"1st. I did not suppose but that the method which I proposed to account for the absence of the body of Jesus would be liable to serious objections; and these objections are increased by connecting with them, circumstances which, if the resurrection be false, must be considered equally false. Because, if the resurrection of Jesus was not a truth, whatever was the truth on which that belief was founded, must be now all mere conjecture.
"There might be persons, however, who thought that Jesus suffered death very wrongfully although he never pretended literally to perform those miracles. Yea I conceive it possible that when this language was first adopted, i. e. of his feeding the hungry, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, &c. it was not understood, nor meant to be understood literally. Therefore although the account at first might have been literally false, though not so much so as what it grew to be afterward, yet it might have been considered spiritually true; and therefore not designed absolutely to deceive. The only difficulty, i.e. the only irreconcilable difficulty, which I conceive in the case, is in supposing that the first disciples could be made to believe in the resurrection, by any evidence which could have existed, and yet the resurrection not to be true. But we must suppose this, I think, in order to raise a reasonable doubt of the truth of the resurrection. For, if the disciples did not believe it, they could have had no interest or motive, (or certainly no justifiable motive) in making others believe it; and without this, it is difficult to account even for the existence of such a report. I should not think it so strange, however, that others, after the report was once in circulation, and that even St. Paul himself should have been made to believe this, merely by some visionary scene.
"I think therefore the question may be reduced to this point. Which of the two is the most incredible, either that the first disciples should absolutely believe in the resurrection, by any evidence which did not grow out of this truth, or that the resurrection should have been absolutely true?
"Here is where the two propositions, when reduced to their simplicity must finally come. And I contend that when two propositions are thus clearly placed before the mind or understanding, whether the judgment be right or wrong, the mind or understanding must reject, yea it is impossible to avoid rejecting, that which to the mind or understanding, is the most incredible.
"But when we admit that the disciples did believe in the resurrection, we are not obliged to admit that they had all or any of the evidences of that fact which have come down to us. This we may suppose might have been mostly or altogether fictitious; written by later hands, and attributed to the apostles. And here we must not suppose that the account was altogether made up at once, but grew gradually; and not to come out in writing until the persons, who could either attest or deny the literal truth of these facts, were taken off of the stage. Here as it respects the records also, the same question again occurs. Which is the most incredible (not to miraculous, for one miracle is no more miraculous, that I know of than another; I therefore say which is the most incredible) that such histories should have been thus, or in some other way got up, and be believed, altho' the various accounts, so far as they relate to miracles, and other circumstances necessary to be taken into the account only for the sake of supporting the truth of those miracles, should have been altogether fictitious, and such parts only true as could be accounted for in a rational way, without admitting the existence of miracles; or that all those miracles, or at least the most essential of them, should have been literally and absolutely true? The answer to these two propositions, i. e. the above questions, will, and must, decide the whole controversy.
"Now, were it not for the internal evidences which the writings of the New Testament do, and ever will, possess (the external evidences falling so far short of being conclusive in my mind, as I shall show more fully hereafter, when I come to speak of those evidences) I should still be inclined, in my own understanding, to reject the latter proposition in each of the above questions, and adhere to the former. -- Much of the external evidence, I am very ready to admit is perfectly consistent with the supposed truth of the internal, but after all, in my humble opinion, it does not quite come to the point. But the internal evidence, I confess, I cannot withstand. The more I investigate the subject, the more I discover its force, its clearness, and its irresistibility; and although the truth it unfolds is so august, so momentous, so astonishingly and inexpressibly sublime, that it is with the profoundest and most reverential awe I speak, when I acknowledge my faith in the divine origin of those testimonies; yet, as I cannot resist their force, so I am obliged to acknowledge them true. The illusion, however, if it be one, I know is happifying to the mind; but this is no good reason, that I know of, why we should either embrace it ourselves, or propagate it in the world. Although I have endeavoured to calm my conscience, while meditating on my doubts, with the consideration that I am not accountable for the truth or the falsity of the scriptures; yet, I must confess, this did not fully satisfy my mind; and therefore I come to a determination to be more thoroughly persuaded of their truth, if possible, or else be more thoroughly convinced of their fallacy. With this motive I entered on the present controversy; and I feel very happy in its termination, having been much strengthened in my faith thereby, and humbly pray, that should it ever come before the public, it may be blest to the benefit of others.
"2d. What you have said on the divine mission, &c. of the apostles is satisfactory. For although it has not fully come to my question, yet it has had the same good effect by convincing me that my question went a little beyond the bounds of reason; for it was too much like asking a blind man how it is that other men see! It is not reasonable to suppose that the apostles themselves could have informed persons who were uninspired to their understanding, how or by what means, they were inspired. It was sufficient to demonstrate the fact by the works which they were enabled to perform, (admitting the account true,) in the name of JESUS.
"3d. My argument respecting a hope of future existence has been extended rather beyond my design. Without taking up time to recapitulate, I will only say I admit the truth of your argument on this subject; neither do I see how it stands altogether in opposition to mine. What I contend for is this. The idea of non-existence, i.e. of existing only in God, without retaining our individual consciousness of being, does not, like the idea of endless misery, absolutely destroy our present comforts. It only cuts short, or else prevents, future prospects. If it can be demonstrated, as I believe it can, that God is good to the animal creation, in giving them existence, on the supposition, that they have no future state, I contend that man is equally, if not more abundantly blessed, even on the same supposition. -- But I never meant to contend that eternal life would not be still infinitely better, according to our conceptions of good, if true. To state a case, which will illustrate in some degree my ideas of this subject, the following may come something nigh it; viz. I should be pleased with the idea of living, say, ten years, in reference only to the blessing of this life, although I might know I should die at that time, provided that, during the ten years, I should enjoy the common blessings of life. This does not prevent my desiring to live longer; neither does a certain knowledge that I shall not prevent me from desiring to live, nor from being pleased with the idea of living, till that time. But let me know for a certainty, or, which would be the same thing to me, let me absolutely believe that I should live fifty years, and that although the ten first would be attended with all the common blessings of life, as usual, yet that the remaining forty years, which would be the remaining whole of my natural life, I should be placed in the most distressed and aggravated circumstances, of which I could possibly conceive; now, in reference to the whole fifty years, could I desire to live? No! I say, I rather choose instant death!
"When I look around on the circumstances and condition of men, I am so fully convinced that the aggregate of happiness so far overbalances the aggregate of misery, that I am firmly of opinion, yea, I do not entertain the least possible doubt of its truth, and therefore think I ever shall contend, that this life is a blessing, and we have abundant reason to be very thankful for it, without the least reference to a future state. But, nevertheless, I am very ready to admit, that, when futurity and immortality are taken into the account, and are connected with the same view of the character of the Deity, these blessings are all extended and magnified to infinity.
"But on the supposition that truth is any where connected with endless misery, the scene is wholly changed. On this supposition I am not reconciled to truth at all; I can find nothing in my moral nature, which I call good, but what stands directly opposed to it; Hence, the very brightest and most brilliant part of the picture is deformed by the awful idea; it takes away all the pleasure of investigation, and if this be truth, my only desire and prayer to God, is that I might be permitted to remain eternally ignorant of it! It is my confidence therefore in the goodness of the truth, and this only, which has reconciled my mind to it. You may contend that I have not obtained this confidence without the knowledge of divine revelation. Be that as it may; on this supposition only I am reconciled, and something must destroy this confidence before I can become unreconciled to truth. I think now I must be fully understood, and will therefore add no more on this subject.
"4th. What you say under the fourth article is satisfactory. Errors, no doubt, may be, and often are committed by applying instructions 'differently from their primary design.'
"5th. Your remarks under the sixth article are very judicious. Much injury no doubt is often done to the truth of divine revelation by contending so tenaciously as some do for things, which, if true, are not essential to its support. -- It is often the case that, by trying to prove too much, we weaken the evidence, in the minds of many, respecting the main thing we wish to establish. Hence, the opposer, not being able, or else not disposed, to make proper distinction, considers it all of one piece; and not being able to see the propriety of many things, which are contended for with equal zeal, sets the whole down as a fallacy.
"6th. It is true, I thought you strained the argument a little too far in supposing that the apostles could not have been convinced of the truth of the resurrection by any evidence which could be counterbalanced. This induced me to state that supposed absurdity in still more glaring colors, with a hope that you would thereby be induced to take a review of your argument, and not without some expectation, that you would be able to see some defects in it. But in this I have been disappointed. You still hold on upon your argument, and turn the error wholly on your friend.
"But, as this is the turning point, I shall not blame you for straining every nerve, and holding on upon every fibre which gives you the least possible support.
"It would not do for you to give up the idea that the apostles could not have been convinced of the truth of the resurrection by any evidence which could have existed short of the fact's being true; (which, by the way, was what I meant by the first member of my criticism, though not exactly so expressed;) for the moment this is admitted, doubt and unbelief will soon contend that they were so convinced. Imagination may soon call up such evidence in the mind, without supposing any thing miraculous, and all the rest of the account may be supposed to be fictitious. I did not mean to insinuate, however, that you have contended that the apostles must have seen Jesus rise in order to be convinced of the fact. I suppose their seeing him after he was risen was as full a demonstration to them as though they had seen him rise. And if they could not have been convinced of its truth by any thing short of this, then they could not be convinced by any thing short of the fact; i.e. what was the same to them as the fact. The second member of my criticism, viz. 'If the fact did exist there is no evidence which can counterbalance it,' does not, as I conceive, suppose that you contend 'that the fact of the resurrection could not exist without proving itself to the apostles in such a way that no evidence could counterbalance it;' but it supposes that if the fact did exist, no evidence could prove that it did not exist, as it is always difficult to prove a negative, and utterly impossible when the positive is true. -- Hence my conclusion; viz. As the apostles were convinced of the truth of the resurrection, which they could not have been only by evidence which could not have existed had not the fact been true, the fact did exist. How far does this criticism fall short of my other? (for it is exactly what I meant by my other.) Or how far does it go beyond your argument?
"Finally, I cannot conceive of any evidence that could sufficiently support the fact that Jesus who was crucified, did actually rise from the dead, if nothing could be brought to counterbalance it, that could possibly admit of being counterbalanced; and again: 'Thus we are brought to the suggestion, that any evidence which could be sufficient to prove such a fact, if no evidence appeared against it, must be such as admits, of no refutation.'
"Unless it may be reasonably supposed that the apostles were not absolutely so guarded against an error of this kind as this argument suggests, I know of no way to withstand its force. And I am sure I feel no disposition to withstand it, even against probability. It is the improbability of the fact it goes to prove, i. e. in my mind, that ever induced me to oppose it.
"I shall now take notice of the external evidence in support of the truth of divine revelation, which you have quoted from Paley in his view of the evidences of christianity.
"In your reply to my seventh number, you mentioned a quotation from the epistle of Barnabas, St. Paul's companion, in the following words, 'Let us therefore, beware lest it come upon us, as it is written, there are many called, few chosen.' The object of this quotation is to prove that the gospel of Matthew (from which here is a quotation) was written before this epistle, and here appealed to as to a book of divine authority. And although it is perfectly consistent with such a supposition, yet there is great room to doubt whether such was the fact. Or, at least, there is room to conjecture that the gospel of Matthew might have been written before this epistle, and yet not written till after the destruction of Jerusalem.
"Speaking of the writers of this period, Dr. Priestly observes 'The oldest work of the age, if it had been genuine, is that which goes by the name of The epistle of Barnabas. Whoever was the author of this epistle, it was probably written soon after the destruction of Jerusalem. -- It abounds with interpretations of the Old Testament which discover more of imagination, than judgement.' By this you will perceive that the authority of this epistle is doubtful. I should also have gathered the same idea, from what Paley himself says, whose work I have examined, on this subject, since I wrote my last number. It might have been written at a much later period than what is supposed and palmed upon Barnabas; and therefore does not, as was supposed, absolutely prove that the gospel of Matthew was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. It seems that christians of a later period were in the habit of palming works upon their predecessors; or in other words, writing in their name. After speaking of the epistle of Clemens, Priestly observes (p.301) there is extant another epistle ascribed to this Clemens, but it is evidently spurious, and was probably written in the middle of the third century. Several other writings were palmed upon him also, especially the Apostolical Constitution and the Clementine homilies. The epistle of Barnabas, it seems, is first quoted by Clement of Alexandria, A.D.194. This certainly gives room for my conjecture for aught which appears to the contrary, it might have been written a whole century after the days of the apostles.
[Footnote 7: Ch. Hist. vol. i. p.200.]
"The next which Paley mentions is an epistle written by Clement, bishop of Rome. This is the same which Priestly calls Clemens. 'This epistle,' he says, 'was held in the highest esteem by all christians, and, like the scriptures, was publicly read in many churches.' In this epistle of Clement, you say, 'he quotes Matt. v.7. xviii.6.' But how does he quote those passages? Not as the writing of Matthew, but as the words of 'our Lord.' Although this therefore, as I have before suggested, is perfectly consistent with the supposed truth, it falls far short, in my mind, of proving that the gospel of Matthew, was written before this epistle. Clement or Clemens might have written this by tradition even if he had never seen the gospel of Matthew, or any other. It only proves that these words in the gospel and those in the epistle were indebted to the same original source, viz. the words of Jesus. I am not disposed to dispute, however, the genuineness of this epistle. 'It is an earnest dissuasive,' says Priestly, 'from the spirit of faction, which appeared in the church of Corinth, and which, indeed, was sufficiently conspicuous when Paul wrote his epistles.'
"'Another work of doubtful authority,' says Priestly, 'is the Shepherd of Hermes, by some thought to be that Hermes who is mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Romans; but by others supposed to be either spurious, or to have been written by a later Hermes, or rather Hermes, brother of Pius, bishop of Rome, about the year 140. Whoever was the author of this work (and though it was so much esteemed by many christians, as to be publicly read in their churches) it is certainly a very poor performance.' If this work therefore be of so late a date, as, according to this account, it may be, and, from all which appears to the contrary, we may presume it is, as the first quotation of it is by Irenaeus, A. D.178, it falls short of the proof we want.
"The same observations will apply to the allusions to the gospels in the epistles of Ignatius, as was mentioned in regard to the epistle of Clement. They are not literal quotations, and therefore might have been only traditions. I consider them no certain proof that the gospels were written previous to this time, though it is very natural to suppose that to have been the fact. The same will apply to the epistle of Polycarp, as we know not exactly what was meant at that time by the scriptures; neither do allusions to certain passages in the scriptures, especially such as the words of Jesus, prove the existence of those scriptures at that time.
"In the time of Eusebius there were extant five books of Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Syria, of the interpretation of the divine oracles. 'Papias,' says Priestly, 'was a great collector of the sayings of the apostles; and one of the traditions preserved by him was that, after the resurrection, Christ would reign upon earth a thousand years, an opinion which, from his authority, was long respected by many.' Papias, it seems, is the first who speaks of the gospels by name, and he mentions only Matthew and Mark. That all the gospels, however, existed in his day, and also bore the names which they now do, I should not be disposed to dispute; neither is there any thing to contradict the idea of their being written by the persons reputed to be the authors of them.
[Footnote 8: Ch. Hist. vol. i. p.203 Euseb. Hist. Lib. iii. Cap.39 p.135.]
"But, supposing a few of these first bishops had taken it into ther heads, having succeeded so well, during a little respite from persecution, in consequence of those troublesome times at the destruction of Jerusalem, as to get appointed to their respective offices, and thinking it would lead greatly to their future success, I say, supposing they had taken it into their heads to write the four gospels and the acts of the apostles themselves, embracing all the traditions, which they knew, of the apostles, dressed up in the figurative style in which those things, even from the first, had been reported, together with many fictions of their own. And that they did write these books in the name of the apostles; who would be likely, or would be able, to contradict them? Or supposing, without any previous concert, some one should have written the gospel of Matthew; another, after having seen it, should write one in the name of Mark; a third, who had seen them both, should write that of Luke, and the acts of the apostles; and a fourth should write that of John. -- These, of course, would make their first appearance at different times, and in different parts of the country; or, in other words, in different countries. Some story or other might have been got up, in regard to their first discovery, which should go currently with the common people, and which, after the works were received as canonical, would of course be done away.
"As a justification of the above hypothesis (which I am very sensible is not without its difficulties) in addition to what have said in regard to the writings palmed upon Clemens, I will mention the following from Priestly's Ch. Hist. vol. ii. p.412. It appears to have been a quotation from Sozomen, by Socrates, Lib. vii. chap.19, p.307. 'The revelation of Peter, which is rejected as a spurious book by the ancients, is read once every year in some churches in Palestine on good Friday, which is a religious fast in commemoration of our Lord's sufferings. The book that is called the revelation of the apostle Paul, which was unknown to the ancients, is greatly commended by many of the monks. Some say that this book was first found in the reign of Theodosius. For they say that in the house of Paul at Tarsus, there was a marble chest in a subterraneous place, in which this book was deposited, and that it was discovered by a particular revelation.'
"Any work of this kind, got up at so late a period as that of the reign of Theodosius, would not be likely to be generally received among the churches; yet if it could be received by any, why might not a similar work, or similar works, which made their appearance so soon after the apostles, as might well be supposed to have been written by them and when too, the churches were few in number, without the least suspicion of fraud, have been received by all? Or if any fraud had been suspected, yet, believing in the main thing which all these were designed to support, those frauds whatever they were, might have been considered really pious!
"But, sir, you will perceive that I am not altogether pleased, nor fully satisfied, with this argument. I know it has its difficulties; but the question is, whether it has greater than the one which it is brought to oppose? The question is not, whether these things look probable? For I acknowledge they do not look probable. But the question is, which is the most incredible; either that the above hypothesis, or something like it, should be true; or else that the extraordinary miracles, related in the books referred to, should be true? If there were no better evidence in favor of the miracles than that which I have been examining, I should be obliged to decide against the latter, let me think what I might respecting the former. The most that we can say of this testimony is, it does not contradict the truth of those histories, but, so far as it goes, it is perfectly consistent with the truth of the main question. The weight of this testimony therefore, whatever it is, seems to be on the side of the truth of christianity.
"But what carries the most conviction to my mind is not who wrote those books; not the manner in which they have been handed down to us, nor in which they can now be traced to the apostles; but the manner in which the story itself is told. It must be confessed that, excepting a few things, which may be supposed to have been early interpolations, it carries in it all the internal marks of TRUTH. When this is admitted, we must also admit the propriety of bringing in these external evidences as auxiliaries; and when we find that they also, instead of being contradictory to, are perfectly consistent with the supposed truth, they add not a little to the weight of testimony. Hence we find that our faith is strengthened by the consideration of circumstances, which would not have been sufficient, in themselves alone, to have originated, or produced, that faith. The question may be still asked, why do you now believe? To which I give this plain and simple answer. It is because, notwithstanding the incredibility of the miracles of Christ, and of the apostles, and the resurrection, the truth of which these miracles go to confirm and substantiate; yet, the idea that this story should ever have been told in the manner it is, without having truth for its foundation, in spite of all my incredibility, is still more incredible! And it is my humble opinion that whoever will give themselves the trouble, to pay the same attention to the subject, must be of the same opinion: for, I am inclined to think that no one has been more predisposed to unbelief. Not that I ever felt any real opposition to the truth of the holy scriptures, as I now understand them, but I did not wish to be deceived. I had rather that my hopes and expectations should never be raised, than to have them raised upon a fruitless or spurious foundation.
"But after all, it will be perceived that I make no pretensions to a miraculous, or mysterious, conversion. My conversion, whatever it is, is altogether rational. It grows out of the evidence which I plainly have before my eyes. And it is my humble opinion that those who pretend to such conversions ought to be able to confirm the same by miracles, the same as the truth was first confirmed; and unless they can do it, it ought to be considered as nothing more than mere pretension. -- According to the ideas of some, and of much too of that which is termed orthodox, every conversion is as much a miracle as was the resurrection of Christ. But as this is a fact, which if true, is entirely out of sight of the unconverted, and of which they can form no conception, nor judge of it in any sense whatever, is it not reasonable that they should have a demonstration of its truth, by some fact, of the truth of which they can judge, that they may know that the work is of God? And until we have such demonstration, may we not consider all such pretensions to be of men?
"With these remarks I hasten to a CONCLUSION.
"In taking leave of this subject, considering it probable that these letters will, at some future time, come before the public, it is but just that I should more fully avow my motives in this controversy. You will have perceived, all along, the ground on which I stood. I have endeavoured to personate an honest inquirer after truth; but one who was filled with doubts concerning every thing of which there is not positive demonstration. How far I have acted up to such a character, you and the public can best judge.
"I thought, however, I should be the most likely to do this, by bringing those objections, and these only, which, at one time or another, have occupied my own mind. But, that the controversy might not appear as a mere farce, or like a man raising objections against himself (in which case he generally takes care to raise none but what he thinks he can answer) and that I might engage all your interest and energy on the subject, I have carried the idea, through the whole, both by my letters and by my private conversation with you during the time (as you very well know) that those objections were now laboring in my mind with all their force. I have therefore endeavoured to dispute every inch of ground, and give way only as I found myself obliged to give way, by the force of your arguments. That I have not acted my part better must be imputed to want of ability and not to want of good will. I have endeavoured to throw every block in your way which I could think of, without deviating from the character which I had assumed; and that I have not made your task more arduous, is because I did not see how I could do it without betraying a manifest dishonesty on my part. The result is such as I anticipated.
"My real motive must be my only apology for the part I have taken. You know that no work of the kind has ever been really and seriously attempted by any one who is avowedly of our order; that our religious opponents are continualiy throwing the gauntlet of aspersions at us, as being nothing more than mere pretenders to christianity, but in reality, Deists in disguise. To repel, therefore, those charges, as well as to let the unbelieving world know our views on this subject, I thought a work of this kind was really needed. And it appeared to me that the work, in the first place, would be more likely to be read, and, in the end, more sure of success, to have it come forth by the way of controversy, than what it would in any other way.
"It is true, I may not have brought all the objections which some would wish to have brought; but if what I have brought are so far removed as not to remain a serious obstacle in the mind of candid readers (which I conclude will be the case, with others, as it is with me) then all objections may be as easily removed.
"That this work may be an instrument, in the hands of God, of removing the prejudices from the minds of many of our religious opponents, of strengthening the faith of many who are wavering, and, as it were, halting between two opinions, and of calling up the attention of those who, like Gallis, 'care for none of these things,' is the sincere prayer of:
"Yours in the bonds of the gospel.
* * * * *
Dear sir, and brother, -- A careful perusal of your tenth number has given me much satisfaction, and seems to suggest that my reply may be general. You discover the rational ground on which your scruples are removed, and state no difficulty that you do not surmount.
I agree with you, that the gloomy doctrine of eternal misery, when by the imagination it becomes incorporated into the system of divine revelation, "reverses the whole scene," and renders that, which in its divine and native beauty possesses the most powerful attractions, the most deformed picture that ever repelled the human affections. It is this heaven-dishonouring doctrine, so repugnant to and irreconcilable with the known goodness of God manifested to all nations in his divine providence, that has, more than any thing else, so buffeted all the best feelings of man, as in thousands of instances to drive the heart of benevolence to lay aside the scriptures to whose authority this unmerciful doctrine has been erroneously ascribed.
But let the scriptures be once considered as free from the above horrible sentiment as in reality they are, they will then perfectly correspond with the demonstrations of universal benevolence and grace, rendered conspicuous in all the ways of God; they will also compare as a perfect transcript of that inward light and love which renders man an image of his ever adorable Creator.
As the christian church emerges from the city of mystery Babylon and its suburbs, and advances into the light of the wisdom of God, the doctrine above mentioned loses its influence and its votaries; nor will it be in the power of our self-styled orthodox clergy, long to chain the public mind to such a forbidding absurdity.
Nothing discovers the deplorable state of depravity, to which the human mind is subject, by force of tradition, more than the unnatural and absurd notion of enhancing future bliss, by beholding fellow creatures of the nearest connexion in a state of indescribable misery, there to remain time without end!
It seems to us astonishing that parents were ever capable of causing their children to pass through the fire to an idol, but what is this compared with what our pious fathers and mothers have believed concerning their children's sufferings in the eternal world, for the glory of that God who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh?
Tradition makes the most horrible things acceptable to the mind which becomes blind to their deformity, and even the most detestable things, desirable, by a certain feigned sanctity which it attaches to them. But the charm once broken, the rational mind becomes transformed into another image, totally different, and entirely repugnant to the things which it before venerated as divine. You very justly remark, that if truth be in any way connected with endless misery, you are not reconciled to it; but the time has been when you and I viewed this doctrine as an essential article of the faith of the gospel. What an absurdity! Eternal misery an essential article of the faith of a Saviour!
And this very moment there are thousands who set their feet on this vagary, believing it to be the only rock of safety.
But we have reason to be thankful for our happy deliverance from such a pernicious tradition; a tradition which has poisoned the doctrine of the church, and hardened the hearts of Christian professors to such a degree, that cruelty of the worst kind has become habitual.
Will our pious clergy contend against this charge? Let them account then for all the persecutions, the anathemas, the hangings and the burnings, which owe their origin to this doctrine of eternal misery. Let them account for their own sermons, in our day, which sentence age, middle age, and infancy to endless torture, for offences they never heard of, nor will they ever be informed of them until they find themselves in hell for what a man and a woman did thousands of years before they were born, and of whom they never had heard one word in the land of the living! This they as constantly preach as they contend that man must be sensible of his fall in Adam, of the justice of his being eternally miserable for that offence, and of pardon through the atonement of Christ in this life, or be miserable forever hereafter; for thousands in all ages have lived and died who never heard this absurd story while on earth.
Sir, we have no reason to wonder that religion is so little set by, while it is held up in such a character. Let it put on the mild form of the meek and humble Jesus, let it appear in the mercy of him who said "the son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them," let it be represented by its own similitude, by pouring oil and wine into the wounds of an enemy, let it be heard when it declares in apostolic language, God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth," let its language be strictly regarded when it informs us that charity is greater than faith or hope, then it will be pure and undefiled before God and the Father; it will engage the best affections of the human heart, and call to its devotion all the energies of man. Who can count the damages which have been occasioned by the preposterous error of setting up faith as a criterion of charity? Creed makers and creed defenders surely must have been averse to St. Paul's sentiment concerning the superiority of charity over faith; for they have sat charity at defiance with undefined items in their creeds, which were acknowledged mysterious in their own minds, and evidently repugnant to reason in the judgment of those who were proscribed as heretics by their authority.
Relative to my quotations from the epistle of Barnabas and others, your argument, as far as it is intended to lessen our belief in the genuineness of these epistles, has no direct bearing on the argument which I endeavoured to support by them; for it makes no difference who wrote those epistles, it is their containing quotations from the New Testament which gives them the consequence for which they were quoted.
In reply to what you say respecting Clement's not quoting Mat. v.7, xviii.6. as the writing of St Matthew, but as the words of "our Lord," I here set down Paley's answer.
"It may be said, that, as Clement hath not used words of quotation, it is not certain that he refers to any book whatever. The words of Christ, which he has put down, he might himself have heard from the apostles, or might have received them through the ordinary medium of oral tradition. This has been said; but that no such inference can be drawn from the absence of words of quotation is proved by the three following considerations: -- First, that Clement in the very same manner, namely, without any mark of reference, uses a passage now found in the epistle to the Romans; which passage from the peculiarity of the words which compose it, and from their order, it is manifest that he must have taken from the book. The same remark may be repeated of some very singular sentiments in the epistle to the Hebrews. Secondly, that there are many sentences of St. Paul's epistle to the Corinthians standing in Clement's epistle without any sign of quotation, which yet are certainly quotations; because it appears that Clement had St. Paul's epistle before him, inasmuch as in one place he mentions it in terms too express to leave us in any doubt -- 'Take into your hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul.' Thirdly, that this method of adopting words of scripture, without reference or acknowledgment, was, as will appear in the sequel, a method in general use among the most ancient christian writers. These analogies not only repel the objection, but cast the presumption on the other side; and afford a considerable degree of positive proof that the words in question have been borrowed from the places of scripture in which we now find them."
[Footnote 9: Rom. i.29.]
[Footnote 10: Paley's Evidences, p.109, 110.]
I think, if we take into consideration the authority of external evidence, especially if we duly consider how easily Celsus couid have overthrown the gospels, if they had not been genuine, it must be acknowledged sufficient, even of itself, to establish any matter of fact however important, allowing no natural improbability were involved in the fact. And this is as much as we want of external evidence, of the sort refered to.
But as even the internal evidences of scripture would be insufficient to support their authority without the concurrence of external evidence, so would the external be found wanting without the internal. But these together are abundantly sufficient to establish the credibility of this gospel, which is, like every thing else of the work and wisdom of God, the wonder and admiration of the believing soul.
The purity of your motives in writing on the subject of our discussion, will fully justify the exertions you have made to draw forth such arguments as your brother has been enabled to adduce in support of our common faith. I regret that my almost constant employ on other subjects and other duties, has afforded so little time as I have been able to devote to your queries, which, together with my want of abilities to do justice to a subject of this importance is now an embarrassment on my mind in regard to giving my consent to the publication of this correspondence. And there is still another circumstance which seems to operate as an objection to the publishing of these letters, viz. the want of extension of argument in many instances, which would have been attended to, if the work had been written for the conviction of common readers, which was not thought to be necessary for the benefit of the mover of the queries.
However, as all human productions are imperfect and ought so to be considered, and especially those from your humble servant, I am willing to appear to some disadvantage if any considerable advantage may thereby result to the cause of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I cannot close this valedictory epistle without a solemn acknowledgement of heart felt gratitude to the merciful disposer of all events, for the ample evidence which his providence and grace have given of the truth of our religion, especially when consider the glorious hope set before us; and am permitted to anticipate the promised era when there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; when there shall be no more pain; but when tears shall be wiped from all faces, and the rebuke of the nations removed from off all the earth, and every creature in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea shall harmoniously ascribe blessing, and glory, and honor unto him who sitteth upon the throne and unto the lamb forever and ever, I loose myself in the contemplation of the transporting scene.
To conclude, as you, my brother, have laboured together with your fellow servant, to look into, and examine these things which belong to the kingdom of righteousness, and as we have been favoured with mutual satisfaction in these researches, may it please the Great Head of the church still to hold us in his hand, still to engage us in his blessed cause, and render our mutual labours promotive of his grace among men. And however distant from each other it may best suit the captain of our salvation to place us, may it be his pleasure to continue our fellowship in the bonds of the gospel.
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A SERIES OF LETTERS, BETWEEN
A SERIES OF LETTERS
FROM THE REV. JOSEPH BUCKMINSTER TO THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU.
PORTSMOUTH, DEC.28, 1809.
Dear Sir, -- At the close of the interview which we had at my house, some little time since, you expressed a wish to live in habits of friendship with the ministers of this town, and I think I expressed a hope that I should be always disposed to treat you and all men with those fruits of benevolence and friendship which the law of our common nature and the spirit and principles of the Christian religion, demand of me; with this profession, without its fruits, my conscience is not satisfied. It was neither friendship nor piety that dictated that early question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" -- There is a reciprocal responsibility among mankind, both for the interest of time and eternity. Were I to see you or any others exposing themselves to danger, or running into situations that I apprehend would be prejudicial and destructive, friendship would require me to warn and admonish, and endeavour to restrain; and can I support my pretensions to this principle in withholding my warning and admonition, while I am verily persuaded that the present tendency and final issue of that system of sentiments which you have embraced, and which you have come among us to advocate and to support, will expose you, and those that embrace and build upon it, to danger and distress, with which no temporal calamity or ruin can bear any sort of comparison?
I know not what system of Universalism you have embraced or advocate, nor is it of any material consequence in my view; I presume I do not mistake or injure you in supposing that you publicly preach and advocate the final salvation of all mankind, their restoration and association with Jesus Christ in realms of glory. Whatever human ingenuity or plausible and sophistic reasoning may do with respect to either of these systems, they each and all of them are, in my view, destitute of divine authority, and have not a "thus saith the Lord," for their support.
There may be some little difference in the present tendency and effect of these different systems upon the present conduct of men, and so upon the interest of society; but in their general influence, and in their final results, they meet in the same point, and will be attended with the same dreadful consequences. They are neither of them true, and so can have no effect in quickening into life or sanctifying the soul, for it is the spirit that quickeneth, and the truth that sanctifieth; they may exhilarate, please, and produce triumph; but it will be a triumphing that is short, and a joy that is but for a moment; for God, to my apprehension, has been so far from giving any countenance to either of those systems, that he hath long ago pronounced them false, and their tendency destructive -- these are his words:"Because with lies ye have made the hearts of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way by promising him life." But it is not my intention to enter into a dispute upon this subject, neither to enlarge upon arguments to support my own sentiments, nor to disprove yours; I have no apprehension that any good would result from it; it would be a tax upon time that might be better employed.
When persons have adopted a system and are engaged in its support, when the pride of peculiarity or the influence of party views are enlisted as auxiliaries, there is little ground to hope for a conviction of its errors by formal disputation, however temperately conducted; nothing will effect a change of views and feelings but "that still small voice" which induced the prophet to wrap his face in his mantle. This voice is more likely to attend our calm, retired reflections, than the perusal of arguments that tend to disprove what we have been accustomed to advocate and support.
The object of this letter is not to revile, to censure, nor to dispute; but, in friendship and affection, to entreat you to reflect and consider the consequences to yourself and others of that system of sentiments which you are advocating -- anticipate the day of judgment, and realize yourself called upon to give an account of your stewardship. I am not disposed, my dear sir, to impeach your sincerity and honesty. I know how far men may be deluded and deceived. I am disposed to believe that you conscientiously think the sentiments you advocate are true. But remember, dear sir, this does not make them true, nor secure you from the dreadful consequences in which they may issue. With all this moral sincerity and uprightness, if you cease to warn the wicked, that he turn from his wicked way (and how can this be more effectually done than by leading him to expect final, everlasting happiness) his blood will be required at your hands. The apostle Paul most conscientiously persecuted the christians and declared to the council before whom he was arraigned, that he had lived in all good conscience before God till that day. He verily thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, yet his persuasion did not acquit him from guilt, nor would it have shielded him from destruction had he not been renewed to repentance and faith in Christ, while as yet Christ was in the way with him. Christ said to his disciples, "The time will come when whosoever killeth you will think he doth God's service;" and he has added, "many will say unto me, in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity." What must be your situation in the day of retribution if the system you advocate should in final evidence prove false? of which I have not the least shadow of doubt upon my mind, and therefore have all the forebodings for my erring and deceived fellow mortals which may be supposed to be the result of such conviction. -- I cannot cease to warn and to entreat you to consider, friendship forbids, my withholding the voice of warning and adjuration; and both duty and respect to my own safety require me to endeavour to save you from the issue, of which I have such awful forebodings. We must both stand before the Son of man, and each one must give an account of himself and of his stewardship to God. -- From our connextion here, there will probably be some interest in each other in that day; and I cannot bear the thought of your being able to say when the scheme of Universalism shall all vanish like the baseless fabric of a vision, and all the hopes built upon it will be like the spider's web and like the giving up of the ghost, that you should be able to say, I never warned you of this issue, nor admonished you of your danger.
I know not with what sentiments you will receive this address, nor what use you may make of it; my concern is with the sentiments and spirit that dictate it. I think they are such as will induce me continually to pray that you may not pierce yourself through with many sorrows, nor be left to mourn at the last.
Your friend and humble servant,
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH BUCKMINSTER.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN'Y.1, 1810.
Rev. Sir, -- The receipt of your affectionate, friendly address, bearing date December 28, 1809, is gratefully acknowledged, and although I have not words fully adequate to express the satisfaction I feel arising from the circumstance and spirit of your epistle, I cannot be willing to suppress my feelings so much as not to notice, that it is with uncommon pleasure that I appreciate your favour, which, I am happy to acknowledge, is a demonstration of that friendship first reciprocated at your house, and secondly recapitulated in your epistle. This friendship founded, as you justly observe, in the law of our common nature and in the spirit and principles of the christian religion, is such an inexhaustible treasure of moral riches that the aggregate sum of earthly wealth is poverty in the comparison.
This friendship, sir, being founded on such principles, will undoubtedly last as long as such principles remain; and if you are my real friend on the principle of the law of our common nature, so long as you possess the law of our common nature, you will be my real friend; and if you are my real friend, on the principles and spirit of the christian religion, so long as you possess the principles and spirit of the christian religion, you will remain my real friend. And if I be, as I trust in God I am, your real friend, on those imperishable principles, I shall continue to possess this friendship for you so long as I possess those principles. If these observations on friendship be correct, as I conceive they are, you will know why I so highly prize the treasure, especially when I find it in a man capable of exercising it to so much advantage as your learning, ability and experience enable you to do. You justly observe that neither piety nor friendship dictated the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" How different must have been the spirit which dictated that question from the spirit of him who saith, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, my mother's children were angry with me, they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept?
Your next observation is highly worthy, not only of general consideration, but of particular notice; and I am the more pleased with it on account of its falling from your pen as I am sure you must understand the truths which are necessarily connected with the one expressed in the observation; your words are, "there is a reciprocal responsibility among mankind both for the interest of time and eternity." As it cannot reasonably require any argument to discover the propriety of supposing that the eternal interest of mankind is connected with eternal causes and predicated on eternal principles, so when it is acknowledged that a reciprocal responsibility exists among mankind for their eternal interest, it is evident that this reciprocal responsibility is eternal. Should any conviction of mind render it necessary that we give up the idea of the eternal nature of this reciprocal responsibility, that conviction would drive the idea of eternal interest, predicated on such responsibility from our mind. How noble are your sentiments communicated in this observation! How rich must you and I feel in the enjoyment of such reciprocal principles and in the consequent interest arising from them; not only for time, but for eternity!
You very justly observe again -- "Were I to see you or any others exposing themselves to danger or running into situations which I apprehended would be destructive, friendship would require me to warn and admonish, and to endeavour to restrain." These expressions, sir, illustrate the good fruits of real friendship, and as our Saviour has told us that the tree is known by its fruits, so we are to distinguish between real and pretended friends by their fruits. Suppose, sir, we move the position a little, and say, notwithstanding you warn me and endeavour to restrain me from danger, I persist in my error, and my calamity comes upon me; in this situation you come and tell me that you are heartily glad that I am tormented, and that you are glad to think there is no probability of my misery's being any less; that you feel no pity for me now; could I look back and remember your warning, and believe that you warned me out of real friendship? We have just seen that friendship predicated on the law of our common nature and on the principles and spirit of the Christian religion must necessarily be as durable as those eternal principles. It is no less the characteristic of real friendship to endeavour to meliorate than to preserve from sufferings.
On observing your admonitions, and believing you sincere in them, I am led to say, that had I such a friend as you are who possessed the means for making me eternally happy, I might entertain no doubt of obtaining the inestimable enjoyment; nor do I view you, sir, less a friend because you do not possess a power which is equal to the putting of all your friendly desires into full execution, but will acknowledge you my worthy friend, and accept the warnings which you give me against the system of doctrine which, as you say, I have embraced and come among this people to advocate, as a token of that friendship which would, if connected with suitable power, place me out of all final danger, or which would cause you to rejoice exceedingly, had you the evidence to believe that one who has such power possesses even stronger desires for my eternal welfare than you do.
You inform me that you do not know what system of Universalism I have embraced. Permit me, sir, to inform you, though you do not request it, that I have embraced the system of Universalism, which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob embraced, in believing God, who said, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." If this faith of Abraham were imputed to him for righteousness, it must be a true faith, and if true, worthy to be embraced by all nations and families of the earth, without the exception of an individual. Permit me further to observe that I disclaim all authors as divine guides, except the divine author of those scriptures which cannot be broken.
You rightly apprehend me in supposing that I believe and teach that all mankind will be saved, restored and associated with Christ Jesus in realms of glory; but I do not believe as you intimate, that human ingenuity, or plausible and sophistic reasoning are necessary to the support of this doctrine among men; nor will I attempt to say how sorry I am that you should declare the doctrine not true until you had produced a "thus saith the Lord" to prove it false; or that you should intimate that I am employing human ingenuity or plausible and sophistic reasoning to support the universal benevolence of God until the disagreeable circumstance should transpire, in which I might be justly thus charged.
Although in order to please myself, I might explain your meaning as directed against some others of the advocates of the heavenly gospel of universal salvation; I could find but little satisfaction in thus endeavoring to avoid any reproach which is directed against the true disciples of my divine Master.
You inform me that as universal salvation is not true, "it can have no effect in quickening into life or of sanctifying the soul, for it is the spirit that quickeneth, and the truth, which sanctifies." If, dear sir, you do not believe that the spirit of salvation quickeneth into life, would it not have been proper to inform me what spirit does? And I should have highly esteemed an illustration of the evidence which you have, that the truth, that mankind will remain eternally unsanctified, will sanctify the soul! I fully believe that as far as any proposition is capable of being proved from the written word, or of being demonstrated by logical reasoning from acknowledged facts, the doctrine of the salvation of all men is capable of being proved and substantially maintained. Does it require human ingenuity or plausible and sophistic reasoning to make it appear from the scriptures that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man; that he gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time; that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; that it is the will of God that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; that he worketh all things after the council of his own will? -- Does it require this ingenuity, &c. to substantiate from the written word that the promise to Abraham will be fulfilled, and that all nations whom God hath made shall come and worship before him and glorify his name; that Jesus will in the fulness of time, reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth, or things under the earth; that he will gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him? If it be an acknowledged fact that God will bless all the families of the earth in Christ, that all nations which God hath made shall come and worship before him and glorify his name, that Jesus gave himseif a ransom for all men to be testified in due time, that he did by the grace of God taste death for every man, that he will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, that he hath made known the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he would gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, and that he worketh all things after the council of his own will, then the doctrine of the salvation of all men is as fully acknowledged as language can possibly express, or my error lies in not understanding the force of words and sentences.
By what method, sir, would it be proper for me to express my surprise at your introducing the words recorded in the 13th chapter of Ezekiel, and at the 22d verse, as a testimony against the doctrine of universal salvation? "Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the wicked that he should not turn from his wicked way by promising him life;" -- Must I suppose, sir, that you believe, that the lies mentioned in this quotation were promises of life in the seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed? I cannot believe this of a man of your understanding, and yet cannot conceive why you adduce this passage as proof that Christ is not the life of all men. Is it not evident that those who were addressed in that text were such as promised the people life in the vain traditions which they had established, by which they made void the law? And what does the Lord say that he would finally do in this case? -- See verse 23d, "Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations; for I will deliver my people out of your hands, and ye shall know that I am the Lord." This is very far from saying that they should be endlessly miserable. Christ is the Lord our righteousness, and his heart was made sad by the traditions of the house of Israel and by the Rabbis who promised the people life in their vain customs which they had established for religion: and I would acknowledge this passage justly urged against the doctrine which I should vindicate, should I set up any thing but Christ and him crucified, on which to depend for life and salvation; but you leave this quotation as if you had done what you hardly meant to do, by observing that you do not intend to enter into a dispute on this subject, neither to enlarge on arguments to support your own sentiments nor to disprove mine.
You think that no good would result from the argument however temperately conducted it might be, assigning the pride of peculiarity, and the influence of party views as sufficient barriers to prevent success. In this observation may I say without offending, sir, you are inexplicit, or wanting in propriety, and premature in application. Temperate men are not governed in their religious researches by the pride of peculiarity nor the influence of party views, and a faithful trial ought to have been made in order to convince of error before the charge of pride of peculiarity, or the influence of party views, could with propriety have been made. I am disposed to believe when persons are candid and temperate in an investigation, they generally obtain light and edification. I will say for myself, notwithstanding I highly prize your solemn warnings, and believe them as proceeding from the most commendable sentiments of friendship, I should have been much pleased if you had accompanied them with the best and most forcible arguments of which you are master, against the doctrine which you are disposed to say in so many words "it not true." The small still voice to which you recommended my attention has never told me that Christ was not the Saviour of all men.
May we not suppose that this voice is uniform in its testimony? Do tell me, sir, if that voice ever told you that it was not the will of God that all men should be saved! Is it not by the influence of the spirit of this voice that you pray for the salvation of all men? And would this small still voice tell you that it is not God's will to save all men, and then induce you to pray for all men? If I be not a stranger to this heavenly voice which teaches me to wrap myself in my mantle, the Lord my righteousness, it influences me to pray in faith, nothing doubting, for the salvation of all men.
In your truly affecting entreaty you direct my mind to the day of judgment when I am called to give an account of my stewardship, and ask what my situation must be, if the system I advocate should in final evidence, prove false? I have seriously thought on this question; and this is my conclusion: My judge will know that I am, in this instance, honest and sincere; he will know how hardly I wrestled against his written word in order to avoid believing that he would save all men, and he will know that my deception was in understanding his word as a simple, honest man would understand a plain testimony void of scholastic dress. In this case I am willing to throw myself on the mercy of the judge. On the other hand, dear sir, I have made a calculation too. Suppose I adhere to your testimony, that the doctrine I believe is not true, and abandon it as a heresy, preach it down to the utmost of my ability, and the doctrine at last, when you and I stand before that judge who knows the hearts of all men, should in final evidence of the law and prophets, prove true, of which I have not the least shadow of doubt in my mind, with what a blush must I give up my account! My judge who has suffered every thing for me, asks me, why did you deny me, forsake my cause, and use the abilities which I gave you to preach that dishonourable doctrine that I did not redeem all men, or that I would not finally reconcile all men to myself, and cause them all to love me heartily in bliss and glory? I, abashed beyond description, must answer, a man, who, I conceived was my friend and who preached that God my Saviour, never intended to save all men, told me the doctrine I preached was not true! O, how would my soul thrill with grief when a look, such as was cast on Peter after he denied his Lord, should accompany this question, and who told you in the first place it was true?
I appeal to the searcher of hearts for the sincerity of my soul when I say, my dear sir, I feel an uncommon desire to cultivate friendship with you, and were it possible for me to gratify you in any thing that should be consistent with my duty to my God, I think I should not shrink from the service; but should the multitude, whose hearts have been made joyful in the salvation of all men, become so blinded as to renounce the sentiments, I must remain unshaken, until more than human testimony stands against the doctrine.
