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From Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 
October 22, 1888, 



311 Main Street. 


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By Andrew P. Peabody. 

Samuel Hopkins was born at Waterbury, Connecticut, in 
1721, graduated at Yale College in 1741, was settled as a 
minister at Great Harrington, then the Second Parish of 
Sheffield, Massachusetts, in 1743, became minister of the 
First Congregational Church in Newport, Ehode Island, in 
1770, and died at Newport in 1803. He was a profound 
and original thinker, and while never attractive as a 
preacher, he exercised, through the press, an extensive and 
by no means short-lived influence on New England theology. 
His system, while at certain points it seemed Calvinism in- 
tensified, was, nevertheless, a revolt against some of the 
dogmas deemed fundamental by the Genevan reformer. 
Dr. Hopkins denied the imputation of Adam's sin to his 
posterity, and of Christ's righteousness to the redeemed ; 
yet maintained that Adam's posterity inherited from him a 
sinful and ruined nature, being born sinners, and that 
Christ's righteousness is the meritorious cause by means of 
which alone a portion of the human race are saved from 
the everlasting punishment which all, even infants, deserve 
for their sinful nature, and which also is justly due as the 
penalty for any single sinful act or volition which, as an 
offence against the Infinite Being, itself becomes infinite. 
Selfishness, according to him, is the essence of all sin, and 
virtue consists in disinterested benevolence, embracing 
every being in the universe, God and all his creatures, and 
self only as an infinitesimal part of the universe. Thus so 
far is self-love from being the measure of brotherly love, 


that love for the remotest being in the universe is the normal 
measure of self-love. Man, according to the same system, 
is a free agent, that is, can do as he wills, but is morally 
incapable of aught but evil before conversion, has a depraved 
will, can do nothing toward his own conversion, sins in his 
every endeavor to improve his moral condition, and is en- 
tirely dependent on the supernatural agency of the Holy 
Spirit for his regeneration. 

The supreme purpose of God in the creation of this world 
and of man, according to Dr. Hopkins, was the manifesta- 
tion of his own glory, and that glory can be manifested 
only by doing what he will with his own. By his very 
nature he is above all law, and the laws which he enacts for 
his creatures have no claim on his observance. With him 
might creates right. From the human race, sinners by the 
depraved nature inherited from Adam, and therefore merit- 
ing eternal misery, he, in a past eternity, by his own 
arbitrary decree, elected a certain number who should be 
rescued from perdition, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and 
made partakers of heavenly happiness. They were elected, 
not because of any foresight of their faith or good works ; 
but, being elected, they are endowed by the irresistible 
grace of God with the traits of character that make them 
fit for heaven. An essential pre-requisite to regeneration 
is the hearty approval of and assent to the Divine sover- 
eignty in the arbitrary election of those that are to be saved, 
even to the extent of a willingness to be among those eter- 
nally lost, if the glory of God so require. He who is not 
willing to be damned is not in a salvable condition. 

It will be readily seen how intimately connected are the 
two points on which Mr. Sherman assails Dr. Hopkins's 
system. Self-love must of necessity be extinguished, or 
reduced to an infinitesimal fragment of itself, before the 
soul can be willing to suffer everlasting torment. 

Dr. Hopkins's earliest publication that drew the attention 
of theologians to his peculiar views was in 1759, namely, 

three sermons entitled, "Sin, through Divine Interposi- 
tion, an Advantage to the Universe, and yet no Excuse for 
Sin or Encouragement in it." Most of his many subsequent 
publications^ were in maintenance of the ground then taken, 
against antagonists of the older Calvinistic school. Amonff 
these was " An Inquiry into the Nature of true Holiness," 
published in 1773, which is the special subject of Mr. Sher- 
man's strictures. He had many disciples, and while among 
the most modest of men, without so intending, he gave his 
name to a sect. 

For more than half a century Hopkinsianism, not only in 
fact, but in name, held a prominent place in New England 
theology. Many of the most eminent divines, for a 
period extending through the first quarter of the present 
century, were styled Hopkinsians. In Connecticut this 
type of dogmatic belief found special favor and prevalence, 
and led to several cases of local dissension and controversy^ 
some of which had a more than local interest, and have left 
their record in pamphlets that had in their time an exten- 
sive circulation. In Windham County, perhaps in other 
counties, it was the occasion of a rupture in the Association 
of ministers, a minority seceding from their Hopkinsian 
brethren, and forming a separate organization. 

The leading champion of this system was Rev. Dr. Em- 
mons, of Franklin, Massachusetts, who was unsurpassed, 
perhaps unequalled, among his contemporaries, in conver- 
sance with the whole range of polemic theology, in dialectic 
skill, in keenness and subtilty as a controversalist, and in 
close logical consistency in admitting the most startling and 
repulsive inferences that could be legitimately drawn from 
his premises. Dying in 1840, at the age of ninety-five, 
he considered himself as almost the last depository of the 

iTJut not iill. He was a pioneer in the anti-slavery cause, and one of the ear- 
liest, so far as I know llie very earliest American publication in behalf of 
emancipation was " A Dialogu(!, showinj? it to be the Duty and Interest of the 
American States to emancipate all their African Slaves," published by Dr. 
Hopkins, in 17TG. 


true faith. At his special request, his funeral sermon Avas 
prepared and read for his approval, by Rev. Thomas Will- 
iams, Avho, after paying this tribute to his venerable friend, 
regarded himself as the sole surviving Hopkinsian. In his 
late old age he repeatedly visited me, always with a volume 
of Dr. Emmons's sermons in his hand, and interspersing 
his portion of our conversation with extracts from the vol- 
ume. He was the only person from whom I ever heard in 
express words the defence of the doctrine of infant damna- 
tion. But this was his favorite theme. He had braced 
himself up to regard it with entire complacency, and to 
consider it as a peculiarly resplendent manifestation of what 
he called the Divine glory, which, he said, would l)e ob- 
scured by the admission to heaven of unconverted members 
of a sinful race, though themselves guiltless of actual trans- 

Hopkinsianism is to be regarded as an important stage of 
progress from the earlier Calvinism to the new theology of 
Andover and New Haven. In denying the dogmas of im- 
puted sin and imputed righteousness, and in affirming human 
freedom as a metaphysical certainty, it undermined the 
theology on which previous generations had reposed, and in 
jts intense stress on inevitable, but abhorrent corollaries 
from other dogmas of that system which, had not been 
strongly emphasized before, it led to a revision of the entire 
system. It is therefore to be accounted as holding a fore- 
most place among the liberalizing influences, which have so 
largely modified the (so-called) orthodoxy of New Eng- 
land, and of those Western regions which have been colo- 
nized chiefly from New England. 

Roger Sherman is so closel}^ identified with the history of 
the country as to need no prolonged biographical notice. He 
was on the Committee to draft the Declaration of Independ- 
ence of which he was a signer, and afterwards served in the 
General Congress on several of the most important com- 
mittees. He was one of the framers of the Articles of the 

Confederation of 1783, and one of the most eflficient mem- 
bers of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was at 
different times Judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, 
Treasurer of Yale College, Mayor of New Haven, and Repre- 
sentative and Senator in the Congress of the United States. 
Hardly any man ever filled so many important offices, and 
none certainly, with a more noble record of ability, integ- 
rity and faithfuhiess. He was a man of whose like a 
generation sees but few. 

He was at the same time not only a devoutly religious man, 
but active in the religious movements of his time and com- 
munity, an earnest inquirer into Divine truth, and a ready 
recipient of whatever seemed to him of Divine authority. 
He held for man}' years the office of Deacon in the church 
to which he belonged in New Haven. 

