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tuous, that nothing but ignorance of the Divine character could tolerate such an abuse of reason: “ Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” Is it come to this, that to force an error upon us, we are required to take the law of God and lay its obligations upon his supremacy, and then, by that standard, to sit in judgment upon his providence ?
The duty of a creature cannot be the rule of action with the Creator; upon the supposition that it were, the providence of God would be under precisely the same obligations to prevent or remove calamity, as man is when it is in his power. God would be under the same obligation to prevent all sin, as man is to refrain from it. How absurd and impious is it to estimate the character of the infinite God, by the feelings of a sinful creature, limited by ignorance on every hand, and compassed with infirmities! How arrogant to say,
« Because I, an atom of dust, a bubble floating on the current of time, desire the removal of all evil from the universe of God; therefore, by the law he has laid on my nature, he is bound to restore men and devils to his favour.” This objection robs God of the glory of his vindictive justice altogether; it impeaches his providence; it brings down the honour of the Divine Majesty to a level with the creature's meanness, by subjecting him to the same law which governs the works of his hands. What support do such arguments yield to the Universalist? What do they prove but his own rashness, and the weakness of his scheme?
II. A second objection to the doctrine of endless punishment is drawn from the origin of moral evil. A preacher of universal restoration argues thus : “ Nothing can exist for ever but that which originates in the Eternal Being. Sin, and misery its offspring, originated not in God, but in the sinning creature. Therefore, these things cannot be of an absolutely endless existence and duration.”
It would be a sufficient answer to this objection to show that the argument is a gross and palpable sophism ; the major proposition is a mere begging of the question, an assumption of the point to be proved. How is it known that nothing can exist for ever but that which originates in the Eternal Being? No such doctrine is revealed, or to be inferred from revelation. Is it a dictate of reason? No, it is contrary to reason. Whatever be the origin of any being, or quality, or mode of being, the will of God can render it eternal, or permit it still to be. But sin is not a being; it consists in the absence of holiness, as darkness consists in the absence of light; if, therefore, it is a purpose of God to withhold the light of holiness from an impenitent sinner, he still remains unalterably a sinner.
That sin, abstractly considered, can ever come to an end, is Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.
an absurdity; a sinful action once committed, continues unalterably sinful; to suppose the contrary, is to suppose sin can become holiness, or at least that mere distance of time or duration can change it into innocence. Just as rationally might we conceive of a period in eternity, when the purity of holy angels, and “the righteousness of the saints,” should become sin ! Were we left on this subject to the mere deductions of reason, we should be constrained from the unchangeable turpitude of sin to infer its everlasting punishment. But, waving this, we ask the adversary, what becomes of the glory of redeeming grace if we admit the principle contained in his objection? The gospel derives its chief glory from the display which it affords of the Divine perfections. The love of God in giving his own Son to suffer the just for the unjust ; his avenging justice in requiring at our Redeemer's hands full satisfaction for the sins of his redeemed; his wisdom in framing a plan which unites so many and amazing extremes; heaven and earth, and the whole universe, are described as pouring forth one eternal acclamation of praise to God and the Lamb for this unparalleled discovery of the Divine glory! But what is the meaning of all this admiration, this rapture, if sin, by a necessary law of its nature, and misery its offspring, must come to an end? That which has the principle of its destruction in its own nature needs no destroyer. The evil that must cease of itself, needs no exertion of the Divine arm to remove it, nor any positive interposition of any Divine attribute. This principle then renders the atonement of Christ needless; it charges the justice of God with cruelty in requiring the Saviour's awful sufferings for his people; it imputes folly to the ONLY WISE, who devised and fulfilled the plan. Thus, these men, not content to do violence to the word of God, attack his
sacred name, and, under pretence of vindicating, strip the Divine character of every glory that renders it venerable and lovely.
To parry this reproach, it may be replied by Universalists, that the plan of redemption is necessary as a means for the destruction of sin and misery; that, therefore, its glory is not at all affected by the argument in question ; that God having determined to abolish sin, death, and misery, as a glorious end, devised the gospel plan of universal redemption as his glorious expedient to accomplish that end. This explanation leaves all the abominable consequences before exposed, still hanging to their argument. They affirm that because sin and misery did not "originate in God, they must come to an end.” Necessity forecloses all means and expedients. If sin must of necessity have ceased, the curse of the law and the claim of Divine justice must have ceased with it; no atonement whatever could
have been expedient or possible; sin could not have been an evil requiring or admitting of atonement. It is easy to see how short a step lies between this ground and the gulf of Deism !
