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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

That the discipline of the Quakers


system of discipline, as thus introduced by George Fox, and as thus enlarged by the society afterwards, has not escaped, notwithstanding the loveliness of its theory, the censure of the world.

It has been considered in the first place, as a system of espionage, by which one member is made a spy upon, or becomes an informer against another. But against this charge it would be observed by the Quakers, that vigilance over morals is unquestionably a Christian duty. It would be observed again that the vigilance which is exercised in this case, is not with the intention of mischief, as in the case of spies and informers, but with the intention of good. It is not to obtain money, but to preserve reputation and virtue. It is not to persecute but to reclaim. It is not to make a man odious, but to make him more respectable. It is never an interference with innocence. The watchfulness begins to be offensive only, where delinquency is begun.

The discipline, again, has been considered as too great an infringement, of the liberty of those, who are brought under it. Against this the Quakers would contend, that all persona who live in civil society, must give up a portion of their freedom, that more happiness and security may be enjoyed. So, when men enter into Christian societies, they must part with a little of their liberty for their moral good.

But whatever may be the light in which persons,

not of the society, may view this institution, the Quakers submit to, and respect it. It is possible there may be some, who may feel it a restraint upon their conduct. And there is no doubt, that it is a restraint upon those, who have irregular desires to gratify, or destructive pleasures to pursue. But generally speaking, the youth of the society, who receive a consistent education, approve of it. Genuine Quaker parents, as I have had occasion to observe, insist upon the subjugation of the will. It is their object to make their children lowly, patient and submissive. Those therefore, who are born in the society, are born under the system, and are in general educated for it. Those who become converted to the religion of the society, know beforehand the terms of their admission. And it will appear to all to be at least an equitable institution, because in the administration of it, there is no exception of persons. The officers themselves, who are appointed to watch over, fall under the inspection of the discipline. The poor may admonish the rich, and the rich the poor. There, is no exception, in short, either for age, or sex, or station.

It is not necessary, at least in the present place, that I should go farther, and rake up all the objections, that may be urged upon this subject. I shall therefore only observe here, that the discipline of the Quakers, notwithstanding all its supposed imperfections, whatever, they may be, is the grand foundation-stone, upon which their moral education is supported. It is the grand partition wall between them and vice. If this part of the fabric were ever allowed to, be undermined, the building would fall to pieces; though the Quakers might still be known by their apparel and their language, they would no longer be so remarkable as they are now generally confessed to, be, for their moral character.


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