[19: LETTER OF JOHN WILBUR, CA. 8TH MONTH 1839, PAGES 327-331.]]

John Wilbur

Wilbur, John. A Narrative and Exposition of the Late Proceedings of New England Yearly Meeting, With Some of its Subordinate Meetings & Their committees, in Relation to the Doctrinal Controversy Now Existing in the Society of Friends: Prefaced by a Concise View of the Church, Showing the Occasion of its Apostacy, both Under the Former and Present Dispensations, With an Appendix. Edited from Record Kept, From Time to Time, of Those Proceedings, and Interspersed With Occasional Remarks and Observations. Addressed to the Members of the Said Yearly Meeting. New York: Piercy & Reed, Printers, 1854, pages 277-325.

(All italics added by J.W. for emphasis. All words supplied in [Square Brackets] by J.W.
Page numbers from original publication by -pds in {Set Brackets.}

This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.

In the following letters a very few verbal alterations and transpositions have been made, not only for a grammatical improvement, but to make a few sentences more explicit to the understanding of the reader. Yet these are substantially literal copies of the original letters, and on a comparison will be found, entirely, to coincide with the sense of the original:

My Dear Friends--Notwithstanding the lively continuation of that interest which I have truly for a long time felt for you and your prosperity in things of an eternal moment; and although I have been aware of some discrepancy of views for most of the year past between you and myself, and a great grief has it been to me, because considerations of great importance are involved therein: yet I have never until very recently, felt even a liberty to address you on the subject. But now the way for such service seems to open pretty clearly; so much so that you have of late been almost continually present to the view of my mind, with interesting and living desires for your as for my own preservation {p. 328} in the truth. And however little is the qualiftcation of which I am possessed for such an attempt, yet as I am now convinced that a conformity to this attraction to duty, if attended to in simplicity and meekness, will bring peace, I no longer withhold.
I need not tell you how clearly the Apostle Paul made a unity of faith and doctrine the test of fellowship, nor of how beautifully he describes the agreement and fitness of the members of the body one with another so that it might be one perfect harmonious whole. Nor how the Gospel, or standard of Truth's doctrines are to he the believer's only rallying point, to the exclusion of all other doctrines, although such other may be promulgated by the greatest of men, or even by an angel from heaven; as in Galatians 1--8, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have [already] preached unto you, let him be accursed."
And so decided and earnest in this avowal, was the Apostle, that he confirms it by a reiteration of the same in the very next verse; and then adds, "for do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
Can any work or device of men, however imitative or skillful in the display of goodness and wisdom, ever make amends for a defection in faith and doctrine, or reconcile unto Christ? See Mat. 7--22. "Many will say to me in that day, Lord! Lord! have we not prophecied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?" Nor does he go about to deny their having done those works: no, but he says, "then will I profess unto them, I never knew you!"
The one thing needful was wanting, the knowledge of Christ; a knowledge which gathers and {p. 329} unites his whole household into one, in heart and mind, doing and believing as one man doeth and believeth.
But to come more directly to the subject of this letter, I will confess unto you, that I still feel much uneasiness in relation to many of the doctrinal views of J. J. Gurney, the Friend who is here from England in the capacity of a minister; and of which uneasiness I informed him at the time of our
last Yearly Meeting. And so far from attempting an explanation, for mine and others' satisfaction, he entered promptly into a summary defence and justification of the same; and attempted sheltering himself under his certificate from London, and plead that we have no right to call in question any thing which he had written previous to that time, a point in which we found ourselves at issue; unless, indeed, he had condemned his defective writings which are among us, here as well as there, before the certificate was granted; for his wrongs to the Society were here as well as there, and cannot be amended without a condemnation made as public as the writings themselves.
I could not dispute his idea, that Friends in London had sanctioned his doctrines by granting him a certificate of unity. But that other Yearly Meetings which are not subordinate but independent bodies, should be bound by such an inadvertent cover of defective doctrines by them, is an assumption altogether in my apprehension absurd.
The great question with us is, whether he has ever condemned and made satisfaction to Friends for those doctrines, agreeable to the usages of our Christian Discipline, or whether they yet remain to be his own.  This question was fully decided by himself during the interview which I had with him. He said that his "writings contained no doctrines but such as were sound and conformable to Quakerism!" Hence we are bound by his own veracity to believe that every thing to be found in his books is {p. 330} yet a true transcript of his own sentiments. But have we a right thus plainly to handle the character and doctrines of a travelling minister well recommended--a man so pleasing and interesting as well as religious? No! unless he has put himself in competition with the Society--with our principles and testimonies.
 If he have voluteered, and made public his name and sentiments, they are ours, [public property,] and there is no delicacy or impropriety in thus informing one another, and of developing to one another, the character of them, and the danger which thereby awaits the Society and its distinguishing doctrines.
If such right were taken from us, then the safety, if not the existence of this Society must soon be at
an end!
No individual has a right to claim the sparing of his character, at the expense of the whole Society and its doctrines, or to the dishonor or displeasure of Him who dispensed these doctrines to this people. For indeed, my dear friends, I account it no small thing tor an individual to arraign the whole company of our early and deeply experienced Friends in matters of faith and doctrine, and thus to reprobate their principles. But you will probably be surprised at such allusions as these, unless you have read his works;--if you have, attentively, I know your knowledge of our principles, and that your intelligence is such, that you will perceive there is no breach of charity in these remarks, being equally concerned with myself, as I trust you are, that the pure Christian doctrines of our early Friends may be kept and remain inviolate and without abatement.
We know that every one of those noted individuals who have in our time attempted an innovation upon our principles, claimed for themselves, and their friends claimed for them, the application and {p. 331}protection of our excellent discipline, relative to love and unity, and detraction; and no great honor to them either, to lay their unhallowed hands upon those Christian provisions, and to apply them to an unhallowed purpose, to lay a suspicion of their designs and to obviate detection. Some of them also when abroad with certificates, and friends expressed dissatisfaction with their doctrines, claimed the protection of their credentials, and appealed to the authority of their friends at home!
But whether you have been conversant with the writings alluded to or not, I will extract a few out of the many exceptionable passages, and present for your view and consideration; and if there should be any doubts in your minds relative to any one of them, you will please compare them with Fox, Barclay and Penn: for however he may deny the testimonies of these, I am assured that you will not. [Here followed the extracts. The reader is referred to those contained in the following letter, which are substantially the same.
The copy of the preceding letter in my hands is without date, but is believed to have been written in the 4th month of 1830, and signed by


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