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Corinthians, as we have seen, is Universalism ;* other portions of the Scripture emphatically assert the opposite view. The language in these passages is strong, yet not so strong but that modern criticism, sharp and trenchant as a two-edged sword, will pierce between the words and the doctrine supposed to be contained in them.† Indeed, what language can be made so strong as to be impervious to the sword of criticism, when many transcribers, and many mediating witnesses, and many centuries, and a foreign language, intervene between the writer and the critic? What language can be made so strong as to bind for ever thought and faith? The purpose of Revelation is not to settle speculative questions depending on the nice interpretation of words, but to infuse a new spirit into human things, to illustrate great principles of practical import with new sanctions. The principles are eternal, the dogmas in which they are embodied are limited and transient.
We have handled this matter as critics, not as advocates of either of the views which have been discussed. Our convictions are inadequate to a free and hearty advocacy of either. The question is one of the antinomies of theology, - a question of which affirmative and negative are equally tenable and equally doubtful. It is a question on which sentiment and reason are divided. Feeling points in one direction, and — speaking for ourselves, we must say — speculation in another. Our heart is with the Universalists, but our reason is shocked by the violence of the hypotheses which Universalism — theological as well as philosophical — seems to necessitate. Theological Universalism supposes a too forcible interference of Almighty Love in the normal processes of the individual soul,
* But Paul apparently contradicts himself, if we allow the genuineness (undisputed till recently) of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
† We attach little weight to the verbal criticisms on the word aiários. Granting what has often been alleged, that this word in its strict and original import is not equivalent to our “ everlasting," it is nevertheless probable that the New Testament writers connected the idea of endlessness with it. But the plea that whatever is deducted, in the interpretation of this word, from the duration of hell punishments, must also be deducted from the duration of future bliss, – a plea as old as Augustine, - is utterly futile (as De Quincey has shown) as an argument for the eternity of the former.
bringing the Divine into self-collision. Philosophical Universalism assumes an inevitable triumph of self-recovery, — a fatality of goodness in man which seems to be based on no analysis of human nature, which certainly is not warranted by any mundane experience, and whose only voucher, so far as we can see, is a brave hope, which, however honorable to those who cherish it, is of no great use in the critical investigation of this subject. Theodore Parker, one of the ablest representatives of philosophic Universalism in this country, states the doctrine with his usual vigor in his last Discourse: “ But there is no spiritual death, — only partial numbness, never a stop to that higher life. The soul's power of recovery from wickedness is infinite; its time of healing is time without bounds. There is no limit to the vis medicatrix of the inner, the immortal man. To the body death is a finality ; but the worst complication of personal wickedness is only one incident in the development of a man whose life is continuous, an infinite series of incidents all planned and watched over by Absolute Love. ..... In all the family of God there is never a son of perdition.” (p. 17.) This is fine, would the author but legitimate it by some demonstration of the grounds of his prophecy beside general reference to the revelation of the “ Universe," from which he would seem to have derived it. "I think there is not in the Old Testament, or the New, a single word which tells this blessed truth, that penitence hereafter shall do any good. ..... But the Universe is the revelation of God, and it tells you a grander truth, — infinite Power and infinite Love, time without bounds for the restoration of the fallen and the recovery of the wicked.” There are some to whom the very attractiveness of such a doctrine may seem a sufficient warrant of its truth. We have no wish to disturb their faith ; but this ground of conviction, however influential in private experience, is hardly available at the bar of critical inquiry. And, again, the doctrine, as propounded by Parker, by Emerson, and others, assumes in the judgment of some the rank and claims of a philosophic intuition. It may be that, but we cannot help suspecting an intui. tion which arises at this late time in a field of inquiry explored for so many ages, and which contradicts what the seers of all ages, with scarcely an exception, have seen and proclaimed.
VOL. LXVII. — 5TH S. VOL. V. NO. I.
