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surely, will think of rendering an affirmative answer here. Much less can I be certified on this head, if the notion of free agency be true; for on that ground there is no certainty to any body—not only no certainty of ever getting to heaven, but also no certainty of remaining there in case it is ever reached! Because if some once there were exiled, and driven to hell, (the fallen angels,) and we are to continue free agents, the same may happen again!
If faith give not present certitude of future bliss to its possessor, I can only say that the scriptures have greatly exaggerated its virtues: "There remaineth therefore a rest," say they, "TO the people of God;" (Heb. iii. 9.) and "we which have believed, DO enter into rest;" (ibid. 3.) they speak of a "peace and joy IN believing;" (Rom. xv. 13.) and they connect with faith a “joy that is unspeakable and full of glory." (1 Pet. i. 8.) Paul calls faith "The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;" (Heb. xi. 7.) precisely the reverse of this definition will express the nature of the belief of endless misery; it is the substance of things not only not hoped for, but by every benevolent mind most fervently deprecated; thus near, exactly, and no nearer, does this dreary faith approximate to an identity with the faith of the gospel!
"Faith works by love, and purifies the heart." (Gal. v. 6.) Does the faith of unending punishment do this? On the contrary, I will prove it to be inconsistent with a due degree of love to mankind. Take a mother who believes this doctrine; she has lost a son who had attained his majority, and who died without a preparation for heaven. Does she suppose that he has been doomed to an eternity of flames? Not she; she will tell you of the mercy of God, and of his plenitude of grace for the salvation of the vilest of offenders; and although she is not warranted by her creed in cherishing the smallest hope for her son on these grounds; still she will persist in discrediting the idea of his final ruin! Why is this? It is because of the love she bears to her offspring. Suppose now that she loved all mankind as well; what then? Why then she would be equally loth to believe that any would be finally lost. Does not this make it manifest that a faith in this dogma is incompatible with true philanthropy? You will rarely find a person of sane mind, who thinks, however profligate he may be, that he will be doomed to verify the truth of
this dogma: although his prejudices would be shocked at the idea that no part of mankind are to be endlessly damned; he is quite sure there will be a great many but he is not to be included in the number-oh no, not his precious self. He might go so far as to acknowledge, “"if I should die in my present state I would without doubt sink to hell; but then," quoth he, "I dont expect so to die; I hope divine grace will some day interpose for my salvation." If this man loved all as he loves himself, he would find it exceedingly easy to believe that all mankind will be saved; but the faith of endless-hell torments, we see, does not work by love.
CHARITY, which is but another name for love, and which the apostle Paul tells us "never faileth," (1 Cor. xiii. 8.) though prophecies may fail, and tongues may cease, and knowledge may vanish away, and the earth in the lapse of ages may be resolved into its primary elements, and the stars may grow dim with age, and worlds, and systems of worlds, may be dissolved, and become commingled in primeval confusion; all this may be, but love never faileth; for love is God, and was the first of all things, and must survive the wreck of all things, in case such wreck transpire. As God willeth not the final ruin of any, but, on the contrary, will have all to be saved; so as we assimilate to the divine nature are we similarly disposed toward the whole of mankind: And here, christian reader, I will appeal to your experience; let me take your memory back to the period when you were first sensible of the divine influences upon your heart; you were overwhelmed, you were dissolved in tenderness, you looked around you with new eyes upon all things, and they seemed invested with a charm which they had never previously worn; love was apparent to your perceptions every where, and seemed to have transmuted all things into its own image and essence; there was nothing, however mean or contemptible, upon which your heart did not yearn to expatiate itself in kindness; you could fully sympathise with the desire of the poet,
"O that the world might taste and see
The arms of love which compass me,
Far were you then from a disposition to limit divine grace to a moiety of the human family; on the contrary, you felt that that
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grace which had reached a case so desperate as yours, was quite able to plunge, in its saving influences, down to the lowest depths of human guilt; for your heart fully endorsed the sentiment breathed forth by the christian poet before-quoted, relative to the divine goodness.
"Throughout the world its breadth is known,
So vast it never passed by one,
Is it probable, reader, that your conceptions of almighty love were at that time exaggerated?-that they soared beyond its height-went down below its depths-or extended beyond its circumference? No, no, this is not probable, the greater probability is, that your conceptions since have, by the influence of a partial creed, been narrowed into limits quite out of accordance with your christian profession and your former experience.
