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Full text of "Matthias and his impostures : or, The progress of fanaticism. Illustrated in the extraordinary case of Robert Matthews, and some of his forerunners and disciples"

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MATT #*& 

AND 

HIS IMPOSTURES: 



* 

OR, THE //6 1^0 

PROGRESS OF FANATICISM. 

ILLUSTRATED IN THE EXTRAORDINARY CASE 
OP 

ROBERT MATTHEWS, 

AND SOME OF HIS FORERUNNERS AND DISCIPLES. 



" It ill comports with the majesty of trath, or the character of God, to believe that he 
has built the noblest superstructure on the weakest foundation ; or reduced mankind to lha 
miserable alternative either of remaining destitute of the knowledge of himself, or of de- 
living it from the source of impious imposture."- Robert HaU. 



BY WILLIAM L. STONE. 



^ 
NEW-YORK: 



^ 

^ SV ^ji J3 

BROTHERS, W^ * 



PUBLISHED BY HARPER A 

NO. 82 CLIFF-STREET, 

AMD BOLD BY THK PRINCIPAL BOOKSELLERS THROU^PGUT TH1 

UNITED ST.VTKS. 

1835. 




Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1835, 

By HARPER & BROTHERS, 
In the Clerk 6 Office of the Southern District of New- York. 



PREFACE. 



IT was not until the last week in the recent 
month of April, that the idea of the present work 
was suggested. In conversation with a distin 
guished clerical friend, upon the subject of Mat 
thias and his impostures, particularly in regard to 
the respectability of the people whom he had suc 
ceeded in leading so widely astray, the writer 
mentioned the fact, that, after all, the pretended 
prophet was but a circumstance, as it were, in a 
series of delusions originating in fanaticism twelve 
or thirteen years since, which, in their progress, 
had been marked at different periods, by trans 
actions and absurdities scarcely less censurable, 
or extraordinary, than the gross impieties of the 
arch-impostor himself. With a great number of 
facts in relation to the matters referred to, the writer 
had become acquainted as they transpired ; and in 
the belief that he could possess himself of all 
others essential to a continuous history of one of 



4 PREFACE. 

the most singular and extraordinary delusions that 
have ever appeared, and flourished for so great a 
length of time, among an intelligent Christian 
people, he suggested the idea of collecting the 
particulars, and publishing them in a little volume. 
" Do it by all means, if you can obtain the facts," 
was, in substance, the reply. Before, however, 
the work was seriously undertaken, the writer 
mentioned the project to a number of clerical, and 
other religious friends, by every one of whom he 
was urged to proceed. The materials were mostly 
collected early in the month of May since which 
period the work itself has been written, at intervals 
of time, and amidst the calls of a daily occupation, 
which is as endless as the circle. 

At the time when the composition of the work 
was commenced, and even after the first sheet had 
been stereotyped, the writer was not certain of 
obtaining access to the private prayers, medita 
tions, and other manuscripts, of the late Elijah 
Pierson; nor did he then anticipate so full and 
interesting a narrative of the connection of Mr. 
and Mrs. Folger with Matthews and Pierson, 
as he has since been so fortunate as to obtain ; 
although from the first, he was promised assistance 
from that quarter. The papers of Mr. Pierson 
are alike curious, remarkable, and interesting ; 
and the narrative of Mr, and Mrs, Folger, which 



PREFACE. 



has been incorporated in the work entire, forms 
one of the strangest chapters in the history of the 
human mind, that have ever been written. It also 
raises the veil which has hitherto concealed from 
the public eye, the proceedings of Matthews and 
his disciples in the " Mount Zion" of Singsing, 
and gives a full account of the internal police of 
that establishment. The writer has likewise suc 
ceeded in obtaining a larger number of facts and 
anecdotes respecting the impostor, and authentic 
details of interviews and conversations with him, 
than he at first expected ; so that the work has 
grown in the process of its preparation, to up 
ward of a hundred pages more than was originally 
intended. Still, it is believed the reader will not 
be wearied in the perusal. Much available matter 
has been omitted, and nothing has been retained 
which was not deemed essential to the object and 
design of the work. It is often necessary, for the 
cause of truth, to expose opinions, which, in them 
selves, are so monstrous as not to merit a moment s 
consideration. 

Unless the writer is greatly deceived, these 
pages will be found to comprise a history that is 
perfectly unique a delusion sui generis whether 
arising from individual fanaticism, or enthusiasm, 
or madness ; or combined, or individual imposture. 
It has been contended by some mental philoso- 



6 PKEFACE. 

phers, that " men do not so much believe in any 
error as in truth, and that there is no error in which 
there is not some share, however small, of truth." 
But this proposition will not stand for a moment, 
against the errors disclosed in the following pages, 
made up as they are of the pure and unmixed 
elements of falsehood. This fact, then, for such 
it must be esteemed, overthrows entirely the 
theory of Victor Cousin, who says, in commenting 
upon Locke s chapter on the causes of error, that 
he " shall never cease to repeat, that there is no 
total error in an intelligent and rational being. 
Men of genius, and ordinary men, unquestionably 
give in to many errors, and attach themselves to 
them ; but not that to which makes them errors, but 
to the part of truth which is in them." And again, 
" It is the truth, joined to the error, which gives 
to the error all its force, which gives it birth, sus 
tains it, spreads* it, explains and excuses it." The 
writer apprehends, however, that it would puzzle 
M. Cousin, and even Leibnitz himself, whom the dis 
tinguished Psychologist recognizes as the greatest 
of modern authorities, to find the slightest ad 
mixture of truth, in the system imposed upon his 
followers by Robert Matthews. 

The writer s design was to render the work a 
simple record, or narrative, of facts, without aiming 
at the embellishments of learning, or of rhetoric, or 



PREFACE* 7 

the indulgence of theoretical or philosophical specu 
lation. In the execution of his design, it has been 
his study to spare the feelings, and avoid giving 
the names, of individuals, as far as could be done 
with propriety, or the obligations to truth would 
allow. And he has throughout endeavoured to 
act in strict obedience to the law of kindness ex 
ercising, withal, the same measure of charity 
which he would himself desire to be meted to him 
in return, under the like circumstances. Indeed, 
in this latter respect, he may be charged by some, 
with having gone too far. It may possibly be urged, 
that in a land like ours, no man can, innocently, 
receive any thing which grossly contradicts divine 
revelation. The Scriptures, on leading and funda 
mental truths, are so plain that he who runs may 
read: and it may therefore be contended, that he 
who, with his Bible in his hand, receives such a 
being as Matthews in the character of God the 
Father, has a heavy account to settle at God s bar. 
It is readily granted, that to hold up individuals 
who had blindly embraced such a monstrous heresy, 
while of sound mind, as subjects of pity and 
compassion merely, and without awarding to them 
a very heavy degree of censure, would be reflect 
ing upon God, diminishing the sense of man s 
responsibility, and dishonouring the blessed reve 
lation of the Most High. But the severity of cen- 



8 PREFACE. 

sure must be visited only in proportion to the 
soundness of the mind of the victim, and the ex 
tent to which reason is dethroned by the delusion. 
With these preliminary remarks, the work is com 
mitted to the public. The writer sincerely hopes 
it may be of some service to the cause of evangel- 
^C* ical truth, if in no other way, by guarding Christian 
., Si professors against the indulgence of a self-righteous 
,* and fanatical spirit, and also against the dangers of 
" ^ <-, enthusiasm. If, through ignorance, or mistaken 
KV \y/ views of truth or from any other cause, he has 
^ *Nf said aught amiss, he begs that it may be forgotten 
is , Vm and forgiven. 

* y 

New-York, June 12, 1835. 

K, 

r 



MATTHIAS 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



CHAPTER I. 

Preliminary Remarks Early Life of Matthews Comes to New 
York, and acquires a Trade Returns to the Country, and 
commences Merchant Marries in New-York Becomes a 
Bankrupt Returns to his old Employment in New- York 
Again retires to the Country Removes to Albany Religious 
Excitement Becomes an ultra Temperance Advocate 
Grows fanatical Disturbs Public Worship Flies from Al 
bany in the Night with three of his Children Excitement and 
Alarm Strange Conduct Arrest Street-preaching in Al 
banyChanges his Name Mission to the West and South- 
Advent in New-York. 

" I HAVE always observed, that when people be 
come better than the Bible, they are very apt to be 
wrong." Such, recently, was the remark of one of 
the ablest and wisest of American divines, in refer 
ence to the ultraism of the day, in matters of philan 
thropy and religion, more especially in regard to the 
professions and practices of those who have been 
designated as " new-measure men," in the production 
and conduct of religious revivals. It was an obser 
vation full of wisdom. Nothing can be more dan- 
B 



MATTHIAS AND 



gerous in spiritual matters than tampering with ihe 
sacred Scriptures, either by adding to, or taking from, 
the simple letter of the written word, or wrestino- its 
plain and obvious meaning. That holy book proclaims 
m the language of Robert Hail, "a doctrine, full, pure 
perfect, to which nothing can be added without de 
basing its spirit, nothing taken away without impair 
ing its proportions committed to our trust to be re 
tained and preserved just as we have received it." 
Ihere is no passage in the sacred volume uttered 
with more tremendous emphasis than its solemn 
conclusion : I testify unto every man that hearelh 
the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man 
shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him 
the plagues that are written in this book : And if 
any man shall take away from the words of the book 
of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out 
of Ihe book of life, and out of the holy city, and from 
the things that are written in this book." This is 
a fearful denunciation. God has always punished, 
with the infliction of signal and lamentable delusion] 
all who have dared to claim for themselves imme 
diate inspiration from Heaven ; they and their fol 
lowers, like Theudas, who boasted himself to be 
somebody, have wandered into the wilderness of 
error ; it is well if they have not suffered the penal 
ties of guilt. 

And yet, notwithstanding the miserable end and 
overthrow of most former impostors and their 
schemes, with the exception of that stupendous de 
lusion which yet stands a miracle in the Moslem 
power, the world is as full of them at this day of 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 15 

boasted intelligence, even among Christians, as ever 
it was. Nor are they now, more than of old, con 
fined to the professors of Christianity. Strange as 
it may appear, enthusiasm, fanaticism, and impos 
ture have ever been as rife among those religionists 
whose crude belief was itself an imposition, as 
among those whose faith stands upon the word of 
the Eternal, and the truth of which has been sealed 
by the blood of His Son. Thus is imposture itself 
imposed upon, and the priests of falsehood, circum 
vented by those who are in reality no greater de 
ceivers than themselves, are often cheated of their 
disciples, who, in their new delusion, are no more 
deluded than they were before. The Hindoo is 
cheated by the fakirs ; the cool and philosophic 
Mussulman is deceived by the dervis ; and even 
the unsophisticated pagans of the North American 
forests are carried away by the puerile incantations 
of their own medicine-men. 

*AJiistory_of religious impostures .wouldjfonnji 
library of itself. ;^The human mind, in all ages and 
countries, and under all forms of government and 
religion, seems to have been wonderfully susceptible 
of delusion and imposition upon that subject, which, 
of all others, is the most important both for time 
and eternity. The court of Egypt was deluded by 
the impostors who undertook to contend with Moses ; 
and the chosen people themselves, notwithstanding 
the direct disclosures which the Most High had 
made of himself in all their wonderful history, were 
prone to turn aside from the worship of the true 
God, to follow the lying spirits of the prophets of 



16 MATTHIAS AND 

Baal and other deceivers, from the days of Moses 
till the destruction of Jerusalem. " The prophets 
prophesy falsely ; the priests bear rule by their means ; 
and my people love to have it so," was the testimony 
of Jeremiah. So likewise under the Christian 
dispensation, from the defection of Simon Magus to 
the wild delirium of Edward Irving, there have been 
a succession of Antichrists, until their name is le 
gion pretenders to Divine missions, the power of 
working miracles, the gift of tongues perverting 
the Scriptures, " leading astray silly women," and 
men too, destroying the peace of families, throwing 
communities into confusion, and firebrands into the 
Church, clouding the understandings and blinding 
the moral perceptions of men, and subverting the 
faith of those, even, whose mountains stood strong, 
and who had been counted among the chosen people 
of God. 

Doubtless there have been instances in which the 
impostors have themselves been partially deranged 
in which intense application, or much learning, 
may have made them mad possessing, however, 
enough of method in their madness, like Edward 
i Irving, to involve others in the same hallucinations 
with themselves. In other cases, as with the Puri 
tans, and the persecutions for witchcraft in the early 
days of New-England, the actors have been im 
pelled by strong but mistaken views of duty verily 
believing that they were doing God service. But 
in a vast majority of instances, as with the recreant 
convert of Philip, the instruments of imposture have 
been full of all subtlety and mischief children of 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 17 

.ae fallen Son of the Morning. " In the last days," 
says the Apostle Peter, " there shall come scoffers, 
walking after their own lusts" " chiefly them which 
walk after the flesh, in the lust of uncleanness, and 
despise government; presumptuous are they, self- 
ivilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities ; 
sporting themselves in their own deceivings, having 
eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; 
beguiling unstable souls ; for when they speak great 
swelling words of vanity, they allure through the 
lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those 
that were clean escaped from them who live in error ; 
ivhile they promise them liberty, they themselves are 
the servants of corruption." And again the Apostle 
Jude admonishes us " to remember that they were 
foretold as mockers, who should be in the last time, 
who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 
These be they who separate themselves, sensual, not 
having the spirit." 

It is wonderful to observe with what precision 
these prophecies have been fulfilled by the clouds 
of impostors who have appeared "spoken great 
swollen words of vanity," and fallen since the in 
spired sentences were uttered. And it may be re 
garded as one of the evidences of the truth of in 
spiration, that had the long array of apostates and 
deceivers actually stood before the sacred penmen 
at the time of their writing, their characters all naked 
before them, the likenesses, from the first Christian 
apostate to the sensual Mormons, could not have 
been drawn with greater fidelity. Whether among 
the number, and though last not least, may be 
B2 



18 MATTHIAS AND 

ranked the principal subject of the following pages, 
will be left for the reader to determine after their 
perusal. 

ROBERT MATTHEWS for that is the real name 
of the subject of this history is a native of Wash 
ington county, in the State of New-York, and of 
Scotch extraction. He is about forty-five years of, 
age, and of respectable parentage, though a mental 
eccentricity has characterized several members of 
the family. He was left an orphan at a tender age, 
and was brought up in the family of a respectable 
farmer in the town of Cambridge, in the county al 
ready mentioned, belonging to the church of the 
Anti- burgher branch of Seceders. It is related of 
him, that when the clergyman visited the family on 
a certain occasion, to catechise the children, he be 
came much pleased with Matthews, then about 
seven years of age. As the good man departed, he 
laid his hand on the head of Robert, and gave him 
his blessing. From that moment the lad said he 
always expected to become a distinguished per 
sonage. 

At the age of about twenty years, Matthews came 
to the city of New-York, and worked at the business 
of a carpenter and house-joiner, which he had par 
tially learned in the country, and in which occupa 
tion he became a first-rate workman. He had 
always a fine mechanical genius, as had also two 
of his brothers, at least ; one of whom resided in 
Rochester a few years since, where he died ; and 
the other, who, self-instructed, had become a por- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 19 

trait painter of some excellence, also died within 
a few years, in the western part of New-York, 
insane. 

From the excellence of his work, he had full em 
ployment in those branches requiring the greatest 
skill. The consequence was, that in the course of 
a few years he accumulated money enough to en 
able him to return to Cambridge, and commence 
business as a country merchant. He was con 
sidered a very respectable man, made a profession 
of religion in connection with the Scotch Presby 
terian church, and continued for some years without 
doing any thing to excite suspicion as to the sound 
ness of his head or heart. He was considered, in 
deed, as ranking rather above the average cast of 
men in his neighbourhood ; and although naturally 
somewhat vain of his own parts, and not a little 
elated by his success, and the good opinions enter 
tained of him, yet his conduct was unexceptionable, 
and he courted and enjoyed the society of those who 
were above the sphere in which he had recently 
moved. If extravagant in his habits at this time, it 
was only in the article of dress, of which he was 
always vain. 

He was married in the year 1813, in the city of 
New- York (while on a visit for the purchase of 
goods), to a young lady, the daughter of a respect 
able Scotch mechanic, who had formerly resided in 
Washington county, where his daughter was born. 
Returning to Cambridge, he continued business as a 
merchant three or four years longer, and was still 
considered a very respectable man, maintaining 



20 MATTHIAS AND 

his standing in the church as a regular worshipper 
and a consistent Christian. About a year after the 
close of the war, say in 1816, he commenced build 
ing a large edifice for a store, but became unfor 
tunate in his pecuniary affairs, and failed before its 
completion involving in his ruin an aged and 
honest mechanic, who, by industry and frugality, had 
secured a competency for his family. Some hard 
things were said of Matthews in relation to these 
transactions ; but, perhaps, without any greater or 
more aggravated cause than is to be found in most 
cases of similar misfortune. 

Being thus broken up in his mercantile business, 
he returned to New- York with his family, and re 
sumed his former handicraft as a house-joiner. 
He remained in the city four or five years, but was 
not satisfied with such employment, and resolved 
once more to try his fortunes in his native county ; 
for which purpose he removed to the town of Ar- 
gyle, where he followed the occupation of a mill 
wright. Not succeeding to his wishes, however, 
he removed to Albany in 1827 or 28, and resumed 
the joiner s business as a journeyman, taking good 
care of his family, and attending constantly upon 
the public services in the sanctuary attaching him 
self to the congregation of the Dutch Reformed 
Church, then under the pastoral care of the Rev. 
Dr. Ludlow. The reason of his leaving the Scotch 
Church, to which he had previously belonged, was 
understood to be some personal difficulty with his 
minister in Washington county, resulting in a settled 
dislike to that denomination. He very soon ap- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 21 

peared to take an increasing interest in religious 
matters ; attended church and social prayer meet 
ings, and conversed frequently upon the subject. 
Some time subsequent to this period, the late Dr. 
Chester being absent for his health, notice was 
given that a young clergyman from New-York, the 
Rev. Mr. Kirk, was to occupy the pulpit on a cer 
tain evening. Matthews went to hear him, and on 
his return home appeared to be in a state of great 
excitement, declaring that he had never heard any 
thing like preaching before, and sat up the greater 
part of the night repeating, expounding, and com 
mending passages from the sermon. His enthu 
siasm was so great that Mrs. Matthews remarked 
to her daughter in the course of the night, " If your 
father goes to hear this man preach any more, he 
will go wild or crazy." He did go again to hear 
him a number of times was always exceedingly 
pleased, and became more and more excited. Still 
he behaved rationally enough until one evening 
when he went to hear Mr. Finney. The services 
were continued until a late hour, and Matthews 
came home in a state bordering upon phrensy. 

It was not long before a church was formed for 
Mr. Kirk in Albany, to which Matthews made ap 
plication for admission ; stating that he was already 
a member of a church in Washington county. In 
quiries were made into his character by the session ; 
but on sending to Cambridge, a letter, or certificate, 
from the church to which he had formerly belonged 
was withheld. At that time, as the writer is informed 
by a gentleman who was then an officer of that 



22 MATTHIAS AND 

church, he exhibited no symptoms of eccentricity, 
or of a disorganized mind. 

At about the same time, Matthews engaged ac 
tively in the temperance reform, in which he laboured 
with all his might ; but he was ultra in his notions, 
contending that the use of meats should be ex 
cluded, as well as of strong drinks. 

A brother of Mrs. Matthews, now a respectable 
tradesman in New-York, who had resided some 
years with his sister soon after her marriage, made 
him a visit just at this crisis. He was kindly re 
ceived by Matthews, and observed no alteration in 
his manners, except that he soon introduced religion 
as a subject of conversation, which was contrary to 
his former habits ; for although, as we have seen, a 
professor of religion, yet he had never in former 
years shown himself forward or ostentatious in these 
matters, but was, on the contrary, rather reserved. 
He now inquired of his brother-in-law whether he yet 
remained in connection with the Scotch church, and 
being answered in the affirmative, replied, " Why, 
I wonder at that : you are all wrong : I used to think 
that church was right, too ; but I find that although 
I have been a professor these twenty years, I never 
had any religion until now never until I heard the 
preaching of Mr. Kirk and Mr. Finney." 

As he continued his religious conversation, he 
gradually became excited, and in the end somewhat 
vehement, especially on the subject of temperance 
strenuously maintaining that intemperance was 
the great evil at the root of the matter, and that the 
world could all be converted, if men would only live 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 23 

up to pure temperance principles. Already had he 
introduced a rigid system of temperance dietetics in 
his own household not allowing the use of meats, 
and keeping his family upon bread, fruits, and vege 
tables. It was then the season of blackberries, and 
these, with bread and vegetables, constituted the 
sole diet during this visit of his relative who left 
him in a frame of enthusiasm bordering upon fanat 
icism. Indeed, there were moments when, from 
the wildness of his eye, the brother-in-law began to 
tremble for his reason, as also did the relatives in 
New-York on hearing of his proceedings. 

During the year 1829, his conduct became more 
and more wild and unregulated. His employment 
was still that of a journeyman house-joiner ; but in 
stead of minding his work, he fell into the practice 
of exhorting the workmen during the hours of la 
bour, and of expounding the Scriptures to them in a 
novel and enthusiastic manner, until at length he be 
came so boisterous, that his employer, a very pious 
man, was obliged to discharge him from his service. 
He claimed at this time to have received by revela 
tion some new light upon the subject of experi 
mental religion, but did not as yet lay claim to the 
Messiahship, or to any supernatural power. Being 
thus discharged from regular employment, however, 
he had abundant leisure for street-preaching, which 
he commenced in a vociferous manner, exhorting 
every one he met upon the subjects of temperance 
and religion, and holding forth to crowds at the 
corners of the streets. Having made a convert of 
one of his fellow-workmen, they procured a large 



24 MATTHIAS AND 

white flag, on which was inscribed, " Rally round the 
Standard of Truth ;" this they raised on a pole, and 
bore through the streets every morning, haranguing 
the multitudes whom their strange appearance and 
demeanour attracted. A young student of divinity, 
catching the infection, as it seemed, united himself 
with Matthews, and with him visited the abodes of 
profligacy, intemperance, and vice, on the Sabbath 
days, preaching repentance to their inmates. But 
he was yet of sound mind, apparently, if he chose so 
to appear. The venerable Dr. Proudfit informs the 
writer, that during this year he fell in with Matthews 
at a meeting of the Young Men s Bible Society of 
Albany, and that he conducted himself in a manner 
perfectly unexceptionable. He introduced himself 
with an agreeable address, and appeared very devout, 
and much engaged in the cause. 

In his street-preaching, consisting for the most 
part of more incoherent harangues than are often 
uttered by men in any condition of mind, his de 
clared object was the conversion of the whole city 
of Albany, a work which he had been commis 
sioned to undertake. In the spring of 1830, finding 
that the city would not be converted, he declared to 
his wife that it would be destroyed, and he thereupon 
began to proclaim the impending destruction of the 
Albanians and their capital publicly. 

It was about this time that, coming home one 
night, he sat down before a table to shave himself, 
with an open Bible before him, in which he read 
while preparing the soap for the operation. All of a 
sudden he exclaimed, "I have found it I have 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 25 

found a text which proves that no man who shaves 
his beard can be a true Christian ;" and thereupon 
declared that he would go to the installation of Dr. 
Wilson (that having been his intention when he sat 
down to shave) with his beard untouched. His 
wife remonstrated, but to no purpose ; and he wenf, 
unshaved, to attend the ceremony. While it was in 
progress he continued quiet, until near the close, 
when he stood up and requested from the congrega 
tion leave to ascend the pulpit and address them. 
Being well known, the permission was given, but, 
to the great astonishment of his hearers, he burst 
forth in wild ravings, denouncing vengeance against 
the people and the land ; and, claiming authority from 
God, announced to the people, that the end of the 
Gentiles was come that he was commanded to take 
possession of the world in the name of the King of 
kings that all nations and institutions established 
on any other foundation than the law of God were 
henceforth dissolved and that the law of God was 
from that date the only rule of government for the 
world. He attempted to continue his harangue, but 
before he had time to finish it, or to proclaim the full 
purport of his commission, the lights were extin 
guished, and the people dispersed. 

Like the Jewish prophet of evil to the city of Je 
rusalem, during the siege by Vespasian, Matthews 
continued his denunciations of wo against the city 
for several days frequently urging his wife to fly 
with him from the approaching destruction. Finally, 
about the middle of June, soon after midnight, he 
aroused his wife and her five children from their 
C 



26 MATTHIAS AND 

slumbers, and told them they must fly with him to 
the hills, as the city would be destroyed the next 
day. Not being able to persuade the former into 
his belief, he then declared his purpose of escaping 
himself, with his children, leaving the mother to de 
struction. The eldest daughter, however, being of 
age sufficient to discover the wildness and absurdity 
of her father s conduct, refused to accompany him ; 
the mother clung to the infant ; while the semi-lu 
natic or impostor took with him his three little boys 
the eldest six, and the youngest but two years of 
age and departed in the dead of night. 

The mother at first thought but little of the oc 
currence, having seen his vagaries so frequently of 
late, and presuming that by morning light they would 
all be safely at home again. But morning came, 
and the day passed, and they did not return. He 
seemed indeed to have left the city, nor could any 
trace of him be discovered. Her anxiety now be 
came intense, as also was that of the citizens to 
whom she communicated the circumstances. An 
alarm was given, and the people turned out in great 
numbers to search for the wanderers. It was se 
riously apprehended that the father might have put 
them to death and destroyed himself. The unhappy 
mother s distress increased with every succeeding 
hour ; the press sounded the alarm ; and the mayor 
issued a proclamation, announcing the facts, and 
offering a reward for the return of the children. 

But a few days elapsed, however, before tidings 
were received that the fugitives were all safely 
housed in the town of Argyle, Washington county. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



27 



iifatthews had a sister living in Argyle, a distance 
of forty miles from Albany ; and it subsequently ap 
peared that the cruel parent had travelled the whole 
distance, regardless of the tender years of his chil 
dren, without stopping going the whole way on 
foot and arriving at the house of his sister shortly 
after midnight, and in twenty-four hours from the 
time of his departure from Albany. Under any 
other circumstances, the children would have sunk 
midway from fatigue ; but the terror in which they 
were kept by their father seemed to invest them 
with supernatural strength. 

Arousing his sister and her family from their 
sleep, he greatly terrified them by his conduct. 
They had heard nothing of his strange proceedings ; 
and his incoherent ravings, coming thus suddenly 
upon them, and at such a gloomy hour, were ap 
palling. He declared that he had fled with his 
children from Albany, which was to be destroyed 
on the day of his flight, and he supposed that his 
wife and the remaining children, who, like the sons 
and daughters of Lot, had refused to escape, were 
destroyed also. His sister admitted them with fear 
and trembling, not doubting that he was raving mad. 
Having partaken of some refreshments, notwith 
standing his fatigue, and the still greater weariness 
of his children, sinking from exhaustion, he would 
not allow them to be taken to bed, or to leave his 
side, until after the performance of his evening 
devotions. He then pulled a Bible from his 
bosom, and after reading a chapter, and singing a 
hymn, in which his children were compelled to join, 



28 MATTHIAS AND 

thus closed this first day of his wanderings as a 
prophet. 

The next day, being the Christian Sabbath, Mat 
thews repaired to the old church in Argyle, entered 
during the service, and, walking midway up the aisle, 
while the minister was yet preaching, broke forth 
into one of his vociferous exhortations. He de 
clared that on the preceding day, judgment had 
been pronounced at Stillwater, on all kingdoms, na 
tions, and institutions not founded on the law of 
God. He denounced the congregation there pres 
ent, as sitting in darkness, and warned them to re 
pent ; and proceeded to finish what he called his 
declaration. He was of course seized and taken 
out of the church for thus disturbing the public wor 
ship ; and on the receipt of the tidings of his flight 
from Albany, was carried back to his family. 

Here again his conduct continued equally strange 
as before. Having now suffered his beard to grow 
for many weeks, it began to look formidable. He 
continued to traverse the streets, in grotesque attire, 
and to utter his violent declamations, and harangue 
such crowds as he could collect around him. Re 
peatedly was he arrested for disturbances of the 
peace by his performances, and was sometimes con- 
! fined on suspicion of lunacy ; but, crazy or not, he 
! was always discharged on examination, as of sound 
imind. He next disposed of his working tools, and 
urged his wife to relinquish labour and follow him. 
She remonstrated ; but he persisted ; and in reply to 
her inquiries how she and her children were to be 
j provided for, he said they must live by faith that 

V 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 29 

the Almighty would provide for them and that if 
they had no other supplies, food enough might be 
found among the roots and herbs of the woods. It 
was their duty to go upon a mission for the conver 
sion of the world, and their wants would all be 
supplied. 

Mrs. Matthews had of course too much sense to 
listen to these vagaries of fanaticism, and refused to 
go. He for a time yet continued his street-preach 
ing, urging to repentance, temperance, and abstinence 
from meats, and growing daily more and more loud 
and boisterous, and more savage in his looks. He 
denounced all who refused to follow his doctrines, 
though his ravings were so disjointed and hetero 
geneous that nobody could understand them, and 
vented curses upon those who scoffed and derided 
him. He read his Bible much, particularly the 
Old Testament, and poured forth quotations in the 
greatest profusion, but without method, fitness, or 
adaptation rendering its sublimest passages but 
a confused and incoherent jumble of words, and odds 
and ends of sentences ; and yet there was often a 
shrewdness in some of his own sayings, particularly ; 
in reply to questions, or in an occasional repartee, ; 
which raised a laugh, and convinced his miscella 
neous auditors that he was less of a fool than a j 
knave. But from the wild screams and piercing I 
exclamations which he indulged in his incompre 
hensible orations, he became a nuisance of which 
the people had great cause of complaint. 

It was now that he assumed the name of Mat 
thias, and gave out that he was a Jew. He then 
C 2 



30 MATTHIAS AND 

departed upon his mission for the conversion of the 
world, taking a western course, for the purpose of 
visiting his brother in Rochester, and everywhere 
attracting attention, from the length of his beard and 
the novelty of his behaviour. This brother, as has 
already been remarked, was a rare mechanic in 
ventive and curious. Before his death, he had ob 
tained between thirty and forty patents for as many 
different mechanical discoveries. The itinerant 
preacher soon quarrelled with his brother, however, 
and his stay in Rochester was but a fortnight ; and 
it was then, and from thence, that he commenced 
his first grand apostolic tour. While in the anti- 
masonic region of New- York, he declaimed against 
free-masonry, as against what he considered other 
abominations of the land. Directing his face to 
wards the setting sun, he traversed the Western 
States, through the deep forests, and over the prairies, 
until he had proclaimed his mission amid the wilds 
of the Arkansas. From thence he turned his steps 
to the south-east recrossed the Father of Rivers, 
traversed the States of Mississippi and Tennessee, 
and penetrated the Cherokee country, in Georgia, 
and commenced preaching to the Indians. Here 
he was seized by the authorities of Georgia, and 
imprisoned ; but he was an overmatch for them. 
They knew not what to make of his conduct, or 
what to do with him. His appearance was eccen 
tric ; his kindling eye flashed with fury as he poured 
forth his maledictions upon them ; and they were at 
length constrained to unbar the prison-doors, and 
bid him depart. From thence he bent his footsteps 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 31 

to the North, and passing through Washington, 
came to the city of New- York. He immediately 
visited the brother-in-law heretofore mentioned, and 
was at first very mild and agreeable in his manners 
and conversation, though of course forbidding in his 
aspect, since his temporal affairs did not then enable 
him to array himself in broadcloth and gold, and fine 
linen, and his beard presented a most unchristian 
appearance. On being asked why he had assumed 
such a disguise why he had abandoned his family, 
and conducted himself so strangely, he soon became 
greatly excited, grew furious, and uttered a shower 
of bitter curses. Foaming with rage, his eyes 
kindled with passion, and he denounced his relative 
as a devil, with great violence declaring that he 
had burnt his fingers by coming into the devil s 
house. He thereupon departed in a towering pas 
sion. 

Little is known with certainty either of his pro 
ceedings, or his tenets and pretensions at this pe 
riod. He remained for some time in the city of 
New- York, exhibiting himself frequently in various 
parts of the city, grotesquely but meanly clad, and 
sometimes mounted upon an old and half-starved 
horse wandering from place to place preaching 
whenever he could find listeners and attracting 
little attention, except from the younger members 
of the population, who used to gather round him 
with wondering eyes, and an evident disposition to 
make themselves merry at his expense, which was 
kept within bounds by his fierce looks, and his ap 
parent activity and strength of body. As yet his 



82 MATTHIAS AND 

proceedings were seldom, if ever, mentioned m the 
public prints, and although some curiosity existed 
respecting him, it was confined to a narrow circle 
of observers. By one of these the writer has been 
favoured with the following memorandum, contain 
ing the most explicit account of the man s preten 
sions at this epoch which he has been able to ob 
tain. 

"I should think it was about three years ago, that I 
was acquainted with a lodger in the same house with 
Matthias, near the Battery. My friend was desi 
rous that I should have a conversation with the 
prophet, as they called him, and managed that an 
interview should take place at the tea-table. I 
treated him with great respect, and used no small 
degree of delicacy in my questions ; this deference 
seemed to win his confidence, and he gave me some 
thing of his creed. I followed up my inquiries in 
a second interview, but found that he had in some 
measure changed his ground ; but taking all that he 
said together, as far as such incongruities could be 
| put together, it was this : That from time to time 
^ I God had sent his messenger on earth to enlighten 
mankind, from Moses to Jesus Christ, and from 
| him to Matthias himself. Of his own nature 
I he spoke freely : he acknowledged that he be 
longed to the human race, but had been set apart as 
a chosen vessel to be filled with inspiration of a 
lesser or greater degree, as the Father directed 
his services ; and that sometimes he was ordered 
to speak in the first person. He did not appear to 
have a very extensive knowledge of the Bible in 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 33 

general ; his recollection of the prophecies was 
good. He was particularly fond of quoting from 
Isaiah, and more than insinuated that the prophecies 
concerning the Messiah, which he quoted, were 
said of him and his mission. He seemed vain of 
his person, and quite charmed with his beard. On 
my pushing a few questions a little closer on my 
next visit, he became quite cautious of committing 
himself, and I found it would be useless for me to 
spend any more time on him and his creed. I 
thought him to be more of a knave than a fool ; but 
still, I believe, at that time, he was a dupe to his 
own fraud, as the actor made himself crazy by so 
often repeating the character of the madman." 

Thus much, of Matthews himself, must suffice for 
the present : before his further progress can be in 
telligibly developed, it is necessary to take up a dif 
ferent chain of events, and show how perfectly and 
strangely withal the way had been prepared for his 
reception by others, who knew nothing of him, and 
of whom, at that time, he had never heard. 




84 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER II. 

Antecedent Events in New -York Mrs. * * *, the Leader of a 
Fanatical Sect in that City Female Dress Singular Do 
mestic Missionary Scheme of certain Ladies Effect of Fa 
naticism upon Parental Affection Organization of the Holy 
Club Claims to Miraculous Gifts Anointing and healing 
the Sick Notice of the early Life and Religious Course of 
Mr. and Mrs. Folger The Retrenchment Society A rich 
t Anchorite. 

"BEHOLD how great a matter a little fire kindleth," 
says the Apostle James, in reference, particularly, 
to the great strifes often engendered by a little mis 
use of the tongue. The axiom, however, may be 
applied in various ways, and it is thought will not 
be inapplicable to the case immediately in hand. 

About the year 1821-22, Mrs. * * *, a lady who 
had but a short time previous been admitted a 
member, on profession, of one of the Presbyterian 
churches in the lower part of the city of New-York, 
began to manifest a spirit of unwelcome censorious- 
ness towards other members of the same church. 
She was the daughter of a clergyman, long retired 
from the pulpit, however, but a devout and holy 
man of a most lovely disposition unostentatious 
in his manners and pretensions full of charity and 
good works and in all respects one of the most 
amiable and interesting men with whom it has been 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 35 

the happiness of the writer to be acquainted. The 
daughter was of a gay and cheerful disposition ; and, 
on making a profession of religion, was esteemed 
as one who would adorn the Christian character by 
contributing to its loveliness and good report. But 
she soon became gloomy and ascetic, and assumed 
a severity of aspect and conversation which occa 
sioned not a little surprise. These indications were 
presently followed by a spirit of fanaticism, which 
was manifested in various ways. She first directed 
her attention to what she considered the gayety and 
extravagance of female dress, and denounced the 
plumes upon the hat of a lady who had been a pro 
fessor before her, and indeed had affectionately in 
vited her attention to religious subjects before she 
had herself turned her thoughts in that direction. 
She next visited her pastor, and demanded a re 
formation in the wardrobes of the ladies of his house 
hold. Gaining over two or three other ladies to 
her views, further efforts were made by them in the 
same line of reform ; and so much began to be said 
upon the subject, that the clergyman referred to 
preached a sermon upon female dress which was 
published and being a judicious and very able per 
formance, has ever since been well received by the 
Christian public. 

The lady, with a small coterie of proselytes, then 
conceived the project of.a speedy conversion of the 
whole city by a system of female visitation ; in exe 
cution of which, every house and family was to be 
visited by committees of two, who were to enter 
houses indiscriminately, and pray for their conver- 



36 MATTHIAS AND 

sion, whether the inmates would hear or not. They 
were encouraged in this wild scheme of religioua 
knight-errantry by the appearance among us, just 
at that time, of an itinerant clergyman by the name 
of T u r, a gentleman of great zeal, who main~ 
tained no inconsiderable degree of popularity among 
the ultra religionists of New- York for some eighteen 
months, or two years. By the exertions of the 
ladies referred to, and his own, a large meeting of 
females was collected, and he addressed them at 
great length urging upon all female professors the 
duty of immediate organization and action for these 
visitations quoting the examples of Tryphena and 
Tryphosa, with as much confidence as though they 
were in point and succeeding in the end, so far 
as to obtain a number of volunteers to go forth upon 
this novel system of domestic missions. And here 
it is proper to state, that it was distinctly understood 
by these well-intentioned but misguided ladies, that 
every dwelling-house was to be visited, not except 
ing even the public hotels, which, like private 
houses, were indiscriminately to be entered- and 
prayed in and for. The writer well remembers 
conversing at the time with several ladies who were 
engaged in the enterprise, and remonstrating with 
them against so wild and ill-judged a measure. 
Nevertheless, strange as it may seem, the work was 
commenced, and the eminent clergyman who had 
delivered the finished discourse already spoken of, 
upon female apparel, was among the first to receive i 
a visit from the lady who was at the bottom of the 
whole enterprise, with an associate ; and before he ! 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 37 

could recover from his surprise, these missionaries 
were praying for his own conversion, within his own 
domicil. The first visit of another of these com 
mittees was made .to the family of a very pious and 
devout missionary, then recently returned from his 
station in the East Indies for his health. This 
work, we believe, was speedily brought to a close, 
and the evangelist who took such an active part in 
its commencement has done so little honour to his 
profession in subsequent years, as to attract the no 
tice, and receive the discipline, of the church. 

In the mean while, and for a considerable time af 
terward, the lady-principal of the concern not only 
caused much trouble to her own church by the extra 
vagance of her conduct, but rendered her friends and 
relatives around her unhappy. Her venerable and 
excellent father, was grieved to the heart at her 
course, which he could not restrain ; and for attempt 
ing to do so, was only denounced as having no re 
ligion himself. Her husband, moreover, rendered 
miserable by her course, and supposing that her 
fanaticism had been induced by her clergyman, be 
came highly exasperated against him. 

In the year 1823, or early in 1824, and while 
these proceedings were yet enacting, the good old 
gentleman was called to his rest; and the lady 
whose plumes had given offence to his daughter 
penned a tribute to his memory in the shape of a 
biographical obituary notice of some length, which 
was published. In that notice, she had spoken of 
the deceased, whom she dearly loved, as a Chris 
tian ; and, strange as it may appear, by so doing 
D 



38 MATTHIAS AND 

she again provoked the daughter, who now declared 
that the writer of an article pronouncing her father 
a Christian could be no Christian herself. Indeed, 
a spirit of severity and bitterness of censure and 
denunciation towards all professing Christians who 
did not walk agreeably to their standard, was now 
indulged, not only by the lady superior, but by 
her disciples, which was very unlike the virtue of 
Christian charity so eloquently commended by Paul, 
in his first address to the Corinthians : and with the 
claim of superior sanctity was united an affectation 
of plainness of attire, in the assumption of which 
there was obviously more of spiritual pride than ac 
companied the richest dress in the city. One of 
the coterie, a lady of wealth, having divested her 
cap of its lace, actually called upon her pastor, to 
know whether he had observed her humility ! She 
and her associates seemed to have forgotten another 
injunction of the great Apostle, "Let nothing be 
done through strife or vainglory ; but in lowliness 
of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves. " 
But it may be inquired, What possible connection 
can these details, concerning different persons, and 
at a comparatively distant period of time, have with 
Matthews the impostor ] The connection, it is 
conceived, will be obvious long before this narrative 
of human weakness and imperfection will be ended. 
We are illustrating the progress of fanaticism and 
delusion ; in doing which, the most natural, as well 
as philosophical, method is, to ascertain the cause, 
and trace it to its effect. The narrative is therefore 
resumed. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



The next stage of the delusion under review was 
still more extraordinary. It was the spontaneous 
formation, in the year 1S25, of an association, com 
posed of members of the Presbyterian, Baptist, and 
Methodist churches the greater number from the 
latter, although among those from the former was 
the moving spirit of the proceedings already detailed 
in the present chapter. It was not confined, how 
ever, as before, principally to " the female brethren" 
of the churches, but several gentlemen of standing 
and reputed piety were of the number some of 
whom became the leaders of the association. The 
objects of the association were social prayer, mutual 
exhortations, and familiar expositions of the Scrip 
tures ; and it was alleged that they came out from 
among their respective churches because of their 
comparative lack of piety. They arrogated to them 
selves more holiness than was possessed by others, 
and therefore consorted thus together, holding their 
meetings alternately at the houses of the respective 
members, of whom, at one time, they numbered 
from thirty to forty. Nor were they drawn from the 
lowest and most ignorant walks of life, like the fol 
lowers of Joanna Southcote and the miserable Mor 
mons, but were for the most part well-informed and 
highly respectable persons, of both sexes, among 
whom were several professional gentlemen of celeb 
rity. Of their doings and their creed, the following 
facts have been noted down from the lips of those 
who were cognizant of their proceedings. 

They began with exclusive pretensions to holi 
ness, and proceeded step by step, as fanaticism al- 



40 MATTHIAS AND 

ways does, until they claimed extraordinary gifts in 
the interpretation of prophecy professed to have 
found the key to the hitherto sealed book of the 
Apocalypse and even laid claim to the power of 
working miracles through the prayer of faith. 

Their meetings were usually opened by Mr. 

, one of their leaders, who proclaimed that it 

was an assemblage in the exercises of which all were 
allowed to participate, but none must speak unless 
specially moved thereto by the Holy Ghost. It was 
also sometimes stated that questions were open for 
discussion ; but did any one, not being full in their 
faith, venture to doubt, question, or oppose them, 
the leader would reply, and sometimes abuse them 
with great harshness. Their preaching was called 
prophesying. They believed in dreams and visions, 
and related them for comment and interpretation. 

They did not believe in the special observance of 
the Christian Sabbath, but maintained that all days 
were alike. They did not believe in the institution 
of marriage, but maintained that a single life was 
essential to purity and holiness, and that married 
people could not really serve the Lord. Some of 
them went so far as to maintain that all marriage- 
bonds were dissolved. One very respectable lady, 
whose husband belonged to the association, and who 
had herself become partially infected by the mania, 
was restored to her right mind in a rather singular 
manner. Two or three of the unmarried sisterhood 
paid her a visit one day, and almost broke her heart, 
by informing her that her husband was not her hus 
band at least, that he would not be her husband 



HIS IMPOSTURES 41 

any longer. This bold invasion of her conjugal 
rights dissipated the delusion which had begun to 
steal over her. 

It happened, however, in process of time, that two 
of their most zealous leaders, who inveighed the 
most strongly against matrimony, actually married 
members of the association. On one occasion, one 
of them, after speaking very decidedly against mar 
riage although he himself had once been married 
was seen to give his arm to a young lady, on leav 
ing the meeting, and escort her home. A complaint 
was made against him at the next meeting, and he 
was brought to the confessional and obtained for 
giveness, if not absolution, by an apology. He 
nevertheless married the woman afterward. 

They did not believe in a final day of judgment, 
but maintained that mankind were judged for their 
deeds every day. At one of these meetings, when 
this tenet was the subject of their devotional medita 
tions, a lady-orator became apparently almost frantic. 
She screamed wildly for both sexes " prophesied," 
and their meetings were sometimes very noisy and 
danced back and forth across the room, declaring, 
" This is the judgment-seat of Christ the Judge is 
now on the throne, and he is judging every one of 
you now." 

They were also Perfectionists. On one occa 
sion, one of the perfect ladies proclaimed that she 
was even then standing on the sea of glass, and 
holding converse with God. She declared that she 
held sweet communion with him daily conversing 
with him, " face to face." At another meeting, one 
D2 



42 MATTHIAS AND 

of the male members declared that he had not had a 
single temptation for ten years dwelling much 
upon his own perfection, the strength of his faith, 
&c. At the next convocation, however, he was 
observed to sit silent and moody in the back part 
of the room. Towards the close of the evening, he 
rose, and with a heavy heart announced that he had 
on that very evening been grievously tempted. 
From the moment he entered the apartment, he said, 
he had wished them all to fall down and worship 
him. It was indeed a sore temptation ; he wept, 
confessed his fault, and obtained relief. 

They also believed in their power, through the 
prayer of faith, to heal the sick, as by miracle ; and 
in several cases, one of their leaders, Mr. , pro 
ceeded to anoint the bodies of the sick, in obedience, 
as they supposed, to the injunction of the Apostle 
James ; forgetting, or not knowing, that that in 
junction was prescribed only for observance during 
the Apostolic age. The facts and circumstances 
attending one of these cases are well known to the 
writer, and are withal so peculiar, that the particulars 
will be briefly stated especially as they serve for 
cibly to illustrate the strength with which the delu 
sion had already fastened upon the minds of the 
members. Among the number, a friend of the 
writer, and a very excellent man, who is no doubt 
his error to the contrary notwithstanding now rejoic 
ing in the kingdom of heaven, was for a long time 
sick, and apparently nigh unto death. While thus 
prostrate upon his bed, receiving the affectionate at 
tentions of his wife, Mr. one day told the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 43 

latter that the Lord had promised to raise her hus 
band from his sickness, in answer to his prayers. 
He added, that if she would promise him to serve 
the Lord with her whole heart all the days of her 
life, and join with him in prayer, it should be done, 
and her husband should be restored to health. 
The lady replied that she would make no promises 
to man upon such a subject that it was to her God 
she went with her cares, and to him alone adding, 
in answer to his importunities, like a woman of good 
sense, as she is, the question, " If, as you say, the 
Lord has promised this great work in answer to your 
prayers, what difference can it make whether I com 
ply with your request or not ?" Mr. then left 

her, and informed the -sick man that it was owing 
to his wife s obstinacy that he was not healed. The 
poor man, debilitated in body and in mind, by long 
and severe illness, believed the suggestion ; and 
calling his wife to his bedside, with tears in his eyes, 
conjured her not to be so hard-hearted and cruel, as 
thus to persist in preventing his recovery ! At 
length, however, the difficulty was surmounted. By 
a small meeting of the leaders of the sect around 
his bed, he was anointed with oil, with solemn reli 
gious services. The disease soon afterward took 
a favourable turn, and the sick man was eventually 
restored to comfortable, though never again to ro 
bust, health. His recovery was proclaimed as a 
miracle, and for a long time, to the knowledge of the 
writer, believed to be one by the invalid himself. It 
happened, however, that immediately after the anoint 
ing, Mr. declared that he alone must act as 



44 MATTHIAS AND 

nurse and physician. The first medicine he adminis 
tered was a quantity of eggs and cider, which ope 
rated as a powerful emetic, and doubtless gave a 
favourable turn to the disorder. Another case of 
miracle, performed in the same way, was also pro 
claimed some time afterward ; but this was only 
completed by the active treatment of a skilful phy 
sician, who informs the writer that he was called in 
just in season, through Providence, to rescue the 
patient from the grave. Still it is very possible 
that, temporary relief was in both cases attributable 
to the influence of a strong imagination, impressed 
with the assurance of recovery. Such \vas un 
doubtedly the fact in regard to the pretended mira 
cles contended for by Mr. JIume, as having been 
performed at the tomb of Thomas a Becket, and 
elsewhere. Those said to have been performed in 
Europe some years since, when the French were 
running wild on the subject of animal magnetism, 
were occasioned by the operation of the same prin 
ciple. So, also, in the case of the young lady, Miss 
Campbell, said to have been miraculously healed by 
Edward Irving ; to which may be added, the pre 
tended miracles of Prince Hohenlohe. Indeed, hun 
dreds and thousands of instances might be cited, in 
which diseases, probably in themselves in a great 
measure imaginary, have been alleviated or dispelled 
by working upon the imagination. But at the same 
time, equally w r ell attested cases might be cited, in 
which diseases, and even death, have been super 
induced by the same means. 

Such was the association of enthusiasts and fa- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 45 

natics" formed in 1825. By what name it was recog 
nised in its own circle, or whether it had any particular 
title, is not known to the writer. By the profane, 
it was sometimes called " The Holy Club." It did 
not, however, continue long. Its extravagances be 
came such, that its most respectable members fell 
off, and it was at length entirely dissolved. Its 
male leaders married, and have since been indulging 
in the dreams, and reveries, and visionary specula 
tions of Emanuel Swedenborg. 

Preserving, as far as possible, the regular order 
of events, without losing sight, as we must not, of 
the active and almost omnipresent female spirit who 
was first in the delusion, and the means of bringing 
and keeping others therein, the reader must now be 
introduced to Mr. and Mrs. BENJAMIN H. FOLGER, 
whose names have so frequently appeared before 
the public of late, in connection with those of Mat 
thews and his other victims. Mr. Folger has been 
known to the writer from the days of his boyhood, 
when both were residents of Hudson. He was one 
of the most amiable and intelligent lads of his time, 
and grew up to man s estate, full of activity and en 
terprise, and endowed with those estimable qualities 
which, united to an excellent capacity for business, 
and sound principles of integrity, secured for him 
the esteem and confidence of all who knew him. 
He commenced business in the city of New- York 
about the year 1821, and with the qualifications and 
advantages just described, his commercial career 
was not only successful, but prosperous to a degree. 
He was married in 1823, to a young lady who was 



46 MATTHIAS AND 

reared in the bosom of the Reformed Dutch church, 
accustomed from her childhood to the observance 
of the Sabbath and the reading of the Holy Scrip 
tures, and taught to cultivate religious impressions, 
and cherish a devotional spirit, by a pious mother. 

At the time of their marriage, neither Mr. Folger 
nor his wife was a professor of religion. Among 
the relatives present on the happy occasion was 
Mrs. * * *, the lady to whom such frequent refer 
ence has already been made, and who, as the mas 
ter-spirit of most of the proceedings to be recorded, 
must yet be spoken of still more frequently. Hav 
ing previously, however, been the cause of great 
pain in the circle of her relatives and friends, by rea 
son of her religious enthusiasm, or fanaticism, as it 
was more justly called, at Mr. Folger s suggestion 
there was a distinct understanding that her peculiar 
views upon this subject were never to be introduced 
into his family. Under this compact, she continued 
a frequent visiter at the house of Mr. Folger, and 
obtained great influence over the mind of his lady, 
for which purpose her efforts were unceasing. In 
the year 1825, while sitting under the preaching of 
the Rev. Mr. Dubois, Mrs. Folger became a hopeful 
convert to Christianity, and a member of his church. 
Her religious experience had been such as to render 
her feelings peculiarly tender and susceptible. The 
cares of her mother, at that interesting period, de 
prived the daughter of her judicious counsel and ex 
ample ; and while thus circumstanced, before her 
friends had discerned the approach of error, it was 
discovered that Mrs, * * * had not only obtained 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 47 

almost the entire control of her mind, but had 
already made her a convert to her own peculiar and 
most unfortunate views of Christian duty and prin 
ciple. Her warfare against all superfluous or orna 
mental articles of dress was yet waged, as in the 
early part of her fanatical career ; and her young 
disciple was persuaded in all respects to conform to 
her notions upon this subject. No article of apparel 
was allowed beyond the requirements of decency, 
to which were added various austere observances, 
abstinence, fasting, &c. One day in every week 
was strictly observed as a fast ; and the season was 
occasionally extended to three, or perhaps changed 
to a whole week of rigid diet upon bread and water. 
These observances were instituted to humble their 
own souls, and increase their zeal and their faith in 
labours and intercessions for the souls of others. 
It was at this period that Mrs. Folger s spiritual 
guide began to claim revelations from heaven ; or, 
in other words, the direct teachings of the Holy 
Spirit, in regard as well to all her own personal con 
cernments, as to the affairs of the church : and in 
order that the connection may not escape attention, 
it is well here to remind the reader, that we are 
now speaking of events occurring simultaneously 
with the proceedings of " The Holy Club," already 
described hi the present chapter, with which, as has 
been previously stated, Mrs. * * * was connected. 
Having thus overcome all opposition upon the 
subject of her religious views, and obtained complete 
and entire ascendency in spiritual matters in his 
family, the house of Mr. Folger was for a long time 



48 MATTHIAS AND 

the centre of her operations ; and female prayer- 
meetings were held there on any, and sometimes 
every, day and evening of the week. These meet 
ings were numerously attended ; but notwithstanding 
the spirit in which they originated, and the unpromis 
ing Christian character of the lady-principal, they 
are, nevertheless, believed to have been productive 
of lasting good upon the minds of some of those 
who mingled in, and participated with them. If 
such was the fact, there is cause of gratitude to that 
Being who is able to overrule all things for good. 
" Notwithstanding every way," says Paul to the 
Philippians, " ivhether in pretence or in truth, Christ 
is preached ; and therein I do rejoice, yea, and will 
rejoice." And here it must be noted, that among 
the ladies most earnestly engaged in those meetings 
was the late Mrs. Sarah Pierson, the wife of the 
late Elijah Pierson. 

Having removed to the lower part of the city, and 
connected himself with the congregation of the Gar 
den-street church, Mr. Folger became a convert to 
Christianity in 1827, under the preaching of the Rev. 
Dr. Matthews, and attached himself to his church, 
of which he proved himself an intelligent, active, 
and exemplary member. In 1829, he was one of 
those who projected and established the Dey-street 
church, and one of the four who united in calling 
the Rev. Joel Parker from Rochester to the pas 
toral charge of that congregation. But it will pres 
ently be seen that he did not remain in that con 
nection. 

Some time previous to the year 1829, Mrs. * * * , 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 49 

had removed to the Bowery Hill, which has recently 
been dug down, but upon which, at that period, stood 
a range of houses, isolated as it were from the city, 
pleasantly situated, and deeply imbosomed in an al 
most continuous grove of ornamental trees and shrub* 
bery. It was a sweet sylvan retreat from the city, 
and in all respects a desirable place of residence, 
especially for the summer. Mr. Folger had made 
arrangements for permanently residing in the lower 
part of the city ; but the continued intimacy of Mrs. 

* * * having increased her influence, until at length 
it had become paramount in his domestic as well as 
religious affairs, he was induced to change his plans. 
It was the strong desire of this lady that he should 
remove to the Bowery Hill ; and having been taught 
by the Spirit that it was his duty to do so, she suc 
ceeded in persuading him into the measure. Not 
only that, but she was also taught by the Spirit that 
it was his duty to sell his fashionable furniture, and 
substitute therefor merely the plainest articles of 
necessity with all of which requirements of " the 
Spirit" he complied, and removed accordingly. Mr. 
Piersori also resided at Bowery Hill at the same 
time, and several other families and individuals in 
that portion of the city, who were disciples and fol 
lowers of Mrs. * * *. 

It was here, and in the same year, that the cele 
brated " Retrenchment Society* was devised by Mrs. 

* * *, and organized under the influence of a tract 
which she wrote, and under her own immediate 
auspices. This event marks the next stage in the 
progress of the delusion under which, at a subse- 

E 



50 MATTHIAS AND 

quent period, so many persons became the victims 
of Matthews. The members were bound to abstain 
religiously from all costly articles pf dress or furni 
ture to wear no ornaments or jewels and to eat 
no cake, pastry, sweetmeats, or butter to drink 
neither tea nor coffee and, in short, to deny them 
selves all the luxuries and most of the comforts of 
life. In the list of the proscribed articles of furni 
ture were, all articles made of mahogany or brass ; 
all pictures, looking-glasses, carpets, curtains, sofas, 
or rich furniture of any description. And in addi 
tion to these inhibitions, they were to fast two or 
three whole days in every week. This last rule 
was most rigidly enforced even upon the tender 
pupils of a school taught by one of the ladies, who, 
it is said, were compelled to fast with her, until they 
would cry for hours after bread and w r ater until, in 
fact, in some instances, they were made sick by 
their abstinence. 

Strange as it may appear, the infatuation which, 
in the present age, could lead to the formation of 
such a society of anchorites, was by no means con 
fined to the small circle of visionary women in which 
it originated. It embraced at one time a consider 
able number of members. Some of them lived in 
fine houses in the most fashionable parts of the city. 
They sold their best and most fashionable and 
showy furniture ; and a religious friend informs the 
writer, that he recollects seeing one of them a very 
wealthy citizen, living in a splendid mansion worth 
at least twenty thousand dollars at supper in his 
spacious parlour one evening, with nothing 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 51 

the table but a decanter of cold water, a loaf of 
brown, and a few pieces of gingerbread, with three 
or four raw apples. This was the homely fare of 
an opulent member of the Retrenchment Society, 
who doubtless thought that he was doing God ser 
vice forgetting that consistency would have re 
quired him to exchange his palace for a cottage, and 
distribute all his goods, saving only enough for the 
purchase of his stinted fare, among the poor, or in 
aid of the kingdom of that Master whom he was no 
doubt sincerely desirous to serve. The delusion 
of the gentleman referred to has since taken a dif 
ferent and less inoffensive turn. 

Such is a brief history of the "Retrenchment 
Society," of which, remembering the circumstances 
in which he stood, the almost total submission of his 
lady to the dictates of its founder, Mrs. * * *, and 
the zeal with which she complied with all its requisi 
tions, the reader will no doubt be surprised to learn 
that Mr. Folger was not a member. 



62 -"MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER III. 

Characters of Mr. and Mrs. Elijah Pierson Commencement of 
their Religious Enthusiasm He conceives a project for Con 
verting the City and the World Convenes the Clergy Re 
markable visit to his Pastor Adopts notions at variance 
with his Church Opinions against Renting Pews, &c 
Separation from the Church and Removal to Bowery Hill- 
Joins Mrs. * * Fruitless attempts to Reclaim him Ex 
travagant Proceedings Communications with the Spirit 
Commences Preaching Extracts from his Diary Sickness 
of Mrs. Pierson A Vision Commissioned as Elijah the 
Tishbite Anointing of Mrs. Pierson Her Death Solemn 
Scenes at her Funeral Attempt to Raise her from the Dead 
by the Prayer of FaithHis Prayer The Burial. 

IT has already been stated, in the last chapter, that 
among the residents upon Bowery Hill, were the 
late Elijah Pierson and his family. Mr. Pierson 
was a native of Morristown, in New-Jersey. He 
passed through the several grades of apprentice and 
clerk in the city of New- York, much to the satisfac 
tion of his employers, and was a highly-respected 
merchant for many years, enjoying the confidence 
and esteem of a large circle of acquaintance among 
business men. Amiable, intelligent, and pious, he 
was the devoted friend of religion and humanity ; 
and few men spent more time and money in these 
objects, and in the cause of philanthropy, than he. 
He was originally a member of the Brick Presby 
terian Church in Beekman-street, and subsequently 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 53 

an elder in the Mission Church in Bancker (now 
Madison) street. In 1822, he detached himself 
from the Presbyterian connection, and became a 
member of the South Baptist Church, in which he 
was for several years a deacon of exemplary char 
acter and deportment. Indeed, he would have been 
an honour to any church, where meekness, charity, 
and an unostentatious devotion to the service of his 
Master were regarded as cardinal virtues. There 
was not a symptom of undue enthusiasm not a parti 
cle of fanaticism about him ; on the contrary, he 
was uniformly regarded as an unusually judicious, dis 
criminating, and consistent Christian, full of charity 
and good works ; and the same characteristics dis 
tinguished him in all the ordinary concerns of life. 
He was a favourite among Christians of all denomi 
nations ; and it may be said, without exaggeration, 
that no layman in New- York exerted a more salu 
tary and holy influence. 

