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REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS
HELD FORTH IN THE SCRIPTURES:
Some serious considerations on the unsoundness of that doctrine, which of late is propagated under the specious title of Universal Salvation: with remarks on its obviously hurtful influence on the manners of men, and the affairs of human society here, and its dangerous tendency as to the state of mankind hereafter.
AND INCLUDING, IN THE COURSE OF THE CONSIDERATIONS,
Many particular observations, by way of Answer to "A Treatise on Union, &c. by James Relly." Evincing the utter impossibility of such a union as the author endeavours to establish or prove; exposing the absurdity of many of his arguments, and pointing out divers of the self-contradictions contained in said Treatise.
I MAKE no apology for writing upon this subject, after divers others have appeared on the same side of the controversy. The hurtful tendency of the sentiments here opposed, I conceive to be sufficient to justify a well meant endeavour to expose them in their true colours, and to strip them, as far as may now scem needful, and ability is afforded, of those glosses and allurements, whereby too many are in danger of being, as it were, charmed inadvertently into a belief, which, in proportion as it prevails in the mind, is very likely, if not certain, to operate directly against their best interest; and may, if not speedily guarded against, not only corrupt their manners, and destroy their morals here among men, but also prove the cause of their final ruin.
A degree of experience, in once entertaining a favourable. idea of such a sentiment, I believe warrants my conclusion, that its tendency in serious minds, is relaxation of religious engagement. For though I did not so long favour the opinion, as to be influenced by it into any very considerable degree of open deviation from the laws of religious circumspection; yet I may honestly confess, that I sensibly found a very great abatement in the ardency of that breathing desire, that hungering and thirsting after righteousness, wherein I had often before panted. after the enjoyment of divine good, "as the hart panteth after the water-brooks." Here I feelingly met with a loss, and in hopes of the certainty of eternal salvation to all mankind, grew lukewarm, and inwardly sitting down in degree at ease, though outwardly in a good measure regular and exemplary, I sensibly began to wither and decay as to the health, strength, and firmness of the inward man. The divine presence, once my greatest
joy, was now very much withdrawn; things which before I clearly saw in the light, to be evil, and of the benumbing tendency of which I had a quick and feeling sense, now began to seem tolerable, and my mind began, by degrees, to approach towards a familiarity with them, though I had known they were forbidden fruits; and some things which had been prohibited, on pain of spiritual death, I began to hope I might eat or enjoy, and not die. This gradually gained ground, till I found myself surrounded with snares and temptations, whose power had been greatly weakened in me; the wound, which I had been in hopes was almost a deadly one, in regard to some corrupt propensities, now began to be healed; and I could look with too much delight upon, and almost embrace, the presented temptations of my soul's enemy. This, at length, through the gracious renewal of divine visitation, alarmed me; and, as it were, awakened me from a sleep, which I can never be too thankful that it did not prove the sleep of endless death; for indeed it was, in degree, and for a time, a sleep of death; at least, of darkness; and such too, as after a season, might be felt.
Now this is real experience; and from candid observation, I believe many others have, in like manner, been much hurt, as to the things of true religion, by the baneful influence of this pleasing opinion. And I have no doubt, but in the minds of the irreligious, it is a powerful engine of satan, whereby he easily prompts them on to more and greater enormities than they otherwise would commit; too often to the detriment of others, as well as themselves. Now, what may become of the next generation, if this doctrine should prevail? and what a channel of looseness, debauchery, and violence may, likely, by its means be opened, deserves our serious consideration; as well as what may be the awful consequences in futurity. Therefore, I wish it may be timely and solidly laid to heart by all, especially such as in any degree entertain an idea of future happiness, as the portion of such as live and die impenitent, in their
REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS
MANY and various have been the opinions in regard to religion, which have more or less prevailed among mankind, even where Christianity is professed; and the scriptures are appealed to as containing full proof of the truth and soundness of each particular creed. This, I apprehend, is owing to a want of attention to that which is the only key to a right understanding of those sacred records: and such a key or principle, which if rightly attended to, will open and give a right understanding of the scriptures, so far as needful, to every man, as also a right sense of his duty, I am abundantly satisfied, every rational soul has received. Indeed, from the goodness of the great Author of our existence, I think it is evident we must be favoured with some such assistance; for who can believe the Fountain of purity and beneficence has placed us here, with a book of written instructions, for us to search and consult in regard to the well ordering of our conduct, or well regulating our belief; and yet left us to toil in uncertainty, without a guide, sufficient if attended to, to give a good understanding, and open the true meaning of said instructions, so far as concerns each individual to know ! That we really are favoured with some sufficient means of instruction, it is likely will be readily granted; but then, the question is, where and what is this key, this guide, or opening principle? Some may think councils and synods are to be depended on, for a right exposition. But what a variety of contradictory conclusions councils and synods have endeavoured to establish, needs but to be mentioned, I should think, in order to evince the unsafety of trusting to them.