"Charity," saith the great apostle, "rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;" (1 Cor. xiii. 7.) from which we gather, that whatever love cannot approve, and rejoice in, cannot be true. Love can approve of all things as they are, because it looks forward to what they are to be; it can approve of present evil, with a view to future and greater good; it can smile upon a short night of tears, which is to issue in an ever-enduring day of joy, the brighter for those tears. But can charity rejoice in the endless ruin of intelligent Beings? No; and we therefore infer that the doctrine concerning such an event is false.
ELEVENTH. We may infer the ultimate salvation of all men from the fact, that we are taught by Jesus Christ himself to make the conduct of God toward his enemies, the model of our conduct toward ours. "But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute. That ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven," &c. (Mat. v. 44.) What can be conceived more flagrantly opposed to this character of the deity, than that which is ascribed to him by the theory of eternal torments? To imitate God as that doctrine portrays him, we must cherish toward our foes an implacable revenge, a revenge which nothing short of their utter ruin will suffice to extinguish !
Such is the revenge, such the deity of that dark creed! It is equally easy to love him, as to love the grim vision of Milton's
"Molech, horrid king:
Besmear'd with blood of human sacrifice,
Does he indeed love his enemies? How, I pray, is that love evinced? By continuing them in life? Yes, that they may thereby sink the deeper in guilt, (for such he certainly knows will be the result,) and draw down upon themselves accumulated ruin! Such is the love of God! Such his lenity toward the objects of his wrath! He has prepared for them a sea of sulphurous fire, and although no good to any creature can arise from it, it shall be their hapless doom.
"There to converse with everlasting groans,
I put it to the consciences and good sense of my readers, whether a doctrine which thus represents the deity can be true; and whether the saviour's selection of the divine conduct as an example for ours, was not, in this view of the case, a most inappropriate, and unfortunate selection.
TWELFTH. We may also infer our doctrine from the precepts and the acts of the saviour whilst he sojourned with men he was the representative of God, and the reflection of his perfections, (Col. 1.) "when ye have seen me,” said he, “ye have seen the father," (John xiv. 9.) and what was his treatment of sinners? Such, exactly, as entitled him to be called their “friend,” (Mat. xi. 10. Luke vii. 34.) he had "compassion on the ignorant, and them that were out of the way;" (Heb. v. 2.) even in death he practiced upon the precept he gave to man, by praying for his enemies; (Luke xxiii. 34.) and he commissioned his disciples after his resurrection, to commence their labors of gospel love amongst his murderers. (Luke xiii. 47. Acts iii. 26.) When Peter inquired of him, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive im-until seven times ?" his answer was, "I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven." (Mat. xxiii. 22.) That is, forgive as God forgives, without limitation.
To the woman taken in adultery he said, "neither do 1 condemn thee; go, and sin no more :" (John vii. 3.) from which we
are not to infer, however, that he did not regard the act with a due degree of abhorrence; for he cautioned her against a repetition of it" sin no more :" all that we can infer, is, that knowing the frailty of our nature, and the temptations with which it is beset, he judged less harshly of, and made more allowance for human conduct, than cynical self-righteous bigots are wont to do. "This man," thought Simon the pharisee, when he saw that Jesus admitted a sinful, conscience-smitten woman, to disburthen her heart in tears shed upon his feet; "is not so good and great a person as he is accounted, or he would not permit a sinner to touch him." Simon had not the least idea that he himself was a sinner: oh, no! he would not submit to the pollution of contact with any one bearing that character. Christ well divined what was passing in his mind, and he read him a lesson of benevolence so simple, and so touching withal; that it must command for its author the love and admiration of mankind through all future time. (Luke vii. 36.) When the multitudes followed him, eager to hear his mild and soothing eloquence, into desert places, and through long fasting became weak with hunger; Christ compassionated them because they were far from their villages, and they might faint on their way thither to get food: and he worked a miracle for their supply on the spot. (Mat. xvi. 9. Mark viii. 9.) Ah! he saw very, very many amongst them, if the theory of an endless hell be true, who after a few brief years should implore his pity from the fiery deeps of ruin, and implore it in vain! How tender, and how delicate, was the manner he adopted toward the transgressing Peter; in order that that rash, but warm-hearted disciple, might be reassured of his favour! (John xxi. 15.) And how condescending was his conduct toward the skeptical Thomas! (ibid. xx. 27.) How enlarged is the benevolence he inculcates in his sermon on the mount! and in the parable of the good Samaritan! (Luke x. 30.) The worst of mankind, he informs us, will salute their brethren-will love their friends; (the members of a fraternity of thieves will do this as it regards each other;) but if we would be God-like we must love our enemies, and be kind to those that hate us: we must not suffer our fellow feeling to be narrowed by party or by geographical limits; but must aim to emulate him who is "good to all," and whose "tender mercy is over all his works."