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to doubt their being possessed of it; but the same was true of the persons described by Paul. Their doctrine was a lie, yet they believed it. Paul, however, was far from reckoning their error on this account, an innocent mistake. On the contrary, he represents it as leading to damnation; and its abettors as righteously given up of God, on account of their not having received the love of the truth, even while professing to embrace it.
Without taking upon us to decide bow far, and for how long a real Christian may be drawn aside from the simplicity of the gospel, or what degree of error may be found after all to consist with being of the truth,—It is sufficient that the natural tendency of these things is destructive. Every man who sets a proper value on his soul, will beware of coming within the sweep of that by which multitudes, in all ages of the church, have been carried into perdition.
Under the fullest conviction that what has been said of error in general, is applicable to the doctrine of universal salvation, or the restoration of men and devils from the abodes. of misery to final happiness, we wish, in the most serious and affectionate manner, to caution our readers against it. To this end, we shall point out a few of its dangerous consequences; which, if clearly ascertained, will be so many presumptive proofs of the falsehood of the principle.
First: The violence which requires to be done,to the plain language of scripture ere this doctrine can be embraced, goes to introduce a habit of treating the sacred oracles with levity, and of perverting them in support of a preconceived system. If he who oifendeth in one point of the law is guilty of all, in that he admits a principle which sets aside the authority of the lawgiver; he who perverts a part of the scriptures to maintain a favourite doctrine, in the same way perverts the whole, and thus renders the word of God of none effect. Hence it is that Universalism leads to Socinianism, as that does to Deism. One of the leading advocates of this system was warned of this on his outset; and by his late publications, and those of his party, they appear to have given full proof of the propriety of the warning.
Secondly: To explain away the scripture threatening of eternal damnation, is intimately connected with light thoughts of sin; and these will lead on to a rejection of the gospel The whole doctrine of redemption by the Son of God, rests upon the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the lost condition of sinners; for the whole need not a physician. If these, therefore, be given up, the other will follow; and this is another reason why Universalism will be almost certain to end in Socinianism. The benevolence which is ascribed to God by the advocates of both, is in reality, connivance; it is that which must induce him to pardon the penitent without a vicarious sacrifice, and to punish the impenitent only for a time, and that for their ultimate advantage. The Socinians openly renounce the atonement; and though some of the Universalists may at present retain the name, yet they have abandoned the thing.* The corruption of Christian doctrine among the Galatians, went to introduce another gospel, and to make Christ to have died in vain. But what would Paul have said of this? Let those who have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, judge.
Thirdly: If the scripture threatenings of eternal damnation be set aside, and light thoughts of sin admitted, sinners" will be more and more hardened in their impenitence. The greatest object of desire to a wicked man is, doubtless, a heaven suited to his inclinations: but if this cannot be, his next object is to be exempted from punishment; on which principle he would gladly be annihilated: but if this cannot be, he would next prefer a punishment of short duration; and if God be supposed, notwithstanding what has been said of eternal damnation, and of sinners being never forgiven, to intend nothing more than this, he will naturally conclude that the degree of it will be abated, as well as the duration shortened. The same kind of reasoning .from the divine benevolence, which brings him to believe the one, will bring him to believe the other. It cannot be a very fearful thing, he will suppose, to fall into the hands of a being who will inflict nothing
* See " Letters on the Atonement," by the Rev. C. Jerram'; a piece in which the real opinions of the Universalists, concerning this all-important doctrine, are clearly developed and answered.
upon him but for his good; and therefore he vi ill indulge fbr the present and abide the consequence. This is not an imaginary process: it is a fact that these are the principles by which profligate characters, in great numbers, comfort themselves in their sins. When Rousseau was impressed with the doctrine of eternal punishment, he could scarcely endure his existence; but a lady with whom he says he was very familiar used to tranquilize his soul by persuading him that, "The Supreme Being would not be strictly just, if he were just to us." If all such characters were as free in their confessions, as this debauchee has been in his, there is no doubt but the same tale, in substance, would be told by millions. It is the hope that they shall not surely die; or if they die, that the second death will consist of annihilation,, or at most of only a temporary and tolerable punishment, that makes them comparatively easy. So Universalists and Socinians preach, and so profligates believe, or at least are very willing to believe, if their consciences would suffer them.
