« ForrigeFortsæt »
illustration. I state a fact which you will not dispute. The great majority of human beings in every age and country and religion have believed that no perfect retribution took place on earth. This has been the common opinion of the barbarous and the uncivilized, of the enlightened and refined, of the depraved and wicked, of the virtuous and holy, of the unbeliever and misbeliever. Above all this has been the unanimous sentiment of christians till within a short period. Now why have so many embraced this faith? Because they were so taught in childhood? No. Because they arrived at this conclusion by reasoning? No. Because it constituted an article in their religious creed? No. From what source then have they derived this belief ? From their own observation? Yes. They have seen the wicked prospered. They have seen the righteous depressed. They have seen the guilty rewarded. They have seen the innocent punished. They have seen an unequal distribution of the means of improvement and enjoyment. They have seen that happiness was not proportioned according to the goodness of individuals; and that misery was not allotted according to transgres sion. Above all the follower of Moses and Jesus has read in the records of a divine revelation, that some were not dealt with according to their iniquities. And is not the evidence satisfactory which is derived from our own experience, our own observation, our own bible? Does not this common consent of mankind furnish a strong argument against your doctrine of a perfect earthly retribution? Surely your honesty will compel you to return an affirmative answer to this question.
But this is not all. You know that most of the human family have hoped for a future existence. You know they have also believed in future rewards and punishments. This is the undisputed fact in relation to the great majority of every nation, in every period, in every country and under every religion. Above all you know that christians, with scarcely an exception from the ascension of our Savior till the beginning of the present century, have believed in a future righteous retribution. Now from what source has this belief been so generally derived ? From nature? If so it must be true ; for nature when properly interpreted teaches no falsehoods. From instinct? If so it must be true; for the author of instinct is the living fountain of wisdom. From an early revelation? If so it must be true; for revelation can proceed from none but the omniscient. From the gospel? If so it must be true; for Jesus came to bear witness to the truth. From the conclusions of reason? Yes; and can mankind have been so long and so universally deceived by sophistry? From common sense? Yes
Yes; and has common sense always and uniformly led her votaries astray on this important question? Is not this common belief of mankind then a powerful argument in proof of a future righteous retribution? In proof of this conclusion I appeal to the common sense of unprejudiced christians.
But a sect has arisen within the present century who deny the truth of both my conclusions. They contend that a perfect retribution takes place on earth, and that there will be no rewards and punishments beyond the grave
for the deeds done in the body. Their number is very small in comparison with the whole denomination of christians. They are principally confined to our country. They are no way superior to their brethren, either in their talents, knowledge, industry, application, research, wisdom, goodness or piety. Now from what source have they derived their opinions? From observation? If so let them name the facts which prove that every man is rewarded or punished according to his obedience
or transgression in this world. From the gospel? If so let them show one passage which teaches that the future condition of mankind will not be affected by their present character. This has never been done. Can you say that the belief of this new and small denomination furnishes any serious objection to the argument from the common consent of mankind ? answer to this question be formed by the same rule which would dictate your reply if the facts were of a directly opposite character. Then you must admit that my conclusion is not essentially affected by the small numbers either in ancient or modern times who dissented from the common judgment of the world.
II. My second argument for a future retribution is drawn from the impartiality of the Creator.
1. You know a father who has three sons. The first obeys his commands, regards his wishes, devotes himself to the family interests, and manifests filial and fraternal affection. The second is neither very good nor very bad, reviles his authority when his inclinations prompt, wounds his feelings when his passions rebel, furnishes but little aid to his temporal and spiritual progress, and cares no great for domestic
prosperity. The third becomes dissipated and abandoned, a nuisance in society, a torment to his friends, a curse to himself. The parent makes his will, and gives to the youngest son fifty thousand, to the middle one five hundred, and to the eldest nothing. Do you not call this gross partiality? Is this an equitable distribution of his property? Has he shown any attention to their just deserts? Can you longer give him your respect and esteem? Has he not violated the best principles of humanity? I appeal to your sense of right and wrong.
Now you know that mankind are depraved in a greater or less degree. Many have abused their nature, their education, their privileges, their religion, and become exceeding sinful. Many have obeyed the divine laws, avoided vice, cultivated holiness, and formed christian characters. Now suppose your Father should take one half to heaven, and send the remainder to an endless hell, without any special regard to their obedience or transgression in his election. Would you not call this gross partiality? Would you consider this an equitable distribution of his favors? Could you longer respect his name? Could you love him even if you were one of the favorites ? No. This is not in human nature. There is a sense of justice implanted in your bosom. You can distinguish between right and wrong. You cannot call that goodness in one being which you would consider wickedness in yourself. You would say that an all perfect Creator is bound to deal out his gifts with an impartial affection; that he must necessarily distribute his rewards and punishments eventually, precisely according to the merits of every individual. Is not this the fact?
2. Now make an application of this illustration. Your creator has placed his human family on this earth without their knowledge or consent. He has endowed you with reason to discover the path of duty and happiness, and the course of sin and misery. He has given you moral freedom to walk in one and shun the other. He has not furnished you with equal advantages for improvement and happiness. Some are doomed to live in utter ignorance, while others are favored with the best advantages for the acquisition of knowledge.
Some are oppressed with slavery, while others enjoy unlimited liberty. Some are dwelling in heathen darkness, while others are blessed with the light of the everlasting gospel. Some improve their privileges to their own increase in wisdom and goodness and happiness, while others abuse theirs to the injury of their bodies and souls. Rewards and punishments are not always equitably distributed, because the moral governor does not interfere to remedy the defects of his general laws. This has been satisfactorily proved in my last communication. Such you will admit is the condition of the human family.
Now the Father who gave us this life has promised to give us another. We call this gift an unspeakable blessing. Suppose however he should place the whole family on a perfect equality at the commencement of our new existence. Suppose he should admit
individual to his heavenly kingdom, and make all equally pure and holy and happy. Would this compensate for the inequalities of this world? Would this rectify the unequal advantages and unequal retribution of this mortal life? Would this be dealing with every child according to his use or abuse of his powers and opportunities? Surely not. If then he should establish this equality, must you not admit that partiality has been shown to individuals and nations? Does not this destroy the strict impartiality of his character? Could you give him your confidence any more because he exercised election this side the grave, than you could if it was exercised in relation to the future? Is not the principle the same? In my mind there is no difference. If he may show partiality in one instance, and for a short period without any remedy, on the same grounds he may show partiality in many instances and for eternity. But when you are assured that an all perfect Being can see the beginning from the end, and that he will rectify in the next state the inequalities of this, your mind is at
All difficulty vanishes. Your love returns. Your confidence is confirmed. You have no fear that an impartial parent will ever suffer the guilty to escape