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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Not by prohibitory checks and guards


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAP. VIII.

_Objections started by philosophical moralists to the preceding system of education--this system a prohibitory one--prohibitions sometimes the cause of greater evil than they prevent--they may confuse morality--and break the spirit--they render the vicious more vicious--and are not to be relied upon as effectual, because built on a fake foundation--ignorance no guardian of virtue--causes, not sub-causes, are to be contended against --no certain security but in knowledge and a love of virtue--prohibitions, where effectual, produce but a sluggish virtue._

I have now stated the principal prohibitions, that are to be found in the moral education of the Quakers, and I have annexed to these the various reasons, which the Quakers themselves give, why they were introduced into their society. I have therefore finished this part of my task, and the reader will expect me to proceed to the next subject. But as I am certain that many objections will be started here, I shall stop for a few minutes to state, and to consider them.

The Quakers differ on the subject of moral education, very materially from the world, and indeed from those of the world, who having had a more than ordinarily liberal education, may be supposed to have, in most cases, a more than ordinarily correct judgment. The Quaker system, as we have seen, consists principally of specific

prohibitions. These prohibitions again, are extended occasionally to things, which are not in themselves vicious. They are extended, again, to these, because it is possible that they may be made productive, of evil. And they are founded apparently on the principle, that ignorance of such things secures innocence, or that ignorance, in such cases, has the operation of a preventive of vice, or a preservative of virtue.

Philosophical moralists on the other hand, are friends to occasional indulgences. They see nothing inherently or necessarily mischievous, either in the theatre or in the concert-room, or in the ball-room, or in the circulating library, or in many other places of resort. If a young female, say they, situated in a provincial town, were to see a play annually, would it not give her animation, and afford a spring to her heart? or if a youth were to see a play two or three times in the year, might not his parents, if they were to accompany him, make it each time, by their judicious and moral remarks, subservient to the improvement of his morals? neither do these moralists anticipate any danger by looking to distant prospects, where the things are innocent in themselves. And they are of opinion, that all danger may be counteracted effectually, not by prohibitory checks and guards, but by storing the mind with knowledge, and filling it with a love of virtue. The arguments therefore, which these will advance against the system of the moral education of the Quakers, may be seen in the following words.

"All prohibitions, they contend, should be avoided, as much as possible, in moral education; for prohibitions may often become the cause of greater immorality, than they were intended to prevent. The fable of the hen, whose very prohibition led her chickens to the fatal well, has often been realized in life, there is a certain curiosity in human nature to look into things forbidden. If Quaker youth should have the same desires in this respect as others, they cannot gratify them but at the expence of their virtue. If they wish for novels, for example, they must get them clandestinely. If to go to the theatre, they must go in secret. But they must do more than this in the latter case, for as they would be known by their dress, they must change it for that of another person. Hence they may be made capable of intrigue, hypocrisy, and deceit."


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