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As you are, my friend, pleased with my conversation pieces, I shall, as often as leisure will permit, endeavour to gratify you, by recording such as I may conceive interesting, espe cially upon our grand subject.
I was visited yesterday by a serious inquirer after truth. He presented himself with diffidence and hesitation, but his countenance expressed that kind of ingenuous candour which is irresistibly prepossessing. Perhaps my communication will be less encumbered with superfluous words, if it be given in the form of a dialogue: Thus commenced our conversation:
Stranger. I beg, Sir, you will do me the favour to believe, I have no other design in asking you questions but to obtain information. My mind has been, for many years, wavering and embarrassed, and, to confess a truth, I have sometimes doubted whether there were any reality in religion. When I seck for truth, contradictions abound, until perplexed, and weary, the most melancholy conclusions have been forced upon my understanding, and I have, perhaps impiously, exclaimed, "Surely this that we call the word of God, is only the word of man, and is thus written, to keep mankind in the dark."
I have often heard of you, and I have been told you exhibit the scriptures in a consistent point of view. Other reports are not so favourable; but the various opinions which are formed have given me an anxious desire to see and hear you. I never heard you preach until last evening, and I then heard sufficient to encourage me, with your permission, to ask you a few questions.
M. I shall take pleasure in attending to you, Sir.
Stranger. I am convinced I have an immortal soul, and there is nothing I am so anxious to be acquainted with as the future state of that soul.
M. It is, Sir, one of my greatest enjoyments, to hold communication with a serious inquiring mind; when I am made instrumental in making manifest the truth of God, it is then I am most happy. It is assuredly rational to aim at a certainty respecting futurity. It
is not absolutely necessary to become acquainted with military arrangements, for we may never be soldiers; nor with civil, for we may never become magistrates; nor with political, for we may not be designed for statesmen; but it is absolutely necessary to acquaint ourselves with religion, for we shall indubitably become inhabitants of the world of spirits. The inference is obvious, we ought oiligently to investigate the tenor on which we hold our future hopes and fears.
Stranger. Well, Sir, this is my opinion; and as I am convinced I am a sinner, because I have broken the law of God, and as Judas Iscariot was no more than a sinner, by what rule can I determine I shall be saved, when the scriptures expressly declare he was lost?
M. It is very hard, Sir, to determine by what rule you are to obtain a certainty respecting your own salvation, if the scriptures expressly declare Judas was lost.
Stranger. Why, Sir, do not the scriptures say, "Of all that thou hast given me I have lost none, save the son of perdition, that the scriptures might be fulfilled?"
M. Yes, Sir; but where, I pray you, do the scriptures expressly declare that Judas was that son?
Stranger. Was not Judas the son of perdition? Does not his Master say, "I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"
M. That assertion would only prove that the Devil was the son of perdition; for the character, devil, was applicable neither to the body nor soul of Judas. First, not to his body: the Devil is a spirit, and our Saviour says, a spirit has neither flesh nor bones. Nor, secondly, to his soul: for then Judas had no soul until he took the sop. It was at that period, we are told, the Devil entered into him. Again, as we have no account that Jesus Christ has redeemed the Devil, and have an account of the redemption of the soul, we cannot apply the character of the soul, and Devil, indiscriminately. Besides, we know that our Saviour gave the same character to another disciple, when he said to Peter, on his remonstrating against his going up to Jerusalem, "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." Judas is said to go to a place, to his own place. Where was this place? Not Hell, for that is the property of the Devil and his angels. But where could he go, that he would, strictly speaking, be lost? "If," says the Royal Prophet, "I descend into hell,
thou art there; if I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and flee to the uttermost parts of the earth, there thy right hand will find me."
Thus, my good Sir, Judas could not be lost; but the son of perdition could, and was, and therein the scriptures were fulfilled. But having found what the son of perdition is not, let us inquire at the Oracles of God, what the son of perdition is? First, we do not hear of sons, in the plural. No, it is the son of perdition in the singular. Now, Perdition is not God, nor man; therefore the son of perdition could not be the son of God, nor man.
