« PreviousContinue »
the misery of many individuals for a very protracted period ; but I see, too, a principle at work which must finally destroy it. I see the hand of the Deity arranging every event with exquisite skill and unbounded benignity. I see the prospect brighten as the wheels of time revolve, developing gradually the stupendous scheme, and manifesting at every movement new indications of wisdom and new demonstrations of love. I see at the helm of affairs an intelligence which cannot err, a watchfulness which cannot tire, a benignity which cannot be unkind, and a power which cannot be frustratedI see at the head of his large family a Father, whose equal love is extended to every individual, who is laboring to promote the happiness of each alike, according to the measure of capacity he has given, and who will not labor in vain. Though clouds and darkness are round about him, I am satisfied that righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. I therefore bow with resignation, where I cannot exult with joy, and glow with hope, even when nearest to despair.
But to those who believe that our heavenly Father is partial and capricious in his kindness ; that he is the cruel and inexorable tyrant of the great majority of his creatures ; that, by an irreversible decree, he doomed them millions of ages before their existence to unutterable torments, and that a few only escape this horrid fate, with affectionate and solemn earnestness I would say, How can you be happy? How can you be happy even for yourself? How great are the chances that you are not in the number of the elect! How many thousands are passed by! How few are chosen ! How much more probable is it that you are among the thousands than among the few! Why do you believe that you are the favorite of heaven? What mark is engraven on your forehead ; what sensations are peculiar to your heart; what is there in your dispositions or your conduct by which you have ascertained the important fact? You think you are one of the elect. It may be so. But it may not be so. When the chances are so much against you, you cannot be certain of any thing. It is, then, uncertain, whether you are destined to the enjoyment of unutterable and everlasting pleasure, or to the endurance of endless and inconceivable torments. You flatter yourself that the happy portion will be yours. But men easily flatter themselves. What if you should be buoying yourself with a delusive expectation! When such happiness is at stake, when such misery impends, and when both are shrouded in such awful uncertainty, how can you enjoy a moment's peace ?
But, supposing that you are perfectly satisfied with regard to your own condition, are your anxieties confined to your own welfare, and do
you care only for yourself? Are you a father ; are you a mother? Do you love your children, and do you really think of the doctrines you profess to believe? If so, how can you possibly be happy ?: In imagination I often accompany you into the bosom of your family. I see your eye rest with anxious fondness on your smiling babes. I see the tear start to it. I do not wonder at it. I should be less surprised did your tears unceasingly flow, and were your very hearts to break. That child of whom you are so fond, whose innocence affects and whose prattle delights you, what will be its eternal destiny? What uncertainty is there! What horror may be there ! If, when you are in Abraham's bosom, you should look beyond the gulph which divides you, and behold it lifting up its eyes in torments, and imploring you in vain for a cup of cold water to quench its parched tongue; if you should know that this state of dreadful misery will be without end, and that its sufferings will answer no purpose, would heaven afford you the least enjoyment ? Could you contemplate with complacency the author of its misery? Could you surround his throne with songs of praise, exclaiming in grateful triumph, “ Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth ” ? *
* Yes; there are persons in whom system has so completely subdued the feelings of humanity, that they have brought them
It is impossible. Can doctrines which, if they are seriously thought of, must poison the sweetest
selves to view this horrid picture with a steady gaze, to contemplate it with complacency, nay, even to affirm that it is beautiful and glorious. “ The lamb of God shall roar as a lion against them : be shall excommunicate and cast thein out of his presence for ever by a sentence from the throne, saying, ' Depart from me ye cursed.' He shall adjudge them to everlasting fire, and the society of devils for evermore. And this sentence, we suppose, shall be pronounced with an audible voice, by the man Christ. And all the saints shall say, 'Hallelujah, true and righteous are his judgments.' None were so compassionate as the saints when on earth, during the time of God's patience. But now that time is at an end, their compassion on the ungodly is swallowed up in joy, in the Mediator's glory, and his executing of just judgment, by which his enemies are made his footstool. Though sometimes the righteous man did weep in secret places for their pride, and because they would not hear : yet then he shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance, he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.' Psalm lviii. 10.No pity shall then be shown to them from their nearest relations. The godly wife shall applaud the justice of the Judge, in the condemnation of her ungodly husband : the godly husband shall say, Amen, to the damnation of her who lay in his bosom: the godly parents shall say, Hallelujah, at the passing of the sentence against their ungodly child : and the godly child shall from his heart, approve the damnation of his wicked parents, the father who begat him and the mother who bore him." Boston's Four-fold State, State IV. Head iv. sec. 9.
After this, can we wonder that system should have so perverted the understanding, as to lead it to approve of the infliction of pain, imprisonment, and death, for an adherence to what was conscientiously believed to be the truth, and so corrupted the
sources of human felicity, convert heaven itself into a place of torment, and force every feeling mind to contemplate the Deity with horror, be founded in truth, or form part of the revelation of the God of truth? It cannot be. Every seri. ous and pious mind must rejoice to find that those expressions which occasionally occur in Scripture, and which may at first sight seem to favor these frightful opinions, admit of a rational and consistent interpretation, without supposing their truth; while it abounds with many expressions which can have no meaning, and entire series of reasoning which can have no object, unless they are false.
heart, as to make it triumph in the subdual of its best feelings, which rose against the dreadful injustice and cruelty, as the noblest effort of heroic piety? After this, will any one venture to maintain, that mere speculative opinions, as many persons term them, are of little importance ?