2 of 4 contains:
Shaker Writings Relating to
Sexual Abstinence & Self Denial.
Five Authentic Excerpts Regarding:
Man; Fallen Man;
Celibacy; & Circumcision.
established order of Times and Seasons in the
1. WHEN God created the world, he established in it certain laws by which it was to be governed. Among these were included the order of times and seasons. These laws being established by the Almighty, could not be altered by any inferior power. The established order of the sun, moon and stars, which rise in the east and set in the west, could not be broken, nor their courses changed, so as to rise and set in an opposite direction, and at different periods of time. Nor could the established order of the seasons be changed, so as to produce effects contrary to the designs of infinite Wisdom. Day and night, heat and cold, summer and winter, seed time and harvest must have their appointed courses; nor was it in the power of any human being to change them. It would have been utterly inconsistent with Divine Wisdom to subject, to the control of man, the established laws of nature by which the creation was governed; therefore these laws were necessarily independent of all human power.
2. When God brought forth the vegetable creation he established in it the laws of vegetation, which required that everything pertaining thereto should bring forth fruit, each according to its kind, and be regulated by times and seasons. Hence every different kind had its allotted period to grow to maturity, to bud and blossom, and to bring forth fruit. Thus established and regulated, the order and harmony of the vegetable creation was rendered beautiful and glorious; no violation of nature, nothing disorderly to corrupt and mar its beauty nor destroy its harmony. Similar laws were also established in the animal creation. They too, in their various orders, had their appointed times to grow to maturity, and their seasons to generate and bring forth their offspring according to their kind.
3. Man also had laws given him according to his lot and order in the creation. As he was made superior to all the rest of Gods creatures in the natural world, being endowed with superior faculties and a rational soul, it was necessary that he should be governed by superior laws. The vegetable creation was regulated by the periodical seasons of the year, and these were sufficient for it. The animal creation, in addition to the rotation of the seasons, was endowed with the law of natural instinct, which was necessary to guide and regulate the various kinds of animals in procuring sustenance, and in the propagation of their species, according to their different classes and orders, in their times and seasons.
4. But man, being superior to all other creatures, had not only the rotation of the seasons, and the law of nature, in common with the animal creation; but he had also a superior law, by which he was made capable of overruling and governing all the dispositions and propensities of his animal nature. The rational powers of his soul were superior to his animal faculties, and constituted him a rational being, and brought him into a near relation to his Creator; he was therefore capable of receiving the law of his Creator to govern and direct his rational soul, in all its movements. Hence he was enabled, not only to keep the law of nature, and govern his own inferior propensities, but also to have the government and dominion over all the inferior creation.
5. The work designed for man, in his primeval state, was not only to increase and multiply, and replenish the earth with his own offspring, but also to subdue it, and to improve the condition of it, and with it his own condition. But he was to be regulated in all these things, not by the propensities of his animal passions, but according to the order which God had appointed for him, and which was to be made manifest in his living soul, by the Spirit of God. By so doing, he would have been enabled, under the special guidance and protection of his Creator, to rise by degrees to a higher state of perfection, and might have been, even in this world, the honorable progenitor of a numerous offspring who, by their obedience might have blessed, and beautified the earth, honored themselves and their primeval parents, and glorified their Creator. This was the primeval state and standing of man.
6. But as the man was to be the ruler and governor of all the inferior creation, it was necessary that his faithfulness should be proved. Being created a free agent, and endowed with power to act according to his own will and pleasure, as far as his capacity extended, independent of any other being, it was therefore necessary that he should have a law to direct him aright; an order which he must keep, for his own safety and protection. For although he had power to act freely; yet his situation and inexperience were such as to need protection. There was a work before him; and it was a matter of importance that he should be fully endowed with power and wisdom to perform it. This he was to gain by obedience to the counsel and instructions of his Creator. As a young and inexperienced child is required to walk in obedience to the counsel and instruction of his wise and experienced parent, as the only safe means of gaining wisdom and experience for himself; so he must prove his faithfulness by his obedience, before he can be justly entitled to the heirship of any portion of his father's inheritance.
7. Hence we may see the importance of man's obedience to his Creator, and the necessity of proving his own faithfulness, by his obedience, before he could fairly be entitled to the full government and dominion over the new formed world. It was for this purpose that God gave him a positive command. By strictly keeping this command, he was fully able to preserve his honor and dignity, and retain his lot and place as the first in the government and dominion of all this lower creation. This command was not entrusted to his animal sensations; but being from God, it was committed to the more exalted faculties of his rational soul, and was, emphatically the law of God to man, for the trial and proof of his faithfulness and obedience.
8. It may be asked, What was this command? We read that he was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or to touch it. This injunction was a prohibitory and positive command to the man, whatever might have been the figure by which it was manifested to him. To abstain therefore from this fruit was only to govern his animal propensities, and keep them in subjection to the law of God in his rational soul. This was an easy task while he kept the power of self-denial in his own soul; but when he had once yielded to the tempter, and had given up his self-denying power, he could not recall it, it was gone forever from him. Thenceforth, without the protecting care and overruling power of his Creator, he was liable to be completely ruined and destroyed by the power of the enemy, to whose temptations he had fallen a victim. What a lesson of warning to mankind in the present day, and especially to young people, to beware of all insinuating allurements to sensual pleasure, and to shun every temptation to evil!
9. But what was this tree of the knowledge of good and evil? and whence arose the temptation to eat of it? Some suppose the forbidden object to be the fruit of some natural fruit-tree. But we would ask, How is it possible that a tree or its fruit should contain the knowledge of good and evil, or be able to communicate that knowledge to man? Yet it was evidently something by which the man's obedience was to be tried. But if the mere proof of obedience had been the only object, though a very necessary one, we might naturally suppose that any other command or prohibition might have answered the same purpose. Proof of obedience was undoubtedly a most essential point. But no candid person will deny that the wisdom of God would select the most important object for the trial of man's obedience; an object not only important in itself, but one which really required that injunction for the man's own benefit, and the benefit of his posterity.
10. And what could be more suitable, and better calculated to try the man and prove his obedience, than to lay upon him an order calculated to govern his animal propensities, and suppress any disorderly influence upon his mind? Hence the forbidden object might, with the greatest propriety, be compared to a fruit-tree of delicious fruit, as a suitable figure to represent to mankind, in after ages, the influence of the temptation upon the animal propensities of the youthful and inexperienced couple. Their propensity to satisfy hunger and slake their thirst, was necessary to support life, and therefore could not consistently be denied; nor could such a denial be attended with any possible benefit, in their situation.
11. But as the power of generation was given to man solely for the purpose of procreation, and not for the gratification of his animal nature, the dignity of his creation required that he should maintain a greater degree of order and purity, in the work of generation, than was required of the inferior part of the creation, which was governed by the law of nature. This was the more essential, as the offspring of man were to possess rational and immortal souls, destined to an eternal existence. It was therefore a matter of the first importance, that the primeval parents of mankind should strictly obey the injunctions of their Creator, that their offspring should not be corrupted by any violation of the order of nature, on the part of their parents, in respect to the times and seasons of generation; but that they should be generated under the sanction of Divine Authority, according to the times and seasons of God's appointment, as well as in strict conformity to the law of nature. This therefore, was the command of God to man, and was given, not only to prove his obedience, but for his protection against that subtle enemy whose object was to destroy the creation, by infusing his poisonous influence at a point which was calculated to corrupt the whole human race, and produce the most extensive mischief.
12. But why was it called The tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Because these were the most appropriate terms by which the figure could be expressed: for in obedience, the greatest good was to be made known and ensue; and in disobedience, the greatest evil was actually made known, and did ensue, both to himself and all his posterity: hence no other terms could be so suitable to express the real nature and design of this figure.
13. The times and seasons of generation were evidently designed by the Creator, as the established order of propagation, in the animal creation. This order is very visible in the inferior creation, and doubtless would have been no less manifest in man, had he been faithful to his trust. His rational soul, while standing in its primitive purity and uprightness, could never be degraded to the servitude of his animal passions; it must have stood preeminent in dignity, and held the government of every inferior propensity. The power was entrusted to the living and rational soul of man; and the command of God was sufficient to maintain that power, as long as the soul maintained its obedience. This was the point of trial; on this depended the man's fate; on this depended the state and character of his offspring: for like begets like; and if parents are alienated from God, they will of course produce an alienated offspring.
14. The man therefore, in his primeval state, stood in a noble capacity, not only to prove his faithfulness by his obedience, but to preserve inviolate the order of the creation, for the support and maintenance of his important and dignified station, both for his own happiness and the happiness of his posterity, and for the honor and glory of his Creator. This was his trial; it required no sacrifice, but the subjection of his animal propensities to his rational powers against any opposite. But still he was in a state of trial, a state of probation; and his obedience was the very point to be tried. So long as he kept this, all was safe; but if he failed in this, all was lost. This state of trial was unavoidable, without it there could be no proof, either of obedience or disobedience. The soul in yielding obedience to God his superior, was safely protected; but in yielding to an inferior propensity, he must of necessity fall under the power of that influence to which he yielded obedience. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.
15. But whence originated the evil influence which led to disobedience? It could not be in any of the works of God; for they were all pronounced very good, and it is impossible that very evil should proceed from very good. It could not spring from God; for no evil influence could originate from the source of all goodness. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Hence darkness could never proceed from light. The evil therefore, must have originated in darkness; it could have had no other source.
16. By recurring back to the order of creation, in the preceding chapter, it will be seen that though God's works were all very good, though light was created in the midst of darkness, and order established in the midst of confusion; yet the darkness was not annihilated, nor was the source of confusion destroyed. In scripture the power of evil is called the power of darkness. Hence that invisible power of evil, which is eternally opposed to all good, and which is called The Devil, has its existence in that spiritual darkness of which the natural darkness is a figure. From this power flows all spiritual and moral evil; it is the source of all those principles and influences which, in their operations, oppose the nature of godliness and injure the works of God. It is therefore the height of folly and wickedness, in anyone, to charge any of those evil propensities which lead to the dark works of sin, upon the God of light and holiness: for they never originated from him.
17. The darkness which was left in the natural creation, and which was divided from the light, was designed to show that good has no fellowship with evil, nor the spirit of light with the spirit of darkness. It also shows that there was still a place left for the entrance and temptation of an evil influence. That evil influence indeed entered, in the hour of darkness, and found access to the woman in the nature of the serpent, a sly, cunning serpent, a crooked, poisonous serpent, proceeding from the spirit of evil in an inferior animal, which ought to have put the woman on her guard, and instead of listening to the deceitful insinuations of an animal so much her inferior, she ought to have been guided by the wholesome counsel of her superior, and kept the law of her Creator, which it is evident she well recollected, even in the midst of her fatal interview with the serpent.
18. But the woman was overcome: She yielded to that evil influence which, through the subtlety of the serpent, wrought upon her animal propensities, and infused into her mind the filthy passion of lust. The woman being thus enticed and overcome, enticed her husband, and through the same evil influence, overcame him. Thus the noble order of the creation was reversed. Man having yielded to the temptation, and received and indulged an evil propensity, his power was gone. And having been once overcome, by yielding to the insinuations of an authority inferior to his own, he had henceforth no control over the inferior creation, any further than by the permission of his Creator; for he had forfeited his right by his disobedience. Thus man became a servant to the power of evil by yielding obedience to it, by which means his nature, and, through that medium, the whole natural world became corrupted with evil.
