An Exposition and Defense of Universalism
In a Series of Sermons

Delivered in the Universalist Church, Baltimore, MD.
In 1840 by Rev. I. D. Williamson, D.D.


Preface

The circumstances which drew out the following discourses, are rather local, than general. The author is the only public advocate of a world's salvation, in a city of one hundred thousand souls. His sentiments are frequently attacked, and as often misrepresented, both in the pulpit and from the press. For this cause, he felt himself called upon to lay before his congregation and the public, so far as they wee willing to hear, a plain and explicit statement of his faith, and the reasons on which that faith was founded. He had no intention of giving these labors to the public through the press, but prepared them for the pulpit alone. He commenced their delivery; and it was soon discovered, that they attracted more attention than his most sanguine anticipations had led him to expect. The large house in which they wee delivered became crowded to overflowing, and a general desire was expressed that they might be issued from the press. In accordance with this desire and the advice of friends, the author has consented to present them to the public in their present form, with scarcely a revision from the original copy.

He is aware that there are already many able works upon the same subject before the public, in comparison with which, any effort of his pen must be feeble. But it is hoped, that the attention which has been given these lectures, in that portion of the Master's vineyard where the author resides, will secure for them there, a more general circulation than could be obtained for any other work upon the same subject. It is hoped, also, that they may be the means of adding something to the general good, by strengthening the faith of the believers who are scattered abroad, and presenting to the minds of those "who are of the contrary part", a feeble effort to explain and establish the doctrines of those who rejoice in the great salvation.

For the style and manner of his sermons, he makes no apology. His aim has been to be understood, and to convince, rather than please the ear with well sounded periods or flights of fancy. And as for his errors, if he has advanced any, let the reader and the public give them no quarters. "If this work be of man, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it". "Whosoever readeth let him understand", and if the doctrines here taught shall be proved false, none will be more ready to abandon them than the public's humble servant. THE AUTHOR.

 



Table of Contents

Sermon I - Introductory

Sermon XI - Nature of Salvation

Sermon XIV - Influence of Universalism

 


An Exposition and Defense of Universalism

by Rev. I. D. Williamson, 1840

Sermon I - Introductory


 

"May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears; we would know therefore, what these things mean." (Acts 17:19-20)

The hearer will undoubtedly recognize this, as the language of certain philosophers of Athens, addressed to the Apostle Paul. At Thessalonica, the Jews raised a tumult and drove him out of the city. Departing thence, he went to Berea, and there preached the good word of the kingdom, with great success. Thither, however, the Jews followed him, and "stirred up the people against him", until he was no longer safe in that city. Accordingly, he departed, and went to Athens, and there waited for his companions, Silas and Timotheus to join him. He was now in the midst of the most opulent and powerful city of Greece -- a city, distinguished alike for the military talents, learning and eloquence of its inhabitants. There, the schools, professors and philosophers of Greece, were congregated, and there, temples and altars were reared to every false god of whose name the people had heard. The historian informs us, that "Paul's spirit was stirred within him, when he saw the whole city given to idolatry, therefore, disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with devout persons, and in the market, daily, with such as met him". In these disputations, he encountered certain of the Epicureans and Stoics, and they brought him to Areopagus, the place where they held their courts of justice, and there, they addressed him in the language of the text. "May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is? for thou bringest certain strange things to our ears; we would know therefore what these things mean; for they spent their time in nothing else, but to tell, or to hear some new thing."

I cannot forbear the remark here, that although these inquirers were actuated by nothing better than an idle curiosity, in making this request, yet their conduct was far more commendable, than that of those who condemn a man and his religion, without first giving him a hearing in his own behalf. Paul gladly embraced the opportunity thus afforded him of entering upon a defense of the gospel. He preached to them, "God that made the world, and all that dwell therein", pointed out to them the folly of their idolatrous practices, and appealed to them in behalf of Jesus and the resurrection, with such energy and power, that "some believed", and others said, "we will hear thee again of this matter".

I presume the hearer has already anticipated the use the speaker intends to make of this text. He stands before you, the advocate and the only public advocate in this large city, and even in the State, of the doctrine of impartial and efficient grace -- a doctrine, which to some of his hearers, may be both new and strange. He doubts not, that some of his auditors have turned in hither, and he trusts with good motives, for the purpose of learning what this new doctrine is; and they would gladly know what these things mean. The speaker has no sentiments to conceal, and if his hearers will manifest a good share of that patience which characterized the man of Uz, he will proceed in all frankness and simplicity to lay before them his views of the economy of his Father's grace. He asks, and he feels confident that he will receive from this enlightened and respectable audience, a candid and patient hearing, and if in the end, he fails of producing conviction that his sentiments are true, the hearer shall, at least, have it in his power to give a more enlightened judgement against them. He speaks for himself only, and is alone responsible for what he utters. At the same time, the hearer is at liberty to conclude that in these views, he mainly agrees with the great body of the denomination to which he is attached. These preliminaries being settled, we come now to lay before you the most prominent features of our faith. These are:

I. The existence of one only living and true God.

This supreme object of our devotions, we believe, to be possessed of every possibly great and glorious attribute and perfection, that can command our love or invite our praise. In him is POWER, which knows no control -- WISDOM, which never errs, but sees with infallible exactness, "the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the thing that is not yet done" -- MERCY, which melts in pity o'er the woes of man -- TRUTH, which cannot lie HOLINESS, without spot or blemish -- GOODNESS, unchanging as God and impartial as the light of heaven, and JUSTICE, which rewards the virtuous and punishes the vicious, according to those eternal principles of rectitude and equity, which are the same yesterday, today, and for ever. This is, with us, the foundation of all religious truth, the sure and steadfast corner-stone, on which the whole superstructure of the Christian temple rests. The evidence of the existence of such a God, meets us on every page of nature's ample volume, ever open before us. We read his name, stamped with the broad and legible impress of his own hand, on all the surrounding glories of creation. We discover the wonders of his Power, in the "ponderous globe of earth, self balanced on her center hung", and in the distant stars, that wheel their endless circles in awful majesty through the infinity of space above and around us. We trace the footsteps of his Wisdom, in the wonderful order and harmony that pervade all the operations of nature's vast, and complicated machinery. We see his Goodness, in every "changing season, as it rolls", and the teeming earth and bending heavens around us bear their testimony to his love. We mark the rules of his Justice, in the infallible certainty with which punishment, sooner or later, overtakes the guilty, and in the rich and sweet reward, that comes down upon the virtuous and the obedient. Thus we learn that there is a God, and we count it no credulity, to say, and to believe, in all its length and breadth, that the stupendous fabric of the universe was reared by the hand of a wise and powerful God, and we discover, neither reason, philosophy nor truth, in the mind of that misguided man, who hath "said in his heart, that there is no God". We are content to say, in the language of the sacred penman, "Lo! God hath made us, and not we ourselves", and we rejoice to know, that in him power never degenerates into tyranny, wisdom into cunning, mercy into weakness, nor justice into cruelty, but all blend, center and harmonize in changeless and immortal goodness. We believe that this God has established a moral government in the world -- that he takes cognizance of human conduct, rewards the virtuous and punishes the vicious -- that he has made a revelation of himself and his government to man -- and that he has so arranged the order of his providence, that all "conspires to his supreme control to universal good".

