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To the people committed to his care him to the young be revived in their reat Wareham, Teignmouth, and Lyme, collections; may it lead them to consider " though dead, he yet speaketh," and their own mortality, and remind them oh! may they consider and remember that the lesson proclaimed by the death that they must meet him (now no longer of their much-esteemed pastor is this, their pastor and friend) again, even at “ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, the judgment-seat of Christ, and, to some, but the word of the Lord abideth for a sure witness against them. May the ever.”
J. C. D. many impressive sermons preached by Sherborne, April 8, 1846.
ON THE VIEWS OF THE LATE REV. JOHN FOSTER RELATIVE TO
THE FUTURE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED. Among those highly-gifted and dis- | singular exemption from his fallible and tinguished individuals whom God has erring brotherhood of mankind. raised up to enlighten and bless mankind, He questioned the eternity of future Foster stands eminently conspicuous, punishment; yet, I must confess, not with and, in some respects, perhaps unrivalled. that firmness of sentiment and fulness of Whilst the writer of this article would conviction which we should have expected most readily admit that there are others from a man like him. To me, Foster far more capable than himself of justly does not appear to write on this subject appreciating the excellences of this good as one who finds the ground of his poand great man, he yields to none in ad sition firm under him. That he had a miration of his genius or veneration for strong and preponderating bias of feeling his character. Well, indeed, may I make for his peculiar views, is sufficiently this affirmation, when to his first pub- evident; but his mighty argumentative lished Essays I am indebted for the powers, when called into the field of awakening of my own mind to a class action, seem cowering down, as if in conof subjects which have largely contri- scious impotence. buted to thought and reflection of the | Nothing like a formal refutation is deepest interest and importance. In the contemplated of that hypothesis, which decline and wane of life I have a most this great and good man brought forward vivid recollection of the rapturous feelings by implication rather than in bold and with which the reading of these admir- positive relief. A few candid remarks able productions was attended. And I are only designed. A mere thread may have never found reason to conclude, that be useful in endeavouring to trace a there was any manner of extravagance in labyrinth. my early predilections. If judgment has I have always been delighted in rebeen at all matured and ripened, it is flecting, that the great palladium of evanonly confirmatory of my first impressions. gelical truth, the doctrine of justification The mental structure of Foster is, indeed, by faith, came immediately to the mind of gigantic proportions, yet symmetrical : of Luther from the word of God. Had an intellectual splendour beaming around he, indeed, received his first notion of it it, and its lofty brow crowned with a halo from any other source, it would have of consecrated glory.
been supported and substantiated by the Yet we shall not have far to come to same authority; but still, when without the conclusion of an ancient writer, “I any intervening medium, this truth broke have found an end to all perfection.” | full on the soul of that great Reformer And I am quite sure Foster would have from the Bible itself; when God's truth been the last to claim that for himself presented itself in God's own light, it which necessarily implied a peculiar and very naturally adds to our pleasurable feeling. But we have not the slightest ceive of such a man feeling himself called evidence that the peculiar notions enter on to advocate the doctrine of the Atonetained by Foster originated in the ex ment; how soon would it have appeared amination of the word of God, our only that he was mighty in the Scriptures; that sound infallible guide. No; this was the the sword of the Spirit was in his hand; offspring of his own speculation, leaving, and that there was no resisting the power as we fear, scriptural authority too much with which he advocated the truth as it in abeyance. Not wilfully, not design- | is in Jesus. Instead of this, we have edly; but unconsciously and unguard- only what very nearly approaches, if it edly. And though the speculation itself does not quite resolve itself into, mere may be traced up to the most benevolent negatives—a liberty taken with the word feelings of a most benevolent heart, yet of God for which no fallible man can without the discipline and direction of have authority, and the opinions of a few the word of God, it did but luxuriate persons liable to mistake and error. into an unfruitful leafiness, which may The tendency of such a doctrine I cast a noxious and blighting shade. have had in my course through life many
It is but doing justice to that great opportunities of marking. Its withering man, of whose peculiar views in this effect on preachers and their congregations respect we speak freely, to state, that his I have often deplored. Its result has not noble-minded integrity manifests itself in been sudden and instantaneous; but his mode of treating the subject. A man silent, slow, and destructive, as "a moth of less mental power, and of lower moral fretting a garment." Foster would have principle, would have glided with a sinu- the evil counterbalanced in himself, and ous and serpentine trail amidst the truths forin an exception; but it would be the of Scripture, and endeavoured to bind, exception and not the rule. and force, and twist them to suit his own Of its natural and common tendency purposes; but we find nothing of this in I give a single specimen. One of my Foster. No: he tells us that there is "a | honoured and beloved brethren in the force in the expressions of Scripture (i.e., ministry, gone to his everlasting rest, in relation to the future punishment of travelled many years since with a gentlethe lost) that may well make us tremble." man of considerable information, fond of And is it not well for us, then, to tremble, discussion, and the devoted advocate of and to leave the matter where God has Unitarianism and the Winchesterian