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joy, was now very much withdrawn; things which before I clearly saw in the light, to be evil, and of the benumbing tendency of which I had a quick and feeling sense, now began to seem tolerable, and my mind began, by degrees, to approach towards a familiarity with them, though I had known they were forbidden fruits; and some things which had been prohibited, on pain of spiritual death, I began to hope I might eat or enjoy, and not die. This gradually gained ground, till I found myself surrounded with snares and temptations, whose power had been greatly weakened in me; the wound, which I had been in hopes was almost a deadly one, in regard to some corrupt propensities, now began to be healed; and I could look with too much delight upon, and almost embrace, the presented temptations of my soul's enemy. This, at length, through the gracious renewal of divine visitation, alarmed me; and, as it were, awakened me from a sleep, which I can never be too thankful that it did not prove the sleep of endless death; for indeed it was, in degree, and for a time, a sleep of death; at least, of darkness; and such too, as after a season, might be felt.
Now this is real experience; and from candid observation, I believe many others have, in like manner, been much hurt, as to the things of true religion, by the baneful influence of this pleasing opinion. And I have no doubt, but in the minds of the irreligious, it is a powerful engine of satan, whereby he easily prompts them on to more and greater enormities than they otherwise would commit; too often to the detriment of others, as well as themselves. Now, what may become of the next generation, if this doctrine should prevail? and what a channel of looseness, debauchery, and violence may, likely, by its means be opened, deserves our serious consideration; as well as what may be the awful consequences in futurity. Therefore, I wish it may be timely and solidly laid to heart by all, especially such as in any degree entertain an idea of future happiness, as the portion of such as live and die impenitent, in their
REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS
MANY and various have been the opinions in regard to religion, which have more or less prevailed among mankind, even where Christianity is professed; and the scriptures are appealed to as containing full proof of the truth and soundness of each particular creed. This, I apprehend, is owing to a want of attention to that which is the only key to a right understanding of those sacred records: and such a key or principle, which if rightly attended to, will open and give a right understanding of the scriptures, so far as needful, to every man, as also a right sense of his duty, I am abundantly satisfied, every rational soul has received. Indeed, from the goodness of the great Author of our existence, I think it is evident we must be favoured with some such assistance; for who can believe the Fountain of purity and beneficence has placed us here, with a book of written instructions, for us to search and consult in regard to the well ordering of our conduct, or well regulating our belief; and yet left us to toil in uncertainty, without a guide, sufficient if attended to, to give a good understanding, and open the true meaning of said instructions, so far as concerns each individual to know! That we really are favoured with some sufficient means of instruction, it is likely will be readily granted; but then, the question is, where and what is this key, this guide, or opening principle? Some may think councils and synods are to be depended on, for a right exposition. But what a variety of contradictory conclusions councils and synods have endeavoured to establish, needs but to be mentioned, I should think, in order to evince the unsafety of trusting to them.
Some say human reason is the guide: but human reason is a faculty of the mind, and in every man who is in a fallen, or even in an imperfect state, this with his other faculties is in a state of disorder, partaking with them in the effects of that fallen, imperfect condition; hence very uncertain in its determinations as to duty, or the meaning of scripture; nay, almost certain to determine in degree according to the state and inclinations of men's different minds. Accordingly, we find among those who would be considered as the great masters of reason, almost as many minds as men, and, even in important doctrines of religion, almost as many different opinions upon one text of scripture, as there are points of the compass. And I fear it will always be so, as long as that which is fallen and disordered is depended upon as the principal guide. For however infallible the dictates of right reason, or simple reason as it is in itself, may be, yet human reason, as a faculty of the fallen man, being so depraved and disordered as to stand in great need of rectification itself, can never be the principal guide to a right rectification of our opinions and lives, nor be safely depended upon as the principal expositor of scripture. Where then shall we look for a guide that may be depended on ?--for of the existence of such an one the goodness of our Creator forbids us to doubt! Answer, "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." Job xxxii. 8. "The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness," &c. Titus ii. 11, 12. There is a word nigh in the heart and mouth. See Rom. x. 8. "A light that shineth in a dark place." 2 Peter i. 19. And this it is that maketh manifest: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Ephes. v. 13. And this divine light would, if duly attended to and relied on, make manifest all things necessary for us to know; for it is a ray from Heaven given on purpose for our instruction, and manifests, not a part only, but "all things that are reproved." This it is that is able to rectify our reason, and without this, we are ever liable to be biased in the exercise of said faculty by the corrupt inclinations of flesh and blood; for though like the moon, it shines brightly when it receives the clear rays of the sun, the true light, yet, without those rays, it affords no
useful light to the mind, in things spiritual, any more than the moon, in things natural: and not only so, but as the moon, by being sometimes between the sun and our natural eye, causes an eclipse of natural light; so, as we suffer human reasonings, unassisted by divine light, to get between the eye of our minds. and the true light, the spiritual sun, these reasonings, warped by carnal inclinations, do really cause an eclipse of spiritual light in our minds.
