I should be sorry if, in holding up this species of education to a farther encouragement, as a preservative of the morals of the children of rich parents amidst the various temptations of life, I were to be thought to endeavour to take away in any degree the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit on the mind of man, or to deny that this Spirit ought not to be resorted to as the first and best guide, both by rich and poor, during their pilgrimage upon earth. For who can teach us best to deny the world? Who can teach us best to estimate its pursuits? Who can instruct us best to resist its temptations? To the Divine Being then we are first to look up, as to him who can be the best author of all our good, and the surest averter of all our evils, who can apply the best remedy to the imperfections of our nature, and who, while he leads us in safety, can lead us into the way of truth. But when we consider how many are inattentive, on account of the cares, and pleasures, and fashions, and prejudices, and customs of the world, to the secret notices of his grace, I cannot help considering that we may be allowed to have secondary and subordinate helps to our virtue. As the discipline of the Quaker society may produce and preserve a certain purity of life, so may a literary and philosophical education operate to the same end. Such an education is in its general tendency a friend to the promotion of virtue and to the discouragement of vice. It sets us often unquestionably above many of the corruptive opinions and customs in the midst of which we live. It leads us also frequently to the contemplation of the Divine Being in all the variety of his works. It gives us amiable, awful, and sublime conceptions of him. As far, therefore, as it is capable of doing this, it is a useful, though it be only a subordinate source of our purity, and we may therefore adopt it innocently. But we are never to forget, at the same time, that, though it may help us occasionally to resist corrupt temptations, and to encourage desirable propensities, yet it cannot do every thing for us that is necessary, and that we are never to overlook, on this account, the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit.
To shew in what the education, which under these limitations I am going to propose, may consist, I shall revive the controversy between the philosophical moralists and the Quakers, as described in the eighth chapter of the first volume. The philosophical moralists contended, that knowledge was to be preferred, as being more to be relied upon than prohibitions: that prohibitions were often causes of greater evils than they were intended to prevent; that they themselves were friends to occasional indulgencies; that they saw nothing necessarily or inherently mischievous in the amusements of the world; that it was not wise to anticipate danger by looking to distant prospects, where the things were innocent in themselves; that ignorance of vice was no guardian of morals; that causes, and not sub-causes, were to be contended against; and that there was no certain security but in knowledge and in a love of virtue. To this the Quakers replied, that prohibitions were sanctioned by divine authority; that as far as they related to the corrupt amusements of the world, they were implied in the spirit of Christianity; that the knowledge, which should be promotive of virtue, could not be inculcated without them; that knowledge again, if it were to be acquired by the permission of occasional indulgences, or by being allowed to pass through scenes which might be dangerous to virtue, would be more ruinous than ignorance by a prohibition of vice; that ignorance of vice was an essential in Christian morals; and that prohibitions therefore were indispensably necessary, and better to be relied upon, than any corrupt knowledge, which might arise from an acquaintance with the customs of the world.
This then was the state of the controversy, as described in the first volume. And in this state it was left. But, to explain the education which I have in view, I shall now bring it to a conclusion.
I must observe then, that the philosophical moralists had the advantage of the Quakers in this controversy, inasmuch as they supposed that knowledge was a better safeguard to morals than a mere ignorance of vice; but they failed in this, that they permitted this knowledge to be acquired by passing through scenes which might not be friendly to virtue. Now this latter permission is inadmissible in a Christian education; for no Christian youth ought to be permitted to see or to hear that which ought not to be uttered or exhibited by a Christian. The Quakers, on the other hand, had the advantage of the philosophical moralists, inasmuch as they considered ignorance to be better than corrupted knowledge; but they failed in this, that they seemed to rely upon ignorance of vice as a safeguard against it, without a proper portion of knowledge. The education then, to which I allude, ought to embrace the most valuable positions of both. It should consist of knowledge, and it should consist of wise prohibitions also. Knowledge and prohibitions are inseparable. While the mind is gaining knowledge, it should be kept innocent. And while it is kept innocent, it should be gaining knowledge. Youth should have that kind of knowledge instilled into them, by which they should discern the value of the prohibitions which are enjoined them. They should have such and so much knowledge, that if they were accidentally placed in the way of the things prohibited, they should be able to look them in the face, and pass through them without injury. This is that education, which, without superseding the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit, has a tendency to enable persons, while they live in the world, to live out of it or deny it.
But lest I should not be clearly understood upon this subject, I will exemplify how such an education would act or operate to the end proposed.
And, first of all, knowledge may be acquired by reading. Now there are two kinds of reading, the one useful, the other dangerous. By the premises, I am to adopt the first, and to prohibit the last. If then I accustom my child to the best and purest models of ancient and modern literature, I give him a certain taste for composition. If I accustom him to the purest and most amiable sentiments, as contained in these, I give him a love of virtue. If I heighten these sentiments by beautiful selections from the more pure and amiable sentiments of Christianity, I increase that love. If I give him in my own conduct an example, he sees me practise that which I recommend. I give him then a taste for the purest reading, and the choicest compositions, and I offer to his notice, at the same time, a certain system of morality, which he cannot but gradually adopt as his own. Now I would ask, what influence could a novel have upon a mind formed in this manner, if thrown accidentally in his way. If its composition were but moderate, as is the case with most of them, it would not suit the taste of my child. If its sentiments were impure, it would disgust him. These would be so contrary to the taste and to the feelings he had acquired, that the poison in such a book, like a ball, fired at a globular surface, would slide off without detriment to the morals of my child.
Knowledge again may be acquired in the course of amusements, and of such as may be resorted to within doors. Now of these again there are two kinds, the innocent and the corruptive. By the premises I am to be concerned with the first only. If then I accustom my child to mathematical and philosophical pursuits, if I incite him to experiments in these, if I assist him in measuring the motions of the heavenly bodies, and in discovering the wisdom and power of Omnipotence as displayed in these, if I occasion him to be interested in, the contemplation of such subjects, what have I done for my child? Have I not called out his intellectual faculties? Have I not laid in him the foundation of a serious and a thoughtful mind? Have I not accustomed him to solid things, in opposition to those that are light, and to sublime things, in opposition to those that are frivolous? Have I not inculcated in him a love for science? But take my child, after he has been accustomed to such thoughts and such subjects, to the theatre. Let the pantomime display its various attracting scenes to his view. And will he not think his entertainment low and superficial, in comparison of that which he left at home.
Knowledge again may be acquired by amusements which are out of doors. These again may be innocent or exceptionable. As before, I have nothing to do but with the former. If then I accustom my child to range the fields, as an employment promotive of his health, and connect this healthy exercise with the entertainment of botanical pursuits, do I not, in examining with him the shape, the colour, and the mechanism of plants and flowers, confirm in him his former love of the works of nature? Do I not confirm his former notion of the wisdom and power of omnipotence? Do I not teach him by these, and the other pursuits which have been mentioned, that all recreations should be innocent, and that time should be wisely employed? But hark! another amusement, and one of those which are followed out of doors, is at hand. The hounds are in view, and fast approaching. My son is accidentally solicited to join them. He would ask my permission, but I am absent. At length he goes. He follows them in wild tumult and uproar for an hour. He sees some galloping over hedges and ditches like madmen, and hazarding their persons in a presumptuous manner. He sees others ride over the cultivated fields of their neighbours, and injure the rising corn. He finds that all this noise and tumult, all this danger and injury, are occasioned by the pursuit of a little hare, whose pain is in proportion to the joy of those who follow it. Now can this diversion, educated as my child has been, fascinate him? Will he not question its innocence? And will he not question its consistency as a natural pursuit, or as an employment for his time?
It is thus then that knowledge will be found to operate as an artificial and innocent preservative against the destructive pleasures of the world. But prohibitions without knowledge will be but of little avail, where there is a prospect of riches, and the power of gratifying any improper appetites as they may arise. But by knowledge we shall be able to discover the beauty of things, so that their opposites, or the things prohibited, will cease to charm us. By knowledge we shall be able to discern the ugliness of the things prohibited, so that we shall be enabled to loathe them, if they should come into our way. And thus an education, conducted upon the principles of knowledge, may operate to the end proposed.
Education continued, as consisting of knowledge and prohibitions—Good, which the Quakers have done by prohibitions, without any considerable knowledge—Greater good, which they would do with it—Knowledge then a great desideratum in the Quaker education—Favourable state of the society for the communication of it with purity, or without detriment to morals—In what this knowledge should consist—General advantages of it—Peculiar advantages, which it would bring to the society.