19. Hence it is easy to see that this earth was, in every respect, calculated for a state of probation. Had there been no darkness upon it, had there been nothing in it to which evil could find access, then truly it would have been no place of trial; and if no place of trial, then no state of probation to man. As darkness is the habitation of evil; so the spirit of evil can always find access wherever he finds darkness. But darkness had its appointed place and order; and had man been faithful in his duty, evil might have been confined within its own limits. It was evidently man's duty from the beginning, to retire to his place of protection, and rest in the time of darkness, and wait the returning light; and not to expose himself in the dark till he had obtained light sufficient to withstand the power of darkness.
20. Man, by his disobedience, exposed himself to the power of darkness, and opened the way for the entrance of the enemy where, otherwise he never could have entered. This occasioned his fall, the loss of his power and authority, and completed his ruin, as far as respected his relation and connection with the spiritual world. From this loss and ruin, it was impossible that there should be any restoration without a new order of things, and a new man who would prove faithful to his trust. What a lesson of warning to the children of God to be faithful! Unfaithfulness leads to inevitable ruin.
21. This world being created and designed for a state of probation, it must necessarily continue to be such to Adam's posterity, as well as to himself. To suppose that Adam's faithfulness would have released his posterity from a state of trial, is a mistaken supposition; because a season of probation was no less necessary for them than for him: for evil still existed; and it was therefore as necessary for his posterity to gain power over it, as for himself. His faithfulness could not have released them from the trial of their own obedience, nor have secured them from the wiles of the Adversary. Each individual must therefore necessarily pass through a state of trial; and had Adam stood faithful, his posterity, even to the latest generation, while the order of nature remained, must have stood by their own obedience, or fallen by their own disobedience, to the authority of their righteous parents, who, by standing in the order of God, and keeping the divine law, would have been God's representatives to their offspring.
22. Adam and Eve having, through disobedience, yielded to the influence of evil, were overcome by it; and the spirit of evil having once found an entrance, could enter again and again. They must therefore, ever after, be under the power of that evil influence, unless protected by some superior power. And as like causes produce like effects, so they begat children in their own likeness, an offspring like themselves, and under the power of the same evil influence in the work of generation. Their union and relation to their Creator was now lost. They were now forever debarred from the tree of life, which was before accessible to them, and by which they partook of the life of God, and shared communion with him in their natural state. Having now nothing to support them in their former exalted station, they of course fell from their relation to God, into that nature which they had indulged and gratified; the nature of lust. The rational soul having yielded its power, their animal propensities, being corrupted by the nature of the serpent, had now the preeminence over them.
23. Here we may clearly see the cause, why it is, even to this day, that the rational soul of man is so much under the influence of his animal passions. And yet, even of this, the greater part of mankind seem to be utterly insensible, and will often imagine that they are guided in their speculations and pursuits, by the dictates of truth and right reason, while in fact they are either led by their animal passions, or deceived by some of the propensities of a fallen nature. This is often seen, not only in the ordinary transactions of life, but also in the pursuits of religion, in the establishment of many religious institutions, in the speculations and writings of men on subjects of divinity, and may be observed in a thousand instances, even among those who are esteemed great and good men: But the tree is known by its fruit.
Published by the Shakers in their book, Millennial Church, 1848 -Part III Chapter 4
The cause, nature and effect of Man's loss from God.
1. IT is universally acknowledged by the professors of Christianity, that in consequence of Adam's transgression, mankind are lost from God. This is so fully taught in the scriptures, and the evidence of it so visible throughout the world, that it cannot be disputed. But what was the real cause of that loss, and wherein its nature and effects are most clearly manifested, is but little considered, and still less understood. It is generally viewed, however, as a punishment inflicted on mankind, for an act of disobedience committed by their first parents. In this view, God is represented as an arbitrary despot, with his eternal and absolute decrees, imputing guilt to the whole human race, as the effect of Adam's transgression. But this doctrine, to say the least of it, is a blind impeachment of God's righteousness.
2. The idea that mankind are born into the world with Adam's guilt upon them, is wholly inconsistent with Divine righteousness, and contrary to all the light of reason and revelation that God ever bestowed on man, and has no foundation in truth. Even the common sense of mankind must teach them, that it is impossible for a son to be guilty of an act of sin which was committed by his father, before he was born; and it would be considered as the height of injustice to punish the son for his father's sin. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Yet this son might afterwards become guilty of the same sin by his own act; and in that case he would justly deserve punishment.
3. To say that the child of fallen parents is born in a fallen state, or under the influence of a fallen nature is to declare the truth; but this by no means implies guilt in the child. No one will pretend that a child who is the offspring of adultery, is, on that account, chargeable with the guilt of his parents; nor would it be consistent with justice for him to suffer for the crime of his parents. But as a corrupt fountain cannot send forth pure waters, and as like causes necessarily produce like effects; so the fruit of every tree partakes of the nature of the tree which produced it. And though the wicked act of the parents cannot be charged upon the child; yet the child is liable, unless restrained by a superior principle, to follow the same wicked example, and bring guilt upon himself by a similar act.
4. This is just the situation of Adam's posterity. Those who yield to the same propensity, and follow his example, naturally run into the same act of sin, and as really partake of the forbidden fruit as Adam did; and by that means they bring the same guilt upon themselves, and are thenceforth as effectually excluded from the tree of life as Adam and Eve were. But those who are willing to yield obedience to a superior principle, and to deny themselves and take up their crosses against the propensities of that nature which they have received from their parents, are justly entitled to eat of the tree of life and live forever.
5. Disobedience to the positive command of God, was evidently the cause of man's fall; and his fall was the inevitable consequence of the act which he committed, of which he was forewarned at the time he was forbidden to commit it. As if a father who had a son residing in the neighborhood of an enemy, should warn his son of the danger of listening to the insinuations of that enemy, and command him not to do it at his peril. The son disobeys, and the consequences of which he was forewarned follow of course. Here the blame and loss falls upon the son, while the father stands justified, having done his duty in warning his son of the danger. It is impossible that there should be injustice with God. A holy and righteous Being cannot tempt any of his creatures to their own destruction: it is inconsistent with his nature. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.
6. The very command of God to the man was an evidence of his danger, and showed that there was an opposite influence, against which it was necessary to be guarded. The temptation to disobedience proceeded from the prince of darkness, the great enemy of souls, who found an entrance into God's creation through the serpent, the very emblem of subtlety and deception. Through the insinuations of his deceitful spirit, he infused into the animal sensations of the woman the lust of concupiscence, which she communicated to the man, and by which they were both overshadowed with darkness, and unseasonably led into the act of sexual coition; and thus they partook of the forbidden fruit. Hence the curse which followed was denounced, and actually laid upon that nature which they had thus received from the serpent, and mutually indulged in themselves, and the same nature and the same curse, have both been continued down, in the line of natural generation, to this day. And this curse can never be taken off without a full and final cross against the indulgence of that same fleshly lust, and the final destruction of that nature which leads to it.
7. Many objections have been urged against this doctrine, as well as against the doctrine of celibacy and continence in general, which are well known to be among the principal articles of our faith. To enter fully into the discussion of this subject, and answer in a satisfactory manner, all the objections that may be raised against this doctrine, will require great plainness of speech. But as this appears to be the most darling principle of the world, and as the greatest opposition against our faith is levelled at this particular principle; therefore, in conformity to the strict demands of light and truth, revealed in this day, it appears necessary that the covering which has so long been spread over all nations, should be taken away, and the veil removed from the face of all people.
8. This veil was prefigured by the veil of the temple, which separated the entrance into the most holy place. The veil of the temple was rent in twain at the crucifixion of Jesus, which signified the rending of the veil of the flesh by his sufferings for sin. After that, those who faithfully followed his footsteps through mortification, and lived a spiritual life, were able to look within the veil, and to discover, in some measure, what it was which separated those who lived in the works of generation from having access to the most holy place. Yet the veil remained untaken away. Nevertheless, says the apostle, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away, And this never could be done till the second appearing of Christ, when it was taken away by that chosen female in whom the second appearing of Christ first commenced. As the veil of darkness which hid the face of God from man, was first caused by the transgression of the first woman; so it could not be removed until it was removed by that distinguished woman, in whom was revealed the Bride of the Lamb, the first Mother of the children of the Kingdom, in the new creation.
9. That Adam and Eve were unseasonably led into the act of sexual coition by the lust of concupiscence, through the insinuations of the serpent, and (whatever may have been done in a figure) that this lust was, in reality, the forbidden fruit of which they partook, appears evident from the following considerations.
First: The sentence denounced upon the woman.
10. Here it may be asked, Why was the sentence directed against her conception? Why was she to be punished with sorrow in bringing forth children? And why was her desire (or more properly, her lust) to be subject to the will of her husband? Why this rigorous sentence? Is not God just and righteous? Most certainly; and therefore he dispenses punishments according to the nature of the offence; or rather, he forsakes those who forsake him, and leaves them to reap the reward of their own doings. Whatever a man sows, the same he must reap; and whatever he eats, that he must digest, however painful it may feel. He who, after being faithfully warned by his friend, foolishly swallows a poisonous fruit, because of its fair appearance and peculiar flavor, must feel its effects; but he ought by no means to charge his sufferings upon his friend.
11. From the very nature of the curse denounced upon the woman, the discerning mind will readily perceive what the nature of the offence was. This same curse has been more or less felt by the fallen daughters of Eve to this day. This remark will apply, with peculiar force, to all those who have been decoyed by the same insinuating allurements to pleasure, who have yielded to the same desires of an animal nature, who have been ensnared by the same deceitful influences of concupiscence, and have conceived and brought forth children in obedience to the inordinate demands of lust. Thus the woman is not only subjected to the pains and sorrows of childbirth, but even in her conception, she becomes subject to the libidinous passions of her husband; and in this sense, her desire is subject to the will of her husband. This slavish subjection is often carried to such a shocking extent, that many females have suffered an unnatural and premature death, in consequence of the unseasonable and excessive indulgence of this passion in the man. Thousands there are, no doubt, who are able to bear a sorrowful testimony to the truth of this remark.
12. The libidinous debauchee may sneer at this unseemly picture, and the squeamish prude may frown at it; but the candid and reflecting mind will readily acknowledge and deplore its painful and melancholy truth. Some, convinced of its truth by sorrowful experience, will doubtless be ready to exclaim, This is surely a heavy curse upon the woman; but is the man spared? By no means: but his curse appears more obvious in another point of view. Though the ground was cursed for his sake, at the time of his first transgression; yet it is evident that he has greatly increased the curse of the land, by his own corruptions, and degraded himself far below the state in which the primitive curse left him; as will appear in the sequel.
The evident violation of the order of nature, in a total disregard to times and seasons,
in the work of generation.
