Chapter 8


THE germ of Noyes's theory of victory over death will be found in that seed time of his career, the three weeks he spent in New York City in May 1834. He summarized the condusion to which he then came as follows:

If I pass through the form of dying, yet in fact I shall never die. But I am not a debtor to the Devil even in regard to the form of dying. "No man taketh my life from me. I wot not whether I shall choose life or death." But this I know, that if I live till the Kingdom of God fully comes, which I believe is coming, I shall never die in fact or in form.

His first published statement on victory over death is in this paragraph from The Witness, December 20, 1838:

The glorious hope which fills the foreground of the prospect of those who wait for the finishing of the mystery of God is presented in this passage of Isaiah: "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

From this time the Perfectionists at Putney had a growing interest in the subject of overcoming disease by faith.

In May 1840 Noyes visited his friend David Harrison at Meriden. He found that Harrison had been confined to the house for two weeks. His temperature and pulse were alarming, and he


was unable to turn himself in bed. He had "fallen into the hands of the doctor, who was dosing him with opium, cohosh and emetics." Noyes persuaded him to quit his medicines, and gave him instead "large doses of faith with moderate doses of brandy and wine," meanwhile watching with him day and night. The fever left within twenty-four hours. On the fourth day Harrison took a ride in the morning, went fishing in the afternoon, and at the end of a week declared that his health was better than it had been for years.

But Noyes was always careful to put upon the patient the responsibility for adopting faith treatment. Advising John B. Lyvere in regard to the care of his wife, who was ill, he wrote in January 1841: "I would recommend to you the rule which I adopt in all cases, to call a physician or give medicine if the sick person wishes it. I think every one should be allowed to act in this matter according to the dictates of his own conscience and judgment."

While Noyes was absent on his mission to Massachusetts in September 1842 his colleague, John L. Skinner, published in The Witness an article containing this statement: "Although we admit the importance of obeying the physical laws, we believe that perfect and permanent health can be established only by gaining a pure and healthy spirit."

Noyes was at this very moment suffering from the sore throat and boil which had so nearly disabled him at Belchertown. He therefore wrote to his wife: 'I like much what is said in the last Witness on the healing art. But I advise that such testimony be given cautiously and somewhat sparingly. I do not wish to take ground on that subject faster than I can thoroughly defend it. .

Let us put on the whole armor of Bible physiology before we attempt much offensive warfare against the medical profession."

As a result of his maladies Noyes at first feared that he might be compelled to quit and return home. "But," said he in a letter to his wife, "I was enabled to bring my faith to bear. I said in my heart, 'God has sent me forth. I will not forfeit the engagements I have made if I die in the field, and I will not go home if God gives strength to go farther.' In this spirit 1 went through the work that was set before me at Uxhridge and Brimfield, and to my comfortable surprise before I reached Belchertown again I was well. . . . I write these things for the encouragement of all who prefer faith and courage to doctors and medicines."

Notwithstanding this temporary relief Noyes's sore throat returned. On December 4th he was a subject of prayer, and beginning January I, 1843, he ceased public speaking and attending meeting for over a year.


David Harrison was again taken desperately ill at the end of April 1843, consulted a doctor, and took medicine. Cragin was immediately sent to his aid. Though "sickened at the sight of the vials of nostrums" on the table at which he was writing, he did not oppose Harrison's request that medicines be "administered scientifically." Harrison died on May 2nd.

Writing to Joshua Longley a month later for information about Mrs. Longley, who was ill, Noyes said: "We rely on God and spiritual medicines, not on doctors and drugs. This subject however is so buried in the ruhbish of tradition and unbelief, that it will require time for us to get hack on the ground of the Primitive Church. Meanwhile we must walk in wisdom toward them that are without."

And he wrote to Eli Wadsworth: "The Devil tries to drive us ahead too fast in our professions. Salvation from sin is the first step of Christian faith, and salvation from disease and death is the last. Between these points lies a considerable space, over which we must fight our way patiently. Suffering and death are often employed as a means of perfecting the spirit. Faith is the principal thing, bodily health secondary. We first learn the faith of endurance, then the faith of resistance. The door of faith is as wide open to us as it was to the Primitive Church. But the healing of the body is not like that of the soul, provided for in a generic way, but is reserved as God's discretionary prerogative. Spiritual instinct is the true pilot, and in due time we shall learn to follow it with certainty. 1 feel that God is calling me to the faith of resistance, and I know that 1 have healed diseases not only in myself hut in others. All things point toward a restoration of the whole of primitive Christianity."


July 16, 1843.-This afternoon several members of the Corporation called at our house, and we had a social meeting. John said that a month or two ago he was pressed out of measure by a spirit of disease and death. Almost all the members had been sick and disheartened, and hung upon him like a weight. Then came Mr. Prindle with his testimony against the salvation of the body. Added to this was the news of Mr. Harrison's death, like a pail of cold water. Altogether it roused the spirit


of God in him, and made him determined to act no longer on the defensive. He set Mr. Skinner at work writing the articles on physiology which have been published of late in The Perfectionist, and he went into the enemies camp in the cases of Miss B. and Mrs. U.

Mr. Palmer said that his experience had been similar to John's this spring. He had felt much oppressed and very weak, insomuch that he was tempted to think he should hold out only this year. But within a few days past he had felt young again and able to work.

Mrs. Lord said that she felt at liberty to call a physician or use medicine in the same way she would receive spiritual teaching through any means God would appoint. John had learned the same lesson of late.


From various sources I hear that the difficulty in John's throat is no better, and that the prospect is rather discouraging unless God shall directly interpose. He himself says that for the past year he has been working as in the face of death, and that, should he now depart, sufficient has already been done to insure the final triumph of the gospel as he has proclaimed it. The thought of his departure seems insupportable unless God makes known that it is his will.

Desiring to establish the paper on a permanent basis and feeling that his own health might not permit him to continue much longer as editor, Noyes in August 1844 proposed that Eli Wadsworth, a young subscriber and contributor living in New York City, be invited to Putney for the purpose of qualifying himself for this position. While negotiations were in progress toward this end Wadsworth developed symptoms of tuberculosis and wrote to Noyes for advice in regard to going south. Noyes replied:


I do not like to take the responsibility of advising you to go or stay. Yet if you should think it best to go, I shall be well pleased. My impression is, that if I were in your situation I would go to some place in the south where I could maintain myself in business and settle there for life. 1 have sometimes wished that we had a settlement of believers in the south, where our small-chested, coughing brothers and sisters could find a home when they need a warmer climate. My own health for a year or two past has been such that I have often cast a longing look toward summer lands. 1 make up my mind however to stand at my post as long as I am needed there, let the consequences be what they may. But if you should make a home for yourself in Florida, I shall be strongly tempted to pay you a visit one of these years. If you should need money for this purpose, let me know as you would a brother, and I will send what is necessary.

Soon after receiving this letter Wadsworth went to St. Augustine, Florida, where he died the following April. In August of the same year occurred the death of George W. Wilder.

NOYES IN The Perfectionist FEBRUARY 22, 1845

The reign of death is an evil second only to the reign of sin. The gospel brings redemption for the body as well as for the soul. A great variety of facts in our own experience and in the experience of others with whom we are acquainted have constrained us to recognize the close relation between salvation from sin and salvation from disease and death. While we do not call the phenomena which have been presented miracles or pretend that we are insured against disease and death, yet we have evidence, which we could not thrust out of sight if we would, that God is making war on death in connection with the gospel of salvation from sin.


Chapter 9: Advance into Communism of Property 1842 - 1846 | Contents