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fits flowing from these gracious acts, may be proposed to mankind upon certain conditions, and that those who do not comply with the terms of the new covenant, may be deprived of its blessings. His Majesty, instead of executing the laws against an army of rebels, makes proclamation, that all who will lay down their arms and return to their duty within a limited period, shall be restored to the same privileges with his other subjects: but that if they do not cease from their unnatural rebellion within the term specified, they shall be proceeded against as rebels and traitors. Does this gracious proclamation prevent his Majesty from punishing with death those who despise it? Yet, in Mr. W.'s way of drawing consequences, it is easy to prove that those who continue in rebellion, will be dealt with in mercy. Thus "the prolonged existence of these re"bels is the effect of His Majesty's gracious proclama"tion. It is acknowledged that his Majesty's proclama❝tion is the effect of his love: consequently every thing "arising from this proclamation is an effect of love. His "Majesty will judge and hang those who obstinately per"severe in rebellion; consequently his judging and hanging them will be gracious acts, intended to make "them good members of civil society!" In fact, if we allow Mr. W.'s consequences to be just, it may be shown very readily, that when one act of mercy has passed, nothing but mercy can follow.
It is surely most curious language to tell sinners that it is an act of love and mercy in God to send them to hell. Why should they be afraid of going to hell, if there be nothing but the love and mercy of God displayed there? Is the contemplation of these Divine perfections calculated to inspire them with fear?
To show the tendency of Mr. W.'s doctrine, I will suppose the following conversation to take place between him and a person who is in the habit of attending his ministry, and of reading his productions from the press.
Mr. W. You are far advanced in years, Mr. F., what you think about another world.
Mr. F. I cannot say, Sir, that I am prepared for heaven, but it is some consolation to me, that the horrible doctrine of everlasting damnation is not true.
W. Poor consolation indeed! You cannot tell how severe future punishment may be, nor how long it may continue. Is it not the height of folly to run the hazard of enduring the most extreme tortures for ages, merely to gratify your sinful inclinations for a few days? F. If I were conscious of any such hazard, I would immediately subscribe to the folly of my conduct. have you not informed the world, that" all punishments are connected with mercy?" and also that "God cannot act towards any creature at any time, but from a principle "of love?"* Now will a God of love and mercy inflict punishment greater in degree, or of longer duration than is necessary to bring his creatures to virtue and happiness?
W. But for aught we know, extreme punishment, for a long time, may be necessary to bring about those ends.
F. The direct contrary is clearly deducible from your writings. You know that the above description is calculated to beget fear; whereas you have observed in reply to Dr. Ryland, (p. 18.) that "the government of God is "not the reign of terror-that men are not to be fright"ened into his love-that if they saw his loveliness, and "perceived his love to them, they certainly would love "and obey him." I cannot possibly see how this representation can accord with any punishment; much less. with punishment that will be very severe, and of long duration.
W. It is not supposed by us, that the wicked will be conquered and made virtuous by mere torment, only "that their sufferings may conduce to their conviction of the evil and bitter nature of sin, in order to their
* Hints, p. 4.
"being fitted to become recipients of divine mercy, by "which they will be healed and restored."*
F. If a conviction of the evil and bitter nature of sin be all that is necessary in order to become a recipient of Divine mercy, then I may hope to escape all future punishment, since, if I die in my present state, I shall go into the other world with this conviction.
W. "As God doth not afflict willingly, all the sufferings of the present state have a tendency to bring men "to reflection, that they may be humbled before the Lord; "and how will it be proved that the sufferings of the "wicked hereafter will not have the same tendency?"+
F. An advocate for the tremendous doctrine of endless torments would object, that you apply that text in too great a latitude, and ask you how the destruction of the Sodomites had so happy a tendency?, with many other puzzling questions; but I entirely coincide with. your views of the passage. You have however furnished me with arguments, in the very next page, to remove all apprehensions of any thing very dreadful; for you observe," That sufferings in the present life have not al"ways a good effect, may be accounted for by consider"ing that sinners do not, generally, view them as coming " from the hand of God, nor consider sin as the cause of "them; no wonder, then, that they are not humbled un"der the Divine hand; but they must have very different "ideas when under future punishment." You go on to say, "that men in this life, however great their sufferings, find many alleviations, many things to divert their "attention and dissipate their thoughts; but none of "these circumstances can exist in the future state of "punishment." Now, Sir, if the peculiarity of men's circumstances here be the reason why the sufferings of this life do not always terminate in conversion, if those hinderances will not exist in another world, and if God do
* Examination, p. 46. † Ibid. p. 48.
not afflict willingly, then it must follow, that greater sufferings than those of the present life will not be necessary to bring men to virtue in the life to come, and of course will not be inflicted. It would therefore be as absurd to live in the fear of hell, as to torment myself with the thought I am subject to bodily affliction and disease. In short, Sir, should I find my situation in the other world unpleasant, I have only to pray for qualifications for a better, and in answer to prayer I shall obtain both. You will therefore excuse me if I say, that there is nothing in the decision of a future judgment of an alarming nature.
Who does not see that the jargon of this carnal professor is consistent with the doctrine of Universal Restitution. The Scriptures uniformly represent the day of judgment as a most dreadful season to the wicked, from the consideration that the Divine vengeance will be then displayed in its most terrific forms; (2 Thess. i. 8-10.) whereas the Universalists' account of it is only calculated to harden the lukewarm and careless, and to bolster up the presumptuous hypocrite. What a dreadful account will such ministers have to give when they undergo the strict scrutiny of their Judge! A doctrine which is unfavourable to the interests of morality, by destroying a sanction of the divine law, has its origin inscribed upon its forehead in very legible characters.
Mr. Vidler affirms, "That judgment is a mediato"rial work, and founded upon the mercy of God in "Christ."* Let judgment be founded upon what it may, it cannot be a mediatorial work, for that is a contradiction in terms. To judge, is to determine a case according to law. To meditate, is to endeavour to reconcile contending parties. It is therefore impossible for a person to act in both these capacities, toward the same individual, at the same time, while he is mediating he
Dialogues, Note, p. 77.
cannot be judging, and while he is judging he cannot be mediating.
The proof that judgment is founded upon mercy is given in these words,-"However judgment may be "shown without mercy during the proper age thereof,
yet mercy shall finally rejoice against judgment." I suppose Mr. V. wishes to be understood, that the same persons may have judgment without mercy, and afterward find mercy. It is really astonishing that a writer, in the same paragraph, should venture on so palpable an absurdity: Judgment is founded on mercy, and yet judgment may be shown without mercy! If Mr. V. can reconcile such contradictions, he is qualified to prove, that darkness is light, and light darkness. I suppose he hadan eye to James ii. 13. A little attention to the context will convince any unbiassed mind that the apostle alludes to two sorts of There is a persons. 66 royal law" which the saints are under. It is defined in these terms,-"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." ver. 8. By this law they will be judged; "So speak ye, and so "do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty," ver. 12. Hence we gather that those who obey this law, by their acts of mercy, will find mercy in judgment, according to Matt. v. 7. Blessed are the merciful," for they shall obtain mercy." But the wicked, who have "showed no mercy." shall have "judgment without "mercy." This is clear and consistent; but I have yet to learn, how those who have no judgment but what is in mercy, can, notwithstanding, have judgment without mercy.