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with an inflexible constancy and inimitable uniformity of life, persisted, in spite of age and infirmities, in the practice of every human vice, excepting prodigality and hypocrisy. His insatiable avarice exempted him from the first, his matchless impudence from the second. He was the only person of his time who could cheat without the mask of honesty, and retain his primeval meanness when possessed of ten thousand a year ; and, having deserved the gibbet for what he did, was at last condemned to die for what he could not do."
Along with Chartres I may allude to Count Cenci, so abandoned to lust as to attempt the ravishment of his own daughter. The account of him may be found in a tale recently translated, “ Beatrice Cenci.” It is doubted by some whether so over true a story should be read.
(5.) Bertrand Barère. This man is known to many of your readers from the account of him by Macaulay. Those who have read that account, I think, will not say that the French Revolution, with its Reign of Terror, made him what he was; but that he more than any other man made them what they were. Let those who have read say whether Macaulay is rash in his opinion that Barère approached nearer than any person mentioned in history or fiction, whether man or devil, to the idea of consummate and universal depravity. In him the qualities which are proper objects of hatred, and the qualities which are the proper objects of contempt, preserve an exquisite and absolute harmony. In almost every particular sort of wickedness he has had rivals. His sensuality was immoderate; but this was a failing common to him with many great and amiable men. There have been many men as cowardly as he, some as cruel, a few as mean, a few as impudent. There may also have been as great liars, though we never met with them or read of them. But when we put every thing together, sensuality, poltroonery, baseness, effrontery, mendacity, barbarity, the result is something which in a novel we should condemn as caricature, and to which, we venture to say, no parallel can be found in history.”
(6.) The perpetrator of the “ Three Memorable Murders," of whom De Quincey says:
“To an epicure in murder, such as Williams, it would be taking away the very sting of the enjoyment, if the poor child should be suffered to drink off the bitter cup of death without fully apprehending the misery of the situation. ... The logic of the case, in short, all rested on the ultra fiendishness of Williams. Our present murderer is fastidiously finical in his exactions a sort of martinet in the scenical grouping and draping of the circumstances in his murders.
. . Let the reader who is disposed to regard as exaggerated or romantic the pure fiendishness imputed to Williams, recollect that except for the luxurious purpose of basking and revelling in the anguish of dying despair, he had no motive at all, small or great, for attempting the murder of the young girl. She had seen nothing, heard nothing — was fast asleep, and her door was closed; so that, as a witness against him, he knew that she was as useless as any of the three corpses. And yet he was making preparations for her murder, when the alarm in the street interrupted him.” (Note Book, pp. 53, 54.)
The “ three corpses” do not mark the three murders, but the third murder. The reader should also peruse De Quincey's essay on
" Murder as one of the Fine Arts,” in his volume of " Miscellaneous Essays.” I quote De Quincey the more willingly, because, taking the common view of man's immortal nature, he seems to be a Restorationist.
I mention these examples, not because I would assume the divine prerogative of judgment upon the cases ; I do no such thing. I do not assert that all or any of these apparently quite bad men are lost. I simply cite the facts of history respecting them, to show what may be true of their radical characters, and to show that in a human, and even a humane, judgment of character, we are not warranted in asserting their final regeneration and salvation as heirs of an “eternal weight of glory."
I need not multiply examples, for the argument does not turn on numbers. If it did, I think almost any one might name instances of apparently utter abandonment, or of persons in whom the religious faculty, once excited, had afterwards apparently died out. I have known such persons; and in each case the apparent death of the spiritual capacity could be directly traced to a deliberate resolve to please one's self out of the way of manifest duty, and that resolution was considered final, and was made in view of all supposable consequences, here or hereafter. Some points here raised will be considered more fully in my closing chapter ; but this class of cases gives some support to a strict interpretation of the Parable of the Sower. Such are the seed falling on stony ground, or among thorns; it is as if the soul had but one germ of religious vitality; and when this is quickened and fails to take root, or to become a radical and ruling principle, the proper life of the soul is expired forever.
The Scriptures speak of a sin against the Holy Ghost. Whether that is strictly unpardonable will be considered in the next chapter. But I may here give my view of the nature of it, to meet an argument that will doubtless be offered by my opponent, from the many cases of conversion of
very hardened and abandoned men. I think that in all such cases there had been no flagrant sin against conscientious conviction. Either the law or the love of God had never been fully understood. The sense of duty or of mercy in all such cases comes with an original and fresh power, upon a heart before blinded, or upon feelings blunted by bad or even vicious habit, reaching for the first time the inmost core and centre of the nature, and inspiring there a spiritual and immortal life. So it was with Paulfierce persecutor as he was, he had never disowned the principle of duty, though sadly, and not without fault, mistaken in the details of it. So it was with John Newton carrying on an active traffic in the persons of his fellow-men, “ignorantly, through unbelief.” My Universalist friends are very familiar with such cases, and I am glad of it. I wish my orthodox
friends knew them as well. They relieve our hopes of the degraded and the outcast, and rightly interpreted, they give fresh zeal to our efforts for fallen humanity. But ten thousand such cases do not relieve one instance of contempt of duty, and of mercy, and of man, and of God, deliberately cherished under the full blaze of the gospel's blessed light; and I do believe there are such instances.
DO THE SCRIPTURES TEACH THE IMMORTALITY OF MAN AS
A RACE, OR OF THE GOOD OR THOSE WHO
SHALL BECOME GOOD — AS A CLASS?
§ 1. Is the proper immortality of man ASSUMED in the Bible ?
HERE, at the outset, we meet the question whether man is naturally immortal. We may call this the question of the immortality of the soul; or, if that phrase seems too technical and metaphysical, it is the more general question whether all human beings are destined actually and absolutely to an immortal life, without forfeiture or failure.
The older Universalists, as Winchester and Huntington, holding the old opinion that sin against an infinite God deserves endless woe, regarded eternal life not as of man's nature or desert, but as once forfeited, and now bestowed as an act of grace. They held that all had been liable to “ eternal death.” And if we take this phrase in its literal sense, as signifying the loss of immortality, we should then have at once a doctrine of conditional immortality, and we should say nothing more about any absolute immortality of the soul or of man.
But modern Universalists, if I am not mistaken, do not allow any notion of forfeiture or of speculative contingency in respect to immortality. They say it would be either unjust to man, or unworthy of God, that He should allow such a being as man, by any possible means or supposition, to fail of the immortality for which he was created. And in this view the word death, as used in the Scriptures, can have no reference whatever to the being of the soul, or to the loss of immortality, but it can refer only to the dissolution of the body, or to such a low moral or spiritual state as is, for the time, no better than death itself.