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ORIGIN OF

THE SHÅKERS."

63

curacy, as regard the history, doctrines, and practices of the sect. I expressed a wish, however, to obtain, in addition to these, a copy of the hymns sung by them during their worship, but she said no copies of these had been published for the world. I requested her to ask of the elders whether one used by themselves could be lent me for a few days, when it should be returned; but her application was unsuccessful, as the elders had objections to their being seen or circulated beyond the limits of their own community.

We returned to Albany early in the afternoon; and from the conversation I had enjoyed with the elder and the librarian, and from the publications furnished me by the latter, I was enabled to compile and digest the following authentic account of the origin, progress, and actual condition of this singular community, as well as their peculiar views of religion and government, and the scriptural authorities on which they profess to found their doctrines and practices.

CHAPTER VI.

Origin of the Sect of Shakers in Germany and France. -Transplanting of the Sect to

England in 1706.-Biography of Ann Lee, the Founder in America. --First Settlement at Niskyuna. --Death of Ann Lee.-Progress and Present State of the Society of Shakers.--Recent Spread of the Society in the Western States.

In the year 1689 some remarkable “revivals of religion,” as they are called, took place in Germany and France, but particularly at Dauphiny and Vivrais in the latter country. The persons subject to these revivals are said to have been agitated in body as well as in mind by what they were pleased to call Divine inspiration. They predicted the near approach of the end of the world, and the second coming of the Messiah, to commence his millennial reign upon the earth. The following is the account which is given of the progress of this body of religionists in the work entitled " A Summary View of the Millennial Church, or United Society of Believers, commonly called Shakers; comprising the rise, progress, and practical order of the Society, together with the general principles of their Faith and Testimony, published by order of the Ministry in union with the Church."

The introduction to this work is signed by Calvin Green and Seth Wells, two of the leading elders of the sect. It is dated at New-Lebanon, May 12, 1823, and has for its motto this verse from the prophet Daniel: “ In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed.” There were four other works, some of earlier and some of later date, the

earliest 1810, the latest 1838; and from these collectively the account is revised, retaining in most cases the expressions, and in all the substance of the statements made by the writers themselves, who are, of course, to be considered as alone responsible for those expressions which imply a belief in the Divine inspiration communicated to, or miracles alleged to be performed by, the several personages spoken of in the narrative. After the short history given of the religious revivals in Germany and France, before adverted to, the history is continued thus :

“About the year 1706 a few of them went over to England, where they renewed their testimony; and through the ministration of the same Spirit to others, many were united to them, so that in a short time they became very numerous, and their testimony became extensive and powerful.

“ In 1747, a small number who were endowed with the spirit of these witnesses, were led by the influence of the Divine Spirit to unite them. selves into a small society, in the neighbourhood of Manchester, under the ministry of James and Jane Wardley. These were both sincerely devoted to the cause of God, and were blessed with great manifestations of Divine light.

“ This infant society practised no forms and adopted no creeds as rules of faith or worship; but gave themselves up to be led and guided entirely by the operations of the Spirit of God. Their meetings were powerful and animated, attended with remarkable signs and operations, and with the spirit of prophecy and Divine revelation.

“Sometimes, after sitting a while in silent meditation, they were seized with a mighty trembling, under which they would often express the indignation of God against all sin. At other times they were exercised with singing, shouting, and leaping for joy at the near prospect of salva, tion. They were often exercised with great agitations of body and limbs, running and walking the floor with a variety of signs and opera, tions, and swiftly passing and repassing each other, like clouds agitated with a mighty wind. No human power could imitate the wonderful operations with which they were affected while under the influence of these spiritual signs. From these exercises, so strange in the eyes of mankind, they received the appellation of Shakers, which has been the * most common name of distinction ever since,

“ They continued to increase in light and power, with occasional additions to their number, till about the year 1710, when, by a special manifestation of Divine light, the present testimony of salvation and eternal life was fully revealed to Ann Lee, and by her to the society. As this extraordinary woman, concerning whom so much has been reported and published abroad in the world, was the distinguished personage to whom Christ revealed himself in his true character in this day of his second appearing, it will be necessary, in proceeding with this work, to give some account of her life, character, and ministry.

