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Title: A Series of Letters, in Defence of Divine Revelation
 - In Reply to Rev. Abner Kneeland's Serious Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Same. To Which is Added, a Religious Correspondence, Between the Rev. Hosea Ballou, and the Rev. Dr. Joseph Buckminster and Rev. Joseph Walton, Pastors of Congregational Churches in Portsmouth, N. H.
Author: Ballou, Hosea
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Series of Letters, in Defence of Divine Revelation
 - In Reply to Rev. Abner Kneeland's Serious Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Same. To Which is Added, a Religious Correspondence, Between the Rev. Hosea Ballou, and the Rev. Dr. Joseph Buckminster and Rev. Joseph Walton, Pastors of Congregational Churches in Portsmouth, N. H." ***

Rev. Felicia Urbanski.


       *       *       *       *       *

Pastor of the Second Universalist Society in Boston.

       *       *       *       *       *


_District of Massachusetts, to wit:
District Clerk's Office_.

Be it remembered, that on the twenty-fifth day of July, A. D. 1820, in
the forty-fifth year of the Independence of the United States of
America, HENRY BOWEN, of the said district, has deposited in this
office, the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as Proprietor
in the words following, to wit:

"A Series of Letters, in defence of Divine Revelation; in reply to
Rev. Abner Kneeland's Serious Inquiry into the authenticity of the
same. By HOSEA BALLOU, Pastor of the Second Universalist Society in
Boston. To which is added, a Religious Correspondence, between the
Rev. Hosea Ballou, and the Rev. Dr. Joseph Buckminster, and Rev.
Joseph Walton, Pastors of Congregational Churches in Portsmouth, N.

In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States,
entitled, "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the
Copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of
such Copies, during the times therein mentioned:" and also to an Act
entitled, "An Act supplementary to an Act, entitled, an Act for the
Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts and
Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies during the times
therein mentioned; and extending the benefits thereof to the Arts of
Designing, Engraving, and Etching Historical, and other Prints."

JOHN W. DAVIS, _Clerk of the District of Massachusetts_


Some few suggestions respecting the following Controversy are thought
necessary in order to inform the reader how it was first introduced,
the motives which led to it, and those which induced to its being
published to the world.

We learn from the Rev. Mr. KNEELAND, that having at different times
been exercised in his mind with serious doubts respecting the
authenticity of the Scriptures, and the system of Divine Revelation,
recorded in them, he was induced to solicit a correspondence with the
Rev. Mr. BALLOU on the subject. That, in order to render the
controversy the more interesting, by calling into action the energies
of mind, and by directing the correspondence to definite purposes, he
assumed the character of a real opponent, determining to maintain the
opposition, in all its forms, until reduced, by necessity, to yield to
successful arguments directed against it. It was with great reluctance
that the advocate for the christian religion, in this controversy,
consented to undertake a work of this nature; not, however, because he
esteemed it unnecessary, or because he entertained any doubts with
regard to the defensibility of revelation, but, as he contends, on
account of the want of abilities and means to do the subject justice.
His opponent, however, being a familiar acquaintance and friend, as
well as a preacher in the same profession of faith with himself,
having led him to believe that a labour of this kind was called for by
the most sacred obligations of brother to brother, he was induced to
render what assistance was in his power, without infringing too much
on other important duties in which he was almost constantly engaged.

When the controversy closed, Mr. KNEELAND felt such an entire
satisfaction in his own mind, that the objections which he had stated
were fairly answered, and the validity of the Scriptures vindicated,
that he was led to believe that to publish the correspondence would be
of service to the cause of Christ. He therefore obtained leave of his
correspondent, and carried the manuscripts to the westward, where he
offered proposals for the work, and obtained a number of subscribers;
but being called to remove to Philadelphia, he was under the necessity
of postponing the publication for a season. The publisher having
obtained some knowledge of this correspondence, and being informed by
the Rev. Mr. KNEELAND that the arguments which it contains were, in
his opinion, calculated to strengthen the believer, as well as confirm
the doubting, he negotiated for the manuscripts and now presents the
work to the public, entertaining a hope that it may serve the interest
of christianity, and promote a respect and veneration for the sacred

The letters which passed between Mr. BALLOU and two respectable
clergymen in the town of Portsmouth, N. H. were some years since
published in Vermont; but several circumstances rendered it proper
that this work should be reprinted. Besides its being nearly or quite
out of print, the first edition was on an inferior paper, the work
badly executed, and a number of errors were discovered.

To those who believe in the universality of divine goodness, the
publisher feels confident the following work will be received and read
with no small satisfaction. And a hope is entertained that it may be
the means of enlightening some, who though they possess the spirit of
universal love and benevolence, have not the felicity of believing in
the divine goodness to the extent of their own desires.




[The first letter of the _objector_ was designed merely as an
Introduction, inviting Mr. B. to the investigation of the important
subject of _moral truth_, or more particularly the truth of _divine
revelation_. The following are extracts.]

"The thought has long since occurred to me that the present age is an
age of discovery and improvement. The human mind seems to be
developing its powers in a most wonderful manner; new inventions, new
discoveries, and new theories are the fruits of new experiments; while
many are improving upon theories and subjects already existing. Thus
human nature seems to be almost prepared to make a regular advance in
_moral_ as well as _scientific truth_.

"However pleasing this must be to every real lover to the arts and
sciences, yet there seems to be a disposition (at least, as it
respects all moral and religious subjects) to chain down the human
mind to its present attainments, and thereby prevent all further
improvement. O how long will it be before common sense shall burst
this bubble of fanaticism, and all its mists become evaporated and
removed by the rays of simple and native truth? Then shall man know
for himself that, under God, all his powers and faculties are as free
as the element he breathes. Free to think, free to speak, and free to
act as reason and good sense shall dictate. Supposing that you and I
should think of setting an example for others, by trying to throw off
the prejudices of a false education, so far as we have been thus
entangled, and search for the _truth within us_, as the foundation of
all TRUTH which materially concerns us to know. Who, except our own
consciences, will ever call us to an account for so doing?

"It gives me pain when I see what time and money, what labour and toil
have been expended, and are still expending, in plodding over, as it
were an old dead letter; to learn languages which exist _no where_
only on paper, barely for the sake of reading the opinions of other
men, in other times; men who lived in other ages of the world, and
under very different circumstances from ourselves; whose opinions, all
of which are worth preserving, might be given in our own language, so
as to answer every purpose which can be answered by them, at less than
a hundredth part of the expense it necessarily requires to obtain a
competent knowledge of those languages in which almost every thing,
supposed to be valuable, has been originally written. And after all,
the truth, or falsity, of every proposition must depend on the truth
or falsity of the principles embraced in it; and not on the language
in which it was originally written.

"If the Greek and Hebrew languages be any security against things
being uttered or written falsely in those languages, I should not only
think it important to learn them, but to adopt them, if possible, as
our vernacular tongue.--But as I believe none will contend for this, I
should like to be informed of what possible service it can be to an
American to learn either of those languages? Is it not a fact, that
every natural as well as moral truth may be fully unfolded to the
understanding without them? This will lead the way to one of the
principal subjects which I mean to discuss. It maybe said, that the
_holy scriptures_ were originally written in Greek and Hebrew: viz.
the bible, which contains a revelation of the will of God concerning
the duty, interest, and final destination of mankind. This, if
admitted, gives the Greek and Hebrew languages an importance that
nothing else could. Hence the importance of preserving the Greek and
Hebrew languages, without which, religion could not be preserved in
its purity. And as all have not an opportunity of attaining to a
knowledge of those languages, it is the more necessary that some
should, lest the knowledge of languages, on which so much is supposed
to depend, should be lost to the world.

"If I understand the above proposition, it seems to be this: The only
revelation of God to man, which was ever recorded on either vellum or
paper, was written partly in Greek and partly in Hebrew; hence, the
revealed will of God cannot be known only through the medium of those
languages. If the truth of all this can be made to appear, I should
find no difficulty in admitting all the consequences which must result
from such premises. It appears a little extraordinary, however, to my
understanding, and not a very little neither, that God should make a
revelation of his will in one age, and not in another; to one nation;
and not to another; or that he should make a revelation in one
_language_, and not in another! If a special revelation, was ever
necessary at all, it is difficult for me to see why it was not equally
necessary in all ages of the world, to all the nations of the earth,
and in all languages ever spoken by man.

"How sweet is truth to the understanding! And, when spoken in a
language every word of which is familiar, how harmonious it sounds to
the ear by which the sentiments find their way to the heart!

"When God speaks to the _inward man_ there is no need of going to
Lexicons, Dictionaries, and Commentaries to know what he means. I
would not complain, however, even of this method to ascertain truth,
if I could be so happy as always to come away satisfied. But to
consider a subject on which much is supposed to depend, and, desiring
if possible to obtain the truth, plod through the dark mists
occasioned by the ambiguity and contradiction of authors, and after
all, be obliged to dismiss the subject as much in the dark as it was
found, is too insupportable to be confided in as the only road to
moral truth.

"Let it not be supposed however, that I mean to insinuate that the
bible contains no moral truth; so far from this, I conceive it to be
replete with moral instruction; that is to say, there are excellent
moral maxims in the bible; but respecting these there is neither
ambiguity nor obscurity; and probably for this plain reason, because
there seems to be no dispute about them. These however are none the
more true for being written, and would have been equally true if found
in any other book, and at the same time not found in the bible. Truth
is truth wherever found, and all moral truth, as well as natural, must
be eternal in its nature.

"Much of the bible however, is merely historical; and whether most of
the things there related are either true or not, I do not see any
connexion they either have, or can have, with either my present or
future happiness. As for instance, I do not see how my happiness is at
all connected with the story of Daniel's being cast into the den of
lions--or of Jonah's being swallowed by a fish! any more than it is
with the story of Remus and Romulus' being nursed by a she wolf! And
if not, these things are matters of total indifference; yea, as much
so as the extraordinary, and, were it not for comparing things
supposed to be sacred with profane, I would say, ridiculous stories in
the heathen mythology. If it should be contended that the facts
recorded in sacred history are necessary to prove the power and
providence of God towards his children, it may be answered that those
in profane history, if true, are equally conclusive. If it should be
said that we cannot place the same confidence in profane history as in
sacred, it brings me to the very subject of my inquiry--viz.

"If the things stated in the bible are no more reasonable than those
in profane history, what reason have we to believe _these_ any more
than _those_? Must not our own reason finally determine for ourselves
whether or not either be true? And if we are in no sense interested in
the truth or falsity of those accounts why need we trouble ourselves
about them?

"Yours, &c, A. KNEELAND."

       *       *       *       *       *


_Much esteemed friend_,--The desire you express of attempting those
researches which seem necessary to promote the further attainment of
moral truth, is appreciated as truly laudable; and did I feel myself
adequate to your wishes, I should enjoy a peculiar felicity in
complying with your request. But so far from this I am very sensible
that the magnitude of the general subject which you have introduced,
requires to be investigated by abilities far superior to those
possessed by me, and demands a tribute from resources not within my
possession. However, as you have imposed an obligation on me by the
communication which is here acknowledged, I will make a feeble attempt
to suggest a few reflections relative to the main subjects of your
epistle, which if they do nothing more, will return merited
acknowledgements and plead the necessity of calling to your assistance
abilities more promising.

While I view the advances which are making in the knowledge of the
arts and sciences, with the pleasure of which you speak, I am
apprehensive that the propensity "to chain down the human mind to its
present attainments, and thereby prevent all further improvements,"
relative to moral truth, may have its rise in a principle, which, so
far from being inimical to man, is, in its general tendency,
incalculably beneficial. No desire is entertained to justify all the
zeal and all the means which are employed to prevent the free exercise
of the human mind, in its researches after divine knowledge, and to
retard the influx of that light which would prove unfavourable to
doctrines which have little more than prescription for their support;
but it seems reasonable to make a proper distinction between what may
be called a salutary principle in the human mind, and a wrong
application or an erroneous indulgence of it. The principle referred
to, inclines us not only to hold in the highest veneration any
improvements which we have made, but also to retain such acquisitions
in their purity. Now it is believed that what you complain of, has its
rise from the foregoing causes, and is nothing more than a wrong or an
erroneous indulgence of a natural desire which in its general tendency
is advantageous. Nothing is more incident to man, than to misapply his
desires, and to overate his reasonable duty. But it is at the same
time believed that a remedy of such defects which should consist in
the destruction of those principles which are improperly acted on,
would be worse than the disorder. And now the thought strikes me, that
the way by which we account for the improprieties which have just been
traced up to their causes, will as charitably account for what seems
to incite you to aim a fatal stroke at a fabric which has its
foundation in the immovable principles of our moral nature, and which,
though through the wanderings of the human mind, may have not a little
hay, wood and stubble, yet possess too much gold, silver and precious
stones, to be forsaken as a pile of rubbish.

It gives you "pain to see what time and money, what labour and toil
have been expended and are still expending in plodding over as it were
an old dead letter; to learn languages which exist _no where_ only on
paper, barely for the sake of reading the opinions of other men who
lived in other times," &c. But you allow that all this would be
necessary if "the only revelation of God to man, which was ever
recorded on vellum or paper was written partly in Greek and partly in
Hebrew," and that "the will of God cannot be known only through the
medium of those languages." In this last particular, you express what
appears very reasonable, and I presume you would be willing to consent
to all this expense and toil, even if the proposition were to lose
part of its importance, and it were only contended that God had
actually made a revelation to man, which was written originally partly
in Greek and partly in the Hebrew, without saying that he has never
caused a revelation to be written originally in any other language.

A revelation from God, if it were written only in the Hebrew or Greek,
would be considered of sufficient value to recompence the labour of
learning the language. But you contend that this revelation, if real,
can be translated into English, but, you must allow that to translate
it, the original must be learned first. Will you say, that after the
translation is once made, the original is of no more use? How then are
future ages to determine whether they have not been imposed on?
Suppose no person of the present age understood the languages in which
the scriptures were first written, surely in this case, those
languages would be lost beyond recovery. Suppose then it should be
doubted whether our bible was not a fabrication, written originally
not in Hebrew nor in Greek, but in some more modern language, how
could the suggestion be refuted?

You appear to be perplexed with the disagreement of authors, as
commentators, and I presume, critics on the original text; you speak
on this subject, as if it were too much for patience to endure. Now,
dear brother, I confess I feel very differently on this subject. I
feel a devout, a religious gratitude to him whose wisdom is
foolishness in the sight of too many of my fellow creatures. I view
the very thing of which you complain, as that fire and crucible which
have preserved the written testimony from any considerable
corruptions. This is a subject on which volumes might be written to
the instruction and edification of the disciples of Jesus.

The queries which you state concerning a revelation's being made in
one age and not in another, in one nation and not in another, in one
language, and not in another, if a special revelation were necessary,
&c. are not considered as very weighty objections to the doctrine of
the scriptures. I believe you will allow that our species of being
commenced on this earth in a different way than that by which it has
been continued. But why should the Creator, create a man and a woman
at one time, and not at all times when he sees fit to multiply his
rational creatures? It is not only evident that God saw that the laws
of procreation were sufficient to perpetuate man, and to multiply his
rational offspring, but it is likewise apparent that the connexions,
relations, and harmonies of society are principally built on this law.
So I humbly conceive, that the continuance and propagation of a divine
revelation are even as well secured by the means which have been
employed for that purpose, as if the Almighty had in every age, and in
every country made such a revelation, and moreover, it is likewise
apparent, that the mental labours necessary in obtaining a knowledge
of these divine things greatly contribute to their enjoyment, and
render the christian fellowship, faith and hope peculiarly interesting
and edifying. Here again I can only suggest a subject on which
voluminous writings might be profitable.

You seem to entertain an idea that the historical part of the bible
can be of no importance to you, as it has no connexion with your
present or future happiness. You instance the particulars of Daniel's
being cast into the den of lions, and Jonah's being swallowed by the
fish, &c. As these are circumstances in the history of that nation
which continues a comment on, and an evidence of prophesy, they are
too interesting to be dispensed with. If you could produce the decree
of a powerful monarch, sent into all parts of his dominions, which was
occasioned by "Remus and Romulus' being nursed by a she wolf," the
case would bear some marks of a parallel. Profane authors advert to
such events as sufficient support of any fact which they endeavor to

I come now to your main object. Speaking in regard to the credibility
of what is written by profane authors, and of that which is recorded
in the scriptures, you ask--"Must not our own reason finally determine
for ourselves whether or not either be true?" To this I reply in the
affirmative; but then reason must have its means and its evidences.
For instance, I read of the death and resurrection of the man Christ
Jesus, I consider this vastly important event as it stands in
connexion with the evidences which support it, and reason is the _eye_
with which I examine these evidences, and when reason is constrained
to say all these circumstances could never have existed unless the
fact were true, it is then I am a believer in Jesus. But if I must
consider the resurrection disconnected from the evidence, reason has
nothing to do with it. Please to accept these hasty remarks, not as an
answer, but as suggestions which may lead to one, and as a testimony
of my respect and esteem.

Yours, &c. H. BALLOU.

       *       *       *       *       *


"A revelation from God, let it be made in any language whatever, I am
very ready to admit, must be considered of sufficient importance, not
only to justify all reasonable pains to preserve it, but also to hand
it down in its original purity to posterity. We owe it, not only in
gratitude to the _giver_, but we owe it in justice to _future
generations_, who would have just occasion to reproach us, if they
could know that so valuable a treasure was put into our hands, which
might have been handed down to them, and that we suffered it to perish
through what must be termed by them, a _criminal neglect_.

"You will perceive, therefore, that I had no particular allusion to a
revelation from God, when I spoke of translating the most valuable of
ancient writings into English. No one will pretend that such
translations could not be made sufficiently accurate to answer all the
purposes, either of history or of the useful arts. It is admitted that
the case is quite different, if there be a mystery in these writings,
the truth of which depends on literary criticism, or grammatical
exactness; but if these writings are nothing more than the bare
opinions and discoveries of _men_, and of men too, as liable to error
as ourselves, and if no one was to view them in a different light, I
apprehend there would be all the confidence placed in a translation,
that could with propriety be placed in the original itself. For, after
all, we should try the facts by other corroborating testimony; and as
to the opinions, we should judge of them only by the reasonableness
and fitness of things. Although I have heard it objected to the
translation of _Seneca's Morals_, that much of the beauty of the style
is lost in the translation, yet I never heard it pretended but that
the ideas are sufficiently clear; but the case would have been quite
different if mankind had ever been taught to believe that their final
and eternal salvation depended in the least degree on an exact
observance of those moral principles. And I very much question whether
there ever has been a translation of the bible, or even of any other
work, in which the most important facts were not sufficiently
apparent. If the fact can be supposed otherwise, it must be admitted
that, comparatively speaking, but very few people at the present day
are benefited by a revelation from God. For the great mass of mankind
have to receive the bible altogether on the credit of others. And who
are their guides in this case? Answer, Translators and Commentators!
And as these men made no pretentions to inspiration, unless the
translation is _substantially_ correct, as to matters of fact, how are
the common people benefited by a revelation from God!"

[Having adverted to the previous studies in the dead languages, which
are required before an admittance can be obtained in our common
colleges, the objector proceeds.]

"But I am off from my main subject. I will now endeavour to call up
all my mental faculties, seriously to attend to a revelation from God.
The idea suggested in these words is beyond all expression awfully
sublime. Yea, not even the bursting of _Vesuvius_, not the
_aurora-borealis_, not the forked _lightning_, not the tremendous
_earthquake_, no, nor yet the greatest _phenomenon in nature_, of
which the human mind can conceive, can afford such ideas of the truly
sublime, as the _truth_, if it could be realized, of the above
proposition. Let me not hastily reject without serious reflection,
that, which of all truths, must be the most important. O help me, my
dear friend, help me also, O thou who art the only source of truth,
thoroughly to investigate this momentous subject! But let me not be
deceived. Let me not receive for truth, that which cannot be made
sufficiently clear to my understanding. There can be no more harm in
_doubting_, than in _believing_, where the evidence is not clear. All
that which appertains to eternal truth will remain, whether I now see
it or not; and that which does not appertain to it will never be
realized, although I may now be made to believe it. There can be no
harm, therefore, in investigating this subject in the same way and on
the same principles, as I would investigate all subjects. Although I
cannot expect to offer any thing very new, yet I am disposed to
examine the subject for myself, and that too, in my own way. I shall
quote no authors, for I have not read but few on this subject which
meet my approbation, and even them are not now by me. My own
understanding is the only author to which I shall appeal. If that can
be cleared of the difficulties which have fallen in its way, I am
willing, yea I wish, still to believe in divine revelation.

"Here let me close my preamble, which is already made too lengthy, and
come immediately to discourse 'ON DIVINE REVELATION.'

"In order to know the truth or falsity of any proposition, we must in
the first place understand the terms by which the proposition is made;
for without such previous knowledge, we cannot know what is meant
either to be affirmed or denied. By _divine revelation_, I understand
'a communication of sacred truth,' made directly from God to man. In
order for any man to know that a revelation has been made to him from
God, it must be made in such a way, that neither his perception, nor
his judgment or understanding, can possibly be mistaken. For, as man
by his reason alone, never could have foreseen that a revelation would
be made, therefore, unless it should have been made in such a way that
he could not have been deceived, a rational man would be more likely
to conclude that he was deceived, than that, which to him would seem
more unlikely, should be true. It seems, therefore, that a revelation
from God to all our conceptions of the fact, must be considered, if
existing at all, as something supernatural; otherwise it could be
nothing more than discovery, or a fortuitous event. Hence a revelation
from God, however true, and however clear, to the person or persons to
whom it was first communicated, must lose its evidence, in some
degree, when it comes to be communicated by him or them to others;
for, being communicated to others, although it is still revelation,
yet not being received immediately from God, it cannot be accompanied
with the same evidence which it was in the first place; therefore, to
say the most of it, it is nothing more than the _history_ of a
revelation. It is made no less true than it was before; but its truth
now rests upon very different testimony.

"The principles in nature all existed, before they were discovered by
man. Their being discovered, neither changed their nature, nor made
them any more true. What consternation a total eclipse of the sun, or
of the moon must have produced, before their cause was known? They are
now viewed, especially that of the latter, among the common
occurrences of nature. Yea, many of the operations of nature, which
are now perfectly understood by chemists, could they be viewed by the
common people, who know not their causes, they would be inclined to
believe they were supernatural. At least, it would not be difficult to
make them believe so, especially when this knowledge was confined to a
few, and those few were so disposed. These remarks are not designed to
do away the force of any arguments which may be founded on miracles;
for this is no proof that miracles may not exist; but then, how is a
miracle a revelation of any thing more than what is contained in the
miracle itself? This is what I cannot see, but I shall have occasion
to say more on this subject hereafter. It will be needless for me to
object to the inferences drawn from miracles until a miracle is

"If a man absolutely knows something of which I am ignorant, and
informs me of it, it makes no difference to me how he come by his
knowledge--it is revelation to me. It may not be divine revelation;
but supposing it is, or is not, in either case, how am I to believe?
Is it any thing that will admit of mathematical demonstration? If so,
I shall take up with nothing short of being convinced in this way. Is
it any thing which he has discovered? If so, he must give me evidence
of such a discovery. Is it something to which he was an eye witness?
Then the truth to me, depends for the present, entirely on his
credibility. I must be convinced in the first place that he was not
deceived himself, and secondly, that he has no motive in deceiving me.
And evidence equally conclusive must accompany the truth of divine
revelation, or it ought not, nay more, it cannot, rationally be
believed. But supposing that I am convinced of the truth, and
therefore believe; and I relate the same to a third person; is it
equally revelation to him as it was to me? Yes, it may be so
considered, in one sense, at least, for it informs him of something of
which he was before ignorant, as much so as it did me, but then the
truth of the fact does not rest with him on equal testimony, and
therefore he is more excusable if he does not believe. If, however, he
can believe all that I believe, and in addition to that, believe also
in _me_, then, and not till then, he will become a believer in the
same truth. But if he even suspects my veracity, it weakens in his
mind, all the other testimony; and though he may still believe in the
main proposition, yet he believes with less strength of evidence.

"Here a very important question arises in my mind. Is divine
revelation something that rests entirely on matters of _fact_; or is
the most essential part, which concerns us to know, a mere matter of
_opinion_? On a few moments of reflection, however, it appears that
this can hardly admit of a question. For all that relates to a future,
and an eternal state, must be a mere matter of opinion only; and the
facts recorded in the scriptures are supposed to corroborate and
substantiate those opinions. Now, as they respect matters of fact, I
believe the scriptures are substantially the same in all versions, and
in all languages into which they have been translated. And if so,
there is no need of learning the original languages in order to become
acquainted with the matters of fact recorded in the bible. We never
should have seen, nor even heard, of so much controversy and biblical
criticism, if the disputes had been wholly relative to matters of
fact. No, all the various readings, different translations, and
interpolations, have little or nothing to do with a dispute of this
kind. But if the facts can he disputed, they must be disputed upon
other grounds than that of biblical criticism.

"Take, for instance, the 'death and resurrection of the man Christ
Jesus,' which you have mentioned; can any one suppose that there ever
was, or ever will be, a translation which makes any thing more or less
in favour of this fact? This is not pretended. And if not, how does a
knowledge of the Greek language help me to believe this fact?

"This brings me again to my main subject; and now two very important
questions arise in my mind.

"1. In relation to the facts, as stated, respecting the life, death,
and resurrection of the 'man Christ Jesus;' are they positively and
absolutely true?

"2. Admitting the truth of the facts, does it necessarily follow, or
is there any thing which renders it certain, that, in regard to other
things, neither he, nor the apostles, so called, could be mistaken?
And that, in all their writings, they have stated nothing which is
incorrect? That is, what certain evidence have we that the writers of
the books, which being compiled, are called the New Testament, were
all honest men? That they could not have been mistaken relative to the
things which they have written? And that in every instance, they have
written the truth?

"Respecting the first proposition, I have already observed that the
truth of it does not, neither can it, depend on biblical criticism.
They are either facts, which are substantially correct, or they are
fabrications. The circumstantial differences between the original
copies themselves, as recorded by the four Evangelists, are much
greater than what can be found in all the different versions,
translations, &c. that have been collated. Hence no argument can be
brought against the truth of those facts from either a real or
supposed difference between the translation, and their respective
originals. For even if not only the original copies, but the language
also in which they were originally written, should be entirely lost,
it would not militate, as I can see, against the truth of the facts
therein recorded.

"The translation acknowledges and affirms itself to be a _translation_
out of the 'original Greek,' together with former translations
compared, &c. Now permit me to ask, is not this as good evidence of
the existence of the _original Greek_, as the original Greek is of the
_facts_ intended to be proved thereby? I should consider the
translation of any work, which was generally known at the time of its
translation, better evidence of the existence of such a work, though
the original should be entirely lost, than the work itself, even in
the original, could be of the existence of facts, which, if they
existed at all, were known at first to but very few.

"You have suggested, sir, that if the original of the scriptures were
entirely lost, future ages would not know but they had been 'imposed
upon.' I think, however, you will not insist on this point, lest you
should destroy an argument, which, hereafter, you may very much need.
I recall my words. For this seems to imply that we are already engaged
in a controversy; whereas, I trust we are both candidly in search of
truth. I suspect, however, there is too much truth in your suggestion;
but then its truth, instead of relieving, only increases my

"Every one must know that when the translation of the scriptures was
first made, the original not only existed, but it must have been known
to others, beside the translators, who were able to detect the
_fraud_, if there had been any, as to substantial matter of fact. And,
in a work of so great importance, this certainly would have been the
case. Hence you will at once perceive, that when the copies were few
in number, and before the art of printing was discovered, fabrications
and interpolations might find their way into the original scriptures
with much greater facility, than could any considerable variations by
an intentionally erroneous translation; especially after the work
become generally known, and so highly valued, as to require a
translation of it.

"As you admit that 'reason is the _eye_ by which we are to examine the
evidences' which stand in support of the 'resurrection of the man
Christ Jesus,' and of course, as I presume, by which we are to examine
the evidences in support of all other subjects, I shall say no more
upon this part of the subject until I hear your reasons for believing
in the resurrection of Jesus; for this fact, as I conceive, must be
considered the main hinge on which the whole Christian system rests,
if it can be supported by any fact, on which it will finally turn.

2. "But after all, my greatest difficulty is with my second
proposition. To relate facts substantially correct, which persons have
either seen or heard, requires no degree of uncommon skill, or
uncommon honesty; but to state things which will absolutely take
place, which are yet future, requires something more than common
skill; and to state things correctly, which will take place in
eternity, must, as I conceive, require nothing short of _divine
wisdom_. That the evangelists have stated nothing more than what is
_substantially_ correct, as it respects matters of fact, will be
admitted by all: for every one knows there is a _circumstantial_
difference in their writings, both as it respects the order of time,
and in several instances, as it respects matters of fact.

"If the account given us of Jesus be even substantially correct, I
think there can be no reasonable doubt but that he was capable of
telling his disciples every thing which it concerns us to know
relative to a future state of existence.--But I have been often struck
with astonishment, when reflecting on the subject, that Jesus said so
little in regard to a future state! Notwithstanding he was long with
his disciples, as we are told after his resurrection, and did eat and
drink with them; yet, how silent he was upon the subject of eternity,
and of a future and spiritual world! At the only time when we should
rationally suppose that he could be a competent witness in the case,
admitting his death and resurrection true, is the time when he is
entirely silent as to the final and eternal state of man! Should we
admit therefore that Jesus at this time was capable of declaring
eternal truths, yet, as he testified nothing on the subject, nothing
relative to the subject can be proved from his testimony.

"It may be said that Christ had plainly taught his disciples
respecting this subject, previous to his death, and therefore it was
not necessary for him to say any thing more respecting it. But a
confirmation of what he had before taught, if it had been repeated
after his resurrection, would have added great weight to his former
testimony. We need not dwell however, upon these niceties, as the main
question is not involved in them. Yet I am inclined to think that if
all the words of Christ, which have been handed down to us, should be
closely examined, they would be found to be much more silent on the
subject of a future state than many have supposed. But the main
question is, are we certain that he could not have been mistaken in
the things whereof he affirmed? This question may be thought
_blasphemous_: but I cannot see wherein the blasphemy consists; for I
cannot help making the inquiry, in my own understanding, and as my
object is to gain instruction, I put the inquiry on paper. You may say
that Jesus was endowed with _divine wisdom_, and therefore could not
err. That divine wisdom cannot err, I admit, but does divine wisdom
secure man at all times, and under all circumstances, from mistake? If
the man Christ Jesus was in fact _man_ (and that he was man, even
Trinitarians admit) notwithstanding he was endowed with divine wisdom,
why might he not without any dishonour to the Deity, be sometimes left
to exercise only the wisdom of _man_? And to say that the wisdom of
man cannot err, would be saying contrary to daily experience. I have
not contended that Jesus ever erred; but I contend that he must have
been liable to error, or else he was not man. And the supposition that
he did not err, not even in thought or opinion, ought not to be
admitted without the most conclusive testimony.

"But whatever may be the conclusion on this subject, as it respects
the 'man Christ Jesus--a man approved of God,' yet what shall we say
concerning the apostles? Were they also absolutely secured from error?
These men, according to the confession of one of them at least, not
only had been, but still were--_sinners_. Paul, notwithstanding his
apostleship, still acknowledges the plague of his own heart 'I am
carnal, sold under sin--when I would do good, evil is present with
me--O wretched man that I am!' &c. Are such men absolutely proof
against even the error of opinion? It appears to me there are too many
incidents of imperfection recorded in the lives of the apostles to
admit all this. Peter once rebuked his master, at another time denied
him. He once objected to the voice of the spirit, and was afterwards
accused by his brethren for obeying it. Paul accused Peter to his
face, and also disagreed with Barnabas. And other circumstances might
be named, proving them to be destitute of intuitive knowledge.
Considering, therefore, all these things, how do we know but that in
their zeal to do good, (for I do not consider the apostles bad men;
neither do I think any the worse of Paul for either acknowledging his
own faults, or detecting the dissimulation of Peter,) I say therefore,
in their zeal to do good, how do we know but that they stated things
relative to another world, which were only inferences, which, as they
supposed, were justly drawn from what they had either seen or heard,
or else what their own fruitful imagination dictated? If we are at
liberty to view the apostles in this light, however highly their
opinions are to be valued and respected, yet I see no occasion of
investigating their writings with the eye of biblical or grammatical
criticism; for after all, they are but the opinions of men like

"But if it can be demonstrated that the opinions of the writers of the
New Testament can be relied on, as containing eternal truth, without
any mixture of error, then it is very important for us to know the
meaning of all the words they used, not only as it respects their
general import, but also the exact and particular sense in which they
used them. This however cannot be done without a thorough
acquaintance, not only with the Greek, but also with the Hebrew
language, for they used many Hebraisms, which, with a knowledge of the
Greek only, we should not be likely fully to comprehend.

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Much esteemed friend_,--In replying to your second number, you will
excuse me if I begin by finding some fault, in which, however, I will
endeavour to be as sparing as the case will admit.

On the subject of the languages, after reading in your first number
the following in its connexion: "If I understand the above
proposition, it seems to be this; the only revelation of God to man,
which was ever recorded on vellum or paper, was written partly in
Greek and partly in Hebrew; hence the revealed will of God cannot be
known only through the medium of these languages. If the truth of all
this could be made to appear," &c. and after replying to your argument
on this subject, I can hardly account for the insinuation in your
second number, by which you suggest, that you had no particular
allusion to a revelation from God when you spoke of translating the
most valuable of ancient writings, &c. The subject of a revelation you
acknowledge to be your main object; if this be the case, you have this
object in view when you speak of the Greek and Hebrew, and also when
you speak of the arts and sciences.

You contend in your second number, that the translation of the
Scriptures out of the original languages is as good evidence of the
existence of the original, as the original could be of the facts they
relate, &c. And this I believe is the only acknowledgement you make in
favour of the original's having been any benefit. You seem not willing
to allow that the retaining of the original language is of any use in
proving to after generations that the translation was correct, which
seems not easy to account for. But I will give you no further trouble
on the subject of this nature; nor will I occupy my time in
investigating the question relative to the necessity of studying those
languages, which you acknowledge is off from your main subject, and
take some notice of your queries respecting a divine revelation.
Although I am unable to trace the connexion of many of your remarks
with which you call your main subject, yet I am not disposed to doubt
that you comprehend such connexion--I think I understand your
statements so as to be able to discern the following particulars, as
subjects of your inquiry.

"1st. Is it reasonable to suppose that God has ever made a special
revelation to man? 2d. Is the resurrection of Jesus capable of being
proved? And, 3d. If so, does it follow that this was designed by
divine wisdom to give us any hope respecting a future state?"

It is not pretended that you have stated these questions just in this
order, but these are the subjects which your second number suggests to
my mind.

I shall take a much nearer road to come to a solution of these
questions, than that which would lead me to follow you through all
your remarks, because you have furnished me with the means to do so.

1st. You acknowledge that a divine revelation "if real," is of "all
truths the most important." Here let the eye of reason examine. Why
should a revelation from God be more important than those discoveries
which our Creator has enabled us to make in the arts and sciences? Why
should such revelation be more important than the use of the mariner's
compass, or the art of printing? Even without contending that a divine
revelation is of any greater importance than the arts and sciences,
your allowing it any importance at all, is, in the eye of reason an
argument in its support. Had you taken the other road, and contended
that there was no necessity of a revelation, and had you been able to
make this appear, you would have proved to the eye of reason, that a
Being of infinite wisdom, who can never act without a just cause, had
never made a revelation. But if reason admits of its importance, as
long as this is the case, it will be looking not only with a fervent
desire, but with expectation till it makes the discovery. You will, no
doubt, allow that a divinely munificient Creator would not omit any
thing which is of importance to his intelligent creatures.

Perhaps you will, (though I do not see why you should) call up a
former query, which was answered in my first, which answer was not
receipted in your second, and ask why this revelation was not made in
every nation, in every language, and in every age? But you will be
sensible that the same questions might be stated respecting the
progress of science and the discovery of the arts useful to a refined
state of society.

You will not think it strange that I am some disappointed that you
took no notice of my remarks on the above query as I really attach
importance to that little piece of reasoning. If reason has no
reluctance in acknowledging that man is multiplied and continued here
by a law which was not able to bring him into existence at first, why
may not a revelation from God, be perpetuated by different means than
those which first made it, and thereby the great object be even better
secured than by a perpetual revelation, which would seem to render
research unnecessary, and leave the reasoning powers without employ?

But it is time for me to inform you that I feel myself under no
obligations to labour to prove what you and I and many thousands of
others have considered sufficiently proved from ancient prophesy with
which our heavenly Father has favoured so many ages and nations and
languages. And furthermore, permit me to tell you, that if you are
disposed to doubt and to disprove what you acknowledge to be of such
vast importance, it is your province to bring forward your strong
reasoning, if such you have, by which the prophesies of the old
testament, those delivered by Christ and his apostles shall be made to
appear either to have no just analogy with the events of which they
speak, or that they were contrived by impostors since the events took

2d. You acknowledge the validity of the evidences in favor of the
resurrection of Jesus. You say; "That the evangelists have stated
nothing more than what is substantially correct, as it respects
matters of fact, will be admitted by all." Again; "I do not consider
the apostles bad men." Now the apostles are the deponents who solemnly
testify the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. Why should you wish me
to prove what you allow to be true? Why do you not take the other
hand, and say the apostles were impostors, they were the opponents of
the righteous rulers of the Jews who put their master to death? Why do
you not avail yourself of the story put into the mouths of the guard
who watched the sepulchre, and say that those timid disciples who all
fled and left Jesus when they saw him bound, not only went to the
sepulchre and stole the body of Jesus and hid it where no mortal could
ever find it, but then went to Jerusalem and boldly affirmed he was
alive, who was dead, and then had the boldness and audacity to accuse
the rulers of having "denied the holy one and the just, and desired a
murderer to be delivered unto them; and of having killed the prince of
life, whom God had raised from the dead?" The reason is obvious, you
see the impropriety of such argument.--But:

3d. Allowing the resurrection of Jesus, the truth of divine
revelation, the honesty of the apostles of Jesus, are we to rely on
what they say respecting a future state? Answer, yes, most assuredly.
For here let reason ask, whether a divine revelation founded on the
resurrection of Jesus could have a more reasonable object, than the
bringing to light, life and immortality? Again let reason ask whether
the divine Being would endow Jesus and his apostles with the gift of
miracles, by which the divinity of their missions was proved to the
understanding of all who believed, and then suffer them to teach
things of a moral, a religious, or of an eternal nature which were not
true? By so doing, it would seem that God gave power to heal the sick
and to raise the dead for no other purpose than to gain the attention
of men to what was the mere guess work of men subject to error in the
things which they pretended to teach.

For myself I am perfectly satisfied that infinite goodness would never
do any thing so imperfectly. I am satisfied, being convinced of the
truth of the facts which you acknowledge, that the testimony of Jesus
and his apostles respecting this and the coming world, may be relied
on with the utmost confidence and safety. You intimate that Jesus said
but a little on the subject of a future state. I am entirely of your
opinion. And yet I am persuaded that he and his apostles have said as
much on the subject as is necessary for us to believe. They have given
sufficient proof that the design of our Creator is a design of eternal
goodness to our race of being. Jesus has brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel. The Christian is enabled to hope for
existence with God in an eternal state, and this is as much as our
present welfare requires. I have no doubt that many passages of
scripture have been applied to a future world, by Christian
expositors, which have no allusion to such a case--but this harms not
the glorious truths and divine realities of the religion of the
blessed Saviour.

I have many reasons for not believing in the general sentiment that
supposes the revelation contained in the scriptures was designed to
prepare men in this world for happiness in another, and that a want of
a correct knowledge of this revelation here, would subject the
ignorant to inconveniences in a future state. Such a sentiment is an
impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God. For if this were the
case, why was the gospel not early published to all people? Why were
ages after ages suffered to pass away, and generations after
generations permitted to sink into eternity without a ray of that
light which was indispensable to their everlasting happiness? Was it
not as easy for the eternal to send his son at the dawn of time as
after so many ages had passed away? Was it not as easy for him to
communicate to all nations as to one? But divine wisdom has seen fit
to manifest itself by degrees in the system of the gospel as well as
in the knowledge of science; and we have no more evidence to believe,
that those who go from this state to another ignorant of the gospel of
Christ, will, on that account, be rejected of God from his favour,
than we have to believe that those who have died ignorant of the
sciences, will, on that account be so rejected.

Every communication from God, whether relative to the moral or
physical world is evidently designed for our profit in the state where
such communication is made. This improvement of the moral and
religious state of man was the evident design of the revelation of
God, and to this agree all the prophets. "Instead of the thorn shall
come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the

You seem to be opposed to biblical criticisms. So am I, if the object
be to fix a creed to which all must conform on pain of being
anathematized, but if the object be to get the right understanding of
the sacred text all in humble submission to that CHARITY which is
greater than a FAITH that could remove mountains, no harm can ever
arise from it, but a benefit.

No one can more sincerely wish to have the frivolities of superstition
and the endless multitude of nothings which arrogant creed-makers have
impiously superadded to pure christianity removed from the church than
I do; but wisdom must direct in this great and necessary work. It was
those who had more zeal than discernment who asked if they should
pluck up the tares from among the wheat? They were told that they
would pluck up the wheat with the tares.--Let us be careful, my
brother, and in our zeal to cleanse, take care and not destroy.

If you are troubled with unbelief, if this plague have entered your
heart, permit me to suggest a remedy. Humility is the first step,
sincere piety towards God the second, let these be followed by that
for which the Bereans were commended and the deadly virus of unbelief
will soon be purged. Will you say; "physician heal thyself?" I reply,
I think I have found relief by the use of the prescription, and am so
much in favour of it, that I am determined to continue its application
myself as well as recommend it to others. If you ask why I do not
direct some arguments more cogently to prove divine revelation? I
answer, in the first place, you have granted the validity of the
evidences; and secondly, if I think of the attempt, the brilliant
labours of better abilities argue the impropriety of it.

But if you think it necessary to labour this subject, I will propose
the single instance of the conversion of St. Paul for investigation.
By this means we shall be kept from rambling after different subjects.
If you can give a reasonable account of this conversion without
admitting the truth of christianity, I will acknowledge you have left
me destitute of one evidence on which I now rely. On the other hand,
if you fail in this, you may reasonably suppose that you would fail in
any other case of equal moment in this general controversy.

Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *

[The letter containing _extracts_ No. 1, having been laid before the
Rev. EDWARD TURNER, of Charlestown, Mass. he saw fit to reply to it.
The following are extracts from his letter.]

"Passing over the principal parts of your introduction, which
generally embrace sentiments to which I readily subscribe, I will just
notice what you say concerning the study of languages. I am not so
tenacious of this kind of study, as to believe that too much time has
not often been employed in it. I am also convinced with you, that 'the
truth or falsity of every proposition must depend on the truth or
falsity of the principles embraced in it.' But still I am not able to
say that the study of Greek and Hebrew can be of no 'possible service
to an American.' Neither, because those languages are not a perfect
'security' against falsehood, does it necessarily follow that they are
no 'security' at all. For how shall we arrive at the knowledge of the
'principle embraced in a proposition' without the knowledge and use of
language? We cannot in any other way. Now if it be a fact, that a
proposition embracing certain principles may suffer by translation,
and even its principles be perverted and misrepresented, then, an
understanding of the original, in which the proposition was written,
may, in my opinion, be very useful. It may assist a man to arrive at a
true knowledge of the 'principles' upon which said proposition is

"'It gives you pain to see what time and money, what labour and toil
are expended in plodding over an old dead letter, to learn languages,
which exist no where only on paper, barely for the sake of reading the
opinions of other men, in other times; men who lived in other ages of
the world, and under very different circumstances from ourselves,
whose opinions (all of which are worth preserving) might be given in
our own language, so as to answer every purpose,' &c.--But if these
'opinions' should be given in our own language, there must be some to
understand Greek and Hebrew, or the opinions of those ancient writers,
let them be worth ever so much, would never find their way to us. And
when we have gained those supposed opinions, through the translation,
how do we know that the translators were faithful? Who can say they
were not warped by system? not misled by preconceived ideas? Who can
say they have not wilfully imposed upon us? Under such circumstances,
the ability to detect any inaccuracies or imposition, would, in my
view, be very desirable. You have, yourself, my brother, availed
yourself of this ability, and very justly merited the gratitude of
your readers, by rectifying the judgment, upon certain terms used in
the scriptures, the former translation of which, you have disavowed.
As I value those efforts of yours, and have been instructed and
edified by them, I am proportionably sorry to find them treated in the
language of disparagement.

"You observe that 'the learned are as much at variance with each other
as the unlearned,' and this circumstance you say, 'weakens your
confidence.' But upon what subject are they not at variance, even
where Greek and Hebrew are not concerned? Have philosophers been
always agreed, when they have discoursed in one language? Have
chemists been always of one opinion, though the subjects of their
investigations are material bodies? You will not reply affirmatively.
And if not, and no system can be found which is not in some degree
'liable to misconstruction, disputation and deception,'--what are we
to do? Shall we depend upon nothing? Shall we remain immovable for
fear we should fall? Shall we never attempt to walk for fear we should
stumble? I must be allowed to express my concern, that, it should
appear 'not a little extraordinary to you that God should make a
revelation of his will in one age and not in another, to one nation
and not to another, or in one language and not in another, and if a
special revelation was ever necessary at all it is difficult for you
to see, why it is not equally necessary, in all ages of the world, to
all nations of the earth and in all languages ever spoken by man.' It
is true, I may be unable to see why a revelation was not equally
necessary to one nation as well as to another, and at the same time,
but is this a proof that no revelation was ever made to any nation at
any time? I know of no special reason why the laws of electricity were
not developed to my grandfather as well as to Dr. Franklin, with whom
he was contemporary; or why the great principles of civil liberty
should not have been discovered to other nations as well as to our
own, and at the same time, or to ALL nations, a thousand years before
they were discovered to one. But all this is no discredit to those
discoveries. But I find reason to doubt whether a revelation 'is
equally necessary in all ages of the world.' I doubt whether a special
revelation is NOW necessary; and for a very obvious reason; because a
special revelation has already been made. And as this, though at
first, really special, follows the general course of other things
which are beneficial, and which commence with a few and diffuse
themselves to many, it is a reason which precludes the necessity of a
constant recurrence of miracles or any other special medium of
revelation. You certainly will not deny, that, admitting there has
been a revelation from God, it has been progressive like all things
else, which involve the interests of man. If we admit these facts,
they will go far to explain some of the difficulties, to which you
allude; but if we do not, our disbelieving in a special revelation
will not remove, but increase our difficulties.

"Your's, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


[To the extracts above, the objector replied as follows.]

"Remarking on the doubts which unavoidably arise in my mind on account
of the diversity in the opinions of the learned respecting the meaning
of certain parts of the scriptures, our friend asks, 'upon what
subject are they (the learned) not at variance, even when Greek and
Hebrew are not concerned? Have chemists been always of one opinion?'
&c. which must be answered in the negative. Nevertheless I may take
liberty to observe that inasmuch as they have disagreed, it shews that
the subjects about what they have disagreed, are as yet obscure, and
therefore perhaps none of them are entitled to full and complete
'confidence:' for whatever is plain and obvious, men seldom disagree
about. That the sun and moon are _globes_, and not _triangles_, all
are agreed; and it would be impossible to raise a dispute on the
subject: but whether either or both of them are inhabited, or even
capable of being inhabited, by rational beings, similar or like unto
ourselves, is a proposition not so clear, and respecting which the
greatest philosophers might possibly disagree. The above remarks are
intended to shew that when men differ in opinion, whether learned or
unlearned, it is obvious that the truth about which they differ, to
say the most of it, is yet but obscurely made manifest to their

"In order to remove an objection, to the idea of revelation, on
account of its being made only to one nation, &c. our friend says, 'It
is true, I may be unable to see why a revelation was not equally
necessary to one nation as well as to another, and at the same time;
but is this a proof that no revelation was ever made to any nation at
any time?' I am very ready to answer this question in the _negative_.
But at the same time I must be excused for not being able to see any
analogy between revelation and the discovery of the laws of
electricity; as mentioned by our brother; and therefore my mind is not
to be relieved from its difficulty in this way. If it could be proved
that the principles manifested by revelation were like the principles
in nature, against the developement of which there is no great barrier
at one time than at another except what exists in the ignorance of
man; and if the Christian could now try the experiment over again, and
thereby demonstrate the truth of the doctrine of the _resurrection_,
the same as the philosopher can try the experiment for himself, and
thereby demonstrate the truth of the doctrine _of electricity_, then
my doubts or surprise at the seeming partiality in the developement or
discovery of the principles of the doctrine _of revelation_ would be
entirely removed. But the very idea of a _revelation_ supposes the
manifestation of it to differ essentially from all the discoveries of
man. Therefore the remarks of our friend relative to the laws of
electricity, &c. seem to be hardly in point. The evidences of
revelation to all, excepting those to whom the revelation was first
made, are in their very nature essentially different from the
evidences of natural philosophy, chemistry, &c. For these are founded
in immutable principles which never vary, and are ever open at all
times to thorough investigation and experiment. Hence if the learned
have any doubts on the subject, those doubts may be removed by occular
demonstration; and even when they are enabled by any new discoveries
to correct some former opinions, which were either founded on mere
conjecture or imperfect reasoning, yet the first principles still
remain, and the former evidences, instead of being weakened, are
increased by every new discovery or experiment in the developement of
truth. But not so with evidences of divine revelation. Although ever
so clear at first, and so well supported by facts, concerning which
the witness had the clearest evidence, yet the evidences being of such
a nature as preclude a repetition, like those respecting a vision of
the night or any other phenomenon, are liable to suffer by passing
from one to another, and also to be impaired by every change which
they are caused to pass. And if the evidences of any fact may be
weakened at all, either by lapse of time, or by passing through
different hands; by the same causes, if continued, they may lose all
their strength. That the evidences of some facts may be thus weakened,
I believe will not be denied. Hence what was once clear may be now
doubtful, and in process of time may become entitled to no credit. If
therefore the evidence of revelation either have been, or ever shall
by any circumstances whatever be thus impaired, then a new revelation
may become necessary either to revive or to strengthen the evidences
of the old. If Christ should make his second appearance, according to
the opinions of some, it would be as much of a revelation as his first
appearance was; and this new revelation would corroborate and confirm
the old; but if nothing of the kind should ever take place, and if
there should be nothing more to confirm the validity of prophesy, but
let the world pass on for several thousand years as we know it has for
fifteen hundred years past, how long will either the Jews or
christians believe in divine revelation?

"I believe however, we had better see whether the old revelation can
be fully proved before we go very far into the inquiry whether a new
one is necessary.

"That I deserve any credit in the opinion of our friend or my own
conscience for the unwearied pains I have taken to ascertain the
correct ideas communicated to us in the scriptures is very grateful to
my feelings; and let it not be imagined for a moment that I feel at
all disposed to shrink from my former assiduity; for as long as the
world, or any considerable part thereof, believe the scriptures to be
divine revelation I think it very important that they should have a
correct understanding of them. So long therefore as I hold this to be
my profession, I mean faithfully to pursue it; ever remembering that I
am not accountable in the least degree either for the truth or falsity
of the bible, but only for my faithfulness in preaching, taking heed
that I do not preach that for bible, which is not bible.

"Let not my brethren be 'concerned,' or made in the least degree
unhappy on my account. My mind was never more tranquil respecting
religious subjects than at the present moment. My doubts, whatever
they are, give me no uneasiness; they only excite me to diligence and
assiduity in endeavouring by all possible means to ascertain the
truth; and wherever, or in whatever light, it shall be discovered, I
am fully satisfied that eternal truth is perfectly right, yea just as
it should be.

"For, provided deism should prove true in its stead, what is there to
be lost if christianity fails? Ought we not to be thankful for, and
also satisfied with the truth of either? It appears to me that all
ought to be satisfied with the truth whatever it may be; and therefore
my present object is to ascertain, if possible, what truth is.

"'Did human reason,' saith he, 'unassisted by divine light make the
discovery?' (i. e. of the 'unity of God.')--'Then indeed would "all
nations, in all ages," have possessed the great object made manifest
by revelation.' In answer to this, I would only ask, were not the laws
of electricity discovered by 'human reason unassisted by divine
light?' Why then were they not known to 'all nations, in all
ages?'--The fact is, what reason is capable of discovering may also be
long concealed from the eye of reason.

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Dear Sir, and Brother_,--As I have not the opportunity of presenting
your third number to our mutual friend and brother, to whom it most
properly belongs to reply, I have thought it no more than reasonable
that I should acknowledge the receipt of your favour accompanying this
acknowledgement with some observations on the most essential parts of
what you have suggested.

You wish us to take it for granted, that those parts of our
communications to which you make no reply, are at least, generally
speaking, satisfactory to your mind. Respecting this particular, you
will suffer me to point out, what appears to me, a very material
defect in your proposed method.

Suppose, sir, an argument be laid down on which much depends, in the
opinion of the writer, and out of a proper reply to which, he
anticipates great advantages; he waits for a reply--No reply comes to
this particular, but the very same query which the argument was
designed to answer is still urged; is it not easy to see that much
labour may be in vain in consequence of this method? If you answer to
a question, stating with great seeming earnestness, viewing the
question of importance in the mind of him who states it, you would not
only expect, but you might really need to be informed what effect your
reply was allowed to have in the mind of your opponent. And as he
might not anticipate the use which you had designed to make of his
answer, you would not judge it advisable to submit to him whether he
should reply or not.

You have finally put the dispute about the necessity of retaining the
dead languages at issue on the question relative to a future state, in
the following words; "If the opinions recorded in scripture relative
to a future state of existence are to be relied on, as being dictated
by God himself, and in a way too, that was not mistaken; and that the
writers of the scriptures being thus inspired, have written nothing
but the truth, then I admit," &c. Now from this your own statement you
will see the importance of retaining those languages until it be fully
discovered that no credit is due to these writings which we have been
in the habit of believing to be divinely inspired. Your discernment
will at once discover that it would be imprudent in the extreme, to
obliterate, without first knowing that what was to be defaced was of
no utility. A child, ever so old, who should utterly deface his
father's last will and testament, which had made ample provisions for
his future wants, merely because he had not a perfect understanding of
it, or on suspicion that there were some possible defects in it, could
not be considered prudent in so doing. But if the will should finally
fail, and prove invalid, no loss would be sustained even if it were
committed to the devouring element. To say, the will may be destroyed
until it has been proved, would be absurd.

In your further remarks on our brother's communication, you find
occasion to suggest a difference between the subject of revelation and
the discoveries which have been made by men in the powers and
properties of nature. But when you have contended successfully for
this (which by no means has any power to refute his argument) you seem
not to realize that there must be as great a difference in the
evidences by which these different subjects are communicated to the
mind, as there are in the subjects themselves. It is acknowledged,
without controversy, that we cannot demonstrate by any mathematical or
chemical process that there ever was such an emperor in Rome as
Augustus Caesar, or such a governor in Judea as Pilate, or such a man
as Jesus; but then we are not, on this account, or any other, unable
to find such kind of evidence as the nature of the case admits, and
such as is sufficient to satisfy the candid mind. Should any one now
pretend to deny that Louis XVIth. was beheaded, and allege as proof
that no such thing was to be credited, because it had never been
discovered as the result of a chemical process, would you hesitate to
fault his reasoning?

