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"incorrigibly wicked" by the advocates of the doctrine of endless misery, a person not particularly and thoroughly acquainted with the language of the bible, would be led to believe that it was a scripture expression, and that such characters were clearly and unequivocally pointed out in the record of vine truth. But such is not the fact. The expressions, "incorrigibly wicked," or finally impenitent, are not found in the volume of inspiration; they are wholly the inventions of men. What are we to understand by the “incorrigibly wieked?" If we adopt the explanation of Lexicographers, we must suppose the expression refers to those who are "beyond all means of amendment." Among "all the means of amendment," the grace of God is undoubtedly the most efficient, as it is that alone which "bringeth salvation ;" and Christians of all denominations agree, that it is only by the operation of the spirit of God upon the heart, that a real reformation or amendment is effected. Now when we consider that the operations of sovereign grace are directed by infinite wisdom, assisted by almighty power, can we for one moment indulge the idea they will fail of producing all their intended effects? And when we say that man can finally and effectually withstand all these, do we not, in effect, say that he possesses power more than the Almighty? I am sensible that in order to support the doctrine of endless punishment, it is absolutely necessary to establish the fact that there are some who are "incorrigibly wicked,” whom no means can amend, no power humble, and who can effectually withstand the will and purposes of Omnipotence! But when God shall "finish transgression, and make an end of sin," when he shall "swallow up death in victory," and "wipe away tears from off all faces," when he shall "reconcile all things unto himself," when "at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under
the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," ("and no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,") and when God shall be "all in all," I am at a loss to conjecture where such characters as the "incorrigibly wicked" can be found; and the Psalmist assures us that neither the wicked nor his place shall be, or exist.
I now proceed to notice another expression contained in the foregoing quotation. "Either the scriptures have led to the belief that there will be endless punishment, or else this doctrine is the invention of men. The character of the doctrine forbids the latter supposition." In a preceding part of Mr. Smith's communication, he acknowledges that "no truth can be contrary to reason." The writer has here involved himself in a dilemma from which I think it will be difficult for him to extricate himself. By first admitting that "no truth can be contrary to reason," and afterwards stating that the "character of the doctrine of endless punishment forbids the supposition that it is the invention of men,” does he not, in effect, say that the doctrine which he advocates is so "contrary to reason," (and consequently to truth) that the "supposition that it is the invention of reasonable beings, is inadmissible? or does he intend to deny that men are reasonable beings, and capable of ascertaining what is truth? The great difficulty in the mind of Mr. Smith appears to be, how to account for the introduction of that doctrine into the world, unless it is revealed in the scriptures; and it is confessed that the unreasonableness of the doctrine is such, as to "forbid the supposition" that "it is the invention of men," unless we can discover some motive sufficiently strong to induce them to invent it; and this discovery, I think, it will not be difficult to make.
Man has "sought out many inventions" for the purpose of aggrandizing himself, and establishing a domin
ation over his fellow man; and amongst all the means resorted to for this purpose, the union of Church and State is undoubtedly one of the most powerful. After this union had been effected, it was the mutual interest of each to support the authority of the other, and when the arm of civil power was insufficient to coerce obedience, the ecclesiastical was called to its aid. It is a well known fact, that this union took place during what is called the dark ages of Christianity, when the great bulk of mankind were sunk in the grossest ignorance, and when Popery reigned triumphant over the whole Christian world. An aspiring and corrupt priesthood has never been wanting in exertions to establish an unbounded tyranny, not only over the persons, but the consciences of their fellow men; and for this purpose, they not only imprisoned, tortured and put to death those who would not patiently submit to their usurped authority, but pretending to be the vicegerents of God on earth, they denounced the pains of endless damnation on those who continued refractory. A religion thus propagated and supported, and that too during a period of moral darkness and ignorance, could not fail, in the course of a few generations, of becoming general; and as all protestant churches are descended from the church of Rome, it is easy to discover the manner in which this doctrine has been perpetuated.
There are other grounds on which the introduction of the doctrine of endless misery into the world might be accounted for; such as the pride of the human heart, the passions of envy, anger, malice, &c. But lest I should swell this communication to too great an extent, I will pass from this subject, and briefly notice one other expression contained in the quotation above made. Mr. Smith says that men "would never explain away the plain declarations of scripture, in order to bring themselves to believe that they deserve eternal misery,
and that God will, in many instances, inflict what they deserve."
In the above sentiment, I perfectly agree with the writer, for the idea that man can deserve endless and interminable torments, as a punishment for his misdeeds in this transitory life, is so "contrary to reason" and the dictates of common sense, that it is matter of astonishment, that any person should ever be induced to believe it. If this sentiment be true, it must also be true that man can by his good deeds in this life, merit eternal and unfading glory and felicity in that which is to come. No Christian pretends that the latter propesition is true, but all will admit that eternal life is a free and unmerited gift of God to man.
As the idea that all mankind, while in a state of nature, deserve eternal misery, is one which is very strenuously urged by the advocates of this doctrine, I must earnestly solicit Mr. Smith, or some other person who believes as he does, to produce the evidence of the scriptures by which it is supported, as that evidence and that alone, will do away all controversy on this important subject.
The above remarks are not dictated by a spirit of enmity towards Mr. Smith, or any other person, neither by a disposition to engage in controversy, but by a sincere and ardent desire that they may be useful to some of my fellow creatures, by inducing them to a careful and candid investigation of the holy scriptures, to "seè whether these things are so," or whether they have not been in the habit of receiving "for doctrine, the traditions of men." W***** S******.
Langdon, N. H. May 16, 1825.
For the Repository.
"A NEW COMMANDMENT I GIVE UNTO YOU, THAT YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER."
In this age of inquiry, nothing is more susceptible of attracting the attention, than something new. It was so in the days of the Apostles; the people were desirous to hear something new. "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there, spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear some new thing." If we inquire into the cause of this natural disposition, almost universally implanted in the breasts of mankind, perhaps we shall find that it all consists in this undemiable truth, "that the eye is never tired with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." But here centres the sum and substance of the whole matter, and it becomes every one to ask of what real value or importance is this new thing. Does it tend to increase the comfort, happiness, or joy of any of the human family? Or on the other hand, does it tend only to increase the idle curiosity? If this is the only object of attraction, it is most likely to be worse than nothing. But if the attention is arrested by something valuable, either to the morals or to the comfort of human nature, it becomes a duty to hold such blessings up to view for the good of the world. Here then is this grand and glorious antidote which our Savior, in the days of his flesh, has left us, "A new com mandment I give unto you, That ye love one another."
It is impossible for the combined powers of the whole world to offer any thing that will surpass this commandment. If any doubt this, let them try the experiment, put the command into execution, and then say, if it does not centre and harmonize every possible perfection. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." Love to God, and love to men, is the grand object which will finally sweep like an overwhelming torrent all opposition before it, and bring into subjection all hearts. Like the stone cut out of the mountain, it will fill the whole earth. E. V.