Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the redemption and salvation of man, (though more unlimited expressions could not have been used,) in a limited sense. And indeed there is some plausibility in the argument; for the meaning of all words must be governed, in a great measure, by the subject to which they are applied, and it cannot be rationally believed that the Holy Ghost would extend the idea of redemption, or salvation, whatever language may have been used, beyond the counsel and purpose of God.

Thus when we read of Christ's giving himself a ransom for all, that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, that he tasted death for every man, to reconcile all things unto himself, that in Christ shall all be made alive &c. it is said by Calvinists that it only means all the elect ; that is, every man of the elect ; but they have no idea that any of these texts ought to be applied to the nonelect; for, say they, “The Epistles were all addressed particularly to believers, and when they speak of the purchased possession, have no reference to unbelievers, especially the nonelect !” Hence the danger of laying false premises ; for however correct the reasoning may be, the data being groundless, the conclusion must be false. So long therefore as Calvinists are permitted to maintain this ground, it will be in vain to bring forward the most unequivocal and unlimited testimony in favor of Universal Salvation. Such testimony will never make any impression on the mind of a Calvinist, so long as he thinks his ground-work is tenable ; for it is very easy to say that all such testimony applies only to present believers, or at farthest to all the elect! Whereas, only change the position, and consider al moral beings the objects of mercy, all equally the subjects of grace, and, as it respects the will and purpose of God, the heirs of salvation, and the same language will, at least, with as much, if not more, propriety, apply to all mankind indiscriminately. For as it is admitted that those equivocal terms ought not to be construed so as to embrace any thing more than is embraced in the purpose of God, to which they are applied, so, it is presumed that it will be admitted that they ought not to be construed so as to mean any thing less.

The counsel of God will undoubtedly stand, and truth will finally prevail. Hence let men profess, preach, or believe, what they will in time, it cannot alter the truth of eternity. A man's conduct, as well as his happiness, may depend much on his faith, as long as he remains in an imperfect and unfixed state, but no longer ; and even in this state it is the truth only which can make him free. If the truth of God be in our favor, the sooner we know it the better ; but if the truth of God be a

as

gainst us, the longer we can be left to believe in that which is in our favor, the better ; happy indeed would it be for us if we could believe in it eternally ! For if the truth be a. gainst us, nothing but falsehood can be in our favor : but “ If GOD be for us who can be against us?” Therefore if the doctrine of endless misery be a truth, it is undoubtedly true upon Calvinistic ground; for nothing can be more absurd than to say that God has undertaken to do th which will never be done ; or to say that he ever had any thoughts of mercy, and even sent his Son to redeem those, from whoin mercy will be eventually withdrawn. If it be not the will of God to save all mankind, i. e. all moral nature indiscriminately, from sin and conse, quent misery, there is no power in the universe which can save them; but if it be the will of God to save all men,

above stated, then, all the powers of earth and hell cannot prevail against it.

We will therefore take the liberty to inquire, seriously and candidly, What reason have we to believe, or what evidence have we that God has not equal thoughts of mercy towards all men ? It is often stated, from what authority it is difficult to determine, that, after man had sinned, God was under no obligation to exercise mercy towards him ! But was God ever under

any obligation to man? If so, that obligation must have originated in himself, from his own nature, and from the circumstance of his bringing man into existence, and not from any thing which man could have done. And if there were an obligation existing in God towards his creature man, while in a state of innocence, in sonsequence of his being his Creator and Father, which obligation existed entirely independent of, and anterior to the actions of the creature (and there is a horrid cruelty in a contrary supposition) could that obligation be destroyed by the actions of his lependent offspring ? Certainly not ; however disobedient they night have been. For the disobedience of a child never destroy an obligation on the part of the father, which obligation Hid not in the least degree depend on the obedience of the child For its existence. In order to discover more fully the impropriety of supposing that man could by wicked works tota'ly destroy che love and mercy of God towards him (which love, by the w way, will surely punish him for his iniquity) and also that we may see svhat dishonor it reflects on the character of Deity, to suppose hat he could bring creatures into existence ; knowing at the ame time that their existence would be a source of endless misery to them, let us carry the mind back, if possible, to the idea nd time of creation. Nonentity, certainly, could not offend. Negative happiness, that is, a state of insensibility, is certainly

can

preferable to a state of positive misery. All the actions of moral nature must have been foreseen by him who is infinite in knowledge, even before moral and finite nature was endued with individual existence. Had not man been created, man certainly could not have been miserable. And the misery, as well as happiness, of finite beings, notwithstanding they may be consequences connected with, and in a great measure dependent on, their own actions, in a subordinate sense, yet, they are also consequences connected with, and equally dependent on, the acts of God in creation and providence.

The above propositions need no proof ; first, because it is conceived that they are selfevident, and secondly, it is presumed they will be admitted.

