Paul Dean’s Lectures: the sixth lecture

This is the sixth of the lectures in Paul Dean’s 1832 A Course of Lectures in Defence of the Final Restoration, an homage to celebrate the Universalist minister’s 240th birthday.

The numbers in brackets are the beginning of the page in the original.





Having noticed in the previous lectures, some of the principal objections frequently brought against the doctrine of “universal restoration;” we are this evening, to commence the consideration of the arguments and proofs in its favor, and shall present first, those drawn from the Divine attributes.

To qualify his servant Isaiah for the sacred office of a prophet, it pleased Jehovah to appear to him in a vision, seated upon a throne pure and [107] exalted, with an heavenly train; and when the prophet beheld, and heard the seraphim shouting the praises of his holiness, immediately the whole earth appeared to be filled with the reflected splendors of his glory. And what was the glory of the Lord? It was the display of his goodness then about to be made by the spirit of prophecy; for when Moses besought the Lord to show him his glory, the answer was, “I will cause all my goodness to pass before thee.” And his lips being touched with a live coal from off the altar, he spake thenceforth of “the coming of the just one,” and of “the glory that should follow.”

By far the most wonderful exhibition of Divine goodness ever made to the world, was made in the revelation of the great plan of redemption by a Mediator; and as when Jesus Christ, the likeness of the Father’s glory, appeared to the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem, a choir of the heavenly hosts gave glory to God in the highest; so when his kingdom shall prevail, and every knee shall bow to him in humble reverence, then shall the saints sing “alleluiah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth;” — and thus too, when the glorious “restitution of all things,” announced by the spirit of prophecy, and confirmed by all the holy prophets since the world began, shall have been completed, then will every inhabitant of the earth, unite with saints and angels, to give glory [108] to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever, for the holiness, goodness, and happiness enjoyed by the Universe.

The proposition to be sustained is this, viz. that the whole human race, after being judged according to their works, will be restored to the Divine favor, by the riches of grace, through genuine faith, repentance, and the exercise of a truly christian temper and disposition of heart; and the grounds of its support, are the character and attributes of Deity, considered in their relation to the human race.

For the sake of reasoning more clearly on this subject, let us suppose that the scriptures declare to us the being and perfections of Deity, but that they are silent as to the destiny of mankind; in that case, being left to reason only from a knowledge of his perfections and relation to us, what would be the conclusion at which we should most naturally arrive on the subject? For this purpose, let us now contemplate the being, perfections, and relation of God to man.

In reference to God I would then say, with the profoundest reverence, he is that eternal, independent, self-existent being, whose purposes and actions are from himself; who is absolute in his dominion, and pure and spiritual in his nature; who though he is indescribable in his essence, and inconceivable in the mode of his existence, illimit-[109]able in his immensity, and fully known only to himself; yet we are instructed by reason as well as scripture to ascribe to him certain attributes, among which are the following;

  1. Infinite power; an energy to do and cause others to do, whatever he wills should be done; by which he at the first created the worlds, and upholds all things, visible and invisible.
  2. Infinite wisdom; that grand attribute of his nature by which he knows all things possible, devises whatever will promote his own glory, and the greatest good of his creatures, and adopts all such means as are best suited to its accomplishment.
  3. Infinite goodness; that absolute perfection which comprises perfect holiness, justice, truth, and mercy, to all the subjects of his creation and care.

Now to impress upon our minds as distinct an idea as possible of this infinitely glorious and perfect Being, let us reverently contemplate him under the figure of the human mind, originally created in his image; not indeed as it now is, but pure, spiritual, and free from weakness or sin, with all its faculties and virtues extended to infinity — let us thus think of him as inhabiting eternity, producing the universe by the instantaneous exercise of his will, beholding at once all things past, present and future — looking upon the heart and its most secret [110] purposes, and speaking to the soul in a voice that awakens and electrifies all its powers; and who, yet, is an invisible but infinite energy, that surrounds, protects, and upholds us. Thus perhaps, we shall arrive at the most familiar, and at the same time, the most correct impressions of the nature and attributes of God.

The Divine perfections of power, wisdom, and goodness, are wonderfully displayed in the works of creation and providence. The immensity, variety, and perfection of the works of creation, give the most exalted idea of that power which created “all things, visible and invisible,” and upholds and circumscribes the universe. Psalms 139: 8, 11, 14. Heb. 1; 3. Acts 17; 24, 28. If we look at the order of nature, the harmony of the heavenly bodies, the change of the seasons and the alternations of day and night — the nice adaptation of part to part, and of means to ends, in the natural and moral world, we cannot but admire the wisdom that contrived, as well as the power that executed, and exclaim with the devout Psalmist, “how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.” Psalms 104; 24.

Nor when we observe the general tendency of all things to promote the objects of benevolence; the provisions made for the support, defence, and comfort, of the creatures of every element and climate; or the perfect manner in which the sen-[111]ses of all creatures are suited to the objects with which they are conversant, so as to derive not only use, but also pleasure, each from their appropriate objects — that the mind and heart are so constituted as to derive succor from truth and virtue, and happiness from the good it imparts to others — I say when we carefully observe all these benevolent arrangements, in the works and providence of God, we are constrained to confess and adore the creator, as being “good unto all, and his tender mercies over all his works.” Psalms 145: 9.

