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UNITED SOCIETY OF BELIEVERS,
(COMMONLY CALLED SHAKERS.)
THE RISE, PROGRESS AND PRACTICAL ORDER
OF THE SOCIETY;
PUBLISHED BY ORDER OF THE MINISTRY,
IN UNION WITH THE CHURCH.
In the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom
The increasing attention which, within a few years, has been directed to the principles and practice of the people called Shakers, by travellers and writers of various classes and descriptions, has occasioned much enquiry among almost all classes of people. Publications have been issued from the press in almost every form. Historians of the various denominations of religion, writers of travels, compilers of Geographies and Gazetteers, the editors of periodical essays, and the publishers of common newspapers, have all in their turns, thought proper to notice, in some way or other, the people so much “wondered at.” But in consequence of the various and contradictory accounts of many of these writers, and the false and erroneous statements concerning the principles of the people, which are so manifest in the generality of those accounts, the Socie.y has been earnestly solicited by many candid and intelligent persons to publish a plain and correct statement of facts relative to the history of the Society, in a concise form, containing its origin, progress and present state; with a fair view of the religious faith and practice of the Society, and the principles on which their peculiar tenets are founded.
In compliance with these repeated calls, and with a view to afford the candid and unprejudiced of all classes a fair opportunity of examining for themselves, and obtaining a correct knowledge of the truth from the proper source, the following pages have been written, and are now offered to the public in a form which may easily be obtained and readily perused by every one who desires it.
We have not written merely with a view to multiply books, nor to supersede the necessity of those already published by the Society, and which have proved highly useful, and done much towards affecting the important object for which they were intended; especially that entitled, “ The Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing," which has had an extensive circulation.* And if its irresistible truth, and the plainness of its doctrines have excited a few sneering comments, and thus disclosed the rancor of one or two ecclesiastical dignitaries; yet no one has ever been able to
* We refer the reader to that book, and to Dunlavy's Manifesto, for further information.
overthrow the principles contained in it; nor has any person possessing the spirit of candor and discernment ever attempted it.
Nor have we written with a view to excite controversy, nor provoke the resentment of any class of people whatever. Our only object is to satisfy candid enquirers, and to give information concerning our faith, principles and practice, in plain and intelligible language, to all who are willing to receive it. And as for those who care for none of these things, and have no disposition to hear our testimony, we are quite willing they should enjoy their own opinions, and let ours alone: we do not wish to disturb them. We live in a country which boasts highly of the freedom of its religious institutions; and religion is, or ought to be an object of free choice with every one.
We are not ignorant that much has been written and published, from time to time, from a spirit of enmity and detraction, by those who would gladly renew against us, those scenes of religious intolerance which forinerly deluged the earth in blood, were it in their power. However doubtful this may appear to those who know not the enmity of such characters, experience has taught us that the spirit of persecution is the same now that it was then, and would display itself in the same manner, were it under no restraint. The spirit of persecution is not governed by truth and right reason; nor is the tongue of calumny guided by candor and impartiality. And whatever pretences any of our calumniators may make to either, their writings sufficiently prove that they were under the government of their malignant passions.
It has always been the fate of truth to be stigmatized and slandered by falsehood. Whenever the spirit of truth has, in any age, been revealed to any people, the father of lies has never failed to dispense among his children, a sufficient portion of the spirit of falsehood to combat the spirit of truth, and scandalize all who maintain it. The great Captain of our salvation was subjected to the scorn and derision of the children of the wicked one, and endured the reproaches of the emissaries of Satan. He was charged with gluttony and drunkenness, and reproached with associating with publicans and sinners. He was also accused of casting out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils; and he repeatedly assur
ed his followers that they would suffer the same indignities and reproaches. “If they have called the master of the house Beelze“ bub, how much more them of his honsehold? If they have per“ secuted me, they will also persecute you. If ye were of the “ world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of
the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the * world hateth you."
It is well known that the primitive christians were greatly slandered and stigmatized by their heathen neighbors, and every false report that scandal could bestow or malice dictate, was put in circulation, and urged upon the public as positive facts that could easily be proved by eye and ear witnesses in abundance. And when we take into consideration the remarkable similarity that appears between the reports against the primitive christians, and those that have been circulated against the believers in the present testimony since it was first made known in this country, especially in the earlier period of their faith, it seems as though the most obstinate unbelievers could not but see and acknowledge the striking resemblance, and conclude that these reports must all have originated from the same source, and that they are directed against the same sort of people.
Celsus the epicurean, upon what he called good authority, charge ed Jesus Christ with being the offspring of adultery; and asserted, * That the mother of Jesus being great with child, was put away by the carpenter who had espoused her, he having convicted her of adultery with a soldier named Pantheras." Celsus further adds, “ that having been turned out of doors b; her husband, she wandered about in a shameful manner, till she brought forth Jesus in an obscure place.”+ Such are the charges of this ancient heathen calumniator against the Virgin Mary. And influenced by the same malignant spirit, some modern Celsuses, upon what they call good authority, have charged Ann Lee with lewdness and intoxication. But those who best knew the Virgin Mary, knew that the story of that ancient calumniator was false; and those who best knew Ann Lee, know that the stories of these modern calumniators are false.
• Matt. 1. 25, and Jobo xv. 19, 20. | See Lardner's Works, vol. viii. p. 19,