In two respects, I perceive, the infidels in Europe resemble those in America: 1st. Rejecting everything. 2nd. Affirming nothing. You consider Christianity false, but you seem quite unable to give us anything better. Why, then, should you be angry with “the Christians,” ignorant or intelligent (as you please), if they are tenacious of what they have, till they know what it is they are going to receive in exchange?
“Several of the doctrines of Christianity,” you say, “I cannot believe.”
Quite likely. Why not?
“They are inconsistent.”
“With reason; I cannot comprehend them, and I will venture to say no man can!”
That is not unlikely.
“I never will believe what I do not understand.”
Then you will never become a philosopher.
“The following are my arguments in support of the principles (?) I have advanced; they have cost me much pains and trouble.” So did a broomstick the Dutch painter; for he spent three whole days in painting one, and after all it was only a broomstick.
“By what mode of reasoning would you undertake to refute them?”
I shall answer you as a lady did one of your brethren. In a large party, he had been repeating a number of absurdities to prove that men had no souls. The company contented themselves with staring at him, instead of “answering the fool according to his folly.” Addressing a lady, he asked, with an air of triumph, what she thought of his arguments. She replied, “It appears to me, sir, you have been employing a good deal of talent to prove yourself a beast!
You go on, “I know I am a sinner, nor is it likely I shall die anything else, according to Bible notions; but I object to an eternity of punishment for a class of sins committed by a finite being. Infinite for finite is too much.”
But is it fitting that you should decide upon the penalty, yourself being the transgressor, and God the injured party? Suppose the courts of justice in these kingdoms should let every criminal determine the degree of punishment he should suffer; would there be any adequate penalty in the land? Such decisions come from a higher quarter. Thus the majesty of the law is upheld, and human rights secured. Most capital crimes are committed in a few minutes; yet for these the wisest law-giver of all ages and nations have inflicted the punishment of death, or privation of liberty to the end of natural life. Why not attempt a reformation in the civil law? If your principles are right, all governments, divine and human, are wrong. If there be a God in heaven, and this earth belongs to him, he governs it. If the creatures upon it are accountable, he has given them laws as a rule of conduct. Sin is a transgression of that law, and a penalty is attached to its violation. Pardon is offered during natural life, on the conditions of repentance, and faith in the atonement. Here is mercy, which reaches every sinner’s case. Who can object to this? The soul is eternal in its existence, and therefore cannot die with the body. The monarch of heaven and earth has decreed the penalty of “eternal punishment” upon every soul that leaves the body in a state of sin. He who can receive this doctrine of revelation, let him do so, and live accordingly; but whosoever cannot, let him prepare to abide the consequences in eternity. Are you able to set limits to the heinousness of sin perpetrated against the laws of an infinite God? If sin merit punishment for a moment, are you sure it demands it not through eternity? But you will inquire, “Upon what principle?” On that of its continuance. A sinner dying a sinner, continues on through eternity. If he remains a sinner always, shall not the penalty co-exist with the crime? The torments of hell can no more put an end to the soul’s sinning, than a pump in a river could drain it dry. It may throw out some water, but the source is exhaustless — the river remains. The argument, therefore, stands thus: “Endless sin creates a never-ending hell; a punishment, one would think; quite sufficient to warn you away from an “experiment’ that may be everlasting.”
“I cannot believe there is a hell; who, alive, has ever seen it?”
This s a very foolish objection, but it is not original. An old American sinner used nearly the same words; but his little grandchild, hanging on his knee, looking up in his face, said, “But you have never been dead yet, grandfather!”
You go on, “I once had those horrible feelings about my soul which you describe in your declamations, but since the adoption of my present views I have been quite easy.”
To this I reply: Some years ago a Socinian was traveling in Wales, and, meeting with an unlearned Welshman, broached his Christ-degrading doctrines, affirming that Christ was a mere man, and his blood of no more value than that of any other human being. The peasant, gazing steadfastly in his face, said, “Sir, what did that opinion cost you? I’ll tell you. It cost you many a hard battle! Long have you fought hard contests with your own conscience, and in many engagements have been overcome. You have at length so triumphed over your foe, that you have become the dupe of your own imposition.” Is this not applicable to you, sir? I wish it would affect you as it did the Socinian, who confessed that he never had a blow equal to that from the Welsh peasant.
But let us proceed. “I attended closely to the operations of my own mind. I philosophized upon the subject thus: ‘I have stepped a little out of the beaten track of theology, and my horrors have subsided. This is the result of entertainment views of God different from those taught by men who have been earning their bread at the expense of my happiness. But I have my doubts upon other points of the Bible. If a slight deviation from popular opinions has relieved my mind so much, why not throw the remainder overboard?’ I tried to do so, and at length succeeded. I became confident, or ‘wicked,’ as you would say, in proportion to my quiet, and all uneasiness has long since departed.”
Yes and the course you have pursued may prove quite as fatal to your soul as the following to the life of a young woman in one of the States of America. The treatment dispensed to your poor soul is so similar to the dreadful experiment practiced upon her, that I think it worth the trouble of writing, although it may have no serious effect upon your mind.
She was taken ill; so much so, that a physician was sent for. After a careful consideration of her case, he prepared two classes of powders, carefully folded and labeled. One of them was a preparation of opium, and the other a nauseating powder. When she took the former, she became quite easy; but the latter made her very restless. A convention of the women of the neighborhood was called, and one of them addressed her neighbors thus. “You see how it is; the doctor must have a living, and have it by his trade, too. One kind of powder makes her better, — the other worse; if he gave her only the bad kind, you see, he would soon kill her; and the good would speedily cure her; so that in either case he would have a small bill. This is why he gives two kinds. Now, let us act according to common sense, in disregard of the doctor’s orders, whose interest it is to keep her still an invalid. Let us give her only the good powders.” The proposition was well received, with an amendment, by another good woman, “And let her have two of the good powders at a time” — which was adopted. The patient became “quite easy,” slept quietly, but she never awoke again.
Notwithstanding your “quiet” upon religious subjects, conscience may possibly assist you to “make the application.”