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On the Experience of Christians.
MR. WINCHESTER, in his Third Dialogue, endeavours to show that Christian experience naturally leads to a belief of the Doctrine of Restoration. He asks his friend, (p.104.) "Did you not see yourself lost "and undone, and that you were vile before God, un"worthy of his mercy, and totally unable to deliver your"self from your sin and misery?" His friend replies, "I certainly did." Perhaps I am short-sighted, for when I saw that I was lost and undone—that I could not deliver myself, and that I was unworthy of the mercy of God, I concluded that as I had no claim on mercy, God might justly withhold it for ever.
Mr. W. inquires of his friend again, "And were you not brought by the power of God to resign your"self into his hands without reserve, to do with you, and dispose of you, according to his will and pleasure, being convinced that he neither would nor could do you any "injustice." "O yes," (says his friend,)" and then I "found peace." According to this experience, it seems that, when a man is persuaded God will do him no injustice, he will resign himself into the hands of the Almighty with peace and composure. But I ask, Does not every man, who has just views of his condition, see that God would do him no injustice by sending him to hell? Does he therefore feel himself resigned to go thither? Is a conviction that God will do no injustice sufficient to fill the mind with peace? Why then, to be sure, the inhabitants of hell are full of peace: for they can have nothing to object to the justice of God, in sending them thither. I never yet was willing to be damned; I could not be satisfied till I received power to resign myself into the hands
of God under a persuasion of His mercy towards me through Jesus Christ.
After this resignation into the hands of justice, Mr. W. and his friend both "saw into the fulness, sufficiency, "and willingness of Christ to save ;" and then they were "constrained to venture their souls into his arms." p. 106. And there may they rest for ever!
But Mr. W. asks, p. 108, the following questions; "Did you not see and feel yourself the vilest of sinners ? "Did you not view the love of God infinitely full, free, "and unmerited? Did you not behold in Christ an infi"nite fulness, sufficiency, and willingness to save all "without exception? Did you not love all, and wish "that all might come and partake of his grace? Did you not earnestly desire the salvation of all your enemies, and of all mankind? Did you not find it in your "heart to pray for the salvation of all mankind as for your 46 own ? If you had as much power as good-will, would "you not bring all to bow to the sceptre of grace, and "to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Would you bring all to submit to God, and be happy if you could, and will not He, to whom nothing that he pleases "to do is impossible, bring all his creatures to be re"conciled to himself at last? He has infinitely more "love to his creatures than all the saints and angels in "glory have."
I will take the liberty, in my turn, to ask a Universalist a question or two. Would you send a person to hell for an age, if it were in your power to do or not to do it? Would you not put an end to sin and misery immediately, if you possibly could? Would you not have prevented the existence of sin and misery if you possibly could? Tell me now, in Mr. W.'s language, that God, "to whom nothing that he pleases to do, is impossible, "has infinitely more love to His creatures than all the "saints and angels in glory have," and then say, whether these questions do not argue as truly against an age of
misery, or even against its introduction, as Mr. W.'s questions do against its endless continuance?
But the fact is, the questions prove just nothing in either case; for since creatures do not stand in the same relations to each other that they stand in to God, they must not presume to transfer their feelings to Him, and then make them the test of his procedure in the government of the universe. In all these questions not a bint is dropped about man being a free agent, and God a moral Governor, for such a representation would have prevent ed that influence on the passions which they seemed de signed to occasion. Sin flows from an abuse of liberty, and punishment is inflicted with a view to prevent that abuse in others, and thereby to preserve moral order. When a man is brought to the gallows for murder, you may meet with rogues and assassins, who would set him at liberty if they possibly could; but does it follow from hence that the execution of such a man is an act of injustice?
On the Duty of Christians.
OUR UR Lord has commanded us to love all mankind, 66 even our greatest enemies. But if God doth not love all himself, Christ hath commanded us to be more perfect, in that respect, than our Father who is in "heaven."* We are commanded to love our brethren, our neighbours, and our enemies; but thousands of Christians do this, without falling in love with devils and damned spirits.
"2. We are commanded to do good to all men, as we "have opportunity."t True. But what opportunity
* Dialogues, p. 109.
+ Ibid. p. 110.
have we of doing good to the inhabitants of hell? If the Universalists will show us in what way it is in our power to serve them, we shall feel no objection to afford them all possible assistance; but it ought to be kept in mind, that the Scriptures do not represent them as objects of mercy, but as monuments of wrath.
are commanded And it is asked,
But it is remarked further, that we to overcome evil with good, Rom. xii. 21. Will not God then overcome evil with good? And if he do, is not the Restoration scheme true ?* I ask, Can we always overcome evil with good? We can only ENDEAVOUR to do it, but must still leave men at their liberty, as God also does; for though the goodness of God leadeth to repentance, yet some despise the riches of His goodness, and treasure up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, Rom. ii. 4, 5. And in the very passage in which we are commanded to overcome evil with good, the reason assigned is, not that God always overcomes evil in this way, but, because It is written, VENGEANCE IS MINE; I WILL REPAY, SAITH The Lord.
"3. We are commanded to forgive all men their trespasses, and to pray, saying, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, Matt. vi. 12-15. Now, is it "possible to suppose that our Lord would command
us, upon pain of his highest displeasure, to forgive "those whom he hated, and determined to punish while "he should exist, without having the least desire or de'sign to do them good?" God does not stand in the same relation to men, that one man stands in to another. And according to the difference of relations, the conduct must be different. Hence we may admit the premises, and yet deny the conclusion. A parent who hazards his life to save his child, only acts a part which becomes him, considering the relation in which he stands to it. But
* Universalists' Miscellany, Vol. 1. p. 312.
Dialogues, p. 116.
view the same man as a soldier in the field, and the case is altered. It is now his duty to expose his life to destroy the enemy of his country.-If God will forgive every offender, why has he annexed penal sanctions to his laws? or rather, why has he published any laws? If it may be inferred from the duty of forgiving injuries being enjoined us, that God will forgive all men; it will follow, that as we are required to forgive them in this life, God will forgive them in this life also; and then there will be no future punishment at all.
I cannot think that the precept to forgive, is to be understood in that absolute sense for which the Universalists contend; since God has instituted the office of civil magistracy, to be a terror to evil-doers. Now if the precept to forgive injuries implied, that we ought not, in any case, to seek redress by law, for what end did God ordain the civil powers? Rom. xiii. 1. But if our forgiving others implies no more than that we ought to be of a merciful disposition, and not to revenge injuries without applying to lawful authority, nor make such application with any other view than a regard to the interests of society, then this command can never be urged in support of the doctrine of Restoration, because we have reason to believe that God has a regard to the interests of his creatures, considered as a whole, in punishing the wicked with endless misery.-The fact is, that repentance in the offender is necessary to entitle him to a pardon. If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. Repentance is as necessary a condition to entitle us to the favour of God: Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish. But if some may be so far lost to virtue that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, (Heb. vi. 4-6.) then some will never be forgiven. And indeed we are expressly told that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness shall not be forgiven.