Judith Sargent Stevens (Murray) published this Universalist catechism in 1782, privately, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Norwich, Connecticut. It is considered the earliest writing by an American Universalist woman. Written for children, her question-and-answer format neatly explains James Relly’s Universalist theology. In her preface, Judith includes a clear statement about female equality.
Thanks to Bonnie Hurd Smith, who first made this work available in digital format.
See also: Judith Sargent Murray Society
Some Deductions from the System Promulgated in the Page of Divine Revelation: Ranged in the Order and Form of a Catechism Intended as an Assistant to the Christian Parent or Teacher.
WHEN A FEMALE steps without the line which custom hath circumscribed, she naturally becomes an object of speculation: the public eye is very incompatible with the native modesty in which our sex are enshrined: the genial voice of applause is requisite to bring us into life, while censure will damp the timid ardor, and either extinguish or confine it to the breast; where, however, it may glow with holy energy. Such the sentiments of my soul, a very obvious question arises, from whence proceeds my temerity, in thus appearing before a tribunal, where it is more than probable, I shall be accused of arrogance, heresy, licentiousness, &c. &c. &c.? To candid minds only I wish to address myself : Such (the feelings of my own heart assures me) will accept my apology, by way of answer to the above query. If there is any thing that ought for a moment to take place of those exquisite sensations, which we boastfully term peculiarly feminine, it is surely a sacred attention to those interests that are crowned with immortality. Whatever is essential to the ethereal spark which animates these transient tenements, will exist when the distinction of male and female, shall be forever absorbed.
This thought stimulating, hath banished that diffidence excited by reflections merely sexual. Yet I do not mean to insinuate, that natural inferiority incapacitates the female world for any effort or progress of genius. Admitting, however, the door of science barred to us, the path of truth notwithstanding in the page of revelation lies open before us. There, cloathed with becoming reverence, we may freely expatiate; it is this walk, aspiring as I am, I have presumed with trembling awe to enter: my situation in some sort, impelled the arduous attempt.
Many obvious questions naturally arise in the minds of children, as reason begins to bud, and the young idea perforce will shoot. Placed at the head of a little family, I beheld the minds of my young folks hastening towards maturity; while I was sedulous in preparing them to act their parts upon the interior stage of this globe, I could not but be solicitous to give them proper conceptions of the Father of their spirits, their expectations from, and obligations to, the parent Deity. To that code digested by the Assembly of the Divines, conscience would not let me apply: happily enlightened, through the instrumentality of a favored servant of the Most-High, I wished to convey the instruction I had received from the fountain of life, through this channel, to those under my care; retention would not, at all times, favor me with a harmony of ideas; as a help to my memory, I sat about methodising the evangelical views of sacred texts, which had often been inculcated upon my mind. When they appeared in the form of the following essay, they were shown to several friends, who signified their approbation, by earnestly requesting copies; to avoid the trouble of furnishing which, I have consented it should be published: and this I the rather do, as I am sensible those who wish not to peruse, are still at liberty; and those who do, are hereby presented with an opportunity.
I am well aware, there are many places in which I might have expatiated; but it was my study to curtail, recollecting it was for the emolument of children, the piece was intended. Insignificant, however, as it may appear, the cry of heterodoxy may raise it up an adversary; but as I presume not to enter the lists as a disputant, should such an event take place, I shall endeavor to soothe myself, by retiring into my own family, and observing the salubrious effects springing from the principles disclosed by genuine, divine Philanthropy.
Some Deductions, &c.
Question. I wish my Preceptor would inform me to what purpose I came into the world?
Answer. Your heavenly Father, my child, certainly placed you here for his glory and your own good.
Q. Will my revered friend tell me how I am to be assured of this matter?
A. Read, my child, those pages which we have every reason to believe dictated by the divine Author of veracity, and you will there find that GOD is said to be the parent of our spirits; in those writings too, he is cloathed with that authority which constitutes the very essence of Godhead. From whence we rationally conclude, that his paternal character will lead him to consult the good of his family, while his omnipotence will enable him to pursue every step which his sacred wisdom plans.
Q. But what idea (give me leave to ask) ought I to form of a Being whom I have never seen?
A. The Deity is invisible, incomprehensible; it is impossible, my dear, for a finite being to form an idea of infinite perfection.
Q. How then can I judge of his power, love, or tenderness?
A. If, upon a return from any of your little visiting excursions, you should behold some beautiful addition to your apparel, or some advantageous alteration in the disposition of the furniture of your chamber, you would take it for granted the hand of affection had been employed, though you was not a spectator of its beneficent operations: So, when you behold the effects, of love, manifested in rain, sun-shine, seed time and harvest, you ought to conclude there is a power divine, thought to you invisible; and further, that that power is all good, all gracious, and all mighty.
Q. But did you not inform me that God had revealed himself by express declaration in the sacred scriptures?
A. Yes, the volume of inspiration may serve as a supplement to that of nature, and these combined, may help us to judge of some of the properties of deity, though we can never form adequate conceptions of the self existant first cause: But to his holy word I would advise you at all times to recur.
