« PreviousContinue »
being of the offender. And if such are the nature and end of the divine retributions, why should we be loth to believe the threatenings respecting them ? I truly can see no reason. His simile of the lad and his father does not fairly illustrate the case : nor is it natural, for a child is as much inclined to believe his parent when he threatens as when he promises, provided the threatening be just and reasonable in itself; but if a father should menace his son with the cutting his throat, or dashing out his brains, the son might well not think him serious, except he have previously known him for a brutal tyrant. So it is with universalists in regard to our Father in heaven; we believe what he has threatened ; not what my opponent's creed says he has threatened; we cannot so far outrage his justice and benevolence.
3rd.-Our doctrine, it seems, " is very consoling to wicked men :" well, this circumstance surely does not disprove its identity with the gospel, for that is termed "glad tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people.” But my opponent represents it as holding out encouragement to sin, by telling men that the shorter they render their stay on earth by their crimes, the sooner they will get to heaven. Now this objection to universalism rests on the false assumption, that men pass, according to this theory, immediately from earth to heaven. This is a mistake ; we pretend not to know what is the condition of men intermediately to death and the resurrection ; we have the assurance of Christ that the subjects of the resurrection will be “ as the angels of God in heaven," " neither do they die any more, but are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection :” (Luke KX. 36.) and Paul also fully satisfies us that the resurrection state of mankind will be one of incorruption, immortality, and glory. 11 Cor. xv.) We then are content with believing within scripture warrant, and affect not to be wise above what is written relative to the future state.* Our opponents, on the contrary, assume, that so soon as men die they have an endless abode assigned them either in heaven' or hell, according as they have been righteous or wicked on earth. We shall see now that my friend's objection rebounds against his own dogma. He will admit that Moses and Aaron, because of their disobedience to the divine command in
* The reader will find inquiries upon this subject at some length in a future No.
certain cases, were cut off from the earth, and denied the privi. lege of accompanying the host of Israel into the promised land, (Deut. xxxii. 49, 50.) But Moses and Aaron, according to my friend's creed, went immediately to heaven, and it thence follows that their disobedience was advantageous to them ; it took them the sooner to heaven! Moreover, my friend may according to the course of nature have full fifty years yet to live, which is a long time to be kept out of the world of bliss : but suppose he should murder his neighbour to-morrow, and improve (as nearly all muro derers do) the space between the sentence of death and its execation, by repentance ; his peace with God may soon be effected, and his arrival in the realms of glory will be the earlier for his crime by half a century! Here is encouragement to crime with a witness ! Universalism tells men that sin will not in any case, can not, go unpunished. Does this encourage them to sin ? No, surely, except they covet punishment: on the other hand, my opponent's doctrine tells them “you will not be punished in this life, nor (provided you repent) in another.” Of course every villain promises himself that he will repent, and thus secure an immunity from punishment in both worlds. Which now is the theory which holds out inducement to crime?
4th.-My friend is most morbidly apprehensive, that if our heresy be true he shall not meet in heaven with society as pure and holy as himself! I will essay to quiet his nerves upon this head. True, it is not in my power to tell him (even on his own ground) that he will meet no murderers there, for he expects to meet Moses, David, Paul, and others, against whom the crime of murder stands recorded in the inspired record. (see Exod. ii. 12. 2 Sam. xi. 15. Acts viii. 1. ix. 1.) Neither can I promise him that heaven will contain no incestuous persons, or drunkards, for he expects to join Noah and Lot there; the former of whom was guilty of one of these crimes, and the latter of both. (see Gen. ix. 21. ibid. xix. 30 -36.) I can tell him too of fornicators, adulterers, thieves, swearers, &c., whom he thinks he shall see in heaven, and with whom he thinks he can enjoy good fellowship without moral contamination. (see Hosea i. 2, 3. 2 Sam. xi. 4. Luke xiii. 43. Mat. xvii. 74. &c.) Why then does my opponent urge againsi our faith an objec. tion which makes equally against his own? If he cannot consent to enjoy the felicity of that bright world in company with his fel
low sinners, I know of no help for him; for I scarcely think that another heaven will be prepared for the exclusive use of some few Simon pures
of his own stamp ! He will tell us, perhaps, that the persons who committed the crimes above mentioned, are saved, according to his doctrine, upon the condition of repentance : well, we also admit that no inan can enjoy God except he is first morally qualified for that enjoyment; he supposes that only a few will attain this qualification; we think (and upon sufficient bible warrant too) that all will attain it. The difference between as, therefore, has less respect to the nature of the principle, than to the extent of its application. According to his creed nearly all murderers are saved ; it rarely happens that one is led to the gallows, who does not express a confidence of his acceptance with God; and they are usually accompanied by ministers of the gospel, who expressly sanction this proceeding. Indeed, the situation of the murderer after his sentence, is decidedly more favourable to the great business of preparation for heaven, than is that of the honest member of society who dies upon his bed; the former has his faculties in full play, his days are numbered, he almost knows his hour; in the solitude of his cell he is subject to few interruptions ; holy men, and books adapted to aid his devotions, are at his command; hence it rarely happens that this awful interval is not improved in the manner aforementioned : and it may be asserted with undoubted truth that, according to the creed of endless misery, there are infinitely more murderers saved than of honest men, in proportion to the number of each class! How does my friend like that result?
