OF THE SECT SELF-STYLED
A SUMMARY VIEW OF THEIR LEADING DOCTRINES.
By Rev. HUBBARD EASTMAN.
For there are certain men crept in unawares; . . . ungodly men.
turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.—Jude.
Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves
into tha apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan himself is
transformed into an angel of light.—PauL
PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR.
Humphrey Noyes Study Archive
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Salvation from sin, the end of Christian faith
John Humphrey Noyes and "Hyper-Preterism"
"Perhaps the most infamous group of pre-1970 hyperpreterists
was a group in upstate New York in the late 1800s. This group was called the
"Oneida Community" (search wikipedia.org). This group formed a commune &
practiced their hyperpreterism to the extent of no longer having individual
marriages but instead everyone having sexual relations with everyone else --
they thought this would be a "logical" conclusion if the resurrection is already
passed & people are no longer given in marriage. (Mt 22:30)"
"Theses of the Second Reformation."
Aug. 20, 1837
DOCTRINES OF THE PERFECTIONISTS.
Perfectionist Creed—Theses of the Second
Having disposed, in the main, of the historical part of
Noyesism, we now proceed, in pursuance of our plan, to notice some of its
leading doctrines. We shall in the first place give the Perfectionist Creed,
at least so far as it has been presented to the public in a tangible form.
In the Witness of Aug. 20,
1837, we find the following:—
" What we believe."
1. " We believe, that God is
the only rightful interpreter of the Bible, and teacher of theological
2. We believe, that no
doctrine can become an article of true faith, which is not recognized
by the believer as an immediate revelation to him from God,—
3. We believe, that God, "
who worketh all in all," can and does teach his own truth, through his
written word and through the testimony of his sons,—therefore,
4. We believe it is proper,
that we should state, as witnesses for God, the fundamental articles
of Out own faith.
5. We believe " there is none
good but one, that is God,"—that all the righteousness in the universe is
6. We believe, that God's
righteousness may be revealed in his creatures, as a
man's spirit is revealed in the motions of his body.
7. We believe, that "
the works of the flesh, [i. e. human nature,] are adultery,
uncleanness, envyings, strife, and such like" only.
8. We believe, that
all attempts to produce better results from human nature, by
instruction and legal discipline, only increase the evil,—inasmuch
as they refine and disguise, without removing it.
9. We believe, that
the Son of God was manifested in human nature for the purpose of
destroying, (not reforming,) the works of the flesh, and revealing
the righteousness of God.
10. We believe, that
the righteousness of God was never revealed in human nature, till
the birth of Jesus Christ.
11. We believe, that
the object of all God's dealings with the human race before the
birth of Christ, was, not to promote the righteousness of the
flesh, i. e. self-righteousness, i. e. the perfection of sin; but to
prepare the way for the manifestation of his own righteousness
through Jesus Christ,—hence,
12. We believe that
the righteousness of the saints, under the law before Christ, was
only " a shadow of good things to come, and not the very
image of the things," bearing a relation to the true righteousness
of God, like that of a type to its anti-type.
13. We believe, that
the servants of God under the law, by submission to the discipline
of the dispensation in which they lived, were prepared for, and
became heirs of the righteousness of God, afterward revealed by
14. We believe, that
" God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself,"—that
the union of human and divine in him, made the righteousness of God
accessible to all men.
15. We believe, that Christ
is properly called the second Adam, and as the human race in spirit is one
body, that he became, by his incarnation, " the light that lighteth every
16. We believe, that all who are apprized by the gospel of the fact, that
the Son of God has come, are thereby called to choose whether they will hold
the fallen or the risen Adam as their head.
17. We believe, that faith alone receives, and unbelief alone rejects, the
blessings given to men by the second Adam,—by faith men awake to a
perception of the truth as it is in Christ,—unbelief is the devil's dream.
18. We believe, that Christ, as he is in his
resurrection and glory, is given to every member of the human race.
19. We believe, that all the
faith, righteousness, liberty and glory of the risen Son of God, are given
to every man.
20. We believe, that Christ
in his incarnation was " made under the law," and that the christian
dispensation did not commence, in any sense, until he ascended up on high.
21. We believe, that none are
Christians, in any sense, till they receive Christ in his resurrection,—
22. We believe, that the disciples of Christ,
during his personal ministry in the flesh, were not Christians.
23. We believe, that Christ
in the resurrection is free from sin, from the law, from all ordinances, and
from death ; hence all who are subject to any of these, are not properly
called christians, as not having attained the hope of their calling.
24. We believe, that the
history which the Bible contains of the Church, after Christ's ascension,
comof the latter-day glory of Judaism,
than of the commencement of christianity.
25. We believe, that the
apostles and primitive believers, so far as they were subject to sin, law,
and death, were Jews and not christians.
26. We believe, that Christ
plainly and repeatedly promised to his disciples, that he would come to them
a second time and complete their salvation within the life-time of
some of his immediate followers.
27. We believe, that the
primitive church, living in the transition period, from the first to the
second coming of Christ, were more or less partakers of the resurrection,
holiness, liberty, and glory of Christ according to their faith.
28. We believe, that at the
destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the
Jewish dispensation, Christ came to believers the second time, according to
29. We believe, that at the
period of the second coming of Christ, christianity, or the kingdom of
heaven, properly began.