We are far from questioning the fact of conversions and reformations in the world to come. On the contrary, we believe that to countless profligates who perish in their sins, opportunities and appeals, and gracious influences, denied in this world, will be vouchsafed hereafter, and will tell with sav. ing effect; and that many who were last, will be first. But does it follow that all will be converted ? that saving influences will act with compulsory force ? that the soul, as such, is fatally bound and predetermined to goodness ? that every Borgia is a Carlo Borromeo in eclipse, and every Brinvilliers an undeveloped Nightingale ? Has this pleasant fancy any foundation but its own pleasantness, any authority but an undefined conception of the possibilities of Divine government? It is not a natural consequence, not a development according to cause and effect, but a monstrous accident, a wild interposition of juggling miracle which we expect when we so dream. The most distinguished of American philanthropists, with large experience of human nature and reformatory discipline, expressed to us, in a recent conversation, the conviction that some natures are beyond the reach of moral influence, - proof against all discipline, - moral incurables. What reason to expect a moral revolution in such characters hereafter ? If any derived from the nature of the human soul, let psychology declare it. The Divine mercy? It is easy to talk of Divine mercy, but the question is here of Divine power. The question is of possibility ; it is whether Omnipotence itself can reform such characters without so violating their idiosyncrasy, without so traversing their normal developments, as in effect to destroy their identity, and whether it would not better comport with Divine economy to substitute at once another soul. A conversion which, instead of developing a native good, should impose a foreign one, would not be a reformation, but a metaktizosis, a transubstantiation. But we are supposing a case, in which there is no good to be developed, if not a case of entire depravity, — the existence of such cases may be denied, — yet a case in which the will is irrecoverably divorced from good and bent on evil. Schiller describes the hero of the Robbers by saying that he would not pray, if once so resolved, though God should appeal to him in person with the offer of
immediate heavenly bliss. We fancy this conceit expresses a possibility of human nature. We suspect that Milton's Satan is no vain imagination, — that the soul may arrive at a point of antagonism where the pride of self-hood shall resist all appeals, and a self-centred wilfulness shall say, “Evil, be thou my good.” When that point is reached, we can see no remedy, no way of restoration that would not compromise the soul's integrity. Yet even these cases are scarcely more hopeless than those of weak and unstable souls, swift to repent, and equally swift to transgress anew, whose existence oscillates between contrition and indulgence. The moral influences which recoil from the solid resistance of the former character, glide infructuous from the smooth facility of these.
If, therefore, speaking above as critics of the Partialist theory, we seemed to allow that Universalism is a natural and legitimate inference from the moral nature of Deity, we must now qualify that inference, admitting here, as in every general principle, possible exceptions. Universalism is true in the general principle, that future blessedness is the normal destination of man. God will have all men to be saved in the sense in which he wills that all fruit-germs shall become fruits, and all human embryos, well-formed, healthy men and women. But this destination is not always accomplished ; * resistance or defect in the stuff, collision of forces, or what not, produces abortions in the one case ; and defect or contradiction of the will may produce them in the other. The world of souls may have its failures, as well as the world of forms.
Supposing, then, that some individualities shall prove intractable and insalvable, what in the final event is to be the destiny of these abortive and exceptional souls? The idea of a state of endless, positive, unmitigated, conscious suffering, such as the old theology prescribed for them, we have no hesitation in repudiating, as utterly inconsistent with all just views of Divine government and the nature of the soul. However imposing the authorities in favor of a doctrine which numbers a Plato and an Augustine among its advocates, we cannot so affront the more imminent authority in our own breast as to symbolize with them in this particular. Though a vast majority of the Christian Church affirm it, we pronounce the doctrine unchristian, contrary to the spirit of Christ, however it may seem to accord with the letter of the Gospel. Orthodoxy may steel itself to approve an immortality of woe, and even, as in the case of Tertullian and of Edwards,* imagine a satisfaction in the contemplation of it; but mature reason and the unperverted heart alike and instinctively reject it. Moreover, we hold such a state to be psychologically impossible. Our limits forbid a full demonstration of this position; we must content ourselves with the bare assertion, which we think every analyst of human nature will approve, that satisfaction, in the way of fruition or of hope, is the pabulum vite without which no soul can permanently subsist, and that the result of continued suffering must either be an accustomedness which will make it tolerable, or an intolerableness which will overpower and extinguish consciousness. “No soul,” says Lessing, " is capable of a pure sensation, that is, of one which even in its smallest moment is only pleasant or only painful, much less of a state in which all the sensations are thus unmixed, whether of the former or the latter kind.”+ More elaborately Schleiermacher, in his treatise on Christian Faith, f has shown the irreconcilableness of a state of perpetual torment as well with the constitution of the human soul as with the supposition of an opposite state, appointed for the good, of perfect and everlasting blessedness. If the torment, he says, be supposed to consist in physical pains, the conscious power of enduring such pains is itself
* “It is true," said old Meletius of Mopsuestia, “that God will have all men to be saved, but it is evident that the human will does not always coincide with the Divine.”
* See a Sermon of Jonathan Edwards entitled “The End of the Wicked contemplated by the Righteous, or the Torments of the Wicked in Hell no Occasion of Grief to the Saints in Heaven.” “The miseries of the damned in hell,” says Edwards, “will be inconceivably great. ..... The saints in glory will see this, and will be far more sensible of it than we can possibly be. They will be more sensible how dreadful the wrath of God is, and will better understand how terrible the sufferings of the damned are, yet this will occasion no grief to them. They will not be sorry for the damned, it will cause no uneasiness or dissatisfaction to them, but, on the contrary, when they have this sight, it will excite them to joyful praises." - The Works of President Edwards, (Worcester Edition,) Vol. IV. p. 290.
† Theologische Aufsätze.
| Der Christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der Evangelischen Kirche, (Ed. 1836,) Vol. II. p. 163.