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We are not aware that Dr. T. Southwood Smith has advanced any thing essentially new, in support of the position he labours to establish. This indeed is hardly to be expected. As the argument is altogether hypothetical, when once stated, it admits of no additions, and must present itself very nearly in the same light to every mind. It is however an argument peculiarly susceptible of that sort of specious decoration, which serves well to conceal the flagrant temerity of its assumptions. Dr. S. avails himself of this advantage, with perhaps as much facility as any of his predecessors in the same field. He writes, moreover, in a pleasing style, and the volume conveys an impression of the mild and amiable temper of the Author, as well as of that kind of contemplative benevolence, which, though it is often rather cheap, and somewhat inefficient, goes, in a book, as far, with the mass of readers, towards recommending the opinions of the writer, as the most substantial reasoning.
We might complain of a great deal of somewhat gross misrepresentation occurring in different parts of this volume; but, as it is apparent that the Author views the subject altogether under a mistaken aspect, we are quite willing to substitute the term misapprehension for misrepresentation: we readily acquit him of ill design and perverse exaggeration. Were it not, however, that we cannot retail sentiments so offensively profane, we might for a moment assume the language of Hume, or of Rousseau, and remark upon that doctrine of Future Punishment which Dr. S. himself admits, in very nearly the same terms that he employs, when he speaks of the common opinion on the subject. The existence of Moral Evil, with its consequences as implied in the Christian System, is a tremendous fact, which will supply inexhaustible materials of odious and plausible railing to all who shall choose, for this purpose, to stand upon sceptical ground. But nothing can be more inconsiderate, disingenuous, or unworthy, in the professed friends of Revelation, than to infect the weapons of religious controversy, with a poison drawn from the same source.
As to Dr. Smith's reasoning, it may indeed appear perfectly conclusive to those who are willing to admit certain leading positions on which the whole is made to rest, as unquestionable truths. To us, this assumed ground-work of the argument appears to indicate a total misconception of almost every point implicated in the question; particularly the Moral perfections of God-the true nature of Evil-the actual state of the human system-and the purport of the Redemption proclaimed in the Gospel. We must, for the sake of brevity, reduce under two or three heads, the notes we have made on almost every page of this volume. But, first, we shall beg to present the subject to
the reader, under the aspect in which it appears as a matter of practical concern, and separated from all uncertain speculation. Thus viewed, it seems to us hardly to demand any discussion beyond the plain statement of the case.
Let us then suppose, that we hear men address their fellowmen on the subject of religion, who, so far from pretending to promulgate their own particular opinions, distinctly profess themselves to be charged with a special message to mankind from God. Under those external circumstances which designate their engagement in the discharge of this peculiar function, we hear them announcing, in unequivocal terms, and with the most solicitous expatiation, the news that, even should men live and die in cordial rebellion against their Maker, and finally reject his proffered mercy, there is yet in store for them an infallible hope of eventual and endless felicity. Now, surely, the infinite importance and the very serious nature of such a declaration, demand from these bold men, a distinct and satisfactory reply to the reasonable inquiry, "By what authority 66 say ye these things ?"
Let the subject be viewed on every side. It is obvious and unquestionable, that the revelation of the Divine will, given to the world by Jesus Christ, is prominently a promise of immortal life and happiness to those who shall repent and believe. So far, there is no controversy. Christianity is eminently and distinctively an announcement of glad tidings to a certain class of mankind, namely, to the Good; not those who are such when they hear it, but those who become such in embracing and obeying it. The question, however, at present in dispute, is this: Do the written instructions which form the rule of that embassage which is committed from age to age to the ministers of religion, contain any secondary or provisional promise for the encouragement of the finally impenitent and unbelieving? Do they include what might with strict propriety be termed, A Gospel for the Damned? In a case like the present, where to attempt a formal answer would seem like offering an insult to the common sense of the reader, all that can be done, is to vary the terms of the inquiry. As a matter of fact, then, we might ask, Have we evidence of any kind, from which it may be gathered, that it was the custom of our Lord, and of his Apostles, to do, what is ordinarily done in the present day by certain persons calling themselves Christian ministers,-that is, explicitly, unequivocally, and with laboured assiduity of argument, to proclaim this second Gospel to those who might think good to reject their first Gospel? It is clearly not enough to say, that our Lord and his Apostles, in speaking of the perdition of ungodly men, employed terms which may possibly be so interpreted, as not to imply an absolute contra
diction to this doctrine of the ultimate felicity, as well of those who reject, as of those who believe, the Gospel. Were even this proved, (which however is not,) the utmost that could be inferred from it, would be, that the ministers of Christ should continue to use terms of like ambiguity. How many volumes soever of "Illustrations," may yet be published, they can never destroy the propriety of the plain question, which we reiterate: Did those Preachers do what these Preachers do? We may set the subject, as a matter of fact, in the light of a direct comparison. We remember to have seen a man, calling himself a Christian missionary, surrounded by a crowd in the marketplace of a country town, to whom he expounded, what he conceived to be, the way of salvation proposed by God to men. But then, lest, as it should seem, any class of his hearers should go away out of humour with the performance, or the performer, he proceeded, with the air of one who is delivering what he considers the principal point of a message, to expatiate upon this "good hope laid up in heaven," for all who should not be disposed to comply with the offer contained in the former part of his harangue. Our readers well know, that we state here no solitary or remarkable instance; this is the ordinary practice of certain teachers. Here, then, is distinctly a double promise of eternal life. And, to justify this formal delivery of it, it is evidently essential to prove, that the commission to preach the Gospel, in virtue of which its ministers assume a tone of authority, under the character of teachers sent from God, does explicitly contain this double promise.
