The Convert: Or Leaves from My Experience; Preface

The Convert; or Leaves from my Experience

To the Right Reverend John Bernard Fitzpatrick, D.D., Bishop of Boston. 

This unpretending volume is most respectfully dedicated as a feeble mark of the veneration for his virtues, and the deep gratitude for his services to the convert, cherished by his spiritual son.


                The volume here offered to the reading public is no work of fiction, and the person who gives an account of himself is no imaginary person around whom I have chosen to weave a passage from my own experience.  The person who tells the story is myself, and I have aimed to tell my story, so far as it bears on my religious convictions and experience, with simplicity, frankness, and truthfulness.  The book, whatever else it may or may not be, is an honest book.

                I have traced, with all the fidelity I am master of, my entire religious life from my earliest recollection down to my admission into the bosom of the Catholic Church.  I have concealed none of my errors, disguised none of my changes, and sought to represent myself at no period as better or worse than I was.  My aim has been, neither to vindicate nor to condemn myself, but simply to tell the truth.

                Though I am the hero of my book, and speak in the first person, I trust the reader will not find me immoderately egotistic.  I have not written to give myself importance in the eyes of the public, or from a feeling that my story, simply as mine, could have any great interest or value.  Nearly all that is contained in the volume derives whatever value or importance it may have, from sources independent of my personality.

                What is related as matter of fact, unless my memory has played me tricks, may be read with entire confidence.  The principles and reasonings set forth, and the judgments offered speak for themselves, and must go for what they are worth.  Truth is not mine, nor my reader’s, and is the same whatever may be his or my opinions.  It is above us both, and independent of us, and all that either of us should aim as is to ascertain and conform to it.  I have no vocation to dogmatize or to teach.  If what I say carries conviction, accept it; if not, reject it, or suspend judgment until better informed.

                The reader will at once perceive that my book is not designed to flatter one or another sect or party.  I have expressed freely, frankly, unreservedly, my honest thought of persons and things that have come in my way, the results of my most careful observations and of my best judgment.  I have not addressed by work especially to Catholics or to non-Catholics, but to the public at large.  My purpose has been to render to all who may take an interest in the matter, an account of my conversion to Catholicity, and to enable the curious in such matters to discover the connecting link between my past and my present life, in order to enable them to discover the connecting link between nature and grace, the natural and the supernatural, and to perceive that, in becoming a Catholic, a man has no occasion to divest himself of his nature, or to forego the existence of his reason.

                In my reference to Catholic faith and doctrine, I believe I am orthodox; but in all such matters I recognize the church, under God, as the only infallible teacher.  I am a Catholic, and it would be in bad taste to seek to conceal or to disguise the fact.  I have no wish to force my Catholic faith upon those who loathe its bare mention, but for myself I glory in it, and consider submission to the teaching of the church the noblest exercise I can make of my reason and free-will.

                My book, however, is the free production of my own mind, the free expression of my own honest convictions as formed by my experience, the inspiration of grace and the teachings of the Catholic faith and theology, and may be taken by my readers as a specimen of that freedom which Catholicity secures to all her children.

                The temper of the book, I hope, will be found acceptable to every class of readers, - free from all bitterness, harshness, or severity.  It is not a controversial work, but a simple narrative, which may or may not carry with it a moral; and my aim has been to treat all of whom I have occasion to speak, with fairness and liberality, and to acknowledge cheerfully real worth wherever I find it.  I may have erred in my judgments, but not from bigotry, prejudice, or an intolerant disposition.

                I have aimed to tell my story simply, and to keep as clear as possible of all abstruse metaphysical or theological discussions; yet, as I had in some parts the profoundest problems of human life to deal with, and as my own path to the church led through the field of philosophy, I have not been able wholly to avoid them, and there are parts of the work which have little interest for those who read only for amusement.  I have aimed to write an instructive, not an amusing, book.

                The historian of the abberations of human reason during the last half-century will, if I am not much mistaken, find this volume not unworthy of his attention.  The accounts I have given of the various sects, schools, and parties with which I came at different times in contact, together with the sketches I have ventured of their founders and chiefs, will be found, I think, devoid neither of interest nor value.  These accounts and sketches might have been greatly extended, but I have made it a rule to confine myself to what served to illustrate my own story; and those contemporary movements and individuals that exerted little or no influence upon my own opinions or relations, I have passed over as foreign to my subject.

                With these prefatory remarks, wholly unneccessary on my part, I commit my volume to the public to make or mar its fortune.  It embodies no small portion of fifty years of an active, perhaps feverish, intellectual life, devoted to serious and earnest purposes; with what obstacles and with what results, it tells in a plain, unpretending style.  In writing it, I have had occasion to review my whole past life, and to renew my thanks to Him who died that we might live, for having conducted me, after so many wanderings, from the abyss of doubt and infidelity to the light and truth of his Gospel, in the bosom of his church, where I find the peace and repose so long denied me.

New York, September 16, 1857

Chapter 1: Childhood and Youth

                                I was born in the town of Stockbridge, Windsor County, Vermont, September 16, 1803.  My father was a native of Hartford County, Connecticut; my mother of the beautiful village of Keene, New Hampshire.  At the age of sixteen years I was placed with an aged couple in the town of Royalton to be brought up.  The man, when I was to live with him, was upwards of sixty; his wife was about fifty.  They were plain country people, living on a small farm, and supporting themselves by their own industry.  They had been brought up in New-England Congregationalism, were honest, upright, strictly moral, and far more ready to suffer wrong than to do wrong, but had no particular religion, and seldom went to meeting. 

                I was treated with great kindness and affection, and as well brought up as could be expected from persons in their condition of life.  They taught me to be honest, to owe no one any thing but good-will, to be frugal and industrious, to speak the truth, never to tell a lie under any circumstances, or to take what was not my own, even to the value of a pin; to keep the Sabbath, and to never let the sun go down on my wrath.  In addition they taught me the Shorter Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and a short evening prayer in rhyme, which ran,

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

                Properly speaking, I had no childhood, and have more of the child in my feelings now than at eight or ten years of age.  Brought up with old people, and debarred from all the sports, plays, and amusements of children, I had the manners, the tone, and tastes of an old man before I was a boy.  A sad misfortune; for children form one another, and should always be suffered to be children as long as possible.  Both children and youth are quite too short with us, and the morals and manners of the country suffer from it.

                I early learnt to read, and was from my earliest recollection fond of reading; but we had few books, and our neighbors had fewer.  Our family library consisted of a Protestant version of the Scriptures, a London edition; Watts’s Psalms and Divine Songs, and The Franklin Primer, to which was subsequently added Edward’s History of the Redemption; Davies’s Sermons; a History of the Indian Wars, by a Dr. Sanders, I believe, at one time President of the Vermont University at Burlington; a mutilated copy of Philip Quarle, a work of fiction, written in imitation of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; and during the war of 1812 with Great Britain, a weekly newspaper, published in Windsor by Alden Spooner.  My reading was confined to these works, and principally to the Scriptures, all of which I had read through before I was eight, and a great part of which I knew by heart before I was fourteen years old.

                My thoughts from my earliest recollection took a religious turn, and my greatest pleasure was in conversing, or in hearing others converse, on the subject of religion.  When about nine years old, I was permitted to accompany a much older boy to “the middle of the town,” about four miles distant from our residence, to witness a muster, or general training of a brigade of militia.  On returning home, I was asked what I had seen to interest me.  I answered that I had seen two old men talking of religion.  In fact, I was so much interested in their discussion that I quite forgot the soldiers, though I came of a military family, and almost forgot to eat my card of gingerbread.  The discussion, I remember, was on free-will and election, and I actually took part in it, stoutly maintaining free will against Edwards, who confounds volition with judgment, and maintains that the will is necessarily determined by the state of the affections and the motives presented to the understanding. 

                The simple history of the Passion of our Lord, as I read in the Evangelists, affected me deeply.  I hung with delight on the mystery of the Redemption, and my young heart often burned with love to our Blessed Lord, who had been so good as to come into the world, and to submit to the most cruel death of the cross that he might save us from our wicked dispositions, and make us happy forever in heaven.  I wanted to know every thing about him, and I used to think of him frequently in the day and the night.  Sometimes I seemed to hold long familiar conversations with him, and was deeply pained when any thing occurred to interrupt them.  Sometimes, also, I seemed to hold a spiritual intercourse with the Blessed Mary, and with the Holy Angel Gabriel, who had announced to her that she was to be the mother of the Redeemer.  I was rarely less alone than when alone.  I did not speculate on the matter.  It all seemed real to me, and I enjoyed often an inexpressible happiness.  I preferred to be alone, for then I could taste the sweets of silent meditation, and feel that I was in the presence of Jesus and Mary, and the holy angels; yet I had not been baptized, and had very little instruction except such as I had obtained from reading Holy Scriptures.

                The earliest wish I recollect to have formed with regard to my future life, was to be a minister of religion, and to devote myself to the work of bringing people to the knowledge and the love of God.  For this, I longed to go to school, to get learning, to grow up, and to be a man.  I early looked upon myself as one called and set apart or the service of religion.  I had an irritable temper, and was subject to violent outbreaks of passion, but I tried hard to control myself, and neither to do or to think any thing wrong, and, till I was man grown, I do not believe I ever suffered the sun to go down on my wrath.  I had my faults as well as others, and did many things which were by no means right or excusable; but my conscience was active, and I always felt a deep remorse for them, and was ready always to do all in my power, to submit to any humiliation however great, to repair the faults I committed, or the wrongs I did.  I always felt that the next best thing to never doing wrong, was to own the wrong done, and endeavor to undo it.  So it was with me in my childhood, till I was fourteen years of age, when I left the kind old people, who had thus far brought me up, and went forth into the world alone, to make my way as best I could.

                My youth was not as blameless as my childhood, and it was far less happy.  Religion, however, never lost its place in my thoughts.  But unhappily, while I had strong religious affections and the elements of Christian belief, I belonged to no church, and had no definite creed.  True, I had been taught the Shorter Catechism, but I was not taught it as something I must believe; and I soon learned that they who taught it to me did not themselves believe it.  True, also, I was taught the Apostles’ Creed, but I was not required to believe it, and received no instructions as to its sense.  I probably did believe, however, the greater part of it.  I believed in God the Father Almighty; that Jesus Christ was his only begotten Son; that he was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified by the wicked Jews, under Pontius Pilate, was dead, and buried; that he rose again from the dead on the third day; that he ascended into heaven; that he sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believed in the Holy Ghost; the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake; the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  But to the articles of the Creed affirming the Holy Catholic Church, and the Communion of Saints, I attached no meaning; my attention was not called to them; and not till long years after did it occur to me to ask whether they meant any thing or nothing.

                There is no doubt that I was well disposed to believe, and that, if I had been properly instructed in the Christian faith, I should have heartily received it, and held as fast to it as an unbaptized person, as one who is only a catechumen, can do; but, as it was, I attached very little definite meaning to what I was taught, and was open to any kind of influences by which I was surrounded.  Nobody, however, told me that baptism was necessary; and nobody told me any thing about the church.  The most I was told was, that I must “get religion,” “experience religion,” have “a change of heart,” “be born again;” but how that was to be brought about, I could not understand.  I took it for granted that I had not experienced religion, and I really wished I might be born again; but how I could be born again, or what I was to do in order to be born again, nobody explained to my understanding.

                In the town in which I lived we had Congregationalists, called in my young days, “The Standing Order,” Methodists, Baptists, Universalists, and Christians, or, as they insisted on the word being pronounced, Christ-yans.  The Congregational meeting-house was four miles distant from our house, in the middle of the town, and we never attended it.  The Methodists and Christians, a sect founded in New England by one Elias Smith, and one Abner Jones, in the year 1800, if I mistake not, hedl their meetings near by us, sometimes in a school-house, sometimes in private houses; and in the summer season, not unfrequently in a very pleasant grove.  The Universalists were few, and so were the Baptists.  The Methodists and Christians were more numerous.  I usually attended their meetings.  They differed, I was told; but the only difference I could discover between them was, that the Methodist preachers appeared to have the stronger lungs; they preached in a louder tone, and when they preached, the people shouted more.  I thought them the best, because they made the most noise, and gave the most vivid pictures of hell-fire, and the tortures of the damned.  All I learned, however, from either was, that I must be born again or go to hell, get religion or be damned.  The more I listened to them, the more I feared hell, and the less I loved God.  Love gave place to terror; and I became constantly afraid that the devil would come and carry me off bodily.  I tried to get religion, and at times almost made up my mind to submit to the Methodists, and let them “bring me out.”

                One of our neighbors, an elderly woman, who had seen better days, had been well brought up and well educated, was a Congregationalist, a staunch adherent to the Standing Order.  She was now very poor, and lived in a miserable log-hut on one corner of our farm, and was treated generally by our neighbors with great contempt, because she insisted on maintaining her self-respect and personal dignity, notwithstanding her poverty.  I had a great affection for her, because I found her a woman of intelligence and refinement.  I visited her one evening, when I was in great distress of mind, and told her my fears and my resolutions.  She heard me with great patience, till I had concluded my story.

                “My poor boy,” she replied, “God has been good to you, and has no doubt gracious designs toward you.  He means to use you for a purpose of his own, and you must be faithful to his inspirations.  But go not with the Methodists or with any of the sects.  They are New Lights, and not to be trusted.  The Christian religion is not new, and Christians have existed from the time of Christ.  These New Lights are of yesterday.  You yourself know the founder of the Christian sect, and I myself knew personally both George Whitfield and John Wesley, the founders of Methodism.  Neither can be right, for they come too late, and have broken off, separated from the body of Christians, which subsisted before them.  When you join any body calling itself a Christian body, find out and join one that began with Christ and his apostles, and has continued to subsist the same without change of doctrine or worship down to our own times.  You will find the true religion with that body, and nowhere else.  Join it, obey it, and you will find rest and salvation.  But beware of sects and New Lights: they will make you fair promises, but in the end will deceive you to your own destruction.”

                I was some twelve year old at the time, but the words made a deep impression on my mind.  They struck me as reasonable and just; and I think they prevented me from ever being a genuine, hearty Protestant, or a thorough-going radical even.  She was not a Catholic, but her argument is one which, though I knew it not then, none save a Catholic can consistently urge.  She was sincerely a Congregationalist, and held only the views which in my boyhood were generally insisted on by the old Standing Order of New England.  However erroneous were the views of the New England Puritans, they retained a conception of the church of Christ, held that Christ had himself founded a church, established its order, and given it its ordinances, and taught that it was necessary to belong to it in order to be saved.  The loose notions of the church, the humanism and transcendentalism, now so common among their descendants, were then unknown.  They were as rigid and as consistent churchmen in their way as the Anglicans, and even more so.

                But time went on, and after I was fourteen years of age, I was thrown upon a new world, into the midst of new and strange scenes, and exposed to new and corrupting influences.  I fell in with new sectaries, universalists, deists, atheists, and nothingarians, as they are called with us, who profess no particular religion.  I still held fast to the belief in my need of religion, and there were times when my earlier feelings revived, and I enjoyed my silent meditations.  But my young head became confused with the contradictory opinions I heard advanced, with the doubts and denials to which I listened, and for a time my mind was darkened, and I half persuaded myself that all religion was a delusion – the work of priestcraft or statecraft.  I was in a labyrinth of doubt, with no Ariadne’s thread to guide me out to the light of day.  I was miserable, and knew not where to turn for relief.  I felt that my own reason was insufficient to guide me; and the more I attempted by it alone to arrive at truth, the further I went astray, and the more uncertain and perplexed I became.

                One day, when I was about nineteen years of age, I was passing by a Presbyterian meeting-house.  It was Sunday, and the people were gathering for the service.  The thought struck me that I would go in and join with them.  It was a beautiful September day, in Malta, Saratoga County, New York.  The air was soft and balmy, the sky was clear and serene, and it seemed as if all nature was enjoying its sweet Sabbath-day repose.  I went into the meeting-house: it was long since I had been in a place of worship.  The singing was, perhaps, not very good, but it soothed me, while it affected me even to tears.  I listened reverently to the reading of Scriptures, to the prayer, and to the sermon.  There was nothing in the sermon that I remember.  It was a common-place affair.  But I went out from that meeting-house much affected, and feeling that I had missed my way.  As I pursued my jouney, I could not help asking myself what I had gained by my speculations, and why it was that I must have no sympathy with my kind; why I must stand alone, and find no belief to sustain me, and have no worship to refresh me.

                I have, said I, in my self-communing, done my best or find the truth, to experience religion, and to lead a religious life, yet here I am without faith, without hope, without love.  I know not what to believe.  I know not what to do.  I know not whence I came, why I am here, or whither I go.  My life is a stream that flows out of darkness into darkness.  The world is dark to me, and not a ray of light even for one instant relieves it.  My heart is sad, and I see nothing to hope for, or to live for.  For me heaven is dispeopled, and the earth is a desert, a barren waste.  Why is this so?  Why does my heart rebel against the speculations of my mind?  If doubt is all there is for me, why cannot I discipline my feelings into submission to it?  Why this craving to believe when there is nothing to be believed?  Why this longing for sympathy, when there is nothing to respond to my heart?  Why this thirst for an unbounded good, when there is no good, when all is a mere show, an illusion, and nothing is real?  Have I not mistaken my way?

                Was I not told in the outset that, if I followed my own reason, it would lead me astray, that I should lose all belief, and find myself involved in universal doubt and uncertainty?  Has it not been so?  In attempting to follow the light of reason alone, have I not lost faith, lost the light of revelation, and plunged myself into spiritual darkness?  I did not believe what these people said, and, yet, were they not right?  They were.  They told me to submit me reason to revelation.  I will do so.  I am incapable of directing myself.  I must have a guide.  I will hear the church.  I will surrender, abnegate my own reason, which hitherto has only led me astray, and make myself a member of the church, and do what she commands me.

                In a few days I told my experience to the Presbyterian minister of the town where I was pursuing my academic studies, went the same day, at his request, and told it to the Session of his church, and the Sunday following was baptized and received into the Presbyterian communion.  I did not ask whether the Presbyterian Church was the true church or not, for the church question had not yet been raised in my mind; and as it did not differ essentially from the Standing Order, and claimed to be the true church, and was counted respectable, I was satisfied.  What it believed was of little consequence, since I had resolved to abnegate my own reason, and take the church for my guide.  My proceeding was precipitate, but after all was not rash, for it was logical, and justified by the resolution I had taken.  So in October, 1822, I became a member of the Presbyterian Church, Ballston, Saratoga County, New York.

Chapter II – Presbyterian Experience

                The Monday following my reception into the Presbyterian communion we had a covenant meeting, or a meeting of all the members of the church.  The Presbyterians, like most of the Protestant sects in this country, adopt the doctrine of the old Donatists, that the church is composed of the elect, the just, or the saints only, and they therefore distinguish between the church and the congregation, or between those who are held to be saints, and those held to be sinners; that is, between those who profess to have been regenerated, and those who make no such pretension, although they may have been baptized.  The church members, to the number of about six hundred, came together on Monday, and after being addressed by the pastor, and stirred up to greater zeal for the promotion of Presbyterianism, renewed their covenant obligations, and bound themselves to greater efforts for the conversion of sinners, the common name given to all not of the sect, even though members of the congregation, and born of Presbyterian parents.  In this meeting we all solemnly pledged ourselves, not only to pray for the conversion of sinners, but to mark them wherever we met them, to avoid them, to have no intercourse whith them who could be helped, and never to speak to them except to admonish them of their sins, or so far as it should be necessary on business.  There was to be no interchange of social or neighborly visits between us and them, and we were to have even business relations with them only when absolutely necessary.  We were by our manner to show all, not members of the Presbyterian Church, that we regarded them as the enemies of God, and therefore as our enemies, as persons hated by God, and therefore hated by us; and we were, even in business relations, always to give the preference to church members, and, as far as possible, without sacrificing our own interests, to treat those not members as outcasts from siciety, as pariahs; and thus, by appeals to their business interests, their social feelings, and their desire to stand well in the community, to compel them to join the Presbyterian Church.  The meeting was animated by a singular mixture of bigotry, uncharitableness, apparent zeal for God’s glory, and a shrewd regard to the interests of this world.