Hence it is that the things of God are often hid from the wise and prudent, the great reasoners among men, and revealed unto such as are but babes, in natural reason and knowledge; but as young babes, in the outward, we see are very apt to keep their eye upon the light, even though it be but that of a candle; so the babe-like mind, not presuming upon its own abilities, has an eye to the light, and instruction is received. Thus these things are revealed unto babes, for being only spiritually discerned, the natural man cannot know them.
Now for want of attention to the shining of this light, and by aiming to form a system of divine things by a faculty that in us is human, mankind have miserably erred and wandered from the way, and, as was mentioned, have fallen into a great variety of opinions, many of which have had a very hurtful influence upon their lives; but among them all, I know of none more directly calculated to produce licentiousness and dissipation, than a certain plausible notion, which though it has made some small appearance in this country at different periods, in days past, yet seems to owe its main growth and present ripeness to some certain influence of a later date; and perhaps may not improperly be considered as the natural production of a degenerate age. Planted as it were in the fruitful soil of a libertine mind, and manured with the natural consequences of such times of war and commotions, as we have lately known, it seems to shoot up its luxurious branches, and flourish considerably. May a return of better times so cut off the supply of its nourishment, that it may wither and die before its leaves and its fruits entirely poison the nations; or may the nations, instead of feeding upon it, shun it as the bane of life; and repair to that tree, whose leaves are for their healing.
To cast in my small mite towards rescuing mankind from its dangerous influence, or at least towards guarding the more unwary against being imposed upon by its flattering allurements, I am willing to spend some time in an endeavour to open its pernicious tendency, and to confute some of the specious arguments advanced in its favour. The doctrine to which I allude, is what is called by its advocates Universal Salvation, or as one of them has expressed it in print, "Salvation for all men."
Now I freely confess myself to be a believer in the doctrine of universal salvation, that is, that Christ" has tasted death for every man." And that a door is open, at which all men may, if duly sought for, enter in with the bridegroom into the marriage chamber, and be saved. This is "glad tidings of great joy" indeed, and that" unto all people," as the scripture expresses it; and some insist that this infers the actual salvation, and eternal happiness of all men: but it should be remembered that five of the ten virgins were shut out, while the other five entered with the bridegroom, and notwithstanding all their knocks and calls were rejected. And the language of "Come ye blessed," &c. was only to the sheep, the improvers of their talents; while, "Depart from me, ye cursed," &c. was the language to the goats, the non-improvers, the unprofitable servant whose talent was taken away and he cast into utter darkness: the goats, Christ says, "shall go away into everlasting punishment." Matt. xxv. 46. Now,
, the unprofitable servant really witnessed, in the first instance, the offer of Christ's universal salvation; he received a "talent," and had he improved it he might have entered, with a "well done" &c. into the joy of his Lord, as well as the others; but not improving it he lost it, and with it lost the favour of his Lord, and the joys of his kingdom. Surely, Christ tasted death for this, as well as for the faithful servants; and the "glad tidings" were and are still "unto all people;" nevertheless through misimprovement, the unfaithful miss of enjoying the portion of the faithful, and, in great equity, lose what they once had received, as a talent from God. But as they do receive at least one talent of him, they have great cause to acknowledge his universal love and kindness; and that the glad tidings are, indeed, unto all. Thus great and universal is the salvation of Christ, considered as