[Please note that Spirit & Truth Fellowship International does not necessarily agree with the full content of this letter, however we think it is a very valuable and historical document that needs to be available online for all to read and study.]


I confess I have not sufficient mental acumen to understand your meaning when you attempt to separate Truth from its consequences. How can the consequences of Truth, in a moral point of view, be beneficial to us, unless we possess the Truth itself? How can there be effects without a cause? It is very evident that somebody must possess the knowledge of a truth before it can affect anybody. You will grant that, perhaps. But I may discover, by some chance or other, that somebody is mistaken; and then I can no longer say that I believe that person’s opinions to be true. I know that I may be exposing to you my want of metaphysical acuteness, but I cannot help it. I have been in the habit of thinking that Truth itself—Truth in the abstract—was essentially important; but this may be one of those old fashioned notions which are now nearly obsolete. You have not yet convinced me, however, that I was mistaken in this old fashioned adherence to truth.

You have alluded to my volumes of poems, written especially for the afflicted, or I would not allude to them myself. You say that those whom they have comforted will find that “they have been lured from their grief by a falsity, and comforted by a fraud!” How can that be? The blessed truths which gave them comfort are there still. The volume consists of a detail of the real experience of one on whom the hand of God was heavily laid; and I do not see how any change of opinion can affect the fact that such was my experience then. My change does not affect the truth of God. He has promised to be with the afflicted; I was afflicted, oh how severely! and He was with me in a most remarkable manner. His promise is still held out to the afflicted, and the record of my experience is still there. It was no falsity; it was no fraud; and no change of mine can make it so.

This is a delicate subject; I will pass it by after a moment’s consideration. It does seem strange to me that people should not be able to see that Unitarians have, and profess to have, an Almighty Savior. GOD is their Saviour, through Christ. Whatever God does for us, he does for us through Christ. He is the chosen medium of communication. Trinitarians practically exalt Christ above the Father. Unitarians go to the Father, as the Supreme Being, through Christ. Another friend, speaking of the volume called “The Parted Family,” writes : “I do not see how you can say that the alteration of a few expressions would make the volume agree with your present views. It was the Saviour, God, who was near you in your affliction; at least you thought so.” Yes, I thought so then, and I think so now. God, who is emphatically my Saviour, was near me by the blessed influences of his Holy Spirit—that Comforter, whom Christ promised his disciples that the Father would send in his name. Christ prayed to the Father for this Comforter for his beloved disciples, and his prayer was granted. We cannot know exactly the manner in which God comforts us; but if he does it, that, to us, is all-sufficient. God says to his people, “besides me there is no Saviour.” The same friend writes, “I read your book of poems through one night with many tears; read it yourself, and believe!”

Another writes, “Once let it be known that the author of ‘The Parted Family’ has become a Unitarian, and all is lost.” Another says, “how little did I think, when reading your touching account of the wonderful manner in which you were sustained and comforted in your hour of need, and with what sweet reliance you leaned upon the promises of the Saviour, and found peace; that you would ever wish to take from him any of his glory, or deny him his divinity.” Do my friends think that the delightful promises which Jesus made to his disciples are now expunged from my Bible? And if I believe that he came from the Father with divine power and authority, are not those promises the same to me as the promises of the Father himself? Assuredly they are. Christ said expressly to his disciples, “the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself;”—”all things that I have heard of the Father I have made known unto you;”—”the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me;”—”I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me; he gave me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak;”—”as the Father hath taught me, I speak these things;”—”I have many things to say—I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.” Can any declarations be more explicit? Christ over and over again denies speaking anything of himself. The promises of Christ, then, came from the Father. But have I become an Atheist, that the promises of GOD should be of no account to me? How can any one say, until he knows me to be an infidel, that those very promises which supported me then, do not support me now?

My pen trembles while I quote what you next write, but I must do it, to convince you that your appeal has not been overlooked. You say: “Remember those whom you have seen die, knowing their Saviour to be their eternal God; think well, for you are about taking a fearful step. Let memory turn her steps to the dying bed of your beloved and noble husband, and pause ere you tread a road that may not reach his resting-place. Think of your child, now in his Saviour’s arms, and be sure, ere it be too late, that that Saviour will have room for the mother who would make him but an equal. Think of that holy man who has just gone to his God [1] —think of his life of faith—his path of purity—his holy walk—his peaceful death, and pause before you set all these down to mere delusion.”

