A Beacon to the Society of Friends/Extracts from a Declaration

E X T R A C T S

from a

DECLARATION

of the

YEARLY MEETING OF FRIENDS,

held in

Philadelphia,

Respecting the proceedings of those who have lately separated from the Society.[1]



At a Yearly Meeting of Friends held in Philadelphia, by adjournments from the 21st to the 28th, inclusive, of the Fourth Month, 1828.

IN taking a view of the situation of our Religious Society, and of the various exercises and close trials, which those who love our Lord Jesus Christ have had to pass through, we believe it important to preserve a faithful narrative of the schism which has taken place among some under our name, and to trace the subtle workings of that spirit of unbelief and insubordination which has been the primary cause of it,—a spirit which has been privily brought in among us, under the specious appearance of a refined spirituality, but which has blinded the understandings of many, and led them, step by step, into an open denial of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, as they are laid down by our blessed Redeemer and his apostles, in the Holy Scriptures. p. 3.

Having endeavoured to give a faithful narrative of some of the prominent events which have marked the course of the present schism,—it remains to exhibit these doctrines from works acknowledged by the Separatists, and which they have widely circulated for the purpose of disseminating their views. p. 15.

We shall not attempt to trace their unsoundness through all its ramifications, but we shall adduce evidence from their own works, which we believe must conclusively prove, that they deny the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is the Redeemer and Saviour of men, our Propitiation and Mediator with the Father, and also that they undervalue the Holy Scriptures. The selections are chiefly taken from the discourses of Elias Hicks. Most of their ministers inculcate the same opinions, but we have confined ourselves to a few of those discourses which are before the public in print. Extracts are also made from the Berean, a periodical publication which the Separatists have circulated for several years, as a standard work on the faith of the Society, but which we believe has had a very pernicious effect in leading astray many sincere-hearted people, who were not aware of the poison that is insidiously conveyed through its pages. p. 16.

Under the plausible pretext of exalting the "light within," as the primary rule of faith and practice, he [Elias Hicks] endeavoured to lessen the authority of the Holy Scriptures; and, when he had greatly impaired the sentiments of reverence justly due to their divine testimony, he proceeded to speak of our blessed Saviour, as being merely an example or pattern to us, and denied that his death was an offering for the sins of mankind, except for the legal sins of the Jews.p. 6.


We shall proceed with the extracts, commencing with their opinions respecting the Holy Scriptures.

Elias Hicks says, "If the Scriptures were absolutely necessary, he had power to communicate them to all the nations of the earth, for he has his way as a path in the clouds: he knows how to deal out to all his rational children. But they were not necessary, and perhaps not suited to any other people, than they to whom they were written."Philadelphia Sermons, p. 119.

"One would suppose that to a rational mind, the hearing and reading of the instructive parables of Jesus, would have a tendency to reform and turn men about to truth and lead them on in it. But they have no such effect."Ibid. p. 129.

"They have been so bound up in the letter, that they think they must attend to it, to the exclusion of every thing else. Here is an abominable idol worship, of a thing without any life at all, a dead monument."Ibid. p. 139.

"The great and only thing needful then is, to turn inward and turn our back upon the letter, for it is all shadow."Ibid. p. 225.

"Now the book we read in says, 'Search the scriptures,' but this is incorrect, we must all see it is incorrect; because we have all reason to believe they read the scriptures, and hence they accused Jesus of being an impostor."Ibid p. 314. "He [Jesus] does not move us in the least degree to any book or writing whatever, but leaves every thing outward entirely behind as having passed by, for he abolished all external evidence, as not being capable of bringing about salvation to the soul." Quaker; vol II. p. 264.

"No experience will ever be worth any thing to us, which is not our own experience, begotten through the influence of the blessed Spirit of God" N. York sermons, p. 123.

Thomas Wetherald says, "I want us therefore, in our investigation of spiritual things, to bring spiritual evidence to prove spiritual truths. Let us attend to spiritual reflections, and not be looking to the Scriptures, and to the systems of men, and to the words of preachers; for all these being of an external character, can only form an ignis fatuus, which 'leads to bewilder and dazzles to blind.'" Quaker, vol. II. p. 217.