                About the time I speak of, and for several years after, meetings of the sort I have described, were common in the Presbyterian churches; and a movement was made, in 1827, to induce all the members throughout the Union to pledge themselves to non-intercourse with the rest of the community, except for their conversion, and to refuse in the common business affairs of life to patronize any one not a member of the church.  How far it succeeded, I am not informed; but as, taking the country at large, the Presbyterians were but a small minority, and by no means able to control its business operations, I suppose it was only partially successful, and its abettors had to soften their rules a little so as to bring within the privileged the members of the other Evangelical sects.

                It may readily be believed that the exhibition I saw was not over and above pleasing to me, and that it was only with a wry face that I took the pledges with the rest.  I was in for it, and I would do as the others did.  I saw at once that I had made a mistake, that I had no sympathy with the Presbyterian spirit, and should need a long and severe training to sour and elongate my visage sufficiently to enjoy the full confidence of my new brethren.  Every day’s experience proved it.  In our covenant we had bound ourselves to watch over one another with fraternal affection.  I was not long in discovering that this meant that we were each to be a spy upon the others, and to rebuke, admonish, or report them to the Session.  My whole life became constrained.  I dared not trust myself, in the presence of a church member, to a single spontaneous emotion; I dared not speak in my natural tone of voice, and if I smiled, I expected to be reported.  The system of espionage in some European countries is bad enough, and it is no pleasant reflection that the man you are talking with may be a mouchard, and report your words to the Prefet de Police; but that is nothing to what one must endure as a Presbyterian, unless he has enough of malignity to find an indemnification for being spied in spying others.  We were allowed no liberty, and dared enjoy ourselves only by stealth.  The most rigid Catholic ascetic never imagined a discipline a thousandth part as rigid as the discipline to which I was subjected.  The slightest deviation was a mortal sin, the slightest forgetfulness was enough to send me to hell.  I must not talk with sinners; I must take no pleasure in social intercourse with persons; however moral, amiable, well-bred, or worthy, if not members of the church; I was forbidden to read books written by others than Presbyterians, and commanded never to inquire into my belief as a Presbyterian, or to reason on it, or about it.

                I tried for a year or two to stifle my discontent, to silence my reason, to repress my natural emotions, to extinguish my natural affections, and to submit patiently to the Calvinistic discipline.  I spent much time in prayer and meditation, I read pious books, and finally plunged myself into my studies with a view of becoming a Presbyterian minister.  But it would not do.  I had joined the church because I had despaired of myself, and because, despairing of reason, I had wished to submit to authority.  If the Presbyterian Church had satisfied me that she had authority, was authorized by Almighty God to teach and direct me, I could have continued to submit; but while she exercised the most rigid authority over me, she disclaimed all authority to teach me, and remitted me to the Scriptures and private judgment.  “We do not ask you to take this as your creed,” said my pastor, on giving me a copy of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith; “we do not give you this as a summary of the doctrines which we believe the Scriptures teach.  What you are to believe is the Bible.  You must take the Bible as your creed, and read it with a prayerful mind, begging the Holy Ghost to aid you to understand it aright.”  But while the church refused to take the responsibility of telling me what doctrines I must believe, while she sent me to the Bible and private judgment, she yet claimed authority to condemn and excommunicate me as a heretic, if I departed from the standard of doctrine contained in her Confession.

                This I regarded as unfair treatment.  It subjected me to all the disadvantages of authority without any of its advantages.  The church demanded that I should treat her as a true mother, while she was free to treat me only as a stepson, or even as a stranger.  Be one thing or another, said I; either assume the authority and the responsibility of teaching and directing me, or leave me with the responsibility my freedom.  If you have authority from God, avow it, and exercise it.  I am all submission.  I will hold what you say, and do what you bid.  If you have not, then say so, and forbear to call me to account for differing from you, or disregarding your teachings.  Either bind me or loose me.  Do not mock me with a freedom which is no freedom, or with an authority which is illusory.  If you claim authority over my faith, tell me what I must believe, and do not throw upon me the labor and responsibility of forming a creed for myself; if you do not, if you send me to the Bible and private judgment, to find out the Christian faith the best way I can, do not hold me obliged to conform to your standards, or assume the right to anathematize me for departing from them.  

                My position was a painful one, and I could not endure it.  I had gained nothing, but lost much, by joining the Presbyterian Church.  I had given up the free exercise of my own reason for the sake of an authoritative teacher, and had obtained no such teacher.  I had despaired of finding the truth by my own reason, and had now nothing better, nor so good, because I could not exercise it freely.  Certainly I had been too hasty, and reckoned without my host.  After all, what reason had I to regard this Presbyterian Church as the true church of Christ?  “Go not after New Lights,” said my old Congregationalist friend.  Are not these Presbyterians New Lights, as much as the Methodists and the Christians?  If our Lord founded a church and has a church on earth, it must reach back to his time, and come down in unbroken succession from the apostles.  But the Presbyterian Church is a recently formed body, not three hundred years old.  It was founded in Scotland by men who had been Roman Catholics, and who had deserted the faith in which they had been reared; and in England, by men who had belonged to the Church of England, which itself had broken off from the Catholic Church.  Were these men authorized by an express commission from God?  Did they act by authority?  Or did they follow their own private judgment, and against the authority which they had previously recognized?  The latter certainly.  Then what reason have I for regarding the church they founded as the church of Christ?

                I was answered that the church of Christ had become corrupt, and been for a long series of ages perverted to a papistical and prelatical church, and these men were reformers, and simply labored to restore the church to its primitive purity and simplicity.  But had they a warrant from Christ to do that?  Or did they act on their own responsibility, without warrant?  If you say the former, where is the proof?  If the latter, how can their acts bind me?  Am not I a man, and as a man have I not as much right to follow my private opinion as they had to follow theirs?  But they follow the Bible.  Be it so.  But was it the Bible as they understood it, or as it was understood by their Catholic predecessors and contemporaries?- You forget, the Catholic Church rejected the Bible, and did not follow it at all. – yet she preserved the Bible and taught that it was given by inspiration of God, and it was from her that the reformers got it.  She did not own that she rejected the Scriptures, or that she taught, or allowed any thing to be taught, inconsistent with them.  How know I that her understanding of the Bible was not as good as the understanding of it by the reformers?  They thought differently from her, but were they infallible?  If they had a right to break from her and set up their private understanding of Scripture, why have I not the right to break from them and from the Presbyterian Church, follow my private understanding, and set up a church of my own?

                It was clear to me that the Presbyterian Church, though the church of one class of the reformers, was not and could not be the church of Christ, and therefore it could have no legitimate authority over me.  If Christ had a church on earth which he had founded, and which had authority to teach in his name, it was evidently the Roman Catholic Church.  But that church, of course, was out of the question.  It was every thing that was vile, base, odious, and demoralizing.  It had been condemed by the judgment of mankind, and the thought of becoming a Roman Catholic found and could find at that time no entrance into my mind.  I should sonner thought of becoming Jew, Mahometan, Gentoo, or Buddhist.  What, then, was I to do?  There was no alternative.  It was the Catholic Church or no church.  All the so-called Protestant churches were New Lights, were of yesterday, founded by fallible men, without any warrant from God, without any authority but their private interpretation of Scripture.  I cannot accept any one of them as having any authority to teach or direct me.  Being the work of men, honest men, learned men, pious men, if you will, they have no authority over my conscience, and no right to hold me amenable to them.  Then, since I cannot be a Catholic, I must be a no-church man, and deny all churches, make war on every sect claiming the slightest authority in matters of faith or conscience.

                I was at this time about twenty-one years of age.  The question with me was not what, but whom, I was to believe; not what doctrines I must embrace, but what authority I was to obey, or on what authority I was to take my belief.  As to particular doctrines, they did not trouble me.  I paid very little attention to them.  I regarded them of minor consideration, and never entered very deeply into their investigation.  The important thing with me, from the first, was, to find out the rule of faith.  I had not found it in my youthful and uninformed reason, and had submitted to the Presbyterian Church, hoping to find it in her authority.  I failed to find it there, and, the Catholic Church being out of the question, I was forced, by the necessity of the case, to fall back on the Scriptures interpreted by my own private judgment for myself.

                In becoming a Presbyterian on the ground I did, I committed a mistake, and placed myself in a false position, which it took me years to rectify.  It was a capital blunder.  Not that I was insincere, or governed by bad motives, but because, feeling the insufficiency of my own reason to guide me, I turned my back on reason, and took up with what I supposed to be authority without a rational motive for believing it divinely commissioned.  As far as I could, I abnegated my own rational nature, denied reason to make way for revelation, rational conviction to make way for authority.  Unhappily, the religious belief of my Protestant contrymen, as far as religious belief they have, is built on scepticism, and hence, if they think at all, they have a perpetual struggle in their minds between faith and reason.  The two are presented, not each as the other’s complement, but as antagonistic, the one to advance only over the dead body of the other.  All those with whom I came into relation, either denied reason to make way for revelation, or revelation to make way for reason.  At least such was their tendency.  The one class declaimed against reason, used reason against reason, and sometimes asigned, apparently, a very good reason why reason ought not to be used.  The other class either openly denied all supernatural revelation, or, admitting it in words, explained away all its supernaturalness, and brought it within the sphere of the natural order, and subjected it to the dominion of reason.

                This was the natural result of Calvinism, which was the dominant doctrine of the American people; and, so far as they have any notions of Christianity at all as a revealed religion, the great majority of them, whether they accept or reject it, are even yet Calvinists.  They apprehend Christianity always through Calvinistic spectacles, and under Calvinistic forms.  The fundamental doctrine of Calvinism is, that man by his fall lost his natural spiritual faculties, and became totally depraved, incapable by nature of any thing but sin.  Grace is conceived therefore as opposed to nature, revelation as opposed to reason.  A nature that is totally depraved cannot be redeemed, but must be supplanted or superseded by grace; a totally depraved reason is incapable of a rational act, and therefore revelation cannot be addressed to it to supply its weakness, or to place it in relation with truth lying in an order above its natural reach; but, if conceived at all, must be conceived as a substitute for reason, as discarding reason, and taking its place.  Hence it is my countrymen, receiving their first notions of Christianity through Calvinism, and never able to reconcile faith and reason, or to harmonize nature and grace.  They feel, against the dictates of common-sense, that they must either deny the one or the other.  Some try to assert both, but find that their life is one of painful struggle precisely where peace and repose are promised by the Gospel.

                In general, those Protestants commonly called Orthodox, when they are sincere and earnest, when their religion is not put on or retained for a sinister purpose, retain their belief only by refusing to examine its grounds.  The eminent Dr. Payson, one of the most distinguished Calvinistic ministers of New England in the first half of the present century, records in his diary his temptations to doubt even the divine existence, and says that the devil suggested to him arguments against the existence of God, which, if published, would shake the faith of more than one half of Christendom.  I cite from memory, but believe his expression was much stronger.  My own Presbyterian pastor told me, time and again, not to allow myself to read any book touching the grounds of my belief as a Presbyterian, or even to think on the subject.  Large numbers of Calvinists, in their confidential intercourse with me, have assured me that the only way in which they could retain their faith, their belief even in revelation, was by refusing, even in their own minds, to reason on the subject.  Their belief, as far as belief they have, is and must be a blind belief, an effort of the will alone, without any assent of the understanding; for they start with the assumption that reason is totally depraved, and therefore a false light, a deceptive guide.  The gravest objection to Calvinism is its denunciation of reason, and its attempt to build up a system of theology on revelation made to an irrational subject.

                God gave me reason, I said, in my self-communings.  It is my distinguishing faculty, and to abnegate it is to surrender my essential character as a man, and to sink myself, theoretically, to the level of the brute creation.  Revelation, if revelation there be, must be made to me as a man, as a rational subject.  Take away my reason, and you can as well make a revelation to an ox or horse, a pig or an ass, as to me.  It demands reason to receive revelation, and the natural to receive the supernatural.  If there is no natural, there can be no supernatural.  If I am totally depraved, I am incapable of being redeemed; and if my reason is deceptive and never to be trusted, how am I to know that what I take to be revelation is revelation?  It is God’s word, you say, and God cannot lie.  But how am I to know that it is God’s word, or that there is any God at all, if my reason is totally depraved, and to be discarded as a falses light?  No, no, it will not do.  We cannot build faith on scepticism; and just in proportion as we discredit reason, we must discredit revelation.  Reason must at least be the preamble to faith, and nature must precede and be presupposed by grace.

                I must then, I continued, revoke the act of surrender which I made of my reason to authority on entering the Presbyterian Church; for it was an irrational, an unmanly act.  I offered in it no reasonable obedience or submission to God.  It was a blind submission, and really no submission of my reason at all.  It was a cowardly act, the act of an intellectual desperado, although the motive was good.  I reclaim my reason, I reclaim my manhood, and henceforth I will, let come what may, be true to my reason, and preserve the rights and dignity of my human nature.  This resolution, of course, separated me from Presbyterianism.  The peculiar Presbyterian doctrines I had never believed or professed to believe, except on the authority of the Presbyterian Church.  Grant her authority from God to teach, I was logician enough to understand that I must believe whatever she taught, whether I could or could not reconcile it with my own reason.  That authority taken away, then I was not bound to believe her doctrines, unless I found reason for doing so elsewhere.

                The doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation, and the doctrine that God foreordains the wicked to sin necessarily, that he may damn them justly, I found difficult to swallow, and still more difficult to digest.  My honest pastor told me that he regarded the doctrine as a hard doctrine, as revolting to human nature, and he had tried in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, in 1821, to get it modified, or rescinded altogether, but failed by one or two votes.  The doctrine was repugnant to my reason; and having settled it, that revelation could never contain any thing repugnant to reason, I rejected it without taking the trouble to inquire whether it was Scriptural or not.  It is unreasonable, it is unjust, and therefore cannot be taught in the Scriptures, if they are written by divine inspiration.  When a Presbyterian, I simply asked: What does the Presbyterian Church teach?  But having discovered that the Presbyterian Church was a self-created body, and without any authority from God, and having adopted reason as my test or criterion of truth, I asked simply: What is or is not contrary to reason?

                I felt, as every thinking man feels and always must feel, that reason is insufficient, and that, with no other guide, it is impossible to attain to all truth, or always to avoid all error; but it was the best guide I had, and all I could do was to exercise it freely and honestly upon all subjects,- to give it fair play, and abide the result.  I did not absolutely reject the Scriptures, nor absolutely accept them.  As the word of God, they were infallible; but they were and could be the word of God only in the sense intended by the Holy Ghost, and that sense I had no infallible means of ascertaining.  I could not, then, feel myself bound by the strict letter of the Scriptures, and felt that I had a right to interpret them by my own understanding, and to explain them in accordance with the dictates of natural reason.  I consequently, without rejecting them, attenuated their practical authority, and made reason a rule for them, instead of taking them, as the believer must, as a rule for reason.  I thus passed from so-called Orthodox Christianity to what is sometimes denominated liberal Christianity.  This was my first notable change,- a change from a supernaturalist to a rationalist.  In fact, it should not be regarded so much as a change as the commencement of my intellectual life, for I was as yet only twenty-one years of age.  

Chapter III – Become a Universalist

I was unwilling to be an unbeliever, a felt deeply the need of having a religion of some sort.  What should it be?  Liberal Christianity was a vague term, and presented nothing definite or positive.  Its chief characteristic was the denial of what was called Orthodoxy, and taking nature and reason for the rule of faith.  The only definite form under which I was acquainted with it was that of Universalism, then far less generally diffused than it is now.  Prior to becoming a Presbyterian, I had read several Universalist books, and been initiated into the mysteries of Universalism by a sister of my mother, who had in her youth listened to the preaching of Dr. Elhanan Winchester, one of the earliest Universalist preachers in America.  Dr. Winchester had been a Calvinistic Baptist minister, and had, while a Baptist, acquired considerable reputation as a zealous, fervent, and eloquent preacher,- a reputation which recalled and almost rivalled that of the famous George Whitefield, one of the original Oxford Methodists.  He preached in various parts of the United States and Great Britain, and stood very high with his sect.  At the very height of his success as a Baptist, he began to doubt the doctrine of endless punishment.  Inquiry led him to reject it, and to embrace the doctrine of the final salvation or restoration of all men, and even of the fallen angels, thus reviving the doctrine said to have been held by Origen in the third century, though probably so said without sufficient warrant.  He preached and wrote much in defense of his favorite tenet, and, though preceded by that eccentric Irishman, John Murray, the first who avowedly preached universal salvation in the United States, he must be justly regarded as the founder of American Universalism.  He had some pretensions to leaning, but no philosophy, and very little theological science.  He wrote several books in defense of universal restoration, among which his Dialogues, his Lectures on the Prophecies, borrowed in great part from a work on the same subject by Dr. Thomas Newton, an Anglican divine, I believe, and an epic poem, celebrating the triumph of the empire of Christ, were the more noticeable.  I forget the exact title of the poem, but I remember that the author tells us in the preface that it was written in the course of three months, during his leisure moments, although it makes a good-sized duodecimo volume in close print, and that, if he had devoted all his time to it, he could have written it in a much briefer period.  I recollect nothing in the poem to throw any doubt on this statement.  The poem certainly was not equal to the Iliad, Paradise Lost, or the Divina Commedia, and not much superior to the Fredonia or the Napolead,- two of our many American epics known, I fear, to very few American readers.

            My aunt had placed these works in my hands when I was between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and aided by her brilliant and enthusiastic commentaries, they had shaken my early belief in future rewards and punishments, and unsettled my mind on the most important points of Christian faith.  Besides the works of Mr. Winschester, I had also read a work on universal salvation, by Dr. Chauncy, a learned and highly esteemed Congregationalist minister in the last century, in Boston, Massachusetts.  Dr. Chauncy was the son of President Chauncey of Harvard College, and was born in Boston, January I, 1705.  He was ordained pastor of the First Congregational church in Boston, the church in Chauncy Place, 1727, and continued to be its pastor until his death, February 10, 1787, in the 83d year of his age.  He was strongly attached to the American cause in the struggle of the Colonies with the mother country, and rendered it important services.  He was vehemently opposed to George Whitfield, the New Lights, and the religious enthusiasm which Whitefield’s preaching excited, as also to Episcopacy, which he could in no manner tolerate.  George Whitefield was an Englishman, a student of Oxford, and a presbyter of the Anglican Church.  He was one of the original Methodists, and associated with John Wesley, from whom he subsequently separated on the question of unconditional election and reprobation.  He visited the Colonies several times, and finally died and was buried in Newbury port, Massachusetts.  In one of his numerous visits to this country, Dr. Chauncy met him as he was landing on the wharf in Boston, and taking him by the hand said: “Mr. Whitfield, I am sorry you have come to this country.  I am sorry to see you here.”  “No doubt of it,” replied the missionary, “and so is the devil.”  The edition of Dr. Chauncy’s book which I read was a moderate-sized octavo, printed in London, without the author’s name, and I am not aware that it has ever been reprinted in this country.  I do not recollect the work very distinctly, nor the precise ground on which the author defends the final salvation of all men; but my impression is that he urges it from the universality of the atonement, and the nature of punishment, which he holds is purgative or reformatory, not vindictive.  The book was marked by a show of learning and some ability, but I thought it rather dull and heavily written.

