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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
I EXPECTED that the leaders of the orthodox party would make a desperate effort to prevent their subjects from reading my Letters. Facts have fully justified this expectation. The first edition was published on the last day of December
. “ The Spirit of the Pilgrims” should have appeared on the first day of January; but the Editor wished to warn his readers not to purchase the publication, and its appearance was accordingly delayed for several days. He then assures them, that he has “ looked into these forthcoming Letters;" that “the book is made up, to a considerable extent, of stories, new and old, original, selected, and invented ;" that “some of them are sheer fabrications ; " that “a great proportion are thoroughly false; and the remainder, if founded originally on fact, are so colored and exaggerated, that, as they stand, they can no longer be said to be true.” Now is this orthodox Editor possessed of omniscience ? If not, was he authorized to make such assertions? What must his readers believe concerning his honesty, when they find that most of my statements are taken from orthodox documents, and supported by the highest orthodox authority? And what will the public think of that cause which must be supported by such reckless declamation ?
The “ Recorder" of the next week contained a long communication in relation to the Letters. If the writer adapted bimself to the taste and piety of his orthodox readers, I am perfectly willing they should appropriate the whole article to their spiritual education. The “Countryman” however blundered into one truth, for which he should be allowed full credit. In his peculiarly elevated style, and
pure train of thought, he observes, that Mr. Whitman must have used " a muck-rake, in order to rake out the thickest part of the mud and offul, out of all the sinks and sewers in the commonwealth.” I rejoice that he has so fairly appreciated the nature of my undertaking, and so readily applied the appropriate epithets to my collection of orthodox sayings and doings. I could have wished the materials furnished by the party had possessed a more inviting character; but I was unable to make bricks without straw.
In the same paper, the "cleanly” Editor also notices the Letters; and, in what he probably considers a very happy and evangelical manner, evinces his superior delicacy and sanctity. He comes to the conclusion that the book will do but little harm, so long as it is not adopted by the unitarian party. But he soon alters this opinion ; for in his next paper, after refusing to publish my civil note, he assures his readers, that a thorough review of this low, weak, false, contemptible publication, will be soon given to the public. I should be sorry to have the time of the great orthodox divines occupied in refuting silly stories. Both this Editor, and he of “The Spirit of the Pilgrims," complain of my personalities. I would merely ask them to read over the pages of their own publications, the writings of Parsons Cook, and, above all, the Notes to the Letters of “Canonicus."
In the "Recorder” of the next week, the Editor assumes a very different tone. He cools down most wonderfully. He publishes a clear, definite, deliberate statement, which I wish the public to notice and remember. These are the words : Suppose it can be satisfactorily proved that Mr. Whitman's Letters are made up of misstatements, misrepresentations, and distortions of the truth, will our unitarian friends then say that we have spoken of the Letters or their Author with too much severity or contempt! If this cannot be proved, we engage to plead guilty, and relinquish the orthodox men and measures assailed by Mr. Whitman.” Here then I take my stand. I wish the Christian public to act the part of an impartial jury. They will remember the proposition to be proved. It is not, whether there may be some inaccuracies and mistakes in my multitude of statements; for I have always allowed this to be possible and even probable, and expressed much anxiety to have such imperfections mentioned. The plain unvarnished truth is enough in all conscience. No; the orthodox are to PROVE, that my “ LETTERS ARE MADE UP of misstatements, misrepresentations, and distortions of the truth." I wish to assure this Editor, that I shall engage in no Indian warfare. I have given my name to the public, and am ready to give the names and certificates of my witnesses, when necessary for my defence. I shall expect the author of the “thorough review” to do the same ; for anonymous declarations will not satisfy our jury.
In the present edition of the Letters, I have expunged several sentences, corrected some inaccuracies, and cut out one whole statement to make room for one of a different character. All this I wish the Reviewer to remember. I have received from various parts of the country many new and important facts. These I have reserved for an answer to the Reviewer; for it may
be necessary to notice his statements, and I know of no better way than to prepare a third, enlarged, and corrected edition. I feel confident that I have enough facts on hand to make every position I have stated incontrovertibly sure. I would still solicit all persons who may know of orthodox proceedings, subversive of religious liberty, to favor me with a well attested account of the same.
B. WHITMAN. Waltham, January, 1831.
In your Letter on Religious Liberty, you accuse Dr. Channing of publishing certain charges against orthodox Christians. You quote several passages from his writings to substantiate your accusation. You then bring together the substance of his charges in the following sentences. “ You have charged the orthodox with a settled, steadfast, unrelenting purpose to suppress all free inquiry respecting matters of religion, to cover with reproach those who may differ from themselves, to drown the free expression of opinion by denunciations of heresy, and to strike terror into the multitude by joint and perpetual menace. In addition to all this, you represent them as saying ; Since argument is insufficient to produce uniformity of opinion, recourse must be had to more powerful instruments of conviction, to Ecclesiastical Courts." Having given this summary, you utter the following positive and solemn declarations. “I do know that the accusations which you stand pledged to support are not true. I aver that they are not, before heaven and earth."
