Page images

I do not know now whether I shall be able to convince you, that I make any attempts at reasoning, but I will try. I will observe, however, that from your letter I learn with regret, what I was apprehensive I should learn, that in order to support your favorite system, you find it necessary to adopt one of the most glaring and pernicious errors that ever disgraced the name of a christian. In order to believe that all men will be saved, you must rob the Son of God of his divinity, and settle his rank somewhere among the finite creatures of God. For you tell me that you "do not believe an infinite atonement necessary, in order for God to be just in the pardon of sin." But if an infinite atonement be not necessary, such an atonement has not been made, unless you suppose God has performed an unnecessary labor. And if an infinite atonement has not been made, Jesus Christ is not a divine person. For if he be a divine person, his sufferings and obedience must have been of infinite value: of course he made an infinite atonement. But 1 have not time, had I an inclination, to enter here on a proof of his divinity. Besides, it is foreign to my design in writing this letter. I will only observe, that when I look into my Bible, I am astonished that any man who has read and professes to believe that book, can ever question this great truth.

I will attend now for a few minutes, to the answers you have given to my questions. Your definition of the curse of the divine law is, "The pointing to the transgressor the heinousness of sin, and that sentence of condemnation, which its just demerit requires." Whatever else you may have intended to include in this definition, a desert of punishment is very clearly and very strongly expressed. By the word condemnation our lexicographers mean the sentence This seems by which any one is doomed to punishment.

to be your idea; for you say, "it is that sentence of condemnation, which the just demerit of sin requires;" or, perhaps, your idea would have been better expressed, had you said, the sentence, &c. which the demerit of sin justly deserves. Demerit is the opposite of merit; that is, ill deserving, or deserving of punishment. This I believe is the common and only signification of the word demerit. Now, sir, had you informed me how long this punishment will be

inflicted, or could be inflicted according to strict justice, our ground of controversy would have been plain. Had you stated how great in your opinion is the demerit of sin in violating the divine law, I might have made this letter much shorter, and saved myself and you some trouble. . . . But since you have not done this, I must appeal to the law and to the testimony, and hope you will be willing to abide their decision.

According to your opinion, it would be just in God to inflict on the sinner as great a punishment as his sin deserves. This you say is threatened in the law; but surely God has not threatened any thing in his law, which would be unjust. You believe all men will be delivered from the curse of this law; even the damned who are sent into future punishment, are to be raised up from their wretched state, and delivered from the just penalty of the law, by Jesus Christ. Of course, according to your method, no one of mankind will ever suffer the curse of the divine law. I know no reason, then, why you may not admit, agreeable to your system, that endless misery is threatened in the law. Something is threatened beyond all question. If it is not that misery which the wicked actually do suffer in hell, it must be either some greater temporal punishment than they suffer, or a punishment absolutely without end. If you say the punishment threatened in the law, is a longer temporary punishment, than the wicked do actually suf fer, you must grant that it would be just in God to punish them more than they are punished! If they were dealt with according to strict justice, for aught I can gather from your answers, they would be punished with endless misery. But on your plan they are not punished according to strict justice; they cannot be said to have answered the demands of the law; something has been forgiven them; they do not have justice without not pay the uttermost farthing. Now there appears to me to be some difficulty here. The scriptures most decidedly declare, that the wicked in hell are punished according to their demerits. Job, xxxiv. 11. "For the work of a man shall be rendered unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways." Ps. lxii. 12. "Thou renderest to every man according to his work." Matt. xvi. 27. "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." And v. 25, 26. Rom. ii. 6, 8, and 9th. Cor. v. 10. James, ii. 13; and Rev. xiv. 10; and xxii. 12; and many other passages, which very plainly, I think, contradict your assertion, that the wicked who are punished in the future world, are not punished according to their demerits; or, what is the same thing, are delivered from those punishments which are threatened against the violators of the law; and, at the judgment, are sent away in everlasting punishment. Can you think, sir, of any greater punishment than that which is threatened in these passages I have quoted, and which the wicked are said to suffer? If there is any greater punishment, threatened any where in scripture than the punishment which these scriptures declare, the wicked shall actually suffer in a future world, it has hitherto escaped my observation and knowledge. But you say all mankind will be delivered from the curse of the law by Christ; that future punishment is inflicted on the wicked to make them better and bring them to repentance; of course they are forgiven, and do not suffer "that sentence of condemnation, which the just demerit of sin requires." if you can reconcile this with the word of truth I would be glad to see it; but I confess it is beyond me to do it. If the wicked have judgment without mercy; do not come out of prison, till they have paid the very last mite, and so on; and yet do not receive that sentence of condemnation which they deserve, but are delivered from it, I certainly do not know, how any man will ever be able to understand the language of the Bible.