While there is not the slightest probability that these 
letters to Dr. Hopkins were ever printed till now, they may 
have been more or less circulated in manuscript, as the fact 
that so eminent a layman had entered into the controversy, 
would naturally have aroused curiosity as to his treatment 
of it. In a volume of " Sermons on Important Subjects," 
by Andrew Lee, D.D., of Hanover (now Lisbon), Con- 
necticut, there is a sermon on the atrocious dogma of 
willingness to be damned as essential to salvation, in which 
he carries out precisely Mr. Sherman's line of thought, 
shows that damnation implies wickedness no less than 
misery, and more than intimates that to be willino- to incur 
such a doom is to deserve it. 

The spirit of protest seems to have been transmitted in 
Mr. Sherman's family. Rev. John Sherman, his grandson, 
was the first Connecticut minister who made profession of 
Unitarianism, wrote the first volume ever published in this 
country in defence of Unitarianism, and founded the first 
Unitarian church in the state of New York. 


New York, June 28, 1790. 

Dear Sir :- 

I have lately read your book on the nature of true holiness and ap- 
prove the sentiments, except in two points, which do not appear to me 
well founded, and which I think may have a bad tendency. One is on 
the nature of self love; the other, "that it is the duty of a person to be 
vnlling to give up his eternal interest for the Glory of God." I have 
also read a manuscript dialogue between a Calvini stand Semi-Calvinist 
on the latter subject, of which it is said you are the author. I have care- 
fully attended to these subjects, and shall submit to your consideration 
the result of my inquiries. 

I admit that self love as you have defined it, or selfishness in a depi'aved 
being that is destitute of true virtuous benevolence to others, is the 
source of moral evil. That this arises from the want of a good moral 
taste, or spiritual discernment, which occasions the person to place his 
happiness in wrong objects. But I consider self love as a natural prin- 
ciple which exists in beings perfectly holy, which by the moral law is 
made the measure of our love to our neighbor, and is therefore a prin- 
ciple distinct from general benevolence or love to others. I define self 
love to be a desire of one's own happiness, or a regard to one's own in- 
terest, which I think may be exercised in the highest possible degree 
consistent with the highest possible degree of disinterested love to 
others, by wishing perfect happiness to ourselves and others. I think 
these affections are distinct but not opposite. And in the great fountain 
of happiness there is a sufficiency to fill the capacities of all. You sup- 
pose that we ought to love ourselves and others in proportion to the im- 
portance of each in the scale of being in general. I was for sometime 
at a loss for a scale by which to ascertain the proportion of love due to 
ourselves or others ; but I could find none short of the superlative degree, 
that is, to wish to each the highest possible degree of good and happi- 
ness which they are capable of enjoying, and to rejoice in the infinite 
happiness of the Deity. 

I suppose a virtuous person feels the same kind of pleasure in the 
good and happiness of others, as in his own; not from any selfish views 
or motives, but from a disposition to be pleased with the happiness of 
being in general ; this will incline him to refrain from everything in- 
jurious to others, and to do good to all as there may be opportunity and 
occasion ; and his natural principle of self love, will dispose him to pay 
a due attention to his own interest. And as these affections are distinct 
and may consistently be exercised in the highest degree towards their 
respective objects, what necessity or room is there for degrees of com- 
parison, or the subordination of one to the other? Both arc subject to 
the law. — Beneficence or doing good to others, is not commensurate with 
benevolence towards them, for we ought to exercise the highest degi-ee 


of benevolence toward that being to whom our goodness or beneficence 
cannot extend ; and the duty of extending it to others depends upon a 
variety of circumstances, so that much wisdom is necessary to direct in 
the proper application of it. On the other point, viz. "that it is the duty 
of a person to be willing to give up his eternal interest for the glory of 
God." I do not find any such thing required of any person in the divine 
law or in the Gospel ; but it appears to me that the contrary is enjoined. 
I admit that persons are required to be willing to give up their temporal 
interest, and to lay down their lives, when the glory of God or the 
advancement of his kingdom in the world require it ; to these all general 
requirements of submission to the Avillof God may be applied. The Old 
Testament Saints and Martyrs mentioned in Heb. II. endured great suf- 
ferings in the cause of religion, but they were limited to this state of 
trial, and they were supported in them by their faith in a future state of 
happiness ; they considered that they had in heaven a better, and an en- 
during substance, but though they had respect to this recompense of 
reward, yet their love to God and religion was not founded in selfish 
principles, but they loved them for their own amiableness and intrinsic 
excellence ; and in the exercise of this disinterested love, consisted their 
happiness and reward, as well as their duty. And in Heb. 12. 2. where 
Jesus Christ is referred to as our example, it is said "That for the joy 
that was set before him he endured the cross," etc. The whole tenor of 
the gospel appears to me to be against a person being willing to be 
damned on any consideration. God commands all men everywhere to 
repent. He also commands them to liclieve on the Lord Jesus Christ, 
and has assured us that all who do repent and believe shall be saved. 
And his voice to impenitent sinners is, not, be willing to l)e damned, but 
Turn ye. turn ye, Jrora your evil ti^i/s ; for rohy vnll ye die? How do I 
know of any direction or example in the Bible for praying for Spiritual 
or eternal blessings, with a willingness to be denied on any consideration. 
But God allows his people to pray for them absolutely and has absolutely 
promised to bestow them on all those who are willing to accept them on the 
terms of the gospel, that is, in a way of free grace through the atonement. 
'■•Ask and ye shall receive. Whosoever will, let Mm come and take of the 
waters of life freely. Him that cometh unto me Itoill in no wise cast out.'' 
But there are no such absolute promises as to the bestowment of temporal 
favors. It is impossible that it should l)e for the glory of God, or con- 
sistent with the gospel dispensation to punish with endless misery any 
man who has a supreme love to God, and regard for his glory, wliich in 
this case is held out as the motive to be willing to be damned. It also 
involves in it this absurdity, that a person ought to be willing to be fixed 
in a state of eternal enmity to God, fi*om a principle of supreme love to 

The reason Avliy any of the human race are subjected to endless punish- 
ment, is, because tlaey have sinned and vohmtarily continue finally im- 
penitent, which is wholly their own fault. And God has declared tliathe 
has no pleasure in the death of the wicked ; but that the wicked turn 


from his way and live. Ezek. 33. 11. Is this consistent with his requir- 
ing them to be willing to continue in sin and perish forever; for none 
can be damned who do not persevere in sin? I admit that it is the duty 
of all to- acknowledge that the divine law which requires us to love God 
with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves, on pain of eternal 
damnation is holy, just and good ; and I suppose that the conscience of 
every sinner who shall be finally condemned by the law, will witness to 
the justice of the sentence, and that seems to ))e sufficient to answer the 
ends of government, Avithout his being willing to suffer the punishment. 
While in a state of probation sinners are required to turn and live, which 
appears to me inconsistent with their being required to be willing to be 
damned. And I believe that it is naturally impossible for any moral agent 
to be willing to be separated from all good, to all evil, and if so, it can't 
be his duty. The revealed law of God is the rule of our duty and it may 
be his will to suffer events to take place with respect to us, which it 
would be sinful in us to be willing should take place with respect to our- 
selves. For instance, it is the will of God to sufler the Saints during 
their continuance in this life to be imperfect in holiness, yet it is their 
duty to be perfect, nor ought they to be willing to be unholy in any re- 
spect or degree, for that would be a willingness to transgress the divine 
law, and would be sinful. The like might be observed respecting all 
the sins which ever have been, or shall be committed in the world, and 
God overrules all these for good, yet neither God's suffering sin to take 
place, or his overruling it for good, can excuse any person in the com- 
mission of sin, much less make it his duty to be willing to commit it. 
.This is fully illustrated in your sermons on "Sin the occasion of great 
good !" 

