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labored most assiduously in whatever duty dictated, unmindful of reproach, and deaf to the expostulation of their worldly friends. They put to shame all other parties and schools of piety by the disinterestedness of their labors, and their fidelity to the end to all those great ideas which alone, in their opinion, were to regenerate the world. They sought a heavenly and not an earthly crown, and were animated, even in the hour of martyrdom, by the most glorious hopes. Even Oliver Cromwell, whom they rebuked, and who never liked them, was forced to say, "Now I see there is a people arisen, that I can not win with gifts, honors, offices, or places, but all other sects and people I can.” They would not eat his bread nor drink his wine. Nor did they refrain from giving him, even when in the possession of unbounded power, the plainest and most unpalatable rebukes, couched in no courtier language, but in that of simplicity and severity.
In all their ordinary actions and conversations they seemed to be animated by high religious considerations. Their system also recognized some great and important truths which had been before overlooked ; and yet, with these we are constrained to mention what we consider to be some radical errors, which, if generally embraced, would do great evil in society.
In alluding to the system of Fox and his followers, we are aware that we tread on a ground so delicate as almost to be forbidden. But as we shall strive to do this with no partizan or combative spirit, simply to unfold the agitating opinions of a great intellect of a former age, we hope we shall have the indulgence even of any who may not accept our conclusions.
George Fox was doubtless one of the boldest thinkers of his age or nation, and attempted to carry out his reforms to the full extent which his abstract principles would admit, wishing to unite theory with practice, and produce that perfection in human life which we fear will never be attained ; making but little allowance for human infirmity, yielding nothing to the long-settled institutions of society, taking no cognizance of the laws of expediency and discarding everything which the inward Light did not reveal, or which was not supported by the literal word of God, or the principles of abstract truth.
The central principle of his system has much in it that is beautiful, original and plausible, even the authority of the " Inner Light,” only it bears rather too close a resemblance to the mystic and transubstantial doctrines of the Pythagoreans, and other ancient sects, to claim so Christian an origin as is manifested by those who have embraced it. Fox was a rebel against every form of worldly authority, and had no respect for any accumulation of human experiences, when not in accordance with his views of truth. He was disgusted with all his teachers, and despised venerated names. He fancied they could teach him nothing. They only blinded his mind. He had nothing to learn from man, and very little from any human exposition of divine truth. He earnestly sought his soul's salvation, but the first dawn of light did not break in upon his mind from the perusal of the sacred writings, as was the case with Luther, but from a revelation which he supposed to come to his soul direct from God; not opposed to any declaration in the Scriptures, but higher than that declaration, inasmuch as the fountain is greater than the stream which issues from it, "for,” says Barcklay, the great expounder of the creed of Fox, “ these divine inward revelations, though they may not contradict the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or right and sound reason, yet are not to be subjected to the test, either of the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or of the natural reason of man, for this divine revelation and in ward illumination is that which is evident and clear of itself, and forces the assent of the well disposed understanding." And again, in reference to the Scriptures ; " because they are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all truth, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. They are only a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellence and certainty.” Thus it was that Fox and his followers made the authority of the Scriptures subordinate to the teachings of the Spirit ; opening a door for delusion and infatuation and spiritual arrogance; for—Euch is the infirmity of human nature it is not difficult to believe that many things are the promptings of the divine, when in reality they are or may be, the suggestions of an evil spirit. We grant that Fox and the early members of his Society had such a pro
found reverence for the Scriptures that they were not inclined to question their literal commands. But, if that principle be maintained, persons not so piously inclined will dare to do so. Has it never been said that certain declarations in the Scriptures, which seem to controvert favorite doctrines, originated in Jewish prejudices, and not in the spirit of love? Was not the idea of a special divine illumination the great delusion of St. Francis, when he felt prompted to outrage the opinions and laws of his age by numberless extravagances which we have not time to mention. Was not this notion one of the principles of Mohammed ? Did it not characterize Ignatius Loyola in his Mauresan cave? Did it not animate the Anabaptists of Germany, and array them against Luther and his doctrines ? Has it not led the Mormons of our own times into great extravagances ? The doctrine of special divine illumination by the Spirit of God, thereby teaching truths which could be taught independently of the Bible, is the central principle of many of those systems of religion which even Friends regard as essentially pagan and anti-christian.
