« PreviousContinue »
ground of sorrow, and, it may be, of some discouragement: but, on the other hand, if we are persuaded that the foundation is sure—and after the Society' has endured such a warfare, that it might fix its habitation upon it, where is the good reason to doubt? As an individual, I have faith to believe that this foundation will never be abandoned, and that many will still be found to defend every testimony we uphold."
We have thus seen that Dr. H. refers, in five distinct places, to a right" or true foundation ;" in all of which it is impossible to discover to what foundation he refers. There is, however, a passage in pp. 40, 41, in which Dr. H. distinctly states “that the Society can only stand upon the foundation of these testimonies"-namely, “the great doctrines, of the invisible working of Christ's Spirit in the heart, AND of Universal Saving Light."
Though the subject of the “ Saving Light” does not properly come under our consideration here, yet I cannot pass from this quotation without observing the assertions made in it ; first, that Quakerism is founded upon these doctrines; and, secondly, that the “Universal Saving Light" is something distinct from the Spirit of Christ--a position which (though I admit it has the support of Barclay's authority) I will venture to affirm Dr. H. will find it impossible to prove from Holy Scripture.
How strikingly do the obscure allusions which we have been considering, contrast with the following beautiful descriptions of the Scriptural foundation!
Isaiah says (xxviii. 16), « Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone,
a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.” Now we need not doubt what this foundation is, for the Apostle Paul says (Ephesians ii. 19, 20): “ Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone ;” &c. Again, in 1 Cor. iii. 11, the same Apostle says, " other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
These passages can leave no shadow of doubt as to the mind of the Spirit. Are we not, therefore, justified in complaining, that any one, writing on Christian doctrine, should, on a point so clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture, leave his readers so much in the dark? I cannot but fear that Dr. H. considers, in common with too many others, that “ the true foundation on which Quakerism is built, is not simple Bible Christianity, but a more complete unfolding of the Christian system than is contained in Holy Scripture-a notion equally dangerous and presumptuous.
The following passage occurs in p. 5, to a portion of which some allusion has already been made.
“When I say that the doctrine of Immediate Revelation is thus indirectly assailed, I am aware that the author of the · Beacon' is fully disposed to admit, theoretically at least, the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit. But how it is possible to reconcile the incongruity, as I deem it to be, of believing in the latter, and not fully admitting the former, is more than I am able to explain : and I think it is one of the inconsistencies into which men are apt to fall
when they leave the true foundation. For it is clear, on the author's own principles, that if Immediate Revelation be granted, it must be conditional altogether; that is, dependent on the outward knowledge of Scripture or on man's preaching,-in short, that no saving light is received or manifested but through one outward medium or the other. But this never was the received doctrine of the Society, and I trust never will be received."
Is not Dr. H. deficient in Christian candour, when he thus insinuates that the author of the “ Beacon" holds the doctrine of the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit only in theory, after the full declarations made by him that he holds it scripturally?
In the next place, the author here, as in numerous other instances, seems to take for granted, as a position not in any sort to be questioned, that his business was, not to shew that certain views of Christian doctrine are conformable to Scripture authority, but that they have been always held by our Society; and, therefore, that all those who express doubts respecting them are leaving “ the true foundation.” It would thus really appear as though he thought there was some peculiar and more exalted dispensation, specially manifested to our little section of the Christian church, which enforced a certain set of doctrines and opinions, in addition to the revealed will of God in Holy Scripture, and independent of its authority; as though the point to adjust was-not, What saith the Scripture ? but—What say our early Friends? Now I will not hesitate to declare my conviction, that this is not only dangerous in the extreme, but
utterly at variance with the Society's latest published document. It is, in fact, a modification of the Popish dogma of implicit submission to the authority of tradition.
Equally at variance with sound Protestantism is the very unguarded statement made in p. 79: “ We believe that the standard we have adopted is a fixed one, and that as it is, we apprehend, not of our own, but of Divine appointment, therefore we cannot change it." And in p. 75 he informs us, that "this ultimate standard” is “ the revelation of the will of God in the heart.” The “ fixed ultimate standard” of the Papist is vested in the infallibility of the Church: Dr. Hancock's is “ of Divine appointment,” and is “in the heart." The only difference, therefore, is, that the one vests infallibility in the church, the other, in the mind of each fallible man.
As a reasoner, the author of the “ Defence” is singularly unhappy. “He takes for granted what he ought to have proved, and endeavours to prove what he ought to have taken for granted.” He takes for granted the untenable position, that the writings of our ancient Fathers are to be considered, in a certain sense, as of equal authority with the written word of God; and he labours to prove positions, which a clear perception of evangelical truth would compel him to take for granted.
While there prevail in the “Defence" much confusion of ideas and ambiguity of style, when it treats on some points which to a simple Bible-Christian would be perfectly clear, there are some passages which stand out with a most painful clearness and
prominence. The following one, in p. 85, strikingly exemplifies this : “ And here, I cannot but make a general remark, that, while I trust and believe that the Holy Scriptures will never cease to be regarded by the Society of Friends as one of the greatest outward helps and blessings (!) to aid the Christian in his course, which, by the goodness of Providence, we possess, and which, indeed, have been acknowledged as such by the Society,' in its ' Advices,' and by its practice, uniformly down to the present time; nevertheless, though it does not become me to judge my neighbour, neither am I competent to say how far the searching of the Scriptures,' without any other help, might make a Christian of another denomination, I am sure that seurching the Scriptures alone would never make a true Quaker.” (!) In this extract the Holy Scriptures are spoken of
one of the greatest outward helps to aid the Christian in his course,” &c. Can our author point out any other “outward help” equally great ?
This is sufficiently objectionable; but when a professing Christian, in the nineteenth century, broadly states his conviction that “ searching the Scriptures alone would never make a true Quaker," and directly implies that it might make a Christian of another denomination, we feel compelled to protest against so revolting a proposition. Are we to take this statement as a commentary upon Dr. Hancock's “ true foundation," on which Quakerism is built? For if words have any definite meaning, this passage asserts that Quakerism is not built entirely on Holy Scripture; but on Holy Scripture and something con