Should it occur to your mind that you have contended that the evidence
of revelation is as different from the evidence required in natural
discoveries, as the subjects themselves are different, you are
reminded that you have contended for this only with a view to _weaken_
the force of the former, and in a way to disallow its validity. At the
same time you state that you do not undertake to deny a special
revelation from God, but "wish only to take a review of the evidences,
and see if they are such that it is _impossible_ it should be false."
Of these evidences you speak thus; "Although ever so clear at first,
and ever so well supported by facts, concerning which the witnesses
had the clearest evidences, yet the evidences being of such a nature
as to preclude a repetition, like those respecting a vision of the
night or any other phenomenon, are liable to suffer by passing from
one to another," and finally "lose all their strength." Here it seems
you pretend to state the character of the evidences of a divine
revelation, which evidences you wish to review. Permit me to ask, dear
brother, if it would not have appeared more consistent with piety and
candor to have reviewed before you fixed the character of the
evidences?--There is a proper order in which every thing should be
conducted. All our researches should be kept from the embarrassments
of prejudice. Though I feel much reluctance in entering on so great a
subject as the vindication of the truth of divine revelation, fearing,
I should fail in doing that honour to the subject which I am confident
it deserves, I am inclined to suggest a few things which I think are
worthy of some notice. As you speak of a vision of the night, the
evidences of which were clear to the person and satisfactory at the
time, those evidences would naturally lose their force when
communicated to others and finally lose their strength. Let us suppose
a case. A man shall have a vision of the night, in which it shall be
revealed to him that some time before the present generation shall
leave the stage of life, the kingdom of Great Britain will be overcome
by the power of France; that very many of the flourishing cities of
England will be destroyed in a very awful manner; that London will be
laid level with the ground; that the distress of the inhabitants
during the siege will be extreme; that for some time before this great
event, there will be wars and rumors of wars among the nations, and
certain signs very wonderful will be seen in the heavens. This man
tells his vision very circumstantially and several persons write it
down. Now suppose as the time passes away, these events, one after
another, should take place, all in the same order in which the vision
represented them; do you feel willing to say that the evidences of the
truth of this vision, are all the time losing their force? No surely
they are not; they are all the time gaining strength and waxing
brighter. Whether I am able to satisfy you that the above case is a
fair representation of the evidences of divine revelation, or not, it
discovers in some degree the ground on which, in my mind, revelation
is established.

Compare, if you please, the prophesy of Jesus recorded in the 24th of
Matthew, with the history of the events of which the divine messenger

Yours, &c.


P. S. You have noticed, no doubt, in a parenthesis, that I do not
allow your argument on the dissimilarity of divine revelation and
principles of nature to have any force to do away the argument of our
brother, to which you replied. It was evidently not his design to
argue a similarity between the nature of these widely different
subjects, but to show that no greater partiality appears in the divine
wisdom, in not discovering the truths of revelation in all ages, to
all nations and in all languages, than in its not leading the human
mind to the discovery of electricity or any other of the laws of
nature in the same manner. Will you endeavour to maintain that the
divine economy has nothing to do in directing means and circumstances
to the developement of the laws of nature and to the discovery of
useful inventions? And if you allow it has, why do you not assign a
reason why these discoveries should not have been made in all ages, to
all nations, and written or rather _printed_, in all languages that
cannot as well be applied in the other case? In this way you would do
away his reasoning and my own likewise, for as you notice, we were
both of one mind on this subject.

Before I close this postscript, I wish to remark on the subject which
you have in view, in reviewing the evidences of divine revelation,
which you say is to "see if they are such that it is _impossible_ it
should be false." Now it appears to your humble servant, that faith
does not require evidence of the description you lay down. I grant it
wants to be satisfied and it has a right to expect it; it feels under
no obligation to evidence which comes short of conviction; but it does
not require all _possibility_ to be taken into its account. This would
seem to go beyond the limits of faith and enter into the regions of
certainty. If the evidences in support of faith be sufficient to give
rest, peace, and consolation to the mind, and if the faith be strong
enough to effect the conduct of the believer in a proper manner, the
object of faith is obtained.

The hopes of the husbandman may serve to illustrate this particular.
He does not know for certainty that his fields will produce him any
thing; he does not know that the coming season will be favourable to
his crops, yet he plants and sows in comfortable expectation. He rises
early and labours cheerfully, his expectations are full of comfort, he
sleeps quietly and enjoys content. But if you ask him whether he views
it _impossible_ that he should fail of a harvest? he will with but
very little concern answer in the negative.

"The just shall live by faith, we walk by faith and not by sight."
All, therefore, that we can reasonably expect in the case before us,
is to find a decided _balance_ of evidence in favour of the religion
of the gospel. And to _review_ the evidences of this religion, it
seems necessary first to allow that there are evidences in existence
which go to prove it, if their validity be allowed. For instance, the
four evangelists, the acts of the apostles, together with the epistles
of the apostles are considered evidences of the truth of this
religion. And can you reasonably require more until you are able to
show that all these come short of establishing the credibility of the
facts which they relate with apparent honesty and simplicity not to be
met with in any other ancient writings?

There are a great many other evidences which serve to corroborate
those mentioned, but if you can do _them_ away, no doubt the others
may be as easily removed.

You will duly consider that in disproving the religion of Jesus
Christ, you disprove all religion, for I am satisfied that you will
not pretend that you are making a choice between the gospel and some
other doctrine. No, the choice is between the gospel and no religion
at all.

Come then, strip away all the clouds of superstition, and demonstrate
at once that there has been no sun in the firmament during the whole
of a cloudy day! Soar like the strong pinioned eagle, make your tour
beyond the mists of error and bring us the joyless tidings that there
is no clear sky in the heavens. Can you imagine any thing to be more
pleasing than the coming of one that brought _good_ tidings? But let
us have the worst of it. Show from undoubted authority that there
never was such a man as Jesus, or show that he was a wicked impostor
and deservedly lost his life. Show moreover, that there never were
such men as the apostles of Jesus, or that they were likewise
impostors, and all suffered death for their wicked impiety! Give the
particulars of Saul's madly forsaking the honourable connexion in
which he stood, for the sake of practising a fraud which produced him
an immense income of suffering!

But you say the apostles were not bad men. Very well, then let us see
how good men could tell so many things which they knew were not true,
and suffer and die in attestation of what they knew to be false. You
will see the danger of supposing that honest men can bear testimony to
falsehood under the pretence of doing good, as this would destroy all
testimony at once; even your own cannot be relied on after you
maintain this abominable principle, which has been practised a wicked
priesthood for ages. H.B.

       *       *       *       *       *


[The objector in his fourth number begins by explaining himself in
some particulars wherein he had not been fully understood, and also by
making some concessions respecting the importance of retaining the
original languages in which the scriptures were written; and, bringing
these remarks to a close, he proceeds as follows:]

"In regard to a revelation from God, the three propositions which you
have stated answer my mind well enough, as far as they go, to which,
however, I would wish to add a fourth; and ask, admitting the three
first propositions true. 'Fourth. Is it reasonable to suppose that the
apostles had any other means of forming their opinions relative to a
future state than what passed before their eyes?--viz. the miracles of
Christ, the circumstances attending his death, his resurrection, and
the miracles wrought by themselves in his name?'

"1st. Is it reasonable to suppose that God has ever made a special
revelation to man?

"You say I have acknowledged that a divine revelation 'if real, is of
all truths the most important;' hence you call upon the 'eye of
reason' to examine this proposition to see why it should be considered
more important than the discoveries made in the arts and sciences, &c.
I think these questions may be easily and correctly answered. One
relates to the blessings of _eternity_; and the others to those only
of _time_; hence if the truths manifested by a revelation had been of
no more importance to man than the truths in natural philosophy,
reason would say, God would have left them also to be discovered, if
discovered at all, like all other truths, without a special
revelation. But, you must excuse me for not being able to see the
force and conclusiveness of your reasoning, when you say that my
'allowing it any importance at all, is, in the eye of reason, an
argument in its support.' Supposing I am informed of a large estate
bequeathed to me by some benefactor. I acknowledge that it is very
important to me, if true, as I am in great need; yet I do not believe
it true. Now, is my acknowledging its importance, if true, an argument
in support of its truth? If it is so, the reason of it is out of my

"I should think that the reason of man (the only reason with which we
are acquainted) would hardly undertake to say whether a revelation is
either necessary or not necessary. The only evidence that reason can
have of its necessity is its truth; and a supposition that it is not
true equally supposes it not to be necessary. For to suppose otherwise
supposes that God has omitted something which was necessary to be
done! Try the matter as it respects a new revelation. Who will
undertake to say that a new revelation either is or is not necessary?
No one who believes in a revelation will deny the possibility of such
an event. Suppose then for the moment it is true; and something is
brought to light infinitely more glorious than any thing of which the
human mind has yet conceived; will any one say it is unimportant? Or
is the 'allowing it any importance--an argument in its support?'

"I am very ready to allow that a 'divinely munificent Creator would
not omit any thing which is of importance to his intelligent
creatures:' and on this ground I admitted the _importance_ of
revelation 'if real;' but I am yet unable to see how this is any
argument in its support. It seems to me that this argument might be
turned right the other way with equal force. If revelation be not
true, it is not necessary it should be; and man can be made just as
happy in this world by knowing all that he can know without it, as
those are who believe in it; and admitting it not true there is no
more importance in all the stories about it, than there is in the
_Alcoran_! Now, supposing you should 'allow' all this, would it be any
argument against the truth of revelation? I think not.

"In answer therefore to the first particular, I must be allowed to say
that the only reason in favour of a divine revelation must grow out of
the evidence in support of the facts on which it is predicated; for,
aside from those evidences, I do not see why mankind should be taught
to believe in a future life and immortality by special revelation, any
more than they should be taught the arts and sciences by special
revelation; yet reason does not reject the evidences of such an event
when they are made clear to the understanding.--Therefore, it appears
to me that your first proposition is involved in the second, viz.

"2d. Is the resurrection of Jesus capable of being proved?

"I should have said something more on the subject which was answered
in your first number, and which I neglected to acknowledge in my
second, if it had occurred to me as being necessary. I will briefly
state here that your reasoning on that subject is satisfactory; and if
a revelation can be fully proved I feel not disposed to complain on
account of its seeming partiality. Infinite wisdom dispenses his
blessings so as best to answer his benevolent designs; and were we to
object to the _manner_, merely because we do not comprehend the
_equality_, we should be satisfied, strictly speaking, with nothing.

"But you have excused yourself from undertaking to prove your second
proposition in a way that I did not expect, viz. by finding, as you
supposed, in my words, an acknowledgement of its truth. Here again I
must confess my misfortune in giving too much grounds for the wrong
construction. Every one knows however the ambiguity of words, and how
the meaning of a sentence may be altered by placing the emphasis on a
different word from what the author intended. I acknowledge that my
words will admit the construction you have given them; yet you could
but see that it was giving up at once what I had in a number of
places, both before and after, considered a main question. And then,
you ask me why I wish you to prove what I acknowledge to be true. If
you will be good enough to review the passage, and notice that the
word _substantially_ was emphatic, and contrasted with
_circumstantial_, a little below, you will perceive that my meaning
was simply this. No one will pretend that the evangelists were correct
in every minute particular, but only correct in _substance_; and by
the ALL, by whom this will be admitted, I mean those who believe in
divine revelation; that even they would acknowledge, that in point of
correctness, the writers were 'no more' than _substantially_ so.

"You think if I am 'disposed to doubt,' &c. it is my province to bring
forward my 'strong reasoning,' &c. I know of no disposition that I
feel respecting the subject but to ascertain, if possible, the truth.
If I have doubts, it is not because I choose to doubt, but because I
cannot help them; and if I have faith it is such as is given me. Of
one thing I have no doubt; that is, that the truth, whatever it is, is
right. But:

"Admitting the scriptures are not true, I shall not attempt to guess
what is true respecting the subjects to which they relate. For I might
guess a hundred different ways to account for what we know is true,
and all of them be wrong.

"My doubts on this subject are nothing more than _doubts_; they do not
amount to a confirmed _unbelief_; because they admit the possibility
of the account's being true.

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Much esteemed friend_,--Your fourth number is hereby acknowledged;
and though occasions for finding fault are in some measure extenuated,
it still appears that you have lost the real connexion of your
arguments, and have made the subject of the languages one of your main
subjects, when judging from your first number, it was no more than a
vestibule to the grand edifice which it was in your mind to examine.

However, you having paid more than half, we will not stand about the
fraction, as long as we have a profitable object in view. You call up
what you call the subject. I suppose the main subject. This you state
as follows: "In regard to a revelation from God, the three
propositions which you have stated answer my mind well enough, as far
as they go; to which however, I would wish to add a fourth, and ask;
admitting the three first particulars true.--4th. Is it reasonable to
suppose, that the apostles had any other means of forming their
opinions, relative to a future state, than what passed before their
eyes? viz. the miracles of Christ, the circumstance attending his
death, his resurrection, and the miracles wrought by themselves in his
name?" I wish, in this place, to show you that your added proposition
possesses no power relative to our argument which is not comprehended
in the last of the three which I stated. For if it be allowed, as you
propose, that my propositions are true, then you consent to the
validity of the apostles' testimony respecting a future state, which
granted, it makes no difference in what way the apostles come to the
knowledge of futurity. When a thing is known, it is known. The means
by which it is known add nothing to either side of the argument. If
you allow that my argument on this subject is correct, as it seems you
do, then you acknowledge that God would not endow men with the power
to heal the sick and raise the dead, whose testimony concerning a
future state could be justly doubted. I will not be too positive that
I rightly apprehend your meaning on this subject, but as you propose
to allow my three propositions, and as you make no attempt to do away
my reasoning, especially on my last, I think I should not understand
you according to your own proposal in any other way.

The methaphor which you use to help you away from my argument
respecting the _importance_ of a revelation from God, does not appear
fully adequate to the purpose for which you use it. It might not be a
reasonable, a necessary disposition of property for the proposed
benefactor, to give you a large estate; it might be, in the eye of
reason a very improper donation, and one which would deprive
legitimate heirs of what they had a right to expect from a father
towards whom they had always acted with filial obedience.--But if you
will make the case a parallel, and suppose you are an heir, a lawful
child, and your father has a large estate to dispose of, then you will
see that it is right and just, and no more than what you have reason
to expect; that it is necessary, and that this necessity is the
importance of the subject, you will at once see that this importance
is a reason, yea an evidence that you have a right to expect it. I
called on you to prove that no revelation was needed; I acknowledged
that if none was necessary, a being of infinite wisdom would make
none. You venture to say, that the "only evidence that reason can have
of the necessity of divine revelation is its truth." It is believed,
sir, that this hypothesis involves too much. It is saying that reason
can discern the necessity of nothing until it obtains it, whereas the
truth is evidently the other side of the assertion. We are frequently
experiencing the necessity of things which we have not already
attained, and by this want we are incited to use the means by which we
finally obtain them.--"Ask, and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall
find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you," &c. It is believed, and
no doubt it may be argued with success, that the moral and religious
state of man really required a divine revelation. Never did the
parched ground, the withering plant, the thirsty herds need the
showers from heaven, more than man, that WORD of life which descended
as the rain and distilled as the dew, when the gospel was published by
a cloud of faithful witnesses, called of God for that purpose.

After acknowledging that your words admit of the construction which I
gave them respecting the apostles stating no more than what was
substantially true, you inform me that you meant something very
different; then, sir, it seems you must mean that they stated that
which is not true. And if so, why do you not prove wherein they
testified falsely, which would at once cast their bands from us? By
this mean you would show that their testimony is deserving of no

On the subjects of your doubts, you recollected my request, that you
bring forward your reasons, &c. But in room of doing this you inform
me that your doubts are _involuntary_. But I wish to know if this
renders it improper for you to state your reasons for doubting? You
further inform me that your doubts do not amount to a confirmed
unbelief. Again, I would ask if it be necessary for you to wait until
you are a confirmed unbeliever before you state your reasons for
doubting the truth of the testimony which Christians call divine?

By these questions you will perceive that I am waiting for you, and if
I am not able to meet your arguments, I am ready on making the
discovery, to acknowledge your reasoning too strong for my weak powers
to manage.

Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


[After acknowledging the receipt of _Letters_ Nos. 3 and 4, and
remarking on several parts of the reply to _Extracts_ No. 2, making
some concessions, &c. as he found it necessary, the _objector_
proceeds as follows.]

"But, your final conclusion, after all, comes so near what I conceive
to be the truth, that, were you as correct in every thing as you
appear to be in this, I should hardly think it expedient to pursue
this controversy any further. "The Christian is enabled," you say, "to
hope for existence with God in an eternal state, and this is as much
as our present welfare requires." Most excellent! To this proposition
I cherfully assent. Yea, I would consent even to pruning it a little,
which no doubt would spoil it in your view. Instead of 'this is as
much as,' read, 'even this is more than,' and your proposition would
stand exactly right. Again, you say,

"'I have many reasons for not believing in the general sentiment that
supposes the revelation contained in the scriptures was designed to
prepare men in this world for happiness in another, and that a want of
a correct knowledge of this revelation here, would subject the
ignorant to inconvenience in a future state. Such a sentiment is an
impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God.'

"Here again, should I admit a divine revelation, I most heartily agree
with you; and also with the reasoning which follows under this
proposition. For it is more consistent with reason and good sense to
believe (like the fool) in the existence of no God, than to believe in
a God who is either partial or cruel! If such were the general
sentiment of mankind, the evils resulting from it, in my humble
opinion, would not be worse than the evils which have resulted from
the belief in a God of the character just mentioned. One who,
according to the sentiment, has let millions, even millions of
millions, of his rational creatures die ignorant of a divine
revelation, when he knew without the knowledge of, and belief in, such
a revelation, they must sink down into eternal ruin and misery! And,
so far as a revelation respects the damned, as though it was designed
to aggravate and increase their misery by increasing their
sensibility, he makes known his will, by special revelation, to a few,
accompanied with the gift of his holy spirit, through the divine
efficacy of which, a selected and chosen number will be admitted to
bliss and glory, to the utter and eternal exclusion of the millions
above mentioned!!!

"If such a sentiment does not impeach the divine character, not only
of partiality, but of _cruelty_, I know of nothing that could. But,

"Are you not aware that your sentiment, as above stated, which has met
my approbation, on the supposition that divine revelation can be
maintained, is as much opposed to the general sentiment of
Christianity, as it respects this particular, as any thing which I
have written or probably shall write on this subject? I presume you
are aware of all this, and I hope you are prepared for its
consequences. You have more to apprehend, however, from this general
sentiment, than I have. You have levelled an arrow at the very seat of
life of what is considered _orthodoxy_ in divinity, it is impossible
but that the wound should be severly felt. For you are not insensible
sir, that it is not only the general, but almost the universal
sentiment of orthodoxy, from _his holiness the Pope_ down to the
smallest child who has been taught to lisp the christian name, that
the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ was designed to prepare
mankind in this world for heaven and happiness in another. Hence it
has been believed that those who have died ignorant of the gospel, and
being at the same time born of ignorant or unbelieving parents, must
be lost forever. But those who hear and reject the gospel must be
still more wretched in another world. With this sentiment, however, it
seems you have no more fellowship than I. Therefore, my brother, it
may be well for both, but more especially for you, that the days of
rigorous persecution are over. For notwithstanding orthodoxy will
consider us both equally opposed to christianity at heart, yet, of the
two, you will be considered the most dangerous character. I shall be
considered the _open_, but you the _secret enemy_; who, under the garb
of professed friendship, are doing your utmost to sap the very
foundation of the christian's hope! And you will not be considered any
the less dangerous for your writings, being approved in any sense, by
one who has the audacity, as they will term it, to doubt of the truth,
of divine revelation! Instead of discovered impious blasphemy in the
honest inquiry of your friend as it will be supposed you ought to have
done, and instead of threatening him with endless burnings
therefor;--or for not being disposed to receive, even truth, without
cautious and thorough examination, you have painted christianity in
such beautiful colours that infidelity itself finds but little cause
to oppose it. Should these letters therefore ever come before the
public you must be prepared for the gathering storm. For should you be
able to reconcile revelation with the above proposition, if reason be
not fully convinced of its truth, it will find nothing to object to
the principles it inculcates. However, as this is not the avowed
sentiment of christians, generally speaking, you must permit me to

"As it respects biblical criticism, notwithstanding all I have written
on the subject, if the object is what you have proposed, 'to get the
understanding of the sacred text,' I have no objection to it, but, for
those who have time and inclination, think it laudible. Your caution,
likewise, that in our zeal to cleanse we 'take care and not destroy,'
is no doubt reasonable, and I trust duly appreciated. Your method also
for curing or removing unbelief is happily chosen, and is what I am
now attempting, which, with your assistance, I hope to make a proper,
if not a successful application.

"Although the 'validity of the evidences' of revelation was not
intended to have been granted, as I have informed you in my fourth
number, yet I shall not press you to argue the points till I have
given you the reasons for my doubts; for these being removed, nothing
more will be necessary.

"Yours &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


[Here twelve pages or more of the objector's manuscript are omitted,
as the nature of his arguments will pretty fully appear in the reply;
and as he has been obliged to rescind the ground he had taken, it is
not expedient to publish his remarks. That the reader may see a little
of the manner, however, in which he has given up his part of the
argument, the following is inserted.]

"Speaking however on the evidences of revelation, you have stated some
things worthy of serious consideration; which if correct, and I cannot
say but they are, give me considerable satisfaction; and are very
grateful to my feelings. 'It' (faith) say you 'does not require all
_possibility_ to be taken into the account: this would seem to go
beyond the limits of faith and enter into the regions of certainty.'

"According to this doctrine, I may yet, perhaps, be considered a
believer in divine revelation, and of course in Christianity. If 'all
possibility' is not required, then certainly some _doubts_, some
_possibility_ of failure, may be admited without destroying the
consistency of the Christian faith.

"Here as it respects the argument, you have seemingly forclosed every
thing which I shall say by way of objection; at least, you have
anticipated all my arguments on this subject. For evidences and
circumstances calculated to raise _doubts_ in the mind; and shewing
the _possibility_ of uncertainty, are all the arguments which I have
expected to produce in this case. But it may not be improper to
inquire how much uncertainty, or _possibility_ of uncertainty, may I
admit in my calculation without destroying the Christian faith? That
there are evidences in favor of divine revelation, and, which would
support it, if there were nothing to counterbalance their testimony,
is a proposition which I admit, and which I think cannot be disputed.
Hence I conceive it must be admitted that there is a _possibility_, at
least, of its being true.--But after all, if the weight of evidence in
the mind of any one should preponderate against it, I doubt whether
such an one could consistently be called a believer in divine

"You have suggested that in disproving the religion of Jesus Christ, I
should disprove all religion; as there can be no choice between this
and any other; for if this can be proved false all may be proved false
&c. or words to that effect. In this I hardly know how to understand
you. So far as the religion of Christ consists in 'feeding the hungry,
clothing the naked, and keeping himself unspotted from the world,' I
admit, that 'in disproving the religion of Christ,' I should 'disprove
all religion:' that is to say, in other words, so far as the religion
of Christ is not founded on revelation, but on the relation and
dependence existing between man and man, to disprove it would disprove
all religion: but if the religion of Jesus Christ consists purely and
exclusively in believing in a future state of existence, then
disproving it would not disprove all religion. A man may be what the
poet calls 'the noblest work of God' i.e. 'an honest man,' and attend
to all the duties embraced in that religion which St. James calls
'pure and undefiled before God and the father,' and yet have no
_opinion_, that is, no settled opinion, in regard to a future state.
If a man has religion enough to be a good husband, a good neighbor, a
good citizen, and can rationably enjoy all the blessings which
appertain to this life, of what consequence is it to him, or to any
one else, what he believes in regard to a future state? This is a
question worthy of serious consideration.

"The denial of revelation, much less to doubt its truth, does not
render it necessary that I should do what you have proposed; neither
is it my disposition to destroy if I could the peace even of an
individual. Hence, I have no wish to 'demonstrate that there is no sun
in a cloudy day;' but only to prove that clouds and darkness are as
necessary to the well being of man as clear sunshine. Neither would I
be the bearer of the 'joyless tidings that there is no clear sky in
the heavens;' but only to query whether our portion of 'clear sky' is
not that which reflects upon the earth; and that only during the short
period of our lives? Who has a right to complain, if our blessings are
circumscribed to our sphere of action? Must we enjoy nothing, because
more is not allotted to our share? It is very probable there may be
millions of other suns, enlightening other worlds, and systems of
worlds, giving life, light and warmth to rational beings like
ourselves, exceeding all imagination in number; and yet, have little
of the blessings of those heavenly luminaries that falls to our
enjoyment! They merly form a beautiful canopy over our heads. It is
true, their greatest use to us may be that of which we are mostly
ignorant; in balancing systems &c. but yet we must have some knowledge
of those benefits, before me can feel grateful for them. Dost thou
wish to visit them? Dost thou desire to know more concerning them than
thou canst know in this state? Calm and deliberate reason would say
unto the, 'Be content, O vain man! with thine own lot, and not try to
soar above thy proper station!'

"The above is not designed as a reflection; it is only what I take to

"You have proposed what I conceive you think is the only alternative
to which I must flee, when I give up the truth of divine revelation.
But may I not stop to inquire whether there is not some medium between
the two extremes which you have mentioned? Must I believe that there
was no such man as Jesus, or if there were, that he was an impostor;
or else believe all that is stated concerning him? Must I also believe
the same of the apostles or else believe them impeccable? May not even
good men be honestly deceived? and being deceived, honestly lead
others into an error?--That honest men do not bear 'testimony to
falshood,' I admit; neither could such a principle be justified even
under a 'pretence of doing good;' yet I will not undertake to say that
no such _pious frauds_ have ever been practiced in the world, and even
among professed christians; and how soon it was practiced after the
days of the apostles, and whether or not by some even in their day,
would be very difficult now to determine. Neither is it necessary I
should say any thing more upon the subject, as you admit this
principle 'has been practised upon by a wicked priesthood for ages!'

"In remarking on my fourth proposition, which I added to the _three_
which you had proposed, you say, 'I will not be too positive that I
rightly apprehend your meaning on this subject, but as you propose to
allow my three propositions, and as you make no attempt to do away my
reasoning, especially on my last,' &c. Here permit me to observe, I am
well persuaded you did not fully understand me, whatever you did
yourself, on this subject. You will perceive, sir, both by my fourth
number, and also by my fifth, that my answer to your _three
propositions_ was not completed. Probably if you had waited for the
whole of my answer you would have understood me much better, and also
would have seen the use and propriety of my fourth proposition.

"I think, as you will perceive by my fifth number that even honest men
may be mistaken. And if so, it is very important to know whether the
apostles judged only from outward circumstances, or whether they had
some internal evidence, called _inspiration_, by which they always
knew the truth of the things whereof they affirmed. This was the
object of my fourth proposition.

"That you did not fully understand me appears by your saying, 'If it
be allowed that my propositions are true, then you _consent_ to the
validity of the apostles' testimony respecting a future state.' If
this could be allowed, it might then be admitted, that in this
argument it makes no difference how the apostles come by their
'knowledge of futurity.'--But I did not know, neither do I now
perceive, that my admitting the apostles to be honest men makes it
necessary also to admit the validity of their 'testimony respecting a
future state;' unless it can be shown that honest men are never
mistaken respecting the things whereof they affirm. I admit the
'_honesty_' of my good friend, in the above quoted proposition; but I
can hardly be willing, purely on this account, to '_consent_' to its

"As it respects an inheritance given in a WILL, &c. I have some doubts
whether reason always carries things as far as you would wish to carry
this metaphor to make it a parallel. Reason sometimes moves in a small
circle; and that too without being unreasonable. If the benefit is
said to have been absolutely made, and reason is informed of the fact,
it has a right to take it for granted, that the donor had the property
to give, and that it is not given to the injury of any one else. But
yet he consults his own interest, and that only, when he says, 'this
is very important to me, if true, yet I doubt, yea I have reasons for
not believing it true.' Would any one say that such a man talketh

"You have called on me to prove 'that no revelation was needed;' and
have acknowledged, 'that if none was necessary, a being of infinite
wisdom would make none.' And at the same time you have argued very
pathetically indeed to prove the necessity of a revelation; that is,
if that can be called argument which grows out of a man's own
feelings: A man, however, of different feelings might bring forward
arguments equally energetic, and perhaps equally conclusive, but
diametrically opposite.

"I know not what evidence you wish, or what evidence would be
accepted, to prove that a revelation is not necessary. Even if such
were the fact, it appears to me to be hardly susceptible of proof. It
may be no more difficult, however, than it is to prove that a
revelation is true. I presume that nothing short of a _revelation_
would convince you that a _revelation_ is not necessary! For who but
God can know what either is, or is not necessary for God to make

"But if arguments drawn from our feelings are admissible, hear, for
once, the voice of simple nature, proclaiming in her simplicity by
every thing which exists either in or around you, that a revelation is
neither necessary nor useful. That every thing which can be enjoyed in
life can be enjoyed equally as well, and often better, without either
its knowledge or belief. That every duty, either to God or man, can be
performed as well, and with the same beneficial effect. And finally
that man may be brought, without either the aid, knowledge, or belief
of revelation, not only to be reconciled to his conditions and station
in life, but also to curtail all his _anxious_ desires to which he not
only _believes_ but _knows_ there is a natural possibility of

"If one could be brought who would solemnly testify to the truth of
the above paragraph, would you believe his testimony? I presume not.
But why not? Will you say it is impossible it should be true? No one
can know this for a certainty, except those whose misfortune it is, if
it be a misfortune not to believe in a future state of existence. If
such there are, however, and yet their lives are exactly correct,
their examples in society equally good, and their enjoyments
apparently equally as great as other men, why should you doubt their
testimony? Would you say they were _bad men_?--could you say they were
_dishonest men_?--and if _honest_, according to your argument, why not
believe them? I can see no inducement that any one could have to deny
a revelation, if he believes it true; but I can see a very great
inducement for mankind to maintain the reality of a revelation,
although at the same time they may doubt its truth.

"If you doubt whether the human mind can be brought to such a state as
has been mentioned above, it is only for the want of proper evidence;
the fact, however, is susceptible of proof. Yea, it can be more than
proved; _the happy unbeliever_ in idle tales, but believing in eternal
principles, knows it for a certainty. I do not mean that he knows for
a certainty, that there is no revelation, but he knows for a certainty
that a belief in revelation is not absolutely necessary to a happy
life. Now, if such characters exists, will you receive their own
testimony in support of the above fact? If not, it will be of no use
to produce them.

"In order to make a proper estimation of virtue, we should take into
consideration the motives and inducements a person has to be virtuous.
The virtue of some men seems to be predicated on the following
principles; on the consideration that they are going to heaven and
happiness in another world, while others, whom they conceive not so
good as themselves are going to hell, a place of never ending
torments. On this ground they can be very _pious_ also, and do a great
deal for religion. At the same time they will tell you, as many have,
if they believed all were to be alike happy in another world, they
would then stick at no crimes to obtain their object, but would
indulge themselves in all manner of gratifications, &c. Such virtue,
however, I conclude does not stand very high in your estimation. No;
but you would be virtuous on a more noble scale; so long as you can
believe that you shall have an eternal existence with God, in a happy
conscious identity, you are willing every body else should enjoy the
same blessing; on supposition that this is true, or as you can believe
it, you are for doing all the good in your power, and at the same time
taking all the comfort you can in doing it. You are trying to make
every one believe what you believe, that they may enjoy what you
enjoy. But the moment this faith, and this hope of yours is gone, your
virtue is gone with it; you can now do nothing, and of course enjoy

"Now compare this virtue with the virtue of one whom the christian
world would call an infidel! One whose faith, and of course, hope,
does not extend beyond what he knows has been the lot of some, and, as
far as circumstances will admit, may be his own; and yet he is always
faithful in the discharge of whatever appears to be his duty, always
enjoys life, whether in prosperity or adversity, and is always, so far
as it respects circumstances over which he has no control, reconciled
and contented with his lot. He knows his life is uncertain, and
although he has no real faith or well grounded hope beyond the present
state of existence, yet the thought gives him neither anxiety nor
concern. His only object is to do good; to enjoy life while it lasts,
to cultivate and improve human nature for the benefit of posterity; to
bear the evils and misfortunes of life with fortitude, and to be
unfeignedly thankful for all the happiness of which he is made
susceptible. Therefore whether his life be for a day, or for eternity,
it matters not, because, for the present, it is all the same to him:
his duties are the same, and his enjoyments are the same. O how happy!
How inexpressibly happy, is such a state as this!

"While others are feasting their fruitful imaginations with the idle
and visionary dreams of fanaticism; with a kind of chimerical heaven
of which they know _nothing_, as to its certainty: this man is in
heaven already: dwelling in love, he 'dwelleth in God, and God in

"Do you not wish, my brother, that you could find such a character
among Christians? But Christianity does not afford such a character,
in _full_, nor is it possible that it ever should. Such a character,
however, there may be, and when the world, or any considerable part of
them can receive his testimony, he may make his appearance.

"You seem to think it may be successfully argued 'that the moral and
religious state of man really required a divine revelation.' This
argument, if I understand you, grows out of the ardent desires of man;
which, it is admitted, would be pretty conclusive if it could be made
to appear that the desires of man are never fruitless. Man, it is
true, rationally desires happiness; for this is essential to his moral
existence; yet, may he not, through ignorance, or from some other
cause, suppose things essential to his happiness, which, in fact, are
not essential, and therefore ardently desire them? But does it
necessarily follow that the particular things desired in such cases
are absolutely necessary? and therefore will absolutely be granted? I
believe not.--And if he may be thus deceived in any one thing, why may
he not be deceived in the supposed necessity of a divine revelation?
It is believed that a perfect reconciliation to the present state of
man; to what he is, with the prospect only of what he yet may be in
this life, without either the hope or the fear of a future existence,
would be infinitely better than any thing which has yet been produced
by a belief in divine revelation; especially any further than a
revelation is conducive to this end; and if a revelation ever was
necessary, it was necessary only to reconcile man to his present state
of existence. But if man can be equally reconciled without the
_knowledge_, or, what amounts to the same thing, without the _belief_
of divine revelation, then the end of such a revelation is obtained.

"It seems to be expedient that I should say a few more words,
'respecting the apostles' stating no more than what was substantially

"I hope, however, we shall not lose sight of the main subject in
debate, by criticising on words. I say _main subject_ here, as I think
there will be no occasion of saying any thing more on the subject of
the _languages_ in relation to the arts and sciences.

"I am not disposed to think, sir, that you have designedly wrested the
meaning of my words; nor that you are unwilling to receive my meaning
when it is fully understood; and yet, having once explained on this
subject, I am unable to account for your remarks.

"After my informing you that you had misconstrued me, and also stating
my meaning, as I supposed, more explicitly, you have informed me that
if your first construction was not my meaning, it seems that I must
have meant the reverse of it, which, I must aver, is as foreign from
my meaning as your first construction! For neither your former nor
latter construction was in my mind when I wrote the sentence to which
I allude: but a different idea from either of your constructions was
in my mind, and was what I meant to state; which idea, as I conceive,
is as fairly expressed by my words, and is a more just construction of
them, taking into consideration the sentence which follows, than
either of the ideas which you have expressed as their meaning.

"Permit me therefore to state again, that whatever might have been my
opinion respecting the writings of the apostles, I did not mean to
suggest, and much less to affirm in that sentence 'that they stated
that which is not true!'--Neither did I mean to acknowledge in that
sentence that they had stated 'no more' than what is true, at least in
_substance_; but I did mean this, and this only, that admitting those
things were true, all would admit that the design of the apostles was
nothing _more_ than to state the truth of those things in _substance_;
because all would acknowledge that they were not careful to be correct
as to every _minutiae_. But as this makes nothing either for or
against the main point, I wish to add no more respecting it, than
simply to remark, that even if the apostles had gone on the opposite
extreme of what I meant I should not think them 'deserving of _no
credit_.' Supposing they had descended into _minutiae_, and related,
to an exact nicety, every particular circumstance (which is exactly
the reverse of what I mean to state), would they on this account have
been deserving of _no credit_? I think not. Considering the time,
however, which had elapsed after the facts are said to have taken
place, before a history of them was given in writing, I think the
evangelists are entitled to _more credit_, on the whole, than what
they would have been if their testimony had borne the complexion last

"To close this letter, which perhaps is already too long, I would here
acknowledge that as I have expressed doubts in the subject of divine
revelation, you have a right to hear my reasons for doubting. These I
promised to give you (as I thought) at the close of my fourth number.
You have informed me, verbally, that I promised to give you my
_doubts_ only. If I did so, it was only a slip of the pen, to which I
am too prone; it was my _reasons for doubting_, which I meant to have
promised you; and in my next I shall endeavor to fulfil that promise.

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Dear sir, and brother_,--Your fifth and sixth numbers were received
together, and will be noticed in the order in which they came to hand.

You observe that you know of no better evidence that "there ever was
such a story reported among the Jews, in the days of the apostles,
than there is to prove the actual resurrection of Jesus," &c. This
suggestion leads to the following queries.

1st. Was there in the days of the apostles, such a man known in the
country of the Jews, as Jesus Christ?

2d. Was this man put to death, as the four evangelists and others

3d. Did the apostles declare to the people who put him to death, that
they knew that he had arisen from the dead?

4th. If the Jews who put Jesus to death could go to his sepulchre and
show his dead body to the people, would the story of the resurrection
ever have gained any credit among the Jews?

5th. If they could not find the body of him who had been crucified,
would the opposers not endeavour to report something that might appear
as plausible as they could, especially as they had the keeping of the
sepulchre in their own hands?

6th. What would more naturally suggest itself to the imagination of
men, in the situation of the rulers of the Jews, than the story of the
disciples having stolen the dead body, &c. Or,

7th. Was this account written long since the apostles' days, by an
unknown author, who made the whole story as he wrote it? If this last
question cannot be answered in the affirmative without doing violence
to the most authentic testimony and also to the plainest dictates of
reason, it seems to follow that the 6th preceding question, must be
accepted in the affirmative, which furnishes sufficient evidence to
prove that such a story was reported among the Jews in the days of the

Whether you are correct in supposing there is as much evidence to
prove the resurrection as to prove the report of the disciples' having
stolen the body, or not, it appears to me, that there is no proper
ground on which the latter can even be doubted.

Suppose a writer in vindicating believer's baptism in opposition to
the sprinkling of infants, should relate a wonderful story concerning
the persecutions of the baptists, in which he should set forth the
particulars of one of their leading characters having been put to
death by their opposers. In this account, the author says; Those
murderers, after they put the man to death, for fear his friends
should steal the body, went and placed a strong guard round the tomb
to watch for the space of three days and nights, but before the
expiration of this period, the guard came to the rulers and make known
that the body is gone, and acknowledge at the same time, that there
were such wonders seen by them at the tomb, that they were unable to
endure the sight and retain their natural powers; that the rulers gave
them money to report that a number of the baptists came while the
guard was asleep and stole the body--"So they took the money, and did
as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the
Pædobaptists unto this day." Would this story appear any ways to the
advantage of a cause, with which reason and common sense have any
thing to do?

Reason, sir, for which you seem determined to contend, is candid; it
readily acknowledges that the account of this report among the Jews is
a true account. And it acknowledges also that the truth of this
account is good evidence to prove that the rulers of the Jews found it
necessary, in order to oppose the truth of the resurrection, to get
such a report in circulation.

You have not taken me exactly on the ground of my argument, in
supposing that, by _revelation_, I mean nothing more than "what was
revealed to me by the resurrection of Jesus, allowing the resurrection
true." My design was to consider the three propositions, viz.
revelation, the resurrection of Jesus, and the truth of the testimony
of the apostles, concerning matters of fact, true, disjunctively; and
also to avail myself of whatever might arise to the advantage of my
argument from the relation of these facts. All this you will, as a
generous and candid antagonist, be willing to allow me to do, on the
supposition that the three propositions, above named, be granted. For
surely no necessary deduction from granted premises can mislead,
unless what is granted be false. You will furthermore see, that by
granting the truth of divine revelation some degree of allowance is
given to the probability, at least, of the testimony of the apostles
respecting a future state. The confining of the subject of revelation,
to that only which is revealed by the resurrection of Jesus, seems an
unnecessary restriction, which can answer no purpose but to embarrass
an argument which it would have no real force in refuting; for if the
resurrection be admitted, which affords such an important revelation
as grows out of the fact, it establishes the general truth of a DIVINE
REVELATION from God to man. This being granted, all that stands in a
necessary relation to it may with propriety be used in defence of any
particular question relative to the general subject. I have already
argued the truth of what the apostles say of a future state, from the
facts which you grant for the sake of the argument, but you seem to
misapprehend me in supposing that I mean to contend, that what the
apostles have said respecting a future state, was spoken by way of
_conclusion_ from certain known facts. The known facts, such as the
miracles of Jesus, his resurrection, and the miracles wrought by the
apostles, I used as proof of the divine mission of these servants of
God. This divine mission being proved, gives the ground on which I
contend for the merit of their testimony concerning a future state.
You should have regarded my argument, as placing the credibility of
the apostles' testimony concerning a future state, on the fact of
their divine mission, and not as you seem to have done, on the
supposition, that they could not err in drawing conclusions, &c.

You have misunderstood me also, in supposing that by "the guess work
of men," I had any allusion to the known miracles related by the
apostles. What I called "mere guess work of men," was the _opinions_
of the apostles on supposition they were not divinely directed, in the
testimony they laid down respecting a future state. On this particular
subject, all you have said in reply to my reasoning, has no just
relation to my argument.

It was expected, that in relation to the foregoing subject, you would
have seen the necessity of either denying the reality of those
miracles, which, if true, prove the divine mission of Christ and his
apostles, or of granting the authority of their testimony. But in room
of finding what was so confidently expected, I find the mistakes above
pointed out, which occupy considerable space, without deciding any
thing, or furnishing ground on which I feel disposed to place any

The next particular which demands notice is stated as follows: "Your
final conclusion, after all, comes so near what I conceive to be the
truth, that were you as correct in every thing as you appear to be in
this, I should hardly think it expedient to pursue this controversy
any further." You then quote me. "The Christian is enabled to hope for
existence with God in an eternal state, and this is as much as our
present welfare requires." You rejoin; "Most excellent! to this
proposition I cheerfully assent. Yea, I would consent even to pruning
it a little which no doubt would spoil it in your view. Instead of,
'this is as much as,' read, 'even this is more than,' and your
proposition would stand exactly right." You assure me that you are in
search of truth.--Truth is the only design of your heart. It would be
uncharitable in me to doubt your sincerity. You sincerely and
cheerfully assent to the above proposition viz. that the christian is
enabled to hope for existence with God in an eternal state, and this
is as much as our present welfare requires. This you say is _most_
excellent. But notwithstanding you cheerfully assent to this
proposition, and can pronounce it _most_ excellent! Yet you think, if
the proposition was so altered as to allow us no hope of a future
existence with God, it would stand _exactly_ right! This variation is
so small, this difference is so little that you think if I were as
correct in every thing as I am in this, there would be no need of
pursuing this controversy any further! Let me ask dear sir, if such
reasoning as this can promise a profitable reward for our labours, and
a recompence for the precious time we are spending? The eye of reason,
I say is candid: it sees and knows, that if a hope of existence with
God hereafter is _more than_ our present welfare requires, such an
expectation is awfully dreadful beyond the power of language to
describe. Reason knows that there is an infinite difference between no
existence hereafter, and an eternal existence. And it knows, that if
the former is exactly what our present welfare requires, the latter is
completely repugnant to it.

With what you here contend for, I will connect a passage from your
sixth number. "He knows that a belief in revelation is not absolutely
necessary to a happy life." By bringing these passages together, I am
led to understand what you mean by the latter viz. that a belief in a
happy future state, is not necessary to our present felicity. This is
what you know! What then are you in pursuant of? You pretend to be
earnestly solicitous to have your doubts respecting divine revelation
removed if possible; you call on me to assist in this work as if you
viewed it with deep concern.--If your doubts should be removed, if you
should be altogether convinced that God has actually revealed the
truth of a a happy immortality, you know it would add nothing to your
happiness. Furthermore you argue, following the passage quoted from
your sixth number, that this belief in the revelation of a happy
futurity is not necessary to produce a virtuous life. Allowing all you
argue on this subject, you feel sure that a real conviction of the
truth of the christian doctrine, and hope of future blessedness, would
be of no advantage to your virtue or happiness! I ask again, what are
you in pursuit of? You compliment me too highly in your encomium on
the sermon in which I laid down that man is so constituted that he is
always willing to exchange that which gives him trouble, for that
which gives him comfort. And you advert to this particular sentiment
of mine, in your observations on St. Paul's conversion, and very
justly refuse to allow him to be an exception of the general rule. But
are you not an exception of this rule? Do you not appear to be
solicitous to have your doubts removed without expecting the least
advantage by it? Are you not employing your time in writing
voluminously on a subject which you _know_ can yield you no
recompence? In search after the evidences of the christian hope, you
cannot say: where is that faithful, that friendly witness by which I
can believe, and believing, enjoy as a precious reality that hope
which is as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast; which
entereth into that within the veil, where our forerunner hath for us
entered; which hope would enable me to sing that triumphant song; "O
death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory? Thanks be to
God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." No, this
hope would add nothing to your happiness, and what you want it for is
not for me to imagine.

You can employ the powers of luminous reason in contemplating eternal
nothing with sweet complacency. This is "exactly" as it should be!
Varying from this the proposition would need to be "pruned!" Dear
brother, does reason countenance all this absurdity? If it be a
pleasure to contemplate non-existence does it not involve the
absurdity of enjoying the expectation of the discontinuance of

You have expressed, with interjections, the value of truth. You seem
almost disposed to arrogate to yourself a peculiar regard for this
divine treasure. I can fancy I hear your secret addresses to this
lovely divinity; in rapturous language, with aspect of eager affection
saying; O truth, the loveliest of all attractions, thou art balsam for
every wound, antidote for every poison; thou sweetenest every bitter
cup; the gloomy prospect of living, in thy bright sunshine is by thee
changed into the joyous expectation of soon losing sight of thee
forever in the elysium of non-existence!

I will not burden you with further deductions, so repugnant to the
dictates of reason; but I will cherish a hope, that you will see
sufficient reason for rescinding the arguments which lead to them.[1]

[Footnote 1: Perhaps the reader may be a little astonished here, that
the objector should ever have consented to publish arguments which
makes him appear so much to a disadvantage. But an honest objector,
who has been so blind to his own heart as not to perceive the real
cause of a perfect reconciliation to the general providence of God,
instead of feeling _chagrined_, will feel _grateful_, when his errors
are _honestly exposed_. Believing, therefore, that others may be in
the same predicament, these arguments are published to the world.]

On supposition divine revelation be true, you agree with me on the
subject wherein I differ from the general opinion, that a knowledge of
the gospel in this world is indispensable to the soul's felicity in
the next, but you are confident that this my sentiment will be viewed
by the Christian world in general, with greater abhorrence than even
your own arguments, &c. And you hope I am prepared for the
consequences. Reply--I have little or no concern about what opinion
reputed orthodoxy may entertain of the truths which reason and
revelation harmonize in supporting, nor am very careful about any
preparation to meet the consequences which may result from the
inseparable companions, _superstition_ and _ignorance_.

In my view, the commonly received opinion, on the subject under
consideration, is no more reasonable, than the supposition that the
happiness and wellbeing of our children, in this world, depend on
their having had a correct knowledge of their parents, of their wisdom
and parental providence for them, before they were born. The wisdom
and goodness of God, according to scripture and reason, are universal.
The ignorance of mortals concerning them, on the one hand, makes them
no less, and their knowledge, on the other makes them no greater. We
must duly regard, however, the evident fact, that the enjoyment of
reasonable beings, is extended by the extension of knowledge, which
renders acquirements in science and divinity an object of the first

The sentiment which you express on the above subject is what I am well
persuaded can never be refuted, and it appears to me that by placing
the system of divine revelation on the ground above noticed, it is
rendered free from these absurdities which have rendered it
exceptionable to the eye of reason and philosophy.

The gospel of everlasting life, like all real science, has always
existed, but like the sciences, has been developed by degrees, and
brought to the understanding of mankind as a mean of refinement,
improvement, and of conformity to mortal principles, as expressed by
that eminent divine St. Paul, 2 Cor. 5, 18, 19, 20. "And all things
are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and
hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was
in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their
trespasses unto them: and hath committed unto us the word of
reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God
did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled
to God." Now to suppose that men, who on account of their ignorance of
the gospel are unreconciled to God, who has undertaken the gracious
work of reconciling them to himself, not imputing their trespasses
unto them, are on account of their unreconciliation excluded from
being the objects of divine favour is a grand absurdity to say the

The fact is, the gospel is a dispensation of general favour, and it
actually communicates many invaluable blessings to those who know
nothing of its divine principles. There are millions of people in the
world who are blessed in a great variety of respects by means of civil
government, who know nothing of the principles of the governments by
which they are protected. How many blessings are constantly falling,
as it were like a shower, on our infants and youth in America, from
the favourable government of our happy country, and yet these children
know not the difference between an absolute monarchy and a republic.

How many millions of the human race are daily fed from the products of
agriculture, who know nothing of the principles which produce those
rich supplies. So there are multitudes who enjoy many blessings
procured by the gospel of Christ, who have no knowledge of the sublime
principles of this religion. But here again I will repeat the remark,
that our rational felicity is greatly increased by an extension of our
knowledge in the principles of the doctrine of Jesus, which
consideration is a proper incentive to grow in grace and in the
knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Knowledge is food for the mind and nourishes and strengthens it as
aliment does the body. Our youth learn to read the books which they
are favoured with in consequence of the discovery of the art of
printing, and they obtain great advantages by means of those books,
while they remain entirely ignorant, many of them, of the art by which
such a favour is put into their hands. But still it is healthy to the
youthful mind, to receive the knowledge of this and other arts, and
even to know that an art so extensively useful was not known in the
world four hundred years ago. A person on being informed of the first
discovery of this art, and of its being practiced, in the first place,
with separate wooden types, might be disposed to doubt the ignorance
of men in those times. He might think it incredible that any thing so
easy, that even children can perform was unknown to the learned world
in those times when learning flourished in ancient Greece and Rome.
And I am of opinion that many now, who are disposed to doubt the
circumstances which attended the first promulgation of the gospel, and
even call themselves unbelievers, do in reality, owe even their
existence and of course every blessing they enjoy to those facts of
which they now doubt. Yes, sir, the light of reason, and the knowledge
of moral principles, on which you feel disposed to place so much
consequence, I am inclined to believe are reflections of that light
which was the delightful theme of the evangelical Isaiah, chapters 6,
7, 8. "I the Lord hath called thee in righteousness, and will hold
thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the
people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring
out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out
of the prison house. I am the Lord; that is my name: and my glory will
I not give to another, nor my praise to graven images." Am I deceived,
sir, or is it evident, that the glorious LIGHT which illuminates our
moral hemisphere, and distinguishes our country from barbarism and
savage ignorance, is the gospel? The name of Jesus, his doctrine, the
reformation, seceding from the Church of England and persecution for
conscience sake, rank as causes of the settlement of New England by
our forefathers, and of the existence of the men who are carrying on
this correspondence. This is mentioned with a view to direct your mind
to the consideration of that course of causes and effects by which we
are enabled to reason on what wo call moral and physical principles.
And a hope is entertained that due regard will be paid to this
self-evident fact, that nothing ever took place without an adequate
cause to produce it.

With this reflection, I come to notice your remarks on the subject of
St. Paul's conversion; for it appears to me that you have allowed
certain facts without assigning any adequate causes by which those
facts came to exist. You make no attempt to deny that there was such a
man as St. Paul, nor do you deny his having been educated, and
religiously instructed as the scripture history concerning this man
sets forth. But you assign no reason why he became a believer in Jesus
Christ, you assign no reason for his becoming a preacher of the
doctrine of Jesus, you assign no reason why he should so patiently
suffer for the religion, the truth of which you are now calling in
question. You allow that before his conversion he persecuted unto
death the "weak and defenceless disciples of the meek and lowly
Jesus." But you assign no reasons why weak and defenceless men should
become the disciples of Jesus. You would fain insinuate that what he
relates of the particular circumstance which happened to him on his
way to Damascus was a mere reverie. But you make no attempt to show
how such a reverie could produce in this learned pharisee a belief
that Jesus, who was crucified had actually arose from the dead, when
there were not even the shadow of evidence existing to prove such an
improbable fact. You are inclined to this notion of a reverie on
account of some experience of your own, which your good sense and
after reflection have discovered to be nothing on which dependence
ought to be placed. Sir, where is the similarity of your case with
that of the learned pharisee? Do you really believe you ever
experienced a reverie, that would go in the least to cause you to
believe in the resurrection of a man who was hanged in your sight, and
who you knew was buried, and of whose resurrection you had no
evidence, only a vague reverie? Do you believe you ever experienced a
mere imagination which was strong enough to produce the above belief,
and which could continue to influence you all your life long, lead you
to forsake a most honourable connexion, and to espouse a religion
which all the prejudices of your education opposed, and to labour
continually for its support and to suffer every thing for its defence?
No, you pretend to no such thing, therefore your case is very
different from St. Paul's.

I agree with you, that the case of this apostle comes under the rule
which you recollect I suggested in my sermon. He undoubtedly viewed
the religion which he received in room of the one he parted with the
most valuable. And to this agrees his own testimony. Phil. iii. 7, &c.
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of
the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the
loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ,
and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of
the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the
righteousness which is of God by faith."

As you promise to say more on this subject, I shall _continue_ to
expect an attempt to deny the conversion of such a man as St. Paul is
set forth to have been, to the Christian religion, under all the
circumstances which the scripture account mentions; or an attempt to
show that such a conversion could _probably_ take place without
supposing the facts on which the religion of Christ was founded were
realities; or lastly, an acknowledgment that this conversion may
reasonably be allowed as evidence to us of the truth of the Christian

Should you be disposed to disallow the account which the scripture
gives of St. Paul, I will ask the favour of you to point out and show
to my understanding where in Paley's Horae Paulinae fails of proving
the truth of the scripture history of St. Paul.

       *       *       *       *       *

What follows is designed to notice your sixth number; out of which the
following subjects are selected, on which some remarks are made.

1st. You observe that "when we hear things, which to our understanding
are improbable, the improbability of the facts raises a doubt in our
minds; and certainly there can be no harm in suspending our judgment,
nor yet in withholding our belief until we are fully satisfied." This
first subject regards the degrees of evidences which are required in
different cases, and the moral propriety of withholding the assent of
the mind in the case of a want of evidence.

2d. You are not disposed to doubt that many of the prophets were good
men; nor will you contend that they were not all such, and taught the
people according to the best of their abilities--And yet you hesitate
to allow the divinity of their testimony.

3d. I notice that you acknowledge that there are evidences in favour
of divine revelation, which would support it, if there were nothing to
counterbalance their testimony.

4th. You hardly know how to understand me where I suggest, that in
disproving the religion of Jesus Christ, you disprove all religion,

5th. An inquiry whether Jesus and the apostles might not be honest
men, and yet their testimony in certain cases not to be relied on!

6th. You suppose that arguments equally energetic and equally
conclusive might be drawn from our feelings against, as in favour of
the necessity of divine revelation.

7th. In enumerating the virtues and enjoyments of one who does not
even desire a future state, you mention unfeigned thankfulness for all
the happiness of which he is made susceptible.

8th. You assert, that if a revelation ever was necessary, it was
necessary only to reconcile man to his present state efexistence. And,

9th. You seem to fault me for supposing that in case you did not mean
as I took you, on the subject of the apostles' testimony, you must
mean the reverse, &c.

These nine particulars, it is true, do not comprehend every item
contained in your sixth number, but I believe that a candid reply to
each of them will satisfy you that a competent degree of attention has
been paid to this communication.

1st. Concerning the degrees of evidence required in certain cases to
carry conviction of facts to the mind; it has always been allowed by
those who have vindicated the religion of Jesus, that a belief in
miracles requires more evidence than a belief in ordinary events
recorded in history. Having granted this they proceed to associate the
evidences, which God in his divine economy has given and preserved,
and conclude with grateful assurance that the evidence of the miracles
of Jesus, his unspeakably glorious resurrection from the dead,
together with the miracles with which the first promulgation of the
gospel was effected, are abundantly sufficient to carry conviction to
vastly the greatest part of candid minds.

