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is to give the word of God effect? Or is the power of the Lord exclusively confined to a certain class of preachers? It is now, we presume, as it was in the days of the apostles, that the Lord bears testimony to his own word, and that Paul might plant and Apollos might water, but it was God who gave the increase. But if our memory has not deceived us, we have seen printed rules for bringing about revivals of religion, and some preachers have not hesitated to say that it was the people's own fault that they had not revivals among them. Yea, some have determined before hand, that they would get up a revival, and have gone to work in their own way and accomplished it. All this we really think is without precedent or example in the history of apostolic preaching.
It is objected," That this doctrine is a very pleasing doctrine to the world." In reply to this objection, I would observe, 1st, That the first question to he settled is this; is it a true or false doctrine? The Bible must decide this, and to it we have appealed. Of what use can it be in determining whether a doctrine be true or false, to call it either pleasant or unpleasant? To admit the truth of what is here asserted, what could it prove against the doctrine; and to deny it, what could it prove either for or against it? Such kind of arguments are generally used by such as have nothing better to urge; yea, are too indifferent about what is truth, to give themselves the trouble to investigate the subject. To ascertain the truth of any doctrine, we have only, according to this objection, to find out if it is pleasant or unpleasant. If it is pleasant, it must be false, and if unpleasant, it must be true. This mode of decision will indeed save a great deal of time and labour in reading and investigation; for who would put themselves to the trouble of these, when a decision can be made by so short and easy a process?
2d, I might in my turn say, the opposite doctrine is a very harsh doctrine. Perhaps there is as much, if not more, force in this objection against it, than in the one against my views. If they must be false because they are pleasant, does it follow that the opposite must be true, because it is harsh? We should think it rather an argument against its truth. That the objector's doctrine is not a harsh doctrine he has got to prove. The very saying that my doctrine is pleasant, implies that he is sensible that his own is harsh. We presume many have thought it so, who have been afraid to speak freely their minds on the subject. Yea, we doubt if any man can seriously meditate on the doctrine of eternal misery, and can truly say that it is a pleasant doctrine. Influenced by religious prejudices, and overawed by public opinion, persons rather acquiesce in the doctrine, than feel convinced in their judgments, or satisfied in their minds about it. When they begin to reflect seriously on the eternity of hell torments, and compare it with the well known character of God, as a God of goodness, mercy, and truth, the mind is at a stand what conclusion to come to concerning it. They think the Bible teaches it, and therefore they must believe it, but with the character of God they are unable to reconcile it.
3d, The gospel of the grace of God is a very pleas ing doctrine, and if the objection has any force against my views, it equally lies against it. It seems then that he has pleasing doctrines as well as the one I have been stating, against which he cannot make his objection to bear. But why is this the case, for if the pleasant nature of any doctrine proves it false, why is it that he believes the gospel of God to be the truth? It is certainly a very pleasing doctrine to hear that there is even a possibility that any of the human race will be saved. It is still more pleasing, that there
is a probability that a great number of them will be saved. And we are at a loss to know why it should not be still more pleasing, if it can be proved, that all the human race will be saved. But while the two first of these will be admitted as pleasant and this is no argument against their truth, yet the last is considered false because it is the most pleasant. Does the objector say, we know the two first are true but not the last. This is the very point at issue to be proved, and the proof must be drawn from some other source, showing the falsehood of my doctrine, than the pleasing nature of it.
4th, If the pleasant nature of the doctrine, be a solid objection against its truth, the fewer saved the better, to prove the doctrine false, and the more agreeable, I presume, to the objector. We think, we may go further, and say, that the eternal misery of the whole human race, which would be precisely the reverse of my doctrine, is most likely to be the true one, according to this objection. Its being so harsh or unpleasant, then, shows it to be true; and because it is so unpleasant this is the strongest evidence that it must be true. The fact is, there is no real argument in the case before us. A false mode of reasoning is adopted, and the world might end, before any thing conclusive could be made out relative to this subject.
5th, The objector seems to think that the doctrine is pleasing, and the force of his objection to it arises from thinking that all are to be saved without a salvation from sin. This is his mistake not mine. Should he say, this is the inference that many will draw from it, to go on in sin; I reply, I cannot help this, any more than the objector can, where persons draw inferences from his doctrine, to go on in the same course. Yea, I cannot help this, any more than an apostle could, when persons urged as an inference
from his doctrine, "let us sin because grace aboundeth." What doctrine is it from which men may not draw inferences to go on in sin? The only one that I can at present think of, is the doctrine of universal, ernal misery. Even this is not an exception, for the inference would be, " since at death we are all to be eternally miserable, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." If some have argued," let us sin because grace aboundeth," perhaps others have also said, let us sin because eternal torments abound."
6th, Is it not God's design that the gospel of his grace should be a pleasing doctrine to the world? It is glad tidings of great joy to all people, We ask, does God mean to save the world by the preaching of an unpleasant doctrine? We know of none better fitted to effect this, than the doctrine of eternal torments in hell. Had the apostles preached this doctrine, just as much as preachers do in our day, we should have been inclined to believe, that God meant to save men and to save them by the preaching of this very doctrine. But will any man affirm, that their preaching has any affinity to the sermons we hear in our day, so far as the doctrine of hell torments is concerned? The word Gehenna or hell, none of their hearers ever heard them utter, if the New Testament is to be our Bible. The word hell is on the lips of all preachers, who believe this doctrine, so frequently, that one would think if they learned their divinity from the Bible, that it was full of it. The apostles never used the word hell in any sermon, but they seldom omit it. Whether my views be right or wrong, the following things are certain; first, it was not God's design to save men in the apostles' day by preaching hell torments to them, for this they neyer did: and secondly, it is also certain, that my views are more like those entertained by the apostles, than the sentiments preached concerning hell torments by
orthodox preachers. I put in therefore my claim for being more orthodox than they are in this, if apostol ic preaching is a true standard of orthodoxy. I may add, thirdly, which seems also certain, that if it be God's design now to save men by preaching the doc trine of eternal misery in hell, he has changed his mind, for this was not his design in the days of the apostles. I might add more, but I forbear.
7th, If the objector is sincere in urging this objection, that because the doctrine is pleasant it cannot be true, does it not fairly follow, that the more unpleasant any doctrine is, the more certain is its truth? Upon this principle no doctrine ought to be more surely believed than the doctrine of eternal misery, for surely it is not a pleasant doctrine. All Universalists therefore, ought at least to believe the objector's doctrine and for this very reason, because it is so unpleasant to them. But on the other hand, the ob jector ought to believe their doctrine and for the very same reason, because their doctrine is unpleasant to him. By this mode of deciding what is truth, both doctrines are proved true, and the two ought to believe each other's doctrine, and reject their own. But when they have done this, they must just reject the new doctrines they have embraced and receive their former ones for the very same reason; for the doctrines they have embraced respectively are pleasant, and those they now oppose are unpleasant. In short, it proves both doctrines true and both false at the same time.
8th, But we may ask the objector, is it possible for any man to receive any doctrine until it appears pleasant to him? We think this is impossible. A doctrine may appear very unpleasant, and while it does so to any person, he will reject it. This we have a very good example of in the objector himself. The idea that hell is not a place of endless misery ap