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But I think I hear Mr. Fuller say, that every sin, being committed against an infinite Being is infinite, and therefore deserves infinite, that is, eternal punishment.
But to this I reply, that it is absolutely impossible for man to commit an infinite sin : for infinite must relate either to magnitude or duration.
1. Magnitude immensity: no sin of man can acquire that character. A sin of man, is an action of man. Man is frail, fallible, and finite No action of such a being can possibly be infinite, in the way of iinmensity: therefore no sin of man can be infinite. So that in this sense it is a mere gratuitous assertion, that man is guilty of an infinite sin, on account of the infinity of God, until it can be proved that the infinity of God belongs to man.
2. Duration. In this sense the guilt of man cannot possibly be infinite. Every action of man is finite, because man is so. Man cannot sin but by the performance of a sinful action. Now grant, for the sake of argument, that any number of finite actions can amount to infinity, it certainly cannot be in any other way than by an eternal duration spent in such actions. Now no creature whatever can in this sense be guilty of infinite sin; for every creature begins to be. An æternitas a parte ante must therefore have preceded the existence of the most ancient of created beings.
This argument appears to me conclusive against the eternity of hell torments, in the sense in which Mr. Fuller uses the word eternity.
Notwithstanding this, it is my earnest wish and prayer to Almighty God in behalf of all who may chance to read this, that they may be wise, improve the advantages of this present dsspensation, know the things that belong to their peace, flee the wrath to come, and, by ceasing to do eviland learning to do well, prepare themselves for the mercy of God, which will soon be brought by Jesus the Messiah.
* Our friend Sophronius, had sent this before he had seen our fourth letter to Mr. Fuller, in which we treated of eternity absolute, without beginning or end. See Vol. iii. p. 364.-When we sent the letter of Sophronius to press, we did not know that we should be favoured with any further notice from Mr. Fuller; but as that gentleman has obliged us with another epistle, we apologize to him for inserting the above, before he and his present opponent had finished their warfare. Editor.
AN UNCOMMON PRAYER.
MR. George Edwards, the great English naturalist, when he was about
seventy years of age, retired from the office of Librarian to the College of Physicians, which he had held many years, and from his philosophical studies in general, in order the more immediately to contemplate on God, and prepare for death.
A little before his retirement he pub.ished the third part of his Gleanings of Natural History. Upon finishing this work we find the following remarkable prayer.
“ My petition to God (if petitions are not presumptuous) is, that he would remove from me all desire of pursuing natural history, or any other study; and inspire me with as much knowledge of his divine nature as my imperfect state is capable of; that I inay conduct inyself, for the remainder of my days, in a manner most agreeable to his will, which must consequently he most happy to iyself. What my condition may be in futurity is only known to the wise Disposer of all things; yet my · present desires are (perhaps vain and inconsistent with the nature of
things) that I may become an intelligent spirit, void of gross matter, gravity, and levity, endowed with a voluntary motive power, either to pierce infinitely into houndless etherial space, or into solid bodies; to see and know how the parts of the great universe are connected with each other, and by what amazing mechanism they are kept and put in motion. But oh, vain and daring presumption of thought!' I most humbly submit my future existence to the supreme will of the one Omnipresent!"
This great man was born at Westham in Essex, where he also died July 23, 1773, aged 81. There is a stone, with a plain inscription, to his memory, in the church-yard of that parish.
Some years before his death, the alarming depredations of a cancer, which baffled all the efforts of medical skill, deprived him of the sight of one of his eyes. He also suffered greatly from the stone, a complaint to which, at different periods of his life, he had been subject; yet it was remarked, that, in the severest paroxysins of misery, he was scarcely ever known to utter a single complaint !
He was a philosopher, and a believer in revelation : yet how strange was that doubt whether petitions to God were not presumptuous ! How much more happy is that believer, who, though he be no philosopher, can pray to his heavenly Father with confidence, knowing that he heareth prayer. But perhaps Mr. Edwards meant only to express a doubt whether such petitions as he was about to mention, were not presumptuous. If so, his humility is edifying.
"Delightful task ! to rear the tender thought,
To teach the young idea how to shoot,
M AN boasts of being the child of reason! but how few there are
"* among mankind who use that godlike faculty! One great end of education ought to be to lead children 10 use their seasoning powers in every thing. What is reason? The infidel boasts of it as inherent; he sets up his imaginary phantom; fancy heightens its powers, and the madman falls down and adores the shade which his ignorance hath created.
Reason is that power of the mind by which man compares one thing with another, and from it draws a just inference. Beasts have reason; but the exercising of it is confined, because their knowledge is contracted: all their ideas are received by the exercise of the senses of sight, of touch, of hearing, and of smelling. The senses are local, they are liable to deception; hence their reason is confined, and their inference incorrect; but the gift of speech, the peculiar glory of man, enlarges his ideas, enables him to exercise the powers of his mind, to weigh his own experience, and his acquirements from the experience of others, and, from the well weighing of the whole, to form a just judgment of the subject under his consideration.
