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massacres, perjuries, blasphemies, are really and essentially criminal: and, in the same manner, and with equal certainty, we know that to punish one man for the sin of another, neither is, nor can be just. And, therefore, most sincerely do I abhor the doctrine which ascribes such a conduct to that righteous Being, whom I would always venerate and adore.
I have heard you say, sir, you do not believe that infants are sent into hell. But if they are punishable for the sin of thcir first father, and if they are actually punished in some degree, why should they not receive the full punishment which
is due to them? And why was it, when we were · talking of this matter, that you seemed unwilling to be thought a believer in the damnation of infants ? I apprehend you were shocked (for you. started] at the impious tenet. It was well. The great God intended you should be shocked; and not at this tenet only, but also at several others which you believe and promulge. Indeed, he doth permit it to be otherwise. He endowed us with liberty (i. e. freedom of will) that we might be accountable. I would just take notice, here, that if we have no liberty, if nothing but actual sin can proceed from our nature, as nothing but an impure stream can proceed from an impure fountain; then are actual sinners, as you term them, and infants, upon the very same footing in respect of guilt; for these last were just as able to prevent the sin of their first Father, as the others were to prevent what you term their own actual sins. I cannot
give them that name; because as actual sin cannot subsist without agency, so neither without liberty can agency possibly subsist.
With respect to the second article in this doctrine, viz. the entire corruption of the human nature, whereby men are rendered sinners by nature, and utterly incapacitated to do any thing which is truly good, I would observe, that, if we consider what sin is, it will be found a contradiction to say a man is a sinner by nature. You may as well say that it is sinful for a man to have two hands, or two feet, as to say it is sinful for him to have human passions, or any thing else which belongs to him as
But then may sin be charged upon him, when he has knowingly and wilfully done the evil which he might have avoided, or omitted to do the good which he might have done. Till you can affirm either one or the other of him, you have no authority to call him a sinner. And when, through his negligence or bad conduct, he has corrupted himself, and acquired evil habits, you may say he is a sinful and a wicked creature then, and not before. If this be the true account of sin and sinfulness, a sinful nature, as such, is plainly a contradiction. And can you, sir, prove that it is not the true account? If you can, I really think there is nothing too hard for you.
The doctrine of election and reprobation asserts that, while a small part of mankind was, from eternity, predestinated to enjoy everlasting happiness in the heavenly world, the greater part by far was
also predestinated, by the same gracious God, to suffer everlasting torments in hell fire.
That any man, whose understanding is not entirely ruined, should believe this doctrine, would be to me a matter of the greatest astonishment, if I were not yet more astonished to think, that it is believed by some who do really venerate their Maker. If it doth not carry its own refutation along with it, it must be owned there is little hope of its being refuted. However, I would observe two things in relation to it. First, that if any one were about to utter the most horrid blasphemy against the ever-blessed God, he would be put to it to invent any thing worse, in kind, than what is contained in this doctrine. Should he take the hint from it to affirm, that God predestinated all the creatures which he hath made, or in future will make, to suffer everlasting torments, this would be only a greater degree of the same kind of blasphemy. in the next place, I would take notice, that, when you say, “ although the great God hath,
prior to their existence, predestinated and decreed “the greatest part of mankind to suffer everlast
ing torments in hell, he is, nevertheless, infi
nitely good and gracious.” I have good reason to think, that your heart recoils, and flatly denies what you utter with your tongue, though you strive hard to believe it. I ask you, seriously, sir, is not such the fact ? And do not you impute it to the natural wickedness of your heart? I have no desire that you should answer me: but you will not do amiss, perhaps, in delivering your answer
to him who made you,
you are; that you might naturally shudder at this horrid tenet, as you naturally shudder at the most atrocious and shocking crimes.
The doctrine of the satisfaction is this : that Christ died in the room and stead of sinners, suffering a punishment equivalent to what was due to them, and thereby satisfied the law and justice of God. Now what do we understand by these words, punishment, law, justice? Pain and punishment seem to be very different things. The brute animals suffer, but are not punished : for then, only, is a being punished, when he suffers for sin charged upon him. Law, in the present case, I take to be an authoritative edict, prescribing to, and enjoining upon, its own subjects right conduct, and denouncing a penalty against disobedi
Justice is the same as righteousness; it is eternal and immutable. Whatever is just and right, is such in its own nature, it was always such, and such it must remain for ever. Likewise, whatever is unjust and wrong is so in itself, eternally and immutably. The great God, who is omniscient, knows all that is right or wrong; and he, of his abundant goodness, hath made us capable of the same knowledge, as far as is needful and proper for us.
He hath made us thus capable, in that he hath made us reasonable beings.
As such, we understand and know, that to practise obedience to our Maker's will is right. We understand and know, it is right for a child, who has it in his power, to relieve and support an aged
parent in distress. And if a person returned evil for good, we understand and know this to be wrong.
And whatever it be which reason pronounces, with the same clearness, to be either just or unjust, such it is. Every man must grant this, unless he will grant he has no reason to think that to be just or unjust, which yet he does think to be so: I mean every man who allows the existence of justice and injustice. There was always a righteousness proper for every rational being existing, or designed to exist. This the ever-blessed Deity saw, and contemplated from everlasting. This is what I understand by eternal and immutable justice. It is founded on the circumstances and relations of beings. To instance among ourselves of the human race: should a man be either a father or a son, his being so related as he is, makes it just and right for him to do what does not belong to a person who is without children, or who has lost his parents. So riches, knowledge, wit, and power, make a certain conduct to be just and right for their several possessors, which cannot be right for persons differently circumstanced.
We have now, I believe, got the true meaning of the terms in question. But if law be such as hath been said, how shall its demands be satisfied ? It is exceeding plain, that they never can otherwise than by a compliance with what is demanded. The law requires of its own subjects this alternative, “ obey, or suffer the penalty.” Now, in either case, there is compliance, and, consequently, satisfaction. But, if they neither obey nor suffer