            About the same time I read another work, called Calvinism Improved, written by Dr. Joseph Huntington, pastor of the Congregational Church in Coventry, Connecticut.  Dr. Huntington lived in the last century, and was of the same family as the Hon. Samuel Huntington, one of the signers of the Declaration of American Independence.  His book was not published until after his death, and I am not aware that he was ever suspected during his lifetime of holding the doctrine of universal salvation.  The work has much method, but is written in a free, easy, flowing, and attractive style.  The author starts with the Calvinistic premises of imputed righteousness and salvation by grace without works, and concludes the salvation of all men.  He supposes two covenants: the covenant of works, made by Almighty God with Adam as federal head of mankind in the natural order; and the covenant of grace, made by the Father with the Son, the Federal Head of the human race in the spiritual order.  The first covenant failed, and all mankind fell under the wrath of God, died in Adam, and were condemned to everlasting death; but the Son, becoming incarnate, fulfilled the covenant of works for men, expiated the guilt incurred by the human race, and under the covenant of grace redeems, restores, and saves them.  Works have nothing to do with salvation, which is a work of pure grace.  Under the covenant of works no man can be saved, and, if works entered into the covenant of grace, it would no longer be a covenant of grace.  The sinner is saved by the covenant of grace alone, not in consideration of any good thing in him or done by him.  He is saved solely by the free sovereign act of God imputing to him, or counting as his, the righteousness of Christ.  This doctrine which Calvinism asserts, but confines to the elect only, Dr. Huntington extends to all men.  He proves from the Scriptures that the atonement was made for all men, and was an ample and abundant satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.  Hence, all men must be included in the covenant of grace, not a few only, and Christ must be regarded as the head of every man.  In this covenant of grace God agrees to reckon the sins of all men as the sins of Christ, and to impute the righteousness of Christ to all who have transgressed.  He transfers the sins to Christ, and punishes them in him; and then, finding his justice satisfied, pardons the sinner, transfers to him the righteousness of Christ, counts him just for Christ’s sake, and receives him to his peace and love.

            In the day of judgment, men will first be judged by the covenant of works, under which all will be condemned, for all have failed to keep that covenant; and the Judge, speaking in the name of the law of works, shall say to all the human family, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”  They shall then be judged under the covenant of grace; and the Judge, in consideration of the fact that the penalty incurred by the breach of the covenant of works has been borne and fully expiated by Christ in his own person, shall say, speaking in the name of free grace: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, enter into the kingdom of heaven, prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  Thus the law is justified by the innocent suffering for the guilty, has its full and perfect vindication, and yet all men are saved,- yet, I might add, without personal sanctity,- a point, in the author’s estimation, of no great importance.  The good doctor does not shrink from making God the author of all our actions whether good or bad; and to the objection that sin is of a personal nature and its guilt is not transferable, he replies that sin is no more personal than justice, and that it is as easy for God to transfer our sins to Christ, as it is for him to transfer Christ’s righteousness to us.  Sin is, he says, God’s property, God has the sovereign dominion over it, and may do with it what seems to him good, and transfer it to whom he pleases. 

            A neighbor put into my hands also a Treatise on the Atonement, by Hosea Ballou.  Mr. Ballou was a native of New Hampshire, originally a Calvinistic Baptist, but he became a Universalist through the influence of some members of his family, who had been converted directly or indirectly by the preaching and writings of Dr. Elhanan Winchester.  He was, I think, of French descent, the son of a small New-England farmer, and obliged in his youth to assist his father and elder brothers in the cultivation of the farm, and in supporting the family.  Nature was bountiful to him, both physically and intellectually.  She gave him a tall athletic frame, symmetrical and finely molded, handsome features, and an air of dignity and authority.  His natural genius and ability fitted him to take rank with the most distinguished men the country has produced; but, unhappily, his education was very defective, and his acquired knowledge and information were even to the last very limited.  But his intellect was naturally acute, active, fertile, and vigorous.  He always struck me – and I knew him well in the later years of his life – as one who, if he chose, might excel in whatever he undertook.  In his earlier years, he was regarded as harsh, bitter, and sarcastic in his temper; but when I knew him personally, he was witty, indeed, fond of his joke, like most New Englanders, but an agreeable and kind-hearted old gentleman, very fond of children, and possessing great power to fascinate young men, and win their confidence and affection.  In my boyhood he was settled in Barnard, Vermont, about five miles from the old people with whom I resided, and I often heard them speak of him, as some of their relatives belonged to his congregation.  He was then a young man, but distinguished.  From Barnard he removed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and after a short residence there he removed to Boston, where he continued to reside till his death, which occurred five or six years ago.  He was the patriarch of American Universalism, and, at the time when I became a Universalist minister, was its oracle, very nearly its pope.

            It is many years since I have seen a copy of his Treatise on the Atonement, and I am not certain that I have read it since my youth.  It gave a new phase to Universalism.  Winchester, Chauncy, Huntington, Dan Foster, John Murray, and the Englishman, John Relly, the fathers of modern Universalism in Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, had been what are called orthodox Protestants, and retained their early views with the exception of the single point of the endless punishment of the wicked.  They held the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the expiatory Atonement, and endeavored to prove the final salvation of all men by Scriptural exegesis, and arguments drawn from the love and mercy of God.  Mr. Ballou changes the whole ground, and attacks the whole fabric of so-called orthodox Christianity.  He adopts Arian views as to the person of Christ, and labors throughout his Treatise to demolish the doctrine of satisfaction, or of an expiatory sacrifice.  He is the first American writer I am aware of, who combines the doctrines of modern Unitarians with Universalism.  He maintains that God demanded no expiation, that no expiatory sacrifice was needed, for God pardons the sinner on simple repentance and reformation of life, and an expiatory sacrifice, even if required, could not have been made.  He excludes grace, all transferable merit of the Head to the members, and maintains that grace is nothing but the irrevocable decrees of God irresistibly executing themselves in the government of the world; he denies free-will, denies accountability, denies a future judgment, denies all rewards and punishments, denies virtue, denies sin, in all except the name, and consequently the whole moral order.  Sin, according to him, originates in the flesh, in the body, and does not affect the soul, the spirit, which remains pure, uncontaminated, whatever our fleshly defilements, - an old Gnostic and Manichaean heresy, which in early times was thought to open the door to gross disorders.  Sin, pertaining only to the body, cannot survive its dissolution, but is deposited with it in the grave.  Therefore, “he that is dead is freed from sin.”

            This was the ground on which Mr. Ballou placed his defense of universal salvation.  Against the doctrine of endless punishment he uses the various Scriptural arguments used by his predecessors, apparently without perceiving their irrelevancy.  He argues against it from the assumed injustice of all punishment not reformatory in its intention and nature, and also from the justice as well as from the love of God.  Go is the author of all our actions, and therefore of sin.  He has no right to punish us eternally for sins which, when he made us, he not only foresaw, but foreordained, predetermined us to commit.  It is clear that the conception of grace does not belong to his system, and that he demands the salvation of all men, not from the mercy, but from the justice of God, as a right, not as a favor.  These views are set forth and defended with great freedom and boldness, with wonderful acuteness and power, in language clear, simple, forcible, and at times beautiful, and even eloquent.  A book fuller of heresies, and heresies of the most deadly character, not excepting Theodore Parker’s Discourse of Matters Pertaining to Religion, has probably never issued from the American press, or one better calculated to carry away a large class of young, ingenuous, and unformed minds.  The heresies are indeed old, but they were nearly all original with the author.  He had never read them, and there were no books within his reach, at the time when he wrote his Treatise, from which he could derive them.  “My only aids in writing my Treatise on the Atonement,” said he personally to me, in answer to a question I put to him, “were the Bible, Ethan Allen’s Oracles of Reason,” a deistical work, “and my own reflections.”  In the circumstances under which it was written, it was certainly a most remarkable production; and if it did the author no credit as a sound thinker, it certainly entitled him to rank among the most original thinkers of our times.  It is, however, an admirable commentary on the Protestant rule of faith – the Bible without note or comment, interpreted by every one for himself.  The book made a deep impression on my young mind, although I was very far from accepting all its doctrines or all its arguments.  It was subtle, yet even in my youth, I detected some portion of its sophistry, and found it repugnant to my moral sentiments and convictions.

            These works, together with some popular works openly warring against all revealed religion, indeed against all religion, whether revealed or natural, I had read before becoming a Presbyterian.  They had a pernicious influence on my mind.  They unsettled it, loosed it from its moorings, and filled me with doubt.  I had in my despair gone to the Presbyterian Church, in order to get rid of the doubts they had excited, and to be taught the truth.  Presbyterianism not being the true church, being, in fact, only a self-constituted body, though she silenced these doubts for a brief time, could not solve or remove them.  When I was forced to admit that Presbyterian had no authority in the matter, I was necessarily forced back on the point whence it had taken me up, when I believed, so far as I believed any thing, the doctrine of Universalism.  The truth is, my mind was unsettled, and in reality had been from the time my well-meaning aunt had undertaken to initiate me into the doctrine of Universalism, and I had adhered to any fixed doctrines only by spasmodic efforts.  In reality my mind continued unsettled for many years later than the period I am now treating of.  I had no repose of mind, and found none until I got back to the Apostles’ Creed, and found admission into the bosom of the Holy Catholic Church.  But this by the way I could not, following my own reason, and without any divinely-commissioned teacher, have believed in the doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked.  It seemed to me unjust.  I could conceive it just, only on condition that God had given us an infallible means of knowing the truth, and sufficient power, naturally or supernaturally, of always obeying it, and resisting all temptation to evil.  These I could not perceive had been given.  The Protestant sophism could not deceive me.  The Scriptures might, indeed, be infallible in themselves, but they were and could be to me only what I understood them to be.  They were to me solely in my understanding of them, and my understanding of them was not infallible.  I might err as to their sense, and entirely misinterpret them.  Besides, only about one-twentieth of mankind can read, and to those who cannot read the Bible is a sealed book; for them it is as if it were not.  What is to become of them?  How are they to know the truth? – but all should know how to read, and we must deal with them as they are.  They may die before they learn to read the Bible. – But their natural light will suffice for them.  Then the Scriptures are superfluous.  Yet our natural light, even the best we have, is dim, our natural reason is weak, and to err is human.  We have no infallible means of knowing the truth, of knowing what it is that God requires of us, the belief and worship that will be acceptable to him.

            Nor is this the worst.  We are not only weak to know, but we are even weaker to perform.  None of us do as well as we know.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  I see the right, I approve it, and yet pursue the wrong.  My will is weak, and my appetites and passions are strong.  I am surrounded by temptations to which my firmest resolves succumb.  I feel the want of a moral power that I find not.  Now it cannot be that a just and good God has placed me in this world in the midst of so many seductions, surrounded by so many enemies to my virtue, where not to fail is a miracle – left me in so much darkness, so frail and so morally weak in myself, and yet attached the penalty of eternal death even to my slightest transgressions.  He knoweth our frame, he considereth our weakness, and hath compassion on us. These were reasons sufficient, I thought, for rejecting endless punishment.  Indeed, the doctrine of endless punishment, as held by Christians, pertains to the supernatural order, and would not be just if man had been left to the natural order, and had not received supernatural gifts and graces.  It presupposes man to have been placed under a supernatural providence, and that he has done more than abuse or misuse his natural powers.  It is inflicted for the abuse of supernatural graces, which, if properly used, would have enabled us to merit the beatitude of heaven.  To deny the supernatural aids, and yet assert the endless punishment of the wicked, is to outrage the natural sense of justice common to all men.

            As to the positive part of Universalism, I felt less certain, both because I was not perfectly satisfied that the Scriptures taught it, and because I had a lurking doubt of the divine inspiration and authority of the Scriptures themselves.  But having made up my mind that the endless punishment of the wicked was a thing not to be dreaded, I felt the less scruple on the subject, as no grave consequences would or could follow even an error on the subject.  The question of the authority of the Scriptures, I waived as far as possible; and I honestly thought at the time that they might be and ought to be explained in the sense of the final salvation, or final happiness of all men.  Taking reason for my guide and authority, I supposed that the Scriptures were to be explained in accordance with reason, so as to teach a rational doctrine; and certainly, I said, Universalism is a far more rational doctrine than its opposite.  It may be that it is not proved by the strict letter of Scripture, but the letter killeth, it is the spirit that giveth life; and we must not be held to a strictly literal interpretation.  We must allow ourselves great latitude of interpretation, and look at the general intent and scope of the whole, rather than at the mere verbal statements. 

            I was the more ready to adopt these loose notions of Scriptural interpretation from the fact that, in falling back from Presbyterianism on my own reason, imperfect as I knew it to be, I necessarily excluded from revelation the revelation of any thing supernatural or above reason.  The revelation might be supernaturally made, and so far I could admit the supernatural; but it could be the revelation of no supernatural matter, or truth transcending the natural order.  A revelation of supernatural truth, of an order of truth or of things whose nature could not be subjected to the judgment of natural reason, would demand a supernaturally endowed and assisted teacher and judge, to bring it within the reach of my natural understanding.  I rejected, therefore, at once, all the mysteries of faith; treated them as non avenus, and reduced Christianity to a system of natural religion, or of moral and intellectual philosophy.  If left to my natural reason, I could not accept what was beyond the reach of natural reason.  Natural reason thus became the measure of revealed truth; and if so, I had the right to reject every interpretation of Scripture that deduced from it a doctrine which reason could not comprehend and approve.  If I retained any respect for the Bible, I must give to its language a free and rational interpretation. 

Chapter IV – Universalism Unsatisfactory

                After leaving Presbyterianism, I devoted some months of the reading of the Scriptures, and such Universalist publications as were then extant, or at least such as were within my reach.  In the autumn of 1825, I applied for and received a letter of fellowship as a preacher from the General Convention of Universalists, which met that year in Hartland, Vt.  I remained for a year in Vermont, continuing my studies, part of the time with the Reverend Samuel C. Loveland, a man of some learning, the compiler of a Greek lexicon of the New Testament, of no great merit, and part of the time by myself alone, and preaching on Sundays in various towns in the State, chiefly in Windsor, Rutland, and Rockingham Counties.  In the summer of 1826, I was ordained an evangelist by a Universalist association, which met that year at Jaffrey, N.H.  the sermon was preached, I think, by the Rev. Charles Hudson, the ordaining prayer was made by the Rev. Paul Dean, and the charge was given by the Rev. Edward Turner.

                Mr. Hudson was pastor of a Universalist society in Westminster, Mass., and professed himself a Restorationist.  He has since figured a good deal in politics, been several times a member of the General Court of Massachusetts, a member of the Governor’s Council, and several years in Congress.  Under the Taylor-Fillmore administration, he was naval officer of Boston and Charlestown, and after that connected with the Boston Atlas; but what or where he is now, I am not informed.  He was then a young man, very industrious, very conceited, very disputatious, with moderate learning, fair logical ability, and no fancy or imagination – a dry, hard, man, and an exceedingly dull and uninteresting preacher.  I enjoyed, however, a comfortable nap under his sermon.  He could not endure Mr. Ballou’s doctrine of no punishment after death, and pretended to be able to prove the final restoration of all men and devils from the Scriptures.

                Mr. Dean was a native of Barnard, Vt., adjoining Royalton, and my eldest sister had been brought up in his father’s family.  He was at the time pastor of the Bulfinch Street Universalist Society in Boston, and regarded as the most popular preacher in the order, after Hosea Ballou, and many even preferred him.  He was a handsome man, with a pleasing address, genial manners, and a most winning smile.  He was a Restorationist, a Trinitarian, perhaps only a Sabellian, and by no means an admirer of Mr. Ballou, with whom he was on unfriendly terms.  He ultimately, however, left the Universalist denomination, united with the Unitarians, and was preaching, when I last heard of him, for a Unitarian congregation somewhere in the Old Bay State.  Mr. Turner was also a Restorationist, minister at the time to the Universalist society in Portsmouth, N.H., though I am not certain that it was in Charleston, Mass.  He was a tall, majestic person, of grave and venerable aspect, a chaste and dignified speaker, and the best sermonizer I ever knew among the Universalists.  But he had too refined and cultivated a taste to be a popular Universalist preacher, and finally, I believe, followed my example, associated with the Unitarians.

                At the time of my ordination, those who believed in a future limited punishment, and those who denied all punishment after death, were associated together in one body, under the common name of Universalists.  Subsequently, however, a division took place, and a portion of the former separated from the General Convention, as it was called, and took the name of Restorationists.  This schism was formed mainly through the instrumentality of Adin Ballou, a distant relative of Hosea Ballou.  He was a young convert from some evangelical sect – I forget what sect – and was full of zeal against the doctrine of no future punishment.  He took with Messrs. Dean, Turner, and Hudson, and several other ministers less known, a formed of them a distinct sect.  But the majority even of those who held to a limited punishment after death, remained with the General Convention, and the Restorationist sect, after a few years of fitful existence, became extinct.  Its members for the most part have coalesced, I believe, with the Unitarians.  I never went with the sect, though I was never one of those Universalists who restrict the consequences of our acts done in the body, whether good or bad, to this life.  On that subject I adopted a theory of my own, which I afterwards found to be very generally adopted by American Unitarians.  Mr. Adin Ballou did not expire with his sect.  He became a socialist, and founded the community of Hopedale; and when I heard last from him, he was a spiritualist, spiritist, or devil-worshipper, conversing with spirits, and believing in Andrew Jackson Davis and the Fox girls.

                In October, 1826, I returned to the state of New York, in which I had resided most of the time since I was fourteen years of age.  I stopped a short time in Fort Anne and Whitehall.  I resided for the greater part of a year in Litchfield, Herkimer County, then a year in Ithaca, a pleasant village at the head of Cayunga Lake, surrounded by varied and picturesque scenery, well worthy the visit of the tourist and the lover of nature.  I remained a few months of Geneva, Cayunga County, whence I removed to Auburn, in the same country, where I continued to reside till I ceased to be a Universalist minister.  At Auburn, I preached to the universalist Society in that place, and edited The Gospel Advocate and Impartial Investigator, a semi-monthly periodical which, at the time of its coming under my control, was the most widely circulated and the most influential periodical in this country devoted to the interests of Universalism, though it had gained its circulation and influence less by its advocacy of Universalism, than by its opposition to the movements of the Presbyterian and other Evangelical sects to stop the Sunday mails, to control the politics, and to wield the social influence of the country, - what the same sects are attempting by means of their Young Men’s Christian Associations, and kindred societies.  The periodical had started at Buffalo by the Rev. Thomas Gross, who had been a Congregationalist minister in one of the Eastern States, but, being obliged to leave his parish, had turned Universalist, and by the Rev. Linus S. Everett, originally, I believe, a house and sign-painter, a man of little learning, but a good deal of mother-wit.  He had not a pleasant expression, but otherwise he was a fine-looking man, had a popular address, and engaging manners.  He had little religious belief, and not much moral principle, but he was a philanthropist, and talked well.

