« PreviousContinue »
convince the most faithless and unbelieving heart, that he is indeed and in truth, “good unto all, and that his tender mercies are over all his works !
Weight of Testimony. A few words in regard to the weight of testimony to be adduced on the question. I maintain that my opponent has altogether the improbable side in this discussion. To assert that the God of Infinite Goodness, whose very nature is Love, cannot premeditate evil or cruelty-cannot bring helpless beings into existence, coolly purposing, or plainly foreseeing, that their ultimate fate will be interminable sin and woe-to assert that a God of Infinite Wisdom cannot err, in any of his plans or purposes—to insist that a God Omnipotent in power cannot be thwarted, disappointed or defeated, in his designs-is to lay down propositions requiring but little, if any, testimony to support them. There is a probability, a self-evidence, enstamped upon them, which carries conviction to all intelligent and unprejudiced minds! But to assert that a God of such characteristics and perfections, can premeditate evil-can urge creatures into being, determining or foreknowing, their existence will prove an endless curse to them, and to the Universe-to contend that the plans of Infinite Wisdom are so imperfect that they can be disarranged and thrown into irremediable confusion--to maintain that Omnipotence cannot execute his designs, nor do his will—is to take positions which carry an astonishing IMPROBABILITY-yea, a most marked CONTRADICTION on their very face!!! Hence it will require not a slight touch of logic and sophistry, but a vast amount of solid testimony to bring such a doctrine even to a probability; and an infinite weight of the most convincing evidence, to make it approach to any ihing like a certainty!!
Again-To contend that a wise, good and affectionate Father will watch over all his children with ceaseless constancy--will in every thing so wisely order his affairs as to promote their permanent welfare--and through whatever trials, afflictions and exposures he may think proper to lead them, aim at their final deliverance and their greatest happiness would be but to assert that which was probable, and which it would require but little proof to sustain. But to insist that such a Father would voluntarily, and without any thing urging him to it but his own good pleasure, place his children where they would be exposed to endless torment, when he plainly saw, and knew, they would fall into its deep abyss, would be to contend for a most abhorrent IMPROBABILITY!!--an improbability requiring testimony of the most convincing and irrefutable nature!
These improbabilities, I insist, are precisely the positions which my opposer must advocate on this question. IMPROBABILITY is enstamped on every feature of the doctrine of endless punishment!! It is radically opposed to the whole array of
God's attributes to the entire testimony of his doings, as a wise, good and powerful Deity, and to his whole character as a faith. ful, careful, and affectionate Parent. A trifling array of evidence will not sustain my friend in defence of this most monstrous and improbable doctrine. Fine spun arguments, metaphysical syllogisms, artfully framed and subtle disquisitions, with words used to conceal ideas, will prove of little avail in sustaining the affirmative of such a question. Neither will evidence built on philol. ogy, on hair-splitting criticims respecting the meaning of one or two Greek words, be sufficient to establish the doctrine of Endless Woe. This audience, this community, and the world, have a right to demand that the arguments adduced in support of such a sentiment, shall be drawn directly, clearly and legitimately, from the source of all truth, the character and attributes of Jehovah. And they will require, moreover, that the arguments in defence of a doctrine of this nature, so blackening to the good name of the Deity, and so destructive to the best desires and hopes of men, shall be abundant in number, and so clear, direct and positive that not a doubt can be left on the mind of a human being. If such evidence is not offered and sustained, the affirmative of this question must be abandoned forever!!
In approaching the question under discussion, Elder Holmes gives us an explanation of what he means by Endless Misery. He describes it as the loss of the kingdom of heaven-the consciousness of sin, etc. That he would present this doctrine in as mild a form as possible, I had already anticipated. The whole current of public feeling is setting so strongly against the heartless dogma of endless agony, that its advocates have of late years, felt themselves compelled to modify their descriptions of its nature, and to make use of different terms in referring to it, from what was current in their ranks, some years ago. They are both ashamed and afraid to present it to the people now, as it was by the old class of preachers. They well know the public would turn from it with loathing, unless clothed in robes less repulsive. Hence in modern times, its heideousness has been diluted almost to nothingness. It has became as mild as a dove, in comparison to its former hyena-like ferocity!! But in examining this doctrine, I shall pay little attention to these modifications got up expressly to conceal its deformity, and mask its odious features in borrowed robes. I shall speak of it as it has been believed and described by its most eminent advocates, for more than a thousand years, and as it is still represented in every part of christendom, except in those communities where the prevalence of more enlightened and reasonable sentiments, have driven its defenders into the adoption of phraseology less exceptionable. However mild and inoffensive the forms in which its heralds may deem it their policy to present it to the people in certain locations,
when stripped of its stolen dress, it will be found the same old disgusting, horrible and blasphemous dogma! It is as full of malignity, of poison, of venom, as ever, whatever its advocates inay feel compelled to do to hide its enormities! In pursuing this course, I shall do it not to excite prejudice against that sentiment; for God knows that would be needless. But to enable the people to behold and realize the awfulness of the doctrine--to see it and weigh it as they ought-it must be held up to them in its naked deformity, stripped of the paint and varnish with which its supporters would fain give it an appearance of decency. This denuding process, I shall execute faithfully.
The first argument Mr. Holmes introduces on the affirmative of this question, is drawn from the Moral Agency of Man. In considering this argument, the first thing which will arrest the attention of the public, is the same singular and fatal defect which has characterized the arguments of my opponent on both the preceling questions, viz. the want of a direct and necessary connection between the argument offered, and the question it is introduced to sustain. In prosecuting my part of this debate, it has been my constant effort to have all my arguments clear, tangible, positive, and aimed distinctly and necessarily, by the shortest possible direction, at the very vitals of the question under investigation. But the gentleman upon the other side, either from choice or neeessity, has adopted a different plan. His arguments stand afar off; and it is only by a long circuitous route, through tedious disquisitions, fine spun theories, and elaborate sophistries, that he leals it to a point where it can bear on the question in debate; and even then, allowing all he contends for, the connection is so slight and feeble, that it can hardly be seen, except by a microscopic eye. The argument before us is a case in point. Supposing I allow, as I most cheerfully do, that man is a moral agent, it does not follow from necessity, nor by any just implication, that a part of mankind will be miserable for ever. It is only by a far, round about method of argumentation, characterized by naked assertions and unsupported assumptions, that he attempts to bring his argument to bear on the question.
With much that the Elder has offered in regard to moral agency, I agree. I believe man is a moral agent. But I deny that his final destiny is a matter within the sphere of his agency, or in any manner depending directly upon it. And the course of reasoning by which he attempts to prove this, is illogical and unsound in the extreme. Every action, and every class of actions, has consequenses connected with it, and effects flowing from it, in exact porportion to the power, ability, resources and position of its author. Effects must correspond with the causes which produce them. God alone is infiniie." Hence his actions alone can have infinite, or endless consequences connected with them. Man is finite-his strength, wisdom, resources, abilities, are all finite. His actions, thoughts,
must be finite likewise, and their effects and results, must necessarily also be finite. For the time being, and it may be in many cases, for a long period, he must experience the fruit of his doing, whether of pleasure or pain. But the effects or results of his deeds at one time, may be modified, and entirely obliterated by the conrequences of his actions at another time, or by the effects which flow from the doings of fellow creatures, or of higher grades of beings. These reflections are so obvious, that few can be found who will seriously dispute them. Hence to maintain that man at any one time, or in any given series of years, can perform an action, or any number of actions, that will produce an infinite and endless result, either of evil or good, is to take a position which overthrows the first principles of sound moral philosophy, violates reason and contradicts the scriptures.
My friend assumes that the ultimate destiny of man has been made to depend, upon his doings as an agent, in this life. But this assumption I cannot allow. It is precisely the point for him to prove. I deny it, and demand evidence of its truth. The Bible does not assert it-reason yields it no sanction-analogy is barren of any proof in its behalf. Moreover, if mankind can effect endless consequences by their evil deeds, they can produce endless consequences by their good deeds. If they can justly deserve infinite pain, in consequence of their sinful actions, they can justly merit infinite happiness, as a reward for their righteous actions. And the same person can thus attain to infinite merit and infinite demerit !! Sound philosophy compels us to these deductions, if my opponent's premises are correct. He contends men in the exercise of their agency, can equitably incur endless misery. On the same principle I repeat, they can deserve by their righteousness endless happiness. The rule must work both ways. Thus he makes salvation by works, and not of grace. In this he contradicts St. Paul, in Eph. ii. 8. Here is where the Elder is brought by his theory into an inextricable bewilderment. He can not, and dare not, insist in the face of the Bible, that salvation is of works. Yet the grounds he assumes, legitimately result in that; and in forgetfulness of God's grace he frequently falls to repeating scripture, to prove that we are saved by works; and then at another time, loosing sight of this fallacy, asserts that salvation is entirely the gift of God's grace.
It is true the Bible addresses man as a moral agent-it is true God's government is a government of equitable and benevolent laws-it is true man is endowed with liberty to obey or disobey those laws-it is true he is rewarded if he obeys, and is punished if he disobeys, and these consequences of his deeds are certain and unavoidable. All this I acknowledge and believe. But I deny that the reward of obedience is endless happiness, or the punishment of disobedience, is endless misery. My opponent declares that God's law inflicts an endless curse as its penalty. This is one of
his naked assertions. I call for the proof. But I shall call in vain. He has not shown, and he will not, the slightest evidence that such a penalty pertains to the law of the Most High. This is precisely the work before him—the work he has engaged to do. Yet he strives to assume it at the very outset. I warn him against this course. I shall take nothing for granted, on a subject so momentous as this,
Elder Holmes acknowledged repeatedly, during the debate on the last question, that God desires the salvation of all men--that he intended 10 save all—and that he formed his plans with an express design to save all!! This admission totally annihilates the doctrine he would build on the agency of man. When God endowed his creatures with moral agency, he must have clearly foreseen what use they would make of it. If it would raise them to heaven, he knew it-if it would sink any of them to endless woe, he also well knew it. Now allow me to ask-while the Creator was desiring and intending to bring all mankind ultimately to a state of endless perfection and happiness, while laying his plans, and making all his arrangemenis with a view of accomplishing this glorious design, would he deliberately endow them with any agency or power, which he destinctly foresaw would thwart his desire, overthrow his intention, and destroy his plans? In other words, would Deity deliberately go to work to disappoint his own desires, and counteract his own plans. This is the exact point, between my friend and myself. He asserts God does thus virtually pull down with one hand, what he is endeavoring to build up with the other—that while striving to save all, he deliberately puts into their hands instruments to defeat himself, and destroy iheir own happiness forever!! I maintain that an infinitely wise God cannot be guilty of so great folly. In bestowing moral agency on man, I insisi he foresaw that so far from its proving disastrous to his purposes, and ruinous to his creatures, he knew it would be an instrument which would aid in accomplishing all he desired and designed for men, and a means of surely elevating them to higher degrees of happiness than they could otherwise obtain. I beg the audience-I urge all considerate and thinking men-lo reflect maturely on these suggestions. They are of vital moment, and perfectly decisive of the point under consideration. Would a wise and good parent, anxiously desirous of the prosperity and happiness of his beloved child, and laying all his plans to secure his welfare, voluntarily and knowingly put him in possession of a gift, which he clearly foresaw would prove his utter ruin ? Not a parent on earth would pursue a course so ridiculous! Yet this is the senseless proceeding my friend virtually charges on the all-wise Deity !!!
Contending as my opponent does, that mankind are moral agents in this world, having the power to choose their own way, and determine their own actions, he must acknowledge that they will continue moral agents in the next world and forever. Consistency de.