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clean, compared with God, so those who remain filthy and unclean, during the present life, may be so esteemed hereafter, in comparison of those holy souls, who having purged themselves from all uncleanness here, shall be reckoned as vessels of the highest honor in the house of God.
OBJECTION.--Those who add or diminish shall have the plagues added to them, or their part taken out of the book of life, &c.
ANSWER--This no objection to the general Restoration, but is a solemn warning for us to take heed that we do not fall under those dreadful punishments which await unbelievers and profane persons, nor loose those inestimable blessings which Christ has promised to the faithful, obedient, overcomers, &c.
The reflections cast upon the doctrine of the Restoration by its opponents shewn to be highly absurd.
The doctrine of annihilation considered.
There can be but three things possible; endless misery, total annihilation, or the Restoration.
The doctrine of annihilation, or a final state of nonexistence, proved unscriptural. 1. By the wicked being actually tormented for a long season, ages of ages. 2. Because they are destroyed, not that they might cease to exist any more, but that they might come to know the Lord. 3. By the unexceptionable instance of Sodom & Gomorrah, &c. who were so long ago destroyed, and yet shall have their captivity returned.
The promises made respecting Sodom and Gomorrah, &c. prove the doctrines of annihilation and endless misery, both to be erroneous and the restoration alone to be true.
An objection taken from Mr. B's sermon that sinners in Hell, will be always under the necessity of committing fresh sin, therefore God will be obliged to continue their punishments to all eternity.
ANSWERED.-The objection unscriptural, merely a rash conjecture, totally unfounded.
The scripture represents future punishment as the reward of sins committed in this world.
Their intention is to destroy sin, and consequently will cause it to cease from being committed.
Whatever rage punishments may at first seem to provoke, they must continue until the most rebellious are entirely subdued.
The last objection. That sin is infinite, being against an infinite object, containing infinite hatefulness, and justly deserves infinite punishment; and which cannot be fully executed, and therefore endless misery must be their portion.
This unscriptural, unreasonable, trite objection largely answered. 1. By shewing the absurdity of ascribing infinite actions to creatures. 2. Acts of the highest goodness do not extend to God, cannot be infinite, much less can evil actions be infinite. 3. Tho' iniquities are once in Scripture styled infinite, yet it is evident from the whole passage compared with other parts of Scripture, that infinite is only used for a great multitude. 4. The idea of every sin being absolutely infinite, and deserving infinite punishment or endless misery, entirely confounds and destroys all the different kinds and degrees of sin, and all those distinctions which God hath made and revealed to us in the Scriptures. 5. God threatens to punish sinmers for all their sins; and to render their sin and iniquity double upon them: and yet pomises to be gracious to them after all, &c. 6. Even allowing that sin is naturally infinite, and deserves infinite punishment, that will not prove that any of the human race must be miserable without end, &c.
Eight reasons given why the Author sometimes treats in public upon the doctrine of the Universal Restoration.
Eleven reasons mentioned why the Author doth not speak of it more frequently and fully in his public discourses.
MINISTER & HIS FRIEND.
HAVE taken the freedom to call upon you, to have a little discourse with you concerning the doctrine of the Restoration of all Things, which it is said you believe; and to propose some objections.
Minister. I am happy to see you, and am willing to discourse, as well as I am able, upon any subject that may be agreeable, but I have always made it a rule never to press the belief of my sentiments upon my friends; and I can safely say, that, though such great pains have been taken by my adversaries, to prejudice people against me, I have never gone about from house to house to propagate my opinions; and I make it an universal rule not to introduce the subject in conversation, unless desired; but yet I never have refused to own my sentiments, when asked, respecting the matter; and am ready, in the fear of God, to answer any objections that can be made, to a doctrine which I believe is plainly revealed in the Scriptures of truth, and appears to me worthy of God.
Friend. I shall first of all bring to view that grand objection, which is formed from the word eternal or everlasting, being applied to a future state of punishment; as in the following passages Isaiah xxxiii, 14. "The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprized the bypocrites. Who among us shall dwell
with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
Dan. xii. 2." And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
St. Matt. xviii. 8. "Wherefore, if thine hand or thy foot offend thee (or cause thee to offend) cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands, or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire."
St. Matt. xxv. 41. "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Verse 46, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal or everlasting." The same word in the original being used for both, though varied by the translators.
St. Mark, iii. 29. "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness; but is in danger of eternal damnation."
2 Thes. i 7, 8, 9. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengence on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
Jude, 6, 7."And the Angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judg ment of the great day: Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over unto fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
These texts, together, form such an objection to the doctrine of the Restoration, that I can by no means believe it, unless this can be fairly answered,
and proofs brought from the Scriptures to shew, that the words everlasing and eternal, (which are translations of the same word and synonimous) being connected with the punishment of the wicked, and their future misery, do not necessarily imply the continuance of the same while God exists.
Minister. I am glad that you have so fairly and fully stated the matter; and I highly commend your resolution, not to believe the universal doctrine, unless this can be answered fully, without any torturing or twisting the Scriptures; and if I am not able, with God's assistance, to remove this difficulty, I will publicly recant my sentiments.
But, before I come to give a direct answer, I would beg leave to remark how very seldom this word is used to express the duration of punishment. We should think,by some sermons we hear, that everlasting is applied to misery in every book of the New Testament, if not in every chapter. A friend of mine told me, that he was once preaching in Maryland, and after sermon a man came and asked him, of what denomination he was? To which he answered, A Baptist. I think, says the man, that you do not preach up so much everlasting damnation, as the Baptist and Methodists, among us do. To which my friend replied, Everlasting damnation is found in the Scripture. True, answered the man; but some preachers give us more of it in one sermon than is to be found in the whole Bible. The truth of this remark will appear, if we consider that St. Luke, never uses the word aionion, or everlanting, as connected with the misery of the wicked, in his gospel; nor St. Mark but once, and then in a particular case only: In the gospel of St. John, it is not to be found at all, in that connection, nor in any of his epistles: In the account of the preaching of the apostles through the world, in the first age of christianity, we do not find it mentioned, in that light,so much as once: No,not in all the sermons, and parts of sermons, which St, Luke has preserved in the Book of the Acts; though the doc