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"If universal salvation from all sin and misery be a natural production of an evil principle, the natural production of a contrary principle would be universal damnation in sin and misery; but if salvation from sin be the work of God, it ought not to be ascribed to the devil because it is done universally."
Sir, did the devil mean in the declaration, " Ye shall not surely die," to produce universal holiness or happiness? or has the effect actually took place? You think the saying could not come from the devil, because there is evil in all his operations, and so could not produce good. True—yet he could promise good; but let men and devils preach universal salvation from all sin and misery in their way to eternity, it never will produce the effect, nor will they give the least evidence that this is their design. Satan meant to lie to our first parents, and encourage sin and misery, which is the natural tendency of his doctrine. ,
To suppose Satan or any other being aims at universal holiness and happiness by encouraging men in sin, or disobedience, is highly preposterous. You say, "A contrary principle would be universal damnation in sin and misery." If there be any meaning in your assertion, it is this—that for God to give law to his creatures, and to threaten them with death in case of disobedience, tends to produce "universal damnation in sin and misery." We have mistaken the character of the devil for that of the Almighty. The soul that sinneth it shall die. The wages of sin is death. This is the language of Satan, and exhibits his character: Thou shalt not surely die. You shall have peace, though you walk in the imagination of your own heart. This, according to your statement, is the language of the Almighty. Thus you have corrected a very capital mistake that myself and many since the Christian apostacy have heedlessly run into. Not only will students in theology derive peculiar advantage by your improvement, but legislators will feel themselves much interested in the discovery: it will save them from annex
ing penalties or sanctions to laws, as they tend to encourage universal damnation in sin and misery.
You pretend to be at loss how to understand or apply this expression in the preface to my • sermon, viz.— "There is no greater folly than for a man to express anger and resentment because his religious sentiments are attacked." Sir, I have no doubt but you perfectly understand me, yet I much scruple whether you have made the application as you ought; had it been the case, it would greatly have altered the complexion of your epistle. So long as you can remember that uncommon and imperious resentment that marred your conduct on hearing my sermon about the old preacher, you will never hesitate about the matter to which the above remark has a more particular reference.
You go on to exculpate yourself from boasting that I was a coward, and dare not dispute with you; but why should you plead not guilty before you was charged with it? I scruple whether your argument to exonerate yourself is much to the purpose. You say you never saw me before; but is there no way that a man may use menacing language about another without seeing him? If you will call on me, I will endeavour to produce documents of a challenge from you since our meeting, though we have had no personal interview.
Please to examine also the eighth page of your epistle. I will pay only a moment's attention to the method you take to prove me to be a man dishonest, and destitute of rectitude, or paying too much regard to slander. Your words are, "If it were some of your own parish who thus charged you with dishonesty, it must have been some one who knew your want of rectitude, or by whom you certainly ought not to have consented to be influenced." Sir, I think you have corrected as great a mistake among logicians as among divines. This is your reasoning—If a man charge another with dishonesty, it is either true, or, if not, he ought not to take notice of it or deny it; but if it is a matter of fact, then he may be influenced by it, and contradict it. This sentiment is a good comment on your epistle. Should I here add, "that through grace I have been able to support a good moral character, to the acceptance of my numerous friends," I fear it might excite a degree of jealousy in your mind that I had too soon become an egotist.
