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religion of the middle ages, he says, “It could not but grow up out of the kindied imagination and religious faith of Christendom; and such religion the historian who should presume to condemn as a vast plan of fraud, or a philosopher who should venture to disdain as a fabric of folly, only deserving to be forgotten, would be equally unjust, equally blind to its real uses, assuredly ignorant of its importance and its uses in the history of man.” (Lat. Christianity).
The last argument against the mythical interpretation, which we shall notice, is one founded on the character of Jesus,—an argument which is entitled certainly to no inconsiderable weight in favor of the substantial authenticity of the Gospel record, but which not only has no power to substantiate the miracles but actually defeats and refutes itself when so applied.
Great stress has been laid upon the character of Jesus, as a grand conception to be accounted for if the Gospels be not true ; a character of exquisite moral purity ; of great and assured pretensions, yet of lowly estate and poor extraction ; using no arts or promises to allure disciples ; on the contrary, warning them of hardship and persecution, and the bitter cross. We presume few of us could find this stated too strongly for us anywhere. “ It would take a Jesus to forge a Jesus," said Theodore Parker. The pen that lingers lovingly over his moral and spiritual exaltation, becomes instantly lovely to us. A recent critic pronounces the devotion of Mr. Furness, to the study of that character, “one of the most touching things in literature.” We agree, nay we hasten to assert, that nothing but the reality of Jesus and his character, is adequate to account for the existence of the conception in the midst of the pagan world. Jesus is not now a mere name; the word stands for the sublime character we find in the Gospels; and Jesus lived. But when it is added, that if he called his disciples to such hardships, it is difficult to imagine how he could gain converts, except by the “most satisfactory evidence” of his “ divine mission and authority,” (Norton, Inter. Evid., p. 272), we take refuge in the very magnitude of character on which the argument rests. That character needed no credentials; it was its own attestation; miracles could add as little to its s:abduing charm as to its moral worth. The men who could leave “ father and mother” for his sake and follow him, bearing a cross, we cannot imagine sitting in cold judgment upon the evidential value of wonders and signs. In that mysterious presence, they encountered almost naked soul,- through its serene purity, free as a released spirit while yet the flesh hung round it. Men who sought that presence, went out again into a changed world, as different to the outward, as their quickened souls to the inward, sense. They were oppressed by a wonder and admiration which they could neither contain nor express; and the world, which never fails to meet our mood, took on at once the dress of the marvellous, and gave back wondrous fact to wondering soul. To explain the effect of Jesus upon the world, we need only himself; nor shall we reluct if we find that the miracles are a part of that effect, and divide not with him the glory of the cause.
With this we finish our discussion of the objections to the mythical interpretation as applied to the Gospels. The limits of this article forbid any recapitulation of the arguments which we have stated and answered in several articles, and we must bid farewell to the subject. In the next article we shall discuss critically some of the most prominent miraculous stories of the Gospels.
THE CASE OF JOHN J. MERRITT.
of New York, on the charge of his having declined to take the advice which had been given him, to discontinue his public communications, was brought to the Quarterly Meeting of Westbury, on his appeal, and at the meeting in the 7th month last, resulted, as already announced by us, in the confirmation of the judgment of the Monthly Meeting. It furnishes so many interesting exhibitions of the method of conducting judicial proceedings, and the church government which is sometimes resorted to in the Society of Friends, that we have deemed it best to present it—as a lucid exposition of what with them is usually wrapped in secrecy,-almost restricting ourselves to the official documents and correspondence in connection with the proceedings in reference thereto.
An injunction to silence, had for some time been resting on John J. Merritt, when he received the note, of which the following is a copy :
New York, 7 mo., 2d, 1867. JOHN J. MERRITT,
Dear Friend,—It was the judgment of the preparative Meeting of Ministers and Elders, held this day, that thy case be presented to the Monthly Meeting, to-morrow, that further care may be taken by it on account of thy communications in our meetings; and as clerk of the above meeting, I was requested to give thee this information.
