« PreviousContinue »
can do with me in her pretty valley; for being a rattle-brain, I have been given over as a child of the devil from my infancy, insomuch that I feel something like a filial attachment for the old gentleman, and hope there will be a favorable turn in his hard fortune some day or other. However, I am willing to be quits with him after all, if there's a better chance for me; for, to say truth, I am tired of having certain pert and ignorant misses about here, roll their eyes and pucker up their faces as they meet me on the road to church, regarding me as infinitely their inferior, because they are pleased to term themselves God's children: but if God esteems them above me it is more than their neighbors do. Tell her, too,' she continues, that I am much obliged to her for making Alice a universalist; for she too is now a child of the devil, and is therefore nearer akin to me than formerly, since we can now both claim the same spiritual as well as natural father.'
“Adieu, my dear friend. May the light of this glorious faith extend to the farthest bounds of intellectual being—that wherever Jehovah is known at all, he may be known and felt as a GOD OF LOVE. So sincerely prays ALICE SHERWOOD."
The author feels it incumbent on him to assure the reader, that all the principal incidents in the above story are true. The valley itself has a real existence, and is faithfully described from his memory of the scene. Alice Sherwood and her two companions, the old Squire, Mrs. Mathews, Bridget Bounce, Mr. Waters, and the other dramatis personæ of the tale are true characters. He states this fact, in order that the story may not lose its proper effect, from the supposition that it is a mere figment of the imagination.
We are about, reader, in a serious and candid spirit I hope, to examine together the claims and pretensions of universalism, pro and con: we wish to be honest in this business, do we not? I do, and am disposed to believe that you do also; well then, let us make a right beginning, since much depends on starting aright, and except we conduct our investigation according to some kind of system we can accomplish but little to advantage; under this persuasion I proceed to suggest some considerations, which in the task before us ought to be kept steadily in view.
1. You will admit that the scriptures cannot support two opposite doctrines as true, without destroying their own credibility; you will also admit that the contrary to what they do teach as true must be false; consequently, if in a single instance they sanction the notion that sin and misery will be of endless duration, it must follow that Universalism is untrue-for universalism asserts the contrary. Now if this doctrine stands contradicted by one text in the bible, we must not think of looking up other texts for the purpose of sustaining it-that one must be admitted as proving it false. See, reader, how I shorten business to your hand; you have now, in order to refute the doctrine of universal salvation, no need to furnish a multitude of texts, one will do-only bring one that is plainly to the purpose, and the work is accomplished. Do you fancy that the passage concerning the rich man and Lazarus is to your purpose? or that concerning the unparnonable sin? or those that relate to Christ's second coming? very well, we shall see in the course of this investigation, and if they are, or either of them, your doctrine is then established. You, of course, are willing to abide by this rule? So am I, and, remember, it works both ways equally; if I can find but one passage which clearly
proves that all misery and sin shall ultimately cease, it must follow that they cannot endure to all eternity-and then, reader, you are bound to become a universalist.
2. When a book is somewhat obscure in its style, a knowledge of the author's character will help to a proper understanding of it, and it is unfair so to interpret the matter written as that it will disagree with the known mind and dispositions of the writer. For example: Suppose, reader, that you should happen on a political work claiming to have been written by the venerated Washington, and several passages in it would bear the construction, that the author approved an absolute monarchy as the best form of government; would you not, from what you knew of the writer, at once reject such construction as unworthy of him, and as unlikely to be the correct one? Certainly you would; you would try if said passages would not fairly support a different sense-a sense corresponding with the principles which the Father of his country espoused at the risk of his fortune and life; and finding that they would, you would most readily adopt it as their true and proper meaning. Well, then, treat the bible in the same manner; read it as a revelation of the divine dispositions toward man, and, recollect, that if it be so, it will not contradict what nature and providence conspire to teach of his perfections; thus reading it, you will not, methinks, arise from its perusal in the belief that it sanctions the dogma of endless suffering.
