AMONG the easiest converts to Perfectionism at Putney were Dr. Alexander Camphell and his wife Achsah (Richardson) Campbell. They had embraced the doctrine during Noyes's first preaching campaign at Putney in the spring of 1835, and had opened their home for his puhuc meetings. Dr. Camphell had died a Perfectionist in 1839, and Mrs. Campbell had remained one of Noyes's staunchest friends. Their daughters, Emma and Helen, in the spring of 1847 had reached the age of twenty-four and twenty-one years. John, a son of Dr. Campbell by a former marriage, had taken his father's place as one of the Putney physicians. Though not a professed Perfectionist he was intellectually convinced, and until alienatcd by later events was counted upon to become a member. His wife Lydia was an ardent Perfectionist, her conversion also dating hack to 1835
Helen spent the winter of 1846-7 at a ladies' seminary in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Another Putney girl, Lucinda Lamb, fifteen years of age, was there The seminary was in the midst of a religious revival. John R. Miller, who made a business trip to Boston in January, accompanied Helen to her school. After his return to Putney there was a stately minuet of correspondence between them on religion.
JOHN R. MILLER TO HELEN CAMPBELL
Putney, January 20, 1847.
I have promised your family to send you a letter by my truckman, and I know of no way that I can get my pay except by claiming the privilege of putting in one myself. I told
Charlotte you wanted her to write to you, but she said I must. So you see I have plenty of reasons for writing.
I arrived safe in Putney the next day after I left Boston. Found the folks all well. I was quite pleased to find Emma at our house. The only thing that displeases me is that she is too much afraid to stay and will not make herself at home.
The account you gave me of your hold and decided testimony in favor of the truth was most interesting. Nothing you could say would give me so much pleasure except to hear from your own lips that you had given up all for Christ, that you had found that "pearl of great price." I believe your testimony will he the means of great good. God will honor those who honor him. I do not wonder that you are disgusted with the religious exercises you are obliged to submit to, but they will show you the difference between the false religion of the day and the truth.
Since my return from Boston my heart's desire and prayer to God has been that you might "present your body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reason-able service. "Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, and all things else shall be added." I will not set before you death and future misery as an inducement, but life, everlasting life in the sunshine of God's love. What are the offers of the world? A few years' pleasure at most, and of these we are not sure. Christ offers to make you joint heir with himself to an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. He offers you an hundred fold for all you forsake in this life. These promises are for you, yes you, Helen, and they are sure, they are real, something that you can receive and enjoy now. The first thought will probably be that you will have to forsake the pleasures of the world. This was the case with me. But I found, and I know you will find, that you have just begun to enjoy real pleasure, which
the world can neither give nor take away, and which will last forever. Your path will shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
If we are the children of God, we can say with perfect safety that we know we shall never want, for our father owns all things, and we have the promise that all things shall work together for good to those who love God.
I was astonished to find you so well acquainted with the Bible and especially the subject of salvation from sin. I hope you will never give up your testimony for the truth, and I do not believe you will. I believe you will yet be a bright ornament in the church of Christ.
If you have anything to write, we should all be glad to hear from you.
Very respectfully your friend,
J. R. MILLER.
HELEN CAMPBELL TO JOHN R. MILLER
Charlestown, Massachusetts, February 2, 1847.
Your brotherly letter was gladly and, as you said, kindly received. I did not think when I broke open the wrapper to find one from you, which was all the pleasanter because unexpected.
When you left me that night at the door, I returned to my room feeling very sad. Your pleasant picture of home and Mother's nice chamber in contrast with this place made me wish myself there also. I enjoyed the liberty of speech so much that afternoon, that I found the restrictions here more tiresome than ever.
And now let me thank you for the interest manifested in your letter for my spiritual welfare. But I fear you think I have more knowledge of the Bible than I have. I only said
what I knew to be the truth, and what I should think any one would see who reads the Bible at all. I felt more than ever my ignorance, for I did not dare to advance an idea in opposition to theirs for fear that I could not defend it as it deserved.