I am very sensible of the propriety of the observation, that the sincerity of a belief does not prove the thing believed to be true; for though I cannot say so much as you do, viz. "that I know how far men may be deluded and deceived," yet I am sensible that men may be deceived and yet be honest; and it is on this ground, that I have charity for those who believe and preach different from me.
Towards the conclusion of your epistle, you intimate that you wish not to have me say at last, when my doctrine issues in my mourning, that you had not warned me. Be assured, sir, if I may be so much at my own disposal at the last day, that I will not say, you did not warn me; but if my doctrine be false at last, and you are asked why you did not prove from the written word to my understanding that I was in an error, will you say in answer, that it would have been such a tax upon time, that you could not afford it, that you could not or did not wish to? As the passages which you quote on your last page are designed to illustrate what I believe to be a fact, I forbear, at this time, an illustration of them, in which, the impropriety of the common mode of understanding them might be made to appear. Should you be disposed to attempt to correct my ideas in this epistle, or my doctrine in general, by turning to the great touchstone, the law and the testimony, be as ample, sir, as your inclination and opportunity will admit. Every argument shall be duly attended to with prayerful solicitude to obtain conviction, if it can be found; and whatever light I gain I will gratefully acknowledge, and wherein I do not agree with you, I will give you my reasons.
Your most obliged friend and humble servant,
Rev. J. BUCKMINSTER.
P.S. If I have been so unfortunate, in the foregoing epistle make choice of any words which indicate too much freedom, please to impute it to a frankness which perhaps I sometimes indulge to a fault, and not to any want of due respect. H.B.
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PORTSMOUTH, JAN.10, 1810.
Dear Sir, -- It was not my intention, in the letter which I sometime since addressed to you, to enter into a discussion of the subject of Universalism, much less, for reasons that were suggested, provoke a dispute upon it. I therefore endeavoured so to express myself that no reply should be necessary.
My object was to discharge what I thought a duty of friendship and affection, rendered more necessary by my personal declarations to you at my house, by stating to you with frankness and decision what I was persuaded would be the final result of that sentiment which you have embraced, and are advocating among us; and to fulfil a duty which I owe to myself, and to Him who has set me here to be a watchman, that I might use every proper precaution to appear before my Judge at last with unstained garments, preclude an occasion for a crimination and reproach, and give up my account with joy and not with grief.
I might have a secret hope that the apprehensions so seriously and candidly suggested might excite you to review your sentiments, and renewedly compare them with the only standard, and that this serious, calm and retired exercise might be accompanied with an influence from above, that might alter your views and conclusions upon the subject; but my principal design was to discharge what I thought my duty as above stated. You have thought it your duty to remark upon the address, and intimate an expectation that I should rejoin; your professions and candor have induced me for a time, to hesitate whether I ought not, in this instance, to depart from my general resolutions, and this hesitation has had influence in my delay to notice your letter. But the result of my hesitations, reflections and prayer, is a more full persuasion, that if the writings of Dr. Edwards, Dr. Strong and others who have discussed the subject, and which doubtless you have seen, have produced no hesitation or conviction in your mind, it would be vain and idle to expect it from any efforts of mine; and that it would be a misuse of time, which might be employed in more hopeful prospects of usefulness. This is a reason which I at present feel satisfied to give to God and my conscience for declining to enter upon a discussion of this subject, and I trust it will be accepted at the tribunal of God. To that tribunal I humbly and cheerfully refer the decision of the question that would be matter of dispute between us, from which decision there will be no appeal, and to which there will be no liberty to reply. I reciprocate the tender of every office of friendship consistent with what I think my duty to God and my conscience, and shall not cease to pray that those who have erred from the truth may be recovered from their errors, and being sanctified by the truth, may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your friend and well wisher.
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH BUCKMINSTER.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN.11, 1810.
Rev. Sir, -- Your favour of yesterday is acknowledged with that respectful submission which your age and experience, together with the spirit and import of your note justly impose, and with gratitude also, for an obligation which I wished to be under in being satisfied of your having received my epistle of the 1st inst. This I learn by the friendly rebuke in your first section in which you speak of my reply as unnecessary, and also by your condescending to refer to it again in your fourth section. Had I, sir, viewed your address altogether in the light which you inform me you did, or had you informed me that a reply would not be expected, I should by no means have troubled you contrary to your wishes. However, as you are an experienced judge of all such matters, so you will condescend to pardon me if in your judgment my epistle is destitute of important subjects. You are so kind as to repeat the design of your address again, certifying me that your object was to discharge the office of friendship, by stating to me with frankness and decision what you are persuaded will be the final result of that sentiment which I have embraced and am advocating. No man, sir, will ever be more ready to acknowledge a friendly office with sentiments of gratitude than your humble servant; but I am sure it cannot be expected by you, that I should receive the testimony of a man, however friendly to me, as a decision against that gospel which I did not receive of man, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Your precautions in warning me as they regard your final justification before God, I hope will be superceded by the acceptable atonement of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; though that shall not render your faithfulness void of approbation in a subordinate sense. The secret hope which you entertained of exciting me, by your serious apprehensions to review my sentiments and renewedly to compare them with the only standard, would perhaps appear not altogether so necessary, did you know that my daily business is to study the law and the testimony, which increase their light as they are more examined, and furnish every hour I study them, new proofs of the unbounded goodness of God to the sinful race of Adam. O my dear friend! Could you but know the inexpressible consolation and peace which I enjoy in believing that he, who gave himself a ransom for all men, will finally see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied, you could not feel concerned about the final issue of the doctrine which I believe and advocate!
I feel that my blessed Lord and kind Redeemer deserves every exertion of mine to persuade men to the knowledge of that truth which would make them free; nor can I easily forbear to express my desire that your greater experience and better abilities might be employed in shewing to poor benighted sinners the divine amplitude of gospel grace for the salvation of all mankind. I believe, dear sir, if it should please God to discover this soul rejoicing truth to you, that the angels would rejoice in heaven, and saints on earth would be made exceeding glad: yes, your church and parish would follow you with rapturous joy to the fountain which is open for Judah and Jerusalem to wash in from sin and uncleanness, and to which the fulness of the Gentiles shall be gathered.
I am not at all disposed to complain of your decision not to enter into an investigation of the doctrine against the truth of which you have opposed your testimony; though I should hardly have believed that in your judgment, such a testimony could have been thought proper unless preceded or succeeded by some colour of evidence. No man, my dear sir, is less calculated to enjoy a dry, unfruitful controversy on religious sentiments than I am -- though I wish to hold myself in perpetual readiness to give an answer to every man who may ask me a reason for the hope that is within me with meekness and fear.
The arguments of Dr. Edwards and Dr. Strong being disposed to represent the divine economy of grace less extensive than the plain and positive promises of God, the testimony of the prophets, the word of life through Christ and the witnessing apostles, have declared it to be, stand forever refuted by that cloud of witnesses, as they are also by the spirit of Christ in every humble believing heart. It is far more easy for the rational lover of Christ to believe those learned doctors, deceived by the vain traditions of the schools, than to believe that the grace of God in Christ Jesus is less extensive than his word and spirit declare it to be.
If there never were a true Christian whose desires did not extend to the whole human race, that all might be brought to a saving repentance and to holy and happy life in Christ, then Jesus has never left himself without a witness in his disciples, that all the creeds of men which limit the divine favour are false. With whatsoever panics worms of the dust may have struck their fellow worms by challenging them to a decision of their weak, insignificant notions at a tribunal of an omnipotent judge, such solemn appeals can have but little effect on the humble mind who leans not to his own wisdom, and who views every thing already decided in the eternal system of that God whose tender mercies are over all the works of his hands.
The mode in which you express the circumstance of final judgment is rather indicative of what I hope you do not mean, as it intimates that too much freedom has been assumed by me in presuming to reply to your address. There is much to excite my gratitude in the assurance you give me of reciprocating offices of friendship, consistent with duty to God; -- and while you, sir, give me to understand that I have an interest in your prayers, permit me to beg your supplications, that I may be faithful unto death; and to assure you of my humble desire that you may continue to be useful to your fellow pilgrims while you live, and find acceptance with God through Christ at last. Your most obliged friend and humble servant in Christ. HOSEA BALLOU.
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A NOTE FROM THE REV. DR. BUCKMINSTER TO THE REV. MR. BALLOU.
FRIDAY, P. M.
It is a duty which Mr. Buckminster owes to himself to declare that the thought of intimating that it was any assumption or presumption in Mr. Ballou to reply to his address, never once entered his mind; and he is sorry if any thing in Mr. Buckminster's communications could give ground to suspect such foolish vanity; but it confirms the correctness of the opinion, that disputes however temperately conducted are rarely productive of any good. All that he meant was that the decision at the tribunal of God would be final.
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A NOTE FROM THE REV. MR. BALLOU TO THE REV. DR. BUCKMINSTER, IN REPLY.
SATURDAY, P. M.
Mr. Ballou is happy to acknowledge the honour done him by the Doctor's note of Friday, P. M. by which he realizes the hope expressed in his epistle of the 11th inst, that what appeared to be intimated by the Doctor's letter of the 10th inst. in relation to final judgment was not meant. In the mean time Mr. Ballou thinks it a duty which he owes to himself to point out to the Doctor the items in his letter which were misunderstood. The Doctor's expression, "I therefore endeavoured so to express myself that no reply should be necessary," was understood to intimate that the reply was unnecessary; and the Doctor's expression, "there will be no liberty to reply," was understood to intimate that liberty had been assumed unnecessarily. In confirming the opinion, that "disputes however temperately conducted, are rarely productive of any good." Mr. Ballou thinks his mistake has produced but little consequence, as that opinion was so confirmed before, that even a reason for an assertion could not with propriety be given.
FROM THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON TO THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU.
PORTSMOUTH, Nov.19, 1810.
Dear Friend, -- I take this method to write to you, with a desire you would receive it as a friendly admonition. You recollect, no doubt, that I have heard you make two speeches at funerals, as they are commonly called, one at the grave and the other at the house of sorrow and mourning, upon a very solemn and singular occasion. At the grave you were short, and said, if I mistake not, viewing the grave, "this is the house appointed for all living," two or three times, and then said, "what reflection shall we make from it? is it done by an enemy? has the Almighty suffered the government to be taken out of his hands?" -- and spake as if death was originally designed by the Almighty for the good of mankind, and made it a very desirable thing. My dear sir, doth not the bible, which is the word of God, or the scriptures of truth say, "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom. v.12, and Rom. vi.23, "For the wages of sin is death." God who is a gracious and holy sovereign "made man upright, but he sought out many inventions." By listening unto that apostate spirit, Satan, he transgressed and disobeyed his maker and sovereign, by eating the forbidden fruit. "God made man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it; and the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it, for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shall surely die." Gen. ii.15, 17. Sin is that enemy that introduced or was the cause of death, as we may further see by considering that portion of scripture, I John. iii.8, "He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning." For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Sin is the work of the devil; "the soul that sins shall die." If you will read the whole chapter and seriously consider it, and pray to God through Jesus Christ to open your understanding, that you may understand the scriptures, you would not misappply and pervert them as I fear you do. In your speaking at the house of mourning, you began and spake very eloquently at first upon death; then you brought forward the same ideas, with respect to death, as you did before at the grave. I do not remember that you, at either place, spake one word of the necessity or nature of repentance. Christ began his personal and public ministry by preaching repentance, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" -- again, "but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," Luke xiii.5. And after his resurrection from the dead he appeared to his disciples and confirmed them in the certainty of it, and chose them witnesses of the truth of it, and said "thus it is written, and thus it behoveth Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in my name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things," Luke xxiv.46, 47, 48. The apostles, after Christ's ascension, practised as he commanded them, as we may see by reading the Acts of the apostles, Peter in particular, in the 2d and 3d chapters; and we do not find that they ever gave any encouragement that their hearers could or should be forgiven their sins without faith and repentance. Peter says, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" which presupposes that if they did not repent and be turned to God by converting grace their sins would not be forgiven. Thus the apostle Paul preached, see Acts xxvi.18, 19, 20, which I entreat you to read and seriously to consider. See likewise 20th chap. of the Acts of the apostles, how he appealed to the elders of the church; in the 17th verse it is written, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church; and when they were come to him he said unto them, ye know from the first day I came into Asia after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations which befell me, by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you and have taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." The apostles spake of the nature of repentance that they should bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and that Godly sorrow worked repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For a minister of the New Testament to advance such doctrine as will give hopes to their hearers that all will be happy in a future state, whether they have repented or no, is not preaching as Christ and his apostles preached. If we know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, what will be the consequence? See 2 Thes. i.8, 9. Ministers are directed by the inspired apostle Paul; see in his epistles to Timothy and Titus. See 2 Tim.4th chap. from 1st to the end, the 5th verse, which I would entreat and beseech you to read and seriously consider. He, in some of those verses referred to, says to Timothy, "Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine; for the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make proof of thy ministry." Paul was just about to leave the world; the time of his departure was at hand; the above were his dying words to his beloved son Timothy (in the faith.) The blessed and beloved apostle had through grace kept the faith, that is, the true faith of the gospel; he had finished his course, he had fought a good fight, and henceforth he says, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which God the righteous judge shall give me at that day; and not only to me, but unto all them also, that love his appearing. You, my friend, once professed the true faith of the gospel -- have you kept it? I think not. I fear you have fallen from it. You are now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world, but it makes against you, according to scripture; the apostle John says, in 1st epistle, 4th chap, 5th and 6th verses, "They are of the world; therefore the world heareth them. We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us; hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." I beseech you again, my friend, examine and seriously consider the first five verses of that chapter, and pray God through Jesus Christ that he would open it to your understanding: Solomon says, "My son, lean not to your own understanding." I could not but observe with what an emphasis you at the grave mentioned those selected texts of scripture which you supposed would confirm your hearers in the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Would Christ or the apostles preach Universal Salvation in one place of scripture, and in another contradict it? I believe they would not. I am an old man, and have studied the scriptures twenty or thirty years; yea, I may say more or less from my youth up; I find it the best way of study, to compare scripture with scripture; to consider the preceding and following context; to be self-diffident; and to be much in prayer, that it would please God, by his holy spirit, to lead and guide us into all necessary truth; and I do not think it amiss to use sound authors, for as we are in some measure dependant on one another for temporal, so I think we may, under God, be for spiritual assistance; though by no means to put our trust in an arm of flesh.
We may observe how earnest David in prayer to God was in the 25th Psalm. He was a prophet as well the royal Psalmist, yet he comes in a very humble manner to God in prayer that he would shew him his ways, and teach him his paths; and in that Psalm, 8th verse, says, "good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek he will teach his way." But if men will undertake to explain scripture in their own strength and wisdom, what must we expect but to have them mangled and made havoc of, or explained in a mere mystical or literal sense? "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." See I Cor. ii.14.
