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PREFACE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
The reader of the following admirable trea- a livelihood, and by my labour to gather wha tise will naturally feel a curiosity to know would suffice for my necessities the remainsomething of its author. That he was a good der of my days. In this it has pleased God *man, a sincere Christian, gifted with a sound to prosper me beyond my expectations. And mind and clear discriminative powers, no one now, thanks to the divine Providence, I am it seems to me can reasonably doubt, but our free from worldly anxieties and at liberty to acquaintance with his life is extremely limit- speak the truth as I find it in his word, and I ed and imperfect. We know, indeed, that he employ the happy leisure which his goodness was a native of the canton of Neufchâtel, affords me in the preparation of this work Switzerland, but of the time of his birth, of upon the plan of God, that I may do my duty his family and connexions, we know nothing. in this respect, in the only way that is now He was a minister of the gospel at Chaux-de- left me, and finish my career in this world Fonds, formerly a small village, but now a as I began it, maintaining the word of the considerable town, eight or ten miles from the Lord.” city of Neufchatel, the capital of the canton. On leaving Switzerland, he took up his This was probably about 1770. Here by a residence in London, where it seems he spent very careful and impartial study of the Bible, several years, but whether the treatise before guided by an earnest desire to gain a know- us was written there or afterwards on the ledge of the truth, pure truth, he was brought continent, I am nnable to say. It is evident at last to an unwavering faith in the infinite from the passage above, that it was not writgoodness of God, and in the final holiness and ten till after he had been engaged in business happiness of all men. Nor did he shun to sometime, and probably had retired. The arow and proclaim so great truths. But following treatise first appeared in French at this frank and conscientious course soon in Amsterdam, in 1786, and under the title; “Le volved him in very serious difficulties. A per- Plan de Dieu envers les Hommes, tel qu'il la secuting spirit has marked the history of the manifesté dans la Nature et dans la Grace." dogma of endless torments in every age and The Plan of God towards men, as he has manevery place where it has existed; and Petit- fested it in nature and grace. It constitutes, pierre was left to experience the “tender mer- however, but a part of the design which its cies” of that harsh creed which he denied. author had formed, and which was to have been He was most unjustly and cruelly persecuted, filled up by three other treatises, thus : The was disgraced, deposed, deprived of the means first part, which we here present, treats of the of support at home, and virtually driven an infinite goodness of God. The second was to exile to other lands. But the reader must have treated of man, natural or animal, and hear him speak on this subject. I translate a spiritual. The third of the salvation of all men ; passage from the second edition of his treatise. and the knowledge of the truth necessary to their Speaking of the great advantages he gained being saved. And the fourth of the revelation of the by an impartial study of the scriptures, he truth in nature and in grace. In 1791, when adds
a new edition of this treatise " carefully re" It is true that it has sometimes exposed vised” was published in Amsterdam, the me to some temporal inconveniences. I was author expressed the hope that he should be a minister of the gospel. In assuming that able in a short time to give the second part of office I took an oath at the hands of the clergy his work to the public, but added that if any that I would sacrifice my body, my life and my unforeseen obstacle should prevent its appearestate to maintain the word of the Lord. I have ance, this treatise which he had already sent consequently desired to proclaim the counsel forth might be regarded as complete in itself, or plan of God according to his words with a treatise,” he says, on the infinite goodness out any farther regard to the received doctrine of God; and, strange to say, this sublime subthan prudence dictated. The clergy without ject is as new as it is interesting.” We deciding upon the truth or falsehood of my know not that any other part of the work ever doctrine, forbid me to preach it, and imposed appeared. apon me a law of very rigorous silence. I The call for a new edition in the space of five could not submit to any law that violated my years, is an evidence that it met with a very conscience, and was deposed. As I had no respectable sale. Indeed the English transmeans of support but what my lost benefice lator refers to the approbation it received on aforded, I went to a foreign country to gain the continent, the ardour with which it was sought, and the difficulty of obtaining copies | hearts a service which they cannot too speediin England as reasons for his undertaking a ly pay. Let some of the opposers of Univertranslation. This was in 1788, but two years salism refute it if they can, and if they cannot after its first publication at Amsterdam. it is time they abandoned a confession of faith, Whether a second edition has appeared in which virtually denies the fundamental truth England, I cannot say, but it is well known of this book as well as of the New Testament, to have gone through two or three editions in that—God is Love. I cannot conclude with. the United States, the first of which, I be- out expressing an earnest wish that every lieve, was that of Walpole, N. H., 1801. Universalist in the country would read with
I need not attempt an analysis of the work, carefulness and prayer this treatise, and assist nor is it necessary to say a word in commen- in sending it far and wideamong those who with dation of it. Those who have read it will all their self-complacency are yet ignorant of not require this at my hands; those who the true God, the Father, who is the Saviour have not, of whatever creed or communion of all men.
