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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, meditations, 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 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 succeeded 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 upward 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 themselves, 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 uniquema delusion sui generis-whether arising from individual fanaticism, or enthusiasm, or madness; or combined, or individual imposture. It has been contended by some mental philosophers, 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, sustains it, spreads it, explains and excuses it." The writer apprehends, however, that it would puzzle M. Cousin, and even Leibnitz himself, whom the distinguished Psychologist recognizes as the greatest of modern authorities, to find the slightest admixture 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
the indulgence of theoretical or philosophical speculation. 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-exercising, 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 fundamental 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 reflecting upon God, diminishing the sense of man's responsibility, and dishonouring the blessed revelation of the Most High. But the severity of cen
bure must be visited only in proportion to the soundness of the mind of the victim, and the extent to which reason is dethroned by the delusion.
With these preliminary remarks, the work is committed to the public. The writer sincerely hopes it
may be of some service to the cause of evangelical truth, if in no other way, by guarding Christian professors against the indulgence of a self-righteous and fanatical spirit, and also against the dangers of enthusiasm. If, through ignorance, or mistaken views of truth or from any other cause, he has said aught amiss, he begs that it may be forgotten and forgiven.
New-York, June 12, 1835.