                The periodical had been removed by Mr. Everett to Auburn, and the proprietorship had been disposed of to Ulysses F. Doubleday, printer and bookseller, proprietor and editor of the Cayuga Patriot, and subsequently a member of Congress, a man of strong mind, and an able writer.  He was a Universalist when I knew him, but he afterwards became, I heard, a Calvinistic Baptist.  I had written a good deal for the periodical while at Ithaca, had charge of it during the absence of its editor, and had acquired through its pages considerable reputation as a writer, and when Mr. Everett removed, its editorship was transferred to me.  I conducted it for a year, but with more credit to me free, bold, and crude thinking, than to my piety or orthodoxy even as a Universalist.  In it is a confused medley of thoughts, and the germs of nearly all I subsequently held or published till my conversion to the Catholic Church.

                In the commencement of my career as a Universalist, I did my best to smother my doubts as to revelation, and to defend Universalism as a Scriptural doctrine.  But I succeeded only indifferently.  I had made up my mind that endless vindictive punishment was contrary to reason, and incompatible with the love and goodness of God; but when I became forced to study the Scriptures more attentively, in order to defend Universalism against the objections I had to meet, I became satisfied that they did not teach the final salvation of all men, if literally interpreted, and that I must either reject them as authority for reason, or else accept the doctrine of endless punishment.  The answers we gave to the texts cited against us could not stand the test of honest criticism, and those we adduced in our favor were more specious than conclusive.  Either, then, since the doctrine of endless punishment is contrary to reason, I must give up reason, and then have no reason for accepting the Scriptures at all, and no means of determining their sense; or I must make reason the judge not only of Scripture, but of the truth or falsity of that meaning.  I chose, as was reasonable in my position, and rejected the authority of the Scriptures.

                For a time, indeed, I tried to persuade myself that I could reject the Scriptures as authoritative, and yet concede their authenticity and divine inspiration.  But it would not do.  If the Bible is God’s word, it is authoritative, not only because God has the right to command us as our sovereign Lord and proprietor, but because, since he can neither deceive nor be deceived, his word is the highest conceivable evidence of truth.  God is the supreme reason; and if we have full evidence that what we take to be his word really is his word, it is final, and an infallible test of what is or is not reasonable.  In cases of apparent conflict between it and the teachings of reason, I must conclude, not that it is wrong, but that I have misinterpreted reason, and assumed that reason teaches what in reality it does not.  If I understood reason better, I should perceive no discrepancy, because God can never teach us one thing in his word, and a contradictory thing through our natural reason.  What he tells us in his word may be above reason, but cannot be against it.

                I saw this clearly enough.  But my Protestantism was in my way.  Before I can thus surrender my reason to the Bible, and conclude the reasonableness of what it teaches, or its accordance with reason where I do not see that accordance or that reasonableness, I must have infallible authority for asserting that the Bible is the word of God, and for determining its true sense; for the Bible can bind me only inasmuch as it is the word of God, and it is the word of God only in its true sense, - the sense intended by the Holy Ghost.  But I have not in either case this infallible authority.  The Catholic Church, indeed, pretends to have received it, but that church is out of the question.  I have only my reason with which to determine that the Bible is God’s word, or with which to determine its true meaning.  Here is my difficulty.  Reason is no more infallible in settling these two points, than it is in settling the point as to what is or is not unreasonable; and as without reason I can neither determine that the Bible is inspired or what is its sense, I cannot surrender my reason to it in cases where it appears to me unreasonable.  I may believe on competent authority that a doctrine is reasonable, although I do not perceive its reasonableness; but I cannot, if I try, believe what appears to me unreasonable, on the authority of reason alone.  To say you believe a thing unreasonable is to say that you do not believe it, and that you reject it.  Belief always is and must be a reasonable act; in it reason assents, mediately or immediately, to the proposition that it is true.  Where that assent is wanting belief cannot be predicated.  It is a contradiction in terms to say that you believe what you hold to be unreasonable. I cannot, on the authority of Scripture, established only by reason, believe what appears to me unreasonable.  Whoever knows anything of the operations of the mind knows that it is so.  The Bible, then, without an infallible authority to assert it and deduce its sense, can never be authority sufficient for believing a doctrine to be unreasonable, when that reasonableness is not apparent to the understanding.  By rejecting the authority of the church as the witness of revelation and judge of its meaning, I found myself obliged, therefore, to reject, in turn, the authority of the Scriptures.

                But reason, I soon discovered, in order to be able to judge by its own light of the truth or falsity of a revealed doctrine, must know, independently of the revelation, all that it can teach us.  Revelation, then, is superfluous.  I can know without it all that I can know with it.  God, then, cannot have made a revelation to us, for he does nothing in vain, or without a purpose.  But, as the Scriptures evidently teach the unreasonable doctrine of endless punishment, they are, if believed to be given by divine inspiration, worse than useless; they are calcualted to mislead, to perpetuate superstitious fear, and to preventthe world from rising from just conceptions of the love and goodness of God, and a just reliance on his providence.  In the interests of truth and human happiness, then, I ought not only to reject the Scriptures, but to do all in my power to destroy belief in them as the word of God.

                I had other difficulties with Universalism.  The ground on which I rejected endless punishment was that all punishment should be reformatory in its nature and intention.  All Universalists held that vengeance, or vindictive punishment, designed to honor a broken law and vindicate an offended majesty, is incompatible with the nature of a God who is love.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbor.  The nature of love is to make the object beloved happy as far as in its power.  God is love, his wisdom and power are unlimited.  He loves all his creatures; he can make them all happy, and therefore will.  He can punish no one in his wrath; he can only chastise us for our profit, “that we may be made partakers of his holiness.”  Then no vindictive punishment.

                We all hold this doctrine.  But this doctrine denies that sin is ever punished.  If pain is inflicted upon a sinner, it is not to punish his sin, but to reform him.  The quantity of pain must not then be measured by the quantity of sin committed.  The infliction can have no reference to wrong done or guilt incurred, and its amount must be determined by the amount necessary to reform the wrong-doer.  It then is not punishment at all.  Its motive is not to punish, but to benefit him who suffers it, and may as well be inflicted on the innocent as on the guilty, if it will do him good, or will redound to his advantage.  From pain inflicted for one’s benefit it can be no advantage to save him.  How, then, can I talk of a Savior?  Universalists say that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.  But from what does he save them?  From punishment, from a penalty annexed to the divine law?  No, for God never annexed any penalty to the breach of his law, for he never punishes to vindicate his law.  All the penalty, all the consequence of sin, is simply or be whipped till we sin no more, and from that whipping Christ saves no one.  How, then, can I call him Savior?

                He is a Savior, we answered, in that he saves us from sinning.  “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.”  Yet he does not save us from sinning, for we can go on sinning every day.  But how does or can he save us from sinning?  Not by infusing believing and sanctifying grace into our hearts, for the doctrine of infused grace is rejected by all Protestants, who, when they recognize grace at all as operating within us, recognize it only as a transient act of God, not as an infused habit of the soul.  He can save us only by his doctrine and his example.  His example is for us only the example of a good man, better than that of any other, because more perfect, yet differing, from that of others only in degree.  His doctrine – who can say what it is?  Can I say honestly that I know what he taught?  Did he teach the endless punishment of the wicked?  If so, he does not save us by his doctrine from sinning, for Universalists are ageed that the doctrine of endless punishment has an immoral tendency, inasmuch as it denies the love and goodness of God, and represents him as partial, vindictive, and unjust.  Did he teach Universalism, that all men are sure of heaven, and cannot possibly miss it?  Did he teach that vice has no punishment, virtue no reward; that Judas, Pilate, and Herod will receive a crown of life as well as Peter, James, and John, and crown equally bright, unfading, eternal in the heavens?  How does that doctrine save us from sinning, or tend to make us virtuous?  What motive to virtue does it present; what consideration to deter from vice?  Do my best, I cannot make my eternal felicity surer; do my worst, I cannot render it less sure.  Why, then, shall I trouble myself about the matter?      Let me eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I die, and go – to heaven.  Here, then, I have lost the authority of the church, the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures, even my Savior himself, and with him the last vestage of revealed religion.  Surely, I have a marvelous faculty in losing.  Wonder what I have gained!

                But, as the world looks upon Jesus as a Savior, and gathers round him a multitude of superstitious notions which make men mental and moral slaves, and prevent them from asserting their freedom, their manhood, standing up and acting like men, he, so far from saving them from sinning, actually prevents them from being saved, and becomes the occasion of their moral degradation and misery.  I ought, then, to war against him, and to od my best to deliver the world from its bondage to him.  Thus I may myself become a savior, and be entitled to the respect he usurps.  Hence, my Universalism made me, so far as logic could go, not only a non-Christian, but an anti-Christian.  This was my reasoning at the time, not merely my reasoning now. 

                Butmy troubles did not end here.  In order to meet the objection that Universalism was of a licentious tendency, and opened the floodgates of iniquity, we laid particular stress on the certainty of punishment, and the impossibility of escaping it.  We maintained that every one would receive according to the deeds done in the body, and even here in this world that God will by no means clear the guilty; that, as a man sows he shall reap, and that he must pay the debt he contracts, pay it in his own person, and “to the uttermost farthing.”  We were, after having said this, accustomed to turn upon our assailants, and to tell them that their doctrine of a punishment put off till after the day of judgment, and their doctrine of repentance and remission of sin, by which the vilest sinner, a hard-faced grinding Presbyterian or Cnogregationalist deacon, by a simple act of faith, could escape his just deserts, and take his rank in heaven as a saint of the first water, might with far more justice be charged with an immoral and licentious tendency.  But this doctrine, if it meant any thing, denied all pardon, all forgiveness, all mercy, all compassion on the part of God, all interposition on is part in favor of the transgressor.  God leaves the sinner to the mercy of the order he has established.  He has made the world, adjusted its parts, impressed on it its laws, given it a jog, and bid it go ahead and take care of itself.  Then I lose my Father in heaven, for God is only my creator, and is no more my father than he is the father of the reed or the oak.  I lose Providence, and am reduced to an inflexible and inexorable nature.  Prayer, repentance, devotion, entreaty, can avail me nothing.  God has intrenched himself behind the natural laws, and cannot hear me, will not interpose to help me.  With this went even natural religion.

                But, as God inflicts pain only for the sake of reformation, as he never punishes sin or rewards virtue, all idea of moral accountability must be abandoned.  God will never bring us into judgment for our conduct.  Then there is no power above us to defend oppressed innocence, and to vindicate the majesty of right.  Then, what is the criterion of right and wrong?  Both must be alike pleasing to God; and if both are alike pleasing to him, if he regards with equal complacency the sinner and the saint, what is the radical difference between them?  None that I can see.  God wills our happiness: then what makes us happy must be regarded as good, and what makes us miserable must be regarded as evil.  An action is virtuous, then, because it promotes our happiness, produces pleasurable emotions in ourselves or in others; and vice is that which does not promote our happiness, which causes painful emotions in us or in others.  Virtue is virtue because it promotes happiness; and vice is vice because it brings misery.  Then no objective distinction between virtue and vice, between good and evil.  Here, said I, is the very foundation of morality undermined.

                God governs the world, I said, only by general laws which he has impressed on it in creating it, and with the natural operation of these he never interferes.  These laws admit the existence of evil.  The world is full of suffering; man preys upon man, and the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain.  What is to hinder it from being always so?  What is to put an end to evil, to pain and suffering?  What is to insure the triumph of good?  No new law can be introduced, no new power can be developed.  What, then, is to assure us that evil will ever be less?  The goodness of God, you tell me.  But how am I to be assured that God is good?  I can prove his goodness only from nature, and in nature the evil seems to surpass the good.  Here Universalism, said I, runs itself out, and renders doubtful even its own premises.

                It must not be supposed that I accepted all these frightful conclusions.  They followed logically from my premises, and logically I was obliged to accept them; yet my good sense and my better feelings rebelled against them.  My mind could neither reject nor accept them.  It was in doubt; it was unsettled, uncertain, in a snarl, and I could see no wiser course to pursue than to dismiss the whole subject from my thoughts.  I know nothing, I said, and can know nothing on the subject, and let me not attempt to decide any thing respecting it one way or the other.  I may trust my senses, and believe in the world of sensible phenomena.  I will henceforth confine myself to that, and leave alone all metaphysical or theological speculations, and neither assert nor deny the invisible and the spiritual.  Thus I had, following reason, lost the Bible, lost my Savior, lost Providence, lost reason itself, and had left me only my five senses, and what could fall under their observation: that is, reduced myself to a mere animal.

                But, with these doubts hanging over me, it was clear that I could not, as an honest man, present myself before the public as a Christian minister.  It is true, I did not write or preach differently from what I thought and felt; nobody could really be deceived as to the state of my mind.  Many of my brother ministers knew my doubts.  They blamed me, it is true, not for entertaining them, but for not keeping them to myself.  Some of them, I knew from their confidential communications, believed no more than I did; and my conviction at the time was, that Universalists generally had no belief in revelation, and were really deists or sceptics, and professed to be Christians only because they could combat all religion more successfully under a nominally Christian banner, than under the banner of open, avowed infidelity.  In this, I am inclined to believe, I did them injustice.  I gave them credit for being deeper thinkers and better logicians than they were.  Few men ever reason out their own systems, or compare all the parts of the system they embrace with one antother.  I did not always do this myself.  Universalists did not generally think beyond the few points brought into discussion between them and the so-called Orthodox, and never troubled themselves to inquire whether the ground on which they defended their Universalism could be assumed without involving a denial of Christianity, or not.

                But, although I was beginning to acquire a prominent position in the denomination, I felt that I ought to leave it.  I could not consent to profess what I did not honestly  believe; and my irritation at myself for my want of manliness and strict honesty in continuing to preach after I had ceased to believe, increased my doubts, and made me think I doubted even more than I really did.  The moment I broke off my connection with the Universalists, and took my position openly and above-board, not as a disbeliever, but as an unbeliever, I felt restored to my manhood – I felt like a new man.  My irritation ceased, and almost instantly the tone of my feelings changed toward Christianity.  I was no longer obliged to profess, or to seem to profess, more than I believed; and from that moment my mind began to recover its balance, and the most anti-Christian period of my life was the last two years that I was a Universalist preacher.

Chapter V – Become a World-Reformer,

                It was never in my nature, any more than it is in that of the human race, to take up with a purely negative system.  My craving to believe was always strong, and it never was my misfortune to be of a sceptical turn of mind.  But, if I craved something to believe, it was never for the sake of believing.  I wanted the truth, would labor for it, harder than most men perhaps, but never to stop with its mere apprehension or barren contemplation.  My disposition was practical rather than speculative, or even meditative, like that of the majority of my countrymen.  I sought the truth in order to know what I ought to do, and as the means or realizing some moral or practical end.  I wanted it that I might use it. 

                While my Universalism was escaping me, I had been engaged in acquiring a positive belief of another sort.  My early religious belief, vague as it was, gave me an end to labor for,- that of getting religion, and preparing myself, with God’s grace, for eternal happiness in heaven.  Even the Assembly’s catechism had taught me that “the chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”  I had in my childhood no difficulty as to the end; my difficulty was only as to the means of gaining it.  Universalism deprived me of that end, as an end to live and labor for, by teaching me that it was just as certain without as with my personal exertions.  It left my life here very nearly purposeless.  The most I had to do was to combat Orthodoxy, and spead Universalism,- a very meagre work; for it effeted nothing one way or another in relation to the final result.  Why should I do it?  And when I have done it, and got all the world to believe Universalism, what will remain for me or others to do?  But some work I must have, something to do, to prevent my activity from recoiling upon itself; and as Universalism had made me doubt the utility of all labors for another world, I was forced to look for a work to be done for this world.  I had made nothing of my religious speculations, nothing of my inquiries as to the invisible and the heavenly, and reason counselled me, obliged me to leave them, to drop from the clouds, takemy stand on the solid earth, and devote myself to the material order, to the virtue and happiness of mankind in this eartly life.  Certainly this did not prefectly satisfy me in the beginning; but it seemed the only alternative that was left me.  I had no choice in the matter.  With the fear of hell, the hope of heaven had escaped; and, as the other world disappeared from my view, nothing but this world did or could remain.

                About the time of my becoming a Universalist minister, Robert Owen, from New Lanark, Scotland, came to this country for the purpose of establishing a community, and to commence the realization of his plans of world-reform.  Mr. Owen was a Welshman by birth, and bred a cotton-spinner.  He was engaged, while still a young man, to take charge of the extensive cotton mills at New Lanark, Scotland, owned by a Mr. Dale, whose daughter he subsequently married.  Through this marriage he became part, and at length, if I am not mistaken, sole proprietor of the mills, which made him a rich man.  While acting as manager, more especially as part or sole proprietor, he introduced several wise and judicious arrangements, which added much to the cleanliness, decorum, thrift, and physical comfort of the workmen.  From the success of his experiments at New Lanark, and from the manifest improvement he had been able to introduce in the condition of the population employed in the mills, or under his care and supervision, he concluded that he had discovered the secret of so organizing mankind as to cure all individual and social evils, and to make all men rich, virtuous, and happy.

                Mr. Owen was a man of much simplicity and benevolence of character.  He knew little of Christianity, and believed less, but he was philanthropic, and was ready to make very heavy sacrifices for the happiness of mankind, or, rather, for realizing his plans for making them happy.  He drew up an outline of his plan, and presented it to the principal crowned heads, ministers, statesmen, and literary and scientific men of Europe; but not meeting with the degree of encouragement he looked for, and doubting whether the Old World was the place for trying his experiement, he resolved on coming to the United States, - the best place in the world for visionaries to recover their wits, and to find their fanciful scemes explode.  He came when John Quincy Adams was President, though I do not now recall the precise date, and laid his plans before Mr. Adams, the congress, and the people of the United States.  His respectability as a man, his sincerity, his apparent benevolence, and his practical sagacity in particulars, gained him respectful treatment and a candid hearing.  Many listened with favor, and a few with enthusiasm.  He soon succeeded in gaining a number of followers; and, elated, he purchased a settlement called Harmony, in Posey County, Indiana, named it new Harmony, and established there, with a band of enthusiasts and adventurers, some from Europe, some from the United States, a provisional community, preparatory to the complete introduction of his plan of community life, and universal world-reform.

                Mr. Owen’s great principle or maxim was, that man is passive, not active in the formation of his character; that his character is formed not by him, but for him, by education, or the circumstances in which he is born, grows up, and lives.  Since man is passive in the formation of his character, in the hands of circumstances like clay in the hands of the potter, it is practicable, by a skilfull arrangement of circumstances, or by a proper arrangement of the external influences brought to bear on him, to mould his character into that of the most consummate wisdom and the most heroic virtue.  Hitherto all had gone wrong; circumstances had been arranged to corrupt and debase man’s character.  Man has thus far been cursed with a trinity of evils: property, marriage, and religion.  Abolish these, bring men and women to live together in communities of from one to two thousand in each, insure them to live in parallelograms, with all things in common in perfect equality, with the circumstances bearing equally upon all and each, and you will form their characters to virtue, and provide for the proper education of their offspring.  There will then be no poverty, no inequality, no want, no envy, no discontent, no disease, no vice, no crime, but all will be peace, love, mutual good-will, virtue, kindness, harmony, bliss.  The dream was not without its charm.  But the poor man was not destined to realize it.  His Harmony after a few months proved to be no harmony at all, but harsh discord, rather.  He had taken the precaution to keep the property he invested in his establishment in his own name.  His disciples murmured at this, as an inconsistency on his part, though they were living at his expense, and thought he ought to carry out his principles and abolish private property at once, and bestow all he called his own on the community, to be held in common by its members.  They succeeded, I believe, in cozening him out of a considerable sum, involving him in pecuniary embarrassment, and forcing him to sell his New Lanark property.  They then separated, and several of them went through the country abusing him for his want of consistency, and his unwillingness to make greater sacrifices for their benefit.

