Chapter 3


THE winter previous to his marriage Noyes spent, as we have seen, at Kingston in the home of Abram C. Smith. L "Through the greater part of the winter," he writes, "Smith and I were much occupied in arguments and semi-contentions about my claim of leadership. I plainly and repeatedly told him that 1 would never go on board any ship again unless I could have the helm, meaning that I would never connect myself with any individual or association in religion unless I was acknowledged leader. Smith at last appeared fully determined not to submit his judgment to mine, and I then prepared to leave him. Just as I was about to depart his mind was changed by the power of God, and I concluded to remain with him."


Kingston, February 4, 1838.

Whereas Abram C. Smith has at sundry times and in divers manners testified his submission to the will and judgment of God in me; and whereas he has this day given me satisfactory evidence that said submission is sincere and practical, first by publicly engaging with me and at my suggestion in an act of daring rebellion against the fashion of this world and the authority of the prevailing religion; second by submitting without resistance to my reproof; therefore, be it known to all who shall read this writing, that I hereby promise by the permission of God to hold my salvation and Christian character in common with him, acknowledging him as my brother in the Lord before all men, and standing in a readiness


to share his fate henceforth in all conflicts with the powers of death and damnation.



Putney, February 25, 1838

Dear Miss Holton:
I do not feel very free to communicate, for I see that we do not think just alike of the late movements in this "new dispensation."

1 have expressed my views to Mr. Smith, [1] and have written the same to John. We had a letter from John on Wednesday, the contents of which were not in the least calculated to alter my opinions, but rather to confirm me in the idea that some of these movements belong to a later development of the gospel state.

What Mr. Smith said of colonizing, church organization, money matters, reprobation, separation and, as I understood him, of the Bible not being at present a standard of action, I cannot now receive. I could not but apply the same thing to himself which he had said of many Perfectionists, that they see things ahead and feel and act as if they were already in possession.

My testimony to Mr. Smith just before he left was such that he declared: "Were it not for the last word John said to me when I came away, 'Do not cast off my mother,' I should feel obliged to do it." I need not tell you it was a trial to me and the girls, who were wholly with Mr. Smith, thus to part; hut I will not conceal anything from you nor any one else who has a right to know, though I lose the confidence of the whole fraternity.

With affection,

1 Smith had been sent by Noyes on a mission to his "flock in Vermont." - G. W. N.



Kingston, February 25, 1838

In the days of "auld lang syne," when I went astray on Checkerberry Hill or paddled in the brooks of Dummerston, you would often say "My child, why don't you remember and mind? You would save yourself a great deal of trouble. You are a little boy and must mind your mother." So I grew up till I was too old to hearken to you. Then God took me in hand and gave me the same training over again; and now he has set me to reward you for your care over me by changing places with you and dealing with you as my little daughter. So when you write me such letters as I received the other day, you must expect I shall affectionately reprove you for thinking that you know more than your father. My child, be still. You know but little, and it becomes you to be modest.

I have no disposition to reason much with you about the things of which you write, because I know that you err not for lack of brain-work but rather for superfluity of it. Perhaps Brother Smith has told you that he dissented most stoutly from my judgment as long as we reasoned together, which was for many months, and that he was cured in half an hour after he honestly inquired of the Lord. Perhaps you remember too how many times after much contention you have found me right and yourself wrong. Now I insist that you learn by experience and not continually fall into the same error. The things you "seem to see are nothing but trash, broken bank bills that will never pass with me. The true bills of God's signature begin with "I know," and in due time commend themselves to every conscience. The currency is indeed still in a disordered state, so that there is some excuse for offering and receiving bad bills. But I am making strenuous efforts to clear my busi-


ness of them, and as I have on hand a considerable amount of specie (that is, certainties) I am sure of speedy success. I hope you will help your father in these efforts, like a dutiful daughter, and not go about to hinder and vex him. I am placed not by myself but by our Maker in a highly responsible and perplexing situation. My family is large and much in need of good examples and good discipline. I am weak in everything but faith and hope. Now I pray you call to mind the days of your motherhood, and let your own trials teach you compassion for mine.

As to what you say about "the time" I will only say that I differ from you for reasons which I cannot now stop to open to you. Children often hear such observations as this from their parents. As to the matter of women's preaching you will find in I Tim. 2: 12-14 that Paul regarded Eve's leading the way in sin as the very reason against instead of for her teaching. However I have no objection, as I believe Paul had none, to your preaching as often as you are moved by the Holy Ghost. Only make full proof of your ministry by obedience, subjection, meekness, endurance, love and good works. Then you shall teach and rule over me, if God pleases. As to signs and wonders be sure of this, that God will do no more in that way until the people take suitable notice of what he has done already. .

Harriet may send me, if she pleases, some of her spare music books, as I am somewhat given to fiddling.


Mrs. Abram C. Smith during this winter at Kingston was active and sometimes violent in her opposition. After Smith's submission Noyes assumed control of their household. Mrs. Smith appealed to the neighbors. Finally, while Smith was absent in Vermont, the situation became so threatening that Noyes withdrew. A few days later Smith returned to his home.



Kingston, April 6, 1838.

Beloved Sister:
Last week, while I was in New York, John left here for Ithaca. When 1 returned I knew not where he was gone, until today I received a letter from him, stating that his purpose was to print another paper. .

Since my return from Putney I have been sorely tried, and the matter of trial is not fully decided with me yet. I am determined to move sure, if I move slow. I believe John is right in the perception of truth, but the time when, and the means how, I see he is not certain. The fact that he was before the time here in driving the battle compelled him to leave in a retreat before his enemy. .

