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him now, but shall follow him. AFTERWARDS. Such things indeed. are said of Christ's friends, but not of his enemies.
You have represented me as maintaining that all punishment clashes with the benevolence “ božh of God and his people." I have said ng such thing concerning God; and if we were equally wise and righteous, and equally concerned to guard the interests of the universe, as he is, we should be in all respects of the same inind with him. The misery which I suppose true benevolence to clash with, is misery inficted for its own sake; and to this, whether it be temporary or endless, it is alike. abhorrent. God has also made it out duty, while sinners are not his, confirmed enemies, to do all in our power to preserve tl'eir lives, and save their souls: But he is not obliged to do all that he can 1p these ends, dor does he. Temporary punishment, you contend, may consist with benevolence,“ because it is directed to a good and glorious end:” And do I contend for endless punishınent on any other principle? If you can form no idea of an end that is good and glorious, save that which respects “ the amendment of the sufferer," it does not follow that no such end exists. A murderer, contemplating his approaching exit,, might be so much absorbed in the love of himself as to be of your opinion; but the community would not.
Whether I have entered into “ the merits of the cause, conducted the controversy in a becoming “ spirit," I consider as do, part of my province to determine. The impartial reader will judge whether I have dealt in “ soft words, or hard arguments ;" and if I have been so happy, as in this particular to follow your counsel, whether I have not been obliged to deviate from your example. On this account I shall be excused from taking any notice of your animadversions on these subjects, together with those of your new ally, the “ Foxton Student," unless it be to thank you for affording additional proof of the justness of my remark that Socinians rejoice in the spread of Universalism.
Whether the kingdom of heaven be prepared for all men, or not, tbar you and I may agonize in the present life, as at last to enter in, is the desire and prayer of your sincere well-wisher, KETTERING.
LETTER TO A FRIEND.
DEAR FRIEND, YOUR affectionate epistle I received, in due ordes, and assure you it
gave me no small pleasure to hear from one with whom I have ofron taken sweet counsel; hope you will
not impute my, not writing more frequently to want of affection; believe me, the only cause is want of opportunity. And now, my friend, I hardly know where to bogia, having many things to submit to your consideration : my fervent prayer is, that the God of nature and grace may enable me so to write upon the subjects I shall notice, as may prove a blessing to your mind.
I cannot, I dare not, attempt writing on subjects so grand, important, and interesting, without first imploring divine aid : for my own wisdom is foolisliness, and my strength weakness. What unassisted mortal is capable of describing, with any tolerable degree of clearnéss, the divine character and perfections, as manifested in his works and ways; dealing and dispensations, especially his boundless love?
Could we with ink the occan fill,
To write the love
of God above,
Nor could the scrowl
Contain the whole,
You tell me you cannotat present agree with me in the doctrine of the restoration! Welly my friend, I once thought as you do; yea, I knew * time when, through prejudice, &c. I determined not to consider whether it was true or fa'se :I assure you my affection to you is not abated on this account; nor do I blame you for not agreeing with me, as you plead want of evidence, and no man ought to profess helief without evidence. I find your letter contains two very interesting subjects for investigation, yer in reality the subje&t is one; for whether we contemplate God in the displays of his mercy, love, and grace, of in the (to us.) frequently dark and intricate dispensations of his providence, all, all are descriptive of one and the same God; in the various operations of his wisdom, power, and love: for all the different works and ways of God are but several parts of one stupendous wholes combined and operating together for the accomplishment of his glorious designs, whether we behold them in mercy or injudgment. As all things, creatures, and circumstances, are put under the government, management, and direction, of the Lord Jesus Christ as he is invested with all power in heaven and earth'; HR must reign, the Almighty superintendant; the Lord supreme ; under the shadow of this great rock my soul shelters herself aniidst the stormy blasts; for this is, and ever shall be my support, the Lord liveth, the Lord reigneth.