Mr. Calvin's comment on the words of Saint Paul, Rom. 9. 3. is 
quoted in support of the lawfulness of being willing to be damned ; but 
Calvinists do not found their faith on the authority of his opinions, that 
would be to entertain an opinion contrary to his, viz.. That the word of 
God is the only rule of faith in matters of religion. Expositors differ as 
to the meaning of those words of Saint Paul, but if they import what 
Mr. Calvin supposes, may they not be considered as an hyperbole which 
is never understood to be literally true? And the occasion on which they 
were spoken was only to express in strong terms the Apostle's great 
affection for his nation and concern for their spiritual welfare. Besides 
every wish of a good man is not a good wish. Moses in a like expres- 
sion, Exod. 32. 32. seems not fully to have met with the divine appro- 
bation, as appears by the answer, verse 33. "And the Lord said imto 
Moses whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my 
book." — Holy David was displeased because the Lord had made a breach 
upon TJzza. And the jiious prophet Jonah was angry Ijecause the Lord 
spared Nineveh. And patient Job had some impatient wishes that would 
not be justified. 

But if Mr. Glasse's exposition of Rom. 9. 3. is admitted it will remove 


the difficulty, that is, that lie himself once had wished anathema to 
Christ, etc. 

It is further said in support of this opinion, that a number of mankind 
will eventually suffer endless punishment, and that all holy beiniys will 
approve the judgment of God therein, and that it ought to be approved 
by all. But can it be inferred from hence that it was the duty of those 
unhappy persons while in a state of probation to be willing to persevere in 
sin and suffer the just consequences of it? Are they not punished be- 
cause they were willing to continue in sin? And does God punish his 
creatures for doing their duty? Or can it be inferred, that it is the duty 
of a person possessed of true holiness, to be willing to apostatize from 
his holiness, and abandon himself to wickedness and so plunge himself 
into endless misery. 

It is said that it is necessary to be willing to be damned, if it should be 
God's will and for his glory, to evince that our love to God is supreme 
and disinterested ; but would not the aflection expressed, Psalm 73. 25. 
"Whom have I in heaven but thee and there is none upon earth that I 
desire besides thee," etc., be a much better evidence of the sincerity 
and disinterestedness of our love to God, than to be willing to be for- 
ever separated from his favourable presence and fixed in a state of 
emnity to him for our own voluntary transgression and impenitence. 

These few imperfect hints will communicate to you my idea on the 
subjects, and if I am mistaken I wish to be enlightened. I had not the 
book or manuscript before me when I wrote this, so that in my refer- 
ence to them, I do not recite the words, but state the sense according to 
my best recollection. I am, &c. 



Newport, Aug. 2, 1790. 

Dear Sir : 

I am gratified, and think myself honored by your address of the 28t]i 
of June last. I am pleased with your particular attention to the subject 
upon which you write, and the ingenuity manifested in Avhat you have 
written. But your diflcring in judgment from me, and especially your 
thinking my senthnents may have a bad tendency, cannot be but dis- 
agreeable to me. However, as I apprehend my real sentiments are in 
some respects mistaken ; and that what I have advanced on those points 
can be supported by Scripture and reason ; and not doubting of your 
uprightness and candour, I urn encouraged to write you on the snl)jects 
in dispute. 


The self love wliich I have defined, in mj^ tract on the nature of true 
holiness, and discai-ded, as "wholly opposed, in every degree of it, to the 
divine law, and to that universal, disinterested benevolence, in which 
all holiness consists, — this self love you suppose to be a natural principle 
of human nature, and perfectly innocent, though exercised in the highest 
possible degree; and is really "subject to the law of God," as much as 
universal benevolence, and consequently must be a holy aflfection, I think. 
This, if I am not mistaken, is the difference between us on this point. 

In support of my sentiment, and in opposition to the contrary, I take 
leave to propose the following eonsiderations. 

I. There cannot be any need of self love, supposing it to be an inno- 
cent afl'ection ; and it can answer no good end, where universal, disin- 
terested benevolence is exercised in a proper degree. And there is, in- 
deed, no room for the former, where the latter is perfect. 

Universal benevolence extends to being in general as its object, 
and wishes the greatest possible happiness of the whole : And 
the greatest possible happiness of every individual being, capable 
of happiness, so far as is consistent with the greatest happiness of 
the whole. The benevolent person is himself the object of his uni- 
versal benevolence, as really as any other being ; and for the same reason 
that he wishes the greatest possible happiness to being in general, he 
wishes the greatest possible happiness to himself, as included in being 
in general. This is necessary ; for to suppose otherwise is a direct con- 
tradiction. Love to being in general necessarily regards and Avishes the 
greatest possible happiness to him who exercises this love. This is not, 
indeed, self love, which is a regard for one's self, as self, and as distin- 
guished from all others, and to no other being ; but it is the same dis- 
interested affection which wishes the highest happiness to every indi- 
vidual, included in being in general ; and therefore to himself, as neces- 
sarily included in the whole, and one among other's. 

What need then can there be of self love? It can do no more than wish 
and seek the greatest happiness of the person who exercises it : But 
this the reasona1)le and noble affection of universal, disinterested bene- 
volence will do in the best and luost perfect manner. Self love is ex- 
cluded as wholly needless, at best; and there appears to be no use or 
room for it in the mind exercising love to the being in general. To 
suppose two distinct and different kinds of love exercised by the same 
person, at the same time, wishing and seeking the same greatest pos- 
sible happiness to himself, is doubtless inconceivable, as it is monstrous 
and absurd. This view of the matter leads me to suspect that thej' who 
plead for self love as a useful principle, as consisting in a person's wish- 
ing his own highest possible happiness, and as distinct from universal 
benevolence, do really mean that regaixl to our particular interest which 
is necessarily included in universal benevolence; and which I mean by 
disinterested, benevolent affection ; and that the difference is only in 
words, and if we could understand each other, we should be agreed. To 
prevent mistakes of this kind, I endeavoi'ed to explain what I meant by 


self love, and opposite disinterested affection, in my inquiry concerning 
the nature of true holiness (Sec. III., IV.) But perhaps have not dis- 
tinguished with sufficient clearness, and therefore have not been under- 

I agree that this universal benevolence is exercised "in the superla- 
tive degree," wishing the greatest possible happiness to the whole, and 
to every individual, without any "degree of comparison," so far as is 
consistent with the greatest good of the vjhole. 

This leads to another consideration. 

II. Self love, as distinguished from universal benevolence, or dis- 
interested, public affection, cannot be a holy and innocent affection ; but 
must oppose the latter, because it will not subordinate a person's own 
private interest to the general good ; or give up any degree of suppos- 
able, or possible personal happiness, however inconsistent with the 
greatest general good. 

