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The gentleman appointed to deliver the discourse, at this moment entered the pulpit, and seeing me ready to depart, kindly assisted me in putting on my coat, and I descended the stairs with a full determination to quit the church. But, a number of my friends gathered round me in the broad aisle, conjuring me to stay. I repeated my plea of indisposition. It seemed to those friends there was too much at hazard, to permit their acceptance of this plea—“Dear, dear, Sir, it will be thought, and said, that you quitted the church, in the dread of hearing something which would confound you, that you could not answer, and that consequently you dared not continue in the church.”
This was probable; I determined that no personal consideration, however great my indisposition, should influence me to depart, and I immediately took a seat in one of the pews, directly before the pulpit.
The reverend gentleman opened his book, and I listened attentively, while he sang at me and prayed at me, telling his Maker, in his prayer, many things of me, that the God whom he addressed knew were not true. After which he selected his text, from the first general Epistle of John, iv. 16: “And we have known, and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love ; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
He then began in the following manner :
“ The impostor to whom you have been attending, would teach you to draw consolation from this consideration. But, I will undertake to prove that the love of God is the sole cause of the eternal damnation of the greater part of human kind; and thus it is: God knowing that his little flock cannot be happy any longer than while they see the misery of the wicked, the offended God must keep the offender in misery forever, that they, his little flock, may forever see from what they are saved. The destruction of hell would be the destruction of heaven."
This appeared to him a clear proposition, and thus he left it, and went on to notice some expressions which I had uttered during my attempt to investigate divine truth. I happened to quote the Apostle in the passage in which he asserts, we love him, because he first loved us ; and in his observation on this quotation, he challenged every one in that large congregation to produce a single instance of God's ever loving an individual, who did not first love him! He remarked, with great zeal, on the horrid blasphemies he
VOL. II. 6
had heard the deceiver, to whom they had been attending, utter; he was indeed greatly shocked, so he supposed were all the reflecting part of the audience. You have been told, he continued, that Christ was curst for sinners! Horrid ! horrid! again he challenged any one, in that great assembly, to point out a single instance in the book of God, that could justify so horrid a blasphemy!
“ The deceiver to whom we have been attending, has said a great deal about the fulness and unbounded grace of the gospel, dwelling much upon the universality of gospel grace, repeating over and over again, that the command was to preach the gospel to every creature. Yes, so indeed it was ; but he should have remembered the conditions which accompanied this proclamation.
“Suppose our Governor should publish, or should cause to be published, that all those who were concerned in what was called Shays' rebellion, should have a free pardon ; that is, if they were six feet high, had black hair, and Roman noses. Now this would be, in the first instance, to every creature ; but then there are certain annexed conditions to which it would be their interest and their duty to attend, and this deceived man, for I presume he was deceived himself, or he would not thus have sought to deceive others, has thought proper to pass over the conditions.
“O, my friends, be not deceived; depend upon it, no individual of the human race will ever gain pardon or future felicity, who hath not repentance and faith in this state. I think it my duty to tell you this, and you may rest assured of the truth thereof; whatever this poor mistaken man may see fit to say to the contrary, you will find it so. I hope you will see and feel the necessity of this before it is too late.
“ Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation ; you may not have another. Awake then, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and God shall give you light. Is it possible that this man's conscience, if he have any, did not fly in his face ? But there will be a time, when he will find it was both his interest and his duty to tell the people God's truth, that they may not sleep the sleep of death.
“ I fear many poor souls in eternity will curse the day that ever they heard this man's voice, and like the rich man in hell-torments would wish to have one sent to their father's house, to try to prevent their brethren from coming to that place, of torment. The company he keeps now, may laugh with him here, but they will
howl with him in hell. Be not deceived. God is not mocked ; assure yourselves he will not then be mocked ; and whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
« This man tells you of the love of God; but I say again, there is not in the whole Bible a single sentence which speaks of any individual that ever was loved of God, till he first loved him, He talks of God's loving sinners; so he does, when they break off their sins by righteousness, but until then he hates them with a perfect hatred. But you will say, or perhaps the preacher you have brought here may say, God will call them when, and where he pleases, and if at any time they will hear, and answer his call, he will receive them. But, oh! my friends, I feel for you, every one of you, for you are tottering on the brink of eternity, of a never-ending eternity! I am glad I have an opportunity of warning you, before it be too late ! and should I hereafter see you sent from the judgment seat with anguish and terror, I shall tell you of this, I shall feel pleased that I had this opportunity to warn you, and I shall then say to you, If you had heard and believed me, if you had paid no attention to what that man said, it would have been better for you.
“ But it is now too late, the sentence is passed and execution is begun.”
