Chapter 16


AFTER Noyes discontinued his personal activity at Belchertown his hold on the place was for more than two years contested hy rival Perfectionist leaders. This contest, though apparently local and trivial, came when Perfectionism was on the point of evolving into full Bihle Communism; and we may see in it the effort of Noyes to forestall irresponsihle free-love among his followers, and the grappling of fierce personalities for the mastery not alone of Beichertown Perfectionism hut of the entire Perfectionist movement.

The first of these rival leaders was David A. Warren of Verona, New York. He came to Belchertown in April 1843 and preached to large audiences. Longley commended him as "a man of God, much to he heloved." Even Noyes wrote that he surmised the Lord was bringing Warren to Belchertown "in the right time and to good advantage." But in August Noyes wrote to Longley that he had more and more reason to helieve that Warren was after all a legal Perfectionist ; and Cragin, who was visiting at Belchertown, wrote to Noyes: "I hope God will not permit our Beichertown hrethren to have much more preaching, for I believe it is an injury to them. They have had quite a relapse since Warren was here."

Next came James Boyle, [1] with whom Noyes had heen associated in the publication of The Perfectionist at New Haven in 1834. When Noyes heard that Boyle had consented to preach at Belchertown he wrote to Longley "I have not altered my mind ahout him. Regarding him as a traitor to the gospel, I must say that, if he comes in among you, I shall make open war upon him with all my strength. I will lose every suhscriher to my paper and hreak hrotherhood with every friend I have hefore I will put my neck into the yoke with Boyle and his company." This ended the plan of Boyle's preaching at Belchertown, hut it was the heginning of a rift in the circle of believers. Some denounced Boyle, while

1. Religious Experience of John Humphrey Noyes, pp. 160-168, 293-301.


others could see little difference between Boyle and Noyes, especially in regard to a desire for leadership.

The third candidate for leadership was Alexander Wilder. Charles Olds wrote to Noyes in December 1844: "Alexander Wilder has recently spent two weeks at Belchertown. He came directly from the Theocratic Conference [1] at Lairdsville, New York, sent as he claimed hy God. He attacked the doctrines of the Origin of Evil and the New Birth, said that no one was now horn of God in any sense, and that his own experience was of the 7th of Romans character. . . . He believes his brother David to he the great champion of true Perfectionism."


The Perfectionist DECEMBER 28, 1844

We have been aware for some time that Alexander and David Wilder were dealing treacherously with us. The evidence of their enmity came to us not in any straightforward way from themselves, as hoth are ostensibly our friends and agents for our paper, but by indirect reports of their acts and insinuations. These men have been in fellowship with Prindle, who holds that multitudes in the churches are horn of God without heing aware of it. The Wilders, it now appears, hold that nohody on earth is horn of God. We account for this marvelous mating thus: The spirit that hates and seeks to destroy the testimony of holiness has two strings to his bow. He prompts one class to teach that all sorts of people are born of God, and another that nohody is horn of God, his ohiect heing to restore the equilibrium which existed before the doctrine of holiness hegan to disturb the sinful churches. The testimony of these men is to he credited so far as it relates to themselves and no farther. We have had as much reason as any one to distrust the professions of Perfectionists. Yet we put far from us the arrogant, uncharitable judgment that all who profess salvation from sin are deceived or deceivers. We

1. Page 80


know one man who has the witness of the spirit that his is born of God, and we have good reason to believe that there are considerable numbers who can honestly bear the same testimony

Alexander Wilder's attach on Noyes plunged the Belchertown Perfectionists into a turmoil of doubt as to Noyes's position in the church. While the discussion of Noyes's claim to confidence was going on, Warren wrote to Longley: "I have heard something of the situation in Belchertown. It is to be deplored, but I know not how to help it. I think ,uch of Brother Noyes, but after all I believe at present there is more theory about him than spirit. There is evidently about him a desire to be a leader and the originator of every new truth that is good. He is a great pugilist. How long he has been abusing Brother Boyle without a word from Boyle in return! He seems to exult in the downfall of others. It is written, and it is true, that he htat is glad at calamaties shall not go unpunished... He is full of self-justification. This does not belong to saints... I belive Brother Noyes is of Israel, and will eventually be broken down as I and some others have been. And the more pride of opinion he has about his theory, the greater will be his fall."