It will be granted, that whatever license may be conceded to men in their private capacity, to dote about things of which they know nothing, those who are, by their own plea, the mere administrators of a testament, and the servants of a sovereign and absent Lord, do, at their peril, add to or diminish aught from that precise charge with which they are entrusted. The subject, therefore, to the whole extent of its practical bearing, is comprehended in this same question: Has our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose hands are the keys of heaven and hell, charged his ministers to solace the minds of his enemies, who, in their last breath, declare they will not have Him to reign over them, with this hope of good things to come?
"He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he "that believeth not, shall be damned." This is the extent of that formal commission with which our Lord invested his servants, immediately before his ascension." Except ye
repent, ye shall all likewise perish." This, it seems, is the snm of that proclamation which the first Preacher of the Gospel made to the impenitent. "Wo unto you, Scribes and "Wo unto thee, Chorazin; wo unto thee,
"Bethsaida!" Here is an unalleviated announcement of misery. Whatever sense may be forced upon the term everlasting, it matters not to our present business; the passages in which it occurs, are simple threatenings, without condition, without ulterior provision. When the Jews at Antioch rejected the offers of the Gospel, did Paul humanely assure them that their case, even supposing they continued in unbelief, though fearful, was not desperate? But, if such an assurance is proper in like circumstances now, why was it not proper then? Thus he addressed them: "Behold, ye despisers, and "wonder and perish:"-" Seeing ye judge yourselves un"worthy of everlasting life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles." But the reader will excuse our multiplying of proofs, that the first preachers of the Gospel proclaimed ONE HOPE, and only one; and that when they addressed men under the supposition of their final unbelief, their message was a message of despair. We must, however, just remark, not only the entire want of that positive evidence, which might justify the publication of this hi-form Gospel, but the striking contrast observable between our Lord and his Apostles, on the one hand, and these modern preachers on the other, in style, and terms, and manner, when speaking of" the wrath to come." With the former, it is, indeed, a brief, but a bold and unhesitating, and especially, an unmixed declaration of terror: with the latter, if we might use a term the most descriptive we can think of, it is a sneaking apology for the introduction of an unpleasing topic, that must not be altogether omitted, and a hastening on to the doctrine, which, it is hoped, may suffice to dispel the ill-humour that may have been excited.
It must be remarked, that all those representations, so much insisted upon, which go to prove the superior moral tendency of the doctrine of Final Restitution, on the ground of its giving a more attractive idea of the Divine character, and of its being, as is pretended, in itself more credible, if well founded, would lead us the more confidently to expect, that a charge to publish it should be formally included in the commission to preach the Gospel. But no such formal or even implicit commission can be pretended. The conduct, therefore of the persons to whom these remarks apply, must, previous to any examination of the speculation in question, be considered as glaringly unauthorized and presumptuous.
We arrive then at that boundary of the subject, which includes the whole of our practical concern with it; and we are obliged to conclude, that the preachers of the final happiness of those who quit this state of probation without repentance, and withnot faith in the Gospel, are loading themselves with a responsibility as heavy and as fearful as it is possible for an account
able being to sustain. The Governor of the world has declared that there is no peace to the wicked: this is the whole of what he has declared concerning them. These persons, however, take upon them to proclaim the flagrant contradiction; "God "doth know, that in the End ye shall have peace." The Gospel of Christ is distinctly spoken of, as being a savour of death unto death to those who hear it and disobey. These men promise life and immortality, as infallibly to those who reject, as to those who believe. In a word, their language is essentially that of the first Deceiver, the cruel flattery is still the same: "Ye shall not surely die."
But another ground is taken, on which to justify the preaching of this supplementary Gospel,-this pretended codicil to the Testament of our Lord. It is said, "Although we cannot "profess to find in the instructions of the Master whose "servants we are, any express warrant for our conduct in this "behalf, yet, since under the guidance of a benign and en"lightened Philosophy, and by a chain of reasoning satisfactory "to ourselves, we have discovered this cheering Truth, shall
we hold our peace, and disguise our convictions? Shall we "not rather eagerly proclaim the comfortable persuasion, "which not only meets the wishes of an expansive benevolence, "but even affords to our own minds a more solid consolation "under the apprehension of Death and Judgement, than the ever "vacillating hope of personal Salvation? Why should not "the Christian Faith be improved, and beautified, by the "addition of an article, omitted indeed, we cannot tell why, "by its founder, but as plainly demonstrable, as it is pleasing " and benevolent?" Such, in effect, is the style in which man, who is of yesterday, and knoweth nothing, presumes to treat a Revelation, and a charge from the Most High. We might well be amazed, had not human arrogance long since exhausted surprise, and left nothing to be wondered at but the patience of Heaven.
But admitting, for the moment, (what is however by no means granted,) that this pretended reasoning is as satisfactory as, in the nature of the case, can be imagined, it can still afford no apology for the conduct upon which we animadvert. Christianity is distinguished from systems of philosophy, not merely by the circumstance that the assertions of the former are true, without mixture of error, while the principles of the latter are either false or uncertain; but principally in this, that being attended with an adequate verification of its origin, it demands, in every particular, a simple faith, having respect immediately to the Divine authority which is implicated in each individual proposition. It is not a mere publication of truth, but a requisition of religious belief; a claim upon the obedience of the