« PreviousContinue »
gion, by terrific descriptions of hell torments. They had so many rational arguments, to induce men to obedience to God, that they never made use of it. Had they deemed it, of as much importance as the objector, we have no doubt but that they would have preached it to the world. At any rate, he must first prove that they did preach this doctrine, before his objection is of
7th, The Apostle's doctrine of salvation by grace, through faith, was denounced as leading to licentiousness. Let us sin, said the objector, because grace aboundeth. Now, we should like to know, how salvation in this way to all, should be of a licentious nature, and not also to a few? The truth is, the number saved, can make no difference in the case. If the doctrine is licentious when extended to the whole human race, it must be so though, limited to a single individual. But every one knows how the apostles refuted the objection. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid : how shall we that are dead to sin live longer therein ?" We repel the charge in the same way. But, the persons who bring this charge against us, seem to think, that because no hell torments are prepared, that men are to go to heaven without any
Savior or salvation. We believe no such doctrine. On the contrary, we firmly believe, that all are saved from their sins, reconciled to God, and made meet for heaven. If there be any Universalists, who believe otherwise, we disown them, and would be glad to have them give up the name until they have relinquished such principles. But we never heard of any Universalists, who held the opinion, that persons go to heaven in their sins. No: in their writings and preaching they disclaim it, and consider it not very candid, nor honorable in their opponents, to bring such a charge against them.
Should it be said here, “but whatever they pretend, do you not see a great many who profess to be Universalists, living very licentious lives ?” We freely grant this, but if this is any argument against the doctrine, it is one which will prove a great deal too much. It will prove equally against the Congregationalists, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Unitarians, and in short, every religious denomination in the world. Do you not find, , many who profess the principles of all these sects, who live licentious lives? We are sorry to say, that this is but too evident. But this kind of argument, would even prove the principles of the Bible to be licentious.
Are there not many, who profess its principles, who lead licentious lives? Yes, alas ! too many. But you will seldom find, that the disciples of Paine, or Voltaire, are so uncandid, and reason so incorrectly as to conclude, that the Bible is of a licentious tendency in its principles, because many who profess them are very wicked men. But, say the objectors, those licentious persons who profess to believe the Bible, and of the above sects, do not understand the principles they profess. Granted. And why will not the objectors also allow, that many who profess to be Universalists, do not understand the principles which they profess. If it is no reproach to the other sects to have such kind of professors, why should it be any reproach to the Universalists ? The fact is, such kind of professors, are no honor to any denomination professing the Christian name, and we once heard of a sect of Deists, who would not have received them into their community, for they would not admit an immoral person among them. We are sure, the fact is too evident to be disputed, that wherever the eternity of hell torments has been published, and published too in all the horrors with which human eloquence could decorate it, and enforced with all the clerical dignity and civil authority, that popes, priests, and kings could afford, it has not prevented wickedness in the earth. In my judgment, it has produced immorality and other evil consequences, which human nature, bad as it is, condemns.
Should an appeal be made to facts, by comparing the numbers of those who have lived licentiously, embracing the various religious systems which have been in the world, we are not prepared to admit that the balance of the account would be against Universalists. But admitting that it was greatly against them, all that this could prove, is, that their views tend more to licentiousness than the others. All these different systems produce it to a certain extent, but that of the Universalists is the most prolific. But such a mode of reasoning is false, for it is allowed, that an argument which proves both sides of a question, cannot be a good one. The fact is, that persons professing the very best principles, have led licentious lives. The grace of God has been turned into lasciviousness; and, what good is there, which men have not abused ?
But, if even a greater proportion of licentious men, were externally attached to the sect of Universalists, we should not be surprised, nor do we think that this proves any thing against the doctrine I have stated. When our Lord was in the world, we are told, that—" then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.” Luke xv. 1. He was also called by his enemies, a friend of publicans and sinners.” Lord preached to them the doctrine of hell torments, why were they so fond of hearing him, and why was he accused of being their friend? Certainly he said nothing to encourage them to continue in sin, but the very reverse ; but we think it is equally evident that he did not preach the terrors of hell torments to turn them from their iniquities. If he did not preach this doctrine, there is as little wonder that sinners flocked to hear him, as that now a great many of similar characters should flock to hear the Universalists. We think then, that, allowing a greater proportion of immoral people, should be disposed to hear the preachers who exclude the doctrine of hell torments from their preaching, the case is
not surprising. It was so in the days of our Lord, nor is there any thing in the nature of the case but what might be expected.
But it is said further, “if I believed that there was no eternal punishment in hell, I would indulge myself in all kinds of iniquity.” Little need be said in reply to this; indeed it does not deserve one. But as we must reply, we would ask, is this person's holiness of the right kind ? If it is, we do not see, but that God must hold
the torments of hell even in heaven, to prevent this person's becoming licentious there! When the stimulus of hell torments is removed, what is there to preserve such a person holy? Nothing: and even when thus prevented from licentiousness, what is his holiness good for? If it were not for his evil example in society we would say to him,-indulge in all manner of iniquity, for your wickedness will as soon bring you to heaven as your holiness. But further; it is a very evident case, that the obedience of all such persons, is the obedience of a slave under the terror of the lash. Yea, it shows very clearly, that under all this hypocritical obedience, such persons are in love with sin, and nothing under heaven prevents their outward indulgence of it, but the fear of hell torments. Indeed, the objector openly avows, that if there was no hell, he would indulge his lusts without restraint. Holiness, for its own sake, he does not love. Holiness, from love to God, he knows nothing about. And instead of pursuing it because he finds it the way of peace and comfort to himself, or of any benefit to society, he confesses it to be a burden; and, but for the terror of hell torments, he would prefer a licentious course of life. Can any Universalist be a worse character than this ? and if there be a hell, can any man be found, who is a more fit subject for its punishment? The terror of hell torment is a common topic. It is held up in such a terrific point
a of view, that we do not much wonder the objector loses
sight of every thing else, and thinks that all he has need to be saved from, is merely from hell torments.
We must here indulge ourselves with a few remarks relative to this view of the subject.
1st, To be saved from hell torments, is all the objector seems concerned about. This we fear is the case with too many. We are not much surprised that it is so; for in preaching about hell, the chief thing held up to view, is to be saved from such a dreadful place of punishment. This theme is so much dwelt upon, and this place is described in such a way, that the hearer's mind is wholly absorbed with it. To be saved from this dreadful place, is with him the most essential part of religion.
2d, The objector is constrained to practice self-denial, much against his inclination, to avoid the torments of hell. If there was no hell he would indulge in all kinds of iniquity. But seeing that there is such a place, to avoid it, he restrains his inclinations. His holiness is the mere effect of fear. The man is chained and in fetters, and cannot act himself. Only let him loose from these, by assuring him that there are no eternal torments in hell, and he would be foremost in the ranks of licene tiousness.
3d, The objector has a very wrong view, both of sin and the salvation of Jesus Christ. He thinks sin a pleasant, good thing, if it were not for the hell torments in which it must end. He plainly intimates, that this is the chief, if not the only thing, which prevents his present enjoyment of all the pleasures of sin for a season. Now, nothing is more obvious from Scripture, than this, that 'sin is connected with present misery ; and that truth and holiness are productive of happiness. The ways of transgressors are hard, whilst wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths lead to peace. A man that feareth the Lord, happy is he; but though the wicked join hand in hand they shall not go unpunished. Licentiousness is inseparably connect