Still another rival preacher was Charles D. Mead.[1] He had embraced Perfectionism in Central New York under Foot and Dutton, and had moved to Ohio, where he had preached from place to place causing commotions and excommunications from the church. He had been for several years in the toils of a legal conscience, but in January 1839 had experienced, as he believed, the "new birth" and the "resurrection of the body" which gave everlasting freedom from sin and law.


Chardon Jail, Geauga COunty, Ohio, November 27, 1839.

Dear beloved Brother Noyes:
I was highly pleased in the perusal of The Witness... Your views of expediency, of the use of women, wine money and carnal weapons God has taught me to be true...

1. Charles D. Mead was not related to Noyes's brother-in-law, Larkin G. Mead of Brattleboro, Vermont. -G.W.N.


When I first read your Battle-Axe Letter I was somewhat startled. It was more than a year ago at the house of James Boyle. . . . I then thought Shaker ground was preferable; so did he. But my fears are now altogether removed.

In April last the Lord told me I was joined to a certain woman, and repeated it three times. But I did not confess it for some time, for indeed it was a heavy cross. The woman had a husband after the law, and he a great enemy, a perfect reprobate. But in May or June the witness came again so strong, I dared not resist it, and it was a glorious season indeed. .

Though I felt thus joined to all who had come into the redemption, soon afterward I found myself brought into an order or appointment with one as I was not with the rest. .

Now the one with whom I stood in the order or appointment of God was Ann, a sister of John B. Foot. She had also a husband by the law, but they both had seen for nearly a year that God never joined them, and gave up the relation. He acknowledges this to be of God, and he became my bondsman in the sum of four hundred dollars. We lived together all under the same roof in great peace and quietness until we had occasion to go to Hudson; and where we stayed over night the woman, who was an opposer, said if we stayed there we must sleep together. We told her we could in innocence. We did, and that gave occasion of complaint. About one mouth afterward I was taken with a state's warrant. I have been brought before two justice's courts, and two of common pleas, convicted in all, had twenty days in Portage County on bread and water, and thirty days in Geauga County, and two hundred dollars fine. I am now on my thirteenth day. Ann was tried but once. She has been in ten days, and gone home. My sentence is the extent of the law against adultery in this State. John B. and myself were tarred and feathered in Batavia, Geauga County,


where his friends reside. The whole of this matter, tar, feathers, jail and all have been made perfectly easy. God is over all. I had to do as I have done. I am now free to submit to the ordinance of man for the Lord's sake.

In love,

Mead had been the first to sow the seed of Perfectionism at Belchertown, having preached there before Noyes's campaign of 1842. After his long residence in Ohio he returned to Belchertown about the first of January 1845 and found Noyes in possession. He was war~y welcomed by Longley, who wrote of him to Noyes as honest, frank and open-hearted, led he had no doubt by the spirit of God. A month later Mead appeared at Putney bearing a letter of introduction from David Wilder.

Noyes wrote out the following statement of his position, and the day before Mead returned to Belchertown handed it to him. Mead read it in Noyes's presence, commenting as he read:

Putney, January 31, 1845.

Brother Mead:
I judge from your conversation thus far that you are not inclined to enter into any definite agreement of co6peration with me, and that you think I am anxious for some arrangement which will bring you into bondage. On the latter point you are mistaken. I think no evil of you for your offense and imprisonment, but so far as my usefulness in the world is concerned I perceive clearly that your reputation will be no advantage to me. This would not prevent me from acknowledging you as a brother and fellow-laborer in the gospel nor from defending you as at present an innocent man, if you should place yourself in a position where this would fairly be demanded of me. Yet it is a consideration which naturally makes me somewhat indifferent whether you join me or go by yourself. And further, I certainly have no desire in any case to exact any tribute which God does not exact in my


behalf. My circumstances are not favorable to worldly ambition. I have lived for more than a year in sober expectation of shortly putting off this tabernacle. I made the suggestion, from which I presume you took the impression that I was anxious to bring you into bondage, in consequence of learning from the Belchertown brethren that you expressed a purpose in coming here to "submit" to me. I was disposed to open the door for a plain talk about our relations to each other, and what I then hinted 1 will now avow as a fundamental principle in any partnership between myself and one in your circumstances. It is that such a person shall forward my labors by taking pains as far as possible to extend the circulation of the paper, and that I on the other hand will forward his labors by such influence as I am able to exert through the paper and other channels. 1 think there is nothing dishonorable or unequal in such an arrangement and, if a man declines it, this indicates to me that he has no hearty zeal for my purposes, and that any partnership between us would he useless.