The greatest possible good of the whole may not be consistent with 
the greatest possible happiness of every individual, and certainly is not ; 
for if it were none would suffer evil ; and certainly there would be no 
individuals miserable forever. And whenever the interest and happi- 
ness of an individual is not consistent with the greatest happiness of 
the Avhole, or an infinitely greater good than the happiness of that par- 
ticular person, it is reasonable and desirable that the interest and hap- 
piness of that individual should give way, and be given up for the sake 
of greater general good. And universal, disinterested benevolence will 
do this ; for it wishes and seeks the greatest good of the whole, and of 
individuals, so far as is consistent with this, and no further, and there- 
fore subordinates the interest of individuals to the greater and more 
important general interest and happiness. But self love which desires 
and seeks nothing but the greatest possible happiness of himself, and 
has not the least regard to the happiness of the whole, or of any other 
being but his own self, will not subordinate his OAvn intei'est and happi- 
ness to any other interest whatever; or be willing to give up any degree 
of liis own personal interest and happiness, for the sake of the greater 
happiness of the public, or of any otlier being. Therefore tliis self love 
always opposes universal benevolence, and the latter is, in the nature of 
it, contrary to the former, and directly opposes and counteracts it. And 
so far as the latter takes place in the heart, the other is weakened and 
rooted out. And perfect universal benevolence is inconsistent with every 
degree of self love. What can be more evident than this? The conse- 
quence is, that self love is unreasonable and sinful in every degree of it 
and cannot be reconciled with universal l)enevolence. 

III. Self love cannot be a holy or right affection, or agree or consist with 
holy affection, because it does not desire or seek, or even discern tliat in 
which real good and happiness consists ; but the contrary. 

If this be true of self love, and can be made evident, all must grant 
that it is in its own nature an evil and vicious affection, and directly 
opposed to universal benevolence, wliich discerns and seeks the only 


true happiness of all, and that to the hiajhest degree, so far as is con- 
sistent with the greatest possible happiness of the whole. 

Yon, Sir, "Admit that self love in a depraved being, is the source of 
moral evil. That this arises from the want of a good moral taste, or 
spiritual discernment, which occasion the person to place his happiness 
in wrong objects." ^ 

Is it not unintelligible if not a contradiction, to say that "Self love, 
in a depraved being, is the source of moral evil? " Is not moral depravity 
moral evil? This, according to your position, must take place previous 
to self love becoming the source of moral evil, and in order to it. Is it 
not too late for self love, or anything else to be the source of moral evil, 
after moral evil exists in the mind, in its full strength? Besides, if the 
above were consistent, is it not perfectly unaccountable that self love, if 
it be a perfectly good and innocent affection, should be the positive, pro- 
ductive source or fountain of moral evil ; and yet continue itself, inno- 
cent and good, in all the exercises of it? 

But to drop all this, upon the above position the following questions 
may be asked. 

Question 1. Hoav can the mere want of a good moral taste, or spiritual 
discernment, occasion a person to place his happiness in wrong objects? 
It is easily seen that the want of a good moral taste will prevent a 
person placing his happiness in I'ight objects, or those objects which are 
suited to make him truly happy. But actually to place his happiness in 
wrong objects, supposes not only the want of a good moral taste, but a 
positively wrong or bad moral taste. Whence arises this positive wrong 
moral taste, which leads a person to place his happiness in wrong 
oljjects? It cannot be the production of the want of a good moral 
taste; for a mere negative can produce nothing that is positive. If there 
be nothing wrong in self love; but it is a perfectly right and good 
affection in every degree of it, and in its greatest possil)le strength ; then 
this cannot be the source or cause of a wrong moral taste. And if the 
absence or want of a right moral taste cannot be the cause of a positive 
wrong moral taste ; from what quarter or source can this come? 

Question 2. In what does a right and good moral taste consist? It 
must consist in self love, or in disinterested benevolence, for there is 
no other moral disposition or affection in the mind of a moral agent but 
these, or that is not implied in them. And I conclude it consists in the 
latter. That so far as the heart is formed to disinterested benevolence, 
so far it has a right moral taste, or spiritual discernment. And he who 
is "destitute of all disposition to virtuous benevolence to others" is 
destitnte of all right moral taste. But if self love be right and good 
in a moi'al sense, why is that destitute of all right moral taste? Or 
why does a wrong taste, which consists in moral blindness and delusion, 
and places happiness in wrong objects, take place, and lead the mind 
astray, where there is nothing but self love? 

These questions cannot ])e answered to satisfaction, I believe, or the 
subject be cleared of insuperable difficulties in any way, but 1)y adopt- 


ing the proposition above asserted, viz. : That self love does not discern, 
relish and seek that good in which trne happiness consists ; bnt the 
contrary, which is the same as to say, that it is directly opposed to all 
right moral taste or spiritual discernment ; and is itself wrong moral 
taste, in which all moral blindness consists ; and which necessarily 
excludes all true moral discernment. Therefore it knows not, nor can 
know, what true happiness is; but places it in wrong objects, in that in 
which it does not consist, and pursues it in opposition to God, and the 
general good ; and even the real good of the person who is under the 
dominion of it. 

That this is the truth may be argued from the nature of self love. 
It excludes being in general fi-om the mind. It has no eye to see it, no 
true discerning of it, or feeling toM^ards it. Therefore it excludes all 
regard to. God, the sum of all being. It has no true idea of disinter- 
ested universal benevolence ; consequently is wholly in the dark with 
regard to holiness, the only happiness and beauty of the moral world; 
and has not the least degree of taste and relish for it ; but contrary. 
It contracts the mind down to one infinitely little, diminutive object, 
which is as nothing, compared with imiversal being ; and feels as if 
this little object was all that is worthy of regard. The constant language 
of this atfection is, "I am, and none else besides me." This is to love 
and make the greatest lie possible ; and is the sum of all moral darkness 
and delusion. Surely such an affection excludes all perception of true 
enjoyment and happiness ; and all desire and taste for it ; and necessarily 
includes as essential to it, a perfectly wrong taste, and pursuit of 
happiness ; placing it wholly in wrong objects, where it is not to be 
found. And who can doi;bt that such an afl"ection is the epitome and 
source of all moral evil? 

But what the Scripture reveals on this point, is more to be relied 
upon; and that coincides Avith and confirms tlie reasoning above. Ac- 
cording to that, all right taste and spiritual discerning consists in love, 
or disinterested benevolence. "Every one that loveth, knoweth God. 
He that loveth not knoweth not God." (1 Joh. 4. 7, 8.) The love here 
intended appears from the context to be disinterested benevolence. 
Where this is not, it is said God is not known. Consequently there is 
no true taste and spiritual discerning with respect to anything in the 
moral world. "He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh 
in darkness, because that dark;ness has blinded his eyes." (Chap. 2, 11.) 
Wliat is it but self love, or selfishness which hateth a brother? This is 
here asserted to be moral darkness itself ; which darkness is not a mere 
negative thing. It is sin. It is a Avrong, perverted taste, placing happi- 
ness in Avrong, forbidden objects. It puts light for darkness, ))itter for 
sweet, and sweet for bitter. 

The following words of Christ, rightly considered, Avill be found to 
assert the same thing. "The light of the body is the eye; If therefore 
thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine 
eye be evil, thy Avhole body shall be fall of darkness." (Mat. G. 22, 23.) 


Here all moral darkness (for it is of this that Christ is here speaking:) 
is said to consist in the evil eye; which is something positive, and not 
merely the want of a single The evil eye is an exercise and 
affection of the heart, and is moral evil or sin; for "From within, out 
of the heart of men proceeds an evil eye." (Mark 7. 21, 22.) And this 
evil eye consists in self love or selfishness, as opposed to benevolence 
and goodness. (See Matt. 20. 15, Deut. 15. 9, Prov. 23. 6, 28. 22.) 

