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can you expect to emanate from this poisonous fountain but the bitter streams of pollution and death ? Hence it is that those evil men, who corrupt the morals of our youth, begin their work of death by assailing their religious principles. In this they act with keen discernment of what constitutes the strength and safety of a virtuous character-correct moral principles. It is in reference to efforts like these, that the wise man gives the advice contained in our text: “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction which causeth to err from the words of knowledge.” Those persons whose minds are not firmly established in the truth, by listening to the instruction which causeth to err from the words of knowledge, are liable to be led away with the error of the wicked. Familiarity with error, as with vice, has a tendency to make us insensible of its deformity; and those, who are comparatively unacquainted with the word of God, are not properly furnished for an encounter with error.
Under the fullest conviction, that what has been said of error in general, is applicable to that scheme which denies the doctrine of endless punishment and advocates the final salvation of all men, we would, in the most serious and affectionate manner, list our warning voice against it. In doing this, we shall notice ITS SOURCES ; ITS NATURE ; AND ITS DANGEROUS MORAL CONSEQUENCES; which if clearly ascertained, will be so many presumptive proofs of the fallacy of its principle, a persuasive to its abettors to give up a scheme that is based on error, and supported by a perversion of the sacred scriptures, and a loud dissuasive to all from listening to their instructions, and embracing a religious belief that is fraught with the most pernicious and fatal consequences.
SOURCES OF MODERN UNIVERSALISM. 1. Let us then in the first place inquire into some of the causes which incline the minds of men to reject the doctrine of future retributions, and to embrace the doctrine of universal salvation. That the cause cannot be traced to any firm and satisfactory evidence of truth, may be seen from the indefinite manner in which the doctrine is held, and from the confusion and shifting of the arguments by
which it is defended. One point is assumed, and it is this and this alone which characterizes the doctrine, viz: that all men will ultimately be made perfectly holy and happy. But as to the time when, and the means by which this is to be effected, the advocates of this scheme are not agreed. Some think that all men will be happy like the angels in heaven the moment they enter the next conscious existence, and that no distinctions will exist among mankind beyond the grave. Others suppose that there will be a period of punishment indefinitely long beyond the grave, which will terminate in the reformation and consequent happiness of all the wicked.
Nor is there a greater uniformity as it respects the manner of salvation. Some expect to be saved through the infinite merits of Christ; and thus they yield the position as untenable, that mankind will be saved by enduring the whole penalty of the law. Some suppose that it would not consist with the benevolence of God to inflict etcrnal punishment for the sins committed in this life. Others will tell us that endless punishment is inconsistent with our deserts. Some expect that irresistible grace will draw all men to heaven; and others, that irresistible justice will drive all men there. Some expect to be purified by the blood of Christ without a change of heart in the present life, and others to be purified by the flames of hell. One is expecting salvation by the fogiveness of sin, and another by suffering the whole penalty of the law.
And the main arguments by which not only different persons, but the same persons at different times, defend their system, are as various and contradictory as their system itself. Now the conclusion to which all this brings us is, that the doctrine in question does not rest in the perception of solid proof. We should have supposed that if this main point, universal salvation, was reached by a chain of evidences that led to it, all who have arrived at this conclusion would do it by a corresponding course. But as their arguments are various and contradictory, we conclude, and not without reason, that the main position is first assumed without regard to proof. A system which in the hands of its advocates is constantly changing its form and resting upon some new foundation, must be rather the
offspring of man's convenience and desire, than any firm and satisfactory evidence of truth obtained from an impartial study of the Bible.
This is a disease of the mind which no reasoning can cure. All that can be attempted with any rational hope of success, is to point out some of the more obvious sources of this scheme, that its abettors may be induced to retrace their steps and to observe the mental process by which they arrived at their present conclusions, and to decide the question with some degree of candor and impartiality. We come then directly to the question: What are the causes which incline the minds of some men to reject the doctrine of endless punishment and embrace that of universal salvation ?
