« PreviousContinue »
sécurity for the eternity of the former. But, I apprehend, this conclusion is erroneous for the following reasons.---Our Lord said to his disciples, John xiv. 19. “ Because I live, ye shall live also;" and in other places it is said of believers, that they shall reign with Christ for ever and ever. Now I believe Jesus Christ to be very God, and consequently will exist from necessity of nature; and as the believer's existence thus centres in the existence of Christ, the perpetuity of happiness may safely be relied upon; not indeed from the strength of the term made use of to express it, birt from the certainty of every believer's union with Jesus Christ their head. With respect to inpenitent sinners, the case is widely different, and the Scriptures abound with the most awful threatenings against them, which will most assuredly be executed. But the Almighty God has both wisdom and power to make those punishments subservient to his grand design of " reconciling all things in the person of Jesus Christ." The Calvinists have been forced to acknowledge that the word translated eternal, everlasting, for ever, &c. must be frequently anderstood in a limited sense, consequently is a word of equivocal signification, the true meaning of which can only be known from the nature of the subject to which it is applied. Its true meaning has, I think, been proved to be absolutely eternal, when applied to the happiness of the blessed; many inore passages might be produced in support of it, but I omít quoting them to avoid tediousness, and because they must be familiar to the readers of your Miscellany; but to understand the word in the same absolute sense, when applied to future, punishment, inakes void many of the promises of God, which his faithfulness will not allow of; it sets the Scriptures at variance with the divine attributes, and represents the God of love as a cruel and implacable being, dealing out infinite wrath upon finite offender's.
It is to little purpose to argue about the number of times the word is thade use of, either in ore case or the other ; for unless Mr. F. or his friends, can prove the necessity of endless punishment, or shew its absolute certainty, from its connection with some cause which is necessarily of endless duration, it matters not whether the word be used five times only, or five hundred, because it will always have the same meaning when applied to the same subject. Mr. Fuller has expatiated upon the evil tendency of the Universal doctrine in a moral point of view; but I ask, Does not the present state of the world exhibit a lamentable proof of the inefficacy of the doctrine of endless misery, to produce moral obedience, even in those who have been brought up in the forinal belief of it?! Amicus, in No. XLIII. p. 270. makes the following observations-toit Vice gains the ascendency over the human mind, not all at once, but by degrees. And it is the firm opinion of the writer of these lines, that Universalism and Socinianism are steps which lead to Libertinism and Deism. Thus much, however, I do know, that some zealots for Universalism have been and now are libertines." What, in the name of wonder, does this prove, Sir?. Even that some, who had made open profession of the Universal Doctrine, have led immoral tives, But, Sir; is it liberal, is itcandid, is it charitable : to condemn a whole society, and brand their tenets with the accusarica
of having an evil tendency only because they happen to have some unsound members belonging to them? Is not Amicus acquainted with any of his own persuasions, who have disgraced religion by their iminoral lives? If such an illiberal inference may be drawn from such a circumstance, every society of Christians may be charged with propagating principles subversive of morality, and every system of religion be saddled with the imputation of having an evil tendency.
Whether the Universal Doctrine, properly understood, or the tenets: of Calvinism, which maintains sentiments-so inconsistent with the known attributes of God, be most calculated to produce Libertinism and Deism, I leave the impartial and intelligent reader to judge; nor shall I make any remarks on his disingepuous association of Universalism with Socinianism.
