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be quenched, are, in your opinion, parallel with the magnificent : “
and his apostles, deal only in plain prose. From the former, we must
o - found it;-in saying that the wicked shall remain for ever, under o ' ' the operation of the deathless worm, and quenchless fire. Here | |
to inquire, for what purpose 2: I think this admission fatal to your
cipline, by which those who die in unbelief, shall be reclaimed. . . Now, I do know the process, and discipline,—the only process, or
in declaiming on the future misery of the ungodly; but it is my duty to warn them to flee from the wrath to come, and to do so in the language which God employs for that purpose, without endeavouring to fritter it down to a sense less awful than its obvious import. As to the inconsistencies and contradictions betwixt my sermons and letters, they are of no consequence to the point in question,that must be determined by the word of God, independent of any sermons or letters of mine. You seem horrified at the idea of God having pleasure in the punishment of the wicked; and certainly I rejoice to know, that he has no delight in punishment, for its own sake; but if it be a righteous thing in God to recompense tribulation to his enemies, the righteous Lord must love righteousness, and must of course have pleasure in the punishment of the incorrigible, for the vindication of the honour of his government; just as a wise and good magistrate, who, while he deprecates the necessity of punishment, nevertheless has pleasure in the execution of the laws, for the sake of the benefits thence resulting to society. It was in this sense, I used the expression so obnoxious to you; but I presume, no candid hearer of mine, would require an explanation, although a person disposed to quibble, perhaps might.
Again—The worm that dieth not, and the fire that never shall
phraseology of Isaiah. I beg you, however, to recollect, that he writes in the hyperbolical style of eastern poetry; and our Lord,
expect high-coloured figures,-from the latter; nothing but blunt truth. My offence consists in repeating the passage in Mark, as I
you retort upon me by saying—" Is it necessary for me to tell you, that not the sufferings, but the agents, are here said to be eternal.” . . So then, you admit that the agents shall be eternal! Permit me
Farther—You confess you do not know the process, nor the dis
discipline, by which God reconciles rebels to himself.” It is by the death of his Son, and by faithin that death. Of course, I conclude, ... .
i * - " - - * * * * : . •. - - - - - *
powerful means,—has no reason to believe, that he shall ever be reclaimed by any other process, or discipline, whatever. He who will not be persuaded to relinquish his sins, though one rose from the dead, is (I conceive), not very likely to become better disposed by dying himself. Again—You ask me, whether I do not devoutly desire the
general restoration, for which you plead, and inferring my answer
in the affirmative, you thence adduce an argument in favour of your hypothesis. Now, unless you are a thorough-paced disciple of Swanston, and believe sin and misery to be very agreeable to the will of God, consequently both very good of their kind, I say, if this is not your opinion, then were I to ask you, “do you not desire that sin and misery had never existed 2" You would reply, certainly I do. Now, supposing I were from thence to adduce an argument, in favour of their non-existence, would you not pronounce it the consummation of absurdity? You would ; yet it would not be more absurd, than is the one in question, which you have adopted.
- Lastly—The universality of the atonement, furnishes, in your
opinion, irrefragable proof of the certainty of universal restoration.
To this I reply, first— - *
Did men resemble degenerate vegetables, or disordered machines, .
proper culture, and mere physical force, would insure favourable
results; but this is not the case. Man is a free and a moral agent,
and can be restored to holiness and happiness, only by moral means; and those employed by his Maker, in the gospel, are admirably
adapted to that end. But, should they fail, no physical force whatever, either on earth or in hell, will be employed to conquer the obstinacy of his nature; and that they do fail, in innumerable instances, the scriptures sufficiently assure us. God's people shall . be willing in this the day of his power; but his enemies, who will .
not that he should reign over them, are to be slain before him. So,
at least, says the Lord Jesus, but adds no hint of a resurrection . from the second death. . But, secondly— . . The Saviour says, of many of those for whom the heavenly feast
was prepared (of course for whom he died), but who despised his
gracious invitation to the banquet, that none of the men, who were .
bidden, should taste of his supper. How they shall be excluded, from the marriage supper of the Lamb, and yet be ultimately restored to holiness, and happiness, I leave you to determine.
* * - - - - -
* - o - - -- -
- - - " - + -- * * * I observe, you lay some stress on the opinions of the fathers, of - - * - - o - - the second and third centuries. Now, it would be easy to prove, - !e......: o - that these are decidedly"against you, with a very few exceptions, - and those by no means the most respectable. Origen, for instance, a
corrupt disciple of the Alexandrian school, was an admirer of the
Eastern, or Hindoo philosophy, and endeavoured, to the utmost of his power, to engraft many of its tents, on the stock of christianity. He believed, or rather speculated, on the restoration both of Tmen . . . and devils; the purification of departed souls, first on the earth, and then in the air; the possibility of their again falling into sin, even in heaven; and their consequent transmigration into other bodies, by way of punishment, and renewed probation. Such "were the opinions of. Father Origen ; but to show how differently his cotemporaries thought on these points, he was, after his death, excommunicated from the church. The Apostleforetold, that after his decease, men would arise in the church, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them; and this prediction was awfully fulfilled, so early as the second and third centuries, and even long before. It is probable, that infant sprinkling, commenced
of Father this, and Father that, who wrote in favour of the anti
christian absurdity. *..But you, I presume, would tell them, you.
gave not a straw for the opinions of the Fathers, when they con
tradicted the lively oracles. Take then the same answer from me,’
and I shall add, that the opinions of Origen, and the doctrines of
that is just none at all. * * *
the counsels of Nice and Trent, are with me of equal weight,-and
relax the influence of the fear of God in the human mind, “Who ... knows," says the Psalmist, “the power of thy wrath—as thy fear is, so is thy wrath.”. “For fear of thee,” says the same speaker,
. . . “my flesh doth tremble; and my soul is imuch afraid of thy righte- “. . "...ous judgements.”. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven in . .
