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

Part 3 out of 6

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And now must we forever mourn,
Because their life will not return!
"O foolish man! go, and be wise!
Learn where the source of greatness lies;
To be content is to be blest:
A cure for woes is endless rest.
If God be good to all the race
Of animals before his face,
Although the life of some be short,
(One day begins and ends their sport)
Shall we presume he is less kind
To human souls of nobler mind,
Unless he lengthen out their days
To endless years in future maze?
"It cannot be! His love is such,
Whate'er he gives, little or much,
Is always good: faith, hope, desires;
Or any grace which he inspires.
All, all are good: for man indeed,
(Whilst here) such gifts, such helps may need!
All bring him to his final goal,
Where nature's law winds up the whole!

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

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

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

"Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your second proposition may now be noticed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first member of your criticism supposes that I contend that the
apostles had no evidence of the resurrection but the fact itself. The
second member of your criticism supposes that I contend the fact of
the resurrection could not exist without proving itself to the
apostles in such a way that no evidence could counterbalance it. Now
in both of these you are under a mistake, I never urged the fact of
the resurrection as evidence of itself to the apostles. I never
pretended that they saw him rise. We have no account that any body saw

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