He goes on to say, “I knew one at least, who was a zealous Universalist, but has gone through the foregoing gradations, and at this time glories in his superior knowledge, and openly professes himself a Deist." And is this peculiar to Universalism? I trust not... If, in this age of infidelity, Amicus has never met with an instance of the kind, out of the Universalist connection, he must, I apprehend, have had but little intercourse with the world; but if such instances are to be found jo other societies of Christians, (Mr. Fuller and Amicus not excepted,) it will appear very evident from what principle they bring this charge against Universalism. I know a person in this place, who had received a liberal education, and at one time was in possession of considerable property, which he dissipated in vice and folly, and finally ended a very long life in the poor-house. This man, who was a most notorious reprobate, professed to believe the doctsine of absolute and unconditional predestination. I could also mention another, nearly as great a reprobate as the former, who, when some one remonstrated with him on his sad course of life, said he had not yet been called; that he waited for the u still small voice," být, awful to relate, was taken out of the world without being permitted to hear it. And I have it in my power, Sir, to produce a case in point, in the instance of a frst cousin of mine, who had been educated in the principles of the established church. had not seen each other for several years, when meeting together a few years back, our conversation turned upon the subject of religion, andre way great astonishment, I found that he had renounced Christianity, and openly professed himself a Deist. His strongest objections to the Christian religion evidently arose from the doctrine of endless misery which he ridiculed as the.coótrivance of artful inen to impose upon the ignorant, and for political purposes. He argued upon the impossibility of a finite creature committing such offences, either in number or degree, as to merit infinite punishment; he manifested very exalted ideas of the greatness of God, but absurdly contended that it was beneath his dignity to take cognizance of human actions. He allowed that Jesus Christ was the · best man that ever lived, but considered all that part of his history which Telates his miracles, resurrection and ascension, as nothing more than the work of crafty men, who were endeavouring to establish a new religion
in the world. Though his arguments made no impression" on iny faith in the divine origin of the Scriptures, yet the inconsistency which he pointed out between the attributes of God and the notion of endless misery, led me to a diligent inquiry into the subject, the result of which was, that I could by no means satisfy my mind concerning it; and after the most careful investigation, I was obliged to say with Abraham of old, “ shall not the judge of all the earth do right?". Here the matter rested till I met with a treatise on the Universal Restoration, which threw so much light on the subject, that I was led to a further consideration of it, and by the help of this key, I have been able to unlock many dark and mysterious passages of Scripture; to reconcile many seeming contradictions, both in the word and providence of God, and
mind has been perfectly satisfied that God is able, and most assuredly willy-in the end, accomplish his original design in the creation of mankind. With'respect to what Amicus says, p, 268. concerning the decline of Universalism in America, 'I have not the means of ascertaining thie faét, nor of contradicting it-froin authority, but I can easily believe that some persons of weak minds, and having only a superficial acquaintance with the doctrine, may, through the means of some zealous opposers of: it, have been led to renounce what they had been taught to believe was a delusion; and I am 'persuaded the party would not fail to magnify such an event, in order to bring the doctrire into discredit, and make it be believed, as much as possible, that a general clange of sentiment had taken place concerning it.
oni sui's, 1 lately read;'Sir, your Sketch of the late Mri
, Winchester's Life, and likewise'a 'publication by the Rev. Mr. Scott, Chaplain to the Lock Hospital, giving some account of the means by which he was brought to embrace the tenets of Calvin, which he had formerly opposed; and. I was truly sutprised to see what opposite conclusions they arired at, both using the same means! Mr. Scott in changing his sentiments, has evidently acted from conviction; and though I cannot agree with the teneis which he has adopted, yet I honour liim for the integrity of his heart and the purity of his motives, and most heartily wish him all possible success in the work of his ministry. Mr. Winchester too, seems to have an equal claim to the character of integrity of heart and sincerity of intention, and appears to have been alike diligent and solicitous in his search after truth; both used the same means, viz, prayer to God for divine assistance, constant and careful searching into t're Scriptures; and I believe them to be equally sincere; yet we find Mr. Seott embracing those tenets which Mr. Winchester had receded from, lie having been educated a Calvinist.
