« PrécédentContinuer »
without pride, feeling that he had small reason to take credit to himself for his labors; but he rather praised God, who had called him to a knowledge of the truth, and made him the instrument of enlightening his fellow-men.
SECTION V. STRICTURES," BY REV. T. MERRITT.
The substance of the sermon we have now described, truly wonderful for its effects, was soon published by a young man whose heart had been deeply penetrated by the truth, namely, Mr. Henry Bowen. It had not been long before the public, when Rev. Timothy Merritt, one of the Methodist clergymen of the town, came out with a pamphlet, entitled "Strictures," &c. &c.* The careful reader will perceive that Mr. Merritt did not and could not refute the reasoning of Mr. Ballou. He attempted witticisms, played on Mr. B.'s words,- divorced facts which belonged unchangeably together; and argued more to the prejudices than to the consciences and judgments
of his hearers.
SECTION VI. MR. BALLOU'S "BRIEF REPLY."
It was not possible for Mr. Ballou, with his views of duty, to let Mr. Merritt's pamphlet lie unanswered. He therefore wrote "A Brief Reply to the Strictures," t
*The whole title was "Strictures on Mr. Ballou's Sermon, delivered at the Second Universalist Meeting in Boston, on the evening of the First Sabbath in January, 1818. By T. Merritt. Boston, 1818."
+See the whole title: "A Brief Reply to a pamphlet entitled Strictures on Mr. Ballou's Sermon, delivered at the Second Universalist Meeting in Boston, on the evening of the First Sabbath in January, 1818, by T. Merritt." By the author of the Sermon. Boston, Henry Bowen. 1818.
in which he sought to rectify certain of Mr. Merritt's mistakes, to take notice of his arguments, and to examine his use of Scripture. Mr. M. had endeavored to raise much prejudice against Mr. B., because, as alleged, he had denied the fact of "the end of the world," so clearly taught in the Scriptures. But Mr. Ballou showed that he had not denied the fact of the end of the world, as taught in the Scriptures; but only in the sense "so long perpetuated by tradition." In "the end of the world," in the sense in which that event is treated of in the Scriptures, Mr. B. most fully believed. This, however, was but one of Mr. M.'s mistakes. In addition to these matters, his arguments were exceedingly loose and fallacious, and he unfortunately fell into many misinterpretations of the Scriptures. Mr. Ballou felt it his duty to point out these things concerning his antagonist's Strictures, which he did plainly and honestly, but in the spirit of faithfulness and love.
The "Brief Reply" had been but a short time before the public, when Mr. Merritt appeared again, with "A Vindication of the Common Opinion relative to the Last Judgment," &c.* Mr. M. hoped by this pamphlet to close the controversy; but, if Mr. B. wrote again, Mr. M. seems to have doubted whether he should make another reply. At the close he said :
* The entire title was "A Vindication of the Common Opinion relative to the Last Judgment and the End of the World: in answer to Mr. Ballou's Reply. By Timothy Merritt." Boston, 1818.
"The writer of these pages must here take leave of controversy for the present, and he hopes it may prove a perpetual leave. He has engaged in it thus far from a sense of duty; and, should duty still call, he is pledged to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Should his opponent write again, and use sophistry, declamation and evasion, instead of discussing the merits of the case, he will consider his production as already answered, and take no further notice of it.". -p. 31.
REPLY TO THE
But this was not the end of the controversy. Mr. Ballou felt the importance of the position in which he had been placed; he felt that the truth was capable of a successful defence. He followed Mr. Merritt's "Vindication," therefore, with his "Brief Reply."* This was a pamphlet of forty closely-printed octavo pages, and was designed to point out certain mistakes of Mr. M., to take notice of his arguments, and to examine his applications of Scripture. The work must be read if one would see the vigor which Mr. Ballou threw into it. His opponent's arguments fell before his pen like blades of grass before the mower's scythe. Pressed for room, as we are, we must give the following extract:
"Having now, according to the best understanding which a careful investigation of this subject has led to, refuted the argument under consideration in all its parts, the other arguments which are connected with the foregoing may be more briefly considered. As it has been clearly shown that eternal unmerciful punishment
*"A Brief Reply to a pamphlet entitled A Vindication of the Common Opinion relative to the Last Judgment and the End of the World: in answer to Mr. Ballou's Reply, by Timothy Merritt.' By Hosea Ballou."
is inconsistent with the infinite goodness of God, and also equally dissonant to our obligation to love and obey our Father in heaven, so it may reasonably be expected that no such punishment can be necessary either as a warning to others, or for the security of the divine government.
“We may ask, in the first place, where this punishment is to serve as a warning to others? Not in this world, surely, for here it is not seen; nor is it even heard of from any who know it to be a fact. But then it may be said that thousands believe it. True, many profess to believe it, and many preach it; but they believe and preach it for somebody else, not for themselves. Again, it is a fact that those men who have been the most wicked have believed in this endless unmerciful punishment. The reader is here cautioned against the supposition that any design exists to represent that all those who profess the doctrine are specially wicked. What is contended for is, that this belief is not necessarily connected with holiness of life. If such a tremendous punishment were inflicted on some, to prevent others from sinning in this world, why should the whole affair be kept out of sight? The King of Babylon once had a furnace in which to burn those who would not worship the image which he had set up; and he had it where the people could see it. This was remarkably effectual, for we have no account of more than three who were not terrified into submission. If there be in reality such dreadful torments in another state, for crimes committed in this world, it seems most reasonable to conclude that they are all kept out of sight of mortals, lest they should have the effect on them to prevent their committing those sins for which it is just to punish them in this .unmerciful manner. If this be the scheme, it is not agreeable to it to persuade people to do well.
"Moreover, the way in which this common doctrine is preached and believed is directly calculated to defeat its pretended utility. The preacher always informs the people that repentance any time before death is sufficiently early to avoid this torment, and to secure heaven forever. And, as it belongs likewise to this system, it is always insisted that righteousness is not rewarded in this world, but attended with a thousand hardships; and that sin and
error form an easy path. tends to keep men in sin;
When all this is believed, it naturally for, generally speaking, we all calculate to live to be old, and when we are old it is natural still to keep death at a distance.
Suppose we were told that the President of the United States will be here at the end of six months. At that time, whoever shall not appear before him dressed in a garment which, on every part of the body, must set so uneasy as to give us scarcely a moment's peace, must be put to the most excruciating tortures. Now, suppose we all sincerely believe this unreasonable report, would it not be natural for us to keep the hated garment off until about the expiration of the time? Should we be likely to get it on immediately? How different is the preaching of the blessed Saviour! 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' Give any one to understand that a certain garment becomes his or her person better than any other, that it commends one to the notice of others, and that it is the most comfortable garment that can be worn, and that it costs nothing, he will be likely to wear it; there can be but one objection that any one can make,— that is to the cheapness of it. For, if this garment should become fashionable, it would bring the rich and the poor on a level, than which nothing is more hated by the heart of pride. But in the garment itself is that meekness which removes the whole objection.
"As we cannot find the necessity of this doctrine of punishing people in another state to prevent wickedness here, we will endeavor to look for its necessity in the state where it is supposed to exist. And, as our preachers are constantly calling our attention to this awful subject, we will approach it now in good earnest. Well, then, suppose the time is come. This material world is burnt up. Eternity commences. The righteous are received into heaven, and the wicked are sent to hell. What are those poor miserable wretches in hell to be tormented unmercifully and eternally for? Answer, as a warning to others, and for the