14. Notwithstanding his dignified station as lord of the earth; notwithstanding his rational soul, with all its noble faculties; notwithstanding his light and knowledge, his instruction, experience and observation; notwithstanding the law of his Creator, which was given to regulate in him the times and seasons of generation (as well as all other things pertaining to his work) to a greater degree of perfection than could be expected in the brutal creation; yet in this important point, man has shamefully degraded himself below all the inferior creation. Regardless of the regular order of nature, he consults it not; blind to the times and seasons of conception, he sees them not; deaf to the law of Moses, he listens not to it; an enemy to the pure and perfect law of Christ, he banishes it from his thoughts. He is eagerly bent upon the acts of generation, but seeks none of its fruits; the desire of offspring is not his motive; his rule of action is dictated only by his inordinate passions. The insatiable nature of his lust knows no bounds, submits to no order and cares for no times nor seasons; except it be the time and season of darkness, which is so congenial to his lawless and shameful works.
15. Such is the lost state of man, and such the subverted order of nature in the works of generation. To the truth of these remarks let the world itself bear witness. And herein we have a striking proof of that carnal mind in man, which the apostle says, is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be.
The shame which is generally found to be inseparable from the act of sexual coition.
17. This guilty passion of shame seems to be peculiarly connected with that libidinous act which first produced it; so that it naturally shuns the light, and seeks to cover itself in the shades of darkness, secluded even from the eyes of the most intimate friends. Is not this fact, of itself, a most striking evidence that there is something, either in the act itself, or which is inseparably connected with it, which never came from God? And yet there are many, very many, among modern Christians, who, setting aside that which Jesus Christ declared to be the first and great command, have set up this lascivious act in its place. And do they not, instead of loving the Lord God with all their hearts and souls, verily love their lusts with all their hearts and souls, and devote all the mind and strength to support and maintain it?
18. Corrupted and abused, and shamefully debased, as the work of generation is, by the lust of concupiscence, it is still supported and maintained by the professors of Christianity, who profess to sanction it by a legal ceremony, under the name of a divine institution. But where is the evidence that the nature of the act is purified, or the shame taken away, by the means? For although the most reverend and pious divines may exert all their piety; and all their divinity, to gospelize it in their sermons, legalize it in their marriage ceremonies, and sanctify it by their fervent prayers; yet they can neither take away the shame of the act, nor purify the nature of it; nor can they ever induce the pious devotees of this holy ordinance to show forth their obedient zeal, by fulfilling this great command before the eyes of their Reverend teachers, who have done so much to sanctify the deed to them.
19. Nor can even these pious divines themselves, with all their zeal in its favor, be induced to set them a public example of this sort of worship, however faithful they may be to perform it in private. So closely is shame attached to that action which claims for its authority the first great command of God! What! Does an action which is authorized by the command of the Almighty, and sanctioned by a divine ceremony, require to be performed in the shades of darkness? Can darkness preserve the sanctity of an action which would be profaned by the light of the sun? Is it a shame for Christians to obey a divine command in the presence of their Christian brethren and sisters? If so the command must surely be a very shameful one.
20. Probably these remarks may feel offensive to some of our professedly good christian advocates for this great command, and perhaps, they will be ready to cry out, by way of exclamation, Shameful! shameful! We freely acknowledge that the subject is a shameful one, and deeply lament the shameful cause which has excited such remarks. We can truly say, in the language of Paul, We have no fellowship with these unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them. And we also acknowledge with him, that, it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But if it be a shame to speak of such shameful conduct among a people professing the Christian religion, surely it must be a greater shame to practice it.
21. It will doubtless be readily acknowledged, that he who lives in the practice of stealing, acts a far more shameful and dishonorable part, than he who takes up a full cross against every thievish propensity, and bears an open and decided testimony against it. Nor can it be disputed that such a testimony would be much more offensive to a thief than to an honest man, especially if it should expose any of his own thievish conduct. The truly honest and virtuous, whether male or female, will never be offended at a testimony against any evil conduct of which they themselves are really innocent. Nor indeed can they feel unwilling to be enlightened respecting the evil nature and tendency of any act, concerning which they have hitherto been ignorantly guilty.
22. We would now seriously ask, Whence proceeds all this shame? It must have some foundation; and there can be no cause of shame in virtuous actions. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. Sexual coition claims for its sanction, an ordinance of God. But if it be an ordinance of God, it must have fellowship with God. The action, however, requires it to be performed in the dark; therefore those who practice it, must necessarily walk in darkness. If, then, they say it hath any fellowship with God. they lie, and do not the truth. If there is no darkness in God, then nothing which proceeds from God, can require to be veiled in darkness. That shame which seeks to conceal its lascivious actions in the shades of darkness, and blushes to have them brought to the light, is the notorious concomitant of guilt; why else should it seek the abodes of darkness?
23. This guilt-denoting passion is not connected with the sexual intercourse of all other part of God's creation. The beasts of the field, the fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea, are total strangers to it. It is found no where but in the fallen race of Adam and Eve; and its very source is in that which many modern Christians esteem as the greatest and most important of all their works on earth; that of generating their own species, and propagating immortal beings for the eternal world! The sense of shame connected with this act, is a most powerful evidence of its entire opposition to gospel light, purity and holiness; and therefore it can have no part in the work of regeneration. The idea of sanctifying these works of darkness, and of being regenerated souls, and born of God, while living in the gratification of them, is a grand deception of the enemy of souls, calculated to conceal from man the true nature and origin of his loss. Truly this is the veil which is spread over all nations, and which God has promised to destroy in his holy mountain.
The vile use and shameful abuse of this lawless propensity.
25. But the lawless passion of lust has no respect to the will of God; the generation of offspring is not its object; nor does it regard the order of nature, nor the times and seasons of generation, even in the marriage state; its only motive is the gratification of its own lawless propensities. In the pursuit of these gratifications, how often is the law of nature violated! How often is this insatiable passion indulged when the state of pregnancy, or the courses of nature forbid the indulgence; or when the advanced age of the female denies all prospect of issue! How often is the marriage covenant violated, and the legitimate offspring intermixed with an adulterous issue! and what is still more shocking, how often are abortions procured to prevent issue!
26. Is not the bare mention of these abominations shocking to the moral feelings of humanity? And are not such things shamefully debasing to the fallen race of man? Then how offensive and odious in the sight of a holy and righteous God, must be the shameful and abominable crimes which are here exposed to view! Yet these are but a few of the numerous and shocking violations of the law of nature, the law of decency, the law of humanity, the law of purity and the law of God, which are committed, even in that state which is legalized by the laws of man, and sanctioned by a religious ceremony.
27. But this is not all. How often is that insatiable propensity indulged alone and in secret! And how many are the schemes and inventions to indulge it! And that too, even among those who make a great profession of Christianity! Let the appeal be made to the consciences of those who plead the great command to justify their criminal indulgences. Is not the secret indulgence of that filthy passion, in the act of self-pollution, much more frequent with many modern Christians, than secret prayer? Are there not very many, of both sexes, who can publicly seat themselves at the sacramental board, and professedly partake of the consecrated memorials of the body and blood of a dying Savior; and yet in their secret chambers, indulge their concupiscence, and shamefully pollute their bodies with acts which they would blush to commit in the presence of a child?
28. Are not these the unfruitful works of darkness with which the apostle commands us to have no fellowship. And shall Christians indulge themselves in these things? Can God be honored thus? Is this fulfilling his commands? Is this living in obedience to the apostle's precept, which requires us to mortify the flesh with all its affections and lusts? Is this the secret devotion which God requires of Christians? And will God accept of such devotions from such Christians? Or can they with confidence enter a temple, professedly dedicated to the worship of a pure and holy God, and presumptuously attempt to lift their defiled hands and deceitful hearts to Him whose All-seeing eye is able to search the heart and try the reins of every creature?
29. This lawless passion is not only the most corrupt, but also the most unbounded propensity of man's fallen nature, and its actions are the least subject to restraint. All other evil propensities have some limitations to their actions. Profane swearing, drunkenness, gambling, frauds, thefts, robberies and murders, are chiefly confined to the more licentious and abandoned classes of society, and are under some restraint of the laws of the land. But the lawless passion of lust knows no bounds, is confined to no limits, and subject to no laws. Although its shame is not hid, nor can it be confined within the limits of darkness, its most natural and congenial element; yet its practical advocates are numerous, and many of them highly honored and respected. All ranks and classes, from the prince to the beggar, from the sanctimonious professor of religion to the blaspheming infidel, all are anxious to support, and zealous to plead for this delusive passion, this deceptive enchantress, this heathen deity, this adored goddess of lust, under the deceitful mask of an ordinance of heaven, a great command of God!
30. How fascinating is the power, how extensive the dominion; how numerous the worshipers of this alluring goddess! Did the vast multitudes of heathen idolators who worshiped the Great Diana of Ephesus, bear any proportion to the countless thousands of those called Christians who honor the lascivious Venus with the offerings of concupiscence! Look at the numerous devotees who surround her amorous shrine; look at the numerous females shamefully abandoned to her amours; look at the libidinous herd of debauchees haunting their infamous dwellings; look at our large towns and cities, more especially our seaports; see these haunts of lawless lust and infamy; see their worshipers of all classes, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the bond and free, flocking and mingling, under the cover of darkness, with infamous prostitutes, all promiscuously engaged in these obscene adorations!
31. It has been stated by a noted writer, that in the single city of London, there were no less than nine hundred bawdy houses, and fifty thousand women who procured their living at the expense of their chastity. Doubtless these receive their support from a far greater number out of all classes of dignified noblemen, professed gentlemen, merchants, clerks, tradesmen, mechanics, apprentices, sailors, officers, soldiers, and laborers of all sorts, who haunt these dwellings, and expend a considerable portion of their incomes in supporting these scenes of debauchery, while they indulge their concupiscence with the inmates. If this is the state of the city of London, what must be that of Paris, which, if not equally populous, is said to be more licentious? Yet these two cities contain but a small part of this description of people who inhabit the numerous towns and cities of Europe. Add to these the other three quarters of the globe, and what must be the numeral amount of the worshipers of Venus, both in and out of the bands of wedlock.
32. Are all the denominations of professing Christians in the United States, with all their professed worshipers of the true God; able to boast of half the number which constitute the multitude of devotees to Venus? We presume they are not. What then shall we think of the Christianity of America, and indeed of the whole world? Are not the worshipers of this licentious deity, in every country far more numerous than the worshipers of the true God? And is not a vast portion of those who profess to worship the true God, far more zealous in the worship of Venus? And shall the worship of the true God be divided with the adorations paid to the goddess of lust! Never! Never.
33. Did the sins of the antediluvian world bear any proportion to those of the present day? And will it not be far more tolerable for the unbelieving Jews, in the day of judgment, than for those of the present generation, who profess to be followers of Christ, and yet secretly indulge themselves in such filthy and shameful abominations?
34. Doubtless the more sober and considerate part of mankind will readily censure these abominations, as lamentable deviations from the path of virtue; and very dishonorable to the dignity of rational beings. But let us examine, impartially, the nature of these things. Human nature in its present lost state, is blind, partial and selfish; and very readily inclines mankind to justify in themselves, those practices which they condemn in others.
