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therefore we should examine their opinions as well as those of other men, and admit them only upon the ground of real evidence.
Nor are we to be biassed in favor of men's licentious principles, on account of their amiable moral characters. It is a just observation of Dr. Brown, that men of strict morality have often disseminated the most licentious and pernicious doctrines. It is well known that Epicurus, the father of doctrinal licentiousness, never lived up to his principles, but maintained a regular and exemplary life. Spinoza, the father of speculative atheism, was a man of sobriety and apparent devotion. Lord Herbert, who, if not the father, was, yet the principal advocate for deism in the last century, appears to have had a serious mind, and a conscientious regard to duty. And we know that some of the advocates for universal salvation are men of amiable natural dispositions and fair moral characters. But ought we hence to entertain a more favorable regard for atheism, deism, or any other licentious doctrines? By no means.
Those principles are still to be shunned, at the peril of our souls.
Nor, again, are we to believe the propagators of error, though they throw out the most pompous and solemn asseverations of their sincerity, impartiality and uncommon intercourse with the Deity, and concern for his glory. Though we scruple not their sincerity, yet we scruple the propriety of throwing out the prosession of it, which can have no tendency to enlighten, but only prejudice the minds of the credulous. This, which we venture to call an artifice, is often employed by the advocates for universal salvation. Mr. White, in his treatise on the universal restoration of all sinful creatures to the divine favor, makes the most solemn asseverations of his sincerity and sacred regard for the divine glory. His expressions are these : “ And here I do in the fear of God most humbly prostrate myself before his divine Majesty, and in the deepest sense of my own darkness and distance from him, do, with all my might, beg of that infinite goodness I am endeavoring to represent to others, that, if something like this platform and prospect of things be not agreeable to that revealed and natural light he hath given to us, my understanding may be interrupted and my design fall, and that the Lord would pardon my attempt: and I know he will do
So, for he hath given me to have no farther concern for this matter, than as I apprehend it to be a most glorious truth, witnessed to, both by the scriptures of truth and by the most essential principles of our own reason, and which will be found at the last opening of the everlasting gospel, to recover in that opening a degenerate world.” *
Mr. Relly holds out the same * Pages 6, 7.
lure to his readers, to place an implicit faith in the rectitude of his views, and the divinity of his doctrines. In a preface to one volume of his writings, he assures his readers that his discourses were delivered extempore, without any previous study or forethought, and flowed from his lips as they were dictated by the divine Spirit. For, says he, I followed that divine direction given to the apostles, Take no thought before hand, what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” How presumptuous is it for any man, at this day, to pretend to imitate the apostles in this respect, and especially for Mr. Relly, who in his writings every where ridicules all experimental religion, inward piety, holy affections, and Christian graces and tempers!
Error often employs such artifices as truth neither needs por approves. They sometimes, however, prove successful, and deceive the inattentive and unguarded. Those who use them therefore are dangerous persons, and their corrupting influence is studiously to be avoided. Their doctrines are fatal if imbibed; and even when they are not fully adopted, they tend to harden the heart, and stupify the conscience. The bare thought, that some maintain that all will be saved, begets a secret hope that possibly it may be true, and that there is not so much danger in impenitence and unbelief as many have long imagined and pretended. Therefore, to hear the Universalists preach, or read their writings, merely to know what they can say in defence of their errors, is like Eve's listening to the reasoning of the serpent, and may, in the event, prove equally fatal. Accordingly, the scripture characterizes false teachers, and warns you to avoid them. The apostle Paul, who was troubled with the perverters of the gospel, treats them with great plainness and severity. . “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." The apostle John directs men to have no intimate connection with false teachers. “ If any come unto you and bring not this doctrine, that is, the doctrine of Christ mentioned in the preceding verse, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds." And Solomon gives a similar caution and direction. Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to
Thus you have not only the voice of reason, but the voice of God, to warn you to shun the presence and influence of those that lie in wait to deceive.
