« הקודםהמשך »
make the stoutest heart tremble? Are you not afraid to hold up arms of rebellion against the Almighty, by your ungodly deeds to expose yourselves to his fearful indignation? Know that, sooner or later, your stout hearts must relent, your stubborn knees bow, your obdurate minds be filled with shame and remorse, your souls be humbled in the dust at his footstool. You cannot stand against his omnipotent arm when streiched out to execute his tremendous judgments upon you. If you will not bow to the sceptre of mercy extended towards you in the gospel of his son, he will hereafter subdue you by the displays of his wrath, and his fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. As you must hereafter bow before him, and submit to his authority, and as you never can be happy while you continue in opposition to him, why not submit now, and take his easy yoke upon you? Can you be liappy too soon? The contest you are engaged in with your Maker is altogether hopeless. Who shall set the thorns and briars against hiin in battle? he would pass through them, he would burn them together.
Can you be so weak and ignorant as to suppose, that the God of truth and holiness will always suffer you to go on in rebellion, departing from rectitude and order, debasing those powers which he hath endowed you with for his own glory, disturbing the peace of others by your crimes, and rendering yourselves a foul blot on the fair face of his creation, without punishing you? As sin is that abominable thing which his soul hateth, he will pursue it with all the terrors of his wrath, until it be exterminated from among his works. If you will continue to cherish it in your bosoms, and entwine it about your souls, liis wrath will drink up your spirits, his terrors overwhelm you, his indignation transfix your souls with tribulation and anguish in the lake of fire. Would any good government, after remonstrances, threatenings, and overtures of mercy bad been used towards incendiaries without any good effect, suffer them still 10 go on infesting the country, interrupting the happiness of the friends of peace and good order, spreading the seeds of misery by their conduct and example? Surely not. It would punish such incorrigible rebels, that peace and order might be restored, and rebellion no more lift up its head. And shall not the wise, righteous, Almighty Governor of the universe punish you who are acting the part of incendiaries in his dominions, by your disaffection to his government, violation of his laws, and pernicious example? Yes, surely he will reward you according to your works, that order and harmony may be restored in the rational creation, that his authority may be universally respected, and that all his works may praise him. Would any judicious and affectionate parent suffer his offspring to waste his property in scenes of riot, to disgrace his family by their crimes, to debase and ruin themselves by their licentious conduct, with impunity? Surely, he would not: on the contrary, however painful to his feelings, he would, so far as his power and authority extended, certainly punish them-not from a malevolent or revengeful disposition, but that he might thereby promote the welfare of his family, by bringing the rebellious to a sense of their folly, and effecting their reformation. And can you think that
God, whose offspring you are, will suffer you to consume the blessings which he hath endowed you with, upon your lusts, to disgrace humau nature by your crimes, and ruin yourselves by your evil courses, withour calling you to a strict account, and inflicting such a punishment upou you as shall bring you to a sense of your madness and folly? He will certainly make you feel what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against
Deceive not yourselves by saying, that, because God is infinitely good and merciful, therefore he will not punish you for your sins : for his goodness and mercy, as well as his justice, require that those who will not be reclaimed by the lenient means which he now adopts for their recovery, should be subjected to the tremendous discipline of the lake of fire. If the subjects of a good government were so ignorant and infatuated as to resolve on proceeding in such a line of conduct as could produce nothing but misery to themselves and others, would it not be an act of goodness and compassion for the government to take notice of their conduct, and bring them under such discipline, however painful it might be, as would remove their ignorance, and cure them of their infatuation? And shall not the righteous Governor of the world act in a similar manner?
You vainly imagine that the crooked paths of iniquity will lead you to pleasure and happiness, though your own experience and observation ought to teach you the contrary. Walking in this vain imagination, you roll sin as a sweet morsel under your tongues, and thereby debase the noble faculties you possess, drive peace far from you, and disqualify yourselves for spiritual improvement and substantial enjoyment.
