THE FURIOUS PRIEST REPROVED.
A LETTER TO THE REVEREND ABIAL FISHER,
OF BELLINGHAM, MASS.
RELATIVE TO HIS CONDUCT, AS THE MEETINGHOUSE, IN SAID TOWN,
ON THE AFTERNOON OF THE THIRD SABBATH
IN MAY, A.D. 1823.
BY REV. ADIN BALLOU,
MINISTER OF THE UNIVERSALIST SOCIETY IN THAT TOWN.
"Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned."
"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee." - Jeremiah.
"Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass." - Isaiah.
JOHN MILLER, PRINTER.
* * * * *
"Come now and let us reason together."
REV. SIR - Painful but imperious is the duty, which has devolved on him who now addresses you.
Without feeling a disposition to harm even a hair of your head, I am constrained in this publick manner,
to protest most solemnly, against your unhallowed, anti-christian and uncivil conduct, at the meetinghouse in Bellingham,
on the afternoon of the third Sabbath in May.
Sir, I do consider your behaviour on that occasion, to be a beggarly descension from clerical dignity,
a wretched departure from the rectitude of the christian character, a wide digression from gentlemanly politeness,
a breach of publick peace and order; an outrage on common decency.
And however you may consider it, however you may attempt to palliate or excuse it,
a candid and impartial publick will consider it in this light.
When at a proper time, and in a peaceable manner, the first selectman of the town, attended by myself,
and followed by my society, approached the door of the meetinghouse to open it,
that it might be occupied according to the vote of the town,
you, sir, who together with your society, had blockaded the door of the house three times, successively,
when you expected it to be opened to me;
posted yourself on the door-stone, and in defiance of decency, crowded as close to the door as possible.
When it was unlocked, you violently thrust yourself in, being the very first to crowd;
which shameful example was followed by your duped adherents.
The door into the body of the house, not being immediately opened,
the entry of the porch was instantly thronged with people.
All was disorder and confusion - my soul never before witnessed such a scene, and God it may never afterwards.
Some cried one thing, and some another. I asked you if we were going to have difficulty;
you replied, that I had no business there.
I said, that the town gave me a right to be there.
You answered, that the town had no business with the house, and that I knew the case was in court, undecided;
and not only so, but that one year ago, I reprobated and condemned the very deed in another man,
which I was then justifying by my example,
(probably alluding to conversation which passed between us, when you and your lady were at my house,
about a year since, concerning an attempt on the part of the town to occupy the house, &c.)
This I denied, and have not yet sufficient reason to own.
You contradicted what I said; I replied, that I did then condemn the measures taken,
and that I did not justify them now, considering them imprudent;
but giving you to understand at the same time, that I considered the course which I had taken,
in a very different light, and not bearing a just resemblance, &c.
Sir, I stated to the people, who will bear me witness, that I had come to the house with a determination
to be guided by a christian spirit, and governed by the rules of decorum and propriety.
That God could not be worshipped in such confusion and strife.
One of your society, with more zeal than knowledge, cited me to the judgment day of God,
where I suppose, he thought I should be eternally damned.
You in a very unbecoming manner, exclaimed, "he does not believe in a judgment."
Who, sir, authorized you to tell what I believe, when you have never heard me say a word concerning it?
I caution you against such presumption in future.
The gentleman who thus cited me, together with his father, made a motion,
that the friends or lovers of God should retire from his enemies, and leave the usurper in the house.
To this motion, you was deaf, and appeared to be resolved at all hazards, to force yourself into the desk.
I then requested the door to be opened, declaring that if you did not conduct yourself as become your station,
I should publish it to the world.
The door was opened, I entered, and you with others forced your way after.
You then crowded through, as quick as possible, into the side aisle, and whilst I walked up the broad aisle as usual,
you quickened your pace, little less than upon the run, darted up into the desk, and in an instant laid down your hat,
opened your psalm-book, and said, "let us commence the worship of God by singing," &c.
One half of the people at least, had not entered the door of the house, where they were crowding to get in.
I seated myself in the desk a few moments and then retired; where we could be at peace and harmony with each other;
thankful that we were delivered from such a wretched scene of discord, violence and shame.
So I believe sir, the greater part of the friends of God retired,
leaving the usurpers to worship the God of confusion, within the walls of the house.
How will you justify your haughty and oppressive insolence in this affair?
Will you do it by saying, it is not yet decided to whom the house belongs,
and therefore you have undoubted right to occupy the house until it is?
This would be a strange way of doing it.
If it has not been decided one has as good right to it as the other, until it shall be.
Or, will you say, "the town have no business with it," as you have said?
I ask you Reverend sir, who built that meetinghouse? Did the baptist society build it?
What have the baptists done towards building or repairing that house, more than others?