We do not say that the Friends ever perverted it to any dangerous extent, or vindicated it in its broadest meaning. Their common
sense and their reverence for the Scriptures may have kept them from the errors which this notion has certainly, and often produced in less Christian minds, and which it will always lead to among vain and unsanctified people, if practically carried out. We have seen most excellent men and women, not belonging to the Friends, running into absurd and dangerous practices and opinions, and not pretending to support them by scriptural authorities, yet warmly defending them on the ground of a special revelation. This should not be confounded with the ordinary influences of the Divine Spirit, in which all evangelical Christians believe. It is something more - a peculiar illumination from God, which places its subjects on nearly the same footing with inspired sages of old. And if it does not mean this, it means something still more revolting to a truly enlightened Christian
- even a sort of Pagan spiritualism, such as George Bancroft has attributed to Plato and Pythagoras. Indeed, this historian has either greatly misunderstood the principles of Fox, or aimed to make them attractive to a certain party among the
Frends who do sympathize with the rationalistic and transcendental doctrines of a school in and around Boston, which is more Grecian than Christian. But Fox was no more a Platonic philosopher than he was a Lutheran or a Calvinist, and Mr. Bancroft has rendered no service to truth or the Society of Friends by painting Fox us a transcendental Pagan, interesting as such a kind of Pagan may be to those who deny the personality of God and of the Devil. But if Fox was not a transcendental philosopher in the Pythagorean sense, still his favorite doctrine was so much in harmony with either the indefinite and soaring mysticism of the ancient sages, or with the arrogant pretension to special illumination which marked the deluded saints of the Middle ages, that he has exposed himself and his system to severe criticism. And just so far as he really did incline to either the sages' of ancient Greece, or the saints of a darkened age in this respect, his doctrine was erroneous and dangerous. If he only meant by the inner light the ordinary influences of God's Spirit, which, of course, are supernatural, then his doctrine has no originality, and his Society has, in its foundation, no grand peculiarity. So far as the Friends make a point about forms, and dress, and social life, they are not widely different from the early Methodists and various other religious people who wish to avoid worldly influences. These are nothing It is the ideas of Fox which give him all his importance. And if his ideas pertaining to God's Spirit, when refined away, are like those of the Orthodox, why then he does not claim our notice. But they are not the same. There is something peculiar about them. Fox did claim a special divine illumination, and his followers attach a meaning to the inner light which Luther, and Calvin, and Cranmer, and Knox did not -even that which would kindle the soul into rapture, and reveal truth, if the Bible had not been written - for what is the Bible but the Word of God supernaturally communicated to ancient saints, and which, to be spiritually discerned, needs, according to Fox, special divine influences. And this appears upon every page of his diary. It was the Spirit, and not the Scriptures, which urged him to attack what he called steeplehouses, and the dresses of the clergy, and the external economy of the church. Whenever he spoke his words were substantial
ly, as Maurice has interpreted them : "Brother, there is a light within thee, resist it and thou art miserable, follow it and thou art happy. Nor did he say, " this light is mine alone,” but “it is as much yours as mine. Nor will it mislead you. It will guide you in all the temptations of life. It is the voice of God within you, even as the ancient poet saith :
• Est Deus in nobis :
Agitante calescimus illo.'” That Fox was sincere as well as truly religious and conscientious can not be denied. Nor did he dream that the Spirit of his favorite doctrine had been, in ancient times, in no small degree, cherished by those with whom he had no communion. So rare is real originality. So often do unlettered men of genius fancy they are propounding something entirely new, because it is new to them. In reality there is very little which is new under
When unlearned but intellectual men advance something which they fancy new, it will generally be found to be some exploded error which the great enemy
of man has suggested in a modified form, or some old truth which has never ceased to be recognized.
After all, Fox is most remarkable for carrying out his principles more radically than other reformers of his age, and, while so doing, overlooking some important duties which his one-sided turn of mind prevented him from appreciating. He was utterly unable to see wisdom or truth in many things which were, in his day, not only regarded as important, but which also in our own are so considered by the most enlightened men, and men as conscientious and clear-headed as he. Attaching undue value to an inward guide, as the revealer of all truth, he supposed that the institution of the clergy, as a distinct order, was needless. Moreover as Christ came to establish a spiritual dispensation, therefore outward observances, like fasts and festivals, and Baptism, and the Eucharist, and a ministry appointed by the imposition of hands, should be dispensed with. He turned with disgust from creeds and confessions of faith, even the simplest, and such as were undoubtedly instituted in primitive times, because they direct our thoughts to the outward acts and events of Christ upon earth, rather than to his presence in our hearts.