Imágenes de páginas

together, as though they were in perfect unison with each other!

But perhaps you will attempt to maintain a consistency by saying that you predicate your views, not on either of these positions separately, but on all united. This then, is confessing that neither of them separately is sufficient to support your system; so that all arguments resting upon either position alone, are not to be admitted as full proof of your views. This reduces your proof to a chain of three links, each of which must be sound, or the chain is broken. Now if any flaw can be found in either of these links, the chain is broken as effectually as tho every link were destroyed. And all that we have urged against these positions separately, will apply with equal force, if they were united. This ground then is only subjecting you to greater inconveniences; for instead of having one position to maintain, you have three. This perhaps may induce you to rely upon one only. But remember that whenever you urge either of the positions, you renounce both

the others.

I have now closed my examination of your system, and what has been offered is submitted to the reader. If I have effected what I attempted to effect, i. e. to show that it has no support from scripture or reason, but is in opposition to both; that it is inconsistent with itself, and acknowledged by yourself to be unfounded, it must surely fall. It is hardly necessary to examine your arguments, for if the foundation on which they rest is sapped, their force is entirely obviated. But as you have several arguments which you keep constantly in view, I will examine them at large in the next Letter.

Yours, &c.


Examination of Mr. Ballou's arguments.


As was proposed in my last, I will now attend to some of the principal arguments on which you rely for the support of your system. The first argument I shall notice is this;-As sin and misery are inseparably connected, and as there will be no sin after death, so there can be no punishment. That this is an argument on which you rely, will be seen by the following. "As sin had its origin in flesh and blood, and as no intimation is given in the scriptures, that sin ever was or ever will be committed out of flesh and blood, we venture to hope that sin will never exist after this present mortal state shall close." This quotation will justify the argument stated above. And although there is a taking plausibility in this argument, and those of your views place great dependence upon it, still I trust that it can be made to appear that it is as false, as it is specious.

Upon this argument we remark-1. This argument is founded upon the principle that all sin originates in the flesh, and that death saves the soul. But in the preceding Letter, it has been proved from scripture, reason, and your own acknowledgment, that all sin arises from the evil disposition or intention of the mind, and not from the flesh. We have also seen that if death qualifies a man for heaven, he is not saved by Christ, but by a physical law of nature. This has been stated at large in my last, to which the reader is referred. And if what is there advanced be conclusive, then this argument is already refuted. For if the foundation be destroyed, whatever rests upon that basis must fall.

* U. Mag. Vol. III. p. 150. See also Lect. pp. 14, 242.


2. The argument before us is also founded upon principle, that all criminality ceases as soon as the sinful act is performed; a principle repugnant to the scriptures, and the common sense of mankind. No man is a sinner until he has committed sin, and unless the criminality outlives the act, then guilt is as momentary as the act. And hence all punishment inflicted in this world, is cruel and vindictive, if it continue one moment after the crime is perpetrated. This principle would destroy all society, and fill the world with rapine and blood, should it be reduced to practice. Human laws cannot take cognizance of an act until after it is committed, and if criminality ceases with the act, then all punishments inflicted by human laws are unjust and cruel; then human laws are engines of oppression, and ought to be repealed. Thus, Sir, would this principle destroy all government and law, and introduce a state of general anarchy and confusion. But this principle, dangerous as it is, is the basis on which your argument rests.

The divine law, it is true, is not thus confined. That can punish us in the perpetration of the crime as well as afterwards. But tho the divine law can and generally does punish the sinner in a degree, while in the act of transgression, thousands of instances can be produced in which men are punished by the divine law long after the commission of the crime. You contend that Cain was punished for the murder of his brother by being a fugitive and vagabond in the earth; but was all this inflicted upon him while in the very act of murder? Surely not. When treating upon the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, you say, "For nearly eighteen hundred years the Jews have wandered in outer darkness in consequence of this blasphemy, and how much longer they are to continue in this unhappy situation, none but our merciful Father in heaven knows."* Here then, instead

* Lect. p. 144.

of limiting the criminality to the time in which the act was committed, you continue the punishment, and consequently the guilt, for ages of ages, even upon their innocent offspring. With what propriety, I demand, can you maintain that it would be unjust to punish a man in a future state, who is taken out of time in the very act of murder, when you insist that the poor Jews have already been punished nearly two thousand years, for a crime of which they were innocent and knew nothing-a crime in which they had no agency-committed hundreds of years before they had a being? But to return-In the case before us, you acknowledge that the guilt does not cease with the act, but continues hundreds of years.

In your devotions you undoubtedly use that model of prayer left us by our Savior, and say, "Our Father, which art in heaven, forgive us our sins." By this you. acknowledge yourself a sinner, though you are not in the perpetration of any sin. You will acknowledge that prayer is a duty, and by laying your confessions and petitions before God, you are in the discharge of this duty. But still, while in your devotions, that is, while faithfully discharging your duty, you confess yourself to be a sinner ; a sinner in consequence of sins committed before that period. Thus you acknowledge that criminality outlives the act of committing sin. You confess that a man may be a sinner after the sinful act is committed, though at the time he may be performing an act of virtue. As in the case of prayer, so in other cases, a 'man, though then in the line of his duty, may sinner in consequence of sins committed before that time. You acknowledge that sinfulness outlives the sinful act, and thus admit a principle which saps the foundation of your argument.

be a

The term sin signifies not only the act of wickedness, but the evil disposition which produced it, and the


corruption or depravity which it continues upon th mind. A person who has formed a design to murde is as much a murderer at heart, as though the crim were committed; and if he cherishes a murderous, tha is, a hateful disposition after he has taken life, he is a much a murderer then, as he was while in the commis sion of the crime. Every man who has committed sim is a sinner, and will always retain that character, unti he repent. If I committed murder ten years ago, am considered and treated as a murderer at the pre sent day, by him who knows the thoughts and intents of my heart, unless I have repented and reformed. a man who goes out of the world in the perpetration of such horrid crimes, will be a murderer in a future state, unless it can be proved that he reforms in the instant of death. But you say a man cannot be a sinner after he has ceased sinning. I reply; a murderer ·confined in a dungeon, has not only ceased from murdering, but is in a situation, where perhaps, he can coinmit no actual transgression. But does this render him holy? Is every wretch to be regarded as a saint, simply because he has no opportunity of pursuing his villanies? The principle you advance proves this, or else it is nothing to your purpose. But perhaps you will say that by ceasing from sin, you mean not only ceasing from actual transgression, but from a sinful disposition, and depraved feelings. To this I reply,

3. This is a mere begging of the question. For if sin and misery are inseparably connected, then to say there are no sinners in a future state, is precisely the same as to say there is no punishment there, which is no argument, but a bare assertion and a begging of the question. Sin and misery being inseparably connected, if it can be proved that men will be punished in a future state, it will follow that they are sinners there. There is no need of actual transgression in a future world, to consti

« AnteriorContinuar »