Mrs. Pierson was the eldest daughter of the late 
Rev. John Stanford, long known to the citizens of 
New- York as the pious, benevolent, and, despite 
his great, age, zealous and active Chaplain to the 
Penitentiary, Almshouse, and other public institu 
tions. The daughter, Sarah, was, at the time of her 
marriage with Mr. Pierson, a widow, and about 
thirty years of age. Her first marriage had been 
unfortunate. It took place after an engagement of 
six years ; this long delay was caused by poverty, 
the circumstances of Mr. Warner, for that was the 
name of Mrs. Pierson s first husband, being such 
as not to justify him in marrying. He was engaged 
E 2 



54 MATTHIAS AND 

in commercial pursuits, and labouring hard to pro 
vide himself with the means of supporting a family. 
Success at length crowned his efforts, and they were 
married. Very soon after their union, Mr. Warner 
was tempted, by a very advantageous offer, to pro 
ceed as supercargo to one of the West India Islands, 
and there died of the yellow fever ; and thus his 
wife became a widow ere she had been six months 
married. Her grief was deep and lasting ; but it 
yielded, after the lapse of several years, to the 
assiduities of Mr. Pierson. The exact time of her 
second marriage we have not been able to ascertain. 
In person, Miss Stanford was small, but grace 
ful ; and her features, though not, strictly speaking, 
beautiful, were of a most intellectual cast full of 
expression and eminently pleasing. Her mind 
was one of a high order, and it had been exceedingly 
well cultivated. Her conversation was remarkably 
interesting, not only from the intelligence, informa 
tion, and good sense by which it was characterized, 
but also, and still more, from the pure spirit of be 
nevolence and piety which it invariably displayed. 
The kindness of her disposition was indeed remark 
able ; the writer was intimately acquainted with her, 
and, for nearly four years, in the habit of seeing her 
almost every day ; and, during all that time, he can 
truly say, that he never heard her utter a single 
word, or knew her to do a single act, indicative of 
peevishness, envy, ill-humour, or any other unamia- 
ble quality. She was mistress of several accom 
plishments, but that in which she most delighted 
was music. Of this she was a proficient ; and it 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 55 

may be mentioned, as an evidence of her fondness 
for it, that she had acquired great skill, not only on 
the piano and in singing, but also on the flute and 
flageolet. She had originally belonged to the Epis 
copal church; but, with her last husband, ulti 
mately joined the Baptists. 

Such is a brief sketch of the remarkable and un 
fortunate couple whose names are closely interwo 
ven with the residue of this history. United and 
happy in each other possessing an abundance of 
this world s goods with every social, moral, and in 
tellectual quality that can render life delightful the 
hands of both ever open to the calls of the needy, 
and the equally pressing demands of those whom 
they supposed to be hungering for the bread of life 
to all human probability they had a long career 
of usefulness, virtue, and honour before them. 
Least of all could it have been anticipated, that their 
suns should set so soon, and go down, as they did, 
in gloom and sorrow. 

While a member of the South Baptist church, 
Mr. Pierson had resided in the lower part of the 
city. It will have been observed in the preceding 
chapter, that Mrs. Pierson was one of the ladies at 
tending the multitudinous female prayer meetings 
in 1825, under the auspices of Mrs. * * *, at the 
house of Mr. B. H. Folger. But it is not known that 
she gave any other evidence of religious extravagance 
until about the year 1828. 

Some time previous to this date, however, Mr. 
Pierson conceived various extravagant notions re 
specting the practicability Q converting the whole 



Mfc V 



56 MATTHIAS AND 

population of the city : with a view to which project 
he convened a large number of the clergy of differ 
ent denominations. At this meeting one or more 
of the clergymen thought they discerned the symp 
toms of an approaching hallucination, although such 
was not the general impression. Not long after 
ward, he called upon his pastor early one morning, 
for the purpose of conversation upon the same sub 
ject, and evidently under great excitement of mind. 
In this interview, which was extended through the 
whole day, he declared that he had received new 
light upon spiritual subjects. He went at length 
into a statement of his newly acquired opinions ; 
and with occasional bursts of enthusiasm, not to say 
phrenzy, would seize his pastor by the hand, ex 
claiming, " These these are the truths of God, and 
must not be rejected." His present object was 
the immediate conversion of the whole city, which 
event, he affirmed, would be the prelude to the con 
version of the whole world. He wished to kindle a 
blaze in the city of New-York that the universe 
would see. One of his plans for the accomplish 
ment of the noble enterprise, was a mission to Eu 
rope, for the purpose, as he said, of revealing truths 
that had never been revealed all the world being, 
in his opinion, yet involved, as it were, in Cimmerian 
darkness. His conversation during the day was, in 
the main, coherent, and, with the exception of his 
extravagant views respecting the practicability of an 
almost instantaneous conversion of New- York and 
the world, rational excepting, moreover, the erro 
neous constructions which he occasionally put upon 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 57 

some of the passages of Scripture, with which his 
conversation was interlarded. It was evident from 
his whole manner, moreover, that he was most sin 
cerely and earnestly bent upon the great work he 
had in view. It was a day, he said, which he had 
solemnly set apart for fasting and prayer upon that 
subject ; and from nine o clock in the morning until 
night, he was engaged, the entire time, in the most 
earnest conversation refusing to partake of a mor 
sel of refreshment during the whole period, though 
frequently and earnestly requested to do so. The 
clergyman, readily perceiving what was the state of 
his mind, indulged him thus long, with a view of al 
lowing him to expend his fervour, losing no avail 
able opportunity, however, of interposing such whole 
some remarks, and imparting such advice, as he 
judged most suitable to the peculiar case and occa 
sion. But it was all to no purpose, and the unfor 
tunate man was soon perceived to be verging farther 
and yet farther in his extravagant views. 

He began soon afterward to express opinions 
which were evidently at variance with the word of 
God, though at first not heretical, in themselves con 
sidered. Upon those points his pastor, and other 
religious friends, laboured long and faithfully with 
him, visiting his house frequently to converse and 
pray with him. But the mildness and gentleness 
of his disposition seemed to be leaving him ; and 
having avowed what were considered erroneous opi 
nions, it was evidently his determination not to re 
tract them, or at least he was very reluctant to do 
so, notwithstanding the clear and incontrovertible 



58 MATTHIAS AND 

arguments which from the Scriptures were produced 
in opposition to his views. Be that as it may, the 
friends who were then striving to save him from 
error received the impression, that, although partially 
convinced by their arguments, he was nevertheless 
determined not to yield to the conviction. 

In the year 1828, both Mr. Pierson and his wife 
objected to the practice of taking up collections of 
money in church on the Lord s day believing it to 
be a profanation of holy time. They also objected 
to the practice of owning and letting pews for the 
exclusive use of proprietors and lessees, and those 
who might be favoured with invitations. Among 
the papers of Mr. Pierson, which will be frequently 
quoted in the progress of this work, is a statement 
of the views of himself and his wife upon these ques 
tions, which seems to have been drawn up at the re 
quest of the church. About two-thirds of this paper 
is in the handwriting of Mrs. Pierson, and was 
written, as Mr. Pierson states in a note, " under a 
very powerful sense of the presence and direction 
of the Lord." The argument of the pew question 
is chiefly founded upon the practice of the primitive 
church, of having all things in common ; and also 
upon James, ii. 1 4. " J\Iy brethren, have not the 
faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, 
with respect of persons. For if there come into your 
assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, 
and tliere come in also a poor man in vile raiment ; 
and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay 
clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good 
place ; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 5t> 

here under my footstool : are ye not then partial in 
yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?" 
The argument, however, was not sufficiently con 
vincing to induce the church to relinquish either of 
the practices of which they had complained. Still 
they yet continued their connection with the church, 
for upward of six months ; and upon every point 
but those two, remained the same affectionate, kind- 
hearted, and humble members as before. 

Prior to the removal of the old state prison from 
Greenwich, Mr. Pierson and his wife had laboured 
much of the time for two years in the Sunday-schools 
and among the convicts of that establishment ; count 
ing self-denial and hardship nothing, so that they 
could do good to the souls of men. Nor were 
their labours unattended with the blessing. After 
the demolition of that prison, their attention was 
directed to tfre condition of the degraded women 
of the Five Points for whose spiritual welfare their 
exertions were instant in season and out of sea* 
son. Among the unsound and unscriptural notions 
which Mr. Pierson now held, was that of direct reve 
lations to him of the will of God, through the audi 
ble agency of the Holy Spirit. This belief, or pre 
tension, it will be recoHected, was avowed by Mrs. 
* * *, with whom, it must be borne in mind, Mrs. 
Pierson had been associated as early as 1825. Mr* 
Pierson was indeed a man of prayer of habitual, 
constant prayer ; and after he began to entertain 
these opinions, it was his daily habit to record his 
religious exercises, his prayers, and the answers 
which he received. These prayers were put up o 



60 MATTHIAS AND 

all occasions, upon every subject of duty or busi 
ness, for direction in every undertaking, spiritual or 
temporal, and for every person with whom he trans 
acted business, or was connected in religious duties. 
There will be occasion to draw frequently hereafter 
from these closet records, of which the following is 
a specimen. It is without date ; but from its sub 
ject, it is probable that it was penned during the 
labours of himself and wife among the unfortunate 
females above spoken of. 

Prayed for the harlots at Five Points : asked the Lord to give 
us all the ground whereon the soles of our feet had trod, and all 
the souls now alive who had heard our voices in that neigh 
bourhood. 

Answer. The Lord said, " You must go and fetch them out.* 
The Lord said, concerning the two witnesses, "Thou art one 
and Sarah the other." 

Their differences with the South Baptist Church 
becoming yet wider and more obvious, Mr. and 
Mrs. Pierson withdrew from it, and in the year 1829 
removed to the Bowery Hill, in the immediate 
neighbourhood of Mrs. * * *, from whom they had 
derived their recent views of the direct teach 
ings of the Holy Spirit, and with whom their con 
nection now became more intimate than ever. It 
was, indeed, a union of congenial spirits ; and from 
the moment of that union, may be dated the com 
mencement of that series of proceedings and meas 
ures at the Bowery Hill, which, going from one step 
to another in fanaticism and delusion, ultimately pre 
pared the way for the advent of the false prophet 
Matthias. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 61 

There can be no doubt of (he sincere desire of 
Mr. and Mrs. Pierson to do good. Their whole 
religious lives had been spent in cultivating the 
Christian graces, and in works of universal philan 
thropy and benevolence. But the operations of the 
Christian world were too slow for them, and the faith 
of others did not extend far enough. Hence they had 
come out from among their former associates, and 
thought, with the Welsh preacher, that they could 
set the world in a blaze, while an old-fashioned 
Christian would be lighting his pipe. Numbers, 
gathering round the trio, became their disciples, and 
various associations for objects of philanthropy were 
undertaken. Among these was a society for the 
education of children of poor parents for the Chris 
tian ministry as they understood it. Several chil 
dren were supported and instructed for a time, but 
the sickness which prevailed there in the summers, 
broke up the school in 1830, and the effort ceased. 
A sewing society was organized by the females, the 
profits of whose labours were to be appropriated to 
the support and instruction of converted Jews, who 
were to be sent forth as missionaries. Mr. Pierson 
now commenced preaching, and applied for orders 
to the denomination with which he had been con 
nected ; but was refused. He nevertheless con 
tinued to preach, and converts were added to his 
flock. Among these were two young Jews, who 
were supported there for some time. There was a 
transaction connected with one of them, who desired 
to marry a sister of the establishment, over which it 
is judged best to draw a veil. The other went forth 



62 MATTHIAS AND 

upon a mission "since which," in the words of one 
of the community, " nothing satisfactory has been 
heard of him." Mr. and Mrs. Pierson had also 
mainly under their direction, the celebrated Magdalen 
Institution, which was located there, and one of the 
annual reports concerning which, made so much 
noise, and gave such marked dissatisfaction to the 
public, a year or two afterward. They were like 
wise with Mrs. * * *, its founder, foremost among 
the members of the memorable " Retrenchment So 
ciety," of which an account has been given in the 
preceding chapter. 

Feeling alarmed at the extravagances into which 
the people at the Bowery Hill were running, and 
especially at the increasing wildness of conduct mani 
fested by Mr. Pierson, his former pastor visited his 
house often, with a view of reclaiming, and, if pos 
sible, bringing him back to a more rational course 
of conduct. He was, however, generally absent ; 
but the clergyman found Mrs. Pierson at home, and 
in repeated conversations yet discovered in her a de 
lightful state of Christian feeling. As matters evi 
dently grew worse, the clergyman just referred to, 
with several of his most judicious friends, resolved 
upon making greater efforts for preserving him from 
what was evidently an impending delirium. They 
ultimately succeeded in obtaining several interviews, 
and talked and prayed with, and for him, earnestly. 
But he was not to be diverted from the course he 
had marked out for himself, and which, he said, duty 
required of him. And the writer is authorized here 
to remark, that although in his Christian character 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 63 

he had usually, and on ordinary occasions, shown 
himself one of the most tractable, meek, and humble 
followers of his Master, yet when he had made a 
promise, or determined upon a certain course of 
conduct, he was one of the most intractable and ob 
stinate of men seldom holding himself open to 
conviction, however powerful the arguments that 
might be addressed to him. His mind was now 
running upon what he called "the kingdom" 
meaning, probably, the kingdom of the Messiah 
upon earth. It could be no kingdom until estab 
lished upon the Bowery Hill. The kingdom had 
now come ; and consisted of himself, wife and 

children, Mrs. * * *, Mrs. M , Mr. L , 

Isabella, the black-woman, &c. On the occasion 
of which we are now speaking, he manifested more 
than ordinary impatience not to use a harsher term. 
But even if irritable and impatient at times, espe 
cially when over-excited, the private papers of few 
Christians would bear stronger evidence of the ef 
forts he made to conquer this defect of his physical 
temperament, or of the sorrow it evidently occa 
sioned him. As evidence of this fact, the follow 
ing brief note of a prayer upon this very subject, 
and perhaps uttered on this very occasion, since it 
is found on a loose piece of paper, and without date, 
may be adduced. It is accompanied, as are most 
of his recorded prayers, with the answer, which he 
believed to be the audible response of the Holy Spirit: 

P, Lord Jesus ! I perceive that I have failed in exercising a 
pint of love, patience, meekness, kindness, and condescension 
to my fellows, and especially a spirit of impertinence in disputa- 



64 MATTHIAS AND 

tion. Now, Lord Jesus, I confess to thee that this has been wrong, 
and I am heartily sorry for it, and beg thy forgiveness. O Lord ! 
forgive me, and cleanse me from these sins : help me hereafter, 
Lord, to exercise the opposite graces in a double proportion. 

Answer. We have freely forgiven thee and cleansed thee from 
this unrighteousness. Thy petition is granted, and thou shalt 
have help from us so as to enable thee to exercise these graces. 

Through the winter of 1829-30, and the succeed 
ing spring, Mr. Pierson continued preaching in his own 
house at the Bowery Hill ; dwelling much upon the 
subject of baptism by immersion, and likewise prom 
inently advancing the doctrines held by Mrs. * * * 
and himself, of the direct teachings of the spirit. 
Notwithstanding the refusal to his application for a 
license to preach the Gospel, he entertained the opi 
nion that he had been specially called to that office ; 
believing that he had- received special intellectual 
endowments from on high for the priesthood. And 
if any doubt that monomania had already seized 
upon him exists, such doubt will be removed by the 
following excerpt from his diary : 

Monday, 3d Jan. 1830. Lord Jesus, thou hast committed to 
my care great and precious talents, some of which I see, and 
others I may not perceive. O, Lord, I wish to improve to 
the utmost all those talents thou hast given me. I would not 
bury one of them, but diligently improve them for thy glory. 
Now, Lord Jesus, I do humbly entreat thee to unfold to me in a 
clear manner these various talents. Show me their excellency, 
their value, and how to improve them in the best manner. 
Leave me not in ignorance concerning any one, nor suffer me to 
neglect or misimprove any one. 

O, Lord Jesus! help me, for I need help in these things. Lord, 
make thy grace sufficient for me, that I may improve thy gifts ; 
and so that having, more may be given me. 

Answer. I will undertake for thee ; thou seekest to glorify me, 
and I will help thee : thou shalt prosper abundantly ; and to him 
that hath, more shall be given. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 65 

In the month of February following, he proceeded 
to organize a church ; a fact which is thus noted in 
his diary : 

Sunday, Feb. 28th, 1830. We formed ourselves into a church 
at Bowery Hill, and subscribed a paper with our hands unto the 
Lord ; this consumed the fore-part of the day, and came in the 
alternoon, and was informed what we had done. 

The original members of this church were about a 
dozen, whose names are among the loose papers of 
Mr. Pierson. Among them was Isabella, a black 
woman ; who, with another black woman, named 
Katy, was attached to Mr. Pierson s household. 
Their names are mentioned here, because they will 
both come conspicuously before the reader in the 
pages of this narrative. Both entered into all the 
vagaries and delusions of Mr. Pierson ; and one of 
them (the former) was probably, before the end 
came, among the most wicked of the wicked. 

This community, of which Mrs. * * * was the 
chief, and Mr. Pierson the preacher, were in prayer 
and fastings often. For weeks together their meet 
ings were held daily ; and fourteen meetings have 
been known to be holden in a single week. On one 
occasion, at least, the meetings were continued 
daily for three weeks time only being allowed for 
a few hours sleep and some slight refreshments. 
"With such labours, added to the exertions of Mr. 
Pierson out of doors, and those of his wife in the 
Magdalen Asylum, and among the wretched crea 
tures of the Five Points, the constant abstemious 
ness required by the Retrenchment Society, and to 
F 2 



66 MATTHIAS AND 

frequent and protracted seasons of entire fasting, Mr. 
Pierson became greatly emaciated, and the health 
of his wife sank under it. She was taken ill during 
the winter, and her health rapidly declined with the 
approach of spring. She was tenderly loved by 
her husband, and his anxiety for the event, and so 
licitude for her recovery, were very great. Among 
the visions which he has left upon record is the fol 
lowing, which he probably understood as shadowing 
forth the affecting truth that she was soon to be 
taken from him : 

Friday night, 9 o clock, March 13/7;, 1830. I was earnestly beg 
ging the Lord to bestow her bodily strength, and I heard a small 
still voice saying, " Until the ram, I chose the body for a sacri 
fice." I continued to pray, and heard a small still voice continue 
to say, " The supper is prepared, O, to the marriage of the Lamb, 
bring forth the robe!" and I saw it put. on. I saw the face of 
her : she laid down four weapons ; and I saw her countenance ; 
and if you ever had the view of heaven, it was like that. I had 
hold of her elbow, and she asked me if I knew her now. She 
told me what to do with the weapons ; and I saw two wings let 
down to her from heaven, and she flew away. 

Having partially retired from business, Mr. Pier- 
son now spent much of his time in searching the 
Scriptures and in preaching. His mind, at this 
crisis, dwelt much upon the first and second resur 
rection, as spoken of in the Apocalypse. He ob 
served that there was great blessedness laid up for 
those who would have a part in the first resurrec 
tion ; and, as he read the signs of the times, he sup 
posed that the first resurrection was very near, and, 
for aught he knew, the very time when Jesus would 
make his second appearance ; and it was his great 
desire that Mrs. Pierson and himself should have a 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 67 

part in this first resurrection. Mr. and Mrs. Fol- 
ger having now removed to the Bowery Hill, and 
become members of his church, and participants in 
the other associations and labours of the community, 
Mr. Pierson held earnest conversations with Mr. 
Folger upon this subject. 

At length, about the middle of June, the physi 
cians having announced to Mr. Pierson that they 
had no expectation of the recovery of his wife, he 
called upon Mrs. Folger, and repeated what they 
had said adding that " man s extremity was God s 
opportunity," and it was his belief that Mrs. Pierson 
might be restored by faith and prayer, and by obeying 
the injunctions of the Apostle James, touching the 
anointing of the sick. Knowing well with what 
zeal and willingness she had laboured in the Lord s 
vineyard, " he was willing to try how far God would 
interpose in saving her life in answer to prayer, and 
at the risk of being thought crazy, and having his 
name cast out as evil. He would shelter himself 
under the word of God." The following entries in 
his diary occur at this time. The date of the 
second it is important to bear in mind, as it will be 
referred to again : 

Friday, June 18, 1830. Day of fasting and prayer for Sarah. 
It seemed the Lord said, " Sarah thy wife shall recover." 

Sunday, June 20, 1830. I have named thee this day Elijah 
the Tishbite, and thou shalt go before me in the spirit and 
power of Elias, to prepare my way before me. 

On the next, or the following day, according to 
Mr. Pierson s own relation, which has been fur- 



68 MATTHIAS AND 

nished the writer by a friend, while proceeding down 
to Wall-street in an omnibus, God spake to him 
audibly, and said, " Thou art Elijah the Tishbite 
Gather unto me all the members of Israel at the foot 
of Mount Carmel." This injunction he interpreted 
to mean, that he must convene the leading members 
of his church at his house on Bowery Hill. This 
church, in his view, was the true Israel ; and its of 
ficers, of course, the elders. He accordingly invited 
several of the members to his house, on the 23d of 
June all of whom had become more or less infected 
with his enthusiasm, although all had not wandered 
so far into the mists of delusion as himself. After 
a special conversation with Mrs. Folger, in which 
he stated the object of the meeting, she also con 
sented to attend. 

i Assembled around the bedside of Mrs. Pierson, 
now evidently near her end, Mr. Pierson quoted the 
passage from James, heretofore referred to, and 
urged that it was indispensable to the recovery of his 
wife that he should literally fulfil that injunction. He 
had called the elders of the church together, and she 
must be anointed. Arrangements were accordingly 
made for that ceremony. Among the persons pres 
ent on the occasion, were Mrs. * * *, and the black 
woman Isabella, who was very forward and active. 
According to the impressions of persons in the ad 
joining apartment, who were too much shocked by 
the procedure to be present, Isabella must have been 
one of the principal actors and speakers in the re 
ligious rites and ceremonies that were observed. 
The fact of the anointing is briefly noted in the 
diary of Mr. Pierson, thus : 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 69 

, June 23, 1830. Anointed Sarah with oil in the name 
of the Lord, according to James v. 14, 15. 

It is not known or believed by the friends of Mrs. 
Pierson that she altogether approved of this fanatical 
procedure, notwithstanding what it will soon be per 
ceived her husband said upon the subject ; or, if she 
did, her mind and body had become so much debili 
tated by disease, that her own views at this time, 
need scarcely be taken into the account. Either way 
however, it is now of but little consequence. In a 
very few days after the anointing she was no more 
of this world her purified spirit having ascended to 
the bosom of her Saviour.* Preparations were 
made for the funeral, as usual, and a large number 
of special invitations were issued. Mr. Pierson 
himself declaring, however, that it would be no fune 
ral, but rather a resurrection. Indeed, he seemed to 
be Hilly persuaded that she would that day be restored 
to life again by the prayer of faith. The universal 
respect which the deceased had enjoyed while living, 
as a lady of eminent piety and unbounded benevo 
lence, would of course have produced a large at 
tendance at her funeral, to say nothing of the pecu 
liarity of the case. About two hundred persons 

* In relation to the disorder of which Mrs. Pierson died, a 
medical gentleman acquainted with the whole proceedings at 
the Bowery Hill, remarks in a letter to the writer : " I always 
attributed Mrs. Pierson s sickness and death to her excessive 
fast in?, being so frequently repeated and long continued. In 
deed it is very probable that Mr. Pierson himself lost both health 
and reason from the same cause. I had frequent occasion to 
speuk to patients, whose health was so rapidly declining, in re 
lation to the mischief of this delusion, and received for answer 
that they belonged to the Retrenchment Society and must fast. 



70 MATTHIAS AND 

attended, a majority of whom were females. There 
were also several clergymen o! different denomina 
tions present. From the lips of one of these, the 
writer has noted down a full account of the whole 
of the solemn and awful procedure which followed, 
and by a physician who was also present he has like 
wise been favoured with a written account. The 
latter remarks, " The hall and rooms being filled, 
I stood upon the piazza, which opened by a large 
raised window into the parlour where the corpse lay 
in a coffin, clad in grave-clothes. Soo n after I 
took this position, where I could hear and see the 
anticipated ceremonies, I was questioned by several 
persons whether I believed that she would be raised. 
As I saw they were followers of Mr. Pierson, and 
addressed the same question to others who looked 
sceptical, I evaded a direct answer." 

Meantime Mr. Pierson was sitting in an adjoin 
ing room, opening into the parlour where the corpse 
was laid, with the utmost tranquillity and composure. 
One of his clerical friends sat with him for a time, 
and as the funeral seemed to be delayed, he at length 
suggested that they had better proceed, and inquired 
whether there was any particular order of service 
which he wished to be observed. His reply was 
" wait a minute ;" and he sat with the same unmoved 
composure a time longer. Taking an open bible in 
his hand, he then rose, and entered the room of the 
assembly, where the body lay, and a scene ensued 
which almost baffles description. He approached 
the coffin with a measured and solemn tread, and 
with deep solemnity, and a hollow sepulchral voice, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 71 

read the following passage from the Epistle of 
James, v. 14, 15. 

" Is any sick among you 1 let him call for the el 
ders of the church, and let them pray over him, 
anointing him wiih oil, in the name of the Lord. 
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and THE 

LORD SHALL RAISE HIM UP." 

Having read the passage, and looking round upon 
the audience, with deep and solemn emphasis, he 
added " This dear woman has been anointed in the 
name of Israel s God, and in obedience to this di 
vine command ; and I believe that God will fulfil 
his promise." He then repeated the last six words 
of the quotation several times, emphasising the word 
" shall," with great force and feeling, and proceeded 
to argue that the whole passage was to be under 
stood literally, which he affirmed to be its certain in 
fallible meaning as revealed to him, and to that dear 
woman, (pointing to the corpse), and in this faith, he 
said, she died. He then related a remarkable reve 
lation made to him in a carriage as he was coming 
out from the city a short time previous, and de 
clared, that the same revelation was simultaneously 
made to his wife, then nigh unto death. He stated 
that the word of the Lord came to him and com 
manded him to have faith in that promise, and in that 
faith to conform to the conditions, and the promise 
should be fulfilled. When he arrived home, he found 
his wife anxious for his return, and she told him, 
without hearing anything from him touching the ex 
traordinary communication from Heaven which he 
had received on the way, that the Holy Ghost had 



72 MATTHIAS AND 

directed her to instruct her husband in the faith of 
St. James s testimony, and assured her that she 
should be raised. 

Mr. Pierson farther proceeded 1o say, that finding 
that the moment she had received the revelation was 
the identical time when his manifestation was com 
municated, he felt it his duty, and so did that dear 
woman, (again pointing to the corpse), to do as the 
Lord had commanded them. He accordingly col 
lected together a number of pious friends who were 
in the faith, and they proceeded literally to anoint 
her body with oil, and pray over her, trusting in this 
promise, " The Lord shall raise him up." And 
though her physicians had told them that she must 
die, for the consumption had destroyed her lungs, yet 
they knew the Lord, the Heavenly Physician, could 
heal the sick, and even raise the dead ; and they had 
strong faith in His word, that if they anointed her, 
and prayed, the promise would be fulfilled, for " the 
Lord shall raise him up." In that faith, he repeated, 
that dear woman died. And after exhorting all 
present to exercise similar faith, and affirming in the 
language of the Saviour, " she is not dead but 
sleepeth," he commented on the wickedness of un 
belief, and the sin of doubting the word of God. 
He then unequivocally declared, that whereas, the 
elders of the church had anointed her with oil and 
prayed over her, if she were not raised up to-day, 
now, on the spot, the word of God falls to the ground. 
But expressing his full confidence that the miracle 
would be performed, for the strengthening of the 
faith of his disciples, and that the mouths of gain- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 73 

sayers might be stopped, by her instant resurrection, 
he invited all present to unite with him in prayer. 
He then spread forth his hands over the coffin, 
closed his eyes, and began a solemn and impressive 
prayer. The following sentences he repeatedly used 
with most impassioned feeling, and with very little 
variation of language. " O Lord God of Israel ! 
thy own word declares that if the elders of the 
church anoint the sick and pray over him, the Lord 
shall raise him up. We have taken thee at thy word ; 
we have anointed her with oil, and prayed the prayer 
of faith, and thou knowest in this faith the dear 
woman died, and in this faith we thy children live* 
Now, Lord, we claim thy promise ! God is not 
man that he should lie, and if this dear woman is not 
raised up this day, thy word will fall to the ground ; 
thy promise is null and void ; and these gainsaying 
infidels will rejoice, and go away triumphing in their 
unbelief. Lord God ! thou canst not deny thyself. 
Thou knowest we have performed the conditions to 
the very letter. O Lord, now fulfil thy promise 
now, Lord let not thy enemies blaspheme show 
that thou hast Almighty power thou canst raise the 
dead we believe it, Lord. Come now, and make 
good thy word, and let this assembly see that there ig 
a God in Israel !" Thus he continued to pray with 
a loud voice, and great effort, for nearly an hour, 
when he closed and sank down into a chair, appa 
rently much exhausted, but yet with the calmness 
and serenity of perfect and entire conviction. The 
manner and matter of the prayer had evidently a 
wonderful effect upon the audience. The attention 
G- 



74 MATTHIAS AND 

of every one was riveted upon the preacher, and all 
eves save those of the afflicted and weeping relatives 
were fixed upon the coffin, as anxiously as though 
they themselves had yielded to the delusion, and 
were expecting to see the lifeless body rise up in full 
health and vigour before them. In the course of 
the enthusiastic effusion, a number of ladies who 
were in the faith, and one of whom, as the writer 
has been assured was Mrs. * * *, stood around the 
coffin, looking intently for the miracle and OCCE 
sionally touching the face and hands of he corpse, 
expecting to discover signs of returning life. This 
they continued to do, during the solemn pause which 
followed/the prayer, and a "drop of blood _ oozing at 
the moment from one of the nostrils, inspired strong 
hopes that she would indeed be raised up ; and two 
of the ladies stepped up to one of the physicians 
present, and inquired whether that circumstance 
was not a token of returning life. Upon this point 
he himself says, "I could suppress the emotions 
produced by this scene no longer, and after telling 
them ft was an infallible evidence of death rather 
than life, and a token of incipient putrefaction, I 
followed them into the room, and requested the 

Rev Mr. , who stood by and saw and heard 

this solemn mockery, to address the people, and if 
possible to remove the erroneous impressions which 
would otherwise result from our afflicted brothers 
delusion." The effect of the. whole scene is de 
scribed as having been paralyzing. A breathless 
silence prevailed. They looked at each other, and 
even the clergymen present seemed to know not what 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 75 

to say. The appeal to one of them, however, made 
by the physician, as just noted, was responded to 
in a very judicious and appropriate manner. He 
rose and remarked with emphasis, " Yes, this be 
loved and lamented Christian SHALL rise again AT 
THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST! for it is the promise 
of God, that all those who are Christ s, he will bring 
with him at his coming." This remark was fol 
lowed by a series of timely observations, which had 
the effect of tranquillizing the feelings of the audi 
ence. He proceeded to explain the passage in St. 
James, and rejoiced in the certainty of its fulfilment. 
" The Lord will raise her up, but not to-day, nor to 
morrow ; yet, dying in the Lord, she shall have part 
in the first resurrection," &c. Several friends then 
united in requesting the sexton to close the coffin, 
which was strenuously opposed by a few of the dis 
ciples, who insisted that they must wait till 12 o clock 
(it was a morning funeral, and had been appointed 
at 10 o clock), when the miracle would certainly be 
performed. In the sequel, when they found it did 
not take place, the failure was ascribed by Mrs. 

* * *, Mrs. , and other votaries of Mr. Pierson, 

to the unbelief of some of the persons present, and 
they upbraided them upon the subject. 

Mr. Pierson said nothing himself, but seemed to 
be lost in devout contemplation, and sat with perfect 
confidence, awaiting the moment when his prediction 
would be verified by the restoration of his wife. He 
was viewed by those not labouring under the delu 
sion, as an afflicted brother, who was entitled to all 
their sympathies, in his melancholy bereavement, 



76 MATTHIAS AND 

and his yet more melancholy state of mind ; it was 
at first apprehended thajt. he might interpose objec 
tions to the interment of the body ; but he did not ; 
and it was laid in its narrow bed in the church-yard 
in Amity street. Some of Mr. Pierson s particular 
friends acccompanied him back to his now desolate 
home, for the purpose of endeavouring to converse 
with him, and if possible, restore him to a sound 
state of thinking re-adjusting the balance of his 
mind. But all was in vain. He now believed as 
firmly that she would be raised at 12 o clock at 
midnight, as he had done that she would arise at 
the close of his prayer at noon. Under this im 
pression, he directed her sleeping apartment to be 
set in order, the bed made up, night-clothes pre 
pared for her accommodation, and all the little affairs 
arranged, as for the reception of a bride. He also 
Bent down to the city, and procured such delicacies 
as he supposed would gratify her taste. 

On the following day, in conversations with his 
friends, who continued their attentions to his singu 
lar case, he still insisted that she would rise again : 
God, he said, had promised it, but had not specified 
the particular day. He now believed her resurrec 
tion would take place at sun-rise on the following 
Sabbath morning ; and such was the strength of his 
faith, that he actually repaired to the grave early on 
that morning, taking his little daughter with him, to 
receive her embrace. And yet down to this period, 
upon every other subject than that of religion, and 
his religious duties, his mind was as regular, and 
apparently as sound, as it had ever been. In all 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 77 

business matters, moreover, he was as accurate and 
acute as ever. 

In the conclusion of this chapter, as Mr. and Mrs. 
Folger are closely connected with this history, it is 
proper to state, that they left the city on a tour of 
heath the day after the anointing, and were not 
present at any of the subsequent scenes described. 
G2 



78 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER IV. 

Continuation of the History of Mr. Pierson Yet believes his 
Wife is to be raised from the Dead The Negro Woman, 
Katy, and her Visions Extracts from Mr. Pierson s Diary 
He purchases Katy s Freedom, and sends her Home to Vir 
giniaContinues preaching at Bowery Hill Sickness there, 
and dispersion of the Kingdom Copious Extracts from Mr. 
Pierson s Prayers, Meditations, and Closet Exercises Mr. 
and Mrs. Folger return to the City They fall again into the 
Hands of Mr. P. and Mrs. * * * Further Extracts Mr. 
Pierson asserts the Power of Miracles His Covenant Ex 
traordinary Infatuation concerning His Wife The Year 1831 
^Mr. Folger s History resumed. 

IT is necessary in the present chapter still to 
pursue the history of Mr. Pierson. The idea that 
his beloved wife was yet to be raised from the dead, 
and restored to him in her own proper person, was 
so deeply implanted in his mind, as not to forsake 
him for many months, and even for years afterward. 
It seems, in fact, for a long time to have had an al 
most exclusive possession of his thoughts. Among 
his papers which, from the disorder that prevailed on 
his death, and the breaking up of the establishment 
at Sing Sing, seem to have been thrown into con 
fusion, and many of them probably lost, the writer 
has been enabled to find no record of any spiritual 
interviews between Sarah and himself, after her 
burial, except that in the record of his meditations 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 79 

on the 19th of December following, he says, Sarah 
spoke to him and said, " I agree to what you have 
written." It is known, however, that he declared, 
the day after the funeral, that she had appeared to 
him, and many believed in the* reality of his vision. 
He also stated subsequently, that he had had several 
interviews with her that her body was to be re 
stored to him and that, according to a revelation 
with which he had been favoured, she was to bear 
him a son who was to be called James. Nor did 
the deceased appear to her husband only. The 
reader may have remarked, in a preceding page, the 
name of " Katy" as among the inmates of Mr. Pier- 
son s household on Bowery Hill. She was a woman 
of colour, from Virginia, a slave, who became a 
convert to Mr. Pierson s doctrines, and, of course, 
a member of " the kingdom." This Katy, it ap 
pears, had three interviews with Mrs. Pierson after 
her burial or rather, the wench had the art to avail 
herself of the mental malady under which Mr. Pier- 
son was suffering, and induce him to believe as much ; 
and he has recorded the results of the supposed 
conferences between the departed mistress and her 
servant as follows : 



Friday, July 2, 1830. She appeared sitting in the coffin, top 
oft looking well. Spoke about the lamp that guided the 
Christian to heaven; invisible here because of sin and conflict 
at my espousals Elizabeth s hands almost touched her. 

Tell Mr. Pierson to keep a close watch over Charlotte that 
light mind she has got. 

Tell Timothy the time is at hand, and to look to the Lord in 
faith, and get that load off his back. 



80 MATTHIAS AND 

Tell Mr. Pierson to give you those stockings you washed for 
me, and my old night wrapper. I desire you would wear some 
thing of mine. 

She then rose up and began to fix and give directions for the 
cleaning and fixing the house. [1 was the same day cleaning and 
fixing the house, and ordered every thing done as I thought she 
would have had it ; this unbeknown to Katy]. 

She then came to me and put her hands round my neck and 
whispered to me, and she saw her no more. 

Monday, July 5, 1830. Katy was sitting in the door, praying that 
she might see her. Sarah spoke and said, " This house is the 
Temple of God. Do you remember the time when you did not 
want us to move ?" She .showed how we were living before 
we were married. We were like two trees dug up by the roots 
and planted together, and we were covered by one mantle. 
At that time we conversed together about the work the Lord 
gave us to do, and it has been carried on ever since. I now 
had the whole of it on me. 

To Katy she said, " Prepare to meet Christ without sin unto 
salvation." Heb. ix. 28. The Lord said not to murmur. He 
took her for his own glory, and twas his work. 

She said, " Behold the bride, the Lamb s wife ;" and Katy 
had a view of the New Jerusalem. Rev. xxi. 9. Our union 
was an everlasting covenant never to be broken. 

Saturday, July 10, 1830. She asked " how the children were." 
" Have you got all your things ?" she asked. The Lord will do 
for him (me) what He sees best before he goes away. Tell him 
to go to the Penitentiary, State Prison, Almshpuse, and Fi?e 

Points, if it be only once or twice (Katy and Miss R to go 

also.) 

Those things which I had in hand I must lay down well [or 
finish the work here well]. 

The last work we did together (Five Points) brought us nearer 
to God than we ever were before. 

Then the Lord took her for his own glory. She was as a 
bright morning star, and God took me for his own glory. I 
wonder Mr. Pierson has been so long with me in Jesus, and 
does not know me yet. 

She says the mantle, or covering, is still over us, and we are 
bolh together in it, and shall never be separated. 

* Thus much for the visions of Katy, which, as we 
have remarked in a preceding page, she had " the 
art" to impose upon the credulity of Mr. Pierson. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 81 

It is not intended to be uncharitable; the black 
woman, too, may have been partially subject to the 
delusion prevailing at Bowery PI ill, since mania, like 
various other diseases, often becomes epidemic ; but 
it will be observed that, like the king of the Mohawks, 
when he dreamed that Sir William Johnson had 
given him his gold-laced coat, she did not dream for 
nothing ; and the " stockings" and " wrapper" of the 
deceased were but small items in the total of the 
gains brought by her visions. Katy was not only a 
slave, but she had a family in Virginia, to which, of 
course, she was desirous of returning. By what 
further appliances she operated upon Mr. Pierson, 
is not known to the writer ; but the following entries 
in his diary, at subsequent periods, indicate the de 
termination to which he arrived : 

Sunday, Sept. 26, 1830. After prayer concerning Katy s go 
ing to Virginia, the Lord said, " She may go. I wiil be with 
her, and no evil shall befall her. She shall see her chiWreu 
and I will direct her and them in the way I have appointed for 
them." 

The following memorandum is of an uncertain 
3ate. It is an answer to another prayer respecting 
Katy: 

Send her away in peace. She shall return to her own native 
and, and die there. I will be with her. You may do for h P r 
vhat you please." 

The supposed heavenly mandate was implicitly 
>beyed, as the writer has been informed by an inti- 
nate friend of Mr. Pierson. Katy s freedom was 
lurchased for the sum of four hundred dollars. She 









82 MATTHIAS AND 

was sent back to her family, a free woman, and pro 
vision was made for her support, and the money 
promptly remitted until the decease of her bene 
factor. This is a beautiful incident in the annals 
of benevolence, and shows that, notwithstanding the 
errors of the head, there was a current of sympathy 
for human wo in his heart which neither error nor 
fanaticism could chill. 

Mr. and Mrs. Folger having returned from the 
country in the month of July, were informed of the 
occurrences which attended the death and burial of 
Mrs. Pierson, and which, they were also told, had j 
induced those acquainted with the circumstances to 
pronounce Mr. Pierson a deranged man. They 
lost no time in having an interview, and were satis 
fied from his conversation, and the explanation of his 
views, that he was not deranged a conclusion which; 
proves very* clearly that they were getting yet more 
deeply involved in the delusion themselves. Mr. 
Pierson spoke to them of the "first resurrection," 
and contended that he had only been in error as 
to the time, but requested them not to recur to the 
subject in future. He continued to preach as be 
fore, and with yet stronger confidence, inasmuch as 
he construed the communication made to him on 
the 20th of June into a special commission. No 
child ever believed more implicitly what was told 
him by a kind father, than he believed that the Spirit 
had said to him, " I have named thee this day Eli 
jah the Tishbite," &c. ; and henceforward he was 
greatly anxious to relinquish his commercial pursuits 
and devote himself entirely to the ministry. To the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 83 

question, whether he had received the appointment 
by an audible annunciation, he replied, " I heard it. 
You could not have heard it ; but I heard it as dis 
tinctly as I ever heard any thing in my life." He 
had another motive to continue preaching, from a 
promise which, he says in his diary, God made to 
him on the 4th of July, "If thou wilt preach my 
Gospel, thou shalt have thy wife." 

In the month of August, the intermittent fever 
broke out with severity upon the Hill, and the fami 
lies of Mr. Person, Mr. Folger, and others of the 
community, sickened. The consequence was a 
separation and dispersion for several months. Mr. 
Pierson, however, having repeatedly made the sub 
ject of a removal or flight into the country a subject 
of special prayer, declined leaving, in obedience, as 
he supposed, to the direction of the Holy Spirit. 
The following are extracts from his exercises upon 
this occasion. Nothing can manifest stronger con 
fidence in God, or greater sincerity : 

August 16, 1830. Lord Jesus, I am thine, and thou hast all 
power in heaven and m earth ; thou hast power over the body 
to heal and to make sick. 

*l ?f L i rd ; Ie / U u I , commit m y bod 7 to thee, and pray for 

y watchful and fatherly care over me for time to come Di- 
ict me concerning diet, clothing, exposures to the weather If 

take any thing hurtful, or do any thing hurtful, do thou watch 
)ver it and turn away the evil from me. If thou seest good to 
eave me to sickness, do thou be with me and guide those who 
have the care of me ; and in all things, even as a tender mother 
watches over her offspring, so do thou watch over me and pre- 
erve me for thy work and service. 

Answer. 1 have accepted thee, and my word shall be sure unto 



ttee, 



August 25, 1830. O Lord Jesus, I am thy servant, and I now 
counsel of thee concerning my future work. Lord, is it thy 



84 MATTHIAS AND 

will that I cease my labours here for the present ? If so, where 
must I go, and where must 1 remove my dwelling ? Shall I 
only shut up the house, or move away altogether, and dispose 
of the furniture ? 

O Lord, direct me concerning these things, and the inmates 
of the family ! 

August 29, 1830. Inquired of the Lord, who said I must give 
tip all thoughts of leaving this place, but continue steadfastly 
and faithfully to do the work he would give me to do. Told 
the Lord people complained of my stay here. He said, " I will 
justify it." 

In order to illustrate yet more fully the peculiar 
state of his mind at this time, it is judged proper to 
devote a few pages to a series of extracts from his 
diary. But two subjects seem to have had posses-? 
, sion of his thoughts, sleeping or waking the ser- 
I vice of God, and the restoration of his wife. There, 
; is, indeed, through all his closet exercises, an expres- 
I sion of wonderful faith, love, and a childlike trust 
land confidence in God. Every burden of his heart 
he carries at once to the mercy-seat in prayer, and 
spreads every thing before God as Hezekiah did the 
letter of Sennacherib. 



August 25, 1830. O Lord, some days since thou didst say unto 
me in the night, " Separate me Barnabas and Paul for the work 
whereunto I have called them." Now, Lord Jesus, give me 
wisdom to do what is required, and in the way thou wilt have it 
done. 

O Lord, some days since (the next night after the command 
to separate Barnabas and Paul) in the silence of the night thou 
didst ask me, " Wilt thou have thy wife ?" O Lord, my heart 
replied, yea, Lord, I will. Now, Lord Jesus, grant me the desire 
of my soul, and let us be together in all thy work in the building 
up of thy kingdom. 

Lord Jesus, take this thing into thine own hands, and bring to 
pass, and herein glorify thyself, and take [away] my reproach. 
Asked the Lord if I had any thing more to do about it. He 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 85 

said, " Thou hast committed it to me. I will bring it to nass 
wait patiently." 

Wednesday, August 25, 1830. Lord Jesus, thou didst say to me 
fast and pray to prepare myself for thy good gift. O Lord Jesus 
I expect great things from thee. O Lord, direct me when to 
begin, how long to continue fasting, and every other particular 
in wluch I need wisdom in this matter. 

Answer. Fast three days from even to even, and begin this 
evening. The taking thy medicine and thy sickness are no 
hinderance. 

[I began fasting Wednesday at sundown, and continued to 
Saturday after sundown, taking neither food nor drink except 
eome medicine the first fourteen hours.] 

August 27, 1830. The second day of my fast after solemn con 
fession of the sins of my whole life, which I had taken much 
pains to recollect ; dividing my life into portions bounded by re 
markable periods, writing down the heads to help my memory 
including sins of ignorance, and those omitted or "forgotten 
The Lord assured me they were all forgiven, blotted out, and 
carried away into the land of forgetfulness. 

That I should be clothed in fine linen, clean and white which 
is the righteousness of the saints. The Lord also told me l must 
not go back hereafter, and grieve on account these old sins 
about which I had prayed, nor strive to get any burden con 
cerning them. This would displease him, seeing he had re 
moved them for ever from his remembrance. The Lord also 
said, " Now thou mayst ask what thou wilt, ad it shall be done 
unto thee." 

Continued, August 28, 1830. Lord, I do expect great things 
from thee, and do covet the best gifts. O Lord Jesus, thou hast 
jailed me to preach the Gospel, and I desire to be thoroughly 
urmshed for the work. Now, Lord, grant to me all the graces, 
;ifts, and qualifications, both of mind and body, which thou 
lidst give to thy Son Jesus for the fulfilling of his ministry and 
if there be any thing whatever lacking, let it be added. 

Answer. Son, all that I have is thine ; that which thou hast 
isked is freely granted unto thee, and thou shalt have every 
rood and perfect gift, that 1 may be glorified in thee. We will 
>e with thee in this work. We in thee, and thou in us, and be 
ellow-workers together ; and this work shall be carried on till 
tie world shall end. 

August 29, 1830. Inquired of the Lord, who said " Thou art 

H 



6 MATTHIAS AND 

Paul, and thy wife Barnabas she shall come and labour with 
thee, thou hast done all I required of thee." 

Morristown, Wednesday, September 1, 1830. O Lord Jesus, I 
am thy servant, and thou hast brought me here. Thou knowest 
the tender recollections which meet me on every hand, and in 
almost every object on which my eye fixes. Lord Jesus, 1 : 
to thee for refuge and strength in this time of need Grant me, 
Lord, what I need, so that 1 may glorify thee while here. Lord, 
I beseech thee help me in my outward conduct, in my conversa 
tion rive me sound wisdom in all temporal matters, and in all 
thingsfso that 1 may not give offence to any, or bring a reproach 
on thy name. 

Answer. Thou seekest my glory, and thou shall have strength, 

Awhile meditating on the scenes in which Sarah had been 
with me here, the Lord said to me, " This is the last trial 1 will 
lay upon thee concerning this matter. It was needful for thee 
to come here where the people had seen thy attachment for 
her, that they might also see my power in supporting thee in this 
trial. Thy will be done." 

Sunday September 19, 1830. O Lord Jesus,! am thine, and de 
sire to do thy will. Now, O Lord, be not angry with me if I come 
again to thee for sure direction whether I must stay in the house 
till May next, what arrangements I shall make for the care of 
the children, their schooling, and all they need ; for 1 imotny, 
and what he needs ; and for my own comfort and reputation ; 
and for thy work, and all other things needful and proper for me 
in my circumstances. 

After much earnest intercession concerning the above, the 
direction of the Lord was, 

1st You must remain you will not please me except you 
give up all thoughts cf going away ; they are hurtful to my 

2d. Made known the other things to the Lord, and pleaded 
for Sarah to be restored to me, to take care of all these matters. 
The Lord said it should be speedily done, and that I must write 
it down, for there should be a performance of the things 
promise^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ ee to ask counse i o f t h eej wnen I must 
bring my business with Mr. S. to a close, whether at the end of 
the present year, or at the end of one year from that time. C 
Lord, direct me and him about it, and let every thing be done in 
peace and good will. 
Answer. Thou must close thy business at the end of this year. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 87 

I have need of thee for my work, and cannot spare thee longer. 
I will satisfy his (S.) mind, and he will let thee go, and thou 
shall have wherewith to live. 

O Lord Jesus, my mind is often burdened and distressed with 
the fear, that in the work thon hast given me to do I may by 
some means be led astray into some false way. 

O Lord, I commit this matter to thee, and do earnestly entreat 
thee, for thy great name s sake, so to guide and direct me in all 
thy work, that I may be kept in thy way and from all error. O 
Lord, for thy name s sake, for thy people s sake, for thy truth s 
sake, help me in this matter. O Lord, the eyes of many are 
upon me, waiting for me to fall. 

After earnest prayer on the above, it was said, 

" We will undertake for thee ; we will be with thee in all that 
we command thee to do, nnd thou shalt not fail or be discour 
aged till all be accomplished. Our power and strength are 
pledged for thy support, and thou shalt have them in time of 
need." 

O Lord Jesus, I am troubled with various temptations which 
I desire to mention to thee, and entreat thy help to strengthen 
me against them, and to raise me above their influence. 

1st. The thoughts of what will be said when I shall baptize 
in thy name, it s being out of order, &c. 

2d. What is said about my visions, revelations, &c., the dan 
ger of walking in this way, &c. 

3d. Fear that the work will eventually fail and come to 
naught. 

4th. Fear of being left to want on leaving the business. 

Now, O Lord, I cast these burdens upon thee, and pray for 
deliverance from them, and any others thou seest me labouring 
under. O Lord, raise me above them, and enable me to rejoice 
in what has heretofore been a burden. 

After prayer upon each article separately, the Lord answered, 

1st. 1 will strengthen thee : I will remove it from thee, and 
thou shalt rejoice in thy work : I have called thee to preach and 
baptize. 

Answer 2d. We will strengthen thee, and these things shall 
be no hinderance to thee. 

Answer 3d. Thou hast cast this burden upon me ; I will take 
it from thee, that it be no longer a burden to thee. 

Answer 4th. Write " the earth is the Lord s and the fulness 
thereof, and that they that serve him shall be fed with the finest 
of the wheat, and shall have abundance of every good thing for 
the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Amen." 

September 22, 1830. This morning, while in prayer, I had in the 
Bpirit a full view of the Father and th Son, Sarah standing be- 



88 MATTHIAS AND 

tween them. The impression made on my mind was, that the 
Lord was preparing her for her return. This view continued 
most of the day. 

September 28, 1830. When I awoke in the morning, my mind 
was filled with the thoughts of what Elisha did after Elijah had 
cast his mantle upon him, in sacrificing the oxen with which he 
did his work thereby intimating his determination never to re 
turn to worldly employments again. It appeared to me my de 
termination to leave business must be of the same character, or 
that it was such. 

Sunday, October 3, 1830. Had a season of earnest prayer for 
Sarah s resurrection in the body ; though the Lord appeared dis 
pleased with me in other things, and rebuked me, yet he said 
concerning this, " Thy prayer is heard." 

Monday evening, October 4, 1 830. Went to the Lord in earnest 
prayer humbled myself, and made confession of sins. The 
Lord said, " These are forgiven thee, go in peace." Asked 
whether I had done wrong in speaking about my faith in Sarah s 

resurrection to Mrs. D and sister J . The Lord answered, 

" Thou hast done no wrong." Asked if I ought to speak my 
mind about it in time to come. He said, " My Spirit will teach 
thee when to speak and when to forbear." Told the Lord how 
many thought concerning my being ordained of men. He re 
plied, " Thou hast been set apart according to my mind, and 
hast no need to go to men. That I must be willing to bear re 
proach and be rejected as Jesus was. That I should have his 
power, and be succeeded in the work ; yet I must follow his 
steps, and not expect better treatment. As the people rejected, 
I must stand still and see the salvation of God." 

The Lord gave me much precious encouragement and many 
promises after I had humbled myself. 

Tuesday evening, October 5, 1830. Before meeting, while medi 
tating, the Lord said, " I am come ;" and I felt as if it was really 
so I felt the Lord was very present. 

During the meeting, while one was in prayer and mentioned 
the grave, the Lord said to me, " This is nothing to thee (the 
grave), for thou hast triumphed over it by faith" (conquered it). 
This seemed spoken in relation to Sarah. 

Friday, October 22, 1830. At the store opened to John xv. 15, 
20. The word " remember," in connection with what follows, 
was deeply impressed on my mind. It seemed as if the Saviour 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 89 

fpoke it to me, and that I must ever keep in view what he 
there says, as to me, and as a warning that these things shall 
be so to me. O Lord, help me to remember ! 

Wednesday, October 27, 1830. This morning, before going out, 
went to my closet to pray. At the beginning I had a sweet 
gentle influence come over me. Jesus came and stood at my 
right hand, and, putting his hand on my head, said, " Peace be 
Onto you, receive ye the Holy Ghost as my Father hath sent 
me, even so send I you. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are 
remitted unto them ; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are re 
tained. Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every 
creature. Teach all nations, bapcizing them in the name of the 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost teaching them to observe all 
things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo I am with you 
always, even unto the end of the world." 

Saturday, November 13, 1830. Went to my closet to pour out 
my soul to the Lord, who said to me, "Ask what thou wilt." 

Asked. Lord, I desire to have a heart to walk before thee as 
Jesus did. 

Answer. I have granted thee a heart to do my will as 1 did my 
Father s." 

Lord, confirm and seal to me from this day all that I have 
asked of thee of the graces, gifts, and qualifications of*ody and 
mind thou didst give Jesus for the performance of his ministry 
in the world." 



Answer. They are sure to thee for ever more. 

Lord Jesus, 1 ask to be delivered from the dominion of death 
and the grave. When I have finished thy work in the world, 
grant that I may come to thee (without passing through death) 
in t he way and manner thou shall see most for thy glory." 

When I had prayed this prayer, a solemnity and feeling of the 
presence of the Lord came over me, and some passages of Scrip 
ture, as John xi. 35. I am the resurrection and the life, &c. ; 
and 26th verse, whosoever believeth in me shall never die. 

Answer to the above. " My son, this is a great thing ; but as thou 
hast faith, it shall be as thou hast asked." 

After prayer, in meditation, the Lprd_saidj_" John s ministry 
is fulfilled here. I am come to build up my kingdom. Thou 
art head of the corner. Thou shalt have power to work miracles 
in my name, and to do many mighty works. Write these things 
down, that others may know my power, and see my faithfulness. 

Thou hast asked all 1 designed : go in peace (from thy closet.) 
I have blessed thee, thou art my beloved son in whom I am well 

H2 



90 MATTHIAS AND 

The Lord said, thou art a wonder to Angels, because of thy 

a This evening the Lord said, " This is my covenant with you, 
saith the Lord ; thou shalt have Sarah thy wife, and she shall 
be with thee in all thy work, and shall bear thee a son, ana thou 
shalt call his name James. Thou shalt have Abraham s bless 
ing." 

Sunday, November 21, 1830. Went to the closet to pray : had 
sweet communion with my beloved Saviour. Entreated the 
Lord to contiim to me the covenant and blessing above written 
(13th November) respecting Sarah, that it might be an ever 
lasting covenant between us, and that my soul might rest upon 
it with unwavering confidence. 

Answer It is confirmed unto thee this day for an everlasting 
covenant between us, and thy soul shall rest upon it as upoa 
the rock of ages. Go write it down." 

Late in the autumn, Mr. Folger and his wife hav 
ing returned to New-York, without, as it would 
seem, directly renewing their association with the 
Bowery Hill community, were sought out by Mr. 
Piersori and Mrs. * * *, and unhappily again fell 
under their influence. Mr. Pierson repeated to 
them the exercises of his mind during their separa 
tion, and informed them, among other things, that he 
had received the gift of the laying on of hands; He 
then laid his hands on the heads of Mr. and Mrs. 
Folger, their children, and on Mrs. * * *. But his 
gifts did not stop at laying on of hands. He was 
next endowed with the power of working miracles. 
The following note in his diary is without date, but 
that which follows indicates about the time when it 
r was probably written : 

The Lord encouraged me to faith ; and, in relation to mir- 
acles, said I might do whatever 1 could. Nothing should be 
impossible to me. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 91 

In relation to converts, I might have as many as I would, if it 
Were to the number of one hundred forty and lour thousand. 

December 1, 1830. Thy petition for the gift of faith to work 
miracles in my name is granted. 

Sarah must first be raised up this is the first miracle to be 
wrought this is to the work what the promise of the Spirit was 
to the disciples before the day of Pentecost. Nothing can be 
done till this is done. 

Concerning the first resurrection, it was said, " The kingdom 
first to be set up ; the way of the Lord prepared ; the 



preached among all nations. Thou shalt be with me in Paradise 
before that time, but shall come with me when I come." 

Mr. Folger and his wife being members of Mr. 
Pierson s church, regarded it as a duty to receive 
baptism by immersion. But difficulties were in the 
way, inasmuch as he had applied to the clergy in 
vain for ordination. These parties, and Mrs. * * * 
having (as he states in his diary) expressed a 
willingness to be baptized by him, he asks counsel 
of God on the 9th of December : 



Now, Lord Jesus, I commit this matter to thee, and pray tKee 
to take it into thine own hands ; direct all things concerning it ; 
bring it to pass in thine own way and time, and let us know it. 

Answer. I have accepted this burden of thee. I will bring it 
to pass in my own time and way, and will glorify myself in it. 
Thou shalt know the time. 

December 11, 1830. Lord Jesus, thon hast said to me, as my 
Father sent me, even so do I send you. Go teach all nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father^ Son, and Holy Ghost ; 
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com 
manded you. Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the 
world. 

Lord Jesus, I do gladly receive thy command, and promise 
obedience, relying on thy gracious promises. 

Answer. My grace is sufficient for thee. 

Now, Lord Jesus, I do make a firm covenant with thee this 
night, take me for thine own servant, do with me what thou 
wilt. Send me when and where thou wilt, to preach thy Gospel, 
and in every thing let thy grace be sufficient for me. 



92 MATTHIAS AND 

" Lord Jesus now grant me every gift and grace I need to do 
thy work and glorify thee on earth ; even as thy F ather didst fur. 
nish and send thee, so do thou qualify me, that as thou didst so 
enable me to finish the work thou shalt give me to do on the 

1 Lord, confirm all the promises thou hast made me since thou 

, *.~ ~~/-.V fVttr rincnl 

I have committed 



earth. 



and thee, and when dangers and difficulties surroun me, be thou 
my mighty helper and d 



Answer. My son, I agree to this covenant, and it shall be 
established between me and thee for ever. 

After the above was written, in meditating thereon, U 
Lord said, " Now thou art mine now will I bless thee and [glo 
rify myself in thee. The covenant of my peace is with thee. 
As I live, saith the Lord, thy companion shall be rasied up, and 
shall be with thee in the work, and shall bear tkee a son, and 
thou shalt call his name James. When you have done my 
work, you shall ascend up to me, and not pass through the 
grave." 

December 19th, 1830 Sunday. After the family had gone 
out went to prayer besought the Lord, to teach me what to 
pray for ; the words, " He was in the Spirit on the Lord s day 
came into my mind. The Lord said, pray for the Holy Ghost, 
After prayer it was said, thy petition was granted. Thou hast 
received the Holy Ghost in all his miraculous influences. 

