« السابقةمتابعة »
emies, and expressed the tenderest emotions of pity, compassion and universal benevolence. All who have gone to heaven have gone in the way of love.
2. The way to heaven is the way of faith. Good men have aiways been firm and cordial believers in the Being, Providence and Word of God. Adam, Abel, Seth and Noah, and Abraham and Job, offered sacrifices before the law; and all good men under the law did the same, by which they expressed not only their faith in the being and word of God, but in the death and atonement of the divine Redeemer. The prophet before the gospel day, says, 'The just shall live by faith.' But the apostle in the eleventh of Hebrews has most expressly told us, that all the ancient patriarchs and good men lived a life of faith, and trusted in a Savior to come for salvation. See verse 1-16. The new and living way of salvation is emphatically the way of faith. Those who have gone to heaven, have gone in the exercise of faith.
3. The way to heaven is a way of submission. God in his word and providence has always called his friends to the duty of unconditional submission, and this duty they often performed to the astonishment of the world. He called his friend Abraham to offer up his beloved son Isaac, as a burnt offering. Abraham without the least complaint or hesitation, or delay, did really and sincerely submit to the sovereign will of God. Job exercised entire submission under the sorest bereavements. Eli submitted to the denunciation of the divine displeasure, when he said, 'It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth good in his sight." David displayed remarkable resignation to the will of God, in the time of Absalom's rebellion, and the awful pestilence. The Shunnamite cordially said, 'It is well,' when bereaved of her beloved child. Hezekiah said, 'Good is the word of the Lord,' after hearing the predictions of impending judgments. It is unnecessary to mention all the signal expressions of submission, which are recorded of the heirs of heaven. They all felt and acted as pilgrims and strangers in the earth, and went through their course, with a spirit of unconditional submission.
4. The way to heaven is the way of prayer. Those who love God, believe in his word, and have confidence in his providence, are given to prayer. They acknowledge God in all their ways, and habitually call upon his name for every needed favor. Accordingly we find those who have gone to heaven, have lived a life of prayer. Noah, Job and Daniel, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and many others, were men of great devotion, and called upon God in secret, in private and public. The way to heaven lies through a dangerous and ensnaring world, and hence good men in their journey to heaven, have always found abundant need of calling upon God. Besides, this is the most proper way of holding communion with him, and enjoying the clearest prospect of future and eternal realities. I may add,
5. The way to heaven is a way of universal obedience to the divine commands. Godliness will not only produce all right affec
tions, but lead the subjects of grace to a life of universal obedience. Good men have, in all ages, distinguished themselves, by their hely lives as well as holy affections. Enoch and Noah walked with God, and before the world, with a perfect heart. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were obedient to God. Job was exemplary in all his conduct. He feared God and eschewed evil. Zacharias and Elisabeth walked in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless. Paul kept a conscience void of offence towards both God and man. In short, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles and saints in all ages exhibited a shining example of virtue as well as piety, of external obedience as well as of internal holiness. Hence it appears from the character and conduct of those, who have gone to heaven, that the way thither, is a way of holiness in heart and life. And for this reason, the scripture sets the way of the godly, the way of the righteous, the way of the just, in contrast with the way of the ungodly and sinners. The way to heaven is calculated to prepare those who walk in it, for that rest and happiness, which God has provided for them. They live as they die, and die as they will live in a state of holiness.
I now proceed to show,
II. That sinners have always been opposed to the way toheav'But' they said, 'We will not walk therein.' This has been the feeling and language of sinners in all ages. The way to heaven was laid open to the first family of mankind. While Adam lived, all his children knew the way to heaven. His children might have conveyed the same knowledge to theirs, and theirs to future generations. All mankind in every age of the world, might have known the way to heaven, if they had chosen to walk in it. And nothing but a dislike to the way to heaven, led mankind to lose the knowledge of it. But in spite of the opposition of sinners to this knowledge, God has always maintained it, in some part of the world. There has been one uninterrupted stream of divine knowledge, shining in this dark world, from the fall of man to this day. Hence there has been always an opportunity for sinners to manifest their opposition of heart to the way to heaven. And this opportunity they have always improved. Enoch has recorded the feelings, the language, and conduct of sinners from Adam to this day. Ungodly sinners then were most heartily opposed to the way of holiness. Other inspired writers have recorded the feelings and conduct of sinners from Enoch to Noah. In his day, sinners had a fair opportunity to walk in the way to heaven, while the way to destruction was clearly pointed out. But they all said to a man, Let destruction come, we will not walk in the way to heaven, but in the way of our hearts, and in the sight of our eyes.' After this, the godly were reduced to a single family, by which religion and virtue might have been propagated through the world. But though the way to heaven for several hundred years was pointed out to sinners, yet they said they would not walk therein. And the consequence was God suffered all nations to walk in the way of their hearts, until the days of Abraham. With him and his
son he continued the knowledge of the way to heaven. But the seed of Abraham his friend, became his inveterate enemies; and notwithstanding God sent his prophets, rising up early and sending them; and calling upon them to stand, and consider, and ask for the old and good way to heaven, yet they said, "We will not walk therein.' When Christ came and brought life and immortality to light, aud pointed out the way to heaven in a clearer manner, than it ever had been before, sinners still refused to strive to enter into the strait gate, and walk in the narrow way to eternal life. The apostles made another experiment: they carried the gospel to those who had never heard of it; but when sinners understood it, they turned from the way to heaven, and determined to walk in their own chosen way, which leads to destruction. The same disposition sinners have manifested ever since the time of the apostles to this time. When the way to heaven is pointed out, they practically, if not verbally say, 'We will not walk therein. In a word, the conduct of sinners, in all ages has clearly shown, that they are totally opposed in heart to the way to heaven. Though they sometimes wish to arrive at that holy and happy place; yet they will not walk in the path, which leads to it. That sinners do voluntarily refuse to walk in the way to heaven is capable of clearest proof. For,
In the first place, the way to heaven is altogether intelligible. Though sinners could not have found the way of themselves; yet after it is revealed, it is easy to understand, wayfaring men, though fools, may walk therein. Hence sinners not walking in it cannot be owing to ignorance. They may, and often do know it as well as those who walk in it.