I am anxious not that you should submit to me in any servile sense, but that you should do that which your position as one who received the truth of the gospel through my writings makes it natural and proper that you should do, listen to me without jealousy and take advice of me. You perceive the need at Belchertown of subordination. The same need exists on a larger scale. . .

I foresee distinctly that, if you decline any agreement with me and continue to labor in the same fields with myself, there will be collisions between us. I have not felt inclined to dispute with you about your views of experience, yet I am satisfied that your theory has taken its shape too much from the mold of your own history and that of New York Perfectionists generally. I do not deny that the way which you have passed and which you mark out for others is one road of experience, but


I know that mine took a different course. You have also, if I understand you, a theory about a state higher than that of the second birth, which is manifestly contrary to Scripture. I do not wholly approve of the confidence which you seem to put in Madame Guion and William Law. They said many good things but they knew nothing of the second birth. The brethren at Belchertown found fault with you because your course in relation to Alexander Wilder seemed somewhat equivocal, and they do not exactly like your method of "making yourself all things to all men." I speak of these things to show you the reasons which I have to anticipate that, unless we come to some definite agreement such as may lead us to unity of heart and effort, there will be difficulty between us.

If you ask what I would propose as a means of avoiding the difficulty, 1 answer, I would not seek to limit your liberty to go or do or speak as you are led. Yet I would tell you plainly, that I think your appropriate business at present at least is not to carry a theory of experience to believers, but to preach the first elements of the gospel to unbelievers. Having thus told you my mind I would leave you to the Lord's discipline, trusting that by his grace we might be able to walk together in love.

Yours sincerely,

"This document produced considerable commotion in Mead's spirit," wrote Noyes, "but he did not appear offended. We talked the matter over for several hours, and at the end an amicable feeling seemed to prevail between us. Yet he did not decisively assent to my proposals, but rather persisted in keeping his position of isolation. Flow it will turn with him I know not." Soon afterward Charles P. Kellogg wrote to Noycs from Belchertown:

"Mead thinks that you want to fetch all believers under your control. He says, if you are ahead of him in experience, he has it yet to learn; and he has stated here, that as true as there was a God you would have to come down."



Putney, April 1, 1845.

Dear Brother Kellogg:
If the believers in Belchertown wish for my opinion of Mead's letter, a copy of which was sent here, I will say that, to my mind, it is full of the refined essence of legality. Its aim is to reduce the birth of Christ in the heart to as small an affair as possible, and to smother it under self-suspicious, apostolic exhortations falsely applied. . . . The exhortations of the gospel, if disjoined from their soul which is the power of Christ's resurrection in the heart, make as foul a carcass of legality as any other kind of law. Indeed there is no law-bondage equal to that which encompasses a man who adopts the doctrine of holiness, and then goes to work on the old plan of watching, criticising, doubting himself, and seeking his justificatiou in doing the duties prescribed in the exhortations of the apostles. And this is the plan which Mead's letter holds forth.

The truth is, the present is not the time to turn the attention of believers to the department of duties. The battle is yet raging, and just now fiercer than ever, around the great central fact, the birth in the heart. The Devil is sending his emissaries thick and fast to assail the citadel of justification. At such a time my exhortation is: Stand firm, be not entangled again with the yoke of legal bondage, count any man a traitor to Christ who seeks to turn your attention from the work of God in the heart to self-measuring and duty-doing. The only hope you have of ever doing any duty is in your being able to say boldly: "A risen Christ is in me, and I am forever saved from all sin."

I have convincing tokens that many of the leading Perfectionists in the State of New York have actually though not


altogether openly lost their justification and abandoned the clear testimony of salvation from sin. Alexander Wilder is more unguarded than Mead, but at bottom they are not far apart. I believe there are many true brethren in the State of New York, but they are altogether a different class from those who are in fellowship with Wilder and Mead. I say this to put you on your guard. There is a legality more deceitful than Oberlinism or old-churchism, particularly in the State of New York, which is writhing and squirming under the clear testimony of the paper, and will try every device of imposture and every shaft of malice against me, before it will die and leave the field to the gospel of eternal holiness. The battle just finished has gone against the old serpent most decidedly, but I look for more hissing and poison.

