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hearted and well-intentioned people rather than as striking benefactors of mankind.
And still they were benefactors, if not by the quiet virtues which they practiced, at least by some of the great ideas which they defended, and more or less promulgated.
Among these may be mentioned the steady and consistent advocacy of the principles of peace. We do not believe, indeed, in their doctrine of absolute non-resistance, although it may seem to have
80 many reasons to support it from the maxims of our Saviour, and from his example in his last hour of martyrdom. We do not see how non-resistance, in any conceivable form and circumstances, can be harmonized with the duty of protection and the necessary functions of human government, which are to restrain the violence of the wicked, and punish offenders against the laws. The Scriptures everywhere bear witness of the unprincipled depravity of man which needs to be restrained ; and all the experience of the human race, as well as natural instinct, goes to show that men will grasp, by any means, all the power they can, and consign the helpless and the unfortunate, unless they protect themselves, to slavery and degradation. Sad would be the condition of the world, and slow the progress of society, if men were to offer no opposing force to the violence of madness and the selfishness of tyrants. And it has generally been shown, that when men have yielded most readily to the encroachments of the base and the ambitious, they have been most deficient in those noble qualities which evince dignity of soul and energy of character; and, on the other hand, when men have been most ready to defend principles and interests dearer than human lives, they have made the greatest advance in civilization, and evinced the highest evidence of lofty faith and glorious self-devotion, those heaven-born qualities which save cities and kingdoms. It is one thing for a Christian to manifest a peaceable disposition, and quite another to live, as far as lieth in him, peaceably with all men ; a distinction which the apostle most obviously recognizes, and which was even made by Christ when,in indignation that the temple at Jerusalem should be made a house of merchandise, he drove out, with whips and cords, those who sold oxen and sheep and doves. We honor the Society of Friends, not for their doctrines of passive obedience, but for their recognition of the principles of love in the intercourse of nations, and their persistent affirmation that they ought to settle their difficulties by mutual concession rather than resort to measures of civil retaliation, so sure to end in needless and wicked bloodshed. And their enlightened dissertations on the duty of mutual forbearance, on the general inexpediency of war, and on the dreadful evils which it everywhere entails, have done much to open the eyes of nations to its folly and in humanity, as it has generally appeared. For war, though sometimes necessary and inevitable, is always based on wicked passions on the part of the offending side, and is certain also to produce them at last among both contending parties. In its general nature and practice, it has proved the greatest evil which can degrade humanity, as well as the most atrocious crime which the wrath of man can possibly perpetrate.
If civilization be impossible when there is general acquiescence in degrading slavery, it is also quite as hopeless when wars of conquest or ambition stain the world with blood, and waft the names of mighty conquerors to the ends of the earth in the curses and imprecations of despair.
The Friends, again, ever have been among the most strenuous advocates of civil and religious liberty. They were not the first to declare it, and therefore the idea is not peculiarly their own, but they have embraced the most radical views of it, and have been the most fearless of its results. They were among the first to denounce the usurpation of Cromwell, they were among the quickest to perceive the inconsistency of the Puritans. They would carry liberty of speech, of thought, of government, of religion, to the utmost bounds. The only limitation to it was to be placed by the conscience of mankind. And this view of liberty, not in all instances, we fear, such as is supported by the word of God, was based on their unbounded trust in the power of truth and love. They had no apprehension of its abuse, for they believed that love would disarm the ferocity of the most brutal and ferocious enemies. Hence they would trust their lives with savages, when they were committing upon others the most barbarous excesses. They would
unbind the fetters of the slave indifferent to all probable results. They thought they had no right to keep a single human being in bondage, except for crime, that all made in God's image were to be left perfectly free to choose their own mode of happiness, that such, as well as themselves, had the inner light to guide them, which it was no concern to others whether they respected or disregarded. Prudence, or calculation, or expediency never entered into their schemes of enfranchisement. They would give all an equal chance to rise and improve their own conditions. They advocated liberty as an abstraction, and not as a reality. Tell them of its probable, nay almost certain failure, and they would reply: "what is that to us, we must do right though the heavens should fall.” And they had sufficient faith in the ultimate power of truth to be serene amid the apparent failure of their cause. They would be true to their principles even if they believed that they would be defeated. Their hopes extended to far distant times. Hence they believed in the gradual and progressive improvement of human society, since truth and God's Spirit would never be withdrawn; that successive developments of human progress would ultimately assimilate man to the image that was lost. They became the most sanguine of reformers, as well as the most radical and fearless. They would see the prostration of their cause and still rejoice, unmoved by the expostulation of the prudent, indifferent to the voice of wisdom, reckless of all the past experience of the world. How different such men from the Cranmers and the Cromwells of the Reformation! How different such from modern conservatives ! But some may object to this statement, even some of the least intellectual and best conditioned among the members of their Society, and deny that Quakerism is radical in its spirit. We admit that many Friends are conservative in their sympathies, but there is nothing conservative in their principles or in the character of their early members. If they pushed abstract truths too far, and applied them too fearlessly and recklessly, still it is something to have advanced the indestructible ideas on which the welfare of the race depends.