30. We believe, that this was
the period of the full development of the
New Covenant, (Heb. viii.)
which secures to believers perfect and eternal salvation from sin, full
freedom from written law and human instruction.
31. We believe, that the
whole body of Christ, i. e. the church, attained the perfect resurrection of
the • spiritual body at his second coming.
32. We believe, that
Antichrist, at the same period, attained the perfect resurrection of
33. We believe, that this was
the period of the redemption from the law and legal instruction—a perfect
resurrection of the spiritual body, and a standing on the plain of eternity
beyond the judgment."
Many judicious persons were
decidedly of the opih* ion that the welfare of community required the
publication of a work like the one here presented. It was thought that the
public ought to be put in possession of facts, sufficient to enable them to
form a correct judgment, in relation to the moral character of the Society
which has lately arisen under the auspices of Mr. John H. Noyes. It was also
deemed important that the pernicious principles, propagated by Mr. Noyes and
his coadjutors, should be exhibited in such a manner that their immoral
tendency and ultimate ruinous results might be clearly seen.
Moreover, several professional
gentlemen of high standing—who were familiar with the principal facts
elicited by some startling disclosures made at Putney, Vt., in the autumn of
1847—were consulted in reference to the propriety of publishing the present
circumstances not only justified, but loudly called for suet a publication.
Furthermore, a prospectus was
issued, briefly stating the design of the work, and about three
hundred copies were readily subscribed for in the town where the
Society und«r the immediate supervision of Mr. Noyes was located,
and which, for several years, was the headquarters of the sect,
self-styled Perfectionists. Many subscribers were also obtained in
adjacent towns, and in other places at considerable distance—thus
affording unmistakable indications of public sentiment relative to
the propriety ef the present undertaking.
The writer, for a few years
past, having been a resident of the village where the Community
under the immediate control of Mr. Noyes had its location, and also
having had access to the published documents of the Perfectionists,
has thus been favored with many facilities for acquiring a
knowledge, not only of the doctrines of the sect, but of the
character and policy of the Society in Putney—their head-quarters,
until recently. The work, however, owing mainly to the mass of
material and the peculiar character of the subject, has been one of
much labor and many difficulties. To prepare, select, and arrange
such matter as would be suitable for the public eye, adapted to the
design of the work, and proftask. How far
the object in view has been successfully accomplished, is left for
the reader to decide.
The following pages contain matters, not merely of local or
sectional interest, but bring to view some important facts and
principles in which all classes of community have a common interest.
Disclosures have been made, clearly exhibiting the practical
tendency of the pernicious principles held and promulgated by the
Perfectionists. An account of recent developments— so far as deemed
advisable—has been given ; and one of the most iniquitous systems
ever devised and propagated under the name and garb of Christianity,
is brought to view—exhibiting a deeply laid scheme of personal
aggrandizement—a scheme designed to sever the ties of
consanguinity—sunder the social relations— subvert the present order
of society—sap the foundations of civil government—and erect upon
the ruins of republican institutions and the relics of morality, a
petty Monarchy, with a head as dogmatical and merciless as lie Papal
Throne,, and the whole throughout as corrupt and shameless as the "
Mother Of Harlots And
Abominations "—thus exalting an ambitious individual who
aspires to be sole dictator of all under his direction and control;
and who has assumed that he and his adherents, in their present "
advanced position" are
Matters connected with recent
disclosures, have, to some extent, been legally investigated, and
the results of that investigation are given—also all events worthy
of note connected with the history of the sect, so far as known,
have been recorded.
Owing doubtless to the nature
of the facts which have gone out from the head-quarters of the
sect—accompanied it is presumed by some exaggerated statements and
false rumors—some persons entertain slight fears as to the moral
influence of an exposure. But it is probable that this impression
prevails only to a limited extent; and arose doubtless from a
misapprehension of the design and character of the work. Facts
sufficient to exhibit the most prominent features of the sect, must
necessarily be given; but this has been done in language -the least
objectionable. Although it was necessary to speak of vice with some
degree of freedom, under the peculiar aspect which, in the present
instance, it has assumed; yet it has been the design throughout to
do it in the most proper manner ; and at the same time the most
correct moral sentiments have been strictly mculcated and strongly
enforced. An extended detail of disgusting scenes has not been given
; neither a repetition of » • ^i • -.* «sed by
Mr. Noyes. This was vh* . > ..
improper. One purpose of this
present work has been to place upon record such matters as the times
imperiously demand. Were this not done at the present juncture many
facts might be forgotten, and at some future period this hideous
monster of iniquity—which still exists—might rise up, with renewed
vigor, when the facts necessary to counteract its deadly influence
could not be rescued from oblivion. It does not enter into the
design of the present work to discuss the subject of perfection
as presented in (he Bible. Every person conversant with the
Scriptures is familiar with the fact that the terms perfect
and perfection are employed to designate a state or standard
of moral attainments, especially under the Gospel Dispensation,,
which men are exhorted to strive to attain. As to the height or
definite point to which we may arrive in the present life, there is
some difference of opinion among evangelical denominations. In
regard to this question sincere Christians may honestly entertain
different views without being derogatory to their Christian
character. Touching this matter it does not come within the province
of this work to give even an opinion ; but to exhibit the
kind of perfection taught by Mr. Noyes and his followers. Bible
perfection and Noyesism are as diverse as light and darkness. The
one ia the highest state of moral purity at which man is capable of
arriving: the other is the worst of spiritual
with which man's moral nature was ever
infected. Bible perfection is moral purity,—the perfection of Noyes
and his followers is perfection in sin !