Early in life to teach the manly art of thinking justly, by correctly weighing our own thoughts, actions, and words, and passing upon them a just sentence, is indeed a most valuable part of education, and perhaps easier to be acquired than at first may be iinagined. It is by rendering it easy, necessary, and habitual, that it is to be done. Are the children of the Asiatic Jews possessed of stronger mental powers than the children of the European sons of Israel? If not, how comes it that, whilst the last scarcely ever speak, at man's estate, one language correctly, the children of the former commonly, at a very early period of life, speak three or four languages. It is not education, but habito Necessity lays them under an habitual intercourse with various nations, and habit makes each language their own. So would it be found to be with the exercise of the reason, as well as the memory; not restraint but situation making it necessary; custom would train up the youthful disciple into the art of thinking, and necessity would constrain him to think justly. .
The apostle observes, that the law was given on account of the transgression of idolatry, teaching inan, by the example of God, that . VOL. IV.
Jaws ought to be suited to the evil that is to be corrected. Now the evil to be corrected in children is ignorance; it is this that is the source of every vice, as wisdom is the fountain of every virtue. Children have no ideas but as they acquire them by the exercise of their senses ; how necessary, therefore, is it that they should acquire just ideas of their moral, their social, and their relative duties! Upon these, therefore, the laws should be formed: and as their ininds are weak, to overburden the memory with many laws, whilst it rendered the mind a cripple for life, would, at the same time, prevent that exercise of the reason which is so well calculated to strengthen it.
The situation in which ma is as the creature of God, a being formed for his glory, appointed to be the high-priest of creation, naturally calls for reverence to the name and character of the Deity: and to implant this reverence in the infant mind, it is rational there should be a law, declaring that speaking disrespectfully or irreverently of God, should be punished as an affront offered to man, in speaking disrespecifully of the Creator of mankind.
It is by mutual wants that society is united together; like the links of a chain every part of society is appointed to depend upon each other. Hence necessity produces assistance, and gratitude, arising from benefits received, occasions exertions of body and mind to manifest itself. A want of gratitude is a want of virtue. It is
--- " of vices first,
· The destroyer of generous sentiment, the parent of every evil principle. Ingratitude, therefore, when proved, should be declared punishable. This would teach children to consider why, and would insensibly lead them to feel the blessings of social virtues, and to the possession of those grateful sensations which ennoble man in the eyes of God and of his fellow creature. · Man is not born for himself, but for the world at-large; hence there is a necessity frequently to call back the rising pride of the assuming tyrant, and to bring him down to the level of the rest of mankind, by teaching him, by law, that it is his duty and his interest to do unto others as he would have others do unto hiin.
Man is appointed by the Supreme governor of all to be his vicegerent here below; hence the necessity of a law to teach him how to govern this lower creation, by making impatience and cruelty towards any of them punishable.
Man, as lord of the universe, has a vast family to provide for ; hence : the need for careful economy, that nothing may be lost; therefore law should teach that wastefulness is a sin pernicious to society and derogatory to inan,
When we consider the springs of action, few laws are necessary; witness the laws of God; few in number, hut fit to make a nation happy as well as an individual; because they touch the secret springs that regulate the inward and out ward conduct of mankind. Hence there would not be a necessity for a law punishing theft, because it would
come under the law which said, “ Whatever that you would that men should do unto you, do ye even the very same unto them."
Neither would there be occasion for a law to punish idleness or carelessness; it would come under the cognizance of the law of ingratitude; the idle and the careless being ungrateful both to God abd man.
But whatever be the law, nothing like the will of the master should be the foundation of it. It should be solely founded on a design to inculcate every virtue, and to correct or prevent vice.
The advantage of man in the exercise of his reason is, that he possesses the gift of speech; the advantage, therefore, of an education in which law controuls the actions, is, that it teaches youth early to weigh actions and set a guard over himself: it instructs him in the duties of society, and makes hins habitually attentive to the performance of them; it teaches him language; and, by enabling himn throngh it to give forms to his ideas, it gives activity to all the powers of his mind, and directs him how to form a quick and yet a just judgment. In fact, it makes the child of man to be the child of reason and the representative of his God.
HINT ON PERSEVERANCE.
A R ŘACHION was an eminent wrestler, who, in the former " Olympiads, had already gained two crowns, and was now to encounter with the last of his antagoni:is for the third; but this man having perhaps observed, by his foriner coinbats, in what the superiority of Arrachion consisted, and thinking it better to prevent him, rushed on him, and, twining his feet about him, seized him at the same time hy the throat, which he griped with both his hands. Arrachion, hrving no other means, either of disengaging himself, or annoying an enemy, who was thus got within him, and had alınost strangled him to death, broke one of his toes; through the extreme pain of which, the other was compelled to resign the victory at the very moment that Arraction gave up the ghost. Arrachion, though dead, was proclaimed conqueror, and the crown of olive was accordingly placed upon his head. See West's Dissert. on Olympic Games.
What a pity is it that this wrestler, who thus resisted unto blood, (should be superior in courage and perseverance 10 many that enter the lists for “a crown of glory that fadeth not away." Arrachion was careful to win a corruptible crown, which brought him to his death inany, calling themselves Christians, are careless, and lose an incorruptible crown, whose attendant is eternal life.