“Our modern Hymeneus may, like his prototypes, overthrow the faith of some, but it is presumed the number will not be very large.”
Baum’s Church Review (1850) | The Christian Observatory Review (1850) | Theological and Literary Journal Review (1850) | The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany Review (1850) | Freeman G. Brown Review (1851) | Freewill Baptist Quarterly Review (1855)
“The predictions in the Scriptures of the second coming of Christ, the end of the age, the resurrection of the dead, and the general judgment with its awards, MUST BE EXPLAINED IN A FIGURATIVE OR SPIRITUAL RATHER THAN A LITERAL SENSE, and in such a sense as admits an application to what has already taken place. ” (aka Hyper-Preterism)
Frederick Chase, A History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire
“In the same year theological differences led to the retirement of Professor Crosby, but the matter was so conducted as to leave, on the whole, harmonious relations. For some time he had grown weary of the drudgery of teaching the mere elements of language and had come to feel that it was his duty to devote himself to what he regarded as higher studies, like morals and religion, which had a more immediate relation to the welfare of society. While wishing to give up teaching he still wished to retain a connection with the College, and suggested that he retain his title without duties and without pay and that an associate professor be appointed who should perform the duties of the office and receive the salary attached to it. This proposition did not meet with favor, especially as the Trustees were disturbed by two publications of Professor Crosby’s, one a pamphlet entitled, “A Letter of the Celebrated John Foster on the Duration of Future Punishment,” issued anonymously, but known to be from the pen of Professor Crosby, and containing, as was thought, an attack upon the American Tract Society in the form of an earnest appeal in regard to the character of its publications; the other a small book setting forth views upon the Second Advent not acceptable to the orthodox ministers of the State. After considerable correspondence Professor Crosby presented his definite resignation and the Trustees, in recognition of his ability as a scholar and his desire to retain a formal connection with the College, gave him the title of Professor emeritus. On his recommendation and that of the Faculty John N. Putnam, a graduate of 1843 and a brilliant student, then just graduating from Andover Theological Seminary, who had been giving the instruction in Greek since the February before, was chosen his successor.1 At the same meeting of the Board Dr. Roby tendered his resignation as professor of the theory and practice of physic and was succeeded by Dr. Edward E. Phelps of Windsor, Vt. Two years later the College suffered a severe loss in the death of Professor Chase, which occurred on January 7, 1851. He was followed in office by John S. Woodman of the class of 1842.*
Alpheus Crosby, the eon of Dr. Asa and Abigail (Russell) Crosby, was born at Sandwich N. It., October 13, 1810. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1817 be became preceptor of Moor’s School for one year, then tutor in the College for three years. After two years spent In the study of theology at Andover he was recalled as professor in 1833. He resided In Hanover for some years after his resignation in the stone house, which he built in 1845, on the road over Cory Hill, but In 1857 he became the Principal of the State Normal School at Salem, Mas*., and resigned that position In 1865. He died there April 17, 1874. He was an earnest scholar of wide interests, and published a Greek grammar, and an edition of Xenophon’s Anabasis, besides several other smaller works. He was an effective teacher, but he had the habit of giving a prolonged “o-o-oh” between sentences, which with a high falsetto voice gave him a peculiar manner. Dr. Barstow of the class of 1846 is responsible for the following Incident. Professor Crosby was hearing a recitation at the south end of Dartmouth. The students from another recitation, which had been let out before the close of the hour, gathered outside his room and began to sing, much to the unrest of his students. Going to the door he addressed the singers, saying: “To the bird in the cage the sweet carolings of the released songsters are scarcely agreeable. Now if you can withhold your songs it will be better for my class.” His appeal was sufficient.” (p. 290-292)
CROSBY PAMPHLET OPPOSED ENDLESS PUNISHMENT
Alexander Wilson M’Clure, The Christian Observatory v.3-4 (1849-1850) pp. 316-331
A Letter Of The Celebrated John Foster To A Young Minister, On The Duration Of Future Punishment : with an Introduction and Notes, consisting chiefly of Extracts from Orthodox Writers, and an Earnest Appeal to the American Tract Society in regard to the Character of its Publications. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company. 1849. Pp. 119.
This pamphlet is anonymous, and we have no knowledge of its authorship; we can speak of it, therefore, with the more freedom. It commences with an explanatory statement copied from Ryland’s Life of John Foster, respecting the celebrated letter of Mr. Foster on the subject of future punishment, and is followed by eight pages of extracts from Orthodox reviewers, and others, testifying to the general soundness of Mr. Foster’s religious opinions, his great talents, the deliberateness and fixedness of his views with regard to future punishment, his consistent piety notwithstanding his opinions on this subject of future punishment, and his continued good standing in the ministry and Christian Church to the close of his life.
