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ishment of an impenitent sinner-with as much more aversion than universalists feel-as he is greater and more benevolent than man—it is not a strange inference that he would not suffer his children on earth to be tormented by the fear of future punishment. His goodness certainly would not suffer him to play thus with their apprehensions. He would soon relieve a suffering world from such a horrible delusion as the doctrine in question seems to the universalist.
What is the fact ? Has the doctrine of the endless punishment of unforgiven sin been disowned or favored by the Father of men ? Has it been uniformly rejected by Him on whose character it is said to reflect most unhappily? And have the generations of men lived in happy ignorance of this cruel delusion ? And was it reserved for some vile misanthrope to broach the false and pernicious sentiment as late as our own century ? The doctrine of the eternal condemnation of the impenitent sinner has been more or less distinctly believed in every age of the world. Examine the tenets of the principal systems of religion that have prevailed among men, and you find a distinct avowal of belief in future punishment; in some, of endless punishment. Examine the dictates of conscience and the natural apprehensions of men. Do they declare that no punishment awaits the sinner beyond the grave? Their unwarped verdict accords with the Bible. They teach men to expect future wo. They suggest “a fearful looking for of judgment.” It is not till men have been schooled out of their original impressions by patient effort that they deny the doctrine of future punishment, except perhaps, in the case of those who have been reared under the influence of erroneous belief, in whose breasts veneration for parental wishes and established prejudice may be expected to control the natural suggestions of the heart. The most of universalists have held originally the belief which they now reject. Even their testimony once concurred with the teachings of unprejudiced conscience.
Before the coming of Christ the doctrine of future and endless punishment prevailed among Jews and Pagans. This is admitted by Dr. Hartley a zealous defender of universal salvation; who believed it to be a general tradition, and who admits that it has been “the doctrine of the Christian world ever since, some very few persons excepted." (See Dr. Hawes's Tract on Universalism, p. 3.) Why is it the deep seated sentiment of the mind that sin Vol. XII. No. 31.
must be punished hereafter. This conviction, as ancient as the world, whether we trace it to tradition or to the natural suggestions of the mind, comes from God. If it be a false sentiment, how can its existence and prevalence be reconciled with the alleged goodness of the Lord ?
The doctrine of future and endless punishment has been most distinctly believed by those who have enjoyed the instructions of inspired prophets and teachers. The men who have been authorized by divine inspiration to teach the way of salvation, have conveyed the belief that this doctrine is founded in truth. Have prophets and apostles then taught what they were not instructed to teach? Were they commissioned to make known the doctrines of universalism, and have they taught the opposite doctrines so distinctly, that the whole christian world “ some very few persons excepted,” have been grievously misled? Was it incompetency, or dishonesty, that made Christ and the apostles teachers of error? Teachers of error they were in fact, if universalism be true—for their instructions have established the belief that sin will be punished forever.
Will it be said that they were incompetent teachers, that while they believed the truth of universalism, they were not able to defend and explain it to the satisfaction of their hearers, and that in spite of their most vigorous exertions the prejudices of the world remained unshaken? If the defenders of universalism assumed this position, and thus claim for their leaders more talent than fell to the lot of the Saviour and his apostles, how will they vindicate the goodness of God? Why did not a benevolent Deity raise up in former ages prophets and apostles who could teach universalism as distinctly and intelligibly as Balfour and Ballou ? Why was the valuable discovery that revelation teaches universalism postponed to our own time? Why was not the first promulgation of Christianity entrusted to men who would perform their work in a less bungling manner than incompetent apostles are supposed to have done? The same benignant Providence that has blessed the world with the instructions of modern preachers of universalism, could have easily raised up men of equal talents in the first age of Christianity.
Will it be said that the prevalence of our doctrine is to be traced to dishonesty in the first teachers of Christianity ? That divine goodness made ample provision for the promulgation of the truth, and that the agents to whom the work was committed, were not true to their trust ? This is a grave charge. Were Christ and his apostles base deceivers ? Did they conceal the messages they were sent to teach, and substitute doctrines perfectly at variance with universalism? What motive could have prompted them to withhold the sentiment that sin will meet with no future punishment, and teach in its stead the stern doctrine of endless misery ? It is impossible to assign any reason for a measure like this. Why did they persevere in teaching error when they gained nothing but persecution, and when they had only to announce the welcome doctrine, that sin will not be punished hereafter, to become the favorites of the world ? Surely they were not dishonest teachers. They did believe what they taught. Did they then receive their instructions from God? Did he impart the doctrines that have prevailed in the world ? The universalist says the doctrine is not true. Has the Almighty then sanctioned error? If so, where is his benevolence ?
If he has not sanctioned the teachings of the apostles, why did he not send more successful teachers—men who could teach universalisin as distinctly as modern preachers do?
