen. "The people which sat in darkness
saw a great Light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death,
Light is sprung up." Matt. 4:16. "For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast [P. 16] prepared before the face of all people, a Light to
lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel," Luke 2:30-32.
"That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
"Then spake Jesus again unto them saying, I am the Light of the world, he
that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of
Life, John 1:9, and 8:12. If we may believe the foregoing, then Jesus is
the Light of the world and all are enlightened by him. All may follow him,
and enjoy the Light of Life. This we confidently believe and teach; and therefore
reject, as erroneous and contrary to the scriptures, all those doctrines
which deny the freedom of man in the sense above given, or which hold out
a partiality on the part of a just and righteous God, in his administration
of the means of salvation and restoration to a fallen world. The reader will
perceive that I have connected the doctrine of universal means of salvation,
with what have offered concerning the free will of man; and that having closed
the subject with those two points in connection, it will not be necessary
to say much upon the belief of Friends respecting the universal offer of
salvation. This however, is the doctrine they believe and teach, [P. 17]
and have no doubt it is founded upon the profession of all the apostles,
and true believers in Christ. A doctrine sufficiently set forth in the passages
already quoted from the Holy Scriptures.