« PreviousContinue »
arrive, when the soul will be totally unaffected by its past history:
2. Again. Universalism conflicts with principles of sound philosophy, in destroying the utility of this state of existence. İf time has no moral connection with eternity, why was time given? Why is man placed here and subjected to trials and temptations ? Why does God in his providence expend such a vast treasure of suffering and effort to discipline the soul, and advance it in knowledge and piety,-if the present has no connection with the future ? According to your system the mind cultivated by study, disciplined by painful experience, and made holy by the truth and grace of God, has made no preparation for the world to come ; its knowledge, its piety cannot go with it to eternity. So neither will the ignorance, and becotted depravity of the most abandoned of our race,disqualify them in the least degree,for the employment and society of the beavenly world. You regard death as a perfect leveller, as well as Savior. It sweeps away all distinctions between the righteous and the wicked, between the saints and martyrs, who followed - and died as witnesses of his grace, and the haughtiest tyrant that ever sat upon the throne. It strikes, in a moment, a dead level as to character and condition, and makes all the past as though it had never been. Where, then, is the utility of this state of existence ?, . .
3. But once more. Your system conflicts with the principles of mental philosophy, as to memory and consciousness. These two characteristics of the mind are annihilated at death, or your system cannot be true. Memory, you know, is that mysterious faculty of the mind by which we recal to mind and reflect upon the past. Consciousness is that faculty of the niind by which we know that we exist, and by which we take cognizance of ourselves. Let memory and consciousness be annibilated, and we ourselves are annihilated. Identity is destroyed, and whatever forins may be given in the future, to the substance of which we are composed, the future would be a new creation, and not a resurrection, or future existence to us. Let memory and consciousness go with the soul to eternity, and according to
the known laws of mind, it must enjoy or suffer in view of the past. Let the poor wretch who has to-day fallen asleep in death, amid scenes of debauchery and crime, wake up in eternity with consciousness and memory, and all heaven, without working a moral miracle, upon his moral nature, cannot prevent his being miserable. Memory will spread before him bis guilt, number over and aggravate his crimes, and roll them upon his soul, high as the throne of God. While memory surveys the history of the past, and calls up from the tomb of oblivion, a long and horrific catalogue of sms — consciousness would identify the rebel spirit, now standing in the presence of God, reviewing the past, as the unexcused offender, and thunder in his ears in tones solemn and awful as eternity, “ THOU ART THE MAN.” · While consciousness and mentory exist, there is no runping away from one's self. Thousands have tried it, but they have always failed. Men have changed their names, their residence, their garments, and fled their country, with the fallacious hope that they should get away from themselves. But alas ! wherever they have gone, whatever change they have made in their names and costumes, they have always found themselves with themselves. Consciousness and memory go with them to read in their ears the history of the past, and identify and mark the old rogue.
This is not only sound philosophy, it is sound theology. Our Savior, in his account of the rich man and Lazarus, represents much of the misery of the rich man in hades to arise from the reminisciences of time. Abraham is represented as addressing him thus, Son, REMEMBER that thou in thy life tiine receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.” Herë the rich man in hades, which your authors say, means the state of the dead, remembered the events of time, and was tormented by the remembrance.
Now here is a dilemma. Which-horn will you take ? Deny that memory and consciousness go with us to eternity, and you deny personal identity, and consequently a future existence. Admit that memory and consciousness go with us to the future, and you admit that a review of the past must give pleasure or pain; and that modern Universalism must be a delusion.
Will you carefully and prayerfully think of these things till you hear from me again ?' Yours affectionately.
LETTER V. ;
My Dear Siri,
I cannot adopt your views, because the inference which you draw from the nature and operations of conscience, are without foundation in truth. You say conscience adminters, in this world, a just and equitable retribution.
Let us look at this matter for a nioment. What is conscience ? Conscience is a to-fold operation of the mind, which I will denominate moral judgment and moral sense. That is, conscience is the judginent which the mind forms of its own sentiments and acts, and the moral sense, or feeling, which such judgment produces in the mind. Conscience is not as some suppose, a divine oracle, the unerring voice of God within. Conscience is right or wrong, according as our moral judgir ent and moral sense are right or wrong. Let me illustrate...
