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I exhort you, my friends, to shun this doctrine, and pray God to guard you against a belief in it.
ARGUMENT IN THE NEGATIVE,
1st. Whether man is a free agent, and if so, to what extent, are questions which I will not here attempt to resolve ; these subtleties have in all ages engaged the highest orders of intellect, and, if Milton's authority in these matters be considered as valid, they have engaged even ihe reasoning powers of fallen angels in their dreary pandemonium.
“Others apart sat on a hill retir’d,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.” The mist of uncertainty, nevertheless, still clings around these questions as much as ever. I choose to assume that man is, in some degree, master of his volitions, and the actions thence ensuing; that in many cases he could both will, and do, otherwise than as he does; but that he is not free, to the extent supposed by my opponent, is susceptible of both philosophical and scriptural proof; he surely is not at liberty to ruin himself past the remedial reach of his creator's grace: to suppose the contrary, is an almost blasphemous arraignment of that creator's wisdom and benevolence! But if we even concede to znan all the freedom contended for, it will not thence follow that he is a probationer (i. e. on trial) for eternity ; that he is not, is evident from several circumstances.
First, we cannot control the events even of the future hour; I may propose in an hour hence, to start on a journey; but when the moment arrives, I may be prevented by illness, or the weather,
Ι or the state of the roads or streams, or a failure of the means of conveyance. In short, a score of things may interpose betwixt my purpose and its execution; and if such is the case with regard to the future hour, is it likely that God has entrusted to me a control over my eternal des es ? Secondly, Why is the term of human life of so unequal duration with regard to different individuals, if this life is a state of trial ? Some pass the ordeal in one short hour, and attain the goal without the risks and hardships of the race; whilst to others are allotted the toils and trials of
three fourths of a century! Some, moreover, if this theory be true, pass to heaven by a path of flowers; their education, habits, temperaments, worldly interest, family and social considerations; all incline them to the choice of a religious life : whilst with others, the very reverse is the case ; they are religious, if at all, at a sacrifice of nearly every earthly interest! If eternal bliss is to be attained at the price of a religious life, why is not that price equally within the reach of all? And Thirdly, human life at the longest is too short, its lights are too dim ; its wants, trials, temptations, cares, too numerous; and its momentous ends too obscurely revealed, if these ends are, the avoidance of an eternity of woe, and the ensurance of an eternity of bliss. No, no, it cannot be that we here are to form characters which shall last forever: for those who die in infancy form no characters at all! And shall they so remain forever? “ But they are innocent,” it will be said. True, but innocence is not virtue, when we have it not in our power to be otherwise. If innocence is a passport to eternal joys, we are all born into the world with the passport in our hands, and millions attain the prize by the mere accident of dying before an opportunity is offered of forfeiting the title !
But my opponent opines, that if man is not a probationer for eternity, there was no need of the saviour's advent and death, and that preaching, and the whole business of religion is useless ! Really, I can see no force in this argument; man is a rational Being; he owes duties to his God, and to his fellows; it is the office of religion to acquaint him with these, and to prompt him to a discharge of them-he is subject to numerous trials and afflictions; under which it is the business of religion to sustain himhe is destined to a higher station in Being than that which he at present occupies: to this religion with friendly finger points his hopes. Jesus Christ came to expound to man the nature and claims of this religion : and by his ministry, miracles, life, death, and ascension, to exemplify and establish it. No necessity for religion, indeed! It might as well he said that we shall not want religion in a future life, except it be to prepare us for another stili beyond it! Truth is, if even there were no future life, religion would still be needful to guide us peacefully and happily through the present, and wherever there is rational existence, religion is
indispensable to its happiness. I must decidedly protest against that narrow theory, which supposes religion only necessary as a sort of certificate of admission to the world of bliss! It is clear that such is the view of it which has practically obtained amongst the major part of christendom.*
2nd. Let us now glance at the texts, which my friend thinks sustain his views of a future conditional salvation; he says truly that universalists are in the habit of referring them exclusively to the present state. 6. The soul that sinneth it shall die." All acquainted with the language of the bible know, that soul is but another word for person or individual ; “ Eight souls were saved from drowning,” that is eight individuals were so saved, Now how many souls have sinned ? 66 All have sinned ;” (Rom. iii. 23.) therefore, in the sense intended, all have died. To say that this is an endless death, is not only to assume beyond what is revealed, but also to incur the absurd consequence that all mankind shall endlessly die!
“ He that believeth not shall be damned.” The Greek word here rendered damned is in other passages rendered condemned, and judged ; and might with equal propriety have been so translated in this place. We have no warrant for saying that the damnation is to ensue beyond the grave.
