Our opposers accuse us of preaching a licentious doctrine
-- they say we remove all incentives to virtue -- that wicked people love
Are those charges so? Let us consider what Universalism if founded on, and what it teaches, and then we shall be better enabled to answer those charges.
1. Universalism is founded on the existence of one living and true God, whose nature is Love; who is omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful, just and good. Is there any thing licentious here?
2. We hold with the inspired writers, that God will by no means clear the guilty -- that he "will render to every man (without exception) according to his works." Is this of licentious tendency?
3. That Christ was sent by the Father to be (not try to be) "the Savior the world;" and that he will "finish the work and cut it short in righteousness." Is it licentious to believe Jesus will accomplish that which he came to perform?
4. Universalism teaches that the Holy Spirit is now calling sinners to repentance -- that the Holy Spirit will not "always strive with man," because by Jesus, all things will be reconciled to God. (See Col. 1:20) Is it dangerous to believe and teach that ultimately all will be reclaimed from the error of their ways? If it be dangerous to teach that all will be thus reclaimed, is it not equally so, in the same ratio, to preach that a part will?
5. Our sentiments enjoin supreme love to God and universal love to men. Does not the Bible command this? Is there any thing bad here?
6. Universalism teaches that "the ay of the transgressor is hard," and that great peace have they that love God's holy law. Is there any thing here to be offended at?
7. Universalism declares that "the grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously." Is this dangerous to teach?
8. Universalism teaches that we shall be miserable, so long as we are wicked. Is this of bad moral tendency?
9. Universalism teaches that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain the revelation of God's will, man's duty and destiny partakes of the nature of the designer. Good!
10. Universalism teaches that God will destroy the works of the devil, and the devil in the bargain. (See Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8) Is it distressing to hear this?
11. Universalism teaches that we all have on Father -- that he will provide for all his own, is worse that an infidel.
12. Universalism teaches that the prayers of all saints will be answered -- that we shall meet all our friends in a better world, where we shall praise God forever. Is this licentious?
But "wicked people love universalism," says the objector. I answer, not more than wicked people love the doctrine of endless misery. It is a fact that some wicked people favor our sentiments; but that there are more of the same class who contend for an endless hell, is another fact. But suppose some wicked people do love the doctrine of Universalism, does this prove it to be wrong? By no means.
Do not wicked people love their children? -- Well, do not good people love theirs too? -- Certainly. But are we to say that because wicked people think and feel in this respect like good parents, it is a sure sign that good people ought not to love their children? Preposterous! Again: Good husbands love their wises; so do many wicked people. But in all conscience, reader, does this prove that no one ought to love his wife because many mean men love their wives? And yet, all this would be just as reasonable as to say that because some wicked men love Universalism it must be wrong , and therefore, no one ought to love it. -- Still further, if we are to love nothing that wicked men love, and do nothing that wicked do, we must not love to provide for our families -- must not love to eat -- must not love to sleep -- must not love to work -- in fine, must not love to live, because, forsooth, wicked men love these things.
The truth is this: Universalism, when understood, give no license to sin. Our enemies (pious souls) have busied themselves in misrepresenting us, by saying that we believe a man may do what he pleases -- that he will get no punishment; and that though men die in the rankest dens of infamy, they will wake up, immediately, in heaven. With this false view of the matter, it may be that some vainly suppose that this is a doctrine that will shelter them in their wickedness.
But do they learn such phantasms from us? Far from it! You have seen, reader, a synopsis of what we teach in the preceding portion of this article, and you there see that we give the sinner no indulgence. That "God will by no means clear the guilty," is the language of the Scriptures, and what we always teach. It is mortifying to know that many willfully misrepresent us in our religious views, and accuse of us preaching that which forms no part of our faith. We solemnly call on Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and all others, to acquaint themselves with our doctrine, before they retail it to others; and let them remember also that command which says, "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." The Apostles were accused, by their enemies, of preaching, "let us do evil that good may come," but his was a gross slander.
But again, suppose that sometimes a deceived mortal may suppose that he had as well continue in sin as not; does it prove Universalism to be false? Surely not. Paul's preaching was objected to on this very ground. When he had just finished speaking of the triumphant reign of grace, he anticipated the objection of the present day, that we had as well continue in sin, in order that grace should abound. In view of this objection, he ways, "what shall we say then; shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!"
But Peter, I think, speaks of some that did "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness," and of others that "held the truth in unrighteousness." The intelligent reader will see that God's grace did not make them lascivious, or unrighteous, (because this teaches that we should live righteously) but they perverted it; and in regard to Universalism at the present day, there may be a few similar cases. But shall we say that this proves Universalism false? If so, Christ preached a false doctrine; so did the Apostles. And yet, who will have the presumption to say that the grace of God itself was licentious? The fact is, reader, any blessing may be abused or perverted. For instance: 1. Life is a blessing as we all know and yet how many abuse it by indulging in all kinds of wickedness. 2. The alternation of day and night is a wise and benevolent arrangement, and yet how many use the shades of night as a cloak to carry on their wicked devices. In view of this, shall we say we ought not to have any night? 3. A profession of religion, and uniting one's self to the church is good, as we all admit, and yet how many use all such as a screen for their vices. 4. Medicines are good, in their places, and yet how often have individuals been poisoned and their lives destroyed. 5. The element fire, is good in its place, and without it we could not live; yet how often do the wicked use it as an engine of destruction. The same may be said of water. Does this prove, though, that we should not have these things, because such consequences sometimes follow? Surely not. I might enlarge just here, but I forbear, as I think the reader will at once see the force of what I have said.
In conclusion, I would say, that although I frankly confess that we have our faults, (and who is it that has not?) yet I boldly affirm that Universalists will lose nothing in comparison with our Partialist friends, in point of moral and religious character. And I further say, that I am proud to number some of the noblest specimens of humanity among Universalists. The bloody and sanguinary persecutions that have long been a stigma on the fair escutcheon of the world's history, have been concocted and carried on by believers in endless hell. Nor is this all. The Weatherfield State Prison, of Connecticut, and the Sing Sing and Auburn prisons, of New York, to say nothing of others are annually supplied with convicts from the Partialist ranks; and these things ought to teach our opposers more modesty and charity toward us, and forever hush their cry of licentiousness. Let them "cast the beam out of their own eyes." I say not these things in malice, but in self defense.