                The plan was silly enough, and its success would have made men only well-trained and well-fed animals, and I will say this for myself that I never fully adopted it.  I had some trouble in believing that man was perfectly passive in the formation of his character; and if he was, I could not see how the circumstances were to be controlled by him, and be brought to bear equally upon all and upon each.  If he was to have no want, I was puzzled to understand what was to stimulate him to exertion; and if he made no exertion, I could not understand how he was to become intellectually great, or to produce the wherewith to provide for his animal wants.  But Mr. Owen’s discourses, publications, and movements drew my attention to the social evils which exist in every land, to the inequalities which obtain even in our own country, where political equality is secured by law, and to the question of reorganizing society and creating a paradise on earth.  My sympathies were enlisted, I became what is now called a socialist, and found for many years a vent for my activity in devising, supporting, refuting, and rejecting theories and plans of world-reform.

                Failling to find an authority competent to teach me the true sense of a supernatural revelation, I had, step by step, rejected all such revelation, and brought myself back to simple nature, to the world of the senes, and to this sublunary life.  I neither asserted nor denied the existence of God.  I neither believed nor disbelieved in a life after death.  The position I took was: These are matters of which I know nothing, of which I can know nothing, and therefore are matters of which I will endeavor not to think.  Of this world of the senses I do and may know something.  Here is a work to be done, here is the scene of my labors, and here I will endeavor to love mankind and make them happy.  I had, indeed, a very limited creed, but, nevertheless, I had one, which I firmly held.  Half in mockery, but at bottom in sober earnest, I drew up and published it such as it was, just before leaving Universalism.  I must be permitted to transcribe it.

My Creed

                “Almost every man has a creed.  There are few who do not worship their creed with more devotion than they do their God, and labor a thousand times harder to support it than they do the truth.  Now, I do not like to be singular, and I know not why I may not have a creed as well as other folk.  But, if I publish my creed, consistency may require me to defend it; and when I have once enlisted self-love in its defence, I may become blind to the truth, and choose rather to abide by my first decision than to admit that I have once decided wrong.  Yet a creed I must and will have, and my readers shall know what it is. 

                “My creed shall consist of five points” (in allusion to the five points of Calvinism, defined by the Synod of Dort), “and shall embrace all the essentials of true religion.  Furthermore, I wish to premise that my creed was not adopted merely today; it has been codially embraced, and of its correctness I have had no doubts for at least nine months…I would allege, in behalf of my creed, that it is plain, easy to be understood, and withal involves no mystery.  The pious, however, from this circumstance may be led to, doubt its divine origin, and infidels may like to so well that I shall be shut out from the church.  But I will state it, though I must still further allege that I believe it to be based on eternal truth, and it is calculated, if obeyed, to harmonize this world, and to enable the vast family of man to live forever under the smiles of fraternal affection.  But for the creed:-

“Art. 1.  I believe that every individual of the human family should be honest.

“Art. 2. I believe that every one should be benevolent and kind to all.

“Art. 3.  I believe that every one should use his best endeavors to procure food, clothing, and shelter for himself, and labor toenable all others to procure the same for themselves to the full extent of his ability.

“Art. 4.  I believe every one should cultivate his mental powers, that he may open to himself new sources of enjoyment, and also be enabled to aid his brethren in their attempts to improve the condition of the human race, and to increase the sum of human happiness.

“Art. 5.  I believe that, if all mankind act on these principles, they serve God all they can serve him; that he who has this faith and conforms the nearest unto what it enjoins, is the most acceptable unto God.  (Gospel Advocate and Impartial Investigator, June 27, 1829)

                It is easy to see from this creed, so called in mockery, that I rejected heaven for earth, and God for man, eternity for time, as the end for which I was to live and labor.  The first article indicates my impression that people generally, whatever their pretences, did not seriously believe in a supernatural revelation.  I had, too, been rendered impatient by the lectures I received from various quarters on my imprudence in not concealing my doubts.  I disliked seeming to be what I was not, or professing to believe what I did not believe.  I could see no merit in professing to be a Christian, when I knew I was no Christian.  I wanted to appear fighting under my own colors, to speak out my honest thought, and let it go for what it was worth.  Yet I wa met with remonstrance.  I was not blamed for my thought, but for telling it; and blamed for telling it, not on the ground that it was false, but on the ground that it was bad policy to tell it.  I hated what is called policy then, and I have no great fondness for it even yet.  A man’s life-blood is frozen in its current, his intellect deadened, and his very soul annihilated by the everlasting dinging into his ears by the wise and prudent, more properly the timid and selfish, of the admonition to be politic, to take care not to compromise one’s cause or one’s friends.  My soul revolted, and revolts even today, at this admonition.  Almost the only blunders I ever committed in my life were committed when I studied to be politic, and prided myself on my diplomacy.

                Prudence is a virtue, and rashness is a sin, but my own reason and experience have taught me that truth is a far more trustworthy support than the best-divised sheme of human policy possible.  Honesty is the best policy.  Be honest with thyself, be honest with all the world, be true to thy convictions, be faithful to what truth thou hast, be it ever so little, and never dream of supplying its defect by thy astuteness or craft.  Certainly be so, if thou believest in a God who is truth itself, and with whom to lie is impossible.  Fear not for thy cause, if thou believest it his cause, for it must stand and prosper in his wisdom and power, not in thy human sagacity, thy human prudence, thy human policy.  Throw thyself heart and soul on his truth, it will sustain thee; if not, be contented to fail.  It is comparatively easy to know what it true, what is virtuous; but what, aside from fidelity to truth and virtue, is wise policy, or genuine prudence, supasses the wit of men to say.  Never yet has a great saint arisen without seeming, to even great and good men in church or state as well as to the wise and prudent men of the world, terribly rash, shockingly imprudent.  No one can be a man, and do a man’s work, unless he is sincere, unless he is in earnest, terribly in earnest, throwing his whole heart and soul into his work; and whoever does so, may depend upon it that the chief men of his sect, his party, of his school, if not of his church, will be alarmed at his conduct, will accuse him of being ultra, of going too far, of endangering every thing by his rashness, his want of prudence, of policy.  I am no saint, never was, and never shall be a saint.  I am not, and never shall be, a great man; but I always had, and I trust I always shall have, the honor of being regarded by my friends and associates as impolitic, as rash, imprudent, and impracticable.   I was and am, in my natura disposition, frank, truthful, straight-forward, and earnest; and therefore have had, and, I doubt not, shall carry to the grave with me, the reputation of being reckless, ultra, a well-meaning man, perhaps an able man, but so fond of paradoxes and extremes, that he cannot be relied on, and more likely to injure than serve the cause he espouses.  So, wise and prudent men shall shake their heads when my name is mentioned, and disclaim all solidarity with me. 

                I must be pardoned this burst of indignation, - an indignation which dictated the first article of my creed of 1829, and which is stronger than I wish it in 1857.  I have suffered so much from the prudence of associates, have received so many admonitions in relation to my alleged ultraisms and tendency to run to extremes, so many cautions to be moderate, to be prudent, to be politic, and the like, that I am a little sore on the point, and cannot keep as cool on the subject as becomes a man of my age, gravity, and experience.  Yet it is not wholly a personal matter with me.  I am past my prime of life, and shall soon be beyond the reach of any personal annoyance I may feel.  But I would leave my protest against this tendency on the part of the worshippers of routine to damp the courage and to stifle the energy of young and ardent spirits who come forward to devote themselves to the cause of truth and virtue.  If what a man says is true, and is evidently said with an honest intention, do not decry him, do not disown him, do not beat the life out of him by lectures on prudence; stand by him, and bear with him the odium he may incur by telling the truth, encourage him by your respect for his honesty and candor, and shelter him, as far as in your power, from the reproaches of weak and timid brethren; for bw assured we live in an age and country where honesty and candor, fidelity to one’s honest convictions, and moral courage in avowing them, are not virtues to likely become excessive.  Fidelity to what one believes to be true, moral courage in adhering to our convictions before the world, is the greatest want of our times.  The age lacks above all things sincerity, earnestness.  Give us back these, give us back the old-fashioned loyalty of heart, and we shall not need to labor long to bring the age to see, own, and obey the truth.  The subjective heresy of the age is a far greater obstacle to its conversion than its objective errors.  What men most lack is priniple, is the feeling that they should be true to the right; and that to be manly, is to be ready to follow the truth under whatever guise it may come, to whatever it may lead, to the loss of reputation, to poverty, to beggary, to the dungeon or the scaffold, to the stake or exile.  I have had my faults, great and grievous faults, as well as others, but I have never had that of disloyalty to principle, or of fearing to own my honest convictions, however unpopular they might be, or however absurd or dangerous the public might regard them.  Give me rather the open, honest believer, who pretends to believe nothing more than he really does believe, than your sleek, canting hypocrite, who rolls up his eyes in holy horror of unbelief, and makes a parade of his orthodoxy, when he believes not a word in the Gospel, and has a heart which is a cage of unclean beasts, out of which more devils need to be cast than were cast out of the Magdalen.  The former may never see God, but the latter deserves the lowest place in hell.  There is hope of the conversion of a nation of unbelievers; of the conversion of a nation of hypocrites none.  Sincerity in error is respectable; insincerity in the truth is of all things the most reprehensible, for it proves the heart is wholly false, a mass of corruption, in which divine grace can find, I was about to say, nothing to work upon, certainly nothing likely to concur with it.

                If my conscience would have let me pretend to be a Christian, after it became clear I was no Christian believer; if I could, without suffering its reproaches, have continued to profess myself a Universalist, after I had ceased to believe in revelation, though writing or preaching nothing which I did not really believe, I doubt if the grace of God would ever have rescued me from my errors; and I must think it was his grace that would not suffer me to do so.  My honest avowal of unbelief was, under the circumstances, a step that brought me nearer the kingdom of God.  I believe that the mass of my countrymen will make little advance towards the Gospel till they come back to honest nature, and consent to own to themselves and to the world what they really are.  It is necessary, first of all, to make away with all shams, - to use one of Carlyle’s terms, - to get rid of all illusions, and to believe a lie is a lie, and that no loe shall stand.  We live in an age of shams, of illusions; and the saddest thing of all is that, while we have no faith in reality, we believe in shams, we trust illusions, and say, These be thy gods, O Israel!  That have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.  If we have not advanced to faith in the Gospel, let us return to simple nature, and have at least the natural order, which, after all, is real, on which to plant our feet.

                The end of man, as disclosed by “my creed” of 1829, is obviously an earthly end, to be attained in this life.  Man was not made for God, and destined to find his beatitude in the possession of God, his supreme good, the supreme good itself.  His end was happiness, not happiness in God, but in the possession of the good things of this world.  Our Lord had said: “Be not anxious as to what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed, for after all these things do the heathen seek.”  I gave him a flat denial, and said: Be anxious, labor especially for these things, first for yourselves, then for others.  Enlarging, however, my views a little, I said: Man’s end for which he is to labor, is the well-being and happiness of mankind in this world – is to develop man’s whole nature, and so toorganize society and government as to secure all men a paradise on the earth.  This view of the end to labor for, I held steadily and without wavering from 1828 till 1842, when I began to find myself tending unconsciously toward the Catholic Church.  The various systems I embraced or defended, whether social or political, ethical or aesthetical, philosophical or theological, were all subordinated to this end, as means by which man’s earthly condition was to be meliorated.  I sought truth, I sought knowledge, I sought virtue for no other end, and it was not in seeking to save my soul, to please God, or to have the true religion, that I was led to the Catholic Church, but to obtain the means of gaining the earthly happiness of mankind.  My end of man’s earthly happiness, and my creed was progress.  In regard to neither did I change or swerve in the least, till the truth of the Catholic Church was forced upon my mind and my heart.  During the period of fourteen years, for the greater part of which I was accused of changing at least once every three months, I never changed once in my principles or my purposes, and all I did change were my tools, my instruments, or my modes of operation.

                In renouncing Universalism, which with me was only a stage in my transition from the religion of my childhood to socialism, I had renounced all fear and all hope in regard to another world; and though subsequently, as a Unitarian, I held to a future existence, it was merely a continuation of our natural life, a natural immortality, which did not include the resurrection of the flesh, or rewards and punishments in a Christian sense.  I felt easy in regard to the future, and was in the habit of maintaining that the best wayto secure a heaven hereafter is to create a heaven for mankind in this world.  For years I held this maxim, and never troubled myself at all in regard to what might be my fate or that of others after death.  I had a firm belief in progress, full confidence in philosophy, and a strong desire to contribute to the welfare of my fellow-men, to reform the world, and create an earthly paradise for the human race; but I had very little thought or sense of y duty to God, and no serious care for any thing beyond the service of my neighbor in relation to this life.  I recognized God, but only in man, and I held that he exists for us only in human nature.

                For years I went no further in my thoughts, and thirsted for nothing higher or broader.  I had schooled my feelings and my imagination to my narrow carnal-Judaism, and experienced nothing of that craving for an unseen and spiritual good, that secret longing for God and religion, of which so much use is made in our arguments against unbelievers.  I felt none of that trouble which I felt formerly when I found my childhood’s belief escaping me.  I am convinced by my own experience that our philanthropists and world-reformers may become so engrossed in their plans that they do not experience that aching void within, that emptiness of all created things, which we sometimes imagine.  Their philanthropy is a relgion unto them.  Even failures do not at once discourage them, for they find their relief in their doctrine of progress.  It is idle to tell them that the good they seek is bounded, and that the soul craves an unbounded good; for, holding to progress, to the indefinite perfectibility of man, they are unable to assign any limits to the good to which they are wedded; and as progress implies perfection, they have a ready excuse for their failures.  We have failed today, but we shall succeed tomorrow.  I was mistaken, my experiment was not successful, but I shall do better next time.  Or, if I die without succeeding, the human race is progressive, each new generation is wiser than the last, and the generation coming after me will succeed, and my labors, my experiments, my failures even, will perhaps contribute to its success.  So they will not be in vain.  Individuals die, but the race survives, is immortal.  Thus hope revives from failure; and the individual consoles himself with the belief that what he cannot accomplish, the race in its march through the ages will effect, and his labors meet their reward in the increased virtue and happiness of mankind.

                We cannot reach the socialist, who has made a religion of his socialism, by appeals to his love of happiness, or to the failures of his undertakings.  I would that I could feel the fervor, the enthusiasm, in the cause of truth, which at one period I felt in the cause of socialism.  The fact is, the socialist is not all wrong.  You may declaim against him as much as you please, but it will be none the less true that he is governed by noble instincts, by generous sentiments, which Christianity does not disown, but accepts and consecrates.  He has also certain aspects even of Christian truth, or aspects of truth which, without the Christian revelation and the operations of Christian charity, he never would have beheld.  In those aspects of truth which he has, and to which he is devoted, we must take our point of departure in leading him to renounce his errors.

Chapter VI – Methods of World-Reformers

                I had fixed the end for which I was to labor, - the creation of an earthly paradise; but the means of gaining it were not well determined.  My own mind was very nearly balanced between two contradictory theories: the theory of individualism, and that of communism.  I had read, had, in fact, studied with great assiduity, one of the most remarkable works in our language, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice, if I recollect the title aright, by William Godwin, originally a Calvinistic dissenting minister, at Stowmarket, England, whence, in 1787, he removed to London, where he dovoted himself to literature.  He was the author of Caleb Williams, St. Leon, Fleetwood, Mandeville, Cloudsley, a work on Population in reply to Malthus, A History of the Commonwealth of England, The Life and Times of Chaucer, and several other works, the titles of which I forget.  He married, in 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer of some distinction, best known as the author of a work entitled, Rights of Woman, a pendant to Paine’s Rights of Man, and which may be regarded as the Bible of our Woman’s Rights party.  She was the mother of Mary Godwin, who wrote Frankenstein, a most fearful story, fitted to give one the nightmare for three weeks after reading it; and who, after his divorce from his wife, was regarded as married to the poet Shelley.  Godwin’s novels were much read in their day, and it is easy to trace their influence in the productions of Chales Brockden Brown, one of our earliest American novelists, who merits a higher rank in American literature than has been commonly assigned him.  Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton owes, in his earlier novels, much to those of Godwin, and Caleb Williams and St. Leon are still read.  As a writer, for calmness and strength, for repose and energy combined, Godwin has scarcely a rival in the English language; and his style deserves to be studied by everyone who would master the purity, elegance, and force of our mother-tongue.  I know no other English writer who, unmoved himself, so powerfully moves his readers; and he is almost the only English writer, since Burke’s unhappy influence on the language, who has written truly classical English, or our language according to its real genius.

                The work on Political Justice was first published in 1792, and was republished in a second edition, much modified from the first, in 1794.  My edition was the second.  I have it not now, and have not seen it these twenty years, but I remember its contents very distinctly.  It was inspired by the enthusiasm created by the French Revolution of 1789 in a large class of the civilized world, and contains nearly all the false and dangerous principles of that revolution, systematically arranged, developed, and pushed to their last consequences with a merciless logic, and a chasteness, vigor, grace, and eloquence of language, which I have never seen surpassed.  I had read this book when quite a lad, but without understanding it; and I had read it again as a Universalist, and appropriated many of its ideas.  I now read it still again as a socialist, and I think it has had more influence on my mind than any other book, except the Scriptures, I have ever read.  There is scarcely a modern error that it does not contain; and he who has mastered it, may regard himself as in possession of nearly every error the human mind is capable of inventing.  It denies as unjust all punishment, except restraint from actual violence, and consequently all capital punishment, and all penitentiaries.  The author contends that the only law is justice, and justice requires us to treat every man according to his intrinsic worth, although he forgets to tell us how we are to discover it; and therefore, that if my neighbor has more intrinsic worth than I, I am to love him more, if less, I am to love him less, than myself.  If his father, mother, sister, brother, wife, or child, is more worthy than mine, then I am to love them more than mine, then am I to love them more than mine; if mine are more worthy, then am I to love mine the most.  If a rude man attacks me and threatens my life, I am to consider whether his life or mine, upon the whole, is the more worthy; if mine, then I am to defend my life at the expense of his, if necessary; if his, then I am to offer him no resistance, but let him kill me, if he chooses.  Marriage, by which two persons pledge themselves to love each other exclusively until death separates them, is repugnant to justice, for it may happen that neither is the most worthy; of if, at the time of marriage, they be so, one or the other, or both, may cease to be so, long before the death of either.  There is no magic in that pronoun my, by which I am justified in loving my wife, because she is mine.  If my neighbor’s wife is more worthy than mine, I am bound to love her the most.  I am to love the most worthy, and all are bound in like manner to love her most who is really the most worthy of all.  It would happen, then, that all would be bound to love the most one and the same woman.  But might not this create rivalries, jealousies, etc.?  No, for we could all enjoy her conversation, and any thing more could be easily enough arranged.  The author forgot, and it did not occur to me to ask, how all the men of the world were to find out what particular woman among all living women is the most worthy, or how, in case she is found out, she is to entertain them all with her conversation.  Women have great facility in the use of the tongue, but it would be somewhat difficult for one woman to converse with a hundred millions of men.