Yours affectionately,

The last of those to contest Noyes's supremacy at Belchertown was Dr. Josiah Gridley of Southampton, Massachusetts. Dr. Gridley had taken part in the proceedings of antinomian Perfectionists at Southampton and Brimfield in 1835,[1] and Noyes in attempting to fix the responsibility for those proceedings had exchanged letters with him as follows:


Putney, July 8, 1840.

Dear Brother:
I have been fully persuaded these three years that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about New Haven Perfectionism will utimately be found its best defense. You are doubtless aware that in pursuance of the plan I have commenced in The Witness I must by and by speak of the relation which New Haven Perfectionism bears to the Perfec-

1. Religious Experience of John Humphrey Noyes, pp. 199-200.


tionism of Southampton and Brimfield. The strange doings of 1835 stand right in my pathway. I shall not run away from them nor attempt to evade them. The adversary points to them and says: "By their fruits ye shall know them," and so the people stop their ears. This stumbling-block must be taken away. So long as my confidence in you and the others at Southampton and Brimfield remains, I feel bound to do nothing affecting your interests without your knowledge and consent. Hence my object in writing is to open my views to you now in a private manner.

First and chiefly I deny that the strange doings in question are the fruits of New Haven Perfectionism. Perfectionism at Southampton and Brimfield was planted by New York Perfectionists, and the irregularities commenced under the administration of Dutton and Lovett, whose Perfectionism originated not at New Haven but in New York. I was there just before, but the Lord caught me away in season to escape the tornado, and I deny that I am in any way responsible for it. .

I will not deny that the New Haven doctrine of the abolishment of law was an occasion of what was done; but the cause was previous legality. If a pendulum is swung six inches past the center to the right and held there by some extraneous force, when that force is taken away the pendulum will surely tend to swing six inches beyond the center to the left. On the subject of sexual morality the church and the world have swung men far beyond the center to the right. Perfectionism took away the restraining force, and some swung far beyond the center to the left. In this case the church and the world are the cause, for they placed men in a position of unnatural restraint; Perfectionism was the occasion, though the innocent occasion, for the abolishment of law is an essential feature of the gospel, and must not be kept back let the consequences be what they may. . .


If you assent to these views, you will have no objection to my presenting them to the public when occasion demands. If you do not assent, or if you see anything to correct or suggest, please write.



Southampton, July 13, 1840.

Dear Brother:
You have expressed the cause of the irregularities to which you refer just as I have always seen them. . . . The saints here (not as a whole but individuals) did have a wild frolic. Why? They verified Jehovah's prediction, "They shall go forth as calves from the stall.".

I cannot father my perfection upon you, or Brother Dutton, or Truair, or the Annesleys. . . . I feel that it came directly molded by the God of heaven. . . . I see no necessity for calling names . . . certainly in relation to those who have had honest hearts, and have been but slightly tinctured and that for a very short time only. A general admission of facts, 1 feel, will be sufficient for all honest inquirers. . . . I cannot see the distinction you seem to make between New York and New Haven Perfectionism, as you term them. The question where it originated or the day of its birth appears to me of much smaller moment than whether they are one and the same thing. .

I must confess in frankness and in faithful brotherly affection . . . that pure gospel truth unmixed would remove the rubbish in your pathway very much faster than any renunciation, denunciation or explanation. There is not half as much trouble with the past or present as there is hungering for the Living Bread in this vicinity. . . Still, for the result I know


not but you are pursuing the more excellent way. I have written with a spirit of suggestion and not of dictation in the least. I fear however, if you assume the spirit of a leader, you will lose the spirit of Christ; and I am certain that the circulation of the paper has been greatly retarded in consequence of the want of interest in its readers in relation to some of its subjects, such as "The Secret History of Perfectionism." The gospel part has been mostly sweet, very sweet. . . . I have written the last few lines for myself and others both in town and out of town, as my observation has extended.

Yours in the love of Christ pledged-forever pledged-to every good work,

Although far from satisfied with Dr. Gridley's position, Noyes attempted no further discussion with him at the time. But in 1843, when he found that Dr. Gridley was rising in influence, he cautioned the Belchertown Perfectionists against him. Dr. Gridley replied in the following letter, of which Noyes later remarked:

"I never got such a thrashing from anybody in my life as from him. He wrote me such a letter that I could not tell for some time whether I was a scoundrel or not."


Southampton, July 24, 1843.

