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was sinful. For no person wil! pretend that it is criminal for any person to do that which he really thinks God has commanded him to perform. And being persuaded that no act was sinful, they would of course contend that no person ought to be punished! Thus, sir, if your system was generally embraced and reduced to practice, men might steal, rob and murder with a high hand, and feel the fullest assurance that they should not be punished by any law, human or divine! Now if such a sentiment is not replete with mischief, and pernicious in its influence, I know of no sentiment that can be.
Many who have been the advocates of your scheme, have been convinced of its deleterious influence. It is worthy of remark, that those who have come over to the system of Universal Salvation, and have since rejected the system, have been strenuous advocates for your particular views. Crossman, Kinsman, and Smith, who have lately renounced the doctrine of Universal Salvation, and have declared to the world that the doctrine was of dangerous tendency, were with you in sentiment, and doubtlessly judged of our general system, by their particular belief.
Though I have labored to show, and I think have plainly shown, that your system is of an immoral tendency, you will not understand me as saying, or even insinuating, that your character is bad. You will undoubtedly perceive that I have spoken of your system as such. The corruption I have been endeavoring to point out, lies in your system, and not in your character. Your character may be good, notwithstanding your system may be corrupt. Because some climates are unhealthy, it does not follow that all the inhabitants of those climates are dangerously sick, or that they are sick at all. There may be many causes which counteract the unhappy effect of the climate, and preserve some at least in perfect health. And so in relation to
your system there may be many causes, which exert an influence upon the mind more powerful than a belief in a speculative opinion. In a word, I speak of your system in the same manner that you speak of Calvinism, for instance. You pronounce that system of dangerous influence. But you do not mean to be understood, that all who profess that doctrine are immoral men. You are free to declare that there are many pious and practical Christians professing that belief. I joyfully admit your moral character, and will do you the justice to ascribe it to your virtuous disposition, and not to your system.
But although your system may not produce immorality among its public advocates, still I believe that I may assert that it has one unhappy effect even upon them; it induces them, in their public labors, to dwell too much upon doctrines, and too little upon moral duties. I think the public will bear me witness when I say, that those preachers who are with you in sentiment, dwell less upon practical piety and morality, than those do, who believe in a future retribution.
I have already stated that I do not, by any thing contained in these Letters, mean to be understood as denying you my fellowship. And I will here repeat, that I do not, by any thing herein contained, intend to deny you "the name and character of a Christian minister." With this assurance you have already acknowledged yourself satisfied, and consequently all further apology is unnecessary.
As Christian fellowship is now introduced, I will offer a passing remark upon that subject. The ground of Christian fellowship with me is simply this;-a belief in the divine legation of Christ. If a man possessing a good moral character, professes to believe in the divinity of the scriptures, I consider him entitled to my fellowship as a Christian. Christian fellowship does not ne
cessarily suppose a perfect unity of sentiment on every subject pertaining to religion. Men may believe in different systems, preach different doctrines, and belong to different associations or orders, and still be in fellowship with each other. When I tell a person, that I fellowship him as a Christian, I do not pledge myself to give countenance to every opinion in which he believes. In these remarks, however, and in fact, in all that is contained in these Letters, I write simply as an individual. Though many of my brethren agree with me in believing a future retribution, I know not how far the arguments I have made use of in these sheets, may meet their approbation.
I have now closed my examination of this subject. My object has been truth. I have endeavored to present the doctrine of a future retribution in its proper light, and to exhibit some of the principal arguments which convince me of its truth. And in examining your system, I have endeavored to state it correctly, and to meet your arguments fairly. And though I have spoken with the greatest freedom relative to your opinions, I have endeavored to avoid every thing which would look like an attack upon your moral character. How the arguments I have adduced will strike your mind, I am unable to determine. In examining and weighing the arguments in favor of a future retribution, you will consider that the question is not, whether any one argument, separately, is sufficient to establish that doctrine, but whether they are all sufficient, when taken collectively, and in a proper chain. All moral evidence is made up of probabilities; and though the probability may not be great, when each argument is viewed separately, still when a great number of probabilities are united, they amount to moral certainty. And it is in this connected view, that you are desired to weigh the
arguments advanced in the different parts of my book in favor of a future retribution.
Though these Letters are not written to provoke controversy, still, as they are submitted to you and the public for examination, they are liable to be attacked. Nor have I the least objection to their being reviewed. But, sir, should you attempt a reply, I have this request to make, viz. that you give a definite statement of your views upon the subject. As you believe that all men will be happy immediately at death, I wish to be informed on what ground you rest your belief;-whether the immaculate nature of the soul exempts it from suffering, or whether it is saved by being divinely instructed instantly after death. Or if you rest your system on the resurrection, I hope you will state definitely your views upon that subject, and inform us whether you believe that the resurrection takes place at the moment of death, or whether you believe in a future general resurrection. This request is made that we may see wherein we differ, and wherein we are agreed, so that we may not dispute about words only. I request this the more earnestly, because I am at a loss to know your precise views upon this subject. Though I have read your works with a view to learn your opinions, I am still in the dark relative to the ground on which you base your scheme. As I have stated my views in a clear and definite manner, I flatter myself that you will not hesitate to state yours in a manner equally clear. I cannot believe that you will refuse to comply with this request, for this would be confessing that you are ashamed of your system. Yes;-should you come forward to confute what is advanced in these Letters, without stating your own opinion with precision, the public would conclude of course, either that you have no settled views on the subject, or that you are sensible of the deformity of
your system, and therefore wish to conceal it. In either case it would operate to your disadvantage.
I cannot conclude these Letters without expressing the satisfaction I feel in the reflection, that we can entertain different views, and even discuss them before the public, and still regard each other with Christian fellowship. Hoping that what has been offered may promote the truth as it is in Jesus, and that the pure gospel may flourish amongst us; that friendship between us may long exist, and that Christian fellowship may not be interrupted,
I subscribe myself,
Yours in the faith of the Gospel,
Westminster, Mass. March 4, 1827.