As you did not say any thing about the resurrection of the dead in either of your speeches, I began to query in my mind whether you believed it or no. I think, yea, I know, it was preached by Christ, and explained so as to confute the Sadducees. Our Lord says, "Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." St. Paul in his defence before the Roman governor when accused by an orator, whom the Jews employed, as he was allowed to speak for himself, said, "they cannot prove the thing, whereof they now accuse me; but this I confess after the way which they call heresy; so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets, and have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow; that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; and herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man." We may observe what an influence the belief of a future state of rewards and punishments had on the blessed apostle to excite him to live a godly and self-denying life. In 2 Cor. v.10, 11, speaking of a day of judgment, "when every one must give an account for himself as the deeds have been done in the body, that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done whether it be good or bad;" and says, "knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." My friend, is there the least room for us to believe from this scripture and many others, that the wicked who have died impenitent and in a disbelief of the gospel or without the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent, have eternal life, in the fruition and enjoyment of God? Heaven consists in being made like God, and enjoying him: hence it is, that the pious thirst for God, the living God, saying, when shall I come and appear before him? Again, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee. My flesh and heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever." These pious breathings are the exercises of the children of God. O may they be ours.
PORSTMOUTH, Nov.19, 1810.
P. S. The within, enclosed, my friend, I can assure you was not written to you in this manner, as God is my judge, from an envious and bitter spirit, for I love and esteem your person, as a friend, who has, from my first acquaintance with you, treated me with great respect. I see, on the Lord's days, great numbers of precious souls going and returning from your meeting; and, as far as I know my own heart, I do not envy you for that; but have often prayed that the gifts and natural abilities you have might be sanctified and turned into right improvements, which is the glory of God and the saving benefit of your hearers. May it please God to make you an able and faithful minister of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. From your friend and humble servant, JOSEPH WALTON, Pastor,
Of the Independent Congregational Church in Portsmouth.
TO MR. HOSEA BALLOU, PASTOR OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH AND SOCIETY IN PORTSMOUTH.
Sir, -- You may observe by the date, the letter has been written some time; but by several avocations I have not had time to correct and copy it until the present date, December 7, 1810.
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON.
PORTSMOUTH, DEC.11, 1810.
Rev. Sir, -- It is with pleasure that I hasten to acknowledge the receipt of your "friendly admonition," bearing date December 7th, which came to my hand late last evening, which I assure you is accepted as a token of friendship, and a mark of particular attention; and merits, as I conceive, a grateful acknowledgement as well as an early answer.
Your admonition begins by taking notice of what you conceive an egregious error which you have heard me suggest at two several funerals. You say that I "spake as if death was originally designed, by the Almighty, for the good of mankind." This statement you consider of such a dangerous nature that it renders an admonition necessary. But, dear sir, there are two important ideas contained in the above short sentence, and you have not distinguished between them, nor informed me whether it be both, or only one which is thus reprehensible.
That God originally designed death, is one idea; that he designed it for the good of mankind is another idea. In order to do you justice and to attach no other meaning to your communication than such as I conceive to be consistent with your real sentiments, I must suppose that you would not wish to fault the first of those ideas, as it is an item in your creed, that "God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass;" of course, you believe that God originally designed death. But, that God designed death for the good of mankind, I do not know it to be an article of your faith, and therefore, may, without doing you any injustice, suppose that you believed that God originally designed death, but not for the good of mankind! Here, sir, I acknowledge that my sentiment differs from yours; and as you have given me no reason why God should not have designed death for the good of mankind, I have only to consider the "friendly admonition," with which you oppose my idea. I would query why the idea that God should design death for the good of mankind renders me justly admonishable? Would the idea, should I avow it, that God designed death for the damage of mankind, render me commendable? So, it seems; but at this expense I cannot avoid admonition! I would further query what interest God could have consulted which required him to design death for a damage to those creatures whom he made subject to death? And I think it expedient to ask how God can be justified, in the sight of his rational creatures, if the idea be once established that he designed evil against them, even before they existed?
I feel it to be my duty, dear sir, to call on you to support this high allegation against the Father of our spirits. I would not pretend that you designed to bring an allegation against our Creator, but I am satisfied that every unprejudiced mind must see the nature of an allegation in what you are disposed to maintain. For if we say God, our Creator, designed death for the damage of those dependent beings whom he has made, it is giving him a character which, I believe, the wisest of men would find it difficult to justify.
Again, if the notion be true, that God designed death for the damage of mankind, is it not from hence evident that he was an enemy to mankind when he thus designed? Now, if God be considered an enemy to mankind even before he made them, I wish to know what reason can be given why mankind ought to love God since creation?
In relation to a number of scriptures which you have quoted, seemingly with a design to illustrate the foregoing subject, I can only say, that if any or all those passages relate at all to the subject, that relation is out of my sight. And I can truly say, that I am glad that there is nothing, in any part of the scripture, so contrary to good sense and reason as to support the notion that God is an enemy to the works of his own hands. I believe, sir, if I prove from scripture that God designed death for the good of mankind, it must be considered a substantial support of what you wish to oppose; and will also be considered as placing the scripture doctrine on the most reasonable principle.
1st. I will show that death is not a token of God's enmity towards mankind. As a proof of this, see Rom. viii.38, 39, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This passage is a full and positive proof that neither death nor any thing else, is a token of God's enmity to mankind.
2d. I will now show that death was designed by God for the good of men. Which to do, I must learn of Jesus. He is the truth. Was his death designed, by the eternal Father, for the good of mankind, or not? Was his death a token of God's love to the world, or was it a token of his enmity? See Rom. v.8, "But God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." This same apostle, believing in Christ, who, he says, was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, in a short, but comprehensive inventory of the things which are ours, has placed death among them. See 1 Cor. iii.21, 22, 23, "Therefore, let no man glory in men: for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Again, he says, to the Phil. i.21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Nothing appears more evident than that the death of Christ was designed for the good of mankind; and as he is the head of every man, so his death is considered, in the scriptures, a gracious benefit to every man; as the apostle expresses it, "That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." And again, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive." Who can impartially consider those scriptures and suppose that God designed death for a damage to mankind? I view death, sir, as an appointment of God, a friendly messenger, sent to dissolve a tabernacle of corruption and vanity, at the dissolution of which, "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave it."
Your admonition in the next place suggests, that "if" I "will read the whole chapter (meaning the 3d chapter of the 1st of John) and seriously consider it, and pray to God, through Jesus Christ, to open" my "understanding, that" I "may understand the scriptures," I "would not misapply and pervert them, as" you "fear" I "do."
Rev. Sir, are you sufficiently acquainted with my preaching and writing on the scriptures to warrant the propriety of the suggestion, that I am in the habit of misapplying and perverting the holy writings? Are you sufficiently acquainted with my retired studies and religious exercises to warrant the suggestion that I get along without acknowledging the wisdom of God? I humbly request you to reconsider this part of your admonition, and see if it do not wear the appearance of judging another who must stand or fall to his own master. In the mean time I wish to observe, that a friendly advice to be constant in fervent supplication and prayer would be received by me as a mark of christian friendship and fellowship. But I will ask you the question, if you would be willing to have me go into your desk with you in presence of your church and congregation, and there read the whole of the above named chapter, then in humble and solemn prayer to Almighty God, through Christ Jesus, implore a just and true understanding of his word and truth contained in that portion of his written will, and close my performance with a candid dissertation on the chapter? Grant me liberty to do this in your hearing; after which I will not object to your pointing out any misapplication or perversion which you may think you discover. By what law is a man condemned without first hearing his defence?
Again, your admonition suggests, that I did not, at either of the funerals where you heard me perform, speak one word of the necessity or nature of repentance. In this particular I believe you made a mistake at both places, which mistake, I believe I can rectify to your recollection. In the first place, I wish to observe that I as much believe in those scriptures which speak of the necessity of repentance as I do in any part of the sacred writings. But, after all, you and I may entertain very different ideas respecting the preaching of repentance. The opinion that repentance is preached when a public speaker tells his congregation that their eternal salvation depends on their repentance, that eternal misery must inevitably be their doom unless they repent is an opinion to which I have no reason to subscribe.
Preaching repentance, I conceive is teaching men and giving them such divine instructions as bring their minds to discover more glorious things than the sins and carnal vanities of this world; which teaching produces a returning of the mind to the things of God and his ever blessed kingdom. The word repent may or may not be used in the giving of such instructions. I conceive a preacher of Jesus Christ, warmed with the spirit of eternal love, breathing forth the gracious words of truth, may successfully preach repentance as well without the use of the word repent as with it. At both those places of sorrow, dear sir, I endeavoured to lead the mourners' minds to the consideration of eternal things; I endeavoured to represent God our Creator and Governor, as a friend to his creatures, and strove to the utmost of my power to fix the love, regard and confidence of our mourning friends on God our Creator. This you will recollect, and I cannot suppose that you believe that a person can truly believe in the divine goodness, and love his Creator as the greatest good, and put confidence in him, so as to draw consolation, in the day of adversity, from such confidence, and still be a stranger to true penitence.
The many scriptures which you have judiciously quoted to prove the propriety of the doctrine of repentance are justly applied, as I conceive; and I accord with you in their use and meaning as far as you have explained them. I would wish to be understood that whenever repentance is spoken of as a creature act, originating in creature agency, it is represented directly contrary to the scripture sense as expressed in Acts v.31, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
From the above passage it is evident that repentance is no more dependent on creature agency than the forgiveness of sins; and the idea that repentance is a grant of divine favour is plainly expressed in Acts xi.18, "Then hath God also, to the Gentiles, granted repentance unto life." By the above testimonies the idea that repentance is a creature condition, on which the divine favour is bestowed, is proved erroneous.
The next particular which your "friendly admonition" occupies, is the subject of Universal Salvation in the following words: "I could not but observe with what emphasis you, at the grave, mentioned those selected texts of scripture which you supposed would confirm your hearers in the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Would Christ or the apostles preach Universal Salvation in one place of scripture, and in another contradict it? I believe they would not." In the above particular, sir, I agree with you in all which you express. I do not believe that Christ or any of his apostles ever contradicted the glorious doctrine, in which they all preached of Universal Salvation. And until this contradiction can be shewn in their preaching, you and I have full liberty to believe in God as "the Saviour of all men." Christ gave himself a ransom for all men; tasted death for every man; is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He says he will draw all men unto him, and he also says that "him that cometh after me I will in no wise cast out." St. Paul says that God will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. To which testimony we might add an immense number of scriptures from the Old and New Testaments; and as you agree that Christ and his apostles would not preach Universal Salvation in one place, and contradict it in another, so you must, of necessity subscribe to the uniformity of the scripture doctrine in the Salvation of all men.
You inform me, that you are an "old man;" this I was sensible of before, in consequence of which, I have more particularly endeavoured to cultivate an acquaintance with you, since I have been in this town; for I conceive that the aged are not only entitled to the respects and attention of the younger, but the younger are also entitled to the advantages of their experience and wisdom.
You further tell me, that you have studied the scriptures twenty or thirty years. On this account, sir, I covet earnestly your assistance; for although I have studied the scriptures almost constantly twenty years out of less than forty, yet I find but a few who are notable to assist me in this agreeable employment. The happy method which you recommend, I have for many years endeavoured to observe, for I am sure that most of the vulgar errors, in respect to the scriptures, are for the want of a careful examination of all which is said on the same subjects.
Wherein you recommend the pious example of the prophet David, I fully accord in it, and would humbly hope and strive to be a partaker of the benefits arising from such an example.
What you say of men's explaining scripture in their own Strength and wisdom, and of their making havoc of, and mangling them by explaining them in a mystical or literal sense, I find myself rather embarrassed about. You begin your epistle under the character of a "friendly admonition," but what you mean by accusing me of the folly of mangling and making havoc of the scriptures when you do not attempt to show wherein I ever explained a passage wrong, I must leave for you to explain when it is convenient. Nor is it easy for me to understand you when you represent both the mystical and literal explanation of scripture equally erroneous. You immediately conclude those observations with the following quotation: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him." Did you mean that the natural man, supposing the things of the spirit of God to be foolishness, would say that the spirit mangled and made havoc of the scriptures? This could not be your meaning.
Your concluding query is the following; "My friend, is there the least room for us to believe from this scripture (meaning 2 Cor. v.10, 11) and many others, that the wicked who have lived impenitent and in a disbelief of the gospel, or without the true knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom God hath sent, have eternal life in the fruition and enjoyment of God?" This query I will endeavour to answer as plainly as possible.
1st. Unless we grant that a man has eternal life in Jesus Christ, given him before the foundation of the world, we cannot justly call him an unbeliever because he does not believe he has this eternal life in Christ. Nor can we say, with the least propriety, that he does not know the truth, because he does not know that which is not.
2d. If we allow that a man has eternal life in Christ, we must allow him to be an unbeliever if he do not believe it; and that he does not know the truth as it is in Jesus, if he be ignorant of this gift of eternal life.
3d. While a man is in a state of unbelief he is not in the enjoyment of the truth.
I conceive, sir, these observations must appear reasonable to any reasonable man; and therefore I suppose they will appear reasonable to you.
The passage in Corinthians alluded to, fully refutes the notion of endless rewards and punishments; for there it is stated, that "every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Now as this same apostle tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, if he mean that all who have sinned must be endlessly punished, he cannot mean that any of the human race will be eternally blessed according to their own works, nor yet according to the grace of God. And you, sir, cannot but see if one sinner can be rewarded according to his works and yet be saved by grace through faith, and that not of himself, but by the gift of God, all the sinners of Adam's race may be thus rewarded according to what they have done either good or bad, and yet be saved by grace as above.
Your suggestions respecting the resurrection require no other answer than that I profess to believe in the doctrine of the resurrection as taught by the scriptures, though I cannot flatter myself that that opinion agrees with the opinion of what you call sound authors. For myself, I call the writers of the holy scriptures sound authors, and those who differ from them I am willing to call orthodox according to our common schools of divinity. I join with you in a humble desire that the holy breathings of the true children of God may be yours and mine; and I am sensible if they be we shall not judge one another, nor condemn one another; but strive for the unity of the spirit in the bonds of divine peace. Yes, sir, I am confident that the true temper and spirit of the gospel, if possessed and practiced by the public ministers in this town, would lead them to open their doors to each other, to meet together and pray, preach, sing and exhort, in love and fellowship; but Antichrist's spirit is directly the reverse.
The assurance you give me in your postscript, that what you wrote to me was not written in an envious spirit is duly appreciated; nor do I much wonder that you do not envy me the numbers who attend my public ministry, while you suppose that they with innumerable multitudes of others are reprobated to endless sin and misery. Envy, in such a case, would be truly unaccountable! I will not say that I fully comprehend your meaning in calling the "great numbers" who attend my meeting, "precious souls." Why are they precious? To whom are they precious? If you view them the objects of divine love, of course you must suppose them to be precious in God's sight; but if not, why do you call them precious?
Your flattering acknowledgements of civilities received from me and the acceptableness of my person to you, is very gratefully considered, for it is an object with me to deserve the approbation of the pious who have treasured up much valuable knowledge by experience; and I wish to give you the fullest assurance possible that I consider my acquaintance with yourself highly worthy of further cultivation and improvement, which I shall always endeavour to promote, as opportunity may present, and it shall please you to favour.
Having noted the most important sections of your "friendly admonition" in as concise a manner as was convenient, permit me, dear sir, to make a few observations on the doctrine of Universal Salvation, that being a subject to which you allude in your epistle, though you did not see fit to plant any particular arguments against it. This doctrine I openly profess, and preach as a doctrine which I conceive is plainly taught in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; a doctrine which all good men in the world desire the truth of; a doctrine the most worthy of God of any ever published; a doctrine the best calculated to fill the soul of the believer with love to God and to our fellow creatures; a doctrine which harmonizes the divine attributes, the scriptures and every principle of reason and good sense, in a surprising and an astonishing manner; a doctrine, more than any other, calculated to destroy the hurtful animosities existing in the religious world; and to produce general fellowship and brotherly love; and in a word, I believe it to be the only doctrine which can be supported by reason or scripture, to a mind not improperly biased by tradition. Though I am sensible of your greater experience, yet I am willing to say to a man of your piety and Christian candor, that any arguments which you should see cause to lay before me, on the above subject, shall, by the blessing of God, receive an early attention and a judicious discussion.
