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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 unable 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 avow 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 mantevery 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 revised" was published in Amsterdam, the author expressed the hope that he should be able in a short time to give the second part of his work to the public, but added that if any unforeseen obstacle should prevent its appearance, this treatise which he had already sent forth might be regarded as complete in itself, "a treatise," he says, on the infinite goodness of God; and, strange to say, this sublime subject is as new as it is interesting." We know not that any other part of the work ever appeared.
"It is true that it has sometimes exposed me to some temporal inconveniences. I was a minister of the gospel. In assuming that office I took an oath at the hands of the clergy that I would sacrifice my body, my life and my estate to maintain the word of the Lord. I have consequently desired to proclaim the counsel or plan of God according to his words without any farther regard to the received doctrine than prudence dictated. The clergy without deciding upon the truth or falsehood of my doctrine, forbid me to preach it, and imposed upon me a law of very rigorous silence. I could not submit to any law that violated my conscience, and was deposed. As I had no means of support but what my lost benefice afforded, I went to a foreign country to gain
The call for a new edition in the space of five years, is an evidence that it met with a very respectable sale. Indeed the English translator refers to the approbation it received on 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 carefulness and prayer this treatise, and assist in sending it far and wide among those who with all their self-complacency are yet ignorant of the true God, the Father, who is the Saviour of all men. THOMAS J. SAwyer. New York, June, 1843.
I need not attempt an analysis of the work, nor is it necessary to say a word in commendation of it. Those who have read it will not require this at my hands; those who have not, of whatever creed or communion they may be, still owe their heads and their
PREFACE OF THE TRANSLATOR.
THE translator of the following pages having witnessed the approbation they met with abroad, the ardour with which they were sought, and the difficulty with which they were obtained; thinks it may be rendering service to the cause of religion, and contributing to the happiness of mankind, to make them easy of access, in a nation distinguished by its literature, and which in theology and philosophy has produced so many luminaries.
The author, a native of Neufchâtel, must be well known to many in this country, having resided in its capital for several years. All who were acquainted with him there, or in Switzerland, admired and honoured him. If in its tenets he differs from those universally held in the Christian, even protestant churches, the candid and judicious reader will not be repulsed by the cry of heresy, for it is to truths thas stigmatized, that the reformation owed its rise. Let them read, examine, and determine for themselves.
a wretch so base as to sin because race has abounded, and with dauntless effrontery ventures to challenge the power and justice of his Maker-let him learn that in proportion to his guilt and depravity, will be his future punishment both in degree and duration. But let the honour of the wise and merciful Creator be vindicated, and mankind be taught to consider him as altogether amiable; whose severities are as much the effect of his goodness, as his rewards. Thus shall his love, and his fear arise together in our hearts; thus will he be known, and honoured, and wisdom be justified of her children.
Thirst of fame is disregarded by one who remains concealed, but though I wish to derive no personal merit as a translator, I would carefully avoid diminishing that of the author; to whose sentiments it shall be my endeavour to do justice, by a faithful but not a tedious translation. All who are conversant with the nature of the French language, know that it admits of a certain declamatory style which they call unction, and which does not so well correspond with the genius of the English. Entirely to divest this work of its original idiom, would perhaps be to rob it of that spirit and energy, by which the author has distinguished it. The reader is therefore solicited, if in the course of this translation some deviations from the established mode of En
Nor let the humble pious follower of the gospel take the alarm, or apprehend the motives to virtue will be weakened, and mankind grow more licentious. To behold the plan of the Deity, as more consistent with his nature and attributes, and more merciful to his creatures, can never be an incentive to vice. Fear, is indeed one powerful restraint on imperfect beings, but it must be a rational fear, and not such 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.
primitive ignorance renders them strangely presumptuous and decisive, their gross imagination, obscuring reason, has served them as a guide, insinuating itself as a judge of things spiritual, which belong exclusively to the more noble faculty of the mind.