The issue of the work has been delayed
beyond the time originally intended. This was rendered necessary in
consequence of the impracticability of obtaining at an earlier date some
important facts and documents deemed very essential. The delay, however,
will doubtless add to the permanent value of the work. The subject has lost
none of its importance ; meanwhile, matters of considerable interest have
been in a course of gradual development, and it is believed that the
additional information obtained will amply compensate for the necessary
Having been prepared to meet the
present exigencies, this unpretending volume is now commended to the favor,
and submitted to the candid consideration of the public, with an earnest
desire that it may be instrumental of good. Should it contribute something
toward effectually correcting the existing evil—-which it is designed to
expose—and thereby subserve, to some extent, the cause of truth and correct
morals, the end of its publication will be answered.
Putney, May, 1849.
Introduction, ....... 13
Preliminary Remarks—Birth, Parentage, and Early His-
tory of John H. Noyes, 25
Origin of Modern Perfectionism—Brief Sketth of its
Early History, 30
Legal Proceedings, 35
Legal Proceedings Continued, .... S9
Confessions of John H. Noyes, 46
Action of the Citizens of Putney—Proceedings of Public
Meetings, ' 51
Citizens of Putney falsely charged with having adopted
harsh measures for the extirpation of the Perfection-
ists—Gratuitous plea of Repentance set up for the
Leading Perfectionists, 68
Reproaches cast upon the Citizens of Putney—Cry of
Persecution raised by the Noyesites, . . • " -
Noyesisua at Putney,
Principles taught by Noyes, ..... 85
The Battle Axe Letter and its History, . . . n
Principles on which the doctrines of the Battle Axe
Letter are based, ...... 102
Ultimate results of the sentiments of the Battle Axe
Letter, ....... .117
Extracts of letters addressed to Mr. Noyes — Noyes's letter
to Miss Harriet A. Holton, . . . . 127
Noyesite Community at Oneida — Rule in the Putney
Community— State of things in New York, . 137
Extracts from Correspondence — Visit of Mr. Lowell to
the Oneida Community, . . . . . 14?
•Noyea searching for Stolen Goods, . . . . 154
Affidavit of Alexander Wilder — Expulsion of Mr. John
B. Lyvere and Miss Almira Edson, . . . 159
Bible Secret! vencss ........ 173
Pretended Miracles of Noyes continued—Case of Mrs.
Harriet A. Hall continued, . . . . 19$
Fretended Miracles of Noyes continued—Case of Miss
Mary A. Knight, 21»
Pretended Miracles of Noyes continued—Sundry Cases, 238
Prominent trait in the character of Noyes—His Censori-
ousness—Intolerant Spirit of Noyesism—Fake state-
ments of Noyes—Martyr-Spirit of ancient Chris-
Article from th« Advocate of Moral Reform—Remarks
of Rev. Joseph Tracy and Rev. S. B. Yarrington, 259
Remarks of O. H. Platt, Esq., 271
Patney Perfectionism, 284
Asaamed and acknowledged Supremacy of Noyes—His
female co-workers at Putney—Remarks of Mrs. S.
T. Martyn, 288
Latitudinarianisai—Effects of Licentiousness, . . 298
Doctrines of the Perfectionists—Perfectionist Creed—
Theses of the Second Reformation, . . . 309
Uoyes's Views of Deity—Image of God—View of Noyes
concerning Angels, 324
Noyesite Theory of Disease, ....
Distinguishing and Leading Doctrines of Noyesism, . 364
Origin of Evil—Human Depravity—Holiness of Adam-
Judgment— Resurrection— Sabbath—Temperance
Amusements—Fellowship, ..... 383
Concluding Observations, 397
Aeeenbix, • 407
Ik every age and among
all nations impostors and fanatics bare existed—ruinou* errors and
pernicious ieresies have prevailed—and delusions dark and deep have
exerted a wide-spread and destructive influence. But the present appears
to be an unusually prolific period, distinguished for the multiplicity
of erroneous systems and idle theories, which are starting into
existence in rapid succession on every hand; and which, after continuing
for a time, will undoubtedly share the fate of many which have gone
before—be exploded and pas away, or remodelled and merged in
other ayatenw of kindred character, between the essential elements
of wskai there is & close affinity...
dency of their distinctive
doctrines ; but of late there has been such a disgusting
exhibition of their legitimate fruits among the leading
Perfectionists at head-quarters as to shock the moral sense of
the community, demand some legal action, and call for a public
exposure of the enormities of this sect.
Perhaps, as a general rule,
the best method to overthrow error is to present its
opposite—plain, simple, unvarnished truth. Bat when new and
erroneous systems, and especially such as are peculiarly
iniquitous, are firs* being promulgated and urged upon public
attention, a presentation of such facts as may have come to
light, tending to exhibit their true character, and an
investigation of their fundamental principles, are sometimes,
if not always, demanded. The the public good
Recent disclosures of a
startling character have elicited some astounding facts, which,
together with sentiments heretofore published by the
Perfectionists, place this sect, but more especially the leaders
and most prominent members, before the public in a very
unfavorable—yea, in a most contemptible—light; and they now
occupy a no very enviable position. The veil, which had been
spread, and had long hung, over this hydra-headed monster of
iniquity, has at length been removed, and the principal actors
in the scene behind the curtain are now exposed to public view.