In the mode the last sentence is concluded, I must, in justice to
others, take the sentiment there expressed to myself; for I am sorry
to say that christians, who have contended against infidelity have,
generally, been less charitable than the genius of the religion they
have, in many respects, most ably defended. I cannot find authority
for denying candor to one who is unable to believe on the ground of
such evidence as may satisfy my mind of a fact. I will therefore
suppose that some who are candid, may, from some cause which we cannot
analyze, be unable to believe the great truths of the gospel, on such
evidence as is abundantly sufficient to convince others who are as
scrupulous as necessary investigation requires.

It is, sir, the opinion of some very learned authors, who stand in the
very first rank, for candor and erudition, that the proofs of which
the gospel is susceptible are, in all respects, equal to what they
could have been in any other way concerted, within the reach of human
conception. This is going to a great length I confess; and yet I am
strongly inclined to their opinion. I will candidly state why I am
so.--1st. Taking the subject in the gross, I am convinced of the truth
of the gospel of Christ. Now as I believe this gospel is not of man,
but of God, I likewise believe that God in consummate wisdom has
planned the evidences by which it is and will be supported in the
world, until it fills the whole earth. 2d. As I believe that divine
wisdom has planned, ordered and directed all the means which will
finally operate as evidences in defence of the gospel, I cannot
believe that the wisdom or sagacity of man could have suggested a
chain of evidences which could so well have secured the cause to be
supported. And 3d. I have spent much time in reflecting and studying
on this momentous subject, some time in reading authors on both sides
of the question, a great deal of time in reading the scriptures, and
have come to this conclusion that no set of men ever lived in this
world that could either have planned such a scheme as the gospel, or
ever have invented such a chain of evidences for its support.

If the single miracle of the resurrection be considered, as the fact
on which all other facts relating to the gospel seem to rest, it is
confidently believed that no human invention could have concerted a
system so well calculated to secure the fact to all future
generations, as that which has been adopted by the divine economy. Had
the whole of the Jewish nation with their Gentile neighbours, together
with the Roman authorities, all confessed Christianity, being fully
convinced of the resurrection of Jesus, and had they inscribed all the
miracles recorded in the new testament on monuments which should defy
the hand of time to bring them to decay, it requires but a moment's
reflection to see that all this would have vastly increased the
difficulty now to prove that it was not all contrived by man's

But let us consider the unbelief of the Jews, the violent opposition
of that ancient priesthood, its coalition with the Roman government
against the gospel, the great jealousy which the acknowledged miracles
of Jesus had excited, the vigilance by which he was watched by his
religious enemies, the careful scrutiny employed to discover fraud in
his miracles if it were possible; and then add to these considerations
that the miracles of Jesus were publically performed, and of such a
nature as to admit of the easiest possible detection if they had not
been real: and finally to disarm unbelief at once, consider that the
ministry of the gospel was set up by the apostles, on the bold
declaration that God had raised the crucified Jesus from the dead! A
declaration, which if it had not been true, mark well, sir, could have
been as easily refuted and rendered the derision of all people as any
declaration that could have been made. But I shall lose myself, and
forget that you have not yet called my attention so directly to this
subject, as to justify my entering largely into it.

What you have said on the subject of believing in the testimony of
David, that the "Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over
all his works," also the same sentiment communicated by Jesus Christ,
that God loves his enemies and that he requires of us the same
exercise towards our enemies, though perfectly reasonable, as I view
the subject, seems to call up the question, how it happens that
thousands of professed Christians, who believe in the miracles of
Jesus, his resurrection and the miracles of the apostles, are
notwithstanding hostile to this divine and glorious sentiment of the
blessed Jesus! Being compelled, by the visible evidences of divine
goodness, seen in the rain and sunshine, they advance so far as to
acknowledge that _temporal_ favours are generally distributed, but
that God does really love the wicked, they utterly deny. Now while you
can believe this great moral truth without a miracle, Christian people
in general cannot believe it with one. You are not to suppose that I
am willing to allow that you believe this sentiment without a miracle,
though you would insinuate, that this is the case. My opinion is, that
had it not been for the miracles recorded in the new testament, the
truth of which you are disposed to call in question, you and I, if we
had existed, would have had no more light on this subject than the
rudest savage, or what is worse, the most superstitious and contracted
Christian. If you have any ground on which you can fairly refute my
opinion on this subject, I hope you will faithfully perform it; if
not, it will be expected that you will express your acquiescence. Such
is the power of natural prejudice which we know exists in the human
mind, that without a divine revelation from God, supported by the most
evident miracles, man will not extend his views of divine benevolence
scarcely beyond the rivers and mountains which environ the
circumscribed vicinity of his birth. Trace the power and operation of
this prejudice and you find it maintaining hostility against the light
of revelation itself, and it is only by slow degrees that it is
brought into submission. We reason very injudiciously when we bring
ourselves to believe, that by the light of reason we could know and
understand all the moral truths which we have been taught by
revelation; we forget that revelation has illuminated our reason and
taught it how to see and understand.--Just as well might the sprightly
youth refuse to acknowledge that its mother learned it to walk, and
ever gave it nourishment and strength to perform the exercise, and
allege that it can walk as well as she can. As well might the learned
graduate refuse the grateful honours due to his instructors, and say:
my reason, my understanding comprehend these sciences, of what use
then are these learned professors and this college institution? But
would not reason point him to the condition of those, to whom the
blessings of instruction, which, through much difficulty had given him
the light of science, had not extended? Would it not force the
comparison on his understanding, and humble him into gratitude?

It seems impossible, sir, for reason to compare our situation with
theirs, who have not been enlightened by the gospel, without kneeling,
like the woman in Simon's house, at the feet of Jesus.

2d. If the prophets where not divinely inspired, will you suggest any
way by which their pretentions to divine inspiration can be reconciled
with their honesty? They all speak in the name of the Lord, and
evidently aim at the high pretention of being spoken to, in a special
manner, by God himself. Will you say: they were a set of poor deluded
enthusiasts? But this would contradict your reason which can see in
every page of their writings a very different character. A passage
from the 1st chapter of Jeremiah is here quoted for an example. "Then
the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, before I formed thee &c. I
sanctified thee; and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then
said I, ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child: But
the Lord said unto me, say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all
that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt
speak. Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver
thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand and touched my
mouth; and the Lord said unto me, behold, I have put my words in thy

Here Jeremiah evidently designed to declare himself an inspired
prophet of God, by which he was justified in speaking in his name. Now
if all this was mere fiction, how can it be entitled to a better
character than that of blasphemy?

As a specimen of this prophet's knowledge of future events we may
notice his prophesy of the seventy years captivity. See chap. xxv. 11,
&c. xxix. 10, &c. Compare with 2 Kings xxiv. 2 Chron. xxxvi. Ezra i.
1, and other corresponding passages.

I will ask you to consult the character of Daniel, and observe with
what genuine humility he pretends to divine inspiration, chap. ii.
xxx. "But as for me, the secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom
that I have more than any living, but that the secret might be made
known, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart." If
Daniel did not receive a divine revelation, it must be allowed that he
was deceived, or that he meant to deceive the king. But if he were
deceived, or if he meant to deceive, can you give any good account how
he could tell the king's dream and the interpretation, which reached
into the far distant periods of time, and which has been remarkably
fulfilled in the rise and fall of the four great empires of the world,
and is still fulfilling by the advances of the kingdom of Christ? I
will say nothing of the prophet Isaiah, who speaks of the Messiah more
than seven hundred years before he was born, as if he had been his
contemporary. Nor need I speak of Moses who foretold the dealings of
God with the house of Israel as if he had lived now and had written
their history. But I must insist on your paying some nice attention to
the prophesies of Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. This
prophesy is recorded very circumstantially in the 24th of Matt. Be so
good, sir, as to compare this prophesy with the history written by
Josephus and let candor decide whether the author of that prophesy was
divinely inspired, or whether he was a poor deceived enthusiast.

If you allow that Jesus Christ was an honest man how is it possible
for you to deny his being divinely inspired? He certainly pretended to
foretell events; he most surely pretended to perform most astonishing
miracles. Of these facts we have as much evidence as we have that
there was such a man. Now, sir, if he were honest, he was divinely
inspired and endued, or he was an enthusiast even to insanity. And yet
in every instance, where the powers of his mind were tried, by the
profoundest learning, and sharpest wit that could be brought against
him, he discovered a mind as clear as light. A volume of vast extent
could not exhaust the subject I am now upon, but as you have the same
opportunity and means which I have to trace it, I shall insist on your
treating this subject with candor and shall expect you to acknowledge
that Jesus was divinely inspired, or show how he could be honest,
without this divine endowment.

3d. You acknowledge, that there are evidences in favour of divine
revelation, which would support it, if there were nothing to
counterbalance their testimony. I shall here find some fault. Why do
you allow that there are evidences in favour of divine revelation, and
not state what they are? Why do you insinuate that there is something
to counterbalance their testimony and not state what it is? When an
antagonist finds his opponent candid enough to allow that some
evidence stands on his side of the argument is it not necessary for
him at the same time to be informed what it is? Does he not need to
know what his opponent is willing to allow to be evidence? And does he
not likewise need to know how this evidence is counterbalanced?
However, as you have not favoured me with such necessary assistance, I
will attempt to proceed without it. But here I must go partly on
presumption and partly by guess. In the first place I will inquire
what particular circumstance recorded in scripture, which, if true,
would substantiate revelation; and which you may suppose there is
evidence sufficient to prove, if there was nothing to counterbalance
it? This I will presume is the resurrection of Jesus. Why I think you
would be most likely to have this particular in your mind, is, because
on this event, I believe all will agree, depend the validity of the
prophecies, the truth of the testimony of Christ himself, and the
authority of the apostles. I will then presume that you acknowledge
that there is evidence of this wonderful fact; but at the same time I
am to understand, that, in your mind there is something to
counterbalance, in some degree, if not entirely, this evidence.

Having proceeded so far, I am now to guess what the evidence is that
you think would support this all important fact, if it were not
counterbalanced. But here I find myself in difficulty. My difficulty
is in finding any kind of evidence which could prove such an event, if
there were nothing to counterbalance it, that could possibly be
counterbalanced. Will you say that the testimony of the disciples,
that they had seen the man alive after his death would be sufficient
evidence to prove the fact? Suppose twelve men of honest fame, should
report, and even depose, that the last man who was publicly executed
in Boston, had actually arose from the dead, and that they had ate and
drank with him a number of times since he was executed. Should you
suppose this sufficient evidence, if there were nothing to do it away?
But what could do it away? If the people could go to the grave and
find the body there, the testimony of the twelve would remain no
evidence at all, and therefore could not afterwards be called evidence
sufficient to support the fact if there were nothing to counterbalance
it. But suppose the people cannot find the body, would it not be
thought that the body might possibly have been conveyed away by design
of some who might have occasion to keep it a secret? But a guard is
placed to watch the grave; but a guard might be bribed. The one we
have account of was bribed, according to the story; and if they could
be bribed by the chief priests and rulers, why not by some body else?
Finally, would the testimony of these men be sufficient to prove such
an extraordinary fact even if the body could not be found? I think for
myself, that various opinions would result from such evidence. Some
would believe that these men had entered into some very extraordinary
plot, and calculated that they should be most likely to succeed by
means of persuading the people that they were favoured with a
knowledge of this resurrection. Others might believe them honest men,
but by some crafty contrivance imposed on. Others might believe that
the spirit of this man had appeared to the twelve, but that no real
resurrection had taken place. But I very much doubt whether any very
stable people would consider the testimony of the twelve men
sufficient to support this fact if there were nothing brought, or if
nothing could be brought against it. Such a circumstance would no
doubt cause a great deal of talk, the depositions and the names of the
deponents would be published in the newspapers, perhaps for several
weeks, but after a little time it would die away.

Finally, I cannot conceive of any evidence that could sufficiently
support the fact that Jesus who was crucified, did actually rise from
the dead, if nothing could be brought to counterbalance it, that could
possibly admit of being counterbalanced.

The question seems to remain, and the substance of it is this. 1st. If
Jesus did actually rise from the dead what kind of evidence would his
disciples need in order to be satisfied of the fact? And 2d. What kind
of evidence must they be able to bring to the people in order to
convince them of the fact?

I will here suppose that it is not necessary to prove that the
disciples of Jesus, who preached him and his resurrection all their
lives after they commenced at the day of pentecost, really believed
what they preached; but the evidence by which they believed it I now
inquire for. We must notice that the disciples did not expect the
resurrection, they were not believers of this fact when their master
was crucified. They were awfully disappointed, and not _only_
disappointed but intimidated, as the account fully shows. They all
forsook Jesus at his trial, and Peter for fear of being involved with
him denied being his disciple.

The evidence then of his resurrection must be such as will convince
those of the fact who have no expectation of the event. We will now
look at the account. "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene,
and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices,
that they might come and anoint him." This very rational account shows
as plainly as the case will admit that these women had no expectation
of his resurrection. I omit here what passed at the sepulchre when
these women were there, for this does not relate to the disciples. The
angel at the sepulchre told these women that Jesus had risen, and
directed them to go and tell his disciples. "Now when Jesus was risen
eariy, the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that
had been with him, as they mourned and wept." This mourning and
weeping could not be the effect of the pleasing expectation of soon
having their divine master with them; no, it was the natural effect of
the amazing disappointment which had closed all the hopes they had
entertained. "And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had
been seen of her," believed? no, "believed not." After that he
appeared in another form to two of them as they walked, and went into
the country.--And they went and told it unto the residue: neither
believed they them. "Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat
at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart,
because they believed not them which had seen him after he had risen."
It seems unnecessary to quote into this communication all the
instances related by the four deponents of Jesus' being seen of the
eleven; his frequently being with them, eating with them, holding
lengthy conversations with them, &c. Now as these disciples knew that
Jesus had been crucified and buried, and a guard had been placed to
guard the sepulchre, and moreover knowing for certainty that the body
of Jesus was not where it had been deposited, and being favoured with
his presence on a variety of occasions for forty days, the evidence to
the disciples was of a character described by the author of the Acts.
"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many
infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the
things pertaining to the kingdom of God." I believe, sir, that such
evidence as Jesus is said to have given his disciples of his
resurrection would be entirely sufficient to remove all doubts in
their mind, however prone they were to unbelief. I am of opinion that
such evidence would convince you and me of a similar fact.--Two
questions are here necessary. 1st. Can we conceive how the evidence
could have been less without being insufficient? And 2d. Can we
conceive how it could have been stronger? I will not take up time to
argue these questions, I feel satisfied on them myself. I will now ask
whether we can imagine the possibility of any evidence that could
counterbalance the evidence of the resurrection in the minds of the
disciples? Thus we are brought to the suggestion, that any evidence
which could be sufficient to prove such a fact, if no evidence
appeared against it, must be such as admits of no refutation.

You will not forget, and think that I have been endeavouring to prove
the resurrection of Jesus, or that the disciples even believed it; all
I have been seeking for is that kind of evidence which would be
necessary to prove to the disciples such a fact, and to show that such
evidence cannot admit of refutation. However, you will at once see
that, allowing our reasoning to be correct, and allowing the disciples
did really believe the resurrection, either of which, I do not believe
you will undertake to dispute, the resurrection is proved beyond all

2d. Let us now inquire what kind of evidence was necessary for the
disciples of Jesus to bring to the people, in order to convince them
of this all-important fact on which the whole scheme and ministry of
the gospel rested. It seems that the disciples did not believe on the
testimony of others, though of their own intimate acquaintance,
persons in whom they would place as much confidence as in any in the
world, no doubt. Of course, they could not expect other people, who
had not been the disciples of Jesus, would believe in his resurrection
on their testimony. The evidence which the disciples had was
sufficient for them, but their testimony would surely be much less;
and any thing less would be insufficient as before stated.

We will now have recourse to the account. But first let us notice,
that we are not endeavouring to prove that the disciples ever
persuaded any to believe in the resurrection of Jesus; this is, as it
must be, considered a fact, not disputed. The question is by what
evidence did the apostles convince thousands of the people in
Jerusalem and its vicinity, that Jesus who was publicly executed, was
not only the true Messiah promised in the law and prophets, but that
he had actually arose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Before
Jesus ascended, he, after saying many other things to his disciples
who were together in the city of Jerusalem, said to them; "Thus it is
written, and thus it behoveth Christ to suffer, and to rise from the
dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should
be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And
ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my
father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be
endued with power from on high." See the same account in Acts, "But ye
shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and
ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea,
and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." According
to this account, Jesus did not direct his disciples to undertake to
convince the people by their testimony, but charged them to wait for
divine power. Accordingly they did wait. Now look at the account which
we have, of what took place on the day of pentecost. I will not
mutilate this account by quoting parts, there is no need of quoting
what you have perfectly in your memory. Take particular notice of what
Peter said to the people who had been accessary to the crucifixion of
Jesus. He who was so intimidated as to deny Christ, now stands in the
midst of the people and boldly asserts, that Jesus of Nazareth was a
man approved of God among them by miracles and wonders, and signs
which God did by him, among them; and that they knew this to be the
case. He further tells them that they had with wicked hands crucified
and slain this man who was thus approved of God. And he assured the
whole house of Israel, that God had made this same Jesus whom they had
crucified both Lord and Christ. He moreover boldly declared that God
had raised Jesus from the dead. Now add to the testimony of Peter, the
astonishing manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit, as
described in the account, and you have the evidence by which about
three thousand souls were convinced of the resurrection of Jesus in
one day. Here let us consider; the people had been acquainted with
Jesus, and had been eye witnesses of his miracles; many of them were
personally acquainted with Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.
They had been, many of them, fed by his miracles and had seen his
wonderful works. Now put all together and it is evident that they had
sufficient reason to believe. I cannot conceive how reasonable people
in the candid exercise of their judgments, could avoid believing.

Look, sir, at the account of the miraculous cure of the lame man, who
lay at the gate of the temple. Notice the words used to effect it. "In
the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." "And all the
people saw him walking and praising God: and they knew that it was he
who sat for alms at the beautiful gate of the temple." Hear what Peter
says to the wondering multitude on this occasion. "Ye men of Israel,
why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by
our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of
Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath
glorified his son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the
presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye
denied the holy one and the just, and desired a murderer to be granted
unto you; and killed the prince of life, whom God hath raised from the
dead: whereof we are witnesses. And his name, through faith in his
name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, and the
faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the
presence of you all." Here we have the evidence by which about five
thousand men, besides women, believed--that is, owned their belief.
When the high priest and others called Peter and John before them, and
demanded, by what power, or by what name they had done this thing,
Peter answers, filled with the Holy Spirit; "Ye rulers of the people,
and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done
to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole: be it known unto
you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus
Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead,
even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the
stone which was set at naught by you builders." Hear what these rulers
say when Peter and John were sent aside. "What shall we do to these
men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is
manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it."

Such evidence as we have noticed, which the disciples were enabled to
bring to the people, of the resurrection of Jesus, was sufficient to
remove every reasonable doubt and to bring over to this faith, those
who had been his murderers.

I will now inquire whether it is reasonable to suppose that less
evidence would have effected such conviction?--And on the other hand,
I will ask whether stronger proof could in the nature of things be
given? And lastly, to come to our object again, does such evidence
possibly admit of being counterbalanced? I understand that these
questions admit of no other answers than such as go to show, that if
there be any evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, sufficient to
support it, if there were no evidence to counterbalance it, such
evidence is not capable of being counterbalanced.--You will perceive
that our reasoning must issue in the truth of the resurrection, unless
we assume the extravagant notion, that the people who lived in
Jerusalem and its vicinity, at the time of the crucifiction of Jesus,
were not brought over to believe it.

It is hoped that no objection will be brought from the circumstance of
the rejection of the gospel by the rulers of the Jews, and by the
major part of that hierarchy, as long as it is perfectly evident that
their opposition and unbelief were indispensably necessary for the
fulfilling of the prophecies, for the carrying of conviction to the
Gentiles, and for the purpose of perpetuating the necessary evidences
on which we, at this day, must rest our belief of this religion.

4th. You hardly know how to understand me when I suggest, that in
disproving the religion of Jesus Christ, you disprove all religion,
&c. I think I added, that there is no choosing between this religion
and some other, we must have this, or none.

By the religion of Jesus Christ, I mean to comprehend all that the
doctrine of the scriptures encourage us to believe in and hope for,
and also all that this doctrine requires, also all that it teaches us
to expect as resulting from obedience and disobedience. I am fully
persuaded that you never can disprove this religion, so as to do away
its effects on your own mind. Its maxims contain all the morality you
know of, and all that a Deist calls natural religion, he has been
taught from the revealed wisdom of God. The further you advance into
the society of man, where the light of the holy scriptures has least
extended, so much the more do you lose sight of the moral virtues; and
so much the more do you lose sight of the simple unity and divine
benevolence of God.

My meaning, sir, however, was not very extensive. It was to say, as in
a familiar conversation, I might express myself as follows: Brother,
if we disprove the religion of Jesus Christ, that is, if we give up
our present belief, there is no other religion, that we have heard of,
that can have the least claim to our belief. Judaism, Paganism,
Mahomedanism, could neither of them have any claims; nor in fact could
what people call Deism, or the belief in one God. If you say there is
certainly demonstrated in the very nature of things an eternal
unchangeable principle or law which governs all things; I will answer,
I am surprised to hear a rational being, who cannot remember
forty-five of our short years, and knows not that he shall live in the
world another hour, talk about eternal things, use great swelling
words of vanity about unchangeability, and yet deny that God has made
a revelation to man! I am really of the sentiment expressed by him who
is justly styled the light of the world, who said "No man knoweth the
Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth him."

5th. You seem to inquire whether Jesus and his apostles might not be
honest men; and yet their testimony, concerning a future state be
erroneous. Answer, this case comes into the same argument as the case
of the prophets, to which attention has been paid. We have no more
reason to believe that Jesus and his apostles were honest men, than we
have to believe that they pretended to divine inspiration, and to the
power of working many very astonishing miracles. It does not appear
reasonable to suppose that these servants of God, thought they could,
and did heal the sick and raise the dead, when in fact they could do
no such thing. Therefore, if they pretended to do such things and did
them not, they were all impostors, and surely deserve no better
appellation. Now if I can bring to your mind my inference, it is this.
God would not endue Jesus Christ and his apostles with power to work
miracles, by which the attention of the people would be drawn to them
and by which they would naturally be led to place confidence in their
testimony, and yet leave them in the dark concerning those things of
which they speak to the people.

What you say on this subject, indicates that you did not understand me
to infer the validity of the apostles' testimony concerning a future
state, from any higher authority than their simple honesty unconnected
with the other part of the argument, which was as plainly set forth in
my former communication as you will now find it in this.

6th. You suppose that arguments equally energetic, and equally
conclusive might be drawn from our feelings, against, as in favour of
the necessity of divine revelation.

Though I am not of your opinion, yet I am disposed to think that
desires very fervent may in some instances exercise the human heart
against the knowledge of divine truth. But, sir, this is the effect of
moral disease, not of a sound mind. A foul stomach will nauseate at
the sight of wholesome food; distempered eyes are rendered painful by
the rays of light; one whose deeds are evil loves darkness for this
very reason. Now that people affected with these infirmities should be
exercised with fervent desires to avoid what gives them uneasiness is
surely very natural; but that a person in health and having good
exercise should loathe that which is good and nourishing, that one who
has sound eyes should dislike the enlivening beams of the sun, or that
one whose works are wrought in God, should love darkness rather than
light is not reasonable.

You are cautioned against supposing that these remarks are designed to
be applied to yourself, for I bear you record that your exertions and
assiduity for the attainment of true knowledge have been laudable, and
worthy of imitation. But all this only proves to me that your
reasoning is unnatural, and that no man would be more rejoiced to know
the truth of divine revelation than yourself.

7th. That a person who does not even desire a future existence should
realize the goodness of the divine Being, and feel truly grateful for
all enjoyments does not stand in a clear light in my mind. I cannot
conceive that it is possible that any thing could remove a desire to
exist in the future, except a very strong fear that that state would
be awfully miserable. To be thankful to God, and to rejoice in his
goodness, and at the same time feel no desire to continue in the
enjoyment of such favour is to me a complete solecism, which
sufficiently refutes itself.

8th. Your assertion, that if a revelation was ever necessary, it was
necessary only to reconcile man to his present state of existence, is
thought to be an error of no small magnitude. If you had said that
revelation was necessary only for the improvement of man in his
present state it would have been more correct.

As for man's present existence, it seems he has love enough; people
wish to live here, and no doubt they would wish to stay forever if
they had no hope in the future. By improving our present state by a
divine revelation, I wish to be understood to comprehend all that is
meant by the ministry of reconciliation. This has for its object the
reconciliation of man to God. But it is a soul rejoicing fact, that of
the precious things brought forth by the sun of righteousness, the
hope of immortality is its most precious jewel. This makes every thing
valuable. Hence we may lay up our treasures where neither moth nor
rust can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. Here God's
bright favour will never grow dim, nor will our love and gratitude
ever decay. Do you see this celestial form leaning on her anchor, and
while the raging waves of a restless sea dash against her, feel
unmoved? Do you observe her aspect firm, and her eyes turned towards
Heaven? And wouldst you wish to cast her down and wreck her on the
quicksands of dismal doubt? Go, brother, to the chamber of sickness,
where life's waning embers can no longer warm the dying heart, there
hear from cold and quivering lips this hope expressed, I long to be
with Christ, I long to be at rest. Would you blast this amaranthine
flower? Would you plant in its stead the night shade of dispair?

Do not, dear sir, listen too long to the wild suggestions of vain
fancy and wandering imagination, under the specious pretence of
searching after truth. I am apprehensive that she who persuades you
that she is truth, really deserves another name. Jesus is the way, the
truth and the life, he also is made unto us wisdom.

  Give me the light of this bright sun to see,
  All other lights like met'ors are to me;
  Give me that way, that pleasant path to know,
  I'll walk no other path while here below.
  Wouldst thou be wise? This wisdom learn to scan,
  Which brings to God, the wandering heart of man.

9th and last. You misunderstand me in supposing that I meant to
insinuate, that by what you _wrote_ respecting the apostles' stating
nothing more than what was substantially true, you must mean that they
stated falsehood. I meant, if you do not believe that they stated the
truth you must believe that they stated falsehood, in which case I
called on you to make a short work of our argument by proving that
what they stated was not true. I wonder you should not have thought of
this way to understand me, because there is no way to explain your
words into the meaning which you supposed I had attached to them,
while what I now suggest is fairly the necessary result of what you

On this subject I am disposed to say a little more. If we find
ourselves in serious doubts respecting any important particular of our
religion, and we wish to have the matter cleared up to our
satisfaction, why should we spend much time and write many sheets,
with no other apparent object, than to keep away from the subject
which labours in our minds? If you were under the necessity of
bringing a tree to the ground, and of removing it from the forest,
would you ascend the tree and begin your work on the extreme twigs, or
would you cut the trunk off near the roots, when the whole mass would
come down together?

You will apprehend my meaning. The fact is, if the Christian religion
is ever overthown, it must be done, not by proving that professors of
it have held errors and have been superstitious, and have ever
practised wickedness, using the name of Christ for a cloak, &c. but by
proving the testimony, of the new testament false. Cut the trunk of
the tree off at this place and the work is done.

But if it were possible, in the nature of things for the testimony
borne in the new testament to be proved false, can you persuade
yourself to believe that it would not have been done? If a book
containing the grossest falsehood, the most palpable frauds,
pretensions the very easiest to be detected of any that can be
imagined, could be got up and published, and be copied by many hands,
and be translated into different languages on purpose to overthrow the
popular religion of all countries where the book is sent or carried,
and if in spite of truth, and all the learning of a learned age, if in
spite of all sorts of superstition combined with civil government, if
in spite of reason, argument, persuasion, the tender love and
compassion of parents, interest, honour, ease, peace and quiet; if in
the face of the most cruel sufferings and most awful deaths, this
book, with all its abominable lies, and most palpable frauds could
succeed, its doctrines run and be glorified; if ancient superstitions,
than which nothing can have a more despotic sway over the human heart,
if the priests of long venerated idols with thousands of their
votaries were humbled before this testimony, what is there now on
which we can rely for success against it?

How beautiful are reason and candor. Dr. Gamaliel gives us a handsome
specimen. "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves, what ye intend
to do as touching these men.--For before these days rose up Theudas,
boasting himself to be somebody: to whom a number of men, about four
hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed
him, were scattered and brought to naught. After this man rose up
Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people
after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, wore
dispersed. And now, I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let
them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come
to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye
be found even to fight against God."

Let us remark, 1st. You will notice that this passage ranks with
hundreds of others which to the understanding of sound judgment wears
every feature of an honest and true statement of facts. I will take it
on myself to say that it does not appear reasonable that men who were
fabricating a falsehood, would ever have thought of such a method as
this to give it currency. 2d. You will naturally observe that this
learned doctor of the law was himself persuaded of the truth of the
apostles' testimony, and though he was not willing to make so great a
sacrifice as he must if he professed Jesus openly, he was willing to
espouse the cause so far as his learning and influence would go,
without rendering himself odious to his friends.

3d. It is pretty evident, that whatever Theudas made a handle of in
order to obtain disciples, Judas of Galilee had that very unpopular
tax (I do not consult any authority as it is immaterial, but only
follow a probable suggestion) which was collected about the time of
the birth of Jesus, or some other, by which he no doubt, strove to
disaffect the Jews against the Roman government, which they very
naturally were opposed to. But Judas did not succeed.

4th. Jesus never tried to persuade the people against the civil
authorities, nor did he ever promise his disciples any worldly
benefits, nor try to allure the people after him by holding out, as
inducements, any thing that the carnal passions of men are in love
with; and yet he succeeded though he lost his life. 5th. Dr. Gamaliel
was of opinion that if the gospel were not of God, it would come to
naught, but it did not, nor is there the least probability it ever

Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


[In this number the objector gives the whole ground of his objections,
and the reasons for his doubts: _which he states as follows_, viz.

"1. Mankind, in all ages of the world, have been, and still are prone
to superstition.

"2. It cannot be denied, but that a part of mankind at least, have
believed, and still are believing in miracles and revelation, which
are spurious.

"3. The facts on which religion is predicated are unlike every thing
of which we have any positive knowledge."

Under the first article, the objector appealed to the known
superstitions of the world: not only of the Pagan; but of the Jewish,
Mahometan, and Christian world. He took a view of the present state of
Asia, spake of the "voluntary sacrifices of human life to the great
image at Hugernaught!" and of women "voluntarily climbing the funeral
pile to be burned with their deceased husbands!" He took a view of the
_Inquisition_ in Old Spain; and finally of the various superstitious
notions and practices among the different sects of christians in our
own country.

Under the second article, he discanted largely on the pretension of
Mahomet, and of their great influence and extent; and also of the
particular tone given to the Christian religion by Constantine, who,
holding the reigns of government, had superior means in extending his
influence over the Christian world. Having made these remarks, the
objector proceeds:]

"If therefore, he had happened only to have favoured the opinions of
the Gnostics, we might have expected, and probably it would have been
the fact, that the learned clergy of the present day would have held
that Jesus was not a man in reality, but only a man in appearance;
that he assumed a body that he could put on or throw off at pleasure;
and that he died and was raised again _in appearance only_. Or
otherwise, if he had been disposed to come down to the simplicity and
understanding of the common people, then indeed Christ might still
have been considered as the Jews' expected Messiah; yet we should have
considered him a man, and nothing more than a man; though 'a man
approved of God;'--'a man who hath told us the truth;'--even 'Jesus of
Nazareth, the son of Joseph;' as it seems was the opinion of Peter,
John and Philip. But the former opinion had been too long treated as
heresy by all the bishops to be imbibed by Constantine, while the
bishops themselves, on the other hand, had been too long contaminated
with the Platonic philosophy to descend to the simplicity of the
latter; therefore we have a religion, compounded, partly of the
simplicity of the truth, and partly of Platonism. Constantine,
however, being supported by a great majority of all the bishops, in a
great measure effected his purpose; though not fully to his
expectation: for it seems he did not expect that any one would presume
to oppose the decisions of this grand council, which he had summoned
and convened at his own expense, or at the expense of the empire, but
in this he was mistaken; for many, even after this, would take the
liberty not only to think for themselves, but also to speak their own

"One circumstance more I cannot avoid mentioning in this place, viz,
the conversion of Constantine from heathenism to the Christian faith.
Great men, if turned about at all, must be turned about by great
means! But whatever might have been thought of Constantine's
conversion by the people of that day, the account given of it does not
argue any thing very forcibly in my mind, in favour of the truth of
divine revelation. Great men, however, are not always free from
superstition; and they are just as likely to be deceived respecting
things which are above their comprehension as others. This is the most
charitable way in which I can reconcile the following account which,
as Eusebius, the contemporary and historian of Constantine, says, was
stated under the solemnity of an oath. For a full account of this
extraordinary story. See the 2d vol. of Dr. Priestley's Church
History, per. 7, sec. 9. I shall not attempt to quote it in full, nor
is it necessary, and what I do quote is from memory only, as I write
abroad, my books not being with me.

"Reflecting on the ill success of his predecessors in the numerous
wars in which they had been engaged, when their priests and oracles
had ever promised them success, and also considering the better
success of his father, Constantine concluded from these circumstances
that his father prayed to, and was assisted by a different god! When
he prayed, therefore, he always prayed to the God of his father. And
being thus praying one evening, towards the going down of the sun,
with his face toward the same, he saw the appearance of a _cross_ in
the sun, with these words over it in Greek, [Greek: tetw nika] _by
this conquer_. Not knowing, (or else pretending not to know) what this
sign should mean, he called together some of the christian priests for
an explanation; who explained it as might naturally have been supposed
they would, that it was a representation of the cross, on which Christ
was crucified, and that there could be no doubt but that he had now
interposed as God, in behalf of the christians, to deliver them from
their enemies, and of course from further persecution! I do not
pretend to be any thing more than _substantially_ correct in the above
account (by which you will further see how I use the word
_substantially_, about which we have had some dispute) i. e. I may,
yea undoubtedly, have differed, as to words, yet I know I am correct
in the most material part, and of the use which Constantine made of
this supposed miraculous, or supernatural appearance. He said also,
the soldiers saw it as well as himself! Now, if we give full credit to
this account, what must we think of Christianity? The meek and lowly
Jesus, who was led 'like a lamb to the slaughter,' without the least
resistance, and who had suffered thousands to follow him in the same
way, now, by a miraculous interposition, arms a man with carnal
weapons, and, Mahometan like, authorizes him to vindicate his cause,
and avenge his wrongs, by shedding the blood of his enemies! Or, if we
do not credit this account, what must we think of Constantine? and
also of Christianity so far as it can be traced to, and made to depend
on his influence? That candor and charity, however, which I ever wish
to maintain, will oblige me in this, as in all other cases of a
similar nature, to take the middle course. I shall therefore suppose
that there was some natural appearance, perhaps a parhelion, the cause
of which Constantine did not fully understand, and, from the
appearance in the sky around it, his fancy, aided by superstition,
painted to his imagination the supposed cross, as also the Greek
words, which being pointed out to the soldiers they might easily
imagine the same, or, if they did not, would not like to oppose the
opinion of their general. Thus circumstanced, whether he really
believed it to be any thing supernatural or not, Constantine was
disposed to make the most of it he could, by turning it to the best
possible account.[2]"

[Footnote 2: "Upon the whole," says Dr. Priestly, (vol. 2, p. 96) "it
appears to me most probable, that Constantine and his friends saw a
natural parhelion, and that all the other circumstances were either
imagined, or invented; and that the story has lost nothing in passing
through the hands of Eusebius." Constantine also states (which I
forgot to mention above) that "Christ appeared to him in a dream, the
night following, with the very same sign which he had seen in the
heavens, ordering him to make a military standard like it, and
assuring him that it would be his security in battles." "By this note
it will be perceived that I have compared what I have written with the
part of the history from whence it was taken, and that I find nothing
in it materially erroneous."]

"It appears, however, after all, that Constantine was a man of great
moderation, and on the whole, a very good man: yet, that he was not
wholly clear from superstition is very evident from the following
circumstance. Notwithstanding his extraordinary, and what was supposed
by all, miraculous conversion, together with his great pretensions;
and all that he had done for christianity, yet he neglected his own
_baptism_ till he found he was very nigh his end; when he dressed
himself in white, and the bed on which he lay, also all in white, in
which dress he was baptised and partook of the _sacrament_! and thus
he continued in _white_ till he died. This was undoubtedly from a
mistaken notion, that there was something really purifying in those
outward ceremonies, and also from the doctrine of the Navatians, a
certain sect, whose opinions it was supposed he favoured, though not
very openly, i.e. if a person committed sin after having been thus
purified he could not die in union with the church.

"You may perhaps object here and say, all this is to no purpose, as
christianity was well established before; and had existed for nearly
three centuries, and increased too, notwithstanding the many most
bitter and cruel persecutions. Therefore what you say respecting
Constantine only proves that christianity has been corrupted, but it
is no objection against its truth. Very good. If the facts above
stated are admitted, let them prove what they will, I am not the
author of those facts, nor accountable for what is proved by them. The
conversion of Constantine, however, if correct, bears some analogy to
the conversion of St. Paul: hence, the supposition that one is not
correct, brings a little doubt over the mind respecting the truth of
the other: for both being by means which were supernatural; if both
are supported on equal testimony, why should they not both share the
same fate in our minds? Both were equally possible; it is the want of
probability, therefore, arising from the want of equal evidence in its
favour, which leads us to reject the truth of the circumstances
attending the conversion of Constantine, rather than those attending
the conversion of St. Paul. The conversion of Constantine also, if
genuine, seems to have been designed for a very different object, and
was attended with a very different effect. This would incline me to
believe in the validity of that of the apostle's, rather than that of
the emperor. Nevertheless, as it respects the facts; he who caused a
light at mid-day, above the brightness of the sun, might as easily
have painted the sign of the cross on his disk; and he who spake to
Saul from Heaven, with an audible voice, in the Hebrew tongue, might
as easily have painted letters and words in Greek, so that they might
be distinctly read in the firmament!

"Leaving all ancient miracles and revelation, I will come down to
those of our own times, and in our own country.--Strange to tell,
there is a sect of people now among us, who sprang up less than half a
century ago, whose religion is professedly founded on miracles and
revelation. On miracles wrought by the first founders of the sect, as
by Christ and his apostles, and on a revelation also made directly to
them, and through them to the believers, as by the inspired writers of
the new testament. They appear to be something similar in sentiment,
as it respects the person of Christ, to the ancient Arians; with this
difference only, they conceived that as Christ made his first
appearance in Jesus, the son of a _carpenter_, so he has made his
second appearance in Ann, the daughter of a _blacksmith_, whom they
call _mother_; and they consider their church the _New Jerusalem_,
that holy city which was to come down from God out of Heaven.

In the year 1808, about the same time after their first rise as it was
after the days of Jesus to the writing of the new testament, they
published a history of their sect, in a work entitled '_Christ's
second appearance,' or the New Jerusalem Church_, setting forth their
rise, progress and present state; together with their principles,
customs and mode of worship. This work contains an account of their
mother _Ann_, and the first elders; and particularly an account of the
miracles said to have been wrought by them. If my memory serves me,
(as the book is not by me) there is an account of about _forty_
miracles, all of which are well attested, and though they acknowledge
that most of them are inferior to those wrought by Jesus and his
apostles, yet they contend that they are no more inferior to those
than those are to the miracles wrought by Moses. They contend that for
the plagues in Egypt, the dividing the red sea, bringing water out of
the rock, feeding Israel forty years in the wilderness with bread from
heaven, and that there should always fall a double portion on the
sixth day, but none on the seventh, that that which fell on the sixth
day, should keep two days, but on all other days it would keep but
one, and that afterward, some of the same bread or manna was laid up
in the ark of the covenant which kept for ages, as a memorial; also
the dividing the waters of the river Jordan, and the fall of the walls
of Jericho; yea most or all of these, according to reason or human
appearance, are as much greater than the miracles wrought by Jesus and
his apostles, as those are greater than those wrought by Ann and her
elders! It is true, they did not pretend to raise the dead, but either
these accounts are all fabrications and lies, or else they had among
them the gift of healing, and that too miraculously. A woman who had
fell with her horse, by the falling of a bridge, and had broken
several of her ribs, besides being otherwise very much bruised, was
cured in one evening, so that she joined in the dance! A boy who had
cut his foot so that a person might have laid his finger into the
wound, which bled very profusely, was cured in a few hours so that
nothing was to be seen of the wound excepting a white streak, about
the bigness of a common thread! and many others of a like kind, too
numerous to be mentioned in this place.

"You will readily perceive that I allude to the _Shakers_; a people
who are enjoying privileges among us which no other people enjoy,
except the Friends, called also _Quakers_: and who are debarred from
no privileges excepting those from which they either religiously or
_superstitiously_ debar themselves. Thus people, in consequence of
their religion, have entirely changed their manners, customs, and
modes of worship. They have also endured considerable persecution; and
that they have not suffered martyrdom in defence of their religion, is
no fault of theirs. There can be no doubt but that there has been
fanaticism enough on their part to have done it, if there had been
only bigotry and cruelty enough in the people, at that time, to have
put it in execution. Let the same spirit reign among the people for a
short time, which reigned in Boston when the _Quakers_ were put to
death for their religion, and the _Shakers_ also would be able to
boast of their martyrs in defence of the truth of their particular
sect, and of course of the miracles and revelation on which it is said
to have been founded.

"And here I wish to remark a little on _martyrdom_, seeing it is often
brought in defence of the truth of divine revelation. I am aware that
great stress has been laid upon this, and it will still be considered
as one of its main pillars. I apprehend, however, that more stress has
been laid upon martyrdom than what it will justly bear. If this is a
test of the truth of religion, there is scarcely any religion but what
may be proved true. Only make death honourable, of any kind whatever,
in the eyes of the people, and there are always enough who are ready
and willing to die for the sake of the honour which will be in
consequence attached to their names. But only let any particular kind
of death be considered, in the eyes of the people, _meritorious_, and
the sure and certain road to _endless bliss_, and there will not only
be enough found willing to undergo this death, if they can find any to
inflict it upon them, but they will absolutely court it! Instead
therefore of having my faith strengthened by reading the book of
martyrs, as I thought I had some reason to expect, it has produced a
quite contrary effect. Notwithstanding these accounts were taken down
by the friends of the martyrs, and by them have been handed down to
us, who, as we may well suppose, were rather prejudiced in their
favour, yet nevertheless, it is impossible to disguise the spirit and
motives with which many of those infatuated people eagerly sought and
met death.

"In all those accounts it is but too clearly discovered, what has been
too often the fact, that the most bitterly persecuted would have
become the most violent persecutors, if there had been only a chance
for them so to have done, and if there had been, in their view, an
equal occasion. The persecutors of people for their religion have
always considered the persecuted, either heretics or infidels; who if
persecuted by heathens, unless they could be brought to sacrifice to
their heathen gods, or if by christians, unless they could be brought
to acknowledge the particular faith embraced by the _orthodoxy_ of the
day, were considered as mere nuisances or pests to society; and
therefore for the public good, it was thought necessary to take them
out of the world! While on the other hand, the persecuted have always
considered that, if they suffered death in defence of their religion,
they were certain of being raised to great honour and dignity in
another world; a privilege which they undoubtedly believed their
persecutors would never enjoy! And, whatever was the opinion of Christ
and his apostles on this subject, it cannot be denied but that the
idea very soon become prevalent among their followers that the
distinction between them and a wicked world, particularly their
persecutors, would be eternal! Under these circumstances, I do not
wonder at all that men have been found willing to die for their
religion; yea, and even to court death by all the means of which their
own consciences would approve!

"But, you may say, all this does not account for the death of the
first martyrs. Very true. I admit that it does not. But it shews that,
only let the work be begun, from any cause whatever, there is no
difficulty in its being continued.

"Suppose then, if you please, that the first martyrs were killed by a
_mob_, a mere _rabble_, without any legal process, or even form of
_trial_; as, from which appears by the account, was the case with the
death of _Stephen_, the first christian martyr; and, according to
tradition, most of the other apostles: (and it may be remarked here,
it is only by tradition that we have any account of the death of the
apostles; as all authentic documents on the subject, if there ever
were any, are lost:) I say, let such a circumstance as the death of
Stephen take place in any country, and in any age of the world; but
more especially in that age and country in which he lived; and then
let the same honour, and the same supposed consequences be attached to
such a death, as undoubtedly were attached to the death of Stephen;
and there can be no doubt but that others would be willing to follow
the example.

"Only let the blood once begin to flow, no matter how, and then only
attach eternal consequences to it, and hold out inducements of an
eternal nature, and persuade men to believe them (which is not so
difficult a thing as some may imagine) and you will never want for
victims, so long as you can find a zeal sufficiently blind and _mad_;
as to continue the slaughter. In this way, I conceive martyrdom, of
every species and kind, may be rationally accounted for.

"But it may be said all this does not disprove the miracles and
revelation on which the christian religion is founded.

"I acknowledge it does not; neither do I expect to disprove them. I
admit that revelation, and of course the christian religion may
possibly be founded in truth, notwithstanding the truth of all that I
have as yet urged, or shall urge against it. But I call on you, sir,
to disprove the miracles and revelation which I have mentioned, of a
more modern date, or else acknowledge their truth. If you acknowledge
the truth of those miracles, I shall expect you will conform to the
religion predicated upon them; and of course forsake your bosom
companion (which I presume would be a much greater cross than ever you
have yet taken up,) and also your darling offspring (or else take them
with you) and go and live with the _Shakers_!!! But if you prove them
false, it will only be that people may become so infatuated as to
believe in miracles which are spurious.

"For notwithstanding the smallness of the numbers of this people,
which by the way, are considerable; and notwithstanding the
contemptible view in which they have been, and still are held by the
world; yet, you may find it more difficult to prove the falsity of
their pretended miracles than at present you are aware; for they are
very well attested; and some of the witnesses are still living, or
were so when their testimony was first published; as also, if I
recollect right, some of the persons on whom the miracles were said to
have been wrought; who, no doubt, would still testify to the same
things. If they testify falsely, who can help it?--Although thousands
may _believe_ to the contrary; many of whom being too in situations,
probably to have known these things, if true; yet I believe it would
be difficult, and very difficult indeed, to find any who could
absolutely say that those things did not take place.

"And if there is a people now existing among us, in different parts of
the country, and in different, but large extensive families, whose
manners, customs, and worship are all very different from ours, and
who believe in miracles on which their religion is said to have been
founded; and if those miracles, although not founded in truth, cannot
now be proved false, notwithstanding they are said to have taken place
in our own country, and ever since we were born, I would ask, ought
any one to be censured for not giving full credit to miracles said to
have been wrought, all of them nearly two, and most of them above
three thousand years ago; and among a people too, of which we know but
very little? I say, ought any one to be censured for doing this,
although he should not be able to prove any of those miracles false?

"I conclude I shall not be censured for not believing in the miracles
said to have been wrought by the Shakers; but let the government
undertake to annihilate that blind and superstitious class of people:
let them increase their numbers by persecution, which, like the
effects of all other persecutions, undoubtedly they would; let them,
in the course of two or three centuries, get the reins of government
into their own hands;[3] let them then follow the example of
Constantine in demolishing the temples of the heathen gods; let them
demolish every steepled meeting-house, and introduce an entire new
order of things; let them also remake their scriptures, change in some
degree their mode of worship and manner of living, and fix every thing
to the policy of the state; let the old opposition be entirely
extinguished, and new sects spring up among themselves; let this be
the order of things for a number of centuries, and then let a man call
in question the truth of Shaker miracles or Shaker revelation, and he
must do it as his peril! It would undoubtedly cost him his life!

[Footnote 3: Were it not for other causes besides that of
Christianity, I should think this full as likely as it was that
Christianity should ever get the reins of government, judging from
what Christianity was when it had existed no longer than the Shakers.]

"I might also mention here another person now living in the western
part of the state of New-York, who also makes pretensions to be Christ
in his second coming, and in imitation of him has chosen _twelve_ as
immediate apostles, and who has a considerable number of followers.
But as this person is still living, and it is uncertain whether the
sect will take much root, I choose to pass it over in silence.

"I shall only call your attention to one circumstance more, and then
dismiss my second proposition.

"You very well recollect, I presume, the account given by Mrs. A----,
of W----, N. H. in which she affirms that she saw and conversed with
her husband, Mr. John A----, for about an hour and a half, who
appeared to her some considerable time, I believe about three months,
after he had been dead! This is no fiction. Mrs. A---- is still
living, and still affirms to the truth of what she has testified;
which account you know was published by two respectable witnesses who
took it down, for that purpose, from her lips.

"It is true, there has been but very little said in the world
respecting this matter, and I presume, for this plain and obvious
reason; the account did not correspond with the views of what is
termed _orthodoxy_ in Christianity. If if had, i. e. if he had brought
as much tidings concerning the supposed _hell_ in another world, as he
did respecting the supposed _heaven_, the account would have been
published in every magazine, in every religious tract, and in every
periodical work throughout the globe! Why not so, as well as many
accounts which were similar in other respects? But as this account did
not favour such views, it is left to die in oblivion.

"As the particulars of this account, however, make nothing either in
favour or against my present purpose, I shall not occupy time and room
to relate it. Suffice it only to say, if there were no mistake or
deception in the matter, this account can be nothing short of a
revelation from God; as much so as any revelation which has ever been
made from God to man.

"For no one can believe that Mr. A. could appear to his wife, after he
was dead, unless God sent him; and if God sent him, no one can doubt
the truth of his testimony. No one can well conceive of any motive
Mrs. A. could have in giving this account, unless she fully believed
it. Her daughter also was able to corroborate the account in some
degree, by saying that she heard her mother conversing in the bedroom,
but heard no other voice; and she interrogated her on the subject when
she came out, by asking with whom she had been talking, &c. But
surprised on being informed that it was with her father, and
supposing, as she naturally would, that her mother had been talking in
her sleep, she requested her to say nothing about what she had either
seen or heard, saying, that no one would believe her if she did. But
Mrs. A. was able to convince her daughter that she had not been
asleep, by telling her of persons who had gone by her window during
the time; one man in a soldier's dress, and another driving a yoke of
oxen. I state these things from memory only, for I have not seen the
account since soon after it was published, or at least within three or
four years, that I now recollect; yet I believe I could state the
whole of it nearly verbatim as it was published. Now I do not believe
that Mrs. A. ever designed to state, or that she now has the least
idea that she has stated any thing incorrect on this subject. And yet
after all, I doubt of its reality!

"Such is my incredulity; and I see no way to avoid it. If it be a
fault in me, may God forgive it; though I am wholly unconscious of
it's being one.

"When one of two things presented to the mind must be true, and the
truth of one absolutely excludes the truth of the other, a rational
man will always believe that which to his own understanding is the
most probable. Concerning therefore the account given by Mrs. A. it
stands, in my mind thus: either it is all a reality, i. e. that her
husband did absolutely appear to her; that he did give her the account
which she has stated; and that that account is in fact true; or else,
it was nothing more than the power of imagination, which a certain
train of ideas and reflections had produced in her mind, which, like a
kind of reverie, seemed to her like a reality. And although I should
not have made the same conclusion once, yet from my present knowledge
of human nature, together with my own experience, I do not hesitate to
reject the former idea, and believe the latter. If in judging thus, I
do injustice either to Mrs. A. or to the truth of God, I can only ask
forgiveness of a wrong, which, in truth, is by no means intended. But
in justice to my own understanding I could not state differently, if I
knew this would be the last sentence I should ever write.

"Hence after making proper deduction for all that can be accounted for
in this way, laying out of the question at the same time all that we
may justly suppose were the mere glosses of the historian, or the
lubricous figures of the poet, which are very peculiar to the ancient
style of writing; after making due allowances also for interpolations,
or what in more modern times have been considered _pious frauds!_ and
after rejecting every thing (if any such there be) which savors of
gross imposition! if there be any thing left to support the truth of
divine revelation, then it may rationally be believed.

"3. The facts on which revelation is predicated are unlike every thing
of which we have any positive knowledge.

"Of the truth of this proposition you must be sensible; yea, unless
the revelation had been made directly to ourselves, it is impossible
that it should be otherwise than true. Neither of us have ever seen
any thing miraculous! The ancients, however, were carried away with
this _supposition_; the same as the moderns have been with the idea of
witches, wizards, ghosts, apparitions, &c. and many things which once
would have been considered _ominous_, are now rationally accounted
for. In this way, things once supposed to be _miraculous_ also, may
have lost their supposed divine qualities.

"This much, however, I believe, and of this much I have no doubt, that
Paul and the other apostles were convinced of the truth and the
salutary effects of the moral precepts which had been taught and
practised by Christ; and they were willing to preach and enforce them
by all the means in their power, even at the risk of their lives.
Believing this, and practising accordingly, constituted them wise and
good men; and happy would it have been for the Christian world if they
had always followed in their steps, without ever undertaking to
dictate to others, either modes or forms of worship, or to use
coercive means to compel men to the faith.

"That the apostles also believed in the resurrection, and also in
eternal life, I have no doubt; this sentiment, however, was neither
new nor peculiar to them, but had been held long before, not only by
the pharisees, among the Jews, but by some of the Grecian
philosophers; and the truth of it I am not at all disposed to dispute;
yet nevertheless, whether the evidences on which it was founded were
not originally mere _visionary_, like the appearance of Mr A. before
mentioned, is the subject under consideration.

"There may be, and undoubtedly are principles in nature which are not
yet understood by any; and many more which are understood only by a
few. The operations of these principles would undoubtedly, even at the
present day, appear miraculous to thousands; and must appear very
extraordinary to every one until they are understood. But this I
conclude is not what is meant by miracles. Respecting miracles, I have
only to ask myself this question, viz.--Which is the most likely to be
true; either that men should have been honestly deceived, in the first
instance, or otherwise facts should have been so misrepresented, that
fabrication should have been honestly believed for truth; or else,
that things so contrary to every principle of which I know in nature,
should have taken place? Let reason only dictate the answer.

"Another source of evidence in support of divine revelation is
prophecy. And here, notwithstanding I think it very probable that much
importance has been attached to many writings, under the idea of their
being prophetic, which are nothing more than the poetic effusions of a
fruitful imagination; yet I have long been of opinion that there have
been, and perhaps still are men in the world who are endowed, by
nature, with gifts and faculties differing from men in general; and
particularly, say if you please, with a _spirit of prophecy_, which,
however, I must consider nothing less nor more than a _second_ or
_mental sight_. By this sense, or faculty of seeing, they are enabled
to bring events which are yet future, as well as those otherwise out
of sight, present to their minds; and thus they can behold them with
their mental eye, as clearly as we behold objects at a distance.

"This, you may say, is visionary indeed. And you may wonder how I can
doubt of the truth of miracles, if I can believe in such a chimerical
idea as this!

"But stop, my dear sir, you believe in such a power some where or
other; for without it there could be no such thing as prophecy, and if
such a power exist, even in the universe, why may it not exist in man?
For myself, I cannot account for the spirit of prophecy in man, (and
it must be in man, or else men could not be prophets) in a more
rational way. I should not be disposed, however, to consider such a
power, sense, faculty, or by what other name it might be called, any
more supernatural than the organs of sight and hearing. If the natural
eye is so formed that objects may be painted on it, simply by the
action of vision, to the immense distance of the fixed stars, so that
we are enabled to behold them, why may not the mental eye be so
constituted as to bring future events present to the mind with equal

"If such a power, however, were once known to exist, it would be
likely to be counterfeited; and hence we may suppose, arose that horde
of impostors, by the name of soothsayers, sorcerers, necromancers,
magicians, &c.

"But even where this power exists, if it be a natural power, it must
have its limits, and some may have it to a greater degree than others,
and also some may make a good use of it, and others bad.

"Accounting for prophecy in this way, you will readily perceive that
it is no certain evidence of a future state; for although the time may
come when all creatures in all the vast dominions of God may be made
happy in the enjoyment of his blessings, yet it does not necessarily
follow that you and I shall _exist_ at that time! i.e. in conscious

"If I am asked why I wish to explain every thing upon natural
principles, without admitting the immediate agency of the Deity, my
only answer is, because to my understanding it is more rational, and
of course more likely to be true.