Q. Am I according to that word, to conceive of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as three Gods?
A. By no means! the sacred writings no where give any idea of a plurality of Gods: the Lord of universal nature is indeed manifested as a triune God. 1st. He is stiled the Father of eternity, the great producing cause of all things. 2d. The Son, because in process of time he took part of our nature, he condescended to be born of a woman, that he might redeem the world which he made. 3d. The spirit, because he bring indeed a spirit, hath free access to the souls of his creatures, his consolations abound unto many, he sootheth and comforteth in a day of adversity—but still those various exhibitions must be regarded as one in their source. Perhaps as nature is generally esteemed the same in all, I may throw a light upon the mind of my young enquirer, by relating a little anecdote respecting one of the aboriginals of this country: simple and untaught, an attempt was made to insinuate him into the principles of the christian religion; at the doctrine of the trinity he stumbled, he could not conceive how three could yet be one!
He was, however, informed his salvation depended upon the belief of this mystery! in all the sincerity of a serious, unadulterated, honest heart, with tears of sorrow he sought his God; at length he arose from his knees in rapture, hasted to his spiritual guide, I have found it Sir! I have found it! the rain is water, the hail is water, the snow is water, yet they are all one water: so the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet they are all one God. But I observe the tear of sensibility in your eye, the blush of comprehension on your cheek, with pleasure, therefore, I attend to the further questions of my pupil.
Q. Most sincerely I thank you, and presuming upon your indulgent goodness will go on to ask. Reading the other day at school, I observed these words of our blessed Saviour, my Father and I (says he) are one; yet in another place, he says his father is greater than he,—what can be the meaning of this?
A. When our Lord says his Father is greater than he, it is evident he speaks of that nature in which he was manifested to men: but when he says my Father and I are one, he then recurs to his original character, as the great first cause of all things.
Q. In what other view is God to be regarded?
A. He is to be regarded as the perfection of wisdom, holiness, and power, he is spoken of as the Parent, Brother, Husband, Friend, and to speak all in one comprehensive word, the Redeemer of mankind.
Q. What doth revelation say of mankind in general?
A. That they all descended from Adam, that in him they were made upright, having only one command, as a trial of their obedience, that Adam transgressing this command, he forfeited life not only for himself, but for his posterity also; but surely, my dear, you must be acquainted with all this; I think you must have gone through the bible in the course of your school exercises.
Q. Though I may have more than once gone through the bible, yet I wish to be informed from your experience, what idea I ought to form of that book; permit me then to ask, was death the consequence of the disobedience of Adam?
A. God had said, that in the day he eat of the tree whereof he commanded him he should not eat, he should surely die: breaking this command, the punishment was inflicted, his life of innocence, his life of honor, in that very moment expired.
Q. What hath since taken place with regard to his posterity?
A. Born in Sin, brought forth amid a world of temptation, they have exceeded the iniquity of their father.
Q. Is it not strange what could induce our first parent, thus to bring misery not only upon himself, but upon his posterity also?
A. He was doubtless operated upon by the grand adversity of mankind.
Q. What happened immediately upon the transgression?
A. God descended in the cool of the evening, cloathed in mercy! He summoned the offenders before him, He examined the nature of their guilt; to shew us that however well we may be apprized of circumstances, we should let the equity of our proceedings appear.
Q. You speak of offenders; was there more than one transgression?
A. Certainly; you doubtless know that our parents were created male and female, that the first pair were placed in the garden of their God, a paradisiacal spot, selected from this globe; you must also know that this world, was by the Almighty word of it’s Creator, commanded into being in the space of six days; the woman we are informed was first in the offence; and the Apostle says, the man was not deceived.
Q. What was the substance of the sentence passed upon our first parents?
A. The ground was cursed for their sakes, they were threatened with labour and sorrow; but the weight of the divine wrath fell upon the being who seduced our general mother, and she was promised that her seed should bruise the head of the serpent; after this, they were driven out of paradise.
Q. What then befel his particular family?
A. Sin, that principle of enmity to the divine Being, took place in their nature; murder, you know, very soon made its appearance, and one of his own sons fell by the hand of another. A series of crimes and misfortunes attended them ’till the deluge, which swept away the whole race, eight persons only excepted, who were descended from the youngest son of Adam.
Q. Did mankind then cease from their disobedience, after this terrible punishment for iniquity?
A. No surely; the descendants of Noah continued in the most God- provoking sins! nevertheless, God chose from among them a particular notion, of which, in process of time, the Redeemer was to be born.
Q. Was that nation more righteous than the other nations of the earth?
A. By no means; their disobedience rather was notorious!
Q. But did not God publish to them his will.
A. Most assuredly he did. On Mount Sinai the Lord appeared! and in terrifick Majesty he gave the Law: ten commandments were ingraven, by the finger of Divinity, upon tables of stone; these you could, when very young, repeat, you must recollect they run thus.
1. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the Fathers upon the Children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my Commandments.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the Sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day and hallowed it.
5. Honor thy Father and thy Mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9[.] Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10[.]Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbours wife, nor his man servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbours.
Q. Are there no commands to be found in holy writ[?]
A. Perhaps every injunction, or prohibition may be either expressed, or implied, in the ten commandments; however, of this we may be certain, that there is to be found in the holy scriptures, a compleat transcript of the moral beauty of the divine Being: a perfect system which comprehends all the laws of rectitude and harmony.
Q. Is it possible for any one to keep those laws?
A. No certainly! If Adam, in a state of innocence, could not continue in honor, consider my child, can his fallen sons answer the plan of rectitude given by the divine mind: besides, truth itself hath declared, there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not; the Apostle James also adds, in many things we offend all.
Q. Will God forgive those who break his commandments, and accept of our endeavours to obey, instead of that perfect obedience, which the law requires?
A. Listen to the sacred oracles, hear what the Spirit declareth, He that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all; cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.— Moreover, Jesus Christ hath further explained the law, and it is not now enough that we abstain from the external breach thereof, but purity of heart is also required.
Q. Did God expect any of his creatures would be able to keep his commandments?
A. As God, every period of time must be present to his view, and it would be impious to suppose him capable of a disappointment, because, this would be to level him with the creature which he had made: he could not therefore, expect a conformity to the divine law.
Q. To what end then were the commandments given?
A. For two reasons.
1. To give an exhibition of divine perfection.
2. To convince mankind of sin, of their own impotency, and thereby to induce them to rely wholly upon their Redeemer.
Q. How is our breach of those commands to be punished?
A. To disobey our Sovereign Law Giver is sin, and God hath declared, the soul that sinneth, shall die.
Q. How then can any of the human race escape?
A. The whole posterity of Adam, must inevitably have sunk into everlasting perdition, had not the second character of the glorious Trinity, condescended to the depth of our humiliation; he was made under the law; born of a woman; fulfilled every divine precept, and finally, (as being the Head of every man,) he tasted death for every man!
Q. Was it not strange that God should punish the innocent for the guilty, or how could the sufferings of the just One, make atonement for our iniquities?
A. The scriptures speak of a union subsisting between Christ and the lost nature, antecedent to the fall; which union took place they hold up to us, under the apt similitudes of a vine and its branches, a husband, and wife, a head and its members, with many other striking figures: from thence we learn, that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; that though he himself knew no sin, yet was he made sin for us; all our inquiries were laid upon him; and when thus compassed about, it was consistent with justice, to bruise him for our transgressions: when he expired, the soul that sinned indeed died, and thus divine justice was by him fully satisfied.
Q. Did the Redeemer long remain under the power of death?
A. Our blessed Saviour, after descending into the grave, and into that world of darkness, known in scripture by the term of hell, that he might taste the depth of that misery which was our due, and that he might preach the acceptable year of the Lord, to those unhappy spirits bound in chains of ignorance, even from before the deluge: after thus accomplishing the errand of beneficent Deity, in three days he arose greatly triumphant over death, and him who had the power of death, that is the Devil.
Q. But were we not threatened with eternal misery? how then were those three days accepted as satisfactory?
A. The infinite Majesty of the sufferer, and his consequent infinite capacity for pain, was more than equivalent to an eternity of those agonies, under which a finite being could exist.
Q. And yet I have been told that this atonement was made but for a few. Do the scriptures say it was satisfactory for the sins of all mankind?
A. The sacred writings abound with positive declarations to this effect; the consolatory promise was made to Adam, before he was expelled [from] the garden of God: it was afterwards repeated to many, chosen for that purpose. God said to Abraham, in thee shall all the families of earth be blessed, and again, in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. He is called by God the desire of all nations. The apostle to the Galations informs us, that this seed was Christ. We are told that MESSIAH should be cut off, but not for himself. The restitution of all things is preached by the mouth of all God’s holy Prophets, ever since the world began. It is said that he died for all—that he was raised again for our justification; and an apostle thus expresses himself, he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world! we are called upon, to behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. Indeed the pages of revelation, are filled with this important truth, which speaks glory to God in the highest, peace upon earth, and good will towards all men.
Q. But are there not many persons who proclaim eternal damnation to the greater part of mankind?
A. There are many; the veil is yet upon the hearts of the multitude, their eyes are holden that they cannot see the things which belong to their peace; but observe my child, there are things which do belong to their peace; now as the day cometh, when every thing that is hid, shall be made manifest, for every eye shall see, they shall all behold him who is their peace, for thus runs the text, they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, and to know God is life eternal.
Q. Yet doth not the word of God speak of an elect?
A. It does of the elect precious, which is Jesus.
Q. Are there not other Ideas given of election? doth not Paul say, the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded?
