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revealed in their scriptures. Now if they lived without knowing any thing of another existence, why cannot christians? If they had no crucified Savior, why was the death of Jesus needed? What need was there of giving us any further revelation, since the favored people lived and died in ignorance of its discoveries? You perceive that this mode of reasoning proves too much, and consequently destroys the whole force of your objection.
2. Suppose I should admit that the Jews were not taught the doctrine of a future retribution. What follows? Why, that the revelation of this truth was absolutely needed to produce obedience to the divine laws. Read the history of that singular nation. Were they not a stubborn and rebellious race? Were they not constantly murmuring against heaven? Did they not frequently relapse into idolatry? Just pause a moment and consider the nature of this crime, especially to those who had such indisputable tokens of the divine presence? Look at the conduct even of several of their greatest, wisest and best characters. Is it not perfectly evident from the state of morals among them in almost every period of their existence that some more powerful motives were needed to produce reformation and holiness? Your very objection then furnishes a most powerful argument against your own system.
3. I will briefly state what I believe to be the exact truth on this question. The Jews early cherished some faint belief in another existence, and of some kind of rewards and punishments hereafter for the conduct of the present world. This I think can be satisfactorily proved. That they entertained this belief in the time of our Savior, with the exception of one sect, no intelligent person can doubt. That their faith in both these facts was feeble and inoperative every one must ac
knowledge. That the intimations of these doctrines in their sacred writings are few and obscure no one will deny; and I think these facts are calculated to teach us that such indistinct and inoperative views of the nature and character of the future life are unable to furnish any high degree of virtue or piety. The Jews of the present day believe in another existence, in the spirituality of the soul, and in a righteous retribution for the deeds done in the body, as I was lately informed by a most learned and estimable man of their church; and they profess to derive these articles of belief from the Old Testament. You perceive then that the very circumstance you mention as an objection to my doctrine furnishes one of the strongest presumptions in its favor. I have no doubt great injury has been done to the cause of truth by quoting passages from the hebrew scriptures in proof of future rewards and punishments, which have no real bearing on the point. But because men have wrongly applied some texts, does this destroy my argument? How very often have your preachers' quoted texts from the same source to prove your doctrines, when not one of the number was designed to favor such sentiments? I consider your first objection fairly and fully refuted.
II. A second objection to a future righteous retribution may be thus stated. "We frequently hear more said in one modern sermon concerning future rewards and punishments than we find in all the discourses of our Savior and his apostles, and hence we conclude the doctrine is of human origin." In reply I offer the three following observations.
1. I hear more said about the doctrine of no future retribution in one universalist discourse than I find in the whole bible. Point me to the passage in which either Moses or the prophets ever taught such a senti
ment. Mention the chapter and verse in which either Jesus or his disciples gave the least hint of such an opinion. Can you do either? Now you will remember that the inspired preachers of the gospel addressed those who believed in future rewards and punishments. Your ministers frequently enjoy opportunities of preaching to those who entertain a similar belief. Do they observe the same guarded silence on their peculiar views? Do their sermons resemble in this particular those recorded in the christian scriptures? On your own mode of reasoning must I not pronounce your system of human origin and contrivance? And does not your objection return against yourself with redoubled power?
2. The very statement of this objection indicates the manner in which many persons embrace universalism. They have been accustomed to hear the calvinistic doctrine of a burning and endless hell proclaimed with great frequency and boldness. They perceive that many passages of scripture are quoted in its defence. They have only a superficial acquaintance with the sacred writings. They are at length aroused to meditate on this important subject. They cannot reconcile such a sentiment with the goodness or mercy or paternal character of their heavenly Father, or with the benevolence and compassion and mission of their Savior. They turn to the bible and give it a hasty perusal. They find but here and there a passage which appears to prove the truth of such a doctrine, when they expected to discover scores on almost every page. They ascertain that many which have been quoted for this purpose have no connexion with the controversy whatever. They learn that plausible explanations of a different nature can be given to many more. Finding the testimony of scripture so different from what they anticipated, they rush to the opposite extreme. They conclude there can be no fu
ture retribution because it is not formally and explicitly declared on all occasions. I have no doubt this is one prolific source of conversion to your opinions. And the very statement of these particulars will serve to show the futility of your objection.
3. I will now state what I believe to be the real truth on this question. I have already alluded to the hebrew scriptures. In a former communication I gave some hints in explanation of the circumstances under which the gospel was promulgated. Ideas of a similar character must be mentioned in this connexion. Our Savior and his apostles addressed those who believed in a future retribution, as your own writers admit. Consequently they had no occasion to introduce the doctrine as any thing unknown or doubted or disbelieved. They appealed to it as a motive and thus gave their confirmation of its truth and importance. You will remember that they had many new truths to deliver, many controversies to settle, much unbelief and wickedness to overcome. You cannot expect therefore that they would be constantly introducing a sentiment which no one rejected. Keep these particulars in mind when you search the records of our faith, and you will need no further reply. I once took up a corrected translation of the New Testament. I perused it carefully in reference to this question. I wished to ascertain how often and on what occasions the doctrine of future retribution was recognised, implied or distinctly taught. I kept in mind the belief of the hearers. And I must affirm, that I discovered an acknowledgment of the doctrine in every place where the circumstances either required or permitted. I considered it ingrained into the whole system of christianity. It is regarded as a central and indisputable and fundamental principle. And had I found it oftener mentioned I am not sure but I should have called
it a forgery in those instances; for it would have appeared forced, unnatural, unnecessary. I should make precisely the same remarks concerning a future life. It is but seldom introduced in a distinct and formal manner, but almost uniformly taken for granted. The same state of mind which would unfit a person for finding a future retribution in the gospel would cause him to deny a future existence. By recollecting these important facts you will perceive that the very infrequency with which future rewards and punishments are formally introduced furnishes one of the strongest arguments for their truth. So that your second objection appears to me to be fairly and fully refuted.
III. A third objection to a future righteous retribution may be stated in these terms. "The doctrine of future rewards and punishments was believed by the heathen; it never made them virtuous; why then do we need such a belief to make us holy?" In answer I will make three separate remarks.
1. You will remember that but few of the gentiles had a practical belief in a future existence. They indeed hoped to live after death. They had some evidence for their faith. But neither their belief nor expectation was sufficiently powerful for the great purposes of mòrality and consolation. This is evident from the fact, that when their wisest and best philosophers buried endeared friends their grief was inconsolable. Their lamentations were heart-rending. Their expected support vanished like mist before the rising sun. And they were also all their life-time subject to bondage on account of the fear of death. What did they fear? The mere pain of dying? Not at all. Such a supposition is contradicted by the facts of history. No. They feared annihilation. If then their belief in a future life was so faint and powerless, their faith in a future retri