I must not here omit to remark, that the Lord our God, is one. Sole and supreme author, and governor of all things, he has no EQUAL to dispute his sway, no RIVALS to claim a portion of the homage due to him alone. We can acknowledge no other being as God, but him alone. Hence with the sentiments of the Polytheist who believes in many gods, the Pantheist who believes that all is god, and the Trinitarian, who believes in three Gods in one, and one in three -- we have no fellowship or communion. To us there is ONE GOD, the Father of all, and besides him there is none else. Thus the Scriptures teach and thus does reason decide. The heathen indeed, had a multitude of gods, but the Apostles and Prophets abjured the whole long catalogue of Pagan divinities, and worshiped with singleness of heart, the one and indivisible I AM; and it would in our judgment be as easy to prove, that these Patriarchs worshiped thirty thousand gods with the Romans, as that they acknowledged three beings of equal power and glory.

The doctrine of the simple and undivided unity of God, is no NEW or STRANGE thing under the sun. It is as old as that Gospel whose author bowed at the throne of his Father in prayer, thereby acknowledging him as supreme, and whose tongue confessed, saying, "My Father is greater than all". It is as old as the law, which was given in the midst of the thunders of mount Sinai; for there, God proclaimed his name as the one only living and true God. It is as old as Abraham, for to him, God said, "I am God and there is none else". It is as old as Adam, for to him God manifested himself as the one supreme. It is as old, yea older, than creation, for ere the morning stars sang together, or even the spirit of the Almighty walked forth upon the dark waters to rouse this universe into being, EVEN THEN, God undivided and alone, dwelt in the changeless eternity of his own presence, and angels and archangels bowed in ceaseless wonder before him, and worshiped him, as the sole and only object of adoration and praise. It ought not therefore, to be considered as something new or strange, that we should worship one God, and one alone.

But I pass this, for my object, in this discourse, is not so much to prove the truth of our faith, as to tell you what that faith is. The proof is reserved for our future labors.

II. Our faith recognizes, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.

You will, of course, have concluded from the remarks already made, that however highly we may esteem the character of Jesus, we cannot recognize him as the self existent and supreme God. He himself claimed no such exaltation, but uniformly acknowledged the supremacy of God, not only in words, but in the fact that he worshiped him, and prayed to him, as a superior being.

He confessed, that he was SENT of God, and he claimed no power that he did not receive from God. "I can of my own self do nothing", was his constant assertion.

He claimed no higher title than the humble one, "the son of man", and if he claimed no more for himself, it is a misguided disciple that claims it for him. Instead therefore, of "giving the glory of God to another", we maintain, that Jesus of Nazareth was a created, and a dependent being, deriving all his wonderful powers from God. We are content to view him as did Peter, when he said, "he was a man approved of God, by signs and miracles, and wonders which God did by him, in the midst of the people", or Paul, when he said, "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". And if you ask me if he was NO MORE than a man, my answer is, in the language of Scripture, "He was made in ALL THINGS, like unto the brethren", but was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows", and endued with power greater than any other man. "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".

Upon the nature of Christ's mission and work on earth, it is proper, that I should speak at some length, under this head. Jesus came NOT to placate the wrath of incensed and outraged Omnipotence. The heathens worshiped gods whose favor must be propitiated and whose wrath must be appeased by sacrifices and blood. But the radiant bow of heaven's immortal Lord and King, was never yet shrouded in a cloud so dark, that his own mercy and love, could not shine with brightness upon the world. The mission of Christ, is not presented in the Scriptures, as having originated in, or as having been rendered necessary on account of the wrath of God. On the contrary, it is uniformly set forth as originating in God, and as being the highest testimony of his LOVE. "God SO LOVED the world, that he gave his only begotten son". "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to die for us". These are the teachings of the Scriptures, and they certainly forbid the idea that it was any part of the object of a Savior's mission, to save men from the unmerciful wrath of God. Neither did Jesus come to save form the just PUNISHMENT OF SIN, by satisfying the divine justice, and suffering the penalty due the sinner in his room and stead. This is evident from the fact, that God himself has declared the principle of condemning the just, and justifying the wicked, to be an abomination in his sight, and of course, he could not do the abominable thing. It is evident also, from the consideration, that justice cannot be satisfied with the sufferings of the INNOCENT. When a law is transgressed, it is out upon the transgressor, and ten thousand rivers of innocent blood, can never satisfy the claims of that law. It asks the blood of the guilty, and of the GUILTY ALONE, and it is foul disgrace to the law of God, to represent it, as a blind Juggernaut, thirsting for blood, and equally well pleased whether that blood flows from the veins of the guilty, or gushes from the hearth of the innocent, so that the required quantum of blood is shed. One of the clearest principles of justice, is that which forbids the infliction of the punishment of the guilty upon the head of the innocent, and there is no justice in Heaven, or earth, that can be satisfied by the sufferings of the innocent for the guilty.

The position assumed, is further evinced in the fact, that God has said, "Every man shall suffer for his OWN SINS", and HAS and DOES STILL practice, upon the principle of punishing the guilty, which he would have no right to do, if justice had lost its claims, in consequence of having fully satisfied by the death and sufferings of Christ.

I may at some future time take this matter up, at large. At present I merely hint at it, in order to lead your minds to a just view of another prominent and PECULIAR principle of our faith which teaches, that "God will by no means clear the guilty", but will inflict upon EVERY SOUL of man, the just punishment of his sins, and there is no escape. Thus saith the Scriptures, "He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong that he hath done, and there is no respect of persons". "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished". Now, it is a remarkable fact, that while the ceaseless cry is raised against us, that we deny all punishment for sin, we are the ONLY DENOMINATION who believe that ALL SIN will be punished. I know others believe, that SOME sinners will be fully punished, but they also believe, that MANY will escape the penalty of the law. They do indeed tell us, that all men deserve and endless hell, and would receive it, if justice were done, but they have all some spiritual insolvent act in the shape of an atonement, or forgiveness, or repentance, by which the vilest sinner may escape, and cheat justice of its dues. Set it down, as one of the PECULIAR doctrines of Universalism, that no man can, by any possibility, escape a just punishment for his sins We believe in the forgiveness or removal of SIN, NOT in the remission of PUNISHMENT, and neither forgiveness, nor atonement, nor repentance, nor any thing else, can step in between the sinner and the penalty of the violated law.

The dogma of endless wo, we reject as unmerciful, unjust and cruel, a penalty which a just God never did and never can annex to his law. It was not therefore necessary for Christ to come into the world to save men from a future endless hell, as a penalty of the divine law, for the good and sufficient reason, that no such penalty was ever annexed to that law. I am not speaking at random, but I know whereof I affirm, when I say that no living man can take up the Bible, and find a place where God gave man a law and annexed to it the penalty of endless misery. Hence, I say, that man needed not to be saved from such an evil, for the best of all possible reasons, that in the economy of God, he never was exposed to any such calamity.

I have now told you what Christ did not come for, will you hear from the blessed Savior himself what was the object of his mission on earth? He says, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the earth, that I might bear witness to the truth". Now the witness does not go into court to make truth. He goes there to testify to what is already true. So, Jesus, in our view, came not to make anything true that was not so before, but he was the faithful and true witness who came to make known the truth, "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end".

He came to reveal the character and the purpose of God, and hence, near the close of his ministry he said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, I have declared thy name unto them which thou gavest men out of the world".

The fact was, that man was ignorant without hope and without God in the world. He was ignorant of himself, of his own nature and destiny, ignorant of God and his purposes of grace, and devoid of confidence in the care and protection of his heavenly Father. He bowed before stocks and stones, and said "these be my gods". He tore his flesh -- he tortured his body -- he cast himself in the flood -- he devoted himself to a living martyrdom, and burned the bodies of his children in the flame, to appease the wrath and secure the favor of his gods, and was well pleased, if by these rites he secured a trembling hope of safety for a day or an hour.

