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Though it seems hardly necessary to enlarge on this point, yet it may not be tedious or useless to attend to the following specimen. The Judge of angels and men has expressly foretold not only the general transactions of the last day, but the very words, which he himself will speak to the wicked; "depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;" and has declared what will actually follow their awful doom; "they shall go away into everlasting punishment.” Here Christ is professedly treating the point in question; here, consequently, we expect the most clear and certain information. But it is not from this passage, that universalists make conclusions favourable to their system. This is not one of their texts. They resort to those, which speak of the benevolence of God, the all sufficient atonement of Christ, the universality of the gospel offer, the gracious design of the afflictions of the saints, &c. But what if God is infinitely benevolent? Who will dare to say, that the infinitely benevolent God does not see the endless punishment of the impenitent necessary to the best interest of the universe, which is the object of his benevolence? What if the atonement of Christ is all sufficient? Who can infer from its allsufficiency, that it will certainly be received by all? What if the gospel offer is unlimited? Unlimited offers may be rejected, and the blessings involved in them lost. What if the present afflictions of the saints are intended, and actually operate, as salutary discipline? It does not hence follow, that the future
punishment of the wicked will have the same effect. Thus but little attention is necessary to show, that the principal scriptures, which universalists press into their service, furnish no valid argument in support of their scheme.
By thus exposing some of the arts of universalists, and show. ing, in a few leading points, that their sentiments are contrary to inspired truth, it has been my aim, Christian churches, to guard you from danger. The imposing scheme of universalism is interwoven with degrading ap prehensions of Jehovah's character and government; while it sets up a god, other than the true God, and which wicked men would love. Can you approve and countenance such a scheme? Has not its influence always been pernicious to Christian piety and morality? Is not a time of general impiety and wickedness the time of its easy triumph? From its prominent features, from the arguments urged in its defence, and from the effects which would naturally flow from its universal prevalence, do you not perceive, that it is the offspring of error, an enemy to the true interests of Zion, and poison to the soul? Will any of you embrace a sentiment which freely coalesces with all the depraved passions, and which finds a welcome reception and quiet residence in the heart of impenitence? Will you countenance a doctrine, which diminishes or takes away all the restraints of divine law, and opens the floodgates of irreligion and vice? Let all men vigilantly and resolutely shun this doctrine, which keeps sinners from repentance by promising
them life. And as their greatest safeguard, let them search and reverence that sacred book, which brings immortality to light; which presents eternal blessedness, as the encouragement and reward of the holy, and unveils to our view that eternal destruction, which is the certain portion of the wicked.
THOUGHTS ON I COR. xv. 19.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, roe are of all men the most miserable."
THE proposition contained in these words appears, at first view, to be plain and simple; but to ascertain its particular meaning, and application to the apostle's argument, has been attended with some difficulty. We are surely not to consider the apostle as asserting that Christian rewards are so completely confined to a future life, that those, who are his faithful followers, are really in a worse situation, and enjoy less happiness in this life, than the rest of mankind. This opinion of religion is frequently entertained by those who are strangers to its power, and consequently to its comforts. Religion appears frightful to their imaginations, a composition of gloom and melancholy. But is this either the language or feeling of any one, who has tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious? Surely not. Nor can we believe that the apostle ever meant to inculcate such a sentiment. Setting aside future prospects, which, according to the supposition in the text, are cut off, the influence of religion in
calming the passions, moderating the desires, disposing to a cheerful acquiescence in the allotments of Providence, promoting justice and friendly intercourse among mankind, and diffusing a spirit of universal benevolence towards our fellow creatures, tends greatly to promote present happiness. Let any person, who has paid but a moder-· ate attention to what passes within his own mind, reflect on the period when he was either fretted with envy, burning with malice or revenge, inflated with ambition, distracted with worldly schemes, or chagrined with disappointments, and venting his spleen, if not directly against God, yet against every person and thing around him, and contrast it with the time when his passions were calm, and he felt that resignation to the divine will, that contentment with the allotments of providence, and that spirit of benevolence to all his fellow creatures, which genuine religion inspires; and he will find no difficulty in deter mining at which period he was the most happy. Beside, although the outward situation of Christians is sometimes more inelligible than that of other men, that is by no means the case universally. We find many persons of that description, who, though they may not be figuring on the theatre of the great world, are yet in that situation which Agur prayed for, as the most eligible of all, i. e. with neither poverty nor riches, but with a competent share of domestic comforts, and exempt from the calamities usually attendant on wicked courses. Exclusive of the superior joys which the
Christian sometimes has in the contemplation of the perfections of God, not only these, but many other considerations might be mentioned to show that godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. While on the other hand, the vanity which providence has stamped on all worldly enjoyments; the lashes of an accusing conscience, sufferings from the prevalence of malignant passions, connected with the misery and distress, and even contempt from the world itself, which is frequently the consequence of vice; painful fears lest those principles of religion should eventually prove true, which none has ever been able to demonstrate to be false; all these things combine to show, that the way of transgressors is hard, even should there be no hereafter. We cannot therefore suppose that the apostle asserts religion to be disadvantageous on the whole, even in this life. Nor will it come up to the full extent of the meaning of the passage, to limit it to the apos tles and primitive Christians, as if it asserted that they, who were so severely harassed and persecuted were, as it respected their situation and enjoyments in this world, more miserable than other men. It must be allowed that if we confine our views to temporal things alone, we shall find that Christ's apostles and the primitive preachers of the gospel were exposed to many and grievous sufferings. They were lia ble to be killed all the day long, and were ever accounted as sheep for the slaughter; and many of them actually lost their lives for their adherence to the cause of
find that the apostle ever consid ers either his own situation o that of others to be on this account worse on the whole, than that of other men. They had the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, as well as joy unspeakable and full of glory. As divine consolations are usual ly apportioned to the day and the occasion, it is not to be doubt ed but they usually possessed enjoyments, which rendered their present situation more comfortable than that of their persecutors, or than that of any one, who is a stranger to the peace and pleasantness of wisdom's ways.