Then follows the Letter of Mr. Foster, which it was supposed would have the more weight with the reader by means of the preceding testimonials to his ability and piety; and also with the managers of the American Tract Society, whose names are printed at the head of the letter which closes the pamphlet, and which is intended as a remonstrance against some of their publications, such as the works of Baxter, Alleine, Saurin, and the authoress of the Peep of Day. In one place the author quotes from these works several hundred expressions on the subject of future punishment, arranging them in alphabetical order, and making an appalling show of terms and expressions on the subject of future punishment.
The whole design and plan of the book may be stated in these words: The Rev. John Foster thought that endless punishment does violence to our instinctive feelings. Hence the American Tract Society should suppress those expressions in their books ; or reject the books themselves, which convey, in such appalling forms, the idea that the future punishment of the wicked is to be fearfully severe, and without end.
Many things are said in connection with this main design and argument which it is not important to notice. The great stress of the writer is laid on this, that Mr. Foster could not bring his feelings to admit the endlessness of future punishment. Our chief design in noticing the pamphlet before us will be answered by examining the letter of Mr. Foster.
Many of our readers have read this celebrated letter. To those who have not read it, and indeed to those who have, the following epitome1 may not be unacceptable.
A young minister, the Rev. E. White, of Hereford, England, wrote to Mr. Foster for his views on the duration of future punishment. Mr. Foster replied, (Sept. 24, 1841,) saying, (and the remark should be borne in mind,) that he had made much less research into what had been written on this subject, than his young friend seemed to have done, and perhaps had been ” too content to let an opinion or impression admitted in early life, dispense with protracted inquiry and various reading.” P. 13. ” The general, not very far short of universal, judgment of divines in affirmation of the doctrine of eternal punishment must be acknowledged a weighty consideration. It is a very fair question, Is it likely that so many thousands of able, learned, benevolent and pious men, should all have been in error ? And the language of Scripture is formidably strong; so strong, that it must be an argument of extreme cogency that would authorize a limited interpretation.” P. 13. Nevertheless, he declares himself not convinced of the doctrine by these considerations, and the reason is, that in his view, ” the stupendous idea of eternity,” (P. 14,) is a sufficient answer to all direct proofs on the subject.
He then proceeds to expatiate on the idea of eternity. In grand and awful forms of thought he illustrates this ” stupendous idea ” of never-ending existence ; he carries us along the trackless wastes of futurity till we are bewildered, and we cease to feel the addition of other millions of ages to the already inconceivable extent, and billions, trillions, quadrillions of centuries make no more impression on us than tens or units. He then calls upon us to conceive of a human soul subjected to a state of suffering for such a period, which, however, compared with the duration yet to come, is not so much as a drop to the sea.
Dividing the ages, so to speak, of eternal punishment, by the sins of thought, word and deed, committed by each transgressor during the period of human life, he represents the sinner as enduring an incalculable period of suffering for each transgression. At this his mind revolts. He cannot feel that this is just. It is disproportioned and excessive ; no arguments, no words of Scripture, however ” formidably strong,” can satisfy him that God will punish any man forever, for the sins committed in this brief space of his existence.
Much of his reasoning on the subject will be answered when we speak to some of the points embraced in the foregoing general representation. The grand idea of the letter is this: Eternity is too long for the duration of future punishment.
This is a subject in which all are equally interested; and therefore, in writing upon it, we cannot but feel impressed with its personal relation to ourselves. Of all the themes of religion, surely no one is more fitted to chasten the feelings of religious controversy, and to excite feelings of deep interest in our fellow men. The doubts and difficulties of serious minds with regard to this subject, only serve to awaken our affectionate regard for them, with a desire that, if this doctrine be true, we may all ” escape these things, and stand before the Son of man.”
In remarking upon Foster’s objection to the eternity of future punishment, we will present our thoughts in numerical order for the sake of method and clearness.
I. The existence of a belief in endless punishment in the minds of so many of the best of men is a presumptive argument that it is true.
Superstition cannot account for the continued existence of this belief, even if it had its origin in superstition. No one will think of charging the body of evangelical believers who hold this doctrine, with superstition.
The doctrine is not maintained through interested and selfish considerations. The believers in the doctrine have nothing to gain by proving it to be true. It does not make them richer, nor more honorable, nor add to their worldly ease. The contrary of all this is true. Its tendency rather is to abate the inordinate desire and pursuit of wealth, honor, and pleasure,ï¿½the Saviour’s question, constantly occurring to the mind of the sincere believer, ” What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? “
Neither is the doctrine suggested or maintained by severe, inhuman feeling. He who seeks to prove this doctrine true, knows that its truth involves myriads of his fellow creatures in everlasting woe. If he succeeds to establish the doctrine, he shuts the door of hope upon many; though were we to say, instead of many, one immortal spirit, we should suggest a sufficient reason for caution and reluctance in establishing the truth of this doctrine. Nevertheless, the doctrine is believed and maintained by the most amiable and benevolent of the human race.
