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does not necessarily agree with the full content of this letter, however we think it is a very valuable and historical document that needs to be available online for all to read and study.]


It gives me a great deal of pain when you say, “Henceforth our religious sympathies are to be uncongenial.” “There is,” you assert, “no middle ground, no ‘Platform’ on which we can meet.” “If Christ be God,” you observe, “and you refuse to worship him as God, and to receive him as such, you reject the only way of salvation which the Gospel provides.” Enough has been said upon this subject in former letters, to render it unnecessary to enlarge upon it here; but I will merely remark, that if there is to be no religious sympathy between us, the fault is yours, not mine. Knowing perfectly well your sentiments and my own, I feel that there are many chords that can vibrate in unison, if we will only allow them to give forth their natural sounds. Time alone will show whether I have so far lost my religious feelings as would be indicated by the result you anticipate. It is mournful to have to acknowledge that you are not the only dear friend who feels in this way. Another writes, “I feel very sad whenever I think of the past. For the future our intercourse cannot be quite the same. I find myself considering how your change will effect your about every thing that comes up before me. I believe it to be so great a change, that it must seriously alter your views of things around and above you. But I cannot cease to love you, and to desire your love in return.” At another time she writes: “I have had some bitter moments since I received your letter. I have very few friends of my younger days left. Death and life’s changes have deprived me of many, and now a bitter separation must take place between spirits that have long depended upon each other for intellectual improvement and social happiness.”

How very sad this is! In view of this painful state of things, when I have heard expressions of heartfelt sympathy so freely poured forth for my parents and friends, I have been inclined to ask, is there no sympathy for me? Am I not a sufferer too? Is there no one who can realize what I have lost—what I have sacrificed to what I deem the cause of Truth? In the words of a Unitarian writer, I will ask, if “the standing forth, for conscience’ sake, as a mark of general obloquy, the being shunned and vilified, the hearing of hard names and cruel insinuations, the loss of reputation among the great body of the people, and the wounds of private friendship”—to me far more painful than all the rest—are nothing? Are all these things nothing? Ah, there are times, my dear Sir, when, in the agony of my feelings, I have been inclined to exclaim, in the touching language of inspiration, “All ye that pass by, come and see if there is nay sorrow like unto my sorrow?”

Yet all these things will not, cannot move me, nor cause me to deny what I believe to be the truth as it is in Jesus. I am serious and earnest in this matter, and well may I be so, for it is a serious business. I did not take this step without counting the cost. I well knew it would be unpopular. I had some anticipation of the contumely and reproach I should bring upon myself for presuming to differ from the majority; I knew that my motives would be misunderstood and misrepresented; of all this I seriously thought; for all this I was in a measure prepared; but I must, in candor, say, that I did not dream of the extent to which the spirit of orthodoxy would carry some of its votaries. Some of the things which I have suffered were naturally to be expected; they will always be the lot of every one who takes any uncommon step, while the majority of persons in every community spend their time, as did the Athenians of old, “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”

As I have said in another letter, before I began to investigate the main point which has now separated me from nearly all my relatives and friends, my views upon other points had become essentially modified. I can say of myself as some one has said of John Blanco White, that his mind, which had been bound by the fetters of Jesuitism, “rushed to a compromise, and compromises,” remarks the author, “only last for a time.” He first took refuge in the established Church of England, but his active mind cast off one fetter after another, till finally he stood boldly forth in the ranks of liberal Christianity, and avowed himself a Unitarian. Like him, may I be cheered and sustained by this simple and scriptural faith, during the remnant of my life, and in the article of death.

Well, as I said before, the “compromise” which I had made did not last long. After a while I came to the great inquiry whether the doctrine of the Trinity was taught in the Bible. After a diligent search I found, that, to my apprehension, it was not there taught. The question I then asked myself was this, what is my duty? In view of all the circumstances, some of them very peculiar, of my case, what does truth, what does my own conscience, what does God require of me? In this solemn attitude, feeling intensely my responsibilities to God and to my fellow men, I have made my decision. If I am mistaken, my mistake has been, and is, an honest one. With my views of what constitutes an honest character, I could not have acted differently. In the words of the Rev. Theophilus Lindsey, I must say, “I was obliged to pursue this course, whatever I suffered by it, unless I would lose all inward peace, and hope of God’s favor and acceptance in the end.”

Thanks be to God, I am enjoying a new life. While my friends are mourning over me, I am rejoicing with a calm and holy joy which has spread itself to the inmost recesses of my soul. We are to be made perfect through suffering. It seems to me a mistaken idea that the Christian must wait till he dies before he can taste the blessedness of heaven. Our heaven may begin below. The soul may be in heaven while it tabernacles in the flesh. In our ideas of what heaven is, there is too much of the material, and too little of the spiritual. Heaven, I take it, does not mean any particular spot in God’s universe, but that state of the soul which fits it for the enjoyment of God. When the soul, as it often does, rises above this world, is dead to its follies, its temptations, its sins, and its sorrows, then it is in heaven. And yet, while it is joined to the flesh, it must be subject to the variations arising from its situation, it can only be made perfect, as the soul of our Master was, through suffering. Then, while we endeavor to avoid the cause of suffering—that sin which brings death—let us welcome every trial sent by our heavenly Father as a bitter, yet salutary medicine; let us meekly endure, and be thankful for, every sorrow and every pang. Then shall these painful separations be our “light afflictions,” which will “work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