You go on, and attempt a vindication of the character of the old universal preacher, by observing that he spoke right according to orthodox divinity. You say, "Will you contend that man died an eternal death in the day of transgression? If he did, he certainly has not been alive since; no, nor will he ever be again. If you say he did not die an eternal death in the day of transgression, you make out what the serpent said to the woman was true. Can any mortal be so blind as not to see ?" &c. Sir, I am one of those blind mortals that firmly believe that the threatening to our first parents was eternal death, and that the audacious wretch told a horrible lie! You say, if I contend that man died an eternal death in the day of transgression, he has not been alive since, nor ever will be. Sir, it is true; you reason well. If eternity contains just twenty-four hours, and no more, then nothing has been alive since, nor ever will be. No one ever supposed that the whole threatening of the law was fully executed in the moment or day of man's fall, or ever will be to its full extent on the wicked. The idea is, in dying he should die, or be liable to, an eternal death.* Eternally dying does not suppose an extinction of being any more than eternally living. It is certain that man did not actually die a temporal death completely in the day of transgression. As to spiritual death, we should meet with the same difficulty as in eternal death. This death consists in sin; but our first parents nor men in general have not all their evil exercises in one hour, day, or year; so that it could not be said that this death was executed fully in the day of disobedience. We see, then, that the declaration of Satan was as true, should we consider the threatening in the law temporal or spiritual, as eternal death, since the threatening was inflicted only in a partial manner. If temporal death was the thing threatened in the law, I again observe that believers are not delivered from the curse of the law, agreeable to Gal. iii., 13. You pretend to argue against my proposition, and conclude by saying, "Go which way you will, sir, you are snared and taken in your own craftiness." I own myself to be snared in your intricate reasoning. If any mortal can see the least sense or pertinency in your observations, doubtless they may profit by it; but I confess I cannot.
* We are not to suppose that God meant to tell our first parents that they should die an eternal death in one day, or that a space of time that had an end was endless. This was not what the serpent meant to deny. To suppose that, in order to have the threatening true, the wicked must suffer until eternity has an end, is impossible; and it would be as far from truth in any period of eternity in this sense, as their not dying an eternal death in the first day of his apostacy. The idea is, that they should be exposed to and deserve an endless duration of penal evil, which in some de gree began in the day of transgression. This ia what the devil meant to deny.
The difference between universalists and others is not whether all will be saved or all be damned, which you seem to take for granted in your remarks. Eternal death is the true demerit of sin; and for God to threaten any thing more or less than the crime deserves is inconsistent with moral rectitude. If the threatening to our first parents was spiritual and not eternal death, this would suppose God to encourage men to commit one sin to punish another. The whole of spiritual death consists in sin; and when God threatens this as a punishment for the first sin, it must suppose an antecedent crime to precede the first act of rebellion; but this was holiness. To conclude that the second, third, or fourth act of transgression was to testify against foregoing acts of wickedness, or spiritual death, would be for God to bear testimony against one threatening of his law by another threatening of the law. Is this the common idea of sanction to law, to threaten the murderer or the thief with further indulgences in such crimes?
In Gal. iii., 13, it is said, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a.
tree," The idea doubtless is, that he in some sense bore the curse of the law, in the room of all that believe. Christ did not die a spiritual death—that would have made him a sinner; but he was hanged on a tree, endured pain and distress. We are told, Rom. vi., 23, that "the wages of sin is death." Death is there the sanction or penalty of the law: if it is spiritual death that is there meant, the reading would be, the wages of sin is sin. Sir, you seem to make a distinction between sin and moral death, page 8th. Your words are, "Sir, I profess to believe and preach universal salvation from all sin and moral death." I am not able to discern the difference between sin and moral death, unless the two different words constitute it. You thank God that his "gift through Jesus Christ our Lord is even to those to whom sin has proved death." I conclude you mean moral death. Sir, you have made ample provision for those who have sinned, and it has proved sin; but those who have sinned, and it did not prove sin, you have left without relief.
You suggest, page 3d, that it is a good principle that holds up universal salvation from all sin and misery. You profess to preach universal deliverance from all misery. But men cannot be the subjects of universal deliverance from misery unless they are exposed to it; and they cannot be liable to it unless they are sinners; and they cannot be sinners unless they violate a law. If you preach deliverance from misery, it supposes that men are subject to it by the sanction of a law, in consequence of their sin. "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," was the declaration of God to our first parents. The meaning is, that they were now exposed to eternal misery, or penal evil, that began to take place; or that they were under the curse of the law—that was the second death. "St. Paul says, that when the commandment or law came, sin revived, and I died. That is, he found himself dead; he found himself under the curse of the law, according to the original threatening." We are not to suppose that the whole threatening of the law was executed on our first