« PreviousContinue »
The celebrated Dr. John Mason Good, in his lecture on the Bature and duration of the soul, affirms, respecting the popular tradition, as early as the time of Isaiah, (and Homer, with whom he believes him to have been contemporary,) that “it taught that the disembodied spirit becomes a ghost as soon as it is separated from the material frame: a thin, misty, aerial form, somewhat larger than life; with a feeble voice, shadowy limbs, knowledge superior to what was possessed while in the flesh; capable, under particular circumstances, of rendering itself visible, and retaining so much of its former features, as to be recognised in its apparition ; in a few instances wandering about for a time after death, but for the most part conveyed to a common receptacle situated in the centre of the earth, denominated SHEOL, HADES, HELL, or the world of spirits.
“ Such was the general belief of the multitude, in almost all countries, from a very early period of time, with the difference, that the hades of various nations was supposed to exist in some remote place on the surface of the earth, and that of others in the elouds."
It is more than probable that this dim and misty outline of the realm of ghosts was from age to age amplified upon, until it became the abode of the damned, modified amongst different nations according to the diversified policy of their priests, or fancy of their poets : by some it has been located in the interior of the earth; by some on its surface in some remote district; by some in the clouds, in the moon, in a comet, or one of the planets. With some it has been held a hell of fire; with others a hell of ice; with others, of alternate burning and freezing; with others, of darkness and dreary wandering amid every frightful circumstance, of hunger and thirst, etc. The latest refinement upon it amongst christians is, that it has no outward or material existence, but is merely a state of moral suffering, remorse, unavailing anguish, and despair.
If hell be a located place, God made it. He made it with a perfect knowledge of the end to which it should answer, and he of course adapted it to that end. He also created those whose doom it shall be to groan in its depths forever; and he of course knew that such should be the issue of their being. And he is infinitely benevolent, nevertheless! He " is good to all, and his tender
mercies are over all his works !!" Let those believe these absure dities who can. I can not, if the penalty be a hundred fold damnation !!!
Thanks be to God! I lie under no such obligation! The light of his word shines sufficiently bright on the pathway of my inquiries on these subjects, to satisfy my understanding and my hopes. It informs me, that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” but no mention is made of his having created a HELL!! So, also, at the conclusion, it speaks of “a new heaven, and a new earth,” but nothing whatever of a NEW HELL!! Thus, neither firstly, nor lastly, nor intermediately, do the scriptures recognise such a hell, as at this day is proving, to a frightful extent, a source of terror, and madness, and suicide.
It is sincerely hoped that the reader will “search the scriptures,” in order to satisfy himself on this point. He will receive but little edification from the perusal of polemical squabbles concerning it. He must “ to the law, and to the testimony ;' and oh ! let him take heed, that nothing short of these high authorities determine him in a belief, so dreadful in its bearings on his own happiness, and so pernicious in its influence on his views of the Divine character.
FOREKNOWLEDGE AND FOREORDINATION.
DOES ABSOLUTE FOREKNOWLEDGE NECESSARILY IMPLY ABSO
LUTE FOREORDINATION ?
So momentous are the consequences involved in this question, that very many have been deterred from 'adventuring fairly and boldly into a discussion of it; for if, on the one hand, it be settled in the affirmative, it seems clearly to follow that God is the author of sin-that man is without moral freedom-that he therefore is not responsible for his actions—and, in that case, promises, threatenings, rewards, punishments, appeals to his interests, his fears, his sense of propriety, &c., are uomeaning mockeries. It seems
to follow, moreover, that God has incorporated a lie in man's moral constitution ; for man has an ineradicable persuasion that he is free that not his actions only, but his volitions also, are entirely subject to his own control ; which, however, is not the case, if all events are the result of divine foreordination. Such are the difficulties on the one side. Milton has alluded to them with much beauty and force in his Paradise Lost, as follows:
“ Ingrate, he had of me
Not me?” On the other hand, if the question at the head of this article be settled in the negative, it would seem to follow that, in a great measure, things are left to the determination of chance that Jehovah himself may be disappointed in the final issue of affairs that he is indifferent to the eternal interests of his creatures, or he would not have suspended them upon uncertain contingencies that in innumerable instances the will of man will prevail against the divine will—that, in fact, God can have had no definite purpose in creating, save such as he adopted on the foresight of what man would do; and thus, the doings of the Infinite are shaped and controlled by the ever-changing vagaries of finite beings; and, moreover, the deity is, in truth, as directly accountable for all the events which take place upon the ground of absolute foreknowledge, as upon that of absolute foredetermination.
