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understand the condition of those ages of the world, and the motives which guided many of their most important thoughts and actions, will acknowledge the truth of what the poet has said of them, that,
“Hell was built on spite, and Heaven on pride." Hell was a place, in their imaginations, where their enemies should suffer torments the extremest in degree, and endless in duration; and heaven where they themselves might enjoy everlasting felicity. The character of heaven and hell was made to correspond with their own passions, or what their passions would desire, in such a manner as to gratify their selfishness and malice. Dr. Paley suggests a principle that is powerfully operative in human nature, and which low degrees of Christianity itself are unable entirely to overcome -the principle which induces us to look with contempt upon what is common, and enjoyed by our fellow creatures as well as ourselves. We court distinction, and value nothing which does not gratify the passion. Is it singular, then, that the ancients, in those rude ages of the world, should be anxious to separate themselves, and be distinguished above those whom they hated and contemned ? Is it singular that they should indulge this feeling in relation to the future world, and extend it in imagination through eternity? Is it singular they should do so, especially when pro
fessed christians boldly acknowledge that if all men are going to heaven they do not wish to go ? What is this but building heaven on pride, and seeking it not because it is good, but because it lifts us up over the heads of our fellow men? It needs no comments to show that this is not the religion of Jesus Christ. He came to save sinners; he died for his worst enemies.
When I reflect on the awful depravity of which human nature is capable, on its pride and hate, on its terrible passions, its selfishness and cruelty, I am not astonished that the idea of endless torments arose in the minds of men, and that the faith in it is, and has been, so prevalent in the world. It is but one part of the dark and forbidding picture of the sinfulness of man; it is but one expression, though that is indeed a horrible one, of the possible malice of the human heart. What astonishes me is, that the world so generally regards this terrible doctrine as the voice of God, and consentaneous with all that is good in human nature. I have learned to look upon it in a different light. I consider it not as the voice of God, but of the Prince of Darkness-not as harmonious with what is good in man, but with all that is corrupt, malignant and revengeful.
I wish my readers to observe that the task I have here assumed, whether well or ill done, is a task that, properly speaking, belongs not to us,
but to our opposers. If they will believe the dogma of endless torments, it is certainly their business to show whence that dogma comes, and wherefore they receive it. But they understand full well the advantage of assuming their faith, and calling upon those who disbelieve to disprove it. They know how much easier it is to call upon us to show why endless misery is so commonly believed than it would be, to show it themselves. Still I hope my answer will not be altogether unsatisfactory.
There is a single work, my friends, which I have long wished to see written, and which, if well executed, would be of incalculable service to the cause of christian truth and love. I mean a learn. ed and candid history of the doctrine of endless misery—a history that should, if possible, trace it up to its sources, exhibit its origin and the uses to which it has been put in different countries and ages, and the infuences it has exerted
the interests of morality and religion; a history that should, in a word, unfold to the view of the world one of the most horrible dogmas that the human mind, civilized or savage, ever entertained, and which has existed but to curse the race that
gave it birth, and has for ages and ages cherished it in its bosom. That history will yet be written, and it will be a history of horrors.
MORE FOR US THAN AGAINST US,
And his servant said, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
2 Kings vi. 15, 16. To understand the force of this language, it will be necessary to glance at its history, which is replete with interest and instruction.
In the days of Jehoram, son and successor to Ahab, king of Israel, the king of Syria made war against Israel, and seems to have taken much pains in securing favorable positions, in order to ensure success. For this purpose he “ took counsel with his servants, saying, In such or such a place shall be my camp.” This prudence and foresight in laying the plans of his campaign, would, it appears, have proved fatal to the king of Israel, had he not been forewarned by Elisha, “the man of God," who sent to him, bidding him be on his guard, saying, " Beware that thou
pass not such and such a place, for thither the Syrians are come down.” The king of Israel sent and found it even as the prophet had said, and he “saved himself there,” as the sacred historian informs us, “not once or twice," that is, repeatedly,
several times. At these repeated failures of his best laid plans, the king of Syria was greatly surprized, and ultimately grievously troubled, and suspecting some treasonable practices on the part of some of his confidential officers, he called them to council, and said, “ Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel ? And one of his servants said, None my Lord, O King; but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bed chamber.”
As we may well suppose, such mysterious knowledge on the part of the prophet, greatly astonished the king of Syria; and he conceived the design of getting him into his own hands. Whether he wished merely to deprive the king of Israel of such a councillor, or whether he was anxious to avail himself of a knowledge that was so useful to his enemy, does not appear. But be this as it may, he entered at once upon the enterprize of making the man of God” his prisoner.“ And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may
send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses and chariots and a great host; and they came by night, and compassed the city round about.” What notions the king of Syria entertained of the prophet, it is impossible to say, but it must be confessed that he made very ample provision for his capture.