صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

sentence will be final and irreversible. I know, however, there are those who think they find much in the word of God which does not harmonize with this view of the transactions of the great day. There are some who imagine they find much to oppose the sentiment of any future punishment; and others, that they find enough to encourage them to hope that future punishment will be limited in its duration. But every man, who is a real believer in the inspiration of the scriptures, must be candid enough to acknowledge, either that all the texts we bring in favor of a discriminating and irreversible sentence, to be pronounced on the two characters arraigned before the judgment seat, are irrelevant and prove nothing ; or that all the texts which are con. sidered as presenting a different view of the subject, are perverted and made to speak a language entirely different from that which the Spirit of inspiration intended. That such a perversion of scripture is possible, we learn from a hint given by Peter at the close of his second epistle. Speaking of Paul's epistles, he says, “ In which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” It appears, then, that the scriptures can be wrested, even to the destruction of those who do it.

It can hardly be expected, in a work which treats of so many subjects, and all comprised in a single volume, that copious answers should be given to all the difficulties which may be started ; but since it is a leading object of this work, to show that the word of God exhibits one harmonious view of divine truth, I shall not wholly pass in silence those objections to our doctrine, which profess to be derived from the Bible itself ; since they seem to be remarkably calculated to stupify those individuals who greatly need to be alarmed. I have not time to reply to all the texts, which have been made use of to oppose the doctrine before us ; and since they are capable of being thrown into distinct classes, it is hardly necessary to examine them singly. If the princi. pal texts of each class, without doing them any violence, can be made to harmonize with the doctrine contained in this Article, objectors ought to be satisfied. These texts may, I think, be comprehended under the four following heads.

1st. The first class are those which are designed to teach us that God is perfectly and immutably kind and benevolent. Under this class may be ranked such texts as these : “God is love." “ The Lord is gracious and full of compassion ; slow unto anger, of great mercy. The Lord is good to all ; and bis tender mercies are over all his works." “ He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” “ For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God.” “ The Lord is long suffering to us.ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 1 John iv. 16. Ps. cxlv. 8, 9. Lam. iii. 33. Ez, xviii. 32. 2 Pet. iii. 9.

Passages like these teach us a truth infinitely to the honor of the Most High, a truth which lies at the foundation of all religion, both Datural and revealed; namely, That the Divine nature is kind and benevolent; without being alloyed by any mixture of those contrary affections which are found in mankind. The love of good will in God is not diminished by the contrary principle of malice or selfishness : his compassion and mercy are not counteracted by a cruel and unmerciful spirit. He does not save some, because he is partly merciful, and destroy others because he is partly cruel and unforgiving. To give his creatures a correct view of this matter, he tells them how he feels towards the misery of the wicked, when he says, “ I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.Surely no one can say that this text tells the wicked man he shall not die, even in a sense widely different from that in which the righteous man dies; but it is clearly designed to teach us that God does not, (how much so ever he abhors his char. acter,) delight in his misery; that is, that he does not delight in it as a good in itself, in the same manner that he does in the salvation and blessedness of the righteous man.

When it is said, “ The Lord doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,” it seems to be a conceded point, that he does afflict and grieve them. So when it is said, “ The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” it seems to be taken for granted, that the wicked, in distinction from the righteous, do die. The object aimed at in both declarations is the same, namely, to impress our minds with this fundamental truth, That the Lord is not influenced by unkind and malicious feelings, in bringing on his creatures the evils which befal them, either in this world, or in the world to come.

The passages are not designed to tell us how many will be saved, or how many will be lost ; but rather to teach us, whether we are saved or lost, God is good, perfectly and immutably good; so that if any of us should fall short of the heavenly rest, we may know it will not be through any defect of goodness in him. If these texts prove any thing against the doctrine contained in this Article, they prove too much ; they prove that misery can have no existence at all. It is as perfectly inconsistent for a benevolent being to take complacency in that misery which is limited in its duration, as in that which has no end. The only possible way to reconcile the existence of temporary misery, with the benevolence of the Deity, is, to suppose that he does not give it existence for its own sake, but for the sake of the good which he will make it the means of promoting. And who can tell that the same reason will not operate, for giving existence to misery which shall have no end? If benevo. lence in the Creator, and misery in his creation, can co-exist, then this class of texts are not at all to the point.