In the spirit of the New Testament and not in the letter; in the spirit of life, and not in the death of the letter, in the spirit of salvation, and not of condemnation, I pray God, I may ever live and act according to your friendly desire; and feeling the same fervent desire for my highly esteemed and venerable friend, I acknowledge myself your most obliged and very humble servant, for Christ's sake.
Rev. Joseph Walton.
P.S. I have reserved three particulars in your "friendly admonition" for the subject of another communication.
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From the Same to the Same.
Portsmouth, Jan.5, 1811.
Rev. Sir, -- Having notified you in a postscript of my letter of Dec.11th, that I had reserved three particulars in your "friendly admonition" for the subject of another communication, I am disposed to embrace this opportunity to fulfil my engagement. The three particulars reserved are expressed, in your letter, in the following words:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. You, my friend, once professed the true faith of the gospel -- have you kept it? I think not. I fear you have fallen from it. You are now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world, but it makes against you according to scripture. The apostle John says in his 1st epistle 4th chapter 5th and 6th verses, They are of the world; therefore the world heareth them; we are of God; he that knoweth God, heareth us, he that is not of God, heareth not us; hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." I would not, dear sir, knowingly misapply your words, nor make a use of the above quotation contrary to their most plain and evident sense which I conceive is as follows:
1st. The doctrine which I believed before I believed as I do now, is the true gospel according to the testimony of the apostle John, in his 1st epistle, 4th chapter 5th and 6th verses.
2d. That in believing as I now do, I have fallen from that faith, and turned unto fables.
3d. My now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world is good proof that my doctrine is not of God, and that those who hear me are justly described by the apostle as heaping to themselves teachers having itching ears.
In the first place I shall agree with you in the supposition that when I first made a profession of religion, I believed the true gospel.
In the second place I shall endeavour to show that I have not fallen from that faith.
In the third place I will attempt to show that the evidence, which you think makes against me, is by no means sufficient to prove that the doctrine I now believe and preach is consistent with the lusts of the world or contrary to the true faith of the gospel.
1st. The true faith of the gospel as expressed in 1 John, 4th, &c. is as follows -- see verse 2, 3, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." The apostle here states in the most simple terms the true Christian faith, and brings it into such a short compass that none can mistake him. The belief that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is the true faith, and a denial of that fact is a false faith.
When I first professed religion I professed to believe that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh;" and this I am willing to say now is the true faith of the gospel, and the only article of faith which constituted a Christian believer in the opinion of the apostles; restricting this belief, at the same time, to Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Christ.
2d. I as much believe now as I ever did that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. I have as clear evidences now as I ever had that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. These things being facts, the conclusion is that I have not fallen from the true christian faith.
3d. The above faith I preach, believing and testifying that God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world; and I have reason to bless God that such feeble means are at all prospered, and that as you observe, "Great numbers of precious souls" adhere to the word, which I conceive is no evidence that the faith I preach is not of God, or that it is consistent with the lusts of the world. We are informed in the word of God, that the common people heard Christ gladly. Who did not hear him gladly? Answer, the Scribes and Pharisees. Do you think, sir, that the common people's hearing Christ gladly was a justifiable evidence to the Pharisees that he was not the true Messiah? When many thousands of men, women, and children flocked from their cities into desert places to hear the gracious words which proceeded from the lips of him who spake as never man spake, was it a justifiable evidence that he and his doctrine were not of God? To bring this matter, if possible, nearer home, should you find your meeting house crowded with hearers who expressed in their countenances an approbation of the doctrine which you preach, would it be sufficient evidence to convince you that your doctrine was not of God?
That the testimony that God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world is not consistent with the lusts of the world, is shown by St. Paul to Titus; "For the grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world."
I have not the least doubt in my mind, that if you and I preached more like our blessed master than we do, people in general, would be more engaged to hear us, and our meeting houses would be more thronged than they are now.
Should you hear a shepherd complaining that the increase of his flock was small, or that it rather diminished, you would think that evidence made against him.
I suppose the particular idea which you had in view, which constitutes, in your mind, an Apostasy, is, that Jesus Christ, who was manifested in the flesh, will, pursuant to power given to him of his father, save all men from their sins, and reconcile all things unto himself. This idea, I acknowledge, I did not see clearly in, when I first made a profession of a belief in Christ; but now am fully persuaded in it. However, I cannot see why the adopting of this particular idea should be called an Apostasy.
I will, sir, mention some similar cases, not wishing however, to be considered an equal subject to the personage whom I shall introduce. The apostle Peter was a believer in the true faith of the gospel, that is, he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God: and Jesus says to him, on that confession, that flesh and blood had not revealed it to him, but his Father. This belief Peter had before he believed that Christ should suffer on the cross and rise from the dead. After many trials and dreadful temptations in which this poor, dependent brother of ours experienced the fallibility of all human strength, he was privileged with positive evidence of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. -- Here I ask, was this new acquisition in Peter's faith an apostasy? Was it not an advancement? You will agree with me in this.
Again, this same apostle, even after he was endowed with power from on high, and preached and healed in the name of Jesus, did not know that the Gentiles were fellow heirs and of the same body, and partakers of the promises of God, in Christ, by the gospel. It was not until the angel of the Lord appeared unto Cornelius and directed him to send for Peter, that God gave to that apostle the knowledge of the fact which he acknowledged to Cornelius, that God had shewed him that he should call no man common or unclean. It is very evident that the apostle Peter had more extensive knowledge of the gospel of the grace of God in consequence of the vision of the sheet by the sea of Joppa than he had before; but would any real Christian, knowing all the circumstances, suppose that Peter had apostatised from the true faith, because he believed that millions would be benefited by Christ more than were comprehended in his former belief? While they who were of the circumcision remained ignorant of the revelation given to Peter, we find they "contended with him, saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." But when Peter had "rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, they held their peace and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles, granted repentance unto life." Thus we see that the church in Jerusalem, who were of the circumcision, though believers in Christ were, until Peter's defence further enlightened them, ignorant of the extension of divine grace to the Gentiles through the gospel. But surely no real Christian would suppose that this enlargement of their faith in the great salvation was an apostasy from the true faith!
With profound deference, sir, permit me to suggest, that should the foregoing observations present yourself, to your own mind, in a similar situation with those of the circumcision, yet they acknowledge you a believer in Christ, a minister of his word and a candidate for greater manifestation of that grace of God by which Jesus tasted death for every man.
I believe I may venture to say that unless the belief that God is not the Saviour of all men can be maintained by positive scripture as an essential article of apostolic faith, I cannot be justly admonished for falling from the true faith. May I not, with great propriety, call on my Rev. friend to show, if he can, that such an article of faith was ever required by Christ or his apostles as a term of christian fellowship and charity?
Let us look into the written word of God and see what is there required of us to believe. See Rom. x.9, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Acts viii.37, "And Philip said if thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Matt. x.32. "Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my father which is in heaven." Luke xii.8, "Also I say unto you, whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God." Not to multiply quotations, permit me to query whether there be in those passages, or in any other scripture on the same point any intimations given that the candidate must believe that this precious Saviour will not, through the peace made by the blood of his cross, reconcile all things to God? Are you fully satisfied, dear sir, that you are authorised to admonish as an apostate, one who confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and who believes in his heart that God hath raised him from the dead? Why did not Philip demand of the Eunuch a particular confession of a belief in limited grace and salvation? Was there not the same authority to require this article of faith then, as there is now? If Jesus hath promised, in his word, that he will confess before his Father in Heaven, whosoever confesseth him before men are you satisfied with the authority by which you denounce, disfellowship, and deny those little ones? The thought is truly solemn! I feel a chill in every vein of my body, when I consider the vain traditions of a corrupted church, in which it has long been a religious habit to anathematise those who confess Christ before men, because they cannot believe in certain tenets never required by Christ or his apostles!
Rev. Sir, I can say in the sincerity of my soul, that I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Christ, I believe him to be the Son of the living God, who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification. And though I feel myself the most unworthy of the subjects of salvation, yet I should be ungrateful not to acknowledge the goodness of God my Saviour. Whatever men may think or say of me, I know that my soul experiences joys unspeakable in sweet meditations on the glories and inexpressible beauties of my Redeemer; and the thought that I am owned as his child before the angels of God, is infinitely better than to receive the approbation of men who are disposed to judge without knowing the heart.
If the Christian clergy were once disposed to strip their creeds and confessions of faith till they were reduced to the simplicity that is in Christ, and require no other belief than Christ and his apostles required, there would be an end at once of all the discord and animosity which have wounded the character of Christianity for ages. And the prayer of the blessed Jesus would be fulfilled in the oneness of all who believe in him, which would convince the world that the Father sent him.
Although you have not yet found it convenient to favour me with any observations on my former letter, I have not done expecting it. And I shall endeavour to hold myself in readiness to pay an early attention to any communication which shall come from your hand. In hopes that nothing contained in this letter will be considered inconsistent with the true spirit of a humble believer in Christ, I remain, sir, your humble servant, for Christ's sake.
Rev. JOSEPH WALTON.
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FROM THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON TO THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN.11, 1811.
Sir, -- I have received your answer to my letter sent you, dated Dec.7, 1810, and now desire to answer it, in the fear of God, in as concise a manner as I am capable, agreeable to the scriptures of truth. Sir, I thank you for the civilities you manifest toward me, and that you received my letter in a friendly manner as I think I sent it, wishing it might be received and improved for your benefit; not that I supposed that I was capable of convincing or confuting you of what I conceive to be erroneous in your doctrine or principles, but relying on the blessing of God to make it effectual for your everlasting good, and those you profess to be over in the Lord.
I shall not take into consideration every argument you make use of, but shall give it a general answer. Since I have received it I have had a great number of scriptures occuring to my mind which I might quote if I thought expedient. In the first place you speak or write as if I thought death was originally designed by the Almighty for the damage of mankind; I say death was threatened to be the consequence, if mankind did transgress the law of their Creator; our first parents transgressed, and the penalty was executed according to the threatening, "Thou shall surely die;" they were condemned to die; they were under sentence of death; they became spiritually dead, immediately; they lost the knowledge of their Creator; darkness covered their minds; they endeavoured to hide themselves from God among the trees of the garden; they brought misery upon themselves and upon their posterity; we feel the woeful effects of their fall and apostasy until this day; by nature we are spiritually dead; as it is written, "you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." Sir, if there is a law made by our legislature, is there not a penalty annexed unto it? If that law is transgressed, is not the person who transgressed punished some way or other? -- Yet the law is made for the good of the whole; the legislature is not to be impeached, as if he made it for the damage of his people, whom he governs; the law-breaker is punished either in his own person or his surety, though the pain, shame and punishment is for the damage of the transgressor, yet the law is for the good of the whole, and the law maker is not in the least to blame; the transgressor also, if he repents and is reformed, is benefited by it, &c.
I think, sir, your giving your hearers encouragement in your preaching that Christ will save them all, whether they repent and believe the gospel or no, is of a dangerous nature. Christ has said, "if ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins," John viii.24. Read, if you please, the proceeding context. The decrees of God, you say, is my creed, and that I believe that God foreordained whatsoever come to pass. I do not think I ever told you so. And so you think God foreordained, according to my creed, death, for a damage to his creatures. I have said death is punishment for sin, as I wrote, and I can maintain it from scripture; death was introduced by sin; the person that lives a life of sin and dies without regenerating grace, which all true believers in Christ have, will be miserable, and be "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." I believe every true believer is a true penitent, is regenerated, is in Christ by a vital union is a "new creature," and that those persons will be saved and none else, according to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. I believe that God the Father worketh all things according to the council of his own will; that his redeemed and saved people should be to his glory. You say, in my writing to you, I said, "do you think Christ or his apostles would preach universal salvation in one place of scripture and contradict it in another? I believe they would not." -- Here you designedly, I think mistake; I do not believe that Christ or his apostles ever did preach universal salvation, that is, that every son and daughter of apostate Adam, would be saved. I believe that this gospel of the kingdom is to be preached to every creature, and "whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Do me justice, sir; do not animadvert upon what I have just quoted, as if I think our Saviour is to be understood as if every individual would have the privilege of hearing the gospel. I conceive that the apostles' commission runs thus: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every human or rational creature." -- What I meant by saying, do you think Christ would preach universal salvation in one place, and in another contradict it, is, that those texts which you suppose supports your doctrine, is not to be understood as you apply them; for if they prove universal salvation, as you would have them, then they will contradict many texts which Christ and his apostles improved otherwise; therefore I still assert, that the scriptures ought to be carefully examined, conscientiously improved and applied. The faithful minister of Christ will renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. "For we are not as many which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ." -- See 2d Corinthians, ii.17. And I would take it as a favour, if you would read the 15th and 16th verses in the same chapter, and seriously consider them. Those texts of scripture, which you have quoted from Rom.8th chapter, are not to be applied as you apply them, neither doth the apostle apply them so. And methinks you know they are not, if you consider the connexion from the 28th verse of the chapter to the end. And that passage of scripture quoted from 1 Cor. iii.21, 22, 23, is only to be applied to real Christians; and this, sir, I presume you know; but it would not suit you and your scheme of Universal Salvation to apply them so.
I would ask you, if, when I am writing a letter or an epistle to Mr. Hosea Ballou, it would be proper for me to apply what I write in particular to you, concerning your affairs or circumstances, to the whole world? Ministers of Christ should rightly "divide the word;" and should take the precious from the vile; then they would be as God's mouth to the people. See Jeremiah xv.19, see likewise, Ezekiel xiiv.23, "The priests of the Lord are to teach the Lord's people the difference between the holy and the profane," and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean;" it is by this general way of preaching, errors are introduced, not only by your denomination, but by others also. I could multiply quotations from the Bible, both from the Old and New Testaments, but what would it avail, unless you will consider them and endeavour to improve them, and apply them as the Holy Ghost would have us to to? "For holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," see 2 Peter i.25. You say, you were somewhat embarrassed in understanding what I meant when I wrote that men undertaking to explain the scriptures in their own strength and wisdom, and their making havoc of them, &c. by explaining them in a mystical or literal sense. I will endeavour to explain what I meant -- 1st. To allegorize the scriptures in a mere moral or mystical sense, or altogether in a figurative sense, is a degree of enthusiasm, (as to say there is no devil but our carnal nature, &c.) and in a mere literal sense is to understand and improve them not in that spiritual sense in which they are to be understood, but resting in the letter only; as we may observe when Christ said in St. John, 6th chapter, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you;" "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day;" "These things said he in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum;" "Many therefore of his disciples when they heard this, said, this is a hard saying, who can hear it? Christ said, doth this offend you?" -- And informed them he did not mean that they should eat his human flesh, and drink his blood literally, but he was to be understood in a spiritual sense. He informed them "it is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words I speak unto you they are spirit and life." Some have since misunderstood him, and, to this day, misunderstand this piece of scripture; and have from thence introduced the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, that after the words of consecration, the bread and wine are the real body and blood of Christ. So some adhere only to the letter of the word and expound the law of God in a mere literal sense. It seems the apostle Paul, before his conversion, understood it so. -- Read the 7th chapter of Romans, from the 6th to the end of the 13th verse. Paul was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law; yet, while in his unregenerate state, knew not the spiritual meaning of the law of God, (I mean the holy or moral law) and no doubt he spake by experience when he says, (as I wrote to you from I Cor. ii.14) "But the natural man received not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." By the natural man, I conceive, the apostle meant the unregenerate man: yea, with the highest degree of human teaching and knowledge without he is taught of God, by his word and spirit, he cannot truly understand the things of the spirit of God; and therefore they are, as I say, misapplied, mangled and made havoc of. Faith is, by some, only held as a bare assent that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. None do truly believe that, but by the Holy Ghost.