A. It cannot be denied that the doctrine of election is to be found in the word of God, even respecting individuals, but then this is never to the exclusion of the rest of the world from future felicity—even when Paul says, the election hath obtained it, &c. in the very same chapter he adds, with respect to those who were blinded, I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: he declares that all Israel shall be saved, and that for this purpose, God hath concluded them all in unbelief.
Q. How ought I to conceive of election according to the scriptures?
A. I think the most consistent idea is, that there is a few chosen out of the world to bear witness to the truth, with whom the secret of the Lord is, from the rest, for wise reasons, it is hid; but there is a day coming when the veil shall be taken from all hearts, and in the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the feast of fat things shall be made for all people.
Q. But I have been informed that though there are many called, yet the number of the chosen was very small. Are there not likewise many spoken of as lost, from whom the gospel is hid?
A. With respect to the smallness of the number chosen, it is perfectly agreeable, to what I have been endeavouring to inculcate upon your mind: but for the happiness of mankind, the promise is not only to the chosen, but to the called also; even to them who are afar off. Again, though the gospel may be hid from them that are lost, yet the son of man came to seek and to save those who were lost: He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Q. What is repentance?
A. It is a term used to express a change of mind, it is descriptive of that regret we feel upon a retrospect of any action, which conscience cannot approve, true repentance is a turning wholly from ourselves, and looking unto Jesus only, this is that change of heart which needeth not to be regretted; but sorrow and repentance will always accompany the christian, as he reflects upon that war in the members, which constitutes him a sinner.
Q. But is there not a sin, said to be unto death, can we repent or turn from this sin, seeing we are not commanded to pray for it?
A. The wages of all sin is death, every transgression tendeth thereunto; but though we are not commanded to pray for that sin, yet it is the will of God, that prayer and supplication be made for all men.
Q. But to what purpose, since there is a sin against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven them, neither in this world, nor in the world to come?
A. Some have doubted whether this sin, merely against the spirit, could be committed by a mortal; others have asserted that the term world here, may be another word for dispensation, and as our saviour was near the period of that division of time, so he assured such transgressors their offences should not be forgiven them, neither then, nor in the Gospel day which was at hand: indeed I have been informed, by a very judicious critic upon the Greek language, that a literal translation of the word, which is rendered world in that text, would indisputably be age: if so, the present reading is very erroneous. Now if this remark may be admitted, it then follows, that there is a sin from which the conscience cannot be cleansed, till the final consummation of all things. However, whither we understand it or not, of this we are certain, that it cannot militate against the sacred record, which declareth the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin; for it is a truth, that God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
Q. Yet doth not our blessed Saviour say, I pray not for the world?
A. He does, in the 17th of John, and in that particular petition he did not; yet in the very same chapter we may trace the tender, the universal parent, and before its conclusion, the Saviour connects the whole race as objects of his benevolence: in the second verse, addressing the Father, he declares he hath given him power over all flesh, and in the tenth, all mine are thine, and thine are mine. Now God by the Prophet Ezekiel declares all souls to be his, all souls then were a part of the gift made to the Redeemer, who of all his possessions, shall not lose aught, save the son of perdition.
Q. Who was the son of perdition?
A. By examining the analogy of sacred texts, it is found the fallen Angel very properly bears the character perdition, sin is produced by him, and therefore stiled a son: when our iniquities were laid upon Jesus, this son was given him, it was intended he should lose it; therefore it is said, when the iniquity of Israel shall be fought for, it shall not be found.
Q. Do not some, suppose Judas was the son of perdition?
A. It is a generally received opinion; but it is not remembered that the soul of Judas was the breath of God, that his body was produced by ordinary generation; neither the father of his spirit then, nor his natural parent, could be termed perdition: besides, the lip of truth hath declared that this same Judas, should be one of the twelve, who seated upon a throne, should set judging the tribes of Israel. But to put the matter beyond a doubt, Paul in 2d Thessalonians, 2d chapter and 3d verse, hath declared the son of perdition to be the man of sin, who is to be revealed previous to the second coming of Christ. Thus the body of sin and death, which tendeth to destruction, is the offspring of the author of every ill.
Q. Does not our Lord pronounce Judas a devil?
A. Yes; and he also says to Peter, get thee behind me Satan: but his words were addressed to the evil spirit who had taken possession of them.
Q. But Jesus Christ says of the person who was to betray him, it had been better for him that he had never been born: Did not Judas betray him?
A. There is heavenly wisdom in all our Lord’s sayings, Judas certainly betrayed his Master, and proved by his subsequent agonies, the truth of our Lord’s assertion; for had he given up the Ghost before he came into this world, he would have escaped all that exquisite distress, he was doomed, while here to suffer. The poet beautifully expresses the situation of an infant, translated into the heavenly world before, or soon after it became a tenant of pain, in these lines—
“Babes thither caught from womb and breast,
Claim right to sing above the rest,
Because they found the happy shore,
They never saw nor sought before.”