These difficulties on both sides have induced some to seek a middle position ; none, however, have yet succeeded in the search-there is no sailing betwixt Scylla and Charybdis here. Dr. Clarke (as stated in another part of this work) assumes, that God can be ignorant, if he tries, of such events as he chooses not to know. A most gross solecism, this; it implies that the Infinite
Being, if he please, can dispense with his attribute of omniscience! And if with one attribute, why not with all, and so cease to be God ? John Wesley, and others after him, have sought to evade the question by perplexing it. “ With the Omniscient Being," say they, "there is no before, no after-all is present--the past and the future are one eternal now.” This is a mere sophism, however; for, after all, the knowledge which precedes the events to which it relates is fore-knowledge; that which is subsequent to them is after-knowledge; all the divine knowledge of events is : necessarily antecedent to them, and we therefore say, that he fore-knows all things ; in so saying we conform to the established usages of human speech, and say what none directly question. Why, then, do they seek to mystify the subject, save that it be for the sake of a subterfuge from the force of truth?
Were I an Arminian, I would not hesitate to take the ground, that God does not, and can not, foresee future events; for if they are contingent, if they are shaped by the accidental determinations of the human will, then are there no links connecting them with the past-no clue reaching back to the origin of things, by which their succession can be traced ; and even to Omniscience itself, (it seems to me,) it were impossible to foresee the future, except by a concatenated series of causes and effects it were connected with the past. There are things which, in their own nature, are impossible; error, for instance, cannot be made superior to truth, nor vice to virtue; nor can a part be made to equal the whole, nor the whole to exceed the sum of all its parts; and, thinking, it is equally impossible to see an end from a beginning with which it has no necessary connexion.
Maugre, then, all the subtle sophistry to the contrary, we cannot avoid the conclusion, that absolute foreknowledge does imply absolute foreordination; just as certainly as there is a connexion between causes and their immediate effects, so are these effects connected with consequences more remote ; and, like the paths in a labyrinth, which, however mazy and numerous, are found, when retraced, to issue in the single path with which they begun : 80 the millions of events which form the intricate web of human life, are seen by the eye of Omniscience to be but natural ramifications from causes which originated in his own appointment. Take different ground, if you will, reader, but where will you
find it to end ? In a metaphysical morass, where not an inch of firm footing will be found.
For example, an individual commits a wicked act; this had a cause ; whether a reasonable cause or not, or whether he could have acted otherwise or not, is not now the question ; it had a cause. What was it? Say, if you please, “ his depraved nature.” Very well, and had not his depraved nature also a cause ? “ Yes," say you, “it was transmitted to him from our first parents, and was an effect of their first offence.” Well, and had not the first offence a cause too ? “Oh yes,” you reply, “they listened, and yielded to the wiles of the serpent.” And pray what was the cause of their so listening and yielding ? Here you are, reader, in the swamp of which I forewarned you, from which, however lustily you may flounder, you cannot extricate yourself. Nevertheless, (as you are a free agent) you may try. Say, then, that “our first parents could have resisted the temptation if they had chosen."
But from what cause came it that they did not choose ? “ Well,” say you, “I can only answer, that their appetite for the forbidden fruit was so strong, as to overcome their resisting powers.” One question more, then, if you please. Who created their appetite, and made it so strong as to overcome their resisting powers ? This will admit of but one answer; and since, on the boundless map of the future, the Omniscient eye could clearly trace from these primary causes, all the multiform results which should ramify to eternity, is it unreasonable or impious to say, that he ordained those results.
" All very good !” exclaims the reader; " and so, as sin is of God's appointment, I shall go on and commit as much of it as possible-I shall thereby be merely fulfilling the divine purposes." Reader! reflect a moment ! Now tell me if there is not more of rashness than of reason in what you say. You “ will be merely fulfilling the divine purposes !” How know you what the divine purposes respecting you are? If he has ordained that some shall come to their death by poisoning, will you thence conclude that such is to be your case, and so swallow a fatal drug ? or because some are to die by burning, will you conceive it your duty to throw yourself into the fire ? No, no, you will act more prudently in this case you will hope that an easier fate awaits you, and you will patiently abide it. Very well; hope also that to you is al