There are strong personal considerations which constitute very powerful objections to it in the minds of those, who, nevertheless, believe it. They see that it bears with as great force against them as against others. Except they repent, they will all likewise perish. If they draw back from Christ, they may draw back to perdition. Besides this, and perhaps it is the more powerful consideration, almost every believer in this doctrine has at some time a relative or friend whose religious condition at death, excites fearful thoughts, and clothes his grave with more than midnight darkness. The very strongest temptations have been presented to believers in this doctrine, to find or create insuperable objections to it; yet the vast majority of Christian believers, who have lost friends concerning whose condition they entertain no hope, remain firmly persuaded that the doctrine is true. Now to such men, ” the idea of eternity ” is as ” stupendous ” as it was to Mr. Foster ; the assignment of ages on ages of woe for each transgression, conflicted with their ideas of justice as it did with his; in short, all the objections to the endless duration of future punishment have occurred to multitudes of intelligent, wise, pious men in days and months of tribulation and mourning at the loss of unconverted friends; but they have adhered to their belief, and we are disposed to ask why their assent to it under such peculiar circumstances should not weigh as much as Mr. Foster’s dissent from it ? He had no penetration which they have not possessed ; he also was formed out of the clay; he could present no claim to have his feelings of repugnance regarded as paramount to the feelings of submission and confident belief with which his Christian brethren in the hours of their sorrow have deliberately declared their faith in this doctrine. ‘
If the doctrine of endless punishment be not taught in Scripture, who invented it ? and how has it maintained its hold upon the human mind through successive periods of time ? It is true that many evangelical believers, especially in England, at the present day, declare, with Mr. Foster, that they are not satisfied to receive the doctrine ; these, however, are dissentients from the commonly received belief of evangelical Christendom. Were the doctrine unscriptural, we should rather expect to find the believers in it a minority, remonstrated with by their Christian brethren, and avoided as a class of men of harsh views and feelings, gloomy in their faith and perverters of Scripture. On the contrary, the believers in the doctrine remonstrate, while the unbelievers are in a measure reserved and silent, and the wisest of them do not venture positive assertions on the subject, but state their difficulties, and declare that they cannot accept the common faith. Enough has been said on the subject to make good and intelligent men re-examine the foundations of their belief on this point; but the result is a deep and firm conviction that the literal representations of the Bible are to be received in all the fulness and strength of their obvious import.
They who reject the doctrine of endless punishment have a formidable task in setting aside, we will not say the language of Scripture, but, the argument drawn from the commonly received belief on the subject. It cannot be accounted for, that evangelical believers should so generally admit and preach a doctrine which is repugnant to our natural feelings, unless it be found in Scripture.
II. Mr. Foster furnishes a sufficient refutation of his own objections to the doctrine of endless punishment, in his published views of the present constitution of things in this world.
In the pamphlet before us, the compiler has inserted a letter from Mr. Foster to Dr. Harris, which we think explains the origin of Mr. F.’s views with regard to future punishment, and makes us feel that a morbid state of mind was the occasion of his doctrinal error. We venture to say that if Mr. Foster, with the state of mind in which he wrote his letter on future punishment, had been an inhabitant of another planet, and had been told of our world, with its enormous woes, its disappointed hopes, its scenes of heart-rending anguish, its oppressions and cruelties, the triumph of vice over virtue, and the inconceivable amount of human degradation in heathen and pagan lands, he would have said, It is a libel on the character of God to suppose that such a state of things can exist under his government. The following extract from his letter to Dr. Harris we think will confirm our remark:
” To me it appears a most mysteriously awful economy, overspread by a lurid and dreadful shade. I pray for the piety to maintain an humble submission of thought and feeling to the wise and righteous Disposer of all existence. But to see a nature created in purity, qualified for perfect and endless felicity, but ruined at the very origin, by a disaster devolving fatally on all the race, ï¿½ to see it in an early age of the world estranged from truth, from the love and fear of its Creator, from that, therefore, without which existence is a thing to be deplored, ï¿½ abandoned to all evil, till swept away by a deluge, ï¿½ the renovated race revolving into idolatry and iniquity, and spreading downward through ages in darkness, wickedness, and misery, ï¿½ no Divine dispensation to enlighten and reclaim it, except for one small section, and that section itself a no less flagrant proof of the desperate corruption of the nature, ï¿½ the ultimate, grand remedial visitation, Christianity, laboring in a difficult progress and very limited extension, and soon perverted from its purpose into darkness and superstition, for a period of a thousand years, ï¿½ at the present hour known and even nominally acknowledged by very greatly the minority of the race, the mighty mass remaining prostrate under the infernal dominion, of which countless generations of their ancestors have been the slaves and victims, ï¿½ a deplorable majority of the people in the Christian nations strangers to the vital power of Christianity, and a larger proportion directly hostile to it, and even the institutions pretended to be for its support and promotion being baneful to its virtue, ï¿½ its progress in the work of conversion, in even the most favored part of the world, distanced by the progressive increase of the population, so that, even there, (but to a fearful extent if we take the world at large,) the disproportion of the faithful to the irreligious is continually increasing, ï¿½ the sum of all these melancholy facts being, that thousands of millions have passed, and thousands every day are passing, out of the world, in no state of fitness for a pure and happy state elsewhere, ï¿½ (), it is a most confounding and appalling contemplation ! ” Pp. 38, 39.
