! LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, t

! UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN

THE

VERDICT OF SEASON

UPON THE QUESTION OF

THE FUTTJKE PUNISHMENT OF THOSE WHO DIE IMPENITENT.

BY HENRY MARTYN DEXTER.

BOSTON: NICHOLS AND NOYES.

186 5.

e>^*

^

The Library of Congress

WASHINGTON I

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by

NICHOLS AND NOYES,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

GEO. C. KAND & AVERY, STEKEOTYPEKS AND PRINTERS

CO

©

Q

TO

THE If EMBERS

OF

THE BERKELEY-STREET CHURCH AND CONGREGATION,

IN

BOSTON,

WHOM IT IS MY JOY TO SERVE IN THE GOSPEL,

S$s SitH* feaiis*,

ORIGINALLY PREPARED FOR THEIR PULPIT, AND NOW REVISED AND

REPUBLISHED, LARGELY IN THE HOPE THAT IT MAY

BENEFIT SOME OF THEM,

IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.

In the summer of 1858, certain circumstances gave special prominence in this community to the ques- tion of the reasonableness of the doctrine of the future eternal punishment of those who die impeni- tent ; and, in accordance with what he believed to be his duty, the author prepared, and preached to his own congregation, two sermons maintaining the affirmative of that questicfn, which, on request, were afterwards published. Through the favor of the public, they reached a wide circulation ; and the de- mand for them has showed itself occasionally in letters from distant places, asking for copies, up to the present time. Lately these letters have taken the form of a request that the sermons might be recast into a brief treatise, and re-issued in a form better suited for general circulation and for preservation ; a request which, in view of some of the tendencies of the public mind, and the feeling that no man has any right to withhold from the conflict of opinion

VI INTRODUCTORY NOTE.

any agency which God seems to claim from him for it, it has not been thought right to decline.

In the work of recasting, care has been taken to condense and clarify the argument as much as possi- ble in some directions, while enlarging it in others ; and constant reference has been had to objections brought against it by some who criticised it at the date of its first issue.

H. M. D. Hillside, Roxbury, 8th May, 1865.

ANALYSIS.

QUESTION : Is it reasonable that God should pun- ish ETERNALLY THOSE WHO DIE IMPENITENT?

CHAPTER I. Reason the ultimate Judge p. 1

The question a reasonable one 1

Loose use of the term Reason to be avoided 2

Term used here to signify Common Sense, in its

broadest and most conscientious use 2

That Reason so denned is Judge, philosophi- cally inevitable 3

Reason behind the Bible and the Judge of it 4

God gave it to us to be our Guide 5

The Scriptures take it for granted as such 6

It must be, then, our Judge, or God has left us

helpless 7

CHAPTER II. The Principles on which Reason must

decide 8

I. Reason while final Judge insufficient alone. 8

II. She decides that God may be expected to help her

by some Revelation 9

HI. She decides that the Bible is that Revelation of

help 11

She would be justified in rejecting its claim :

(1.) If there were no evidence of any God 13

(2.) If his character made it most improbable

that he would give help 13

(3.) If man needed no revelation 13

vn

VIII ANALYSIS.

(4.) If outward improbabilities overweighed the

inward probability of the Bible 13

(5.) Or, the reverse :

(a.) If it made no real revelation 14

(b.) If it were a weak and silly volume. . . , . , 14

(c.) If it were self-contradictory 15

(d.) If it contradicted facts obvious to sense.. 15

(e.) If it contradicted natural morality 15

Illustration from the Ocean Telegraph 16

Great liability of misjudgment from imperfect

information 19

Philosophical to believe, on eternal subjects, even in the face of great difficulties, when they are due to the imperfection of our fac- ulties 19

Judgment of Sir Matthew Hale 20

Judgment of M'Cosh 21

IV. Having accepted the Bible, Reason decides it rea- sonable to make it her guide, when interpreted on sound principles. But what are sound prin- ciples ? 21

