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God the monster that your systems and opinions represent him to be. You will give more glory to God by this, than by all the unwarranted assumptions you can make. I humbly maintain, that with acknowledged difficulties staring them in the face, christians ought either to be silent, or to forego their prejudices, and make God at least more reconcileable with his own gracious declarations, and with his general character in the scriptures. This, I repeat it, is what I most anxiously wish to impress on the mind,-that when difficulties occur in scripture, or in regard to the divine procedure, apparently irreconcilable with his gracious character,-he who is the subject of electing grace ought to be dumb, opening not his mouth, except in the praise of that grace by which he has been distinguished;—either to be silent or confess ignorance, rather than presume, in matters that involve the character of JEHOVAH, and the happiness or misery of the human race: for to represent Him as many do, even the heathen are less monstrous. “Their idol god, Moloch, was supposed to take pleasure in the death of infants, expiring amidst devouring flames. Christians will readily admit, that this idea of the heathen was truly infernal; but it surely sinks into nothing, when compared with that which is entertained of the God of Israel at this day. The idol, Moloch, was supposed to be well pleased with the short sufferings of those victims, the children of his worshippers; when it was believed he would be particularly propitious to the victims so offered, and command his blessing on the survivors. But, alas ! it is represented of the “God of the spirits of all flesh,” that he will torment his own children in a furnace of fire, not for a few minutes, days, years, or ages, but to never-ending duration, without affording any pleasure to him, or profit to his thus miserable offspring ; and all this for the breach of a law, which, if his word be true, they could not keep, (Romans viii. 7.); or for rejecting a Saviour, which, according to the Calvanistic faith, was never intended for them.— . Thus, they represent God as condemning and endlessly tormenting men for not performing impossibilities.” • It has been objected by many, that the doctrine of universal salvation gives encouragement to licentiousness. This objection was started as early as the days of the Apostles. It was just the case then, as at the present day. The Jews, who were of narrow and contracted minds, affecting a zeal for the glory of God, and
grudging, as it were, the liberality and extensiveness of his grace, as preached by the Apostles, cried out, that they were turning the grace of God into licentiousness; some even went so far, as to af. firm that the Apostles said, “let us do evil that good may come.” When Paul but hinted at the extension of grace, by his mission to the Gentiles, (Acts xxii. 22.) they cried out, “away with such a fellow from the earth,” &c. But, did Paul, in such circumstances, curtail or narrow the exent of it, or was he afraid of its tending to licentiousness? No: after declaring that, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;” he asks the question, “What shall we say then, shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid." Let me also ask the question,-Shallwe sin, because there is a time when punishment shall have an end? Who would take encouragement to go on in sin, because the pains inflicted for it, were to terminate with the revolution of some ages, or centuries;–because the sinner, after so long endurance of misery and woe, was, nevertheless, ultimately to obtain salvation? Who that has had a tormenting tooth-ache, but for one day incessantly, would wantonly indulge in licentiousness, at the risk of securing to himself a continuation of that malady for years, or for ages? If everlasting, as it respects punishment, shall be equal in duration to “the everlasting hills,”—“the everlasting possession,” &c. (which, though of long endurance, nevertheless do come to an end,) what an awful prospect does this present to the impenitent sinner? The prospect held out to sinners, in scripture, even admitting the doctrine of ultimate redemption, is surely sufficiently awful to alarm, and to prompt them to “flee from the wrath to come." But, ah! let it ever be remembered, that “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts,” is more calculated to wean us from licentiousness, than all the thundering terrors of Sinai! And whether the unbounded love of God, taught by the Universalist, or that narrow-bounded scheme, systematically taught and believed amongst us, is more, likely to have that blessed effect, let christian candour decide. God forbid that I should speak peace to any soul living in sin, while the scriptures do not. But, on the other hand, with such passages of scripture before me, as those already quoted, and from the features and aspect of the gospel to sinners in general, I am afraid to pronounce this damnation never to have an end, as modern orthodoxy does, with the utmost complacency." With all our acknowledgéd difficulties, therefore, it is evidently e
mo violation of scripture, nor dishonourable to God to believe (pardon such condescension), that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made a complete atonement “for all sin,” even “for the sins of the whole world,” that he only that now believeth in the atonement, shall be saved, that hath eternal life “already abiding in him;" while those who remain in unbelief shall not, in this impenitent state, see life, but the wrath of God abideth on them, (John iii. 86.) And, although forwise reasons, no doubt, futurity is somewhat enveloped in mist and darkness, as it respects their final
salvation, probably that they may give all dilligence to make their.