Has not the town paid one thousand dollars of money in cash, towards the erection of it; not to a baptist society,
but to ten individuals, who agreed with the town, and not with the baptist society,
for that sum of money, together with the privilege of selling the pews, to build a house suitably calculated for religious worship,
and the transaction of town business?
Have the Baptist Society kept the house in repair at their own expense?
Have they hired it, swept and cleaned, from year to year? Who have locked, and unlocked the door of the house?
You are not so ignorant, as that you cannot give suitable answers to the foregoing questions.
The Baptists as individuals own pews in that house, and so do Congregationalists and Universalists.
And such a proportion of them, as would entitle them justly, to the share they have asked for in the house.
It is true, the baptist society have had exclusive possession of the house, till of late,
because there was no other religious society, to need, or to ask for a share in it, in the town.
And, it is Sir, from this very consideration, that the baseness of your conduct is greatly magnified.
Because you have for a long time enjoyed a meetinghouse, not built at your expense,
you are now determined to hold the whole as your own property; and to keep others, who have as good right there,
as you or any of your society, from the privilege of sitting in their own pews, in the house which they have helped to build,
and hear from the pulpit such preaching, as they believe to be the truth.
Not even one sabbath in a month, will you consent to let us peaceably enjoy.
We must either crowd ourselves into some contracted and inconvenient place, to have our meeting;
and leave you, and your society scattered thinly over the house, in the exclusive occupancy of our hard-earned property;
or we must not go to meeting at all: or we must be mobbed, and insulted, if we assert our rights;
or we must go and sit down, quietly, under the preaching of a man, who tells us, we were made by God, to dishonour and wrath;
to be endlessly tormented after death, &c.
This last, you may depend upon it, we shall seldom do.
We will not countenance this God dishonouring dogma, of that murderer John Calvin;
whose flinty heart could stand unappalled, and see an innocent man roasting in the flames, which were kindled by his means.
No dear Sir, never! never!
Had I descended to the foul and disgraceful means which you have made use of,
I could have occupied the house at my discretion.
But Sir, I detested, I abhorred, I abominated them! Had I treated you as disrespectfully,
as you have me without a reason; had I been the first, to set the worst of examples,
and give countenance to public disturbance; and above all, had I forced myself into the pulpit,
that sacred place, and made that solemn mockery of the omnipotent Jehovah, who is the God of love, of peace, and of order, and will not be mocked with impunity,
in the manner which you did, my peace of soul would have been completely destroyed.
But Sir, consider it, as you may, I have that satisfaction of heart, which arises from a rational consciousness that I have done right.
I say in the sincerity of my soul, that I am willing, God should judge every thought of my heart, every word which I have spoken,
and every action which I have done concerning this affair; nay, that all the world should know them.
I shall meet you no more again, as I met you on the afternoon of the third sabbath in May.
It is enough - I am satisfied! If that flinty heart which beats within your breast, is a stranger to justice,
to condescension, to brotherly love, be thou a stranger to me.
My consolation is, that the time will come, when you and I shall enter one temple together,
utter the same truth, and sing the same joyful song, when God shall clothe thy spirit with meekness and love.
Sir, you look upon me as an apostate from the christian religion, a deist under a mask, &c. and you may have thought,
because this is the case, that God will justify you, let you do what you may, in opposing, insulting, and abusing me.
But have you ever attempted to reclaim me?
Or did you think such conduct, as transpired in the late lamentable occurrence, would have this effect?
Rely upon what I say - If you thought so, you were greatly deceived, and mistaken.
You could not have taken a more effectual method. to confirm me in the belief of a doctrine, which is neither apostate christianity, or deism;
but such as God hath spoken and testified, by the mouths of all his holy prophets, since the world began.
One which the meek and lowly Jesus inculcated, when he said,
"the Father sent not the Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
"For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
"For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world," &c.
The same doctrine, Sir, which the Apostles preached, when one of them said;
"As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one,
the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."
"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.. But where sin abounded grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace rein through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."
"For, as in Adam all die, eyen so in Christ shall all be made alive."
"For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
For he hath put all things under his feet. And when all things shall be subdued unto him,
then shall the son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.
It is sown in dishonour: it is raised in glory: It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."
"For the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality."
And the Scripture, foreseeing, that God would justify the heathen through faith,
preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying: In thee shall all nations be blessed.
"For it pleased the Father that in him (Christ) should all fulness dwell.
And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;
by him I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven."
Whom "God also hath highly exalted and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth,
and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
"Wherein he hath abounded in us all wisdom and prudence;
having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure,
which he hath purposed in himself: -
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ,
both which are in heaven, and which are on earth even in him."
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks;
he made for all men; for kings, and all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life,
in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour;
who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus;
who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time:
That he by the grace of God, should taste death for every man," &c. &c. &c.