The last direction is, to repent and believe the gospel. This
will place you beyond the reach of all fatal errors. When your hearts are established with grace you will no longer be liable to be carried about with divers and strange doctrines. When you yield cordial obedience to the divine will, there is a promise that you shall know of doctrines whether they be of God. When you embrace the gospel from the heart, it will be out of the power of Satan or any of his instruments to deceive you. When you sincerely love God, all things shall work together for your good, and prepare you more and more for the great, and glorious, and solemn scenes, which death, judgment and eternity will soon open to your view. But so long as you remain in a state of impenitence and unbelief, you are in imminent danger of making shipwreck, not only of your faith, but of your precious and immortal souls. Though you should escape every fatal error, and, in speculation, clearly understand every doctrine of the gospel, yet if you hold even the truth in unrighteousness, you will certainly perish. An orthodox creed and a fair external appearance are of no avail, in point of divine acceptance, without a broken and contrite heart, and an unfeigned love of the truth. For, “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” And “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Therefore, “ let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” . Nor is there the least excuse for a moment's delay: “ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold,
, now is the day of salvation.” Life and death are now set before you. This is the only day of grace, and space of repentance you will ever enjoy. You are now placed between two vast eternities of happiness and wo. You are, therefore, of all the creatures of God, in the most critical, serious and solemn situation. Your life, or your death, your happiness, or your misery, for a boundless eternity, is suspended on the slender thread of life. And death is advancing with rapid speed to seal up your account for the judgment of the great day; when, in the view of the assembled universe, you must hear your doom; and either rise with the righteous to mansions of eternal bliss, or sink with the wicked down to regions of eternal darkness, horror and despair. Be entreated then, O sinner, to agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him, lest he deliver thee to the Judge, and the Judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
SERMON L X X XIII.
THE PLEA OF SINNERS AGAINST ENDLESS
PRODOOI your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the
king of Jacob. — ISAIAH, Ili. 21.
Ever since the first apostacy of mankind, they have been disposed to contend with God, respecting his character, bis laws, and government. They have called in question his sove. reignty, his justice, and even his goodness. They have complained of the precepts and penalties of his holy and righteous laws. They have arraigned the justice and equity of his government, and said, the ways of the Lord are not equal. But God has always been willing to meet their complaints and settle the controversy between them, upon the most just and solid grounds. By Micah, he challenges them to the contest. “ Hear ye now what the Lord saith ; Arise, contend before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.' By Isaiah, in the text, he calls upon them to reason the case with him fairly. “ Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob." God seems to take it for granted that those who call in question the excellence of his character, and the rectitude of his laws and government, suppose that they have reasons, and even strong reasons,
for their erroneous feelings and opinions. It is true that some who imbibe false and dangerous opinions in religion, choose to con
ceal them, for a time at least; but those who avow their errors profess to have, and presume to offer, what they deem strong reasons for their religious errors. Skeptics, Atheists, and Deists, profess to have what they deem strong reasons for their various opinions, and often produce them. Though Universalists formerly chose to confine their peculiar sentiments in their own breasts, yet lately, they are very free to write, to preach, and to publish their errors, and bring forth their strong reasons in support of them. It is, therefore, my present design to meet this class of errorists, and examine the force of their strong reasons, and see whether they are sufficient to support the peculiar doctrine which they build upon
to examine the five following principles, upon which they argue in favor of their peculiar doctrine.
1. The universal goodness of God.
These, I presume they will all allow, are the strongest reasons they have in support of the doctrine of universal salvation, and those upon which they most confidently rely.
1. Let us inquire whether it can be fairly inferred from the universal goodness of God, that he will finally save all men. It is readily granted that the goodness of God extends to all intelligent creatures, and even to all creatures that possess the least sensibility or capacity of enjoying happiness or suffering pain. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. His goodness consists in the love of benevolence, and in the love of complacence. His love of benevolence is universal, and extends to all creatures, without any respect to their moral characters. He values the happiness of every individual according to its worth, whether he has a good moral character, or a bad moral character, or no moral character at all. He values the happiness of angels according to its worth, the happiness of mankind according to its worth, the happiness of the spirits in prison according to its worth, and the happiness of all percipient creatures according to its worth. His universal benevolence, therefore, is impartial. He values the happiness of angels more than the happiness of men, the happiness of men more than the happiness of the inferior creation, because angels are more capable of enjoying happiness than men, and men are more capable of enjoying happiness than animals and insects. His universal goodness is also disinterested. He loves all his creatures with benevolence, because he loves happiness simply considered, whether it tends to promote his own