3. The figurative part of the scriptures should not be made to support a sense plainly at variance with that of the literal part. If it is unequivocally taught in the bible, that all men shall be finally redeemed from unrighteousness and reconciled to their Creator, it is manifestly absurd to interpret certain parables and allegories as teaching the contrary. By a mistaken acceptation of the figurative language of scripture: Jehovah is supposed to be at times angry, sorry, and grieved at heart! he is thought to hate sinners; to take vengeance on them, to laugh at their calamities, &c! This is believed of the unchangeable I am! notwithstanding that these same scriptures distinctly inform us that God is love, Good to all; that he changeth not, will not cast off forever, is kind to the unthankful and the evil, loving to every man, and will have all men to be saved! By a particular observance of the foregoing rule, and by making the plain and obvious texts a
key to those which are obscure, these apparent contradictions would be avoided.
4. Some religious theories are so absurd in themselves-so at war with all our established notions of the fitness of things—that to suppose them supported by the bible, is to believe the bible itself unworthy of credit, as a book of mysteries, or rather absurdities, with which human reason can have no concern; and the theory of endless misery I conceive to be one of that very character. Many sensible minds have rejected the bible, because they had been taught by their religious tutors, that this dogma was therein inculcated. For, occording to this theory, God either designed the most disastrous results from the work of creation, and is therefore a Being wholly devoid of benevolence; or these results will take place in opposition to his design, which must imply that he lacked the wisdom to foresee, or the power to prevent them, and is therefore short-sighted or impotent! "Shall I believe this, or discard the bible?" is the inquiry of many a mind; to which I answer, there is another, and better alternative Cast off the influences of a false education; and bow to the simple teachings of inspiration, which are a fountain of divine truth wherein are mirrored the ineffable perfections of Jehovah; you will then find, methinks, that they are not chargeable with the lending their countenance to a doctrine, which involves a serious arraignment of all the divine attributes.
5. The scriptures must not be understood as authorizing a tenet, which by its very concequences is proved to be false; try that of endless misery by this rule, and it will be found, either that said dogma is unscriptural, or that the bible is in the highest degree self-contradictory; for allowing that it is taught in the inspired volume, we must then allow that it teaches the following incongruities-The anger of God which is but for a moment, will endure as long as his mercy, which endureth forever!-The works of the devil will exist after being destroyed, as long as Christ shall, who is to destroy them-"God will wipe away ALL tears from off ALL faces," yet shall unnumbered intelligences weep to all eternity!—“The pleasure of the Lord will prosper in Christ's hands," nevertheless, the pleasure of the devil will so far prosper against it, that where units will be saved, scores, possibly hundreds, will be irretrievably ruined! "Christ shall
see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied," although his blood will have been shed in vain-his mission undertaken in vain-his benevolent desires exercised in vain, in regard to innumerable myriads whose redemption and recovery he undertook. The duration of the devil shall be co-eternal with that of him, who took flesh and blood, "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil!" A large portion of that same world to which the bread of God from heaven "giveth life,” shall, nevertheless, to all eternity continue under the empire of death! And although the Lamb of God "taketh away" its sin; it shall forever-more remain sinful! God "will not contend forever, neither" saith he, "will I be always wroth; for the spirits should fail before me, and the souls that I have made." "But he will contend, and be wrothful forever," saith the doctrine of endless misery, "without at all regarding the consequences to the souls that he has made." God's pleasure is "that all return unto him and live," and his truth is pledged that he will do ALL his pleasure, still, it will to ceaseless ages remain unaccomplished! His will is to "have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth;" but an immense majority of these all men will be endlessly damned and remain in ignorance! In the resurrection God is to abolish the last enemy-to subdue, or reconcile, all things unto himself; and to be all in all; but he will have many foes after the last is destroyed-millions shall continue in rebellion after all shall be reconciled; and they shall be estranged and alienated from him forever, notwithstanding he shall have become all in all. To sum up, this dogma represents that Jehovah will be disappointed; his purposes baffled; his pleasure unaccomplished; that Christ will have died in vain in regard to millions; and, therefore, that he was not equal to the undertaking upon which he entered; and in which an infinitely wise God saw fit to employ him; that the devil will prove too strong for his destroyer and conqueror; that Christ's victory over Death, will leave to the vanquished many more trophies than to the vanquisher; that the works of satan, who is fiuite, will co-endure with the works of God, who is infinite; sin shall exist as long as holiness; misery as long as happiness; death as long as life; error as long as truth; and bell, for the final overthrow and destruction of which the word of