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'HE CONDEMNATION OF FALSE BELIEF,
DELIVERED IN BOSTON ON THE SECOND SABBATH IN FEB. 1820.
2 THESSALONIANS II. 11, 12.
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie ; that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
My friends, we are called to the consideration of this remarkable passage of divine truth, for the same reason for which we have been so often invited, in a pressing manner, to explain many other particular portions of the sacred testimony.
The general system of doctrine, which we profess to believe, embracing the whole family of our race of being as the subjects of the divine goodness, and salvation by Jesus Christ; and our public labours having been, in some measure, specially directed to convince our hearers of so glorious a truth, and one so favourable to the rational happiness of mankind, seem to have excited some alarm among our brethren who profess a belief that limits the divine goodness, and embraces but a few of mankind in the designs of mercy. This alarm has called into action the energies of our opponents, who seem to have exerted themselves in searching the scriptures to find testimony to disprove the universal, impartial goodness of our heavenly Father. Such passages as have been most relied on, as evidence in this case have been, from time
to time presented for our solution, which has been the cause of our so frequent attention to scriptures of this complexion. The passage now read for consideration was presented with an urgent request that it should be noticed as early as this evening; and it is in compliance with this urgent solicitation that we propose our present labours.
Notwithstanding these frequent requests have induced your public servant to most laborious exertions, and to no small fatigue of both mental and physical powers, yet he feels more than compensated by the favourable success which has evidently attended his feeble exertions, and the very extensive attention to the doctrine of universal goodness which has thereby been excited, not only in this vicinity, but in many parts of the country, occasioned by your liberally patronizing the publication of those discourses. This reflection brings to mind the wisdom and goodness of God, in that he makes use of the smallest means, and means which are despised by the wisdom of this world, to extend the knowledge of his grace and the glory of his name. Being supported by these encouragements, we are neither weary nor faint in our minds, but feel determined not to shun to declare the whole counsel of God, manifested in him, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
The method by which we propose treating our subject is the following.
I. State in a concise manner the way in which this passage is generally used to prove that our heavenly Father will finally prove unmerciful to some of his rational offspring.
II. Endeavour to disprove this common use of the text, by rational argument and by scripture testimony. And,
III. Attempt to explain the true sense of the text in harmony with the impartial goodness of God to mankind.
The way in which this passage is used to prove
that God will finally be for ever unmerciful to some of the human race is the following-1. It is confidently believed that error in doctrine is so very offensive to the divine Being that he is disposed to punish those who believe in false doctrine eternally, as a penalty for the crime of such belief. This idea of the everlasting punishment of heresy, or false doctrine, has long been entertained and nourished in the bosom of the church, and while the civil power was under the control of the clergy, heresy was a crime which was punished with death. Thus the stake and fagots were the powerful arguments by which the divine displeasure against error, was faithfully maintained ! And even these excruciating tortures were considered as means of mercy, by which it was hoped a reformation might possibly be effected; while it was believed, and that beyond a shadow of doubt, that the torments which awaited the heretic in the future world were infinitely more severe than those which were inflicted by ecclesiastics who professed to have compassion on these victims of divine vengeance. Though it has pleased our merciful Father in heaven to render the power weak, which exercised such barbarity on mankind, yet among many the sentiment, that those who imbibe error are obnoxious to eternal wrath, is held as sacred truth; so that we often hear zealous professors lamenting the fate of such, who go out of this world in a belief which differs from their own.
2. As the belief of error is thought to be sufficiently criminal, in the mind of God to justifiy him in making his rational offspring for ever miserable, that this ungracious end may be brought about constantly with justice, it is believed that God sends strong delusion into the minds of his creatures, that they may believe a lie, that he may have a just occasion to damn them.
3. Tradition has fixed the meaning of the words damned, damnation, condemnation, &c. to signify a state of endless misery in the future world. It
will not allow that these words may be used to express the condition of unbelievers and sinners in the present state. Thus the unmerciful scheme is made out, and the text under consideration is made to speak and maintain the awful doctrine of the endless misery of a great portion of the human
Let us now call these opinions in question, and see if reason and scripture will at all countenance this common use of our text. Why should error in opinion be so highly offensive to the God of truth as to move him to exercise an unmerciful vengeance on those who are blinded by it? The divine Being receives no damage from our mistakes, he is by no means injured by all the errors that ever existed in the world. That we may be able to judge correctly on this subject, let us bring it within the reach of common observation. Suppose a large number of the citizens of this metropolis should entertain wrong notions concerning the line of conduct which the chief executive of the United States has determined to pursue. Those opinions, though altogether erroneous, have no power either to injure the president, to disappoint him in his purposes, or to change either his mind or his measures. Suppose furthermore, that the president comes to the knowledge of these false opinions, would he act like a reasonable mag. istrate if he suffered himself to be offended with these citizens on account of their errors, or could his conduct be upheld by the eternal law of justice should he proceed to deprive them of every possible enjoyment, and to subject them to every suffering which his ingenuity could invent ? My friends, do you believe that our law characters and judges of jurisprudence would openly and zealously contend, that these citizens, who were so very base as to entertain wrong opinions concerning the president's schemes, ought in justice to be put to the worst of deaths ? Do you think that these characters would undertake to make the
people believe that these men ought to die for the glory of the president, and for the honour of his wrath ? However absurd this may appear to the eye of candor, it is but a faint representation of this notion concerning the justice of punishing rational beings eternally, for the errors found in their religious creeds. Whatever errors there may be, and truly there is enough of them, they certainly cannot injure the great omnipotent governor and president of the universe; they cannot, in any possible way, tend to derange or frustrate his all-wise plans and measures of government. Why then do our pretended divines, who profess to be learned in the science of divinity, openly and boldly contend that we all ought to be punished for ever and ever because we have erred in our opinions ? Why do they represent the independent ruler of all worlds as being infinitely offended at our mistakes ? Or why do they pertinaciously contend that this everlasting condemnation is indispensable for the glory of God's vindictive justice ?
What earthly father would punish his offspring unmercifully because they, in consequence of their ignorance, should entertain wrong opinions respecting his plans and future conduct ?
Will you say, this is all nothing but carnal reasoning? We reply; true and natural reasoning is not carnal, it is such as our blessed Redeemer employed in giving divine instruction to the people, who listened to hear the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. He who was sent of God reasoned as follows : “ What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread will give him a stone ? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? In this reasoning, the Saviour calls the attention of his hearers to the consideration of the parental affections and love, and inculcates the idea that our heavenly Father is as