« PreviousContinue »
been as to science or religion? We had to-day been sitting in the region of darkness, and saying to the works of our own hands-"ye are our gods." The Bible is the religion of Protestants, and among all the sects into which they are divided, free inquiry is, to a certain extent inculcated. Most sects, however, have their limits fixed, beyond which if a man goes, he becomes suspected, and perhaps is denounced as an heretic. He may inquire and investigate as much as he pleases to support the peculiar tenets of his sect, but beyond this it is dangerous to proceed. Should he push his inquiries further, and find some of them the inventions of men, he must conceal his discoveries, for if he does not, the vengeance of the whole sect, if not the whole religious community, will be poured on his head. I must be very fond of suffering thus to expose myself.
3d, Since I am to be condemned because my investigations have not resulted in the popular belief of the doctrine of hell torments, I do not see any possible way of getting rid of error, or increasing in knowledge. I have done no more than thousands have done before me; to examine the Bible for themselves, and state the result for the consideration of others. Such as have done so have seldom escaped the appellation of heretics. But the first to condemn others, are generally the last to examine for themselves what is truth on any religious subject.
If in this investigation I have travelled beyond the record, let this be pointed out by an appeal to the same record. If a man under mistaken views of a religious doctrine, avows his mistaken sentiments, and thereby brings more truth to light and excites inquiry, are not these valuable ends served to society?
4th, Supposing the views which have been advanced, had been the universal belief of the religious community as long as the doctrine of eternal misery, and
that this doctrine had never been known in the world. Allowing that I had come forward and attempted to show that endless misery in hell was a doctrine taught in Scripture, and that the contrary was a mistaken view of the subject. Beyond all doubt I should be liable to the very same condemnation to which I am now subjected. The trumpet would sound loud and long, by all religious parties against me. It would be sagely and gravely remarked," what a dreadful doctrine he has embraced. What dreadful views his doctrine gives of the God who made us. He represents him as dooming a great part of his creatures to endless misery in hell. His inquiries have led him into a most dreadful error." I appeal to every candid man if this would not be my fate, and if as good ground was not afforded for such conclusions and condemnations in the one case, as in the other.-In concluding this subject, we shall view the two opposite doctrines in the following points of light.
1st, How does the two doctrines affect the character of God? Let us view them as to the promises of God. He promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. To bruise a serpent's head is to kill or destroy it. But is the serpent's head bruised, if the greater part of the human race are to be eternally miserable? Even this is too gross to be believed by respectable orthodox writers in the present day. Mr. Emerson, in his book on the Millennium, commenting on Gen. iii. 15. thus writes: p. 11. "Now the question arises, Has the serpent's head been bruised in any degree answerable to the manifest import of the passage under consideration? A great part of mankind have gone to destruction. Does this look like bruising the serpent's head? If the greater part of the human race are to be lost by the cunning craftiness of satan, will that look like bruising his head? To me it would seem far otherwise.
Should Satan continue the god of this world from the beginning to the end of time, leading whole nations captive at his will, surely he will seem to have cause to triumph. But the head of satan must be bruised; his plots must be crushed. Are all mankind to be saved? Certainly not. That would be giving.the lie to numerous declarations of eternal Truth; it would be throwing away the Bible at once. And if the Bible be thrown away, it would be impossible to prove the salvation of any. But there is no doubt that by far the greater part of mankind will be saved. This appears necessary, in order that the serpent's head may be bruised. I am strongly inclined to the opinion of Dr. Hopkins, that of the whole human race, thousands will be saved for one that is lost."
We are happy to see from such respectable authors, that thousands are to be saved to one that is lost; and that if the greater part of the human race are to be lost, satan's head would not be bruised, but that he would have cause to triumph. If so many must be saved as stated in this quotation, to avoid these consequences, we would suggest it for the consideration of all, as well as that of the worthy author, whether satan's head could be bruised, or he destroyed, and whether he would not have cause of triumph if one individual of the human race was lost. If but one was left in his power, to be tormented by him forever, how could his head be bruised, and would he not triumph in this small conquest, as well as over one in a thousand? We do not see how the number could materially alter the case. We seriously think that if the number to be saved be so great in proportion to those lost, we would do well to consider if all mankind may not be saved, and that we may believe this without throwing away our Bibles. On this quotation, we cannot help remarking how different the sentiments contained in it are, to what was considered
true orthodoxy in former ages. In those days, it would have been considered throwing away the Bible, to say that thousands will be saved for one lost, just as much as saying in these, that all will be saved. If Christ comes so near saving the whole human race, in the name of humanity why not let his triumph be complete; why strain at the gnat and swallow the camel? God also promised to Abraham, that in his seed, which was Christ, all the families of the earth should be blessed. But if the doctrine of endless misery be true, and a great part of mankind are decreed to such a punishment, how can this promise of God be fulfilled? Let any one go over the promises and predictions of the Old Testament, two of which I have merely adduced as a specimen, and then candidly say, if he finds them in unison with the limited views of salvation which most men entertain. It would be as endless, as useless for me to dwell on this topic.
But let us view the two doctrines in regard to the threatenings of God. The doctrine of eternal misery supposes that God threatened Adam, that in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit he should die, and that death threatened is said to be death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. This eternal death is said to be endless misery in hell. Hell torment, then, was threatened before sin existed, or before the promise of a Saviour was given. But is this a correct understanding of the death threatened Adam? The falsehood of it is evident from one fact, that Adam, Noah, Abraham, and all the Old Testament believers did not so understand it. If they had, would they not have taught it to mankind?
But let us also view the two doctrines, in regard to the attributes or character of God. It has been said, that my views are very dishonourable to God's character. His justice, his holiness, and truth are dishon
oured if there be no endless punishment for all the wicked. But if my views dishonour God's justice, holiness and truth, what comes of his mercy and goodness, if the opposite doctrine be true? We have to be sure seen attempts made by some metaphysical writers, to reconcile eternal misery with the mercy and goodness of God, but in vain. All they have said, is only enveloping the subject in a mist, or throwing dust in people's eyes to blind them on this subject. It is reported of the late Dr. Osgood, that when he was asked the question, "how he reconciled the doctrine of eternal misery with the character of God as a God of mercy and goodness;" he lifted both his hands, and said, "if any man is able to do this I cannot do it." Whether God is more glorified in men's damnation or in their salvation, I need not disOne thing is certain; that those called orthodox writers in the present day are fully aware, that if God did not ultimately save the greatest part of mankind, God's character would be dishonoured. If this was not the case who could deny that the devil was more honoured than God? Mr. Emerson, aware of this, agrees with another celebrated divine, that those saved at last, will exceed those that are lost by a large majority. I am truly glad to see men of such good characters and intelligence so much concerned for God's honour and glory in this respect; and I hope the time is not very distant when they may think God most honoured and glorified by saving the whole human race. It is a very evident case, that those writers do not hesitate to dissent from ancient orthodoxy. Had they written so in some former ages, they would have suffered death, in some of its most terrific forms for their temerity. At any rate, I am not a greater heretic now, than they would have been then.