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The ideas, that fin is infinite, and that it deserves an infinite punishment ; that the law transgressed is infinite, and inflicts an infinite penalty, and that the great Jehovah took on himself a natural body of flesh and blood, and actually suffered death on a cross, to satisfy his infinite justice, and thereby save his creatures from endless misery, are ideas which appear to me to be unfounded in the nature of reason, and unfupported by divine revelation. Such notions have, in my opinion, served to darken the human understanding and obfcure the gospel of eternal life ; and have rendered, what I esteem as divine revelation, a fubject of discredit to thoufands, who, I believe, would never have condemned the fcriptures, had it not been for those gross absurdities being contended for, and the fcriptures forced to bend to such fignifications. Christian authors and preachers have labored much to dissuade those whom they have caused to disbelieve the Christian religion, from their infidelity. But, in this case, the salt has lost its favor, become good for nothing, and is trodden under foot of men, who are too sensible to believe the unreasonable dogmas imposed on the world, either through error, or design, and fanctioned by tradition ; and too inattentive to search the scriptures faithfully and impartially, whereby they might have learned, that those errors were neither in them, nor supported by them. One particular object, therefore, in this work, is, if possible, to free the scripture doctrine of atonement from those incumbrances which have done it so much injury; and open a door, at least, for the subject to be investigated on reasonable grounds, and by fair argument.
If we admit that our Creator made us reasonable beings, we ought, of course, to believe, that all the truth which is neceflary for our belief, is not only reafonable, but reducible to our understandings.
In order to come at the subject of atonement, so as to have light continually shining along the path which I intend to occupy, I found it neceffary to show my reasons for not admitting the doctrine, on the ground on which it is usually argued ; to do which, I found I must, of necessity, show, that the common notion of the infinity of fin is unfounded in truth; and, of course, every consequence deducible from such an error, equally unfounded and unsupported. It may seem not a little strange, to some of my readers, that I dispute the infinity of the law against which fin is committed ; as all unholiness must be, either in union, or disunion, with the eternal law of holiness, and divine purity. But, if the reader will take a little pains to observe particularly, it will appear plain, that no being can stand amenable to a law above his capacity. And as the creature is finite, in his earthly character, in which character only, he is, or can be a finner, it is not reasonable to say, that he stands amenable tɔ an infinite law. But, as the reader will find, in this work, so much of the divine law of perfection, as the creature obtains a knowledge of, (which, in comparison to the whole, is no more than a shadow to a substance) is the law which he violates by his fin. And though we may speak of the fin of ignorance, it can amount to no more than the production of a virtuous intention thwarted by ignorance, or the same principle by which the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea, gratify their various inclinations and appetites. And I do not think my reader will wish to have me prove that such sin is not infinite.
In my argument on the cause, or origin of fin, I thought it necessary to hint a little on the general idea of the subject, endeavoring to thow the want of propriety in what is commonly contended for ; and I have fought for the rise of unholy temptations in the conftitutions of carthly and finite be
ings. I have endeavored, also, to trace the causes and con: sequences of sin (as fin) so as to determine the finite nature of all which belongs to fin as cause and consequence. In any sense, in which it can be said that God is the author of any thing whatever, in that sense of speaking, it cannot be kn. And in any sense, in which any action, or event, can be said to be endless, in its conjequences, God must be considered the author of it.
In all the statements which I have made of the doctrinal ideas of others, I have been careful to state no more than what I have read in authors, or heard contended for in preaching, or conversation ; and if I have, in any instance, done those ideas any injustice, it was not intended. The reason why I have not quoted any author, or spoken of any denomination, is, I have not felt it to be my duty, nor my inclination, to write against any name, or denomination, in the world ; but my object has been, what I pray it
may ever be, to contend against error, wherever I find it ; and to receive truth, and support it, let it come from what quarter it may. For the sake of ease, however, in writing, I reasoned vith ny opponcnt, profer, or objector, meaning no one in particular, but any one who uses the arguments, and states the objections, which I have endeavored to answer. probable, that some may think me too ironical, and, in many instances, too severe, on what I call error. But I find it very difficult to expose error, so as to be understood by all, without carrying, in many instances, my arguinents in such a form as may not be agreeable to those who believe in what I with to correct. I confess I should have been glad to have written, on all my inquiries, so as not to have displeased any, but to have pleased all, could I have done it, and accomplishet iny main design ; but this I was persuaded would be difficult. I have, therefore, paid particular attention to nothing, but my main object ; depending on the goodness of my read
It is very
er to pardon what may be disagreeable, in manner or form, as inadvertencies.
What I have written on the subject of the Trinity, is mainly to show the reader in what light I view the Mediator, that my general ideas of atonement may be the easier understood. And though I think my objections and arguments, against the common idea of three distinct persons in the Godhead, who are equal in power and glory, to be unanswerable ; yet, it was not my intention to attend to a full refutation of those ideas, as I think that has frequently been done, and well done.
The opposers of universalism have generally written and contended against the doctrine, under an entire mistaken notion of it. They have endeavored to show the absurdity of believing that men could be received into the kingdom of glory and righteousness, in their fins ; which no Universalift ever believed. In this work, I have endeavored to make as fair a statement, of what I call universalism, as I was able ; and it stands on such ground, that the propriety of it can no more be disputed, than the propriety of univerfal holiness and recogiciliation to God. Perhaps the reader will say, he has read a number of authors on the doctrine of universalism, and finds considerable difference in their systems. That I acknowledge is true ; but all agree in the main point, viz. that universal holiness and happiness is the great object of the gospel plan. And as for the different ways in which individuals may
believe this work will be done, it proves nothing against the main point ; but proves, what I wish could be proved concerning all other Christian denominations, that they have set up no. standard of their own, to cause all to bow to, or be rejected as heretics. We feel our own imperfections ; we wish for every one to seek with all his might after wisdom ; and let it be found where it may, or by whom it may, we humbly with to have it brought to light, that all may enjoy it ; but do not feel authorized to condemn an honest inquirer after truth, for what he believes different from a majority of us.
A few fentences, which the reader will find towards the close of this work, which have reference to a punishment after death, may cause him to desire more of my ideas on the fubject.
The doctrine of punishment after death, has, by many able writers, been contended for ; fome of whom have argued such punishment to be endless, and others limited But it appears to me that they have taken wrong ground who have endeavored to support the latter, as well as those who have labored to prove the former. They have both put great dependance on certain figurative and parabolical expreffions, or passages of fcripture, which they explain, so as to cause them to allude to such an event. It appears to me, that they have not fufficiently attended to the nature of fin, so as to learn its punishment to be produced from a law of neceflity, and not a law of penalty. Had they seen this, they would also have feen, that a perpetuity of punishment must be connected with an equal continuance of fin, on the same principle that an effect is dependant on its cause. Who in the world would contend, that a man, who had finned one year, could expiate his guilt, by sinning five more, with greater turpitude of heart ? State the punishment, say a thousand years, for a sinner who dies in unbelief. What is it for ? Say for his incorrigibleness in this world. Well, does he commit fin during these thoufand years ? Surely, or he could not be miserable. Then, I ask, if it takes a thousand years punishment in another world, to reward the finner for, fay fifty years of sin in this, how long must he be punished, afterwards, for the fin he commits during the thousand years? The punifhment, or sufferings, which we endure, in conse