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prophet says, and it was revealed in mine ears by Jehovah of Hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, till ye die, saith the Lord God of Hosts." Isai. xxii. 14. If then iniquity shall not be purged away after death, it is certain that men shall not always continue to sin in a future state, for they must cease to commit iniquity, before it can be purged away. And though their punishments may at first cause them to rage, (as we see is frequently the case in this world) yet they continue until the most stubborn shall be entirely subdued and humbled.
torments, most of which have already been
Friend. There is another argument of this same kind, viz. that is not founded upon any particular text of Scripture, which is directly contrary to the one you have been answering, which I have formerly thought unanswerable in favour of the doctrine of endless punishment, which is the infinity of sin, being against an infinite object, containing infinite hatefulness, and justly therefore deserving infinite punishment. Sin is a crime of infinite magnitude, because God is a Being of infinite majesty and perfection. Every crime justly demerits punishment proportioned to its malignity! and consequently every offence against God demerits infinite punishment. No mere creature can ever suffer an infinity of punishment in any limited duration. It follows therefore, that a sinner deserves to be eternally punished. Farther, every man is under infinite obligations to devote himself to the service of God, his infinitely glorious Creator, Preserver and Benefactor. To violate an infinite obligation is to commit a crime of infinite malignity. A crime of infinite malignity, deserves infinite punishment. Can it ever be proved then that everlasting, or endless punishment is not the proper desert of a life of sin? I have often said, that this argument, trite and common as it is, never was, nor ever would be fairly answered : nevertheless, I am willing to hear what you have to say upon it.
Minister. As this argument, is often urged, as of the greatest weight, and as you have stated it in its greatest possible force, I shall endeavour to answer it fairly and particularly.
If sin is infinite, then we must ascribe to it one of the perfections of the Deity, which strikes me as something absurd, if not something worse; sin, a privation, an act of a worm, infinite? Actions must, in my opinion take their denomination from the actors, and not from the objects. Infinite actions, or actions of infinite magnitude require infinite power to perform them. If sin is of infinite magnitude, goodness is more so, as deriving a power from God to the performance of it. But if you grant that David spoke in the name of the Mediator in Psalm xvi. you may be at once furnished with a proof, that even goodness, in the highest state in which it ever was exhibited in the world, was not consider ed as of infinite magnitude by the great perF
former. "Thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord; my goodness extendeth not to thee. But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight," verse 2, 3. If acts of goodness were of infinite magnitude they must extend to God, but the speaker, in these words, be he who he may, David or Christ, was careful to let us know that he did not conceive his acts of goodness infinite. And if acts of goodness are not infinite, it would be absurd to call evil actions infinite, which proceed wholly from the creature.
I grant indeed that there is a passage of Scripture which mentions the word infinite as belonging to sin and iniquity, but then it is mentioned in such a connexion as shows it to be used as Josephus frequently mentions it, for a very great multitude. And thus it is used by many good authors, who certainly do not mean to use it in the first and proper sense of the word. The sacred writer, in the passage alluded to, takes particular care to guard us against any such idea, as though sin was of infinite magnitude, or virtuous and righteous actions, which approach far nearer to infinity, as having their source from the fountain of infinite goodness. For Eliphaz says, "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? Will he enter with thee into judgment? Is not thy wickedness great? And thine iniquities infinite?" Job xxii. 2-5. And language very similar to the above is used by Elihu: "If thou sinnest what dost thou against him? Or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? Or what receiveth he of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man." Job xxxv. 6-8.
Here is an instance to the purpose of those whose sins were of the deepest die, and to whom God threatens to deal as they had done, and to punish them for all their numerous and aggravated transgressions, and yet to remember mercy for them afterwards, and to be pacified towards them for all that they had done. All which things would be absolutely impossible, according to your ideas. In many other parts of Scripture God promises to render to transgressors according to their works and ways, and yet to be afterwards gracious unto them. And in one place, at least, where God is declaring the great mercies which he will manifest unto the children of Israel in returning them to their own land, and causing them to dwell safely therein, he says, “And first, I will recompense their iniquity, and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abiminable things." Jer. xvi. 18. What do you think of this? If every offence is of infinite magnitude, and deserves infinite punishment, which can never be fully executed, then how can God punish a people for all their iniquities, and do to the greatest sinners as they have done, yea, and recompense their iniquity, and their sin double first, and then be gracious unto them, and love them, and be pacified towards them afterwards? And the prophet Isaiah says, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably upto Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity
You assert in consequence of your ideas of infinite sin, that every offence against God demerits infinite punishment. If the case be so, does it not tend entirely to take away the disnction which God hath made between sins of infirmity and sins of malice, sins of igno-is pardoned; for she hath received of the rance and sins of wilfulness, lesser and great- LORD's hand DOUBLE FOR ALL HER SINS.' ." Isai. er sins? All sins are offences against God, xl. 1, 2. Here a fact is said to be accomand if every offence against God is of infinite plished, which upon your scheme can never be magnitude, how can any be greater? and thus done to all eternity; for if every offence the distinctions are entirely destroyed, and, all against God is of infinite magnitude, and desins will be esteemed equal, contrary to the serves infinite punishment, none can ever whole tenor of the Scriptures. have received single for one of their sins, far less double for all.
