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From the Author, to the Corresponding and Religious Tract Society, in answer to tlieirs, received twenty months before.
< In looking Over my file of correspondence, I find your valuable letter addressed to me, so far back as the 6th December, 1824. I shall not attempt to apologize for not answering it, in due course. In a letter to your pastor, Mr. W , shortly
afterwards, I gratefully acknowledged the receipt of yours, and the pamphlets you sent, which acknowledgment I requested him to communicate to you. But, I own that this is not enough, and must take blame to myself. The truth is, I am conscious that I do not possess those abilities, either as a.theological or philosophical writer, which you seem to ascribe to me, so that I have felt the more difficulty in writing to you. I shall now, however, throw off all such restraint, and send you a few lines—yet, I scarcely know how I shall begin.
In the first place, I regret exceedingly that you should have been obliged to discontinue the publication of the Gospel Communicator. With the exception of a few papers, it is, I think, an excellent work, and calculated to do much good, would people but read it. But, although I agree with you, in some measure, respecting Missionary and Bible Societies (for I judge of your sentiments, as a body, from that work), and although I would approve of a temperate and candid censure, where the agents are reprehensible, yet,.1 cannot help thinking that, in several instances, your opposition is carried so. far as to hurt peoples' minds, and, consequently, do more harm than good. I shall just refer you to the paper upon ". goats milk," (Vol. 1st, p. 43), I might also refer to p. 1J, and
other papers. But, indeed, Mr. W informed me, that the one
first mentioned, was inserted by request, and I am aware of the difficulties of an Editor under such circumstances. I always find, however, that it has a better effect to combat religious errors and prejudices with gentleness than with ridicule.*
; '. Jl••. . • T
* 1 have just received, by the Steam-boat, a small note from Mr. W
saying—" Things have lately transpired respecting the Bible Society which fully justify my remarks." Now, I maintain, that it is no proof that the There is another subject about which I wrote to Mr. W
long ago, and requested his views upon it, "either through tlj^ medium of your journal, or privately," but he has taken no notice of it. Probably you may "supply his lack of service" in this respect. I mentioned that, although preaching condemnation was not preaching the gospel, yet I conceive, that either in preaching, or in wilting, a man should "not shun to declare the whole counsel of God." Now, in your writings, you hardly ever advert to the punishment of the wicked at all, so far as I have observed. I hate the extremes of the Calvinist, on the one hand, who, with the utmost complacency, deals damnation around him, almost upon all occasions; while, on the other hand, I would dislike that you should go to the opposite extreme, by keeping it almost entirely out of
sight. As I remarked to Mr. W , " to dwell always upon the
bright side of the picture, you neither can plead the example of Christ, nor his apostles, nor prophets." And if the following passages have not a reference to the punishment of the wicked, beyond this life, I am a loss to know their meaning, (Psalm, ix. 17; Matthew, xxv. 41; Luke, xvi, 23; John, v. 29; 2 Corinthians, v. 10; Hebrews, ix. 27; 2 Peter, iii. 7; Revelations, vi. 8—xxi 8, &c. &c.) • .
Imustnowbegin to tell you that, although our correspondence has been long suspended, and although, from my daily avocations, I have had very little leasure, for a long time past, yet I have not heen altogether without thinking on the subject of universal reconciliation, and occasionally searching the scriptures in reference to it. My publication, which you saw, was confessedly, and very evidently, the production of a novice. Since that time, I have more maturely considered the subjects, about which I then wrote; and the result is, that I have called in the unsold copies of my work, from which I have extracted the "Reflections on Nature, Christianity, and Providence." My former thoughts on the origin of
system itself is wrong, because it lias been abused, and its funds most disgracefully misapplied, and appropriated., by a set of canting hypocritical clergy, and others, whose God, they profeib, is the God of the Bible; but whose God, whom they worship and serve, is mammon. Have we not seen many profess christianity, and, ultimately, disgrace their profession? Does •that, therefore; prove christianity to be bad? Neither does the aisgraceful conduct of certain individuals, engaged in disseminating the scriptures, prove that it is not a laudable work.
evil, and tome other things, I do not now approve of. Having therefore, expunged what I conceive to be objectionable—excluded, for the most part, what was not original—and arranged and improved the rest—and having written several additional essays and letters, I humbly persuade myself the whole would form a little volume, somewhat more worthy of perusal than the former. I am aware, that, from the pen of such a novice as I yet am, you will find very little that can strictly be called new; but, you will see the gradual progress of the belief of that doctrine, on the mind of an impartial inquirer, who, instead of clinging to human standards and systems, has the presumption to think and judge for himself, in reading the scriptures. And, as I have endeavoured to state my opinions, candidly, and dispassionately, I may probably obtain a hearing, and a fair consideration, of a portion of the public, if I should publish. But I am really almost ashamed to assume so much, and therefore have not yet resolved upon it.
