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THE present is an age of inquiry; and such is the deep interest taken by all classes of people in the subject of what is termed theology, that the champions of the various sects, which divide Christendom, have almost deluged the country with their voluminous publications. It is consequently difficult for any one to enter the arena of religious discussion and avoid the imputation of vanity. Having been requested, from various quarters and respectable sources, to lay before the public, the causes which have led me to embrace my present views, I feel impelled, by a sense of duty, to gratify that wish. I desire however, in this treatise, to say as little concerning myself as possible. Egotism is always disgusting, let it come from what quarter it may ; and almost all the journals and lives, I have taken the trouble to peruse, have exhibited this contemptible weakness to such a degree, that the superficial reader, not being acquainted with their foibles and imperfections, has set them down as superhuman./ Our main object, in whatever we undertake, should be the glory of our Maker and the good of mankind; and it is this consideration more than any other, that induces me, as concise a manner as possible, to present before my former friends and the public generally, the principles of the United Society (called Shakers) to whose views I frankly acknowledge myself a convert.
Having been a subject of deep religious impressions at an early period of life, my inclination led me to the study of the scriptures as an infallible directory to the realms of blessedness. But as various interpretations were given to the sacred testimony by those, who professed to be divinely illuminated and commissioned to enlighten the benighted understandings of their fellow creatures, I felt it a duty to resort to those for information, who were reputed orthodox. The Calvinistic system of theology consequently engaged my attention. The "bodies of divinity," so called, of the most eminent writers of that order were critically perused. Having passed through the ordeal of conviction and conversion, I began seriously to meditate on the subject of the ministry; and although my prospects were very flattering to a youthful mind, yet I could not bring myself publicly to advocate sentiments, which eclipsed the moral perfec
tions of God, and were entirely repugnant to the dictates of enlightened reason. It is in vain for any to attempt to dispute that before the system of Calvinism can be advocated, reason, in a degree, must be dethroned, and the most palpable absurdities and contradictions must be imbibed and cherished as the truth of a holy God.
In this state of suspense, I knew not what to do or which way to turn. I could not consent to be knowingly, the instrument of deluding my fellow creatures into the belief of sentiments, which I was conscious would not bear the test of investigation. In this dilemma, the writings of Hosea Ballou, about the year 1817, providentially fell into my hands. I grasped his sentiments with avidity. His system appeared to harmonise with the divine attributes, and to be altogether congenial to the benevolent feelings of my soul. Universalism, at that period, was very unpopular, consequently there were but few, who had the independence openly to avow a sentiment so generally and so violently opposed. A host of relations arose en masse, and not only exhibited a degree of coolness, but in some instances, the most deadly animosity. I felt determined, however, to contend manfully for what I conceived to be the "faith once delivered to the Saints." The success attendant on my ministry altogether exceeded my expectations. Fifteen years of my life were devoted to the propagation of those sentiments, during which time I visited most of the States of the Union, and for the most part felt the Divine protection and approbation. I preached what I sincerely believed; and always professed to be open to conviction, and to be ready to receive any new light," let it come from what quarter it might. It is not my object to enter into every minutia as to what took place in the course of so long a period of my public life. The whole is open to the inspection of Him, who invariably pursues the great end of human happiness regardless of the imperfect plans, which owe their origin to the wisdom of this world that cometh to naught.
There are many among the Universalists, both ministers and laity, whose names I shall ever hold in grateful remembrance. The generality of those who have undertaken to confute that system, have done but little else than to betray their ignorance and folly.
It is true, at this time, I felt a measure of peace in striving to live up to the best light I then had; but still I was convinced, that as an order, we were contending for a salvation which we did not possess ; proclaiming the beauty, the glory and the excellency of the new and spiritual creation in Christ; proving by scripture authority, that in Adam the first, there were death and condemnation, but in Adam the second, there were life and justification. These were sacred truths; but still we occupied the ground of the first Adam, like the rest of the world, living after the
order of the flesh. Instead of following Christ, the second Adam, in the work of spiritual regeneration, we were following Adam the first in the order and work of generation; instead of taking the second man, the Lord from heaven as a pattern, and living the life of the Spirit, we were following the old Adam, who was of the earth earthy. I am astonished, that this veil still rests on the minds of so many of my former brethren. They may boast of their numbers like other orders, but it is all an empty sound. Whilst they remain in their present situation, they will be destitute of that spiritual life, that bond of union which distinguishes the true church of Christ.