And N. was arrested in the fall of 1847,
for some very high crimes—that he was placed under heavy
bonds—that he absconded soon after his arrest—that the Grand
Jury for Windham County found a Bill against him— and that he
did not appear at Court when his case came on for trial, and his
bonds were forfeited. Now, these circumstances are sufficient to
fasten the conviction upon every mind that Mr. N-. is guilty of
the charges alleged against him; but in addition to this, there
is abundant proof in relation to this matter, and not a shadow
of doubt remains as to his guilt.
Prior to his arrest, Mr. N.
and his coadjutors had put in motion a somewhat complicated
machinery, which required some ingenuity to invent, and
considerable time and labor to construct and bring to
completion. This engine, the product of so much labor and skill,
was designed to operate against all existing organizations, both
of Church and State.
Many of the views advanced
by Mr. Noyes are so peculiar to himself, and the doctrines
taught so diverse from evangelical truth, and the system in all
its fundamental principles and practical tendencies so evidently
anti-Christian, that we think it should hereafter be known by
the more appropriate name of Noyesism, in preference to
Perfectionism. But for the sake of convenience these
terms are used as synonymous in the present work.
Noyesism is evidently near akin to, if not the worst
there is not a shadow of doubt—this its advocates acknowledge
and assert. It aims a deadly blow at the foundations of the
civil and social fabric, and is as detrimental to the moral
interests of a community where its influence is felt, as the
pestiferous Sirocco is to the health of the person who
inhales its baneful breath— and it is as fatal to the moral
principles of those who are brought fully under its
power, as the deadly Simoom is to the hapless wanderer
who may chance to fall in its way.
Such being the character
and tendency of Noyesism, arguments for its refutation may seem
almost superfluous. Indeed, so numerous are the discrepancies in
the writings of Mr. N. and his co-lab»rers, and such palpable
absurdities appear in almost every part of the system, that it
carries to every considerate mind its own refutation. The
contagion contains, to some extent, its own antidote.
That the character of the
sect, and the tendency of the entire system of doctrines which
they advocate and to which they pertinaciously adhere, are what
they are here represented to be, is abundantly sustained by a
multitude of well authenticated facts ; and when divested of the
false glosses which its principal advocates have thrown around
it, the' whole system is so utterly revolting that it can gain
no credit in an intelligent and virtuous community;—it needs
only to be known, to be discarded.
Hence it has evidently been
the settled policy of the «xtent, its
true character and direct tendency concealed from public view;
and although much was inferable from the language used at
different times, yet such confused explanations of terms and
phrases were often given, and so many artful disguises thrown
around it, that the mind of the reader would be darkened, and
the whole subject mystified, except to those wko had been
initiated into the secrets of the system. Moreover, when facts
discreditable to the characters of the leaders were in danger of
being disclosed, every possible efibrt was made for their
It is deeply to be regretted that this enormous system of error
and iniquity ever had an existence, and rendered an exposure
necessary; but it must be a matter of heartfelt rejoicing to
every lover of truth and good morals, that facts have been so
far divulged as to undeceive the public in relation to the
character of the sect, and the tendency of their distinctive
doctrines. And even now, rather than exhibit the guilt of those
concerned, it would be more agreeable—were it compatible with
the public good, and in peeping with correct principles—to throw
the mantle of charity, or the pall of oblivion, over the whole
matter, and let it forever rest in undisturbed repose. But this
can never be consistently done;—then if it cannot be buried in
•oblivion, nor covered with the broad mantle of Christian
charity, it should be held up to public view with all its "
imperfections upon its head," and its most glaring features
exposed to the gaze of an outraged and justly indignant
The subject, we are aware,
is naturally uninviting and even quite repulsive; but, however
irksome or unpleasant the task imposed, exposure is necessary
in. order to afford timely warning to the unwary, and guard
against further encroachments of one of the most fatal delusions
which ever had an existence—not unapt^r termed a mushroom growth
of all modem fanaticisms. How exceedingly strange that men wilf
plunge into those follies which make them the derisiou of their
race ! But " the more egregious a foolery, tit*more greedily
do men weallmo it down, and the mart anxious are they to be
gulled until still more monstrous absurdities."