I asked if there was any outward visible sign. The Lord 
said " No : it was from Spirit to spirit. Thou hast received 
the Holy Ghost, and shalt work miracles and wonders in my 
name Thou shalt prophecy in my name to the people and tny 
word shall be established. That which thou hast spoken con- 
cerninir thy wife shall be fulfilled. My word (James v. 15) on 
which thou hast relied shall be established, that the people may 
know my faithfulness. My kingdom shall come, &c. bet up 
with power and great glory, and be extended over the whole 
earth. Thou shalt prophesy to many nations, and thy wife 
shall be with thee ; and when you have finished your work, you 
shall both of you together ascend up to heaven like Elijah ot old. 
What is written in Revelations, llth chapter, relates to you and 
your work The second coming of Jesus Christ, and the first 
resurrection, will not take place till after your ascension to 
heaven." 

December 26th, 1830 Sunday. The Lord said, the key of 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 93 

uiowledge is given unto thee. Thou shalt open and no man 
hut, and shut and no man open. 

December 2~tfi, 1830. Prayed concerning Sarah ; asked the 
Lord to show whether I had rightly understood his promise to 
raise her up in the body, and if she would be with me in the 
work. The Lord said, Did I ever give you a stone for bread, or ^ 

serpent for a fish. 

December 31st, 1830 evening. Lord Jesus, this is the season 
or giving and receiving gifts, and by thy help I have given to 
he members of the family ; and "now I come to thee, O Lord, 
nd pray thee to condescend to me. Lord, thou art my friend, 
my helper. Lord Jesus, I would give thee a gift and ask thee 

gift. Lord Jesus, I would give thee my heart, and I would 
isk thee, Lord, to give me thy heart in return the heart thou 
indst while on earth. That meek and holy heart, filled with 
ove to God and man, zeal, wisdom, purity, and every grace. 

A.sirer. My son, I have accepted thy gift, and thy petition is 
granted unto thee to the uttermost. Write it down. 

Lord Jesus ! I desire of thee to raise up and restore to me 
my companion Sarah. O Lord, let it be for my New-year s 
ift. Let it now come to pass. 

Answer. Thy request is granted unto thee, and it shall be done. 

Wednesday, January 12th, 1831. Concerning ordination, the 
jordsaid, "Thou hast nothing to do : thou hast committed it 
o me, and I will bring it to pass." 

The following is without date : 

" When the true prophets begin to appear, they will be holy \pi 
men, endued with the Holy Ghost. They will preach the true . 
loctrines for those days. These doctrines will be the reverse 
)f what the false teachers are preaching, and so different from f \.,| ( 
what people have believed, that for a time they will be consid- \<r* > 
?red deranged, mad, wicked persons. There will then be a 
special fulfilment of the Saviour s words, John xvi. 2, 4. John , , . i 
tv. 20, 21. 

" They shall put you out of the synagogue yea, the time 
Cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God 
service ; and these things will they do unto you because they 
mve not known the Father nor me." 

Extracts might be multiplied to an almost indefinite 
extent, all written in a kindred spirit of love to God 



94 MATTHIAS AND 

and man, and extending through the year 1831, and 
a part of 1832. So particularly was the author of 
these strangely wild, and yet singularly pious, devo 
tional effusions, in asking counsel of God on every 
occasion of business or duty, that a history of his 
worldly, as well as of his religious life, might almost be 
compiled from his prayers. But after the middle of 
1832 his diary seems to have been much neglected 
the religous fervour which it previously breathed 
in every sentence had evaporated ; until, at length, 
the entries consisted for the most part of mere dry 
memoranda of dates and facts. There is, moreover, 
throughout all his prayers one peculiarity, which 
may not have caught the attention of the reader. 
In all his supplications to the Saviour, he nowhere 
recognises him as CHRIST, or, THE ANOINTED. The 
words " Lord Jesus" occur frequently and affection 
ately, but nowhere does he say " Jesus Christ ;" and 
the writer has been informed that he would not al 
low the consecrated title of CHRIST to be applied to 
Jesus, the son of the Blessed. 

In the spring of 1831 Mr. Pierson removed 
from Bowery Hill into Fourth- street, as also did 
Mrs. * * * occupying a part of the same house. 
The dwelling was spacious, and Mr. Pierson re 
served the most ample apartments for himself 
the largest of which was fitted up as a chapel 
for his meetings, and consecrated for that purpose. 
Mr. Folger at the same time removed from the city 
to Singsing the health of himself and wife having 
been but indifferently good for months, and a coun 
try residence being desirable. Still being anxious 
to receive the holy ordinance of baptism by im- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 95 

mersion, they were baptized at Singsing by the 
Rev. Mr. Frey, and were admitted into the fellow 
ship and communion of the Mount Pleasant Bap 
tist Church, with which they worshipped until their 
return to New-York in the following autumn. 

Mr. Pierson was then preaching, to use his own 
language, like Paul at Rome, " in his own hired 
house," in Fourth-street ; Mr. Folger and his wife 
worshipped for a time with a Baptist church in the 
upper part of the city, until Mr. Pierson again ap 
proached them with overtures to attend the meetings 
at his own house. Complying with the request, 
they found him preaching that the days of the apos 
tles were to be revived ; and he urged upon them to 
exercise their faith in the Lord, that the gifts of the 
apostles might be restored to them in one word, that, 
like the disciples of Jesus Christ, they might be en 
abled to heal the sick, cast out devils, and raise the 
dead. He likewise continued to denounce those 
errors of the church which had first induced him to 
withdraw from the South Baptist Church, viz. the 
renting of pews, receiving collections on the Sab 
bath, and paying salaries to clergymen. It is not 
to be denied that he succeeded in making some im 
pression upon both Mr. Folger and his wife ; but 
they again separated in April, 1832, on the return 
of Mr. Folger to his country residence at Sing- 
sing. Business engagements called him yet farther 
into the interior of the country ; and the first infor 
mation he received of the arch-deceiver, in whose 
toils he afterward became so deeply entangled, of 
any particular note, was contained in the newspapers, 
in August or September, 1832. 



96 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER V. 

Another extraordinary case, commencing in religious depression 

Frequent mistakes in the treatment of such cases I he 

Patient travels to New-Orleans Thence to England and 
France Returns to New- York Apparently recovers health 
and elasticity of spirits Becomes acquainted with Mr. Pierson 
Falls into his Vimvs Extraordinary Fasting Its Effects- 
Commences Preaching Extracts from Mr. Pierson s Diary 
Appearance of Matthias to Pierson and his new Associate 
His Annunciation They receive and embrace his Doctrines 
Remarkable Coincidence Pierson becomes John the Bap 
tistHeads of a Sermon The Impostor is taken to the house 
of M. H. S. Luxury and Extravagance Rich Costumes 
Specimen of Matthias s Orations Further Extracts from 
Pierson s Diary Fancies his wife s Spirit inhabits another 
Remarkable Notes Letters to Mr. Pierson. 

AMONG the attendants upon Mr. Pierson s preach 
ing " in his own hired house" during the winter and 
spring of 1832 was a highly respectable merchant, 
instead of whose name the letters M. H. S. will be 
substituted, and of whom it is necessary to give 
some account in detail. He was naturally of a con 
templative mind, ardent in his attachments, and 
withal of a somewhat enthusiastic temperament. 
No man was more universally esteemed than he, for 
his many excellent qualities of head and heart, by all 
who knew him. Until the month of January, 1830, 
his health and spirits had always been good. An 
alteration was then observed in his conduct, which, 
continuing to increase, became a cause of uneasi- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 97 

ness to his friends. He was not only pensive, but 
became so exceedingly depressed and gloomy, that 
serious apprehensions were entertained for the re 
sult. At length he took a friend into an upper 
chamber and poured out the burden of his soul the 
eternal interests the salvation of which was now 
his chief concern. Every thing that tenderness and 
sympathy could dictate was done to alleviate his 
mental sufferings ; but for a long time without any 
beneficial effect. It was a case of deep conviction 
of .sin, a soul convinced that it w*s lost without the 

pardoning mercy of God feeling itself helpless 

tortured by horrible anticipations trembling under 
the condemnation of the violated law, as proclaimed 
from the burning mount of an offended Deity and 
longing to hear the still small voice of mercy, but 
ignorant of the true and only method of obtaining par 
don and peace by the simple act of faith in the Lord 
Jesus Christ, and the entire surrender of the heart 
to Him. This depression continuing to increase 
for months, he was advised to travel for the benefit 
of exercise and the change of scenery. 

His malady having been pronounced physical, an 
able physician was employed to travel with him, and 
thus several months were occupied in a visit to his 
parental roof in Connecticut, to the Springs, and 
elsewhere. But all to no purpose: the disease 
was a wounded spirit ; and for such a malady there 
is but one medicine the balm of Gilead and but 
one physician to apply it. And here, if the writer , / - 
may be allowed to digress for a moment upon this 
point, he would offer a few words in reference to 
I 



98 MATTHIAS AND 

the too frequent treatment of persons thus sorrowing 
for their sins, and eager to escape the awful penalty 
due to their transgressions. In cases of genuine 
brokenness of heart, where the sufferer is in dark 
ness and " has no light," in the view of the writer, 
it is a mistake too often committed, even by very 
pious friends and counsellors, to attribute the de 
pression rthe gloom the anguish of soul- in the 
main to physical causes. The patient feels that it 
is not so he knows that it is not so ; and he says 
with Job, in his awn bitterness of heart, " miserable 
comforters are ye all." The truth is, there are 
hundreds and thousands of excellent, kind-hearted, 
and deeply religious people, whom it has pleased the 
Most Plight to lead gently to the mercy-seat, upon 
whose hearts the Holy Spirit has breathed without 
breaking and crushing them to pieces, and who do 
not, and cannot truly understand and sympathize with 
those who are called to pass, as it were, through the 
very flames of Sinai ; who, for wise purposes, are 
kept for weeks, and months, and years in the valley 
of the shadow of death in the depths out of 
which the Psalmist cried (Ps. cxxx.), and whose 
anguish of soul whose agony can be felt by none 
but themselves. For such cases, the best counsel 
lors and comforters, aside from God s invitations 
and promises in his own word, are those Christian i 
friends who have been called to pass through deep 
waters themselves.* 

* The practical books which the writer would recommend 
for such cases are, first of all (the Bible excepted), Bunyan s 
"Jerusalem Sinner Saved;" and next to this, "Owen on the 



MIS IMPOSTURES. 99 

But to resume the narrative. Returning again 
to the city, Mr. M. H. S. was yet more gloomy 
than befi >re. An overland journey from New-York 
to New-Orleans was then undertaken for his diver 
sion, his brother and another friend accompanying 
him. This journey was made as pleasant as pos 
sible by traversing the most interesting regions of 
country, but with little or no improvement of the 
mind of the sufferer. There were, indeed, short in 
tervals of comparative relief moments in which the 
rays of light broke through the gloom but they 
were few and transient. From New-Orleans they 
embarked for Liverpool, although Mr. M. H. S. did 
so with great reluctance. He shut himself up in 
the cabin for many days in a state of the most 
wretched despondency. Being at length forced 
upon deck while midway of the ocean, the transition 
from gloom to the excess of joy was instantaneous. 
The boundless expanse of the heaving- ocean, and 
the bright sky, seemed to give him the most extrava 
gant delight. But it was soon over and gone. 

After visiting Ireland, and the British and French 
capitals, they returned to New- York in May, 1831. 
WhUe abroad, he was unwilling to remain an hour 
in any one place, and was apparently utterly inat 
tentive to every thing around him. His habits, 
during the whole of his journeyings, were very de- 

cxxxth Psalm," " Christ our Example," bv Caroline Fry, " The 
Progressive Experience of the Heart, by Mrs. Stevens! 
Bickersteth on Prayer," and the incomparable series of Ex- 
Jnmantal Guides, recently published by the Rev. Robert Philip, 
eornmonly called "Philip s Guides"-to which may be added 
Abbott s " Corner-stone." 



100 MATTHIAS AND 

votional, both in regular and ejaculatory prayer ; and 
he frequently visited clergymen to hold conversa 
tions, but obtained no relief. 

The summer of this year was again chiefly spent 
in travelling ; and as he entered upon active religious 
duties his mind became more rational and composed. 
He purchased a country seat, and attached himself 
to a Presbyterian church in the neighbourhood ; and 
was only distinguished from other professors by 
his activity and excess of zeal in the temperance 
cause, and his enthusiasm in religious meetings. In 
the autumn he returned to the city declared him 
self well and happy and summoned his relations 
and friends around him to celebrate a jubilee, as he 
called the occasion. 

He now resumed his business, but declared his 
purpose to have it conducted upon different princi 
ples than before. He determined to introduce re 
ligion into the store ; and to exhort his clerks upon 
that most important of all subjects, begging his 
friends, however, to check him when they discovered 
symptoms of going too far. For a time his affairs 
proceeded well ; his tranquillity of mind had re 
turned ; and he had become peculiarly happy in re 
ligious contemplations, and in deeds of benevolence 
and charity. 

It was in the month of February, 1832, that he 
inquired of a relative whether he was acquainted 
with Elijah Pierson. It subsequently appeared that 
he had had an interview with Mr. Pierson on the 
29th of December ; and, as we have seen, he was 
himself precisely in that state of mind to be operated 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 101 

upon by so sincere and excellent a man as that gen 
tleman was universally known to be aside from his 
religious hallucination, of which his new acquaint 
ance was not aware, if, indeed, he was in a con 
dition of mind to appreciate it. Having made the 
inquiry as aforesaid, he pi oceeded to extol Mr. Pier- 
son as one of the most heavenly-minded men in the 
world. On being informed that Mr. Pierson was 
not considered to be exactly in his right mind, he 
replied" Oh, it is not so now." He then spoke 
of the manner of his becoming acquainted with him, 
and described the meetings at his house, the char 
acter of his preaching, &c. He was again cautioned 
by his anxious relative, and informed of the man 
ner in which Mr. Pierson had behaved at the time 
of the death of his wife. All this he admitted, but 
addd, that it amounted to nothing ; and even if he 
had acted in a rather wild and eccentric manner on 
that occasion, he was now one of the most perfect 
and rational men in the universe. Hitherto, since 
his return, he had been a constant attendant upon 
church; but he now withdrew, and listened only to 
the preaching of Mr. Pierson. In short, their views 
soon became perfectly coincident, and withal pro 
foundly extravagant. He, too, soon commenced 
preaching, and the new spiritual friends held their 
meetings at each other s house alternately each 
doing the preaching in his own, and attended by 
the faithful of " the kingdom." 

His next step was the adoption of Mr. Pierson s 
system of fasting and even going beyond him. 
On one occasion he fasted rigidly seven days, and 
J2 



102 MATTHIAS AND 

at another time attempted to fast fourteen. He 
wasted away to a mere skeleton, so that his friends 
were apprehensive that he would sink down in the 
streets from exhaustion. Day after day, in the store, 
would he rinse his mouth with water, taking the ut 
most care not to swallow a drop, and sometimes he 
was reduced to such a pass as to be revived only by 
the application of Cologne water. His practice 
was to walk frequently on the Battery ; and on one 
occasion he was found in the evening prostrate and 
helpless from starvation, and carried home. He 
was continually exhorting others at the store to fol 
low his example, and when affectionately admonished 
by his friends of the consequences, he would listen 
to no expostulations but repliejj that he must fast, 
and God would tell him when to stop. At one time 
a clergyman was called in to persuade him to take 
food, but he would not ; and it was only after his 
friends had induced Mr. Pierson to come and urge 
him to eat, that he would listen to them. 

During this period, Mr. Pierson continued preach 
ing as usual ; and even yet, upon all subjects, ex 
cepting those of religion, the resurrection of his 
wife, and his own personal relations, both to this 
and the eternal world, he was apparently as sound 
in his intellect as any man in the city. Neverthe 
less, the following entry occurs in his journal on 
the occasion of the burial of his father, Benjamin 
Pierson, whose funeral he attended at Morristown, 
on the 12th of February (1832) : 

While they were preparing the coffin to let it down into the 
grave, these words were spoken to me : " So shall they bury 
thee, and the third day thou shalt rise again." 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 103 

Mr. Pierson s meetings were well attended, and 
converts were occasionally added to his flock, some 
times even from without the confines of the city. 
Mr?. * * * having visited Newark, made a proselyte 
there of a Mrs. I) , whose name occurs occa 
sionally in Mr. Pierson s private meditations. About 
this time, however, she seems to have been waver 
ing ; such, at least, is the inference from the follow 
ing entry in the diary : 

pril 12, 1832. Went to Newark. Saw and conversed with 

Mrs. D , who appeared disturbed in her mind about the 

kingdom, and afraid to come to the light, because of the cross 
coming out of her present connection. She felt ashamed of me 
and my doctrine. She rejected me, and the Lord rejected her. 
Nevertheless, she shall be brought in through great bodily suf 
ferings, and the way she ought now to have come in. These 
words came to my mind when I left the house " Ye shall see 
me no more till the day ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh 
in the name of the Lord." Miss B was there at the time. 

Three days afterward the following entry occurs, 
which shows that the condition of Mr. Pierson s 
mind remained much the same as in the preceding 
autumn : 

Wednesday evening, April 15, 1832. Lord, thou didst tell me to 
fast and pray three days, and begin this evening, for wisdom to 
understand the Scriptures, and it should be given me. O Lord 
Jesus, I ask thee to grant me wisdom to understand the Scrip 
tures ; the gift of prophecy ; the wisdom of the serpent ; the 
harmlessness of the dove ; ability to discern spirits. Grant, also, 
what thou hast promised of the gifts and graces thou hadst for 
the performance of thy ministry to me, for the work thou hast 
given me. 

The wife of Mr. M. H. S. died in April, on which 
occasion he pronounced a funeral discourse himself. 



104 MATTHIAS AND 

By this bereavement his mind became of course 
still more susceptible of striking impressions. In 
deed, both Mr. Pierson and himself were exactly 
in a state of mind to look for extraordinary events ; 
and thus situated, a stranger presented himself be 
fore them on the 5th of May, with the beard of a 
patriarch, a tall form, and a peculiar cast of coun 
tenance, who not only entered into all their extrava 
gant notions, or 1 rather took possession of them as 
original with himself, but entertained an inexhaustible 
fund of kindred extravagances, -which they construed 
into new light and wisdom, on the momentous sub- 
; jects that engrossed their contemplations. With 
pretensions sufficiently high to fill their disordered 
imaginations, they at once received him as a being 
of surpassing excellence, who was to establish the 
personal reign of God the Father (not the Messiah) 
upon the earth. This imposing stranger was none 
other than ROBERT MATTHEWS, or Matthias, as he 
proclaimed himself. He declared to them that he 
was the Spirit of Truth : that the Spirit of Truth 
had disappeared from the earth at the death of the 
Matthias mentioned in the New Testament: that 
I the Spirit of Jesus Christ had entered into that Mat 
thias, and that he was the same Matthias, the Apostle 
of the New Testament, who had risen from the 
dead, and possessed the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. 
That he (Jesus Christ), at his second appearance, 
was God the Father, and that he (Matthias) was 
j himself God the Father, and had* power to do all 
things, to forgive sins, and communicate the Holy 
Ghost to such as believed in him. He was not, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 105 

however, always consistent in regard to the char 
acter and attributes to which he laid claim. A re 
ligious friend, who, hearing of the arrival of the 
prophet, and the extraordinary proceedings at Pier- 
son s house, sought an opportunity of visiting him 
there, informs the writer, that he did not exactly 
learn from him then that he claimed to be the Deity, 
or the Messiah. But he nevertheless declared him 
self, distinctly, to be the angel spoken of in Rev. 
xiv. 6, 7. " Jlnd I saw another angel fly in the 
midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to 
Breach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to 
every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, ,| 
toying, with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory 
\o him ; for the hour of his judgment is come : and 
worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the 
tea, and the fountains of waters." Be all this, how 
ever, as it may, neither of the gentlemen to whom \ 
le presented himself was in a state of mind then, 
or afterward, to observe discrepancies of this char 
acter. They believed all that he set forth of him 
self, then and subsequently, no matter how extrava 
gant or how blasphemous ; and he in turn recognised 
hem as the first members of the true church, which, 
after two years search, he had been able certainly 
to identify. He announced to them that, although 
the kingdom of God on earth began with his public 
declaration in Albany in June, 1830, it would not 
be completed until twenty-one years from that date, 
viz. in 1851 ; previous to which time wars would 
done away, the judgments finished, and the 
wicked destroyed. The day of grace was to close 



106 MATTHIAS AND 

on the first of December, 1836, and all who by that 
time should not have come to the true light, or at 
least, who should not have begun to reform before 
that period, were to be cut off. Such were the pre 
tensions with which he came before them, and such 
the doctrines he poured into their minds and eafs ; all 
of which, and many more matters equally ridiculous 
and absurd, they received with unbounded con 
fidence, and forthwith looked up to him, as to a ce 
lestial being, with veneration and awe. It was in 
deed rendered more plausible to Mr. Pierson, prob 
ably, by the coincidence of dates. Matthews had 
been called in June, 1830, and so had he. Mat 
thews began his declaration at Albany on the ninth 
of June (we believe); he had declared that judg 
ment was proclaimed at Stillwater on the nineteenth 
of June; and he had completed the declaration at 
Argyle on the twentieth the self-same day on 
which Pierson had received the commission, " Thou 
art Elijah the Tishbite, and thou shalt go before me 
in the spirit and power of Elias, to prepare my way 
before me." He now said, that from the date of that 
commission, he had preached that the kingdom of 
Heaven was at hand, until the appearance of Mat 
thias. John the Baptist had preached that the 
kingdom of Heaven was at hand until the Mes 
siah came. Elias, as everybody knows, was only 
another name for John the Baptist ; and hence he 
concluded that the spirit of John the Baptist had 
taken up his abode in him, and that he was the fore 
runner of Matthias. The latter was not slow tc< 
favour this deception, and Mr. Pierson was thence- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 107 

brward known only among the members of ** the 
tingdom" as John the Baptist ; in which character 
le evinced the docility of a child, and the sincerity 
>f a true disciple. 

When Matthews first visited Mr. Pierson s house, 
he latter was absent from the city on a short visit. 
VIrs. * * * and her family having previously removed 
rom thence, there was only a servant at home, from 
vhom the impostor learned the day on which Mr. 
:*ierson would return ; so that, probably, he was 
lot altogether unprepared for the reception of the 
stranger, who was at once received as an inmate of 
he establishment. Their time was for a few days 
levoted to an interchange of views and opinions 
ipon the subject of religion, and preaching alter- 
lately Mr. M. H. S. being an attentive and en- 
aptured listener. Among Mr. Pierson s papers 
here are various memoranda of what seem to have 
>een questions of theological discussion between 
hem. There are likewise notes of what were 
>robably the heads of a sermon, or points of doc- 
rine, maintained by his new spiritual guide. The 
bllowing is a specimen, and may have been a cat- 
ilogue of the abominations denounced by the prophet 
>n the day of its date. 

May 9, 1832. 
R. MATTHIAS : 

All who say that the Jews crucified Jesus. 

that the first day of the week is the Sabbath. 

that frnmersion with the clothes on is baptism. 

that. sprinkling is baptism. 

preaching to women without their husbands. 

who drinketh wine in bowls. 

who eateth the Passover in a lowei room. 



108 MATTHIAS AND 

That these memoranda combine the heads of one 
of his incongruous discourses, and that those who 
practised such things were anathematized, there can 
be no question, from the circumstance that they 
were frequently the objects of his denunciations af 
terward. At one time he would break out furiously 
against all men who wore spectacles, who, he said, 
would be damned ; at another, he would denounce 
bitterly all women who did not keep at home. Like 
Sarah of old, he insisted that it was the duty of wo 
men to remain in the tent. All who did not follow 
her example would be damned ; and such like 
nonsense. 

Mr. Pierson very soon relinquished preaching, as 
did Mr. M. H. S., and the work of the ministry 
devolved alone upon Matthews, who, jealous of his 
dignity, would bear no rivals near his throne. He 
(Mr. Pierson) suffered his beard and nails to grow 
long, in imitation of his new master, and conformed 
in all respects to his instructions. The reasons as 
signed for thus cultivating the beard without crop 
ping it, and for allowing the nails of their fingers to 
grow uncut, were, that unless they had been good 
things, fitting and proper to be worn, men would 
have been formed without them : and as God had 
formed Adam with a beard, and as the patriarchs | 
and Jews, God s chosen people, wore their beards 
long, we have no right to cut them off. This 
reasoning was conclusive. The houses of both 
gentlemen were thrown open to hin^, and their purses 
and all their earthly substance placed at his disposal. 
Indeed, it was one of the fundamental doctrines he 

* 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 109 

taught, that the earth, and all that it contained was 
his own ; and he practised accordingly. 

The prophet was now invited to take up his resi 
dence at the elegantly furnished residence of Mr. 
M. II. S., and acceding to the invitation, he re 
mained with him three months. He would doubt 
less have done so longer, had it not been for what 
was to him an untoward circumstance, as will 
appear in the sequel. The best apartments in the 
house were allotted to his service, and the whole es 
tablishment was submitted to his entire control. It 
was not long before he arrogated to himself, and re 
ceived divine honours, and his entertainer washed 
his feet in token of his humility. The female rela 
tives of the family, who had remained there after the 
decease of the lady of the house, were sent away 
by the impostor, and he allowed no women to reside 
there but the black domestics who were of the true 
faith. From fasting, he taught his disciples to 
change their system to feasting ; and having their 
houses at his command, and their purses at his ser 
vice ; loving the good things of this world, and 
taking all the direction in procuring supplies ; they 
fared sumptuously every day. 

But this splendid style of living was not enough. 
The prophet, as the reader was early told, was vain 
of his personal appearance, and proud of wearing 
rich clothes. It was now necessary that he should 
be arrayed in garments befitting his character, and 
the dignity of tys mission. His liberal entertainer 
therefore, at his suggestion, accompanied him to the 
most fashionable drapers and mercers in Broadway, 
K 



HO MATTHIAS AND 

of whom an ample wardrobe was ordered and ob 
tained, made of the richest broad-cloths, and the 
finest linens that could be procured embracing 
every variety of garment, and as many of them as 
he chose some of which were made of peculiar 
patterns, and worn as canonical costumes of his 
own. He displayed fine cambric ruffles around his 
wrists and upon his bosom, and to a rich silken 
scarf, interwoven with gold, were suspended twelve 
golden tassels, emblematical of the twelve tribes of 
Israel. His fine linen night-caps were wrought with 
curious skill of needlework, with the names of the 
twelve apostles embroidered thereon. Thus decked 
with finery at the expense of his two special disci 
ples, and feasting on the choicest dainties, under 
pretext of sacraments, he lived upon, and with them. 
Meetings were held alternately at the houses of the 
two gentlemen, where he declaimed in the wild, dis- 
jointed, and incoherent manner already described, and 
often with considerable energy and effect. In addi 
tion to his own immediate followers, many others 
were from time to time led by curiosity, or other 
motives, to attend the meetings, who were as often 
shocked by his blasphemies, as amused by his cru 
dities Some of these occasional auditors received 
special invitations from Mr. M. H. S. to attend, and 
others were attracted by the notices which he posted 
at his place of business and elsewhere, announcing 
that Shiloh would preach at his house at a certain 
hour, &c. A gentleman who was drawn thither by 
curiosity, has furnished the writer with a report of one 
of his desultory harangues, taken down in short-hand 



HIS IMPOSTURES. Ill 

at the time. Being brief, it is here inserted. It 
will be seen by a remark in the discourse, that the 
cholera was then prevailing in New-York. 

The spirit that built the Tower of Babel is now 
in the world it is the spirit of the devil. The 
spirit of man never goes upon the clouds all who 
think so are Babylonians. The only heaven is on 
the earth. All who are ignorant of truth, are Nin- 
evites. The Jews did not crucify Christ, it was 
;he Gentiles. Every Jew has his guardian angel 



attending him in this world. God don t speak , 

prophet. 

" John the Baptist," (addressing Mr. Pierson), 
read the tenth chapter of Revelations." After the 
reading of the chapter, the prophet resumed speak- 
ng, as follows : 

Ours is the mustard-seed kingdom which is to 
spread all over the earth. Our creed is truth, and 
no man can find truth unless he obeys John the 
Baptist, and comes clean into the church. 

All real men will be saved ; all mock men will 
)e damned. When a person has the Holy Ghost, 
hen he is a man, and not till then. They who 
each women are of the wicked. The communion 
s all nonsense : so is prayer. Eating a nip of 
read and drinking a little wine won t do any good, 
ill who admit members into their church and suffer 
hem to hold their lands and houses their sentence 
s, * Depart ye wicked, I know you not. All fe- 
nales who lecture their husbands, their sentence is 



112 MATTHIAS AND 

the same. The sons of truth are to enjoy all the 
good things of this world, and must use their means 
to bring it about. Every thing that has the smell 
of woman will be destroyed. Woman is the cap- 
sheaf of the abomination of desolation full of all 
deviltry. In a short time the world will take fire 
and dissolve it is combustible already. All wo 
men, not obedient, had better become so as soon as 
possible, and let the wicked spirit depart, and be 
come temples of truth. Praying is all mocking. 
When you see any one wring the neck of a fowl, 
instead of cutting off its head, he has not got the 
Holy Ghost. 

" All who eat swine s flesh are of the devil ; and 
just as certain as he eats it, he will tell a lie in less 
than half an hour. If you eat a piece of pork, it 
will go crooked through you, and the Holy Ghost 
will not stay in you, but one or the other must leave 
the house pretty soon. The pork will be as crooked 
in you as rams horns, and as great a nuisance as 
the hogs in the street. 

" The cholera is not the right word ; it is choler, 
which means God s wrath. Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob are now in this world : they did not go up in 
the clouds as some believe : why should they go 
there ? They don t want to go there to box the 
compass from one place to another. The Christians 
now-a-days are for setting up the Son s kingdom. 
[ It is not his ; it is the Father s kingdom. It puts 
me in mind of the man in the country who took his 
son in business, and had his sign made * Hitchcock 
& Son, but the son wanted it Hitchcock & Father, 







HIS IMPOSTURES. 113 

and that is the way with your Christians They 
talk of the Son s kingdom first, and not the Father s 
kingdom." 

How men of education and intelligence, as the 
two principals of his devotees unquestionably were, 
could be carried away by the utterer of such far 
ragos of nonsense, is inconceivable. If monomania 
be a curable disease, one would suppose that such 
an oration would be a sovereign remedy. But the 
eccentricities of the human mind who can trace 
or understand them ! 

But although the impostor had, to a still farther 
degree, unsettled the mind of Mr. Pierson, he had 
not yet erased from his memory the recollection of 
his beloved Sarah, or banished the idea that she 
was to be restored to him again. The following 
extracts, however, show that his reason was becom 
ing daily more disordered and wandering : 



Sunday, June 24, 1832. Second anniversary of the morning 
when I went to Sarah s bedside, and in the name of the Lord, 
bid her arise and walk. 

She gave me her hand, arose from the bed, and walked round 
the room, and laid down again. 

It appeared to me that this was a pledge of her future resur 
rection. 

While meditating on this subject, the union God has estab 
lished between man and wife was brought to view as being one" 
flesh. Sarah s spirit was with me. It appeared as if we were 
remarried. She called me Lord. Several remarkable things 
occurred. 

Suppose I felt as a husband ought, in point of office. She 
said, 1 have peace, my Lord. Again, thou hast power, and this 
shall be a sign unto you that these things were real. It was 
according to her word. These things appeared real, except 
bodily presence. 

K2 



114 MATTHIAS AND 

June 29, 1832. The second anniversary of Sarah s death. 

In answer to prayers that God would to-day take this matter 
into consideration : 

This is my counsel, saith the Lord ; Sarah must be raised 
up in the body, and be restored to the kingdom of God. 

The spirit of Abraham says, I can do nothing without Sarah. 
I must have Sarah. Sarah says, deliver me, husband the time 
is come. 

This is my counsel, saith the Lord God of Elijah. Write no 
more. This is my covenant with thee, saith the Lord, in the 
appointed time it shall be done. 

It was said, in the third year it shall be. 

John the Baptist is risen in thee, and will direct thee in things 
pertaining to his office. These promises are all sealed to thee. 
Thus saith the Lord. 

Sunday, July 1, 1832. Anniversary of Sarah s burial. 

Prayed to the Lord that the grave might no longer have 
power to hold her body. 

The Lord said, " I have promised that Sarah should be raised 
up, apd of her own body bear thee a son to be called James. 
This shall be done at the appointed time." 

Asked Sarah, Where art thou ? 

Answer. In the grave, waiting to be delivered. Abraham, 
where art thou ? At Sarah s grave, waiting for her deliverances 
I can do nothing without her. It was said all things must be 
done according to God s appointment. 



This is the last mention the writer has been able 
to find among the papers of Mr. Pierson of his wife, 
whom he so dearly loved, and to whose memory he 
so fondly clung. It is well known, however, that 
he had latterly imbibed the singular idea, probably 
after all hope of her resurrection had vanished, that 
he was the spiritual husband of another a lady who 
had been one of the Bowery Hill association. His 
later belief was, that after the decease of Mrs. Pier- 
son, her spirit had entered into the body of the lady 
referred to. It is not known how, or exactly when, 
this strange conceit originated ; but it is not more 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 115 

surprising than many other features of his melancholy 
hallucination. Among his loose papers, however, 
are two anonymous notes, in the handwriting of a 
female, which, taken in connection with a circum 
stance or two that will presently be related, render 
it at least possible, that there may have been an 
artful conspiracy at the bottom of this particular in 
stance of delusion. Mrs. Pierson, it will be recol- 
ected, died on the 29th of June, 1830. The fol 
lowing note is endorsed in Mr. Pierson s hand 
writing "Received July 20, 1830." And here it 
nust be borne in mind, that, connected with the idea 
hat his wife would be raised from the dead and 
estored to him on earth, was the farther belief that 
she would bear him a son, to be called " James." 
This was one of the promises which he had received 
mm God, and which he has recorded as the answer 
o his prayers, in perhaps fifty places. The first 
lote is as follows : 

"When my cousin was engaged in prayer a few days 

go with Katy, I saw a vision which I was directed to write and 
end to you. I was lost a few minutes, when I beheld my 
ousin walk into your hack-door with the dress which she usually 
years. She passed through the entry, and went into the par- 
aur. The difference in her state was, that she was big with 
hild ; and I thought in the vision that she was at home* in your 
ouse. I knew not the meaning of it, but was constrained to 
end it to you. Perhaps the Lord will show you the interpret- 
tion. My cousin told me some time ago that the Lord had 
romised her a son. I never realised that it would be so until I 
aw the vision." 

The second note, in the same handwriting, and 
ttached to the first by a wafer by Mr. Pierson him- 

* Italicized in the original. 



116 MATTHIAS AND 

self, with the memorandum, " Received 27th July, 
1830," is as follows : 

I thought, sir, that an apology was due to you for the ab 
rupt note I handed you. I have felt quite uneasy about it, and 
wished to say to you, that after I had the vision, I thought I 
mus w rite it; and thought I had better tell it to you than 
cousin as I know she has a remarkably pure mind ; and I judged 
SS if she suspected that I let you know [it], it would make her 
feel very unpleasant. I have taken up a cross in making it 
known to you : if I have done wrong, be kind enough to for 
give me." 

It so happens that there was a very remarkable 
counterpart to this vision of the writer of these notes. 
The lady possibly referred to, had a vision on a cer 
tain nightshe being at a distance from the city at 

the time in which it was revealed to her, that she 

was the spiritual wife of Mr. Pierson. And she be 
lieved that such was the record in heaven. This 
conviction was moreover strengthened by another 
circumstance. On one occasion, her husband being 
absent, she prayed very fervently that the first person 
who entered her door, might be him. It happened 
shortly afterward, and before any other person came 
in, that Mr. Pierson made his appearance ; and the 
good lady at once concluded, that although it had 
been written otherwise on earth, yet, in the records 
of heaven, Mr. Pierson and herself were one. 
Subsequently, on comparing notes with Mr. Pierson, 
no doubt was left of the fact ; since it appeared that 
on the self-same night, he had had a similar dream 
in his own house. On discovering the coincidence 
they joined hands, and walking into another apart 
ment, where a third person was sitting, presented 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 117 

themselves, and mutually declared themselves to be, 
spiritually, man and wife. Whether there was, or 
was not, any connection between the mysterious 
notes which have been quoted, and this singular in 
cident of the delusion, is left for the reader to deter 
mine. 

For the purpose of showing what was the state 
of mind of one of the gentlemen connected with 
Pierson and Matthews, at the time of which we are 
now writing, the following letters are inserted. 
They were addressed to Mr. Pierson while on a 
visit to his friends in Morris county (N. J.) The 
name of the writer is suppressed : 

" New-York, 20th July, 1832. 
" JOHN THE BAPTIST, or DEAR PIERSON: 

"I have your letter, and am glad to hear that you are well. 
Tte angels of destruction are making dreadful havoc, but do 
not be troubled ; they are reaping the tares. The harvest is 
begun, and not a single blade of wheat can fall or be injured. 

" Katy is well, and at the Lord s house often. 

" Isabella is also well. 

" Matthias is still ******, thank God ! and I think we can 
no longer say, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, &c. 
Surely Ihis is the Kingdom of God. 

"The money you spoke of I can use, if you choose to send it, 
and on your return will place it in a satisfactory shape. I will 
venture to send you the love of all the kingdom. 

Yours, sincerely. 

" New-York, 27th July, 1832. 
" DEAR PIERSON, 

"I have your letter, containing twenty-six hundred dollars, 
which is placed to your credit until I see you. 

" You speak of a long letter, but as I have so much to say, 
that a long letter would be only a beginning ; I must wait until 
we meet. Thanks to the blessed God, we are as strong as 
brass and all in perfect health and without any fear ; for the 
eternal God is our refuge ; it can be nothing else that can give 




118 MATTHIAS AND 

such courage. Can t you contrive to make the 22d of next 
month come sooner than that? John the Baptist must be in 
his place before we can move. 

" Yours, sincerely. 

" The kingdom the,? kingdom the kingdom and nothing 
but the kingdom of GOD." 

There is yet another chapter to follow, before the 
scene changes to Singsing. 






ms IMPOSTURES. 119 



CHAPTER VI. 

Luxurious Habits of Matthews Description of his Person and 
Costume Efforts to attract Observation Interesting and 
Remarkable Interview between a Gentleman and Matthews, 
Pierson, and M. 11. S. Claims to a Divine Character Speci 
men of his Preaching Close of the Interview Visit of an 
other Gentleman to the house of M. H. S. Another of the 
Prophet s Lectures Attempt of one of Pierson s Friends to 
Rescue him from the Delusion Meets with the Prophet 
The Interview His Preaching Visit abruptly terminated 
The New Jerusalem Strange Conduct of a Gentleman in 
having his Plate crested with Lions Arrest of the Prophet 
and one of his Disciples, on the ground of Insanity The Im 
postor is shorn of his Beard Strange Fancies of M. H. S. at 
Bloomingdale Pierson takes a house for Matthews Manner 
of passing the Winter The Establishment broken up in the 
Spring Suspected Quarrel Matthews takes Board at a 
Hotel His Conduct there Pierson s Conversations with the 
Spirit. 

IF, as we have seen, Matthews was fond of dress, 
vain show, and luxury within doors, he was equally 
pleased with its display, even to ostentation, without. 
His two chief disciples having ample means, he in 
duced them to set up elegant carriages for his ac 
commodation ; and there was seldom a fine day in 
the summer of 1832, upon which he did not display 
his beard, his costume, and his carriage in Broad 
way accompanied frequently by Mr. Pierson and 
his two children, or by the other gentleman of whom 
we have spoken at large in the preceding chapter. 



120 MATTHIAS AND 

When not rolling in his landau, he was frequently in 
the street, particularly during the hours of fashion 
able promenading dropping in occasionally at the 
bookstores, and sometimes venturing into an office 
of resort in Wall-street, always preaching and ex 
horting in the same rambling and incoherent manner, 
already so often described often with shrewdness 
and momentary energy and never better pleased 
than to find himself the observed of all observers. 

On bright afternoons, when the Battery was sure 
to be thronged by fashionable loungers, seeking to 
kill an idle hour, and by hundreds of people desirous 
of inhaling the invigorating breezes from the ocean, 
Matthews was in the frequent practice of exhibiting 
himself to the multitude, though not exactly mingling 
in the throng. Selecting well his hour for attracting 
the greatest share of attention, he would arrive at 
the Battery-gate in a superb dark carriage, drawn 
by a noble pair of horses, and accompanied by Mr. 
Pierson and his children. Descending from the 
carriage with dignity and deliberation, he would take 
the children by the hand at either side, and thus, 
with stately and measured tread, walk to and fro 
upon the lawn, Mr. Pierson in constant and rever 
ential attendance, for an hour or more until, having, 
as he supposed, made a sufficient exhibition of his 
person, he would retire with the gravity with which 
he came making far less impression, probably, 
upon the multitude than he fancied or desired. 

In persoji he is tall and well-made, although very 
thin what is sometimes, and very aptly, called 
** bony." His height is about five feet ten or eleven 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 121 

inches, and his frame well-proportioned, although 
his gait is somewhat awkward, and his movements 
ungraceful. His walk was always slow, and not 
wanting in stateliness, or at least that assumption 
of it which is to be obtained by deliberation, an 
erect carriage, and a careful avoidance of all hurry 
or precipitation. His face is sharp complexion 
sallow eyes of a cold light gray and hair and 
beard long, thick, coarse, and of a peculiar hue, 
which is better expressed, perhaps, by the word 
ashy, than any other. They have originally been 
of a dark brown, but are now profusely sprinkled 
with silver-gray the union forming that singular 
mixture we have attempted to describe. He always 
wore his hair long, and parted in waving masses 
upon each side of his head, leaving a well-defined 
line of separation running longitudinally along the 
top of his cranium. His beard, equally coarse with 
his hair, and still more inclined to curl, was thick 
and bushy, and covered his breast to the depth of 
eight or ten inches below the neck. He also wore 
thick mustaches on the upper lip, and these, being 
of great length, united so completely with the beard 
on either side, as almost entirely to conceal his 
mouth. The coarseness of his hair and beard not 
being discernible at a short distance, from the great 
care with which they were kept, and the profusion of 
ringlets clustering over his shoulders, they were es 
teemed very beautiful. When conversing, or sitting, 
as he often would, silent and in apparent meditation, 
he was in the almost constant habit of cherishing his 
beard and mustaches smoothing them down with 
L 



122 MATTHIAS AND 

his long slender fingers, and seeming to take great 
delight in feeling them. The predominant expres 
sion of his countenance is a cold severity ; but with 
this there is mingled great shrewdness of aspect- 
and, very often, an air of deep abstraction. 

His most usual costume while exhibiting himself 
in the streets of New- York, or upon the Battery, as 
. we have described, was a black cap of japanned 
leather, in shape like an inverted cone, with a shade ; 
a frock-coat, generally of fine green cloth, lined 
with white or pink satin ; a vest, commonly of richly 
figured silk ; a sash of crimson silk around his 
waist; green or black pantaloons, sometimes with 
sandals, and at others Wellington boots (always 
highly polished), and worn outside of the pantaloons ; 
with a black stock around his neck. As we have 
already remarked, he was evidently very fond of 
rich and showy dresses, and seldom appeared two 
days in succession in the same apparel. Some of 
his coats were richly decorated with braid, and frogs* 
and costly buttons ; but in shape they were always 
the same, at least, so far as the observation of the 
writer has extended, being the kind indifferently 
called frock, or Wellington. Altogether, his ap 
pearance was striking and calculated to attract no 
tice, but not remarkably imposing. 

It was during the same season the summer of 
1832 while residing with Mr. M. H. S., though 
spending a good portion of his time, as we have 
seen, with Mr. Pierson, that a remarkable interview 
took place between Matthias and his two chief dis 
ciples and another gentleman, which is not only in- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 123 

teresting in itself, but will serve strikingly to illus 
trate the state of mind under which at least two of 
the parties were labouring. The gentleman re 
ferred to has great strength and precision of memory, 
and the narrative has been carefully taken by the 
writer from his own lips. For the purpose of pre 
serving the scene in a dramatic form, the gentleman 

referred to will be called Hervey. It is as follows : 

One morning in the summer referred to, Mr. M. 
H. S. called upon Mr. Hervey, and inquired whether 

he would attend a meeting at his house, in - 

street, at half-past three o clock that afternoon. He 
added that he had the privilege of entertaining under 
his roof, the most extraordinary man that ever set 
his foot upon this earth. 

Mr. Hervey. You do not presume to say that he 
was a greater man, or a greater being, than the 
Lord Jesus Christ, surely? 

M. H. S. Sir, it is Shiloh himself: He who 
was, and is, and is to come. 

Mr. Hervey. Sir, you will excuse me from attend 
ing a meeting where such a being as you represent 
is to officiate. 

M. H. S. But I am extremely desirous that you 
should hear the words of wisdom which continually 
flow from the lips of this extraordinary personage. 

Mr. Hervey. Well, since you are so desirous 
that I should see him, in order to gratify you I will 
call upon you after the meeting shall be over, if you 
will name the hour. 

M. H. S. At about five o clock, sir. 

And here the morning interview terminated. At 



124 MATTHIAS AND 

the hour designated, the gentleman presented him 
self at the house of the merchant who had been so 
desirous of procuring an interview, where he was 
cordially received, and conducted into the front 
parlour. Judging from the number of benches, 
chairs, and other seats in the apartment, it appeared 
as though there had been a meeting of considerable 
magnitude. They had all retired, however, with 
the exception of one person an individual who was 
sitting in one corner oif the room, in the most humble, 
meek, and docile attitude that can be imagined. 
His beard was bristling out about an inch long, and 
his hair like his beard, black as jet was parted 
over his forehead, after the manner of the pictures 
of the Messiah. The following dialogue ensued : 

J\fr. Hervey. Is that the gentleman to whom you 
alluded as being the Shiloh ? 

M. H. S. Oh no, sir ! This is John the Bap 
tist. 

John the Baptist. Who is not worthy to unloose 
even the shoe-latches of the one who is up-stairs. 

On approaching yet nearer to this grotesque and 
demure-looking gentleman, and scrutinizing him 
closely, the dialogue was continued. 

Mr. Hewey. Why, you are my old friend Pier- 
son, whom I have met abroad. Surely (surveying 
him yet more closely) you are Elijah Pierson ; 
nothing more or less. And do you presume to say 
that you are the veritable John the Baptist ? Surely 
you do not pretend to say that this head upon your 
shoulders (laying his hand ftpon his head), is the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 125 

very identical head that was taken off by Herod, and 
brought to his daughter in a charger 1 

M. H. S. The very same. 

Mr. Pierson. No : I do not mean to be under 
stood as saying that this head of mine is the very 
same head that was cut from the body of John the 
Baptist ; but I mean to say, that the spirit of Elijah 
Pierson, leaving this tabernacle (significantly point 
ing to his heart), the spirit of Elijah the Prophet 
thereupon entered, and abode for awhile ; and that 
now the spirit of John the Baptist has taken the 
place of that of Elijah. And therefore I may justly 
be considered, and am, in fact, and to all intents and 
purposes, John the Baptist. 

Here a somewhat general conversation ensued 
Mr. Hervey urging upon the deluded man the ab 
surdity of his conduct and pretensions. Among 
other matters, Mr. Hervey inquired why he dis 
figured himself by suffering his beard to grow thus. 

Mr. Pierson. Jesus Christ wore a long beard 
when upon earth, and we are commanded to follow 
his example in all things. 

After pursuing the conversation for some minutes, 
Mr. Hervey, turning to Mr. M. H. S., inquired : 

" Do you really pretend to say that you have under 
this roof a being who styles himself Shiloh ?" 

M. H. S. The very self-same being, sir, and 
who has told me all things that ever I did. But 
you shall see and judge for yourself, sir. 

Saying which, he left the apartment and ascended 
the stairs in the hall. Returning presently, he 
said : 

L2 



126 MATTHIAS AND 

" Prepare yourself to receive him who was the 
first and the last the great I AM !" 

A noise of footsteps moving slowly across the 
floor above was now heard, from whence the sounds 
descended the stairs, and some person entered the 
back parlour, communicating with the front by fold 
ing-doors. 

JVT. H. S. Let us rise, and prepare for his re 
ception. 

No sooner said than done : and the folding-doors 
being at the same instant thrown open by a servant 
stationed on the other side for that purpose, behold, 
there stood a being of whose appearance some idea 
may perhaps be formed from the description already 
attempted to be given. " Figure to yourself," says 
Mr. Hervey, " a full-sized man, with a full head of 
hair, parted over the top, and falling down in cluster 
ing curls over his shoulders ; a long beard, extend 
ing down his breast, midway of his body, and cov 
ering nearly the whole of his face to the eyes, which 
were small and sunken, but sharp and piercing. * 
He had on a bottle-green frock-coat of the finest 
quality ; white pantaloons and waistcoat ; with a 
broad crimson sash, richly inwrought with gold, 
around his body. To this were suspended the 
twelve golden tassels already described, and he 
wore ruffles around his wrists. This singular figure 
approached with a very slow and majestic step, and 
proffered his hand to the stranger, but from which 
the latter withdrew, saying : 

"No, sir; excuse me, if you please. If you 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 127 

are what you pretend to be, I am certainly not 
worthy to take you by the hand " 

JVf. //. S. Bravo ! (flying into his embrace and 
kissing him.) 

JVlr. HenM/y. But stop : I had not finished my 
sentence. If you are not what you pretend to be, 
sir, then you are not worthy to take me by the 
hand. 

At this turn of the period, there was some confu 
sion. John the Baptist kept his seat with the most 
imperturbable composure, but M. H. S. uttered 
some ejaculations of surprise at the indignity with 
which his Shiloh was treated, that are not retained. 
The prophet drew himself up with dignity, and 
frowned for an instant as he supposed with terror. 
Presently, however, the gathering storm passed 
away, arid Shiloh, M. II. S., and Mr. Hervey seated 
themselves together upon the sofa upon which lay 
an open Bible. 

Mr. Hervey commenced a conversation by put 
ting a question to him touching his pretensions, and 
desiring to know whether they were willing to enter 
into a discussion as to the truth of his assumptions 
adding, that he knew of no other standard of 
truth, than that blessed volume (pointing to the 
Bible). 

The Prophet. In my presence there is no other 
speaker than myself; and if a plurality of speakers 
is necessary, I shall at once leave the room. 

Mr. Hervey. I have come here for discussion, 
rather than for information. My religious principles 






I MATTHIAS AINK 

are fixed ; mid my fnilli, mid all my hope! of ftltlift 

;..il\ .iiin, ,n< driived from that MCfed volume. 

JV/. //. S. Tim In-iii^ in whom) preHenco you aro 
\VIIM present, when lluil l iU< wan made ; of < <.m < 

il inn I IK l.il n for "i .ml. .1 lli.il li- UlldcrHllUldH ll : 

<!.. inn. In HI i iL. .u any of UN do. 

I 1 Hiding, however, very muni, (hut more waH lo ho 
no diMeiiMhion, and discovering, hy repeated attempts, 
(luil il \VIIM alinoHl impOMlble to ^< l in a word il;-i 

wine, yd. dcwirouH <>( bearing otnethiog from the 

oraclr, Mr. llcivny OOOteOted hiiiiHrl! lo remain lor 
a Mliorl limn a Hiloil lintciicr. 

I ln- |)tn|>hrl thcK-iipoii hr^an a discnsHioii, |our- 

in^ foiih a timue of greater abiurditiei ilum nm well 
hd ..IM . i\. -I inin"lrd with hhockiDg blajphemiei* 

III. i. -\ i H , (o h<i :n< orciiHionully, qiiotiiliuiis honi 
III- S. ii]. INI. , ill. Old T. I.IMM ni in parlirular, and 
rhirlly Ironi tlm Writing of MOM I H, IliK iilly <-il d in 
,-iii|.|...ii of In preteiuioMi and HomcliiiM-H adroitly. 

Hui HI.I.- u.i 10 much of wickedneu and HOIIHCHHO 

mi \. . I n|> in In ; liiinin^iiis with now and thru a I. \\ 
grains of MOM amon^; INN rruditioM-- that. Mr. II. i 
vry*H pittii^nrti hi-cumr rxluuiHtrd. r l li<^ wholo por- 
I.. i in. mrc WIIM dilgUlting from its profanity, and tho 

i; ii..i.inr<- of tllO llllpOHtor, (lot wilhsllllldill^ In I. mm 

iarily wiih the lim/Miii^n of Scripture, too dis^u: iin 
nidi i (I, for repotilion. <Mm or two ofhiNiiHsi rlionN 
will he eilrd lor \:mi|.l.- l<\>r instaiiee, IK- <| ( - 
dared lluil on (he !)lh of July, IHM(i, time should ho 
Iio i > M ill. if the eoiiMummnlion of idl thin^M would 
tuKe |il.n i ; ili. if the (jentileN would nil In- dumiied, 
and none l>nl the l< WN he .saved. 



HIM IMI OHTUIlEfl. I" 1 

Mr I/miry. Hut. how ix that I If HO, mid Miieh 
in to ho ili.- iiitc of nil ih.- <. < niil. , our in- u.l . 1Y1. 
II H. mill I H-I .n, li- p , are .ill i nil lo ho damned ! 

J\1. II. S. Oh! luil I HIM n Jowl 

J\1r. lln vnj. A .low! liow in (luil f 

/ /< I rnnhrt. Why, ieV6ftl ffonontttoni linOii 
onn of his .HP-. l"i" 111. mi I .1 .1. \\.- , ami In- li.i ; 
thtlffbre Hulliriont Jewish hloo<l running in IIIM voinn 
to .iv him. 

JV7. //. >S. And UN to PicrHoii, IIH you call him, 
you ! .! i -i (hut \\ci \n <lohii (ho hitptiNt, niid JM ilu M- 
I . H- n Jew of <- >ui .-. 

V\w oration huviii^ hern thiiH intorniplrd, WAN not 
resumed ; hut, during ii utterance, holh tin- IIOH! mid 
Pi< i mi <( MM d to diink in every word of it, with 
dH inueh c.i", in, . i ;i-: ilioifli the, impOftor l li|>H 
hud ir.ill\ In i M (iMiehed with the live eoal Iroin the 
altar ; ns though his incoherent raviti; M uero in 
tinili Ihe wordn of more than mortal tongue. In 

<l< < d, it WIIH Hi,- ill-, in of lie tWO li i;l<- : to Hit 

h ii upon hour, and day uOer <lay, ^a/.in^ with rrm- 
IIIK "ii tin- .- .mil, ii in,-, of their prophci, and rolling 
\< iy Hent(!iiee ho utlrn-d MS a NWeet. mornol undi i 
thru ton^unM. Onn of them would IUHH hi:< (eet. in 
Lilt, -ii of rnverru<T :md humility.* " Look tlioru !" 

* WimlmiK tl>" |ini|ili"l H !"., nml nlm) tmdi ollitM n, liy liln 

lull.,--. i . witN ( (iiiiliinii in, .!, Mi, in I ll- following riill KiH 
\i|n)ii HUH Hiih|cri urn Iruni I n r.,.n ilmry : 

Mini Mi, IMIW. \V.i-i.r,l It, M. .iii.i,,. 1 - i.. i 
\ A,,, in//, VVnolinil MirlmH 11. I) - 



l>* \.<iii. ,; l nn- I ln- I,.,.. I linn ii-i| in" to hnvn my font 
w;i ,li,-,l Mr, It ninl l-..il,i-ll,-i nlo vviiilul oacll o(hr i 



130 MATTHIAS AND 

said S. to a friend at his house, one day ; " did you 
notice the hair.upon his upper lip, how it looks like 
a lion ! I tell you sir, he is a lion he is the lion ol 
the tribe of Judah !" 

It was now past six o clock ; and it was moreovei 
a day on which the twelve apostles were to partake 
of their love-feast for which purpose the table was 
now spreading in another apartment. Mr. Hervey 
was invited to remain and partake Mr. M. H. S. 
assuring him that he should positively sup with the 
twelve Apostles. But the invitation was declined. 
Having seen and heard enough to satisfy his curi 
osity, Mr. Hervey then took his departure adding, 
emphatically, in conclusion " that by such pro 
ceedings, they were assuming responsibilities which 
he would not bear for worlds." He recommended 
them to search the Scriptures ; for therein they 
would find that there is no other name under heaven 
given among men, whereby they can be saved, bul 
the name of Jesus ; and he hoped, that, one and 
all, they would yet be brought to a saving knowledge 
of the truth as it is in Him. He then departed. 
resolving within himself, as soon as an opportunity 
should offer, to warn these deluded men to be OIL 
their guard against the arts and designs of this; 
wicked impostor. Events, however, soon con-j 
spired to prevent such another interview with Mr, 
Pierson and his companion in the delusion, as he 
desired to procure ; and his purpose was frustrated,! 

After this was done, prayed with them, and ate supper, breaking 
the bread. It was a very solemn time, and the Lord was there: 

The Lord gave good promises respecting Mrs. B and Isa 

bella. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 131 

Another gentleman, who dined several times with 
the disciple of Matthews, at whose house the scene 
just described took place in company with the 
prophet, and whose lectures he also attended at the 
same place on two or three occasions, has furnished 
the writer with a few particulars. At the time of 
his first invitation, he was not apprized that he was 
to meet any extraordinary personage. But on his 
arrival at the house of his friend, he was gently ad 
monished thus : " You will not be afraid of a long 
beard, I trust." " Oh no, not at all," replied the 
gentleman. " But why do you make such a re 
mark (" He replied, in substance, that the Almighty 
was under his roof, and that he was to dine with 
him. The guest being aware that his host had been 
labouring under strong and peculiar religious ex 
citement, turned the remark by saying that he should 
be glad to see him, or words equivalent. 

The gentleman referred to informs the writer that 
the discourses which he heard were delivered with 
not a little pathos, to some fifty or sixty persons, 
male and female, and that at times he displayed 
considerable ingenuity. Upon one occasion, he 
enumerated about a dozen classes of persons, against 
whom, he said, the same denunciation would be 
pronounced at the day of judgment. One of which 
was merchant tailors, who hired women at four shil 
lings a week : the denunciation would be, " Depart 
from me ye workers of iniquity, I know you not." 
This was repeated in a stentorian voice, at the naming 
of each class. In the same discourse, he said, that 



132 MATTHIAS AND 

whosoever offerided John the Baptist, (pointing to 
Mr. Pierson and calling him by name), or my beloved 
son (pointing to the gentleman of the house, and 
naming him), I pronounce a curse upon him, and it 
will take effect : but whoever applies, in good faith 
and sincerity of heart, to John the Baptist, he will 
hand him over to me, and / will insure him a seat 
in heaven. 

Upon these occasions," adds the gentleman, 
" the prophet was decorated with a superb palla or 
robe, from different parts of which were suspended 
twelve large silk tassels, said to be intended to 
typify the twelve tribes of Israel. He was begirded 
round the waist with the elegant red silk sash here 
tofore spoken of. These, with a reverential flowing 
beard, from six to eight inches in length, such as 
the ancient saints used to wear, -gave him a very 
imposing appearance. At table he was served with 
a silver goblet, while the rest of the company werej 
furnished with common glass tumblers. Nothing. 
however, was drunk at dinner but water. Ir 
short, the whole affair was conducted with decorum 
and well calculated to impress upon the minds of 
the ignorant and superstitious the reality of the char 
acter assumed by the principal actor in the farce."- 

Having heard much of the increasing extrava 
gances of his unhappy friend, and of his recent con 
nection with a man believed universally to be j 
base impostor, Mr. Pierson s former pastor re 
solved upon one more effort to visit, and, if possible 
to reclaim him. He repaired to his house, there> 
fore, with great anxiety. On his entrance, his 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 133 

prise and astonishment were unbounded at behold 
ing him. When he had last seen him, from long 
and frequent fastings, he had become almost wasted 
to a skeleton ; but the appearance of his person 
now betokened any thing rather than abstemiousness 
in diet. His beard, which was coal-black, now 
almost covered his face, and his eye had acquired 
an uncommon lustre, a piercing and almost start 
ling fierceness of expression, as it flashed through 
his raven locks. His prophet, Matthias, was with him 
at the time, with a yet much longer beard, and 
dressed in his pontifical robes, as heretofore des 
cribed. There was likewise anoiner gentleman pre 
sent, on a visit of curiosity to the extraordinary pair. 
After a pause of a few moments, the prophet 
broke silence by speaking, as though in continua 
tion of a discourse. Pie spoke without method, 

raved against all denominations of Christians, 

declaring that the kingdom he was preaching, and 
which had now commenced, would continue and in 
crease, until, like Aaron s rod, it should have swal 
lowed up all other sects and kindreds. He pro 
ceeded in an attempt to explain his system, which 
was crude and unintelligible. He maintained not 
only that the earth was to be renovated, but that the 
spirits of the Apostles and patriarchs were to reani 
mate other bodies. At present, he and John the 
Baptist (Pierson), were obliged to fill a variety of 
offices ; but in a short time men would arise to oc 
cupy the different posts, so that there should again 
be twelve apostles, and twelve patriarchs, and other 
functionaries answering to the early ages of the 
M 



134 MATTHIAS AND 

church. This era was to be the first resurrection. 
He commented with satisfaction upon the rail-roads 
projected and in progress, as preparing the way of 
the Lord, regretting, however, that they were not 
more continuous and regular in their courses. At 
that time the sea was to be converted into dry land ; 
people were not to dwell in cities, but would live, as 
it were, in palaces scattered over the land, riding in 
u/ elegant carriages, and dressing and living in wealth 
and splendour. He denounced baptism by sprink 
ling, declaring moreover that immersion was no 
baptism, as the rite was practised, because people 
I were baptized with their clothes on. 