docleft it? All he expresses is, a hope that trine of universal redemption, forming, it is not presumptuous to modify the perhaps, no unnatural connection. There terms "everlasting" and "for ever." was too, a third person in the coach, a But if we venture to do this, how are we young man from the country. The gentleto deal with similar terms, descriptive of man in question, eager for controversy, the blessedness of the righteous ? Are soon commenced his tirade against the we authorised to contract or expand the eternal duration of future punishment. meaning of words in Scripture according During the argument that followed he to our preconceived notions and preju- was delighted to find in the young man dices? He mentions, indeed, a number, one who most zealously chimed in with not large, but of great piety and intelli- all that he advanced. "Ah, sir! how gence, of ministers of his acquaintance, glad I am to hear you; that's just right." several of whom were dead at the time The universalist, pleased and flattered of his writing, who were disbelievers of with such a ready adoption of his sentithe doctrine of future punishment being | ments, quite regarding the young man everlasting. But what does this amount as his protégé, inquired, where he was to as evidence? Where are the scriptural going. “To London,” was the reply. proofs, which Foster could not have failed On further questioning him as to the to produce, if such were to be found? Con- | object of his journey, the answer was, “Well, sir, to tell the truth, I am going or dependence can be placed on the there because”—but I will not repeat his highest intellectual powers, even when coarse language; the fact may be stated accompanied by the most exalted piety, in other words ; he had seduced a poor unless under the guidance and direction girl, and left her a prey to shame, sor- of Divine Revelation ? row, and misery; and he was flying to It must be remembered, too, that Foster escape the pecuniary consequences of was the subject of that morbid sensitivesuch a transaction. Welcome, indeed, ness which deepens the colouring and the soporific poison distilled into his ear; exaggerates the features of objects that delivered from the apprehension of the fu- are painful. His mind, the apartment of ture, he could say, "Farewell, Remorse.” a thousand mirrors, both reflected and
True, we shall be told, that there will enlarged, but here and there with somebe long, long-continued punishment, even thing of distortion. We would not call, though limited in duration ; but in that in religion, any man “Master," yet there state to which we are all hastening, the are some with whom we can more safely mind fixes itself firmly and immovably trust ourselves than others, in forming on our final destiny; scarcely taking into our views on religious subjects; and I account intermediate suffering. Popery must confess that the cool, argumentative, has indeed succeeded in making its pur- chastened, sober, and scriptural reasongatorial fires appalling to the sense; but | ing of Andrew Fuller on theological then it accomplishes this object by con- points, however inferior in the transverting the credulity of superstition into cendant qualities of genius, renders him, the power of substantiating faith. No in my humble opinion, a much safer and other system presenting such means and more trustworthy guide in the doctrinal appurtenances.
parts of religion. Perhaps among the whole race of su- I feel considerably astonished that the perior intelligences, no man ever formed result rather than the existence of moral more elevated and comprehensive views evil, which has always appeared to me of the Divine benevolence than John the Gordian knot in theology, should Foster. To the imaginings of his com- have been the great difficulty with Foster. manding intellect, this loveliest perfec- If we lay aside that reverential deference tion of the Deity expanded itself in all which we owe to God, who giveth no its diversified forms of compassion, long account of his matters, how soon shall suffering, and mercy.
But there was we find ourselves bewildered and enanother view he felt himself constrained tangled, yet going more and more astray. to take: there was a guilty, lost, and Shall we not reason with some plausimiserable world, which could not be ex- bility, that from the most perfect good cluded from the field of vision. He saw nothing but good could come; and that the whole rational “ creation groaning either God's work must have been imand travailing together in pain, even until perfect, or that there must have been 110w." His soul yearned over their final something as the cause of evil, entirely destiny. To ease the pain, amounting to distinct from and independent of himtorment in his sensitive nature, he ven- self? The proper answer to objections tured, not daringly and presumptuously, taken from the existence of evil to its but for the relief of bitter anguish, to travel punishment is supplied by the apostle: out of the record, to decide without suffi- Nay, but, Oman, who art thou that ciently consulting the authority of the repliest against God?" Book, and that on a purely theological There is much we know not now that question, which only the inspired word we shall know hereafter. The present can determine. His motives angels would economy is manifestly so ordered by God, applaud; his conclusions may be excused, that we are to walk by faith, not by sight. but cannot be justified. Alas! what trust He never acts without a reason; yet, for the present, often conceals the reasons liberately, and prayerfully weighed by of his proceedings from us. Surely we all, especially by those who are training ought to say, adopting the sentiment of for the ministry of the gospel. May they our Divine Lord, “Even so, Father, for feel their great responsibility, and suffer so it seemed good in thy sight."
no human authority to cast its fascination The hope I have indulged in making over the mind: a result against which this communication is, that on such a none would bear a stronger and more subject we may proceed with guarded decided testimony than the eminently caution, that it may be scripturally, de- / great and good John Foster. D. S.
THE SOCIAL TEST;
OR, THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF CHRISTIANITY ON HUMAN SOCIETY, AN
EVIDENCE OF ITS DIVINE CHARACTER.
