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I shall not feel much ashamed at being found in such
These facts are sufficient to put down this objection forever. Nor need we be alarmed that the doctrine will produce an increase of iniquity when the inspired writers never used the opposite doctrine, to check the progress of sin in the world. They had certainly something left to deter men from sin, and which they deemed so efficacious, as to supersede the necessity of the doctrine of hell
3d, Let us inquire, what that was, which they deemed sufficient without it. Paul says, "the goodness of God,” and not hell torments, leadeth men to repentance. It is "the grace of God," not hell torments, which teacheth to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. It is the "love of Christ," not hell torments, which constrains men not to live to themselves but to the glory of God. All, who are acquainted with the scriptures know, to what extent I might here refer to texts of a similar nature, showing the same thing; but I forbear. Here then was the sovereign remedy, which they proposed, to cure a licentious world. If this failed, they had no other to propose. All other remedies which people have tried to effect it, have been like the woman, ho spent her all on other physicians, but rather grew worse. The love of God in the gift of his son, is that, which when believed, and its influence felt, constrains to love and to good works. Every thing else to effect a cure without this, is only religious quackery, and this we deem the very worst kind of quackery. But
4th, Those persons, who aver, that if the doctrine of hell torments be done away, there is nothing left to deter men from the commission of every crime, must certainly think, that where this doctrine is taught, it greatly
tends to prevent wickedness. I believe that this will be strongly contended for. Is this then true? Can it be established by sufficient evidence? Has the preaching of hell torments then, to mankind, produced such glorious effects, as such persons by the above objection would have us believe? Our actual observation of its effects, where this doctrine has been preached, we admit is very limited. But we have seen a little of it, at least in two quarters of ⚫ the globe, and we think facts will warrant us to say, that hell torments, and heathenish morality have been preached to people, in many instances, until they have been preached into the grossest immorality. Was not this. tried for ages among the Gentile nations, but did it turn them from sin to God? No; it was when the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. Besides, our own actual observation does not lead us to think, that where the doctrine of hell torments is most preached, there the people are most holy. If they even were, it must be a kind of holiness produced by mere terror, which cannot certainly be called the holiness produced by the gospel.
5th, But admitting that the preaching of hell torments did deter men, in many cases, from the commission of crimes, what opinion are we to form of the morality produced by such a cause? We do not envy that husband, or that parent, the respect and obedience which he receives from his wife and children, who obtains it from the fear of being cast into a furnace of fire! This might do well enough for an eastern despot, but no rational man, far less the God of the universe, .would think this true obedience or morality. We venture to say that such a course, to produce obedience, either among men, or in regard to God, is as bad state policy, as it is false divin
ity. It shows as much ignorance of human nature, as it displays a want of common humanity. In the preaching of Jesus Christ and his apostles, I do not find any attempts made to frighten men from their licentious courses into religion, by terrific descriptions of hell torments. They had so many more rational arguments to induce men to obedience to God, without this, that they never made use of it. Had they deemed it of as much importance as the objector thinks it, we have no doubt but that they would have preached it to the world. At any rate, he must first prove that they did preach this doctrine, before his objection is of any force.
6th, The doctrine of the apostles, of salvation by grace, through faith, was denounced as leading to licentiousness. Let us sin, said the objector, because grace aboundeth. Now we should like to know how salvation, in this way to all, should be of a licentious nature, and not also to a few? The truth is, the number saved, can make no difference in the case. If the doctrine is licentious when extended to the whole human race, it must be so though limited to a single individual. But every oneknows how the apostle refuted the objection. "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid: how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?" We repel the charge in the same way.
But the persons who bring this charge against us, seem to think that because no hell torments are prepared, that men are to go to heaven without any Saviour or salvation. We believe no such doctrine. On the contrary, we as firmly believe as any persons, that all who are saved, shall be saved from their sins, reconciled to God, and made meet for heaven. If there be any Universalists, who believe otherwise, we disown them, and would be glad to have them give up the name, until they have
relinquished such principles. But we never heard of any Universalists, who held the opinion that any persons went to heaven in their sins. No: in their writings and preaching they disclaim it, and consider it not very candid, nor honorable in their opponents, to bring such a charge against them.
Should it be said here, "but whatever they pretend, do you not see a great many who profess to be Universalists, living very licentious lives?" We freely grant this, but if this is any argument against the doctrine, we think it is one which will prove a great deal too much. It will prove equally against the Congregationalists, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Unitarians, and in short, every religious denomination in the world. Do you not find many who profess the principles of all these different sects, who live licentious lives? We are sorry to say that this is but too evident. But this kind of argument, would even prove the principles of the Bible itself to be licentious. Are there not many who profess its principles, who lead licentious lives? Yes, alas! too many. But you will seldom find that the disciples of Paine or Voltaire, are so uncandid, and reason so incorrectly as to conclude, that the Bible is of a licentious tendency in its principles, because many who profess them are very wicked men.
But, say the objectors, those licentious persons who profess to believe the Bible, and of the above sects, do not understand the principles that they profess. Granted. And why will not the objectors allow that many who profess to be Universalists do not understand and believe the principles which they profess. If it is no reproach to the other sects to have such kind of professors, why should it be any reproach to the Universalists? The fact is, such kind of professors are no honor to any denomi
nation professing the Christian name, and we once heard of a sect of Deists, who would not have received them into their community, for they would not admit any immoral person among them.
We are sure, the fact is too evident to be disputed, that wherever the eternity of hell torments has been published, and published too in all the horrors with which human eloquence could decorate it, and enforced with all the clerical dignity and civil authority that popes, priests, and kings could afford, it has not prevented wickedness in the earth. In my judgment it has produced immorality and other evil consequences, which human nature, bad as it is, agrees to condemn. I shall explain myself by an example. You hear a profane swearer tell his fellow, or perhaps his nearest relation, to go to hell; yea, even pray God to damn their souls to hell. Now give me leave to ask, where did such a person learn this senseless, profane language? He perhaps learned it from some other swearer like himself. But this only provokes the question, Whence did this language originate? It could not be from the Bible. It is not pretended that any man is born with a swearing constitution, nor is this the effect of inspiration. Whence, then, came such language? I answer, from the pulpit. Preachers, for ages, have been telling people on the first day of the week, that God will damn the souls of the wicked to hell forever. Is it very surprising, considering what human nature is, that men should imitate this language the other six days of the week? Men must have first learned that hell is a place of endless misery for the wicked, before they could speak in this manner. Such language they never could learn from the Bible and we know of no other source to which we can trace such current language in society.