These expressions, if they teach any thing, I should think, expressly declare, that no actions of men can by any means be of infinite magnitude, in the sense in which we commonly understand that word; though their numbers and magnitudes n ay be so great as to be styled infinite, as the word is sometimes used.
ways, nor punish them as their iniquities de serve, unless they are doomed to endless misery; what then will become of all those threatenings where God threatens to punish people for all their iniquities, and yet to shew favour to them afterwards? This is impossible upon your plan, for none can ever receive all the punishment due to their sins, during numberless ages. Yet if the word of God be true he can deal with transgressors as they have done, and yet be gracious to them afterwards. "For thus saith Adonai JEHOVAH, I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant. Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith Adonai JEHOVAH." Ezek. xvi. 59, 60, 63.
If every offence against God demerits infinite punishment, then it will follow, that God cannot render to any according to their
And therefore nothing can possibly be more evidently contrary to Scripture than your
trite and common argument, that as every sin is of infinite magnitude, so it justly demerits infinite punishment, which as no mere creature can bear, must necessarily subject all who are recompensed according to their own doings to endless misery.
black night, one in endless damnation, and the other in gloomy annihilation. But on your plan light rises out of obscurity, and a glorious day succeeds the darkest scenes. This view of things sets the Book of divine Revelation in the most pleasing light, and appears, for aught any thing that I can see, consistent with the Divine perfections. But why, since you believe the Universal Restoration, do you not mention it more freely and fully, in your public discourses?
Besides, if I was to grant you, contrary to Scripture, reason and common sense, that every offence is of infinite magnitude, and naturally deserves infinite punishment, how would you prove from that, the certainty of endless misery? Do you make nothing of the reconciliation which our Lord Jesus Christ has made for all sinners and for all sins?
Let me ask you seriously, did not Christ make a full and complete offering and propitiation for the sins of the whole world? Is it not certain that his merits were far greater than the demerits of all mankind? Is he not the lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world? If Christ died for all men, without exception, as you grant, and removed all their iniquities, and bore them away, and reconciled all to God by his death while they were enemies; much more as he has paid so great a price for their ransom, he will recover them out of their lost estate, and save them by his life. "Where sin abounded, grace did (or shall) much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. v. 20, 21.
I conclude, that let sin be ever so great, the grace of God is greater; and if you will have it that sin is of infinite magnitude, I hope you will not deny the propitiation of Jesus Christ, which he made for all sins, the same character. Therefore if you magnify sin, and insist upon the greatness of its demerit, I will endeavour to magnify the all-powerful Redeemer, above it and speak of nis power to redeem all the human race for whom he shed his blood. And then you will gain nothing in favour of the doctrine of endless damnation, by all your arguments founded upon the infinity of sin. Christ being far more infinite to save, than sin can be to destroy; and as he has undertaken to redeem and bring back those who were lost, there is no danger of his failing to perform it.
Friend. I must confess that what you have said on this head entirely convinces ine, that we cannot found the eternity of punishment, upon infinity of sin; and you have given me more satisfaction upon many points in these conversations than I ever expected to receive. I am indeed at length almost persuaded to receive your sentiments, though I once thought that it was impossible to answer all my objections, yet you have gone far towards it. Nay I cannot at present recollect any thing material, but what you have answered. I would not be too hasty in adopting this system, but after your example will consider is well. But there is certainly something more grand, beautiful, and harmonious in this view, than can be found in any other scheme; for both the other systems end in dend
Minister.-On the other hand, some ask me, Why do you ever mention it at all in your sermons; since it is not essential to salvation to believe it? To them I give these answers:
1. St. Paul declared to Timothy, that this Universal Gospel of God's being the Saviour, or Restorer of all men, but especially of those that believe, was a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; and that they laboured and suffered reproach, because they trusted in God, as the universal Saviour. But he was so far from being ashamed of this belief, that he said to Timothy, "These things command and teach." 1 Tim. iv. 9-11. And so am I determined to do, at proper opportunities: notwithstanding the reproach and contempt awaiting me for so doing.
