« ElőzőTovább »
piness, where one side is doubtful, and the other safe, we are bound to take the safe side. Act according to this maxim, and you cannot be a Universalist. Those who believe in a future state of retribution, and endeavour to prepare for it by a life of penitence and faith, will certainly be saved. On this point there is no doubt.”
He must indeed be a novice, who does not perceive the second sentence to be a mere assumption of the very ground in debate, which you are bound to support, without depending on the sophistry of a petitio principii, and which you would support, were your power equal to your design. Why cannot a prudent man be a Universalist? No reason is given-no argument used-nor does creation furnish one.
It is generally understood that you were settled on Calvinistic principles, but you seem now to have taken the very ground for which the Calvinistic Council of Dort burnt Barneveldt, a disciple of James Arminins. These are your words :
“ How then, in such a case, would a prudent man act? He would choose the safe side. He would live and act like those who expect to give account, and endeavour to make sure his salvation on the same grounds on which they expect to be saved.”
When penning this, you might not be aware that in a future letter, (the 9th) you would find it necessary to charge the Universalists with having "no uniform character."
The next passage worthy of notice is a question put into the affirmative form, as follows:
*Can he then, be in his right mind, who puts to hazard the interests of his soul—who shuns the patla which he knows will infallibly conduct him to heaven, and pursues one which, to say the least, may lead him down to hell ?”
This quotation contains such a palpable absurdity, and brings a charge so repugnant to our every day's observation, that it requires particular notice. The contemptible hypocrisy which it imputes to Universalists, is the least of its deformities. With what a grace this charge comes from one professing a popular doctrine, always the hot-bed of hypocrites, is left for those to decide, who know the most certain avenues to the human heart. What temptations are offered by the doctrine or its defenders--what premiums can be offered, save the slander and persecution of the Orthodox ?
The gross absurdity of this charge, and its utter destitution of truth, are obvious to the youngest capacity. We are charged by you with embracing this doctrine, knowing that it is not merely false, but, that it will inevitably lead us down to regions of hopeless, interminable despair, and that its opposite will as infallibly lead to realms of bliss, without alloy, and without end. Dare you say that you know this, or that the assertion is supported by the most distant appearance of probability ?
But what principle in the constitution of man leads him to seek remediless wo, in a future world, through the medium of a system, which makes him obnoxious to the derision, and persecution of knaves and fools in this? Where is the charm to work this miracle--this abandonment of desire for happiness, implanted in every man, which breathes the air, or sees the light of heaven? But is it indeed so? has a Protestant Cler: gyman in these enlightened days, the temerity thus to hurl the thunderbolts of damnation on all who refuse to bow the knee at the shrine of his motely system? Are we yet under the dictation of the holy mother church, out of which is no salvation ?
In this quotation, works are the ground of acceptance with God-have you “no uniform character ?
After inquiring for a motive to embrace Universalism (and very properly too, on your hypothesis) you ask:
“Will you say that it opens an easier and pleasanter way to heaven, than the doctrine which teaches a future state of retribution? It may be so in respect to those who wish to go to heaven in their sins ; but not to those who love God and delight in his service."
The tenet of future retribution is so important in your system, that it seems you consider nothing easy or pleasant without it. Astonishment seems to have laid hold on your faculties, that any person should fer the plan of making all men holy, and consequently happy, through any other medium, as easier and pleasanter, than that of future retribution. It is conceded, however, that men who desire to enjoy heaven in their sins, (who teaches this?) prefer another method, while those who love God, and delight in his service, have very different sentiments. On the effect of this fear of a future retribution, I shall meet you with an extract from an orthodox source. Its harmony with the best feelings of a Christian's heart, and with the most unyielding testimony of facts, renders it worthy of preservation.
“Love, and not this fear of punishment, is that which influences to all acceptable obedience. It is indeed true, that the Scriptures speak of a fear, which has influence in this obedience. But it is not this fear of punishment. It is a filial, reverential fear, which is itself the fruit of love, as all acceptable obedience is. Let love rule in the heart, and influence the obedience, and then, though all fear of punishment be removed, obedience will still be regarded. Angels and saints in glory are obedient. But they have no fear of future punishment. They are influenced by love.
“'Tis love that makes their cheerful feet,”
“And our obedience should be like theirs. Indeed, all acceptable obedience, in this respect, is like theirs. It is the fruit of love. But this point will be more fully examined in a future number.
The next quotation on which it is thought proper to bestow the labour of criticism, is in the following words:
“ How it can be honourable to God to set aside the sanctions of his word, and to represent him as treating the righteous and the wicked alike, it is very difficult for me to conceive."
It is certainly unfortunate for a person, who would be thought to act consistently, that he has embraced a system for which not merely consistency, but truth must be sacrificed. That this reproof may be felt, you will please remember, that in the ninth letter, it is thus written :
“ It is said that men receive in this world, all the punishment they deserve ; and therefore cannot be justly punished in the world to come.”
Now, Sir, I beseech you by the fear of having no uniform character, in the event of withholding the in: formation, to say how you can represent us as insisting on a punishment according to desert in this world, and at the same time setting aside the sanctions of the Divine law? In what part of the divine law is the threatening of endless misery appended to the violation of its commands ? “He that hath a dream, let, him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.” You represent us as setting aside the sanctions of God's law, while your own concession denies the truth of the charge. The com, munity of which you are a member will expect a reply.
But another remark waits for introduction to this şubject. You have “set aside the sanctions of the divine law” by the most unqualified declaration, that
à man may sin as with a cart-rope ninety-nine years and eleven months, repent and believe as you bid him, and ascend to immediate glory, and neither suffer for the demerits of sin in this world, nor in the next; while a youth of twenty, comparatively innocent, may die prematurely, without your repentance, or your belief, and welter in torments while God exists. Does this avowal harmonize with other declarations, to give you a uniform character? I will now call your attention once more to my
third quotation from your Letters.--No man of common sense does believe it—no one can belieye it, and were it not a forlorn hope, even you would not dare to make the assertion. Not only is the assumption viewed with pity by every man who knows the workings of his own heart, in the strong desire for happiness, but every man of any good degree of information, gives his dissenting voice to its every conclusion. It recog. nizes the principle, that a belief in the tenet of endless misery, ensures a state of future happiness, and that whoever doubts this opinion, has lost his senses. I shall not here insist upon what you say relative to the sanctions of the divine law, for it is fair to presume, that you
wish to vindicate the doctrine that the fear engendered by this darling tenet, inevitably leads to a life of virtue, acceptable to God, and ensuring his salvation. Is this the fact? That it is not, you shall have full proof from orthodox authority.--Your fa. vourite commentator, Dr. Scott, gives his voice against your deduction, in the most explicit language
“And yet, facts undeniably show, that men venture on sin, even with the threatening of everlasting misery sounding in their ears; nay, with the trembling apprehension of it DISMAYING THEIR HEARTS ; for divine, as well as human laws, are weak through the flesh, and with all their sanctions and barriers, are unable to affix boundaries to the swelling tide of human de, pravity.”