The God of nature may withhold some of the discoveries of science, for centuries, without incurring the suspicion of a want of benevolence. It has not been essential to the welfare of the world to know, from the beginning of time, whether the earth or the sun is the centre of our planetary system, or how vessels may be propelled by steam, or railroads constructed. But the truths of religion are essential to our welfare. The universalist claims to go far beyond others in his conceptions of divine goodness; he contends that his doctrine is the needed remedy for human misery. Will he explain then why it is that a merciful God entrusted this remedy to agents, who were so incompetent or so unfaithful as to substitute for this blessing the poison of error and torture a suffering world with the doctrine of future punishment? Why divine benevolence did not impart sooner the vaunted specific ? Why the doubts and fears of men were not removed entirely fifty centuries ago ?
It is the favorite representation of the universalist, “ If God be endowed with benevolence, he desires the salvation of all men. If omnipotent, he is able to save all. The doctrine of endless misery denies then either the power, or the benevolence of the Almighty ?" Not to dwell upon the sophistical nature of this argument, we would contend that it may be retorted upon the universalist. If universalism be the grand remedy for the errors and miseries of mankind, the benevolence of God must have inclined him to make it known in every past age,
and over the whole earth. If God be omnipotent, he is able to execute his desires—then he must have made all men, in all ages, universalists. The recent origin of universalism, by this sort of argument, disproves either the benevolence or the power of the Almighty.
2. But universalism conflicts still more decidedly with the benevolence of God. It strips bis character of all clemency.
Clemency consists in the remission of deserved punishment. It is no clemency to remit punishment that is unmerited; this is mere justice. Now, what deserved penalty is remitted by the Almighty, according to universalism ?
Is it future and endless punishment ? This the system denies to have been our desert. This penalty, we are told, is unrighteously severe, and cannot constitute the penalty of the divine law. It cannot be contended then that it is clemency to save us from a doom which we have never deserved, and to which we have never been exposed.
We are not to be told here, that Christ died to save sinners. Christ did not die to save men from undeserved perdition. The atonement must not be brought in thus as a mere makeweight in the system of the universalist. If it were uprighteous severity in God to threaten eternal ruin as the penalty of the law, it were no mercy to provide an atonement by which to save us from such ruin. This were cruel mockery, not divine compassion. The Son of God would not trifle with men by claiming the merit of surprising clemency, when to have failed to save us would have proved the sheerest injustice. How then is the clemency of God displayed ? From what does divine mercy save men ?
Universalists are shocked at the doctrine of future punishment. They labor hard to explain away those passages of Scripture which announce a future judgment and the final condemnation of sinners. They assert that no punishment is to be feared after death. They admit with us that God has expressed for our race the most adorable compassion. They, as well as ourselves, believe the frequent and strong professions of clemency which the Lord has recorded in the sacred volume. We can unite in extolling the mercy of God. They will exclaim with us, in the liveliest admiration “ God is love."
When we admire the clemency of Heaven, we mean that clemency which saves us from the woes of hell. We adore the grace that can rescue lost sinners from a perdition which they deserve. We can exclaim with rapture, " thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” We can look upward, with observing angels, to the stupendous height, and downward to the unsearchable depths of that love which ransomed guilty men from the woes of an eternal imprisonment. We behold here, as we imagine, a topic that ought to call forth the grateful raptures of every heart.
According to the system of universalism, however, our raptures are wholly unnecessary. As there is no endless perdition, there can be no future salvation. Suppose it were possible to prove that we have not been ransomed from eternal ruin. We cannot blot from the Scriptures the glowing records of divine goodness. The universalist cannot deny. wbile he receives the Bible, that we are said to be under the highest obligations to the Son of God, that the clemency of heaven is said to have made unparalleled exertions to save our race—that God claims from us the most rapturous gratitude for the actual exercise of surprising mercy.
Where is this clemency seen? From what does the Son of God save men ?
It must be only from evils in this world, if we credit the assertions of the universalist. From what earthly evils does the Son of God save men ?
Let it be recollected that it is a doctrine of universalism, that men suffer in this world according to their deserts, and thus endure the penalty of the law. It is not from punishment on earth then that we are saved by divine mercy. Punishment we are said to suffer literally and fully. Universalism makes God as unrelenting as the severest task-master. According to this system, he inflicts without mitigation and without mercy the entire penalty of transgression. He is held up to our view as an almighty Shylock, who stands over the sinner with unyielding sternness, unwilling to abate in the slightest degree the demands of justice. We know that universalism professes to regard Christ as a Saviour, but, at the same time, with glaring contradiction, it avows that we are punished as much as we deserve in this life. Here then is no room for the services of a Saviour. We cannot be punished by justice and saved by mercy at the same time. The convict, who serves out his time of