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complete confusion. But so far from their expectations, when Elias came they thought him possessed of the devil! And why should they not ? For he was wild enough to call them a generation of vipers, and exhorted them to repent ! Such wild confusionandirreligious impiety, might, it is true, incense those learned divines and call forth the worst of their anathemas, but could neve er inspire them with ever a dream of the good old prophet Elijah.
Is it not possible for Christian scribes, (who profess to understand the law and the testimony, who teach the people soon to expect a glorious day, when those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus will rise from the dead, make their appearance in defence of their doctrines and traditions, putting to silence every thing which they call error,)to make as great a mistake as the Jewish scribes did ? Is it to be expected that an order of clergy who stands in the very spirit of persecution, which is the great characteristic of the BEAST, should know the features of those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, any better than the old scribes did those of Elijah, which were so plainly displayed in John the Baptist? It is more reasonable to suppose that such an order of clergy should do as their prototype did, and oppose the souls of those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, supa posing them to be, what they are not, possessed of the devil. The souls of them who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, are the doctrine, sentiments, and testimony which those bore who were put to death by antichrist. The true testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ rising into life and prevailing against the doctrines maintained by those who preach a ministration of death and condemnation, is meant by those souls living and reigning with Christ.
If the suggestion in a former subject, that the present time may be the time of the rising of the two witnesses, be correct, it is consistent to conceive that the living of the souls of those who were beheaded for the WITNESS of Jesus, is the same thing, differently expressed, and is now taking place in the Christian church. This thousand year's reign of Christ is introduced by the binding of Satan, who is to lie in his confinement the same period, not being permitted to deceive the nations any more until the thousand years are finished. This binding of Satan, is performed by an angel who comes down from heaven with a great chain for that purpose.
This angel may justly represent a pure ministry, and the great chain, the system of divine truth which lies along in the word of God, from the early promises through the law and pro
phetic dispensation and ends in Jesus. Satan, the dragon, the old serpent and the devil comprehend all civil and religious power, of a tyrannic cast, all false doctrines and errors in which the world has been deceived, and which constitute the mystical Babylon the mother of harlots. When divine truth shall have triumphed over satan in all his forms, the kindoms of this world will become the kindoms of our Lord and of his Christ ; and the church possessing the sentiments and pure religion of those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, will shine forth in the beauty of holiness, and in the righteousness of her God. It is hard to deny ourselves the satisfaction of believing that these things are fast advancing. It is evident that the power to persecute is now extremely limited, even where the will seems to exist, and it is just, no doubt, to conclude that there is much less of the latter than formerly.
These sentiments seem to inspire great encouragement in the ministry of the true testimony, and hold up also suitable was nings against the practising of any deceit in handling the word of God. Although the gospel of salvation will never be wholly subverted again on the earth, yet satan will be loosed for a little season, at the expiration of the thousand years, and will deceive many nations, and dispose them in spiritual battle array against the true testimony, but the defeat will be glorious for truth, and falshood will no more be able to establish itself in the world. « But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” As we have seen, that the living again of those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, is a revival of their doctrine and testimony, so it seems to be according to analogy, to suppose that the living again of the rest of the dead, signifies the reviving again of those false sentiments which are destroyed, in the destruction of antichrist. The reviving of those false sentiments is represented by satan's being loosed for a little season to go forth to deceive the nations.
You see, dear brother, that as was suggested, these subjects are too extensive for a private letter, and you will also observe that what has been written on them, occupies a very limited disquisition. A vast many important relative subjects have been totally neglected, many arguments illustrative of those subjects of discussion, have been passed by, and but little has been done.However, I cannot but hope that the object suggested, of edifying others, may in some degree, be realised, and if more than modesty would permit to expect, be the result, and some inquirer should obtain further light in consequence of this imperfect effort, let him who walketh among the golden candlesticks have the praise, for he alone is worthy. Yours in the bonds of the Gospel. [Note. The following was written as a mere private letter, without any idea of its being made public ; but as there
many other ministers of the Congregational order, who, like Mr. are fully convinced of the truth of the doctrine of universal grace, and who, from various considerations, decline preaching it as a doctrine, it is thought that it may be beneficial to them, as well as to mankind in general, to make it public.]
Rev. AND DEAR SIR,
Having received your statement, in short, of the subject upon which
you wish to converse with me, perhaps it may be to our mutual benefit to state the substance of our conversation in writing : This will give more time for consideration before we come to a final decision.
Your queries, Sir, if I understand you, may be thus stated.
1. Are all events determinate and certain ? And if so, does man act hy fatal necessity in all that he does ?
2. If man has no power to avoid doing as he does, nor to do that which he does not, wherein is he to be blamed for any of his actions ? Or with what propriety may he be called upon to seek or strive for this, that, or the other good ; or to avoid this, that, or the other evil?