35. But let those who condemn the promiscuous and lawless lust of the inmates and devotees of public brothels, and at the same time, indulge the same propensity under the sanction of the civil law, and the seal of a religious ceremony, examine with candor the nature of that propensity which is the leading principle of action in both cases. Is there any real difference between the married and unmarried, either as to the nature of that propensity, the sensations excited by it, the effect it produces, or the gratification experienced in it? Does the marriage ceremony alter the nature of either? If so, why is not the shame removed from the action? Why must it still be covered in the shades of darkness? Why do not its shameful abuses cease? And why is it not subject to the order of nature, and to the times and seasons of generation?
36. Doubtless the sanction of a legal ceremony gives a license which, assisted by the shades of darkness, removes all restraint from the feelings of those who do not look beyond it, especially where the mind has been previously polluted by lascivious gratifications; so that they can now indulge their concupiscence in the dark, without shame or remorse. But in the estimation of those who have been enlightened by the law of Christ, and who do not walk in darkness, this is no evidence of the purity or innocence of actions which require to be veiled in darkness to conceal their shame. So where a wrong education gives a bias to acts of violence, a declaration of war, and the ceremony of enlisting as a soldier, may remove all restraint to rob and plunder, murder and destroy, from the feelings of men who do not look beyond the authority which gives the license. But those who view all wars as unchristian, unmanly and unjust, consider these enormities in a very different light. The nature of robbery and murder cannot be altered by a war manifesto; nor can the law of Christ be repealed by it. Nor is the nature of lust altered, nor the sensations of gratification purified by the legal ceremony of marriage. Hence the shame of the action is not removed, nor do its abuses cease.
37. Another shameful and disgraceful effect of that lascivious nature is, that children are frequently led into its gratifications by their older companions, and greatly corrupted by it. We believe that parents are not only insensible of the corrupt tendency of these things in their children, but carelessly ignorant of the shameful and shocking extent to which they often run in such practices, even at a very early age. It is not uncommon for children to become the corruptors of each others' morals in this way, by the opportunities afforded them in the season of attending school: and by their frequent intercourse with their more corrupt companions, they often become more apt scholars in these shameful practices, than in the elements of literary instruction, and by this means a foundation is laid for the future scenes of corruption and wickedness.
38. Nothing can have a more fatal tendency to weaken and destroy the force of virtue on the infant mind, and strengthen the power of evil propensities, than the early indulgence of this sordid passion. In boys it is the incipient road to a life of debauchery and prepares them to become, at the age of maturity, the shameless corrupters of female virtue. In girls, it leads them to become the easy yielding objects of artful insinuation; the early victims of seduction; and without the seasonable protection of parents and friends, exposes them to become confirmed harlots who in their turn will often prove the shameless corrupters of other heedless youth. Those who duly consider the natural tendency of these shameful indulgences in children, will be at no loss to understand the reason why that lascivious propensity is so much more powerful, at the age of maturity, in some people than in others.
39. The natural and direct tendency of these gratifications is to corrupt the mind, blunt the efforts of genius, debase the nobler feelings of humanity, deprave all the moral faculties of the soul, and swallow up the whole man in the filthy and ignoble passion of lust. In short, the indulgence of this passion in children, not only tends to sink them below the order of the brutal creation, as before observed, but it often leads to the horrid crime of bestiality itself; a crime which, however shocking to the feelings of uncorrupted nature, is not unfrequent among the human race.
This alluring passion holds out promises of pleasure which never can be realized.
41. Not so with the promises of sensual pleasure: and here we would appeal to the experience of all who have ever listened to the alluring temptations of lust, and sought pleasure in its enjoyments. The youthful imagination, in listening to these temptations, is often wrought up to the highest pitch of expectation; but in the enjoyment does it not invariably find itself more or less disappointed? Ask of those who, from their infancy, have kept themselves pure and uncontaminated with any of these filthy gratifications, even till the nuptial ceremony had sanctioned the deed. What were the sensations which succeeded the loss of their purity? The candid and honest answer will, invariably, be found to be, disappointment, shame and disgust. Such is the effect of carnal indulgence on the virtuous minds of those who had before lived in virgin purity: a powerful and incontestable evidence of its filthy nature and deceitful influence; and another proof that the lust of concupiscence is, indeed, the forbidden fruit, and a proof too, which a thousand human ceremonies, both civil and religious, can never invalidate.
It is the natural source and foundation of all other evil propensities in human nature.
43. This will readily appear if we examine the lives of those deep-stained villains, and abandoned ruffians, who infest human society, and trace the progress of vice from infancy to manhood. We believe that scarce an instance will be found where anyone has run deeply into criminal practices, who has not first quaffed largely of libidinous indulgences. It generally happens that deceit, lying, petty frauds, profane and obscene language, and tippling, follow first in the train of vices which succeed to lechery. Nourished and strengthened by repeated prostitutions, and hardened by continued debaucheries, gambling, drunkenness, private thefts and high-handed frauds succeed; and lastly, burglary, highway robberies, murders and felonies of all sorts, swell the list of crimes and crown the villain. And here let it be remembered, that the foundation of these complicated villainies, is the inordinate indulgence of the sordid propensity of lust.
44. It is needless to adduce facts in proof of this position; they are too numerous and too well attested to be refuted. It may not be improper, however, to introduce here an extract from the representation of the Grand Jury, made at the Court of General Sessions in the city of Albany, in June 1821. From all the observations which the grand jury have been able to bestow upon this subject, and the best information acquired, they are induced to believe, that nearly all the criminals now confined in our jail, were first corrupted by frequenting houses kept up for prostitution.
45. Such is thus publicly acknowledged to be the contaminating influence of this shameful gratification. It requires little more light to convince the reflecting part of mankind that the lust of concupiscence is, in truth, the corrupt source whence flows all iniquity, even every evil work.
46. Perhaps it may be urged that these things proceed from the abuses of that propensity, rather than from the propensity itself, which is supposed to be innocent and useful, when kept within due bounds. But we would ask, Where shall we find the man or the woman, who indulges that propensity at all, that does keep it within due bounds? And where is the man or the woman who never indulges it, by day nor by night, in any way or manner, but purely to obey the command of God, and raise up seed to his honor and glory? If any such can be found, they are, indeed and in truth, an honor to human nature, and an example to the fallen race of man. But if no such can be found, then let not that propensity be deemed innocent or useful, which produces such horrid corruptions among the human race.
47. The faculty of generation, being created of God, was at the beginning, as simple and innocent, in itself, as the faculty of eating and drinking; and had it never been corrupted, it might, as to its natural order, still have remained so; but it was violated by transgression, and corrupted at the very fountain, and brought into subjection to the inordinate passion of lust; and that passion still maintains its power and influence. Hence all who yield to that passion, yield the power and strength of soul and body to gender and nourish evil propensities. Therefore it is no wonder if they are afterwards unable to deny themselves and refrain from those evil propensities which still continue to grow stronger by repeated indulgences; while every virtuous disposition (if they ever had any) continues to grow weaker, till at length they find themselves utterly unable to do good, or to refrain from evil.
Published by the Shakers in their book, Millennial Church, 1848 -Part IV, Chapter 1
Objections against the preceding doctrines stated and answered.
shall now proceed to state and answer some of the principal objections which are often
advanced and strenuously urged as conclusive against the doctrines advanced in the
2. Answer. All this may be granted; but that it is conclusive against the doctrine which we maintain, remains yet to be proved. Man was created in a natural state, like all the rest of the animal creation, (though much superior in form and faculties,) and being a natural man, he was required to keep the law of nature which was given him in common with them. That law required him to propagate his species according to the order of nature, at certain times and seasons, which the law itself dictated. And even admitting that the man had faithfully kept that law, he could never have risen to a higher state, without a superior law, but must have continued in that natural state, and subject to that natural law, like all the rest of the animal creation, to the end of time.
3. But man being destined, as God's representative on earth, to occupy a higher station than any other part of the creation, and God knowing the subtlety of the old adversary, and the weakness and inexperience of the new formed man, gave him a special and positive command, which was calculated not only to prove his obedience, but to be his strength and protection, in the line of obedience, against the snares and devices of the enemy. This command was to the man a law superior to the law of nature, and was calculated to raise him to a state of honor and dignity far above the animal creation; but it required the man's perfect obedience, as the only means by which he could preserve his power, and secure that protection and those benefits which the law was calculated to afford him. Had he kept this law, he would have been a rightful heir to eternal life. And as this law brought the man into a near connection with his Creator; so the penalty of disobedience must be proportionally great; it must necessarily separate him from God in proportion to the nearness which the law had brought him to God: for the greater a man's privileges are, the greater must be his condemnation and loss in misimproving them.
4. But unfortunately for the man, through the subtle influence of the serpent, he was led into disobedience, and thus violated both the law of God and the order of nature. Having been created in a superior state, and favored with a superior law, he was in a condition to govern all the inferior creation, had he kept his obedience. But instead of hearkening to that superior law, the law of his Creator, or even adhering to the law of nature, he yielded to the insinuations of the serpent, through the woman, which wrought upon his inferior, animal passions, and induced him not only to violate the law of his Creator, but also the law of nature. Hence he not only fell from God, but his fall was below the order of nature, and of course below the brutal creation: for they had never violated the order of nature.
5. This being the state of fallen man, all his works of generation, while led by the propensities of his nature, are performed in this fallen state, not governed by the law of God, nor regulated by the law of nature; but influenced by the deceitful insinuations of the serpent, the lawless passion of lust. Therefore it is in vain for man now to plead the original law and design of God, in justification of his conduct in the works of sexual coition: for while he still continues to violate that law by the inordinate and unseasonable indulgence of his lascivious passions, he can have no just claim to it; but will unavoidably separate himself still further from God, and increase the measure of his loss by every repetition of the act.
6. Where is the civil government on earth which, after having confided an honorable and important trust to a distinguished citizen, would not, on finding him treacherous and unfaithful to his trust, immediately degrade him from his office, and deprive him of his delegated authority? Instances of this kind frequently happen in civil governments. And shall a just and righteous God be less careful and scrupulous than civil governments, and in matters too of infinitely greater concern? And with what confidence could any citizen who has been thus degraded, or any of his posterity, having still a copy of his original instructions and authority, presume to plead a right to the privileges and benefits of that authority, after it had been so basely violated? Yet such, in a comparative view, is the nature of the case with respect to the fallen race of man, at the present day, who plead the authority of God, given to Adam in the days of his innocence, to justify themselves in still abusing that authority to a far greater extent than was ever done by Adam.
7. The original law of nature was given of God, and was very good in its place and order, and might have remained so till repealed by the Lawgiver, had it not been violated and basely corrupted: and that it still continues to be violated, in the most shameful manner, has been sufficiently proved. Therefore, those who still plead the law of nature, or the law of God, to justify sexual coition, under a pretended necessity of maintaining the work of generation, ought first to examine their secret motives in it; and if they are able to lay the propensities of lust entirely aside, and enter upon that work without the influence of any other motive than solely that of obeying the will of God, in the propagation of a legitimate offspring, to be heirs of the kingdom of Heaven, then they are able to fulfil the law of nature. But if they are not able to do this, then let them never plead the original command of God, nor the law of nature: for if they cannot come up to the law of nature, how can they obey the law of God? It is therefore a vain pretence for fallen man to lay any claim, either to the law of nature or the law of God; for he has violated both, and forfeited his right.