The grave yawned at his feet and there was no light to shine upon its darkness. Man shuddered as he thought that he must go down to feed the worm, and sleep in eternal silence in the tomb -- or if perchance, the spirit survived the shock of death, there was danger that he would be the companion of demons and the sport of fiends through a long eternity. Jesus came a light into the world. He tore away the vail which had so long obscured the face of the excellent glory, and revealed to a wondering world the character of God, in all its matchless beauty, as the FRIEND and FATHER, who fed the fowls of the air -- decked the lilies of the field, and watched the falling sparrow, and who would more abundantly take care of man, the last and noblest work of his hand. He also brought life and immortality to light, and bore his testimony to the resurrection of the dead, and to prove that his witness was true, descended into the grave -- rose from its power , and ascended on high, to receive gifts for men, "yea for the rebellious also that the Lord God might dwell among us". Thus, he bore witness to the truth, and labored to save man form ignorance, form sin, from doubt and fear, and from DEATH ITSELF by the power of the resurrection. To this end was he born, and for this cause came he into the world, "that he might bear witness to the truth", and because this truth is destined to prevail over all opposition, and save man universally, in prospect and fruition, therefore, is he, what we believe him to be, "the Savior of the world". This brings me to say that we believe,

III. In the resurrection of all men from the dead, and in the ultimate holiness and happiness of the whole human family.

This is, with us, the crowning excellency of the Gospel -- a theme on which we ever dwell with most lively satisfaction and joy. To this grand consummation of the divine government, all the attributes and perfections of God, and all the principles of the divine government are tending, and the sentiment thus shadowed forth in these, is repeated in clearer and more emphatic tones in the revelation which God has made.

The difference between us and other denominations, in regard to the resurrection of the dead is simply this. Others believe that men will be raised from the dead morally in the same state, or condition, in which they left this world. Thus, if a man dies a sinner, they believe that he will be raised up from the dead a sinner, with all his evil propensities and passions about him, and he will then receive the reward of his doings. To him the resurrection will be an endless and bitter curse, inasmuch as it will introduce him to a state of untold and immortal suffering. OUR VIEWS of the resurrection of the dead differ form this. We think that God has a higher, holier and better object in view, in the resurrection, than that of conferring an immortality upon sin and suffering. We believe that the lusts of the flesh, and all the evil passions that distract and torment man on earth, will be left IN THE EARTH where they originated, that God will not transplant them to another world to nourish them there. We believe that man shall be raised from the dead, as the apostle said he should be, "immortal", "incorruptible", "glorious", and "heavenly", and in the "image" of the risen Redeemer -- that he shall be, as the Savior said he should be, in the resurrection, "equal unto the angels", neither shall he die any more, but be a child of God, as he is a child of the resurrection, and that the future life, shall be to all, a ceaseless blessing, coming form the fullness of a father's grace. There, sin shall be finished and transgression shall end -- THERE, no storms of passion shall rise, no wave of sorrow disturb the waters of that peaceful river, which flows pure as amber, and clear as crystal, from the throne of God on high. The had of a father's love shall wipe the last tear from the eye of weeping humanity, and his soothing voice hush to silence the LAST sigh that shall escape from the pained heart of a creature of God. THERE, all shall be HOLY, and happy because they are holy, and there shall be no note of discord to mar the harmony of creation's jubilee. Such is the consummation of the government of God as we behold it. I ask you to compare these views of God and his government with a system which conducts us on to the future world, and thus leaves us with a fragment saved while countless millions mourn -- A SYSTEM which makes the universe itself a huge reservoir of tears, a theater of endless rebellion, cursing and blasphemy -- and when you have made the comparison, tell me in the name of reason, which is most worthy of a God of infinite goodness.

I have now given you an outline of a doctrine, which to some of you may be new, but new or old, so we believe, and so we preach. I have only to add, that this doctrine is in reality nothing new under the sun. God himself proclaimed it unto Abraham saying, "In thy seed shall all nations be blessed". Paul says expressly, that himself, and his faithful coadjutors in the ministry, labored and suffered reproach, because they trusted in the living God who was "the Savior of all men, especially of them that believed", and Peter affirms, that the "restitution of all things" had been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began. Not one had failed of bearing testimony to this truth.

Among the apostolic fathers, John the bishop of Jerusalem, Gregory Naziazen, Clement of Alexandria, and the far famed Origen, were the open and avowed advocates of this doctrine. In fact, it was proclaimed with all boldness in the Christian church during the first three hundred years of its existence, and it was never found out to be a heresy, until about the year 550, when it was gravely, and for the first time condemned by a council of bishops and cardinals, who to say the least, had as much of the wisdom of the world, as they had of the Spirit of Jesus. But in every age, from that day to this, thee have been those who have seen and testified, that "the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world". Among the reformers, Zuinglius believed it, and it is thought that the illustrious Melancthon himself was not far form the kingdom. In latter days, and in the popular church many have believed. Archbishop Tillotson, Burnet, Law, the author of that inestimable work, "A serious Call", Dr. Samuel Clarke, the Chevalier Ramsey, Dr. Phillip Doddridge, Bishop Thomas Norton, John Prior Estlin, Thomas Belsham, Dr. Priestley, Ann Letitia Barbauld, the inimiable poet, and host of others, whose names are illustrious in the church, have been believers in this doctrine.

In our own country, it has had its advocates. The celebrated Dr. Rush believed it, and the sage Franklin was not far form it. The beloved father of this country was a friend of Murray, and Greene who gallantly fought by his side, hung with rapture upon the preaching of the only herald of a world's salvation, then in America.

I name not these things because they prove aught one way or the other, but I do it, simply to show you that it is not, as some suppose, a new doctrine, invented within the last half century, and believed only by the rash and inconsiderate.

But whether it be new or old, I have given you a hasty sketch of its most prominent features, and in my subsequent lectures, I intend to give you the proof of its truth. Appealing to your candor and reason, and to the sacred word of eternal truth, I will lay the matter before you, and I only ask you to approve or reject, as your own judgment, enlightened by revelation and unwarped by prejudice or superstition, shall decide, and of the result, I have no fears.


Sermon XI

The Nature of Salvation

 


 

"For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God,
who is the Savior of all men, especially those that believe"

(1 Tim. 4:10)

It is a lamentable truth, that in all ages and countries, those who have embraced opinions differing from the popular doctrines of the day, have suffered reproach in the consequence of their faith. Man has forgotten the great truth that his fellow-man has the same right to think as himself, and that every one is accountable for himself, and to God alone. For this reason he has persecuted his fellow for his opinion's sake, and pointed to the man whose faith did not exactly square with the popular standard, as a proper object of reproach, and a mark at which bigotry might hurl her arrows of wrath with impunity.

Look for a moment at the life and ministry of Christ, for an illustration of this remark. HE taught a system of faith and practice somewhat different from the prevailing notions of the day. For this reason he suffered reproach from the people to whom he came with his message of grace and truth. They even followed him with the bloody sword of the persecutor, and paused not until they heard his dying groan from an ignominious cross.

So it was with his disciples. They had learned their doctrines from Christ, and were preachers of that Gospel, which carried the joys of salvation, not merely to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. The consequence was, that the wrath of the people waxed exceedingly hot against them, and the storm which had gathered around their Master, broke with violence upon their heads. Hence their lives were made, from the beginning to the end, one continued scene of reproach and suffering.