A. We must take the whole of it or none 22

(a.) The evidence for any of it is evidence

for all 23

(b.) A semi-revelation would need another to supplement it, and another to supple- ment that, and so on ad infinitum 24

B. It must be interpreted by the laws of language

honestly, honorably, and without artifice to suit a theory 25

C. It must be so interpreted as to be self-consist-

ent 27

D. The most obvious meaning other things being

equal the probable one. 27

E. It must be interpreted as a progressive revela-

tion « 28

F. It should be interpreted naturally, and from the

position of its own speakers and audiences. . . 29

G. Yet, with all, we can not with our finite minds

at their present stage of development ex-

ANALYSIS. IX

pect to understand it all; perhaps, indeed,

Utile of it fully 30

Elustration from the child and the telegraph wire 30

H. Of two possible meanings, that likeliest to be true which has most commended itself to the

Christian experience of the past 31

Not necessarily of " the Church " 33

God's promise to lead his people into all truth must have left traces in the exegesis

of the past 33

I. Of two possible meanings of a text, that is often probably truest which is least tasteful to us. . . 33

Medicine apt to be bitter 34

Sin apt to be hostile to its own correctives . . 34 J. Of two possible meanings that is most reasona-

able which is safest for man 34

Objected. (1.) Proves too much and would

make Romanists of us 36

Ans. : Not unless the claim of Rome is valid, and if it is we ought

to go to it in any event

(2.) To make safety a considera- tion is cowardly and dishon- orable, and would have made a man a tory in the Revolution, and a copper- head now 36

Ans. : This begs the question in dis- pute, besides ignoring the distinction between safety as a principle of exegesis,

and as a rule of life 36

Safety for men is the animus of the Gospel, and so is le- gitimate as interpreting its

records 37

These objectors consult safe- ty in daily matters, and have no fear of its being " selfishness," or cowardice. 37 Summary of the argument thus far 38

X ANALYSIS.

CHAPTER III. The Testimony of the Old Testament 40

God's word to Adam, (Gen. ii. 17), the corner stone of the fabric 41

Means more than prophecy of death 41

Means more than threat of death 41

Means more than mere emphasis 42

It projects a mysterious menace over into the fu- ture 44

This corner stone not immediately built upon because of the too great immaturity of the race

at that time 45

Objection: If future punishment be true, God ought to have revealed it so that Adam and all men could have understood it, from the first. . 46

Ans. : (1.) It was revealed sufficiently 47

(2.) If it could have been miraculously made clearer there would be no gain to the believer, and more loss to the

denier 47

(3.) In any event guilt and light are pro- portionate 47

Illustration, in regard to deadly poison 47

The Jews believed in the immortality of the soul 48 The testimony of Moses, Enoch, Jacob and Job . 48 The Psalmist speaks more clearly of separation

between the righteous and the wicked 49

Testimony from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah,

Ezekiel, Nahum and Daniel 49^

History of the word sheol as illustrating the pro- gress of the Hebrew mind in this doctrine 52

Testimony of Josephus, Jahn, the Rabbis, and the Apocrypha, that the Jews at the date of Christ's coming actually did believe in the fu- ture punishment of the wicked 53

Objection : That the Jews got this from Alexan- dria, and not from the Old Testa- ment 56

Ans. : Alexandria was not built until hundreds of years after the doctrine asserts itself clearly in the Old Testament. Easier to prove Alexandria indebted to Judea, than the contrary 66

ANALYSIS. XI

The actual teaching of the Old Testament, then, would seem to have made the Jews believers in future punishment 57

The fact that they were so when Christ came, though it does not demonstrate the doctrine, nor prove that they got it from their Scriptures, hightens the probability of both, and is of the greatest consequence in the interpretation of Christ's own teaching 58