From all this put together, it appears that according to Scripture, 
self love is itself moral darkness ; gives the mind a wrong taste ; knows 
not what true happiness is ; and therefore always seeks it in a wrong 
way, and in forbidden objects; consequently is in its nature opposed to 
universal benevolence ; there being no more agreement between these 
opposite affections, than there is between light and darkness, good and 

IV. That self love is in its nature opposed to disinterested love or 
true holiness ; and therefore is moral evil itself, seems to be evident, in 
that it appears to be the sum and source of every evil affection of the 

Pride is inseparable from self love; and I believe it is impossible to 
separate one from the other, they being the same affection ; or at least 
the one involves the other, if there be any distinction ; so that if one 
exists, the other exists also, and If one ceases to be exercised, the other 
must cease also. He who regards and loves himself only, does in this 
think too highly of himself; sets himself infinitely too high in his 
affections and feelings towards himself. Self love is the source of all 
the l)itter envying and strife in the hearts of men ; of all the contention 
and unrighteousness among men ; and of all the opposition to God in 
heart and conduct. Wliere there is no self love, none of these things 
can possibly exist, nor anything that is morally wrong. This I en- 
deavored to illustrate, and establish ii^ the above mentioned inquiry, P. 
28, 29. And I do not yet see how it can be proved not to be agreeable to 
the truth. 

V. That self love is a wrong and sinful affection in the nature and in 
every degree of it, is evident, in that the holy Scripture never speaks in 
favor of it, but condemns it, and requires men to renounce it. 

When St. Paul undertakes to give the worst character of men who 
should arise, he sets self love at the head ; which no doubt includes all 
the rest : "In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be 
lovers of their own selves," etc. (2 Tim. 3. 1, 2 etc.) If self love were a 
virtuous or an innocent affection, it would not be set at the head of a 
catalogue of the most odious and hurtful vices. Therefore the injunc- 
tion is, "Let no man seek his own; but every man another's wealtli." 
(1 Cor. 10. 24.) This does not forbid tliem to seek their own happiness, 
in any view and sense but directs them not to seek it as their ovm or in a 
selfish way, under the influence of self love, which seeks a person's 
own personal happiness, and nothing else. Therefore it is said that 
charity, or Christian love, "Seeketh not her own." "Which is so far 


from including, that it excludes self love ; for that seeketh her own and 
nothing else ; and therefore cannot be included in Christian affection. 

When Christ says, "If any man will come after me let him demi him- 
self" He asserts in the strongest terms, that self love must be crossed 
and renounced, in order to be a Christian ; for it is impossible to tell 
what self denial is, if it do not consist in crossing selfishness, and 
giving up what self love seeks. That a man may deny himself in the 
exercise and gratification of self love, is an express contradiction ; for 
this is gratifying and pleasing self. 

The command, "Thou shalt love thy neigli1)or as thyself," has been 
supposed by some to approve of self love, and even to enjoin it, as a 
measure by which love to our neighbor is to be regulated. But this, I 
believe will appear to be a mistake, when carefully examined. He who 
desires and seeks the greatest possible happiness for himself, and for 
his neighl)or, consistent with the honor of God, and the greatest general 
good, which he does who exercises universal benevolence, as has been 
shown, he, and he only, loves his neighbor as himself. He therefore 
has no need of the least degree of that self love which is distinct from uni- 
versal benevolence, in order to obey this command. Perfect, universal 
disinterested benevolence is perfect obedience to it, and cannot possibly 
be otherwise. Therefore nothing but disinterested benevolence is here 
commanded, and no other kind of love is allowed or supposed ; conse- 
(piently self love is excluded hy this precept. The least degree of that 
self love which seeks a man's own personal private interest and happi- 
ness exclusively, not having the least regard to his neighbor, will 
exclude and destroy that impartiality which is reasonable, and consists 
in loving his neighbor as himself. It necessarily renders him partial in 
his own favor, and seeks his own happiness exclusive of his neighbor's ; 
consequently does necessarily oppose disinterested, impartial affection. 
This is particularly stated and considered in the above mentioned inquii-y 
(Pages 24:, 25, 26), which I have not seen confuted or answered, and I 
believe is unanswerable. 

[ have been the longer on this point (perhaps too long, and to little 
purpose) because it appears to me to have a close connection with the 
other, and if we were agreed in tliis, we should not long differ in judg- 
ment with respect to that to which I now turn my attention. 

The question in dispute is : Whether it be the duty of any person to be 
willing to give up his eternal interest for the glory of God, and the 
general good? You say, Sir, "I do not find any such thing required in 
Divine law, or the Gospel; but it appears to me that the contrary is 

I wish to have the question decided by tlie law and the testimony. I 
api)eal to these. And if the affirmative cannot be proved by the Scrip- 
tures, I ani willing to give it up. 

It is granted, "Tliat persons are reqnired to give uj) their temporal in- 
terest, and lo hiy down their lives, wlun llic glory of (iod oi- the ad- 
vancement of Ills kingdom in the world re(piirc it." If it be reasonable, 


and persons are required to give up their temporal interest, or ten 
degrees, or one degree of tlieir interest, for tlie glory of God, and tlie 
general good, and it is contrary to the nature of universal, disinterested 
benevolence not to do this ; then if it be equally necessary for the glory 
of God, etc., to give up every degree or the whole personal interest, it is 
equally reasonable to be willing to do this, and it must be required, and 
it is equally contrary to the nature of this benevolence not to do it. The 
glory of God and the greatest public good is an interest of infinitely 
more worth and importance, or an infinitely greater good, than the 
Avhole eternal interest of any individual person ; and therefore when the 
latter interferes with the former, and consequently it is necessary that 
the latter should be given up to promote the former, universal benevo- 
lence will — it 7?atsi5— consent to it ; and this is required, if it ])e required 
to give up any degree of personal interest, to promote the public good. 
This, I conceive, is as clear demonstration, as that three and two are 
more than two and two. This consequence cannot be avoided unless it be 
by denying that it ever is, or can be necessary for the glory of God, and 
the greatest good of his kingdom, that the whole eternal interest of any 
individual person should be given up and lost. But none will deny this, 
I presume, who believe, what is abundantly asserted in Scripture, that 
many of the human race will be miserable forever ; for this could not 
take place, were it not necessary for the glory of God, and the greatest 
good of the whole. 

It is said, this cannot be duty or required, since all are commanded to 
do that which is contrary to this, viz. : to repent and believe in Christ 
and be saved, to turn and live, etc. Answer: No repentance, believing 
and turning is required which is contrary to supreme love to God ; and 
consequently seeking his glory above all things, and subordinating 
every other interest to this ; but this love is implied and required in 
these commands. And if a willingness to give up a person's whole in- 
terest, if this be necessary for the glory of God, be not implied in this 
love, I will give up the point, and never plead for it again. A person 
must love himself more than God, and set his own personal interest 
above the interest and honor of God, and therefore not love God su- 
premely and with all his heart, who is not willing to give up his whole 
interest, Avhen necessary for the highest interest of God and his glory. 
And so long as he is of this disposition he will not repent, believe in 
Christ, or return to God. 

If it be said. He knows it is not necessary for the glory of God, that 
his eternal interest should be given up, but the contrary; for God com- 
mands him to repent and come to Christ for life; and he turns and 
comes, that he may live, and not die. 

