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1. GOD IS LOVE. (1 John, iv. 8.) This proposition has been much declaimed upon, by those too, who, while they admitted its truth in terms, denied it in fact. It is now introduced as a subject for careful argumentation. ln this business we shall not need those rhetorical embellishments which, at the same time that they amuse the fancy, often make it an instrument in deceiving the judgment: the less our argument is encumbered with these the better it will be, because the more intelligible.
As has been well remarked (by Adam Clarke) "God is never said, in the scriptures, to be Justice, or Patience, or Holiness, but he is frequently in one form or another said to be love." Hence it is inferred that love is his moral nature, and the basis of all his other attributes -- love is God: to say that God is just, or holy, or unchanging, is the same as to say that infinite love is characterized by these qualities; to say that all creatures throughout all space are in God's hands, and subject to his control, is in effect to say they are in love's hands, and subject to its control: in short, God and love are so essentially identical, that the name of each may be, and often is, employed for designating the other, any predicate of the one will answer equally well as a predicate of the other; hence we may affirm of infinite love that it rules the universe, is eternal, impartial, holy, just, good, &c., for God is all these, and God is love. In these three words is he defined <page 50> by John, a fisherman of Galilee, and they express more than all the collected wisdom of previous and subsequent ages ever has, or can express.
The doctrine of endless misery is utterly irreconcilable with this essential attribute of the deity, for love invariably seeks, and to the utmost of its power promotes the ultimate good of its objects; by this circumstance alone is it distinguishable from its opposite principle; to affirm that love will consent that any of its objects shall he miserable, without reference to any eventual good from that misery, is to affirm that it approves of misery for its own sake, and this is to confound it with hatred. The doctrine of endless woe does in effect affirm this and thereby it absurdly confounds Jehovah, who is infinite love, with infinite hatred. To make this more plain, we will suppose God to be the opposite of what he is -- What should we expect as the result? Anything worse than what is contemplated in the belief of unceasing torment? If not, in affirming this doctrine, are we not manifestly confounding love with hatred, since we ascribe to the one such actions as can only result from the other?
Wherever infinite love is, there can no suffering be, except permitted from motives of ultimate benefit to the sufferer, and consequently, in no conceivable case can the theory of endless misery be verified except by some means the subject could get beyond the presence of love, or, which is the same thing, beyond the presence of God. But,
2. GOD IS OMNIPRESENT. - Psl.cxxxix 7.). And, of course, love is omnipresent; it surrounds, pervades, and sustains all things, (Ephe. iv. 6,) to get beyond its reach, therefore, is impossible, for whither shall we go from its presence? Shall we ascend to the heaven of heavens? it is there. Shall we descend to depths unfathomable by the plummet-line of thought, it will still be far, far beneath us: and should we speed with the wings of light to the farthest bounds of being, still, still should we find its presence to extend immeasurably beyond us. The sinner is in its hands when he goes hence equally as while he is here, and although he may find it "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God," yet the result will prove that they are the hands of love, and, therefore, not the hands of an enemy. Such was David's view of the matter, when reduced to the necessity of selecting <page 51> one out of three modes of punishment. "Let me fall now," said he, " into the hands of the Lord, for very great are his mercies; but let me not full into the hands of man." (I Chro. xii. 13.) But why prefer falling into God's hands, rather than those of man, if, as the dogma of eternal torment affirms, God's inflictions, will infinitely exceed in duration and severity any which the most cruel of mankind would be willing to sanction?
The power of Jehovah cannot extend where his love does not, for that would prove the latter finite, and if his power cannot extend beyond his love, it can act on creatures only as directed by love; it can inflict only such suffering as love approves as conducive to its own ends: hence it may with confidence he affirmed that even present suffering would not be permitted except with reference to some future benefit to the sufferer, and, consequently, that no useless suffering exists, for if divine love will overrule it all for ultimate good it is not useless. The scriptures abundantly sustain this view of the matter. "for the Lord," say they, "will not cast off for ever, for though he cause grief, yet he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies, for he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." (Lam. iii. 37. See also, Heb. xii. 10.) Of course endless misery is entirely excluded by this reasoning, for misery without end can produce no beneficial results to the sufferer, and if no beneficial results to the sufferer, then infinite love can have no agency in its infliction; and if infinite love would refuse to sanction it, then it must take place, if at all, where love is not, but it cannot take place where love is not; for love is everywhere.