When we consider that men have all the same moral nature, we wonder, at the first sight, at the great difference of conduct which they exhibit upon earth. But when we consider the power of education upon the mind, we seem to lose our surprize. If men in all countries were educated alike, we should find a greater resemblance in their character. It is, in short, education, which makes the man. And as education appears to me to be of so much importance in life, I shall make it the subject of this and the succeeding chapter.
All education should have two objects in view, the opening of the understanding and the improvement of the heart. Of the two, the latter is most important. There cannot be a question, whether the person of the most desirable character be the virtuous or the learned man. Without virtue knowledge loses half its value. Wisdom, without virtue, may be said to be merely political; and such wisdom, whenever it belongs to a man, is little better than the cunning or craftiness of a fox. A man of a cultivated mind, without an unshaken love of virtue, is but a dwarf of a man. His food has done him no good, as it has not contributed to his growth. And it would have been better, for the honour of literature, if he had never been educated at all. The talents of man, indeed, considering him as a moral being, ought always to be subservient to religion. "All philosophy, says the learned Cudworth, to a wise man, to a truly sanctified mind, as he in Plutarch speaketh, is but matter for divinity to work upon. Religion is the queen of all those inward endowments of the soul: and all pure natural knowledge, all virgin and undeflowered arts and sciences, are her handmaids, that rise up and call her blessed."
Now if the opening of the understanding, and the improvement of the heart, be the great objects to be attained, it will follow, that both knowledge and wise prohibitions should always be component parts of the education of youth. The latter the Quakers have adopted ever since the institution of their society. The former they have been generally backward to promote, at least to any considerable extent. That they have done good, however, by their prohibitions, though unaccompanied by any considerable knowledge, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge. But this goad has been chiefly confined to the children of those who have occupied middle stations in the society. Such children have undoubtedly arrived at the true wisdom of life at an early age, as I described in the first volume, and have done honour to the religion they professed. But prohibitions, without knowledge, have not been found to answer so well among the children of those who have had the prospect of a large moneyed independence before them, and who have not been afraid either of the bad opinion of their own society, or of the bad opinion of the world. It has been shewn, however, that knowledge with prohibitions would, in all probability, be useful to these; that it would have a tendency to enable them, in the perilous situation in which they are placed, to stand against the corrupt opinions and fashions, and while they were living in the world, to live out of it, or to deny it.
Peculiarly situated as the Quakers are, they have opportunities, beyond any other people, of ingrafting knowledge into their system of education without danger, or, in other words, of giving knowledge to their children with the purity which Christianity would prescribe. The great misfortune in the world is, that a learned education is frequently thought more of than a virtuous one; that youth, while they are obtaining knowledge, are not properly watched and checked; and that they are suffered to roam at large in the pursuit of science, and to cultivate or not, at their own option, the science, if I may so call it, of religion. Hence it will happen, that, where we see learned men, we shall not always see these of the most exemplary character. But the Quakers have long ago adopted a system of prohibitions, as so many barriers against vice, or preservatives of virtue. Their constitution forbids all indulgences that appear unfriendly to morals. The Quakers therefore, while they retain the prohibitions which belong to their constitution, may give encouragement to knowledge, without a fear that it will be converted to the purposes of vice.
The Quakers, again, have opportunities or advantages, which others have not, in another point of view. In the great public seminary at Ackworth, which belongs to them, and which is principally for those who are of the poor and middle classes, every thing is under the inspection and guidance of committees, which can watch and enforce an observance of any rules that may be prescribed. Why then, if public seminaries were instituted for the reception of the children of the rich, or if the rich were to give encouragement to large private seminaries for the same purposes, should they not be placed under the visiting discipline of the society? Why should they not be placed under the care of committees also? Why should not these committees see that the two great objects of the education proposed were going on at the same time, or that, while knowledge was obtaining, discipline had not been relaxed. Why should not such seminaries produce future Penns, and Barclays, and others, who, while they were men capable of deep literary researches, should be exemplary for their virtue?
As knowledge then ought to form a part of the proposed education, on a much larger scale than has been hitherto encouraged, I shall say a few words as to the component parts of it, and as to the general advantages of these, and I shall afterwards speak to the advantages which the society in particular would derive from such a change.
In the education I propose, I do not mean, in the slightest manner, to break in upon the moral system of the Quakers, as described in the first volume. I do not propose to them the polite arts. I do not recommend them to make children musicians, or that they should learn, under the dancing-master, to step gracefully. I advise only such knowledge as will be strictly innocent and useful.
In the first place, I recommend a better classical education. Classical knowledge gives the foundation both of particular and universal grammar. While it gives the acquisition of the dead languages, it is the root, and thereforce facilitates the acquisition of many of the living. As most of the technical terms in the professions and sciences are borrowed from these languages, it renders them easily understood. The study of the structure and combination of words and sentences calls forth the reflecting powers of youth, and expands their genius. It leads to penetration and judgement. It induces habits of diligence and patience. By means of this knowledge we have access to the sacred writings in the languages in which they were written, and we are therefore not liable to be imposed upon, for the sense of them, by others. We become acquainted also, by means of it, with the sentiments and knowledge of the ancients. We see their thoughts and expressions. We acquire a literary taste.
A knowledge of ancient history is necessarily conpected with the former. To this, however, should be added that of the modern. History, while it entertains us, instructs us morally. We cannot see the rise and fall of empires, or the causes of their formation and dissolution, or read the histories of good and bad men, without impressions of moral importance to ourselves.
A philosophical education is peculiarly important. By this I mean, a general knowledge of the mathematics, of mechanics, optics, hydrostatics, astronomy, chemistry, botany, and the like. The teaching of these should be accompanied by experiments. Experimental philosophy, as I observed before, is peculiarly interesting to youth. Such knowledge teaches us the causes of things. Mysteries, hitherto hidden both in the garden and in the field, and in the heaven and in the air, lie unfolded to our view. Every walk we take, while the surface of the earth remains as it is, and the canopy of the firmament is spread over us, gives its the opportunity, in all the innumerable objects presented to our view, of almost endless investigation and delight. And the deeper we go into the hidden things of nature, and the more we unfold them, have we not a better belief of the existence of the Creator, and grander notions of the symmetry, order, beauty, and wisdom of his works? Such knowledge leads also, as it has always done, to discoveries, by which we may make ourselves useful to mankind. And, besides the utility, of which it may make us capable, can discoveries of the principles of nature lessen oar love and admiration of the first great Cause?
To philosophical knowledge should be added general reading. Such reading should be of the purest kind. Of knowledge, acquired in this manner, it maybe said, that it opens new sources of right views and sentiments, and this even independently of Christianity, from which our most valuable information is derived. Thus at a time, when as a nation we professed to be Christians, we shed the blood of the martyrs. Thus when even such men as the great Sir Matthew Hale, one of the brightest Christian patterns in our country, were at the head of it, we condemned persons to death for witchcraft. But knowledge superior to that of those times, has taught us better things. By means of it we perceive, that persecution does not destroy, but that it propagates opinions, and that the belief of the existence of witchcraft is absurd.
These then appear to me to be the general advantages, or such as are inseparable from education when composed of the various branches of knowledge which have been described. I shall now endeavour to shew the peculiar advantages, which the Quakers would derive from it.
It will appear then, if we look back into the character of the Quakers, as described in this volume, that the world charges them, I mean the more affluent part of them, with having less learning, than others in a similar rank of life. But surely the education I propose would remove this intellectual defect.