There are many at the present day, who are laboring to reason themselves out of all truth, both human and divine. They are making rapid advances in the cause of infidelity. And they employ every method possible, to disprove the authenticity and divine inspiration of the holy scriptures, and to arrive at the certainty that, all things are the result of chance, and consequently uncertain. They need not declare to the world their motives. Were they not rationally convinced that the Bible teaches the doctrine of a future state and of eternal rewards and punishments, they would not, I am persuaded, waste their energies to convince themselves and others that the Bible is a cunningly devised fable, and clamorously exult that he is a slave who fears to die, and that death is an eternal sleep. Let the doctrine of future retribution be expunged from the Bible, and every Infidel would exchange his “Age of Reason," and his * Chesterfield,” for this sacred volume. It is because they find an overwhelmning evidence that the Bible teaches the doctrine of endless punishment that they renounce a book which bears a mighty impress of divinity, and which contains, as they acknowledge, the most excellent system of commands, precepts and institutions. But so painful are their apprehensions of a future state, and so strong are their fears that the Bible is the word of God, that they would rejoice to find it on their side to confirm their wavering hopes that all will be well should not death prove an eternal sleep. And this is
just what the scheme under consideration promises. It says to those who despise the Lord, “The Lord hath said ye shall have peace ;” and to every one who walks in the imagination of his heart it
says, “No evil shall come upon you.” Hence they renounce their barren infidelity and embrace this “ blessed doctrine.”
This doctrine is in accordance with the depraved inclinations of the natural heart. It is a fact that men naturally love darkness rather than light. Of this fact, experience and observation furnish abundant proof. This fact is confirmed by the dictates of our enlightened conscience, and the unequivocal declarations of Inspiration. Taking for granted then this fact, it amounts to nothing more or less than a predisposition in the natural heart to the reception of
Now this natural aversion to truth is peculiarly favorable to the influence of error. Hence the reason why many embrace Universalism. The sons of pleasure, who wish to indulge in every sinful gratification, and to procrastinate repentance or entirely dispense with it, here find a comfortable hope and a pleasing substitute for the humbling and purifying doctrines of the cross. It perfectly coincides with the prevailing inclination of their hearts. Every man must see at once what an influence this . predisposition of the mind in favor of an idea, must have upon the decisions of the understanding. It is familiar to every one with how much ease a man may convince himself of that which he wishes to be true. By dexterous sophistry, and all the arts of self-deception, he may make falsehood and vice appear to his own mind as truth and virtue. Now is there any doctrine, that a man, determined on a life of sinful indulgence, can have a greater wish to believe than this, that
there will be no future retribution ? Those who object to endless die
punishment assign as a reason why it should not be preached, that it occasions in the minds of many, a great amount of suffering. Consequently, if the minds of some men suffer so much, by entertaining the idea of future misery as the fruit of a life of sin, is it at all strange, considering how much the decisions of the judgment are influenced by interest and desire, that some should come to persuade themselves that there is no future retribution? The human
heart loves to be soothed. The pleasing sound of peace, peace, will ever be gratefully received.
A wicked life also is a fruitful source of the doctrine under consideration. It quiets the conscience and ministers to a life of sin. What the celebrated Earl of Rochester said of the Bible, is true of the doctrine of endless punishment. “A bad life is the only grand objection to it.” Wicked and dissolute men have the strongest objection to the doctrine of future punishment, and the most powerful bias of mind in favor of universal salvation. Is it not a fact that wicked and dissoluie men are generally inclined to reject the doctrine of endless punishment and embrace the opposite scheme? The drunkard rejoices in it, and belches it out with the fumes of his own fæted breath. The libertine, the knave, the blasphemer, and sinners of every description, hail this scheme as good news of great joy to their unsanctified hearts. Thus a wicked life, by secret and unobserved influence, throws the mind under a bias towards the hope that all mankind will be ultimately saved.
In this doctrine the wicked man finds all the ideas he had occasion for, to secure him from the fears of death and its consequences. His occasion for such ideas are as frequent as his wicked acts and his reflections upon them. Every admonition of conscience stirs up tumult and agony in his heart. The man who is determined to indulge in forbidden gratifications, must force the reproaches of his own conscience or screen himself behind the false refuge of Universalism. This proves to him a shield which the sharpest arrows of the Almighty can scarcely penetrate. He is at ease under the preaching of the word, the warnings of providence, and revivals of religion. Hence he finds himself pledged to a universalist belief. He sees that the whole tenor of his life demands such a belief; and that if he does not restrain it, he must abandon without delay his wicked practices. But retaining it, he can live as he pleases without doing violence to his convictions. Thus the doctrine swells the number of its adherents by being a place of refuge to shield the ungodly from the fears of divine punishment after death, and from the scorpion sting of an awakened conscience.