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Having premised these things, I am prepared to state my general argument, as follows:
1. What are the prominent occasions of the Universalist faith?
II. Are there radically bad men? Or, is there a “good in all,” which may justly be called a redeeming virtue in the worst, and a nucleus of their reformation and salvation ?
III. Do the Scriptures teach the immortality of man as a race, or of the good or those who shall become good class?
IV. Is the immortality of the good as a class supported by the history, especially of early Christian doctrine?
V. Does this doctrine accord with a just philosophy, and with the sentiments of humanity ?
By way of apology I will offer but a single word. The compliments that have been bestowed upon my book may raise undue expectations of my present argument. Suffice it to say, the book was the fruit of long meditation, and of several years' study; my present effort must be begun and ended in not many days. And I am not as familiar with Universalist as with orthodox opinions and history. The main advantage, if any, which I shall have over the opponent of my opponent in their late discussion, will be that of my position. I have not to maintain any tenet of eternal woe. For this advantage partly do I write, and on it partly shall I rely. In one view it is a disadvantage. My change from the orthodox view was a great emancipation, and he who has changed once may change again. Who knows that one will abide in the half-way house, and will not some day rejoice in another great emancipation ? We shall see. Meanwhile, I shall deem the present essay as an introduction to the great subject, on which I may possibly, years hence, gratify the wish of friends at both ends of the street by writing more sully.
THE PROMINENT OCCASIONS OF THE UNIVER
SALIST FAITH ?
HERE is a delicate point of argument; for the causes of human opinion bear some analogy to the motives of human conduct, of which we ought not hastily to judge. I think, however, the argument is a legitimate one; for every cause enters into and qualifies its effect. Nothing is thoroughly known until it is traced to its source. Moreover, in every important and extensively prevalent opinion, however erroneous, there is some element of truth whence its power is derived. And we shall labor at great disadvantage if we do not thankfully recognize all that is good, even relatively, in whatever we oppose. I think the remark of Coleridge a just one, that “unless you understand a man's ignorance, you may be sure you are ignorant of his understanding.” I shall waste my words if I do not know the paths by which my gentlemanly opponent and those on his side have come to their opinions. Only thus should any one pretend to offer himself as a guide into the right way.
1. One most obvious cause of Universalism is the reaction from the doctrine of eternal misery. It is easy to utter those two fearful words without thinking what they mean. It is almost as easy to forbear thinking upon them out of a suspicion that they mean more than can be true. But to ponder them, and then believe them, is hard indeed, and requires a high opinion or a deep sense of human guilt and ill desert. I have met with ministers who confessed they did not dare to think of the eternity of misery, for fear they should doubt the fact And it has been said very plausibly, if not very truly in the choice between the two more prevalent beliefs :
“ We are all
Universalists when we lose our friends." And I can easily understand those who say they did not really believe in endless woe, even when they thought they did.
In this view I would say that the Universalist faith is relatively true. But it will be a part
historical argument to show that this reaction did not begin- as there was no occasion for it — until the latter half of the second century, when Platonic views of the immortality of the soul had begun to be received into the faith of Christians.
2. Certain views of the sovereignty and supremacy of God have in various ways promoted the Universalist faith. Men would fain comprehend all things in the world, including those which seem evil and wrong, under one system and plan of God. This desire seeks to get rid of the perplexity and mystery of sin. It is of two kinds, – intellectual and moral; the first often attended with a deadness of the moral sense, and the second growing out of a tenderness and acuteness of the moral
A word respecting each of these. (1.) I frequently meet persons who say there can be nothing in the universe opposed to the will of God, for the very idea of God makes Him the absolute sovereign, disposing and ordaining all events. In accordance with this view they excuse any apparent wrong in themselves as the necessary imperfection of finite and infant being. And as they grow consistently cold and philosophic, they extend the same charity to their neighbors. “Whatever is, is right,” is their motto. And though earth is so full of apparently needless suffering, and of such exquisite counterfeits — if not realities of guilt, these people persuade themselves that the Infinite Being can not hare allowed any thing which He would disapprove or dislike, and that all men, with greater or less completeness of moral mechanism, are gliding on toward the same final happiness.
