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FIRST QUESTION. DOES GOSPEL SALVATION EMBRACE DELIVERANCE FROM JUST AND
DESERVED PUNISHMENT 1
[MR. HOLMES' FIRST SPEECH.] GENTLEMEN MODERATORS, and Respected Audience :-In opening the discussion to which I am now committed, my mind is affected by emotions somewhat conflicting. I trust, therefore, I shall not be deemed as departing from the rules of this discussion, or from the proprieties due the occasion, if at this point I indulge in a few remarks personal to myself. I am willing to allow that I have felt some little diffidence and hesitation at entering into this discussion; although, since I put my name to the paper, just read, I have never for one moment faltered. This diffidence and hesitation have arisen from a variety of considerations, some of which I will briefly mention. First, I make no claim to that peculiar talent, which I suppose to be best adapted to public discussions of this kind. To conduct such discussions, with interest and success, needs a mind characterized by elasticity and vivacity, with the power of ready comparison, quick apprehension, nice discrimination, and capable of giving free and easy expression to its thoughts, in a flowing and commanding style. I feel conscious that I do not possess alí these qualifications to the extent a debater should, and that I enter upon this discussion under some disadvantages on this account. I wish to have it understood therefore, that I do not depend for success in this debate upon my power or rhetoric as a debater, or upon my eloquence; to neither of which do I make any considerable pretensions, but I do depend upon the soundness of my cause, and the strength of my arguments. I enter too, upon this discussion in violation of the sense of propriety of some of my best and most valued friends, whose judgment on any case I am bound to respect, though I may not always follow. There is doubt in many intelligent minds, with respect to the utility of such discussions, and I confess that my own mind has been in doubt on the same point. And my opinion still is, that unless they can be properly conducted, they had better not be held at all. There are, however, some cases in which discussions of theological and other questions have been attended with good, and I hope this occasion will present such an instance. When I remember that Jesus Christ did not hesitate to dispute with the Scribes and Doctors of the law and expose their fallacies in the hearing of the people, that St. Panl disputed with the distinguished Jews and Greeks, that Luther and his associates held public discussions with the Cardinals and Legates of Rome, that Wesley and his coadjutors were as distinguished for their polemics as for their christian catholcity, my mind is relieved, and my sense of duty under the circumstances enables me to rise superior to the judgment of friends; and I stand fully committed to the prosecution of this debate. But while my mind is affected with hesitation and diffidence on these and some other accounts, there are other considerations which are a source of real pleasure. It is a pleasure to know that I am to address a congregation of candid persons, who will duly appreciate and weigh the arguments presented. I do not know that I could have suited myself better in this respect, had the choice been left entirely to me. Some apprehension was felt that the contracted dimensions of the house would not afford sufficient accommodation for the people; but I have never believed that the congregation would not listen with candor and impartiality to what was said. And it shall be my study to give reasons for what I may say; indeed, I should consider it trifling with the good sense of the audience, if I were to fill up the time with common place reinarks, or throw dust into their eyes, instead of addressing their understanding:
It is also a source of pleasure to me, that the disputants have been able to secure the services of the gentlemen who are to act as Moderators. I have confidence in those gentlemen, in their intelligence, judgment and integrity; and I believe, if circumstances shall require them to give decisions, they will be characterized by impartiality, and that the whole business of the debate, as far as they are responsible for its conduct, will be so carried forward as to give satisfaction to to all parties.
It is also a source of great pleasure to me that I have for my opponent the Rev. J. M. Austin, whose praise is in all the l'niversalist Congregations. There is only one man of whom I bave any information whom I would prefer to meet in a discussion of this kind; namely Mr. SKINNER : not because I suppose he is more talented, but he has more reputation as a debater, and as the champion of Universalism in Central New York: But in the absence of Mr. Skinner, Mr. Austin is of all others, the man I prefer to meet. So far as I know, he has the confidence of his own people; he claims the authorship of a number of books and pamphlets; is the corresponding editor of the Evangelical Magazine, so called ; is the preacher of the most wealthy and respectable Universalist society in this section of the state; and exhibits 100 as I understand, great learning and ability in criticism on the Greek text. In meeting Mr. Austin, therefore, I meel a man who can defend Universalism, is a defence of that system be possible. And if in the course of this debate, he finds it necessary to avoid defining his position on questions which will incidentally arise; should he eavil and deal in sophistry or attempt to throw dust in your eyes, where he ought to meet arguments, and dispose of them in a fair and candid way, the congregation will understand that it is not because he lacks ability, or information, but it must be attributed to some inherent and unconquerable perversity in the nature of the cause he advocates. Mr. Austin will understand me as intending nothing disrespectful in these personal allusions. My own course shall be, to give arguments that pertain to the merits of the subject, and reasons for what I have to say; and if Mr. Austin will meet me on this ground he shall have my thanks for his candor whatever I may think of his logic. With these preliminary remarks I approach the question before us.