You say, perhaps the religious exercises will he for my good. That is one consolation certainly, and I think so myself, for whether I would or not I am obliged to read and even make the Bible in part a study, which has anything but the desired effect, for it only makes me see the plainer their inconsistency.
I know I shall have your sympathy, for I am a perfect martyr. They seem determined that I shall attend prayer meeting every evening, and listen to prayers I have no faith in. I dread to leave my room, for I am sure to meet some one with a book or tract setting forth in glowing colors the future misery of the impenitent, with nothing hut the dark side, certainly more as a threat than an argument. Another will put a very urgent note into your hand requesting an answer. I have just answered one of that description. But thanks to my large organ of firmness, I have been able as yet to maintain my own opinion upon the subject. I say to them: "It will do no good for you to talk to me, for you cannot make me think as you do."
Last week I had a conversation with one of the teachers. She said she would like to know my views as to the doctrines taught in the Bible. 1 told her that I believed in the doctrine of perfect holiness, and that without it "no man shall see the Lord." "Oh," said she, "you are taking a standard you can never reach." "Well," said I, "I had rather take a high one believing it can he reached, than a low one and every day have to confess that I had come far short of that." "Then," said she, "I presume you do not like our confessions of sin in our daily devotions." I told her I thought, after confessing sins they should he forsaken; but as long as they thought
themselves "utterly unworthy of even the crumbs that fall from the table" because of their sinfulness, I could not think their prayers would do me any good. "But," said she, "if you were to die tonight, don't you think you would he much worse off than they?" I told her that I could not see why I should be, because they confess themselves sinners, and I confess myself a sinner; there we were even But I had taken no vows upon me to live "soberly and righteously and godly" in the present life, therefore 1 had broken none. If there was a difference, I should be glad to have her explain it to me. She said the difference was, one was an unconverted sinner, and the other was a converted sinner. She said perhaps there was such a thing as living without sin, but under the circumstances she did not see how we could, and did not think it would he expected. . . . I must confess I trembled when she began to talk to me, for she was so much older and wiser. I hesitated whether I should tell her plainly what I thought, but finally concluded, if she asked me, I should tell her. .
I could write much more, hut will not for fear of wearying you. My room is full of girls all talking, so that I hardly know what I have been writing.
Give much love to Mrs. Miller. I am glad, if she could not write, that she let you.
You said in your letter that you would drop the subject for the present. Whenever you see fit to resume it, it will he gladly received by
Your friend, HELEN.
JOHN R. MILLER TO MRS. POLLY NOYES
Putney, May 5, 1847.
Dear Mother: . .
John had a plain talk with Mrs. Campbell about the management of her daughters. I have had a good deal of talk with
Helen since her return from Charlestown. She professes to be seeking for the truth, but is not ready to confess Christ before the world. She knows however that she will sometime. I told her last Sunday that she must talk with John, that he was better qualified than I to give her instruction. She said she could not do that. I replied that she should either come into our meeting and confess Christ or talk with John to prove to me that she was honest and sincere, and that if she would not, I should have no more to say to her. I do not know what she will do. She is in great distress of mind, and will, I think, turn the right way. If she should, it would have a great influence on the young people in this town, and she would he a valuable member of our society.
J. R. M.
JOHN R. MILLER TO MRS. ACHSAH R. CAMPBELL
Putney, May 11, 1847.
Dear Mrs. Campbell:
My intimacy with and attachment to you and your family for a few months past have placed me in a position where I feel that I cannot he true to God without stating to you plainly the view I take of your present attitude, however painful it may be.
In all my association with Emma and Helen my only motive has been to bring them to the knowledge and confession of the truth. If you or they supposed that I bad any other motive, you have altogether undervalued my friendship. . .
When Helen was at Charlestown last winter, I rejoiced in the trials she had to pass through because I saw the hand of God in them. But I must say that I think you manifested more anxiety about her education, and a fear that she would spend her money for nothing; more interest in her having a piano and
learning to play well than in having a pure heart and learning the great truths of the gospel. You have been quite as anxious that she should appear lovely and respectable to the world as that she should make herself lovely in the sight of God.