To render man universally and perfectly happy, seems to be the plan on which the Supreme Creator has established his moral government: and the method he employs to compass an end so worthy of its author; is that of enlightening their minds. From whence it follows, that from the knowledge of this plan, may be derived just views of that felicity which the greatest and best of beings, has graciously intended to dispense to the children of men; and of the means by which he will conduct them to it, the knowledge of the truth. This system is clearly expressed in that passage of Scripture, which I have made choice of in the title of this work, where the apostle declares that, God will have all men to be saved: this is their destination, and to come at the knowledge of the truth, is the mean by which he will raise them to it. I therefore dedicate the following pages to the examination and developement of these sublime words of St. Paul,
But above all, self-love, temporal interest, sloth, vanity, pride, and a long list of other corrupt passions; make them deviate and wander through a maze of the most absurd, and sometimes the most monstrous errors; which they never fail to associate with the truths of religion, however incompatible. And as these errors are the unhappy effects of passion, they are afterwards supported by it. How often do men maintain them with a warmth bordering on fury, and impose them on the faith of others, with an inhuman ferocity, deciding for the rest of mankind, and even for posterity, by a plurality of voices, what they shall in future be obliged to believe, or possess as the truth revealed by God, under pain of damnation in the world to come, and frequently of the most cruel sufferinga in this, such are the bitter fruits, the sad but inevitable effects of the ignorance, the imagination, and the passions of mankind, even under that dispensation of light which God has vouchsafed them. Deplorable ef fects! which by the obstinate deist, are charged upon religion itself. What I have said on the corruption of truth in the hands of man, is no more than what fatal experience has proved more or less in every age.
Though the practical part of religion is of superior importance, that even the most perfect theory separated from it is so totally useLess, that St. James represents a faith of that mature as dead. Yet is of the theory of religion that I mean to treat, as that is incomparably more corrupted and disfigured by error, as I shall shew by explaining my reasons more particularly.
To what else are we to ascribe that strange fatality, by which we see the absurd side of questions, though never so revolting and extravagant, prevailing over the simple, natural, and rational; almost whenever they have been agitated? Such absurd errors when once received, and consecrated by public authority, and by their antiquity become the formidable obstacles of truth, and gain such a fatal ascendancy even over the minds of those whose understandings reject them, as leads them to suppress the truth, and tacitly to immolate it at the shrine of falsehood, by imposing upon it the most rigorous silence; leaving to error, known to be such; the exclusive privilege of appearing publicly, and of perpetuating itself by being openly and freely taught to the multitude. And can the sacred rights of truth be thus misconceived? 1 say misconceived, for who that properly knows their value, can dare to trample them under foot? but when we reflect on the obstacles she meets with, may we not be tempted
Although mankind are universally made eapable of knowing the truth, their progress towards it is slow and obstructed by many difficulties, and amidst their almost impercep- for a moment to believe, as some have boldly ible 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 igtruth, even though revealed by himself. Their norance and error. But far be from us a 10
The plan of God towards mankind, is in nothing different from religion itself considered in its theory. For though religion taken in a general view is the science of happiness and of salvation, yet it may be divided into the two branches, of theory and practice. In its theory it holds up to us, salvation as the destination to which God by his providence and grace calls us: thus far it is the plan of our Great Creator, which I shall endeavour to illustrate in this work. But when taken in a practical view, it shews us salvation as the grand end we are invariably to propose to ourselves, and to which we are constantly to tend, by exerting all our efforts to the enlightening of our understandings, and the sanctifying of our hearts. In this point of view, religion is that part of his plan which the Supreme Being has assigned to us, that we may submit with docility to his government, and thereby become worthy of his benevolent designs towards us, or, as the apostle expresses it, be workers together with him.
thought so contrary to the plan of infinite wis- | indispensably to attend; and by the touch-
Now, it is on the theory of religion that the evils resulting from the above causes have principally fallen: its admirable morality has better resisted the contagion: though when we see on the one hand a thousand dangerous illusions and superstitions, corrupting its purity, and on the other, the motives to virtue, which are the very essence of morality, and are derived from its theory, perverted, enfeebled, enervated, and almost annihilated; we must lament that it has not wholly escaped the infection. What then can be more necessary than to disencumber religion from the errors which corrupt it, and to present it to mankind in its primitive purity! this shall be my endeavour in this eatise, by faithfully displaying the eternal plan of divine government as made known by God himself, both by nature and revelation.