You seem to think I reason and draw my conclusions respecting the restoration alone from the perfections of God: to which I reply, Was this the case, was there no other ground of argument in its favour, I cannot but think that the divint perfections, such as wisdom, love, power, goodness, (without a knowledge of which we can know nothing zight concerning God, for they constitute his nature) would be a substantial ground of reasoning, to enable us to decide in opposition to every thing which stands opposed to, and in favor of every idea agreeing therewith. Until it can be fairly proved, thàf what has, or can take place in time, is capable of effecting a change in the eternal mind, immutability must be inscribed on every divine perfection. « But (says an objector) how these perfections will be man red no man can tell, do not the angels, independent of existidg circumsunce," Granted; but, with the objector's leave, I assert that, with the assistance of existing circumstances, we may safely infer in what way they will be manifested: because the existing circumstances are so many specimens of the divine wisdom, power, and goodness, as inay be plainly discovered by reviewing the conduct of God to fallen man, down to the present time: for in whatever way the enemy hath dealt proudly, the Lord hath been above him, and grace hath in many instances abounded over sin ; and as nothing can be eternal, in the strict sense of the word, but God, whatever exists to eternity must be dependent on him for its existence; unless we can suppose that he will give sin an eternal existence, it will follow that it must be rooted out of the creation, and grace for ever superabound over all the aboundings of sin.
The glorious manifestations of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in the Scriptures, which exhibit the divine operations against sin, appear to me full of information on the subject, and will furnish the Universalist: with such general grounds of argument as are necessary to justify the ways of God to men: which is one great end the children of wisdom should ever have in view in all they think and say concerning the most High., I hope to convince you that I venture not on the ground of mere human reason; but of divine revelation : yet let me advise you not to think too lightly of reason ; for though I assure you I do not worship-it as my God, yet:1 esteemn it as the gift of his hand, and wish to use it to his glory. Indeed, I know not how the Scriptures could have been a revelation to us, had we not been endowed with that degree of çationality, which renders us capable of judging of their truth and import.
That indeed is justly termed false and proud reasoning which decides without evidence, or in opposition to evidence, which is the case with respect to the reasoning of infidel writers, who prefer their own conjecture to the evidence of divine wisdom. The human mind being constituted rational, the free exercise of reason lays no foundation for infidelity; but the perversion of reason: for if properly useck it would invariably prove a blessing to man, being calculated to enable him to contemplate God in his visible works, and thus lead him to discover and admire a first cause; but for want of the due exercise of reason, which renders us capable of collecting evidence and of drawing consistent conclusions, vain man, puft up with pride, begins to quibble with the system of nature and exclaim, Why this, that, and the other? This might have been better constructed, that better planned, &c. without acquainting himself with what is plainly made known, that infinite wisdom, power, and goodness operate in the production, formation, and arrangement of every thing: The folly of the deist is 'no less manifest than that of the atheist : their différence appears chiefly, in their origin: the former, through, bis departure from all the rules of rectitude and eternal order, is led, to exclaim, Who is the Lord ? the latter, being the offspring of: superstition, pours contempton the revelation which God hath afforded of himself, and will look at it only through the medium of its abuses. Had Christianity continued in all its purity, as propagated by the apostles, dejsm could geyer, I conceive, no never have existed. I believe that false. ideas of God, of his dealings and dispensations, his works and ways,
have produced most of the infidelity respecting the Scriptures which now prevails; and that by the same means the hands of the atheist have beena strengthened. Indeed I, conceive the fact to be too notorious to be denied. The que tion is, how are we to be prepared to.repel tlie attacks of infidels, and what means will be likely to convince them of their errors?
In remonstrating with the atheist; in order to convince him of the being of a God, we should discard every idea that would in any instance be an impeachment of his wisdom, or implies that his power is bounded, or that in the least degree limits his goodness to any part of his works. Again, in order inat we may conyerse with the deist to good purpose, we aus, endeavour to shew that the revelation which God hath afforded of himself in the Scriptures perfectly agrees with what he hath manifested of himself in bis visible works; that his character as declared in the book of grace, is not in.opposition to what is indicated in the bock of nature;, but that it is the same, glorious character, which is displayed before his in both these mediums. From what I know of deists and their writings, unless we be prepared to take this ground, no arguinents which we can make ụse of will be likely to make an impression favourable te divine, revelation), or convince thein that the Scriptures are worthy of God, and benencial to ment. So- long as the professed friends of revelation entertain thoughts of God which oppose his known periections, displayed in his visible works, deism will maintain its ground I think many of the professors of the gospel will find it extremely ditficult to repel the attacks of unbelievers, while they continue to maintain their present views of God, his dispensations, works, and ways; but the well inforned Universalist will not feel tļie same embarrasment.