Dear Brother Noyes:
We hear that Brother Noyes tells the people in Belchertown that he has no fellowship with the saints in Southampton, that there must be confession, etc. Well, Brother . . . I have but one interest in this world or that which is to come, and that is the advancement of God's cause. . . . We have long ago lived down the accusations of the adversaries of holiness

and are ready to bear in patience and love whatever its friends may please to exercise towards us If we have done anything worthy of death or of bonds, we refuse not to


die; but if the allegations brought against us are not true, then the breach, if there be one, should be healed. I have no desire to conceal the fact that in 1834-5 . . . the Devil pressed hard upon our sails, and thus drove some of us beyond the sea of discretion. The same kind of wind blew here from the east, west and north, and I may add sonth, for several that were direct from New Haven have declared most emphatically that they received their first lessons in theory at least directly from yourself; that it was not superior grace but your natural timidity of women that saved you. . . . My ship never reeled. . . till these winds all met in a mighty whirl. . . . Yet in it all He who rideth upon the wings of the wind did not forsake me. . . . You may call them what you will; to me they were the days of childhood, if you please foolish childhood, through which I shall never again pass, though like my first childhood they have left no sting behind. . . . Finally, the spirit of which I have spoken was not a native of this place, but wholly imported from abroad. . . . I am tired of the things behind, and wish to forget them. .

I shall do whatever the Lord bids me in relation to sustaining The Perfectionist. It is the only paper in which, as a whole, I have any interest. . >

Love to the brotherhood. Whenever God wills, we hope they will pass this way.


Dr. Gridley, whom Noyes describes as "a Thompsonian doctor and pill-vendor, brassy, smart, witty and licentious," attended the Perfectionist Convention at Belchertown in the fall of i8~, and helped to draft the resolution declaring "deep interest in the realization of an external as well as internal union of believers." He afterward kept up an active connection with the Belchertown Perfectionists by correspondence and visits. At length in May 1845 the pent-up dissensions burst into open flame.



Belchertown, May 21, 1845.

Dear Brother Noyes:
I have refrained from saying anything to you about the state of feeling in Beichertown hitherto, because I have been in hopes that the clouds of darkness that have arisen would soon pass away. And I would even now be silent, were it not for the fact that Brother Cragin is here and has very attentively heard one side of the question only, which, as I have reason to believe, has produced some little bias in his mind against my wife. . .

'Tis not a great while since a brother in conversation with Mrs. Longley said: "You stand in the teaching of John Noyes." And now the cry is: "She does not think so much of Brother Noyes as formerly." And many other things are said, which ought never to escape a brother's lips, such as these: "She has testified beyond her experience," "she is crazy," "she has a crooked spirit," "she is under Mead's influence," "she has said words of a licentious tendency." Words too it is said she used, which she never spoke. .

The time has been when the Belchertown believers had perfect confidence in each other, but it is not so now. This difference of opinion has arisen chiefly because Mrs. Longley could not feel to decide against Mead. I have never said much in his favor, neither should I feel justified to say, "He hath a devil." I have said like this, "To his own master he stands or falls."

Yours in love,



Putney, May 23, 1845.

Dear Brother Longley:
It is high time that I should say some plain things to you and to the brethren in Belchertown about sexual morality. I cannot clear myself of responsibility without bearing testimony against some things which are reported to me about the practices of Mead and others with women at Belchertown. You remember my warnings on this subject. I have not changed my mind. I cannot, I will not be associated with adulterers and fornicators, and such, I believe, are some of those who have come among you and still have influence over certain of your number.

A man who has once been guilty of adultery ought to be watched, especially if he asserts his innocence in that adultery, though he may confess its folly and inexpediency. This is Mead's position. If he would gain confidence as a pure-minded man, he ought to avoid the appearance of evil. This, 1 am satisfied, he has not done. From Brother Hopkins' letter, from Brother Cragin's report, and from various other sources I have evidence that he makes himself especially familiar with women wherever he goes. . . . He is the chief agent of this evil among you, and I will not name any one else at present. But this I say to you: I will have no fellowship with those who disgrace the cause of holiness by giving occasion of reproach. Let them he who they may, I shall admonish them and, if admonition fails, I shall separate myself from them publicly.

I thank God that I have reason to believe there is a spirit of honesty and purity in the believers at Belchertown which will heartily co5perate with me. Let us as one man lift up a standard against the spirit which bewitched and defiled Brim-


field, Southampton and other places in 1835, and which still lurks in New York, if not in New England, and is leaking in among you.