The Society of Friends have been the most enlightened advocates of religious toleration. They never have persecuted any class of men for their religious opinions. In this respect they have shown a decided superiority to the Puritans, who, next to them, have made the greatest professions. We do not say that they have never evinced any practical intolerance. That would be too much to expect of any sect of Christians in this world, since intolerance is in human nature itself, and is never entirely to be eradicated from the mind. We do not like those who differ from us, and not liking them, we avoid them, we do not sympathize with their afflictions, we are not averse to their humiliation, we would put them down so far as we can legally and properly. We frown upon them, we undermine them, we pervert their doctrines, we distort their views. We wish our enemies to be denounced, we will hear no censure of those we love, no praise of them we hate. In these respects the Friends are like other men. We would no more dream of satisfying them unless we adopted all of their views, than we would think of making Romanism appear to have been a useful power, in ages of baronial tyranny and ignorance, in the eyes of a bigoted partizan of ultra Protestant opinions. Religious toleration, in its broadest meaning, is the highest form of charity itself, which, though commanded, is no more to be attained than absolute perfection. We may approximate it, bnt we can not reach it. It is a virtue rarely seen in men of impetuous impulses, or ardent feelings, or one-sided habits of thought. It thrives best among those who are naturally mild and meek, among those whose reason is not apt to be dethroned by passion, among philosophers, among those who have seen the world. It is often allied with that indifference and coldness which betray a want of proper · earnestness and love for truth, in the absence of any firm convictions; while, again, intolerance itself is sometimes the defect of the very loftiest natures, jealous of the dignity of truth, watchful of the glory of their Master.
If the Friends have not always manifested a practical toleration in the affairs of ordinary life, they yet have avoided those extreme courses of severity which other sects have been wont to exercise against those who differed from them. We read of no burning of witches, no expulsion of obnoxious heretics from the land, no branding with ignominy, no vile imprisonments, no savage tortures. They have never attempted to restrain the thinking of opposing sects. And they have been peculiarly charitable in their judgments. They would not quench the fires of hell, but they have not consigned to those eternal torments the heathen sage, the pagan king, or the unlettered devotee to degrading forms, so long as they were true to the light they had. This, they affirm, has shined in every age enough for the practical ends of life. It is the voice of Deity in the soul, which, when obeyed, will lead to everlasting life; which, when resisted, will end in everlasting death. The Friend would welcome Socrates, and Seneca, and Plato, and Pythagoras into the abodes of the blessed, as well as the fathers of the church and the guides of modern Christians. The expansiveness of his benev-. olent desires is as boundless as the limits of the universe. He does not deny or doubt a state of future retribution. The universality of God's grace, to Jew and Gentile, Scythian and Barbarian, of whatever country, or kindred, or age, was one of the favorite tenets of Fox and Barcklay and Penn, and which they embraced with undissembled fervor.
There was one more form of generous toleration for which the Friends were distinguished, and which is not often spoken of. They honored woman. They respected her voice in religious meetings as well as in the social home. They ever have zealously cultivated her intellect because they believed in her real and natural equality. They never depreciated her tastes or her genius. They would condemn her to no coarse and degrading duties. In all respects she was viewed as the companion of man, rather than his slave, his friend and counsellor and helpmate, rather than an inferior to be flattered by silly speeches and amused with toys and spectacles. The Friend associated with woman, not with seductive influence to beguile her, but with dignity and simplicity, as the being whom God gave to cheer him in his loneliness, or assist him in his misfortunes. Under such a treatment she has ever retained in his ranks, a true as well as admitted equality.
Such have been some of the blessings which Fox and his Society have conferred upon the world — some great ideas and some valued rights. Who will not concede that the principles of peace, of liberty and of generous toleration, are the glory of all true benefactors to our race, as well as the pride and the boast of a progressive age?