It is in this two-fold manner, that the source of all truth has communicated to us the scheme of his mercy. First, by a natural revelation, by which He enlightens our reason, in offering to its contemplation, the admirable works of creation. Secondly, by a supernatural revelation, by which He condescends to supply the original weakness of our rational powers, and gives us his word; as a more perfect and more efficacious assistance.
It is to our reason that God addresses himself in both these revelations; with this capital difference however, that in the former, what we know of the being, perfections, and designs of God, must be deduced from the contemplation of nature, and result from our own discoveries: whereas in the latter, we must only attend with humility, and docility, and comprehend him who speaks for the purpose of enlightening us; for reason cannot be benefited by what it does not understand.
The question why God has revealed himself in these two ways is not proper to be discussed here; one very remarkable observation may however be made, which is founded on their perfect agreement. For as the design of our Creator is to bring us to the knowledge of the truth, it is impossible that he should deceive his creatures, and not be himself the God all of truth: consequently his revelations far from contradicting each other, must be found in perfect harmony.
But as God has manifested himself to us in his works, and in his word, it is in these two sacred sources, and in these alone, that we are to seek for the knowledge of his plan, and not in the opinions of our fellow mortals, which are so different, and often so opposite. We may, and we certainly ought to consult them, and examine carefully the reasons on which they are grounded, in order to profit by their labours, and use them as succours for the better comprehending our Maker, but it is God, and God alone, to whom we are obliged
When we consult reason for the proper understanding of Holy Writ, we draw at once from these two sources. When, for instance, any passage there is susceptible, by the ambiguity of its expression, of two different meanings, because, the same term may sometimes have a literal, and sometimes a figurative sense annexed to it, it is then the province of reason to determine which of the two is the sense of the passage in question, by adopting that which agrees with the nature of things, of God, of man; and rejecting that which is unnatural, absurd, and false. Such is the use we are to make of reason, in the interpretation of Scripture.
And here I solemnly protest, in the presence of the Almighty, that in reading and meditating on his word, to know his will and designs towards us, I have with sincerity, and in his fear, adhered to this rule, I have sought truth in its purity, with simplicity of heart, without hope, or fear of its agreeing or disagreeing, with that catechism which had been taught to receive in my youth, without sufficient examination; well convinced, that if such, or such opinions were true, I should find them confirmed in Scripture; if false, they would not become true, by my obstinately persisting to believe them without examination; so that I had nothing to loose, or rather I had every thing to gain, by bringing them sincerely to this test; since the only thing of importance to me was to fly from error, and to come at the knowledge of the truth.
And this impartial study of Scripture has been attended with great advantage to me. It has confirmed and established me in some of my former opinions, which I have found to be divine truths, and opened my eyes upon others, which I have perceived to be the offspring of prejudice, and error.
It has certainly exposed me to some temporal inconvenience, in the exercise of my ecclesiastical functions; as instead of examining the truth, or falsehood, of my doctrine, the clergy condemned me to silence; which being contrary to the dictates of my conscience, was followed by my deposition. Thus circumstanced, I was obliged to seek in a foreign country that protection and independence which my own refused me. The success of my endeavours having placed me above the reach of temporal cares, I devote the leisure with which providence has blessed me, to the interest of truth, and the benefit of mankind, adhering scrupulously throughout this work to the rules I have laid down, consulting only reason and the word of God, and advancing nothing, but what appears to me, agreeable to these guides; convinced that were I to violate this sacred obligation, I should be guilty of the most audacious and criminal prevarication.
As I disclaim all other authorities, however useful to my subject; so I equally renounce all personal controversy; and confine myself
entirely to the combat between truth, and | given, because on those terms they are absolutely insurmountable, since it is impossible to make light agree with darkness. To give but one example of these triumphant objections: how can it even be made comprehensible that a being infinitely good can consign the greatest part of his creatures over to never ending torments? It is however necessary that these objections of the second class should be answered, and that religion should be disengaged from every thing that may tarnish and obscure it lustre. For as long as it shall present a hideous mixture of truth and error, it cannot carry with it that light and evidence, which are necessary to convince the undersianding, and gain the heart, but will expose men to baneful illusions, cruel doubts, and even to the fatal danger of falling at length into incredulity, and irreligion.
