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presentations which the Scriptures give of the decision of the last day, not a single hint is dropped about limited and corrective punishment; yet no season could be so proper for that purpose. We might have expected that the Judge would exhort them to profit speedily by these necessary and wholesome correctives, that they might the sooner be restored to that happiness which he was so anxious they should enjoy. Divine judgments in this life, when designed to be corrective, have usually been accompanied with exhortations, promises, &c. But not a word of this sort is found in the final sentence of the supreme Judge. It is rather remarkable that Mr. W. has not examined any more of the threatenings : perhaps he did not think it safe to venture far upon this dangerous ground. The threatenings which point out eternal punishment as the wages of sin, are brought forward, and defended, by Mr. Fuller in his letters to Mr. Vidler, to which I refer the reader.
We have just cause of complaint against the Universalists for representing us as imputing to the Almighty a bosom inflamed with rage, and boiling with vengeance, when he executes judgment on impenitent singers. He assures us that he taketh no pleasure in the death of a sinner. It is no unusal sight to see an earthly judge, with tears in his eyes, pronouncing upon the criminal the sentence of condemnation. And if the human mind may be entirely free from rage and vengeance on such an occasion, why should we ascribe these wicked passions to the Deity? But such a representation serves their purpose.
As God is love,” says Mr. Wright, - he never can " act towards any creature at any time, but from a “ principle of love.
If it be admitted that God once “ loved all his creatures, how can it be proved that he 6 will ever cease to love them? If his love be himself, “ if he be incorruptible, unchangeable, without variable
ness, or shadow of turning, how can he ever cease to “ love those whom he once loved ? To suppose the love s of God to any of his creatures may become extinct, ó is, in effect, to suppose that so much of himself may s become extinct, for he is love ; that he may so far vary " and change ; which is impossible. The sins of men s6 cannot destroy the love of God to them, for the reasons
already alleged. Notwithstanding all their sins, he “ hath given the fullest demonstration of the continuance " of his love to them, in giving bis well-beloved Son 66 to die for them as sinners. If God will never cease to - love all his creatures, it follows, that he will never cease - to desire their happiness. And if what his soul de
sireth, should never take place, would it not prove “ either a deficiency in his wisdom or in his power ?"*
The above reasoning will apply against the introduction of misery with exactly the same force as against its endless continuance. For if God never can act towards any creature, at any time, but from a principle of love ; if this be accompanied with desires for their happiness ; and if his wisdom and his power are engaged to fulfil his desires; then it must necessarily follow, that it is impossible for any creature, at any time, to be unhappy. As this conclusion cannot be admitted, the premises must be given up.
* Hints on the Restoration, p. 4,5.
I do not very well understand what Mr. W.
means by the phrase, if his love be himself. Does he suppose that love is not merely an attribute of God, but the divine substance, essence, or nature, as some German enthusiasts have wildly imagined ? From some parts of the preceding paragraph one would think he has entertained such an idea. It is not countenanced, however, by the phrase, God is love ; for it is also written, God is a Spirit, God is Light, &c. Now if we may say with propriety, Love is God, we may likewise affirm, Spirit is God, Light is God, &c. By this method of interpreting Scripture, we may soon have as many Gods as the heathens had, and with natures as opposite to each other.
Mr. W. urges the immutability of the divine nature as a proof that the love of God to his creatures cannot become extinct; for, says he, “ to suppose the love of “God to any of his creatures may become extinct, is, in
effect; to suppose that so much of himself may become “ extinct, for he is love; that he may, so far, vary and
change; which is impossible.” According to this logic, we may prove, not only that the love of God to his creatures cannot become extinct, but also that it cannot vary: for “ to suppose a diminution of the love of God to any “ of his creatures, is to suppose a diminution of himself, “ for he is love ; that he may so far vary and change ; “ which is impossible." And again, “ to suppose an in
crease of the love of God to any of his creatures, is to suppose an increase of himself, for he is love ; that he may, so far, vary and change ; which is impossible.” From hence it follows, that the love of God to his creatures bas no relation to their moral characters, but that he loves the devils as much now, as he did when they were angels of light doing his pleasure; and that he has the same love to a murderer while he is im. bruing his hands in the blood of the innocent, as he has to a saint while zealously employed in the practice of piety and virtue.
The love of God is displayed in concert with his other perfections, and is never indulged to an extent that would binder their harmonious operation. God is light, or holiness, as well as love ; his love, therefore, cannot be inconsistent with his holiness. Mr. W. will allow that God loved the angels with delight before they sinned; but to say that his love to them was the same after they sinned, is, in other words, to say, that he taketh pleasure in uprighteousness, which is inconsistent with his holiness, and which is the damning sin of men. 2 Thess. ii. 12. It must therefore, be granted, that God s love of complacence towards his creatures becomes extinct with the extinction of virtue in them, and this spoils Mr. W's argument.*
* Mr. W. thinks that “ the sins of men cannot destroy " the love of God to them, because he hath demonstrated “his love to them in giving his Son to die for them, as “sinners.” I grant that God loves sinners, but not as sinners; for that would be to love sin, which is perfectly contrary to his nature. It is no crime of ours that we come into the world with a sinful nature, and therefore it is not so wonderful that our being in such a state did not hinder God from loving us, and sending his Son to bring us to holiness and glory. For we cannot well suppose that a God of love would bring a race of rational beings into existence without affording them the means of virtue and happiness. But to infer from thence, that those who only abuse these means, instead of improving them, must still continue to be the objects of God's gracious regard, is a conclusion which the premises do
*."God loves his creatures beyond the love of the tenderest and most
compassionate father; but always with this one exception, that he loves “ virtue, righteousness, and goodness still better than them. And against “no sort of sinners do the Scriptures speak with greater indignation of “ severity, than against those who presumptuously make the goodness of “ God an occasion of sinning, and turning even the grace of God itself into "wantonness." Clarke's Sermons, vol. 1. p. 219. 7th edition.
not warrant. But perhaps the doctrine of original sin, or derived depravity, may have no place in Mr. W.’s creed.
The bounds of that love which was manifested in the gift of Christ is fixed in the New Testament: “God so “ loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but “have everlasting life." John iii. 16. I wish to know by what authority Mr. W. extends it to obstinate unbelievers and devils ? It is a consideration calculated to excite our warmest gratitude, that“ when we were yet “ sinners Christ died for us ;" yet if as sinners we continue to oppose his gracious designs concerning us, the time may arrive, when “ He that made us will not have
mercy on us, and he that formed us, will show us no “ favour.” Isa. xxvii. 11.
Dr. Ryland charged the Universalists with taking off an infinite weight from our motives against sin. To this Mr. Wright replied, that “ the most powerful motive to “ obedience is the strongest motive against sin; that love “ is the only genuine principle of obedience; and that the government of God is not the reign of terror.'
The dispute is not about the strongest motive against sin ; for, supposing love to operate most powerfully, it may still be true that the Universalists take off an infinite weight from our motives against sin, by destroying the force of the threatenings : and this Mr. W. has done by asserting that love is the only principle of obedience, and by excluding terror from the government of God.
Mr. W. proceeds to the proof. “Why do sinners "continue in rebellion against God? Because they have
no inclination to obey him. Why have they no inclina
tion to obey him? Because they do not love him. " Why do they-not love him? Because they are stran“gers to his love ; if they saw his loveliness, and per
* Examination, p. 18.