We say, it is not improbable that the state of mind, or the habit indicated by these lines, of viewing events and things, would have led Mr. Foster to reject the historical assertion of the existence of this moral economy, were he not an eye-witness of it, just as he did, for similar reasons, or rather with similar feelings, reject the doctrine of endless punishment. We feel that the impressions of such a man are not a safe guide. . He excites distrust and fear in our minds with regard to the government of the world ; we should not feel happy in the thought that God reigns, nor see how the multitude of isles could be glad thereof, should we live habitually under the influence of such views as those which he expresses in his letter to Dr. Harris. Mr. Foster’s views of this world and its awful calamities are not modified, nor his difficulties solved by any representations which a Christian, we should think, would naturally make with regard to the evil of sin. The way in which we are accustomed to hear good men speak of the disorder of the present system is, to illustrate the nature and consequences of sin by referring to the calamities and sufferings of the world. They represent that as redemption is declared in the Bible to have for its object the instruction of the universe ; so this planet, cursed with sin, and groaning under its effects, will .forever serve to shew the inhabitants of other worlds what sin is, and what it can do; so that however terrible and inconceivably dreadful are the consequences of sin, they will nevertheless be for the happiness of the universe, by keeping other orders of beings in their allegiance to God. It is easy, of course, to step from this position into a boundless deep of speculation and mystery with regard to the origin of evil. But without venturing into speculation, it is sufficiently obvious that the government of the universe being a moral government, that is, a government administered by means of moral considerations instead of force, such considerations must be prepared to influence moral beings as will be eminently fitted to the great end of preserving and governing them in a state of rectitude. If God sees fit to employ the fall and the consequent sufferings of our race in this world for this purpose, who shall say that He is not wise and good in so doing, notwithstanding all that we suffer; especially when we consider that as we are constituted, our very sufferings are the means of a greater knowledge of God, and greater moral excellence and happiness to all who love and obey Him ?
If this view of the present system be correct, and is sufficient to vindicate the ways of God to man, we may argue that when we know as much about a future state as we do about this, we shall doubtless see reason to say with the redeemed: ” Just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints.”
III. We shall now state several objections to Mr. Foster’s reasoning with regard to future punishment.
We nowhere find in his treatment of the subject, a deep, penetrating, Scriptural view of the evil of sin, such, for example, as we find in the writings of President Edwards ; and which, after all, is the true balance to keep the mind at equipoise on this tremendous subject of future punishment. Foster seems to commiserate man as an unfortunate creature, subject to a destiny over which he has no control, by which his birth and education are appointed under circumstances which greatly extenuate sin, insomuch that he cannot possibly be the subject of guilt sufficient to merit endless punishment. This is evidently begging the whole question. We must not consult our pre-conceived notions with regard to the evil and the jilst desert of sin. The great God only has a right to say what punishment he will inflict; and we must submit our views and feelings to this revelation of his will.
We all believe that ” by one man’s disobedience, many were’ made sinners,” and that too by his one act of disobedience. If the consequences of that one act have been so direful, as all confess, we must conclude that sin is, in every sense, an infinite evil.
Mr. Foster’s views and reasonings on this subject are also defective in this respect, that he does not bring to view the atonement, so as to illustrate the nature of sin by means of the propitiation required for its forgiveness.