Had the principal advocates
of this system renounced their errors, and abandoned their
vicious course of conduct, the necessity of exposure would have
been greatly diminished, if not entirely obviated. Brit thi• is
not the case. They have renounced none of thenprinciples—they
have abandoned none of their practi ces; but on the contrary are
laboring, and evidently intend to labor with renewed zeal and
redoublerl energy for the dissemination of their heretical and
dangerous doctrines ; and they will contmue to exist ancf exert
a fatal influence wherever their touch is felt, unless some
counteracting influences are brought to bear against them.*
Information of what lias trans utney, Mr. Noyes located at a
place called New York, and is now building up a Community • ' '
.me principles of the one formerly under his superris
pired at Putney should be
communicated to all parts where the contagion has spread. But says
one—" Let it alone and it will die of itself—let it take its natural
course and it will work its own cure." This is just the doctrine the
leaders would like to have preached— such a course would essentially
subserve the interests of their own cause. The history of the past
clearly exhibits the incorrectness of such sentiments. If applicable
in one case they would be in all,* and if universally applied it
would be a death blow to every moral enterprise of the age. Moral
evil finding in the unregenerate heart a congenial soil, if not
timely eradicated, shoots up with the rapidity and luxuriance of a
Aside from occasional
references to this sect by a few public journals, it has passed
almost entirely unnoticed. The movement has generally been regarded
aa a mere chimera of a distempered brain, and looked upon as an
insignificant and harmless affair, utterly unworthy of notice. A
public attack, it was thought, would give it a notoriety and
importance to which it J.as
not entitled. Thus it was permitted
secretly to i use its p0;son
through society, until it began to
'>urne a threatening aspect, and call
loudly for exposure.
the peculiar character of the subject renders it
embarrassing. To give publicity in a proper _er
to a sufficient number of facts, and exhibit the
ar doctrines of the sect in
such a manner as to e ^e
public a correct idea of its character, and the
tendency of the whole system, and at the same time
not outrage the moral sense and
offend the correct taste
of an intelligent and virtuous
community, is a difficult
work. Moreover, objections are
sometimes made to
disclosures or efforts for the suppression of the sin
of licentiousness. It is true,
there are extremes to be
avoided on either hand. Indiscriminate disclosures
injudicious efforts on the one hand, and profound silence and a
heartless apathy on the other, are equally to be deprecated. The
proper position is a medium point equi-distant from these two
Noyesism, in all its essential
elements, tends to immorality, and has resulted in systematized
licentiousness ! This is the sum and end of the system ! But
what renders it doubly dangerous is the fact that it originated
with, and is sustained by, a few persons of considerable talent; but
delusions are not confined to the ignorant, and vice in its most
revolting forms often appears among persons of acknowledged talent.
The odious sin of licentiousness, in whatever form it makes it
sappearance, is debasing in its character,' and ever ruinous in its
results. That it exists throughout the
i land, and prevails to an
alarming extent in our principal cities, we are compelled to believe
; and this state of things calls for combined and energetic efforts
for its suppression. In view of its bearing upon this subject, we
think it proper here to notice briefly some recent action in one of
our principal cities. A large number
city, in consequence of the
increase of licentiousness, held, in the winter of 1848, a series of
meetings for consultation, and for the purpose of directing
attention to this subject. The various Protestant denominations of
the city were represented, and more than seventy clergymen were
present at different periods in the course of the proceedings. At
one of the meetings a resolution was adopted, appointing a committee
to prepare an Address to the citizens of Boston, which was to be
confined " to the consideration of the opinion entertained by
many persons, that licentiousness is a subject of such a nature as
not to admit of any direct notice ; an opinion tohich, so far as it
prevails, must prevent any action that would be effectual in
restraining the increase of this sin."
The committee appointed
reported an Address to an adjourned meeting, which, after being
amended, was adopted, and, by a special committee appointed for that
purpose, presented to the citizens of Boston through the public
prints. That Address contains some sentiments so truthful and
well-timed, touching matters under consideration, that we shall make
no apology for quoting a few paragraphs. In reference to
licentiousness, the Address speaks thus:—
is the impression of many thoughtful and excellent persons, that
this is a vice so peculiar in its chareffort
for its suppression, lest the evil should be aggravated, rather than
diminished. We do not wonder ai this apprehension, or at the silence
and inaction which it produces. But we entreat our friends to review
their judgment under the light of this single consideration, that,
if nothing be done, or said, or attempted, the evil must go on
increasing, multiplying its means of destruction, and augmenting the
number of its victims.
This is not a vice that declines by being ' let alone.' It thrives
under concealment. It spreads its snares, and destroys its prey,
with the advantage which it gains from being left to pursue its
plans unreproved and unobserved.—It seems to us clear, therefore,
that disregard of its existence is unwise and wrong. To do nothing,
to attempt nothing, to say it is so difficult or so delicate a
subject that we cannot even speak of it without aggravating the
evil, is to yield to a despair, as unjustifiable on principles of
reason and experience, as it is unworthy of those who have faith in
Christ and his religion. We know that harm has come from injudicious
action and inconsiderate speech. We know that the subject is
environed with difficulties. But we also believe, that the
difficulties which lie in the way of abating any morarnuisance, and
the mistakes which have been made by others, should only quicken our
endeavors to discover and apply the proper means for
its suppression All history and
tendencies of human nature, and
the facts of universal experience, contradict the supposition, that
this vice, having its origin in an abuse of our nature which many of
the habits of modern civilization tend rather to encourage than to
check, will cease from the land through its own want of ability to
perpetuate itself. ,of social circumstances.
It is found among the poor and among the rich, the coarse and the
refined, in the
country and in the city There
is no alternative,
•as we conceive, but direct
eflbrt for the suppression of this vice, or its unchecked
continuance and probable increase. We say probable, but we might
speak of its certain increase
We are pursuaded,
that the reluctance which so
many feel, to have any connection with it even in thought, keeps
them in ignorance of much that ought to be known. And worse still,
it prevents that contemplation of the real character of the evil,
which could not but awaken an anxious •desire to be instrumental in
its removal. If a proper sense were entertained of the enormity of
the vice ; if its mournful and fatal consequences were
rightly.apprehended ; if the wise and good would allow themselves to
think about it long enough to see what it is, and what it
produces—we cannot believe they would rest in that inactivity which
now leaves the mischief to its own natural power of diffusion."
