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TO. REV. JOSEPH LABEREE.
Barnard, May 29, 1810)
I begin with the following quotation from your letter: "I had always supposed that the language of the Bible was intended to be understood by common people; and that it meant something different when what a common man like myself would suppose were the most dreadful threatenings, and curses, and woes, pronounced on wicked men, from what it did when it spoke of the chastisement of the child of God. Why, on your plan, are those who are sent to hell, said to be cursed; to be lost; to be cast off forever; to be reprobates; to have judgment without mercy?” This quotation carries the idea of a material distinction among men, and a very material difference in God's treatment with them. We are frequently told on scripture authority that God is no respecter of persons. How then can we account for this different treatment of which you talk? Will he not treat, not the wicked only, but all the human family according to their works? You ask, "why those sent to hell are said to be accursed?" (having the doctrine of universal salvation in view.) I ask, why the whole human family are said to be cursed? When you answer my question and make out a partial salvation, I shall doubtless find ground to answer yours. The apostle says, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law;" then those whom he redeemed were cursed by the law before their actual redemption, but not afterward. "Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth, may be stopped, and the whole world become guilty before God." Is it not a curs e to be guilty? No one will deny this. Then why do you ask, "why those sent to hell are said to be cursed," when Attend to one scripthe apostle says it is the whole world?
ture more; "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, written in the book of the law to do them." Now, sir, you must find a man that has not failed in one point to find one that has not been cursed. If all are saved, you ask, why some "are said to be lost?" Did you forget that Christ "come to save that which was lost?" Man may be lost at one time, and at another be saved. You further add, why are they said "to be cast off for ever?" I do not remember as the expression is in the Bible. I recollect one that says, "the Lord will not cast off for ever." Lam. iii. 31. Why they are called “reprobates?" Answer...The Bible does not call any reprobates that are sent to hell. It speaks of some reprobates in this world; "reprobates concerning the faith," and some others. Again, "why they have judg. ment without mercy?" The answer is, because they "have showed no mercy.' But why do you apply this to hell. St. James says nothing about hell in connexion with this text. If y f you admit hell to mean any place of affliction, your application of these texts would do; but otherwise, you have taken for granted what ought to have been proved.
I now pass to notice the following; "By a curse common men mean an absolute evil, and those who are cursed suffer real evil; but to put men under an administration of grace cannot be called an evil, it is certainly a great good, an unspeakable blessing, if no other means can bring them to endless felicity." From what has already been said, it is hoped by this time, you have a proper view of my ideas of the curse of the law, and the requisition of divine justice. The great commandment of the law is, "Thou thalt love the Lord thy God," &c. of course this the law requires.. The law being a system of divine justice, divine justice would naturally require the same, according to my second statement. Every punishment, therefore, which divine justice approves or requires, I believe is for the emendation of the punished. I think all punishment, whether present or future is disciplinary. It is to confer some good to the punished, or to those with whom they are concerned. Any punishment different from this, I believe is not countenanced by the great Creator, nor any of his laws. From this, I except the curse of the "divine law," which cannot
properly be called punishment, any more than sin, but the natural and unavoidable consequence of sin; which will constitute it an evil according to the above quotation from your letter, and every punishment a final blessing. This I think, unravels and explains most of the difficulties and paradoxes, you supposed were contained in my former letters, when compared with the sacred scriptures. I shall now, undoubtedly, be understood when I state, God never saves auy from punishment that justice requires, never saves from just punishment, but saves from sin and its wages. By taking away the curse, he destroys the contin uance of the effect..
I will consider now your idea of chastisement contained in the following quotation: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons. For what son is be whom the father chasteneth not? Butif ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons." "Now, sir, I would ask, why this distinction in the language of the Bible between saints who are disciplined on the earth and the wicked who are sent to hell to be put there under a course of discipline? If their punishment is inflicted on them for their good, everlasting good, why are they not said to be blessed? Why are they not called sons and said to be loved of God? It appears to be the idea of the apostle that there were some who did not receive mere chastisement, whom he calls bastards: all who are sons partake of chastisement; the wicked in hell, if they are only chastised for their own good, are sons; and where to find the bastards is not for me to determine."
From this quotation it appears you reject the doctrine of Universal Salvation, because on this scheme, in all our heavenly Father's family, you can find no bastards! If you could, you think it would be quite an argument in my favour. O superstition, and prejudice for the endless misery of millions! what odious thing have you to except from the character of the Supreme Author of good? when will your slanders cease?
Will you again look at the text you quoted from Heb. ali. 6, &c. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.'
The number of the loved we learn from Christ's words, John iii. 16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Does not this text expressly say God loved the world? But you will say, unbelievers are excepted. No, sir, I think not. They are excepted from having eternal life, because it is impossible for them to have it in that state, but not from the love of God. It must be from the love of God that unbelievers become believers. "We love him," says the apostle, "because he first loved us.” If he first loved us, he loved us when unbelievers; as Christ also died for the ungodly.
St. Paul adds, "But if ye be without chastisement whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons." From this you remark, "Now, sir, I would ask, why this distinction between saints who are disciplined on the earth, and the wicked who are sent to hell to be put there under a course of discipline?" Answer...I cannot discern any distinction. The apostle says, "all are partakers." He makes no distinction, nor finds any bastards. But on the supposition there were any without chastisement, they would be bastards, which supposition he takes away by saying, all are partakers of chastisement. But it has just entered my mind, that you would qualify the word all, and say it means all the saints and no others. But this requires proof to be admitted; which is to be learned from the context or other scripture. In the 14th verse we find the word all again, and the translators add the word wen, which appears reasonable. If the sense require the term saints anderstood to all in the 8th verse, it would likewise require the same in the 14th. Then the 14th would read, "Follow peace with all" saints; and the conclusion would be, You may quarrel with all others if you please.
When the prodigal son returned home, the father reseived him, contrary to the expectation of the elder brother. He was very angry and would not go in because his father did make a bastard of him. I hope, sir, you will not be so stubborn but what you will be willing to go in, should you learn that God admits all his family and bastardizes none. For my own part, I would not have Br. Laberee made a bastard, because he intimated that I am a
non compos mentis, or any other kind of abuse that he has practised; nor would I have him free from the chastisement that benefits the children of God.
You have quoted a number of texts which you call "Dreadful denunciations of woe against the enemies" of God. These you suppose describe the punishment of the wicked in hell; which on my plan is to you unintelligible. You never hesitate to apply any such passages as you have <quoted to hell, though no such application is made by the inspired writers. I need only observe I believe they will
You further write, "But again, The scriptures uniformly speak of God's peculiar distinguishing mercy to his saints; he keeps them as the apple of his eye; he is their God, and no good thing will he withhold from them: while he sends wrath upon his enemies. But on the supposition that future punishment is inflicted to make those who suffer it better, I cannot understand why God is not equally merciful to all." Very true, I understand it just as you dc; "God is equally merciful to all." I believe the Psalmist was of the same opinion. Ps. cxlv. 9. "The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works." But of God's peculiar distinguishing mercy of which the scriptures uniformly speak. See Rom. xi. 32. "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." Here is nothing said about distinguishing mercy. Ephe. ii. 4. "But God who is rich in mercy," &c. Here is an explanation of God's mercy, but peculiar and distinguishing is left out. James iii. 17. But the wisdom that is from above is...full of mercy...without partiality.” From this we learn there is a plenitude of mercy, contained in heavenly wisdom; but the apostle instead of writing peculiar and distinguishing, supplied the phrase, “without partiality."
I will now quote a few passages that speak of the grace of God. See Heb. ii. 9. "But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more * Page 39.
Rom. v. 15.