Among other of his vagaries, he declared that he 
had received in a vision the plan of architecture for 
- the New Jerusalem, which he was commissioned t 
build, and which, for the magnificence and beauty 
of its structure for its extent and grandeur would 
excel all that was known of the Greeks and Ro 
mans. The site of this great capital of the kingdom, 
was to be in the western part of New-York. The 
bed of the ocean was to yield up its long-concealed 
treasures for his use. All the vessels, tools, and 
implements of this New Jerusalem, were to be of 
massive silver and pure gold. In the midst of the 
city was to stand an immense temple, in comparison 
with which that of Solomon could not be named ; 
and this principal temple was to be surrounded by 
several smaller ones. In the greater temple he 
himself was to be enthroned. Pierson and M. H. i 
S. were to occupy each a lesser throne, on his right 
hand and on his left. Before him was to stand an 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 135 

altar on which was to be placed a massive candle 
stick, with seven branches all of pure gold. Can 
dlesticks of iron were to stand on the altar before 
his two lesser divinities, already mentioned. He 
continued his rhapsody for about ten minutes longer, 
with great violence of speech nnd gesture, frequently 
raising his shrill arid harsh voice to the top of his 
lungs. 

Having concluded his harangue, the clergyman 
then requested of Mr. Pierson liberty to speak to 
which the prophet instantly objected, adding, that 
they wanted no teachers there, and that all who 
came must be content to learn. Mr. Pierson was 
then again asked " Is this not your own house ? 
May I not be permitted to speak?" 

With some reluctance, and looking with fear and 
trembling at his master, Mr. Pierson then consented, 
and the gentleman proceeded affectionately to ad 
monish him against consorting with such a man, 
of whom there could be no doubt that he was a 
gross impostor. He therefore warned his old friend 
to abandon him at once, and repent of the errors 
into which he had fallen. 

Mr. Pierson, who, with his spiritual instructor, 
was sitting upon the sofa, here interposed by saying 
that he could not allow such language to be uttered in 
his house against so holy a man. The prophet, how 
ever, was not satisfied with the gentle rebuke of John 
the Baptist ; but springing upon his feet in a passion, 
he raised his arms perpendicularly, and rushed furi 
ously towards the gentleman shrieking wildly at 
the highest, pitch of his voice. He raved incohe^ 



136 MATTHIAS AND 

rently, and with such loudness and half-suffocated 
rage, as to prevent his words from being understood 
further than that he continued to protest against 
allowing any person to come there to teach him. 
So violent was his manner as to intimidate poor 
Pierson, who trembled like an aspen-leaf. 

Being now convinced that no good was to be ac 
complished by remaining longer, the gentleman de 
parted from the truly melancholy scene extending 
his hand to Mr. Pierson on leaving, from which, 
however, the deluded man shrunk back, as though 
every finger had been pointed with the sting of a 
scorpion. 

The idea of this New Jerusalem, which was to 
adorn western New-York with its gorgeous palaces 
and solemn temples, was a frequent subject of the 
prophet s discourses, and was fully believed in b) 
his disciples. As a matter of course, the furniture 
was to- correspond with its external grandeur. For 
the purpose, therefore, of making some preliminary 
preparations, while yet residing with Mr. M. H. S., 
in the summer of 1832, Matthews, in company with 
this gentleman, called at the large and amply finished 
fancy store of Mr. Gardiner, in Broadway, to ex 
amine the fashion and style of his silver-wares. 
After taking a general survey of the articles for 
which they had inquired of massive silver, richly 
embossed, and many of them with exquisite skill 
they remarked that the plate would not answer their 
purpose at all. On being interrogated in what re 
spect the articles which were of the most fashion 
able patterns were defective, they replied that " it 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 137 

was now the reign of THE LION !" and that every 
piece must be surmounted with that noble animal. 
They also advised Mr. Gardiner to dispose of his 
stock in trade as soon as possible, and commence 
the manufacture of articles of the pattern they had 
described, as none other would in a short time be in 
demand. It was then asked whether it was the 
British lion they wanted ? To which Matthews 
answered, No ; for the British lion was a devil ; but 
he meant " the Lion of the tribe of Judah." He 
then proceeded to say that he was authorized to 
contract for the building of a magnificent temple, 
which was soon to be commenced, and of which all 
the utensils were to be of gold and silver. This 
temple was to exceed in splendour all that could be 
pictured forth to the imagination ; and with a view 
.to furnishing the vessels and utensils of silver and 
.gold, it would be wise for Mr. Gardiner to engage 
.all the best artificers in -the world, for that all would 
be wanted. 

In the course of a week or ten days afterward, 
Mr. M. H. S. called alone, and after the ordinary 
exchange of salutations, observed " Mr. Gardiner, 
the Kingdom of God is at hand, are you not glad of 
it?" Mr. Gardiner having signified his assent to 
this proposition, the gentleman proceeded to make 
inquiries respecting the silver-ware, desiring also to 
consult him as to certain alterations and engravings, 
which he wished to have executed upon his own 
family plate. He produced several pieces, on which 
he wished various inscriptions to be made one of 
which was * The kingdom of God is at hand ;" 
M2 



138 MATTHIAS AND 

but the others are not recollected. Remonstrances 
that such inscriptions would only disfigure his silver 
were made to no purpose. On the day following 
he called again, accompanied by a servant, laden 
with a basket of silver-ware, containing various ar 
ticles, among which was a tea-set. His directions 
were, that a silver lion be placed upon the top of the 
tea-pot, the sugar-bowl, &c., and also, that the 
spout of the former should be ornamented with 
a lion s head, from the mouth of which the tea should 
be poured. The alterations and engravings having 
been made as directed, he then ordered a silver 
chalice, with two inscriptions, one of which was, 
that it was presented to the prophet Matthias by 
himself and children. 

He frequently called at the store afterward, 
sometimes in company with Matthias, and at others 
without him. At length he gave an order for a 
porcelain dinner service, to have the device of the 
lion, and the inscriptions already upon his plate ; but 
the order was on so large a scale that the merchant 
was unwilling to execute it. Suspecting, moreover, 
by this time, what was the state of the gentleman s 
mind, he consulted with some of his friends, and 
determined not to execute the order, but at the same 
time to humour him as far as he could, when he 
called, as he frequently did, to make inquiries for 
the articles. At a subsequent visit Matthias com 
menced one of his flighty and boisterous orations 
boasting of his supernatural endowments, and talk 
ing largely of his power to save or destroy. One 
of his conceits was, that he could destroy all the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 139 

flies in the world as easily as " that" rapping his 
fingers upon a box by which he was standing. 
This insect was particularly offensive to him ; and 
one of the comforts of " his kingdom" was to con 
sist in the cleanliness of the houses, which were to 
be kept with such neatness that the flies would be 
unable to live in them. 

Matters having proceeded thus with Mr. M. H. S. 
for about three months, some of his friends, finding 
that both Matthews and himself required to be taken 
care of, procured a warrant, setting forth that, " by 
reason of lunacy, or otherwise, they were so far disor 
dered in their senses as to endanger their persons, or 
the persons and property of others, if permitted to go 
at large." On this warrant, the gentleman referred 
to was sent to the Bloomingdale lunatic asylum, 
and Matthews to the apartment of the insane poor 
at Bellevue. It having been suggested to the 
brother of one of his disciples, that the secret of 
the prophet s power over his infatuated followers, 
like the strength of Samson, lay in his hair, means 
were found to set the Philistines of the police upon 
him, and he was shorn of his favourite beard a 
bereavement which he greatly lamented. A brother 
of the impostor, hearing of his confinement, procured 
a writ of habeas corpus, upon which he was brought 
before the Recorder, and after a hearing discharged. 
He was immediately arrested, however, on a charge 
of blasphemy, but was admitted to bail, having en 
countered no difficulty in procuring sureties. No 
trial upon this charge took place. 

While a resident with Mr. M. H. S. ha, was very 



140 MATTHIAS AND 

boisterous and noisy in his preaching to such an 
extent that the neighbours complained, and measures 
were projected to abate the nuisance. It is not 
known what were his private habits at this time, but 
suspicions of gross licentiousness were entertained, 
in consequence of the visits of females to his apart 
ments. With some of these he became angry, and 
one or more of them was severely whipped by him. 
It is not supposed that the gentleman whose hospi 
tality he was at once enjoying and so greatly abusing, 
was at all cognizant of any such proceedings, or of 
his supposed licentiousness. After the arrest, how 
ever, papers were discovered on the premises, by 
which it was ascertained that Matthews had been 
projecting a match between Mr. M. H. S. and his 
daughter, whom he had left at Albany, and whose 
name will subsequently appear in the present history 
as Mrs. Laisdell. She was to have been brought 
from Albany for that purpose. 

Not more than six weeks had elapsed after the re 
moval of this gentleman to Bloomingdale, before he 
looked upon the impostor with detestation. 

" He is a devil," he exclaimed one day in con 
versation with a friend. 

" How do you know him to be such T was the 
reply. 

* Because God has told me so." 

" Because God has told you so ! How do you 
know that V 

" How do I know 1 There can be no mistake 
upon the subject. He is the devil, the real crittur 
> -the monster himself. God tells me so. Why, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 141 

God talks to me every day, as a parent does to a 
child." 

Upon this subject of direct communication with 
the Spirit, and of interviews with the departed, this 
gentleman seemed to have imbibed the same delu 
sion which Mr. Pierson had acquired from Mrs. 
* * *, by whose agency, or through whose instru 
mentality, all the evils we have been describing, were 
beyond all question superinduced. Both his wife 
and father had recently deceased, and he frequently 
related the interviews he was in the habit of holding 
with them. His father, in particular, was in the 
habit of calling in upon him often, in a sociable man 
ner, and holding long and agreeable conversations 
with him. 

He was much pleased with his residence at the 
Asylum with its noble edifice, its beautiful grounds, 
and the glorious landscape in the midst of which it 
is so delightfully situated. His opinion seemed to 
be, that it was a branch of the New Jerusalem of 
his day-dreams, and that hereafter gentlemen were 
to live in large communities, and grand establish 
ments like that. As to the present inmates, how 
ever, he did not believe they were men, but rather 
that they were devils. These vagaries clearly show, 
that the interposition of his friends, to rescue him 
from the toils of Pierson and Matthews, had not 
been taken too soon. 

After his release upon the habeas corpus, as al 
ready related, Matthews was again received into the 
house of Mr. Pierson, with whom he enjoyed a hos 
pitable home until October at which time his be- 



142 MATTHIAS AND 

nevolent disciple rented and furnished a house for 
his exclusive use, in Clarkson-street, where, with 
the noted Isabella for his housekeeper, he resided 
until the following May (1833). 

This change was dictated, as Mr. Pierson sup 
posed, by the Holy Spirit, in the words following, 
which are taken from his diary : 

Oct. 3. Mr. Matthias shall go from you, and you shall go on 
with your work, and be prospered, and have every needed gift 
and wisdom. 

His intercourse with Mr. Pierson was kept up as 
usual during the winter ; but in regard to his life 
and conduct at what was emphatically now his own 
home, there is no certain information. He was 
much in the streets as before, and frequently preached 
from his own door to the people occasionally col 
lecting for amusement around it. Whenever he 
became irritated with Isabella, however, in regardj 
to household or other matters, he would remain at| 
home, and preach to her the whole day. 

The papers of Mr. Pierson during this period,! 
furnish but little information in respect either to his; 
temporal or spiritual affairs. The general state of 
his mind remained much the same, however, as will 
be seen by the following extracts : 



Sunday, 24th March, 1833. After breakfast, the Spirit said, goui ( 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 143 

my captivity might be turned like that of Job : to be raised 
high above all my enemies, and the fear of man : that the people 
might hear me as preparing the way of the Lord as John the 
Baptist : that I might baptize them according to the will of 
God. 

April $th, 1833. In the night had a view of my ew body. I 
appeared taller than I am now, very ruddy and fair, with no 
board except under the chin, full of animation and sprightliness. 
There ,was something said about the tall young man spoken of 
by Esdras. 

At the close of April, the prophet s establishment 
was broken up, and he took lodgings at the lower 
extremity of the city, in the hotel corner of Market- 
field and West streets. The cause of this change 
in his domestic arrangements is not exactly known. 
A strong inference may be drawn, however, from 
the following entry in Mr. Pierson s diary a month 
before : 

Monday, March 18, 1833. While meditating concerning supply 
ing Mr. M. with a monthly supply, the spirit said, " give him no 
more, he has disobeyed me, and thou shalt give him no more 
at all. This word is sure unto thee, saith the Lord that heareth 
thee. 

The within injunction was made in the most unqualified 
terms, and repeated. One point of disobedience appeared to be 
about the watch. It was said, thou hast obeyed my voice, 
therefore I will bless thee above men. 

There must be no change of this determination. The Lord 
requires it so. 

An additional reason for supposing that a misun 
derstanding had arisen between the prophet and his 
disciple, is found in the fact, that during the three 
or four months of his boarding at the be fore- men 
tioned hotel, he was evidently but ill-supplied with 
money. His custom was to pay his reckonings 



144 MATTHIAS AND 

daily, whenever he had the means ; but there were 
occasional periods of three or four days, when he 
was entirely destitute, and his wardrobe seemed to 
be less amply furnished with new garments, than 
during the preceding summer. 

The contiguity of his present quarters to the Bat 
tery enabled him to indulge himself to the full in 
walks upon that beautiful esplanade ; and on return 
ing to the hotel, he was certain to be followed by a 
portion of the crowd, who, from motives of curiosity, 
or to annoy him with questions, or irritate him by 
contradictions, would be sure to remain so long in 
the bar-room as enabled the landlord to find his ac 
count in it. As to the general deportment of Mat 
thews during this period, it is not represented as 
having been particularly obnoxious to censure. On i 
his first introduction to the hotel, he attempted once 
or twice to play off his prophetical airs, and display 
his boisterous oratory. But the landlord perfectly 
understood him, and being withal a man of energy, 
he soon took the conceit out of him, and subse 
quently had no trouble with him. The frequenters 
of the bar-room would occasionally exasperate him, 
and in return he would pour forth a torrent of curses 
upon them ; but whenever the landlord perceived 
that he was likely to proceed too far, he would step 
up and say to him, " Mr. Matthias, it is time for 
you to go to bed." The intimation was sufficient, 
and he would obey it from that source with the do 
cility of a child. Justice also requires it to be said, 
that so far as is known or believed, his moral con 
duct while residing at the Battery, was irreproach 
able. 

- , 



HfS IMPOSTURES. 145 

Whether there had actually been a quarrel be 
tween the prophet and his disciple, it has already 
been said, is not known. But if it were so, it will 
shortly appear that the differences between them 
Were not lasting. Meantime, in conclusion of the 
present chapter, as we have donejwuhMr. Pierson s 
recorded conversations with [The Deityyit is proper 
to state the explanation whichlie gave of the man 
ner in which those conversations were held. He 
maintained indeed that God spoke audibly to him ; 
but on being asked, how it happened, that if God 
spoke thus to him, no other persons could hear him ? 
he replied, that it was not exactly a voice which he 
heard, but words were in some mysterious manner 
Communicated to him, which he was enabled to hear 
though they could not be heard by others, 
N 



146 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER VII. 

History of Mr. and Mrs. Folger resumed Commencement of 
their acquaintance with Matthias Pierson s instructions 
Efforts of Matthias to bring Mr. Folger into his power- 
Throws himself upon the family of Mr. F. at Singsing unin 
vitedMr, and Mrs. Folger s narrative of the circumstances- 
Dreams, and Visions, and Vagaries of the Prophet, in which 
the Reader will find more of ingenuity than he expects His 
discourse with Adam Claims Divine Attributes and the Au 
thorship of the Bible Strange notions about the transmigra 
tion of the Spirit of Truth Vision of the Indian New 
Theory of Sickness Diet and general manner of living at 
Mount Zion Cruel treatment of Mrs. Folger in Sickness- 
Bathing Refutation of Calumnies upon that Subject Dan 
iel s Image of Gold, and Gen. Jackson s falling from the Bridge 
at Castle Garden an Evil omen to his Successor Gift of 
the Holy Ghost conferred upon Pierson Explanations of the 
Prophet s attire The Chariot of Israel The Prophet s no 
tions respecting marriage Re-marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Fol 
ger by Mr. Pierson And again by the Prophet Internal de 
scription of the household of Mount Zion Journey to Albany 
for the family of Matthias Whipping of his Daughter W hips 
the sick Devil out of Isabella Discipline of his own Family 
Mount Zion given to the Prophet Mr. Folger s Bank 
ruptcyA Catastrophe with a Coach Mr. Folger doubts the 
Prophet Rupture Seizes him by the Throat Reconcilia 
tion Sickness and Death of Mr. Pierson Removal to New- 
York The Delusion passes away Matthias driven away 
End of the Narrative. 

THUS far the reader will have perceived that Mr. 
Benjamin H. Folger and his wife had had no con 
nection or acquaintance with the pretended Prophet, 
into whose toils they were ultimately doomed to fall. 
They had indeed early been the victims of the lady 
(Mrs. * * *), with whom commenced the infatua 
tion that in the end was productive of such disastrous 
resu lts an infatuation engendered in fanaticism, and 
running into an almost unheard of delusion ; and 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 147 

/fhey had, moreover, been associated with that lady 
and Mr. Pierson in most of their memorable pro 
ceedings at Bowery Hill ; but they had hitherto es 
caped the fellowship of the impostor, for whose ap 
pearance the way had been so admirably prepared. 
But the glance of the pretended Shiloh had singled 
them out for his prey, and they seem to have had no 
more power of escape than the charmed bird from 
the glittering folds of the serpent. 

During the summer of 1832, Mr. Pierson had 
made frequent efforts to procure the attendance of 
Mr. Folger upon the preaching of Matthias, by re 
peated calls at his place of business, and also by 
letter. But, as has already been stated, Mr. Fol- 
ger s affairs required his attention in the interior, and 
he did not return with his family to the city until the 
close of September. The only knowledge which at 
that time he possessed of Matthias, had been derived 
from Mr. Pierson s letters, and the newspaper ac 
counts of his arrest and confinement, as detailed in 
the preceding chapter. Having determined to form 
no definite opinion respecting him until after their 
return to the city, nor even then from mere hearsay 
and rumour, they early sought an interview with Mr. 
Pierson. Of that interview, and its consequences, 
and the history of their subsequent acquaintance 
with the impostor himself, and the manner in which 
he wrought upon their credulity, and subverted for 
a time their understandings, they will be allowed to 
speak for themselves, in the following narrative, which 
they have prepared at the solicitation of the writer. 
The insertion of this narrative, nearly entire, is due 



148 MATTHIAS AND 

to Mr. and Mrs. Folger in justice ; and it is sub 
mitted with the assurance that the writer has reason 
to repose entire confidence in the veracity of this 
extraordinary narration. The writer thinks, more 
over, that it is not only an act of justice to Mr. and 
Mrs. Folger to give their statement, but that the 
reader will consider it very far from being the least 
interesting and extraordinary portion of this extra 
ordinary history. The occurrences at Singsing (or 
Mount Zion, as the place was called), with the ex 
ception of that part which had, or was supposed to 
have, a direct and immediate reference to the death 
of Mr. Pierson, have never been made known to 
the public ; and saving Mrs. Folger and the impos 
tor himself, there is none living by whom they can 
be told. Various stories have indeed been circu 
lated, but in these there is great exaggeration and 
much absolute falsehood ; we repeat that we have 
implicit confidence in the relation of Mr. and Mrs, 
Folger. The mystery that has hitherto brooded on 
these transactions exists no longer. 

At the close of September we went to town, de 
termined upon an interview with Mr. Pierson. We 
called upon him found him with a beard about an 

inch long -and learned from him that Mr. M 

was in the Lunatic Asylum, and that Mr. Matthias 
had been thrown into prison, but was again an in 
mate of his house. We inquired of Mr. Pierson 
respecting the newspaper statements, and he replied 
that they were very incorrect. He censured us 
piuch for being out of the way, and said that we had 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 149 

met with a loss which we might not be able to re 
gain. Mr. Pierson then told us that he had found 
a man in the person of Matthias much farther ad 
vanced in the truth than himself. We told Mr. 
Pierson it was the general impression abroad that he 
(Mr. Pierson) was deranged. He answered that 
he was aware of it, and regarded it as his protection 
from confinement but that he had the truth, and 
Matthias was much in advance of him in the 
knowledge of truth that Matthias was to be his 
teacher, and he ours, and we must acknowledge 
him as such. 

" We had a long interview with Mr. Pierson, in 
the course of which he forbade us going any more 
to church or to prayer-meetings, as all these were 
to be broken up ; and we were farther ordered to 
dismiss our Sabbath-school. It is proper to men 
tion here, that we had obtained the use of a school- 
house, near our residence in the country, which Mr. 
Folger occupied for the male school, and which was 
filled to overflowing we had several good teachers 
and assistants from the immediate neighbourhood. 
The female school was held in our house, under the 
care of Mrs. Folger, assisted by several ladies from 
the vicinity. Mrs. Folger was instructed to listen 
to no teacher but her husband, and in no case to 
preach or teach herself, as all female preaching 
was now to be considered unlawful. Mr. Folger 
was told to teach his own household. 

" We were told to discontinue communing with 
the church, as we must not taste wine until we drank 
it anew with Jesus in the Kingdom, and that the 
N2 



150 MATTHIAS AND 

new wine was to be found in the cluster ; and foe 
(Mr. Pierson) referred -us to many passages of 
Scripture, and told us to go home and search if these 
things were not so. We did search had difficulty 
in reconciling many points reported them to Mr. 
Pierson, and he would from time to time explain 
and make it all clear. We soon had difficulty with 
the church stated that we wished to retire the 
church called us before them, and after much 
painful debate, we withdrew entirely on the 4th of 
July, 1833. 

"We had many interviews with Mr. Pierson, 
both at his, and our own residence, between October, 
1832, and July, 1833, and by this time had become 
converts to the doctrines of Matthias, as taught by 
Mr. Pierson, so far as we could understand them, 
But in all our interviews we were told there was 
much more to learn which was valuable ; but that 
minds so established in the errors of Christianity 
could not be easily overcome, and should be dealt 
with accordingly." 

Such were the instructions they received from 
Mr. Pierson, and such the first fruits in this com 
mencement of their pupilage under the first and 
greatest disciple of the prophet. But during this 
period, the prophet himself was not idle, as we learn 
from a deposition of Mr. Folger, afterward made as 
the basis of judicial proceedings. In that deposition, 
Mr. Folger, the deponent, stated, that he first be 
came acquainted with Matthews at Pierson s house, 
at the period above mentioned ; that Mr. Pierson, 






HIS IMPOSTURES. 151 

at the time of the deponent s introduction to Mat 
thias, professed, and appeared to believe sincerely, 
that the representations of Matthias as to himself 
and his divine character were true, and so repre 
sented them to deponent ; who, from his confidence 
in Pierson, was prepared to place confidence in the 
assertions of Matthews. That these assertions 
were to the effect that he, Matthews, was the Spirit 
of Truth, which had disappeared from the earth at 
the death of Matthias mentioned in the New Testa 
ment, but had returned in him ; that he was that 
same Matthias, risen from the dead, and animated 
by the Spirit of God. That Matthias, the apostle 
of the New Testament, was animated by the Spirit 
of Jesus Christ ; but that he, Matthews, in this 
his second coming, was animated by the Spirit of 
God the Father. That he was himself God the 
Father, and had power to do all things; to forgive 
sins, and to communicate the Holy Ghost to such 
as believed in him. That Matthews called upon 
him, the deponent, from time to time, at his place 
of business, and that in their interviews there, and 
in other places, Matthews always made the same 
assertions respecting his own character and person : 
that on one occasion, to illustrate his supernatural 
or divine power, Matthews placed a sheet of paper 
in a drawer, which he then closed in such a manner 
as to leave a portion of the sheet exposed, and said 
to deponent, " You see but one end of this sheet of 
paper, which is outside of the drawer, but / see the 
whole of it I see the end and thus I see the end 
of all things." That he, the deponent, .became fully 





152 MATTHIAS AND 

convinced of the truth of Matthews s assertions, and 
looked up to him with reverence as the impersona 
tion of the Almighty, and this belief was also shared 
by deponent s wife ; and, as a consequence, they 
also believed that it was their duty to supply all his 
wants, and obey all his injunctions. That Mat 
thews represented himself to be poor, in want of 
money, and persecuted by the world, which was 
under the influence of the devil ; that he had com- 
menced the kingdom of God upon earth, into which 
Mills and Pierson had been called, but the perma 
nent establishment of which was defeated and pre- 
vented for a time by the devil, whom he was now 
about to overcome ; for which purpose it was the 
duty of deponent to contribute a portion of his sub 
stance, under penalty of being visited with the dis 
pleasure of the Almighty. Obedience in all things, 
he said, would be rewarded with forgiveness of sins 
and eternal happiness. That he, deponent, believ 
ing these representations, furnished Matthews with 
such moneys as he required from time to time, in 
different amounts. Such was the substance of the 
deposition referred to, so far as relates to the earlier 
part of their acquaintance with the prophet. The 
narrative of Mr. and Mrs. Folger is now resumed: 

" About the 20th of August, 1833, on our return 
(Mr. and Mrs. Folger) from a short visit to New- 
York, we found Matthias at our residence. He had 
been there two days. He was an unexpected 
visiter, but we soon heard from his own lips an ac 
count of his sufferings for the cause of truth, as he 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 153 

termed it ; and our minds having been prepared by 
Mr. Pierson s instructions, with the oft repeated 
caution not to reject him when he did come, but to 

receive him in the character he announced himself 

that it was as dangerous to reject truth as to receive 
error referring us to the words contained in 
Exodus, twenty-third chapter, commencing with the 

twentieth verse, and including the twenty-second 

the way, we repeat, being thus prepared, we invited 
him to stay over the Sabbath, expecting him to leave 
us on Monday afternoon following. 

***** 

"He said, that at his birth there was a light, 
above the brightness of the sun. In the course of 
his narrative, he stated his remarkable exercises and 
visions, only a part of which will be given, to show 
that there was a foundation and system in his reli 
gion, as it was presented to us, and more of plausi 
bility than we are willing to have published, however 
much we are, or may be, censured and ridiculed for 
weakness. We entertain now the same respect for 
the cause of religion that we did previous to our ac 
quaintance with Mrs. ***, Mr. Pierson, or the 
impostor Matthias. Every thing we have done, 
notwithstanding the loathsome scandal heaped upon 
us by the unprincipled, has been done under full 
conviction that we were doing right, and it is not 
probable that our destruction will be entirely accom 
plished, notwithstanding the efforts to that end. 

" Matthias told us of the miracles he had wrought, 
and of the acknowledgments of his power from time 



154 MATTHIAS AND 

to time that he attained this power by his obe 
dience to the Spirit of Truth, in which he ventured 
far, regardless of the persecution that followed him, 
and by this means he obtained the power of discern 
ing the Spirits, of which there were many. 

" After much preaching against all intemperance, 
in obedience to the true Spirit, he saw in a vision a 
vast extent of surface, covered with something re 
sembling smoke or steam. He blew it away was 
commended by the Spirit, and was shown a great 
red sea, which was called the sea of intemperance 
a vice which he had gone farther to subdue than any 
other person but that it had since become a popular 
cause. He was then shown the veil of the temple, 
as it was rent by Jesus, and he had the courage, 
which was very pleasing to the Spirit, to look in 
and he saw many things which we could not bear to 
know yet. 

" In recounting his sufferings, he mentioned hav 
ing been thrown into several prisons, and had 
suffered it to be so for wise purposes. Once, in 
obedience to the Spirit, he went into a church in Ar- 
gyle, and told the minister before his people, that he 
was preaching falsehood, and wherein ; and that he 
had come to take away his commission. He was 
seized and thrown into prison, but the Spirit was with 
him, to teach and fit him for the work he had yet to 
accomplish. In that prison the spirit of man yielded 
to, and delivered him a cloven tongue, with the 
power to bless with the one, and to curse with the 
other ; that since then the male spirit had not made 
any resistance, but the female spirit had never been 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 155 

subdued that he had discovered in those who felt 
or expressed opposition to him, whether in the per 
son of a male or female, that they were actuated by 
a female spirit. 

" One night, during his stay at Mr. s house, 

just after he had retired to bed, Mam appeared to 
him in person ;* and in a vision, all the witnesses 
of truth, from Adam to the then present time, ap 
peared, to yield up their spirits to him, with all the 
knowledge they possessed, and acknowledged him 
as the resurrection, or a repository for their spirits, 
until he (Matthias), their aid, should prepare others 
to receive them. Adam said to Matthias * You 
are the man I have been looking for. He then gave 
him something about the size of an ordinary Bible, 
say eight inches in length, and three inches thick, 
full of seals ; on one edge of which was a serpent ; 
this, Adam said, was the soul of man. With it 
h gave Matthias a sword, and told him that even 
then he would reject him if he did not destroy the 
serpent ; that he then cut it off with the sword, and 
declared, as Adam instructed him, that women 
should not rule their husbands in the kingdom he 
was about to set up. Adam then told* Matthias 
that since he had undertaken this work, he must 
suffer for his (Adam s) redemption ; that the suffer 
ings of Jesus had not reached his case ; for that 
Jesus the Son could not redeem any over thirty- 
three years of age ; that he (Matthias) then went 

* Of this vision, Matthias had given Pierson an account the 
year before, as \ve discover by an entry- in his diary" May 25, 
1832 : R. Matthias had his exercises concerning Adam." Author. 



156 MATTHIAS AND 

into a state of extreme suffering, and, as he judged, 
underwent the pains of hell, which lasted all night. 
When he came out of this state of suffering, Adam 
expressed himself highly satisfied, and vanished. 

" Matthias then described himself as God, but in 
a manner which we could more easily convey ver 
bally than in a written communication. He was a 
spirit when the world was a chaos. When he 
formed the dry land and the water, he diffused him 
self in the earth and water as spirit, and caused 
grass, plants, shrubs, and trees to spring up. He 
was in all these. He went on improving in all his 
work, -filling the waters with living things ; and 
whatever of life, spirit, or animation there was in 
them was part of himself. He next made the in 
sect and animal world, the last and noblest of which 
was the horse, and infused of his spirit into all. 

" A portion of the substance of which he had 
formed all the animal world even to the serpent 
was retained to form man ; but before he put his 
governing spirit into man, he took from him a bone, 
or rib, and formed woman. Then he caused his 
governing spirit, or infused himself into Adam, so 
that Adam was God, and being pleased with all 
things he had made, and standing so nearly related 
to them, he was disposed to exercise mercy and 
deal justly with all. 

" He accounted for Adam s fall by stating that 
his governing spirit had retired to another part of 
the garden, or Eve could not have overcome him. 
It was not intended that the female should have any 
part of the governing spirit, for the man stood 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 157 

always responsible for his wife, and was to guard 
her from every evil. In this instance, the govern 
ing spirit came in an audible voice and inquired of 
Adam what he had done. 

" He said our ideas of God were very incorrect. 
He had brought about many changes, and tried 
many experiments in the world, and, although he 
was the source from which all wisdom came, yet he 
was increasing in wisdom continually. He gave 
us the course and occupation of his spirit from that 
time until Abraham s day, but it is too tedious to 
relate, and we are desirous of getting over the 
whole matter. 

" The Bible was not laid aside by us, but it was 
regarded as the word of God. His (Matthias s) 
spirit wrote the original, and would give an idea of 
the order he meant to establish in the world. His 
governing spirit was in Abraham, and Abraham was 
then God. He ruled his household, educated his 
son himself, and was to be found in his tent-door, 
through which nothing could pass without his in 
spection to disquiet his family. He likewise stated 
the time and manner he, or the spirit he had re 
ceived and then possessed, had originally written 
the Bible. 

" He was well acquainted with the truths of the 
Scriptures, the copy he brought with him as his 
own had evidently been much used, it was much 
marked with pencil, had an old appearance, but had 
been well taken care of. He expressed violent in 
dignation that his words should be printed on paper 
made of filthy rags, instead of being written on 




158 MATTHIAS AND 

parchment, but the Gentiles had defiled every 
thing. They (the Gentiles) had not only omitted 
many portions of the word entirely, of which there 
is no mention in the Scriptures, but they had like 
wise omitted many books and "portions spoken 
such as the book of Jasher and Daniel s vision, 
which were sealed up with a promise that he should 
stand in his lot in the last days, and unseal them. 
Many of the Apostles writings, he taught us, were 
missing. He undertook to give the contents of the 
little book that John ate, spoken of in Revelations, 
as well as all the missing parts of the Bible. He 
was also highly offended at the Gentiles for the ad 
dition to the Scriptures of the words that were in 
Italics. 

" He undertook to explain many passages of 
Scripture that are mysterious : we instance one. It 
is written, No man shall see my face and live. 
His explanation was, that Adam could only see all 
that was to be seen of God in his day ; whoever re 
ceived Adam s spirit at his death, could only see all 
^ that was to be seen of God with his bodily eyes in 
his day ; so that it could not be that any man could 
see God s face and live until death was destroyed. 

" Every husband and father should rule his own 
house. He taught that the man would be furnished 
with a governing spirit, and the power of endowing 
the wife with just enough for her station, and the 
children for theirs. Hence the necessity of with 
drawing our children from school, as whoever 
teaches instils spirit into them, and, should they die, 
all the spirit they receive from this or that teacher, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 159 

in the way of instruction, would return from whence 
it came. This was termed the child s soul. It 
was desirable with us, therefore, that our children 
should partake of our spirit; and should they die be 
fore the enemy, death, was destroyed, their spirits 
would return to us, or, when we saw fit, which was 
altogether optional with us (whether we lived for 
ever or not), their bodies would be receptacles for 
our spirits. 

" He continued to teach us the course of the 
Spirit of God from Abraham to Isaac, Jacob,] 
Moses, Joshua, and all the prophets and apostles.} 
It will be recollected that he received the spirits of 
all the witnesses of truth. He would describe thej ^ 
different scenes and sufferings they passed through.) 
and state when the different spirits spoke by his 1 , 
mouth. He claimed to be the resurrection of all 
the holy characters spoken of in the Scriptures, pos 
sessing the right to rule the whole world. He de 
clared, in God s own language, I am God, there 1 

none else. He ridiculed the idea of a heaven | 
above, and explained much of the Scripture that we 
had not regarded as very important to us, such as 
the tabernacle in the wilderness, for which particular 
directions were given in the construction and fur 
nishing, and which showed that God designed it for 
a dwelling-place for himself. 

" The temple of Solomon was only a miniature 
of the one he was to build for himself, besides the 
house of many mansions for his people to dwell in. 
His plan for building these was the most complete 
and magnificent that can be imagined. We can- 



160 MATTHIAS AND 

not do justice to his description, but we should 
think his architectural taste ,must be good. There 
would be no want of means, as all the treasures of 
the earth would be his after the seven years had ex 
pired in 1837, which was the last hour of God s 
judgment. 

" He explained another vision he had had. An 
Indian brought him a bundle of arrows, with some- 
thing written upon each, such as Earthquakes, 
Fires, Floods, Wars, Famine, &c., which 
was an acknowledgment to him of his right to com 
mission others to execute these judgments when and 
where he pleased. He would sometimes foretell 
these calamities, and where and when they would oc 
cur, which tended to strengthen or increase our faith. 
On one occasion, he took a bundle of small cords, 
as he said Jesus had done when he overthrew the 
money changers, and it being in the time of the 
panic, it so happened that many merchants of long 
standing failed immediately after, and he thus again 
seemed to have something plausible in his preten 
sions. He hated traffic, and merchandise of all 
kinds, especially the sale of land, for the earth was 
our mother, and it was written, the land shall not 
be sold for ever. Lev. xxv. 23. 

He gave us his plan for the temple. It was to 
be a great storehouse for people from all parts of the 
world to resort to, with the products of their labour. 
The farmer would till the earth to the best advantage, 
reserve only enough for his own support, and con 
vey the surplus to the great storehouse receive no 
pay, but get other things which he might need for 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 161 

his family. The various mechanics, and indeed 
every class in society, were to employ the talents, of 
which there would be a more equal division put 
the surplus, of their labour in the storehouse, like 
the farmer, and receive what he needed : and in 
this way, the plan fully carried out, there would be 
no oppression. The priests would be what he ever 
intended they should be the preachers of his Gos 
pel, which consisted in doing, and not in talking of 
doing.* lie instanced the messengers of John the 
Baptist to Jesus, with the question, Art thou he 
that should come, and in the same hour Jesus 
cured many of their infirmities, plagues, and evil 
spirits, to many that were blind he gave sight, &c., 
and sent them to tell John what things they had 
seen and heard that the poor had the gospel 
preached to them, indeed, and blessed were those 
who would not be offended in him. The priests, 
therefore, were to minister in the temple taking 
charge, and ordering every thing the Levites to 
furnish the people with food, clothing, &c., of which 
there would be an abundant supply. 

" The seven years, before spoken of, would af- 

* Upon this point, Mrs. Folger has related one of Matthias s 
propositions to the writer, which is not set down in the narra 
tive. According to his belief, there are three classes of profes 
sional gentlemen, whom he calls black-coats and devils, and 
who are engaged in a conspiracy against the lives and pioperty 
of men. These are the priests, the doctors, and the lawyers. 
The business of the first, he says, is to persuade men into a wil 
lingness to die ; the doctor then steps in to help them out of the 
world ; whereupon the lawyer makes his appearance to take 
possession of the estate. There is shrewdness, at least, in the 
conception ; whether or no the shrewdness of insanity, the reader 
must determine for himself. Author. 
02 



162 MATTHIAS AND 

ford all those who had any truth an opportunity of 
recognising him in his official character, and of sur 
rendering themselves and the property in their pos 
session to him; but at this time, his judgments 
would all be poured out, and his agreement with the 
last enemy, death, would be at an end. He had 
made an agreement with death, or in other words, 
the devil, that he should be the God of this world 
for a time ; but that time had nearly expired when 
he (the devil) was to submit to his destruction. He 
had not given him full power, but with what he had 
given him, the world was in a greater chaos than at 
the beginning ; hence his reply to Jesus, as he was 
casting out devils, * Art thou come to torment us 
before the time. 

"He taught that all sicknesses were detached 
spirits, from their head death as messengers to 
destroy these bodies, which were the work of God. 
We said to him that we had expected these bodies, 
and those of our kindred who had gone before, to 
rise again, as it was written that those who were in 
their graves should hear his voice, and those who 
slept in the dust should arise, but he soon dashed 
our hopes in this particular our bodies were made 
of the dust, and formed graves for the spirits of those 
who had departed ; for it would be found that many 
spirits are now asleep in the people, which will 
awake at his bidding to recognise him. These 
spirits had hitherto been with little children, but they 
could not now find rest there ; the introduction of 
Infant-schools had completed the desolation spoken 
of by Daniel. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 163 

" In the Gentile system, a man s wife was de 
coyed by false teachers to prayer meetings and 
church his older children scattered in different 
schools and now, at last, to complete the ruin, the 
infant was committed to the care and teaching of 
strangers. This was contrary to God s plan. Go(j 
had placed us on the earth in families, and his spirip- 
was averse to any other plan. I will be the God 
of all the families of Israel, and they shall be myi 
people. Jer. xxxi. 1. 

" He gave other proofs upon this subject. He 
had never designed to raise those bodies that had 
yielded to death, for he had enjoined upon all to re 
sist the devil and he should flee from them. No : 
such were to be ashes under the soles of his feet, 
as found in the last of Malachi. 

" Malachi was a favourite book with Mr. Pierson 
as well as Matthias. Mr. Pierson s given name 
was Elijah, and he thought himself to be that prophet 
Elijah, spoken of in Malachi, who was to be sent 
before the great and dreadful day of the Lord - 
whose office it will be to turn the heart of the fathers 
to the children, and the heart of the children to the 
fathers, lest the Lord come and smite the earth with 
a curse. 

" All diseases were termed devils by Matthias. 
A blind man was possessed by a blind devil a 
lame one by a limping devil, and so on ; those 
who were afflicted with deafness, toothache, head 
ache, &c. and all these he professed to have the 
power to cast out. Our family was remarkably pre 
served from sickness during his stay with us, but it 



164 MATTHIAS AND 

was no- doubt owing principally to the healthy at 
mosphere in which we had lived for the last fifteen 
or eighteen months, the use of warm and cold baths, 
and a strict attention to diet, under the instruction 
of Doctor P****, one of the first physicians of 
New-York city. And even after Matthias came to 
reside with us, we continued to live plainly in our 
family. 

" He would not allow any other than boiled meats. 
We were forbidden roast meats. Boiled fowls, fish, 
and vegetables, of the latter of which we were to have 
a greater variety than now in use. Our table was 
almost always supplied with rice, beans, potatoes, 
and onions, prepared in various ways. He did not 
allow pies or puddings, and but a few plain cakes. 
He was particularly fond of fresh fruits, and allowed 
us to eat them in any reasonable quantities. We 
were not, however, entirely exempted from sickness, 
but the least complaint drew forth his censure in so 
violent a manner, that we preferred to suffer in si 
lence rather than expose ourselves to the visitation 
of his wrath. 

" The least complaint would bring forth, in the 
utmost fury, the charge that we were bringing the 
devil into the house of God, and he would threaten 
: with many curses, such as, shutting up in the bot- 
! tomless pit, annihilation, 01% if we would thus 
encourage the devil, we. should be subjects of dis 
ease or leprosy. If this was our choice, he W 7 ould 
let loose all the plagues upon us, but as for his 
house, they should choose, with Joshua, to serve 
Ihe Lord. After hearing one of these bursts of, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 165 

curses and threatenings, we sometimes felt that our 
case was quite hopeless. Seeing our state, he 
would say he could deliver us if we would ask him ; 
we did ask him, and he would bid the evil spirit 
depart with a very loud voice, and we often imagined 
it did depart, when we felt delivered from the curses 
that were likely to be inflicted. 

" On one occasion in the absence of Mr. Folger, 
in the winter of 1834, Mrs. Folger was taken sick, 
but she was required to attend to her household du 
ties as though she was well she was not allowed 
to complain, but censured with savage severity be 
cause she looked ill. Her fever and distress, how 
ever, increased to such degree, that she could no 
longer keep about and then he indulged in threats 
of torment, &c., but she was so ill as to be indif 
ferent to them in the, excess of her pain she put a 
little quilt on the back of a high chair to lean her 
head against, but even this was seized by Matthias, 
as soon as observed, and taken from her. She was 
denied any food whatsoever, but not craving it, she 
supposes that abstinence from food, a supply of 
coffee, which he saw fit at last to allow her, with the 
bathing of her feet in warm water, produced the 
effect, with the blessing of the true God, to break 
her fever. She often looked to Mr. Pierson, who 
saw her treatment, and he told her to be strong 
that there was no doubt that this was the way and 
would often encourage her with assurances that we 
were right and had the truth. 

" We had long been in the practice, by the advice 
of our physician before named, of using warm and 



166 MATTHIAS AND 

cold baths, and we continued them after Matthias 
and his children, and the servants introduced by 
him, came into the family. It no doubt was bene 
ficial to our health, and we believe that Matthias 
was himself satisfied of the fact ; for when our use 
of the bath became known to him he enjoined the 
practice upon all the family. It seemed to be 
something entirely new to the strangers who had 
joined us, and they talked much about it but there 
was no indecorous washing, as has been rumoured. 
Mrs. Folger always had the assistance of her 
mother, or of a nurse who had been with us several 
years ; and subsequently, after she left, of one or 
the other of the servants introduced into the family 
by Matthias one of them was Mrs. Galloway, and 
the other the coloured woman, for a long time pre 
vious, and still a follower of him. 

" Mrs. Folger always readily assisted any of the 
females in turn, when it was necessary. The bath 
house was in the north wing of the building, where 
the nurse and children and, when Mr. Folger was 
absent, Mrs. Folger slept. Matthias was quick 
to observe and improve upon little circumstances. 
Soon after his visit commenced with us, the house 
keeper in replenishing the pitcher in his room, carried 
up more water than* the pitcher would hold, and 
poured the surplus in the wash-bowl. He observed 
it said his spirit had directed it, -which she had 
done well to obey ; and from that time he made it a 
law that all must wash his or her hands the first 
thing in the morning. Many instances of this kind, 
where he borrowed ideas and examples from others, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 187 

could be named, and we would sometimes tell him 
so; but he would argue the subject quite ingeniously 
showing that the action was by his spirit, and that 
we were indebted to him for the loan of it. Indeed, 
whatever was said or done in the community, that 
met his approval, was by the influence of his spirit, 
sent forth by him. He could, as he said, call his 
spirit out of any individual to give an account to 
him, from any part of the world, in a moment. This 
he called his omnipresence. 

" The image of gold spoken of in Daniel, he 
said, represented this government, and that Presi 
dent Jackson and his government were the toes of 
this image which were part iron and part clay 
that this was the last of the republican governments. 
He foretold the disturbances and the result of the 
elections in 1834, and that this should be but a be 
ginning of the coming down of the churches, or, as 
he termed them, of the synagogues of Satan. He 
advanced many strange ideas upon this subject, but 
enough, it is thought, has been said. He pronounced 
a wo upon those who should come in at the heels 
of General Jackson, of which the falling in of the 
bridge at the time of General Jackson s arrival at 
New-York was a type. He declared this govern 
ment at an end but of his, Matthias s, government 
there would be no end for he was the Wonderful 
Counsellor, the Everlasting Prince, the Mighty God 
and where should the government be but upon 
his shoulders. 

" The more we were persecuted (as he called all 
interference), or spoken against, the clearer he made 



168 MATTHIAS AND 

it out that he answered to the character spoken of in 
Isaiah, who treadeth the wine-press alone, and of 
the people there were none with him. His red 
sash and claret clothing were worn as emblematic 
of his being the character referred to in Isaiah. 
His green clothes signified that the Dove, or Holy 
Spirit, had found a resting-place, for he had seen 
the day when he, man, had not where to lay his 
head. He referred to a time just before he came 
to Singsing. 

" He conferred upon Mr. Pierson, what he called 
the gift of the Holy Ghost in September, 1833.* 
He attributed the recovery of Mr. Pierson, from a 
dangerous attack of -paralysis about that time to his 
extraordinary gift : but it may be attributed to the 
skill and faithful attention of Dr. P * * * * of New 
York, attended with God s blessing. 

His white caps exhibited at the Police court in 
JVew York, and subsequently exhibited in William 
street to a great number, were made by his instruc 
tions, but upon no particular occasion. He called 
them pale Mitres. Two of them had twelve points, 
and one, twenty-four, with the names in his own 
writing, of the twelve Apostles, one in each point 

** There seems to be an error here in the date, or perhaps the 
ceremony was repeated. The following entry occurs in Mr. 
Pierson s diary : 

Monday, August 12th, 1833. Mr. Matthias came to see me in 
the afternoon. After considerable conversation, he laid his 
hands upon me, and breathing upon me, said, " Receive ye the 
Holy Ghost : thou art confirmed a son of God. In obedience 
thpu art blessed :" and many things connected with this were 
said. Author. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 169 

and the other twelve points, with the names of the 
twelve tribes of Israel. His three-cornered hat had 
upon it thirteen points of gold lace. He at first 
censured the maker very much, because it had 
thirteen, but after inquiry of the spirit, it was all 
right. It had a green fringe on the three upper 
edges, with a yellow edge, which was worn as an 
emblem of Him that sitteth upon the throne, having 
a rainbow round about his head. The silk linings 
of his coat and cloak were of various colours, repre 
senting Joseph s coat. His rod of iron was to rule 
the nations as spoken of in Revelation. His iron 
chain, key, and two-edged sword were also emblems 
of his character as spoken of in Revelation. His 
plumb-line, as the Lord with a plumb-line in his 
hand, as spoken of in Amos, vii. 7, 8. 

" His carriage he called the chariot of Israel. It 
seldom went abroad except when he was in it. Oc 
casionally he took with him different members of 
the family sometimes his children, at others Mr. 
Pierson, or Mr. Folger, or Mrs. Folger and one of 
her children, but in no one instance did Mrs. Folger 
ride out with him unaccompanied by some third 
person. 

" He regarded the marriages in the Gentile world 
as illegal, inasmuch as they were performed by 
ministers who confessed they were sinners even in 
their prayers to God, and sometimes calling them 
selves the chief of sinners, and yet saying in con 
clusion to the marriage ceremony, * What God hath 
joined together, let no man put asunder. He ad 
vanced many arguments to show the illegality and 
P 



170 MATTHIAS AND 

the insufficiency of ministers, upon Bible principles, 
to perform so important and holy an ordinance. 
He said if he had endowed them with the Holy 
Ghost, and sent them to preach his Gospel, he would 
have given them power to forgive sins. By way of 
illustrating, he would inquire, What merchant that 
employs an agent to collect money, does not em 
power him to give a receipt in full. 

" Mr. and Mrs. Folger first received the doctrines 
of Matthias upon the subject of marriage through 
Mr. Pierson, nearly a year before Matthias came 
to Singsing. As has been stated before, Mr. Pier- 
son was our teacher ; we were aware that his views 
differed essentially from those advanced by most 
Christians, yet we had known him long, and had 
confidence in his piety and his experience. He 
said much respecting our marriage, and upon his 
(Mr. Pierson s) urgency, we were married by him, 
Dec. 31, 1832. The following is a copy of the 
note made of it at the time : 

" Mount Pleasant, Dec. 31, 1832. 

" The marriage of Benjamin H. Folger to Arm 
Disbrow, in Gospel order Present, Elijah Pierson. 

" B. H. F. Ann, I take you to be my lawful 
wife, and I promise to cherish and protect you. I 
pray God that this renewal of my pledge may be 
acceptable in his sight, and that I may be kept in it. 

" * Ann. Benjamin, I take you to be my lawful 
husband, and promise to reverence, obey, and love 
you. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 171 

" * Mr. Pierson. In obedience you are blessed. 
And following on to know the Lord, ye shall know 
him and become the sons and daughters of the living 
God. 



U l 



Note. We were married in what is called 
the Christian order in May, 1823. B. H. F. 

" Some time after Matthias came to our house, 
about eight months subsequent to the above named 
occurrence, we told him of the circumstance, and 
expressed our anxiety to be legally married, if we 
had not been. He replied that it was well we had 
been thus re-married, as he had declared about the 
time we were married by Mr. Pierson, that all the 
marriages in the world were illegal, and should be 
destroyed. He then married us himself, much in 
the same way that Mr. Pierson had done. 

" The impression abroad that marriages were re 
jected by us is an error. It was regarded as a most 
sacred ordinance. Matthias s objection was to the 
want of the proper order in the present regulations 
of the Gentile world. God, he said, had nothing to 
do with the marriage of the wicked, or, to use his 
words, with the marriage of devils. Nor was it ac 
ceptable in the sight of God for an unholy person 
a devil to marry people. Another objection was, 
which he instanced as a proof of error in the mat 
ter, that matches were made without there being, 
seemingly, on the part of parents and guardians any 
regard paid to the question whether the parties were 
suited for, or at all calculated to make each other 
happy, and that the consequence was, that marriages 



172 MATTHIAS AND 

were generally productive of unhappiness, and to 
most of the female parties, it was a state of wretch 
edness. The true plan, according to his idea, and 
the one practised by the children of God, was for the 
parent to choose for them in early life, to educate 
them with this understanding, and at a proper age 
to unite them. 

* He knew all things, as he said. He had known 
our course in life of Mrs. Folger s having held 
prayer meetings, with other females, from house to 
house, and declared that they had prayed Samuel 
out of his grave the second time, who had appeared 
before him in Albany. 

" We did not worship him (Matthias) precisely as 
many suppose. For a time after he came to us, 
we continued our regular family worship in the 
usual manner. He joined in it so far as to shut his 
eyes when others were in prayer, but would never 
kneel with others. After a while, he objected to 
others kneeling, or practising closet prayer, that 
God had made man upright and did not require him 
to kneel nor was the spirit pleased with a person s 
going into a dark corner of the house to thank God 
in secret God loved light and hated darkness. 
That the true method was to thank the spirit of God 
in the person who bestowed a blessing, for we might 
be sure the devil would bestow no blessing on us. 
We did not cease to pray, but our prayers were 
mostly ejaculatory. We always addressed God by 
the various names furnished by the Scriptures, such 
as the Great Jehovah the God of Abraham, Isaac, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 173 

and Jacob the Almighty God Spirit of Truth 

King of kings and Lord of Lords. 

" He knew our sincerity and purpose of heart to 
serve God, and that we had occasionally many 
doubts, and he laboured earnestly at such seasons 
until he had removed them. We have no doubt 
that God has seen our afflictions and witnessed our 
sorrows. Our confidence has been truly in God. 
He has delivered us from these errors, and, we trust, 
will yet deliver us from all their consequences. 

" He had the command of the house as our head, 
or teacher, and Father, and spent much time in 
teaching Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger how to rule 
their households when we should become separate 
families, which must soon take place, to give him 
an opportunity of teaching others ; for there were 
many to whom he had preached, nearly ready to 
come into the kingdom. 

" Mrs. Folger was called Mother by nearly all 
the family. Matthias directed this for the reasons 
that she conducted the affairs of the house pro 
vided clothing washed and combed the children, 
and made them every way comfortable, which was 
a hard task, for there were fifteen persons in the 
family, and there were only three females, including 
Mrs. Folger. But the evil was, that he always 
took the meal time to preach, and generally preached 
so long that it was very difficult to find sufficient 
time to get through the duties. He often detained 
the breakfast-table until ten or eleven o clock in the 
morning say three to four hours ; he would spend 
.several hours at the dinner-table : and the supper 
P2 



174 MATTHIAS AND 

(as the third meal was always called) table until 
eight, nine, ten, or eleven o clock at night. The 
house was required to be kept in complete order, 
and the meals ready at stated hours. Sometimes, 
when the detention had been great by his preaching, 
he would undertake to impart a double portion of 
the necessary spirit for the occasion, which those 
who performed the duties fancied they had, for they 
often accomplished more in a given time than they 
supposed it possible to do under other circumstances. 
The boys very often rendered assistance, as they 
knew there would be loud censure if all things were 
not in readiness in season. The employment of the 
boys, including three of his own, pleased him, as 
it fitted them, according to his views, for the office 
of Levites. We were bound to love each other as 
we loved ourselves, and always to warn a brother 
or sister of danger when any of them were seen to 
break any of the rules of the house. He whipped 
his own children severely, several times, with a cow- 
fc v Y "hide whip, until some one would stand responsible 
^ for them. Mrs. Folger, in the absence of Mr. 
Folger and Mr. Pierson, became responsible the 
first time for the two youngest, but he gave notice 
that he would not accept a female mediator after 
that time. 

" He was anxious to have his family with us for 
some time before they finally carne. Mr. Folger 
was unwilling to go for them, and suggested thai 
Mr. Matthias himself should go, with the carriage 
and horses, but he declined for reasons known only 
to himself. At length Mr. Matthias s and Mr. Pier- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 175 

son s continued urgency prevailed, and Mr. Folger 
took his son with him and went to Albany, with the 
carriage, for his wife and children. He found them 
in reduced circumstances, and barely able to obtain a 
support. He gave Mrs. Matthews whatever means 
she asked for, to clothe the children with warm 
clothing entirely bought several articles and pre 
sented them, and gave her money for her own pur 
poses. Mr. Folger was instructed by Matthias 
before he left home, as he understood him, in case 
any thing should prevent any of the family from 
coming before the spring, to have them comfortably 
provided for there until that time ; and in conformity 
with this direction, Mr. Folger promised to remit Mrs. 
Matthews thirty dollars on the first of each month, for 
the support of herself and youngest child, about five 
years old as she determined not to go herself, or 
send the youngest child, until spring ; but on report 
ing the promise to Matthias, he said he had been 
misunderstood, and totally forbade any money being 
sent her that she was a wicked, lying devil, un 
worthy of any favour. Mrs. Matthews gave into 
Mr. F. s charge four of the children a daughter 
and three sons. The daughter had been married 
about a month previous, to a young man by the 
name of Laisdell ; but for some reason, never ex 
plained, this was concealed from Mr. Folger by the 
mother and the husband, or he would have felt it his 
duty to have had the husband accompany the children, 
or to decline taking the daughter. Mrs. Laisdell 
mentioned her marriage in the course of conversa 
tion on the journey. The boys were somewhat 



176 MATTHIAS AND 

ungovernable, and having been rather exposed at 
Albany, their manners were not as good as could 
have been desired, so that with four boys (including 
his own son) and Mrs. Laisdell, he found it quite a 
burdensome expedition, and excited much remark 
on the road, which was truly unpleasant. 

" Soon after the arrival at Zion Hill as the resi 
dence at Mount Pleasant was called Mr. Matthias 
sent Mr. Pierson to bring his daughter to him. The 
father and daughter were left in a room together. 
We heard him whip her, and her cries, and we sup 
pose he whipped her with a cowhide, although we did 
not know that he had one it sounded as though he 
struck her three times. He then sent for Mrs. Folger 
told her to furnish Mrs. Laisdell with a dress, as 
she then had on a habit sent to Albany for her by Mrs. 
Folger. Matthias likewise directed another suit of 
clothes to be prepared for each of his boys. Mrs. 
Folger then took Mrs. Laisdell to a room, assisted 
in dressing her, and washed and dressed the chil 
dren. The family then dined, and the afternoon 
and evening were spent in listening to Matthias s 
conversation or teaching. Mrs. Laisdell appeared 
cheerful, and answered all her father s questions 
respectfully. The next morning, after breakfast, 
Mr. Matthias called for Mrs. Folger to come to the 
parlour, where he was conversing with Mr. Pierson, 
and told her to go to Mrs. Laisdell and ask her how 
she felt towards her father, and to let him know 
she went accordingly, and found Mrs. Laisdell in 
her room sitting by a window. Mrs. Folger took 
a seat beside her, made some observations upon the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. *177 

scenery in view, and then asked her if she felt happy 
and contented ? Mrs. Laisdell replied that the place 
was a pleasant one, and there was every thing there 
calculated to make her happy ; but the idea of living 
with, or being under the control of her father, who 
was a tyrant, would imbitter all her days. Mrs. 
Folger asked her if it was not possible she was 
mistaken that she thought him a very holy, en 
lightened, but persecuted man. Mrs. Laisdell re 
plied that she knew him better than we did, and, for 
her part, she had rather die than live with him. 
Mrs. Folger told her she should be careful how she 
rejected the instruction her father was, as she 
thought, capable of giving. Mrs. Laisdell then 
asked if she could write to Albany ? Mrs. Folger 
replied, that she did not know, that she could ask 
her father, who could furnish her with pen and paper, 
as he had the key of the desk. She requested Mrs. 
Folger to ask for the articles, and she went to do 
so. He was still sitting in the parlour with Mr. 
Pierson. She asked him if Mrs. Laisdell could 
have writing materials to write to her mother. He 
made no reply to this, but asked what her feelings 
were towards him. Mrs. Folger replied that Mrs. 
Laisdell wished to return to her mother, as she had 
promised to ; but he exacted of Mrs. Folger all she 
had said, which she repeated not anticipating any 
farther correction, as she was not accustomed to such 
scenes. Mrs. Folger then left them to attend to 
the duties of the house, and in a few minutes he 
brought his daughter into the room which she was 
putting in order. It would seem that she had de- 



178 MATTHIAS AND 

nied to him what she had said to Mrs. Folger ; for 
he inquired, on entering the room, did she not say 
she had rather die than live with me V to which 
Mrs. Folger replied, Yes, sir. He then took a 
cowhide-whip, which must have been concealed 
about his person, and said, l take death with every 
stroke. Mrs. Folger stood in alarm, not knowing 
what to do, but to stand still. She knew, too, that 
Mr. Pierson was in the next room, but he did not 
interfere. But Mrs. Laisdell appeared to know her 
father, and know what to do, for she first held up 
one hand above her head, and then both, upon 
which he immediately ceased whipping her. Mrs. 
Folger felt much sympathy for her, but dared not to 
express it she put her arms round her neck and 
kissed her washed her wounded shoulders and put 
sweet oil on them. Mr. Matthias appeared very 
kind to her always after this ; but he observed to 
Mr. Pierson at the time, and to the family afterward, 
that her mother s spirit was in her, but he had cast 
it out, which seemed to be a confirmation of our 
then belief, for she manifested from that time, as 
long as she was with us, a pleasant spirit. Mrs. 
Matthews was represented by her husband as a very 
wicked woman. Sometimes we would remember 
Mrs. Laisdeli s words respecting her father, which, 
taken in connection with Mrs. Matthews s state 
ment to Mr. Folger, while he was at Albany, in 
which she mentioned some extremely brutal treat 
ment, would excite doubts. But this was repeated 
to Matthias, and he denied it entirely, and pro- 
Rounced her one of the greatest of liars, whose 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 179 

word could not be taken for any thing. Mr. Pier- 
son would say, when the subject was mentioned to 
him, that * Joshua, the high-priest, must be found 
with Satan at his right hand to resist him, as de 
clared in the third chapter of Zechariah. Mrs. 
Folger has seen Mrs. Matthews since our separa 
tion from Matthias, and she appeared to be an 
agreeable woman. Her accounts to Mrs. Folger 
of her sufferings with Mr. Matthias, awakened her 
sympathies for her, and she expressed her regret to 
Mrs. Matthews that she had not come to Zion Hill 
when sent for. 