Emanating from so high a
source, the foregoing sentiments are entitled to serious
'consideration. They are so candid and weighty that they can hardly
fail to «arry conviction to every unprejudiced mind, of the
propriety and importance of judicious action in relation to this
subject. A strong reason for directing special -attention to this
matter at this time, is found in the fact that licentiousness as an
integral part of Noyesism has come up in a new form—has assumed an
aspect before unknown. Hitherto this vice has shunned the public
gaze, and been content to live and thrive in its own secret haunts.
All have been ready to admit its faeinousness, not excepting its
votaries and victims.
happily our Savior has given us a plain, simple rule by which all
difficult and doubtful cases may be readily decided. He said, in
reference to the false teachers of primitive times—"
By Their Froits Ye »shall
Know Them." This rule is not only applicable to all teachers
of like character in every age, but it contains a principle by which
all false systems of religion may be tested. The nature of doctrines
may be known by their legitimate fruits. Practical consequences ever
stand as a fair commentary upon principles— the character of which
may be as definitely determined by their results, as the nature of
the tree is known by its fruit. The ruinous results of erroneous
doctrines should be faithfully exhibited, that their true nature may
be known, and their certain tendency clearly seen —that thus a
sufficient number of beacon-lights may be set up along the dangerous
coast of error to afford a timely warning to the inexperienced
voyager upon the ocean of life, lest his bark be suddenly wrecked
upon the hidden rocks below.
Without a knowledge of facts, the innocent and unsuspecting would
often be unapprized of the dangers to which they stand exposed—and,
lured by a syren song, they might be unconsciously drawn aside from
the path of rectitude, and fall victims to a fatal delusion. For the
purpose of exhibiting the nature, tendency and Dractical results of
Novesism. we proceed to give a
Noyes claims to have
been the founder of this sect—which claim it is presumed no one will
feel disposed to contest, for such honors are not to be coveted.
gratify, to some extent, a natural curiosity, existing in the public
mind, in regard to persons who have published new doctrines and
founded new sects, we shall briefly refer to the parentage and early
history of the founder of modern Perfectionism.
John H. Noyes was born at West
Brattleboro, Vt., Sept. 3, 1811, and was the eldest son of John and
Hon. John Noyes, the father of
John II., was a man of respectable talents, had a liberal education,
and in early life proposed to enter the Christian ministry, but
subsequently abandoned the idea, and devoted himself to mercantile
pursuits, in which for many years he was extensively engaged. Being
successful in business, he accumulated considerable property; and
subsequently acquired some political distinction—being a
Representative in Congress in 1816, from the Southern Congressional
District of Vermont. He became a resident of Putney about the year
1823, where he afterward lived, —and died in 1841. At his decease
the lawful heirs to his estate—consisting of three sons and three
daughters—inherited each a handsome patrimony.
Thus it appears that the
founder of the sect of Perfectionists had a respectable, and even
somewhat honorable parentage. But in a country like this, where
resources if he would rise to
eminence, or be extec sively useful, the question of pedigree can
never be one of very great importance in a moral point of light.
Ancestral titles and artificial distinctions can never screen the
guilty, and make vice honorable—neither will a want of them detract
from true merit, and render virtue valueless.
are not apprized of any thing remarkable in the early history of Mr.
Noyes ; we shall, therefore, pass over the scene of his boyhood as
affording little worthy of note, simply adding an item of
information, which he has given of himself:—" Much of my youth was
spent in reading history, romance and poetry, of a martial
character, such as the Life of Napoleon, The Crusa ders, Marmion,
Mr. N. graduated at Dartmouth
College in 1830, being then nineteen years of age. Soon after
leaving college, he commenced the study of the law. After having
studied law about one year, or, in August, 1831, his attention—as he
says, in giving an account of himself—was directed to religious
subjects, and he soon after made a profession of religion, at a
protracted meeting held in Putney, Vt., and became a member of the
Congregational church in that town. Soon after uniting with the
church in Putney, Mr. N. determined on entering the ministry, and
commenced his studies preparatory to engaging in that work. In about
four weeks from the time of his professed conversion, he entered the
Theological Seminary at Andover, Mass., where he remained one year,
and then went to New
Haven, Ct., and entered the
Theological Seminary connected with Yale College, in the fill of
1832. In August, 1833, he was licensed to preach, by the New Haven
Association. After receiving license, he labored for six weeks as
pastor of a small church in North Salem, N. Y. In February, 1834, he
came out a Perfectionist, so called.
Soon after this took place, the
Association from which Mr. N. received license to preach, withdrew
that license ; and subsequently, he was excommunicated from tiie
Congregational church in Putney—of which he had been a member—for
heresy and breach of covenant, on the ground of the following "
specifications of charges," which, together witii several others of
a more local character, were fully sustained:—
That he has taught that the ordinances, Baptism and the Lord's
Supper, are done away.