Each of these attributes being unlimited, they must all be present in every act of God, from the greatest to the least; especially must they all concur in fixing and bringing about the destiny of man, which from its connection with the happiness of Angels and the glory of God, must be by far the most illustrious display of wisdom, power, and goodness, the universe can ever witness. Power therefore will perform nothing which is not directed by wisdom, and wisdom can direct nothing but what goodness approves. So that the power of God, mighty and glorious as it is, will never cast even a sparrow on the ground, without the consent of his heavenly wisdom, and the holy approval of his infinite goodness. Although one attribute of the Divine Nature may be more conspicuous in certain acts of God’s government, than [112] the others, as for instance, in the punishment of sinners, the justice of God is specially manifested, while in the pardon of the penitent his mercy seems to triumph; yet all must be supposed as consenting to each act of his government, so that there is ever the most perfect harmony between the Divine Attributes. The perfect consistency and harmony of the perfections of Deity, is most wonderfully illustrated in the ever adorable plan of redemption, by Jesus Christ our Lord, revealed in the Gospel, by which God and all his perfections will be glorified. To show this, will be the pleasurable and interesting task of future lectures; but for the present, we shall content ourselves with the consideration of the relation which subsists between the leading attributes of God, above mentioned, and the human race.

It is obviously true that the relation between the glorious ruler of the universe and every individual of the whole race of mankind as creatures is the same; he being their creator, preserver, and the disposer of their destiny. In the highest possible sense he is their Father; they having each and equally derived from him their being, capacities, means of improvement, and resources of enjoyment. He only does or can protect and sustain them. It requires the same power to create one as another of the human family; and the same to preserve them from one moment or [113] hour to another, as it did to create them at first. And hence the phenomena of our preservation exhibits the constant exercise of creative and Omnipotent power, wisdom and goodness; for should these be suspended for a single moment, we should fall into annihilation, and cease to be. How true is it then, that in the highest sense “we live, move, and have our being” in God, as the result of his relation to us as our constant and equal preserver, and most holy and bountiful benefactor! Every added moment of our existence brings us new proofs of his infinite care and love, and should excite us to renewed gratitude and obedience; and thus make our duty to him and to each other, as the common sharers of his bounty, the richest pleasure of life.

Not only is God good, and equally good to mankind, as their creator and preserver; but also as their moral ruler and governor. Having created them free, moral, and accountable beings, they all hold the same general relation to his moral government, i.e. each is responsible in exact proportion to the moral power given him, and to the opportunities afforded him for its improvement; so that one can as easily perform his duty as another.

It should, however, be considered here, that God’s moral government is to be viewed as a whole, and as extending over this and a future [114] state. Taking in then, the whole course of its administration, all the moral as well as natural attributes of God will be fully developed towards mankind, so that with him there will be “no respect of persons.” If therefore there be, as there certainly is, a difference in the degrees of happiness enjoyed by men in the present world, during the intermediate state, and at the day of judgement; this is not because God is not equally good to them, but because they do not equally improve the power and blessings he has bestowed upon them.

Justice, mercy, compassion and grace, are administered to every man upon precisely the same principles, and with most perfect impartiality; for that which in one man procures punishment, procures it in the case of every man; and that which entitles one man to mercy and pardon, entitles every man to like favor.

Hence, mercy, justice, and every attribute of the Divine Nature, are extended to every individual of mankind upon equal conditions; because those attributes are infinite, and therefore equal: and hence upon the same condition that one sinner can be saved, all sinners may be saved; so that the wisdom and perfections of God are “without partiality.” Therefore it is not true that justice will be glorified in the damnation of some sinners, and mercy in the salvation of others equally guilty, [115] and in the same circumstances. This would subvert all our ideas of impartiality on the part of the divine government, and of moral equality on the part of men as moral agents; and be opposed to the plainest declarations of scripture, and the soundest dictates of reason.

Hence by this reasoning, we are naturally and irresistably brought to the conclusion, that all men as the creatures of his power, and as moral agents or subjects of his moral dominion, are equally the offspring of God, the subjects of his care, and the objects of his love; and that their conduct is, and ever will be, the object of his approbation or displeasure, and the subject of his reward or punishment, according as it is conformed or not conformed to his law. He that created them so fearfully, wonderfully and mercifully, bestowed on them his own image, and gave them such natural and moral powers, must esteem and value them not only as his own work, but for their capacities to glorify and enjoy him and his kingdom forever. That his esteem may be of use to them, and excite their gratitude to him, he has constituted them with their agency and noble faculties, so immediately dependent upon himself for being, preservation and happiness, that without his constant aid and help, they can neither exist nor arrive at perfect happiness, after which he has made them so earnestly to aspire. And that a sense of this de-[116]pendence should not be grievious to them, he has required, and ever will require them, and each of them, and that equally, to put their trust in him as the guardian of their being, and the benefactor of their happiness; and to bestow on him their supreme love, as their chief good, here and hereafter: and this requirement is the spirit of “the law and the prophets.” Here let it be noted, that the requiring of all to love and serve God, and to confide in him, is virtually a pledge that his power, wisdom and goodness, are and will always be exerted in their favor.

