Images de page
PDF
ePub

sacred an alliance, that it differed but little from alliance by blood.

These principles of the Scythians, as far as they are well founded, the Quakers believe to have originated in their more than ordinary attention to 'that Divine Principle, which was given to them, equally with the rest of mankind, for their instruction in moral good; to that same Principle, which Sacrates describes as having suggested to his mind that which was good and virtuous, or which Seneca describes to reside in men, as an observer of good and evil. For the Scythians, living in solitary and desert places, had but little communication for many ages with the rest of mankind, and did not obtain their system of morality from other quarters. From the Greeks and Romans, who were the most enlightened, they derived no moral benefit. For Strabo informs us, that their morals had been wholly corrupted in his time, and that this wretched change had taken place in consequence of their intercourse with these nations. That they had no Scripture or written Law of God, is equally evident. Neither

says that

did they collect their morality from the

perusal or observance of any particular laws that had been left them by their ancestors; for the same author, who gives them the high character just mentioned, says they were found in the practice of justice, “not on account of any laws, but on account of their own natural genius or disposition *.” Neither were they found in this practice because they had exerted their reason in discovering that virtue was so much more desirable than vice; for the same author declares that Nature, and not Reason, had made them a moral people: for “ it seems surprising,” says he, “ that Nature should have given to them what the Greeks have never been able to attain, either in consequence of the long succession of doctrines of their wise men, or of the precepts

of their philosophers, and that the manners of a barbarous should be preferable to those of a refined people t.”

* Justitia gentis ingeniis culta, non legibus.

† Prorsus ut admirabile videatur, hoc illis Naturam dare, quod Græci longâ sapientium doctrinâ præceptisque philosophorum consequi nequeunt, cultosquie mores. incultæ barbariæ collatione superari.

This opinion, that the Spirit of God was afforded as a Light to lighten the Gentiles of the ancient world, the Quakers derive from the authorities which I have now mentioned, that is, from the evidence which history has afforded, and from the sentiments which the Gentiles have discovered themselves, upon this subject. But they conceive that the question is put out of all doubt by these remarkable words of the apostle Paul: " For when the Gen. tiles, which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law, these having not the Law, are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the Law written on their hearts; their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another*." And here it may be observed, that the Quakers believe also, that in the same manner as the Spirit of God enlightened the different Gentile-nations previous to the time of the apostle, so it continues to enlighten those who have been discovered since; for no nation has been found so ignorant, as

* Rom. ii. 14, 15.

not

not to make an acknowledgment of a superior Spirit, and to know the difference between good and evil. Hence it

may

be considered as illuminating those nations where the Scriptures have never reached, at the

present day. With respect to the last case, which includes those who have heard with their outward ears the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Quakers believe, that the Spirit of God has continued its office of a spiritual instructor, as well to these as to any of the persons who have been described. For the Gospel is no where said to supersede, any more than the Law of Moses did, the assistance of this Spirit. On the other hand, this Spirit was deemed necessary, and this by the apostles themselves, even after churches had been established, or men had become Christians. St. Paul declares *, that whatever spiritual gifts some of his followers might then have, and however these gifts might then differ from one another, the Spirit of God was given universally to man, and this to profit withal. He declares again, that * as many as were led by this Spirit, these and these only, possessed the knowledge that was requisite to enable them to become the sons of God. And in his letter to the Thessalonians, who had become a Christian church, he gave them many particular injunctions, among which one was, that they | would not quench or extinguish this Spirit.

* 1 Cor. xii. 7. .

that * Rom. viii. 14.

And in the same manner as this Spirit was deemed necessary in the days of the apostles, and this to every man individually, and even after he had become a Christian, 80 the Quakers consider it to have been necessary since, and to continue so, wherever Christianity is professed. For many persons may read the holy Scriptures, and hear them read in churches, and yet not feel the necessary conviction for sin. Here then the Quakers conceive the Spirit of God to be still necessary. It comes in with its inward monitions and reproofs, where the Scripture has been neglected or forgotten. It attempts to stay the arm of him who is going to of fend, and frequently averts the blow.

fi Thess. v. 19.

Neither

« PrécédentContinuer »