There are two things which I think the deist inay fairly demand of us, first, that' we make it evident that the Scripture account of God agrees with what is manifest of him in his visible works: second, that it affords us such light, respecting the character, works, and ways of God, as cannot be derived from his visible works. The question is, Are we prepared to answer these demands ? I fear, the ideas of 'many of the friends of revelation would better agree with the character of a Nero or Caligula than with the character of HIM who made and governs the world; yet such ideas are fathered upon divine revelation. Surely God is not composed of such opposites as to appear one thing in his works and something opposite in his word; no, to the honour of his name be, it known, that what his works declare him to be, that the Scriptures represent hiin, with abundantly more, light and glory. Let us examine this point.
The book of nature, exhibits before us a God infinite in wisdom, Oh! how infinite must that wisdom be which could devise the various parts of creation, and so combine them together that they should form one stupendously great and amazing whole! : That' the design of infinite wisdom in forming this vast machine, this mighty structure, was to reside, as the main spring, in the midst thereof, is evident from Provas viii. according to which the noble plan of creation was drawn, and the edifice erected, because the divine delights were with the sons of meri. Was this the object which the God of infinite wisdom had in view in the formation of the globe, and will any short-sighted mortal be foolish enough to say, because of the present apparently deranged state of things, the object of infinite wisdom is unattainable? The major part of the professed friends of revelation will tell us, that the folly of the nons of men will eternally frustrate the wise designs and gracious plans of infinite wisdom, so far as relates to the major part of men who have yet lived; as if the deep-laid plans of siri and hell would be more infinite than infinite wisdom! as if the folly of finites would be compleated, and infinite wisdom never be able to finish!
Again, the book of nature exhibits a God infinite in power, as the apostle shews (Rom. ch. i.) that the eternal power of God is mánifested in the things which are made. But do not the views which many entertain of God's dispensations towards and dealings with his creatures, Mrongly imply that the power of the enemy will finally triuinph over á vast part of the noblest works of God, his rational creatures, and have opportunity of wagging the head, and saying, in a' tone of insult, This he began, and was notable to finish. Forbid it, O my God, forbid that any that fear thy name should entertain such dishonourable thoughts of thy infinite power, as would'imply that finite impotence, madness; and folly, should prevail over it!
Again, nature and providence have always exhibited to man a God infinite in goodness. As a specimen that his goodness never fails, we behold his liberal hand opened wide, and the wants of all living supplied; his sun shines upon the evil and upon the good; his rain descends on the just and on the unjust. Can we suppose that God, who is infinite in goodness, whose nature is the perfection' of goodness, can ever become so mutable as to cease for a moment to be that which he always was? No; he is above all created influence : righteousness of creatures cannot profit himn, neither can their follies affect him. The reason why his rebellious creatures are not consumed is to be found in his immutable goodness. But how are we to reconcile the ideas of many professors of the gospel with this view of the divine character? Do not they affirm that a time will come when the goodness of God to multitudes of his creatures will for ever cease ? he employ'no farther means for their recovery? they never be brought to answer the end for which they were created? Yéa, more, that he may continue them in being so long as hiinself exists, that he may indulge a vindictive vengeful spirit, by making them the victims of endless torments? To what source are we to trace such absurd and frightful ideas, but to those times of corruption which generated the apocalyptical whore, on whose forehead these may be found among the other blasphemies written there? Was it possible for me to be convinced that the Scriptures represent God! in such a horrid light, I know not how I could receive them as a divine revelation; but I cannot believe that they oppose any of the known perfections of Deity; on the contrary, I am fully convinced they afford the brightest display of them.