I am convinced that you do not know your own heart. If you sought their greatest good, you would look beyond their present sufferings in separating from the world to the glory that will follow. I think you will sometime acknowledge that this is true.
I believe Helen knows what I have written to he the truth, and I call upon her to bear testimony to it, and do her duty in the fear of God.
I hope most sincerely that this will be received, as it is written, in a spirit of love.
J. R. M.
JOHN R. MILLER TO HELEN CAMPBELL
Putney, May 21, 1847.
Dear friend Helen:
The work of God is going on gloriously here All the opposition of the world and the Devil cannot stop it. Last evening Emma came and talked with Mr. Noyes till ten o'clock. He was very well satisfied with her state. At the same time we had an interesting meeting in the parlor.
About eight o'clock last evening I called on Lucinda a moment. I told her that I had been wanting to have a talk with her for a long time, but that I had concluded to get her father's consent first, if I could, so that he would have no occasion of offense. She said that she thought he would Oppose. This mornmg I sent for him to come to the store. He went upstairs with George Noycs and myself. I told him that I felt an interest in Lucinda, and would be glad to invite her to our meetings. He
said he was willing that I should do so and that she should be a Perfectionist; he was glad she was interested in the subject, and would do nothing to prevent her. After explaining to him our principles for about two hours, 1 went up to see Lucinda. She was delighted to find that her father would not oppose her, and said she would come this evening with Emma and talk with Mr. Noyes. Is not this first-rate?
I feel as though I was in a powerful revival, and that it will not stop here. Mr. Noyes says that Emma's case is different from yours, that the difficulties that were overcome in you were for both of you. I think Emma manifests a lovely spirit.
J. R. MILLER.
HARRIET H. SKINNER TO GEORGE CRAGIN
Putney, May 26, 1847.
Dear Brother:. . .
Nature has attired herself in a beautiful new dress since you were here, and the old Chateau is a bower of foliage and blossoms. But our spiritual bloom is more remarkable. Emma, Helen and Lucinda, the flowers of the village, were all at our meeting last evening, regular participants at our Lord's supper. John proposed that we should all express our heart's desire. It was delightful to hear them say how much they desired to know the will of God and do it. What new-born feelings! Afterwards we had a game of Bible cards, as John called it, every one opening the Bible, as we have done sometimes you know. The whole selection was grand, but I will give you the verses of the three novitiates: Helen's, Gal. 6 :4, "But let every man prove his own work, and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Emma's, Mark 5 :36, "As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken,
He saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe." Lucinda's, John ~8 :7, "Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth." John was much delighted. To finish we danced, and George and Mr. Woolworth saw the damsels home. . .
As a point of delicacy and fairness it was thought best to consult with Mr. Lamb before the overtures of Lucinda were received. How to succeed in obtaining his consent was the question. He was known to be opposed. The thought struck John that George woukl make a good mediator, so George went with Mr. Miller to talk with Mr. Lamb, and between them both they obtained his consent that she should put herself under John's instructions. The same evening she came over, and was "taken into the church," as John expressed it in relating in the parlor his interview. But the next day her father changed his mind and, without knowing that the covenant had been made, desired Lucinda not to join any church but to have a conversation with the Rev. Mr. Foster! This they call "taking back a move," but the beauty of it is that his first move lost him the game. Something is going every day. You must not expect this prize is carried off and nothing said. The church and the village are astir, people are taking sides, gossips are lively, men collect in the corners of the streets, suspicious conjunctions are observed. .
John says this is the breaking out of the last great cholera of the judgment, and he expects to see it run through all the land. The evidences of its infection and spreading in this town are revealed every day. You will come into new scenes when you return John exhorts George to invest himself with the whole armor of truth, for he expects a great deal of discussion public and private will have to be done. . .