" He that believeth not IS condemned already.” (John iii. 18.) My opponent, if he is not now, has been an unbeliever: while such he was damned, or he was not; if not, the text in his case proved false; if he was damned, it must have been in this state of being, and thus his view of the text is proven incorrect.
• He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.” Where ? Not surely in a future world, for there, neither flesh nor corruption exists : we have Paul for witness, that in the resurrection " this corruption shall put on incorruption :” and again, “ for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.” (1 Cor. xv.) But my friend thinks the language
* The quaint, and calvinistically orthodox John Bunyan, shall bear me witness to the truth of this remark. "When he was come up to the gate he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men, that looked over the top of the gate, Whence come you ? and what would you have ?' he answered, 'I have eat and drank in the presence of the king.'. Then they asked him for his certificate that they might go in and show it to the king: So he fumbled in his bosom for one and found none, &c." I need hardly add, that he was denied admission.-See Pilgrim's Progress, part first.
of the latter clause of this text too strong, to apply to things of time : " he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.” “Do Universalists,' he somewhat wiltily asks, • enjoy their everlasting life in this world ?' I will treat him to a bible answer, “ He that believeth on the son HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but IS PASSED from death unto life.” (John iii. 36.) You see then, (if the scriptures are to be the umpire between us,) that Universalists, as well as other honest folk who believe in Christ, may enjoy • everlasting life in this world. It seems but reasonable, moreover, that the harvest should be reaped where the seed is sown; he would be a sagacious fellow who should think of going to the moon to gather a crop of turnips which he had planted on this earth! Equally sagacious is he who talks of going to a world of spirits to reap corruption of the flesh.
“ For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive according to the deeds done in his body, whether they be good, or whether they be bad.” Begging my opponent's pardon I must tell him, that, in the sense of this text for which he contends, he does not believe it himself! Does he, for instance, believe that he will suffer in a future world for all his transgressions in this ? Not he; notwithstanding that he will acknowledge to have sinned often, and greatly, yet he thinks that his post mortem state will be one of unmingled happiness! He does not believe that Moses, in the future state, will be pun ished for his murder of the Egyptiar., whose body he buried in the sand : nor that Samson will be held to a reckoning for his scandalous connexion with Delilah ; nor Peter, for the denial of his Lord ; nor Thomas, for his obstinate refusal to credit Christ's resurrection without sensible demonstration. And yet he puts upon the text before us such a construction as requires him to believe all this! Let us now look for the true sense of this passage: leaving out the words added by the translators it reads as follows, “ For we must all appear before the judgmentseat of Christ, that every one may RECEIVE THE THINGS IN BODY, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad.” Where is the judgment seat of Christ?
Are we any where told it is in eternity? No; on the contrary, Christ himself
says, “For judgment I am come into this world;" (John ix. 39.) and as to the time of this judgment he says, “ Now is the judgment of this world ;” (John xii. 31.) and, indeed, it was long before predicted of him that he should “execute judgment and justice in the earth ;” (Jer. xxiii. 5.) and another prophet saith, " he shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth : and the isles shall wait for his law.” (Isaiah xlii. 4.) “ The judgment seat of Christ” is a figure, implying that by the principles of his gospel human actions are tested in this latterday dispensation ; Jesus himself explicitly sanctions this definition. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John xii. 48.) Let these remarks suffice for the present, they sufficiently show that an application of the text in dispute to a future state, is unauthorized and gratuitous.
Pass we now to what my opponent deemed his most invincible proofs, perhaps we shall find them not absolutely insuperable after all. A young lawyer, it seems, and a certain rich young man, inquired of Christ what they should do to inherit eternal life; and because they were directed to superadd christian charity to legal obedience in order to the attainment of this object, my friend thinks it quite clear that future endless bliss is conditionally bestowed. Were I a logician I would whisper in his ear, “my friend, first prove, what you here assume, viz. that the scripture sense of eternal life’ is synonymous with • future endless bliss.' But this he thinks, he has already done, by showing an instanoe in which this phrase is put in apposition with the word heaven. It behooves him, however, to show also that this last term always, or even generally, is used to signify the world of bliss. That it is not, I can establish past dispute ; yea more, I can establish that it does not in this very instance. it is immediately afterward confounded with the “ kingdom of heaven;" “ Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Now I know of no one instance in which this phrase signifies the future world of bliss ; its invariable reference is to the church, or the gospel dispensation : the same that is likened to " a grain of mustard seed;" to " leaven which a woman hid in two measures of meal;” to “ ten virgins ;" and numerous other things. This kingdom is a purely spiritual