God formed you for his own pleasure, that you might be made completely happy in the enjoyment of bim, and that you might glorify his name; but how can he take pleasure in you while you are despising his authority, disregarding his name and his commands, and making yourselves loathsoine by your immoral and impious practices? How can you be happy while at enmity with God, the only source of felicity? You cannot glorify him so long as you remain his enemies by wicked works. If, therefore, gentle methods can effect no change in you, the love of God will require that he should inflict such punishment upon you, however long and painful it may be, as will cure your ignorance and infatuation, which would for ever prevent your answering the end for which you were created. A tender parent does not omit punishing his rebellious offspring because he loves them; on the contrary, he punishes them, not from cruelty, but from kindpess : it would shew a want of love, if he did not punish thein, when gentle methods are found ineffeétual to their reformation : So the Father of spirits will punish his offending creatures, not because his goodness to. them hath ceased, but because it would be inconsistent with his goodness to remit their punishment. .
Say not, “ There is no proportion between the sins of this short life and the punishment of a future state; and therefore there is nothing to fear, as God is too righteous to infiet unjust punishment." God is certainly too righteous to inflidt unjust punishment; but he is, at the
same tiine, too just to let obstinate offenders go unpunished; and what he hath threatened is punishment proportioned to every man's evil deeds; consequently right reason must acknowledge the propriety and strict justice approve the infliction thereof, Harbour not the thought that your state can be no worse than it already is ; that, being already exposed to the wrath to come, however you may add to your offences, you can only be exposed thereto; for as that wrath will be measured out to you according to the number and magnitude of your sins, few or many stripes, as you are more or less criminal; so, by every addition you make to your already accumulated guilt, you are heaping up wrath against the day of wrath, and preparing for yourselves a longer duration of torinent and misery hereafter.
The more inveterate any disease is, the longer and the more painful must be the operations by which it is eradicated: sin, like a disease, will continue to take deeper root, and become more inveterate in you, so long as you continue in the love and practice thereof; consequently, the longer you continue in sin, and the more you become habituated thereto, the longer and the more dreadful must your sufferings hereafter be.
Consider how dreadful the wrath to come will be. Under the weiglt of your sins, your consciences penetrated with guilt, your souls filled with the wrath of God, to be banished from the Saviour, whom ye now despise, and the blessedness of the saints, because you have preferred the pleasures of sin ;--to be cast into the lake burning with fire and brimstone, there to remain in the deepest tribulation and anguish, without the least alleviation of your pains, for a period, the duration of which is concealed from man ;*-to terminate your mad career of vice and folly in devouring flaines. Can you think of this, and not stand appalled!
If God was unjust, cruel, or selfish if he required any thing of you which was not for your good if he did not love you, and desire your happiness, you might have some pretext for your enmity and rebellion; but when you consider that he is your Creator and Preserver-that he is daily loading you with blessings that he has prohibited nothing but what would be injurious to you that every thing which he has required of you is for your good that he continues to love you, notwithstanding all your provocations that, viewing you in your state of sin and wretchedness, he gave his son to die for you, and offers you salvation freely in the gospel-that every part of his conduct toward you hath been the effect of pure benevolence, and hath had your happiness for its object-I say, when you consider all these things, how can you help feeling the baseness of your ingratitude, and being penetrated with contrition for your sins ? Why will you still despise the riches of his goodness and eompassion, and dare his awful displeasure? Why will you, with salvation sounding in your ears, and the threatenings of dainnation before your eyes, rush heedlessly on, until you find yourselves in the abyss of misery? Then you may call, and he will not answer, you may seek him early, but he will not be found of you. Then you must inevitably reap the fruit of your doings. Therefore“. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is yet peace
let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. I pray God that this may be the case with every one who reads this Address.
REPLY TO THE VINDICATION
LETTERS FROM THE WORLD OF SPIRITS.
TO MX. S. WHITCHURCH, BATH.
