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great moral precepts and religious doctrines there recorded, as tested by all fair experience and reflection; nothing elsewhere so purifying, exalting, and redeeming from sin and corruption; nothing so satisfying and consolatory to the human soul, as the Life and Immortality of the Gospel.
The circumspection of one now commemorated, all of whose mature life was engaged in the service of an elder of the Church, admonishes me not to pass from this serious subject without the cautionary explanation required by truth and experience. While fully acknowledging the perfect purity and truthfulness of the Divine light shed upon the souls of men, Friends are fully sensible of the imperfections of human nature, and how greatly an imperfect medium of transmission may refract, tinge, and discolour the rays of ineffable brightness. The capacity to receive is limited; the range of thought is bounded; passion may disturb, interest bias, self-will mislead, superstition cloud, sin taint, and disease discolour; and that which descended in the purity of light become mixed, perverted, darkened, and lost. Of these disturbing causes, Friends have ever been and must ever be watchful; but exceptional occurrences cannot justly be seized upon by those of differing faith, to draw in question that Fountain of Light which is as essential to the moral and religious well-being of man as the sun to the physical world. Misguided zeal and wild enthusiasm may run into extravagance; or the life of religion may be lost in cold and formal observances; unauthorized prophecy may disappoint or be the unhappy cause of its own fulfilment; and disobedience lead into error and utter darkness; but the light of Truth remains for ever the same, and those who will receive it with purity of heart, and unperverted and unclouded intellect, will find in it the perfection of wisdom both to enlighten the understanding and regulate the conduct. Instead of arrogating a claim to infallibility, no Christian people are more constantly wary and apprehensive of man's inherent infirmities and liability to misapprehend, to err, or fall away from an humble dependence upon the true Guide; but the delinquencies of the erring and unfaithful cannot justly bring into question Truth itself.
In the freedom of transition required by the progress of the Memoir, I proceed to other subjects.
In the year 1825, Robert Owen, whose establishment at New Lanark, Scotland, in copartnership with William Allen, and other well-known philanthropists, gave him a favourable introduction in America, undertook to establish a pattern community in New Harmony, Indiana. Some near and dear to our parents, were induced by benevolent considerations, to join the settlement; but not without deep concern and apprehension on their part for the result. The 29th of 7 mo., 1825, P. Price writes, "The more 1 reflect on the subject, the more I am convinced of the delusion, and that it will end in disappointment and ruin. I am more and more convinced that the foundation is laid in the sand and it cannot stand." Just one year thereafter, in answer to a communication announcing the dissatisfaction of the parties referred to, he speaks of the result as expected, and as a system "established upon a foundation to be compared to a quicksand, that the more they built on it the deeper it would sink. It is utterly impracticable to form a community that shall unite in promoting each others' happiness, without pure Christian principles of the greatest simplicity. It is in vain to say that all Christian religious sects are in error, and therefore there must be something more substantial to build upon. Although there may be a large proportion of professors who are not strictly governed by those pure principles, yet I trust there are many endeavouring with strict integrity to follow the Captain of their salvation. The error is not in the principle, but in the conduct of those who do not submit to be governed by it. The example of the truly upright followers of a crucified Saviour, has a powerful influence on society, and generally restraining power. When I consider what would be the effect of E. O/s opinions, were they generally adopted,—that we are the creatures of circumstances, and, therefore, cannot be accountable for our actions,—having no will of our own to do good or bad,—no governing principle of action, and, therefore, no fear of punishment for evil, or hope of reward for good actions,—I am convinced it must lead us back to a state far worse than the dark and heathen ages of the world, before the Gospel dispensation."
The concern of Rachel Price, on the same occasion, was also expressed before the result was known, substantially in these terms: "We feel a deep interest in your welfare. You claim a great portion of my thoughts and desires for your preservation, by night and by day,—the last before I close mine eyes to sleep, and the first when I awake. Often, very often, when favoured with ability, is the secret and fervent petition put up to the Preserver of men, on your accounts, that He may be pleased to keep you from evil, and turn your hearts more fully to Himself;—that you may feel for yourselves the necessity of Divine assistance,—to direct even in outward concerns. But how much more important the well-being of the immortal soul! It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps, but the good man's ways are ordered of the Lord. This is my firm belief, from experiencing His preserving power to be near even from early life to the present time, causing great uneasiness when I went astray, and affording sweet peace for doing well. I am also from experience fully confirmed in the belief that there are in the mind two opposite spirits striving in us, the one leading to virtue and happiness, the other draw ing into every kind of disorder and crime, consequently PHILOSOPHY OF CIRCUMSTANCES. 115
to woe and misery. Good and evil are set before us, and we must assuredly have the power of choice, and on making that choice wisely must depend our happiness in this existence and in that hereafter. How awfully important then the consideration 3 and may it sink deeply into our minds. If persuaded to lay aside the belief of free agency, we should, with all our boasted knowledge, reason, and philosophy, sink into mere machines to be acted upon by circumstances. I acknowledge that much may be done by precept and example, in forming the character of youth. But there is a power of choice and a free agency to elect the course of action, with a consequent accountability j and a gift of Divine grace dispensed to every individual of the human family for his preservation and everlasting happiness,—leaving him without excuse for disobedience and subject to the penalty thereof. I concur in the opinion that there is no effect without its cause; but that there is a Great First Cause of all causes is evident. All the contrivance, harmony, wisdom, and wonders of the universe proclaim His works as the creation of an all-wise, omnipotent, and omnipresent Creator.
It is the Almighty power whose law connects
The eternal chain of causes and effects;
'Tis He who made the eye and formed the listening ear,
To improve the mind by what we see and hear.