You still will continue to maintain the doctrine of Universal Salvation, by those texts, which I said you spake at the grave with such an emphasis; if they are to be understood only in a literal sense as they are expressed, I can quote as many or more spoken by Christ and his apostles which will contradict them in their literal sense: Christ says, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Then shall he say unto them on his left hand, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins: whither I go ye cannot come." John viii.21, 24, "I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins." With respect to that text you quote from John xii.32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." It is, I conceive, explained by Christ himself in John iii.14, 15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." By Christ being lifted on the cross the way of salvation is to be preached to all men; but it is only those that believe who will not perish and have eternal life, according to the foregoing scriptures I have quoted from Mark xvi.16, and Mat. xxv.41, 46. I could quote many more scriptures spoken by our Lord himself and explained by him; and I hope, sir, you will allow our Lord to be the best expositor of his own word. I conceive you think you have got a mighty argument when you mention the apostle Peter, who had a vision which instructed him in his duty to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; but remember, Peter says, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him." Then he began to preach the gospel to Cornelius and his friends; he preached Christ to them; he preached Jesus and the resurrection; he shows he is ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead; and says, "To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Did he say that every individual of the human race would be saved? No such thing! And though he had further light concerning the Gentiles, he never, as I can find, preached Universal Salvation, but to the contrary. Read his epistles, first and second, particularly 2d epistle, 2d chapter from 1st to the end of the 9th verse. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation; and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment, to be punished;" not to be liberated! Read 3d chapter, 7th verse, "But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Peter wrote these epistles after he had further light with respect to the Gentiles' having the gospel preached unto them.
As to what you write about my saying I do not envy you because great numbers go to hear you, I still say it, as far as I know my wicked and deceitful heart, and wish you might preach the pure and simple gospel, and that your hearers might desire nothing more than the sincere milk of the word, as new-born babes, preached unto them; that they might grow thereby, &c.
That place I directed you to in 1 John, iv.5, 6, and wished you to consider, though I have in some measure already considered it, I will attempt more particular to consider it.1st. You say, John says, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is that spirit of Antichrist whereof you have heard it should come and even now already is in the world." John in the preceding verse said, that every spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; do you think, sir, that every person that assents to this truth is a true believer? But few that have been born in a land of gospel light but what assents to this; but the soul that is born of God truly believes it, according to what the same apostle writes, 5th Chapter 1st epistle 1st verse, "Whosoever believeth Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." Do all men that confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh profess to be born of God? Do they love the children of God that bear his image? No; they, if unregenerate, are of the world; they "love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Who does our Lord mean when he says, "If the world hate you, it hated me before it hated you, if ye were of the world the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you?" Sir, you know that there has been many antichristian professors of this truth, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, that have shed much human blood, because they hated the dear children of God. Therefore I conceive this is the meaning of the text: we must know for ourselves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, as Peter did when he confessed him, and Christ said to him, "Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven -- upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." I believe that true and saving faith is wrought in the heart by the spirit of the living God; and the soul that believes truly, is, as I have already said, born of God, is in union with Christ, is partaker of the divine nature, and has escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, and is pressing forward towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. I have wrote more than I intended, having received your other epistle and have considered some of it. This remains to be considered: what you wrote concerning your having great numbers of hearers. It is true Christ had a great number which followed, and heard him, but few which followed because they loved his doctrine, and followed him from right motives. He said unto them, "Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed," John vi.26, 27. Our Lord says, John viii.47, "He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God." Hence you may see how our Lord and his beloved disciple John agree; it is not the truth as it is in Jesus, the populace are after; it is to gratify their curiosity, or hear something about their salvation in a way that has no cross in it. But Christ says, "If any man will be my disciple let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me." When Christ preached soul searching doctrine as he did in the 6th of John, "Many of his disciples went back and followed no more with him." And I believe when you preach repentance and faith, and shew what fruits they will produce in the true penitent and true believer, the world will not hear you and cordially like your doctrine. But they, as John says, are of the world, therefore they speak of the world, and the world heareth them; "We are of God, we that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us: hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." I have reason to think some popular preachers are good men, but the world do not like them nor their doctrine, because they are so; but because of their popularity their curiosity is fed, or gratified -- and not their souls with the pure milk of the word. Sir, you answer in some way which is ambiguous to me about your preaching repentance, and say repentance may be preached without speaking the word repentance. What makes you shun speaking plainly as Christ did? Be explicit in preaching it. You cannot deny, but Christ and his apostles preached it explicitly. Christ said in plain language, "Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish," Luke xiii.3, 5. In your answer concerning the resurrection of the dead, you do not speak of that in a clear and explicit way, and your not mentioning it at either of the funerals, makes me doubt whether you believe it in as clear and literal a manner as it is expressed in the scriptures by Christ and his apostles. Paul says, "Seeing we have such hope we use great plainness of speech." I hope, sir, you will not be offended with me for plain dealing.
As to your apostasy, I hope I shall have an opportunity to confer with you about it. I am happy to say I feel no rancour or enmity against your person or people, as a neighbour and friend, but should be willing to assist you in, and as far as my ability and power with a good conscience will admit; and hope this will not interrupt our meeting together as usual in visiting the schools. I think we had best drop the controversy, and I think I shall no more write to you, and hope you will no more write to me on this subject. You may make what use you please of it; I hope it will be made of good use to you.
I now, dear sir, "commend you to God and the word of his grace, which is able to build yon up in the truth as it is in Jesus, and give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
From your friend, and well wisher in the gospel of our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Hosea Ballou, Pastor of a Church.
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN.15, 1811.
Rev. Sir, -- Yours of the 11th inst. is before me, and according to my promise I hasten to pay an early attention to its contents, notwithstanding you express a hope that I should write to you no more on this subject. In your desire, sir, that I should write no more I believe you to be really sincere, for I believe you to be a man disposed to give your friends as little trouble as possible; but I have several reasons for answering your last, which, when I have stated, I presume, will fully satisfy you that my answer is required in justice to myself.
1st. I find myself accused of baseness, of which, were I guilty, the forfeiture would be that of confidence.
2d. I find my preaching misrepresented, and that in direct violation of my own declaration in the present correspondence.
3d. I find questions proposed for my discussion, which renders it reasonable that you should have an answer, as I was in hopes of obtaining to the questions which I stated to you.
4th. I find you quite off from the subjects of your admonitions, not attempting to support them, nor yet willing to exonerate me from charges.
5th. I find the scriptures of our blessed Lord and Saviour quoted with a manifest design to limit his grace and salvation.
I might go on and state a number more reasons why I conceive it to be my duty to reply, but the five already given will undoubtedly satisfy your mind; and they furnish subjects sufficiently ample for an epistle. To them I shall conform myself, and endeavour to be as concise as is consistent with the importance of the subject.
1st. Your accusation is in the following words: --
"Here you designedly, I think, mistake." "Those texts of scripture which you have quoted from Rom.8th chapt. are not to be applied as you apply them, neither doth the apostle apply them so. And methinks you know they are not, if you consider the connexion from the 28th verse of the chapter to the end. And that passage of scripture quoted from 1 Cor. iii.21, 22, 23, is only to be applied to real christians; and this, sir, I presume you know; but it would not suit your and your scheme of Universal Salvation to apply them so."
Here I am accused, 1st of designedly mistaking you! And, 2d of a wilful misapplication of the sacred word! To these high charges, sir, I beg the privilege of pleading not guilty; and, after making my defence, of submitting my cause to impartial judges.
With regard to the designed mistake, my defence is that no mistake was made by me either designed or not designed. -- I have examined and find that I quoted you verbatim. I also find that I fully agreed with you in the sentence quoted as to what was necessarily signified by it. I applied the sentence according to my own mind; but did not pretend nor say that you applied it as I did. Where then is the designed mistake? Could an action lie against a man for murder if no body were found, on which murder had been committed? -- Could an indictment for theft be supported against a man if no property were missing from the owner? Is it proper to bring an allegation thus, without pointing out some sort of mistake? I will not be so uncharitable, sir, as to suppose that you designed to bring a false accusation in this instance. No, sir, you are not capable of such wickedness; I have ever believed you to be an honest, sincere christian; and that opinion is so congenial to my feelings that I shall never give it up while I can find a reasonable excuse for retaining it.
My opinion is, that you, finding that I had made such ready use of your sentence apparently to my own advantage, thought I designed to mistake you, and feeling a little disagreeably on the occasion, did not look minutely to see if you had rightly apprehended me, or not.
With regard to the wilful misapplication of the sacred word my defence is to be made from the sacred text itself. In this defence, sir, it is sufficient if I give you reasons which induce me to apply the scripture as I do. It is not necessary that I convince you or any body else that my application is right, for we are all liable to err. What I shall aim at is to show that if my applications are not correct yet I am not guilty of wilfully misapplying the sacred text.1st. Of the passage in the 8th of Rom. the following are my reasons for a general application of that scripture to mankind.
1st. The whole human family, at least, is made the primary subject of the apostle's application as may be seen by looking at the 19th verse and onward. "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected the same in hope; because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now; and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
I understand by the above quotation that St. Paul meant the same by the "whole creation" as he did by the "creature" who was "made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope." And this creature which he calls the "whole creation" he says shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. This is the apostle's primary application of the love and mercy of God. In a minor sense he is particular as may be seen in the above quotation, "and not only they," that is the whole creation at large, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." I know of no way to understand the apostle here to mean otherwise than that the whole human race groan and travail for the same deliverance and redemption that those do who are blessed with the first fruits of the spirit. Nor do I find any expression, in relation to this subject, more significant of the deliverance of those who have the first fruits of the spirit, than of the deliverance of the whole creation, or creature made subject to vanity. By turning back only to the 5th chap, we find the apostle laboring the subject of grace and salvation in just as extensive a manner. See verse 18th, "Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Consistently with this positive and particular declaration of the apostle's belief in the justification of all men through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, we find his following testimony. See 1 Tim. ii.4, &c. "Who will have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time." 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 honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Rom. iv.25. -- "who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification." v.8. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
In the above testimony the apostle says, that Christ gave himself a ransom for all men, that he, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man, that he was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification, that his death for sinners is a commendation of God's love to them. Now I am willing to acknowledge to you, sir, and to all the world, that I can make no sense of the above testimony without applying it to all mankind. In the apostle's observations in the close of the 8th of Rom. of nothing being able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, there is a perfect analogy with the foregoing testimony. The love of God which is in Christ Jesus, was commended to a sinful world in that Christ tasted death, by the grace of God, for every man. If one of all those for whom Christ died can be separated from that love by which Christ died for him, I know not why the whole may not be, by the same argument.
2d. Of the passage in 1st Cor.3d, &c. This passage, you say, you presume I know ought not to be applied to any but real christians! See the text. "Therefore let no man, glory in men; for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Are you willing, sir, to presume that I know that the apostle Paul did not mean to dissuade any but real christians from trusting in men? This you must presume in order to presume that I know the text ought to be applied to none but real Christians. Is not the sense of "no man" as universal in the negative, as the sense of "all men" is in the positive? Why did you not attempt to give some reason for such a presumption? I hope dear sir, you will not allow yourself to think, even for one moment, that I am so uncharitable as to suppose you presumed thus, contrary to impressions of your own mind, though you cannot think any worse of me than is implied in the presumption. I tell you, sir, that I seriously believe that the above text ought to be applied to all men; I believe it is wrong for any man to put his trust in man, according to that scripture; and I believe it to be perfectly right to exhort all men to put their trust in God who has given his son to die for us all, and who will with him freely give us all things richly to enjoy.
I do not doubt your sincerity in the above presumption, but I doubt your having paid a suitable attention to the subject before you thus presumed. Hasty judgments and sudden conclusions frequently make work for repentance; but the true christian will, on cool reflection, be willing to acknowledge his faults and to remove unjust accusations. -- "By their fruits ye shall know them." On considering the usage with which I meet in this unsolicited and unexpected correspondence, I cannot but call to mind the very different treatment which the devil received from an heavenly dignitary, who dared not to bring against his opponent a railing accusation! As a further evidence that the text in Corinthians ought to be applied to all men, or to men in general, see the words of the same apostle to the Ephesians, chapter iv.8, 11, &c. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers." -- Now look again to the passage in Corinthians, "For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas," &c. These were the gifts given unto men. The question now is, were those gifts which were given unto men, given to any but real christians? See Psalm lxviii.18, to which the apostle alludes in his words quoted from Eph. iv. "Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Are you willing, sir, to presume that I know that the prophet David and St. Paul meant to apply those scriptures to none but real christians? I must acknowledge my suprise at such presumption. I will now take my leave of those accusations, just remarking that I feel no fear in submitting my case to any impartial tribunal.
The 2d general particular is that of my preaching being misrepresented, and that in direct violation of my own declarations in the present correspondence. This misrepresentation I find in your letter in the following words: "I think, sir, your giving your hearers encouragement in your preaching that Christ will save them all whether they repent and believe the gospel or no, is of a dangerous nature." In the first place I call my whole congregation to witness against this misrepresentation. In the second place I call my own testimony in this correspondence which you had before you, to witness against this misrepresentation. The following are my own words verbatim: -- "In the first place I wish to observe that I as much believe in those scriptures which speak of the necessity of repentance, as I do in any part of the sacred writings. The many scriptures which you have judiciously quoted to prove the propriety of the doctrine of repentance are justly applied as I conceive, and I accord with you in their use and meaning as far as you have explained them. While a man is in a state of unbelief he is not in the enjoyment of the truth." These quotations, sir, are all in direct opposition to your representation of the subject of repentance.
Here again I ought to observe, that I am far from accusing you of an intentional fault, or a wilful misrepresentation; though in order to suppose you clear from such a fault, I must charitably suppose that the perturbations of your mind were such that you did not give my letter a careful examination. I proved by plain and positive scripture that repentance is as much a gift of Christ as the forgiveness of sins, which is, with the passage quoted from my letter, sufficient to convince any man, who is not "improperly biased by tradition," that I do not exclude the necessity of repentance.
3d. I find questions proposed for my discussion, which renders it necessary that you should receive an answer, as I was in hope of obtaining to the questions which I stated to you.
These questions are in the following words: "I would ask you, if, when I am writing a letter or an epistle to Mr. Hosea Ballou, it would be proper for me to apply what I wrote in particular to you concerning your affairs, or circumstances, to the whole world? Who does our Lord mean when he says, 'If the world hate you it hated me before it hated you,' &c." To the first of these questions I answer, should you state in a letter to me that no man ought to preach the doctrine which I preach, I should suppose that your observation would apply to the whole world of mankind as well as to me; or if I should say in a letter to the Rev. Joseph Walton, no man ought to presume his friend to be guilty of wilful mistakes, and misapplications of scripture without the best possible evidence I believe you would see the propriety of applying my observation to all men, even if you should feel yourself particularly admonished by it.
The second question I conceive may be justly answered thus: The world which hated Christ was that religious order among the Jews who accused him of being a friend to publicans and sinners; who thought themselves so much better than their neighbours, as to say, "Stand by thyself; come not nigh me, for I am holier than thou."