2. Though it is frequently said to be a matter of little or no consequence, if true; yet if it be any part of the record God hath given of his Son, (as I think I have proved) we are in danger of making him a liar, if we believe it not. See 1 John ver. 9-11.
3. Though you may be Christians, and not believe it; yet I cannot; though once I could also. But now the evidences of its truth appear so plain to my mind, that it would be criminal in me not to believe it; since I do believe it, would it not be highly dishonest in me to deny it? I have never done so yet, when asked; and God forbid, that I should be ashamed to publish, what he has commanded to be made known.
4. I have commonly acted merely on the defensive, and I never should, that I know of, have preached it in public, or but rarely, far less have written upon the subject, had it not been represented as a dangerous and destructive heresy; and people been cautioned against hearing me, on that account.
5. I have been frequently desired to preach upon the subject, expressly; and could not well refuse, without betraying a cowardly disposition.
6. I ask, Who is the best man; he who preaches the truth contrary to his judgment, for interest, or to gain applause; or he that fairly speaks as he thinks, without disguise; although he knows that it will displease his best friends on earth; even upon the supposition that he errs in many points? If there be an heretic, in the world, it is the man who for the love of money or applause, or through the fear of man, preaches that to others which he himself doth not believe. "He that is such, is subverted, and sinneth; being condemned of himself." Tit. iii. 11.
7. If we are to hold forth nothing to man
kind, but what all are agreed in, we must discourse upon very few subjects; for I do not recollect so much as one, but what people either disagree about the thing itself, or the manner of explaining and holding it; no! not even the being and perfections of God; nor any point of doctrinal, experimental, or even practical religion.
8. We are to endeavour to teach mankind what they know not, as well as to confirm them in what they are already taught; should keep back nothing that may be profitable to them; should give meat to strong men, as well as milk to babes, and should not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. We ought to justify the ways of God to men, to shew the necessity and harmony of Divine Revelation, and take pains to convert infidels; all which things are more promoted by this view than any other.
fair investigation; and, therefore, I never mention it at all, at my first preaching in any place; nor unless I have sufficient opportunities to discuss it.
As to your question, why I do not dwell more upon it? I answer:
7. Christ says to his disciples-"I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now. "St. John xvi. 12. And St. Paul says-" And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; even as unto babes in Christ: I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye are not able to bear it; neither yet now are ye able." 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2. "Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age; even those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised, to discern both good and evil." Heb. v. 14. Therefore, as the Saviour and his apostles adapted their subjects and discourses to the circumstances of their hearers, and treated them in a gentle manner; so should we. Prudence, patience, and care, should always be used in discoursing on a doctrine so deep and awful as this; and, especially, as it hath been so little known of late ages.
1. There are a thousand other subjects in the Bible, besides this; and all deserve consideration, according to their weight and importance.
2. I have an utter aversion to going always in the same round of matter or manner; and, therefore I frequently vary in both.
3. There are many other subjects of more present importance than the belief of this; such as repentance, faith, hope, love, obedience, &c., and therefore ought to be more frequently insisted on, in proportion to their present use.
4. There are many scenes of providence and grace to take place in the universe, before the general Restoration; such as the Millennium, the calling of the Jews, the universal spread of the gospel through the earth, &c. These things are much nearer, and therefore the Scripture speaks more of them; and what God speaks most of, in his word, we should discourse of most to the people.
8. I would wish to establish well the first principles of Christianity, before I meddle with any thing else; and as to the doctrine of the Restoration, I would rather that it should seem to be naturally inferred from truths already known, than delivered as an independent system: I, therefore, seldom or ever make it a leading point in my discourses; but sometimes lead to it, as a natural consequence of what has been said. After all, I would choose that men should discover it themselves, by carefully reading the Scriptures, without prejudice, believing them to be strictly true; by living in love towards God and man; by walking in humility, often reflecting on their former estate; and constantly viewing the sufficiency of Christ, and the boundless love of their great Creator; rather than to learn it of any man, far less still, of such an unworthy worm as I am.
