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That honest men should sometimes change their sentiments, is a proposition which no one can regard as strange; but that this change should be instantaneous, in a mind given to reflection, is to me very questionable. And it is for this reason that I have put little confidence in the sincerity of those, who, amid the occurrence of untoward circumstances, have pretended to receive new light, and became converts to a new profession, when the old would no longer serve the purposes of their self-advancement.
Especially in a protestant and republican land, it would seem that no one could be so entirely thoughtless as to have no opinion of a religious character, formed by some little process of thought. And that consequently some time would be necessary to overcome the established sentiment by something like a form of reasoning.
That this should be accomplished in a day, where two such antagonistical theories as endless misery and universal redemption are at issue, certainly speaks little for a man's head, whether it be from the former to the latter, or from the latter to the former. But that it should occur on a day when some obstacle has arisen in the pursuit of personal emolument, and on the day when the position can be no longer sustained in the present profession, speaks less for a man's heart and its sincerity.
We have been blessed (cursed) with some such renunciations of Orthodoxy and embracings of Universalism. But those who have been real accessions to our cause from the opposing ranks, are such as have been gradually drawn into a reception of the truth : and who have not been induced to the profession by promises of success and worldly advancement, but on the other hand have sacrificed much in making known to the world the enlargement of their faith. My mind reverts to several of this glass in our ministerial ranks, and many among our laymen. But I must say that I have never known a convert of a day who added anything to the success of our cause by his name. Not unfrequently have such "renounced back again."
Renunciations have ever been considered of importance in determining disputed points in all controversies, and when they are genuine, they afford, perhaps, some argument in favor of what has last been embraced. Because, if an individual is a sincere believer of one sentiment, and has been brought by reflection to embrace another directly opposed, he has the advantage of having seen the subject from the opposite extremes, which can hardly be said of those who are partizans. But when the convert comes out and unblushingly declares, that hencver regarded his former sentiments as sound, but always thought them demoralizing, he destroys all claim to our confidence in his qualifications as a sincere inquirer, or an impartial judge between the sentiments concerned.
In the instances where there have been converts claimed from our ranks, by our opposers, all of the above named difficulties seem to arise. Firstly, they are instantaneous ; secondly, there are circumstances which induce a question as to motive. Is it not for his wordly personal interest to do this? Thirdly, they have generally declared that they never really believed the doctrine, but only held it as a pleasing device to the carnal heart, and to give them license in sin. And if such be the character of those who renounce our faith, I will pray that renunciations be more instantaneous and frequent, until our whole community be purged of such members ; and they by this course or some other, brought to a comprehension of something Real in things. What has led me to these remarks is a communication lately received concerning a Mr. Mosher. Within the year past, I understand he passed himself off as a Universalist Preacher, a Huntington, L. I. Without asking proper reference, the society there countenanced him, satisfied with his ipse dixit, (or seemingly so,) when they should have had undoubted vouchers for his character and standing. But they have learned a lesson which I hope few of our Societies will have to learn again experimentally. After running through there, and at Babylon, he made bis appearance at Southhold, and by saying that he was a preacher from Huntington, was readily admitted into the church on the Sabbath. He there made known his intention of taking a school, and with very trilling encouragement, moved his family. But in the interim, there having been a report from Huntington that he had not conducted properly while at that place, he was given no countenance as a preacher on his return. Other circumstances transpiring to defeat the success of the plan he had formed for himself, he left the Universalist meeting and attended on the ministrations of wrath, where Rev. A. Welton (of Homo, Poughkeepsie and other memories) officiates. Being taken under the especial care of this anxious proselyter, he came at once to see the error of his way, in holding to a faith which he had never believed! But all this was not to pass off without a stir and a show, and notice was given out that the converted man would preach his renunciation sermon in Mr. Welton's desk; and accordingly it was preached there, a week last Sabbath evening, to a crowded audience, and Universalism was proved false, because this man never believed it, and because his wishing it true, had sapped the foundations of virtue in himself and family! Poor man! may he be better is my only desire in regard to him; but this, methinks, he never can be, wishing endless misery to be true!
And alas for Mr. Welton! After having labored so devotedly to get owe genuine convert from our faith, that this should turn out a sham ! I fear that this conversion will not aid the respect in which religion is held in Southhold. For when hypocrisy folds itself up in its ecclesiastical garb, people often fail to distinguish between the semblance and reality—rather to suppose that it is all semblance and no reality. But on the whole I am not averse to having this matter take its course, satisfied that its range will be limited to a flourish of trumpets and affected demonstrations of triumph. For my part, I was greatly relieved when I learned that matters were no worse ; for, while he might have proved an injury to the cause, had he been countenanced by the Southold Society, as it is, good only will come of it, if they retain their integrity, and continue united, as I have the assurance that they do.
But I cannot close this article, without saying (with all proper deference, however, to our brethren there,) that I deem the course pursued by the friends in Huntington, essentially wrong; not only in the first instance, of giving encouragement to one of whom they had no certain knowledge, and who was in no way fellowshipped; but also for not having made known his character to the Universalist public, after his proceedings there; for that he did not act over his impostures at Southold, was owing not to them, but to common report, and the prudence of the Society. In a denomination which has the facilities of communication which ours possesses, no impostor should be allowed to repeat his impositions, especially not in the limits of the same Association, and of the same county. To be sure, the exposure is no desirable task, but it is a duty which no one should shrink from, however disagreeable it may prove.
With regard to Mr. Mosher, I have no personal animosity to gratify, for I have never seen him, and know nothing of him save from what I have gathered from flying reports. Neither have I been led to this course because be has renounced. For immediately on learning that be had removed to Southold, I addressed a member of that Society, fearing that they might be imposed upon, and stated to them that lie could in no wise properly be tolerated as a preacher, under existing circumstances. I wish him no ill, but all the enjoyment he can derive in the course he is pursuing, and a speedy reformation from his errors. If he is sincere in his profession now, which he acknowledges he has not been heretofore, he will reform his life j but judging from the well known character of the man who has taken it upon him to be his spiritual guide, sincerity is a commodity for which there will be little demand.
Of the renunciation, I rather rejoice to hear, than otherwise, for however our opposers may shout over it, the Southold friends should deem themselves extremely fortunate in thus being freed from one, who would be likely to do them more injury by advocating, than by opposing their sentiments. It shows moreover in what estimation our Presbyterian friends hold the Universalists; that they make this ado, over one who never believed the sentiment, and whose character was such that he could no longer be countenanced as a preacher, or even a believer. It is sometimes said that it is safer to be a Partialist, because if our faith is true it catches all at last. But if our doctrine is as depraving as is contended, we are safe enough, fur when it has so depraved us that we can no longer be tolerated among Universalists, Orthodoxy will open her arms to receive us I And if we can bring with us a certificate that we have ever belonged to a Universalist Society, or been in any way connected with them in name, even though it be of expulsion, a about of triumph will go up over us, that a heretic has renounced and left his soul-destroying delusion!
I must close these remarks by adding, that I hope this circumstance as well as others of this description, will serve to hasten the time when we shall have a more strict and uniform system of discipline, and that societies will be careful how they tamper with the reputation of our cause, by countenancing imposture.
J. K. Ingalls.
Banbury, Conn., Nov. 1, 1843.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Another Renunciation,” Universalist Union 8, no. 52 (November 11, 1843): 829-831.