CHAPTER IV. The Testimony of Christ 59

Objection : Christ's words were too fragmentary and poetical to bear rigid classification into

doctrine 59

Ans. : Granted (for argument's sake), still he did teach something, and knew the bearing of

it upon the facts 59

These things must be true : (1.) Christ knew that the Jews believed future

punishment 60

(2.) He was himself a Universalist, or an oppo- nent of its faith 60

(3.) He knew that the truth on this subject was of great consequence, and must have had an earnest desire that all should know it. . 60 (4.) For him to say nothing, then, would be to

endorse the doctrine 60

(5.) To have spoken casually of it without con- demnation, would endorse it 61

(6.) His direct utterance must be taken to its full- est extent as endorsement if favorable in any particular, and unfavorable in none. . 61 Illustration : of one lecturing on political economy in Charleston, S. C, since the Rebel- lion 61

If Christ were a Universalist, we shall find him

teaching like one 62

Follow his recorded words in their order of utter- ance and see 62

Conversation with Nicodemus 62

Interview with the woman at Jacob's well 63

XII ANALYSIS.

At the pool of Bethesda 64

Sermon on the Mount 65

Healing of the Centurion's servant 66

Upbraiding the cities 67

Healing the demoniac 67

Dining with the Pharisee 67

Parable of the tares and its interpretation 68

Parable of the net 68

Sending out of the Apostles 69

Discourse at Capernaum the " hard saying " . . 69 What is a man profited to gain the world and lose

the soul? 70

Who shall be greatest ? 70

' Sending forth the seventy 71

Keproving the unbelieving Jews at Jerusalem. . 71

" Lord ! are there few that be saved ? " 71

Parable of Lazarus, &c 72

The rich young man 72

The parable of the wicked husbandman 73

Denouncing the Pharisees 73

Prediction of the judgment 73

Everlasting punishment 74

AttovLog 74

Before Gethsemane 75

On the way to the cross 76

After the resurrection the last command 76

John's summary 76

All these are anti-Universalist words ; every one.. 77 Only way to avoid the conclusion that Christ op- posed Universalism is to deny that the New Tes- tament is to be depended upon as fairly reporting

him .w 77

Affirmations of Theodore Parker to that affect. . 77

Equivalent conclusion of Rev. Thos. Starr King. 78

Similar averment of M. Renan 79

The New Testament settles it, then, that Christ shared and advocated the doctrine, which he

found in the nation , of future eternal punishment. 80

ANALYSIS, XIII

CHAPTER V. The Testimony of the Apostles , 81

Stream is not expected to rise higher than its

fountain 81

Great burden of Apostolic Christianity, salva- tion for the lost 82

Peter at Pentecost 82

Healing of the lame man 82

Peter to the Sanhedrim 82

To Cornelius 82

Paul at Antioch in Pisidia 82

Paul to the Galatians 83

To the Thessalonians 83

To the Corinthians 84

To the Romans 84

To the Ephesians 86

To the Philippians. 86

To the Hebrews 86

Peter, in his Epistle 87

James, in his 87

Jude, in his . . . . 87

John, in the Apocalypse 88

CHAPTER VI. The more indirect Testimonies of the

Bible 89

If the Bible really teaches the future punishment of the wicked, it must show it indirectly in a thousand ways of allusion and inference a form

of proof of great value ... 90

Does it do this, or does it similarly teach Univer- salism ? Let us examine a few classes of passa- ges. We shall find affirmations like these :

1. Some men will be excluded from the king-

dom of God 90

2. Some will never possess holiness 90

3. Some never will see life 91

4. Some die without any hope 91

5. ^§ome have no forgiveness 91

6. For some the atonement will not avail. ... 91

7. The atonement will aggravate the condem-

nation of some 91

8. The state of the dead will be unalterably

fixed...., 91

XIV ANALYSIS.