In accordance with the above sentiments concerning the Holy Scriptures, the Berean says, "In vain does any man quote the scriptures as authority for his opinions; for if they have not been immediately revealed to his own mind by the Holy Spirit, they deserve no better name as it respects him, than speculations. Vol II. p. 211.

"Those revelations were for other times and other states, and not for us. They belong to those to whom they were immediately revealed. And that, and only that, which is immediately revealed to us, belongs in like manner to us and to us only." Ibid. p. 212

"Now the revelations respecting the nature of God, which were made to the Israelites, are true when viewed as in connection with, and as having relation to their spiritual condition; but to any other state, they are not true; therefore such revelations abstractedly taken, are not true in themselves—are not the truth of god." Ibid. vol. I. p. 403.

We could select many other passages derogatory to the Holy Scriptures, but these are sufficient to show the contemptuous manner in which they are spoken of by the Separatists and their ministers. They assert that they are not necessary, and perhaps not suited to any other people, than those to whom they were written,—they are a thing without any life at all, a dead monument, all shadow, upon which we should turn our backs,—that the direction of our Lord to search them is not correct,—that his parables have no such effect as a tendency to reform and turn men about to truth,—that in vain does any man quote the Scriptures as authority for his opinions,—that without immediate revelation they are no better than speculations,—that they only form an ignis fatuus which leads to bewilder and dazzles to blind,—that no experience will ever be worth any thing to us, which is not our own experience, and that that only belongs to us, which is immediately revealed to us,—and that the revelations which were made to the Israelites respecting the nature of God, are not true in themselves,—are not the truth of god.

We are not surprised that persons holding the opinions which they do, relating to the great truths of Christian redemption, should undervalue and endeavour to destroy the authority of the Holy Scriptures. For so long as they are admitted to be a test of doctrine all their pretended revelations which contradict the testimony of the Sacred Record, are properly condemned as "unsound and spurious." p. 18.

The Separatists would appear to be great advocates for divine revelation, at the same time they declare that the revelations made to the Lord's prophets respecting the divine nature are not true. p. 20.

The succeeding extracts from the public printed discourses of the Separatists, clearly prove their denial of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and degrade him to a level with his creature man. p. 21.

"We must turn our back upon them,[2] and come home to the light of God in us; for it is the same spirit and life that was in Jesus Christ the Son of God. We need not say that it is his spirit, but only that it is the same spirit, a portion of which was in him; because as reasonable beings, we must always take things rationally." Quaker, vol, I. p. 197?.

"And what encouragement my friends we receive through this medium, when we are brought by the light into a feeling of unity with our great pattern, Jesus Christ, and with God our Creator, O see how we come up into an equality with him." Ibid. p. 13.

"And we derive a portion of the same [spirit] which is able to save the soul if properly obeyed. Here now he was put upon a level;" &c. Ibid p. 17.

"Every Christian must come up under the influence of the same light that guided Jesus Christ—that Christ that was his saviour, and preserver; and that power which enabled him to do his work, will enable us to come on in the same path." Ibid, p. 44.

"I don't want to express a great many words, but I want you to be called home to the substance. For the Scriptures and all the books in the world can do no more. Jesus could do no more than to recommend to this comforter, which was this light in him." Ibid p. 40.

"He never directed to himself, but all he wanted was to lead their minds to the spirit of Truth, to the light within, and when he had done this, he had done his office." Ibid. p. 47.

"If we believe that God is equal and righteous in all his ways, that he has made of one blood all the families that dwell upon the earth, it is impossible that he should be partial, and therefore he has been as willing to reveal his will to every creature, as he was to our first parents, to Moses and the prophets, to Jesus Christ and his apostles. He never can set any of these above us, because if he did he would be partial." Philadelphia Sermons, p. 292.

"He was only an outward Saviour, that healed their outward diseases, and gave them strength of body to enjoy that outward good land. This was a figure of the great Comforter, which he would pray the Father to send them; an inward one, that would heal all the diseases of their souls, and cleanse them from all their inward pollutions, that thing of God, that thing of eternal life. It was the soul that wanted salvation, but this no outward Saviour could do, no external Saviour could have any hand in it." Ibid, p. 50.

