Page images

feelings; and I shrink not from henceforth bearing the despised name corresponding to these new views.”

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

I need only add, that the above resolution has been faithfully adhered to : Alice has been for some time at her native home, in Connecticut, where, although opposed on every hand, and by those too whom she respects and loves, she unshrinkingly avows herself a believer in the plainly scriptural doctrine, that • The Lord is good anto all, and his tender mercy is over all his works;' and this glorious faith is a principal theme in the epistolary correspondence which she maintains with Miss J—, her intimate and amiable companion while a sojourner in the Pennsylvania Valley. We will close our story with an extract from a recent letter of hers to this young lady, from which the reader will perceive, that, at whatever sacrifice to her private interests, Alice is bent on maintaining her despised faith in the inidst of its most violent, but perhaps, conscientious opponents.

I did not inform you that in returning to my native home, I chose the longer route up the Susquehanna to the very pleasant village of Unadilla, on the western margin, and just above the mouth of a lovely river of the same name: thence across to the Katskil turnpike, from which I diverged to Delhi, a beautiful town on the Delaware, and but little more than a score of miles from its sources : thence over the most barren and dreary mountain ranges conceivable to Kingston or Sopus; and to Roundout, on the North river, where the Delaware and Hudson canal terminates : thence across to Hyde Park, distinguished for its elegant country seats; and so on to Poughkeepsie, Dover Plains, &c. I might have gone by the shorter way of the Great Bend, Coshecton, and Newburgh, but I had no particular motives for haste, and merely consulted pleasantness.

“ In the sitting-room at Roundout, an animated conversation ensued on the subject of religion. A young universalist minister being there on a professional visit, his doctrine became the topic of discussion. Of course I was an interested auditor. My attention had been attracted toward an intelligent German in the company, by the peculiar benevolence of his sentiments. Governor Shultz, of Pennsylvania, had pardoned a criminal under sentence of death, as his last official act. All the company (being believers


in endless woe) reprobated the ex-Governor on this ground, with the exception of the German, who bestowed unqualified praise upon his clemency; remarking, that if forgiveness be a crime, then God has committed more of it than any other being.' Indeed all he said was so much in the spirit of him who told the sinful

• neither do I condemn thee-go and sin no more,' that I concluded within myself, .Surely this person does not believe in a Deity who will damn his creatures to an eternity of misery for their sins of a few years; or if he does, his dispositions are not conformed to those of that Deity.'

“I was correct in regard to my German fellow-traveller; he had, to be sure, never before heard of the Universalist sect, but when inforıned of what the term implied his eyes sparkled with delight, and especially on being told that this denomination is numerous and rapidly increasing : he assured us that all benevolent literary men, whether catholic or protestant, were secretly of this persuasion; and although the most of them did not choose to incur ecclesiastical censure by openly avowing it, yet that it is sufficiently intelligible in their writings, and he entertained us with very numerous quotations which fully sustained the remark.

“ If the fact is as stated, I conceive it to form a strong consideration in favor of the truth of our sentiments; but then I reflected that Cowper, that most benevolent of all poets, was a rigid Calvinist, and, therefore, an undoubted exception to the truth of the observation; and yet, upon further thought, I find that it does hold good even in ard to him, for there are passages in his Task which show that from his better nature a benign light occasionally flashed upon the darkness of his educational creed; or, in other words, that his kind heart often dragged per force his head (vitiated by false religious culture) into a purer and manlier train of thinking than that which his gloomy creed inspired. Take the following sample.

• Thus heavenward all things tend, for all was once
Perfect, and all at length must be restored.
So God hath wisely purposed, who would else
In his dishonor'd works, himself endure

Dishonor, and be wrong'd without redress.” "The mind that dictated these lines could not possibly, at the time, have believed that Jehovah will be eternally dishonored by

the total and irreparable ruin of the fairest portion of his work. manship.

“I find, indeed, my dear J—, that all that is beautiful in sentiment is in reality connected with this doctrine; and that the most sublime and admired minds have indeed in every nation and age, so far as my reading extends, been more or less illumined by it. Who that has read with attention the works of Pope, Addison, Goldsmith, Akenside, Thompson, Gray, Fenelon, Schiller, Goethe, and others, can seriously doubt the fact ? Would that the minds of my aged parents could be open to perceive its truth! How serene would the evening of their existence be, if the divine light of this faith were blended with the beams of their setting sun !