There are many texts in the Bible which are designed to exhibit the justice of God, and his immutable opposition to the workers of iniquity. Justice and judgment are said to be the habitation of his throne. “God is angry with the wicked every day.” “ The wicked shall be turned into hell.” Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the Lord.”— These passages constitute a part of the holy scriptures, as much as those which relate to the divine benignity. Why would it not be equally as proper, to employ them to destroy the force of the others, as to make use of the others to destroy the force of these? Why not say, Since justice and judgment are the habitation of God's throne, therefore mercy does not dwell with him; and since he is angry with the wicked every day, he can have no benevolent feelings towards them; and since

66

[ocr errors]

it is declared that the wicked shall be turned into hell, there is not the least prospect that the righteous will ever be admitted into heaven? It is as proper to constitute one set of passages the invading army, as the other. But surely it does not become men, believing the inspiration of the scriptures, to be thus employed. There is no war between the different parts of God's word. Between the two sets of passages, now in question, there is a perfect agreement. The one exhibit the unmixed benevolence which exists in the Divine Being; and the other enable us to perceive that this unmixed benevolence is not at variance with bis justice; that it neither prevents him from abhorring the wicked, nor from executing on them the curse of his broken law.

2dly. The texts which are designed to teach us the infinite greatness of the atonement, and its sufficiency for all men, are made use of to oppose the doctrine contained in this Article. The following passages may be placed in this class : Christ “ gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”. “ He tasted death for every man. “ We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous ; and he is the propitiation for our sins ; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 Tim. ij. 6. Heb. ii. 9. 1 John, ii. 1, 2. I would not speak a diminutive word of the atonement, which was made by the death of the Son of God. I believe it to be an infinite provision, made for the ransom of a lost world ; that the provision is great enough for all; and that it was designed to set open before the children of Adam a great door of hope. But the texts which prove this provision to be sufficient for all, do not by any means prove that all will be savingly benefited by it. The door that divine mercy has opened, will at length be closed, while many are still standing without. And the door will not be closed by the servants, but by the Master himself, who will rise up and shut to the door, never to be opened again. Luke xiii. 25. The marriage supper is sufficient for all ; but concerning many of those, who had been once invited, it is said, they shall not taste of the supper. Surely those passages of scripture, which tell us that the God of Israel made a gracious offer of the land of Canaan to the generation that he brought out of Egypt, do not contradict other passages which inform us, that through unbelief they failed of entering the promised land. The land was before them; the protection and assistance of the Lord of hosts were proffered them; they might have gone forward and taken possesion in spite of the sons of Anak, had they only confided in their God: but for want of faith, their carcasses fell in the wilderness. The children of men, guilty as they are, might all have an inheritance in heaven, which is truly the glory of all lands, would they but accept the gospel offer, and come up from the wilderness of this world, leaning upon the Beloved. 3dly. Sometimes there is a resort to that class of texts that foretell

a the world's conversion in the days of the Millenium. I refer to such as these : “ All the ends of the world shall remember and turn again to the Lord.” “All shall know me, from the least to the greatest. “ And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills ; and all nations shall flow unto it.” In this class, if I mistake not, we are to place that declaration of the Savior,

[ocr errors]

“ And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Ps. xxii. 27. Heb. viii. 11. Isa. ii. 2. John xii. 32.

These, with many other similar passages, prove beyond contradiction that there is a day coming, before the end of the world, when the reli. gion of the Bible shall become universal ; when the church of Christ shall become commensurate with the inhabited globe ; when the eyes of man, as of the tribes of Israel, shall be towards the Lord.” Zech. ix. 1. Allowing that these passages prove, that all who shall live in the Millenium, without any exception, will be saved; still they furnish no proof of the salvation of all those who live and die either before or after this favored period. Should some man declare it to be his belief, that all the present inhabitants of the Society or Sandwich Islands are true followers of Christ, no one would be so uncandid as to say concerning such a man, that he believed this to have been the character of all their former inhabitants, who died before the name of Christ was made known to them. The salvation of one whole race of apos. tates, amounts to no proof that all apostates will be saved. The salva. tion of one sinner furnishes no decisive proof of the salvation of another, even in the same world of apostacy. Neither would the salvation of one whole nation in our revolted world, furnish proof that all other nations will be saved ; nor would the salvation of the whole race, during a certain period, amount to a proof of the salvation of the whole race, through all other periods. God has mercy on whom he will have mercy : and this applies to different periods, as well as to indi. viduals of the same period.