You take for granted, my dear Sir, many things which I utterly deny and repudiate. God forbid that I should set down “to mere delusion” what I have seen of the life and death of that venerable patriarch, who has left behind him so bright and holy an example—the best and noblest legacy he could have bestowed on his descendants. He was a conscientious, holy man: his faith in Christ led him closely to imitate Christ. However mistaken I may suppose him to have been in regard to the metaphysical question of Christ’s original nature, I know that he considered him as coming with divine authority, and that he yielded the most cheerful and implicit obedience to the requirements of his gospel. His faith in Christ then was no “delusion;” it was real; it was an active, living principle, which, I devoutly pray, that all his descendants may possess. If, as he did, we receive Christ as the Messiah, as a teacher sent from God—and if we live the life that he lived, we shall with him sit down at the right hand of God, where our “Forerunner” has gone before us. I cannot trust myself to dwell upon the other cases to which you have so touchingly alluded; but I hope you will believe me when I say, that I have thought seriously and painfully upon my change of opinions in connection with their memory, and feeling and knowing as I do, how conscientious I have been—how anxious for the right—how fearful of the wrong—I firmly and joyfully believe that I shall not be separated from them when I come to die. [2]

Your letter thus proceeds: “I may write in vain; argument is the very vanity of man’s carnal, petty pride; I know it will not avail. God’s Spirit alone can teach the wonderous truth which is no mere abstraction, but in which are the issues of life and death.” I am very well aware that this is generally the ground that is taken by my friends. Very few of them appear to think it is a matter which can be argued, if I am to judge from the means which they have used to influence me to give up the views I now entertain. But how can I give them up till I am convinced they are untrue? If you will convince me, I will joyfully renounce them. In taking the steps I have recently taken, I have had everything to lose, and nothing to gain; that is, in the eye of the world. I have embraced an unpopular faith; I have placed myself in the minority; I have grieved my friends; I have almost broken the hearts of my revered parents. If I could believe just what I please, I would choose to believe as all my friends do; that would be far more pleasant to me than this wide difference of opinion. And if, without falsehood and deceit, I could profess to believe what I do not regard as true, then all this would not have taken place. But while the human mind remains what it is—while conviction and belief go together, and belief and profession must correspond as they ought ever to do—I do not see what is to be done, but to let every one believe and profess what his conscience dictates.

Moreover, as long as you take it for granted that the truth in regard to the Son of God can be discovered only through the special agency of the Holy Spirit operating on each individual mind; and furthermore, that this truth has certainly been revealed to you, and those who think as you do; and that all those who differ from you are thereby proved to be without the Holy Spirit; I do not see how those who are not willing to concede these things exclusively to you and your sect, can be influenced by your assertions as to what is truth and what is not. I also believe that these things are taught us by the Holy Spirit, as that Spirit has revealed them to us in the Scriptures; and I believe that God gives his Spirit to each individual who asks for it in the right way; not to discover to such an individual any new truth, not revealed in the Bible, but to help him to discern what is there taught. Therefore, each individual must, with all the aids he can procure, go to the Bible on his own responsibility, and discover, as well as he is able, what is contained therein. This doctrine of the special illumination of certain individuals, at the present day, when miraculous gifts are no longer bestowed as our infallible guide, is full of danger. A man may teach the most monstrous errors, and say he in under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and that we ought to give him credit for truth in a matter of which we cannot possibly judge. But I say, let us depend upon no uninspired fallible man like ourselves; let each one depend upon THE BIBLE, devoutly and honestly seeking assistance from God.

[Please note that Spirit & Truth Fellowship International does not necessarily agree with the full content of this letter, however we think it is a very valuable and historical document that needs to be available online for all to read and study.]


1. My venerable grandfather, Mr. Job Palmer, who died recently in Charleston, S.C., at the advanced age of ninety-seven years. Back to top

2. See Appendix R. Back to top

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