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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Would interfere with the duty recommended by the Quakers


SECT. II.

_Instrumental forbidden--Quakers cannot learn it on the motives of the world--it is not conducive to the improvement of the moral character--affords no solid ground of comfort--nor of true elevation of mind--a sensual gratification--remarks of Cowper--and, if encouraged, would interfere with the duty recommended by the Quakers, of frequent religious retirement._

The reader must always bear it in his mind, if the Quakers should differ from him on any particular subject, that they set themselves apart as a christian community, aiming at christian perfection: that it is their wish to educate their children, not as moralists or as philosophers, but as christians; and that therefore, in determining the propriety of a practice, they will frequently judge of it by an estimate, very different from that of the world.

The Quakers do not deny that instrumental music is capable of exciting delight. They are not insensible either of its power or of its charms. They throw no imputation on its innocence, when viewed abstractly by itself; but they do not see anything in it sufficiently useful, to make it an object of education, or so useful, as to counterbalance other considerations, which make for its disuse.

The Quakers would think it wrong to indulge in their families the usual motives for the acquisition of this science. Self-gratification,

which is one of them, and reputation in the world, which is the other, are not allowable in the Christian system. Add to which that where there is a desire for such reputation, an emulative disposition is generally cherished, and envy and vain glory are often excited in the pursuit.

They are of opinion also, that the learning of this art does not tend to promote the most important object of education, the improvement of the mind. When a person is taught the use of letters, he is put into the way of acquiring natural, historical, religious, and other branches of knowledge, and of course of improving his intellectual and moral character. But music has no pretensions, in the opinion of the Quakers, to the production of such an end. Polybius, indeed relates, that he could give no solid reason, why one tribe of the Arcadians should have been so civilized, and the others so barbarous, but that the former were fond, and the latter were ignorant of music. But the Quakers would argue, that if music had any effect in the civilization, this effect would be seen in the manners, and not in the morals of mankind. Musical Italians are esteemed a soft and effeminate, but they are generally reputed a depraved people. Music, in short, though it breathes soft influences, cannot yet breathe morality into the mind. It may do to soften savages, but a christian community, in the opinion of the Quakers, can admit of no better civilization, than that which the spirit of the supreme being, and an observance of the pure precepts of christianity, can produce.

Music, again, does not appear to the Quakers to be the foundation of any solid comfort in life. It may give spirits for the moment as strong liquor does, but when the effect of the liquor is over, the spirits flag, and the mind is again torpid. It can give no solid encouragement nor hope, nor prospects. It can afford no anchorage ground, which shall hold the mind in a storm. The early christians, imprisoned, beaten and persecuted even to death, would have had but poor consolation, if they had not had a better friend than music to have relied upon in the hour of their distress. And here I think the Quakers would particularly condemn music, if they thought it could be resorted to in the hour of affliction, in as much as it would then have a tendency to divert the mind from its true and only support.


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