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following views. “I am placed in this world for happiness. I know that sin produces some misery, how much I know not from experience. I must live again after death. I must be happy in heaven. This I cannot help. This is not left to my choice. My God will make me good and happy at any rate. I will therefore indulge myself in the pleasures of earth. I will enter those paths which ministers forbid. I am strongly tempted to such courses by my appetites and passions. I do not believe the punishment will be half so great as the enjoyment. On the whole I shall be a gainer. But if at any time I find myself involved in distress, and I do not see a fair prospect of securing more comfort than sorrow, I will release myself from all earthly suffering. I will escape from human justice to heavenly glory." I ask if these are not natural suppositions? Does not your system hold out a bounty to wickedness and irreligion?
7. Does not modern universalism tend to suicide? Here is a mechanic. He maintains a fair reputation. He has a promising family. He is tempted to steal from his employer. He thinks the theft may be kept an everlasting secret. He yields and takes the tempting money. At length discovery is made. He is to be dismissed from his occupation. His family and friends will feel disgraced. His good name will be destroyed. Confidence in his honesty cannot soon be restored. Shall he submit to all this punishment? Or shall he by an easy death avoid all misery and enter heaven? he acts in accordance with the motives which generally regulate human conduct he will surely depart. Now look into the world. How many do you see who are placed in even a worse predicament? How many who have no prospect before them but suffering, or ignominy, or punishment? Is it not the dictate of sound wisdom to shun the evil and seek the good? I cannot
answer for others, but for myself, I am willing to state my deliberate conviction. If I should ever be placed in such circumstances, and had as firm a belief in your doctrine as I have in the opposite, I should not hesitate one moment. I have no fear of death whatever. And I should be most foolish not to escape from weeks of misery to perfect and endless happiness when the simple act of releasing myself from earth would not cost me so much pain as I experience every hour. Nor is this all. I think I have some benevolent feeling. I wish to see every one enjoying happiness. It gives me anguish to witness mental or bodily suffering. I frequently meet with individuals whom I believe must have great torment during their earthly existence. If I had a firm belief in your doctrine, I could not help advising such to suicide. I should be bound to this course by my very benevolence, by my great desire to relieve them from suffering. I see not how I could do otherwise, and act like a wise and good and benevolent christian. Now I believe wilful suicide is a crime, and that we have no right to desert the post in which our Maker has placed us; and for desertion I believe we shall have to render a solemn account. I wish you to look at this point candidly. I certainly think I have done so. And if I know my own heart, I should act and adyise as I have mentioned, provided my belief in your doctrine was as strong as in the opposite truth.
8. Does not modern universalism greatly tend to discourage exertions for mental and moral improvement? Some of your older preachers have ridiculed the necessity of human learning for the ministry. But few of the order have thought it necessary to make any great preparation for the office. Men are taken from some mechanical employment, and in a few weeks ushered into the pulpit. Some exertions have lately been made to
establish a literary institution for your order in Maine, and funds have been solicited in this vicinity, but without any signal success. And if the cultivation which the mind now receives is to be of no service hereafter, the motive to exertion is surely diminished.
The same may be said of moral goodness. How often have some of your party sneered at the idea of our present attainments having any bearing on our future condition. Efforts have been made to convince people that the difference between men in real goodness is very small. Prayers and other means of spiritual advancement have been slightingly mentioned. And all this I know is consistent with your creed. But the question is this. Would not a belief that our mental and moral attainments are to be carried with us to the future life increase our exertions in educating ourselves and others? Certainly; you will not deny so plain a conclusion. Then your system must naturally tend to diminish exertions in behalf of learning and holiness.
Thus, my dear sir, I have thrown out a few hints on an important subject. I could enumerate many more objections to modern universalism if my limits permitted. These are however of a serious character and if well sustained ought to lead you to reflection and examination. How they can be fairly answered I know not. Can the community then be expected to encourage such views if they desire pure and rational religion to prevail ?
My Dear Sir,
My discussion is finished. My correspondence will now be closed with a few 'general observations. You are well aware that different views of divine punishment are advocated by the different denominations. Which view is best adapted to prevent sin and encourage holiness? To this question I will return a brief and explicit
The universalist view of the divine punishment is this. Men are punished for their sins in this world and no where else. On minds truly christian this sentiment may produce no injurious effects. But look into the world. Are all practical believers? Are all really virtuous and pious? Are not a large portion of children and youth destitute of holiness? Are they not governed by principles of expediency? Preach to them your doctrine. Tell them plainly that they will be punished for every sin they commit in some form or other. Assure them that they will be sure of heaven the moment they enter upon the next conscious existence, let them do what they may on earth. And what influence will such preaching produce? Many cannot make themselves believe what they hear. They fear something hereafter. The sense of accountableness to an omniscient judge interposes to save them from the temptation to iniquity. Others will think that the punishment for many vices is trifling. They are willing to risk the consequences. They do not become very abandoned. They live that loose, careless, indifferent sort of life which is a great enemy to genuine holiness. So that upon the whole I regard the influence of this view of divine punishment as decidedly injurious. I have no doubt on the question. All the reasoning in creation cannot convince me to the contrary. I have been young. I have mingled freely with various classes of society. And I know that the fear of future punishment has deterred many a youth from entering upon the downward road to destruction.
The calvinistic view of divine punishment is this. It allows as much temporal punishment as the universalist. The believer in this doctrine indeed uses different words to express his ideas. He believes it is neither equitably administered nor sufficient in degree. He believes that the elect will not hereafter suffer for their present sinfulness. He believes the non-elect will be exposed to excruciating and endless torments. The tendency of this view is decidedly injurious. To the person who considers himself of the number of the elect its influence is precisely the same as universalism; and a very large portion endeavor to shelter themselves under this covenant. Others believe that God can and doubtless will change their hearts either before death or at the moment of dissolution, and with such the effect is nothing more than universalism. Others again regard such threatenings as unreasonable. They deem it impossible for God to inflict severe and endless torments upon a child