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ANTHONY BENEŽET'S LETTERS.
not naturally led us, and begot a desire in our children, to live in conformity to the customs of other people? Hence the sumptuousness of our dwellings, our equipage, our dress, furniture, and the luxury of our tables, have become a snare to us, and a matter of offence to the thinking part of mankind; and the mind which has been in our children and often in ourselves, (distinct from the meekness and self-denial of the gospel,) has led into resentment in defence of what was become as our gods, or idols; so that the meek, humble and poor, self-denying life of Christ is become of no repute, or rather as a shepherd was to the Egyptians. The suffering which Providence has now permitted to come over us seems particularly calculated to bring us to ourselves, in some respects;, as the trials and devastations are greater upon those whose possessions are most extensive, and who have been at the greatest pains and expenses in adorning their pleasant pictures. I trust this, at least, will teach us in future, to live more agreeable to our profession, whereby our wants being made less, the perplexing, dangerous snares and entanglements which attend the amassing of wealth, would be much lessened. If this afflictive providence does induce us to begin anew upon the true foundation of our principles, in that low and humble state of mind which becomes, and indeed constitutes the real followers of Christ, it will have done much for us. In love, in which my wife joins, I remain thy friend,
ANTHONY BENEZET. 1st mo. 1778.
We the society of the people called Quakers, have ever professed the necessity of a strict attention to the teachings of the grace of God and the doctrines of the gospel; and thereby have been united in the belief of certain principles, in particular against offensive and defensive war, as inconsistent with the peaceable kingdom of Christ: Yet many members of this meeting, disregarding those Divine teachings, have, contrary to our professed principles, armed
their vessels for defence; and some few have taken arqueout or been concerned in Letters of mark On which
account, this meeting, for several years past, as well as during former wars, hath in conjunction with divers Friends under appointment of the Quarterly meeting, repeatedly visited those who have thus violated this our ancient christian testimony, in order to bring them to a due sense thereof. And, after much labour and forbearance, by minutes of 8th month, 1781, and 1st month, 1782, declared that the said A. C-, and J. S-, being concerned in Letters of mart, as well as vessels armed for defence, were unfit to be employed in any service of the church, or their collections to be received. And by a subse
quent minute of this meeting in the 7th month last, the rest of those abovenamed, with some others concerned as owners of armed vessels, were put under the like censure. And as those of Whitby had in a collective capacity refused to be visited any more, individually,--the following paper of tender admonition and counsel was also given forth, and a copy thereof ordered to be delivered to such of those concerned as were willing to receive it, viz:
“To the members of Scarborough monthly meeting, concerned in armed vessels:
Notwithstanding the repeated labours which have been personally bestowed upon you, we feel our minds engaged to treat with you in this manner: and in the first place, briefly to set before you the grounds of our testimony against war and fighting. Our Lord said to Pilate, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” And he doth not only disallow offensive war, but defensive also; for when Peter, in his master's defence, cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, his Lord rebuked him, and told him that those who use the sword shall perish by the sword. Thereby pointing out, not so much an external manner of death, as the necessity of those lusts from whence wars and fightings proceed, being slain by the sword of the Spirit: that so a fitness may be experienced for an inheritance in his kingdom who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.The holy prophets who also foresaw the coming of this gospel day, largely prophesied of the peaceable effects thereof: And the primitive christians, in their own experience, could declare that the weapons of their warfare were not carnal, but spiritual. Having therefore these doctrines and these promises, we es
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teem it our duty to bear testimony thereunto; and the more so, as we believe the day is approaching when those prophecies will be more fully accomplished. How can our hearts endure, or our hands be strong, if we desert a cause so precious,--if we turn aside from a work in which so many have patiently laboured!
Wherefore, we are sorrowfully affected under a sense of the blindness which hath happened to some part of our society: and although you have been from, time to time instrumentally laboured with, in order that you might be brought to see your own states and situations, together with the consistency of our christian testimony in these and many other respects, and that from a right conviction you might be engaged to bear the same, yet we are sensible, it is only by the power of Truth operating on your minds, and your obedience thereunto, that this work can be rightly effected; and therefore we are engaged to turn your minds unto this power, that thereby your spiritual eyes may be opened, and you favoured to see and pursue those things which belong to your everlasting peace, before they are hid from your eyes. Nevertheless, we trust there are some amongst you who are sensible of the importance of our testimony, and are at times favoured to see the rectitude thereof: and we wish in a particular manner to press upon these the necessity of their acting according to the light received. Look not out at others, nor yet at your own weakness; but look unto the Lord in whom is everlasting strength, and consider that it is by being obedient to the present manifestations of duty, that ability is received to press forward in the heavenly race, and to attain greater degrees of light, strength
and purity. But if those whose minds have been thus enlightened, will not be obedient to the heavenly vision,—but are consulting with flesh and blood, and preferring their temporal interests to everlasting righteousness and the reward thereof,these will receive the greater condemnation.
We also think proper to inform you that it is our sense, that as many as are concerned in armed vessels, (as expressed in a minute of this meeting) should be disqualified from acting in meetings for discipline; as they cannot be rightly helpful therein; and also that their contributions for the service of the society be refused; as the gain that is thus acquired may be justly deemed unrighteous gain, and what is thus contributed is or may be the price of blood. And we sincerely desire that further steps of dealing may become unnecessary, by your acting from the convictions of Truth consistent with our christian testimony: in order whereunto, we intreat you to turn unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.” · All which labour from time to time having been ineffectual to the reclaiming of the said A. C-, J. S-, T.L-, J. W—, I. S-,J.C—, W.S-, I.C R. WJC-, G. G-, J.C—, H. C— and S. GG, from a practice so repugnant to our peaceable principles,—they continuing therein to the end of the war;—and they being also incapable of consistently supporting the other branches of our christian testimony, we find it incumbent upon us, for the maintaining of those principles which we as a people most assuredly believe, and for the clearing of our society from the charge of a conduct so contrary to our profession,—hereby to testify against all those abovenamed from being members in communion with us.