                Godwin did not propose precisely to abolish poverty, but he laid down the principle, that justice declares the property belongs to him who most needs it.  Justice is reciprocal.  What it is just for me to give another, he has a right to demand.  If my neighbor needs what is in my possession, or some portion of it, more than I do, he has the right to take it without asking my leave.  This doctrine rather pleased me, for I had less than my share, and therefore more to gain than to lose by it.  In the name of justice the author denied all schools, especially public schools, for they all impose, in some form, the opinions of the masters, or, through them, of the parents and guardians, on their pupils.  This is contrary to justice.  What right have I to impose my opinion on another, or to take measures to bring up my child or another’s in my opinions, religious, political, or moral?  Thought is that which is most essentially the man, and therefore that in him which should be freest.  We may urge the man or the child to think, but must never tell either what he ought to think.  This seemed to me so reasonable and just, - if the rule of private judgment be adopted, - that so long as I remained a Protestant I took good care never to give my own children any religious instruction.  Parents, Godwin maintained, have no more right to control the thoughts or the opinions of their own children, than they have the children of others.  How he managed with his own daughter Mary I know not.  He was not married when he wrote the book. 

                On the same principle that he destroys the family, and all family affections as such, Godwin destroys patriotism and the nation.  Why should I love my country more than another? Why am I to love any thing because it is mine?  Why am I to prefer my countrymen to a foreigner?  What right have I to regard any man as a foreigner?  If my country is in the right, I may indeed support her, not because she is mine, but because she is in the right.  But if in the wrong, I may neither defend her, nor wish her defended.  Justice requires me to wish her defeat.  On this doctrine, distinct nations cannot exist, and the author contends that they ought not to exist.  Justice breaks down and obliterates all national distinctions; and this at once abolishes all national rivalries and jealousies, and all international wars, by removing their causes.  The author, also, rejects all government.  All men are equal before the law of justice, and no man has the right to govern another.  For the same reason no number of men, not even the majority, have any right to make their will or their reason prevail as law.  Each man has the sovereignty of himself.  All government, therefore, whether monarchical, aristocratical, democratical, or mixed, is founded in injustice, is a usurpation, a tyranny, and without authority. 

                These principles involve complete individualism, and leave every man free to do what seems right in his own eyes.  The plain, old-fashioned reader, unacquainted with world-reforms, naturally wonders how it is that a man of the ability and education of William Godwin, a man of a sharp intellect, and some knowledge of human nature, could ever have fancied that mankind could attempt to carry out such principles into practice, without falling into anarchy and a worse than the savage state.  It is because he does not know all the resources of the world-reformers.  He takes their plan as something to be adopted by mankind as they are, as a piece of old cloth to be sewn onto an old garment, and sees at once that they would take from the old, and the rent be made worse.  But they propose an entire new garment, in fact, a recasting of the essential nature of man, and they intend to introduce all the changes necessary to the successful working of their schemes.  According to Godwin, man has no innate instincts, or natural tendencies in the way of the reformer, no stubborn natural character that persists through all the modifications introduced by education or moral and intellectual culture.  All the vices of individual character, and all the evils of society, whence man has become the greatest plague and tormentor of his kind, come from without, not from within, and are due to civil government.  Abolish civil government, recognize natural justice as the only law of the race, and leave the law to execute itself, and you will remove all evils, individual and social.  Leave men to reason, confide in reason, and never attempt to give reason the aid of physical force, or think of correcting the mind by inflicting pain on the body.  Men, freed from all unjust restraint, from all vexacious interference from authority, finding their reason respected and their just rights allowed, will have no temptation to rebel, no provocation to encroach on any one’s rights, and will of themselves fall into their proper places, and observe with fidelity all the laws of justice.  As the experiment has never been tried, it is not easy too prove the contrary; and if you adopt the doctrine of the inherent integrity of nature, and the indefinite perfectibility of man, you cannot deny that the scheme has, on one side at least, a certain degree of plausibility.  There is no doubt that the author is right in denying the justice of all government resting on purely human authority; and I have never been able to understand how they can deny that, though governments are constituted by men, they derive their authority to govern immediately from God, can deny Godwin’s doctrine, that all governments are founded in injustice.  There is just as little doubt that many of the depravities of individual character, and many of the evils of society, originate in the effort to govern men by brute force.  Princes should be shepherds of the people, not dominators. 

                Even the absurdest and most mischievous of Godwin’s principles have a certain reflection of Christian truth.  His doctrine, what we should love the most worthy, irrespective of their personal relation to us, is true in the abstract; and hence we are to forsake father and mother, wife and children, houses and lands, and even give up our own life for our Lord, for God, the infinitely worthy.  In a certain sense, the proprietor is only a steward, and the surplus of his property belongs to the poor; but Christianity makes its distribution an act of charity, not of justice.  Marriage, in the Christian sense, is really practicable with the majority of the non-laboring classes only by the grace of the sacrament.  For men and women in easy circumstances, who are not Christians, but abandoned to simple unassisted nature, it is a burden too great to be borne, as the experience of all ages sufficiently proves.  Almighty God, under the old law, dispensed the Jews from many of its rigors; and the Protestant reformers, denying marriage to be a sacrament, authorized divorce from the bond of matrimony, and, in certain cases, permitted polygamy.  Christian marriage is above the strength of human nature in our present fallen state, and needs Christian grace.  It need not surprise us, then, that honest and enlightened men and women, for enough themselves from being of a licentious turn, yet ignorant of the Christian faith, and with no knowledge of, or belief in the Christian sacraments, should revolt at Catholic marriage, and labor not only to render it dissoluble, but easily dissoluble, and for slight, even trivial, causes.

                But, though Godwin had a powerful influence on my mind, he did not absolutely master it.  I would retain my own individuality, but I could not bring my mind to believe that all social organization, all associated action must be condemned as repugnant to justice.  Man is social by nature, and he has wants which can be met only by the provisions of society.  Grant that the depravities of individual character originate in government, - kingcraft and priestcraft; but in what have these originated?  If they are unjust, as you maitain, there must be a source of injustice prior to them, and independent of them.  Then their simple removal will not necessarily secure the reign of justice.  Then how are we to remove them by simple individual action?  By simple appeals to reason, by simply enlightening the understanding?  But is is not a well-known fact that prejudice is a bar to enlightenment, and also that men are very far from acting always in accordance with their convicitions of right?  Men know what is just, and yet do it not.  I find, when I would do good, evil is present with me, and the good I would, I do not.  No: to remove corrupt and corrupting governments, to overthrow kingcraft, to abolish priestcraft, to free men from superstition, from vain hopes and idle terrors, from the effects of false education, unfavorable circumstances, evil influences, the prejudices accumulating through long ages of ignorance and barbarism, and to render man, the free, the noble, majestic being I would have him, I need something more than individual intelligence, and something more than the simple strength of individual will.  I want and must have a greater than simple individual power.  For the present, at least, I must avail myself of the principle of association, and, instead of sweeping away all organization, must endeavor to perfect social organization, and use it as a means of gaining the end I propose.

                Here I found myself co-operating with the well-known Frances Wright, who seemed to me to have hit upon a just menium between the individualism of Godwin and the communism of Owen.  Frances Wright was born in Scotland at the end of the last century, and inherited a considerable property.  She had been highly educated, and was a woman of rare original powers, and extensive and varied information.  She was brought up in the utilitarian principles of Jeremy Bentham, was oftne an inmate of the family of General La Fayette at La Grange, and in the general’s suite she visited this country in 1824.  Returning to England in 1825, she publihed a book on the United States, in a strain of almost unbounded eulogy of the American people and their institutions.  She saw only one stain upon our character, one thing in our condition to censure or to deplore: that was negro-slavery, which struck her as it does most Europeans, as an anomaly, and wholly incompatible with our theory of human rights. 

                When in the next year Mr. Owen came, with his friends, to commence his experiment of creating a new moral world at New Harmony, Frances Wright came with him, not as a full believer in his crotchets, but to try an experiment, devised with Jefferson, La Fayette, and others, for the emancipation of the negro slaves.  The plan was to make the slaves work out the price of their own emancipation, and to prepare them, while they were doing it, by a peculiar system of training, for freedom.  She believed it possible to make the labor of the slaves sufficiently profitable to support themselves, and to remunerate her for the price she must pay their owners for them; and while they were doing this, by subjecting them to the moral and intellectual discipline of her philosophical principles, or the system of education she proposed to adopt, to render them moral and intelligent, free and independent in character, in every respect the equals of the whites.  She accordingly purchased a plantation and some negroes at Nashoba in the state of Tennessee, about fifteen miles from Memphis, and commenced her experiment, which failed in less than two years, as she alleged, in consequence of her own illness for several months, and her inability to find persons to manage it, who combined the several qualities requisite, on the one hand, for its economical management, and, on the other, for carrying out her educational system, or her moral and philsophical ideas.  Yet it should be mentioned to her honor that she gave her slaves their freedom, and settled them in Haiti, which was then a republic under President Boyer.

                The negro experiment having failed, Fanny enlarged her views, and discovered that the people of the United States were not as yet prepared to engage in earnest for the abolition of slavery, that the whites were as much slaves as the blacks, and that negro slavery was only a branch of the huge tree of evil, which overshadowed the whole land.  There was little wisdom in wasting one’s time and resources in the attempt to lop it off while the tree itself was left standing.  The axe must be laid at the root of the tree, and slavery must be abolished only as the result of a general emancipation, and a radical reform of the American people themselves.

                The first step to be taken was to rouse the American mind to a sense of its rights and dignity, to emancipate it from superstition, from its subjection to the clergy, and its fear of unseen powers; to withdraw it from the contemplation of the stars or an imaginary heaven after death, and fix it on the great and glorious work of promoting man’s earthly well-being.  The second step was, by political action, to get adopted, at the earliest practicable moment, a system of state schools, in which all the children from two years old and upward should be fed, clothed, in a word, maintained, instructed, and educated at the public expense.  In furtherance of the first object, Fanny prepared a course of lectures on Knowledge, which she proposed to deliver in the principal cities and towns of the Union.  She had acquired a high literary reputation, and had still property enough left to permit her to go through the country anddeliver her lectures at her own expense.  She thought she possessed advantages in the fact that she was a woman, for there would for that reason be a greater curiosity to hear her, andshe would be permitted to speak with greater boldness and directness against the clergy and superstition, than would be one of the other sex.

                She commenced delivering her lectures in the autumn of 1828, at Cincinnati, and soon produced no little excitement.  She gave them subsequently in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Albany, Utica, Auburn, Buffalo, and various other places.  Her lectures were eminently popular.  Her free, flowing, and ornate style, - French rather than English, - her fine, rich, musical voice, highly cultivated and possessing great power, her graceful manner, her tall, commanding figure, her wit and sarcasm, her apparent honesty of purpose, and deep and glowing enthusiasm, made her one of the most pleasing and effective orators, man or woman, that I have ever heard.  The Evangelicals, of course, were hostile to her, and said all manner of things against her, for the most part untrue, and did all in their power, not, of course,  to disprove her doctrine, but to render her personally odious.  This was particularly the case in Auburn, Cayunga Co., N.Y.  Auburn was then a village containing between three and four thousand inhabitants, divided, as usual in all our villages, into a large number of sects.  The hard things that were said of Fanny came to her ears, and at the close of one of her lectures, she quietly, and in the sweetest manner imaginable, remarked:

“We have here this evening considered the subject of religion.  Tomorrow evening, at half past seven o’clock, we will meet again at this place to discuss the subject of morals.  I observed, in driving through your beautiful village today, the spires of six meeting-houses, belonging to as many different religious denominations, and I was told that there were two or three other denominations that have not as yet erected meeting-houses for themselves.  It is evident that religion must have been well discussed among you, and that you are eminently a religious people.  I have travelled much and visited many countries, and in no place have I been so uncourteously received, or been the subject of so much personal insult, as in your most religious village.  Perhaps it will not be inappropriate for us to spend one evening in discussing the subject of morals.”

                About the time that she commenced her brief career as a public lecturer on Knowledge, Fanny, in connection with Robert Dale Owen, the eldest son of Robert Owen, and Robert L. Jennings, a Scotchman, started a weekly journal in New York, called The Free Enquirer, converted an old meeting-house inot a “Hall of Science,” and put into operation all the machinery of a most vigorous propagandism.  In 1830 she revisited France, where she became the wife of M. Darusmont, who, as William Phiquepal, had been her travelling companion and man of business during her lecturing tours.  She was present in Paris during the revolution of July, and remained abroad for several years.  She returned, indeed, to this country, finally took up her residence in Cincinnati, the wreck of what she was in the days when I knew and admired her, and where, not long since, deserted by all her former friends, and in poverty, if not destitution, she died.  The only person, as far as I can learn, who did not desert her, but did all she could to lighten her afflicitions, to soothe her last moments, and to direct her mind to the only source of help and comfort, was a most estimable lady, a convert from Quakerism to Catholicity.

                Poor Fanny!  I have always regretted her fate.  Her husband treated her, I have understood, with great unkindness and brutality.  And certain it is, that after her marriage her charm was broken, and her strength departed from her.  Yet few who knew her as I did, when she was about thirty years of age, still fresh and blooming, with her feminine sweetness and grace, and her masculine intellect, however they may regard her principles, will fail to remember her with much personal kindness.  She followed out with logical consistency the principle of private judgment in faith and morals; and none who recognize that principle, and deny all infallible teaching, have any right to reproach her.  She did great harm, and the morals of the American people feel even today the injury she did them; but she acted according to her lights, and was at least no hypocrite.  Many who condemn her have been and are greater sinners than she.

Chapter VII – The Working-Men

                The great measure on which Fanny and her friends relied for ultimate success was the system of public schools, which, as I have said, were to include the maintenance, as well as the instruction and education, of all the children of the state.  These schools were intended to deprive as well as to relieve parents of all care and responsibility of their children after a year or two of age.  It was assumed that parents were in general incompetent to train up their children in the way they should go, to form them with the right sort of characters, tempers and aims; and therefore it was proposed that the state should take the whole charge of the children, provide proper establishments, and teachers and governors for them, till they should reach the age of majority.  This would liberate the parents, and secure the principal advantages of a community of goods.

                The aim was, on the one hand, to relieve marriage of its burdens, and to remove the principal reasons for making it indissoluble; and, on the other, to provide for bringing up all children in a rational manner to be reasonable men and women, that is, free from superstition, all belief in God and immorality, or regard for the invisible, and make them look upon this life as their only life, this earth as their only home, and the promotion of their earthly interests and enjoyments as their only end.  The three great enemies to worldly happiness were held to be religion, marriage, or family, and private property.  Once get rid of those three institutions, and we may hope soon to realize our earthly paradise.  For religion we were to substitute science, that is, science of the world of the five senses only; for private property, a community of goods; and for private families, a community of wives.  No, not a community of wives, for in our new moral world there were to be no wives or husbands; there were to be only men and women, who would be free to cohabit together, according to their mutual likings, and for as long a time as they found it mutually agreeable, and no longer.  Marriage as a sacrament, as a sacred thing, as a mystery, making of the twain one flesh, was denied as superstition, or an invention of the priests, to render their own office so much the more necessary and profitable; but marriage as the expression of mutual love between a man and a woman was to be recognized.  Yet, as the end of all marriage is mutual happiness, and as that results only from mutual love, it follows that where the love is wanting the marriage is illegitimate, is immoral, and should never take place, or should cease.

                The great defect of this theory is in the assumption that the mutual love which is demanded by marriage is not within the power of free-will, and therefore does not depend on the parties themselves.  The love promised in the marriage contract is not love as an uncontrollable sentiment, but love as a free, voluntary affection, - love in the sense in which we are free to love or not to love as we choose.  Marriage, in the Christian sense, is certainly indefensible, if we accept the modern theory that love is necessary, fatal, independent of free-will.  Taking this theory, a theory which follows logically from Calvinistic and infidel philosophy, and is assumed as undeniable by all our modern novelists and romancers, the doctrine of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, the poet Shelly, Robert Owen, Frances Wright, and the advocates of Free-Love, is reasonable and just.  Christian marriage, if that theory be true, is immoral, because no one has a right to promise to do what it does not depend on his free-will to perform.  Christian marriage proceeds on that assumption that man, with the grace of God, is free to love, and can love, and faithfully perform, if he chooses, all that is implied in the marriage contract.  But Calvinism and infidelity alike denying free-will in fact, even when they do not in name, are obliged to reject marriage in the Christian sense, and, to be consistent, should assert what is called Free-Love.

                There is no question that the views of matrimony taken by Fanny Wright and her school are abominable, but it does not necessarily follow that they were adopted  from loose or licentious passions, or from really immoral motives.  They were and are justified by the theory of love adopted by very nearly the whole non-Catholic world.  It must not, moreover, be assumed that they appeal to us in the gross and shocking light that they do to the public, or even to myself at the present time.  Things do not always appear to us at twenty-six as they do at fifty-four.  We saw cleraly enough that they were not views to be carried into practice in the present state of society, and we proposed them to be adopted only by a future generation trained and prepared in our system of schools founded and sustained by the public, to adopt without abusing them.  In our minds, the wonder-working effects of these schools were to precede their practical realization. 

                Our illusion, after our missapprehension of the nature of the love promised in marriage, was the undue estimate we placed on education.  Our theory was, tha the child is passive in the hands of the educator, and may be moulded as clay in the hands of the potter.  Yet, in this we did but follow the popular philosophy of Locke and Condillac, and draw the conclusions warranted by the premises supplied us by the age and the country.  The sensism of Locke and the utilitarian morals of Paley were then taught in nearly all our colleges and universities.  Most of the generation to which I belong have been brought up to believe that the mind has no inherent character, and is in the beginning a mere tabula rasa, a blank sheet, with simply the capacity of receiving the characters which may be written on it.  It is only recently that Locke and Paley have been dethroned in our universities, and they are not yet expelled from our popular literature.  Thirty years ago the whole non-Catholic world believed in the power of education to redeem society, and to secure the reign of truth and justice; and that belief has still many a stalwart champion, not precisely of the Fanny Wright school. 

                Be all this as it may, our dependence was placed on education in a system of public schools managed after a plan of our own, or rather of William Phiquepal, a Frenchman, subsequently the husband of Fanny Wright, and who I see has not long since been cast in a suit for damages for the neglect and abuse of some of the pupils he brought with him from France to this country, and whom he pretended to educate.  I know something of his mode of managing with these boys; I knew it from his own lips, and him I never trusted.  But the more immediate work was to get our system of schools adopted.   To this end it was proposed to organize the whole Union secretly, very much on the plan of the Corbonari of Europe, of whom at that time I knew nothing.  The members of this secret society were to avail themselves of all the means in their power, each in his own locality, to form public opinion in favor of education by the state at the public expense, and to get such men elected to the legislatures as would be likely to favor our purposes.  How far the secret organization extended, I do not know; but I do know that a considerable portion of the State of New York was organized, for I was myself one of the agents for organizing it.  I, however, became tired of the work, and abandoned it after a few months.  Whether the organization still still exists, or whether it has exerted any influence or not, is more than I am able to say, or have taken the pains to ascertain.

