Page images

ground, even handed, with equal learning and equal research.

But there are other considerations which do not fall within the range of scriptural argument, and which are still urged with much earnestness in favor of the popular dugrna of endless punishment. And

these there is one,

which has perhaps been less attended to by us than most others, and which yet deserves examination at our hands. For it is not only the real, but the apparent, with which we have to do. There are many fallacies which are so ingeniously wrought up and cunningly presented, that they avail with the mutitude as effectually as if grounded on eternal truth.

“Can the rush grow up without mire ? Can the flag grow without water ?” In other words, can any consequence exist, any phenomenon present itself, without a cause? Thus asks the advocate of endless misery; and then proceeds to state his case in somewhat the following manner:

The doctrine of endless misery, says he, exists, and as a fact must be accounted for. It not only

but it has existed time out of mind. Its history can, perhaps, scarcely be traced to its origin; for it runs back into the dusk of the highest antiquity, and is lost amid its impenetrable shades. It has not only existed for centuries and centuries, from unrecorded time, but it has been almost universal among men.

“ The doctrine of

exists now,

a hell for the wicked," says a late erudite writer, 66 is one of the most ancient and at the same time the most universal that has ever been believed among mankind.”

We find traces of it, we are told, in almost all ages and countries. We meet these traces, it is said, in the fragments of Egyptian lore, that have outlived the ravages of time, and come down defaced and broken, to the present day. In the popular faith of ancient Greece and Rome this doctrine held a prominent place. Throughout almost the whole of the populous countries of Asia, this doctrine is said to be publicly recognized. And if we turn to the New World, the hordes of savages who traversed its vast wildernesses of old, all acknowledged this great moral dogma; and their children, who are now fading away towards the setting sun, still do

It is taught, say its advocates, in the temple of Juggernaut---a very suitable place, let me remark, for such a doctrine to be taught. It is proclaimed in the language of heathen oracles--a very proper language, I add, in which to proclaim it. It is believed on the shores of the Amazon and the Ganges; it is read in the Koran ; it is received by the children of Abraham ; it is preached by the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.Go where you will, north, south, east, west, there you will find this great doctrine universally spread abroad ; almost universally believed !

It is in this manner we find the fact stated by

the same.

advocates of the doctrine in question. Now what, they ask, is the cause of this fact? Whence came this doctrine, so widely spread, so generally believed ? 6. Whence came it? This is the great and difficult problem for those to solve who assert that it is contrary to the Scriptures, the reason and the feelings. Whence came it---we repeat the question---whence came it in opposition to these mighty opposing influences. Men are not fond of what is irrational for its own sake; they certainly do not love their own misery. Whence came this tregeron mythos, the awful fears of Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna ? Why, (if the creed of the Universalist be true) have men thus cruelly tortured themselves for nought? Why have they indulged in such terrific inventions of fancy? Why have they passed a sentence so severe on their own depravity?"*

Is this universal faith the voice of revelation? Or is it the voice of a wounded con science ? Is it from heaven or of men? For if it be from heaven, then should all believe it ; and those who oppose it are found fighting against God. If it be the dictate of reason, or the voice of conscience, then it is true; and no less so perhaps than though it were revealed in the Scriptures.

It is obvious that great force is supposed to lie somewhere in this argument, but it is difficult to

Tayler Lewis, Esq., Professor of Greek in the University of N. York. See Article III. Bib. Repository, July, 1343.

say exactly where. It is certain the antiquity of the doctrine is no decisive proof of its truth ; for antiquity is well known to have indulged in many gross errors. Then, as to what is called its universality : it may, and perhaps must, be admitted that whatever opinion, or even tendency, we observe to be universal and invariable among men, that is, the same in all ages and all countries, must have a ground in the very constitution of human nature. That there are some such uniform and permanent dispositions or characteristics of men, is easily shown. Man is, for instance, a social being. Now this is a universal and invariable fact. You can point me to no age, to no country,indeed to no individual of our race, to whom society is not naturally agreeable. And should the proposition be laid down that man is a social being, that he loves society and thinks it necessary or desirable to his happiness, the facts just stated would furnish the most conclusive proof it. In like manner, it may be said that man is a religious being. He has reared his temples and altars in every land, and by sacrifice and prayer, has sought unto some superior power. So he desires happiness, and thirsts after immortality. Every where and at all times, are these impulses of his nature bursting forth.

Now whatever opinion or feeling we observe to be universally and invariably entertained, must be grounded in our common nature, and hence in

a measure true; and, consequently, if it can be shown that the doctrine of endless misery is thus universal and invariable, it will follow, of course, that it is consonant with our nature,and is the dictate of human reason. For in that case it becomes a part and parcel of our intellectual and moral being, and is always evolved in its proper developement.

But can all this be affirmed of the doctrine in question ? The most that its advocates assume is that it is and has been very general, insomuch that it

may be regarded as the common sentiment of mankind. It is said to be one of the most ancient and at the same time the most universal" doctrines ever known.

And hence it seems to be concluded that it must be true. But neither great antiquity, nor commonness, nor the two united, are able to establish the truth of any doctrine, nor even its probability. Because there are many opinions which are both very ancient and very general, which yet are not only untrue, but also contradicted by the dictates of enlightened reason or expressly denied by the voice of revelation.

What, for instance, has been more common or general in the world than polytheism and idolatry. If we except the single nation of the Jews, the whole world, before the coming of Christ, were polytheists and idolaters. The ancient Egyptians had a vast multitude of gods-oxen, crocodiles, birds, the constellations and other heavenly bod

« PreviousContinue »