He has spoken of social and public prayer in terms of condemnation,
as being hypocritical.
He has inculcated the sentiment that the Sabbath is abolished, and
that the whole moral law, as summarily contained in the ten
commandments, is abrogated."
Distinguishing and Leading
Doctrines of Noyesism.
June 1839, Rev. Charles T. Torrey of Salem, Mass., addressed a.
letter to Mr. Noyes in which he made several inquiries relative to
Perfectionism. Mr. N., in his reply to that letter, says :—
order that I may give a definite answer to your inquiries relative
to matters of fact, I must first define Perfectionism. You
are aware that a considerable sect has recently appeared among
Calvinists, with President Wuhan at its head, who believe that
perfect holiness is attainable in this life, and yet are not called
Perfectionists. You are also aware, as your letter intimates, that
similar classes of believers exist among the Methodists, and
Friends, who likewise decline the name of Perfectionists. So that it
is evident that Perfectionism, in the prevailing sense of the word,
is not distinguished from other religious systems merely by
the doctrine of perfect holiness. What then are the adjuncts
of this doctrine peculiar to Perfectionists, which actually
distinguish them from all other sects ? I answer—
Their belief that perfect holiness, when attained, is forever
secure. This point is not insisted upon by any of the classes
before mentioned. . . .
Their belief that perfect holiness is not a mere privilege, but
an attainment absolutely necessary to
lem. . . . Perfectionists insist upon this doctrine, as the
foundation of the two preceding.
Other distinctive tenets of Perfectionists might be named, and
perhaps would be regarded by many as more important than those to
which I have adverted ; for example, their ' Antinomianism,' their
belief of a present resurrection, their peculiar views of the
fashion of this world in respect to marriage, &c., but I regard all
these as secondary consequences of the doctrines I have mentioned,
not essential in a radical definition of Perfectionism. . . . Then,
you will understand that by Perfectionists, I mean that class
of religionists who hold the three points of faith above noticed."
We shall merely glance at the
doctrines above mentioned—as the limits of this work will admit of
nothing more—and then proceed to briefly notice a variety of other
points embraced in Noyesism.
The position assumed by Mr.
Noyes in relation to the second coming of Christ, viz., that it took
place at the destruction of Jerusalem, appears to be regarded by him
as as an all-important point—a leading and very essential doctrine.
That there was a coming of Christ in the events connected
with the destruction of Jerusalem, might be readily granted without
strengthening the position of Mr. N. or proving prejudicial to the
opposite view of the subject; but that the Second Coming of
Christ took place at that time, we deny point blank. At the
ascension of Christ the angels said to those who witnessed that
This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall eo
come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."—Acts 1:
Mr. N. can point us to the book, chapter, and verse, where it is
said in unequivocal language that this prediction has been literally
fulfilled, he must not complain if we refuse our assent to his
doctrine of the second coming. Mr. N. assumes without a particle of
proof, that Christ's coming at the destruction of Jerusalem took
place in the spiritual world! But was not the ascension of
Christ a visible event ? and did not the disciples behold him with
the natural eye when he ascended ? Then if he is to "so come in
like manner" as he was seen to ascend, will it not be a visible
transaction ? Most certainly. Mr. N. asserts that Christ came in the
spiritual world ; but how does he know this ? He has not learned it
from the Scriptures, for they, teach no such doctrine. Where, then,
did he find it ? Why, forsooth, he assumes that he is inspired, and
was taught it by the Spirit! And lo, his followers believe it! In
all ages individuals have been found afflicted with a similar
disease. A few years ago, when the Millerites were moving heaven and
earth and compassing sea and land to make proselytes to their faith,
some of the wisest—in their own eyes—among them, roundly
asserted that the Spirit had revealed to them the precise time when
Christ would make his appearing. With all such, reasoning was out of
the question— entirely at an end. You might as well undertake to
reason with a mad m;«i, as with such persons. But
i:—3 proved all their predictions
false, and their revela•Yent by the board. They might have been 1 by
a, but certainly they were not by the Spirit,
in this matter. And so it is
with Mr. Noyes. He and his followers assume that they are inspired
and are receiving special revelations. They also profess that they
are living under a new dispensation, as far in advance of the Gospel
as that was of the Jewish dispensation. The followers of Noyes
believe that he wrote the Berean by inspiration, and in their
estimation it is as much more valuable than the New Testament,
as that is than the Old! The word of John H. Noyes with
his disciples is better authority than the sayings of Christ and his
Apostles recorded in the New Testament. They receive the doctrine
that Christ came in the spiritual world from his mouth as undoubted
truth, without a particle of scriptural proof to sustain it, and
even in opposition to the plain language of Scripture ! The
doctrine that Christ came in the spiritual world appears to be the
mere creature of Mr. N.'s perverted imagination in its erratic
wanderings. That his mind is subject to excursive ramblings is very
evident from his own language.
the Spiritual Magazine of March 15,1846, speaking in reference to
his future course, Mr. N. says:—
Without pledging ourselves to any precise course, (for we cannot
foresee very definitely the travels of our own minds) . . . we
expect to extend our excursions freely hereafter beyond the province
of Perfectionism into other and all regions of spiritual science."
Beyond the province of Perfectionism " ! Where ia the man going!