"The apostle had allusion to that perfect righteousness which is the immediate Saviour in the soul, Christ within the hope of glory; but it was not that outward Jesus Christ that was the hope of glory." Quaker, vol. I. p. 164.

"Oh, dearly beloved friends, young and old, may you gather deeper and deeper to that which is within the veil, where we may have access to our God without any mediator." Ibid, vol. II. p. 277.

The preceeding selections have all been taken from the discourses of Elias Hicks.


Edward Hicks, at the Green-street meeting, says, "I ask then the question, how did he [Jesus Christ] leave the bosom of his Father? Can we form no other idea than that of a corporeal being, leaving a located place, somewhere above the clouds, and coming down to this earth? Is this the coming into the world that is meant? I want us to go deeper—to come to the spirituality of these things, and to recognize a spiritual saviour, rather than an outward and corporeal one. Because it is only a spiritual one that can save us from sin. That animal body that appeared at Jerusalem, had its use and day, but the spirit that was clothed upon by the fulness of divine power, this was the Saviour—this is the Saviour to whom I look for salvation, and not by any means to any thing outward or corporeal." Ibid, vol. II. p. 151.

This declaration corresponds with others which we have quoted, and is a virtual denial that Jesus Christ who appeared at Jerusalem, is the Saviour of men. The term animal body, used to designate our Lord, is irreverent and unbecoming a creature dependent upon him for salvation.

The Berean says, "In what manner then, or by what means was he made more than man? I answer by the same means, and in the same manner, that every other righteous undefiled man is raised above the mere human character; that is to say, by the power and spirit of God the Father. Vol. II. p. 258.

"The Christ then which it concerns us to have an interest in, is not that outward manifestation which was limited in its operations to a small province—a single nation, and to this day known only by history to a few," &c. Ibid. vol. II. p. 21.

"But the manifestation to us is inward, and they [primitive friends] believe that it is the Christ within, and not the Christ without, on which is founded their hope of glory." Ibid, vol. II. p. 84.

In his attack upon the "Doctrines of Friends," the Berean says, "The doctrine therefore contained in the chapter under review, ascribing a proper divinity to Jesus Christ, making him 'the foundation of every Christian doctrine,' asserting that 'the divine nature essentially belonged to him,' and constituting him a distinct object of faith and worship, is not only antiscriptural, but opposed to the simplest principles of reason; and is, in short, among the darkest doctrines that has ever been introduced into the christian church." Vol. II. p. 259.

We are not left to conjecture the opinions of those who have separated from us, respecting our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to draw our conclusions from a few isolated expressions; their views upon the subject are delivered in unequivacal terms, and are diffused through most of their discourses and writings. By the extracts we have made from the discourses of Elias Hicks, and the doctrinal publications of the Separatists, it is plain that they directly assert, That he [Jesus Christ] was raised above the mere human character by the same means, and in the same manner, that every other righteous man is,—that he was put upon a level with us,—that God who is equal and righteous in all his ways, never can set him above us, because if he did he would be partial,—that Christ was the Saviour of Jesus Christ,—that we need not say that it is his spirit, but only that it is the same spirit, a portion of which was in him,—that we come up into an equality with him,—that Jesus could do no more than to recommend to the Comforter,—that when he had done this, he had done his office,—that he never directed to himself,—that he was only an outward Saviour, a figure of the Comforter,—it was the soul that wanted salvation, but this no outward Saviour could do, no external Saviour could have any hand in it,—that Jesus Christ was not the hope of glory,—that it is not that outward manifestation which it concerns us to have an interest in,—that we may have access to God without any mediator,—and lastly, that ascribing a proper divinity to Jesus Christ, making him the foundation of every Christian doctrine, and asserting that the divine nature essentially belonged to him, is among the darkest doctrines that have ever been introduced into the Christian church.