8. It may be proper to remark here, that it is not the work of generation, in itself considered, in the order of nature, which is condemned; but it is that libidinous and lawless passion which was infused by the serpent at the beginning, and by which the work of generation has been, and still continues to be so basely corrupted; it is that which has filled the earth with abominations, and that is the object of condemnation. If that cursed nature could be entirely purged out of the natural man, so that his feelings could be wholly governed by the will of God, he would feel a very different sensation in this act, and would be in no danger of violating the true order of nature by it. But that lawless propensity has become so incorporated into the animal life of man, that he finds himself utterly unable to separate it. Hence, being completely under the power and dominion of that fallen nature, all his acts of generation, instead of being directed by the will of God, are influenced by the lust of concupiscence. Thus sin taking occasion by the commandment, has deceived him and wrought in him all manner of concupiscence, and by it he was slain; that is, he lost that portion of the Spirit of God which was given to regulate and protect him in his natural state, and thus he died to God; and this is the death of the fall.
9. Objection 2. The fruit of generation is a created being, of which God himself is the Creator; therefore the act of generation would be entirely fruitless without the help of God, who blesses it by the formation of a human being, complete in all its parts, and endowed with an immortal soul; hence it appears that God has not only designed and authorized the act from the beginning, but that he is himself the author and finisher of it, and has verily sanctioned it by his own works.
10. Answer. This is probably considered, by many, as an incontrovertible argument in favor of the practice of generation, notwithstanding its present corruptions. But it is a rule in logic that an argument which proves too much, destroys itself, and therefore proves nothing; which is evidently the case with this. For by the same rule we may also prove that God sanctions fornication, adultery, and even the basest kind of incest. And will anyone presume to say that the Almighty sanctions these base crimes, because the act by which they are committed is productive of its natural and genuine fruits? Who would acknowledge the agency or sanction of a pure and holy God in the act of generation between a father and his daughter? And yet, unnatural and abhorrent as such a connection is, it has often produced its natural offspring, as perfectly formed as that of the most lawful wedlock. The act is the same, and the fruit the same, in both cases; and therefore if the agency of God be necessary in the one case, it must be so in the other also.
11. But the truth is, God is not the agent in either case, having from the beginning, committed the agency of this together with all other things which come within the province of human capacity, wholly to man, whose seed is in himself. Yet while man remains in a state of nature, and is wholly ignorant of any superior law, he is required to govern himself by those just and equitable laws of nature which were given him for that purpose; and therein he may be justified until, by Divine goodness, he shall be favored with the superior laws of Divine revelation. These laws which are designed to lead him from a state of nature, and bring him nearer to God, must henceforth govern his actions; and by his faithful obedience he must be brought to God, or he can never find true happiness. Therefore, every lascivious gratification, and even every act of sexual coition, which is contrary to any order of nature, or to any divine manifestation known to the actors, must bring condemnation upon them, nor can they, if guilty, escape God's righteous judgment.
12. It may perhaps still be objected that, as man is not himself a creator, he cannot give existence to any creature without the essential aid of the Creator; and therefore his offspring must necessarily owe their existence essentially to God the Creator. To which we answer:
13. God created man, at first, from the dust of the earth, and endowed him with certain powers and faculties, suitably adapted to his nature, lot and situation; and constituted him a free agent. And as he possessed freedom of will and choice, he was therefore able to act perfectly free, to the extent of his capacity, without any control of his Creator; but as his powers and faculties were confined to certain limits, he could exercise them to the extent of those limits, but no further. His agency extended to the power of life and death; he was able by the power of procreation, which he possessed, to give life to beings like himself, and to take it from them: beyond this he could not go. But having laws given him to govern his conduct, and regulate the powers he possessed, he must of necessity be accountable for all his conduct. Thus man being a free agent, and having power to exercise his faculties in doing good or evil, in all cases, and under all circumstances, within the limits of his capacity, he does, in fact, prove his faithfulness or unfaithfulness by his own works, and thereby merits and will receive his reward according to his works.
14. Objection 3. This doctrine condemns and wholly rejects sexual coition, as corrupt and unclean in the sight of God, and contrary to the gospel of Christ. But upon the supposition that the whole world should embrace this doctrine, and actually live according to it, the human race would be extinguished from the face of the earth, in the space of little more than one hundred years.
15. Answer. This objection destroys itself; and proves directly the reverse of what the objectors intend: It proves that the principle of continence is not of the world; and therefore the world hates it. And as it is agreeable to the example of Christ, and is able to control the passions of nature, it must therefore be a heavenly principle, a principle which rises above the sordid propensities of an earthly nature.
16. Mankind, who are sunk and lost in the fallen nature of the flesh, are very forward in devising means to support that nature, and always ready to object against any testimony which condemns it. It is not the extinction of the human race which the objectors fear; the smallest apprehension that their carnal pleasures are in danger, is far more alarming to them. Their pretended anxiety to prevent the world from coming to an end, is but a hypocritical mask to cover their lust. Millions of the human race may be cut off and destroyed by the horrid wars which are waged among mankind, merely to gratify the ambition of rulers, and glut the bloodthirsty passions of man; and these scenes of destruction may be approved and encouraged by the great body of the highest professors of Christianity; and yet no fearful apprehensions are discovered about extinguishing the human race in this way.
17. But when souls are called upon for their own salvation's sake, to deny themselves and take up their crosses against their carnal pleasures, the cry of these hypocrites is, The world will come to an end! As though it were a duty incumbent on man to preserve the lawless abominations of lust, which have so long corrupted the earth, lest the prevailing influence of this doctrine of continence and purity should destroy the world, by putting an end to all its iniquities. It appears evident from the language of these objectors, that they consider the doctrine of Christian celibacy, which is designed to make an end of sin, and bring in an everlasting law of righteousness, as more inconsistent, unreasonable and unjust than the bloody mandates of war, which are attended with consequences far more distressing and deplorable to humanity.
18. It appears to be the general opinion of the professors of Christianity, that the world is to be destroyed by fire; and many seem to imagine that a deluge of fire and brimstone will be poured out upon the earth, and destroy all its wicked inhabitants at once. But we would ask, which would appear the most reasonable and consistent with Almighty wisdom and righteousness; to destroy the filthy abominations of sin by the purifying fire of the gospel of Christ; which mercifully allows lost souls to take up a full and final cross against their lustful passions, from which all these abominations spring, so that all who are willing, may be purified from their corruptions and become heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven; or by a deluge of natural fire and brimstone, to deprive them forever from all hopes of future happiness, which, according to the prevailing opinions of modern Christians, must be the natural consequence?
19. We firmly believe the world will come to an end, and that it will be destroyed by fire. And we also believe and confidently testify, that this fire has already commenced; because we have felt its operation upon our own souls, and have found it to be, in very deed, a consuming fire to lust and pride, and every other corruption of man's fallen nature. This fire, we have no doubt will burn with increasing power, and many will yet feel its purifying effects; and all who come fairly into it, may depend on having their lust and pride, their selfishness and avarice, their deceit and hypocrisy, their envy, malice and hatred together with all their evil deeds and evil imaginations, effectually consumed by its power; and when this burning is completed, they will find themselves among that happy number upon whom the ends of the world are come. But those who shall be found unwilling to come into this fire, by the way of the cross, and to consign their lusts and corruptions to its purifying flames, will at length be compelled to feel the fire of those very lusts burning in them, with inextinguishable fury, and they will not be able to help themselves.
20. Objection 4. But this doctrine seems to involve in it some unanswerable difficulties: for, admitting the abuses of sexual coition by the wicked, can that be any reason why Christians should reject it? If every gift of God were to be rejected because it has been abused by the wicked, we should be deprived of nearly or quite every blessing we enjoy, and should even be obliged to refrain from eating and drinking, because these privileges are abused by drunkards and gluttons. What should occasion such an opposition between the doctrines of Christianity, and the laws of generation, in themselves considered? Was not God the author of both? Did not the same God who created man male and female, and commanded them to increase and multiply, also send his Son Jesus Christ to introduce Christianity into the world, and to preach the gospel to the married as well as to the unmarried? Why then cannot a man be a Christian, and still live in a state of matrimony, and generate offspring, provided he does not abuse his privilege?
21. Answer. We should suppose that a proper attention to the remarks in the preceding chapter might preclude the necessity of these questions; but the inveterate force of opinions so long established, and so congenial to the carnal mind, seems not easily overcome. Let the objectors bear in mind, and candidly consider the essential difference between the work of the first and second Adam, the cause of that difference, and the absolute necessity of maintaining a proper distinction between the children of this world and the true followers of Christ, and they will find no occasion to ask questions of this kind.
22. We would observe in the first place, that a divine blessing, though wickedly abused, is still a divine blessing; and the abuse of it by the wicked, can be no reason why the righteous should be deprived of the privilege of enjoying it, so long as it is given and continued by Divine Goodness. But there is an essential difference between a divine institution given for the government of mankind, and now in actual force, and one which has been disannulled to make room for a new and more permanent institution, even admitting that the disannulled institution had not been abused while it was in force. The disannulling of the law of Moses, and the establishment of the gospel institution by Jesus Christ, is no evidence that both were not of Divine origin: and though the Jews, as a people, still cleave to the law, and reject the gospel, they cannot be saved by the law; nor can they be saved by the gospel while they stubbornly reject it. Their rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was first sent to them, and which had been long foretold by their prophets, has ever been considered as very dishonorable to their nation, and a striking evidence of their great darkness, blindness and wickedness.
23. And shall the people of this generation, and in this enlightened age, bring a still greater dishonor upon themselves, and manifest a greater degree of darkness, blindness and wickedness, than the Jews did? Will they still cleave to an institution which, by its subjection to the violations of lust, has been attended with a curse to mankind ever since the transgression of Adam and Eve in the garden? And will they still continue these violations under the deceitful pretence of obeying a divine institution, when in fact, lust is the moving cause, and the greatest object in view is the gratification of their carnal pleasures? Yet when we view the inestimable sacrifice which mankind make to secure these sordid and momentary pleasures, what a contrast appears! It is nothing less than the sacrifice of a divine institution of peace and righteousness, purity and holiness, the most invaluable ever offered for the benefit of mankind. But we shall proceed to point out, more clearly, the distinction between the children of this world, and the children of God.
24. The Kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world are essentially different from each other; and this difference ever has been and ever will be strictly maintained in Christ; and no less is the distinction between the subjects of the different kingdoms. The children of this world are pursuing the things of this world, and living in the fallen nature of the first Adam; but the children of God are seeking salvation from sin, and redemption from that fallen nature. Those who follow the example of the first Adam, follow the example of a fallen progenitor, and like him, beget a fallen offspring. And though mankind should continue in this practice for a hundred thousand years to come, they would still beget a degenerate and corrupt race, and still degenerate more and more; and in that way they could never be redeemed, but must still sink deeper and deeper into loss. But those who wish to find redemption, must find it by following the example of the second Adam, who came to lead mankind out of the nature and fallen state of the first Adam, into the nature and life of Christ.
