Poor Family Papers, 1791-1921. John and Lucy (Tappan) Pierce. John Pierce to Abiel Aboot, 1794-1817. A-132, folder 3, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

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{ Stamp} John Pierce Leciester 1794.

Recd August 15. 1794 Ans.d Do. 16 Do.

Mr Abiel Abbot, A.B. Andover.

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[...]Leicester, August 14th. 1794.

Dear friend,

When I observe the difference, and even contrariety of sentiment among the preachers of the Christian religion, I feel almost discouraged from ever undertaking the sacred employment. To what can we impute this strange opposition? We find in the systems of other professions an agreement on subjects of fundamental importance. But in the religion of Jesus, as if its great Founder had not precisely defined the way to happiness, or had left it to be prescribed by the most dogmatical partisan, new and differntly modified systems continually arise and inconsistent creeds are virulently supported. Lenis preaches peace and goodwill. He tells the

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people, that salvation is ea[...] nothing but a love of order an[...] necessary to final acceptance; & in shor[...] the morality of Seneca is as pleasi[...] Deity, as the religion of Jesus. He m[...] that Christianity is a mere revision[...] edition of natural religion; and that the Messiah was but a man of extraordinary endowments, sent to renew men's obligation to duty. Rigidus then advances, and with a solemn aspect prefaces his discourse by declaring, that he must "preach the whole truth, wheth"er they will hear, or whether they will for"bear." Whatever is his text, he proceeds to shew, that the unconverted are all most bitter enemies to God, and are constantly endeavoring to dethrone him; that, in every attempt to perform their duty, they are threefold more the children of Hell, than if they had neglected it; and that, although they are utterly incapable of doing any thing acceptable to God, as he chose moral evil should exist, he has wise ends to answer by their everlasting

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[...]racting from Hannah [...]ns. I am rela[...] the sentiments of [...]nisters who have preached in Leicester pulpit since Mr Conklin's dissmission. Should I [...]hfully enumerate the various opinions of the Di- vines in this vicinity from extreme liberal- ity to superstitious rigidness, I fear I should produce a jumble of inconsistency, illiberality, and absurdity. I have lately derived great satisfaction in perusing Dr Price's discourse on "the glorious gospel of the blessed God;" in which he ascribes this difference of systems to an inordinate desire of gaining converts to our mode of faith. He observes that the zeal for proselytism is one of the greatest "curses in the world." But I will weary your patience no longer.

I assure you, my friend, I reflect with great pleasure on your visit at Dorchester. Esq; Wales informs me, he doubts not Eben. will visit me at Leicester as well as you at Andover. Why will you not come with him? A visit from you both is more than I dare expect. At any rate do, by writing soon, contribute to the happiness of your sincere & affectionate friend, John Pierce.

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Leicester No. 3. 30 August, 1794.

{ Stamp} To be left at the Post-Office, Boston. Rec'd Sept. 11. Way 10

Mr Abiel Abbot, A. B. Andover.

3'd

Answered Sep 22. 94 Noticed his observations on the looseness of sentiment & practice - the ridicule of Deists less pernicious to religion, than the bitterness of parties- His grey bearded friend- Neglect of E. W. Remarks on a tour to Dartmouth– Example of contentment in poverty & retirement- News of the Day.

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No.3 Mr Leicester, August 30th 1794.

Dear friend,

Your very agreeable letter of Aug. 2d. I received at an early period after its date. I had previously sent one by a Collegian to the care of junior Abbot; supposing the conveyance would be speedier, and probably as sure. I feel happy in being relieved from a fear, that your worthier correspondents would claim all your leisure moments.

Your sentiments on letter writing are very just. Nothing pleases, like the undisguised effusions of a benevolent heart, and an intelligent head. But when, in attempting ease, one produces you a mess of incoherent, unintelligble nonsense; or, aiming to be more critical, clothes a parcel of trite ideas with a ragged and offensive dress, I feel his condition to be truly deplorable.

Your geographical sketches afforded me great pleasure. My narrow acquaintance with

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the world will hardly permit me to offer you any information of the kind. I may, however, give you some account of the part of Worcester County, which, if it be not interesting to you, will serve, instead of a poorer subject, to fill up my letter. The people in Leicester and its contiguous towns are social and hospitable, industrious and frugal; but, to my surprize, are far less attentive even to the externals of religion, than those in the vicinity of Boston. One would suppose that removed from the contagious influences of bad examples, they would be free from those vices, which are almost inevitable in sea-port town & their neighborhoods; but you may here observe a more general neglect of public worship, if not a great profanation of the sabbath, than in Cambridge and its adjoining towns. It is, I believe, a fact in Leicester and, I am informed, in its vicinity, that the most influential characters are unbelievers in Christianity, and openly argue angainst its authenticity. In Worcester there has been, for some years past, a most unhappy opposition between what are called the Arminians and Hopkinsians. The former separated themselves from the latter, and I believe,

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by this time, they both allow that men are free to do evil; though the latter will not allow that they are able to do good. Strange that people should violate every principle of Christian- ity in attempting to establish its truth! In Leicester, tho' considerably smaller than Dorchester, there are four religious soicieties, Congregationalists, Baptists, Friends, and Separatists. These, as you may naturally suppose, give rise to warm parties of opposite interests. I was highly entertained at a lecture of the Friends, the other day. They had an apostle, who was their speaker, from New Jersey. He had a grave contenance, ornamented by [...] long grey beard which swept his breast, and incoporated with the silver locks of his head. His dress was neat and simple, And if I may be allowed, without the imputation of uncharitableness, [...] suggest an idea, which frequently occurred, on seeing his airs, I believe he was as proud of his beard, as you and I are of our craped locks and powdered hair. After waiting some time for the movement of the spirit, he arose and told us we did not our a, b, c. On explaining his meaning, he doubted not, we had outside larning; but our hearts were entirely empty of grace. He exhorted us to self denial, and, in his zeal to decry science, shewed himself deficient in [...] common sense.

I expect by this time our good friend Wales has arrived from Baltimore. He has so many friends near Boston, that I am afraid he will find it inconvenient to visit me. If he does, pray, come with him; if he does not, I would thank you to put him in mind of me, and tell him his last letter to me bears date Aug. 23d. '93; I have only room to entreat you to write speedily to your's &c. J Pierce.

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No. 4 Leicester, Oct. 29th. 1794.

Dear Sir,

Owing to an unavoidable avocation your unworthy correspondent had been dilatory in the discharge of duty. Your No. 3 I joyfully received, when preparing for a journey to Warwick. Necessity prohibited an acknowledgment of my obligation. On my return your unnumbered favor of Oct 4th. arrived, in which you charge me debtor to two letters. This must be a mistake, as your No 3 makes me creditor by a third number, unless your last favor be no. 5. Be this as it may; nothing in my power shall be wanting to cherish a correspondence so much to my advantage.

Respecting Dr Coffin's oration, I can assue you, I delivered it to Mr Abbot, as I perfectly remember calling at his room for that purpose. Doubtless, you will receive it from him.

Mr Shaw's death was sudden, and attended by circumstances very affecting. This reminds me of the sudden decease of my young friend WD Wales, of the yellow fever, at Baltimore. How alarming must be this event to the family, whose hearts were ever united by the most endearing ties! How painfully distressing to those sisters, whose sensibility always bled even at the absence of a brother! Fain would I pour into their afflicted bosoms the balm of consolation.

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