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"which is to come, have not enough to enable them to believe the final restoration of all things.
"The faith that was necessary for Abraham, in order "to believe that he should have a son in his old age, and "should be the father of a multitude of nations, was not "to be compared to the faith necessary to believe that "our Lord is able, and that he will finally subdue, rehead "in himself, reconcile, and restore all things.
"If God was to inform me by his word that he would "create a thousand worlds more than he has, turn all "the animals into rational creatures, change stones into "living intelligences, and perform ten thousand more "such wonders in creation; it would not be half so dif"ficult for me to believe, as the doctrine of the Resto"ration."
Who could have more effectually burlesqued the doctrine of the Restoration! The father of the faithful had no faith when compared with that of Winchester and his followers! If none can believe the Restoration but those who have this vastly stronger faith than is necessary to their own salvation, the author is under no apprehension on account of his readers.
On the Perfections of God.
THE Universalists pretend to prove, from the divine
perfections, as well as from divine revelation, that the restoration which they contend for, must take place; and that punishment cannot be eternal. The following observations go to prove that we cannot arrive at any certain conclusion upon this interesting subject, merely from reasoning on the perfections of God; since those perfections do not furnish us with data, from which we may calculate with precision, the future condition of impenitent sinners.
It may be supposed, that some virtuous people have not so large a share of happiness as of misery in this life, and hence it may seem reasonable that the Almighty should make up the deficiency in the life to come. But this does not apply to the case of the wicked. Abraham reasoned well in Gen. xviii. 25. Suppose then God were to annihilate the whole of the human race; the wicked at death, or after a period of suffering, and the righteous when their sum of happiness is equal to, or in some degree exceeds, their sum of misery, what injury would His perfections sustain by this? Would He not be the same just, and holy, and good Being, when man should be no more, that He was before man existed?
Is He any more obliged to give us existence to eternity, than He was to give us existence from eternity? And what obligation is He under to renew His mercies to those in another world who only abuse them in this? It is so far, then, from being certain from the perfections of God that the wicked will be restored and put in possession of eternal happiness, that it cannot be proved from these perfections that they will survive the present state of existence, or that even the righteous wil! live for ever. But though it cannot be proved by unassisted reason, that immortality belongs to man, we must not forget that this is brought to light by the Gospel.
If sin be punished at all, the punishment must be in proportion to the magnitude of the offence: it is therefore impossible to conclude any thing about the duration of punishment, till we have ascertained the exceeding sinfulness of sin, which certainly cannot be ascertained by the light of nature. Our reasonings on the divine perfections would not have led us to conclude that the ground is cursed on account of sin: we could not have perceived so close a connexion between the moral and natural world, as to perceive that a disorder in the one would so materially affect the other. Much less could we have seen that the sin of man is the cause of the misery of the brute creation. For who can perceive any necessary connexion between the sin of a man, and the suffering of a beast? Yet our senses convince us that the earth is under a curse, and that the whole animal creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain; and revelation informs us of the cause. Had we other senses, we might perhaps trace the effects of sin much farther. It is allowed that the government of God is infinite, and that some connexion runs through the whole; and it is no more improbable that the whole universe might, in some way or other, be affected by the sin of man, than that it should contaminate our elements, and make the world groan with the miseries
of its inhabitants. It must be observed too, that the laws of God have infinite authority stamped upon them, and that God has laid us under infinite obligations to obey them. When we put all these things together;-when we consider that sin may perhaps be infinite in its effects, that it is committed against an infinite Being, and that it is a violation of infinite obligations, it will be difficult, if not impossible to prove, that sin is not an infinite evil: and if it be an infinite evil, it must merit infinite or eternal punishment.
As lame an argument as Mr. Winchester affects to call this, he has made but a very lame reply to it.
1. "If sin be infinite, then we must ascribe to it one "of the perfections of the Deity, which strikes me as "absurd."* Is it absurd to say that space is infinite? Is it absurd to say some creatures will exist through infinite duration? Must infinity be ascribed to nothing but God!
2. "Actions must take their denomination from the "actors, and not from the objects." In estimating the magnitude of sin, the objects and the effects of it must be taken into the account, as well as the actors. It is certainly a much greater sin in a man to murder a friend who has a large family, and who has loaded him with favours, than to murder a person who stands in no such relation to him, and who has no family connexions, though the murderous disposition may possibly be the same in both cases. We must consider the objects: the common sense of mankind agrees, that it is much more criminal to kill a friend, who has laid the murderer under great obligations, than to kill an indifferent person. We must consider the effects: if an unconnected person be slain, the evil goes no further; but if the head of a family be taken away by the dagger of the assassin, his widow and children, who were dependent on him for * Dialogues on the Restoration, p. 185.