25. The first Adam was created a natural man; he was of the earth, earthy; his work was to increase and multiply and replenish the earth in the order of natural generation; and had he not violated that order, and transgressed the law of his Creator, he might have done it in innocence and justification. He would not then have been instigated by the power of lust, to gratify the base and sordid propensities of an animal nature; but influenced by the agency of the divine law, he would have acted from the pure motives of duty. In so doing, instead of a degenerate race of murdering Cains, whose ruling passions are lust and rapine, he would have propagated an uncorrupted seed, whose innate innocence, nourished by the wise and godly example of their parents, would have been a powerful protection against the future insinuations of the adversary; and if a part should afterwards have yielded and fallen, they could not have corrupted the whole human race.
26. But Adam having yielded to the insinuations of the serpent, and violated the law of God, and by his example taught his posterity to do the same; he has corrupted the whole earth. And shall Christians now continue to follow his base example? This is not the example of Christ; and therefore those who follow it, cannot with any propriety, be called the followers of Christ
27. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven, is a quickening Spirit; he came not only to redeem mankind from that loss into which the first Adam had plunged them, but to raise them to a state far superior, even to eternal life, from which they could not fall; therefore he could not do the work of the first Adam. His work was to increase and multiply and replenish the Kingdom of Heaven, not by begetting a corrupt seed, after the example of the first Adam, but by redeeming lost souls through the work of spiritual regeneration. His work was therefore, diametrically opposite to that of the first Adam. And can Christians continue to do the works of the first Adam? If so, they must be the followers of the first Adam; they cannot be the followers of Christ: for it is impossible that they should follow both at the same time, seeing their works are so essentially different from each other. And this is the difference between them: The only true followers of Christ, are those who deny themselves of all the carnal propensities of a fallen nature, who do the works of Christ, and walk in obedience to his example; and these may, with strict propriety, be called Christians.
28. On the other hand, those who live in the works of generation, follow the example of the first Adam. By doing his works, they necessarily become his followers; and therefore are not true Christians: for, As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
29. People may profess what they will; they may be called Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, or what not; yet so long as they live in the works of the first Adam, and follow his example, they do not follow Christ. Those who assume the name of Christians, do thereby implicitly profess to be a spiritual people. But what evidence do they give of being a spiritual people, while they live according to the propensities of a carnal nature? We would request the candid observer to notice the lives and conduct of those who, notwithstanding their profession, are led and governed by the same natural propensities as the non-professor, the Deist and Atheist, and compare them with those who, agreeable to their profession, do actually deny themselves of all the natural propensities of a carnal nature, and manifest by their fruits that they are governed by a superior law, in living a life agreeable to the example of Jesus Christ, and then say whether the practice of the former or latter appears the most consistent with the spirit of Christianity.
30. Here is the deception which has so long blinded the eyes of the professors of Christianity; they see not the most essential difference between the first and second Adam: hence in their works they are the real followers of the former, while they follow the latter in profession only. The idea of following both at the same time, proceeds from the same delusive principle, which supposes that because we are the natural offspring of the first Adam, we are therefore bound to follow him in the work of generation; and that this is no impediment to our becoming the spiritual offspring of the second Adam, and following him in the regeneration. So readily is the carnal mind of man led to believe that which it most desires, however contrary to the dictates of reason and truth. This is literally blending the flesh with the spirit, which the apostle Paul declares are contrary the one to the other.
31. As well may we talk of a man's traveling both east and west at one and the same time, as of his following Christ in the regeneration, while living in the works of generation. The thing is impossible; because the work of regeneration is the operation of the Spirit of Christ upon the soul, which destroys the nature of sin, and raises the soul out of the fallen nature of the first Adam, into the spiritual life of Jesus Christ, the second Adam. And this can never be gained by any soul short of crucifying the flesh with all its affections and lusts. Yet so unwilling are mankind to have the fallen nature of the flesh crucified in themselves, that they will use every means in their power to nourish and preserve it, as though they were even unwilling to go to heaven without it; and will therefore contrive any way to carry it along with them. But their contrivance will all be in vain; for that nature must die before the soul can ever live to God, or find an entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
32. All professors of Christianity will agree that mankind are lost in Adam; and that there is no redemption but in and through Christ. For as in Adam all die; so in Christ shall all be made alive. If in Adam all die, then it follows that the works of Adam bring death; consequently we must quit these works before we can be made alive in Christ. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. So testified Christ: and here let it be again repeated: It is impossible for souls to find salvation from sin, under the light of the gospel, revealed in this day, short of utterly renouncing the work of generation, and crucifying the flesh with all its affections and lusts. Nor will any soul ever pass through the new birth and be redeemed to God, until the whole of that fallen nature, root and branch, is entirely destroyed out of the soul; and the longer a soul lives in the indulgence of that nature, the more difficult, painful and distressing will it be for that soul to crucify it; and this, he will find, must be his own work, or he can never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If a man must be born again, he must, in passing through this birth, be raised out of that nature in which he had his first birth; and become dead to all its propensities.
33. Objection 5. But if this be so, says the objector, what is become of the good old patriarchs and prophets? They lived in the works of natural generation, and, as you say, followed the example of old Adam, in this respect, and not the example of Jesus Christ; your doctrine must therefore exclude them from the Kingdom of Heaven: and are they all lost ?
34. Answer. They could not follow the example of Jesus Christ; because he had not then appeared; and he could not set them an example before he made his appearance. Those who lived before the coming of Christ, were under the law of a carnal commandment; and while they strictly obeyed that law, and lived up to the light of God, given in their day, they found justification before God, and were blessed of God and protected from evil according to the measure of their light and obedience; and this was all they could do in that day. They could not be redeemed from a fallen nature in that day; because, as Christ had not then appeared, the work of redemption could not take place. But Christ having been promised as their Redeemer, to appear in the fullness of time, they lived and died in the faith of that promise; they looked forward to a future day, the day of full salvation and redemption.
35. Hence the apostle, in speaking of the faith of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the rest of the patriarchs and prophets, says, And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. These having been faithful to walk according to the light which was revealed in their day, were owned and blessed of God: they departed in faith and rested in hope, believing the time would come when the promised redemption would appear. Their having left their earthly tabernacles, and consigned those mortal bodies to the dust long before the day of redemption appeared, could not exclude them from its benefits when the time was fully come. For the work of redemption being a spiritual work, must operate upon the soul, whether in the body or out of it; and therefore the separation of the soul from the body, cannot prevent this operation.
36. The patriarchs and prophets, having been faithful unto death, and having rested in hope, and waited with patience God's appointed time, for the gospel of Christ to appear, their faith directed them into a willing obedience to it. They had now to pass through its purifying fire, in order to cleanse them from the fallen nature of the first Adam, before they could gain their redemption and be made perfect in glory. In this work of purification they were united with those of the same faith in the body; so that those who are present in the body, and those who have departed out of it, become one in Christ, and being joined together in the same spirit and under the operations of the same gospel they are made perfect in righteousness together. Thus they become the real followers of Christ in their disembodied state, not having had that privilege while in the body; and in this manner, they with us are made perfect.
37. This doctrine will doubtless appear new and strange to those who have always been bound, by the tradition of their fathers, to a different faith. And as they have been taught to believe no doctrine but what can be proved from the scriptures, they will naturally ask, where is the scripture evidence of this? But let the dark veil of the flesh be removed from the eyes of the mind, and no one will then ask for scripture evidence to prove a doctrine which must carry with it, and in it, the most certain conviction. As the scriptures are but a record of those events which were revealed and brought to pass in former dispensations, it cannot be reasonably expected that they should contain doctrines which were not to be made manifest until the fullness of time came; unless it were by types and shadows, or the mysterious revelations of prophecy, which are but imperfectly understood, if understood at all, before the fulfilment takes place. Yet the spirit of the scriptures, if not pointedly expressive on these subjects, is in every respect conformable thereto, without a single instance of anything to the contrary.
Published by the Shakers in their book, Millennial Church, 1848 -Part IV, Chapter 2
1. WE shall proceed to answer a few more objections which are frequently advanced against the doctrine of celibacy and continence.
Objection 6. The primitive Christians did not all live lives of celibacy, but many of them lived in a state of matrimony, as we find in the New Testament, and the apostle Paul tolerated them in it, as appears in his first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 7th, where he gives directions concerning husbands and wives. Were not these people Christians?
2. Answer. If they were Christians, the same apostle calls them carnal, and severely reproves them for their carnality. But as the time had not then arrived for a full revelation of the man of sin to be made, and as that revelation was necessarily connected with the second coming of Christ: therefore these Corinthian Christians, who were with so much difficulty persuaded to renounce their former licentious practices, were tolerated in living, in some measure according to the course of the world. The same toleration was also extended to other gentile churches; but the church of Jerusalem seems to have preserved a greater measure of purity than any other. For it is evident that without abstaining from all fleshly connections, they could not have lived together in one united interest as they did. And though it is clearly evident that the primitive Christians had received a far greater measure of divine light than had ever before been revealed on earth; yet while they were still under the veil of the flesh they could not have a full sight of that way of redemption which they still waited for; and therefore they were justified in walking in obedience to that degree of light which they had received; and as this was all they could then do, God required no more of them.
3. But the apostle Paul evidently saw further; he clearly saw that a day of further light and greater purity must necessarily take place, at the second appearing of Christ. Peter and John, and doubtless others, had similar views, and looked forward to a day of greater purity and holiness. But they also saw that a falling away would first take place, in which Antichrist would rise and exercise great power and dominion: For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.
4. The falling away of the primitive church, which was attended with the introduction of a flood of corruption, in morals and manners, was the occasion of those dark and deceitful doctrines which have blinded the eyes of the professors of Christianity to the present day. In every age, the great object of the spirit of Antichrist, in all his works, has been to counterfeit the religion of Christ. And what more effectual method could he devise, than to attach erroneous meanings to the names of Christian doctrines, and to blend them with practices which have not the most distant connection with the pure gospel of Christ? Hence arose that universal deception which supposes that generation and regeneration are perfectly consistent with each other: that Christians may practice the generation of the flesh, and at the same time be subjects of the regeneration of the spirit; that is, that they may at once live according to the flesh and walk according to the spirit, regardless of the apostles testimony that, these are contrary the one to the other. Hence also, the resurrection of the soul from the fallen nature of the flesh, is understood to mean, a resurrection of the natural body of flesh and bones, from the moldering ruins of the grave.
5. The names of these and many other doctrines of the gospel, are retained, while the real substance is wholly perverted and lost in Antichristian darkness. This is undoubtedly the principal cause that modern professors of Christianity do not discover the real distinction between the flesh and the spirit, and see the utter impossibility of following Christ in the regeneration of the spirit; while living in the practical generation of the flesh. Hence all those Christians, so called, whether of primitive or modern times, who, under their Christian profession, have lived in the practical works of generation, can be viewed in no other light than as carnal Christians; and with all their Christianity, they can never gain complete possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, until they are completely purified from the nature of the flesh, and all its corrupt and debasing propensities. And though in consequence of having obeyed the light which they had received, they may be free from condemnation; yet they cannot find their redemption short of passing through the purifying fire of the gospel.