"Matthias once whipped the coloured woman 
(Isabella) under the following circumstances. She 
was quite unwell, which Mrs. Folger observed, and 
asked Matthias, who came into the kitchen, if she 
might lie down, a request that was granted. She, 
however, did not avail herself of the permission, 
but sat down by the kitchen fire. Matthias again 
visited the kitchen within an hour or two found 
one of his sons in some mischief, which he cor 
rected him for, and the coloured woman undertook 
to intercede, which was offensive to Matthias, as it 
was a female intercessor, possessed of a sick devil 
withal upon which he quickly lashed her with his 
cowhide, saying, Shall a sick devil undertake to 
dictate to me ? She then denied that she was sick, 
and was called up stairs to testify that the sick devil 
had departed, and appeared well from that time. 
We presume we should all have submitted to stripes 
in time, for he taught us that if we deserved them it 
would be a lighter punishment than the spirit would 



180 MATTHIAS AND 

inflict commissioned by him, and, indeed, we would 
rather have taken stripes sometimes, than hear his 
long vollies of threats, and curses, and his swearing 
by himself, for there was none greater, that they 
should all come to pass at his word. 

" For the most trifling offence of one of the chil 
dren the whole family must needs be summoned, and 
each one testify if all had been done to prevent the 
evil, and to offer an opportunity for some one to in 
tercede for the transgressor who was exposed to his 
wrath. Sometimes he would in these cases impli 
cate two or three, and at others, the whole family. 
He managed these cases very ingeniously : he would 
discern and trace the spirit from one to another until 
he could fix it in the one that was strongest in the 
faith and could best bear reproof, upon whom he 
would vent himself. He could save all, however 
deeply implicated, when asked for salvation. Some 
times he was obliged to be responsible for his own 
sons, for we were at times wearied of him, his doc 
trines, and his family, for his boys took advantage 
of his mode of government, and none were willing 
to become responsible for them. But this he would 
get along with : he would go into a state of extreme 
suffering, apparently, his nerves would become con 
tracted, he would appear to weep, and then his 
darling attribute, justice, would be satisfied. When 
he became tired of this, as we now suppose he did, 
and the same difficulties occurred with his sons, he 
adopted another plan ; he would hand his two- 
edged sword to the injured party, to cut off his 
(Matthias s) hand, or arm, or to wound him, as much 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 181 

as would satisfy the party, but as no one was dis 
posed to do this, their only course would be to for 
give. 

" In answer to the weariness we expressed at 
times, we were told by Matthias and Mr. Pierson 
that judgment must begin at the house of God, and 
they only who endured to the end could be saved. 
We were encouraged, too, with their assurances that 
the time was short only three years and a half 
when our eternity of peace would begin. He like 
wise taught that when the spirit reproved evils in 
the house of God, it reproved for them in the whole 
world. Our advantage was to hear his instructions 
and rid ourselves of all those spirits that had sinned 
in any age, and prepare for the great day of ac 
counts ; for he would call every spirit to an account, 
and whatever flesh embodied any spirit that had 
sinned, from the days of Adam to that time, it should 
suffer in the flesh in which it was found. 

" He undertook to give us all the particulars of 
the judgment day the total destruction of the 
wicked on the earth, and the disposal of all things. 

" The preaching of the Gospel was, to feed the 
hungry, clothe the naked, &c. that he had told us 
in his word, his people would be at his right hand 
his enemies on his left ; and his language would be 
to those on his right, I was an hungered, and ye 
gave me meat : I was thirsty and ye gave me drink : 
I was a stranger, and ye took me in : naked, and 
ye clothed me. 

" He often spoke of state-prisons, jails, and other 
places of confinement, and testified of the wicked- 

Q 



152 MATTHIAS AND 

ness and oppression he had witnessed in these 
places at Albany and elsewhere. He said that of 
fenders seldom, if ever, obtained forgiveness of the 
Gentile world, however sincere their repentance 
but, that though their bodies were confined, they 
could not lock up the spirit,* for it went abroad, took 
possession of others, and committed the same 
depredations but he, Matthias, could control the 
spirit. 

" Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger, after due con 
sideration, determined, long before they knew Mat 
thias, to give themselves and all they possessed to 
the service of God. Their only object was to as 
certain in what way God would have them employed, 
and employ the means he had given them, and they 
were prepared to do the will of God. 

" Mr. Pierson had been long engaged in mer 
cantile business in Pearl-street. He was, probably, 
one of the best of merchants in his line of business. 
No one ever stood higher for truth and uprightness, 
and perfect fair dealing, than he did and deservedly 
so. Mr. Pierson retired from his Pearl-street busi 
ness in January, 1832. Mr. Folger, after being 
engaged in business in Pearl-street many years, re 
tired from that business at the close of 1832. He 
purchased, a few months previous, the convenient 
mansion and farm, known as the Heartt Place, 
situated on the east bank of the Hudson, town of 
Mount Pleasant, Westchester county, New- York, 
about thirty miles from town. He had rented and 
occupied the place from the month of May prior. 
* Matthias, then, had probably read Cowper Author. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 183 

" In the spring and summer of 1 833, whenever 
he went to New- York, he boarded in the lower part 
of the city; but having joined Mr. Pierson in 
several business operations, entirely new to both of 
them, it was necessary to see him often, and he 
made it a rule to see him once or twice a week ; 
and at length, at Mr. Pierson s request, he consented 
to furnish one of Mr. Pierson s bed-rooms himself, 
and occupy it for his lodgings when in town. He 
occasionally breakfasted with Mr. Pierson. This 
arrangement afforded more time for conversation on 
the subjects of religion and business. This was the 
second time that Mr. Folger had taken up his par 
tial residence with Mr. Pierson, whenever he came 
to town. The first time was in the winter of 1832 
and 1833, when he accepted Mr. Pierson s invita 
tion, upon the condition of his paying him four dol 
lars per week, which he considered sufficient pay 
ment, as he never stayed all the week, and always 
dined down town. This arrangement, however, 
continued but for a short period, when Mr. Folger 
went down town to board, and continued until his 
return, at Mr. Pierson s solicitation, in the summer 
of 1833, as mentioned above. Previous to this, 
Mr. Pierson had occasionally visited Mr. Folger s 
residence at Mount Pleasant, with his little daughter, 
and as we sincerely respected him, and hono ured 
him as an experienced Christian, and our teacher, 
the visits appeared to give him pleasure. They 
certainly did us. 

" Matthias, as has been before stated, came to 
Singsing about the twentieth of August, 1S33. In 
consequence of his (Matthias s) complaints of his 



184 MATTHIAS AND 

suffering and poverty, Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger 
agreed to unite in the expense of allowing him 
two dollars per day for his support. He, how 
ever, now said that he ought not to live in a hired 
house subject to the control of others : he proposed, 
and Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger agreed, to pur 
chase a lot, and build him a house in Greenwich 
village. He must have the house built of stone, 
for bricks were particularly offensive to the Spirit, 
as the children of God had been much oppressed by 
the Egyptians in the making of them. This was 
agreed to, but before any thing was done in it, he 
discovered that Mr. Folger had purchased the man 
sion he then owned on the precise day on which the 
Gentiles had broken up the kingdom at Mr. M. s 
house in New- York, and he regarded it as the 
influence of the Spirit providing a residence for 
him. Here the matter rested for a time. 

"Mr. Pierson, after a severe fit of illness, in 
August and September, 1833, with an attack of the 
paralysis, came to Mount Pleasant, to Mr. Folger s, 
about October of that year. He soon recovered 
his usual health. 

" There was now continued conversation about 
the Father s living in a hired house, or in a son s 
house ; it was like the error abroad in the Gentile 
world, they were all continually preaching about 
the Son s kingdom, when the truth was, it was the 
Father s kingdom that was to be set up, and not the 
Son s. There was no end to this subject. Mr. 
Pierson and Mr. Folger had frequent conversations 
upon it, and it was finally agreed between them that 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 185 

Mr. Folger should give Matthias a deed of the said 
mansion at the joint expense of Mr. P. and Mr. F. 
and at the same time both should give him the con 
trol of their furniture Mr. Pierson s in New- York, 
and Mr. Folger s at Mount Pleasant. About the 
first of November, 1833, Mr. Folger obtained a 
blank deed at Singsing, filled it up, wrote the cer 
tificate of acknowledgment, so that the commis 
sioner before whom it was acknowledged, Mr. 
G***** of Singsing, had only to attach his signa 
ture as commissioner and witness, which was done. 
It is probable, however, that the high hand of Mat 
thias in the village about this time, where he in 
dulged in calling all devils who disagreed with him, 
together with the circumstance of Mr. F. s having 
bought a blank deed, induced the suspicion that Mr. 
F. had conveyed to Matthias all his property. Such 
a report, at any rate, became current, and fearing 
it might be prejudicial to his business operations, 
which his new business with Mr. Pierson had ex 
tended so as to expose him to danger in the then 
pinching times in the mercantile world, he repre 
sented it, and it was to be considered annulled. He, 
accordingly, upon meeting the rumour, as he very 
soon did at New- York, assured all his friends that 
his property was entirely in his control, and that it 
should continue to be so. His credit, however, had 
received a severe wound the times became more 
and more trying in the mercantile world he had 
over-imported for a business concern there seemed 
to be a curse resting upon every thing undertaken 
with Mr. Pierson for the support of * the kingdom 
Q2 



186 MATTHIAS AND 

as it was called and notwithstanding Mr. Pierson s 
encouragement that the kingdom operations would 
soon react, return some tenfold and some a hundred- 
Jfold, yet he saw that unless he could get through 
the winter and spring of 1834, he should probably 
be totally ruined. He believed himself abundantly 
able to carry all through Mr. Pierson often ex 
amined and advised and Mr. F. jnade great ef 
forts ; but in the mean time, his credit had become 
so deeply wounded, and the times so seriously se 
vere, that, after struggling against every thing, he 
found himself compelled to suspend payment at the 
close of March, 1834. He, however, still believed 
that he would pay all he owed and save a handsome 
property, as he showed a large surplus, although 
much extended. But the continued depression in 
the times, with the severe loss attending all the ope 
rations commenced with Mr. Pierson for the benefit 
of the kingdom, together with the large sacrifices 
he was compelled to make in closing several* 
branches of legitimate mercantile business, not only 
swept off all his own property, but also the property 
he had belonging to Mrs: Folger s estate, and re 
ceived in trust for her individual use from that of her 
father. This was, however, unavoidable, as the law 
would not allow of its being protected, and we had 
no wish to be guilty of any cheating towards any 
one. 

" It is proper to give here a copy of the letter 
which Mr. Pierson addressed to Mr. Folger, upon 
the occasion of the execution of the deed of the 
Mount Pleasant mansion on the 2d November, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 1ST 

1S33, and likewise to mention that under one pre 
tence and another, Matthias withheld the deed from 
Mr. Folger, until full eight months after the time it 
was annulled by his agreement. 

(COPY.) 

" Mount Pleasant, Nov. 2, 1833. 
" Mr. Benjamin H. Folger, 

"SiR, 

" Your letter of this date I have received, which informs me 
that you have, in agreement with our verbal understanding, exe 
cuted a deed of your mansion and farm, lately known as the 
Heartt place, to Mr. Robert Matthias, for the setting up and es 
tablishing " the Father s House." This act has my cordial ap 
probation, inasmuch as it is intended to advance the establish 
ment of the kingdom of God. I agree to bear one half of the 
charge , and hereby authorize you to debit my account with my 
proportion, deducting the same from any moneys you may re 
ceive of mine, and charging me with one half of the mortgage, 
when you may see fit to discharge it, together with the interest, 
making a total debit to me of from three thousand seven hundred 
and fifty, to four thousand dollars, for this purpose. 

" Yours with esteem, 

^ELIJAH PIERSON. 

" This matter being, as before said, annulled, and 
Mr. Folger s difficulties and embarrassments call 
ing him to New- York and elsewhere much of the 
itime, afforded opportunities for Matthias to make 
other arrangements with Mr. Pierson. Early in 
March following, Mr. F. gave Mr. Pierson, at his 
request, a deed of his place at Mount Pleasant, and 
a bill of sale of his furniture. Mr. Pierson imme 
diately conveyed both to Matthias ; but it has since 
been obtained for Mr. Pierson s daughter, through 
the legal proceedings instituted bv the attornies of 
the estate for that purpose. 



188 MATTHIAS AND 

" When Mr. Folger suspended payment, he owed 
about two hundred and twenty thousand dollars. 
Soon after this, Matthias, in presence of Mr. Pier- 
son and Mrs. Folger, undertook a very ingenious 
argument to show that all the property in the world 
belonged to the children of God that all the Gen 
tiles had was, in fact, stolen from God s people 
and that there could be no real indebtedness to the 
Gentile world. 

" The object of this was very plain. Mr. Pier- 
son made no reply ; but Mr. F. immediately said 
to him, that however true it was, yet, for himself, he 
had committed himself to the Gentile world so to 
call it that all his property was pledged to them, 
until every debt he owed them was paid and he 
should certainly persevere until this was done. 
Matthews had evidently thrown this suggestion out 
to make a trial, and perceiving that it would not 
take, he at once changed his ground, and pretended 
to regard the course Mr. F. decided upon as the 
true one. 

" In the spring of 1834, the excitement was so 
strong that Matthias could no longer pass up and 
down in the steamboat with safety. Indeed, the 
probability is, that, but for the protection which Mr. 
and Mrs. Folger afforded him, he would have been 
severely handled before that time, owing to his high 
handed impudence in pronouncing every one a devil 
who refused to receive his doctrines. The conse 
quence was, that whenever he visited New-York, he 
came with the carriage and horses. In May of 
that year, on the way up, about twenty miles from 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 189 

New- York, his son driving, one of the horses be 
came troublesome, and after the difficulty had con 
tinued some time, Mr. Folger concluded to take the 
reins : they were then about to descend a steep hill ; 
the fractious horse became exceedingly troublesome, 
and finally broke the pole of the carriage. This ac 
cident threw the carriage upon the horses, they ran 
with great fury, tore the harness to pieces, and upset 
the carriage, but with the exception of Mr. Folger, 
who was stunned for a few moments, no one was 
hurt. It was a most providential escape. This 
perilous incident occurred three miles from Yonkers. 
Mr. Folger endeavoured to get some of the farmers 
wagons to take them on, but could not succeed. 
He at last obtained wagons from Yonkers, to which 
place they returned and lodged there that night. 
Early m the morning Mr. Folger made arrange 
ments for a conveyance to take all to Mount Pleas 
ant, but Mr. Matthias refused to ride unless he 
could have the ordering of the arrangement. This 
was a very petty business, and Mr. Folger en 
deavoured to persuade him to ride, offering him an 
entire wagon for himself; but he refused, and was 
left to walk the fifteen miles on foot. Mr. Pierson, 
however, thought it best to send a saddle-horse for 
him, which met him about two miles from our resi 
dence. 

" On Sunday, June 1, 1834, Mr. Folger was de 
tained at New- York by unavoidable circumstances. 
The rest of the family were at Mount Pleasant. 
He became very much concerned respecting Mat 
thias s doctrines, and after contending for a while, 



190 MATTHIAS AND 

he sought relief in prayer. At length he concluded 
to go and hear the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Du- 
bois, the pastor of the Reformed Dutch church in 
Franklin-street, whom he had always respected and 
esteemed as a minister earnestly and honestly en 
gaged in doing good. His sermon (as they gene 
rally are) was very powerful Mr. F. was entirely 
overcome, and although he endeavoured to resist 
it, yet he could not avoid weeping and exposing his 
exercises to others. He sat in the pew of his 
mother-in-law, went from the church to her house, 
and told her privately of his fears that we were all 
in error. In the afternoon he attended the Rev. 
Mr. White s church, in Allen-street. On the fol 
lowing morning, he went to Mount Pleasant, intend 
ing to withdraw his family from there. The first 
person he met was Matthias, who approached him 
with the offer of his hand, but it was rejected, and 
he was rudely thrust aside ; upon which Matthias 
stepped briskly into his room, obtained his sword, 
and headed Mr. Folger in the hall. This enraged 
Mr. F. to a high degree ; he seized Matthias by his 
throat, carried him back into the sitting room, and 
thrust him upon the settee. He has always been 
unable to account for his strength on that occasion, 
for he has not usually half the strength of Matthias. 
Matthias, however, is a very great coward, and it is 
probable that his fears destroyed all his strength. 
Nothing but the interference of others on that oc 
casion, probably, prevented such a treatment of the 
impostor as he merited. Mr. Pierson, and all others, 
protested against his conduct as being wrong, and 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 191 

as the consequence of the influence of an untrue 
spirit. Mr. Pierson invited him to have a private 
interview with him repeated his experience, his 
close examination of Matthias and his principles, 
and concluded by a renewed expression of his entire 
and perfect confidence in the truth and uprightness 
of Matthias and his doctrines. The difficulty was 
not, however, easily settled ; but Matthias, seeing his 
danger, tadojrted a mild course^ We all sat up till 
midnight in conversation ; and, in conclusion, Mr. 
Folger was induced to believe he had committed a 
decided error, in a fit of anger, while under the in 
fluence of an untrue spirit, and the storm was nearly 
hushed. It, however, should be mentioned, that a 
rumour of difficulty had reached Singsing, and sup 
posing their services might be useful, several of Mr. 
Folger s friends came down at a late hour in the 
evening, and through Mr. R***** announced to 
Mr. F. that Mr. F*****, the postmaster, Colonel 
W***** ? Mr. E*******, Major S***, and several 
others of his friends were near the house, willing to 
render him any aid he might need. Upon Mr. F. s 
assurance that all was quiet, that he was thankful 
for their kindness, and that he would be in the vil 
lage early the next day, they took their leave. The 
next day he met at the village a number of persons, 
and, among others, the district attorney, Mr. N*****. 
Mr. F. had a private interview with several truly 
worthy persons, and expressed to them precisely his 
views of Matthias and his doctrines. They proba 
bly perceived Mr. F. s deep delusion, and considered 
it useless to do any thing more at that moment. 



192 MATTHIAS AND 

" Mr. El*******, however, one of his friends, 
said to him that, after duly considering all circum 
stances, he had fully determined that Matthias should 
no longer stay there, that unless he was out of that 
house before four o clock of that day, he would- him 
self show him how they dealt with rogues where he 
had been. This was reported to Matthias, he be 
came much alarmed, took his beard off, and left 
there that night, June 3d, for New-York city, where 
he arrived the next morning, and put up at the City 
Hotel. He said to Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger 
before he left, that the persecution had now become 
so strong that it would be proper for him to change 
his name, and that he would address us from some 
point south under the name of David Abraham. 
He did not, however, go south, but in a few days 
afterward took up his residence in Third-street, 
New- York, where he remained until the twenty- 
sixth day of July, two days before Mr. Pierson s 
last illness, with the exception that he made one fly 
ing visit to Singsing and immediately back, with a 
carriage and four horses, and attended by two ser 
vants, in the month of June. 

" As has been previously stated, Mr. Pierson 
came to Mount Pleasant in October, 1833, after his 
recovery from an attack of paralysis, and appeared 
to recover his usual health. About January follow 
ing, however, he had a slight return of it, and from 
that time forward he would now and then be seized 
with a fit, and fall. As the spring advanced, the fits 
returned as often as once a week, so that it was 
generally deemed best for Mr. Folger s little boy to 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 193 

accompany him, whenever he was out about the 
premises, to report to Matthias if he was attacked. 
The attacks were generally slight, and he would be 
walking about in from half an hour to an hour after 
ward. Mr. Pierson expressed himself satisfied that 
he should overcome them, he regarded them as 
the last struggle of the devil with him, and he was 
satisfied he should master him. Matthias would 
often make him arise and walk before the fit was 
broken, which Mr. Pierson would be pleased to hear 
when he came out of the fit. He was not gene 
rally aware of an approaching attack by any un 
pleasant sensation, but sometimes he would say that 
he felt as though he should have a fit, upon which 
Matthias would tell him to resist it, and as he gene 
rally escaped on those occasions, it induced the be 
lief that he had effectually resisted. 

" Mr. Pierson s sickness, which terminated in his 
death, commenced on the afternoon of Tuesday, 
July 29, 1834. The evening say twenty-four 
hours before, he ate freely of some blackberries, 
picked by Matthias and his youngest son, and pre 
pared with sugar for the table, as is supposed, by 
the coloured woman. The persons at the table at 
the time were Mr. Pierson, Mrs. Folger, Catharine, 
and Matthias. The latter served out the black 
berries at that time, as he invariably did every de 
scription of food at the meals. He helped Mr. 
Pierson, Mrs. Folger, and Catharine to the berries, 
but none to himself. Mr. Pierson ate two ordinary 
sized dessert plates full : Catharine one : Mrs. Fol 
ger tasted of them ; remarked that they were not 
R 



194 MATTHIAS AND 

perfectly ripe and sweet ; and, owing to the state of 
her health, which had been feeble for many years, 
declined them, lest they should disagree with her. 
Her appetite, from her long suffering, had become 
completely disciplined, and notwithstanding Mat 
thias s frequent urging and commanding her to eat 
certain descriptions of food, she had not faith to do 
it. This was a point that Matthias endeavoured to 
overcome, but never succeeded. He took no no 
tice of the remark of Mrs. Folger that the black 
berries were not ripe and sweet, making his own 
meal of dry toast and coffee. He preached during 
the meal, as was his usual practice. Near the 
close of the meal, Mrs. Folger observed that Mat 
thias had eaten no berries, and as soon as a suf 
ficient pause in his speaking permitted, mentioned 
the circumstance, and inquired if he thought he had 
no plate, as his plate was a short distance from him. 
He immediately drew back from the table in anger, 
saying the sons were honoured and the daughters 
blessed themselves in the Father s house, but the 
Father did not receive the honour that was his due. 
He then continued preaching with severity, more 
particularly to Mr. Pierson, until a late hour of 
the night. This was Monday ; the next day, 
Tuesday, Mr. Pierson went into the field to assist 
in making hay, picking and eating blackberries. 
In the afternoon, at about four o clock, while en 
gaged in salting the hay, he was taken with one of 
his fits, in the barn. Anthony, a German labourer, 
was with him at the time, and Mr. Folger s little son, 
ten years of age. According to Matthias s instruc- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 195 

lions, no one was allowed to touch him in such 
cases until he himself should come. Being soon 
called by the little boy, he made Mr. Pierson walk 
to the house, although he had not as yet revived, 
they entered the house by way of the kitchen 
stairs, and Mr. Pierson was overtaken by another 
fit before he could be taken up the stairs, and 
from which he did not, as usual, recover his 
senses. While Mrs. Folger was engaged wash 
ing his head with cold water, he had another very 
hard tit, and after this he began to vomit and have 
free evacuations from his bowels, which continued 
all night. Several severe fits followed successively 
during the night. Mrs. Folger and Mr. Pierson s 
daughter were with him until a late hour, and the 
coloured woman continued with him all night. Mrs. 
Folger visited the room frequently during the night 
to see that he was properly attended to. 

" Matthias expressed displeasure that Mr. Pierson 
encouraged the sick spirit, and when Mr. Pierson 
began to vomit, he said he did not know but that he 
should vomit himself if he staid there a minute. 
He then retired to his room, and did not see Mr. 
Pierson until after breakfast the next morning. 

" On the same evening, but some hours afterward, 
Catharine (who had also partaken of the black 
berries the day before) was also taken ill. She had 
severe pain in the bowels, and nausea at the 
stomach, and was in all respects affected in like 
manner with Mr. Pierson, excepting the absence of 
fits, and the retention of her senses. She, too, was 
attended by Mrs. Folger and the coloured woman. 
Matthias, upon being made acquainted with both 



196 MATTHIAS AND 

cases, on the next (Wednesday) morning, was very 
angry, and accused those who nursed and attended 
them of being accessary to bringing in and harbour 
ing the sick devil in the house of God, and de 
nounced many curses upon such, so that they feared 
they should incur the curses every time they offered 
any service to Mr. Pierson. When Mrs. Folger 
first visited Mr. Pierson, on Wednesday morning, 
she asked him how he felt, and if he was aware of 
the critical and trying night he had passed through. 
He was sensible, said he was aware of having had 
several fits, and knew what had been done for him. 
Mrs. Folger then asked him if he would have some 
toast-water ? he replied, no, but some coffee, with a 
look that conveyed to Mrs. Folger the idea that he 
did not wish any thing like medicine, or the nursing 
of sickness. On this point that sickness was a 
devil and could be resisted and cast out Mr. Pier- 
son was, as he had been for a long time, very 
decided, and those who knew his peculiar disposition, 
well know that it was of no use to contend with 
him. Mrs. Folger took him some coffee, which he 
drank, but threw up immediately, as he did every 
thing he received into his stomach that day. Mrs. 
Folger placed a pitcher of toast-water in his room, 
notwithstanding his forbidding look, just mentioned, 
that he might take it if he thought proper, or that 
Matthias might give it to him if he saw fit to do so ; 
but it remained untouched. Catharine took nothing 
but toast-water that day rested and dieted for 
several days, unobserved by Matthias, and recovered. 
On Thursday Mr. Pierson was up, walked out, and 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 197 

partook of the meals at the table, prepared for the 
family as he did likewise on Friday and Saturday, 
but he would occasionally have slight paralytic at 
tacks ; sometimes at the table, "when Matthias 
would lead hirn to his room and close the door. 
Mr. Pierson seemed to think this all right. He did 
not appear to lose his senses. If he was spoken to 
during these three days, his attempts to speak in 
reply would produce a slight convulsive attack 
whereupon Matthias would harshly censure the per 
son speaking, for bringing the evil spirit upon him. 
The consequence was, that all feared to speak or 
offer service. As Mr. Pierson was stronger in the 
faith, and deeper initiated into the mysteries of the 
kingdom than others, he required as strict obedience 
to the doctrines as Matthias did, and it was under 
stood as his wish that directions for any thing must 
come from Matthias only. On Saturday evening, 
Mrs. Folger was in the kitchen, engaged in washing 
the children. The coloured woman was likewise 
there, engaged in baking. Elizabeth, Mr. Pierson s 
daughter, came there with a request to the coloured 
woman to go up and wash her father s feet ; the 
coloured woman remarked that she was busy and 
could not leave. Mrs. Folger asked Elizabeth if 
she could not wash her father s feet if Isabella (the 
coloured woman) took up the water? she replied, 
yes, but that her father wished to speak to Isabella ; 
the latter then said, she supposed she must go, but 
that her work required her attention. Mrs. Folger 
inquired of Elizabeth if Mr. Matthias was with her 
father, and learned from her that he was. Mrs. 
R2 



198 



MATTHIAS AND 



Folger then directed the coloured woman to take up 
the water, and ask Mr. Matthias and Mr. Pierson 
if she could be excused, but she did not return. 
When Mrs. Folger had finished her duties in the 
kitchen, which had detained her some time after the 
children had retired, she came up and seated herself 
at a window in the hall. 



Front Parlour. 



South Wing. 

do 
Mr. P. s Room. 



Back 
Tar] our 



North Wing, 
door. 



As she passed the parlour door, immediately oppo 
site the door of the south wing, which Mr. Pierson 
occupied, she observed Mr. Pierson, Mr. Matthias, 
and the coloured woman in conversation. Mr. 
Matthias soon afterward came info the hall, and 
continued pacing it until the coloured woman came 
out, and, when half-way between, the parlour door 
and kitchen stairway, Mr. Matthias and the coloured 
woman stopped and conversed in a low whisper for 



flIS IMPOSTURES. 199 

about half-an-hour. Matthias then pointed to Mrs. 
Folger and motioned to her she did not know 
what he meant, but concluded they wished her to go 
away, and she went into the north wing ; but as she 
was not sure this was the case, and not suspecting 
any cause for it, she returned and resumed her seat 
in the hall they then separated a few steps, but he 
quickly stepped to the kitchen stairway and resumed 
his conversation with the coloured woman, in the 
same low whisper, and continued it for some ten or 
fifteen minutes, when they separated, arid the coloured 
woman went to the kitchen, and Mr. Matthias to 
Mr. Pierson s room. Mrs. Folger asked him, as 
he passed her, for what he had motioned to her with 
his hand ; he replied, to take away the candle. 
Mrs. Folger then went to the kitchen to assist the 
coloured woman with her work. She asked the latter 
what Mr. Pierson wished to see her about, and she 
replied, that he wanted to ask her to forgive him. 
It seems that Mr. Pierson and Isabella had had 
some dispute, and had incurred each other s dis 
pleasure, previous to this, while Mrs. Folger was at 
New- York. Mrs. Folger said to her, * You forgive 
him ! what has he ever done to you to have occa 
sion to ask forgiveness? She replied, Enough, 
but was not disposed to say any more. Mrs. 
Folger then asked her if that was what she and Mr. 
Matthias were conversing about so privately, to 
which she replied, Yes ! No more was thought 
of this circumstance until after the arrest of Mat 
thias. 

"On Sunday Mr. Pierson kept his bed. His 



200 MATTHIAS AND 

fits increased in number and violence. Matthias 
preached in the parlour, opposite Mr. Pierson s 
room, to all the family for several hours the door 
of Mr. Pierson s room was open until he had a fit, 
when the coloured woman, who sat near the door, 
was directed by Matthias to shut it until the fit 
passed off, which she knew by the singular noise he 
made, and when it did she would open it again, and 
keep it open until the occurrence of another fit. In 
the latter part of this day, Sunday, Mrs. Folger ven 
tured to ask Mr. Pierson to show her his tongue, 
which he did. She said to him that it was thickly 
coated, and that he needed, as she thought, evacua 
tions from his bowels, asking him if he did not 
think so himself. He made no reply, as was usual 
with him, if he felt himself dictated to by a person 
not having authority. Matthias was not present, 
but Mrs. Folger is not certain whether Mr. Pier- 
son s daughter was or not. She was permitted to 
be with her father as much as she pleased, without 
blame ; but all others were exposed to censure for 
visiting him. Much of this censure fell upon Mrs. 
Folger (who had suffered greatly from ill health her 
self), as she would visit his room to wash his hands 
and face with cold water, and would often call the 
coloured woman to change his position, as she was 
a strong and able person, and was always willing to 
do it. 

* Matthias and the coloured woman spent this 
evening in conversation respecting his eldest son, 
who had clandestinely left Singsing while his father 
was at New-York. Mr. Pierson had previously 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 201 

: told Mr. Matthias the particulars of his going, in 
which matter the coloured woman was shown to 
have been in fault ; but the latter now made her 
statement. It appeared that Isabella had stewed 
some cherries, which the boy had stolen and eaten. 

I She acquainted Mr. Pierson with the circumstance, 
who scolded the boy, and threatened to inform his 
father whereupon the lad ran away. Matthias 

^expressed much displeasure towards Mr. Pierson 
for an accusation of theft against his son, in his 
father s house asserting that it was out of the 
question for a son to steal any thing belonging to 
his father. This conversation was so loud that Mr. 
Pierson could have heard it ; but Mrs. Folger heard 
no more of the subject. 

The next morning, Monday, Mrs. Folger visited 
Mr. Pierson s room, and found him still worse. 
She requested his daughter to rub his limbs with a 
clothes brush, which she did. Mr. Pierson then 
asked Mrs. Folger if she would be willing to give 
him an enema ; she replied, yes, that she could do 
that and administer several other remedies which 
would promote his recovery, if she was allowed. 
Seeing Mr. Matthias advancing to the room, she 
said to Mr. Pierson, ask him, and then left the room. 
She did so, apprehending that Mr. P. would be less 
urgent In her presence, as they were acquainted 
with her views with regard to sickness and its re 
medies, which exposed her to their mutual cen 
sure whenever advanced. Mrs. Folger occupied 
herself in the duties of the house, expecting direc 
tions from Mr. Matthias or Mr. Pierson ; but none 



202 MATTHIAS AND 

came, nor does she know what passed between 
them. She again went to his room towards the 
middle of the day, when Mr. Pierson immediately 
began to speak of his exercises in relation to re 
ceiving his father s spirit, who had been subject to 
similar fits as those he was afflicted with. While 
he was speaking Matthias came in and continued 
the conversation with Mr. Pierson, and Mrs. Fol 
ger retired. At noon she visited his room again. 
He was asleep, but restless. She visited his apart 
ment frequently that afternoon, and he continued to 
sleep. While the family went to supper or tea, they 
heard a noise as though Mr. Pierson had fallen. 
Catharine and Mrs. Folger started to go to him, 
but Matthias forbade them, and spent some time in 
lecturing them for keeping this sick spirit in the 
house. W r hen Matthias dismissed the table he went 
to Mr. Pierson s room ; Mrs. Folger followed him. 
Mr. Pierson was lying on the floor, with his feet 
towards the bed, as though he had risen from bed, 
and then fallen. He was then apparently asleep. 
Mrs. Folger asked Matthias if he should be lifted 
on his bed. He replied, no that he seemed to 
have a spirit that liked the floor better. Matthias 
then walked for a while in the yard, and on coming 
in, seated himself in the parlour and read the news 
papers. Mrs. Folger remained with Mr. Pierson 
to watch him, while his daughter, who had been 
with him most of the day, walked in the yard with 
the rest of the children. Mrs. Folger again asked 
Matthias if Mr. Pierson might not be placed upon, 
his bed ; he made no reply for some minutes, and 



4-, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 203 

then said, we could put his straw bed on the floor, 
: and lay him on that ; but not to bring his mattress 
out of the room, as it was defiled, and he did not 
know but that every thing in the room would have 
I to be burned. Mrs. Folger called the coloured 
woman to make his bed upon the floor. She like 
wise called Catharine to assist, but she refused. 
Mr. Pierson was then laid upon the bed, and left to 
: sleep for the night. His breakfast on this (Monday) 
morning, consisting of coffee, bread, and shad, was 
taken to him by Matthias, and was the last meal he 
ever ate. 

" The next morning, Tuesday, August 5th, he 
was insensible, his eyes closed, but his mouth open. 
Mrs. Folger asked Matthias if any thing should be 
done for Mr. Pierson. He said, no ; that he (Mat 
thias) was attending to his own business, and watch 
ing Mr. Pierson s spirit. 

" Mrs. Folger asked if she might give him drink, 
or wet his lips, as they appeared dry ; he said, no- 
he did not need any. Mrs. Folger visited his room 
frequently to drive the flies from him, and anxiously 
watched for the return of his senses. 

" This morning, after the arrival of the steam- 
boat from New York, a Jewess, whom Mr. Pierson 
had previously assisted, came from town to ask for 
his aid. Mr. Matthias, who had likewise become 
acquainted with her, and her mother and sister, 
through Mr. Pierson, received, and spent much of 
the day and evening in conversing with her. She 
asked to see Mr. Pierson, and was told she should, 
6ut he continued his conversation without showing 



204 MATTHIAS AND 

her the way. When Mrs. Folger heard her express 
Ihe desire the second time, she arose from her seat 
and asked if the lady could then see Mr. Pierson. 
Matthias took no notice of the inquiry, but contin 
ued his conversation with Mrs. Dratch, the person 
referred to. Mrs. Folger was very little with Mr. 
Matthias and Mrs. Dratch, as she was much occu 
pied with her family duties and frequently visiting 
Mr. Pierson s room. Not being well herself, her 
cares were numerous ; and having very little rest at 
night, from her anxiety for Mr. Pierson, which was 
increased by the singular noise made by him most 
of the time, she became greatly exhausted. In the 
after part of the day, Mr. Matthias told Mrs. 
Dratch that she should see Mr. Pierson after he 
had had a warm bath which he had ordered. This 
was the first intimation to Mrs. Folger that he in 
tended to give one, and she went immediately to 
see that it was prepared ; and while he was,- in it, 
assisted in making his bed, &c. He was put in 
the bath by the German labourer and the coloured 
woman, and while there, the coloured woman per 
ceiving a fit coming upon him, slapped him in the 
face, saying, " Come out of your hellish sleep !" 
which Mrs. Folger observed in silence, thinking it 
might be the proper way of resisting the sick spirit, 
and preventing its visiting the woman, but felt that 
she could not have done it herself. His daughter 
and Catharine were in the room at the same time. 
Mr. Pierson continued insensible ; contrary to Mrs. 
Folger s expectations, the bath appeared to produce 
no change in his symptoms. As soon as he was 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 205 

again placed upon his couch, she informed Mr. 
Matthias of the fact. He was conversing with 
Mrs. Dratch upon the piazza, made no reply, but 
continued his conversation, and Mrs. D. continued 
to listen. In the evening they sat in conversation 
in the parlour. Mrs. D. retired about nine o clock, 
previously offering to sit up with Mr. Pierson if it 
was necessary ; but Matthias said it was not, that 
he did not allow it. Mrs. Folger then called up 
the coloured woman, saying also to Mr. Matthias 
that she felt very uneasy about Mr. Pierson, espe 
cially as no drink was given him. Matthias then 
directed the coloured woman to bring some water, 
which direction she obeyed. He asked for a pint 
pitcher, directed the coloured woman to hold the 
cloth by the sides of Mr. Pierson s mouth, to 
catch the water as it escaped from it, and Matthias 
then poured the water from the pitcher, some four 
or five 1 feet above him. This operation caused a 
shocking noise or gurgling in the throat, which Mrs. 
Folger could not remain to hear, and hastened from 
the sound. When she returned, this noise had 
ceased, and Matthias had ceased to give him drink. 
Mr. Pierson had fits now in rapid succession, and 
the peculiar noise he made could be heard in every 
part of the house. The coloured woman inquired 
if she should remain with Mr. Pierson, but Mat 
thias said, no, and directed her to go to bed, and 
retired himself. Mrs. Folger and the coloured 
woman sat up with him, however, until 12 o clock, 
when Mrs. Folger laid herself down, only to rest, 
feeling that her health required it ; but she did not 
S 



206 MATTHIAS AND 

sleep constantly hearing Mr. Pierson until after 
one o clock. Not long after the peculiar noise 
from Mr. Pierson ceased, she heard Matthias go 
to his room. Following thither herself, she met 
him coming from it. The moment Matthias saw 
Mrs. Folger, he said Mr. Pierson was dead. Mrs. 
Folger was struck with surprise, and asked him 
how he felt, or what he thought she does not 
know which; he replied, don t ask me now, and 
retired to his room. Mrs. Folger slept in the room 
with Mr. Pierson s daughter and her own children. 
She told his daughter early in the morning that her 
father was dead. The event was unexpected to her, 
as it had been to Mrs. Folger, since we were all 
led to believe, as we had been taught, that death 
would not be allowed to mnke a prey of one of us, 
but that the Holy Ghost, which was given us, would 
enable us to conquer the last enemy. When Mrs. 
Folger arose in the morning, Wednesday, 6th Au 
gust, she found Mrs. Dratch in the parlour with 
Matthias, who was explaining to her why Mr. Pier- 
son must die, or go down as John the Baptist, and 
that Mr. Pierson had committed some sin unto 
death, which would not suffer that body to enter the 
kingdom of heaven, but much of his spirit was 
valuable, which was all then with him, Matthias, 
who would give him another body. Mrs. Dratch 
returned to New York that afternoon. Just pre 
vious to her departure, Mr. Matthias gave her mo 
ney ; from which circumstance it is inferred that she 
informed Matthias as to the object of her visit to 
Mount Pleasant and to Mr. Pierson. It should be 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 207 

mentioned here that Mrs. Dratch is a widow lady, 
who has a very aged mother dependent upon her 
efforts with those of her sister, with the needle, for 
support, that they have, at times, found it exceed 
ingly difficult to get along, and have been assisted 
by Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger. 

" At Mrs. Folger s request, upon Mrs. Dratch s 
arriva| in New-York, she immediately called at 
Mr. Folger s office, who was expected to return to 
New- York on that day from a journey to the north, 
upon which he had been absent some nme or ten 
days met him there, and communicated the news 
of Mr. Pierson s death. Mr. Folger was as much 
surprised at the event as had been the other mem 
bers of the family. He immediately waited upon 
such of the relatives of Mr. Pierson as he could re 
collect, and at their request, made arrangements for 
the removal of the body to New-Jersey. He had 
a sealed coffin prepared the weather being very 
warm engaged a hearse, and with a coach, accom 
panied by two female relatives of Mr. Pierson, went 
to Mount Pleasant early the next day. He like 
wise addressed a letter to Mr. Mahlon Pierson, near 
Bottle Hill, N. J., acquainting him with the death 
of his brother, and all the particulars then within 
his knowledge (not having been at Mount Pleasant 
at any time during his sickness), and despatched a 
messenger with the communication to the residence 
of Mr. Pierson. 

" On the day of Mr. Pierson s death, Mrs. 
Dratch, on her way to the steamboat, promulgated 
the report in the village of Singsing that Mr. Pierson 



203 MATTHIAS AND 

had been found dead in his bed. A coroner s in 
quest was held on the body that afternoon : Mrs. 
Folger was the fifth person examined. She in 
formed them that her husband was absent, and, as 
she was ignorant of legal matters, wished to know 
if they had a right to proceed as they were doing ; 
they replied that their proceedings were all legal. 
She then detailed to them all the particulars of Mr. 
Pierson s sickness and death ; she said she did not 
consider this event as they did, a visitation of Provi 
dence, but that the devil, death, had robbed us of 
the body of Mr. Pierson, while his spirit was as 
much with us as ever. They asked if Mr. Pierson 
ihad had medicine given him; she replied no, 
that they considered medicine an evil, that Mr. 
Pierson would not have taken any while he had his 
senses, and violence had not been done to his often 
expressed sentiments on this point, after he had lost 
his senses. They inquired if Mrs. Folger would 
not employ a physician if she was herself sick ; 
she said no, that she had already passed through 
the hands of so many that she feared her body might 
yet be rejected from entering the kingdom of Heaven. 
They asked several questions relative to Mr. Pier- 
son s property and business with Mr. Folger ; she 
replied that she knew no particulars respecting it, 
referred them to her husband, whom she believed to 
be a correct business man, and that they might rest 
assured he would render a true and accurate state 
ment of all his transactions with Mr. Pierson, that 
she knew from their conversations that they had 
confidence in each other, and were partners in some 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 209 

kind of business ; and, in conclusion, said if they had 
any more inquiries to make she would like to hear 
them. She then mentioned that there were some 
marks on the skin of Mr. Pierson, which were oc 
casioned by his knocking his feet together while in 
the fits, but if they found any marks of violence on 
his body, or were not satisfied, they would oblige 
her by letting her know it. Mrs. Folger then left 
the room, and supposed they examined the body. 
Matthias was very quiet during this time : he had 

sent for one of the neighbours, Mr. Bishop the 

only man he respected in the neighbourhood, ex 
cept Judge Keymes and requested him to make 
arrangements for the burial. Mr. Bishop purchased 
a coffin and had a grave dug in the burying-ground 
in the neighbourhood. The body was to have been 
buried there on the next day (Thursday) at noon 5 
but the arrival of Mr. Folger from New- York, with 
the two female relatives of Mr. Pierson, and 
preparations for the removal of the body to New- 
Jersey, changed the arrangement. Mr. Folger ac 
companied the corpse to New- York, and, as circum. 
stances prevented his visiting the state of New- Jer^ 
,sey, he wrote a line to Mr. Mahlon Pierson, stating 
those circumstances, and engaged an acquaintance 
jto go in charge of the hearse and carriage, accom 
panied by the two females before mentioned. They 
proceeded that night, and in the course of it, reached 
Mr. Mahlon Pierson s residence. 

" Matthias wished to leave Mount Pleasant and 
go to New-York in his carriage on the same after- 
iioon, an hour or two after Mr. Folger had left with 
S2 



210 MATTHIAS AND 

the corpse, but did not leave until the next morning, 
when he took his departure with Lewis the coach 
man. He wished Mrs. Folger to ride down in the 
carriage with him, but she replied that her health 
would not allow her to incur the fatigue, and, more 
over, that she wished to remain with her children. 
Being reminded, however, that Mr. Folger had 
said, just as he left, that he should expect her down 
the next day, she made arrangements for departu , 
and went down in the steamboat that afternoon, ac 
companied by the coloured woman. 

" Mr. Folger expressed his great surprise at the 
death of Mr. Pierson to Matthias, who said to him 
in reply, that he should serve all his enemies in like 
manner, that as soon as he found that his (Mat 
thias s) spirit had rejected the body of Mr. Pierson, 
he had gone into his own room and made a sign as 
simple as to turn the spoke of a chair this is the 
precise expression of Matthias which never failed, 
and referred to Ezekiel s signs for the certainty of 
it. He informed Mr. and Mrs. Folger that they 
should be dealt with in like manner if they opposed 
him, or proved treacherous to him, declaring again 
that he possessed the power to do it, and they still 
feared that he did. 

" Matthias now continually advanced new ideas, 
preaching whenever opportunity offered, but in the 
absence of Mr. Pierson, who was, so to speak (and 
was so called), the second witness for truth, it was 
more difficult for him to convince Mr. and Mrs. 
Folger of his new doctrines, the more especially as 
it appeared about this time that he could not over- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 211 

come the legal proceedings instituted by the attor 
neys of the estate of Mr. Pierson. In a conversa 
tion with Matthias in the same month of Mr. Pier- 
son s death, Mr. Folger told him what the laws were, 
and suggested his surrendering the title to any pro 
perty he possessed of Mr. Pierson s. He at first 
rejected it, but afterward said he would not contend 
with them under such circumstances : that of course 
he could not have justice in a gentile court. Upon 
this, supposing all would be done, Mr. Folger invited 

Mr. B. and Mr. C , two relatives of Mr. 

Pierson, to arrived to Third-street and have an inter 
view with Matthias. When they came, he seated him 
self in a large rocking-chair in the middle of the 
floor, and instead of entering upon the business 
upon which they came, he immediately commenced 
preaching to them, censuring the Christian religion, 
and going on in his usual manner, engrossing al 
most exclusively the conversation ; but occasionally 
those gentlemen would interpose a few words of re 
ply, and both discovered a knowledge and an ability 
to defend the doctrines of Christianity. The pa 
tience of the former held out the longest, but at 
length his was exhausted. When at last they asked 
him the surrender of the property in question, to 
the surprise of Mr. Folger, he declined, and said 
he would test the strength of the gentile laws. Mr. 
Folger was quiet until they had gone, when he ex 
pressed his surprise that he had not done as Mr. Fol 
ger had understood him he would. He replied that 
the spirit had told him that he must not, at all haz 
ards, surrender to the devil the property of God. 



212 MATTHIAS AND 

" Mr. Folger had frequently before this told him 
of the increasing difficulties of his business ; he now 
informed him that he should be obliged to remove 
his family into more limited quarters, and reduce his 
expenses. As Mr. and Mrs. Folger, however, still 
believed him to be a good man, the former told him 
of his having in his possession the sum of about 
eight hundred dollars, received from the estate of 
his wife, which he regarded as distinctly his own, 
and that if he required it, he would give him a part 
of it. Mrs. Folger was present at this conversa 
tion, closely observed his countenance, and for the 
first time discovered alarm depicted on it, which she 
immediately spoke of, but he denied that it was so. 
He spent much time in arguing and in trying to dis 
suade Mr. Folger from his purpose, who was, he 
said, in a lost condition. In this unsettled situation 
we remained some time. Mr. Folger was con 
stantly urging Matthias to leave, and he refusing to 
go, saying he would not until all his arguments had 
failed, and lie was forced to quit. He told his chil- 
dren they were at liberty to do as they pleased, of 
which permission they readily took advantage and 
acted accordingly- venting upon Mrs. Folger, her 
children, and the rest of the family their rage, during 
the day, in the absence of Mr. Folger upon his bus 
iness. She bore it in silence, however, not yet 
knowing but that he was all that he represented him 
self to be ; for their belief in him had been sincere, 
and was strongly established. The rest of the fam 
ily, exclusive of Mr. and Mrs. Folger and their 
children, manifested stronger faith in him than ever, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 213 

At length, while Mr. Folger was abroad, he began 
to charge Mrs. Folger as being responsible for 
breaking up " the kingdom." She would then tell 
the family, in his presence, what the circumstances 
were, but to little or no purpose, for as soon as her 
back was turned, he would say so much to the con 
trary, as to recall them to believe in his statements ; 
and they no doubt were aware that it might be some 
time before they would be able to find another so 
independent and well-provided a home. 

" Mr. Folger at this time was much occupied 
and tried in his mind with business perplexities, and 
finding him still decided in his determination to sep 
arate, Mrs. Folger forbore to mention to him her 
trials in his absence from the house, being sustained 
by the hope of a speedy deliverance from them. 
But Matthias at last ascertaining that Mr. Folger 
was not to be wrought upon farther by him, at 
tempted to terrify Mrs. Folger into a farther belief 
of his doctrines. She, however, told him that she 
had not faith, and therefore could not exercise it. 
He asked, if it was then her determination to pur 
sue the course her husband had proposed ; if it was, 
he added, he had made the same sign for her he had 
made for Mr. Pierson, which would not fail. She 
said, firmly, it was. He then said, at the height of 
his voice, which was, on the whole, almost deafen 
ing, stamping at the same time violently with his feet, 
she should be D-A-M-N-E-D ! Mrs. Folger was 
much alarmed, and feared that the earth would open 
and swallow her up, or something worse. She was 
then quite unwell and wearied, and did not feel sure, 



214 MATTHIAS AND 

for a time, but that some of his curses had taken 
effect. But finding that she outlived one curse, she 
felt encouraged to urge her husband, when he came 
home in the evening, to be more prompt in effecting 
the dismissal of Matthias ; and on the following 
morning she proposed that he should leave her up 
stairs, and say to Matthias distinctly that he should 
have no more opportunity of preaching to her, and 
insist upon his leaving that day. This was done, 
and he promised to go, but requested that the family 
might dine together once more. Mr. Folger took 
Mrs. Folger s breakfast up to her room, and she 
drank freely of the coffee. She then asked to have 
her little daughter, about six years old, sent up to 
her. When the child came up-stairs, she said, 
" Mother, Mr. Matthias said that was not the Lord s 
table they ate at this morning, but the devil s," and 
that Mr. Matthias did not eat any breakfast. The 
child likewise said that the coffee was not good, 
and that she could not drink it. 

" Mr. Folger, being much occupied that morning 
in delivering the articles of furniture belonging to 
the estate of Mr. Pierson, which was to be sold at 
auction, sent for Mrs. Folger, as he needed her as 
sistance. Meeting her little son, about ten years 
of age, as she -descended the stairs, he said to her, 
" Mother, the coffee was so bad this morning I could 
hardly drink it." She merely replied to him, being 
busy, " Why did you drink it then ?" and the circum 
stance escaped her mind, as did the other complaint 
from the little girl. 

-" Matthias seized an opportunity, while Mr. Fol- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 215 

ger was in another part of the house delivering fur 
niture, to renew his threats upon Mrs. Folger He 
was then seated in the kitchen, preaching to Cath 
arine and the coloured woman. Mrs. Folger was 
engaged down-stairs, and continued to be until din 
ner was ready. Matthias did not eat any dinner, 
but wept while the rest were eating intending per 
haps to try the force of tears, for he did shed real 
tears. Mrs. Folger did not observe the coloured 
woman at that time, but has at other times, that she 
did not eat when Matthias abstained. Mrs Folger 
retired to her room after dinner, with her children. 
It rained that afternoon, and Matthias pleaded that 
circumstance as an excuse to Mr. Folger that he 
did not depart. At supper-time Matthias seated 
himself at the table, but did not partake. He re 
marked that he began to realize his situation, and 
commenced pronouncing woes upon those who had 
caused it. Mr. Folger forbade his preaching any 
more to his family, and he was silenced for the time. 
" Mr. Folger asked him if he should send his 
sons to their mother in Albany ; Matthias replied he 
would as soon send them to hell, but in the same 
breath said he wished he would. On a second re 
flection, however, it seemed to be his design to keep 
house somewhere in New- York. He packed up 
their clothes with his, and said he should take them 
with him. Mr. Folger soon after this recollected 
that he had promised their mother, that if they were 
to leave his family, he would send them to her He 
accordingly told Matthias of it and that it must be 
done ; and within three days, after having things 



216 MATTHIAS AND 

properly prepared, Mr. Folger committed them to 
the care of the captain of a steamboat, paid their 
expenses to Albany, and sent them home. 

" Immediately after supper, on the last night Mat 
thias was in the house, he went to bed. Mr. Folger 
had an errand out on business, and went to attend 
to it. Mrs. Folger, with Catharine, retired to her 
room, but having occasion to go to the kitchen after 
a while, Matthias was found there with the coloured 
woman. Catharine accompanied Mrs. Folger to 
the kitchen, whereupon Matthias and the coloured 
woman began to persuade her to join them in keep 
ing house, and they no doubt would have induced 

Catharine to go with them, but for the advice of 
Mr. and Mrs. Folger. 

" During that night, Mrs. Folger was quite unwell 
and did not sleep. She observed that Mr. Folger 
was very restless and groaned in his sleep. The 
children, who were in the next room with Catharine, 
were restless and wakeful, and rather wild and light 
headed. Catharine was also restless and groaned 
in her sleep. Mrs. Folger then remembered the 
children s complaint about the coffee, and Matthias 
not eating when they did. In consequence of this, 
she told Catharine in the morning to get breakfast 
separately for us, to be sure she washed every 
thing to be used, and not to use any of the provisions 
then in the house. Catharine then mentioned to 
Mrs. Folger that she had observed the coffee was 
bad the morning before, had a strange taste, and 
had something white in it ; that she had asked the 
coloured waman the cause of it, who had replied 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 217 

that we could not expect to have good coffee, or any 
blessing, while her father was offended. This 
morning, Mr. Folger went down, at Mrs. Folger s 
request, to see that her instructions were obeyed. 
Mr. Folger and family took breakfast in the par 
lour : Matthias, the coloured woman, and Matthias s 
sons, below stairs. 

"After breakfast, Mr. Folger told Matthias he 
must be off immediately, that he should not leave 
the house until he had gone, that as for his sons, 
they should be sent to their mother. Matthias un 
dertook again to display some of his lofty move 
ments, and made some objections, but the spell was 
broken, and his day had passed. He was soon 
silenced, upon being assured that if there was any 
farther trouble with him, Mr. Folger would step to 
the police-office and get assistance. He consumed 
all the time he could in getting his clothes together, 
and asking for many articles, which were denied 
him. He exercised considerable ingenuity to ob 
tain them, but his true character was understood, 
and his motions were watched. He at last obtained 
a cartman, sent away his baggage, and departed him 
self about noon, on the eighteenth or nineteenth of 
September. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Folger went the same day in 
search of a more suitable residence. In the even 
ing, Catharine communicated some facts of which 
we were not before aware, and which, on being 
compared with other circumstances, convinced us 
that Matthias was truly a wicked man. We have 
since had abundant testimony to sustain us in this 
T 



218 MATTHIAS AND 

belief, and we feel truly thankful for our escape from 
so deep a delusion. 

" Soon after Matthias came to visit Mr. Folger, 
the housekeeper, who had intended to change her 
place before he came, left the family. After she 
had gone, Matthias spoke of the coloured woman, 
often referred to in this narrative, recommended her 
for her faithfulness and industry, and advised her 
engagement. Mrs. Folger reflected upon it, con 
sulted with her husband, and they concluded to em 
ploy her. Matthias went for her, but would not al 
low her to have wages. Mrs. Folger did not find 
her capable of rendering all the assistance she 
needed, but as they had a coloured man who under 
stood, and was disposed to assist in house-work, 
they were willing, in consideration of her former 
faithfulness to Matthias, still to depend upon her for 
help. But she became less useful as time advanced, 
for she had been in early life a slave, and Matthias 
was to requite those who had been oppressed , with 
extra blessings. If there was any oppression to be 
borne, or coming short of blessings, in his kingdom, 
it must fall upon Mr. and Mrs. Folger, Mr. Pierson, 
and their children, as they had had an abundance all 
their lives ; they were to be classed with all those 
who have more than their families need from day to 
day, and were robbers of God. This doctrine gave 
much satisfaction to those members of the family 
who had not been favoured with as much ease as 
they would like, and they improved all their oppor 
tunities. Very little regard was manifested by Mat 
thias or any of the rest of them for economy. They 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 219 

had nothing at stake they came there without 
means, and they appeared to have little regard for 
property. Matthias had previously promised them, 
or most of them, that he would provide abundantly for 
them, which they were now realizing, and they were 
willing to receive all his promises for an abundance 
in future. The snuff-box found in Matthias s pos 
session, with a painting on the lid, representing the 
monkey eating the oysters and handing the shells to 
the cat, was indeed an apt illustration of Mr. Pier- 
son s and Mr. and Mrs. Folger s situation. It was 
presented to Matthias by Mr. Folger. 

" After Matthias broke up housekeeping, in Clark- 
son-street, in the spring of 1833, the coloured wo 
man went out to service in New- York by the month. 
From her account, as well as that of Matthias, she 
must have been very faithful to him. 

" She gave the avails of her labour to him, be 
sides at times borrowing money for him ; so that 
when she came to Mount Pleasant, she was in need 
of clothes. Mrs. Folger furnished her, during the 
time she was with her, to the amount of some thirty 
or forty dollars ; the greater part soon after she came. 
When she left Mrs. Folger, which was on the same 
day that Matthias departed, her services were valued, 
and Mr. Folger paid her, at his request, the sum of 
twenty-five dollars, as the amount due to her. This 
was a direct departure from the doctrine he had pre 
viously advanced, but was in character with his con 
versations about this time. All these things had 
their weight to confirm us in our opinion of his wick 
edness, as it became more and more developed. 



220 MATTHIAS AND 

" Catharine was the wife of one of Mr. M. H. S. s 
waiters, who was with him during the time that Mat 
thias preached at his house. He died soon after 
Matthias left there, as he (Matthias) said, in conse 
quence of his curse upon him, for opening the door 
when the officers came that conveyed him to prison 
at that time. Catharine was visited by the col 
oured woman as often as circumstances would per 
mit, after the latter came to Mount Pleasant. The 
coloured woman spoke of her to Mrs. Folger, and 
represented her as being in poor health and destitute 
circumstances, and as a very deserving person. In 
November, 1833, she was taken into the service of 
the family at Singsing, at the request of Matthias 
and Mr. Pierson. She professed to be then, and 
said she had been since Matthias preached at Mr. 
M. H. S. s, a believer in his doctrines. She be 
lieved that Matthias could restore her to health. 
Her oldest child was soon after this refused support 
by the friends it had been with, and it was received 
into the family and continued with Mrs. Folger long 
after the departure of Matthias, and as long as she 
could with convenience keep it. Catharine re 
mained with Mrs. Folger until the close of Decem 
ber. Soon after she left, she called to see Mrs. 
Folger, and said to her that she had had an inter 
view with the coloured woman, and had asked her 
why she had told so many falsehoods about Mrs. 
Folger : that the coloured woman replied, * Because 
she was the means of breaking up the kingdom, 
and added, Catharine, you know we are among 
the Gentiles are obliged to eat pork, and we 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 221 

cannot help telling lies ; besides it s no harm to lie 
to these devils. She concluded by saying, as 
Catharine represented, that she would crush Mrs. 
Folger yet." 