The subject before us is confessedly , and an infinitely higher object. Civilizaone of great importance. It brings the tion moves only in the circle of the system of the gospel to the test of ex- present world, and can have no higher perience; and it will either refute or end than the improvement of society as strengthen the infidel objection against it it is here constituted and with reference as a visionary scheme of perfectibility. to present advantage. But in the design Christianity addresses us in the lan- of the gospel the amelioration of civil guage of high and singular preten- society must be a secondary object. sions. It claims to be the great restorer Christianity is the religion of immorof human nature; and while it bears a tality: its principal element is eternity; striking and peculiar relation to another its chief glories will be displayed when life, it condescends to guide and purify the earth and all that appertains to the the present. These pretensions have been interests of time shall be no more, Bat tried. For nearly two thousand years it is surely no inconsiderable argument the gospel has been operating upon a very in its favour, that it has “the promise large portion of individual and social of the life that now is, as well as of that existence. This majestic tree has risen - which is to come,”—that while it mores in strength and loftiness, and has covered on to its final destivation, it scatters unmany nations with its branches. Suc- numbered blessings in its way. ceeding generations have plucked its A glance at the religious, social, and fruit : and what is the general testimony? moral state of the world, when Chris“ Do we gather figs of thistles, or grapes tianity began her beneficent career, will of thorns ?” A tree is known by its prepare us to appreciate her actual produce. We are very willing that the achievements. It was degraded and opcharacter of our religion should be inves- pressed in all its political institutions and tigated according to this principle. social relations by gross idolatry and an
A preliminary inquiry here presents imperious and cruel philosophy. Idolatry itself, which deserves at least to be no- has preserved through more than fifty ticed; which is, How far the amelioration centuries one uniform unchangeable chaof our civil and social condition enters racter. In every age and under all cirinto the design of Christianity? It cer- cumstances it has debased the mind, tainly does not stand in the same relation perverted the conscience, obliterated al to the social state with civilization. It moral distinctions, and even enjoined the has a different origin; the one arises out most detestable vices. The great source of human necessity, the other flows from of all virtue is the moral character of the
It has a loftier range, Deity; and its only law, his will, im
pressed upon the conscience and made, and as just marks of his indignation on known by revelation : the ideas we account of their wilful and inexcusable form of God are our standard of moral apostacy from him. The heathen writers excellence, to which in some degree we themselves afford the strongest confirmmust wish to conform; as are the gods, ation of this statement; from their testisuch will be the worshippers ;—and what mony it is evident that “in the polished were they? Instructed by the fables of nations, and in the enlightened times of their metamorphoses, and sanctioned by pagan antiquity, the most unnatural their examples, their unbappy votaries lusts and detestable impurities were not lost all traces of goodness. Accordingly, only tolerated in private life, but entered the humane, simple, unostentatious vir- | into religion, and formed a material part tues, so conducive to the happiness of of public worship.” In the great and social life, were entirely disregarded. important concerns of civil life, in law Weakness had no asylum, poverty no and government, during the reign of friend, ignorance no guide. What are idolatry, we discover little that was facalled the charities of life were unknown. | vourable to the real interests of humanity. The most beautiful, interesting, and im- | The uncertain and capricious liberty that portant part of the community were the was enjoyed did not afford either internal most degraded. Man was not only the tranquillity or external peace; and unlord, but the tyrant of creation. Every productive as it was of happiness to the private house was a little despotic king-community at large, it soon fell a victim dom; the master had an absolute con- to a stern and iron despotism, perfectly trol over his wife, whom he could repu- congenial with the spirit and rites of idol diate at pleasure ; his children were his worship. The systems of jurisprudence property, and he could dispose of their were marked by a most criminal inattenfreedom and their lives ; his servants tion to the rights and privileges of huwere his wretched subjects, whom he man nature. The laws of Draco punished bought and sold and treated as he did with the same rigour the slightest offences his cattle, whom he could punish and and the most atrocious crimes. Those torture and put to death, with or without of Lycurgus were unjust and singularly reason, and even for his own amusement cruel. Theft, adultery, polygamy, the They had no protection afforded them, murder of slaves, infanticide, and the could have no justice done to them, most odious enormities, were allowed, no reparation made to them. Their and, in some instances, enjoined by the most prevalent vices were least of laws of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. I all compatible with the well-being, not do not mean to affirm that idolatry was to say the existence, of mankind. In the sole author of these laws; but like the language of an inspired writer, — them originating in the depravity of hu“They were given up to vile affections ; man nature, it was marked by the same were reprobate in their minds; being ferocious and sensual character, patronfilled with all unrighteousness, fornica-ized the same vices, and by its powerful tion, wickedness, covetousness, malicious and tremendous sanction gave them curness; full of envy, murder, debate, de- rency and stability. Nor until the inceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, troduction of Christianity was there anyhaters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, thing to oppose this universal corruption. inventors of evil things, disobedient to Much has been said in favour of the parents, without understanding, covenant different systems of philosophy which breakers, without natural affection, im- obtained in the world before the Christian placable, unmerciful."
All these are era; and it has been more than insinuviewed by the apostle Paul as the na- ated, that to the gradunl influence of tural effects of their idolatry, of their these, with the lights and improvements " changing the truth of God into a lie,” | of after - times, the important moral