"That men could divine, or foretell future events, or declare present
things which are beyond their sight by intuition, all of which seems
to be embraced in the word _prophecy_, is an idea which has existed
perhaps from time immemorial; and however unaccountable it may seem,
yet, to a certain degree, at least, we are obliged to admit the fact;
but whether, after all, this is any thing more than the effect of that
kind of foresight or ratiocination, which all men (idiots excepted)
have to a greater or less degree, but some much greater than others,
is still a question. But should I be obliged to admit the truth of
prophecy, in the sense in which it is generally understood, I should
account for it in the way you have seen.

"I do not perceive, at present, how a revelation could be made to the
understanding of any man only through the medium of the operations of
nature. Unless it were made to some of his outward senses, how could
he know whether it was any thing more than a chimera of his own brain?
If there were any faculty in his mind by which he could view these
things over and over again, (the same as we look at the heavenly
bodies) and did he always behold them in the same light, then he would
feel safe in declaring that such things did exist; and unless the
prophets had some such criterion by which they could determine on the
truth of their predictions. I do not see how that even _they_, and
much less _we_, should feel safe in placing any real confidence in

"The prophecies of our Saviour, however, concerning the destruction of
Jerusalem, are more clear and striking than any thing else we have of
the kind; and if it were certain that these were written before the
event took place, it would be a very strong proof of something more
than what any one can suppose could have been the result of human
foresight. There must, at least, on such a supposition, have been a
faculty of seeing which we do not possess. These predictions, however,
if made by Jesus, must have been made in the hearing of John, as well
as Matthew; and of course, he must have known them with more certainty
than Mark or Luke; who, in consequence of not being personally
acquainted with Jesus, could have known them only from hear say; and
as it is pretty generally agreed, that John wrote his gospel more than
twenty years after the event took place, it is very remarkable that he
should be entirely silent on this subject! John, as we must suppose,
knowing of this prediction; knowing also that it had been recorded by
all three of the other Evangelists, (though Luke is not very
particular on the subject) and knowing also that they had all written
before the event took place; and he living to see the whole verified,
and then wrote his gospel afterwards, how natural it would have been
for him, first to have recorded this prediction, at least, in
substance, and then to have mentioned its fulfillment, as a
confirmation of the prophecy! But not a word on the subject.

"This, however, is no evidence that Jesus did not deliver those
predictions, and that they were not written by Matthew and Mark, and
also hinted at by Luke before the events took place; yet still it
raises a doubt and a query in the mind whether these are not
interpolations, or else the books wholly written after the events took
place, and of course these predictions put into the mouth of Jesus by
the historian. When the copies were few in number, and those kept by
the Christians only, interpolations might have been made without much
danger of detection. The heretics were early accused of interpolating,
altering, and forging the scriptures; and although they, i. e. the
majority of the believers, as it is likely would be very careful to
detect any thing which contradicted their views in point of doctrine,
yet whether they would be equally careful respecting those
interpolations which favoured the Christian faith is a question worthy
of consideration.

"In Calmet's dictionary of the bible, under the word gospel, we have
an account of between thirty and forty gospels, of which he gives
their names, but none of which are now extant. Neither is there any
thing, which I now recollect, of any disputes about the validity of
the writing of the apostles, except what is merely traditional, until
about the year 180, when Celsus undertook to disprove the whole. I may
be incorrect, in this, however, if I am, you will correct me: for
excepting barely the bible, as I have informed you before, I have no
books by me on this subject.

"Another circumstance must be taken into consideration, and which
bears great weight in my mind. That is, the great and astonishing
difference there has been made in the state and condition of mankind
by the discovery or invention of the art of printing; an art for which
we cannot be too thankful, nor too highly appreciate its benefits. For
it would be very difficult now to realize the situation of mankind
previous to the invention of this art.

"Writing, it is true, as we may rationally suppose, was carried to a
greater state of perfection at that time, than it is at present; for
it was of more use, yet its use must have been very limited, and it is
reasonable to suppose that a very great proportion of the common
people could neither read nor write. For it could be of but little use
to them, as they had nothing to read, for books of all descriptions,
and upon all subjects, must have been, comparatively, very few. This,
as you would readily perceive, would have a tendency to cause the
common people to place great confidence in any thing that was written.
Hence, generally speaking, it was sufficient barely to say, concerning
any matter, [Greek: gegraptai], _it is written_ to gain full belief.

"It is with all ancient sects, as it is with ancient nations and
kingdoms; their history may be traced back until we find it veiled in
mystery, and mingled with fable. We are not to suppose, however, that
these things were done at the time, with an intent to deceive; but
after the events, whatever they were, had passed away, and the
imagination had been long in operation respecting the traditions
concerning them, they are dressed up with all the appearance of real
history; and might so be construed and believed, were it not for
improbability. The probability is, that when such histories were first
written, they deceived no one, or at least, no one thought it worth
while to undertake to detect them, because, not knowing what effect
they would have, they considered their errors were of no material
consequence. The Shaker Book has been published nine years; and
although I conclude that very few, if any, except the Shakers
themselves, believe the miracles therein recorded; yet no one that I
know of has thought it expedient to undertake to refute them. And
unless the sect should grow to more consequence than it is at present,
I presume that no one will give himself much trouble on the subject.
If it should be thought necessary, however, to refute these pretended
miracles, in order to prevent those in scripture from growing into
disrepute, then it will alter the case.

"I am perfectly reconciled and willing, however, that whatever is
truth should be true; and have not the least inclination, even if it
were in my power, to alter one truth respecting eternity. This is the
state of my mind exactly; a state into which it has been growing,
gradually, for many years; and, strange as it may seem to you, I can
assure you in the fear of that God before whom I stand or fall, and by
whom I have been supported hitherto, it is the most happy state of
mind in which mortals can be placed! "Gloria in altissimis Deo, et in
terra pax in homines benevolentia." Luke ii. 14, Beza.

"Whatever may be your opinion concerning miracles, I believe it must
be admitted that there was no more of a miracle in the production of
man, originally, than there was in the production of other animals;
and as nature has not provided man with clothing for the body, which
it does for other animals, especially those which inhabit cold
climates, it is evident that man was originally produced under the
torrid zone; and that he could not have lived in any other part of the
world, had it not been for art. What alteration the discovery of the
arts has made in the original constitution of man, it would he
difficult now to determine.

"What man must have been previous to the discovery and use of _fire_,
is difficult now to conceive. We can trace man down, however, from
grade to grade, until we are at a loss to determine whether such a
race of beings belongs to the human species.

"I have long desired, and should be glad if some one of sufficient
learning and skill would point out to me the line of demonstration
between the human and brutal creation; and say where the human ends,
and where the brutal begins!

"Naturalists take care to say but little on this subject, and I
believe the task would be more difficult than what people in general

    "Come then, ye learn'd, ye great and wise,
  Unfold the soul to mortal eyes;
  Say where eternal life shall end,
  Or where eternal death begins!
  For death eternal theirs must be,
  Whose souls no future life shall see!
  And why should mortals vainly weep
  For creatures wrapt in endless sleep?
  They've had their day, they've had their bliss,
  Their life, their joy, and happiness,
  And now must we forever mourn,
  Because their life will not return!
    "O foolish man! go, and be wise!
  Learn where the source of greatness lies;
  To be content is to be blest:
  A cure for woes is endless rest.
  If God be good to all the race
  Of animals before his face,
  Although the life of some be short,
  (One day begins and ends their sport)
  Shall we presume he is less kind
  To human souls of nobler mind,
  Unless he lengthen out their days
  To endless years in future maze?
    "It cannot be! His love is such,
  Whate'er he gives, little or much,
  Is always good: faith, hope, desires;
  Or any grace which he inspires.
  All, all are good: for man indeed,
  (Whilst here) such gifts, such helps may need!
  All bring him to his final goal,
  Where nature's law winds up the whole!

"But you will say, does God inspire man with faith and hope barely to
deceive him; and does he not mean that he should ever realize the
'things hoped for?' which must be the case, unless the hope is founded
on a reality. Answer: Let us rather say, unless the _hope_ be a
reality. The hope of man is in fact a reality, as much so as any thing
else which exists. It is, however, what it is, i. e. _hope_; and not
what is not, i. e. the 'things hoped for.' But hope never deceives any
one, it continues as long as the creature has any use for it; and it
is never taken away from any (except a disordered mind, to which all
men are liable) as long as it can be of any service to the creature.

  "That hope is given for thy blessing NOW."--_Pope_.

"Mankind, if ever, are very seldom made unhappy and wretched in
consequence of doubting the existence of a future state. Thousands, no
doubt, think they should be wretched in this condition: but, although
I have been acquainted with a number of this description, I never saw
one made unhappy in consequence. It is the _fear of endless misery_
which produces so much wretchedness in the world.--This idea, it is
true, beggars all description! It produces that fear which hath
torment. It disturbs the brain; destroys the mental faculties; and, by
distracting the imagination, fills the soul with horror! It is
infinitely more to be dreaded than _endless death_! But what fear or
dread can there be in the idea of _endless sleep_? Surely none. People
are too apt to confound the idea of the absence of immortality with
endless misery, believing this to be the only alternative. This is not
correct. Mortality and death are the only opposites to immortality and
eternal life. The former I know is true, and yet I am satisfied with
knowing, (i. e. for an absolute certainty) nothing further;
nevertheless, as I feel truly thankful for my present existence,
should I be so happily disappointed as to find all my doubts, founded
in error, I trust, as I should be inexpressibly happy, so I should be
inexpressibly thankful for a future life."

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Dear sir, and brother_,--In replying to your seventh number, I
propose taking the advantage which you have favoured me with, by the
division of your subject. I hope by this, to be able to compress my
remarks on your reasoning, and avoid any unnecessary protraction of
this epistle.

You allow, that a "general view of the whole ground" on which the
scriptures seem to rest, would be sufficient to support the truth of
divine revelation, were it not for the following considerations.

1. Mankind, in all ages of the world, have been, and still are prone
to superstition.

2. It cannot be denied, but that a part of mankind, at least, have
believed, and still are believing in miracles and revelations which
are spurious.

3. The facts on which revelation is predicated, are unlike every thing
of which we have any positive knowledge.

If I rightly apprehend your meaning of "the whole ground" in which the
scriptures seem to rest, a general view of which would be sufficient
to support a belief in revelation, were it not for the three
considerations above quoted; it occupies, at least, prophecies
concerning a Messiah and the fulfillment of those prophecies by a
Messiah, according to the account which we have in the New Testament.

As it will serve to circumscribe the bounds of our present reasoning,
it is thought best to direct our inquiry to the consideration of the
facts recorded in the New Testament, presuming if these be admitted,
the prophecies will not be denied.

But have I not occasion, sir, to be surprised to find your first
proposition adduced as evidence unfavourable to the christian
scriptures? Was there ever a time when the world of human kind, both
Jews and Gentiles, was more deeply involved in the darkness and
stupidity of superstition than when the Messiah entered on his public
ministry? If the doctrine of Jesus had been pleasing to the
superstitious Jews, if it had accorded with the idolatrous notions of
the Gentiles, (which was impossible) if his Messiahship had been
espoused by both, and by their consent and influence had been handed
down, and declared to have been evidenced by all the miracles recorded
in the four Evangelists, do you not see that your first proposition
would be of Herculean strength against this religion? On the contrary,
it being well established, from unquestionable authority, that as St.
Paul observed, Christ crucified was a stumbling block to the Jews, and
to the Greeks foolishness, the whole force of Jewish and Greek
superstition, as it opposed, serves to strengthen the evidences of our

Will you be so good as to read the account which is recorded of the
miracle which Jesus wrought in giving sight to the man who was born
blind, and inquire carefully from beginning to end for any thing that
looks in the least as if the writer was endeavouring to write a
falsehood in a way to have it deceive the reader. This request might,
as I humbly conceive, be made in respect to any of the other miracles;
but what I had in view, particularly when this subject came to my
mind, was the following words, spoken by the pharisees to him who had
been blind; "Thou art his disciple: but we are Moses' disciples. We
know that God spake unto Moses; as for this fellow we know not from
whence he is." Is it not plain from this as well as from many other
scriptures, that in the same degree that the pharisees' superstition
run in favour of Moses, it operated against Jesus? I know the objector
may say, the Jews expected a Messiah; but then they did not expect
such a character as was Jesus. They also expected Elias to come first,
but they did not expect such a character as John. You, and all the
world know that the protestant clergy in Europe and America used to
pray for the downfall of the Pope; but when he was humbled, they all
joined in fervent prayer to set him up again. How did this
inconsistency happen? Answer: The way in which it pleased God to
humble the Pope, was not the way which clerical wisdom and prudence
had planned; and we all see now, that they are better pleased with the
Pope and the Inquisition, than they were to have him lose his power in
a way which endangered their own. Now, sir, if liberal principles do
obtain, and if the cause of civil and religious liberty should finally
triumph, in spite of popish and protestant clergy with monarchy
united, do you believe that this triumph will ever be imputed to the
superstition of king-craft and priestcraft? On the ground of your
first proposition this would be your conclusion. The pharisees and
those who adhered to them, built the sepulchres of the prophets, whom
their fathers killed, and said; "If we had been in the days of our
fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of
the prophets." These _holy_ men were sure that they were much better
than their fathers who persecuted the prophets; they had no
disposition to persecute; all the wealth in the world could not have
tempted these _godly saints_ to kill a prophet of God. However, St.
Paul writing to the Thessalonians, says, "For ye, brethren, became
followers of the churches of God, which in Judea are in Christ Jesus:
for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as
they have of the Jews; who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own
prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are
contrary to all men." But the Jews would not have put Jesus to death
if he had been a pharisee, and had not departed from their traditions
and superstitions. But he was not a pharisee, nor did he adhere to
their superstitions; and for this cause he was to them "a root out of
dry ground." To them, he had no form nor comeliness, no, nor had he
any beauty that they should discern him. Say, brother, is not this the
superstition which you are urging as unfavourable to the evidences of
christianity? And does not the passage above quoted from Thessalonians
go to prove what all ecclesiastical history as well as the New
Testament proves, that the Christians were persecuted by the Jews and
by the Gentiles? Did any thing but superstition ever persecute? It
surely does not aim to build up that which it persecutes: and
therefore in room of its being evidence against the genuineness of
what it opposes, is justly admitted as a valid evidence in its favour.
It is well known that our Christian doctors, clergy, and laity have
been long persuaded that a glorious day of universal peace and gospel
light is not only promised, but fast approaching; and if their prayers
have any influence, it is evident that the time is hastened by their
means. All this looks very well, and a man would be thought to be
impious, if not insane, who should intimate that these saints were
superstitous or illiberal, or that they possessed the spirit of
persecution.--But what has been their spirit for, say, twenty-five
years past towards a doctrine which teaches universal peace on earth
and good will towards man? Is there any thing bad which they have not
spoken against this doctrine? Have they not treated its preachers with
all the contempt and even ridicule of which they were capable? Have
they not used all their influence to keep the doctrine from being
preached in their meeting houses, and have they not dealt with church
members who have believed this benign doctrine of love, with
excommunications attended with as many aggravations as they could
invent? In a word, is there one bitter herb in all the ground which
was cursed for man's sake, that has not been used against what is
called the poison of this abominable heresy? If they had the power of
the pope, if the inquisition were at their command, would they let
such power lie dormant for want of zeal? Balaam smote his ass with a
_staff_, but said: "I would there were a _sword_ in mine hand, for now
would I kill thee."

But after all that has been said and done against this doctrine of
universal benevolence and grace, its progress confounds its enemies,
encourages its friends, and calls to mind the parable of the mustard
seed. Suppose for a century to come it should continue its advances
according to what it has gained for the twenty-five years above
mentioned, is it not evident that the knowledge of God would cover the
earth as the waters cover the sea? But would any body then, being
acquainted with the history of these times, think of making use of the
superstition of our clergy to oppose the evidences of this doctrine?
Would such a one say, it is probable that in those times of
superstition, the clergy who had great influence with the common
people, might alter many passages of scripture, and in room of using
the word _elect_, interpolate the words _all men_? If I understand
your argument, this is the use you make of superstition. But, sir, I
am satisfied that the superstition of our times will be sufficient
proof to future ages, that the scriptures which so abundantly prove
the doctrine of universal salvation, were not the production of a
superstitious clergy who were known to oppose this doctrine with all
their learning and influence.

Now if you please, you may indulge in strengthening your hypothesis,
and prove by the faithful histories of different nations, that Jews,
Greeks, and Romans were most stupidly superstitious. Also that India,
Turkey, and Arabia are now groaning under the ponderous weight of this
vanity. Go on and enlarge on all that you have said, and point out all
the superstitions of which we read or know; show how powerful this
superstition is in the human heart; how it renders its votaries blind
to reason and the principles of moral truth; show how hard it is to
break in upon this almost invincible phalanx; but consider, sir, the
blacker you represent this cloud, the brighter you render the
evidences of the religion of Jesus.

You need not be informed, what the Christian world all knows, that the
doctrine of Jesus Christ, founded on the miracles recorded in the four
Evangelists and in the Acts of the Apostles, was propagated among Jews
and Gentiles, whose superstitions, though various, rendered them both
hostile to this new religion, and incited them to persecutions which
subjected the "weak and defenceless disciples of the meek and lowly
Jesus" to trials and sufferings, fears and temptations of which we can
have but a faint conception.--The grand hypothesis on which the gospel
was advocated, and by which it succeeded in obtaining vast multitudes
of Jewish as well as Gentile converts, was the resurrection of Jesus,
who was publicly executed on a cross by the Roman authority instigated
by the rulers of the Jews. All this must be accounted for in a
rational way. The facts are as well attested as any thing of which
history gives any account. The four gospels have been commented on,
and quoted, and adverted too by a greater number of controversial
writers, than any other book of which we have any knowledge. The
epistles of St. Paul when compared with the Acts and with each other
have all the necessary characteristics of being genuine, and of
relating nothing but realties.

You, sir, allow that the authority on which this religion rests, would
be sufficient to support it, if it were not for the consideration of
your three propositions, the first of which, I trust, you will
acknowledge stands in its vindication.

Your second proposition may now be noticed.

That part of mankind have believed and still are believing in miracles
and revelations which are spurious, we have no interest in denying,
but we feel under no obligation to admit this fact as any evidence
against Christianity, or of any force to counterbalance the evidences
which stand in its favour. What would you think of such kind of
reasoning as should contend, that as it is evident that many have
been, and still are imposed on by counterfeit money, it justifies
serious doubts whether there ever was any true money in the world?
Would you not reply, that as the counterfeit is entirely dependent on
the true for its imposition, in room of being evidence that there is
no true money, it demonstrates that there is?

It being well known, nor ever doubted by the friends or enemies of
Christianity, that its founder and his apostles proved the divinity of
their missions by miracles alone, it was nothing more than might be
rationally expected, that impostors would rise up under those sacred
pretensions, with a view to establish themselves. But if this religion
of Jesus Christ, had not at first been built upon this foundation,
impostors would never have thought of imposing on people with such
pretensions. Impostors, therefore, together with all their deceptions,
cannot, as I humbly conceive, be admitted as evidence _against_ the
genuineness of the gospel, but in _favour_ of it.

As to Mahomet of whom you speak, I have always understood that he made
no pretensions to miracles. He pretended to hold correspondence with
the angel Gabriel, and to receive revelations from God in this way;
but he never attempted to sanction his divinity by miracles; and
indeed there was no need of this, for he declared he was commissioned
from heaven to propagate his religion by the sword, and to destroy the
monuments of idolatry. His kingdom was of this world, therefore did
his servants fight; but they did not fight always alone, for he fought
at nine battles or sieges in person, and in ten years achieved fifty
military enterprizes. He united religion and plunder, by which he
allured the vagrant Arabs to his standard. He asserted that the sword
was the key of heaven and hell; that a drop of blood shed in the cause
of God, a night spent in arms are of more account than two months of
fasting and prayer. He assured those who should fall in battle, that
their sins should be forgiven at the day of judgment, that their
wounds would be resplendant as vermillion and odoriferous as myrrh,
and that the loss of limbs should be supplied by the wings of angels
and cherubim. But what you can find in Mahometism which in the least
militates against the evidences of Christianity I know not. It is
affirmed by writers, that he collected his ideas of God and of morals
from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

From Mahomet you go to the conversion of Constantine, taking
particular notice of the account given of his seeing the sign of a
cross in the sun, &c. And as we are now on the subject of miracles, we
must not forget the miracles of the _Shakers_ which seem to _shake_
your faith! Two _notable_ miracles you have honoured with a place in
your epistle, or honoured your epistle with them, which, I shall not
undertake to determine. A bridge fell with a horse on it, which fell
with the bridge; the rider was a woman; by the fall several of her
ribs were broken, and she was otherwise bruised; but she was
miraculously recovered so as to be able to dance in one evening. A boy
cut his foot, the wound bled profusely; the boy was miraculously
healed in a few hours. These are the miracles; but whether mother Ann,
or some of her elders performed these miracles you do not inform me.
It seems to be allowed that _most_ of these Quaker miracles are
inferior to the miracles recorded in the New Testament, but not more
inferior to them, than they are to the miracles of Moses.

Doctor Priestley, with his usual candor, endeavours to assign a
natural cause for what Constantine saw, and you are inclined to his
opinion, to all of which I have no objections to make; and I am by no
means certain, that a proper attention to the pretended miracles of
the Shakers, might not issue in assigning a natural cause for them.
But however this may be, I cannot see how the matter affects our
belief in Jesus Christ. Do you not discover a difference too wide
between the case of Jesus and his doctrine, and Ann Lee and her
principles to admit of the comparison which you seem inclined to make?
You have also mentioned the case of Mrs. A----'s seeing her husband
and talking with him after he was dead, which you would draw into the
same comparison. That Mrs. A---- may have satisfactory evidence of her
having seen and conversed with her husband since his death, I am not
at all disposed to dispute; but here the matter ends. God has not seen
fit to endue her with the power of working miracles. If this woman
should come into a public assembly and work astonishing miracles
before all the people as an attestation of her having seen her
husband, and you and I should be present, and see these marvellous
things with our own eyes should we doubt the woman's testimony?

I have already, in a former communication shown that the declaration
of the apostles of the resurrection of Jesus, until it was accompanied
with power from on high, was never even communicated to the public, or
ordered to be communicated. But in fact the disciples were strictly
commanded to tarry at Jerusalem until the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Constantine would have had no occasion to depose under the solemnity
of an oath, concerning the sign of the cross, &c. if he had had power
to evidence his declaration by miracles. If Ann Lee's disciples will
heal the sick, restore the lame, and raise the dead in so public a
manner that the people at large may know these facts, then, sir, they
will no longer need to purchase poor children in order to increase
their societies. And if God should see fit to call me from my wife and
children by such evidences as these, I hope I should not disobey his
divine mandate.

But will you reply, that miracles having ceased, we have no right to
expect them? In return it may be asked, how we are assured that
miracles are not now necessary as they were twenty or thirty years
ago? Will you retort this question and ask why miracles are not now as
necessary to evince the truth of christianity as in the days of Jesus
and his apostles? To this we reply: the miracles on which the gospel
was founded, or propagated, were of the most extraordinary kind; they
were of extensive publicity, and of ocular notoriety; they were vastly
numerous, extending to the infirmed of all descriptions; and they were
continued long enough to answer the purpose for which they were

You will feel satisfied that the _enemies_ of Jesus and his apostles
knew for certainty, that those miracles wrought by them were
realities; and that they, in room of imputing them to the divine
agency, violated their own reason, by referring to an evil agent such
power and acts of goodness; I say you will feel satisfied of all this,
if you will set down and read all the accounts relative to this
subject, in the four gospels, carefully regarding this question: Do
these writers discover any marks of deception or fraud?

In no instance do the evangelists betray the least anxiety for fear
what they relate will not be credited. Even when they pen the
astonishing miracles of which they pretend to be eye witnesses, they
make no pause to clear up any thing; but tell the whole as if the
whole was publicly known. In a word, this history, this sacred
testimony, carries its own competent evidence within itself.

It has been noticed by those who have written on this subject, as
evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the real authors of
those books which bear their respective names, that a great many
passages are alluded to or quoted from the evangelists, exactly as we
read them now, by a regular succession of Christian writers, from the
time of the apostles down to this hour; and at a very early period
their names are mentioned as the authors of their respective gospels;
which is more than can he said of any other historian whatever. See
Lardner and Paley. I will not call up Ann Lee in this place, but I
will suppose an attempt should be made now in New-England to convince
Trinitarians of the error of supposing there are three persons in the
Godhead. This shall be undertaken by men who are wicked enough to
attempt to deceive by pretended miracles. One is selected as a leader,
and the others to the number of twelve profess to be his followers.
The leader pretends to a revelation from God, the substance of which
is, that Jesus Christ is a created being and dependent on the Father.
This doctrine he preaches and directs his followers to go into every
town in New-England and proclaim this truth to the people, and exhort
them to repent of their former doctrine and turn to God. This impostor
pretends to work miracles in confirmation of his divine mission; and
also pretends to give his disciples power to work miracles. He informs
his friends that he is to lose his life and that they must lose
their's, in order to establish this doctrine. Stop, we have come to an
absurdity. Who would undertake to deceive their fellow creatures for
no other reward than the loss of their lives? But let us pursue on.
This leader pretends to give sight to blind people, to heal the sick
with a word, and to raise the dead. It is reported all round the
country that many such cases have actually taken place; that the blind
do receive their sight, the sick are raised to health at once, and one
man in particular who was dead four days, has been called out of his
grave. People now are waked up; many believe the reports; thousands
are flocking from place to place to hear this man and to see his
miracles. In this case who would be most likely to place themselves
very near to this pretender? Who would one expect to find near his
person? Answer, some of the Trinitarians; chosen ones too; men of
sound judgment, and who could be depended on as able to detect any
fraud. How long is it reasonable to suppose these pretensions could
possibly continue with any success? It may be asked likewise, whether
all honest, reasonable, and candid Unitarians would not express their
abhorrence of such pretensions? Are you, sir, of opinion that such a
fraud could possibly be managed in a way to insure success? A moment's
reflection is sufficient to put the question to rest.

But we will still pursue our supposition. The Trinitarians enter a
complaint against this teacher, to the authorities, alleging that he
is guilty of treason; he is arrested, convicted, and publicly
executed. At the time of his arrest his disciples all forsake him, and
one being found near him denies that he knows the man. All is over
now, and people go about their common avocations; once in a while a
word or two may be dropped on the subject of the impostor, but the
thing is dying away, till all at once the twelve disciples of him who
was executed came boldly before the public and proclaim the
resurrection of their leader, charge the rulers of the people of
having murdered him, and declare that God has raised him from the
dead, and appointed them to be witness of this to the people, and to
preach Unitarianism. What would be thought of these men? Would the
doctrine of the divine unity be likely to triumph over its opposite,
the Trinity, by the preaching of the twelve? Would there be any
attention paid to these men, except by authority, to disperse them and
cause them to desist from such madness, and go about some honest
business? But now they pretend to work miracles in confirmation of the
truth of the resurrection! Enough. Suppose, sir, I should tell you
that I believe such pretensions might be so managed as to succeed
completely, would you not reply, that the success of such pretensions
being altogether a fraud, would itself be as great a miracle as is
recorded in scripture, with the addition of absurdity? You will
remember that you suggested that it would require a miracle to
dissuade me from my belief; and I hope you will see that you must
believe in a miracle in order not to believe with me!

Will you say that the foregoing does not come to the difficulty, that
the question is, was not the account we have of those things in the
gospels, forged long since the days in which they are represented to
have taken place? Then, sir, in room of the above supposed fraud,
undertaken to propagate _Unitarianism_, you may take the supposition
of a forged book published by the friends of that doctrine, in which
just such a story is told of the first propagations of the sentiment
as is told in the New Testament of Jesus and his apostles--and the
Trinitarians shall be made to act the part of the old pharisees. Can
you, sir, conceive that the book would meet with any better success
than the impostors themselves? Would our learned doctors of the
Trinitarian school be silent while such a book was in circulation?

Would they suffer it to be handed down to posterity unanswered and
unrefuted? Would they see their churches imposed on in this way, their
doctrine sat at nought, and this most extravagant imposture obtain
credit? Ask likewise on the other side; would honest Unitarians pay
any attention to such a book? Would they impose on their fellow
creatures in this way? Would they instruct their children to believe
what they knew to be a lie?

It should be kept in mind that when the gospels were written and for
more than two hundred years afterwards, christianity was hated and
persecuted beyond what we can easily conceive, by the emperors of Rome
and their wicked governors, who being authorized by special edicts for
that purpose put to the most cruel tortures and horrid deaths the
followers of Jesus. The superstitious priests of heathen idols, were
constantly active with all possible inventions calculated to excite
jealousies and sharpen the edge of persecution against a doctrine that
was calculated to subvert their order and demolish their temples. It
was not until A. D. 311, that Maximin Galerius, who had been the
author of the heaviest calamities on the christians, published a
solemn edict, ordering the persecution to cease, which his
indescribable horrors and painful sickness compelled him to do. The
next year Constantine, and his colleague Licinius granted to the
christians a full power of living according to their own laws and

For nearly three hundred years then the gospel ministry, founded on
miracles, which, if not real, were as easily detected as any falsehood
whatever, was oppressed by cruel edicts acted upon by the bitterest
enemies. Where was all the boasted learning of this learned age? Where
was all the sagacity of the sagacious? Could not a priesthood, for
ages improved in scarcely any thing but imposition and fraud, succeed
in detecting pretensions, which, if not real, were too grossly absurd
to impose on the most artless?

You, sir, are entirely right in saying you cannot prove this christian
revelation and the miracles on which it was founded, false. For if
this could ever have been done, there can be no reasonable doubt that
it would have been by its enemies in its first rise; but the day is
past for the detection of this fraud, if it be one; for the age in
which all the means of detection were in possession of its enemies,
has long since passed away and those means are lost. The imposition,
possessed at first of no solidity, might have been blown into the air
with a breath of common sense, has magnified and petrified till it
promises to fill the whole earth, and is as hard as an adamant.

We hear of no writer's undertaking to disprove Christianity till about
one hundred years after the apostles' day, when Celsus wrote a violent
work against the Christians, who were, at the same time, suffering
severe persecutions. But this author, though a bitter enemy to Christ,
allows his miracles; but like the old pharisees imputes them to a
different power from that of God. Why should this enemy of Jesus, his
religion, apostles and followers allow those miracles?--It seems that
there can be no good reason for this unless they were realities. You
say, "that no miracles or revelations that have come down to us are
supported by so good authority as those recorded in the New Testament,
I admit." But how can you conceive of _any good evidence_ of such
miracles as are recorded in this book? We have no account of any
testimony under oath that they were realities. And even if we had,
could the solemnity of an oath be admitted as good evidence? I think
not. Indeed there was no authority that would allow the apostles to
depose in favour of the resurrection of Jesus; but there were no
authorities that could prevent their bearing a mere convincing
testimony. I have endeavoured heretofore, to show that there can be no
good evidence of such a fact as the resurrection, which is capable of
being refuted; and I will here add, of admitting reasonable doubts of
the fact, in the mind. It is a question which properly belongs to this
subject, and which should be often called up, whether the evidences of
the resurrection were not as strong as they could have been, both to
the disciples and to those who believed on Jesus through their
testimony; and furthermore, whether we can conceive how the evidences
could have been stronger on which we believe, without perpetual
miracles, which not only seems an absurdity, but would, if as powerful
as they were at first, preclude the exercise of our reasoning
faculties and the necessity of investigation, which is one of the most
rational enjoyments of which we are capable.

I grant, if the vulgar error, that our eternal salvation depended on
our being correctly acquainted with this subject, were true, it would
follow, of course, that the least difficulty in the way of our knowing
the whole matter, might be attended with fatal and awful consequences.
And for myself, should I adopt the popular opinion that those who go
out of this world not understanding the doctrine, or believing in
Jesus Christ, must hereafter be forever excluded from the blessed
immortality which is brought to light through the gospel, it would be
difficult for me to account for the least obscurity nameable, and much
more difficult would it be to account for the limited circle in which
divine truth has been caused to shine. But I have before intimated
that the consequences of our unbelief here, can with no more propriety
be carried into an eternal state, than the consequences of our
ignorance of any science. It is derogatory to the sacred loveliness of
divine truth, either to promise any further reward to those who seek
and find her than the enjoyment she brings to the soul in her own
native sweetness, or to threaten those who neglect so divine a
treasure with any other inconvenience than the loss of such felicity
during their foolish neglect.

It becomes the philosopher and perhaps more the christian to exercise
patience, but patience is sometimes tried with the bigotry and
nonsense of the self-righteous, self-wise, and self-knowing, who
profess the religion of Christ, yet stand tiptoe, like James and John,
to call fire from heaven to consume all who do not receive their
master. But the true spirit of our religion rebukes such blind zeal
and foolish arrogance, by showing that such a disposition is the
malady which the gospel is designed to cure. While the Christian
clergy have spent their breath and wore out their lungs in
anathematising with eternal vengeance, those whom they call infidels,
have been worse than infidels, and brought a greater stigma on the
name of Jesus, than his open enemies from _Celsus_ down to T. Paine. I
would by all means except from the above remark a goodly number who
have done honour to our religion by treating its opposers, as its
spirit dictates, with candor and sound argument well mingled with
divine charity.

Indeed I think I see much reason to look on what is called infidelity,
with a charitable disposition for this plain reason, it has greatly
contributed to enlighten the Christian commonwealth, by calling into
action the very best of human abilities and directing them to search
for the true grounds on which our faith securely rests.

I hardly know how I ought to reply to what you say about the
persecution of Stephen, &c. At one time you write as if you would
doubt the authenticity of those New Testament accounts; then again you
advert to them for assistance. But why should you go over such ground,
on which so much depends, as if you did not realize that the subject
was worthy of a pause for consideration?

When you advert to the martyrdom of Stephen by a mob, (which by the
way was _the council_), you take no notice of the cause of his being
arrested, accused or condemned.

Let reason and candor look at the account. "And Stephen full of faith
and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there
arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the
libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Celicia
and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist,
&c. Then they suborned men, which said, we have heard him speak
blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up
the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and come upon him, and
caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false
witnesses, which said, this man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words
against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that
this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and change the
customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council,
looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an
angel. Then said the high priest, are these things so?" Here follows
that admirable speech of Stephen before the grand council of his
nation, which defies all conjecture of forgery, and enraged his
enemies against him. And they stoned him for pretended blasphemy. The
concluding clause of this speech is particularly worthy of notice.
"Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have
slain them which shewed before of the coming of the just one; of whom
ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; who have received the
law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it." Now, sir, is
there any more evidence for believing that there was such a man as
Stephen stoned according to the above account, than for believing that
he was stoned by the authority of the council, and for what is here
set forth?

This council which put Stephen to death, was the same before which
Peter was arraigned on account of the miracle wrought on the impotent
man; which according to Dr. Hammond was the Sanhedrim.

But you seem much engaged to prove that martyrdom does not prove the
truth of a belief for which the martyr dies. Here you have not been
careful to distinguish cases. A _Papist, who has been brought up to
believe in the divine presence_, might perhaps suffer death rather
than renounce it; and yet we should not consider this sufficient to
prove the doctrine of _transubstantiation_; but no candid person would
doubt the _sincerity_ of the martyr. But why should we hesitate to
believe the doctrine for which he suffered? Answer, the doctrine is
not a subject of which he could have positive knowledge. He could not
be eye nor ear witness of the fact. But the testimony for which the
disciples of Jesus suffered, was a testimony concerning a matter of
fact, of which their eyes and ears could take proper cognizance; and
if their sufferings are allowed to prove their sincerity, then it is
granted that they believed in the resurrection of Jesus. If the entire
unbelief of the disciples in the resurrection could be overcome, and
they brought to believe that they saw Jesus and talked with him, and
ate with him, and were frequently in his company after his
resurrection, for forty days; and if they were willing to suffer
persecution and death rather than desist from troubling the people
with this testimony, it appears to me that reason will allow that this
is, at least, some evidence of the truth of this astonishing fact;
though this was not the evidence which carried conviction to so many
thousands of the Jews as well as of the Gentiles. This we have before
shown was the manifestation of the mighty power of God in the
miraculous wonders which God wrought by the apostles.

You speak of the honour, which was no doubt attached to the martyrdom
of Stephen, as being an inducement to others to submit to this
example, &c. You hereby allow that the testimony for which he suffered
was surely believed, otherwise no honour could attach to those who
suffered for it. Why then do you not attempt to show the probable
ground on which this testimony was erroneously believed?

I humbly conceive that your observations which regard to the
uprightness of the apostles are too indefinite. You say, "This much,
however, I believe, and of this much I have no doubt, that Paul and
the other apostles were convinced of the truth and the salutary
effects of the moral precepts which had been taught and preached by
Christ; and they were willing to preach and enforce them by all the
means in their power, even at the risk of their lives," &c. And this
you think, "constituted them wise and good men." Here, sir, do you not
leave room for the notion that the apostles would enforce their moral
doctrine with the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus and their
pretensions to miraculous powers, when they had no belief in the
former, and knew the latter to be an imposition? If these men
endeavoured to enforce any principles by practicing such impositions,
however pure those principles were, these men were vile impostors, and
merited all their sufferings. I solemnly protest against the wisdom or
goodness of any man who is an impostor.

I proceed to notice your third proposition, which is as follows:

"3. The facts on which revelation is predicated are unlike every thing
of which we have any positive knowledge." "Of the truth of this
proposition," you say I "must be sensible." You must indulge me, sir,
in saying that you have made a mistake. I am insensible of the
correctness of your statement. The FACTS on which the Christian faith
is predicated, are of that description which come within the
observation of the outward senses of men.

I know of no fact on which Jesus called the people to rest their
faith, that they could not as easily judge of, through the medium of
their senses as of any facts in nature. See John v. 36, "But I have
greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath
given me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of me, that
the Father hath sent me." 10th, 24th, 25th, "Then came the Jews round
about him, and said unto him, how long doest thou make us to doubt? If
thou be the Christ tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you,
and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they
bear witness of me." 37th, 38th, "If I do not the works of my Father,
believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the
works; that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in

All the works of which Jesus spake, were such as the people could know
and examine by seeing and hearing, and concerning which there was no
necessity of their being ignorant or imposed upon. See the account of
John's sending two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the
Christ. Luke vii. 20, &c. "When the men were come unto him, they said,
John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, art thou he that should
come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of
their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that
were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus, answering, said unto them, go
your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that
the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,
the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached." Of such
facts the people were capable of judging, and on such facts the
Messiahship of Jesus rested. And furthermore, it was on such facts
that the testimony of the apostles concerning the resurrection of
Jesus rested. Now it is evident that those facts on which divine
revelation is predicated, are like facts of which we have positive
knowledge, in all respects as it regards the case of knowing them. It
was just as easy for people to know those things, as it is for us to
know the things which are familiar to our senses.

If you mean by the above proposition, simply that miracles are not
wrought before our eyes, it is granted; but have you shown that a
_continuance_ of miracles would more rationally vindicate the gospel,
than the divine economy has done by preserving the _variety of
evidence_ which is now at our command? If this cannot be done, then
the discontinuance of miracles is no reason why we should doubt the
truth of this revelation. How then is your third proposition, even in
any sense in which it can be true, to be understood unfavourable to
divine revelation?

It may not be improper to notice some reasons why the continuance of
the miracles, on which the gospel was first propagated, would not
comport with the divine economy.

1st. As has been before suggested, it would, if combined with the
force it first had, preclude the exercise of the mental powers of

2d. This power of working miracles must have been distributed to
various sects and heresies, or by being confined to one order, prevent
the existence of any other, which would be another preventive of
immense reasoning, and tend to circumscribe the sphere in which the
human mind is capacitated to move.

3d. The continuance of those miracles must have changed the order of
nature, and continued men on earth forever, or from generation to
generation; for if this power had been exercised on some and not to
the advantage of others, it would look like the partial systems of
men, and in room of commending the impartial goodness of God, would
have refuted it.

But, the manifestation of this divine power, in those miracles on
which our religion is founded, while it is attended with none of the
evils which a continuance would evidently produce, besides forming an
immoveable rock on which so glorious a superstructure is safely
founded, furnishes an immense subject for the power of ratiocination.

You will excuse me for not noticing particularly all you say about
modern pretensions to revelations and miracles, as I think it would
occupy time that may be better employed. But I will observe on your
opinion, that it is remarkable, that Saul when he was converted, did
not go to Jerusalem to inquire more fully into the circumstances of
the resurrection, that if he had done this, you would not have
hesitated to make use of it against his declaration recorded in Gal.
i. 11, 12. "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was
preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man,
neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Why do you mention that we have not a particular account of St. Paul's
conversion written by his own hand? Do you think that what a man
writes of himself is more to be depended on, than what his biographer
writes of him? Your suggestions on this subject seem to indicate, at
least, some scruples respecting this conversion, but not in a way to
show where the ground of scruples lies. What is there for me to
answer? Why do you treat this subject with such neglect? In a former
communication, I requested your attention to it in a special manner,
with a view to confine our reasoning to our subject, and to avoid
rambling from one thing to another without making ourselves acquainted
with any thing. In your reply you never attempted to give any account
why Saul should embrace the religion he had persecuted; you made no
attempt to give any reason why he preached Jesus and the resurrection;
nor did you assign any reason why he should be willing to suffer the
loss of all earthly enjoyments and endure persecutions for Christ's
sake; nor did you attempt to prove that there never was such a man and
such a conversion. The subject you considered still before you, and in
this seventh number you have spoken of it again, but have paid no
particular attention to it.

What you say on the subject of prophecy, does not appear to me, either
to reflect any light on it, or to call up any question of importance.
Your query whether the books of the New Testament were not written
after the destruction of Jerusalem, which would suppose that the
prophecy of the destruction of that city was written after the events
took place of which the prophecy speaks, is an old suggestion in which
I am unable to see any thing very reasonable. And I will remark here,
that men who seem to lay an uncommon claim to reason, ought to make
use of it when arguing on such momentous subjects. What difference
would it make whether St. Matthew wrote his gospel before, or after
the destruction of Jerusalem, as it respects the prophecy which Jesus
delivered concerning it? You allow St. Matthew to be an honest man.
You do not doubt then but Jesus did deliver such a prophecy before his
death, which was certainly before the destruction of the city. Then
surely it makes no difference whether the prophecy was committed to
paper before, or after the fulfilment of it. Besides, you seem to urge
the _silence_ of St. John on the subject as unfavourable to the
account, because he wrote his gospel after Jerusalem was destroyed. As
to interpolations which you think might have found their way into the
gospels, it appears to me, sir, that a candid consideration of this
subject would issue in this conclusion; if any important
interpolations had been admitted, they would have produced such a
disagreement as to effectually destroy the validity of the books; for
if one heresy could be indulged, it is reasonable to suppose that
another would be, and so on, which in room of allowing us the
scriptures in their present consistent form, would either have
destroyed their existence altogether, or have varied so as to confound
their ideas.

For a candid, learned, and impartial view of the scriptures of the New
Testament, I refer you to Paley's evidences, and in particular to his
eleven propositions, which he has proved in a manner satisfactory, as
I conceive to the candid inquirer.

These propositions begin on page 103, and are the following.

1. "That the historical books of the New Testament, meaning thereby
the four gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, are quoted, or alluded
to, by a series of christian writers, beginning with those who were
contemporary with the apostles, or who immediately followed them, and
proceeding in close and regular succession from their time to the

2. "That when they are quoted, or alluded to, they are quoted or
alluded to with peculiar respect, as books _sui geneus_, as possessing
an authority which belonged to no other books, and as conclusive in
all questions and controversies among christians.

3. "That they were in very early times collected into a distinct

4. "That they were distinguished by appropriate names and titles of

5. "That they were publicly read and expounded in the religious
assemblies of the Christians.

6. "That commentaries were written upon them, harmonies formed out of
them, different copies carefully collected, and versions of them made
into different languages.

7. "That they were received by Christians of different sects, by many
heretics as well as catholics, and usually appealed to by both sides
in the controversies which arose in those days.

8. "That the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen epistles
of St. Paul, the first epistle of John, and the first of Peter, were
received without doubt, by those who doubted concerning the other
books which are inclosed in our present canon.

9. "That the gospels were attacked by the early adversaries of
Christianity, as books containing the accounts upon which the religion
was founded.

10. "That formal catalogues of authentic scriptures were published, in
all which our present sacred histories were recorded.

11. "That these propositions cannot be affirmed of any other books,
claiming to be books of scripture; by which I mean those books which
are commonly called Apochryphal."

The first evidence adduced by this celebrated author to prove his
first proposition, proves that the gospel of St. Matthew, which
contains a very particular account of the prophecy of Jesus concerning
the destruction of Jerusalem, was written before the event took place.
This evidence is a quotation from the epistle of Barnabas, St. Paul's
companion, in the following words: "Let us therefore, beware lest it
come upon us, _as it is written_, there are many called, few chosen."
St. Matthew's gospel is the only book in which these words are found;
and you will perceive by the expression, "as it is written," that
Barnabas quoted the passage from an author of authority. Barnabas
wrote his epistle during the troubles which ended in the destruction
of the Jews and their city. This epistle of Barnabas is quoted by
Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 194: by Origen, A.D. 230. It is mentioned
by Eusebius, A. D. 315, and by Jerome, A. D. 392. (Paley's evidences,
p. 106.)

Your insinuations that the origin of the christian scriptures is
involved in fable and mystery, should have been accompanied with a
clear refutation of the arguments used by Lardner, Paley, and others,
who have with much learning and labour traced the stream to its

I must say something on the subject which you introduce concerning
man, as a species of being, or you may think me inexcusable for the
neglect. There seem to be two main questions suggested on this
subject; the first inquires what man was farther back than history
reaches; and the other directs the mind to a "line of demarcation"
between the human and the brute.

We have no account that I know of when the use of fire was not known.
We read Gen. iv. 22, that Tubal-cain was an instructor of every
artificer in brass and iron, and if reason has any thing to do in this
case, we may suppose that the use of fire was known to these
mechanics. The date to which this reading belongs, is 3875 years
before Christ; but there can be no reasonable doubt but that the use
of fire was known long before, and that it was used in the offerings
which were made by Cain and Abel.

That the discovery of arts and the progress of science have changed
man from what he originally was, is no more reasonable, than to
suppose that the education which a child acquires by degrees, by the
same degrees changes him in respect to his nature. That the arts and
sciences serve to improve and extend the human intellects is
reasonable enough, but that they add any thing to the natural
principles or faculties of man is not conceivable.

In fixing the "line of demarcation" between the human nature and the
brutal, I will suggest two characteristics which you have noticed by
which the distinction may be ascertained.

The first is the power or faculty of improving from generation to
generation his condition by means of art, and knowing how to advance
from one degree of science to another. This I will suppose belongs to
man and is peculiar to our race of being. We know of no other animal
on earth that has ever improved his condition by the discovery of the
arts or an increase of science.

The other characteristic is one of your propositions, on which you
build your system of doubting, viz. _Superstition_. This is found in
no creature but such as is susceptible of religion. Man is the only
religious animal, if I may be allowed this form of expression, found
on the earth.

The progress which man has made in arts and sciences, and the progress
he has made in divine or religious knowledge distinguish him from the
brutal creation. As in the former he has run into thousands of errors,
so in the latter he has wandered in darkness, with now and then a
blessed ray of light which improved his mind. When the knowledge of
the arts became generally defused by means of the extension of the
Roman government, it pleased our blessed Creator to cause the sun of
divine light to rise on the Jew and Gentile world. And gave him a
covenant of the people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory
of his people Israel.

Your opinion that men are seldom made unhappy in consequence of
doubting a future existence, may be true in a comparative sense, for I
believe there are few in comparison with the whole, who do doubt on
this subject. Generally speaking, it is the few, who like the
philosopher that rendered himself blind by endeavouring to find out
what the sun was composed of, thought there was no sun nor any light,
that so far give up a hope of futurity as to be miserable in their

That the idea of endless torment, such as our clergy have represented,
and with which they have most horribly terrified thousands and driven
them into black despair, is more horrible than no existence at all
will be allowed by every candid mind. But in contemplating an infinite
source of divine benevolence, and his means of giving and perpetuating
existence, and of rendering existence a blessing, the mind is not
driven to the necessity of selecting between these two evils. No, sir,
the mind thus employed has sweeter themes and brighter prospects--in
belief of that invaluable treasure, that divine testimony of the
inspired apostle: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be
made alive;" which sentence you nor I ever heard a preacher of endless
punishment recite in a sermon in our lives, the soul rises by faith
into sublime regions of future peace and everlasting enjoyment, when
death shall be swallowed up of life.

I need not tell you, my brother, that it has been through many trials,
afflictions, doubts, and temptations, that your feeble humble servant
has found the way to this rock; you cannot be altogether ignorant of
this travail of mind. Permit me then to call to remembrance the
bondage we have escaped, the sea through which we have passed, the
sweet songs of deliverance and salvation which we have chanted to our
Redeemer in the faith of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. And here
permit me to request your assistance in giving me support, and in
strengthening my hands in the work of the Lord.

Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


"In regard to the story reported among the Jews, respecting the body
of Jesus, I admit there is a greater probability of there being such a
report, especially if the body could not be found, and the apostles
affirmed that he was risen from the dead, than there is that the
resurrection, should be actually true: hence, perhaps, I was not so
much on my guard in the expression as I ought to have been. What I
particularly had in my mind was, that I might find it difficult to
prove even the existence of such a story, i. e. in the days of the
apostles; and still more difficult to prove, even on the ground that
there was no resurrection, that this story was true; and therefore
there could be no use in urging the truth of this story in order to
invalidate the truth of the resurrection. I do not conceive, however,
that because I doubt the _fact_, I am under obligations to account for
the _fallacy_. It always belongs to the advocates of the truth of any
story, to bring forward sufficient evidence to prove the same. I can
think of a solution, however, that would appear to my understanding
much more probable, than to suppose, as mentioned in your seventh
article, the 'account written long since the apostles' day;' yet it
may, perhaps, be attended with equal or greater difficulties, viz.
that the body was not stolen by the apostles, but was taken away by
other persons, who were willing that Jesus should be _deified_,
according to the then common acceptation of that word among the
Greeks, and who studied this stratagem with an express design to
deceive the Jews, as a punishment to them for so cruelly putting him
to death, and also to deceive his disciples, in order to inhance the
honour of the name of Jesus.

"This might have been done, as I conceive, by persons who never became
his open followers, so far as to suffer death on his account, but were
contented in having gained their object; to do which, it was only
necessary in the first instance to frighten the soldiers. It may be
difficult after all, as I have observed concerning the human species,
to say where the truth of the account ends, or where the fallacy
begins; but that some such thing should have taken place is more
probable to my understanding than that the literal resurrection of
Jesus should have been true. But I perceive that my expression,
concerning the report among the Jews, was a little too strong; and
carried rather more in it than what I was aware. For even on my
hypothesis, as well as on every other which admits the absence of the
body, such a report would appear very probable.

"It must be granted, as you have suggested, that there was such a
report among the Jews at the time when that record was made, or else
that record would not appear at all to 'advantage' in support of the
truth of christianity.

"That 'reason is candid,' I also admit; and if I am blundering in
making mistakes, I believe you will have the goodness to acknowledge
that I am candid in retracting them again when they are so pointed out
to me that I can see them.

"Respecting divine revelation, it is true, I understood you to mean
something more than barely what is predicated on the resurrection of
Jesus; yet in the second proposition of the three which you made, viz.
'Is the resurrection of Jesus capable of being proved,' I understand
you to state one single fact, on which you are willing to rest the
final issue of the argument. This being the most important fact,
relative to the truth of christianity, and which, probably, is as
difficult of proof as any, I do not perceive any disingenuousness in
confining you _now_ to this proposition till it is either proved or
admitted. Neither do I perceive how this can embarrass your argument,
as you have proposed to consider them 'true, disjunctively,' as well
as conjunctively. When therefore you have proved the three
propositions _disjunctively_; particularly the second, above named,
then I shall be willing you should avail yourself of their
_union_.--You may say, perhaps, I have proposed to admit the truth of
your three propositions; but you will also perceive, it was only for
the sake of introducing a fourth proposition, which it will not be
necessary for you to consider until the three first are proved true.

"I conceive that reason has no more to do in this case than to judge
of the evidences of facts; and then, if the facts are supported,
reason can judge of their relation one to the other; but to assume, in
the first place, the truth of revelation, and then infer from _that_
the probability of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, appears to
me to be unreasonable. Therefore, if you attempt to prove the truth of
revelation, I conceive you must in the first place prove,
'disjunctively,' the truth of the resurrection. If, therefore, you
have considered yourself excused from proving the facts on which the
truth of revelation seems to rest, because I have granted them for the
sake of the argument, you have misapprehended my meaning. I grant
_nothing_, respecting the main question, until it is _proved_.

"Notwithstanding what you have said about 'the known facts,' and
'facts which you grant, for the sake of the argument,' &c. you will
perceive by my seventh number, that I do not consider the 'miracles of
Jesus, his resurrection, and the miracles wrought by the apostles,'
either granted or proved, i. e. in relation to the main question; and
hence, whatever weight your argument may have, when you have succeeded
in that (if you should succeed at all) at present they seem to be
hardly conclusive. I know it would save you much time, if you could
draw from me an acknowledgement of the truth of the facts on which you
rely; and you seem to argue, if I understand you, as though that was
already the case; but whatever you may have understood, I must
distinctly disavow any such acknowledgement; and I shall still expect
(unless it is done in answer to my seventh number) when you come to
reply to this, that you will state distinctly, and together, the
evidences and arguments on which you mostly rely.

"If, however, you have meant nothing more by all this than to point
out the use you shall make of the miracles, &c. (which have been
granted for the sake of the argument) when those miracles, &c. shall
have been either proven, or else acknowledged true, in relation to the
main question, then I have no fault to find; but otherwise, your
argument in this place seems to be a little premature.

"You say, 'the known facts, such as the miracles, &c. I used as proof
of the divine mission of the servants of God. This divine mission
being proved gives the ground on which I contend for the merit of
their testimony, concerning a future state.'

"Here you will perceive, sir, that, according to your own statement,
to prove this divine mission, you must first prove the certainty of
those miracles, &c. on which the truth of the divine mission is
predicated. And these are things about the truth of which, as I
indicated all along, there may be serious doubts.

"I am at a loss also to understand, what you mean by a 'divine
mission.' You inform me that I misapprehended you 'in supposing that'
you 'mean to contend, that what the apostles have said respecting a
future state, was spoken by way of _conclusions_ from certain known
facts.' Here, I must confess, I am really at a loss to understand you:
how that either Jesus, or his apostles, could understand a divine
mission, even if they had received one, unless it were by
_conclusions_ from _certain known facts_, that is, facts well known to
them, I cannot conceive; and therefore must have some further
explanation on this subject before I can fully answer you. For I must
be better informed than I am at present, what you mean by a _divine
mission_, before I can see the necessity of 'denying the reality of
those miracles--or of granting the authority of their (Christ and his
apostles) testimony;' that is, in regard to a future state. But even
if I should be made to see this, it would be of no use for the
present; because as it respects the final issue of the argument, I
have not, neither do I now admit the reality of those miracles: as you
must have seen by my seventh number.

"The next particular which demands notice is the quoted passage which
I pronounced _Most excellent_!

"Here a serious query suggests itself to my mind. I ask myself: am I,
or am I not, as capable of writing my sentiments, so as to be
understood by a rational man, as those plain illiterate men who wrote
the gospels? And yet if my words are so wrested by logical
_twisticisms_ (if I may be allowed to use that expression) so as to
mean what never entered my heart, and all this with apparent serious
candor too, what may have been the fate of the writings of the
evangelists? Now this is something in which I cannot be deceived, i.
e. as it respects myself; for any man of common sense does know his
own meaning, whether his words fully express his meaning or not, or
whether they may be made to mean something else or not.