Thus much for the narrative of Mr. and Mrs. 
Folger. It is a round, unvarnished tale of the deep 
and melancholy delusion in which they were in 
volved ; and is, moreover, as far as it goes, a tale 
of unexaggerated, unadorned, and simple truth. 
That such is its character, the writer entertains not 
a particle of doubt. It is much longer than was 
anticipated when Mr. and Mrs. Folger commenced 
preparing it ; but it would have been easier to ex 
tend than to contract it, without the omission of 
things deemed necessary to the development of the 
impostor s character, and to the elucidation of truth. 
It is very possible, moreover, that those who have 
been anticipating disclosures of yet deeper villany 
on the part of Matthews of scenes of licentious 
ness and lust, at the relation of which humanity 
would weep, and modesty veil her face will feel 
some degree of disappointment. Such tales, we 
know, have been circulated, verbally and in print, 
until the ear has been pained, and the soul sick 
ened at their repetition. Nor js_ it, st.rajiga that such 
gross reports should have/obtained currency, 1 The 
mystery which hung over tbF establishment at Sing- 
sing and the known and acknowledged blindness 
and infatuation of the estimable and previously re 
spected proprietors and occupants of the head-quar- 
T2 



222 MATTHIAS AND 

ters of the prophet, and now supposed cten__of 
inicjuity all these circumstances, and others that 
migEt.be recapitulated, conspired to raise suspicion, 
and to give full employment to the hundred tongues 
of rumour. And such would have been the fact 
the worst would have been surmised under the 
circumstances of the case, had every inmate of Mr. 
Folger s house been chaste and pure " as the icicle 
that hung from Dian s temple." And so ready are 
the credulous public ever to believe the worst of a 
tale of scandal, that the immoralities of the leader of 
any sect in religion, remarkable either for its novelty 
or wildness, however flagrant, but too often gives 
colouring to the grossest and most indiscriminate 
charges. But insinuations of such impurities, more 
especially in cases where pure and blameless lives 
have afforded no previous sanction to the scandal, 
ought always to be received with caution. And we 
should be ever careful in our censures of those 
whose errors are founded on the mere perversion 
of reason. " Though we speak with the tongues of 
men and of angels, and have not charity, we are as 
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Charity suf- 
fereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; 
thinketh no evil. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, 
but hopeih all things, and rejoiceth in the truth." 
Let us remember, moreover, that we are all frail 
beings and that we know not how far God 
will allow his people to wander into error, and yet 
bring them back to his fold ; calling also to mind the 
words of the apostle in the following injunction* 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 223 

which applies forcibly in a case like the present : 
" Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye 
which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit 
of meekness ; considering thyself, lest thou also be 
templed. Bear ye one another s burdens, and so 
fulfil the law of Christ." 



224 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Farther notes respecting Mr. Pierson Visit of Mr. Folger with 
a message to Mr. M. at the Bloomingdale Asylum Mr. Lais- 
dell pursues his wife to Singsing, New- York, and back to 
Mount Zion Proceedings by Habeas Corpus Obtains a re 
leaseHigh excitement Conduct of Matthias at Singsing 
Folger breaks with him Is overcome The people resolve 
to drive him from the county Ruse de guerre, and shaving 
of his beard Suspicions of murder in the case of Pierson, 
and of an attempt on the lives of Mr. Folger and family 
The impostor pursued to Albany, arrested, and brought back 
His costly array returned and enumerated Post Mortem exam 
ination of Mr. Pierson Curious conversation with a lawyer 
Matthias s jealousy of a rival, and account, of Mr. Pierson s 
death His examination Other legal proceedings with the 
charge of murder Causes of Pierson s and Folger s losses 
of property Combination of swindlers against them Un 
fortunate directions of the Spirit in regard to machines and 
stocks. 

IN resuming our own connected history of Mat 
thews and his deluded associates, it will be necessa 
ry to recur back a few months, to collect a few scat 
tered particulars which have not been mentioned 
in the preceding narrative from Mr. Folger and his 
wife. Of Mr. Pierson, little remains to be said. 
His diary continued to be kept with considerable 
regularity, after he went to reside at Mount Zion ; 
but the entries were brief, and in general devoid of 
his former religious unction, or of interest of any 
kind. Being confined chiefly to the business of the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 225 

day, and the movements of the principal members 
of the household, to and from New- York, and else 
where. From these entries, it appears that on the 
23d of December, Mr. Folger was baptized by 
Matthews, and on the day following Mr. Pierson 
was himself baptized. On a subsequent day it is 
recorded " Robert Matthias anointed me with oil, 
and I afterward anointed him and Ann [Folger] 
with oiL" The following is another of his record 
ed prayers : 

" Lord Jesus, I ask thee particularly to give me power over 
the drunken spirit, to cast it out of whomsoever I will, and for 
bid it from ever entering again into the same person from whom 
it is cast out." 

In the annexed memorandum we have another 
reference to one of Matthews s visions : 

" Mr. Matthias had his exercises, respecting the sanctuary, 
as follows. An angel said with a loud voice, the sanctuary must 
be cleansed; the sanctuary shall be cleansed ; the sanctuary 
must and shall be cleansed. Speedily, speedily, speedily. " 

On one occasion we find him praying for a mi 
raculous restoration of his decayed teeth, and on 
another that his eye-sight may be restored as in the 
days of his youth. To the former request we find 
no recorded answer ; but in regard to his eye-sight, 
he states, a few days subsequent to the date of his 
prayer, that, chancing to hold his book at a great 
distance from his eyes than he had been wont, he 
could see with much more distinctness ; and he 
records the fact, which is of every-day occurrence 
with those whose eyes are becoming dim by the ad 
vance of years, as a miraculous interposition in 
answer to his prayer ! 



226 MATTHIAS AND 

The. following is a memorandum found among 
Mr. Pierson s papers, in the handwriting of Mr. 
Folger. It shows how entirely the delusion had 
fastened upon his own mind, more strongly even than 
according to his own relation, if that be possible. 

Saturday, January 18, 1834, This morning we left Zion Hill 
for New-York city, with directions from Father to call upon Mr. 
M. at the Bloomingdale asylum on the way. In conformity 
therewith we called, and had an interview with him late in the 
afternoon. After an exchange of the ordinary salutations, we 
proceeded to deliver the message we had received from the 
Father, Robert Matthias, namely : The Father s house has been 
established upon a permanent foundation, at the place which was 
called Mr. Folger s near Singsing. We have been directed to 
say to you, that you are now required to leave this place, and 
come there, where you will be made welcome and happy : pro 
vision having been made for you and your children." 

The journey of Mr. Folger to Albany, early in 
January, 1834, to bring the family of Matthews to 
Mount Zion, has been detailed by him, and is 
in entire accordance with the statement of the same 
transaction by Mrs. Matthews herself. It will be 
recollected that Mrs. M. declined going with her 
children, who were accompanied by their sister, 
Mrs. Laisdell, then recently married. Receiving 
no intelligence from his wife, Laisdell followed her 
to Singsing, where he arrived on or about the first 
of February. Applying at the house of Mr. Pier- 
son, he was informed that his wife was with her 
father in New- York. He pursued them to the city, 
sought out the house in Third-street, and demanded 
her restoration ; but Matthews evaded the requisi 
tion, and returned with his daughter to Singsing. 
Laisdell returned also, and, by the advice of friends, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 227 

sued out a writ of Habeas Corpus. Public indig 
nation was raging fiercely at Singsing against the 
impostor, and on hearing of the treatment his daugh 
ter had received at his hands, the manifestations of a 
popular out-breaking, unless she should be set at lib 
erty, were unequivocal. The citadel was besieged, 
and by the demonstrations of civil officers, clergymen, 
lawyers, and resolute yeomen, they succeeded in 
compelling the arch-fanatic to yield her up in obedi 
ence to the writ. Matthews, his daughter, and Mr. 
Folger were thereupon brought before a magistrate in 
the village, on the 17th of February. At the com 
mencement of the investigation, the former claimed 
Mrs. Laisdell as his daughter. Her husband then 
produced the certificate of their marriage, signed by 
Frederick G. Mayer, pastor of the Lutheran con 
gregation in Albany. Matthews pronounced the 
minister to be a devil, protesting that the devil 
could not marry. He was violent and vociferous 
as usual when excited, and uttered many other ex 
pressions of rudeness and profanity, in the earlier 
stage of the proceedings ; but as a vast multitude 
of people had collected, a portion of whom began 
to assume a threatening attitude, he changed his 
conduct to that of mildness and circumspection. 
Laisdell said he did not wish his wife to return with 
him unless agreeable to her own wishes. It was 
proposed that she should go into a separate room 
and converse with him, to which she consented ; 
but her resolution was changed instantaneously by 
a single glance of her father s eye ; there was no 
use in it," she said, and she did not wish to go with 



228 MATTHIAS AND 

her husband. The magistrate, however, doubtless 
believing that the father was the diabolical spirit, 
rather than the minister who had married them, di 
rected the young woman to be surrendered to her 
husband. The people were greatly exasperated ; 
and but for the prudence of the judge and counsel 
employed on the occasion, the prophet would have 
been stripped of his sacerdotals, and shorn of his 
beard, and all other fantastical appendages : a sub- 
stitute would have been found in a robe of tar and 
feathers. Mr. Folger applied to the court for pro 
tection for himself and family on their return home, 
a distance of about two miles, being convinced that 
they were exposed to danger. The people, how 
ever, assured him that his wife and himself had 
nothing to fear ; but it was only with great difficulty 
that they were restrained from laying violent hands 
on the impostor. But good sense and self-respect 
prevailed in the end ; a carriage was procured, and 
the parties were suffered to leave without molesta 
tion. Matthews had been very insolent to the court, 
in the beginning of the investigation, and the judges 
had only been deterred from committing him for a 
contempt, by the desire of preventing popular tu 
mult and violence. Matthews was not insensible to 
his personal peril, and trembled like an aspen leaf 
while those who were anxious to preserve the pub 
lic peace were leading him to his carriage. 

It was the custom of Matthews to ride out in his 
" chariot" almost daily, while residing at Singsing ; 
and as he made all the purchases, and laid in all 
the supplies for the establishment at Mount Zion, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 229 

his visits to the village were frequent ; but he 
usually met, when there, with those expressions of 
reprehension and disgust which he deserved repel 
ling them with the bitterest cursings, and his wonted 
absurd threatenings respecting his power to inflict 
chastisement upon the offenders. But those out 
pourings of his distempered spirit were regarded 
only with emotions of contempt. Meantime, he was 
amply supplied with money : he directed the pur 
chase and sale of horses at his pleasure procured 
every luxury he desired, and seemed to revel with a 
sway uncontrolled in the paradise which his deluded 
followers had placed at his disposal. 

Mr. Folger and his family had been sincerely re 
spected at Singsing, and deservedly so. The sym 
pathy for his situation was great ; while for Mat 
thews, but one sentiment that of universal disgust 
was entertained. He was considered by all 
classes as an interloper upon Mr. Folger, who 
would ruin his peace of mind, his reputation, and, 
probably, his eternal prospects. Many remon 
strances were urged upon Mr. Folger, and he was 
faithfully and affectionately advised to discard him, 
but without avail. At one time, he returned to 
Mount Zion from the city with his soul on fire, ap 
parently, and with his eyes open as to his real situa 
tion ; to his friends he declared Matthews to be a 
gross impostor, and promised to eject him forthwith ; 
asking advice and assistance of them, if neces 
sary. But on entering the charmed castle, he be 
came spell-bound, and was unmanned. Deeming it 
a favourable moment to dismiss the impostor, a few 
U 



230 MATTHIAS AND 

friends of Mr. F. waited on him that evening, and 
urged the fulfilment of his purpose ; but he begged 
them to leave him, and the next day declared, " Mat 
thias s doctrines must be true, or I am a ruined 
man /" At this point human endurance was at an 
end, and he was frankly told that the impostor must 
leave the county that day, or violent measures would 
be taken to remove him. 

Matthews, ever alive to approaching danger, 
made instant preparations for his departure to the 
city ; but several individuals determined upon hav 
ing a frolic at his expense before his flight, for which 
purpose matters were well arranged. Just as he 
was about to step into his chariot, he was arrested 
by a pretended officer, accompanied by several asso 
ciates to enforce his authority. Matthews demanded 
a sight of the precept, but the counterfeit officer de 
clined exhibiting it. They returned into the house 
to converse upon the subject. But the moment 
they had succeeded in getting Matthews within 
doors, the keys were turned. After a parley of 
some duration, the prophet consented to go to the 
village. The supposed officer then gravely informed 
him of a conspiracy to divest him of his beard. He 
stated that there were a party of fellows in ambush 
by the way, determined to seize him and cut off his 
beard before he should enter the village ; and he 
kindly advised him to take off his beard before 
he left the house. It was a sore trial for Mat 
thews, for the beard of Mahomet himself was 
not more sacred in his own eyes, or in those 
of his followers. Being convinced, however, that 
discretion was the better part of valour, he at length 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



231 



yielded to the suggestion, and the officer himself 
condescended to perform the operation of divesting 
lim at once of his glory and his strength. He was 
then taken to the village as in custody, and after 
>eing exhibited beardless to the people, was dis 
charged on the ground of a defect in the warrant, 
in this predicament he fled to the city, and took 
refuge in Third-street, as related in the narrative of 
Mr. Folger. 

The history is now resumed -at the point where it 
was left by the narrative referred to. With the ab 
sence of the impostor himself, and the return of rea 
son and reflection, Mr. Folger and his wife now 
began every hour to perceive, more and more clearly, 
the strange delusion by which they had so long and 
so fatally been influenced. Every moment also in 
creased the abhorrence and detestation with which 
they looked upon the character of the impostor. 
Recalling all the circumstances of the case the 
conduct of Matthews at the table, when he refused 
to partake of the fruit which they supposed to have 
caused the death of Pierson remembering, more 
over, his threats towards themselves, when he per 
ceived his power over their imaginations was depart 
ing and the sickness which had followed those 
threats upon every member of the family who par 
took of the coffee, which neither Matthews nor the 
cook, who was his disciple, would themselves taste 

strange misgivings now took possession of their 

minds, "hat Mr. Pierson might have died by foul 
means, and that an attempt, by poison, had been 
made upon their own lives. In. .any event, it was 
now manifest that they had \$&i morihshamefully 



* 



232 MATTHIAS AND 

deluded and swindled by the false pretences of (he 
impostor, and, after consulting with his friends, on 
the 19th of September, Mr. Folger caused an adver 
tisement to be inserted in the papers, offering a re 
ward of one hundred dollars for the apprehension of 
Matthews ; in consequence of which he was arrested 
at Albany, where he had taken lodgings on escaping 
from New-York visiting his wife, more like a stran 
ger than a husband, and making no provision for 
her support. On his person were found five hundred 
and five dollars in gold, part of the money obtained 
from Mr. Folger, and the gold watch, chain, &c., 
which had also been obtained from him. The cir 
cumstances were these : In January, 1834, Mat 
thews informed him that a watch which had been 
given to him by Mr. Pierson had been taken from 
him, and that it was his (Folger s) duty to give him 
another, which he accordingly did purchasing a 
new gold watch, with chain, seal, and key, of the 
value of one hundred and fifteen dollars, for the pur 
pose. Information of his arrest, under the adver 
tisement, having been received from Albany, accom 
panied by an intimation that unless demanded by 
legal process, he would be set at liberty, Mr. 
Folger, with his counsel, went before one of the 
police magistrates and made a deposition, embracing 
not indeed the whole particulars of his connection 
with Matthews, but sufficient to bring the latter 
within the operation of the law, and far more, as 
may well be imagined, than sufficient to prove him 
either a raving madman, or one of the most impu 
dent and shameless impostors that ever existed. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 233 

A warrant was issued upon the strength of this 
deposition, with which an officer was despatched to 
Albany, and by virtue of which the impostor was 
speedily brought to New-York. 

Among other articles found with him when ar 
rested, was a very beautiful two-edged sword, which 
he called the sword of Gideon, and which, he de 
clared, was miraculously preserved and put into his 
possession. On examining it, however, it exhibited 
strong marks of having once belonged to, or at 
least 1)eeri made for, an officer of the United States 
army, as the blade of it was inscribed with the na 
tional motto, " E pluribus umim." Along with this 
eword was found a six-feet rule, marked like a car 
penter s scale, which, the impostor said, was to 
measure the New Jerusalem, in order to divide it 
into lots for such as believed in and assisted to sup 
port him. But the antiquity of the scale was also 
disproved on examination, by the inscription " Kutz, 
maker, JVb. 164 Water-street, New-York." Along 
with these articles was a large gold key, or at least 
a key that looked like gold, which, he stated, was 
given him to unlock the gates of heaven. The of 
ficer also brought with his prisoner two large trunks 
and a carpet-bag the latter filled with new boots, 
shoes, and pumps, and the former with linen and 
wearing apparel of the richest and most costly 
description. Linen shirts of exquisite fineness, the 
wristbands fringed with delicate lace, silk stockings 
and handkerchiefs, kid and other gloves, and a great 
variety of similar articles filled one of the trunks ; 
while the other contained his gold-mounted cocked 
U2 



; 

d 



234 MATTHIAS AND 

hat, an olive cloak of the finest-texture, lined through 
out with velvet and silk ; a new green and brown 
frock-coat of similar quality, the former heavily em 
broidered with gold, and the latter with silver, in the 
form of stars, with a large sun on one breast and 
seven stars on the other ; two merino morning- 
dresses ; and other rich et cseteras " too tedious to 
mention." But the rarest articles of all were two 
night-caps, made of linen cambric, folded in the 
form of a mitre, richly embroidered one with the 
names of the twelve apostles written around it, and 
" Jesus Matthias" adorning the front in more con 
spicuous characters ; the other surrounded with the 
names of the twelve tribes, the front embellished the 
same as the other. The whole -betokened the ut 
most extravagance and lavish expenditure of money 
and labour ; and months must have been spent by 
female hands (probably those of some one or more 
of his disciples) in ornamenting and making up the 
apparel of this dainty impostor. 

Some days intervened after his arrivaHn New- 
York before an examination could be held. Mean 
time, and during the absence of Matthews at Albany, 
the death of Mr. Pierson had been followed by no 
small degree of excitement at Singsing. A multi 
tude of rumours were in circulation, and a legal in 
vestigation into the causes of his death was com 
menced. The body of the deceased was disinterred 
at Morristown, and, on a post mortem examination, 
several respectable physicians certified " that they 
found in the stomach a large quantity of an unwhole 
some and deadly substance, which had been intro- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 235 

duced accidentally or otherwise." The publication 
of these facts had of course increased the excite 
ment upon the subject in New-York and elsewhere. 
On the morning of his examination, however, a 
scene occurred in his apartment, which it is neces 
sary to describe, in order to the farther illustration 
of his own character, and also to disclose a new cir 
cumstance in the history, as connected with Mr. 
Pierson. While waiting for the commencement of 
the proceedings, Mr. VV , a counsellor in the in 
terest of Mr. Folger, and who, in the course of his 
professional business, had known much of the con 
nection of Matthews with Pierson and his client, 
stepped into the apartment in which the prisoner 
was detained, seating himself, and taking not the 
least notice of him. Matthews knew the gentleman 
perfectly, but for a time affected ignorance striding 
about the apartment with affected dignity, and ex 
claiming " devil ! devil!" evidently with the design 
of provoking remark, or at least of attracting atten 
tion. Failing in this, he all at once changed his 
manner, and approached the gentleman with com 
parative courtesy, remarking : 

i Mr. W , I believe 1" 

Well," replied the gentleman, with indifference, 
" what should you think about it? 

46 Why," rejoined the impostor, with an arch wink 
of the eye and a sardonic grin, " I I should 
think it was." 

The gentleman then spoke to him thus : " JNow, 
Matthias, you know me very well, and you know 
thdt I know you very well. You need not, there- 



236 MATTHIAS AND 

fore, put on any of your airs, as I shall not regard 
them, or reverence your godship." 

Upon this salutation, Matthews lowered his pre 
tensions, and began to converse like any other man. 
He inquired what people said of him out of doors ; 
what they said of Pierson s death ; and what of his 
connection with it ; and other questions of the like 
general character. To all which an indifferent an 
swer of not having heard, or not knowing much 
about it, was returned. Matthews, however, was 
for once communicative, and expressed a desire to 
talk over the whole subject. And here, for the due 
understanding of the case, and in justice to another 
party, it must be observed, that Mrs. * * *, the 
original author of the whole chain of fanatical 
measures which had prepared the way for Matthews, 
had never herself become one of his followers. 
She had brought the delusion upon Mr. and Mrs, 
Pierson and the other associates, but she would 
never join the prophet, and, indeed, she endeavoured 
to dissuade others from following him. And Mat 
thews, on his part, was jealous of her influence, at 
times, over Pierson considering her a rival of him 
self. 

With this explanation, we proceed : Matthews 
said to Mr. W , that Pierson would not have 
died, had he not lost his faith in him. He then 
mentioned that about a fortnight before his sickness 
Pierson made a visit to the residence of the lady re 
ferred to, then living in the country, and on his re 
turn to the house in Third-street, he (Matthews) 
discovered that he (Pierson) was losing his faith in 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 237 

him : that when he (Pierson) came up to Singsing, 
just previous to his sickness, he perceived that the 
spirit of truth was departing from him : he was still 
losing his confidence in him, &c. &c. The 
prophet then proceeded to relate the circumstances 
of the picking of the blackberries by himself and his 
son John ; but he added, that having discovered 
that there was a curse upon the blackberries that 
season, he neither ate any of them himself, nor per 
mitted his son to eat any. He dwelt upon the sub 
ject at large ; and concluded this branch of his dis 
course by declaring, that notwithstanding the curse 
upon the fruit, yet that Pierson might nevertheless 
have been saved, but for his want of faith in him 
hinting evidently at the transfer of his faith to some 
one else ; a matter that was well understood. 

Having thus got into conversation with him, the 
gentleman determined to indulge his curiosity for the 
moment, by inquiring into the origin of his prophetic 
character. He asked him, " Matthias, how long is 
it since you supposed that there was something pe 
culiar in your character, or have you but recently 
discovered it ?" 

Matthews then came and sat down by his side, 
placing his hand familiarly upon him, and went into 
the whole subject. He said that some years previ 
ous to his removing to Albany, when alone one day 
at Fort Miller, he had a revelation of his extraor 
dinary character, which revelation was afterward re 
peated at Albany. But by this time he began to 
soar into the clouds again. He stated that on a 
certain day, while walking down South Market- 



238 MATTHIAS AND 

street, suddenly he had a view of the New Jerusa 
lem the folding gates of which spontaneously 
opened at his approach. A sort of mist at first ob 
scured his vision, but that soon passed away, and he 
stood amid the blazing glories of the place ra 
diant with ineffable light. He proceeded to give a 
gorgeous description of the splendour which shone 
and flashed above and around him ; and in conclu 
sion declared that he then and there first received 
his commission in the cause of temperance, and to ! 
break down all secret societies. Immediately there 
after he commenced his ministry. 

This was on the 1st day of October, and the 
time of proceeding to business having arrived, the 
examination was had before Mr. Justice Wyman, 
the presiding magistrate ; his manner was subdued, 
and he answered the questions put to him in a mild 
low tone of voice. The following is the substance 
of his statements, almost literally in his own words. 

" My name is Matthias, which is the name I in 
herited from my father ; I am forty-six years old, 
and was born at Cambridge, Washington county, in 
this state. I am a traveller, but Zion Hill is my 
legal home. I am a Jewish .teacher a Driest of Jhe 
Most High preaching, saying, and doing all that I 
do under oath, by virtue of having subscribed to all 
the covenants that God has mnde unto man, from 
the beginning of the world chief high-priest of the 
Jews, after the order of Melchisedeck, the last 
chosen of the apostles and the first of the resurrec 
tion, which is at the end of 2300 years after the build 
ing of Jerusalem by Cyrus, and 1260 after the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 239 

birth of the false prophet Mahomet, whose power 
ended in 1830. I am now denouncing a judgment 
on the Gentiles, which is to he executed in this pre 
sent age. All the blood, from Zechariuh to the 
death of the last witness, is required of this gene 
ration, and before this generation passeth away, the 
judgment shall be fulfilled. I am the spirit of truth, 
and 1 declare these things, and that the hour of 
God s judgment is at hand. 

"In my character of preacher, I have endeavoured 
to impress all men with the truth and importance of 
the doctrines I have just stated, but not more upon 
Mr. Folger than others. 

" I have never told him that I possessed the i 
power of life and death, and the remission of sins ; f 
nor that if he believed in me he would be saved, 
and if he did not that he would be damned. But I \ 
have declared to him and to all, that they must obey 
the dictates of the spirit of truth in all things, as vv 
did Jesus of Naz;ireth. I say that my person is a j 
trumpet whereby the spirit of truth speaks, and de- | 
clares that all must believe in that spirit and obey 
its dictates, whereby they will be saved ; and that 
if they do not, they will be damned. 

" In all my preaching, and especially to strangers, 
I have always declared that I could receive nothing 
from them as a gift of their property, but that, if 
they believed themselves to have property which 
belonged to God, they might give it to me, if they 
pleased, as his servant ; and I have never received 
any thing in any other way from any person, since I 
began to preach the everlasting gospel. Mr. Fol- 



240 MATTHIAS AND 

ger, Mr. Pierson, and Mr. M. said they believed 
me to be the Father, qualified and ordained to es 
tablish the kingdom of God upon earth ; and for 
that purpose Zion Hill was made over to me, with 
all the furniture, carriages, and other things belong 
ing to it ; the furniture and other things in the house 
No. 8 Third-street, in this city, were also made 
over to me, and the house itself was to be made 
over also, but Mr. Pierson died before the deed was 
executed. A bill in Chancery was afterward filed 
against me, and I consented to restore the property ; 
but I still claim it for the purpose of establishing 
God s kingdom upon earth, as the beginning of 
which it was originally conveyed to me. 

" In June or July, 1833, as near as I can recol 
lect, Mr. Folger invited me to make his house my 
home, and I did reside with him a short time that 
was before the property was transferred to me. 

"I have received from him at various times gold in 
exchange for bank notes of my own ; there were va 
rious money transactions between him, and Mr. Pier- 
son, and me, in which we accommodated each other 
as occasion required. I have received money from 
Mr. Folger at different times, to what amount I can 
not say precisely, but I remember that at one time 
I had of him the sum of twenty-seven hundred dol 
lars. From him and Mr. Pierson I have received 
in all about ten thousand dollars, but five thousand 
of this were in a bond and mortgage originally given 
to secure Mrs. Folger that sum of her own sepa 
rate estate, and afterward transferred to me. All 
v the money I received has been expended in furnish- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 241 

ing the establishments at Zion Hill, and No. 8 
Third-street, and in defraying the expenses at both 
those houses. I acted in all these matters in per 
fect good faith, as the Father. Mr. Folger has the 
bills of all the payments I made." 

After this examination he was committed for 
trial. But in consequence of the appearance of the 
examination in the morning papers, at full length, Mr. 
Folger made the following communication through 
the Commercial Advertiser of the following day : 

TO THE PUBLIC. 

I had intended, by the advice of several judicious friends, not 
to have noticed any of the statements of the impostor Matthias, 
or of the wild rumours growing out of the delusion I have been 
under in reference to him ; but as the statements made by him 
in his examination before the Police yesterday, as published in 
the morning papers, are calculated to injure me seriously, I 
think it best to deny those statements, the object of them, with 
Matthias, being, no doubt, to crush me if possible. I have no 
objection that Matthias, or any one else, should state the whole 
truth in reference to any transaction of mine, but that which 
is totally untrue I must protest against, and, when necessary, 
meet and refute. 

Matthias stated in his examination yesterday, that on one oc 
casion he received from me $2,700 ; this is true as far as it 
goes ; but the whole truth is this : that early in the present year 
I sold a property, for which the party paid me about three o clock 
too late to be deposited in the bank that afternoon. I was 
going to Hartford that afternoon in the steamboat, and fearing to 
take it in my pocket, I left it in his charge for safe-keeping until 
my return, which was in about forty-eight hours ; so that he did 
in fact receive $2.700 from me, and kept it until I returned, when 
I received it again from him. 

The statement about a mortgage of $5,000, either on my place 
at Singsing, or any other property to secure that sum to the 
estate of Mrs. Folger, is totally untrue. No such mortgage was 
ever given. 

A.S it regards Mr. Pierson having directed that a deed of 
Third-street property should be given, it is entirely new to me 
and he is not living to state what he did say to Matthias. I 
know nothing about it, but I do not think he ever directed it, for 



242 MATTHIAS AND 

the simple reason, that when he is said to have done it I was largely 
in advance to him in joint speculations, and he knew that 1 felt 
no disposition to be any more so. All I ask of my friends is, to 
be cautious in receiving the statements of this deceitful crea 
ture, and leave me to manage all my concerns with him. To 
all who are interested I can exhibit a perfectly clear statement 
of my concerns, and satisfy them that I have and shall act up 
rightly with all men. 

BENJAMIN H. FOLGER. 

On the 16th of October, Matthews was arraigned 
before the Court of Sessions, on an indictment found 
by the Grand Jury, setting forth in substance that 
" The said Robert Matthias, devising and intending 
by unlawful ways and means to obtain possession 
of the moneys, goods, chattels, and effects of divers 
good people of the state of New- York, and to de 
fraud and cheat Benjamin H. Folger, did falsely 
pretend that he was God the Father had power to 
forgive sins and to communicate the Holy Ghost, 
and that if the said B. H. Folger would provide 
him with money, he the said B. H. Folger would 
have God s blessing. That the said B. H. Folger 
believing those representations, gave the said Mat 
thias one hundred pieces of gold coin, of the value of 
five hundred and thirty dollars, and one hundred dol 
lars in bank notes, which the said Matthias feloniously 
received by means of the false pretences aforesaid." 
Matthews by his counsel pleaded not guilty, wav 
ing whatever legal objections might be taken to the 
indictment, and the trial was postponed until the 
November term. Something was said by the pris 
oner s counsel in the nature of an application for his 
discharge on bail, but the district attorney intimat 
ing that a warrant had been issued in Westchester 
county against Matthews on a capital charge (for the 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 243 

murder of Mr. Pierson) the application was not 
persisted in, and he was remanded to prison. 

On the 8th of November he was again placed at 
the bar of the court, dressed in his richest and most 
fantastic garb, with his pink-lined green coat, crim 
son sash, lace-ruffles at his wristbands, a silver 
sun upon the left and stars of the same metal on the 
right side of his breast. He appeared cheerful, and 
conversed freely with those about him. 

The District Attorney intimated to the court that 
he had strong doubts whether the indictment could 
be sustained, even admitting that the allegations set 
forth in it could be established, lie had laid all 
the facts in his possession before the Grand Jury, 
and stated to them his doubts as to their constitu 
ting an indictable offence, but. they had thought it 
their duty to find the bill. There were two difficul 
ties in the case ; to make out an indictable offence, 
it would be necessary to show, first, that the repre 
sentations made by Matthews were such as were 
calculated to impose on a man of ordinary prudence 
and understanding, and, second, that they were 
false ; and both these matters he thought it would 
be impossible to prove. Things might be averred 
which the majority of the community would never 
believe absurdities at which reason revolted ; but 
where was the testimony to prove them false ? So 
far as the prosecutor was concerned, he had to say 
that the gentleman did not wish the case to proceed 
any farther ; and here the District Attorney read the 
following note from Mr. Folger to his counsel, 



244 MATTHIAS AND 

"New-York, Oct. 23, 1834. 

"DEAR SIR, 

"Mr. Hoffman, as I understand you, having expressed strong 
doubts in regard to the indictment against Matthias being sus 
tained, and it being likewise your own, as well as that of several 
other lawyers, in whose opinions I have confidence, I thmk it 
would be best to discontinue the proceedings altogether. II you 
think it is proper, do so ; I should think it would be best to ask 
the District Attorney to dismiss the case the offence charged 
upon him not being an indictable one and release the creature 
entirely. His day so far as passing himself for a pure and up 
right man has passed, and there is no danger of his imposing 
upon any one here or elsewhere. 

" With respect and esteem, yours, 

"BENJAMIN H. FOLGER " 

After reading this document, the District Attor 
ney, saying that he believed the indictment could not 
be sustained, and that farther inquiry would only 
tend to make Mr. Folger and his family more un 
happy than they were already, moved the Court to 
enter a nolle-prosequi. The Court said they would 
look into the indictment, and decide on the follow 
ing Monday whether the case should or should not 
be proceeded in. 

In the afternoon of the same day the following 
note from Mr. Folger appeared in the Commercial 
Advertiser. 

New-York, November 8, 1834. 

MESSRS. EDITORS : I am informed by my friends that the 
notice in the morning papers of the proceedings in Court in 
reference to Matthias, has led some to suppose that I have re 
lapsed into a belief in him and his blasphemous doctrines. Lest 
it should be so supposed, you will do me a favour to state dis 
tinctly in your paper of this evening that I have long since re 
nounced his doctrines entirely, and believe him to be one of the 
most base and deceitful beings on earth. This is likewise the 
opinion of every member of my family, and my object is now to 
rid my self of him and those connected with him, with as little 
trouble as possible. Mr. Pierson, myself, and family, have been 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 245 

deeply, very deeply deluded, deceived, and imposed upon ; and 
I regret exceedingly that the former could not have been spared 
to witness the deep deception. We are sensible of our error 
we repent it sincerely ; and although we cannot expect to re 
cover, at present, the situation which we held in society previous 
to our acquaintance with this vile creature, yet, in time, we 
shall be able to show that we are enemies to him, and all who 
undertake to sustain him in his wickedness and plans to de 
stroy us. 

BENJAMIN H. FOLGER. 

On Tuesday, the llth of November, the Re 
corder, presiding in the Court of Sessions, on being 
applied to by the District Attorney for the decision 
of the court in the matter of the indictment, stated 
that he had that morning received a warrant from a 
justice of the peace in the county of Westchester, 
with an endorsement thereon by James Hopson, one 
of the police magistrates of the city of New-York, 
to whom it had been sent (according to the requisi- 
sition of the statute), allowing the same to be served 
in the city. That the court had taken the whole 
matter into consideration, and had arrived at the 
unanimous conclusion that it would become them to 
yield the prisoner first for trial on the graver charge ; 
if he should be acquitted on that, it would then be 
time for the court to act on the minor indictment. 

This course was very strenuously opposed by the 
counsel for the prisoner, but their arguments failed 
to shake the determination of the court, and Mat 
thews was accordingly surrendered into the custody 
of the sheriff of Westchester. 

The legal proceedings that have recently taken 
place respecting him in that county will form the 
Subject of the ensuing chapter. Meantime, there 
X2 



246 MATTHIAS AND 

are two or three matters belonging to the history, 
which will be disposed of in the present. 

From the bankruptcy of Mr. Folger, and the 
melting away of the estate of Mr. Pierson, it has 
been supposed that Matthews was himself the 
swindler. Such, however, is probably not the fact, 
to any greater extent than the amount of money ex 
torted by him from his disciples, to lavish in pro 
curing the fantastical decorations of his person, and 
the means of his voluptuous living. Mr. Folger 
estimates his loss, directly, by his association with 
Matthews, at four thousand five hundred dollars. 
His failure was produced, first, by the withdrawal 
of bank accommodations, in consequence of the 
peculiar state of mind under which he appeared to 
be labouring, and, secondly, by the failure of a friend 
for whom he was an endorser. The following 
letter from him to one of the household at Singsing, 
stated, and doubtless truly, the immediate cause of 
his stopping payment. It also throws some light 
upon the condition of his own mind at the time. It 
is rather light and gay for a devotee, arid the con 
cluding paragraph shows that the community at 
Mount Zion were not ignorant of the opinions of 
the world as to the disordered state of their intellects. 
It is without date, but must have been written early 
in March, 1834 : 

" < Well, Tommy, how does thee do, now-a-days ? 

" Sad, sad enough, Benjamin, for the bottom is all out! 1 

" The above was my salutation of Tommy F , the first 

time I met him after his failure. I am reminded of it just now 

by the great muss things are getting into here. Mr. , very 

unexpectedly to me, and himself too, determined upon stopping 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 247 

to-day : but upon my insisting that he should demand from the 
holders of the note due to-day an extension, that I might have 
time to put things right, he did it ; and I shall continue to pay until 

Wednesday or Saturday. Mr. s failure will be a very bad 

one. He will not be able to protect me or anybody else in our 
endorsements, and there is not, therefore, any escape that I can 
see, but that I must stop, and a half-dozen others. But, of course, 

this is for the court only. I have written Judge K a letter 

this evening, and I send enclosed a copy of it, which please read 
and burn. 

" It is quiet in Third-street, when Mrs. A is out of the 

room (but never when she is in it), as a churchyard ; and, as I 
am rather inclined to a quiet turn of mind, it is delightful ! One 
month of it, I should think, would knock the bottom out of Jew 
or Gentile. 

" Sanity and Insanity Everybody thinks his neighbour mad, 
if his pursuits happen to be opposite to his own. His neighbour 
thinks the same of him : but then these two kinds of madness 
do not interfere with each other. Then there comes an eccen 
tric man, who, taking a just view of things, thinks them all mad 
him they would lock up. I appoint Edward to kiss the whole 
tribe for me. I am the same 

ONE." 



Mr. Folger failed, as he foresaw he must do 
when he wrote this letter, and from the causes men 
tioned therein and elsewhere. 

Mr. Pierson and Mr. Folger both suffered in 
their estates very severely, from other causes, one 
of which tells a darker tale of human depravity, than 
(aside from the conduct of Matthews) has been re 
corded yet in the present volume. There is no 
doubt of the fact, that there were a set of thorough 
bred knaves hanging about the skirts of Pierson and 
Folger more especially the former a knot of har 
pies, who, availing themselves of the delusion by 
which those gentlemen were blinded, sported with 
their credulity under pretext of joining the associa 
tion, but in reality to plunder them of their property. 



248 MATTHIAS AND 

Such an impression has long been entertained by 
those conversant with their pecuniary concerns, and 
\vhen circumstances previously known are com 
pared with some of the private, but imperfect, 
memoranda left by Mr. Pierson, the proof is as 
clear as could be desired, that there was indeed a 
combination of robbers who plundered them, though 
the evidence is not exactly such as can bring home 
the facts, in a legal form, to a court and jury. The 
loose papers just referred to, contain various entries 
of moneys advanced, or rather given, to these people. 
To one individual, on a certain occasion, he gave 
the sum of one thousand dollars, by direction, as he 
supposed, of the Holy Spirit, and with a promise 
from the same source that he should receive three 
fold in return. Pierson and Folger were likewise 
inveigled into various unfortunate speculations in 
patented inventions, by which many sums of money 
were lost. What some of these unlucky adventures 
were, the reader will discover by the following prayer, 
taken from the papers of the former : 

Nov. 12th, 1833. Spirit of Truth! guide us into the right way 
concerning the globe stove, self-loading cart, [and] planing ma 
chine. Manifest thy mind concerning these things, that we may 
know and do thy pleasure. 

I ask that the evil spirits may have no power to hinder the 
successful and beneficial operation of these things. 

O Lord God, let not the enemies triumph over us, but send 
help, such as is needed. 

We [I] consecrate the gain to the building of thy kingdom. 
Now, Lord God, hear this my prayer. 

They likewise embarked to a considerable extent 
in speculations of real estate always under the di- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 249 

rection of the Holy Spirit Mr. Pierson having the 
vision, and Mr. Folger making the purchases and 
sales. These were not all unsuccessful, but no 
very great profits were realized. And even had 
there been, the avails would have been swallowed 
up in the stock operations which Mr. Pierson sup 
posed he was making by the same Divine direction. 
The following is a copy of one of his spiritual 
missives, to Mr. Folger, to purchase stock : 

June 3, 1833. Wrote to B. H. Folger : " Now is the accepted 
time; buy three hundred shares. Let it be left with thee to 
sell, and I will direct. More than ten will he ohtained for it. 
Cost, 105 per cent." 

The stock was purchased, and a heavy loss was 
the consequence. But enough has been written 
upon this branch of the subject, and it is time to 
shift the scene. 



250 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER IX. 

Trial of Matthews before the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 
Westchester First, as to the question of his sanity Second, 
on the indictment for murder Third, for the assault and bat 
tery upon his daughter, Mrs. Laisdell. 

THE warrant upon which Matthews had been sur 
rendered by the civil authorities of New-York to 
those of the county of Westchester, was issued 
upon information as to the circumstances attending 
Mr. Pierson s death, contained in the deposition of 
Mrs. Dratch the female mentioned in the narra 
tive of Mr. Folger, who came to their residence 
during the illness of the deceased, and remained 
there until his death. Mrs. Dratch, it will be re 
collected, came there for pecuniary assistance. The 
following is a copy of the deposition referred to : 

" Mrs. Dratch testifies, that on the llth of August, 1834, she 
came from New-York, with the intention of visiting Mr. Pier- 
son, he having been many years her particular friend. When 
she reached his house, she saw Matthias, who appeared to he 
much excited, and told her that Mr. Pierson was sick, and that 
she could not then see him. But on repeating her request, was 
put off, and answered by Matthias, that when Mr. Pierson came 
from the bath, she might see him. When night came on, she 
was urged by Matthias to go to bed, which she did from fear, 
and slept but little, and in the morning was told that Mr. Pier- 
son was dead, but no one could tell by what means ; but she 
heard him utter several groans daring the night, and in the 
morning, when she arose, was told by Matthias that he was 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 251 

No person in the house could tell how he came by his 
death; and she has the impression on her mind, that Matthias 
has, by some means, been instrumental in his death. And hav 
ing seen the certificate of four respectable physicians, that some 
unwholesome or deadly substance was found in the stomach of 
Fierson, she founds her belief thereon that he has been pois 
oned, and therefore on this evidence the undersigned gave his 
warrant. "CHARLES YEO, Westchester county." 

The reader \yould hardly suppose from the terms 
of this deposition, that the informant was on such 
apparently friendly terms with Matthews, during the 
illness of her friend and benefactor, as appeared to 
be the case while she was there. Still, upon such 
testimony, and from the evidence of the physicians 
who examined the body of the deceased,* the Grand 
Jury was unquestionably right in finding a bill. 

Thursday the 16th of April, 1835, was assigned 
for the trial of Matthews on the indictment for the 
murder of Mr. Pierson, but on account of the ab 
sence of witnesses the case was deferred until the 
next day. On returning from the Court to the jail, 
he was asked how he felt, and answered, " I feel 
that the Lord is my stay, and will be my exceeding 
great reward like gold seven times refined shall I 
come out of this fiery furnace ; but as I have lost 
my dinner, I am now hungry and weak, and should 
like to have a bite of something." He refused to 
shake hands with any person, saying, " Know ye not 
that it is written, touch not the prophet of the 
Lord ? " A young man coming to the door of his 
cell expressed a wish " to have a peep at the old 

* For the statement of Dr. Condit, written by himself for 
this work, see Appendix. 



252 MATTHIAS AND 

devil ;" and Matthews sternly rebuked him, saying, 
" Young man, I wonder your tongue does not cleave 
to your mouth, thus to address the prophet of the i 
Lord. But it is as in the time of Jesus of Naza- I 
reth, when they said he hath a devil. " 

During his confinement he had issued a decree 
commanding all the farmers to lay aside their 
ploughs, declaring, "As I live, there shall be no more 
sowing in the earth until I, the twelfth and last of the 
apostles, am delivered out of the house of bond 
age." He also prophesied that if he were con 
victed, White Plains should be destroyed by an 
earthquake, and not an inhabitant be left to tell the 
tale of its destruction ; and strange to say, men 
were not found wanting who believed in his absurd 
and blasphemous predictions. 

Previous to his removal on the day above men 
tioned, he addressed the Court, although informed 
he must be silent and leave his cause in the hands 
of his counsel, vociferating in a loud voice, " I pro 
test against the proceedings I learn that evidence 
has been taken in secret before the Grand Jury I 
object to all secret institutions, for they are cursed 
of God cursed of God, and were dissolved five 
years ago." These last words were uttered in a 
loud voice, and with such extravagance of gesture 
that the Court ordered him to be removed ; a com 
mand to which he submitted very readily, but, on 
reaching the door, burst forth at the utmost power 
of his loud, shrill voice, repeating, " Dissolved, dis 
solved, dissolved," until he was borne away. 

There is some reason to suppose that he did not 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 253 

commit these extravagances without a motive ; at 
all events, their effect was to induce the court, on 
the suggestion of his counsel that he was insane, to 
direct the trial of that issue, before proceeding to the 
charge of murder ; and a jury was accordingly em 
panelled for that purpose. 

The first witness examined as to his sanity or in 
sanity, was Dr. Martyn Paine, of New- York, who 
stated his belief that Matthews was not of sound 
mind, forming his opinion partly from the extrava 
gant notions entertained by the prisoner, but still 
more from the manner in which he expressed them. 
He inferred insanity, also, from a peculiar expres 
sion of the prisoner s eye, which it was difficult to 
describe, but which was almost invariably found in 
men of disordered intellect. Dr. Paine stated, 
however, that Matthews himself denied that he was 
insane, and evidently understood what he was doing; 
and that his memory was sound and clear. 

Dr. David L. Rogers, of New- York, had seen 
the prisoner for the first time on the preceding Tues 
day. Dr. Rogers repeated his conversation with 
the prisoner, in which the wild and extravagant no 
tions of the latter were detailed at length, and in 
which he had stated, among other absurdities, that 
he had a controlling power over political affairs ; 
that he possessed the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth ; 
that if Mr. Pierson had confided in him he would 
have been saved from death ; but that he (Pierson) 
had lost the spirit he had once possessed by preach 
ing it away ; that he had been possessed of a mer 
cantile spirit, which he had given to Mr. Folger, 
Y 



256 MATTHIAS AND 

fairs well. Could see no difference between him 
and other men, when he chose to behave rationally. 

Doctors Paine and Rogers being recalled by the 
prisoner s counsel, stated that insane persons are 
generally more easily intimidated than men of right 
mind. After which the jury were charged by the 
court, retired to their room, and returned in about 
five minutes with a verdict that the prisoner was 
not insane. The opinion of the writer on the ques 
tion thus decided by the jury, will be expressed else 
where. 

On Friday, the 17th, he was again brought up for 
trial on the indictment, and, after the facts expected 
to be proved had been stated by the District Attorney, 
Jesse Bishop was called as the first witness. He 
stated that he had known the prisoner and Mr. Pier- 
son at Singsing, his residence being within a mile 
and a half of that place. Mr. Pierson and the 
prisoner appeared to have the control of the estab 
lishment. Witness saw the dead body of Mr. Pier- 
son, about the first week in August, laid out on a 
board, in a room in the south part of Mr. Folger s 
house. It was covered with a sheet ; the eyes and 
mouth were open. The prisoner, Mrs. Folger, the 
woman named Catharine, Mr. Pierson s daughter 
Elizabeth, and a hired man named Louis Basil, were 
also present. Witness went there at the written re 
quest of the prisoner, to assist in burying Mr. Pier- 
son. There were bruises on the knees of the body, 
but otherwise it was in a natural condition. One 
of the hands was closed, but there was no distortion 
of the eyes or of the limbs. Witness had heard 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 257 

the prisoner direct Pierson about a job of work as 
he would a hired man. Heard him on one occasion 
order Pierson to remove some poles, and when it 
was not done promptly, the prisoner said, " when he 
wanted a job done, he wished it done thoroughly." 
Witness once saw Mr. Pierson and the prisoner on 
the road, going towards the house, the former walk 
ing before the latter, who was riding one horse and 
leading another, which was saddled. Did not per 
ceive any traces of ill-will between them. 

Moses Cheny stated that he was sexton, and had 
charge of the burying-ground at Morristown in 
New-Jersey, in which Mr. Pierson was interred on 
the 8th of August. About ten days afterward the 
body was exhumed, and examined by Dr. Condit, 
who took out the stomach and carried it away. 
The body was then buried again, but taken up once 
more, live or six weeks before the trial, and ex 
amined by other physicians. 

Dr. Lewis Condit stated that the body of Mr. 
Pierson was disinterred in his presence on the 18th 
of August. The surface was of a dark chocolate 
colour, and the face nearly black. He took out the 
stomach, which seemed less changed than any of the 
surrounding parts. Its texture was firm and unim 
paired when first viewed it was contracted into a 
small mass and apparently empty. Externally, its 
colour was scarcely changed, except in its anterior 
portion near the lower orifice, where it showed a 
redness. The body was very offensive, but putre 
faction had not commenced in the stomach, and as 
Y2 



258 MATTHIAS AND 

there were traces of inflammation on its outer sur 
face, he took it home for farther examination. 

On opening it, he found near the lower orifice, or 
pylorus, a substance resembling wet chalk, or 
calomel, of a dingy whitish colour, in quantity equal 
to eight or ten grains of calomel. A spot or patch 
of a bright red colour, about three inches in diameter, 
was found on the fore-part of the stomach, on the 
inner surface, corresponding with a similar red spot 
on the outside ; and it was here that the whitish sub 
stance was found. Half an inch higher was an 
other red spot, about half as large as the first, and 
near them both were three or four others, about the 
size of a twenty-five cent piece, and of a dark brown 
colour. The mucous membrane, or inner coat of 
the stomach, immediately under these spots, was 
soft, pulpy, and disorganized. Under this mem 
brane extravasated blood was found, which gave the 
dark colour to the brown spots. The muscular 
coat, beneath this extravasated blood, was of a bright 
red colour, with increased thickness of substance, 
and enlargement of blood vessels. The stomach 
contained nothing except the powder above men 
tioned, and a small quantity of mucus. The 
stomach, with the powder, was placed in a close jar, 
and sent to Dr. Torrey of New-York, in order that 
they might be analyzed. 

On the 21st of March, 1835, the body was again 
disinterred, and found to be considerably advanced 
in decay. The O3sophagus, or gullet, was taken 
out, as were also portions of the intestines, and car 
ried home for examination. The oesophagus was 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 259 

found reddened in its upper portion, and somewhat 
thickened, but the remainder presented a natural 
appearance. The intestines were firm and unyield 
ing, showing no traces of redness or decay. It was 
remarked on opening the abdomen, immediately 
over the intestines, that the flesh was not more de 
composed than it usually is in subjects a few days 
after death. But little offensive odour was perceived 
at the grave, and that of the intestines, on opening 
them, was precisely like the smell of smoked her 
rings. 

Both of the examinations were made in the pres 
ence of the same physicians, namely, Doctors Can- 
field, Johns, and the two Condits ; and they were 
unanimously of opinion, after the first, that the death 
of Mr. Pierson was not the result of natural causes, 
or of any known disease, and that there was great 
reason to believe that it had been occasioned by 
some poisonous substance. This opinion was re 
duced to writing, and signed by them all. They 
were all subpoenaed to attend the trial, and all at 
tended except Dr. Canfield ; but only the two Doc 
tors Condit were examined, and their examination 
was limited almost exclusively to the appearances 
of the stomach. They were not called upon to cite 
authorities, or to show the reasons on which their 
opinion was founded. 

Dr. Nathan W. Condit was then examined, and 
confirmed the statements of the last witness as to 
the appearance of the body, stomach, oesophagus, 
and intestines. He was led to suspect poison, but 
he could not say positively that poison had been 



258 MATTHIAS AND 

there were traces of inflammation on its outer sur 
face, he took it home for farther examination. 

On opening it, he found near the lower orifice, or 
pylorus, a substance resembling wet chalk, or 
calomel, of a dingy whitish colour, in quantity equal 
to eight or ten grains of calomel. A spot or patch 
of a bright red colour, about three inches in diameter, 
was found on the fore-part of the stomach, on the 
inner surface, corresponding with a similar red spot 
on the outside ; and it was here that the whitish sub 
stance was found. Half an inch higher was an 
other red spot, about half as large as the first, and 
near them both were three or four others, about the 
size of a twenty-five cent piece, and of a dark brown 
colour. The mucous membrane, or inner coat of 
the stomach, immediately under these spots, was 
soft, pulpy, and disorganized. Under this mem 
brane extravasated blood was found, which gave the 
dark colour to the brown spots. The muscular 
coat, beneath this extravasated blood, was of a bright 
red colour, with increased thickness of substance, 
and enlargement of blood vessels. The stomach 
contained nothing except the powder above men 
tioned, and a small quantity of mucus. The 
stomach, with the powder, was placed in a close jar, 
and sent to Dr. Torrey of New-York, in order that 
they might be analyzed. 

On the 21st of March, 1835, the body was again 
disinterred, and found to be considerably advanced 
in decay. The oesophagus, or gullet, was taken 
out, as were also portions of the intestines, and car 
ried home for examination. The oesophagus was 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 259 

found reddened in its upper portion, and somewhat 
thickened, but the remainder presented a natural 
appearance. The intestines were firm and unyield 
ing, showing no traces of redness or decay. It was 
remarked on opening the abdomen, immediately 
over the intestines, that the flesh was not more de 
composed than it usually is in subjects a few days 
after death. But little offensive odour was perceived 
at the grave, and that of the intestines, on opening 
them, was precisely like the smell of smoked her 
rings. 

Both of the examinations were made in the pres 
ence of the same physicians, namely, Doctors Can- 
field, Johns, and the two Condits ; and they were 
unanimously of opinion, after the first, that the death 
of Mr. Pierson was not the result of natural causes, 
or of any known disease, and that there was great 
reason to believe that it had been occasioned by 
some poisonous substance. This opinion was re 
duced to writing, and signed by them all. They 
were all subpoenaed to attend the trial, and all at 
tended except Dr. Canfield ; but only the two Doc 
tors Condit were examined, and their examination 
was limited almost exclusively to the appearances 
of the stomach. They were not called upon to cite 
authorities, or to show the reasons on which their 
opinion was founded. 

Dr. Nathan W. Condit was then examined, and 
confirmed the statements of the last witness as to 
the appearance of the body, stomach, ossophagus, 
and intestines. He was led to suspect poison, but 
he could not say positively that poison had been 



260 MATTHIAS AND 

administered. The appearances certainly indicated 
poison, but he should consider the detection of it 
necessary to produce conviction that it had been 
used. 

[The District Attorney consented to admit that 
Dr. Torrey had examined the stomach of the de 
ceased Mr. Pierson, and was unable to discover 
any poison in it] 

Mrs. Ann Folger was the next witness, but as 
her testimony corresponded fully and throughout to 
the statement already very minutely given in this 
volume, in that part of it which is indicated as the 
narrative of Mr. and Mrs. Folger, it is here omit 
ted, with the exception of some few particulars not, 
it is believed, distinctly included in the narrative. 
We give them in her own language, as taken down 
by the reporter. 

" I had heard of Matthews, and received his doc 
trines through Mr. Pierson, before I knew him per 
sonally. Mr. Pierson was a firm believer in his 
doctrines, so far as I could judge. I also became 
a believer in them generally ; but Mr. Folger was 
more disposed to doubt than either Mr. Pierson or 
myself. Catharine Galloway was also a believer, 
and acted as such. Those in the house who be 
lieved in him, considered him their Father, and as 
God the Father, possessing the Holy Ghost, and 
all power to bestow his Spirit on whom he would. 
We also believed that he had power to execute 
wrath, and regarded him as the last trumpet, an 
swering to all the angels of wrath, or executing an 
gels spoken of in the Revelations. He claimed all 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 261 

these powers ; and we believed that he not only 
could, but did possess the power of casting out de 
vils. He claimed this power, and averred that he 
had cast out devils. We were required to obey his 
commands in all things, for he said that he had a 
right to be obeyed. He had the command of every 
thing in the household. I would go to him some 
times for directions, and he would say that the spirit 
would direct, and then I would await his answer. 
If I did not conform to his wishes, he would say 
that although I had his spirit, I had also a spirit 
somewhere else. When displeased, he was exceed 
ingly violent, of which his conduct in Court yester 
day is but a faint specimen. He would curse us 
bitterly, and tell us we were lost creatures ; and we 
believed him. He said he would save us, but we 
must get rid of the evil spirit, and have a better one, 
which he would give us, if we asked for it. He 
attended to all the temporalities of the house, and 
we held ourselves responsible to him for all that was 
done. 

" In August last, when Mr. Pierson died, he 
claimed to own the house and property. There 
had been some ill-will between them, which began 
when Matthews was ordered away from Singsing. 
Pie censured Mr. Pierson, among other things, for 
not tilling the ground. He claimed the first-fruits 
of every thing of the chickens, and the peas in the 
garden ; but if he was not at home, we used them 
until he returned. He claimed the first of every 
thing at table, and had a coach and horses at his 
exclusive command. I was told once by him and 



262 MATTHIAS AND 

Mr. Pierson, that when he went out riding one day 
and stopped to water their horses, Mr. Pierson s 
horse would lie down in the brook, whereupon he 
got off and walked because the horse was wet. The 
farm was wholly managed by Matthews, and Mr. 
Pierson would not put any seed in the ground until 
directed to do so by him. Mr. Pierson died on the 
5th of August, between one and two o clock in the 
morning. 

" When Mr. Pierson ate the blackberries, he ap 
peared to be the special object of Matthews censure, 
because he had helped himself to more than his 
share. It was the prisoner s ordinary practice t( 
set food apart for himself, and any one who dippec 
bis hand in the same dish with him was consideret 
a Judas. 

" When Mr. Pierson was ill and dying, the reason 
why nothing was done for him, was, because we 
thought the evil spirit must be mortified and torment 
ed until it should come out of him. We all sin 
cerely wished his recovery, but nothing was done 
for him except washing his head and putting him in 
the bath. No physician was sent for, because Mat 
thews held that physicians, ministers, and lawyers, 
were the greatest evils in the world. I sincerely 
believed that there was no need of any medicine to 
cure Mr. Pierson. If I had depended on my own 
strength and experience, I should have resorted to 
the same means for his recovery that I had before 
been accustomed to ; but my confidence was then 
in Matthews, who, I thought, would deliver him ; 
and we all believed that if we cried or called might- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 263 

3y upon the Father, he would be cured. I consid 
ered myself a woman of prayer, but we were for 
bidden to pray to any God but Matthews. I did 
not think Mr. Pierson s life in danger, for I believed 
le would live for ever. I also believed that the last 
enemy to be destroyed was death, and that Mat- 
;hews had come to destroy that enemy. Mr. Pier- 
son s fits were called by Matthews fifty devils. 
After they had become more violent at Sirigsing, 
there was a twisting of the arm and head, and he 
died in that position. Elizabeth, Mr. Pierson s 
[laughter, although somewhat fickle, was obedient 
and affectionate to her father. She also obeyed 
Matthews, and was a believer. 

" It was understood that the Father held all the 
>roperty for the benefit of those who belonged to 
he kingdom. A community of interest in all the 
property was part of the doctrine, but no one pre 
sumed to call any part of it his or her own, except 
Matthews. He would often say to me, How dare 
say so to me in my house V He was severe 
ind offended if the house, and every thing in it, were 
lot called his own." 

The District Attorney then produced in evidence 
lease from Mr. Pierson to the prisoner, of the 
louse and farm at Mount Zion, near Singsing, for 
,he term of ninety-nine years, at the rent of one dol 
lar per annum, subject to a mortgage of thirty-five 
lundred dollars ; and a surrender of this lease, exe- 
suted by the prisoner on the first of August, 1834, 
in favour of Elizabeth, the daughter of Mr. Pier- 



264 MATTHIAS AND 

son.* Also, a bill of sale of all the personal property 
at Mount Zion, amounting to eight hundred and 
ninety-one dollars and fifty-eight cents, a bill of sale 
and inventory of Mr. Pierson s furniture &c. in the 
house No. 8 Third-street, in the city of New- York, 
executed on the twenty-third of December, 1833. 
The object of these transfers, as stated in the in 
struments, was to aid in setting up the kingdom of ( 
God. The value of the property in New- York was j 
stated in the inventory to be twenty-five hundred! 
and thirty-eight dollars. 

