THE cure of Harriet Hall stimulated the Putney Perfectionists to expect even greater victories over disease. In August 1847 Mr. Knight, a neighbor, made a strong appeal in behalf of his daughter Mary, a young woman apparently in the last stage of tuberculosis. The sympathy of the Perfectionists was deeply aroused and they finally consented to undertake her care.
Her conditions at home were unfavorahle to health. Surrounded by active disbelievers, she was subject to constant suggestions of sickness and death. On August 15th Miller took her to ride despite the warnings of her family and friends. She returned refreshed. With her father's consent she was removed to one of the Perfectionists' houses, where she was surrounded hy strong suggestions of health and cheer. When Noyes left with his wife to attend the Perfectionist conventions in Central New York, Mary seemed on the road to recovery. Dr. Camphell, who called on Mr. Knight the next evening, said that he "guessed the Perfectionists would fetch her." That night she slept quietly after a three hours' ride, and awoke "bright, smart and docile."
It was thought best to exclude visitors until Mary was stronger. Her father, of course, came often but her sister Laura, who stole in once and spread a charge of neglect, was asked not to come again. The next day, following a call from her mother, her sister Laura and a friend, Mary experienced a great weakening of confidence. Immediately her disease took a turn for the worse. Burn-ham, who watched with her that night, said that he had to exert all the power he possessed forty times over to keep her from sinking into death. Those who had the care of her felt that they must shut out unhelieving spirits or lose the hattle. Accordingly no visitors, not even her own family, were admitted the next day. In addition to this precaution Burnham, Miller and Mrs. Cragin went to the Upper House and fired a heavy broadside against un-
belief, which they said they felt in individual members. Also Mrs. Cragin told Mary frankly, that her family, the doctors, the ministers and the people of the village had condemned her to death, and said it was for her to choose whether she would join with the world or stand with the Perfectionists. She chose the latter course, and when visitors came (for they could not any longer he excluded) she testified that she was well. Skinner wrote to Noyes that the whole hody of helievers felt committed, that they were driven to stake their all on the promises of Christ. and that unbelief in a single individual might paralyze the whole. After that the four who had the chief care of Mary said that their faith reached helow death, and it would not shake them in the least to see her sink into Hades. They felt that the great thing God designed to accomplish was not to astound and influence the world, but to hring about a state of perfect union among believers. This point, they agreed, was being rapidly approached.
When Dr. Campbell learned the measures that were being taken, he came out with the statement that the Perfectionists were "going too fast," were "crazy," "the Kingdom of God had not come." Miller indignant sought an interview. For half an hour he talked with the Doctor more severely than he ever talked with a man in his life, though he told him sincerely that he never loved a man as he had loved him. He said that the Doctor was the Perfectionists' worst enemy, because he stood on the world's side while he professed to be their friend; that God had offered him the greatest blessing in his power to give; that he had refused it, and that now God would make his own terms. The Doctor flared up twice, but Miller "struck him so quickly that he cooled down again." Three times the Doctor offered to confess publicly his belief in salvation from sin. L~ut salvation from sin was not now enough-Bible Commtinism had already been secretly inaugurated. Miller rejected the offer. The Doctor, heretofore verging slowly toward membership, now took his place permanently among the Putney irreconcilables.
Meanwhile Mary lingered along with every symptom of dissolution upon her. Mrs Cragin wrote to Noyes that God had infused into the Community a spirit of earnestness and quiet waiting. Resurrection power, she added, enabled her to do with little sleep and to perform for Mary offices which nothing else could carry her through.
On September 2nd Mrs. Cragin wrote: "I am sitting near Mary, who has breathed her last. Mr. Miller and I supported her through the valley, which was anything but dark. We were unmoved, and
called upon Death to do his worst. We are still fully persuaded that we shall see the glory of Cod. Christ will take care of his honor and ours, which are one. The assistants are coming in to deck her for the grave. 1 shall leave them to perform, as it is not in my line to wait on death
And Burnham wrote to Harriet A. Noyes : "The final result was not as we anticipated. There is manifestly some mystery in the case. My own consciousness of union with Christ is too strong to admit of serious doubts . . . I should like to see Mr. Noyes, and yet my confidence and patience are almost without a limit. I know that God is with us and that we shall prevail. Community about us are a little more quiet, hut their rage is great."
Four days after Mary's death Mrs. Cragin gave birth to twins, Victor and Victoria. Mrs. Achsah Campbell acted as midwife, and no physician was employed. Victoria lived but a few days.
MRS. CRAGIN TO MRS. NOYES
Putney, September 10, 1847.
I thought before I was sick that I should have an easy time and get right up. Instead I had a hard time and now sit up very little But I am perfectly satisfied. Nobody has heard me say, I shall die, for my faith has never wavered, not even when Death was staring me in the face. Mr. Miller and Mr. Cragin have been and are the kindest of brothers to me, and all the household are anxious to do me good. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
My heart is with you both, and my thoughts sleeping and waking wander off and bring you before me hourly. How glad I shall be to see you!
MARY E. CRAGIN.
NOYES TO MILLER
Genoa, N. Y., September i6, 1847.
Dear Brother Miller:
We have just arrived, and found three letters from home informing us of many interesting events. I am disposed to
comment a little on the death of Mary Knight, as her case seems to labor most.
My view is that God authorized us to take her and preach Christ to her, and that he enabled us again and again to stay the hand of death and renew her strength, but that he did not authorize us to prophesy her final recovery. Faith for present action is one thing, and faith for prophecy is another. Christ healed the sick, btit we do not find him prophesying that they would not be sick afterward. . . I never did feel authorized to prophesy the result in Mary's case, as I have told Harriet many times since I left home. But I was willing others should prophesy, if they had faith for it, and I hoped that God had given those, who did speak assuredly of the future, more faith than he had given me. The event shows that God did not give the faith of prophecy, and we were not authorized by him to stake the credit of his kingdom on the issue of her life or death. The mistake was made under the temptations of benevolence, hope and patriotism. We need not worry about it. God has given us a lesson, and if we are good scholars the jeers of the world will not hurt us There is time enough for our work. One battle does not decide a campaign. God changes not, and our partnership with him is not broken or weakened. We shall see his glory and the confusion of his enemies.
I am glad to see the matter end in your turning from objective to subjective profit, from victory over the enemy to union among yourselves. This is a real victory. God be praised for it.
You can guess how much I love you all, and how I long to be with you.
JOHN H. NOYES.
Chapter 28: The Gage of Battle | Contents