3. Admitting that all mankind will eventually be brought to holiness and happiness, is it best to make it a leading point, in preaching, to prove this doctrine ? And not, rather endeavor to stir up mankind to obtain an inward principle of love and piety, towards God; (which alone can make them happy ;) and let their faith in universal salvation, if it will, grow spontaneously out of this inward principle of love and piety towards God, and their own reflections on the subject, rather than to enforce it upon them by arguments ?
4. When a man has sat under a minister until he is fully convinced that his doctrine, generally speaking, is incongruous with the doctrine of Christ, and it is not convenient for him to attend any other meeting, is it right for him to neglect the meeting on that account ? or withhold his support from the minister ?
Perhaps, Sir, I have not stated these queries exactly as you would wish to have them, or as you would have stated them, yet, it is presumed, that my remarks upon them, as they are now stated, will give you a full understanding of my mind upon the subjects of our late conversation.
The method which I shall pursue in answering the above queries, will be, first, to state the premises which I believe to be correct, with such reasons as I shall deem conclusive ; and, secondly, I shall quote some scripture testimonies in support of those premises.
1. The first query contains two particulars. 1. Are all ea vents determinate and certain ? And 2. If so, does man act by fatal necessity ?
1. That some events are determinate and certain, I think, will not be disputed by any.
It would be utterly impossible for an astronomer to calculate the eclipses, the transitions of the planets, &c. unless those events were certain. And so with every event which takes place by fixed laws, or pursuant to the regular order of nature. And even what may be considered irregular, by us, or without any fixed laws, are undoubtedly all perfectly regular with God,
It requires but a very small capacity to discover that even God's holy prophets never could have predicted a single event with any degree of certainty, unless those events were absolutely certain to take place.
And we may argue further, that if an event be certain to take place, it must be equally certain that that event has a cause, and that cause a prior cause, and so on ad infinitum, or until we come to the first or Eternal Cause. And if an event have no cause, admitting that such an event does exist, it must exist accidentally, or by chance : and if one event may exist in this way, why may not all ?
1, therefore, can see no reason why we may not suppose that all events are certain as well as any.
Again. If the foreknowledge of God (or knowledge, if that term be any more correct) extend to all events, (and but very few will deny the propriety of supposing that all future events are foreknown to the Deity) I may be allowed to ask whether an event can possibly take place which Deity did not even from eternity, infallibly know would exist? Or whether an event could possibly fail of taking place, which Deity infallibly forea knew, from eternity, would take place ? If not, then the doctrine of the absolute certainty of all events is established, on a foundation, as firm and immutable as the KNOWLEDGE of God.
It makes no difference, in this argument, what makes the event certain, or whether Deity knows them by intuition, or by reasoning from cause, to effect. Suffice it to say, that he KNOWS them; and if he know them, although his knowledge do not make them certain, yet it proves them to be so.
To this I will subjoin a note by a Calvinistic writer, which I am willing to adopt here as my own sentiments.
“ No argument, I apprehend, can be more conclusive. Common sense must see, and admit, its force. It is impossible even to conceive of an event's being infallably foreknown, which will not certainly come to pass. If God did, from eternity, infallibly foreknow every future event, no consequence can be plainer, than that every future event, was, from eternity, infallibly certain. And indeed, on no other ground, can it be made to appear that God and all his works are perfect : or even that such a being exists. It is on this ground only that the invisible things of God are seen from the things which are made. If any events have taken place, contrary to the design and purpose of God, surely such events cannot evince his perfections. But if every event takes place, under the direction of infinite wisdom, according to God's original plan, and is made to subserve the greatest possible good, then every event will, in the issue of things, display the infinite perfections of Deity.
« On these principles we can infallibly prove the Divine existence, from any effect we can perceive, whether external or internal: From things which are small, as well as from things which are great ; from the existence of the smallest insect, the shaking of a leaf, from a thought of the mind, a desire of the beart, as well as from the whole material system.
« But if I should say, that one event, or one thing, may take place, independent of Divine efficiency, who will venture to set the bounds where I may consistently stop ; or draw for me the line of distinction, between events which take place by Divine efficiency, and those which take place independent of God ? If one event may take place without Divine efficiency, why not two, ten, or ten thousand ? And why may not all things be accounted for in the same manner ?
“ He who can demonstrate that one event has been produced, without Divine agency, will meet with no difficulty to invalidate every argument, which can be advanced in proof of the being of a God. And he who denies the universality of Divine operation, has not, as I can see, an inch of ground left, upon which he can consistently dispute an Atheist."
Thus you will see that I am not alone in these arguments. Every argument .which goes to prove the existence of a God, also proves his perfections : And every argument which goes to prove his perfections, also proves the universality of his government, and the certainty of all the events of his providence.