If unending misery be inflicted, will it not, as it regards the subjects, consist of an exercise of power to the exclusion of love? and will there not in that case be creatures whom God will not love? and since be will not love them, can he be a God to them inasmuch as there can be no God where there is no love, for God is love? It is impossible for answers consisting with the faith of endless misery to be rendered to these questions. If in the vast, vast solitudes of space, there existed a point beyond which the divine presence did not extend, and beings were capable of hurling themselves into this desolate void, (for desolate it must be without a God) they doubtless could thus be rendered miserable without end, and thus only, as has already been said, there is <page 52> no other way conceivable; but the supposition implies an impossibility, Jehovah being omnipresent.
3. GOD IS OMNISCIENT.-- (Acts xv. 18.) He knew from eternity all we should ever be; he foresaw every mutation through which we should ever pass; every sinful act we should commit. If there could ever arise any circumstance to affect his regards for us, he as certainly knew it before he created us as now; the fact must have been as much a cause for wrath or, hatred toward us then as after it transpired; nevertheless, in full view of all which it was foreseen we should be he loved us, and that too "with a great love:" (Ephe ii. 4.) Now if God were defective in this attribute of his character, the notion of endless misery would find some sort of shelter in the plea, that as Jehovah failed to foresee that so disastrous a case would arise, he did not provide against it, and, therefore, that the evil is now past remedy, and God would fain prevent it if he could. But no such pleas can be set up, for not alone in sound philosophy, but in the scriptures, he is represented as "seeing the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done." (Isaiah xivi. 10.) Futurity, which to all other eyes, lies in impenetrable shadow, is perfectly open and clear to his; he knoweth all its, as yet, undeveloped and unrecorded events. And how could it be otherwise? for
4. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE. -- (James iii. 2.) -- And even were he otherwise, it would be impossible to find a cause which could justify a change in him toward us, because nothing in relation to us has transpired of which he was not fully aware long before we had a being. Arminians are apt to tell us in this argument, that although the love wherewith God once loved the sinner shall eventually change to hatred, yet God changeth not! The change, say they, is altogether in the sinner! which, to my thinking, is very singular logic. God hates to-day the very beings whom he loved yesterday, and yet remains unchanged!! Then surely love and hatred are one and the same thing! " But," say they again, "he loved us as pure beings, and on our becoming sinners he ceased to love us." Well, supposing this the case, does he undergo no change in ceasing to love us? How absurd the negative to this question. But it is contrary to fact that God loved us as pure beings -- he never knew us as such; it is flatly contrary to scripture likewise, for "God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom. v. 16.) "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.', (Ibid. ver. 10.) And hence another inspired writer observes, "Herein was love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us." (1 John iv. 10.) Now do we not seriously detract from the divine character, when we represent that his love toward us will abate, merely because we prove to be just such beings as he clearly foresaw we would be when that love was first conceived, supposing it to have had a beginning? For nothing surely but a change from love to hatred can induce his consent, that an existence which he conferred as a blessing, shall by any possibility be converted to a curse.
The Arminian will here shift his ground, and argue as follows God eternally hates sin; when we become sinners; we associate ourselves with what he eternally hates, and therefore his hatred of us implies no change on his part but on ours. "Now know you not, sir, that this is a mere sophism? For in associating ourselves with sin we do not become sin, and therefore do not become the thing which God eternally hates. If you could show <page 54> that God eternally hates sinners, it would be much more to your purpose. And think you, sir, that Jehovah will subject to an indiscriminate destruction both that which he loves and that which he hates? that he will never dissociate them? It were equally wise in the farmer to destroy both his wheat and its adherent chaff, merely because he found them together in his field! Or for the lapidary to destroy his precious stones, because of the worthless earths in which he may have found them embedded!
Either God once loved the sinner, or he did not. If he did not, then he created him in hatred, and it is vain to look to the life or character of the sinner for the ground of that hatred, as it took place millions of ages before he was in being! If God did once love the sinner, he loves him yet -- he ever will or he is a finite Being, and affected by finite objects; but, the scriptures being true, this cannot be, "for he is of one mind and none can turn him." (Job xxiii. 3.) God must, therefore, to all eternity love all intelligences; this love will not prevent their being subjected to just punishment, for punishment aims at a good result; but it will certainly prevent their being ruined; for the ruin of its object is only consistent with hatred.