Here we think, is the grand argument in favor of future endless punishment, in the minds of those who receive the doctrine of a propitiation for sin. Of course they cannot use it in arguing with those who reject the doctrine of the atonement, but we speak of it as probably the principal anchor which holds them surely and steadfastly to this belief of endless punishment. Believing that the Word, who was in the beginning with God and was God, was made flesh, and that an infinite sacrifice was made for sin by the divine and human Redeemer, they cannot believe that sin, which required an infinite sacrifice, subjects the sinner to any thing less than a punishment infinite in duration. God has made a manifestation of his views and feelings with regard to sin by the sacrifice which he has made for sinners; they who accept this sacrifice commonly feel and believe that if sin were not threatened with endless punishment, such a sacrifice would not have been made. It does not seem, so to speak, to be an economical arrangement that such humiliation and sufferings as those of Christ should have taken place, except upon an infinite necessity. It would have done less violence to our feelings that sinners should have made their own atonement, could they have made it; and that however protracted their sufferings might be, so long as they were deserved, it would have been more suitable that they should hare suffered, than that the resources of the Godhead should be drawn upon to furnish a substitute for that which was, at the farthest, a limited evil, to be followed, after the longest infliction of pain, with an eternity of joy. To take a case for illustration : If Judas is to suffer to a limited extent, and after millions of ages is to be restored to happiness, it would not be said of him : ” Good were it for that man if he had never been born.” Such an atonement as we believe Christ to have made, does not seem demanded by the exigencies of the case, if Judas can himself atone for his sins. It is only on the supposition that sin cannot be atoned for by the sufferings of the sinner, that we feel that the atonement revealed in Scripture is justifiable. This is the received belief of those who accept the doctrine of endless punishment.
One of Mr. Foster’s objections to the doctrine of endless punishment, is expressed in these words.
” There is, or may be, in it what would be of mighty force to deter him, if he could have a competent notion of it; but his necessary ignorance precludes from him that salutary force. Is he not thus taken at a fearful disadvantage ? As a motive to deter him, the threatened penalty can only be in the proportion to his (in the present case) narrow faculty of apprehending it; but, as an evil to be suffered, it surpasses in magnitude every intellect but the Omniscient, Might we not imagine the reflection of one of the condemned delinquents, suffering on, and still interminably on, through a thousand or a million of ages, to be expressed in some such manner as this ? ï¿½’ O, if it had been possible for me to conceive but the most diminutive part of the weight and horror of this doom, every temptation to sin would have been enough to strike me dead with terror; I should have shrunk from it with the most violent recoil.’ ” P. 19.
Now may not the same argument be applied in reasoning against capital punishment, for example, or imprisonment for life ? On the scaffold the culprit might say, ” 0, if it had been possible for me to conceive but the most diminutive part of the weight and horror of this doom,” I never should have taken the life of my victim. ” I should have shrunk from” the indulgence of my passions ” with the most violent recoil.”
Let any one read those affecting pages, the ” Last days of the condemned,” or imagine the feelings of a man in that solitary confinement to which convicts sentenced to prison for life, as well as others, are at first, for a few days, subjected; and he will see in the thoughts and feelings of the condemned, precisely the train of reasoning here suggested by Mr. Foster. Take the man imprisoned for life as a manslayer. I committed my crime, he says, from beginning to end, within the space of twenty minutes. I am thirty years of age, and may live within the prison walls forty years. Thus, for each of the twenty minutes which the commission of my crime occupied, I must suffer, according to arithmetical calculation, seven hundred and thirty days. And indeed the less time occupied by the crime, the greater the punishment per minute, in the case of one imprisoned for life. ” Had it been possible for me,” he may say, in the language of Mr. Foster, ” to conceive but the most diminutive part of this ignominy, privation, pain, I should have shrunk from it with the most violent recoil.”
Precisely the same mode of reasoning against endless punishment, as being inoperative on account of its inconceivableness, may be employed to shew that the character of God can have no proper influence as a motive to deter from sin. For a sinner in the presence of the Almighty, face to face, might say, Could I have conceived but the most diminutive part of what God is, I never would have sinned against Him. The reply would be, that the invisible things of Him may be clearly seen, being understood from the things that are made; and that, therefore, the sinner was without excuse ? In the same way it might be demanded of one in endless misery, who should plead that he had never fully conceived of such a punishment, whether any thing could convey to the human mind a truth more impressively than the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew expresses the truths of eternal judgment, and endless retributions ? If the power of fully conceiving the truths of revelation be the standard of justice and of truth, then the feeble capacities of human nature are the limit of truth and justice ; and further, there must be as many standards of truth as there are differences of capacity among men.