Catharine Galloway was next examined. She 
stated that she was the wife of a man who had lived 
as a servant in the house of Mr. M. H. S. while 
the prisoner resided there, and was a believer in 
him before his acquaintance with Mr. and Mrs. 
Folger : that she went to live at Mount Zion in 
February preceding the death of Mr. Pierson, and 
remained there until after his death. She firmly 
believed in the doctrines of Matthews, and stated 
them, as also his conduct, exactly as they were set 
forth by Mrs. Folger. She was reluctant to 

* The attention of the writer has been directed to the conduct 
of Matthews, touching these conveyances of the real estate at 
Singsing, as going to prove his sanity, by a professional gentle 
man well acquainted with the affairs of the enthusiasts. Mat 
thews, it is said, first took a deed of the premises; but recol 
lecting that in the contingency of his death his widow would be 
entitled to dower in this estate, he gave up the deed and took the 
lease for ninety-nine years. This lease he had surrendered; as 
just mentioned in evidence, but in a conversation with the pro 
fessional gentleman referred to, he declared he had been com 
pelled to give it up under duress ; the act was therefore not of 
legal and binding force upon him ; and he avowed his deter 
mination to claim and recover the property after his release. . 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 265 

go into the room where the bath was ordered by 
Matthews for Mr. Pierson, but he looked hard at 
her, and she said, " Father, I will go, if you say 
so ;" he replied, " I say so ;" and she went in and 
assisted in bringing water. When she heard Mr. 
Pierson fall, she was induced to rise from her chair 
and say, " Father, shall I go ?" and he said, No ; 
you are always the first to go." She accordingly 
sat down again. She saw Mr. Pierson while they 
were giving him the bath, but not again until after 
he was dead. She did not recollect that any quarrel 
had taken place between Matthews and him imme 
diately before his death. When Matthews was dis 
pleased with any members of the community he 
would curse them, and say they should be chained 
in the bottomless pit, of which he had the key ; 
sometimes he would threaten them with annihilation. 
He taught them that sickness was caused by spirits, 
which were to be driven out by prayer and resistance ; 
she was treated in that way when she was ill, and 
so were all the other members of the household. 
None were permitted to have any medicine, but 
they were required to have faith in Matthews, who 
would remove all their ailments. 

The testimony was here closed ; the prisoner s 
counsel moved for his discharge, on the ground that 
no evidence had been produced to convict him either 
of murder or manslaughter ; and the District At 
torney replied, being several times interrupted by 
the prisoner, who exclaimed, " that s a lie all a 
lie !" in relation to particular statements made by 
the gentleman. The court decided that sufficient 
Z 



266 MATTHIAS AND 

testimony had not been produced to carry the charge 
of murder to the jury, but it was proper for them to 
determine whether the prisoner was or was not 
guilty of manslaughter, as having had the control of 
the establishment, and stood in such a relation to 
the deceased as to make it his duty to provide him 
with proper medical attendance. The court were 
inclined to the opinion that a verdict of guilty could 
not be rendered, inasmuch as the weight of the evi 
dence would lead to the conclusion that the death 
of the deceased was the result of illness with which 
he had been for some time afflicted, and which would 
probably have proved fatal even without the neglect 
and ill-treatment disclosed in the testimony. If it 
could be shown that his death was hastened by this 
ill-treatment, the prisoner was guilty of manslaughter 
in the fourth degree ; but the court were of opinion 
that sufficient evidence had not been produced to 
prove that such was the case. 

The counsel for the prosecution then proposed to 
re-examine Dr. Condit on the direct question, 
" Whether, in his opinion, the death of Mr. Pierson 
was caused by want of care, or nursing, or any of 
the kind offices of humanity requisite for a person in 
his condition ?" The counsel for the prisoner ob 
jected, on the ground that Dr. Condit had not been 
present in court during the whole of Mrs. Folger s 
examination ; the court sustained the objection, and 
the District Attorney then announced that he had 
no farther evidence to offer. 

The court then instructed the jury that there was 
no evidence showing that the death of Mr. Pierson 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 267 

bad been caused by poison, and, in the absence of 
sufficient evidence to prove that it resulted from cul 
pable neglect or ill-treatment, they would advise an 
acquittal ; and the jury, thereupon, immediately re 
turned a verdict of not guilty. 

On the announcement of this verdict, the prisoner 
was evidently elated ; but his countenance fell when 
he found that he was to be tried on another indict 
ment for assaulting Isabella Laisdell, his daughter, 
with a whip. The indictment also contained a 
count against the prisoner for confining the said 
Isabella Laisdell against her will. 

When the indictment was read, Matthews said, 
" This is another branch of the persecution against 
me." 

Before the prisoner pleaded to the indictment, 
Mr. Western rose and read from a paper, as fol 
lows : 

" I hereby acknowledge that I have received full 
and ample satisfaction for the assault and battery in 
this case, for which the defendant is indicted, and I 
respectfully pray the court to enter a nolle prosequi 
therein, accordingly. 

"ISABELLA LAISDELL. 

White Plains, April ISth, 1835." 

The reading of this document seemed to take the 
District Attorney by surprise, and he requested the 
court to order Isabella Laisdell to appear personally 
in court, in order that she might be examined on the 
subject. The court made the necessary order, and 



268 MATTHIAS AND 

in a few minutes Isabella Laisdell came into court, 
and acknowledged that she had signed the paper, 
and forgave her father, and had nothing against him. 

The District Attorney urged that she should be 
examined as to the circumstances of the reconcilia 
tion or compromise, which, after some discussion, 
the court assented to, and Isabella Laisdell affirmed 
and was examined on the subject. 

Charles Laisdell, her husband, was then examined, 
and refused to concur with his wife in compromising 
with the prisoner. 

The court then ordered the trial to proceed. 

Mrs. Laisdell stated that she was eighteen years 
old was the daughter of the prisoner and was 
married to Charles Laisdell, at Albany, in the month 
of December, 1833. At the time of her marriage 
she was residing with her mother, her father having 
been away from there four or five years. She went 
from Albany to Singsing with her two brothers, in 
the care of Mr. Folger, on the 15th of January. 
On the morning of her arrival, her father chastised 
her in his room ; it was on account of her saying 
that she would not stay at Singsing, and this she 
had said because he told her that her marriage was 
void that she was too young to marry, but that in 
proper time she might get a husband. He struck 
her once or twice across the shoulders with a cow 
hide ; no other person was present. The next 
morning Mrs. Folger came into her room, saying 
she wanted to speak to her ; she answered that she 
was not very well, and felt fatigued. Mrs. Folger 
told her that nobody in that house believed in sick- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 269 

ness or dying, and she replied that she would die 
before she would believe any such doctrine. This 
seemed to displease Mrs. Folger, who soon left the 
room. A little after, her father came in, and asked 
what she had been saying to her mother ; she an 
swered that her mother was not there, and he said 
she must go with him and have the matter righted. 
He took her to his room, where she found Mrs. 
Folger preparing to make his bed. Mrs. Folger 
told him, she (Mrs. Laisdell) had said she would 
die rather than obey him ; and her father, without 
allowing her time to correct the statement, raised a 
cowhide, which he had concealed behind his back, 
and struck her more than twenty blows across her 
shoulders ; she cried out, but no one came to her 
relief. The blows did not draw any blood. Five 
or six weeks afterward there was a scar on her arm, 
where one of the blows took effect. Two weeks 
after, her father took her in his carriage to New- 
York, with Mr. and Mrs. Folger, to the house in 
Third-street. She stayed there for four weeks, and 
then went back to Singsing. She was not com 
pelled to stay there, but had no money, and therefore 
could not go away. She was well used while she 
remained with her father, except in the affair of the 
whipping ; he did not prohibit her returning to her 
husband. He sent for her mother to come to Sing- 
sing, but she would not come, as she did not agree 
with him in principles. When Mr. Laisdell came to 
Sinking, he was invited to the house, but did not 
come. The reason why her father disapproved of 
her marriage wa, because she was too young, and 
Z2 



270 MATTHIAS AND 

because he held that marriages were unlawful, ac 
cording to the laws of God. The first whipping 
was given her because she was impudent to her 
father ; the second was occasioned by misrepre 
sentation of her words, and by her impertinence in 
telling him that she was married, and would do as 
she pleased. The whipping she considered as 
nothing more than the ordinary chastisement inflicted 
by a father upon his child for misconduct, and after 
it, he was as kind to her as ever. She was neither 
sick nor lame after either of the whippings. 

Charles Laisdell, the husband of the last witness, 
stated that after she had been gone from Albany 
about three weeks, he went to Singsing. On his 
arrival he inquired for Matthews, and was told that 
he was gone to New- York. He called at Mr. Fol- 
ger s house there, a few times, where he saw Catha 
rine, the coloured girl, and Mr. Pierson s children, 
who ordered him away. He then went to New- 
York, to the house in Third-street, where he en 
quired for Matthews. Matthews then came to the 
door, and he asked to see his wife ; Matthews an 
swered that he had no wife, or that his wife was not 
there, and then went in and shut the door. Mat 
thews had a sword by his side, and witness was a 
little alarmed. His wife was in the house at the 
time, but he was not allowed to enter. The next 
morning he went again with an officer, but found 
that they had all gone. He returned to Singsing, 
and saw Matthews, who told him his wife was at 
New-York, and wanted him to return to Albany ; 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 271 

Matthews would not let him see his wife, and said 
he had been married by a devil, and that henceforth 
none would be married but by him. His wife was 
afterward given up to him in Court by an officer, 
that being the first time he had seen her since she 
left Albany. She had then a sore place on her arm, 
from the whipping she had received six weeks be 
fore, and there were also marks on her back. Rev. 
Nathaniel S. Prime saw Mrs. Laisdell s arm, after 
she had been removed from her father s custody ; 
the mark extended about a third of the way round 
the arm, it was not entirely healed. 

The case was here closed, no other testimony be 
ing offered on behalf of the prisoner, and the judge 
then charged the jury, who retired and in a few 
minutes returned with a verdict of guilty. The 
Court then intimated to the prisoner that if he had 
any thing to say, he would now be heard, provided 
he behaved properly. He was already sentenced to 
thirty days imprisonment for his contempt of Court 
on a former occasion. 

MATTHIAS then addressed the Court in a firm 
but seemingly somewhat subdued tone. The fol 
lowing are his words verbatim. I have been con 
fined near seven months, and nothing has been made 
out against me, until this last case, and this has 
been a great affliction to me, though I have been 
sustained under it, knowing that I was innocent. 
The things which are apparent are so because they 
misrepresented my doctrines." 

COURT We don t want to hear any thing about 
them. 



272 MATTHIAS AND 

MATTHIAS You don t I was going to termi 
nate by saying, that feeling I was innocent I think 
this termination altogether extraordinary and unjust, 
and if it is in the power of the Court to make an 
offset in my favour in the latter case, I hope it will. 

JUDGE RUGGLES The prisoner was not confined 
on account of the present offence, but the Court 
have taken it into consideration in determining on 
the sentence. He stands convicted of an assault 
under peculiar circumstances : under other circum 
stances, if punished at all, it would be very lightly. 
But we find that in the very first interview with his 
daughter, he told her that marriages were void, and 
endeavoured to inculcate in her the same immorali 
ties that he had already inculcated upon the inmates 
of the house. The chastisement was also inflicted 
without her deserving it, or allowing her to be heard. 
The Court sentences the prisoner to be confined 
three months in the county jail, from the termination 
of his first sentence. 

To Matthias. We now tell you that the times 
for practising those foolish impositions are past. The 
Court is satisfied that you are an impostor, and that 
you do not believe in your own doctrines. We ad 
vise you therefore, when you come out of jail to 
shave off your beard, lay aside your peculiar dress, 
and go to work like an honest man. 

MATTHIAS It is not true. 

He was then led out of Court. 

Every good man would wish, in the language of 
the presiding judge, that " the times for practising 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 273 

such foolish impositions were past." But it will be 
seen by a subsequent page, that the spirit of fanat 
icism and delusion is not yet extinct, even in the 
city of New- York, notwithstanding the shocking 
disclosures that have been made, and the melancho 
ly consequences. 



274 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER X. 

Traits of the Impostor s Character A Scene in Prison Anec- 
dote-His Contempt of Women-Shrewd Comparison- 
Adroitness in evading Questions Casting out a Devil Con 
versations on his miraculous Gifts-Steamboat Scenes and 
Conversations Interview with a Gentleman ot Distinction-- 
Reflections-Readiness at Repartee-Parallels between Mat- 
thews and other Impostors Simon Magus Montanus John 
of LevdenCochrane Mysterious Influence Summing up 
of the lmpostor s Character A Compound of Insanity, Kna- 
very, and Self-deception. 

IN more than one instance, in the course of the 
present work, the term shrewdness has been applied 
to the conduct of Matthews in certain emergencies. 
It is not to be understood, however, that the writer 
awards to him the possession of any extraordinary 
gifts of cunning or of wit. There are those, we are 
aware, who allow him credit for no one moral or 
intellectual quality who consider him a perfect and 
unimprovable specimen of ignorance and stupidity ; 
while on the other hand, persons are not wanting 
who look upon him as a man by no means devoid 
of sense, and withal very adroit. The truth, proba 
bly, as in most cases of conflicting opinions, lies 
between the extremes. The writer does not be- 
lieve him to be altogether the blockhead which 
some suppose, but is, on the contrary, inclined to 
award him some degree of shrewdness, with more 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 275 

of native intellect than he has received credit for. 
But in order to the better illustration of his character] 
a few personal anecdotes have been collected from 
authentic sources, which will be submitted in the 
present chapter, together with t\vo or three reports 
of interviews with him, which have been politely fur 
nished the writer by literary gentlemen of character. 
While confined in the Bellevue prison in October 
last, awaiting his examination, prior to his full com 
mitment for trial, the inmates of the prison, suspect 
ing that he had money in his possession, made an 
attempt to inflict the discipline of blanketing him. 
The prophet threatened them with eternal torment 
if they proceeded. They assured him he must sub 
mit, as it was an ordeal through which all of them 
had to pass, and he was no better than the rest of 
them. They then put him into a blanket, several 
of them holding the corners of it, and gave him two 
or three tosses. The poor prophet, finding that 
they were determined to carry their threat into fur 
ther operation, agreed to pay them twenty-five cents 
a-piece to let him off. After they had liberated 
tlim, he declared, most truly, beyond a doubt, that 
le had been thrown into a " den of thieves." The 
allusion was more to the point than was always the 
case in his references to sacred writ. 

While Matthews was residing at the hotel near 
he Battery as heretofore mentioned, a gentleman by 

the name of F had also his quarters at the 

same place. Not many days after he had com 
menced boarding there, he was one morning very 
familiarly and abruptly accosted by Matthews, with 



276 MATTHIAS AND 

whom he had not previously exchanged a syllable. 

" Mr. F ," said he, " how long do you think 1 

have been upon this earth?" " Indeed, I have no 
idea, sir," was the reply. " Well, I will tell you," 
rejoined the prophet ; " more than eighteen hundred 

years !" Mr. F , knowing nothing as to the 

peculiarity of his character at the time, it may be 
imagined, was somewhat surprised at so extraordinary 
an annunciation, and scanning him from top to toe, 
involuntarily exclaimed, " The d 1 you have ; do 
you tell me so !" " I do," observed the other. 
" Then all I have to say is, that you are a remarka 
bly good-looking fellow for one of your age !" 
Matthews put on one of his sardonic grins, and with 
an indignant scowl, replied, " You are a devil, sir," 
and walked immediately away. 

It will have been seen, as well from the narra 
tive of Mr. and Mrs. Folger, as from other circum 
stances which have been noted, that Matthews did 
not pay that respectful deference to the female char 
acter which is exacted in all respectable society, and 
cheerfully awarded in all Christian countries. He 
seemed to look upon the sex as an inferior order of 
beings, like the Mohammedans, and spoke of them 
with sneers and contempt, like the Indians. A 
learned and accomplished theologian of New- York 
has furnished the following incident, which affords 
a pointed and appropriate illustration of this feature 
of his character, and is withal rather amusing. It 
occurred in the bookstore of Mr. F , in Broad 
way, a few months before the prophet left the city. 

" He entered the store, and abruptly launched out 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 277 

into a kind of soliloquizing rhapsody on the present 
state of religion and the prospects of the church. 
Without appearing to notice him, I indulged my cu 
riosity a few moments in listening to his wild and 
outre tirade against the whole existing order of things 
religious. Though in the main a medley of bald 
disjointed chat, yet I was certainly somewhat struck 
with a kind of shrewd piquancy in his remarks, and 
a vein occasionally approaching to a rude eloquence, 
which I can conceive might have no inconsiderable 
effect upon an audience of no more cultivation or 
refinement than himself. I retain nothing of his 
rhodomontade but the amusing simile he employed 
in speaking of the agency of women in sustaining 
the benevolent operations of the present day. This, 
he said, was but acting over the part of the Philis 
tines in sending back the ark of the covenant to the 
land of Israel in a cart drawn by cows instead of 
oxen. So it is now, said he ; * the ark of the 
Lord is held up and carried by nothing but cows. " 
When likely to be pressed into a corner, Matthews 
was frequently dexterous in escaping by evasion, 
as in the following instance, which has been related 
to the writer by a gentleman who dined with the 
prophet several times, at the house of one of his 
disciples. The gentleman at the first interview, 
having no previous knowledge of him, supposed 
him, from his costume and appearance, to be a Jew 
ish Rabbi, and, of course, well acquainted with the 
Hebrew Scriptures ; he took the liberty respectfully 
to ask him the literal signification of a certain He 
brew expression. Upon this, Matthias hesitated a 
A a 



278 MATTHIAS AND 

short time, and then very shrewdly replied, " that he 
was asked so many questions, and they took up 
so much of his time to satisfy, that he had come to 
the resolution to give no answers to any of them." 
His proselyte, who was present, appeared to be well 
satisfied with this reply, presuming, no doubt, that 
the prophet knew all things, and could, if he chose, 
give the true explanation required. 

In proof of the gift, or power which he asserted, 
of working miracles, Matthews related the following 
incident to the same gentleman while at table. 
Whether the prophet himself did not intend the 
anecdote to be rather a specimen of pleasantry, it is 
difficult to say. He stated, that while imprisoned, 
in the early part of his career, at Albany, there was 
also in confinement a crazy woman, who gave great 
annoyance to the inmates, not unfrequently com 
mitting assaults upon them. He met her one day 
as he was descending the stairs of the upper apart 
ments, apparently in a furious rage ; and having the 
Bible in his hand, he brought it in contact with her 
face with considerable force, exclaiming, at the same 
time, in a high tone of voice, In the name of God 
depart from her! which had the desired effect. 
She immediately became calm, and in a short time 
was dismissed from the prison as cured. He 
soon afterward met her in the street, apparently 
well. 

The subjoined account of an interview with the 
impostor, and his assumption of miraculous gifts, 
has been furnished by a literary friend. It also 



** 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 279 

illustrates the facility, already referred to, with which 
he was wont to escape an approaching dilemma : 

" t met Matthews accidentally, one afternoon, at 

the warehouse of the Messrs. , which he had 

lately taken it into his head to visit several times. 
On my entrance he was sitting upon a box, arrayed 
in his green frock-coat and red sash, holding forth 
to one of the partners and two or three other gentle 
men standing around him, on the subject of his 
pretended divinity. The immediate topic was his 
alleged power of working miracles, which he was 
maintaining against the skeptical remarks and queries 
of his auditory, who were evidently amusing them 
selves with his absurdities. He was ready in an 
swering, and displayed considerable shrewdness in 
meeting the difficulties presented to him which, 
however, were not of a very startling character, as 
the comments of the gentlemen were rather of an 
ironical turn, than involving any thing like serious 
disputation. Matthews himself was a very pattern 
of gravity courteous, but never relaxing into a 
smile, and continually smoothing down his luxuriant 
beard and moustaches, an exercise in which he 
seemed to take great delight. 

" I listened for a time without joining in the con 
versation, but finally made a remark which Mat 
thews answered very readily, and for some minutes 
the discourse was kept up exclusively between him 
and myself. The subject was still his alleged 
miraculous power. I urged him to afford us a 
proof of it by working some miracle on the spot ; 
but he, of course, evaded the demand, very much in 



280 MATTHIAS AND 

the usual style of impostors, sometimes by declaring 
that it would be an indignity to exert a supernatural 
and heavenly power for the mere indulgence of an 
idle curiosity, and then again insisting upon the ne 
cessity of our having faith in him, before a miracle 
could be made perceptible to our senses. After 
some discourse of this kind, I grew tired of his non 
sense, and went away to another part of the ware- 
room, where I entered into conversation with some 
other gentlemen. 

" In the course of fifteen or twenty minutes, I re 
turned to where Matthews was yet sitting, and found 
him still harping on my daughter, that is to say, 
the miracles. Mr. , one of the firm, was tell 
ing him, when I came up, that he was suffering much 
from the aching of a decayed tooth, and urging him, 
with mock gravity, to make that tooth instantly 
sound by his divine power; Matthews somewhat 
testily replied that he could not work this miracle 

unless Mr. had faith that he could do so, and 

seemed rather anxious to change the subject. To 
effect this, as I supposed, he began to tell a long 
story about the child of Mr. Folger, which had been 
taken very dangerously ill : that a physician was 
called in by the parents : that he (M.) came to the 
house and found the physician there : that he re 
buked Mr. and Mrs. Folger for seeking human aid, 
and required them to dismiss the doctor : that they 
refused and he insisted : that he told them unless 
they did the child would die : that they yielded at 
last, sent the doctor away, and he commanded the 
child to arise and be well, which was instantly done. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 281 

The child got up from the bed in perfect health, and 
had so continued ever since. 

" We, of course, all expressed the requisite 
amount of astonishment at this history ; and, at the 
first pause in the conversation, I asked, How old 
was the child V Quite an infant, he answered 
4 about a year old. Old enough to talk, or to un 
derstand what was said to it ? No ! You stated 
a little while ago, I think, that you could not work 

a miracle in behalf of Mr. , unless he had faith 

in you did you not V Matthews looked hard at 
me for a few moments, with a cool wary glance, 
apparently revolving in his mind the purport of my 
query, and then turning suddenly away, answered, 
* I was not talking with you you are an interloper 
you interrupt my conversation with this gentle 
man ; and further speech he vouchsafed me not. 
I presume he had discovered the dilemma into 
which I was leading him, between his avowed ne 
cessity of faith existing in the party on whom a 
miracle was to be wrought, and the impossibility 
that such faith could exist in the infant." 

The extraordinary community at Mount Zion 
were frequent travellers to and from New- York, both 
by land and water. When on board of a steam 
boat, in which he was often a passenger, he was al 
ways liable, from the strangeness of his costume 
and conduct, and from his ridiculous pretensions, to 
the jeers and reproaches, and sometimes to the har 
assing treatment of his fellow passengers. He had 
no discretion ; and it was an easy matter to arouse 
his passions to the highest degree of exasperation 
Aa2 



282 MATTHIAS AND 

at which times his miraculous and divine powers 
contributed not a little to the amusement of the by 
standers. On one of these occasions, Matthews 
having boasted of these exalted attainments, an ath 
letic farmer proposed to test the extent of his powers 
by casting him overboard, that he might remove the 
skepticism of the incredulous multitude by walking on 
the water. The prophet did not relish the proposi 
tion, which was prevented by the interference of the 
captain. At another time, the same hardy yeoman 
attempted to shave off his beard while on board of 
the boat, and was only induced to desist by the sup 
plications of one of his female followers, and the 
renewed interposition of the captain. This dispo 
sition to annoy him occasions no surprise, when the 
reports in circulation as to his conduct at Mount 
Zion and elsewhere are considered, and when the 
repulsive and insulting language in which he was in 
the habit of indulging towards all who questioned or 
denied his impious pretensions is also taken into the 
account. " Liars," " Devils," " Gentiles," " Children 
of the Gentiles," &c., with other epithets equally mild 
and conciliatory, were as household words with him 
on such occasions. 

A distinguished literary gentleman has furnished 
the writer with the following detailed account of an 
interview with Matthews, during one of these steam 
boat excursions of which we have just been speak 
ing. It forms an interesting little narrative of itself; 
and the reflections subjoined by the writer are enti 
tled to grave consideration, although the author is 
constrained to withhold his assent from the conclu- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 283 

sion to which his friend has arrived, in its full extent. 
The author fully believes there is such a thing as 
fanaticism which is stone-blind, and of deep and 
lamentable delusion, in which there is great sincerity, 
without impiety. 

" Some time in the course of the last summer, 
passing up the Hudson in one of the steamboats, I 
happened to be sitting at one end of a sofa, on the 
upper deck, at the other end of which sat a person who 
excited no attention at the moment. On pulling 
out my watch, however, he inquired of me the hour, 
and this naturally drawing my notice, I remarked 
something rather particular in his dress and appear 
ance. The former consisted of a green frock-coat 
lined with plaid silk, pantaloons of Ae same cloth and 
colour, a white vest, all quite new and remarkably 
clean and neat. He wore a long beard almost 
white ; his face was pale and rather haggard, and 
his eye of a dull gray. His countenance was alto 
gether somewhat remarkable, but its expression 
neither agreeable nor intelligent. 

" On telling him the hour, he pulled out a splendid 
gold watch and appendages, and observed that our 
watches differed as to time. This led to further 
conversation, which I was willing to encourage, from 
some little curiosity occasioned by his dress, his long 
beard, and his singular manner. He soon gave me 
to understand that he was the Spirit of Truth, which, 
it seems, has either disappeared, or lain dormant in 
the world, since the first ages of Christianity. The 
time for reviving it had now come, and in him I be 
held its visible representative. I questioned this 



284 MATTHIAS AND 

important personage concerning the details of his 
system, but found him utterly incapable of explain 
ing it consistently, rationally, or in a manner at all 
within my comprehension. I occasionally assisted 
him out of some of his difficulties, by explaining 
his own meaning ; and though the explanations were 
designedly inconsistent and contradictory, he always 
assented to them eagerly, as if glad to be relieved 
from his labyrinth of obscurity and darkness. It is 
impossible for me to give any intelligible analysis of 
what was in itself unintelligible, and therefore I shall 
decline the attempt. 

" His style of conversation was that of a very 
ignorant and very dull man ; his voice was dry, 
sharp, and disagreeable, and there was so little of 
that enthusiasm which is the parent of genuine fa 
naticism, and the secret of its catching influence, in 
his language and manner, that I set him down in 
my own mind as a rank and wilful hypocrite and de 
ceiver. Yet how it was possible such an ignorant, 
stupid being could deceive any rational person into 
the monstrous absurdity of believing that the Spirit 
of Truth, spoke in language not to be understood, I 
could not have conceived, had there not been so 
many examples of that wilful willingness with which 
mankind in every age have submitted to become the 
dupes and instruments of blundering imposture. 

" While under pretence of explaining his system 
of faith he was gradually involving himself in new 
absurdities, and inconsistencies, we were rather 
rudely, as I then thought, broken in upon by a little 
sanguine looking man, with an ardent complexion, and 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 285 

sturdy form, -who attacked the Spirit of Uuth with 
great vehemence and very little ceremony. I was 
somewhat nettled at this intrusion, and abuse of my 
companion, whom I desired to give me a specimen 
of his miraculous powers by taking away the speech 
of this irreverent intruder, and thus establishing the 
truth of his mission. He did not seem to relish this 
test of his divinity, and in the mean time the little 
man continued to rail at him with astonishing volu 
bility. In the course of his argument he charged 
the prophet with a tissue of deceptions and crimes, 
that alarmed me at the company I had thus acci 
dentally got into, and when, at length, I heard the 
name of Matthias, as that of my worshipful com 
panion, I gave up his defence, andlleft him to the 
judgment of the crowd that had now gathered to- 

gether. 

" A sort of popular tribunal was formed around 
Matthias, and his accuser proceeded to a detail of 
crimes and deceptions of the most revolting char 
acter, such as have since been established against 
him in a court of justice. No violence was offered 
or threatened by the surrounding audience, yet 
did this wretched and guilty impostor, who affects 
to be no less than the maker of heaven and earth, 
and all the creatures which inhabit the universe, 
stand silent, and trembling under the consciousness 
of his crimes, in the presence of the very beings he 
pretended to have created. I never saw in the 
countenance and manner of any criminal more clear 
unerring marks of conscious guilt than this man 
exhibited on this occasion. I could not help mmg- 



286 MATTHIAS AND 

ling pity for his present situation with abhorrence of 
his past enormities. He was now at the close of 
his career, on his way to Albany, where he was 
arrested on a charge of murder, and brought down 
to Westchester for trial. 

" The extraordinary impositions, connected with 
the deplorable ignorance of Matthias, and the total 
absence of every qualification of person, manner, 
speech, and reasoning, which I had always believed 
necessary to constitute a successful impostor, cre 
ated in my mind various reflections on the nature of 
what is denominated fanaticism, but which I believe 
is quite as often, if not oftener, sheer downright hy 
pocrisy, both in the deceiver and in those who pre 
tend to be deluded. It appeared to me utterly im 
possible that any rational beings, however ignorant 
or inexperienced, could, in an age of Christianity, be 
persuaded into the self-evident impossibility of a 
man, like themselves in every moral and physical at 
tribute, being the Divinity itself, without the inter 
vention of palpable, incontestable miracles performed 
by that person in open day, and in the presence of 
living witnesses. 

I could not therefore avoid the conclusion, that 
by far the greater portion of those who profess to 
be deluded, only assume the character of believers 
in these impostures, for the purpose of thus freeing 
themselves from the restraint of those rules and de 
corums and obligations of society, which they can 
not otherwise contravene without calling down on 
their own heads disgrace and punishment. It will, 
in almost every case of these fanatical eruptions, be 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 287 

seen that the imposture begins by railing against all 
the domestic duties and relations of the social state : 
filial and parental ties, the marriage vow, the sane- 
tity of chastity, most especially, form the subjects of 
their attacks, and the basis of every false religion is 
almost uniformly laid in the ruins of feminine purity, 
matrimonial faith, and domestic obligations. 

" That those who have become impatient of these 
ties and duties, or who wish to free themselves from 
the necessity of conforming to the restraints of the 
social state, and travel out into the boundless ocean 
of licentious indulgence, should shelter themselves 
under the convenient mask of fanaticism, from the 
imputation of criminal excesses, and affect to be 
come conscientiously lewd, or wicked from principle, 
is surely not a subject of wonder, however it may be 
of regret. Hence we almost always see the devel 
opment and exposure of these impostures exhibit 
ing to the eyes of the world a scene of lewdness 
and licentious intercourse equally degrading to the 
character of that sex, among whom we almost al 
ways find the first disciples of every new-fangled 
religious imposition, and to the character of rational 
and moral beings. From all I have seen and read 
of these victims, or accomplices of successful im 
posture, I am unalterably convinced, that what is 
called fanaticism, is oftener the cool calculating off 
spring of a corrupt and sensual heart, than of a de 
luded overheated brain. Nine times in ten, I believe 
it is only the veil behind which corrupt men and 
women seek a shelter from the ignominy of a licen- 



288 MATTHIAS AND 

tious life, and cloak the indulgence of indiscriminate 
lewdness." 

In the introduction to this interesting communica 
tion, the author dissented in part from the theory of 
the writer as to the extent to which he would carry 
it. But that his conclusions are just to a very con 
siderable extent, cannot be denied. Indeed, an ex 
amination of the history of heresies and impostures, 
in all ages, will disclose the painful fact, that whethe) 
arising from enthusiasm, or phrensy, or from delib 
erate imposture, a common character seems to havfe 
run through and pervaded nearly all, and the ten 
dency has, beyond doubt, most usually been to licen 
tiousness and criminal intercourse between the sexes. 
This fact has not escaped the enemies of Christi 
anity, who have availed themselves of it in their at 
tacks, for the purpose of increasing the weight of 
odium with which they would cover it. Mr. Hume, 
however, has the candour to assign the true cause 
for the effect, viz. the strength of human passions, 
and the facilities of criminal indulgence, afforded by 
the frequent and intimate associations produced by 
congenial fanaticism, between the sexes. The de 
lusion of the followers of Ann Lee, however, com 
monly known as the Shakers, has differently affected 
their moral practice, since their creed requires a 
mortification of the sensual portion of our nature, 
for the greater perfection of the soul. Still, in most 
cases, from the primitive heresy of Gnosticism, 
down to the fifth monarchy sect of the puritan 
age, and even to the days of Joanna Southcote in 
England, and the Cochranites, the lascivious Mor- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 289 

mons, and the sensual Perfectionists of the pres 
ent day in the United States, the tendency, it can 
not be denied, has been to permit almost every 
licence of impurity. 

To resume, however, the illustrations we had 
proposed of the intellectual character of Matthews. 
Notwithstanding his occasional appearance of sto 
lidity, there is often about him a smartness of re 
partee, and a readiness and adroitness in converting 
casual incidents to his own advantage, which gives 
him an undue consequence with the unthinking mul 
titude, who look upon him rather as a rare monster 
than a fool. Mr. Folger has said, in his narrative, 
that he is an arrant coward ; in support of which opi 
nion, it may be observed, that in the whole course 
of his career, whenever he had reason to apprehend 
that his insolence would be visited with punishment, 
he was very cautious to withhold it though ex- 
ceeaTngly lavish of abuse at other times. Being 
told by one who would not brook his arrogance, that 
if he spoke to him as he had done to others, he 
would knock him down " I will have nothing to 
say to you," was his ready and prudent reply. His 
shrewdness has been frequently manifested in his 
retorts upon those who have questioned him in re 
gard to his manner of life, Sac. "I once heard 
him," says a friend, addressing the writer, " a few 
moments on board of a steamboat in conversation 
assert, that He kept a long fast when he first began 
to preach the truth in Albany ; and when asked 
why he did not live with and provide for his children 
as honest men did, he instantly answered the in- 
Bb 



290 MATTHIAS AND 

quirer, whom he had constantly been calling a devil, 
4 J\fy children obey my voice, and follow me. 
The inquirer replied, I endeavour to control my 
children the best way I can, and yet they do not 
always obey me. Matthews instantly retorted, 
* The disobedient are the children of the devil, and 
then laughed with real glee at the point of his own 
repartee. After enjoying his witticism to the full, 
he said, in extenuation of his risibility, that 4 Elijah 
was a jovial old soul ! " 

Again, after his arrest, on his way to Bedford 
Court, he, with other passengers, walked up some 
of the hills, and, in so doing, the prophet rather en 
croached upon and crowded one of them into the 
gutter ; and when the latter remonstrated, the former 
replied, " I always incline to the right." 

After arriving at the village, and while proceeding 
from the tavern to the Court-house, followed of course 
by a cavalcade of boys and idlers, he gravely turned 
about and exclaimed, "Why, I have a few followers 
yet!" 

As to the extent of the reading of Matthews, inde 
pendently of the Bible, with which he is greatly con 
versant, the writer has no means of judging. From 
his general manifestations of ignorance, however, it 
is most probably very limited. He may have 
read the lives and exploits of former heresiarchs and 
impostors, and attempted to copy their unblessed 
and inglorious example, in respect both to conduct 
and doctrine. But such is probably not the fact, 
although striking parallels might very easily be traced 
between his character and pretensions and those of 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 291 

other deceivers in almost every prominent instance 
of fanaticism and delusion. Even in Simon Magus, 
conspicuous among the first corrupters of Chris 
tianity, the same leading characteristics, in princi 
ples, pretensions, and practice, were displayed as in 
Robert Matthews. After the rejection of the sor 
cerer by the Apostle Peter, for his impious offer of 
money in purchase of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he 
fell into greater errors and abominations than be 
fore. Travelling to Rome, and exciting the admi 
ration of many by his false miracles and impostures, 
he was honoured as a deity by Claudius, who is 
said by some to have decreed a statue to him with 
the inscription " Simoni Deo sancto" although the 
fact has been, disputed by able critics. He was 
called by his followers, " The Great Power of God ;" 
and these blasphemous expressions have been 
quoted from one of his books by Jerome : " I am 
the word of God I am the beauty of God I am 
the Comforter I am the Almighty I am the whole 
essence of God." His mistress, Helen, with whom 
he was guilty of all impiety, he called " The first 
intelligence, the mother of all things, and some 
times the Holy Ghost. He said that by this first 
intelligence he had originally a design of creating 
the angels ; but that she, knowing this will of her 
father, had descended lower, and had produced the 
angels and the other spiritual powers, to whom she 
had given no knowledge of her father ; that these 
angels and powers had afterward made angels and 
men ; that Helen had passed successively into the 
bodies of various women, among others, into that 



292 MATTHIAS AND 

of Helen, wife of Menelaus, who occasioned the 
war of Troy ; and at last into the body of this 
Helen," a prostitute whom he had purchased at 
Tyre. He did not acknowledge Jesus Christ, but 
pretended to consider him his rival, asserting that 
he was himself the Christ. He taught a disbelief in 
the resurrection of the body, but only of the soul 
the body being a substance too gross for an eternal 
destiny. He maintained that men need not trouble 
themselves about good works, and that the distinction 
of actions into good and evil was only introduced 
by angels to render men subject to them. He 
ascribed to them the Old Testament, which he re 
jected ; and yet offered idolatrous worship to the 
angels, whom he considered spirits of evil, to pro 
pitiate them.* On the whole, the blasphemous pre 
tensions and absurdities of Simon correspond re 
markably with the ravings of Matthews. 

. Very similar to his conduct and pretensions, also, 
was the character of Montanus, the vain and super 
stitious enthusiast who founded the sect of the 
Montanists, in the second century of the Christian 
era. He commenced his career in Asia Minor, 
professing to be the Paraclete, or Comforter, the 
same who had descended upon the apostles, and 
whose return on earth before the second coming of 
Christ, for the purpose of completing the Divine 
Revelation, was expected by many of the faithful ; 
and his trances, and ecstatic raptures, and frantic 
ravings, were probably regarded by the credulous 

* Calmet, Robinson, Waddington. 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 293 

and wondering multitude as the surest signs of Divine 
Revelation. He had many followers for a time, 
and his success was promoted by two prophetesses, 
who confirmed his mission and shared his spirit. 
They inculcated a severe morality, however, enjoin 
ing rigid fastings and celibacy.* 

But one of the most remarkable of these parallels 
to the case of Matthews, for the closeness of resem 
blance in many striking features, is that of the Ana 
baptists of Munster in Germany, which excited the 
wonder of Europe during the early part of the seven 
teenth century, and of which such strange accounts 
are to be found in the histories of that epoch. The 
similarity between the principal of this sect, known 
as John of Leyden, and Matthews, not only in doc 
trine, but in worldly observance, and especially in 
the passion for magnificence of apparel and luxu 
rious living, and in the rites and ceremonies exacted 
by each, is so remarkable as almost to lead to the 
conclusion, although heretofore repudiated, that the 
more recent impostor had formed himself and his 
creed, designedly, upon the model of his ancient 
prototype. The number of deluded proselytes who 
blindly followed the dictates of the Anabaptist leader 
was at one time so great, and their power so for 
midable, that several princes of Germany united 
against them ; and it was not until after a vigorous 
siege, and an obstinate resistance, that the city of 
Munster, of which the fanatics had obtained com- 

* Waddington s Church History. 
Bb2 



294 MATTHIAS AND 

plete possession, was taken, and their power broken 
down. 

We feel confident that the curiosity of the reader 
will be gratified by a brief description of John of 
Ley den and his practices. He was originally a 
tailor, and, though not the founder of the sect, ob 
tained a more absolute mastery over the minds of 
his deluded followers than any former false prophet. 
Instigated, no doubt, by the readiness of their sub 
mission to his assumed authority in all things, he 
declared that he had a commission from Heaven to 
be king of Israel and of righteousness, and to reign 
after the manner of King David. Accordingly, he 
appointed his chancellor, marshal, chamberlain, and 
other royal officers ; maintained a most luxurious 
table, at which, like the kings of France, he ate in 
public, and was served in royal state, his attendants 
kneeling when they presented to him dish or goblet ; 
and from his eight wives selected one to be his 
queen, whose separate establishment was on the 
same scale of splendour with his own. The king 
and queen, with all their officers and courtiers, were 
attired in the most costly dresses rich silks, furs, 
brocades, and jewels purchased with the plunder 
of the churches and the clergy. The king s public 
habit was a suit of silver tissue, Hned with crimson 
silk, and fastened with golden buckles. At his right 
hand a page walked or rode, bearing an open Bible ; 
and on the left, another with a magnificent sword. 
On his head the king wore a triple crown of gold, 
richly adorned with gems ; and round his neck he 
wore, suspended by a golden chain, a singular orna- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 295 

ment of gold, representing the terrestrial globe, with 
a cross and two swords, one of gold and the other 
of silver, with the inscription, " King of Righteous 
ness over the whole world." His audiences were 
held upon a vast platform erected in the market 
place ; on this he appeared seated on a splendid 
throne, with his counsellors standing below him, and 
all who had any suit to make to him knelt three 
times, and then prostrated themselves before him as 
they presented their petitions. 

Besides the title of king, John of Leyden also 
assumed that of " The Father," and the first pledge 
exacted from all who enrolled themselves among his 
followers was, implicitly to do his will, and, if neces 
sary, to suffer death at his command, or in his de 
fence or service. He enjoined and enforced a 
community of goods, or rather (as has since been 
done by Matthews) a surrender of all possessions, 
land, money, arms, and merchandise to him, as the 
Father and Lord of all, to be employed by him in 
the universal establishment of his kingdom and 
denounced the vengeance of Heaven and eternal 
damnation on all such as refused to believe in him 
and do his will. He declared, as also did his fol 
lowers, that, until he came, righteousness had not 
been preached upon the earth since the Saviour; and 
he equally denounced the Pope and Luther the 
Reformer as teachers of unrighteousness. All 
churches and convents he commanded to be de 
stroyed in the market-places of Baal ; priests and 
monks he denounced as children of darkness, and 
all sovereigns he would put to death. He pro- 



296 MATTHIAS AND 

claimed the wickedness and nullity of all marriages, 
except those solemnized by himself or his prophets, 
but enjoined polygamy, himself setting the example. 
Each of his principal followers had from six to eight 
wives, and both men and women were compelled to 
marry. Infidelity, or ill-treatment, on the part of the 
husband was punished with death. He taught that 
no man could understand the Scriptures but himself, 
or those whom he enlightened with his spirit, and all 
the prophecies in the Old Testament, relating to the 
Saviour, he applied to himself, and proclaimed their 
fulfilment in the establishment of his kingdom. 

In our own country, the most surprising instance 
of imposture and delusion, perhaps, that has occur 
red, was that of the Cochranites, whose enormities 
in licentiousness made so much stir in Maine and 
New-Hampshire a few years since. Cochrane was 
an officer in the army, thrown out of commission 
by the reduction of the military establishment of the 
United States, after the conclusion of the last war 
with England. Having become poor and penni 
less, he left one of the New-England cities Port 
land, if we mistake not and struck off into the 
country, seeking his fortune, and caring not whither 
he went. One day, as night drew on, he found 
himself near a farm-house, weary and hungry, and 
without a penny to purchase a mouthful of food, or 
the use of a pillow for the night. The thought 
struck him suddenly of throwing himself upon the 
hospitality of the farmer, for the occasion, in the char 
acter of a minister. Introducing himself as such to 
the family, he was gladly received ; and as the coun- 



HIS IMPOSTURES/ 297 

try was new, and destitute of clergymen, the good 
people forthwith despatched messengers to the neigh- 
>ours, that a minister had come among them, and 
nvited them in to attend a meeting. The impos 
tor had not anticipated so speedy a trial of his cleri 
cal character ; but having assumed it, there was no 
escape he must act the part for the time being in the 
best way he could. Being neither ignorant nor des 
titute of talents, he succeeded in acquitting himself 
much better than he had anticipated, and gave so 
much satisfaction to his audience not very dis 
criminating, as may well be supposed as to induce 
him to persevere in the imposture he had commenced. 
As he acquired skill and confidence by prac 
tice in his new vocation, his popularity increased, 
and he soon found it a profitable occupation. He 
was followed by multitudes ; and it was not long 
before he announced himself as some great one, 
and founded a new sect of religionists. His com 
mand over the audiences which he addressed is 
said to have been wonderful, and his influence over 
his followers unbounded. It seemed as though he^ ^ i 
possessed some potent spell, by means of which he 
was enabled to hold the victims of his impostures < 
In a state of enchantment. A clerical friend (a pro- p I 
lessor in an eastern college) has informed the writer, 
I that having heard of the wonderful sway which Coch- 
i rane held over his disciples, and indeed of the im- 
I pressions he made upon casual hearers, he determined 
| one evening to go and witness his performances 
himself. While present, although a very cool and 
grave personage, he assures us that he felt some 



298 MATTHIAS AND 

strange, undefinable, mysterious influence creeping 
over him to such a degree, that he was obliged actu 
ally to tear himself away in apprehension of the 
consequences. This gentleman, however, is a be 
liever in animal magnetism, and is inclined to attrib 
ute the power of Cochrane to that cause. It was 
said that if the impostor did but touch the hand or 
neck of a female, his power over her person and 
reason was complete. The consequence, therefore, 
was the most open and loathsome sensuality. So 
atrocious was his conduct, that he seduced great 
numbers of females, married and unmarried, under 
the pretext of raising up a holy race of men. /The 
peace of many families was broken upland the vil 
lain kept an establishment like a seraglio. His ca 
reer, however, was happily short. But enough of 
these disgusting and melancholy commentaries upon 
the weakness of human nature, and we return to the 
principal subject of our history. 

It may, probably, be expected of the writer, that 
he should make an avowal of his opinion as to the 
soundness or unsoundness of the mind of Matthews, 
although, from the illustrations that have been given 
of his character, habits, conduct, and the strange 
jumble of things inexplicable, taught as his doctrines, 
every reader might be supposed capable of forming 
an opinion for himself. As it respects Mr. Pierson, 
there cannot well be two opinions. He was seized 
with monomania as early as 1828, and the malady in 
creased upon him until the death of his wife, which 
event was a severe shock to hi reason. His asso 
ciation with Matthews completed the ruin of his 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



* Abercrombie on the Intellectual Powers.*^ 



300 MATTHIAS AND 

from a certain feeling of the new and peculiar man 
ner in which the impression is fixed upon the 
mind."* Such, beyond all question, was the case* 
of Mr. Pierson. 

The case of Matthews has been rendered more 
difficult of solution by the decision of the court and 
jury at Westchester. It is indeed possible that that 
decision was correct ; but the writer is free to de 
clare, that, after a careful investigation of his char 
acter, and the history of his proceedings, he has ar 
rived at a different conclusion in part. His shrewd 
ness and cunning, and the point and felicity of his 
occasional repartees, have been supposed to make 
in favour of the soundness of his faculties. But 
the cunning and adroitness of the partially insane are 
proverbial. Examples in point have often been ob 
served by the writer, in his occasional visits to the 
insane hospital at Bloomingdale embracing impos 
ture, and brilliant sallies of wit, biting satire, and 
pungent repartee. It is true that Matthews has al* 
ways been discharged when arraigned upon the 
charge of insanity. But such instances are not of 
very rare occurrence. . Lord Erskine gives a very 
remarkable history of a man who indicted Dr. 
Munro for confining him without a cause in a mad 
house. He underwent the most rigid examination 
by the counsel for the defendant without discovering 
any appearance of insanity, until a gentleman came 
into court who desired a question to be put to him, 
respecting a princess with whom he had corresponded 

* Abercrombie, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 301 

in cherry juice. He immediately talked about 
the princess in the most insane manner, and the 
cause was at an end. But this having taken place 
in Westminster, he commenced another action in 
the city of London, and on this occasion no effort 
could induce him to expose his insanity ; so that the 
cause was dismissed only by bringing against him 
the evidence taken at Westminster. On another 
occasion Lord Erskine examined a gentleman who 
had indicted his brother for confining him as a ma 
niac, and the examination had gone on for a great 
part of the day without discovering any trace of in 
sanity : Dr. Sims then came into court and informed 
the .counsel that the gentleman considered himself 
as the Saviour of the world. A single observation 
addressed to him in this character showed his in 
sanity, and put an end to the cause. Many similar 
cases might be cited.* There is also a curious case 
on record, where an insane person, on his way in 
charge of a professional gentleman to an insane 
asylum, managed to counterfeit the sane gentleman, 
and caused him to be taken into the hospital and se 
cured instead of himself. And there are various 
reasons which compel us to believe the fact in re 
gard to Matthews to be, that he is labouring under 
monomania, partly hereditary and partly superin 
duced by religious fanaticism and phrensy. This 
theory is supported by the circumstances and the 
manner in which the disease came upon him. His 
system, also, if that may be called system which has 

* Abercrombie. 

C c 



302 MATTHIAS AND 

no such quality appertaining to it, betrays an un 
sound intellect. It is incredible that any man, feign 
ing himself mad, or in his sober senses, in devising a 
scheme of imposture could form such a system of 
utterly preposterous and unintelligible absurdities. 
It is true that he always had reason enough at his 
command to keep quiet when in danger, and he de 
sisted from his phrensied vociferations in court im 
mediately on perceiving that they would not aid his 
cause. But the insane are proverbially cowards j 
and the perfect docility which marked his demeanour 
in an instant, and when raving with passion, in obe 
dience to the landlord of the hotel at the Battery, is 
a strong evidence of derangement. Had he been 

S actuated by a prudent forecast*, moreover, with the 
unbounded influence he possessed over Pierson and 

st* Folger, he might have enriched himself from their 
estates before their property disappeared. This he 
did not do, but merely contented himself with ex 
travagant dress and living, without apparently taking 
thought for the morrow. But in addition to these, 
and other evidences of hallucination that might be 
adduced, insanity is with him a family affliction. One 
of his brothers, as has already been stated, died insane ; 
another, the writer has been assured, is now insane ; 
and every member of the family is said at one time 
or another to have given indications of a disordered 
mind. This family infirmity is a very strong proof 
of a disordered intellect in the case of the prophet 
The propensities of his intellectual character, which 
had been kept under restraint by reason, or by ex 
ternal circumstances, or old habits which had been 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 303 

subdued or restrained, developed themselves without 
control under the temperance and religious excite 
ments in which he took part, and led his mind into 
the fancies arising out of them. Visions of a some 
what distempered imagination, in which he might 
formerly have indulged, of that kind usually called 
day-drearns, or castle building, then perhaps recur 
ring to his mind, he may in the first moments of ^ 
his delirium have believed in their real existence.* f 
Still, he has not been without " method in his mad- 

sF7 and it seems clear to the writer, that, with a * 
Unge of insanity, he is also much of a knave, ^ 
and probably a dupe likewise in part to his own 
imposture. 

* Abercromhie. 



304 MATTHIAS AND 



CHAPTER XI. 

Concluding Observations Religion not responsible for Mono 
mania and Delusion Hallucinations arising from other Causes 
Catalepsy The Power of Sympathy Animal Magnetism 
Various other Phenomena of the Mind Catholic Delusions 
Epidemic bodily Affections Mewing and biting Nuns 
Barclay s Apology for the Quakers Religious Excesses in 
Kentucky Fanaticism of the Present Day Evil Conse 
quences upon the Church Connected with the Impostures of 
Matthias Fanaticism and Delusion still existing in New- 
York 111 Effects of the Ultraismof the Day Project for dis 
pensing with Wine at the Eucharist Conclusion. 

IT was the principal and almost the sole design 
of the present work to make it a simple record of 
facts leaving theories and speculations to the phi 
losophers. And yet, in the view of the writer, it 
would be a course of questionable propriety to send 
forth a volume of this description without addressing 
a few words of caution, especially to the youthful 
reader, that he is by no means to take it for granted 
that the gross impieties and strong delusions we 
have been contemplating are to be charged to the 
account of the Christian religion. The disorder of 
the mind usually termed monomania by the physi 
cians being that form of mental hallucination in 
which the mind is absorbed by a single idea arises 
from various moral causes, and frequently has no 
connection whatever with religious subjects. De- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 305 

lusions also, deep, dark, and often fatal, are as likely 
to settle upon the mind, and cloud the understanding, 
in regard to other matters, as upon those of reli 
gion. The causes, the direction, and the results, 
are as various as the structure of the mind, and the 
pursuits of men. 

The delusion in the early history of New-England, 
on the subject of witchcraft, which prevailed so ex 
tensively, and which, in the blindness of its phrensy, 
doomed so many innocent victims to the scaffold 
and the fagot, was partly religious and partly not, 
and withal thoroughly fanatical. It has been at 
tributed, and that not without a show of reason, to 
the superstitious era in which those excesses oc 
curred. But if so, what are we to say of that strong 
mental delusion and none was ever more unac 
countable or more melancholy which, in the present 
enlightened age, and in a section of country inhabited 
by the most intelligent people in this union, com 
passed the abduction and murder of a few citizens, 
in revenge for an imaginary offence not against 
the peace and dignity of the state, nor to the per 
sonal detriment of a single individual, but merely 
for the anticipated infringement of a regulation of a 
private social society ! Most assuredly, the mental 
malady which instigated and perpetrated such a 
crime, and which was shared to a greater or less 
extent by hundreds of respectable and intelligent 
men, had no connection with the religious principle. 
Nor was the fanatical delusion of antimasonry, which 
succeeded it, and swept like a hurricane of fire over 
C c2 



306 MATTHIAS AND 

large portions of our country, allied to that prin 
ciple. 

The mania which prevailed among the capitalists 
of England and France, in the memorable instance 
of the South Sea Bubble, affords another example of 
delusion equally strong, and yet upon a subject still 
farther removed from things appertaining to religion. 
How many thousands of men, heedless and blind, 
on that occasion rushed into the gulf of bankruptcy, 
as if bereft of reason, impelled by the desire of at 
once realizing fortunes by means they knew not 
what, and from sources they knew not whence ! 
Nor was this mental obliquity peculiar to that iso 
lated instance of stupendous stock-jobbing. It was 
more strongly developed on that occasion, because 
of the magnitude of the scheme, and the number 
and consequence of its dupes. But the like spirit 
is yet abroad, and ever will be, whenever new 
sources and objects of speculation are presented to 
an enterprising community. 

/ Still more remarkable, however, and yet more ab 
surd than any or all these, was the delusion which 
spread over Europe some half a century ago ; and 
which has at various times been revived, and is by 
no means extinct at the present time, on the subject of 
animal magnetism. There is no greater absurdity 
extant in popular opinion, than the fancied analogy 
between the action of the mineral magnet and that 
of the animal energy, maintained by the disciples 
of Anthony Mesmer, the German impostor, who 
turned the heads of half the savans of Europe upon 
this subiect. No more audacious or successful 



ms IMPOSTURES. 307 

mountebank, probably, ever lived than Mesmer. 
But although compelled to quit Vienna in conse 
quence of being detected in a fraudulent miracle he 
had attempted, yet his career in Paris afterward was 
one of unexampled success. The magnet soon 
grew into comparative disuse, and the impostor de 
clared that the pretended cures wrought by him were 
effected by a mysterious power in his own person, 
and that this power was allied not only to the mag 
netic power, but to the attraction dispersed through 
out the universe. Monstrous as were his pre 
tensions, he obtained credence, and for a while 
all Europe, including princes, and learned doctors, 
scholars, and philosophers, were among his believers. 
There were no more splendid salons in Paris than 
his, and none more universally and fashionably 
thronged. 

It will not be pretended, we apprehend, that a de 
lusion like this, had any connection with the reli 
gious principle and analogous examples might be 
multiplied to an almost indefinite extent, were more 
necessary to establish the position we are maintain 
ing. But it is believed the few cases to which brief 
reference has been made, will be amply sufficient 
for the present purpose. 

Perhaps, however, it may yet be objected by the 
skeptic, that the examples cited are exceptions, 
standing alone, at the distance of long intervals of 
years, and that, after all, monomania has been both 
more strikingly and more frequently exhibited in 

* Vide Appendix, H. 



308 MATTHIAS AND 

connection with religion, than upon any other sub 
ject. The answer is nevertheless at hand. Mono 
mania, and indeed every form of insanity, depends 
for its existence, in any individual case, upon 
physical causes. Certain persons possess from 
birth, hereditarily, or otherwise, a physical organiza 
tion which predisposes them to paroxysms of insanity 
on the occurrence of any considerable excitement, 
whether mental or physical. In such instances, it 
is no more an argument against religion, that it does 
not protect its votaries from such calamities, or 
counteract such predispositions, than to object that 
it does not cure the gout, or prevent the consump 
tion. The disorder is, moreover, certain to fasten 
upon the strongest principle of our nature ; and 
it is the religious principle, beyond all doubt, which 
is at once the strongest and the most universally 
felt, and to which the appeal is the most easily 
made. 

The doctrine of supernatural and Divine influ 
ence acting upon the body as well as the mind, is 
as old as the history of man. The religious history 
of the Greeks and Romans, of Britain under the 
priesthood of the Druids, of India, and, in general, 
of all savage tribes, is full of its fruits. The con 
vulsions of the Pythian priestess, the contortions 
of the Sibyl the vast variety of convulsive and 
cataleptic phenomena among the devotees in India, 
and also among the spinning dervishes of the Mo 
hammedans, may be adduced as illustrations. But 
as the Christian religion makes the deepest and 
strongest impressions upon the mind and feelings, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 309 

it, of course, furnishes one of the " most effectual 
of those conditions under which the principles of 
sympathy, imitation, nervous sensibility, and imagi 
nation are excited to the production of such phe 
nomena. 

Nothing, then, can be more natural than that the 
history of Christianity should abundantly illustrate 
this order of delusions, of which the principal facts 
comprised in the foregoing pages form but another 
chapter more strongly marked, however, in some 
of its developments, than the historian is often under 
the necessity of placing upon record. Nor are 
these delusions in any respect peculiar, as some are 
disposed to maintain, to Protestants, or those who, 
for the convenience of designation, are known as 
Evangelical Christians. "The influence of the 
Roman Catholic religion, especially in the middle 
ages, connected, as it then was, with the pomp of pro 
cessions, with public exercises of penance, and with 
innumerable practices which strongly excited the 
imaginations of its votaries, certainly brought the 
mind to a very favourable state for the reception of 
a nervous disorder. Accordingly, so long as the 
doctrines of Christianity were blended with so much 
mysticism, unhallowed disorders prevailed to an 
important extent; and even in our days we find 
them propagated with the (greatest facility where 
the existence of superstition produces the greatest 
effect in more limited districts, as it once did 
among whole nations."* 

* Hecker s Epidemics of the Middle Ages. 



310 MATTHIAS AND 

The history of the enthusiasts of Cevennes, called 
Camisards, of the Convulsionaries of St. Medad, 
and the work just referred to, are full of facts upon 
this subject proving that monomania, fanaticism, 
and delusion are not only sympathetic, but epidemic 
diseases. " The imaginations of women," says Dr. 
Babbington, " are always more excitable than those 
of men, and they are therefore susceptible of every 
folly when they lead a life of strict seclusion, and 
their thoughts are constantly turned inward upon 
themselves. Hence in orphan asylums, hospitals, 
and convents, the nervous disorder of one female 
so easily and quickly becomes the disorder of all. 
I have read in a good medical work that a nun, in 
a very large convent in France, began to mew like 
a cat ; shortly afterward other nuns also mewed to 
gether every day at a certain time, for several hours 
together. The whole surrounding Christian neigh 
bourhood heard, with equal chagrin and astonish 
ment, this daily cat-concert, which did not cease 
until all the nuns were informed that a company of 
soldiers were placed by the police before the entrance 
of the convent, and that they were provided with 
rods, and would continue whipping them until they 
promised not to mew any more. But of all the 
epidemics of females which I myself have seen in 
Germany, or of which the history is known to me, 
the most remarkable is the celebrated Convent-epi 
demic of the fifteenth century, which Cardan de 
scribes, and which peculiarly proves what I would 
here enforce. A certain nun in Germany fell to 
biting all her companions. In the course of a short 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 311 

time all the nuns of this convent began biting each 
other. The news of this infatuation among the 
nuns soon spread, and it passed from convent to 
convent throughout a great part of Germany, princi 
pally Saxony and Brandenburg. It afterward visited 
the nunneries of Holland, and at last the nuns had 
the biting mania even as far as Rome." 

The propagation of epileptic and other convulsions 
is well established. When an individual in a crowd is 
seized with these affections, the disorder very com 
monly spreads itself through the crowd. From the 
occurrence and rapid propagation of epilepsy among 
the crowded political assemblies (comitia} of the 
Romans, this affection was called the morbus comi- 
tialis ; and in order to prevent its spread on such 
occasions, a law was passed to break up the comitia, 
arid disperse the crowd on the first occurrence of a 
case. 

A striking illustration of the effects of the princi 
ple of involuntary imitation and imagination upon 
persons brought together in a close assembly^ even 
where nothing is spoken, occurs in Barclay s Apol 
ogy for the Quakers. After speaking of the Di 
vine influence as coming down upon them, and pro 
ducing " a trembling, and a motion of the body upon 
most if not all," he proceeds to say : " and from 
this the name Quakers or Tremblers was first re 
proachfully cast upon us, which, if it be not of our 
own choosing, yet we are not ashamed of it, but 
have rather reason to rejoice in this respect, even 
that we are sensible of this power that hath some 
times laid hold on our adversaries, and made them 



312 MATTHIAS AND 

yield to us, and join with us, and confess to the truth, 
before they had any doctrines, so that sometimes 
many at one meeting have been thus convinced: and 
power would sometimes also reach to, and wonder 
fully work, even in little children, to the astonish 
ment and admiration of many !" 

