A TREATISE ON FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION: IN WHICH ARE ILLUSTRATED THE PROFESSION, MINISTRY,
AND FAITH OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS
Philadelphia: Emmor Kimbor, 1815. Pages 28-39.
"As there call be nothing more opposite to the natural will and wisdom of man, than this silent waiting upon God; so neither can it be obtained, nor rightly comprehended by man but as he layeth down his own wisdom and will, so as to be content, to be thoroughly subject to God. Therefore it was not preached, nor can it be so practiced, but by such as find no outward ceremony, no observations, no words, yea not the best and purest words, even the words of Scripture, able to satisfy their weary and afflicted souls. Because where all these may be, the Life, power and virtue which make such things effectual may be wanting. Such I say were necessitated to cease from all externals and to be silent before the Lord, and being directed to that inward principle of Life and Light in themselves, as the most excellent teacher which can never be removed into a corner; come thereby to be taught to wait upon God in the measure of Life and grace received from him, and to cease from their own forward words and actions, in the natural willing and comprehension, and feel after this [P. 33] inward seed of Life, that as it moveth, they may move with it, and be actuated by its power, and influenced whether to pray, preach or sing. And so from this principle of man's being silent and not acting in the things of God of himself, until thus actuated by God's Light and grace in the heart, did naturally spring, that manner of sitting together in silence." (Apology, p. 353.)
"Yet I do not so much commend and speak of silence, as if we had bound ourselves by any law, to exclude praying or preaching, or tied ourselves thereunto; not at allfor as our Worship consisteth not in words, so neither in silence, but in an Holy dependence of the mind upon God, from which dependence, silence necessarily follows in the first place until words can be brought forth, which are from God's Spirit." (Apology, p. 360.)
The reader will from the foregoing have some idea of our reasons for assembling in silencebut they only can be competent to in this weighty matter who have come to the Light of Christ in themselves, and are sensible of those joys, which spring from an [P. 34] inward and spiritual knowledge of his presence. Friends believe that all true worshipers in Spirit and in Truth, must walk in the Spirit, and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Neither are we alone in our belief, that Divine Worship is a spiritual act and to be known and performed in silence.
"Devotion considered in itself, is an intercourse between God and us, between
the Supreme, Self-existent, Inconceivable Spirit; which formed and preserves
the universe, and that particular Spirit, with which, for awful reasons,
he has animated a portion of matter on earth, that we call man. It is a silent
act in which the soul divests itself of outward things, flies into heaven
and pours forth all its wants, wishes, hopes, fears, guilt or pleasure, into
the bosom of an Almighty Friend. True devotion doubtless requires a considerable
degree of abstraction from the world; that we hear little of it is not wonderful.
It makes no noise in the circle of the learned, or of the elegant. Under
a heap of worldly care, we smother the lovely infant, and will not let it
breathe. Vanity, ambition, and avarice quench the celestial fire, and these,
alas, are too much god of mortals. Writers have been amusing us only [P.
35] with shadows of this piety, instead of giving us its soul and substance.
Superstition has placed it in opinions, ceremonies, austerities, pilgrimages,
an august temple, or splendid imagery, which has little connection with sentiment
or Spirit. Enthusiasm has swelled with unnatural conceptions, and obtruded
a spurious offspring on the world instead of this engaging child of reason
and Truth; whilst the lukewarm have rested in a few outward duties which
have had no vigor, and as they spring not from the heart, never entered the
Temple of the Most High. Real piety is of a very different, and of a much
more animated nature; it looks up to God, sees, hears, feels him in every
event; in every vicissitude, in all places, in all seasons, and upon all
occasions. It is theory verified by experience, it is faith substantiated
by mental enjoyment, it is heaven transplanted into the human bosom, it is
the radiance of the Divinity, warming and encircling man. It is a spiritual
sense gratified by spiritual sensations; without this, all ceremonies are
inefficacious; books, prayers, sacraments, and meditations, are but a body
without a soul, or a statue without animation. That man is capable of such
an intercourse [P. 36] with his Maker, there are many living witnesses to
prove. It may be proved to spring from natural and philosophical causes;--God
is a Spirit, so is the mind; bodies can have intercourse, so can souls. When
minds are in an assimilating state of purity, they have union with their
Maker. This was the bliss of Paradise; sin interrupted, and holiness must
restore itto a soul thus disposed, the Creator communicates himself in a
manner, which is as insensible to the natural eye as the falling of dews;
but not less refreshing to its secret powers than that is to vegetation.
The primitive saints are described thus, when they speak of their transports.
David felt it when he longed for God, as the hart panteth after the water
brooks. St. Paul, when he gloried in his tribulations. It was embodied in
him when he was carried up into the third heaven, and heard things impossible
to be uttered. St. Stephen was filled with it, when he saw the heavens open,
and prayed for his murderers. By it, martyrs were supported when they were
stoned, and sawed asunder, and till we feel it in ourselves, we shall never
fully know how glorious the Lord is." London Review, December 1791.
"It follows," (says the learned [P. 37] Howe,) "that having formed this his
more excellent creature, according to his more express likeness, stamped
it with the more glorious character of his living image, given it a nature
suitable to his own, and thereby made it capable of rational and intelligent
converse with him, he hath it even in his power to maintain a continual converse
with this creature by agreeable communications, by letting in upon it the
vital beams and influence of his own Light and love, and receiving back the
return of its grateful acknowledgements and praises, wherein it is manifest
he should do no greater thing than he hath done. For who sees not that it
is a matter of no greater difficulty to converse with, than to make a reasonable
creature? Or who would not be ashamed to deny, that he who hath been the
only Author of the soul of man, and of the excellent powers and faculties
belonging to it, can more easily sustain that which he hath made, and converse
with his creature suitably to the way wherein he hath made it capable of
his Converse." The memorable John Hales, in his Golden Remains, expresses
himself thus, on the subject of spiritual Worship. "Nay one thing I know
more, that the prayer, which is the most forcible, [P. 38] transcends and
far exceeds all the power of words. For St. Paul, speaking unto us of the
most effectual kind of prayer, calls it sighs and groans, that cannot be
expressed. Nothing cries so loud in the ears of God, as the sighing of a
contrite and earnest heart." From all which, and many other testimonies that
might be produced, it must be evident that a spiritual devotion is believed
in, and has been acknowledged by others as well as the Society of Friends.
Although this Divine and spiritual devotion may be experienced when our hands
are employed in the business of this world, and we doubt not many pious souls
are poured out before God in secret, by gratefully owning his mercy and his
grace, yet we are satisfied that such will be glad often to assemble together,
that they may unite in Spirit in this duty. And we have often had experience
that it is acceptable to our Holy Head, that we meet together to wait upon
and Worship him. He has owned our silent and solemn assemblies, and in them
united us in the fellowship of his dear Son. Therefore we believe that it
is our indispensable duty, and that they who sincerely attend to it will
know the promise fulfilled, "Even the youths shall [P. 39] faint, and be
weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the
Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles,
they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." Isa.
60:50-51. Therefore, we are concerned to practice the exhortation of the
Apostle, "I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present
your bodies a living sacrifices Holy, acceptable unto God; which is your
reasonable service." Rom. 12:1. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves
together as the manner of some is." Heb. 10:25. But concerning those who
think of his name, the prophet Malachi has said, "Then they that feared the
Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and
a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord
and thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts,
in that day, when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth
his own son that serveth him." Mal. 3:16-17.
Next: Of Prayer and Spiritual Singing to the Lord.