Had we room, we would copy Mr. Foster’s graphic description of future, endless woe, and his inference from it, namely, that nothing can warrant such suffering; and then we would present, in connection with it, a view of the increased happiness of the vast universe as the fruit of God’s manifested displeasure against sin. We may suppose it not impossible in the moral universe, that vastly greater safety and consequent happiness will accrue
in consequence of the endless punishment of some sinners. It is not to be supposed that the eflPect of punishing sinners forever ceases at the day of judgment. It may be, that, as long as they suffer, they will contribute to the permanence and extension of happiness in the universe ; and when we borrow the light which astronomy affords, and suppose that myriads of systems, with a population which no conceivable numbers can compute, may be kept in allegiance to God by knowing what sin is in its nature and consequences, through the example furnished by the transgression and punishment of some of our race; and if we add to this, that not one soul will perish except for his voluntary sin, and will eat only of the fruit of his doings, surely we cannot say that endless future punishment is theoretically unreasonable. Especially if we add that, continuing to sin, the wicked will be deservedly punished so long as they sin.
But this implies that God will forever behold sin and suffering in his dominions ; that there will be a place which will be a blot on his empire, and it is asked, Will a benevolent and almighty Being permit such a blot to remain upon his government ?
This mode of reasoning takes it for granted that God cannot look on suffering forever. For more than six thousand years he has looked upon it, in forms which terrify the mind of man. It is by no means obvious that God will not look on suffering forever. How long it was before man fell, that the sinning angels descended to their prison, we are not informed ; but it is altogether an assumption, which admits of no proof, that God cannot forever look on pain. All reasoning based on his paternal relation to his creatures fails, because many events happen to the children of men which an earthly father never would inflict. No sane man would set fire to his child’s house, and consume him, and his wife and children; nor sink hundreds of his children and grandchildren in the deep; nor scatter a pestilence in the houses of his descendants.
Besides, it is a gratuitous assumption that the everlasting suffering of sinners will be a blast on the government of God. The penitentiary at Philadelphia is no blot on the government of Pennsylvania, nor the State Prison at Charlestown on this Commonwealth. There is reason to infer, from certain passages of Scripture, that the endless punishment of sinners, and especially of Satan and his angels, (and none from this world will, of course, perish who do not deserve it as really as they,) will infuse confidence and strength into holy beings. Vast interests are at stake in a moral universe, and it may be that a great expenditure of vindictive punishment may be necessary to maintain those interests. The question would be, Is it for the best that there should be a moral universe ? That question is settled, and now the only remaining question is, What measures are necessary to maintain this moral universe in its allegiance and happiness ? We love to think of such a mind as that of Mr. Foster in the clear light of eternity rejoicing in that which once he saw, if at all, through a glass darkly, and joining with saints and angels in their “Alleluia, just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” In this world Mr. Foster could look no further into the heavens without a telescope, than any clown. What matters it how Mr. Foster felt about future punishment ? We have already said, Others have felt differently ; and we could gather as powerful and as numerous testimonies to the talents and piety of many who fully believed in endless punishment, as the author of this pamphlet has collected in favor of Mr. Foster. All this proves nothing. ” To the law and the testimony.” ” Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherewith is he to be accounted of?”
Mr. Foster dwells at much length and with much force, on this objection to the endless duration of future punishment, that it ” sits so easy on the minds of the religious and benevolent believers of it.” P. 25. ” If the tremendous doctrine be true, it ought to be continually proclaimed as with the blast of a trumpet, inculcated and reiterated, with ardent passion, in every possible form of illustration ; no remission of the alarm to the thoughtless spirits.” ” The most prolonged thundering alarm is but as the note of an infant, a bird, or an insect, in proportion to the horrible urgency of the case.” P. 27.
In such remarks there is not a just consideration of the principles of the human mind as susceptible to moral suasion. In waking a sleeper from a burning dwelling, we may adopt measures to rouse and save him which would only disgust the sinner if applied to his moral sensibilities. Clamor and cries of distress, tones of sorrow inarticulate through excessive grief, a countenance on which unutterable concern for the perishing should always be depicted, would fail of their benevolent intention, if employed Sabbath after Sabbath, and from day to day, by preachers of the gospel to save men. Christ and his Apostles were plain and old in their- warnings; but they understood human nature too well to scream their admonitions, or to use the intonations of the affrighted.
We are all aware that scenes of indescribable wrong and misery exist in this city, and perhaps not far from our dwellings. Yet this knowledge does not keep us agitated and weeping. Human nature could not endure it. Our various duties would forbid it. We would ask, Whether Mr. Foster himself warned sinners as much as he should have done, against even limited future punishment?
No minister of Christ who believes in the endless punishment of sin, will fail to confess with shame and sorrow, that he feels the power of this awful truth so feebly ; and that it influences his feelings in so small a measure. But he will make the same complaint with regard to his conceptions of the Saviour’s love, of the evil of sin, and the blessedness of heaven.