The text informs us, in a very explicit manner, what was the obnoxious feature in their faith, which caused all their sufferings. What think you, my hearers, it was that excited the opposition and persecution of the world? Was it their faith in an angry and cruel God, a merciless devil, or an endless hell? Did they curse the people with endless woe, and while they saved a few, damn the great mass of community? Nay, nothing like it. But they "trusted the living God who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe," and for this cause they were met with all the powers of reproach and persecution. To the narrow minds, and selfish feelings of the people of that age, no sentiment was more obnoxious than this.

The Jews, as a people, had long considered themselves as a peculiar people of God, and the only objects of heaven's favorable regard. They were the children of Abraham, and Abraham was the father of the faithful, and they expected, in consequence of that relationship, to be the favorites of heaven. Nor did they imagine that the Gentiles could at all be included in the covenant of eternal mercy. So thought the MOST LIBERAL among them, but the greater part of them could not extend the mercies of God so far as to reach the case of all the Jews. The Pharisee and the Sadducee, could each claim for himself and his sect, a monopoly of the divine mercy, and deny it to the other.

With such views and feelings, it is no matter of surprise, that they should rise up in opposition to a system which laid the axe at the root of all their selfish hopes, and taught them to trust in God alone, whose goodness was as rich and free for the Gentile as the Jew, and to whom the distinctions of nations, tribes, and sects, were all alike. It was not to be expected that those who had considered themselves better than others, and who had trusted themselves that they were righteous, should come down upon a level with others, and willingly trust in a God who would save their enemies as well as themselves.

If Paul and his coadjutors had flattered the vanity of the Jews, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and told them that they should all be saved, and all the rest of the world should be damned, they would have been well pleased with such a sentiment, and we should never have heard of the labors and sufferings of the apostles in the promulgation of such a faith. But when they told the people that God was the Father of all, and informed the proud and self-righteous Pharisees, that so far from their being favorites of God, and exclusive heirs of the kingdom, "even publicans and harlots should enter into the kingdom of heaven before them," then it was that their pride was hurt, and they rose up to reproach and condemn.

I cannot omit the remark here, that the same spirit which reproached the apostles, still lives, and lifts the few above the many, and hurls the thunders of deepest damnation at those who venture to extend salvation beyond the landmark set up by the popular faith of the day. The great mass of professors of Christianity however, have avoided the reproach of trusting in the living God who is the Savior of all men, by ceasing to trust in such a God. Where, among all the numerous sects of Christians, will you find the one that trusts in God, who is the Savior of all men? Is it the Calvinist? Who ever heard of a man being reproached for believing in the salvation of all, who adhered to the creed which saith: "God out of his own mere good pleasure, elected some to be redeemed and everlastingly saved, and the remainder he was pleased to pass by, and ordain to dishonor and wrath, to the praise of his vindicative justice?" Does the Methodist labor and suffer reproach for this cause? I have indeed heard the enemies of that sect, charge them with holding to sentiments which would lead to the salvation of all, but I have just as often heard the charge repelled as a gross slander, accompanied with a prompt denial that they believe any such thing. Again then, I ask, who are they who now both labor and suffer reproach, because they trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men? I leave you to answer the question, and I know that you can, if you will, answer it correctly.

I may remark, in passing, that GOD is the Savior of no more than he saves or will save. If ten men are in danger of upsetting a boat, and I go out to save them, you could not call me the savior of ten, unless I saved them. If you saw me launch out for their relief, and knew perfectly well that I would save them, you could with propriety call me the savior of the ten, even before the work was actually done. But if it should turn out, in the end, that I should save but five, then it would prove, that you were mistaken in saying that I was the savior of the ten. So here, God is not the Savior of a soul more than he actually saves. True, that work is not yet accomplished. But the apostle knew that he had engaged in the work, and that he could not fail of success, and therefore he called him the Savior of all men. But should it turn out, in the end, that God should save but a part, then would it be proved that the apostle was wrong, when he called him the "Savior of all men."

I know it is said, that God OFFERS salvation to all, but it should be remembered that an OFFER of salvation is one thing, and SALVATION ITSELF is another. If I offer to save a man who is drowning, THAT does not save him, neither does it make me his savior from death. God may offer salvation to man, but that does not save him, neither does it make God his Savior. He is the Savior only of as many as he saves. Should any man dispute this, I ask him to go forward to the future world, and as he looks down into that dismal hell, in which he believes, and beholds the multitude of its hopeless inhabitants, let him tell me, if he will, in what sense God is their Savior? It matters not what may have been OFFERED them, what have they RECEIVED? is the question on which your answer must depend. I care not what MEANS may have been put in operation for their salvation. If these means were not EFFECTUAL, and they are not saved, then God is not their SAVIOR, and the apostle labored and suffered reproach for a trust, that was vain and futile in the extreme.

It is not my purpose, however, in this discourse, to argue at great length the question of the extent of salvation, but rather I propose to explain its NATURE.

The term salvation is used generally in a very vague and indefinite sense, and much of the controversy about the extent and conditions of salvation, arises from a want of precision in the idea attached to this word. The Scriptures use it in various senses, according to the circumstances and situation of the person, or persons, who are said to be saved. When Peter, sinking in the deep, cried, "LORD SAVE ME," we understand that he wished to be saved from drowning. When Paul said, "except these abide in the ship ye cannot be SAVED," we suppose he alluded to their salvation from death, which then stared them in the face. Many other instances might be noted of a similar character, but these are sufficient to show, that there is need of much caution in regard to the use of this word, and that we shall greatly err if we apply this word always to a future and eternal salvation.

There has been a great QUESTION in the world, WHETHER GOSPEL SALVATION IS CONDITIONAL or UNCONDITIONAL, limited or universal. It will appear in the course of this discussion that all this controversy originates in a want of attention to the meaning of this word. In a SENSE, BOTH parties have been right, and BOTH wrong. There are TWO kinds of salvation mentioned in the text. It will appear on examination that one is limited and conditional, and the other universal and unconditional. So that what may be affirmed of the one, cannot be affirmed of the other. To illustrate these two kinds of salvation is the work now before us. I notice

I. The SPECIAL SALVATION of the believer.
God is the Savior of all men, ESPECIALLY of those that believe.

It is often remarked by those who oppose the doctrine of universal salvation, that if God is the Savior of all men, then there is no difference between the saint and the sinner, the believer and unbeliever. Those who make this remark, seem to forget, that while God is declared to be the Savior of all men, he is also said to be ESPECIALLY the Savior of the believer. Though it is true, that God is the Savior of all, yet a little more attention would teach you, that all along, in Scripture, there is a salvation held forth as the SPECIAL PROPERTY of the believer, in which the unbeliever can have no part or lot. Though all shall be saved with an everlasting salvation, yet the believer ALONE can enjoy this special salvation.

