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Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
STATISTICAL RETURNS EXHIBITING THE PRESENT STATE OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.
"That little spark (Quakerism) that hath appeared, shall grow up to the consuming of whatsoever shall stand up to oppose it! The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!"
Barclay's "Conclusion to his Apology."
IT would be difficult to conceive of a more signal failure in the fulfilment of a prophecy, than that which the present state of the Society of Friends exhibits, as compared with the prophesy printed and published by the "great apologist," at the conclusion of his famous book. Yet never did
a prophet of the Most High, lay bolder claim to Divine inspiration than Barclay did for this delusion! He challenges the credence of the whole church-" The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!"
Barclay lived when Quakerism was flourishing under bitter persecution, and when its sanguine followers were evidently anticipating its universal diffusion.
But a day arrived when the appetite of spiritual tyranny became palled with the number of her victims ;-the feverish excitement kept up by oppression, was succeeded by a cold collapse of spiritless formality; and the following age witnessed the commencement of an order of things unfavourable to the growth of vital religion.
The rise of the Society of Friends, was one of the many moral phenomena engendered by that agitated and peculiar state of public affairs, both religious and political, which prevailed
in this country when the Quakers first attracted public attention. The Society was at first composed of little companies of men seeking for spiritual communion; worn, and sick at heart with the hypocrisy and formality of the nominal professors of religion. In such companies, there would, in the nature of things, be no deficiency of ministry; but claiming as they did for it the authority and power of a direct revelation, it of necessity tended to place the written word in a subordinate position: this naturally led to its being lightly esteemed, and then what marvel that their ministry was of an unscriptural character; and, judging of their ministry from the doctrinal statements contained in their published writings, we may safely affirm that it was not according to "the lively oracles." For instance, it is not to be conceived that the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith could have been generally preached, because, amidst the immense mass of their publications, it would be found impossible to select a single work in which that doctrine is scripturally stated.* we know that, as regards the ministry of modern times, the notion of justification by obedience to the inward
* A friend of ours once expressed this startling opinion in the presence of a leading member of the Society, and asked him, as he was intimately acquainted with "Friends' writings," whether he could point out a single Quaker author prior to Gurney, who appeared to be scripturally clear on this fundamental doctrine?-After a pause, he replied, "He thought Thomas Story came a little near to it!" This needs no comment!
light, has been the rule; and the preaching of justification by faith the excep
Are we then to wonder at the dwindling of a body thus deficient in the cohesive principle of gospel ministry? Ought we to be surprised at the decay of vital religion in a body professing to be a Church of Christ, whose members are such by virtue of natural birth? Ought it to excite surprise that a professedly religious society should decline, in which the holy word, that blessed means of spiritual teaching, is rejected in all its meetings, in which the ordinances of christian baptism and the Lord's supper are discarded, in which silence is substituted for scriptural worship, and in which a rigid adherence to the beggarly elements of outward peculiarity are the essential pre-requisites for spiritual office?
But we have no idea that the tem is very speedily going to pieces. It is the pleasantest possible profession for the sober worldling who values the respectability attaching to a connexion with the visible church, and to the hebdomadal observance of religion. This, it may be answered, applies equally to the mere professor of every name; and in degree it undoubtedly does, but, with this dangerous difference,--in the Society of Friends, a correct external walk, if coupled with a rigid adherence to all the "peculiarities," render any man eligible to, and frequently places such in, the most responsible spiritual offices. Now, in most other Christian Societies, church-members only are admissible to spiritual function or service, and church-members are not such by birth, but by a credible profession of faith in Christ; and in such communities there is moreover the Lord's Table as a barrier against the world, and a salutary and solemn warning to the mere professor. Many a man, who, in the Society of Friends, might, with a complacent conscience, sustain, for instance, the responsible spiritual office
of Elder, would recoil with dread from partaking "unworthily," (unto judgment) of our Lord's broken body and shed blood, and would thus be restrained from the sin of hypocrisy, and from assuming a spiritual station he had no right to occupy.
Notwithstanding all these co-operating causes of spiritual decay, we do not think the system is very speedily going to pieces-there are two bands of magical and mystic influence acting with unseen, but unceasing constrictive power. The funds and the discipline operate on all; the former on the upper classes, in the pleasure of administration and distribution, and on the humbler, in the satisfaction of undegraded recipients:-the latter also has a general effect; influence, station and service, can only be obtained by adherence to all the forms and usages prescribed by the discipline; while, to the honour of the Society be it spoken, her bounty is measured only by the standard of necessity.
No one, unconnected with the Society, can correctly appreciate the power of these influences. The rich have been known to estimate their membership at a high money value, while those in humbler walks of life, cannot be indifferent to the importance of a connexion which secures them from all fear of poverty. And be it further observed, that the large vested funds and interests of the Society, managed as they are gratuitously, and with the most scrupulous integrity and honour, are continually increasing in actual value, while the number of the participants, is, as the subjoined Statistical Tables prove, annually diminishing, so that the time may arrive when a comparatively small "remnant," may share no paltry patrimony in the "division of the spoil."
May the undeniable and astounding fact which these tables exhibit, lead the Friends to inquire, "What is the cause?" and may such an inquiry lead to the happiest results! For how sorry should we be to see much that
Containing a List of all the Quarterly Meetings of the Society of Friends in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, compiled from the Book of Meetings just published. Specifying also the number of Meetings in each Quarterly Meeting-the number of Ministers (if any) in each, and whether -how many Meetings are held twice each Sabbath day, and
men or women
meet for worship twice on each Lord's day, that in 141 meetings they only assemble once on that day, and that in 14 of them, even that once is occasionally omitted! That of these 419 congregations, there are 298 destitute of any minister, leaving only 121 supplied with ministers. That the total number of ministers in the whole society, is only 233, and that of these 152 are women! leaving only 81, or about one third, men.