THOMAS J. SAWYER. they may be, still owe their heads and their New York, June, 1843.
PREFACE OF THE TRANSLATOR.
The translator of the following pages hav- la wretch so base as to sin because of ace has ing witnessed the approbation they met with abounded, and with dauntless effrontery venabroad, the ardour with which they were tures to challenge the power and justice of his sought, and the difficulty with which they Maker-let bim learn that in proportion to his were obtained; thinks it may be rendering guilt and depravity, will be bis future punishservice to the cause of religion, and contribu- ment both in degree and duration. But let ting to the happiness of mankind, to make the honour of the wise and merciful Creator them easy of access, in a nation distinguished be vindicated, and mankind be taught to conby its literature, and which in theology and sider him as altogether amiable; whose sevephilosophy has produced so many luminaries. rities are as much the effect of his goodness,
The author, a native of Neufchatel, must be as his rewards. Thus shall his love, and his well known to many in this country, having fear arise together in our hearts; thus will he resided in its capital for several years. All be known, and honoured, and wisdom be justiwho were acquainted with him there, or in fied of her children. Switzerland, admired and honoured him. If Thirst of fame is disregarded by one who in its tenets he differs from those universally remains concealed, but though I wish to deheld in the Christian, even protestant churches, rive no personal merit as a translator, I would the candid and judicious reader will not be carefully avoid diminishing that of the author; repulsed by the cry of heresy, for it is to to whose sentiments it shall be my endeavour truths thas stigmatized, that the reformation to do justice, by a faithful but not a tedious owed its rise. Let them read, examine, and translation. All who are conversant with the determine for themselves.
nature of the French language, know that it Nor let the humble pious follower of the admits of a certain declamatory style which gospel take the alarm, or apprehend the mo- they call unction, and which does not so well tives to virtue will be weakened, and mankind correspond with the genius of the English. grow more licentious. To behold the plan of Entirely to divest this work of its original the Deity, as more consistent with his nature idiom, would perhaps be to rob it of that and attributes, and more merciful to his crea- spirit and energy, by which the author has tures, can never be an incentive to vice. Fear, distinguished it. The reader is therefore sois indeed one powerful restraint'on imperfect licited, if in the course of this translation some beings, but it must be a rational fear, and not deviations from the established mode of Ensuch as has given rise to infidelity in thou- glish diction should be found unavoidable; sands, or which, if believed, leads to despair. candidly to place them to this account. They Besides, let me ask, have the terrors of the will occur as seldom as possible, for though Lord, when represented in all the horrors of nobler motives than gratifying the ear by the never ending misery, been sufficient to deter harmony of flowing periods, actuate the permany from offending, who have been familiar son who gives this essay to the public, yet, as with the idea from their infancy? Universal far as sense and sound can be conciliated, the observation shows the contrary. Our Saviour translator would not wish to deprive it even draws us by the cords of love. But if there is of that recommendation.
To render man universally and perfectly primitive ignorance renders them strangely happy, seems to be the plan on which the Su- presumptuous and decisive, their gross imagipreme Creator has established his moral govern- nation, obscuring reason, has served them as a ment: and the method he employs to compass guide, insinuating itself as a judge of things an end so worthy of its author; is that of en spiritual, which belong exclusively to the lightening their minds. From whence it fol- more noble faculty of the mind. lows, that from the knowledge of this plan, But above all, self-love, temporal interest, may be derived just views of that felicity sloth, vanity, pride, and a long list of other which the greatest and best of beings, has corrupt passions; make them deviate and graciously intended to dispense to the children wander through a maze of the most absurd, of men; and of the means by which he will and sometimes the most monstrous errors; conduct them to it, the knowledge of the truth. which they never fail to associate with the
This system is clearly expressed in that truths of religion, however incompatible. passage of Scripture, which I have made and as these errors are the unhappy effects choice of in the title of this work, where the of passion, they are afterwards supported by apostie declares that, God will have all men it. How often do men maintain them with to be saved: this is their destination, and to a warmth bordering on fury, and impose come at the knowledge of the truth, is the them on the faith of others, with an inhuman mean by which he will raise them lo it. I ferocity, deciding for the rest of mankind, and therefore dedicate the following pages to the even for posterity, by a plurality of voices, examination and developement of these sub- what they shall in future be obliged to lime words of St. Paul.