5th.-Let us now look at the declaration that universalism furnishes a motive to suicide. I have already shown that we do not believe in an immediate translation from earth to heaven; wherein then consisteth the inducement to self-destruction! Of all people on earth we have the least reason for being dissatisfied with the present life; for according to our view, all its sorrows, temptations, trials, disappointments, &c., are appointed by infinite love, to exercise us here for our hereafter advantage. If we imagined that an endless hell awaited us when we leave this brief life of tears, and that each crime we committed might sink us the deeper in its fiery surges, it is probable that we
should become desperate from despair, and rush headlong (like the charmed bird that flies within the serpent's reach) into the very ruin we were most concerned to shun, Alas! how many a tender and amiable being has fallen a victim to this dreadful persuasion! The benevolent Cowper had nearly been included in the number. But surely the universalist, whose faith dispels these murky clouds from his moral sky, and conducts him in anticipation to an universally bright and glorious conclusion of all things, may well be content with, and cheerful under, the dispensations of life, however dark at the present those dispensations be.
6th.-And a motive to murder- also ! “ Now mark” (as Sir William Draper saith in his letters to Junius,)“ how plain a tale shall put him down, and transfuse the blush into his own cheek.” On the ground of pity, he alleges, he could, consistently with our faith, murder a person laboring under distress and embarrassment; and despatch him to a better world. But I will show you, my auditors, that agreeably to his own creed, the motive to murder upon this ground, is infinitely greater.' He is a father : if he looks with an impartial eye around him he will see, that not more than one in twenty of the human race (even within the limits of christendom) die in possession of the fitness for heaven which he thinks is alone attainable in this brief existence ; consequently the chances of endless damnation against those of salvation, in regard to every person who grows to a responsible age, is, at the least, as nineteen to one! At the same time he believes that all who die in infancy go to heaven. What a motive is here, then, to infanticide! What parent can think of aiding the progress of his offspring toward maturity in view of this fact ! Nineteen chances in the scale against his soul, to one in his favor! On the ground of revenge also, the motive to murder is great according to my opponent's creed. An individual entertained against another a most deadly hostility; he brooded for some time over several plans of mischief toward him, but none seemed sufficiently deep to satisfy him. “ If even I take his life,” thought he, “he is so good a christian that I shall but be doing him the favor of hastening his exit to eternal happiness.” At length he bethonght him of a scheme; he waylaid his object, got his person fully within his power : “ Renounce your God," said he, " or I
plunge this dagger to your heart.” The poor wretch, listening wholly to his fears, did as he was bidden; he renounced God: whereupon his enemy immediately despatched him, exclaiming “ Now I have ruined you body and soul, and am fully avenged."
7th.—Universalists, it seems, are quite wide of the truth in affirming that sinners are here punished for their sins! My opponent has found scriptural proof to the contrary! Well, if this be so we have scripture proof against scripture proof; for the bible saith “ the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner." (Prov. xi. 31.) But it is not so ; the very authority he quoted is direct against him. (see Psl. Ixxiii.) David, in this Psalm, sets out with the declaration that, “truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart ;" he goes on to say that he had formerly doubted this fact, and had supposed that the wicked were more favored than the righteous; a merely superficial view of human life had led him to false conclusions in this matter; and he gave way to discontent, supposing that it was in vain that he had cleansed his hands, and preferred the service of God. But when he went into the sanctuary he was undeceived, he there learned that the prosperity of the wicked is but in appearance; that it is unstable, liable to sudden reverses; and, moreover, that they “are utterly consumed with terrors,” and subject to be visited with swift desolation. He thence confesses that his former complaints were foolish and brutal, and ends with declaring 5. It is good for me to draw near to God," &c. Now it must be apparent to all who look candidly into this case, that the very sentiment which David confesses to have adopted hastily and in ignorance of the fact, is now put gravely forth by my opponent as an established revealed truth! I request him to lay his hand upon his heart and ask himself, “ Do I regret that I have chosen the l'ervice of God (even if there be no hereafter consequence from it) in preference to the pursuits of sin?” Let him, I say, put this question directly to his conscience; if it render an affirmative answer, its moral state must be such as no true christian can envy: on the other hand, if its response be negative, his doctrine that sin is not here punished, nor virtue rewarded, is refuted by his own experience.
8th.--We are asked a question in relation to the suicide, which I confess to be as difficult an one as can be propounded against