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. LETTER VII.
My Dear Sir :
You must have readily perceived from my argument upon the nature and offices of conscience, that a just and equitable retribution is not always administered in this world, through this operation of the mind. Let us then look once 'more at outward -circumstances. Do circumstances operate so equally in this world, as always to punish fully the wicked and reward the righteous ?: This you cannot as an honest man, pretend. You know that human happiness depends very much upon circumstances; and these circumstances sometimes favor the wicked, and at other times grind the poor, defenceless, and innocent into the dust.Let me illustrate. God you believe is good, equally good to all mankind, and has "created all men FREE and equal, and endowed them with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But are all men equally free? Do all men enjoy liberty and the pursuit of happiness ? No. The unequal operation of circumstances has robbed millions of millions of our own countrymen of this heaven-descending boon. They have been kidnapped from the earliest moment of infancy, converted into “chattels personal,” bereft of all the social, civil, and religious rights of common humanity, and doomed to be branded with red-hot irons, lacerated with the driver's whip, and bought and sold in the market as articles of merchandize. So far as this world is concerned, they are doomed by the operation of circumstances, to drag out a life of cruel privation and misery, misery more to be deprecated than death in any of its most appalling forms. In all this, does the poor slave receive the just deserts of bis moral character? Does the chain he wears, or the bloody whip of his task-master as it gashes his bleeding back, impose a just and equitable retribution ? This you will not pretend... You will say the sufferings of the slave are a misfortune, and not a punishment. Very well. So it is. But this very confession destroys your whole system. If the inno. cent sometimes suffer as much through misfortune, as others do for their crimes, then it follows, of course, that an equitable retribution does not always take place in this world ;and if there be no retribution in the world to come, this wrong which is here sometimes inflicted upon the indocent, must remain forever unredressed, an eternal wrong.
Again,—the unequal operation of circumstances may be seen in the fact, that all men have not equal religious privileges. God you believe has given his gospel to all men, and has given all the right, and has imposed upon all the solemn duty of searching the scriptures, and worshipping their Creator unmolested, according to the dictates of their own consciences. This privilege you enjoy and highly appreciate. But do you not know that millions of the human race, by circumstances over wbich they have no control, have been, and are now, deprived of this religious light and freedom ? At Rome, in Spain, and in many other Catholic countries, the inquisitor, has stepped in between the scriptures and the protestant worshipper of God, has committed . one to the flames, and the other to a loathsome dungeon. — In New England, you may search and circulate the Seriptures, and preach the gospel, with both compensation and commendation; but in Japan, a profession of Christianity would instantly subject you to imprisonment or death...
Look at the Apostles and primitive christian's, They. were eminently holy men. And if every body suffers and enjoys in this world according to their characters, they were entitled to unmixed happiness. Did they have it? What are the facts in the case? They were men of great suffering. When they entered the service of Christ,he distinctly informed them that they would not enjoy temporal rewards in his service, but great-temporal sufferings. Hear Christ giving them their cominission. 2
"Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye, therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues, and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” Matt. 10: 16-18.
Here they are not told they shall enjoy temporal happiness proportioned to their holiness, but on the contrary, they are made distinctly to understand, that in consequence of their connection with Jesus Christ, they are to be exposed to much suffering. .
Hear the manner in which the Savior addressed Ananias in relation to Paul, at the time of his conversion. “For I will show him how great things he shall SUFFER for my name's sake!” Acts 9. 16., :Hear the Apostle's account of his own sufferings in the cause of his Master.
"In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths ost; of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep, in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perilsamong false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." 2 Cor. 11:23—28. .
Read the early history of the Church, and you will see that when she was the most pure and holy, her members were persecuted the nipst. They were outraged, tortured, and put to death by their Roman and Jewish enemies in the most cruel njanner. But if this is a world where the righteous are always fully rewarded, and the wicked fully punished, how could these things be? Do you say that the Apostles and primitive saints enjoyed a peaceful mind while they endured great physical suffering ? Very good. But their peace of mind did not arise from their physical sufferings. Besides, if your doctrine be true, they were entitled to all this peace of mind without any of this physical suffering. Did they suffer according to their characters? then their characters must have been as infamous as their malignant persecutors, for they were great sufferers, so much so that Paul exclaimed,If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." 1 Cor. 15: 19
Again ; I find a strong objection to your system, in the unequal operations of divine providence. Providence does not manifestly balance the scales of justice, and distribute ber favors in this world according to individual character.
Look at the blessings of rain and sunshine. Are these favors distributed according to character? This you will not pretend. The Savior says, God maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust. Matt. 5: 45. If all are dealt with by divine providence according to their deserts, we might expect that rain and sunshine would fertilize the soil of the righteous,and leave the lands of the wicked, cold, dry and barren.
When famine, pestilence, earthquakes, or war afflict a nation or community, the judgement is not distributed according to individual character. The righteous and the wicked suffer together. This is proved by the history of all such calamities. In the operations of divine providence; the wicked are not unfrequently saved from deserved punishment in this world by the righteous. The records of our faith inform us, that if there had been ten righteous men in ancient Sodom, it would not have been destroyed. In this instance, ten righteous men would have saved perhaps, an hundred thousand idolaters from justly merited temporal punishinent. So on the other hand, the wickedness of the wicked, not unfrequently involve the innocent in great temporal suffering, more apparently sometimes than they suffer themselves. Take the case of the Salem tragedy, as an illustration of this fact. Crowninshield, the most daring and hardened murderer in that horrid affair, made a sudden exit, by the help of a halter, to the heavenly world, according to your system. He left respectable and virtuous parents behind him, to mourn over his character and dreadful end. This was the case also with the Knapps. They had worthy parents, and their guilt and infamy have already brought a worthy mother down, broken-hearted to the grave. In that horrid murder in which the Knapps and Crowninshield were concerned, untold anguish was inflicted upon their parents and family connexions. The culprits, according to
Universalism, were soon removed from their sufferings and guilt to glory; but the poor parents, brothers and sisters, were lest disgraced, and broken hearted, to mourn and suffer in this world of equitable retribution! Here you see the innocent suffer for and with the guilty.. They not only suffer with the guilty, but in this case, MORE than the guilty. The
. . . . These are, in my mind, serious difficulties in your system. I am well acquainted with your principal authors, but I have never known them to explain these things away, nor do I think if they should make the effort, they would stay explained. While the laws of nature and mind remain unchanged. so long it must remain true, that a just and equitable retribution is not experienced in this world.
Yours as ever.
My Diar Sir:
I find another difficulty in your system arising from the existence and operation of human laws. If, as you profess to believe, sin is its own punisher, and rigliteousness is its own reward, and this retribution is full and adequatę, then any punishment in addition to that which is fully and equitably administered by conscience, must be so much crue) and unjust infliction. And to admit that any of our race are cruelly and unjustly punished in this world, is to admit the existence, or necessity at least, of a future retribution in which their wrongs may be redressed, and the government of God equalized. I just regard then, the fact that human laws exist, and are administered by rewards and punishments,as a circunstance fatal to your systein of no fuiure retribution. If sin, in the operations of conscience, fully and inevitably punishes itself to the full extent of its deserts, then every stripe adıninistered by human laws is so much punishment more than is deserved; and if any one of the whole race is punished upon the whole, more than he deserves, Jehovah must in the world to coine, redress