“I am more than ever convinced, my friend, that the doctrine of unending misery, in the proportion in which it is sincerely believed, blunts the natural sensibilities. How else could its advocates remain so manifestly indifferent with the dreadful prospect before them, that countless multitudes of human beings are constantly drifting on the tide of time to never-ceasing burnings ? My parents, for instance, (and they are to the full as kind as parents commonly are,) seem to have quite given me over to eternal reprobation : yet they appear but little affected by this circumstance! I ventured to ask them as we sat around the fire a few evenings since, whether, if I were bound to a stake to be burned alive in their presence, they would not be unspeakably afflicted by the event. • We would, undoubtedly,' replied my father, ' but spiritual things are not to be compared with natural ; our carnal attachments will have ceased when we reach the eternal world; and we shall not retain a single feeling in opposition to the will of God; whether that will be to damn or to save. I was strongly tempted to respond, that except the divine Being shall undergo as great a change as we, his will must be, as it now is, to · have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' But I knew that to reason with him on this subject would rather tend to irritate than to convince him: and I therefore preferred to be silent, as it better comported with the respect due to the parent from the child.

My new faith subjects me to numerous petty annoyances. If I attend upon preaching in any of the churches, I am sure to find a part of the sermon pointed against niyself; and the heads of

my acquaintances will be turned around in order to see how I am affected by it. I cannot be present even at a prayer meeting but the several supplicants will for prayer substitute declamation and argument against my doctrine, as though Jehovah himself needed to be convinced of its falsity! Some attempt to gain me over to their views by flattery; they wonder at a person of my sense and accomplishments being a universalist. Others address themselves to my interests; they pretend that a conformity to their opinions is indispensable, in order to one's admittance into the higher circles of society; and yet these same persons term themselves the despised and persecuted followers of Jesus'!

“ Parson Fearon seriously advised me the other day, in presence of my mother and sister Charity, as I respected myseil, my parents, and connexions, and as I prized my soul, and christian fellowship on earth, &c. to disavow my false and dangerous opinions. • Would you have me be a hypocrite, Mr. Fearon,' said I, .for such I should certainly be, if, for any motive, I should disavow opinions which I seriously and heartily believe: my opinions may give way before sufficient evidence of their falsity, but mere persuasions addressed to my pride or self-love, however they may bias my will, can surely not remove the convictions of my judgment. But,' continued I, after a little pause, and (I will confess it) with the view of bringing him out plainly, for I suspected that to gain numbers to his church was more a real object with him (as with too many others) than to win souls for heaven, —what would you think if I were to unite myself to the methodists ?'-•I should think you had gone from bad to worse,' said he; you had better remain as you are, Alice, for the methodists believe in being a saint to-day and a devil to-morrow, which is flatly contradictory to the bible doctrine of final perseverance.' In this sentiment my father (who came in during the conversation) fully united.

A few days subsequent I had an interview with the methodist minister, Mr. Steiningstinger, (rather a long name,) whose opinion was, that to go over from the universalist to the calvinist belief, was • like jumping out of der fire into der frying-pan; for, mine Got in heavens! I would a goot teal rader pe a universalist as pe a calvinist.

The singularity is, that each of these sectarists affects to believe the faith of the other at least safe for salvation,


while they both agree in thinking the universalist faith unsafe ; and yet each, rather than be saved in the faith of the other, would prefer to be damned in that of universal salvation! Such at least is the result to which their professions are reducible.

“I assure you, my dear J—, that my faith gathers confirmation from nearly every day's observation and experience. I cannot tell you how much I rejoice and thank God that ever I was a sojourner in your beautiful valley, for my new faith is a talisman which blends a hitherto unknown delight with every scene and incident of existence. I had the unspeakable pleasure, but two days ago, of so establishing its truth and exhibiting its excellency to a neighboring woman, whose spirit for some time past has been fluttering at the gates of death, that she has become a confirmed and rejoicing subject of its influence. Oh! she exclaims, • I can now die satisfied; I can now part with my husband and children, and my kind neighbors too, in the confidence of meeting them again in a brighter world ; there the sun never sets, for God is that sun, and all intelligences shall bask in its beams. I formerly,' said she, often surveyed my little ones with an anxious heart, reflecting that they were about to be left in a world of sin and temptation, where the probability was strong that they would not all escape that dark and dreadful pit of irreparable perdition which I conceived to be yawning beneath their feet; and I used to ask myself, which of these-Oh! my God! the thought was full of agony--which of these that have been nourished in my bosom, and have engaged my anxieties by night and by day; over whose cradles I have watched in their sickness until the stars grew dim in the morning light, and bright and dim again—which of these, and how many, shall I have brought up for endless burnings? But now—God be praised for ever more !—these anxieties are all dispelled, and I can leave them with Him who has pledged his truth that he will take care of them; under the wings of his protection they are more secure than they could be in my care.”Not small is the astonishment of the good people about here that my faith should thus have gained a trophy within the very

shadows of the grave, for the woman described is very near her end, being in the last stage of a pulmonary consumption.

My playful sister Charity, who is at my elbow, says, 'tell Miss J- that I mean to come in a year or two and see what they


« PreviousContinue »