But if we are correctly informed by the author of the pamphlet before us, there are some good and great men who, in his view, have been sufficiently faithful, on this point, and we presume that their faithfulness would satisfy even Mr. Foster. Here is another instance in which this pamphlet furnishes a reply to itself. The writings of Baxter, Alleine, Saurin, President Edwards, the authoress of the Peep of Day abound so excessively in representations of endless torments, that our compiler sees fit to stigmatize them with what he calls in somewhat vulgar taste, a ” Hellomania.” He has gathered two pages (71-73) in small type, of terms relating to future woe, from the publications of the American Tract Society, arranging them with much care, in alphabetical order, thus, ” The abyss,” ” burnings,” ” cup of misery,” etc.,” D, E.” ” The damned,” ” damnation,” etc., down to ” S, T ;” and then he says : ” But methinks, I hear you cry, Hold! enough, although several letters of the alphabet still remain.” P. 73. We are surely satisfied, if he is ; though we needed no proof that Baxter and Alleine understood the terrors of the Lord. If Mr. Foster were living, these two pages of extracts from the books of our beloved American Tract Society would, perhaps, induce him to admit that some men have cleared their skirts of the blood of souls ; and that the Tract Society is doing the same, and affording all of us the opportunity to warn our fellow-men with no uncertain sounds. We would, however, respectfully suggest to the compiler of this pamphlet, whether there is a congruity in his italicizing those parts of Mr. Foster’s letter which complain that the doctrine ” sits so easy” on the minds of its believers, at the same time that he remonstrates with the American Tract Society because of the awful and super- abounding terms in which they cry in the ears of men to save them from eternal damnation ? *
With regard to that long array of awful terms, we feel that it is not too long in view of the awful nature of the subject. Some of them, like expressions on every other subject in the writings of men a few centuries ago, are quaint; and some of them are almost queer, and provoke a feeling bordering on the ludicrous, when disconnected from the sentences where they occur. But they were not conceived nor penned except with tears, and every considerate reader will make due allowance for their antiquated character. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that many, if any, of those terms, are of mere human origin. They may almost all be traced to the Scriptures; or at least, the themes of them, as the etymologists say, may be found in the Bible. We could print two pages of terms from the Bible on the subject of future woe, which would seem as formidable as these quotations from the Tract Society; and of which, it may be said, as a man once said to a lady who would probably have sympathized with the compiler of this pamphlet in his dislike of some things in Baxter and others: ” One word of damnation in the Bible counts more than a hundred of Baxter’s.”
This is not the last inconsistency in this book. The writer affects to be scandalized at the titles of certain books containing the name of God, as being of irreverent tendency. But next he speaks of some anecdotes in one of the Society’s books ; and allows himself to say, (the italics are his,) ” I must acknowledge that the change of climate in passing from the writings of Alleine, and Baxter, and Pike, to those of” this book, ” is quite agreeable.” ï¿½ ” May it not be that the Publishing Committee ï¿½ in adopting this work ï¿½ are converts to that theory of alternate emotions which some revival preachers have practised upon, and which justifies in the view of critics the strange contrasts of successive scenes in some of the plays of Shakspeare ! ” This trifling with the most awful theme of hell torments, gains little credit for him in his scrupulosity as to other things. lie is capable of that low vulgar talk which characterizes ” Universalism,” so called. Witness such expressions, italicised, as these: ” desperate fotf-ucination ; ” ï¿½ “A fair example of this lady’s Aert-omania,’ and his seventeen pages of unmanly strictures, on this same authoress of the ” Peep of Day,” notwithstanding his own gallant anger at an allusion, in one of the Society’s books, to the ” Lowell Offering.”
The compiler of this pamphlet, after quoting some terrible expressions from Pike’s ” Persuasives to Early Piety,” remarks upon the word “Persuasives,” as an incongruous title for a book which deals so much in the language of endless retributions. Pike might refer the objector to Paul, who said, “Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.”
There are some minor points in this pamphlet, which we had proposed to notice, but have no room. Indeed the pamphlet is sufficiently answered, if we have succeeded in our attempt to answer Mr. Foster’s objection to future endless punishment. The appeal must be to revelation. Revelation impresses the great majority of pious believers with the belief that future punishment is to be without end. We prefer to receive the literal representations of Scripture. Doing so, at all events we are safe ; which may not be said of those who reject the doctrines of grace with their sanctions. We are sure, however, that ” everlasting punishment ” is as clearly revealed in Scripture as ” life eternal.”