1. The believer is saved from sin, "the direst foe of man."

The prophet spoke truly when he said, "Know therefore and understand that it is an evil and bitter thing, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God." No man is more to be pitied than the bold transgressor of the laws of God. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." The path in which he walks is beset with ills on every side, and if perchance he finds a flowery spot, it is but the green sod beneath which slumbers the earthquake and the storm, and if there are roses around him, he may pluck them, indeed, but his limbs will be torn and bleeding, with the thorns that hedge them round. Such is sin, and to be saved from its power, is a boon more desirable than all the riches of earth, or the honors of a fading world. This salvation is wrought upon the believer by faith. His name was "called Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins." The doctrines taught, and the examples presented in the gospel, are such, that faith works by love, and purifies the heart, and makes man holy as God is holy. "I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good t them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you," is the constant teaching of the doctrine, the precept, and the example of Christ. Hence it is evident, that the man who receives into his heart this faith, copies the examples, practices the precepts, and cherishes the spirit of Jesus, is saved from sin and all its woes. This is the SPECIAL SALVATION of the believer. And to this salvation, all that numerous class of passages refer, which speak of being washed and purified by the faith of Christ. By this salvation, Christ came "to purify to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." Salvation from sin, is the first item in the special salvation of the believer, and this is a CONDITIONAL salvation, depending upon the condition of faith and repentance. So far as THIS WORLD is concerned, it is NOT universal, but limited in extent.

2. The believer is saved from ignorance of God and His character.

Men by nature know not God, and though to the mind that has been enlightened with the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made," yet it was never in the power of the UNAIDED wisdom of this world, to obtain that true knowledge of God which is life eternal. Man, without a revelation, could see in the works of nature around him evidences of a power more energetic than the arm of mortals, but whether that power existed in the person of a faithful friend, or an implacable enemy, was a question that he could not solve. True, the sun shone, as now, upon the evil and the good, and the rain descended upon the just and the unjust, as evidence of the divine benignity, and when man looked at these tokens of goodness, he hoped that God was good. But when the thunder uttered its voice in the mountains, or the earthquake rocked the plains, and the tempest howled in fury around, and seemed ready to mingle, "heaven, earth, and sea," THEN fear took the place of hope, and dread forebodings came over the soul, and destroyed its peace. Then it was, that "fear made her devils, and weak hope her gods," and the elements became invested with all the terrors that imagination could invent. THEN, false gods were created in every grove, and mountain, and altars were reared in every hill and dale, and beside every stream that flowed. Then, fires of Tophet were kindled, and the altars of Baal ran down with the gore of babes and sucklings, which were slain to placate the wrath, or secure the favor of some idol divinity, whose supposed existence was a bitter curse, diffusing misery, deep and dreadful misery through all the life of the worshiper.

Such was, and such IS the effect of ignorance of God, and from all this the believer in Christ is saved. It was Jesus of Nazareth, who tore away the veil which had so long obscured the face of the "excellent glory," and revealed the "king in his beauty," as the kind friend, and the everlasting Father of the human race. By faith, the believer looks upward to God as the holiest and best of all. Though storms and tempests may be around about him, he knoweth that there is one, that rideth upon the storm, and orders all things well. In him, he sees his Father, and he believes that he will never leave nor forsake him, but that his strong arm, which is never shortened that it cannot save, will be made bare in his defense, to deliver, to bless, and to save. Believing thus, the soul enters into rest, and the mind is filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This is that SPECIAL SALVATION, in another of its items, which it is the privilege of the believer in Christ alone to enjoy.

3. The believer is saved from the bondage of the fear of death.

Without the gospel man knows nothing of the future. Before the advent of Christ, darkness shrouded in impenetrable gloom all beyond the grave. Death was abroad in the earth, in "gorgon terrors clad," and before him all that was fair, and beautiful, and strong, in humanity, withered and died as the flower that is cut down and fadeth before the heat of the sun, and BEHIND him were the bones of nations that had died, and "behold the sinews were wasted, and the bones were exceedingly dry." "If a man die shall he live again?" was a question which no man could answer. Or if it was answered at all by man, the VERY ANSWER became a more fruitful source of misery, than even the doubt and uncertainty of the question itself. Some of the heathen philosophers invented and endeavored to support the doctrine of the soul's immortality, but they soon coupled it with doctrines of future woe, which made it worse by far than the gloom of annihilation. They indeed taught an immortal existence, but to the greater part of the human family it was an existence of torment unutterable, to be dreaded as a curse, rather than sought as a rich and valuable blessing.

Christ came to open up a pathway through the dark valley of the shadow of death, and to point the eye of faith to that better and happier land, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." He brought life and immortality to light, and demonstrated by his own resurrection from the dead, that MAN shall rise triumphant from the spoiler's power, and bloom with unfading youth in the paradise of his God.

Here the poor Pagan learns to cast his idols and his temples to the moles and the bats, and to rejoice in that truth which giveth life to the world. By faith in this, the poor mortal that trembles in view of the dark gulf, where the ashes of a universe are scattered by the winds of time, and who weeps over the valley of dry bones, is saved from all his fears, for he sees the spirit of the Lord moving upon the valley, and believes that even the dry bones shall live. By faith in this, the trembling mortal who faintly hopes for a heaven of joy, but more dreadfully fears a burning hell of endless woe, for himself or his children, is saved from his doubts and fears, and taught to look forward to the time when death and hell shall be destroyed, and all created humanity shall be redeemed from sorrow, and ransomed from the grave and shall dwell in the fulness of eternal and unsullied joy. This is the special salvation of the believer in another of its items.

And here I leave this part of my subject, with the simple remark, that the salvation of which I have been speaking, is spoken of in the Scripture all along as conditional. This is the salvation which is spoken of as dependent upon faith and repentance. This is the salvation which man is exhorted to "work out," with which he that believeth shall be saved, and which he that believeth not cannot enjoy. It is confined alone to the believer, and si set forth as a thing for which man should labor perseveringly, as for a treasure more valuable than aught that the world can afford. The great cause of error in the world is, that professors of Christianity do not bear in mind this special salvation. They apply the term salvation almost exclusively to a future world, and therefore contend that that is conditional which depends alone upon the will, purpose and power of God. Whereas the ONLY SALVATION that depends at all upon human agency, is that SPECIAL SALVATION which is wrought in the believer here on earth.

II. I come to speak of that salvation which is for all men.

And here I beg to remind you, that it is no more certain that God is especially the Savior of the believer than that he is positively the Savior of all men. Paul trusted in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and the fact that he is especially the Savior of the believer, does not abate ONE FRACTION from the truth, that he is the Savior of all. I notice this particularly because the enemies of Universalism are frequently heard insisting upon the last clause of the text, as if it had some magic power to limit or contradict the first clause. When we say that God is the Savior of all men, the reply almost uniformly is, yes, but you should remember that the text says, that he is especially the Savior of those that believe. Very well, and what then? Because the last part of the text says, he is especially the Savior of the believer, are we to conclude that the FIRST PART is false, and that he is NOT the Savior of all men, but only of believers? This word ESPECIALLY is so much pressed into the service of a partial faith, that I must give it a passing notice, and if I borrow an illustration it will not be the less useful. The idea is, that this word limits the salvation of God to believers alone. Now Paul wrote to Timothy saying, "The cloak that I left with thee at Troas, bring with the when thou comest, and the books, but ESPECIALLY the parchment." There is precisely as much reason in saying, that Paul did not want the cloak and the books, because he said, "ESPECIALLY the parchment," as there is in saying, that God is not the Savior of any but believers, because the text says especially of them that believer. And if I tell you, that Paul wanted both the cloak and the books, you ought to object at once, and remind me that he said he ESPECIALLY wanted the parchment. I know he said so, but what then? Does that prove that he wanted nothing else? By no means. So in the text. The fact that God is said to be the Savior, "especially of those that believe," has no effect at all upon the previous and positive assertion that he is the Savior of all men.