Answer: His being commanded to repent, etc., is no evidence tliat he 
shall not live in impenitence, and perish, for many do so whom God 
commands to repent, to turn and live. And he knows not that he shall 
ever turn and come to Christ, until he knows he has actually turned and 
come, and therefore cannot know that he shall not be cast ofl", and that 


this is not necessary for the glory of God. Therefore in the first act in 
which he returns and comes to Christ, he comes, not Ivnowing that he 
does come, for this can be known only by reflecting on what he does, or 
has done. He comes to a Sovereign God and Saviour, not knowing that 
it is not necessary that he should perish forever, for the glory of God, 
and casts himself at the foot of Christ, who has mercy on ivhoni he will 
hare mercy, and vhom he v:ill he harcleneth ; and cordially submits to this 
Sovereign God and Saviour, and is willing to be in his hand, not know- 
ing but it may be most for his glory to cast him ofl', and not desiring to 
be saved, if this cannot be consistent with the glory of God ; and on this 
supposition gives up his whole interest. This is the disposition in 
which the sinner comes to Christ. And as most Christians are not soon, 
if ever, assured that they are such ; and none perhaps have this assurance 
at all times ; they thus submit to God, to dispose of them as he sees most 
for his glory. And as they increase in love to God, this submission is 
stronger, and more sensible ; though they may not think this is a being 
Avilling to give up their whole interest for the glory of God ; and not 
know, in this respect, what manner of spirit they are of; yet this is all 
I mean by being willing to be cast off, if most for the glory of God. 
And I think it impossible to love God, and to come to Christ for salva- 
tion, without such a disposition and a cordial submission to his will, 
who has mercy on whom he will and hardens whom he will, while he 
knows not what is his will concerning him. 

And such a Christian, if he attain to know he loves God, and has this 
submission to him, will not by this lose this disposition; but it will 
increase as his love to God increases ; and he will more and more sensi- 
bly feel, that were it not for the glory of God, and the greatest good of 
his kingdom, that he should be saved, he would have no desire, on the 
whole, to be saved, however desirable that be, in itself considered. 

I observe it is said, "There is no direction or example in the Bible for 
praying for spiritual or eternal blessings with a willingness to be denied, 
on any consideration. But God allows his people to pray for them ab- 
solutely; and has absolutely promised to bestow them on all who are 
willing to accept of them on the terms of the Gospel, that is, in a way 
of free grace through the atonement. Ask, and ye shall receive, etc." 

Answer: We are certainly directed to pray for spiritual and eternal 
l)lessings, with resignation to the will of God, be that what it may; 
wliich implies, and really is, a willingness to be denied, if what we pray 
for be contrary to the will of God to give, and not consistent with his 
glory, and the general good. We must knoio that we ask for things 
agreeable to his will. That is, we mnst knoAv that it is his will to grant 
them before we can ask for them absolutely, and without any condition. 
For if we ask absolutely for anything, when we know not that it is tlie 
will of God to give it, we set up our own will, while we know not that it 
is agreeable to the will of God ; which must be the highest arrogance, 
rebellion and stubbornness. 

It will be said. We know it is the will of God to give Spiritual and 


eternal blessings to all who ask for them, because he has promised to do 
it. "Ask, and ye shall receive." Therefore we know, when we pray for 
those blessings, it is his will to give them ; and consequently we may 
ask absolutely, not Avilling to be denied on any consideration ; because 
we know that God is not willing to deny us. 

Answer : All praying, and asking, is not asking in the sense of Scrip- 
ture. We must know that we ask in truth, agreeable to the true import 
of direction and command, before we can know that it is the will of God 
to grant those blessings. But this we cannot know until we have first 
asked, if we do then. Therefore we must first ask before we can know 
it is the will of God to grant the blessings for which we ask ; and there- 
fore may not ask absolutely. And how few are there who absolutely 
know they have ever asked for spiritual blessings, so as to be entitled to 
the promise? None but assured Christians do know this. How few are 
they ! Perhaps not one, at all times. From tliis view, I think it follows, 
that the prayer which entitles to saving blessings is never made abso- 
lutely, or without submission, not knowing whether it be the will of God 
to grant the things which are asked, or not ; and that a person cannot 
know that it is the will of God to give him spiritual blessings, till he has 
thus submissively asked, and upon reflection knows that he has done it. 
And that, in this case, an unsubmissive asking is a wicked asking, which 
surely does not entitle to the promise. And that no person who does not 
know he has asked submissively, can know that he shall be saved, or ask 
saving blessings absolutely, without asking wickedly. And if he know 
that he has first asked submissively, and has obtained spiritual blessings, 
and so can now ask absolutely, knowing it is the will of God to save 
him; he can with truth say, "Lord, thou hast been pleased to give me 
saving blessings, and I know it is thy will, and for thy glory that I 
should be saved ; but if this were not thy will, and for thy glory, but the 
contrary ; salvation would not be desirable to me, in this view of it. I 
must say "Thy will be done." If this be not the feeling of his heart, his 
supposed assurance is nothing but delusion, and he has never yet asked 
so as to receive. 

But there is a plausible, and in the view of some, an unanswerable ob- 
jection to all this, as it implies that a person may and ought, for love to 
God, to be willing to be a sinner, and an enemy to God forever, if this 
be most for the glory of God, and the greatest happiness of his kingdom. 
This is thought to be contrary to the law, and all the commands of God, 
and in itself absurd and impossible. 

If I am not much mistaken, most of the objections and arguments, if 
not all of them which I have seen oflered against this, are founded on a 
mistake, or a supposition which is not true, viz. : — That to be willing to 
be a sinner, in this case, necessarily implies an inclination to sin, which 
is actually sinning, from love to God, and desire that he may be glorified, 
this being what God requires! If I could be convinced there were any 
truth in this, I should renounce the sentiment as false and dangerous. 
But I yet think directly the contrary to Ije true ; and that a being willing 


to be a sinner, if this were necessary for the glory of God, is itself an 
exercise of love and obedience to God ; and not to be willing, ou this 
supposition, would be itself an act of sin and rebellion. If the dialogue 
which you mention be one that I have seen, I think this point is there 
proved by argument which cannot be confuted. 

God has revealed that it is his will that some of our neighbors should 
be given up to sin and ruin forever, for his glory, and the greatest good 
of his kingdom. It is granted that we ought to acquiesce in this, and 
be willing that it should take place, in as many instances, and under those 
particular instances which God sees will best answer his ends ; that such 
acquiescence is implied in love to God ; and therefore implies no incli- 
nation to sin, or to think favorable of it ; but the contrary ; and that the 
least disposition to object, and oppose this known will of God, would be 
an act of sin, and rebellion against God. And if it be as necessary that 
we ourselves should be given up to endless sin and ruin, in order to an- 
swer the same end, as that our neighbor should be thus given up, we 
must consent, and be willing, on this supposition, that this should take 
place, if we love God with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves. 
And so long as we continue of this disposition, we obey the Divine 
law, and are friends to God and holiness ; and cannot fall into sin and 
ruin until we give up this disposition and imbibe the contrary, and be- 
come unwilling to suffer anything for the glory of God. In this view of 
the matter, I think, it appears that "It does not involve any absurdity, 
that a person ought to be willing to be fixed in a state of eternal enmity 
to God, from a principle of supreme love to him," on supposition that 
this be necessary for his glory. This is so far from being an absurdity, 
that a person must cease to love God supremely, in order not to be will- 
ing, on this supposition, and actuallj'^ turn an enemy to him. 