5. This doctrine, though it may have its use in converting men; and certainly enables those who believe it, to set forth the terrors of the Lord, and his mercies, in a more striking manner than otherwise they could; yet it is chiefly useful in comforting the people of God, and, in part relieving them from that bitter anguish which their tender minds feel, from the consideration of the vast num-I am ready to retract publicly. As, therebers that perish; and, therefore, may not be fore, I do not feel myself personally interestso proper for a popular audience as many ed to support the system, right or wrong; I other subjects. have, therefore, dwelt much less upon it, than most preachers do upon their particular sentiments.
9. As far as I know my own heart, truth, in love is my constant aim. I am unconnected with any party; and am not so prejudiced in favour of any thing that I hold, but that I would willingly be convinced in any thing, by proper evidence; and when so convinced,
6. The plan of this grand Restoration is so vast, includes so many different and seemingly contradictory dispensations, that it cannot be fairly stated, and fully defended, in one sermon, and especially the objections answered; and many persons are not capable of taking in and digesting at once, so many sub-lished my sentiments, and answers to many jects as are necessary to the understanding objections; which publications being in the of this matter, and have not patience to attend hands of those to whom I preached, made
10. When I first embraced these views I was obliged to give some account of my reasons; and I chose rather to do it by writing than preaching. Accordingly, I pub
to a long series of demonstrations, arguments, it less necessary for me to discourse upon those matters in public, or even in private, as I could refer to what I had written; and with the same view, I am inclined to pub
and proofs; and, therefore, this doctrine should not be introduced by any man, in any place, unless he has opportunity, to give it a
lish these familiar discourses, which we have had together; after which it will be less necessary than ever for me to preach the Restoration publicly; yet, I will not wholly avoid it at convenient times, and in proper
11. Lastly, as I know so much of the natore of man, as to be sensible that he turns, with disgust and loathing from what is perpetually crammed down his throat; but relishes that which he falls upon, as it were accidentally, and comes into by little and little; I have always made it a rule never to introduce it, in public or private, unless where it was earnestly desired, nor ever to continue it long together; and, above all, never to question people upon the subject, after discoursing upon it; asking them, saying, Do you believe it? &c. Nor would I ever wish to press them with the arguments at once and oblige them immediately to yield; as this kind of conduct, so far from answering any good purposes, commonly sets
them against what is thus intruded upon them. It is the best way to give time and leisure to persons, whom you would wish to convince; and let them exercise their own faculties.
"Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put al enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put al things under his feet. But when he saith, al things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted who did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that por all things under him, that God may be all in all."--1 Cor. xv. 24-28.
Friend. I must confess that what you have advanced is highly satisfactory to me, and I trust will be so to many others who may read these conversations, which I hope to have the pleasure of seeing in print before long; and in the mean time, I wish for a blessing to attend your labours, and that you may be an instrument of much good to man kind in your day and generation, and that you may obtain a crown of life from the Lord the righteous judge, in the day of his appearing.
END OF THE DIALOGUES.
Minister.-1 thank you most kindly for your benevolent wishes. I heartily wish the same blessing may come to yourself. And if I have been an instrument of giving you any satisfaction, let all the glory be to God, but let me have an interest in your prayers.
The following is taken from a course of Lectures on the Prophecies, by the Reverend Author
of the preceding Dialogues.
ment: but I have in the course of these Lectures given my thoughts so fully upon these opinions and the reasons why I cannot concur with them, as that I trust I have no need to repeat them in this place. We may here once more observe, that the word rendered everlasting, does not signify endless, even when applied to the kingdom of Christ; (as it frequently is in the Scriptures) since here it is positively asserted, that there shall be an end to the glorious kingdom of the Son of God, so often called an everlasting kingdom in our translation: but which I humbly ap prehend, might better be called a kingdom of ages.
This is the only passage of Scripture that contains any intimation of Christ's delivering up the kingdom to the Father, but as it was written by divine inspiration, this grand event Then cometh the end; when he shall have deand closing scene is by no means to be dis-livered up the kingdom to God even the Fathers puted, or explained away. when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
In discoursing upon this glorious subject, I shall follow the order of the words, and make such remarks as may present themselves to my mind as I pass along.
Then cometh the end, &c. These words teach as the important truth that the Mediatorial dispensation will as certainly come to a peried or close, as any other dispensation ever did; though it is by no means of so short a duration as many take it to be. Some make it to end at the second coming of Christ; and thers immediately after the general Judg
He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; but not until he hath put down all rule and authority, and all power. For the Kingdom was given to him for this very purpose, and this he will certainly accomplish, to the praise and glory of his name. His engagements he must fulfil, according to the nature and tenor of the counsel of peace, which was between the Father and his will beloved Son; for (as the prophet says) "The counsel of peace shall be between them both." Zec.