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SITAKERS, OR SHAKING QUAKERS.
Or this extraordinary sect, I have but little information that can be relied on, except a pamphlet published by John Woods in 1826. He styles his publication“ SHAKERISM UNMASKED" &c. &c. I shall quote the authors own words.
“ As this little publication (says he) may extend beyond my personal acquaintance, I shall take the liberty of giving a brief bistory of my life prior to my union with the Shakers.
I was born in Albemarle county, Virginia, the 25th February, 1780. I came with my father, James Woods, to Kentucky, who settled in Garrard county. Having lived with him till I was about twenty-one years of age, I married the eldest daughter of Mr. Robert Brank of the same county. By the friendly attention of our parents, we had a comfortable start for a living. They gave us a good tract of land, and other property, necessary for persons in our situation.
Not very long after our marriage and settlement, the memorable revival of religion in Kentucky took place. My attention was arrested. I reflected upon my former and frequent vows to God, made while I was growing up to manhood, that when I became settled in the world, as I now was, I would no longer live in neglect of my duty to my God, and of my eternal interest. My own appointed time to commence the service of God had now arrived, and I seriously thought that if I neglected it, God would no longer spare my fruitless life.
My father and the church to which he belonged, and the greater part of my relatives, who professed religion, were Presbyterians or Baptists of Calvinistic sentiments; and I, being raised up under their instruction and influence, thought if the doctrine of particular election and predestination, as I understood them, were true, there could be no evidence that I should obtain mercy, were I to seek it. Feeling a wretched, depraved heart, I thought it probable that a mark was set upon me in the foreknowledge of God, which destined me to eternal woe with devils and wicked men. Such thoughts depressed my mind almost to desperation. I labored to reform my life, and engaged in the duties of religion; but bondage, darkness and death, were the unceasing burden of my heart for eighteen months, at which period I was happily re.ieved by the Saviour of sinners. I then experienced the peace and joy of God's people, and greatly de
Hghted in the exercise of praise and thanksgiving. I'felt the spirit of the revival then prevailing, the spirit of love and union with all the saints of God without regard to names or opinions.
I think it necessary in the chain of my narrative to give a concise statement of this extraordinary revival, to wbich I have just alluded. It was preceded by a very great concern among the professors of religion in the western country. In the circle of my acquaintance of the Presbyterian order, the professors greatly lamented their lukewarmness, and past inattention to the duties of religion. It was a time of great repentance and lamentation for sin and formality. The constant and almost universal prayer was, that God would revive his work in the midst of the years.
The Lord heard and answered the prayers of his people. A. glorious reviving came from his presence, and various were the effects on the different subjects of it. Some, who once thought they had been converted, and brought to the knowledge of the truth, were now crying to God to undeceive them, to remove their false foundations, to take away their refuge of lies, and to establish them on the rock of ages. Others left such an intolerable weight and deep concern of soul, that their bodies were so cramped or convulsed, that they fell down, helpless and speechless, and had the appearance of death. Some were thus affected from a sense of the awful displeasure of God against sin, and a consciousness of their own guilt. Others, from views and considerations of the great goodness and love of God, which produce sweet feelings of repentance, with love and joy indescribable and full of glory: These effects were equally seen in the learned and unlearned, the rich and the poor, the bond and the free. Frequently their countenances seemed to shine, and more clearly expressed the heaven within, than the eloquence, which flowed from their tongues.
Sometimes their souls were so elevated with the beatty and excellence, which they saw in God and divine things, that they appeared to be unconscious of the passing events of time, and in this frame were often seen to dance like blazing seraphim, while surrounded with hundreds and thousands of gazing spectators, who were differently affected at the sight. Awful solemnity appeared in every face.
The report of these extraordinary works roused the country from their long sleep. The people convened together in such large assemblies, that the meeting houses could not contain them. They had to repair to the woods for worship. The preachers were so zealous and pathetic in their addresses, that the attention of almost all was arrested. --The different denominations of
christians became friendly, and attached to each other, and cordially united in preaching, exhorting, praying and singing together; and frequently they were seen together at the Lord's table. The multitudes at length became so great and the meetings continued so long, that it was found impossible for one neighbourhood to support them in the necessaries of life. This inconvenience was remedied by this means. Families far and near brought provision in waggons and encamped on the ground in tents, made for the purpose. Hundreds and thousands staid at the encampment all night, and continued to keep up their acts of devotion night and day. The forest all around resounded with the cries, groans and prayers of those, who had retired thither for more private worship; and often their prayers ended in shouts and songs to him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood.
