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a subduing and reconciling view of his glory, to the whole human race, so that all shall bow to him-be blessed in Christ and become the willing subjects of his government. These blessings are not promised as an equivalent for works performed on our part, nor for qualities attained, but as a free gift. Still, this does not imply that all are to be blessed in an equal degree, or (to carry out the figure) that their several estates are to be brought to a like degree of advancement; but on the contrary, it is supposed, that those in which the christian graces have been longer and more assiduously cultivated, will be in a condition to yield them in greater abundance and perfection.
Those who take this view, hold it not as a mere speculation, but (as they suppose) on scriptural warrant; for Paul (say they) clearly recognises a diversity of orders among the subjects of the resurrection. I believe that this view obtains very generally amongst the unitarians of this country, and the author will confess, it is that to which his own judgment the most strongly inclines. The only objection (so far as I know) to which it is liable, is, that it represents Jehovah as partial in making some of his creatures to be eternally superior to others. But, then, it is admitted that some are actually made superior to others in time superior in person, intellect, fortune, and moral qualities. It is also admitted that there are angelic beings who were made superior to man. Why do not these facts as well form a ground of impeachment against the impartiality of God, as the other ? Truth is, that grades in the order of being is one of the most beautiful arrangements in the economy of creation, and especially when we consider that these several orders are not doomed to remain eternally stationary, but are destined to progress toward the infinite centre of perfection forever.
This view, it seems to me, if it is not directly asserted, is at least countenanced by the sacred writers : what else means Paul when he speaks of some who were tortured for the truth's sake, “not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection ?” (Heb. xi. 35.) And what means he also in the following passage ? “ There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial : but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and ano. ther glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one
star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. xv. 40, 41.) The christian course, moreover, is compared to a race, a wrestle, and other exercises usual in the Olympic games, in which a prize was held out to stimulate exertion. And Paul speaks of himself as pressing toward the mark of his high calling in Christ Jesus. At the close of his treatise on the resurrection, moreover, he exhorts his Corinthian brethren, in view of that event, to be “ steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord;” and this, too, from a knowledge on their part (grounded on the consoling facts he had adduced in his letter) that their labor was “not in vain in the Lord.”
The above are all the modifications of the universalist faith with which I am acquainted ; they display a diversity as to the mode merely, not as to the main principle of that doctrine: there are few universalists who care greatly as to the particular form in which others hold their doctrine—their chief concern is about the essential fact, the ultimate bringing in of all the human race, and this in God's own way, they care not how-and in God's own time, they care not when; their entire confidence in the unbounded wisdom and goodness of the Creator, inspires them with a disposition most cheerfully to acquiesce beforehand in his disposition of the matter, without doubting that he will do all things for the best end, and in the best manner.
But supposing the diversity of forms in which the universalist faith is held, to be much greater than it is what then? Is the fundamental fact the less to be believed, because there are differences of opinion as to the mode of it? And would the advocates of endless misery have us believe that there is less diversity concerning that tenet? It would seem so, certainly, from the way in which they are wont to taunt us on this ground. But let us see how the fact stands. Some believe in endless damnation on the ground of the divine decrees—some on the ground of an abnse of our free powers—some say that our sins here are of infinite turpitude, and justify God in damning us to eternity—some say that we are not to be eternally damned for the sins of this life, but that sin has a self-perpetuating power, and our punishment will be endless because our sin will be so. Some say that our damnation will consist of a literal burning in hell—some, that it will be con
stituted of remorse, and an absence of the divine goodness--some affirm that we shall be damned if found out of the faith and communion of the true church--some, that in whatever faith or church we are found, or whether in none at all, if we improve aright such opportunities as have been afforded us, it will go well with us, but if herwise we shall be damned for the nonimprovementsome maintain that the neglecting to secure the new birth will be the ground of our damnation; and some, that we must be baptized or be damned, whatever else we may do or leave undone, etc., etc.
