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IT is remarked by Dr. Paley, that "enthusiasm is wont to expatiate upon the condition of the departed, above all other subjects; and with a wild particularity. It is moreover a topic, which is always listened to with greediness. The teacher, therefore, whose principal purpose is to draw upon himself attention, is sure to be full of it. The Koran of Mahomet is half made up of it." If there be any justice in these remarks, enthusiasm abounds in the present day. The sermons of many teachers, like the Koran of Mahomet, are half made up, in expatiating on the condition of the departed with a wild particularity.
Such as have observed the origin and progress of modern revivals of religion, must have noticed that they are generally produced, by expatiating on the everlasting torments of the wicked. This accounts for some sects, and certain individuals, drawing upon themselves an uncommon share of public attention. In some parts of the country, this topic has been expatiated on to such an extent and with a wildness of partic ularity, that teachers of the same sect became alarmed, and assembled in convention to pre
vent a moral desolation being produced by it. Messrs Beman and Finney, with others, have been publicly censured, for their extravagant wildness and particularity. But why censure these men, if the doctrine of endless misery be true? They ought rather to be applauded for their zeal and fidelity; for if this doctrine is true, who can alarm men too much, or too soon, about their perilous condition? The time-serving policy of their brethren, who took the alarm, ought rather to be censured, for they seem more concerned for the celebrity of the sect, than the safety of precious immortal souls. If charity leads to a different construction of their conduct, it must be, that they are secretly persuaded in their own minds, there is not so much cause for alarm about everlasting misery, as the great body of the sect imagine. What rather con
firms this construction is, a celebrated orthodox teacher, lately found fault with his clerical brethren, that they preached a great deal too much on this topic.
But men are prone to run to extremes. some dwell on the condition of the departed with a wild particularity, others treat the subject of future existence with great indifference. Some are disgusted at the wild descriptions they hear from the pulpit; some are led away with sceptical reasonings; and the great portion of men, being involved in the business and pleasures of this life, the mass swim along together, with too little concern about the life to come. Indeed, some conclude, we know nothing about
it, and hence seem to care as little. They seem contented to live and die, in total uncertainty whether they shall exist after death, or what shall be the nature of that existence. The wild ranting extravagances of Messrs Beman and Finney, would never be heard of, if men showed they were rationally and Scripturally interested respecting the life to come. It is the excess of indifference perceived about this, which naturally leads to their excess of extravagance. Were we obliged to choose one of these excesses, we should prefer the latter. The wild ranting excesses of these men may do some good, but this cold hearted, stupid indifference can do none. If there is to be a future life, and the Bible reveals all we can know upon this subject, those men act most of the two, like rational beings respecting it. Their wild extravagances arise from mistaken views of Scripture, but this indifference proceeds from a disbelief of all divine revelation. No man who believes that the Bible reveals a future life, can be indifferent about what it says on the subject.
The author of the following Essays, fondly hopes, that what he has written, is in some measure calculated to remedy both these evils. The views advanced in the First Essay, lays the axe to the root of all such wild extravagances. If his sentiments, are on examination found Scriptural, and were they universally believed, it would be easier to get up a crusade, than a modern religious excitement. But, if he sweeps away in the First Essay, the whole
ground of the ranting enthusiast, the views advanced in the Second, are calculated to excite every sober, thinking mind, to the subject of a future immortal existence. He trusts, that there future life to man, is placed on a solid, rational, and the only Scriptural foundation. In this he thinks all Christians will concur. In his Third Essay, a number of texts generally quoted in favor of future punishment, are considered. These texts, may be called the cups and balls, by which ranting enthusiasts impose on the public. They are the constant themes on which such preachers love to dwell, and by means of which, a plausible appearance is given to their wild harangues. It will be seen, that these very texts, are Mr. Hudson's principal proofs for a future judgment and retribution. But if his views of them are correct, he is inexcusable, if he does not preach on the subject of his limited punishment, and even with a degree of wild particularity. If it be true, he cannot do too much, in alarming men as to their perilous condition. But we have always understood, that believers in this doctrine, seldom preach on such a subject. We should think then it was not worth while to write about it. We seriously maintain, that if either the doctrine of endless or limited punishment be taught in the Bible, the advocates of these systems, ought, like Messrs Beman and Finney, to prove they believe them, by rousing all to a sense of their danger.