Thus he proceeded, until the congregation seemed quite weary, and for myself you will not doubt I was in a state of perfect suffering
It appeared to me, however, that the doctrine of that Master, whose ambassador I conceived myself to be, would suffer material injury, if I permitted these reproaches and misrepresentations to pass unnoticed. Instantly, therefore, upon the reverend gentleman's closing his exhortation, I ascended, with some celerity, the pulpit stairs, and placing myself against the door, my efforts to detain the preacher were as great as those he made use of to pass out, and at length I compelled him to take a seat in the pulpit, when, turning to the congregation, I delivered myself to the following effect :
I felicitate you, my friends, upon the present occasion ; you are now favoured with an opportunity of hearing both sides of a ques. tion, the most important which any individual of the human family can possibly propose, and you have the invaluable privilege of judging for yourselves. This privilege is indeed a blessed privilege, and it should be estimated beyond all calculation. Voltaire,
although no friend to our holy religion, pronounced this country the best in the world : “ For there,” said he, “in America, a man is indulged with the enjoyment of his own sentiments: nay, if he pieases, he may avow his opinions, none daring to make him afraid.” We are not now trembling in dread either of priestly craft or kingly power, we can set under our own vine and fig-tree, none making us afraid. Indeed, indeed, this consideration swells my heart with love and gratitude to that good and gracious God, whose strong arm is my protection.
When this gentlernan sung at me, and prayed at me, my bosom glowed with rapture, from the consoling consideration, that all power was not delivered unto him. But, what am I considered in my single self? To me, as an individual, I am not solicitous to draw your attention ; 'tis to your redeeming God I supplicate you look, and my astonishment is inexpressibly great, to hear a preacher of Christ Jesus, of him who died to save the people from their sins, positively assert, that God never loved any sinner before the sinner first loved him. Are there not many Christians in this congregation, who would gladly have accepted the challenge he so boldly gave, had they not been fearful of producing disorder? I sympathized with you at the moment, and I rejoice that we can now accept the challenge.
Yes, indeed, we can do more; we can produce not only a single instance, but a plurality of instances, to prove the love of the Crea tor prior to that of the creature. The Apostle affirms, “
we love him, because he first loved us.” We and us, signify more than one ; he does not say, I love him, because he first loved me; neither doth he
God loved us, because we first loved him. If this reverend gentleman can prove that he first loved God, he will be entitled to the thanks of his Creator, for, saith the great Master, “if ye love them that love you, what thanks have you? Thus, I repeat, if he can make it appear to our God, that he first loved him, He, from whose judgment there is no appeal, will acknowledge him entitled to thanks. For my own part, assured as I am that I cannot be beforehand with my Creator in this respect, I am not entitled to his thanks; but being assured that he loved me before the foundation of the world, and that not in word only, he has my soul's unfeigned thanks, and I anticipate with holy rapture the felicity of that eternity, which I shall spend in praise and thanksgiving. Herein is the love of God, not that we loved
him, but that he loved us, and gave himself for us. And again, first general Epistle of John, iv. 10 : “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Paul seems decided in his opinion, Romans v. 7, 8, he says, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die : yet peradventure, for a good man, some would even dare to die.
“ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." O, how infinite is the love of God!
" Love divine! O Love beyond degree !
Yes, indeed, and in truth, as the husbandman loves his harvest so well as to purify it, and gather it into his granary, and that for his own sake : so, be it known to all whom it may concern, lhat not for your sakes do I do this, saith the Lord, but for mine own name sake, nor will I give my glory to another.
There is more in the name of God than imagination, in its utmost latitude, can conjecture. It is a name that contains salvation. God will do much for the honour of his name. I have this day been accused of blasphemy, merely for quoting a text of scripture. But, when my accuser assays to prove the eternity of hell-torments, from the consideration that those torments not only enhance, but constitute the joys of the blessed, I must be excused if I appeal to benevolence, to reason, to the heart of the genuine Christian, for a decision on the question to which of us the charge of blasphemy righteously belongs.
Suppose the family of some father to consist of six children; and suppose this father possessed the power to render them all lovely, amiable, good, and happy; yet, notwithstanding this his acknowledged power, he not only allows in two of those children, a most malignant disposition, but he absolutely cultivates and cherishes it; and as he is sensible that the torture of their brethren, constitutes their greatest happiness, he indulges them by perpetually holding the whip in his hand, with which he constantly lashes the other four in a most unrelenting, barbarous manner ; avowing his design to repeat his strokes, as long as he shall
power to afflict children, who derive their existence from him, after the same manner of their two malicious brethren !-would you not be ready to say, this same father would be more rationally employed in whipping the two, whose inclinations were so strangely depraved,