believe, or possess as the truth revealed by The plan of God towards mankind, is in God, under pain of damnation in the world to nothing different from religion itself consider- come, and frequently of the most cruel suffer. ed in its theory. For though religion taken ings in this, such are the bitter fruits, the sad in a general view is the science of happiness but inevitable effects of the ignorance, the and of salvation, yet it may be divided into imagination, and the passions of mankind, the two branches, of theory and practice. In even under that dispensation of light which its theory it holds up to us, salvation as the God has vonchsafed them. Deplorable efdestination to which God by his providence fects! which by the obstinate deist, are and grace calls us : thus far it is the plan of charged upon religion itself. What I have our Great Creator, which I shall endeavour to said on the corruption of truth in the hands of illustrate in this work. But when taken in man, is no more than what fatal experience a practical view, it shews us salvation as the has proved more or less in every age. grand end we are invariably to propose to To what else are we to ascribe that strange ourselves, and to which we are constantly to fatality, by which we see the absurd side of tend, by exerting all our efforts to the en questions, though never so revolting and exlightening of our understandings, and the travagant, prevailing over the simple, natural, sanctifying of our hearts. In this point of and rational; almost whenever they have view, religion is that part of his plan which been agitated ? Such absurd errors when the Sapremne Being has assigned to us, that we once received, and consecrated by public aumay submit with docility to his government, thority, and by their antiquity become the and thereby become worihy of his benevolent formidable obstacles of truth, and gain such a designs towards us, or, as the apostle expresses fatal ascendancy even over the minds of those it be workers together with him.
whose understandings reject them, as leads Though the practical part of religion is of them to suppress the truth, and tacitly to imsuperior importance, that even the most per- molate it at the shrine of falsehood, by imfeet theory separated from it is so totally use- posing upon it the most rigorous silence ; less, that St. James represents a faith of that leaving to error, known to be such ; the exnature as dead. Yet it is of the theory of clusive privilege of appearing publicly, and religion that I mean to treat, as that is incom- of perpetuating itself by being openly and parably more corrupted and disfigured by freely taught to the multitude. And can the error
, as I shall shew by explaining my rea- sacred rights of truth be thus misconceived ? kons more particularly.
1 say misconceived, for who that properly Although mankind are universally made knows their value, can dare to trample thein capable of knowing the truth, their progress under foot ? but when we reflect on the obstatowards it is slow and obstructed by many cles she meets with, may we not be tempted difficulties, and amidst their almost impercep- for a moment to believe, as some have boldly tible advances, ignorance, imagination and advanced, that she was of a nature too subpassion, have leisure sufficient left them, to lime and elevated for man, who instead of change the truth of God into a lie, Rom. i. 25, being formed capable of receiving her, was that is to corrupt and falsify the first ideas of made the eternal, and melancholy sport of ig. truth, even though revealed by himself. Their norance and error. But far be from un a 10 A 2 5
thought so contrary to the plan of infinite wis- indispensably to attend ; and by the touche dom; who wills that all men should be saved, stone of reason and scripture, must every huand come at the knowledge of the truth, conse- man opinion be tried quently he has created them for it, notwith- When we consult reason for the proper unstanding their original ignorance, their gross derstanding of Holy Writ, we draw at once imaginations, and turbulent passions.