The world again, as we have seen, has fixed another intellectual blemish upon them by the imputation of superstition. But how does superstition enter, but where there is a want of knowledge? Does not all history bear testimony, that in proportion as men have been more or less enlightened, they have been less or more liable to this charge? It is knowledge then, which must banish this frightful companion of the mind. Wherever individuals acknowledge, in a more extensive degree than others, the influence of the Divine Spirit in man, these, of all other people, will find the advantages of it. Knowledge leads to a solution of things, as they are connected with philosophy, or the theory of the human mind. It enables men to know their first and their second causes, so as to distinguish between causes and occasions. It fixes the nature of action and of thought; and, by referring effects to their causes, it often enables men to draw the line between the probability of fancy and inspiration. How many good men are there, who, adopting a similar creed with that of the Quakers on this subject, make themselves uneasy, by bringing down the Divine Being, promiscuously and without due discrimination, into the varied concerns of their lives? How many are there, who attribute to him that which is easily explained by the knowledge of common causes? Thus, for instance, there are appearances in nature, which a person of an uninformed mind, but who should adopt the doctrine of the influence of the Spirit, would place among signs, and wonders, and divine notices, which others, acquainted with the philosophy of nature, would almost instantly solve. Thus again there may be occasions, which persons, carrying the same doctrine to an undue extent, might interpret into warning or prophetic voices, but which a due exercise of the intellect, where such exercise has been properly encouraged, would easily explain. This reminds me of a singular occurrence: A friend of mine was lately walking in a beautiful vale. In approaching a slate-quarry he heard an explosion, and a mass of stone, which had been severed by gunpowder, fell near him as he walked along. He went immediately to the persons employed. He represented the impropriety of their conduct in not having given proper notice to such as were passing by, and concluded by declaring emphatically, that they themselves would be soon destroyed. It happened, but six weeks afterwards, that two of these men were blown to pieces. The words then of my friend were verified. Now I have no doubt that ignorant persons, in the habit of referring every thing promiscuously to the Divine interference, would consider my friend as a prophet, and his words as a divinely forewarning voice. But what did my friend mean? or where did he get his foresight on this occasion? The answer is, that my friend, being accustomed to the exercise of his rational faculties, concluded, that if the people in question were so careless with respect to those who should be passing by in such times of danger, they would by custom become careless with respect to themselves, and that ultimately some mischief would befal them. It is knowledge, then, acquired by a due exercise of the intellectual powers, and through the course of an enlightened education, which will give men just views of the causes and effects of things, and which, while it teaches them to discover and acknowledge the Divine Being in all his wondrous works, and properly to distinguish him in his providences, preserves them from the miseries of superstition.
The world again has fixed the moral blemish of the money-getting, spirit upon the Quaker character. But knowledge would step in here also as a considerable corrector of the evil. It would shew, that there were other objects besides money, which were worthy of pursuit. Nor would it point out only new objects, but it would make a scale of their comparative importance. It would fix intellectual attachments, next to religion, in the highest class. Thus money would sink in importance as a pursuit, or be valued only as it was the means of comfort to those who had it, or of communicating comfort to others. Knowledge also would be useful in taking off, to a certain degree, the corruptive effects of this spirit, for it would prevent it by the more liberal notions it would introduce, from leaving the whole of its dregs of pollution upon the mind.
The Quakers again, as we have seen, have been charged with a want of animation, from whence an unjust inference has been drawn of the coldness of their hearts. But knowledge would diminish this appearance. For, in the first place, it would enlarge the powers, and vary the topics of conversation. It would enliven the speaker. It would give him animation in discourse. Animation again would produce a greater appearance of energy, and energy of the warmth of life. And there are few people, whatever might be the outward cold appearance of the person with whom they conversed, whose prejudices would not die away, if they found a cheerful and an agreeable companion.
Another charge against the Quakers was obstinacy. This was shewn to be unjust. The trait, in this case, should rather have been put down as virtue. Knowledge, however, would even operate here as a partial remedy. For while the Quakers are esteemed deficient in literature, their opposition to the customs of the world, will always be characterized as folly. But if they were to bear in the minds of their countrymen a different estimation as to intellectual attainments, the trait might be spoken of under another name. For persons are not apt to impute obstinacy to the actions of those, however singular, whom they believe to have paid a due attention to the cultivation of their minds.
It is not necessary to bring to recollection the other traits that were mentioned, to see the operation of a superior education upon these. It must have already appeared, that, whatever may be the general advantages of learning, they would be more than usually valuable to the Quaker character.
Arguments of those of the society examined, who may depreciate human knowledge—This depreciation did not originate with the first Quakers—with Barclay—Penn—Ellwood—but arose afterwards—Reputed disadvantages of a classical education—Its heathen mythology and morality—Disadvantages of a philosophical one—Its scepticism—General disadvantages of human learning—Inefficiency of all the arguments advanced.
Having shewn the advantages, which generally accompany a superior education, I shall exhibit the disadvantages which may be thought to attend it, or I shall consider those arguments, which some persons of this society, who have unfortunately depreciated human learning, though with the best intentions, might use against it, if they were to see the contents of the preceding chapter.
But, before I do this, I shall exonerate the first Quakers from the charge of such a depreciation. These exhibited in their own persons the practicability of the union of knowledge and virtue. While they were eminent for their learning, they were distinguished for the piety of their lives. They were indeed the friends of both. They did not patronize the one to the prejudice and expulsion of the other.
[Footnote 53: George Fox was certainly an exception to this as a scholar. He was also not friendly to classical learning on account of some of the indelicate passages contained in the classical authors, which he and Farley and Stubbs, took some pains to cite, but, if these had been removed, I believe his objections would have ceased.]
Barclay, in his celebrated apology, no where condemns the propriety or usefulness of human learning, or denies it to be promotive of the temporal comforts of man. He says that the knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, or of logic and philosophy, or of ethics, or of physics and metaphysics, is not necessary. But not necessary for what? Mark his own meaning. Not necessary to make a minister of the Gospel. But where does he say that knowledge, which he himself possessed to such a considerable extent, was not necessary, or that it did not contribute to the innocent pleasures of life? What would have been the character of his own book, or what would have been its comparative value and usefulness, if he had not been able to quote so many authors to his purpose in their original texts, or to have detected so many classical errors, or to have introduced such apposite history, or to have drawn up his propositions with so much logical and mathematical clearness and precision, or if he had not been among the first literary characters of his day?
William Penn was equally celebrated with Barclay as a scholar. His works afford abundant proof of his erudition, or of the high cultivation of his mind. Like the rest of his associates, he was no advocate for learning, as a qualification for a minister of the Gospel, but he was yet a friend to it, on the principle, that it enlarged the understanding, and that it added to the innocent pleasures of the mind. He entreated his wife, in the beautiful letter which he left her, before he embarked on his first voyage to America, "not to be sparing of expence in procuring learning for his children, for that by such parsimony all was lost that was saved." And he recommended also in the same letter the mathematical or philosophical education which I have described.
Thomas Ellwood, a celebrated writer among the early Quakers, and the friend of the great John Milton, was so sensible of the disadvantages arising from a want of knowledge, that he revived his learning, with great industry, even after he had become a Quaker. Let us hear the account which he gives of himself in his own Journal. "I mentioned before, says he, that, when I was a boy, I made some progress in learning, and that I lost it all again before I came to be a man. Nor was I slightly sensible of my last therein, till I came amongst the Quakers. But then I both saw my loss, and lamented it; and applied myself with the utmost diligence, at all leisure times to recover it. So false I found that charge to be, which in those times was east as a reproach upon the Quakers, that they despised and decried all human learning, because they denied it to be essentially necessary to a Gospel ministry, which was one of the controversies of those times."
"But though I toiled hard, and spared no pains to regain what I had once been master of, yet I found it a matter of so great difficulty, that I was ready to say, as the noble eunuch to Philip, in another case, how can I, unless I had some man to guide me?"
"This I had formerly complained of to my especial friend Isaac Pennington, but now more earnestly; which put him upon considering and contriving a means for my assistance."
"He had an intimate acquaintance with Dr. Paget, a physician of note in London, and he with John Milton, a gentleman of great note for learning, throughout the learned world, for the accurate pieces he had Written on various subjects and occasions."
"This person, having filled a public station in the former times, lived now a private and retired life in London; and, having wholly lost his sight, kept always a man to read to him, which usually was the son of some gentleman of his acquaintance, whom in kindness he took to improve in his learning."
"Thus by the mediation of my friend Isaac Pennington with Dr. Paget, and of Dr. Paget with John Milton, was I admitted to come to him; not as a servant to him (which at that time he needed not) nor to be in the house with him; but only to have the liberty of coming to his house at certain hours, when I would, and to read to him what books he should appoint me, which was all the favour I desired."
By means of this extract, made from the life of Thomas Ellwood, we come to three conclusions. First, that the early Quakers were generally men of eminent learning. Secondly, that they did not decry or depreciate human knowledge. And thirdly, that the calumny of such a depreciation by them arose from the controversy which they thought it right to maintain, in which they denied it to be necessary as a qualification for a Gospel minister.
