Page images

has nothing to do in leading us to believe one doctrine, and reject its opposite for want of evidence; for though it is allowed, that the evidence adduced is nearly conclusive that Gehenna is not a place of endless misery, yet all this evidence is nothing, and we must still go on believing that it is, on the mere possibility of its being true, unsupported by evidence.

2d, Whether my views of Gehenna or hell, or the commonly received doctrine about it, be the truth, one thing is certain; every scriptural doctrine must have evidence to support it. Evidence is the criterion of truth; nor can a man be said to believe any doctrine, farther than he understands it, and perceives the evidence of its truth. Where the evidence, for or against any doctrine is equally balanced, the mind is in doubt, and suspense prevails, until some additional evidence appears, which leads the mind to preponderate to the one side or the other. This is the natural course of every candid mind, in serious search after what is truth. But here, though the evidence adduced that Gehenna is not a place of endless misery, is allowed to be nearly conclusive, yet the mind must preponderate to the opposite side. It is not even allowed to hang in doubt, and suspend judgment until further evidence shall appear, but must come to the conclusion, that 'eternal misery is true, on the mere ground that after all it may possibly be true. The mind must come to the very opposite conclusion of that to which the evidence before us leads. A mere possibility, thrown into the one scale, far outweighs all the evidence we have adduced, in the other. This is not the course a candid mind pursues in considering the comparative weight of evidence. If the importance of the subject, demands scrupulous care in coming to a decision, the evidence on both sides is subjected to a strict examination, and further evidence is eagerly sought after, to remove doub:s and decide with certainty on the subject. But this is not the course we must pursue on this subject, if this objection is to be regarded. Should doubts remain, arising from lack of evidence, that my views of hell or Gehenna are true, or that the evidence which I have adduced is considerably weakened by the evidence on the other side, all I wish is, let the subject be more carefully examined. But I enter my protest, against shutting our eyes to the evidence which has been produced, and still profess to go on believing an old popular doctrine, upon the mere possibility that it may be true, without producing evidence on the other side. Had such a course been pursued, or had such objections as this and others been allowed at the Reformation, we had to day been in darkness which might be felt.

3d, But the objector in this objection has reduced the subject of discussion to a mere profit and loss account, as to our different views of hell or Gehenna, and that on the supposition that his views may possibly be true. Let us examine how this account stands.

1st, Then, let us attend to his side of this account. It stands thus : The doctrine of eternal torment in hell, may possibly, after all, be true, and if true, I may in consequence of embracing this error, lose my soul and body forever. Such is the loss with which I am charged in his account. It is a loss which cannot be exceeded, by saying any man bas lost more than this. It is certainly of such a na. ture, as no man who was not determined on his own ever. lasting misery would on any consideration run the least risk about. No language under heaven has a word to express my folly and madness in avowing such sentiments if they are not true. I certainly must then have the credit of being a sincere believer of the sentiments I

have advanced relative to this subject, whether true or false.

But, how is this account or charge proved against me to be true? I deny that the entry is true, or that the account of loss charged, can be proved. Is it the belief that hell is a place of endless misery, which saves any man? And is it unbelief in this doctrine which damns any man to this punishment? Here seems to be one radical mistake of the objector. He seems to think that if his doctrine is true, all who have not believed it, must suffer this punishment for not believing it. But if this was true, he would send all the ancient prophets and saints to hell. He would also send all the apostles and first Christians to hell. Yca, he would not exempt the Saviour himself, for he nor any of those persons seem to have believed his doctrine. If they did, why did they not preach it to the world? The prophets and apostles, as we have seen, said not a word about hell as a place of eternal misery. Nor did our Lord, as we have seen from the passages in which he used the term Gehenna. All of them preached the gospel to save men from sin, but none of them preached hell torments, to turn men from such a punishment. If I must lose my soul and body forever, for not believing this doctrine, what is to be the condition of those inspired men who never preached it, nor believed it. If their unbelief of it does not involve such an awful and solemn loss to them, how can it be in the objector's account charged as a loss to me? Placing me in his account, in such company, I shall not feel much alarmed; yea, he will be obliged to add to our company, all the Universalists, and all who have doubted of the truth of his doctrine, and a multitude which no man can number, who have in their hearts disbelieved it, but who were not honest enough to avow their convictions. He perhaps may be obliged to add even himself, for a belief founded on a mere possibility that the thing believed, is true, is surely not far from unbelief concerning it.

But the objector labors under a mistaken notion as to what saves. According to him, it is the belief of the doctrine, that hell is a place of endless misery. It is not the belief of this, which saves men from hell or from any thing else. Jesus Christ is the Saviour, and it is the gospel or glad tidings of God's grace or favor through him, that saves men from every thing they need to be saved from. Nor would the objector undertake to defend, that a man who believed the gospel, and showed his faith by his works, would be damned if he did not also believe the doctrine of endless misery in hell. Would he not pause a moment, before he, with one indiscriminating sweep, sent all to hell who have not believed his doctrine?

This charge must then be cancelled from his side of this account against me. The objector may take his choice, either to do this, or with me to consign prophets, apostles, and innumerable others, over to eternal misery.

2d, Let us now examine my side of this account against the objector. My loss is the loss of both soul and body forever, if his doctrine is at last found true. But if my doctrine is true, he loses nothing. It is freely granted, that if my doctrine is true, that neither the objector nor any other man, loses soul and body forever. But because these are not lost, does it follow, that he loses nothing ? We think that this is another very considerable mistake of the objector, which requires to be corrected in his account. Is it then no loss to a man that he lives all his days, and at last dies in a very great error, though that error does not involve him at last in eternal misery! Is it no loss to him, that his error gives him very wrong

views of God's character, and his designs by the salvation of his Son. Does it make no difference to him, as to profit or loss, to look on God as dooming a part, and by some, the greater part, of mankind to inconceivable and endless misery, and being persuaded that God never so much as even threatened one of the children of men with such a punishment? Is it no difference to him whether he spend his days in the certain and joyful hope of heavenly happiness, and that without any fears and anxieties about eternal misery, or live under fear and doubt and anxiety all the days of his life, and with fear and trembling, as to his future destiny, give up the ghost ? Do these things make no difference to him ? Is there no loss sustained by him from the doctrine he has believed ? And allowing him free from all such fears and anxieties as to his own future happiness, is it no loss to him to be denied the same hope and comfort of mind as to all his fellow creatures? Is it a matter of perfect indifference to him, and does he sustain no loss thereby, to believe that a great part of the human race are doomed to suffer endless and unutterable misery in hell? In one word, does he suffer no loss by such wrong conceptions of God's character, which mar his own peace and comfort, and involve so many of his fellow mortals in endless misery.

Such is a brief statement of the objector's losses. I leave the reader to enlarge it, which may easily be done to a much greater amount. Can he now say that he loses nothing, admitting my doctrine to be true and his own false? Should he answer in the affirmative, all I shall say, is, that he is an object of pity; and, with such a disposition of mind, who would not add, a fitter subject for hell than for heaven, allowing his own doctrine to be


« EelmineJätka »