« ZurückWeiter »
hutable appearance greatly affected the more enthusiastic part of the religious. They thought the Shakers looked so much like Christ or the old apostles, they must be good men.
The Shakers, when in company with those who engaged in the duty of prayer, would sometimes kneel down, and apparently unite with them in devotion; but would not pray vocally themselves. When invited to eat, they asked liberty to act their faith, which was, to kneel down at the table a minute or two, looking very solemn, and apparently engaged in mental prayer or thanksgiving. The same service was performed, when they had finished their meal; also, when they went to bed, and when they rose up in the morning. They were very reserved and guarded in their conversation. As far as practicable, they endeavoured to ascertain what were the favourite doctrines and particular views of those they intended to visit and proselyte, that they might be prepared to associate with them in a pleasing manner, and seemingly accord with their opinions, and speak to their experience.
They spoke with high approbation of the revival, and signified that they had something more and better, than any thing we had yet experienced. They further said, that we never could find what we were seeking, nor gain power over sin, unless we confessed our sins to God, and told them what we had done, as Achan did to Joshua, when he had stolen the golden wedge and Babylonish garment. Josh. vii. 19. They said also, that it was the custom and manner, practised under the law, and order of the Jews; which order was a figure or shadow of the gospel dispensation of Jesus Christ, whose ambassadors they were. That the custom of the Jews was, when they had sinned, to bring an offering for their sin-that it was highly necessary for them to signify to the priest in what they had sinned, that he might instruct them in a suitable manner, and act according to the law in his official station.
They affirmed that such confession of sin was the true order of the gospel, in the days of Christ and his apostles, according to Acts xix. 18. That it had been the order under the ministry of John the Baptist; for his disciples were baptized in Jordan, confessing their sins. Hence they inferred that they confessed to John himself. This order, they argued, had been observed ever since there had been any true order of God on earth, until it was improperly used, and perverted in the church of Rome; and afterwards entirely lost in the protestant reformation by Luther and Calvin, and their successors.
They made use of a variety of other scriptures and arguments, to establish this doctrine, and conclusively signified that the car
nal fellowship and indulgence of the sex, was that which we professors of religion kept hid, and therefore our progress in the divine life was prevented, and a curse was brought upon the church at this day, like the stolen gold and garment, which Achan concealed, did on the camp of Israel of old. They said that it was in this act that the first man and woman sinned; and that the curse of God had been on that work, and all who lived in it, in some degree, ever since-that whatever countenance God might have given those who lived in it, or whatever privileges he might have granted them, he eventually intended to put an end to it-that none ever went to heaven, or could have the full favour of God, until they could cease from that work, and bring it all to the light in the true spirit of it; which light they affirmed was God and Christ, who was in them now in his second appearing, and which he had promised by all his holy prophets, Jesus Christ and his apostles, since the world began.
They also taught, that as all the human family were dead in trespasses and sins, so Jesus Christ, being born of a woman, possessed all the natural corruptions that belonged to the human family, actual sin excepted-that he was prepared and strengthened, by the light and power of God to bear his cross, and travel out of that corrupt nature; thereby setting us an example, that we should follow his steps; and as he had no wife, nor claimed any partial relation, none could follow him in truth, who did not forsake all such relation, with all that pertained to it-they must forsake the world who were all the children of the devil, by legitimate descent from our first parents, who having been deceived by the devil, and having partook of his nature, had transmitted it to all their posterity. Further, all who ever expected to be saved, must now with them (the Shakers) find a new relation to the church of God, where there was peace, where were all things right and equal, where no one called aught of the things he possessed his own, where all tears should be wiped from all faces, where was nothing to annoy in all God's holy mountain, where the Lord God and the Lamb were the light of the place, &c.
We who heard these things were greatly distressed. For if the Shakers were right, and were the people they affirmed themselves to be, it followed of course, there was nothing of the religion of Jesus Christ amongst us; and if they were wrong, they were greatly deceived themselves; and probably would deceive many. If they were hypocrites, they must be the worst. people we had ever seen, making so high a profession of what they did not possess, in order to deceive; and dissolving, with those who joined them, all the relations of husband and wife, pa
rents and children, friends, &c., and transferring the right and possession of their property to the use and disposal of the church forever.
They declared that they desired no man's silver or gold; and that if any man possessing property, should join them, he could keep that property as long as he pleased. But if he should travel in the gospel, until he should find it his duty and privilege to serve God with his substance, and enjoy equal privileges and blessings with the church, he could have liberty to do so; provided he had proved himself faithful, and tried the gospel for him- . self.
They farther declared, that all they desired, and all that God desired, was, that souls should live up to their faith, or act according to their present and best understanding of right-that none were required to do more. That if they had spoken, or should hereafter speak of things, which we could not clearly understand now, perhaps it would not be long before we should, if we would confess our sins, and take up our cross against the flesh. In doing this, we should get another spirit, which would lead us into all truth-that spirit, which searcheth all things, even the deep things of God. They warned us, that if we did not take care and be honest with our own souls, the Devil would cheat us out of the treasure, that God had sent us by them-That this was the sound of the last trumpet, the last dispensation of God's grace, that ever would be made known to the lost race of Adam; that this was the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men; and that Christ was in them judging the world.