"Permit me therefore once more to explain. The expression, _Most
excellent_! was not so much intended to have been applied to the
sentence preceding it, as to the author of that sentence, whose
goodness, in stating so explicitly what he understands by the
christian faith, I commended. And you must excuse me for not being
able to see any inconsistency, absurdity, or contradiction in my words
which follow that expression. Suppose a case. You have a good and
faithful servant, who feels happy in your service, and is perfectly
contented with his fare. You promise him with some favours which you
had never before made known to him. He is elated with the idea of your
goodness, which he has never doubted, but did not know till now that
it was to be manifested in this particular way. You tell him that a
knowledge of this, with his former knowledge, 'is as much as his
present welfare requires.' He very readily assents to the truth of the
proposition; and further adds, it is even 'more than is necessary for
his present welfare,' for he was contented and happy before. Would any
rational man say that your servant talked unreasonably? Would he say
that such reasoning was absurd? I think not. Your servant does not
despise either your goodness or your bounty; he considers that his
master knows best, what is best for his servant; and he receives with
gratitude whatever is bestowed. Your argument would have appeared to
me more just, if, after fully understanding me, which I perceive, by
the use you have made of the quotation from my sixth number, you now
do, you had proved from well known facts, or from conclusive argument,
the absolute necessity of the hope of a christian in order for the
'present welfare' of mankind. In doing this you would have ingenuously
refuted the proposition which I say would have been _exactly right_.

"You do not seem, sir, yet to have fully understood me as to my object
in searching for truth. You ask, saying, 'Do you not appear to be
solicitous to have your doubts removed, without expecting the least
advantage by it?' You must know, sir, that this is only on
supposition, that my doubts are founded in error; in which case I
should reap the advantage, as my object is truth. You will recollect
that my first object was to search for _moral truth_; without being at
all solicitous where, or on what ground it shall be found. Truth
_only_ is my object. In this _only_ I feel at all interested in this
argument. Hence I shall be just as much obliged to you to _confirm_ me
in my doubts, admitting they are founded in truth, as I shall to
_remove_ them, admitting they are founded in error.

"I once thought just as you, viz. that the idea and contemplation of
enjoying future life was absolutely necessary to present enjoyment;
but I am now fully convinced, yea, more, it is absolutely known to be
a fact, that the idea is altogether visionary and illusive. I admit
that a knowledge of the truth, so far as the truth may be known, is
perfectly _congenial_ with the present happiness of mankind: though it
is often the case that a partial knowledge of the truth, in relation
to any particular subject, produces distress and misery rather than
enjoyment. I now am very happy in knowing some things, which, once,
only the idea of their being true would have given me pain. I am
inclined to think that the idea of _now_ enjoying the pleasures, or
_now_ enduring the pains of a future life is altogether chimerical. I
can enjoy the life or lives of others in a future tense just as well
as I can _now_ enjoy my own future life. I have as much reason to
believe that rational intelligence always did exist, as I have to
believe it always will; yea, one idea is just as certain to me as the
other, and no more so. And as I cannot reflect on the idea of eternity
past, only with a kind of reverential _awe_ mingled with sublime
pleasure; so the idea of eternity to come produces in me the same
sensation; yea, feeling myself equally ignorant of both, (which must
be the case on the supposition that revelation is not true.) I can
perceive no difference. I feel anxious to know, however, every thing
which can be known on this subject; and yet, at the same time, I am
inclined to think I should _doubt_ of every revelation of which I can
have any conception, unless it should be so made that I could see its
truth, (or at least the evidences of its truth) over and over again,
and that they should still remain by me at all times, so that I could
examine them, and re-examine them, the same as I now look at the stars
in the firmament.

"Thus I have opened my mind to you, more fully than I have ever done
before, on this subject; and notwithstanding your writings may be very
beneficial to others (as well as mine, for some may stand in need of
one, and some of the other) yet, here comes up my doubts again, if I
am benefited by them, I expect it will be in a different way than that
of being any more persuaded of the truth of divine revelation.
Nevertheless, I am no less anxious to continue the correspondence on
this account.

"Your address to TRUTH, which you are pleased to put into the mouth of
my argument, is closed with an idea which does not grow out of my
hypothesis. 'The joyous expectation of soon losing sight of thee (i.
e. truth) forever in the ellysium of non existence!' _Non-existence_,
sir, does not _exist_! Neither does the term convey an idea to my
understanding of any thing. I know of no existence, neither can I
conceive of any, except that which I believe to be eternal in its
nature. And the idea of _something_ being formed or made out of
_nothing_, or of something's returning to nothing again, I have long
since exploded. Every thing, however, excepting first principles, is
liable to _change_. Hence arises the various modes, states,
circumstances, conditions and situations in beings and things: also
their different properties, relations and dependences.

"I know not whether consciousness is a being, or whether it be only a
mode of being. If it be the former, it always did, and always will
exist, in some state or other; if the latter, the state of the being
may be so changed that although identity exists, yet consciousness is
not there. And there is no more absurdity in this idea than there is
in supposing that the same matter which forms a _cube_, may become a
_globe_. I can as well conceive of a conscious being to day, becoming
unconscious to-morrow, as I can conceive of a person in a sound sleep.
But _non-existence_ (strictly speaking) sounds to my understanding
something like the _falsity of truth_!

"I now come to your reply to my sixth number; and in my remarks, which
will be but few, I shall follow the arrangement which you have made.

"1st. The candid concessions which you have made, and the charity
which you have extended towards doubting Christians, or candid
unbelievers (for such I conceive there may be) is honourable both to
yourself and to the cause which you have espoused, and your writing,
of course gains a much more favourable reception than the writings of
those who appear to be filled with a spirit of acrimony, and are ready
at once to deal out anathemas against every thing of which they cannot
approve. But, sir, you will permit me to say, we ought to be cautious,
lest our personal attachment to an author, and his charitable feelings
towards us be such, as imperceptibly to blind us to correct reason,
and cause us to imbibe his errors, merely because they are his, and
mistake them for truth.

"I am well aware that I should find it difficult to prove that I now
believe what I do without a miracle, as you have suggested; for if
miracles have existed they may have, indirectly, more influence in my
mind than I am at present sensible of; and therefore I will not
undertake to say that I am not principally indebted to them for my
present views of the character of the supreme Being. I am disposed to
acknowledge in humble gratitude all the blessings which I have
received, and am made sensible of, let them come to me by what means,
or through what channel soever. But I do not see how you had a right
to expect that I should either _refute_, or else _acquiesce_ in your
opinion on this subject.--What! must I either prove that there have
been no such things as miracles, or else admit their truth! Must I
either refute your notion that they have had great influence on my
faith and practice, or else '_express my acquiescence_' that such is
the fact! Hard lines! I choose to take the easier course, and confess
that I am too ignorant to do either. I am willing, however, still to
be instructed.

"2d. I have nothing at present to say on the subject of prophecy; i.e.
to reconcile the pretensions to it with the honesty of the prophets,
without admitting divine inspiration, better than what I have written
in my seventh number. When I have received your answer to that I may
have something more to write. I would suggest, however, here, that as
you frequently make use of the expression 'divine inspiration,' I want
the expression more fully defined and explained. I have no distinct
idea, that I know of, of _divine inspiration_. I suppose you mean the
same by it which you did by the 'divine mission,' given to the
apostles, or at least something similar; but still I am ignorant of
the subject. You have sometimes spoken of divine revelation, as though
it was something distinct from this divine mission, and which was a
proof of it; but, you must excuse me, I am still all in the dark about
it. Do be so good as to inform me how you suppose the prophets, or
apostles, or even Jesus, could know for a certainty that they were
divinely inspired?

"3. When I acknowledged that there are evidences in favour of divine
revelation, I did not suppose it necessary to state what those
evidences are; because some of them, to say the least, are very
apparent. The bare report of any thing, I conceive to be evidence of
the report's being true; and would be sufficient to acquire belief
should nothing arise in the mind to counterbalance it: and as I had
repeatedly promised to give you the reasons for my doubts I expected
to have been indulged a little longer before I should have been again
faulted on this subject. But as it respects this matter I am all
patience and submission, if it may be so that truth shall finally come
to light.

"Under this article you have gone into a very lengthy discussion to
shew that the evidence by which the apostles believed in the
resurretion could not be counterbalanced, &c. And if I understand what
you have written it amounts in my mind to about the following, viz.
the apostles could not have been convinced of the fact of the
resurrection by any evidence short of the fact itself. 2dly. If the
fact did exist there is no evidence which can conterbalance it.
_Ergo_. As the apostles were convinced of the truth, the fact did
exist. This is pretty much like saying, if the fact were _true_, it
could not have been _false_! But I spoke of the evidence in relation
to _ourselves_ rather than the _apostles_: we believe or disbelieve
for ourselves, and by such evidence as _we_ have. You think if twelve
men should testify in favour of a resurrection, and the body could not
be found, 'various opinions would result from such evidence.' If so,
some might believe the account true; and they might persuade others to
believe it; and only let it be reported and believed that some one had
died for the truth of it, and it would make no difference after this,
as it respects the influence of faith, whether the account was true or

"You will excuse me for making no further remarks on what you have
written under this article till you have answered my seventh number,
and also given me a more clear definition of _divine inspiration_.

"4. What you have written under the fourth article, generally
speaking, is satisfactory, till I come to the last sentence; and even
with that I have not much fault to charge you with. It is true we may
be mistaken as to our ideas of the eternity or immutability of any
thing; but then, as it respects argument, it is just as well as though
we were correct, as no one can prove us otherwise; no, nor even raise
a reasonable doubt on the subject. But even if it could be
demonstrated that there is not a rational being now in the universe
who existed two centuries ago, or one who will exist two centuries
hence, I conceive, as the fact could not, so the knowledge of the fact
ought not to make any difference in the relation, dependence and moral
obligation between man and man. Man learns by his own experience, as
well as from the experience of others; and _vice versa_; hence we
profit by the experience of those who have gone before us.

"When man shall universally learn this great moral truth that much of
his happiness is inseparably connected with the happiness of his
fellow beings, which is one of the immutable principles of moral
nature, then each individual will strive to the utmost to promote the
general welfare; for in so doing he increases his own individual
happiness, and also the happiness of posterity.

"5. What you have said under the fifth article, for reasons already
given, will be considered in my next number, when I hope I shall he
furnished with more light on the subject.

"I will only observe here that a miracle, as I conceive, must be
performed agreeable to, or else it must be a violation of the laws of
nature. If the former, whatever it might be to others, to those who
understood the means of its operation, it could be, strictly speaking,
no miracle; and if no miracle, no evidence, to them, of divine
inspiration: but if the latter, and those who performed the same were
ignorant of the power by which they were performed, I do not see how
that the performance of a miracle could give them any knowledge of
futurity. And if not, what did give it to them, and in what way was it

"It will still be recollected that I do not admit the existence of
miracles, although I speak of them as though they were true, merely to
shew that even if they were true I should still have my difficulties
respecting the truth of divine revelation.

"6th. Your remarks under the sixth article are satisfactory, though
they have not convinced me of the incorrectness of my opinion; because
that which is founded in _truth_ is, after all the only thing that is
'good and nourishing' to the understanding. The sound mind pants only
after truth; and as he knows eternal truth is unalterable, he is not
foolish enough even to desire, it should be what it is not. The reason
why we often desire that which we cannot have is because, not knowing
the whole truth, we do not know but that we may have the things we

"7th. As it respects 'not even deserving a future existence,' I was
not fully understood. I only meant an _anxious_ desire, as I expressed
a little before, and as also I expressed _anxious concern_ a little
after; that is a desire which is incompatible with reconciliation to
truth whether that truth gives us little or much. Had not truth been
favourable to our existence we certainly should not have existed; and
I can see no reason to fear a truth which has been so favourable as to
give us being. It is true, a desire to exist as long as we can enjoy
life seems to be inseparably connected with our moral nature; and yet
I can see no terror in that which takes away our sensibility, whether
it be for a night, for ages, or for eternity. I should just as soon
think of being terrified at the idea of a sound and sweet sleep. If
the truth be what I suspect it is, I see no good reason why it should
be revealed to us, any more than the hour of our death! This truth is
wisely concealed from us.

"8th. You have seen me so long in the dark that I begin to doubt
whether you would be willing to own me correct, even if I should come
fully into the light; i. e. according to your understanding. Is it
possible sir, that you should suppose me capable of writing so great a
solecism as the following, viz.: If a revelation were ever necessary,
it was necessary only to convince mankind that a revelation is not
true! But it seems that such must have been your construction, or very
near it, or else you could not have found the error of so great
magnitude, of which you speak. Although I did not express my idea so
full and explicit as I might, and perhaps ought to have done, yet I
can assure you that, by reconciling man to his present state, I meant
nothing less than what you have expressed in a former letter; and I
meant to include all for which you have contended in the article now
under consideration. For 1st. If divine revelation were necessary, the
thing revealed is undoubtedly true. 2d. If true, I am fully satisfied
with your views on the subject.

"9th. Your explanation relative to what you suggested in a former
letter (i. e. _that I must mean that the apostles stated falsehood_)
is satisfactory; though what you now say you meant, as I have already
informed you, was not exactly my meaning. The fact is, I did not mean
to express any opinion as to the truth or to the falsity of the
apostles' testimony. I very readily grant, however, that, if I 'do not
_believe_ that they stated the truth' 'I must believe that they stated
falsehood;' unless (which would be very extraordinary) the weight of
evidence be so exactly balanced in my mind that it is impossible for
me to form an opinion on the subject.--But supposing I disbelieved
their testimony altogether; what could I do more than to give my
reasons for not believing it? Would it be reasonable to call on me to
prove their testimony false? It is a very hard thing to prove a

"You will have already perceived by my seventh number that I have no
idea that the facts on which the Christian religion is said to have
been founded can now be proved false. No, whatever might have been the
case in the time of it, they were neglected too long before any
attempt of this kind was made, though the accounts should have been
supposed ever so erroneous as to promise any success in their
refutation. And I am inclined to think that one century _then_ would
involve facts in as much obscurity as five centuries would _now_. But
I have already expressed my doubts whether the facts on which the
religion of the _Shakers_ is said to be predicated, although not half
a century standing, can now be proved false; and yet if they are true
they are nothing short of miraculous.

"The Christian religion therefore, true or false, undoubtedly will
stand, in some shape or other, and be believed more or less, as long
as man remains upon the earth. For if it was introduced without any
violations of the laws of nature, i. e. without miracles, which
probably was the case, if false, we cannot expect any such violations
for the sake of destroying it; and without such violations I do not
see how it could be destroyed, because the believers of it,
invariably, believe it to be established on such mysterious
supernatural principles; and I expect but very few, comparatively,
will ever have sufficient strength of mind to throw off the mystic

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Dear sir, and brother_--Desiring to bring our present correspondence
to a close as soon as the merits of its subject will admit, I propose
in replying to your 8th number, to remark only on the most essential
particulars, taking no particular notice of two classes contained in
your communication, viz. that which seems to grow out of a
misconstruction of my arguments and that in which you appear to agree
with them. Indulging in this liberty, the subjects to which I will
endeavour to confirm myself are the following.

1st. Your method of accounting for the absence of the crucified Jesus,
from the sepulchre where it was laid and guarded by the Roman

2d. What you suggest respecting the divine mission of Christ and his
apostles, the miracles which were wrought by them in attestation of
the Messiah, and the credibility of their testimony regarding a future

3d. What you contend for respecting the _utility_, or _inutility_ of
the christian hope of future felicity.

4th. Something on the instructions of Jesus to his disciples
respecting their conduct toward their enemies.

5th. What you suggest respecting Jesus' not being known to the two
disciples, &c.

6th. Your criticism on my argument respecting the evidences of the
resurrection, &c.

1st. You propose to account for the absence of the body of Jesus, by
supposing, that some persons by frightening the guards were enabled
thereby to convey the body away, which they did being willing that
Jesus should be thought to have risen from the dead, whereby he would
be deified, according to the notions of the Greeks respecting deifying
men after they were dead, &c. Those who thus stole the body were not
the disciples of Jesus, but some persons who were desirous thereby to
punish the Jews for so cruelly putting Jesus to death.

Here you have proposed two subjects as forming the cause, in the mind
of those who stole the body, of their undertaking so hazarduous an
enterprise, neither of which appears to me to wear the necessary marks
of probability.--1st. If they wished to have Jesus deified according
to the notions of the Greeks, there was no need of establishing the
belief of his having rose from the dead. This was not the case with
those who among the Greeks were deified after their death. The tombs
of their heroes whom they placed among the gods, remained among the

2d. Who that then lived in Jerusalem or its vicinity could look on the
crucifixion of Jesus as an act of cruelty? Others than Jews would not
feel very much interested in this affair, as Jesus had confined his
ministry to the Jews, and directed his disciples not to enter into any
of the cities of the Gentiles, this matter was a case which seemed to
concern the Jews only. Now look at the case. The Jews expected a
Messiah, a deliverer, one who should become their prince, and deliver
them from the bondage of the Romans. Jesus pretended to be sent of God
as their Messiah of whom the ancient prophets had spoken; he pretended
to work miracles in confirmation of his divine mission; but in room of
delivering the Jews from the Roman yoke, he prophecied of their
destruction by the Romans. Now, sir, if Jesus made all these
pretensions without divine authority for so doing, if he caused to be
reported that he wrought miracles when he never wrought one in his
life, if he kept the people in a continual uproar driving about the
country from one extreme of Palestine to another all by his frauds and
fascinating deceptions; and in order to quiet the people, and have
things go on in a regular order, those who were charged with the
public concerns brought about the crucifixion of this impostor, who
knowing all these things, being a Jew would think of accusing these
godly pharisees and rulers of cruelty for so doing? If Jesus did not
do the works which he pretended to do, he certainly was an impostor,
and it is in vain to attempt to save him from such a charge. And if he
were such a _blasphemous_ impostor as to pretend to work miracles by
the power of God, when he knew he had no such power, it appears very
plain that he deserved to die according to Jewish customs. If the
miracles of Jesus had been of a different description, there might
have been some deception. That is, if such miracles had been pretended
as you state of the Shakers; in such a case nobody would trouble their
heads about the matter. Some would say, the good woman perhaps was
badly hurt, and she thought her ribs were broken, when in fact they
were not, and with a little good nursing she was able to join the
dance; others might be extravagant enough to suppose that something
marvelous had taken place, but who would know? Or, I will add, who
would care? But will you undertake to argue that the most learned and
artful could impose on people by pretending to have power from God to
open the eyes of the blind, to heal all manner of diseases with a
word, and to raise the dead from their graves? No, sir, if Jesus did
not perform the miracles which he pretended to perform, there is no
propriety in believing that any body was disposed to charge the Jews
with cruelty for ridding community of such an impostor. But after all,
even allowing your proposed method of accounting for the absence of
the body, which by no means is half as probable a story as that
reported by the Jews, as this does not account for the disciples'
believing that Jesus had actually arose from the dead. What is to be
done with this circumstance? Are we to suppose that as soon as the
disciples found that the body was missing, they took it into their
heads that he had actually arose from the dead without any further
evidence? Well if they really believed it they could honestly state
their belief to the people. You will remember that you have agreed
that the apostles were honest men. But then the apostles go further,
they assert that they were certified of the real resurrection of Jesus
by many _infallible_ proofs, that they saw him, conversed with him,
ate with him, heard his discourses in which he expounded the
scriptures of the law, of the prophets, and of the psalms which
respected his passion and resurrection. Will you allow these men to
have been honest men, and still suppose that somebody stole the body
of Jesus from the sepulchre? The boldness of the disciples in
declaring the resurrection, their willingness to suffer all manner of
persecutions for the name of Jesus, show plainly that they did believe
in his resurrection. Here I refer you to my former arguments in which
I have attempted to make it appear that the disciples could not have
been deceived.

But even allowing, that the body was stolen, and that the disciples
were deceived, there is still, if possible, a greater difficulty to
account for, viz. the success of the preaching of Jesus and him
crucified. Here I wish, in a special manner, to call your attention.
The four evangelists and the acts of the apostles were written in the
life time of the disciples of Jesus; this, Paley, in his Evidences of
Christianity, fully proves. He likewise proves beyond any reasonable
doubt that they were written by the men whose names they bear. These
historians then relate all the miracles recorded in the four gospels,
and inform us that Jesus actually performed them. They give each of
them an account of the crucifixion and resurrection of their divine
master. They relate the things of which they were eye witnesses. But
supposing they were deceived, which I humbly conceive, is not
supposable, can we reasonably believe that these gospels in which such
barefaced falsehoods were recorded would ever gain credit among a
people whose religious education was to be all overthrown by coming
into the belief of those writings?

But the apostles had not these books to assist them in their ministry;
they went on in preaching Jesus and the resurrection, first in the
city of Jerusalem, and throughout all Judea, and among the Gentiles
with astonishing success before they wrote the accounts which we have.
Now, sir, on the supposition that the body was stolen will you account
for the people's being persuaded that Jesus rose from the dead?--Is it
possible to conceive of any thing to which the Jews could have been
more opposed, than to the testimony, that the man whom they had
crucified was the Messiah, and that God had raised him from the dead?
Now turn to the account given in Acts, chap. ii. and let reason and
candor have their voice in the matter under consideration. "Therefore
let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that
same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Can you
conceive of any thing that could have been more trying to the feelings
of the people? Observe, "whom ye have crucified." Bring the matter
home to yourself. Suppose you had been active in the prosecution of
one of your fellow creatures, and the prosecution should have
terminated in the execution of the accused, how would it try your
feelings for your neighbours to come and tell you, that you had been
the murderer of a good and innocent man? But in the case under
consideration there are circumstances that heighten the importance of
the subject. The great Messiah in which all the Jews were educated to
believe, as much as we are educated to believe in Christ; this
personage is the subject. See the account, "Now, when they heard this,
they, were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the
rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?" Why do we
hear this exclamation? "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Why
should the people now feel thus affected? Why do they not cry out
against the men who accuse them of having done this wickedness, as
they did against Jesus a few days before? Can you, sir, believe that
all that caused this, was the body's having been stolen from the
sepulchre, the disciples having gotten the whim into their heads that
Jesus had arose from the dead, now run about like mad men and accuse
the people of having murdered the great Messiah, the anointed of God,
affirming that God had raised him from the dead, when barely the
absence of the dead body was all the evidence on which this could be
founded? Not only did the testimony of Peter, on this occasion, which
will remain a most memorable one while the world stands, carry pungent
conviction to the very hearts of the people, but it happily issued in
the glorious triumph of faith in the risen Jesus in about three
thousand of the then present audience.

In the fore part of this chapter we have an account of the
manifestation of the mighty and miraculous power of God which was the
evident cause of the conviction of the people; and to no other cause,
I humbly conceive, can we impute such consequences.

Permit me to remark here, that all that ingenuity has ever invented
about how the body of Jesus was disposed of, can have no weight at all
against the doctrine of the resurrection which the apostles
propagated. The body's being absent from the sepulchre never convinced
one reasonable being in the world, of the fact of the resurrection. It
did not convince those who first saw the sepulchre empty.

"Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping; and they (the angels)
say unto her, woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto him, because
they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus
standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, woman,
why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She supposing him to be the
gardner, saith unto him, sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me
where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto
her, 'Mary.' She replied, 'RABBONI!'" How naturally is this account
given. In what an artless manner is the story told. I so much admire
the sincerity and unaffected love of Mary to her master that the
following reflections demand a place here. The person who but three
days before was crowned with thorns, was reviled and spat upon, was
most ignominiously crucified between two thieves and laid in the
sepulchre is so much the object of Mary's affection that she appears
solicitous for the body. I cannot doubt the truth of Mary's being
here, for the story is told without any design. But why is Mary here?
If Jesus was an impostor she never knew of his working a miracle in
her life. But if Jesus was in fact what he pretended to be and if he
wrought those miracles which are recorded of him, all is explained.
But it is evident that Mary had not thought of Jesus' having been
raised from the dead, when she saw that he was absent from the
sepulchre. When Jesus spake to her, and called her by name as he had
frequently done before, she knew him. When this Mary and the other
women that were with her went to the eleven, and told them the story,
they did not believe it, nor does it appear that Peter believed in the
resurrection, even after Mary and others had certified him, and he had
been himself to the sepulchre and found it empty; but he went away
"wondering in himself at that which was come to pass."

The evidences by which the disciples believed in this all-important
truth were equal to its importance and to its extraordinary character.
These evidences have been noticed.

2d. The mission of Christ and his apostles, the miracles wrought by
them in attestation of that mission, and the credibility of their
testimony respecting a future state may now receive some notice.

You are disposed to call on me to inform you what I mean by this
mission, to which I reply; I mean a divine appointment to act in a
certain official character, accompanied with certain powers by which
they were _enabled to evince_, by miracles, this their appointment.

Jesus was appointed by God himself to reveal the divine character,
nature, and will of the Father to the world, by his preaching, by his
miracles of mercy, by his sufferings, by his death and resurrection.
The apostles were sent by Jesus Christ on the same mission, on which
Jesus himself was sent. See his prayer, John xvii. "As thou has sent
me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
Those who believed in Jesus, and acknowledged him to be the Messiah,
believed on account of the miracles which he wrought, and as I have
before argued, Jesus never required of any a belief in him, barely on
his testimony of himself, but on the evidence afforded by the works
which he did in his Father's name. So likewise, those who believed on
Jesus through the ministry of the apostles, never were called on to
believe but by the authority of as great wonders as were wrought by
Christ himself. I need not say much on this particular, as you must
know that the ground on which I have here placed this subject, is the
ground on which the New Testament places it.

The absurd notions which have been erroneously adopted by Christian
doctors and councils concerning the mission of Christ to appease the
divine wrath, to reconcile God to man, to suffer the penalty of the
divine law, &c. &c. which have rendered the gospel a mystery and a
mist, in room of a high way for the ransomed of the Lord to return to
Zion in, is chargeable to the enemy who sowed tares among the wheat.
These opinions with a multitude of studied inventions about a
mysterious work of sovereign elective grace wrought in certain
individuals, in an unknown way and frequently in an unknown time all
which is to be followed by a system of mysterious sanctification,
connected most mysteriously with final perseverance, together with all
the intricate unknown items set down in the Westminister Catechism,
have only served to perplex some, puff others up with spiritual pride
and exalt them in the kingdom of spiritual wickedness in high places,
to drive some to despair, and to disgust reason and common sense in
others. There is not a word of all the above jargon in the sacred
scriptures, which give us a most rational account of the great object
of the gospel ministry. This object is the redemption of mankind from
moral darkness, which is the whole occasion of moral evil, and to
produce that improvement in the religious world which science is
designed to effect in the political. It is to bring truth to light, to
commend the character of God to man, to lead all men into the true
knowledge, spirit, and temper of the divine nature. Thus we discover
in Jesus no partialist, no sectarian, no friend to any one
denomination, more than another. And when he had accomplished, by his
sufferings, what the prophets had foretold, he then sent his gospel of
the love and mercy of God to the whole world. His divinely inspired
apostles followed the examples of their leader and preached the
universal, impartial goodness of God to all men, and confirmed their
mission by similar miracles to those wrought by Jesus.

You further inquire the grounds on which we are to believe Jesus and
his apostles respecting a future state. Reply, on the same ground on
which we believe them in other matters, viz. because they have proved
the divinity of their mission or appointment to teach truth by the
power of the God of truth. See 2 Cor. xii. 12, "Truly the signs of an
apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders,
and mighty deeds." You need not be told that an _apostle_ is a
messenger, and that a messenger must have a mission. What then were
the signs of St. Paul's mission? Answer, patience, signs, wonders, and
mighty deeds. Jesus is said to be the great _apostle_, and high priest
of our profession, and he evinced his apostleship by signs, by
wonders, and mighty deeds. Now, sir, as these signs were designed to
prove to us that Jesus and his apostles were divinely inspired, so
they are the ground on which we may safely believe their testimony in
all things.

If your inquiry extends further than the plain statements and facts
go, you will at once see that they go beyond the demands of reason,
for it is an unreasonable thing to require of an uninspired person any
further account concerning the way by which an inspired man knows what
he says to be true, than it has pleased God to enable his messenger to
make known.

When the pharisees asked the man who was born blind, to whom Jesus had
given sight, "What sayest thou of him? that he hath opened thine eyes?
he said, he is a prophet." How comes this man to believe that Jesus
was a prophet? Because the sign of a messenger of God had been given.
If the pharisees had asked him, how he knew that Jesus was a prophet,
would he not answer them by the miracle wrought upon him? If they
should further ask him of particulars, how Jesus could be a prophet,
how he knew things which others did not know, would they have
discovered any wisdom in their questions? or would he have discovered
any in attempting to answer them?

If I may further remark on the mission of Jesus and his apostles, it
seems reasonable to say that it comprehends the whole doctrine of the
gospel, that is to say, they were appointed to preach the gospel which
comprehends the whole ministry of reconciliation, or a manifestation
of reconciling truth. There is, therefore, no truth in the gospel
which is not calculated in its nature to reconcile man to God, when
such truth is understood.

If our heavenly Father had from all eternity predestinated far the
greatest part of mankind to a state of endless un-reconciliation, the
revelation of this to them who were thus destined, could have no
effect in reconciling them to God. What had Jesus or his apostles to
do with such doctrine as this? Nothing. They make no mention of any
such thing. If according to the vain traditions received from the
wisdom of this world that cometh to nought, our tender babes were
doomed to everlasting wrath for the sin of the first man who lived on
earth, the manifestation of such a truth could reconcile none of those
victims to this God of unmerciful vengeance. But what had Jesus to do
with such blasphemous doctrine? See him as the representative of God,
as the great apostle of heaven to man, notice what he does and what he
says. He takes young children in his arms and blesses them, he says
suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of
such is the kingdom of heaven. If our Creator was full of wrath and
vindictive vengeance towards sinners, the manifestation of such a
truth would by no means reconcile sinners to God; but when God
commendeth his love towards the sinner through the mission, ministry,
or dispensation of Jesus Christ, such truth when revealed, naturally
reconciles the sinner to God. God is eternally the same, his love is
the same, his will to do his creatures good is always the same, and
his means to carry his good will into effect are always at his

Jesus taught sinners, enemies to God, that God to whom they were
enemies, loved them. This he demonstrated by the rain and sun shine
which was communicated to the evil and the good, and this impartial
love of God, he urged as the perfect pattern for our imitation, and
set it up as the mark where lies the prize to be won by our Christian
vocation. I say unto you love your enemies, pray for them that use you
spitefully and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven; that is, that you may imitate him in your
conduct and moral character. Now, sir, what has all this to do about
reconciling God to man? What has it to do about appeasing divine
wrath? If Jesus taught the doctrine of God's love to sinners, and our
doctrine taught by our Christian doctors of God's wrath and hatred
towards sinners be true, the matter is settled at once. These doctors
being ministers of divine truth, Jesus may be any thing else, but he
cannot be an apostle and high priest of God.

But I need not extend this article, you are as well persuaded of the
erroneousness of these doctrines of men as I am; but it belongs to
this subject, to take a general view of the ministry of Jesus and his
apostles. It is so especially, because this view shows at once the
necessity as well as the nature of this divine ministry. If you view
the nature of truth as you have heretofore expressed it, and as I am
confident you do, you cannot reasonably doubt the necessity of having
it manifested to the world.

It was necessary then for God to endue one with this ministry of
truth, it is reasonable that others, being taught by him should be
appointed to the same ministry; but you will see at once that truth
could not be preached to the Jews without moving the superstitious
scribes, pharisees, and doctors of the law against it, this opposition
hid its natural tendency, and terminated in the death of the divine
teacher; and if the disciples had gone on and preached the same
doctrine, reason would suppose that they would all have been put to
death immediately, and the work of reformation would have stopped.
Now, sir, if I am able to reason at all, it was necessary for God to
make a display of divine power in vindicating truth, which would place
it on ground too high for all the superstition of the world to remove.
You contend that the voice of reason should be heard. What does it
say? It says that God produced man in the first place on this earth,
in a different way from that by which man is now multiplied. Reason
says, there was a necessity for this; but it does not say that the
means of procreation now do not answer even a better purpose than to
have man multiplied by the same means by which he came first to exist.
The same reason will contend that in the establishment of the gospel
ministry in the world, different means were necessary from those which
are successfully employed in perpetuating it.

3d. You contend that the Christian hope of a future happy existence,
is not necessary to our present happiness; and that there is nothing
more disagreeable in the thought of an eternal cessation of existence,
than there is in the thought of reposing ourselves in quiet sleep.
Notwithstanding what you say about non existence, all your play on
words makes no difference about the thing talked of. Nor do I see that
reason in your observations on this subject, for which you contend.
You very well know that to cease to possess an identity of being and
of intellect is what we mean by non-existence, and this is just the
thing for which you argue. Now when we contemplate taking refreshment
in sleep, it is in hope of awaking again in a better condition for
enjoying ourselves and others, and for the performance of our duty.
But the contemplation of passing out of existence, never to have
another thought is certainly very widely different as to the nature of
the subject, from the former. Now, sir, why should not these different
subjects produce different sensations in the mind? And wherein one is
entirely repugnant to the other, why is it not reasonable that the
contemplation of them should be attended with effects in the mind as
repugnant to each other as are the subjects? If it be a pleasure to a
parent to contemplate, when he retires to rest with his family, the
expectation of seeing them again in the morning, all refreshed and
invigorated anew is it not reasonable to suppose that a contemplation
exactly reverse from this would produce mental pain? I can conceive,
without any violation of my reason or senses, how a fond mother can
take satisfaction in nursing her babe to sleep, knowing that the
tender being needs this repose; but I cannot conceive how the same
affectionate mother could be equally pleased with the thought that her
child would never wake again in time or in eternity. I feel grateful
to the giver of every good and perfect gift, that he has given that
blessed hope which is as an anchor to the soul, whereby the Christian
in his dying hour is enabled to take a short farewell of his friends,
expressing his hope of meeting them soon in a better world. And I
think it unreasonable, even in the extreme, to suppose that a rational
person could, in a similar situation, feel as well satisfied with an
expectation of an extinction of being.

You fault the address to truth, which you say I put into the mouth of
your argument, but this you do without the least occasion, nor is it
in your power, sir, to show that your argument does not afford all I
have made it say. You might, or rather you have varied the language a
little, but the sentiment is preserved entire. The address to truth
would, as before, extoll her existence, express the most ardent and
constant love for her divinity and finish the climax by _soaring down_
to non-existence, which you can contemplate with as much satisfaction
as you could an eternal existence in the enjoyment of the object of
your love!

But you contend that truth is lovely, and if your doubts are
consistent with truth you shall be happy to be confirmed in them; &c.
This hypothesis, sir, is too large to suit your own views; for you
have before decided a choice between the doctrine of eternal misery
and that of, I will call it, annihilation for this is its true
meaning. You have revolted at the thought of eternal misery, but your
hypothesis allows you no such liberty. Truth is lovely, and if the
doctrine of eternal punishment, with all the fire and brimstone that
has ever been preached by the most zealous advocates of torment be
truth, your hypothesis compels you to embrace the goddess, and
contemplate eternal misery with the same pleasure that you do
non-existence, or with the same you would everlasting felicity did you
believe in it!

If we would reason well, we must reason from what we know. We know
that man is capable of being miserable, he is capable of great
sufferings; likewise he is capable of being happy, he is capable of
great enjoyments. Now to pretend that he has no choice, that it is as
well for him to be miserable as to be happy, as well for him not to
exist as to exist, is the reverse of reason.

4th. As Jesus, in the instructions which he gave to his disciples,
respecting their conduct towards their enemies, had no design reaching
to the laws of a body politic, but only to the conduct by which the
ministry of the gospel would best succeed in its early beginning,
while it was _necessary_ for it to be persecuted, by which we are now
favoured with its evidences, we may now err in applying those
instructions differently from their primary design. St. Paul, as much
as any of the disciples of Jesus, submitted himself to the directions
of non-resistance, yet he insists on submission to the higher powers,
because they were the ministers of God, even revengers to execute
wrath upon them that do evil.

5th. With a confidence rather unusual, you challenge me to account for
Jesus' not being known by the two disciples while he walked with them
on their way to Emmaus; you bring a comparison, and urge the subject
in a way to signify that you have found something in the scripture
account that "_refutes itself_." You might have considered Mary's case
too as a similar one. She saw Jesus with whom she had had a familiar
acquaintance, but she thought it had been the gardner, and talked with
him without knowing him, until, in the same manner as he used to
address her, he said _Mary_, when in a moment she knew him. So the two
brethren walked on the way with Jesus, and attended to his
conversation, which must have been of considerable length, yet knew
him not until he performed an office at table in which no doubt, he
appeared as he had done many times before, which led them to know him
at once. But I am called on to tell how they could walk and discourse
with him and not know him. Well, sir, do you not understand that your
question is asked on supposition that the miracle of the resurrection
was a fact, and on the supposition that Jesus could appear and
disappear to persons as he pleased? We are informed that when the two
brethren knew him, "he vanished out of their sight." On the
supposition then, that Jesus could appear and disappear at pleasure,
is it at all difficult to allow that he could appear to his
acquaintance as a stranger, if he pleased?

It seems to me, sir, a little unaccountable why you should take hold
of this subject with so much seeming earnestness. Is it possible that
you should suppose that the fate of this particular should have any
power on our general subject? Without the least concern for the
argument in which I am engaged, I might allow that St. Luke was
wrongly informed respecting this particular, but that he wrote it just
as he understood the matter. And what would follow? Would this prove
any thing false on which christianity rests? I am unable to see how it
affects the argument one way or the other. I am not the less inclined
to believe the account, because it does not affect the truth of the
resurrection; and I should think that as this story does not seem at
all necessary in proof of that fact, it would be considered an
evidence that the writer of it was not endeavouring to make a story
for such a purpose. If we read the several accounts of the
resurrection, we shall perceive that the writers probably put down as
many particulars as come into their minds at the time of writing,
without thoughts coming into their minds how the truth of the
resurrection would be proved by the incidents which they wrote. There
is no design of this sort in what they have written that we can see.
They write as if they knew for certainty that Jesus rose from the
dead, and as if the matter was out of all dispute. They discover no
concern for fear the account they were giving would not be believed.
There is not one instance of an attempt to guard the story by clearing
up any difficulty. Would impostors write in this way? It is not
believed that there was ever the instance. Imposture is like a thief
who starts at his own shadow, and discovers guilt by endeavouring to
hide it. But truth having no concern of this sort, discovers
none.--And this is in all respects the apparent character of the four

6th. Your criticism on my argument respecting the evidences of the
resurrection I shall now endeavour to show to be incorrect.

You criticise as follows; "The apostles could not have been convinced
of the fact of the resurrection by any evidence short of the fact
itself. 2d. If the fact did exist there is no evidence which can
counterbalance it. _Ergo_, as the apostles were convinced of the
truth, the fact did exist. This is pretty much like saying, if the
fact were _true_ it could not have been false!"

The first member of your criticism supposes that I contend that the
apostles had no evidence of the resurrection but the fact itself. The
second member of your criticism supposes that I contend the fact of
the resurrection could not exist without proving itself to the
apostles in such a way that no evidence could counterbalance it. Now
in both of these you are under a mistake, I never urged the fact of
the resurrection as evidence of itself to the apostles. I never
pretended that they saw him rise. We have no account that any body saw
this act performed. If the apostles had stood by the sepulchre and had
seen the body of Jesus rise up and walk out of the house of death,
then their evidences of his resurrection would have been the fact
itself; but this was not the case, nor did I use any intimations of
this nature. So the first member of your criticism is an error of
yours. 2dly. If Jesus had rose from the dead and ascended into heaven,
and never had given any proofs of this to any one, would the fact of
his having risen be any evidence of itself to any person? It surely
would not. Nor have I suggested any thing which intimates that the
resurrection could not have been true without proving itself to be so
to the apostles. What seems a little remarkable respecting this
subject, is, you profess to care for nothing but simple truth, and yet
you seem to study how to avoid it, as the above criticism seems to
evince. I say _seems_ to evince, for I am not prepared to accuse you
of such a fault--I would charitably believe that you thought your
criticism would hit something or another nearly about right, without
understanding what the amount of it is.

After having laboured, in a lengthy manner, as you acknowledge, to
prove that the evidences which proved to the apostles the truth of the
resurrection could not be counterbalanced, you must reasonably suppose
that I feel a little disappointed that you should condescend to pay no
other attention to my reasoning than the above criticism. If I did not
make my argument clear why should you neglect to point out to me
wherein it was wanting? Why should I not expect to have my errors
corrected, as well as to be called on to correct my brother's? Should
not these kind offices be reciprocal? If you conduct in this way, I
shall certainly grow vain, and boast of doing more for you, than you
do for me.

Having noticed in a brief manner, the several particulars which were
proposed on my first page, I will occupy a few more with some
observations on the evidences which we are favoured with, on which to
build our belief in the resurrection of Jesus.

I have in one or two instances referred you to Paley, who has, with
abilities and learning suited to such a task, brought forward the
authorities on which the credibility of the gospels rests. I have set
down his eleven propositions respecting the scriptures, and I humbly
request you to examine the proof which he has brought to support them.
If he has fairly supported all these propositions, as I humbly
conceive he has, will you show why the scriptures of the New Testament
are not worthy to be credited by us?

I am loath to attempt to present the evidences on which I conceive our
faith rests, because in the first place they are vastly numerous;
2ndly, I do not believe that I am capable of doing that justice to the
subject which it justly claims; and 3dly, Paley has done it by the
assistance of Dr. Lardner's works, to so great an extent, that it
renders unnecessary any attempt of mine.

However, as there seems a particular sort of pleasure in it, I will
here make a little addition to what I quoted in my former
communication, and notice that, following the passage from the epistle
of Barnabas, Paley mentions an epistle written by Clement, bishop of
Rome,[4] another of St. Paul's fellow labourers. "This epistle is
spoken of by the ancients as an epistle acknowledged by all; and as
Irenæus well represents its value," "written by CLEMENT, who had seen
the blessed apostles and conversed with them, who had the preaching of
the apostles still sounding in his ears, and their traditions before
his eyes." In this epistle of _Clement_, he quotes Mat. v. 7, xviii.
6. Next to _Clement_, Paley notices _Hermes_ who is mentioned by St.
Paul, Rom. xvi. 14, in a catalogue of Roman Christians. Hermes wrote a
work called the _Shepherd or Pastor of Hermes_.[5] Says our author,
"Its antiquity is incontestible from the quotations of it in Irenæus,
A.D. 178, Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 194, Tertullian, A.D. 200,
Origen, A. D. 230." In the epistle there are allusions to St.
Matthew's, St. Luke's, and St. John's gospels.

[Footnote 4: Paley's Evidences, p. 107. Referred to Dr. Lardner's
Creed, vol. 1, p. 62, et seq.]

[Footnote 5: Paley's Evidences, p. 110. Lardner's Creed, vol. 1, p.

Next to Hermes our author mentions IGNATIUS, who became bishop of
Antioch, about thirty-seven years after the ascension of Christ; and
was without doubt personally acquainted with the apostles. Epistles of
Ignatius are referred to by Polycarp his contemporary. Passages, found
in the epistles now extant under his name, are quoted by Irenæus, A.D.
178, by Origen, A.D. 130. In these epistles there are various
undoubted allusions to the gospels of St. Matthew and St. John. Of
these allusions the following are clear specimens: "Christ was
baptised of John, that all righteousness might be fulfilled by him."
"_Be ye wise as serpents_ in all things, _and harmless as doves_."
"Yet the spirit is not deceived, being from God; for it knows whence
it comes, and whether it goes." "He (Christ) is the door of the
Father, by which enters in Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the
apostles and the church." Ignatius speaks of St Paul in terms of high
respect, and quotes his epistles to the Ephesians by name.

Next to Ignatius, our author mentions POLYCARP who had been taught by
the apostles; had conversed with many who had seen Christ, was also by
the apostles appointed bishop of Smyrna. This testimony concerning
Polycarp is given by Irenæus, who in his youth had seen him. "I can
tell the place," saith Irenænus, "in which the blessed Polycarp sat
and taught, and his going out and coming in, and the manner of his
life, and the form of his person, and the discourses he made to the
people, and how he related his conversation with John amid others who
had seen the Lord, and how he related their sayings, and what he had
heard concerning the Lord, both concerning his miracles and his
doctrine, as he had received them from the eye witness of the word of
life: all which Polycarp related _agreeably_ to the scriptures."

In one short letter of Polycarp's, there are near forty clear
allusions to books of the New Testament: which is strong evidence of
the respect which Christians of that age hear for these books, and
positive evidence that the gospel had been written before this

Papias, a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, as Irenæus
attests, and of that age, as all agree, expressly ascribes the
respective gospels to Matthew and Mark, in a passage quoted by
Eusebius. He informs us that Mark collected his gospel from Peter's
preaching, and that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew. This authority
fully shows that the gospels bore these names at this early period.

The authors which are here mentioned, all lived in the days of the
apostles, that is, when the apostles were aged men, these were their
pupils in the gospel, and their epistles which have reference to the
gospels are very justly used to prove that the gospels were written by
the men whose names they bear. From these most early authors, Paley
goes on, and brings down, by regular succession, the christian
authors, until he comes into the fourth century, when they are vastly

By the foregoing authority, together with an innumerable multitude of
corroborating circumstances, we are led to entertain no doubts but
that the gospels of Matthew and John were written by these eye
witnesses of the things which they relate; and that the gospel of Luke
was written by a person of this name, who had his information from
undoubted testimony of the apostles; and that Mark wrote his gospel
from St. Peter's mouth, and that this gospel may be called the gospel
of Peter.

Those eye witnesses then wrote what they saw, and if they were honest
men they wrote the truth.

We, sir, do certainly know as well as we know any thing which ancient
history records, that the testimony of the miracles and resurrection
of Jesus was believed in the age to which these things are referred,
and that this testimony was sealed by the sufferings and death of vast
multitudes of believers.

It should be noticed, that according to all accounts which have come
to us, there were no worldly motives of any sort by which the
propagators of the gospel were induced to labour in this cause. But on
the contrary, every earthly consideration was direct against them; and
furthermore let us remember, that the whole hierarchy of the Jews and
all the superstition of the Gentiles were in arms against this
religion, as I have before observed, nearly 300 years.

Hoping, dear brother, that these hasty remarks will be favourably
received, and duly considered. I remain,

Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


[As the objector here begins to give up his ground, his letters from
this place will be given nearly entire. He commences this number as
follows, viz.]

"_Dear sir and brother_--Your reply to my seventh number has been
received, and hereby duly acknowledged. I have just given it a second
reading, with peculiar care and attention; and I must add, generally
speaking, with peculiar satisfaction too; for as it has tended in some
degree to revive my almost extinguished faith in divine revelation, so
it has in the same ratio served to obliterate, in some degree, those
doubts which seemed to be rising _mountains high_, in my apprehension,
and portended ere long to overturn all my former faith.

"There are some of my objections, however, which seem not yet to have
been fully met on their proper ground, and of course not fully
removed; and I must therefore be yet indulged with a few remarks.

"1st. Notwithstanding all the learning of the Greeks and Romans, in
the days of Jesus and his apostles, yet, as you very justly insinuate,
I am inclined to believe there never was a time in which 'the world of
human kind, both Jews and Gentiles, was more deeply involved in the
darkness and stupidity of superstition than when the Messiah (i. e.
Jesus) entered on his public ministry.' And notwithstanding your
argument drawn from superstition, is admitted as good, and weighty, as
far as it goes; yet, as it is conceived, it does not fully come to the

"For, in the grossest ages of superstition it is reasonable to suppose
that there are always some who entertain serious doubts and scruples
in regard to the propriety of many of the superstitious notions of
their leaders. These will be more easily wrought upon. And although
they may be directed by various circumstances to fix the mind upon
something much better in point of moral principle, yet how far this
would prevent them from connecting many of the superstitious notions
of the age with those moral principles, only giving them a different
dress, I am not able to say; neither do I see how the superstition of
the Jews and Gentiles, generally, would be likely to prevent a thing
of that kind.--It is the suspected superstition of the apostles and
primitive christians and not the superstition of their opposers, to
which the proposition alludes. Men, I conceive, may be honest, and yet
superstitious; they may also give up one superstition, by being
convinced of its error, and yet another will gradually grow in its
stead. I am sensible, however, that this argument will better apply to
those who were converted to christianity after the days of the
apostles, when it is agreed that miracles had ceased, than it will to
the apostles themselves.

"But, from what you have written, together with my further
investigation of this subject, I cannot but perceive that this
argument, even on its proper ground, does not contain all that force
which, at first view, I thought it might: because, 1st, it must apply
to the apostles, or else, as it respects the main question, it does
not seem to have any real bearing on the subject; and 2dly, the change
of the appostles appears to have been too sudden, and too
extraordinary, to be accounted for in this way. That superstitions,
however, have arisen, even in the christian church, you do not
undertake to deny, but seem rather to admit; and it was on this fact
that the first proposition was founded; but I perceive there is a
difficulty in carrying this objection back to the apostles; for then
the doctrine was new, and without precedent; and (unless the miracles
on which it is said to have been founded were real) without any
certain prospect of success. Although therefore the religion of the
despised _Galatians_ (for such were the christians called by the
Romans) was considered by their persecutors, to be nothing more than a
gross, and even impious superstition, yet no one can expect
successfully to account 'in a rational way,' for the facts, whether
real or supposed, on which that supposed superstition is said to have
been founded. Hence the doubts growing out of my first proposition
seem to be rendered equally, if not more doubtful than the reality of
that truth, the evidence of which this objection was supposed in some
degree to counterbalance.

"2d. The truth of my second proposition, viz. that a part of mankind
at least have been and still are believing in miracles and revelations
which are spurious, you seem not disposed to deny; but yet, at the
same time you think you are 'under no obligation to admit this fact as
any evidence against christianity.' That a spurious or pretended
miracle does not invalidate a real one I admit; yet if a spurious
miracle may obtain credit, and be in fact believed, it raises a query
whether there have ever been any others but spurious. Your argument
respecting 'counterfeit money' is admitted good in relation to that
subject, but whether it will apply with equal weight to the subject of
miracles may admit of a doubt. I do not see how the pretended miracles
of the Shakers are at all 'dependent' on the miracles of Jesus for
their 'imposition.'

"I meant nothing more by the miracles of Mahomet than his pretended
'correspondence with the angel Gabriel,' which I considered, if true,
_miraculous_; as I conceive every revelation must be let it be
communicated how it will.

"I have nothing to object to the picture which you have given of the
life and religion of Mahomet; and as to what I have said in regard to
the conversion and influence of Constantine, in giving a particular
tone to the christian religion, you are not disposed to disagree with
me: and at the same time you are 'by no means certain that a proper
attention to the pretended miracles of the Shakers might not issue in
assigning a natural cause for them.' Of all this I have no doubt. But,
that these miracles are believed by the Shakers, you do not undertake
to deny; nor that their religion, their faith in Ann, as being Christ
in his second coming, and that their present mode of worship are all
predicated upon them. They do not deny the miracles of Christ and his
apostles any more than Christians in general deny the miracles of
Moses and the prophets; but appeal to _theirs_ as being equally of
divine origin, and thereby clothing their religion with the same
divine authority. Now, unless these things can be accounted for 'in a
rational way,' which you seem to think may be the case, though you do
not attempt it, they certainly raise a query in the mind at least
whether the miracles recorded in scripture rest upon any better

"If a thing is absolutely known or believed to be miraculous, it is
miraculous; (at least to those who thus believe) and whether any thing
can be justly argued from the inferiority or superiority of a miracle,
I know not. In the raising of Lazarus, it is true, though the effect
was the same, we discover as great a miracle, and perhaps greater,
than in the raising of a son of the Shunamite by Elisha the prophet; 2
Kings iv. 34, 35, but the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus can
hardly be said to have been wrought either by Jesus or by his
apostles, and therefore that was not particularly referred to in the
comparison of miracles; neither do I know that the comparison, in any
sense, has much weight. Whether Lazarus ever died again or not we are
not informed: neither do I recollect of ever hearing an opinion on the
subject; but, if he died, it seems that his resurrection must have
been very different from the resurrection of Jesus; i.e. to an
immortal state, so that he 'dieth no more.'

"You admit, if I understood you, that the testimony of the apostles,
concerning the resurrection of Jesus, had it not been accompanied with
plain and astonishing miracles in the open day, and before the
surrounding multitudes, who had ocular demonstration of their truth,
would have been entitled to no more credit than the testimony of Mrs.
A----, respecting her conversation with her deceased husband. For
although it might have been true, and we could have no good reason to
doubt the sincerity or belief of the witnesses, yet after all, its
truth would solely rest on their mere _ipse dixit_, which would not be
sufficient to establish so important a truth in the world. Hence, as
you very justly observe, 'the declaration of the apostles of the
resurrection of Jesus, until it was accompanied with power from on
high, was never even communicated to the public, or ordered to be

"In this manner I understood your reasoning, and I think I understand
you correctly; and all this appears to be very candid; it is
acknowledging all I would wish you to acknowledge on this subject. But
here comes the difficulty. Miracles in process of time cease; and now
people must believe, if they believe at all, without the testimony's
being 'accompanied with power from on high.' And how can we believe in
the miracles said to have been wrought by the apostles, without the
testimony's being accompanied by miracles any more than they could at
first believe in the miracles of the resurrection of Jesus without the
testimony's being accompanied by miracles? You have already
anticipated this objection, and have endeavoured to answer it by
arguing that 'perpetual miracles would, if as powerful as they were at
first, preclude the exercise of our reasoning faculties and the
necessity of investigation, which is one of the most rational
enjoyments of which we are capable.' Although this argument, it is
confessed, has considerable weight, yet it does not seem wholly to
remove the difficulty. I feel very much like those Jews who proposed
the question to Jesus; 'how long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou
be the Christ tell us plainly.' I am not satisfied that the evidence
of the truth of the resurrection is as great, at this day, whatever it
was then, as it could have been. If Jesus had remained on the earth
till this time, or if he had appeared to every generation since, it
appears to me the evidence would have been much greater; and yet not
so great as to 'preclude the exercise of our reasoning faculties.'

"In your statement respecting the controversy between _Unitarians_ and
_Trinitarians_, it appears to me you have left out some very important
circumstances which ought to have been taken into the account to have
made it any thing near a parallel. You seem to have forgotten the
destruction of the Jews by the Romans about the time the books of the
New Testament are said to have been written; during which calamity, as
the history of those times inform us, about one million one hundred
thousand Jews were cut off, and among whom, it is more than probable,
all their leaders, who were then concerned in the death of Jesus, were
included; and only about ninety-seven thousand, not a tenth part, were
taken prisoners. The Jews in the adjacent countries, however, probably
are not taken into this account, but they were all equally subdued to
the Romans. And if the power of the Jews were so limited at the
crucifixion of Jesus that they could not lawfully put a man to death
without liberty from the Roman governor, what must we suppose was
their power after the destruction of their city and temple? On a
review of the subject, therefore, I think you will perceive that your
case, however plausibly stated, falls very far short of being a
parallel. We may well suppose, I think, that the Jews were so humbled
by the Romans, that, 1st, they had not the power; and, 2dly, they
might not under these circumstances be inclined any longer to
persecute and put to death the christians. And this was the only way
it seems, at that day, that either Jews or Gentiles thought of putting
down what they considered heresy or superstition. I consider therefore
the destruction of the Jews as giving a very favourable opportunity to
get up a new system of religion, partly or wholly based on theirs, but
a little removed from it, so as to neglect the use of sacrifices,
which, if I mistake not, according to the Jewish traditions, could
only be offered at Jerusalem. And the long lapse of time, before the
dogmas of this new sect was attempted to be refuted by argument gave
an opportunity to involve the supposed facts on which the christian
religion is predicated in such obscurity, that it stands now in no
danger of refutation from that source. Some may be made to doubt,
others to disbelieve, but nevertheless no one can prove it false.