Universalists, however, do not contend against each other on account of their diversity of views; and this is much more than can be said of the believers in endless torments: the former, indeed, have no motives for contention—the latter have very weighty ones; for if the interests of the immortal state are in any degree dependant upon a correct faith in this world, we should doubtless strive with all our might to save men from their heresies, at whatever expense to their earthly peace or interests ; hence this doctrine fully justifies persecution for opinion's sake, but universalism does not; for it does not represent God in the character of a holy inquisitor, tormenting his short-sighted creatures in everlasting flames, because of their misfortune in failing to find and believe the truth. True it is, that universalists deem the acquisition of truth to be of great importance to men for their present benefit, and hence they endeavor to gain them over to embrace and enjoy it; but as this motive for zeal in the propagation of their faith is based upon a desire to extend the bounds of human happiness, it would ill comport with that motive to quarrel with men because they were not of their opinion in religion.
AN INTERMEDIATE STATE CONSIDERED.
To human wisdom, relative to the state immediately subsequent to death, very narrow limits are assigned; and the paucity of information upon this point in the sacred writings, sufficiently proves that they were not given for our enlightenment in regard to it. From many portions of the Old Testament it might be inferred, that a future sentient existence was not at all believed in by the writers. Solomon saith, “ For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun,” (Eccles. ix, 5, 6.) And again he says, in the tenth verse of the same chapter, that there is no knowledge in sheol (the separate state) whither we are going. Hezekiah says, 6 Death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down into sheol cannot hope for thy truth.” (Isa. xxxviii. 18.) In the following language from Job, there is an evident vacillation of mind betwixt hope and doubt relative to a future being.
“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up; so man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be' no more they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands.” (Job xiv. 7–12, 14, 15.) Nothing was ever better conveyed than is the alternation of hope and doubt in the mind of the speaker, relative to the important topic of which he speaks.
From the reluctance, too, with which death was contemplated in Old Testament times, it seems fairly inferrible, that a state of felicity immediately subsequent thereto was not expected. When VOL. 1-2 D
it was announced to the good Hezekiah that he was to die, he received the announcement with extreme sorrow, and humbled himself before God in prayer for a continuance of his life. In numerous instances, too, we find, that length of days is promised as a reward of a virtuous course of conduct. Both Moses and Aaron had their mortal lives abridged, as a punishment for certain specified acts of disobedience. These facts seem to imply very clearly, that it was not in those days believed, that death occasioned an immediate transit from earth to heaven.
Nor does the New Testament, as I think, afford much clearer ground of faith upon this point. I know that certain texts can be adduced, which, considered by themselves, would favor the notion that men pass at death from earth to immediate felicity; but then I also know, that the weight of these is countervailed by other texts, and a legitimate deduction from certain scriptural facts.As, then, we can have no possible interest in being deceived on this head, let us briefly, yet candidly, take a view of what may be said on both sides.
Christ's words to the dying thief afford, perhaps, the strongest argument in favor of the notion of immediate post-mortem happiness. “To-day, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke xxiii. 43.) But it is usual to take quite too much for granted in the popular application of this case, viz., that the thief had a true faith in Christ's messiahship—that he was convicted, and repented of, his sins—that, when he begged to be remembered of Christ when he came into his kingdom, he had reference to Christ's coming in the final judgement-and that Christ's answer implied, that he should be with him that day in heaven. Now to my mind there is very great improbability in each of these items; and since they are taken on sheer assumption, I will offset against them the following, which, at least, may be supported by a better show of reason, viz : That the confession of guilt which the thief made, had only respect to the crime for which he suffered, not his sin against God--that his notions of the Messiah being Jewish, he expected him to come and establish a temporal dynasty, and to this he had reference in his petition—that Christ's answer was designed to call off his attention from such expectations, and direct it to the fact, that he should that day be with himself in the separate state. Such is my judgement of this case, and here are the reasons for it.