DEAR SIR, IN perusing your vindication of the Letters from the World of Spirits,
in the last number of this valuable work, I was, I confess, not a little astonished to find some trifling objections substituted instead of sound argument: objections in reality more calculated to amuse the reader in his retired moments, than to inform his understanding in scriptural truth. However specious this mode of arguing may appear to a superficial observer, I am well convinced, reason, that peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of the human species, possesses that decomposing or analytical power of separating truth from error, however artfully or skilfully they may be interwoven together. When once this process of ratiocination commences, error must inevitably vanish, like a pyramid of snow under the solar influence. Empty declamation may indeed arrest the attention of the weak and ignorant, while, on the other hand, the more intelligent are to be wrought upon by reason and argument alone.
You inform us, in the first place, that you did not think your letters “ so-repugnant to the letter of Scripture, as to become the subject of critical animadversion,” for it was only a fanciful performance." And yet it seems strange, that you should prostitute so much of your time in defending so fanciful a performance, by endeavouring to make it appear in a rational point of view.
And here I must own the justness of your charge, viz. that I had claimed the victory before my opponent had notice of the commencement of hostilities. I ask your forgiveness for so doing; at the same time hope the former part of my letter will prove I did not do it our of ostentation; therefore you may rest assured, when you produce argument, if I cannot answer it, I will dwn its power.
In the second place, you acknowledge that your letters contain sentiments somewhat similar to those which I have described, viz. “ That disembodied spirits are not altogether unmindful of their friends in the body." But the manner in which I have worded your sentiment seems not to please you. Let your own words determine whether I have not done you justice. " Permitted as we (disembodied spirits) @re, to visit our old habitations, and to hover about our old friends*." But let me ask you what design the Deity could have in giving departed spirits a view of the frailties of their relatives in this world? Certainly to be witness of their innumerable transgressions, their various trials and difficulties, could never have a tendency to encrease their happiness. On the other hand, if they are beings capable of being affected by the misconduct of their friends, their happiness must, in some degree, be decreased. To make your hypothesis appear plausible, you next give a very energetic account of the powers of the human mind in this world. This I very readily admit. But when you assert that we are permitted, after we depart this life, to reconnoitre in this world, I doubt your argumentation.
Your singular mode of rejecting the evidence of Solomon on account of his being a libidinous character, cannot fail of attracting the attention of every individual who has the least respect for oriental literature, as the same objection might be stated against the book of Psalms. David did not only commit adultery, but murder also ; and yet every Christian admits them to be of divine authority. This book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon purposely to shew the vanity of all earthly enjoyments, and to direct our pursuits to future objects; which appears clear by his conclusion of this book, where he says, “ Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” Is this the language of a man in the flesh? Impossible! Again, our Saviout calls himn great, when he says, “ A greater than Solomon is here;" which evidently implies he was great,
otherwise the degree of comparison could not be formed: and yet a frail mortal dares step forward to dispute his greatness. Dear Sir, let me recommend you to read your Bible with more attention. You assert also that Solomon's account of the state of the dead is exceedingly : gloomy and melancholy, and the reason which you give is truly." excentric. Solomon, you inform me, makes , carce any difference between the human species and the brute creation, except that the spirit of the one goeth upward, and the spirit of the other downward. What other distinction is wanting? This is sufficient to satisfy any rational man that Solomon believed in a future state. .
The promise of our Saviour to the thief on the cross you reverence, and adınit a state of happiness and misery may be deducible therefrom; if this be your opinion, let me ask you what idea you can form of a state without a place ? For my part, I can form none. With respect to a place of slumberous inactivity, it entirely originates with yourself.
Again, you own the propriety of my remarks on Heb. i. 14. together with the justness of my reasoning on Mark, xii. 25. and on Luke, xx. 35, 36. but these must admit of more latitude-And for what reason? Because if they do not, your fanciful notion will be
* See Page 347.