I do not take back any of my confession of John. I believe him to be the father in this dispensation, as Paul was in that of his day. Although we allow him to be the head under Jesus, yet we have the promise of being taught of God, so that we believe and act from divine persuasion as well as he does.

Yours truly in Christ Jesus,


Meriden, Connecticut, April 18, 1838.

Dear Sister: .
All or nearly all abiding truth that has come to light has come through him [Noyes]. How any that have fully known and proved him can reject him without doing violence to themselves, I know not. . . . My testimony is now and has been for a number of months, that Brother Noyes bears the same relation to the church of God at the present day that Moses did to the Israelites and that Paul did to the church of Christ


in his day, namely, that God has made him a Prince and a Leader. "By knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." This passage is probably a prophetic description of the character of Christ in a special manner, but to me it is also descriptive of Brother Noyes's character, and that too without robbing the meek and lowly Jesus of his crown.



Soon after his marriage John found it necessary to come out with the declaration, that all who expected to attach themselves to him must take a subordinate place and have confidence in him as qualified by the special grace of God to take control both temporal and spiritual His wife, his sisters Harriet and Charlotte and his brother George were prepared heartily to comply with this condition, and others in the circle of believers more or less as they understood his requirements. I alone withstood. How could I, who had so long been the acknowledged head of the family, consent to give up the control with which I believed God had invested me? How could 1 see my judgment overruled in all the family arrangements,

-who should come into the family and who not, whether or not George should go to college, even in the preparations for the table? In every respect whatever looked to the applause of men was immediately to be abandoned. I was treated with decent civility, but with a cold reserve that made my home anything but pleasant.

The summer passed away and my troubles increased. The last of August I made arrangements to leave home for a while. My feelings were such that I could not think of going among my relatives, so with my husband's consent I took fifty dollars and went to Springfield, Massachusetts, and took boarding When I returned after seven weeks there was no abatement of


Opposing feelings. Mrs. Freeman, a believer from Newark, was now a member of the family much in favor, and partook of the general spirit toward me. When I remonstrated with my daughter Harriet, she expressed with much severity her determination to abide with John rather than with me. Then, if ever, 1 felt the iron enter my soul. I left home again, and went to my brother's for two weeks; then returned somewhat strengthened in heart, but home was still a furnace of fire to me.

About this time I had some correspondence with members of the church, but was not suffered to go further than to receive some friendly tokens of their regard for me.


Putney, December 1, 1838.

Dear -:
I feel called upon to give you my views of the subject of controversy, that is, whether John has any power in himself or has received any from God over other Christians. Is any such person as he claims to be, and such as many testify that they believe he is, anywhere spoken of in Scripture? If so, I wish you to show it me, and especially that John is that person.

I will mention here the different characters which have been applied to him by different persons:

His wife thinks he is a prophet, and when I asked her what evidence she had of this, she said: "What do you think of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands?" She applies this text to him: "He shall not fail nor be discouraged," and all others of that description scattered through the prophecies.

Mrs. Freeman speaks of him as another David; thinks he has the discernment of spirits; and when I ask her why she cannot oppose him, she says he seems more like God than any other person she ever saw.


Smith thinks he is the same as Paul in his dispensation, a leader, infallible in spiritual things but liable to err in judgment.

Harrison calls him a Leader and Commander to the people.

Harriet and Charlotte say that he is Christ's representative upon earth, the savior mentioned by Obadiah; that he is infallible in spirit but not in the letter.

S- C- says he is a leader sent from God, and she dare not oppose him.

M- C- says he is a righteous man.

I remember saying to Tirzah that I believed he was to us the "arms of the Lord" so often spoken of in Scripture, to which she assented.

Some will say that the Savior sustained all these characters in the Jewish dispensation, and that John is to do the same in this new dispensation.

It appears to me that this is the truth: When John came into the faith he found in himself new views of Scripture, new strength in the Lord, and with his lively imagination imbibed the idea that he was something more than ordinary in his calling. But is it not true that all who have known this faith receive the same advanced life in their religious character, the only difference being in their natural temperament and education? Is there anything more in him than in other great reformers, such as Luther, Calvin and Erasmus?

As he believed so he asserted, and we received, cherished and continued to uphold the error until it has become an unquestionable fact in the minds of many. But is not this the way in which all spiritual tyranny has established itself in the world?

It is now more than a year since I have seen that there was an error somewhere; and I have been gaining in strength so that now I must testify that John and all who are associated


with him in this thing are out of the way, and their eyes must and will be opened to see it.


Noyes's mother stood her ground in Opposition to his claim of divine authority until March 1839, when she capitulated in The Witness as follows: 'Though I have never doubted my first confession of salvation from sin, yet during the past year I have expressed to different members of the church an expectation that I might again return to them. I am now delivered from the doubt and darkness that then oppressed me, and am determined to follow what I know to be the truth, let what will be the consequence. It is true 1 have been led through fire and flood, especially the last year But the suffering and separation which I have endured were the only way in which 1 could prove to myself that I am not governed by parental partiality and self-exaltation in the testimony which I now give to John H. Noyes as being to me a teacher and father in spiritual things."

The dogma of Noyes's divine commission became a touchstone in the Putney and Oneida Communities. Those who rejected it were turned away; those who accepted it were bound together in a brotherhood of self-sacrificing quest for the Kingdom of God.


Chapter 4: Conversion of the Cragins | Contents