You think, Sir, "It may be the will of God to suffer events to take 
place with respect to us, which it would be sinful in us to be willing 
should take place, with respect to ourselves." If the will of God re- 
specting such events be made known to us, it cannot be sinful in us to be 
willing they should take place ; otherwise it would be a sin for us to say, 
"Thy will be done," without making any condition or reserve; which I 
believe none will assert. On the contrary, it is our indispensable duty to 
submit to the known will of God, with respect to every event, l)e it what 
it may. And not to be willing it should take place, as He has willed it 
should, is opposition to God, and therefore an act of rebellion. 

Tlie following instance is brought to illustrate this position. " It is the 
will of God to suffer the Saints, during their continuance in this life, to 
be imperfect in holiness. Yet it is their duty to be perfect; nor ought 
they to be willing to be unholy in any respect or degree ; for that Avould 
be a willingness to transgress the divine law, and would be sinful." I 
am pleased with this instance, because I thinlc it is suited to illustrate the 
point in view. I grant it is the duty of Saints to be perfect in holiness; 
but do not think it will follow from this, that they ought not to l)e Avill- 
ing to be unholy in any respect or degree, or that such willingness would 


be sinful ; but tlie contrary. It is a bolj' will or choice, and not to be will- 
inc: to be sinful, in this case, would be a transgression of the Divine law, 
and therefore sinful. It is, iu itself considered, desirable to be perfectly 
holy in this life ; and must be a duty, as their obligation to this cannot 
be made to cease. But it being the known will of God that they shall 
not be perfectljf holy in this life ; and therefore that it is, on the whole, 
wisest and best, most for his glory, and the general good, that they 
should be imperfect in this world ; it is certainly their duty to acquiesce 
in this, and be willing it should be so, and say " Thy will be done." And 
this willingness to be imperfect and sinful, in this case, all things con- 
sidered, is so far from being sinful, that it is a holy submission to the 
will of God ; and the contrary would be opposition to the known will of 
God, to his glory and the general good, and therefore a transgression of 
the Divine law, and very sinful. It is, on the whole, all things consid- 
ered, best, and most desirable that they should not be perfectly holy in 
this life; otherwise this would not be agreeable to the will of God. 
And not to be willing that should take place, which is on the wliole best, 
most desirable, and agreeable to the will of God, is an unreasonable, 
wicked disposition, and directly opposed to God. And to be willing to 
be imperfect in this state of trial, is no part of that imperfection, nor 
has it any tendency to make them imperfect; but the contrary, as it is 
directly opposed to all sin, and is, as has been observed, a holy volition, 
a holy submission to the will of God. 

The spii'its of the just now made perfect, acquiesce in it, it is perfect- 
ly agreeable to their inclination and will, that they were imperfect in 
this life, and that all the redeemed should be so ; and this acquiescence 
in the will of God, respecting this, is so far from being sinful, that it is 
part of their perfect holiness, and essential to it. And what reason can 
be given why this same disposition in the Saints in this life, is not a holy 
disposition? This is easily applied to the point in dispute; and I am 
mistaken if it do not serve to illustrate it, and obviate every objection 
made to a being willing to be sinful forever, on supposition this be the 
will of God, or most for his glory, and the greater happiness of his 

You say. Sir, "I believe that it is naturally impossible for any moral 
agent to be willing to be separated from all good, to all evil." I should 
believe this too, if I thought self love was essential to a moral Agent, 
and that it is right to exercise this to the highest possible degree, and 
wrong to suppress or counteract it in any instance. Yea, I should believe 
more, viz. : — that it is naturally impossible for a moral agent to give up 
the least deyree of personal good, or sufter any evil, for the sake of any 
public good, however great. But universal disinterested benevolence 
will give up personal good; and be willing to suffer jjersonal evil for the 
sake of a greater public good, and for the same reason that it will give up 
one degree of private good, for a greater public good, it will be willing 
to be separated from all personal good, to all evil, if necessary to pro- 
mote a proportionable greater public good. And it appears to me, natu- 


raUy impossible, or impossible in the nature of things, that it should do 
otherwise, unless it be defective, or counteracted hy self love. 

St. Paul's wish (Rom. 9. 3.) has been an eyesore to many. They have 
thought themselves sure that he could not mean what his words naturally 
impart ; consequently have set their invention to work to find out some 
other meaning. Most of which invented, forced meanings are, I think, 
so low and flat as to be unbecoming an inspired xlpostle, and really cast 
reproach on the sacred oracles. The most plausible of these, perhaps, is 
that of Mr. Glass, which is wholly built on the original word, translated, 
I could vjish, not being in the optative mood; but in the past tense of the 
indicative. But Grotius, who was skilled in the Greek above most others, 
says it is common for the Greeks to use a word so, when it is to be 
understood in the optative sense, of which there is an instance it Acts 
25. 22. And Glasse's sense is so low, that it appears to me to come to very 
little, and to be unworthy of the Apostle Paul ; and exhorts the true spirit 
and force of expression. The words, taken in the most easy and natural 
sense, in which Calvin and others have taken them, do strongly express 
the feeling and exercise of true benevolence, which St. Paul ought to have 
had, and to express on such an occasion ; and which he certainly did 
profess in a very high degree, who sought not his own profit, but the 
profit of many, that they might be saved. 

Calvin, I suppose, is not cited as an authority, but only to show the 
propriety of their being called Semi-Calvinists, who do not agree with 
him in this sentiment. 

Wishing we may each of us be led into all important in truth, I am, 

Dear Sir, Avith high esteem, and much afiection, your ol)lige(l, huml:)le 


Roger Sherman, Esq. 


New Haven, October, 1790. 
Dear Sir : — 

I received your letter of the 2d August last, and am obliged to you for 
the observations it contains. I think there is no material ditt'ereuce of 
sentiment between us except on the last point. I am not convinced by 
what you have wrote on that subject tliat my former opinion was wrong; 
but I don'i know that I can say much more to support it than I did be- 

I believe Ave do not differ at all in opinion respecting that general 
benevolence wherein true virtue consists ; Avhich you admit includes a 
regard to our own greatest good and happiness, and that regard I call an 
exercise of love to ourselves. When I said that self love and love to 
others were distinct afl'ections, I only meant that they Avere exercises of 

. 24 

the same kind of affection towards different objects, viz., ourselves and 

I do not fully understand the force of your observations on what I 
said respecting the ground or reason why self love in a being destitute 
of general benevolence is the source of moral evil, viz., "That this 
arises from the want of a good moral taste, or spiritual discernment, 
Avhich occasions the person to place his happiness in wrong objects." 
You do not here distinguish between occasion and positive cause though 
you make a material distinction between them in your sermons on "Sin 
the occasion of great good." President Edwards I think has illustrated 
this point in his answer to Dr. Taylor on oi'iginal sin, and in a sermon 
published with his life, on the enquiry, why natural men are enemies to 
God. He supposes original righteousness in man was a supernatural 
principle which was withdrawn on his first transgression, and his natural 
principles of agency remaining, were exercised wrong, and his affections 
set on wrong objects in consequence of such Avithdrawment. The will and 
affections are the powers of agency, and the exercises of them are holy 
or sinful, according to the objects chosen or beloved, or according as 
their exercises agree or disagree with the divine law. Moral good and 
evil consist in exercises and not in dormant principles ; the heart is the 
seat not only of sin but of holiness according as it is differently affected. 
Your observations on self love in persons destitute of general benevo- 
lence are not opposed to anything I meant to express in my letter. 