With respect to the form of this work, I am not solicitous to clothe it in the ornaments of flowery language; simplicity, perspicuity, and evidence, have ever appeared more attractive in my eyes. I confide in the majesty, and importance of my subject to interest my reader, and captivate his attention. And what subject can be more sublime than to explain the plan of God, and his counsels towards man! August by its author; precious and interesting by its object; luminous and harmonious by the value of its materials, and the beauty of its structure; elevated and delightful by its tendency; and sovereignly glorious and marvellous by the amazing difficulty of its execulion, and by the magnificence of its effects. Its author, is He who is infinitely wise, good, and powerful; its object, is the universal and final happiness of the whole human race, without exception of a single individual; the rich materials that compose it, are those magnificent truths that go hand in hand, and by a natural connection, form the most beautiful whole that an intelligent being can possibly contemplate. Its tendency, that of bringing us all to the highest perfection, and the utmost happiness of which our natures are susceptible. And the difficulty of its execution, and the magnificence of its effects, no other, than rendering the human race, such as they have shewn themselves from the foundation of the world to the present moment; a race of beings plunged in the most profound darkness; lost in the most monstrous errors; degraded and tyrannized by the most disorderly and violent passions; odious by the most horrid and detestable crimes; unhappy, in their physical and moral state, by all these sources of dreadful misery; it is nothing less, than to render such beings, enlightened, rational and pure in their sentiments; amiable by every virtue, excellent by every action, and happy by their perfection, their celestial state, and above all by their glorious union with God himself! Of how little moment will the ornaments of diction appear to any one convinced of the importance, and elevated by the dignity of the subject. May its divine energy penetrate my heart, and I shall not fear of making my labours useful, and acceptable to the world.
I mean not however by these protestations to prepossess the world in favour of my tenets. I have laid down the only rules by which they must stand, or fall; therefore setting aside the prejudices of education, and carefully examining what I shall advance, let every one judge, and determine for themselves. Whoever proceeds otherwise, can never read with advantage, not even Scripture itself: but resembles those whom St. Paul describes, as ever learning, and never able to come at the knowledge of the truth, as the mass of prejudices, form that veil upon the heart, with which the same apostle reproaches the Jews; and which made a learned divine of this century observe, in a Latin epigram on the Bible, That it was a book where every one sought his opinions, and where every one found them. This has given occasion to the deist to reproach revelation with obscurity; whereas the whole of religion, if it may be resolved into the designs of God towards his creatures, and what he requires of them towards the rendering them fit objects of his favour; is sufficiently clear to all, who with the docility of little children will listen to its instructions, and obey its dictates.
It may appear to some necessary previous to my present undertaking, that I should prove the divine authority of that revelation on which it depends. But this subject has been so frequently, and so ably treated by numbers, that I think it needless to enter upon it again, any farther than its celestial origin may be deducible by every candid mind, from the beauty, grandeur, and harmony of a design; which comprehending so many ages since the beginning of the world, cannot be the production of an impostor: which is a sufficient internal proof of its divinity.
Religion has, in our age, sustained on every side a multitude of attacks from different quarters, and under every disguise; which as they have occasioned the discussion of many important questions; have led to an examination favourable to the cause of truth. The objections of the deist to Christianity are of two kinds: the one, levelled against its external proofs and documents, such as the miracles, and prophecies it contains; the other, relating to its substance, and attacking its doctrines whether of theory, or practice. With respect to the former, they have been answered in a manner that has turned to the advantage of religion: but I am far from being able to say as much of the replies that have been offered in defence of its doctrines; here the combatants have not stood on equal ground, for its advocates in vindicating the dogmas of religion, have thought themselves obliged to maintain them, not in the simplicity of holy writ, but as they were taught in different communions of Christians, and represented in the creeds and confessions of their churches; hence a number of objections to which no satisfactory answer has ever been