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jecting the Eucharist, because the Papists held to Transubstantiation? Will you discourage good works, because the Catholics held to Supererogation? The fact is, every professed Christian holds some doctrines which the Church of Rome abused. But as many of your sentiment wish to ridicule our scheme by branding it with the name of Purgatory, we will for one moment inquire into the origin of the system in which you believe.
By perusing the pages of ecclesiastical history, we learn that the Gnostics, that ancient sect of heretics, who disturbed the peace of the church, agreed with you in your distinguishing doctrine. They held that the soul was an emanation from the Deity; that there was no material resurrection; that the body was a mere clog to the soul, which went to immediate happiness, when dislodged from the body. And this sect was founded by Simon Magus, that ancient enemy of the gospel.* Your system then can boast of considerable antiquity, but it cannot be regarded, even by yourself, as a great honor to any system to be founded by a magician, and nursed by the Gnostics.
But to return: All the writers of any reputation who have defended the doctrine of Universal Salvation, have believed in a future retribution. Yes, our writers in all ages, both in Europe and America, have been agreed on this point. I speak of those now off the stage. We do not intend to attach too much consequence to this circumstance, but still we think it is entitled to some weight. Antiquity, though of itself no evidence of a doctrine, ought in all cases to entitle a doctrine to respect, till it be fairly proved to be unfounded. Antiquity also does in some instances furnish us with good evidence, by carrying us back to the times in which the thing itself originated, giving those early believers an
* See Priestley's Church History, vol. i. pp. 46, 168, 195.
opportunity of knowing the truth. And this is the case in the instance before us. But whilst all the principal writers in all ages, who have adopted our general system, have believed in a future retribution, the doctrine of immediate happiness was scarcely heard of till within a very few years. Dr. Huntington was the first writer of any note who denied a future punishment. And since that time, which was about thirty years ago, his scheme has been generally rejected, and the doctrine which introduces all men into heaven at death, has undergone many changes, and in fact is still fluctuating. There are scarcely two persons on your side of the question, who are agreed in opinion. One founds the doctrine of immediate happiness upon materialism; another supposes, that sinners are first suffered to drop out of being, and then will be introduced into immediate happiness, and another saves them by an imputation of righteousness. You yourself do not appear to be at all settled in your peculiar views. At one time you save mankind by death, at another by instruction, and at another by the resurrection. This fluctuation of sentiment, this difference of opinion, among the deniers of a future retribution, plainly shows that there is great difficulty in their system. This multiplicity of sentiment verifies your declaration, that "as long as men are disposed to learn the scriptures how to talk, they will be forced to speak as many different languages as were spoken at the building of Babel, and with as much confusion."
Before dismissing this subject, I will state one notion more which has been advanced by those who deny future misery. They pretend to believe in a future retribution, but they qualify it in such a manner, that to my mind it means just nothing at all. They assert, that men will be punished after death, if they die impenitent; but they assert that this punishment is only a negative punishment, consisting not in any degree of misery, but
in a less degree of happiness!* This system appears to be composed of sound rather than signification. I will not detain you by attempting a labored refutation of this novel sentiment, but will just remark: This negative punishment, as it is called, either renders the sinner unhappy, or it does not. If it does not, then it is no punishment at all. To talk of men's being punished, when they themselves experience no unhappiness, is a contradiction in terms. So on supposition that this punishment, as it is called, does not produce any misery, this system is no different from yours, which denies a future retribution in full. And if this negative punishment does produce misery, then this system agrees with ours, and admits of actual suffering in a future state. It is useless therefore, for the abettors of this scheme to pretend, that this is a half way system between yours and the one for which we contend. In fact this subject admits of no medium. If a person has any settled opinion, he must either believe or disbelieve the doctrine of future suffering for the impenitent.
From what has been offered in this Letter, it will be seen that a future reward is reserved for the righteous. This consideration shows that a full retribution does not take place in this state. Fvery passage which teaches a future reward, teaches a future punishment also. This you acknowledge. And as a future reward is clearly proved, it follows of consequence that there will be a future punishment. We have also seen that a future retribution is the common sentiment of mankind. If this sentiment is borrowed from divine revelation, it is decisive in favor of our opinion; and if it arises from any principle implanted in our nature, by the Deity, as it must, if it is not derived from revelation, it furnishes us with an argument nearly as forcible. We have further
* See Christian Telescope, edited by Rev. D. Pickering.
seen that all the principal defenders of Universal Salvation, both in Europe and America, till within a very few years, have believed in a future retribution; while the system for which you contend, has, from its first appearing in latter times, been in a state of almost perpetual fluctuation. This is a just statement of the prevalence and permanency of the two systems, and this is just what might naturally be expected on supposition that a future retribution is the truth of God, and its opposite the invention of man.
REV. AND DEAR BROTHER,
In this Letter I propose to consider some of the principal objections which you urge against a future retribution, which have not already been answered in these Letters. Some of your arguments which I shall here notice, are perhaps more properly arguments in favor of your system, than objections against mine. They may, however, with propriety be introduced here. Your most popular objection to a future punishment is this ;-All men are to be raised immortal, and immortality cannot suffer, consequently there can be no misery after death. That you make great use of this argument, may be seen by many quotations, among which is the following."Whoever will pay a serious attention to the subject under consideration, and lay all prejudice aside, will soon learn that divine revelation allows no condemnation -no sin--in an immortal state."*
Your argument in relation to immortality, rests upon two positions. The premises from which your conclusion, that there can be no condemnation after death, is drawn, are these, viz. that immortality cannot suffer, and that all men put on immortality at the moment of death. If either of these positions be untenable, then your conclusion will fail. Do you assert that immortality cannot suffer? You do. Thus far then, you have the confidence to state one of your premises. But do you state the other position, viz. that all men are raised to immortality at the moment of death? No; you do not.
Reply to Merritt, p. 34. See also Lectures, pp. 94, 369, 370. U. Mag. Vol. IV. p. 151.