But the question comes up, in what sense is God the Savior of all men? Or what are the evils from which he saves them? I answer, from the power of death and the darkness of the grave, through the resurrection from the dead. This salvation is for ALL, the saint and the sinner, the believer and the unbeliever. So the Savior said, "Of all the Father hath given me I will lose nothing, but will raise it up again at the last day." So also the Apostle said, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

This salvation is unconditional, and is uniformly so represented in the Scriptures. Human agency cannot effect it, no does it, or CAN, it depend upon anything that man can do, or believe, or upon the strength of man in any sense of the word. Go to the tombs, and ask the sleeping dead if they can raise themselves from their slumbers? and there will come up a silent voice, saying that THERE man's boasted strength is turned to weakness and he can do no more. Go to the living, and ask them if they have power to give life to the dead? and they shall tell you that they have no such power.

Well, then, if man's resurrection from the dead depends upon God alone, and no human power can effect it, so must the state and condition of man depend equally upon God, and be equally beyond the reach of human agency. Suppose for instance, a man should set himself raised up from the dead with four arms instead of two. We should smile at the folly of the man, and call him a visionary enthusiast, as a man destitute of common sense. But really, is there anything absolutely more absurd in the supposition, that we can by our works procure a couple of bodily organs in the resurrection than that these same works can procure us those MENTAL QUALIFICATIONS there on which our eternal happiness shall depend? Is there in reality anything more preposterous in the supposition that God has made our corporeal organization in the resurrection, dependent upon our works, than in the idea that he has suspended our mental or moral organization upon these works? I judge not, and the only reason why one appears more absurd than the other, may be found in the fact, that one is the countenance of an old acquaintance, while the other is that of a stranger.

The truth is, that man can by his faith and works do something toward ameliorating his condition here, but he cannot procure his resurrection from the dead, and if he cannot procure the thing itself, much less can he procure any modifications of it. ALL that man is, and ALL that he CAN BE in the resurrection, he must owe to God alone. His feeble works cannot reach one line beyond the grave, nor can they make on hair black or white in the resurrection from the dead. That resurrection itself is the free gift of GOD, upon which man has no claim whatever, and all its blessings or joys, are also as perfectly free on the part of God, and equally unmerited on the part of man. "The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." "So when this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory. Oh! death where is thy sting? Oh! grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be (not to us, or our faith or works, but) into God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

This is the salvation which God has prepared for a world, and in this sense God is the Savior of all men. Death the last enemy shall be destroyed, and man shall be saved from its power. And it is a remarkable fact, that this salvation is never spoken of as depending upon the agency of man, or anything else, but the power of God. "He shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body," and this shall be done by "the working of that mighty power whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself."

Brethren, "be ye strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and "think it not strange concerning the fiery trials that are to try you," for if Paul and the early disciples "labored and suffered reproach because they trusted in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe," think not that you shall escape the reproach of the world, if you trust in the same God. But in the midst of all reproaches, hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering, and the Lord make you perfect in every good word and work.


Sermon XIV

Influence of Universalism

 


"Come thou with us and we will do the good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."
(Numbers 10:29)

In my previous lectures, I have endeavored to prove the truth of the great and leading doctrines of that system of faith, which is know under the name of Universalism. In the present discourse I intend to lay before you, an exposition of the influence which I suppose these doctrines are calculated to exercise, upon the hearts and the lives of those who believe.

There is perhaps no one question more frequently put by the opposers of the doctrine of Universal Salvation, than this, What good will it do to preach or believe it, even if it be true? The question is an important one, and it shall be treated with all that candor which its importance so obviously demands.

I profess to you that I would not advocate a system which I did not most religiously believe calculated to promote the interests of man. But believing s I do, most heartily, that every man, woman, and child, would be benefited by faith in the doctrine of impartial grace, I am constrained to proclaim it in the midst of obloquy and reproach, and to cry unto you with affectionate earnestness, "Come thou with us and we will do thee god." If you ask me what good it would do you to believe in this doctrine? My answer is,

I. It would increase your happiness.

I make this remark, with the intention of applying it in its broadest and most literal sense. I make no exceptions, but I say there is no human being who would not be made more happy by a living faith in the immortal purity and everlasting felicity of the whole human family. I care not what your present faith may be. I care not whether you agree, at present, with the atheist, deist, skeptic, or with any one of the numerous denominations of professing Christians. One thing I know, you have not a faith which presents more glorious hopes, or more heart-cheering anticipations than Universalism, and it is impossible for you to invent one that shall do so. Immortality and perfect unalloyed felicity for all created intelligences, is the "summum bonum," the "ne plus ultra" of all good, beyond which imagination itself cannot proceed. I say, therefore, there is no man among you, who would not be made happier by a firm faith in a system which promises all that the benevolent heart can wish, and even more than the most lively imagination can conceive. Let us see if I am not right here.

Suppose you are an atheist. You believe that his beautiful world came into existence by chance, or sprang from the operation of the laws of matter, and that all its vast concerns are going on at hap-hazard, or subject only to the laws of nature. And as for yourself, you are but the being of a day, the offspring of chance, ushered into life, like the insect whose wing glitters in the sunbeam, to sport your little hour, and die to live no more. You look upward to heaven,a and there is no Father there. You look around you, and all is confusion. You look forward, and all is darkness and gloom. You look downward, and the grave yawns at your feet, and the highest hope you have is that there you will soon feed the greedy worm, and moulder back to your native dust!

Need I compare such a faith with that of the Christian, in order to show that so far as its influence upon human happiness is concerned, the latter is as much above the former as the heavens are above the earth. I trust such a work is unnecessary, for I have seen the atheist, or at least the man who professed to have no faith in a God, and from his own lips have I and the confession of the happifying influence of the Christian faith. Never did I see the man of this sort who would not say to me, "Sir, I wish I could believe as you do, for could I look up to heaven, and feel that I had a friend and a father there, who would take care of me all my life long, and crown me with immortality at last, I know I should be a happier, if not a better man." I say then that Universalism heartily believed, would make the atheist more happy than he can be without it.

But suppose you are a deist. You believe in the God of nature, and in his general providence, but you have no idea that he stoops to converse with man, or to reveal to him his character or purposes. You know that you must die, and have no hope that you shall live again. The day of your death is the boundary of all you expectations, and you have no idea that you shall live at all beyond the grave. To you heaven is a dream, and immortality a fable. Your children and friends are dying around you, and when you part with them you part to meet no more, and you expect soon to close your own eyes upon all the endearments of earth, and bid a sad and eternal farewell to friends and friendship, to hope and happiness, nay, even to existence itself.

I am willing to grant that this faith is better than atheism, for there is some little comfort to be derived from the thought that the affairs of this world are measurably under the government and control of a wise and good creator and governor. But I utter a philosophical, as well as a scriptural truth, when I say that this cannot satisfy the desires of the mind, or still those yearnings after immortality which are inwoven with the very constitution of the human soul. Man is so made, that he must necessarily and unavoidably look forward to the future, and hope or fear.

"The soul uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in the world to come."

I have said that this is with man unavoidable, for I believe that he can no more avoid looking into the future than he can avoid looking backward and remembering the past. But whether it be absolutely unavoidable or not, is of little consequence to our present argument. There is no doubt of the fact, that all men everywhere do draw upon the future for sources of enjoyment and there is just as little doubt that a large share of human happiness is derived from anticipation. Some have gone so far as to maintain that the pleasure derived from anticipated good is greater than that produced by the actual possession of the good itself. However this may be, it is nevertheless, positively certain, that hope opens rich fountains of happiness to man, and hence it follows, that any system which limits the sphere of hope to a few years, and cuts it short at death, must deprive man of one of the richest sources of happiness. But I need not argue this question, for I know not that it is often disputed, that a firm hope in future and immortal blessedness, is a blessing well calculated to promote the happiness of man. I may add, that this is a fountain which remains full and overflowing at the very time when it is needed most, when all other sources of felicity have failed.

