Mr. Editor, Sir -- I have frequently been asked the following question:
"What good will it do to preach the doctrine of Universal Salvation, if it be true? or why do you go to meeting, or read your bible, or trouble yourself at all about religion, if all are finally going to heaven?" &c.To Calvinists [predestinarians] who ask this question, there is perhaps no better method of answering it than that which our Savior adopted, when the Pharisees and Sadducees of old propounded certain questions to him, which they supposed were very intricate and difficult of solution. An as that method has been, and still is considered fair and proper, I shall adopt it, and in turn state to them a question, which if answered, will also answer the one which they have proposed to me.
If "by the decree of God some men are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death," and "if these men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are PARTICULARLY and UNCHANGEABLY DESIGNED, and THEIR NUMBER IS SO CERTAIN AND DEFINITE that it CANNOT BE EITHER INCREASED OR DIMINISHED" -- and "if before the foundation of the world was laid, God hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, those of mankind that are predestinated unto everlasting life WITHOUT ANY FORE-SIGHT OF FAITH or GOOD WORKS, or PERSEVERANCE in EITHER OF THEM," (see Presbyterian Confession of Faith, Chap. 3, section 4 and 5) then I ask, what good will it do to preach, or go to meeting, or read your bible, &c.? And why, I ask, do you call with frantic zeal on all mankind, to REPENT and exercise FAITH in the Lord Jesus, and PERSEVERE in GOOD WORKS? Why wish to add to that number which you say cannot be increased or diminished? And why wish to lesson that number which Jehovah has ordained to everlasting death before the world began? "And they answered and said, we cannot tell" (Matt. 21:27).
Our Methodist [arminian, free will] brethren are also craftily inquisitive upon the same subject, and as frequently ask the same question. They abhor the predestinarian doctrine, as an impeachment of the character of an impartial God; and yet, the corner stone of their doctrine is an incongruous union of antipodal words, which, when two united, destroy the true and only meaning of both, and are incapable of any definition at all! The term is, "FREE AGENCY;" and our FREE AGENCY brethren must be satisfied in returning their question in the same way. From whom did man receive this FREE AGENCY? You answer, from God. For what purpose? Your answer is, that by a proper use of it he might choose life and be saved, or by an improper use of it, he might choose death and be damned. Does God know, or "FOREKNOW" all things? Yes. Then God knew, or foreknew, that some of mankind would make a proper use of "free agency," and be saved? Yes. And he gave it to such for that purpose? Yes. And God knew, or FORE-KNEW," that some of mankind would make an improper use of "free agency" and be damned? Yes. And he gave it to such for that purpose? ---- Here, brethren, you must go "away sorrowful," and like your predestinarian brethren, say, "we cannot tell."
But further: Will there be any more saved by "free-agency" or by the merits of Christ, than God from all eternity knew would be? Your answer is, no. Then why pray for more -- or for all men? Or, will there be any more lost than God knew would be? No. Then why strive by tears and sighs and prayers to rescue poor souls from the yawning pit which God "foreknew" would CERTAINLY receive them? Your answer to this, shall be mine to you, brethren. But to those who honestly make such an inquiry, a frank and candid answer ought to be given, for there are those to whom the truth as it is in Jesus has not been revealed, and who, unhappily, have received for doctrine the commandments of men.
The benefits resulting to community in this part of the country from preaching and declaring the whole counsel of God and his unlimited grace, have been great indeed.
The first to be noticed is the great success which the truth -- the gospel of our salvation, has obtained in this place, through the grace of Him who bringeth salvation to all men. But a few years have passed away since the doctrine of impartial grace was first publicly taught in this village and its vicinity; or since that gospel was preached which was announced to the shepherds on the plains of Judea. Till then, this country presented a theater for the display of talents which had been acquired in the schools and theological seminaries of those who, with feigned words, have too long made merchandise of their deluded votaries. Now the chains of clerical imposition and bigotry are sundered, and there are thousands in this part of the heritage, rejoicing in that faith which was once delivered to the saints.
Another important good resulting from the dissemination of truth, is, the loss or partial destruction of that awe-imposing influence by which false teachers have trammeled and circumscribed the intellect of man. We now behold a very large portion of community fearlessly taking the bible, the word of life, in hand, and with an assiduity equaled only by their former neglect of it, examining and searching for themselves, unaided by clerical exposition, and not silenced by pulpit declamation, to see if these "things are so." Consequent to this, is the general attention which is now paid to the great subject of religion, particularly by the youth, or rising generation. A great potion of that time which before was spent in folly, if not in vice, is now devoted to a perusal of the sacred word, and with much pleasure may we anticipate the happy fruits of such a change.
But the greatest benefit perhaps of all, is, the effect which a firm and steady promulgation of unlimited grace has produced on the conduct of Clergymen and ruling Elders, in their treatment of those who preferred rather to be cast out of the synagogue than to deny that "Jesus is the Christ -- the Son of God -- the Savior of the world" -- of all men. A few years since, to acknowledge as much as this, would have subjected a person, not only to the most opprobrious epithets, but to a public trial without the privilege of defense, before a self-created tribunal, sanctioned by neither the laws of God nor man, and finally, to an excommunication, rendered as poignant and vindicative as the arcana of anathemas could possibly make it. But now, how changed the scene -- how different the treatment! Here we now behold a spirit of tolerance and forbearance unparalleled in church history, in modern times at least. Here we no longer see the Church guillotine raised to sever from the body one of its members who has offended by believing too much -- for believing that "the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for ALL to be testified in due time." Here now, are permitted to come around the table of our Lord, those who openly avow their belief in the final restoration of all men, and thee, like children of one common parent, testify their grateful remembrance of the last supper and sufferings of him "who tasted death for every man."
It is worthy of remark, too, that here now, the once despised and persecuted Methodists are not rejected and denied the privilege of communion, but are permitted, and even invited, to mingle their joys in partaking of that rich feast which is made for ALL people.
This demolition of partition walls, this conciliating spirit and Christian temper, is "the Lord's doings, and it is marvelous in our eyes."
These, then, being some of the happy fruits which have resulted from preaching and teaching the goodness of God in the final salvation of all men, how ought our hearts to glow with gratitude to the Author of such events! In this view of the subject, we have every inducement to persevere in the way of well doing, preaching the Gospel to every creature, "and lo! says the Savior, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."