You say, "that love to being in general necessarily regards and wishes 
the greatest possible happiness to him who exercises this love, this is not 
indeed self love, which is a regard to one's self as self, and as distinguished 
from all others, and to no other being; but it is the same disinterested 
affection which wishes the highest happiness to every individual included 
in being in general and therefore to himself, as necessarily included in 
the whole, and one among others." There appears to me to be a little 
ambiguity in those words as self and what follows. I suppose that the 
good and happiness of ourselves and each individual being who is a 
proper object of happiness, is individually to be regarded, loved and 
sought as an ultimate end, or what is desirable for its own sake as a 
real good. "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever." 
Therefore when a person seeks his own highest good and happiness in 
the enjoyment of God, and in connection with his glory, he answers the 
end of his creation. Those texts which you cited to prove that self love 
is sinful, I suppose are not to be taken absolutely to condemn all love to 
self, but such only as is opposed to, or unconnected with love to others, 
as appears from Phil. 2. 4. Look not every man on his own things 
but evei'y man also on the the things of others. No man ever yet hated 
his own flesh but nourisiteth it and cherisheth it. Our own temporal as well 
as spiritual good may be lawfully sought and enjoyed, and our sensitive 
appetites gratified, so that it l)e not done in a manner or degree 
prohibited by law. "Every creature of God is good and nothing to be 
refused if it be received with thanksgiving, etc." 


I think yon use the term self love in the narrower sense than it is 
used in general by otliers ; and -when pious persons find in tliemselves 
those desires and wishes of their own good and liappiness, whicli I 
consider as inseparable from a moral agent, and which you admit are 
lawful as flowing from general benevolence, or as a part of it, when 
they find self love condemned by that general term, it creates in their 
minds groundless uneasiness and doubts as to their good estate. Though 
perhaps a critical attention to your definition and distinctions might 
prevent this. 

As your observations on the other point have not removed my dlfli- 
culties, I will make a few remai*ks on that subject. 

1. The glory of God and his happiness do not depend on the will of 
his creatures. Acts 17. 25. Neither is luorshipped by men's hands as 
though he needed anything. Job 35. 7. If thou he righteous, what givest 
thou him, etc. His goodness is his glory and that is displayed or mani- 
fested in his doing good. Exod. 33. 18, 19. And he said I beseech thee, 
shevj me thy glory. And. he said, I will make my goodness pass before thee, 

2. None of his rational creatures are miserable but for their own 
fault. He infiicts punishment, not in a way of mei'e sovereignty, but as 
a righteous Judge or Governor ; and for the general good. He gathers 
out of his Kingdom all things that offend and do iniquity. 

3. No person who has a holy love to God, can consistent with his 
will declared in the gospel, be finally miserable ; and their self denial 
for his glory, and all their trials and afilictions in this life work together 
for their best good, and work out for them an eternal weight of glory. 

4. The duties of self denial and sufl'ering in the cause of God, are 
compatible only to this state of trial — and the precepts which require 
this, appear to me to be expressly liiriited to suflering in this life, and 
eternal life is promised as an encouragement to it ; therefore I see no 
ground to extend them by reason or analagy to the point in question. 
Mat. 19. 29, John 12. 25, Luke 18. 25, etc., Mark 10. 29, 30. 

5. No person who is to be a subject of everlasting misery is ever 
willing to endure it ; l)ut it is the providential will of God to sufl"er them 
to hate him and blaspheme his name because of their torment ; therefore 
their willingness to sufler, is not necessary for the manifestation of his 
glory in their punishment. And it would involve an inconsistency to 
suppose any person to be willing to submit to the providential will of 
God, in all the circumstances of his damnation, umiriUingness to sufler and 
enmity to (Jod on account of it, being material circumstances. You 
mention the third petition in the Lord's pi-ayer, "Thy vnU he done on 
earth as it is in heaven," as a proof that absolute submission to the will of 
God is a duty. I admit that (iod's perceptive Avill ought to be obeyi'd 
in all things, and his providential will submitted to as far as it is nnule 
known by revelation, or the event; but no particular person Avhile in a 
state of probation can know that it is tlie providential will of (!od that 
he shall finally 2), but he knows that it is his perceptive will, that 


lio shall turn and live. And for persons wlio doubt of tlicir good estate, 
to put it to trial by svipposing a case that never can happen if they have 
any degree of true love to God, or if they ever comply with the require- 
ments of the gospel ; and which it is certain their hearts never will be 
reconciled to, if it should happen, would only tend to fill their minds 
with greater perplexity and disquietude. True Christians are assured, 
that no temptation (or trial) shall happen to them but what they shall 
be enabled to bear ; and that the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for 
them ; but no such gracious promise of support is made to any who 
shall be the subjects of damnation, therefore a willingness to sufter 
this, is not a trial required of a true Christian. The angels in heaven 
do God's will, but we have no intimation that they are required to be 
willing to fall from their holy and happy state. 

As to your observations on the Saints' imperfections in this life, I shall 
only remark, that I allow that they ought to approve whatever is ordered 
or permitted by God concerning them as most holy and wise ; but not 
their own conduct in being unholy or sinful in any degree. 

As to the submission of the awakened humbled sinner to the divine 
sovereignty, I admitted that a sinner ought to approve the law of God, 
as holy, just and good in the threatening endless misery to sinners ; but 
this is consistent with their hoping in his mercy. The convinced publi- 
can prayed, "-God he merciful to me, a sinner." I suppose that the divine 
sovereignty is the greatest encouragement that a convinced sinner has or 
can have, to hope for mercy. That a God of infinite goodness can 
(through the atonement) have mercy on whom he will, consistent with 
the honor of his law and government and of all his perfections, is a 
much better ground of hope, than if the sinner was left to his own will ; 
but I don't see that this includes in it a willingness to be damned, though 
the convinced sinner has a sense of his just desert of damnation, yet he 
is invited and required to turn and live. 

St. Paul's wish, Rom. 9. 3, taken literally (as translated) I think can't 
be vindicated. 

1. Because it would have been opposite to the revealed will of God 
concerning him, he being a true Saint, could not be accursed from 

2. It could have l)een of no use to his brethren — his damnation could 
not atone for their sins ; and there was a sufficient atonement made by 
Jesus Christ. I think all that he intended was to express in strong 
terms his great affection and concern for that people and not that he did 
or could really wish damnation to himself for their sakes. Dr. Samuel 
Clark on the place says, "The expression is highly figurative and affec- 
tionate — But his intention was not to wish himself subject to the 
eternal wrath of God, which is absurd aud impossible." 

It still appears to me that no moral agent ever was or can be willing 
to be damned, and that no such thing is required by the divine law or the 
gospel. If a person could be willing to be forever abandoned to sin and 
misery, he must be so lost to any sense of good or happiness, as not to 


be capable of any regard to the glory of God, or the good and happiness 
of the moral system ; for if he could take pleasure in these, he would 
not be wholly deprived of happiness. 

The bad tendency of this doctrine if it be not well founded, will be : — 

1. To give uneasiness to pious minds who may believe it upon the 
authority of those whom they think more knowing than themselves, but 
yet they can't find their hearts reconciled to it. 

2. Pious orthodox Christians who think it an error will be prejudiced 
against the books that contain it, however orthodox and useful in other 
respects, and will scruple the lawfulness of keeping them in their houses, 
or any way encouraging the spread of such books, lest they should be 
guilty of propagating dangerous errors. 

3. It will give the enemies of truth occasion to speak reproachfully 
of the authors of such books, and prejudice the minds of people against 
them, and so obstruct their usefulness. Therefore I wish you to cut off 
occasion, from those who may seek occasion. 

I am, &c. 



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