                Our next step, and in connection with this, was the formation of what was known as the Working-Men’s Party, started in Philadelphia in 1828, and in New York in the year following.  This party was devised and started principally by Robert Dale Owen, Robert L. Jennings, George H. Evans, and a few others, without exception Europeans by birth.  The purpose in the formation of this party was to get control of the political power of the state, so as to be able to use it for establishing our system of schools.  We hoped, by linking our cause with the ultra-democratic sentiment of the country, which had had, from the time of Jefferson and Tom Paine, something of a an anti-Christian character, by professing ourselves the bold and uncompromising champions of equality, by expressing a great love for the people, and a deep sympathy with the laborer, whom we represented as defrauded and oppressed by his employer, by denouncing all proprietors as aristocrats, and by keeping the more unpopular features of our plan as far in the background as possible, to enlist the majority of the American people under the banner of the Working-Men’s Party; nothing doubting that, if we could once raise that party to power, we could use it to secure the adoption of our educational system.  

                Into this party I entered with enthusiasm.  I established in Western New York a journal in its support, and cooperated with The Daily Sentinel, conducted by my friends in the city.  But I soon tired of the party, and gave my influence and that of my journal, in the autumn of 1830, or the Jackson candidate, E.T. Throop, against Frank Granger, the candidate of the Anti-masons, for governor.  This defection ruined my journal as a party journal, and a fews days after the election, I disposed of it to my partner, and ceased to be its editor.  The truth is, I never was and never could be a party man, or work in the traces of a party.  I abandoned, indeed, after a year’s devotion to it, the Working-men’s cause, and to that cause I have been faithful according to my light and ability. 

                I was not naturally a radical, or even inclined to radicalism; but I had a deep sympathy with the poorer and more numerous classes.  This sympathy, I still have, and trust I shall have as long as I live.  I believed, and still believe, that the rights of labor are not sufficiently protected, and that the modern system of large industries, which requires for its prosecution heavy outlays of capital, or credit, makes the great mass of operatives virtually slaves, - slaves, in all except the name, as much so as are the negroes on one of our southern plantations.  It is a system which places the laborer under all the disadvantages, without securing him the advantages, of freedom.  I looked, and still look, upon democracy, as it is called, which has its expression in universal suffrage and eligibility, as affording no adequate protection to the laboring classes, as in fact no better than a mockery.  The British system, the mercantile system, the credit system, the banking system, the system which gives supremacy to trade and manufacturers, inaugurated by the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, I regarded, and still regard, as worse than the serfdom of the middle ages, and worse even than slavery as it has existed or can exist in any Christian country.  It cannot last forever; but it is too powerful to be successfully combated at present.  The industrial and commercial supremacy is not easily shaken; for Russia is the only modern nation that is in a condition to offer it the slightest resistance, and Russia is preparing to adopt it.

                My few months’ experience as the editor of a working men’s journal satisfied me that it was idle to attempt to carry out our plans by means of a working-men’s party, or, so to speak, a proletarian party.  The working-men, except in the cities and manufacturing villages, do not, in our own country, constitute, as a distinct class, the majority.  They are neither numerous nor strong enough to get or to wield the political power of the state.  They cannot afford to engage in the struggle to obtain it.  Capital or credit, in its various forms and ramifications, is too strong for them.  The movement we commenced could only excite a war of man against money; and all history and all reasoning in the case prove that in such a war money carries it over man.  Money commands the supplies, and can hold out longer than they who have nothing but their manhood.  It can starve them into submission.  I wished sincerely and earnestly to benefit the working-men, but I saw, as soon as I directed my attention to the point, that I could effect nothing by appealing to them as a separate class.  My policy must be, not a working-men’s party, but to induce all classes of society to cooperate in efforts for the working-men’s cause.  The rich and poor, the learned and unlearned, the producers and consumers, the headworkers and the handworkers, must unite, work together, or no reforms were practicable, no amelioration of the condition of any class was to be hoped for.

                No doubt I was for a moment fascinated by the visionary schemes of my friends, but my motive for supporting the Working-Men’s party was never precisely theirs.  I did not do it merely for the sake of the proposed system of education, but with the hope of benefiting the working-men themselves.  I acquiesced in that system of education for a moment, but never really approved it.  I was a husband and a father, and did not altogether relish the idea of breaking up the family and regarding my children as belonging to the state rather than to me.  Parents might not be in all cases qualifed to bring up their chidlren properly, but where was the state to get its army of nurses, teachers, governors, etc., better qualified?  What certainty was there that these public schools would be better conducted, or be more favorable to the morals and intelligence of children, than the family itself?  After all, what could these schools do for our children?  They would bring them up to be rational, it was said; that is, free from superstition, free from all religious prejudices, ignorant of all morality resting for its foundation on belief in God, in immortality, in moral accountability, and restricted in all their thoughts and affections to their five senses and the material world, therefore to purely material goods and sensual pleasures.  Suppose the schools to fulfill these expectations, they will turn out our children only well-trained animals – a sort of learned pigs.  After all, is this desirable?

                I cannot carry out my reforms without love, disinterestedness, sacrifice.  If man is a mere animal, born to propagate his species, and to die and be no more, why shall I love him, and sacrifice myself for him?  Where is his moral worth, his dignity, the greatness and majesty of his nature?  What matters it, whether, during his existence of a day, he is happy or miserable, since tomorrow  he dies, and it is all the same?  For a being so worhtless, wherefore devote myself?  What is there in him to inspire me with heroism, and enable me in his behalf to dare poverty, reproach, exile, the rack, the dungeon, the scaffold, or the stake?

                No longer irritated against religion by being obliged by my profession to seem to profess what I did not believe, I found myself almost instantly reverting with regret to my early religious principles and affections.  The moment I avowedly threw off religion and began to work without it, I found myself impotent.  I did not need religion to pull down or destroy society; but the moment I wished to build up, to effect something positive, I found I could not proceed a single step without it.  I was compelled to make brick without straw.  Philosophers had told me, and I had believed, that self-interest would suffice as a motive power, that all one has to do is to show men what is really for their interest, and they will do it.  Nothing more false.  Men are selfish enough, no doubt of that; but nothing in the world is harder than to get them to labor for their own best interest.  They act from habit, from routine, from appetite and passion, and will sacrifice their highest andbest good to their momentary lusts.  It is an old complaint, that men do not act as well as they know.  They see the right, approve it, and yet pursue the wrong.  It is not enough to show them their interest, to convince their understandings.  I must have some power by which I can overcome what religious people call the flesh, - a power which will strengthen the will, and enable men to subdue their passions and control their lusts.  Where am I to find this power except in religious ideas and principles, in the belief in God and immortality, in duty, moral accountability?

                I need, then, religion of some sort as the agent to induce men to make the sacrifices required in adoption of my plans for working out the reform of society, and securing to man his earthly felicity.  Certaintly, I was far enough from Christian thought; but this conviction, real and sincere, was a step in my ascent from the abyss into which I had fallen.  Certainly, it does not follow that religion is true because it is needed to secure man his earthly well-being; but the conviction that it is necessary for that purpose, if not rudely treated, may, in an ingenuous mind lead to something more.  I had fixed it in my mind that the creation of an earthly paradise, a heaven on earth for my race, was the end for which I should labor; and I saw that I could not gain that end without the agency of religion.  Therefore I accepted religion once more, and, on quitting my journal, resumed my old profession of a preacher, though of what particular Gospel it would be difficult to say.


                I resumed preaching, but on my own hook, as an independent preacher responsible to no church, sect, or denomination.  Do you say I was wrong, that I acted precipitately, and should have waited till my beard had grown?  Perhaps you are right.  But perhaps I was not in a condition in which I could wait.  A man may often be placed in a situation in which he must act, although perfectly aware that to act is premature.  I was still young, only just entering my twenty-eighth year, and knew perfectly well that I had made no thorough examination of the great questions which had been raised in my mind; but I must do something, not indeed what I would, but what I could.  The question with me was simply, what in my condition was practicable, and whether what to me was practicable was honest, such as involved the violation of no principle of natural morality.  Satisfied on this point, I could resume my profession with a good conscience, provided I pretended to believe no more than I really did believe, and did not attempt to dogmatize in matters of opinion, or give myself out for what I was not. 

                “But you ran without being sent.”  Certainly I did; but that was my privilege as a Protestant.  No Protestant had or has a right to upbraid me, for all Protestant ministers run without being sent.  None of them have received, in the ecclesiastical sense, a mission.  I stood on the same footing with Luther, Calvin, and all the Reformers.  They were all preachers on their own hook, self-commissioned ministers.  I could be no more bound by them than they were by the Pope; or by any Protestant sect than that sect itself was bound by the Catholic Church, from which it had separated.

                Do you allege that my creed was unorthodox?  What standard of orthodoxy had I as a Protestant?  The Bible?  The Bible as each one understands it for himself, or as it is interpreted by a divinely-commissioned authority?  The essence of Protestantism is, in denying all such authority, and in asserting the right of private interpretation.  On Protestant principles, orthodoxy is my doxy, heterodoxy is your doxy.  For the Protestant, each man’s private judgment is the only admissible standard of orthodoxy.  Leave me then to follow what seems right in my own eyes, or else go back yourselves to Mother Church; prove to me that your private judgment is more worthy to be followed than mine, before you arraign me as heterodox because I do not follow it.  You differ from me as much as I do from you; and why is it heterodox for me to differ from you, any more than it is for you to differ from me?

                My creed, no doubt, was very short, but no Protestant had any right to snub me because it was not longer.  In resuming my profession, I acted as a consistent Protestant; and as I had already been set apart to the work of the ministry by the laying on of hands of a Protestant presbytery, I stood as legitimately in the pulpit as any Protestant minister does or can.  So far, I was irreproachable on Protestant principles.  I will say this much for myself, that never did I, after reascending the pulpit, profess to be what I was not.  I never claimed to be an authorized preacher, or to have authority to dogmatize on any subject.  I never pretended to be a doctor.  I professed to be only a humble inquirer after truth; and all I professed to do was to stimulate my hearers also to inquire after it for themselves.  I warned them that I was a fallible man, and that they must believe nothing simply because I believed or asserted it.  There is, my brethren, I said to them, more truth than we have yet found.  Even what truth we really do hold, may be modified as we discover more truth.  As yet we are learners and inquirers; and we must inquire earnestly for the truth, and hold ourselves ready to embrace it, let it come in what shape it may, and follow it, let it lead whithersoever it will.

                I have never reproached myself for the position I assumed after my connection with Fanny-Wrightism.  I followed the best light I had, honestly, sincerely, unflinchingly.  God gave me this grace, and he finally led me, without my foreseeing wither he was leading me, into the bosom of his church.  Yet when I recommenced preaching, I had hardly the simplest elements of natural religion.  My great aim was, not to serve God, but to serve man; the love of my race, not the love of my Maker, moved me.  I was still bent on social reform, and regarded religion and all things else solely in relation to that end.  I found in me certain religious sentiments that I could not efface; certain religious beliefs or tendencies of which I could not divest myself.  I regarded them as a law of my nature, as natural to man, as the noblest part of our nature, and as such I cherished them; but as the expression in me of an objective world I seldom pondered them.  I found them universal, manifesting themselves, in some form, wherever man is found; but I received them, or supposed I received them, on the authority of humanity or human nature, and professed or hold no religion except that of humanity.  I had become a believer in humanity, and put humanity in the place of God.  The only God I recognized was the divine in man, the divinity of humanity, one alike with God and with man, which I supposed to be the real meaning of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, the mystery of Emmanuel, or God with us, - God manifest in the flesh.  There may be an unmanifested God, and certainly is; but the only God who exists for us is the God in man, the active and living principle of human nature.

                I regarded Jesus Christ as divine in the sense in which all men are divine, and human in the sense in which all men are human.  I took him as my model man, and regarded him as a moral and social reformer, who sought, by teaching the truth under a religious envelope, and practicing the highest and purest morality, to meliorate the earthly condition of mankind; but I saw nothing miraculous in his conception or birth, nothing supernatural in his person and character, in his life or his doctrine.  He came to redeem the world, as does every great and good man, and deserved to be held in universal honor and esteem as one who remained firm to the truth amid every trial, and finally died on the cross, a martyr to his love of mankind.  As a social reformer, as one devoted to the progress and well-being of man in this world, I thought I might liken myself to him, and call myself by his name.  I called myself a Christian, not because I took him for my master, not because I believe all he believed or taught, but because, like him, I was laboring to introduce a new order of things, and to promote the happiness of my kind.  I used the Bible as a good Protestant, took what could be accomodated to my purpose, and passed over the rest as belonging to an age now happily outgrown.  I followed the example of the carnal Jews, and gave an earthly sense to all the promises and prophecies of the Messias, and looked for my reward in this world.

                For several months I went on preaching, very much as I had lectured during the time of my avowed unbelief.  Very little was changed except my tone and temper.  I was willing to agree with the Christian world as far as I could, and no longer wished to fight it.  But I found myself gradually, I hardly know how or wherefore, cherishing views and feelings more and more in accordance, I will not say with Christianity, but with natural religion.  I began to approximate to a belief in God as a creator and moral governor, not so much from any reasoning on the subject, as from the silent operations of my natural religious sentiments.  I fell in with a sermon by the celebrated Dr. Channing on the Dignity of Human Nature.  Its eloquence, its noble sentiments, and its elevated thoughts, affected me powerfully, and made me almost a worshipper of man.  It made me think so highly of man, of his deathless energies and glorious affinities that I felt contented to believe that his soul could not die, but must live forever.  I saw in man, more clearly and vividly than I had before, something worth living for, something one could love, and, if need be, die for; I found myself almost instantly abandoning my old doctrine of interested for disinterested affection.  There was simething higher and nobler in man than I had hitherto admitted; something that could serve as a basis to that love of mankind necessary as the agent for introducing the social changes and organizations through which I hoped to obtain my earthly paradise.

                Dr. Channing’s writings drew my attention to the Unitarians, a denomination with which I had previously had no acquaintance.  I found that they were liberal, that they eschewed all creeds and confessions, allowed the unrestrained exercise of reason, and left their ministers each to stand on his own private convictions, and to arrange matters each as best he could with his own congregation.  The few members I met were educated, cultivated, intelligent, respectable, and I felt that among them I should find my home and my natural associates.  I offered myself to a Unitarian congregation in the summer of 1832, and was accepted and settled as their minister.  Then, almost for the first time, I began to study philosophy and theology with a little method and earnestness.  I was thrown into a society new to me, and had access to a whole literature to which I had hitherto been a stranger.  I learned French and a little German, and began a study of the rationalistic literatures of France and Germany, more especially of France.  A new world, or rather many new worlds, seemed to open to me, and I almost forgot my socialistic dreams.  The first work I read in French, and which held me enchained quite too long, was a work, forgotten now, of Benjamin Constant on Religion considered in its Origin, its Forms, and its Developments.  It chimed in with my modes of thinking at the time, and seemed to be just the book I wanted to clear up, develop, systematize, and confirm with the requisite historical proofs my own convictions.  Benjamin Constant is a historical character.  He was born in Switzerland of a French Huguenot family, and educated in Geneva, Scotland, and Germany.  He was recognized as a French citizen under the Directory, and for several years played a prominent part as a French politician.  Accompanying Madame de Stael when the First Consul exiled her from Paris, travelling with her in Italy, Germany, and England, and residing with her for some time at Coppet, he devoted himself to literature, till the fall of Napoleon in 1814.  He was admitted to the council of the Emperor during the Hundred Days, and after the second restoration, became a distinguished member of the Chamber of Deputies, on the liberal side, and took an active part in French politics till his death in 1830.

                Benjamin Constant had been brought up a Protestant, and became, like so many others of his generation, an unbeliever in revelation, perhaps even in God, and is said not to have lived a very deifying life.  He commenced his work with the intention of directing it against religion; but he was forced by his inquiries and discoveries to write, as he believed, in its favor.  His theory, not peculiar to himself, and held by men far profounder and more erudite than he, is, that religion has its origin in a sentiment natural to man, which may be termed a law of his nature.  This sentiment is vague and not easily defined.  It is in man which places him in relation with the unseen, makes him tremble before the invisible with fear, or thrill with delight, and leads him to open some means of communication with supernal powers.

                This sentiment is universal, an instinct, or, it may be, a mysterious revelation made by the Invisible to the heart of man, which finds its natural expression in the act of worship.  But, blind in itself, the object worshipped will be proportioned to the degree of intellectual light possessed by the worshipper.  The form depends on the intelligence, and the sentiment adapts itself to any form from the lowest African fetichism to the highest and purest Jewish and Christian monotheism.  The sentiment itself is always the same, as unalterable and permanent as the nature of man, but its forms are variable and transitory.  Man embodies in them his ideas or conceptions of the true, the just, the holy; but, as these ideas are progressive, he is obliged with each step in their progress to break his old forms become too strait for him, and to create new and broader forms, more in harmony with his advancing intelligence.  Men began, in the lowest forms of fetichism, with the worship of wood, stones, animals, four-footed beasts, and creeping things.  From fetichism they advanced in process of time to the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, or the hosts of heaven, and the elements of nature.  At first man worships the outward, visible object itself, but gradually refining on the object, and rising to metaphysical conceptions, he takes it simply as a symbol of the invisible, and worships no longer the bull, but the spirit or maniton of the bull – no longer the sun, but the spirit of the sun.  In this way he rises from Sabianism to Oriental, Egyptian, and Persian symbolism, and to the polished and graceful forms of Greek and Roman polytheism.  Refining and philosophizing still more on his ideas and the phenomena of nature, he ascends to the Jewish, and from the Jewish to the Christian monotheism.

                Man’s natural tendency is to embody his ideas and sentiments in fixed forms or institutions.  He wishes to find today the friends of yesterday.  He dreads change, and would render his acquisitions permanent and unchangeable.  The jugglers, afterwards developed into a priesthood, take advantage of this, and labor to keep the forms of religion fixed and stationary, and to prevent all religious progress, all growth or expansion of religious ideas.  This is especially the case in the East, where the sacerdotal religions obtained even in Greece and Rome, but gradually the warrior class emancipated themselves from the sacerdotal, established civil governments proper, and obtained for religion the freedom to follow the natural progress and development of the nation.  There is a great progress in the religious and moral ideas of the Odyssey on those of the Iliad, and hence the two poems could never have been composed by one and the same man.  The Roman polytheism, again, is far in advance of the Grecian.  Indeed Christianity is only one step in advance of Roman polytheism, - a step to which the human mind naturally tended.

                Each new form or institution of religion is not only an advance on its predecessor, but is the stepping-stone to newer and still greater progress.  Each in turn is outgrown, ceases to be in harmony with the wants and intelligence of the age or country; and when it becomes so, men begin to criticize it, to point out its defects, its inconsistencies, and to break away from it.  Do not be alarmed.  These critical periods in history are no doubt terrible, such as one dreads to live in, but they are essential to the progress of man and society.  People think religion is about to desert them, and they look upon the advanced minds longing for something purer, higher, truer, and broader, as their enemies, as the enemies of the gods, as infidels, blasphemers, and condemn them to drink hemlock, or to be crucified between two theives.  Such periods of criticism, of destruction of old forms, have occurred several times in the history of the human race.  We meet one in Greece commenced by Socrates and continued by Plato; another which prepared the way for the introduction and establishment of the Christian Church; another which commenced in the sixteenth century of our era, when Catholicity had ceased to be in harmony with the wants and intelligence of the age, and which still continues.  These periods of destruction and transition mark, not the decline of civilization, but its advance; and so far from being hostile to religion, they invariably prepare for it a more glorious future.

