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To. REV. JOSEPH LABEREE.
The object of this letter is to consider that part of the 25th chapter of St. Matthew, which yon term "Christ's description of the last judgement." This as it relates to my first statement, would require no more than a negative disquisition. For if I be able to show that it stands not opposed to the design of God to raise the whole human famiİy, from defectibility to a state of permanent holiness, though I should not be able to give any account of its true meaning, it would be sufficient to maintain my statement. If I, therefore fail in my explanation, it argues not but what I may succeed in showing that it does not authorize a belief in the doctrine of endless misery. If it can be proved, as appears evident, God designed to save the world, you have no reason to expect that a judgment of condemnation would be admitted as the last judgment. Without proof I shall admit no judgment to be last, but the judgment according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which contains good tidings of great joy that shall be unto all people. A dispensation that purifies by the spirit of judg ment, and the spirit of burning, may be admitted to be the last judgment; because it agrees with the design of him who came not to judge the world, but to save the world. † Having read the scripture to which you referred me, I do not find that it is there called "the last judgment;" nor is there any mention of the last day. The propriety of the assertion being denied, it therefore remains for you to prove it, if you wish to have it maintained.
There are but two considerations, that I can think of which you could claim from the scripture, now in contemplation, that it opposes the doctrine of my first statement. One is from the term everlasting used twice; and the other, * Isaiah, i. 27. + John, xii. 47.
from a supposition that it applies to a time, when an unalterable retribution is given and determined. If I mistake not, you have acknowledged in conversation the word everlasting to be an ambiguous term. It is frequently applied to times and things that have had an end; and to those that must end in a more or less remote period of time; as well as to those of an endless duration. It is, therefore evident, that this word decides not the precise meaning of any subject with respect to duration; but its duration, if determined at all, must be fixed from other considerations. We may argue that eternal or everlasting life is an endless principle, because it is the property of God, who ever possesses every attribute that he once possessed. But this source is wanting to prove everlasting punishment of endless duration. For though God enjoys eternal life, he suffers not endless punishment. An attempt to maintain that because everlasting punishment is inflicted by God, a being of immutable perfections, it must be endless, would be drawing conclusions manifestly absurd. This would be arguing on a principle, that because Deity is endless in his existence, all his works must be endless.. Then man from the forming hand of God, must be endless in his earthy, mortal state; and all seen things eternal; because they are the work of his hands. A principle of divine love is everlasting life. This I believe is created in us by a genuine belief in the Son of God, and may be enjoyed in the present life; he that believeth on the Son hath cverlasting life. Although I would maintain that eternal life is an endless principle; yet man only enjoys it in the present life, while he continues to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. If he were to enjoy it but one day, it destroys not the endless duration of the life itself in its nature; for if it exist somewhere endlessly, though mau be deprived of it, it is an endless principle. There is a difference between everlasting life, and enjoying it everlastingly. The one expresses the duration of the life itself; and the other the time of possessing it. Though it be possible you may have some objection, yet I have none to all men's possessing everlasting life, everlastingly. I heartily wish them all this glorious blessing, and trust in the goodness of my Creator to bestow it.
Having denied that the scripture under consideration is a description of the last judgment, I shall now proceed to give you my opinion concerning it. To ascertain its meaning with any tolerable degree of exactness, we shall be assisted in attaining the time in which it is fulfilled.... This is when "the Son of man shall come in his glory, and his holy angels with him." Does this point us to a state beyond the grave? It is a very common opinion that it does; but I am far from admitting this as proof. You will acknowledge that Christ's coming in his glory, is his coming in his kingdom. His kingdom is the kingdom of the gospel; it is the kingdom of heaven. And this kingdom is brought to men on earth, when by the gospel the glorious character of God is clearly made known. Christ says, "the kingdom of heaven is within you." See Luke xvii. 21. In other places he says, "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The parables of Jesus evince that the kingdom of heaven has allusion to the increase of gospel light among men. It is compared to a grain of mustard seed sown in a field, and a little leaven hid in three measures of meal; which could not be used as similitudes, to represent the celestial mansions of unclouded glory.