Your brother,

To this Longley replied May 30th: If Mead had an adulterous influence over any sister in Belehertown, Longley had it yet to learn; nor had Longley any adulterous spirit to purge out of his own heart; Noyes should hear both sides in order to be a competent judge, and if he persisted in receiving the testimony of one part of the professed believers against the other part, more especially against Mrs. Longley, Longley must and would stand in her defense till he drew his last breath.


Putney, June 10, 1845.

Dear Brother Longley:
I am under the influence of no prejudice against any one in Belchertown, and I have not judged with that partiality which you seem to impute to me. I brought no accusation against your wife, nor against any particular person except Mead. With him I am personally acquainted, and I have so much testimony from others corroborating my own impressions that I cannot think the case doubtful even to you. .

I will remind you of some things to which I only alluded in my last letter. I am informed that Dr. Gridley in your house and in your presence made himself foolishly free with women and that you heard him make suggestive, indecent remarks though claiming to be free from sexual desire. Now Gridley's past is much like Mead's, and he gives evidence by such things that he is neither pure nor trustworthy. I think you ought not to excuse these things nor shut your eyes to them, but join with me in condemning them. . .

I am becoming more and more convinced that God does not and will not employ as teachers and leaders of his church


men who after professing the faith of the gospel fall into scandalous sins. It seems to me that by suffering them thus to fall he has put them out of office and set a mark on them to warn the churches against their influence. They may in some instances truly repent and purify themselves. But if they do, they will not be forward to become teachers and leaders. A bishop "must be blameless, of good behavior, having a good report of them that are without." 1 Tim. 3 .1-9.

I am far from impeaching your honesty or righteousness of heart. But I think in time past you have lacked discrimination, and have been too fond of inviting strangers among you. Your present troubles evidently come from the influence of "false brethren brought in unawares." And I think at this time your attention is so much taken up with the bearing of my letter on your wife that you do not fully sympathize with my jealousy for the purity of the church. You have had evidence enough in the events of last winter that the leaders of western Perfectionists are at war with me and have no hearty fellowship with the gospel which we hold. When you are convinced of this, it will be for you to choose between them and me. 1 shall wait patiently until you take your side. I know that your temperament is exceedingly averse to the "strange work" which I have been compelled to engage in, that of detecting and rejecting false influences, and I do not blame you for this aversion. I love a peaceable, affectionate spirit. But there is no way through this world which is not beset by impostors, and now when you are compelled to condemn and cut off brethren on one side or the other I beseech you to look the whole matter over calmly, without partiality especially for your wife; for there seems to be great reason to urge you to follow holiness in preference to friendship.

Yours truly,


Replying on June 12th Longley clung to his position; he saw nothing in Mead that was inconsistent with a Christian; he knew of only two instances in which Dr. Gridley was foolishly familiar with women; these he did not excuse, though he would not dare to say that Dr. Gridley meant any wrong; a long detail on paper would do no good, hut in a personal interview he might say some things which would entirely change Noyes's mind; as the matter stood he felt that he and his wife had been condemned unheard.


Putney, July 1, 1845.

Dear Brother Longley:
By Brother Skinner's help I have heard both sides, and have studied the whole matter in question between us long and calmly. God knoweth that my eye is single to the truth. I certainly have no interest in wounding or discrediting you or your wife. The good deeds which you have done to me and to the cause naturally incline me strongly in your favor. But 1 must not allow this fact to disable my judgment and hinder me in reproving evil. I am in a better position for judging impartially in this case than you are, because I am less interested personally and farther removed from the excitements and irritations to which you are exposed. As you acknowledge me your spiritual father, and as I have certainly had more experimental acquaintance with false spirits than you have, I think I may fairly claim that you hear me with respect and confidence, not in a spirit of retort, and not in a purpose braced to justify yourself.

I say then again that I am convinced (and more than ever since Brother Skinner's visit) that a lewd, deceitful spirit has gained a lodgnient in Belehertown. I do not doubt your sincerity when you say that you do not see it. But I have evidence that your eyes are blinded by a spirit that comes upon you through your wife, and upon her through Mead and Gridley. Let me lay before you some of this evidence. You have heard


Mrs. H-'s testimony concerning Mead's attempt to seduce her. You say you will not deny it, but you evidently do not allow it any weight. Why is this? Plainly because your wife persists in justifying Mead and your judgment is swallowed up in hers. She thinks that, if Mrs. H- had not resisted Mead, Mrs. H- would have received a valuable baptism from him! . . .