"If it be proved true, however, it must be proved from the record
which we have; for I know of nothing which can now add much weight to
that testimony, unless it be the fulfilment of some sinking prophecies
which yet remain to be fulfilled, or else the return of miraclous
powers and a new revelation in further confirmation of what we already
have. And if what we have be true, it seems we have a right to expect,
ere long, something of the kind. The ten last chapters of the prophecy
of Ezekiel, I think no one will pretend has ever been fulfilled, as
yet; and when fulfilled, the events will prove the divine inspiration
of that prophecy. But if it should never be fulfilled, or its
fulfilment be delayed till the Jews every where should give up all
hope and expectation of any thing of this kind; and should, through
unbelief, neglect their present customs, as many of them already have
done, by intermarrying with other nations, and thereby should become
both lost to themselves and to the world, which would be the same as
though they were extinct, I apprehend that no confidence would be
placed in that part of the prophecy after such a period. In like
manner the fulfilment or the non-fulfilment of the following words
will have a similar effect. 'This same Jesus, which is taken up from
you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go
into heaven.' Some pretend to say that even this prophecy has been
already fulfilled; but we have no evidence of it, and I think we may
say the prophecy in Ezekiel, above mentioned, has been fulfilled, with
as much propriety. But this is rather off the point.

"In regard to the death of Stephen, notwithstanding his trial seems to
have been by the council, yet the manner of his death, as stated,
seems to have been rather turbulent than otherwise. 'When they heard
these things they were cut to the heart, and _they_ (whether the
council, or the spectators I cannot say) gnashed on him with their
teeth--then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears,
and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city and
stoned him.' Such proceedings at this day, as this appears to have
been, we should be inclined to call a _mob_, let it bear what other
appellation it may.

"That the first martyrs, however, did, from some circumstance or
other, believe in the resurrection of Jesus, on which all their hope
seems to have been predicated, I think cannot admit of a rational
doubt. For to suppose otherwise, supposes such madness and folly in
those unfortunate men, who suffered every thing which could be
inflicted upon them rather than to give up their testimony; that it
seems nothing can be a parallel, unless it be the madness and folly of
such unreasonable doubts.[6] And this seems to be all for which you
contend, as it respects the present query; because you seem to think
the first believers in this all-important truth could not have
believed by any evidence which could have existed had it not been for
the truth of the fact believed in. Now here is the mistake, as I
conceive, if there be any; i.e. in supposing that the apostles and
primitive Christians could not believe short of such indubitable
evidence. Only suppose the resurrection to have been actually
believed, by any evidence, or any circumstance whatever, no matter
what, for it makes no difference in this argument, and the report
would naturally be like all other reports of such an extraordinary
nature. Both zeal and imagination would be enlisted on the side of its
truth. Extraordinary discourses would be put into the mouths of the
martyrs, after they were dead, as well as extraordinary deeds into
their hands; and altho' contradicted ever so many times by their
enemies and persecutors, yet the contradictions would never so out run
the report but that many would still believe. When much strength of
testimony had been thus added, by verbal reports, during twenty or
thirty years, let a few men undertake to paint up real histories and
letters in the name of the first disciples, and let these be kept in
the hands of those who are strong in the faith, and let them be read
for a long time, only in their own assemblies or churches although
they might contain something of which they had not before heard, this
is only what would be natural for them to expect, and as it contained
the main thing which was the object of faith, and those other things,
if true, went to establish their faith still more, who would be likely
to call the truth of such writings in question? Not those who believe
in the main question certainly. They would be a thousand times more
likely to pass over in silence things of which they had some scruples,
for the sake of the main question, then they would be to endanger the
truth of the main question, as they might think they should, by
criticising on mere circumstantial things. I am not now speaking of
the apostles, whom I have considered _honest_ men; yet I should
suppose that even these men might have much good at heart, although
they should conduct exactly in the way which I have suggested. And how
little time would it require to put this matter beyond all possible
refutation? Not so long, I conceive, as did elapse before that work
was attempted by Celsus.

[Footnote 6: I have here expressed myself in strong terms, with a view
to check my doubts and prevent their running wild.]

"You will see by this, sir, in what light my argument views the
apostles. It does not suppose 'that the apostles would enforce their
moral doctrine with their pretentions to miraculous powers,' although
they might with the 'testimony of the resurrection of Jesus,' but it
supposes that their successors might contend that the apostles worked
miracles, and many of them might believe that they did, just as the
apostles believed in the resurrection, when no such thing as the
resurrection or the miracles of the apostles ever existed in fact.
This is what the argument supposes, and it is wholly predicated on the
possibility of the apostles' being made to believe, some how or other,
I do not pretend to say how, that Jesus had risen from the dead when
no such thing had taken place. But, only believe in the resurrection,
and there is no difficulty in believing in the miracles of Jesus or
the miracles of his apostles. They are equally well attested, and no
more improbable. Yea, if they were true, they were not _believed_, but
absolutely _known_ to be true by the apostles. They knew it as well as
they could know the truth of any object of sight. And the truth of
what they knew being all which they needed in support of what they
taught, I do not see, on this supposition, how they could have the
occasion, or the motive, to state one thing falsely concerning it. No,
nor could their followers have any occasion to add to their testimony,
for nothing which they could add would be of any more weight than that
which we may suppose was already in their possession. The two first
chapters of Matthew and Luke (or all except the genealogy in Matthew,
and the preface of Luke) the authenticity of which has been suspected
by some of the learned, and I believe not without pretty good reasons,
do not contain a single word in support of the resurrection; neither
is the subject of them, as I now recollect, mentioned either by Christ
or any of the apostles in any other part of the New Testament. And
although the truth of those narratives is no more miraculous than the
resurrection, yet I presume you would not contend that a belief of
these, also, is absolutely necessary to the Christian faith.

"With these observations, I shall once more, and probably for the last
time quit my second proposition, and proceed to take notice of what
you have written on my third.

"And here you must pardon me if I remark, without the least view of
finding any fault, that if my words will admit of a bad construction,
that construction seems to be the first one which strikes your mind.
If you suppose me capable of such an abominable absurdity as to say,
that if the man of this town who was born blind should be restored to
his sight by some one's anointing his eyes with clay and spittle, and
this done in our presence, we could not know it! that we could not
know but that the seeing man was a total stranger whom we had never
before seen, and that the blind man had absconded no body knows how or
where! I say, if this was the way in which you understood my third
proposition, you are perfectly excusable: otherwise, it is difficult
to account for your remarks. But, having thus found your antagonist,
you level your artillery against him, nor desist until you have put to
death without mercy this creature of your own fruitful imagination.
Having done, you begin to query whether you had not mistaken my
meaning; and after making a wonderful effort, by calling up these
penetrating powers of research, which are only summoned on
extraordinary occasions, you dive through the mists of obscurity, in
which my words seem to be too often placed, and behold my proposition
in its true light!

"My proposition is no sooner seen than 'granted': which is, that we
have no positive knowledge of miracles; or, to use your own words,
'miracles are not now wrought before our eyes.' But although you grant
the truth of my proposition, you do not admit that this is any
objection against the truth of divine revelation, for a number of
reasons which you have given; all of which, no doubt, are satisfactory
to your own mind.

"But sir, this is a matter of opinion only, and if I agree with you at
all, it must be from the consideration that the Governor of the
universe must do right. But, although the time may not be yet,
nevertheless I am clear in the opinion that the revival of miracles
will, in process of time, be absolutely necessary in order to preserve
the faith in those which have already been. But, I contend, if the
scriptures be true, we have a right to expect the revival of miracles;
and I do not see how they can be fulfilled without. Considering the
prejudices of the Jews, as a people, I cannot suppose that they will
ever believe in Jesus, as their promised Messias, short of being
convinced of its truth by a miracle; and should they return to the
land of Palestine, and there rebuild their temple, at Jerusalem, it
would be such a clear fulfilment of the prophecy of Ezekiel, that it
would be equal to a miracle, and do as much towards corroborating the
truth of all the other prophecies.

"You finally come once more to the circumstance of the conversion of
St. Paul, where you again find some fault (and I must confess, not
without some reason) at my neglect to meet your arguments on this
subject; or in other words, to do away the scripture account, and
reconcile it with my hypothesis; i.e. that of supposing him to be
converted without a miracle. To be ingenuous with you, sir, I must
acknowledge that I have ever supposed this to be the most difficult
task I should have to do; and therefore I wished to hear all you had
to say on the subject of the resurrection before I attempted it.

"Since I wrote my last I have examined Paley's _Horæ Paulinæ_, a work
of extraordinary merit which had never before fallen into my hands:
his _Evidences of Christianity_, I have read several years ago, but
have not lately particularly examined that work. In the exposition of
the argument, (of the work first mentioned) Paley sets forth, as I
conceive, the only possible grounds on which either the epistles of
St. Paul, or the acts of the apostles, can be supposed to be
forgeries, in their full force. And then he attempts to prove their
genuineness by their internal evidence, which they contain within
themselves, entirely aside from those objections; and which would have
been of equal weight even on the supposition that the whole had been
concealed from the time they were written till now, and we should now,
for the first time, examine them. And although I might not fully agree
with him in all points, yet I think he proves, beyond all
contradiction or rational doubt, what he mainly attempts to prove; i.
e. that the epistles were written by some person acquainted with the
circumstances mentioned in the history, and that the writer of the
history must have been acquainted with the circumstances alluded to in
the epistles, where, at the same time, there is not the least apparent
design in those references or allusions; which, as he very justly
argues, prove the genuineness of both. I do not pretend to quote his
words, as the book is not now by me.

"This, it must be confessed, is a great acquisition in favour of the
truth of christianity; because it evidently carries the writings back
into those times when every thing was fresh in the minds of all who
had any knowledge of the subject of which those writings treated. Now
comes the point. Paul expressly declares that he saw Christ after he
was risen from the dead. His declaring that he was seen of Cephas,
then of the twelve, could have been only from the report of others;
but it agrees pretty well with what has been recorded by the
evangelists. His declaring that he had been seen 'of above five
hundred brethren at once,' must have been also by report, which report
might have been incorrect, as there is no mention made of it in either
of the gospels. Yet if incorrect it might have been very easily
refuted. But when he comes to say, 'And last of all he was seen of me
also, as of one born out of due time,' there remains for him no such
excuse. Paul, as it seems, could not believe that he had seen Jesus,
literally, and personally, when he had not. And if he knew that he had
not, and yet declared that he had, and meant that others should
believe that he had, he was not _honest_, as I before admitted that he
was; and now to say that he was not honest, as I clearly see, would
involve me in still greater difficulty, as then I could give no
rational account for his life and conduct. What shift shall I now
make? For having supposed that my doubts were really founded on
reason, I must have good reason for so doing before I can give them
up: i.e. I must be fully convinced that they are founded in error.

"What can we suppose that Paul meant by Christ's being seen _of above
five hundred brethren at once_? Is it at all likely that such an
extraordinary circumstance should have happened without any mention
being made of it in either of the five histories which we have of
those times? Might he not mean the same which the author of the Acts
means, speaking of the day of Pentecost? And therefore the whole might
not have been designed to be understood literally, but spiritually
true? And notwithstanding the literality of the language, may not all
the miracles of Christ and the apostles, and even the account we have
of the resurrection, be all accounted for and reconciled in the same
way? But here I involve myself in difficulty again; for, if I mistake
not, this was very near the opinion of the Gnostics, whom the apostles
and fathers every where spake against.--'These,' says Dr. Priestley,
'taught that it was not _Jesus_ that was properly _the Christ_, or
that he had not flesh and blood like other men.' They also 'denied the
doctrine of the resurrection.' These therefore, 'Paul, Peter, Jude,
and John, most strenuously opposed.' Again, says he, 'The apostles
they considered as judging only by their senses, which were deceived
in this case: and though they gave entire credit to them with respect
to every thing which they had seen, or heard, they considered them as
plain unlettered men who were ignorant of what was not within the
sphere of their senses.' To these it is supposed that John alludes in
his first Epistle iv. 1--3. If, therefore, the apostles did believe,
and contend for the literal resurrection, and personal appearing of
Jesus, and if in this they were opposed by the Gnostics, even in their
day; there is no way now, that I see, any longer for me to maintain my
doubts only by believing that the first disciples, as well as Paul,
thought they saw Jesus when in fact they did not, and that the idea of
miracles by which these things were said to have been propagated and
which carried conviction to the multitudes, was nothing more than the
bold figurative language of the day, designed, in reality, to deceive
no one; or else mere exaggerations: or, what perhaps is still more
probable, partly of both. But enough!

"I confess I begin to grow dissatisfied with this kind of reasoning.
What does it all amount to? What am I bringing, after all, to oppose
the laboured researches of Drs. Lardner, Paley, Priestley, and others,
as well as the pertinent observations of my worthy friend who has so
long borne with me, and obliged me with his friendly and
christian-like aid on this subject? Let me pause and consider--I have
acknowledged that there are evidences in favour of divine revelation;
have I proved any of those evidences false?--No! this I have
acknowledged I could not do. What have I put into the other end of the
scale, to weigh down those evidences? Ah! what indeed! Nothing! except
it be my own ignorance, and the errors of other men, in whose errors I
have no more faith than those who believe in the truth of that which I
have been disputing! I will therefore, instead of pursuing the dispute
any further, begin to think once more whether the thing for which you
so ardently contend may not in reality be true.

"But, here again, I must be cautious, lest I should err as far on the
other hand. For notwithstanding when I found that I could not help
doubting, I tried to reconcile myself to my doubts, and have sincerely
and honestly tried to make myself believe that I was perfectly
reconciled either way; yet the moment I begin to think about the
certainty of immortality and eternal life, I am all on fire! I hardly
know how to contain myself! And were it not for the special
obligations, which I feel to my family, and to the world, more than
any thing which I ever expect to receive from the world, I should long
to 'depart, and be with Christ, which is far better.' Thus my doubts,
whatever they are, may be needful for me.

"Your remarks respecting my claims to the privilege of one who is weak
in the faith are very pertinent and just. For I must confess in
proportion as my doubts arose, as to the truth of the resurrection,
equal doubts would arise as to the propriety of preaching it for a
truth. I wish you to understand, however, that my mind has never been
settled there, if it has ever vibrated that way, it was only
momentary, and rather on mere supposition than any confirmed opinion.

"In answer to what you say in regard to hope, I will only add: Though
a man should have ever so firm a hope in any thing whatever, and
should afterwards find that his hope was founded in error, the hope
would be taken away; but if at the same time he should find that the
truth is absolutely better than the error hoped for, he would also
find that a better thing is given in lieu of his hope: but if a man
has hope, though that hope should be founded in error, if the hope
remain as long as the man exists, it is not taken away from him, as
both cease to exist together. Once more, and finally: a hope which is
founded in truth, a knowledge of the truth can never take away.
Although a man may hope, and ardently desire to exist eternally, yet I
do not see how a man can extend either his hope, or his desires,
beyond the possibility of his existence. To my understanding, this is
just like supposing that a man which does not exist may yet hope and
desire; or that a man may hope and desire, after he shall have ceased
to exist.

"After returning you my sincere thanks for your kind indulgence and
labours of love, I shall close the present number. I cannot take my
leave of this number, however, without expressing my humble gratitude
to the Allwise disposer of events, that he has given such abundant
manifestations of his unspeakable goodness to his creatures; that he
has also, as I may perhaps be permitted to hope with you, given a
divine testimony of his infinite love and universal benevolence to
that part of his creation whom he hath distinguished with the
attributes of his own nature, regarding at the same time all other
beings and things, and that he had raised up so many faithful
witnesses who have set to their seals that this testimony is true.

"Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Dear sir, and brother_,--The particulars contained in your ninth
letter, which I have selected as the subject of this, are the

1st. You "do not see how the miracles of the Shakers are at all
dependant on the miracles of Jesus for their imposition."

2d. You think, if Jesus had remained on the earth until now, or had
appeared to every generation since his resurrection, the evidence
would have been much greater; and yet not so great as to preclude the
exercise of our reasoning faculties.

3d. In the supposed controversy between the Unitarians and
Trinitarians, you think I have failed of making the case a parallel
with my subject, not considering the great change which took place in
the state of the Jews in consequence of their destruction by the

4th. The argument which you rest on the supposition, that the apostles
did in reality believe in the resurrection of Jesus, when in fact the
thing was not true.

5th. What you say of the necessity of miracles in some future time, to
confirm the belief of those which have been.

6th. The difficulty you suggest concerning St. Paul's saying that
Jesus was seen, after his resurrection, by more than five hundred
brethren at once.

1st. As you object to the idea that the miracles of the Shakers depend
at all on the miracles of Jesus for their imposition, it may be
considered sufficient, on my part, if I show that you have fully
supported the proposition which you profess not to see.

I will, however, first presume, that I am not authorised to say that
the miracles of the Shakers are imposition, I have not contended that
they are; the ground for which I contend is this, viz. if these or any
other pretended miracles among us are impositions, they depend on the
miracles of Jesus for this power, as much as counterfeit money depends
on the true for its imposition. That you have given sufficient support
to what I have stated, you will see at once by the following passage
quoted from your arguments on this subject: "They do not deny the
miracles of Christ and his apostles any more than Christians in
general deny the miracles of Moses and the prophets; but appeal to
_theirs_ as being equally of divine origin, and thereby clothe their
religion with the same divine authority." Is it possible that the
writer of the foregoing sentence should not see, that he established
the very thing which he had just said he could not see? What is that
_divine authority_ with which the religion of Moses, the prophets and
of Christ is clothed? Answer, _miracles_. What authority do you
pretend the Shakers make use of to clothe their religion? Answer "_the
same_." How does this differ from counterfeit money, on the
supposition that these miracles are imposition?

It is abundantly evident that the Jews expected that the Messiah, when
he came, would establish his character by miracles as Moses did his,
and as some of the prophets were enabled to do. Therefore, do we read
Matt. xii. 22, 23.--"Then was brought unto him one possessed with a
devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him insomuch, that the blind and
dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed and said, is
not this the son of David?"

Jesus himself saith, Luke iv. 24, 27. "Verily I say unto you, no
prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth,
many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was
shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout
all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta,
a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow; and many lepers were
in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was
cleansed, saveing Naaman the Syrian."--See John vii. 31. "And many of
the people believed on him, and said, when Christ cometh, will he do
more miracles than these which this man hath done?"

By the foregoing quotations, as by many other passages, we learn that
the Jews expected the Messiah would establish his character as a
prophet like unto Moses and others, and also that Jesus did in reality
a multitude of miracles more than the prophets did.

Now is it not evident, that if the miracles of Jesus were supposed to
be impositions, they were dependant on those of Moses and the prophets
for any power to impose on the people? Just so are all miracles
wrought or pretended to be wrought since Christ, dependant on his
miracles for any imposing power which they possess. If our religion
had not been first propagated by the means of those miracles which are
recorded in the New Testament, of what use would any pretended
miracles be to any sect of Christians?

2d. What you say of the greater evidence of the resurrection which
would have been furnished by Christ's continuance on earth until now,
or by his making his appearance in every generation since his time,
appears to me to be rather wanting in its merits by which it claims a
reply.--Why should you neglect to delineate some special reasons for
your suppositions, by showing how wide the difference would have been
from the evidence we now have, and how that difference would have
recommended your scheme?--You have left me to conjecture the
particular features of your argument, and if I mistake them, you will
reply that I understand you incorrectly. However, this is the way I
must proceed.

We will suppose then that Jesus, in room of ascending into heaven, had
remained on earth. Would this have done any good, unless he had made
himself known to all the people? Well, we will suppose he had made
himself known after his resurrection, to the whole house of Israel,
would the people not have believed? They would have believed most
assuredly, or his making himself known to them would have done no
good. If they had all believed they would not have persecuted the
religion of Christ, all would have embraced it at once being convinced
by their eyes, that Jesus who was crucified, had actually rose from
the dead, and was not subject to death any more. All this would have
been as evident to the Roman government as to the Jewish hierarchy,
and the whole would have been christianized at once. How long would
all this remain a wonder? Jesus remains on earth from generation to
generation. How long ago would the conjecture have arisen, that this
man who has lived through so many ages, had always been here on earth,
and that the tradition of his once having been mortal like other men,
was nothing but a superstition gotten up in some age of antiquity
beyond our reach? There would have been no occasion of preserving any
records of the wonderful works of Jesus in the days of his flesh, for
as the whole would become immediately connected to christianity, there
would have been no necessity nor excitement to write and preserve the
accounts we have in the gospel, or if they had been written, they
could have had no support now but ancient tradition. Not one martyr,
not one instance of persecution, not a Celsus in the second, a
Porphyry in the third, nor a Julian in the fourth centuries to oppose
the truth, and thereby bear testimony to the antiquity of the
christian history.

This immortal man would be here on earth, and the sun and the moon and
the stars would be in the heavens, the mountains and the rivers here
on earth; and the same mind that would conjecture that all these
visible things were from everlasting to everlasting, would make no
exception of this man Christ Jesus. But now you are called on to prove
your christian tradition; and what have you to convince the Deist
with? Will you say my conjectures are by no means correct? Well, I
expected it would turn out so. You mean then that Jesus should not
only remain on earth, but that he should continue the evidences of his
having been mortal, of his having died, and of his resurrection as
clear as they were when they convinced the world in the first
place.--Would there, in this case, be any room for any inquiry? any
for doubts? Would there be as many denominations of christians as
there are now? Should we get at this religion by reasoning? Perhaps
you would prefer your second proposal, and have Jesus manifested in
every generation. But this would have been a regular return of the
same event, and would have been placed among the phenomena of nature,
and the Deist would say that there never had been any beginning to
this regular operation, it has always been so from time beyond date.

Thus far, but no more. The evidences of our religion are like the
religion itself, infinitely superior to any thing ever contrived by
human wisdom. And it is an opinion in which I am the more confirmed,
the more I examine it, that if the wisest set of philosophers which
ever lived on earth had been a council to contrive a method by which
christianity could have been perpetuated in the world, that scheme
which they would have projected, would of itself defeated the object.

The wisdom of this great scheme corresponds with the divine power
which has been manifested in it. What set of impostors, either wise or
simple, learned or unlearned would ever have thought of such an
undertaking as that of which we have an account in the four
evangelists? Would they be likely to find one who would be their
leader, the one to die, and leave the rest to make the people believe
that he arose from the dead? Could a man be found now who would be
willing to undertake such a piece of madness and folly? If we pretend
to reason shall we not keep to human nature, and reason according to
those laws by which ourselves and others are governed?

Do you believe, sir, that a man could be found who would undertake to
lead a party, whose object should be to impose on the people by a
pretended resurrection, and consent himself to be the hero of this

You answer, no. But then ask; if this wonderful story was not written
some considerable time after that period to which the dates of the
writings are assigned, and such large additions made that the whole
appears entirely different from what was really true?

This brings me to consider the third particular selected for
consideration, out of your epistle.

3dly. In allusion to the supposed controversy between the Unitarians
and Trinitarians, you think I ought to have considered the
circumstance of the destruction of the Jews by the Romans, as giving a
favourable opportunity for the fabricating the books of the
evangelists, and of giving them success in the world, as the old
pharisees and rulers of the Jews were principally cut off in that
awful destruction of their nation and city.

You will observe that by your suggestion you leave the first section
of the argument to which you refer, in which no book or books were
used, and notice only the last section in which you were indulged, for
sake of the argument, in the supposition that the gospels were not
written until after the destruction of Jerusalem, nor propagated on
the miracles on which the gospels have founded it. Here, sir, have I
not an occasion of some little complaint? If you really thought that
the gospels were, none of them, written in the life time of the
apostles, and considered it safe to predicate an argument on this
ground, why should you withhold the proof of this fact? Why did you
not inform me of the authority by which your argument is supported in
your own mind? And furthermore, why do you try to get away from the
argument as stated in its first form, without showing its want of
force, or without allowing its merit? By conducting arguments in this
way, in room of converguing them to some definite point of conclusion,
they are diverged indefinitely, and the mind seems bewildered without
an object.

However, I am disposed to follow you, and will now endeavour to shew
the probability of the gospel's having been written even before the
destruction of Jerusalem.

The following passages are quoted from Paley's evidences from page 106
and on--

From the epistle of Barnabas, to which I have before alluded; "Let us,
therefore, beware lest it come upon us, as it is written, there are
many called, few chosen." Our author justly adds: "From the
expression, '_as it is written_,' we infer with certainty, that, at
the time when the author of this epistle lived, there was a book
extant, well known to christians, and of authority among them,
containing these words--'Many are called, few chosen.'" For the
authority of this epistle I refer unto Clement of Alexandria, Origen,
Eusebius, and Jerome, noticed in a former communication. If Clement
were liable to mistake the author, it seems hardly probable that he
would be deceived concerning the time when this epistle, purporting to
have been written by Barnabas, was written; as it is no later than
A.D. 194 that he quotes this epistle as an ancient work. It may be
proper to remark, that although authors differ respecting the
genuineness of this epistle, both Dr. Priestly and Paley acknowledge
and maintain its antiquity, and place it very near to the time of the
destruction of Jerusalem, which gives it all the authority for which
it is here quoted; for the thing now to be proved is, that it is
probable that the gospel of Matthew was written before the destruction
of the Jewish hierarchy. Now as this epistle of Barnabas was written
soon after this destruction, and refers to the gospel of Matthew in
the manner above quoted, as refering to what was an acknowledged
writing of scripture authority, it seems reasonable to infer that St.
Matthew's gospel had been written long enough before, to obtain its
establishment among Christian churches, which fairly throws its
antiquity anterior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Sir, I see nothing
to forbid this conclusion from being highly probable, and this, I
expect to show, is all that is necessary to be made out in this case.

"Of Polycarp," who was appointed bishop of Symrna by the apostles
themselves, says our author, "we have one undoubted epistle remaining.
And this, though a short letter, contains nearly forty clear allusions
to books of the New Testament; which is strong evidence of the respect
which christians of that age bore for those books." It appears from
this account, that, as Polycarp was a contemporary of the apostles,
and referred to the books of the New Testament in his writings, as to
books of established authority, these books must have been written as
early as the time in which their reputed authors lived, which places
their date prior to the destruction of Jerusalem; as it is not
pretended that any of the evangelists continued until after the
destruction of that city except St. John who is supposed to have lived
to a very great age.

One more from our author: "Papias, a hearer of John, and companion of
Polycarp, as Irenæus attests, and of that age, as all agree, in a
passage quoted by Eusebius, from a work now lost, expressly ascribes
the respective gospels to Matthew and Mark, and in a manner which
proves that those gospels must have publicly borne the names of these
authors at that time, and probably long before." All this appears
perfectly consistent with the idea that these gospels were written by
the evangelists themselves, and proves together with the following
considerations the probability of its being correct. Further
considerations to be taken into the foregoing account are the
following. St. Matthew, St. Luke and St. Mark, all speak of the
prophesy of Jesus respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, but do not
even hint that this prophesy had been fulfilled. In St. John's gospel
no mention is made of this prophesy, and it is reasonable enough to
suppose that this omission was on account of the prophesy's having
been fulfilled before his gospel was written.

Again, if the gospels had not been written by these reputed authors,
nor in the time that the evangelists lived, but some time after the
destruction of Jerusalem, and these had been fabricated by designing
men, they would certainly have been exposed as a fraud by the Gnostics
who held many opinions so very contrary to the scriptures of the New
Testament. So very contrary were some of the early heresies to the
writings of the evangelists that they erased many things from them
that they might the better maintain their own notions. Now this would
never have taken place if these Gnostics could have proved that these
Gospels were frauds, which they certainly could have done, for they
existed as early as these writings are supposed to have been written.
Furthermore, if the gospels had been forged books, written after the
destruction of Jerusalem, it would have been an easy task for Celsus
to have exposed the whole fraud. He certainly would never have
admitted the truth of the miracles of Jesus if he could have proved
that the books in which they were recorded were forgeries. But this
neither he nor the learned Porphyry attempted to do.

I have suggested, that, if the probability of the gospel's having been
written before the destruction of Jerusalem and by the evangelists
themselves be proved it is sufficient for our present argument. And
so, I think, it will appear to you, when you combine with this
probability two more important considerations.

1st. That the internal evidences contained in the books of the New
Testament, of their genuineness, are sufficient of themselves to
establish their character as such; and:

2d. That the above probability of itself is to be relied on even from
external evidence if no external proof can be proved against it, which
is not pretended.

It should be kept in mind, that the writings of the evangelists are
guarded by the early attacks of the enemies of christianity, who ever
treated them as being, what they pretended to be, a faithful history
of the origin of the religion they inculcated; and also by the
opposition of the early sects who arose from the church, who would
have demolished their foundations if they had been spurious.

4th. The argument you rest on the supposition that the apostles did,
in reality, believe in the resurrection of Jesus, when in fact the
thing was not true, may now be noticed.--As you would naturally
expect, I shall by no means allow either your premises or conclusions.

1st. Why should I allow your premises? You have brought no argument,
nor attempted to bring any to disprove what I contended for, viz. that
the apostles could not have been persuaded to believe the resurrection
with any evidence short of that recorded in the evangelists. "Here,"
you say "lies the mistake if there be any;" and to this I agree. Where
then is your argument against mine, on which so much depends? You have
attempted to bring none. But you say: "only suppose the resurrection
to have been actually believed, by any evidence, or circumstance
whatever, no matter what." What argument is there sir, in this "_only
suppose_?" I contend the thing is not supposable. It was as true in
that age of the world, that a fact naturally incredible requires
indubitable evidence to substantiate it, as it is now. I would allow
that it is supposable, that one man might, in a sort of a delirium,
which generally throws the brain into a situation, by which, what only
exists in the mind, appears a reality to the sense of sight, might
think he saw Jesus after his crucifixion, when in fact he did not. But
I cannot allow it to be a supposable case that the whole eleven
apostles should all become delirious at once and with them a number
more, and all be persuaded against the prejudices of their minds, that
they saw Jesus, and that at a number of times, and in diverse manners,
when there was no such thing. But:

2d. Even allowing your supposition, your consequences would be very
unlikely to follow. You surely would not suppose that the apostles
could believe they saw Jesus when they did not, if they had the use of
their reason properly. We must suppose them to have been insane
then.--What then would have been the consequences? Would the authority
have put these mad-men to death? Would they have been persecuted at
all for their misfortune? But these mad-men preached Jesus and the
resurrection to the people, and so convinced them of the fact, that
multitudes believed them, and on this supposition we are now to
_suppose_ our religion was first established in the world! If we may
suppose such things, there are no absurdities that we may not suppose.
You must suppose it to be a very dangerous thing to try a man for his
life by a jury of twelve men, for if the man was innocent of the
murder for which he was indicted and no evidence was produced to
convict him on, these men might all be made to believe, some how, by
some circumstance, "no matter what," that they all saw the murder
committed by this very innocent person on trial.

5th. I thought of saying something on your suggestion of the necessity
of miracles in some future time to convince the Jews that Jesus is the
Messiah, but being a little more careful, than at first, I find you
seem to give up this matter. You say: "considering the prejudices of
the Jews, as a people, I cannot suppose that they will ever believe in
Jesus, as their promised Messias short of being convinced of its truth
by a miracle; and should they return to the land of Palestine, and
there rebuild their temple, at Jerusalem, it would be such a clear
fulfilment of the prophesy of Ezekiel, that it would be equal to a
miracle, and do as much towards corroborating the truth of all the
other prophecies." If the return of the Jews, etc. be equal to
miracles, then it may preclude their necessity. But as this particular
does not immediately concern our general subject it is dismissed.

6th. As none of the evangelists have been particular respecting the
meeting in Galilee, and as this was an appointment even before the
crucifixion, as well as afterward, it is fairly within the reach of
probable conjecture, that this meeting was sufficiently numerous to
justify St. Paul's words. He does not speak of this matter as of a
subject with which his acquaintance was small, for he says; "he was
seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part
remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." He no doubt,
had seen many of this great number and had been informed of the
circumstances of the occasion, and of the time when this multitude was
favoured with this sight.

To conclude; I heartily join with you in grateful acknowledgements, to
the Almighty disposer of events, for the manifestations of his
universal benevolence to his creatures, and especially unto man whom
he hath seen fit to induce with the attributes of his own nature, and
constituted him an heir of life and immortality. In view of this, I
can be thankful for any faithfulness discoverable in those who publish
the word of life, and endeavour to defend it in the spirit of meekness
and Christian love.

And I will further add, that I feel a peculiar pleasure in finding
your mind to be somewhat divested of its incumberances, and that your
doubts of the grounds of your precious faith, are dispersing more and
more from your mind, while the evidences of divine truth find a
sincere reception in your understanding.

Let us endeavour to cherish, not only the evidences of truth, but
truth itself in our afflictions, and in room of being idlers in the
markets, go early into our Lord's vineyard trusting the words of him
who saith; "whatsoever is right, ye shall receive."

Yours, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


"_Dear sir and brother_--In remarking on your reply to my 8th number,
as in a former case I shall follow the arrangement which you have
made; taking up the articles in the same order.

"1st. I did not suppose but that the method which I proposed to
account for the absence of the body of Jesus would be liable to
serious objections; and these objections are increased by connecting
with them, circumstances which, if the resurrection be false, must be
considered equally false. Because, if the resurrection of Jesus was
not a truth, whatever was the truth on which that belief was founded,
must be now all mere conjecture.

"There might be persons, however, who thought that Jesus suffered
death very wrongfully although he never pretended literally to perform
those miracles. Yea I conceive it possible that when this language was
first adopted, i. e. of his feeding the hungry, opening the eyes of
the blind, raising the dead, &c. it was not understood, nor meant to
be understood literally. Therefore although the account at first might
have been _literally false_, though not so much so as what it grew to
be afterward, yet it might have been considered _spiritually true_;
and therefore not designed absolutely to deceive. The only difficulty,
i.e. the only irreconcilable difficulty, which I conceive in the case,
is in supposing that the first disciples could be made to believe in
the resurrection, by any evidence which could have existed, and yet
the resurrection not to be true. But we must suppose this, I think, in
order to raise a reasonable doubt of the truth of the resurrection.
For, if the disciples did not believe it, they could have had no
interest or motive, (or certainly no justifiable motive) in making
others believe it; and without this, it is difficult to account even
for the existence of such a report. I should not think it so strange,
however, that others, after the report was once in circulation, and
that even St. Paul himself should have been made to believe this,
merely by some visionary scene.

"I think therefore the question may be reduced to this point. Which of
the two is the most _incredible_, either that the first disciples
should absolutely believe in the resurrection, by any evidence which
did not grow out of this truth, or that the resurrection should have
been absolutely true?

"Here is where the two propositions, when reduced to their simplicity
must finally come. And I contend that when two propositions are thus
clearly placed before the mind or understanding, whether the judgment
be right or wrong, the mind or understanding must reject, yea it is
impossible to avoid rejecting, that which to the mind or
understanding, is the most incredible.

"But when we admit that the disciples did believe in the resurrection,
we are not obliged to admit that they had all or any of the evidences
of that fact which have come down to us. This we may suppose might
have been mostly or altogether fictitious; written by later hands, and
attributed to the apostles. And here we must not suppose that the
account was altogether made up at once, but grew gradually; and not to
come out in writing until the persons, who could either attest or deny
the literal truth of these facts, were taken off of the stage. Here as
it respects the records also, the same question again occurs. Which is
the most _incredible_ (not to _miraculous_, for one miracle is no more
miraculous, that I know of than another; I therefore say which is the
most _incredible_) that such histories should have been thus, or in
some other way got up, and be believed, altho' the various accounts,
so far as they relate to miracles, and other circumstances necessary
to be taken into the account only for the sake of supporting the truth
of those miracles, should have been altogether fictitious, and such
parts only true as could be accounted for in a rational way, without
admitting the existence of miracles; or that all those miracles, or at
least the most essential of them, should have been literally and
absolutely true? The answer to these two propositions, i. e. the above
questions, will, and must, decide the whole controversy.

"Now, were it not for the internal evidences which the writings of the
New Testament do, and ever will, possess (the external evidences
falling so far short of being conclusive in my mind, as I shall show
more fully hereafter, when I come to speak of those evidences) I
should still be inclined, in my own understanding, to reject the
latter proposition in each of the above questions, and adhere to the
former.--Much of the external evidence, I am very ready to admit is
perfectly consistent with the supposed truth of the internal, but
after all, in my humble opinion, it does not quite come to the point.
But the internal evidence, I confess, I cannot withstand. The more I
investigate the subject, the more I discover its force, its clearness,
and its irresistibility; and although the truth it unfolds is so
august, so momentous, so astonishingly and inexpressibly sublime, that
it is with the profoundest and most reverential awe I speak, when I
acknowledge my faith in the divine origin of those testimonies; yet,
as I cannot resist their force, so I am obliged to acknowledge them
true. The illusion, however, if it be one, I know is happifying to the
mind; but this is no good reason, that I know of, why we should either
embrace it ourselves, or propagate it in the world. Although I have
endeavoured to calm my conscience, while meditating on my doubts, with
the consideration that I am not accountable for the truth or the
falsity of the scriptures; yet, I must confess, this did not fully
satisfy my mind; and therefore I come to a determination to be more
thoroughly persuaded of their truth, if possible, or else be more
thoroughly convinced of their fallacy. With this motive I entered on
the present controversy; and I feel very happy in its termination,
having been much strengthened in my faith thereby, and humbly pray,
that should it ever come before the public, it may be blest to the
benefit of others.

"2d. What you have said on the divine mission, &c. of the apostles is
satisfactory. For although it has not fully come to my question, yet
it has had the same good effect by convincing me that my question went
a little beyond the bounds of reason; for it was too much like asking
a blind man how it is that other men see! It is not reasonable to
suppose that the apostles themselves could have informed persons who
were uninspired to their understanding, how or by what means, they
were inspired. It was sufficient to demonstrate the fact by the works
which they were enabled to perform, (admitting the account true,) in
the name of JESUS.

"3d. My argument respecting a hope of future existence has been
extended rather beyond my design. Without taking up time to
recapitulate, I will only say I admit the truth of your argument on
this subject; neither do I see how it stands altogether in opposition
to mine. What I contend for is this. The idea of non-existence, i.e.
of existing only in God, without retaining our individual
consciousness of being, does not, like the idea of endless misery,
absolutely destroy our present comforts. It only cuts short, or else
prevents, future prospects. If it can be demonstrated, as I believe it
can, that God is good to the animal creation, in giving them
existence, on the supposition, that they have no future state, I
contend that man is equally, if not more abundantly blessed, even on
the same supposition.--But I never meant to contend that eternal life
would not be still infinitely better, according to our conceptions of
good, if true. To state a case, which will illustrate in some degree
my ideas of this subject, the following may come something nigh it;
viz. I should be pleased with the idea of living, say, ten years, in
reference only to the blessing of this life, although I might know I
should die at that time, provided that, during the ten years, I should
enjoy the common blessings of life. This does not prevent my desiring
to live longer; neither does a certain knowledge that I shall not
prevent me from desiring to live, nor from being pleased with the idea
of living, till that time. But let me know for a certainty, or, which
would be the same thing to me, let me absolutely believe that I should
live fifty years, and that although the ten first would be attended
with all the common blessings of life, as usual, yet that the
remaining forty years, which would be the remaining whole of my
natural life, I should be placed in the most distressed and aggravated
circumstances, of which I could possibly conceive; now, in reference
to the whole fifty years, could I desire to live? No! I say, I rather
choose instant death!

"When I look around on the circumstances and condition of men, I am so
fully convinced that the aggregate of happiness so far overbalances
the aggregate of misery, that I am firmly of opinion, yea, I do not
entertain the least possible doubt of its truth, and therefore think I
ever shall contend, that this life is a blessing, and we have abundant
reason to be very thankful for it, without the least reference to a
future state. But, nevertheless, I am very ready to admit, that, when
futurity and immortality are taken into the account, and are connected
with the same view of the character of the Deity, these blessings are
all extended and magnified to infinity.

"But on the supposition that truth is any where connected with
_endless misery_, the scene is wholly changed. On this supposition I
am not reconciled to truth at all; I can find nothing in my moral
nature, which I call good, but what stands directly opposed to it;
Hence, the very brightest and most brilliant part of the picture is
deformed by the awful idea; it takes away all the pleasure of
investigation, and if this be truth, my only desire and prayer to God,
is that I might be permitted to remain eternally ignorant of it! It is
my confidence therefore in the goodness of the truth, and this only,
which has reconciled my mind to it. You may contend that I have not
obtained this confidence without the knowledge of divine revelation.
Be that as it may; on this supposition only I am reconciled, and
something must destroy this confidence before I can become
unreconciled to truth. I think now I must be fully understood, and
will therefore add no more on this subject.

"4th. What you say under the fourth article is satisfactory. Errors,
no doubt, may be, and often are committed by applying instructions
'differently from their primary design.'

"5th. Your remarks under the sixth article are very judicious. Much
injury no doubt is often done to the truth of divine revelation by
contending so tenaciously as some do for things, which, if true, are
not essential to its support.--It is often the case that, by trying to
prove too much, we weaken the evidence, in the minds of many,
respecting the main thing we wish to establish. Hence, the opposer,
not being able, or else not disposed, to make proper distinction,
considers it all of one piece; and not being able to see the propriety
of many things, which are contended for with equal zeal, sets the
whole down as a fallacy.

"6th. It is true, I thought you strained the argument a little too far
in supposing that the apostles could not have been convinced of the
truth of the resurrection by any evidence which could be
counterbalanced. This induced me to state that supposed absurdity in
still more glaring colors, with a hope that you would thereby be
induced to take a review of your argument, and not without some
expectation, that you would be able to see some defects in it. But in
this I have been disappointed. You still hold on upon your argument,
and turn the error wholly on your friend.

"But, as this is the turning point, I shall not blame you for
straining every nerve, and holding on upon every fibre which gives you
the least possible support.

"It would not do for you to give up the idea that the apostles could
not have been convinced of the truth of the resurrection by any
evidence which could have existed short of the fact's being true;
(which, by the way, was what I meant by the first member of my
criticism, though not exactly so expressed;) for the moment this is
admitted, doubt and unbelief will soon contend that they were so
convinced. Imagination may soon call up such evidence in the mind,
without supposing any thing miraculous, and all the rest of the
account may be supposed to be fictitious. I did not mean to insinuate,
however, that you have contended that the apostles must have seen
Jesus rise in order to be convinced of the fact. I suppose their
seeing him after he was risen was as full a demonstration to them as
though they had seen him rise. And if they could not have been
convinced of its truth by any thing short of this, then they could not
be convinced by any thing short of the fact; i.e. what was the same to
them as the fact. The second member of my criticism, viz. 'If the fact
did exist there is no evidence which can counterbalance it,' does not,
as I conceive, suppose that you contend 'that the fact of the
resurrection could not exist without proving itself to the apostles in
such a way that no evidence could counterbalance it;' but it supposes
that if the fact did exist, no evidence could prove that it did not
exist, as it is always difficult to prove a negative, and utterly
impossible when the positive is true.--Hence my conclusion; viz. As
the apostles were convinced of the truth of the resurrection, which
they could not have been only by evidence which could not have existed
had not the fact been true, the fact did exist. How far does this
criticism fall short of my other? (for it is exactly what I meant by
my other.) Or how far does it go beyond your argument?

"Finally, I cannot conceive of any evidence that could sufficiently
support the fact that Jesus who was crucified, did actually rise from
the dead, if nothing could be brought to counterbalance it, that could
possibly admit of being counterbalanced; and again: 'Thus we are
brought to the suggestion, that any evidence which could be sufficient
to prove such a fact, if no evidence appeared against it, must be such
as admits, of no refutation.'

"Unless it may be reasonably supposed that the apostles were not
absolutely so guarded against an error of this kind as this argument
suggests, I know of no way to withstand its force. And I am sure I
feel no disposition to withstand it, even against probability. It is
the improbability of the fact it goes to prove, i. e. in my mind, that
ever induced me to oppose it.

"I shall now take notice of the external evidence in support of the
truth of divine revelation, which you have quoted from Paley in his
view of the evidences of christianity.

"In your reply to my seventh number, you mentioned a quotation from
the epistle of Barnabas, St. Paul's companion, in the following words,
'Let us therefore, beware lest it come upon us, _as it is written_,
there are many called, few chosen.' The object of this quotation is to
prove that the gospel of Matthew (from which here is a quotation) was
written before this epistle, and here appealed to as to a book of
divine authority. And although it is perfectly consistent with such a
supposition, yet there is great room to doubt whether such was the
fact. Or, at least, there is room to conjecture that the gospel of
Matthew might have been written before this epistle, and yet not
written till after the destruction of Jerusalem.

"Speaking of the writers of this period, Dr. Priestly observes[7] 'The
oldest work of the age, if it had been genuine, is that which goes by
the name of _The epistle of Barnabas_. Whoever was the author of this
epistle, it was probably written soon after the destruction of
Jerusalem.--It abounds with interpretations of the Old Testament which
discover more of imagination, than judgement.' By this you will
perceive that the authority of this epistle is doubtful. I should also
have gathered the same idea, from what Paley himself says, whose work
I have examined, on this subject, since I wrote my last number. It
might have been written at a much later period than what is supposed
and palmed upon Barnabas; and therefore does not, as was supposed,
absolutely prove that the gospel of Matthew was written prior to the
destruction of Jerusalem. It seems that christians of a later period
were in the habit of palming works upon their predecessors; or in
other words, writing in their name. After speaking of the epistle of
Clemens, Priestly observes (p. 301) there is extant another epistle
ascribed to this Clemens, but it is evidently spurious, and was
probably written in the middle of the third century. Several other
writings were palmed upon him also, especially the _Apostolical
Constitution_ and the _Clementine homilies_. The epistle of Barnabas,
it seems, is first quoted by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 194. This
certainly gives room for my conjecture for aught which appears to the
contrary, it might have been written a whole century after the days of
the apostles.

[Footnote 7: Ch. Hist. vol. i. p. 200.]

"The next which Paley mentions is an epistle written by Clement,
bishop of Rome. This is the same which Priestly calls _Clemens_. 'This
epistle,' he says, 'was held in the highest esteem by all christians,
and, like the scriptures, was publicly read in many churches.' In this
epistle of _Clement_, you say, 'he quotes Matt. v. 7. xviii. 6.' But
how does he quote those passages? Not as the writing of Matthew, but
as the words of 'our Lord.' Although this therefore, as I have before
suggested, is perfectly consistent with the supposed truth, it falls
far short, in my mind, of proving that the gospel of Matthew, was
written before this epistle. Clement or Clemens might have written
this by tradition even if he had never seen the gospel of Matthew, or
any other. It only proves that these words in the gospel and those in
the epistle were indebted to the same original source, viz. the words
of Jesus. I am not disposed to dispute, however, the genuineness of
this epistle. 'It is an earnest dissuasive,' says Priestly, 'from the
spirit of faction, which appeared in the church of Corinth, and which,
indeed, was sufficiently conspicuous when Paul wrote his epistles.'

"'Another work of doubtful authority,' says Priestly, 'is _the
Shepherd of Hermes_, by some thought to be that Hermes who is
mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Romans; but by others supposed
to be either spurious, or to have been written by a later Hermes, or
rather Hermes, brother of Pius, bishop of Rome, about the year 140.
Whoever was the author of this work (and though it was so much
esteemed by many christians, as to be publicly read in their churches)
it is certainly a very poor performance.' If this work therefore be of
so late a date, as, according to this account, it may be, and, from
all which appears to the contrary, we may presume it is, as the first
quotation of it is by Irenaeus, A. D. 178, it falls short of the proof
we want.

"The same observations will apply to the allusions to the gospels in
the epistles of _Ignatius_, as was mentioned in regard to the epistle
of _Clement_. They are not literal quotations, and therefore might
have been only traditions. I consider them no certain proof that the
gospels were written previous to this time, though it is very natural
to suppose _that_ to have been the fact. The same will apply to the
epistle of _Polycarp_, as we know not exactly what was meant at that
time by the scriptures; neither do allusions to certain passages in
the scriptures, especially such as the words of Jesus, prove the
existence of those scriptures at that time.

"In the time of Eusebius there were extant _five books of Papias,
bishop of_ Hierapolis in Syria, of _the interpretation of the divine
oracles_. 'Papias,' says Priestly, 'was a great collector of the
sayings of the apostles; and one of the traditions preserved by him
was that, after the resurrection, Christ would reign upon earth a
thousand years, an opinion which, from his authority, was long
respected by many.'[8] Papias, it seems, is the first who speaks of
the gospels by name, and he mentions only Matthew and Mark. That all
the gospels, however, existed in his day, and also bore the names
which they now do, I should not be disposed to dispute; neither is
there any thing to contradict the idea of their being written by the
persons reputed to be the authors of them.

[Footnote 8: Ch. Hist. vol. i. p. 203 Euseb. Hist. Lib. iii. Cap. 39
p. 135.]

"But, supposing a few of these first bishops had taken it into ther
heads, having succeeded so well, during a little respite from
persecution, in consequence of those troublesome times at the
destruction of Jerusalem, as to get appointed to their respective
offices, and thinking it would lead greatly to their future success, I
say, supposing they had taken it into their heads to write the four
gospels and the acts of the apostles themselves, embracing all the
traditions, which they knew, of the apostles, dressed up in the
figurative style in which those things, even from the first, had been
reported, together with many fictions of their own. And that they did
write these books in the name of the apostles; who would be likely, or
would be able, to contradict them? Or supposing, without any previous
concert, some one should have written the gospel of Matthew; another,
after having seen it, should write one in the name of Mark; a third,
who had seen them both, should write that of Luke, and the acts of the
apostles; and a fourth should write that of John.--These, of course,
would make their first appearance at different times, and in different
parts of the country; or, in other words, in different countries. Some
story or other might have been got up, in regard to their first
discovery, which should go currently with the common people, and
which, after the works were received as canonical, would of course be
done away.

"As a justification of the above hypothesis (which I am very sensible
is not without its difficulties) in addition to what have said in
regard to the writings palmed upon Clemens, I will mention the
following from Priestly's Ch. Hist. vol. ii. p. 412. It appears to
have been a quotation from Sozomen, by Socrates, Lib. vii. chap. 19,
p. 307. '_The revelation of Peter_, which is rejected as a spurious
book by the ancients, is read once every year in some churches in
Palestine on good Friday, which is a religious fast in commemoration
of our Lord's sufferings. The book that is called the _revelation of
the apostle Paul_, which was unknown to the ancients, is greatly
commended by many of the monks. Some say that this book was first
found in the reign of Theodosius. For they say that in the house of
Paul at Tarsus, there was a marble chest in a subterraneous place, in
which this book was deposited, and that it was discovered by a
particular revelation.'

"Any work of this kind, got up at so late a period as that of the
reign of Theodosius, would not be likely to be generally received
among the churches; yet if it could be received by any, why might not
a similar work, or similar works, which made their appearance so soon
after the apostles, as might well be supposed to have been written by
them and when too, the churches were few in number, without the least
suspicion of fraud, have been received by all? Or if any fraud had
been suspected, yet, believing in the main thing which all these were
designed to support, those frauds whatever they _were_, might have
been considered really _pious_!

"But, sir, you will perceive that I am not altogether pleased, nor
fully satisfied, with this argument. I know it has its difficulties;
but the question is, whether it has greater than the one which it is
brought to oppose? The question is _not_, whether these things look
probable? For I acknowledge they do not look probable. But the
question is, which is the most _incredible_; either that the above
hypothesis, or something like it, should be true; or else that the
extraordinary miracles, related in the books referred to, should be
true? If there were no better evidence in favor of the miracles than
that which I have been examining, I should be obliged to decide
against the latter, let me think what I might respecting the former.
The most that we can say of this testimony is, it does not contradict
the truth of those histories, but, so far as it goes, it is perfectly
consistent with the truth of the main question. The weight of this
testimony therefore, whatever it is, seems to be on the side of the
truth of christianity.

"But what carries the most conviction to my mind is _not_ who wrote
those books; not the manner in which they have been handed down to us,
nor in which they can now be traced to the apostles; but the manner in
which the _story itself is_ told. It must be confessed that, excepting
a few things, which may be supposed to have been early interpolations,
it carries in it all the internal marks of TRUTH. When this is
admitted, we must also admit the propriety of bringing in these
external evidences as auxiliaries; and when we find that they also,
instead of being contradictory _to_, are perfectly consistent _with_
the supposed truth, they add _not a little_ to the weight of
testimony. Hence we find that our faith is strengthened by the
consideration of circumstances, which would not have been sufficient,
in themselves alone, to have originated, or produced, that faith. The
question may be still asked, why do you now believe? To which I give
this plain and simple answer. It is because, notwithstanding the
_incredibility_ of the miracles of Christ, and of the apostles, and
the resurrection, the truth of which these miracles go to confirm and
substantiate; yet, the idea that this story should ever have been told
in the manner it is, without having truth for its foundation, in spite
of all my _incredibility_, is still more _incredible_! And it is my
humble opinion that whoever will give themselves the trouble, to pay
the same attention to the subject, must be of the same opinion: for, I
am inclined to think that no one has been more predisposed to
unbelief. Not that I ever felt any real opposition to the truth of the
holy scriptures, as I now understand them, but I did not wish to be
deceived. I had rather that my hopes and expectations should never be
raised, than to have them raised upon a fruitless or spurious

"But after all, it will be perceived that I make no pretensions to a
_miraculous_, or _mysterious_, conversion. My conversion, whatever it
is, is altogether rational. It grows out of the evidence which I
plainly have before my eyes. And it is my humble opinion that those
who pretend to such conversions ought to be able to confirm the same
by miracles, the same as the truth was first confirmed; and unless
they can do it, it ought to be considered as nothing more than mere
_pretension_.--According to the ideas of some, and of much too of that
which is termed _orthodox_, every conversion is as much a _miracle_ as
was the resurrection of Christ. But as this is a fact, which if true,
is entirely out of sight of the unconverted, and of which they can
form no conception, nor judge of it in any sense whatever, is it not
reasonable that they should have a demonstration of its truth, by some
fact, of the truth of which they can judge, that they may know that
the work is of God? And until we have such demonstration, may we not
consider all such pretensions to be of men?

"With these remarks I hasten to a _CONCLUSION_.

"In taking leave of this subject, considering it probable that these
letters will, at some future time, come before the public, it is but
just that I should more fully avow my motives in this controversy. You
will have perceived, all along, the ground on which I stood. I have
endeavoured to personate an honest inquirer after truth; but one who
was filled with doubts concerning every thing of which there is not
positive demonstration. How far I have acted up to such a character,
you and the public can best judge.

"I thought, however, I should be the most likely to do this, by
bringing those objections, and these only, which, at one time or
another, have occupied my own mind. But, that the controversy might
not appear as a mere _farce_, or like a man raising objections against
himself (in which case he generally takes care to raise none but what
he thinks he can answer) and that I might engage all your interest and
energy on the subject, I have carried the idea, through the whole,
both by my letters and by my private conversation with you during the
time (as you very well know) that those objections were now laboring
in my mind with all their force. I have therefore endeavoured to
dispute every inch of ground, and give way only as I found myself
obliged to give way, by the force of your arguments. That I have not
acted my part better must be imputed to want of ability and not to
want of good will. I have endeavoured to throw every block in your way
which I could think of, without deviating from the character which I
had assumed; and that I have not made your task more arduous, is
because I did not see how I could do it without betraying a manifest
dishonesty on my part. The result is such as I anticipated.

"My real motive must be my only apology for the part I have taken. You
know that no work of the kind has ever been really and seriously
attempted by any one who is avowedly of our order; that our religious
opponents are continualiy throwing the gauntlet of aspersions at us,
as being nothing more than mere pretenders to christianity, but in
reality, _Deists_ in disguise. To repel, therefore, those charges, as
well as to let the unbelieving world know our views on this subject, I
thought a work of this kind was really needed. And it appeared to me
that the work, in the first place, would be more likely to be read,
and, in the end, more sure of success, to have it come forth by the
way of controversy, than what it would in any other way.

"It is true, I may not have brought all the objections which some
would wish to have brought; but if what I have brought are so far
removed as not to remain a serious obstacle in the mind of candid
readers (which I conclude will be the case, with others, as it is with
me) then all objections may be as easily removed.