On the offering of our Lord upon the cross as a sacrifice for sin, Elias Hicks remarks: "But I do not consider that the crucifixion of the outward body of flesh and blood of Jesus on the cross, was an atonement for any sins but the legal sins of the Jews," &c.— "Surely is it possible that any rational being that has any right sense of justice or mercy, that would be willing to accept forgiveness of his sins on such terms!! Would he not rather go forward and offer himself wholly up to suffer all the penalties due to his crimes, rather than the innocent should suffer? Nay—was he so hardy as to acknowledge a willingness to be saved through such a medium, would it not prove that he stood in direct opposition to every principle of justice and honesty, of mercy and love, and show himself to be a poor selfish creature, and unworthy of notice."!!! Elias Hick's letter to N. Shoemaker.

"And there is nothing but a surrender of our own will, that can make atonement for our sins." Quaker, vol. I. p. 196.

"Nothing can atone for sin but that which induced us to sin." Vol. II. p. 271.

"And what are we to do? We are to give up this life [our will] to suffer and die upon the cross; for this is the atonement for all our sins." Ibid. p. 272.

"But, my friends, the inward suffering of the immortal soul is infinitely superior to all outward sufferings. And if sin is atoned for in our souls, it will require a sacrifice proportionable to that which is to be benefitted by it. So that I apprehend, under this spiritual dispensation and day of light, there must be a spiritual and inward sacrifice for our sins." Ibid. p. 163.

The Berean says: "Whatever redemption therefore was effected by the outward flesh and blood of Christ, it could not in the nature of things be any thing else than an outward redemption. Vol. II. p. 52.

"And have we not reason to hope that the day is not far distant when the absurd and pernicious idea, that the imputed righteousness of another, is the ground of our acceptance with God, will be found but in the pages of the historian, when tracing the fruits of that lamented apostacy which early overtook Christendom." Ibid. p. 333.

By these extracts we may perceive, that Elias Hicks and his adherents deny the propitiatory sacrifice of our blessed Saviour upon the cross for the sins of the whole world, and consider that a willingness to be saved through such a medium, is in direct opposition to every principle of justice and honesty, of mercy and love, and betrays a poor selfish disposition, unworthy of notice,—that whatever redemption was effected by those sufferings, it was only an outward redemption, and confined exclusively to the legal sins of the Jews; and in their opinion the sacrifice of the will, is the only atonement for all sins now committed—that nothing can atone for sin, but that which induced us to sin. This doctrine is contrary to the Holy Scriptures.—We believe that nothing man can do, or suffer, will atone for, or cancel his sins. They are remitted by the mercy of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, for the sake of the sufferings and death of Christ, and it is the power and efficacy of that propitiatory offering, upon faith and repentance, that justifies both Jews and Gentiles from the sins that are past.

Not only do the Separatists deny the universal efficacy of the offering of our Lord, and term the imputation of his righteousness, as the ground of our acceptance, a pernicious and absurd idea, but they appear to rejoice in the hope that the doctrine will be discarded, as the fruit of the apostacy from the Christian faith. Believing as we do, that it is only as we come to be divested of our own righteousness, and of all confidence in it, and, through divine mercy, clothed upon with the righteousness of Christ, that any can have a firm ground whereon to rest their hope of salvation, we sincerely deplore the delusion of those, who thus wantonly deprive themselves of that hope, which maketh not ashamed, and entereth within the veil.

Besides the palpable errors we have enumerated, Elias Hicks and his adherents deny that mankind sustain any loss through the fall of Adam, asserting that children come into the world precisely in the condition he did.—"Belief," with them, "is no virtue, and unbelief no crime:" and however at times they may make high pretensions to the divine light, it is evident that the guide which they follow is their own benighted reason.

We believe it right to bear our decided testimony against such principles, as tending to destroy all faith in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, and to break asunder the bands of civil and religious society. And we further declare, that as such who entertain and propagate them, have departed from the teachings of the Holy Spirit, which would have preserved them in the doctrines of Christ Jesus and his apostles, we cannot unite with them in church fellowship, nor own them to be of our communion.

In this abridgment of the "Declaration" of the Yearly Meeting of Philadelphia, we have not inserted the whole of the extracts which are given by them, from the Sermons of Elias Hicks, &c.; many are omitted as not essential to this work; the object of which is, rather to mark the steps which led to so deplorable a result, than to expose Hickism in its most aggravated form.

  1. Philadelphia, printed 1828,—Reprinted, Bristol, 1831.
  2. We suppose the Scriptures.