Again; what is a son? Some being begotten by a father. Hence the Lord Jesus is called the Son of God, and the Son of Man, because he was the offspring of both natures. Every father produces a son in his own likeness, as every tree brings forth fruit after its kind. From these considerations we discover the propriety of the apostolic argument, when treating on this subject in one of the epistles. He says, "There shall come a falling away first, then shall that man of sin be revealed the son of PERDITION, who sitteth in the temple of God; and opposeth himself to all that is called God, and worshipped; whom God shall destroy with the breath of his mouth, &c. &c. Thus, my good Sir, we discover the real son of perdition, the real offspring of the Devil, which son proceedeth from him, as much as every good and perfect gift cometh from God. And we find this offspring in the offspring of God. In God's temple: know ye not your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost? It is in this body, this son of perdition is made manifest, as it was in Judas.
But how did our Saviour lose this son of perdition? "Of all that thou hast given me I have lost none, save the son of perdition, that the scriptures might be fulfilled."
First, the offspring of God was given to Jesus, that he may keep them. Who are the offspring of God? All mankind, for so said the apostle, we are all his offspring, and therefore God is the Father of the spirits of all flesh. Hence Jesus hath the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession: All souls are mine, says the Father; and all that the Father hath is mine, says the Son. This inheritance is ransomed from the power of the grave, for Jesus gave himself a ransom for all. Hence the kingdom of our Saviour shall be a universal kingdom, and it shall be delivered up to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all.
But beside this offspring of God, given to Jesus that he may save and keep them, as the fulness of his human character, God gave him another son, to put away and lose, that when it was sought for, it should not be found.
Hence we are informed, that when all we, like sheep, had gone astray, every one wandering after his own devices, the Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all. It is undeniable, that by the Lord here spoken of, is intended the Universal Father: the Him on whom the iniquities of mankind were laid, is the same Father, assuming our nature, taking the name of Jesus, because he saved the people from their sins, and in this subordinate character, he received upon his own sacred person, the iniquities of us all. Now, as we have before found, that sin, as collectively contaminating the ruined nature, is said, in the inspired writings, to be the man of sin, the son of perdition, and as we find this aggregate was given to Jesus, when the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all, and that this constituted a part of the fulness of his character, as made sin for us, inasmuch as the human nature was the fulness of his character as the second Adam, that he may appear the second time without sin, unto salvation; in his sufferings and death he lost this son, that the scripture might be fulfilled. And in this view the scriptures were fulfilled, for thus the sacred oracles declare: "Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself." It was for the transgressions of my people he was smitten; that when thus cut off, he should make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness. Again, thou wilt cast all our sins as a stone into the depths of the sea; and again, when the iniquities of Jacob are sought for, they shall not be found. Wherefore? Because Jesus should lose them, and thus, when he destroyed the works of the Devil, he could with safety say, "Of all that thou hast given me, I have lost none, save the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
This, Sir, is the grace contained in the ministry of reconciliation, given to the Apostles, which was, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses. It is in consequence of the son of perdition being lost by Christ Jesus, that we have the answer of a good conscience, by his resurrection from the dead, and that we are exhorted to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God by Jesus Christ.
If our Saviour had not lost this son of perdition, God could not say, I have not seen iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel.
Nor could we Gentiles be presented before him without spot, and blameless; nor could we finally enter, where nothing that defileth can have place. But now, our Saviour is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In this view, and in this view only, we are as he is, even in this present world. When our eye is single, our whole body is full of light. The fulness of God, and the fulness of man, constituting the one Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us; this union gives us to see the two natures perfect in one. It is here, in consequence of the son of perdition being lost, that we become the righteousness of God in him; and perfect as our Father, who is in heaven, is perfect; and holy as God is holy. In one word, it is the destruction of that son, which is the salvation of the human family. It is thus that Jesus saves his people from their sins. It was the blood of Jesus, that like a mighty torrent bore away the iniquities of the world : and it is to this purifying blood, that You and I and every child of Adam, are exhorted to look, when called upon to behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
Stranger. Thank you, Sir, ten thousand times I thank you; I am more than convinced, it is glorious! I never saw it on this fashion! I am astonished that I never saw it before. But still, dear Sir, there is one observation I would beg leave to make: "It would have been better for that man, that he had never been born!" how is this? excuse me, Sir, was this said of Judas?
M. I do believe it was.
Stranger. How then, I beseech you, if he could be interested in the great atonement, and, by consequence happy through all eternity, could it be said of him, it had been better for him he had never been born?
M. First, Sir, you must prove that he never could have had any interest in the great salvation, except he had been born. But, this I presume, a gentleman of your good sense, will not attempt to prove. Some eminent men not uniting with me in sentiment, in other respects, agree with me in this particular. A Christian poet. asserts,
"Babes thither caught from womb and breast,
Claim right to sing above the rest,