from these two sources. When, for instance, Now, it is on the theory of religion that the j any passage there is susceptible, by the amevils resulting from the above causes have biguity of its expression, of two different principally fallen: its admirable morality has meanings, because, the same term may somebetter resisted the contagion: though when times have a literal, and sometimes a figurawe see on the one hand a thousand dangerous tive sense annexed to it, it is then the proillusions and superstitions, corrupting its pu- vince of reason to determine which of the two rity, and on the other, the motives to virtue, is the sense of the passage in question, by which are the very essence of morality, and adopting that which agrees with the nature of are derived from its theory, perverted, enfee- things, of God, of man; and rejecting that bled, enervated, and almost annihilated; we which is unnatural, absurd, and false. Such must lament that it has not wholly escaped is the use we are to make of reason, in the inthe infection. What then can be more neces- terpretation of Scripture. sary than to disencumber religion from the And here I solemnly protest, in the preerrors which corrupt it, and to present it to sence of the Almighty, that in reading and inankind in its primitive purity! this shall be meditating on his word, to know his will and my endeavonr in this treatise, by faithfully designs towards us, I have with sincerity, displaying the eternal plan of divine govern- and in his fear, adhered to this rule, I have ment as made known by God himself, both by sought truth in its purity, with simplicity of nature and revelation.
heart, without hope, or fear of its agreeing It is in this two-fold manner, that the or disagreeing, with that catechism which I source of all truth has communicated to us had been taught to receive in my youth, withthe scheme of his mercy. First, by a natural out sufficient examination; well convinced, revelation, by which He enlightens our reason, that if such, or such opinions were true, I in offering to its contemplation, the admirable should find them confirmed in Scripture; if works of creation. Secondly, by a supernatu- false, they would not become true, by my ral revelation, by which He condescends to obstinately persisting to believe them without supply the original weakness of our rational examination; so that I had nothing to loose, powers, and gives us his word; as a more or rather I had every thing to gain, by bringperfect and more efficacious assistance. ing them sincerely to this test; since the only
It is to our reason that God addresses liim- thing of importance to me was to fly from erself in both these revelations; with this capital ror, and to come at the knowledge of ihe truth. difference however, that in the former, what And this impartial study of Scripture has we know of the being, perfections, and designs been attended with great advantage to me. It of God, must be deduced from the contem- has confirmed and established me in some of plation of nature, and result from our own my former opinions, which I have found to be discoveries : whereas in the latter, we must divine truths, and opened my eyes upon others, only attend with humility, and docility, and which I have perceived to be the offspring of comprehend him who speaks for the purpose prejudice, and error. of enlightening us; for reason cannot be bene- It has certainly exposed me to some temfited by what it does not understand. poral inconvenience, in the exercise of my
The question why God has revealed him- ecclesiastical functions; as instead of examiself in these two ways is not proper to be dis- ning the truth, or falsehood, of my doctrine, cussed here; one very remarkable observation the clergy condemned me to silence; which may however be made, which is founded on being contrary to the dictates of my contheir perfect agreement. For as the design science, was followed by my deposition. of our Creator is to bring us to the knowledge Thus circumstanced, I was obliged to seek in of the truth, it is impossible that he should a foreign country that protection and independeceive his creatures, and not be himself the dence which my own refused me. The sucGod all of truth : consequently his revelations cess of my endeavours having placed me above far from contradicting each other, must be the reach of temporal cares, I devote the leifound in perfect harmony.
sure with which providence has blessed me, But as God has manifested himself to us in to the interest of truth, and the benefit of his works, and in his word, it is in these two mankind, adhering scrupulously throughout sacred sources, and in these alone, that we are this work to the rules I have laid down, conto seek for the knowledge of his plan, and sulting only reason and the word of God, and not in the opinions of our fellow mortals, advancing nothing, but what appears to me, which are so different, and often so opposite. agreeable to these guides; convinced that We may, and we certainly ought to consult were I to violate this sacred obligation, I them, and examine carefully the reasons on should be guilty of the most audacious and which they are grounded, in order to profit by criminal prevarication. their labours, and use them as succours for As I disclaim all other authorities, however the better comprehending our Maker, but it is useful to my subject; so I equally renounce God, and God alone, to whom we are obliged | all personal controversy; and confine myself entirely to the combat between truth, and given, because on those terms they are absoerror.