To the deist, then, we say, "Come thou with us, and we will do thee good." We will give thee a hope that shall make thee happy. We will inspire thee with confidence in God, as a friend, in whom we may at all times trust without fear of danger or disappointment. We will give thee a hope that shall cheer thee in life, grow brighter and brighter, as the lamp of life burns dim and feeble, sustain thee in affliction, and give thee a triumphant song of victory, when death shall claim his tribute.

Suppose, again, you are a Christian but have unfortunately embraced those narrow views of the economy of your Father's grace, that so extensively and unhappily prevail in the church, at the present day. You believe that "God from all eternity, has elected some men to be redeemed and everlastingly saved by Jesus, and the remainder he was pleased to pass by, and ordain to dishonor and wrath, to the praise of his vindictive justice." Can such faith make you calmly and peacefully happy in life, and resigned and joyous in the hour of death? I doubt it much, because, in the first place, you cannot know for a positive certainty that you are one of the very and precious elect of God, and so long as there is a lingering doubt upon that question, you must be measurably unhappy. But, in the second place, even if it were possible to remove all doubt upon that question, even that would not be fully satisfactory. There are ties that bind you to your fellow-creatures, and give you a deep and abiding interest in their welfare. I will therefore view your case in the most favorable light. I will suppose that your election is sure, and you are persuaded, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that you name is enrolled among the number of the precious elect of God. I ask, can even this satisfy you? Is there no soul out of the ark of safety in whose welfare you feel an interest? Are there not those around you that you love? And have you no heart to feel for them? I ask, how is it, when you look upon a cherished child of your love, and behold the indelible mark of reprobation stamped upon its countenance? Ah, I know how it is. Your feelings are like those of the good old patriarch, when the bloody coat was brought home, and he knew it belonged to his darling Joseph, and he refused to be comforted saying, "I will go down to the grave, to my son, mourning." No man can be fully satisfied with a faith which presents him with a reasonable probability, nay, an absolute certainty, that myriads of his fellow-creatures, and perhaps among them his own children, will fall victims to a hopeless decree of utter and eternal reprobation.

I grant that, with such views, you may at times enjoy a kind of satisfaction in the hope that dear and beloved self is safe, but that any man who has a head to reason, and a heart to feel, can possibly be as happy with such a faith, as he would be with one that embraced the whole world in the sure and steadfast covenant of redeeming grace, is altogether out of the question.

But I will make another supposition. You have rejected the notion of election and reprobation. You now believe that God offers salvation freely to all his creatures, and that they may all be saved, if they will comply with the conditions of grace. Those who comply with these conditions will be saved, and those who do not comply will be lost. The question is, whether this faith is best calculated to promote human happiness? I judge not, for no man can be positively certain that he has, and that he will, to the end of his life, continue to do all those things on which his eternal all depends. So long as there is doubt upon that head, it will be a constant source of misery. If fact, the foundation of hope in this system, is far more unsubstantial than in the other. The man who believes in sovereign election, if he can satisfy himself that he is elected, can rest secure in the steadfast hope that he will be saved, and that no power in heaven or earth can prevent it. But it is a large discount from this, to embrace a faith which puts us in jeopardy every hour, lest some false step of ours should plunge us in ceaseless perdition.

But I will do here as in the other case. I will place the matter in its most favorable aspect before you. You are now satisfied of your own safety, and there remains no lingering doubt that when you depart from this world, your soul will wing its way to the realms of eternal blessedness and joy. Is that all you want? And are you now satisfied, and perfectly happy? Dear man! Have you no wife? No Children? No friends? No human being that you love? If you have, where are your bowels of mercy and your feelings of compassion, that you can be happy while the storm of endless wrath is gathering, fearful and dark, and their unsheltered heads are exposed, naked, to its fury? I know not but you may be comfortable with such a faith, but I do know, from bitter experience, that I could not. And that any man, who loves his neighbor as himself, can be as happy with such a faith, as he would be with one that promises life and immortality to a world, is absolutely impossible.

The man who cherishes such a faith may have seasons of joy. He may have occasional gleaming of sunshine, but the broad daylight of felicity, pure and perpetual, he may not expect. He may reflect upon heaven and its glories, its songs of joy and anthems of ceaseless praise, and the prospect of obtaining a habitation there, may cause him to rejoice. But he must also look at the other side of the picture and when he thins of hell, with all its horrors, its dire music of misery, and its groans of everlasting despair, and remembers that himself, or his children, may one day be thee, his soul dies within him, and his joy is turned to mourning. He finds in the thought, as did the eloquent Saurin, "A mortal poison, diffusing itself through every period of live, rendering society tiresome, pleasure insipid, and life itself a cruel bitter." "Come thou with us, and we will do thee good." Believe in the full, free, perfect, and sure salvation of a world, and thou shalt be saved -- saved from doubts and fears, that now "waste your faith and nourish your despair." Ye have need to learn that God is unchangably "good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all the works of his hands" -- that he has linked the eternal glory of his creatures fast to his own throne, by the strong and indissoluble chain of his love, and that no power in heaven or on earth, in time, or eternity, can pluck us out of his hands. Learn this, I pray you, and your joys shall be abundant, and ye will tell me, as every man who believes will tell me, that faith has made you happier. It has dispelled the clouds of darkness that brooded over the future, and raised you up to better prospects and more glorious hopes. But I observe that faith in the doctrine of universal salvation will not only make you happier, but,

II. It will make you better.

I am not among the number of those who contend that it is no matter what a man believes, for I am sure that faith exercises a most powerful influence upon the character and the conduct of man. The great part of that which we are in the habit of considering as our stock of knowledge, is no more nor less than faith, and there are comparatively but few of the acts of our lives, that proceed from what we positively know. "We walk by faith, and not by sight," is no less a truth of experience than of scripture. Let a man look upon the Mohemmedan, ready at all times to raise a sword in an indiscriminate slaughter of all that do not bow down at the altar of the Arabian prophet, and let him tell me, if he can, what but faith is it that makes the difference between that man and the Christian? And I greatly err, if a view of the matter in this light does not oblige him to confess, that there is some little consequence attached to the great question, what a man shall, and what he shall not believe. Among the different sects of Christians, separated as they are by minor points, the difference may not be so great, as between the Christian and the Mohammedan faith. But that there is a difference in the moral influence of different systems among Christians, there can be no doubt.

You have, many of you, been in the habit of supposing that Universalism had no requirements to ask of its believers, and that its moral influence must be decidedly bad, and you may be surprised to hear me advocate its claims as an instrument of moral reform. But so it must be. I distinctly claim for the doctrine of universal grace, not only and equal share of moral power with other systems, but I claim for it a purer, higher and holier moral influence, than can be exerted by any other system, and I five it you, as the deliberate conviction of my judgement, that there is no man among you who would not be made better by faith in that doctrine, and a life corresponding with its requirements. And now for the reasons that induce me to hold this opinion.