Such being the character of God, the nature and tendency of his attributes, and their relation to men; and such being the nature, capacities, dependence, and obligations of mankind to their Maker; the question now is, what destination does reason, founded on these facts, teach us to believe God will assign to them? and will that destination be the same to all?

Three dispositions only can be made of men; they must be finally happy, or miserable, or be forever annihilated. The power of God is able to effect either; but could wisdom and goodness approve of perpetual misery, or of annihilation? Would it be an act of infinite wisdom to create man with his present capacities, for the purpose of enduring unceasing woe? And, especially, what goodness would there be displayed in the bestow-[117]ment of existence, either for perpetual sufferings, or to be blotted out from the universe as an incurable? It is an exercise of divine wisdom to produce good, and to extend the sphere of virtue, intelligence and happiness; but what wisdom there can be in creating intelligent beings to be loosers by their existence, it would certainly be very difficult to show: and still more so, to describe what exhibition of goodness there would be, in so doing. Nay to make men miserable, or to annihilate them, requires neither wisdom nor goodness; but to secure them the possession of endless existence, and the enjoyment of endless happiness, requires the perfection of those attributes, and the aid of infinite power. Therefore if wisdom and goodness were employed in the creation of men, they must have been created for the attainment and enjoyment of happiness, as the wisest and most benevolent destiny which could be assigned them; but wisdom and love were employed in the gift of their existence, and therefore their destiny must be happiness, without the mixture of evil. If then God intended Adam, and in him, mankind to be happy, then he must have had the same purpose with reference to each individual; because they all sustained the same relation to him, and each other. And if he created each individual of the human race for happiness, then all his attributes must have concurred in that design, and [118] hence are pledged for its accomplishment — then also human agency, with the nature and capacities of men, were constituted and given with reference to that design; and the whole moral government of God, suited to its ultimate execution; which being the case, the operations of justice, as well as of mercy and the other attributes of his government, must result in the production of happiness and of equal good to every son and daughter of Adam.

Therefore we answer the above questions, by saying, that just reasoning, founded on the divine character, the divine attributes, and the nature and equality of men, teaches us to believe that the design of God in the creation of Adam and each member of his posterity, was that he and they should be equally perfect in piety, virtue and happiness: and also that notwithstanding the introduction of sin by man, through the perversion of his agency, yet the moral government of God, founded on his holy perfections, will correct this evil, restore the whole human family, and thus carry into full effect the glorious design of their creation. And indeed we are fully persuaded that there is the same reason for believing that all men, without exception, will ultimately be saved, that there is for believing that any one of them will be. We should therefore, reasoning upon the attributes of God, as readily admit the endless per-[119]dition of all, as of any one of the children of men.

Should it be objected to this, that God, consistently with his holiness and goodness, administers punishment upon sinners in the present world, and therefore he may with equal propriety, as he changes not, continue to do so to eternity; we answer, there is a wide difference between the punishment which God inflicts upon transgressors, here or hereafter, as a mean of subduing and reforming them, and endless perdition; the one promotes human virtue and happiness, the other necessarily precludes both, and that to eternity. And hence it does not follow that the goodness of God, could as well admit the one as the other of these propositions.

We proposed in this lecture, to show that the character and attributes of God, from their equal relation to all mankind, furnish us with strong reasons for believing in their final and universal restoration to holiness and happiness; and have we not now redeemed our pledge? And does not this view, reflect the highest glory upon the divine perfections, and present his moral government in such a light as justly to command the reverence, confidence, and obedience of every creature? Most certainly; since according to it, God can admit no evil into the universe but such as he will overrule for his own glory and the good of his rational creatures; and since he will administer no [120] punishment but such as is emendatory in its design, and will be salutary in its effects, resulting in the subjection and obedience of the sinner to the divine will.

To conclude, we are confirmed in the correctness of this result to which our reasoning hath so clearly brought us, because the superior authority of the scriptures, as we have shown in previous lectures, offers nothing against it — because there is nothing in the nature of our agency or responsibleness to God, which opposes it — and because it is sustained by the voice of inspiration, which assures us that God hath “made all things for himself;” that he “will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,” and that he is the Saviour of all men,” having promised “the restitution of all things by the mouth of all his holy prophets, since the world began,” as we shall attempt more fully to evince in future lectures.

Moreover, we are persuaded that this view T of the plan of God, when correctly understood and received in the love of it, will offer the best incentives to sincere piety, and the most universal encouragement to the practice of virtue among men, as moral and accountable agents — that it best comports with the desire of those who are most under the influence of the spirit of pure religion, and contributes most to the happiness of good men in the present life; for what good man can be happy in [121] seriously contemplating the endless sufferings of his fellow creatures!

But the salvation of the world, by a full display of the divine perfections, will afford a theme of joy for eternity, while in acclamations of praise and glory to God in the highest, angels and the redeemed shall vie with each other in cries of “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.