« AnteriorContinuar »
tinguishing features of modern, American universalism. And you request me to express my honest convictions on this controverted subject.
Now, my dear Sir, I firmly believe that your system of universalism has no foundation in fact or revelation. I will therefore frankly give you some of the reasons for my belief. In the following pages I will endeavor to illustrate the nature of temporal rewards and punishments; to prove that no perfect retribution takes place in this world; to explain the meaning of christian salvation; to produce some of the arguments from common sense and scripture in proof of a future righteous retribution; to refute the principal objections which your writers have made to this doctrine; to answer the arguments which they have adduced in support of your system; to state my objections to modern, American universalism, and to conclude with some remarks on the natural tendency of the different views of divine retribution. I shall aim to manifest my friendship by using great plainness of speech, and by declaring explicitly my opinions and impressions on the various questions that may arise. I know
Letters and thorough examination. I believe you will cheerfully renounce your present sentiments on the points at issue if I should prove them to be erroneous. I think you will gladly embrace whatever truth may be elicited and established by my remarks. And I may reasonably expect, that all the members of
denomination who think and judge for themselves, will peruse my observations with candor and attention, since some of your preachers have repeatedly called upon me to engage in this discussion.
In the first place, you will naturally inquire what I understand by divine rewards and punishments? In answer to this question I will appeal directly to your
will give my
own experience and observation. I trust you have an undoubting faith in the infinite perfections of One universal Father. Has not this impartial Parent given you existence? Has he not created you for happiness? Has he not endowed you with an animal, an intellectual, a moral nature, so that you may answer the design of your creation? Has he not admirably adapted all your appetites, passions, propensities, affections, corporeal and mental and religious capacities for the accomplishment of this glorious purpose? Has he not implanted in your bosom an unconquerable desire for higher degrees of enjoyment? Has he not mercifully provided all the necessary means for its gratification? Does he not wish you to be continually happy?' And does he not do every thing which is consistent with your moral freedom to promote your happiness? Surely an affirmative answer must be returned to these several inquiries.
How then can you secure happiness and avoid misery? In but one way.
You must obey the laws of your nature. But whence arise these laws?
Where are they recorded? How can we ascertain their adaptation? What is their extent? They originated with your heavenly Father when he created man in his own image. They are enstamped on your very constitution. They are indicated in the works of nature. They are plainly revealed in the gospel. They are known by experience to be adapted to your necessities. They extend to every principle of humanity; to all the relations you sustain towards
allwise Creator and benefactor. Hence there is a right course in every thing, and a wrong course in every thing. The right consists in thinking, feeling, believing, conversing, and acting in all things and at all times as your Maker designed you should think, feel, believe, converse and act under the existing circumstances. The wrong consists either in omitting these particulars, or in pursuing a different course in these several respects from what you were made to pursue. When you follow the right you obey in a greater or less degree the laws of your nature, and this obedience is generally attended or followed with more or less happiness. When you
adhere to the wrong you disobey in a greater or less degree the laws of your nature, and this disobedience is genérally attended or followed with more or less misery.
Now, my dear Sir, you know that this happiness is the natural consequence of your obedience. This happinėss then is the natural retribution or the paying you for your righteousness. And this natural consequence, this natural retribution, I call the divine reward of your obedience to the laws of your nature.
You also perceive that this misery is the natural consequence of your disobedience.
This misery then is the natural retribution or the paying you for your wickedness. And this natural consequence, this natural retribution, I call the divine punishment of your disregard of the laws of your constitution. You must likewise observe that religion consists in conforming to the rule of right in all things and at all times; and that irreligion consists either in neglecting the right or in pursuing the wrong. The sole design of religion then is to enable you to receive happiness and avoid misery. To be a christian is to obey the laws of your nature, and happiness is the reward of your obedience. To be a sinner is to disregard these laws, and misery is the punishment of your transgression. Consequently we cannot receive the happiness for which we were created without obedience to the divine laws.
But perhaps you will inquire, why I call these rewards and punishments divine? Does our heavenly · Father interpose to furnish happiness when we obey his
laws and misery when we disobey them? Not directly, but through second causes. You know that he is the author of your constitution. You know that he has made you for holiness, and that all sin is directly contrary to your very nature. You know that you are a free agent and have power to choose and practise righteousness, and also to discover and avoid wickedness. You know that the righteous course is generally attended or followed with happiness, and the wicked course as generally attended or followed with misery. And you know that all this is the arrangement of divine providence. Consequently the happiness you enjoy when you have done righteously is as much divine as though the Deity had interposed directly to confer this reward for your obedience. And the misery you suffer when you have done wickedly is as much divine as though your Father had interfered directly to inflict this punishment for your transgression. Besides these rewards and punishments through second causes, the Almighty has occasionally interfered in a miraculous manner to punish the guilty and reward the innocent; and surely all such retributions are entitled to the name divine. I think you must understand what I mean by divine rewards and punishments. The natural or miraculous consequences of obedience to the laws of God I call divine rewards. The natural or`miraculous consequences of transgression I call divine punishments. When these consequences are confined to this world I call them a temporal retribution; and when they extend beyond the grave I call them a future retribution. I conclude therefore that no candid and intelligent reader can mistake my meaning of the various phrases used in the present discussion.
Let me now endeavor to illustrate the nature of temporal rewards and punishments.
I. I will first direct your attention to the natural rewards of obedience, and to the natural punishments of transgression. I will arrange my remarks according to the different relations we sustain, and the corresponding duties we are under obligation to perform.
1. The duties which you owe to yourself are the first in order. You were made to enjoy uninterrupted happiness. You can secure this invaluable boon by conforming to whatever is right in every particular, and in avoiding whatever is wrong at all times and under all circumstances. It becomes your highest interest then to practise 'righteousness and shun iniquity, so that you may obtain the enjoyment for which you were created, and glorify your heavenly Father by living in all instan
ces as he intended. Let me now give you a few illus'trations of these remarks.
In the first place, you were made to enjoy uninterrupted health. If your parents and ancestors have obeyed the laws of their physical nature, you have doubtless inherited a perfect animal constitution, and are therefore prepared to enjoy more or less of the rewards of their obedience, and to transmit them to posterity. If they have disobeyed these laws, you have probably inherited an imperfect constitution, and must consequently suffer more or less of the punishments of their transgression, and transmit them much beyond the third and fourth generation. Whoever knows any thing of human nature must know that the iniquities of the fathers are visited upon their children. It will be sufficient in this place to mention the predisposition to the gout, scrofula, consumption and insanity. Now if you scrupulously obey the laws of your Maker which relate to your animal nature, you receive uninterrupted health; and the natural consequence of health is a high degree of satisfaction and a preparation for all the other rational