[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does not necessarily agree with the full content of this letter, however we think it is a very valuable and historical document that needs to be available online for all to read and study.]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 have arisen at the hour of four to indite a brief reply to that part of the letter you are writing me which has been received. I feel so much exhausted from the amount of reading and writing in which I have been engaged for the last two months, that my strength soon fails; and therefore, my dear father, you must excuse me if I do not write as fully as you might expect or wish. In reply to the argument on your second page, commencing with—”what if they are worshipping three Gods,”—let me refer you to an essay by James Foster, on “Fundamentals in Religion,” contained in “Sparks Collections” for May, 1825. It conveys a better answer than I have ability or strength to give you. Again, you ask, “where have you seen a great many exemplary Christians, according to what you have been taught, and what you believed you had felt of vital, experimental Christianity?” In this sense, in view of certain points of doctrine which I had been taught, and which I believed that every one must receive before he could be a Christian—I will answer, that I have not seen them. But I have long ago learned to judge of a tree by its fruits; it is our only means of judging; it is the rule which our Saviour has given us, and must therefore be a correct rule. In this sense I have seen them. When I behold a person doing justly, loving mercy, and, as it seems to me, walking humbly with God—wherever I can thus recognise what appears to me God’s image in my fellow creatures—my soul feels fellowship with such an one, however I may deem him mistaken in points of doctrine. It may be they are, as I have been, ignorantly wrong. Now it is conceded on all hands, so far as I have known—and I have heard the opinion often expressed by Trinitarians—that, as a body, the Unitarians are a remarkably moral people. [1] But, they say, that is their religion; they cultivate a high tone of moral feeling. Well, all will be inclined to acknowledge that this elevated tone of morality is an excellent thing, so far as it goes. Now, when I hear them aver, and when I read from the works of all their writers to whose pages I can get access, that this morality is the fruit of a sincere and living faith—by living faith I mean a faith which brings forth fruit—in the Lord Jesus Christ as one who comes to them with an almighty commission; with credentials from his Father and our Father, from his God and our God; with the same authority as if Jehovah himself had appeared on earth; I am ashamed and confounded that I have, without giving them even a hearing, without the slightest examination, been guilty of the grossest injustice towards them. I am, I solemnly repeat it, ashamed and confounded; may God forgive me. Such uncharitableness, however involuntary, the fruit of mistaken and narrow minded opinions, I feel has been a shade upon my character, a degradation to my soul; and I bless God for my great deliverance.

My first feeling, after reading some little tracts containing information concerning their faith, and written with a spirit of heavenly love and meekness, was an inexpressible relief to find I had been mistaken in regard to a numerous and respectable class of my fellow men; that they were not, even in theory, what I had thought them; and, though mingled it may be with self-upbraiding, a discovery like this cannot but be delightful, I will not merely say to any liberal and enlightened Christian, but to any humane mind, or human heart. You ask me, my dear father, if I now embody in what I term Christianity only the naturally amiable tempers and correct deportment of persons, who have no savor of devotion, who deny, and some of them even almost ridicule, that change taught by Christ to Nicodemus, and which I for a number of years have professed to believe in, and moreover to feel, not merely as an outward and moral, but as an inward, radical, and spiritual change. In answer to this I say no, my father. Those cannot be Christians who deny what Christ came to teach. Those are by no means my ideas of Christianity; and you will see, if you are willing to read what I send you, that these are not the views of Unitarians. I will refer you now to the following articles. In “Burnap’s Expository Lectures,” the article on “Saving faith in Christ;” an article of Dr. Channing’s, entitled “Objections to Unitarian Christianity considered;” the tract on Christian Salvation; the article “On the nature of a Heavenly Conversation,” in the number of “Sparks’s Collections” for May, 1825; the tract entitled “The Unitarian’s Answer;” the one entitled “The Doctrine of Religious Experience;” and “Mr. Whitman’s Discourse on Regeneration.”

If, my beloved father, you should feel that by any step I may feel myself bound to take, I am showing you personal disrespect, such a fact would add exquisitely and infinitely to my sufferings, but it could not alter my views of duty. This matter is between me and my God; and, at my age, and under my circumstances, I am responsible to God alone for my actions. As the Almighty sees my heart, he knows, my father, how I love and venerate you; he sees that you are the apple of mine eye; but, in a case like the present, prayerfully considered under all its aspects, I will remember my Master’s charge to his disciples, and call no man my father on the earth, for one is my Father, which is in Heaven. Matt. xxiii. 9.

I have gathered the opinions of a great many Unitarian writers from their books; it is now my intention to hear the preaching of Dr. Gilman and such other Unitarians as may fall in my way, that I may judge of his and their opinions for myself. I consider that I am acting from eternity, and I could tell you of feelings which ought to rejoice your heart; but I forbear, being afraid that you will ascribe them all to the strength of what you deem my strange delusion. Perhaps my future life will prove, better than any thing I can say, whether the doctrines I now espouse will or will not bear fruit to the glory of God. I have decided to go on next Sabbath morning to the Unitarian Church, and have thought it honest and right to tell you so.

I have read carefully, and, I would add, prayerfully, the books which you have placed in my hands; but they have only served to strengthen me in the opinions I now hold. You will find in the two books—”Norton’s Statement of Reasons,” and “Burnap’s Expository Lectures,”—explanations of most of the texts you brought before my mind; and I would remark that, I did not obtain those books till after my views were changed and my letters written. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with us all.”


“There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the Kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

Father! I can leave them all,
At my much loved Master’s call;
He refused not, for my sake,
Sorrow’s bitter cup to take,
That to me he might commend
Love like thine, Almighty Friend!

He, who fainting thousands fed,
Had not where to lay his head;
He, of all thy sons the chief,
Lived a life of pain and grief;
He, the Lamb thou didst provide,
Willingly—to save us—died.

Come then, suffering! Welcome scorn!
Doubly blest are they who mourn!
Blessed while on earth they roam—
Blessed when they reach their home—
Welcome, loneliness and grief!
There’s a hand can bring relief.

Fear and doubt, away, away!
See! the dawn of heavenly day
Brightens in the eastern skies!
There, O let me fix mine eyes!
See! that Sun brings perfect day!
Fear and doubt, away, away!

[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. See Appendix L. Back to top

Pin It on Pinterest