We will add but one remark. The objections which Foster and others make to the doctrine of endless punishment, and the terror with which it impresses every mind, is to us one presumptive proof that it is true. A threatened punishment, which is to have a limit, would, we believe, have very little influence. Even the belief of eternal woe fails to deter multitudes from sin. We should say beforehand, that if God will utter a threatening against sin, it must be one which will smite the human mind with terror and amazement; and not one concerning which a sinner would feel that he may find some method either of escaping or enduring it, after which it will be good for him that he had been born. The doctrine of eternal punishment is the great working doctrine of evangelical religion. Many of us would immediately cease to preach, if we did not believe it. This alone makes ministers contented to live on incompetent means of support, and to spend life in the employment, not in itself to be desired, of admonishing, reproving, warning, and beseeching their fellow-men. We feel that Christ and the Apostles did this. We feel that we are making the last offers of salvation to men. We believe that we preach none other things than prophets and apostles testified, saying, that ” there shall be a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust; ” and that some shall awake ” to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
TO THE MEMORY OF ALPHEUS CROSBY.
A Noble life, well spent in learning’s cause,
And public good, has passed from earth away!
With saddened thoughts, in its swift round, we pause,
A heart-felt tribute to its worth to pay.
E’en from his youth, to studious lore inclined,
By day, by night, he turned the classic page,
And, by his studies cultured and refined,
He gave new grace and culture to the age.
Nor less he labored for the public good,
In every noble work an earnest man ;
‘ Boldly the power of Slavery, War, withstood,
A true reformer, ever in the van.
Our loss it is, not his, that we deplore,
That we on earth shall see his face no more !
“Professor Crosby is the victim of a system, which has taken him captive, and carries him whithersoever it will. He follows it wherever he can see it; and when it gets beyond his sight, he shuts his eyes, and still pursues it by the scent and the sound of its flying foot-steps.”
Orestes Augustus Brownson
“We have not read this book: we broke down before we had got beyond half a dozen pages.”
John Holmes Agnew (1850)
Professor Crosby’s defection from the truth was known some months since. This book is put forth specially to vindicate his new views. But it cannot fail to disappoint his friends, and certainly will not convince any who consider him essentially unsound in the faith. We admire the style, the spirit, the logical arrangement of his book ; but in argument, as to the point at issue, he totally and singularly fails. Several of his six propositions are believed by all Christians; we have no dispute with him here. The whole argument turns on a single point: Are the Scriptures which declare the Second Coming of Christ, the End of the World, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the General Judgment, to be explained in a Figurative or a Literal sense ? These items are embraced in the 5th and 6th propositions. Prof. Crosby says they are to be explained in a. figurative or spiritual sense, and ” must have already taken place.” But he gives us not even the form of an argument to support such an opinionï¿½ an opinion, too, which sweeps away at a dash the profoundest realities of Christian revelation, and runs counter to the received opinions of the entire Christian world: will you believe it, reader, not even an attempt at an argumentï¿½ not so much as one text of Scripture, when the argument professes to be from the Scriptures alone ! What does it mean ? Really we are at a loss to know. The book is certainly harmless. Universalists, if they are wise, will not be overanxious to circulate it.” (The Biblical Repository and Classical Review, 3ser, v.6)
Henry Mason Baum (1850)
“Nothing but the principle which we have already stated, (on p. 69, bot.,) can enable one to account for the statement made by its author, on page 95 : ” There is no promise to believers of REST at death, but when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven.” Had the author, after ” he had shut himself up alone with the Bible,” forgotten that St. Paul ” desired to depart and be with Christ,” because it was ” far better” than ” to abide in the flesh ?” that ” we who have believed do enter into his rest ?” that the Saviour promised the dying criminal, that he should participate with himself in the rest of ” Paradise that day?” Did not St. Paul expect to die, when he assures Timothy that he is ” ready to be offered and the time of his departure is at hand ?” and when he says, ” if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved ?” and, ” I am ready to die at Jerusalem ?” Did not St. Peter expect to die when he said, ” I must shortly put off this tabernacle,” and, ” I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance ?” And can it admit of the shadow of a doubt, that these friends and servants of the Lord Jesus expected rest as confidently as the penitent thief? Does not St. John promise immediate rest to the departed saints when he says : ” Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth?” adding: ” Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” Verily, a man may “shut himself up alone with the Bible,” and yet fail of appreciating some of its plainest declarations.” (The Church Review, “Theories of the Second Advent,” p. 76)
“Did the end of the world, and the resurrection of the dead, and the general judgment with its awards, actually take place nearly eighteen hundred years ago ? And ever since that time have the ” righteous” been enjoying ” life eternal,” and the wicked suffering ” everlasting punishment?” Marvelous hallucination of mind, which could prompt such an exhibition! We say again, wisely does the author decline ” any attempt to determine the precise nature and characters of the spiritual sense,” which he would give to the predictions.” (p. 77)
What do YOU think ?