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1 wish not, by any thing I have said, or may hereafter say, to cast any reproach on Mr. S.'s abilities, intellectual or moral. It is my real desire to treat him with candor and ingenuity, and as I should wish that he would treat me in a like case.
I think I have discovered many inconsistencies and absurdities in Mr. S.'s theory of the divine benevolence; and several of them I have pointed out. At the same time, I impute all these inconsistencies and absurdities to the falsehood and corruption of Mr. S.'s general scheme, rather than to any want of abil« ity in him. An angel's abilities are far too small to reconcile error with truth. When I sirst opened Mr. S.'s book, I was as perfectly satissied as I am now, that he would fail in his attempt to reconcile the doctrine of eternal misery with the insinite benevolence of God.
I have now thoroughly perused his book ; I see he hath failed; but I am not disappointed. The same attempt hath often been made before, and as often aft made, it hath failed. We may fay of the attempt to reconcile eternal misery with the divine character, as Salomon hath said of the lascivious woman, " She hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong tnen have been flam by her."
Before I close this part, I beg leave to bring into view that scheme of creation, and of divine providential and mediatorial government, which I proposed to inquire into in the ed. part. The reader will re» member that this scheme was formerly stated, in
company With that which Mr. S. hath been pleased to adopt. I shall only repeat it as it there stands.
"The eternal Father, in the days of eternity, having determined to create thedasectible creature man; and looking, with divine pity and companion, both on the sins and miseries of the fallen race, resolved to introduce, into his providential government of mankind, a mediatorial plan, the result of which should be, the restoration of all the sons and daughters of Adam to virtue, holiness, and happiness. He saw, with insinite delight the bruised serpent's head, and all things in heaven, and earth, and lea, paying voluntary and cheerful homage to his adored Son, whom he had set, as king, on his holy hill of Zion.
He, the indulgent Father of creation, when He raised his beloved Son to the mediatorial throne, delivered the sceptre into his hand, and with aspect mild and full of mercy, gave him a divine command, never to return it, nor redeliver the kingdom, till the last enemy in the moral system, death, should be destroyed.
God determined to order and Conduct every thing, by his divine Son, in the kingdoms of nature, providence, and grace, for the best interests of Zion and her king. And He saw, in glorious prospect, a numerous race of guilty immortals redeemed, restored, saved, made holy and happy; all, all, not an an individual lost, all surrounding his eternal throne, all singing and shouting forth the riches of redeem
ing love, in songs of joy and praise, to Him that sittethupon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever.
This restored, virtuous-, holy and happy universe, God beheld, considered it as his greatest declarative glory and blessedness, loved it with supreme affection; and this is his divine benevolence."
Having proposed this as the scheme of creation, and of divine, providential and mediatorial government of men, I shall proceed directly to examine its establishment in the word of God.
^te inquiry, whether it be not tht benevolent and gracious plan of God, that all men Jhall, eventually, be virtuous and happy?
XxLL parties agree that God hath created man ;—that he was a desectible creature, in his original constitution;—that he sell from his primeval state and became a sinner ;—that God pitied him, in his lapsed state, and provided a Mediator, a Savior. In these things, I may suppose, each denomi-jtion of christians readily concurs. The sule matter of difference, perhaps, will be the extent of the mediatorial design ; whether God really intended the holiness and happiness of all men, or of a part only. The plan of divine and mediatorial benevolence, as just stated above, includes the whole human race. And we can no other way obtain entire satisfaction in this matter, than by an examination of the sacred scriptures. Reason knows nothing of a mediatorial plan of God, but what he hath been graciously pleased to reveaU 1 shall seriously address myself to an examination of the holy scrip-. tUTes, after I shall have premised a sew plain rules of interpretation, by which I generally conduct my own inquiries after the meaning of scripture, and by I which, which, it may be well, that the reader should exaraine my interpretations.
That fense us scripture, which, upon a sirst carefu! reading appears natural and easy, is generally the true meaning. If there be difsiculty in the interpretation of a passage, in any particular writer, eompare the dubious passage with others of the fame* writer, that appear more plain, and are on the fame subject. This will generally succeed. If not, cotlate a number of passages on the fame subject, from different wrilers, and From different parts of the scriptures. Always remembering that the Bible contains one consistent scheme, and that the sacred writers agree in their accounts of it. Sometimes it is useful to have recourse to the Hebrew and Greek text • or to revert to the customs, mann'ers'," habits, &c. of the people and places mentioned^in tha scriptures. By these rules, arid in these waysj if we have honest hearts, we may sind the true interpretation pf scripture. .:.. .
In this part, I shall take no other notice of the passages of scripture which Mr. 3. hatb adduced in proof of eternal sin and misery, than I shall take of any other passages of scripture ; using those passages of his, which plainly prove the extensive nature of the mediatorial plan, as t do other scriptures In the next part,. I shall consider some passiges Mr.S. hath used in support of the doctrine of eternal misery as objections against universal salvation.
The sirst we hear of a mediatorial plan of God, is*