6. Objection 7. The doctrine of celibacy appears to be condemned by the scriptures, particularly in Paul's epistle to Timothy, where he gives the following testimony in plain terms: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.
7. Answer. Perhaps no passage found in the sacred writings has furnished a more popular argument against a life of continence than this. It is indeed considered by many as sufficient to condemn the doctrine of celibacy altogether; and it is often urged as a testimony of condemnation against every religious society whose faith leads them to maintain such a life, however far they may be from forbidding to marry, or commanding to abstain from meats. But a little examination will readily show that it furnishes not the smallest proof against a life of conscientious celibacy, either in a society or an individual.
8. The objectors evidently suppose that the apostle's expression is to be understood in a literal sense; otherwise it would be useless to advance it as an argument in their favor; and therefore, for the sake of a fair examination, we will admit their literal construction.
9. Forbidding and commanding then, according to this sense, must necessarily imply power to enforce what is thus forbidden and commanded; otherwise no effect could be produced thereby; and of course the prediction of the apostle would have been of little or no importance. In order therefore to render the passage applicable to any society or denomination of people, that society must not only positively forbid to marry, and command to abstain from meats, but it must actually enforce its commands and prohibitions by a power sufficient to effect the object. It must also fill up the whole character described by the apostle; otherwise the charge must fail in its application: for there can be no real consistency in the charge, unless it be applied to a people in whom that character is fully displayed; and certainly it cannot, with any consistency, be applied to the United Society. With this Society, a life of continence and celibacy is a matter of conscience, proceeding from their religious faith, and therefore needs no forbidding to marry in the case; because the cross of self-denial is a voluntary act; and surely the apostle's prediction cannot apply to any such people.
10. Protestant writers have generally charged this, forbidding to marry upon the Church of Rome; and if we are to consider the apostle's expressions in a literal sense, there appears to be some foundation for the charge. It is stated by bishop Newton that, As long ago as the year 386, Siricius held a council of eighty bishops at Rome, and forbade the clergy to cohabit with their wives. This decree was confirmed by Innocent at the beginning of the fifth century; and the celibacy of the clergy was fully decreed by Gregory VII, in the eleventh century; and this hath been the universal law and practice ever since. These facts are confirmed by other ecclesiastical writers. We find in Mosheim's, that Pope Gregory, in the year 1074, assembled a council at Rome, in which it was decreed, That the sacerdotal orders should abstain from marriage; and that such of them as had already wives, or concubines, should immediately dismiss them, or quit the priestly office.
11. But these things afford no evidence against the doctrine of Christian celibacy and continence, but rather the contrary. For these measures being adopted at such an early period of the apostasy, evidently show that the purity of the primitive church at Jerusalem, in this respect, was well known in the church of Rome; and that their object was to preserve the appearance of it in that church. But the lordly rulers of that corrupt church, having lost the true spirit of the gospel, by which that purity was maintained in the primitive church, attempted to make a show of sanctity and deceive the world, by counterfeiting this purity. And being wholly destitute of the true Spirit of Christ, which leads to purity, and of that divine love which governed the primitive church, they were under the necessity of enforcing their doctrines by arbitrary decrees. Thus their counterfeit purity and continence became a matter of compulsion, not of choice; and was therefore contrary to the very spirit of the gospel, which allows liberty of conscience to every soul.
12. But with all their arbitrary decrees and compulsive power, which were professedly designed to restrain the corruptions of the ecclesiastical orders, and to preserve and maintain purity among the dignitaries of their church, they never could reach the source of human corruption, nor restrain the libidinous passions of man.
13. Their established fasts, including what they call lent, or forty days abstinence from animal food, are considered by Protestants as of the same arbitrary character, commanding to abstain from meats. With a view to keep up the appearance of sanctity, after they had entirely lost the real power of the gospel, it seems they enjoined upon their subjects these days of abstinence, with other religious ceremonies, and thus required them to observe ordinances which, for want of true faith, they otherwise never would have observed as religious duties. But even admitting that their religious ordinances were of Divine authority, as they pretended, what could they gain by compulsive obedience? Forbidding and commanding, for the sake of enforcing religious duties, where there is no faith to induce a willing obedience, will answer no good purpose. God must have a willing people to worship him, or they can never worship to his acceptance.
14. But the United Society can have no occasion for any such coercive laws; nor will the faith of the Society admit of any compulsive or hypocritical obedience. Nor can any obedience which does not proceed from faith, be of any use, for without faith it is impossible to please God. Religion must be a matter of free and conscientious choice, or it cannot profit any soul. It is the true Spirit of Christ in the soul which must and does enable anyone to bear the cross of self-denial. Without this, all forbidding and commanding is arbitrary and useless.
15. Hence the charge of forbidding to marry, even when viewed according to the sense in which the objectors understand the apostle's testimony, can by no means apply to the United Society, who consider marriage, as practiced by the world of mankind, to be merely a civil right, sanctioned by the laws of every civilized nation, and with which the Society has never had any inclination to interfere. Can any reasonable person suppose that the apostle, in that prediction, alluded to a life of conscientious celibacy, when he himself lived such a life, and plainly declared that he would that all men were even as himself? Surely the apostle would not condemn himself, and live in opposition to the dictates of his own prophetic spirit.
16. If we are to understand the expression, commanding to abstain from meats, in a literal sense, Protestants can charge nothing upon the papists that will not apply with equal force to themselves. To observe days of fasting (say they) we judge both scriptural and rational; and a religious fast requires total abstinence from food. And what did the papists more? But the United Society maintain no such principle; and therefore the charge, considered in a literal sense, cannot possibly apply to this Society. And if the charge fail in respect to meats, it must of course fail in respect to marriage: for in the apostle's prediction, they are connected, and both are made to apply to the same class of people.
17. But we view the apostle's testimony in a very different light from that in which it is generally understood. We do not suppose that the prediction had any further allusion to that civil institution which is generally called marriage, than a significant figure. The Spirit speaketh expressly, saith the apostle. This prediction was therefore given in the language of the Spirit. And according to the testimony of the same apostle, The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. How then should the natural man be able to understand what the spirit meant by forbidding to marry? Yet the lovers of carnal pleasure profess to know all about it, and confidently pervert the language of the Spirit into an argument to condemn the United Society, and favor their own carnal gratifications.
18. The apostle's testimony undoubtedly alluded to spiritual marriage. This appears evident from his own language on other occasions. He that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit. And again; Neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. This is a great mystery, saith the apostle; but I speak concerning Christ and the church. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. In this consists the true spiritual marriage, or marriage of the Lamb, by which souls are enabled to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. This is the marriage which the apostle invariably maintained, and is that which was forbidden by those apostates of whom he spoke; and which the lovers of carnal pleasure among all denominations, have always opposed, as being contrary to their carnal corruptions; because they are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
19. In this sense, the charge of forbidding to marry, which the lovers of carnal pleasure are so ready to charge upon the United Society, may with strict propriety be retorted upon themselves. For, not content with the free and unlimited indulgence of their darling pleasures, they have ever been loud in their vociferations against that life of virgin purity which the apostle so strongly recommends as the only true spiritual marriage. While on the other hand the United Society, though they have conscientiously borne the cross of self-denial themselves, have ever been willing that all who differ from them in opinion, should freely act according to the dictates of their own consciences, without any disposition to molest them in their pleasures, or hinder them from marrying whenever they please.
20. Objection 8. Jesus Christ himself did not condemn marriage; but on the contrary he not only honored a marriage with his presence, but gave it an extraordinary and most miraculous sanction, by turning water into wine for the guests to drink. What greater evidence could anyone ask to prove his divine approbation?
21. Answer. His enemies adopted the same mode of reasoning to prove him a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners; and doubtless they felt as much confidence in the strength of their argument as our objectors do in theirs. And why should they not? Did he not honor with his presence the assemblies of publicans and harlots? Did he not eat and drink with them, and work miracles for them? And where was the true-blooded Pharisee that would not have condemned a man for a winebibber, and a promoter of drunkenness, who would go and turn so much water into wine after men had well drunk? And could any man that would frequent the assemblies of such base characters, escape the scandal of being a partaker with them, or the charge of encouraging them in their wickedness?
22. So reasoned the Scribes and Pharisees, and so will all carnal men reason when they want to subvert the testimony of truth for the purpose of promoting their own carnal views. And indeed if we are to consider the attendance of Jesus at the wedding, and his miracle of turning water into wine, as any evidence in favor either of marriage or drunkenness, it must unquestionably have by far the greatest appearance of favoring the latter: for there is not the least evidence that he sanctioned the former, neither by word or work; but his enemies found a very plausible reason to charge him with sanctioning the latter.
23. But with all their reasoning and all their evidence, they could never prove that the Lord Jesus ever sanctioned the evil practices of these sinners, or authorized them to continue in sin. It is true he did not condemn this darling practice of the world; nor did he condemn the adulteress, though she was taken in the very act; but after convicting her accusers, he bid her go and sin no more, He was not sent into the world to condemn the world; that was not the object of his mission: but that the world through him might be saved. In making these visits, the Savior of the world had a noble object in view, which was to preach the gospel to poor fallen creatures, who were thus lost in sin and wickedness, and to teach them, by precept and example, a better manner of life. It was therefore necessary that he should come down to them in their fallen and lost state, and find them where they were lost, and render himself accessible to them, in that state, in order to reclaim them, or they never would have been saved by him, but must still have remained under their loss.
24. The miracle of turning water into wine, on that particular occasion, which is the only instance we have on record, and doubtless the only one which ever took place, was for a far more important purpose than to sanction matrimony or promote intemperance. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. By this he showed forth the divine authority of his mission, proved his Godlike power, and confirmed the faith of his followers. But this was not all: It was designed and eminently calculated to be a figurative representation of his own spiritual marriage at the period of his second coming, and of that heavenly wine, which he afterwards spoke to his disciples of drinking with them, in his Father's Kingdom.
25. Objection 9. This doctrine of celibacy, if generally admitted, would overthrow the institution of matrimony; the consequences of which would be, very shocking to society. Abolish this institution, and all those civil and religious ties which bind families together, would be severed at once. The legal descent of inheritance, the property of heirs, and the ties of consanguinity would be no longer known. Those social connections which unite husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and on which depends the very foundation of human society, would be entirely destroyed, and mankind would soon be reduced to a state of anarchy and confusion.
26. Answer. This objection, if applied to mankind in a natural state, would indeed appear formidable; but when applied to the followers of Christ, it is more specious than solid. As an objection against the doctrine of Christian celibacy maintained by the United Society, it is without foundation. That practical celibacy and Christian continence, which we consider as the great privilege of the true followers of Christ, in this day of his second appearing, is very far from interfering with any useful institution of civil society. The children of this world and the followers of Christ, are two distinct orders of people. The children of this world marry and are given in marriage; and have a natural right to all the civil institutions of the country to which they belong, so long as they are subject to its laws and ordinances. But they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. The followers of Christ are governed by the law of Christ, which is a law of justice and holiness; and so long as they do not interfere with the civil institutions of men, they cannot be chargeable with severing the bonds of civil society.