Enmity to Christ grows out of a Pharisaical notion of our own righteousness, and it is an invariable mark of a Pharisee to oppose the humiliating doctrine of equal guilt and equal grace. No man ever hated Christ who felt the weight of his own sins and the need of a Saviour. No set of men ever fomented persecutions but such as thought themselves the more particular favourites of God than others.
When I hear certain characters raising such queries, I am almost induced to use the freedom with them which the prophet Nathan used with his terrible majesty the king, and say. "Thou art the man!" But I dare not assume the place of judgment; and I know my own fallibility so well that I have no need to accuse others.
4thly. I find you quite off from the subjects of your admonition, not attempting to support them, nor yet willing to exonerate me from charges. Quite off, I say, from the subjects of admonition; for you have not attempted to distinguish between the two ideas contained in what you stated as the first subject of admonition, nor have you told me whether it be one, or both which you consider thus reprehensible. -- You labour some time on another subject which concerns the mode by which death was introduced, but you have said nothing about whether God originally designed death, or not. Not knowing your real mind from what you expressed on this subject, I queried in my mind how I ought to understand you, and supposing you consistent with yourself, and having sufficient reason to believe that your creed contains the belief that God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, I explained the sentence accordingly; but you neither acknowledge me right in this particular, nor object; but you say that you do not think you ever told me so! Here again, sir, I can easily suppose you speak the truth, though I am under the necessity of charitably supposing that your memory fails, for at the first visit which I had the happiness of making you, I heard you recommend the Catechism to be taught in schools which contains this very article of faith. And now, sir, I must either believe that you would recommend that which you do not believe, or I must still suppose that you believe that God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass; and of course that he foreordained death. And as you admonish me for suggesting that God originally designed death for the good of mankind you cannot be consistent with yourself, as I can see, without believing that God originally designed death for a damage to mankind. And as you do not deny believing thus, I cannot but marvel that you should wholly neglect to answer my queries on this subject: a subject which evidently involves the moral character of God. Do you feel, sir, as if you had honourably acquitted yourself in this particular, by only exulting in your forgetfulness concerning having given me to understand your creed? Does this look altogether like renouncing the hidden things of dishonesty? Did you believe your creed in respect to the subject of admonition was hid from me? Why then did you not openly decide either one way or the other? May I not without doing you the least injustice suppose you were straightened by the glaring inconsistency of your admonition? If you avowed the suggested item all the abominable absurdity which I posted full in sight must have been charged to your account. If you disavowed the suggested item then away went the darling Catechism, in a moment, and with it, more of the preposterous inventions of priestcraft than could be easily replaced to the advantage of the cause of superstition and ignorance! I would by no means suggest that you did any thing or neglected to do any thing from a motive which your own conscience disallowed; but I am impelled, even by charity itself, to attribute your conduct in the above case to an improper prejudice against a doctrine of which you know but very little.
Another subject of your admonition is that of my having apostatised from the true faith. On this subject, on which I was particular, you make no defence, nor yet exhonerate me from the charge. You observe you hope for an opportunity to confer with me about this matter. Why were you unwilling to write your defence of this allegation, or be so kind as to withdraw it. I must use the plainness, sir, to say, if you accuse of designed mistakes in writing where no mistakes exist, if I have a verbal conference with you on these matters, I should wish to have it before a ready scribe who could produce the conservation afterwards. You are not to suppose by this precaution I mean to intimate that you would report the conversation contrary to truth, designedly; I mean if when my letters are before your eyes, you misunderstand, you might be as likely to misunderstand conversation.
You admonished me for preaching a doctrine which pleases the world, meaning the populace; and I endeavoured to defend myself in that particular: but you neither attempt to show my reasoning faulty, nor yet, acknowledge me correct. This is admonishing, I should suppose, in the unaccountable manner in which Popes admonish! You say that many followed Christ for the sake of the loaves. Dear sir, I did not say but they all did; and if they did, the question is, does that prove his doctrine not of God? Here, sir, you will see, if you look one moment, that you were off, far off from the subject.
5th. I find the scriptures of our blessed Lord and Saviour quoted with a manifest design to limit his grace and salvation.
You introduce those quotations as follows: "You still will continue to maintain the doctrine of Universal Salvation by those texts which I said you spoke at the grave with such an emphasis. If they are to be understood only in a literal sense as they are expressed, I can quote as many, or more spoken by Christ and his apostles, which will contradict them in their literal sense. Christ says, 'He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. Then shall he say unto them on his left hand depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.' -- 'Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way and ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins; whither I go ye cannot come. John viii.21, 24. I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins, for if ye believe not I am he ye shall die in your sins.'"
These passages you say contradict those which I make use of to prove Universal Salvation, if we understand those which I thus use in a literal sense, as they are expressed. I will state one passage only as an example, which I have before quoted. Rom. v.18, "Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Nothing can be said on the above text which can tend to make its meaning more plain than it is, if its most natural sense be the true sense. This, sir, I presume, you will allow: Now let us look for a contradiction of this text in the passages which you quoted. "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." I ask how long the unbeliever will be damned? Answer -- As long as he is an unbeliever, and no longer, according to the text. Is there any expression in the text, or context that even intimates that any will remain eternally in unbelief? No. Where is the contradiction then? There is none. The passage which you quote from the 25th of Mat. says, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." As the word everlasting is very frequently used in the scriptures to signify ages and dispensations, is there any certainty that it has not such a meaning in this place? Answer: No. Where is the contradiction then? There is none. The very expression "punishment" shows plainly that what is inflicted is designed as an emendation of the punished. I have shown in a late publication, that it is in direct violation of the words of Christ, to explain the above text to signify a punishment in another state of existence; and yet, if we were under the necessity of understanding it so, it would fall after all infinitely short of proving that, at some period known to a merciful God, all men will not be justified unto life. -- Therefore no contradiction can be found. The passage which speaks of those who should die in their sins will fall equally short of contradicting the testimony of Universal Justification. I will ask in the first place, whether a man's being dead in sin render it impossible for him to be quickened unto life by the spirit of God? See a passage which you quote, "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." If those who are dead in trespasses and sins can be quickened according to this passage, what is the reason that those Jews to whom Christ spake can never be quickened? You must see, sir, that the passage which you quote refutes your notion about this contradiction. You will say that Christ told the Jews "whither I go ye cannot come," but you cannot but remember that he said the same thing to his own disciples. "As I said unto the Jews so I say unto you, whither I go ye cannot come;" and afterwards explains himself to mean that they could not come immediately. -- Let us now turn this subject round and ask how the text quoted from Romans can be true if your notion of endless misery be granted to be the true meaning of the passages you quote? Will you undertake to say that men who are justified unto life by the righteousness of Christ will remain endlessly in a state of death and condemnation? If you do not feel competent to the task of maintaining such palpable contradiction, why would it not be doing yourself a kindness just to examine that soul chilling and heaven dishonouring doctrine of endless, unmerciful punishment! One moment's examination of such an idea when brought in sight of the fountain which is opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to wash in from sin and uncleanness would abolish it forever. I acknowledge, sir, that my five particulars do not comprehend every particular of your letter; nor have I attended to all which they do comprehend so extensively as I would if I could suppose it necessary; but as you were in hopes of receiving nothing, it is not to be expected that you will find fault because there is no more.
[Footnote 11: "Candid Review," or Answer to Robinson.]
I cannot be willing to close this epistle without giving you credit of following the apostle's direction in your observation concerning my argument in respect to St. Peter. You say "I conceive you think you have got a mighty argument," &c. The apostle exhorts us to be children in malice, and I am sure St. Paul, nor any body else ever heard a more childish expression which communicated the least possible disaffection.
What you quote from St. Peter with a design to prove endless misery, without attempting to show that such was his meaning, I forbear commenting upon. If you had shown that Peter could consistently believe that no man was common or unclean considered in the sheet which he saw in vision, and at the same time believe that the greatest part of mankind would remain in sin and uncleanness eternally you would have done more than you have. I hope, sir, if you are determined to take your leave of this correspondence without supporting the subjects of your admonition, and without supporting the heavy charges you have stated against me, and, likewise, without acknowledging the impropriety of your admonition, and the incorrectness of your charges, that you will never attack another of your fellow creatures in the same way. I do not express this because I feel the least unfriendliness to you in consequence of the method you have pursued, but because I think it is contrary to the spirit of Christianity; it is not doing as we wish to be done by. I do not believe that your soul feels satisfied with it; but you have some remains of pride yet which keeps you from giving up ground which you are sensible you cannot maintain. I hope, sir, you will entertain no apprehensions respecting my cordial friendship to you, or my readiness to join you in any possible usefulness to our fellow creatures. And, as you affectionately committed me to God and to the word of his grace, please to accept the sincere desires for your present and everlasting welfare, of sir, your humble servant, for Christ's sake.
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FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.
PORTSMOUTH, FEB.1, 1811.
Rev. Sir, -- Having taken into serious consideration the whole correspondence which has passed between us, I have felt very deep impressions on my mind arising from the following coosiderations.
1st. You and I are accountable beings, and must undoubtedly, sooner or later, be called to account for the propriety, or impropriety of our labours with each other.
2d. Our professional character must, without doubt, be a high consideration in our accountability.
3d. The eyes of society are ever watchful, and God has made us accountable, not only to himself, but to our fellow creatures, who have a just demand upon us.
While these important considerations were revolving in my mind, I felt a sense of my youth, compared with your age, my inexperience, the proneness of the human heart to the vanity of self confidence, the blindness of prejudice to which old and young are more or less subject, and also, the friendship which has hitherto happily subsisted between us since our first acquaintance.
These circumstances and those considerations, led my mind to the conclusion that I ought to lay the whole matter before God, and to ask of him suitable wisdom to guide me in relation to so weighty a subject.
The result of my devotional supplications is a forcible application of the divine direction, given by St. Paul 1 Tim. v.1, "Rebuke not an elder but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren."
How far your communications to me are consistent, or inconsistent with the apostle's direction, in the above test, I do not conceive it my duty to judge, any farther than a discharge of my own duty, pursuant to the apostle's direction, may require. On the most deliberate recapitulation of all which I have written, I cannot now say, that I could wish to recall a single idea, argument, application of scripture, or sentiment; though I will not even suggest that better information might not produce a different conclusion. I trust I have hitherto treated you, sir, and the subjects of your communications with all the propriety of which my understanding is master; and my fervent desire is, that I may complete the labours enjoined on me by the above text, in strict conformity to that most holy spirit which inspired such excellent counsel. Therefore, Rev. Sir, I entreat you as a father to consider,
1st. Whether you entreated your humble servant as a brother when you admonished him for important particulars which you wholly refuse to substantiate either as facts or wrongs?
2d. Whether you entreated me as a brother in refusing to decide, as to your meaning, in the first subject of your admonition, and in not giving me to understand whether I had rightly apprehended you or not?
3d. Whether you entreated me as a brother in not acknowledging an agreement of sentiment on the subject of repentance after I had given you the fullest assurance possible, that I believed in its necessity and importance?
4th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in admonishing me as an apostate from the true faith of the gospel, while I profess to believe in Christ the Son of God, as the Saviour of the world; and stand in society, in my various relation by the blessing of God, unimpeached as to morality?
5th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in admonishing me against a doctrine which commends the love and mercy of God in the final reconciliation and everlasting happiness of all unreconciled beings; and in opposing said doctrine with no other argument than saying, in effect, that if the scriptures which prove the doctrine are allowed to mean as they naturally read, other scriptures contradict them! Thus furnishing the infidel with his darling weapon against the divinity of the scriptures?
6th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in stating those heavy charges against me, in which you accuse me of a designed mistake, and of wilful misapplications of scriptures where neither mistake or misapplications of scriptures can be made to appear?
7th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in misrepresenting my preaching when you never heard me perform in the particular capacity of a preacher?
8th. Whether you entreated me as a brother in taking your leave of this correspondence without supporting one single particular of your admonition, or one single charge against me. And also, without acknowledging the incorrectness of your admonition, or the impropriety of your charges.
I entreat you, sir, as a father, to consider whether the spirit which you manifested, in bring such unreasonable charges against me, be consistent with the directions given by St. Paul to Timothy, and also with the example and precept of him who loved his enemies and commanded his disciples to do likewise?
I entreat you seriously to consider what the conduct of the Saviour would have been, if he had been disposed to judge, denounce, reject and disfellowship all those who sincerely believe in him and strove to honour him with becoming obedience to his commands, on account of their not understanding every thing as well as he did?
I entreat you to call in question your treatment of me because I do not believe in every thing as you do; and carefully examine if it correspond with the conduct of him, who, out of pity to human weakness, submitted himself to the scorn and hatred of those who considered themselves more righteous than others?
In relation to the doctrine, to which you appear so violently opposed, I entreat you, as a father, to take into consideration, 1st. The promises of God to Abraham by which the doctrine is supported.2dly. The corroborating testimonies in the New Testament by which we are to understand those promises.3dly. The consistency of the doctrine with the character of infinite goodness. And, 4thly. The consistency of the doctrine with every benevolent and godlike desire of the human heart.
If God promised to bless all the families, nations and kindreds of the earth in the seed of Abraham, who is Christ, and if St. Paul has informed us that this blessing is justification through faith, I entreat you to consider by what authority you condemn the doctrine of Universal Justification.
If the apostle has also argued that God has made peace through the blood of the cross of Jesus, by him to reconcile all things to himself, I entreat you to consider by what authority you condemn the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation.
If in perfect conformity to the promises of God, the prophet has given his testimony that all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God, I entreat you to consider by what authority you condemn the doctrine of Universal Salvation.
If you make use of scripture to contradict such plain and positive declarations, by explaining parables and doubtful sayings for that purpose, I entreat you candidly to consider whether you can do any thing more to the dishonour of the sacred word, or more pleasing to those who wish to bring the scriptures into disrepute.
If you feel determined to maintain and inculcate the idea of God's punishing his rational offspring eternally without mercy, love, or pity towards them, I entreat you, as a father, to consider whether you can invent any idea which, applied to God, would make his character appear more contrary to the spirit of him who loved his enemies and died for them.
I entreat you to examine carefully and see if it be possible to reconcile the doctrine of endless misery with the benevolent desires of the true spiritual children of God; and consider seriously whether it be proper to pray for the salvation of all men, and then condemn the belief of it as a heresy.
I entreat you, as a father, to call into serious consideration the real cause of all the persecutions and abominable cruelties which have been practiced in Christendom, on account of religion, and see if you can find a foundation for these things except in the blasphemous notion that God is unmerciful towards the impenitent.
Endeavour, sir, to satisfy yourself how the foolish prejudices of ignorant zealots could ever have succeeded in establishing so many middle walls of partition, and in making so many pernicious distinctions in the Christian world, if the blasphemous notion of partiality in God had not been the rage of an apostatised church.
Find out, if you can, I entreat you, sir, the cause of all the madness and folly, which appear in the habitual coldness and bitterness exercised by the clergy, of different denominations towards each other, if it be not the blasphemous notion that their foolish prejudices are sanctioned by God!
Adieu, I write no more. I feel that I have done my duty. I have entreated you as a father in love and faithfuness. I leave the effects with God; humbly praying and joyfully believing, that when we are purged from our hay, wood and stubble, with the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, we shall see eye to eye and be admitted to a humble seat at the feet of our blessed Saviour, for whose sake I remain, sir, your most obedient and very humble servant.
Rev. JOSEPH WALTON.