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LETTER, NO. I.
BALTIMORE, Oct. 20th, 1834. 70 Rev. Otis A. Skinner:
Dear Sir,- perceive by a note in the 24th number of the Southern Pioneer” that you have no objection to discuss the doctrine of Universalism with “ Philadelphia" through your columns, on the condition that he will write over his proper signature. With this condition I will cheerfuily comply and shall therefore proceed, bye and bye, to offer some objections to the system of Universalism, and try to refute the arguments by which it is supported, as far as they have come to my kcowledge or shall come to it. I wish to pursue this course because I consider it a duty I owe to truth, to my neighbour, and to God; as I am fully persuaded the doctrine in question is a dangerous heresy, first introduced into the christian church by origen and Clement of Alexandria, and afterwards propagated by artful and cunning
men, who found it necessary to resort to the mean artifice of torturing and perverting the words and phrases of Sacred Scripture from their proper signification, to render the doctrine plausible in the estimation of the illiterate. Universalism appears rather to be a heap of wild confusion without form, than a system, possessing that regularity and consistency which are necessary to attract the attention of wise and discriminating men. It is more like the confusion of Babel than a doctrine coming from a God of order and regularity. It appears to me that every Universalist has a view of the doctrine peculiar to himself, or, rather holds a doctrine which is the mere creature of his own imagmation. When searching after truth [ found the following five systems of Universal. ism, all of which have been taught by Universalists by means of books and otherwise, each of which differs from the rest in some important point or other.
1. There is a dreadful hell or place of punishment in which the wicked of mankind and all devils shall be punished after this life but it is not eternal, for it will come to an end and all its inhabitants shall escape to the mansions of endless felicity:
2. The wicked shall be punished in proportion to their crimes, in a future state, and thereby fully satisfy all the demands of the law, and finally get to Heaven upon the ground of right, independently of the mercy of God or the atonement made by Jesus Christ.
3. The wicked shall be punished proportionably to the magnitude and number of their crimes, but it is not known whether it shall
take place in this life or that which is to come, after which they shall be saved by forgiveness of sin through the mercy of God.
4. There is no hell or place of punishment in a tuture state of existence, for all the wicked shall be punished in this life and shall go direct to Heaven the instant the soul leaves the body.
5. The soul is not immortal in its rature or constitution, and therefore the souls of the wicked shall be annihilated.
Now, sir, I wish to know which of these five systems I am to take for genuine Universalism. Each had its time, its admirers and its advocates. Which one do you espouse? Or do you support the whole en masse? Or, have you invented one of your own? To these inquiries I wish you to give me decisive answers, as I will then know how to proceed and not till then.
These questions I consider altogether fair and proper, consequently I will expect an unequivocal answer to each of them. If you do not answer them I will think that you wish to keep the people in the dark on the subject because you know it will not bear the light of an open and candid investigation.
With regard to your “reply to Philadelphia” I would remark, that the doctrine of endless punishment is not depending entirely on Paul, Peter, John, or Jude; nor is it depending for support on the words sheol, gehenna, hades, or tartarus; for, there are other proofs which I have to lay before your readers, that will be more difficult for you to digest than perhaps any which you have let into your paper, though I shall avail myself of all the helps I can collect from those sources. Suppose for the pre
sent (which I by no means admit) that Paul was silent on the suhject of endless punishment; does his silence prove there is no such doctrine as endless punishment? Certainly not. Are there not other inspired writers equal in authority with Paul? This you must admit unless you allow that Paul was a Pope. Then, if any inspired writer taught the doctrine of endless torment or of an endless hell, is not the doctrine true? Neither Paul or any other inspired writer ever said or wrote, that the future punishment of the wicked would come to an end or that it was not eternal. Nearly all the inspired writers have declared, either directly or indirectly that it will not come to an end and that iť is eternal. What then am I to believe regarding Universalism? Whether am I to believe the infallible word of God or the word of fallen and depraved mau? I leave the reader to judge in this case and form his own conclusion.
You say that in order to justify the preaching of the present day, "Paul should have been continually thundering about sheol, and gehenna” &c. In reply I would say that the “Methodist sermons” which are so full of hell, hell fire, damnation, eternal damnation, damnation of hell, &c. &c., have for their example a higher authority than Paul. They have the example of Jesus Christ who taught the truth of God in à clearer and fuller manner than any nian ever did. And this is all the authority I want to justify the “popular preaching” of the present day. As a few instances of this I submit the following to your consideration and for the information of your readers;-"Fear hira who ,after
he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell” (gehenna) Luke xii.* 5. Whosoever shall say thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire (gehenna) Matt. v. 22. See also Matt. v. 29, 30, and xviii. 9, where the word gehenna is used, which you say had it been used by Paul would justify the popular preaching of the present day. “Ye devour widows' houses, &c. therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation," Mait xxiii. 14. “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, &c., is in danger of eternal damnation” (aionion) Mark jii. 29. “How can ye escape the damnation of hell”' (gehenna) Mait. xxiii. 33. We consider these expressions, sir, which were employed by our blessed Saviour in the course of his preaching, perfectly sufficient to justify and authorize the present mode of preaching among the Methodists, while we regard the Universalists as anti-christian in their ductrine, so far as they oppose the doctrine taught by Christ. It cannot be denied that they either omit the doctrine of hell and damnation or deny the existence of such misery and punishment, and in this instance we must regard them as holding a dangerous heresy unknown in the days of Christ and his Apostles.
You say that if I look at the connexion of the text in 2 Thes. 1. 9. I will see that the destructiun alluded to was that of the Jews by the Romans. Now, sir, I look upon this as one of those perversions of scripture which is never used in a good cause, but always required to support a bad one. Who in his proper senses could think for a moment that Paul had any allusion whatever to the destruction of the Jews by the Romans? I cannot think he had the