1. Conscience sometim s rewards persons for that which is morally wrong in itself; and at other times punishes for that which is morally right. Saul of Tarsus.conscientiously persecuted the primitive church ; and when engaged in stoning Stephen, and in scourging and dragging to prison the harmless saints, he' verily thought within bimself that he was ' doing God service. He was engaged in deeds of murder and outrage - trampling both the-law and the gospel under his feet, and yet he was rewarded by his conscience. If conscience is that unerring judge, that faithful tribunal of justice which you suppose, the soul of Saul, must have writhed in tremendous agony when persecuting the saints. But so far from this he seems to have enjoyed the approbation of his conscience. Our Savior told bis disciples that the time would come when those who should kill them, would .bink they were doing God service. The
Roman Catholics, as you very well know, have put to. death, hundreds of thousands of Protestants. A Catholic friar, who had spent year after year in ferreting out and burning heretics, app::rently not only without compunctions of conscience, but with great complacency of mind, hasbeen known to be horrified at finding he had eaten meat in Lent. Our Puritanical forefathers were as conscientious a people perhaps as ever lived; but their consciences did not condemn them for banishing the Baptists, and whipping and hanging the Quakers. They did not understand the doctrine of religious freedom. They partook of the error of the times, that heretics were the enemies of God, and, that no enemy of God could be a friend of the State. Herce they punished those whom they judged to be enemies of God, as enemies of the State. In this they were morally wrong, but they verily thouglių they were doing God service, and hence they enjoyed the smiles of an approving conscience..
You believe it morally right to cultivate your intellectual powers, and discipline and enlarge your mind by the study f science. Dr. Adam Clarke at one time, supposed be was guilty of sin in making efforts to acquire an education; he experienced great compunctions of conscience, and penitently souybt divine forgiveness. Thus you see, conscience sometimes rewards us for what is in itself moral. Jy wrong, and punishes us for what is in itself, morally right.
2. It is a fact well known in human experience, that conscience becomes more and more deadened by increas' ing wickedness. A tender and faithful conscience is one that has not been abused and outraged. One profine dath from lips unaccustonied to profanity, produces more compunctions, real agony of soul, than a thousand such offences would produce upon the conscience of the bold and reckless blasphemer. The one trenibles and fears an oath; while the other actually glories in bis shame, and prides himself in the flippancy and low wit of his heaven-daring tongue. The word of God tells us of consciences which have become seared as with a hot iron. Seared flesh is dead flesh, destitute of feeling. A seared conscience
is a dead conscience. The sinner may by his own wickedness, blunt bis own moral sensibility: puť light for darkness and darkness for light — call evil good and good evil. In short, it is well known that man may violate bis own moral nature so much, that his conscience will become as dead as the bones in the grave-yard. A conscienco steeped in rum, and choked to death by the ruffian hand of repeated and long-continued violence, cannot be an umpire capable of administesingľa just and equitable retribution.
3. Conscience in its operations, depends upon a know·ledge of truth and duty. Let me illustrate this by a case - familiar to your recollection. In your native town, you remember the village pastor received but a small salary. By the efforts of a few of the principal citizens, he obtained the appointment of a Post Master, and, in connection with his office, he kept a little drunkery, as we should call it in this day. He was universally regarded as a good man; supported his family in part by preaching, and in part by keeping the village post office, and selling poison to his parishioners. This was a great inconsistency, a moral wrong as you will readily admit, in the sight of God; and yet it was not so regarded by the consciences of the good people of the place, nor by the conscience of the pious pastor. It was as morally wrong in the year 1816 to kill men with rum, as it in 1841 ; but in 1816, the good pastor had not arrived at a knowledge of the truth on this subject, and hence his conscience gave himn no trouble.
The pious John Newton was once engaged in the slave trade. While on a voyage to Africa after the poor slaves, he spent eight hours a day in devotional exercises, and yet he tells us that it never occurred to his mind that he was doing wrong. He was what we now call a pirate, and yet bis conscience did not condemn him. His mind was not enlightened on ihe subject, and hence his conscience was easy. .
4. Once more. The operations of conscience evidently depend upon a conviction of moral agency, and future accountability.
What is if that gives such vivacity to conscience ? A