" Ann Lee was the daughter of John Lee, of Manchester, in England. She was born in the year 1736. Her father was by occupation a blacksmith, and, though poor, he was respectable in character, moral in principle, honest and punctual in his dealings, and industrious in business. Her mother was esteemed as a religious and very pious woman.

“ As she considered that the people called Shakers were favoured with a greater degree of Divine light, and a more clear and pointed testimony against the nature of sin, than had hitherto been made manifest

, Ann readily embraced their testimony, and united herself to the society in

HISTORY OF “THE SHAKERS."

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the month of September, 1758, being then in the twenty-third year of her age.”

She had no sooner joined herself to the society than calumniators began to appear, imputing to her every bad motive, and charging her with the commission of every crime; and the enemies of the sect have not scrupled to repeat these calumnies ever since. But the writer of her history repudiates these imputations as utterly groundless, and cites parallel cases of false accusations against the saints in all ages, in which he says:

"It is well known that the primitive Christians were greatly slandered and stigmatized by their heathen neighbours, 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.

“Celsus the Epicurean, upon what he called good authority, charged 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 farther adds, that, 'having been turned out of doors by 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 knew that the stories of these modern calumniators are false,

“The charge of drunkenness alleged against Ann Lee and her companions had no more foundation in truth than the same charges alleged against the apostles and primitive Christians at the day of Pentecost. The truth is, they were under the operation of the same Spirit, and it was attended with the same effects on those who received it, and excited the same opposition in their enemies, and gave rise to the same false accusations.

“While in deep exercise of mind concerning these things, she was brought into a state of excessive tribulation of soul, in which she felt her way hedged up, seemingly, on every side, and was constrained to cry mightily to God to open some way of deliverance. In the midst of her sufferings and earnest cries to God, her soul was filled with Divine light, and the mysteries of the spiritual world were brought clearly to her understanding. She saw the Lord Jesus Christ in his glory, who ! revealed to her the great object of her prayers, and fully satisfied all the desires of her soul. The most astonishing visions and Divine manifestations were presented to her view in so clear and striking a manner, that the whole spiritual world seemed displayed before her. In these extraordinary manifestations she had a full and clear view of the mystery of iniquity, of the root and foundation of human depravity, and of the very act of transgression committed by the first man and woman in the garden of Eden. Here she saw whence and wherein all mankind were lost from God, and clearly realized the only possible way of recovery.

"After Ann was received and acknowledged as the spiritual mother

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and leader of the society, the manner of worship and the exercises in their public assemblies were singing and dancing, shaking and shouting, speaking with new tongues and prophesying, with all those various gifts of the Holy Ghost known in the primitive Church. These gifts progressively increased until the establishment of the Church in America, by which those who were in the spirit of the work were convinced, beyond all doubt or controversy, that it was the beginning of Christ's reign

“A special revelation was then announced to Mother Ann, by which she was commanded to repair to America with her faithful band of fol. lowers, accompanied with a prophecy that the true Millennial Church would ultimately be established in that country. This revelation was communicated to the society, and was soon confirmed by signs, visions, and extraordinary manifestations to many individual members ; and permission was given for all those of the society to accompany her who were able, and who felt any special impressions on their own minds so to do. Accordingly, those who became the companions of Mother Ann in her voyage to America, embarked at Liverpool on board the ship Mariah, Captain Smith, of New York, and sailed on the 19th of May, 1774.

“ When Mother Ann landed at New-York, she counselled those who came with her, for a season, to seek their livelihood where they could find employ, as they were mostly poor, and had nothing to subsist upon but what they obtained by honest industry. Accordingly, they were all scattered in different parts of the country until the spring of the year 1776. She then went by water up to Albany, and from thence to Niskyuna (now Watervliet), and about the month of September fixed her residence where the Church is now established, eighi miles northwest from the centre of the City of Albany."

