Page images

chain of moral government, and they do not consider how every transgression of theirs does violence to the whole system, -starting a train of mischiefs, which, if not counteracted, would ruin a universe. If men would look at sin with such eyes as did the apostle, when he found it exceeding-sinful—if they would estimate their own character by the light of God's law, if they would estimate the character of sin by the infinitely extended interests that it is calculated to injure, they would find it more difficult to believe, that God can and will redeem any sinner, than that he will send any to eternal misery. That a God of infinite holiness can and will receive to favor and to heaven, a man who has done so much mischief in his kingdom, and would have done infinitely more if he had not been prevented, is more incredible than that a God of infinite goodness will inflict endless pains upon the guilty. Thus inadequate views of guilt, lead to inadequate views of God's treatment of the guilty.

A want of a real and present sense of eternal things tends to the same result. Some men reason and decide about eternal things, with as much carelessness of the conclusions to which they are to come, as they would feel were they bargaining for the sale of their possessions in the island of Utopia, or as if purchasing a farm in the moon. Eternity is with them a matter of much conversation but of little real apprehension. They put far away the evil day,-look upon death as distant—little think what will be the wants of the mind, when it wakes beyond the grave-little think how grave and of what personal interest the matters are, of which the Bible treats. Hence originates a levity of thought and feeling, during the examination, (if examination ever be had) of the testimony of Scripture, by reason of which the matter is treated as of no more concern than a question of history or politics. Whereas a conclusion on such a subject, and especially the conclusion that it will be well with every sinner after death, should come in at the end of an investigation, conducted with a mind under the pressure of eternal interests fully apprehended, a pressure giving force and earnestness to every movement of the thoughts.

Again, Universalism sometimes settles into the mind after some special alarms of conscience, and after the influences of the Holy Spirit have been resisted. Temporary religious impressions, if effaced, generally leave the mind in a worse condition. Says the Apostle, "If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it has happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” And one greater than an Apostle has said, "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest.and findeth none. Then saith he, I will return to my house from whence I came out, and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first." Such is the condition of those who have admitted convictions of sin for a while, who have under the alarms of an awakened conscience, commenced an external reformation, and formed many purposes of a religious life, and who from that state of mind, have returned to more than their former wickedness. Such a relapse is often accompanied with the adoption of Universalism. The conscience becoming seared, and the force of depraved passions more strong, new tendencies to such an error are created. On this ground there is some truth in the pretence sometimes put forth, that revivals of religion sometimes contribute to increase the number of Infidels and Universalists. If Universalists were to reap a harvest after a season of powerful awakening among a people, from those who have resisted convictions, and returned like the dog to his vomit, it would be nothing strange. Revivals of religion now, as in the days of the apostles, are doubtless made a savor of death unto death to many. Probably hell

itself, while it loses many that are snatched as brands from the burning, makes itself more sure of others, whom resisted convictions leave in a state worse than the first; and in that sense hell may boast of its gleanings if not of its harvests reaped from reivals of religion.

Again, if positions above taken be true, every thing that tends to vitiate the moral habits, may be counted among the auxiliaries of Universalism. There is some philosophy in Mr. Whittemore's calculation, that Universalism will flourish most among those of abandoned character. Where the moral habits are bad, the moral sense is proportionally obtuse. The more a man's propensities and habits become vitiated, the strength of his desire for forbidden indulgences is increased, and with it is increased his occasion and his inclination to have the doctrine of" no judgment to come" prove true. And if so, we may look abroad upon the face of society, and survey all the causes that are operating to vitiate the morals of the young and the old, as so many sources of influence favorable to Universalism. When we talk of men being principled, and unprincipled in respect to morals, we usually mean no more than that one has, and the other has not a practical regard to right and wrong, and a practical sense of future retributions. When a man becomes reckless of the consequences of right or wrong in conduct, he is an unprincipled man. Now if Universalists are not better than their theory,-if they have no regard to the consequences of their conduct, any further than they touch their present interest, they come up to our ideas of unprincipled. And any influence that goes to abate the force of moral principles, vitiate the moral taste, and throw a man under the dominion of appetite, and away from the guidance of conscience, goes to make a man unprincipled, and prepare his mind in form to avow Universalists' doctrines. There are as many sources of universalist influence in the land, as there are sources of moral debasement and ruin. And the multitude and variety of these is endless. The operation of moral causes is so adjusted in this world which lieth in wickedness, that man is interested in a thousand ways, to procure the ruin of his fel