In the next place, the way to heaven is reasonable. It is proper, that just such creatures as sinners are, should walk in just such a manner as God has required. It is reasonable they shonld walk in all the ways of holiness. They ought to be holy, as their Creator is.
In the last place, is is to be observed, that the way to heaven has been found a most easy and pleasant way to all who have chosen to walk in it. Hence it is evident there are no natural difficulties or obstacles to hinder sinners from walking in it. They have as much power to walk in the way to heaven, as to walk in any other way. And this they always feel, when they feel to blame for refusing to walk in the way to heaven. And they often do feel self-condemned for turning aside from the path to heaven, aud walking in their own chosen, crooked paths, which lead to ruin. It is, beyond doubt, therefore, that sinners have always been unwilling to walk in the good, old way to heaven.
HEADS OF IMPROVEMENT.
1. If sinners have always been.opposed to that way to heaven, which God has pointed out to them, we may see why they have taken so much pains to find out different ways to heaven. The wise man represents the world as having employed their strongest
exertions to find out more easy ways to heaven, than that revealed by God. He says 'God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.' He does not mean useful acts of sinners, but different ways of being happy in this life, and in that which is to come. The heathens have exerted themselves in finding out different ways to heaven-the Jews-the Christians-the Infidels.
2. If sinners have always been opposed to the true way to heaven; then it is not strange that they have always opposed those, who preached that way. This has always been the case. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, mentions the opposition of sinners to those who preached the true way of salvation. Under the law, the priests and prophets found the same disposition. In Christ's day it was so-in the apostles-and ever since. Opposition is to be expected.
3. If sinners have always been opposed to the true way to heaven; then their present opposition to it, is not owing to any new and difficult doctrines, which are frequently inculcated. Many complain of new divinity-new doctrines-and that these throw difficulties in the way of their embracing the gospel, and walking in the path to heaven. Such as these in particular-Total de pravity. This has been always taught in the Bible, and always. acted out by sinners. Disinterested love--who ever carried this doctrine higher than Moses, David and Paul? Unconditional submission-who ever carried this doctrine farther than Eli, Job, David, Daniel.
4. If sinners are opposed to the true way to heaven; then preaching this way has a natural tendency to drive them into error. To avoid the right way, they are compelied to seek some other. The truth has made most of the heretics in the world. Having a clear view of the right way, and being heartily opposed to it, they have set their inventions to work to find out some other. Hence the flood of error at this day. The true way to heaven has been most truly pointed out in Europe and America. But sinners could not bear it. Hence they have become Socinians, Universalists, Deists, Infidels.
5. If the way to heaven has been always the same; then we see the propriety of God's recording the lives of so many good It has been to make the way to heaven the more plain. 6. If the good old way to heaven has been properly described; then it is easy for all to see whether they are walking in the way. Many are in doubt. They wish to know whether they are in the way to heaven. Let them compare their hearts with the hearts of ancient patriarchs-and their lives with theirs.
7. If sinners have always opposed the way to heaven; then it is easy for them know that they are sinners. Do they hate the right way?
8. If sinners have always opposed the way to heaven; then all see why religion has always increased or diminished, as God has given or withholden his spirit. Not knowledge, not means have ever prevailed.
How aggravated will be the destruction of those who finally refuse to walk in the good old way to heaven!
Let saints keep in the right path, and pray for others. Let sinners leave their crooked,' ways and enter the straight and narrow path to heaven.
A FUTURE STATE OF PROBATION,
Extracted from Hawes' Letters on Universalism.
It is alleged by some, that there is a future state of probation, and that future punishment is only disciplinary. By this evasion, all those texts which threaten the wicked with everlasting punishment, are explained to mean only the chastisements of a father, inflicted on disobedient children for their good. This evasion, however, cannot be charged upon the great body of the Universalists of the present day. By far the greater part of them, it is believed, deny all punishment in the future world, and suppose that every man receives the due reward of his offences in the present life. But as the doctrine of a future disciplinary probation may still be beld by some few of the more sober and decent among them, it may be well to bestow a moment's attention upon it.
The doctrine in question, then, is, in the first place, a mere assumption. I am not aware that there is a single text in the Bible which even intimates that the future punishment of the wicked is designed for their good, or that their state is ever to change after the judgment day. The last information that the Bible gives of them is 'These shall go away into everlasting punishment.' Matt. xxv: 46. It leaves them in Hell; and is entirely silent as to their being purified in that place of wo, and fitted for Heaven.
2. This doctrine, as we have seen, is contradictory to the express testimony of the Scriptures. The punishment of the wicked is declared to be everlasting; and is described in such terms as preclude the possibility of its being designed for the good of those who endure it. They are said to endure the wrath,' the vengeance,' the fiery indignation,' the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God,' 'judgment without mercy,' and all the threatenings of the divine law, with no mixture of good. Col. iii: 6; Jude, 7; Heb. x: 27; Rev. xix: 15; James, ii. 13, &c. Does this language express fatherly chastisement, or sufferings designed only for the salvation of offenders?
3. According to the opinion now under consideration, those who endure temporary punishment in the future world, but are afterward restored to happiness; endure the whole penalty of the law, or are punished strictly according to their deserts. Of course, they never experience salvation. They are not saved by grace, nor is their deliverance from punishment in any sense to be ascribed to Christ. Grace or mercy has no part in their restoration to