Another Apostle says: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."
"In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten son into the world,
that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us,
and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins."
"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the son to be the saviour of the world."
"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love;
and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
"And 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, heard I saying, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power
be unto HIM that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever," &c.
Another says; "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated,
full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy."
And Rev. sir, this is the doctrine, according to the tenor of which, all professed christians,
and even you yourself repeatedly pray to Almighty God.
And yet you condemn, and look upon it as a pernicious error, a licentious doctrine;
and I suppose think, whether by foul or fair means, you are doing God's service to oppose,
and put down those infidels who believe and attempt to propagate it, (as you esteem them.)
Nay, and perhaps are congratulating yourself, with the vain and wicked notion that the time will come,
when God will place you and your brethren, at his right hand; and we wicked Universalists
(who only believe your prayer for the salvation of all men, will be answered) on his left hand.
And that after he shall have welcomed you, to the golden, and blissful seats of eternal felicity, and glory;
HE will hurl us headlong down to HELL, to remediless wo, everlasting ruin, eternal despair, and misery,
where our every shriek, and groan, will cause you to relish the joys of heaven, to a greater degree,
and recreate and freshen the renewed vigour of your increasing shouts of joy and praise to God.
But sir, I most joyfully congratulate myself with the firm belief,
that I shall one day behold a more glorious and happifying SCENE;
one infinitely more worthy of Jehovah the God of love, and justice.
Not a time when I, or any of God's creatures shall be justified and saved in our sins;
but in that DAY when God shall have finished the judgment of the world, in righteousness by Christ,
whom he hath appointed to be the judge of quick, and dead;
and to do his will, by the saving of all men, and bringing them to the knowledge of the truth.
When you and I, with the whole world, shall bend our knees. willingly together, in the same humble posture;
and from our hearts, swear with our tongues, saying, "in the Lord have I righteousness and strength."
When the whole human family, the ransomed of the Lord Jesus Christ, shall return, and come unto Zion, with songs,
and everlasting joy upon their heads; who shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
I am filled with profound astonishment, at the course of conduct which you have pursued,
in order to put down this doctrine; by which alone you can be saved.
Dear Sir, I have not come to you with the deceitful kisses of an enemy;
but to pierce you with the faithful wounds of a friend - and whether you will hear, or whether you will forbear,
I must speak with great plainness the sentiments of my heart.
I now call on you to reflect on the measures which you have taken, relative to the occupancy of the meetinghouse, &c.
Think for a moment, how you have acted, and what you have done!
have you not kindled a fire which burns even unto hell: the flames of which scorch your own soul, and destroy your own peace?
Have you not, by your counsels and example, rashly led your much-to-be-pitied society headlong into difficulty, trouble, disgrace, and infamy;
which ere long you or they shall be extricated from, will be most sincerely lamented, and literally deprecated by you all?
Have you not been the means of destroying the peace, harmony, and order of the town; which is in an uproar?
So that neighbours have been set at variance, and friends alienated and estranged from each other;
who else, like kindred drops, had mingled and associated together.
O that you had wisely considered the end of these things!
And acted, as the world might have expected you to act, even like the meek and lowly JESUS.
Then would your peace have been as the river, which never drieth up.
Had you followed peace with all men, and holiness; without which no man can see the Lord; set such examples as became you,
as a minister of the gospel; given counsel calculated to promote love, tranquillity and order; and had you been duly condescending;
then would you have been beloved, respected, and commended by all whose approbation could have given you comfort and satisfaction,
even though they had abhorred the doctrine which you believe.
But alas, my brother! by whom now are you respected and commended!
Shall I say from my heart, I pity thee.
Let me counsel thee to repent of this thy conduct; to repent of the evil which thou hast done;
change thy goings and become wise; lest thou fall into the pit which thou hast digged,
and the net which thou hast laid. But above all things beware how thou fightest any longer against God.
Remember what I say, thou canst not put the doctrine of Universalism down.
If we are shut out of meetinghouses, we will make meeting houses of dwelling houses;
and if we are shut out of these we will meet under the open canopy of heaven,
where we know the OWNER of this sublime meeting place, will suffer us to worship unmolested.
So sir, you may rest assured, we shall propagate the gospel of God's universal, and impartial grace,
so long as we honestly believe it, and God permits us, regardless of the frowns of our opposers.
Sir, I have now brought myself to the conclusion of this letter;
and if it shall serve to bring you, to a feeling sense of the evil nature and tendency of that conduct,
which is the burden of it - my desires will be amply satisfied, and my labour sufficiently rewarded.
I subscribe myself your friend, and well wisher.
REV. ABIEL FISHER.
May 21st, A. D. 1823.