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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

By adopting the amusements prohibited by the Quakers


if the system of filling the heart with virtue were ever practicable of itself, that is, without the aid of prohibitions, yet if it be to be followed by allowing young persons to pass through the various amusements of the world which the Quakers prohibit, and by giving them moral advice at the same time, they would be of opinion, that more danger would accrue to their morality, than any, which the prohibitions could produce. The prohibitions, as far as they have a tendency to curb the spirit, would not be injurious, in the opinion of the Quakers, because it is their plan in education to produce humble, and passive, and obedient characters; and because spirit, or highmindedness, or high feeling, is no trait in the Christian character. As far as the curiosity, which is natural to man, would instigate him to look into things forbidden, which he could not always do in the particular situation of the Quakers, without the admission of intrigue, or hypocrisy, or deceit, prohibitions would be to be considered as evils, though they would always be necessary evils. But the Quakers would apprehend that the same number of youth would not be lost by passing through the ordeal of prohibitory education, as through the ordeal of the system, which attempts to fill the mind with virtue, by inuring it to scenes, which may be dangerous to its morality; for if tastes are to be cultivated, and knowledge to be had, by adopting the amusements prohibited by the Quakers, many would be lost, though some
might be advanced to virtue. For parents cannot always accompany their children to such places, nor, if they could, can they prevent these from fascinating. If these should fascinate, they will suggest repetitions. But frequent repetitions, where you accustom youth to see, to hear, and to think, what ought never to be heard, seen, or thought of by Christians, cannot but have the effect of tinging the character in time. This mode of education would be considered by the Quakers as answering to that of "dear bought experience." A person may come to see the beauty of virtue, when his constitution has been shattered by vice. But many will perish in the midst of so hazardous a trial.[13]

[Footnote 13: Though no attempt is to be made to obtain knowledge, according to the Christian system, through the medium of customs which may be of immoral tendency, yet it does not follow that knowledge, properly obtained, is not a powerful guardian of virtue. This important subject may probably be resumed in a future volume.]


_Quakers contend, by may of farther reply to the objections, that their education has been practically or experimentally beneficial--two facts in behalf of this assertion--the first is that young Quakers get earlier into the wisdom of life than many others--the second, that there are few disorderly persons in the society--error corrected, that the Quakers turn persons out of the society, as soon as they begin to be vicious, that it may be rescued from the disgrace of a bad character._

The answers, which have hitherto been given to the reader, may be considered as the statement of theory against theory. But the Quakers, would say farther upon this subject, that they have educated upon these principles for a hundred and fifty years, and that, where they have been attended to, their effects have been uniformly beneficial. They would be fearful therefore of departing from a path, which they conceive their own experience and that of their ancestors has shewn them to be safe, and which after all their inquiries, they believe to be that which is pointed out to them by the Christian religion.

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