The mighty collision in the religious world, in which I took some humble part, has been productive of some good; and may, in the end, be the means of introducing many into that perfect order, where union, peace, and harmony dwell. It is utterly vain for any among the Christian denominations, who boast of their numbers, to pretend that they answer to the description given by the prophets of Israel, or the apostles of the New Testament, of the glory of the latter day. They are not only at sword's points with each other, but they do not agree among themselves. In their annual circulars and minutes, they make a great display and pompous show of the wonderful harmony among them, whilst the simple truth is, many of the ministers indulge towards each other the most violent antipathies, whilst walking to what they call, the house of God together. This, for a number of years, was a source of embarrassment and inquietude to me, and I do not hesitate to affirm that there are scores of others, who have labored under similar trials. Many fine words have been used in praying
: and preaching illustrative of that glorious period, when "The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid, and the steer and the fatling and the young lion together, and a little child shall lead them," not once imagining that that day has already commenced, and that these scriptures have their fulfillment in a most striking manner in that perfect church, that have come up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved. Some have affirmed that were they convinced that such a people existed, they would travel to the ends of the earth to find them. I accidentally or rather providentially fell in with a family of the United Society, at Enfield, N. H. in the year 1831; not having the most distant desire of uniting with them, for such was my ignorance of this order, that I should as soon have thought of uniting with the Mahometans as with them. Their external order struck me with admiration, and I soon found that this was but a pattern of the internal regulations of the establishment; both bore the impress of something beyond the utmost attainment of human wisdom. I consequently felt a desire to inquire into the mysterious cause of so much beauty and harmony.
I found in the person of Elder John Lyon, one who was able and willing to give me the needed information. But when he brought up the cross of Christ in all its fulness, I shrunk with horror in the view of so frightful a precipice. I could not at once see the propriety or even necessity of so strict a conformity to the Saviour's walk. The usual and stale objections urged by the enemies of the cross of Christ were spread before him in rapid succession, aud I secretly exulted in an imaginary victory. But short indeed was my triumph. I soon found that my fancied superiority was levelled with the dust. My weapons one after another were wrested from my hands, until I was left entirely defenceless, and that too, by one whom I had the vanity to look upon as much my inferior! He who undertakes to contend against the pure testimony of those in whom Christ has made his second appearing without sin unto salvation, will soon find with all his boasted endowments, that he labors under a great disadvantage; and however humiliating it may be to the proud and lofty feelings of man, it is a strait, in which many others have been brought, as well as myself, and in fact there is no salvation without it. Whilst we indulge our haughty feelings, we are in no situation to be benefitted by the gospel. We must receive the truth, if ever, possessing the simplicity and docility of children. Notwithstanding the severe discomfiture I met with at Enfield, I could see no way for me to embrace the humiliating and mortifying doctrine of the cross. I consequently laid by my sacerdotal robes and concluded that I would not publicly advocate any system, which came in contact with the convictions of my own mind. In the mean time I made some inquiries, to see if there were any other denomination in possession of the spiritual enjoyment peculiar to the United Society. I had heard of those, who style themselves "Christians," who made great pretensions to spirituality. Having availed myself of an opportunity to visit them, I found a number of the preachers in council, concerning one of their number, who was accused of stealing hay! Here I witnessed crimination and recrimination alternately, and became convinced that they were only a limb of the Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth. The tremendous sacrifice, I must necessarily make in coming into the order of the new Creation, deterred me for a while from making a public declaration of my faith. For two years I labored under the greatest mental embarrassment, until I was constrained by my feelings to make known the state of my mind to Elder Elisha Pote, communicating to him the resolution I had formed, as soon as convenient to unite with the families under his care, which I did in the year 1835. He has truly proved himself to be a Father in Israel. His counsels have ever been dictated by wisdom, and I have found in