ROBERT R. WILLETS. The next document, in the order of time, is the following minute of the Monthly Meeting :
At the Monthly Meeting of New York, held 7 mo., 2nd, 1867, the following communication was received from the preparative Meeting of the Ministers and Elders : To the Monthiy Meeting of New York:
At the Preparative Meeting of Ministers and Elders, held in N York, 7 mo., 3rd, 1867.
The committee in the case of John J. Merritt, reported, they had earnestly advised him* to discontinue his public communications in our meetings, which, as they believed, very much disturbed them, but that he declined to take their advice.
* See The FRIEND, Vol. II, No. 4, page 127, for a full report of the above interview, at which this advice was given.
After carefully considering the subject, it was the united judgment of this meeting, that his case be forwarded to the Monthly Meeting, that further care may be taken therein,
ROBERT R. WILLETS, Clerk. William H. Macy, George Hallock, and Jacob Capron, were appointed to visit him on the account.
In the latter part of 7th month, J. J. M., having been out of town at its date, received a note, of which the following is a copy :
New York, 7 mo., 22d, 1867. Esteemed Friend, -At our last Monthly Meeting, George Hallock, Jacob Capron, and myself, were appointed a committee to see thee relative to a complaint that "thee had been earnestly advised to discontine thy public communications in our meetings, which, it was believed, very much disturbed them.” I have called twice at No. 131 William Street, but have not been able to meet thee; the present is to ask if thou wilt meet the committee, ac my house, No. 40 East 21st Street, at half-past 7, any evening this week, except on fifth day
Thy friend, To JOHN J. MERRITT.
WM. H. MACY The time indicated in this note having elapsed before it could be answered, it was replied to as follows:
Gents.— I wish it to be distinctly understood by you, that I shail endeavor at all times to make it convenient to arrange an interview, at one day's notice, at my house, in reference to the matter of your appointment, if you should deem such interview necessary or desirable.
I am, with much respect, Yours, &c., 7 mo., 30th, 1867.
JOHN J. MERRITT. The response to this was as follows:
Esteemed Friend – Thine of yesterday's Jate is at hand, from which I notice that thee will endeavor to make it convenient to arrange an interview with the committee of the Monthly Meeting, at one day's notice; that committee proposes calling at thy house in reference to the matter of their appointment, to-morrow, at 6 P. M.
If that time does not suit thy convenience, please inform me, this afternoon, and name the time that will suit, that I may inform my associates.
WM. H. MACY. To John J. MERRITT, 131 William Street.
The proposed interview was had, and a fuil report of it is to be found in The Friend, vol. II, No. 8, page 247.
The next step was the following ininute :
At the Monthly Meeting of New York, held 8 mo., 7th, 1867, the committee appointed to visit John J. Merritt, informed that they had given attention to the subject, but were not prepared to report at this time They were continued.
Then follows this minute :
At the Monthly Meeting of New York held 9 mo., 4th, 1867, the committee appointed to visit John J. Merritt informed that they had given further attention to the subject, but are not prepared to report at this time. They were continued.
Next in order was the following note from W. H. Macy, and the answer of John J. Merritt.
New York, 9 mo., 13th, 1867. Esteemed Friend,—The committee of the Monthly Meeting have desired me to request thee to meet them at such time as may suit thy convenience some evening within a week from this date. As George Hallock has met with an accident and is not able to leave bis home, he wishes that the interview may take place at his house.
I am instructed to say that the committee wish this interview to be with thyself alone. To JOHN J. MERRITT.
WM. H. MACY, 27 Wall st.
New York, 9 mo., 14th, 1867. Esteemed Friends Macy, CAPRON & HALLOCK :
In reply to W. H. Macy's note of yesterday on your behalf, I may say that we have had an interview in which I listened to you until you announced that after saying what you had you should feel clear of the case. The interview closed satisfactorily to me also, and regarding it as a final one I accepted of your advice, and have not since withdrawn or violated the pledge to be guided by you which I then gave to you. My own feeling would be that so happy a conclusion ought not to be interfered with.
If, however, you now feel that more is required of you, I am willing to meet you say at my house on 2d day evening, at 8 o'clock, or on as early a day thereafter as would be mutually convenient, deferring it, if you please, until George is able to attend. (If the accident to George was the result of any effort on his part to bring this case to a speedy close, I will waive this requirement and meet you at his house.)