This philosophy is doubtless a reaction, in part, from the higher forms of Calvinism. When the scripture texts that asserted the unity and sovereignty of God against the Persian Dualism and the Greek and Roman Polytheism, were taken as charging God with all that men ever did, and when God was said to condemn some for the sake of glorifying others, so that he must appear to do evil that good might come, it is no wonder that all evil was denied, though at the hazard of denying with it all moral good, and of locking up the universe in necessity and fate.
This doctrine of necessity I name as a cause of Universalism, not because all Universalists hold it, but because I meet it more frequently now in their books and on their lips than elsewhere I rarely meet one who makes a thorough and outspoken denial of man's free agency, who is not a Universalist. And I so often meet Universalists who scout the notion of free will and moral responsibility, that the two beliefs have become somewhat associated in my mind. Many of the persons I speak of are not members of Universalist churches; but some of them are such, and they find support in respectable books of Universalist literature.
(2.) But a sensitively acute moral sense, no less than a cold philosophy, may stagger at the mystery of sin and deny its existence. For sin, as I take it, when reduced to its proper
elements, is no mere misfortune or indiscretion; but it is doing wrong in the face of conviction both of duty and of interest, and with the certain prospect of bitter regret, availing or unavailing. Thus sin, as sin, is purely monstrous, -excuseless and reasonless, a disjointing of the will from its just moral relations, threatening havoc around if not ruin within. But this anomaly is so horrible and horrifying that, like calamitous tidings, men dread to believe it true. They sometimes turn away from it, shocked and confounded, wishing not to look at it, or to think of it, again ; but hoping that the apparent mystery of human guilt may be resolved into some better mystery of divine goodness and omnipotent love.
Whether the mystery can be thus solved is a question to be considered in the next chapter. I need only to remark here that Olshausen, alluding to the Universalist view, has well said: “Although this may often be owing to a sickly and torpid state of the moral feelings, yet it is without doubt deeply rooted in noble minds; it is the longing of the soul after complete har
mony in the universe. But I think such a harmony does not preclude the notion of temporary and even self-ruinous perver sion of finite free agency. God may still be divinely sovereign and good. “ The highest power only becomes the more perfect, from the fact that instead of acting with all-subduing violence, it operates in a determinate mode, as a spirit of holiness and love. This higher power may safely leave man free, for the very reason that it is omnipotent ; for it is the character of strength not to fear freedom ; and it is precisely because Omnipotence governs the world, that no infringement of universal order is to be apprehended from the personal self-subsistence (or perverse action] of finite spirits.”+
3. I query whether Universalists do not usually hold an opinion of the “ highest good” from which I should dissent, but which has contributed to their faith. The natural and just revulsion from the thought of eternal misery has given prominence to the question of happiness or misery; and it were no wonder if this question should displace that which is most important, What is the highest kind of happiness or welfare? Is it not virtue? Is it not better to be worthy than to be fortunate? My noble opponent, and multitudes of Universalists with him, will at once say, “ Yes, virtue by all means, and let the happiness take care of itself. First pure, then peaceable. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” And the moral philosophy prevalent among Universalists, – that blessing can not be sundered from goodness, that suffering is inseparable from guilt, and that the only forgiveness is the putting away of sin, -- this philosophy has opposed the happinessworship of which I speak. Still I doubt if many have not become Universalists out of a primary love of enjoyment here or hereafter — to which moral worth is secondary. The same may be true of other religionists - this is religionism as distinct from genuine godliness, and it is an exceedingly subtle mischief in human nature. But is it not fostered more by the
* Comm. on Matt. xii. 31, 32. | Bockshammer, Freedom of the Will, p. 104. Kaufmann's Trans.