I often wonder, when I think on it, that a doctrine which is evidently scriptural, and fraught with such consolation to perishing sinners, as the unbounded love of God is, should be looked upon with such dread, by persons professing christianity. Sure, it is the very essence of the gospel, that Christ " died for all," evenfof the all that were dead. This is true (if the scriptures be truth), whether men will believe it or not; and nothing more than a belief of this, is necessary, to give peace and joy to the vilest sinner; and nothing is more calculated to promote the love of God, in the soul, and hence a filial obedience. Yet how few, very few indeed, will give their cordial assent to it, in its full and proper extent. Some have said to me, "I wish your doctrine of universal redemption were true." I ask them, whence arises this wish.—Is it not from a principle of the purest benevolence? and do you suppose you are possessed of more benevolence than God himself, who is the author of it? Really, this is charging JEHOVAH, with a want of that heavenly temper and disposition, which he enjoins upon all his followers! Hath God taught us to forgive all men, even those who injure us, and shall not that universal forgiveness, which he enjoins on us, be also found in Him? Hath he taught us to exercise love and forgiveness towards all men,—hath he taught us to show mercy to all, and can we really suppose that those qualities are not to be found, in the highest perfection, in HIM who is the author, and the source of every thing that is good, and benevolent, and merciful? How dishonoring to God the idea! The Poet, and the Clergyman, may tell us, that "A God all mercy is a God unjust;" but let us rejoice that the scriptures tell us, that he can "be just, and tfiejustifier of the ungodly;" and that he even "delightetk in mercy." The scriptures declare, that the work .of salvation is already accomplished for us, and for all mankind, (1 John, ii. 2; 1 Timothy, ii. 4)—" It is finished," whether we shall believe it or not. We have all an interest in it, but are all utterly unable to help ourselves; and are, therefore, all on a level, in point of acceptance with God, with whom there is no respect of persons. There is peace and joy in believing this testimony; but .the unbelief of any one, does not make the gracious testimony the less true. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself."—(2 Timothy, ii. 13)i Those then (the elect), who are led to believe this truth, have a participation or foretaste of the blessedness. But, "he that believeth not, is condemned already," not because there is no salvation for him, but "because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Neither our belief, nor our unbelief, therefore, can, in any way, alter the truth of God, nor make that to be gospel or good news to any one, which was not so before. Our disbelief does not make the truth of God to become a lie; neither does our belief make that to be truth which was not true before we believed it. Those whom it hath " pleased God to call by his grace, and reveal his Son in them," become (by this calling), the " first fruits of his creatures." For, not the elect only, but " every creature;" and "all nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship before thee, OLord, and shall glorify thy name." How the mediation of Christ is exercised, towards those who die in unbelief, I cannot tell—nor what discipline they undergo (if any beyond this life), I cannot tell. But, we have no right to dispute the fact, of his mediatorial work going on, even in punishment, until the whole harvest of mankind is brought in, of which harvest the first fruits are a pledge. For, blessed be God, there is a time spoken of, when all who now reject his testimony, to their own destruction, shall bow and become subject to him, "shall worship before him, and confess that be is Lord (their Redeemer), to the glory of God the Father:" when "he shall pour upon them the spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him," &c. (Zechariah, xii. 10). The mourning and the bitterness here spoken of, are evidently not that anguish and despair that some would have us to believe; but, that holy and humble contrition, which is the effect of genuine repentance, after that the enmity of the heart has been slain by the blood of the cross, and overcome by redeeming love. For, be it remembered, that "Our God is a consuming fire," not to destroy the works of his own hands, or the creatures of intelligence which he hath made; but to consume "the hay," and " the stubble,"—our evil lusts and passions; and, in short, " to reconcile all things unto himself," even " all creatures whom he hath made," and sin is th. only exception, which he did not make. All his chastisements, and punishments, are in mercy, and will issue in salvation; not to any particularly favoured class amongst .mankind (for "God's ways are equal") but, to all " who are exercised thereby" Even when he sayeth, " I will avenge roe of mine enemies, I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away tliy dross, and take away all thy tin," it is evidently spoken in mercy to his creatures; and that their evil lusts, &c., are the " enemies" upon whom he is to be avenged, and from which they are to he freed and purged.
Thesei Brethren, are my simple views on those subjects. "If they be confirmed, by scripture, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto ;" and tothose who oppose this doctrine, I would only say— confront me with scripture. Excuse this very imperfect epistle.
The Author received no answer to the above letter. But, in reference to that part of it, which respects "the punishment of the wicked beyond this life," he takes the following quotation from their Periodical Journal, published shortly afterwards, as a sufficient answer. ««
'The Universalists' in Scotland entertain, as far as they are 'able to judge, the views which distinguish the prophets and 'apostles; they call no man master, in spiritual things. Mr. Win'chester believed in a punishment of the wicked, for ages, by immer'sion in fire and brimstone, after the resurrection. He contended 'for the exactly literal signification of prophesy. Such are not the 'views generally held by ' the Universalist Societies of Scotland, "nor in England.' We believe that many of these predictions of