Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 4 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download A Series of Letters In Defence of Divine Revelation pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

this act performed. If the apostles had stood by the sepulchre and had
seen the body of Jesus rise up and walk out of the house of death,
then their evidences of his resurrection would have been the fact
itself; but this was not the case, nor did I use any intimations of
this nature. So the first member of your criticism is an error of
yours. 2dly. If Jesus had rose from the dead and ascended into heaven,
and never had given any proofs of this to any one, would the fact of
his having risen be any evidence of itself to any person? It surely
would not. Nor have I suggested any thing which intimates that the
resurrection could not have been true without proving itself to be so
to the apostles. What seems a little remarkable respecting this
subject, is, you profess to care for nothing but simple truth, and yet
you seem to study how to avoid it, as the above criticism seems to
evince. I say _seems_ to evince, for I am not prepared to accuse you
of such a fault--I would charitably believe that you thought your
criticism would hit something or another nearly about right, without
understanding what the amount of it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"With these remarks I hasten to a _CONCLUSION_.

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

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

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

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

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

"Yours in the bonds of the gospel.


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 9: Rom. i. 29.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours affectionately,


* * * * *





PORTSMOUTH, DEC. 28, 1809.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend and humble servant,


* * * * *




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

This friendship, sir, being founded on such principles, will
undoubtedly last as long as such principles remain; and if you are my
real friend on the principle of the law of our common nature, so long
as you possess the law of our common nature, you will be my real
friend; and if you are my real friend, on the principles and spirit of
the christian religion, so long as you possess the principles and
spirit of the christian religion, you will remain my real friend. And
if I be, as I trust in God I am, your real friend, on those
imperishable principles, I shall continue to possess this friendship
for you so long as I possess those principles. If these observations
on friendship be correct, as I conceive they are, you will know why I
so highly prize the treasure, especially when I find it in a man
capable of exercising it to so much advantage as your learning,
ability and experience enable you to do. You justly observe that
neither piety nor friendship dictated the question, "Am I my brother's

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest