Page images
PDF
EPUB

God's attributes--to the entire testimony of his doings, as a wise, good and powerful Deity, and to his whole character as a faithful, 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 philology, 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 ffere nd 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 may 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 preceding 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 necessity, 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 leads 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 infinite. 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 neces. sarily 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 consequences 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. .nd the same person can thus attain to infinite merit and infinite merit!! Sound philosophy compels us to these deductions, if y opponent's premises are correct. He contends men in the exer. se 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 #ph. 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, Joosing 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 lake 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 to 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 arrangements 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 pians? 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 asseris 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 their 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 wbich would aid in accomplishing all he desired and designed for men, and a means of surely elevating them to bigher degrees of happi- . ness 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.

mands this acknowledgment. Hence being moral agents in another state of existence-having the liberty to follow their own inclinations, and the volitions of their own minds--who does not see that in due time, they will seek out the true paths of righteousnsss, and walk therein, and find peace and happiness! Only allow agency, opportunity and time, and it is self-evident every human being will at length attain to this condition! And why should not these be allowed? Who has forbidden it? Who will prevent it? My friend will not allow that God will violate man's agency in this world, to force him to heaven. To be consistent, he must allow he will not violate man's agency in another world, to force him to an endless hell! If there must be force exerted on a free moral agent, for either purpose, compassion would demand it should be for the belter rather than for the worse—to raise the soul to a heaven, where it might be purified and made happy, rather than sink it to a hell where it shall be confirmed in ceaseless sin and woe!! If when the soul arrives in another existence, a being should advance to thrust it down to endless wailing, could it not with propriety exclaim—". Stand back, if you please! No force ! no compulsion !! I am a free moral agent- I was made so in the other world--and continue so in this. I shall enter no place of torment, I prefer to tarry where I am; and will remain here despite all you can do!!” Does my friend say, God will not allow such a thing, but will compel him to submit, and sink to eternal wretchedness!! What surety is there that even Jehovah can do this? If man through the exercise of his agency defeated God's desire and intention to raise hin to infinite and endless bliss, why may he not through the same means defeat his purpose, to thrust him into ceaseless perdition!! There is precisely the same probability that the sinner could overthrow the Almighty's intention in the latter case as the former!! Or will it be said the Creator will suffer himself to be thwarted in his design to save the souls of men, but will not, in his purpose to torment them! Any inconsistency of this description would be perfectly in keeping with the philosophy of the evangelical theory.' Elder Holmes, however, would probably take the ground that in another world, the sinner will be stripped of all agency, and be helpless in the hand of Omnipotence-allowed no choice, nor voice, in the awful fate of endless agony that awaits him!! This would be the crowning absurbity of the long catalogue of fallacies which characterizes modern orthodox divinity:-God endows man with moral agency just long enough to work his ENDLESS RUIN, and then deprives him of it forever!!!--[ Time expired.

« PreviousContinue »