This latter conclusion brings me round again to the point. And here I must observe, that, though this famous controversy occasioned the first Quakers to be unduly blamed on account of such a depreciation, yet it contributed to make some of their immediate successors, as I stated in a former volume, justly chargeable with it. But whether this was or was not the real cause, it is not material to the question. Many of the society, from came cause or other, did undoubtedly, in the age immediately succeeding that of their founders, begin to depreciate human knowledge, the effects of which, though gradually dissipating, have not been wholly done away at the present day. The disadvantages, therefore, of human learning, or the arguments which would be advanced against it by those who may undervalue it, I shall now consider.
These arguments may be divided into particular and general. On the former I shall first speak.
A classical education is considered to be objectionable, first, on account of the Heathen mythology that is necessarily connected with it. Its tendency, as it relates to fabulous occurrences, is thought to be unfavourable, as it may lead to a romantic propensity, and a turn for fiction. But surely the meaning of such occurrences cannot be well mistaken. If they are represented to our view in fable, they have had their foundation in truth. Many of them again are of such importance, that we could not wish to see them annihilated. Let us refer, for example, to the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha. Is it not one among the many outward confirmations of the truth of the history of Moses? Or do we not trace in it additional proofs of the deluge, and of the renewal of mankind?
Its tendency again, as it relates to the fabulous history of the Heathen gods, their number, their offices, and their character, is considered as degrading and exceptionable. I will concede this for a moment. But may it not, on the other hand, be rendered instructive and useful? May not the retention of such an history be accompanied with great moral advantages to our children? The emperor Theodosius commanded the idol temples to be destroyed. Instead of devoting them to the use of the Christians of those times, by which they might have been preserved to future generations, the most beautiful remains of antiquity were reduced to ruins. But would it not have been better, if Theodosius had brought good out of evil by retaining them? Would it not have been a high moral gratification to those who knew the fact, that temples, appropriated to the worship of idols, had been devoted to the service of the only true God? Would it not have been a matter of joy to these to have reflected upon the improving condition of mankind? And, while they looked up to these beautiful structures of art, might not the sight of them have contributed to the incitement of their virtue? If it be the tendency of the corrupt part of our nature to render innocent things vicious, it is, on the other hand, in the essence of our nature to render vicious things in process of time innocent, so that the very remnants of idolatry may be made subservient to our moral improvement. "If, as I observed in the first volume, we were to find an alter which had been sacred to Moloch, but which had been turned into a stepping-stone to help the aged and infirm upon their horses, why should we destroy it? Might it not be made useful to our morality, as for as it could be made to excite sorrow for the past and gratitude for the present?" And in the same manner the retention of the Heathen mythology might be made serviceable. Ought it not, whenever we contemplate it, to make us thankful, that we have not the dark and cheerless path of our ancestors to tread; that we have clearer light; that we have surer prospects; that we have a steadier ground of hope; and ought we not, on a contemplation of these superior advantages, brought to us by revelation, to be roused into the practice of a superior virtue.
Classical education again is considered as objectionable by the Quakers on account of the Heathen notions, which it may spread. Thus the highest reputation of man is placed in deeds of martial achievement, and a martial ardour is in consequence infused into youth, which it is difficult to suppress. That such notions and effect are produced, there can be no doubt; but how are we to avoid these whilst we are obliged to live in the world? The expulsion of the classics would not expel them. Our own newspapers, which are open to all, spread the same opinions, and are instrumental of course in producing the same excitements, but they do it in a much more objectionable way than the classical authors, that is, they do it with less delicacy, and with a more sanguinary applause. But where, as I observed before, shall we retire from such impressions? Does not the recruiting drum propagate them in all our towns? Do not the ringing of the bells, and the illuminations, which occasionally take place in the time of war, propagate them also? And do we not find these, both in war and in peace, the sentiments and impressions of the world? Our own notions then, our own writings, and our own customs, are more to be blamed in this respect, than the literary compositions of ancient times. But this, of all others, ought to be least an objection with the Quakers to such an education; because, to their honour, they have a constant counteraction of the effects of such sentiments and impressions in the principles of their own constitution, and which counteraction cannot cease, while, by the bearing of their testimony, they live in a continual protest against them.
The last objection to a classical education is, that the system of the Heathen morality is generally too deficient for those who are to be brought up as Christians. To this I answer, that it is quite as good as the system of the morality of the world. I could procure purer sentiments, and this generally from the Heathen authors usually called classical, than I can collect from many, even of the admired publications of our own times. The morality of the heathens is not so deficient as many have imagined. If their best opinions were duly selected and brought into one view, the only matter of surprise would be, how, with no other than the law written upon the heart, they had made such sublime discoveries. It was principally in their theology, where the law written upon the heart could not reach, that the ancients were deficient. They knew but little of the one true God. They did not know that he was a Spirit, and that he was to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. They were ignorant of his attributes. They had learnt nothing of the true origin, nature, and condition of man, or of the scheme of creation and redemption. These things were undoubtedly hidden from the eyes of the ancient philosophers. And it was in knowledge of this kind chiefly, that their deficiency was apparent. But how is this particular deficiency detrimental to youth, or how rather might it not be rendered useful to them in the way described? What a sublime contrast does knowledge, as exhibited by revelation, afford to the ignorance of those times, and what joy and gratitude ought we not to feel in the comparison? And this is the only use which can be made of their mythology? For when we send youth to the classical authors, we send them to learn the languages, and this through a medium where the morality is both useful and respectable, but we do not send them, living where the blessings of revelation are enjoyed, to be instructed in religion.
[Footnote 54: It must however be acknowledged, that, amidst beautiful sentiments, such as are indelicate are occasionally interspersed. But the quakers might remedy this objection by procuring a new edition of the purest classics only, in which particular passages might be omitted. They might also add new Latin notes, founded on Christian principles, where any ideas were found to be incorrect, and thus make Heathenism itself useful, as a literal teacher of a moral system. The world, I believe, would be obliged to the Quakers for such an edition, and it would soon obtain in most of the schools of the kingdom.]
The principal argument against a philosophical education, which is the next subject for consideration, is, that men, who cultivate such studies, require often more proofs of things than can always be had, and that, if these are wanting, they suspend their belief. And as this is true in philosophy, so it may be true in religion. Hence persons accustomed to such pursuits, are likely to become sceptics or infidels. To this I answer, that the general tendency of philosophy is favourable to religion. Its natural tendency is to give the mind grand and sublime ideas, and to produce in it a belief of the existence of one great cause, which is not visible among men. Thus, for example, I find that the planets perform a certain round! They perform it with a certain velocity. They do not wander at random, but they are kept to their orbits. I find the forces which act upon them for this purpose. I find, in short, that they are subject to certain laws. Now, if the planets were living agents, they might have prescribed these laws to themselves. But I know that this, when I believe them to consist of material substances, is impossible. If then, as material substances, they are subject to laws, such laws must have been given them. There must have been some lawgiver. In this manner then I am led to some other great, and powerful, and invisible Agent or Cause. And here it may be observed, that if philosophers were ever baffled in their attempts at discovery, or in their attempts after knowledge, as they frequently are, they would not, on this account, have any doubt with respect to the being of a God. If they had found, after repeated discoveries, that the ideas acquired from thence were repeatedly or progressively sublime, and that they led repeatedly or progressively to a belief of the existence of a superior Power, is it likely that they would all at once discard this belief, because there researches were unsuccessful? If they were to do this, they would do it against all the rules of philosophizing, and against the force of their own habits. I say, that analogical is a part of philosophical reasoning, and that they would rather argue, that, as such effects had been uniformly produced, so they would probably still be produced, if their researches were crowned with success. The tendency then of philosophical knowledge is far otherwise than has been supposed. And it makes highly in favour of the study of these sciences, that those who have cultivated them the most, such as Newton, and Boyle, and others, have been found among the ablest advocates for religion.
[Footnote 55: I by no means intend to say, that philosophy leads to the religion called Christianity, but that it does to Theism, which is the foundation of it.]
I come now, to the general arguments used by the Quakers against human learning, the first of which is, that they who possess it are too apt to reduce religion to reason, and to strip it of the influence of the Spirit. But this is contrary, as a general position, to all fact. We find no mention of this in history. The fathers of the church were the most eminent for learning in their own days, and these insisted upon the Influence of the Spirit in spiritual concerns, as one of the first articles of their faith. The reformers, who succeeded these, were men of extensive erudition also, and acknowledged the same great principle. And nine-tenths, I believe, of the Christians of the present, day, among whom we ought to reckon nine-tenths of the men of learning also, adopt a similar creed.