4thly. I will mention one other class of texts, which are thought by some to be discordant with the doctrine of this Article ; I refer to those which are designed to establish the certainty and complete salvation of all true believers, and also the certainty of the conversion and salvation of all those who were given to Christ as his elect seed, though they have not yet believed. I will first recite, and accompany with remarks, some of the passages which appear to be designed to establish the cer. tainty and complete salvation of all true believers. It is said that “the Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all that be bowed down.” Ps. cxlv. 14. In view of the final judgment it is said, “ Then shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Cor. iv. 5. The 5th chapter of Romans and the 15th of the 1 Corinthians appear to belong to that portion of scripture, which merely establishes the complete salvation of of those who are Christ's. The promise of being upheld is made to all the saints, and to no others. “ He will keep the feet of his saints.” i Sam. ii. 9. “ A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Prov. xxiv. 16. When, therefore, the scripture saith, the Lord upholdeth all that fall, it manifestly intends all of this character, i. e. the just : and the “every man" who shall have praise of God, is evidently every good man,- every man who posses. ses that character to which God has promised to manifest his appro. bation before the intelligent universe. Such men, in this world, are sometimes praised, and sometimes censured as vile hypocrites; but to them it is a small thing to be judged of man's judgment; since the time is hastening, when the counsels of the heart will be made manifest, then every man, (i. e. of this character) shall have praise of God. But

[ocr errors]

a

surely this does not prove, that they shall have praise of God, concern. ing whom almost every page of his word has declared, that he will dis. own and condemn them.*

In those chapters to which I have referred, in Paul's epistle to the Romans, and his first epistle to the Corinthians, there is a manifest contrast between the children of the first and of the second Adam. The children of the second Adam are represented as not only gaining all which they lost in their first father, but as rising to a greater eminence than that from which they fell by means of his breach of the legal covenant. And because the promise is sure to all the chosen seed, and because the context, as well as the whole tenor of the scripture, is cal. culated to guard us against a misapplication of the promise, therefore the universal term, ali, is applied to these, as well as to the children of the first Adam. In the chapter referred to in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, he is treating on the subject of the resurrection of those who sleep in Jesus, and of theirs alone, when he makes this statement : “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Whom he intended by all, in this last clause, we learn from the verse which follows: “But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's, at his coming."

" He manifestly meant all that are Christ's. To be raised up at the last day, when it is spoken of as a blessing, (and so it is evidently considered throughout this chapter,) is promised as the completion, or finishing stroke of gos. pel salvation; and is always represented as the peculiar privilege of such as are taught of God, and such as come to the Son by the draw. ing of the Father. All these, in the resurrection morning, will be raised in glory. But this contains nothing in opposition to that declaration, that some will awake from the sleep of death to shame and everlasting contempt. The phrase all men, used by the apostle, Rom. v. 18, seems to be limited by the preceding verse and the whole con. nection, so as to include none but believers in Christ.

These are " they which receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness." To these the free gift comes, and that with power, unto justification of life. But if the phrase be understood without this limitation, then the

9

I do not know that the author of our psalmody has ever been claimed by the Uni. versalists as favoring their sentiments. But he has a stanza in the 84th psalm, which gives them as good a right to claim him, as they have to claim Paul, or any other of the inspired writers. The stanza is this :

• Cheerful they walk with growing strength,
Till all shall meet in heaven at length,
Till all before his face appear,

And join in nobler worship there." " Do you not perceive," might one say, “ how clearly Dr. Watts expresses the senti. ments of the Universalists? Twice in one stanza he tells us that all, and all does not mean a part,) will meet in heaven at length, and that all will appear before God's face, and join in the noble worship of the temple

above." But why did nobody before ever suspect Dr. Watts of holding to these sentiments ? The answer is plain : the stanza which preceded the one I have introduced, made it perfectly clear that the word all did not mean all mankind, but was limited to the saints. Here it is, so that the reader can judge for himself :

“Blest are the men whose hearts are set
To find the way to Zion's gate,
God is their strength, and through the road
They lean upon their helper, God.”

« السابقةمتابعة »