It is, therefore, still necessary to search for a different meaning of the passage; and by compar ing it with the preceding verses, and with the scope of the apostle's argument, which was to prove the doctrine of the resur rection, the words are not only easily understood, but the argument is also forcible and conclusive in favour of the apostle's doctrine. By attending particularly to the chapter we observe, that the great argument by which the apostle proves the resurrection of the dead, is the resurrection of Christ. This fundament al article of the Christian faith he had before informed us was attested by a large number of unexceptionable witnesses, to whom he had appeared, at different times, after his resurrection. But if the dead rise not, then all this story about the resurrection of Christ, which is pretended.to be proved by so many witnesses, is a mere fabrication, and he is not risen. But if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea,
and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ, whom he raised not, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised. And if Christ be not raised your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If then these things are so, if that gospel which we have been preaching to you is a fable, and that future state, which we have been leading you to expect, nothing better than a dream, and we are in reality nothing but false witnesses, then it follows that, as we can promise ourselves no temporal rewards for our deception, but on the other hand, are every day exposed to the most cruel suffer ings, and as these sufferings can be alleviated by no inward peace of mind, or consciousness, that we are suffering in a good cause, while we are persisting in the publication of a deliberate false, hood, we must be of all men the most miserable in this life; and if there is an hereafter, as we can promise ourselves no future reward, but have reason to expect the punishment of the vilest impostors for endeavouring to im pose such an infamous lie upon mankind, therefore we must be, on the whole, of all men the most miserable.
In this view of the subject the text is plain, and the apostle's argument forcible, not only in favour of the precise point which he undertook to illustrate, viz. the certainty of a resurrection, but also in favour of the truth of the Christian system in general; for no man in his right mind will engage in any important, ardu
ous, or dangerous undertaking, much less persist in it until death, without some adequate motive, such as wealth, honour or fame here, or the prospect of future and eternal rewards in a better world. But as the apostles had no encouragement to expect temporal rewards, so, if what they published concerning Christ was a fable, they could neither derive any present, internal peace of mind from their proceedings, to console them in their sufferings, nor hope for any future reward. Unless, therefore, we suppose the apostles voluntarily to embrace present pain without any motive, or any other prospect than eternal misery; if they believed a future state at all, the testimony they gave could not be considered as a cunningly devised fable.
The apostles undoubtedly knew whether the facts which they published, as such, were true or not. They knew whether there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth; whether they lived and conversed with him, and received his instructions, and were commissioned, as his disciples. They knew whether the doctrines they published as his, were really his doc, trines. They knew all the cir cumstances which took place concerning his death and sufferings, consequently whether what they published was true or false. They knew whether the miracles said to be wrought by him were really wrought or not. They knew whether what they asserted concerning his resurrection was true or false, as whether they saw and conversed with him freely, and whether they ate and drank with him after his resur
rection; and they knew whether they themselves were enabled to speak with tongues and work miracles in his name. Many of the facts related were of a public nature. Christ's preaching, miracles, sufferings, death, &c. were all facts of public notoriety. The accounts of these facts, which are now on record, were published in the same age, and in the same place in which the transac tions were alleged to have taken place. They were of such a nature that they might have been easily disproved had they not been true. Others, not strictly of a public nature, must have been perfectly known to the apostles. This was the case of the resurrection. He shewed himself alive by many infallible signs and proofs to all the disciples in a body, to numbers of them at different times, and to above five hundred brethren at once. The fact was obvious to their senses. They not only saw and conversed with him, but did eat and drink with him, and even proceeded to handle him to satisfy themselves that it was a real body and no apparition. They were not disposed credulously to admit the fact, but examined it with the most critical exactness; and in their manner of relating these facts, there is every indica tion of plain sense, and sound understanding, without any symptoms of an overheated imagination, or of their being under the influence of enthusiastic impulses, without any pomp of words or affected eloquence, but in a style plain, simple, unaffected and dispassionate, the argument of a composed spirit, an evidence irresistible, that they could not be deceived. As therefore the
apostles could not be deceived in their knowledge of the fact of Christ's resurrection, which they related; so, that they should in such a resolute and undaunted manner, engage in the cause of an impostor, knowing him to be such; one who had not only deceived others, but had also deceived them; that they should persevere in asserting a known falsehood even unto death, knowing that they should thereby incur the hatred of their own nation, that bonds and imprisonments would await them in every city, and that they would probably suffer not only violent, but the most painful and ignor minious deaths, without one consoling reflection, without the least self approbation, and with out a single ray of hope, derived from the contemplation of futu rity; with no other prospect before them but the gloomy alternative of annihilation at death, or everlasting misery; this would indeed be to make them of all men the most miserable.
Thus the apostle's argument is not only of peculiar force to establish the doctrine of the resurrection, but also places the truth of Christianity itself upon an immoveable basis. The Christian religion is either true and of divine authority, or it is a forgery invented by men actuated by the vilest motives, and aiming at the worst of purposes. Indeed no other motive can be given for the forgery, than the most disinterested malevolence, even something in direct opposition to all the motives, which ever have been found to influence the conduct of either good or bad men. But to suppose that the best and most benevo