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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

That a Quaker prostitute or a Quaker criminal is unknown


I shall not attempt to follow up this practical argument by any history of the lives of the Quakers, but shall content myself with one or two simple facts, which appear to me to be materially to the point.

In the first place I may observe that it is an old saying, that it is difficult to put old heads on young shoulders. The Quakers, however, do this more effectually than any other people. It has often been observed that a Quaker boy has an unnatural appearance. This idea has arisen from his dress and his sedateness, which together have produced an appearance of age above the youth in his countenance, or the stature of his person. This, however, is confessing, in some degree, in the case before us, that the discretion of age has appeared upon youthful shoulders. It is certainly an undeniable fact, that the youth of this society, generally speaking, get earlier into a knowledge of just sentiments, or into a knowledge of human nature, or into a knowledge of the true wisdom of life, than those of the world at large. I have often been surprised to hear young Quakers talk of the folly and vanity of pursuits, in which persons older than themselves were then embarking for the purposes of pleasure, and which the same persons have afterwards found to have been the pursuits of uneasiness and pain.

Let us stop for a while, just to look at the situation of some of those young persons, who, in consequence of a different education, are introduced to the pleasures of the world, as to those, which are to constitute their happiness. We see them running eagerly first after this object, then after that. One man says to himself "this will constitute my pleasure." He follows it. He finds it vanity and vexation of spirit. He says again "I have found my self deceived. I now see my happiness in other pleasures, and not in those where I fancied it." He follows these. He becomes sickened. He finds the result different from his expectations. He pursues pleasure, but pleasure is not there.

[14]"They are lost In chase of fancied happiness, still woo'd, And never won. Dream after dream ensues; And still they dream, that they shall still succeed And still are disappointed."

[Footnote 14: Cowper.]

Thus after having wasted a considerable portion of his time, he is driven at last by positive experience into the truth of those maxims, which philosophy and religion have established, and in the pursuit of which alone he now sees that true happiness is to be found. Thus, in consequence of his education, he looses two thirds of his time in tedious and unprofitable, if not in baneful pursuits. The young Quaker, on the other hand, comes, by means of his education, to the same maxims of philosophy and religion, as the foundation of his happiness, at a very early period of life, and therefore saves the time, and preserves the constitution which the other has been wasting for want of this early knowledge. I know of no fact more striking, or more true in the Quaker-history, than this, namely, that the young Quaker, who is educated as a Quaker, gets such a knowledge of human nature, and of the paths to wisdom and happiness, at an early age, that, though he is known to be a young mariner by the youth displayed in his countenance, he is enabled to conduct his bark through the dangerous rocks and shoals of life, with greater safety than many others, who have been longer on the ocean of this probationary world.

I may observe again, as the second fact, that it is not unusual to hear persons say, that you seldom see a disorderly Quaker, or, that a Quaker-prostitute or a Quaker criminal is unknown. These declarations, frequently and openly made, shew at least that there is an opinion among the world at large, that the Quakers are a moral people.


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