Images de page


Examination of Mr. Ballou's arguments.


As was proposed in my last, I will now attend to some of the principal arguments on which you rely for the support of your system. The first argument I shall notice is this ;—As sin and misery are inseparably connected, and as there will be no sin after death, so there can be no punishment. That this is an argument on which you rely, will be seen by the following. "As sin had its origin in flesh and blood, and as no intimation is given in the scriptures, that sin ever was or ever will be committed out of flesh and blood, we venture to hope that sin will never exist after this present mortal state shall close." This quotation will justify the argument stated above. And although there is a taking plausibility in this argument, and those of your views place great dependence upon it, still I trust that it can be made to appear that it is as false, as it is specious.

Upon this argument we remark-1. This argument is founded upon the principle that all sin originates in the flesh, and that death saves the soul. But in the preceding Letter, it has been proved from scripture, reason, and your own acknowledgment, that all sin arises from the evil disposition or intention of the mind, and not from the flesh. We have also seen that if death qualifies a man for heaven, he is not saved by Christ, but by a physical law of nature. This has been stated at large in my last, to which the reader is referred. And if what is there advanced be conclusive, then this argument is already refuted. For if the foundation be destroyed, whatever rests upon that basis must fall.

* U. Mag. Vol. III. p. 150. See also Lect. pp. 14, 242,

2. The argument before us is also founded upon the principle, that all criminality ceases as soon as the sinful act is performed; a principle repugnant to the scriptures, and the common sense of mankind. No man is a sinner until he has committed sin, and unless the criminality outlives the act, then guilt is as momentary as the act. And hence all punishment inflicted in this world, is cruel and vindictive, if it continue one moment after the crime is perpetrated. This principle would destroy all society, and fill the world with rapine and blood, should it be reduced to practice. Human laws cannot take cognizance of an act until after it is committed, and if criminality ceases with the act, then all punishments inflicted by human laws are unjust and cruel; then human laws are engines of oppression, and ought to be repealed. Thus, Sir, would this principle destroy all government and law, and introduce a state of general anarchy and confusion. But this principle, dangerous as it is, is the basis on which your argument rests.

The divine law, it is true, is not thus confined. That can punish us in the perpetration of the crime as well as afterwards. But tho the divine law can and generally does punish the sinner in a degree, while in the act of transgression, thousands of instances can be produced in which men are punished by the divine law long after the commission of the crime. You contend that Cain was punished for the murder of his brother by being a fugitive and vagabond in the earth; but was all this inflicted upon him while in the very act of murder? Surely not. When treating upon the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, you say, "For nearly eighteen hundred years the Jews have wandered in outer darkness in consequence of this blasphemy, and how much longer they are to continue in this unhappy situation, none but our merciful Father in heaven knows."* Here then, instead

* Lect. p. 144.

of limiting the criminality to the time in which the act was committed, you continue the punishment, and consequently the guilt, for ages of ages, even upon their innocent offspring. With what propriety, I demand, can you maintain that it would be unjust to punish a man in future state, who is taken out of time in the very act of murder, when you insist that the poor Jews have already been punished nearly two thousand years, for a crime of which they were innocent and knew nothing-a crime in which they had no agency-committed hundreds of years before they had a being? But to return-In the case before us, you acknowledge that the guilt does not cease with the act, but continues hundreds of years.

In your devotions you undoubtedly use that model of prayer left us by our Savior, and say, "Our Father, which art in heaven, forgive us our sins." By this you acknowledge yourself a sinner, though you are not in the perpetration of any sin. You will acknowledge that prayer is a duty, and by laying your confessions and petitions before God, you are in the discharge of this duty. But still, while in your devotions, that is, while faithfully discharging your duty, you confess yourself to be a sinner; a sinner in consequence of sins committed before that period. Thus you acknowledge that criminality outlives the act of committing sin. You confess that a man may be a sinner after the sinful act is committed, though at the time he may be performing an act of virtue. As in the case of prayer, so in other cases, a man, though then in the line of his duty, may be a sinner in consequence of sins committed before that time. You acknowledge that sinfulness outlives the sinful act, and thus admit a principle which saps the foundation of your argument..

The term sin signifies not only the act of wickedness, but the evil disposition which produced it, and the

corruption or depravity which it continues upon the mind. A person who has formed a design to murder, is as much a murderer at heart, as though the crime were committed; and if he cherishes a murderous, that is, a hateful disposition after he has taken life, he is as much a murderer then, as he was while in the commission of the crime. Every man who has committed sin, is a sinner, and will always retain that character, until he repent. If I committed murder ten years ago, I am considered and treated as a murderer at the present day, by him who knows the thoughts and intents of my heart, unless I have repented and reformed. And a man who goes out of the world in the perpetration of such horrid crimes, will be a murderer in a future state, unless it can be proved that he reforms in the instant of death. But you say a man cannot be a sinner after he has ceased sinning. I reply; a murderer confined in a dungeon, has not only ceased from murdering, but is in a situation, where perhaps, he can commit no actual transgression. But does this render him holy? Is every wretch to be regarded as a saint, simply because he has no opportunity of pursuing his villanies? The principle you advance proves this, or else it is nothing to your purpose. But perhaps you will say that by ceasing from sin, you mean not only ceasing from actual transgression, but from a sinful disposition, and depraved feelings. To this I reply,

3. This is a mere begging of the question. For if sin and misery are inseparably connected, then to say there are no sinners in a future state, is precisely the same as to say there is no punishment there, which is no argument, but a bare assertion and a begging of the question. Sin and misery being inseparably connected, if it can be proved that men will be punished in a future state, it will follow that they are sinners there. There is no need of actual transgression in a future world, to consti

[ocr errors]


tute men sinners in that state. If they die in a state of alienation from God, they are sinners after death, though they may commit no actual sins in that state. shall endeavor to prove hereafter that men will be punished in a future world, and proving this will prove that men retain sinful characters in that world. St. Peter says, the Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. Thus it may be seen that men may commit sin in this state, and be reserved to a future state to be punished.

But your argament, if admitted, would prove too much, and consequently prove nothing. It weighs as much against future happiness, as against future misery. Virtue and happiness are as closely united as sin and misery. Were I desirous of proving that there would be no future happiness, I could adopt your argument in all its force. Thus-as virtue and happiness are inseparablyconnected, and as all benevolent actions, such as feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, are confined to this state, so there can be no happiness after death. By this argument, future happiness can be disproved as clearly as future misery. The scriptures give no more account of virtuous actions being performed in a future state, than they do of vicious ones. We have no account of relieving the distresses of mankind in a future state, and according to your argument, there can be no happiness in that state. If you say that virtue may exist in principle in a future world, notwithstanding there may be no opportunity to perform benevolent acts; it is replied, the same may be said of vice. Your argument above is frequently presented in a philosophical dress, thus;-Sin is the cause of misery; the cause ceases at death; the effect, therefore, must cease at death also.We have already shown that sin lies in the motive or disposition of the mind, and not in the act of the body. Now to say that this evil disposition ceases at death, is

« PrécédentContinuer »