III. The next objection which we notice, is taken from those parts of the holy scriptures which contain the rule of judgment:
Every man shall receive according to his works." Endless misery is supposed entirely inconsistent with the exact distribution of punishments : “That punishment which is eternal being infinite, the least sin will incur infinite punishment, and the greatest can receive no more. The doctrine of the eternal punishment of sin, therefore, levels all distinctions of guilt.” Such a consequence, if it were just, would indeed form a serious objection to our doctrine ; but it is not just. That there are different degrees of punishment in the eternal world, as well as different degrees of suffering in the present life, the scriptures clearly reveal. To say with one of the advocates of universal salvation,* “ that the difference in the degree of the pain of the damned will scarcely be thought worthy to be brought into the account, when the circumstance of endless duration is annexed to it,” is contrary both to reason and experience. Earthly sufferings differ much more in degree than in duration ; between a slight uneasiness which but just turns the scale of happiness against the sufferer, and an intense agony which racks the whole frame, there is an infinite number of degrees of suffering. Now will any man affirm, that a torturing convulsion of twenty years duration would not amount to a greater sum of misery than a slight uneasiness experienced for the same length of time? Supposing the sufferings in both cases to be penal, and exactly proportioned to the respective demerits of the patients, can it be said without absurdity that the equal length of their punishment abolishes all distinction of guilt and places them on a level? The sum of actual misery endured by the former in one hour, might be greater than the aggregate of uneasiness experienced by the latter in the whole term. Consequently, the vindictive justice of God would punish these two sufferers in an exact proportion to their respective demerits. The same obvious reasoning applies to the punishments of a future state; and the application is within the compass of the most common capacity.
But this objection, like all the other grounds of support taken by this error, not only sinks at the touch of truth, but involves the objector in ruinous consequences.
“ If the different degrees of the misery of the damned be unworthy of notice, and do not sufficiently distinguish them according to their several degrees of demerit; then the different degrees in the happiness of the saints in heaven do not suffi
ciently distinguish them according to their characters; therefore, on the same principle, we ought to deny the endless duration of the happiness of heaven, as well as of the misery of hell; and to say that the difference in the degree of happiness of the blessed in heaven will scarcely be thought worthy to be brought into the account when the circumstance of endless duration is annexed to it; that if the happiness of heaven be of endless duration, the happiness of all the inhabitants of that world will be equal, which is inconsistent with the declarations of Scripture, that all shall be rewarded according to their works; and that, therefore, the doctrine of endless happiness is not true. But the falsity of this conclusion is evident to all; and equally false is the conclusion from the like premises, that the punishment of the damned is not endless.” *
G. W.J (To be continued.)
FOR TUE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE.
UNITARIANS AND TRINITARIANS DO NOT ADOPT THE SAME
It has long been remarked, in the schools of philosophy, that it is in vain for two literary disputants to commence an argu. ment without previously agreeing on some common established principles, on which, as axioms, they might rest the superstructure of their respective reasonings. If they begin their contest without thus previously clearing the ground, they may naturally be expected to be soon involved in difficulties and darkness; and, instead of bringing their argumentation to a happy and desirable issue, they will only have the effect of confusing each other, and will, in consequence, most probably terminate their dispute with fiery rage and personal abuse.
We think the contest which exists between Trinitarians and Unitarians has not unfrequently exhibited an aspect of this kind. Th two classes of disputants have by no means, as yet, agreed upon any common standard to which they might appeal for the truth or falsity of the opinions which they severally support. To the common Bible, a translation of which is used in all the English Protestant reformed churches, they each, it is true, pretend to appeal in testimony of the truth of their doctrines; but, we hesitate not to assert, that the appeal on the part of one of these classes is merely a pretence.
Trinitarians take the common translation of the scriptures, made in the reign of James VI. of Scotland, and I. of England,
* Edwards against Chauncey, page 129.
with a very few trifling verbal exceptions, to be the test and standard of their orthodoxy. They have no hesitation in declaring that this translation gives, on the whole, a very correct exhibition of the doctrines and sentiments contained in the original whence it is taken. But this Unitarians will by no means admit; they have continually some old manuscripts ready, from the musty pages of which, they pretend to be able to correct every passage of this translation, which appears in any way to contradict, or bear hard upon, their particular doctrines. Every part of this document, however, which seems to favour their views, is, in their estimation, correct and orthodox; but every portion whieh goes against them is a misconstruction, a false reading, or an interpolation. Thus do they, while they pretend to hold the same Bible with Trinitarians, construct and modify a Bible to suit themselves--the Trinitarian Bible, indeed, they hold in their hands, but it is not from this source that they really draw their opinions--it is to that modified Bible, which they have constructed from old manuscripts, correct readings, and by throwing out interpolations, that they appeal for the truth and orthodoxy of their doctrines.
How is it possible then, while things proceed thus, that Unia tarians and Trinitarians can be brought to harmonize? They may contend as long as they please, but never, until some common standard of orthodoxy can be agreed on between them, shall they be able to bring their disputes to a happy termination. While one class appeals to one standard, and the other to another, both may appear right according to their respective standards; so long, therefore, as they remain in this state, they cannot possibly convince each other, nor overcome each other's prejudices. They may make a truce, and live in peace and quietness with each other, but separate and distinct in their opinions and doctrines they must necessarily remain.
But, we think, that since Trinitarians do not hesitate to avow before the world the Bible whence their religious tenets are drawn, Unitarians should be equally candid in submitting their real Bible to the public. Why should they keep back from their frail erring brethren of mankind any of those deep and precious discoveries, which, by their great erudition and unwearied research they have been enabled to make? Why do they not discard altogether that unholy Bible, which has been so long used in the Christian church, and adopt publicly and openly their own immaculate version, so free from all false readings, misconstructions, and interpolations; and, on that account, so much better calculated to lead men into a knowledge of divine truth. What have they to fear if truth be on their side? Trinitarians have suffered persecution and martyrdom in support of their Bible, and we do not suppose that Unitarians would wish to be