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THERE is not a truth revealed in the Bible, against which one opposed to it, may not start objections. It would, however, be a waste of time, and a very trifling employment, to answer every silly objection which might be made. All will allow, that objections which are rational, and which affect the subject against which they are brought, demand an answer. Every objection which has occurred to myself, or has been suggested by others, of any weight against the views which have been advanced, I shall now attempt to consider. These objections divide themselves into two classes; common popular objections, and, objections which are urged against the argument adduced. Let us begin with the first of these.
One of the most popular objections, is, that my sentiments are of a licentious tendency. It is remarked, s if you do away Gehenna or hell as a place of endless punishment for the wicked, what is left to deter men from the commission of every crime ? Indeed, say some, if I believed there was no hell, I would indulge myself in all kinds of iniquity! Look, say they, at the loose principles, and still more loose morals, of the Universalists; and add, by way of triumph, who ever heard of a revival of religion among them ?” It will be allowed, that I have stated this objection fully and fairly. It shall now be my business, as fully and fairly to meet it.
1st, It is said, “if hell, a place of endless punishment is done away, what is left to deter men from the commission of crime?” In reply to this, I remark1st, Under the Old Testament dispensation, it is allowed that the doctrine of endless hell torments was not known. Suffer me then to ask, what was left to de
ter men from crime, before this doctrine had existence ? When these persons have told us, what was left in those days to deter men from crime without it, we are prepared to inform them what can deter men in these days without it. And if this doctrine, was not preached under the Old Testament to make men holy, how came any then to be holy without it? Did Adam, preach the doctrine of hell torments to Cain to make him holy? Did Noah, preach this doctrine to make the antideluvians holy? Did Lot, preach this doctrine to make the Sodomites holy? Yea, was the belief of this doctrine the cause of the holiness of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, and a host of others ? Did the belief of hell torments make them holy, in distinction from those who were unholy? If this was the cause of their being holy themselves, why did they not preach this doctrine to make their friends, neighbors, and indeed all mankind, holy? If this doctrine was believed in those days, and was so well fitted as is supposed, to prevent wickedness, why was it not preached ? Surely, Noah ought to have preached it to the people of the old world, when all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. He was a preacher of righteousness, but I do not find a hint given in his history, that he was a preacher of hell torments to deter men from their licentious courses. Besides; why did not Lot preach it to the Sodomites to make them holy? They were sinners before the Lord exceedingly, but I do not find that he believed this doctrine to keep himself holy, or preached it to others to deter them from licentiousness. Not a word is said which would lead one to conclude, that the antideluvians and Sodomites were all believers in the doctrine of universal salvation, and that this was the cause of their wickedness, but that Noah, Lot, and others, believed in the doctrine of hell torments, and that this led them to holiness.
2d, If the doctrine of hell torments, is so well calcu
lated to prevent sin, and promote holiness, why did not our Lord teach it to the Jews, who are allowed to have been a race of very wicked men ? Can any man believe that by the damnation of hell, our Lord meant a place of eternal misery, that he thought it well fitted to prevent licentiousness, yet only mentioned it once to the unbelieving Jews? Did he think, there was nothing left, to prevent men from committing all manner of iniquity, and yet but once, and that in a discourse relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, said to them—“how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?" It is not the easiest thing in the world, for us to believe this.
3, It is an indisputable fact, that the apostles of our Lord, never said a word about hell to the Gentiles, We ask then, what they had left to deter them from the commission of every crime? If they knew that hell was a place of endless misery for the wicked, and thought it such an excellent antidote against licentiousness, why did they never make use of it? They must have either been ignorant of such a doctrine, or very culpable in not preaching it, to deter men from crime; or they did pot consider it so efficacious as the objector imagines. The Gentile nations in the apostle's days, were very licentious. And it appears from chap. i. sect. 3. that they were also believers in the doctrine of eternal misery in Tartarus. But we see, that the belief of this doctrine, did not turn them from their licentious courses. Nor did the apostles of our Lord think the preaching of eternal misery, either in Hades, or Gehenna, would effect this; for they do not say one word to them about punishment in either of those places. Let the objector then account for it, if the apostles were of his mind about this, why they did not preach this doctrine to prevent wickedness in their day. And let him account for it, why the Gentiles in believing it, should be so licentious. If the prophets, Jesus Christ, or his apostles, did not teach eternal torments in hell to promote holiness,
ought not their doctrine to be charged with a licentious tendency as well as mine? There is no way of evading this, but by proving, that they did teach this doctrine to mankind. This we think never can be done.
If I am then to be condemned, how are they to be cleared ? And if their doctrine did not lead to licentiousness, how, in justice, can the views I have advanced be charged with it. I shall not feel much ashamed at being found in such company. These facts, are sufficient to put down this objection forever. Nor need we be alarmed, that the doctrine will produce an increase of iniquity, when the inspired writers never used the opposite doctrine, to check the progress of sin in the world. They had certainly something left to deter men from sin, and which they deemed so efficacious, as to supercede the necessity of the doctrine of hell torments.
4th, Let us inquire, what that was, which they deemed sufficient without it. Paul says, “ the goodness of God," and not hell torments, leadeth men to repentance. It is "the
grace of God,” not hell torments, which teacheth men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. It is the love of Christ," not hell torments, which constrains men not to live to themselves, but to the glory of God. All, who are acquainted with the scriptures know, to what extent I might here refer to texts of a similar nature, showing the same thing; but I forbear. Here then was the sovereign remedy, which they proposed, to cure a licentious world. If this failed, they had no other to propose. All other remedies which people have tried to effect it, have been like the woman, who spent her all on other physicians, but rather grew worse. The love of God in the gift of his Son, is that which when believed, and its influence felt constrains to love and to good works. Every thing else to effect a cure without this, is only religious quackery, and this we deem the very worst kind of quackery. But
5th, Those persons, who aver, that if the doctrine
of hell torments is done away, there is nothing left to deter men from the commission of every crime, must certainly think, that where this doctrine is taught, it greatly tends to prevent wickedness. I believe that this will be strongly contended for. Is this then true? Can it be established by sufficient evidence? Has the preaching of hell torments to mankind, produced such glorious effects, as such persons would have us believe? Our actual observation of its effects, we admit is very limited. But we have seen a little of it, at least in two quarters of the globe, and we think facts will warrant us to say, that hell torments, and heathenish morality have been preached to people, until they have been preached into the grossest immorality. Was not this tried for ages among the Gentile nations, but did it turn them from sin to God ? No; it was when the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. Besides, our own actual observation does not lead us to think, that where the doctrine of hell torments is most preached, there the people are most holy.
6th, But admitting that the preaching of hell torments did deter men, in many cases, from the commission of crimes,—what opinion are we to form of the morality produced by such a cause? We do not envy that parent, the respect and obedience which he receives from his wife and children, who obtains it from the fear of being cast into a furnace of fire! This might do well enough for an eastern despot, but no rational mar, far less the God of the universe, would think this true obedience or morality. We venture to say, that such a course to produce obedience, either to men or to God, is as bad state policy, as it is false divinity: It shows as much ignorance of human nature, je it diorlage » want of common humanity. In the preaching & fronte Christ and his apostles, I do not find any aiamyta moda to frighten men from their licenfione purposent in the past