Thus it was possible for Judas, to have partook of happiness,
without being born into this state of misery.
Q. Are there no texts against this system of heavenly love?
A. The texts which evidently upon the face of the letter, proclaim the restitution of the fallen nature, in the man Christ Jesus, are found to be many more in number, than those which may appear to bear a contrary import; yet my child, I hope the time will come, when you will see them all replete with salvation.
Q. I heard one say the other day, that the 25th of Mathew, was sufficient to prove the doctrine of universal redemption false—doth it not contain a description of the last judgment?
A. No doubt it does, all worlds are then collected before the throne of God.
Q. Who are those upon the right hand of the Judge?
A. They are every son and daughter of Adam, sheep are every where in the inspired writings held up as a figure of mankind, like lost sheep they once went astray, but they shall then return to the true shepherd and bishop of souls.
Q. Can it be proved, that the whole race of man are upon the right hand?
A. That there are two characters upon the right hand is plainly expressed, for God speaks to some, who had administered relief, and of others, to whom the relief had been administered; those latter, he calls the least of his brethren; now, who those least were, a foregoing section in the same book may inform us, where our blessed Lord says, whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven[.]
Q. Who are those upon the left hand?
A. As the sheep is an emblem of human nature, so the goat, in many places, is given as a figure of the fallen Angelic nature; those envious spirits blending with humanity, deters them from feeding the hungry, cloathing the naked, visiting the sick, or administering to the prisoners: Therefore, after God hath separated them one from the other, (for every human being has an evil spirit, who is influential upon his conduct) as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats, he proceeds to address the Angelic nature; he passes sentence upon them, he consigns them over to misery, to the kingdom prepared for them: While the people for whom he had laid down his life, he receives into the kingdom of his Father.
Q. Is it not said, the righteous shall go into life eternal? and doth not Paul say, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolator, hath any inheritance in that kingdom?
A. It is written, there is none righteous, no not one; therefore the perfection attributed to Job, and many other eminent characters, to be found in holy writ, could exist no where, but in him who was, who is the Head of every man. Indeed, they all gave manifest proofs of imperfection, inherent in their nature, but it is from union with the Redeemer, that we come to be possessed of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Again, it is written, Isaiah 60, 21. Thy people also shall be all righteous: at that period we shall be divested of those characters, which indeed hath no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God: for no vicious person shall enter there; what constitutes the sinner, shall be forever excluded; the evil spirit shall no more molest, for we shall be separated from all uncleanness; and those who believe, are even now, rejoicing in the compleat righteousness of the Redeemer.
[Q.] Yet is there not a condemnation spoken of to those who believe not the efficacy of this great redemption?
[A.] The text says, he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. Again, he that believeth not is condemned already. Thus is damnation and condemnation synonymous in scripture: now it is evident, that if I believe not that Jesus died for my sins, I am condemned, in that I make God a lyar! in not believing his record; which record declares, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son. Moreover, if I look to myself, I must feel the sentence of death; nor can I be saved therefrom, ’till I look unto the Lamb of God, who taketh away my sin. Those who assert that this damnation consequent upon unbelief is eternal, forget that every believer was once an unbeliever: and further, that in that day when they shall be all caught up to meet the Lord in the Heavens, they shall all see, and seeing, they shall with Thomas, believe; nor shall a son or daughter of Adam, be then left in ignorance.
Q. But is it not said, at that period, the one shall be taken and the other left?
A. Thus runs the text, I tell you, in that night, there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken and the other left, &c.
Q. What are we to understand by this?
A. It is perfectly consonant with the before cited declaration, He shall separate one of them from the other. The man of sin cleaves to every man in his best estate while in this world: the Apostle Paul had a law of sin in his members, waring against the law of his mind, and he groaned, being burthened therewith. Now when he was alone in his bed, to outward appearance, this body of sin and death clave unto him; but in that day it shall be separated, not only from him, but from every individual of the human race. Thus the one shall be taken and the other left. The wise man also saw in the Shulamite two armies; and an eye of faith can discern the army of the living God greatly triumphant.
Q. What is faith?
A. There are two kinds of faith spoken of in the inspired writings: 1st, The faith of the son of God, which is the matter of our justification before God, as it is a part of the Redeemer’s righteousness: the second is peculiar to individuals, it is by faith we have peace with God, and is another word for their receiving Christ in all the beauty of his various characters, as Prophet, Priest and King, Father, Brother, Friend and Husband, Creator, Preserver and Redeemer; and of their relying so wholly upon him for compleat salvation; that thus cloathed upon, with humble boldness they can present themselves before the judge of all.
Q. What is meant by judging ourselves?
A. It is the bringing [of] our lives, our every thought, word and action, to the standard of the divine law, trying them by this test, from whence we shall learn how infinitely we fall short of divine perfection; hence we shall acquire a true estimation of ourselves, we shall see all our righteousness to be filthy rags, and from thence adjudge ourselves unworthy eternal life: we shall then deny ourselves, but by the grace of the gospel being cloathed in the robe of the Redeemer’s righteousness, walking in him, we shall stand secure in his character only.