Again, you dare not censure those indecent acts of Gridley any farther than to say that they were inexpedient. Now in this case I have evidence as to what was your own unsophisticated judgment before you had time to take counsel of your wife. You were indignant against them, and wished that Gridley might never come to Belchertown again. After those acts I understand that she had much fellowship with Gridley, and having been prevented from going to Southampton by your judgment was much chagrined. It is also said that soon afterward you received a letter from Gridley putting you below your wife in experience and reproving you for hindering her from going as she was led, which letter much affected you; that you vowed never again to interfere with her, and that she finally went to Southampton without you and against your will. Now let me say that, in my judgment, your leadings were the true ones; and the facts, that your first indignation against Gridley has been changed into soft censure, that you have approved of your wife's intimacy with him, and that you have been brought to reverence him so that he could trap you into that vow of submission to your wife, show plainly that you are woefully blinded by the witchcraft around you.

I beg you to let my judgment have as much weight as Gridley's, when in the teeth of his assertion I say deliberately that you are in advance of Mrs. Longley in true experience. She is in advance of you in mysticism, in vainglorious testimony, and in the knowledge that puffs up into infallibility. But the more


experience of this kind one has, the worse he is off. If you stood in your true place, trusting God's leadings in your own heart and leading your wife as a husband should, you would both walk wisely, and the difficulties which now beset you would be avoided. . .

As to the personal difficulties between you and other brethren at Belchertown, 1 think I see evidences of a hasty, faultfinding, exaggerating spirit among those who have stood against you. I shall resist that spirit as faithfully as I have resisted the spirit of delusion. But let me say to you, as 1 have said to others, there is no possibility of a reconciliation if either side sets itself up in a stiff spirit of self-justification. There must be a yielding disposition, a submission to reproof, a melting down into modesty and forgiving love. I would not have you or any of the parties say: "I have done wroug wilfully," for I do not believe that such is the fact. But I would have you say: "We have been deceived; Satan has taken advantage of our social affections to mislead us, and of our combativeness to embroil the whole body of believers." I trust we shall yet foil the Devil and not lose a man; that the brethren and sisters at Belchertown will return from their delusions and recriminations to the simplicity of their first love, drowning all discords in the old shout, "Holiness to the Lord."

Yours truly, JOHN H. NOYES.

In a concluding letter July 13th Longley denied point-blank all of Noyes's allegations, made a spirited defense of his wife, appealed from Noyes's judgment to that of God, and requested that discussion he dropped.


The Perfectionist JULY 12, 1845

No shame or fear of consequences shall ever make us retract the sentiments of the Battle-Axe Letter. The unwise have


converted those sentiments to purposes of licentiousness against our strenuous resistance. We have reminded all that the present is not the time of realization but of preparation; that the resurrection of the body must precede the everlasting marriage. Our own example has been blameless, and we have faithfully exposed all offenders that have come within the range of our influence and responsibility. By these means Perfectionism has been to a large extent cleared of the corruption which once threatened to overwhelm it. But within a few months we have seen indications that the old spirit of confusion and uncleanness is still alive, and we therefore address to all pure-minded believers the following suggestions:

1 The worst enemies of the cause are those who disgrace it.

2. Beware of allowing a leading influence to those who have been formerly involved in licentious disorders.

3. Brotherly love stands ahead of sexual love.

4. Be on your guard when you see religious teachers fond of ~dulging in bodily contacts.

5. Believe no one who professes to have attained the resurrection of the body.

6. Believe no one who boasts that he is free from sexual desire.

7. Bear in mind that the Shaker and the libertine are alike in their fundamental error, an over-estimate of the importance of the outward act of sexual union.

8. Beware of engaging in or conniving at deeds which it is necessary to conceal.

The next day Dr. Gridley wrote to Noyes that he would define his position "boldly, frankly, honestly and with humility" on the subject that had "raised so much legal jealousy of late in Belchertown." He enclosed a lengthy deposition, a mixture of mesmerism and mysticism, and requested that it be published in The Perfectionist.



Putney, July 18, 1845.

Dear Sir:
1 do not like to publish the document which you have sent me. I have no sympathy with its spirit and no confidence in any of its principles. It does not savor of the New Testament, but of Madame Guion and Latourette. 1 have no desire to make my paper the medium of diffusing its influence. If you intend it as a plea in justification of yourself, there is no occasion for publishing it, as you have not been attacked in the paper. The proper place to send it is Belchertown, where the discussion of your proceedings is going on.