After this revival had continued two or three years, several of the preachers of the presbyterian order, were censured by their brethren for teaching doctrines, contrary to the confession of faith. The names of these preachers, are, Richard McNemar, Robert Marshall, John Dunlavy, Barton W. Stone and John Thompson. These men were zealously engaged in promoting the revival. They preached a free and full salvation to every creature through faith in the son of God, and humble obedience to the gospel. They rejected all creeds and confessions of faith as authoritative, but the bible. They said the Bible was the only book that christians should receive as the infallible directory to heaven, and that a proper understanding and practice of its precepts would qualify them for the enjoyment of God in eternity. They urged the necessity of believing in the Saviour of the world; and that now was the accepted time and day of salvation. In order to remove a subterfuge, to which many fled from the weapons of truth, saying they could not believe until God gave them faith, until they were regenerated, &c. they endeavored to prove that sinners had sufficient capacity to believe in Christ from the evidences given in his word; and that they believing in him, and coming to him, would be justified, saved and regenerated, by the spirit given them through faith.
They preached that God was no respecter of persons; that he was in earnest when he called upon all to repent and believe the gospel unto salvation, and that if any were damned, it would be, because they would not attend to the voice of
which called them to the provisions of the gospel, so freely and fully offered.
Their former ideas of atonement they also rejected; as that Christ as a sarety in the room and stead of the elect or of man. kind, had paid properly, fully, and completely, their debts to law and justice; and that by his obedience to the precepts of the law, and by his sufferings and death to satisfy the demands of justice, the sinner was justified; this obedience or righteousness of Christ being to him imputed for his justification. This whole system they rejected, as unscriptural; allegiug that Christ is no where said to be a surety of any men, or all men; that it is no where said in the Bible, that he paid our debts either to law or justice-That if he had paid the debt for all men, all must in justice be saved, and if he paid the debt only of the favored elect, then there could be no salvation for others; which they thought contrary to the whole gospel which proposes salvation to all. They also contended that the plan of atonement they opposed, destroyed the idea of grace and forgiveness; for if the surety fully, properly and completely paid the debt, there could be no grace or forgiveness for God to release the debtor. They contended that the plan not only was contrary to the scripture, but to matter of fact. For the debt to justice was death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. They insisted that if Christ had properly, fully and completely paid this debt, then were all those for whom he paid it, forever absolved from suffering death, either temporal, spiritual or eternal. This they said was contrary to fact, for all die a temporal death, and all are spiritually dead, till regenerated by the spirit of God. They farther contended, that Christ could not die a spiritual death, without becoming a real sinner in heart That a holy law nor a holy God could not demand the payment of such a debt, without demanding that which he every where forbids, that is, sin—that justice could not be satisfied with the payment of such a debt, unless it could be supposed, that justice can be satisfied with sin. That Christ paid fully and properly the debt of eternal death, they declared was contrary to the New Testament, which states that he rose from the dead the third day, and ever liveth to make intercession for us.
Their views of atonement, as I understood them were these. That the word atone simply signified to be at one, or to be reconciled—They thús applied the doctrine. God and his creature man were in sweet union, before sin was committed—that sin broke this union, and separated between God and man—that Jesus Christ' was sent to destroy sin, or save the creature from sin—that when the sinner was saved from sin, then the separation between him and his God is removed, and the union restored the creature now receives the at-one-ment, or reconciliation to God. They taught that the death or sacrifice of Christ was not designed to affect the mind of God, so as to make him propitious or merciful to sinners--but that the whole design was to affect the mind of man, and reconcile him to God.
The views that these men had, with those who adhered to them, made a final split in the church; for, they withdrew from the jurisdiction of that body, and independently preached what they esteemed the gospel. They were zealous, confident, enterprising, and industrious, to propagate what they deemed the truth. Their doctrines were received by a great many in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, and have since spread into many parts of the United States. A great many professed to receive these doctrines, who never understood them; and a great many were sorely disaffected with them, who were equally ignorant of them.
This division among the preachers, and their diversity and opposition of sentiments and preaching, caused many to read the scriptures for themselves. By this means they became settled in their opinions. Among professors in general, there was a great deal of religious debate and hard feelings towards each other, and that love and fellowship which formerly abounded, now was fast declining
I was one of the number, who received the doctrine taught by these preachers. I was requested and encouraged by many of the brethren to preach; but believing that I was not qualified for so high and important a calling, I could not consent. Yet was I conscious, that if could do any good, and not dishonour the gospel, I was willing to be any thing. Being frequently urged to preach, and feeling a solicitous concern for my fellow creatures who I believed must find the favor of God or be undone forever, I at length consented, and preached some in 1805.
In this year, in February or March, the Shakers came to the western country. Their first visit of importance in Kentucky, was in the neighbourhood and congregation of Paint Lick, in Garrard county, where I then lived. Having tarried there a short time, and formed an acquaintance with a few, they went away, and visited some other places, where the revival had been, and passed over to the state of Ohio. As they travelled, they spoke a few things of their faith and practice.
They were in appearance, men of a sober, orderly deportment, and were dressed in plain, old-fashioned garments, such are worn hy the Friend Quakers. They being entire strangers in the country, with such an appearance and dress, the attention of the religious part af the people was pretty generally arrested, wherever they went. They travelled mainly on foot, there being but one horse for the three men, who first came amongst us. This