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readers, by this time, may begin to be surprised, and ask if these are our arguments to prove future pun. ishment. We answer they are not; but still we think they have an importance that justly entitles them to a place here. If this doctrine be false, we should naturally expeet that Christ would have offered something directly against it; or if he had not thought proper to have done this, he would have avoided the use of expressions, which are calculated by their natdral import to support the doctrine. We think it will not be denied that a number of passages, with comparatively few exceptions, have been understood by the christian world, to refer, and clearly to support, the belief of such a period. For instance, let us take the expression of our Lord, For every idle word that men shall speak, they give an acerunt thereof in the day of
judgement. These words are spoken without comI ment to a people who already believe in a future judge
ment and retribution, and were written as the standing testimony of our Savior. for the benefit of their posterity, who would naturally interpret them according to these circumstances. It is a well known fact, that every man that means to be understood, calculates to adapt his language to the situation of his hearers in such a manner as to accommodate himself to their eustoms and usages. People seldom think when a man uses their language, that he means something
very different, unless particularly instructed that such i is his meaning, or, his known sentiments and mode of
speaking suggest the idea. But we know not, that Jesus ever offered them any plainer language on this subject, than has reached our times. To bring this matter to ourselves, we think the public will bear us testimony, that our brethren who oppose our views on this subject, very seldoin or never find occasion in their writings or sermons to mention such passages of scripture without a labored comment to show that they do not favor either future punishment, or the common doctrine of endless misery. Why is this ? No doubt, because they suppose the public prejudices are such that those texts cannot safely be adverted to without being misunderstood. Well, if the public are liable to be led astray by the natural import of such passages now, were they in a better situation in the days of Christ? Were they then so much nearer the faith of our brethren as to render such comments as they offer entirely useless ?
When according to any system of doctrine many passages that are believed to be the inspired word, on all occasions whatever, are made of no other use, than barely to show that they do not mean what has generally been thought they do mean; it is at least a strong symptom of defect in that system. What was written aforetime, was written for our learning, and, of course, is capable of some other use than barely to receive from our labors a negative meaning.
If these suggestions be allowed, (as we think by impartial judges they will) it will clearly follow that this mode of treating such passages, as speak of suffering, punishment, fear, &c. has grown naturally from their theory.
The arguments which we have heretofore offered respecting the manner in which people would be likely to receive our Savior's meaning on this subject of future punishment, are equally applicable to the language of the Apostles. Should it be said that he did not then intend to be understood by the people of his age, as many things were then hidden from the wise and prudent, a relief on this part of the subject, would scarcely afford them any assistance on that of the Apostles. An attempt to extend this idea to them, and to say, they did not mean to be understood by their cotemporaries, would afford us ground to retort upon our brethren, and to say, it is a matter of doubt, whether they understand the subject any better, than those who had been deceived before. But we presume this ground will not be taken ; because it would make the Apostles the instruments of deception, not to the world in general only, but to their immediate friends. It would rest upon the idea that God poured out his
holy spirit to deceive the world on this important subject.
If we were to state in a history, as the writer of the Acts of the Apostles did of Paul, that he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come, or future condemnation, as the words
be rendered, should we not now be understood to speak of future punishment ? And if this doctrine was generally believed in the Apostolic age, as undoubtedly it was, would they not be likely to understand him in the same way? Perhaps the opposing critic has just discerned that St. Paul might reason of judgement or condemnation to come, and reason against it; but it is hoped he will have the goodness to examine his lesson two words back, and consider whether be reasoned against righteousness and temperance! Remember, brother, the word and continues the sense.
We do not propose at this time to introduce many passages of scriptures, but reserve most of those we calculate to treat and bring forward to substantiate our views of this subject in future numbers. Our principal object in the present number is to offer to the consideration of our readers the relative connexion between the apostles preaching and the common sentiments of their age; whether Christ and his apostles meant to deceive the people, and whether if their language is intelligible on this subject, it is such as men would be likely to use, who meant to deny the doctrine of future punishment. Is it such as our brethren generally use in their discourses and writings ? The two passages which we have quoted we give as a specimen of many others. These we shall notice in future as we find occasion,
From the Christian Philapthropist,
REASON AND RELIGION, Among the singular imaginations which have entered the minds of men, is that of exalting one of God's gifts, by undervaluing another, Reason and Religion,
infinitely the richest blessings which heaven has bestowed, have found some, in every age who have attempted to put them at war with each other; and who seem to have thought, that to place the former very low in the scale of worth, would best evince the high veneration in which they held the latter. That Reason is the gift of God, will not, we presume, be denied. Our faculties, whatever their character, are given by Him, “from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift:" and whether they are considered as calculated to enlighten or nislead, to exalt or debase, they must still be traced to the same supreme
We presume it will also be granted, that Reason is, on the whole, a blessing. If not, it belongs to those who deny it, to tell us of what use Revelation would be without Reason: nay, they must tell us, how it could be known that that which pretended to be a Revelation, was really so ; how indeed it could be proved that such a being as God existed. These are things, which we have been accustomed to regard as quite important to be known, before we begin to talk about Religion. For Religion, or rather the record which contains it, is something addressed to man as a rational, accountable being, and before any one sits down to examine this record, in order to be guided by its instructions, he must satisfy himself that it is, what it pretends to be, the true word of God. If he neglect to do this, upon what ground does he embrace one religion in preference to another? Why is he a Christian, rather than a Jew or a Pagan? Why does he not read the Koran, instead of the Bible ? And why, when he has embraced Christianity, does. he attach himself to some one of its numerous systems of belief, and consider all the rest as erroneous? How, we ask, putting the use and authority of Reason aside, are these things done! It cannot be answered that that religion or doctrine is preferred, which has a preponderance of evidence in its favor; for this would be to consult Reason, and to consult it largely too ; nay, it would be, to allow it to sit in judgement upon
Revelation, and determine which, of all the systems which assume this high character, does in truth possess it, and is best entitled to unreserved confidence. Thus it is evident, and we shall do well always to bear it in mind, that Reason is, apd must be our guide ; and so soon as we cease to consult and obey its dictates, we cease to be moral, religious, accountable beings.
The provinces of Reason and Revelation are thus defined by Mr. Locke: “Reason is natural Revelation, whereby the eternal Father of light, and fountain of all knowledge, communicates to mankind that portion of truth which he has laid within the reach of their natural faculties;: Revelation is natural Reason,enlarged by a new set of discoveries communicated by God iinmediately, which Reason vouches the truth of, by the testimony and proofs it gives that they come from God. So that he that takes away Reason to make way for Revelation, puts out the light of truth, and does much the same, as if he would persuade a man to put out his eyes, the better to receive the remote light of an invisible star by a telescope.”—Thus did one of the greatest philosophers that the world has seen, regard this distinguished gift; and thus should we al regard it. Reason is always abused, when its possessors forget that it came from the same Being who has given them a Revelation ; and that consequently these two instructers and guides cannot, in any fair way, be made to oppose each other. It is always abused, and its Author insulted, when it is represented as being, in its natural state, an unsafe and dangerous conductor; and when the fears and suspicions of men are awakened, and they are led to think, that what appears to their unbiassed judgement to be right, must for that very reason be wrong: Strange, that this faculty which allies us to the Father of our spirits, should be so ungratefully received, and so inconsistently treated: idolized when it serves our purpose, and trampled upon the moment it operates against us. Strange, that men should attempt to reason us out of