9. God permanently angry with some 92

10. Men are in danger of going where no pray-

er nor entreaties avail 92

11. Some men do perish 92

12. Some will not be saved 92

13. The wicked are in danger of going into

a remediless state 98

14. Great danger that men will fail of heaven. 93

15. Danger of the misuse of probation 93

16. Hope of the bad man will be disappointed. 93

17. Punishment threatened to those who teach

no future retribution 94

18. A fatal contingency always hanging over

the sinner 94

19. Destruction foretold as the end of the

wicked 94

20. The death of the soul the doom of the im-

penitent 95

21. Foretelling of a second death 95

22. Coming wrath predicted to the impenitent. 95

23. Some become apostates and are cast off

for ever 95

24. Wicked men shall be cut off 96

25. A curse is denounced on sinners 96

26. Those who resist and neglect the gospel

threatened 96

27. Men pleaded with to repent, that they may

not die 97

28. The Gospel declared the remedy against

eternal death 97

29. Admittance to Heaven on conditions often

obviously unfulfilled 98

30. Those guilty of the works of the flesh can

not be saved 98

31. The unfaithfulness of Christians, in dan-

ger of being death to sinners 99

32. Christian faithfulness^ aves souls from

death 99

33. Believers make a good exchange in suffer-

ing here for the sake of heaven 99

34. Perseverance essential to salvation 100

ANALYSIS. XV

35. Some men have been lost beyond a

doubt 100

36. Righteous approve the eternal punishment

of the lost 101

37. God is glorified by the eternal punishment

of the lost , 101

38. There is a resurrection of the unjust 102

39. Worldly prosperity imperils the immortal

interests 102

40. Danger of self-deception 102

41. Love of the world fatal to salvation.. 103

42. Unbelief fatal to salvation 103

43. Judgment is denounced upon certain gross

offenders 103

44. Repentance is a condition of salvation. . . . 103

45. So is faith 104

46. So is love to Christ and the truth 104

47. The incorrigibly wicked keep on growing

worse and worse. 105

48. Danger that the Devil will deceive souls to

perdition 105

49. Salvation to be gained only by continual

vigilance against him 105

50. The very essence of the Gospel is to give

everlasting life to believers 106

All these (1.) Do not assert directly the doctrine. 107

(2.) Might not compel us to believe it in

the absence of direct testimony. . 107

(3.) But they fall in with it most natur- ally, if it be true 107

(4.) Are just such as we should expect

if it be true 107

(5.) Are quite inexplicable if it be not

true 107

(6.) Coming from so many portions of the Word, and uncontradicted by others of opposite character, they are incompatible with any other theory than that the Bible is inco- herent or the doctrine is true; the latter the reasonable alternative . . 107

xyi ANALYSIS,

The indirect evidence of the Bible does then affirm

the future punishment of the wicked 107

Summary of the argument from the Scriptures 109

CHAPTER VII. There is no reasonable objection to

THIS TESTIMONY WHICH HAS FORCE TO MODIFY IT 113

It is objected :

I. That the Bible does not really teach the doctrine,

after all 114

(1.) Because the texts quoted do not fairly im- ply it J14

(a.) The word "perish" does not imply

eternal death 114

(b.) Nor the phrases "kingdom of God,"

and " kingdom of heaven," &c 116

(c.) Nor the words " damn," " damnation,"

&c 117

(d.) Nor the words " save," " salvation," &e. 119 (e.) Nor the words "sheol," "Gehenna,"

&c... 121

But (i.) Gehenna did mean that to

the Jews when Christ came . . 122 (ii.) Christ used it so that he knew he should be understood in

that sense 123

(f.) Nor the words " eternal," " everlasting,"

" for ever," &c 125

(2.) Because, even if these texts do teach it, there

are others that contradict it 127

II. But, even if the Bible does teach the doctrine,

it is objected that it is impossible for us to be- lieve it, because it is overruled by other con- trolling considerations 129

