« AnteriorContinuar »
aimed. But, then, what is meant by the damnation of hell, the wrath to come, everlasting fire, Sic. whoever may be the sufferers? These are phrases, it is well known, which are commonly supposed to denote eternal torment, and to cut off the hope of universal salvation.
We are willing, for the present, to leave this question altogether to the disposal of our bitterest opponents themselves, if they will but keep in mind, who are the characters concerned. For we are confident that whenever they become sensible of the relation in which they stand, they will enter on a serious examination of these noted texts, and take into view their connexions, their marked allusions, the definite limits by which their meaning is restricted, and all the circumstances that go to illustrate their phraseology and to ascertain their intended force. They will feel it an object of pressing moment to understand precisely what these threatenings amount to. And when they set about the business in earnest, as a matter of their own concern, there is little doubt of the conclusion at which they will arrive. H. B. ad
Twelve Familiar Conversations between Inquirer and Universalist: in which the Salvation of all Mankind is clearly exhibited and illustrated; and the most important Objections, which are now brought against the doctrine, are fairly stated, and fully answered by a candid Appeal to Scripture, Reason and Facts. The whole arranged under distinct heads, rendering the work a Guide to Inquirers and a Help to Universalists. By Russell Streeter. Boston. 1833. ltimo. pp. 337.
This title cannot but recall to mind the famous Dialogues by Elhanan Winchester: a work which has done more perhaps than any other, if we except two treatises by different authors, in promoting the cause oi'Universalism in this country. Mr. Streeter's is manifestly designed to take the place which that formerly held; nor can it be doubted that something is called for to fill the important office that, for several years, has been but imperfectly occupied. Mr. Winchester's Dialogues were adapted to their day; but notwithstanding the many permanent excellences they contain, they are well known to have become in some respects rather obsolete. The improvements of forty years have furnished better illustrations of several points; some objections, then in vogue, have since passed to oblivion; and some particulars which then needed careful explanation, have now become so generally understood as to require no further labor. We have changed, and the world around us has changed; so that what was once apposite, no longer comports with existing circumstances, nor answers the wants of the present time. The doctrine, too, which is known under the name of Universalism, or Universal Restoration, has like all other systems, especially on their first introduction or revival, sustained a progressive modification, and is by no means exactly the same that it was half a century ago. At that period it was but just rising out of the chaos of old elements, of Calvinism, Arminianism, Mysticism, and even Autinomianism, which, like the Manichean world of matter, were mingled with some redeeming principles of divine light and truth. How could it spring forth completely formed and thoroughly purified, at once? Accordingly, we find in the Dialogues, as in other kindred works of their day, many traces of a foreign influence which has now ceased to operate on the views of Universalists, and which has even abated to a very perceptible degree in the popular and prevalent schemes of divinity.
We join with the public voice of our brethren in welcoming the new Conversations to the field of usefulness they have entered. We shall not attempt a regular synopsis of the work, since this has already been given in some of our weekly journals, of wide circulation, which have thus sent a notice of its contents abroad to an extent that our pages do not reach. It is sufficient to say that, as to its matter it fulfils, in a good degree, the promise, somewhat ample, of its title-page. It delineates and defines the general doctrine of Universalism as now held, bringing forward its principles and following them to their results, proving the positions, stating and answering the objections that are usually raised, and that would be most likely to occur, illustrating and exemplifying its moral influence, briefly sketching its history from the apostolic age to the present; and treating all this variety of topics on the plan of familiar and amicable conversation. An undertaking of great extent, and exceedingly difficult of execution! Nothing can be less easy than to bring down abstract argumentation to the character of colloquial intercourse, to keep the medium which the very plan of such a work demands, between the abstruse and the merely superficial, to introduce the multitude of particulars in their proper order and still avoid all stiffness of arrangement which would offend against the natural tenor of conversation, to preserve throughout the sprightliness and ease of the dialogue, and the familiarity of the expression, without running at times into crude declamation, or sinking at others into lowness and cant. Such are some of the difficulties with which this kind of composition, more than any other, is beset; and all these belong exclusively to the manner, to say nothing of those which arise from the nature and extent of the subject. As to the manner, it is by no means wonderful that there should be some defects in the execution of the work before us. They may deserve the notice of the author in preparing a future edition, though they be regarded as of but secondary importance, and though they should even be overlooked by the friends of Universalism, in their hearty approval of the general course pursued.