"That this work may be an instrument, in the hands of God, of removing
the prejudices from the minds of many of our religious opponents, of
strengthening the faith of many who are wavering, and, as it were,
halting between two opinions, and of calling up the attention of those
who, like Gallis, 'care for none of these things,' is the sincere
prayer of:

"Yours in the bonds of the gospel.


       *       *       *       *       *


_Dear sir, and brother_,--A careful perusal of your tenth number has
given me much satisfaction, and seems to suggest that my reply may be
general. You discover the rational ground on which your scruples are
removed, and state no difficulty that you do not surmount.

I agree with you, that the gloomy doctrine of eternal misery, when by
the imagination it becomes incorporated into the system of divine
revelation, "reverses the whole scene," and renders that, which in its
divine and native beauty possesses the most powerful attractions, the
most deformed picture that ever repelled the human affections. It is
this heaven-dishonouring doctrine, so repugnant to and irreconcilable
with the known goodness of God manifested to all nations in his divine
providence, that has, more than any thing else, so buffeted all the
best feelings of man, as in thousands of instances to drive the heart
of benevolence to lay aside the scriptures to whose authority this
unmerciful doctrine has been erroneously ascribed.

But let the scriptures be once considered as free from the above
horrible sentiment as in reality they are, they will then perfectly
correspond with the demonstrations of universal benevolence and grace,
rendered conspicuous in all the ways of God; they will also compare as
a perfect transcript of that inward light and love which renders man
an image of his ever adorable Creator.

As the christian church emerges from the city of mystery Babylon and
its suburbs, and advances into the light of the wisdom of God, the
doctrine above mentioned loses its influence and its votaries; nor
will it be in the power of our self-styled orthodox clergy, long to
chain the public mind to such a forbidding absurdity.

Nothing discovers the deplorable state of depravity, to which the
human mind is subject, by force of tradition, more than the unnatural
and absurd notion of enhancing future bliss, by beholding fellow
creatures of the nearest connexion in a state of indescribable misery,
there to remain time without end!

It seems to us astonishing that parents were ever capable of causing
their children to pass through the fire to an idol, but what is this
compared with what our pious fathers and mothers have believed
concerning their children's sufferings in the eternal world, for the
glory of that God who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh?

Tradition makes the most horrible things acceptable to the mind which
becomes blind to their deformity, and even the most detestable things,
desirable, by a certain feigned sanctity which it attaches to them.
But the charm once broken, the rational mind becomes transformed into
another image, totally different, and entirely repugnant to the things
which it before venerated as divine. You very justly remark, that if
truth be in any way connected with endless misery, you are not
reconciled to it; but the time has been when you and I viewed this
doctrine as an essential article of the faith of the gospel. What an
absurdity! Eternal misery an essential article of the faith of a

And this very moment there are thousands who set their feet on this
vagary, believing it to be the only rock of safety.

But we have reason to be thankful for our happy deliverance from such
a pernicious tradition; a tradition which has poisoned the doctrine of
the church, and hardened the hearts of Christian professors to such a
degree, that cruelty of the worst kind has become habitual.

Will our _pious clergy_ contend against this charge? Let them account
then for all the persecutions, the anathemas, the hangings and the
burnings, which owe their origin to this doctrine of eternal misery.
Let them account for their own sermons, in our day, which sentence
age, middle age, and infancy to endless torture, for offences they
never heard of, nor will they ever be informed of them until they find
themselves in hell for what a man and a woman did thousands of years
before they were born, and of whom they never had heard one word in
the land of the living! This they as constantly preach as they contend
that man must be sensible of his fall in Adam, of the justice of his
being eternally miserable for that offence, and of pardon through the
atonement of Christ in this life, or be miserable forever hereafter;
for thousands in all ages have lived and died who never heard this
absurd story while on earth.

Sir, we have no reason to wonder that religion is so little set by,
while it is held up in such a character. Let it put on the mild form
of the meek and humble Jesus, let it appear in the mercy of him who
said "the son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save
them," let it be represented by its own similitude, by pouring oil and
wine into the wounds of an enemy, let it be heard when it declares in
apostolic language, God "will have all men to be saved, and to come
unto the knowledge of the truth," let its language be strictly
regarded when it informs us that charity is greater than faith or
hope, then it will be pure and undefiled before God and the Father; it
will engage the best affections of the human heart, and call to its
devotion all the energies of man. Who can count the damages which have
been occasioned by the preposterous error of setting up _faith_ as a
criterion of _charity_? Creed makers and creed defenders surely must
have been averse to St. Paul's sentiment concerning the superiority of
charity over faith; for they have sat charity at defiance with
undefined items in their creeds, which were acknowledged mysterious in
their own minds, and evidently repugnant to reason in the judgment of
those who were proscribed as heretics by their authority.

Relative to my quotations from the epistle of Barnabas and others,
your argument, as far as it is intended to lessen our belief in the
genuineness of these epistles, has no direct bearing on the argument
which I endeavoured to support by them; for it makes no difference
_who wrote_ those epistles, it is their containing quotations from the
New Testament which gives them the consequence for which they were

In reply to what you say respecting Clement's not quoting Mat. v. 7,
xviii. 6. as the writing of St Matthew, but as the words of "our
Lord," I here set down Paley's answer.

"It may be said, that, as Clement hath not used words of quotation, it
is not certain that he refers to any book whatever. The words of
Christ, which he has put down, he might himself have heard from the
apostles, or might have received them through the ordinary medium of
oral tradition. This has been said; but that no such inference can be
drawn from the absence of words of quotation is proved by the three
following considerations:--First, that Clement in the very same
manner, namely, without any mark of reference, uses a passage now
found in the epistle to the Romans;[9] which passage from the
peculiarity of the words which compose it, and from their order, it is
manifest that he must have taken from the book. The same remark may be
repeated of some very singular sentiments in the epistle to the
Hebrews. Secondly, that there are many sentences of St. Paul's epistle
to the Corinthians standing in Clement's epistle without any sign of
quotation, which yet are certainly quotations; because it appears that
Clement had St. Paul's epistle before him, inasmuch as in one place he
mentions it in terms too express to leave us in any doubt--'Take into
your hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul.' Thirdly, that
this method of adopting words of scripture, without reference or
acknowledgment, was, as will appear in the sequel, a method in general
use among the most ancient christian writers. These analogies not only
repel the objection, but cast the presumption on the other side; and
afford a considerable degree of positive proof that the words in
question have been borrowed from the places of scripture in which we
now find them."[10]

[Footnote 9: Rom. i. 29.]

[Footnote 10: Paley's Evidences, p. 109, 110.]

I think, if we take into consideration the authority of external
evidence, especially if we duly consider how easily Celsus couid have
overthrown the gospels, if they had not been genuine, it must be
acknowledged sufficient, even of itself, to establish any matter of
fact however important, allowing no natural improbability were
involved in the fact. And this is as much as we want of external
evidence, of the sort refered to.

But as even the internal evidences of scripture would be insufficient
to support their authority without the concurrence of external
evidence, so would the external be found wanting without the internal.
But these together are abundantly sufficient to establish the
credibility of this gospel, which is, like every thing else of the
work and wisdom of God, the wonder and admiration of the believing

The purity of your motives in writing on the subject of our
discussion, will fully justify the exertions you have made to draw
forth such arguments as your brother has been enabled to adduce in
support of our common faith. I regret that my almost constant employ
on other subjects and other duties, has afforded so little time as I
have been able to devote to your queries, which, together with my want
of abilities to do justice to a subject of this importance is now an
embarrassment on my mind in regard to giving my consent to the
publication of this correspondence. And there is still another
circumstance which seems to operate as an objection to the publishing
of these letters, viz. the want of _extension of argument_ in many
instances, which would have been attended to, if the work had been
written for the conviction of common readers, which was not thought to
be necessary for the benefit of the mover of the queries.

However, as all human productions are imperfect and ought so to be
considered, and especially those from your humble servant, I am
willing to appear to some disadvantage if any considerable advantage
may thereby result to the cause of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I cannot close this valedictory epistle without a solemn
acknowledgement of heart felt gratitude to the merciful disposer of
all events, for the ample evidence which his providence and grace have
given of the truth of our religion, especially when consider the
glorious hope set before us; and am permitted to anticipate the
promised era when there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor
crying; when there shall be no more pain; but when tears shall be
wiped from all faces, and the rebuke of the nations removed from off
all the earth, and every creature in heaven, and on the earth, and
under the earth, and such as are in the sea shall harmoniously ascribe
blessing, and glory, and honor unto him who sitteth upon the throne
and unto the lamb forever and ever, I loose myself in the
contemplation of the transporting scene.

To conclude, as you, my brother, have laboured together with your
fellow servant, to look into, and examine these things which belong to
the kingdom of righteousness, and as we have been favoured with mutual
satisfaction in these researches, may it please the Great Head of the
church still to hold us in his hand, still to engage us in his blessed
cause, and render our mutual labours promotive of his grace among men.
And however distant from each other it may best suit the captain of
our salvation to place us, may it be his pleasure to continue our
fellowship in the bonds of the gospel.

Yours affectionately,


       *       *       *       *       *





PORTSMOUTH, DEC. 28, 1809.

_Dear Sir_,--At the close of the interview which we had at my house,
some little time since, you expressed a wish to live in habits of
friendship with the ministers of this town, and I think I expressed a
hope that I should be always disposed to treat you and all men with
those fruits of benevolence and friendship which the law of our common
nature and the spirit and principles of the Christian religion, demand
of me; with this profession, without its fruits, my conscience is not
satisfied. It was neither friendship nor piety that dictated that
early question, "_Am I my brother's keeper_?"--There is a reciprocal
responsibility among mankind, both for the interest of time and
eternity. Were I to see you or any others exposing themselves to
danger, or running into situations that I apprehend would be
prejudicial and destructive, friendship would require me to warn and
admonish, and endeavour to restrain; and can I support my pretensions
to this principle in withholding my warning and admonition, while I am
verily persuaded that the present tendency and final issue of that
system of sentiments which you have embraced, and which you have come
among us to advocate and to support, will expose you, and those that
embrace and build upon it, to danger and distress, with which no
temporal calamity or ruin can bear any sort of comparison?

I know not what system of Universalism you have embraced or advocate,
nor is it of any material consequence in my view; I presume I do not
mistake or injure you in supposing that you publicly preach and
advocate the final salvation of all mankind, their restoration and
association with Jesus Christ in realms of glory. Whatever human
ingenuity or plausible and sophistic reasoning may do with respect to
either of these systems, they each and all of them are, in my view,
destitute of divine authority, and have not a "thus saith the Lord,"
for their support.

There may be some little difference in the present tendency and effect
of these different systems upon the present conduct of men, and so
upon the interest of society; but in their general influence, and in
their final results, they meet in the same point, and will be attended
with the same dreadful consequences. They are neither of them true,
and so can have no effect in quickening into life or sanctifying the
soul, for it is the _spirit_ that _quickeneth_, and the _truth_ that
_sanctifieth_; they may exhilarate, please, and produce triumph; but
it will be a triumphing that is short, and a joy that is but for a
moment; for God, to my apprehension, has been so far from giving any
countenance to either of those systems, that he hath long ago
pronounced them false, and their tendency destructive--these are his
words:"_Because with lies ye have made the hearts of the righteous
sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the
wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way by promising him
life_." But it is not my intention to enter into a dispute upon this
subject, neither to enlarge upon arguments to support my own
sentiments, nor to disprove yours; I have no apprehension that any
good would result from it; it would be a tax upon time that might be
better employed.

When persons have adopted a system and are engaged in its support,
when the pride of peculiarity or the influence of party views are
enlisted as auxiliaries, there is little ground to hope for a
conviction of its errors by formal disputation, however temperately
conducted; nothing will effect a change of views and feelings but
"_that still small voice_" which induced the prophet to wrap his face
in his mantle. This voice is more likely to attend our calm, retired
reflections, than the perusal of arguments that tend to disprove what
we have been accustomed to advocate and support.

The object of this letter is not to revile, to censure, nor to
dispute; but, in friendship and affection, to entreat you to reflect
and consider the consequences to yourself and others of that system of
sentiments which you are advocating--anticipate the day of judgment,
and realize yourself called upon to give an account of your
stewardship. I am not disposed, my dear sir, to impeach your sincerity
and honesty. I know how far men may be deluded and deceived. I am
disposed to believe that you conscientiously think the sentiments you
advocate are true. But remember, dear sir, this does not make them
true, nor secure you from the dreadful consequences in which they may
issue. With all this moral sincerity and uprightness, if you cease to
warn the wicked, that he turn from his wicked way (and how can this be
more effectually done than by leading him to expect final, everlasting
happiness) his blood will be required at your hands. The apostle Paul
most conscientiously persecuted the christians and declared to the
council before whom he was arraigned, that he had lived in all good
conscience before God till that day. He verily thought he ought to do
many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, yet his
persuasion did not acquit him from guilt, nor would it have shielded
him from destruction had he not been renewed to repentance and faith
in Christ, while as yet Christ was in the way with him. Christ said to
his disciples, "The time will come when whosoever killeth you will
think he doth God's service;" and he has added, "many will say unto
me, in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and
in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful
works? then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me
ye that work iniquity." What must be your situation in the day of
retribution if the system you advocate should in final evidence prove
false? of which I have not the least shadow of doubt upon my mind, and
therefore have all the forebodings for my erring and deceived fellow
mortals which may be supposed to be the result of such conviction.--I
cannot cease to warn and to entreat you to consider, friendship
forbids, my withholding the voice of warning and adjuration; and both
duty and respect to my own safety require me to endeavour to save you
from the issue, of which I have such awful forebodings. We must both
stand before the Son of man, and each one must give an account of
himself and of his stewardship to God.--From our connextion here,
there will probably be some interest in each other in that day; and I
cannot bear the thought of your being able to say when the scheme of
Universalism shall all vanish like the baseless fabric of a vision,
and all the hopes built upon it will be like the spider's web and like
the giving up of the ghost, that you should be able to say, I never
warned you of this issue, nor admonished you of your danger.

I know not with what sentiments you will receive this address, nor
what use you may make of it; my concern is with the sentiments and
spirit that dictate it. I think they are such as will induce me
continually to pray that you may not pierce yourself through with many
sorrows, nor be left to mourn at the last.

Your friend and humble servant,


       *       *       *       *       *




_Rev. Sir_,--The receipt of your affectionate, friendly address,
bearing date December 28, 1809, is gratefully acknowledged, and
although I have not words fully adequate to express the satisfaction I
feel arising from the circumstance and spirit of your epistle, I
cannot be willing to suppress my feelings so much as not to notice,
that it is with uncommon pleasure that I appreciate your favour,
which, I am happy to acknowledge, is a demonstration of that
friendship first reciprocated at your house, and secondly
recapitulated in your epistle. This friendship founded, as you justly
observe, in the _law_ of our _common nature_ and in the _spirit_ and
_principles_ of the _christian religion_, is such an inexhaustible
treasure of moral riches that the aggregate sum of earthly wealth is
poverty in the comparison.

This friendship, sir, being founded on such principles, will
undoubtedly last as long as such principles remain; and if you are my
real friend on the principle of the law of our common nature, so long
as you possess the law of our common nature, you will be my real
friend; and if you are my real friend, on the principles and spirit of
the christian religion, so long as you possess the principles and
spirit of the christian religion, you will remain my real friend. And
if I be, as I trust in God I am, your real friend, on those
imperishable principles, I shall continue to possess this friendship
for you so long as I possess those principles. If these observations
on friendship be correct, as I conceive they are, you will know why I
so highly prize the treasure, especially when I find it in a man
capable of exercising it to so much advantage as your learning,
ability and experience enable you to do. You justly observe that
neither piety nor friendship dictated the question, "Am I my brother's
keeper?" How different must have been the spirit which dictated that
question from the spirit of him who saith, I will declare thy name
unto my brethren, my mother's children were angry with me, they made
me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept?

Your next observation is highly worthy, not only of general
consideration, but of particular notice; and I am the more pleased
with it on account of its falling from your pen as I am sure you must
understand the truths which are necessarily connected with the one
expressed in the observation; your words are, "there is a reciprocal
responsibility among mankind both for the interest of time and
eternity." As it cannot reasonably require any argument to discover
the propriety of supposing that the eternal interest of mankind is
connected with eternal causes and predicated on eternal principles, so
when it is acknowledged that a reciprocal responsibility exists among
mankind for their eternal interest, it is evident that this reciprocal
responsibility is eternal. Should any conviction of mind render it
necessary that we give up the idea of the eternal nature of this
reciprocal responsibility, that conviction would drive the idea of
eternal interest, predicated on such responsibility from our mind. How
noble are your sentiments communicated in this observation! How rich
must you and I feel in the enjoyment of such reciprocal principles and
in the consequent interest arising from them; not only for time, but
for eternity!

You very justly observe again--"Were I to see you or any others
exposing themselves to danger or running into situations which I
apprehended would be destructive, friendship would require me to warn
and admonish, and to endeavour to restrain." These expressions, sir,
illustrate the good fruits of real friendship, and as our Saviour has
told us that the tree is known by its fruits, so we are to distinguish
between real and pretended friends by their fruits. Suppose, sir, we
move the position a little, and say, notwithstanding you warn me and
endeavour to restrain me from danger, I persist in my error, and my
calamity comes upon me; in this situation you come and tell me that
you are heartily glad that I am tormented, and that you are glad to
think there is no probability of my misery's being any less; that you
feel no pity for me now; could I look back and remember your warning,
and believe that you warned me out of real friendship? We have just
seen that friendship predicated on the law of our common nature and on
the principles and spirit of the Christian religion must necessarily
be as durable as those eternal principles. It is no less the
characteristic of real friendship to endeavour to meliorate than to
preserve from sufferings.

On observing your admonitions, and believing you sincere in them, I am
led to say, that had I such a friend as you are who possessed the
means for making me eternally happy, I might entertain no doubt of
obtaining the inestimable enjoyment; nor do I view you, sir, less a
friend because you do not possess a power which is equal to the
putting of all your friendly desires into full execution, but will
acknowledge you my worthy friend, and accept the warnings which you
give me against the system of doctrine which, as you say, I have
embraced and come among this people to advocate, as a token of that
friendship which would, if connected with suitable power, place me out
of all final danger, or which would cause you to rejoice exceedingly,
had you the evidence to believe that one who has such power possesses
even stronger desires for my eternal welfare than you do.

You inform me that you do not know what system of Universalism I have
embraced. Permit me, sir, to inform you, though you do not request it,
that I have embraced the system of Universalism, which Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob embraced, in believing God, who said, "In thee shall all the
families of the earth be blessed; and in thy seed shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed." If this faith of Abraham were
imputed to him for righteousness, it must be a true faith, and if
true, worthy to be embraced by all nations and families of the earth,
without the exception of an individual. Permit me further to observe
that I disclaim all authors as divine guides, except the divine author
of those scriptures which cannot be broken.

You rightly apprehend me in supposing that I believe and teach that
all mankind will be saved, restored and associated with Christ Jesus
in realms of glory; but I do not believe as you intimate, that human
ingenuity, or plausible and sophistic reasoning are necessary to the
support of this doctrine among men; nor will I attempt to say how
sorry I am that you should declare the doctrine not true until you had
produced a "_thus saith the Lord_" to prove it false; or that you
should intimate that I am employing human ingenuity or plausible and
sophistic reasoning to support the universal benevolence of God until
the disagreeable circumstance should transpire, in which I might be
justly thus charged.

Although in order to please myself, I might explain your meaning as
directed against some others of the advocates of the heavenly gospel
of universal salvation; I could find but little satisfaction in thus
endeavoring to avoid any reproach which is directed against the true
disciples of my divine Master.

You inform me that as universal salvation is not true, "it can have no
effect in quickening into life or of sanctifying the soul, for it is
the spirit that quickeneth, and the truth, which sanctifies." If, dear
sir, you do not believe that the spirit of salvation quickeneth into
life, would it not have been proper to inform me what spirit does? And
I should have highly esteemed an illustration of the evidence which
you have, that the truth, _that mankind will remain eternally
unsanctified_, will sanctify the soul! I fully believe that as far as
any proposition is capable of being proved from the written word, or
of being demonstrated by logical reasoning from acknowledged facts,
the doctrine of the salvation of all men is capable of being proved
and substantially maintained. Does it require human ingenuity or
plausible and sophistic reasoning to make it appear from the
scriptures that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for
every man; that he gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in
due time; that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world;
that it is the will of God that all men should be saved and come to
the knowledge of the truth; that he worketh all things after the
council of his own will?--Does it require this ingenuity, &c. to
substantiate from the written word that the promise to Abraham will be
fulfilled, and that all nations whom God hath made shall come and
worship before him and glorify his name; that Jesus will in the
fulness of time, reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be
things in heaven or things on earth, or things under the earth; that
he will gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in
heaven and which are on earth, even in him? If it be an acknowledged
fact that God will bless all the families of the earth in Christ, that
all nations which God hath made shall come and worship before him and
glorify his name, that Jesus gave himseif a ransom for all men to be
testified in due time, that he did by the grace of God taste death for
every man, that he will have all men to be saved and come to the
knowledge of the truth, that he hath made known the mystery of his
will according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself,
that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he would gather
together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and
which are on earth, and that he worketh all things after the council
of his own will, then the doctrine of the salvation of all men is as
fully acknowledged as language can possibly express, or my error lies
in not understanding the force of words and sentences.

By what method, sir, would it be proper for me to express my surprise
at your introducing the words recorded in the 13th chapter of Ezekiel,
and at the 22d verse, as a testimony against the doctrine of universal
salvation? "Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous
sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the
wicked that he should not turn from his wicked way by promising him
life;"--Must I suppose, sir, that you believe, that the lies mentioned
in this quotation were promises of life in the seed of Abraham, in
whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed? I cannot believe
this of a man of your understanding, and yet cannot conceive why you
adduce this passage as proof that Christ is not the life of all men.
Is it not evident that those who were addressed in that text were such
as promised the people life in the vain traditions which they had
established, by which they made void the law? And what does the Lord
say that he would finally do in this case?--See verse 23d, "Therefore
ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations; for I will
deliver my people out of your hands, and ye shall know that I am the
Lord." This is very far from saying that they should be endlessly
miserable. Christ is the Lord our righteousness, and his heart was
made sad by the traditions of the house of Israel and by the Rabbis
who promised the people life in their vain customs which they had
established for religion: and I would acknowledge this passage justly
urged against the doctrine which I should vindicate, should I set up
any thing but Christ and him crucified, on which to depend for life
and salvation; but you leave this quotation as if you had done what
you hardly meant to do, by observing that you do not intend to enter
into a dispute on this subject, neither to enlarge on arguments to
support your own sentiments nor to disprove mine.

You think that no good would result from the argument however
temperately conducted it might be, assigning the pride of peculiarity,
and the influence of party views as sufficient barriers to prevent
success. In this observation may I say without offending, sir, you are
inexplicit, or wanting in propriety, and premature in application.
Temperate men are not governed in their religious researches by the
pride of peculiarity nor the influence of party views, and a faithful
trial ought to have been made in order to convince of error before the
charge of _pride of peculiarity_, or the influence of party views,
could with propriety have been made. I am disposed to believe when
persons are candid and temperate in an investigation, they generally
obtain light and edification. I will say for myself, notwithstanding I
highly prize your solemn warnings, and believe them as proceeding from
the most commendable sentiments of friendship, I should have been much
pleased if you had accompanied them with the best and most forcible
arguments of which you are master, against the doctrine which you are
disposed to say in so many words "_it not true_." The small still
voice to which you recommended my attention has never told me that
Christ was not the Saviour of all men.

May we not suppose that this voice is uniform in its testimony? Do
tell me, sir, if that voice ever told you that it was not the will of
God that all men should be saved! Is it not by the influence of the
spirit of this voice that you pray for the salvation of all men? And
would this small still voice tell you that it is not God's will to
save all men, and then induce you to pray for all men? If I be not a
stranger to this heavenly voice which teaches me to wrap myself in my
mantle, the Lord my righteousness, it influences me to pray in faith,
nothing doubting, for the salvation of all men.

In your truly affecting entreaty you direct my mind to the day of
judgment when I am called to give an account of my stewardship, and
ask what my situation must be, if the system I advocate should in
final evidence, prove false? I have seriously thought on this
question; and this is my conclusion: My judge will know that I am, in
this instance, honest and sincere; he will know how hardly I wrestled
against his written word in order to avoid believing that he would
save all men, and he will know that my deception was in understanding
his word as a simple, honest man would understand a plain testimony
void of scholastic dress. In this case I am willing to throw myself on
the mercy of the judge. On the other hand, dear sir, I have made a
calculation too. Suppose I adhere to your testimony, that the doctrine
I believe is not true, and abandon it as a heresy, preach it down to
the utmost of my ability, and the doctrine at last, when you and I
stand before that judge who knows the hearts of all men, should in
final evidence of the law and prophets, prove true, of which I have
not the least shadow of doubt in my mind, with what a blush must I
give up my account! My judge who has suffered every thing for me, asks
me, why did you deny me, forsake my cause, and use the abilities which
I gave you to preach that dishonourable doctrine that I did not redeem
all men, or that I would not finally reconcile all men to myself, and
cause them all to love me heartily in bliss and glory? I, abashed
beyond description, must answer, a man, who, I conceived was my friend
and who preached that God my Saviour, never intended to save all men,
told me the doctrine I preached was _not true_! O, how would my soul
thrill with grief when a look, such as was cast on Peter after he
denied his Lord, should accompany this question, and who told you in
the first place it was true?

I appeal to the searcher of hearts for the sincerity of my soul when I
say, my dear sir, I feel an uncommon desire to cultivate friendship
with you, and were it possible for me to gratify you in any thing that
should be consistent with my duty to my God, I think I should not
shrink from the service; but should the multitude, whose hearts have
been made joyful in the salvation of all men, become so blinded as to
renounce the sentiments, I must remain unshaken, until more than human
testimony stands against the doctrine.

I am very sensible of the propriety of the observation, that the
sincerity of a belief does not prove the thing believed to be true;
for though I cannot say so much as you do, viz. "that I know how far
men may be deluded and deceived," yet I am sensible that men may be
deceived and yet be honest; and it is on this ground, that I have
charity for those who believe and preach different from me.

Towards the conclusion of your epistle, you intimate that you wish not
to have me say at last, when my doctrine issues in my mourning, that
you had not warned me. Be assured, sir, if I may be so much at my own
disposal at the last day, that I will not say, you did not warn me;
but if my doctrine be false at last, and you are asked why you did not
prove from the written word to my understanding that I was in an
error, will you say in answer, that it would have been such a tax upon
time, that you could not afford it, that you could not or did not wish
to? As the passages which you quote on your last page are designed to
illustrate what I believe to be a fact, I forbear, at this time, an
illustration of them, in which, the impropriety of the common mode of
understanding them might be made to appear. Should you be disposed to
attempt to correct my ideas in this epistle, or my doctrine in
general, by turning to the great touchstone, the law and the
testimony, be as ample, sir, as your inclination and opportunity will
admit. Every argument shall be duly attended to with prayerful
solicitude to obtain conviction, if it can be found; and whatever
light I gain I will gratefully acknowledge, and wherein I do not agree
with you, I will give you my reasons.

Your most obliged friend and humble servant,



P.S. If I have been so unfortunate, in the foregoing epistle make
choice of any words which indicate too much freedom, please to impute
it to a frankness which perhaps I sometimes indulge to a fault, and
not to any want of due respect. H.B.

       *       *       *       *       *


PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 10, 1810.

_Dear Sir_,--It was not my intention, in the letter which I sometime
since addressed to you, to enter into a discussion of the subject of
Universalism, much less, for reasons that were suggested, provoke a
dispute upon it. I therefore endeavoured so to express myself that no
reply should be necessary.

My object was to discharge what I thought a duty of friendship and
affection, rendered more necessary by my personal declarations to you
at my house, by stating to you with frankness and decision what I was
persuaded would be the final result of that sentiment which you have
embraced, and are advocating among us; and to fulfil a duty which I
owe to myself, and to Him who has set me here to be a watchman, that I
might use every proper precaution to appear before my Judge at last
with unstained garments, preclude an occasion for a crimination and
reproach, and give up my account with joy and not with grief.

I might have a secret hope that the apprehensions so seriously and
candidly suggested might excite you to review your sentiments, and
renewedly compare them with the only standard, and that this serious,
calm and retired exercise might be accompanied with an influence from
above, that might alter your views and conclusions upon the subject;
but my principal design was to discharge what I thought my duty as
above stated. You have thought it your duty to remark upon the
address, and intimate an expectation that I should rejoin; your
professions and candor have induced me for a time, to hesitate whether
I ought not, in this instance, to depart from my general resolutions,
and this hesitation has had influence in my delay to notice your
letter. But the result of my hesitations, reflections and prayer, is a
more full persuasion, that if the writings of Dr. Edwards, Dr. Strong
and others who have discussed the subject, and which doubtless you
have seen, have produced no hesitation or conviction in your mind, it
would be vain and idle to expect it from any efforts of mine; and that
it would be a misuse of time, which might be employed in more hopeful
prospects of usefulness. This is a reason which I at present feel
satisfied to give to God and my conscience for declining to enter upon
a discussion of this subject, and I trust it will be accepted at the
tribunal of God. To that tribunal I humbly and cheerfully refer the
decision of the question that would be matter of dispute between us,
from which decision there will be no appeal, and to which there will
be no liberty to reply. I reciprocate the tender of every office of
friendship consistent with what I think my duty to God and my
conscience, and shall not cease to pray that those who have erred from
the truth may be recovered from their errors, and being sanctified by
the truth, may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your friend and
well wisher.


       *       *       *       *       *



PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 11, 1810.

_Rev. Sir_,--Your favour of yesterday is acknowledged with that
respectful submission which your age and experience, together with the
spirit and import of your note justly impose, and with gratitude also,
for an obligation which I wished to be under in being satisfied of
your having received my epistle of the 1st inst. This I learn by the
friendly rebuke in your first section in which you speak of my reply
as unnecessary, and also by your condescending to refer to it again in
your fourth section. Had I, sir, viewed your address altogether in the
light which you inform me you did, or had you informed me that a reply
would not be expected, I should by no means have troubled you contrary
to your wishes. However, as you are an experienced judge of all such
matters, so you will condescend to pardon me if in your judgment my
epistle is destitute of important subjects. You are so kind as to
repeat the design of your address again, certifying me that your
object was to discharge the office of friendship, by stating to me
with frankness and decision what you are persuaded will be the final
result of that sentiment which I have embraced and am advocating. No
man, sir, will ever be more ready to acknowledge a friendly office
with sentiments of gratitude than your humble servant; but I am sure
it cannot be expected by you, that I should receive the testimony of a
man, however friendly to me, as a decision against that gospel which I
did not receive of man, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus

Your precautions in warning me as they regard your final justification
before God, I hope will be superceded by the acceptable atonement of
the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; though that
shall not render your faithfulness void of approbation in a
subordinate sense. The secret hope which you entertained of exciting
me, by your serious apprehensions to review my sentiments and
renewedly to compare them with the only standard, would perhaps appear
not altogether so necessary, did you know that my daily business is to
study the law and the testimony, which increase their light as they
are more examined, and furnish every hour I study them, new proofs of
the unbounded goodness of God to the sinful race of Adam. O my dear
friend! Could you but know the inexpressible consolation and peace
which I enjoy in believing that he, who gave himself a ransom for all
men, will finally see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied,
you could not feel concerned about the final issue of the doctrine
which I believe and advocate!

I feel that my blessed Lord and kind Redeemer deserves every exertion
of mine to persuade men to the knowledge of that truth which would
make them free; nor can I easily forbear to express my desire that
your greater experience and better abilities might be employed in
shewing to poor benighted sinners the divine amplitude of gospel grace
for the salvation of all mankind. I believe, dear sir, if it should
please God to discover this soul rejoicing truth to you, that the
angels would rejoice in heaven, and saints on earth would be made
exceeding glad: yes, your church and parish would follow you with
rapturous joy to the fountain which is open for Judah and Jerusalem to
wash in from sin and uncleanness, and to which the fulness of the
Gentiles shall be gathered.

I am not at all disposed to complain of your decision not to enter
into an investigation of the doctrine against the truth of which you
have opposed your testimony; though I should hardly have believed that
in your judgment, such a testimony could have been thought proper
unless preceded or succeeded by some colour of evidence. No man, my
dear sir, is less calculated to enjoy a dry, unfruitful controversy on
religious sentiments than I am--though I wish to hold myself in
perpetual readiness to give an answer to every man who may ask me a
reason for the hope that is within me with meekness and fear.

The arguments of Dr. Edwards and Dr. Strong being disposed to
represent the divine economy of grace less extensive than the plain
and positive promises of God, the testimony of the prophets, the word
of life through Christ and the witnessing apostles, have declared it
to be, stand forever refuted by that cloud of witnesses, as they are
also by the spirit of Christ in every humble believing heart. It is
far more easy for the rational lover of Christ to believe those
learned doctors, deceived by the vain traditions of the schools, than
to believe that the grace of God in Christ Jesus is less extensive
than his word and spirit declare it to be.

If there never were a true Christian whose desires did not extend to
the whole human race, that all might be brought to a saving repentance
and to holy and happy life in Christ, then Jesus has never left
himself without a witness in his disciples, that all the creeds of men
which limit the divine favour are false. With whatsoever panics worms
of the dust may have struck their fellow worms by challenging them to
a decision of their weak, insignificant notions at a tribunal of an
omnipotent judge, such solemn appeals can have but little effect on
the humble mind who leans not to his own wisdom, and who views every
thing already decided in the eternal system of that God whose tender
mercies are over all the works of his hands.

The mode in which you express the circumstance of final judgment is
rather indicative of what I hope you do not mean, as it intimates that
too much freedom has been assumed by me in presuming to reply to your
address. There is much to excite my gratitude in the assurance you
give me of reciprocating offices of friendship, consistent with duty
to God;--and while you, sir, give me to understand that I have an
interest in your prayers, permit me to beg your supplications, that I
may be faithful unto death; and to assure you of my humble desire that
you may continue to be useful to your fellow pilgrims while you live,
and find acceptance with God through Christ at last. Your most obliged
friend and humble servant in Christ. HOSEA BALLOU.

       *       *       *       *       *



It is a duty which Mr. Buckminster owes to himself to declare that the
thought of intimating that it was any assumption or presumption in Mr.
Ballou to reply to his address, never once entered his mind; and he is
sorry if any thing in Mr. Buckminster's communications could give
ground to suspect such foolish vanity; but it confirms the correctness
of the opinion, that _disputes however temperately conducted are
rarely productive of any good_. All that he meant was that the
decision at the tribunal of God would be final.

       *       *       *       *       *



Mr. Ballou is happy to acknowledge the honour done him by the Doctor's
note of Friday, P. M. by which he realizes the hope expressed in his
epistle of the 11th inst, that what appeared to be intimated by the
Doctor's letter of the 10th inst. in relation to final judgment was
not meant. In the mean time Mr. Ballou thinks it a duty which he owes
to himself to point out to the Doctor the items in his letter which
were misunderstood. The Doctor's expression, "I therefore endeavoured
so to express myself that no reply should be necessary," was
understood to intimate that the reply was unnecessary; and the
Doctor's expression, "there will be no liberty to reply," was
understood to intimate that liberty had been assumed unnecessarily. In
confirming the opinion, that "_disputes however temperately conducted,
are rarely productive of any good_." Mr. Ballou thinks his mistake has
produced but little consequence, as that opinion was so confirmed
before, that even a reason for an assertion could not with propriety
be given.



PORTSMOUTH, Nov. 19, 1810.

_Dear Friend_,--I take this method to write to you, with a desire you
would receive it as a friendly admonition. You recollect, no doubt,
that I have heard you make two speeches at funerals, as they are
commonly called, one at the grave and the other at the house of sorrow
and mourning, upon a very solemn and singular occasion. At the grave
you were short, and said, if I mistake not, viewing the grave, "this
is the house appointed for all living," two or three times, and then
said, "what reflection shall we make from it? is it done by an enemy?
has the Almighty suffered the government to be taken out of his
hands?"--and spake as if death was originally designed by the Almighty
for the good of mankind, and made it a very desirable thing. My dear
sir, doth not the bible, which is the word of God, or the scriptures
of truth say, "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and
death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have
sinned," Rom. v. 12, and Rom. vi. 23, "For the wages of sin is death."
God who is a gracious and holy sovereign "made man upright, but he
sought out many inventions." By listening unto that apostate spirit,
Satan, he transgressed and disobeyed his maker and sovereign, by
eating the forbidden fruit. "God made man in his own image, in the
image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And the
Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it
and to keep it; and the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every
tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of
knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it, for in the day
thou eatest thereof, thou shall surely die." Gen. ii. 15, 17. Sin is
that enemy that introduced or was the cause of death, as we may
further see by considering that portion of scripture, I John. iii. 8,
"He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from
the beginning." For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that
he might destroy the works of the devil. Sin is the work of the devil;
"the soul that sins shall die." If you will read the whole chapter and
seriously consider it, and pray to God through Jesus Christ to open
your understanding, that you may understand the scriptures, you would
not misappply and pervert them as I fear you do. In your speaking at
the house of mourning, you began and spake very eloquently at first
upon death; then you brought forward the same ideas, with respect to
death, as you did before at the grave. I do not remember that you, at
either place, spake one word of the necessity or nature of repentance.
Christ began his personal and public ministry by preaching repentance,
saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"--again, "but
except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," Luke xiii. 5. And
after his resurrection from the dead he appeared to his disciples and
confirmed them in the certainty of it, and chose them witnesses of the
truth of it, and said "thus it is written, and thus it behoveth Christ
to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance
and remission of sins should be preached in my name among all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things," Luke
xxiv. 46, 47, 48. The apostles, after Christ's ascension, practised as
he commanded them, as we may see by reading the Acts of the apostles,
Peter in particular, in the 2d and 3d chapters; and we do not find
that they ever gave any encouragement that their hearers could or
should be forgiven their sins without faith and repentance. Peter
says, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;"
which presupposes that if they did not repent and be turned to God by
converting grace their sins would not be forgiven. Thus the apostle
Paul preached, see Acts xxvi. 18, 19, 20, which I entreat you to read
and seriously to consider. See likewise 20th chap. of the Acts of the
apostles, how he appealed to the elders of the church; in the 17th
verse it is written, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called
the elders of the church; and when they were come to him he said unto
them, ye know from the first day I came into Asia after what manner I
have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility
of mind, and with many tears and temptations which befell me, by the
lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was
profitable unto you, but have shewed you and have taught you publicly
and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the
Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus
Christ." The apostles spake of the nature of repentance that they
should bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and that Godly sorrow
worked repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow
of the world worketh death. For a minister of the New Testament to
advance such doctrine as will give hopes to their hearers that all
will be happy in a future state, whether they have repented or no, is
not preaching as Christ and his apostles preached. If we know not God,
and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, what will be the
consequence? See 2 Thes. i. 8, 9. Ministers are directed by the
inspired apostle Paul; see in his epistles to Timothy and Titus. See 2
Tim. 4th chap. from 1st to the end, the 5th verse, which I would
entreat and beseech you to read and seriously consider. He, in some of
those verses referred to, says to Timothy, "Reprove, rebuke, exhort,
with all long suffering and doctrine; for the time will come when men
will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they
heap to themselves teachers having itching ears. And they shall turn
away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But
watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an
evangelist, make proof of thy ministry." Paul was just about to leave
the world; the time of his departure was at hand; the above were his
dying words to his beloved son Timothy (in the faith.) The blessed and
beloved apostle had through grace kept the faith, that is, the true
faith of the gospel; he had finished his course, he had fought a good
fight, and henceforth he says, there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness which God the righteous judge shall give me at that day;
and not only to me, but unto all them also, that love his appearing.
You, my friend, once professed the true faith of the gospel--have you
kept it? I think not. I fear you have fallen from it. You are now
preaching a doctrine which pleases the world, but it makes against
you, according to scripture; the apostle John says, in 1st epistle,
4th chap, 5th and 6th verses, "They are of the world; therefore the
world heareth them. We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he
that is not of God heareth not us; hereby know we the spirit of truth,
and the spirit of error." I beseech you again, my friend, examine and
seriously consider the first five verses of that chapter, and pray God
through Jesus Christ that he would open it to your understanding:
Solomon says, "My son, lean not to your own understanding." I could
not but observe with what an _emphasis_ you at the grave mentioned
those selected texts of scripture which you supposed would confirm
your hearers in the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Would Christ or
the apostles preach Universal Salvation in one place of scripture, and
in another contradict it? I believe they would not. I am an _old man_,
and have studied the scriptures twenty or thirty years; yea, I may say
more or less from my youth up; I find it the best way of study, to
compare scripture with scripture; to consider the preceding and
following context; to be self-diffident; and to be much in prayer,
that it would please God, by his holy spirit, to lead and guide us
into all necessary truth; and I do not think it amiss to use sound
authors, for as we are in some measure dependant on one another for
temporal, so I think we may, under God, be for spiritual assistance;
though by no means to put our trust in an arm of flesh.

We may observe how earnest David in prayer to God was in the 25th
Psalm. He was a prophet as well the royal Psalmist, yet he comes in a
very humble manner to God in prayer that he would shew him his ways,
and teach him his paths; and in that Psalm, 8th verse, says, "good and
upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The
meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek he will teach his way."
But if men will undertake to explain scripture in their own strength
and wisdom, what must we expect but to have them mangled and made
havoc of, or explained in a mere mystical or literal sense? "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." See I Cor. ii. 14.

As you did not say any thing about the resurrection of the dead in
either of your speeches, I began to query in my mind whether you
believed it or no. I think, yea, I know, it was preached by Christ,
and explained so as to confute the Sadducees. Our Lord says, "Marvel
not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their
graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done
good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto
the resurrection of damnation." St. Paul in his defence before the
Roman governor when accused by an orator, whom the Jews employed, as
he was allowed to speak for himself, said, "they cannot prove the
thing, whereof they now accuse me; but this I confess after the way
which they call heresy; so worship I the God of my fathers, believing
all things which are written in the law and the prophets, and have
hope towards God, which they themselves also allow; that there shall
be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; and herein
do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence
toward God, and toward man." We may observe what an influence the
belief of a future state of rewards and punishments had on the blessed
apostle to excite him to live a godly and self-denying life. In 2 Cor.
v. 10, 11, speaking of a day of judgment, "when every one must give an
account for himself as the deeds have been done in the body, that
every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he
hath done whether it be good or bad;" and says, "knowing the terror of
the Lord, we persuade men." My friend, is there the least room for us
to believe from this scripture and many others, that the wicked who
have died impenitent and in a disbelief of the gospel or without the
true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent, have
eternal life, in the fruition and enjoyment of God? Heaven consists in
being made like God, and enjoying him: hence it is, that the pious
thirst for God, the living God, saying, when shall I come and appear
before him? Again, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none
upon earth I desire besides thee. My flesh and heart fail me, but God
is the strength of my heart and portion forever." These pious
breathings are the exercises of the children of God. O may they be


PORSTMOUTH, Nov. 19, 1810.

P. S. The within, enclosed, my friend, I can assure you was not
written to you in this manner, as God is my judge, from an envious and
bitter spirit, for I love and esteem your person, as a friend, who
has, from my first acquaintance with you, treated me with great
respect. I see, on the Lord's days, great numbers of precious souls
going and returning from your meeting; and, as far as I know my own
heart, I do not envy you for that; but have often prayed that the
gifts and natural abilities you have might be sanctified and turned
into right improvements, which is the glory of God and the saving
benefit of your hearers. May it please God to make you an able and
faithful minister of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the
spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. From your
friend and humble servant, JOSEPH WALTON, _Pastor,

Of the Independent Congregational Church in Portsmouth_.


_Sir_,--You may observe by the date, the letter has been written some
time; but by several avocations I have not had time to correct and
copy it until the present date, December 7, 1810.


       *       *       *       *       *



PORTSMOUTH, DEC. 11, 1810.

_Rev. Sir_,--It is with pleasure that I hasten to acknowledge the
receipt of your "friendly admonition," bearing date December 7th,
which came to my hand late last evening, which I assure you is
accepted as a token of friendship, and a mark of particular attention;
and merits, as I conceive, a grateful acknowledgement as well as an
early answer.

Your admonition begins by taking notice of what you conceive an
egregious error which you have heard me suggest at two several
funerals. You say that I "spake as if death was originally designed,
by the Almighty, for the good of mankind." This statement you consider
of such a dangerous nature that it renders an admonition necessary.
But, dear sir, there are two important ideas contained in the above
short sentence, and you have not distinguished between them, nor
informed me whether it be both, or only one which is thus

That _God originally designed death_, is one idea; that he _designed_
it for the _good of mankind_ is another idea. In order to do you
justice and to attach no other meaning to your communication than such
as I conceive to be consistent with your real sentiments, I must
suppose that you would not wish to fault the first of those ideas, as
it is an item in your creed, that "God foreordained whatsoever comes
to pass;" of course, you believe that God _originally designed death_.
But, that God designed death for the _good of mankind_, I do not know
it to be an article of your faith, and therefore, may, without doing
you any injustice, suppose that you believed that God originally
designed death, but _not_ for _the good of mankind_! Here, sir, I
acknowledge that my sentiment differs from yours; and as you have
given me no reason why God should not have designed death for the
_good_ of mankind, I have only to consider the "friendly admonition,"
with which you oppose my idea. I would query why the idea that God
should design death for the good of mankind renders me justly
admonishable? Would the idea, should I avow it, that God designed
death for the _damage_ of mankind, render me commendable? So, it
seems; but at this expense I cannot avoid admonition! I would further
query what interest God could have consulted which required him to
design death for a _damage_ to those creatures whom he made subject to
death? And I think it expedient to ask how God can be justified, in
the sight of his rational creatures, if the idea be once established
that he designed evil against them, even before they existed?

I feel it to be my duty, dear sir, to call on you to support this high
allegation against the Father of our spirits. I would not pretend that
you designed to bring an allegation against our Creator, but I am
satisfied that every unprejudiced mind must see the nature of an
allegation in what you are disposed to maintain. For if we say God,
our Creator, designed death for the damage of those dependent beings
whom he has made, it is giving him a character which, I believe, the
wisest of men would find it difficult to justify.

Again, if the notion be true, that God designed death for the damage
of mankind, is it not from hence evident that he was an enemy to
mankind when he thus designed? Now, if God be considered an enemy to
mankind even before he made them, I wish to know what reason can be
given why mankind ought to love God since creation?

In relation to a number of scriptures which you have quoted, seemingly
with a design to illustrate the foregoing subject, I can only say,
that if any or all those passages relate at all to the subject, _that
relation_ is out of my sight. And I can truly say, that I am glad that
there is nothing, in any part of the scripture, so contrary to good
sense and reason as to support the notion that God is an enemy to the
works of his own hands. I believe, sir, if I prove from scripture that
God designed death for the good of mankind, it must be considered a
substantial support of what you wish to oppose; and will also be
considered as placing the scripture doctrine on the most reasonable

1st. I will show that death is not a token of God's enmity towards
mankind. As a proof of this, see Rom. viii. 38, 39, "For I am
persuaded, that neither _death_, nor _life_, nor _angels_, nor
_principalities_, nor _powers_, nor _things present_, nor _things to
come_, nor _height_, nor _depth_, nor _any other creature_ shall be
able to separate us from the _love_ of God which is _in Christ Jesus
our Lord_." This passage is a full and positive proof that neither
_death_ nor any thing else, is a token of God's enmity to mankind.

2d. I will now show that _death_ was designed by God for the _good_ of
men. Which to do, I must learn of Jesus. He is the truth. Was his
_death_ designed, by the eternal Father, for the good of mankind, or
not? Was his death a token of God's love to the world, or was it a
token of his enmity? See Rom. v. 8, "But God _commendeth_ his _love_
towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." This
same apostle, believing in Christ, who, he says, was delivered for our
offences, and was raised again for our justification, in a short, but
comprehensive inventory of the things which are ours, has placed
_death_ among them. See 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23, "Therefore, let no man
glory in men: for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or
Cephas, or the world, or life, or _death_, or things present, or
things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is
God's." Again, he says, to the Phil. i. 21, "For me to live is Christ,
and to _die_ is _gain_." Nothing appears more evident than that the
death of Christ was designed for the good of mankind; and as he is the
head of every man, so his death is considered, in the scriptures, a
gracious benefit to every man; as the apostle expresses it, "That he,
by the grace of God, should taste _death_ for every man." And again,
"As in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive." Who
can impartially consider those scriptures and suppose that God
designed _death_ for a damage to mankind? I view _death_, sir, as an
appointment of God, a friendly messenger, sent to dissolve a
tabernacle of corruption and vanity, at the dissolution of which, "the
dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave

Your admonition in the next place suggests, that "if" I "will read the
whole chapter (meaning the 3d chapter of the 1st of John) and
seriously consider it, and pray to God, through Jesus Christ, to open"
my "understanding, that" I "may understand the scriptures," I "would
not _misapply_ and _pervert_ them, as" you "fear" I "do."

Rev. Sir, are you sufficiently acquainted with my preaching and
writing on the scriptures to warrant the propriety of the suggestion,
that I am in the habit of _misapplying_ and _perverting_ the holy
writings? Are you sufficiently acquainted with my retired studies and
religious exercises to warrant the suggestion that I get along without
acknowledging the wisdom of God? I humbly request you to reconsider
this part of your admonition, and see if it do not wear the appearance
of _judging another_ who must stand or fall to his own master. In the
mean time I wish to observe, that a friendly advice to be constant in
fervent supplication and prayer would be received by me as a mark of
_christian friendship_ and _fellowship_. But I will ask you the
question, if you would be willing to have me go into your desk with
you in presence of your church and congregation, and there read the
whole of the above named chapter, then in humble and solemn prayer to
Almighty God, through Christ Jesus, implore a just and true
understanding of his word and truth contained in that portion of his
written will, and close my performance with a candid dissertation on
the chapter? Grant me liberty to do this in your hearing; after which
I will not object to your pointing out any _misapplication_ or
_perversion_ which you may think you discover. By what law is a man
condemned without first hearing his defence?

Again, your admonition suggests, that I did not, at either of the
funerals where you heard me perform, speak one word of the necessity
or nature of repentance. In this particular I believe you made a
mistake at both places, which mistake, I believe I can rectify to your
recollection. In the first place, I wish to observe that I as much
believe in those scriptures which speak of the necessity of repentance
as I do in any part of the sacred writings. But, after all, you and I
may entertain very different ideas respecting the _preaching_ of
repentance. The opinion that repentance is preached when a public
speaker tells his congregation that their eternal salvation depends on
their repentance, that eternal misery must inevitably be their doom
unless they repent is an opinion to which I have no reason to

_Preaching repentance_, I conceive _is teaching_ men and giving them
such divine instructions as bring their minds to discover more
glorious things than the sins and carnal vanities of this world; which
_teaching_ produces a returning of the mind to the things of God and
his ever blessed kingdom. The word _repent_ may or may not be used in
the giving of such instructions. I conceive a preacher of Jesus
Christ, warmed with the spirit of eternal love, breathing forth the
gracious words of truth, may successfully preach repentance as well
without the use of the word _repent_ as with it. At both those places
of sorrow, dear sir, I endeavoured to lead the mourners' minds to the
consideration _of eternal things_; I endeavoured to represent God our
Creator and Governor, as a friend to his creatures, and strove to the
utmost of my power to fix the love, regard and confidence of our
mourning friends on God our Creator. This you will recollect, and I
cannot suppose that you believe that a person can truly believe in the
divine goodness, and love his Creator as the greatest good, and put
confidence in him, so as to draw consolation, in the day of adversity,
from such confidence, and still be a stranger to true penitence.

The many scriptures which you have judiciously quoted to prove the
propriety of the doctrine of repentance are justly applied, as I
conceive; and I accord with you in their use and meaning as far as you
have explained them. I would wish to be understood that whenever
repentance is spoken of as a creature act, originating in creature
agency, it is represented directly contrary to the scripture sense as
expressed in Acts v. 31, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to
be a _Prince_ and a _Saviour_, for to _give repentance_ to Israel and
forgiveness of sins."

From the above passage it is evident that repentance is no more
dependent on creature agency than the forgiveness of sins; and the
idea that repentance is a grant of divine favour is plainly expressed
in Acts xi. 18, "Then hath God also, to the Gentiles, _granted
repentance_ unto life." By the above testimonies the idea that
_repentance_ is a _creature condition_, on which the divine favour is
bestowed, is proved erroneous.

The next particular which your "friendly admonition" occupies, is the
subject of _Universal Salvation_ in the following words: "I could not
but observe with what _emphasis_ you, at the grave, mentioned those
selected texts of scripture which you supposed would confirm your
hearers in the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Would Christ or the
apostles preach Universal Salvation in one place of scripture, and in
another contradict it? I believe they would not." In the above
particular, sir, I agree with you in all which you express. I do not
believe that Christ or any of his apostles ever contradicted the
glorious doctrine, in which they all preached of Universal Salvation.
And until this contradiction can be shewn in their preaching, you and
I have full liberty to believe in God as "the Saviour of all men."
Christ gave himself a ransom for all men; tasted death for every man;
is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He says he will
draw all men unto him, and he also says that "him that cometh after me
I will in no wise cast out." St. Paul says that God will have all men
to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. To which
testimony we might add an immense number of scriptures from the Old
and New Testaments; and as you agree that Christ and his apostles
would not preach Universal Salvation in one place, and contradict it
in another, so you must, of necessity subscribe to the _uniformity_ of
the scripture doctrine in the Salvation of all men.

You inform me, that you are an "_old man_;" this I was sensible of
before, in consequence of which, I have more particularly endeavoured
to cultivate an acquaintance with you, since I have been in this town;
for I conceive that the aged are not only entitled to the respects and
attention of the younger, but the younger are also entitled to the
advantages of their experience and wisdom.

You further tell me, that you have studied the scriptures twenty or
thirty years. On this account, sir, I covet earnestly your assistance;
for although I have studied the scriptures almost constantly twenty
years out of less than forty, yet I find but a few who are notable to
assist me in this agreeable employment. The happy method which you
recommend, I have for many years endeavoured to observe, for I am sure
that most of the vulgar errors, in respect to the scriptures, are for
the want of a careful examination of all which is said on the same

Wherein you recommend the pious example of the prophet David, I fully
accord in it, and would humbly hope and strive to be a partaker of the
benefits arising from such an example.

What you say of men's explaining scripture in their own Strength and
wisdom, and of their making _havoc_ of, and _mangling_ them by
explaining them in a mystical or literal sense, I find myself rather
embarrassed about. You begin your epistle under the character of a
"friendly admonition," but what you mean by accusing me of the folly
of mangling and making havoc of the scriptures when you do not attempt
to show wherein I ever explained a passage wrong, I must leave for you
to explain when it is convenient. Nor is it easy for me to understand
you when you represent both the _mystical_ and _literal_ explanation of
scripture equally erroneous. You immediately conclude those
observations with the following quotation: "The natural man receiveth
not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto
him." Did you mean that the natural man, supposing the things of the
spirit of God to be foolishness, would say that the spirit _mangled_
and made _havoc_ of the scriptures? This could not be your meaning.

Your concluding query is the following; "My friend, is there the least
room for us to believe from this scripture (meaning 2 Cor. v. 10, 11)
and many others, that the wicked who have lived impenitent and in a
disbelief of the gospel, or without the true knowledge of God, and of
Jesus Christ whom God hath sent, have eternal life in the fruition and
enjoyment of God?" This query I will endeavour to answer as plainly as

1st. Unless we grant that a man has eternal life in Jesus Christ,
given him before the foundation of the world, we cannot justly call
him an _unbeliever_ because he does not believe he has this eternal
life in Christ. Nor can we say, with the least propriety, that he does
not _know_ the _truth_, because he does not know that which is not.