(1.) Men can not believe it and live in any peace. But God has shielded the sensitiveness of the soul; and men do live in the same world with awful suffering, and live in

peace 129

Besides, God's justice is administered in in-

ANALYSIS, xvn

finite kindness ; and he does just right with

all 131

(2.) The end of all punishment is restorative, and so future eternal punishment can not be

true 132

But this is pure assumption 132

(3.) Eternal future punishment would be unjust,

and so can not be true 133

But (a.) Is this true ? 133

(i.) We can not know that it is 133

(ii.) Sin expresses disposition, and one sin may reveal a heart of mur- der 134

(iii.) If a sinner will not repent, and dies, and persists in sinning for ever, what shall be done with him?.. 135 (b.) It is urged, that, even if future pun- ishment can be abstractly just, it can not be concretely so for men ; for they have not been duly notified

of their danger 136

But all who have the Bible are " du- ly notified; " and the Heathen (i.) have the light of nature, which Paul says puts them " without excuse,' * and (ii.) are in the hands of infinite justice administered with infinite

kindness 136

(4.) It is said that there will be future probation. 137

(a.) No evidence of any 138

(b.) Such a probation would be needless

and unreasonable 138

(c.) There is no probability that men would repent in a second probation who had

resisted the first 138

(d.) Such a theory makes no provision for

the obdurate 139

(e.) The Bible asserts the absolute contrary. 139 (5.) It is said that the wicked will be annihilat- ed 140

(a.) If this were true, it would be worst of all. 140 2

XVIXI ANALYSIS.

(b.) It is doubtful if a soul can cease to live. . 140 (c.) All the evidence that souls exist proves I

them immortal 140

(d.) No evidence that death does more than

transfer 140

(e.) We have an instinct of immortality 141

(f.) Conscience argues eternal life 141

(g.) God's moral government requires it 141

(h.) No evidence from the Bible of any dis- crimination as to the fact of future life,

between men 141

(i.) All texts which assert future punishment imply its infliction on conscious suffer- ers . . , 141

Testimony of Prof. Barrows 142

(6.) It is said God is too good to punish men for

ever, no matter what they do 142

But (a.) facts show that this kind of reasoning

is unsafe 143

It would have made Fort Pillow and

Andersonville impossible 144

(b. ) Severity is one center in the ellipse of God's nature, while goodness is the

other 145

(c.) The only safe course is to inquire of

the Bible 147

These arguments, then, amount to noth- ing 150

There is no valid objection of any sort against the doctrine ...... 151

CHAPTER VIII. Summing up of the Argument 152

(1.) Reason is first and final arbiter 152

(2.) She decides that she needs help 152

(3.) She decides that she may expect it from God. 152 (4.) She decides that the Bible brings that help. . . 152 (5.) She decides that it is reasonable for her to

take its testimony fairly rendered 152

(6.) She decides on the conditions of a fair render- ing 152

ANALYSIS. XIX

(7.) She decides that, on those conditions, it does reveal the fact that the impenitent will be

punished for ever 153

(8.) She decides that no valid objection lies against

this view 153

(9.) Therefore she decides that the doctrine of the future endless punishment of those who die im- penitent is in the highest degree one reason- ably to be believed 153

Is it not wise to accept this result ? 154

Is it not safest to do so ? 154

A consistent Universalist can not believe the Bible. 155 So Theodore Parker and Thomas Paine taught, and

so, one day, all will judge 155

Let us, then, follow Reason and the Word, and re- pent and believe and live 156

VEEDICT OF EEASON.

CHAPTER I.

REASON THE ULTIMATE JUDGE.

THE question before us for consideration is this : Is it reasonable that Grod should punish eternally those who persist in sin and die impenitent?

I wish to be understood, in the outset, as admitting that this is a perfectly fair question, and one which every man not merely has a right to ask, but is bound to ask. I do not sympathize at all with those who have spoken from among us, who have, sometimes at least, seemed to decry reason as a dangerous arbiter in matters of religion ; and who have been understood whether with full inten- tion on their own part or not to take substantially the ground, that, no matter how unreasonable a thing may be, men are still bound to believe it if the Bible seems to assert it.

