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Some of the principal arguments advanced in favour of universal salvation, connected with a temporary punishment, and objections urged against it.
Lorenzo. I am happy to meet you again, my friend. As the morning is pleasant, we will take a walk, if you please, and resume our former subject.
Evander. I will with a great deal of pleasure.
Lorenzo. Since our last meeting, I have spent much time in examining the several doctrinal points on which we conversed. I find that neither of our former positions are tenable, as they will not stand the test of reason and revelation. They appear far from the just spirit of the gospel; although, I acknowledge, many of your arguments looked plausible at the time, so much so, that I could not readily answer them; but I presume, by my friends, who are well versed in these subjects, they would have been easily confuted.
Evander. Will you have the goodness to inform me who your learned friends are ?
Lorenzo. The persons to whom I referred, are Bp. N. and Dr. C. Of late I have had much opportunity with those gentlemen, and I find it very instructing, as they are great scholars, and possess an uncommon degree of penetration and piety. They have given me much light on many passages of Scripture, which appeared to me very ambiguous.
Evander. Do those gentlemen, with all their learning, agree with each other in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel ?
Lorenzo. They differ in some trifling points ; neither do I agree with either of them in every particular; but we all agree in the great and glorious doctrines of the gospel, on which I am fully satisfied to rest my eternal hopes. Evander. Do inform me what those
Lorenzo. I will, with much pleasure, as I am desirous every one should see their beauty, and enjoy the comfort they are calculated to bestow. It
appears evident, I think, from reason as well as revelation, that all the works of the Deity are calculated to promote the greatest possible degree of benevolence in the system, which necessarily include the highest happiness of every son and daughter of Adam, and all God's
providential dealings towards them, not only in this, but in the world to come, will turn to their best good, and will be mingled with no more sorrow than shall be necessary to bring them
cordially to embrace salvation as it is offered in the gospel.
Evander. That all God's works will eventually produce the greatest quantity of blessedness to his intellectual system, I readily grant, is a precious doctrine ; but that it includes the highest possible happiness of every individual in particular will require proof from the scriptures, to give me satisfaction. I fear, my dear Sir, that your friends are leading you into a fatal error.
Lorenzo. So far from that, I think I can produce abundant evidence of the truth of the doctrine, and sufficient to satisfy every candid person. Is it not a benevolent act to pray for the salvation of all mankind ?
Evander. It is, if agreeable to the divine will.
Lorenzo. If you should have that benevolent desire, and would not allow the final salvation of all mankind to be a scripture doctrine, then you would not allow God to be so benevolent as yourself, and would it not be impious for a sinful mortal to presume to be more benevolent than that God who is an infinite fountain of love and benevolence.
Evander. I think your observations more specious, than weighty, and better calculated to operate on the ignorant, than to instruct the inquiring mind. Permit me to ask you, if it is not a benevolent act, to pray for the health and prosperity of your neighbours ?
Lorenzo. It is undoubtedly.
Evander. Then if you should have that benevolent desire, and God should bring pestilence, and famine upon them; by the same reasoning you would not allow God to be so benevolent as yourself; and you might with the same propriety inquire, if it is not impious for a sinful mortal to presume to be more benevolent than that God, who is an infinite source of love and benevolence.
Lorenzo. You will not deny that God represents himself as a Father to his creatures : is written, “I will receive you, and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty;" can we believe that a good Parent would not be actuated for the particular good of each individual of his family ? and shall we suppose our earthly parents more good and kind than our heavenly Parent ? " who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth :” and happy it is that none can frustrate his will, however they may wish to make him altogether such the one as themselves, and array him in the terror of vindictive justice, inflicting punishment on his helpless creatures to all eternity.
Evander. It is not denied that God represents himself as a Father to his creatures; and peculiarly so to those he addressed in the text you quoted, who were his covenant children. But can we suppose a good and wise parent
would not punish, and reward his children, according to their characters, while he treats them as kind, and tenderly, as the good of his family will admit; but if he has an incorrigible child, who hardens under kindness and chastisement, if he should suffer him to trample on his righteous laws, and insult him with impunity, by breaking his just commands, and thereby rendering his government contemptible in the eyes of his other children, because punishment was not conducive to his personal good; should we not readily pronounce the parent unfaithful, unjust, and unkind; when his neglect of making his undutiful child an example, is the cause of hardening, and ruining the rest of his family; notwithstanding you exclaim in such plausible language against God's inflicting righteous judg. ment on his incorrigible children, for the good of his intellectual family. You appear to make nodistinction between God's eternal counsel, and his preceptive will. It was God's preceptive will that the Laodiceans should be either cold, or hot, but he expressly says they were neither, and in this sense his preceptive will was not fulfilled. God's will in every instance, does not mean his decree to accomplish, but is only an expression of his benevolence to his creatures. Our blessed Lord laments over Jerusalem, “how often would I have gathered your children together as an hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but ye would not. When God says he would have