Another general argument is, that learning is apt to lead to conceit and pride, or to a presumed superiority of intellect, in consequence of which men raise themselves in their own estimation, and look down upon others as creatures of an inferior order of race. To this I may answer, that as prodigies are daily produced in nature, though they may be but as one to a hundred thousand when compared with the perfect things of their own kind, so such phenomena may occasionally make their appearance in the world. But as far as my own experience goes, I believe the true tendency of learning to be quite the reverse. I believe the most learned to be generally the most humble, and to be the most sensible of their own ignorance. Men, in the course of their studies, daily find something new. Every thing new shews them only their former ignorance, and how much there is yet to learn. The more they persevere, in their researches, the more they acknowledge the latter fact. The longer they live, the more they lament the shortness of life, during which, man with all his industry, can attain so little, and that, when he is but just beginning to know, he is cut off. They see, in short, their own nothingness, and, however they may be superior in their attainments, they are convinced that their knowledge is, after all, but a shadow; that it is but darkness; that it is but the absence of light; and that it no sooner begins to assume an appearance than it is gone.
The last general argument against learning is, that it does not lead to morality, or that learned men do not always exhibit an example of the best character. In answer to this I must observe, that the natural tendency of learning is to virtue. If learned men are not virtuous, I presume their conduct is an exception to the general effect of knowledge upon the mind. That there are, however, persons of such unnatural character, I must confess. But any deficiency in their example is not to be attributed to their learning. It is to be set down, on the other hand, to the morally defective education they have received. They have not been accustomed to wise restraints. More pains have been taken to give them knowledge, than to instruct them in religion. But where an education has been bestowed upon persons, in which their morals have been duly attended to, where has knowledge been found to be at variance, or rather where has it not been found to be in union, with virtue? Of this union the Quakers can trace some of the brightest examples in their own society. Where did knowledge, for instance, separate herself from religion in Barclay, or in Penn, or in Burroughs, or in Pennington, or in Ellwood, or in Arscott, or in Claridge, or in many others who might be named. And as this has been the case in the Quaker society, where a due care has been taken of morals, so it has been the case where a similar care has been manifested in the great society of the world.
"Piety has found Friends In the friends of Science, and true pray'r Has flow'd from lips wet with Castalian dews. Such was thy wisdom, Newton, childlike sage! Sagacious reader of the works of God, And in his word sagacious. Such too thine, Milton, whose genius had angelic wings, And fed on manna. And such thine, in whom Our British Themis gloried with just cause, Immortal Hale! for deep discernment prais'd And sound integrity not more, than fam'd For sanctity of manners undefil'd." Cowper.
It appears then, if I have reasoned properly, that the arguments usually adduced against the acquisition of human knowledge are but of little weight. If I have reasoned falsely upon this subject, so have the early Quakers. As they were friends to virtue, so they were friends to science. If they have at any time put a low estimate upon the latter, it has been only as a qualification for a minister of the Gospel. Here they have made a stand. Here they have made a discrimination. But I believe it will no where be found, that they have denied, either that learning might contribute to the innocent pleasures of life, or that it might be made a subordinate and auxiliary instrument towards the promotion of virtue.
Conclusion of the work—Conclusionary remarks divided into two kinds—First, as they relate to those who may have had thoughts of leaving the society—Advantages, which these may have proposed to themselves by such a change—These advantages either religious or temporal—The value of them considered.
Having now gone through all the subjects, which I had prescribed to myself at the beginning of this work, I purpose to close it. But as it should be the wish of every author to render his production useful, I shall add a few observations for this purpose. My remarks then, which will be thus conclusory, relate to two different sorts of persons. They will relate, first, to those who may have had thoughts of leaving the society, or, which is the same thing, who persist in a course of irregularities, knowing beforehand, and not regretting it, that they shall be eventually disowned. It will relate, secondly, to all other persons, or to those who may be called the world. To the former I shall confine my attention in this chapter.
I have often heard persons of great respectability, and these even in the higher circles of life, express a wish, that they had been brought up as Quakers. The steady and quiet deportment of the members of this society, the ease with which they appear to get through life, the simplicity and morality of their character, were the causes which produced the expression of such a wish. "But why then, I have observed, if you feel such a disposition as this wish indicates, do you not become Quakers?" "Because, it has been replied, we are too old to be singular. Dressing with sufficient simplicity ourselves, we see no good reason for adopting the dress of the society. It would be as foolish in us to change the colour and fashion of our clothing, as it would be criminal in the Quakers, with their notions, to come to the use of that which belongs to us. Endeavouring also to be chaste in our conversation, we cannot adopt their language. It would be as inconsistent in us to speak after the manner of the Quakers, as it would be inconsistent in them to leave their own language for ours. But we wish we had been born Quakers. And, if we had been born Quakers, we would never have deserted the society."
Perhaps they to whom I shall confine my remarks in this chapter, are not aware, that such sentiments as these are floating in the minds of many. They are not aware, that it is considered as one of the strongest things for those who have been born in the society, and been accustomed to its particularities, to leave it. And least of all are they aware of the worthless motives, which the world attributes to them for an intended separation from it.
There is, indeed, something seemingly irreconcileable in the thought of such a dereliction or change. To leave the society of a moral people, can it be a matter of any credit? To diminish the number of those who protest against war, and who have none of the guilt upon their heads of the sanguinary progress of human destruction which is going on in the world, is it desirable, or rather, ought it not to be a matter of regret? And to leave it at a time, when its difficulties are over, is it a proof of a wise and a prudent choice? If persons had ever had it in contemplation to leave the society in its most difficult and trying times, or in the days of its persecution, when only for the adoption of innocent singularities its members were insulted, and beaten, and bruised, and put in danger of their lives, it had been no matter of surprise: but to leave it, when all prejudices against them are gradually decreasing, when they are rising in respectability in the eyes of the government under which they live, and when, by the weight of their own usefulness and character, they are growing in the esteem of the world, is surely a matter of wonder, and for which it is difficult to account.
This brings me to the point in question, or to the examination of those arguments, which may at times have come into the heads of those who have had thoughts of ceasing to be members of this society.
In endeavouring to discover these, we can only suppose them to be actuated by one motive, for no other will be reasonable, namely, that they shall derive advantages from the change. Now all advantages are resolvable into two kinds, into such as are religious, and into such as are temporal. The first question then is, what advantages do they gain in the former case, or do they actually come into the possession of a better religion?
I am aware that to enter into this subject, though but briefly, is an odious task. But I shall abstain from all comparisons, by which I might offend any. If I were to be asked which, among the many systems of the Christian religion, I should prefer, I should say, that I see in all of them much to admire, but that no one of them, perhaps, does wholly, or in every part of it, please me; that is, there is no one, in which I do not see some little difficulty, which I cannot solve, though this is no impediment to my faith. But, if I were pressed more particularly upon this point, I should give the following answer. I should say, that I should prefer that, which, first of all, would solve the greatest number of difficulties, as far as scriptural texts were concerned, in conformity with the Divine attributes, which, secondly, would afford the most encouraging and consolatory creed, if it were equally well founded with any other; and which, thirdly, either by its own operation, or by the administration of it, would produce the post perfect Christian character. Let us then judge of the religion of the Quakers by this standard.
That there are difficulties with respect to texts of scripture, must be admitted; for if all men were to understand them alike, there would be but one profession of the Christian religion. One man endeavours to make his system comport wholly with human reason, and the consequence is, that texts constantly stare him in the face, which militate against it. Another discards reason, with a determination to abide literally by that, which is revealed, and the consequence is, that, in his literal interpretation of some passages, he leaves others wholly irreconcileable with his scheme. Now the religion, of the Quakers has been explained, and this extensively. In its doctrinal parts it is simple. It is spiritual. It unites often philosophy with revelation. It explains a great number of the difficult texts with clearness and consistency. That it explains all of them I will not aver. But these which it does explain, it explains in the strictest harmony with the love, goodness, justice, mercy, and wisdom of God.