Q. Do not the scriptures speak of the saints judging the world?
A. Yes; such as have judged themselves, have thereby past the first judgment, our Lord says they shall not be judged; they are the chosen few, the elect number, the sacred characters denominated in the holy writings saints, they shall accompany their God when he comes to judge the world, they shall be seated on thrones with him, mean while those who deemed themselves entitled to life in their own characters, with those who have persevered in the way of the transgressor, which is indeed hard, shall be tried by that law which before they eluded or contemned; consequently the whole world must become guilty, every mouth must be stoped before God; hence they arise to the resurrection of damnation; hence they behold him whom they have pierced, and mourn; and hence it is, that they are found calling upon the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb! But after this, we are told the book of life shall be opened, Jesus will make himself known to the whole race, as Joseph formerly did to his brethren, who was in that [t]ransaction, an eminent type of our blessed Lord. Thus every child of Adam, shall be collected in one grand, in one happy assembly.
Q. How then doth God say, he will visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation?
A. With the utmost propriety, observe my child, at the fourth generation the chastisement for sin rests! It is said a seed shall serve him, and it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation: the Messiah, who was to be cut off for the sins of the people was manifested in the fourth dispensation of time; as our Lord says, that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who perished between the Altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation: a mode of conduct which would be very unjust, did the punishment fall upon them as individuals, since they had not been guilty of the death of all the prophets, but considering them collected in the person of Christ, upon whom all the iniquities of the people were laid, and who was the suffering generation, the justice was very apparent: indeed this generation is the Holy Thing born of God, who cannot sin.
Q. What is inculcated in the word of God respecting the new birth?
A. The vessel which Jeremiah saw marred in the hand of the potter, then broken, and after that, formed a nobler vessel, stands as a figure of our new birth: we were conceived pure in the womb of the virgin[,] head and members were born without sin—Christ is the head of every man, the human nature considered as individuals, are his members, we are born with him, and this is the new birth which constitutes us pure in the eyes of the Father.
Q. Can it be proved from scripture that the birth of Christ was considered as ours?
A. I conceive it can, from various parts, as we are said to be buried with Christ in baptism, to be crucified with him, to be risen with him, and to be seated together with him in heavenly places: so we are said to be created a new in Christ Jesus, we are told, that a nation shall be born in a day, and that Zion no sooner travelled, than she brought forth her children. Thus mankind are born again, and thus they are entitled to the kingdom of Heaven.
Q. How ought I to conceive of water baptism?
A. As a figure of that washing wherewith we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
Q. Is there any propriety in using it at this day?
A. No certainly, the substance being manifested, our regard to the figure should cease.
Q. But were not the disciples of John baptized?
A. They were, but they were under the law, we are under grace.
Q. Was not our Saviour himself baptized?
A. He was, for he also was under the law, and he says, it became him thus to fulfill all righteousness.
Q. Did not our Saviour practice water baptism?
A. The scriptures expressly declare he baptized no one; John says he must increase, I must decrease; I indeed baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the holy Ghost and with fire: now as John foretold the end of his mission, and pointed out the difference between that, and our Saviour’s, we learn from his declaration, that Christ’s was not a water baptism; ’tis hence we reject water, and we are confirmed in this rejection, when we hear an apostle say, there is but one baptism.
Q. But did not the disciples before the crucifixion use water baptism?
A. Yes, the end of that dispensation was not fully come, under the jews divers washings were enjoined, as figurative of the great cleansing by the blood of Jesus.
Q. Doth not the Redeemer, after his resurrection, command his disciples to go forth baptizing all Nations?
A. He does, but water is not here mentioned. No, it was his own baptism to which he refers, therefore he injoins teaching first, which we judge entirely excludes infant baptism. Water cleanseth the filth of the flesh, so did that intense fire of the wrath of God, which burnt upon the agonized soul of Jesus! cleanse, nay consume, all our iniquities which were laid upon him, the holy Ghost takes of this fiery baptism, and shows it to us, hence the soul becomes purged, and we have the answer of a good conscience, not by the putting away the filth of the flesh, but by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Tis in this view, we conceive of the true baptism of the holy Ghost, and of fire, with which John said our Saviour should baptize.
Q. Did not the apostles use water baptism?
A. They did, and they also practiced circumcision, yet Paul says I thank God I baptized none of you, except Crispus, and Gaius, and the household of Stephanas, for Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.
Q. What think you of the Lord’s supper?
A. Not as of a figure of the sufferings of the Redeemer, for those were help forth in the paschal Lamb, who was to be roasted with fire, eaten with bitter herbs, a bone of whom was not to be broken.
Q. What then does it hold forth?
A. A doctrine the most consolatory that can be imagined, as the bread which he break, was a gathering together of the many grains constituting one lump in which all distinctions were lost, and of which he says this is my body; so, in him are collected the scattered individuals of humanity, forming a compleat man, and constituting the comprehensive character of our Lord.
