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is to take away the use of the present state. Why are we placed in a state of discipline, exposed to temptation, encompassed with suffering, if without discipline, and by a soverign act of omnipotence, we are all of us, be our present characters what they may, soon and suddenly to be made perfect in virtue, and perfect in happiness?"
"Let us not listen for a moment to a doctrine so irrational, as that our present characters do not follow us into a future world. If we are to live again, let us settle it as a sure fact, that we shall carry with us our present minds, such as we now make them; that we shall reap good or ill according to their improvement or corruption; and, of consequence, that every act, which affects character will reach in its influences beyond the grave, and have a bearing on our future weal or wo. We are now framing our future lot. He who does a bad deed says, more strongly than words can utter, ‘I cast away a portion of future good, I resolve on future pain!""
7. I regard modern universalism as a cruel doctrine. Here is a christian wife. She has had five children. They lived to the age of youth, and excited the strongest hopes of their friends. One after another was taken in the very bloom of innocence. All have departed. In the mean time the health of their mother was originally feeble. She has been gradually sinking. For many years she has not known a well day. Hours and hours she has suffered the most excruciating pains. She still lingers in a state of extreme debility and suffering. Now you visit her with your system. You make a direct application to her case in these words. "Madam, I bring you the consolations of the gospel. Your Father is an impartial being. He rewards and punishes in this life exactly according to the deeds done in the body.
You appear to have been long and greatly miserable. Of course you must be ranked among the most depraved. Though your sins have been concealed from the eyes of the world, there is doubtless great pollution within. I would therefore exhort you to repent, to forsake your evil ways, and thus secure temporal happiness." Should you call this the message of kindness or of cruelty? It sounds to me very much like the language of Job's comforters whom the Lord considered guilty of falsehood. If you are consistent with your views I know not how you can help giving such instructions in all cases of great affliction. And is not this grossly irrational?
8. Modern universalism makes condition the criterion of character. Every sinner is punished exactly according to his wickedness. Here is a man in great prosperity. His riches have increased. His children improve faithfully their great advantages for education. His mind is not disturbed by anxiety or remorse or pain. He is always cheerful, always happy. You speak to him the sentiments of your system. "Sir, I rejoice in your acquaintance. I must pronounce you the best christian I ever knew. The Lord has shown you special favors on account of your superior holiness. You experience no misery. Happiness dwells in your bosom from day to day without intermission. Persevere in the way you have begun and the blessing of heaven shall attend you to the grave." You call upon his next neighbor, a poor, sorrow-stricken, disconsolate widow. You ask if her rich neighbor is not one of the most perfect of mortals. You learn that he is regarded by those who know him best, a dishonest, unprincipled, unbelieving, libertine. You hear of his acts of fraud, violence, cruelty, seduction, which make you shudder at the recital. You learn that he has no belief in God
or futurity, no fear of hell or expectation of heaven, no conscience and no rule of duty but sheer selfishness. You find that he is one of the exceptions to common rules. His peculiar constitutional temperament, his almost perfect health, his thorough unbelief, his temporal prosperity, all conspire to produce this tranquillity and apparent enjoyment. Is it rational then to determine a man's character by his outward or inward condition? Such are a few of the reasons for my belief. I hope you will give them a candid consideration. I commend to your special notice the extracts with which I have enriched my pages. If any fair answer can be given to these arguments I know it not; but I am ready to listen to manly discussion and sound reasoning.
III. The tendency of modern universalism is pernicious. You will not of course expect me to speak of its actual influence on those who have embraced the system. This would be foreign from my present object and on many accounts improper. The scheme as it now exists is of very recent origin. It is not received by religious societies in any other country. In our own land it is united with views of a redeeming character. Many preachers who are supposed to believe in its truth seldom or never proclaim it with distinctness and boldness. Many persons who are ranked in the denomination have no definite notions on the subject, and many are decided restorationists. The number of those who have made a public profession of religion is very small in comparison with the whole body. A portion of these hold to future rewards and punishments. Probably not more than five hundred in the United States who avow their firm belief in the peculiar doctrines of the party belong to the church. Most of these had formed christian characters under other influences, opinions and preach
ing. They doubtless exhibit as correct morals as the same number in other denominations. It would not be candid to express any opinion of those who do not profess to be believers in christianity. I have indeed been informed by some who have been preachers in the connexion that the influence of the system is actually pernicious, and that unbiased and disinterested witnesses must arrive at this conclusion from personal observation. It is my intention to mention a few of the reasons which convince me that the natural tendency of the system is pernicious, rather than to describe its actual influence. Sufficient time has not yet elapsed to enable any one to speak with perfect confidence in relation to the last particular. You will therefore allow me the same liberty that you take yourself in relation to calvinism.
1. Does not modern universalism naturally tend to open infidelity? So it appears to my mind. And I am confirmed in this opinion by some existing facts. Have not several of your preachers publicly renounced christianity? Is not one of the oldest and ablest of the number now editing an atheistical publication, and lecturing to a society of unbelievers? Has he not been permitted to deliver his philippics against all natural and revealed religion in several universalist churches? And have not the papers of the denomination remained silent on the subject? Have not several who were formerly among your most active agents arrayed themselves in opposition to the gospel? Have any of your clergy attempted to stay the progress of infidelity by their writings? One indeed aimed to expose the principles of the free inquirers. He was soon accused by them of having been one of their number. The evidence presented by them in support of the charge, and his own confession after an unsuccessful vindication, have left little or no doubt on the minds of candid readers as to
his former condition. Still no investigation is attempted. Others are declared to be in the same predicament. Some who have left your sect for the societies of the skeptics declare that the principles of reasoning and interpretation you adopt lead directly to the rejection of all revelation. They also affirm that no small number who remain in your enclosure have no firm belief in the divine origin of christianity. I have no wish to enlarge on this topic. These facts are before the public and in the mouths of the community. And what conclusion will people adopt from the existing circumstances? Perhaps you can answer this question better if I should make a supposition. Well, suppose then that one of our oldest and ablest ministers should establish an atheistical paper in the metropolis, attack all religion with ridicule and sophistry, lecture weekly either in the city or in some unitarian churches in the vicinity on his infidel principles. Suppose that others, ministers and hearers, should follow his example in some degree, and do all in their power for the overthrow of every thing most precious to mortal man. Suppose that no one of our denomination should raise a finger to convince the apostates of their errors or to confirm the remaining in the truth. What conclusion should you draw from such startling facts? Now your belief in revelation is unwavering. You have no more sympathy with the unbelieving than I have. And because some of your party have avowed their infidelity, and others of the same views remain among you, it is no sufficient reason for renouncing your system. But it is a sufficient reason to induce you to investigate anew the foundations of your faith, to examine the reasoning by which it is defended, to try the principles of interpretation by which you escape from the obvious meaning of the Savior and apostles.