calling and election sure, yet I humbly think, that with such passages staring us in the face, and from the scriptures in general, it is rather presumptuous—it is unchristian—it is fiend-like, to decide, with certainty, so awful a doom to the greater part of our brethren of mankind, as many do. But there is surely no presumption in believing that God, will make good his promises of reheading, or “gathering together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers,” as “all things were created by him and for him.” This belief, I think, can neither be termed unscriptural, unchristian, nor fiend-like! Those who do not yet allow themselves to view the scriptures in this slight, would do well to allow this much, at least,-and the point is half gained,—that their conceptions of God, and interpretations of his word, are often erroneous. They cannot, indeed, deny this fact? The present jarring and divided state of the christian world,—even in matters concerning which we have the revealed will of God,—is a melancholy proof of this, and of our extreme blindness and prejudice. But, whatever our conceptions may be, of this we may be assured, that could we see with the eye of Infinite Wisdom, or even with the eye of those higher orders of intelligence, to whom his ways are more perfectly known, we would be ready to acknowledge that “he doeth all things well," (Mark vii. 37.) and with them to exclaim, “great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints,” (Revelations xv. 3.) When “we, who have borne the image of the earthly, shall also bear the image of the heavenly—then shall we know, even as also we are known,” and shall justify and admire he dealings of Jehovah, which at present appear inexplicable. Truly, “clouds and darkness are round
about him, righteousness and judgement are the habitation of his throne, and his ways are past finding out."
While there are, therefore, so many things, in the scriptures, confessedly not a little veiled in obscurity, and so many things, in the divine government, so completely inexplicable, christians ought not to speak and to write, on these subjects, with such confidence as they often do, and especially on the side of damnation. There are some who appear so to delight, as it were, in the awful theme, that they will ever travel out of their way, for matter to suit them. Such persons will tell you, with sternness in their countenance, not only that God will be as much glorified, by the damnation of the millions, as by the salvation of the few; but, with an air of seeming satisfaction, will assure us, that “even infants of a span long, will be rolling in hell flames,"—a doctrine, not only no where countenanced in the scriptures, but completely at variance with that sacred volume. It is a mistake to think that, by representing God in such colours, is the way to bring sinners to himself; it rather has the effect to inspire disbelief, disgust, and hatred. I wish not to conceal, or to keep back, any part of the truth that is clear and indisputable; but what is not thus clear, ought to be handled with fear and caution. There are enough of truths, indisputably plain, that are sufficiently awful and alarming, which one cannot be wrong in declaring to sinners, without wading for them through mist and darkness, and thus probably making the scriptures speak a language which was never intended. There are truths also, connected with the atonement, of a more endearing nature, and better suited to the case of a perishing sinner, than all the thundering terrors of Sinai, which it would be well that christian teachers would attend to, rather than in dealing damnation around them, or in matters, respecting which, the best of men and of christians are divided in opinion. It is nothing uncommon to hear persons, of a religious profession, holding forth the particular opinions of the sect, or party to which they belong, with a tenacity and confidence as if they were unerring creatures, and, in manythings, expressing themselves firmly, when they should humbly confess their ignorance. Even in matters respecting which the Apostle Paul himself would say, “We know but in part,” many will be so nice in their disquisitions as to spilt a hair, as it were, and if you cannot spilt that hair
with them, and agree in every iota, so far from coming under the E
exercise of their “long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love,” &c. you will fall under the lashes of their censorious tongues, and it is well if you are not unchurched, if not unchristianized. Let us compare such conduct with that of the christians in the days of the Apostles, and see if they can be borne out, either by the letter of the word, or by the spirit of christianity which they manifested in those days. When we look back to the first churches planted by these inspired men, we see, that notwithstanding the divisions and abuses that prevailed amongst them (and these were both many and grievous, as we have recorded. 1 Cor. i. 11. and vi. 7, 8, and xi. 17–22. ; Gal. iv. 9, 10.; Rev. ii. 14, 15, 20, &c. &c.), we have no instance of more than one church in any one place, or city.— We have no instance either of persons being separated, or separating themselves to hold a distinct communion; nor, indeed, of any individual being separated who did not give positive evidence that he was not a christian, although, we have instances, to their shame, of them retaining in their communion, and even glorying in, persons who were openly living in sin.—(1 Cor. v. 1, 2.) Whatever value christians may put upon their particular distinctions, they are all brethren of the same family. And every cause of schism, separation, or distinction among them is a breach of that commandment, “Love one another.” I therefore, with the scriptures in my hand, and the example of the first christians before me, call on any person to show me, why any one christian, should not join issue with the “last thoughts" of an eminent christian, from which I make the following extract:“All true believers, by whatever name they may be called, must be one in Christ Jesus, whether barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, black or white. There can be no real difference between those who are justified freely by grace. There can be but one true church, any more than one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The more the spirit of vital christianity prevails, sectarian divisions will decline, and shall melt down into one mass, as all one in Christ Jesus. If we belong to the Holy Catholic Church, we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; and all things are ours if we are Christ's. Has any church authority from the only head, to exclude from her communion those who believe that Jesus is come in the flesh, and follow him in the regeneration? An exclusive communion is the sign of the beast, under whatever form