Now, my dear Sir, permit me also to express my honest convictions on this question. For I presume you will admit, that I have an equal right with yourself, to publish Letters on Religious Liberty; and an equal right, with any orthodox Christian, to utter solemn asseverations. I therefore aver, before heaven and earth, that I firmly believe the above charges to be substantially correct, when applied to the leaders of the orthodox denomination in our country, against whom they were specially directed. And to give you and the public the honest reasons for this belief, is the design and object of the present publication.
I address you as the head of the orthodox party, because you seem to me to have assumed that character in your Letter to Dr. Channing. These are your own words. “ All, against whom I suppose the denunciations in your works are specially directed, I have the pleasure of being more or less acquainted with; and I know well their feelings and views.” I am sure no other orthodox divine can justly advance an
equal claim to preeminence. I shall therefore say you, when I refer to the proceedings of your aggrieved brethren. As you have spoken freely concerning unitarians, you will not object to my using great plainness of speech in relation to the measures of the orthodox. I shall faithfully endeavour, not to please unitarians or trinitarians, liberal or orthodox; but to speak boldly what I honestly believe to be the truth, and the exact truth. I do not write as a unitarian, or an advocate for unitarianism; but as a Christian, and an advocate for Christian freedom.
That I may not be misunderstood, I will give a definite statement of the proposition which I shall endeavour to demonstrate. It may be expressed in the following terms. THE MEASURES ATTEMPTED AND ADOPTED BY THE LEADERS OF THE ORTHODOX DENOMINATION IN OUR COUNTRY, FOR PECULIAR VIEWS OF RELIGION, ARE SUBVERSIVE OF FREE INQUIRY, RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, AND THE PRINCIPLES OF CONGREGATIONALISM. By free inquiry, I mean, that every man may investigate the subjects of religion, without any fear of evil consequences from human power or persecution. By religious liberty, I mean, that every man may believe, and publish, and propagate, in a Christian manner, his honest religious opinions, without any fear of human authority or punishment. By the principles of congregationalism, I mean, the sufficiency of the Scriptures, the right of private judgment, the advancement of the Reformation, the independency and equality of congregational churches. A plain statement of facts will now be given in proof of my proposition.
I. USE MADE OF HUMAN CREEDS.
In the first place, I invite your attention to the use made of human creeds by the leaders of the orthodox denomination. I think the facts I shall adduce under this head will prove the two following distinct propositions. First, that the leaders of the orthodox denomination make a human creed, and not the Bible, their standard of religious truth. And, secondly, that the use made of human creeds by the leaders of the orthodox denomination is subversive of free inquiry, religious liberty, and the principles of congregationalism. My limits will permit me to notice but six different classes of facts under this general division.
1. Theological Seminaries. Look at the use made of a human creed in orthodox theological seminaries. Take the institution at Andover as a fair illustration. Before you could be admitted into the office of Professor, you were obliged to express your hearty belief in all the statements of the following human creed.
“I believe that there is one and but one living and true God; that the word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is the only perfect rule of faith and practice ; that agreeably to those Scriptures, God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth ; that in the Godhead are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost ;
and that these Three are One God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; that God created man after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness ; that the glory of God is man's chief end, and the enjoyment of God his supreme happiness; that this enjoyment is derived solely from conformity of heart to the moral character and will of God; that Adam, the federal head and representative of the human race, was placed in a state of probation, and that in consequence of his disobedience all his descendants were constituted sinners; that by nature every man is personally depraved, destitute of holiness, unlike and opposed to God, and that previously to the renewing agency of the Divine Spirit all his moral actions are adverse to the character and glory of God; that, being morally incapable of recovering the image of his Creator, which was lost in Adam, every man is justly exposed to eternal damnation, so that, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; that God, of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, and that he entered into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of this state of sin and misery by a Redeemer; that the only Redeemer of the elect is the eternal Son of God, who for this purpose became man, and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever; that Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the office of a Prophet, Priest, and King ; that agreeably to the covenant of redemption, the Son of God, and he alone, by his suffering and death, has made atonement for the sins of all men ; that repentance, faith, and holiness are the personal requisites in the gospel scheme of salvation ; that the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of a sinner's justification; that this righteousness is received through faith ; and that this faith is the gift of God; so that our salvation is wholly of grace ; that no means whatever can change the heart of a sinner, and make it holy; that regeneration and sanctification are effects of the creating and renewing agency of the Holy Spirit ; and that supreme love to God constitutes the essential difference between saints and sinners; that, by convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds, working faith in us, and renewing our wills, the Holy Spirit makes us partakers of the benefits of redemption; and that the ordinary means, by which these benefits are communicated to us, are the word, sacraments, and prayer; that repentance unto life, faith to feed upon Christ, love to God, and new obedience, are the appropriate qualifications for the Lord's supper ; and that a Christian church ought to admit no person to its holy communion, before he exhibit credible evidence of his godly sincerity; that perseverance in holiness is the only method of making our calling and election sure ; and that the final perseverance of saints, though it is the effect of the special operation of God on their hearts, necessarily implies their own watchful diligence; that they, who are effectually called, do in this life partake of justification,