It is the very perfection of absurdity to suppose that the dispositions of an infinite Being are in anywise affected by the mutations of his frail and short-sighted creatures; this our opponents must and do admit, and yet they are continually giving to some obscure scripture texts such an interpretation as makes them teach directly the contrary. For instance, the passage in the first chapter of Proverbs, where Wisdom, personified in the feminine gender, is represented as saying, "Because I have called and ye refused, I have stretched out my hands and NO man regarded; I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh" &c. Which text is usually subjected to the horrid comment, that the Almighty God will laugh, and sport himself with the miseries of his infinitely ruined offspring! But in their blind zeal to make out a case our opponents seem to overlook the fact, that thus interpreted, the passage goes quite beyond their purpose -- it proves too much, as it includes themselves, with all mankind besides, in a doom of final reprobation -- "NO man regarded;" and therefore ALL men must be endlessly damned! A sweeping conclusion, truly.
<page 55> The mutability of God is manifestly implied in the common supposition, that although he will bear with the provocations of sinners during the term of their stay on earth, yet so soon as they are removed hence, he will utterly alter his course, and let loose his vengeance upon them without mercy. Some have even supposed that there is a period in the lifetime of each individual, beyond which the divine forbearance will no longer be exercised toward him; if he remains impenitent up to that juncture, he is said to have " sinned away his day of grace;" his fate is then sealed. To such an one will apply the language of Abdiel, addressed to the chief fallen spirit, in "Paradise Lost."
<page 56> 5. GOD IS OMNIPOTENT> -- (Rev. xix. 5.) -- Whatsoever, therefore, his wisdom prompts him to purpose, his power enables him to execute. By Calvinists this truth is fully admitted, but they contend, that God only purposed the salvation of a part of mankind, and that that part must eventually be gathered in, "for," say they, "God has all power, and will not fail to do his pleasure." They seem anxious to vindicate the divine wisdom and power, but it is at the expense of his goodness and equity. Arminians, on the other hand, seem shocked at this limitation of the divine benevolence, and contend that God is impartial, and earnestly desires to have all men saved, but from some cause or other will be disappointed! They seem anxious to vindicate the divine goodness and equity, but it is at the expense of his wisdom and power! The Calvinistic deity is an all-wise, and all-powerful Being; but partial, and inexorable, who works for his own mere pleasure, uncaring how much misery that pleasure may cost his creatures! His own glory is his continual aim -- for this he raises up or casts down -- gives life or death -- he saves or damns. His glory must reign though the throne of its sovereignty be erected on pyramids of damned spirits! The Arminian God, on the contrary, is a kind-hearted, well-meaning Being, but deplorably deficient in prudence and foresight, he is rather to be pitied than blamed when the creatures he formed for himself are wrested from him by the devil, and lured into irrecoverable ruin, for he certainly made them for a different end! He is rather to be pitied than blamed I say, yet, in truth, he is scarcely excusable in having created beings, of whom he knew himself unable to take the necessary care! and that by far the larger part of them should -- despite his utmost efforts to the contrary become a prey to his malignant enemy the devil. Reader, can you in conscience say that I am unfair in these representations? Universalists worship a deity "who will have all men to be saved," (1. Tim. ii. 6.) and who "worketh all things after the council of his own will," (Eph. i. 2.) whose pleasure it is that all should "turn from their evil way and live," (Eze. xxxxii. 11.) and who "will do all his pleasure," (Isa. xlvi. 10.) God has certainly not given to his creatures an ability to counteract his infinite purposes! On the contrary, "He doeth his will, in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth. and <page 57> none can stay his hand, or say unto him what doest thou?", (Dan. iv. 35.)