Fourthly: It is a principle that will universally hold good, that there is no ultimate risk in adhering to truth; but that the utmost danger attends a departure from it. It is thus that we reason with unbelievers: 'It is possible at least, that Christianity may be true; and if it be, we have infinitely the advantage. But allowing that it may be false, yet what risk do we run by embracing it? While we are taught by it to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, neither your principles nor your consciences will allow you to deny that we are safe. But if that Saviour whom you have despised, be indeed the Son of God; if that name which you have blasphemed, be the only one under heaven given among men, by which a sinner can be saved, what a situation is yours!' Apply this reasoning to the subject in hand. IfUniversalism should prove true, there are few if any dangers that can follow from disbelieving it: but if it should prove false, the mistake of its abettors will be inexcusable and fatal. If we be wrong, we can plead that we were misled by interpreting the term* by which the scriptures ordinarily express the duration of future punishment, in their literal or proper sense; that we found the
Vol. V1U. 17
same word which describes the duration of future life, applied in the same passage to the duration of future punishment; and thence concluded it must mean the same: moreover, that if any doubt had remained on this head, it must have been removed by eternal damnation being explained in the scriptures, by never having forgiveness. (Mark iii. 29.) But if they be wrong, they can only allege, that observing the terms to be often applied to limited duration, they concluded they might be so in this; and this sense best comporting with their ideas of divine benevolence, they adopted it. In the one case, our fears will be disappointed: in the other their hopes will be confounded. If the mistake be on our side, we alarm the ungodly more than need be; but if on theirs, they will be found to have flattered and deceived them to their 'eternal ruin, and so to have incurred the blood of souls! If we err, our error is much the same as that of Jeremiah, on the supposition of the Babylonians having been repulsed, and Jerusalem delivered from the seige : but if they err, their error is that of the false prophets, who belied the Lord, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upou us. Which of these paths, therefore, is wisdom's way, we leave our readers to judge.
THE WISDOM PROPER TO MAN.
In the warm disputes between Job and his friends, the great question was, Whether the providence of God towards men, in a way of prosperity or adversity, afforded any criterion of character? They contended it did ; and therefore concluded, from
the sore calamities which had befallen him, that he was a wicked man. He, on the contrary, contended that it did not; and that there is a depth in God's ways, which surpasseth mortal scrutiny. Such is the drift of his argument, all through this chapter; in which he allows that man had dug deep, but contends that it was not deep enough for this : that this was wisdom peculiar to God, and that the wisdom which was proper to man, was of another description.
Man, he allows, had found out many things; he had not only surveyed all that was visible on the face of the earth, but had gone into the bowels of it, in search of hidden treasures. By carrying artificial light into the mineral regions, he had in a manner contracted the reign of darkness. Subterranean floods had yielded to his control. Leaving far behind him that part of his species who obtained bread by cultivating the surface, he had descended in search of the sparkling ore and the brilliant gems. He had trodden a path unoccupied by either bird or beast. By applying his skill to the massy rocks, though so deep as to form, as it were, the roots of mountains, he had piece by piece fairly overturned them. Being incommoded by waters, he had, for the purpose of drawing them off, and for washing away the rubbish, that the precious objects of his pursuit might become visible, made channels at the bottom of the mine like rivers; and lest they should rise and overflow bim, he had contrived by the me of machi-yy, le diminish, and thereby to confine them within proper bounds. In :hort, by his skill and perseverance, he had bro.J~5jt forth the precious articles to light. See him walking upon the earth in triumph! who can deny bim their applause?
After all these deep and successful researches, however, one question remained unanswered—Where shall wisdom be found; and where is the place of understanding? The vein or mine where wisdom grows, was yet unexplored. The depths of Providence' were still beyond human reach. Industry could not discover it, nor all its precious treasures purchase it! You may search, not the earth only, but the ocean, and still the question will return, Whence cometh wisdom; and where is the place of understanding?' It is hid from the eyes of all living, even from the most soaring