The author sets out on the only ground on which, it appears to us, a book can be rendered simply a Universalist work, considering the circumstances of the denomination. He takes the doctrine in that broad extent which includes the whole body of Universalists, and avoids descending to the unimportant particulars in which they differ. Nor can the unprejudiced believer doubt that the salvation of all mankind is a theme whose importance sinks into nothing, comparatively, all speculations about the precise time of its accomplishment, and other minor topics. The question of a future state of discipline, in particular, has been agitated among us to a disproportioned extent, and has been made, ostensibly at least, the occasion of considerable work for future repentance. With regard to this and other unimportant questions, the reader will see the stand that Mr. Streeter takes in the outset, by the following quotations from the First Conversation:
'Inquirer Proceed, then, if you please, in the statement of the doctrine of Universalism I hope you will be as
brief and explicit as possible, and yet give me a fair view of your general system.
'Universalist. Very cheerfully shall I conform to your wishes, friend Inquirer, and present the outlines of the system under a few heads or principles, and hope you will hear me through with candor and patience
'The Pbofession Of Belief,* adopted by the first duly organized Convention1 of Universalists,in this country, and which continues unaltered, as the best and most unexceptionable summary of their common faith which has ever been published, is given in the following words and propositions, viz:
'" 1. We believe that the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest, and final destination of mankind.
'"2. We believe there is One God, whose nature is Love : revealed in One Lord Jesus Christ, by One Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
'" 3. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected; and that believers ought to maintain order, and practise good works, for these things are good and profitable unto men."
'.... I have never heard an intimation from any quarter that these articles of belief ought to be abandoned. They give universal satisfaction to the Universalist public, so far as I have been
informed on the subject It is my intention to defend the
general system of Universalism, rather than separate, speculative notions entertained by individuals.' pp. 15, 16, 18.
A little further onwards, Inquirer is introduced as requesting a more circumstantial explanation of this phrase in the Profession of Belief, " who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness :"
'There is nothing definite,' says he 'in this language, in regard to the precise time or times, period or periods, in which this great, and if true, glorious work of reconciliation is to be accomplished. What say you upon that point? How shall we understand it? Do you maintain the doctrine of restoration, or salvation, or both?
'Universalist. Why, of both, Sir, of course, just as the doctrine is taught by the inspired writers Discarding all au
'* This Profession was presented  by a Committee appointed by the Convention holden at Strafford, Vt. the preceding year, consisting of Zebulon Streeter, George Richards, Hosea Ballou, Walter Ferriss, and Zephaniah Lathe; and is said to have been penned by the venerable Ferriss.'
1 This expression may mislead: the above formula was the first and only Profession of Faith which the Convention of Universalis!s ever adopted ; but it was not adopted in the first duly organized Convention; for this body had already held its sessions regularly for many years.—Ed. Expositor.
thority excepting that of the Bible, on this subject, and meddling with no private opinions of individuals, whereby the feelings of any might be injured, I will endeavor to lay this point of doctrine before you in a scriptural and satisfactory manner. The reasoning from the sacred text would be as follows: All men have Binned, or abused their faculties and privileges by transgressing the law of moral equity, and departed or fallen from the innocency in which they were made, into degradation and guilt. Of course, if they are restored to the good estate from which they have wandered, they are saved from the moral degradation in
which they were involved by voluntary transgression
'As to the time or times in which this great and universal work will be wrought, we do not pretend to be wise above what is written. If the Master whom we serve was not ashamed to say, 'But of that day, [the destruction of Jerusalem,] and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father,' should his followers be ashamed to confess their ignorance of the precise period when a world shall be saved and made holy and happy 1 Is it not vain-glorious and presumptuous to speculate and dogmatize on this all-comprehensive subject, as if we were omniscient, and knew when the time would be, or would not be, aside from an express revelation from God 1" pp. 29, 31, 32.
He proceeds, however, to show, in the following pages, that such a time is often foretold in prophecy, under the indefinite appellations, 'the last day,' 'the times of the restitution of all things,' ' the dispensation of the fulness of times,' 'the end when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father,' &c.
In a work of this character, the sole object of which is elementary instruction, we do not of course look for much that is new, either in the development of the doctrine, or in the argument by which it is supported. The novelty, if any, must consist chiefly in the manner. The several ideas and facts will be taken indifferently from the labors of others, or from personal observations and original discoveries, from any source whatsoever that presents the most fit and appropriate. To seek perpetually for what has been untouched, would infallibly mar, instead of improving such a performance, how great soever the resources of the author. Even Mr. Winchester's Dialogues, which had the advantage, in this respect, of being a pioneer in the field, have but little originality as to their matter. Few, perhaps, are aware, how largely he drew upon