Such is the history, condensed from the publications of the Shakers themselves, and given in the language of their own writers, of the first founder of their community in America. Large portions of this history have been passed over unnoticed, as consisting of disputes with the public authorities, persecutions, and miraculous deliverances, gifts of prophecy, gifts of tongues, and power of performing miraculous cures; for, though these are referred to triumphantly by the society as proofs of their Divine origin, they may be paralleled by similar proofs in the early history of all the different systems of religion that exist in the world, as well as their subsequent ramifications; and all supported by testimonies sufficient to satisfy those who belong to the particular faith they are intended to confirm, but, unfortunately, having no such effect on any others.

In justice, however, to the believers in those miracles, it is proper to give their own account of the last vision that was seen by their leader, and to add the note upon the passage as the answer to the objections urged against their truth. The narrator of the last moments of Ann Lee thus expresses himself:

Though her bodily sufferings were great, yet she appeared calm, peaceable, and comfortable in spirit, and her usual patience and fortitude appeared conspicuous to the end. She continually grew weaket in body until the 8th of September, between twelve and one o'clock in the morning, when she breathed her last, with

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out a struggle or a groan. Before her departure she repeatedly told those about her that she was going home. Just before she expired, she said, 'I see Brother William coming in a glorious chariot to take me home.' Elder John Hocknell, who was greatly gifted in visions, testified that when the breath left her body, he saw in vision a golden chariot, drawn by four white horses, which received and wafted her soul out of his sight.*

“ Thus,” concludes this writer,“ departed from this mortal stage that extraordinary female, who was chosen of God to commence, in this latter day, the regeneration of a lost world; in whom Christ, in very deed, appeared the second time without sin unto salvation; whose life of righteousness excited against her the enmity of the wicked, and against whose character the envenomed tongue of slander has never ceased to pour forth its calumnies even to this day. In her the sufferings of Christ appeared conspicuous ; in her the righteousness of Christ was clearly manifested to all her faithful followers. In her Christ was revealed the Lord from heaven, a quickening spirit; in her was renewed his example of perfect obedience to the will of his heavenly Father ; in her was revived the way of life and salvation by the cross, and she plainly taught the impossibility of obtaining it in any other way." In her was first wrought the complete redemption of the female; and, through her ministration, a way was opened for the restoration of the female character to its proper lot and dignity, from which it had been degraded by the transgression of the first woman."

Such are the convictions of the whole body of the Shakers respecting the character and mission of their founder ; and Joanna Southcott herself, in the days of her greatest popularity, was not more devoutly reverenced in England, or does not continue to receive greater homage from her followers there at present (who are as numerous, perhaps, as the disciples of Ann Lee), than is paid everywhere by the community of Shakers in America to Mother Ann, as she is always called, and whom they believe to be the last of the prophets, and second revelation of a Saviour to a lost world!

The progress and present state of the society in America they * The following is the biographer's note on this passage : "The visions, prophecies, and revelations mentioned in this work will perhaps be rejected by an unbelieving world as the effects of enthusiasm, superstition, and fanaticism. But, though there may be many, cven among the professors of Christianity, who, generally speaking, have no faith in such manifestations beyond the comprehension of their natural senses ard daily experience, yet this cannot alter the truth nor disannul facts. Therefore, let the sneering unbeliever reflect that the same charge will equally apply to the prophets and saints of all preceding dispensations, who abounded in those gifts. Elijah went up in a fiery chariot, and a cloud received Jesus out of sight. The prophets saw many wonderful visions, and received many revelations, and by Divine inspiration delivered many remarkable prophecies of future events; and who has ever assured man that those who walk in the spirit of Christ, and enjoy communion with the heavenly world, shall not be able to see heavenly visions, and discern spiritual things, and be blessed with spiritual understanding, in this day, as well as under former dispensations ?. It is the darkness of a fallen nature which obscures the light of the soul, and the veil of the flesh which shuts celestial scenes from the view of man; but the Spirit of God is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever."

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