                This theory of the progress of religion corresponded with my theory of the progress of mankind, and had for me many charms.  I was prepared in advance to accept it, and did not at the time think of inquiring whether it really had any historical basis or not.  No doubt had as yet arisen in my mind as to the truth of the doctrine of progress.  A slight knowledge of history, as well as of philosophy, suffices to refute Benjamin Constant’s theory.  Truth is older than error, and monotheism – the belief and worship of only one God – is older than polytheism, older than fetichism, and is, in fact, the earliest form of religion recorded in history.  But the truth or falsity of the theory under this revelation was not the point which struck me with the most force.  That was not the problem which I was interested at the time in solving.  The point in the theory which struck my attention, and influenced my studies and action, was the fact alleged, that man naturally seeks to embody his religious ideas and sentiments in institutions, and that these institutions, serve as instruments of progress.  What we now want, I said, is a new religious institution or church, one that shall embody the advanced intelligence of the age, and respond to all the new wants which time and events have developed.  Every institution, in that it is an institution, has something fixed, inflexible, and inexpansive.  Hence no institution can answer the wants of the race in all times and places.  The various religions, fetichism, Sabianism, symbolism, polytheism, Judaism, Catholicism, have all been good and useful in their day, when and where they harmonized with the wants and intelligence of the people; but they have all been outgrown, and the human race has cast them off, as the grown man casts off the garments of his childhood.  Catholicity was good in its day, during the thousand years which intervened between the fall of the Roman Empire of the West and the rise of Luther and his associates;  for during that period it was in harmony with the general intelligence, responded to the highest conceptions, and to the deepest wants of the soul then developed.  It led the age, commanded respect, commanded obedience and love, because it aided the soul in its progress, inspired the heart with noble sentiments, and prepared its inherents to engage in grand and heroic enterprises for the human race.  But fixed and inflexible, immovable and unalterable in itself, it ceased to be favorable to progress the moment it had brought the race up to its own level, and must from that moment become a let and a hindrance to progress, - a mischievous institution, which must be demolished and cleared away to make room for a new and better institution.

                That Catholicity had been outgrown and ceased to be useful, was evinced by the reformation.  Protestantism was not a religion, was not a church, and in itself contained no germ of religious organization.  It was not in any sense an institution.  Its mission was simply one of destruction, as I wrote in The Christian Examiner, in 1834.  But its rise proved that there were wants and lights which Catholicity did not meet – could not satisfy.  What, then, is our mission?  Not to revive Catholicity, already become superannuated in the sixteenth century, and struck with death by Luther, when he threw his inkstand in the face of the devil; not to continue Protestantism, which was simply critical, destructive, and without the slightest organic character or tendency, or the least power to erect a temple of concord and peace, of union and progress.  What then?  It is to labor directly for a new religious institution, church, or organization, which shall embody the most advanced ideas and sentiments of the race, and be The Church of the Future, by containing in itself what was wanting in the religions of the past, - the principle of its own progress.

Chapter IX -         UNION AND PROGRESS

                I did not lose sight of the great end I proposed, - the progress of man and society, and the realization of a heaven on earth.  I was working in reference to it while I was pursuing my historical and philosophical researches, and maturing my religious theories.  I had been forced to resort to religious ideas and sentiments for the power to work effectually for it; and I now found that I must have a religious organization, institution, or church, in order to render these sentiments practically efficient.  This much I had gained from Benjamin Constant’s great work, and it was nearly all that I did gain from it.  The work of destruction, commenced by the Reformation, which had introduced an era of criticism and revolution, had, I thought, been carried far enough.  All that was dissoluble had been dissolved.  All that was destructible had been destroyed, and it was time to begin the work of reconstruction, - a work of reconciliation and love.

                Irreligious ideas and sentiments are disorganizing and destructive in their nature, and cannot be safely cherished for a single moment after the work of destruction is completed.  When the work to be done is that of construction, of building up, of organizing, of founding something, we must resort to religious ideas and sentiments, for they, having love for their principle, are plastic, organic, constructive, and the only ideas and setiments that are so.  They are necessary to the new organization or institution of the race demanded; and the organization or institution, what I called the church, is necessary to the progress of man and society, or the creation of an earthly paradise.  The first thing to be done is to cease our hostility to the past, discontinue the work of destruction; abandon the old war against the papacy, which has  no longer any significance, and in a spirit of universal love and conciliation, turn our attention to the work of founding a religious institution, or effecting a new church organization, adapted to our present and future wants.

                This we are now, I thought, in a condition to attempt.  Men are beginning to understand that Protestantism is no-churchism, is no positive religion; and while it serves the purpose of criticism and destruction, it cannot meet the wants of the soul, or erect the temple in which the human race may assemble to worship in concord and peace.  Unitarianism has demolished Calvinism, made an end in all thinking minds of every thing like dogmatic Protestantism, and Unitarianism itself satisfies nobody.  It is negative, cold, lifeless, and all advanced minds among Unitarians are dissatisfied with it, and are craving something higher, better, more living, and life-giving.  They are weary of doubt, uncertainty, disunion, individualism, and crying out from the bottom of their hearts for faith, for love, for union.   They feel that life has well-nigh departed from the world; that religion is but an empty name, and morality is mere decorum or worldly prudence; that men neither worship God nor love one another.  Society as it is, is a lie, a sham, a charnel-house, a valley of dry bones.  O that the Spirit of God would once more pass by, and say unto these dry bones, “Live”!  So I felt, so felt others; and whoever enjoyed the confidence of the leading Unitarian ministers in Boston and its vicinity from 1830 to 1840, well knows that they were sick at heart with what they had, and were demanding in their interior souls a religious institution of some sort, in which they could find shelters from the storms of this wintry world, and some crumbs from the bread of life to keep them from starving.  Not only in Boston was this cry heard.  It came to us on every wind from all quarters, - from France, from Germany, from England even; and Carlyle, in his Sartor Resasrtu, seemed to lay his finger on the plague-spot of the age.  Men had reached the centre of indifference; under a broiling sun in the Rue d’Enfer, had pronounced the everlasting “No.”  Were they never to be able to pronounce the everlasting “Yes”? 

                Among them all I was probably the most hopeful, and the most disposed to act.  If I lacked faith in God, I had faith in humanity.  The criticisms on all subjects sacred and profane, the bold investigations of every department of life, continued unweariedly for three hundred years, by the most intrepid, the most energetic, and the most enlightened portion of mankind, had, I thought, sufficiently developed ideas and sentiments, and obtained for us all the light needed, all the materials wanted for commencing the work of reorganization, and casting broad and deep the foundations of the Church and the Future.  All that was wanting was to collect the ideas which these three hundred years of criticism and investigation had developed, and mould them into one harmonious, complete, and living system, and then to take that system as the principle and law of the new moral and religious organization.  Whence that system, formed from the union of various and isolated ideas, was to derive its life, its principle of unity and vitality, so as to be living and effective, I did not at the time specially consider.  I supposed ideas themselves were potent, but, hard pressed, I probably should have said, they are potent by the potency of the human mind, or the divinity in man.

                There was a moment when I looked to Dr. Channing, the foremost man among the Unitarians, as the one who was to take the lead in this work of reorganization.  His reputation in 1834 was high, and he loomed up at a distance in my eyes as the great man of the age; but a closer view, an intimate personal acquaintance with him, soon disabused me.  Dr. Channing had done me great service in the beginning of my efforts to rise from the abyss of unbelief into which I had fallen; he was my warm, considerate, and steady friend ever after to the day of his death.  He consoled me, encouraged me, aided me in various ways; and I can never forget my personal obligations to him.  I hold, and always shall hold, his memory in grateful respect.  But he was not the great man many supposed him to be.  He was benevolent, philanthropic, and anxious to do all in his power for the good of mankind, especially for the relief of the poorer and and more numerous classes.  He had a just horror of Calvinistic theology, and warred to the last against the Calvinistic view of human nature.  He rejected with indignation the doctrine of total depravity, asserted in eloquent terms the dignity of human nature, and entertained the loftiest conceptions of the greatness and capacity of the human soul.  He asserted so frequently and so strongly the dignity of man, that one of his brother ministers said of him, with more point than truth, however: “Dr. Channing makes man a great God, and God a little man.”  He certainly, in revolting against the Calvinistic doctrine, which so unduly depresses the human to make way, as it supposes, for sovereign grace, ran to the opposite extreme, and unduly depressed the divine, and exaggerated the human.  He is answerable for no small portion of the soul-worship, which was for a time the fashionable idolatry of the metropolis of New England.

                As a moral man, as a lover of his kind, as a sympathizer with the oppressed and the downtrodden, Dr. Channing was great, but he was never a clear and profound thinker.  He was no philosopher, no theologian, and only moderately erudite.  As a reasoner, he was feeble and confused; as a controversialist, he was no match for the Worshesters, Woods, and Stuarts in the ranks of his Calvinistic opponents.  He was undoubtedly an eloquent sermonizer, and within his range the master of a style of great simplicity, sweetness, and beauty; but he lacked vigor and robustness, and left on his readers the impression that he was sickly and inclining to sentimentalism.  He was an eloquent and effective declaimer, and was felicitious, when the matter did not lie beyond his depth, in summing up and clearly stating the various points in a question after it had been thoroughly discussed by more vigorous and original, but less polished and graceful, minds than his own.  He was never, to my knowledge, a leader in the world of thought or of action, and his study was apparently to come under others, and to rebuke or applaud them as seemed to him proper; and as he usually chose his time for intervening with adroitness, he not unfrequently received the credit due to those who had gone before and enlightened him.

                Dr. Channing exerted for a long time a very great influence, and he did, no doubt, good service in demolishing New-England theology, and in liberalizing the New-England mind; but he had no original genius or tendency.  His nature was not expansive, and with all his generous sentiment he lived, as it were, shut up in himself.  He inclined strongly to individualism, and distrusted all associated action, though sometimes tolerating, and even encouraging it.  His sympathy with Unitarians, as a distinct sect or denomination, was not strong, and he gave them the prestige of his name chiefly because they suffered reproach.  Unitarianism he regarded as useful, in that it was opposed to Calvinism; but he was far from regarding it as the last word of Christian truth.  His own mind, I apprehend, remained unsettled to the day of his death.  He felt that he was still seeking after the truth, and waiting for it to dawn on him and the world.  “There is,” he would often say in his conversations with me, “”a higher form of Christian truth and love needed and to be revealed than the world has yet seen; and I look with hope to the discussions and movements in the midst of which we live to elicit and realize it for mankind.”  He looked for this new manifestation of Christian truth and love in a socialist direction.  I do not think he had any tendency to return towards New England orthodoxy, in which he was educated, as some evangelists have supposed.  As far as I could discover, his tendency in the latter years of his life was to place less and less value on doctrines of any sort, and to make religion consist in sentiment alone.  He rejected all creeds and confessions, rejected all church authority, and all church organization, though he died a member of the Church of the Disciples, founded by James Freeman Clarke, on the principle that true Christians are they who exclude no views, whether true or false, and are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

                Dr. Channing was not and could not be the man to found the new order, and rival or more than rival a Moses, and a greater than Moses.  Among my friends and acquaintances  I found none.  Perhaps the thought passed through my head that I was myself the destined man; but I did not entertain it.  I could not be more than John the Baptist, or the Voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Behold the Lord cometh: prepare ye to meet him.”  I might, perhaps, be the Precursor of the new Messias, but not the newMessias himself.  My business was, not to found the new church, but to proclaim its necessity, and to prepare men’s minds and hearts to welcome it.

                You smile at my simplicity or at my lofty estimate of myself, but with less justice than you suppose.  I was a believer in humanity, and the God I professed to worship was the God in man.  I was with the Unitarians, and had not advanced nearer to Christianity than they were: most of them thought not so near.  But the New-England Unitarians, though very excellent people as the world goes, hold nothing that made me appear absurd or ridiculous in thinking as I did.  They are descendants of the New-England Arminians of the last century, who rejected the Calvinistic doctrine of election and reprobation, the restriction of the atonement to the elect, the inamissibility of grace, and asserted universal redemption, free-will, and other points very nearly as settled by the Council of Trent.  In the early part of the present century, it was found that nearly all the Arminian churches and their ministers in New England had silently become Pelagian and Unitarian.  They asserted human ability in relation to merit, and rejected the Calvinistic and the Catholic doctrines of grace, denied the Atonement, the Incarnation, and the proper divinity of the Word, and reduced Christianity very nearly to simple natural religion or philosophy, as every consistent reasoner must do, who adopts the Pelagian heresy.  Some few among the Unitarians, as Dr. Noah Worchester and, perhaps, Dr. Channing, adopted Arian views, or at least regarded our Lord as a super-angelic person; but the majority, at least of the preachers, regrarded him as a man, with one simple nature, and that human nature, though a man extraordinarily, some said miraculously, endowed, and divinely commissioned to teach truth and righteousness, chiefly through the singular purity and holiness of his life.  He taught nothing which, when once revealed, is above the ability of reason to comprehend, and was, in his moral perfection, in no sense above our aim or our reach.  To be Christians in the full sense of the word, we must be what he was, sons of God, as he was the Son of God.

                The Bible was regarded by Unitarians, upon the whole, a faithful and trustworthy record of the revelations of truth which God at sundry times and in divers places had been pleased to make to mankind; but not as plenarily inspired, or as in all repsects from from the errors and prejudices of the times in which it was written.  Holy men spake of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, that is, by a pure and holy spirit of interior disposition, and may do so now.  Men are as near to God today as they were two thousand years ago, and may, if they choose, have as intimate communion with him, and be as truly inspired by him.

                In regard to another life, the Unitarians were not precisely agreed among themselves.  A few held the orthodox view of a future judgment and the endless punishment of the wicked; now and then one thought there would be a final judgment, and that the wicked, those who died wicked, would be condemned, and then annihilated.  Some believed in future disciplinary punishment, the restoration of the wicked, and the ultimate holiness and happiness of all men; others, and the majority, held that the future life would be simply a continuation, under other and perhaps more favorable conditions, of our present natural life, in which we should take rank according to the progress made here, and in which we might grow better and happier, or worse and more miserable forever.  With these last, so far as I had any fixed views on the subject, I agreed.

                The heaven the Unitarians promised in the world to come, was in a natural order, - a sort of natural beatitude, such as some Catholics have supposed might be enjoyed by those in the least unpleasant part of hell.  It was not to consist in the beatific vision, or seeing God as he is in himself in the supernatural light of glory, but in a reunion of friends, in the exercise of the social and benevolent affections, and the study of the natural sciences, in discovering the secrets of nature, and in admiring the beauty and harmony of the Creator’s works.  In its details it may differ from Mahomet’s paradise, but hardly so in principle.  Indeed there were those among us who openly claimed the Mahometans as good Unitarians, and were quite disposed to fraternize with them.  It need therefore surprise nobody that one of the most brilliant and gifted of the early Unitarian ministers of Boston actually did go to Turkey, turn Mahometan, and became a Moslem preacher.  He published in English a volume of Mahometan sermons, which I once read.  I thought them equal to most Unitarian sermons I had seen or heard.  Even John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, thought Islamism an improvement on the Christianity of the Greeks of Constantinople. 

                There was evidently nothing schocking to the Unitarian mind in my regarding myself as the Precursor to the new Messias.  Why should there not be new Messias?  Indeed, was not Kossuth, Vice-President of the American Bible Society, Ex-Governor of Hungary, when he came to this country a few years since, greeted, in so many words, as the “Second Messias,” without a word of rebuke in public even from the so-called orthodox Protestant press?  Did not Methodist schoolmasters in Cincinnati bring their young pupils to him that he might bless them?  The truth is, I was quite modest in claiming for myself only the part of the Precursor, and many came to ask me if I was not myself a second Messias.  The new moral world must have, of course, a great man, a representative man, to usher it in, to be its father and founder.  If I had regarded myself as that man, and thus a superior, by all the difference between the first century and nineteenth, to the founder of Christianity, it would have argued rather my low estimate of him than my high estimate of myself; and, in not doing so, I proved myself more modest than some who have come after me.

                Not finding among my friends and acquaintances the “representative man,” and waiting till he should reveal himself, I concluded to commence a direct preparation for his coming.  One man, and one man only, shared my entire confidence, and knew my most secret thought.  Him, from motives of delicacy, I do not name; but, in the formation of my mind, in systematizing my ideas, and in general development and culture, I owe more to him than to any other man among Protestants.  We have since taken divergent courses, but I loved him as I have loved no other man, and shall so love and esteem him as long as I live.  He encouraged me, and through him chiefly I was enabled to remove to Boston and commence operations.  Dr. Channing and several of his personal friends, without knowing all my purposes, also assisted me.  I was invited to Boston to preach to the laboring classes, and to do all I could to save them from the unbelief which had become quite prevalent among them.  I accepted the invitation, proposing to myself to make of it an opportunity to bring out my religious and socialist theories, and to call public attention to the necessity of a new religious orgnization of mankind.  I accordingly organized, on the first Sunday in July, 1836, “The Society for Christian Union and Progress.”

                The name I gave to the society was indicative of the principle of the future organization, and of the end I contemplated, - the union and progress of the race.  I remained, with some interruption, the minister of this society till the latter part of 1843, when I became to suspect that man is an indifferent church-builder, and that God himself had already founded a church for us, some centuries ago, quite adequate to our wants, and adapted to our nature and destiny.  My society at one time was prosperous, but in general I could not pride myself on my success; yet I saw clearly enough, that, with more confidence in myself, a firmer grasp of my own conviction, a stronger attachment to my own opinions because they were mine, and a more dogmatic temper than I possessed, I might easily succeed, not in founding a new Catholic Church indeed, but in founding a new sect, and perhaps a sect not without influence.  But a new sect was not in my plan, and I took pains to prevent my movement from growing into one.  What I wanted was, not sectarianism, of which I felt we had quite too much, but unity and catholicity.  I wished to unite men, not to divide them – to put an end to divisions, not to multiply them.

                The truth is, I was not, except on a few points, settled in my own mind.  I never concealed, or affected to conceal, that I regarded myself as still a learner, a seeker after truth, not as one who has found the truth, and has nothing to do but to preach it.  I always told my congregation that I was looking for more light, and that I could not be sure that my convicitions would be tomorrow what they are today.  Whether I preached or wrote, I aimed simply at exciting thought and directing it to the problems to be solved, not to satisfy the mind or to furnish it with dogmatic solutions of its difficulties.  I was often rash in my statements, because I regarded myself not as putting forth doctrines that must be believed, but as throwing out provocatives to thought and investigation.  My confidence was not in the individual mind, whether my own or another’s, but in humanity, in the action and decisions of the general mind, the universal reason.  

                I was perfectly consistent in this; and my course, I thought then, and I think now, was the only honest course for a man who has not an infallible authority to which he can appeal, and in the name of which he is commissioned to speak.  If the criterion of truth is the universal reason, or the reason of all men, not my individual reason; and if am am imperfect and yet progressive, never knowing the whole truth, yet able to know more tomorrow than I know today, how can I, as an honest man, regard  my private opinions as dogmas, or put forth my personal convictions, as so much eternal and immutable truth?  What as yet the universal reason has not passed upon, what has not as yet received the seal of approbation from universal and immutable human nature, can be regarded only as private opinion, which I have no right to ask of others to believe, or to assert as indisputable.  I was in fact too honest, too consistent, and too distrustful of myself to succeed.