27. We consider matrimony to be a civil institution, and as such, it is both useful and necessary for mankind in their natural state; but it does not belong to the true followers of Christ; and for that reason they have nothing to do with it. As members of a Christian institution, established by the law of Christ, and wholly unconnected with the civil, political and religious institutions of the world, it is inconsistent with our Christian faith to interfere with any of their concerns. But at the same time, we are perfectly willing that every such institution, which produces any beneficial influence on its members, should be freely supported by those to whom it belongs, and whose concern it is to support it; and it is right and just that all people should act their own faith in this, as well as in all other matters.
28. The apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that it was better to marry than to burn; and we have ever acknowledged it better to marry than to do worse. We readily admit that the institution of marriage is useful in its place; because it has a tendency to prevent many evils in society which could not otherwise be avoided. And for mankind, in their present state, it is absolutely necessary; because without it, the excesses of lawless lust would destroy every vestige of good order in society, and produce confusion and ruin among the human race. We will even admit that marriage is honorable in a state of nature, where the parties enter into it from honorable and conscientious motives, and are honestly and sincerely united in their endeavors to make an honorable use of it. But its frequent, fraudulent and shameful abuses are disgraceful to the parties, and cast a shameful blot upon the institution itself.
29. But though we acknowledge the marriage institution to be both useful and necessary for the world in its present state; yet for the followers of Christ, who are called to forsake the course of the world, and to crucify the flesh with all its affections and lusts, it is neither necessary nor useful, but the contrary; it therefore forms no part of their duty, and can have no place among them. Their union is spiritual, and needs no fleshy support; their parentage is spiritual, and produces no fleshy offspring; their relation as brethren and sisters is spiritual, and can have no dependence on fleshy relation; their inheritance is spiritual, and cannot be controlled by human laws and institutions. Their temporal property, which is necessary for the support of the body while in this life, is regulated by a sacred compact, being, by mutual agreement, consecrated to religious uses, for the benefit of the whole body; and as such, it descends to their spiritual heirs in the same united capacity. So that all those difficulties concerning temporal property, so common among natural heirs, are prevented by the very nature of the institution, and unless its rights are infringed upon by lawless usurpers from without, the descent of inheritance occasions no uneasiness to the Society.
30. This spiritual relation in the church of Christ, is produced by the law of the Spirit of life. It is the relation claimed by Jesus Christ, and he acknowledged no other. Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother. This relation is governed by the law of Christ, which is a law of righteousness and peace; and this law which governs the church of Christ, supersedes the necessity of human laws and human institutions to regulate its internal concerns. And we have found by experience, that this law is a superior remedy against all those scenes of confusion and disorder, which are so common in the domestic circle, under a state of matrimony; and that it is more eminently calculated to promote the true spirit of union and harmony in society, than all the laws and institutions of matrimony, or any other law or institution ever devised by man.
Published by the Shakers in their book, Millennial Church, 1848 -Part IV, Chapter 3
1. AS Circumcision was an important institution given to Abraham, as the typical father of the faithful, and was continued to his posterity, as a primary and abiding institution, through all the law and the prophets, until the coming of Jesus Christ, it will be necessary to make some remarks upon the subject.
2. It is generally acknowledged that the ceremonies under the law were typical of gospel ordinances; that they were figures or shadows of something to be fulfilled in substance under the gospel; and that these carnal ordinances, as the apostle calls them, plainly pointed to the spiritual work of Christ in his first or second appearance, or both. But among all the types of the law, none could be more important than that of circumcision, not only because it was the first, and the foundation of all the rest; but also because it was the very seal of the covenant of promise given to Abraham, and typified a most essential institution to be given to the faithful children of God in the latter day, and which was to be a peculiar mark of distinction between them and the rest of mankind.
3. A figure, to constitute a real type, must have a proper resemblance to the substance which it is designed to prefigure; otherwise it is not a type. It was therefore necessary that the institution of circumcision should bear a real analogy to that gospel institution, which it was intended to point out. It is a prevailing opinion among many who consider water baptism as a gospel institution, that it was designed to supply the place of circumcision under the law; some indeed suppose that circumcision was a type of water baptism. In this however, there must appear an obvious inconsistency; for there is no kind of analogy between baptism and circumcision; and water baptism itself, was but a type of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This appears evident from John's own testimony: I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. Therefore, to say that circumcision was a type of baptism, is nothing less than calling it a type of a type, which is an absurdity.
4. The circumcision of the male in the flesh of his foreskin was a significant mark of mortification in that particular member of the flesh in which is found the seat of its carnal pleasures. This seal of the typical covenant made with Abraham, was the most lively figure ever given to man, of the mortification of the very source of iniquity, by the spiritual work of Christ, and of the complete destruction of that carnal pleasure received from that source, in the act of sexual coition.
5. As circumcision was the seal of the covenant of promise to Abraham and his posterity, under the law; and as none were considered as God's covenant people without this seal, whatever degree of conformity they might observe in other respects, so it was a very plain manifestation that the seal of the covenant in Christ, was to consist in the cutting off, and total rejection of fleshly lust, by a life of self-denial and the cross. This is the very foundation of the true cross of Christ, and the separating line between the children of this world, who marry and are given in marriage, and the children of the resurrection, who neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like unto the angels; because they live a spiritual life. And without this seal, this distinguishing mark of the cross of Christ, no soul can be in the real covenant of Christ, revealed in this day, whatever profession he may make, or whatever duties he may perform, in other respects.
6. This figure is so obvious and striking, that it seems as though none could mistake it, excepting those who are blinded by an obstinate determination to maintain the carnal life of the flesh, at all events. There is nothing else to which circumcision, as a type, can bear any consistent analogy. By the law is the knowledge of sin. But as the law was only figurative of spiritual things, and not the real substance; therefore if its types do not bear a plain resemblance to their antitypes, then it is in vain to seek by them to find the knowledge of sin. Man has been too long imposed upon by false systems and imaginary theories, which have no foundation in truth, nor any consistency in themselves. Certainly a figure of so much importance as circumcision evidently was, under the law, ought to be well considered by those who profess to be under the light of the gospel; lest, unhappily, they lose both the knowledge and the benefit of the most important principles of the gospel.
7. Let those who consider water-baptism to be the antitype of circumcision, (for if it was substituted under the gospel in lieu of circumcision, it must be the antitype,) consider also, that upon this principle, the antitype is not so mortifying to the flesh, nor so deep and lasting as the type. This clearly involves the absurdity of making the shadow of a substance more substantial than the substance itself. What figure could have been formed, under the law, to represent more plainly the cutting off and rejection of the carnal works of the flesh, under the gospel, than outward circumcision, or cutting off the foreskin of the flesh? This not only wounded the flesh in such a manner that the mark remained visible ever after; but it took blood, which is the life of' the flesh, from that very member in which is found the seat and centre of all the pleasures of lust.
8. The object of the covenant with Abraham, which was established and confirmed by this seal, was to show that under the gospel dispensation, the everlasting seal of the spiritual covenant, which was to distinguish Christ's chosen people from all others, must be that cross which destroys the life of fleshly lust. For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. This then is the true seal which hath praise of God, but not of men: for nothing is so opposite to the natural inclinations of fallen man as this seal, which is, in very deed, the cross against the lust of the flesh.
9. It may perhaps be objected that circumcision, when compared with this cross, is not a perfect figure; because males only were the subjects of circumcision; and therefore it could not properly typify that cross, which seems to be enjoined on females as well as males. True indeed, males only were the subjects of circumcision; but if sexual coition ceases in the male, it must cease in the female of course.
10. But there was another legal ceremony respecting women, which was sufficient to balance the cross of circumcision in the male, and which was not only a confirmation of the impure nature of the works of generation, but an evident token that these works were to be excluded from the church of Christ, which is the spiritual sanctuary of God. A woman who brought forth a male child, was counted unclean, under the law, seven days; and on the eighth day the child was to be circumcised. And even then, the woman was not allowed to come into the sanctuary, nor touch any holy thing, for the space of forty days from the birth of her child. After the birth of a female child, the time of her uncleanness and separation from the sanctuary was doubled, extending even to eighty days. After this she was required to bring a sin-offering and a burnt-offering to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle, where they were to be offered, before she could be admitted into the sanctuary with those who were accounted clean.
11. Therefore, as circumcision was a figurative ceremony of purification to the male; so likewise these legal injunctions were figurative ceremonies of purification to the female; and both were designed to typify that state of purity and separation from all the works of generation, which were to be required of the church of Christ under the gospel dispensation. But why was the time of the woman's separation from the sanctuary doubled after she had borne a female child? This was to show that the female could not find her lot and order in the spiritual creation of God, until the second gospel dispensation, or second appearing of Christ, when the Spirit of Christ, manifested in a woman, should redeem the female character, and bring her into her proper lot and order in the new creation.* [ * The man found his lot and order in the first appearng of Christ, who appeared in the male, (in the person of Jesus,) which was the first gospel dispensation, or antitype of the first temple. But the second gospel dispensation, which was pre-figured by the second temple, was first manifested in the female, and was called the second appearing of Christ, in which the woman, as well as the man, is restored to her proper lot and order in the new creation. ]
12. Again: The law enjoined ordinances respecting sexual coition, which applied to both male and female, and which clearly pointed out the sinfulness of that nature in the sight of a pure and holy God. Every act of that kind excluded the parties from the camp, and from the society of those who were accounted clean; they could by no means be admitted into the sanctuary, nor come before the Lord at any time, nor partake of any holy thing, without being first ceremonially cleansed and purified from those works. When Moses was ordered to sanctify the people, and prepare them to appear before the Lord at Mount Sinai, he commanded them saying, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. If this was not an unholy act, why did Moses give this charge?
13. As the ceremonies of the law were but types and figures of things to come, they must have their antitypes, and be fulfilled in substance under the gospel. If therefore these works of the flesh were not, in their very nature, unclean, and if they were not finally to be excluded from the spiritual sanctuary of God then we would ask why they were declared unclean under the law, and excluded from the sanctuary of Israel, which was but a type of the true gospel sanctuary? Was the law more pure than the gospel? Or was uncleanness under the law to be counted cleanness under the gospel? Was the type more pure and holy than its antitype? Or in other words, can we rationally suppose that the temporal and typical sanctuary of Israel was more pure and holy than that sanctuary of holiness which is established in the church of Christ, as a spiritual sanctuary? And if those works of the flesh which were so pointedly marked out under the law, were not sinful, why did the law require a sin-offering? Will God require a sacrifice for sin where there is no sin? Certainly not.
14. These injunctions and restrictions were evident tokens of the unclean nature of those acts, and plainly typified the purity which God would require of souls under the dispensations of the gospel. In nothing short of this can the types and shadows of the law be answered with any degree of consistency. In nothing short of this can the righteousness of the law be manifested in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
15. Hence it is evident that circumcision and other legal ceremonies clearly pointed to a life of self-denial and the cross of Christ, by which souls receive the washing of the regeneration, and the purifying fire of the gospel, which is the real baptism of the Holy Spirit; and that nothing short of this can entitle any soul to the privilege of entering into the camp of the saints, and worshiping God in the spiritual sanctuary, of which the camp of Israel, and the sanctuary of Jacob were but types and figures.
Published by the Shakers in their book, Millennial Church, 1848 -Part IV, Chapter 4
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