I might indeed insist upon this, as a legitimate conclusion from my previous position, that it will make men happier, for I hold it as an incontrovertible truth, that you cannot make a man happier without at the same time making him better. Happiness is our being's end and aim, and it is in pursuit of this, that we perform every act of our lives. It is a want of this that leads men into sin. It is a restless, uneasy and unsatisfied spirit, that goads men on and urges them to the commission of all those foul deeds that disgrace humanity, and I risk nothing in saying, that no man ever yet committed a crime when he was calm, contented, satisfied and happy. In proportion, therefore, as any doctrine is calculated to satisfy our desires for happiness, will it exert a salutary moral influence.

If therefore, the doctrine of Universal Grace is, as I have shown, better calculated to make men calmly and peacefully happy, than any other system, it follows as a legitimate conclusion, that it will exert the most powerful and salutary moral influence. But I will not insist on this argument for there are an abundance of evidences in favor of our position without it.

I. It presents the only salutary doctrine of punishment.

There is no greater error than the supposition that man's respect and reverence for law is increased by adding to the amount of the penalty. In fact, the very reverse of this proposition comes much nearer the truth than the proposition itself. The whole history of the world will bear witness, that in all ages, and in all countries, those laws have been most respected and best obeyed, whose penalties have been most mild and merciful. But when tyrants have ruled with a rod of iron, and sought to enforce obedience to their laws, by means of most severe and unmerciful punishments,then the weak and timid have despaired, and the stout-hearted have despised them, and transgression has abounded. Now the common doctrine of punishment annexes to the law of God a most unmerciful penalty. It makes God punish men eternally, and of course, without any design to do them the least possible good. With such views the feeble in mind despair, and contract a morbid insensibility to danger, and the strong in spirit brave it out, despising not only the law, but also the lawgiver. They look upon God as a hard master, who rules with a despotic sway -- upon his law as a grievous burden -- upon themselves as slaves, who have no further interest in obedience, than an escape from the merciless wrath of a despotic lawgiver.

On the other hand, Universalism makes punishment mild and merciful -- the law itself holy and good -- man a child, and the penalty of the law, the wise and salutary chastisement of a kind friend, who seeks by it to turn our wandering feet from the way of destruction and misery, to the path of virtue, where alone we can be happy. Now I say that in order for punishment to be effectual, its justice must be seen, and its goodness appreciated. Any other view of punishment though it may make slaves and hypocrites, can never produce that cheerful and spontaneous obedience which flows from a willing heart. I say, therefore, that Universalism is calculated to exert a higher and purer moral influence than any other system, because it appeals to the hearts rather than the fears of men.

But again, Punishment in order to be effectual, must be speedy and certain. In both these respects, our views of punishment have a decided advantage over all other systems. The common doctrines of the day, do indeed threaten a most tremendously severe punishment, but they nullify its influence by placing it far in the future, for their language is like that of the false prophets of Israel, "He prophesies of the things that are afar off, and the vision that he seeth is for many days to come." But, to cap the climax, and as if on purpose to palliate all fear, and destroy entirely the influence of punishment, they offer to the vilest sinner, an easy method of escaping from that punishment, which is, in the first place, removed to the dim distance of future years, far beyond the reach of mortal vision.

Should our legislature pass a law, that the man who was guilty of theft should be punished with death at the stake thirty years from the time of transgression, you would at one say, that although the punishment was severe, yet it could have no effect, for the reason that it was too far off. But should they add a clause, providing that at any time during the thirty years, the thief shall have the privilege of repenting, and if he does so, the punishment shall not be inflicted at all, you would laugh them to scorn. And yet this is a faithful and true, though faint representation of the common notion of the law of God and its penalty. He has given to man a law, and annexed to that law a penalty, inconceivably lasting and severe. But when we ask is it to be inflicted: The answer is, not while man shall live in this world. It is reserved to another state of existence, and is placed behind that curtain which separates time from eternity. And will it certainly be inflicted upon every man that violates the law? Oh! no, for the most hardened offender can at any time, during this life repent, and in one brief hour he shall be placed out of all danger from the penalty of the law. Thus do these doctrines perpetually cry, in the language of the serpent, "Ye shall not surely die." Ye may sin, and ye shall have your whole lives given you to perform a work which can be done in an hour, and when done, shall give you a clear escape from the penalty of the law.

On the other hand, Universalism teaches that the penalty of the law, though mild and merciful, is speedy and sure. Her language is, "In the day that thou eatest of the fruit of sin, thou shalt surely die," and there is no escape, for "he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong that he hath done, and there is no respect of persons." Ye may flatter yourselves that punishment is far away, and with a hope of an easy escape, but it is an idle dream. It is nigh thee, even at thy doors, and will most surely come upon thee. These are the doctrines of Universalism upon the subject of punishment, and it is evident, at a glance, that they are capable of exercising a far more powerfully restraining influence than any other system can boast.

II. Universalism presents the character of God in such a light that it will draw out the affections of the believer's heart in love to him, and good will to his children.

Love to God, and good will to mean, lie at the foundation of all true morality. On these two commands hang all the law and the prophets. That system, therefore, is best calculated to exercise a salutary, moral influence, which can best secure obedience to these two requirements. Now, I say, that the best possible way to make a man love God, is, to stamp on his mind the conviction, that God is his friend and his father. You may draw a picture of the great divinity, clothed in vengeance as with a garment, and roll over the head of the sinner the tremendous thunders of eternal wrath, to the end of his days, and though you may thus make him tremble like a slave, you cannot make him love like a child. But tell a man that God is good; stamp on his mind the full conviction, that in heaven there is one who is better than all, whose kindness knows no bounds, and whose faithfulness will never leave nor forsake the souls that he has made; and then you touch the heart and draw out the soul in love to him, as a being infinitely worthy of the warmest devotions of the mind. This is what Universalism teaches, and hence I say, that before all systems, and above all systems, it is most powerful in its influence to secure love to God.

Love to our neighbor is the next in the catalogue of moral virtues. How shall that be secured? Not by convincing a man that his neighbor is a mass of total depravity, hated of God, and destined to be fuel for hell fire, and fit only for a companion of devils. Such views as these can never go one step toward making a man love his neighbor. But convince a man that his neighbor is his brother, a child of the same God, and an heir of the same immortal and incorruptible inheritance, and when that truth is fixed in the mind, he will love him, as one to whom he is bound by a common interest, common origin, and common destiny. This is what Universalism teaches. It tells a man to recognize in all around him, the children of the same God, and the heirs of the same inheritance as himself, and calls on him to love them with the whole heart. Its moral influence then must be good, for it will produce love to God and good will to man; and as for all other moral duties, they are but the streams that flow from this fountain. Keep the fountain full, and the streams will not fail to flow continually.

I am frequently questioned upon the subject of the requirements of Universalism. If that be true, what has man to do? is the question. I answer, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." That is all. If you love God, you will serve him, and if you love your neighbor, you will do him good and not evil.

There are many other views that I might take of the subject, all tending to establish the truth of the position I have assumed. But I am admonished that it is time to bring this discourse to a close. I can prove, with the clearness of light, in theory, that, upon all the known principles and laws of the human mind, Universalism is superior to any other system in its moral tendency. But after all, it is better to do so practically. Let us live the doctrine we profess, and we shall demonstrate the fact, beyond all controversy. Bigotry may resist the force of evidence, and sophistry may evade the most cogent reasoning, but there is a silent power in virtue, that nothing can withstand.

Again, then, I say, let those who profess to believe, live as their faith dictates, and though a silent, yet will it be a more powerful argument, in favor of the moral power of the doctrine, than I could put together, even though I could come to you with the zeal of a Paul, and the eloquence of an Apollos!

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