« VorigeDoorgaan »
is more true, than that, even among the richest of the Quakers, there is frequently as much plainness and simplicity in their outward dress, as among the poor; and where the exceptions exist, they are seldom carried to an extravagant, and never to a preposterous extent.
From this account it will be seen, that the ideas of the world are erroneous on the subject of the dress of the Quakers; for it has always been imagined, that, when the early Quakers first met in religious union, they met to deliberate and fix upon some standard, which should operate as a political institution, by which the members should be distinguished by their apparel from the rest of the world. The whole history, however, of the shape and colour of the garments of the Quakers is, as has been related, namely, that the primitive Quakers dressed like the sober, steady, and religious people of the age, in which the society sprung up, and that their descendants have departed less in a course of time, than others, from the dress of their ancestors. The mens hats are nearly the same now, except that they have stays and loops, and many of their clothes are nearly of the same shape and colour, as in the days of George Fox. The dress of the women also is nearly similar. The black hoods indeed have gone, in a certain degree, out of use. But many of such women, as are ministers and elders. and indeed many others of age and gravity of manners,
still retain them. The green apron also has been nearly, if not wholly laid aside. There was here and there an ancient woman, who used it within the last ten years, but I am told that the last of these died lately. No other reasons can be given, than those which have been assigned, why Quaker-women should have been found in the use of a colour, which is so unlike any other which they now use in their dress. Upon the whole, if the females were still to retain the use of the black hood and the green apron, and the men were to discard the stays and loops for their hats, we should find that persons of both sexes in the society, but particularly such as are antiquated, or as may be deemed old fashioned in it, would approach very near to the first or primitive Quakers in their appearance, both as to the sort, and to the shape, and to the colour of their clothes. Thus has George Fox, by means of the advice he gave upon this subject, and the general discipline which he introduced into the society, kept up for a hundred and fifty years, against the powerful attacks of the varying fashions of the world, one steady, and uniform, external appearance among his descendants; an event, which neither the clergy by means of their sermons, nor other writers, whether grave or gay, were able to accomplish during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and which none of their successors have been able to accomplish from that time to the present
The world usually make objections to the Quakerdress--the charge is that there is a preciseness in it which is equivalent to the worshipping of forms the truth of this charge not to be ascertained but by a knowledge of the heart-but outward facts make against it—such as the origin of the Quakerdress-and the Quaker-doctrine on dress-doctrine of christianity on this subject-opinion of the early christians upon it-reputed advantages of the Quaker-dress.
SHOULD have been glad to have dismissed the subject of the Quaker-dress in the last section, but so many objections are usually made against it, that I thought it right to stop for a while to consider them in the present place. Indeed, if I were to choose a subject, upon which the world had been more than ordinarily severe on the Quakers, I should select that of their dress. Almost every body has something to say upon this point. And as in almost all cases, where arguments are numerous, many of them are generally frivolous, so it has happened in
this also. There is one, however, which it is impossible not to notice upon this subject.
The Quakers, it is confessed by their adversaries, are not chargeable with the same sort of pride and vanity, which attach to the characters of other people, who dress in a gay manner, and who follow the fashions of the world, but it is contended, on the other hand, that they are justly chargeable with a preciseness, that is disgusting, in the little particularities of their cloathing. This precise attention to particularities is considered as little better than the worshipping of lifeless forms, and is usually called by the world the idolatry of the Quaker-dress.
This charge, if it were true, would be serious indeed. It would be serious, because it would take away from the religion of the Quakers one of its greatest and best characters. For how could any people be spiritually minded, who were the worshippers of lifeless forms? It would be serious again, because it would shew their religion, like the box of Pandora, to be pregnant with evils within itself. For people, who place religion in particular forms, must unavoidably become superstitious. It would be serious again, because if parents were to carry such notions into their families, they would produce mischief. The young would be dissatisfied, if forced to cultivate particularities, for which they see no
just or substantial reason.
Dissentions would arise
among them. Their morality too would be confounded, if they were to see these minutiæ idolized at home, but disregarded by persons of known religious character in the world. Add to which, that they might adopt erroneous notions of religion. For they might be induced to lay too much stress upon the payment of the anise and cummin, and too little upon the observance of the weightier matters of the law.
As the charge therefore is unquestionably a serious one, I shall not allow it to pass without some comments. And in the first place it may be observed that, whether this preciseness, which has been imputed to some Quakers, amounts to an idolizing of forms, can never be positively determined, except we had the power of looking into the hearts of those, who have incurred the charge. We may form, however, a reasonable conjecture, whether it does or not by presumptive evidence, taken from incontrovertible outward facts.
The first outward fact that presents itself to us, is the fact of the origin of the Quaker-dress, if the early Quakers, when they met in rel gious union, had met to deliberate and fix upon a form or standard of apparel for the society, in vain could any person have expected to repel this charge. But no such standard was ever fixed. The dress of the Quakers