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nothing!

“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 him.’

“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 true.’

“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 mentioned.

“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.

A. KNEELAND.”

* * * * *

LETTER V.

_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 testify?

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 apostles.

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 Paedobaptists 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 argument.

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 enjoyment?

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 magnitude.

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 least.

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 religion.

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, &c.

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 invention.

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 mouth.”

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 contradiction.

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 stated.

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 will.

Yours, &c.

H. BALLOU.

* * * * *

EXTRACTS No. VII.

[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 thoughts.

“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 certainty?

“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 identity!

“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 them.

“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 imagine.

“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,