Q. What is the cup which he drank?
A. As the collection of grains figured the body of the Redeemer in his complex character, so the many grapes pressed together, constituting one wine, holds up to us the oneness of the soul of Jesus with the spirits of the human race, and in that he says this is my blood, we behold our mysterious union with him.
Q. Did our Saviour ordain the eating of bread and wine as an ordinance to be observed by his children?
A. He said this do in remembrance of me, and an Apostle treating on this subject thus expresses himself, as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew forth the Lord’s death ’till he come. The bread and wine then is a standing memorial of the collection of the many individuals of Adam’s race, in the person of Christ, and however we may become ungratefully forgetful of this all-comprehensive figure, it will still remain an emblem of grace, as long as time shall endure.
Q. What attention ought we to pay to this command of the Redeemer’s?
A. We ought to rec[e]ive it with gratitude, and esteem it our privilege constantly to observe it.
Q. Doth not the church ordain that the bread and wine should be consecrated and received in a place appointed for public worship?
A. She does; but this seems entirely a mode of human invention, and of which no trace is to be found in sacred writ.
Q. How did the Apostles receive those figures?
A. They continued daily from house to house breaking bread.
Q. How will a christian now receive them?
A. Wherever he beholds bread and wine, he will receive it with thankful gratitude, and he will be led from the figure to adore the grace contained therein.
Q. Does a christian always regard the bread and wine with so much devotion?
A. A christian always does; but it is a melancholly truth that christianity is too, too often dropt, and we are operated upon by the principles which govern the world in general.
Q. What is meant by the eating and drinking damnation to ourselves?
A. In the days of the Apostles, there were many who denied the right of others to this ordinance; they did not therefore discern the Lord’s Body; if they had, they would have seen that in the bread which stood as a symbol thereof, there was a collection of every individual, therefore they could not with justice exclude any, and in that they did, they eat and drank damnation, which I have before told you is the same as condemnation to themselves.
Q. Were those whom they excluded worse than others?
A. I should suppose not; for the Apostle charges them with being disguised by liquor at this sacred festival, and after that they were contentious at the table of the Lord.
Q. If the bread and wine gives an idea of the human race collected in Christ Jesus, will God destroy them? and yet does he not say, bring forth those who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me?
A. He does; and this also is a proof of his paternal love. Paul says, I was alive once without the law; but the commandment came, it slew me, and I died; in like manner, the two edged sword proceeding out of his mouth, shall sooner or later stay the nations: the sword is the word of God, which when brought home with power, examineth the most secret recess of the soul, and slays the life of righteousness, of which we heretofore boasted: but God killeth and he can make alive, he wounds and he can heal, and the Saviour was set for the fall and the rising again of the many in Israel. Thus the slaying of them, may be but another expression for the separating them from their chaff, and thereby gathering mankind as pure wheat into the garner of their God.
Q. But do we not read of the wicked being turned into Hell[?]
A. Certainly, with all the nations that forget God; and that they shall all drink of the cup of his indignation together: this was fulfilled in the day when their general head offered up strong cries and prayers, that if it was possible, the cup might pass from him; nevertheless he submitted to the Father’s will, and drank it off to the very dregs!
Q. But is not God angry with the wicked every day?
A. He is; and shall destroy it by the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming.
Q. How then can he behold the sinner with an eye of favor?
A. Though he is reconciled to the sinner, yet he is not to their sin, he is a determined foe to every vice: but he beholds mankind cloathed in the righteousness of the Redeemer, in which he can see no spot or blemish.
Q. Will he not make an end of sin?
A. He will; all evil shall be extirpated; the man of sin revealed and destroyed. Thus every baleful passion separated from the race of man, they shall keep an eternal sabbath in the mount of blessedness.
Q. How am I to conceive of the sabbath?
A. As a type of Jesus, an emblem of rest. God having finished the works of creation, rested from his labour: to the enlightened soul, viewing the finished work of Jesus as his own, ceaseth from his labour, and entereth into rest, by believing in him.
Q. Is it the seventh day of the week which is now observed as a sabbath by christians?
A. By no means; they have changed it to the first day of the week, which they very erroneously call a sabbath day.
Q. Doth the scriptures give any authority for this change?
A. None; they expressly command the observance of the seventh day, and no where call the first day a sabbath.
Q. How should we conceive of the first day of the week according to the scriptures?
A. It is the day on which our Saviour arose greatly triumphant over death and hell; his resurrection was the positive proof of our justification, it is with propriety called the Lord’s day, and though there is no express command to sanctify it, yet such an injunction is strongly implied, and when we consider the event which took place upon it, gratitude obliges us to observe it.
Q. How ought this day to be regarded?
A. It ought to be set apart to commemorate the risen Saviour, it ought to be sacred to religious joy and thanksgiving, heavenly devotion should kindle in our souls, and we should feel the glow of gratitude divine expand our breasts.