No wonder that he is already lost in the mazes of error ! And we
might as well undertake to follow the
thunder-bolts of heaven in their travels through the trackless
ether, as the fitful excursions of such a mind in its undefined and
indefinable course !
But to return:—Nearly allied to
Noyes's doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ, stands the idea
that " perfect holiness is not a mere privilege, but an
attainment absolutely necessary to salvation." If by this is
meant that moral purity is a pre-requisite or passport to a full
possession of the heavenly inheritance, we do not object; but if
it means that no person in a state of justification, prior to
perfect purification, can have a well-grounded hope of future
happiness, we enter our solemn protest against the doctrine.
Next, as a distinguishing tenet
of Noyesism, stands the doctrine of the security of the saints.
Mr. N. asserts that "perfect holiness, when attained, is
support of this position he relics very much upon the following
passage :—" Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin ; for his
seed remaineth in him ; and he cannot sin, because he is born of
God."— 1 John 3 : 9.
Mr. N. rejoices over this
passage as though he had found great spoil. He ensconces himself
behind this— as he supposes—impenetrable shield, or invulnerable
rampart, and is ready to defy the world in arms to meet him. The
rigid interpretation which he gives,
Mr. N. adopts the principle of exegesis that the term cannot
implies an impossibility, we think he -will find that in many
cases it will prove quite too much, and will not always work
well in its application. If he will turn to the 24th chapter of
Joshua, he will find that the term cannot is there used
without implying a moral impossibility. Joshua, after
rehearsing to the heads of Israel the dealings of God with them, and
cautioning them against the sin of idolatry, exhorts them to serve
God ; and the people replied emphatically that they would serve him.
Then " Joshua said unto the people, ye cannot serve the Lord:
for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not
forgive your transgressions nor your sins."—.Josh. 24: 19. " And the
people said unto Joshua, Nay ; but we will serve the Lord."—Verse
21. " So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set
them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem."—Verse 25. " And Israel
served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and the days of the elders
that outlived Joshua."—Verse 31.
The sum of the whole is—The
people of Israel asserted that they would serve the Lord—Joshua
says, Ye cannot serve him—the people repeat, We will serve
him—Joshua makes a covenant with them—and Israel then serves him.
No person will contend that the term cannot in this case
implied a moral impossibility, for matter-of-fact
shows to the contrary. . .-..
Now if the term cannot,
did not, in the case under consideration, imply an impossibility,
it may not in other cases. That it does not when used by
St. John is quite probably, if not
morally certain; for were it otherwise, all the warnings,
admonitions, and cautions, as well as the exhortations to
steadfastness and perseverance, addressed in the Scriptures to
Christians, would be perfectly nugatory !
have' thus briefly noticed' the
points which Mr. N. has set forth as the distinguishing doctrines of
Perfectionism; and we shall now proceed to notice several others-
embraced in the same system.
Let us hear Mr. Noyes in
relation to the Primitive Church. He says:
Apostles, prophets, and believers, who were gathered into Christ
during the period preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, are
certainly still in existence. This no one doubts. They are risen
from the dead, and glorified with Christ. This no one will deny, who
believes that Christ came the second time according to his promise.
But have they any concern with this world? Are they not laid away in
some secret mansion of the universe, so distant that they have
nothing to do with us or we with them ? These are questions to which
conscience as well as curiosity demands an answer. The fact that the
primitive church has passed through death into the invisible state,
does not prove that it has no concern with this world. . . . The
first thing to be done in order that we may have fellowship with the
primitive church, is to believe that it is a real, living church,
and is at work over us and around its."—Berean, pp. 497, 499.
the Spiritual Magazine of May 15, 1847, we find the following
Magazine is the exponent and organ of a
religious body whose direct
ambition is to give the renewing power of God full scope in their
characters, and to multiply their points of sympathy and attraction
with the primitive church, until a perfect junction is formed."
the Magazine of June 15,1846, we read as follows touching this
Again, when we consider the object which is before us, of joining
ourselves to the primitive Church, we shall not think it strange
that we are tried with fiery trials. We believe that God has
gathered a glorified throng, and that the church is one ; and our
aim and calling are, to approach toward it and enter into sympathy
with it—to join it here in this world, and to invite it into this
world. And the only way for us to join that church, is, to be
strained up to the pitch of love and faith which exists in it. To
use a vulgar expression, if we are to be welded on to the primitive
church, both ends of the irons must be white hot. Cold iron'
cannot be welded. If God is ever to raise a touching point between
believers here and his church above, he must find a way to bring up
our faith and love to the white heat of heaven."
This is Perfectionist dialect,
and it contains the Noyesite Shibboleth. Comment is uncalled for.
being closely connected with the foregoing remarks relative to the
Primitive Church, we proceed to give the views of Perfectionisto in
relation to the Kingdom of Heaven. Mr. N. Sliumes that the com-.
missions given by Christ and the Apostles did not extend beyond the
destruction of Jerusalem, A. D. 70 —that all the commissions
since that time handed
it contains the Noyesite Shibboleth.
Comment is uncalled for.
claims that the commissions given by Christ and the Apostles did not extend
beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, A. D. 70 —that all the
commissions since that time handed down in the various Christian churches
are not valid— and that the kingdom of heaven exhibited in this world, and
the divine authority derived from Christ and his Apostles, must stop at the
destruction of Jerusalem"