low. His selfishness with all its power enlists him in this and that enterprise, which is little else than ministering temptations and inducements, for men to ruin themselves. Millions of capital are invested in a laborious and omnipresent ministration to depraved and ruinous appetites. Talents, labor and lives, which might be valuable to the world, are spent in pandering to the lusts, and procuring the ruin of thousands and tens of thousands. It would require a volume to give the names of all the parts of that vast and complicated machinery, employed to bring gain to one part of the world, out of the ruin of the other. Every base appetite has its expensive establishment, and its army of operatives, in constant service. The thirst for vicious amusements has its theatres and nameless appropriate establishments, and in each, a sufficient corps of men and women, trained to the profession of corrupting the morals of the old and young. The sensual lusts have other millions of wealth, and other armies of men and women, as caterers. Here is a squadron, dealing out intoxicating drinks.— There is another ministering to a lust still more debasing and unclean. Indeed every bar-room, grog-shop, theatre, brothel, gaming and lottery establishment, may be considered as a source of moral debasement, and therefore of Universalism. There is no avenue through which moral destruction can find its way to the heart of man, where there is not some part of the destroyer's army, stationed with ample magazines of death.

Again, evil communications corrupt good manners, and in that, good principles. Many a young man may trace the origin of his Universalism, to familiar intercourse with men whose conversation abounds with objections to the truth. The young man by courting such companionships, comes in contact with minds envenomed with an ever active_hostility to the truth, and seeking occasions to deposit the leaven where it will work, and so puts himself under an influence that while he perceives it not, works as surely as any law of our nature, to fritter away his faith in the verities of the gospel. The shape and movements of all minds, are modified by the action of adjacent minds. And where one comes into familiar intercourse

with a man of lax principles, he puts himself under a dangerous influence, not only unarmed, but in a posture favorable to receiving the poison-inasmuch as the sympathies of social intercourse, and the operation of the social instinct, and the desire of pleasing and being pleased, inseparable from social intercourse, open the mind to the reception of whatever erronious impressions a man wishes to convey. If an enemy of the truth can succeed to wake all your social sympathies towards himself, and call them into frequent and unreserved action, and withal allay any suspicions you may have of his design to corrupt your faith, and if you let him use the liberty of uttering on all occasions the prevailing sentiments of his mind, his work is half done. “To hear objections against the truth continually repeated, without being answered, to hear the cause of Christ attacked in every possible form, without being in a situation, in a becoming manner, to undertake its defence, must have an injurious tendency. Conversation, if we intend to please and be pleased, should never be a scene of continual dispute; we must either relinquish such society, or hold our peace. That person who feels himself called upon on every occasion to defend his religion, will grow weary of contention, and seek repose in other kinds of society. But if he continues in it, he will at length learn to be silent. Silence will lead to acquiescence, and finally he will adjust his opinions to the standard of those, with whom he associates. If any man supposes that he has strength of mind sufficient to continue in such society, without having the foundations of his confidence in the truth weakened, that man is entirely unacquainted with his own heart."

Another thought. The very doubts and misgivings of the Universalists themselves, are the cause of much care and labor on the part of Universalists, to extend their opinions. The question has been a thousand times asked-"If you are so sure of the truth of your notion that all will be saved, whether they believe or not, why so anxious to induce men to believe it " as if the salvation of men depended on their believing it. And it has been a thousand times answered-Because we want

« PreviousContinue »