Here I broke off to go down into the parlor at the usual hour for gathering, and now at two o'clock A. M., being wide
awake and likely to be so, I have jumped up to put in a curious episode. The subject of conversation in the parlor was Lucinda's case. Her father has broken bounds today, and things look threatening. Tomorrow he is going to take her up to Mr. Foster. We all concluded that there was nothing to fear from that. Lucinda's firmness and our prayers were to be relied upon. But if he should compel her to remove her boarding-place and forsake our society, what then? John has just been up here with a fancy. What if George should go tomorrow morning and ask Lucinda if she will marry him, and then ask Mr. Lamb's consent? (One of Mr. Lamb's great troubles is that John dictates our marriages, but he has signified his acceptance of George for his daughter.) This would he a perfect countercheck to the plans of the enemy, and place Lucinda independent of her parents under John's instruction. George makes no reply, but the morning will decide. So good night. .
Thursday morning, bright and beautiful. Mr. Lamb has just gone by with a horse and wagon. George has seen Lucinda and invited her to ride this afternoon; is Considering John's fancy with favor. Perhaps I shall be able to tell more before the mail goes out. The paper probably will not make much progress today. George finds it quite a responsibility, but he is courageous and never duns for articles, which makes me want to help him. Do write!
Yours, H. H. S.
NOYES TO MR. LAMB
Putney, June 4, 1847.
The relation which exists between me and your daughter is one which I did not seek. It was thrown upon me by the provi-
dence of God with her free choice and your own consent. That relation involves me in responsibilities which I must discharge to the best of my ability as a servant of God. I find it to he my duty at the present juncture to apprize you distinctly of the position which I hold and of the course 1 shall take in relation to Lucinda.
You are the father of her body. God is the father of her spirit. You have the legal right and the physical power to dispose of her body, to send her where you will. God has the absolute right and the irresistible power to direct the movements of her spirit and fix her heart on the Kingdom and followers of his Son. Christ himself has distinctly forewarned us that collisions between his claims and the claims of earthly relatives will occur in the going forth of his Kingdom. "Think not," he says, "that 1 am come to send peace on the earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be those of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." It is at least supposable that these words are being fulfilled in your family, that your daughter has accepted the call of Christ and you have rejected it, and that a collision between your claims and Christ's is approaching. You will naturally reject such a supposition; yet it may be true.
I believe that it is true and believing thus I am bound in the first place to do my best to make you aware of what you are doing. I count it an act not of enmity hut of love to say to you, Beware of the attempt to take your daughter out of God's hands. "Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the
potsherds of the earth, but woe to him who striveth with his Maker."
In the second place, believing as I do, I am bound to stand on God's side in the collision, if it must come, and the love of Christ will constrain me to do all I can lawfully to maintain his claim against yours. If I am true to him, I must say to Lucinda as I have opportunity, "Stand fast in the faith and fellowship of the gospel of salvation from sin. Call no man father on earth, for your father is in heaven. Fear not them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do, hut rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." It would be disagreeable to me as well as to her to be put to the necessity of taking a stand against you. but it would be still more disagreeable to fail in my duty to Christ and to her soul.
I think your present project of sending Lucinda away from her religious friends is as unnatural and as cruel to her soul as it would be to take a new-born infant away from its mother.
I do not believe that you will succeed in alienating her from her present faith nor from us. Nor do I believe that she will make the improvement in worldly studies which you have in view. The effect of your efforts to separate her from us will be to alienate her wholly from yourself. There is good reason to believe that she has enough of her parents' firmness (to say nothing of the grace of God) to enable her to hold out against any forcing process that you can bring to bear upon her. As a friend therefore to her and to you and to the ties between her and you, I advise you to let her remain where she is.
I do not believe that your relation with her will ever again he such as you wish till you follow her into the confession of Christ a savior from sin. If you and your wife instead of attempting to resist and harass Lucinda would follow her, I am persuaded not Only that she would he a lovely and loving
daughter to you, but that the great first breach between you and your wife would be healed, and in the bosom of a happy family you would bless the day when she embraced a religion that has power to heal divisions and bind hearts together for eternity.
JOHN H. NOYES.
Chapter 24: The Kingdom of God has Come | Contents