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we endeavour to look at this subject with the eye of reason; and we can come to no other result.
The Universalist believes that God is his Father, his friend, and benefactor ; that every blessing he receives comes from the hand of God, who is unchanging in his mercies, who will love him forever, and who will not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
These are the predominant sentiments in his heart, regarding the Supreme Being. Now, a man believing this may at times forget it ; his mind may be engrossed by other subjects; his passions may be excited, and be may act contrarily to it. But the question is, whether a man realizing these sentiments, and acting according to their natural influence, will not do his duties in relation to his Maker with more readiness and faithfulness, than though he believed what is directly opposed to them? The question must be answered in the affirmative. Will he not be more likely to love God ? and, if he loves hiin, will he not be more likely to serve him, and to serve him with cheerfulness ? Whenever his sentiments have any influence, must they not have that influence ? and, if he does wrong, can it be attributed to the influence of those views ? Would it not be, in the highest degree, absurd to attribute it to those views ?
VI. There is no one precept, which sets forth the duty of the Christian in a more forcible manner, than that divine precept in the memorable Sermon upon the Mount ;
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect.” It comprehends the substance of all Christian obedience. And, as the consideration of this subject will tend to set forth ; Ist, The beneficent tendency of Universalism ; and, 2d, The duties which rise from a firm faith in God, as a kind, impartial, and unchangeable PARENT, we shall ask a careful attention to it.
“ Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt. v. 48. But here rises a very important question, viz. In what does the
perfection of God consist ? If it is our duty to be perfect as God is perfect, how necessary it is to know in what his perfection consists. Fortunately the Saviour has described the divine perfection in the chapter from which we have already quoted. That heavenly instructer, that guide of the ignorani, made God's perfection to consist in IMPARTIAL, UNCHANGEABLE GOODNESS.
He was exploding the old morality, which until then liad prevailed in the world, that men should love their neighbors, but hate their enemies. " I say unto you, said he, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Matt. v. 44. This was the morality of Christ ; and it was very different, indeed, from the morality which had previously prevailed. It was no trifling labor to change not only the morality of a people, but also the standard of their morality, the grounds and reasons of it; and we look with interest, therefore, to see what means the heavenly instructer adopted to accomplish so difficult a task. We perceive, at once, his means.
He pointed the people to the character of God, and entreated them to imitate Him. For, after saying, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you,” &c., he tells them to do this, “ that they may be the children of their Father in heaven;" that is, that they may be like him. But does God love his enemies ? does he bless those who curse him ? Yes ; for the Saviour adds, “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust.” Here we see the perfection of God, which Jesus desired his followers to imitate. It was impartial, unchangeable goodness. It certainly is God's goodness which causes the sun to warm the earth, and the rain to fertilize it. But is this goodness impartial ? Certainly. The sun shines upon all men, the rain falls upon
all It was not possible for the divine Teacher to have referred to any thing more impartial than the shining of the sun, and the falling of the rain. But is this goodness unchangeable, as well as impartial? It
surely is. The sun has always shed his beams upon the earth from the beginning of the world, and the rain has always descended in its season. The sin of man has never arrested the shining of the sun; his injustice has never prevented the falling of the rain. All his sin, iniquity, and wickedness have never been able to change the goodness of God, or divert it from its steady purpose. When Jesus, therefore, referred to God's perfection, he referred to His IMPARTIAL, UNCHANGEABLE GOODNESS. He referred to this perfection to recommend it to the attention of men, that they might “ be perfect, as their Father in heaven was perfect.” Now remark, he began by enjoining it on men to love their enemies, and to render good for evil. To incite them to this, he referred them to the character of God ; and unless God loves his enemies, a reference to his character and perfection, in this case, was, of all things, the most unfortunate. But it was shown by our Lord, at the time, that God did love his enemies, not by a reference to any book or manuscript whose authority might be doubted, but by a reference to the undeniable works of God, to the broad heavens, to the thirsting earth, to the light of day, and to the fertilizing showers. This being done, Jesus, the lovely Son of God, scorned the low, degrading morality of rendering good only in return for good. The worst of men, the lowest, the vilest would do this. “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if
brethren only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans 50 ?” 'The publicans were regarded as the wickedest of all men ; their name was a reproach and a by-word, and was always associated with that of sinners. Jesus showed, that even such men would render good in return for good. But this was a mere nagative goodness. There was a more excellent way.” There was a more exalted morality, - a morality built upon the divine example, – patterned after the model of God's ex
cellence, which consisted in the love of enemies, in returning blessing for curses, goodness for hatred and persecution. This was the morality which he enjoined in the most solemn manner, upon his followers, requiring them to be perfect, as their Father in heaven was perfect.” It has sometinies been said, incautiously, ihat Universalism debases the character of God. On the contrary, we have the fullest conviction, that it is the only doctrine which does not debase it. All doctrines, which represent God as hating the wicked, — which teach us, ihat God does not love men until they are regenerated, and brought to love him, all such doctrines, we say, debase the character of God to a level with that of the publicans, who always loved such as loved them. Universalism exalts the character of God,
it shows us a God worthy to be loved and adored ; and as it encourages us to be perfect as he is perfect, it has a highly salutary influence upon the hearts and conduct of men.
VII. It is sometimes said, that Universalists preach the love of God to sinners, too boldly and unreservedly. Their preaching would have a better effect, it is said, if they would make the love of God to man to be originated by the love of man to God. Then men would see a strong reason why they ought to love him, because, if they did not love him, his wrath would burn against them. This is regarded by many as sound reasoning ; but we solemnly aver, that we believe, that there never yet was a man hated God, who was not made to hate him by the principle incorporated into this very doctrine, which is thought to be so necessary to make men love him. This doctrine is predicated of the fact, that God hates men. He will love them, if they will love him, - a plain acknowledgment, that he does not, at the time, love them. If he does not love them, he hates them; and there never yet was a man hated God, who was not caused to do it by believing, that God hated him. Whenever men believe, that God hates
them, they will hate him. On the other hand, men will love God, when they know and feel, that God loves them. What saith the apostle on this subject ? See 1 John iv. 19,- “ We love him because he first loved us.” Here two facts are involved, 1st, that God Joves men ; and 2d, that his love of men is the cause of their love of him. Now, if we have ascertained an adequate means whereby men may be made to love God, we ought not to seek further, much less ought we to resort to the contrary and highly doubisul expedient of preaching wrath. Again, saith the same apostle, 1st Epis. iv. 10, “Herein (that is, in the death of Christ) is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." And, then, in the next verse, he makes his inference from the love of God. “ Beloved, if God so loved us, how ought we to love one another,” verse 11. Here we see at once the beneficent tendency of God's love. It leads us to imitate God. It incites us to per fect, as our Father in heaven is perfect.” “If God so loved us, how ought we to love one another.” If this is the inference to be nade from God's love, what inference would be made if he hated men ? Answer. The contrary inference. “We hate him, because he first hated us. Ye hated, if God so hated us, how ought we also to hate one another.” It would be an imitation of God, - men in this way would be perfect, as their Father in heaven is perfect. And we can see no reason in the Scriptures, that men are released from the obligation to imitate God, even though he does
But what a sad world would this be, were all men to believe, that God hates his creatures on earth, and were they also, as they unquestionably would in that case, to go seriously to work to imitate him in their dispositions and conduct.
The love of God is a soul-inspiring theme. The heart is softened by this subject. O happy Universalits ! ye are the only people on the earth who believe in