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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Rise and Fall of the Sandimanians

By Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793–1860)

[From Recollections of a Lifetime. 1857.]

ROBERT SANDIMAN, a Scotchman, having adopted the tenets, and married the daughter, of Rev. John Glass—an able divine, who seems to have been the originator of the Scotch Independents—became a distinguished defender of his theological views. After a time, he was invited to come to America by some of his admirers there, and accordingly he arrived in 1764, and settled among them—first at Boston, but finally taking up his residence at Danbury. He appears to have been much disappointed at the character of his adherents, and the general state of society in America. This was aggravated by his taking the tory side in the agitation which now verged toward the Revolution. His days were in fact embittered, and his flock reduced to a handful of followers. His death took place in 1771, and a simple marble slab, in the burial-ground, opposite the court-house, commemorates his name and history. He was doubtless a man of ability, but his career displays the usual narrowness and inconsistency of sectarianism founded upon persons, rather than principles. His doctrine was, that faith is a mere intellectual conviction—a bare belief of the bare truth. Of course so cold a religion, scarcely distinguishable in its principle from deism, and giving no satisfaction to that constant craving of the soul for a more exalted and spiritual life, could not prosper. It was only adapted to a few rigid minds like his own. His adherents in my time met at their little church on the afternoons of Sundays and Thursdays; they sat around a large table, each with a Bible. The men read and discoursed, as the spirit dictated: the women were silent. Spectators were admitted, but the worshippers seemed not to recognize their presence. After a prayer and a hymn, they went to the house of one of the members, and had a love-feast. “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” was their maxim and their practice.

These customs remain to the present day, save only as to the kiss, which, according to the current report, was modified some years since. The congregation was rather mixed, and included the W. R.s, a family of wealth and refinement, down to N. S., the blacksmith. Mrs. W. R. was a woman of great delicacy of person, manners, and dress: her lace was the finest, her silks the richest, her muslin the most immaculate. She was in breeding a lady, in position an aristocrat, in feeling an exclusive. And yet, one day, as she walked forth, and chanced to turn the corner, close to the central meeting-house, wending her way homeward, she came suddenly upon the village Vulcan, above mentioned. He was in front of his shop, and being a man of full habit, and having just put down the heel of an ox, which he was shoeing, he was damp with perspiration. Nevertheless, the faith was strong within him: “Greet one another with a holy kiss!” rushed to his mind, and he saluted Mrs. W. R., as in duty bound. She, a saint in profession, but alas, in practice a sinner, as doth appear—returned not the salute! Had she been of another sect, abstinence would have been a virtue, but in this, it was of course a crime. Upon this incident rocked and quaked the whole Sandimanian church for some months. At last the agitation subsided, and the holy kiss was thenceforward either abandoned or given with discretion.