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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

No one knowing but the admonishing persons


of the administration of the discipline of the Quakers--Overseers appointed to every particular meeting--Manner of reclaiming an individual--first by admonition--this sometimes successful--secondly by dealing--this sometimes successful--but if unsuccessful, the offender is disowned--but he may appeal afterwards to two different courts or meetings for redress.--_

Having now given the general outlines of the discipline of the Quakers, I shall proceed to explain the particular manner of the administration of it.

To administer it effectually all individuals of the society, as I have just stated, whether men or women, are allowed the power of watching over the conduct of one another for their good, and of interfering if they should see occasion.

But besides this general care two or more persons of age and experience, and of moral lives and character, and two or more women of a similar description, are directed to be appointed, to have the oversight of every congregation or particular meeting in the kingdom. These persons are called overseers, because it is their duty to oversee their respective flocks.

If any of the members should violate the prohibitions mentioned in the former part of the work, or should become chargeable with injustice, drunkenness, or profane swearing, or neglect of their public worship, or should act in any way inconsistently

with his character as a christian, it becomes the particular duty of these overseers, though it is also the duty of the members at large, to visit him in private, to set before him the error and consequences of his conduct, and to endeavour by all the means in their power to reclaim him. This act on the part of the overseer is termed by the society admonishing. The circumstances of admonishing and of being admonished are known only to the parties, except the case should have become of itself notorious; for secrecy is held sacred on the part of the persons who admonish. Hence it may happen, that several of the society may admonish the same person, though no one of them knows that any other has been visiting him at all. The offender may be thus admonished by overseers and other individuals for weeks and months together, for no time is fixed by the society, and no pains are supposed to be spared for his reformation. It is expected, however, in all such admonitions, that no austerity of language or manner should be used, but that he should be admonished in tenderness and love.

If an overseer, or any other individual, after having thus laboured to reclaim another for a considerable length of time, finds that he has not succeeded in his work, and feels also that he despairs of succeeding by his own efforts, he opens the matter to some other overseer, or to one or more serious members, and requests their aid. These persons now wait upon the offender together, and unite their efforts in endeavouring to persuade him to amend his life. This act, which now becomes more public by the junction of two or three in the work of his reformation, is still kept a secret from other individuals of the society, and still retains the name of admonishing.

It frequently happens that, during these different admonitions, the offender sees his error, and corrects his conduct. The visitations of course cease, and he goes on in the estimation of the society as a regular or unoffending member, no one knowing but the admonishing persons, that he has been under the discipline of the society. I may observe here, that what is done by men to men is done by women to women, the women admonishing and trying to reclaim those of their own sex, in the same manner.

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