As to the creed of the Quakers, we have seen its effects. We have seen it to be both encouraging and consolatory. We have seen it produce happiness in life, and courage in death. The doctrine of the possibility of human perfection, where it is believed, must be a perpetual stimulus to virtue, it must encourage hope and banish fear. But it may be said, that stimulative and consolatory as it may be, it wants one of the marks which I have insisted upon, namely, a sound foundation. But surely they, who deny it, will have as many scriptural texts against them as they who acknowledge it, and will they not be rendering their own spiritual situation perilous? But what do the Quakers mean by perfection? Not the perfection of God, to which there are no limits, as has been before explained, but that which arises to man from the possibility of keeping the divine commands. They mean that perfection, such as Noah, and Job, and Zacharias, and Elizabeth, attained, and which the Jewish rabbies distinguished by the name of Redemption, and which they conceived to be effected by the influence of the Holy Spirit, or that state of man in Christian morals, which, if he arrives at it, the Divine Being (outward redemption having taken place by the sacrifice of Christ) is pleased to accept as sufficient, or as the most pure state at which man, under the disadvantages of the frailty of his nature, can arrive. And is not this the practicable perfection, which Jesus himself taught in these words, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven is perfect." Not that he supposed it possible, that any human being could be as perfect as the Divine Nature. But he proposed, by these expressions, the highest conceivable model of human excellence, of which our natures were capable, well knowing that the higher our aspirations the higher we should ascend, and the sooner we should reach that best state of humanity that was attainable. And here it is, that Christianity, as a rule of moral conduct, surpasses all others. Men, in general, look up to men for models. Thus Homer makes one of his heroes, when giving counsel to his son, say, "Always emulate the best." Thus also we should say to our children, if a person of extraordinary character were to live in our neighbourhood, "This is the pattern for your virture." But Jesus Christ says, aim at perfection beyond that which is human, alluding to the attributes of God, and thus you will attain a higher excellence than the study of any other model can produce.
With respect to the formation of man according to the model which Christianity prescribes, the system of the Quakers is no where to be excelled. No one, that we know of, is more powerful in the production of a subjugated mind and of a moral character. By this I mean, that there is none which is more universally powerful. It is the tendency of Christianity, whatever denomination it may assume, to produce these effects. But there is full as general an appearance of these among the Quakers, as in any other Christian profession.
It will appear then, that, if the three criterions, which have been specified, should be admitted to be those by which a judgment may be formed in the present case, they, who have had thoughts of leaving the society, will not be much better off by an exchange of their religion.
Let us see next, what would be the greater temporal advantages, which they would obtain. These may be summed up in two essential ingredients of happiness, in tranquillity of mind, in consequence of which we pass through the troubles of life in the most placid manner, and in a moderate pecuniary independence, in consequence of which we know none of the wants and hardships, but enjoy the reasonable comforts of it.
With respect to tranquillity of mind, we have shown this to be constitutional with the Quakers. It arises from their domestic enjoyments, from seldom placing their pleasures or their fortunes in the power of others, from freedom from the ambition and envyings of the world, from the regulation of the temper, from avoiding quarrels and lawsuits, and from other causes. And with respect to a moderate pecuniary independence, we have shewn not only that this is the general portion of the society, but that it is in the very nature of their habits to acquire it. Now these essential ingredients of happiness, or these temporal advantages, do not belong to the present Quakers only. They have always belonged to Quakers; and they will be perpetuated as an inheritance to their children, as long as Quakerism lasts. By this I mean to say, that if any Quakers, now living, could be sure that their descendants would keep to the wholesome regulations of the society for ten generations to come, they might have the comfort of believing, that tranquillity of mind would accompany them, as an effect of the laws and constitution belonging it, and that at any rate an easy pecuniary situation in life would be preserved to them. For if it be no difficult thing, with the natural habits of the society, to acquire an independence, it is much easier to preserve that which has been left them. But will they, who have had it in contemplation to leave the society, be able to say this for their children, when they adopt the world for their home? What certainty is there, that these will experience tranquillity, unless they are seen, quite as far as manhood, in the habits of religion? Will the cares of the world, its ambition, its thirst after honours, and its unbridled affections and passions, give them no uneasiness? And can the fortunes transmitted to them, subject as they will be to its destructive fashions and pleasures, be insured to them for even half of their times? How many have we seen, who have been in the prime of health in the morning, who have fallen before night in the duel? And how many have we seen in a state of affluence at night, who have been ruined by gaming in the morning?
But it is possible that they, who may have had thoughts of leaving the society; may picture to themselves another advantage, which I have not yet mentioned. It is possible, that there may be yet one which they may distinguish by such a name. They may possibly think it to be a gain to get rid of the restraint of the discipline of the society, and to enjoy the freedom of the world.
That the discipline is a restraint, I do not deny. But it must never be forgotten, that its object is moral good, and its effect the preservation of a moral character. But, come you, who complain of this heavy burden imposed upon you, and let us converse together for a moment, and let us see, if, when you relinquish it, you do not impose upon yourself a worse. Are you sure that, when you get rid of this discipline, you will not come under the discipline of fashion? And who is Fashion? Is she not of all mistresses the most imperious, and unreasonable, and cruel? You may be pleased with her for a while, but you will eventually feel her chains. With her iron whip, brandished over your head, she will issue out her commands, and you must obey them. She will drive you, without mercy, through all her corruptive customs, and through all her chameleon changes, and this against your judgment and against your will. Do you keep an equipage? You must alter the very shape of your carriage, if she prescribes it. Is the livery of your postilion plain? You must make it of as many colours as she dictates. If you yourself wear corbeau or raven colour to-day, you must change it, if she orders you, to that of puce, or the flea, to-morrow. But it is not only, in your equipage and your dress, that she will put you under her control. She will make you obedient to her in your address and manners. She will force upon you rules for your intercourse with others. She will point out to you her amusements, and make you follow them. She will place you under her cruel laws of honour, from which she will disown you, if you swerve. Now I beseech you, tell me, which you think you would prefer, the discipline of the goddess Fashion, or that of the good old mistress, which you may have wished to leave? The one kindly points out to you, and invites and warns you to avoid, every dangerous precipice, that may be before you. The other is not satisfied, but with your destruction. She will force you, for a single word, uttered in a thoughtless moment, to run the hazard of your life, or to lose what she calls your character. The one, by preserving you in innocence, preserves you happy. The greater your obedience to her, the greater is your freedom; and it is the best species of freedom, because it is freedom from the pollutions of the world. The other awakens your conscience, and calls out its stings. The more obedient you are to her, the greater is your slavery, and it is the worst species of slavery, because it is often slavery to vice. In consequence of the freedom which the one bestows upon you, you are made capable of enjoying nature and its various beauties, and by the contemplation of these, of partaking of an endless feast. In consequence of the freedom which the one bestows upon you, you are made capable of enjoying nature, and its various beauties, and, by the contemplation, of these, of partaking of an endless feast. In consequence of the slavery to which the other reduces you, you are cramped as to such enjoyments. By accustoming you to be pleased with ridiculous and corruptive objects, and silly and corruptive changes, she confines your relish to worthless things. She palsies your vision, and she corrupts your taste. You see nature before you, and you can take no pleasure in it. Thus she unfits you for the most rational of the enjoyments of the world, in which you are designed to live.
Conclusory remarks, as they relate to those who compose the world at large—Advantages, which these may derive from the contents of this work—from a view of many of the customs—and of the principles explained in it—from seeing practically the influence of these customs and principles in the production of character and happiness—and from seeing the manner of their operation, or how they produce the effects described.
I shall now endeavour to make my conclusory remarks useful as they may relate to those who may be called the world.
To state the object, which I have in view, I shall observe at once, that men are divided in opinion as to the lawfulness, or expediency, or wholesomeness of many of the customs, fashions, and accomplishments of the world. We find some encouraging in their families, and this without any hesitation, and to an almost unlimited extent, those which many, on account of religious considerations, have expelled. We find others again endeavouring to steer a course between the opinions and practice of these. The same diversity of sentiment prevails also with respect to principles. The virtuous or moral are adopted by some. The political by others. That the political often obtain both in education and in subsequent life, there is no question. Thus, for example, a young man is thought by some to be more likely to make his way in the world with the address which fashionable accomplishments may give him, even if he be a little dissipated, than one of strict virtue with unpolished manners. Thus again in actions and transactions, policy is often preferred to express and open declarations of the truth. Others again are of opinion, that the general basis of principle should be virtue, but that a latitude may be, allowed for a seasonable policy. Thus an education is going on under Christian parents, as if Christianity had objects in view, which were totally opposite to each other.
It is in this point of view chiefly, that I can hope to be useful in this conclusory part of my work. We have seen in the course of it both customs and principles laid open and explained. We have seen the tendencies and bearings of these. We have seen them probed, and examined by a moral standard. We have seen their influence on character and happiness. We have seen the manner in which they act, or how these effects are produced. A revision therefore of these cannot but be useful, but more particularly to parents, as it may enable some of these, in conjunction with the knowledge they possess, to form probably a more correct system than they may have had it in contemplation to adopt, for the education of their youth.
