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instances of his superiority; and as these abound, will our love and admiration increase. Thus the simple proposition that God is good, may inspire a degree of respect, but it will not arise. to the ardour of love. This affection must be called forth, and habitually cherished, by incessant manifestations of operative goodness. The more numerous, extensive, and extraordinary these, the more liberal his gifts, the more condescending his compassion, the more conspicuous his exertions for the diffusion of extensive happiness, the more shall we feel the propriety of the duty to love him with all our hearts, and with the greater facility will the duty be practised. But where munificence is limited by hypothesis, to a comparative few, and infinite severity is exercised upon the multitude, without the intervention of wisdom, or power, to prevent miseries which exceed the most vigorous imagination, men may attempt to love, and they may resolve to check feelings of an opposite character as impious, but they will not always succeed. Their religious tenets leave a deficiency somewhere, not to be expected in the character and conduct of a perfect being, which must diminish that exalted admiration they are solicitous to entertain.
Moreover, should they arrive at that perfect
love which casteth out fear, it is upon a contracted selfish principle. They can be grateful alone for personal favours, and admire the goodness of God in nothing so much as in his partiality to themselves. They are justly astonished that they should be selected from the myriads who are consigned over to eternal misery; and there is nothing to admire in this, but a sovereign act, which confounds the understanding; and in which, as there are no traces of wisdom, there can be no marks of respectability. In a word, it is inconsistent with the nature of things, and with the very constitution of the human mind, to love such a Being with that profound veneration and ardour of devotion, which are due to the wise and good Parent of the universe.
We are also commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves. But does this love harmonize with the gratitude which is so strongly excited, by a perception that others will be eternally excluded, from the transcendent blessings we are to enjoy? Will not a generous heart feel an anxious wish that others, not less deserving, might also become participants? If it feels these emotions, it must also feel an astonishment that God should implant them in the heart of man, and not act upon so worthy a principle
himself! It must perceive that its benevolent dispositions exceed those which we ascribe to our Maker! If such desires are not entertained, then is the heart hardened by the system; for it can contemplate the eternal reprobation of the millions, with a phlegmatic indifference ! But historical facts innumerable inform us, that it has been rendered still more obdurate. Multitudes have enlisted under the banner of persecution; have hated men, because they supposed them to be hated by God; and have aspired to the honour of wielding the exterminating sword, which was to send their fellow immortals into eternal misery! How different the sensations excited by such a creed, compared with the humble and benevolent hope of that Christian, who, while he laments that the wicked should turn away from their duty and their happiness, still rejoices that his God is their God, his Redeemer, will be their Redeemer; and though he reflects, with concern, upon the misery they will inevitably bring upon themselves, he enjoys the exquisite consolation, that their sufferings will ultimately prove corrective of their vices. What motives for composure and resignation, do these expectations afford to the sympathizing friend, to the affectionate relative, to the tender and anxious parent, amidst the disorders and depravities of those whom they
love! The mind of every pious christian will learn to acquiesce in the chastisements which shall prove salutary; for he knows that the severest judgments will be inflicted, by wisdom and mercy, for purposes of Good.
Thus have we endeavoured to shew that the tenet, condemning the wicked to eternal misery, is not a revelation from heaven; neither is that of their absolute irrecoverable destruction.. These are merely opinions and inferences, drawn either from a few occasional and metaphorical expressions, or from a misapplication of the current phraseology of the scriptures. It is most obvious that such threatenings were not denounced to transgressors under the law, who must have been equally implicated, with transgressors under the gospel. We have shewn, that the doctrine of eternal misery is rather unfavourable to the cause of religion and virtue, than the contrary; and that it is very inimical to the devout affections of the heart: that the milder doctrine of annihilation, neither terrifies from vice, nor encourages to reformation, equally with a full conviction, that extreme wretchedness must continue the inseparable companion of extreme depravity; while it administers a power to
reform, and inspires the hopes that repentance. can never be in vain. It is acknowledged that obscurities, many-and great, still surround this awful subject. But it is a consolation to every human being, that the God of mercy, and the Parent of the universe, hath not, by any public declaration, changed his infinite mercy into infinite wrath, or renounced his power to forgive iniquities, transgressions, and sins, at any one period of human existence.