I hold, on the contrary, as Lord Bacon says, that " the first principle of religion is right reason." I believe that God gave u& our human intelligence that aggregate of

2 VERDICT OF REASON.

mental and moral powers which distinguishes us from the bruteSj the natural and healthy working of which we are accustomed to call "the exercise of our common sense" in order that we may use it in the acquisition, criticism, and acceptance of all truth. I believe, that, as sentient and immortal beings, we are solemnly bound to receive and incorporate into our life every thing which it indorses as truth. I believe, on the other hand, that we are as solemnly bound to reject from our faith and life every thing which, after thorough and honest scrutiny, it con- demns as false.

Be pleased however to notice, in this connection, the fact that a loose and narrower usage of the word " reason " has sometimes prevailed among writers on this subject, which would vitiate my proposition. Such is that of that German school of philosophy which appropriates the term to those intuitional conceptions which the mind has of the true, the beautiful, and the good. In that transcendental use of the term, reason would be very far from being the ultimate as it would fall utterly short of being a safe arbiter of religious questions ; since it would substitute what is practically undistinguishable from the fervid or morbid dreams of the imagination, working alone, for those calm decisions of the grouped and balanced faculties which furnish the only secure data of life, whether considered in its relations to the here or the hereafter.

That reason thus defined as common sense in its

REASON THE ULTIMATE JUDGE. 3

broadest and most conscientious use is for every man the ultimate judge on all subjects, and so on religious subjects, will be made clear from the consideration of the fact, that, by the very constitution of the human soul, it cannot be otherwise.

It is a matter of coux^se that his own reason must be itself the arbiter for every man, or that something else must be that arbiter.

But if something else, then what ? Shall it be the dic- tum of another man, or of some other being less than God, or of God ? If of another man, by what authority ? and if of any other created being, or of God, on what evidence ? What shall decide that any communication purporting to bring wisdom and judgment from any superior source, whether angelic or divine, is really what it purports to be, and not a fallacy or a fraud ?

The only practicable source of answer to these questions is for the man himself to decide. He must say, " My fel- low-man, or some superhuman agent, or the Divine Being, knows more than I do about this matter, and has spoken ; and it is safer for me to trust him than to trust myself; and I am satisfied, on scrutiny, that this communica- tion is really from him from whom it purports to come, and therefore I shall receive it and act upon it." He must say this, or its opposite, in regard to every such claim from any source to set up a tribunal over him ; must say it, and act accordingly.

4 VERDICT OF REASON,

But that speech, and the decision which it enshrines, is nothing less than a judgment upon that claim to judge ; and, in judging it, the man erects himself into a tribunal of last resort above it : so that, if it gets power over his own future, it is only in virtue of the fact that in judging thus he has given to it that power. So that his reason remains the ultimate arbiter, after all.

This makes it clear that Grod has so constituted every man monarch of himself, that he cannot, if he would, abdi- cate the function of being the judge of what is best for himself; cannot, if he would, disenthrone himself of this imperial task and responsibility.

"But," asks somebody who has been accustomed to hear it spoken of as a fearful, and fearfully common, thing for men to set reason above revelation, " is not the Bible to be received in every event ? Is not whatever it teaches to be implicitly accepted, and acted upon, however much reason may object against it ? "

I answer,

1. We do not know that we need any revelation at all, except as reason so declares.

2. And when that fact has been determined, and we look around for a supply for our asserted need, it is only by reason that we can identify our Bible, and settle it, whether we ought to take the Sibylline leaves of the Ro- mans, or the Shasters of the Hindus, or the Arabic Koran, or the Book of Mormon, or the Christian Scriptures, for

REASON THE ULTIMATE JUDGE. 5

our guide. And if the Christian Scriptures had the qual- ities of the Koran, and the Koran the qualities of the Chris- tian Scriptures, we should be compelled by reason to reject the Old and New Testaments, and accept the oracles of Mahomet ; on the ground that the latter, rather than the former, came from a compassionating holy God to needy and sinful man.

