« PreviousContinue »
If the opinion of a distinguished philosopher in England, be correct, that every Christian who can write, ought to leave something behind him against infidelity, I may be excused in presenting the following Lectures to the public; seeing the sentiments I have endeavored to expose, are so nearly allied to bare-faced Deism.
The design of this series of Lectures, was to diversify the ordinary course of ministerial instructions, and to bring together various facts and considerations, so that they might aid each other by their arrangement and union. They were prepared, and delivered, without the least intention of publication ;—but as soon as they were completed, the Church and Society, for whose benefit they were primarily intended, expressed an earnest wish that they might be given to the public.
With regard to the immediate effect of these Lectures, all the expectations of the author have been more than realized. In offering them to the public he can truly say, that he has yielded with a reluctance, which could be overcome only by an ascertained earnestness, expressed by members of his Church, and his brethren in the Ministry, whose opinion and desire would have weight on the minds of those who knew them. Indulging the hope that they might contribute to establish the wavering ; to guide the unwary ; and to aid in the dissemination of truth, and in the suppression of a baneful and spreading error, he is now glad that the importunity was expressed and has been complied with ; for it has often been remarked to him by those whose sentiments he has here exposed, that the Orthodox do not receive the doctrine of endless punishment as a Bible truth, of the highest practical importance, but as a mere speculative proposition, to be admitted for the purpose of completing a system of theology, and that were they in practice consistent with their professions they would not manifest so much indifference to the subject, but would endeavor to establish it from reason and revelation, and to impress it upon the public mind. I have felt the reproof. And I fear that in this matter we cannot say, that we “are pure from the blood of all men”; and especially that Ministers of the Gospel have not sounded the alarm as loudly, and as repeatedly as they ought to have done. True they have lamented the baneful
effects of those errors which they saw thousands in the community receiving as sacred truth, while they could keep up the appearance of being believers in Christianity, and yet deny all that the natural heart deemed offensive in its doctrines, and throw off all that it deemed uncomfortable in its restraints. But through fear, that noticing such errors, might give them a consequence to which they were not entitled, they have been induced to stand aloof from the contest, and to indulge the hope that doctrines so absurd and unscriptural would, if let alone, die of themselves. Thus did not the Apostles, and Martyrs, and Reformers in the first ages of Christianity, and in the sixteenth century. They attacked every prevailing error that threatened the subversion of Christianity, however weak and contemptible, or popular and powerful it might be. And this is the duty enjoined upon ministers of the Gospel by the Great Head of the Church. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” “ Contend, earnestly, for the faith, once delivered unto the saints."
From these, and other considerations, the author has devoted the first three Lectures of this Series to “ The Scripture Proofs of Endless Punishment.” He has felt that the exigencies of the times rendered it necessary to show, that the grounds, on which this doctrine rests, are not slender and fallacious, but permanent as the truth of God. Impressed with the full belief that the deductions of sound reason, and the principles of common sense, harmonize in every important point with the Sacred Scriptures, he has also argued the doctrine of endless punishment, “from facts and considerations that are independent of direct Scripture testimony." These arguments, which have been deduced from revelation and reason, might have been extended, but it is not necessary, since, those who are determined to reject the doctrine of endless punishment, and to rest their hope of Heaven on the presumption of its being false, will not be likely to be converted to the truth by the strongest, or most numerous arguments; for,
“ A man convinced against his will,
Is of the same opinion still.” Aware that there is much diversity of opinion among some portions of the Christian community, respecting the nature of future punishment; and that other portions have no definite idea upon the subject ; and impressed with the belief that a consistent and scriptural view of this subject will serve to illustrate the equity of the Divine procedure in punishing his rebellious subjects with endless
torments, the author has frankly expressed his own views of the “ constituent parts of this punishment," or the principal ingredients in that cup, which is to be the future portion of the wicked. He has also endeavored to expose the artful and unscriptural “ methods by which modern objectors to endless punishment, evade the force of Scripture testimony on that subject,"_" to give the true principle of interpretation, in reference to those passages of Scripture that are supposed to assert or imply the final salvation of all men,”—“to refute the arguments by which they endeavor to overthrow the doctrine of endless punishment,” and “to point out the sources, the nature, and the dangerous moral consequences of their scheme.”
If the doctrine advanced in the following Leetures be true, it is a most interesting and important doctrine. However contrary to the feelings or wishes of any, it is by all means necessary to be known. Surely no man would wish "to flatter himself in his own eyes, till his iniquity be found to be hateful.” And we deem it the more important that the subjects proposed should receive an ample discussion, because there are a numerous class of people who are sitting down easy in the expectation of “peace and safety, while sudden destruction is coming upon them;' and we wish to lead them to a careful and attentive examination of the mental process by which they arrived at their present conclusions. And we believe that such persons may not be so attached to their peculiar opinions, as to be beyond the reach of the Gospel. If they be treated with kindness, and if sound arguments be presented, we may rationally hope that they will be induced to review the subject, and decide the question with some degree of candor and impartiality. But these Lectures are not entered upon solely, nor chiefly for the benefit of that class of people. There are multitudes of our youth who feel powerfully inclined to reject a doctrine of such overwhelming import as that of future and eternal punishment, and to embrace a religious scheme that is fraught with the most pernicious and fatal consequences ; and many more still, who in theory admit the doctrine which we have endeavored to establish, do not possess a strong and practical conviction of its reality and importance. Our object, therefore, is not merely to establish your minds in the speculative notion that some men will be eternally miserable, but to present such an array of evidence, as shall create a deep and abiding conviction of the truth of the doctrine ; and such as shall impress upon the heart the pecessity of fleeing to Christ for pardon and salvation,
Throughout the whole, the author has endeavored to divest these
Lectures from the tone of controversy, and to give them a practical bearing. He has used great plainness of speech, for which he need make no prefatory apologies. If in any case he has seemed to use language with too much severity, he can safely say, that it has not been from any unkind feelings towards those whose sentiments he has exposed, but from an earnest solicitude to promote their spiritual and eternal well-being.
In these Lectures, the author makes no pretensions to originality of thought and expression beyond those to which he is entitled. To a rational and scriptural view of the truths in the subjects he has proposed, and to a satisfactory solution of the difficulties which have been objected to it, the author has devoted much time, labor and care ; and he has availed himself of all the aid which he could obtain from his predecessors, to whose writings he could have ac
He has not scrupled to make a free use of their polemical works, compressing their ideas into a small compass, and generally clothing them in his own language, and arranging them in the more inviting form of popular lectures, and giving them an adaptation to the capacities of common minds. After these Lectures were delivered, and he had concluded to publish them, he found it difficult in many instances to discriminate between the ideas or even the expressions borrowed from others, and those which were original. Rather, therefore, than attempt to distinguish all the extracts by the sign of quotation, he prefers to devote his time to other objects which would better compensate him for his labor. And it is a question of but little consequence with the public, whether this or that passage has been quoted, or this or that argument has been advanced and supported by another, or whether they are his own. The only question of importance is, “.kat is truth?” May the God of truth, by the spirit of his grace, guide the understanding and heart of the reader, that he may peruse this volume with a mind divested of eyery prepossession and of all prejudice, and may it be instruinental in promoting his present and future welfare.
To the people of his charge, whose friendly attentions he gratefully bears in mind, and in whose welfare he cherishes the liveliest interest, and whose many expressions of kindness and affection he would gladly reciprocate by his most earnest endeavors to promote their spiritual and eternal well-being, these Lectures are now inscribed, with sentiments of affectionate regard, and fervent prayers, by their Pastor,
W. C. RIDER.