[ocr errors]

There is another difficulty I will just mention here.

Our Saviour, you recollect, says there is one sin which shall never be forgiven. Matt. xii. 32. "Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Now all who are saved are saved by grace through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Christ is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Surely then, none can be saved by Christ, only those to whom he forgives sin. And if the blasphemer against the Holy Ghost is never forgiv

en, neither in this world, neither in the world to come, how can he be saved by "the only name given whereby we must be saved." But not to insist on this last difficulty, how you will settle the first I have mentioned I am not a ble to guess. You must positively contradict scripture, or you must acknowledge you are not correct in supposing that all will be delivered from the curse of the law; or, lastly, you must suppose the curse is something different from the punishment, which the wicked do suffer in a fu ture world; and of course something different from any thing which is threatened in the scriptures. It will follow, then, that the curse of the divine law is no where threatened in the law, nor in any part of the word of God. But if even you could devise a way by which you might fancy you could get out all the others from their deserved punishment; yet the blasphemer against the Holy Ghost, who is never to be forgiven, would stand in your way.

Perhaps, then, you will say, the law must take its course with him, if he cannot be forgiven, and he must pay the utmost farthing. The question will then return, what is the punishment due to the demerit of sin? It cannot be that punishment which the wicked suffer in hell," in order for their own good, that they may be made better, and brought to repentance. For according to you, they are to be delivered from that punishment shortly, by Jesus Christ, and made happy in heaven. Christ delivers from the curse of the law; of course, those whom he delivers,' do not suffer that curse. If then the curse of the law be not that misery which the wicked do actually suffer in the future world, it must be either a greater temporal punishment, or endless misery. But, sir, if the penalty of the divine law be any where threatened in the law, (and I présume it is no where else to be found) it cannot be fener temporal punishment than the damned in hell do actually suffer; for no other punishment is any where threatened in the scrip


Now, sir, I believe you must of necessity take one of three courses. You must continue to affirm, as you have affirmed in your second answer to my questions, that those who are punished in a future world, are finally delivered from punishment, and carried to heaven by the merits of

Christ; consequently do not suffer according to their demerits; and plainly and positively contradict a vast number of threatenings, not only of the law, but also a vast many positive declarations of Christ and his disciples, that the wicked are punished according to their works, that no mercy is shewed them: or, 2d, you must say, they do suffer all the law threatened them; have satisfied all its demands; have paid the very last mite; and come out of hell on the score of justice and not of mercy, and go to heaven without any help from Jesus Christ. For it would be idle to talk of shewing mercy to those who were no longer guilty, and against whom the law has no demands. They come out of hell on the footing of strict justice; and can claim exemption from punishment on the footing of strict justice; and are conformed to the law of God, and in friendship with their Creator, and must of course be happy. But on this supposition more absurdities present themselves than I shall have time to enumerate. If any men do satisfy the divine law, and are received to happiness, they are received, not on account of what Christ has done, but on account of legal righteousness of their own. Besides, they are not saved from any thing which is threatened in the divine law. Universal salvation, therefore, is an unmeaning term; and that all men are raised up from their defectible state, is also without meaning. They are punished in hell till justice is satisfied; and they, (if you will permit me to quote one of your brethren) are whitened in hell, till they become fit for heaven! There is, I believe, but one supposition more which you can make; it is that the curse threatened in the divine law is endless misery. Thus, sir, I have done for the present with your first answer.

Your fourth answer will now claim some attention. You write thus: believe a future punishment is inflicted for the same purpose as punishment in the present life. I believe the sinner who is subject to this punishment, with; other means, is made better, and brought to repentance." This is plain enough, only I do not know what you mean by the "other means" of which you speak; but that is no matter. You go here, I presume, on the supposition that the punishment which is inflicted on the wicked in a future world, is merely disciplinary. I make this supposi

« PreviousContinue »