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"And our obedience should be like theirs. Indeed, all acceptable obedience, in this respect, is like theirs. It is the fruit of love." But this point will be more fully examined in a future number.
The next quotation on which it is thought proper to bestow the labour of criticism, is in the following words:
"How it can be honourable to God to set aside the sanctions of his word, and to represent him as treating the righteous and the wicked alike, it is very difficult for me to conceive."
It is certainly unfortunate for a person, who would be thought to act consistently, that he has embraced a system for which not merely consistency, but truth must be sacrificed. That this reproof may be felt, you will please remember, that in the ninth letter, it is thus written :
"It is said that men receive in this world, all the punishment they deserve; and therefore cannot be justly punished in the world to come."
Now, Sir, I beseech you by the fear of having no uniform character, in the event of withholding the information, to say how you can represent us as insisting on a punishment according to desert in this world, and at the same time setting aside the sanctions of the Divine law? In what part of the divine law is the threatening of endless misery appended to the violation of its commands? "He that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully." You represent us as setting aside the sanctions of God's law, while your own concession denies the truth of the charge. The community of which you are a member will expect a reply.
But another remark waits for introduction to this subject. You have "set aside the sanctions of the divine law" by the most unqualified declaration, that
a man may sin as with a cart-rope ninety-nine years and eleven months, repent and believe as you bid him, and ascend to immediate glory, and neither suffer for the demerits of sin in this world, nor in the next; while a youth of twenty, comparatively innocent, may die prematurely, without your repentance, or your belief, and welter in torments while God exists. Does this avowal harmonize with other declarations, to give you a uniform character?
I will now call your attention once more to my third quotation from your Letters.-No man of common sense does believe it-no one can believe it, and were it not a forlorn hope, even you would not dare to make the assertion. Not only is the assumption viewed with pity by every man who knows the workings of his own heart, in the strong desire for happiness, but every man of any good degree of information, gives his dissenting voice to its every conclusion. It recognizes the principle, that a belief in the tenet of endless misery, ensures a state of future happiness, and that whoever doubts this opinion, has lost his senses. I shall not here insist upon what you say relative to the sanctions of the divine law, for it is fair to presume, that you wish to vindicate the doctrine that the fear engendered by this darling tenet, inevitably leads to a life of virtue, acceptable to God, and ensuring his salvation. Is this the fact? That it is not, you shall have full proof from orthodox authority.-Your favourite commentator, Dr. Scott, gives his voice against your deduction, in the most explicit language
"And yet, facts undeniably show, that men venture on sin, even with the threatening of everlasting misery sounding in their ears; nay, with the trembling apprehension of it DISMAYING THEIR HEARTS; for divine, as well as human laws, are weak through the flesh, and with all their sanctions and barriers, are unable to affix boundaries to the swelling tide of human depravity."
On the present occasion, no other authority need be quoted. He has not given an opinion on the subject, he appeals to undeniable facts, and in whatever light you view it, the assertion which you make is proved untrue by those of your own creed. If Mr. Scott uttered a falsehood, which every man of observation knows he did not, this very circumstance as fully refutes your assertion, as the admission of his statement. Take which horn of this dilemma you deem most expedient; either destroys your premises and the conclusion they were intended to support vanishes into thin air.
In thus summarily destroying both your premises and conclusion, the pledge made in my two first statements has been redeemed. If the dreadful fears of future torment do not drive men to heaven, nor cause them to be virtuous, your reasons are at best, nugatory. Admitting your unsupported assertions respecting the conduct of professed Universalists to be true, (which would be a sweeping concession) your own principles would thereby gain nothing. Even such a wholesale admission would bring us merely on a level; a small step, indeed, towards the establishment of your tenets. But it is yet to be proved that the effects of a belief in the final holiness and happiness of all men, leads to the same HORRID IMMORALITIES as shall yet be fastened on those of your creed, by the most unquestioned and unquestionable authority.
I shall close this number by a brief survey of the nondescript argument found in the last paragraph of your first letter.
"What motive can you have for embracing the doctrine of universal salvation? If it be true, you have nothing to fear from rejecting it; but if it be false, you have every thing to fear from embracing it. Disbelieving the doctrine can do you no harm; but believing it may do you infinite injury."
To this question it is answered, because the belief in this doctrine gives peace and joy; and because we who believe, enter into rest, by being satisfied that he without whom a sparrow falls not to the ground, is fully able, and will finally bring into the one fold, all the erring children of men, who are of more value than many sparrows. The ifs and buts which follow the question, are too contemptible quibbles for sober investigation.
If this apology for an argument be any thing more or less than a bar to inquiry, and a bait for hypocrites, I will confess my inability to comprehend it. If it should prove true-it is of no possible consequence to doubt it, although truth is allowed to be the first point of inquiry. The belief of a lie is therefore preferable to a belief of the truth, unless the truth should happen to be in orthodox hands. From such subterfuges, such hiding places for distressed argument, such sublimated nonsense, let every man who has independence of mind, turn in disgust.
To Rev. Joel Hawes,—Hartford.
SIR-It is a needless, as it would certainly be an irksome task to follow you through the wilderness of unsupported assertions, bold assumptions, and sophistical deductions which you have made. No man of ingenuous feelings, but must condemn the method which you have adopted, to enlist the prejudices of the ignorant and the indolent, by a repetition of the cant language of the ill-informed and the malicious, and the
adoption of the most puerile reasoning, and self-destroying conclusions.
It has been said, that "inconsistency is a badge of error." The maxim appears self-evident-it is acknoweged by you in charging the Universalists with inconsistency, and with having "no uniform character." I shall examine a portion of your statements, by comparing them with others, and with scripture testimony. Should they bear this test, I am a false ac
You say "come what will in the future world, it will be well with the righteous." If by the righteous you mean the saved, as I presume you do, let us hear your ideas of salvation.
"If men are punished in the present life according to their deserts, then Universalism is false. This asserts that all men are saved. Saved from what? From nothing, if they endure the full penalty of the law. It is absurd to talk of men as experiencing salvation, after they have received all the punishment due for their offences, and have thereby fully satisfied the demands of divine justice. Free punishment and free salvation are totally inconsistent with each other. Which then will the Universalist assert? If he says all are freely saved, then none are punished as they deserve; and if not punished in this life, they may justly be in the life to come."
I have perused and re-perused this quotation for the purpose of rescuing it, if possible, from the ridiculous consequences which it clearly involves. According to my understanding, this paragraph imports, that if men are punished in this life according to their deserts, they must also be punished in the life to come; for you assert, that they can be saved "from nothing, if they endure the full penalty of the law." You again say, that those who are freely saved, are not "punished as they deserve; and if not punished in this life, they