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A Series of Letters In Defence of Divine Revelation by Hosea Ballou

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Produced by David Starner, David King and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team from a book given for scanning by
Rev. Felicia Urbanski.


* * * * *

Pastor of the Second Universalist Society in Boston.

* * * * *


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

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

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

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

JOHN W. DAVIS, _Clerk of the District of Massachusetts_


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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours, &c, A. KNEELAND."

* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c. H. BALLOU.

* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.


* * * * *

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

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

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

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

"Your's, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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