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"MY GOOD FRIEND: Continue as you have done widely to disseminate your very princely Magazine, and be assured that you shall shortly have one of the most exalted thrones amongst us.
Yours, with all the love of a fiend,
Mr. Ballou published the epistle, and replied, on the principle of answering "a fool according to his folly."
“REPLY.— We have for a long time been of opinion that it was not necessary to go into the future world to find the infernal pit so much talked of, and we are now furnished with a demonstration of the correctness of this opinion; the above letter came by mail directly from that pit, where it appears there is a postoffice and a post-master. We have the satisfaction also to learn that the Universalist Magazine does not please those who are in this infernal pit, for the number of the Magazine we sent there was sent back with the above letter; but it was not scorched, nor was the smell of fire or brimstone on it."
It was not uncommon for the opponents of Universalism to circulate false stories in regard to Mr. Ballou having renounced his religious opinions. These would be proclaimed at some revival-meeting, and then would spread and be circulated with more and more confidence. In April, 1820, he received an epistle from Randolph, Vt., informing him of a report in circulation in that state. He said, in reply: "As the editor has, by other means, been informed that certain zealous, fiery preachers have made great use of this story, which is wholly a fabrication, he publishes the following extract under these observations: "
"I have to inform you of a story flying here concerning you and your doctrine; it has been called a flying story for a while,
but now it is said to be in the Boston papers, and put in by yourself. I do not take the papers, nor have I seen anybody that has seen it; but they say it is so, and probably many will be glad to have it so. The story is in substance like this: That you, while sleeping, dreamed a dream to this amount,- that you saw your neighbor, and he informed you of his eternal banishment from heaven, and all caused by your preaching, and it gave you a start so that you awoke, but thought it a dream, and paid but little or no attention to it; and fell asleep again, and saw it a second time, and then a third time, upon which you arose and dressed yourself, and went to see this neighbor, and found his wife not gone to bed, and inquired of her where her husband was, and received an answer that he was gone to bed; and you told her you wished to see him, and took the candle and went to his bed, and found him a corpse."
A short time afterwards Mr. B. received a like epistle from Salem, Mass., which we here subjoin:
"DEAR SIR: Though a stranger, I hope I may be allowed to make an inquiry concerning a report, which, if true, will be as wonderful as it now seems idle and ridiculous. It has been currently reported in this town to-day that a certain young man belonging to your society (whose name I have not been able to learn) was taken ill last week and died: that a little before his death you visited him, and endeavored to quiet his troubled soul, by speaking of the certainty of salvation; that, after returning home, and having retired to rest, you dreamed three times successively the same night that you saw this young man in hell; and that the dreams caused such distress in your mind, that you left your bed to go and visit the young man again; but, alas, when you arrived there he was dead! It is said that the dream occasioned great disquietude of mind, and that you were so much staggered in the faith as to decline preaching to your people last Sabbath; and, what is still more wonderful, that it has caused you to renounce all the scheme of doctrine which you have so
long and zealously advocated, and produced an entire CONVERSION to Calvinism!!"'
Although it seemed to be useless to notice these numerous fabrications, yet Mr. Ballou said, in reply to the last-quoted epistle:
"Mr. Ballou once more informs his friends that he is knowing of no circumstance which could give rise to the report of this dream, &c. He greatly pities those who frame such reports, with a view to fill weak minds with horror, the better to carry on a system of religious hypocrisy and unreasonable fanaticism. It seems almost useless to attempt to reason with such people; yet it may be proper to say to them that the editor never dreamed himself into the doctrine of God's universal goodness, and impartial salvation of the human family, and therefore it is not likely he will dream himself out of it. He is, by no means, to be persuaded that dreams are of sufficient validity to set aside the testimony of divine inspiration, nor yet the benevolent indications of God's goodness in his universal providence."
The General Convention met in 1818 at Chesterfield, N. H. The opposition to Mr. Ballou, on the ground of his disbelief of future punishment, was somewhat manifested. Rev. Elias Smith was admitted a member this year, and preached from Rev. 11: 3. Rev. John Bisbee received fellowship. Mr. Ballou preached from Acts 3: 25, 26. In 1819 the body met at Lebanon, N. H., where Mr. Ballou preached a remarkable sermon from Acts 17: 30, 31: "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent because he hath appointed a day, in the which
he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." He showed that the text had no reference to a day of judgment after death, even supposing the common views in regard to such a judgment to be corBut he thought the supposed fact of a judgment in the future state for the sins of this life unreasonable. We esteem it proper to give an epitome of his doctrine on this occasion:
"He considered this docrine exceptionable, 1st, Because based on the supposition that a certain day is appointed to try the case of every individual of the human race, as a court is appointed to try a person who is indicted for some offence; whereas, the judge in this case is supposed to know at all times the whole cause to be tried, and is as well able to determine at one time as at another. The conclusion is, there is no trial about it.
"2. He thought it exceptionable, because it implies that all men are to be judged according to their works in this world, and to receive eternal rewards for virtue and endless punishment for sin; and yet it is held that the worst of sinners may avoid this punishment by repenting any time before they die.
"3. He thought it exceptionable, because it predicates the doctrine of repentance of the fear of punishment, and not of the love, and goodness, of God.
"4. He objected to this doctrine, because it represents our Father in heaven to be so unmerciful as to punish his creatures forever, without designing to effect their reconciliation thereby.
"5. He was constrained to reject this doctrine, because it represents our blessed Saviour, who loved us and gave himself for us, as a vindictive enemy to those for whom the Scriptures assert that he gave himself a ransom. And
"6. He fully, and in the most direct manner, refuted this doctrine by the words of the text, in which we find that the apostle
excluded from this judgment the Gentiles, who lived in the times of ignorance at which God winked. Nothing is plainer in the text than that the old Gentiles, who had lived in idolatry, and who had worshipped gold, silver and stone, graven by art and man's device, are excluded from being judged according to the statement in the text: 'And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness,' &c. If God had appointed a day in which he would judge the old Gentiles together with all the rest of mankind, the times of former ignorance would not have been winked at, but those Gentiles would have been called on to repent, for the same reason which is assigned why God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. The common use of the text is a direct violation of its clear and obvious meaning."
Having made these objections to the common interpretation of his text, Mr. Ballou proceeded to show the true signification and intent of the passage. Very few, he thought, understand the sense in which the word judge is here used: "He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness," &c.
“The word judge in its different uses may have the following meanings: 1. To try and determine a cause rightly. 2. To rule and govern. 3. To censure rashly. 4. To punish. To rule and govern is the meaning of the word in the text. That the Scripture sense of the word judge is to govern, is evident from the use of it in the book of Judges. This book is called by this name because it is a history of the administration of government in the commonwealth of Israel from the days of Joshua to the time of Samuel the prophet. This administration commenced in Othniel, continued four hundred and fifty years, and was succeeded by the reign of Saul, whom Samuel anointed. And it is worthy of notice, in relation to this subject, that it is said, of all those who ruled Israel during this long period of time, that they judged