How then is it possible to conceive that a Being, infinitely good, infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful, could bring into existence millions of huinan creatures, or even one man, who was to be the father of millions, knowing at the time, that the greater part, or even any part, would finally rue their existence, to the wasteless ages of eternity, without one glimpse of hope, in remediless wo and misery! It makes no diference, in this argument, as it respects the character of God, what makes the creature endlessly iniserable ; for it must be evident to the smallest capacity that no finite act can produce an infinite consequence; hence if endless misery exists it must be the effect of an infinite or eternal

Can it be any more derogatory to the character of God to say that he will make man endlessly miserable pursuant to an absolute, irrevokable, and eternal decree, then it is to say that he has made man, and endued him with powers and faculties, by which he will irrecoverably destroy himself ?

The proposition on which this argument rests, is, that no being, human or divine, can do an act, knowing at the time all the consequences, without designing those consequences ; which proposition must be proved: false before the force of the argument can be evaded. This argument will hold equally good when applied to man ; so far as the consequences of all our actions are foreseen, they are designed. It is true, there may be subordinate conse

ences whith have but very little connexion with the ultimate end or design ; which consequences may be very opposite, in their nature, to the ultimate end. As for instance, a man may find it necessary to erect a new edifice on the site of an old building, which he finds it expedient to take down. His ultimate design is to build a new house'; but, in taking down the old one, who is authorized to say that he does not equally design to make a dust!

cause.

man.

But to return to our subject. If to create with a design to make happy, a design to bless, be an act of love, an act of goodness ; to create with a design to make miserable, with a design to curse, must be considered an act of hatred, an act of cruelty! What a character, then, does that doctrine give to Deity, which necessarily implies that God created man with both these designs ; or with the knowledge of both as the final consequences, which, it is presumed, we have fully demonstrated, implies the same thing ?

To punish eternally, or to cease to be gracious (when it would have been as easy not to have brought into existence,) under the name of justice, is horrid beyond all description !

Such kind of justice would certainly degenerate into positive cruelty were it to be put in practice, as far as it might be, by

What should we think of that parent who should leave his dependent offspring to perish in the open field, or to be a prey to ravenous beasts, without any other pretence, in point of justification, than the disobedience of the child ? Let conscience and the feelings of a good parent give the answer. And furthermore. Let us be exceedingly careful that we do not attribute any thing to the character of God which we might justly condemn in ourselves !

But it may be said, if God has sentenced man to eternal death, we are bound to believe it ; and no one has a right to call in question the character of the Almighty. It is granted. And when we are taught of God that the above proposition is true our mouths will be stopped ; but until more than human testimony can be produced in its favor we must withhold our belief.

The divine testimony reads thus ;. “ In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But it is no where said in the Bible that this death should be endless misery, or that man should be endlessly miserable in consequence of sin. The consequences of the first transgerssion, as described by God himself, fall infinitely short of endless misery. See Gen. iii. 16–19. Turn to the text and read it at large. Is here any evidence in favour of endless misery ? Not the least intimation of it. And surely we might reasonably expect to find it here if any where.

where. And all the consequences here pointed out are earthly and temporal; continuing, how long ? Till the creature returns to the dust from whence he was taken ! Here are the direful consequences of the . first transgression, as pointed out by God himself ; bitter indeed, but falling infinitely short of endless misery. And if we consider those consequences as figurative of the more corroding sorrows of the mind, yet still they must be equally limited, « Till

thou return unto the ground”-till thou art brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus" till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” See Matt. xxii. 39. And if endless misery was not attached to the first transgression, as the consequence of sin, it will be difficult to prove that sin can ever produce such an effect; and, were it not for exceeding our present limits, it might be easily shown that all the evidence which is produced to prove endless sin and consequent misery, or an eternity of suffering in consequence of the sins committed in time, fall as infinitly short of proving this doctrine as the passage in Genesis, alluded to above.

We do not pretend that the idea, that the justice of God requires the eternal death of the sinner, is altogether peculiar to Calvinism, yet it is a distinguishing mark and fundamental prin ciple of that doctrine. But Calvinism embraces another idea almost, if not quite, as derogatory to the character of God as the one we have considered ; that is, the idea of particular election and predestination to eternal life, which, as generally taught and understood by Calvinists, necessary implies a reprobation to eternal death.

In order that we may have a just view of the Calvinistic idea. of election and predestination, let us try, if possible, to get over the cruel idea of the creature's forfeiting all claim to the divine favor by one transgression, notwithstanding he was « made subject to vanity ;” let us not stagger at the unnatural idea, That all relation between father and children was dissolved, in conse

quence of transgression on the part of the children, and let us admit, That the father was no longer under obligation to his off. spring in consequence of his being the only means of bringing them into existence; I say, let us for the moment, admit all these absurdities for the sake of viewing the second fundamental error of Calvinism in its true color. These things being admitted, what follows. « All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." “ The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all

mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression.” Hence all stood in equal need of mercy, and all equally dependent on their Creator. And if all claim was lost,* all right and title to eternal life forfeited, then certainly no one individual, or any set of individuals had any claim, right,

* We are willing to admit thaithe creature had no claim by his own merits; if he had any claim, that claim existed in the goot'ness of the Creator, and not in the merit

of the creature.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »