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to proclaim the day of the Lord that is arisen in it,” (the light) in order " that others may come and feel the same in themselves, and may know that or that little small thing that reproves them in their hearts, however they have despised and neglected it is nothing less than the gospel preached in them; Christ, the wisdom and power of God, being in and by that seed seeking to save their souls.” What a body of divinity there must be, in “that little small thing” that lives so uncomfortably in us! I have transferred his words, just as they are in the Apology-except the hands ! How much greater the day (misty as it is) that Barclay sheds on that miserable little nondescript, than any of its own! As if a man should take a blazing flambeau into a dark damp grotto under ground to see—a suffocating firefly! and as if this, when seen, should puzzle all the entomologists, in the country and out of it, to ascertain its definition, species, genus, order, class, or kingdom !
If it be admitted that they mean something, of which their rational conception is bewildered, one might be allowed to say, it seems certain that they ignorantly mean nothing but natural conscience. I have often heard their preachers, in their inspired communications, and others in common parlance, appeal to us, if we had never felt that in us that condemns us when we trespass, the witness that cannot be hid “in a corner,” or bribed or doubted ; that is "a terror to evil doers and a praise to them that do well." This is in substance one of their very common forms of popular inculcation and ap
peal; and as it is addressed to all without discrimination, and not to saints in particular, I see not how it substantially differs from the unmystical appeal often heard from our pulpits; as when the preacher says; “Have you not often violated or
. defiled your own consciences ? done what you knew was displeasing to God at the time, and so sinned directly against his majesty and goodness ?" But they reclaim at the sentiment. Their mean
. ing, they say, is far sublimer than mere science. And plainly their doctrine would be ridiculous, thus stated, every man has a natural conscience ; a truism which nobody disputes. Neither is it knowledge that constitutes this wonderful light, unless knowledge be innate, or unless it be of some supernatural description altogether above definition. Is it holiness, moral excellence, conformity of heart to God? This will hardly be affirmed. When God defines the human heart for the human species, he defines it as “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” What an omission, if there be somewhat radically excellent and allied to his own beauty in the moral countenance of man! That some of the Friends believe in a remaining particle of goodness in the human heart, I know; that many have this infidel belief, I fear; and that their very erroneous conceptions of that fundamental article, the depraved natural character of man, take their rise from the dogma of inward light, I fully believe. They often speak of the inward seed which God hath planted in all the hearts of his human creatures, and which strives
to take root and grow and bear fruit ; but is too much oppressed, by “the activity of the creature and other causes, to come to perfection. They speak of “ the principle ;" they say they “ believe in the principle.” They speak of following “the principle.” But all this is no definition. It is not gospel, it is not sense. It is mysticism and indevotional cant! And it is worse—to infinity, precisely, worse-because of the darkness and uncertainty it sheds upon a subject of vital import to the souls of men! They tell us too that it is in “ the openings of the principle” that their preachers are “clothed” with power to speak to the states of their auditory: i. e. the expansion of this inward light it is that makes the inspiration of their preachers. This is probable. But still the question returns; what is “it?” What is “that which” and so forth? Is it blind impulse, a mere actuating of the mind? This they will hardly affirm. And yet I have seen and heard such things in their preachers as seemed to me to imply that they felt themselves to be each a mere mouthpiece or mechanical echo to some superior mind! They often rise as if by physical impulsion, stand through a long introductory pause, inform their hearers that they know not what they have to communicatethat they had “premeditated” nothing—but, that “it was impressed with indubitable clearness in the secret of the mind that,” &c. according to the matter “ revealed” to them: and this, while they preach almost the same sermon throughout which they have delivered frequently before. Sometimes the stamp of their commission is for the moment not quite so legible or certain to themselves. Then the light teaches such a style as this ; “My mind hath been exercised, I felt a concern to address-I should feel easier to say a few words-perhaps I should reach the state of some present, if I gave utterance to what hath been communicated to my own soul.” This indeed is strange inspiration, and we shall not feel relieved by the adduction of a thousand similar specimens, in regard to a definition of the true nature of the light within. What christian does not pity an audience of many hundreds, listening to such oracular edification as this! I have instanced spontaneous motion or action, meaning a kind of free-spiritedness, by which, because they “feel easy” to take a particular course, they infer that it is divinely sanctioned and all in the light: and also monitorial suggestion, because they often act, as if an aerial prompter or angelic mentor were behind them, telling them the way. This is seen in their wonderful occasional abrupt
Sometimes darting up to speak," as if by electric influence; and then darting down again, as if, almost in the middle of their subject, the inspiring influence was withdrawn or an inspired reto administered. If this be a ridiculous picture, I am sure it is a true one! Friends also know it, especially the more intelligent. The quality of ridiculous is not in the painter ; nor would it be in the portrait, but for the features of the original; which are not exceeded in the delineation. It is a picture over which I could weep and groan !
eternity reveal as the consequence of all this degradation of the worship of God? Can the God of the New Testament approve of such soft and silly management ?
But do they refer to the Spirit of God, in his person or his influence, these powers and properties of the light within? I am aware that sometimes in theory, and perhaps in practice, they do; nay, that this is their grand pretension. But, allowing for a moment that the light itself depends for its existence on the Spirit of God, still, this does not answer the question, what is its nature ?
The Spirit may affect any one of the mental faculties, may approach and influence the mind in a variety of forms and degrees, and through different mediums; but what is that influence in every man and in every age and country that constitutes their idea of inward light ? I believe it is properly indefinablebecause it is a sheer nonentity, a mental creation, a dream of an undisciplined mind that runs before evidence, or rather without and against it-a mind that makes the objects that it sees, and very sincerely (this is not ironical, for sincerity is not synonymous with correctness) mistakes its own imaginings for the suggestions of “the eternal Spirit !" But is it not awful! Must the divine Author of the Bible be made responsible for the lawless visions of men ? and these visions of extravagance be held co-ordinate with the written “oracles of God;" nay, paramount to them? But, aside from the manifest impiety of this, (which is perhaps one of the worst things in Quakerism and one of the most danger