In the 16th chapter of St. Matthew, at the 27th verse, we have these words: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then shall he reward every man according to his works." It appears evident this text points to the same time which the one in the 25th chapter does, expressed in almost the same words. But giving heed to your caution, to consider both in connexion with their contexts, we learn that it was to be fulfilled, before some that stood there should taste of death... Then the Son of man comes in his glory, with his angels, in the days of the apostles. When we consider the 25th chapter, from the 31st verse to the end, in connexion with the context and preceding chapter, all of which appear to be the subject of one discourse, we find the time in the 34th verse of the 24th chapter, fixed to the then present generation. This shows us that the time when the Son of man shall come in his glory is the time, when the glorious gospel, which contains the exceeding riches of his grace is preached. This day of glory we have reason to believe
began on the day of pentecost, when the apostles were endued with the power of the Holy Ghost.
It is to be noticed that when the Son of man shall come in his glory, that all his holy angels come with him. You find in Revelation that ministers of the gospel are called angels. The apostles of Jesus Christ may then be called his angels. We sometimes read of the angels of God; but these are the angels of the Son. As angels signify messengers, the term well comports with the character of the apostles, who were the messengers of eternal life. "This then," says John, "is the message, which we have heard of him." John's communicating a message makes him a messenger. When the prayer of him who never prayed in vain is fulfilled, saying, "Sanctify them through thy truth," they, through sanctification, may be called his holy angels. When his holy angels blow the trumpet of the everlasting gospel, their master sits upon the throne of his glory, fulfilling the grand designs of his mission. This may And before him shatl be gathered all nations. be understood in a moral, spiritual, or religious point of view. The law of Moses respected the nation of the Jews only; but the gospel speaks of all nations. These angels were commanded to preach the gospel to every creature. And he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats. It is to be remembered, the immediate consequences, arising from the preaching of the gospel, are different, according as they believe or disbelieve. The believer hath everlasting life, while the unbeliever is in a state of condemnation.
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand; but the goats on the left, Though this and the text connected with it, may relate individually to believer and unbeliever, yet for certain reasons, it is believed to have a more particular allusion to the Jews and Gentiles, in a national capacity. The Jews in a state of unbelief and hardness of heart, have been nearly as callous to the voice of the gospel, from the days of Christ to the present, as it would be difficult to convert a goat into a sheep. But, notwithstanding, from the words of St. Paul, we have ground to look for their fr nal salvation. Their blindness is to continue till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved;
as it is written, there shall come out of Zion, the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Romans, xi.
Verse 34th. "Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from, the foundation of the world."
Considering the Gentiles as partakers of the benefits of the gospel, they are immediately invited to the inheritance of that kingdom, which is brought nigh by Jesus Christ. They come from the north, and from the south; from the east, and from the west; and sit down by faith and love in the kingdom of heaven, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while the Jews or stubborn unbelievers are cast out from those privileges. They seem to be justified by works; feeding the hungry, and giving drink to the thirs ty. Though outward works have no effect in producing the salvation of the soul, yet they evidently show that the work of salvation is, or has been, effected. "By their fruits," says Christ, "ye shall know them." Therefore good works justify a man in declaring him to be good, as the doer of those works.
Verse 41st. "Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
I conceive this represents the present state of the unbeliever; and particularly that of the Jews. They are in the fire prepared for the devil and his angels. We have reason to believe the fire with which Jesus baptizes is the fire of divine love. The fire, prepared for the devil, is of an opposite nature. It is, therefore, the power of envy and hate. The condemnation of the unbeliever, is darkness and alienation from the character of God.
Granting the above explanation correct, as appears evident, it will be easy to distinguish the angels of the devil, from the angels of the Son of God, by the work appropriated to each, The angels of the Son preach the everlasting gospel, which is a system of divine love; but the angels of the devil preach everlasting fire, a subject which they know by experience. I do not make these remarks with a view to cant, or cast any improper reflections upon you; but as