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“THE TWO SONS OF OIL :”
Ir appears proper to inform the reader of the occasion that called my attention to the book called “Sons of Oil,” and why I considered it as a duty incumbent on me to offer the following Observations on that work; and also why it has been so long delayed, after it had been expected. With respect to the first, though I had seen the Sons of Oil advertised in the newspapers for sale, yet being possessed of other approved commentaries on the symbolical vision of the prophecy of Zechariah, on which it is founded, I had not euriosity enough to purchase it, and did not, for some years, hear of its singular import and effect. It was, I believe, in the year 1808, that a very respectable and intelligent neighbour, who, in a public company, where the government and laws of the state, and United States, had been very rudely misrepresented; and while he was endeavouring to explain and vindicate them, he was told by some of the company, that if they should kill him that instant, we had no law to punish such murder, &c. He informed me of it, and consulted me about the propriety of taking surety of the peace of such boasters of the impunity with which they could commit wilful murder. Neither my neighbour, nor myself, having seen the Sons of Oil, from which it was said they had their authority, I was of the opinion that they had mistaken the author, and that these boasts were but an ebullition of folly and ignorance, and would have no dangerous effect. I advised, therefore, to pass it over without further notice. Not long after this, however, I heard the poison had a more extensive influence in different quarters where the book had spread—but my attention was particularly called to the subject by an intelligent magistrate, in a distant county to the westward, who, being attacked in the same.
*nner that my neighbour had been, endeavoured in vain to coa. vince them of their error, by explaining the law of the state respecting murder; but he found that the doctrine of the sons of oil was too powerful for his statement, or explanation of the law. He procured a perusal of the book itself, and carefully took notes of it, with which he furnished me a copy, accompanied with a request, to turn my attention to the subject. This was not the first advice that was given me to that purpose ; but, though astonished at the notes, without having the least doubt of their correctness, yet I could not, on the notes alone, proceed to make observations on the book itself. In the mean time, however, the intelligent farmer who took the notes, published, while on a journey, a very small pamphlet from them, called the “Plough-Boy,” which, it afterwards appeared, had the good effect of putting a stop to the wicked boasting of the impunity with which they could commit wilful murder. Those of Mr. Wylie's church, who did, on different occasions, boast in this manner, I am persuaded, must have been the most ignorant and vicious of the society—for I am acquainted with such of them as would be very far from disturbing the peace of society; but why should such a disposition be promoted by a professed minister of the gospel, at the expense of truth? The books having been taken away from the office at which they had been advertised for sale, I had difficulty to find a copy— and when I did procure one, I found that the half of the mischief, which it was calculated to promote, had not been told me; that it not only grossly misrepresented the government and laws of the United States in general, but more particularly that of Pennsylvania. The encouragement given to people so disposed, to kill their neighbours with expectation of impunity, and for slaves to kill their masters, are but a few, out of numerous instances, of the insidious slanders which his book contains. If teaching to resist the ordinance of legitimate civil government, to refuse to obey the magistrates, for conscience sake, from whom they receive and claim protection; if despising dominion, speaking evil of dignities, and stirring up sedition, are contrary, not only to the moral law, but also to the precepts of the gospel, the Sons of Oil is certainly so. On a first perusal of it, I thought these, together with the numerous inconsistencies it contains, must, to every dispassionate enquirer, be so harmless, as to render an antidote unnecessary. But when I considered the artful sophistry, tinselled over with spurious religious zeal, equal at least to that practised by the most bigotted popish missionaries, set off with an unusual number of notes of astonishment, supported by the most unprincipled declamation; when I also considered, that besides the influence it has had in drawing a number of people into such gross immorality, as to think and boast of the impunity with which they could murder their neighbours, and besides being mostly aliens, as he says (p. 76) haying drawn away many respectable citizens from their allegiance to the government, and from discharging the duties of citizenship, and attending on gospel ordinances as formerly, in such churches as do not promote the same excesses with themselves—I say, on considering these things, I became convinced that it was a duty to endeavour to prevent the delusion from taking such deep root as to draw many into its vortex, and disturb the peace of society, to preserve which, civil government was instituted, with the divine approbation, among men. It would have been desirable that some other person, younger in life, and having more leisure than me, should have undertaken it; but it so happened, that I was pointed out for that purpose before I had seen the book, or was informed of the extent of the mischief it was likely to produce. There were, indeed, some reasons for this. I was the oldest man known to be alive, or at least in a capacity to undertake it, that was educated by the old dissenters, and under the inspection of the reformed presbytery of Scotland (there being no reformed presbytery in the north of Ireland when I left it.). I was likewise one of the oldest men living, who associated with, and was a member of the conferences of those who had, in this country, sought for and obtained a supply of ministers from that presbytery; and also one of the few survivors of those, who, more than forty years ago, promoted the revision of that testimony in this country, and with the presbytery, when such was constituted, rejected all local and traditionary terms of communion, founded on human fallible authority, and took the scriptures and the doctrines of the Westminster Confession, &c. agreeing with scripture, as the terms of their communion; and the only survivor of that reformcd presbytery, who, a few years afterwards, assisted in bringing