If you insist upon my publishing your plea as a defense of your course, probably I sh~l do so, that you may have no occasion to say that I deal unfairly with you. But I shall be obliged in justice to the truth to comment upon it unfavorably, and to make known the course of life which it is designed to justify. Some facts too will be revealed which do not fall within the scope of your apology. . .

You think my rule that a bishop should be "blameless, having a good report of them that are without" would exclude me from office if allowed full force. I have a good report for modesty of all who know me, and have never given occasion for reports to the contrary. I do not extend that rule to flying reports of enemies at a distance who know nothing of the man. But a bishop should have a good report of those who are immediately around him; otherwise he cannot be useful to them. The reports which 1 hear of you even from your own brethren in Southampton, from Mead, from brethren in Belchertown, and transactions which I have myself witnessed indicate to me that you are not blameless.

I think it would be better for you and for the readers of


the paper that these matters should be discussed by private correspondence, at least for the present. I am entirely disposed to amicable proceedings, but I am determined to resist the spirit of uncleanness without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Yours in faithfulness, J H. NOYES.


Putney, July 30, 1845.

Dr. Josiah A. Gridley,

Your letter of the 27th covers so much ground that it will be impossible for me to comment upon the whole immediately. It shall be attended to in due order and time.

A good rule of law is that the parties to a suit shall confine their pleadings as much as possible to a single point. For the present therefore 1 shall confine my attention to the B - affair. I called for testimony on that matter not to h~d you at present censurable for it, but because I heard that you denied at Belchertown actual adultery with Mrs. B -. Thus far the affirmative evidence seems clear and strong, and yet I have in your last letter evidence that you are disposed to deny the fact. You impeach the veracity of Moses Ben Juda for no other purpose but to discredit his testimony on this point. You mention that the door was open, that the family was passing and repassing, that Mr. B came into the room. You say that "no mortal eye saw the least contact." This leaves room for the supposition that the eye of God saw. Sardis Chapman also writes that you took the same course with him. Now, sir, you cannot at the same time have the benefit of both a public denial and a private mental reservation. You must either deny the fact without quibbling, when you will have to confront the proof; or you must confess, when you will prove yourself now


an adulterer and a liar; an adulterer in that you have attempted to conceal and so have endorsed a former adultery; a liar in that you have endeavored to give me and others a false impression.



The quarrel pending at Beichertown is not so much between me and the Longleys as between me and Mead, Wilder and company. . . . My correspondence with the Longleys contains all the matter in dispute. . . . To try the case by discussion again and again is folly. . . Discussion in a case where every one has the evidence before him is not likely to change any but weak minds; and even if minds could be changed and the decision of believers reversed, the position of the parties to the quarrel would not be changed. The court in this case has no power of execution. The Longleys have shown by withdrawing from the circle of believers that they are not to be subdued by a mere judgment of their fellows. And I freely avow that, if the decision of believers had been against me, my mind would not have been changed.

I appeal from all further discussion to the judgment of God. If I have taken upon me more than I ought, he will bring me down; if I have acted wisely for him and for the cause of holiness, he will bring down my adversaries. Let the two parties go on their separate ways till God shows which is in the right way.

If the Longleys seek reconciliation with the believers, they should be told decisively that they can attain their object only by reconciliation with me. If they seek reconciliation with me, the first step is to re-open correspondence. They requested a discontinuance. Until they take back this step I shall not intrude


upon them. I am ready to go on with the correspondence from the point where we left off, and I desire that the end of the matter as well as the beginning may be in black and white.


"These strange defections," wrote Noyes, "make it evident to me that among the many nominal Perfectionists there are but few real ones, especially among the leaders. I have more and more reason to bless the wisdom of God which has thus far prevented us from attempting anything like a general organization. Until God shall bring together a band of those who not only believe the doctrine of holiness but have its spirit and are one in heart 1 pray that we may remain scattered. Our great want for the present is good men; rather I should say discrimination between the good and the bad, for I have much confidence that the good exist here and there among us if they could only be brought out of their false fellowships into a knowledge of and a union with each other. God is giving us in these astonishing and troublesome events a lesson in the art of discrimination. We must receive it into our hearts."


Chapter 17: American Socialistic Experiments | Contents