' ' flaming fire, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;" ... and our Lord commands even his disciples “to fear him, who, after
he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell." and emphatically adds,
“yea, I say unto you, fear him.” I believe the first impressions of
, about that period; and some of its advocates triumphantly tell us,"
I shall conclude this letter with a few observations on the general tendency of your system. First,--It has an obvious tendency to
goes far to relieve him from any such terrible apprehensions, by assuring him that they are, in a great measure, groundless; that the doctrine of eternal torments, is a mere engine of the clergy, to keep the people in check; that future punishment, however severe, will be but temporary; that, when compared to an eternity of bliss it will be but “light afflictions, which are but for a moment;" and, will, of course, ultimately work for the sufferers, “a far more exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.” Thus, instead of saying to the wicked, “Oh! wicked man, thou shalt surely die,”—it tells him, that he shall ultimately have peace, though he now walk in the ways of his heart, and the sight of his eyes, and add drunkenmess to thrist. * * If this does not obviously tend to relax the influence of the fear of God, on the human mind, I confess, I know not what does. I do not wonder if you are shocked at this statement, of the legitimate consequences of your principles; but that the conclusions are fairly deducible from the premises, Mr Swanston has saved me the trouble of proving. He proudly asserts them, and argues ably in support of them ; and supposing his premises to be correct, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for a more cautious, though perhaps less honest Universalist, to disencumber himself of his conclusions, of which I have not stated the worst. Had he wrote a refutation of Universalism, I do not know that he could have done so more effectually, than he has done in the work in question, for he has certainly exposed the system, in all its naked deformity. It is affecting to observe with what approbation his principles, as promulgated by you, are received by some ungodly people in this place; one of whom declared, that he thought your work excellent. If, indeed, these are not your principles (as you have given the world reason to think they are) then a public disavowal, on your part, is a duty to the souls you may have injured. Secondly—The system is eminently calculated to prevent any exertion for the spread of the Gospel. How indeed can it be otherwise? If the knowledge and belief of the Gospel is not necessary, in order to eternal happiness, and if the knowledge and abuse of it will, at all events, greatly increase the amount of intermediate misery; then the propriety of doing anything to facilitate its promulgation, may, in a moral and philanthropic point of view, be fairly questioned,—and if the question be answered at all, it must be in the negative... Of this negative, the Editor of the “Gospel K
Communicator,” makes no secret; but in language of an avowed infidel, openly scoffs at all Missionary exertions. See a paper entitled “Goat's Milk,” and others of a similar tendency. Thirdly—The system has unquestionably a strong tendency to scepticism. It divests the language of scripture of its obvious import, and assigns to it a meaning, uncertain, vague, and indefinite. Thus the words, everlasting, eternal, and for ever, when applied to the state of existence after death, are understood by the common sense of mankind, to signify, interminable duration. But according to it, no such thing is intended. If we inquire what then is intended? We are told, that in many cases, these expressions impart only a very limited duration, perhaps but a few years, perhaps a hundred, perhaps a thousand, an age, till the age of ages, any thing, every thing, or nothing. Again—This system trifles, if possible, more with the degree of future punishment, than with its duration. The word of Goddescribes the sufferings of the wicked in hell, by those inflicted on the human body, under the action of fire and brimstone. If this has any meaning at all, it certainly imports a degree of suffering, the
most exquisite of which the human mind can conceive. But no.
such thing, we are told, is intended; and the appaling language of holy write, on that subject, is frittered down, by a play upon words, to mere poetical figures. See the hell formed by Mr Swanston— It is a pretty tolerable kind of place, where it should seem kings may occupy their thrones, much as at present. From the approbation of your work, expressed by Mr. W. of G–, I presume he is much of the sentiments of Mr. S., whom you so largely quote, though it may not yet suit him to let the world into the arcana of the system so unceremoniously as he has done; and that you have drunk deep into the spirit of their system, as it respects the degree, as well as the duration of future punishment, was but too evident from your words to me on my sermon, on Mark ir, which I do not now repeat. - o Farther—The language of Scripture is, upon this system, not more conclusive, regarding the duration of the happiness of the blessed, than it is respecting the duration of the misery of the wicked. Thus, Mr. Douglas informs us, that the reign of the saints must cease with the mediatorial reign of Christ,-namely, at the age of ages. What shall be their doom, posterior to that mysterious epoch, he does not inform us; but an interminable field here opens,