But if Reason must thus decide whether we need any revelation at all, and, if we do, must further decide between the conflicting claims upon our acceptance of different and incompatible volumes, each affirming itself to be that reve- lation, it becomes clear, that, in this radically important sense, it is inevitable to that constitution of things which God has given us, that Reason should be our ultimate judge in all matters of religious truth. It is the faculty which God has created in us to be our guide to himself. He gave us eyes with which to see, and ears with which to hear, and the whole group of the senses to put us into com- munication with external nature, and notify us of those facts appertaining to it, in view of which our life ought to be shaped. So he gave us intellect and sensibility, and con- science and will, that, from their co-working in ' ' good com- mon sense," we might be put rightly into relation with the moral and spiritual world, with time and eternity. And as we should displease God if we were to neglect or misuse the senses to our own disaster, so, by an emphasis gather- ing force from the infinite issues involved, should we (lis-

b VERDICT OF REASON.

please him if we were to dethrone Reason in order to set up any other tribunal of moral and spiritual duty.

The Bible everywhere conforms to and recognizes this view. Abraham, pleading for Sodom, referred to the stan- dard of right and wrong existing in the common sense of the race, implanted there by God himself as the countersign by which men may surely recognize him and his works, - and reasoned on the assumption that he who had or- dained such a tribunal would not desecrate or do violence to it, when he said, " That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay, the righteous with the wicked ; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee : shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ? " 1 And God, by his tone of reply, approved the view which the patriarch took. Isaiah was directed by the Lord to appeal to this same standard : " And now, 0 inhabitants of Jeru- salem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard : what could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it ? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? "2 So the 18th and the 83d chapters of the prophecy of Ezekiel are mainly the record of an argument addressed to the Jews by the prophet, at God's command and dictation, making appeal before this very tribunal of right reason and sound common sense, which he had set up in the human breast, in proof of his own righteousness, and

l Gen. xviii. 25. 2 L?a. v. 3, 4.

REASON THE ULTIMATE JUDGE. 7

of the sin of Israel, summing up the whole by claiming a verdict from that tribunal for himself and against them : "Are not my ways equal, and are not your ways unequal, saith the Lord ? ' ' Paul cannot refer to any thing other than this arbiter, when he declares, in the 2d of Romans, that men " are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accus- ing or else excusing one another." And to this judg- ment-seat Christ himself appeals, when, in the 12th of Luke, he says, " Why, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?"

There can, then, be no sound rational or scriptural ar- gument upon the relations of man to God, which does not rest upon this fundamental truth, that Reason as I have explained the term is the ultimate judge of what is true . Either this must be so, or God has made it impossible for us securely to distinguish truth from falsehood, and left us to drift helpless upon the eternal ocean.

CHAPTER II.

THE PRINCIPLES ON WHICH REASON MUST DECIDE.

A TRUE decision from Reason must be a reasonable decision ; and a reasonable decision is one founded upon reasons ; and a decision founded upon reasons must be one in which the facts of the given case, claiming judg- ment, are referred to, and compared with the great princi- ples of right, their aspects toward those principles noted, and so the decision made up upon those aspects. If Reason is to tell us whether those who die impenitent will be eternally lost, or not, she must do it by bringing that question to the test of all the self-evident principles within her purview which bear upon it. The first step toward an answer to that question, then, becomes the identification and clear statement of those principles. To this work I now advance.

I. The first principle is, that while Reason recog- nizes herself as the final judge, with reference to the reception, by the mind, of any thing that claims to he religious truth, she is yet incompetent, without help, to conduct that mind to all that religious truth which it is needful for man to know.