Now, Sir, instead of condeinning either of these amiable men, who appear to have acted in the integrity of their liearts, I rather conclude that both may have been, by their ministry and writings, eminently useful in the great work of salvation; for I think it highly probable that many have been brought to a saving knowledge of religion through t'ie preaching and writings of Mr. S. who would not liave been moved by Mr: W.'s; so on the other side, I suppose it equally probable that Many have been led to the like saving knowledge through the means
of Mr. W. wlio would not have been influenced by Mr. S. Both prayed for the divine teaching of the Holy Spirit to assist their inquiry, and both believed that their prayers were answered, and I do not know that we have any right to dispute it;* for, although they disagree in some inferior points, yet we must observe that they perfectly agree in the grand article of salvation only by Jesus Christ, and they might possibly be permitted to differ in some unessential matters, in order to their more extensive usefulness. I have produced this singular contrast for the purpose of shewing how guarded we ought to be against censuring those who differ froin us in religious opinions with respect to things that are mysterious, or not essentially important; and sincerely do I hope that Mr. Fuller and his friends will profit froin it, and no more stain the pages of your Miscellany with uncandid and uncharitable epistles. Though they do not consider the admission of their letters as any favour, yet thay must allow it to be a proof of your iinpartiality, which I trust will always be one distinguishing feature of your publication. I grant that it becomes every sincere believer to contend earnestly “ for”, what he believes to be “ the faith," yet let it be done in the spirit of charity and brotherly love; and I cannot help remarking, that I thirik Amicus might have inflicted a sufficient castigation upon your Hoxton correspondent for any hasty, uncandid, or arrogant expressions which he might have used respecting Mr. Fuller, without all that contemptuous language directed against his youth, which could serve to no purpose but that of irritation; and it brought to my mind, Mr. Editor, the well known history of David and Goliah; but I recollect that the boasting giant was overcome by the stripling youth, and at last slain with his own sword.
SIR, DESIROUS of pleasing all men for their edification, I come forward
once more in your Miscellany to give Mr. A. B. an opportunity of exhibiting a further display of his knowledge and of his critical abilities, by declaring myself perfectly dissatisfied with Sis remarks on my letter, he not seeming, to me, either to understand me, or, if he did, not to be willing to enlighten me; but as he comes to no conclusion which may either remov my doubts or confirm my expectations, it is not possible for me to answer his letter, but by expressing my doubts upon the assertions he has made; and although the gentleman is so much offended at my doubling, he must forgive me for saying that his epistle, instead of temoving, has but increased them. · Mr. A. B. is fully persuaded “ that Christian assemblies, or churches, are perfectly distinct from each other, and independent as it relates, either to doctrine or practice." With him, Sir, I am fully persuaded, that they are so; but not that they ought so to be. Christianity is a principle of union to all that believe in it; its doctrine is one ; so ought its faith to be, and so its practice; but such it never will be whilst they are distinct and independant. It was not so in primitive days, in churches, even in different cities, much less in the same city. Paul, writing to the Colossians, says,
“ Cause that this epistle be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Ilere is intimacy, love, union, and that musual dependance which arises from mutual interest and mutual obligations; I am therefore fully persuaded that the doctrines of Christians are not necessarily distinet, and that they ought not so to be; and that, if they are so, it is hecause they assert mutual independance; whereas, from the begitning it was not so; therefore, in this sense also, that which God hath joined, men ought not ppt asunder.
Mr. A. B. acknowledges that “ The New Testament says not a word about the churches of Jerusalem, of Corinth, or of any other great .city;" I thank hiin for the acknowledgement; and, unwilling to be in his debt in point of openness, I confess with him that I think " The reason is as plain, as the observation is easy;" ' because there was but one church there ;--though perhaps, Sir, we may as much diffet .concerning this church as a Quaker and a Bishop would upon the question, What is a church? The first contending it was the people; the other it was the place.
With Mr. A. B. it must be allowed that the Christians sometimes met publicly in the Temple, but not in the manner Mr. A. B. seems to insinuate; as if the Temple had been the first Christian church. You, Sis, used to meet some of your friends at St. Agnes Le Clair, and, surrounded by them, preach the gospel to the multitude in like manner, Sir, I conceive the apostles to have anet in the Temple, and for the same purpose. Is is evident it was in the face of the world, or the world would not have been converted by them. I presume, Sir, Mr. A. B. would not allow the church and the world assembling together to be a Christian church; And if not, I cannot allow such a meeting as that in the Temple to be a Christian church any more than I can allow that the brief statement of Luke, which contains only a few striking facis,
goes in the least to establish the absurd idea that “ their meetings were mostly public, except when they were under a state of persecution." Their ministry might be, nay, from the nature of it, must be public ; but that their church assemblies were public is ridiculous: is it likely, Sir, that the electing deacons, taking care of widows, overseeing the distant churches, hearing of and considering such evils as might arise or had arisen in the church, were public, whet