Q. What ought to be the conduct of persons believing these principles?
A. They ought to prostrate themselves in the presence of their God with thankful rapture, they ought to be careful to add to their faith, virtue, and in all things endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour.
Q. How ought they to regard their fellow creatures?
A. As members with them in the same body, and they should be careful at all times, to do them good for Christ’s sake.
Q. Are not christians under more obligations to obey the commands of God than others?
A. Certainly they are; inasmuch as they see the perfection and harmony of the divine œconomy, and though they know they can never justify themselves, before God, by ought that they can do, yet because they are washed, because they are cleansed, they will be careful to maintain good works, as well knowing those are pleasing in the sight of the Father, and good and profitable unto men.
Q. But what have believers to fear, should they be found transgressing the law?
A. The anger of the Lord, who hath declared, if they forsake his law, and walk not in his judgment, if they break his statutes, and keep not his commandments; then he will visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: nevertheless his loving kindness he will not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail: On the contrary, to the obedient, the reward is promised, even a cup of cold water is not forgot, and to do good, and to distribute, is well pleasing to God. But I trust, you my dear, will be always acquainted with that heavenly complacency, resulting from the reflection upon a good action, indeed, indeed, an unoffending life, is its own reward.
Q. What is the rule of conduct for christians?
A. They will endeavour that benevolence should guide their every action, virtue will be the principle of their lives, betwixt man and man, they will deal with equity, they will not judge, they will not set at nought their brother, but they will do unto others, as they would they should do unto them, and they will be solicitous, at all times, to set a guard upon the door of their lips.
Q. Who will they consider as their brother?
A. They cannot avoid considering all mankind as brethren, for the same breath of God animates them, they are descended from the same stock, and redeemed by the same Emmanuel.
Q. Will they be attached to no particular party?
A. Though they will view the whole race, as fellow members with themselves, though they will extend their benificence to the world of mankind, yet they will be bound by the apostolic admonition, and hold themselves under especial obligations to do good to the hous[e]hold of faith.
Q. Do these principles always operate upon the mind of a christian?
A. They are synonymous with christianity, where this benign doctrine takes place in the heart, it always influences the conduct, it stimulates to piety, charity, hope and love, and we shall administer, as far as our circumstances will admit, to the necessities of every son and daughter of Adam.
Q. Do we not often behold christians acting a different part?
A. Never while under the influence of their principles, ’tis not as christians they err, but as men.
Q. How ought a believer to view death?
A. As a conquered enemy, nay as an enemy who is destroyed, for Christ hath abolished death, and bro’t life and immortality to light by the gospel.
Q. How then do we see many die?
A. They do not die, our Saviour himself speaks of what we term death, as a sleep; the body indeed rests in the grave till the resurrection, but the soul returns to God who gave it.
Q. What does a christian conceive of hell?
A. As a place of darkness, from which he is exempt, by the son of man’s descending into it; for which deliverance his adorations constantly arise and his soul is fraught with ceaseless gratitude to that righteous man, the God man, whose intercessory prayer for him, availeth much.
Q. What think you of prayer?
A. That it is an inestimable privilege, wherein we can pour forth our souls to God, and make known to him all our complaints; being assured that as a father, he heareth, and hath compassion upon us. If any is afflicted, says the apostle, let him pray, the oppressed heart will unburthen itself, by supplications to Deity. The using vain repetitions is condemned by our Saviour, a pomp of words, is by no means descriptive of an agonized spirit; the Redeemer hath given us a form of prayer, worthy his divine character, this you can repeat, and it ought always to be regarded, as a pattern for us in our addresses to the Majesty of Heaven.
Q. Do you suppose that prayer will be continued in the heavenly world?
A. I suppose that at the right hand of the father there are pleasures for ever more; faith, and hope, will then be swallowed up in love and joy, in the presence of God; we shall not need any thing, and therefore prayer can be of no farther use.
Q. What doth the scriptures say will be the employment of the redeemed nature?
A. The scriptures intimate that they shall spend an eternity in praise, after that the ransomed of the Lord shall return, after they have come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; after that the remnant, even the remnant, are restored to the mighty God of Jacob, after that he hath set his hand a second time, and gathered, in the race compleat: When he hath swallowed up death in victory, when the Lord God hath wiped away tears from off all faces; when the rebuke of his people is taken away from off all the earth, as the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken: consequent on that completion which John saw, when he heard every creature which is in Heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, saying, blessing, and honor, and glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever, and ever! Then shall commence their never dying, their immortal song of sacred joy, and thanksgiving, they shall be continually crying holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. —This doubtless will be the matter of their eternal triumph, and universal nature shall join the loud, the responsive AMEN.
PAGE 7, second line, for insinuate read initiate.
[Readers should make this correction on page 8 in this document: “…an attempt was made to initiate him into the principles of the christian religion;”.]