The first advantage then, which those who compose the world at large may derive from the contents of this work, will be from a review of some of the customs which have been censured in it.
In looking into customs, the first that obtrudes itself upon our notice, is that of allowing to children those amusements, which, on account of the use of them, may be called gaming. A view is offered to us here, which is divested of all superstition. It is no where contended at random, in speaking against these, that their origin is objectionable. It is no where insisted upon, that there is evil in them considered abstractedly by themselves, or that they may not be used innocently, or that they may not be made the occasion of innocent mirth. The evil is candidly stated to arise from their abuse. The nature of this evil is unfolded. Thus the malevolent passions, such as anger, envy, hatred, revenge, and even avarice, are stirred up, where they should be particularly prevented, in the youthful breast. A spirit of gaming, which may be destructive of fortune, health, and morals, is engendered. A waste of time is occasioned, inasmuch as other pursuits might be followed, which would be equally amusing, but conducive to the improvement of the mind. The nature of the abuse is unfolded likewise. It consists of making games of chance productive of loss and gain. Thus they hold up speedy pecuniary acquisitions, and speedy repairs of misfortune. Thus they excite hope and fear, and give birth to pain and disappointment. The prevention also of the abuse, and that alone which can be effectual, is pointed out. This consists of a separation of emolument from chance, or of the adoption of the maxim, that no youth ought to be permitted to lay a wager, or to reap advantage from any doubtful event by a previous agreement on a moneyed stake. Now if the reader be not disposed to go the length which the Quakers do, by the abolition of such amusements, he will at least have had the advantage of seeing that there may be evil in them, and where it lies, and the extent (if he will only look at the historical instances cited) to which it may proceed, and its infallible prevention or its cure.
[Footnote 56: This argument is usually applied to grown up people, but may be applicable to youth, when we consider the ingenious inventions of modern times, such as maps of dissected geography, historical and other games, which, while they afford pleasure, promote improvement.]
The next subject which offers itself to our view, is music, and this comes before us in two forms, either as it is instrumental or vocal.
With respect to instrumental, it is no where insisted upon that its origin is evil, or that it is not productive of a natural delight, or that it does not soothe and tranquilize the passions, or that it may not be innocently used, or that it may not be made, under limitations, a cheerful companion in solitude. But it is urged against it, that it does not tend, like many other studies, to the improvement of the mind; that it affords no solid ground of comfort either in solitude or affliction; that it is a sensual gratification; and that sensual gratifications, if indulged in leisure hours, take up the time which should be devoted to those of a higher nature, that is, intellectual and moral pursuits. It is urged against it again, that, if abused, it is chargeable with a criminal waste of time, and a criminal impairing of health; that this abuse, in consequence of proficiency being insisted upon (without which it ceases to be delightful) is at the present day almost inseparable from its use; and that where the abuse of a thing, either in consequence of fashion, or its own seductive nature, or any other cause, is either necessarily or very generally connected with the use of it, watchfulness to avoid it is as much a duty in Christian morals, as it is a duty against the common dangers of life.
On vocal again we observe a proper distinction attempted. We find, that the singing is no more criminal than the reading of a song, being but another mode of expressing it, and that, the morality of it therefore will depend upon the words and sentiments it contains. If these are indelicate, or unchaste, or hold out false and corruptive ideas, as has been shewn to be the case with a variety of songs, then singing may from an innocent become a vicious amusement. But it has been observed, that youth seldom make any discrimination or selection with respect to songs, but that they pick up all that come in their way, whatever may be the impropriety of the words or sentiments, which they may contain.
Now then, whether we speak of instrumental or vocal music, if the reader should not be willing totally to discard this science as the Quakers do, he will at least have learnt some good from the observation which the work will have held out to him on this subject. He will see that evil may unquestionably be produced by the cultivation of it. He will see the absolute necessity of guarding his children against the learning of it to professional precision, as it is now unfortunately taught, to the detriment of their health, and of the acquisition of more important knowledge. He will see also the necessity of great vigilance with respect to the purity of the words and sentiments which may be connected with it.
The important subject, which is brought next before us, is that of the theatre. Here we are taught, that, though dramatic pieces had no censurable origin, the best of the ancient moralists condemned them. We are taught, that, even in the most favourable light in which we can view them, they have been thought objectionable, that is, that where they have pretended to teach morality, they have inculcated rather the refined virtue of heathenism, than the strict though mild morality of the Gospel; and where they have attempted to extirpate vice, they have done it rather by making it appear ridiculous, than by teaching men to avoid it as evil, or for the love of virtue. We are taught, that, as it is our duty to love our neighbour, and to be solicitous for his spiritual welfare, we ought not, under a system which requires simplicity and truth, to encourage him to be what he is not, or to personate a character which is not his own. We are taught that it is the general tendency of the diversions of the stage, by holding out false morals and prospects, to weaken the sinews of morality; by disqualifying for domestic enjoyments, to wean from a love of home; by accustoming to light thoughts and violent excitement of the passions, to unfit for the pleasures of religion. We are taught that diversions of this nature particularly fascinate, and that, if they fascinate, they suggest repetitions. And finally we are taught, that the early Christians on their conversion, though before this time they had followed them as among the desirable pleasures of their lives, relinquished them on the principles now explained.
The next subject, which comes to us in order, is dancing. This is handed down to us, under two appearances, either as it is simple, or as it is connected with preparations and accompaniments.
In viewing it in its simple state, it is no where contended, if it be encouraged on the principle of promoting such an harmonious carriage of the body, or use of the limbs, as maybe more promotive of health, that it is objectionable, though it is supposed that it is not necessary for such purposes, and that, without music and its other usual accompaniments, it would not be pleasant. Neither is it contended that a simple dance upon the green, if it were to arise suddenly and without its usual preparations, may not be innocent, or that if may not be classed with an innocent game at play, or with innocent exercise in the fields, though it is considered, that it would hardly be worthy of those of riper years, because they who are acknowledged to have come to the stature of men, are expected to abandon amusements for pursuits of usefulness, and particularly where they make any profession of the Christian name.
In viewing it with its preparations, and with its subsequent accompaniments, as usually displayed in the ball-room, we see it in a less favourable light. We see it productive, where it is habitually resorted to, of a frivolous levity, of vanity and pride, and of a littleness of mind and character. We see it also frequently becoming the occasion of the excitement of the malevolent passions, such as anger, envy, hatred, jealousy, malice, and revenge. We find it also frequently leading to indisposition. We find lastly, that, in consequence of the vexation of mind, which may arise from a variety of causes, but more particularly from disappointment and the ascendency of some of the passions that have been mentioned, more pleasure is generally perceived in the anticipation of these amusements, than in the actual taste or use of them.
[Footnote 57: Not only colds, head-aches, and a general lassitude, ore the result Of dancing in ball-rooms, but occasionally serious indisposition. I have known the death of two young persons attributed to it by the physicians who attended them in their illness.]
The subject of novels is presented next to our view. And here it has appeared, that no objection can be truly adduced against these on account of the fictitious nature of their contents. Novels also are not all of them promiscuously condemned. It is contended, however, from a variety of causes which were shewn, that they are very generally censurable. We are taught again, that the direct tendency of those which are censurable is to produce conceit and affectation, a romantic spirit, and a perverted morality among youth. We are taught again, that, on account of the peculiar construction of these, inasmuch as they have plot and character like dramatic compositions, they fascinate, and this to such a degree, that youth wait for no selection, but devour promiscuously all that come in their way. Hence the conclusion is, that the effects, alleged against novels, cannot but be generally produced. We are presented also with this fact, that, on account of the high seasoning and gross stimulants they contain, all other writings, however useful, become insipid. Hence the novel reader, by becoming indisposed to the perusal of more valuable books, excludes himself from the opportunity of moral improvement, and, if immoral sentiments are contracted, from the chance of any artificial corrective or cure.