About thirty or thirty-five years ago, there was an 
extensive revival of religion (so called) in Kentucky, 
characterized by the greatest fanaticism, accompa 
nied by a great variety of bodily affections, and run 
ning into many painful excesses. These fanatics 
were reducible to various classes, some of which were 
affected by < the falling exercise ;" and others by 
what was called the "jerking exercise ;" others were 
moved by the Spirit to propose the " running exer 
cise ;" and others again the " climbing exercise" 
all which exercises are sufficiently indicated by their 
names. It was a frequent occurrence for a number 
of the people to gather round a tree, some praying, 
and others imitating the barking of dogs, which oper 
ation was called, in familiar parlance among them, 
" treeing the devil." It was stated also concerning 
the same people, that in their religious assemblies, 
or other places of worship, religious professors of 
zeal and standing would get out into the broad aisle, 
and go down upon their knees together, playing mar 
bles, and other childish games, under the notion of 
obeying that saving of the Saviour " except ye be 
converted, and oecome as little children, ye cannot 
enter into the kingdom of heaven ;" others would 
ride up and down the aisles of the church on sticks, 
&c. It was further said that the religious leaders, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 313 

or at least one of them, by the name of M Namara, 
would affect to personate Satan : that on a certain 
occasion during Camp-meeting he was creeping 
about among the people s feet, exclaiming, " I am 
the old serpent that tempted Eve :" when approach 
ing in this manner to a Scotchman who was on the 
ground as a spectator, the man lifted up his heel, and 
stamping on the face of the minister, replied, " The 
seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent s head." 
This man, M Namara, was regarded among them 
with superstitious reverence, insomuch that it was 
common for them to sing, in worship, a hymn, hav 
ing for its chorus "Glory to God and M Nama 
ra." A pious friend of the writer, who was at the 
time a student of theology under the late Dr. Ma 
son, states that these facts were reported by his fel 
low students from Kentucky, one of whom actually 
heard the blasphemous chorus sung ! And yet all 
these affections, these "fantastic tricks," which might 
well " make angels weep," were fully believed to 
be the work of the Holy Spirit the fruits and evi 
dences of conversion, and it would have been bold 
impiety and blasphemy to doubt it. 
, This brief sketch of the Kentucky enthusiasm 
brings us back to the point we had in view in the 
commencement of the volume, and of which, it is 
hoped, we have never lost sight, viz. the great 
danger of running into extremes, and making our 
selves wise above what is written. What sober 
Christian does not shrink with pain, sorrow, and dis 
gust from proceedings like those just related, car 
ried on under the name of religion, and with an ira- 
Dd 



314 MATTHIAS AND 

pious confidence -referred to the direct agency of 
the Holy Spirit ! And yet they are scarcely more 
extravagant or revolting than have been witnessed 
in our own day, and in some of the most enlightened 
regions of our own state. Look at the present con 
dition of the churches of western New-York, which 
have become, in truth, "a people scattered and 
peeled." The time has not come to write the ec 
clesiastical history of the last ten years. And yet 
somebody should chronicle the facts now, lest in 
after times the truth, however correctly it may be 
preserved by tradition, should not be believed. 
Twenty years hence, who, probably, would believe 
that early in the second quarter of the present cen 
tury, Christian parents in the state of New- York 
could have been induced, by the teachings of fanati 
cism, to whip their children with rods into re 
pentance? Who, twenty years hence, would be 
willing to believe that for the purpose of helping on 
a revival of religion, its managers would station a 
trumpeter privately in the belfry of a church, to 
startle the congregation at a particular point of a 
sermon on the final judgment, by winding a blast 
on his instrument as the minister spoke of the sound 
ing of the last trumpet !* 

The writer entertains no doubt, that many true 

* This transaction is said to have taken place in Massachu 
setts 6r Vermont, some four or five years since. The writer saw a 
printed account of it, but it is not within his reach: it is to be hoped 
that the publication was not true. But other means, equally excep 
tionable, are notorious in the career of some of the roving evan 
gelists who have distracted and rent asunder so many churches. 
The reports, printed and verbal, that have been communicated 
to the writer respecting the proceedings of the celebrated Mr. 
Burchard, almost equal in phrensy, if not impiety, the vagaries 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 315 

conversions have occurred under the system to 
which he is referring. But as with the ground over 
which the lightning has gone, scorching and wither 
ing every green thing, years may pass away before 
the arid wastes of the church will be grown over 
by the living herbage. 

These facts and reflections have been introduced 
in this place, because it is believed that the melan 
choly and humiliating chapter in the philosophy of 
the human mind, comprised in the present volume, 
forms a portion of the same history. The delusion 
originated in the same spirit of fanaticism which 
has transformed so many Christian communities in 
the northern and western parts of New-York, and 
states contiguous, into places of moral waste and 
spiritual desolation. The error was cherished and 
prolonged in the same spirit ; and, proceeding step 
by step from one degree of extravagance to another, 
at last, under the teachings of the pretended 
prophet, who had also begun his career in the 
same school, the measure of iniquity became full 
and running over. Nor have we seen the end even 
yet. In the Perfectionism, which began at Albany 

of Matthews himself. A gentleman of great respectability states, 
that when he was in the western part of New-York, a year or 
two since, he was told by a person whom he perfectly believed, 
of the following instance of a procedure of Mr. Burchard : 

After having by persuasion and the use of the most exciting 
language, and even taking hold of individuals, got a company ot 
persons of both sexes upon their knees to pray ranged in two 
parallel lines, facing each other he began to pass up and down 
between them, crying out, with great violence, repeatedly, " Ago 
nize I tell you ! Why don t you agonize ! agonize !" &c. 6tc. 
In this way he continued for a considerable time, exciting them 
to pray; exclaiming, "Pray away! Pray away! I. have not 
had a conversion these twenty minutes ! !" 



3,16 MATTHIAS AND 

about the time that Matthews commenced his ca 
reer, and which has recently appeared in New- 
Haven with some force, as also in several other 
places in New-England, we may discern another 
of the same parent. These Perfectionists believe 
that they have the inward Christ can do no wrong 
that to the pure all things are pure that Christ 
is responsible for all they do and other such blas 
phemous absurdities. In their practices, too, as the 
writer is informed, from proofs which cannot in the 
nature of things be very long concealed, there is 
reason to apprehend that the licentious abomina 
tions of the Fifth Monarchy-men of England, the 
followers of Joanna Southcote, and the Mormons, 
will soon find another parallel. Indeed, a section 
of the Mormons and Perfectionists have been al 
ready united, as we have been assured from an in 
telligent source, while these sheets are passing 
through the press. 

Nor yet is this all. In one of its ramifications, 
the same delirious enthusiasm which has been ex 
posed in the preceding pages, is still at work and 
flourishing in the city of New- York, under the 
conduct of an individual who was associated with 
" The Holy Club," described in our second chap 
ter, and afterward, for a time, with Mr. Pierson, 
and the community at Bowery Hill. The eccen- 
trie individual referred to, however, who at pres 
ent is the chief personage in this delusion, is 
generally esteemed as a well-meaning and sincere 
man ; nor has any moral impropriety ever been 
alleged against him. He officiates, like Mr. Pier- 
son, in " his own hired hous*," in an upper room 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



317 



fitted for the purpose, and his congregation is 
chiefly composed of females, a large number of 
whom are in his employ. Every Sunday, and on one 
or two evenings of the week, he assembles these 
females, and such visiters of both sexes as choose 
to attend, for religious meetings. And although 
he is regarded by his followers as almost superhu 
man, and professes immediate inspiration, yet all 
are allowed to speak in their meetings. Many of 
their speeches consist of revelations, dreams, and 
visions ; and after each has made his or her rela 
tion, their prophet interprets them by Divine and 
infallible authority. He has varied his pretensions 
at different periods, professing sometimes greater 
gifts than at others. Some years since he de 
clared himself empowered by faith to discern spir 
its, cast out devils, heal diseases, and perform other 
miracles ; and some of his followers have professed 
to be similarly endowed. He was an intimate 
friend of Mr. Pierson, and was sent for to anoint 
Mrs. P. before her death ; but did not arrive in 
time. He was present, however, at the attempted 
resurrection, and seemed full of faith in the suc 
cess of that promised miracle. Indeed, he has 
Wten practised the anointing of the sick, and some 
of his followers profess to be living witnesses of 
his healing powers by the laying on of his hands. 
He believes that all cases of insanity are examples 
of diabolical possession, and relates instances of 
his having cast out devils. In one of these cases 
of diabolical dispossession, it is related, that " when 
the devil went out of the man, he barked like a 
dog." When any of his miracles fail, he alleges 
Dd2 



318 MATTHIAS AND 

the want of faith in the patient, or on the part of 
some one present, as the only cause. Some of his 
followers have spent much time in searching for 
Captain Kidd s money, both men and women hav 
ing been digging in the earth on Staten-Island, and 
elsewhere, during whole nights. Trances are not 
unfrequent among them, in which they obtain mar 
vellous revelations. A short time since, a black 
woman fell into a trance, which is said to have lasted 
three days and nights, and being one of the disci 
ples, she related her manifestations at the meeting, 
saying that she had been in heaven and in hell, in 
which latter place she saw several of the ministers 
who now reside in this city, whose names she 
repeated. Subsequently she visited a number of 
them at their houses, as the bearer of a message 
from the other world, which she was commanded 
to deliver in person. All this was fully credited by 
the deluded victims of the individual and his asso 
ciates, to whom allusion has just been made. 

It is but just to record, that he refused to ac 
knowledge the impostor Matthews, though urged 
thereto by his friend Mr. Pierson, because he dis 
cerned his spirit. So, also, when Mr. P. himself 
assumed to be the prophet Elijah, this gentleman 
would not receive his testimony, and their inter 
course ceased soon afterward. And yet, strange 
as it may seem, the exposure of Matthews, so far 
from annihilating this delusion, seems only to in 
crease it ; and it never was more numerously pat 
ronised than at this very time. It is to be feared 
that some who have narrowly escaped the former, 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 



319 



and have nearly suffered thereby the loss of all 
things, are even now entangled in the latter snare. 
Whereunto this matter may grow cannot be fore 
told : little hazard is incurred, however, by the pre 
diction, that no good will come of it, while incalcu 
lable evil may. 

And now, what shall be said in conclusion of the 
whole matter ? In the history of Matthews, and 
those who both preceded and followed him, the 
foregoing pages have been written with a view of 
warning the Christian public, by the presentation 
of simple facts, against cherishing a spirit of fanat 
icism. The author has diligently sought for the 
truth ; and he believes he has succeeded in collect 
ing a chain of facts, which, though many of them 
were of a private nature, are all of an extraor 
dinary and painful character, and are not the less 
important to be known, that others, looking at their 
origin, and tracing their progress, may be deterred 
from the adoption of a course in matters of religion 
that, by possibility, may lead to the same danger 
ous extremes, and ultimately into the same dark 
and painful, if not fatal delusions disclosed in this 

book. 

It has been seen in the course of this nar 
rative how perilous it is for the Christian professor 
to indulge in an uncharitable and censorious spirit 
to set up standards of faith and practice of his 
own, irrespective of the simple requisitions of the 
word of God, taken in their most obvious sense, 
and in their own native simplicity and beauty, 
has been well remarked by Robert Philip, that 
the men who would say to others, stand aside, 



320 MATTHIAS AND 

for I am holier than thou, are Pharisees, who have 
little or no dependence on grace. In like manner, 
all who plume themselves on being special favour 
ites of Heaven, and despise others as non-elect, 
pay, of all men, the least respect to the grace they 
pretend to have received. They either turn it into 
licentiousness, or employ it as an excuse for idle 
ness." In the melancholy chain of circumstances 
and events we have been contemplating, illustra 
tions the most ample have been found of the just 
ness of these remarks. The difficulties commenced 
the delusion gross, palpable, and lamentable as 
it became in its progress, and fatal to the life of 
one truly excellent man in the end had its origin 
in the fanaticism of a single individual and that 
person remained the guiding spirit through the 
whole progress of the mental malady, in all its 
stages, excepting only in regard to the pretended 
prophet, of whom she disapproved. We recollect 
well the remark of a lady of delightful piety one of 
the sweetest and most intelligent Christians we ever 
knew, when the individual referred to commenced 
her career of lofty pretensions to holiness on her 
own part, and of fault-finding and cruel denuncia 
tions, in regard to the spirit she thus evinced, and 
the course into which it would lead. The lady to 
whom we allude is the wife of a clergyman and 
no Christian couple on earth, probably, have been 
more united and happy in their lives, or have dif 
fused a more beneficial and salutary influence in 
society. She remarked, in substance, that she had 
seen many instances of this severe and fault-finding- 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 821 

spirit, but never beheld any good resulting from its 
exercise. On the contrary, those who thus in 
dulged in all uncharitableness, were very certain 
themselves to run into the extreme, either of an 
eventual disregard of all religion and the indulgence 
of excessive gayety on the one hand, or by setting 
up as the head and leader of a sect on the other. 
The prediction was speedily fulfilled in the pro 
ceedings with which the reader is already ac 
quainted, especially at Bowery Hill. 

Undoubtedly the great error of the times in 
which we live, and especially in our own country, 
is a tendency to ultraism, not only in regard to the 
concerns of religion, but likewise in respect to 
most if not all the great principles and objects 
which are now engrossing the attention of man. 
We are running into extremes upon almost every 
thing we undertake. In politics, we are in danger 
of carrying the principles of liberty to licentious 
ness. In matters of philanthropy, instead of that 
quiet and modest principle of action which would 
shrink from allowing the right-hand to know what 
the left is doing, we have too much of parade and 
ostentation too much blowing of trumpets. In 
morals, whenever a hobby is started, we are eager 
in outvying each other, even beyond the require 
ments of the moral law itself; and in the impetu 
osity of this excess of zeal, we grieve to say, the 
sacred cause of temperance bids fair to be arrested 
in its progress, if not ruined, by the indiscretions 
and the fanaticism of its friends. It was in view 
of this spirit of ultraism that one of the distin- 



322 MATTHIAS AND 

guished orators at the recent religious anniversaries, 
shrewdly remarked, that often, when a good cause 
has been begun, if the Devil finds there is no other 
way to ruin it, he will turn charioteer himself. 
No stronger illustration of the truth of this remark 
could well be added, than is to be found in the re 
cent measures and proceedings of some good men, 
who are labouring with more zeal than prudence, 
or knowledge of human nature, in the temperance 
cause. Not only have we seen the cutting down 
of orchards, and the pouring of wine into the streets, 
but grave and reverend divines are at length, in 
the exuberance of their zeal, proposing to abolish 
wine in the solemn institution of the Eucharist !* 

In the solemn affairs of religion, moreover, in 
stead of looking into our own hearts, and repenting 
of our own sins, we are striving to look into the 

* A series of articles are now in the course of publication in 
the Connecticut Observer, the writer of which is understood to 
be the Rev. Dr. Chapin, of Wethers field, proposing to dispense 
with wine at the Communion. Among other things, he more 
than intimates his opinion that much that is taken for holy en 
joyment at those seasons, is animal excitement from the stimulus, 
or intoxicating effect of the wine ; and that church-members 
/.take a carnal pleasure in the liquor. Professor Hitchcock, of 
Amherst, is also understood to be writing to the same effect. A 
highly- valued clerical friend, now in New- York, has given the 
writer the following extract from a dialogue between himself 
and one of these ultra -preachers of temperance : 

"Well, Mr. ** >**, supposing Jesus Christ came on the 
earth again, and should happen into a prayer-meeting of your 
disciples, and as he entered the whisper should go round that 
he had just come from making wine for a festive occasion, where 
the party had already drunk pretty well before would you ak 
him to make a prayer ?" 

" No !" (striking his fist upon the table), " that I would not " 
was the reply ! 



HIS IMPOSTURES. 323 

hearts of others, and take care of them, in our own 
way, and to the danger, we fear, of our own souls. 
The appointed means of grace are contemned ; we 
wish to do the work of the Spirit, as it were, by 
machinery ; and instead of depending upon the 
Spirit of God, and seeking to catch the genial 
urrents of that wind which bloweth where it listeth, 
and of which we only hear the sound, but canno 1 
tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth, we are 
striving to raise hurricanes ourselves. But unless 
the writer is greatly deceived in his estimate of the 
facts detailed in the present volume, they ought to 
stand as a solemn warning against the indulgence 
of this ultra, self-righteous, and fanatical spirit 
this seeking out of human inventions in matters of 
such high concernment as those of the salvation of 
men. How much wiser, safer, and better, than the 
running after every new thing, and the following 
of so many blind guides, would it be for Christian 

f professors to obey the injunction of God himself: 
" Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ivays, and 

<i see, AND ASK FOR THE OLD PATHS, where is the GOOD 

(WAY, and WALK THEREIN, and ye shall find rest for 

i your souls." 

The contents of this little volume also teach 
another lesson which should not be suffered to pass 

unheeded. It is not the low, the ignorant, and the 
vulgar who have been the subjects of the delu 
sions we have been unfolding ; but, at every stage 
of them, and in all their variety of aspects, those 
subjects have been found among highly respectable 
and intelligent citizens ladies, educated, accom- 



324 MATTHIAS. 

plished, virtuous and gentlemen of character 
acute in business men of wealth, of information, 
and of great public and private worth. How im 
portant, then, in view of our dependence, and the 
frailty of our nature, the caution, " Let him that 
thinkcth he standeth, take heed lest he fall." And 
again, in the language of God to Jeremiah, " Let 
not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let 
the mighty man glory in his might ; let not the rich 
man glory in his riches, but let him that glorieth, 
glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth 
ME." The rule of action in all doubtful matters, 
both in religion and morals, is very clear and sim 
ple : " Fear God, and keep his commandments ; 
for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall 
bring every work into judgment, with every secret 
thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." 

In conclusion, it may be remarked that ERROR 
can only be overcome by TRUTH, and that they 
who have the " TRUTH OF GOD" distinctly set forth 
in the book of Revelation, have an infallible crite 
rion by which to test the true character of any re 
ligious opinion or practice. And in the gospel dis 
pensation introduced by our Lord and Saviour Jesus 
Christ, the inspired volumes of the Old and New 
Testaments constitute the true and only infallible 
rule of faith and conduct ; nor can any radical or 
fundamental error long escape detection when sub 
jected to this plain and unerring standard. 



APPENDIX. 



[AFTER the present volume was more than half completed, 
and after that portion of it containing the principal extracts 
from Mr. Pierson s papers had been stereotyped, the writer 
obtained for examination some hundred or more pages of 
his manuscripts and journals, of the existence of which he 
was not before apprized. Had he received these papers at 
an earlier day, some farther use would have been made of 
them in their chronological order. Even as it is, a few 
additional extracts have been made, and are here added by 
way of appendix, as tending to the farther elucidation of the 
character of Mr. Pierson, and as matters of curiosity.] 

A. 

The following document is a copy of the prayer and cove 
nant of Mr. Pierson, made, probably, on connecting himself 
with the church, Jan. 2, 1820. It was written out, and 
signed and sealed a practice recommended by Dr. Dod- 
dridge and other eminent experimental Christian writers. 
Nothing can breathe a more fervent and delightful spirit of 
piety than this instrument, and the renewal of it six months 
afterward. How strange, that a sun which rose so brightly, 
should have gone down in deepest gloom ! 

O thou great and greatly exalted and incomprehensible 
Jehovah, who alone art God, and who alone art worthy of 
the praises and adorations of all thy creatures thou who 
searches! the hearts of the children of men, search my heart, 
O my God, and make it sincere in the high privilege in which 
it is now to be engaged. 

my God, I, the creature of thy power, desire with great 
humility and abasement of soul to deplore my past rebellion 



326 APPENDIX. 

against thee, and against thy holy and righteous laws, and 
desire to lay down the weapons of my rebellion against thee 
as my lawful Sovereign, Creator, and Preserver. Great and 
exalted God, who art the Lord of lords and King of kings, 
though thou art exalted above all comprehension, yet thou 
condesrendest to become the Saviour of sinners through 
Jesus Christ thy dearly beloved Son. 

In the name of this precious Saviour do I, who am a lost, 
perishing sinner, desire to come to thee and take hold of thy 
strength, that I may make peace with thee, O Lord, and be 
enabled to be at peace with thee. With a heart filled with 
gratitude at thy condescension to the children of men, I desire, 
by this solemn and deliberate act, to accept of this precious 
Saviour, Jesus Christ, as he is offered in the Gospel ; to 
renew the vows made for me in baptism in the name of the 
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; and those vows which by thy 
grace thou hast enabled me to make in a public manner in 
thy sanctuary, and this day again renewedly to dedicate my 
self to thee, my God, to be thine in an everlasting cove 
nant, choosing and cleaving to thee as the desire of my heart, 
and only portion for time and for eternity, renouncing the 
world and its vanities, consecrating myself and all that I am 
and have to thy service and glory. 

Be pleased, blessed God, to accept the offering here made 
thee (with an humble dependance on thy helping grace, which 
alone will enable me to perform my vows). Grant me, my 
Father, the fulness of thy love and grace in Jesus Christ. 
Let me be washed in the precious blood of the dear Redeem 
er; let me be clothed in his righteousness; let me be sanc 
tified by his spirit, and transformed more and more into his 
image. Number me among thy peculiar people ; inscribe my 
name in the Lamb s book of life ; grant me t.he blessed Com 
forter to comfort me, to teach me, and to lead me in the way 
of all truth. Put thy fear in my heart, that it may never de 
part from thee ; write thy law upon my heart that it may be 
a light to my feet and lamp to my path ; grant me a double 
portion of meekness, lowliness, and humility. Enable me to 
walk humbly with thee, my God ; grant me perfect resignation 
to thy holy will ; enable me to spend the remainder of my 
days in thy service, and in the light and under the smiles of 
thy countenance. my God and Father, when thou seest 
ine going astray from thy holy commandments, let this cove- 



APPENDIX. 



327 



nant pass in remembrance before thee, my beloved Father, 
and wilt thou in tender mercy lead me quickly back to the 
true and living way ! Grant me grace to keep this covenant : 
and when it shall please thee to call me hence, wilt thou 
look down on me, thy languishing, dying child, and in cove 
nant love strengthen and support me in that trying moment, 
and enable me with my latest breath to glorify thee, the 
faithful and everlasting God, and then receive my spirit, that 
it may dwell with Jesus its Redeemer, and behold his glory. 
And row, holy and blessed Father, for the sake of Jesus the 
Son of thy love, blot out all my manifold transgressions, and 
forgive me freely for his sake who died for sinners. 

What thou se est amiss in this solemn transaction, forgive ; 
what thou seest I need that I have not asked, grant. 

Accept me now, O my beloved Father. My heart s desire 
is to be thine for ever. O that this desire might be sincere, 
and come up acceptably before thee. To thee, the only true 
God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be rendered everlasting 
praises. Amen. ELIJAH PIEKSON. [L. S.] 

New-York, Sunday, January 2, 1820. 

Most holy and blessed God, my heavenly Father, I desire 
to confirm this covenant, and renewedly to dedicate myself to 
thee my God and Creator, to deplore and lament my past 
unworthiness and unprofitableness, and in view of them to be 
deeply humbled before thee, my God, and cast myself upon 
thy free and sovereign mercy in Jesus Christ ; and with an 
humble dependance upon thy helping grace, desire to renounce 
the world and its vanities, to choose thee, my heavenly 
Father, as my portion for time and for eternity. 

O Lord God, for Christ s sake, accept me ; draw my affec 
tions from nil created good, that they may centre in thee alone ; 
give me holiness of heart ; give me greater conformity to thee ; 
fire my soul with holy love to thee ; sanctify me by thy holy 
spirit ; grant me sweet communion with thee, my Father, and 
give me the spirit of thy children. 

Greatly strengthen thou me for all the duties and trials of 
life as "my day is, so let my strength be. Fit me to live, 
and prepare me for death ; and when I shall have finished my 
course, may my spirit for ever rest in the bosom of Christ 
Redeemer. Amen. ELIJAH 

Hew-Yoi-k, July 4, 1820. 



328 APPENDIX. 

B. 

FORMATION OF MR. PIERSON S CHURCH AT 
BOWERY HILL. 

[The following is Mr. Pierson s account of the manner in 
which he and his associates constituted the Bowery Hill 
Church, under his own ministration, describing the forms 
and ceremonies observed.] 

Sunday, Feb. 28, 1830. It was a very rainy day, and 
none of us contemplated going out. Mrs. P. was ill in her 
bed, but well enough heartily to unite in this transaction. 

We assembled in the backroom down stairs, E. P., S. P., 
Catharine P., and T. G. Freeman. 

After reading the 1st of Acts, and prayer, we were moved 
by the Holy Ghost to form ourselves into a Church, after the 
following manner : 

In the first place, I (E. P.) was set apart by prayer and 
laying on of hands for the work. 

Next, Sarah was set apart in the same manner for the same 
purpose. After, Timothy and Caty, in the same way, to join 
and receive the right hand of fellowship, when they were reg 
ularly dismissed from their present connexions. 

I then gave the right hand of fellowship to Sarah, and 
greeted her with a holy kiss, and welcomed her to all the 
privileges and blessings of the Church of Christ. 

During the exercises, we all enjoyed, in a remarkable man 
ner, the presence of Jesus. 

Sarah and myself had special witness from the Lord that 
we had done according to the mind of the Lord, and that ho 
was well pleased with our faith and obedience in doing it. 

When we had done, the Lord bade me write it in a book. 
I then wrote the covenant, which was signed by me and her. 

We used frequently to unite together in prayer concerning 
the Church, and it appeared as if the Lord was well pleased 
with us in the matter, and always gave us precious encourage 
ment about its prosperity. Once he presented a Bible, all 
gold, opened to the Acts of the Apostles, to the view of Sarah s 
mind. To me Jesus appeared to come in kingly attire, with 
a crown. 

I was exceedingly desirous of being instructed in his word, 
that we might in every thing follow him. I heard a word 
saying, When he came he would teach us all things. 



APPENDIX. 329 

C. 

[It will be recollected, that Matthews pretended to be a 
Jew ; and Mr. Pierson, after he was transformed first into 
Elijah the Tishbite, and afterward into John the Baptist, ima 
gined himself to have become a Jew also. Matthias preach 
ed, and Pierson then believed, that the Jews were guiltless 
of the crucifixion of the Saviour. The following is Mr. Pier- 
son s argument upon the question, found by the writer among 
his papers.] 

Who are legally accountable for the death of Jesus of 
Nazareth ? 

It is written. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, ?.nd the Son 
of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the 
scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall de 
liver him to the Gentiles, and they shall mock him, and shall 
scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him. 
Mark x., 33, 34. 

Matt, xx., 19. And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to 
mock, and to scourge, and to crucify. 

Luke xviii., 32, 33. For he shall be delivered unto the 
Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and 
spitted on, and they shall scourge him and put him to death. 

Jesus delivered to the Gentiles. 

Matt, xxvii., 2. And when they had bound him, they led 

him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 

John xi.x., 10. Then saith Pilate unto Jesus, Speakest 

thou not unto me 1 Knowest thou not that I have power to 

crucify thee, and have power to release thee 1 

Luke xxiii., 24 And Pilate, gave sentence that it should 
be as they required. 

Matt, xxvii., 26. Then released he Barabbas unto them. 
And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be 
crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into 
the common hall, and gathered unto them the whole band. 
And they stripped him and put on him a scarlet robe ; and 
when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his 
head, and a reed in his right hand, and they bowed the knee 
oefore him, and mocked him. saying, Hail, King of the Jews. 
EC 2 



330 



APPENDIX. 



And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on 
the head. And after they had mocked him, they took the 
robe from off him, and put his own raiment on him, and led 
him away to crucify. 

Luke xxiii., 33. And when they were come (o the place 
which is called Calvary, there they crucified him and the 
malefactors. 

John xix., 34, 38. But one of the soldiers with a spear 
pierced his side. 

And after this Joseph of Arimathea besought Pilate that 
he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave 
him leave. 

Comments. 

From the above portions of Scripture we learn, that Jesus 
was betrayed unto the chief priests and scribes, and by 
them delivered to the Roman governor in Judea, Pontius 
Pilate, who gave sentence against him, and delivered him to 
his own soldiers, who put on him the scarlet robe, the crown 
of thorns, mocked him, spit on him, and crucified him, and 
pierced him in his side, when dead delivering his body to Jo- 
seph for interment. 

This narrative in the Scriptures is so clear and conclusive, 
that no shade of doubt can arise against the conclusion that 
the Roman governor is legally accountable for the death 
of Jesus of Nazareth. And that when the Avenger of his 
blood shall come, it will be required of the Gentile s. 

Again : long before the death of Jesus took place, the na 
tionality of the Jews had ceased, and they were governed by 
governors put over them by the Roman emperors, Pontius 
Pilate being the Roman governor at that time. 

The lawful rulers of a country are held accountable for the 
transactions done under their control ; they only have a right 
to use force to prevent crime and to execute the laws. 

Thus Paul was rescued by the Roman governor from the 
people, who were desirous of killing him. Acts xxi , 31, 
32, 33. 

The custom of the Roman government was to leave their 
conquered provinces the free exercise of their religious opin 
ions and ceremonies, and this the Jews continued to do, with 
little interruption, till Jerusalem and the Temple were de 
stroyed. 

The chief priests and scribes say, John xviii., 31, in an- 



APPENDIX. 331 

Bwer to Pilate s request that they should take Jesus, and judge 
him according to their laws, " It is not lawful for us to put 
any man to death." 

Yet they say, John xix., 7, " The Jews answered him, we 
have a law, and by our law he ought to die." 

These show us, that the right to put persons to death had 
been taken from them by the Romans. Matt, xxvii., 25. 
u Then answered all the people and said, his blood be upon 
us and on our children." When God makes inquisition for 
blood, he will seek for it where it is, in the hands of the 
guilty, and that upon legal principles, however men may de 
termine to the contrary. 

The position, that Gentiles are guilty of the blood of Jesus 
of Nazareth, enables us to determine the application of the 
parable of the vineyard and husbandmen, Matt, xxi., 32, 
41, Mark xii., 1-9, Luke xx., 9, 16. It is said, " When the 
lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto these hus 
bandmen 1 He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and 
will let out the vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall 
render him the fruits in their seasons." Matt, xxi., 40, 41. 

This parable had a partial application to those who heard 
it from the mouth of Jesus. 

But its grand application is to those who killed the Son, 
and the killing of the Son is the moving cause of the deter 
mination of the Lord to destroy them, and give the vineyard 
to others who will make a good use of it. 

Thus we see that the ark is to be taken from the Gen 
tiles, and to be restored to the Jews. Obadiah says, 15, 16, 
17, " For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen, 
as thou hast done it shall be done to thee ; thy reward shall 
return upon thine own head. 

" For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, shall all the 
heathen drink continually ; yea, they shall drink, and they 
shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had 
not been. But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and 
there shall be holiness." 

Paul, in Rom. xi., 20, says, " The branches were broken off, 
that the Gentiles might be grafted in. Well ; because of un 
belief they were broken off, and thou stanclest by faith. Be not 
high-minded. For if God spared not the natural branches, 
lest he spare not thee. 

" Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God : on 



332 



APPENDIX. 



them which fell, severity ; but towards thee, goodness, if thou 
continue in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." 

What application can be made of Paul s doctrine 1 Have 
the Gentiles stood in the faith ] Is the institution called the 
Church now in the world like that established by the Saviour 
and his apostles 1 Do its present condition and character 
agree with the pattern left for their guidance and direction 1 

Are the people called Christians all of one heart and one 
soul 1 Have they all things common like those of old 1 Are 
their teachers filled with faith and the Holy Ghost 1 Do they 
heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils 1 

If these things have not been, and continued to be done, 
then the Spirit of Jesus and his apostles is not with them ; 
they are bastards, and not true-born sons. Then the Gentiles 
have not stood in the faith, and God will not spare them, but 
will cut them off, and give the vineyard to others, bringing 
forth the fruits thereof. The inquiry may be made. 

D. 

AGAINST SHAVING OFF THE BEARD- 
[The reason of wearing his beard long has been briefly 
noticed in this volume, in the manner stated by Mr. Pierson 
to a friend in conversation. Among his papers, the writer 
has discovered the following argument upon the subject, 
which is certainly entitled to the praise of ingenuity.] 

Why should a man wear his beard 1 

Ans. Because God made him with it. 

When God made man it is said, " So God created man in 
his image." Gen. i., 26, 27. 

When Adam came perfect from the hands of his Maker, he 
had a full-grown beard. Does any one suppose he shaved it 
off while in paradise ? 

When God sent his Son Jesus into the world, he was seen 
with a beard according to his age. 

Jesus said, Johnxiv., 9, " He^that hath seen me hath seen 
the Father." 

In Adam and Jesus we have the two witnesses of God, 
declaring and confirming to men in all ages and to all the 



APPENDIX. 

world, what his mind is on this subject, for in the mouth 
of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. 
Besides, these witnesses have never been corrupted by tra 
ditions of men. Their testimony is of the purest character. 
If Adam was to reappear in the world, would he not be 
surprised to see beardless men, and inquire whether they 
were ashamed of him, their father, on account of his beard, 
or say, You think you have become wiser than God was 
when he made me in his image 1 

When God gave his people a code of laws for their gov 
ernment by Moses, shaving was expressly forbidden. Levit. 
xix., 27. "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, 
neither shall thou mar the corners of thy beard." Levit. 
xxi. 5. " Neither shall they shave oft" the corners of their 
beard." 

God s chosen people wore the beard ; it was considered a 
reproach to be without it. See 2 Sam., x., 4. "Where 
fore Hanun took David s servants, and shaved off" the one 
half of their beards, and sent them away. When they told 
unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were 
greatly ashamed : and the king said, Tarry at Jericho (a 
frontier city) until your beards be grown, and return." 

God made our bodies for himself to dwell and walk in. 
2 Cor. vi., 14-18. " I will dwell in them and walk rn them : 
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." 

When God made our bodies, was there a deficiency of 
wisdom] Who is authorized to alter or disfigure God s 
d welling 1 Rom. ix., 20.* " Shall the thing formed say," &c. 

What does shaving preach 1 

Ans. That God has given us something not only useless, 
but burdensome, and that we must almost daily be at the 
trouble of ridding ourselves of it. Thus we daily reproach 
our Maker, and his Son Jesus. Rom. ix., 20. 

It is said that it is singular. This forms no objection why 
it should not be practised. 

Because it is singular for men to be holy in this age, will 
any one say we ought not to be holy 1 Men often pray to be 
like Jesus. Now, if their prayers were never answered, 
would they have beards 1 

* Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God ? 
Shall the thing formed say to him that formed, why hast thou 
made me thus INote by Mr. Folger, 



334 APPENDIX. 

Who was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God ? 

Ans. A Jew. If the Son be a Jew, what is the Father ? 
Jesus said, John iv., 22, " Salvation is of the Jews. Ye 
worship ye know not what : we know what we worship." 
Again he says, John xiv. 9, " He that hath seen me hath 
seen the Father." 

When God appears, his sons are to be like him. 1 John iii., 3. 

The beard is the grand visible distinction between the 
male and female. It denotes age, wisdom, strength, and 
gives dignity to the being God has made lord of his creation. 

Henceforth, men who become holy will wear their beards 
by the appointment of God. 

Children have no beards : so those who are children in the 
kingdom of God will have no beards, till they be grown to the 
age and stature of young men. 



E. 

THE SABBATH OF YEARS. 

[The following meditation contains Mr. Pierson s notions 
respecting the Seventh Millennium, or the great Sabbath of 
years.] 

June 28, 1832. Meditation. God made all his works in 
five days, and the sixth day made man, and gave them com 
mandment what to do, and rested on the seventh day. 

This is a type of what God is about to do now ; viz : 

The new creation is to be completed and made perfect be 
fore the Sabbath of years begins, that is, before the six thou 
sand years are ended, that God may rest from all his works 
on the seventh thousand years. 

The new creation is the new heavens and new earth for 
men to dwell in, and new men after God s image, holy, and 
that entire renovation of the animal and vegetable world 
which is needful. The entire destruction and banishment of 
the wicked from the earth before the six thousand years are 
ended. 

God will then have nothing to do but rest on the seventh 
thousand years, and bless them, and enjoy the fruit of his 
labour. 

The world to be a Garden of Eden. 



APPENDIX. 335 

[The consecration of his house in Fourth-street, as a 
place of worship, after his removal from the Bowery Hill, has 
been mentioned in the text. The following entry occurs in 
his diary upon the subject.] 

Friday evening, 6 o clock, April 19, 1832. Finished fixing 
the carpets, cleaning the house, &c. 

While meditating on the goodness of God for his help and 
aid in all our moving, the Spirit said, Sanctify your house unto 
the Lord. 

I was directed to go into every room, from the cellar to the 
garret, praying that God would take up his abode with me 
in the house. Keep all evil from us, let no destroyer come 
nigh us, keep us from fire and all hurtful elements, give me 
power to sp eak his words. Grant hearing ears to the 
people, &c. &c. 

[The particular occasion of the following entry is not 
known.] 

June 3d and ith, 1833. Go not anywhere abroad. Hide 
thyself three months till the indignation be overpast. I 
will bring evil upon this place, such as has never been, be 
cause they have rejected my words, and thee my servant. 

Wo, wo, wo unto this place. 

F. 
DOCTOR CONDICT S STATEMENT. 

[The elder Doctor Condict, a physician of standing, and 
a gentleman of high respectability, conceiving that his tes 
timony on the trial had not been correctly reported, has trans 
mitted to the writer the following statement respecting the 
post mortem examination of Mr. Pierson s body, in full. It 
is deemed of sufficient importance for insertion entire.] 

On the 18th August, 1834, the body of Elijah Pierson 
was disinterred for -examination. The surface of it was of a 
dark chocolate colour, and the face nearly black. The abdo 
men was laid open, a ligature passed round the oesophagus 
above the stomach, and another round the intestine below the 
stomach, and the stomach then taken out of the body. It 



336 APPENDIX. 

seemed evidently less changed than any of the surrounding 
parts. Its texture was firm and unimpaired. It could be 
handled freely and roughly, without rupturing or injuring its 
coats. When first viewed, it was collapsed and contracted 
into a small mass, and apparently empty. Externally, its 
colour was scarcely changed, except on its anterior portion 
and near its lower orifice, where it showed a redness, and its 
vascularity was increased. Putrefaction had not apparently 
begun in any part of the stomach. The body was extremely 
offensive, and traces of inflammation of the stomach being 
evident upon its outer surface, it was taken home for further 
inspection, and the body was again buried. 

Upon opening the stomach, there was found near the 
lower orifice, called the pylorus, a teaspoonful or more of 
mucus, of a dark brown colour, about the consistence of 
paste or starch. A little farther from the lower orifice or 
pylorus, and upon the forepart of the stomach, was found a 
substance resembling wet chalk or calomel, of a dingy 
whitish colour, in quantity equal to about 8 or 10 grains of 
calomel. The upper portion of the inner membrane, and 
about one half of its entire surface, was nearly natural in ap 
pearance, except being more vascular. A spot or patch, of 
a bright red colour, somewhat circular, and about three inches 
in diameter, was found, extending from about an inch dis 
tant from the pylorus, along the forepart of the stomach, and 
corresponding with the red spot upon the outside which was 
first described. It was here that the whitish substance re 
sembling wet chalk was found. Half an inch higher wag 
another spot, of the same red colour, and about one third the 
size of the former. By the sides of these red spots or 
patches were three or four other patches, about the size of 
a twenty-five cent piece, of a dark brown colour, almost 
black ; and under these dark spots, the inner membrane, or 
inner lining of the stomach, sometimes called its mucous 
coat, was very soft, pulpy, and disorganized. This inner, o* 
mucous membrane, at these dark spots, was somewhat 
elevated was readily scraped off by the finger nail or back 
of the knife, feeling very pulpy when rubbed between the 
fingers. Beneath this coat or membrane there was an 
effusion or extravasation of dark blood, having somewhat 
the appearance of being charred. This extravasated blood, 
lying between the two coats called the mucous- and themus- 



APPENDIX. 337 

cular coat, had elevated the former by separating these two 
coats, and gave the dark colour to these spots ; and when re 
moved, the muscular coat, upon which the dark blood was 
spread, showed a bright red colour, extending a considerable 
distance around the dark spots, with increased thickness of 
substance, and enlargement of bloodvessels. The whole in 
ternal surface of the stomach seemed devoid of putrefaction. 
Nothing was found in the stomach except the little mucus 
first mentioned, and the chalk-like powder. 

The stomach and its little contents were carefully placed 
in a jar, and sent to Dr. Torrey, Professor of Chyrnistry in 
New- York, for the purpose of analyzing them, and it is un 
derstood and believed that no poisonous substance was de 
tected. 

On the 21st of March, 1835, the body of Mr. Pierson was 
again disinterred, with a view to an examination of the in 
testines and oesophagus, which conducts food from the mouth 
into the stomach. The body externally had advanced con 
siderably in the putrefactive stage. The flesh about the 
limbs was giving way and falling off. What remained of 
the lungs was about the size of a fist, and black. The liver 
and spleen had entirely disappeared. The oesophagus or 
gullet was drawn down, and cut off high up in the throat, 
and with a considerable portion of the intestines, was carried 
home for examination. The gullet, at its -end near the 
stomach, where it had been divided in August, was found to 
be reddened, and somewhat thickened, for about an inch and 
a half. It was slit open its whole length, and the remainder 
appeared natural, the redness below gradually diminishing 
till it disappeared. The whole was firm and unyielding, 
having very little if any appearance of dissolution or of ten 
derness. Different portions were cut off from the intestinal 
tube at different places, the feculent matters scraped off, 
rinsed in water, and spread open. No marks of redness ap 
peared about them, nor any appearance of decay. They 
were very firm and unyielding. They could not be torn by 
the fingers, and possessed more tenacity than the gullet. It 
was remarked, on cutting through the muscles or fleshy cover 
ing of the lower belly, immediately over the intestines, that 
the flesh here was firm, and not decayed or decomposed more 
than it is usually found to be in the dead subject a few days 
after death. There was very little if any offensive smell at 
Hh 



338 APPENDIX. 

the grave, and on inspecting the intestines after being taken 
home, the only odour that was perceived was precisely like 
that which is noticed on opening a box of old smoked herring. 
This was very perceptible, and- was first noticed by Dr. 
Canfield, whose position with respect to the wind was such 
as to enable him first to remark it. 

The examinations made in August and in March were in 
presence of the same gentlemen, viz., Drs. Johns, Canfield, 
and the two Condicts. 

After the first examination, they unanimously concurred in 
the opinion, that the appearances of the stomach were such 
as to induce a strong apprehension that Mr. Pierson s death 
had been occasioned by violent means, and not by the prog 
ress of any known disease, terminating fatally. That there 
was great reason to apprehend that his death had been pro 
duced by some poisonous substance taken into the stomach. 
An opinion to this effect was committed to writing, was signed 
by each of the physicians just named, and their affidavits 
taken to attest their belief of its truth. They were all sub 
poenaed to attend the trial of Matthews alias Matthias, as 
witnesses, in April, and they all attended excepting Dr. 
Canfield. Two of them only were examined, and their ex 
aminations were limited almost exclusively to the appear 
ances of the stomach. Dr. Johns was not sworn or ques 
tioned. The trial was arrested on the second day, and no 
opportunity given to the medical witnesses to show the 
authorities, or cite the cases, or explain the reasons, upon 
which their united opinion was formed. 

They well knew that professional men held various opin 
ions on some of the points in question. They knew that 
other physicians, entertaining different opinions on some of 
these points, would probably be called to express their opin 
ions without having seen the stomach. They were stran 
gers in a strange land, unknown to the jury, to the bar, and 
to the court, with but one exception. Their opinion in re 
spect to the death of Mr. Pierson was known as well to the 
whole neighbouring country as it was to the court and the 
jury. But their reasons for this opinion, and the authorities 
in support of it, they had no opportunity to offer. The cause 
was arrested from some defect of evidence relating to the 
symptoms, or to some other point, and of course no medical 
books were quoted. In course of the examination and cross- 



APPENDIX. 339 

examination of the two Drs. Condict, many questions were 
asked concerning the symptoms which follow the administra 
tion of arsenic, and the manner in which arsenic produces 
death, as well as the appearances which natural diseases pro 
duce in the stomach, resembling in some respects those 
which follow the use of arsenic. And during this examina 
tion, an opinion was expressed, that the appearances in 
Piersori s case led to the suspicion, perhaps to the belief, 
that arsenic had passed into his stomach, although none had 
been actually detected by chymical investigation. The ap 
pearances indicated arsenic more pointedly than any other 
poison ; and yet it would not be safe to conclude, absolutely 
and certainly, that death was caused by arsenic, unless arsenic 
was found in the stomach. It was stated that arsenic might 
produce death, and that many instances were on record in 
which it had been known to be taken, and yet none was 
found after death. It might be all carried off by active 
vomiting and purging, and yet produce death, and none re 
main in the stomach. The case of Mr. Chapman, of Penn 
sylvania, was mentioned. No arsenic was found upon a 
chymical analysis. Two or three most respectable physi 
cians testified, that taking all the appearances and symptoms 
together, they believed Chapman died from poisoning with 
arsenic. Mina, the Spaniard, accused of the murder, was 
found guilty, and was hanged. The appearances of Chap 
man s stomach most strikingly resembled Pierson s. The 
stomach and parts adjacent resisted putrefaction, and re 
mained sound a long time after death. Christison and Orfila 
were mentioned as high authorities, and as containing many 
cases in which the morbid appearances of the stomach, after 
death from arsenic, were precisely the same as in Pierson s 
case. 

Among other effects of arsenic, it was stated, that it 
tended to preserve animal substances from putrefaction. 
That there were many cases on record of persons and ani 
mals poisoned by arsenic, in which putrefaction did not take 
place for months, and in some instances, for years, after death. 
Medical authors do not all unite in the belief that arsenic 
resists putrefaction, yet the recorded facts are so numerous 
and strong as to enforce conviction with many. 

A small quantity of Fowler s solution of arsenic was put 
into a human stomach taken from the Almshouse in Phila- 



S40 APPENDIX. 

delphia, for an experiment. It was left for two or three 
months in Dr. MitchilPs laboratory, and did not putrefy in 
that time. It had the strong herring smell, as in Pierson s 
case, and as in Chapman s case. Christison, in his late and 
celebrated treatise on Poisons, page 258, says, " I have kept 
a bit of an ox s stomach four years in a solution of arsenic, 
and except slight shrivelling and whitening, I could not ob 
serve any change in it." Some older writers have enter 
tained the opinion, that bodies poisoned by arsenic or other 
active poisons, are hurried as it were into putrefaction. 
Later experience, and manjr well-attested facts, show the 
fallacy of this opinion. If a few instances may have seemed 
to give it some support, there were probably some peculiar 
circumstances sufficient to account for the early decay, in 
dependently of the poison. In page 255, Christison says, 
" Arsenic possesses the singular property of enabling the 
bodies of men and animals poisoned with it, both to resist de 
cay unusually long, and to decay in an unusual manner." 
He then proceeds to mention various cases. ID the Ursinus 
case, one body had been buried six months, and was not 
putrid. Another body buried two and a half years was found 
not putrid, but dried up as it were. Dogs poisoned with 
arsenic, and left unburied two months in a damp cellar, their 
flesh and alimentary canal were found fresh and red, as if 
pickled. The bodies were then buried for eight months in a 
wet place, when the intestines were found red and entire, 
and the flesh mostly unaltered. In other instances, carcasses 
buried three years were found to be dry and undecayed. In 
page 257, he mentions the Begreuth case, three bodies of 
persons disinterred, one five months, one six months, and a 
third one fourteen months after death. The external parts 
were found not properly putrid, but hard and cheesy In two 
of them the intestines were entire, could be handled, tied, 
taken out, and cut up. In one, a sloughy spot found near 
the pylorus. Arsenic was found in two of the bodies. Dr. 
Kelch buried the internal organs of a man killed by arsenic, 
whose body had been unburied till the outer parts began to 
decay. Five months after, he examined the stomach and 
intestines, which had a peculiar smell, quite different from 
putrid bowels. They were not yet acted on by putrefaction, 
but were as fresh as when first taken from the body, and 
might have served to make anatomical preparations. Had 



APPENDIX. 



341 



lost nothing of their colour, glimmer, or firmness. The in 
flamed spots on the stomach had not disappeared, and the 
small intestines showed in some places the inflammatory 
redness unchanged. Warden s case, p. 258. Body buried 
three weeks. Mucous coat of the stomach, except its mere 
surface, very firm, and all the morbid appearances quite dis 
tinct. Three weeks after disinterment the vasculanty had 
disappeared; but the membranes, and the appearances m 
them, remained in the same state. Metzger s case. An old 
man died after six hours illness. Three drachms of arsenic 
were found in his stomach. " The body was kept ten days 
before burial. Eight days afterward it was disinterred. No 
sign of putrefaction anywhere." 

Dr. Woolper says, "bodies poisoned by arsenic resis 
putrefaction ;" and it is well known that it is used in stuffing 
birds and beasts for preservation from decay. 

Dr. Borges relates a case, in which, fourteen weeks after 
death, the stomach and intestines were found firm, of a gray 
ish white, containing crumbs of bread. The other organs 
were pulpy, and the internal parts were cheesy. The Chen- 
nitz case, in page 25 of Chnstison. " In 1726, five weeks 
after burial, the skin everywhere was putrid the stomach 
and intestines perfectly fresh." 

In the Warden case, appearances were precisely the same. 
" Three weeks after burial, external parts much decayed : 
three weeks later, the stomach and intestines were found by 
Chnstison in a state of almost perfect preservation: Dr. 
Borges killed a rabbit in less than a day with ten grains of 
arsenic, buried it thirteen months under the eaves of a house. 
When dug up, the skin, muscles, ligaments, and all the or 
gans except the stomach and intestines, had disappeared, not 
leaving a trace. The alimentary canal, from the throat to 
the anus, with the hair, and bare bones, quite entire. When 
the arsenic is all discharged suddenly by vomiting, the stom 
ach and body may decay suddenly. Mitchell lived seven 
days in great distress vomited much," the stomach was 
removed for minute examination. It decayed rapidly, and 
in twenty-four hours its examination was impracticable, while 
the body resisted putrefaction: Harles says, " This singular 
property of arsenic is now no longer doubtful Certain cir 
cumstances will limit it or impair it, while others will favour 
or increase it either by the soil of the burying-ground or the 
Ff2 



342 



APPENDIX. 



air of the vault. These affect the decomposition of all bod 
ies indiscriminately, and will therefore affect the antiseptic 
properties of arsenic. It would be absurd to ascribe to arse 
nic the power of preventing putrefaction in all cases. Those 
who use it for preserving skins, know well it does not pos 
sess it under all circumstances nor does any other anti 
septic not even alcohol." 

Page 261. "In many instances of poisoning with arsenic, 
the body has been found long after death in so perfect a stale 
of preservation, as to admit of an accurate medicinal inspec 
tion and successful chymical analysis." 

The proofs are numerous and strong, of the power of arse 
nic to resist putrefaction and preserve animal substances 
from decay ; and the high state of preservation in which Mr. 
Pierson s internal parts were found, seven months after death, 
affords strong ground of suspicion of its use in his case. The 
cases recorded both in Christison and in Orfila, giving in 
detail the morbid appearances of the stomach of persons killed 
by arsenic, corresponding precisely with those found in Pier- 
son s stomach, are amply sufficient to justify the written 
opinion expressed by the four examining physicians, that the 
presumption was strong, that Pierson came to his death by 
violent means that he died not of natural disease. They all 
looked upon arsenic as the probable cause of his death, although 
they found no positive proof. 

Pierson died alone. No physician saw him. No account 
could be had of his symptoms, except that he manifested 
great distress by his groans, and died in convulsions spasms 
following each other in quick and rapid succession for thirty- 
six or forty-eight hours or more, with a paralytic affection of 
the limbs of one side. He had been subject to epilepsy in a 
rnild form, one spasm perhaps in ten days or two weeks, last 
ing from five to ten minutes, and then leaving him with a 
perfect recollection and remembrance of all that had passed 
in his presence during the paroxysm. The arsenic (if given) 
produced high irritation and extreme distress of the stomach; 
and nothing would more readily produce convulsions ending 
in death, in, an epileptic patient, than an irritated state of 
the stomach. 

If the symptoms could have been known, and had corrobo 
rated the evidence which the stomach itself so plainly showed 
after death if to the symptoms, and to the morbid state of 



APPENDIX. 343 

the stomach, be added the sound condition the unputrefied 
state of the oesophagus and intestines, seven months and a 
half after death, there probably would have been found few 
persons, either on the bench, at the bar, or in the jury-box, 
who could resist the conclusion that arsenic was the cause 
of his death, by whom administered, is a question for others 
than medical men to try and determine. 



G. 

[When the present work was projected, about the close 
of the month of April, a letter was addressed by Dr. A. 
W. Ives, in behalf of the writer, to the Rev. Mr. Kirk of 
Albany, for such information as he might be able to fur 
nish respecting the commencement of the prophetical career 
of Matthews in Albany. Mr. Kirk replied very promptly, 
but the letter was nearly a month in reaching its destination ; 
and the work was more than half through the press when it 
was received. It is now inserted in this place.] 

Albany, May 2, 1835. 
DR. A. W. IVES ; 

DEAR SIR, Your communication came to me in the pres 
sure of business. I would not add to the obloquy already rest 
ing on the wicked man to wham you refer. But if I can state 
any facts which may help to guard others against his vile 
impositions, I will cheerfully contribute them. He called upon 
me about the time when the church under my care was organ 
ized, which was in February, 1829. In our first interview, 
his conversation was sensible, scriptural, and in the highest 
tone of the reforming spirit. But there was nothing very 
remarkable to make a favourable or unfavourable impression. 
He subscribed a small sum towards the erection of our 
church edifice. It was remarked at the time by some of 
whom he had purchased lumber, " He is a lazy, thriftless, 
dishonest fellow ; and will never pay it." Whether the dec 
laration was true or not, the prophecy was. He applied for 
admission to our church, and at the same time made severe 



344 APPENDIX. 

and unfounded charges against two of its most respectable 
members. Every inquiry we made satisfied us that we should 
bring a firebrand into our society if he were admitted. We 
accordingly rejected his application. But finding his family in 
want of suitable clothing, we provided for them, that they might 
attend the services of public worship. This was objected to 
by many of our church, because he was a very ingenious, 
skilful carpenter, who could command the highest wages ; 
and therefore, by our charity, we were said to be sustaining 
him in idleness. And this proved to be true. He would 
neither work nor let others work. He was an incessant 
talker. And being a stanch advocate for temperance, he 
would go to workshops, and irritate the men by his dogmatic 
and injudicious mode of urging that important cause. It 
was frequently said, at that time, that he would stay in gro 
cery stores at night, proclaiming the doctrines of temperance, 
until he was turned out. I saw but little of him from the 
time of his rejection by our session. But the more I saw, 
the more I suspected the purity of his zeal, and the more 
manifest it was, that his disposition was exceedingly unlovely 
and unchristian. 

The next peculiar information I had concerning him, was 
by a note sent to my pulpit one Sabbath morning from the 
mayor of the city, calling on the citizens to turn out and 
search for Matthews, who had gone off in a strange manner 
with his children, and left his wife in great distress and alone. 
Search was accordingly made ; he was found thirty miles 
from the city. His account of the matter was, that Albany 
was Sodom, and to be immediately destroyed ; and he had 
fled with his children for safety. I believe he was imprisoned 
a little while as an insane man. I saw him soon after with 
a long beard, haranguing in the street ; and was convinced 
that he meant to take advantage of his notoriety, and by im 
posing on the credulous, find an easier way to get food and 
raiment than by the exercise of his mechanical skill and in 
dustry. I then lost sight and sound of him for some time, 
until the name of Matthias the Prophet was reported from 
New-York. A little inquiry developed the fact that this was 
the very Robert Matthews who had proved himself here either 
insane or an impostor. From that time you can trace him. 
I may mention one other circumstance upon which I have 
recently obtained light. I saw Mr. Folger after Matthias s 



APPENDIX. 



345 



arrest, and asked him how he could be deluded by so bad a 
man He told me it was solely by his entire confidence in Mr. 
Pierson ; and that Matthews had told him I agreed entirely 
in doctrine with him (M.). Now the fact which this ex 
plains is, that Mr. Pierson called and introduced himself to 
me, perhaps two years ago, and talked on the subject of re- 
limon in a way which I did not then understand. But I now 
Bee that the poor fellow came to have the assertion of Mat- 
thews confirmed. This deliberate lie, when mentioned by Mr. 
Foltrer, convinced me he was not crazy. And yet I consider 
thiswhole affair as affording a melancholy confirmation of 
this truth When a man begins to do wrong, he knows not 
where he will end. " Is thy servant a dog," &c. I have 
thought again and again, while reading the horrible detail of 
this man s career since I first saw him. You may use my 
name or communication in any way. TrTr>T r 

ti. IN. JVllvlV. 



11. 



It was not, however, until Deslon, a French physician of 
some eminence, had announced himself a convert and joined 
Mesmer in the practice of magnetism, that it acquired much 
renown. Their method of operating was as follows :- 

In the centre of the room was placed a vessel of an oval or cir 
cular shape, about four feet in diameter and one foot deep. In 
this were laid a number of bottles, disposed in radii, with their 
necks directed outward, well corked and filled with magnetized 
water. Water was then poured into the vessel so as to cover 
the bottles, and occasionally pounded glass or filings of iron 
were added to the water. This vessel was termed the baquet. 
From its cover, which was pierced with many holes, issued 
long thin, moveable rods of iron, which could be applied by 
the patients to the affected part. Besides, to the ring of the 
cover was attached a cord which, when the patients were 
seated in a circle, was carried round them all so as to form a 
chain of connexion ; a second chain was formed by the union 
of their hands, and it was recommended that they should si 
so close that those adjoining should touch by their knees 
and feet, which was supposed wonderfully to facilitate the 
passage of the magnetic fluid. In addition to this, the magnet- 



346 APPENDIX. 

ists went round, placed themselves en rapport with the pa 
tients, embraced them between their knees, and gently rub 
bed them down along the course of the nerves, using gentle 
pressure over different regions of the chest and abdomen. 
The effect of such treatment on delicate women might have 
been foretold, but it was not left to work alone. 

The house which Mesmer inhabited was delightfully situ 
ated ; his rooms spacious and sumptuously furnished ; stained 
glass and coloured blinds shed a dim, religious light ; mirrors 
gleamed at intervals along the walls ; a mysterious silence was 
preserved, delicate perfumes floated in the air, and occasion 
ally the melodious sounds of the harmonica or the voice came 
to lend their aid to his magnetic powers. His salons became 
the daily resort of all that was brilliant and spirituel in the 
Parisian fashionable world. Ladies of rank, whom indolence, 
voluptuous indulgence, or satiety of pleasure, had filled with 
vapours or nervous affections ; men of luxurious habits, ener 
vated by enjoyment, who had drained sensuality of all that it 
could offer, and gained in return a shattered constitution and 
premature old age, came in crowds to seek after the delight 
ful emotions and novel sensations which this mighty magician 
was said to dispense. They approached with imaginations 
heated by curiosity and desire ; they believed, because they 
were ignorant ; and this belief was all that was required for 
the action of the magnetic charm. The women, always 
the most ardent in enthusiasm, first experienced yawnings, 
stretching, then slight nervous spasms, and finally, crises of 
excitation, according as the assistant magnetizers (jeunes 
hommes, beaux et robustes comme des Hercules) multiplied 
and prolonged the soft passes or attouchemens by which the 
magnetic influence was supposed to be communicated. The 
emotions once begun were soon transmitted to the rest, as 
we know one hysterical female, if affected, will induce an at 
tack in all others similarly predisposed in the same apartment. 
In the midst of this strange scene entered Mesmer, clothed 
in a long flowing robe of lilac-coloured silk, richly embroidered 
with golden flowers, and holding in his hand a long white 
wand. Advancing with an air of authority and magic gravity, 
he seemed to govern the life and movements of the individ 
uals in crises. Women panting were threatened with suffo 
cation, they must be unlaced ; others tore the walls, or 
rolled themselves on the ground, with strong spasms in the 



APPENDIX. 347 

throat, and occasionally uttering loud shrieks, the violence 
of the crises must be moderated. He approached, traced 
over their bodies certain lines with his wand ; they became 
instantly calm, acknowledged his power, and felt streams of 
cold or burning vapours through their entire frames according 
to the direction in which he waved his hand. Foreign Quar 
terly Review on the Report of the French Royal Academy, 
and the Royal Academy of Medicine. 



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SECT. j 1982 



BR Stone, William Leete 

1718 Matthias and his impostures 

M3S8 

1835