The question is, Does Gospel SALVATION EMBRACE DELIVERANCE FROM JUST AND DESERVED PUXISHMENT? Here Mr. Austin denies, and I affirm. Before I lay down the first argument in support of the affirmative of this question, I wish to state a few principles, which more or less govern the administration of law, associated with the docrine of divine punishment. 1. The law of God is like himself, holy, just, and good—a transcript of the Divine mind. 2. The penalty associated with the law, is like the law itself, holy, just, and good, and hence it must be as right and just, that the penalty should be inflicted upon those who violate the law, as that the law itself should demand obedience. 3. Where the law is transgressed, and the penalty incurred, there is no power in the creature to avert the penalty, nor does the law itself provide a remedy. 4. As all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, all have incurred the penalty, and it must be inflicted upon all to the full extent of their deserts, unless the law-giver or governmental power, resort to some expedient, in view of which the ends of good government are equally well sustained, while the sinner is allowed to escape the penalty and become the subject of divine clemency. 5. This expedient is found in the gospel and in the docrine of atonement. It will be perceived that the question does not relate to the nature of the penalty nor yet to the duration of the penalty, but simply to this fact; whether the Gospel makes provision whereby the sinner may escape the penalty of the law which he has violated, as well as escape from the tendency and necessity of committing sin. At this point I affirm, and Mr. Austin denies.
Perhaps it will prevent misapprehension if I here define the terms of the question. By the Gospel, I mean that system of grace and mercy introduced to the world through the Savior revealed in scripture, and illustrated by all the principles and facts developed under erery dispensation of God to man. By salvation, I mean deliverance from sin and its consequences. Deliverance is used synomymously with salvation, though restricted to the consequences of sin. By punishment, I mean the natural and legal consequences of sin. By just and deserred, I mean that kind and amount of punishment which the sinner deserves on account of transgression.
I now proceed to lay down my first argument in support of this proposition. It is drawn from the nature of the Gospel, as announced to the shepherds on the night-clad plains of Bethlehem, “ Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Now what did the shepherds understand by this? It must mean something or it means nothing. If it means nothing, the Gospel must be worse than nothing, because it trifles with the dearest and most cherished interests and hopes of men. If it means something, that something must be worthy of the benevolence of God, of the Gospel itself, and rich in its benefits to sinful and wretched man. But I cannot conceive how this is possible unless there is embraced in the Gospel a provision for the deliverance of the sinner from the consequences of his transgressions. “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.” “Good tidings" of what?
• Great joy,” on what account? Abstract from the Gospel the idea of a provision for the deliverance of the sinner from the consequences of his sins, and you strip it at once of its high character. It will not do to say that Christ was introduced for the purpose of revealing to the world the doctrine of a future state, and that this was the design, the whole design of the Gospel. Because the doctrine of a future state was in the world before Christ's day, and before the atonement was made. No part of the world is so degraded as to have lost entirely the idea of a future state, although variously corrupted by their depravity and errors. Nor will it do to say that the design of Christ and the Gospel was to reveal to them their ignorance of the character of God, or their prejudices against his holiness, his attributes and his government, for ihis would not be an occasion of glad tidings and great joy to those to whom it came, but rather one of self abasement, humiliation and sorrow. But when you connect with this announcement the idea of a provision for the relief of mankind from the consequences of their sins, we have something which makes the announcement consistent with itself, and that gives sufficient occasion for it to be considered “as good tidings of great joy" to all peop'e to whom it may come, and this, let it be understood, is precisely the point at which the human mind most needed relief. It is inseparable from a fallen and corrupt state of man to be oppressed with a sense of guilt, and fearful forebodings of future wrath. Especially is this the case in the absence of any specific knowledge of a plan by which men may be saved from that future wrath. That state of mind so feelingly and forcibly described by St. Paul in his epistle to the Romans, was the leading feature of the world's experience, for centuries before his