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THE EPISTLES, &c.
BY SAMUEL TUKE.
PRINTED AND SOLD BY W. ALEXANDER and son,
HARVEY AND DARTON, W. PHILLIPS, AND E. FRY, LONDON ;
The expediency of republishing the writings of our early Friends, or even of recalling attention to them, by the publication of selections from them, has been doubted by some persons, on the ground that much of what they have written was connected with the peculiar circumstances of the times in which they lived that their style is uninviting—and that all which is essential to be known of the subjects on which they have written, is to be read in the works of modern authors in a much shorter and more agreeable form.
It will be admitted, that the first of these objections is conclusive, against the republication of the entire works of our early friends, and that their writings, in general, have but little pretensions to literary merit. Barclay, Penn, and several others, were certainly persons of education, and their works may be ranked among superior specimens of com
position at that time; but, though George Fox had received very little scholastic instruction, he possessed a mind of no ordinary powers, cultivated too, in a particular direction, in no ordinary degree. The Truths of Christianity became, at a very early period of life, the subject of his almost constant meditation; and he acquired a great knowledge of the Scriptures, and felt a great delight in their perusal. He was led to see the sad deviations of the Church of Christ from the beautiful simplicity of her primitive appearance; and, whilst deeply mourning over it in secret, he believed himself called to separate from the various religious professors of that day, and publicly to declare those important truths, which the study of the Scriptures, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, had presented to his mind.
Before thus coming forward, he had passed through deep exercises of mind; he had compared the views which were presented to him with the sacred records; he had conversed extensively with the teachers of religion of all classes; and, however ignorant of many things which rank high in the worldly scale, it is not too much to say, that he was a scribe well instructed, and that he was eminently qualified to know of Christ's doctrine, by an emplary obedience and devotion to his will, and by
an humble reliance upon his all-sufficient aid. "He had," says. William Penn, "an extraordinary gift in opening the Scriptures. He would go to the marrow of things, and show the mind, harmony, and fulfilling of them, with much plainness, and to great comfort and edification."
The writings of such a man, though far from exempt from the imperfections which attach to every thing human, are an object not devoid of interest to the serious professor of religion of any name; but on the members of that Society which he was instrumental in forming, they have a peculiar and strong claim to attention.
It may well deserve our inquiry, whether the disinclination which we feel to the perusal of the writings of our ancient friends, does not in degree, and on some occasions, arise from an indisposition to those views of entire and simple devotedness to the will of God, and the guidance of his Spirit, to which they so uniformly call us, and from a reluctance to bear the cross in the way which they taught. It is true, their style is generally simple, and sometimes rude; and there is little to be found in their works to feed the spirit of curious speculation, or the desire for sentimental embellishment, which so much prevails in the present