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The later history of the association can be gleaned from the published records of the Proceedings of these Yearly Meetings.
It is but just to mention here that Kennett Monthly Meeting reconsidered its action towards the Progressive Friends, about twenty years after the separation, at the suggestion of a member who had been active in effecting the division, putting on its book of record a "minute" stating its regret for it, and inviting them again into fellowship, as if no differences had existed. It was a rare and most honorable act on its part,-a worthy precedent, to be held in remembrance.
Opportunity was now given for comments on the paper.
J. WILLIAMS THORNE said: The object of coming here is well understood. This meeting was organized about 1854 or 1855. The most of those who aided in the organization are lying in the cemetery yonder. They have consecrated this place to free thought and speech. I know of no place where all sects can have as free expression as here. Let no one think that because slavery is abolished there are no weighty questions needing our consideration.
" New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth.”
The truth is, we do not know how far we have gone in the last fifty or one hundred years. Do not suppose we have attained to perfection. We come here to teach and be taught, not to dogmatize. Douglas Jerrold said, “Dogmatism is puppyism grown to maturity." Take up all questions, and give your reasons for what you believe to be the truth. The education of the people is not what it should be. George Fox and the early Friends were in advance of their age, and were persecuted. I say again, Longwood is consecrated to free thought, and for that reason we are here to-day.
ISABELLA BEECHER HOOKER said: I always wished I had been born a Friend, for I have seen that with them women are recognized as equals of the men. But to have been a Friend and then a Progressive Friend would have been near to perfection. She highly commended the paper just read, and, continuing, urged the young people, particularly the young women, to keep the meetings up and hold on to the principles for which Longwood stands, saying that if this was done throughout the country the nation would grow in principle as never before.
JOHN JACKSON said: I came here not expecting to say a word, but the paper has revived such recollections that I feel I must say something. We came to this meeting from the Orthodox Friends, thinking to find some truths here which we could not find with them. We are now glad that they did cast us out from that Society, good as it is. We are yet seeking the truth here. I can scarcely allude to the progress of the human race in the ten minutes allowed me. Yet it is still in the infancy of its growth. The Friends are a woman's rights people. They need no promptings to believe in that. Another grand truth is awakening to us. It is the belief in the Cosmos of Nature. The race must grow, cast out dogmatisms, and consider itself as belonging to one Father's House. We must not worship a miraculous, retributive God, but come to know a religion not bought with any man's blood. In this way human nature will be developed to a higher spiritual life, and we will grow nearer to perfection.
MR. HINCKLEY then gave the following address :
HERESY-HUNTING. During what has been aptly called the Quaker invasion of Massachusetts, it was ordered by the authorities that any commander of any ship guilty of bringing into these ports any Quaker should be fined one hundred pounds, and that any Quaker so coming should forthwith be committed to the House of Correction, and that his incarceration therein should begin with a severe whipping. A typical order is on record that all the Quakers then in prison should be severely
whipped twice a week, beginning with fifteen lashes. It was further decreed that the importation of any Quaker book should be punished by a fine of five pounds, and that any defence of the heretical opinions of Quakers should cause a fine for the first offence of forty shillings, for the second offence of four pounds, for the third offence commitment to the House of Correction, followed by banishment at the convenience of the authorities. The banishment of Roger Williams to Rhode Island and the hanging of Mary Dyer and her coheretics on Boston Common were but consistent steps in this same line of persecution, and complete the picture.
It is not within the range of the probabilities that if the Boston and Albany Railroad should bring Dr. Briggs to Massachusetts it would be fined five hundred dollars for the offence; it is not within the range of the probabilities that Phillips Brooks will be placed in the House of Correction, or that Heber Newton will be hung. The methods of heresyhunting have changed somewhat with the lapse of time, and freedom to worship God, according to conscience, is not a right to be long or successfully questioned now by the civil power. But the controversies of to-day so agitating several of the great denominations, and in some degree affecting all of them, involve the same old conflict, though in ameliorated form, between the same two philosophies. It is authority on one side, it is freedom on the other. Authority putting down stakes, and saying, hitch thyself to these ; drawing lines, and saying, thus far shalt thou go and no farther; setting up a standard, and saying, look neither to the right hand nor to the left, neither above nor below; look at this, be guided by this. Freedom declining to commit itself as to what it will believe to-morrow, holding that thought should be unhampered; that the reason, the individual reason, is the final court of appeal. In all ages this contest is one and the same thing, not always fought on the same field, not always under the same banners and to the same rallying-cries, it is true, but still, in essence, one and the same thing. Whoso protests against anything, tacitly asserts the right of private judgment. Martin Luther did that; Savanarola had done it before him. Calvin did it, Wesley did it, Channing did it, just as much as Parker did it, or as the progressive men of our time are doing it in all denominations. Whoso tries to shut off, or to crush out, honest protest, in so far denies the right of private judgment, and forges fetters for the human mind. Emerson says, “If I quake, what matters it what I quake at?" and we may well say, if the ecclesiastical whip is to be cracked over the human mind, what matters it what the issue? It may be the interpretation of the Bible at one period, it may be the form of baptism at another, it may be the nature of Jesus at still another, it may be the question of future probation at yet another, and so on to the end of the chapter, and to the end of new chapters until the last drop of tyranny shall be eliminated from human blood; but the one principle is there, underlying, animating, infusing the struggle at every point, and no matter what badges they may wear, no matter what differences they may cherish, all men who think for themselves, and insist upon the right of all to freedom of thought, are spiritually brothers.
It is true, and pity 'tis, 'tis true, that owing to human imperfections few men have ever protested against the authority of popes without becoming, the moment they acquired a little authority, popes themselves. Luther was intolerant, Calvin was intolerant, the leaders and devotees of all the sects have been intolerant. I think the man of all persons I have ever known who claimed the most for freedom of thought had a point in politics where he became intolerant. It is quite human to knock down big popes and set up little ones. But all this is no argument against the principle of freedom; it only shows the inconsistency of those who are striving to exercise it.
Such lapses may sometimes obscure the issue; they can never obliterate it. On the one hand, the accumulated thought and feeling of the past, formulated in statements, floated down the stream of time by great organizations, held before the gaze of men as the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way, the only truth, the only life. On the other hand, the spontaneous thought and feeling of the present, just gaining utterance in the minds, the hearts, the lives of isolated individuals, containing and embodying the latest messages from the unseen to the seen, coming in the only way that such messages can come, or ever did come, through the agency of consecrated lives. It is only when we clearly recognize the nature of the issue, clearly recognize that at bottom it is one and the same issue through all the ages, that we can take in the significance of the struggle at any given time.
“I doubt not through the ages
One increasing purpose runs,
With the process of the suns."
Never more than now is humanity beholding the widening. of the thoughts of men with the process of the suns. small view it may seem only the career of an individual that is at stake; to a sectarian view it may seem that only the autonomy of a denomination is at stake ; but it is far more than that, it is the same old right of private judgment asserting itself at Detroit, and New York, and Boston, just as it asserted itself at Rome, at Worms, and at Geneva.
And why does it assert itself? For no other reason in the world than because it cannot do otherwise. Thought must be free, else it ceases to be Thought. Not necessarily, not at all, free in order to think the same things, but free sometimes in order to think different things. A man does not deliberately plan to dissent. In obedience to his own higher nature, he finds himself dissenting, and that is all there is of it. When persecution comes to him therefor, he can only exclaim, as Luther did, " Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me." I say this is all he can do, and maintain his power to think. Before all Israel and the Son, the persecutor of free thought is an enemy of the race. Could he succeed in