At our only interview, when invited to do so, you declined attempting to prove—what was denied by me—that I had committed the offence charged. Under such circumstances, knowing that I had not done it-I have no desire to meet you again as a committee, and if an interview is had it will be because of your desire for one ; and I cannot consent to the exclusion of my wife and other friends, who feel more interest in the matter than I do, without some sufficient reason being assigned therefor. The interview, if it takes place, will be for your gratification rather than mine, and if it were otherwise, it would seem that my preference in reference to the method of granting it should not be entirely disregarded by you. The offence charged, if committed, would be eminently a public one, and I desire no secrecy in our method of treating it, and I do not wish the interview to be with myself alone.
JOHN J. MERRITT. No further communication passed between the committee as such, and John J. Merritt. One of them called at John's house, socially, as he said, and an allusion having been made to the last notes which had been interchanged by them, he was told by John J. Merritt that if an interview of the kind asked for by the committee were insisted upon, he, John J., would say nothing in it until he had first written out what he intended to say, and would then read that, as he wished to know and have a copy of every word which he might say before that committee, not being willing to trust them or himself in recalling their conversation, if this shouid become necessary.
It appears by the minutes of the Monthly Meeting, that the labors of the committee were here brought to a close by the report herety annexed. It must have been based upon the interview described in volume II, number 8, commencing upon page 247 of The Friend, and on the correspondence we have already inserted; and we next give this report, and J. J. M.'s running comments upon it, these consisting mostly of extracts from what must have been the basis of the report. We do it in double columns-the report on the left hand, the comments on the right.
At the Monthly Meeting of New York, held
10 mo., 2d, 1867, the committee appointed to visit John J. Merritt reported in writing
as follows: To the Monthly Meeting
We had an interview with John J. Merritt last month, and informed him of the complaint made to the Monthly Meeting against him by the Preparative Meeting of Ministers and Elders. He denied the charge that the meetings were disturbed, and claimed that he never attended more orderly meetings than those which are said to have been disturbed by him.
We told him that we had fully informed The original of this statement must be here. ourselves on that point, and had come to en- One of the committee said : deavor to persuade him to discontinue his “Since our appointment I have made concommunications, as they were detrimental to siderable enquiry among those in the habit of our Society, and urged him to follow the ad attending our meetings, and I am well satisvice of friends, as a very large proportion of fied thy communications are detrimental to the meeting were dissatisfied with his ad. the Society, and I should be glad if thee would dresser.
take the advice of thy friends and discontinue them."
Another said: “I would say as an individual, that I have not counted the votes, but I am satisfied that a large proportion of the meeting are dissatisfied with thy communications; and afterwards added, in reply to an enquiry, “because they disapprove of thy sentiments.” The committee gave no further particulars, and withheld all proof of the correctness of their conclusions, though John J. Merritt said to them: “I think you are bound to point out on what occasion I have disturb. ed the meeting, and in what it is they are disturbed. It is one of the peculiarities of Friends that they have a free gospel ministry open to all; every member has a right to speak, and before he can be convicted of disturbing a meeting in which there is no external appearance of disturbance, which meeting receives his communications with as much solemnity and apparent acceptance as those of any other individual, you are bound to show in what their impropriety consists."
Having denied the truth of the charge, and called for its investigation, John J. Merritt said : “ If the fact exists-if the meetings really are disturbed, I pledge myself that they shall not continue to be disturbed by me." After further conversation, adding, “and it would appear that the first thing for you to do is to satisfy me that there is truth in the
charge." After much discussion, we did not discover “ I am as anxious to do right as you, and any disposition to comply with the wishes of if you can only show me that I am wrong, I the committee and the meeting.
should not require advice or the counsel of my friends to induce me to change my course. I have the right to speak in meeting if I believe it to be my duty to do so, at least until you make an effort to convince me that I am wrong.” Again adding, “ I am disposed, if I can do it rightly, to adopt the advice of my friends, if the meeting will tell me in what I have offended."