« AnteriorContinuar »
feared, and their favor surely I have not courted, by the sentiments which I have advanced.
2d, But if we are not to examine into the truth of religious doctrines, unless our examination ends in the belief that the popular and long established views of them are true, all inquiry and investigation may as well be spared. It is much easier to adopt the popular belief at once; for after all the labour and care we may bestow, to ascertain what is truth, about them, to this we must come at last. Besides in this way we avoid all the pain and popular' odium, which a change of religious opinion frequently involves. But, had this course been pursued by all who have gone before us, what would our condition now have been as to science or religion? We had to-day been sitting in the region of darkness, and saying to the works of our own hands,-"ye are our gods."
The Bible is the religion of Protestants, and among all the various sects into which they are divided, free inquiry is, to a certain extent, inculcated. Most sects, however, have their limits fixed, beyond which if a man goes, he becomes suspected, and perhaps is denounced as an heretic. He may inquire and investigate as much as he pleases to support the peculiar tenets of his sect, but beyond this it is dangerous to proceed. Should he push his inquiries further, and examine the creed of his own sect as well as that of others, by the oracles of God, and find some of them the inventions of men, he must conceal his discoveries, for if he does not, the vengeance of the whole sect, if not the whole religious community, will be poured on his head. I must be very fond of suffering, thus to expose myself.
3d, Since I am to be condemned because my investigations have not resulted in the popular belief of the doctrine of hell torments, I do not see any possible way of
getting rid of error, or increasing in knowledge. But to condemn me in the present case, is at the same time to pass sentence of condemnation on all who have dared to think for themselves, and to prove all things by the scriptures, and hold fast that which is good. I have done no more than thousands have done before me; to examine the Bible for themselves, and state the result for the consideration of others. Such as have done so have seldom escaped the appellation of heretics. But the first to condemn others, are generally the last to examine for themselves what is truth on any religious subject,
4th, If in this investigation I have travelled beyond the record, let this be candidly pointed out by an appeal to the same record. If the popular doctrine, that hell is a place of endless misery be true, it can, and it must be supported from the scriptures. Should it be found upon examination not true, but that I have shown it false, no man who fears God, who regards truth, and wishes well to his fellow men can blame me for calling the attention of others to this important subject. If my views are found erroneous, and proved satisfactorily to be so, I shall never regret for a moment what I have written. Am I asked why I should not regret this; I answer, because I shall by this, have the opportunity of seeing where my error lies, and renounce it; and shall also have been the means of exciting attention to a subject which is implicitly believed without examination by a great part of the religious community. If a man under mistaken views of a religious doctrine, avows his mistaken sentiments, and thereby brings more truth to light and excites inquiry, are not these valuable ends served to society?
5th, Supposing the views which have been advanced, Had been the universal belief of the religious community
as long as the doctrine of eternal misery has been, and that the doctrine of eternal punishment had never been known in the world. Allowing that I had come forward and attempted to show that endless misery in hell was a doctrine taught in scripture, and that the contrary was a mistaken view of the subject. Beyond all doubt I should be liable to the very same condemnation to which I am now subjected. The whole religious community would agree to condemn me as in a very great error. The trumpet would sound loud and long, by all religious. parties against me. It would be sagely and gravely remarked," what a dreadful doctrine he has embraced. What horrid, what dreadful views his doctrine gives of the God who made us. He represents him as dooming, yea, previously decreeing, a great part of his creatures to endless misery in hell. His inquiries have led him into a most dreadful error." I appeal to every candid man if this would not have been my fate, and if as good ground was not afforded for such conclusions and condemnations in the one case, as in the other.
In the preceding Inquiry we have said little in the way of comparing the doctrine of eternal misery with the views which have been advanced. In concluding this subject, we shall pay some attention to this, by viewing the two opposite doctrines in the following points of light.
1st, How does the two doctrines affect the character of God? Let us view them as to the promises of God. He promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. To bruise a serpent's head is to kill or destroy it. But is the serpent's head bruised, if the greater part of the human race are to be eternally miserable? Even this is too gross to be believed by respectable orthodox writers in the present day. Mr. Emerson, in his book on the Millennium, commenting on Gen. iii.
15. thus writes: p. 11. "Now the question arises, Has the serpent's head been bruised in any degree answerable to the manifest import of the passage under consideration? A great part of mankind have gone to destruction. Does this look like bruising the serpent's head? If the greater part of the human race are to be lost by the cunning craftiness of satan, will that look like bruising his head? To me it would seem far otherwise. Should satan continue the god of this world from the beginning to the end of time, leading whole nations captive at his will, surely he will seem to have cause to triumph.
"But the head of satan must be bruised; his plots must be crushed. Are all mankind to he saved? Certainly not. That would be giving the lie to numerous declarations of eternal Truth; it would be throwing away the Bible at once. And if the Bible be thrown away, it would be impossible to prove the salvation of any. But there is no doubt that by far the greater part of mankind will be saved. This appears necessary, in order that the serpent's head may be bruised. I am strongly inclined to the opinion of Dr. Hopkins, that of the whole human race, thousands will be saved for one that is lost."
We are happy to see from such respectable authors, that thousands are to be saved to one that is lost; and that if the greater part of the human race are to be lost, satan's head would not be bruised, but that he would have cause to triumph. If so many must be saved as stated in this quotation, to avoid these consequences, we would suggest it for the consideration of all, as well as that of the worthy author, whether satan's head could be bruised, or he destroyed, and whether he would not have cause of triumph if one individual of the human race was lost. If but one was left in his power, to be tormented by him forever, how could his head be bruised,
and would he not triumph in this small conquest, as well as over one in a thousand? We do not see how the number could materially alter the case. We seriously think that if the number to be saved be so great in proportion to those lost, we would do well to consider if all mankind may not be saved, and that we may believe this without throwing away our Bibles. But I only hint these things in passing. On this quotation, we cannot help remarking how different the sentiments contained in it are, to what was considered true orthodoxy in former ages. In those days, it would have been considered throwing away the Bible, to say that thousands will be saved for one lost, just as much as saying in these, that all will be saved. This quotation, no doubt, must serve the cause of Universal Salvation, and prepare the minds of men for its universal reception. If Christ comes so near saving the whole human race, in the name of humanity why not let his triumph be complete; why strain at the gnat and swallow the camel?
God also promised to Abraham, that in his seed, which was Christ, all the families of the earth should be blessed. But if the doctrine of endless misery be true, and a great part of mankind are decreed to such a punishment, how can this promise of God be fulfilled? It will be allowed that the sentiments which I have advanced, are much more in unison with the language of this and similar promises, than the doctrine of endless misery. Let any one go over the promises and predictions of the Old Testament, two of which I have merely adduced as a specimen, and then candidly say, if he finds them in unison with the limited views of salvation which most men entertain. It would be as endless, as useless for me to dwell on this topic.