I do not believe, my dear Sir, that my friends would feel as they do if they would only be willing to read, or to hear, with candid attention, what Unitarians have to say in their own defence. Among the great mass of the Orthodox, there is a great amount of ignorance and prejudice upon this subject. I have every reason to believe that these of my friends who have spoken most confidently against Unitarians, are as ignorant of them, and of their principles, as expressed in their writings, as I once was myself. I find, on the other hand, that those who know them best, who have been most associated with them—how much soever they may differ from them in doctrine—are most sparing of invective and denunciation.

It seems strange to me that good people should be willing to condemn their brethren without even giving them a hearing. There is a strange reluctance among the Orthodox to read the writings of Unitarian authors, and yet no man has a right to judge another merely upon hearsay. “We should imagine,” says Burnap, “that all fair-minded men, who have often heard us censured, would gladly embrace the opportunity of hearing our defence, that by knowing the arguments upon both sides, they might have the means of making up their own judgments. Any unwillingness to do this, must arise either from a distrust of what they have already embraced as truth, or from the claim of infallibility. If a man feeds a fear lest his opinions may be shaken, what is this but a confession that he already suspects they are unsound? He is already a doubter. Does he feel confident of his infallibility? Who can claim infallibility in this imperfect state? Who has so much light on any subject, that he can receive no more? ‘Prove all things,’ says the Apostle, ‘Hold fast that which is good.’”

This unwillingness to read often arises from the fear of having one’s peace of mind disturbed by the consideration of arguments which it may be difficult to overthrow. But is not this preferring peace before sound doctrine? Some persons seem to think that peace is to be preserved at the expense of every thing else. But this was not the idea of an inspired Apostle. “First pure,” says he, “then peaceable.” “The peace of mankind,” said Mr. Hans Stanley, when he was opposing the petition of the English clergymen for relief in the article of subscription—”The peace of mankind is a fortieth article of my religion, which I hold to be much more important than any of the thirty-nine.” There are not a few in the present day who appear to be decidedly of the opinion of Mr. Hans Stanley.

“I cannot but think,” said the excellent Duke of Grafton, “that a belief in the divinity of Christ, and the invocation of him as God, is displeasing to the Almighty, as breaking his first great and unrepealed command; and that every man who wilfully neglects to inquire has much to answer for.” “The lovers of truth,” said Sir George Saville, “will love all sincere inquirers after it, though they may differ from them in various religious sentiments. For it is to impartial and free inquiry only that error owes its ruin and truth its success.” And in another place he says, “When I see a rivulet flow to the top of a high rock, and requiring a strong engine to force it back again, then shall I think that freedom of inquiry will be prejudicial to truth.”

Why then, I again earnestly inquire, is there this universal determination, among the orthodox, not to read Unitarian books, and not to allow them to be read, so far as their influence can prevail to accomplish the object? What does it mean? Are the arguments in favor of the Unitarian, stronger than those in favor of the Trinitarian scheme? If they are, they deserve to be considered, surely. And if they are not, they ought not to be feared. When I hear it confidently asserted that Unitarians do not believe in regeneration, nor in the atonement, nor in a Saviour, nor in a Holy Spirit, I have a right to demand of those who make such assertions, that they will point me to the Unitarian works where these things are denied. And I have also a right to demand that they will give their attention when I point them to Unitarian works where a belief in those things is expressly asserted and proved.

And now, my dear Sir, I have but little more to say. I have intended to so what is right; may God and my fellow-men forgive me if I have done what is wrong. I am firm and happy in my present opinions, but I shall always be ready to exchange them for any which may be more according to the Scriptures of truth. At this most solemn crisis of my life, human praise or censure affect me not. Let me explain myself. They are nothing, I mean, in comparison with the approbation or disapprobation of God and my own conscience. At the same time, I should be either more or less than human, did I not most keenly feel the severe and heart-affecting trials through which I am passing. I cannot better conclude than in the words of the late Rev. John Sherman, in an address to the youth of his congregation at Mansfield, Conn., from which he was dismissed in consequence of holding Unitarian opinions. “The subject,” he says, alluding to the same subject which has been engaging our attention—”The subject is of primary importance, and demands your serious and attentive consideration. Let me exhort you to search the Scriptures diligently, and see whether they teach you that three divine persons, three distinct moral agents, make, when added together, only one individual being. Should the result of your investigation comport with the doctrine which I have taught you from the Scriptures, I wish you may be duly impressed with the importance of opening avowing it, and appearing as its advocates; that you will never be ashamed of the interesting truth, but boldly and faithfully stand in its defence, though the multitude should be against you. Let your zeal, however, be well tempered with Christian charity. Be moderate and candid, liberal and catholic, in your treatment of those who may differ. Above all, always remember that the best orthodoxy is a faithful observance of the sacred precepts of that One God whom you profess and acknowledge.

[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.]

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