The diversions of the field offer themselves next to our notice. We are taught, on the discussion which has arisen on this subject, that we are not permitted to take away the lives of animals wantonly but only as they may be useful for food, or as they may be dangerous to ourselves and to the other animals which may belong to us, and that a condition is annexed to the original grant or charter, by which permission was given to kill, which is never to be dispensed with, or, in other words, that we are to take away their lives as speedily as we can. Hence rights have sprung up on the part of animals, and duties on the part of men, any breach of which is the violation of a moral law. Hence the diversions of the field become often objectionable, because life is not thus taken away as speedily as it might otherwise have been, and because food or noxiousness is not often the object of the destruction of animals, but mere pleasure or sport. We are taught also to consider animals, not as mere machines, but as the creatures of God. We are taught also, that as they were designed to have their proper share of happiness during the time of their existence, any wanton interruption of this is an innovation of their rights as living beings. And we are taught finally, that the organic nature of men and animals being the same, as far as a feeling of pain is concerned, the sympathy which belongs to our nature, and the divine law of doing as we would be done by, which will hold as far as we can enter into the perceptions either of man or brutes, impose upon us the duty of anticipating their feelings, and of treating them in a corresponding or tender manner.
If we take a view of other customs, into which the Quakers have thought it right to introduce regulations with a view of keeping their members pure and innocent, we learn other lessons of usefulness. Thus, for example, the reader, if he does not choose to adopt their dress, may obtain desirable knowledge upon this subject. He will see that the two great objects of dress are decency and comfort. He will see, though Christianity prescribes neither colour nor shape for the clothing, that it is not indifferent about it. It enjoins simplicity and plainness, because, where men pay an undue attention to the exterior, they are in danger of injuring the dignity of their minds. It discards ornaments from the use of apparel, because these, by puffing up the creature, may be productive of vanity and pride. It forbids all unreasonable changes on the plea of conformity with fashion, because the following of fashion begets a worldly spirit, and because, in proportion as men indulge this spirit, they are found to follow the loose and changeable morality of the world, instead of the strict and steady morality of the Gospel.
On the subject of language, though the reader may be unwilling to adopt all the singularities of the Quakers, he may collect a lesson that may be useful to him in life. He may discover the necessity of abstaining from all expressions of flattery, because the use of these may be morally injurious to himself by abridging the independence of his mind, and by promoting superstition; while it may be injurious to others, by occasioning them to think more highly of themselves than they ought, and more degradingly of their fellow-creatures. He may discover also the necessity of adhering to the truth in all expressions, whether in his conversation or in his letters; that there is always a consistency in truth, and an inconsistency in falsehood; that as expressions accord with the essences, qualities, properties and characters of things, they are more or less proper; and that an attempt to adhere to the truth is productive of moral good, while a departure from it may lead into error, independently of its injury as a moral evil.
With respect to the address, or the complimentary gestures or ceremonies of the world, if he be not inclined to reject them totally as the Quakers do, he may find that there may be unquestionably evil in them, if they are to be adjudged by the purity of the Christian system. He may perceive, that there may be as much flattery and as great a violation of truth through the medium of the body, as through the medium of the tongue, and that the same mental degradation, or toss of dignified independence of mind, may insensibly follow.
On the subject of conversation and manners, he may learn the propriety of caution as to the use of idle words; of abstaining from scandal and detraction; of withholding his assent to customs when started, however fashionable, if immoral; of making himself useful by the dignity of the topic he introduces, and by the decorum with which he handles it; of never allowing his sprightliness to border upon folly, or his wit upon lewdness, but to clothe all his remarks in an innocent and a simple manner.
From the subject of customs connected with meals, such as that, for example, of saying grace, he may team that this is a devotional act; that it is not to be said as a mere ceremony, by thanking the Supreme Being in so many words while the thoughts are roving on other subjects, but that it should be said with seriousness and feeling, and that it should never come as an oblation from the tongue, except it come also an oblation from the heart. And on that which relates to the drinking of toasts, he may see the moral necessity of an immediate extirpation of it. He may see that this custom has not one useful or laudable end in view; that it is a direct imitation of Pagans in the worst way in which we can follow them—their enjoyment of sensual pleasures; that it leads directly and almost inevitably to drunkenness, and of course to the degradation of the rational and moral character.
A second advantage, which they who compose the world may derive on this occasion, will be seen from a recapitulation of some of the principles which the work contains. The advantage in question will chiefly consist in this, that, whatever these principles may be, they may be said to be such as have been adopted by a moral people, and this after serious deliberation, and solely on a religious ground. It is of great importance from whence principles come recommended to our notice. If they come from the inconsiderate and worthless, they lose their value. If from the sober and religious, we receive them under the impression, that they may be promotive of our good. I shall give therefore a summary of these, as they may be collected from the work.
God has imparted to men a portion of his own Spirit, though he has given it to them indifferent degrees. Without this Spirit it would be impossible for them to discern spiritual things. Without this it would be impossible for them to know spiritually, even that the Scriptures were of divine authority, or spiritually to understand them. This Spirit performs its office of a teacher by internal monitions, and, if encouraged, even by the external objects of creation. It is also a primary and infallible guide. It is given to all without exception. It is given to all sufficiently. They who resist it, quench it, and this to their own condemnation. They who encourage it receive it more abundantly, and are in the way of salvation and redemption. This Spirit therefore becomes a Redeemer also. Redemption may he considered in two points of view, as it is either by outward or inward means, or as it relates to past sins or to sins to come. Jesus Christ effected redemption of the first kind, or that from past sins, while he was personally upon earth, by the sacrifice of himself. But it is this Spirit, or Christ within, as the Quakers call it, which effects the latter, or which preserves from future transgressions. It is this Spirit which leads, by means of its inward workings, to a new birth, and finally to the highest perfection of which our nature is capable. In this office of an inward Redeemer, it visits all, so that all may be saved, if they will attend to its saving operations, God being not willing that any should perish, but that all should inherit eternal life.
This Spirit also qualifies men for the ministry. It qualifies women also for this office as well as men. It dictates the true season for silence, and the true season for utterance, both in public and private worship.
Jesus Christ was man because he took flesh, and inhabited the body which had been prepared for him; but he was Divinity, because he was the Word.
A resurrection will be effected, but not of the body as it is. Rewards and punishments will follow, but guilt will not be imputed to men till they have actually committed sin.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are essentials of the Christian religion. They are not, however, essentials as outward ordinances, but only as they are administered by the Holy Spirit.
Civil government is for the protection of virtue and for the removal of vice. Obedience should be paid to all its laws, where the conscience is not violated in doing it. To defraud it in any manner of its revenues, or to take up arms on any consideration against it, is unlawful. But if men cannot conscientiously submit to any one or more of its ordinances, they are not to temporize, but to obey Jesus Christ rather than their own governors in this particular case. They are, however, to be willing to submit to all the penalties which the latter may inflict upon them for so doing. And as no Christian ought to temporize in the case of any laws enjoined him by the government under which he lives, so neither ought he to do it in the case of any of the customs or fashions, which may be enjoined him by the world.
All civil oaths are forbidden in Christianity. The word of every Christian should be equivalent to his oath.
It is not lawful to return evil for evil, nor to shed the blood of man. All wars are forbidden.
It is more honourable, and more consistent with the genius and spirit of Christianity, and the practice of Jesus Christ and of his Apostles, and of the primitive Christians, that men should preach the Gospel freely, than that they should live by it, as by a profession or by a trade.
All men are brethren by creation. Christianity makes no difference in this respect between Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, bond and free. No geographical boundaries, nor colour of the skin or person, nor difference of religious sentiment, can dissolve this relationship between them.
All men are born equal with respect to privileges. But as they fall into different situations and ranks of life, they become distinguished. In Christianity, however, there is no respect of persons, or no distinction of them, but by their virtue. Nobility and riches can never confer worth, nor can poverty screen from a just appropriation of disgrace.
Man is a temple in which the Divinity may reside. He is therefore to be looked upon and treated with due respect. No Christian ought to lower his dignity, or to suffer him, if he can help it, to become the instrument of his own degradation.
Man is a being, for whose spiritual welfare every Christian should be solicitous, and a creature therefore worthy of all the pains that can be bestowed upon him for the preservation of his moral character.
The first object in the education of man should be the proper subjugation of his will.
No man ought to be persecuted or evil spoken of for a difference in religious opinion. Nor is detraction or slander allowable in any case.
Every religious community should consider the poor belonging to it as members of the same family, for whose wants and comforts it is a duty to provide. The education also of the children of these should be provided for.
It is enjoined us to live in peace with all men. All quarrels therefore are to be avoided between man and man. But if differences arise, they are to be adjusted by arbitration, and not, except it be otherwise impossible, by going to law, and never by violence.
If men offend against the laws, they should be prevented from doing injuries in future, but never by the punishment of the loss of life. The reformation of a criminal, which includes a prevention of a repetition of such injuries, is the great object to be regarded in the jurisprudence of Christians.