Such then is the actual condition of that society, which was not only to grow, but to "grow up to the consuming of whatsoever should stand up to oppose it"-that society which, according to another visionary, was the second advent of Christ, "Christ in his people, the Immanuel who is now coming* in ten thousand of thousands of his saints, called Quakers, who tremble at his word; for they are the people that shall spring up, and spread, from the root of Jesse, over the face of the whole earth" (Bayly's Works. p. 196),-that society, to which, we have so often been told, the people should flock as "Doves to their windows" (Isa. lx. 8):— and, in truth, this last prophecy seems rapidly receiving its literal accomplishment, only, that the flocking is of the "Doves" within to escape, instead of the "People" without to
Such then is its actual condition; and what can be a clearer evidence of
* Extraordinary as this language may appear, it does not differ widely from some statements in the present day, as may be seen by the following extract from a recent "The Church Awakened," p. 36, Mr. work, Kirk's Sermon :-" We tell it to the city of London, we tell it to Britain, we tell it to all the world, that the Son of man is about to come on the earth, not as the Millenarians teach, to assume a temporal authority, or to establish a personal reign; but that He is about to come in the power of his Spirit, to take possession of the hearts of thousands, and, we hope, millions, of our fellow men; and we take shame to ourselves that his coming has been so long delayed for want of our fervent and united prayers"!-EDs.
declining piety in any body, than a deficiency of gospel ministers, and a slighting of gospel ministry. On this point, a spirit of infatuation seems to have come over the body; for there is an evident exultation over the depression and extinction of gospel ministry, and an unwonted degree of self-complacent gratulation over their silent meetings.
This then is the state of the Society of Friends. “Is there not a cause ?” out of 419 congregations, 298 destitute of any minister! meeting year after year, it may be, without hearing the sound of the gospel or the voice of prayer!
Are the Friends sincere in all that they have said (and repeated, till one is weary of reading such protestations) of their value for the Holy Scriptures as the appointed means of spiritual instruction?
Are they really then in their view, the appointed means of spiritual instruction? and do they know that God's blessing is only to be expected in the way of his appointing-in the faithful use of the appointed means? And yet, if in any one of these 298 congregations, a spiritually-minded and consistent member were to stand up and use this, the appointed means of spiritual instruction, by reading it, and praying for a blessing thereon; such an one, so acting, though in direct imitation of his Lord and Master, would be forbidden, and might be "dealt with" for for "unbecoming behaviour!"
Will the friends still cling to that fatal delusion, of an infallible system? will they, with strange inconsistency, still reject in practice the prayerful use of that holy instrument which in theory they profess to believe to be the appointed means to the great end in view? will they still continue to drive from them, those whose only offence lies in humble obedience to the dictates of sanctified conscience, those, who, weak in themselves, but strong in the faith, are, and must be
Chapel of the Evangelical Friends, Grosvenor Street, Charlton-uponMedlock, Manchester, Oct. 5, 1838. AT a meeting of the congregation assembling in this place, held to consider the subject of forming a settled church, it was concluded that a brief record should be made of the gathering of this congregation and of the proceedings since their first assembling together.
As the congregation chiefly consists of persons who were members of the Society of Friends, it seems needful to advert to the causes which led to their separation from that body.
The first cause we believe to have been, their more frequent and attentive reading of the Holy Scriptures, by which many were established in the conviction that they are of supreme authority in all matters of doctrine.
The division of the Society of Friends in America, and the fearful errors which resulted from the carrying out of the principle, that the Scriptures are not the first rule of faith and practice, shewed still more plainly the importance of a diligent study of the Bible, both to obtain a knowledge of the truth, and to furnish the young with those principles which might guard them against the evils of the world, and the snares of Satan.
With these views a class was formed by William Boulton, an elder in the Society of Friends at Manchester, for the social reading and study of the Scriptures in the year 1833: and a second class was formed by other members of the society in 1834.
Soon after the establishment of the first class, the yearly meeting of Friends
in London, held in 1834, was informed by the answers to the queries, that disunity existed in the meeting of the ministers and elders, of which William Boulton was a member.
Early in the year 1835, Isaac Crewdson, a minister in the same meeting, published the "Beacon to the Society of Friends," in order to shew the deadly nature of the errors of Elias Hicks, the leader of the heresy amongst the Quakers in America, and to warn the Society in this country against those false doctrines.
On the appearance of this book, the disunity in this country was so much increased, that the yearly meeting in London, held in 1835, appointed a Committee to visit the county of Lancaster.
This Committee, on their arrival in Manchester, entered on an examination of the Beacon, and advised the author to prevent its further circulation, alleging that he had infringed
some important parts of Divine truth, known to have been always held by the Society of Friends.
This decision of the Committee, made in the face of their declaration, that they entered into a scriptural examination of the work, furnished conclusive evidence that they had tried it by some other standard than the Bible, as they did not shew that the Beacon was in any way at variance with the Holy Scriptures; and their general proceedings proved, that their enquiry was, who had the views of the early Friends, rather than who held the doctrines of the Lord and his apostles.
When the author of the Beacon did not suppress the work, the committee complained of his want of condescension; and although, in their report to the monthly meeting (made after he had declined to withdraw the book), they had said that they did not feel called upon, with reference to the doctrinal question, to recommend any proceedings in the case of Isaac Crewdson, they afterwards in