lutely insurmountable, since it is impossible I mean not however by these protestations to make light agree with darkness. To give to prepossess the world in favour of my tenets. but one example of these triumphant objecI have laid down the only rules by which tions : how can it even be made comprehensi. they must stand, or fall; therefore setting ble that a being infinitely good can consign aside the prejudices of education, and careful- the greatest part of his creatures over to never ly examining what I shall advance, let every ending torments ? It is however necessary one judge, and determine for themselves. that these objections of the second class should Whoever proceeds otherwise, can never read be answered, and that religion should be diswith advantage, not even Scripture itself: engaged from every thing that may tarnish but resembles those whom St. Paul describes, and obscure it lustre. For as long as it shall as ever learning, and never able to come at the present a hideous mixture of truth and error, knowledge of the truth, as the mass of preju- it cannot carry with it that light and evidence, dices, form that veil upon the heart, with which are necessary to convince the underwhich the same apostle reproaches the Jews; sianding, and gain the heart, but will expose and which made a learned divine of this cen- men to baneful illusions, cruel doubts, and tury observe, in a Latin epigram on the Bible, even to the fatal danger of falling at length That it was a bonk where every one sought his into incredulity, and irreligion. opinions, and where every one found them. With respect to the form of this work, I am 'Íthis has given occasion to the deist to re- not solicitous to clothe it in the ornaments of proach revelation with obscurity ; whereas flowery language; simplicity, perspicuity, the whole of religion, if it may be resolved and evidence, have ever appeared more attracinto the designs of God towards his creatures, tive in my eyes. I confide in the majesty, and what he requires of them towards the and importance of my subject to interest my rendering them fit objects of his favour; is reader, and captivate his attention. And what sofficiently clear to all, who with the docility subject can be more sublime than to explain of little children will listen to its instructions, the plan of God, and his counsels towards man! and obey its dictates.
August by its author ; precious and interestIt may appear to some necessary previous ing by its object; luminous and harmonious to my present undertaking, that I should by the value of its materials, and the beauty of prove the divine authority of that revelation its structure ; elevated and delightful by its on which it depends. But this subject has tendency; and sovereignly glorious and marbeen so frequently, and so ably treated by vellous by the amazing difficulty of its exbumbers, that I think it needless to enter eculion, and by the magnificence of its effects. upon it again, any farther than its celestial Its author, is He who is infinitely wise, good, origin may be deducible by every candid and powerful; its object, is the universal and tnind, from the beauty, grandeur, and harmo- final happiness of the whole human race, ny of a design; which comprehending so without exception of a single individual; the many ages since the beginning of the world, rich malerials that compose it, are those magnicannot be the production of an impostor: ficent truths that go land in hand, and by a which is a sufficient internal proof of its di- natural connection, form the most beautiful vinity.
whole that an intelligent being can possibly Religion has, in our age, sustained on every contemplate. Its tendency, that of bringing side a multitude of attacks from different us all to the highest perfection, and the utmost quarters, and under every disguise; which happiness of which our natures are susceptias they have occasioned the discussion of ble. And the difficulty of its execution, and the many important questions; have led to an magnificence of its effects, no other, than examination favourable to the cause of truth. rendering the human race, such as they have The objections of the deist to Christianity are shewn themselves from the foundation of the of two kinds: the one, levelled against its world to the present moment; a race of beings external proofs and documents, such as the plunged in the most profound darkness; lost miracles, and prophecies it contains; the in the most monstrous errors; degraded and other, relating to its substance, and attacking tyrannized by the most disorderly and violent its doctrines whether of theory, or practice. passions ; odious by the most horrid and deWith respect to the former, they have been testable crimes; unhappy, in their physical answered in a manner that has turned to the and moral state, by all these sources of dreadadrantage of religion: but I am far from ful misery; it is nothing less, than to render being able to say as much of the replies that such beings, enlightened, rational and pure have been offered in defence of its doctrines; in their sentiinents; amiable by every virtue, here the combatants have not stood on equal excellent by every action, and happy by their ground, for its advocates in vindicating the perfection, their celestial state, and above all dogmas of religion, have thought themselves by their glorious union with God himself! obliged to maintain them, not in the simplici. Of how little moment will the ornaments of ty of holy writ, but as they were taught in diction appear to any one convinced of the diferent communions of Christians, and repre- importance, and elevated by the dignity of seated in the creeds and confessions of their the subject. May its divine energy penetrate churches ; hence a number of objections to my heart, and I shall not fear of making my which no satisfactory answer has ever been labours useful, and acceptable to the world.