« PreviousContinue »
Such was Jesus Christ: and those who saw him saw the Father, (John xiv. 9.) for he was the incarnated “image of the invisible God;" (Col. i. 15.) the visible, and tangible mirror of the divine perfections. How can we better acquaint ourselves with the Father's character, and how a priori, better form a conclusion as to what he will do in regard to our sinful race, than by attentively considering the precepts and the acts of his son, who was his representative amongst men ? 66 And we beheld his glory," says one, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John i. 14.) Now is not common sense outraged when attempts are made to harmonise with this developement of his character, the doctrine, that God will to all eternity damn seven eighths of his frail and ignorant human offspring ? When darkness can be proven a better medium of vision than light; when it can be shown that cold is attributable to the presence of caloric; when the great toe, in the human system, is shown to be the nucleus of the arterial and venous circulation, instead of the heart; when the principle of gravitation is proven to incline heavy bodies to the clouds: when these things can be made to appear, it will then be equally apparent that from the perfections of character exemplified in the teaching and acts of the Saviour, will result a final catastrophe answering to that set forth in the dogma of endless misery.
I will add no more considerations at present, although much more will be adduced in the progress of this work. I flaiter myself however, that more is not necessary for the conviction of the candid inquirer: let him but suppose these facts reversed, and then, must he not acknowledge their weight in the scale of the opposite doctrine to be immense ? If, for example, it could be urged in behalf of endless misery, that God wills it; that it accords with his purpose, pleasure, promise, and oath ; with the mission, miracles, and death of Christ; that it is a legitimate object of prayer, faith, and charity ; that all the good, in heaven and on earth, desire it; that in order to be like God we must in our practice conform to the spirit of it; and that Christ's example when on earth was in strict accordance with its principles. And if it could be further urged in its favour, that revelation unequivocally teaches that God's mercy is momentary, and his anger eternal; that he will contend forever; that in numerous instances
he will utterly take away his loving-kindness, and cease to be gracious: also that death will always endure; and sin, and the devil, and his works, and error, and misery and hell: and, furthermore, that God created numerous intelligences to the very end that they should be ceaselessly miserable; and that any result short of this would be a disappointment of his eternal plans. If, I say, all this could be urged in proof of the truth of that doctrine, would you not, reader, deem it the very extremity of folly and presumption in me, or any one else, who should undertake to prove that doctrine false ? You most undoubtedly would. Well then, all that I have repeated, and much more, can be adduced in favour of the universalist faith : and does it not therefore follow, that to undertake a refutation of that faith is the very extremity of folly and presumption ?
POPULAR DEBATE.No. I.
IS THE FUTURE SALVATION CONDITIONAL ?
ARGUMENT IN THE AFFIRMATIVE.
1st. Man is a free moral agent; as such he is a subject of law, of exhortation appealing to his interests and his fears, and of rewards and punishments. If his future safety is independent of his present conduct I can conceive of no use that religion can be to him; why Christ should have died for his redemption; or why he should be so earnestly, and repeatedly urged to attend to the important business of his salvation! Surely if he is not to be regarded as a probationer for eternity there was no need for all this; religion is a mockery: and the means of grace utterly useless, if his future felicity is secure without them.
2nd. We are solemnly assured in the Bible, that “the soul that sinneth it shall die,”-that “he that believeth not shall be damned,”
"_that " he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,”-that“ we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive for the things done in his body, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.” &c. Universalists tell us that these threatenings, with the accompanying promises relate wholly to the present state, but for this we have but their assertion, and the strength of language which marks many of these texts, proves that assertion groundless. Is it in the present world that “they who sow to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting”? Do universalists enjoy their everlasting life in this world? Christ is said to have become “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him." Does this also happen in the present state? Is the eternal salvation to be realised here? Moreover, an apostle exhorts to "give all diligence to make your calling and election sure"_" for so an entrance skall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Now that in this passage the reference is not to Christ's kingdom here, is certain, for Christ's kingdom here is not everlasting. Here, then, is an insurmountable proof, that our condition beyond death is dependant on our
conduct in life; but this is so important a point that it shall be proven farther.
The momentous question was put to Christ—" Are there few that be saved ?" And what was his answer ? was it such as favor. ed the universalian theory? No indeed. « Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many I say unto you shall seek to enter in and shall not be able for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Here we have a direct issue between the Saviour and the universalian theory, the former af firming that but few will arrive at eternal bliss, and that few conditionally, and the latter affirming that all will arrive there, and that unconditionally.
But a still plainer case occurs; when the lawyer and the rich young man, inquired each of Christ what good thing he should do to inherit eternal life : instead of receiving an answer such as universalism would render, viz: Do nothing—you will be saved at all events; they were both informed that to mere legal obedience they must add the charity of the gospel ; to the rich young man was said, “ sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." Here observe by the way, that heaven is put by the Saviour in apposition with eternal life; which implies that they are synonimous. Treasure in heaven, then, it seems, may be secured by acts of charity upon earth' I defy all the sophistry of universalism to fairly meet the argument in this case, against their unconditional salvation! It cannot be done.
Finally, Let me caution you, my friends, against the vitiating and soul-destroying dogma of universal salvation ; vitiating and soul-destroying it must necessarily be, since it takes away from virtue all its encouragements, and from vice all its restraints ; which encouragements and restraints are eminently yielded by the hope of future reward, and the fear of future punishment. This is the very theory referred by the prophet, which “makes the hearts of the righteous sad,” and “ strengthens the hands of the wicked by promising them life.” For must it not dishearten the righteous to be told, that in the future world God will make no distinction between them and the vilest of sinners ? Again thon
I exhort you, my friends, to shun this doctrine, and pray God to guard you against a belief in it.
ARGUMENT IN THE NEGATIVE.
1st. Whether man is a free agent, and if so, to what extent, are questions which I will not here tempt to resolve ; these subtleties have in all ages engaged the highest orders of intellect, and, if Milton's authority in these matters be considered as valid, they have engaged even the reasoning powers of fallen angels in their dreary pandemonium.
“Others apart sat on a hill retir'd,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.” The mist of uncertainty, nevertheless, still clings around these questions as much as ever. I choose to assume that man is, in some degree, master of his volitions, and the actions thence ensuing ; that in many cases he could both will, and do, otherwise than as he does; but that he is not free, to the extent supposed by my opponent, is susceptible of both philosophical and scriptural proof; he surely is not at liberty to ruin himself past the remedial reach of his creator's grace: to suppose the contrary, is an almost blasphemous arraignment of that creator's wisdom and benevolence! But if we even concede to inan all the freedom contended for, it will not thence follow that he is a probationer (i. e. on trial) for eternity ; that he is not, is evident from several circumstances.
First, we cannot control the events even of the future hour; I may propose in an hour hence, to start on a journey; but when the moment arrives, I may be prevented by illness, or the weather, or the state of the roads or streams, or a failure of the means of conveyance. In short, a score of things may interpose betwixt my purpose and its execution; and if such is the case with regard to the future hour, is it likely that God has entrusted to me a control over my eternal destinies ? Secondly, Why is the term of human life of so unequal duration with regard to different individuals, if this life is a state of trial ? Some pass the ordeal in one short hour, and attain the goal without the risks and hardships of the race; whilst to others are allotted the toils and trials of