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On Civil Government.
Peaceableness of our principles a security to Government. Duties of subjects.-Suffering peaceably submitted to, when active compliance cannot be conscientiously rendered.--Civil and religious liberty valued, and how best defended.
THE peaceableness of our principles, when applied even to enemies, affords a strong security to any government under which we live, that we cannot unite in any practices, with a view either to injure or subyert it. Tbe consideration of this circuinstance, attended with a correspondent conduct, has probably been the means of obtaining indulgences for some of our principles, which are contrary to general laws. Several of these principles, are such as generally to exclude us from becoming a constituent part of government : what we have, therefore, to consider, are the duties of subjects.
These duties are clearly defined in the New Testament ; and under circumstances which render this definition peculiarly strong. When they were enjoined, the primitive Christians were frequently under persecution; the government, at that time, was of a kind which is generally considered the worst, and in the hands of the worst of men ; nevertheless, we see no encouragement given to any thing like sedition or resistance. On the contrary, the believers in Christ were taught to be subject unto the higher powers, "* "to obey magistrates,”+ and to 6 submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake.-As free, and not using liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”These are the principles on which our Society, as a body, have uniformly acted ; as may be seen by the advices given on this subject, in a Book of Extracts from advices of the Yearly Meeting, printed in London, in the year 1802. From page 19 of this book, the following advice is taken : “We trust we are called to show forth to the world, in life and practice, that the blessed reign of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, is begun; and we doubt not but it will proceed, till it attain its completion in the carth : when, according to the prophecies of Isaiah and Micab, 'nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.' Influenced by these principles, we cannot consistently join with such, as form combinations of a hostile nature against any ; much less in opposition to those placed in sovereign or subordinate authority: nor can we unite with, or encourage, such as revile and asperse them; for it is written : Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.'”Yearly Meeting's Printed Epistle. 1775.
But whilst we think it right to put in practice the advices given to the primitive Christians on this subject, we are, as they were, under circumstances, which sometimes prevent us from actively complying with what the laws of the country require. Nevertheless, we submit to the law, by suffering the peaceable execution of it, in cases in which we cannot actively comply. There are duties which we owe to our consciences and to God, with which human power cannot dispense, and of which it is not a competent judge. The
government of conscience is God's prerogative ; and when it is neither used as a cloak of maliciousness, nor abused to the disturbance of the public peace, it ought to be fully free. Our Society in this country, though under some circum..
stances which bear rather hard upon it, bas abundant cause for gratitude to the government, for the favours we enjoy ; and it is to be hoped, that we shall always conduct ourselves so as to merit the continuance, and even the extension of them: “ being obliged, not only to demean ourselves as a grateful people, but, as a Christian society, to live peaceably and inoffensively, under the present government; as we have always doné, under the various revolutions of government, ever since we were a people.”— Yearly Meeting's Written Epist. 1692.
But, notwithstanding our peaceable and submissive principles, in relation to those who are placed in authority over us, we are far from being insensible of the value of civil and religious liberty. When these are violated, we think it right to represent our grievances to those who oppress us, or who have it in their power to afford relief. If this be done in a Christian spirit, and in a language respectfully strong, it would be found, in general, a much more successful, and always a more proper means of obtaining redress, than any seditious and turbulent proceedings, or those bloody appeals to the sword, to wbich mankind are too apt to resort, as the relief of oppression, or the gratification of revenge.
The necessity of discipline in religious societies.-Objections to it answered.- Particular objects of our discipline enumerated.
- Different meetings in which it is transacted.--Importance of transacting it in a right spirit.
WHATEVER may be the inducement of any people to form themselves into a separate society, it must be on some principles which they assume, and on the preservation of which, their continuance, as a particular society, must, in a great measure, depend. It is also the duty. of every society, formed upon religious principles, to support good morals, without which its pretensions to religion are vain. These two considerations render discipline, in a religious society, necessary to its reputable existence; and when they are not attended to, confusion and disgrace must follow. However excellent any of our religious principles may be, we who profess them are all frail and fallible. We are all by nature prone to evil: and if we have