8

RULES OF INTERPRETATION. 9

This is because she sees that she cannot see all that is essential to human safety and happiness. She is conscious of immense reaches of truth spreading far, on every side, beyond the circle of the horizon that shuts her in ; and though so far that she cannot know them, nor solve the problems which they present, they are not so far but she can see that those problems must have important reference to human well being. She therefore craves help. She looks around for it. Specially does she this when the question turns toward the future world. She knows, that, though all men may guess, no man of himself can know any thing concerning that which lies beyond the grave. She cannot believe that this life is to be all of human life ; yet, unassisted, she has nothing which she can make the basis of any secure decision with regard to any life to come. Distressed thus with her own essential incompe- tency to decide for man some of the most important ques- tions that cluster about his life, reason looks around for help. She decides it to be most improbable that that great and wise and good Being, whom she discerns at the helm of the universe, should leave his creatures in the dark, where light is so essential to their welfare ; and this leads her to the enunciation of a second principle, in her judg- ment on this subject ; namely :

II. Reason decides, that since, alone, she cannot solve the gravest questions of human destiny, it is both neces- sary that God should, and probable that he will, make up

10 VERDICT OF REASON.

this deficiency in her data of knowledge by a revelation to her of those facts which must otherwise remain beyond her reach.

In the judgment of Season, it is incredible that such a Being as she readily perceives God, in his works of crea- tion and providence, to reveal himself to be, should permit that creature of his, for whose development he shaped, subordinately, all material things, and in whose well or ill being and doing the problem of the success or failure of universe must find its resolution, to remain permanently destitute of any knowledge, the possession of which is essential to his welfare. Feeling, therefore, that there is much knowledge in regard to this world, and every thing in regard to what comes after this world, which lies beyond the research of the unassisted human powers, yet is im- perative to human prosperity and happiness, Reason decides that it is to be expected that God will make a revelation of this needful, but otherwise impossible, knowledge. To suppose that he will not reveal it, under these circumstan- ces, is to suppose that he does not know that men need it, or does not wish men to possess it. To suppose that he is not conscious of our great want, is to suppose that he is not 'God ; and to suppose that he does not wish men to possess all knowledge needful to make them perfect, is to suppose that he does not wish them to become perfect as He is perfect, conclusions which Reason cannot accept,

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especially in the face of the opposite teachings of a volume asserting itself to contain such a revelation from God.

This leads to the enunciation of the next principle which bears upon the matter before us ; namely : -

XII. When her attention is called to the Bible, and she has examined its claims, ^Reason decides that God has spoken in it, and that its unfolding s are to be received as an authentic revelation to man of the particulars of that knowledge ivhich he needs to know; could not know without it; can know with it.

There are four great considerations which bring sound human reason to this decision in regard to the Bible. One is its thorough cognizance of the fact, that man needs a revelation of truth which he otherwise has no means of knowing. The second is its apprehension of the fact, that the Bible does actually make just that revelation of truth which man needed to receive, and looked for else- where in vain. The third is its discovery, that there is nothing in the Bible inconsistent with its claims to be such a revelation. The fourth is the assurance which it has, that the manner in which this revelation has been made and authenticated to the race is such that there is no rea- son to doubt, but every reason to believe, that it is indeed what it professes to be, and inwardly appears to be, a divine revelation.

This process of establishing belief in the authenticity of the Bible resembles that which satisfies the absent child of

12 VERDICT OF REASON.

the genuineness of the letter which he gets from his father at home. He needed some money, and some advice in re- gard to his future course. He knows that his father knows his need. The letter contains that money and that advice. And further, the handwriting, postmark, style, incidental allusions, all things, are such as they ought to be, if the letter did come, as it professes to come, from his father fo him. So of man's need of the Bible, its adaptedness to supply that need, and the natural fitness of its incidental circumstances. Satisfied on all these points, Reason says it is from God ; it has come to supply the knowledge that we lacked ; it is reasonable for us to receive its declara- tions, and make them the basis and guide of life, even though they should, in some particulars, be obscure, or even very different from our anticipation.

But here some one may object. You are craftily beg- ging the very question in dispute. You now assume that Reason will accept the Bible as a revelation from God, even though it reveal the future punishment of the wicked ; while the very point