2d. If we allow that a man has eternal life in Christ, we must allow
him to be an unbeliever if he do not believe it; and that he does not
know the truth as it is in Jesus, if he be ignorant of this gift of
eternal life.

3d. While a man is in a state of unbelief he is not in the _enjoyment_
of the truth.

I conceive, sir, these observations must appear reasonable to any
reasonable man; and therefore I suppose they will appear reasonable to

The passage in Corinthians alluded to, fully refutes the notion of
_endless_ rewards and punishments; for there it is stated, that
"_every one_ may receive the things done in his body, according to
that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Now as this same
apostle tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of
God, if he mean that all who have sinned must be endlessly punished,
he cannot mean that any of the human race will be eternally blessed
according to their own works, nor yet according to the grace of God.
And you, sir, cannot but see if one sinner can be rewarded according
to his works and yet be saved by grace through faith, and that not of
himself, but by the gift of God, all the sinners of Adam's race may be
thus rewarded according to what they have done either _good_ or _bad_,
and yet be saved by grace as above.

Your suggestions respecting the resurrection require no other answer
than that I profess to believe in the doctrine of the resurrection as
taught by the scriptures, though I cannot flatter myself that that
opinion agrees with the opinion of what you call _sound authors_. For
myself, I call the writers of the holy scriptures _sound authors_, and
those who differ from them I am willing to call orthodox according to
our common schools of divinity. I join with you in a humble desire
that the holy breathings of the true children of God may be yours and
mine; and I am sensible if they be we shall not judge one another, nor
condemn one another; but strive for the unity of the spirit in the
bonds of divine peace. Yes, sir, I am confident that the true temper
and spirit of the gospel, if possessed and practiced by the public
ministers in this town, would lead them to open their doors to each
other, to meet together and pray, preach, sing and exhort, in love and
fellowship; but Antichrist's spirit is directly the reverse.

The assurance you give me in your postscript, that what you wrote to
me was not written in an envious spirit is duly appreciated; nor do I
much wonder that you do not envy me the numbers who attend my public
ministry, while you suppose that they with innumerable multitudes of
others are reprobated to endless sin and misery. Envy, in such a case,
would be truly unaccountable! I will not say that I fully comprehend
your meaning in calling the "great numbers" who attend my meeting,
"_precious souls_." Why are they precious? To whom are they precious?
If you view them the objects of divine love, of course you must
suppose them to be precious in God's sight; but if not, why do you
call them precious?

Your flattering acknowledgements of civilities received from me and
the acceptableness of my person to you, is very gratefully considered,
for it is an object with me to deserve the approbation of the pious
who have treasured up much valuable knowledge by experience; and I
wish to give you the fullest assurance possible that I consider my
acquaintance with yourself highly worthy of further cultivation and
improvement, which I shall always endeavour to promote, as opportunity
may present, and it shall please you to favour.

Having noted the most important sections of your "friendly admonition"
in as concise a manner as was convenient, permit me, dear sir, to make
a few observations on the doctrine of Universal Salvation, that being
a subject to which you allude in your epistle, though you did not see
fit to plant any particular arguments against it. This doctrine I
openly profess, and preach as a doctrine which I conceive is plainly
taught in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; a doctrine
which all good men in the world desire the truth of; a doctrine the
most worthy of God of any ever published; a doctrine the best
calculated to fill the soul of the believer with love to God and to
our fellow creatures; a doctrine which harmonizes the divine
attributes, the scriptures and every principle of reason and good
sense, in a surprising and an astonishing manner; a doctrine, more
than any other, calculated to destroy the hurtful animosities existing
in the religious world; and to produce general fellowship and
brotherly love; and in a word, I believe it to be the only doctrine
which can be supported by reason or scripture, to a mind not
improperly biased by tradition. Though I am sensible of your greater
experience, yet I am willing to say to a man of your piety and
Christian candor, that any arguments which you should see cause to lay
before me, on the above subject, shall, by the blessing of God,
receive an early attention and a judicious discussion.

In the spirit of the New Testament and not in the letter; in the
spirit of life, and not in the death of the letter, in the spirit of
salvation, and not of condemnation, I pray God, I may ever live and
act according to your friendly desire; and feeling the same fervent
desire for my highly esteemed and venerable friend, I acknowledge
myself your most obliged and very humble servant, for Christ's sake.


Rev. Joseph Walton.

P.S. I have reserved three particulars in your "friendly admonition"
for the subject of another communication.

       *       *       *       *       *


From the Same to the Same.

Portsmouth, Jan. 5, 1811.

_Rev. Sir_,--Having notified you in a postscript of my letter of Dec.
11th, that I had reserved three particulars in your "friendly
admonition" for the subject of another communication, I am disposed to
embrace this opportunity to fulfil my engagement. The three
particulars reserved are expressed, in your letter, in the following

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but
after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having
itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and
shall be turned unto fables. You, my friend, once professed the true
faith of the gospel--have you kept it? I think not. I fear you have
fallen from it. You are now preaching a doctrine which pleases the
world, but it makes against you according to scripture. The apostle
John says in his 1st epistle 4th chapter 5th and 6th verses, They are
of the world; therefore the world heareth them; we are of God; he that
knoweth God, heareth us, he that is not of God, heareth not us; hereby
know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." I would not,
dear sir, knowingly misapply your words, nor make a use of the above
quotation contrary to their most plain and evident sense which I
conceive is as follows:

1st. The doctrine which I believed before I believed as I do now, is
the true gospel according to the testimony of the apostle John, in his
1st epistle, 4th chapter 5th and 6th verses.

2d. That in believing as I now do, I have fallen from that faith, and
turned unto fables.

3d. My now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world is good proof
that my doctrine is not of God, and that those who hear me are justly
described by the apostle as heaping to themselves teachers having
itching ears.

In the first place I shall agree with you in the supposition that when
I first made a profession of religion, I believed the true gospel.

In the second place I shall endeavour to show that I have not fallen
from that faith.

In the third place I will attempt to show that the evidence, which you
think makes against me, is by no means sufficient to prove that the
doctrine I now believe and preach is consistent with the _lusts_ of
the _world_ or contrary to the true faith of the gospel.

1st. The true faith of the gospel as expressed in 1 John, 4th, &c. is
as follows--see verse 2, 3, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus
Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that
confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God."
The apostle here states in the most simple terms the true Christian
faith, and brings it into such a short compass that none can mistake
him. The belief that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is the true
faith, and a denial of that fact is a false faith.

When I first professed religion I professed to believe that "Jesus
Christ is come in the flesh;" and this I am willing to say now is the
true faith of the gospel, and the only article of faith which
constituted a Christian believer in the opinion of the apostles;
restricting this belief, at the same time, to Jesus of Nazareth, that
he was the Christ.

2d. I as much believe now as I ever did that Jesus Christ is come in
the flesh. I have as clear evidences now as I ever had that Jesus of
Nazareth is the Christ. These things being facts, the conclusion is
that I have not _fallen_ from the true christian faith.

3d. The above faith I preach, believing and testifying that God sent
his Son to be the _Saviour_ of the _world_; and I have reason to bless
God that such feeble means are at all prospered, and that as you
observe, "Great numbers of precious souls" adhere to the word, which I
conceive is no evidence that the faith I preach is not of God, or that
it is consistent with the lusts of the world. We are informed in the
word of God, that the _common people heard Christ gladly_. Who did not
hear him gladly? Answer, the Scribes and Pharisees. Do you think, sir,
that the common people's hearing Christ gladly was a justifiable
evidence to the Pharisees that he was not the true Messiah? When many
thousands of men, women, and children flocked from their cities into
desert places to hear the gracious words which proceeded from the lips
of him who spake as never man spake, was it a justifiable evidence
that he and his doctrine were not of God? To bring this matter, if
possible, nearer home, should you find your meeting house crowded with
hearers who expressed in their countenances an approbation of the
doctrine which you preach, would it be sufficient evidence to convince
you that your doctrine was not of God?

That the testimony that God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the
_world_ is not consistent with the _lusts_ of the _world_, is shown by
St. Paul to Titus; "For the grace of God which bringeth salvation to
_all men_, hath appeared, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and
_worldly lusts_, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this
present world."

I have not the least doubt in my mind, that if you and I preached more
like our blessed master than we do, people in general, would be more
engaged to hear us, and our meeting houses would be more thronged than
they are now.

Should you hear a shepherd complaining that the increase of his flock
was small, or that it rather diminished, you would think _that_
evidence made against _him_.

I suppose the particular idea which you had in view, which
constitutes, in your mind, an _Apostasy_, is, that Jesus Christ, who
was manifested in the flesh, will, pursuant to power given to him of
his father, save all men from their sins, and reconcile all things
unto himself. This idea, I acknowledge, I did not see clearly in, when
I first made a profession of a belief in Christ; but now am fully
persuaded in it. However, I cannot see why the adopting of this
particular idea should be called an _Apostasy_.

I will, sir, mention some similar cases, not wishing however, to be
considered an equal subject to the personage whom I shall introduce.
The apostle Peter was a believer in the true faith of the gospel, that
is, he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God:
and Jesus says to him, on that confession, that flesh and blood had
not revealed it to him, but his Father. This belief Peter had before
he believed that Christ should suffer on the cross and rise from the
dead. After many trials and dreadful temptations in which this poor,
dependent brother of ours experienced the fallibility of all human
strength, he was privileged with positive evidence of the resurrection
of Christ from the dead.--Here I ask, was this new acquisition in
Peter's faith an apostasy? Was it not an advancement? You will agree
with me in this.

Again, this same apostle, even after he was endowed with power from on
high, and preached and healed in the name of Jesus, did not know that
the Gentiles were fellow heirs and of the same body, and partakers of
the promises of God, in Christ, by the gospel. It was not until the
angel of the Lord appeared unto Cornelius and directed him to send for
Peter, that God gave to that apostle the knowledge of the fact which
he acknowledged to Cornelius, that God had shewed him that he should
call _no man common_ or _unclean_. It is very evident that the apostle
Peter had more extensive knowledge of the gospel of the grace of God
in consequence of the vision of the sheet by the sea of Joppa than he
had before; but would any real Christian, knowing all the
circumstances, suppose that Peter had _apostatised_ from the true
faith, because he believed that millions would be benefited by Christ
more than were comprehended in his former belief? While they who were
of the circumcision remained ignorant of the revelation given to
Peter, we find they "_contended_ with him, saying, thou wentest in to
men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." But when Peter had
"rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order
unto them, they held their peace and glorified God, saying, then hath
God also to the Gentiles, _granted repentance_ unto life." Thus we see
that the church in Jerusalem, who were of the circumcision, though
believers in Christ were, until Peter's defence further enlightened
them, ignorant of the extension of divine grace to the Gentiles
through the gospel. But surely no real Christian would suppose that
this enlargement of their faith in the great salvation was an
_apostasy_ from the true faith!

With profound deference, sir, permit me to suggest, that should the
foregoing observations present yourself, to your own mind, in a
similar situation with those of the circumcision, yet they acknowledge
you a believer in Christ, a minister of his word and a candidate for
greater manifestation of that grace of God by which Jesus tasted death
for every man.

I believe I may venture to say that unless the belief that _God is not
the Saviour of all men_ can be maintained by positive scripture as an
essential article of apostolic faith, I cannot be justly _admonished
for falling_ from the true faith. May I not, with great propriety,
call on my Rev. friend to show, if he can, that such an article of
faith was ever required by Christ or his apostles as a term of
christian fellowship and charity?

Let us look into the written word of God and see what is there
required of us to believe. See Rom. x. 9, "If thou shalt confess with
thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God
hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Acts viii. 37,
"And Philip said if thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest.
And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of
God." Matt. x. 32. "Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men,
him will I confess also before my father which is in heaven." Luke
xii. 8, "Also I say unto you, whosoever shall confess me before men,
him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God." Not
to multiply quotations, permit me to query whether there be in those
passages, or in any other scripture on the same point any intimations
given that the candidate must believe that this precious Saviour will
not, through the peace made by the blood of his cross, reconcile all
things to God? Are you fully satisfied, dear sir, that you are
authorised to _admonish_ as an _apostate_, one who confesses with his
mouth the Lord Jesus, and who believes in his heart that God hath
raised him from the dead? Why did not Philip demand of the Eunuch a
particular confession of a belief in _limited grace_ and _salvation_?
Was there not the same authority to require this article of faith
then, as there is now? If Jesus hath promised, in his word, that he
will confess before his Father in Heaven, whosoever confesseth him
before men are you satisfied with the authority by which you denounce,
disfellowship, and deny those little ones? The thought is truly
solemn! I feel a _chill_ in every vein of my body, when I consider the
vain traditions of a corrupted church, in which it has long been a
religious habit to anathematise those who confess Christ before men,
because they _cannot_ believe in certain tenets never required by
Christ or his apostles!

Rev. Sir, I can say in the sincerity of my soul, that I believe that
Jesus of Nazareth is the true Christ, I believe him to be the Son of
the living God, who was delivered for our offences and was raised
again for our justification. And though I feel myself the most
unworthy of the subjects of salvation, yet I should be ungrateful not
to acknowledge the goodness of God my Saviour. Whatever men may think
or say of me, I know that my soul experiences joys unspeakable in
sweet meditations on the glories and inexpressible beauties of my
Redeemer; and the thought that I am owned as his child before the
angels of God, is infinitely better than to receive the approbation of
men who are disposed to judge without knowing the heart.

If the Christian clergy were once disposed to strip their creeds and
confessions of faith till they were reduced to the simplicity that is
in Christ, and require no other belief than Christ and his apostles
required, there would be an end at once of all the discord and
animosity which have wounded the character of Christianity for ages.
And the prayer of the blessed Jesus would be fulfilled in the
_oneness_ of all who believe in him, which would convince the world
that the Father sent him.

Although you have not yet found it convenient to favour me with any
observations on my former letter, I have not done expecting it. And I
shall endeavour to hold myself in readiness to pay an early attention
to any communication which shall come from your hand. In hopes that
nothing contained in this letter will be considered inconsistent with
the true spirit of a humble believer in Christ, I remain, sir, your
humble servant, for Christ's sake.



       *       *       *       *       *



PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 11, 1811.

_Sir_,--I have received your answer to my letter sent you, dated Dec.
7, 1810, and now desire to answer it, in the fear of God, in as
concise a manner as I am capable, agreeable to the scriptures of
_truth_. Sir, I thank you for the civilities you manifest toward me,
and that you received my letter in a friendly manner as I think I sent
it, wishing it might be received and improved for your benefit; not
that I supposed that I was capable of convincing or confuting you of
what I conceive to be erroneous in your doctrine or principles, but
relying on the blessing of God to make it effectual for your
everlasting good, and those you profess to be over in the Lord.

I shall not take into consideration every argument you make use of,
but shall give it a general answer. Since I have received it I have
had a great number of scriptures occuring to my mind which I might
quote if I thought expedient. In the first place you speak or write as
if I thought death was originally designed by the Almighty for the
damage of mankind; I say death was threatened to be the consequence,
if mankind did transgress the law of their Creator; our first parents
transgressed, and the penalty was executed according to the
threatening, "Thou shall surely die;" they were condemned to die; they
were under sentence of death; they became spiritually dead,
immediately; they lost the knowledge of their Creator; darkness
covered their minds; they endeavoured to hide themselves from God
among the trees of the garden; they brought misery upon themselves and
upon their posterity; we feel the woeful effects of their fall and
apostasy until this day; by nature we are spiritually dead; as it is
written, "you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins."
Sir, if there is a law made by our legislature, is there not a penalty
annexed unto it? If that law is transgressed, is not the person who
transgressed punished some way or other?--Yet the law is made for the
good of the whole; the legislature is not to be impeached, as if he
made it for the damage of his people, whom he governs; the law-breaker
is punished either in his own person or his surety, though the pain,
shame and punishment is for the damage of the transgressor, yet the
law is for the good of the whole, and the law maker is not in the
least to blame; the transgressor also, if he repents and is reformed,
is benefited by it, &c.

I think, sir, your giving your hearers encouragement in your preaching
that Christ will save them all, whether they repent and believe the
gospel or no, is of a dangerous nature. Christ has said, "if ye
believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins," John viii. 24.
Read, if you please, the proceeding context. The decrees of God, you
say, is my creed, and that I believe that God foreordained whatsoever
come to pass. I do not think I ever told you so. And so you think God
foreordained, according to my _creed_, death, for a damage to his
creatures. I have said death is punishment for sin, as I wrote, and I
can maintain it from scripture; death was introduced by sin; the
person that lives a life of sin and dies without regenerating grace,
which all true believers in Christ have, will be miserable, and be
"punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord
and the glory of his power." I believe every true believer is a true
penitent, is regenerated, is in Christ by a vital union is a "new
creature," and that those persons will be saved and none else,
according to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. I believe that
God the Father worketh all things according to the council of his own
will; that his redeemed and saved people should be to his glory. You
say, in my writing to you, I said, "do you think Christ or his
apostles would preach universal salvation in one place of scripture
and contradict it in another? I believe they would not."--Here you
designedly, I think mistake; I do not believe that Christ or his
apostles ever did preach universal salvation, that is, that every son
and daughter of apostate Adam, would be saved. I believe that this
gospel of the kingdom is to be preached to every creature, and
"whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that
believeth not shall be damned." Do me justice, sir; do not animadvert
upon what I have just quoted, as if I think our Saviour is to be
understood as if every individual would have the privilege of hearing
the gospel. I conceive that the apostles' commission runs thus: "Go
into all the world and preach the gospel to every human or rational
creature."--What I meant by saying, do you think Christ would preach
universal salvation in one place, and in another contradict it, is,
that those texts which you suppose supports your doctrine, is not to
be understood as you apply them; for if they prove universal
salvation, as you would have them, then they will contradict many
texts which Christ and his apostles improved otherwise; therefore I
still assert, that the scriptures ought to be carefully examined,
conscientiously improved and applied. The faithful minister of Christ
will renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in
craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by
manifestation of the _truth_, commending themselves to every man's
conscience in the sight of God. "For we are not as many which corrupt
the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of
God, speak we in Christ."--See 2d Corinthians, ii. 17. And I would
take it as a favour, if you would read the 15th and 16th verses in the
same chapter, and seriously consider them. Those texts of scripture,
which you have quoted from Rom. 8th chapter, are not to be applied as
you apply them, neither doth the apostle apply them so. And methinks
you know they are not, if you consider the connexion from the 28th
verse of the chapter to the end. And that passage of scripture quoted
from 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23, is only to be applied to real Christians;
and this, sir, I presume you know; but it would not suit you and your
scheme of Universal Salvation to apply them so.

I would ask you, if, when I am writing a letter or an epistle to Mr.
Hosea Ballou, it would be proper for me to apply what I write in
particular to you, concerning your affairs or circumstances, to the
whole world? Ministers of Christ should rightly "divide the word;" and
should take the precious from the vile; then they would be as God's
mouth to the people. See Jeremiah xv. 19, see likewise, Ezekiel xiiv.
23, "The priests of the Lord are to teach the Lord's people the
difference between the holy and the profane," and cause them to
discern between the unclean and the clean;" it is by this _general_
way of preaching, errors are introduced, not only by your
denomination, but by others also. I could multiply quotations from the
Bible, both from the Old and New Testaments, but what would it avail,
unless you will consider them and endeavour to improve them, and apply
them as the Holy Ghost would have us to to? "For holy men of God spake
as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," see 2 Peter i. 25. You say, you
were somewhat embarrassed in understanding what I meant when I wrote
that men undertaking to explain the scriptures in their own strength
and wisdom, and their making havoc of them, &c. by explaining them in
a mystical or literal sense. I will endeavour to explain what I
meant--1st. To allegorize the scriptures in a mere moral or mystical
sense, or altogether in a figurative sense, is a degree of enthusiasm,
(as to say there is no _devil_ but our carnal nature, &c.) and in a
mere literal sense is to understand and improve them not in that
spiritual sense in which they are to be understood, but resting in the
letter only; as we may observe when Christ said in St. John, 6th
chapter, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his
blood, ye have no life in you;" "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my
blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day;"
"These things said he in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum;"
"Many therefore of his disciples when they heard this, said, this is a
hard saying, who can hear it? Christ said, doth this offend you?"--And
informed them he did not mean that they should eat his human flesh,
and drink his blood literally, but he was to be understood in a
spiritual sense. He informed them "it is the spirit that quickeneth,
the flesh profiteth nothing, the words I speak unto you they are
spirit and life." Some have since misunderstood him, and, to this day,
misunderstand this piece of scripture; and have from thence introduced
the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, that after the words of
consecration, the bread and wine are the real body and blood of
Christ. So some adhere only to the letter of the word and expound the
law of God in a mere literal sense. It seems the apostle Paul, before
his conversion, understood it so.--Read the 7th chapter of Romans,
from the 6th to the end of the 13th verse. Paul was brought up at the
feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law; yet, while in his unregenerate
state, knew not the spiritual meaning of the law of God, (I mean the
holy or moral law) and no doubt he spake by experience when he says,
(as I wrote to you from I Cor. ii. 14) "But the natural man received
not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto
him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
discerned." By the natural man, I conceive, the apostle meant the
unregenerate man: yea, with the highest degree of human teaching and
knowledge without he is taught of God, by his word and spirit, he
cannot truly understand the things of the spirit of God; and therefore
they are, as I say, misapplied, mangled and made havoc of. Faith is,
by some, only held as a bare assent that Jesus Christ came in the
flesh. None do truly believe that, but by the Holy Ghost.

You still will continue to maintain the doctrine of Universal
Salvation, by those texts, which I said you spake at the grave with
such an _emphasis_; if they are to be understood only in a literal
sense as they are expressed, I can quote as many or more spoken by
Christ and his apostles which will contradict them in their literal
sense: Christ says, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved;
but he that believeth not shall be damned. Then shall he say unto them
on his left hand, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire,
prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into
everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. Then said
Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me and shall die
in your sins: whither I go ye cannot come." John viii. 21, 24, "I said
therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe
not that I am he ye shall die in your sins." With respect to that text
you quote from John xii. 32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men unto me." It is, I conceive, explained by Christ
himself in John iii. 14, 15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in
the wilderness even so must the son of man be lifted up; that
whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting
life." By Christ being lifted on the cross the way of salvation is to
be preached to all men; but it is only those that believe who will not
perish and have eternal life, according to the foregoing scriptures I
have quoted from Mark xvi. 16, and Mat. xxv. 41, 46. I could quote
many more scriptures spoken by our Lord himself and explained by him;
and I hope, sir, you will allow our Lord to be the best expositor of
his own word. I conceive you think you have got a mighty argument when
you mention the apostle Peter, who had a vision which instructed him
in his duty to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; but remember, Peter
says, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every
nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of
him." Then he began to preach the gospel to Cornelius and his friends;
he preached Christ to them; he preached Jesus and the resurrection; he
shows he is ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead;
and says, "To him give all the prophets witness that through his name
whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Did he
say that every individual of the human race would be saved? No such
thing! And though he had further light concerning the Gentiles, he
never, as I can find, preached Universal Salvation, but to the
contrary. Read his epistles, first and second, particularly 2d
epistle, 2d chapter from 1st to the end of the 9th verse. "The Lord
knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation; and to reserve the
unjust to the day of judgment, to be _punished_;" not to be
_liberated_! Read 3d chapter, 7th verse, "But the heavens and the
earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store reserved unto
fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Peter
wrote these epistles after he had further light with respect to the
Gentiles' having the gospel preached unto them.

As to what you write about my saying I do not envy you because great
numbers go to hear you, I still say it, as far as I know my wicked and
deceitful heart, and wish you might preach the pure and simple gospel,
and that your hearers might desire nothing more than the sincere milk
of the word, as new-born babes, preached unto them; that they might
grow thereby, &c.

That place I directed you to in 1 John, iv. 5, 6, and wished you to
consider, though I have in some measure already considered it, I will
attempt more particular to consider it. 1st. You say, John says, "And
every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the
flesh is not of God, and this is that spirit of Antichrist whereof you
have heard it should come and even now already is in the world." John
in the preceding verse said, that every spirit that confesseth Jesus
Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; do you think, sir, that every
person that assents to this truth is a true believer? But few that
have been born in a land of gospel light but what assents to this; but
the soul that is born of God truly believes it, according to what the
same apostle writes, 5th Chapter 1st epistle 1st verse, "Whosoever
believeth Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and every one that
loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." Do
all men that confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh profess to
be born of God? Do they love the children of God that bear his image?
No; they, if unregenerate, are of the world; they "love darkness
rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Who does our Lord
mean when he says, "If the world hate you, it hated me before it hated
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?" Sir, you know that there has been
many antichristian professors of this truth, _that Jesus Christ is
come in the flesh_, that have shed much human blood, because they
hated the dear children of God. Therefore I conceive this is the
meaning of the text: we must know for ourselves that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God, as Peter did when he confessed him, and Christ said to
him, "Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not
revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven--upon this
rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it." I believe that true and saving faith is wrought in the
heart by the spirit of the _living God_; and the soul that believes
truly, is, as I have already said, born of God, is in union with
Christ, is partaker of the divine nature, and has escaped the
corruption that is in the world through lust, and is pressing forward
towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ
Jesus. I have wrote more than I intended, having received your other
epistle and have considered some of it. This remains to be considered:
what you wrote concerning your having great numbers of hearers. It is
true Christ had a great number which followed, and heard him, but few
which followed because they loved his doctrine, and followed him from
right motives. He said unto them, "Ye seek me not because ye saw the
miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labour
not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto
everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him
hath God the Father sealed," John vi. 26, 27. Our Lord says, John
viii. 47, "He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear
them not because ye are not of God." Hence you may see how our Lord
and his beloved disciple John agree; it is not the truth as it is in
Jesus, the populace are after; it is to gratify their curiosity, or
hear something about their salvation in a way that has no cross in it.
But Christ says, "If any man will be my disciple let him deny himself
and take up his cross, and follow me." When Christ preached soul
searching doctrine as he did in the 6th of John, "Many of his
disciples went back and followed no more with him." And I believe when
you preach repentance and faith, and shew what fruits they will
produce in the true penitent and true believer, the world will not
hear you and cordially like your doctrine. But they, as John says, are
of the world, therefore they speak of the world, and the world heareth
them; "We are of God, we that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not
of God heareth not us: hereby know we the spirit of truth and the
spirit of error." I have reason to think some popular preachers are
good men, but the world do not like them nor their doctrine, because
they are so; but because of their popularity their curiosity is fed,
or gratified--and not their souls with the pure milk of the word. Sir,
you answer in some way which is ambiguous to me about your preaching
repentance, and say repentance may be preached without speaking the
word repentance. What makes you shun speaking plainly as Christ did?
Be explicit in preaching it. You cannot deny, but Christ and his
apostles preached it explicitly. Christ said in plain language,
"Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish," Luke xiii. 3, 5. In
your answer concerning the resurrection of the dead, you do not speak
of that in a clear and explicit way, and your not mentioning it at
either of the funerals, makes me doubt whether you believe it in as
clear and literal a manner as it is expressed in the scriptures by
Christ and his apostles. Paul says, "Seeing we have such hope we use
great plainness of speech." I hope, sir, you will not be offended with
me for plain dealing.

As to your apostasy, I hope I shall have an opportunity to confer with
you about it. I am happy to say I feel no rancour or enmity against
your person or people, as a neighbour and friend, but should be
willing to assist you in, and as far as my ability and power with a
good conscience will admit; and hope this will not interrupt our
meeting together as usual in visiting the schools. I think we had best
drop the controversy, and I think I shall no more write to you, and
hope you will no more write to me on this subject. You may make what
use you please of it; I hope it will be made of good use to you.

I now, dear sir, "commend you to God and the word of his grace, which
is able to build yon up in the _truth_ as it is in _Jesus_, and give
you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."

From your friend, and well wisher in the gospel of our dear Lord Jesus


Mr. Hosea Ballou, _Pastor of a Church_.

       *       *       *       *       *



PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 15, 1811.

_Rev. Sir_,--Yours of the 11th inst. is before me, and according to my
_promise_ I hasten to pay _an early attention_ to its contents,
notwithstanding you express a _hope_ that I should write to you no
more on this subject. In your desire, sir, that I should write no more
I believe you to be _really sincere_, for I believe you to be a man
disposed to give your friends as little trouble as possible; but I
have several reasons for answering your last, which, when I have
stated, I presume, will fully satisfy you that my answer is required
in justice to myself.

1st. I find myself accused of _baseness_, of which, were I guilty, the
forfeiture would be that of _confidence_.

2d. I find my preaching misrepresented, and that in direct violation
of my own declaration in the present correspondence.

3d. I find questions proposed for my discussion, which renders it
reasonable that you should have an answer, as I was in hopes of
obtaining to the questions which I stated to you.

4th. I find you quite off from the subjects of your admonitions, not
attempting to support them, nor yet willing to exonerate me from

5th. I find the scriptures of our blessed Lord and Saviour quoted with
a manifest design to limit his grace and salvation.

I might go on and state a number more reasons why I conceive it to be
my duty to reply, but the five already given will undoubtedly satisfy
your mind; and they furnish subjects sufficiently ample for an
epistle. To them I shall conform myself, and endeavour to be as
concise as is consistent with the importance of the subject.

1st. Your accusation is in the following words:--

"Here you designedly, I think, mistake." "Those texts of scripture
which you have quoted from Rom. 8th chapt. are not to be applied as
you apply them, neither doth the apostle apply them so. And methinks
you know they are not, if you consider the connexion from the 28th
verse of the chapter to the end. And that passage of scripture quoted
from 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23, is only to be applied to real christians;
and this, sir, I presume you know; but it would not suit your and your
scheme of Universal Salvation to apply them so."

Here I am accused, 1st of _designedly mistaking_ you! And, 2d of a
_wilful misapplication_ of the _sacred word_! To these high charges,
sir, I beg the privilege of pleading _not guilty_; and, after making
my defence, of submitting my cause to impartial judges.

With regard to the _designed mistake_, my defence is that no mistake
was made by me either _designed_ or _not designed_.--I have examined
and find that I quoted you verbatim. I also find that I fully agreed
with you in the sentence quoted as to what was necessarily signified
by it. I applied the sentence according to my own mind; but did not
pretend nor say that you applied it as I did. Where then is the
_designed mistake_? Could an action lie against a man for murder if no
_body_ were found, on which murder had been committed?--Could an
indictment for theft be supported against a man if no property were
missing from the owner? Is it proper to bring an allegation thus,
without pointing out some sort of _mistake_? I will not be so
uncharitable, sir, as to suppose that you _designed_ to bring _a false
accusation_ in this instance. No, sir, you are not capable of such
wickedness; I have ever believed you to be an _honest, sincere
christian_; and that opinion is so congenial to my feelings that I
shall never give it up while I can find a reasonable excuse for
retaining it.

My opinion is, that you, finding that I had made such ready use of
your sentence apparently to my own advantage, thought I designed to
mistake you, and feeling a little disagreeably on the occasion, did
not _look minutely_ to see if you had rightly apprehended me, or not.

With regard to the _wilful misapplication of the sacred word_ my
defence is to be made from the sacred text itself. In this defence,
sir, it is sufficient if I give you reasons which induce me to apply
the scripture as I do. It is not necessary that I convince you or any
body else that my application is right, for we are all liable to err.
What I shall aim at is to show that if my applications are _not
correct_ yet I am not guilty of _wilfully misapplying_ the _sacred
text_. 1st. Of the passage in the 8th of Rom. the following are my
reasons for a general application of that scripture to mankind.

1st. The whole human family, at least, is made the primary subject of
the apostle's application as may be seen by looking at the 19th verse
and onward. "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for
the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made
subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected
the same in hope; because the creature itself also shall be delivered
from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the
children of God. For we know that the _whole creation groaneth_ and
_travaileth_ in _pain together_ until now; and not only they, but
ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we
ourselves _groan_ within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit,
the redemption of our body."

I understand by the above quotation that St. Paul meant the same by
the "_whole creation_" as he did by the "_creature_" who was "made
subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath
subjected the same in hope." And this creature which he calls the
"whole creation" he says shall be delivered from the bondage of
corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. This is
the apostle's primary application of the love and mercy of God. In a
_minor_ sense he is _particular_ as may be seen in the above
quotation, "and not only they," that is the whole creation at large,
but ourselves also, which have the _first fruits_ of the _spirit_,
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to
wit, the redemption of our body." I know of no way to understand the
apostle here to mean otherwise than that the whole human race _groan_
and _travail_ for the same deliverance and redemption that those do
who are blessed with the first fruits of the spirit. Nor do I find any
expression, in relation to this subject, more significant of the
deliverance of those who have the first fruits of the spirit, than of
the deliverance of the whole creation, or creature made subject to
vanity. By turning back only to the 5th chap, we find the apostle
laboring the subject of grace and salvation in just as extensive a
manner. See verse 18th, "Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment
came upon _all men_ unto _condemnation_, even so, by the righteousness
of one, the free gift came upon _all men_ unto _justification of
life_." Consistently with this positive and particular declaration of
the apostle's belief in the _justification_ of _all men_ through the
_righteousness_ of _Jesus Christ_, we find his following testimony.
See 1 Tim. ii. 4, &c. "Who will have all men to be saved and come unto
the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom
for _all_ to be testified in due time." Heb. ii. 9. "But we see Jesus
who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of
death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God
should taste death for every man." Rom. iv. 25.--"who was delivered
for our offences and was raised again for our justification." v. 8.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us."

In the above testimony the apostle says, that Christ gave himself a
ransom for _all men_, that he, by the _grace_ of _God_, tasted death
for _every man_, that he was delivered for our offences and was raised
again for our justification, that his death for sinners is a
commendation of God's love to them. Now I am willing to acknowledge to
you, sir, and to all the world, that I can make no sense of the above
testimony without applying it to all mankind. In the apostle's
observations in the close of the 8th of Rom. of nothing being able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, there is a
perfect analogy with the foregoing testimony. The love of God which is
in Christ Jesus, was commended to a sinful world in that Christ tasted
death, by the grace of God, for every man. If one of all those for
whom Christ died can be separated from that love by which Christ died
for him, I know not why the whole may not be, by the same argument.

2d. Of the passage in 1st Cor. 3d, &c. This passage, you say, you
_presume_ I _know_ ought not to be applied to any _but real
christians_! See the text. "Therefore let _no man_, glory in men; for
all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the
world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all
are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Are you willing,
sir, to _presume_ that I _know_ that the apostle Paul did not mean to
dissuade any but _real christians_ from trusting in men? This you must
_presume_ in order to _presume_ that I _know_ the text ought to be
applied to none but real Christians. Is not the sense of "_no man_" as
universal in the negative, as the sense of "_all men_" is in the
positive? Why did you not attempt to give some reason for such a
_presumption_? I hope dear sir, you will not allow yourself to think,
even for one moment, that I am so uncharitable as to suppose you
_presumed_ thus, contrary to impressions of your own mind, though you
cannot think any worse of me than is implied in the presumption. I
tell you, sir, that I seriously believe that the above text ought to
be applied to all men; I believe it is wrong for any man to put his
trust in man, according to that scripture; and I believe it to be
perfectly right to exhort _all men_ to put their trust in God who has
given his son to die for us all, and who will with him freely give us
all things richly to enjoy.

I do not doubt your sincerity in the above _presumption_, but I doubt
your having paid a suitable attention to the subject before you thus
presumed. Hasty judgments and sudden conclusions frequently make work
for repentance; but the true christian will, on cool reflection, be
willing to acknowledge his faults and to remove unjust accusations.--
"By their fruits ye shall know them." On considering the usage with
which I meet in this unsolicited and unexpected correspondence, I
cannot but call to mind the very different treatment which the
_devil_ received from an heavenly dignitary, who dared not to bring
against his opponent a _railing accusation_! As a further evidence
that the text in Corinthians ought to be applied to all men, or to
men in general, see the words of the same apostle to the Ephesians,
chapter iv. 8, 11, &c. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on
high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he
gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and
some pastors and teachers."--Now look again to the passage in
Corinthians, "For all things are yours, whether _Paul_, or Apollos,
or Cephas," &c. These were the gifts given unto men. The question
now is, were those gifts which were given unto men, given to any but
real christians? See Psalm lxviii. 18, to which the apostle alludes
in his words quoted from Eph. iv. "Thou hast ascended on high; thou
hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men; yea,
for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
Are you willing, sir, to _presume_ that I _know_ that the prophet
David and St. Paul meant to apply those scriptures to none but _real
christians_? I must acknowledge my suprise at such _presumption_.
I will now take my leave of those accusations, just remarking that
I feel no fear in submitting my case to any impartial tribunal.

The 2d general particular is that of my preaching being
misrepresented, and that in direct violation of my own declarations in
the present correspondence. This misrepresentation I find in your
letter in the following words: "I think, sir, your giving your hearers
encouragement in your preaching that Christ will save them all whether
they repent and believe the gospel or no, is of a dangerous nature."
In the first place I call my whole congregation to witness against
this misrepresentation. In the second place I call my own testimony in
this correspondence which you had before you, to witness against this
misrepresentation. The following are my own words verbatim:--"In the
first place I wish to observe that I as much believe in those
scriptures which speak of the necessity of repentance, as I do in any
part of the sacred writings. The many scriptures which you have
_judiciously_ quoted to prove the propriety of the doctrine of
repentance are justly applied as I conceive, and I accord with you in
their use and meaning as far as you have explained them. While a man
is in a state of unbelief he is not in the enjoyment of the truth."
These quotations, sir, are all in direct opposition to your
representation of the subject of repentance.

Here again I ought to observe, that I am far from accusing you of an
_intentional fault_, or a wilful misrepresentation; though in order to
suppose you clear from such a fault, I must charitably suppose that
the _perturbations_ of your mind were such that you did not give my
letter a careful examination. I proved by plain and positive scripture
that _repentance_ is as much a gift of Christ as the forgiveness of
sins, which is, with the passage quoted from my letter, sufficient to
convince any man, who is not "improperly biased by tradition," that I
do not exclude the necessity of repentance.

3d. I find questions proposed for my discussion, which renders it
necessary that you should receive an answer, as I was in hope of
obtaining to the questions which I stated to you.

These questions are in the following words: "I would ask you, if, when
I am writing a letter or an epistle to Mr. Hosea Ballou, it would be
proper for me to apply what I wrote in particular to you concerning
your affairs, or circumstances, to the whole world? Who does our Lord
mean when he says, 'If the world hate you it hated me before it hated
you,' &c." To the first of these questions I answer, should you state
in a letter to me that _no man_ ought to preach the doctrine which I
preach, I should suppose that your observation would apply to the
whole world of mankind as well as to me; or if I should say in a
letter to the Rev. Joseph Walton, _no man_ ought to _presume_ his
_friend_ to be guilty of _wilful mistakes_, and _misapplications_ of
scripture without the _best possible evidence_ I believe you would see
the propriety of applying my observation to all men, even if you
should feel yourself particularly admonished by it.

The second question I conceive may be justly answered thus: The
_world_ which hated Christ was that religious order among the Jews who
accused him of being a friend to publicans and sinners; who thought
themselves so much better than their neighbours, as to say, "Stand by
thyself; come not nigh me, for I am holier than thou."

_Enmity_ to _Christ_ grows out of a Pharisaical notion of our own
righteousness, and it is an invariable mark of a Pharisee to oppose
the humiliating doctrine of _equal guilt_ and _equal grace_. No man
ever hated Christ who felt the weight of his own sins and the need of
a Saviour. No set of men ever fomented persecutions but such as
thought themselves the more particular favourites of God than others.

When I hear certain characters raising such queries, I am almost
induced to use the freedom with them which the prophet Nathan used
with his terrible majesty the king, and say. "Thou art the man!" But I
dare not assume the place of judgment; and I know my own fallibility
so well that I have no need to accuse others.

4thly. I find you quite off from the subjects of your admonition, not
attempting to support them, nor yet willing to exonerate me from
charges. Quite off, I say, from the subjects of admonition; for you
have not attempted to distinguish between the two ideas contained in
what you stated as the first subject of admonition, nor have you told
me whether it be one, or both which you consider thus
reprehensible.--You labour some time on another subject which concerns
the mode by which death was introduced, but you have said nothing
about whether God _originally designed death_, or not. Not knowing
your real mind from what you expressed on this subject, I queried in
my mind how I ought to understand you, and supposing you consistent
with yourself, and having sufficient reason to believe that your
_creed_ contains the belief that God foreordained whatsoever comes to
pass, I explained the sentence accordingly; but you neither
acknowledge me right in this particular, nor object; but you say that
you do not think you ever told me so! Here again, sir, I can easily
suppose you speak the truth, though I am under the necessity of
charitably supposing that your memory fails, for at the first visit
which I had the happiness of making you, I heard you recommend the
Catechism to be taught in schools which contains this very article of
faith. And now, sir, I must either believe that you would recommend
that which you do not believe, or I must still suppose that you
believe that God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass; and of course
that he foreordained _death_. And as you _admonish_ me for suggesting
that God originally designed death for the good of mankind you cannot
be consistent with yourself, as I can see, without believing that God
originally designed death for a _damage_ to _mankind_. And as you do
not deny believing thus, I cannot but marvel that you should wholly
neglect to answer my queries on this subject: a subject which
evidently involves the moral character of God. Do you feel, sir, as if
you had honourably acquitted yourself in this particular, by only
exulting in your forgetfulness concerning having given me to
understand your creed? Does this look altogether like renouncing the
hidden things of dishonesty? Did you believe your creed in respect to
the subject of admonition was hid from me? Why then did you not openly
decide either one way or the other? May I not without doing you the
least injustice suppose you were straightened by the glaring
inconsistency of your _admonition_? If you avowed the suggested _item_
all the abominable absurdity which I posted full in sight must have
been charged to your account. If you disavowed the suggested _item_
then away went the _darling Catechism_, in a moment, and with it, more
of the preposterous inventions of priestcraft than could be easily
replaced to the advantage of the cause of superstition and ignorance!
I would by no means suggest that you did any thing or neglected to do
any thing from a motive which your own conscience disallowed; but I am
impelled, even by charity itself, to attribute your conduct in the
above case to an improper prejudice against a doctrine of which you
know but very little.

Another subject of your admonition is that of my having apostatised
from the true faith. On this subject, on which I was particular, you
make no defence, nor yet exhonerate me from the charge. You observe
you hope for an opportunity to confer with me about this matter. Why
were you unwilling to write your defence of this allegation, or be so
kind as to withdraw it. I must use the plainness, sir, to say, if you
accuse of _designed mistakes_ in _writing_ where no mistakes exist, if
I have a verbal conference with you on these matters, I should wish to
have it before a ready scribe who could produce the conservation
afterwards. You are not to suppose by this precaution I mean to
intimate that you would report the conversation contrary to truth,
designedly; I mean if when my letters are before your eyes, you
misunderstand, you might be as likely to misunderstand conversation.

You admonished me for preaching a doctrine which pleases the world,
meaning the populace; and I endeavoured to defend myself in that
particular: but you neither attempt to show my reasoning faulty, nor
yet, acknowledge me correct. This is _admonishing_, I should suppose,
in the _unaccountable_ manner in which _Popes_ admonish! You say that
many followed Christ for the sake of the loaves. Dear sir, I did not
say but they all did; and if they did, the question is, does that
prove his doctrine not of God? Here, sir, you will see, if you look
one moment, that you were off, far off from the subject.

5th. I find the scriptures of our blessed Lord and Saviour quoted with
a manifest design to _limit_ his _grace_ and _salvation_.

You introduce those quotations as follows: "You still will continue to
maintain the doctrine of Universal Salvation by those texts which I
said you spoke at the grave with such an _emphasis_. If they are to be
understood only in a literal sense as they are expressed, I can quote
as many, or more spoken by Christ and his apostles, which will
contradict them in their literal sense. Christ says, 'He that
believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not
shall be damned. Then shall he say unto them on his left hand depart
from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his
angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the
righteous into life eternal.'--'Then said Jesus again unto them, I go
my way and ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins; whither I go
ye cannot come. John viii. 21, 24. I said therefore unto you that ye
shall die in your sins, for if ye believe not I am he ye shall die in
your sins.'"

These passages you say contradict those which I make use of to prove
Universal Salvation, if we understand those which I thus use in a
literal sense, as they are expressed. I will state one passage only as
an example, which I have before quoted. Rom. v. 18, "Therefore, as by
the offence of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even
so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto
justification of life." Nothing can be said on the above text which
can tend to make its meaning more plain than it is, if its most
natural sense be the true sense. This, sir, I presume, you will allow:
Now let us look for a contradiction of this text in the passages which
you quoted. "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, and he
that believeth not shall be damned." I ask how long the unbeliever
will be damned? Answer--As long as he is an unbeliever, and no longer,
according to the text. Is there any expression in the text, or context
that even intimates that any will remain eternally in unbelief? No.
Where is the contradiction then? There is none. The passage which you
quote from the 25th of Mat. says, "And these shall _go_ away into
everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." As the
word everlasting is very frequently used in the scriptures to signify
ages and dispensations, is there any certainty that it has not such a
meaning in this place? Answer: No. Where is the contradiction then?
There is none. The very expression "_punishment_" shows plainly that
what is inflicted is designed as an emendation of the punished. I have
shown in a late publication,[11] that it is in direct violation of the
words of Christ, to explain the above text to signify a punishment in
another state of existence; and yet, if we were under the necessity of
understanding it so, it would fall after all infinitely short of
proving that, at some period known to a merciful God, all men will not
be justified unto life.--Therefore no contradiction can be found. The
passage which speaks of those who should die in their sins will fall
equally short of contradicting the testimony of Universal
Justification. I will ask in the first place, whether a man's being
_dead_ in _sin_ render it impossible for him to be quickened unto life
by the spirit of God? See a passage which you quote, "You hath he
quickened who were _dead_ in _trespasses_ and _sins_." If those who
are _dead_ in _trespasses_ and _sins_ can be _quickened_ according to
this passage, what is the reason that those Jews to whom Christ spake
can never be _quickened_? You must see, sir, that the passage which
you quote refutes your notion about this contradiction. You will say
that Christ told the Jews "whither I go ye cannot come," but you
cannot but remember that he said the same thing to his own disciples.
"As I said unto the Jews so I say unto you, whither I go ye cannot
come;" and afterwards explains himself to mean that they could not
come immediately.--Let us now turn this subject round and ask how the
text quoted from Romans can be true if your notion of endless misery
be granted to be the true meaning of the passages you quote? Will you
undertake to say that men who are justified unto life by the
righteousness of Christ will remain endlessly in a state of death and
condemnation? If you do not feel competent to the task of maintaining
such palpable contradiction, why would it not be doing yourself a
kindness just to examine that _soul chilling_ and _heaven dishonouring
doctrine_ of _endless, unmerciful punishment_! One moment's
examination of such an idea when brought in sight of the fountain
which is opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem to wash in from sin and uncleanness would abolish it
forever. I acknowledge, sir, that my five particulars do not
comprehend every particular of your letter; nor have I attended to all
which they do comprehend so extensively as I would if I could suppose
it necessary; but as you were in hopes of receiving nothing, it is not
to be expected that you will find fault because there is no more.

[Footnote 11: "Candid Review," or Answer to Robinson.]

I cannot be willing to close this epistle without giving you credit of
following the apostle's direction in your observation concerning my
argument in respect to St. Peter. You say "I conceive you think you
have got a _mighty_ argument," &c. The apostle exhorts us to be
_children_ in _malice_, and I am sure St. Paul, nor any body else ever
heard a more _childish expression_ which communicated the least
possible disaffection.

What you quote from St. Peter with a design to prove endless misery,
without attempting to show that such was his meaning, I forbear
commenting upon. If you had shown that Peter could consistently
believe that no man was common or unclean considered in the sheet
which he saw in vision, and at the same time believe that the greatest
part of mankind would remain in sin and uncleanness eternally you
would have done more than you have. I hope, sir, if you are determined
to take your leave of this correspondence without supporting the
subjects of your admonition, and without supporting the heavy charges
you have stated against me, and, likewise, without acknowledging the
impropriety of your admonition, and the incorrectness of your charges,
that you will never attack another of your fellow creatures in the
same way. I do not express this because I feel the least
unfriendliness to you in consequence of the method you have pursued,
but because I think it is contrary to the spirit of Christianity; it
is not doing as we wish to be done by. I do not believe that your soul
feels satisfied with it; but you have some remains of pride yet which
keeps you from giving up ground which you are sensible you cannot
maintain. I hope, sir, you will entertain no apprehensions respecting
my cordial friendship to you, or my readiness to join you in any
possible usefulness to our fellow creatures. And, as you
affectionately committed me to God and to the word of his grace,
please to accept the sincere desires for your present and everlasting
welfare, of sir, your humble servant, for Christ's sake.


       *       *       *       *       *




_Rev. Sir_,--Having taken into serious consideration the whole
correspondence which has passed between us, I have felt very deep
impressions on my mind arising from the following coosiderations.

1st. You and I are accountable beings, and must undoubtedly, sooner or
later, be called to account for the propriety, or impropriety of our
labours with each other.

2d. Our professional character must, without doubt, be a high
consideration in our accountability.

3d. The eyes of society are ever watchful, and God has made us
accountable, not only to himself, but to our fellow creatures, who
have a just demand upon us.

While these important considerations were revolving in my mind, I felt
a sense of my youth, compared with your age, my inexperience, the
proneness of the human heart to the vanity of self confidence, the
blindness of prejudice to which old and young are more or less
subject, and also, the friendship which has hitherto happily subsisted
between us since our first acquaintance.

These circumstances and those considerations, led my mind to the
conclusion that I ought to lay the whole matter before God, and to ask
of him suitable wisdom to guide me in relation to so weighty a

The result of my devotional supplications is a forcible application of
the divine direction, given by St. Paul 1 Tim. v. 1, "Rebuke not an
elder but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren."

How far your communications to me are consistent, or inconsistent with
the apostle's direction, in the above test, I do not conceive it my
duty to judge, any farther than a discharge of my own duty, pursuant
to the apostle's direction, may require. On the most deliberate
recapitulation of all which I have written, I cannot now say, that I
could wish to recall a single idea, argument, application of
scripture, or sentiment; though I will not even suggest that better
information might not produce a different conclusion. I trust I have
hitherto treated you, sir, and the subjects of your communications
with all the propriety of which my understanding is master; and my
fervent desire is, that I may complete the labours enjoined on me by
the above text, in strict conformity to that most holy spirit which
inspired such excellent counsel. Therefore, Rev. Sir, I _entreat you_
as a _father_ to consider,

1st. Whether you entreated your humble servant as a _brother_ when you
admonished him for important particulars which you wholly refuse to
substantiate either as facts or wrongs?

2d. Whether you entreated me as a brother in refusing to decide, as to
your meaning, in the first subject of your admonition, and in not
giving me to understand whether I had rightly apprehended you or not?

3d. Whether you entreated me as a brother in not acknowledging an
agreement of sentiment on the subject of _repentance_ after I had
given _you_ the fullest assurance possible, that I believed in its
necessity and importance?

4th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in admonishing me as an
apostate from the true faith of the gospel, while I profess to believe
in Christ the Son of God, as the Saviour of the world; and stand in
society, in my various relation by the blessing of God, unimpeached as
to morality?

5th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in admonishing me against a
doctrine which commends the love and mercy of God in the final
reconciliation and everlasting happiness of all unreconciled beings;
and in opposing said doctrine with no other argument than saying, in
effect, that if the scriptures which prove the doctrine are allowed to
mean as they naturally read, other scriptures contradict them! Thus
furnishing the infidel with his darling weapon against the divinity of
the scriptures?

6th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in stating those heavy
charges against me, in which you _accuse me_ of a _designed mistake_,
and of _wilful misapplications_ of scriptures where neither _mistake_
or _misapplications_ of scriptures can be made to appear?

7th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in misrepresenting my
preaching when you never heard me perform in the particular capacity
of a preacher?

8th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in taking your leave of
this correspondence without supporting one single particular of your
admonition, or one single charge against me. And also, without
acknowledging the incorrectness of your admonition, or the impropriety
of your charges.

I entreat you, sir, as a father, to consider whether the spirit which
you manifested, in bring such _unreasonable_ charges against me, be
consistent with the directions given by St. Paul to Timothy, and also
with the example and precept of him who loved his enemies and
commanded his disciples to do likewise?

I entreat you seriously to consider what the conduct of the Saviour
would have been, if he had been disposed to _judge, denounce, reject_
and _disfellowship_ all those who sincerely believe in him and strove
to honour him with becoming obedience to his commands, on account of
their not understanding every thing as well as he did?

I entreat you to call in question your treatment of me because I do
not believe in every thing as you do; and carefully examine if it
correspond with the conduct of him, who, out of pity to human
weakness, submitted himself to the scorn and hatred of those who
considered themselves more righteous than others?

In relation to the doctrine, to which you appear so violently opposed,
I entreat you, as a father, to take into consideration, 1st. The
promises of God to Abraham by which the doctrine is supported. 2dly.
The corroborating testimonies in the New Testament by which we are to
understand those promises. 3dly. The consistency of the doctrine with
the character of _infinite goodness_. And, 4thly. The consistency of
the doctrine with every benevolent and godlike desire of the human

If God promised to bless all the families, nations and kindreds of the
earth in the seed of Abraham, who is Christ, and if St. Paul has
informed us that this blessing is _justification through faith_, I
entreat you to consider by what authority you condemn the doctrine of
_Universal Justification_.

If the apostle has also argued that God has made peace through the
blood of the cross of Jesus, by him to reconcile _all things_ to
himself, I entreat you to consider by what authority you condemn the
doctrine of _Universal Reconciliation_.

If in perfect conformity to the promises of God, the prophet has given
his testimony that _all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation
of our God_, I entreat you to consider by what authority you condemn
the doctrine of _Universal Salvation_.

If you make use of scripture to contradict such plain and positive
declarations, by explaining _parables_ and _doubtful sayings_ for that
purpose, I entreat you candidly to consider whether you can do any
thing more to the dishonour of the sacred word, or more pleasing to
those who wish to bring the scriptures into disrepute.

If you feel determined to maintain and inculcate the idea of God's
punishing his rational offspring eternally without mercy, love, or
pity towards them, I entreat you, as a father, to consider whether you
can invent any idea which, applied to God, would make his character
appear more contrary to the spirit of him who loved his enemies and
died for them.

I entreat you to examine carefully and see if it be possible to
reconcile the doctrine of endless misery with the benevolent desires
of the true spiritual children of God; and consider seriously whether
it be proper to pray for the salvation of all men, and then condemn
the belief of it as a heresy.

I entreat you, as a father, to call into serious consideration the
real cause of all the persecutions and abominable cruelties which have
been practiced in Christendom, on account of religion, and see if you
can find a foundation for these things except in the blasphemous
notion that God is unmerciful towards the impenitent.

Endeavour, sir, to satisfy yourself how the foolish prejudices of
ignorant zealots could ever have succeeded in establishing so many
middle walls of partition, and in making so many pernicious
distinctions in the Christian world, if the blasphemous notion of
partiality in God had not been the rage of an apostatised church.

Find out, if you can, I entreat you, sir, the cause of all the madness
and folly, which appear in the habitual coldness and bitterness
exercised by the clergy, of different denominations towards each
other, if it be not the blasphemous notion that their foolish
prejudices are sanctioned by God!

Adieu, I write no more. I feel that I have done my duty. I have
entreated you as a father in love and faithfuness. I leave the effects
with God; humbly praying and joyfully believing, that when we are
purged from our hay, wood and stubble, with the spirit of judgment and
the spirit of burning, we shall see eye to eye and be admitted to a
humble seat at the feet of our blessed Saviour, for whose sake I
remain, sir, your most obedient and very humble servant.



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Series of Letters, in Defence of Divine Revelation
 - In Reply to Rev. Abner Kneeland's Serious Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Same. To Which is Added, a Religious Correspondence, Between the Rev. Hosea Ballou, and the Rev. Dr. Joseph Buckminster and Rev. Joseph Walton, Pastors of Congregational Churches in Portsmouth, N. H." ***

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