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In relation to the third statement, it may be observed, that three things only are necessary to its support; and if in neither of these there be a failure, the statement must be true: or, at least, that God will fulfil his designs. If it can be maintained, that God possesses means sufficient to accomplish; wisdom, to plan; and power and ability, to execute his work; then there can be no difficulty in maintaining, that he will fulfil his designs. His word by the prophet is, Isaiah lv. 10, 11, "For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
The fourth statement is submitted without any remarks, with a request, that if you object to it, you would offer a few reasons.
As you wished me to express in writing, whether I believe there will be a future punishment, I conform to your desire. I think some may be made the subjects of punishment in a future state of existence, or in a state beyond the present.
These statements, with the remarks, are now submitted for discussion, as expressive of my real sentiments; and for the propriety of them, I shall hold myself responsible, until I am convinced they are not true.
With sentiments of respect, your friend,
Rev. JOSEPH LABEREE..
Richmond, August 16, 1815..
TO SAMUEL C. LOVELAND.
Jerico, September 23, 1815.
MY DEAR SIR,
I received your letter, not till the 7th or 8th of September, and then I called for it myself at Capt. M's. The week after I received it I was necessarily absent from town to attend our Convention; and the week following, I was employed in preparing for, and attending our Association. This I hope will sufficiently explain the reason why an answer to your letter has been so long delayed.
I read your letter, sir, with some degree of satisfaction; but with much surprise. I was pleased with your apparent candour; but was greatly surprised, that a man who has the word of God in his hands, and professes to preach that word, should rest his eternal all upon such a manifest misconstruction of it.
Your first statement, (for I will take them in the manner you have set them down) is this; "The design of God is to raise the whole human family from their defectible state, ultimately, to a state of felicity and true holiness." To prove this proposition, you quote John iii. 17; "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." I freely acknowledge, in all its length and breadth, the doctrine inculcated in this text. The object of Christ's mission, when he came upon the earth, in the flesh, was, believe, to make an atonement for the sins of lost men. But I apprehend, if you had attended a little more particularly to the context, you would not have drawn the conclusion which you have. Do you think it altogether right to take a particular text of scripture, without, in the least, considering the connexion in which such text stands; and build a scheme solely on a very few such passages, in manifest viation of all the plain meaning of all the rest of scripture?
What may we not make of the word of God by such a method of dealing? What doctrine may we not prove by such a manner of reasoning? Take, for instance, the 34th and 35th verses of the 10th chapter of Matthew; "Think not that I am come to send peace upon the earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." Now let us, on these passages, adopt your method of reasoning, and I believe you yourself will acknowledge, we should make out rather a terrific mission for our Saviour to our world.
The other passage you quote, I think is equally foreign to your purpose. I, however, with the rest of my Congregational brethren, in New-England, firmly believe, Christ made an infinite atonement, or propitiation for the sins of the whole world. That is, he fulfilled the divine law, restored its honors, magnified and made it honoura, ble. This law was infinitely holy, and just, and good. The transgression of it was an infinite crime; it of course re quired an infinite atonement, in order that God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. God could not, consistent with his perfections, pardon sin, without a propitiation; no finite being could make a propitiation; Christ has done this; faith in him is now the condi. tion of salvation.
This, sir, in my view, is the whole meaning of the second text you quote. These two, by no means, establish your proposition. In fact, they intimate no such idea as you have taken from them, when taken in their true sense; and their true sense is plain, when considered in the connexion in which these texts stand, No mention is made there, that it is the design of God to make all men holy. Repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus is the condition on which eternal life is suspended. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Listen to some of the last words of our Saviour to his disciples. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned." Read, if you please, Christ's description of the last judgment; Matthew, 25th
chapter, from the 31st verse to the end; and then say, does this favour your idea of the universal raising up of the finally impenitent, from their "defectible state" to eternal felicity. These passages, however, are by no means the only ones to which I might refer you. The common language of scripture is the same. You will excuse me then, sir, when I tell you, that I do not see as you have advanced a single inch towards proving your first proposition.
Your second statement I notice merely on account of its novelty. In this, sir, I think you have just claim to originality. That because God has given a law to his rational creatures; and by that law, commanded them to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, God would be unjust if all his rational creatures do not obey that law, is certainly a mode of reasoning, of which, till I read your letter, I was totally ignorant. You have, I presume, copy of your letter; by just referring to it, you will see whether I have misunderstood your argument.
As to your third argument; I will observe, that I believe that the scriptures clearly prove, that God's designs will certainly be accomplished. When you have established your first statement, your third must be acknowledged true; till then, I think it is worth nothing.
I say nothing of your fourth proposition. Were a man to tell me that the sun was made of sackcloth, I should not think it worth my trouble to bring arguments to convince him of his absurdity.
Mr. S. C. LOVELAND.
TO REV. JOSEPH LABEREE.
Gilsum, November 23, 1815.
I received your letter, being a reply to one I sent you, some of the last days of October, and embrace the first opportunity that leisure offers to grant you a return. I was sorry to find that my letter had made me the subject of "much surprise;" and my sorrow arose, not from a consciousness of misconstruing the sacred word, but from a sympathy that ever causes to feel for the distresses of others. Viewing me with the word of God in my hands, a professed preacher of that word, and resting my eternal all upon a manifest misconstruction of it, it is no wonder, that you should be filled with surprise. Surprise, in this case, would be but a natural incentive of divine charity, arising from a great concern for the welfare of your friend. But should my eternal all, rested on a manifest misconstruction of scripture for a foundation, land me in the regions of irretrievable misery and woe, you enjoying tranquil peace in celestial abodes, and clothed with divine sensibility; would it not be a matter of greater surprise that you could be calm and tranquil, in viewing such misery, than that I should be so stupid as you now view me to be? If you feel concerned for your friend now, because you consider his future felicity precarious, how do you expect to be at rest, when your awful forebodings are really visited upon him? But it is my wish to correct your mistake, and to show you that I do not rest my eternal all upon a misconstruction of scripture; neither upon a proper construction of scripture; nor upon any other work that I can do; but on the Rock of everlasting ages, the chief corner Stone that is laid in Zion.
With a view to this I proceed to notice your remarks upon my statements.