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OF THE RIND OF EVIDENCE WHICH IS NECESSARY TO ESTABLISH THE DOCTRINE OF THE ULTIMATE PURITY AND HAPPINESS OF ALL MANKIND.
Some persons maintain, that the only evidence which can establish the doctrine of Universal Restoration, is the direct testimony of scripture. They seem to think that every proof, however solid in itself, if it cannot be adduced in the very words, or at least, if it be not borne out by the express testimony of revelation, is insufficient. Others contend, that there is nothing in this doctrine which can prevent the application of such principles, or modes of reasoning to it, as are universally deemed just and satisfactory when applied to other subjects; that if there be any doctrine of religion of which we can obtain a well-founded assurance, by considerations which do not derive their force from the express declarations of scripture, or which are altogether independent of it, there can be no reason why
the doctrine of Universal Restoration may not be one of these ; and that, if this opinion can be established upon a just and solid principle, it is sufficient, whether that principle be derived from revelation, or from any other source. If the first of these classes will be content to say, “No evidence will be sufficient to establish this opinion, unless it harmonize with scripture,” there will remain no difference whatever between them ; and surely it is absurd to endeavor to establish a distinction where there ought to be the greatest union. Every principle, from whatever source it be derived, if it be just, must harmonize with scripture, and all scripture, if it be genuine, and rightly understood, must harmonize with every just principle. Evidence founded upon a just principle is satisfactory, from whatever source it is derived: the only question which can affect the solidity of the conviction it produces is, whether it be just, not whether it have this or that origin. One single solid argument in favor of the doctrine of Universal Restoration deduced from the perfections of God, for example, is sufficient to establish its truth. One single solid argument. deduced from scripture is likewise sufficient: but if a solid argument can be derived from both, the conviction produced will be more complete. In a word, if this doctrine be true, it can be
established both by reason and by revelation: if it be false, it can be refuted by both. It is for this reason that the evidence of both will be adduced in the following pages. The testimony of reason adds an unspeakable value to the declarations of scripture, not because established scripture wants the assistance of man's reason, but because if a doctrine be contrary to reason, we know that it is not the word of God. It betrays an ignorance of the nature of both to pay no regard to a clear deduction of reason, because it is not revelation, or to maintain that what is contrary to reason is revealed in scripture, for truth cannot be inconsistent with reason, nor can scripture and truth clash. In adducing the evidence in favor of the doctrine of the ultimate restoration of all mankind to purity and happiness, it may be proper to begin with the statement of that which is derived from considerations which have no direct reference to the positive declarations of scripture: then to examine the objections which are urged against it, whether derived from scripture or from other sources, and in the last place to state those express declarations of scripture which appear to establish it. If it can be shewn that all the perfections of the Deity, that the nature of man and the nature and design of punishment, are completely in favor of this doctrine, that the objections which have been urged against it, whether derived from reason or revelation, may be satisfactorily removed, that the arguments which have been supposed to establish contrary opinions are not conclusive, and that the Scriptures contain some passages which can have no meaning unless this doctrine be supposed, others which cannot be true unless it be admitted, and others which seem directly and positively to favor it—this would seem sufficient to convince a candid inquirer of its truth; because, in this case, the evidence in its favor will not only be direct and positive, but will be founded also on the most firm and solid principles, and there will be no evidence against it. It will be the object of the following pages to establish, in order, each of the above positions. It may be proper, however, to observe, that arguments may in reality be derived from scripture, which do not at first sight appear to be so. Revelation has poured so much light upon the mind, and has led us into such a just way of reasoning concerning God, concerning his design in creation and his government of the world, that our conceptions and arguments, even when they do not appear at all to depend upon this heavenly guide, attain a degree of sublimity and truth to which they would never have arrived without it ; and we often appear to be following the deductions of our own understanding, when in reality we are only repeating in other words, and with other associations, the declarations of scripture. Why, without any direct or apparent dependence upon revelation, are we now able to form such pure and exalted conceptions of the Supreme Being, as were totally unknown to the great sages of antiquity ? It is because revelation has furnished us with the light which has conducted us to these noble and just conclusions. Of our views of the perfections of the Deity, of his dispensations to his creatures, of his works and of his ways, in a word, of all the principles upon which the subsequent reasoning is founded, this observation is peculiarly true. Although, therefore, the arguments contained in the second part of this work, may not appear, at first sight, to be founded upon the Scriptures, it is not just to conclude that they have a different origin: for in so far as they are true, they must be, either directly or indirectly, derived from it, since there is no reason to believe that they could have been formed by any mind which had not been illumined by this divine light.