They boldly affirmed that the way they had proposed was the way of salvation, and that there never was, and never would be any other way. That the soul, that sinned in rejecting wilfully the present work, could find no more place for repentance, and for such there would be no more sacrifice for sin.
Many of us, thinking that their visit to this country was importast, whether they were right or wrong, would ask them such questions as the following:
Question. Do you believe that any one on earth, at this time, has the same light and power, that Christ and his Apostles had in their day?
Answer. If there is not, then neither Christ nor his Gospel is on the earth; for he expressly said, "The works that I do, shall ye do also, and greater works than these shall ye do, because I go to the Father."
Ques. But was not this spoken of the twelve Apostles exclusively?
Ans. Nay: "For these signs shall follow them that believe." So that this promise is given to all that believe, or to the Church of Christ, wherever it may be.
Ques. Can you do such miracles as Christ and his Apostles did?
Ans. Of myself I can do nothing, as Christ said of himself; but the Father that is in me, he doeth the work. As Paul, I can do all things, through Christ strengthening me.
Ques. Can you raise the dead, heal the sick, drink deadly poison without injury, &c.?
Ans. Christ told the unbelieving Jews, who sought after a sign, that no sign should be given them, but the sign of Jonas the Prophet. But for your satisfaction there were many miracles performed at the commencement of the Gospel in America, and if it was the mind of God to continue them, it would be so still; but he knows how best to carry on his own work. Had we the gift of God to do miracles before your eyes, you might say of us, as the Jews said of Christ, "He casteth out Devils by the Prince of Devils."
Ques. As you say, this is the day of judgment, and that Christ is now judging the world by you, why is it that we see none of the signs preceding that day-as the resurrection, the sun darkened, the moon turned into blood, &c.?
Ans. Christ says, I am the resurrection and the life; whosoever has Christ in them, is in the resurrection. But after your bodies are dead and rotten, or eaten by worms, after they are decom、 posed, and incorporated with their fellow matter, you have no reason to believe that God will reanimate them again. The Scripture properly understood, gives us no such idea. What do you think God wants with your old rotten body, defiled with sin, and corrupted by lust? A body that has been the habitation of the Devil and all uncleanness? If, said they, all the dead bodies from Adam to the present day, were raised up, there would not be the space of two feet of land for each to occupy.
As to the signs of the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, &c., they considered them figurative expressions--the sun representing the sun of righteousness, which was darkened to the world by the teaching of Anti-Christ, or false church. By the moon, they understood the false church in all its sects and parties, which had the form of godliness, but denied the power.
Some of us apprehending that they perverted the scriptures, wished to know in what light they viewed them. This is ascertained by a very few before they join them, and there are some in their society who are yet ignorant of it. Shakers, who under
stand their own faith and principles, care very little what estimate a man may put upon the scriptures, provided they can get him to believe that they have, the spirit of inspiration. They think that the original scriptures were written by men of good intention; some of them under the influence of the Divine Spirit, and some not. But if they were at first written by the Divine influence, yet they have been translated by corrupt men, of views so foreign from truth, that their true meaning is perverted so far that it is impossible to ascertain clearly the truth contained in them.
The Preachers, Elders and Ministers frequently speak in the style and language of the Scriptures, in order to reach the feelings and gain the confidence of their hearers; but among the more intelligent of the Shakers, the Bible has been often called a damned old book, and they care no more for it than an old Almanac, which is out of date, and does not apply to the present year. Though they are so professedly pious that they cannot conscientiously take an oath upon the Bible; yet, in reality they only act thus, to induce the people of the world to believe that they have a great veneration for the Scriptures.
In a short time after their coming to the west, a number of people of the various denominations joined them both in Kentucky and Ohio. For a year after their entrance into Kentucky, I attended to them; and having made myself acquainted with them and their doctrines, I concluded they must be true, and united myself with them, contrary to all the entreaties of my wife and friends. My confidence in them was so fixed, that it could not be shaken, until a long chain of circumstances conspired to loose it, and change my opinion respecting them. For the benefit of society I would willingly describe every exercise of my mind, and all the occurrences among these people while I was with them; but those things would require a book of larger size than the one contemplated by me. I can only touch at the most important points, and such as are best calculated to the good of society.
Having received their doctrines, and confessed to them my sins, I expected according to their teaching, to receive the spirit of Christ. As I viewed myself a poor carnally minded creature, I was taught that I was to be led no longer by carnal reason, but to follow the spirit--that I was a child of the Devil, and might now expect the spirit of Christ would lead me directly contrary to my reason and desires-and that what I once thought to be right, I might now generally conclude to be wrong; that if any thing were to present itself to my mind, which seemed crossing, I might generally conclude it to be the operation of the