It is pretended, that "none are doomed to final ruin, till God has previously done every thing for their salvation, which, consistently with his attributes, he can do; and that, therefore, the endless misery of the damned involves no reflection on the divine goodness." Supposing this true, does it involve no reflection on his goodness to have called them into being, under circumstances which rendered their endless misery certain? But it is not true; the weight of Christ's authority stands against it; he testifies that God did much more for Chorazin, and Bethsaida, than he had done for Tyre, and Sidon; and that had he done as much for the latter places, "they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes," (Mat. xi. 20.) And addressing Capernaum, he says, " lf the mighty works which are done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained unto this day," (ibid.) Now it certainly must be considered a singular fact, that God desires the salvation of all, and yet permits thousands to sink to endless woe, who could have been saved by his doing merely as much for them, as he saw fit to do for others! How is this? Universalists maintain, that God's love is as strong beyond, as on this side the grave; and that what it fails of accomplishing here, it will infallibly accomplish hereafter; at least, the ultimate salvation of all men cannot fail from a lack of divine power; if at all it must be from a lack of his goodness. But
6. GOD IS GOOD. -- (Psa. lxxxvi. 5.) -- Goodness is opposed to evil, it seeks to overcome it, hence the injunction, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good," (Rom. xii. 27.) This, undoubtedly, is according to the divine conduct, for God would certainly not enjoin on his creatures a virtue which he will not practice himself; and if the divine goodness shall eventually overcome our evil, then the existence of evil must forever cease; and, by consequence, the existence of misery also. "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercy is over all his works," (Psl. cxlv. 9.) But how God can be good to all, and yet torment countless millions without any regard to their good, is more than can be comprehended! How his tender mercy can be over all his works, and yet a large portion of those works be abandoned to infinite ruin, is also more than can be comprehended! Indeed, <page 58> there are many things in the scriptures which we must not pretend to understand in accordance with the notion of endless misery, inasmuch as they are utterly repugnant to that doctrine If the mercy of God does extend to the damned, without alleviating their miseries, or eventually bringing them to a salutary termination, then there is no difference between mercy and cruelty -- it is as well to be the object of the one as of the other -- since they both produce the same effects. For how can cruelty be better defined than by saying, it is the infliction of torment on an object, without designing any good to that object from that torment? and if infinite mercy will do this, then it is not distinguishable from infinite cruelty. If, on the other hand, the mercy of God does not extend to the damned, then it is not "over all his works," neither is it infinite, which signifies without bounds or limits.
To me It seems that the question of endless misery can be settled in few words, as follows -- the unhappy subjects of endless damnation, is their existence, so far as respects themselves, a good? or an evil? You will not hesitate to answer, an evil. I again ask, Can an absolute evil emanate from a Being who is infinitely good? NO, is the only answer of which this question will fairly admit, and it answers equally well the question, whether the dogma of unceasing suffering can possibly, in this view of the case, be true?
7. GOD IS JUST. -- (Deut. xxxii. 4.) -- We are brought into existence by the mere will of our creator; we are compelled to accept of that existence on his own terms, our will is not consulted in the matter; if the terms on which we receive our being are as dreadful as represented by the doctrine of endless misery, it seems but just that we should he voluntary parties in the compact; but such we are not, therefore cannot justly be held to the terms.
A powerful nobleman settles by deed of conveyance a small farm upon one of his tenants; while the latter is rejoicing in his newly acquired property, he is informed, that the conditions of the gift are, that not a single weed must be allowed to grow upon the premises; that if, at any moment when it may suit the donor to call him to account, there shall be found any such within the limits of the farm, he shall answer for it with his life and be put <page 59> to death in the most horrible manner. The poor man in great alarm hastens to inform the no nobleman that he cannot accept of the property on such fearful terms; but he is told in reply that it is now too late; the compact is settled and sealed, and cannot be canceled. "Whether you were acquainted with the conditions or not -- whether a party in the bargain or not -- it is my will that the matter should be as it is, and you must abide the issue." Reader, is the conduct of that nobleman just?
Justice requires, that when an article of value is entrusted to any one's keeping, he should be clearly apprised of its full worth, and the consequences of its loss, and should be provided with means of security in proportion. Now conceive man charged with the keeping of an immortal spirit, and that his sins during this brief existence, will subject it through unending duration to the dreadful heritance of its almighty maker's frowns. I ask, if man is so clearly apprised of his situation as the magnitude of the matter at stake requires he should be? I ask further, are his means of security in proportion to the inconceivably dreadful issue of the cast? On the contrary if the system which supposes this state of things be true, myriads of invisible spirits are constantly seeking opportunities to deceive and ruin him, and his own depraved nature -- with which he is born without his own consent -- is ever ready to second their malignant efforts! In, addition, the way of safety is so dim and uncertain, that a thousand different paths are sincerely mistaken for it, and by no possibility can it certainly be determined, that any one is right to the exclusion of all the rest! There are innumerable wants and anxieties to which man is unavoidably subject, and which tend to divert his mind from the business of his soul's salvation! Surely they must deem but meanly of the justice of heaven, who imagine that he thus trifles with the eternal interests of his creatures!
Justice also requires, that there should be an equal proportion between crime and punishment; and who will pretend that such proportion exists betwixt the crimes of even the most abandoned of our race, and the ceaseless sufferings of eternity? sufferings which shall inconceivably long endure, when as many millions of ages shall have passed away, as there are stars in the firmament of night -- multiplied by as many more as there are
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