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THE SECOND EDITION.
It is now not much more than a month since this little volume issued from the press; and I am informed by the publishers that every copy is sold. They inform me, also, that the demand appears to increase rather than diminish. The same motives, therefore, which originated the work, have induced me to print a second edition.
I regret that the first edition was not more free from literal and typographical inaccuracies. In extenuation, I may say, that the work was hurried through the press with undesirable haste, a haste induced by the anxiety I felt to see something in the hands of the public, in refutation of the falsehoods and misrepresentations which had been so blazoned forth in the Sectarian Magazines. I may further add, that the last two chapters were written amidst numerous other engagements, whilst the former part was passing through the press. In this edition many of the errors will be found to be corrected. So much for these minor matters. Now, as to the work itself.
It has been said by some, that the principles avowed and advocated in this book, are the principles of Hicksism. That Elias Hicks might own for truth some principles which are contained in it, I shall not take upon myself to deny; but that it follows hence, that those notions, and peculiar doctrines, which
distinguished Hicksism, from any other ism; and constitute it the ism that it is, are therefore believed in and upheld by me, is an assertion almost too ridiculous for me to attempt seriously to refute. It might with as much reason be said, that, because I believe, in common with Heathen nations, in the existence of a superior Being, I am, therefore, a polytheist and idolater.
I again repeat then, that I am not a believer in Elias Hicks, or any other man, (in the religious sense of the word,) but a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ : and if, upon any matters which relate to my soul, I hold views like those of some other men, I do so from a conviction that it is “the Truth, as it is in Jesus.” If the system acknowledged by the followers of Hicks is established upon no surer foundation than the deductions of what is called human reason, or upon “those suggestions which most comported with Elias Hicks's particular bent of mind," I utterly deny and disown it. Nor am I to be deterred, or driven from the ground upon which, I trust, my feet are firmly fixed, by so specious and artful a mode of controversy, as is resorted to by the enemies of the principles of the Society of Friends. The question, I say, is not to be thus blinked :the great and vital principle, that the Spirit of Almighty God is at times revealed in the heart of man, independently of any “ written revelation,” is not to be overthrown, is not to be scoffed and jeered away, by confounding it with the meteoric flashes of a bewildered imagination; and applying to both that censure and reprobation, which the vain and deluded followers of the latter only can deserve.
The Society have disowned Elias Hicks and his peculiar doctrines; for these are no more in accordance with the principles of Friends, than are the peculiar doctrines, advocated by the Reviewers and the author of the “ Beacon.” The faith, and the chief rule of faith and practice is based by the one, upon some of the writings of “ Holy men of old,” “ translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised by his Majesty's (so called) special command.” And the other, mixing up the images of
imagination with the efforts of reason, says
“ These be thy Gods, O Israel !” But neither of these foundations can be owned by Friends. And it is the invention of malice; it is the babbling of ignorance; it is the crooked work of the Spirit of darkness, that attempts to assimilate EITHER of these foundations with that upon which the Prophets and Apostles were built, “ Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.”
“ Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” Other foundation, the Friends cannot acknowledge. What misapplication of terms! what confusion of ideas! what perversion of truth, then, to affix the name and nature of Deism or Hicksism, to religious principles based upon the immovable “Rock of Ages !” Why stigmatize with odious names, with jeers and sarcasms, those principles which have their root and spring in the unbounded mercy of God, through Jesus Christ?
Are there, then, two foundations; one upon which “ the Apostles and Prophets were built,” and unother upon
which we must build ? Doth not the same foundation stand sure for us as well as for them,—“ Jesus Christ, the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever?" If the Apostle Paul declared in his day, that no other foundation could be laid than Jesus Christ, what authority have you to reject it, and substitute another-even the perishable letter of Scripture? Bring forth your strong reasons; produce the legal instruments of your power; show us the sign-manual of your authority to “disallow” that “ living stone,” chosen of God, “ elect and precious,” and to supply its place by one chosen of mar after the device of his own heart ! Why must the foundation upon which we are to build, be of man's choosing ? What divine command to that end has been issued ? and to whom? Where can I find the proclamation from Heaven, that the Apostolic declaration, that“ other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid,” is null and void? and that the only sure foundation, upon which all faith and works can now be based, is just so much, neither more nor less, of the writings of inspired men, as the contentious Priests of the Roman Catholic Church thought proper, sixteen hundred
years ago, to appoint for that end? Is it any where declared in any of the books of Holy Scripture, that a time should arrive, when the pompous dignitaries of an Ecclesiastical Establishment should assemble in convocation together, and determine for themselves, and the rest of mankind, what copies or translations of copies of the writings of holy men, should, to the end of time, be considered the only depository of the Divine will? If no Scriptural authority can be adduced to support this priestly dogma, why do you so vehemently contend for its acknowledgment ? Were these men, who thus gave out to the world this decree; and are you who blindly follow in their benighted way, commissioned to proclaim it, under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit of God? No: for you already, in the vain conceit of your imaginations, prescribe bounds for that Holy influence—even within the confines of an Eden of your own planting; wherein alone, you tell us, the tree of kpowledge of good and evil, and the tree of Life can be found. What assumption, then! what arrogance! what pharisaical pretension! for some few men to erect, according to the dictates of their fancy, the deductions of their understandings, or the suggestions of their prejudices and interests, an immutable and paramount standard for the test of truth, from the records of the epistles, prophecies, and other writings of good and holy men !
Raised, as this system has been, by the crafty invention of the traffickers in the name of the Most High; fostered and matured, as it has been, by the wise, the noble, and the mighty of this world; clung to, as it is, by credulous ignorance and superstition; it nevertheless cannot stand the test of rational inquiry, so weak, unstable and uncertain is its foundation. With stubborn assurance do its abettors, its Diana-like craftsmen, reiterate the charges of “ mysticism,"
," “ Deism,” and “ enthusiasm,” against those principles which discard, in matters of salvation, all dogmas, creeds, and authority, but that which proceeds from Christ the Head of the Church; and yet they can produce no authority higher than the conceit or opinion of those, who for the most part have a strong pecuniary interest to bias their decisions, for the foundation upon which they build.